Copse

June 29, 2016

A grove of Loblolly pines hides them
These homeless men
In the throes of succession like the forest they make their home in

Behind McDonalds
They beg, they fill up used cups with iced tea
It is hot now as they duck in for shade and relief

They’ve found community in the woods
Tents and dirty blankets
Empty cans of pork and beans
Litter the ground

On their way south or north
They are stuck here
Not knowing what to do

They flicker in the woods
Like mystical fairy light

Come June, each year
As watermelons ripen
Acidic tomatoes turn red

They blink from place to place
I follow one
Or try
It surprises me
And delights
As I am wrong
The direction it has gone

God didn’t have to make lightning bugs
But must have sprinkled them like stars
An after thought
To complete a summer evening in Georgia

I no longer catch them in mason jars
But sit on my porch
In my rocking chair
And catch their magical wink
As they sparkle in visual chorus

In the humid air of the darkest night
In the hardwoods not far away..

Blackberry pickin’
Heat and long sleeves
Briars and chiggers
And pure joy as fingers get pricked like a Sleeping Beauty
And stained dark purple.
The blackberries plop plop into aluminum pails.
We fill them up for jelly, cobbler,
But it’s the experience of being with you.

My father, my dad
Who nursed us when we had a wound
Who climbed the stairs to check on us when we were sick
Who left a Juicy Fruit gum and our allowance out every Friday on the hall table.

You worked yourself to death for us
Spent nights to unwind playing solitaire

You taught us about Jesus and took us to church where I leaned against your solid suited shoulder
And felt safe

Not all children have such a loving dad
Who took us swimming, provided tennis lessons, golf and membership at the Country Club
Who fished and taught us to bait our own hooks
Who made a mobile to hang over our bed

Who showed us the stars
The wild geese flying in formation
How crows chase hawks and what an Indigo Bunting looks like.

You taught me trees and woods and how to get wild muscadines from the high vine

You helped us shop for cars and made sure each child had their own desk for honework.

You paid for ballet lessons and piano lessons and braces and so much more

You provided a home we still enjoy and gather in for forty-nine years!!
It was perfect
You let us pick out a color and carpet for our new rooms.
You designed it without being an architect

You sat on the back porch all summer reading Nationsl Geographic and The Smithsonian
Listening to screech owls
Calling us out to share in the awe

You managed to survive five rambunctious children
Whom you loved beyond words
We knew it then
We know it today

You hunted arrowheads and took us to recognize serrated edges on granite and flint,
Pottery pieces and bird points
You spoke to grandchildren’s classes

We went to the zoo
You pushed the stroller
Hank was a baby

You tickled us mercilessly
And wrestled
And grew stellar gladiolus

Later, a Garden of Eden when you retired

You went to work everyday
Designing airplanes for the world
And provision for our family

You helped us with math and encouraged science projects

You expected All A’s

you taught each one of us to drive

risking your life in a Volkswagon

making sure we could stop and start

on a hill, drive a stick-shift.

I thank you, Father, for these
For listening to our music as we aged
For loving music as the greatest appreciator
For loving our Mom
And showing us who a dad can be
What a good husband looks like
How he adores his wife.

Now, you age
That’s okay
It’s the circle of life

You hold little Caroline with a smile of wonder on your face.

You are my dear, wonderful role model and dad
A maker of home
A rock and a real man
A Southern gentleman
And a Georgia Tech graduate
You are my father,
Brilliant and humble
And full of love for your children, grandchildren, and now
A sweet great grand baby.

I will always love you, my dear and wonderful Daddy, and thank you beyond words for the man, husband, father, and Christian you are.

Love, admiration, and the utmost gratitude!!!

Patty
Father’s Day, 2016

Like a Dolphin

June 14, 2016

I swim like a dolphin
go under water
come up for air

Repeat

I hear my breathing
Rhythmic and deep

Underwater, my hair swims too
Arms make a half circle
Then do it again

strong legs kick

I go deeper
In the Georgia lake

It is quiet there
Quiet and green

I am alone
It is a place of lovely solitude
Of perfect, weightless peace

Heat Stroke

June 13, 2016

I google ‘Heat Stroke’ to ascertain if I’ve had one.
The answer is No, but heat exhaustion I suffered Saturday.

I ran.
I ran while it was hot
Four miles towards the thirteen plus that is at the tail end of the half-ironman in late September.

I’m sacred.
I’ve got miles to go before I can swim the distance, bike the hills, and run through the streets of Augusta.

Can I make it?

I swam yesterday.
My bike trip was cancelled due to my car overheating.
We overheated at the same time.

Summers in Georgia make it difficult to train.
I still rise at four. Head out the door at five.
Run at six.

It is early
The park gates open
Other athletes join me on the track
We try and not be smug

I swim in the lake to cool off in the evenings
I bring a cold wash cloth for my face as I make my visits throughout the day
I try and stay hydrated

Today, I will stay in.
Do floor exercises, stretches, free weights
I’m losing weight and getting toned
I can feel it.

Nothing like being strong
Physically, mentally, in your heart and emotions

I pray I can make the deadline
Still three months to go

My friend Alice says after her 600 mile bike ride,
“We never know what we can do”.

She is right.

I’ll find out.

They Met at Walmart

June 11, 2016

She descends the steps like an athlete
Out the door in a jog
She is busy
Works two jobs and goes to school.

She’s my roommate.

Today, a Gentleman friend came over.
It made me happy to know she was off.

She’s a baker of bread
He’s a butcher in meat

They met at Walmart.

There she goes
Riding the sidewalk confidently
While traffic whizzes by
I see her boldness
I watch her smile

I Rise at 4

June 6, 2016

I rise at 4
AM that is
And have for years.

Solitude is my friend,
The quiet of dark, the stillness before the world wakes up.

As most of you know, I’m a Coke Zero freak..and thus, I spend a lot of time driving through the takeout at McDonald’s where they cost $1 on my many drives as a hospice chaplain..and well, all the time!

What strikes me often, is the look of vulnerability on the server’s face as they reach out their hand to receive my money or hand me my drink in a plastic cup.

I remember my first job at Atherton’s Drug store on the Square in Marietta..and then my second as a server at McDonald’s. I was a JET high school student, commuting to what was known then as Kennesaw Junior College, now KSU.

I was 17 and believe it or not LOVED my job at McDonald’s. I learned from young people who lived ‘across the tracks’. Also known as 41.

I learned from my bosses who led team meetings where the girls received charms for our bracelets based on the time we had worked there, a new one every three months. I remember 5 cent raises and clocking in. I remember how much fun it was to go to work, how excited I was to receive a paycheck, how badly I wanted to do a good job.

And I remember the customers..patient old people, young kids, harried mothers, buses full of band members and sports teams.

I rememeber how kind and patient some people could be..and I remember the ones who were ugly and mean.

I think of these memories when I go through the Drivein now–some 44 years later.

I look in the faces, so young and so green.

I ask you, no matter what fast food restaurant you frequent–no matter what store you are in– to remember your first job, to be especially patient if the line moves slowly, to be kind and give a smile to these vulnerable young people, so new to their work and to life..

So wonderfully, beautifully green.

I’ve been known to drive off with the gas hose in my car.

A rather disconcerting feeling when you hear a pop and a black object is trailing behind you.

Thankfully, gas pumps are made for people like me, who sometimes get preoccupied with thoughts in their head besides replacing the nozzle to its rightful place. Who simply forget what they are doing.

I suppose there is value in thinking, in processing as I consistently do. In transcendence.

But there is also value in being present, in the moment, in what is tangible, palpable, real.