I saw a co-worker and his wife in a social setting. The man turned to his wife, “Tell Jeff the story you told me.”
Her face lit up as if she remembered something important. She began a story from the high school cafeteria where my kids went.
She told me about a young man who doesn’t “fit in”. She said the student being picked on wasn’t popular, struggles in school, and in all reality, is not very socially skilled. By all accounts, he’s a little odd. Add it up, and he’s an easy target.
The young man’s primary defense mechanism is to blend in like a social chameleon, then avoid others. That’s impossible during school days when he would unwilling become the center of attention. He’d shrink alone, virtually defenseless, and silently absorb any words, jokes or laughter directed his way. Continue reading The Other Table →
Maybe it was congenital. Maybe brain damage. Either way, he was effected.
His leg drug faintly when walking. At the repeat of each pair of steps, he swung his hip to the left so he could pivot his right leg up for the next step. It would have been slow and tedious for others, but he’d had a lot of practice, probably a lifetime, so he was fluid when he walked, even if it wasn’t smooth.
He was short and stocky, wearing simple blue jeans with his plaid blue shirt neatly tucked in. His glasses were thick, and although his eyes seemed to move just a hint slower, they were overshadowed by the peacefulness of his face.
We all walked into the church auditorium, and as circumstance would have it, we ended up sitting diagonally behind the stranger in church. Continue reading Singing in the Rubble →
There is something beautiful about clocks, but they seem to move so fast.
It’s true time speeds up with age, or maybe, we just speed up busyness and slow down awareness. I don’t know.
An early childhood memory is sitting still watching a wall clock and realizing that if you stare straight, stare straight and concentrate, you can see the minute hand move each second in the tiniest of tiny movements.
Not intentionally, I sit now staring at a clock deep in thought. Slowly an awareness of time dawns. Continue reading Swinging Pendulum →
He hobbled slowly to a stone wall to lean on it, caught his breath to gather strength. A few meters away, he half fell, half sat in a shady spot on the dusty ground.
His threadbare clothes were so tattered and thin that most people wouldn’t even use them for rags.
He carefully placed a beat-up cup within reach right in front of him. He’d learned that given half a chance, other beggars more agile than he would snatch his few coins and run. He was barely able to move across the street now, much less give chase. He tried in vain not to close his eyes.
There was just something about closing his eyes though that eased his pain. Every joint in his body seemed to ache, right down to his bone marrow. He wasn’t sure why, but sometimes sharp pains in his side doubled him over, causing him to curl up in a tight ball until the pain subsided. Continue reading Just For Crumbs →
Saturday week ago we were on family vacation at Surfside Beach, Texas. We rented a 5 bedroom beach house that sleeps 30. That’s a lot, but if everyone was there, 28 would be piled in … at least until the next grandchild is born in October.
On the verge of cocky, we guys planned a fish fry (fish we hadn’t yet caught) Saturday night for the 18 of us there. Thank goodness it wasn’t on the keepers I caught. Gandhi ate more than that!
We fished off the jetties the first day, and my sons locked into a dozen or so speckled sea trout. They just quietly grinned like cats at a dairy farm every time I reeled in a small fish.
In the end though, we had more than enough fish.
We ate and ate, but cooked way too much. (That’s what you get when five men cook a meal.) Continue reading Catching Men With Fish →
I was making my way to a book store downtown in my own little world, absorbed in my own thoughts, with no desire to interact with anyone other than get through and get gone.
A man came out of God-Tel, a local homeless mission, up the sidewalk from me. He started walking towards me and I dutifully moved to the right so we would cross in the socially acceptable manner.
He walked with no sense of purpose, and his steps had no urgency. I glanced at him to give the slight nod of the head that men give each other that says, “I see you. I recognize you and respect your presence, but I have no intention of talking to you”.
Instead of making the acceptable brief, expressionless eye contact and responding in kind with the same nod back, he looked away toward the street.
Not giving eye contact raised a red alert alarm, so I steadied my gaze on him as he ambled toward me. Continue reading Why Me? →
I once had a chicken with a small injury on its tail. I caught it, doctored it, then made a terrible mistake. I released it back into the large coop with the 15 or so other birds.
The next day the chicken was in a corner of the pen, alive, but barely. Its tail feathers and many on its back were gone and the small injury was now a gaping wound.
I stared in disbelief as one by one the other chickens went by and pecked the wounded bird. As if its spirit had been broken in 24 hours, it sat facing the corner of the pen cowering down in a defensive posture.
It didn’t even move when pecked, except when it winced in pain when another chicken hit the wound directly.
I did what I should have done the day before and separated it in a small protected pen, but it was to late, the chicken died shortly afterwards. Continue reading There Go I →
I’ve been thinking back about an older couple I knew when I was in college. Loved them! Great, rock solid, influential people!
He developed cancer. After a valiant fight, Hospice was called. Hospice was there round the clock during his last days at home.
They were always a very kind, loving couple, quite expressive in their love and admiration for each other. They used pet names, like Sweetie Pie and Sugar Plum, Honey Bear and Honey Bunny, along with other pet names as terms of endearment.
They would greet each other, usually in a higher pitch voice with great emphasis on their tones, sounding like they were talking to a bouncing baby or a favorite animal.
Their transparent physical, emotional and verbal affection for each other was fun to watch. I learned a lot from them.
But that was in life. Death was a little different. Continue reading Sweetie Pie →
Paula Ratcliffe of Great Britain set the women’s marathon world record in 2002, broke it in 2003, and was the odds on favorite to win the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
She started strong and was in the lead, but the 95 degree heat began to weigh heavily on her. At mile 22 of the 26.2 mile race, she suddenly stopped and sat down on a curb. She couldn’t finish. She put her head in her hands and began sobbing uncontrollably.
She was officially classified as DNF – Did Not Finish. A small Japanese woman crossed the finish line first for the gold, a Kenyan won silver, and an elated American finished third for bronze.
I remember the race vividly, not because of those who won at the top, but those who won at the bottom. Continue reading Finish the Race →
He walked in front of me. He was on a mission. So was I.
Shopping in a grocery store is easy. Little list. Grab it. Go.
He was quick too, except his handful of items needed a shopping cart.
Two 5-gallon containers of peanut oil, five boxes of fish seasoning, eggs and four bags of cornmeal.
His clean overalls said he had already cleaned a ton of catfish from either trot lines or baited holes. And now he was about to have a party, a fish fry, and he was fidgeting to get the fryer started.
There was still one thing in his basket that didn’t make any sense to me. He handed the little deli bag to the cashier who asked if he had two, or three, fried chicken tenders. Continue reading Help One →