Finding Floyd

MOM’S BIRTHDAY

Some days of the calendar are just a little more special than almost all of the others. Some calendar days resonate in our soul and take their place in line of importance behind Christmas and Easter. Of course our children’s birthdays and now their kid’s birthdays mean a lot, but without our mom’s birthday, none of us would have ours.

My mom’s birthday is August 30th, the day before my mom and dad’s anniversary. Some of the roughest days of the summer land on my mom’s birthday, but neither rain nor shine can take the meaning of that day away for her loved ones.

It was six or seven years ago, a year or two after my dad passed, since I surprised my mom for her birthday by showing up out of the blue unannounced.

That birthday she was at the sink doing dishes when I strolled up her front walk. She started crying tears of joy instantly.

I took care of loose ends and headed north. It’s about a two and a half hour drive from where I live in the Valley of the Sun to her place. It took a little longer this year with all the road work and detours… and people that do the speed limit…

It’s easy to throw my mom off and give her misdirection. I always text her early on her birthday and call later in the afternoon. I sent my yearly birthday greeting long before I started heading her way so she would have no way of knowing if I was coming to surprise her or not.

I knocked on my mom’s front metal screen door around noon. There was no answer, but I could hear the TV or radio blaring inside. I waited as long as an impatient person can and rapped the back of my knuckles on the metal door again, harder the second time.

Finally her front door opened, but with the sunlight glaring behind me and the tiny little circles on the bug screen, I couldn’t see her… but I heard her. When a person knows another intimately, like a mother and her children, you know the sound in their voice and if tears are accompanying their words. My mom’s was.

I gave my mom a hug and she cleared a place on her coffee table for the oversized arrangement that engulfed her quaint coffee table.

image courtesy of trip adviser.com

My mom asked me where I wanted to go for lunch. I reminded her that it was her birthday so it was completely up to her. We had a nice lunch in her favorite spot that fronts old Route 66. It’s a great place to remember the years of life and celebrate yet another one that God provides.

With age comes wisdom. By now I know how precious each year is and I don’t want to take any for granted. And certainly not the day and the year of my mom’s birthday.

GROUCHY PEOPLE

There’s no shortage of grouchy people in the world. And there seems to be an over abundance of them when it gets late in a never ending summer. Kid’s love a never ending summer. Adults, not so much.

“What number?” I asked with as cheerful a voice as I could muster in a crowded airport.

“Thirty two,” the well and overdressed middle aged man responded without looking at me.

“Right behind you,” I said and squeezed between him and a similar aged woman with her husband right behind her.

She was dressed well too. Capris, medium heeled neutral colored heels. Her medium length auburn hair was perfect along with her makeup that she’s got down to an art after all the years of practice.

grouchy people

The lady that was sporting number thirty four, one number more than me, in the loading order said to her husband, “People keep cutting in front of me!” her eyebrows, painted a dark brown for contrast pinched the bridge of her wrinkled nose.

I tried to move as far to the side of the line as the adjacent seating would allow, but the woman was still snorting heavy and exaggerated sighs of frustration.

I’ve learned that it’s best to keep my mouth shut in scenarios like that. If I start to interact and a conversation goes sideways I can be less than kind.

When the attendant finally called out, “Okay, ‘A’ thirty through sixty. Thirty through sixty, please.” Everyone moved slowly toward the the check in bell and the sweltering jetway. I slipped behind thirty two. Just as I did my neighbor, number thirty four, let out as loud a “Well’ accompanied by a nasty exhale as she could muster.

I ignored her and took my rightful place in line.

There is no shortage of grouchy people in the summertime

“Can we work in with you?” I asked the grey haired gentleman that had left the leg extension machine and was coming back to reclaim it. I could have ignored him and just taken it, but I’ve been around gyms my whole life and I adhere to the unwritten rules of gym etiquette.

“I have two sets left,” he said.

“Okay, mind if we work in with you?” I asked again.

He shook his head in disgust, “I’m done,” he huffed and started to walk away.

“Nice gym etiquette!” I called to him and tried to look him in the eye. He wasn’t looking back.

Maybe it was the summer heat that got to me. Maybe it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. Maybe it was just this fallen flesh that catches up with all of us sooner or later.

I wonder if James wrote those words, “Be slow to anger”, in the summertime?

Wisdom from God tells me I should see and live this short life differently than the grouchy people, but I sweat too.

A NO WIN SITUATION

Occasionally, though, I get thrown the analogical curveball or change up. Even then, with years of practical experience dealing with surprises, I’m rarely left struggling with what the right course of action to take might be.

That was not the rare case this particular Sunday. It was a no-win situation. While out of town we found a friendly little church a few years back while on vacation.

We were sitting about four rows back on the south side of the church closest to the front door, which is typically my style. I like to make a quick get away. Several minutes after the service started a very elderly man shuffled into the church, having a more legitimate use for a cane than anybody I’ve witnessed.

As the late comer eyed the seat directly in front of me, he hobbled, lost a bit of balance and bumped into me, helping to keep him upright. The elderly gentleman settled into the seat directly in front of me.

I knew that my new neighbor wasn’t going to be doing any standing for praying or singing… Though frail, I can’t remember a person singing with as much enthusiasm as the old timer. I’m not sure if the old guy knew he couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket or not. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have mattered to him one way or the other. Just one of the gifts of being very elderly, or so I’ve heard.

The old fella had long, past his shoulders scraggly hair extending from the sides of his head with a worn, sun-spotted, round, bald spot on top.

During the middle of the service, something caught my eye on the old guy’s faded black windbreaker. I first thought it was a fly, but it quickly crawled from under his collar, just above his left shoulder. I did a double take as it moved quickly to the old guy’s back and over his right shoulder where it disappeared from my view.

That’s when I realized what it was… It was black, about a size and a half bigger than a horse fly with short, quick, legs. It was a black spider…

image courtesy of Orkin.com

There I was, at a loss for what to do or how to react. I knew the spider wasn’t a black widow, but I wasn’t completely positive it wasn’t poisonous.

In a church where no one knows me, I’m not sure how they would have reacted if I’d have gotten up and announced, “OK!!! – TIME OUT!!! – I’ve spotted a black spider on the old guy in front of me!!! – I think you’ll find the culprit hiding under his collar!!!”

I thought about using my bulletin as a spider swatter, but didn’t want them calling the cops for attacking an innocent old guy in the middle of a church service. Not to mention it might’ve caused him to have a heart attack.

It was a no-win proposition. What did I do? … I didn’t do anything except keep an eye out for the church going spider…

Then I prayed for the old man’s protection…

It’s all I could think of in a no win situation. Maybe that’s the problem with many of us… We wait until we’ve ran out of options… then pray…

THE ART OF MAKING ICE CREAM

I wrote this out by hand today. I guess I’ve slowed enough for melancholy to catch up with me as I pondered the art of making ice cream. Summer, even late summer, and ice cream go together like Rock-N’-Roll.

I’m still fascinated how convenience doesn’t equal better. One could argue that it’s just the opposite. Anticipation coupled with hard work always seems to make the destination sweeter. Same goes for ice cream.

My mom was famous, at least in our family, for her banana ice cream concoction. Once she had the cream that was loaded with chunks of bananas, she handed it over to my dad and most of his brothers and sisters were there to help with the making and eating.

image courtesy of dbrl.org

This was in the days either before they invented the electric ice cream maker or before anyone in our family could afford one.

There was plenty of time for discussion about the art of making ice cream during the grueling process. Disagreements were the norm, but no full blown arguments. The amount of ice added before sprinkling the layers of rock salt was like politics or religion, only with more passion.

All the men would take turns cranking the handle. Me and the rest of my boy cousins would watch with respect. We paid closer attention to the art of making ice cream than we did math and reading in school. It was a rite of passage. We weren’t in the South anymore, but my family brought the South with ’em.

Each revolution would let out a cricket like chirp from the worn rolling handle while the men took turns cranking it.

My dad and his brothers were a blue collar bunch. They’d grown up working on the farm and dragging cotton sacks. I say that to say this; they were physical specimens. Their sweaty arms showed off the muscles with the white short sleeve t-shirts rolled up to secure their brand of cigarettes.

I can’t remember how long it took to turn the cream into ice cream, seemed like an eternity back then.

When the debating and cranking was finally done, the men, with us boys in tow, would march the treasure into the house where the women would give their two cents on the matter as the girls watched.

It doesn’t happen too often, but as I rolled back time with an old fashioned pen in my hand, I got a lump in my throat, even fought back a few scattered tears.

We don’t do much by hand anymore.

I never made home made ice cream with my kids, wish I would’ve… but I never even thought about it. I was more concerned with the way I looked.

That ice cream tasted like heaven, but the memory of making it with family is sweeter.

There’s value in doing things by hand.

I’ll bet my grandkids will figure that out.. when they look back on their lives and recall how their Papa taught them the art of making ice cream… by hand.

 

HIGH ALERT

I spotted the pudgy kid immediately as he sauntered into the outside eating space from the sidewalk flanking the main road. I’d just plowed down an egg white omelette and a salad; the kind of meal that leaves you starvin’ like Marvin about an hour and half later. But that didn’t keep me from being being on high alert.

The young man’s thick brown locks were disheveled, his heavy beard matted, and his clothes were nice, but dirty. I knew right away he’d been sleeping outside.

After a lifetime of being on high alert I knew almost instantly the kid wasn’t dangerous. I also knew, for whatever reason, he had no pride, and I mean the good kind of pride. The kind of pride that makes you give a darn about how you look and how you live.

I noted his brand name dirty tennis shoes with the laces dragging the ground as he shuffled his way toward the first table. They were an older couple that were waiting for their food to be brought out from the French lunch eatery. I tuned my ears to the occasion.

image courtesy of colourbox.com

“Do you have a couple dollars you can spare?” the kid asked.

I couldn’t hear the gruff white haired man’s response, but I recognized the scowl. The kid turned away unabashed and undeterred and hit the next table in line; a group of middle aged women gossiping over afternoon coffee. They too sent the begging youngster packing.

I can’t think of too many times I see people begging, and a lot of folks are doing it these days, and I’m not forced to consider Jesus’ take on matters. Then Paul’s…

I know Christ said if someone sues you for your coat give him your shirt also. All of the Beatitudes speaks to the heart of the downtrodden. The kid was downtrodden, how or why I could only speculate.

Paul never minced his words and in his letter to the Thessalonians addressing the lazy people was no different; “If you don’t work you don’t eat.”

The begging kid wasn’t in any danger of starving to death and didn’t look like he’d ever been deprived of a donut.

My heart breaks for women begging.

I guess ’cause I’m a man that has lived outside in the elements by night and worked by the sweat of my brow by day, showering twice a week at the price of a buck a pop at the local YMCA, makes me less than sympathetic to able mind and bodied men in their prime begging.

I was next in the path of the kid begging and he knew my answer as soon as he looked me dead in the eye, but he asked anyway.

“You gotta a couple dollars?” he asked.

“No,” I said louder than I meant to as I was shaking my head.

Perhaps I was wrong? I’ve learned that as much as I’m on high alert to physical things, I need to be on high alert on matters of the heart as well. It’s easy to judge others by my life and standards… too easy.