PRIDE OF OWNERSHIP

“You did it yourself?” My youngest asked me. She was downright shocked or confounded.

“Yeah, I did it myself,” I answered with expression to make a point. She’s not a teenager anymore, but I still try to find a teachable moment when the occasion arises… which is less and less these days.

I try to encourage her to take care of her things. I’m pretty sure she considers it more of me riding her, but that’s how it works from the perspective of a parent and child.

She’s busy. She had 18 credit hours at college last semester and she did remarkably well. Proof that she’s not like her dad in some ways…

The truth is the world has changed and her and her sisters can’t begin to see this life and relate to the extinct world that their parents’ generation grew up in. In fairness, I grasp that this life is busier and faster for them than it was for us.

All the technology that was supposed to make life better and save us time has done the exact opposite. Our kids as well as us are caught up in a breakneck pace of life. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be slowing down anytime soon… at least on it’s own.

Busy people rely on the expertise of those that specialize in their respective fields. Our oldest is an NP that was doing twelve hour shifts for awhile and her husband runs his own business. On top of that they have two little boys that the Tasmanian devil couldn’t keep up with. They were having prepared meals delivered to their house.

There seems to be a nail place on every corner in our part of the world. And I mean the type of nail on the end of a finger, not the ones you buy in a hardware store. And they’re all full… at least that’s what I hear tell. I’m still too old fashioned or blue collar to partake in any of that sort of Tom Foolery…

A couple of times in the last twenty years I decided that it was a waste of money to pay to get my yard taken care of. I went out and bought all the tools to take care of the yard and lawn my darn self. The last time I skinned the grass and planted my own winter grass I spent more on seed than it would have cost me to have the landscaper take care of it. I gave the lawnmower away the next week.

When I get my truck washed I use the time to either work or write. I, like the rest of this society, have learned to multitask like a machine. Before it became a science and an addiction they called it “killing two birds with one stone.”

My youngest’s Jeep is black so it’s not very forgiving when it comes to showing that it’s dirty and in need of a bath. It’s her first car that she got when she was in high school and she loves it… She just doesn’t love to wash it.

So dirty you can’t see her…

When she was over a couple weekends ago for Sunday dinner we all pitched in and washed her Jeep. It wasn’t her idea… I tried to teach her the art of washing a car. Like I learned from back in the day when “The Car Wash” was one of those open stalls you pulled into and fed the machine quarters. They’re about as plentiful these days as full service gas stations.

After we finished drying her Jeep off I showed her the picture of my ’73 Vette… in the exact same place in the driveway as her Jeep was sitting. I had just washed it by hand a couple of weeks prior. She could see the evidence of a still wet driveway in the picture.

My daughter’s brow creased in question when she asked me, “You did it yourself?”

“Yeah, I did it myself,” I answered like a typical dad.

“How come?” She was still confused by her old school dad.

I didn’t hesitate, “Pride of ownership.” I paused then asked, “It’s nice to have your Jeep clean, isn’t it?”

This time she didn’t hesitate, “Yeah, I’m glad we did it,” she studied her shiny black Jeep, “It looks so good,” she beamed.

That part of her that finds gratification in the work of her hands she got from her dad. She learned a lesson. And I was reminded that I need to remember the lessons that I’ve already learned.

THINGS CHANGE

Every town and city has its own landmarks and unique culture. Phoenix is no different. Back in the mid 70’s one of the cool things to do was to “Cruise Central”. Central is a street that separates the east numbered streets and the west numbered avenues. By the late 70’s it was “Cruise Metro”. Metro Center was one those mega malls that are going the way of the dinosaurs.

Back in those days and well into the 80’s Phoenix had a favorite son, even though he wasn’t from here, that was our best kept secret from the world. He was kinda what Bob Seger was to Michigan before the rest of the country discovered him.

“In The Round” is the Phoenician nickname for The Celebrity Theatre due to its 360 degree slowly rotating stage. It’s where we just saw Franki Valli about a month ago. It was the locally famous Jerry Riopelle that put The Celebrity on the map for us youngsters back in the day.

In those days the best concert in town, regardless of which famous rock band was in town, was Jerry Riopelle. His annual New Year’s Eve show at The Celebrity was a must see and was always sold out.

Like a lot of folks, I keep a mental record of my top ten favorite books and authors. I do the same with albums and artists. On my top ten list, or what some of us musical fanatics call “Your Desert Island List”, which is the ten albums you’d like to have with you if you were deserted on an island for the rest of your life list, is a Jerry Riopelle album.

It’s kinda cheating because the album is a live recording so it has songs from a lot of his albums. The album, named for where it was recorded, is titled Jerry Riopelle In The Round. Yes, here locally at The Celebrity Theatre…

things change
image courtesy of discogs.com

I can’t recall how many eight tracks I wore out of that album. I couldn’t begin to try to calculate the times the record needle ran through the grooves of that vinyl album either.

Jerry Riopelle came whisker close to making it big. He wrote songs for Brewer and Shipley, We Five, and Shango. Some of the people that covered his songs have been Leon Russell, Herb Alpert, Kenny Loggins, Rita Coolidge, and Meat Loaf… How or why Riopelle’s “Walkin’ On Water” never became a national hit only God knows… literally…

Of course music is timeless because it can magically transport us back in time in our minds. When I hear a Jerry Riopelle song I can’t help but think of my first car and all the blood sweat and tears I spent to buy it. I can’t help but remember my high school buddy Shawn. I remember all the time we spent together in the gym as adults… and I recall that he almost never missed a Riopelle concert. I think of him riding his bicycle in the bike lane up on Thompson Peak Parkway… and being hit and killed by a motorist in March of 2012.

They say all good things come to and end… I suppose that’s got some merit from a secular perspective, but not a Christian one.

Another one of those things that did come to an end was Jerry Riopelle’s New Year’s Eve show.

I was sad to hear that Jerry Riopelle passed the day before Christmas last December. I was even more grieved that he had been so forgotten that I didn’t find out until almost the end of January.

But things change. Small cities become massive metropolises. Kids don’t cruise in muscle cars anymore. Folks get older and don’t cherish the things they did in their youth. And people die…

With time and loss we tend to ponder our past, our actions, our changing thought process, and our own mortality. As Ecclesiastes says, and copied by The Byrds, there is a season for all things, “A time to be born, a time to die”.

That puts becoming famous in a far different light. Only God knew the heart of Jerry Riopelle. What I do know is this; not one single person in the after life wouldn’t go back and trade fame and fortune for another chance to choose The Truth…

Jerry Riopelle… rest in peace…

A CHANCE MEETING?

I try to avoid the mega home improvement store that I consider to be for amateurs as much as possible, but sometimes it’s just too convenient… This is especially true on the weekends when the professional supply yards and houses are closed, but us workaholics aren’t.

I heard someone faintly calling my name from behind me. I never rush to see who it is. The truth is I never know if the voice is going to be one that I have long since buried in the lost memories of my mind.

I heard the calling of my name more clearly the second or third time. It was a man… I turned slowly to see a familiar face.

“Hey, how are you doing?” The man asked as we shook hands, both of us with a vice like grip.

“I’m good! How are you?” I asked as I studied him and tried to place a name with his face.

“Good, good!” He smiled and nodded his head with animation.

We made small talk for a several minutes. During that time the man’s name eluded me. Still does. But as we talked it dawned on me which part of my life this well groomed and slightly greying man came from.

The man’s familiar eyes and smile had aged some since I’d seen him last. No doubt he saw the same in me.

“You look good, still in great shape. Good for you,” I said recalling the days in the gym that we both worked out at about twenty years ago.

If you spend enough time with a person you find out a lot about them, their quirks, idiosyncrasies, likes and dislikes.

The man returned the compliment, which may have been sincere or not, I wear long sleeved and baggy shirts so it’s difficult to say. But then he said something else that clued me in and reminded me how much time I did spend with the man a long time ago.

“Still got the cool tennis shoes going,” he checked mine out and chuckled.

“Of course. Some things never change!” I laughed too.

Yes they are cool… except for that smudge!!!

While no one would ever compare my dressing habits to the likes of Frank Sinatra, especially during the day, when it comes to shoes, including tennis shoes, I don’t compromise.

As soon as the man said that I could immediately see him in my mind as the kid he was in the gym. He was always a very respectful young man… one that I’d forgotten all about.

I’m not sure if I heard the Golden Rule first or Matthew 7:12 and or Luke 6:31. I’ve tried to treat folks in a decent way during my life, but know that I’ve come up short more than my fair share of the times.

The man I’d helped train and gave spots to in the gym decades earlier and I chatted for a few more minutes. We shook the vise like hand shake once more and he was off.

He stopped about twenty feet out and turned back.

“I just want to thank you for all you did for me… for helping me,” he nodded with a serious expression.

I smiled and nodded too, “You did good. Good job,” I told him.

“Thanks,” he nodded yet again and disappeared down flooring aisle.

I wish I could say that everybody that has crossed my path in life would have nothing but good things to say about me. Not for me or my pride, but as a tribute to the One I belong to.

It’s a fine thing to strive to be a bright spot in the lives of others, but we all fail. We let others down, it’s inevitable. They let us down too. It’s life. We all know it’s a fallen world after all.

“Father forgive us of our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us”.

It’s peculiar how the little things we do along the way can mean so much to others. That’s the gift that gives both ways, friends.

“… whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.” (NIV)


SILENCE IS GOLDEN

I heard the adage Silence is Golden a lot as a kid, but not so much anymore. To be honest the old slogan hasn’t even come to mind in years, and more than just a few.

It’s my guess that I’m not the only one who hasn’t thought of those words lately either. And I’ll bet it’s for a similar reason; we don’t cherish silence like we used to in our society today…

I was reminded that Silence is Golden in a very unexpected way last weekend. Odd that it was in a less than silent setting. Words, however you hear them, can be a mighty powerful tool for change… and open the heart and mind to the dire need of it.

Music has been a huge part of my life – all of my life, as a kid was no exception. It’s fair to say that music may have been even more impactful then.

Some songs you hear a couple times and they become a part of who we are and you carry them with you forever.

Even though heavy Rock and Roll was all the rage in the late sixties, there were some pop songs that were just too catchy to be denied. One of those catchy songs my cousin Quay and I sang at the top of our lungs long before we could add or subtract. Some things are easier to memorize than others when a person is still having birthdays that can be counted on two hands.

That particular song started like a mellow crooner, but come chorus time it stalled momentarily then a massive orchestra burst into a riff in overdrive. Just as that ended is when Frankie Valli belted out the famous line that my cousin and I loved to imitate. “I Love You Baby”.

By that time Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ songs were part of American culture. Even though a lot of the songs were born about the same time as me, they were still getting radio play. They were too catchy to fade away… still are.

Some of the instant classics were “Sherry”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Walk Like a Man”, “Rag Doll”, “Dawn”, and “Working My Way Back to You” to name a few. It would be some years later when songs like “My Eyes Adored You”, “December, 1963”, “Who Loves You”, and “Grease” would blare from FM radios and Junior High and High School dances.

But of all those songs that most of us can at least sing the chorus to by heart, it’s the one that never makes the top lists for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons that is still ringing in my head from last weekend.

I could hear that familiar voice that had been with me in my childhood and adolescent days as we walked through the doors. I figured there would have been an opening act. I guess when you’re 84 you wanna get the show done and get to bed.

As soon as Frankie started singing “Silence is Golden” not only did the memory of the song come to me, but also the adage that has seem to have gone missing from my life and so many others as well.

I know the author of that song didn’t intend it to have the effect that it did on me. That’s what a lot of people call “a God thing”. And I believe that’s exactly what it was. When we belong to God we have the grace from Him to find His wisdom… especially when we need it.

I don’t know about you, but I need it. I need to “Be still and know that He is God”. Which when we can pull it off… it brings peace to the soul and reminds us that Silence is Golden.


GREEN EYES

green eyes
These eyes don’t have the depth of my dad’s…

Repost from September of 2011.

They were green eyes… I realized with time his eyes really did most of the talking for him during his lifetime. It wasn’t as much the look or expression on his face as it was the focus or emotion in his eyes. They could portray any sense of emotion he had.

They were his mom’s eyes. His dad was half Native American, or at least that’s what he told everyone. His dad looked Indian. In fact, to say he looked full blood would be an exaggeration.

His eyes were strong first. They showed intent in everything he did, but they also carried in them peace and joy. Long after I first began to understand the strength in those eyes, I would slowly, with time, realize in those green eyes were comfort.

As I peered out over my guard, which was identical to his due to his teaching, I saw joy. Those green eyes told me he was having fun. I also saw intent, but alas my age, speed, skill, strength, and quickness would be a bit too much for the man behind those haunting green eyes…

As we moved, sidestepped quickly, carefully positioned the members of our bodies to best the other, I saw something else in those green eyes; I saw extreme joy mixed with intensity… I didn’t see a shred of doubt…

The confidence in his green eyes caught me a bit off-guard. The man behind them was underestimating the skill behind mine. The time had come; I knew I was physically superior. I had longer, quicker and stronger arms.

It was all in fun, we weren’t going to throw full punches, just a stinging pulled slap in order to prove who would be the best for that day.

The confidence in his eyes was backed up by, not the grin on his face, but the full blown smile. I was smiling too. His boxing career in the Air Force and Elks Lodges for extra money when his kids were babies was twenty-five years in his rear view mirror. Those were days before I existed.

What those green eyes couldn’t see was my skill that had been developed. “You have any idea how fast I am?” I asked as we moved around each other having already started sparring.

“I bet you’re really fast,” he said almost laughing.

Then he said something like, “Why don’t you show me some of that speed,” while he smiled. Right before he could get the last syllable out I launched a lightning left jab to “slap” his right cheek… It never got there…

He parried my jab with his right hand and landed two straight jabs to the side of my face that I thought was well protected. It went on for another 20 or 30 seconds as the kind green eyes pummeled me gently.

By that time his eyes were pouring emotion. He laughed his perfect laugh. I laughed too… He grabbed and hugged me. “Son – your faster than I thought you were!” He laughed, but sincere in his assessment.

His green eyes were proud, not of himself, he didn’t matter to himself. He was proud of me for really nothing, just for belonging to him.

I was proud for who he was as a man. His eyes hid no intention other than the truth of God he lived his life by. And that could be clearly seen in his green eyes.

As time goes on and God reveals to and in me who I am in this world, it changes me from not only the inside but the outside as well.

On a rare occasion, and the light and angle are just right, as I glance in the mirror – I can see them, faintly. Deep inside I spot them; my father’s eyes. I remember his green eyes looking back at me, reminding me of the man I can still be.

When God took my dad home He took a piece of my heart with them. Through the sorrow I’ve learned it was His way of preparing me for when it’s my turn to be taken home.

I’m left with the memory and the love I will always carry with me… captured in those green eyes…