46

Bailey Ham 3

Lisa would have turned 46 on Monday.  The girls and I have chosen not to spend a ton of time remembering mom on the anniversary of her death, but rather to more officially celebrate her life on her birthday.  The casual remembrance typically includes Diet Dr. Pepper, Kanki Japanese Steak House and happy memories.  I don’t love Dr. Pepper, but on April 18, I drink.  I don’t love the Skanky Kanki (my nickname for the establishment), but on April 18, I eat.

We laugh and talk about her on a regular basis, so this isn’t a particularly difficult or odd time for us.  It is, however, a time to stop and reflect.  To answer questions.  For me, a responsibility to ensure her legacy lives on.

On Sunday I was invited to speak to an adult Sunday School class at my church on how to support those dealing with difficult situations.  Prepping to teach, I pulled out a stack of cards I received when Lisa died.  Although cathartic, and perhaps important at times, not necessarily a happy way to begin a fresh weekend.  Looking back, it is sort of amazing how you tend to forget the intensity of the pain experienced during that time.  It’s also shocking how quickly you can revisit the emotions with a small reminder.

One friend wrote this quote in the card she sent two months after Lisa died:

“The fullness of a person’s life is measured not in years, but in how he lived … there are rare people in this world who engage life at a different level – a deeper level than the rest of us.”

Although I’m sure that quote gets tossed around at many funerals for folks who die before 60, and although I believe it to be true, I wonder what really constitutes engaging in life at a different and deeper level.  As I poured through the notes near the top of my stack, there were a few that struck me.

“It sounds trite to say she was ‘unique,’ but she really was.  She was driven but not overbearing; she was kind but not patronizing; she was firm but compassionate.”

“(Lisa) has inspired me to be a better mom, friend, volunteer, Christian and worker because of how she lived her life.”

“Was there anyone in Raleigh she didn’t know?”

“One of my favorite memories of you and Lisa was when I visited the Y on one of my days off.  I will never forget walking up and seeing you and Lisa on the roof … I still wonder how the two camp directors were able to pull off tanning for an entire day and still get paid for it.  Who was in charge of camp?  You and Lisa were a great team!”

“She was such a force of nature.”

“I was a friend of your mom’s in college.  She was one of the first smiling faces I saw at our sorority.  From that moment on, she made me feel welcome and included.  As you know, that’s just how she was with everyone… making you feel comfortable.”

“My lasting image of her is seated on the Capon Springs stage, surrounded by all of the Capon kids, leading them in song.”

“She was an extraordinary person – someone who I remember trying to emulate as a teenager.”

“She was such a natural leader and full of such positive energy!!”

I believe that Lisa did engage life at a different level.  I don’t think she tried, I just think it was natural for her.

It doesn’t come as easily for me.  But I do think that her death has pushed me to intentionally and strategically work to live more boldly.

I do not want someone to spout out some quote at my funeral simply to fill up a 15 minute homily.  With Lisa, the remembrances were true, sincere; all who knew her could nod enthusiastically.  I’m learning later in life, but I think that losing Lisa has given my daughters the gift of living at a deeper level much earlier.  To watch them is as their mom is a beautiful thing.

Sticktoitiveness

DSC_0407

Birthday Buddies in Bow Ties!

The day after Lisa died, I sent an email to a group of friends asking them to meet me in the church fellowship hall thirty minutes before her Memorial Service.  I told them we would save seats for them up front in the sanctuary and that they would all walk in together, united.  I wanted to be able to look over and see those I knew would usher me through the intense shock and pain I was experiencing.

I also told them that they were the ones, like it or not, who were stuck with me, that I needed them to stand by me until I got my feet back up under me.

I think I underestimated their sticktoitiveness.

Last week, on my fiftieth birthday, five years after Lisa’s death, this incredible group of friends threw me a surprise party.  They rented out the second floor of a bar and filled it with the people in my life that I love the most.  When I walked up the steps, there they were, this incredible group of folk, who genuinely care about me.

It sort of blows my mind.  I haven’t been as good to them as they have been to me.  Man, am I blessed.

This past week, I was in Greenville, SC, speaking to a group of YMCA staffers.  After my talk, a woman came up to me with tears in her eyes.  She said, “I’ve heard you speak before.  I just want you to know that I keep you and your girls in my prayers.”

Maybe that’s why we’re all doing really well!

As I write, tears well up from my gut.  They aren’t tears for loss.  They are tears of knowing that I can never repay what has been given to me.

When praying, I sometimes struggle to remember those around me who hurt.  I forget the guy I met with a few weeks ago who recently lost his wife or the high school buddy who has been diagnosed with cancer.  They roll through my head on occasion, but I don’t have the same level of persistent, perpetual care that others have had for me.

My friends and family could write the handbook on caring for those experiencing grief.  For them, it isn’t a short story.  It’s an epic novel.  They’ve been working on it for five plus years.  I have this feeling that it will go unfinished.

Senior Citizen Puberty

Yesterday I turned the big 5 – 0.  Damn that’s old.

It’s ½ of 100.  Half a CENTURY.  I’ve lived FIVE DECADES.  Twenty five years, twice.  Geeze.

It’s not the number that bothers me.  Forty, fifty, sixty, thirty.  It’s just another day.  But it is more about the aging of my physical being.

At 4:50 AM on my birthday morning, I was at a gas station by the airport trying to fill up for a busy day ahead.  I could read the screen asking if I wanted a car wash.  I did not.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a pair of glasses in my car so I couldn’t find the “no” button.  I had to restart the transaction three times before I finally pressed something that would allow me to move on.  So    dang    frustrating!

Last weekend we were going to a wedding so I wanted to clean up a bit.  Of course I showered and shaved, but there’s something about a special event that makes you feel like you need a good grooming.  So I got the expanda face mirror out and a pair of tweezers.  This hair pulling utensil was given to me as a gift.  It actually has a light on it.  Between the mirror and the random hair spotlight, nothing goes unnoticed.

I plucked the pom-pom sprigging from my ears, and it hurt like mess!  Who knew you could grow an ear toupee?

I remember my granddad’s ears.  He got to the point he shaved them, just like his face.  They turned gray.  Can’t wait for that genetic hand-me-down.

I then pulled out five eyebrow strands that were four times longer than their peers.  How does that happen?  Where do these mutant follicles come from?  Did I accidently splash Miracle Gro on them when watering the plants?  If I don’t pluck, my children hound me, beating down any sense of self-esteem I might have developed since I last saw them.

“Dad, you look like Albert Einstein.  It’s time to mow your brow!  Oh, and look at your ears.  Gross!”

My hip pops when I walk up stairs.  I’m gonna have to wait until I get on Medicare to get that thing replaced.  What if I get in the doughnut hole?

You know you’re getting old when you dread cutting your toenails.  It becomes such a chore.

I have to find time to sit down and somehow figure out how to get my toe close enough to my hand to make the transaction.  It wasn’t until my upper 40’s that I realized my toes were so far from my hands.  It really is a very long distance.

And pretzeling my leg into position is not the only issue.  My pinky toenail on the left side has double developed over my lifetime.  Like it has two times the thickness of any of my other nails.  Like bullet proof glass.

The good news is you couldn’t puncture the end of Mr. Pinkie with an ice pick.  Nuclear war?  He will survive.  By sixty I’m gonna need yard shears to ready for a special occasion.

This is like senior citizen puberty – suberty.

And AARP.  Couldn’t they mail the application a month or two AFTER your birthday?  You’re cruising along, all is good, and then you open the mailbox and there it is.  An envelope that essentially says Hello Old Fart!

Jiminy Christmas.

 

 

Happy Bday Little One

It’s Michelle’s 12th birthday, and she wanted to blow it out.  I’m guessing there aren’t that many 15 girl sleepovers left in me – but, as long as they’re willing to come to my house, I’ll have ‘em!

The girls and I got home around 5:10 on Friday.  The crew started showing up at 5:30.

Michelle was having 9 friends over.  Of course, that meant that Stephanie needed a couple as well which is fine with me.  The older ones sort of disappear for the most part and occasionally step in to help entertain the youngers.  I just check on them to make sure they haven’t smuggled in boys or started a fire.

At 5:50 Michelle ran out on the front porch.  I was under the carport with Stephanie trying diligently to hook my laptop up to a borrowed projector so that we could watch Netflix on the side of the house.  You know, bigger is better.

“Dad, can we open presents now?”

“Noooo.   You still have two friends who haven’t arrived!  We’re gonna do that later tonight.”

“But we’re bored.”

“Bored?  Bored?  Good lord child, they’ve only been here 20 minutes!”  This was clearly going to be the longest night of my life.

“What should we do?”

“Pretend.”

She looked at me as if she had never heard the word.

“Do you know what we did for my 12th birthday?” She braced herself for the “Walk Two Miles to School in the Snow” story, birthday style.

“Your grandparents blindfolded us, spun us in a circle and had us stick a tack into the sketch of a donkey which was hung on our paneled basement wall.  And you know what?”

“What?”

“We were thankful we had a basement with paneling that was soft enough a tack could penetrate it!”

“You’re the weirdest person I know.”  She ran inside with her iPhone in hand.

I’m a cheap sort of birthday dad.  I did spring for pizza – but not the restaurant kind.  I bought small circular crusts and let the kids make their own.  They at least acted like it was fun.

DSC_0860

We then headed out to the carport.  That’s when DJ drove up.

My oldest daughter looked at me.  “Dad.  You look tired.  Let’s project some music videos on the wall.  We’ll have a dance party.  Take a break.  I got the next 15 minutes.”

A quarter of an hour.  She is so thoughtful.

DSC_0855

The movie was a hit until it started pouring down rain about ¾ of the way through.  We grabbed all of our stuff and headed toward the basement door.  As the girls ran in, a snake the size of an earthworm squirmed passed the door.

From the noise that came out of the mouths of these children, I thought one had run into a chainsaw in motion.

The snake is probably in Montana by now.  Their screams no doubt scared the hell out of him.  He was slithering as fast as a serpent can slither.  I feel certain he will NEVER return.

At 10:30 we ate cake – well, sort of.  I rolled out cookie dough and etched a little pic of the kid ($3.69).  I figured after pizza and popcorn some fancy store-bought sugarfest would not be necessary.

DSC_0880

Look, if you’re gonna dress your children in Jack Rogers’ sandals, you gotta save somewhere.

Around midnight DJ came home from her adventures with friends, and she helped me settle the crew down.  I went to my room and began to doze off when I heard the back door open and a booming voice echo through the den.

“Happy Birthday Michelle!!”

Hayes at bday

The laughter and screeches began again.  Uncle Jesse had arrived.  He pulled out the family guitar and began strumming as he held court with the nine preteens.

His work was complete at around 1 AM.  He did the job of an uncle.  Rile them up and get out-of-the-way.

No stiches, no tears, no vomiting or fist fights.  Asleep before 2.  I’d say that it was a pretty good night.

Sunday Post 188: Good Day

photo

I remember getting my first Izod shirt for a birthday.  I coveted the alligator!  I picked out the color in advance – burgundy with a green crocodile.  When September 29th rolled around, I tore open the package.  I looked so stinkin’ cool!  Sam McDade had NOTHIN’ on me when I pulled out that shirt.  I think I wore it every Wednesday.

I didn’t really care about anything else.  Cake was irrelevant.  Those celebrating with me?  Not as important as that left chest emblem.

I was 15, and t was ALL Izod for me.

Last week I turned 49.  I didn’t get a shirt, but what  I did get was so much more.

Michelle painted a jar with blue and red polka dots and filled it with my favorite candy:  peanut M & Ms.  She taped a small glittered card on the side:  For my sweet and nutty dad!  Buying those boogers must have put her in the poor house.  Interesting way for a kid to spend her savings.

Stephanie took time on my birthday eve to short sheet my bed.  I understand she was intent on an effective stunt.  It clearly took her a while, because there wasn’t a wrinkle in the covers when I crawled in at midnight.  Although I didn’t find it very amusing at the end of my day I was tired.  But when I awoke the next morning, I decided it was probably a fairly appropriate way to celebrate her father.

My mom made me my favorite birthday cake – it’s enormous!  Chocolate, fudge-like icing as thick as a slice of bread.  When her baking career is over, my years of eating that cake are done.  There isn’t anyone else in this world who can or would make that thing for me.  It’s an eight hour process.  I think she must love me.

My mother-in-law picked out a six pack of my favorite wines.  She told me I was getting to the age that gifts should be consumable!  That’ll last me a while.  Took more thought than an Izod ever could.

Oh, and my oldest, DJ, she came through too.   She texted everyone in the family and asked them their favorite song.  She then made a compilation CD.  We took a college tour the day after she gave it to me.  On our way down I-95, we listened to the 15 tunes, and I guessed the family member who chose each one.

It was a thoughtful and hilarious gift.  John Denver was represented as was Outcast.  From Frozen to Blue Grass to “We Need a Little Christmas,” my mom’s favorite holiday tune, there was a wide range of genres represented.  I’ll listen to that CD until it simply won’t play anymore.

DJ added my current favorite song in the mix and it appropriately represents last Monday, Good Day by Nappy Roots:

Hope yours is as meaningful as mine was this year.  Can’t wait til 50!

Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

If you have read the book and are willing to write a short review, it would be helpful:Click here. And thanks

56? 108?

Mae at Xmas

She don’t look bad – for her age.

Tomorrow will be my mother’s birthday, we don’t know how old she is.

We estimate she’s somewhere between 56 and 108.

My dad says that she rounds to the nearest five-year increment. She was 40 from age 38 to 43 at which time she turned 45 for another six years.

She says she doesn’t mind if we know her age. She just can’t tell us – because she isn’t sure.

I asked my dad if he had her birth certificate. He said back then they just carved your name and birthdate on a tree in the yard. Perhaps someone jotted her birthday with a quill in a family bible somewhere. Who knows? My great-grandmother had ten kids so we have no idea where the official book might be.

As we had this discussion, my father informed me that I had about one year before I would receive my AARP card. His friend then told me that membership entitled me to free sodas at the Taco Bell. I hope I don’t end up in the doughnut hole, I anticipate being on a number of meds in the future. Both of my parents have pill boxes the size of a love seat.

“It’s not medicine. It’s just supplements. We don’t have any medical issues.”

Not unless you count: sciatica, adult acne, heart stents, eyelid “enhancements”, cataracts, deafness, back and joint issues, one bum leg, a bum hip, asthma, worsening allergies, wrinkles, hair loss and insomnia.

Fortunately, they’re still pretty hip. They text, Facebook, own iPhones and iPads, dance, know how to scan photos into the computer, and come to Raleigh to drive my kids around town at least two times per month.

I guess that’s not bad for 108 (or nearabouts.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Post 138: The Inventory

It’s birthday week – again.  It seems like it comes around more quickly every year.  Someone asked me how old I was, I told them 46.  Michelle and Stephanie reminded me I am actually 48.  Never was that great at math.

I took my annual birthday jog today.  I do it every year for two reasons:

1) I want to make sure I can still jog

2) I like to ponder the year, think about the ups and the downs, recalibrate.

There is never a year that I can’t see blessings – well, there was one.  But I less think about what I do or don’t have and more focus on what I’ve accomplished over the year.  Sort of where I stand with myself.  Think about where I was 12 months ago and where I want to be 12 months from now.  A gut check, some accountability.

As I pondered my year, I was fairly satisfied.  Gave myself a B+.  Then I began to ponder the future.  This is where I want to grow:

1)  Next year, when I’m 47 or 49 or whatever, I’d like to be a more consistent dad.  I harp too much.  I stress them out.  I’m impatient.  I seldom raise my voice, but my tone is telling.  “Do you need more help with that math problem?” (tone – you are not very smart, why can’t you do it yourself?  I am too busy with important stuff).  Sometimes I bet my kids think I’m schizophrenic.

2) Next year, I’d like to be in better physical shape – I’ve worked out all year, but I haven’t done P90X!  A two-mile jog at a snail’s pace isn’t exactly gonna keep me from having a massive heart attack at age 62.

3)  Finally, I’ve really noticed a difference in my kids’ social lives over the past 12 months.  I’m finding they’re becoming much more independent than they’ve ever been before.  DJ has her car – we don’t see her so much anymore.  Stephanie has plans, always.  Mind you, she never makes them until an hour before the event, but plans she does have.  And sweet Michelle has at least one sleepover per weekend.  I think there’s a mandatory quota for ten year-olds.   I gotta figure out how to reengineer my life now that they don’t need me quite as much as they did before.

That’s a significant adjustment – my idea of a Saturday night out is a G movie and leftovers from the Happy Meal.  Imagine a restaurant withOUT a kids’ menu!  A movie with unanimated characters.  A glass of red wine, not Cheerwine.

Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t going anywhere.  I plan to be here as much as they need.  But taking the annual inventory sort of brings to light the things I’ve let go –

48 may be the best year yet!

Purchase Danny’s book: Laughter, Tears and Braids

  • Tanner Tweets

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 11,935 other followers

  • Past Posts

  • Contact Us