Going to Athens every summer to visit Grandma and Aunt Marie usually included a trip to The Varsity. So, even though I don’t have a long history with it like others do, it still was a part of my childhood and a big part of the town where I was born.
I’m so glad we were able to take the grandkids to The Varsity back in the summer of 2019 after the Bryan/Bailey reunion. They loved the food, just as we did. But, as you can see, they were mesmerized by the TV; Chuck and I let them have the best view -haha!
"There is a mystery to all love. Why does this one man so move me? Why does this small corner of our planet make me feel that I am home?" - Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L'Engle
Love for people truly is a mystery. Why did I fall in love with Chuck? How is it I love my children, and grandchildren, more than anyone else’s children? What is this connection to my brothers? How do I explain this love for my parents? Or the special bond I’ve had with a very few dear friends? And the cousins!!
More mysterious than that is God’s love for us. I could make a long list of attributes I love and admire about all the people I mentioned. But, what attributes do I have that would make God love me? The only good in me is what He’s put there.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8
"And he sits there staring at something we cannot see." - Madeleine L'Engle,Two-Part Invention, speaking of her husband in his last days at home.
I felt like Chuck did that – stared at something we did not see. Or sat with his eyes closed, just too fatigued to keep them open.
I think of the angel guard around Elisha and like to imagine just such a group around Chuck, giving comfort that we didn’t know about. I imagine him closing his eyes to me, Kat, and Leah and then opening them to a band of angels and Christ, himself. I am still so full of questions about death that I know will not be answered until I myself die.
All I know is this – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…” – Hebrews 11:1
“I sit by the bed, hold Hugh’s hand, try to help him eat when meals are brought in. That is all I can do. Try to affirm with quiet love, a love that has built slowly over forty years…The growth of love is not a straight line but a series of hills and valleys.” – Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L’Engle
In Chuck’s last weeks we tried so many things to get him to eat. Our dear daughter-in-law, the dietician, gave helpful advice, sent protein powders and foods to try. Our sweet daughters made spreadsheets of all he ate and all the medications, times, temperatures, blood pressure readings, sugar levels. He tried with such perseverance but could hardly get down a few bites at a time.
My love for Chuck grew over forty-one years of marriage. It matured into a quiet love. The hills and valleys of our life together strengthened our love. A love that lives on in me.
“As the years have moved on, our explosions have become far less frequent as we have learned to live with each other, accepting each other’s edges and corners.”-Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L’Engle
I love that phrase “edges and corners”. We all have them. At times I have been like a dodecagon (yes, I looked it up), all full of edges and corners plus prickles like a porcupine. But, as time wore on, I was more like the glass I ordered a few weeks ago. I bought a piece of glass to put on top of my great-grandmother’s sewing machine so I could use it for a table. They beveled the glass so the edges would be smooth and polished. I think Chuck and I both became more rounded and mellow over the years. We argued less and gave more than took from each other.
It is rare and wonderful when family members are best friends. – A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser
Chuck and I were best friends. I count my brothers as pretty good friends, too.
The picture above popped up in my memory feed today on Facebook. Already feeling out of sorts, this added fuel to my sad fire. But it also was fuel for my poem today.The prompt was “thought” . So, I thought, as if I wasn’t already thinking, about how long and how short seven years are.
Thoughts on Seven Years
seven years ago we moved to a new state
it was not our choice
but that’s okay
and though there is such a thing called the seven years war
that’s not what we fought
in fact, many of those seven years were good ones
years of plenty like in Joseph’s dream
and Joseph's life
but years of plenty
soon became lean years, rawboned and grievous
though we enjoyed hiking through the beauty of fall colors
and a few snow-angel winter snows
and spring on the back porch
there was much loss
the demise of three parents while we were away
longing to be with them
even though we often languished
in the city where we tried so hard
we were together
we finally migrated back home
but one month later
for your eternal home
and I try not to wither away
A year ago today is when we got our first indication that our world was about to change. I won’t go into all the details, but when I realized Chuck was yellow, jaundiced, I knew I had to get him to the ER. I drove him to the Medical West ER in Hoover but had to drop him off because the Covid restrictions were already in place.
We were under contract on our house already. I went home to take care of marking our electrical box per the inspection, via a wonderful young man who walked me through it by phone and would not let me pay him.
Within an hour Chuck called. They had done a scan and found a mass on his pancreas. When I went to pick him up he was standing outside on the curb, looking so lost.
That day was the only time I remember him really crying. This gentle giant of a man curled up in our big brown chair in the living room and said, “I wonder who will be my pallbearers?”
Then he began his brief fight against the monster that raged within him. Pancreatic cancer. Our journey brought our children back together and then took us to Jacksonville where Chuck died two months after we first heard the words “mass on the pancreas”.
He had no pallbearers, but he is buried in a beautiful cemetery, along with his great-nephew, Wyatt. I can’t say life has gone on without him because he is a part of everyday for me. I see him in the kindness of his daughters and the laughter of his sons. I watched my grandson Everett play chess last Saturday with one of my son’s friends and I thought of how Chuck played chess with him even when he was ill. I’m grateful Everett will have those happy memories of Grandpa.
“Displaced souls roam every city in every country.” – Ilana Manaster, One of the Crowd, Real Simple – 2017
I know what it feels like to be a displaced soul. I felt pretty much like that the whole six years we lived in Birmingham. It was a beautiful place, but it was never home. I don’t mean to dishonor Chuck when I say that, because where he was, that was home for me. But, I think he felt the same way. We both felt uprooted.
Now I’m “home”, but he’s not here, and once again I don’t quite feel at home. But it’s different, because I do have family here, and numerous friends. I’m in the town where I grew up. It’s changed a lot, but still familiar. The Maxwell House Coffee drifting across the St. Johns River smells the same. The ocean, though constantly changing, is the same. I can still drive by my childhood home and my high school.
So now, as I prepare to move for the third time in less than a year, I think about how to put down roots in Tampa. God willing, I won’t move again. I long to live there and serve God to the end of my days. To make a home for my family, my friends, and other sojourners, for I have to remind myself that, ultimately, I’m just a sojourner on this earth.
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar offwere assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. Hebrews 11:13-14
“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal – Love leaves a memory none can steal.”– from a headstone in Ireland
If I didn’t have photos, I’d still have memories, but I am so thankful for all the pictures I have to look back on and smile, even though sometimes the smile is between tears sliding down my cheeks. I may have too many photos, but that’s in large part because I am the keeper of the bulk of the pictures that were left behind by Mom and my mother-in-law.
Now in the digital age nearly everyone takes multiple photos on a daily basis. Back as a young teen when I first had a camera, I never knew until I got my developed film just what images I had captured. It was always a thrill to drive up to the Photo Bug to pick up my envelope of photographs.
I look forward to making more memories, taking more pictures, and one day passing them on for others to treasure.
Elderly Cindy takes it all in stride. “My daddy was a farmer. He used to say the only difference between an adventure and an ordeal is how you look at it.” – from Sean of the South‘s blog
Moving can be an ordeal or an adventure. Or both. For me, it’s both this time. The ordeal part is no more than anyone else experiences in moving. After what I’ve been through the past eight months it seems it’s actually going to be a piece of cake.
This is my third move in less than a year. The first two were far from being an adventure. They were an apartment and a house chosen for convenience. This next one has been chosen for a home. The adventure will be in turning it into a home. The adventure will be being with my grandkids. I’m ready.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever. – Psalm 23:6