Juanita Tree

In our (former) backyard, we had a Japanese maple in a huge pot. “Juanita Tree,” it was called, because we bought it with the money that my paternal grandmother Juanita sent us for our anniversary a few years ago. I knew she would have liked the idea of using her gift on something permanent, something with legacy.

She was generous—the most generous person I have ever met in my life. This generosity seemed to be in stark contrast to the frugality with which she and my grandfather lived, though now I realize that it was their frugality that fueled their generosity to begin with. Her generosity always had purpose and was often anonymous, too, like the time she bought a tractor for the man who cut the grass at my father’s Bible college. Blessings take many forms, but a tractor given to a small college in a town on the outskirts of Vancouver, British Columbia, is fairly odd. Yet, it was a specific need that could hardly be justified in the budget (of course, small Bible colleges are not lucrative endeavors); the man could not have been happier, and neither could my grandparents.

~

I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandmother lately. Sarah Bessey called it “a homesickness for those we have loved” and she couldn’t have described it better. I read her post sitting at the kitchen table. My grandmother’s youngest great-grandson and only great-granddaughter were playing in the living room, and through the patio doors I could see the wind blowing the leaves of the trees in our backyard.

Blowing the leaves of Juanita Tree.

The tears were such that my daughter came into the room. She climbed onto my lap and whispered, “I love you, Daddy. Why are you sad?” Jesus held me close, using the arms of a three-year-old girl in flowered pajamas.

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~

I visited my grandfather during our great, terrible drive east. He was lonely, and I was ashamed to see how bright his face became when we walked in. It is expected for one to mourn the loss of those we have loved, yet it remains all too easy to forget those who remain, who sit in a lonely, quiet room with only the hope of the ring of his telephone to break the silence. It is easy to miss the blessing of what one has; in my case, I have only lost a quarter of the amazing legacy that I have in my maternal and paternal grandparents. Like the old commercial said: all i have to do is pick up the phone to reach out and touch someone.

~

I recently worshipped at the Church on Morgan, a small Methodist community in the heart of downtown Raleigh. It was really quite fun; both hip and yet delightfully southern. It is a new church birthed out of one of the oldest congregations in Raleigh, and yet no one blinked an eye as I walked through the halls lined with older men in fine suits and women dressed in what can only be described as their Sunday best. I stood out in their main building like … well, like you might expect, what with my shaved head and multiple tattoos. At the close of worship, we were led in the Doxology and suddenly, there was her voice, just as I remembered it from all those years as a boy visiting what I thought at the time was her boring old church. But not just her voice; of course, it was both of my grandmothers, singing along in my memory. As a boy who was being raised in newer, louder “praise songs,” I had to follow along carefully in the hymnal. But they didn’t need a songbook; the words rested in their spirits. The legacy of these two women—what they gave to my father and mother through the years …

~

Juanita Tree now lives with my brother, so my grandmother’s other great-grandson can grow tall under its careful watch. Moving trucks are no place for trees, of course, to say nothing of storage units. But I was still sad to see it go, to lose this piece of my memory that was dimensional, that I could touch and see and smell. I think that is why God had His children build alters, so that our fickle and flighty minds could see and touch and be reminded to remember what had happened there and Who had caused it to be. It is why places like the Vietnam Memorial are so powerful, because we can walk right up and see and touch the true and terrible cost.

Juanita Tree is a celebration; it is life that remains, not a grim reminder. But even it, which began as a gift and became a living memorial, is no real substitute for the ethereal memories that I hold close in my heart. It is those memories that bring both joy and sadness, and so I hope that as the cool Washington breezes blow the leaves of Juanita Tree, that the rustle of the branches bring a smile of memory to my family, a smile that inspires a story recalled, and laughter that fills the hole that loss always leaves.

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Don’t Call It A Comeback

This has been brooding about our house for a few months now, but it’s time to let you guys in on what 2015 will bring to the Nussbaum household.

Or to be more accurate . . . “where.”

(As my friend Kirk likes to say . . . “ooooh – twist!”)

Sometime towards the end of May, we will pack up our house, stuff our children into the minivan, and haul ourselves across the country to Raleigh, NC.  I will be the Communications Coordinator for Help One Now (for those of you not keeping track, they are whom I went to Haiti with back in 2010).

This is really big stuff.

The last few years have been really difficult in our house for a lot of different reasons, so it is tempting to think of this change as a desperation move. However, at its core, it is really not that at all.  There is nothing I have wanted more for years than to somehow be able to work full-time in some kind of NPO. I was close a couple years ago, and when it fell through, it nearly destroyed me.

But, the thing is that, no matter what was going on in our lives, I would take this job in two heartbeats.  This is everything that I have prayed to God to take away my desire for, because I never, in my wildest dreams ever, thought I would get the chance to do it.

Here’s why:  In September, Jen Hatmaker told a story about how Help One Now sponsors helped change the lives of Seada, an HIV+ Ethiopian widow, and her three children.  Because of her illness, Seada’s oldest son Siraj had to quit school to work as a day laborer for the vast sum of less than $1 a day.  He was eight. One year later, the three children are in school and Siraj told the Help One Now team: “I used to work all day and I was so worried for my mother. Now I am in school and I am not afraid for her anymore.

In some small way, I get to be part of this

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I’m really scared. Really. I’m taking my sons away from the two men that I want them to grow up and be like the most. I’m taking my daughter away from her Nana and her Mimi and her Aunties who love her and dote on her and are teaching her to be smart and strong. 

But we know it is right. We know it is ordained. I will be working with people who will care for us as a family, who will push me to be better, who will encourage and challenge me, and who will call me out when I need it. 

It’s going to hard to leave Seattle, to leave our friends and family behind.  The memories that we made there run deep.  But the challenge, the opportunity—really, the calling—it’s just time. 

And seriously . . . you should come visit.  Once you taste Lily’s Pizza, you’ll move here too. 

Dear Amos

Dear Amos

We’ve talked about it before, but school is tough.  You are an energetic, strong-willed fellow, and the restrictions of kindergarten are seriously messing with your style.

Quite frankly, you’re often a challenge.  Whether it’s homework, bedtime, fighting with your siblings, or just getting dressed, we have, well, differences of opinions when it comes to how you should behave.  Many times, those differences are exchanged in a way that is a bit loud.  There are tempers flying in both directions, stomping, slamming . . . our neighbors are probably going to be happy to be rid of us.

Despite all this, there is this amazing amount of compassion and empathy that you have; it’s almost breathtaking to see it in action.

The other night, bedtime was nigh.  This is a time fraught with tears and stress in every household with young children, but especially in those in which the entire load falls on one parent — in this case, Momma.  Right in the middle of everything, Owen, who was playing on his bed, slipped and hit his mouth on the metal bed frame.  According to Momma, there was blood and tears and screaming and chaos everywhere.

Once she determined that he didn’t need to go to the hospital and everyone had calmed down, you grabbed the iPad and sat down with Owen.  You put your arm around him, turned on the Alphabet app, and the two of you cuddled together.  A little bit later, when everyone was finally getting back to bed, Momma started crying during prayer time.  You climbed into her lap and just held her close.

This parenting thing is hard a lot of the time.  There are books, but, at the end of the day, we just have to muddle through it.  And Amos — you’re the one we’re learning on.  We fight, yell, argue; you refuse to eat, stop running, being five.  But these other moments just to go prove that your Uncle Tre was right.  You have the softest soul.  That’s not something we can teach; the best we can do is hope to nurture it, to fight the things that will try to harden it.

It is true that whether or not we win that conflict has a lot to do with you too, but if only one of my prayers ever comes true, I hope that it is the one that guards the compassion, empathy, and goodness that God gave you.

I love you and I am so proud to be your Daddy.

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Dear Vera

“But . . . I love you, Daddy!”

You said this, hurt and angry that I wouldn’t give you more dessert, or let you watch another episode of Shaun the Sheep, or whatever you were trying to get from me.

You are a precious, outgoing thing who instantly likes everyone you meet, and you take great joy in telling the barista, or the checker at Target, or the person sorting the fruit at the grocery store exactly what kind of adventure we are going on that day.

I also don’t want to subscribe so much to your three-year-old mind.  Right now, your emotions seem to be centered on eating carrots, playing with your babies (dolls), twirling, and wearing dresses that twirl.  But I was struck and horrified at how easily you threw around your declaration of love to get what you want.

See, your love is a precious thing, something you cannot give away so easily.  I know that I have several more decades years before I have to worry about to whom you are giving your love, and I am confident that you will make the right choice.

I also know that sometimes you cannot make the right choice until you have made the wrong one first.  Sometimes, making that choice hurts.  I don’t think I can save you from the lesson, but I will always be there to listen and understand.

I want you to fall in love.  There will be a time when you think you have, and maybe you’ll even be right.  But I mostly want you to be in love with a person who loves you almost as much as I do.

But what I must impress upon you most of all is the danger of using your love to get something in return.  You cannot use your love as a commodity to be traded, just like you cannot give something away to receive someone else’s love.  That kind of love isn’t love at all; love is not transactional.  Love just is, or it isn’t.

Just like my love for you doesn’t change, whether you are going to bed on time, pushing your brother, painting your Momma a picture, or jumping into my arms to throw your arms around my neck, you must learn that love cannot be bought or sold.  It can grow or lessen, but perhaps that is a lesson for another day.

Love,

Daddy

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Dear Amos

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You start Kindergarten today.  

i just can’t wrap my head around it.  They say that time just flies by, to not blink because I’ll miss it and you’ll be moving away.  But, here in the day-to-day grind, with our broken house and our broken cars and our broken schedule, time seems to creep slowly. 

It is only when we reach such a milestone that I realize what “they” mean, because I remember so vividly your birth day.  Wasn’t it just last week that you first started walking?  If I had been asked, I would have said that you just started preschool yesterday.  

Yet, here we are.  Your lunchbox is packed–yes, you have a lunchbox–and i just know your Momma cried a few precious tears while she put your snack and your juice and your peanut butter sandwich in their little baggies.  

Soon, the bus is going to come and take away my baby.  I know that it will bring you back, but you’ll be different.  You’ll be a student.  

You have been to school before; you had a great two years at preschool, riding the bus, having your snacks, and being such a total delight to your bus driver that when we were with Grampa, helping him say goodbye to Great-Gramma, your bus driver bought you a present because he was afraid you were sick.  

But, this is different.  We are being thrust into a world of PTA meetings and principals and NO PRINCIPAL’S OFFICES and teachers and rules.  You’ll have classmates; some will be your best friends, and some who may be mean to you.  

You’re also entering a world in which I am no longer going to be able to be there every step of the way.  You are going to have to do some things for yourself in a way that you haven’t before.  

I can picture you being shy, for I have seen you act that way.  I can picture you being overwhelmed, because I’ve seen that, too, and these pictures make me sad and aware that I won’t be there to help, to take your hand and walk with you down those halls. 

But, you are brave! I know you are, because you have done this before, and your teachers used words like “helper” and “leader”.  

I am so proud of you, because you are my son! But, I am proud of you also because you are good and gentle and sensitive to the pain of others.  I am proud of you because you worked so hard at preschool, even though you didn’t realize you were doing it. 

Things will be different now–oh yes, they will.  Sometimes, I wish that it wasn’t the case, but it is.  Before you are grown, before you are the man that God put you on this earth to be, you will have to be a slightly timid, slightly scared, but oh, so excited little boy that is climbing onto the big boy bus for the first time.  

I’m going to miss taking you swimming, to the park, to visit Momma.  I’m going to miss those lazy afternoons making crazy Lego contraptions.  Everything is going to be different now, but it will be the good kind of different that builds character.  

Or something.  

Love,

Daddy

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To My Wife

“I want to paint again.”

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I met you twenty-five years ago. It is a crazy thing to say, but it’s true. Ten years later, almost to the day, we were married.

In the fifteen years since, we have had adventure, heartbreak, travel, and loss. We have three amazing children, children that complete us as a family and are such wonderful combinations of the best of us.  By nearly any metric, we have a blessed life, a life that is quite nearly perfect.  

We’ve been lucky and blessed.  Our marriage sailed along for the first decade, with only adventure (and relocations galore) to speak of, until that fateful day, 5 1/2 years ago, that God loaned us The Boy.  We must have done better with him than we thought, because He loaned us The Baby and The Bonus a couple years after that.  

In the midst of that — specifically, after The Bonus — I lost a friend, a mentor, and ultimately, the only job I ever really wanted (up to that point).  None of this is news, of course, but, to make a long story short, I didn’t handle it well.  In fact, it is only through the last month that I have really come to realize how hard that period hit me.  

I will probably talk more about this when I am feeling better, but the gist is this: I just shut down emotionally, which pretty much shut me down mentally, and in doing so, I caused the burden of keeping our family afloat squarely on you.  While I was wallowing in my own head, in the doubt and pity, looking out at the beauty of you and of our family through an opaque glass, you kept the family alive.  

This is a hard thing to say on this day, the day that we celebrate the fact that fifteen years ago, two ignorant, scared, too-young people stood before God and their friends and family and pledged to be together through it all.  But, I have to say it; I have to make sure you know that I am sorry.  

I am so sorry that I took you for granted.  I am sorry that I don’t express enough how much I see you do for me, for the kids, for our family.  I’m sorry that you would come home too often to a messy house and hungry children because I was too selfish to understand that my life was not about me.  

But, almost most of all, I’m sorry that you haven’t painted in years.  Furthermore, I’m sorry because I realize it is because you are tired–tired of doing the work of two parents because your husband–the man who said he would be there for you, be on your team, be your partner–spent the last two years in a foggy haze of his own self-pity.  

I want you to paint so badly that I cried when you first announced it.  I am so happy that the life and joy that you capture with colors and a brush might soon be here again.  I’m excited for clothes covered in multi-colored droplets, of the little trophies that they are–evidence of creativity that cannot be contained.  I’m excited to come home and find you with that little smear of paint that you always seem to have on your cheek; it’s always the most adorable thing.  

In many ways, we are right now at the most difficult time in our relationship, because our schedules don’t allow us the simple luxury of eating together as a family, let alone us having meaningful conversations, or simply the time to be in each other’s presence.  But, i’m not worried.  In fact, I am more confident than I have been in years.  I know that we will navigate through this period.  I know that this is not our destiny, our lot in life, but a season that will change when the time is right.  

I know all of this because you are so strong that you make me strong.  I didn’t see how much that other stuff didn’t matter, but I do now.  We have so many more years ahead of us, and the idea that you want to spend them with me is humbling.  I love you so much, and I will tell you that everyday.  

Sometimes, I’ll even use words.  

The Magic Word.

Ken 

 

I Am Part Of The Problem

Over the last few days, I have had some pretty strong opinions about the World Vision hoopla.  I was shrill.  I grumbled.  I scolded.  I lectured.  I called people “bad” and said that “the church had never been lower.”

Well, one of my oldest friends very pointedly told me to cut the crap (more or less). By focusing on the few (but loud) angry voices, we were missing all the good that was still being done.

And he was right.

10,000 people canceled their sponsorships.  10,000 children that had food are now at risk again.  That’s a tragedy.  But, do you know how many children are sponsored through World Vision?

Depending on your source, somewhere between 1.2 and 3 million 4 million.

Even taking the lower number, that means less than 1% of sponsors immediately canceled their support.   Over 99% did not.

Honestly, that’s pretty amazing.

So why did the collective blogosphere lose their collective minds over less than 1%?  Well, there still is a real justice issue here.  There were bad actions that needed to be addressed.  Angry voices said that “World Vision was trivializing the Cross” or that they “don’t believe in the Bible.”  Leaders encouraged their followers to treat children’s health and nutrition like pawns in an angry, Western game.

But listen – one thing is terribly true.

We are yelling about things to people who agree with us about an issue that is too complex to be decided by yelling.

We were not celebrating the fact that several million children are being fed, medicated, and educated by World Vision.  We’re not blogging about the villages, towns, and regions that are being transformed by this aid.

We’re trying to get pageviews.  Sure, we believe in what we were saying (I am not accusing anyone of intellectual dishonesty, here), but there can also be a bit of self-congratulation from anyone (from any side of whichever spectrum you reside on any issue) for believing in the way that you do and for not being for/against/with/without whatever those people over there (who are very, very wrong) believe.

Good conversation can be inspired by good writing, and I urge you to stop reading me and go read good writing.  My last two posts were neither good writing nor conversation beginners.

And that makes me part of the problem.

 

10,000

This is as low as I can remember the Church ever going.

Sure.  We rallied around Chick-Fil-A and Phil Robertson, letting them know that we supported their rhetoric against the gay community, making them more popular in the end (while telling our gay brothers and sisters that while we “love” them, because Jesus told us to, they’re still icky).

Sure. One of the leading voices of the modern church, Mark Driscoll, claimed that, despite Obama’s insistence that he is a follower of Jesus, he had enough insight into Obama’s soul that he knew that Obama neither believed in Jesus nor followed the Bible.  Cue thousands of RT’s, likes, etc.

Sure.

But.

10,000.  10,000!

That, according to Jamie Wright (The Very Worst Missionary) and Matthew Paul Turner (Jesus Needs New PR), is the number of children dropped from World Vision’s sponsorship rolls following Christianity Today’s decision to publicize the fact that they would now hire married, openly gay Christians.

10,000 people decided that they would rather let a child — not a theoretical child, but one whose face adorned their fridge and with whom letters were usually exchanged — starve, instead of sending money through — not to! — an organization that held a belief that was different than their own.

Suddenly, I am far less angry at World Vision.  They had to reverse course; their entire mission is helping those less fortunate, the displaced and downtrodden, the least of these.

No, I’m angry — still — at the people for whom these children weren’t real, but were merely a feel-good pill, a picture to look at and feel like they’d “given back.”  I am angry that 10,000 Christians decided the best way to speak out against something they did not like was to throw the needs of children by the wayside, to treat them like 10,000 bargaining chips.

I’m even angry that a few such people, after World Vision so hastily backtracked, called to see if they could get “their” child back, saying, “It’s all good, now bro.”

I sincerely hope that none of these 10,000 people have closeted gay friends or family, because those people were just told, in no uncertain terms, that if their homosexuality is discovered or revealed, they will be thrown out and cast aside like so much garbage.

No, I don’t think we have ever been lower.

 

Great Job, Everyone. Really. Show Those Gays That We Don’t Need Their Help!

I do not have time to be doing this right now.  I have two websites to edit, I have to pack for my Portland trip, I have a long list of things to do around the house, and I have a blog post to write for a very special birthday.

But this World Vision thing.  Honestly, I just can’t even.

On the slim chance you do not know what I am talking about, World Vision, that fantastic organization that serves thousands of impoverished communities around the world, made a sudden and, depending on how you look at it, brave or foolish change to its hiring policies.  Basically, they decided that while they were continuing to enforce their standards on fidelity and abstinence (depending on one’s marital status), they would also allow legally married homosexual couples to work for them.

(You can read the original announcement here.)

Obviously, the reaction from both supporters and opposers was immediate and very loud, with progressive Christian leaders rejoicing and conservative Evangelicals basically throwing so many tantrums. Worse, a few Evangelical leaders called on Christians to withdraw their support from World Vision over the matter, essentially telling their followers to literally take food and medicine from poor children’s mouths and communities. World Vision was forced to retreat, and they have since retracted their statement.

 

When I first read Mr. Stearn’s letter, I was thrilled.  I thought that World Vision was taking a brave but risky stand, and I wanted to show my support.  However, one thing I never thought about doing was moving my sponsorship dollars from Help One Now to World Vision.

Why?  Because I do not sponsor little Lamar to feel good; I sponsor him because I felt called by Jesus to help him.  I didn’t look over our budget and decide that we should massage our egos and do a little extra for someone.  Honestly, things are tight and we could use the $40.  But I made a commitment to him.  He is a real person, a real child, and he and his community depend on me to help them get the things that they need to survive.  His community should not suffer because some other organization did something that I like.

World Vision’s sponsorship model differs from the model used by Help One Now in that, in Help One Now’s case, sponsorship funds go to the child’s community at large so that every child benefits.  In World Vision’s case, the sponsorship dollars go to that particular child (and perhaps his or her family). So, canceling your support has a direct impact on that — your — child.

In the past two days, it has been estimated that over 2,000 people stopped sponsoring their child because of World Vision’s initial decision.  I do not know if we will ever know the exact number, but let’s stop and think about that for a second.  Over 2,000 people decided to stop feeding, clothing, medicating, and educating their sponsored child because they were afraid that the guy who answered the phone might have a husband instead of a wife and they might get gay cooties through the phone or something.  Remember: they have (hopefully) been praying for, writing letters to, and receiving letters from their child.  And yet, at a drop of a hat, because they got offended, that child is back to starving.

Great job, internet.

Let me be even more clear: if you canceled your sponsorship over this issue, you are a bad person. The end.  This means that you are not sponsoring your child for the sake of the child, but to make yourself feel good.

Because these children are the very definition of “the least of these.”  Because now, the hot, smelly, dirty, World Vision worker that is on the ground in Tanzania, or Peru, or Laos has to look at some of these children and say, “I’m sorry.  No letters for you today, and I can’t give you any more food, either. Your sponsor got mad, took his ball, and went home.”

And, for the record, if you cancel your sponsorship because World Vision reversed its course on this, you are also a bad person. Nadia Bolz-Weber reminded us, “The critique of pulling support for charity due to an employee hiring practice I disagree with has to cut both ways or it’s bullshit.”

At the end of the day, World Vision’s announcement should have let to an amazing set of conversations as churches, charities, non-profits, and NGO’s have to start navigating this world and its changing social values while staying true.  Instead, we just stuck our thumbs in the eyes of gay people everywhere.

And we wonder why young people are leaving the Church in droves.

Ben Moberg wrote a devastating post highlighting the pain this is causing the gay and lesbian community, saying: “this is what I’m hearing: No, you aren’t even worthy to serve hungry children. You are so deeply unwanted that I will let a child die if it keeps you away from me. From us. From the body of Christ. I will spare no life if it keeps you far away.”

Sigh.

I can’t even.

 

For better, more nuanced takes on this, please read:

Jen Hatmaker (“The church has never, not for one millisecond of its entire history, been right about everything. This sobering fact should give us pause and inject some much needed humility into our ethos.”)

Nish Weiseth (“When you withdraw your sponsorship, the person who pays the price is an undeserving child.”)

Rachel Held Evans (“Deliberately cutting off funding to your sponsored child affects that child and her community. If you didn’t think that money was actually making a difference, then why were you sponsoring to begin with?”)

 

PS: I read a lot of articles and blogs over the last few days, and if I inadvertently quoted one without the proper attribution, please forgive me. 

 

 

 

A Path Without a Map

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We are walking through this new life now, aimlessly . . . wandering a path without a map.  For what is a husband without a wife, a son or daughter without a mother, a sister without her sibling, a grandchild without their grandmother?  

But we are not without.  

We are a father with his children, and his children’s children, and their children after that.  We are brothers and sisters with a father above us and children below.  We are children with siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, sons, daughters.  

Yes! We are with.  

We are with the strength you showed, the wisdom you learned, the stories you told, the advice you gave. We are here, recipients all of your selfless, secret generosity.  

We are with each other.  

 

They say our loved ones never leave us, that they live forever in our hearts, but of course that’s not the whole truth.  When a husband can no longer grasp the hand of his wife, when a daughter cannot call her mother, when a father will never hold his son again, when a friend says a final goodbye . . . well, our hearts are a poor substitute.  

And yet, when they dance across our minds at the most unexpected times, when a sound or a smell or a particular turn-of-phrase causes  a memory to lift itself up from the depths of the almost-forgotten, we smile.  When my aunt calls me “Kenny,” when I hear someone say, “Well, bless Pat,” when I see my sister wearing her pink because she wanted to fight alongside you, when I hold my mother and my father and my wife and my babies just a little bit closer and a little bit longer than necessary . . . 

When I see angels.

 

We will tell stories long forgotten.  We will laugh and joke and drink and hug and we will cry, for we have lost; of that, there is no denying.  And we will move on; we will exist in this new reality.  

But we will not forget; no, no, no, we will not, for you are all around us.  You are in my father and my sister and, yes, even my daughter. I see you in my aunt and my uncle and my cousins.  

This summer, I will make sun tea.  I will put a little Sweet N Low in it, and I will taste my childhood. I will call my grandfather and inquire about his life and his cat.  

Your cat.  

I will listen to the memories and marvel at how little I knew you, how little I had plumbed the depths you contained.  Yet, I will remember.  I will wear the shoes you bought for me. I will remember visiting with you in your camper after your traversed the country to meet your niece, your friends, and me, your grandson.  I will remember Christmas–how your house was decorated with trees everywhere and how I hid candy in my stocking and my room and behind the books on your shelves.  I will remember the first next door neighbor we had in Canada commenting on passing through a small town in Michigan and noticing a Christmas tree on the second floor porch of a white, two story house on Main Street. I will remember stacking wood in your basement, of throwing clothes and toys and trying to fit my brother in the laundry chute that ran from the upstairs to the basement. 

Oh, have I not told that story before?  

I will remember mowing your lawn.  I will remember how you put your cats on leashes and threw them outside on your porch–the porch that my strong father and my strong uncles built under the supervision of my strong grandfather.  

And I will remember how you met people and made them your friends.  You took them under your expansive wings, you surreptitiously gave them the help they needed, and then you delighted in how well they flew.  You were able to make friends with anyone you met; that is what makes us the most alike, I think. I learned that from my father, but he learned it from you.

 

And I will hug my father ever tighter.   

 

Gramma, you might have been the strongest woman I ever knew, and if anything, you taught us all that strong women are a treasure worth seeking. You taught that lesson well, for my father and my brother and my uncle and I all searched until we found someone strong like you.  My sister is strong. My cousins are strong. My aunts are strong–because you were strong.  

I know that you are dancing with Bonnie Jo and Dee and those that you missed, and I can’t wait to dance with you too.  

I love you, I’m so thankful for everything you gave to Grandpa, to Dad, to Mark and Barb, to my cousins and my siblings, for the tractor that you secretly gave to the man who needed it, and for being so generous that it bordered on the bizarre (i.e., you once secretly gave someone a tractor. Seriously–A TRACTOR!) 

Love Always …

The Deuce.