Finding Floyd

PREACHING TO THE CHOIR

It doesn’t do much good preaching to the choir when the choir’s not listening. I’ve been preached to about the value of not procrastinating. I’ve learned that lesson well… more times than I can recount.

I’ve preached to others about the virtue of not procrastinating and not making the same mistakes twice too. One of the multitudes of people I’ve given the speech about, “not making the same mistakes twice”, is my youngest daughter. She got to witness me feasting on my hypocritical flavored words, yet again.

“An umbrella’s in the pool,” she said.

“Yeah, I know,” I said. I didn’t have to to tell her who’s fault it was.. Her mom isn’t so different than her dad. I knew she knew. Plus, I gave myself a mental pat on the back for not throwing her mom under the bus. Till now…

preaching to the choir

image courtesy of Pinterest

That was a Friday morning. By Sunday afternoon, the time I got around to umbrella fishing, the open nine foot umbrella, along with the ultra heavy metal stand designed to keep umbrellas from blowing over and into pools, was half-way into the deep end of the pool. Of course the wind blew west. There’s no lesson to be learned by an easterly gust…

I’m not sure why I tried to tread water and yank the water filled fabric and steel weighted base plate toward the shallow end… I would have felt pretty foolish if I hadn’t been preoccupied with trying to get air back into my lungs and water out of them.

With no diving mask or kid’s goggles handy, they’re everywhere until you need them, and contact lenses in my eyes, the second attempt to rescue the sunken umbrella was an exercise in braille. By the time I dove down, fumbled around and got my hands on the umbrella pole, traced it down to the stand and finally located the knob, or the place the knob used to be that turned to release the pole, I was out of breath again.

There was just a nut where a plastic knob used to cover. I quickly thought about the prospect of getting out, trudging to the garage to guess at the size of the wrench that I’d need to dive back down and loosen the nut. That was when the monster in me came out and I ripped the pole from the base and made for the surface.

I hacked and eventually caught my breath. After taking breathing breaks, I did finally rescue the umbrella and had it deck side.

My youngest got her swimming suit on to help, but she could’t budge the base plate, even under water. By the time I dove, deadlifted the weight a couple feet at a time before having to resurface, I had the base plate into shallow water… and a gash on my ankle from it.

I wasn’t preaching to the choir then. “Well that sucked,” I said catching by breath. My daughter just nodded.

SUMMERTIME

Those of us that live in Arizona wear the summertime like a mule does a loaded pack. But once we survive another one, we feel like we’ve earned braggin’ rights. We tell summertime stories like old men do fishin’ ones.

The problem is our memory loses clarity after eight months.

For me, there’s not a summertime that goes by and I don’t relive the ones from my childhood and rough and tumble years.

Sometimes it’s the scorching summer breeze that forces my eyes to squint that pulls me back down memory lane. Other times it can be an ice-cold drink of water I pour down my throat. Funny how good water tastes when you desperately need it.

The thing that causes me more past summertime reflection than anything else is seeing other people cope with the intense desert heat. I can spot a heat stroke like Sherlock Holmes does a clue.

Being in the construction industry has given me an up close look at people who toil in the kind of heat that can kill folks. I respect the toughness of people who not only survive, but thrive, despite the angry heat. It reminds me of my days in the desert.

I was pulling out of an auto parts store parking lot when I spotted the truck. I notice struggling and poor people. Once you’ve lived that life, you can almost smell it.

The old red Ford pickup was a beater. It had a busted out rear side window that was duct taped up with plastic. The body of the small-sized pickup was hammered. The hood was raised, the universal sign of mechanical problems, and the skinny kid with filthy hands, T-shirt and shorts, stood beside it. The work truck was loaded with landscape debris and a ladder.

I stopped as I was pulling out and watched. It was hot, about four o’clock past the middle of a nasty June. Sitting in my ice-cold air-conditioned car, I glanced at the digital thermometer dashboard read out. It was 117 and rising.

I watched the kid with the scruffy brown beard. I knew exactly how he felt in an instant. I’ve walked the miles in that kid’s dirty tennis shoes.

summertime

NOTE – his legs sticking out from underneath the truck

The kid had a wrench in his hand. Then, without the luxury of coveralls or an old blanket, the kid scraped his way under his truck that was broken down outside the auto parts store. Even tanned skin sears like meat on a grill through T-shirts in Arizona parking lots in June, July, and August.

My heart went out to the young kid who was out working and trying to eek out a living.

Those are the kind of things that make or break people. You either decide to be okay with that lifestyle or you do something about it, despite the harsh environment.

I thank God it wasn’t me under that broken down truck in the summertime anymore… but I wouldn’t trade my days having done it. Some of the best things we ever get, are the things no one-handed us.

GOD BLESS AMERICA

I was making my way through the first year of being a teenager that summer, the year our country celebrated its Bicentennial birthday. It was a big deal. Everything was red, white, and blue. Even my basketball was sporting the colors of the flag.

That year in school was the year we had to memorize The Preamble of the Constitution. I still know most of the words to it, even now, some forty plus years later. (Props to my Social Studies teacher who follows this blog!)

Every one of us knew, even with a couple ounces of innocence left, that this wasn’t a perfect country. But we also knew that it was the best in the world. We were taught that. We were also taught that a government by and for the people, could be even better with time.

image courtesy of grandparents. com

You hear things as a kid, but it takes years to listen to those voices from the past. We didn’t think much of the 4th of July, other than getting to see fireworks and stuffing our faces with ice cream. The Star Spangled Banner was a pretty song. But the “Rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through night that our flag was still there,” didn’t carry the impact that it does when you’re older and consider the Americans that died rather than surrender, fighting for a country that put people first, the government second.

I worry about this once God fearing nation. I worry about the people that are more concerned about being taken care of instead of being free. Our generation tends to be more of the “Don’t Tread On Me” type of mind sets. We don’t want security, we want freedom first. Security comes from God, not mankind.

That same 1976, the Bicentennial year, there was a TV station with the call letters “KTVK”, a local Phoenix station, that ran a spot that lasted about a second and a half. During that moment it showed an American flag waving proudly in the breeze. A narrator quoted a partial Bible verse from Psalm like an auctioneer. He said, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

Until I learned a bit more about the history of the world… I didn’t realize how true that Bible verse was and is.

God Bless America! Happy 4th of July to all and may God bless you too.

WHISKEY COLORED EYES

Busy summer. Repost from April 2014.

They saw things differently than us. I didn’t pay it much mind as a kid… wish I could have. Most of those whiskey-colored eyes are resting now. I remember them though, how they looked at things, how their tired eyes took a deep drink of a cotton field. They saw it in a way only eyes that have worked it, looked at it up close and over a lifetime can.

They seemed drawn to it, although they cussed it regularly. Eyes flanked by deep lines, worn by perpetual squinting in the punishing sun, scanning right to left – left to right slowly. Then up, always up, and back and forth. They mumbled about the weather, but it looked to me like there were looking for a sign from God, a miracle.

The miracle was that their families didn’t starve to death.

How many years did those eyes tear from the smoke and clouds of a year’s crop being burned? There was always work, hard work, that was a guarantee… getting paid for it wasn’t. Surviving on close to nothing most of your life has a way of making a person strong, hard, faithful. For some, like my grandpa, the faith misplaced.

I could be wrong, but it didn’t look like peace or joy of the desert farm fields that reflected in those eyes. I couldn’t grasp at the time that behind that tough as nails exterior, those eyes hid sadness mixed with fear. I don’t guess he gave a lot of thought to faith across the better part of his life.

I didn’t know him when he pulled the cotton sack behind him along with dad and uncles. By the time I knew him the days of sharecropping in Arkansas were a distant memory for him. He was old then, but he still did the only thing he ever knew how to; pick cotton. He drove the machines across the dusty southwest for miles and years.

Troy’s days of running moonshine to help put the clothes on the backs and shoes on the feet, at least for winter time, of his nine offspring he rarely talked about. Old habits die hard, the fifth he carried in his dusty coat pocket when he drove cotton pickers spoke to that fact.

Those half Cherokee brown eyes had little compassion or sympathy for others, seemed even less so after my grandma died too young. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say she was the best part of him.

I suppose he did the best he could do. I recall a few times his eyes didn’t look cross with anger or impatience. He seemed more content when smoking catfish he caught from the irrigation ditch out back of his trailer that was smack in the middle of a farm field and nowhere. After a few beers, he’d play his harmonica so long and hard he’s huff and puff like The Big Bad Wolf.

My car broke down the day of his funeral. I never told my dad I was a little relieved. I was just going out of respect for him anyway. I think about him sometimes when I’m sad for no good reason. I’m told he did find his faith in God at the end. I suspect he knew that truth all along, probably explains why he was the way he was…

Sometimes the lessons and examples along the path of life aren’t wrapped in fine silk…

whiskey colored eyesSome have whiskey colored eyes… and breath.

A SIMPLE QUESTION

There are not many questions or scenarios that leave folks stumped or catch them off guard after trudging this planet for multiple decades. That’s why I was surprised that I was stumped by a simple question.

“Please fill these out.” I didn’t mean to give the young lady at the doctor’s office a dirty look, it was more confusion than anger. The stack of papers she handed me was as thick as a Popular Mechanics.

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

The forms were typical doctor’s office forms, at first. By the time I got ten pages in they were stepping on toes. At twenty pages in, they were looking for dirt, digging up bones. They didn’t just ask about my physical issues.

The forms started hawking me about my mental leanings. Questions and more questions. It began to feel more like a police interrogation than a doctor’s visit.

I was ripping through the questionnaire at light speed, not caring about my horrific penmanship. Plus, I was past the point of confusion. I was frustrated. It was an hour past my appointment time and I was still in the lobby filling out blasted papers.

I flipped over to another page with aggressive annoyance. The very next question brought my speeding pen to an abrupt halt. I thought quickly of a generic answer so I could push toward the end of the catalog of forms. Nothing came to me.

I looked around trying to clear my head, determined to get past the prying question. I put the pen to the page as if that would somehow force my mind to come up with an answer. No dice.

“Look at this,” I showed my wife. “How are you supposed to answer something like that?” I asked her. She was silent for a second then said, “You want me to answer it for you?” she smiled.

“No,” I didn’t smile and read the question again, “In one or two words describe yourself.”

There is no way to describe yourself without considering your core values. To use one or two words to describe any person really boils down the thing that dominates their life.

I pondered how to answer the question. I then thought about my wife’s sarcastic question and how others might describe me in one or two words. I considered the words “laid back” to define me, but I knew that would be a blatant lie. I thought about other words, none that came to mind were the ones I’d like to be described as.

After several minutes I had to skip the question. I didn’t know the answer or I didn’t want to incriminate myself. I wasn’t sure which.

I mentally took the question with me to wrestle with later.

I remembered the times when others that knew me well used the word “intense” to describe me. I couldn’t argue.

I answered the question to myself as honestly as I could. It wasn’t the word I wanted it to be. My descriptive word doesn’t point completely to God or His attributes.

The one word that describes me best is “motivated”. I’m not proud of the answer to a simple question. What one or two words describe you?