Beautiful, Reliable Shadows

Photo courtesy of Kimberly Calderwood

The year is winding down. One week to go. Our fifty-one weeks of sun’s memories are setting on 2021’s horizon. Some dark trees still remain in front of us, yet we know that our friendly, warm orb will rise again tomorrow, the next day, and eight days hence … January 1st of the new year.

With it will come our chance to change, to grow, to take those tree’s shadows and shine some light on them. Before then, however, a holiday eve is but hours away.

Family members, if coming into town, have possibly arrived. Presents are wrapped and will be tucked away under glistening trees. Little fingers, anticipatIng the tug across seams aligned with scotch tape after Santa arrives in the early morning, are excited to have school on recess for a bit. All food-stuffs for the days ahead are planned out in the heads of those gifted with culinary skills. Football schedule times, embedded in Christmas day gridiron diehards, are already being discussed.

This is what today is. A holiday eve. There’s an energy – a togetherness – that has no equal to any other time of year. Some may say, “tradition”. I say, a reliable, predicable, wonderful time.

It is all about reliability and “I am with you-ness”. Just like the sun. As one sole typer of words on this day, I see this in my life … and hope in yours as well.

When I saw Kim’s picture posted, growth through the reliance on friends and family came to mind. That “family” isn’t just the mom & dad, sister, brother, etc … All of us belong somewhere – to someone.

Our 2021 story belongs not only to ourselves, but also to a larger family who believes what we do, engages in the same activities, thinks along the same lines … and, shall I say, loves us despite our dark trees. We grew together with them this year, right? It wasn’t easy at times, but we saw our way through because the sun kept rising every day disguised as reliability in friendship.

We relied on them to tie a large knot on the end of our slippy, mistake-ridden rope. Friends met us for a bite to eat when we really didn’t want to discuss a problem or find our way through a maze of issues – but they knew we had to talk.

We can certainly celebrate what we need to this holiday season. For me, I will recognize the sun in my tree’s shadows … which have been the friends and family in my life this year. They are my sun that keeps rising every day.

My hope is 2022 will present many opportunities to change, to grow, to take those tree’s shadows and shine some light on them.

I offer my sincere hope that you find a universe of family and friends who give you the same. There’s no moment when a sun isn’t above to give you guidance. It’s reliable and, in eight days, may you look back into the shadows of 2021 and say, “We did that … together”.

Thankful Three

As has always been the usual treat, my dad brings way too much ice cream through the door. This. One gallon. Filled to the creamy brim with three distinctly delicious flavors – chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry – it is the all-in-one creme de cacao in his visiting glass of Neopolitan courteousness; Also, an over-sized contribution to the holiday to match his need … a need to belong. We welcome him in. Every time.

A holiday, three times a year event it is. Very seldom does he come by other times. Christmas, Easter, and today – Thanksgiving.

He’s an independent sort of guy, but wants to be a part of his family. We’re small since mom died eight years ago. Seldom will he turn down an invitation to be around, yet hardly ever he’ll call with an idea to go somewhere with us. Relatives are distanced or gone, for the most part, and his friend circles are closing in, save one who stays in touch every day. Walks are twice per day, routines are vital, health is extremely important, and my relationship with him is better than ever.

Today. Over the threshold, once again, one-hundred twenty-eight ounces of ice cream for three people. Again, it didn’t matter. An army of one-thousand Navy Seals or two toddlers skirting along in diapers, a gallon of neapolitan from the local market was coming through my front door today. This year, 2020, changed perceptions about a lot of things, for sure. When it came to my dad standing in front of an open freezer door with cold, frozen dusty air blowing across his masked generationally worn face? … everything had to remain the same! Good for him, I say. Good for him.

He came into a house where we positioned the seating arrangements 6-feet apart. A masked hostess greeted him at the door, took the precious gallon and placed it in the freezer next to all our frozen pizza slices, removed ham, potatoes, and green beans from the oven … and we ate. Three people, two sofa denizens and one love seat, tv tray dad discussed politics and grammar during a pandemic, Thanksgiving day, meal.

My dad, a retired English teacher, could probably correct some errors here. Surely he would find some. During dinner, we talked through gerunds, whom vs who, subjective vs objective pronouns, and why television personalities talk bad English, according to dad. He has his political views, I have mine … interrupted by the fortunate forgetful nature of his short-term memory as we’re on opposite sides of the national chasm.

Pumpkin pie time (whipped cream) with ice cream and coffee (the last of those three for the other two, not me … not a coffee guy) came quickly as it doesn’t take much for three folks to eat meat, a starch, and veggie. Ten minutes later, dad headed out the same front door he came in only one hour before – in tow, a partially empty one-gallon, three flavors tub of ice cream. As has always been the usual treat, my dad brings way too much ice cream through the door.

We never know, do we? This has been the most unusual Thanksgiving. So far, though, I’ve had my thankful 3’s. D-A-D; Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry; Ham, potatoes, and green bean casserole; My wife, dad, and I together.

Small? Of course. Had to be this year. A short visit? Yep. Dad had to get his second walk of the day in.

We’ll wait until Easter to see what the world looks like. It’ll be different than today, probably. Numbers will hopefullly come down as a vaccine could be among us. A new administration, a new attitude, a new way of life? Who knows?

Tell ya what. When Easter is flipped over on the calendar and we open the front door, dad will be standing there with a gallon of ice cream. Assuming he’s eaten all of what went home today by Christmas, that is.

Yellow Lines

Truth outside my concession window right now: parallel yellow lines. A few less east/west than north/south. It’s raining, again. This is another fact easily seen from my vantage point. To cap off a very apparent trilogy, today is Sunday, I bought a dozen bourbon wings from the local grocery store on my way here, and our 8-0 Steelers play at 4:30 EST.

Most times, facts are facts. I didn’t do very well in science class where mixing certain chemicals, as instructed, led to predictable outcomes … every time. I did, however, succeed in knowing how dad would react to my behavioral misappropriation … every time. I stated my case, my claims, in support of said behavior – all for naught. Fact: rules were rules and I broke (some of) them.

He had his hands full, to use an overly used expression. I may add, parenthetically, that he was a great provider. We lacked nothing. Presents at the holidays, medical care, food, vacations, shelter, clothing, education access, … foundationally, a pretty good middle-class, single-income upbringing. Mom hung emotional necklaces around our every sad and happy moments while dad pushed us forward into economic opportunities that he felt we needed for our pre-income earning years – if that makes any sense.

Yep. Facts are facts. At least they are until one decides to post something on Facebook. During a pandemic. In 2020. While electing, deciding on, confirming, a SCOTUS nominee and President. East is no longer east and yellow may no longer be recognized as a basic color on any elementary art teacher’s wonderful wheel of fascination.

My parallel yellow opinion lines representing – under normal conditions – a fair middle-of-the-road opinion between extreme Covid responses elicited over the line swerves. Near misses of automatic triggers came in within hours and commentual arguments ensued. A one word reply, “bullshit”, came back to me – which has since been tamed (we worked it out).

Two friends argued over mask/oxygen saturation which I didn’t even know was a “thing”. Articles came in as tags supporting both sides. Sourcing debates. Who said what and experiences trump experts, I guess? Who are the experts and what makes them so …? Is Dr. Fauci more of an expert now that he is, possibly, out from under President Trump’s shadow? Where is Dr. Birx?

I did use the phrase, “ridiculously low” and shouldn’t have. It was an insensitive phrase in light of 245,000 deaths. The fact still remains. That number is .075% of our total population in America. ALSO, to be very, very clear … I care deeply about every one who has been – and continues to be affected by this horrible virus. This is why I mask and social distance everywhere I can inside and wherever possible.

The point of my post on Facebook yesterday was to say one person can be in the middle of the debate. He can say, “The fact is, a low % of Americans – compared to the overall population – have died, but there’s overwhelming evidence that we should be extremely careful going forward because we don’t know what we don’t know.”

Yes, the economic impact of this has been disastrous. In addition, and significantly more important, there are lingering consequences for families who’ve suffered loss of loved ones. Our healthcare workers are tired, sore, drained, overworked, stressed, and missing their families.

Our country is really, really, hurting. Some suggest taking a hard line east, west, north, or south is the answer. From what I’ve seen, I don’t think so.

We should all shut off our loud automobiles, meet in the middle of the road, and talk like adults. I’m standing here trying not to get run over. Two wrong turns don’t make anything right.

That’s a fact.

Incredible Feat

6 feet. We’ve all known the rule for at least that many months as well. Completely unrelated, seventy-two inches just happens to be my exact height. One being a guideline for the pandemic of the century, and the other an out of control genetic mutation caused by parent’s wine-and-dine how-do-you-do nine months prior to my birth. Six feet, in both cases, not a bad thing. The former, presumably preventative, and the latter helpful when standing in the back of a crowded elevator wondering who just passed gas – by being able to recognized the face of the guilty party – is certainly socially advantageous.

There is something much better, however: a pair of feet. Especially, a pair of ankle-socked stompers wearing inexpensive Avias purchased in haste from Walmart … inexplicably, the most comfortable, casual shoes I’ve worn in a long time. Light, airy, invisible to the feet, basically no support except to my emotional well-being … this pedestrian pleasure pair is making strides in what I now know as a tootsie utopia.

Life never used to be this way at times. Pinches, heaviness, stiffness. All of us know the uncomfortable qualities we can assign to shoes not fitting correctly, right? Shoe horned into our lives were cheap leathers, knocked-off racks we knew existed for the benefit of parents discounting pennies at the end of a hard earned paychecks. Mom and dad had to do … what they had to do.

Those days long gone, but memories stay. Everytime a shoe turns against me, or a sock knot twinges in the toes, I’m reminded how difficult it must have been for my parents make the laces of life meet in the middle. Our Christmas bills lasted until the following April – just in time for the taxes to be due. Vacations the first week in June burdened my dad’s remaining summer days with work to pay off those sandy beach times.

Fall ushered in a schedule replete with the requisite pre-first day of school shopping outing for … school shoes. That 70’s, badly coordinated, brown polyester, bowl haircut era when my mom piled us into our paneled station wagon with the guarantee of a cheap McDonald’s lunch if we behaved. Every year, one after another, pair after pair, my siblings and I clanked into our homerooms satiated to the gills with 25-cent hamburgers and the finest, unfittest shoes a school teacher’s credit budget could afford.

More pairs I’ve owned as an adult than ever as a child, of course. Sneakers, loafers, slip-ons, slippers, flip-flops, casuals, tuxedo blacks, – all of them purchased without urging from my mom who isn’t around to share a McDonald’s meal with me anymore. Dad’s comfortably able to buy expensive shoes – or take any vacation he wants, with time and money no longer obstacles, but age and willingness is waning.

What steps are we taking in life with what we’re given? It isn’t just our feet, of course. So much we had isn’t here anymore. My mom. My dad. What I had. What they needed to do.

My inexpensive Avias are surprising. They are really comfortable. A big box store should not, by all intents and purposes, be providing me this level of ease for such a small price. I was not raised to believe low price equals comfort; Nor should I expect to receive this heavenly blisterless bliss in the future. I will take off these one-offs as long as I can count my blessings each time.

And I guess that’s what it’s all about. As Neil Armstrong so famously said, “That’s one small step for (a man / man), one giant leap for mankind”, each small metaphorical step we take forward in our lives is one giant step helping everyone else. Our life is a contribution to everyone else’s experience. The oft used “butterfly effect”.

Remember that the next time you find yourself looking down. I bet you’ve taken a lot of remarkable steps thus far to be where you are right now. Some not as comfortable as others, but you’re here and that is what’s important.

… and if I must say so, that’s some incredible feat, or two.