Posted in Friendship, Relationships

Skinny Jeans

 

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Boo had skated around the fact that he was eating exactly what he wanted in spite of the doctor’s warning.  “Your blood sugar is getting higher.  You need to change your eating habits and get more exercise, and it would help if you lost a few pounds.”  Still, he had his stash of candy and cookies semi-hidden on the third shelf of the pantry behind the flour, brown sugar, and the grandkids’ Capri Sun.  I use the term ‘hidden’ loosely.

It took one more threat from the doctor for the message to click.  “If you don’t change your ways, I’ll be putting you on insulin shots.  Here’s the name of a dietitian to help get you started.”  I heard all of this second hand, mind you, and it took him a few hours to disclose what was actually said because he had stopped off at Starbucks for a Caramel Macchiato and pound cake, just a little reward for after the doctor.

Boo reluctantly relayed the information, grudgingly called the dietitian, and went about his way saying, “I’m going to eat whatever I want until I see this nutrition person.”

“I’m going with you to the dietitian,” I said.

“You just want to make sure I tell the truth,” he countered.

“That’s right, “ I said.  “I don’t trust you.”

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One week later, we saw the dietitian who was a beautiful, thirty-something, tall, slender nurse.  She was sweet on the outside, but it didn’t take her long to see through his antics.  Yes, I helped him answer her questions honestly.  Yes, I ratted him out on a few things, but I saw him really listening as she explained carbohydrates, sugars, and proteins.  Almost overnight Boo began watching his carbs, forgoing desserts, using sugar-free creamer, and walking 10,000 steps.  It was a miracle.  As the pounds dropped off, he started to envision himself quite the stud.  “I think I’m almost ready for skinny jeans, what do you think?” 

 “Maybe just five more pounds?” I offered.

We went from grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with a generous handful of chips at lunch, to baked fish and Charro beans.  We had berries for dessert instead of double stuffed oreo cookies and ice cream.  We even bought Fitbits.  In fact, Boo became a zealot, watching every bite he put in his mouth.

 When we walked together, I would come home angry.  I envisioned us walking hand in hand down the road of love and health; sharing goals and encouraging each other on our fitness journey.  His focus was to walk briskly and clock his miles, no time for idle chit chat, let alone hand-holding.  So, we opted to walk separately, allowing him to go faster and me to stay sweeter. 

 Six months later he was down thirty pounds and looking svelte.  I, on the other hand, was down three pounds and sneaking potato chips.   How is it that men can just put their minds to it and make this losing weight look so easy?  I think women just have slower metabolisms and don’t forget the whole hormone thing, we’re challenged at every turn.

This year at Christmas, Boo finally got his wish of skinny jeans!  As he pulled the jeans gleefully from the wrapping paper, he grinned like a little kid and stood up to hold the jeans next to his legs.  Even though he needed a little help to pull them on, once he zipped up they fit like a glove. (literally)  Truthfully, I never thought of Boo as skinny jeans material, but I wanted him to live the dream, and he is.

“Enjoy your new-found hotness!” I teased.

“Oh, I will,”  he smiled, as he turned around and checked out his rear end view.  “GQ has nothing on me!”

Posted in Relationships

See Me

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His eyes locked in on mine and the whole depth of his life was etched on his skin, the skin someone had once loved.  Maybe he was still loved, but I saw the story in his eyes and it stopped me.  It stopped my breath and I looked away.

He didn’t say anything, but he asked with his eyes.  Without thinking, my daughter and I opened the door and hurried in with the other assortment of customers; hurrying into the dollar store for super bargains and cheap deals.

It wasn’t until we were all the way in that I noticed the door was shut and he was still outside, but I kept moving, diverting my eyes. 

My daughter was the first to act, walking purposefully back toward the door.  She didn’t say a word to me, but as she opened the door she said, “Hello friend, may I help you?”

He quickly looked down and then glanced back up as he said, “Yes, thank you.  I need to do some shopping.”

His wheelchair was a later model, worn and frayed at the top of the backrest, and basic black, totally utilitarian.  I could tell he had been a tall man, because his one long leg remained, half filling the space of the chair, while his hands gripped the armrest.  

The chair was his home, with a cushion to sit on, and a cloth pouch tied onto the back of the seat holding a grocery bag, bandana and well used water bottle.  The chair was moved solely by the strength of his arms, which would turn and push the large, dirty, frayed wheels.  But, his face…his face frightened me because it was so rough, yet so incredibly tender and open.

There was a beautiful, kind quality to his face that reached out as if to whisper, 

“I’m still me.  I’m still in here, in this tired, worn shell. Can you see me? The real me?”

Shame crept into my body, as I hurried over to hold the door. My daughter gripped the handles behind the backrest and with a strong push, helped him over the threshold and got the bag from the back of his chair.

“There you go,”  she said.  “Anything else I can do for you?”

“No, thank you.  I didn’t think I would make it in,” he said, looking down.

And he shyly wheeled himself forward, down a crowded aisle with greedy shoppers.

She took no credit for this action, as I told her how proud I was and what a kind thing she did.  It is a part of who she is to help the unfortunate or downtrodden.  It was a quiet lesson to me to keep my eyes open, my heart soft and my hands ready to help.

Shame, whether his or mine, does not teach us anything except to abandon ourselves.  Perhaps he had old shame lurking nearby, I really don’t know.  But, I know my shame at not following a faint nudge to help a fellow human, lingers still.

I learned a lesson that day that came from my daughter who was not afraid to open a door; not afraid to extend her hand.  A lesson I hope I will always remember.

Posted in Photography

The Hummingbird

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In grief as in life, we often say, see or do things that make us feel better or more connected to our loved ones.

“Oh, there’s Dad again,”  someone may say while looking out the kitchen window at a cardinal sitting on a fence post.  While another might notice yellow butterflies on their morning walks, declaring, “I know that’s Mom.  She loved the color yellow.”

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It’s not so much that I believe my loved ones are reincarnated into insects or birds, but it does feel like a gentle embrace from the other side, meant to comfort and bring peace.

My friend, Mary, passed away last year, rather suddenly.  She always loved dragonflies and was drawn to their vivid colors and flighty paths.  She had dragonfly notepads, nightgowns, and tote bags.  She adored all things ‘dragonfly.’

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Try as I might, I am not convinced that every dragonfly I photograph is Mary.  “Hold still, little beauty,”  I whisper to them.  “Let me take your picture.”  I know Mary would have loved my photos and might even have asked for a framed one for her walls.  While I do not feel that these dragonflies are Mary, I do believe that it is her spirit that beckons me to seek the beauty in nature, urging me to take time to enjoy God’s creations.

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We recently put up a new hummingbird feeder in our backyard.  I made the nectar and as we hung it I fully expected hummingbirds by dusk.  Two weeks later my little friend arrived.  Flighty, thirsty, and perfect, although not flashy in color like the butterfly or dragonfly.  Every day she drinks the nectar and then flits to an adjacent branch to hang out for a bit, then over to a flowering plant, then back to the feeder.  Then, without warning, she flies away until another time.DSC_0436

Hummingbirds are the smallest birds, yet they can travel up to 49 mph.  Their heartbeats nearly 1200 beats per minute and they get their name because of the humming sound of their beating wings.

I feel like a hummingbird sometimes.  My attention goes from details to musings.  I flit from rigid routines to spontaneous creations, photography, or writing.  My concentration varies.  My observations bounce.  When I’m dead and gone, will my daughters see a hummingbird and say, “ Oh, there goes Mom.  She never could sit still.”?

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There are six large blue jays that visit our bird feeder every day.  Occasionally they are raucous and loud, trying to dominate the backyard.  I’d swear one of them is my Dad, just trying to get in the last word.  Trying to control, even from beyond!

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It behooves me to wonder who would want to be remembered as a squirrel or pesky fly, but every family has one of each.  Maybe our loved ones visit as birds or maybe a Higher Power nudges us to notice the beauty in nature, helping us to slow down and feel a connection.  Whatever is true and whatever is your truth, enjoy the noticings and remember your loved ones from beyond.  And if you receive a hummingbird feeder from me for Christmas, keep it.  Someday, I may come for a visit.

 

Posted in Driving

Caution: Student Driver

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When I turned fifteen, I could hardly wait to take Driver’s Education so I could get my permit.   I remember that it was during summer school and we had classroom instruction with two weeks behind-the-wheel driving time.  I had already been sneaking my family car when my parents were out, so I was eager to be a legit driver.

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A Fine Ride

My instructor was an old baseball coach who also taught high school algebra.  He called us all by our last names and was pretty easy going except that we were scared to death of his gruff exterior.  He barked information and orders in a drill sergeant, commanding way.

There were four of us assigned to his car for our two-week behind-the-wheel session.  I didn’t know the other kids, but there were three girls and one guy.  The first day he asked, “Who thinks they know how to drive?”  I was the only one to raise my hand.

“Claughton,” (my maiden name) “take us for a ride!”  And he lit up a cigar butt that had been in his shirt pocket.  Since I had been stealing, I mean “borrowing” my dad’s car since 9th grade, I felt comfortable behind the wheel.

I drove us the whole two hours that first day, while he grunted directions of where to turn and kept a steady stream of descriptive terms about the other drivers on the road.   The other three kids sat straight as arrows, lined up in the backseat, waiting for their turns.

The next day, Coach chose another one of the girls, but she broke down in tears saying she was too scared to drive.  “Nonsense,”  he said.  “Smith, get up here and let’s see what you can do.  There’s no crying in baseball or driving.”

She cried so hard he finally had her pull over and started yelling, “Smith, you’re out!  Jefferson, you’re up.”  But, Jefferson was constantly taking his eyes off the road to look at Coach while he was talking.

“For God’s sake, Jefferson!  Do you have eyes in the back of your head?  Keep your eyes on the (bleepin’) road before you kill us.”  

And just when Coach was really revving up, he had to slam the dual-control brake on the passenger side, just to keep us from sliding into another car.  Did we even have seat belts back then?

“Jefferson, you’re out!  Claughton, take us home, and be careful, for God’s sake.”

The next day, Coach told the last girl, “It’s your lucky day, Krowowski.  You can’t be any worse than Jefferson.  Get up here.”

Krowowski was a meek, quiet girl who I personally thought was stoned the whole time, but, she didn’t cry, so we were all hopeful that things would lookup.  Krowowski took the wheel and we pulled out of the parking lot with a jolt and a lurch, as she turned too quick and ran us up on the sidewalk.  

In the backseat, I was in the middle.  On my left, Smith began to whimper and cry and Jefferson was already distracted with biting his fingernails.

I think Coach lost it completely because I heard some pretty graphic cuss words as we leaped off the curb into traffic.

“For God’s sake, stop the (blankity-blank, bleepin’) car!”

And she did….right in a turn lane of cars.

“Not here…..there!” and he pointed to the parking lot, so she jumped us back over the curb from whence we came.  And Coach slammed his brake so hard we all flew forward.

It was obvious we were finished for the day when he told us to get out of the car.  We had to wait outside until our parents came to get us.

The next morning Krowowski did not come back, Smith brought rosary beads and Jefferson looked stoned.   For the next six days, Coach only let me drive.  I can’t say Coach imparted tons of useful driving instructions but I sure clocked a lot of driving time.   I drove us to Palo Duro Canyon,  we made stops at A&W Root Beer,  we drove through a cemetery, grocery store parking lot and got on the interstate every chance we could.  We ran his personal errands to the bank and Skaggs Drug Store.  Once, he got us all hotdogs at Der Weinerschnitzel. (four for a dollar.)   Coach puffed his cigar butts and sometimes slumped in the front seat barking, “Wake me up in 15 minutes.”

Right or wrong, I will never forget Driver’s Education and the summer I “learned” to drive.  It’s been over fifty years since I got my driver’s license and I still think of Coach. In fact, I still think of my Drivers Ed. group and wonder if they “passed” the class even though they rarely drove. It amazes me that no one complained or had their parents call.  

 Kids today who are learning to drive online are really missing out on an unbelievable experience.   I’m quite sure Coach would have something to say about it.  “For God’s sake, be careful out there!”

Posted in Family

Clothes Make The Man

 

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It was Saturday night and we were going to a party at a friend’s house.  I had been preoccupied figuring out what I was going to wear, making the appetizer and wrapping the hostess gift, that I didn’t give Boo too much thought.

He came into the bedroom fresh from his shower and started to get dressed.  When I walked out of the bathroom I saw him standing there dressed and ready to go.  “Are you going to wear that?”  I asked.  

Boo stood perfectly still and with a deer in the headlights look said, “I don’t know, am I?”

“Here,” I said.   “Try this shirt and change belts. OK?”

“Sure.”

This scenario has gone on for years.  I thought he was dressing in mix-matched clothes and frayed pants just to mess with me until finally one day after I announced,

 “Boo! You can’t wear that.” 

 He shot back with, “Yes, I can and I will.  Why do you wait until I’m already dressed and then tell me I’m all wrong?”  

He had had enough of my foolishness.

“If you want me to dress a certain way, just set it out for me,”  he said.  I really thought he was just being obstinate or trying to make a point with his clothing choices, but nothing was farther from the truth.  He really doesn’t care what he wears and he can’t tell if it matches.  IMG_3258

I felt terrible.  I had been scolding him like a petulant child and I really didn’t want to do that.

He told me in earnest that if I wanted him to look a certain way all I had to do was just set it out and he’d put it on.

“After all,” he said.  “You buy my clothes, so it’s kind of your fault if I look bad.”  While I appreciate his willingness to dress for success, I’m not responsible for some of his older, funkier shirts and shorts.  Nonetheless, we embarked on a new plan of action.

If I care, I take responsibility.  If I want him to look a certain way, I pick out his clothes.  On vacations where I care, like on a cruise, for example, I iron his shorts and pack for him, like a kid going to camp.  Shorts, shirts, underwear, socks all in neat stacks.  If he’s going to visit his brother or go with guy friends somewhere, I let go and let Boo choose his outfit.  Sometimes he surprises me and looks adorable, but mostly it’s clean but wrinkled shorts, a shirt with stains and tennis shoes.   

I have to let it go because he has agreed to let me have my way.  One by one certain shirts have mysteriously disappeared and been replaced with new ones.  Occasionally he will dress and demand his right to wear what he considers “OK.”   I do feel like he is becoming a snappier dresser and now that he has a few go-to outfits, I give more compliments and fewer critiques.  

I’m trying to keep my mouth closed and not ask the question that has no right answer, “Are you going to wear that?”  Now, what about that underwear…..

Posted in Family, Food, Relationships

It’s Not Like Granny’s

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Granny Malcolm

 

He saw a can of salmon on the kitchen counter.  “Are we having salmon croquettes?” he asked with a huge grin.

“Yep.”

“ I love salmon croquettes!  My granny used to make them.”IMG_3149

In the humble circles of Texas, we eat salmon from a can.  Of course, now that we are more worldly, we enjoy fresh salmon broiled or baked, but salmon croquettes are what we grew up on.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s in Amarillo, we only ate canned vegetables, canned tuna, even ham from a can.  It’s hard to imagine now, but that tin smell and taste seemed normal.  Nothing came in an easy-open pouch or fresh frozen.  The croquette recipe I remember is:   canned and drained salmon,  saltine cracker crumbs,  an egg,  and maybe chopped onion if you want to get fancy

 You first had to dig out all of the small bones from the can-shaped salmon.  We were always warned that you could choke and die if you swallowed a bone!  Then, you mix it all together and form patties that you coat on both sides with cornmeal.  Next, you pan fry until golden brown.  Yum!

Boo grew up in a small east Texas town.  To this day, his brother, who still lives there, doesn’t lock his house or car.  It’s just an easy-living atmosphere.  When Boo was in high school and could finally leave campus, he and a friend would walk to his granny’s house for lunch every day.  Sometimes they would eat sandwiches, but mainly Granny made those growing boys a hot meal; meatloaf, fried chicken, pot roast, and salmon croquettes.  So when Boo saw the can of salmon, he immediately thought of dear Granny, God rest her soul. 61048007487__F2BF2BA6-F46A-4CA1-BA8D-E175087C4A0F

There are many meals I’ve made through the years that did not quite match up to Granny’s.  Usually, the comments from Boo go something like this:

“Where’s the gravy?”

“Granny used to always make mashed potatoes with meatloaf.”

Most of the time I catch myself before snapping, “Well, I’m not Granny.  God rest her soul.”

Granny must have been a saint.  She loved to cook and see her children and grandchildren eat her food.  She equated food with love and Boo has told me several times that my cooking is good, but to make it great I’d have to cook with my heart, not my head.

Even Boo cooks with love.  On nights when we agree to just fend for ourselves, I get cheese and crackers and then I hear Boo rattling pots and pans and I smell bacon.  Granny used bacon with everything.  He will whip up a beautiful omelet, bacon and blueberry pancakes, while I sit down to my hard cheese and a few Ritz.  “I didn’t know you were going to do that!” I whine.  “I cook with this, Boo (making a heart shape with his hands) I cook with this!”IMG_3145

While I admit, love is the furthest from my mind when I’m preparing a meal, I do pride myself on the fact that you will not starve at my house.  My food is nutritious, simple and I have a few never-fail recipes, but my heart is just not in it.  I’m not dear Granny, God rest her soul.

While I was mixing my croquettes, I asked Boo, “How did Granny make the salmon croquettes?”

He looked at my ingredients and said, “Well, for starters Granny chopped up the onion so fine, I couldn’t see it.”  I got out the knife and rechopped onions even smaller, trying not to be resentful.  And, about thirty minutes later, when I saw the contented smile on Boo’s face and heard him say, “This is just like Granny used to make,” I knew I had succeeded.

“Thanks, babe,”  I said and I sent up a special thank you to Granny, God rest her soul, for helping me find the love.  I salute the Granny’s of the world.  All of the beautiful people who live to love and love to cook.  I admire them and respect their spirit, heart, and soul, and I admit I could stand to be a little more like Granny.

 “Granny, if you’re looking down on me, please give me a little nudge now and then, so I can make Boo happy with my culinary efforts.” 

 Grant me the serenity not to snap at his requests for gravy, 

the courage to try new recipes, and the wisdom to know my limitations. 

 Amen.

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Posted in Travel

Missing My Port Aransas

Every year around my birthday, I plan a trip to the beach.  There’s something so peaceful and predictable about the ocean and its natural habitat.   This year will be different because of circumstances beyond our control, but as Jon Kabat-Zinn said:

“You can’t stop the waves…. but you can learn to surf.”

Take a look at a few of my favorite photographs from last year in Port Aransas.

Blessings to you all

 

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Posted in Relationships

We Need To Talk

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written by Nancy Malcolm

 

He was reclining in the usual spot on the couch, CNN news looping the same stories they reported yesterday when I apparently ghosted in and sat down.

“Oh!  You scared me!”  he said.

“We need to talk,”  I said.

“Okaaaaaaaay,” he replied, and his face went ashen.

I’m sure he did a quick inventory to see if he had done anything wrong or blatantly irresponsible.  “I’ll put my lunch dishes in the dishwasher, he said, ” Don’t worry.”

“Would you please at least pause the T.V. so we can talk?”  I asked.

And that’s when it happened.  He rolled his eyes, not at me directly, but because they were facing the T.V., I saw it from the side.  My sixty-two-year-old husband is really a twelve-year-old in disguise.

He paused the T.V. but his body stayed reclined.   Facing forward, he glanced in my direction, hoping that would be enough.

“Could you at least turn this way so we can see each other?”

He shifted my way but I could tell he was not in the mood for a serious discussion.  We’ve known each other long enough for us both to know the signs, and there are always signs.

Oh sure, I knew better than to lead off with “We need to talk.”  I knew other tools to use, ways to incorporate less threatening phrases, but it jumped out of my mouth, flew out into the air and landed in his space.  Ooops there it is.

And this is where my story takes a surprising turn.  I felt a tap on my shoulder.  I heard a clap of thunder, metaphorically speaking.  Suddenly, in a blinding light of clarity, I had an epiphany or as a friend of mine says; a talk with Tiffany

I realized we had been in this exact place many times before.  I say ‘we need to talk.’ He rolls his eyes. I get upset and he gets defensive.  It was about to be a lose-lose situation. What I needed to talk about had been talked about before and so it would probably be filed in his ‘nagging’ folder, never to be seen again.  I knew I had a choice to make: same old-same old or something new,

I had wanted to have Talk #32:  You never say anything sweet to me anymore.  You never compliment me or say words of affirmation.  I would quote from Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages and end with guilt.  “I always try to say sweet things to YOU….” No wonder the man’s eyes glaze over right before he rolls them.  I had too many ‘always’ and ‘nevers,’ and I heard myself plain as day, the voice from Charlie Brown: “WaaaWaaaaaaWaaaa”

As if on cue, I saw his baby blues lock in on me.  I remembered that earlier that day he had watered all the outside plants and vacuumed out my car.  He was home, not out gambling.  And, I had no doubt that he would put his lunch dishes in the dishwasher.

Sometimes God does for you what you cannot seem to do for yourself, and as I looked at my husband my mouth opened and out came, “I just wanted to tell you thank you for vacuuming out my car.  That was so sweet of you.”

I felt my eyes widen and I couldn’t believe my ears, but I tried to act cool and nonchalant. 

For a few seconds, he stared at me, then said, “Is that it?”

“Yes.  Thank you, honey.  It means a lot.”

“Okaaaaaay.  You’re welcome.”

And with that, I patted his leg and said, “Carry-on, Boo.”  I turned to leave the room and I heard Wolf Blitzer’s voice starting up and the recliner go back a little farther.  I know his eyes never left the screen, but as I walked away he called, “Love you” 

“Love you too,” I answered, and I meant it.

Posted in Aging

The Pandemic Made Me Do It

 

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Written by Nancy Malcolm

 

As I turned off the alarm, my mind went through this checklist:  What day is it? Why did I set my alarm? What am I supposed to do?”  And then it hit me….Senior hours at Costco!!!!    I sprang from the bed like a shot of caffeine.

 

Since all of the craziness began, the essential stores are trying to work with the public by providing safety rules and procedures.  There are wipes for your grocery cart, hand sanitizer upon entering and exiting, and marking X’s on the sidewalk so we are six feet apart.

 

A few stores like HEB and Costco are offering Senior Hours or even free delivery for those of a certain age, so we don’t have to fight the crowds and risk not getting our necessities.  Boo and I had set our alarms, and talked about our strategy.  

“Let’s hit the Kleenex first.  I heard that runs out fast.”

Armed with a list, bottle of water and hand sanitizer, we drove full speed to Costco.

 

I have to admit it was exhilarating.  The thought that we would get in before the throngs of families and small children was promising.  We envisioned a peaceful, leisurely stroll through the aisles, during our early bird hour of shopping.  (8:00-9:00 a.m.)

 

“I hope they don’t card me,”  Boo popped off. “I look so young and spry.”

“You’re safe,”  I said. “But, just in case, bring your ID.”

We were in a great mood, anticipating the best, when we turned into the drive leading to Costco.

We were thirty minutes early, ready to be the 1st in line when I heard Boo say, 

“Oh, Hell no!”  And I saw the line.

 

Hundreds of senior citizens in various stages of masks, gloves, and sunglasses, were in a line snaking twice around the outside of the store.  What time did these folks get here?

If we were thirty minutes early, they must have camped out the night before, like waiting for concert tickets.

 

The patrons had diligently left six feet space between themselves and most seemed happy and chatted with their neighbors in line.  Instantly, I thought about bathroom emergencies. I bet some of these people had on Depends merely as a precaution for the long wait.  (note to self.)

 

Amazingly there were still a few parking spaces far, far away, which made me wonder if these people had taken a shuttle to Costco or had drivers drop them off.  There was no way we would have made it into the store during the one-hour time slot. Sadly, senior hours did not happen for us.

 

Boo went on a short rant about bogus seniors in line and the possibilities that we may never have Kleenex again, so we drove by two more HEB’s in our neighborhood and after assessing the lines, just went home.  

 

We vowed to make ourselves eat whatever we had left in the house, which meant the things I like and he doesn’t;  quinoa, spinach and roasted red pepper hummus.  We practiced social distancing as we walked in the neighborhood and up to the mailbox. It all worked out.

 

I have a new appreciation, though, for my senior citizen status.  We’re tough. You have to get up pretty early in the day to get past us and I can see that Boo and I have a lot to learn as we compete with the other seniors.  Stay prepared! Be flexible in a crisis and plan ahead! We’ll be ready next time!!

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Posted in Family

Daddy Was A Saver

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written by Nancy Malcolm

Happy Birthday in Heaven to my daddy, J.C. Claughton, Jr.

My Daddy was a “saver”.  A procurer of particulars…a frugal forager.  It was probably because he was a product of the Depression, but for whatever reason, if you needed ‘it’, he had it, at least one and an alternate.

 When Daddy passed away we found boxes full of souvenirs, balls of twine, ink pens, jars of nails and business cards.  We found his report cards, measuring tapes, hundreds of bank statements and thousands of photographs labeled neatly into chronological albums.  There were boxes, bags and myriad other containers full of his mementos.   

 My brother and I waded through his things sometimes laughing …sometimes crying.  Towards the end of our sorting, we bantered across to each other, “You take it!”  “No, YOU take it!”  Still, we filled large, black Hefty bags with things to give away or dispose of.  His obsessive ‘saving’ wore us out. Sometimes, as we discarded, I whispered a prayer, “I’m sorry Daddy, we just have to let this go,” hoping he understood.

Last year I was going through a box of Daddy’s things that I had ‘saved’ from ten years ago.  When I brought it home, I thought I would go through it right away. But, ten years had passed and I had just found the strength to open the box.

 Inside were our report cards, Baptism announcements, college essays, school pictures and more.  I found an old, faded manila envelope, sealed with a piece of tape and enclosed were letters and cards my brother and I had sent Daddy through the years; Father’s Day cards, poems, and notes we had written him.  Behind those cards were letters tied with a string….our letters to Santa Claus.

I unfolded one pristine piece of notebook paper and I was transported, as I read my brother’s childish handwriting. 

Dear Santa,  I hope that I have been good enough to deserve these things I want.  I would like a bulldog tank, an electric football game and a boy scout nap sack.  My sister would like a jewelry box, a ballarena doll, a girl cowboy suit and play doe, please.   From: Jimmy and Nancy. December 16, 1958

This letter was written the Christmas after our mother died.   My brother was nine and I was five years old.  Not all of our letters to Santa were saved, just this one and one other.

My Dad wasn’t always good at professing his love.  He wasn’t the sentimental, mushy type. But, after he was gone, I saw his tender side amongst the 14 retractable measuring tapes and boxes of Navy war memorabilia.  The cards and notes his children had sent and letters to Santa obviously touched his heart, although we never knew it.

His heart was inside this box that took me ten years to open. And, suddenly, all of this stuff he had ‘saved’, became a piece of him…a bridge to the other side, where he was standing, arms open wide, saying, “See?  I have always loved you.” And finally, my heart whispered back, “I know, Daddy. I love you, too.”