Friday, February 24, 2006

Take a moment...

Heather's granddad, Victor Menking, passed away this week and she flew down to Abilene, Texas to be with family to celebrate and honor this great man. He and Elline just celebrated their 60th anniversary two days before hand and Papa served his country for over 40 years.

Death is never easy. When Heather's dad called to tell us, Heather wasn't home at the time, so I took the call. And I knew. I knew because Papa had been ill. I knew because Dad hesitated. I knew because my heart already ached with the loss. Not just for me, but for Heather and her family, and for my children who will have trouble remembering Papa in the years to come because they are so young now.

I lost my Opa many years ago, yet the day we found out is still fresh in my mind. But what I remember more is what took place a number of years later. Heather and I were watching a movie, The Doctor (1991), with William Hurt. It was not particularly memorable, but one scene had a deep and unexpected impact on me. Hurt, who is playing the doctor, is walking towards his car in a garage and comes upon an elderly gentlemen who is standing beside his car, struggling. I don't remember why; lost keys, forgetfulness, something else. But his mannerisms or struggles or appearance reminded me so much of my Opa that I was overcome with grief and loss in that dark theater, and I broke down and cried.

The pain and loss subside, but never fade completely. They are part of who we are and as difficult as it is, I'm thankful. Without the hurt, I wouldn't be reminded how important it is to cherish our time together now. To be thankful for every moment we have. To strengthen the ties to family that give us our strength and sense of place. To hug my girls instead of being upset when they do something that drives me crazy. To love my wife, my friend.

60 years. Heather and I will celebrate our 17th this year and, although thankful for every year, I'm awed by those who have 40, 50 and 60. I pray there will be many more for us. If you listen to NPR at all, you may know that on Fridays, the have a story about the StoryCorps. This is a project that travels around the U.S. and invites people to come into a sound booth and record stories about family, friends and life. One couple, Danny and Annie Perasa, are exceptional. Not in the eyes of the world so much; they are not particularly beautiful, rich, influential or well spoken. But the story they tell about their love cuts to the heart. Danny talks about his love for Annie in basic terms; "Being married is like having a color television set, you never want to go back to black and white."

I invite you to go to the NPR web site and listen to their last recording before Danny passed away as anything I could write would diminish what you will hear ( and hit the "Listen" button under the title). I hope that my love for Heather is as evident to her and our children as Danny's love is for Annie.

So thank you and good bye, Papa. We will miss you. And Lord, help us all to cherish our family and friends now.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Historical: A Windy Valentine

Heatherly here. Mike is on a business trip and unreachable. It is Valentine's Day, although the candy fest began last Thursday with library story time and continued through a 4-year old's birthday party on Saturday, children's church valentine cookies on Sunday and then yet another Valentine celebration complete with heavily iced cupcakes at MeiLin's violin class last night. No wonder MeiLin is a bit confused and asked last night if it would still be Valentine's Day when Aunt Mandy comes on March 1.

This morning, the girls opened a package from my parents--lovely little kitty face purses in plush fabric and bright colors. The purses contained more candy of course. Unfortunately for me, the girls will focus on the fruit gel Cinderella snacks (Disney knows what girls want) while Monica and I struggle with the chocolate temptation. Have you ever noticed that given a choice, most children will choose the cheap, pure sugar, pastel or outrageous colored treats and leave the lovely (but apparently dull) chocolates for the adults?

Our ladies' bible study started again last night with a study of John and Stasi Eldredge's Captivating: Unveiling the Mysteries of a Woman's Soul. Reading Stasi's observation that most little girls go through a twirling stage and want to be lovely gave me a new appreciation for my own daughters' current ballerina/princess passion. Maiya will come to me dressed in a lovely pink fairy costume complete with little wings and declare "I'm pretty!" She then smiles and laughs as I confirm she is beautiful and give her a hug. Perhaps Stasi is right: deep in every woman's heart is the desire to be beautiful, to give beauty to the world. It is an embarrassing thought to me sometimes, conflicted with societal pressures and connotations. Yet, the beauty we want to unveil is the beauty of a 2-year old little girl twirling in the kitchen to music, dressed in outlandish satin and netting over her pajamas, her eyes shining and laughter coming from her heart.