The trip that almost wasn’t

blogIMG_3014.jpgToday is a new day. Just like every single one we are blessed to experience upon awakening each morning.

This morning was just like any other this winter. Snow flurries flying furiously through the air. Again.

I truly do enjoy the winter season. I like the cold, crisp air. I love that winter blanket of pure, white snow. I don’t mind the freezing temperatures.

But this season is different.

I’ve grown impatient with Ol’ Man Winter. I want him gone. I want warm, balmy temperatures. I want to see the sun more often and find color outside my window…or at least, something different than the monochromatic snow or the drab browns, grays, and blacks of the landscape when the snow melts.

Back in the fall when Papa and I planned a mid-winter trip, I didn’t know I was going to be so disenchanted with the perpetually snowy, cold weather winter would bring.

So as the time grew closer to our departure for Arizona back in mid-February, I anticipated our escape to warmer climes with hope for the sunshine that makes me happy and the chance to spend quality time with my sister and brother-in-law in that sunshine.

We spent a considerable amount of time planning our get-away in advance. Bought the airline tickets. Reserved hotel rooms and a rental car so we could take a short side trip to the Grand Canyon after we landed in Las Vegas.  From there, we would drive to Sis’s home in southwestern Arizona.

All systems were go. An escape from winter’s clutches (well, except for the Grand Canyon trip) just for a short time.  This trip sounded so promising and mood-lifting.  And yet…I couldn’t identify what it was, but some intangible thing was holding me back from being overly excited.

And that’s when it happened. About a week before our departure date, Papa experienced something quite out of the norm for him.  He became very ill and was in intense pain. A trip to the emergency room confirmed what we suspected.  Something very tiny that needed to be passed from his body was causing him to be enveloped in the most fierce pain.

The trip? What should we do about our trip? He experienced agonizing pain for several days as the calendar ticked off less time until our departure. I called my sister to inform her that our plans were up in the air, which resulted in four disappointed people.

The pain lingered on and on. What to do? When the meds alleviated the pain, Papa would declare we were still going. But when the pain resumed and he was flat out lying on the floor, we realized there was no way he could withstand a five-hour plane ride.

What to do? What to do?? Which each passing day and no passage of the pain-causing issue, we fretted. We worried. We prayed. Family and friends prayed for Papa.

Indecision reigned. One minute we were going, the next we were staying home. We reluctantly cancelled our hotel rooms and rental car, but, with hope in our hearts, waited on cancelling our airline reservations.

On again. Off again. We honestly didn’t know what to do. We were down to the wire. One more day left to make a decision.

Papa said, “Let’s pack our suitcases anyway.”  We did and we waited. And waited. In my mind, I had already resolved that we weren’t going.  What a disappointment and yet, I had almost sensed it coming. 

With about 24 hours remaining before we were supposed to board a plane and head into the westward sunset, something happened. We didn’t have to cancel our trip after all. We…well I, because Papa was too worn out, practically danced a jig.

We scurried and hurried and got prepared to fly off after all. We kept the Grand Canyon visit nixed, postponing that until another time, and decided to just spend our entire vacation with Sis and Brother-in-law.

Papa rested and rested the day of our departure and reassured me that he was on the mend. I called my sister with the good news; she informed me they would drive to the Las Vegas airport to pick us up that evening.

Our daughter and granddaughter whisked us to the airport and we breathed a huge sigh of relief as we took off on our flight.  

As we ascended into the sky on that airplane, surrounded by fluffy clouds, I paused to give thanks for all of those answered prayers because the trip that almost wasn’t became the trip that was.

And even though we didn’t see the Grand Canyon, we still had a grand time. But that’s a story for another day.

“The journey not the arrival matters.” ~T.S. Eliot



Texture that sticks

blogIMG_0566A photograph. It’s a reflection of a subject with form and substance but the image itself is flat. A printed picture doesn’t have three-dimensional form like its subject, although it does have size. 

A photograph really doesn’t possess physical  texture though except on its surface be it glossy or matte finish. A photo can show you texture, but the picture itself just isn’t tactile; you can’t feel any textures. 

Take my photo above for instance.  You can see the upholstery of a chair has texture if you peer closely enough. Your eyes tell your brain that visually there are ridges and indentations in the fabric. But you can’t physically feel that texture with your own two hands and fingers.

This week’s photo challenge theme is textures, and since I’m not a very astute artsy kind of person, I’ve struggled with writing some worthwhile thoughts to accompany the photo I think personifies the challenge theme. 

Oh, I could dig back among the dusty corners of my mind, back — way back — to my days of being a college English major, and bring forth some literary definition of textures as in a composite of prose/poetry elements or an identifying quality of a story’s characters.

But my literary study days are long gone, and that kind of analyzing just never was my cup of tea. Honestly, I really wasn’t a typical English major, one to sit around and dissect and discuss a work of literature for its archetypal images or symbolic meanings.

Perhaps I’ve always been too much of a realist, too literal, which is probably why I ended up as a working journalist for a time. Just give me the facts and I’ll weave them into a story. I say what I mean and I mean what I say.

So why did I major in English anyway? Because I loved words. I loved to write. I loved to read. And I loved grammar. Unlike many of my peers, I loved the very structure of English. I enjoyed diagramming sentences because it was logical and made perfect sense to me.

Matter of fact,  a college class solely on structures of English was one of the courses I aced with flying colors along with all of my public speaking ones.

Writing and speaking. Those were my strong points – my make-up, my constitution, my textures if you will  – and they still are to this day.

I try to utilize those skills in whatever I do. For several years, I developed and presented educational programs in public and private school classrooms for a non-profit organization.

Using my tendency for dramatic flair in story-telling — probably why I wanted to be an actress when I was a young girl —  I could always tell when I attracted those easily distracted teen-aged students’ attention.  I worked hard to give them vital information about making healthy choices while entertaining them with a lively story. 

I surely didn’t want to come across as flat or one-dimensional in that endeavor back then. And I still don’t want that as I tell different stories in my blog posts now.

No, I want to have substance, structure, composition.  So I’m claiming this to be my texture: I’m a pretty decent story teller – either written or orally – who just so happens to be capable of logically putting sentences together.

That’s my story when it comes to textures. And I’m sticking to it.

“A good story, just like a good sentence, does more than one job at once. That’s what literature is: a story that does more than tell a story, a story that manages to reflect in some way the multilayered texture of life itself.” ~  Karen Thompson Walker 


Remembering for Pete’s sake

pexels-photo-41135.jpegHis name was Pete and he was a stranger to us.

Alone, he entered the little corner restaurant where my sister and I were enjoying lunch, paused at our table, and announced, “You girls were waiting for me to come join you, weren’t you?”

Now my sister and I aren’t exactly “girls” anymore, but to this older gentleman, we must have appeared to be young ‘uns.  We smiled at him, joked “Sure!” and laughed as he moseyed to the lunch counter and sat down.   He ordered from the menu and turned around to speak to us once more.

We chatted a little, then he began telling us a story.  We asked him to join us at our table as it was easier for him to converse that way.   While he sipped his hot tea and waited for his meal, he talked.  And he talked.  And he shared some interesting narratives about his life.

He relayed stories of his wife, who died five years ago, a wife he loved dearly, so much so that he still sports his wedding band on his left hand.  He shared accounts of their travels to far off places like Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii to name a few.

He made us laugh and when we rewarded him with our laughter, he would say, “Now, you’re not gonna believe this but it’s true.  And this one’s really gonna make you laugh!”  And he’d treat us to another story or two or three.

We listened to anecdotes about his family, childhood, work, and even bowling accomplishments and dancing.    Tales of yore rolled off his tongue in between bites of his hamburger and deep-fried mushrooms.

He was the youngest in a family of eight – the baby of the family.  I mentioned that I was the baby of my family too, and he replied, “Well, hello there, baby!”  I retorted back, “Hello to you too, baby!”

And we laughed some more – the three of us.  But his last story was a serious one, and one that definitely warranted remembering and sharing.

One of his older brothers served as a medic in World War II and that’s where the story began.  His brother was with a unit that had been under heavy fire with many wounded.  The medics thought they had found everyone who needed medical attention and were preparing to leave.  That’s when his brother heard a very faint cry for help.

He rushed to find a badly wounded soldier and carried the man out of harm’s way to a spot where he could be treated and sent to the field hospital.  The soldier would have died left alone if not for Pete’s brother.  He saved the soldier’s life that day but he never saw the wounded soldier again.

A few years later in the Korean War, Pete also served in the military.  He was stationed in the states helping prepare GIs to head to the conflict across the world, but soon he too would be shipped out to that foreign land and face battle.

Pete approached his sergeant and begged him for a three-day pass to go home and see his wife before he left for Korea.  The sergeant denied his request saying no one was allowed a three-day pass because the commander so ordered.

Imagine Pete’s surprise when shortly afterward, the sarge told him he wanted to see him.  It seems the commanding officer came through and as was his custom, he wanted to see the roster of soldiers.  When he came to Pete’s name, the commander told the sergeant, “Give this guy anything he wants.”

Sarge said, “Well, he’d like a three-day pass to go see his wife.”

The commanding officer replied, “Make sure he gets it.  And if he can’t make it back in time afterwards, send an airplane to pick him up!  Give this man anything he wants.”

Why was Pete granted such special treatment?  Because that commanding officer was the man Pete’s brother had saved on the battlefield years before.  He never got to meet Pete’s brother, but over the years, he kept searching soldiers’ rosters for Pete’s last name.  He wanted to repay the man who had saved his life.  When this officer learned that Pete was his rescuer’s own brother, he saw an opportunity to bless that family.

What an endearing story!  Pete’s eyes glistened a little as he recalled it for our benefit.  “That man was a very good man,” I told Pete.

Pete simply replied, “Yes, yes, he was.”

Time flew by and we needed to leave because I was due for an appointment.  Before we bid Pete farewell, he asked us our names and told us how much he appreciated talking with us.  He said he hoped we wouldn’t think he was a crazy, old man.

Pete was an old man, that’s true.  But crazy, no.  Lonely, I think.  In need of good company.  All he asked for was a listening ear and a chance to share the important stories of his life.  And isn’t that what we all need?

Someone to listen.  Someone to care.  Someone to share a laugh.   I once found this Turkish proverb which said, “If speaking is silver, then listening is gold.”

Silver-haired Pete shared his silver gift of telling stories with my sister and me that day, and I’d like to think that as we listened, we gave Pete a gift of gold.

I’ll probably never see Pete again.  I don’t live in his town nor do I visit the area where he lives.  But I’ll never forget him, for Pete’s sake.

“The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention.”  ~Thich Nhat Hanh

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