Sunday, June 21, 2015

Stories All Stacked Up

I used to date a preacher's kid. I hadn't done that before and I haven't done it since. No reflection on the kid or the preacher. It's a life event that bears noting, though. We were together several years. We came to love each other's families.

The first time I met the family was a Sunday. We went to church and Tom, the preacher, was giving the sermon. I thought we'd sit up front and people would watch our every move but that's not the way his wife, Yvonne, rolls. She sits in back so no one can stare at her. Sometimes she balances her checkbook before the offering but she always listens and writes down the theme of the sermon in her program once she's heard it even though she probably spent the week before editing it.

After the service we got a tour of the building because it was state of the art with a brand new lighting and sound system that, as theatre people, J and I would appreciate. Then on to brunch at a local place where I had my first taste of grits. I didn't want a taste of grits but when your boyfriend's father, who has a direct pipeline to God apparently, holds a perfectly buttered and salted forkful of grits in front of your mouth you eat them. They were ok.

At that point on a Sunday the family lets their hair down. We headed back to the manse and sat down in the living room. In short order Tom asked me something about the Presbyterian church and I let fly my ignorance leaving him a wide open door. He stepped into the space where my knowledge should have been with delight. I learned of the beginnings of the church, the split, the sort of reunification, how you could tell one side of the split from the other when you looked at a church's sign....I learned a lot. Well, I heard a lot at least.

We joked when I was part of the family that my first meeting included an 8 hour seminar on the history of the Presbyterian Church in America. Yvonne left the room only a few sentences in. I assumed she was using the bathroom or getting a drink or changing her clothes. She never came back. J left the room not too long afterward. He must have come back at some point because I'm not still in that living room today but it was a long time.  Later up in J's room he asked why I was so interested in all that. I explained that, while it was interesting (really, it was), I wasn't exactly interested but his dad started to talk and I was brought up to be polite and then you and your mother abandoned me there! "Oh, well, you should have left."

How in Presbyterian hell was I supposed to do that?

It wasn't funny then but it's really funny now because now I know that that's just the way that Tom tells stories. He takes you on a long and winding road and there's a lot to learn but some of it you maybe already know and some of it you never needed to know and some of it is fascinating but if you ever want off the ride you just step off. He won't mind.

Here's another thing he said a lot, "I told you that story to tell you this one."

Tom died a couple of weeks ago. He'd been sick for a couple of years. He was expected to die a month or so ago but rallied and spent a little more time with his family. I haven't seen or spoken to him in over a decade. I still quote him and have fond memories of him and ask after him on Thanksgiving, the one day of the year that J and I still see each other. If you'd asked I certainly would have told you that I missed Tom but not in a pressing way. News of his decline obviously didn't spur me to action.

I don't remember when or where it was but I have an absolutely clear memory of Tom telling us about a visit to a hospitalized congregant. Her family was gathered around and they were, of course, heartbroken at the prospect of losing her. Each person in the room held her hand and reminded her of the past and begged her not to go. Tom prayed with them and blessed her and told her that if she had to go she should. He explained that she needed to hear that and she needed to hear it from someone she respected so that was his job for anyone but especially for someone whose family couldn't manage it.

I feel as though I've always known that the right thing to do with a dying person (or, frankly, pet) is to tell them that it's ok to go if they need to. Yet that is the only time I can think of where someone said out loud to me, "This is what needs to be done." I've had some opportunities to use that lesson since and it's present in my mind whenever I'm visiting with or even thinking of someone who won't be around much longer. I thought of it when I thought of Tom before he died.

I hope that if I'd been standing next to his bed I'd have whispered, "Thank you. I really don't want you to go but if you have to please do." On the other hand maybe I'd have asked him to wait until I'd finished telling just one more story.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Photo Challenge: SEARCH

These challenges are a real light for me. As some of you know I'm doing some continuing education as a dog trainer and we're well beyond the cute puppy stuff. The reading is heavy, the homework is intense, my brain and my heart are challenged. I'm loving it but to take a short break and look at the moments shared here is blissful. Thank you.

Our Sue's beloved Goldie enjoyed nothing better than to SEARCH for critters!

Our Skelly thinks he's invisible, right Janet?

Our Misti was searching bouquet making techniques while I loomed over her with a camera. I'm helpful.

So envious of Our Laura's experience. I have only spent a little time researching the work dogs can do with their noses but I'm fascinated.

Our Cindy searched and searched for a cloud and came up empty.

There have been a lot of close shaves in my world lately. Not my own necessarily but things lost and found in highly emotional ways. So let's go with WHEW! for a prompt. You ought to get a kick out of that.

Please enter by 9am Tuesday June 30th for posting on July 1st. Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and WHEW. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have any questions. The  appropriate email for that is Kizzbeth117 at gmail dot com.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sunday in the Borough of Churches

Brooklyn is the Borough of Churches. I found out recently that's because there were government subsidies for churches to move there as a plan to encourage community building.

Now, though, to the untrained eye, it seems that no one goes to their neighborhood church. Everyone I see on the street is hustling out the door very early all pressed and dressed to go somewhere else or arriving in cabs and Access-a-rides and on foot from far flung boulevards and avenues.

If you know me even a tiny bit you know that church is not my thing. Religion is not my thing. A whole lot of not. My untrained eye is only there at that time of day because I have a dog. I prefer not to rise early but I've gotten used to it (I know some of you are having a hearty guffaw at my characterization of 7:45am as early) after so much canine companionship and I can tolerate it because I don't have to shower or put on fancy clothes. I, sometimes literally, roll out of bed, throw on yesterday's clothes, and hit the bricks with my top notch terrier.

I've written often about how I came to realize after Emily died that walking a dog was integral to my mental health. Emily was reactive to other dogs when she was on leash and I was careful not to have headphones in when I walked her so that I could avoid any conflict. I could spot a yorkie at 1,000 paces. Still can! After a few months without a dog I felt extremely unsettled. My brain wasn't organizing itself properly and I wasn't processing emotions well. It finally dawned on me that I spent my walks with Emily letting my mind do its own thing so that the important items could bubble to the top and I could work on them. A lot of people do this in the shower, and I do too, but it turns out I have problems thorny enough to benefit from more contemplation.

This wasn't solved the minute Ed showed up. I dwelt less on the fact that I was having trouble because all of my concentration went to handling this basketball-sized bundle of fury that was living in my house. Walks were not quiet or calm or slow. I was still watching for dogs and for a long time every second of our walks were work, hard work, work that I often failed in.

Things are different now, though. I've learned to really listen to my dog and to break out of patterns that were more for me than for him. A lot of good things have come of that. A happy dog is not the least of them.

Yesterday I (not literally) rolled out of bed and into some clothes that I'd sweated in hard the day before. I loaded up my pockets with poop bags and dog treats. I checked the weather. I clicked Ed into his harness and we headed out the door. For the next hour we walked wherever the scents of the pavement led him. We walked in places we see once a week, once a month, once a year, and at least one I'm pretty sure I've never been on before. The walk was quiet and calm and interesting. My brain had space to wander, bubble, and re-set itself.

It was like church.

If you like that sort of thing.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Photo Challenge: HELP

Man, I've felt like a needed a lot of help lately. It worked out nicely because spending time with these images helped me to get rid of that feeling. Everything's gonna be all right, you know?

Our Janet's grandson, R, is one of the best HELPers I can think of!

HELP! Get me know, never mind it's comfy in here. My boy likes a den

I don't know about Our Alisun but I'm someone who keeps too much stuff already. Free stuff is NO HELP!

One of the basic tenets of Our Bethany's family's HeartLoose adventure is HELPing.

For purely regular, boring, and practical reasons I'm now on the SEARCH for a voice teacher. You know how I am about new stuff. Hate it. So much. But here we are. So please help me make peace with newness by finding fun images prompted by SEARCH.

Please enter by 9am Tuesday June 16th for posting on June 17th. Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and SEARCH. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have any questions. The  appropriate email for that is Kizzbeth117 at gmail dot com.