The Eulogy

I sat in the front row. Black jacket. Black skirt. An older man I’d never met before began to tell stories of his deceased best friend and I found myself  laughing, crying … wishing I had known the deceased better.

The deceased was my older brother.

My older brother and I weren’t close in the traditional sense. We didn’t call each other every week or go on vacations together once a year or even get together every Christmas.

But he would call or text me sometimes whenever something funny happened, and sometimes whenever he would come through town ( he was a truck driver ) he would call me from the truck stop and we’d get together for a quick bite to eat.

I always knew that he’d be there for me if I should ever need him and I’m pretty sure he knew he could count on me too.

He was the funniest person I ever knew. We often even made jokes about our sibling-hood.

One of the last times we got together before he died, he had just happened to be driving through town during his birthday weekend and he called from the truck stop, wanting to get together for some BBQ. So I went and picked him up and drove him to my favorite BBQ joint. And while we sat there, chowing down on ribs and baked beans, I joked with him about not being at home to sign for that birthday present that I did NOT send him. He said he wouldn’t worry about it too much because the mailman would probably just leave it on the porch – just like the UPS guy did with the birthday present that he sent me. ( He didn’t send me anything. )

He died five years ago this month. I miss him. And I also miss the future that I took for granted.

The future where we would have continued not sending birthday wishes and joking about how we didn’t – but also knowing that birthday wishes were not the cornerstone of our easy-going, goofy relationship.

And in my book … easy-going and goofy beats boxes and bows … every single time.

Time To Go Golfing

My father was a minister back when I was growing up. And every week, our town’s ministers and pastors and bishops would get together for a coffee-drinking, round-table meeting at one of our local restaurants.

As a child, I had the pleasure of attending a time or two, having talked my father into letting me skip the rest of the school day after a doctor or dentist appointment. And as I would sit there drinking my hot cocoa and spooning the gooey marshmallows to eat, my little brain would soak up every word being shared.

I remember a story my father once told about having played golf a few days prior. The course had been busy and they were pairing up single players to tee off together. And it just so happened that my father ended up being paired with a particularly foul-mouthed golfer.

By hole three, the conversation had steered towards what the other did for a living. And when my father informed the stranger that he was a minister, the foul-mouthed golfer began to apologize profusely, promising to watch what he said and to clean up his act while golfing around my father.

My father’s reply: “If you can clean it up on the golf course, you can clean it up elsewhere too.”

Indeed.

At a time when our country is so incredibly divided, when name-calling and still unproven accusations have become the “norm,” when political parties express such distrust in one another, when the traditions of democracy teeter on the edge … maybe our government officials should go golfing with my retired-minister father instead.

He could probably teach them a thing or two. He could tell them to watch what they say … that words matter … that manners matter … that CHARACTER MATTERS.

Clean it up, America. A country divided against itself cannot stand.

One would think we would have learned that already by hole three.

Say It Ain’t So, Charlie Brown

For the first time in over fifty Halloweens, “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” will not be shown on network television. I feel like my childhood has officially ended.

Okay – to be fair – my childhood ended a long, LONG time ago but the Charlie Brown holiday specials have always been a staple in my life. Particularly the Halloween special. Ever since I dressed up as a witch at age five and scared myself so badly just looking at my unrecognizable reflection in the mirror (refusing to ever go trick-or-treating again) I have known that scary stuff just wasn’t for me. Not haunted houses, not scary costumes and not scary movies.

So you see … Charlie Brown is my jam.

It was even my children’s jam.

Okay, maybe not so much my children’s jam as they were never big fans of Charlie Brown like I was. But nothing says family tradition like forcing your children to sit through thirty minutes of the great pumpkin while their fingers addictively twitch from not being able to play video games or check texts on their phones, and while they simultaneously spit out descriptive adjectives like lame and boring and stupid.

“How can you watch this? The graphics are horrible,” they’d bemoan in stereo.

Ahhh … family traditions. Those were the good ole days.

I just read this week that Apple TV+ has acquired the rights to not only the Halloween special but the Thanksgiving and Christmas ones too. And while my family could indeed stream the specials on our iPhones and iPads during our growing disparate and scattered iLives, we won’t. It’s just not the same.

It’s just not the same as the nation sitting down together in front of their TVs, cross-legged with a bowlful of popcorn, and collectively experiencing that football being snatched away once again and being treated with a bag full of rocks.

Some traditions just shouldn’t be messed with.

Say it ain’t so, Charlie Brown. Say it ain’t so.

The Great Sock Debacle

As a little girl, I used to love knee-high socks. I used to have them in every imaginable color. Now I don’t really know why I was so obsessed with knee-highs … perhaps it was because I had cold shins. I know that sounds weird but I can’t even begin to tell you how many pictures there are of me as a little girl – in the middle of summer, wearing breezy little dresses … yet still wearing wooly knee-highs.

One glorious fall season, my grandmother made me an adorable, forest green, corduroy jumper and I have to tell you, I was so excited to wear it to church for the first time! So excited that I set my clothes out the night before – carefully laying out my forest green jumper, my cream colored button-down shirt to wear underneath, my dark brown Mary Jane shoes … and my matching, forest green knee-high socks.

Except I couldn’t find my forest green socks.

And I HAD TO HAVE those forest green socks because they were key to the whole matching ensemble.

Turns out they were dirty … tossed away at the bottom of the laundry hamper.

So I decided to dig them out and wash them. I had no idea how you washed clothes but I had watched my mother do the laundry before so I assumed you just threw your clothes into the machine, pulled the little knob on top and voila! You miraculously had clean clothes a couple of hours later.

I had no idea you needed to put detergent in the washing machine OR that you had to remove your clothes – or in my case, a pair of socks – and put them into the dryer later on. I guess I thought they just magically transitioned from one machine to the next.

Imagine my surprise come Sunday morning when I rushed into the laundry room only to find my knee-high socks still soaking wet! And not exactly smelling that good either as I hadn’t put any detergent into the load.

But I HAD TO WEAR those forest green, knee-high socks!! I HAD TO!! They were key to the whole matching ensemble!!

So I decided to wear them anyway. And I guess this is as good a time as any to tell you that those Mary Jane shoes I had planned to wear … well, um … they were SUEDE.

And as I stretched those wet, forest green, knee-high socks on and sank my squishy feet into my brown suede, Mary Jane shoes only to immediately witness the darkening wet circle start to spread through both pairs … I briefly thought for a moment … “Maybe nobody will notice?”

But they did.

Everybody noticed.

Everybody in Bible Class kept asking me why my shoes and socks were so wet.

“Did you step in a big puddle?” they all questioned.

“Um, yes… yes I did,” I replied as I went squish-squish-squish down the church corridor, leaving little damp footprints in the hall.

It hadn’t rained in weeks.

Squish, squish, squish. Puddle, puddle, puddle.

Many decades later, I was visiting relatives in Tennessee when I ran into a woman that used to attend the same church where my father had once preached. I asked her if she remembered me. She paused for a moment, searching through her internal memory bank then suddenly declared, “Why yes! You’re the preacher’s daughter with the wet suede shoes!”

Yep.

That was me.

Did I also mention that particular Sunday was the day they were taking pictures for the church directory?

Yep. Me and my wet socks and suede shoes. Forever captured on film.

Squish. Squish. Squish.