Saturday, February 25, 2017

Picking Lent Apart

So what are you giving up for Lent?

Father Qudo Sarduci, the famous Priest and reporter for "The Vatican Inquirer," answered ... Menthol cigarettes.

A friend of mine gave up the last bite of food on his plate for every meal!

What about wearing clothes that are too tight and draw attention only to your body if you don't have the body for it?

Or buying fruit to eat better and then watching it rot in the Fridge?

Flexing your muscles while looking at yourself naked in the mirror.

Popular ones include refraining from drinking ... drinking to excess ... smoking while drinking ... doing weed while drinking to excess ... getting caught doing any of these after you've already told everyone you're giving them up for Lent.

The number one thing people give up for Lent, year round, is getting married ... again.

Where did giving up something for Lent come from?

Let's start with the Bible.

... okay nothing there!

Yep, the Bible doesn't mention having to give anything up ... nothing about Mardi Gras ... Ash Wednesday ... repentance ... fasting ... self examination ... only fish on Friday ... Beads ... Bunnies ... or Easter Eggs.

So why do we do this stuff?

Especially if it's not even in the Bible!

A little more than 100 years after his death, Ireanaus of Lyons ... an early Church Father ... wrote that in France ... not Israel or the Holy Land but FRANCE OF ALL PLACES ... that some ... NOT ALL ... commemorated the Jesus' death by not eating from 3:00 on Friday (when Jesus died on the Cross) until Easter morning (when he rose ... and according to the Gospel of John immediately had a fish fry on the beach).

To remember Jesus suffering they took to skipping supper on Friday, didn't eat at all on Saturday and probably started the first Breakfast Buffett on Easter Sunday!

That's how it all started!

It's a pretty nice way of honoring someone who loved them so much he gave his life to prove God is always present because love is always present ... even in the darkest of times and worst of circumstances.

Here's where the story gets interesting.

The early Church believed the best strategy to grow the faith was taking over Pagan Holidays ... so it was decided to have Easter on Spring Solstice ... the beginning of good weather when everyone's happy surviving winter and the beginning warm temperatures are a perfect time to make everyone understand Jesus came back just like the blooms on the plants and the leaves on the tree.

It wasn't just Easter because they also moved Christmas to Winter Solstice to symbolize Jesus coming during the darkest, coldest of times ... even though Jesus was actually born around April ... it was more important to grow the Church.

The whole 40 day thing came about around 350 years after Christ died ... predicated upon Jesus was tempted for 40 days in the Desert, it raining for 40 days and 40 nights on Noah, Moses wandering around the Wilderness for 40 days and a lot of other times it took 40 days/years to accomplish something in the Bible.

Of course there's no sense of time in ancient Hebrew so claiming something was 40 days/years simply meant a long time.

Stretching Lent from Ash Wednesday (also not in the Bible) to Easter required more Church attendance and if you're giving up something to show your faith then it makes sense that what you'd have spent on alcohol, smoking or downloading Porn would be given to the Church.

Over the ensuing Centuries, Lent's been refined along with Easter to become what it is today ... a huge ass Party on Tuesday before Ash Wednesday when faith is proclaimed by giving up French Fries when you order a Big Mac.

It's ironic that Lent and Easter are more popular than ever but Church participation continues to wane to the lowest attendance ever.

In the end, if you find giving up something to illustrate your desire to identify with and commune with things bigger than yourself ... the suffering of Jesus and the love of God ... Lent's as good a time as any.

Here's the thing though.

Like everything else, Lent comes and goes and it's you who remains and the question becomes "Which you is remaining?" ... The one giving up things to better identify with and commune with things bigger than yourself ... or .... are you someone who's just visiting bigger things for a little while?

That's the question of Lent.




Micheal Elliott
February 26, 2017

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Birthday Wish

The Professor's late for class so we sit bored yet anxious for him to arrive so we can get it over with but the minutes drag on.

"I'll handle it," a husky classmate wearing glasses, a white shirt and trousers, not jeans, says climbing out of his desk and leaving the room.

Immediately he rushes back in, hair askew, glasses in hand, shirttail halfway out, one hand in his pocket jiggling change with a broad plastic smile on his face.

"How's everyone doing today?" he perfectly mimics the voice, face and mannerisms of our Prof.

Of course at that very moment our Professor rushes in to witness the spectacle and it's hilarious when the husky guy realizes it ... stops ... steps away from the podium and explains, "We know how you hate tardiness so I went ahead and started for you."

Husky guy takes his seat.

"I like this guy," I tell myself.

After class he tells me his name's "Guy."

Of course it is.

That's my first recollection of Guy Gains Sayles, Jr.

Quickly becoming friends we hang out, argue life's purposes, take classes together and form the greatest damn Spades players in the history of the Baptist Student Union where we regularly cheat to win.

Guy was in a hurry to get to the ministry so he finished College in 3 years to get on to Seminary where he excelled ... save for one near fatal flaw.

In a moment of religious zealousness, he calls as I'm enjoying my 5th year of College to say I should come to Seminary too.

"Alright," I say without giving it much thought and we're reunited in Louisville, Kentucky.

I'm still uncertain of what I brought to our friendship ... crazy antics, exposure to obscure rock-n-roll, intense competitiveness on the racquetball court, profane humor and laughter.

Guy gave me direction without letting me know, lots of questions, intensity in the classroom I'd never witnessed before and he taught me to cook biscuits-and-gravy (the man can flat out cook).

He can also flat out preach and to this day remains the best I've ever heard.

It's been more than a decade since we've seen each other but we both, along with his lovely wife Anita, turned 60 this year and that's as good a reason as any to pause, look back for a moment at our lives intertwined for a while, leaving us different ... and better I think ... than had we not fallen under the other's spell.

All those years ago we bravely and naively embarked on changing the world and, well we have, except in much smaller and more meaningful ways than we believed then.

I do know that much of who I became in life, the things I've accomplished and the people I influenced for better or worse, is because of Guy.

He's not to blame of course as he had no idea what he was doing but more than anyone else Guy set me on the path finding God.

It's taken me through multiple marriages, a 30 year stint helping others help themselves, the magical world of writing and a dance of faith often on the thinnest of ice ... to a life full of children, drunken Guardian Angels, a journey to whatever's next and a love I never knew I could have.

That's what I've received on my 60th and it's a shame I don't have anything to give you in return.

Regardless, Happy Birthday old friend!

Happy Birthday Anita!

What a ride we've had.

Thank God it's not quite over yet.The Professor's late for class so we sit bored yet anxious for him to arrive so we can get it over with but the minutes drag on.

"I'll handle it," a husky classmate wearing glasses, a white shirt and trousers, not jeans, says climbing out of his desk and leaving the room.

Immediately he rushes back in, hair askew, glasses in hand, shirttail halfway out, one hand in his pocket jiggling change with a broad plastic smile on his face.

"How's everyone doing today?" he perfectly mimics the voice, face and mannerisms of our Prof.

Of course at that very moment our Professor rushes in to witness the spectacle and it's hilarious when the husky guy realizes it ... stops ... steps away from the podium and explains, "We know how you hate tardiness so I went ahead and started for you."

Husky guy takes his seat.

"I like this guy," I tell myself.

After class he tells me his name's "Guy."

Of course it is.

That's my first recollection of Guy Gains Sayles, Jr.

Quickly becoming friends we hung out, argued life's purposes, took classes together and formed the greatest damn Spades players in the history of the Baptist Student Union where we regularly cheated to win.

Guy was in a hurry to get to the ministry so he finished College in 3 years to get on to Seminary where he excelled ... save for one near fatal flaw.

In a moment of religious zealousness, he calls as I'm enjoying my 5th year of College to say I should come to Seminary too.

"Alright," I say without giving it much thought and we're reunited in Louisville, Kentucky.

I'm still uncertain of what I brought to our friendship ... crazy antics, exposure to obscure rock-n-roll, intense competitiveness on the racquetball court, profane humor and laughter.

Guy gave me direction without letting me know, lots of questions, intensity in the classroom I'd never witnessed before and he taught me to cook biscuits-and-gravy (the man can flat out cook).

He can also flat out preach and to this day remains the best I've ever heard.

It's been more than a decade since we've seen each other but we both, along with his lovely wife Anita, turned 60 this year and that's as good a reason as any to pause, look back for a moment at our lives intertwined for a while, leaving us different ... and better I think ... than had we not fallen under the other's spell.

All those years ago we bravely and naively embarked on changing the world and, well we have, except in much smaller and more meaningful ways than we believed then.

I do know that much of who I became in life, the things I've accomplished and the people I influenced for better or worse, is because of Guy.

He's not to blame of course as he had no idea what he was doing but more than anyone else Guy set me on the path finding God.

It's taken me through multiple marriages, a 30 year stint helping others help themselves, the magical world of writing and a dance of faith often on the thinnest of ice ... to a life full of children, drunken Guardian Angels, a journey to whatever's next and a love I never knew I could have.

That's what I've received on my 60th and it's a shame I don't have anything to give you in return.

Regardless, Happy Birthday old friend!

Happy Birthday Anita!

What a ride we've had.

Thank God it's not quite over yet.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Forgiving My Guardian Angel

A halo of charcoal white smoke floats above her head as she points the lit cigarette towards me while guzzling a tall boy Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Mesmerized by the halo when she loudly burbs it startles me.

"Holy Mother of God," she slurs, "will you calm down."

Pasty white skin sharply contrasts oily black hair, bloodshot aqua water eyes and a dirty white robe slips over one shoulder almost exposing her left breast.

"Is that mustard?" I ask pointing at a brownish stain on the robe.

Slurping a bourbon chaser, she nods.

"It looks like the Shroud of Turin," I say.

"Shut up," she snaps.

"If you hook up with Joel Osteen or T. D. Jakes you could probably make a lot of ..."

"SHUT UP! she snarls crushing the empty beer can on the table.

"Listen," I say accustomed to her angry outburst, "times are still bad no matter what the politicians say and everybody can use some extra dough. You'd make a ton being an angel with a sign from God on your robe of mustard in the shape of the Shroud of Turin. Those minister Dudes would probably let you keep 40% or so."

"Why do you torture me?" she asks taking a sip from a fresh can that magically appears out of nowhere.

"I'm trying to help," I answer sitting back with bare feet propped on the back deck on a warm winter night under a bright sliver of Moon.

"Let's be honest," I press, "you look emaciated for an Angel. What kind of food you get in Heaven? Is it like the Golden Corral except with good food?"

"Why me Lord?" she croaks before taking a long drawl of beer.

"Plus as a Guardian Angel" I continue paying her no attention, "I assume you get special privileges and can cut in line whenever you want."

"Jesus Christ!' she hisses, "I'm here to tell you something but you won't shut the ..."

"WHAT?" I demand sitting forward.

Sighing, she downs another bourbon before retrieving a crumbled piece of paper from the filthy blue stole draped around her neck, which she straightens on the outdoor table, clears her throat, spits a lougie over the railing and reads, "For unto you is born ... er ...well ..." she falters.

"Are you telling me you were supposed to be here when Che was born and you didn't show until now?"

She nods without speaking ... or drinking.

"You're sixteen weeks late!" I say incredulously.

"I've been busy," she replies like a teenager in trouble with  her parents.

"WITH WHO?" I bellow. "Jimmy Cochran? The man sees imaginary Cows running threw his backyard!"

"Special assignment," she answers without making eye contact.

"Oh Pl-Leeze!"

"To Che!" she says standing, "Salute!"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," I say waving her away.

"Oh come on," she pleads, "please forgive me."

"Let me get this straight! My Guardian Angel needs forgiveness because she's too busy to work me into her schedule."

She nods and sheepishly says, "Damn cute baby!"

At that moment Che cries from her crib.

"You did not!" I say accusingly.

"Gotta go!" she says disappearing leaving crushed cigarette butts and beer cans, "Special Assignment."

Strolling though the darkness to get our baby without waking Sarah, her voice appears out of nowhere, "Oh and Micheal dear! I'd appreciate it you just kept this to us. I'd hate for it to get out I wasn't somewhere I was supposed to be."

"Not a problem," I say, getting our precious little girl, give her the bottle, smiling Devilishly. "You're forgiven."

Monday, February 13, 2017

Missives Directed At Me

A friend writes me "letters never meaning to send."

Emails he calls "missives" are used as his outlet to chronicle, complain, deconstruct and analyze what those in his life are doing to him.

"Most of it's too angry and venomous so I put it in a special folder and never send them 'cause it's most helpful to write it out but I don't want you to see how nasty I can get."

"Fascinating," I say not knowing how to respond.

The missives I do receive are thoughtful, provoking, full of insights peppered with irony, sarcasm, personal revelation and humor.

While I'm curious as to the "really large file" of unsent things, over the past year we've developed a rich, intimate, transparent and mutually fulfilling dialogue ... an almost forgotten commodity in today's world.

Nowadays everything is instant and shallow, quick to be used and forgotten because of our rush to arrive at the next necessary thing.

 Sadly this includes friendships, most of which are now managed via text, Instagram, Facebook, Facetime and Phone calls.

To take time, stealing it from the constant demands others hurl at us and that we place on ourselves, to thoughtfully communicate with just one other person is ... pretty frigging radical now.

On the rare occasions we're actually together, a mischievous telepathy occurs through glances and smiles without the use of words.

It's like two old friends and one says, "Remember the time ..."

"Yep," the other replies before the first can clarify which time and both erupt in laughter at the same thing.

I don't know how to explain this but it definitely happens.

There's lots we disagree on though we're civil, often poking fun of the other's beliefs but some magic happens by which we're both better informed than before.

We may not change the other's mind but we certainly enhance each other's position.

The biggest thing I've gained from his missives, both the sent and the unsent ones, is how much I've missed ... AND NEED ... friendly dialogue rooted in trust that I can say whatever or hear outlandish ideas that are safely sent and received ... considered ... discussed ... reaching conclusions far better than I'd ever arrive at alone.

Leonardo Boff, one of my hero's, is a Central American Catholic Priest censured by the Church for being right ... a seemingly consistent thing among the Pontificate.

Summoned to the Vatican to declare his intentions, kneeling in front of the Pope himself, Leonardo was to show his obedience by kissing the Pontiff's feet.

In an upright fetal position, Boff takes a handkerchief from his pocket and shines the gold slippers John Paul I wears before, ever so swiftly, touching his lips to a foot.

Two great symbolic gestures seeming to contradict the other.

"I'd rather walk in the company of believers," Boff said afterwards, "than in the solitary security of my convictions."

These days everyone seems to live within the solitary security of their convictions.

I am thankful for my friend who shoots missives attacking the securities solitude creates, often altering my convictions and leaving me better, and happier, then I was before.

It's a shame there's not more of this in the world.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Beach Bum I Want To Be

It was a schizophrenic life for decades ... successful and public career juxtaposed with the desire to be a Beach Bum.

Home is an island so when I was off I looked like a Beach Bum spending most daylight hours in the sand, drinking beers, deeply tan, grilling fish at supper then shagging to live music at night.

Truth be told I was merely a bronzed weekend warrior.

The vast majority of my creativity, energy and time was being successful at work.

On weekends I'd pretend to be who I really wanted be but couldn't quite pull the trigger.

Becoming a true Beach Bum is a lot like becoming a Monk ... you gotta give up a lot of stuff to focus only on the Holiest of things.

Monks take vows of obedience, stability, conversion of life, poverty and chastity whereas Beach Bums roll with the tides, move slow, bask in the sun, never have enough and forever chase members of the opposite sex.

A Monk aims to strip away everything from life except God.

A Beach Bum habitually loafs on a Beach enjoying life.

My problem is I'm too wired and my mind keeps going when it should shut down and relish in the beauty of the Sun casting glistening diamonds on the calm early morning Sea.

And I care too much.

People ... unjust officers ... litters ... liars ... sanctimonious leaders ... lazy workers ... and those who take more than they give get under my skin, setting a rage on fire.

I hate the rage ... it keeps me from being who I want.

It's less these days because I stay at home with our baby while my wife works, the girls are in school and I'm forced to exclusively focus on the needs of a three month old.

She's pretty easy most the time ... throwing me loving looks ... devilish smiles ... dancing eyes ... joyful shakes of her tiny body and the slurping, breathing sounds while drinking the bottle with intense blue eyes staring into mine.

She's got rage too ... I swear it's from her Mother ... but when Che lets it out there's no consoling her until an Angel whispers in her ear and she gracefully falls asleep.

The breeze has picked up though it's 70 degrees and I stand at the foot of her bed in bare feet, black running shorts and a "Willie Nelson First Aid" tee-shirt.

Our child breaths beatifically ... taking my breath away.

It's hard to do nothing but love what it's front of you with everything inside.

It's why I've never truly become a Beach Bum.

But this child ... and her Mother ... and the Salt in the air ... waves crashing in the distance ... Seagulls laughing ... Dolphins smiling ... Sun setting to the music of choirs of mussels popping of the Marsh at low tide ... they make me want to be something I've never been ... and I've been lots of things.

"Yesterdays are over my shoulder ... there's too much to see waiting in front of me," goes an old Hymn.

"Maybe I won't be a Beach Bum," I softly confess to our daughter.

"I'll be this instead."

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Precious Stuff

My skins deepens brown and I'm please looking like the self I imagine.

In the past we'd escape to aqua blue waters for hot sunshine to tan while cold wicked winds blew from the north east.

Inside the open sliding glass doors wearing black running shorts, an old UGA tee shirt my bare feet dangle from kitchen table.

"Goddess," I say to our dog curled up on the tile floor, "this is the way winter should be."

I hate winter!

As a sometimes Christian in the real sense of the word, I don't mind paying the Devil his due ... this hasn't been a bad winter.

Some bitter cold days caused me to cuss everything and everybody around but, truth be told, it's been pretty mild. I've come nowhere close to the bar of vulgarities previously set.

Temperatures are ranging from barely 80 to almost 40 but I take more outdoor showers than not in the mornings and that's the true barometer to judge a cold day.

That being said, I'd still rather to be in Key West, Orient Bay SXM or Porto Buelo, Panama.

I'm out of sorts with the world these days.

Perhaps it's the world that's out of sorts with me.

Either way's fine.

The world's gone crazy and I just got back from spending decades trying to save it.

What keeps me sane these days is my wife, our three-and-a-half month old baby girl and ... I don't know ... the things I believe in ... a loving God who's got plans ... peace, love and rock-and-roll.

Mostly, I hear of an angry, pissed off, discriminatory God these days whom I've got no use for and certainly who's got no use for me.

So it's with great Thanksgiving the days are comfortably warm enough for Baby Che and me to sit on the Back deck basking in a blazing sun looking like the eye of God, leaving our bodies transfigured from white to brown.

If you mix red and yellow with black and white I figure you end up with a bronze, rested, happy content person with a smokin' wife, beautiful baby, lots of friends who play good music, drink beer and cook out at the Beach.

Precious Stuff!

Obviously I'm not there yet but I'm working on it.

A tan in the middle of winter is obviously a good start.

I figure it's why my Loving God's warming things up in the middle of such cold times such as these while the pissed off Deity's dominating the nightly News, Internet, religious services, political meetings and music not performed live.

The world can sort itself out.

I'm gonna sit in the sun listening to Che laugh, wait for Sarah so we can sort out the plan that unexpectedly led us to here and leave all that dark stuff inside.

Friday, February 3, 2017

A Conspiracy of Love

Kathy doesn't remember the first time we met but I do.

My bike coasted to a stop beside the screened porch that is my "Man Cave" where she sits in a faded baby blue Terry Cloth bathrobe sipping coffee.

"You must be Micheal," she says with a sleepy million dollar smile.

"Yep," I reply and she hugs me, spilling coffee on her robe which makes her laugh.

Grinning, Rick meanders out saying, "This is her."

The way he says it is pure joy. High school sweethearts until life took them in different directions where they married, had children and worked until ... love refused to be separated any longer and now, they are finding a way.

Having no other place to reunite, and little money to do so, Rick asked if they could meet at my place and stay in the extra room downstairs.

He and I are friends, work together and I'm a sap for a love story so it was a no-brainer.

What I mostly recall is the way they looked at each other, always with a smile, a sense of delight they finally taken the chance, damn the cost, to be together.

After that first weekend tryst, I often saw them on the beach holding hands, toes touching in the sand, drinking beers basking more in themselves than the sun.

She was late for their wedding leaving Rick and I hanging in the hot sunshine on the south beach crosswalk, me in a black robe and he in a suit.

Half an hour later, Kathy laughs and, unable to contain himself, Rick rushes to walk her up the crosswalk ... to Hell with keeping Bride and Groom separated until the actual ceremony! ... they'd had enough separation.

God blessed us that day because someone had set up chairs, an arbor and candelabras in the sand for another wedding but no one was there so ... we used them ... surely a gift from Heaven.

That was a long time ago but I still see the unbridled joy tainted with crazy caution to the wind resolve to make the most of every moment they have left together.

Today is Kathy's birthday but she doesn't know.

Rick says, "We are good ... Living a simple life ... Kathy is in the later stages of Alzheimer's and we just plug along as best we can ... She is still my heart and soul ... I am blessed to have her."

Sometimes I get pretty pissed off at God and this is one of them.

Then again "God is love" John says in the Bible and if love is what Rick and Kathy have then God is part of them too.

So Rick whisper in your lovely wife's ear and wish her "Happy Birthday" for me ... kiss your heart and soul too  ... count your blessing again today.

One of my blessings was to be a small part of your conspiracy of love and I remain honored, privileged and humbled that it was me y'all chose to get this party started.
 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Set Apart

"I'm going to do an old song with a different melody," she announces seriously betraying a joy hidden inside.

Half-way listening between sips of drinks, funny whispers, tuning guitars or trying to figure out what to play when it's our turn, she states ... "I only do Christian songs."

My attention zones away from the distractions of the room to her.

Vaguely familiar, I can't place her ... dressed completely in black to further disguising her joy ... she's all business ... almost prayerful ... in that pregnant silence before singing.

Grimly delivering an Angelic version of an old Hymn with a new tune with lots of "Hallelujahs" thrown in, it's a beautiful juxtaposition of a promise given but not yet received.

The applause afterwards is heartfelt but we quickly move on to a participatory Austrian drinking song with lots of laughter.

My focus intensely remains on her.

Retrieving a half glass of beer she takes the tiniest of sips, stares at it, lays her guitar down to make her way to her ... I don't know who he is ... but they touch as she gives him the glass before making her way out of the room.

He smiles and takes a gulp.

She returns with water and dances in place to the happiness of the drinking song.

Flashbacks fire as a machine gun is stuck ... Bible Youth Camps, Revivals with 70s Pop songs, Sword Drills, Church Choir ... praying for the sinners and their drunken car wrecks ... vowing to never get high or have sex.

Like the others, I gave my testimony, made the bold proclamation I'm Christian and ... felt guilty as Hell when I got high and had sex.

Decades later I remain a believer but am much more demure about it.

It's what you do and not what you say.

Reminded of a past long gone, I admire her spunk and wonder what it'd be like to talk to her five years from now when her beliefs have changed with experience.

We continue to sing, enjoy community, laugh with occasional heartfelt moments as she takes her seat trying to fit back in ... though she's set herself apart ... so I watch as she smiles but draws inside.

Having proclaimed her faith, she seems uncertain of what to do next as the joyful expressions of music, laughter and friendship fill the hearts of everyone present.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

His Blessing

His Dementia is a blessing because he doesn't remember her dying.

Laying in bed, fading in and out of consciousness, she mumbled if she spoke, taking no notice of him sobbing beside her, in a fetal position, begging her to stay.

"Please don't leave me Liz ... I love you Honey ... I don't know what I'll do if you leave ..."

She couldn't wait.

"I want to go before him," she confided months earlier.

"What?" I shot, collapsing back in the chair I was climbing out to leave.

Sitting in the middle of the 1070s Sofa in their Living Room with her hands prayerfully folded between her knees, she sat straight staring intensely.

"I can't take it any more," she explained. "He's not who he was. He doesn't remember ... says the same things over and over ... I just can't anymore."

He is my patient.

I am HIS Chaplain.

She's just part of it.

"Why are you telling me?"

Her gaze fixes itself through the large plate glass window into the old Pooler subdivision but she continues speaking to me.

"We were a big part of the Church but when he got like this we stopped going. It was okay for a while because they visited but ... they stopped. It was boring ... he just repeats himself ... now it's just us and I can't do it anymore."

Moments of awkward silence followed until I said, "So ..." not knowing what else to say.

"Will you be my Preacher?" she asks returning the direct stare my way.

I hate the question.

The first time I was asked it cost me 8 years of pastoring a Church I didn't want in the inner city of Louisville, Kentucky.

After that I always said "No" until a Church in a Bar caught me at a bad time.

"Please?" Liz pleaded.

"Shit!" I muttered under my breath, standing and sitting beside her to say, "Of course."

Burying her head into my shoulder she sobbed.

Three months later, she's almost done and somewhere in his Dementia clouded brain, he understands.

Watching him beg as she exhales final breaths, I notice Liz's now unkempt hair, demented body and utter unconcern about appearance.

"Hey Jeri," I say touching his shoulder. "You want to get some coffee?"

"Micheal?" Liz asks through closed eyes.

"I thought you were avoiding me," I reply giving her a hug and she holds on ... glazed grey eyes appear through slits in her lids.

"How's Che?"

You never know what's going to happen at a death.

Our baby hadn't been born yet but Liz was in a place where she seemed to know what was going to happen before it did.

"It's all good Liz. How are you?"

"I love you Micheal," she whispers.

"Yeah," I wistfully say running my finger through her hair. "You're getting what you wanted Liz."

The faintest of smiles kisses her lips.

"What did she say?" Jeri asks from his fetal position.

I kiss Liz on the forehead before answering.

"She wants you to have coffee."

Pulling himself out of bed, he follows me into the kitchen.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

No Use Denying It

The flip side of it's best to be honest about it is there's no denying it.

In this particular instance I'm telling the absolute truth.

Wanting to buy Sarah flowers because she loves fresh blooms in our house and in a moment of complete lust and love, I promised we would always have them.

What that actually means is I remember to get them about half the time.

Today I am determined because it was a rough weekend and the Christmas Poinsettias she'd brought home from work stand as naked on the dining room table as John O'Neill at a Winnie roast.

Grabbing Che, our almost 3 month old baby, I strap her in the car seat, crank the car, turn up some Buffett and hit the south end of Butler Avenue heading north towards the mainland.

As soon as I turn north to leave the island, Che starts to cry ... not a little ... a LOT!

"Damn Baby," I assure her reaching an arm into the back seat to comfort her because federal law prohibits her from being in the front seat with me, "don't cry. I'd give you your pacifier if I could reach but ... I'd be pulled over by multiple cops, frisked, searched and probably arrested because you're crying."

I can't stand it when she cries so I do a U turn at 8th and Butler and head south.

The moment I do, Che stops crying.

"Hmm," I mubble, "maybe this'll work out after all" so at 13th and Butler I do another U turn.

Che immediately screams and in the rearview mirror I see real tears.

"Shit!" I mutter and do another U-bie at 10th.

She stops crying.

"No way," I say in wonderment. "Let's check this out!"

Driving south, I turn at Tybrisa (formerly 16th which sits between 15th and 17th but for some reason the City named it something else) towards the Ocean.

Jimmy's singing about changes in latitudes and Che's happily kicking her legs and flailing her arms.

Eventually I take a right back onto Butler heading north and Jimmy must have left because all I can hear is Che screaming at the top of her lungs.

At The Breakfast Club I hang a left making a beeline to Venetian Drive and take a sharp right south ... Che laughs.

"There's no denying you are my child," I say as we head towards Tybee Market, pronounced Iga.

Grabbing our baby, we stroll inside and get flowers by Wanda and meat from Matt the Butcher.

Che screams the  two-and-a-half blocks it takes to return home.

Laying her down, she happily falls asleep exhausted from our outing.

I cut the roses and place them in a vase pondering things.

We live on the southern end of a southern island in the South and while it's a great place, we'd like to head further south.

Somehow Sarah and I have already passed this on to our baby.

That's good.

I wonder how much further south it'll end up being?

My inclination is Che's gonna let us know when we get there.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Food Back Then

Like everyone else Sarah and I like to go out to eat but, truth be told, we're weary of going to the same places. I'm not into the chains and she's not a Seafood eater so our options are limited. We have some favorites but many a day, we struggle making a decision.

"Do you want?" she asks.

I shrug, "Eh."

"Yeah,' she agrees.

It's got me missing some really great places I wish I could take her but they've been gobbled up by the past and are no more.

But, Boy-Oh-Boy, I'd go back to these places in a heart beat and know Sarah would love them too.

Joe's Picnic Drive In in Garden City was a perfect backdrop for "American Graffiti" and "Happy Days" complete with drive in ordering/dining, tiny jukeboxes at the booths, a soda fountain, diner plates, shakes and burgers and fries. On Sunday night's after Church, we'd make our way to Joe's for one last celebration of the Lord's Supper before starting another week.

Frank Paris Restaurant in Thunderbolt was an easy destination for Savannah residents with it's full bar and fresh Seafood fresh from the Docks. Before the massive bridge was built, Paris' was a quaint riverside happening spot for romance and fun.  And there were plenty of romantic dark spots to make out in right outside.

Tanner's was a tiny place on Broughton Street didn't have a seat so you ate while standing. Hot dogs, hamburgers, fries were cooked before your eyes or you could have pickles from a jar, sandwiches made to go and it was all washed down with an Orange drink! Tanners was cool!

Ana's Little Napoli sat off Skidaway was dark, dripping of romance like moss, quaint, Italian with red-and-white tablecloths, wine bottles with melted wax holding a candle and had the best damn garlic cheese spread ever made. Ana herself sat at a tiny desk as you entered offering greetings and guiding you to the massive dark dining room. The place was always simply amazing.

Habersham House Restaurant was Johnnie Ganem's red brick wall and sawdust floor complete with "The Rebel Room" and serving "Garbage Steak" ... meat cut so fresh it had to be eaten the same day or thrown out!  I only got to enjoy here a few times before it closed but it's wondrous memory lingers still.

Tim's Burgers is the most recent addition to my list but this downtown Savannah hole-in-the-wall had the best hamburgers I've ever eaten. "If you can find a better burger buy it!" was a motto as was a photo of Tim's son claiming his Dad makes the best burgers and ... the kid was right. Nothing pretentious about it but it lived up to it's promises and still puts what is served as burgers today to shame.

Morrison's Cafeteria on Bull Street was THE PLACE to eat on Sunday and this was easily illustrated by the long line of families in Church clothes waiting on the side. Once inside another long line hugged the wall but you could see and hear the happy noises of the dining room until you finally made it to grab your tray, silverware and napkins before choosing from every food option in the known universe. AND at the cashier's stand by the door to leave they sold candy! Morrison's was everything to everybody!

Finally, Christy's at the Beach had four doors to enter, open windows to crawl through, a blasting juke box, didn't care what you wore in or if you were wet. Corn dogs, French fries, burgers, slushies' and soft serve ice cream was perfect beside the Ocean. The buildings still here and it's Surf Shop now but whenever I walk in, I'm carried back to Tybee days back then.

I miss these places though I wonder if they'd fit in today's world like they did in the one back then?

Probably not.

But it'd sure be nice to see.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Oh Well

"You're slipping out of sight," he says packing away his guitar while cocking his head back at me.

"No I'm not ... I'm just not doing stuff I used to do."

"Why not?" he asks, now standing to face me.

Dressed in a black denim shirt, blue jeans and Cowboy boots, while I'm wearing a blue tee shirt with the words "Three Sheets to the Wind" under a red and white sailing flag, shorts and flip-flops.

"Three Sheets to the Wind" is America's best Yacht Rock Band and I wear it regularly to Bar Church.

"I'm doing other things now," I answer.

"Doesn't seem like it," he snorts.

Shrugging my shoulders I stare pass him through the dark bar out the open door at people rushing down the main drag full of Surf Shops and bars towards the sounds of crashing waves.

"People miss it," he interrupts and I see he's staring directly at me, hands on hips as if he's preparing to draw imaginary pistols.

"Yeah, well," I shrug, "I still write and do things but ..." I trail off in lost thoughts.

"When?" he demands. "What things?"

He makes me tired ... the bone weary exhaustion when the supply of giving is dangerously low, coupled with the sad grasp most take without responding in kind.

I've just finished setting up for worship in a Bar, moving tables and chairs, lugging heavy speakers into place, getting the sound system to work, managing the needs of those who came to play, put a service together on the fly, sang from the heart, greeted every individual attending, told stories meant to uplift the listeners, tore down the stage and put everything back it was.

Worship's over and I've already punched out but he's wanting me to continue ... on behalf of others ... for him.

It's been this way most of my life ... making things happen for everyone else, which is righteous and Holy, but never considering the cost of how much they took from me.

Well," I sigh. "I write when I feel like it these days with little thought of owing it to anyone ... and I do the things I enjoy and try really hard to stay away from things I don't."

His face is red, full of consternation and perplexity as he continues to stare.

"Oh well," I finally say, embrace him goodbye, give a kiss to Mary who's helped and stroll outside into the warmth of a sunny day to make my home.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Relic of the Past

Sometimes the past slips though the present and finds you.

Opening a book, the lone unread one by a favorite author Morris West, the stub of an airline ticket falls in my lap.

Seat 7-A on Delta Airlines was mine in April heading to St. Martin.

I don't know which year, the ticket doesn't say but in April I was heading to meet Conner for a "Boy's Trip" when we'd hook up with our Caribbean friends for a week.

I examine the stub as though a relic of ancient history, proof of another time ... another life.

I was flying high in those days ... first class to every major American City ... the head of a ground breaking work ... sought after public speaker ... political manipulator for the common good ... author ... advisor to public and personal problems ... constantly in the News ... and because I'd accumulated a gazillion frequent flyer miles, and money wasn't much of an issue, I traveled wherever I wanted.

From the outside looking in, I was the epitome of success ... a rock star demanded by many ... a free empty-nester ... popular and young ... high on a mountain of accomplishments with my feet firmly planted in the sand beside the Ocean.

Inside looking out was a burning cauldron of misery ... an exhausted actor fed up with the part ... lonely in a marriage gone to shit ... out of the passion that drove me ... painfully aware there was nothing else to achieve so the desire to prove 'em wrong replaced by the sad reality of boredom.

The ticket's from seven or eight years ago and I'm no longer resemble the person who purchased it.

Most everything from those days are long gone and, while I sometimes miss the convenience of arrogance, I'm now on a new journey far away from the world of "making it big."

I am passionately in love with my wife ... work hard at understanding the three girls I got with her as they recoil in horror at me ... redefine the relationship with our adult kids ... hopelessly dote on our new baby girl ... have a few good friends ... and there's limited travel, few demands primarily because I no longer do the things I used to, lack of funds but a firm conviction that I no longer have to prove anything to anyone.

There are times when I wish I had the good things from my life then for the one I live now but ... while it was a Hell of a ride, there's no desire to go back.

As strange as it's been, life really has been good to me so far ... even the bad shit had some silver linings.

In fact, crazily and unexpectedly, without lots of stuff, life's better than it's ever been.

Grabbing the book, I stroll towards our baby Che's kicking in her seat making mobiles dance, pull my shirt off throwing it on a chair, grab my Seltzer and lime and drop the relic from the past in the trash on the way outside on a glorious sunny and warm January day.

Monday, January 9, 2017

How Does Holy Happen?

I was at Church yesterday but I definitely wasn't into it.

Given my druthers I wouldn't have gone but being the minister complicates things and I felt obligated ... which is a horrible motivation ... yet ... physically anyway ... I'm there.

Lots of clergy dread Sunday mornings but know they can't say it for fear of losing their job and, let's be honest, they're paid good money to stand in front of a crowd and speak on God's behalf.

Who else gets to be the center of the Universe for 20 minutes once a week?

Okay, musicians do ... but musicians have no idea how much they're getting paid whereas most Preachers know in advance.

Anyway, standing there leading Church, my mind's elsewhere.

It's cold as Hell outside and I'd rather be on a much warmer island in smaller latitudes ... I'm wearing way too many clothes ... it was tough leaving Che, our 10 week old baby after laying her down and even tougher not crawling back in bed with Sarah ... cold boat drinks on a hot Beach would nice ... why am I here?

The last musing's not cosmic as in "What is my purpose in the Universe?" but specifically local ... "What in God's name has kept me on this clump of sand for three decades when there are other islands where I'm dying to live?"

A small but friendly, almost excited, congregation stumble inside the Bar, bringing bags and baskets of food to spread on the Pool table and the hungry come followed by islanders and tourists unconcerned about time.

Guest musicians arrive and today's Band is born forcing me to understand who wants to play what, assemble some order, occasionally manage oversized egos and back into whatever my contribution will be in the service.

Many Sundays I stick whatever sermon I prepared back in my pocket because someone else has something they feel more important that day.

It's cool.

I don't try to plan the service ... I ride whatever wave it is that day ... sometimes it's a massive swell crashing holiness everywhere but it can also be the tiniest of barely discernable Ocean hiccups.

The only constant is every Sunday morning someone sees the lit neon Budweiser and Coors signs and rush into the middle of Church to order a round.

The look of disappointment on their faces is heartbreaking as they leave the service.

We begin and I fumble the first chords and mangle the lyrics cause I'm wondering who's going to show up next Sunday ... if anyone.

Worship unfolds.

Songs are sung ... people clap ... prayers mumbled ... stories told ... smiles flash ... and the hungry keep eating.

When it's over I'm tired and want to hurry home.

"Hey man," he says embracing me with moist eyes, "thank you for that! It's just what I needed today ... It's been so hard ... thank you" and his voice cracks ... and something in my heart does too.

How does Holy happen?

I have no idea.

But when it does, it's sure as Hell worth the headaches.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Restlessly Wandering

Watching huge lemons drop from an abundantly blessed tree, a light Ocean breeze carries salt through the Confederate Jasmine covering the railing of the Beloved Back Deck.

The pink bloom of a Petunia stands at attention in the flower pot beside my outdoor writing desk.

A yellow sun plays hide and seek behind white wisps of stringy clouds.

A few trees sadly stand naked of leaves and overshadowed by the evergreens.

Bare feet dangle from the chair draped with a red "Club Orient" beach towel hiding ugly cushions raising me to the proper height to stare at the computer screen streaming "Alice Cooper."

Wearing only black running shorts, I'm trying to catch rays on the second day of January.

I know ... it's a dichotomy.

So was the year.

While I worked with the dying, Sarah and I were given new life with our baby girl, Che.

The world lost many I came to love but it gained too with her birth and babies born to our friends.

Back inside the work environment I was a stranger in a strange land in a corporate world focused on profits at the expense of loyalty and employee well being, forever demanding more be done with less ... which, of course, makes no sense.

Slowly killing myself, I lived to drink and in excess drank to live and it almost cost me the very things I'm living for.

Having believed the creedo "the more you give the more that is given to you," I've learned the more you give ... the more they take ... though certainly there are nice exceptions fooling me into again adhering to the creedo.

Accustomed to being in control, I'm now accepting how little I have.

The old year died leaving me saddled with these things and the new one's begun with me intensely watching lemons drop to the ground on a beautiful day that will not last the winter.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Charlie the Christmas Coral

Charlie the Coral wanted to be a Christmas Tree.

He'd seen one on a boat passing by over his head. Through the clear Caribbean water, he saw the green decorated tree lighting the stern of the boat, different colored lights blinking on and off.

The tree was surrounded by people admiring it and singing in the fair night. He heard someone say the word "Christmas" and thought it was a beautiful word. He knew what trees were because some grew on the beach just on the other side of the water.

Looking at himself, Charlie saw a big brownish rock covered with red, green and brown algae. There were holes in him which fish swam through and lobsters sometimes hid.

Most of the other coral were bigger than him. Charlie was still young and growing and while everyone thought he to be a handsome coral, Charlie wanted to be a Christmas Tree when he grew up.

Charlie had loved the tree ever since and thought Christmas must be wonderful. Under the Ocean, it didn't mean anything.

Most of the fish who lived with him weren't interested in talking about what Christmas might be as they darted pass, playing fishy games and trying to stay away from the bigger fish who might eat them.

The other coral scattered around the sandy Ocean floor were simply content being coral. But Charlie was different. He dreamed he could be anything he wanted ... even a Christmas Tree. The older coral told him to stop thinking foolish thoughts.

"You're coral and nothing else," old Mr. Coral told him. "It's a good life. There is plankton to live on and fish to keep us company. Sometimes people come down to see us. It's important to know your place in the world Charlie! Coral are supposed to be under the water. Christmas is for people ... NOT US! You don't see fish thinking about it! Or the Stingray! Dolphins certainly don't. Sharks either!"

Charlie listened wishing some fish would swim into his ears and plug them but finally asked, "You know about Christmas? What about the Tree of Lights?" and the excitement in his voice startled a school of fish who quickly darted away.

Glad someone was talking to him for a change, the old coral, puffed up a bit to show off his knowledge and spoke like a Teacher.  "People believe putting lights on trees is pretty. Once a year they get them from the forest and put them in their homes. They decorate the trees to pay them honor ... once a year. The rest of the time, people don't pay much attention to trees. It's sad they don't get along more."

"But how do they bring the trees from the forest to their homes?" Charlie asked.

"They cut them down," old Mr. Coral answered.

Knowing how people can sometimes be, Charlie listed in horror as he'd once watched some drop an anchor on Lucy the Coral as they fished. The heavy anchor cut off one of her fingers and it now lay grey and dead near her. Whenever Lucy saw it, she cried. Charlie looked at her in the distance in silence.

"But the trees are so pretty. The stars rest on their branches and different colors dance around them," Charlie  mused, not wanting to be cut down but still wishing he was a Christmas Tree.

Old Mr. Coral looked sternly at Charlie. "Listen, coral are coral. Our place is here in the water. We are food and shelter to the fish. We are important to the world. Being coral is better than being a Christmas Tree so put all of this foolishness out of your mind right now!"

Charlie signed looking at the rusty anchor that had cut off Lucy's finger. Old Mr. Coral was probably right.

That night Charlie dreamed people came and cut him down. They used a big saw and cut him off right at the bottom. It hurt and he cried when they took him to the boat. Setting him in the stern, they placed stars and bright lights and colored balls all over him. At first it made him feel good until he saw a real Christmas Tree beside him and was ashamed and embarrassed.

Charlie woke in the dark night-time water and was glad to still be home between Old Mr. Coral and Lucy. His friends floated nearby. It was only a dream. Charlie began to cry.

Finny Fish woke and asked, "What's wrong Charlie?"

"I want to be a Christmas Tree," Charlie explained, "but I don't want to leave home. I am coral and that's important but I'm more than that too! I want to shine underwater with bright colors on me to make everyone feel good when they see me ... even Old Mr. Coral. Lucy could look at me and forget about the anchor that broke her finger."

Finny Fish listened patiently to his friend and replied, "But Charlie the fish need you. You are our home. You give us food. You are my friend."

"I know," Charlie cried, "but I still want to be more."

Now Finny Fish was smart and thought about how to help his friend.

He thought and thought and thought until finally he said, "Charlie please tell me exactly what a Christmas Tree looks like."

So Charlie the Coral, who loved Christmas Trees, told Finny the Fish all about them.

Finny listened carefully and then told Charlie his idea. Charlie nodded ... happy, excited and scared all at the same time.

Finny swam to his school and to other ones too asking for their help.

Soon hundreds of fish swam around Charlie the Coral and Finny Fish smiled and yelled, "Is everyone ready?"

"YES!" they bubbled.

"OKAY! GO" Finny shouted.

Hundreds of fish began to eat, most at the top and just a little at the bottom. It took a long time because the tiny fish had to scrape their teeth against Charlie to eat the algae. As they did, bits and pieces of coral fell away.

When they finished, Charlie was broad and round at the bottom, slender in the middle and came to a point at the top. There was no algae left on him but Charlie knew it would grow back.

The next morning Old Mr. Coral woke, yawned and looked at the sun shinning above the blue Ocean. He nodded greetings to Lucy Coral and said, "Good Morning" to the fish who seemed full and sleepy floating around him.

But when he look towards Charlie, he couldn't believe what he saw.

Charlie the Coral looked like a Christmas Tree.

"The fish did it!' Charlie happily explained. "They ate all night long in just the right places."

"But Charlie," Old Mr. Coral sighed, "you're still not a Christmas Tree. You are coral."

"I know and I want to be coral," Charlie grinned, "but watch this!"

Finny Fish and Charlie's other fishy friends swam to him, circling around and through his holes ... green, blue, yellow and red ... lighting up the Ocean bottom in color.

"He looks just like a Christmas Tree," Old Mr. Coral laughed.

"You are beautiful Charlie," Lucy Coral called.

Old Mr. Coral nodded in agreement. Charlie and his friends were right.

Soon every Dolphin, shark, stingray, shrimp and lobster came to see for themselves and everyone thought Charlie was a wonderful sight.

Now if someone feels bad, they look for Charlie. If Lucy is sad because the anchor cut off her finger or Old Mr. Coral is sick or on special days and days that aren't so special, Finny Fish and his friends swim around and through Charlie the Christmas Coral and everyone is happy again.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Unplugging Christmas

Once you strip away all of the pomp and circumstance, traditions and theologies, pretense and imagination, revised histories and fictionalized versions of the story ... you can finally unplug Christmas.

When you forget who begat who, Angels flying solo or singing in choirs, Prophets and political intrigue, Little Drummer Boys and Charlie Brown's Christmas ... you finally reach the stripped down story.

Before decades of embellishment in the retelling, Cantatas and Carols, trees with lights, Holly, mistletoe, gift swapping and special candlelight services ... this is what happened.

Mary gets pregnant and thanks God she is.

She's engaged but not married when she consistently begins missing her period.

Her finance Joseph, upset and embarrassed with his pregnant not-yet-wife, contemplates calling off the marriage but obviously loves Mary and goes through with it.

They have a baby boy.

The world's never been the same.

That's what happened.

Sure all that other stuff ... Angel's appearing in dreams to tell Mary it's God's baby she's having or Joseph to get the family the Hell out of there because of Government instigated murder ... Wise Men bearing Gifts following a star ... who knows if Shepherds tending their flocks actually visited ... even the birth in a manger because there was no room in the Inn ... make for one great story but were added later as what happened was told and retold.

All together it is the Hollywood version of the birth of the Messiah!

As nice and wondrous as they are, they're not really necessary.

Two of the four Gospels don't mention any of this at all preferring to focus on the end of the story ... a boy was born and the world's never been the same!

Matthew, the Jewish version, is the masculine take on the birth of Jesus and focuses on Joseph, Jesus' surrogate father while Luke, the Greek version, is the feminine account and through the eyes of Mary.

Both pack the plot with tons of extras who over the next several decades become integral to the story.

We're still adding to the cast with Little Drummer Boys, Santa Claus, Red-nose Reindeer, Snoopy and a Grinch who steals from believers in everything.

They're all great and wonderful ... I just love "A Charlie Brown Christmas" ... but they don't get to the heart of Christmas.

It's a very human story about faith.

A pregnant woman believes God blesses her with a baby and her lover goes ahead with the marriage after some second guessing because, in the end, he loves her more than anything and they have a baby boy.

Honestly the same story had played itself out countless times before Mary told Joseph the good news and still happens every single day.

I've been the protagonist in the very same story myself on more than one occasion!

It's really unimportant though which is why neither Mark or John pay any attention to the birth stories of Jesus ... who cares how he got here ... all that matters is he did.

The boy lives a short life ... 30 years by one account and 33 by another ... but he left his mark.

Jesus says and does a lot in a little while but in the end his message is a simple one:

 
Love the Lord your God
with all your heart and mind and soul
and
love your neighbor as you love yourself
 
 
That's what he had to say.
 
But if you believe like Mary did, every newborn baby is a message from God and this is the one Jesus came to symbolize.
 
For God so loves the world
he sends his son
and if you believe
every little things gonna be alright
and you can really start living now.
 
We have a newborn baby in our house this Christmas and she came about pretty much like Jesus did save Sarah and I were already married but no less surprised than Mary and Joseph.
 
Missed periods led to calling out God's name and serious second thoughts about lots of things but we went through with it anyway and now we have a baby girl.
 
Who knows what message God's sent the world through her?
 
Happy Christmas Everyone!
 
Micheal


Friday, December 16, 2016

Seeing for Miles

"OH GOOD! IT'S YOU!" he exclaims looking up from the junk mail he's opening at the Kitchen Table which is how he fills his empty days.

"It is," I say leaning over to hug him and he tightly squeezes in return.

He smiles and gives me his undivided attention, dropping the letter opener and the mail.

"It's good to see you too," I laugh. "Now tell me who I am."

The smile fades as he concentrates struggling to remember.

Light flashes in his eyes and the grin returns, "Philip" he announces.

"No, it's Micheal," I reply hitting his arm.

"OH HEY MICHEAL!" he gleefully exclaims. "HOW'S CHE?"

"Seriously," I laugh. "You can remember my baby's name, whom you've never met, but you can't remember mine?"

"Want some coffee?" he offers.

"You killing me," I sigh.

"I'm the one on Hospice," he quickly counters.

"Touché," I laugh.

He begins speaking in multiple languages ... French, German, Italian ... before I call halt, holding up my hand in front of his face, and he stops looking at me intently.

His son watches our exchange as does his full time caregiver, in the home where his wife recently passed in with him cuddled beside her in their bed, and me and Nurse Vickie ... I don't know what we were doing ... we certainly weren't in charge of anything ... we were simply there.

"Don't leave me," he pleads after 50 years of marriage.

But she was ready ... had told me so ... so she left him.

I thought it would kill him but the man is amazing and has rebounded though he couldn't call my name if his life depended on it.

Standing to leave, he grabs my hand and loudly announces, "YOU ARE MY BEST FRIEND! I LOVE YOU!"

Crying, I hug him again and say, "I love you."

Stoically his son blurts, "You came all this way just to see him?"

I don't care for his son ... or his brother ... who bide their time ... waiting ... calculating ... anticipating ... passing the buck they'd rather count in the inheritance.

"Yeah," I say. "I'll be back before Christmas," I tell the caregiver ... ignoring the son.

"It's Christmas?" he asks. "I knew that! I got a Christmas Card from my daughter ... I think she's dead ... is she?"

"Yeah," I squeeze his shoulder. "Remember ... she fell off a horse."

"She did?" he asks.

Driving back for lunch with Sarah and our girls, I'm lost in thought, mesmerized by the lights God's throwing on High Tides in the marsh.

"You're a Dinosaur," a dear friend tells me. "An old fashion plumber who doesn't use the latest technology or shortcuts ... and's only needed by the occasional person who needs a fix when no one else understands the old fashion ways."

On Sirius XM is blasting "Deep Cuts" through the open sun roof gliding through the marshes carrying me home to Tybee Island as "The Who" reminds me "I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles."

Maybe it didn't help the Dinosaurs to see that far ... but I swear ... it helps me.
"I never thought I'd see you again," he grins opening the door looking like death warmed over because ... he is.

Resembling an emaciated Abraham Lincoln leaning on one crutch, he could easily play the lead in a Zombie movie.

"Why not?" I ask hugging the black leather jacket covering the saggy skin loosely padding his bag of bones body ... though he's got great hair and the song "Werewolf of London" pops in my head.

"Told me you'd been replaced by the other Chaplain," he explains releasing me from the embrace to light a cigarette and grin again.

"Yeah it's true. I'm here as your friend and not your Chaplain. You letting me in or not?"

"Hell Yeah!" he laughs limping to the kitchen motioning me to follow.

The tiny junk filled room he rents is to the right of the tailor's front door and filled with Fed-Ex boxes of medicine, unopened cans of food and half drank cups of coffee.

To the left is a cozy and well kept living room kitchen area overstuffed with other people's furniture.

"Coffee?" he asks, sticking a cold cup in the microwave.

"I'm not touching that stuff you drink," I chide.

Laughing, he hobbles to the seat beside me at the kitchen table without spilling a drop, grins broadly before repeating, "I never thought I'd see you again."

"You believe everything they tell you?"

"Naw and if they're smart they don't believe everything I tell them either."

Laughing I lean forward and ask, "Like what?"

"I can't tell you," he delights.

"Why not?" I grin sitting straight, "I don't work for them anymore."

So he tells me.

And we laugh.

"Don't tell anybody," he says squeezing happy tears from his eyes.

"Who am I gonna tell?"

Bursting into laughter again, he shrugs and answers, "I don't know."

"How's Che?" he asks suddenly changing the subject. "You got pictures?"

"Of course I have pictures," I grin sticking my phone in his face gleefully showing him our baby.

"Already stolen your heart," he concludes taking a long drag from his cigarette.

"Yeah," I grin putting my phone away while standing to leave.

"Aw, you gotta go?" he asks lighting another one.

"I can stay here with you or go hug my baby," I explain hugging him again. "What would you do?"

Laughing I feel his bony arms squeeze me, "Get the Hell out of here."

Making my way to the door he suddenly asks, "Hey! You coming back?"

"Why wouldn't I?"

Laughing, cigarette ash falls into his coffee, he smirks "I can't think of a single reason."

"Me either," I laugh crawling inside my car.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

My Queer Friends

"I don't want him," she spits sitting in her kitchen, dressed in a blue nightgown, balled up and mad.

"Why not?" I ask sitting between her and her grandson who's working on the crossword puzzle as lunch simmers on the old fashion stove.

"He's Queer!" she almost shouts.

"What?" I spit, laughing.

"He's Queer!" she repeats angrily at me.

"Sexually challenged," her grandson smirks.

"He is not," I protest still giggling.

"Pour the noodles in the water," she instructs her grandson. "It's boiling."

"You're not changing the subject," I insert padding her hand and she grabs hold.

"I have to put the noodles in the water Micheal," the grandson explains.

"I'm not talking to you," I answer.

"He's not Queer! His finance lives with him."

"He's a Sinner!" she bellows.

Almost falling out of my chair laughing, I finally compose myself and say, "Damned if you do damned if you don't, huh?"

And she laughs, moving her hand up my arm to say, "I love you."

"Well I love you too but who cares if he's Queer or not. Jesus loves him ... remember? ... red and yellow, black and white?"

Stirring the noodles, the grandson softly sings "Jesus Loves Me."

"You still gonna come?" she asks.

"Yes," I reply running my arm up hers, "because you look terrible ... your hair's not combed ... you're having Fish Sticks with noodles for lunch ... and think Queers are bad people."

"She didn't mean Queer that way," he says, refraining from Jesus loving us and the stirring the noodles.

"She did too," I scold.

"Well ... yeah ..." he grins stirring the noodles.

"I'll tell you something else," I say looking into her face, "Jesus loves Hillary Clinton every bit as much as Donald Trump."

The kitchen is full of the sound of boiling water and pins dropping.

"He's gonna save our country," she finally says.

"Hope so," I sigh standing up.

"You're not leaving," he asks, "there's some Bible things in the crossword puzzle you can help me answer."

"When you coming back?" she asks, almost pleadingly.

"As soon as I finish Christmas shopping for my Queer friends and family."

He laughs almost knocking the pot full of noodles off the tiny stove.

"Well that shouldn't take too long," she grins, kissing me on the cheek.

"You have no idea," I laugh leaving the tiny house.