What They Don’t Tell You About Getting Older

This is a big weekend in the Hobbs House. It always has been really. You see this Saturday is my Father-in-law’s birthday and Monday is my Mom’s. For years we have celebrated our alternate parent’s lives back to back. It can be a bit hectic and time consuming celebrating so much life in one fail swoop. For years we did a lot of driving and eating the last weekend of February.

But things have changed, for now my Father-in-law is gone. He died a few years back after battling cancer at 85. We still celebrate his birthday in some way with his widow, my mother-in-law. In many ways it is not just an acknowledgement of his life and the impact it had on us all, but a recognition of hers as well. It was awfully hard on her to lose her husband of 59 years in her late seventies. We worried about her a lot those first couple of years. Would she bounce back? Would she find life again? To some extent when we celebrate my Father-in-law’s birthday with her, we are also celebrating the fact that we  still have her in our lives. Even at 82 she presses on and lives a vibrant life. She is a gift to her community and our family. We are just so grateful she is still with us not only to share memories of him, but to make new memories as well.

And then there is my Mom. When you lose one family member, it doesn’t take much math skill to realize you are going to lose the rest of them sooner than you wish. Each birthday we celebrate becomes more and more precious. Even though my Dad is 82 and my Mom is seventy something, I mean 49, I mean I’d better stop talking about her age or I’ll get in trouble, they are still active. They are involved with their church and community and friends. They are a vital part of our family’s life watching over our kids when we get busy or sick and lending a hand in any way that is needed. But more and more our conversations focus on their friends and age mates who are sick and dying. Even though I am just in my early 40s, since I was a later in life surprise to them I realize I am lucky to have had them in my life as long as I have.

So that is what they don’t tell you about getting older. That you will move from squabbling with your parents and having them on your nerves half the time for giving you such much advice to praying to God for one more year with them. One more year to hear their words of wisdom and having the blessing of their presence in your family.

As I looked through the card aisle today I realized they just don’t make cards that express that adequately. Yeah, there are gratitude cards and “I love you” cards, but there is no “I’m just so grateful to have had one more year with you in my life card.”

So, I decided to make my own.

For our parents, even though we still sometimes squabble, get on each other’s nerves and disagree:

what they don't tell you about getting older

 

So, if you are lucky enough to still have your parents, even if it is not their birthday, feel free to share a little love with them this weekend. You can even steal this graphic off my Facebook or Pinterest or just forward this post. Love and Gratitude are meant to be shared. Take the time to offer it while you are able.

My Little Brother: A Guest Post

I am privileged to share with you a guest post by my friend and mentor, Dr. Catherine Meeks. Dr. Meeks has been working for racial reconciliation longer that I have been alive. During her distinguished career she taught African American studies at Mercer University and Socio-Cultural studies at Wesleyan College. She currently serves on the Anti-Racism Commission for the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta and is a religion columnist for the Huffington Post.

 Catherine inspires me continually with her courageous truth telling and her peaceful spirit (a powerful combination for sure).

I am so grateful to Catherine for sharing such a powerful and personal story. If you ever doubted that racism really causes tragic harm, doubt no longer.What is so sad to me about this story (other than the pain of the personal loss) is that some 60 years later we are still having to restructure our society to reflect the truth that all lives matter, equally.

Guest Post Catherin Meeks Black Lives Matter

So my friends, I give you the words of Dr Catherine Meeks:

*****

Though he was born before me, he died when he was twelve years old and as I heard the story about his death while growing up myself, he was always my little brother. His name is Garland and when he was a little boy, he got sick with what my family thought was just a common stomach ache that could be cured by home remedies. My family tried their remedies and he did not get better. Finally one night he took a turn for the worse and they rushed him to the local hospital which was seventeen miles from our house. The hospital turned him away because he was black and poor.

My father was instructed to take him to the charity hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana which was seventy-five miles away. My father managed to get transportation and took my brother there, but by this time his appendix had ruptured and he developed a serious infection which resulted in his death.

Daddy never recovered from Garland’s death. He grieved about him until his death many years later. He was angry and sometimes not very nice to the rest of us in part from his sense of helplessness when it came to being able to protect us. I can only imagine how fearful he must have been for the rest of his life that something would happen to us and he would not be able to intervene.

Now that I am a parent, I understand much better than I did during my earlier years why my father was so angry and over protective. As a teenager, I thought that he was just overbearing and controlling. But now I understand that he was filled with fear and rage about his own inability to protect us, which was a job that he believed belonged to him.

This is what racism did to my father. It was racism that took my brother away from us. A system that would not allow a hospital to offer services to a little twelve year old boy because he was not deemed good enough to be treated there. It was not the customary thing to do. I understand my father’s rage.

But, along the way I made a clear decision not to become my father. I made the decision to find a way to be empowered so that I would not be at the mercy of racist structures that sought to control me and to make sure that I stayed in my place. I made it my business to work to find out when and where I wanted to enter into life and to go forward as a liberated woman to do just that. I was determined not to relive the fear based and rage filled life that my dear daddy modeled for me simply because he did not know how to find a way out of it.

It is this determination that has led me to work for racial healing and reconciliation since I was in my early twenties. I believe that our only hope is to dismantle racism and to replace it with a commitment to work tirelessly to build a Beloved Community where all of God’s children can be free.

Life’s Little Gifts: A tribute to Sheba

Have you ever had a gift drop into your life just when you needed it most?

Three years ago my Father-in-law, Bobby, passed away leaving a hole in our family’s life. This hole was most deeply felt by my dear mother-in-law who had married Bobby at age 18 and spent the next 59 years of her life by his side. Losing a loved one is never easy, but I cannot imagine the loneliness and just plain strangeness that she must have experienced as she learned to go on without him.

Needless to say we all worried about her quite a bit that first year. Grieving a long beloved spouse is a tricky business. We prayed for God to give her the grace to pull through and move on in this new way. As we all moved through the sadness, we looked for any way to help that we could. But as many weekends we spent together, trips we took, and phone calls we made, we realized we still could not be there to encourage her day after day.

As we prayed and groped for relief to the grieving, a little gift was dropped into our collective laps.

a lap dog if there ever was one

a lap dog if there ever was one

 

 

Being the dog lovers we are, we had batted around the idea of a dog for Grammy a time or three. We scanned the papers for pups and offered to visit shelters with her. Then one day, she surprised us with the news that she had taken a trip to a local shelter, was introduced to Sheba and found love at first sight.

At first we thought the dog was an unlikely choice. She was an eight year old Boston terrier/ Chihuahua mix that was still recovering from having her latest litter of puppies. She had one bulgey Boston terrier eye that seemed to work and one Chihuahua eye that was clouded and weepy.

But even though the dog required some TLC and healing time, it turned out she was the perfect choice. Her small frame and gentle demeanor allowed my mother-in-law to be able to care for her even with a bad back. She never ran off or got under Grammy’s feet. In fact, she spent most of her time cuddled next to Grammy wherever she was. She greeted her happily at the door, kept her company while she watched TV, took walks with her, checked e-mail with her. Wherever Grammy was, Sheba was sure to go.

If I’ve seen love anywhere, I witnessed it flowing from this dog toward her rescuer.

I think Sheba must have known she hit the jackpot when she got rescued by my mother-in-law. I don’t know all the details about the early years of her life, but I would bet good money she had never been pampered and cared for like she was these past few years. But the way that my mother-in-law rescued Sheba is only half the story.

For the beauty of Love is that is blesses both the giver and the receiver.

The love and devotion of this dog became a surprisingly powerful source of comfort and joy for my mother-in-law. Indeed we all delighted in her sweet presence as she became such a part of our life it was hard to imagine a time before we had her with us.

In our time of sadness and struggle this little furball came into our lives like a pint-size gift. As Isaiah writes, where there once was weeping there was now laughter. Where there was once was heartache that was now joy.

Of course a dog could never replace my father-in-law. But her sweet presence reminded us that there is still much good left in life. That there are new joys and surprises still to be had.

I am sad to say that our time with sweet Sheba has come to an end. As happened with my father-in-law three years ago, she lost her great battle with cancer. Even though we lost her physical presence with us last week, the gift of her love for us lives on.

Sweet Sheba, even as we grieve, we are forever grateful for the joy that you brought to us in a time when it was sorely needed. Though we miss you sorely, we will carry the memories of the comfort and hope that you shared.

It is ironic that once again we find ourselves in need of a gift of comfort as we grieve the one who once helped ease our grief. As my years on this earth increase, I am more and more aware of the sadness and hardship that accompanies life. At the same time, I trust that even (and especially) in the hardest of circumstances Life brings little gifts of comfort to us to help us make it through.

Have you ever received a little gift from Life just when you needed it most? What was it and how did it help you through?

 

 

How Community Heals

This is the last in the trilogy of blog posts on what the new dog I didn’t even want is teaching me about life. Otherwise know as, Dang it dachshund, how did you win me over so quickly?

I will readily admit that I was not in favor of getting a new dog. I was hurting over the death of our beloved terrier and couldn’t imagine who would replace him in our home. We still had the hound dog with us and I was content to spend my days comforting the spotted one about his brother’s absence. I really thought the hound dog was okay. I was walking him extra, petting him extra, snuggling him on the sofa more. But then after Christmas I noticed his tail. He had begun licking a spot that was now balding and red. We assumed maybe he got a scratch or bug bite and it would go away.

It did not go away. So we wrapped his tail with athletic tape (we are nothing but cheap around here). This slowed him down a little, but eventually he always got the tape off. Time wore on and the place on his tail got worse, not better. We would find it raw and bleeding. Eventually I broke down and took the spotted hound to the vet. We gave him prednisone for a couple of weeks. It helped a little, but I think only because the medicine made him feel so bad he didn’t even feel like licking his tail. The vet advised that if the prednisone didn’t work maybe we should try Xanax.

Xanax. For my dog. Who apparently has was having depressive/anxious symptoms.

how cummunity heals

another adventure with spotted hound and terrier

So yeah, I guess dogs go grieve the loss of their friends. For we all want a best buddy. We crave someone who is like us, who gets us, to go through life with.

The Xanax comment sent me to the papers to start checking out rescue pups. We visited a couple of shelters and started meeting animals. I think I knew the chubby dachshund undergoing heartworm treatment was our guy when the vet nurse caring for him started interviewing me on the phone when I called to ask about him. She even got a little chocked up talking about how great he was and how they had all grown very fond and protective of him.

I’ll be honest that it wasn’t love at first sight between the little hound and the spotted one. Our big guy moped and pouted for a day or two that someone new was getting attention in the house. But then we noticed them playing together. And then we’d catch them cuddling on the sofa at night. After a few days the spotted one had a new bounce in his step out on walks again. He would come back from our school run car rides with a look of joy I hadn’t seen in quite some time.

IMG_4209

And then about a week and a half after we got the new dog I noticed it. Spotted one’s tail. It was almost entirely well. There was no more redness or bleeding at all. The skin had all grown back and new fur was coming in.

I jumped up with relief and started sharing the news with my husband. My guy, the therapist, said he was not surprised. He talked about how horses that are kept in pastures alone often suffer from tail biting. He went on to say that when he sees a teenager or young adult that is self-mutilating he always asks them about what kind of community they have.

It makes sense really.

For we were not made to be alone. We were meant for community. We were designed to need buddies to walk with us and share in the great joys of life like car rides and after dinner treats. 

Its just as well really. Life does seem to be better when we travel with a beloved pack. We play more and smile more. We have someone to keep us warm during the cold, dark nights.

So thanks little hound. Not only for making me smile everyday, but for bringing joy back to our sad spotted guy.

And you out there feeling sad and lonely on the sofa by yourself? There’s are buddies out there for you too. I know many days you don’t feel like making the effort to find them. But pick yourself up, start looking around, and take a chance on community again. Once you find a good pack of people, it will heal wounds you could not have imagined possible.

For the difficult Christmases

At some point in American history, people started expecting Christmas to live up to an certain ideal.  Maybe it was a Norman Rockwell thing.  There should be presents and candlelight and lots of smiling faces of family and friends. Within our own families we develop certain traditions and expectations.  In my family growing up, Christmas always included my Aunt’s brunswick stew, my uncle’s silly jokes and lots of cousins playing on the front lawn.  This is all well and good, but what happens when something goes wrong with our formula?  What happens when the one who always made that certain dish gets so sick they can’t cook anymore?  What happens when there’s a divorce and people are missing from our celebration and Christmas becomes a split ticket between families for the kids?  What happens when one of the places our the table is vacant because a loved one has died?

for the Difficult Christmas

The reality of life is that Christmas does not always look like a Norman Rockwell painting. Just because Hallmark does not have a card section for “the difficult Christmas” it does not mean it does not exist.

While I was writing my advent devotional, Lighten the Darknessthe reality of the difficult Christmas weighed heavy on my mind.  I’ve gone through several of these hard Christmases in recent years as I walked with my Father-in-law while he battled life threatening illnesses and then with my mother-in-law and husband as they grieved his death.  I wondered how or even why we keep saying “Merry Christmas” when everyone has tears in their eyes?

The journey took me deep to the heart of my own Christmas celebration.  The best answer I could come up with during that time was that I kept celebrating Christmas because it reminded me that in the midst of these hard and sometimes dark days, that we did not walk them alone.  For as John tells us of the birth of Christ, it is in this moment that the word became flesh and dwelt among us.  In Christian circles it is commonly called the incarnation (God with skin on).  It is also why Jesus is referred to as Emmanuel, because in him God came to be WITH us.

In the end that was the best news I could have hoped for during the difficult Christmases.  For even though times were sometimes hard, I never endured them alone.  There was always Someone with me, helping me and lightening the darkness that lay ahead.

I think even people who don’t ascribe to the Christian faith are drawn to this concept. That’s why we have the impulse to draw together at this time of year.  For not only did God come to be with us, we were also designed to walk with one another.  To hold each other in joy and comfort each other in sorrow.

So if your Christmas this year is of the difficult variety, I offer you two words of hope.

You are not alone.  It may feel this way at times, but the odds are there are many who love and care for you.  Find them.  Let them hold your had and light your way.  And know that beyond our imperfect human comfortings, there is One who is greater that is with you.  The hand of the Almighty may be unfelt and unseen, but trust that it is there for you, cradling you in your darkest hour.

Even if your Christmas is not “merry”, it is still Christmas.  Your sorrow or struggle will never undo the fact that Love came down and came to stay.  The fact that you are sad does not mean it is not Christmas, or even that it is not a “good” Christmas.  It just means that you will remember the hard way that the presents and candles and food were never what it was about anyway.  As my friends the Grinch learned, it was always about something a little bit more.