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

I am what I am….

“I am what I am,
and that’s all that I am.”

Popeye

popeye_black_white_cartoon
(Popeye the sailor man)

I grew up watching, and loving, the old black and white cartoon exploits of Popeye the Sailor man–
That one eyed, pipe smoking, old salt of a sailor…
Along with his sidekick and girlfriend Olive Oyl, the antagonist, Bluto (later known as Brutus),
as well as little Swee’Pea, Wimpy, Poopdeck Pappy, the She Hag and Alice the Goon…
Popeye has been one of the longest running cartoon comic strips having made his debut in 1929.

Popeye was a bit of a rough neck yet was always the good guy.
Whenever he found himself in a jam or was having the living tar beat out of him by Brutus…
which always stemmed from some sort of fight over a girl, in this case the skinny and whinny Olive Oyl…
Popeye would always pull out, from nowhere, a miraculous can of spinach…
He’d bust open that can,
swallowing the contents whole,
then he would proceed to swell with muscles and superhuman strength…
all of which would allow him to beat the ever living slop out of Brutus…
or whomever was causing him woe.

Moms all over the country used that idea and image of Popeye eating spinach in order to get their kids to eat their spinach. And back in day, spinach came from the grocery store in a can…nothing like the healthy fresh stuff of today.

And as far as I was concerned, it worked…I’d eat my spinach every time…

Popeye was famous for mumbling and singing to himself but one of his more vocal and
enunciated phrases was
“I am what I am and that’s all that I am”

And out of the blue…this morning…that very expression…
came racing back…
out from the depths of a stored away childhood,
racing to the forefront of now…

“I am what I am and that is all that I am…”

Me…
yes…
simply me…
nothing more, nothing less.
Just me.
No spinach,
no bravado,
no pretense,
no falsehoods of expectations or promises…
for good and for bad…
just me.

Striped away of everything and anything that gives off some sort of “other than”
and false perception…
I am…
just me…

And given my life’s precariousness of these current days…
the fact that I am not super human, despite ingesting as much spinach as I can, I am…
simply…
me…
nothing more
and nothing less.

My dad loved seeing / reading Popeye in the “funnies”…
as he still calls the comic strip section of the daily newspaper to this day, the funnies…
as in funny papers….

It’s the fist section of the paper he pulls out.
No longer does he scour the front page with its gloom and doom…
nor the stock section with its constant state of ebb and flow….
Dad has always scoured over the comic section of the paper first and foremost.
Because he likes to, needs to, laugh.

Just as he has always gravitated to watching cartoons….
preferring, always, those cartoons from his day and time….
Popeye,
Dick Tracey,
Buck Rogers,
Little Orphan Annie
and Superman.

My dad has, for better or worse, always been a kid…
Which was great when I was a kid and when my son was a kid…
but not so great as I grew up and needed a “dad”…

That whole dad thing…responsibility, paying bills, working, caring for a lawn…
you know,
dad things…
none of those things were his cup of tea.

Oh don’t get me wrong,
he did it all, worked, cut grass, paid the bills….
but it was always obvious he hated it and would get out of it as much as possible—
which usually meant every weekend.
Sleeping away the day and doing as little as possible.
While my friends dads were all out and about…
I had to make excuses that my dad had worked all week really hard, so now he was tired.
I now know that it was just a matter of my dad being lazy….

And now, at 88, he’s wanting to get out of all this cancer business…
which I can’t say I much blame him—
because who in their right mind wants to deal with that devastating “c” word….
None of us,
that’s who!!!

I learned a while back that I had to accept dad for who he was / is…
and that’s a man who is simply more kid than adult,
as that meant I had to be more adult than kid…
not exactly fair, but no one ever said life was fair.

Yet during these coming days…
days that I know will only grow more weary and taxing…
for both dad and myself….
I’m thinking I might just need to stock up on some Popeye’s spinach…
because I’m going to need all the muscles I can get!!!!

God said to Moses,
“I AM WHO I AM”;
and He said,
“Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel,
I AM has sent me to you.'”

Exodus 3:14

If a door could talk

“The door’, replied Maimie, ‘will always, always be open, and mother will always be waiting at it for me.”
― J.M. Barrie
DSCN2219

This photo is of the backdoor at my dad’s house in Atlanta. The backdoor to the home in which I grew up. The house was built in 1959 and we moved-in in 1962. The door you see today is not, however, the original door. The original door was a typical early 60’s glass louvered number. I was so glad when they replaced that door with the current door. I was probably 10 when they made the big switch.

I always hated the louvered door. Even as a young child, it was as if I was somewhat ashamed of that original door–the nicer houses had what I thought to be “real” doors. Not only was it rather unsightly, it was never very secure as you could easily pry open and lift up the louvres. Which was good if you locked yourself out, but we must remember that this was the early 60’s, no one locked their doors!

Of course there was a screen over the louvers as this was the pre air-condition era—allowing a supposed breeze to waft through the kitchen…but who were they kidding—this was Georgia—there are no breezes in August and very few in June and July! The door was just ugly and a pain to clean. I really felt as if mom and dad had finally entered into the 20th century with the change in doors. Perhaps even at the age of 10 I understood about taste.

That door has been slammed more times than I care to recall. And there was the time one of the panes broke. I can’t exactly recall how that happened but I remember mother having to get a glass-man to come out to the house in order to chip out the broken bits and add a replacement pane. I was so afraid they were going to have to buy an entire new door…I had no idea how someone would be able to replace one of the panes. Ode to the logic of a child.

Mother always knew when my friends had walked over to the house wanting me to come out to play because she would see the top of a small head just standing, obviously outside in front of the door, simply waiting to be let in the house. Somehow Mother always knew when they were there waiting. Once we all got a little older, my freinds would just open the door, letting themselves in. Suddenly, unbeknownst to anyone, there would be 3 more kids in the house wandering around looking for me.

How many times had a date walked me to the back door to either say good night, or hope for an invitation inside? I vividly remember one particularly cool December evening. The night sky bright and magical as the stars twinkled overhead with a few slowly moving clouds. It was a wonderful late Christmas Eve, or more accurately, the wee hours of Christmas morning. My boyfriend and I were coming home from Midnight Mass. It was indeed a magical night. He walked me to the back door as I looked up at the night sky wondering where that wonderfully bright star was that had once guided those three wise men to that tiny stable. And then there was a brief kiss……

I had long since graduated from having dates walk me to the front door. As I started college, the back door seemed a more mature choice of doors. I would always peer through the door with the angle being such, peering through the kitchen, directly into the den where I could just see mother who was usually perched on the far right side of the couch. If I didn’t see her, the coast was clear.

If I did see Mom, that most likely meant she was asleep—I’d have to go in, wake her up, tell her to go to bed and then ask my date in. So embarrassing! And God forbid my date would wander in aimlessly behind me as I attempted rousing Mother, who was like the walking dead, saying the dumbest things as she basically was sleep walking and not remembering any of it the following morning…so embarrassing!

How many times did I walk out that door wishing I never had to walk back in? Those years of my brother and his growing troubles–the mental illness consuming our family. My cousins, who were truly more like brothers to me, coming to my rescue taking me out for the night—just getting away. Returning hours later, slowly, quietly opening the door, praying everyone was in bed–often Mother, on the couch, having fallen asleep, crying.

Twenty-seven years ago Mother had walked out of that door, sickly, for a trip to the doctor, who in turn sent her to the hospital. She never walked back trough the door. The night Mother died, my husband and I walked in the door. It was very late that night–it was hours after the sadness, of our having left the hospital for the last time since her illness–in order to sit vigil with Dad. The day following Mother’s death, I can’t even begin to remember how many friends poured through that door–too many to recall.

How many little hands have opened that door? First there was me and then my brother and all of our little friends. Then it was my young son coming to visit his “Pops.” And how many old hands have turned that knob? My grandmother Mimi who always opened the door with her oh so familiar “Yoo-hoo.” Or my other grandmother, Nany, trying to push the door when she needed to be pulling the door.

Today the door is locked tighter then the proverbial dick’s hat band. I have to knock and tap on the panes to get Dad or Gloria to the door. You may have noticed the doorbell having been painted over–that was years ago. I don’t even know if that thing still works. Today it was Dad who came to the door. Wow! Dad never comes to the door! I can’t tell you the last time Dad came to the door to let me in.

Today was truly a good day! “Do you think you can take Nany’s desk home today? What about the chairs to the dinning room table?” This is what greets me. They are having the hallway painted and a closet outfitted to accommodate a stackable washer / dryer so no one has to traipse up and down the perilous stairs to the basement.

And so went the afternoon. I brought up chair after chair from the depths of the basement, traversing through the back door, out to my poor unsuspecting car. Then with Dad and Gloria on one end and me on the other end, we gently maneuvered Nany’s desk out the back door, all keeping a watchful eye out for Sheba, Dad’s cat, so she wouldn’t try a quick escape.

I had an antique secretary desk, two of its drawers, four dinning room chairs and a banjo clock in my poor car. Each week I go visit Dad, I move more and more of my young world, or the worlds of both my grandmothers, out the back door– precariously transporting it all on the nerve-racking interstate drive back home, only to enter my current world through my current back door.

And so it goes—out the back of one door, into the back of another door.