Tuesday, May 27, 2008




I tossed and turned last night (a great feat for someone whose belly is not a thing to be tossed and turned lightly – or easily – if at all), my mind on things lost. As is the usual protocol for dealing with lost items, I traced and retraced our paths, our exact steps, the last time I remembered seeing them, holding them, making mental note of them.


It was our weekend for losing things…a credit card, a Very Special Necklace from a Very Special Aunt’s trip to Disney World, my husband’s maternal grandfather.


The credit card and the necklace are replaced easily enough. A call to the credit card company, a trip to the Disney Store (where perhaps a close enough likeness will work), careful thought to take care of these replacements.


But the grandfather? How awful if it were so simple to replace a man! My thoughts of him are vivid and stark in comparison to the vague, blurry recollections of the credit card and necklace. He wasn’t a person to be forgotten or to fade into the background.


My first meeting with him was 10 years ago, at Ethan’s college graduation (10 years ago? ACK!). It was December, and we celebrated an early Christmas with a poinsettia and candles in Ethan’s mother’s hotel room in Longview, Texas. Wayne (his grandfather) and Arvilla (his grandmother) expressed their pride in Ethan’s accomplishments: Wayne loudly and Arvilla softly. Each accolade seemed to be accompanied by a sly passing of a crisp dollar bill as Wayne shook his hand, or patted his knee, or squeezed his shoulder.


And at the actual graduation, as I sat next to Grandpa Wayne and turned to the right page in the program to sing the first hymn, I nearly jumped out of my skin. This was no meek, “I don’t know these people; I’ll just sing quietly and blend in” voice next to me. This was a loud, proud, exultant voice singing “How Great Thou Art” as if great Thou really wert. Two years later, he stood as the best man, my husband’s sole groomsman, at our wedding; and his firm handshake, intense blue eyes looking directly into mine, and strong words “It is a rare thing to find a good wife,” made my gaze watery as I considered the recent loss of his good wife.


I know there are lots of family members and friends who are today replaying their interactions with this man who was Grandpa Wayne. There are those who saw him in his last moments, in a coma. There are those who saw him for the two long days he was hospitalized with a brain hemorrhage. There are those who saw him marry Ethan’s grandmother, saw them both grieve the loss of a child, saw him grieve at his wife’s death, saw him rejoice again in the finding of new love just a few years ago. There are those who called him by other names: Friend, Brother, Swede, Dad, Love. And I know each of their memories differs drastically from mine. But for me, this granddaughter-in-law who is admittedly part of the outer circle who knew him not as intimately nor well, the unembellished memories can be encapsulated in two words: his voice.


I don’t know how to describe it clearly. It was a voice that said what it said loudly and plainly, but it said much more than that. You could tell he had had a hard life but was not going to let that keep him down. You knew from the way his large, muscular hands moved in coordination with his words that he had worked the land and worked large animals. And I’m almost sure that Henry Higgins would have pinpointed him as a Midwestern Swede in less than half a sentence.


He loved to sing and sing lustily and forcefully. This was a definite family trait, I realized as I listened to him join several of his brothers in chorus at the reception of his second wedding two years ago. There is something so joyous about hearing grown men sing at the top of their lungs, first in English, then in Swedish. Uninhibited by social convention or fear or whatever it is that makes the rest of us sing timidly and poorly, these men sang as if they had reason to sing. No mere congratulatory toast or prepared poem would suffice. This called for !!!SONG!!!


And so I realized, as I tossed and turned, searching in my mind’s eye the van seats (credit card?), the back yard (necklace?), and the unknown glories of heaven, that really we’d only lost two things this weekend. Grandpa is far from lost. We know where he is, and I know that he is absolutely reveling in the fact that all of the singing there is purposeful and strong and heartfelt.


And I was reminded this morning that not even his voice is lost, as I heard my almost 3-yr. old son (also a fraternal twin, like his great-grandfather) loudly proclaiming his usual morning chorus as he descended the stairs: “HOW-WAY-WOO-YAH! HOW-WAY-WOO-YAH!”


Hallelujah indeed.


(photo: Ethan, Grandpa Wayne, Grandma Irene, and our five last October)


Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Ethan and Abraham

I'm still a little bit in shock, as I'm sure my husband is. After five (I think?) years of late nights filled with heavy books, theological treatises, and word-wrestling at the mercy of often combatant computers, it is finished. All of the final papers have been written, reworked, proofread, footnoted, and submitted. All of the final exams have been answered with the appropriate amount of head-holding.


Seminary is done.


I must admit I sniff a hint of superstition as I write that...a childhood fear that by saying it I might cause it not to be. That somehow there is a class that was frightfully overlooked or a requirement that was never met.


But I am going to ignore that fear and say it anyway. And loudly.




I am insanely proud of my husband, a man who fathered five (one yet unborn) additional children, and fathers them well, in the midst of papers and preaching and presbytery meetings. I am constantly amazed when I hear him preach or teach a Sunday School...this man who went from wanting to be a pilot to a lawyer to anything that would let him work outside...then realized an undeniable calling to proclaim the Word of God. We listen to the same music, we watch the same movies, we deal with the same runny-nosed, whiny, exasperating, hilarious, wonderful children; and yet when I hear him teach I am blown away by the surety of his calling.


And in the middle of all this craziness...of kids and classes-via-live-time-video and work and church...he remains a steadfast husband and father who is head and shoulders above the crowd. When cashiers or postal workers or shocked co-shoppers count the young heads around me and ask, "How do you do it?" I explain that my husband is such an incredible father that lots of kids should have him for a dad.


I can't find the time to apply a temporary tattoo because there are two loads of laundry waiting to be folded; with numerous 20-page papers waiting to be written and several church meetings to attend, he can find the time to take lingering nature walks that involve goose intestines, snakes, hummingbird moths, and animal bones.


I told you he was good.


So now we shift from papers to preparations for Friday night's graduation, including getting the van serviced and loaded and the camper readied.


And these are welcome chores indeed.


(photo: Ethan and Abraham in 2006)


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Word to the Wise(r than I)

If you find yourself in the middle of an "I Think I'll Do a Spontaneous Fun Mom Thing" moment and this is uncharted territory for you, beware.


Especially beware if it involves dragging child-sized table and chairs onto the back deck and then loading the table with a bin containing the contents of three bags of dried beans and various kitchen utensils.


Before you unleash your children, take note of how big the cracks are in your deck. Smaller than the beans? Good. Bigger than the beans? Fine. The same size as the beans?


I would say, "Don't ask me how I know to do this," but we all know how I know. I should have stuck with, "Fifteen minutes cleaning your bedroom and then find something to do outside," but inspiration struck. Hard. (ouch!)


Thursday, May 8, 2008


My friend Kelly sent me a very kind and concerned email, worried that I was on bed rest or something since I haven't posted in a while.


Bed rest? Well, not officially. Does it count if you're so plumb tuckered it's all you can do to muster a feeble "Move over" before you flop on the couch for the fourth time in an hour? All right, all you gals who have been on bed rest, calm down. I know it doesn't count.


No, nothing's wrong. Nothing abnormal, anyway. I'm just too tired to be ... well, to be. My left leg is blue from veins that protest too much, my ankles are the same circumference as my thighs, and I no longer need eye shadow -- my eyelids are a deep plum color au naturale. My tone of voice is annoying, even to me, and my sense of humor has gone missing. It's probably hiding under the stacks (HA! that's a gracious word for the disorganized chaos) of winter coats, blankets, and boots that are waiting for me to sort through them. In the middle of the hallway. The downstairs hallway. The one to which the front door opens.


I've been in a funk, and I know part of it is due to the ... well, closeness of the due date (something like 7 weeks? I've lost count and am too tired to go to the calendar...see what I mean?). There's also the fact that Ethan graduates at the end of next week (oh, glorious day!). But first, there are papers and exams to be completed (and for some reason, I stress out about this way more than he does). And since we will be going to the graduation (two states away) and camping in our camper, there are lists to be made, swimsuits to be found, lotions to be packed, and food to be prepared. And since he will be graduating from seminary, we will be much more aggressively pursuing a call to a church. So there are decisions to be made, possessions to be de-possessed, and familial bonds to be stretched as we move away from family.


The last few weeks of pregnancy are sort of like the first for me -- I cry easily and often, although rarely in front of others, and I am better not seen nor heard. I always remind myself of that horse (or whatever it was) in the movie "The Never-Ending Story." I'm not even exactly sure of the scene, as it was the first movie I saw as a kid on our brand new (**Beta!**) VCR and I haven't seen it since, so pardon me if I butcher this...but they are travelling through some sort of slough or bog or quicksand or something and if they think sad thoughts, they just keep sinking deeper and deeper and deeper. So the trick is to think happy thoughts. But the horse (or whatever it is) can't think happy thoughts and ends up sinking.


My self-misery enjoys the entrapment, I think. I look at the hallway, and then the dishes, and then the boxed-up books, and then my puffy toes...and I just want to call it quits. That's when I am thankful for women who won't allow giving up...writers of sites like this and this and this. It's when I have to force myself to read God's Word, and not just to the children, but to myself...to see what the reality is. It's not in the mess or dirt or discomfort or anxiety of these things that will (YES, THEY WILL!!!!) pass away.


So, no, I'm not incapacitated or hampered (although, speaking of hampers, there are quite a few clothes that need folding...).


I've just been trying to figure out how to get out of this Sulky Susie get-up.


Anybody got an extra Wonder Woman outfit?



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