The Face Around Me

Aaron’s been grouchy lately, which makes me extra irritated with him.  I actually have been pretty tired of Aaron the last few days.  I hope that doesn’t disappoint anybody but it’s true.  His attitude leaves a lot to be desired right now………..and this affects my attitude, leaving me with much to be desired in the attitude department as well.

I had been out in the garden today and lost track of time.  Realizing that I needed to check on Aaron and ask him about lunch, I went up to his room to offer him some lunch.  He finally came downstairs, still carrying that attitude, so I was pretty brusque and unhappy myself.  This made him calm down and be contrite.  After all, food is in the balance here.

Speaking of food, he asked if Andrea was “coming over” today………as if she’s on the next street and might come over, instead of being an hour away and driving down for the day.  When I told him that she would be here, he asked, “So what food are we having?”  Everything seems to boil down to food with Aaron.  I told him that we were having chicken, and he asked the question he forever and always asks when we’re having chicken:  “Is it boneless?”

No, this chicken is not boneless, Aaron.  He thought for a few seconds, and then said, “The problem is…….the bone.”  So I responded, “Aaron, this is Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Does that make it better?”

His attitude improved greatly at the magic words……….Kentucky Fried Chicken.  That smacks of eating out………..of restaurant food……….of anything other than what Mom makes.  Aaron’s not been picky as he’s grown up, but now that he’s gotten more of a taste of eating out, he does indeed love it!

He decided that he could handle the bones in KFC chicken and so that matter was settled.  I went outside to do something and when I came back in the kitchen, Aaron was polishing off an ice cream bar.  I walked by the side of the kitchen table, and lo and behold…………there were two more ice cream bars on the chair.  He thought they were safely out of sight, but Mom’s eyes are sharp for these things and his plan for three ice cream bars was foiled.  I did compromise and let him have one more, but not two more.  He knew a good turn of events when he saw it and so didn’t press his good fortune.

As he got up from his chair, he walked over to me in the kitchen and stood there.  I turned to look at him and he asked, “Mom, does the face around me have chocolate?”

There he goes, warming my heart with his clever use of language.  I paused when he asked me this question to be sure I heard him correctly, and so he repeated it……….”Does the face around me have chocolate?”  And he gave a little laugh……….I’m not sure why………..and I smiled and told him that his face was clean.  He thumped on upstairs to take a nap, leaving me with that awareness again that no matter how irritated I am with him, he will somehow manage to make me smile and to keep me sharp with his amazing way of talking.

I well remember when the kids were little and days were exhausting and stressful.  There were times that I would smile at something and realize that I had not used those muscles all day.  What were my children having to see when they looked at me all day?  Smiling has a way of breaking the ice off my heart……… outright laugh is even better.  And it certainly may improve the disposition of those around me.  I know that on many days and on many occasions, I need to be aware of the face around me – my OWN!!

Lessons From the Burnt Batter

We hadn’t seen Kristi in four years and were looking forward to having her come for dinner and fellowship.  Catching up on life and hearing about her missionary work in France was going to be the order of the evening.  I had my menu planned and knew the order in which I needed to prepare the food so that it would all be done right on time.  The first item to prepare was the homemade Pound Cake that I would later serve with ice cream and chocolate syrup.  I love to have my house smelling like good home cooking when someone comes to visit, and I knew that this Pound Cake would start off that homey smell just right.

 After the cake was in the oven for awhile I noticed that I wasn’t smelling that wonderful aroma that I had looked forward to experiencing – and neither would Kristi when she walked in the door!  All I was smelling was the acrid, offending odor of burnt cake.  How could that be?  So I turned on the oven light, peeked in through the glass door, and quickly found the cause.  There on the floor of the oven was an ugly mound of burnt cake batter.  Somehow some of the cake had oozed out of the tube pan onto the bottom of the oven and proceeded to bake into a black, ugly glob.  I couldn’t open the oven door to remove the offense because then the cake would fall, so I had to let it continue baking and filling the house with its burnt odor.  I wasn’t smelling my wonderful Pound Cake.  Instead, all I whiffed was the burnt glob on the bottom of the oven. 

Later, I put the Ravioli Lasagne in the oven and in my hurry to get it started I decided not to remove the burnt batter.  I thought that it had surely burnt so much that it wouldn’t smell anymore and so I would take care of it later.  But sure enough, as the lasagne began to bake I could only smell the dark smell of something burning.  It wasn’t until I opened the oven door and gingerly scooped out as much of the glob as I could that the smell began to go away and to be replaced by the delicious scent of lasagne and cake. 

I wonder what aroma I emit when I am around others?  I’m not talking about the scent of my lotion or whether I brushed my teeth.  Paul said it so well in II Corinthians 2:14 – “But thanks be to God, Who always leads us to triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.”  Am I manifesting the sweet aroma of Christ to everyone that I am around?  Sometimes I know that I have let the hardness of life burn me to a crisp.  When I allow life’s situations to burn me instead of bake me to perfection under His guiding hand, then I emit a very unpleasant odor.  How I respond to the disappointments I face will determine whether I’m allowing Christ to make me into what He wants or allowing my own sinful nature to ooze out of my mouth and my attitudes. 

Satan loves to bombard us with discouragement and to heap guilt and blame upon our heads.  God wants us to live in truimph, as Paul said, and to rest in the knowledge of Him.  My knowledge of God leads me to know that even in the very, very difficult periods of life, He is mixing the ingredients of my life into just what He wants me to become.  Oh may I not allow that beautiful mix that He is creating to become a burnt glob of bitterness and doubt!  May I manifest through Christ the sweet aroma of the knowledge of God in every place that I go! 

Crowns and Croissants

When Aaron had his teeth cleaned a couple weeks ago, the dentist found a large crack in one of his back molars.  This explained the pain that Aaron had been having since biting down hard on some steak a few weeks prior to this discovery.  Dr. Baxter, our dentist, said that Aaron would need a crown.  Aaron has talked and talked about his broken tooth, his cracked tooth, his sore tooth – and also talked of his crown, wondering if it will be silver or gold, and just how the whole process will transpire. 

He’s also been curious about the dental hygienist there at his dentist’s office.  He must have been very observant…………..or as he would say, “I’m just very curious.”  She is oriental, so you can guess where I’m going with this if you’ve read my blog for any length of time.  The other night he was once again talking about his upcoming crown.  “Mom, you know that lady that works on my teeth?  She’s Korean, or Chinese, or Japanese!” 

At least he didn’t try to place her in Africa as he is so often prone to do.  He continued about his hygienist:  “Would you call that lady who cleaned my teeth a servant?  Is she a servant of Baxter?”

I assured Aaron that she was not a servant, but was a dental hygienist who worked for Dr. Baxter.  I was hoping that he would not ask her today about her servant status.  She was polite and smiling after Aaron’s prep work was over, so hopefully he wasn’t offensive in any way.  One good thing about dental visits is that Aaron has very little talking time there.

When the dentist was finished with Aaron’s work today, I heard him telling Aaron what an awesome job he did.  Thankfully, Aaron really does do very well with medical procedures.  Nothing has ever greatly bothered him………….not even needles.  Not even dental needles…….SHIVER!!  As Aaron rounded the corner to the waiting room, I immediately heard, “Mom!”  The staff there is so kind and understanding, and the receptionist just smiled.  Aaron continued, “Can we go to Pizza Hut for lunch?”

Now I had already told Aaron that lunch was questionable due to his numbness that was sure to come.  He was still hoping for a miracle.  I had to tell Aaron to hush as I made his next appointment and his Pizza Hut question kept being repeated.  The hygienist gave him a coupon for a free ice-cream cone, so the pizza question then became an ice-cream cone question.

We made our usual post-dental Wal-Mart visit.  I had my list ready and Aaron had his usual stops all planned:  Bathroom………Snack Aisle………..Video Aisle.  I looked up from housewares to see him lumbering toward me, balancing three canisters of his now favorite Multi-Grain  Sour Cream and Onion Pringles in his arms.  We put them in the cart and he was off again, only to return soon after with a DVD in his hand.  It’s a DVD that I’ve said no to in the past but Aaron is ever hopeful.  The answer was still no.  He heard the stern tone of my voice and knew that his Multi-Grain Sour Cream and Onion Pringles were in jeopardy if he responded incorrectly, so he was mellow about not buying the DVD.  He did try for a new keyboard…………..with another no from me…………..and a new desk chair…………..and another no………..and a travel neck pillow that he always wants………….with yet another no. 

But Aaron wasn’t finished.  He asked about the spaghetti I told him we were having for supper, wanting to know about bread.  Before I could answer, he asked if we could have some………….can you guess?  Croissants!!  I surprised him by saying yes, and then told him to go get his treasured Croissants while I picked up one more thing.  Soon I headed toward the deli breads, only to see Aaron once again lumbering toward me with – of course – THREE containers of Croissants.  He had planned his argument well, telling me that he could have some for breakfast, too!  He was so hopeful and was balancing the containers so carefully, that I caved and said yes.  Happy, happy Aaron!

He sat on the bench outside his favorite nail salon while I paid, with strict instructions from me to NOT stand in the door staring at the women getting their nails done.  I forgot to mention not clapping, and soon I heard that familiar, ear-splitting CLAP!!!  He was looking right at me, knowing that my head would shake no and my mouth would form a silent no.  He smiled his lopsided, numb-faced smile.  Good old Aaron! 

We both know exactly what to expect from each other, though sometimes there are surprises.  Aaron’s surprises today came in threes with his three Pringles and his three Croissants.  For me, it was the surprise of seeing Aaron with his three containers of Croissants.  I thought he would have figured out how to stack them and carry four or five, at least!  

Making Music

Aaron came down for supper last night with a song on his mind, for whatever reason.  “Mom, you know that song that goes ‘Call on Jesus, call on Jesus….’?  Remember that song?  What song is that?”  He repeated his question several times as I tried to grasp in my memory exactly what song he was talking about.  Then it hit me.  “Aaron, you’re talking about Chris Tomlin’s Untitled Hymn.” 

As we ate, Gary took his tablet and looked up Untitled Hymn.  Soon the beautiful melody and the precious lyrics were filling the kitchen as we ate.  Aaron listened closely, affirming that this was indeed the song that he was thinking about.  Soon the song was nearly done, as Chris sang the touching verse about death:  “And with your final heartbeat, kiss this world good-bye.  Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory’s side – and fly to Jesus, fly to Jesus, fly to Jesus and live.”  Aaron got such a puzzled look on his face.  “Fly to Jesus?  Does that mean we’ll be angels?!” 

We talked about that awhile, and he wanted to know about why each verse has different words…………come to Jesus, sing to Jesus, fall on Jesus, etc.  We discussed the fact that this song shows the various stages of our Christian walk and then death at the end.  It was a sweet almost-ending to our day.

Until Aaron had to mention another music reference that also had stuck in his head.  “I was watching Yosemite Sam on TV and he told this girl to come to the cash bar, and then they would make some music together!”  Gary and I were silent as Aaron asked what Yosemite Sam meant, but Gary’s cheek had a twitch and his mouth was working hard not to grin.  I was a good girl and didn’t laugh TOO loud.  As Aaron carried his plate into the kitchen, Gary smiled at me and whispered a warning – “Don’t you talk to him about it!”

Oh, come on Gary!  Let’s show Aaron what it means to make some music together!!

Count Your………Our………..MY Blessings!

It’s been one of those mornings.  You know…… of THOSE mornings.  I went to bed bothered by worrisome issues that I should not go to bed being bothered by……….those worrisome issues.  Can’t end that sentence in a preposition.  🙂    I went to my new location in Andrea’s old room that I’ve set up for myself……..a new desk and an alone place to have my quiet time.  The new location didn’t seem to help.  I felt stifled and ineffective in my time with the Lord this morning.  Distracted…….and thinking that I needed to dodge my prayers that were bouncing off the ceiling, going no where.  Is Satan unhappy about my desire for a more intimate time with the Lord?  Perhaps.

Later, I looked at the weather forecast and the upcoming week of temps above 100 and no rain only increased my weariness.  Our scratchy dog with allergies; laundry waiting to be washed or put away; dishes to take care of; even a Supreme Court ruling and an election in Egypt that I don’t agree with were piling up in my mind.  Talk about taking on the cares of the world.  Come on, Patty.  This is really ridiculous!

After my shower, I heard good old Aaron in the hall.  “Mom?”  I told him that I would be out in a minute.  I could tell that I would have very little patience with him today………shame on me.  He thumped downstairs to take his pills and thumped back up to see if we could now talk.  I again told him to wait……….and when I did open my door, he was in his room and promptly told me to come look at his finger.  He held it up for me as I walked in, and there it was………….his index finger, all wrapped up in a bloody band-aid.

My patience was even less now.  “Mom, last night I had some loose skin and so I used my knife to cut it off.” Oh Aaron.  We’ve heard this story before and I knew what was coming………..and it did.   He wanted to know if he should have used his little pocket knife to cut off the skin; why not?; what would I use?; that he couldn’t help it that the knife slipped, etc., and etc.  I removed the band-aid and saw the raw wound where he had cut or pulled off his loose skin.  I could feel my irritation increasing.  I told him to go shower…………his whole body, by the way, not just his finger!  I know how he thinks.

Aaron showered and then came to my bathroom, where I further cleaned and medicated and dressed his wound.  He could sense my mood and so he scurried on downstairs, deciding to get his own coffee and carry it to his room himself without bothering his moody mom.  Soon I heard, “Mom, I spilled some coffee but I’ll clean it up.”  Oh goodness, Aaron!  Where did you spill coffee?  “On the stairs.  I’ll clean it up!”  No, Aaron…….I’ll get it.  All the while, I was muttering under my breath about how this is the last thing I needed and why did he have to carry the coffee up himself when he’s so shaky and of all mornings…………

Then I saw the spill, which looked more like a gushing of coffee.  It was splattered on several stairs, but one stair in particular was soaked with coffee.  Oh Aaron!  Look at this mess!  Next I saw coffee on the living room floor, so got the Swiffer and mopped that section.  I headed for the soppy stairs, with Aaron saying, “I’ll clean it up, Mom!”  But I grabbed towels and began the clean-up, while Aaron then said, “Here, I’ll help.”  He proceeded to carry a wad of paper towels from the kitchen into the living room and instead of heading for the stairs where I was, he started wiping off the piano.  WHAT??!!  Sure enough, some coffee had splattered onto the piano and Aaron was working to clean up the brown spots…………….while he stood on the still-wet floor.  I went from unhappy to unhappier, all the while muttering about how my nerves couldn’t take much more and of all mornings and please, Aaron, don’t talk right now………..

I continued my shallow thinking as I realized that I would indeed have a bad hair day, no matter what I did to try to improve the mess on my head.  The clothes I chose to wear today didn’t help any, nor did the sandals.  No time to change all that now.  Of all days for me to have a doctor appointment, I moaned to myself.  Little annoyances for the remainder of the morning reminded me of my misery.  Aaron and I hurried out the door, stopping at the grocery store on our way to meet his group.  I had promised him a Cheddar Pasta Salad to take to his group.  Of all mornings to need to leave early, I grumbled.

At the deli counter, as we waited to be served, Aaron began to notice all the dishes.  He leaned over and oohed and aahed over the Deviled Egg Potato Salad, The Layered Salad, the Fruit Salad, the German sandwiches, the Spaghetti Salad…………and his joy over simple food began to silence my distasteful attitude.  He had moved beyond spilled coffee, bad hair, wounded finger, scratchy dog, and hot temps.  He noticed the good things before him.  As we walked out with not only his Cheddar Pasta Salad, but also a bottle of flavored water and some Skittles, he chattered happily about anything and everything.  If I wasn’t listening, I would have missed his observation that the entrance sidewalk at the Warren Theater is, in his words, “…….twinkle stone.  Does it have jewelry in it, Mom?”

I had to pause in my heart and smile.  As we drove to meet his group, I told him that I was sorry about my attitude that morning.  He didn’t say a word, but I  know he filed that apology in his mind.  I needed to say it and he needed to hear it from his grouchy mother this morning.  Later, at Sassy Nails, I sat across from a stranger – another mom – while our toes dried.  We talked and she shared how her sister had died of cancer, and how through it all she had blessings to be thankful for.  This woman, this mom, this sister, had no idea about how much I needed to hear those words.  How easy it is to let the slight troubles of my life ruin my disposition and take my mind off the Lord!

So I have counted my blessings for the rest of the day:
1.  The spilled coffee matches the carpet, especially in the dim light.
2.  A coffee smell on the stairs beats a dog smell any day.
3.  The living room needed to be mopped anyway.
4.  My new pink toes hopefully took the doctor’s eyes away from my bad hair.
5.  I do have hair.
6.  It may be 107 degrees outside, but we have working AC inside.
7.  It may be 107 degrees outside, but I don’t have to be outside working.
8.  It may be 107 degrees outside, but we have water for our thirsty garden.
9.  Our neighbors have to  move for various hard reasons, and the man taking pics of their house this morning wasn’t taking pics of our house.
10.  I have a faithful God; loving husband and children; and Aaron to remind me of what’s important.

And I have forgiveness – God’s forgiveness – and even Aaron’s forgiveness……..unspoken but there none the less.

Who Am I?

Aaron came home one day last week, bounding in the door in his usual bounding way.  Immediately I heard his routine, “Mom!”  He continued to call my name as he made the rounds of the house until he found me.  It never fails.  Not that he finds me………..I can’t hide that well.  It never fails that he calls “Mom!” repeatedly throughout the house.  I have told him over and over to quit yelling out “Mom!” but to wait until he finds me, and then he can say “Mom” and proceed with his tall tale or his question or his observation or his question………..quietly.  This is foreign and unacceptable to Aaron, obviously, so I just waited as he yelled “Mom!” and then as he walked in my bedroom I proceeded with my hello and how are you………none of which he was interested in at the moment.

“Mom!”  he continued.  “I was wondering about something today.”

He waited for my response, to be sure I was listening or interested…………not sure which.

What were you wondering about today, Aaron?

“Well, I was wondering if I can call you Patty and call Dad, Gary.”

Oh boy.  Here we go.

Aaron, why do you want to call your dad and I by our first names?

He answered, “I’m just tired of calling you Mom and Dad.”

So proceeded our evening conversation, continuing throughout supper preparation and throughout our time of waiting for Dad (aka Gary) to return home from work.  Aaron could not really define why he was tired of calling Gary and I by our usual titles of Mom and Dad.  However, he assured us that he was very tired of the Mom and Dad routine, and that Gary and Patty would suit him so much better.

Sure enough, during supper Aaron didn’t waste much time before approaching Gary (sometimes referred to as Dad) with his newfound name change.  “Dad, I told Mom that I want to start calling you guys Gary and Patty.”

Of course, Gary agreed with me because I’m Mom (or is that Patty?).  He told Aaron that he should not call us by our first names but by our titles of Mom and Dad.  We struggle enough with instilling respect for others in our very vocal Aaron.  We both tried to make him understand that calling us by our first names would be showing a lack of respect.  I don’t know why we thought that this would matter to Aaron.

Gary (Dad to our children, except one), asked Aaron why he didn’t want to call us Mom and Dad.  Aaron replied, “It’s just weird!”

Since when is it weird to call Mom and Dad…………Mom and Dad?  Aaron couldn’t quite answer that question.  I tried a different approach as I told him about given names and that his given name is Aaron, my given name is indeed Patty as well as his Dad’s given name is Gary.  BUT our title to our children is MOM and DAD.

Aaron listened.  I felt that I had made an important break through in this stalemate.  Pointing to myself, I asked, “So Aaron, who am I?”

Without batting an eye, he answered, “Patty.”


I should never have told him to quit yelling “Mom!”

We’ll Pray

Today has been a stay-at-home day – for both Aaron and me.  Aaron slept late and when I went in his room to check on him, he said his stomach hurt.  I didn’t hear any seizures but knew that he didn’t feel well.  Or did he just go to sleep late last night and so wanted to sleep in?  I’m not at all sure about the reason he didn’t feel well, but I made the decision to let him stay home from his day group today.  The decision was easier, too, since I was going to be home all day, and so I didn’t have to rearrange my schedule in order to be here with him.

He was delighted to hear that he could stay at home – and with Mom!  He did feel the need to confirm over and over to me that he really was a little under the weather.  “Mom, I don’t feel well.”  And a minute later, as he followed me into my bedroom, “Mom, I don’t feel well.”  Down the stairs to the kitchen we went, and once again, “Mom, I don’t feel well.”
Aaron, I know you don’t feel well.  You really do get to stay at home today.
Then I told him that he needed to get in the shower first thing.  Aaron doesn’t particularly like showers……..or baths………..or any form of working to keep clean.  He heard the news that he had to still shower and said, “Are you sure that will be good for me?”

Yes, Aaron, that will definitely be good for you……….and VERY good for me.  Now go!

He showered and then drank his freshly brewed coffee, seemingly unaware of how blessed his life is at times like this.  I took the opportunity to remind him that he needed to eat something, but his stomach was not yet ready for that.   I took the further opportunity, since we were discussing food, to talk to him yet once again about how he needed to eat right and make wise food choices when he is out with his group.  “Aaron, what did you buy yesterday with your money when you went to Quik Trip?” 

He answered, “I bought a 52 slushie and 4 Hot Tamales.”
Good grief, Aaron!  For those of you who may not know, a 52 slushie means a 52 ounce slushie.  The biggest……….the largest………..the extra grande………..the one that Aaron always buys. 

“Aaron,” I asked.  “What other sizes do they have?”

“They have a 52…….a 16………and a 32,” he replied.

So I told him that a 16 would be far better………as would ONE box of Hot Tamales………NOT four! 
“Why is a 16 a good size?” he wanted to know. 

Because a 16 is plenty, Aaron.  A 52 is WAY beyond plenty!

Aaron continued to talk as I worked around the house, following me from room to room.  For instance, he informed me of a visitor at Paradigm that used to work there.  “Mom, that lady that used to work at Paradigm came for a visit with her baby!”  I tried to narrow down just who this person was – pretty sure I know – but to help me out Aaron clarified, “She’s that white-skinned lady!” 

I smile. No matter how many times we tell Aaron not to refer to skin color, he invariably comes back to that – or some other – physical feature to describe someone whose name he can’t remember.  We worry about him being offensive………a concept he does not grasp nor does he care to.

I went outside to work in the garden and to trim some bushes.  I enjoyed the fresh air, the birds, the sound of the wind………….and then, “Mom!”  There stood Aaron, wondering where I was and what I was doing.  I invited him to come out to join me and to talk…………not believing those words were coming out of my mouth!  Aaron does not need an invitation to talk.  He manages that very easily, like breathing.  Yet on this morning, as Aaron came back outside with his shoes and socks on, carrying his trash can…………..he did not talk.  He busied himself in the dried leaves and grass and twigs on the back side of the garden.  When he absorbs himself in this activity, he is lost in thought………….relaxing in his own world.  This is one world that we are not a part of…………….a place where only Aaron goes.  Even my comments about the beans or the clouds or the wind or the lady bugs did not elicit a response of more than a grunt or a word or two. 

I was lost in thought, too……….thinking of prayer requests from friends and family; thanking the Lord for recent answered prayers; thinking of those whom I love facing major decisions and challenges; learning lessons, as always, in my garden.  Soon I asked Aaron if he wanted some lunch………….some chicken pot pies.  This brought his head up quickly!  “Yeah!” he answered.  “How many?” 

One, Aaron.  One is plenty.  Not a 52, or 16, or 32…………or 4, like the Hot Tamales.
Once in the kitchen, he waited patiently for the microwave to cook his one pot pie.  I told him that soon it would be ready and that he could let it cool.  And he said, “After that, we’ll pray.”

  Simple, yet profound.  He remembers that we pray before we eat at home, and when we are out.  I am reminded of the teaching that we as parents or grandparents or friends or teachers carry on with those under our care.  That consistent, daily teaching…………and how sometimes we wonder if any of it is sinking into their inner being.  Oh yes, it is! 

So as we continue to live our faith, and teach our children no matter their age, we pray that what they are seeing and learning will reside in their souls and their hearts forever.  We pray for our Andrea as she begins graduate school far away in Texas.  We pray for Andrew as he finishes his last year of college, that he will seek and know God’s will for his life.  We pray for our future with Aaron, for his safety and for our wisdom and patience. 

Yes, Aaron.  After that, we’ll pray.  Always pray.

Shakespeare or Schwarzenegger?

Recently, Aaron came into the kitchen where I was working and launched into his latest area of interest for that day.  “Mom!   Today John, Allen and I were talking about Romeo and Juliet.”  Well, this certainly is a switch, I thought.  He’s gone from his latest alien fascination straight into Romeo and Juliet.  I could tell that I was going to need to hang on for this ride.

Aaron continued, “Is this thing true about Romeo?”
What thing, Aaron?  “That poem………the one that………..oh, what’s his name?  Shakespeare?  Didn’t he write that poem about Romeo and Juliet?”

It wasn’t a poem, Aaron.  William Shakespeare wrote a play about Romeo and Juliet. 

“Yeah, and Juliet said ‘Therefore art thou, Romeo?”

Uh, something like that.  She actually said, ‘Wherefore art thou, Romeo?’

“So why did she say that?!”

Thus proceeded our conversation as I prepared dinner and had this stimulating conversation about Shakespeare and his poem, as Aaron kept insisting, called Romeo and Juliet.  Aaron wanted to know who this strange couple was and why Juliet was looking for Romeo and then he decided to fill me in on the rest of the story.

“Juliet said ‘Therefore art thou, Romeo?’ and she stood in the window of the castle.  Then she jumped out of the window of the castle!”

I realized that at this point we had a compilation going of Rumpelstiltskin and Tangled and who knows what else?  Interesting.  Fairy tales and Disney and Shakespeare, rolled into one.  I should send Aaron to Hollywood!

I tried to straighten this tangled mess out as I worked, but Aaron finished his informative conversation with me and thumped up to his room to occupy himself for the evening.  But the next day, at supper, he had fresh ears.  Andrea was there as well as Gary, and Aaron soon launched into his tale of Shakespeare and the poem he wrote about Romeo and Juliet.  As he continued, the three of us were exchanging side way glances and doing everything possible not to laugh loudly at Aaron’s version of Shakespeare’s poem………which we kept trying to clarify with Aaron that it was a play but Aaron has dubbed it a poem and so it will stay a poem.
As he excitedly talked about this great poem, and how Juliet was looking for Romeo by asking the famous ‘Therefore art thou, Romeo?’ question……….and how she was standing in the castle window……………and then how she jumped out of the window!………………Gary, Andrea, and I were chewing vigorously in an effort to stifle our laughter.

But the tipping point came when somehow Aaron mysteriously forgot who wrote this amazing poem and he asked, “Who wrote that?  Was it Arnold?”  Aaron paused to think for a moment and then continued, “No, it wasn’t Arnold Schwarzenegger from the Terminator.”

That was it.  I dissolved down into my chair, trying not to choke on my food as I laughed and then in my best Austrian accent, I just couldn’t resist.  I said, “I’ll be back………..Juliet.”  I know you had to be there, but Gary, Andrea and I totally lost it.  I had to leave the table as the tears of laughter rolled down my cheeks.  We don’t often laugh like this about what Aaron says, except behind his back, because at times he takes it personally and thinks that we are laughing AT him instead of WITH him.  Actually, at this moment we were laughing AT him and we just couldn’t stop.
Thankfully, Aaron was still stuck on Shakespeare and Schwarzenegger and didn’t seem at all bothered by  the laughter and choking and Mom repeating again, “I’ll be back…………Juliet.”  He then began to ask if Shakespeare was still alive.  “I thought Shakespeare was kinda still alive to write poems.”

Well, I’d say that at that moment Shakespeare was very alive and well at our house.  More so than he probably would have ever wanted to be. 

Or was that Schwarzenegger? 

And I seriously doubt that this is over.  I’ll be back……….Shakespeare!

An Auspicious Birth – Kind Of

It was a hot June 18 in Princeton, West Virginia, 63 years ago. Beth King was busy watching over her three children, ages 4 and under, as well as preparing for her parents to arrive from Florida. Her husband, Jack, was at work and so she busily got the house and dinner ready for her family to arrive. Oh, and someone else was getting ready to arrive, too. Beth was 9 months pregnant! And so in her typical hard-working fashion, she decided to tackle one more task that needed to be done. Grabbing the lawn mower, she set out to mow the large yard. She was barefoot – after all, this IS West Virginia I’m talking about!

After mowing awhile, Beth ran in to check on the dinner in the oven. She had made a specialty of hers – Cheese Souffle – and knew that she needed to watch its rising very carefully. Bending over, she slowly opened the oven door and received quite a surprise. Her water broke!! I don’t remember all the details at that point – I was the one about to be born – but I can imagine that there was much rushing around and changing of plans and phone calls and getting to the hospital! 

Dr. Pace had to be called in from a family picnic on this beautiful summer Saturday. I had no concern for other’s plans, only my own! Dr. Pace was wearing a very bright Hawaiian shirt and didn’t have time to change because I was in a hurry. Mother had green feet from mowing the lawn. And so I was born, looking at green feet and a bold Hawaiian shirt. Does this explain me to all of you? It should. 

And guess what my favorite meal is, the one that Mom always made for me when I would come home from college or from being around the world as a military wife? Cheese Souffle, of course!! I love you, Mom, for giving me life on this day 57 years ago – strange as it was!

Our Selfless Dad

As Father’s Day approaches, my thoughts naturally turn to my Dad more often than usual.  The other day, I purposefully kept my eyes from looking at the Father’s Day cards written for Dad as I perused the cards and made my choice.  Even now, over three years since his death, looking at those cards for Dads will certainly bring the tears.  I’m sure that Mary Beth and Bob, John and Jeanie, Jan and Bob, and Kathryn and Jimmy feel the same as Gary and I do.  We have so much to be thankful for………..many good years spent with such a kind and dear man rather than only a few, as is the case with so many others.  Yet I know that no matter how long he would have lived, the missing would never be any easier.  He was just that kind of man.

I think that perhaps the attribute of our Dad that made him the dearest was his selflessness.  This trait was evident in the way that he could laugh at himself and allow us to laugh with him………..or laugh at him, too……….without any hint of pride at all.  He also took time to talk to people and to really listen without seeming hurried or disinterested in what was being shared.  He looked for ways to reach out to others with a helping hand, a few dollars, a wise word of advice, a ride somewhere, a visit, a shared laugh………….always with kindness.  He wasn’t out to promote himself or protect his time.  He was all about others and about family.

I saw the greatest demonstration of his selflessness many times during the month that I spent with him and Mom before he died.  I’ve heard it said that the way a person handles his impending death is a real evidence of the person they truly are.  I can vouch for this statement when I think of Dad.  He was polite, and humorous, and gentle, and thankful even as he daily faced pain and uncertainty and the knowledge that he was leaving Mom.  I learned a lot from him during that emotional month. 

Dad was very modest………very, very modest.  During our childhood, we never saw him without a shirt on.  Even when he mowed the yard on a hot summer day, he wore a shirt.  If we happened to see him shaving in his bathroom with the door open, he was wearing a tee shirt.  And never, ever did we see him in a pair of shorts.  That would have been very out of character for him.  We didn’t think anything about it…………we just accepted this aspect of Dad’s character and loved him for it. 

All of us kids hoped that Dad would still be able to preserve his modesty during his final weeks of fighting cancer.  None of us wanted to see him have to face that loss…….that humiliation.  It weighed on my mind as I flew home to be with him and Mom before he died.  I was there to help, to minister to them both.  We children were all doing what we could, but now as he declined rapidly I dreaded what may be ahead.  He was getting so weak, I learned, that Mom had to swing his legs up into bed at night as he sat on the edge of the bed.  This was very difficult for her, physically.  On my first night there, as I listened in the other room, Mom told Dad that he should let me come in and help him into bed.  He surprised me by saying, “I will not!”  But I could understand.  He wasn’t being difficult.   It was simply that his modesty and privacy was hard to relinquish. 

It was only a matter of days after I arrived that he was allowing me to assist with getting him into bed.  He had pajamas on but it was still hard for him.  Yet we both laughed and said funny things and as always, he was able to handle the situation with humor and sweetness.  Soon his health declined enough that Hospice brought in a portable toilet that sat in his room.  Dad was determined to be up and about in his wheelchair every day as much as possible, but the bathroom was impossible.  Mom was handling all these details herself, of course, as I waited in the living room.

One day, after a particularly trying time for Mom both physically and emotionally, Dad called me to his bed.  He said, “I don’t want your Mom to ever have to do that again.”  He told me that he wanted Amy, his precious Hospice nurse, to train Jan and me on how to care for his personal needs. 

Jan and I were both dreading this moment, more for him than for us.  We knew how hard this decision was for him.  Yet he came to this point not for his own welfare, but for Mom’s.  He was so worried about her health and her emotions that he was willing to give up his own feelings in order to care for her.  Jan and I both talked to Dad, asking him if he was very sure – and he confirmed that he was.  When Amy came to the house the next time, she briefly showed us what to do – yet was able to do it in such a way as to preserve his dignity, which was a real blessing.   The entire time that we helped with his toilet needs, we were able to do so with respect and with little invasion of his privacy.  Still, it was a monumental change for him and for us.

Soon after we began this new phase of his care, I had positioned him back into his wheelchair when I looked down and saw that he was crying.  It upset me and I quickly knelt down by his side, feeling that he must be embarrassed at what he was forced to do.  “Dad, what’s wrong?” I asked.  He then told me, in his weak and slow voice, that he was sorry.  Sorry?  “Dad, what are you sorry for?”  And he answered, “I’m sorry that you and Jan have to do this.”

The reality of what he meant hit me with such force that I could hardly speak.  Dad wasn’t crying for himself or for his own humiliation.  He was crying because he felt like he had made Jan and I be a part of something that we should, in his opinion, never have had to do.  He was thinking of us, not of himself.  He was apologizing for what he felt he had caused for us – embarrassment at having to take care of our father’s personal needs.   I hugged him and assured him that we were privileged to be allowed to care for him.  And I told him that I didn’t want him to ever feel that way again.  

This picture of Dad’s selflessness will stay with me forever.  If anyone had a right to feel sorry for himself and to cry over his own situation, my dying Dad sure did.  Yet he still thought of others, of us, as he did until the day he died.  He was still teaching us by his actions how a man of God should live………..and how a man of God should die.  Thank you, Dad.