One layer of the onion is all gone

Imagine each generation of your family represented by layers of an onion. I know you don’t have a clue of where I’m going with this. Please humor me for a short while I promise you, I’ll make my point, at least I hope to. For months now, I’ve been thinking about writing a blog that metaphorically presents the extended family as an onion, with each generation that still exists as layer of the onion.

I got news this morning that has caused my heart to be heavy. My mother’s baby sister, one of a set of twins, died peacefully in her sleep last night. She was the last in her generation who was born to the union of my maternal grandparents, grandpa and Sweet. If you are a follower of my blog, you may know who grandpa and Sweet are. I wrote about them in a series I did awhile back titled “From what I can remember.”

The last family reunion we had, where representation of all the generations that stemmed from grandpa and Sweet, was in 2019. The total number of generations represented at that wonderful gathering was five. I found myself sitting amongst it all, watching young ones running about my first cousin’s nice property, not knowing who all these kids were. I do remember that family gathering gave me an opportunity to become acquainted with these relatives. I was looking forward to seeing them at the next reunion in 2020, but you know what happened. Covid-19 put a hold on that.

Family reunion 2019. My aunt is the distinguished one to the left, white hair in blue and white top.

Chris and I were preparing to sit down and watch our churches Sunday morning service on YouTube this morning. We’re still staying at home because of covid-19. Our church has become quite skilled at producing and presenting services virtually. Although it is having services where members of the congregation are meeting in person, some of us are still hesitant about returning to the brick-and-mortar location for now. My phone rang. The display indicated that it was my sister. I hesitated to answer the call because I know my sister wouldn’t be calling me at this time on a Sunday morning unless something was wrong. Something in fact was wrong. My aunt, my mother’s baby sister had made her exit to be with her Lord, whom she loves dearly.

News of a loved one dying is difficult to accept, especially in the case of my mother’s sister. I just had a telephone conversation with her two days ago. She had been calling over the last year or so to check up on me. It’s funny how she would begin each conversation with, “I thought I needed to check on the old folks.” I never argued that point with her, since was only sixteen years older than I. We had an exceptionally lengthy conversation, talking about topics that harkened back to when I was a child to today. She sounded very vibrant and mentally sharp as always. She was anxious to attend another family reunion as soon as we could have one without fear of covid-19. I remember getting off the call and thinking how great it will be to see my aunt again.

The next layer in the onion is my generation. I’m seventy-one. I have a cousin who’s a few months older than I. We are the oldest members of this layer. From my last inventory, there are many members to our layer of the onion. I do pray that this layer will be in place for a long, enjoyable time to come.

We need a family reunion. We need the onion to be all in one place at one time. God, please hear my prayer and thank you for this onion.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

 Will it be there when I need it?

I’ve been reading and hearing a lot lately about problems with supply chains, affecting many goods we all use and take for granted that they will always be there. Whenever I pass an automobile dealership, I notice the paltry amount of inventory of new automobiles on the lot. Just the other day a major producer of household cleaning products announced that they were planning to increase the price of their products. Fast food restaurants are having difficulty hiring and retaining staff. We’re all getting a quick lesson in the basics of economics: supply, and demand.

I just came from my friendly Walmart Super Center to do the weekly grocery shopping. I couldn’t help but think about how all the customers, myself included, were unconsciously meandering amongst the aisles to select all the items on our list. Weekly visits have programmed us to go straight to where each item is for which we’re looking; not very much search effort required on any of our part. While doing this, I also couldn’t help but think about how things were a year and a half ago when paper products were in short supply. Demand was high, catching producers off guard. Do you remember images of selfish, greedy hoarders, who raided stores and loaded up their vehicles with paper products back during the first half of 2000? They unquestionably contributed to the difficulty you and I had finding paper towels and toilet paper on the shelves.

We’re not in a world war, militarily speaking; however, the battle with the microscopic enemy, coronavirus-19 is still with us. There does seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel, as governments and scientists are making heroic efforts at getting the battle under control. But the damage to our economy and the infrastructure that moves it along has been done by the coronavirus. It makes you wonder about the strength, or fragility of systems in place to feed, cloth, heat, water us all. It also makes you wonder what would happen if everything collapsed suddenly. We’ve all become so dependent on systems operated by people we don’t know to produce, ship to market, and sell us what we need, so we can stock our refrigerators, pantries, and the like. Unlike our ancestors, we haven’t the capability to produce for ourselves the food stuffs and dry goods we need to maintain body and mind.

Will it be there when I need it? I certainly hope so. If it’s generic, that’s okay.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

                                                                               Hiccups

I was sitting with my dog recently. We were just chilling, something at which we’re both good. The silence and communion were peaceful and then, without warning, she started hiccupping. Although the interruption in our peace experience was minor, it demonstrated how something as common as a hiccup can offer a metaphor for some of life’s deeper happenings.

I think most of us, as we age, comprehend the concept of living in the moment. If some of us don’t, we haven’t taken advantage of the myriad lessons life offers free of tuition. We should also understand that even with the most developed skills of being able to live for right now, right now can be interrupted. Except for my habit of saving for the future, I think I have been a person who tries his best to live in the moment. Of course, the practice of living in the moment can prove to be fluid.

A moment can be any number of minutes, hours, or days. It all depends on what you’re doing and whether you’re at your best physically and mentally in pursuit of it. For example, you’ve decided to go back to school and study for a PhD. Chris has decided to do that. She hasn’t been in school for over thirty-five years, when she was studying for her master’s. She’s going to be working hard at each moment to be the best student she can be. Each moment will work like a piece of glass inserted on a canvas to make a beautiful mosaic.

As we use our best skill, knowledge, and ability to be the best that we can with each God-given moment, hiccups can occur. We might experience a health scare. Some financial calamities might wipeout most of our cash reserves, making it necessary to start over again. Some hiccups are short in length and others may seem to take up permanent residence. Oftentimes, the long-term ones give us an opportunity to meet challenges we never imagined. I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma twenty-one years ago. It  has been a significant life-altering experience. What I considered a hiccup at the time, has stayed around for a long time. My life wouldn’t be what it is today if that hiccup; that change in my health profile hadn’t happened.

I leave you with this: as you’re coasting along life’s highway, enjoying the journey, don’t be surprised when a hiccup comes. Don’t deny the presence of the hiccup. If you haven’t experienced a hiccup yet, just keep living. I’ve found that my faith in God helps me deal with the effects of the hiccups of life.  Denial doesn’t work.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Others helped you get here

I think it’s a maturity thing (spiritual to a large degree) that causes many to offer more prayers of gratitude after sixty-five. No. I haven’t done any studies or referenced any research that supports this. However, anecdotal evidence seems to back it up. I have many connections to people who suffer from a variety of chronic ailments; ailments that have been around for more than three months, which make life a daily challenge. Testimonies from lots of older folks, with health issues, demonstrate that they are grateful for getting out of bed each day.

I’ve written a considerable amount about my own chronic health condition, and I know each day alive is evidence against all odds the world might take against me. Quiet prayers and meditative moments of thanks are part of my daily routine. Lately, I’ve been giving thought to people God has placed in my path throughout my life. There’s a strange irony that occurs whenever I think about these folks; I remember them. If you knew how bad my memory is, you would understand why I call this strange. I’m one of those people who runs into someone in the airport I haven’t seen for quite some time, they greet me and confidently pronounce my name. I, on the other hand, only remember their face; however, I do a fairly good job of making them feel good, at least I think so. There are people who have been with me at certain legs of my life’s journey, and they have uploaded something of extraordinary value to may hard drive.

My first-grade teacher is a person I’ve not seen for well over sixty-five years. She’s been gone from this plain of existence for a long time, but I still remember Ms. A. I remember the trauma of being left at that place, on the first day of school, and how Ms. A helped me survive. I remember my fifth-grade teacher, Ms. B, and several teachers at Wynne, Arkansas’ Childress Elementary and Childress High School. This little separately operated and far from equal facility showed me clearly how dedication to a cause, with few resources can have tremendous impact on the community. I remember Mr. S, my high school counselor, who convinced me that I should go to college.

Throughout my life there have been countless relatives, college/graduate school professors, mentors and healthcare providers who have served me well. Some of these folks probably had no idea of the indelible impression they made on my life. I wonder what sort of person I would be today if the mixture of individuals I’ve had relationships with, short and long-term had of been different.

The longer we live, the greater our chances of being blessed and to bless others. You may think your life has little influence on others, but keep living, and one day someone will tell you of a time that you provided invaluable help to them. It will be a story about a time that you’ve probably forgotten; however, the bearer of the story will remember the encounter in the freshest of details. I believe this is the way God wants things to work between us. It may not seem as though I need you, but I do.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.