Month: February 2016


There was never a person more happy with less reason than my grandpa. He would comment redundantly from the back seat of my car on the grandeur of the buildings we passed by, like they weren’t the same buildings we passed by every time I took him for a ride. If we decided a ride was just too much adventure to attempt, we would sit in his living room as he asked about everyone in the family.

“And what about Josiah,” he would say. “What is he up to?”

“He’s doing well at school and playing the drums.”

“Is that right?” he would ask, excitedly. “Still playing the drums? After all this time? Isn’t that something.” And similar questions were asked and comments made about all the relatives. He was trilled by what I considered normal occurrences. He was elated that people he didn’t know made impressive buildings he never went in. He was delighted that Josiah was still playing the drums

“What a family,” he would say at the end of every summation. “Not a bad one in the bunch. Not a one.” He would sigh and

Grandpa and Grandma
Grandpa and Grandma

smile and mentally review each member of the family as I would recall the playground he had built for me when I was a child and the funny songs he always made up. I can hear his voice singing, “Sam, Sam the traveling man, couldn’t stay put like you and I can. He’d go here and he’d go there, I think he tried to get ’bout everywhere. He’d make a friend and put a smile on their face, but they’d say ‘stay,’ and he’d say ‘See ya in another place!'”

And then the man who had grown up during the depression and dropped out of school after eighth grade to support his mother and his siblings after his father left them in poverty would sit in his threadbare recliner and say, “I’m the luckiest man in the world. The very luckiest.”

But, for once, he was wrong. We were the luckiest.

I love you, Grandpa.

See ya in another place.

Surprise Wedding

When your daughter tells you she’s found the man she is going to marry, you become very interested in that guy. When she tells you the wedding will take place in a year, you imagine all the bonding you will experience over wedding planning and giggly dreaming.

“So,” she said casually one afternoon a couple of weeks ago, “I went to get my passport and mentioned that I wanted to have a destination wedding. The agent told me I should do the legal ceremony in this country because they’ve had tons of problems with destination weddings in other countries. But I don’t want to have two different anniversary dates. So I think we will have a small, official ceremony February 10, so next February 10 we can do the big wedding.”

“You mean,” I spoke slowly while my mind spun in circles, “you are going to get married in a few days?”

“Nothing big. Just to make it official so we don’t have to worry about all those international details a year from now.”

“But,” I spoke slowewedding walking down aisler as I tried to catch up with the conversation, “you’re getting married. In a few days.”

“Yeah,” she nodded. “Do you want to come?” Thus, the earth tilted and the year of wedding planning evaporated. I called the kids out of school, ironed our church clothes, and told Josiah to be available to FaceTime at one o’clock on Wednesday. He attended the ceremony via internet magic from a closet in his music building at his college in Ohio. Some of the nearest relatives arrived at a botanical garden downtown Des Moines, and in the space of half an hour, my daughter traded names.

When I looked at her, I saw her story. I saw the months that slid by as we wondered if a baby wedding after kisswould ever be a reality for us. I saw the birth that nearly ended in a death. I saw her first steps. I saw late nights with high fevers and Christmases with no money. I saw awkward haircuts and teary cheeks. And I saw Tyler. It is his turn now to see her story. As her dad and I step into the bleachers, he stands by her on the field and together they will run and fall and make some great plays and drop the ball and call time outs. But mostly, yes mostly, they will bear witness to each other’s stories. We, those who love them, will be in the stands, but we will not know the complete story. We aren’t supposed to. When times get tough, they will hear our voices rooting for them, and when they make a great play they will hear our voices cheering. But it is solely to each other they will look to determine what that next play will be.

And eventually, because they are hand-in-hand through it all, their story will be epic.

Crazy Love

“It’s so nice to see you,” Mike said, finally returning home after being stranded out of town in a blizzard for two days. “You’ve made a lot of progress unpacking while I was gone.” I looked around at the house we had moved into a few days earlier and recalled the hours of cleaning, unpacking, organizing, and several disasters with power tools I had experienced while he had been gone.

“I tried to install curtain rods, but I made a really big hole with the drill in the wrong place,” I confessed. “And I tried to get a screw out of some wood with your zip saw, but I just broke the blade and narrowly missed the screw flying into my eye.”

“You should have waited for me to do it.”

“I waited one day, but when you were stuck a second day, I got impatient to get it done. What time does your plane leave tomorrow,” I asked.

“Five in the morning.”

“That doesn’t give us much time together.”

“No,” he said. “But we will make tonight really great. I want to make fajitas for the kids for supper, and I’ll be able to hang up all the curtains you want me to.”

And that was the last of the coherent communication that occurred for the rest of the evening. Separation does weird things to our relationship. I’ve heard before that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but, in our situation, absence makes the heart go crazy. It was like we were both speaking languages with the same letters, but nothing was translating. I would say something like, “What do we need from the store?” and he would respond by saying something that sounded to me like, “A scribbidy floob.” Crazy.

Even worse, when he told me that his plans had changed and he had to go to church for a class that was going on that night, I began to say things like, “Fine,” which really meant, “But you said tonight would be great and you would make supper and hang up curtains, and I know the kids want to see you, and now not all of those things can happen, so I’m disappointed that you would sacrifice any one of those things when we only get to have you here for a few hours this entire week.” He did not translate all of that correctly. It was a lot of feelings to fit into a small word like fine, and he translated fine to mean something very similar to “fine.” Crazy.

When I woke up the next morning, he was already half way to Georgia, and life at home was racing ahead like it was overdosing on caffeine. Makenna was making wedding plans, Josiah was making college decisions, Drake had his last swim meet and Emery was asking hard questions. Our timeline was speeding so fast I could barely see anything besides a blur. I Mike kissing my headknew I would spend the next four days doing things my way, and that when he returned we would have to adjust to co-opinions all over again.

Love is a lot of things: It is a feeling, it is a decision. I think it is a force. It forces us to be better than we want to be. It forces us to feel messy emotions, and it forces us to decide it is all worth it.