Finding Floyd

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?

A SOFT SPOT

There was a time when the automobile manufacturers in Detroit weren’t known as the “Big Three” – It was the “Big Four”, back before American Motors went belly up. I have a soft spot for American Motors products. Not so much for the Pacer or Gremlin, although I didn’t mind cruising my big brother’s Gremlin when I was fifteen. My soft spot is due to the metallic green ’72 Javelin. It was my mom’s car. My parents picked it up second or third hand in 1975.

I was in middle school, so it was an impressionable time in my life. Once that old American Motors car’s title got transferred into my parent’s name, its days on easy street were over with.

My dad piled the miles on the Javelin when he was working out of town for a couple of years. When he was in town on the weekends my brothers piled more hard miles on the V-8 powered Javelin.

One fine evening my brother Bobby was pushing the Javelin when he happened upon a city cop. When the flashing lights came on, since he already had max points on his driver’s license, he fled. The cops didn’t want to wreck their squad car jumping dips in the little lake town. Bobby got away, but so did the front shocks, right through the top of the Javelin’s front fenders.

A short time later after some repairs, he got in a wreck with another vehicle. With only liability insurance to cover the other people, the Javelin got a long rare break while my parents saved enough money to get the Javelin fixed, again.

Once the mended Javelin was back on the road, it made the move to Phoenix, but not too many miles more. The hard miles caught up with the Javelin’s engine and it gave up the ghost. My brother rebuilt the engine in ’77, but one of the rings never did seat properly.

About a year later my dad surprised my mom with a new Buick and we sold the old Javelin to one of my best friends that lived next door to us. By then, I had already bought my own first car.

My buddy was following me in my mom’s old Javelin around a ninety-degree corner at sixty miles an hour. I made it in my Mercury Cyclone. He didn’t. He stacked up the Javelin again.

Soft Spot

The Javelin after paint and skin tight 501’s and a winter flannel

Sometime later, I bought the old Javelin back from him. I slapped more Bondo and another junkyard fender on it. Painted it and bolted some Cragar Super Sport rims with fat tires on the back.

Not long after I got rear ended sitting at a traffic light and sold the beat up Javelin.

I have a lot of memories with that old car, but when I see a Javelin I don’t think about the wrecks or mishaps. The first thing that comes to mind is my mom… then Neil Diamond… then her driving me before I could drive as we listened to her eight track.

I wonder what things you and I were a part of that born a soft spot in others.

I loved that car because my mom did.

PUNCHLINE

“Knock, knock,” I said.
“Who’s there?” my buddy Duane asked reluctantly.
“Duane,” my smile was swallowing my face.
“Duane who?” he frowned.
“Duane the bathtub I’m drowning!” I barely got the punchline out before I burst into a belly laugh.

Duane squinted, cocked his head sideways and nodded a couple of times quickly, “Very funny,” he said, but he wasn’t anywhere near laughing. A few people within earshot did though.

“Duane the bathtub I’m Drowning,” I repeated the punchline to milk the last few laughs out of myself and the audience. Duane didn’t laugh. My guess, is that if someone told him that knock knock joke now, he’d laugh. But that was a long time ago.

I still love to laugh, I think it’s good for the body and mind, but I shy away from the laughing at other’s expense nowadays.
* * *

punchline

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

I say I don’t know when it happened, half-joking, half-lying to myself, but I know dancing went from an obligation to my girlfriend, to looking for one. It wasn’t the King David type of dancing though. It was after the days of innocence disappeared like an honest politician. Those were the days, or nights really, spent on the dark side. Dancing In The Dark while Springsteen sang about it.
* * *

There are plenty of things to mourn in this life. The common denominator seems to be loss. Of course, some losses are greater than others – even if they’re temporary. At the climax of mourning there are tears. Those are the times when mourning is too much to be contained within us, inside our souls. The unseen pain is manifested outside of us, in weeping.
* * *

I penned a tribute to my dad, to his character and strength, across his good days and the plenty of bad ones, that made up his life. My dad was a man of few words and no tears. Sometime after I’d penned the tribute my parents were in town for a visit. I read it to him. That was the first time I ever saw tears in my dad’s eyes. Those are the rare type of tears that don’t come from mourning.

Several years later when the preacher read those words of tribute at my dad’s funeral, tears of mourning rolled down my face.

It is a wise person that considers the punchline of their life. A person that ponders a life, counts the cost of actions and the value of forgiveness and God’s grace. “There’s a time to weep, a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance.” But… rarely in that order.

FORSAKE THE ASSEMBLY

Sometimes I like to “forsake the assembly”. Sure some of it is laziness, but there’s a part of it that knows I’m going to have my senses tested, and not just the ears from the sermon.

The newly remodeled sanctuary at church has folks jammed so close together we can tell the brand of each other’s chewing gum.

There’s also a new lady, an older gal, sweet enough, that shows up even earlier than us and snagged our aisle seats, the fourth row back on the north side of the church. Not a big deal, we just grabbed the seats behind her… for a few weeks.

I’m not much on cologne or perfume, but then my sense of smell is pretty keen. I can smell cigarette smoke a mile away.

The seat-snatching-early-arriver loves perfume. She smells like she does the backstroke through a pool of it before church. It’s so pungent it makes my eyes water, gives me a headache, and I sneeze like an allergic reaction, my wife too. After a couple of services behind the perfume-soaked lady, my wife informed me that she couldn’t sit behind her anymore.

forsake the assembly

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

Not too many folks wanna be close enough to the preacher to see if his eye twitches, but I’m too old fashioned to sit so far away that you have to watch him on the big screen. So we took the seats in front of the perfume lady last week so the perfume scent would waft into someone else’s nostrils.

We risked catching the preacher’s all seeing eye, but it was a risk we had to take.

The petticoat perfumed lady had a friend, a chatty one, but that was bearable, relative to the perfume poisoning… till the singing started. She was a kind soul, a genuine heart. Her singing wasn’t just singing, she was worshipping, shouting out to the Lord, making a joyful noise.

Her singing was the kind of singing that has an impact on your senses too and not just the ears. When she started belting out the high notes my ears began to ring – even my eyes squinted and watered in pain. Her voice sounded like a shrill crow trying to hold a four count note.

I’m sure many people struggle with forsaking the assembly, maybe for different reasons. I might be one of them. It might not be my scent since I only use Sure deodorant. Or my singing, since my bass voice is just a fuzz above lip syncing, but none of us are perfect.

Maybe I don’t clap enough, raise my hands enough, have long hair, never wear socks with my dress shoes etc. Everyone can find a reason to forsake the assembly… but The Father doesn’t. If He can accept our quirks and shortcomings, we should be able to get past everyone else’s. If we did, the Church would be so full we’d be sitting on each other’s laps…