Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Beautiful Smile of the Broken Boy

A small story with a happy ending.

Together, my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, and I have 10 children and eleven grandchildren, with grandchild number 12 due in about a month. She and her first husband had three boys and four girls, while I had two boys and one girl with my previous wife. We both love all of our children and grandchildren, and the only clue as to which is the genetic donor is found by checking pigmentation. We both love our kids, see? And we both love our grandchildren.
And yet...
And yet, in a way I do not quite understand, even after being a parent for more than 34 years, I have a unique affection for every single one of my offspring. Sometimes it's easy to identify why I have a special place for each one of these 21 individuals; Mickey takes me to the range with him; Tobiyah boldly moves cross country. Other relationships, particularly with the littles, are a bit more difficult to to differentiate. I can't tell you exactly WHY Trey makes me light up a bit differently than Eliott does; I just know that it's true. There is plenty of Papa love to go around, and every one of them gets all of it I can give them.
But ONE grandchild has an easily identified place in my heart. Four-and-a-half  year old Heath is the first-born son of MY first-born son, the first grandchild I was able to hold in my arms on the day he was born. I have so many images of him stored in my memory, littles snippets I can take out and look at when I want, or need, a special boost. The internal snapshot I have of the day I walked into his house, to be greeted me "Hey, Papa!", is radiant in the cells it occupies in my brain. The first time the firstborn son of my firstborn son greeted me by name; yeah, that's a grand and lovely thing.

Heath loves his Papa. He loves GranNessa, too. And he especially loves 12 year old Kenneth and 10 year old Alicia (we Patterson Boys have an eye for the ladies) because they play with him and let him play with their toys when he comes to our house for a visit. And last week, he was excited about having a sleep-over at his house, and he told me repeatedly how either Kenneth or Alicia could sleep on the bed in his room. Just one, because the bed wasn't big enough for two, but it might be Kenneth who slept there, and it might be Alicia. He was going to be a good host.

His mommy and daddy were going to take a small trip just for themselves, to celebrate their anniversary. He was going to miss them, but he knew that he was going to have fun with Papa and GranNessa and especially Kenneth and Alicia, and also his little brother Eliott. He likes to play with Eliott, but he's just a little boy,  who really hasn't learned (yet) how to kick the soccer ball back and do other big boy things.

But Kenneth can do all of that, and Heath was bouncing up and down in anticipation as he persuaded Kenneth to go outside with him and play ball. Alicia found a copy of "The Wizard of Oz" to read; Eliott was down for his morning nap, and GranNessa was still at work, so it was just Papa and Kenneth and Heath who went out to the front yard to play. It's a quiet street; no traffic to speak of. Still, the first time Papa heard Heath yelling at Kenneth to stop the ball from going into the street, I knew we had to make a change. I wasn't able to play, because I had the baby monitor, so I sat on the front porch and supervised. 'Supervised' means I'm the guy who decides it's time to do something different when we can't kick the ball more than twice without it getting near the street. So, what shall we do? First, Heath and Kenneth picked GranNessa some flowers. Several dandelions got plucked, and set aside to wait for a vase to present them to GranNessa. Next, Heath wanted to play in the dirt, but Papa thought his clothes were a bit too nice. Then, Papa heard Eliott making a noise, so we moved inside for a while.

Inside, it turned out to be: WATER TIME! Heath stopped up the sink in the bathroom by appropriate plug use, and took several of his toys for a swim. That was HIGHLY entertaining, and really not very messy at all. Then we had a snack, and Heath removed his shirt, so he could hang it on the back porch so it could dry in the sun. Then, he and Kenneth played a game, and won, while Papa helped Eliott wake up all the way, and gave him a yummy lunch of hot dogs, carrots, cantaloupe, and some other green fruit. And then, Heath and Kenneth wanted to go outside and play again, this time in the back yard. It's fenced in, which is really a good idea, because it lets Presley and Fiona, the basset hound girls, and Bebop and RockSteady, the big six month old ducks, run around safely. And Heath and Eliott have a nice playground set.

And Papa stayed inside and helped Eliott eat, which means he kept putting food on the plate.

Then, Alicia came downstairs, and with that regal presence only attained by 10 year old girls, let me know that Heath was crying.
"Kenneth is with him," I responded.
She did not deign to respond, but merely swept outside with a superior look on her face...
...only to return, two minutes later, with Heath in tears, holding his arm, and wailing.

It has been 45 years since I went through medic training in the Army at Ft Sam Houston, but I knew a break when I saw it. Appear to be calm, first order of business.
Ice pack time; until Kenneth could find the baggies for an ice pack, we used the field expedient of a bag of frozen vegetables.
Comfort wailing grandson; attempt to determine how it happened ("I fell").
Make phone calls:
1. GranNessa to tell her what happened, and ask her to leave work right now and come home.
2. Call Uncle Mickey to get him to come over and watch Kenneth, Alicia, and Eliott while I took Heath to the hospital. Mickey completed an EMT program, so I got a confirmation of my diagnosis of a fracture.
3. Call Heath's daddy. 'He fell off his playground, and his right arm is broken. I've called Mickey, and as soon as he gets here, I'm going to take him to the hospital.'
4. Quick survey of nearby emergency care centers. Decide not to do that; I believe he's going to need a hospital.
5. Talk to Heath's mommy. She has arranged for dear neighbor April to come and get Eliott. I explain Mickey is on the way, but April is a better choice. She sends me a text with information I will need for Heath at the hospital. They are on the way home, having spent three minutes inside their vacation room.
6. Mickey shows up. April shows up. I prep Heath by putting his Batman bathrobe on him, shoes and socks, and attempt to make a sling out of a towel.
7. Decide NOT to try to drive into Atlanta to the hospital, given that it's Friday afternoon at 2:30; Canton has a good facility and it's closer.
8. Heath, by this time, is much more in control. He is still in some pain, but is able to speak clearly, and only tears up when he tries to tell  me what happened.
9. Get to the hospital, only to discover they've moved it, about a month ago. Go to the new location. Heath calmly tells me not to step on the brakes so fast. I comply.
10. Carry my grandson across the parking lot, because there is no space nearby. I have to stop and rest.
11. The people at the hospital, once we get to the front of the line, are lovely, sweet, and solicitous of Heath's well-being, and give him a Batman sticker.
12. I speak again with Heath's mommy and daddy, and let him speak to his mommy. I tell Heath I want to take a picture of him to send to his mommy, so will he please smile, to show her that he is being brave? He smiles. He also wants to look at the picture of his arm. I show him.
13. And then everything is out of my hands, and the waiting starts. I wait until his mommy and daddy get there. Then, I go to their home, and take Eliott from April. Eliott and I have a snack and hang out. Then his mommy comes home, and she tells me that his daddy will be in the ambulance with Heath when they transfer him to the Children's Hospital.
The rest is just shuffling around and details.

But, after the immediacy of the crisis is behind me, the self-accusations start. I had PROMISED Courtney I could take care of her little boys. 'This isn't my first rodeo,' I assured her, as she was loading up her car to leave.
Now, I have run the tape back and forth I don't know how many times. What could I have done differently?
My conclusion is this: there was no reasonable precaution I did not take. There was no foreseeable event I could have avoided. Heath was playing on his own equipment, in his own back yard, and he was under reasonable supervision. Perhaps I should have taken him to the Children's Hospital straightaway, but I wasn't familiar with the route, and I wanted to get him to a full-service ER ASAP, and I didn't want to get tied up in Atlanta traffic.
And it doesn't seem to help at all.

What will the outcome be? Well, much of that is out of my hands. The docs say that he should get full recovery. Vanessa and I went to visit last night, and he was still talking to me, and didn't express any fear or anger. I'm hoping that means that I still am the Papa he loves.
His mom and his dad have both recently expressed appreciation for my regular baby-sitting for Eliott. I'm hoping I'll still get to do that; but, who knows? Maybe the association of me with the accident is going to be something it takes them a while to get over. I KNOW what it's like to so passionately love a child, that you go to ANY length to protect them.
I was hoping I was going to get a word from God on Saturday at church.  I was hoping for one of those dramatic events, where the scales fall from my eyes, and I see the truth! Well, nothing like that. What I got was: this is what you have to deal with. I'll be with you in this, just as I have been with you in everything else. No matter what, that won't change. (Didn't happen in fiery letters on a purple scroll, either; just a confident understanding that this is Who He is, and He still loves me.)

So, here's what I have at the end: A beautiful smile from a sweet and broken boy. He put the smile there because his Papa asked him to, so he could show his momma that he was being brave. And this is the lesson that I must learn from my four-and-a-half year old grandson; to smile, NOT because I am happy, or pleased with the way things are going. Instead, my grandson teaches me that I am to smile because it is good for others to see that I can do that.
And, like him, I will rest when I can & when I need to, and allow others to care for me, and accept the gifts I am given; and continue to trust the Big Guys.

Peace be on your household.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How I Interact With Cops While Bearing Arms

This is prompted by the recent jury verdict on the police shooting of Philando Castile.

I'm not going to go over circumstances of the shooting, nor the trial which gave acquittal to the police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile. I want to make two quick comments about that specific case, and then tell you what I do when I get pulled over while carrying.

Comment # 1. Philando Castile was legally carrying a firearm, and in no way using the firearm to present a threat. He did ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong, and I want to be clear about that.
Comment  # 2. His family asked that any financial support to be directed to Shiloh Hills Missionary Baptist Church in St. Paul. It is my understanding that they do not have financial needs at this point, but a letter expressing your support and prayer might mean a lot. The snail mail address is : 501 West Lawson AvenueSt. Paul, Minnesota 55117; the email is at the weblink.

And now for the general information about driving while armed:

I have a concealed carry permit. Any time you see me out in the world, it's a sure bet I am carrying a loaded firearm on  my person. Why? Because I want to! I ALWAYS am in compliance with applicable federal and state law. 

I also have, from time to time, conditions permitting,  a tendency to exceed the speed limit. In addition, up until about a year ago, I drove a raggedy old truck with the rear windows duck-taped in and tail-lights that took a lot of maintenance. Consequently, on at least seven occasions in at least four jurisdictions over the last six years, I have been pulled over by the police, and in every case, here is what I do:

1. I roll down the driver's side window, and I stick BOTH empty hands out, in plain sight. As the police officer approaches my car, as soon as I'm sure he can hear me, I state "Officer, I have a concealed carry permit, and I have a 9 mm on my hip and a .380 in the glove compartment."  (Or a .38 special in my pocket, or a 1911 in a shoulder holster; you get the idea.)

2. I then SHUT UP, and await further instruction; and, I am holding both hands in plain sight at all times.

Sometimes, they just tell me to leave my firearm where it is. Sometimes, they ask if they can place my firearm in their vehicle for safety while we talk. Sometime they ask me to step out; other times, to stay in the vehicle. I have never gotten an unreasonable request, and I'm always compliant.

I'm a big guy, with long hair, and a beard, AND A GUN, but I do my best to make that cop NOT see me as a threat. Does it work?

Well, I haven't been shot YET. That doesn't mean I won't get shot tomorrow, but it's worked, to this point. Therefore, I can suggest this to you as a plan of action, should you find yourself in similar circumstances. This much, EVERYONE can, and I feel should do.

Frankly, it aggravates my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock GA, that in addition to not getting shot, I haven't gotten a ticket, either. She's not sure if I'm given a pass for my firearm compliance, or for Driving While White And Married To A Foxy Black Woman, but it doesn't really matter; it ticks her off. That's okay with me; living bland is not my idea of a fun time.

Peace be on your household.




Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fathers' Day Meditation: How the Curse Was Vanquished

Growing up ain't easy for nobody. Didn't you ever wonder why Tom and Sid Sawyer were being raised by Aunt Becky?
So, I'm not trying to say my sneaky passage into adulthood was any better or worse than anybody else I know. I just know it had all the bad stuff I wanted, thank you very much. Plenty of good stuff! Yes indeed! But my older sister and I were unique on that little dirt road in Macon, GA, in the early 1950's because we were the only kids living with a single mom.
However, we were ASTOUNDINGLY fortunate to be living in one side of a rental duplex right next door to the house where my mom grew up, and where my grandmother and grandfather still lived. So, when my mom went to work, my sister and I went next door, and that's how childcare worked in the country in Georgia in the early/mid 50s.
And therefore, the only father I had, to speak of, for the first five years of my life was my grandfather, William (Bill) Jordan Paulette. He worked for the railroad, and delivered the mail, and was a Primitive Baptist preacher. He took me fishing, and to baseball games held at Luther Williams field at Central City Park. He told me stories, and sang ridiculous songs. We sat on the porch in the hot summer evenings (this was LONG before air conditioning). He could only tolerate me swinging with him for a short time, because I wanted to go HIGH! and he just wanted to relax. But he WOULD tolerate that short time.
My biological father wasn't ENTIRELY removed from my life. He lived in faraway Atlanta, and I believe the arrangements were that he got to take my sister and I for one weekend, every two months; two weeks in the summer, and every other Christmas. I don't remember much about those visits.
In 1959, my mother married again, and for the first time in my life, I had a live-in father figure. It was great! At first. Then, not so much, for the next many, many years.
Also in 1959, my father remarried, and with the new bride came stability: a house in the suburbs, two new little brothers. I got to know my father in a little more depth. It was not a very successful relationship.
But, as an adult, you have obligations. So, every Fathers' Day, I'd buy three cards. One went to my grandfather; it was the most expensive, sentimental card I could find. The other two went to my bio-father and step-father, and were just as plain and simple as could be.
In 1975, my grandfather died while I was in the Army, stationed in Germany. Tore me to pieces. A few months after that, it was Fathers' Day again; I went to the PX, and looked at the card offerings, and thought, "I only have to buy two this year." I guess I bought them. I guess I bought other cards for other years. And sometimes, I used the occasion to try to make an approach. I remember one card said "A father is someone who a son always looks up to, no matter how tall he gets." That one made me want to throw up a little bit, but I sent it.
But, essentially for me, after 1975, Fathers' Day was over. I resented the fact that it was on the calendar. I wondered if there might be a niche for "Toxic Greeting Cards: When You Really Want Them To Know What You Think Of Them." I drew sample cards out in my head, when Fathers' Day came around.
One said "Father, All that I have accomplished, All that I am, All the wealth I have accumulated: None of it is due to you!"
There was one that said : "Fathers' Day! : Just think of all you threw away!"
And it seem like there was another one that said something like "Because it's Fathers' Day, I have to get you a card: This is it."

Even when I had kids of my own, I still hated Fathers' Day. In fact, I didn't like ANY holiday. That wasn't due to any religious belief; I didn't like Fathers' Day because I didn't have a good impression of fathers (with some GREAT exceptions!) I didn't like Christmas because we spent most of our adult life making it on one income, and didn't have much money to spend on Christmas presents. And I didn't want my birthday noted, because I didn't want MY kids to feel compelled to give me something, just because.

Yes, I WAS known as the Grinch.

(Parenthetical note: in the last days, both my bio father and my stepfather reached out to me in very authentic ways, and we forgave each other for the bad. It was greatly healing. Didn't save the holiday, though.)

But: I'm a little bit okay, now. A little bit. How did that happen?

In 2011, I married my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA. And so, at age 58, I found myself a father again, this time to a 5 year old girl, and a 6 year old boy. They were Vanessa's grandchildren, and we are raising them.

Vanessa already knew I didn't like holidays, because I told her.
Actually, Christmas was redeemed, but that's another story.
She fussed at me about not liking my birthday.
BUT! When Fathers' Day came around, and I was starting to make noises about not wanting any observation, she put her fists on her hips, and spoke energetically to me.

"You listen to me!" One hand comes off her hip. A finger extends from the fist, and waves under my nose. "You are going to shut your mouth, and you are going to let those children give you presents for Fathers' Day! This doesn't have anything to do about what you like and what you don't like. This is for Kenneth and Alicia, and you ARE going to accept whatever they give you, and you are going to appreciate it! Do I make myself clear?" 

The finger withdrew into the fist. The fist remained alarmingly close to my nose. I could read the message without glasses.

"Okay, dear, I get your point. I'll be good."

And so, now it's okay. It's not that I look forward to it or anything, but I DO so appreciate the lovely messages I get on Fathers' Day. I boast "I have 10 children and 11 grandchildren, and number 12 will be here next month!"

And the ONLY purpose that the memories of the old pain and resentment serve, is to remind me that I don't have them any more.

Peace be on your house, and Happy Fathers' Day!


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Melon-Baller Blues

Remember the first time you used a melon baller?
Magic, wasn't it?
Those long summer afternoons, curled up with an assortment of fruit.
Melon ballers, and a cool glass of water by your side.
Using the big ones for watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkin.
The medium size melon baller for calabash, sponge guard, and yellow squash.
And the day when you finally graduated to the miniature, jewel like elegance of making melon balls with the smallest baller; a platter-necklace of peach, strawberry, apple, and walnut, and the delicate traceries of blue agave.
Dipping the melon ballers in the cold water to rinse between each fruit, until finally, you had the utmost in organic drinks: God's fresh spring water, lightly kissed by the fragrance of cucumber, lime, and snake gourd!

Those sweet, long afternoons, working out in the orchard.
Playfully interacting with those mischievous hornets! Oh, how they loved to sway and dance with you!
Will we ever see days like that again?

It's really SUCH a personal experience. I don't recall seeing anyone, not Mark Twain, not Flannery O'Connor, nor even Stephen King risk exposing this fundamental aspect of character formation in our personal iteration between Ice Ages. You won't hear a word about melon balling from Bruce Willis, Leslie Uggams, Robert DeNiro,  Peggy Lee or even Denzel Washington. I understand that. Everyone has a right to keep their most precious memories safe in a vault, to draw on in times of need.

But today, as I melon balled this cantaloupe, I remembered. It was a sweet moment for me.

And I hope it was for you.

Peace be on your home.

Monday, June 12, 2017

How DaddyBear Rescued Me From the Dentist


And my book review is found here.

I have numerous reasons for loving DaddyBear the Minivandian and his crew: they are funny, heroic, silly, and real. The stories range from flatly ridiculous negotiations with a maple tree to stay out of the septic tank, to classically formed tales of the struggle between the Bad Guys and the Good Guys. This particular book, by the way, combines all of that. Here's how:
The ancient & wise terrapin storyteller gives  young Elsked, the son of DaddyBear and Ruarin, the backstory of his family. This provides the epic part of the book. In exchange, however, he demands that Elsked tell HIM stories as well. And so, the lad relates the things he knows about, and these are the sweet and delicious nuggets about flying dogs, etc. It's a nice, long compilation, and I can see this as being done very nicely as a book reading before a fire on long winter nights, with big-eyed children sipping hot chocolate, as Papa turns the pages and adds expression to his voice to   make the characters come alive.
Doubt that would work, but it's a nice image, isn't it?
So, those are the CONVENTIONAL reasons I love this book. Great story, stories-within-a-story, resolution of things I wondered about, and so forth. For this particular book, though, I have an additional and highly personal reason for my affection.
A million years ago, it seems, I started having really bad toothaches, which were to be expected, since due to some medical stuff, my teeth are all broken to pieces. So, partway through the million years, and as soon as possible, I got an appointment with the dentist, and she agreed to take me on an emergency basis. And shortly thereafter, I found myself hyperventilating in the dentist's chair, waiting on her to rip the crumbling chalk out of my jaw (one from the top jaw, one from the bottom). And, to help me get through the ordeal, I had this book on my Kindle reading app. So, I read about DaddyBear and Elsked killing the snow monsters, and it helped, it really did, to sooth my anxiety. (When the actual ripping-from-the-living-jaw part started, I turned to a podcast on military history.)
Wasn't done yet.
Later on in the million years, I realized I was still hurting more than should be expected, and had to return to the dentist to have...no, it's just too horrible. I can't describe the experience. It would cause you to have ugly children.
Anyway, I again read about the adventures of Elsked and his family and the terrapin. And it helped.
By the way, the million years looked like one week to everybody else. To me, between the pain and the goofed head, it was a million years. And that wasn't helped by the diet Dr. Akbar stipulated: only soft and cold food.
So, lots of yogurt & banana smoothies, with vanilla protein powder. It's really a great exchange for a meal; for ONE meal, that is. For a regular diet, not so much. Soft and cold does NOT describe the French Fries everyone else was munching last Friday.
And then I made a WONDERFUL discovery on Saturday night! Do you know what ELSE is soft and cold, besides yogurt and banana smoothies?
HAM FAT!!!!
And I had a big honken ham in the refrigerator, $2.49 per pound, because it's a whole shoulder, not a half shoulder! I took that 95 pound (I exaggerate) ham out of the fridge, got a knife and a Tupperware container, and I carved off my dinner!
Yes, it WAS delicious!

And, with the pain easing, and my hunger temporarily abated, I was able to return to my reading again. And last night, I read about "The Derby of the Wooden Chargers," and snickered, and hoped I didn't wake up my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA. You see, I am personally familiar with this event in our mundane world. It's called the Pinewood Derby, and it's something Cub Scouts do. In the story, Elsked negotiates with the ancient maple tree for a branch, then carves out a horse and rider. In real life, the boys are given a wooden block, and a bag of hardware. In BOTH worlds, there are rules. The racer must be under a certain weight; the majority of the work is to be done by the  Scout, etc. Elsked crafts a magnificent horse and rider, which are magically imbued with the ability to move, and despite a wonderful race, he comes in second. In REAL world, my son the Moose painted his block green. That's it. No attempt at customization, just enough wood shaved off to get it down to the prescribed weight; just a green block. And he came in second, too! It was delightful. I think him standing there at the awards ceremony with his ugly green stick and a big smile, while the first and third place winners had these ultra wind-tunnel hyper-realistic flame-painted monsters, was THE best part of the experience of scouting for the Patterson Boys.

And, dear friends, I apologize again for the hiatus in reading and reviewing this past week. It was unavoidable; the pain made me unable to concentrate; when I took the pain meds, THEY made me unable to concentrate. Hopefully, I'm back on track!
Peace be on your household!

Friday, June 9, 2017

No, I Am NOT Okay. Continue The Mission!

Gonna try to get this down before the meds kick in and I fall asleep. Or whatever.

The dental hygienist said to me, "Are you okay?"
And I turned to look at her with amazement and said, "Are you crazy? She's stabbing me in the mouth with a needle!"

Today is Friday. I had two teeth extracted on Monday: one from my top jaw, left side, the other from the bottom jaw, also left side. I've had double extractions before, and I just don't remember it hurting this bad, for this long. So, I called the dentist today, and she told me to come in and she would look at it, and she said it sounded like I had a dry socket.
Doesn't sound bad, does it? Hey, the socket is dry, just squirt it with some WD40 or Rem Oil or a light coat of LSA, whatever, and tootle on down the road!

Oh, nay, nay. That is NOT what they do. First she shot my poor jaw full of novocain, then she grabbed a...

...I don't know WHAT she grabbed. I think it had a diesel-electric motor.

And she JABBED and SCRAPED

and SCRAPED

and SCRAPED on my jaw, until the people below us in the restaurant downstairs started to bang on the ceiling, asking us to keep the noise down.

And, rather than add to the ruckus by screaming like a little girl  big boy grown man in a dentist's chair, I just grabbed the fabric of my jeans and squeezed.

Which is when the hygienist asked "Are you okay?"

Well, shortly after that, it was over. And I commented to the sweet little hygienist, bless her heart, that I hadn't meant to be rude, but that I was hurting like the dickens because the doctor was scraping my jawbone so I would bleed and not get a dry socket any more.

(And we also talked about the fact that NOTHING pleasant ever follows the instruction "try to relax." Nobody ever says "try to relax" just before they kiss you, for example. Unless vampires do that.)

Now, if you have known me for any significant period of time, you know that I have a chronic pain condition. It was a great relief to me when I was diagnosed with it 12 years ago, because I was wondering if this was just the way things were for everybody, and I was just a wimp. As it turns out, no, that's not the case. I have ankylosing spondylitis, due to my genetic inheritance from my Neanderthal ancestors. There have been several manifestations of this among the men in my family; we just have to learn to make the necessary accommodations, and to fight back whenever possible.

In fact, I started a new counter-attack last January 29, when I hung my cane up on the wall of my man-cave, and bought a FitBit, and started walking every day. And yes, it's going great! Just had my blood checked today, so the doc can see if he needs to adjust my blood pressure and diabetic medication yet.

But! I'm NOT okay. I am, however, continuing the mission.

This was tough for my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA to accept, in the very early stages of our relationship. From time to time, I'll get a stabbing pain in my back, just because, and I wince. She'd see me do that, and say "Are you okay?"

"No," I'd reply. "I'm not okay. I'm hurting, but that's all."

And eventually, I was able to get her to realize that it WAS just pain. It's not going to kill me, but neither is it going to go away. And I hope, hope, hope that through the six years of living with me, she has seen how this thing is dealt with, because recently she received her own little bit of an explanation for her painful joints. Seems she has either rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, and they aren't sure which, but it's one of those diseases in that cluster. And it's not okay.

But that's not the point, really, is it? She and I are a devoted married couple. We are parents. We are grandparents. We do things for other people. We get paychecks. We love God, and serve Him, and we are determined to become sweet old people. (Already there, actually: she's sweet, and I'm old. Her words, not mine!)

None of that depends on ANYBODY being okay, if okay means 'free of defect' and 'functioning as designed.' Instead, it all depends on our determination to continue our mission. That's the part that's important.

"Are you okay?"
"No."
"Can you get pizza on the way home?"
"Yes."
That's what matters for hungry children. And so, despite the fact that we are not okay, we continue the mission, get the pizza, and then go to bed when we get the opportunity.

And we even have a cute saying we can use! When I was in the Army, they taught me the phonetic alphabet. The phonetic spelling of the phrase "Continue the Mission" is "Charlie Mike." Isn't that sweet? I'm gonna start saying that. I may alternate it with a core-value phrase I used constantly, during one of the roughest times of my life: "I am yet holding on." And maybe I'll use them both:

"How are ya doin'?"
"I am yet holding on. Charlie Mike."

Peace on your household.