Thursday, December 18, 2014
I have scattered memories of my childhood Christmases. Of course, that was long enough ago that dinosaurs still roamed the earth and we used giant ferns to decorate the halls. I can’t remember what age, what year, what the overall season was like..but I still have random pictures that flip in and out of my mind, especially as we close in on the holiday proper.
I remember going to my maternal grandmother’s house and making my way through mobs of legs and loud talking. I had a cousin who was about 2 years younger than me that was always my goal for having a playmate. We were always in awe of the number of gifts under the tree and as the family grew, Gramma went from giving silver dollars as a gift to each person to giving a silver dime. We didn’t care. I remember loving Bat Masterson and getting a holster and an official cane from the show..a dowel rod painted black with a silver colored plastic decoration ‘knob’ glued to one end. Uncle Mitchell didn’t have any kids, but he always had the latest photography equipment and would take family photos and movies that are so cherished today. Gramma and Papa and 6 children with their wives and husbands and their children and finally the great grandchildren. It was loud and noisy with everyone crowded into rooms too small for more than 3 or 4 people at a time. The tree was in a corner of the living room and when it came time to give out presents, everyone found a place on the floor or the arms of the sofa or someone’s lap. An adult was designated to hand out the gifts. Everyone would oooo and aww over each unwrapping and laugh at the silly things and be jealous for the special choices. We each got a gift or two and a candy cane off the tree and the dime from Papa and Gramma and a big meal. No show, no ‘is this all???’, no disappointment…just family and appreciation that we were all together.
The only tree in my parent’s home that I can remember before I started grade school was in a house with a big front window. I don’t know what I got that year but it was overshadowed by all the colors on the tree. Ornaments were passed on then. Fragile little horns that ‘really blew” and glass balls with glitter glued to them. Paper and felt and strings of lights and tiny candle holders perched on the end of branches with a warning, “don’t touch, you’ll break it”. The big star that sat on top of the tree that was replaced or replaced a beautiful angel with spread wings that was intended to spread tidings of good cheer, but always looked like she was recovering from a hangover and about to fall off her perch. No one but immediate family is in that recollection and I have no idea of what I even asked for.
At one house I got a bike that was stolen out of the garage a few weeks later and at another I was given a silver coated keepsake box with a wristwatch that broke as soon as I put it on. I still have the Cinderella watch I was given about the age of 3 and a large grey stuffed bear that sits in my bedroom keeping a lookout from my grandmother’s sewing rocker. My mother tried throwing that bear away several times over a 20 year period and I rescued it again and again. Might not be the greatest thing in the world and has absolutely no monetary value, but Grey Bear has been a point of security for me.
This year on the holiday, I’ll be passing the time with my daughter and her family. I have no imagination for gifts to give anyone else or desire to receive anything in particular. I don’t feel the excitement that used to permeate the air with thick expectation of mystery and wonder. I will enjoy my grandson and get down in the floor to become his playmate and his totally attentive audience. I will watch my daughter and her wonderful husband with great admiration and try to figure out where the little girl went that I used to work so hard to surprise and provide the magic of the season. I can’t seem to find the simplicity of yesterday. I can’t find anything from the commercials and secular decorations in the stores that dredge up even an ounce of nostalgia or charm. I’m just not feeling it this year. Grinch and bah humbug.
That is, until this morning when I read my scriptures and devotional. And there it was, waiting where it’s been all the while, right where He said it would be. That star, that field, that sky, that nasty stall, that rough manger, that baby. There He is. That little body that would only live in human form for about 33 more years and then be butchered by the hands of the men He created and came to earth to save. There He is. That promise that all of my sins would be washed away by the blood that would spill down from that splintered cross and that I would not have to pay the cost of sacrifice myself. There He is. That man of sorrows who would be scorned and hated and accused and abused for my sake, just because He loves me. There He is. My Jesus.
Let all the glitter and glitz and sparkle and waste be swept away with the ashes of the commercialism that leaves me jaded and empty. Let the world at large deny Who He was and is, but in all of the rubble left behind and thrown out with the empty boxes, let me, let us, let my family and community see that there is so much more to celebrate than the tree sitting in the middle of packages soon to be ripped open and thrown away with the day’s trash. There is so much more than the big dinner and what is or is not served and how much was spent for whatever latest gadget. There’s more than the ornaments and the things this world calls so important. My Jesus has prepared a place for me, a home and an inheritance beyond the commercialism of this present earth. I will celebrate the promise and remember the first gift and I will praise Him for His love. As I mourn my temporary losses and continue to live in expectation of eternity, Christmas will come and go, but I have the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God and will be forevermore. Thank you, Lord for giving us Christmas to look beyond the rough manger to see what lies ahead. Spread the true joy this year and really celebrate the true meaning of the season. Praise Him.
Monday, December 15, 2014
There are many things about Honey’s life that he wasn’t proud of. He told me on many occasions that if I really knew him that I wouldn’t stay with him. I found it odd that a man who leaned so hard on the Lord and was confident that he was forgiven completely would think that he could not be loved by another human being. He told me so many stories of his relationship with Ann that left me wondering how in the world she survived his shenanigans, but at the same time learning that she had enough of her own vinegar to keep him sort of- maybe –half-way in line.
Honey started drinking back on the rock farm when he was about 9 or 10 years old. His father would stash his bottles in the barn and slip out the back to get a drink and Honey would watch. Eventually he began to ‘share’ the whiskey ..uninvited and just got used to the habit. Once he married Ann, it became more routine. He would work all day and ‘stop by’ the local bar for a drink. Many of those stops would last the rest of the night. He talked about her reaction to a couple of the ‘long nights’ with a long neck. The first occasion he told me about was a weekend when he had run into some buddies after work and came home with ‘the stagger’. He came into the kitchen and Ann was sitting at the table.
“What d’jyu fix for supper?” He slurred.
She listed the menu. “Fried chicken, potatoes, corn, biscuits.” She never looked at him. It was almost midnight, the girls were in bed and she was not a happy wife.
Honey checked out the oven and then the refrigerator. “Got any left?”
Still looking, he shuffled to the cabinets. “Well , where it’stit?”
“I threw it in the garbage.”
Honey turned around, looked at her, still swaying, and went to the trash can and opened the lid. There, right on top, still on a plate, was his supper. Drunks do what drunks do. He reached in and picked up the plate and stood right where he was and ate it up. Ann pushed her chair back and went to bed.
A few weeks later he gave a repeat performance, coming in after midnight, grabbing onto everything in the kitchen to keep from falling on his face. Same question.
“What d’jye fix for supper?”
Ann was already up and walking down the hall to go to bed.
“You know where it is.”
“OKAY…” he slurs as he heads for the trash. This time was not as good as the first event. He opened the lid and there was his supper, on a paper plate, completely covered with the contents of a very full ash tray. There was no picking it clean…it was coated. Honey said he learned to stop and eat somewhere else if he wasn’t going to be home in time.
Another night he came in and decided to take a bath before going to bed and passed out in the tub. He told me that Ann couldn’t wake him up and finally just left him in the water . He laughed when he told me that he was frozen when he finally woke up. That discussion concerned “Why didn’t you let the water out and at least throw a towel over me. I could’ve drowned”. He said in those years he sort of wondered if she wasn’t hoping..but it was obvious, especially after the later years once he knew the Lord, that their devotion went beyond the moments they had to work through.
His brother in laws got in on the act sometimes and so did close buddies and their wives . One New Year’s Eve they had invited another couple over to spend the evening and around 9 the women decided that the men ought to drive to Hinkle’s in Madison Indiana (30 minutes away) for hamburgers. Hinkle’s are like giant White Castles and the place had its own reputation in the day. The men went, the women expected them back in a couple of hours but time passed. Somewhere between 2 and 4am, in came the happy brothers.
“Where have you two been?! We sent you for hamburgers and you just up and disappear?”
Both men found that pretty funny as they handed the ladies a smashed, greasy brown bag. And, indeed, it was a bag of burgers.
The men had made up a story that they had just stopped by “the Hill” in Madison to get a beer, and it would have worked a little if each man had not been wearing a hat from 2 other bars and carrying party toys like whistles and confetti from at least 2 other places. They had toured the town and the “wouldn’t it be nice” turned into ‘we should have thought this out a little better’. But that was those days. I think that events like this were foundational in many ways in making Honey so determined to be upright as he matured in the Lord. Wasted years make you appreciate the blessings of God so much more. And Honey truly appreciated his Savior.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
By February we knew we were going to stay a couple. I was secure in his intentions and we started talking wedding. I teased him and told him that I wanted the biggest celebration our town had ever seen and he told me I’d be satisfied wearing the paper band off of a cigar on my finger. We talked about what we’d serve at the dinner, our attendants, (of course he listed the two men he’d had a prayer meeting with for 4 decades as first on the list), and colors. Stuff kids would talk about. I talked to people who knew how to cook and to people who knew how to decorate and fantasized about the guest list and the music.We laughed about being so old, he teased me about being so much younger than him, and he actually asked me what I wanted for an engagement ring, not easy for Mr. Independent to do. I wanted an emerald and for Valentine’s day he wrapped it up, fixed a candlelight dinner, and put the box in the middle of my plate. Again, we had some talking to do. I told him that I felt we needed to exchange families and see what happened. He called his daughters to arrange a meeting. My daughter was away at school and wouldn’t be home until summer, so she would be a delay, but I had told her about Honey and she was supportive. We had a lot of blending to get done. He set a date for me to have a meeting with his girls. We met at Company’s Coming, their husbands went to Honey’s house, and I introduced myself. I told them that Honey and I had been dating and that we were in love and wanted to be married. It was interesting, to say the least, but Honey and I decided to give it a little more time and just learn more about each other.
His family had a tradition of meeting every three months to celebrate birthdays and events. They came to Honey’s house on the specified Sunday afternoon and ordered pizza and then opened birthday or celebration gifts. Honey loved to see his family gather. It was good when Honey came to my family outings. People swamped him, got him a chair, pulled him into conversations and made sure he had plenty to eat and was a part of the day. He seemed to enjoy the attention and getting to know my people, We accepted him…..Locust accent and all. He was ours. He was Honey and deserved respect and attention and time and most of all, our love
We eventually settled into the "your family- then my famiy" routine that most couples with baggage carry. Young married people must have a lot more stamina than old folks with less energy. But God was so good and we made some really nice memories.
The second year we dated was a strain in and of itself and we overcame a lot that would have broken other couples up. In March of 2004 I found out that I needed surgery as soon as possible and went on medical leave. I had two friends in particular who took the time to help me beyond the call of duty. Honey was at the hospital constantly and was such a support. My daughter graduated from college on Mother’s day and the family gathered to celebrate. My father made the trip to Tennessee and the afternoon of the graduation, he collapsed. He got to see her in her graduation gown, told her that he was proud of her and 6 weeks later, after a very brief and trying illness, passed away a year to the day that Anne had died. Honey had taken the week off to mourn for Anne on June 22, but found himself supporting me instead, and in the long run, we supported each other. I finally went back to work and we got back to courting, but it wasn’t the same, it was more stable. Less of the sparkle and more of the foundation. We’d both grown in the relationship and had become comfortable enough for total honesty with each other. It was rough in many ways because he held on to traditions and beliefs that I had no part of and I did the same, but we eventually began to create our own history and routines .
Looking back, and that hind-sight is always much more clear than what we perceive in the here and now, I would have done a lot of things differently..but I cannot regret the decision I made to fall in love with this man. In all of the months ahead I found him to be honest, dependable, supportive and transparent in most things. Old people don't try to change each other...they walk into relationships with eyes wide open. I wouldn't take it back for the world. God was answering prayer.
Friday, December 05, 2014
Once grade school was finished, the Locust community bussed their children up the road to Carrolton to finish their middle and high school education. Honey was a little older than Anne and was compared to James Dean a lot in those days. He had the dark hair with the curl in front, wore white socks and tee-shirts and high water jeans. If he wanted to ‘dress up’ he threw on a shirt and left it unbuttoned.
His first wedding was soon after Anne graduated from High School. When asked what college she was going to attend, Anne told her English teacher that she wasn’t going to college, she was going to marry Honey. The teacher told her that she would be throwing away her life if she skipped college and married “that boy”. Honey was not a star student. All he wanted to do was work, but Anne, on the other hand, was one of the smartest girls in her class. She was active in school events, played the clarinet, and was being groomed for college and perhaps a teaching career. As a teen, Anne was tiny, dark haired and full of life. She was the youngest of three sisters and like her siblings, was considered to be a catch for any of the fellas in the community. Honey had fallen for her the first time he ever saw her and on one of our early rides he drove me to Carrolton, Kentucky to tour the town and relive those days. His sister lived next door to Anne’s house and he and some of his buddies were driving around during lunch period and passed her. She was walking on the way back to the school and of course, the guys had to slow the car down and whistle at her and she had to ignore them and keep walking and Honey says that he turned around in the back seat so that he could look at her for as long as possible as they drove away. The next day he talked the boys into going back to the street about the same time and he kept an eye out to see where she’d come from. Think how he felt when he found out that Anne lived next door to Bob and Marcella. He said it didn’t take long for Marcella to figure out why he kept showing up at her house for lunch. By then, he’d dropped the buddies and was making a point of getting to his sister’s before Anne was on the street. He must have run his legs off those first few weeks. But, finally, watching out his sister’s front window to see when Annie left to head back to school, Honey worked up the courage to accidently, coincidently, how did this ever happen that I would be walking in your direction and we would be headed back to school “run into” Annie as she was leaving her house. He scurried up behind her and said something profound like “I see you walking here every day.” And she answered just as profoundly, “I live here”. And the romance was on. He took me to the church they eventually got married in. It was the church she attended in the middle of Carrolton. Her father had to work and didn’t come to the ceremony, but her mother was there. Bill said the preacher told him to wait in front of the church and Anne walked out from a side door. No music, no flowers, no fancy clothes or fixin’s…just two young people who were smitten with each other and determined to make a life
They moved into a small apartment across the street from the church and he went to work, just like he was supposed to do. Annie got a job too and a couple of years later they were expecting their first little girl. Annie started showing and her boss fired her. Back then it wasn’t considered appropriate for a pregnant woman to be working a public job. She cried, Honey comforted her, but she never got another outside job.
They lived in the Carrolton area for the next decade and when his company moved, he moved with the company. He told me about the progression of jobs that he went through before he became ‘the Coke man’ and I was amazed at how he could move position to position.
Of course, his first job was the tobacco field, and working for the relative down the road to make up for the unconfessed sins of his youth, but he also spent a lot of Springs picking strawberries for Jo and Joe, distant relatives who only recently passed away. They have a story all their own to tell. After he married Anne, he worked for the local milk company and a year into it, drove the truck back to the office, walked in and told the boss “I quit”. I asked him why and he really had no answer, he said he just didn’t want to work there anymore. He left the store, and at the first stoplight he came to another car pulled up and honked the horn. Honey looked over and it was a local contractor waving at him. He rolled down the window and the man yelled, “you need a job?” Honey nodded and the man told him to show up the next morning at a certain place and Honey worked for him for the next year or so. By then, Bob had a job with the Coca-Cola company and eventually asked him if he’d like to come to work with him on a delivery route. Honey thought that would be a good thing to do and gave notice to the contractor who told him if it didn’t work out to come back. After 28 years of waiting that contractor sort of knew that Honey was not going to work on road construction anymore.
The soft drink company eventually wiped out most of the men who were Honey’s age, but after about another year, a friend hooked him up with the Morgan company in Austin and he stayed there almost 20 years. Throughout all the job changes, Honey never filled out an application, worked hard not to miss a day of work, and I never heard him say anything bad about any company he ever worked for. He did what he had to do to provide for his wife and daughters and was pretty good to me too. He never put on airs, he never bragged, he just did what he was supposed to do and did it with pride and integrity. In the church and in the community, he chose to be an example of taking a responsibility and carrying it to completion.
Lord, let his life be an example to young men today…you don’t have to love the job in order to do it right and responsibility goes two ways. If a company hires you, pays you to do a particular job and you agree to accept that pay…then do the job to the best of your ability. It’s your witness, not just your paycheck. Thank You Lord for all the opportunities we have in our lives to grow and lean on You.
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