Flying Visit in a Car

Nieces Kathie and Julie, with great-nephew Max, stopped by our house on their way home from a quick get-away. I was thrilled to see them. It was the first time Kathie and Max had been here.

Max, Julie, and Kathie

Julie said this trip was modeled after the Mystery Trips SIL Beth used to plan for her grandchildren. Beth would tell the parents how to pack for their children, but none of them knew where the children were going. I remember seeing a photo from one of those trips where Max, Sam, and Kate wore matching tee-shirts with the theme of the trip.

The three drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway, took a hike in the mountains, went to a concert in Chattanooga, spent the night there, had lunch in Knoxville, came here, and headed home in the rain. Maybe it was more of a whirlwind than a flight.

Frozen!

Should I have believed the frost warning? Yes. It was two degrees above freezing when I walked and one degree above when I ate breakfast. I assumed we had not reached the magic number, even though the pasture was suspiciously white. An hour or so later there was water dripping off the deck railing. I went out to touch it to see if frost had formed there. With direct sun on it, there was only water. My eyes slid over several inches. Golly Pete! There was ice on the birdbath!

The solar pump was not working, and I thought it was broken, clogged by ice. I gently pulled it out, where it left a hole in the ice. Ice made a circular frame for a green and brown leaf under it. The ice was at least ¼ inch thick, more than enough to make a skating pond for the birds. The fountain did work, and I put it back so the birds could see there was running water for them.

Celebrating John T

For a year we knew John T’s days on earth were numbered. It was after he and his son Max climbed Mr. Kilimanjaro last year that he was diagnosed with stage four cancer.

I began to think about how people are revealed to us. As a baby is christened, we wonder what hopes and dreams for the child are hidden in the hearts of the family. The infant grows up, and if s/he gets married, we learn a lot from the toasts, roasts, and good wishes of the peers during that celebration. The family draws near at the end of life, and we hear a summary of accomplishments, both tangible and intangible. The intangibles bring in the future – how s/he influences following generations.

A week and a half after John T’s death, John, grandson David and I drove to Charlotte. We picked up grandson Nathaniel and went to church with him. A year ago Nathaniel visited churches within walking distance of the downtown campus and settled on St. Peter’s. When it was time for prayers of the church, we were surprised that the pastor prayed for the family of John T. Wow! John told Nathaniel that it was kind of him to have requested prayer for him.

“I didn’t,” said Nathaniel. “We prayed for the family last week, too.”

We were invited to have lunch with the family at the church before the service for John. A very gracious couple were overseeing it. The man saw Nathaniel walk in and said, “You’re the chef, right?” I didn’t know the man, but he obviously knew our grandson. The woman invited us to help ourselves at the buffet as she tossed a huge salad. I found out later that these lovely people were John’s parents. On the day of their son’s funeral, they served lunch to the extended family and close friends. How humbling! I wish I could have done something for them. For one, I would have told Suzanne that our daughter Lise had idolized her from the moment she met her many years ago. I’ll join Lise in admiring both Suzanne and Randy.

Not having permission to use anyone else’s photo, I took only one shot of us with niece Julie. (Julie is John T’s sister-in-law. My brother and Beth are the parents-in-law.)

Nathaniel, Julie, John, and David

In church, I took a picture of the flowers, flag, medals, and boots. On the wall is a projected photo of John with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background.

As expected, we felt we knew him much better after listening to John’s family and pastor. He was an adventurer from an early age. Wherever he went, he became a leader, though his purpose was to serve others. He was an Eagle Scout. All present and former scouts were invited to stand and repeat the scout oath. Veterans stood and were recognized with applause. Two of his friends, currently in the military, were there in their impressive dress uniforms. Pastor Rick talked of John’s outreach to everyone he met. The last year of his life was a good one, filled with joy and peace. The staff at the oncologist’s office asked each other, “Who is he that he exudes such joy and assurance?”

Pastor Rick said he regularly visited John in his roles of pastor and good friend. “He wanted to know how I was doing and if there were anything he could do for me. That’s the way he dealt with everyone. He was always willing to share the source of his strength and his assurance of an everlasting life after death.”

We were invited to go out in the parking lot for the releasing of balloons (approved and biodegradable). Students from the Christian school, where John taught science, picked up balloons on the way out. Those who couldn’t get in the sanctuary had watched the service in the fellowship hall. I knew the sanctuary was totally full, but people kept streaming out. There were hundreds of people there and countless others watching the streaming video from home. The hushed crowd listened to the haunting playing of Taps and then released the balloons. Dark clouds overhead hurled a drenching rain at us. I felt that had John been in the crowd in person, he would have laughed and helped people run for cover.

Pastor Rick, wearing a blue shirt and raising a thumb, gives signal to release balloons.

Nathaniel shared his discovery about the prayer for John at St. Peter’s. After the celebration of life service, he saw a couple he recognized. He is guessing they were involved in the school where John and niece Kathie taught, either as teachers or parents of a student. There could have been many Charlotte churches upholding us in prayer that day.

The Watermelon Caper

When warm weather came this year, I intended to have watermelon several times. I knew David loved it. The first melon we had was too large, but we managed to squeeze it into the refrigerator. It lasted a bit too long for my liking. Several weeks ago I looked for small watermelons and found none. The supermarket didn’t have any at all, and the local produce stand had only big ones. This week Ingles, our favorite supermarket, advertised personal melons. Perfect!

David had a long day at work. After he came home, he ate the main course, and I listed his choices of fruit to have. At the mention of melon, his eyes lit up. As I pulled it from the refrigerator, he said he could eat the whole thing. I cut it in half, and he sliced that half in about 18 pieces. That turned out to be plenty.

Uneaten watermelon

When he had eaten the red part, he reassembled the outer shell on the plate. Yes, we do silly things just for the fun of it.

He and I often take things too far. He wanted to see if he could pick up the pieces and flip them over, and I took the video. Unfortunately, the file was too big, so I saved five frames from the video to show you.

I think we can consider summer closed for business now. It’s time for squash and pumpkins.

Fly-by Inspection

I was on the deck, pouring water into the birdbath, when a hummingbird swooped down to the feeder behind me. Standing very still, I waited for a few moments and slowly swiveled so that I could see her. She seemed to be watching me as she continued to sip the sugar water. When she was through, she zoomed to the right side of my face, about five inches from my glasses. She hovered there for a second, jerked herself inch by inch to my left, continued to the back of my head, and streaked off around the house. I wondered if that could be the same little bird that sometimes hovers outside my sliding door, watching me at the computer.

It’s almost time for the hummingbirds to fly south, but I know the ones here are our regulars. Two of them fight all the time, going through a choreographed dance to chase each other away. They retreat to their favorite hiding places to wait for the next ambush. After they leave, we’ll keep the feeders up for a couple of weeks for birds traveling through.

Meanwhile, I feel other birds are already on the move. A flock of titmice and chickadees came for a drink before I refilled the birdbath. A chickadee leaned way over and fell in the water. He stood there, daring the others to laugh, and shook his wings as if he intended to take a bath all along. I’ll bet he’s the one who never asks for directions on the southern journey. As I watch for birds leaving our area, I wonder who is waiting for them in South America. Have people looked at migration calendars, or do they know to expect the feathered friends we share?

Be careful, birds, and have a safe trip. I’ll look for you again in April.

Driving on the Blue Ridge

Grandson David and I took a quick drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, because we both love the views. The definition of quick gets slower as you ride. We got out at the first overlook because mist was flowing across the gap. We walked the length of the parking area, and I took one photo after the mist cleared.

As we walked back to our car, a couple spoke to us. We all agreed the view was spectacular. They asked where we came from, and we found out they were from Atlanta. They were most interested in good views and seeing waterfalls.

Two overlooks later, we saw that couple again. I walked over to them and pointed out my favorite tree, the mountain ash. The berries were a bright red. The tree might grow elsewhere, but I have seen it only at higher elevations.

A young man spoke to us, wondering if the weather would be good for an hour. I knew the forecast included rain, and we could see dark clouds approaching. He said his friend asked him to call from that overlook. The friend was going to propose there and was driving up with his girlfriend and a photographer. David and I had our doubts about the weather, but the young man decided to tell his friend to come. How I wish we could have fast-forwarded the time to see what happened! The young man was driving on to Asheville and wouldn’t be on the spot at proposal time. It’s probably a good thing he was leaving, because I don’t think the scenery would perform as promised. As we drove home, we saw one brilliant streak of lightning, followed by a heavy downpour that lasted only a few minutes.

Fun with a Frog

Grandson David occasionally texts me when he is on a break at work. We chat for a few minutes about something silly if there is no real news. I have the advantage of speed, since I can type on the computer or dictate to the phone. He has to touch his screen to reply. That’s why he often has one-word answers. This conversation started with fact, but it didn’t stay there.

I wrote, “I rescued a little tan frog from the waterfall pool today. He could not get out of the water, so I scooped him up in a bucket and let him out on dry land.”

David responded, “OK.”

“I think he tried to wink at me.”

“LOL.”

“Do you think I should have kissed him?”

“NO!”

The story ended before it became a fairy tale.