Couple Hair

I took Mama to church this morning. It was a good service and it was good for her to see old friends. She and I were a few minutes late because she got very upset about not having pantyhose to wear to church. We almost didn’t go due to that issue. I tried to tell her the Lord doesn’t mind but she insisted it was improper. 

We slipped in the second to last row and joined right in with the worship music. When the pastor began to preach, I noticed an elderly couple a few rows ahead of us. The woman had on earrings and a sweater with sparkling threads running through it. Other than those rather differentiating qualities, their heads looked alike. Hers looked slightly more coiffed but the color, the cut and the length were the same.

You know you are getting older when your head is interchangeable with your husbands. Thankfully, for now at least, my hair is long and dark. Mike’s is salt and pepper with a great George Clooney cut. I keep asking my hairdresser if she thinks I am too old to wear my hair long. She promises that she will tell me when that day comes. I definitely do not want to be one of those 75 year-old women with long, stringy hair clinging tightly to it as one last youthful hurrah. On the other hand, I do not want look-alike hair. 

Ironically, the pastor today was talking about how we worship. He mentioned how easily we can become distracted at church. For example, it seems so holy to have the Bible app on your smart phone and use it to look up scripture rather than carrying the old-fashioned ten pound family bible. However, is everyone really staying on task with 2 Chronicles or are some swiping over to Facebook to check the number of likes on their new boat pic. It’s a social issue. 

Needless to say, I felt a tinge of guilt during prayer when I covertly got out my iPhone and took a snap of this look-alike-hair couple, especially in light of the sermon topic. I asked the Lord to forgive me. For the last 11 months I see so many things through the eyes of my blog. 

It is 9:39 PM and Mama is in bed. We are both worn to a frazzle. But we made it. We had struggles for sure but we had joys, too. We walked hand in hand up and down the driveway and picked up sticks and those annoying spiked round balls that fall from the sweet gum tree. Mama thinks they are beautiful and collects them every time she visits. 

Life ends up being a series of inconsistencies; a concert of dissonance. Yet, there is not a more lovely sound than those discordant notes coming together at just the right moment. 

The push and pull is how we find that beautiful middle.

Serious Sunday

Christian Wiman is an American poet and editor. He was born in 1966 and raised in the small west Texas town of Snyder. He graduated from Washington and Lee University and has taught at Northwestern University, Stanford University, Lynchburg College in Virginia, and the Prague School of Economics. Wiman now teaches Literature and Religion at Yale University and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. 

My son, Andrew, who just graduated from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, was fortunate enough to have a class with Wiman and come to know him as a friend. 

In 2013, Wiman published a book entitled My Bright Abyss. It is an essay about having faith in the face of death.

At age 39, he learned that he had a rare and probably fatal cancer. His world fell apart. In the midst of his suffering and pain and fear, life felt meaningless. However, as the book ends, he is in remission.

He regained his health because of obvious medical treatment, his marriage, and his twin daughters who were born during his illness. He also credits his remission to his own will, art, desperation, and imagination. He gained his faith and felt grace. In his words, he experienced the mystery of “present joy and future hope.”       

I am currently reading the book. Weeks ago when I started it (no, it should not take me this long to read this book, but Mama and work and life often get in the way of reading), I immediately loved it. Nine pages in and I was already underlining phrases. One of those that I truly loved was this:

If grace woke me to God’s presence in the world and in my heart, it also woke me to his absence. I never truly felt the pain of unbelief until I began to believe.”

Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know. We also, sometimes, don’t realize our emptiness until we experience fullness.

I love the title. My Bright Abyss. How great is that? Can a word, a thing, like an abyss actually be full of light? Be completing? Create “present joy and future hope”?

Occasionally the pounding of hooves is not a horse, but a zebra. And occasionally an abyss is not dark, but bright. 

A regular menu, Please

I ran across a list of restaurants that offer senior dining deals. Woo-hoo! Who doesn’t want to be included in that deal?! (Sarcastically stated.)

I know there are some ‘seniors’ who love the discounts. I know there are some who proudly wear their age like an earned medal. I get that, and I agree. It is indeed earned.

I fully believe I will get there. But I’m not there yet.

I do not have a desire (that is an understatement) to walk into a restaurant and proclaim to everyone working there and all in line behind me that I am a senior and I want my discount! Uh, no thanks.

I prefer to live in a state of denial at this point. That, too, is a right of passage.

Here are a few of the listings:

McDonald’s: Discounts on coffee (Please let me pay $1.00, not .50)
Whataburger: Free drink with purchase of a meal (Whatatreat)
Wendy’s: Free coffee, depending on location (Apparently some locations don’t believe in humiliation, thank God.)
IHOP: 10% discount and a special menu for people aged 55 and over (What a joy to request that.)
Golden Corral: Offers a senior discount (Shocker)
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts: 10% off for 50+ (I’m hoping that means when you order 50+ doughnuts.)
Perkins Restaurant: Special “Fifty-Five Plus” menu (Yes, please – NOT!)
Uno Pizzeria: “Double-Nickel Club” (Oh, how cute.)
Sizzler: Offers “Honored Guest” menu for 60+ (Gee, do I feel special.)
Fazoli’s: “Club 62”, special senior menu items (Who doesn’t want to be a member of that prestigious club?)
Burger King: 10% discount on purchase (Great, that will help make clogging my arteries feel like a bargain.)

In previous blogs, I lamented the fact that I have occasionally been charged a ‘senior’ price automatically. No questions asked, no mandatory driver’s license proof, nothing but a “That will be 50 cents, ma’am.” In the words of the brilliant philosopher Stephanie Tanner, “How rude!”

To myself I am usually thinking “Did your mama not teach you better?”

There are some life rules that should always be minded. I will mention only two.

One, never brazenly assume that someone is a senior unless it is blatantly obvious that they are over age 85. Two, never ask a woman when her baby is due unless she is so large in the belly there is no other possible explanation.

If you are a ‘senior’ and into discounts, knock yourself out. You now have a good reference point of where to begin.

For myself, I am going to stay in “Da Nile” and sail along in my full-priced boat. Yes, there is a higher cost for going that way, but the price for accepting senior discounts is quite costly, as well.


Presidents’ Day

Today we celebrate Presidents’ Day. For many of us that means a day off of work/school, a day of receiving no bills in the mail and the unavailability of in-person banking.

Presidents’ Day is a federal holiday held on the third Monday of February. The day honors all presidents of the United States. The day specifically honors the birthday of our first president, George Washington. Truth be told, his birthday is February 22, but since that doesn’t always coincide with a three-day weekend, we honor him just a bit early. Sorry, George. We love you and all, but we need a long weekend.

On this Presidents’ Day, I encourage all of us to give our president a break. Can you imagine doing that job? First, I would be constantly scrutinized for wearing yoga pants, sneakers and a baseball cap way too often. I would want to do my own laundry. I would want to take a run on Pennsylvania Avenue by myself. I would tell most reporters and annoying people to get a freakin’ life.

Every president is terrorized. Barrack Obama was criticized for playing too much golf and going on too many vacations and partying too much with Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Yeah, I though so, too. But again, the stress of that job most likely requires great distraction.

President Trump tweets too much and sometimes talks too much. However, he, like all past presidents, is a human, full of frailty and weakness and brokenness. Grace, grace, grace and a little prayer wouldn’t hurt, either.

But back to the birthday boy. The famous claim that George Washington sported a set of wooden teeth is little more than a myth. However, dental issues plagued him for most of his adult life. He began losing teeth as early as his twenties and was eventually forced to wear several sets of unsightly and painful dentures.

Washington’s many false choppers were made out of varying combinations of rare hippopotamus ivory, human teeth, gold wire springs and brass screws. Though his dentures were fashioned by some of the best dentists of the late 18th century, they still left him disfigured and often in pain.

Keeping his teeth looking as white and natural as possible was a constant chore. He often shipped them off to his dentist to keep them in working order. The teeth would easily turn brown and their occasional unsightly appearance may have first started the rumor that they were made from wood.

Worse still, the dentures caused jaw discomfort (I can imagine!) and forced the President’s lips to, as he once wrote “bulge” in an unnatural fashion. This facial disfigurement is somewhat apparent in artist Gilbert Stuart’s famous unfinished painting of George Washington from 1796 – the same portrait that appears on the one dollar bill.

So, today when you pull money from your pocket or purse to pay for your Starbuck’s venti decaf double espresso macchiato with whipped cream, and you see ol’ George’s face on the dollar bill, give him a little grace, too. He was doing his best to smile with his not-wooden teeth.