A daughter, father and a dog.


                                 A Father, a Daughter and a Dog

“Watch out! You nearly broad sided that car!” My father yelled at me. “Can’t you do anything right?”Those words hurt worse than blows. I turned my head toward the elderly man in the seat beside me, daring me to challenge him. A lump rose in my throat as I averted my eyes. I wasn’t prepared for another battle.”I saw the car, Dad . Please don’t yell at me when I’m driving..”My voice was measured and steady, sounding far calmer than I really felt.Dad glared at me, then turned away and settled back. At home I left Dad in front of the television and went outside to collect my
thoughts….. dark, heavy clouds hung in the air with a promise of
rain. The rumble of distant thunder seemed to echo my inner turmoil. What could I do about him?

Dad had been a lumberjack in Washington and Oregon . He had enjoyed being outdoors and had reveled in pitting his strength against the forces of nature. He had entered grueling lumberjack competitions, and had placed often. The shelves in his house were filled with trophies that attested to his prowess.

The years marched on relentlessly. The first time he couldn’t lift a heavy log, he joked about it; but later that same day I saw him
outside alone, straining to lift it.. He became irritable whenever
anyone teased him about his advancing age, or when he couldn’t do something he had done as a younger man.

Four days after his sixty-seventh birthday, he had a heart attack. An ambulance sped him to the hospital while a paramedic administered CPR to keep blood and oxygen flowing.

At the hospital, Dad was rushed into an operating room. He was lucky; he survived. But something inside Dad died. His zest for life was gone. He obstinately refused to follow doctor’s orders. Suggestions and offers of help were turned aside with sarcasm and insults. The number of visitors thinned, then finally stopped altogether. Dad was left alone..

My husband, Dick, and I asked Dad to come live with us on our small farm. We hoped the fresh air and rustic atmosphere would help him adjust.

Within a week after he moved in, I regretted the invitation. It seemed nothing was satisfactory. He criticized everything I did. I became frustrated and moody. Soon I was taking my pent-up anger out on Dick. We began to bicker and argue.

Alarmed, Dick sought out our pastor and explained the situation. The clergyman set up weekly counseling appointments for us. At the close of each session he prayed, asking God to soothe Dad’s troubled mind.

But the months wore on and God was silent. Something had to be done and it was up to me to do it.

The next day I sat down with the phone book and methodically called each of the mental health clinics listed in the Yellow Pages. I explained my problem to each of the sympathetic voices that answered in vain.

Just when I was giving up hope, one of the voices suddenly exclaimed, “I just read something that might help you! Let me go get the article..”

I listened as she read. The article described a remarkable study done at a nursing home. All of the patients were under treatment for chronic depression. Yet their attitudes had proved dramatically when they were given responsibility for a dog..

I drove to the animal shelter that afternoon.. After I filled out a
questionnaire, a uniformed officer led me to the kennels. The odor of disinfectant stung my nostrils as I moved down the row of pens Each contained five to seven dogs. Long-haired dogs, curly-haired dogs, black dogs, spotted dogs all jumped up, trying to reach me. I studied each one but rejected one after the other for various reasons too big, too small, too much hair. As I neared the last pen a dog in the shadows of the far corner struggled to his feet, walked to the front of the run and sat down. It was a pointer, one of the dog world’s aristocrats. But this was a caricature of the breed.

Years had etched his face and muzzle with shades of gray. His hip bones jutted out in lopsided triangles. But it was his eyes that caught and held my attention. Calm and clear, they beheld me unwaveringly.

I pointed to the dog. “Can you tell me about him?” The officer looked, then shook his head in puzzlement. “He’s a funny one. Appeared out of nowhere and sat in front of the gate. We brought him in, figuring someone would be right down to claim him. That was two weeks ago and we’ve heard nothing. His time is up tomorrow.” He gestured helplessly.

As the words sank in I turned to the man in horror.. “You mean you’re going to kill him?”

“Ma’am,” he said gently, “that’s our policy. We don’t have room for every unclaimed dog.”

I looked at the pointer again. The calm brown eyes awaited my
decision. “I’ll take him,” I said. I drove home with the dog on the
front seat beside me.. When I reached the house I honked the horn twice. I was helping my prize out of the car when Dad shuffled onto the front porch… “Ta-da! Look what I got for you, Dad !” I said excitedly.

Dad looked, then wrinkled his face in disgust. “If I had wanted a dog I would have gotten one. And I would have picked out a better specimen than that bag of bones. Keep it! I don’t want it” Dad waved his arm scornfully and turned back toward the house.

Anger rose inside me.. It squeezed together my throat muscles and pounded into my temples. “You’d better get used to him, Dad. He’s staying!”

Dad ignored me.. “Did you hear me, Dad ?” I screamed. At those words Dad whirled angrily, his hands clenched at his sides, his eyes narrowed and blazing with hate. We stood glaring at each other like duelists, when suddenly the pointer pulled free from my grasp. He wobbled toward my dad and sat down in front of him. Then slowly, carefully, he raised his paw..

Dad’s lower jaw trembled as he stared at the uplifted paw confusion replaced the anger in his eyes. The pointer waited patiently. Then Dad was on his knees hugging the animal.

It was the beginning of a warm and intimate friendship. Dad named the pointer Cheyenne . Together he and Cheyenne explored the community. They spent long hours walking down dusty lanes. They spent reflective moments on the banks of streams, angling for tasty trout. They even started to attend Sunday services together, Dad sitting in a pew and Cheyenne lying quietly at his feet.

Dad and Cheyenne were inseparable throughout the next three years. Dad’s bitterness faded, and he and Cheyenne made many friends. Then late one night I was startled to feel Cheyenne ‘s cold nose burrowing through our bed covers. He had never before come into our bedroom at night.. I woke Dick, put on my robe and ran into my father’s room. Dad lay in his bed, his face serene. But his spirit had left quietly sometime during the night.

Two days later my shock and grief deepened when I discovered Cheyenne lying dead beside Dad’s bed. I wrapped his still form in the rag rug he had slept on. As Dick and I buried him near a favourite fishing hole, I silently thanked the dog for the help he had given me in restoring Dad’s peace of mind.

The morning of Dad’s funeral dawned overcast and dreary. This day looks like the way I feel, I thought, as I walked down the aisle to the pews reserved for family. I was surprised to see the many friends Dad and Cheyenne had made filling the church.. The pastor began his eulogy. It was a tribute to both Dad and the dog who had changed his life.

And then the pastor turned to Hebrews 13:2. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

“I’ve often thanked God for sending that angel,” he said.

For me, the past dropped into place, completing a puzzle that I had not seen before: the sympathetic voice that had just read the right article… Cheyenne ‘s unexpected appearance at the animal shelter .
…his calm acceptance and complete devotion to my father. . and the proximity of their deaths. And suddenly I understood. I knew that God had answered my prayers after all.

Life is too short for drama or petty things, so laugh hard, love truly and forgive quickly. Live While You Are Alive. Forgive now those who made you cry. You might not get a second time.

Lost time can never be found.

God answers our prayers in His time……..not ours..

……anonymous



The Journey………..A Pilgrimage

          The Journey…………..A Pilgrimage

                All cannot use the same kind of spiritual exercises,

                But one suits this person, and another that.  Different

                Devotions are suited also to the seasons, some being best for

                The festivals and others for ordinary days.  We find some

                helpful in temptations, others in peace and quietness.

                Some things we like to consider when we are sad, and

                Others when we are full of joy in the Lord. 

Thomas Kempis

June and I embarked upon a journey unlike any we had tried previously.  It was to be a journey without a clear destination, but it was to be a journey for the season of our life in which we find ourselves.   We are both well grounded in our faith and seek to practice Godliness in our daily walk.  Therefore, we knew at the onset our lives would call for a set of different disciplines. To place the ‘journey’ in proper prospective the reader needs to understand we have been married for 48 years.  The immediate question would be “why do you need to have a ‘rule of life’ as you mentioned in the first blog “spirituality.”  Secondly, why share or write so others can see and hear your thoughts?

The greatest battle occurring in the world today is not the war in the Middle East but the war being waged for our ‘minds’.  Like the athlete mentioned earlier in the Spirituality blog, it is imperative that a pattern of spiritual disciplines providing structure and direction become a lifestyle, otherwise you will gradually slide into the world of relativism and humanism.  It was with  this thought as our major premise June and I embarked on a journey taking us 4845 miles spending 24 hours a day with each other for 20 days.  The following are behaviors and outcomes we found to be helpful as we made the journey.

The Morning Watch:  We have all been told that the way to connect with God on a daily basis is to have a 30-minute “quiet time”.  That is,  you should sit down with your Bible open, read it a little and then lay a bunch of stuff on God, making sure to mention how excellent He is before running through the list of all the things you need. This process had almost become robotic. We have found regardless of the form it takes,  it is critical for the beginning of a day.  It is easy when you are retired, after all, why hurry.  Around the table, in a restaurant, or riding down the road, the morning watch sets the tone for the rest of the day.  At times a Socratic approach to scripture or a “help me understand this”,  and the inevitable,  we need to make this a matter of prayer,  highlights the time.

In addition to the many ideas that were personal, we decided to pray specifically each day for someone to come into our life,  that day, and we would know who he/she was as soon as we encounter the person(s).  We tried prayer centering as a technique to help us ‘be still’ and know that I am God”.  A hard concept for me to accomplish and I continue with my efforts. It is noteworthy, without fail,  every day we crossed paths with people with a common spirit,  and it was immediately recognized. It most cases it was totally unsolicited on our part but an encounter that developed into something special.    The Morning Watch was and continues to be essential.

Marriage should be a duet not a duel:  The famous Psychologist, Carl Rogers, was the father of the active listening technique so often used in psychotherapy. Dr. Roger’s question ‘What did you mean by that”or “can you tell me more,” to determine the basis of behavior brings about an avalanche of understanding. Driving long periods with time schedules that do not come together as planned can lead to stress.  One person under stress is enough.  The second person should become the positive force and the cheerleader.  Many times silence is best and other times humor melts the ice.  An example:   We adopted Patti, we got her from the global positioning system,  some months back and she was a tremendous travel companion.  This was especially true for June who announced she was “map challenged.”  When we first adopted Patti she was almost non-verbal, when she did speak it was one word; rerouting!  With time and patience Patti became a delightful travel partner.  On one particular day, while driving in a ‘downpour,’ I was ‘uptight’ as we entered the Lincoln Tunnel outside of New York City.  Half way through the tunnel Patti said “rerouting, make a U-turn.”  We broke into laughter and it was only after a short distance we realized the satellite had lost us and Patti was wondering where we were.  Throughout the rest of the trip this event created much laughter. Let your mind play with this concept and the next time something stressful comes into your life, merely say: rerouting.  Learn to be a duet.

Hyannis Port, Cape Code, Massachusetts

It is not necessary to go somewhere to have a good time: Sitting in a home owned and operated by an Amish couple with a special needs child I was humbled, not the false kind of humility that ends up being about us at the end of a day.  For me, humility is embracing smallness and is not a one-time proposition, but a daily event.  This concept is counterculture. Our society promotes living by the flesh; our mortal selves will scrap and claw for every ounce of self-promotion that we can get our hands on. ‘We have to be here,’ ‘we have got to have this,’ is ingrained into us by the culture.  It is within this context the voice of pride will rise up with a roar, urging us to take control.

The time spent with people who are God fearing and God loving and who earned everything by the “sweat of their brow “was a reminder of the freedom I have and the privileges that come my way.  Taking pleasure in a sunset, a bird making a nest, fresh plowed ground, the harvest, and rest at the end of day without television or other technology produced a happiness that I found refreshing.  How about this as a challenge: a day without television, cell phones, and computers with only each other is bound to produce a new found freedom.

Family and friends: The highlight of our journey was June getting to see and spend a week with her family –  a sister of 81 years, a nephew who she hadn’t seen in many, many years, getting to meet her nephew Brad’s wife for the first time and their children, one named after her father, and  cousins, some of whom she had not seen since she left for college (1960).  A second stop was with friends in Virginia.  In both cases there was no grandiose party, no band, no music, just being together.

Beautiful and rich is an old friendship,

                                               Grateful to the touch as ancient ivory,

Sisters–June and Janet

Smooth as aged wine, or sheen of Tapestry

Where light has lingered, intimate and long,

Full of tears and warm is an old friendship

That asks no longer deeds of gallantry,

Or any deed at all—save that the friend

Shall be

Alive and breathing somewhere, like a song.

 Families and friends may be made in Heaven, but the maintenance must be done on earth.  Like a marriage, families are designed to be complimentary.  Everyone pulling together, not in competition, is the core of a family.

It was wonderful when June’s family came together. It was not about material things, who had accomplished the most, or whose house was the biggest or even some statement made years ago.  It was apparent learning to live became the maintenance of love.  Family relationships bathed in love and covered with forgiveness enhance mental health.

Ultimately,  June and I tried to revisit our Rule of Life and found the process far more important than most things we do with our time.  Henri Nouwen said, “The spiritual life is not something we add onto an already busy live.”  We have rekindled the spirit within us to control what we already do with an attitude of service.  Our rule is the starting point of all journeys—without a Rule our lives are not coming from a deep reservoir of the Holy Spirit but from our own limited human strength. The ‘journey’ has been one of the most meaningful pilgrimages we have made.

A note to the reader: Many parts of my life are in need of discipline; sleep, diet and exercise habits to name only a few.  Self discipline in any of these areas can be spiritual.  Any time you’ve gone for a run when it was the last thing you wanted to do or passed up a dessert, it probably tested your spirit!    Early in my college experience I found that writing was an excellent outlet for me.  Upon retirement I threw away large numbers of legal pads and notebooks filled with my ‘ramblins’.  Although lacking in grammar, syntax and other skills of the good writer, I have been transparent with my inadequacies in this area to you.   Writing is part of my Rule and I hope it has been meaningful.

Gary

ENTERING AMISH COUNTRY –  PARADISE, PENNSYLVANIA

              

Tobacco Barn

On the way to church meeting

Amish Farmhouse

“Beware of the goat!”. Mascot of the Navy football team.

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND

Replica of the first navy airplane, circa, 1912

Midshipmen getting in formation for lunch

First Capitol Building of the United States. Annapolis, Md.

The Gathering: L-R: Bill, Marilee, David, Frannie, Gary, Beverly, Janet, June and Butch

June with cousins, David and Butch

 

 

 

Gary gives Frannie a Southern hug

 

Cousins-Marilee and David

The Journey……….Freedom

                                              The Journey…………Freedom

 

                                                             Harbor–Annapolis, Maryland                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

The streets are cobblestone, the sidewalks brick, the village is totally accessible by walking to beautiful shops, restaurants and other points of interest.  These are the same streets upon which George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers walked.   The harbor that surrounds the city is where the American Navy defended our freedom during the war of 1812.  It is the same harbor where Francis Scott Key saw the bombs bursting in air.  The city of Annapolis, Maryland is where the capitol of the United States rested prior to moving to Washington D.C.  The city is steeped in history and is maintained in a manner that makes one proud.

Walking in Annapolis or sitting on a bench at the harbor is an experience that envelops the total person.  The serenity of the water and the stately formation of the buildings reminiscent of the 1700’s allows anyone to have a vicarious experience of grand proportion.  Surrounding the ambiance of the environment are young men and women walking crisply along the streets dressed in their Naval Academy uniforms.   It was in this environment that June and I arrived.

Words cannot completely express the flooding of the senses one gets when touring the Naval Academy.  At every turn the principles upon which America was founded are present. Strong academics permeate the curriculum.   The body is developed and finely honed with a rigorous physical fitness and sports program.  I was in absolute amazement when I learned the rigors of the swimming requirement of all the midshipmen.  Discipline and presentation of self is commendable in every aspect.  I could go on and on and on…………

All of the aforementioned takes place on a campus that began in 1845.  The condition of  the buildings and grounds are above reproach and represent the very best in architectural design depicting the era in which they were built.

Midshipmen–Naval Academy

June and I spent the morning on the campus of the Naval Academy.  We visited the museum where authentic ships from the 1800’s are on display.  At the same time we viewed the capsules of the many naval astronauts.  We prayed in the Chapel where 4500 midshipman have the opportunity to worship.  We watched the formation of this large group of young men and women and stood in awe at the precision of their movements as they went about their daily tasks.

Annapolis has its own uniqueness and is a place June and I truly enjoyed just “hanging out.”  It was one of the places we did not want to leave.  However, in departing I could not help but wonder why all of our schools don’t embrace the philosophy of educating the total person as does the Academy.  I wonder while all schools don’t shift to a three semester approach with one semester for career exploration or enrichment .  This is a concept I have advocated for years to no avail.   Oh well, there I go again.

Chapel–Naval Academy

Tomorrow we leave for Virginia to visit with friends and then back home to Greensboro.   I plan to write a personal summary of our journey.

Blessings:

 

June and Gary

“truth faith and courage are like a kite–an opposing wind raises it higher.”

The Journey……….Reflections

The Journey……………..Reflections

 

Today’s writings are entitled ‘reflections’.  It is written as a means of looking back over the past couple of weeks and the “process” June and I began with our journey three weeks ago.   Our original intent was to look at our ‘Rule of Life’ both as a couple and individually (see Journey……Spirituality}.

We find it critically important to have a morning free of stress, spending time with each other.  Additionally,  I personally need time to be alone.  We have used several devotion books having a direct connection to Biblical passages to help achieve this objective.  One of the things we want to do was to be a part of the culture and the people to help with this aspect of our journey, daily we would pray for someone special ( special did not have a descriptive)  to come into our lives along the journey.

We also embraced Oliver Wendell Holmes great quote:  “it is not where you stand that is most important but the direction you are going ,” this though became  the platform for daily functioning.   On numerous occasions this concept actually became a point of discussion in a lighthearted manner., i.e. “Now, what direction are you going?”  It is within this context that today’s blog is written.

After a ’ Friendly’s’ (June’s favorite  restaurant from her youth) send off we headed to the town of Sandwich, Massachusetts   After a lengthy stroll through Sandwich observing the beautiful churches built out of the Anglican tradition and  houses dating back to the late 1600’s, still in great physical condition and with a touch of charm which would make any of today’s home owners envious, we departed for Yonkers, New York.  I noticed June was unusually quiet as we left her girlhood home of Massachusetts.  This was a time, I felt sure, that her mind was being flooded with memories of the past few days.

A commemorative statue for Union troops. Similar statues for confederate soldiers are seen throughout the Southern states. Unusual occurrence in the Northern states.

After two hours of driving we stopped at one of the RR Stations that are characteristic of Connecticut.  Basically they are a food court with every type of food you can imagine, and trying to find a parking spot was a challenge.   Once inside, we joined the great throng of people who had also stopped to get a bite to eat.  The place was a beehive of activity, and it was evident that June and I were experiencing the world from a minority’s point of view.  The ethnic representation was varied with Asians and Latinos the predominate groups.

Back on the road again we came to our exit to the hotel in Yonkers when June with dismay said; “Oh, no, I left my wallet purse at the last stop.” The last stop being the RR station was 100 miles north of our location. Her wallet contained credit cards, driving license and a large sum of money she had been saving  for our travels.  Immediately I telephoned the credit card company and placed a freeze on the card.   Thinking I could get some help, I telephoned the Connecticut Highway Patrol hoping a patrolman could go by the restaurant, perchance the wallet was still at the place where we ate.  The dispatcher was kind and gracious but told me that all the patrolmen in the area were working a multiple car accident on I-95N and it would be at least an hour before one would be free.  She spent considerable time locating the RR Station’s telephone number and then wished me luck in locating the wallet.   I telephoned the Restaurant and asked to speak with the manager and related our situation.  His remarks were “can you describe the wallet?”  That was easy to answer for June had made the wallet and it was very familiar to me.  Secondly, he asked “can you give me the name of the person who appears on the driver license?”  Another easy question.  His next comment was received with exultation, “I have it right here.”   I asked him, Marty, to go through the contents and with each of my questions, going item by item, his response was, “it’s here”.  Every single item was still in the wallet including all of the money.  Coincidence or a ” patch of Godlight”.  You be the judge.   We also found out the wallet was returned by a young Filipino girl.

June and I arrived in Yonkers  four hours later than intended and very tired from the driving.   We had experienced an unusual day.  A day that could have created enormous stress.   After reflection we agreed we had encountered three special people.  The dispatcher from the highway patrol  and her graciousness in assisting us, Marty the manager from the RR Station , who also insisted we have something (courtesy) to get back on the road. Thirdly, a young lady whose honesty was refreshing.   We smiled and sang the Halleluiah course in the parking lot of the hotel.

June and Gary

        faith is a lifestyle not a mindset”

Church in Sandwich, Massachusetts.  Architecture is a fairly common style for churches built in the late 1600’s

The Journey………Memories

June eating her favorite seafood…Clams

The Journey…………Memories

The Sounds of Silence……The group of cousins and in-laws had a glorious time reminiscing, laughing and enjoying themselves.  The group is in the ‘winter’ of their life and as the evening drew to a close the conversation took on a different tone.  Not in words but in non-verbal gestures.  It was almost as if we could not say good-by, hugs were more intense, words more loving and caring. Without saying it the group seems to know this could be the last time they would be together.  On our trip to Hyannis Port June’s behavior continued with the same characteristic……..the sounds of silence.

Malte Bottcher and his family, 13 in number, arrived in the United States from Sweden in the early 1900’s.   Malte, the father of seven children,  one of whom was June, had an amazing love for the sea and fishing.  Almost every weekend he would gather the three older boys into his ‘beach buggy’ and head to the ocean to fish.  At the age of nine June began to accompany her dad and brothers on their weekly fishing trip to places such as: Buzzards Bay, Race Point, Gloucester, Sandwich, Provincetown, Martha’s Vineyard, Hyannis, Barnstable, Truro, etc.   It is from this background that we arrived at the Cape to renew memories of the past as we visited these fishing villages.

To the visitor, such as myself,  I was immediately impressed with the age (late 1600’s and early 1700’s) of the beautiful villages throughout the Cape.  The houses made with ‘shakes’ provided a natural beauty that preserves the integrity of the environment.  Large sea worthy vessels moor in the docks.  Overhead the sound of seagulls punctuates the air bringing a smile to June’s face. Quaint villages with eateries and wonderful pastries became an immediate downfall for me.   Several of the villages were recognizable and familiar to June.  Falmouth, Woods Hole, and Barnstable had maintained their cultural flavor with the small village atmosphere.  The historical Kennedy Compound and their church of worship continue to be a place held in awe.  The Island, like most other places in America, has become a tourist Mecca.  This was especially true during our visit Labor Day Weekend.

The natural beauty of Cape Code is outstanding.  Commercialization has taken its toll, however, the beauty is locked in June’s memory and brings warm feelings and a smile  to her face.

June and I leave for Yonkers, New York via the east coast line stopping as we feel lead.  The beauty of the ‘golden years’ is not having an agenda. For those of you who know me well you will understand how hard that concept is for me.  However, you would be proud, I am in process, but learning.  The final stop of our Eastern trip across America is at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.   The Naval Academy and Notre Dame are two Universities that are on my ‘bucket list.’   Our plans are to visit the ‘fighting Irish” in South Bend in October.

 

….A Day Without A Smile is

a day wasted…………..

 

June and Gary