If I Could Write the Story….

daddy-me

They say every picture has a story to tell.

On the surface, this one nothing special, really.

Two brothers sitting on a couch, apparently watching television back when that was probably a thrill. Underneath all those blankets, my Daddy is holding a baby in his lap, giving her a bottle.

Could that baby be me?

That possibility rocks my soul to the core. If it is, this is the only picture we have of him holding me.

For a little girl with no memories of my own, this is priceless.

Either way, I love this picture. For its simplicity. For who is in it. For what it shows, and what it does not.

Just two brothers, hanging out in a living room. Raising their families together. The way it was meant to be.

If only….

Daddy died from a car accident on November 15, 1967.

His older brother, Jerry, died from a motorcycle accident on November 14, 1968.

We all grew up in the shadows of this truth.

Still, we will never fully understand it.

But that doesn’t stop me from trying.

Because it’s November. And this is what I do.

I study pictures, and allow myself to imagine:

 

 

It’s a lazy summer Saturday, sometime after lunch. Daddy rests on the sofa, giving me a bottle with little effort. It’s easier the second time around. 

Jerry yawns, suddenly aware that the house is too quiet. Baby Steven is down for a nap, but that rarely lasts long enough. . 

Outside, Jeanna squints in the sunlight, peering from between Mommy’s legs, her left hand twiddles the ends of her ponytail. She’s the shy one; never sure what to do around the boy cousins.

Mommy lifts her up so she can see better, but Jeanna buries her head into her shoulder instead.  

Aunt Betty steers Charlie around on his tricycle, trying to keep him out of the street. Tiger circles them all on his bike. The training wheels about ready to come off, wobbling him back and forth across the grass. He jumps off the bike, letting it stop on its own. 

“I’m thirsty. Can I have a drink?” he asks.

“Sure, let’s go inside.” Betty answers. 

Tiger clamors inside before she can finish the sentence. The screen door slams behind him.

“Watch the door. Your brother is sleeping.” She calls after him, more out of habit than of hope that he will listen. It’s too late anyway. 

Charlie follows in his brothers footsteps while Betty careens the bike and tricycle together by the sidewalk. 

Mommy takes Jeanna inside, stepping around the open refrigerator door, where Tiger is trying to pour his own drink.

Jerry scoops Charlie into his arms as he steps into the kitchen. “Need some help there, Son?”

“I got it.” Tiger answers, sloshing the red kool-aid pitcher back to the counter. Betty pushes the refrigerator door shut as she enters the kitchen. 

Jerry rustles his fingers through Tiger’s sweaty hair. Charlie reaches for the pitcher of kool-aid, so his Daddy  rummages through the cabinets to find a cup with a lid.

In the living room, Mommy places Jeanna on the couch, standing next to Daddy.  I’m asleep on Daddy’s shoulder, so Mommy reaches to take me into the hallway, away from the impending noise. 

Steven cries from the back bedroom. Betty rushes past Mommy to get to him, before he wakes me up. 

After Betty changes him, she carries Steven on one hip into the living room. His hair bounces as she walks. The automatic twinkle slowly returns to his deep brown eyes. Betty sets him down in the kitchen. 

Mommy and I settle into the rocker in Steven’s room. The door is cracked just enough to hear the voices and laughter from the living room.

Jeanna cuddles in Daddy’s lap, facing him, her hands clutched against his chest. She giggles when Steven toddles into the room, wearing nothing but a diaper. 

Jerry has returned to his corner of the sofa. Steven climbs onto the couch and quickly finds his way underneath the crook in his Daddy’s arm. Charlie stands between Jerry’s legs, propping his elbows on his elbows on his Daddy’s knees.

Tiger lays crossways on a recliner across the room, about to realize he’s bored. Aunt Betty leans against the doorway with her hand on one hip. 

Daddy pokes Steven in the belly. Steven chuckles. Charlie takes the cue and does the same from the other side. Tiger meets his Daddy’s eyes from across the room, then jumps to his feet. 

Uncle Jerry scoots Charlie over and drops to his knees on the floor. Tiger jumps on his back, then Charlie does the same.  

Jeanna twists around in Daddy’s lap so she can see better. 

Aunt Betty jumps back as the conglomeration of Jerry, Tiger and Charlie rolls toward her in a fit of laughter. Steven slides off the couch to join his brothers. 

Daddy slips Jeanna off his lap, then grabs Steven and collapses in the other direction. 

Jeanna watches for a few seconds, kicking her legs to and fro. She scoots off the edge and jumps into her Daddy’s arms, willing to try this wrestling thing after all. 

“Shhh. You’ll wake the baby.” Aunt Betty cautions. 

But it’s too late.

I can hear every beautiful minute of it. 

The most wonderful sound I’ve ever heard. 

 

If every picture has a story to tell, this is the story I choose for this picture. And it’s my favorite.

Tiger (Jerry Dale), Charlie, Steven, Jeanna & Janet Morris. It's been almost 50 years, and still, there's no place we'd rather be than in this living room with these two heroes.

Tiger (Jerry Dale), Charlie, Steven, Jeanna & Janet Morris. It’s been almost 50 years, and still, there’s no place we’d rather be than in this living room with these two heroes.

 

For Tiger, Charlie, Steven and Jeanna. Because it still matters. I love each of you.

For Mom and Aunt Betty. Because you are amazing.

For Daddy and Uncle Jerry. Because it’s November. And I hope you know how much we love you.

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Letter to my new Daughter-in-law

To my new Daughter-in-law

Here’s the thing about being a writer; even a writer who feels like it’s been forever since I wrote anything of significance.

My words, always ready and waiting to burst from my seams, express how I truly feel much better than any greeting card or pre-packaged or framed poem. I waste a few hours searching the internet for the perfect gift that says exactly what I want it to say, then I give up in frustration.

This is usually a good thing. Because then, I know it’s time.

I lock my door, turn on some music (usually whatever song matches my mood, on repeat) and give myself permission to release it all to the page.

This happened a few weeks ago, when I was asked to write a letter to the girl who would soon become my daughter-in-law.

My first thought was to promise to never intervene in her marriage or with her family; to give her the support she needed from a distance. To respect her as a wife and mother. To love the love story she has created with my son. I wanted to tell her my son is a better person because of her; and that he was pretty special to start with.

I could easily have written a 30-page letter. I’ve been known to do such a thing.

But instead, I cried for hours. Happy tears. Prayerful tears. Tears reserved only for life-changing moments.

And this was the result.

My Dearest Lauren,

On this night so perfect,
Of something old, something new,
I want you to know that
I prayed for you.

From Andrew’s first heartbeat
To the one that found you,
For all of his life,
I prayed for you.

From the sparkle in his eyes
To the ease of his smile,
I prayed for the one
Who would make it worthwhile.

The one you see here –
This man of your dreams
Was once the son who believed
He could climb moonbeams.

So I prayed for someone
Who could dream with him too.
You’re the one who completes him.
I’m so thankful it’s you.

His heart is of gold,
Fiercely loyal and true.
And you are the one
He has given it to.

His determination, his spirit,
His drive to succeed.
I prayed for the family
He would one day lead.

You are such a treasure,
Chosen. Adored.
His treasure, now ours.
A Grimes, forevermore.

So live, laugh and love
And hold on for dear life.
It’s your journey now
For you are his wife.

Your story will last
More than borrowed and blue
I know this because
I prayed for you.

I simply adore you.

10.18.14

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The Hour I First Believed

Believe

Published on Inspire a fire on January 27, 2014.

 

I remember it like it was yesterday.

I rode on the back of a bike driven by Sandy, my sister’s friend. My six-year-old legs dangled as we sped down the hill, my arms wrapped tightly  around Sandy’s waist. Jeanna, my nine-year-old sister, followed a few feet behind us. I turned over my shoulder to see her stand up on the pedals to coast all the way down.

But her front wheel wobbled back and forth, and then I heard the crash and a scream. Sandy hit the brakes. She threw her bike down and  we scrambled back to Jeanna. She lay face down in the middle of the street. A crowd of grownups already circled around her. Someone knelt down to roll  her over. Her arms and legs flopped around like a rag doll. Her face was covered in blood. Her eyes wouldn’t open. Sirens blasted in the distance, growing closer to us.

“Please don’t let her die!” I cried out to anyone who would listen.

http://www.inspireafire.com/hour-first-believed/

 

 

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The Fog of Grief

In his arms

Published on Inspire a Fire on January 13, 2014.

 

Dear Jesus,

I never thought these words would come from my mouth.

And I’m not sure how to say this, really.

But I have to try.

I’ve been thinking a lot about 2013, and how it was filled with unexpected twists and turns that in many ways crushed many parts of my soul. It left me frightened and uncertain. Stunned. Damaged. Heartbroken. Untrusting. Immobile.

It brought me to my knees, which eventually led me straight into your arms.

And for that, I am so thankful.

 

http://www.inspireafire.com/fog-of-grief/

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Favorite Place I’ve Never Been

Cherish my bride

Published on Inspire a Fire on November 16, 2013.

 

The emptiness is always there, just beneath the surface. Never the focus, rarely mentioned, but ever present.

But twice a year, I allow myself to feel it, raw and unfiltered. November 15th is one of those days. Because as of today, it’s been 46 years since I lost my father.

It’s how my story began, and I never want to reach the point where it doesn’t matter, or it ceases to hurt. If  I ever cross that line, that probably means I’ve stopped feeling completely.

And what kind of life is that?

 

Read more:  http://www.inspireafire.com/favorite-place/

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Assisted Living

nursinghome2

Published on November 4, 2013.

She came in late, as if in a rush, and looked around nervously before taking one of the few available seats. She exhibited more energy than the rest of them, and stood out because she was able to move about without assistance from a walker or wheelchair. Her posture was straight and firm; a stark contrast to her uncertain demeanor. Her clothing – perfectly ironed mauve colored pants with a matching plaid blouse. In her seat, she fidgeted with her hands like a first-grader. Her white tennis shoes tapped to an imaginary beat throughout the abbreviated worship service.

I had not noticed her there before.

She picked up a hymnal and rested it in her lap while she fingered her way to the announced page numbers. I couldn’t tell from across the room if she sang aloud or just mouthed the words, but she participated and seemed comforted by the church setting, even if it was in the open lobby of the Care Stone Nursing Home.

 

Read More: http://www.inspireafire.com/assisted-living/

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Father’s Day Walks. Father’s Day Talks.

As published in Inspire a Fire – June 10, 2013. 

Dear Daddy,

I did it again tonight.

I went looking for you. Well, at least the faint outlines of your footprints.

I found the street you used to live on and tried to figure out which house it was. I wandered. And wondered.

I knew you lived in one of the upstairs apartments on Observatory Drive. I searched the older houses, the ones that may have been there almost 50 years ago. From the street, I gazed into the upper windows, and pictured you watching, waiting, waving. Was it a front entrance up the side or would you come running from the back yard? I assume you would be wearing dark pants and a white dress shirt; the ones from the pictures. You should be over 70 by now, but I just can’t see you that way. So I guess you will still be 27. Eternally 27.

Read more:

http://www.inspireafire.com/walk-down-no-memory-lane/

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The Power of the Hymn

published on Inspire a Fire, March 18, 2013.

 

I spent a great deal of my weekend trying in vain to be the twelfth caller to K-Love, a nation-wide Christian radio station. They were giving away a new worship CD, recorded live at the Passion Conference in Atlanta just a few months ago.  My attempts to win it were fueled by my daughter, who had hoped to attend that same conference. She adores today’s worship music and is quick to introduce me to her latest favorite.

But as much as I love the latest trend of new songs, I have a special place in my heart for the older hymns. Hymns I first learned by hearing my grandmother sing them from the kitchen amidst the clanging of pots and pans and the wafting scent of frying bacon.

The current worship songs I find most moving are those derived from hymns, recorded in a new and fresh way. Jesus Paid it All is one such song. I grew up listening to that one, sans music, from the pew sandwiched between my mother and grandmother. I wiggled my way through church, doodling on the back side of an attendance card until service was over. I knew when it was almost time to eat when the congregation started singing again. But when I heard them singing the words to Jesus Paid it All in their gentle alto voices, I took note of the tears glistening in their eyes. Those lyrics, and their passion for them as they sang created a desire in me to want to know more. And soon, I was singing along with them.

http://www.inspireafire.com/rescuing-hymn/

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Coffee Ground Memories

published in Inspire a Fire, February 4, 2013.

I was at the grocery store with my Aunt Joanne. A rare occurrence, brought by the fact that I was four and she had time to watch me. I was not yet in school, so I got to spend a few special days with her. Just the two of us–a gift I would grow to treasure within a few short years.

It gave me a chance to watch her in action. And take note. I would do well to pattern myself after her. Surely I already knew that, even back then.

We started the day by delivering food to people she referred to as ‘shut-ins.’ I assumed that was her word for older people. They were a variety of colors. Some of them had no teeth, but that didn’t keep them from smiling. They waited in tiny apartments, watching nothing but the window. Were they waiting for us?

 

http://www.inspireafire.com/scent-ual-moments/

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Logistics

published in Inspire a Fire, January 24, 2013.

 

God has a universe at His fingertips.

I never really stopped to think about it in those terms. The world is so big. So busy. So diverse. Sometimes I think it has too many people with too many opposing beliefs. How can He possibly pay attention to all of us at one time?

But He doesn’t see it that way. It’s all part of the creation that He so adores. He knows us by name, and I think He thrilled when He gets the chance to prove it to us by using His own created universe to touch our lives.

God has a way of working through the details of our lives—details that He has lovingly worked out in advance because in His world, all things truly do work together for good, for those called according to His purpose.

All things work together for good.

For us.

http://thechristianpulse.com/2013/01/24/logistics/

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