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

Setting the example—Happy Father’s Day

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”
Umberto Eco

DSC01720
(3 AM 26.5 years ago / Tanner Hospital / Julie Cook)

DSCN5343
(groom and best man/ Julie Cook / 2014)

Parenthood has never come with an instruction manual–
much to the frustration of many a first time parent.

On top of not having a step by step manual,
throw in having no clue as how to be a parent—
as your own background of dysfunctional raising,
by two individuals who truly had no business really being parents,
left only an example of what not to do.

Forget manuals, your parents didn’t even try to pretend they knew what they were doing.
Throw in moving 5 times before your were 8. . .throwing out all thoughts of stability.
Throw in alcohol.
Throw in abuse.
Throw in the fact that this was a time when no one talked about such. . .
There were no Betty Ford clinics, no fashionable rehabs, just the state mental hospital.
How were you to tell your friends that your dad’s on another binge and was taken away kicking and screaming?
Throw in the fact your coaches, teachers and friends all saw the bruises, but again, this was a time when such things weren’t discussed out in the open, only in secretive hushed tones.

Mix all of that and the fact that you hadn’t really known what it was to be a husband and now you waited until you were 40 to start a family. . .
You had only one clue as to where you should start. . . you simply knew what NOT to do. . .
And so you ran with it. . .

Add in being. . .
Scared
Frightened
Anxious
Determined to be different
Never to repeat the same offenses you yourself endured.

And so you began your own journey into parenthood, with great trepidation, almost 27 years ago.

It wasn’t easy.
You immediately gave up smoking
You named him yourself
You worked long hours
You changed diapers
You made him laugh for the very first time
You gave him your full attention, each evening you were home, despite having worked 14 hour days
You fed him in the middle of the night allowing your wife some precious sleep
You never wanted to exclude him
You held him tight before his surgery
You cried when he was hurt
You offered him the gift of Nature.
You took him fishing, camping, hunting, hiking
You took him to the ocean’s shore for his very first time
You taught him how to swim
You bought him a boogie board and later a surf board.
You disciplined him when you absolutely had to, and it about killed you
You didn’t care when he couldn’t follow in your same athletic agilities and accomplishments.
You worried
You fretted
You cried
You obsessed
You gave him your old truck
You reluctantly bought him a new truck when he wrecked your old one
You afforded him college, to the place of his dreams, that turned out not to be a dream.
You later helped him settle into a place more suited for him.
Always teaching him how to begin again.
You offered comfort and only the positive when he fell, when he failed, when he lost.

You showed him what it means to be a man.
To be responsible.
To get up and try again when things look hopeless.
You taught him how to run forward. . .running toward the trouble, rather then running from the trouble.
You demonstrated that a man never hides from his troubles or mistakes.
You showed him what unconditional love is all about with your own attention to the father who never deserved your concern or care.
You demonstrated how to be a husband during both the good and the bad life has to offer.
You showed him how to give abundantly when it was little he would receive in return.
You demonstrated how to be honest in a dishonest world.
You taught him to be just, forgiving, strong, determined while keeping a gentle touch.
Reminding him to always walk with integrity while holding his head high. . .

You did this on your own. . .
With no direction
No manual
No help from your own father. . .
You demonstrated to your son, what being a real father is all about. . .
By giving him the greatest gift possible. . .
yourself. . .

Happy Father’s Day my love. . . .

Dad and the chickens

Q. What did the hen say when she saw the scrambled eggs……
A. My children are all mixed up!

(anonymous)

DSCN3747

Meet Dad’s neighbor.
And yes, dad does live smack dab in Atlanta.
Perhaps an odd place to find free roaming chickens but-
it seems urban gardening has become all the rage you know.

The neighborhood where I grew up is now considered a prime section of Atlanta in which to buy a house. It’s an older area that has maintained its quintessential suburban charm–despite the fact that the “charming” area is shrinking into an ever encroaching city.
It appears this is a prime spot to still raise a family–far enough out yet close enough in.

The young family next door tends to 4 little chickens which they keep in a pen in their back yard. I suppose Zoning hasn’t picked up on the hens’ presence in the neighborhood as the yards are rather large for city yards and are full of trees and shrubbery—no one is the wiser that the newest neighbors on the block have wings.

A chicken just seems fitting to include in a post about Dad.
You know it’s been a while since we’ve chatted about Dad. . .

Two day’s ago I had gone out to get the mail.
Shifting through the unsundries of needles periodicals, flyers, and bills I noticed a letter from an insurance company that is not our insurance company. . .but I did recognize the name—“this is Dad’s” I silently note now gritting my teeth. Upon opening the letter it seems that at some wise point, not long ago he, me, we added my name to the policy as a contact.
“We are mailing you this letter to inform you that the above mentioned client is past due on his premium payment and if it is not revived by 3/14 we will cancel the policy. . .”
“DDDAAAAAAAAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I’m sure you heard a small earthquake two days ago and have been wondering ever since what that was all about.
No worries, it was just me screaming as I stood in the driveway reading this letter.

I immediately grabbed the phone as fast as I could as I practically fell into the house.
That oh so familiar warble answers.
“heelllooo”
“Dad”
“Uh hello daughter.”
“Hello Dad”
“Dad”
“What”
“I got a letter today from your long term care insurance company.”
“Oh?”
“Seems you’ve not paid them in a while and they’re going to cancel the policy.
I want you to pay this thing now!”
“Uh,oh, uh, I, uh, oh, uh, let me call you back.”

About an hour passes before the phone rings.

“Yes Dad.”
“Uh I called the company, everything’s fine.
No problems. They say that the account is good, all paid up.
They don’t know why that letter came.
Don’t you worry it’s all good.
I did go ahead and pay them $1000 though.”
WHAT!!!!????
“I just wanted to make sure that things were fine.”
“Dad, if the account was fine and the letter erroneous, why are you sending them so much money?”
“Uh, uh, don’t you worry, everything is fine—got to go, the Olympics are on . . .”
click

Ugh!

Obviously it is time to get back to my weekly pilgrimage beginning today!!
I drive over to Atlanta this morning noting the downed pine trees littering the sides of the interstate–the tell tale signs of last week couple of week’s ice and snow storms. And I don’t remember all these pot holes littering the interstate.

I pull in to the ever familiar driveway.
As always I have to knock on the door and just hope one of them hears me.
Low n behold Dad shuffles to the door and proceeds unbolting lock after lock.
“Hello Daughter”
(when did he start calling me “daughter”?)
Hi Dad.
Where’s Gloria?
She’s cleaning out the cat box.
Bless Gloria, something as basic as cleaning and scooping is a major production for Gloria.

I ask Dad if we need to go back to “the office” (aka my old bedroom) and sort through anything.
A swift NO shoots my way.
I meander on back anyway.
“Oh my God Dad, what in the world?”
This as I stare at 3 massive stacks of scattered papers and mail perched around an antiquated Gateway computer.

“No no, get out, just leave all that!! I know where it is. That’s tax stuff. Oh just stop harassing me.”
“Dad, I’m not harassing you.”
“Dale, Julie is not harassing you, she’s trying to help”
“Dad just let me help you sort this out.”
“No, no, get out, get out now! Just leave all this alone.”

This as Gloria begins to moan and lament, with tears in her eyes, while Dad is hollering that I just seem to come up to “get her upset.”
Great.

A very long story made short and 3 hours later. . .
Gloria and I sat at the desk slowly making our way through the stacks of never-ending paper while Dad hovered in and out, pacing as if someone was having a baby, continuing the mantra of get out and quit harassing. Gloria just keeps mumbling “we need to be in a home, just in a home, I’m telling you, a home”

Suddenly Dad reappears at the door, this time cradling a stack of old Santa Pictures he wants to show me. Pictures of my brother and I with Santa.
A diversion.
Not so fast mister, I’m on to you Dad.
Gloria tells me that he hides the mail from her. And that he’s gotten so good at lying.
Really? Ain’t no doubt.
I immediately think back to his slick little story concerning the insurance business.
Oh dear Lord, it is now official, I am now the parent of a parent who is reverting back to his adolescent ways.
Ugh.

I make my way through the 3 mountains of papers, documents, statements, bills—sorting, pulling, tossing, and scrambling to make calls. Luckily we have the major utilities automatically paid. I did however have to make a call and phone payment to Visa, pulling money from his savings. I am embarrassed to say how much he owed. That was an event unto itself but thankfully the Visa man was very kind and waived the $35 late fee—which almost made me laugh as Dad owed so much, $35 was nothing.
Thank God he had the money in savings to pay it.

The car insurance may be canceled. Of course he no longer drives (thank God) but Gloria does so I need to look into that next week. I pulled out the top 10 “pay immediately” priority bills, organized those and had him sit down to write checks. All the while as Dad chants the “oh woe is me” tune—to no sympathy on my end.

By 2PM I had a massive headache.
“Don’t you want something to eat? Let me fix you something. You came all this way and haven’t even eaten. Of course I could go all day, I don’t need to eat” Gloria goes on in this nervous sort of stupor.
“No thank you, but you go ahead and fix y’all something. I know you both must be hungry.
You know I’ve got to get on the road if I’m going to beat the afternoon rush.”
Atlanta’s rush hour begins at 5AM and wends down around 7PM with window of a lull around 2PM.

I bid my farewells with Dad exclaiming “what, you’re leaving so soon?”
Are you freaking kidding me–this coming from the man chanting for me to get out and go home an hour earlier. . .
Hear my sigh. . .
I will be back next week
Same bat time, Same bat channel. . .

The moral of this little tale, if there is such a thing with an aging parent dealing with Alzheimers-
A. Don’t let Dad have credit cards.
B. Always have Gloria intercept the mail
C. Never trust Dad. . .if he tells you one thing, the opposite will be the truth
D. Don’t let too much time pass between sorting visits
E. Don’t trust Dad
F. Patience and humor are essential
G. Never trust Dad. . .