a husband

The most important thing in the world is family and love.
John Wooden


(my husband during the latest trip to the beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

A while back, shortly following Dad’s death, a blogging friend inquired about
my husband.
This friend had been patiently and graciously following my sad daily
tale of Dad’s battle with cancer.
This friend had also joined in prayer and was an ardent supporter offering words
of consolation and hope during my 24/7 ordeal of driving over daily those many months
to care for Dad as well as my stepmother.
He had wondered in all of this ordeal about my husband as he was pretty certain
I had, form time to time, mentioned having one…
so he was wondering if he had been supportive.

And it did seem as if I was “alone” a good bit of the time during my time of constant
care management but that’s what happens…not everyone can drop everything, when life
comes calling, as there has to be someone who remains behind holding down the fort.

I do have a husband.

I’ve written about my husband from time to time here in cookie land,
but he prefers that I don’t.
He doesn’t quite understand this “blob” of mine and why I do it and what it’s all about.
He is why I don’t “do” Facebook as he was adamantly opposed when that thing called
social media first hit the forefront of our now virtual reality.

He doesn’t have time for virtual reality because he is really too busy in the literal reality
of the daily grind of working and living….

So if you will indulge me a few words, I will share a little about the role my husband
played and continues to play as I think father’s day is a most appropriate day to do so….

We’ve been married just shy of 35 years.
My husband was a confirmed bachelor and is actually 10 years older than I am.
He was 33 when we married and I was a fresh out of college, naive young teacher of 23.
We have one child, a son who is now 28.
We also have two cats and a grand dog.

My husband, who at 67 is tired and would very much like to retire, but likes
to be able to pay the bills…
and we do like to eat.

Five years ago when things began to take a nose dive in the health and wellbeing with
my dad and stepmother, it was my husband who told me that with 31 years in under
my belt, he had decided I needed to “retire” so I could be more available to them there
in Atlanta.
He’d pick up the economic slack so I could go and do.

I felt badly because my husband had been working since he was 14 years old, having
lied to a local manufacturing plant about his age.
His father was a long time and long suffering alcoholic and my husband actually
had lived in 8 different homes before entering 3rd grade for theirs was a life of
physical pain, mental anguish and uncertainty.
I felt if anyone deserved to retire, it was him rather than me.

He took over his family’s jewelry business in 1976 and has been running a small town
business ever since.
Anyone who has ever worked retail or owned their own business can understand the
overwhelming anxiety and uncertainly that comes with such.
It has not always been easy…as the business has ebbed and flowed.

Add to that that it took our son a while to get through school.
He has lived with, as well as learned how to cope with,
a very difficult learning disability that made school at times an
insurmountable obstacle.

My husband worked, as I worked, but I was afforded the time of summers to help our son
by ferrying him to a regime of various tutors as we spent one entire summer
driving daily to Atlanta to a school for kids with dyslexia…
We could not afford the school on a year round basis…so we paid for what we could
and took advantage of each opportunity.

My husband always made certain that our son would have the tools necessary
to succeed even if that meant he was constantly working at the store in order
to make it so.

And that success was made a reality last summer the day our son graduated college.

My husband attended college…. albeit briefly.
His saving grace growing up was football and he actually earned an athletic scholarship
when he was a walk-on with the school’s football team.
He had wanted to be a coach or a dentist but his father demanded he
quit college after just two years because the family business needed him—
he sent my reluctant yet dutiful husband to jewelry school in New York.
The last thing he wanted to be was a jeweler tied down for a lifetime
in a family business.

My husband went to New York under a sense of obligation to a man who had
caused him so much pain,
but thought being a dutiful son was more important in the bigger scheme of life.

And even years later, having spent years alienated from not only his father but
the majority of his immediate family due to the utter collapse of dysfunction
run amuck in an alcoholic family, my husband found himself caring for his
ailing 92 year old widowed father…

We’d cook his meals, and once my husband got off work, we’d drive several evenings
throughout the week to the small town his father called home….
all until his father’s death a year ago.

That story is a long mess unto itself, but a mess that my husband took on all
on his own.
Simply doing what he deemed to be the right thing for a man who never opted to
do the right thing by a once vulnerable young boy turned now grown son.
Yet I think God always has a way of honoring such selflessness…as I keep reminding
my husband when he laments doing what he did as it has now proven to be problematic
with those who chose to remain in the quagmire of dysfunction.

For that is what my husband does…the right thing when others, including myself,
would readily say forget it…that’s not your worry, your problem…
that bed has been made, let them all just lie in it…

But the thing is… my husband sees that the right thing, the selfless thing, in
the long run, is just that…the right thing…
and he’s never been one to keep a record of wrongs…
deciding long ago that life is bigger than keeping or settling a score.

And so it was, as I spent the past several years running back and forth, tending
to my own father’s life and eventual death…
my husband was working 6 days a week, 14 hours a day,
keeping things at home a float so I could focus solely on my Dad…his father-n-law.
Not a perfect man either, but a man who had had a child and having eventually
grown old and sick, needed that child.

And so today, this day of all things fathers,
I am left remembering the men in my life who have each come and gone,
leaving both this world and me behind…
yet I am forever grateful to and for the one man who remains…by my side…

For despite his having wondered, as I’m certain he has done from time to time,
as to why he has indeed remained so steadfast by my side,
he’s simply doing what he deems to be the right thing no matter what…
and I’m certainly the better for this most thoughtful and dutiful man!
so…..
Happy Father’s Day

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is
alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?

Ecclesiastes 4:9-11

hands

“I take comfort in the fact that somehow,
in the mysterious resources of the human spirit,
even pain can serve a higher end.”

Dr. Paul Brand

“I don’t pray that you may be delivered from your troubles.
Instead, I pray that God will give you the strength and
patience to bear them.”

Brother Lawrence

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(the hands of Mother Teresa / A Photographic Record by Michael Collopy)

The other evening a visitor to my blog made a comment on a post that I had actually
written 3 years ago…

It was a post about feet.

And the feet in question were not just any pair of feet,
but rather the tired and worn feet of a relentless saint of a woman.

A woman, mind you, Pope Francis most recently declared a saint.

(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/these-feet-were-made-for-love/)

For some, especially my high school students…at the time I had originally shared the photograph,
the image of her feet were hard to look at…
for the image was that of a pair of feet that had not lived a pampered life
but rather a life of back breaking labor, toil and work….

And we are each the better for those feet.

In the commentary of the post, a dear friend of mine lovingly and sweetly reminisced
about the rough and worn hands of her grandmother.
Recalling the vivid details that had been etched on her young heart.

The new visitor added to that very train of thought with her own poignant memories of the rough and worn hands of her aunt…and of the very touching response from her uncle to her aunt’s weary anguish over her “ugly worn out hands”…

There is a post unto itself in her very touching words…

And it was today that I read the most beautiful tale of hands that I thought most appropriate to share with this most current thought of hands…

“What practical effect does Christ’s identification have on the person who actually suffers?
A dramatic example of the effect of this truth was seen in
the ministry of Dr Paul Brand while he was working among leprosy patients in Vellore, India.
There he preached a sermon, one of his best known and best loved.
At the time, Brand and his workers were among the few in the area who would
touch or closely approach a person with Hansen’s disease—townspeople quarantined them.
Brand slipped in late to a patients’ gathering,
sitting on the mat at the edge of an open courtyard.
The air was heavy with combined odors of crowding bodies,
poverty, stale spices, treated bandages.

The patients insisted on a few words from Dr Brand,
and he reluctantly agreed.
He stood for a moment, empty of ideas, looking at the patients before him.
His eyes were drawn to their hands, dozens of them,
most pulled inward in the familiar “leprosy claw-hand,” some with no fingers,
some with a few stumps.
Many patients sat on their hands or otherwise hid them from view.

“I am a hand surgeon,” he began and waited for the translation into Tamil and Hindi.
“So when I meet people, I can’t help looking at their hands.
The palmist claims he can tell you your future by looking at your hands.
I can tell your past.
For instance I can tell what your trade has been by the position of the
calluses and the condition of the nails.
I can tell a lot about your character,
I love hands.”

He paused and looked at the eager faces.
“How I would love to have had the chance to meet Christ and study his hands!
But knowing what he was like, I can almost picture them, feel them.”

He paused again,
then wondered aloud what it would have been like to meet Christ and study his hands.
He traced the hands of Christ,
beginning with infancy when his hands were small, helpless, futilely grasping.
Then came the hands of the boy Jesus, clumsily holding a brush or stylus,
trying to form letters of the alphabet.
Then the hands of Christ the carpenter—
rough, gnarled, with broken fingernails and bruises from working with saw and hammer.

Then there were the hands of Christ the physician, the healer.
Compassion and sensitivity seemed to radiate from them,
so much so that when he touched people they could feel
something of the divine spirit coming through.
Christ touched the blind, the diseased, the needy.

“Then,” continued Dr. Brand,
“there were his crucified hands.
It hurts me to think of a nail being driven through the center of my hand,
because I know what goes on there,
the tremendous complex of tendons, and nerves and blood vessels and muscles.
It’s impossible to drive a spike through its center without crippling it.
The thought of those healing hands being crippled reminds me
of what Christ was prepared to endure.
In that act he identified himself with all the deformed and crippled
human beings in the world.
Not only was he able to endure poverty with the poor,
weariness with the tired,
but–clawed hands with the cripple.”

The effect on the listening patients,
all social outcasts,
was electrifying.
Jesus—a cripple,
with claw hand like theirs?

Brand continued.
“And then there were his resurrected hands.
One of the things I find most astounding is that though we think of the
future life as something perfected,
when Christ appeared to his disciples he said,
“Come look at my hands,’ and he invited Thomas to put his finger into the print of the nail.
Why did he want to keep the wounds of his humanity?
Wasn’t it because he wanted to carry back with him an eternal reminder
of the sufferings of those on earth?
He carried the marks of suffering so he could continue to understand the needs
of this suffering.
He wanted to be forever on with us.”

As he finished, Paul Brand was again conscious of the hands as they were lifted,
all over the courtyard,
palm to palm in the Indian gesture of respect, namaste.
The hands were the same stumps, the same missing fingers and crooked arches.
Yet no one tried to hide them.
They were held high, close to the face, in respect for Brand,
but also with new pride and dignity.
God’s own response to suffering made theirs easier.

T.S. Elliot wrote in one of his Four Quartets:
The wounded surgeon plies the steel
the questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart

The surgery of life hurts. It helps me, though, to know
that the Surgeon himself, the Wounded Surgeon,
has felt every stab of pain and every sorrow.

Philip Yancey
Jesus’ Reminders

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https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/these-feet-were-made-for-love/

Here is a P.S. to today’s post

A very nice and humbling thing has taken place today over on the Artistic Christian–a great blog spot where John, a minister of music out in Texas, has created a place to showcase the works of Christian artists from all over—artists found in all sorts of creative venues—be it the visual arts, music, literature, you name it—–and today, John was kind in wanting to feature me.
Natalie, from Sacred Touches has told John about Cookiecrumbs, and wanted to share with others some of my works, of which I am grateful and truly humbled.

Here is the link. . .

https://theartisticchristian.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/christian-artist-feature-julie-cookie/

(but you should know I was raised in the Episcopal Chruch 🙂 )

Happy Anniversary. . .to you and me…to us

We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.
W. Somerset Maugham

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(a lovely mum from a bouquet, Julie Cook / 2013)

This lovely flower is the very first image I posted, exactly one year ago today, to this little blog of mine. Stating that we all needed a little color— reminding us of brighter days ahead.

The other post that day was a bit more reflective as I explained the impetus behind the inception of the blog. The reasons remain the same, much as they did this time last year. A retired educator who felt as if she still had things to “teach” and share, as well as a daughter who was beginning the adventures of dealing with an elderly father in the early throws of Alzheimer’s disease.

I didn’t know what to expect.
I pretty much figured I’d be rattling on to the wind.
I wasn’t necessarily a technology savvy individual nor was I much for social media preferring to eschew things such as FaceBook and Twitter.
Blogging seemed to allow space for the hidden writer, it was a blank canvas waiting to be filled.
It also provided an avenue of creativity for the retired art teacher—allowing for a new vehicle of expression–that being a bit of photography. Nothing fancy smancy, just the capturing of life, specifically that being images from Nature–affording me time to be in the place I love, out of doors.

You have allowed me to share with you my better moments as a human being, as well as those not so grand moments of my life. You have allowed me to do something that I had always wanted to do, but due to work and life. . .I simply had not the time—that being the opportunity of a chance to write. It is not that my writing is of any significance nor even something that is a virtue of our English Language. I have never been one who could spell and I greatly suspect my son inherited that learning disability of his from his mother as I imagine there just may be a bit of dyslexia lurking under my surface.

You have supported me during those heavier days of life. You have offered kind words, prayers, suggestions, and merely an ear to listen and a shoulder of support as I’ve grieved watching my dad slowly shrink from my world. The grieving continues today but I feel as if the initial sorrow has given way to the resolve of, borrowing from that most emblematic phrase, “Keeping Calm and Carrying On” —he isn’t getting better nor are the issues of trying to keep his world above water, but there is humor hiding in the frustration and sadness and just knowing that I can write about it, sharing it with you, has been a wonderful anchor in a stormy sea.

We have laughed together and cried together as you have allowed me to share in your life’s adventures as well. I have made many new and wonderful friends. Far away friends living in Australia, Bulgaria, Italy, England, Wales, Canada, France, the Philippines and India, as well as friends a bit closer–those from Wisconsin, Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Maine, Florida and California to name but a few. 280 of you have honored me by following along on this blog of mine with almost 14,000 views, as well as a little over 1300 comments. All this from a little blog which was started a mere year ago with no ties to social media, from a person who just wanted to share her heart with others.

You are business people, educators, monks, priests, nuns, college students, high school students, single folks, married folks, grandparents—you are artists, photographers, woodworkers, cooks, bee keepers, world travelers, scientists, professors, mathematicians, philosophers, theologians, students, unemployed, overly employed, retirees, singers, dancers, friends and strangers. Some of you know me know me, others of you know me only from this blog.

Magically hiding in the midst of all of us is but a single element which binds and ties us all wonderfully together. . .that being the single thread from this journey we call life. We are all traveling along the same journey—one of birth, life and death. To travel along this sometimes joyful and sometimes woeful journey with other fellow travelers can be so very inspiring, so uplifting and so very beneficial. The singleness of our humanity inextricably unites us together, linking us all, for good or bad, as members of this family of humankind. As one who has been afford the gift of your wisdom, knowledge, experience, faith and love. . . it is I who now humbly wishes to thank each of you for the generosity you have shown to me—for the warmth, kindness, openness and acceptance. I have learned so very much from each you— from your lives and your life’s work. You have made me a wiser person, a more thoughtful person, a more open person, a grateful person.

So it is to you, on this 25th day of February, that I raise my glass offering you my heart and prayers for this, our Happy Anniversary!
Thank you. . .
***Also a little shout out to the two other blogs I contribute to via photography
The Legion of Door Whores (I know, I know. . .) legionofdoorwhores.wordpress.com
What light through yonder window breaks? whatlightthroughyonderwindow.wordpress.com

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