INTERSECTIONS OF CONNECTION

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By Lisa Huddleston

Indiana was beautiful, but I am so glad to be heading home. Home. It is a real place now and it is in Tennessee with my sweet husband, my pets, my children nearby, my mom and Chuck’s parents, our church, old friends, and peace. I do have a home.

But I am leaving a part of me behind with my father. It was a tough visit. Just as he and Hazel were stunned to see pictures of grandsons, Nick and Alec—no longer little boys, but young men. The year also brought about huge changes in my father. We visited last July, and he is a little less present now.

However, he hears everything we say. He has thoughts and memories, and he misses what is gone. We couldn’t quite understand it all in a short visit, but we know he is still here. He cares where we eat for dinner. He wants to know how tall the tree we planted near the front door will grow. He tries to break up the clumps of dirt Chuck’s shovel lays at his feet. We can’t write him off yet.

I had a few moments of visceral memory. While Chuck was planting, I started to sing and Dad joined with me. I sang, “I come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee.” And he sang along, “My true love for to see.” Surprised, I asked him if he sings much anymore, and he said, “No.” I told him I remembered some songs he taught me and started, “Once I went in swimmin’ where there were no women down by the deep blue sea.” He joined, “Seein’ there was no one there I hung my underwear upon a willow tree.” We finished the bawdy song and laughed together.

Then I said, “Do you remember the song I really loved?” He didn’t until I started it, but he again joined me. “He made the night a little brighter, wherever he would go, the old lamplighter of long, long ago. His snowy hair was so much whiter beneath the candle glow, the old lamplighter of long, long ago. You’d hear the patter of his feet as he went walking down the street. His smile would hide a lonely heart, you see. If there were sweethearts in the park, he’d pass the lamp and leave it dark—“

“Ha, ha, do you remember what you used to say there, Dad?”

“No.”

“You’d say, ‘He’d pass the lamp and leave a fart!’”

“I did?”

And he laughed until he cried and started to choke, and I laughed and cried, too. A moment.

Later that evening, as we prepared to go to dinner, I asked Chuck to take some pictures of me with my dad. He had on clean clothes, but his hair was all rumpled. I said, “Wait while I fix his hair.” I began to run my fingers through his still auburn hair and notice how clean and soft it was. Then I said, “There.” I sat in a chair besides his and leaned close for the picture. He pulled me tight to his shoulder, leaned his head on mine, and whispered, “I love you, Lee.” I could tell he didn’t want to let me go. I felt the moment and time stilled.

Later that night we said good-bye and headed back to our hotel. We will not be back for some time. I hope he will remember our moments. I will. And I hope we will have time to make some more.

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HEADING NORTH

By Lisa Huddleston

Trying to go home can be a difficult task. Especially when home has been a dream more than a concrete place.

I grew up moving nearly every two years or so–usually right in the middle of a school year. What a blessing! I seriously used to have dreams about walking home from school and finding that my family had moved without me.

Although they never did literally forget me, I had to leave behind a great deal with each relocation. Best friends, favorite climbing trees, hideouts with great cubbies replete with wild grapes to snack on while I read. To say it was hard is a gross understatement, but it was beyond my control so I made the best of it. I found new friends, new favorite teachers, and even better places to hide. Music and journals and novels could travel with me; yet, I grieved the end of each chapter knowing it would never be the same again.

And now I am riding in the car on the way to visit my aged father in Indiana. He once was my Dad. We enjoyed exchanging witty words and bawdy humor until he slowly faded out of our lives–and now I think he probably faded out of his own, too.

He lives in Indiana although the last time he moved our family was to Tennessee. The rest of us finally and stubbornly put down roots although he never asked us to move again. Mom is still proud to be a Yankee but her roots entertwine with our southern ones and she will not be moving again either.

Dad moved north because he became too much for his wife to handle.  Years of drinking and depression dimmed his mind while his weight increased, and she truly needed help.  His family was not much help, because we hadn’t been in his life for many years–he had kept moving on while we had stayed put.  His wife has family in Indiana so that is where they live.

Dad always hated the snow and the cold.  Ironic to be heading north for a visit.  It will be a long weekend.  He will hug me and tell me how much he misses me.  I will ache at the words.  I am so glad that my husband is at my side and that we finally found a hotel room in spite of the Purdue game.  Kokomo is not too far to find a good hiding place.

I am no longer angry with him.  I too understand what fading feels like, but I will choose to fight.  I will not sever the ties that bind my growing family.  Love is worth the struggle.  And I suppose it is worth a trip north.  Even though it will not be heading home.

MASTER OR SLAVE?

By Lisa Huddleston

I know I talk about my dog too much.  My cats, too.  Yes, I put their pictures on Facebook and believe everyone will get a warm fuzzy out of an especially cute expression or awkward position on the back of the couch.  So sue me.  Animals are people, too.   Well, almost.

Anyway, we have this dog.  Her name has been through several evolutions since she was found as an orphan puppy frolicking in the park.  The shelter named her “Dottie” which we kept.  But to that has been added:  Dottie Parker, Dotsky Plotsky, and the best of all, Dottie Pigbody.  This last and best name not only sounds amazingly cute, it also describes what must be her heritage:  a cross between Fox Terrier and Pig.

We are rather proud of Dottie.  She is a fearless watchdog—except when she is afraid.  She loves her cat brothers and sisters—especially when she is chasing them up trees.  And she has never met a toy that she cannot demolish in under ten minutes.  Therefore we are always on the lookout for that indestructible toy.

Recently my mother may have found the Holy Grail—a rawhide bone made of salmon skin.  Dottie has owned this prized possession for at least a week now, and it is still in pristine condition.  (I know, I know—aren’t rawhides supposed to be chewed up?  Don’t be picky.)

We are excited that Dottie has kept this toy around for so long; however, I have noticed a disturbing change in her usually pleasant personality.  In fact this bone, henceforth referred to as the “fishbone,” has become an idol of sorts.

Dottie holds the fishbone in her mouth and walks around the house and yard displaying it to the cats.  Naturally, due to its aromatic nature, the cats are interested and when they come for a closer look, Dottie rushes at them to pounce and pommel them into oblivion.  Her obsession has become so great that twice—not only once—I have seen her run headlong into an iron screen door nearly breaking her own neck just because one of the porch cats dared glance in to glimpse her “Precious.”

As I’ve watched Dottie’s moral decline, I’ve noted a universal truth.  Very often, although we think we are the owners of our stuff, it is our stuff that really owns us.  One crowded stroll through the basement lets me know that Dottie is not the only one with this problem, and I am ashamed.  Why do we keep so much junk?  Why do I?

I remember an Erma Bombeck article that reminded us to use the good china, to burn the fancy candles … and I think I can add to that list to get rid of things that I don’t need that others could.  Stuff shouldn’t own us.  Bigger barns lead to bigger ulcers.  Poor Dottie has to guard the fishbone day and night, and that’s not a good way to live.  Heck, those cats don’t even want that stinky bone.  They’ve all checked it out and gave it a pass.  Dottie is worrying for nothing, but she won’t believe me.

Even though she won’t listen to me, I think I’ve learned a thing or two from her.  Rusty old bike anyone?  How about some out-of-print school books?  Broken weed eater?  Good bye, my preciousssssss …

ENOUGH FOR EVERYONE

By Lisa Huddleston

I am a person who feels the connections in the world; therefore, a truth in one arena is suddenly attached to a truth in another with a quick and jarring leap.  I learn in epiphanies and visions.  Presently I am considering that God gave this world everything it needs to have true shalom.  In other words, everyone in everyplace in every corner of this planet should have all he or she needs to lead a good life because God has provided enough to make it so.

My journey to this truth has been circuitous as I am prone to wander.  (Lord, I feel it.)  It began last week as I was sitting quietly to observe a counseling session at the center where I work.  As one in training, my job was to watch and listen and keep my mouth shut.  The client was a precious young woman for whom I immediately had maternal, protective instincts.  She had received very little help to make her way in the world.  With a less than average IQ, parents who left her, and very little income, she continued to smile and make me love her.

When I left that session, I had to go to a private office and cry my frustration out to a friend.  “It’s not fair,” I wailed.  “Why does God give some so little and others so much?”  It really ticked me off.

Next, several days later, my husband and I had time to kill before a church home group gathering  so we walked over to Starbucks to sip a couple of cups on the patio during our wait.  My heart lurched as I made my way through the doors to the outside tables, and Chuck went to the counter to order our drinks.  A very dirty, very wounded, obviously homeless man was lying on the bench with his swollen and beaten head propped up by his filthy backpack.  Oh great!  How can I sit here?  You know I have a weak stomach, God! But I decided to stay there as there were other people around, and Chuck soon joined me with coffee.

It hurt to look at the man’s distended eyes and lips.  There were black stitches circling his right eye and scattered across his face.  I literally ached in my gut.  And, of course, I thought about the Good Samaritan.  Where was a good Samaritan when you needed one?  Come on, God.  Oh man, surely it couldn’t be me.  And I remained miserably seated and silently sipping my scalding brew.

When Chuck decided it was time to go we stood,  and I gathered my leftover pizza from our dinner at Mellow Mushroom and started to walk past the man.  His eyes were closed, and he hadn’t asked for anything.  Still, I felt terrible.  I said, “Sir?”  And he opened his eyes, probably expecting me to shoo him away.  But instead I gingerly handed him a ten dollar bill, mumbled something I can’t even recall now to try to tell him I cared and left with tears in my eyes.  Lame!  I didn’t even offer him my pizza.  Pitiful!

So we headed to home group.  Can you believe the first thing we read was the story of the Good Samaritan?!  Of course, you can.  God is good like that.  He always ties the truth up with a bow–at least for me he does.

While the group discussed our responsibility to the poor, I sat and pondered a fact I had heard in the past: “The world produces enough food to feed everyone.  There is enough to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kilocalories per person per day” (2012 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics).  Then why are there so many people hungry?  God has given us all we need, but it hasn’t been evenly distributed.  And the distribution is what we seem to have the most trouble with.

As people in the group tried to justify not contacting the poor or clothing the naked or freeing the prisoners, I silently kept thinking that God has given us (the BIG US) all we need for everyone.  Some have genius IQs–let them use them to help the mentally disabled.  Some have enormous belt sizes–let them invite the hungry to the table to share their food.  Some have securities and insurance and rainy day savings that will never be touched–let them spread the wealth and clothe those who will be freezing in a couple of months.

Oh God, forgive me.  “Let them” had a safe distance that is not accurate in any way.  Let me!  Send me, Lord.  I have time to volunteer.  I have skills that others need, and I can give them away.  I have clothes and food and more than I really need in just about every area of my life.  Open my eyes.  Open my heart.  Open my hands.

God blessed Abraham so that the whole world might be blessed.  To those whom much has been given, much is required.  Thank you for the reminder that we are blessed in order to bless others.  There is enough of everything.  It’s time to stop talking and start doing.  Share!

EATING GRACE

By Lisa Huddleston

We are eating from vineyards and olive groves that we did not plant (Joshua). That’s grace. God reached down to speak to us–lowly beings that He created to do his will. But unlike the angels, we had a choice. And so we chose to sin. And we still do.  Yet, God in His mercy, feeds us from vineyards and olive groves we did not plant.  And we still choose to sin!  Oh Lord, stop me. Cause me to want to serve you out of love.  And so I keep on keeping on.  Eating grace and sinning but wanting to do better.