EASTER IS STILL SPECIAL

Well, here it is, the biggest week in the Christian year. I know most folks think that Christmas is more popular, but when the beliefs that we claim to hold are considered, Easter wins hands down. I’ve always liked the day, even the strange things.
As a kid, I liked going to Sunday school on Easter. It was as if a whole year of lessons culminated in the events of that day. Daddy always seemed to be off work on Easter, and he herded us toward the car for the two mile drive to Beaver Ridge Methodist Church.
Preacher Clark was the first minister I remember at the church. Everyone knew a crowd would show up, and plans to accommodate worshipers included setting up folding chairs in the aisles. We’d stand to sing such songs as “Up from the Grave He Arose” and “The Old Rugged Cross,” but the one that always seemed to bring tears to every adult was “In the Garden.”
Another good thing about Easter was the meal that Mother prepared. For a change from other holidays, she served ham, and a huge bowl of potato salad along with several other dishes were also fixed. We’d have aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents at our table, and the noise from talking and laughing filled the kitchen, as well as other places where hungry folks sat.
The Saturday night before Easter, my brothers and I gathered around the kitchen table to color Easter eggs. I can still remember the smell of vinegar and stained fingers from the dyes in cups. We took this part of Easter seriously. Each of us wrote our name on an egg, and then we divvied up the tasks of making special eggs for our parents and grandparents.
The next morning, we’d race to the kitchen to see our Easter baskets. Just like at Christmas, Mother managed to juggle half a dozen chores, and one them was retrieving our baskets from the attic and then filling them with grass, eggs, and candy. Until the last year of her life, we boys and even our wives were presented baskets on that special Sunday.
We prayed the night before Easter for fair weather. Nothing was any worse than a wet, soggy Easter because that meant our egg hunts would be confined to inside. Most years, we were fortunate to have clear weather, and we wore out adults by insisting they hide the eggs over and over and over. When cousins came to the house, we hunted with them; by the time we’d finished, many of the egg shells were shattered. That was okay because Mother used the “bruised” ones to make eggs salad for our school lunches.
My favorite thing about Easter when I was a child was getting new clothes. Somehow, my parents found a way to come up with enough cash for new outfits and shoes for the day. It was important to them that we look our best on such a special day.
When Jim and I were little guys, Mother bought matching outfits that even included hats. As we grew older, our clothes were more sensible and doubled as a second outfit to wear to church or other more formal functions where jeans were frowned upon. On Easter morning, we’d march outside for pictures of the entire family dressed in their church garb. Daddy was in a hurry to finish so we wouldn’t be late, and sometimes the grumpy inside him sneaked out long enough to let us know that we needed to get with his schedule.
I don’t get clothes for Easter anymore. The fact is I don’t need anything else in my closet. However, Amy and I enjoy fixing baskets for our children, even though they are close to or already in their 30’s. This year we will spend Easter at home, and I’m looking forward to it. However, I will miss Lacey and Dallas, and I might even feel the sting of loneliness for grandson Madden. Still, we can attend church on this special day with friends and listen to a message from one of the best ministers anywhere. The love that Christ showed glow brighter on this good day.

 I hope you all have a loving and blessed Easter.

I'M AN EXPERT...IN MY OWN MIND

I am an expert at, well, everything. At least that’s what my wife and kids tell me. On so many occasions throughout the year, I’ve had to straighten them out on a multitude of issues. Those whom I love so much
have been misguided souls at times, and it was my duty to enlighten them and show them the error of their ways. I’ve reached beyond family boundaries and shared my expertise with others who didn’t even know that they were in need of it.

During my dear daughter’s teen years, my wealth of knowledge came in discussions of ancient history. I found myself lecturing Lacey on the fall of past civilizations for their failure to overcome personal wants and needs. For the longest time, she held her tongue, but at some point I must have begun repeating myself. She looked at me with wide eyes, attempted to smother a snicker, and then burst into laughter. “Daddy, it’s just a thumb ring!” The poor child just couldn’t see the connection between that piece of jewelry and the crumpling of an entire society.

Poor Dallas suffered through years of my coaching him in baseball. It was necessary to school the boy in the proper methods of fielding, hitting, and pitching. All of this came from my vast knowledge of the sport. Forget the fact that I was stuck in right field, the place for the worst player, throughout my child. I forced him to practice endlessly to develop skills I never had.

When he began driving, I instructed him on the proper way to drive a straight-shift vehicle. With just a minimal amount of training, I figured my son could be the next great driver. What happened instead was that he bowed his back and, in his passive-aggressive may, put an end to my goals for him by not studying for the driver’s exam. He failed the test, but I was much more disappointed than he was.

Amy has listened to my tirades on so many subjects. They’ve included finances, business decisions, and child-rearing strategies. Most of the time she’s listen, but on occasion she has cocked one eyebrow and dropped a sarcastic “Really” on me.

My greatest expertise came on the subject of child rearing. Oh, I knew what all kids needed and when they needed it. I’d taught school forever, so I was an authority on children, or so I thought. My pronouncements about parenting came with a thunderous voice. The only trouble was that I’d roared so much and so often that Amy knew it was all bluff, and she ignored my demands. In spite of my actions, Lacey and Dallas appear to be well-adjusted individuals who aren’t too scarred by my great knowledge.

I’ve also voiced my opinions in groups, at work, and with friends over the years. I might have couched it with the phrase, “If it were me, I’d…,” and then I would tell the truth of all things according to my perception of the situation. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I kept thinking, if folks would do as I tell them, their lives would be much better. More accurately, I was saying that folks who follow my lead and do as I do would be happy.

Most of the time, I’ve expressed my opinion and then sat down unaware that absolutely no one in my family heeded an iota of the wisdom that was offered. My friends politely pretend to listen to my sage advice. Then they call me a dirty name and ignore all my wisdom.

In recent years, the fact that I wasn’t always right has become apparent. I can see how my expertise on all subjects has been little more than my personal opinion, and we all know what opinions are like and what they resemble in smell. Maybe the greatest tidbit of wisdom that I’ve discovered from my years on this planet is that I’m nowhere near as right as I once thought.


For those of you whom I have approached with unwanted information and suggestions, I apologize for my ignorance. Also, thank you for remaining my friends and loving family, even though doing so has been a difficult task.

A SIMPLER LANDSCAPING WAY

I don’t want to jinx anything, but it does looks as if spring might make an appearance on time. Most of us are weary from all the snow and frigid temperatures that have assaulted us this winter. So, with a few days of warm weather, we’re ready to arise from our hibernation and begin those chores outside.
These days, yard work has become a much too in-depth process. I admit that to being as guilty as anyone of going to extremes in taking care of my yard, but even my efforts pale in comparison to some folks.
The process begins at the end of February or early March. Men roll out their spreaders and fill them with “weed and feed.” The price per bag of this stuff runs anywhere from $11-$35, and most of the time, the job requires multiple bags. If that weren’t enough, a second defense of concentrated weed-be-gone is applied with a water hose and special container. Still, there’s no guarantee that unwanted plants won’t pop up anyway.
I used to go all out in applying this stuff to the yard, but the fact remains that it will work only if all the rest of the neighbors attack their weed infestations. That doesn’t happen in our community since we have yards, big, open spaces instead of postage stamp-sized lots that many subdivisions have. Now, I make a couple of attempts to kill the most stubborn and aggressive weeds and leave the rest of them alone. As the old saying goes, “it’s all looks green when it’s mowed!”
The next step is fertilizing and over-seeding. I get the idea of giving a kick-start to grass, but not going overboard. My father-in-law once urged me years ago to apply ammonium-nitrate to my new yard. I could hear the grass growing at night and mowed twice a week to keep it from overtaking the house. As for over-seeding, I thought that grass had a root system that would cause it to spread and grow. My experience is that throwing out extra seeds is a waste of money since the wind and birds take most of it.
Then there’s the mulching of areas. I take my trailer and get two scoops per visit and then spend hours shoveling, spreading and raking this concoction that is a mixture of ground wood and manure. Yes, it does make the place look nice, but mulch lasts only so long before it must be reapplied, and none of the stuff smells pleasant.
In years gone by, I remember the yard work we boys did around the house. Our older brother Dal mowed because Daddy feared that Jim and I would cut off our feet. So, we each received sets of hand clippers and were instructed to cut the weeds around the house and all flower beds. For hours we’d squeeze those clippers until our hands cramped. That job is what a weed-eater performs today.
Mother had flowerbeds everywhere. However, she didn’t line them with pavers or other stackable borders products. She dug up rocks from the yard and lined her beds with them. Then she’d fill the ground with plants and ground cover that made mulch unnecessary.
The earlier generation made do with what they had more than we do. They recycled most anything. Rarely did they go out and spend a wad of cash on pots for plants. Nope, they scrounged around until they came up with the perfect plant containers: used tires. Homeowners would apply a coat of whitewash to the rounds, set them in the yard, and fill them with dirt and a little manure. Then they’d stick in plants, give them a drink of water, and leave them alone. I know for a fact that the plants grew healthy all summer.
Today, we invest fortunes in pots and baskets and raised growing beds, but our flowers aren’t any prettier that the ones our parents had. I much prefer a natural looking yard to a perfectly sculpted one. Something “human” is part of a landscape that’s a little cockeyed or that is lusher in some places than in others. The old yards had bare spots as well, and I’ll bet they were caused by kids playing there.

Maybe we’d all be happier if we returned to white painted tire planters and a few bare spots to remind us of our children’s presence. Many folks would definitely be less fatigued from all the work.

BACK RUBS

Feeling low? Feeling lost? Feeling left out? All of us hit bottom several times in our lives. It’s during those blue periods that we most crave something to soothe the soul, to find a healing balm for the pain. I’m pretty sure that’s just what a back rub is. No, I’m not talking about the back rub that a masseur gives as he works to knead muscles in order to bring on relaxation and take away pain. The kind that I have in mind is gentler and comes from the hands of those we love.

When I was a kid, my temper too often got the best of me. It had something to do with being called “Round Man” because of my excessive weight and “Bucky” because of a terrible overbite that kept my top teeth protruding through my lips. I’d explode over some small thing, and Mother would make me sit at the kitchen table until I could regain my composure.

The best medicine for those times when the world could go to hell for all I cared was my Mother’s hand rubbing my back. Her hands weren’t soft; too many hours of yard work kept them rough and calloused. Still, she’d sit silently and rub back and forth across my shoulders. It made things somehow okay. Just knowing that she had taken time out of a schedule filled with too many tasks and duties helped to calm the anger that came over the sometimes cruel things that others said or did.

Years later, it was my time to be the one to give comfort to my children. I loved to hold them when they were around the age of 3-5. Then, they would sit beside me or on my lap, and I rubbed their backs and talk to them. Their skin was smooth, and it surely was one of God’s most wonderful blessings to this parent. If they were crying, the back rub helped to calm the hurt from a scrape or ear ache, and if they were fussy because of being tired, it relaxed them until they fell asleep and leaned heavily on me.


At other times, I tried to console my children when they tasted defeat. A loss of an important ball game or the failure to make a team or be accepted into an organization might have booted them in the behinds. While I wanted to rage against those who denied them, I knew doing so would change nothing. So, instead I just stood there, quiet for one of the few times in my life, and rubbed my hand across their backs. I hoped it would help in some way to take away some of the sting of disappointment.

Sometimes those back rubs have come in times of grief. So many wonderful people have wrapped an arm around us to offer condolences over the losses of loved ones. At some point during the conversation, they gently rubbed their hands across backs as they reassure us of their help in getting through the worst of the pain. Those hands moved across shoulders as if doing so could somehow erase the pain and emptiness that came from the loss.

Through a lifetime of marriage, I have
, on occasion, offered a back rub to my wife. She’s faced plenty of rough times. Some came with the passing of family; others came when our children left home; still, others occurred when evil people committed a wrong against her. I’m a man, so I want to “fix” things, but too often that isn’t possible. That’s when the best I can do is offer a gentle back rub as she cries or despairs or rages. I hope it does help.

This life can throw us plenty of pain. Most of it affects our emotional health. No prescription from a doctor can heal that kind of hurt, but just placing a hand on another’s back and rubbing seems to offer some comfort. I believe that no better medicine exists.