My grandson Eli loves anything with wheels. His momma takes him to Target so he can visit with the toys. He walks the aisles, touching and narrating. He gives Spiderman a hug. He growls like the Hulk. He operates every function of the robots. But his eyes dance when he sees a truck or car.
He’ll push that boxed treasure up-and-down the aisle making the appropriate sound effects. Then there’s the labeling of each part to confirm that it is indeed a truck. Wheels. Lights. Driving. (That’s the steering wheel.) Hat. (You guessed it, that’s the visor over the windshield.)
Eli’s favorite is the garbage truck and following in close second is the fire truck. At one time his favorite cartoon was Chuck, the adventures of young trucks and cars. Cat in the Hat, George, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and Super Why? have all gone the way of Chuck into his category of bor-ing.
He discovered the awe of the full-length cartoon, Cars. Disney’s masterful marketing invaded our home. Replicas of Lightning McQueen, Sally, Red, Mack, and of course Mater are now his most cherished possessions.
I’m the proud Gramma that brags about how he identifies all the alphabet letters and numbers, knows the names and text of his favorite books, and can phonetically sound out many letters. I marvel at how he reenacts Cars’ scenes with perfect dialogue and acting flair. He’s only two.
Needless to say, I too have the script memorized. Larry “Git-R-Done!” the Cable Guy delivers as Mater, “I’m happier than a tornado in a trailer park.” Eli doesn’t get all the jokes but I laugh. His eyes glaze over during the romantic parts. Again the genius of Disney, knowing moms and grammas have to watch, they make a cartoon about cars into a chick flick plus high-speed racing and crashes for the dads.
I wonder if blue Porsches’ sales increased as women hoped if they could drive in slow motion through the waterfall’s mist and seductively bat their eyes then a hunk in a Corvette would give up his dreams to stay with her. I also wonder how many dads started betting on NASCAR.
There’s even something for grandparents. Sally narrates the scene that takes us to the ‘good-o-days’ when the cars crossed the country in a whole different way. “The road didn’t cut through the land like that interstate. It moved with the land, it rose, it fell, it curved. Cars didn’t drive on it to make great time. They drove on it to have a great time.”
Then scenes of Radiator Springs in its heyday play while James Taylor sings, Our Town. Everyone yields. Everyone’s happy. No one speeds by. They had it good and enjoyed it while it lasted. I’m a sucker for the feel good song. I’ve heard my grandparents talk about how great life used to be. The world’s best backwards driver, tow truck Mater says it best, “Ain’t no need to watch where I’m goin’, just need to know where I’ve been.”
Maybe Disney provides a viable message for kids, “Slow down, enjoy childhood.” I’m certainly saying that to Eli. If I could make the sun stand still, it would be when Eli’s dancing his gig with uninhibited giggles, then cheers for himself, and proclaims, “I funny.”
Now, that’s the good-o-days.
I don’t stand in the checkout line and say, “I can count money because my third grade teacher Mrs. Bell taught me to do it this way.”
My brain stores millions of skills in neural pathways then reproduces those skills as naturally as breathing. Each function happens without giving credit to my parents, dozens of teachers, and hundreds of books. Good thing it’s subconscious because I’d fail miserably if I had to acknowledge each source. Only my life changing moments are remembered in vivid detail.
I have one memory of one fact learned in high school. I was sitting in the second floor classroom of the back wing at Collins High. My desk was to the right of the teacher, the side with the windows. I sat on the front row of three semicircles, third seat from the end. On this day, my teacher sat behind his desk in the middle of the room in front of an unused blackboard. A single textbook, Intro to Psychology, rested unopened on the desk.
I don’t remember Mr. Morris ever giving a test. He assigned reading and then he chatted about whatever popped into his head. Everyone loved him.
“Women can make men do anything they want!”
In that hour, he gave the girls the tools to make life fun. He warned the boys that they didn’t stand a chance. I left class motivated to put the lesson to daily practice.
There’s a scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where Maria taught her daughter Toula the same truth. Frustrated Toula cried, “Ma, Dad is so stubborn. What he says goes. ‘Ah, the man is the head of the house!’”
The wise mother responded, “Let me tell you something, Toula. The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants.”
Then the movie went on to teach a wise method to use this power. Maria instructed, “We must let Kosta think this was his idea.”
The scene that follows was brilliant. In a few short lines, Kosta exclaimed his brilliant plan, in the exact words Maria had guided him to discover. The bewildered Toula stared at the satisfied Maria while Kosta patted himself on the back for such genius. Everyone was happy. No one got hurt in the process only because this was a scripted movie. Life is not so easy.
Since the Garden of Eden this truth is undeniable. I offer two reasons. One, men are visually stimulated. Adam looked at his deliciously naked Eve with the juices of that forbidden fruit still on her lips and he chose to rebel with her. For this reason, the porn industry is a growing multi-billion dollar evil in our society.
But there’s another reason, we are by nature a stiff-necked people and will always rebel against a law from outside us. We don’t like being told what to do. Yet, like Maria proved, we joyfully embrace the same law springing up from within us.
Here’s how it works, take a stiff-necked woman who is selfishly wanting to rule over the man to get something to satisfy her lust and then have that same motivation controlling an equally selfish man who doesn’t want to be dominated and only wants to satisfy his lust of her body and well, you soon have domestic violence and divorce. Everyone gets hurt.
But suppose this stiff-necked couple learn a higher truth. What would happen if they let the Almighty, loving, unselfish God take possession of their necks, their heads, and their wills?
Here’s what I remember. I was 25, married, and living in Clarksburg, WV. I had a two-year-old daughter and by the end of the year my son was on the way. We moved from a small cabin on 88 acres deep in the mountains to a Cape Cod home on 5 acres just a few miles outside of town.
I played the piano in the same small church Mike’s childhood church. Mike worked at the family business. I taught preschool at Salem Methodist Church and took graduate classes at Salem College. I think we drove a Subaru and a Camaro Z-28. I can’t remember where we vacationed, if we did.
Sad to admit, but there is absolutely no recall of any major event happening in my state, nation, or the world. Honestly, I can’t even tell you who was president. My memories are centered on my immediate family. If it didn’t touch my personal life, then it wasn’t worth remembering.
I’m now adjusting my opinion of the Hebrew people alive the night Jesus was born and still alive when He was crucified. The year of his birth shook the nation of Judah. Zachariah had delivered a stunning prophecy about his son John and a coming Messiah. People talk when an older barren woman has a baby. People also talk when a young girl is pregnant out-of-wedlock.
Months later there were the shepherds running through town shouting about angels in the sky, a new star over a manger, and a baby that caused their knees to bow in reverence.
I wonder how long it took for life to return to normal and the shepherds became a distant memory. Doesn’t matter because about two years later a violent attack destroyed their security and should’ve stirred their memories.
It started with a parade. You know, the streets were a buzz when a caravan of wise men from the East rode into town. It wasn’t long before the horrors of Roman soldiers, swords, and blood filled the streets of Bethlehem. I can’t imagine anyone could forget the screams of children and mommies as dads pleaded for the lives of their young boys.
Mary, Joseph, and Jesus fled to Egypt and the nation of Judah and the town of Bethlehem forgot them. There’s a mystery here. If the people had remembered the miracles of Jesus’ birth linked to the horrendous reaction of His enemies, they could have silenced his critics in John 7:41-44.
Jesus never talked about the past. I don’t recall a time that Jesus ever returned to Bethlehem. I can’t find a passage where he defended His incarnation and proved his birth was the fulfillment of prophecy.
The people in that little town knew firsthand that life and death came with Jesus. I ponder these things. Were the parents, grandparents, and siblings of murdered babies at the foot of the cross remembering a miraculous star, some jubilant shepherds, and the awe-inspiring worship of a baby boy?
Maybe 30 years was simply too long. The pain had healed. Life went on. No one remembered. But how sad, the birth of the Messiah Savior of the world, forgotten, for a time.
Google stirred my memories of 1983. Ronald Reagan dealt with a social security crisis, the US and USSR played Russian roulette with nuclear bomb testings, the worlds’ largest robbery of 25,000,000 pounds was taken from Heathrow, London. There were floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes that stole lives. Over 200 marines were killed in a Beirut bombing while Israelis died in bus bombings.
It took the crucifixion to sear forever in our hearts and minds the story of the Gospel. Jesus left His heavenly home to be born in a manger, to show us the Father through teaching and miracles, to pay our sin debt on the cross, and to rise to life on the third day, so He can sit at the Father’s side interceding for us so that we never forget the only event in all of history that matters.
Dementia is a horrible disease. Stealing the mind before the body is dead, that’s just cruel.
In this poem, I combine memories of my mom, my love of gardening, and the ravages of dementia.
I’m in there too. I’ve destroyed a few gardens in my life, thinking I was having fun.
Playing in the Dirt
I sit on the weathered wicker swing,
suspended from a gnarled grape harbor.
My dangling feet blend rosemary and thyme, like a ballet
of ten fairies over a bed of perfumed mint.
I snuggle in mom-made pillows, with her
captured scent from distant decades.
Earth’s forces battle about me.
Brittle morning breeze, robe snug.
Intense rising sun, robe loose.
The gray dawn splits open with rays of pure gold.
Glory to the gladiator of creation.
Again, he redeems darkness for light.
I watch as my dad saunters, unsure of his steps,
His body says eighty, him mind only eight.
Time has no power when life has no pain.
For hours he frolics, for hours he plays.
He frisks the pea pods, steals their gems,
He spit bombs ant hills with tomato seeds,
Pokes for carrots, crops their tops,
Thumps the melons, bowls down lanes,
Digs sleepy spuds, gauges eyes with his spade,
Serves delectable mud pies, hits the crows flying by,
Plucks the marigold blooms, threads a lei for his head,
He’s free to exist where nothing else matters.
He surveys his garden. His knees bend him to the dirt.
The tears on his cheeks reveal a moment of clarity,
a lifetime of sin.
Like the serpent in Eden, he destroyed what was good.
Rain falls from heaven, a cloudburst of grace,
He stands strong in its flow, refusing to hide.
The divine tears soak his bones. I see hope in his eyes.
A prism of brilliant colors arc the evening sky,
Glory to the gladiator of creation,
Again, he redeems darkness from light.