Where’s My Phone?

Ever lost your phone? I know you have. We all have. It’s usually baffling and sometimes funny. Like the time you are talking on the phone to someone and the conversation leads you to want to Google something so you start searching for your phone and eventually exclaim to the person on the other end that you can’t find your phone!

On a recent Sunday morning, my husband and I were preparing for church at different speeds. He had to be there early to open and I was baking something for potluck so was going to come along later. As such, I came through the bedroom still in my pajamas and reading an article on my phone as he put the finishing touches on his outfit: mismatched socks, shoes, and a spiffy leather vest. He’s unique.

Anyway, I sat down on the bed to tell him about the article and then set the phone on the foot of the bed and started pulling all the sheets and blankets into place to make it. When I was partially done, I scanned the bed for my phone.

“Where’s my phone?” I asked as I lifted the one pillow still resting at the foot. He looked around the bed confused.

Thinking I had accidentally made the bed with the phone inside the bedding instead of on top, I spread my hands out across the bed, feeling for the familiar little box shape. Nothing. We were both flummoxed.

Before I had a chance to even ask him to call my phone, he reached to his nightstand to pick up his phone to do so. But then he stopped.

And I shall stop too for just a moment to let you know something. We happen to have the same phone. His is in a big textured, blocky, black Otterbox while mine is in a slim, smooth, off-white case with a picture from A League of their Own on the back. They are not easily mistaken for each other. Ok, back to the story.

“Hey,” he said, reaching into the interior breast pocket of his vest, “why don’t you take your phone and I’ll take mine instead?”

With that, he pulled my phone out of his vest and handed it to me.

Happy Friday!

I was sitting on my bed reading a book before bedtime when Jane approached, purse on arm and keys in hand.

“Amy left her earbuds in my car. She’s getting ready to go to the gym so I’m going to run them in to her.”

“Why doesn’t she come out here to get them?” I asked.

“It’s not a big deal, mom.”

“Yes it is. It doesn’t make sense. She forgot them in your car, she should come out here and get them.

“Really, mom,  I don’t mind. It’s really not a big deal.”

“You are spending your gas money! You are going to spend 20-30 minutes on the road. Just so Amy can have her earbuds. It doesn’t make sense.”

“Mom, it’s fine! Amy drives me around town all the time. I just leave my car at school. It’s fine. I don’t mind.”

“Ok, whatever,” I said, realizing that this wasn’t a hill I needed to die on even if it made no sense to me.

I heard her come back in the house some time later, thought I heard her messing around at the other end of the house for a bit, and then finally she went to her room. I got up some time later to tell Daryl something in the living room. As I headed down the hall, I encountered a chair that I had asked her to return to the dining room earlier in the evening. I cracked open her door and wryly thanked her for putting it away.

“I’ll take care of it, mom.”

“No, that’s ok. I’ve got it,” I said, closing the door and then picking up the chair as I went down the hall.

“Mom! I said I’ve got it!”

“It’s really not a big deal,” I called back, trying to remove the irritation that must have been in my voice the first time. She obviously thought I was mad at her, which I wasn’t.

“MOM!! Please! I said I’d take care of it!!”

Confused, I tried to soothe her. “Honey, I’m not mad at you. I’m going that way anyway. It’s really not a problem.”

MOM!!” She sounded like she was about to cry. “PLEASE don’t go to the dining room! I said I’d take care of the chair.”

“Ok,” I said, frustrated. “I’ve just set it down in the living room. Make sure you come take care of it.”

“Thank you. I will!” Relief. And fatigue.

After talking to Daryl, I passed back by her door and decided to open it again.

“Why can’t I go in the dining room?” I asked.

“You just can’t mom. Don’t worry about it.”

“What is it?”

“Just. Mom, it’s not a big deal. I just didn’t want you to go in there.” Her head was in her hands. She looked defeated.

“If it’s not a big deal, then why can’t I go in there?” Strangely, while I was getting a little frustrated, I wasn’t particularly suspicious nor angry.

“I just really didn’t want you to.”

We went a few more rounds of “why” followed by variations of “just because.”

“Is whatever I’m not supposed to see going to upset me?” I finally asked. Uncharacteristically, I was easily setting aside my curiosity and letting it go.

“No,” she said – dejected.

“Ok, then. I won’t go down there.”

“Thank you.”

“Good night sweetheart.”

“Good night mommy.”

I had forgotten the entire exchange by morning. As Hal and I prepared to head to school, I entered the dining room. And saw a vase with three red roses – one for each kid. And a note that said “Happy Friday!”

My husband wanted to treat me for Friday – a recently resurrected habit of his from our high school days – but was out of town. He had enlisted our eldest to help and it had nearly killed her.

“I’m a terrible liar,” she said. “I made up that story about Amy so I could go buy the flowers. And I didn’t want you to go in there because I had already set them up and Daddy had said it was really important that I didn’t let you see them before Friday.”

I’m not the kind of person that thinks God spends much time meddling in tiny, insignificant day-to-day matters. But looking back, my willingness to let it go – ME! Let it go! – seems a bit like a God thing.

The Case of the Missing Underwear

“You know,” I said to my husband as we lay in bed this morning, “despite the excruciating headache, yesterday was a pretty good day.”

“Yeah?” he murmured, drowsily enjoying the rare early morning cuddles.

“Yeah. I mean, church was good. I got a nice rest in after. I enjoyed sitting on the couch with Daryl, watching him play Fortnite. We played a game. I made a necklace. Fixed a nice dinner and you made me lunch. We got the bathroom cleaned up – not perfect – but good progress. And you got a lot of laundry put away off your bench.”

“And we found my underwear! I was vindicated!”

I laughed. “Yes, we found your underwear.”

“I can’t believe how full that little red suitcase was,” he continued. “You know those T-shirts that come packed into tiny little little packages? It was like that. I kept unpacking and unpacking. There were 2 1/2 baskets of dirty laundry in there!”

“Well… not quite that much. We got it into one load.”

“But when you think about it. That was from a single weekend trip. And just two of us – not the whole family!”

My husband had spent the week commenting on the fact that he appeared to be missing several pairs of his ‘new’ underwear. I had also noticed that I didn’t appear to have the same backlog in my drawer that I was accustomed to but hadn’t thought much about it.

I had been insisting that his underwear was likely clean and part of the staggering tower of laundry on the bench beside his bed. We had washed all the laundry in the house and not turned up all his underwear. He knew exactly how many pairs he was supposed to have. He was also confident that none of the clothes on the bench was underwear.

So late Sunday evening, just before bed, I was straightening up the bathroom. Having been cajoled by me that the clothes on the bench could still be put away even if his underwear wasn’t there, he was doing just that. I was coming in and out of the bedroom at regular intervals, putting various things away, when I noticed – for the first time since it had been set there, probably – the small, bulging suitcase near the door to our room.

I plopped the suitcase onto the bed and said, “I bet your underwear is in there.”

“The thing about a cluttered house,” I continued, “is that you get to where you don’t even notice stuff that’s out of place.”

“Oh, I noticed it,” he said. “I just thought it was empty and waiting to return to wherever it’s supposed to go.”

I guess he hadn’t noticed the bulge. Or thought to ask where the suitcase is stored. But, hey. At least we found the underwear before he went and bought more!

Icy Hot…

My kids are resourceful and self-sufficient, often to a fault. Like this past Saturday.

Hal had taken the dog out on a leash and ended up falling on the gravel driveway when she took off suddenly. He had a mild scrape on his arm, noticeable but not much blood. He pointed it out to me and I said, “Yep. Looks like it hurts.”

Maybe I should have done more but honestly, it wasn’t that bad. And we were busy trying to get some important outdoor work taken care of before the thunderstorms arrived. But he’s nine and nine-year-olds need injuries to be worthy of medical treatment.

So when I later called to him and tasked him with moving some slender yet long pieces of wood, he arrived holding a wet paper towel against his lower forearm. He fussed, saying, “How? How? I can’t. I can’t. How am I supposed to do this?” For emphasis, he waved his elbows around to demonstrate neither hand was available.

“Put the paper towel away so you can use both hands. It’s not that bad,” I responded, glancing up at the darkening skies and pretending I didn’t feel little raindrops.

He did as he was told and then I lost track of him as I went about other tasks. Sometime later, I found myself on one side of the tractor, my husband sitting on it, and Hal and his brother on the other side. Hal had one of those extra-large Band-Aids on his arm but was still holding on to it, wincing and taking in sharp breaths. He seemed to be in even worse shape than before.

“What’s wrong with you?” his daddy asked.

“He scraped his arm on the driveway earlier. It wasn’t a bad scrape though,” I said.

“Well it hurts!” Hal said, “And now it really hurts even worse since I put some Icy Hot on it.”

There was a moment’s pause while we both processed what he had just said.

“Why did you put Icy Hot on it?” we asked. “You don’t put Icy Hot on wounds like that!”

“Yes you do! Icy to dull the pain and hot to relax it away,” he said with complete sincerity.

“That’s for your muscles!” my husband exclaimed, rubbing his bicep and shoulder in demonstration.

“Well I didn’t know!”

“Go wash it off, sweetheart. Wash it off quickly.”

My husband then turned his head to me. We locked eyes, each struggling between incredulity and humor.

Let me rewind to a couple of nights before real quick. Hal had melted down over the quantity of strawberry we expected to be consumed if he put them on his plate. He felt he was done if half the strawberry was consumed. We explained that he should eat all the red parts or he was wasting the fruit. The reaction was so strong and visceral that his siblings had openly laughed as he left the table. Their laughter had been contagious such that even as I struggled to not, I was dissolving into laughter as well. My husband had glared at us all, shamed us for laughing at him, and made us see it from little Hal’s perspective.

Ok, back to the tractor and the same little boy using Icy Hot on his scrape. My husband mouthed wow and we both started the parental silent laugh. That’s the one where the situation is hopelessly funny but it’s best if you don’t laugh. The same laugh I had failed to master with the strawberry incident. I looked to the ground to keep myself in check.

And that’s when I heard it. My husband has a full, loud laugh. When he really lets loose, it’s something to behold. I’m fairly certain that laugh followed Hal all the way back into the house.

Poor kid. Seriously though – funny enough that he had put that ointment on his wound. But knowing the product’s slogan and reciting it back to us put it all over the top.

Like Father, Like Son

At Christmas, my kids get to see their cousins from a couple of states away, which they always love. This past Christmas, my eleven year old nephew, Jack, brought a drone, which he proved very adept at flying.

We’d all watch – mesmerized – as he hovered it gently just above the floor or zoomed it across the living room, doing little flips along the way. It was obvious he had spent a lot of time with it because he had masterful control.

And then we opened presents and Daryl discovered that Jack’s family had bought him the exact same drone. Once gift opening was completed, the boys all headed outside to fly their drones.

It wasn’t long before they came back in.

Jack was excitedly telling his dad that Daryl had pressed the auto-land button but instead, the drone had shot up into the air, over the trees, and disappeared.

“It wouldn’t have done that if he had pressed the auto-land button,” my brother countered.

“But that’s what happened!” the boys all insisted. They headed out to the creek near my mom’s house and searched for the drone. At our suggestion, they went door-to-door at the neighbors’ houses, asking if they could search their backyards.

They only searched one backyard – no one else was home. My mom and I made a flyer and forced Daryl to go back to the neighbors and leave flyers and ask everyone to keep an eye out for the missing drone.

The adults are all fairly certain that Daryl flew the drone too high and then, instead of pushing the auto-land button as he intended, pushed the auto-take-off button, which rocketed the drone outside of his radio control and into a large gust of wind.

The drone is gone. Fastest end to a Christmas present ever.

The incident reminded me significantly of my husband’s remote control airplane he bought back when we were in our early college days. He bought the large balsa-wood plane, replacement propellers, extra av gas, and a whole host of other accessories because, and I quote, “I’m going to be flying this thing a lot. I’ve always wanted to do this.”

We took it to the local softball fields so he’d have plenty of room. First go at it, he ran it along the grass to pick up speed, then didn’t get enough lift and crashed it full speed into a fence. Propellers broken.

But we had replacement propellers! Yay! Some time with some tools and the plane was ready to go again. He’d learned from that attempt and this time got the plane into the air.

Almost immediately, something appeared to be wrong. The plane kept flying further and further away. I glanced nervously at my husband. Does he know what he’s doing? I thought.

“Honey?” I finally asked tentatively. “What’s wrong?”

“I can’t see the plane,” he said. This was nigh on 25 years ago, so I don’t remember all the details, but I think he might not have had his glasses on.

The plane eventually nosedived into, just like his son years later, a nearby creek. We were, in one small detail, more fortunate than our son in that we found the plane. The end result was the same, however. The plane was mangled beyond repair. It was no more.

Over the next five years, the expensive av gas was used to get the burn piles going (we lived out in the country) and the cost of the plane and its accessories sat on our credit card for years. And I used the tale to my benefit for a very long time. Any time I did something stupid and he teased me about it, I’d mention the plane and he’d get quiet.

Eventually, my list of stupid things got long enough or I finally did a stupid something that outstripped his in total cost that it stopped being propped up as an argument. I actually hadn’t thought about it in quite some time. Until our son repeated the experience.

Like father, like son. I love these guys…

Death & Guilt & Moving On

It’s been three weeks.

Three weeks since life ended.

Three weeks since life resumed.

And I still haven’t figured out what to say.

When the process of dying is prolonged, it messes with a person. Not just the person dying but the people who care for him as well. Your emotions trick you and betray you and guilt you and sometimes overwhelm you.

Am I sad? I think so. Do I look it? I doubt it.

Do I miss my father-in-law? I think so. But not the recent him. The him from before. Except…

That smile. His smile over the last few weeks. It was so genuine, so simple, so pure. It lit up his face like a child. It would come on suddenly like a flash of lightning across his face. I couldn’t get enough of it. It stood in such stark contrast to his personality before he got sick. He was fairly negative during the time I knew him. Not toward me. He wasn’t unloving. But his outlook on the world was glass-half-empty.

And now the guilt sets in. How could you? How could you say anything bad at all?

But I don’t see it as bad. Just fact.

 

Guilt.

 

I think it surrounds so much of this process. Guilt at getting my husband for five days at the expense of his father staying in a nursing home that he didn’t want to be in. Knowing that his outlook took a nose-dive the day it was time to go. But overjoyed that I got my husband anyway.

Guilt at hoping for release. Guilt at getting impatient at the rebounds.

Guilt at slipping away to see my mom and leaving my husband there to tend to his dad. Guilt at seeing my naked father-in-law as I helped change sheets and wondering if he knew or cared.

Guilt at getting put out with my husband for not appreciating all that I was doing when he was living a life I can’t even imagine.

Guilt at not bursting into tears when I found out. Guilt at being a little upset that I had been woken up to receive the news.

Guilt at taking so long to write this blog.

Guilt at how quickly I resumed “normal life” after. Guilt at not recognizing that my husband was not resuming normal life nearly as well as I thought. Guilt at failing to notice his struggle.

 

The kids didn’t cry.

 

Jane, when prompted, said she had already come to terms with it. Daryl got still for a minute and then went about what he was doing. Hal matter-of-factly stated, “Two things. First, a good thing. Daddy is coming home. Second, bad. Poppy passed away.”

How is one supposed to act when the news you knew would come finally does? It’s not a surprise. The horror and anguish and anger and great sense of unfairness of it all has already been lived out. What is there to do besides nod and continue on. Say a prayer of… what? Thanksgiving? The suffering is over. Whose suffering? Sometimes I wonder who gets more of the release. The living or the dead.

 

I suppose the dead.

 

Now we have the house and the accounts and the notifying people and decisions, decisions, decisions. My husband has become a monotonous accountant droning on to me about the various options for dealing with this or that fiduciary obligation. I know he needs me to listen, to help him decide, to be present, but…

 

Life doesn’t stop.

 

We need to spend time there. At his father’s house. Sorting through papers and clothes and artwork and… stuff. But basketball. Destination Imagination. Church. Choir. School. Work. Meetings. Bells. Laundry. Dishes.

How can life feel on pause for two and a half months yet not pause now? How did all that stuff get done while we waited, while we were apart? Why is it all overwhelming us now? When do we fit in this settling of an estate?

Despite all these words, I still haven’t figured out what to say.

To you.

To people who express their condolences.

To my husband.

To my children.

To myself.

What Makes Me Happy

You know what makes me happy?

That there is candle wax on pages 59 and 60 of the hymnal.

That my ill son insisted on attending church on Christmas Eve because he wanted to hold a candle and sing Silent Night.

That, even though he slept through the entire service and had to be woken to hold his candle, and even though he never sings with us on Sunday mornings, I nevertheless heard his voice carrying loud and strong as we sang tonight.

That the women in the choir sang a beautiful descant as we held our candles in the air.

That a congregation not entirely comfortable with singing nevertheless filled the sanctuary with their voices on Christmas Eve.

That my husband was able to be with us almost as if our circumstances were not what they are.

That I never tire of the beauty of the moment.

Merry Christmas everyone.