Looking away, Ron scratched his head, thinking about my question; he turned back to his laptop and began typing.
“I don’t know.” And so we both searched Google and found the definition contained in the picture.
Ron knocks chips off my shoulder with love. The largest one he removed came a few years back while sitting by the campfire at Gwynn’s Island on a cool summer night.
“Just because I haven’t experienced what you have, doesn’t mean I can’t sympathize with you.”
Ron’s response floored me. In a discussion about the two most life-changing events from our teenage years, I shared about my Dad’s death a few months before my seventeenth birthday. Ron’s pertained to sporting events during his youth.
“I wish my biggest problem in high school had to do with sports. I’m envious of your normal life.”
Thus Ron’s words illuminated a heavy chip on my shoulder that I didn’t know I had. And doing so, he lightened my load and helped me find fuller life. Living each day “habitually negative, combative, or have a hostile attitude” exhausted me. Letting go of the resentment I carried for God taking my Dad at such an early age truly lifted a burden from my shoulders. Sometimes, we get so used to carrying the heavyweight that letting go seems impossible.
“But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
Faith in Christ led me to Ron, who loves me like Jesus loved the church. Unconditional love can move mountains and remove deeply ingrained chips from people’s shoulders.
And so, over our morning coffee, through the course of conversation, I thanked him for knocking chips off my shoulder and hope he will continue to do so for decades to come.
“As long as you do it with love, that’s what matters. You can’t knock chips off by yelling.”
Paying $8 for the child-size rocking chair at Restore in Edenton, N.C., I had grand plans.
Opening a Prayer Booth (named because I pray blessings over it and the people who will buy my products) at Lazy Daisy in Yorktown, I envisioned a refinished chair so beautiful people lined up to purchase it.
But alas, my vision never came to fruition. Instead, the chair sat in our garage. First tucked under a folding six-foot table, protected by a tarp, then moving to other locations within the four walls.
After accidentally spray painting our neighbor’s car with white paint, Ron decided I needed a better paint station, finding a portable paint tent for me. Putting away the foldable table gave the old chair room to breathe and a new location stacked at the top of other unused items.
Toppling off a stack of Christmas boxes, causing the seat to break off, the rocking chair found its final resting place in our home. Hung from a hook in the garage, broken seat balanced precariously on it, never to move again.
Ron’s installation of solar panels on our garage roof meant we needed room. Admitting defeat, I took the chair to Goodwill in Newport News, donating it again. Scraping off the $8 price tag before placing the rocker in my car, I began wondering about its origin.
Who donated the chair last? What caused them to get rid of it? What stories would the wood tell if it could talk?
Visions of young children fighting over who got to sit in the chair popped into my mind. Worried mothers pacing the floor in the dead of night, walking back and forth past the rocker as they prayed fervently for whatever crisis to pass, the chair capturing every step. Or toddlers becoming children becoming teenagers, becoming adults as the small seat became forgotten, sitting in a corner, no one noticing its presence. Until one day, someone decided to donate the old chair, beginning a new chapter.
And now another one begins as the rocker finds its way to a new home via Goodwill. Who will buy it? What will they do with it? What stories will unfold?
Only the chair knows, and only the chair ever will.
Walking to the green after putting one in the bunker, I had to step over dog shit.
“Why doesn’t someone clean this up?” Ran through my mind as I thought about the fees we paid to play.
But then I noticed the goose shit scattered over the fairway and had an epiphany.
“Golf comes with shit, just like life.”
No maintenance department on earth can keep Geese from pooping on the course. Expecting a person to do the impossible only causes problems. Just like in life, people can’t fix our problems; only we can. Expecting them too sets you up for disappointment.
No game has ever frustrated me more than the game of golf. If my husband and I hadn’t paid the money upfront to join, I would quit. But, because we made the commitment, it forced me to analyze and take responsibility for my issues. Becoming a sportsman like my husband motivated me to change.
Ron exemplifies good sportsmanship to me. Honest about his score, Ron takes responsibility for his actions, not taking bad shots out on others. He remains even keel most of the time. Not perfect, but above average, Ron inspires me to become better.
However, shit comes with the game. Instead of avoiding the inevitable, I had to learn to deal with it.
Becoming better means accepting, “Shit comes with life; accept it, deal with it and move on. Don’t get stuck in it.”
Today things began to click. For the first time, I didn’t care about the score. I just enjoyed the good shots and learned from the bad shots, and had epiphanies.
Like, “If you got time to worry, you got time to pray.”
And, “Pray for the best, Do my best,”
And, “Death isn’t an ending; it’s the beginning.”
All while walking nine holes of golf with my husband, God used my cheapness and my stubbornness to teach me some lessons.
Steps on one shoe, distance on the other, the most efficient way I’ve found to walk nine with my cart. Another win for the day!
Two weeks ago, walking nine holes of golf with my husband, I angrily threw my sand wedge, almost hitting him.
“You can’t do that!” Ron said as I marched off in a rage.
“I’m done. Play the rest yourself!”
Within seconds of my grand exit, I realized my dilemma. Walking off of hole six and making eye contact with a player coming off the tee box on seven, I had nowhere to go. To get home, I must walk past the foursome in front of us and the foursome in front of them just to get off the golf course. No other options existed. If I walked through the neighborhood, I still had to walk past the foursome in front of us.
My pride wouldn’t let me.
And so, forced into the situation, I realized I couldn’t walk out on my husband or the game. I had to face them both.
No grand exits. Just honest truth.
Investing in our health, we recently joined our local golf club, but we must walk to make it economical. And so, we try to walk a minimum of nine holes twice a week. Paying in advance, we haven’t finished month one. In other words, we spent the money but only enjoy the benefit if we actually do it. And I don’t like giving money away, nor wasting it. Not when earning it requires so much effort, and money disappears as quickly as it comes.
Unfortunately, not only must I finish this round, but I still have twelve prepaid months from which I want to get my money’s worth.
I can’t quit.
Leading to one conclusion for me.
I must change.
For me to fulfill the commitment I made, my attitude must change. Because if every time I played golf, I acted like a child, not only would I not want to play. But people wouldn’t want to play with me. And I love spending time with my husband; however, the unrealistic expectations I placed on myself stopped me from appreciating the most important reason for my why, him.
Ron’s why I will commit to walking nine holes twice a week. He would say no if I asked him to go for a three-mile walk. However, he says yes if he gets to hit a little white ball while getting in steps.
So I began conversing with people about my dilemma, particularly my therapist. And I started listening to books about the mental side of the game. Which led me to stop keeping score for a while and just focus on the feel of the stroke. Not judging the outcome but staying in the moment, feeling the club lead your body through the stroke.
I hate not keeping score.
The urge to tally my strokes makes me realize the bondage I have to score. And so I’ve stopped for six rounds. Each time gets a little easier to let go, but I still struggle.
And I’ve started practicing more. I’ve begun to enjoy the club’s feel as you lift it behind your head, cocked, ready for service. Then the release as you allow the club head to drop, trusting it to do what God made it to do. Letting the tip of the club lead your body in a circular motion, effortlessly following along. Then finishing, arms extended, head high, balanced weight between both legs, watching the ball soar through the air. A sense of wonder overtakes me as I realize less of me and more of the club.
Which led me to Pause/Hit
Comparing tennis and golf, when serving a tennis ball, a pause exists between the time you toss the ball and hit it. As you wait for the ball to drop into the correct position, the body poises, ready to strike. My favorite part of the stroke happens when I feel my body in the pause position, waiting to explode.
Golf’s pause comes on the backswing. I’ve learned if I pause in that stance for a moment, feeling the weight transferred to my right leg, then let the club drop effortlessly, without my help, allowing it to lead, I hit my best shots. The less I try, the better I do.
Predetermining what I think of when hitting allows me to stop thinking, stop trying, stop judging, and start enjoying. Feeling the beauty of the golf swing and having the ability to play the sport brings joy. Nothing else matters.
Golf’s teaching me to not try so hard. Letting go leads to enjoyment. Allowing the club to do its job means release. Less effort equals greater rewards. Relaxed concentration comes from confident routines.
Life needs sport because, from it, we gain the experience of failing publicly. Humility keeps us from prideful mistakes. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Prideful moments become learning experiences when we seek to keep our hearts in line with God.
“Do you know it’s 40 years this month since we bought the place?” Geroge Lorenz said.
My hand rested on the warm oven, fresh-baked snickerdoodles on the counter. Mary stood by the sink wearing a purple top and jeans; her eyes looked tired. Battling a sinus infection, her ear drum burst two weeks back; still, in recovery, she didn’t have her usual energy. George, dressed in a black t-shirt and shorts, looked well, standing tall and lanky, with trimmed gray hair. Lunch sat on the small table before us; as usual, I overlooked the obvious, so excited to see the couple. In the tiny kitchen, once huge to my childlike eyes, George and Mary reminisced about my childhood home in Madison Township.
“Really? What was the date?”
“July 21st, because we had to be out of our place by August 1st. Speed and Kathy bought the farm, and we needed a place to live.”
“I came home from school one day; Dad told us we were moving to Treasure Lake; that’s all I remember. How did it all come about?”
“I think it was church. Your Dad said to us, “We’re moving to Treasure Lake; we’re selling the place.” And that was it. I don’t think there was much more to it.”
As the conversation continued, George reminded me of Violet Haggerty, living upstairs with Annie Shoup, downstairs of the old farmhouse. According to Neet, they paid $75/month in rent.
“When Annie died, we rented the bottom, and Violet lived upstairs. Then Speed and Kathy were moving back, and they wanted the place. Speed got out of the Air Force.”
At lunch with cousin Karen, I asked her what she remembered about our move to DuBois.
“I know you had a moving sale because we bought two of the three-wheelers and the kitchen table.”
To my recollection, we had something similar to Alsport Trike. Many ribbings I received for letting mine roll down the bank. Afraid to drive the trike along the bank’s edge, I parked by the baseball backstop, and one of the boys took it around. Unfortunately, the brakes didn’t hold, and the bike rolled onto the road; thankfully, not damaged.
Watching Matt and Ron climb the steep hills straight-up scared me. Our favorite chuckle happened when Mom accidentally revved the gas while watching the boys climb, propelling herself into a small tree. Besides a bruised ego, Mom didn’t suffer any significant injuries. Thankfully, neither did I when I lost control of my trike, searching for Dad one day. Down at our neighbor’s, Jim Hornberger, I found Dad and Jim on the edge of the small ravine towards the back of Jim’s property. Seeing the ditch too late, I put the machine on two wheels as I dodged the ditch, Dad screaming, Jim trying to stop me; thank God all survived unharmed.
Between the summer of my 7th and 8th-grade years, my memory blurs. I vaguely remember the moving sale. Coupons from Dad’s cigarettes, Raleigh’s, purchased the blue comforter for my new room. What kind of truck we used, who helped us move, and other details escape me.
“You were just gone. We wrote letters for a little while, then that stopped.” Lori said when we talked about the move. Cell phones didn’t exist, and staying in touch took more work than today. Lorn’s funeral connected Lori and me again, a connection we never lost.
My sweet half-sister Lorna and I shared a father. When her mother, Em, passed away, Dad remarried my mom and, as I say, “Didn’t know when to stop.” Three kids later, Dad had 8 kids in total. Two sets of twins, Lorn and her sister Linda, who passed away at two years old from pneumonia. Linda woke up feeling fine one morning, started feeling bad, and died the next unexpectedly. Em next had a stillborn girl before giving birth to Earl and Merle, a.k.a. Butch and Dutch.
“Watch out for your Dad’s foot!” Mom yelled. As a child, I never saw my Dad walk without a limp. In my tasks on my cell phone, I discovered notes of Dad’s medical journey, unable to recall who gave me the information. According to my notes, Dad lost his little toe and big toe in 1961 after he froze his foot working on the dragline. Dad’s last day of work happened on Nov. 30,1977, he lost his other three toes due to poor circulation on Dec. 1, 1977. In 1982 he suffered a bleeding ulcer which hospitalized him, and in the summer of 1983 Dad lost his leg, amputated because of poor circulation.
“You no longer have a father; I’m half a man,” Dad said to me when I walked into the hospital room. Sitting beside him after his amputation, listening to the Little League World Series game from Williamsport, PA, the announcer’s words as brother Ron came up to bat still ring true in my head.
“Up to bat, Ron Minick. Ron’s dad couldn’t be here today. He’s in the hospital. Our thoughts and prayers are with him.”
Dad didn’t have an easy life, but he never stopped living. On disability, no longer able to work full-time, Dad still managed to keep himself busy. A security guard at the back gate of Treasure Lake, Dad spent his days keeping the riff-raff out of the resort from the guard shack.
After Dad lost his leg, we purchased a Dodge Caravan Minivan because it had no hump in the middle floorboard. I remember sitting beside dad in the passenger seat, his fake leg resting to the right of the gas pedal, driving with his left leg. And when he received the lung cancer diagnosis, he still smoked when he drove, a memory engraved in my mind.
Mary turned what we used as a T.V. room into her dining room. We rarely used the living room, only for special occasions such as Christmas. Grandpa Minick lived with us until his death; he said the dinner prayer each evening, a role I took over after he died.
“Grandpa used to read the Bible every night. He started in the front and read straight through. When he finished, he started over again.” Dutch said. Something I didn’t witness myself but wish I had.
Pristine, the wood paneling’s shiny sheen looks the same; the smell of Mary’s baking fills the house with warmth. The landline phone lives in the same spot as when we occupied the place, above the hot air register where I warmed my feet as a child.
A desk sits beneath the window in Mary’s dining room, overlooking the driveway. Seeing my bike parked in the driveway took me back to my childhood when kids’ bikes strewed the yard. Dad made us pick up our toys each night, never allowing them to clutter the yard. The patio with yellow, pull-out sides no longer exists, only the cement foundation remaining. The smell of Mary’s flowers fills the nostrils in the damp air. A decorative flag sits at the entrance to the basement, the place we tried valiantly to fill with water for a pool but never succeeded because of the drain.
“Your basement was the best. Do you remember playing restaurant in it?” Lori said.
We didn’t venture into the basement to see its current state. I remember the downstairs kitchen where Mom did her canning, and we played restaurant. Roller skating past the kitchen, around the furnace, through the walls lined with canned foods, and circling the basement time and again gave me a roller rink.
“Owen Young built the house. Grampy gave him the land, and Jim got the land behind me. They bought the Gundluch’s place and turned it into a house; that’s when your Dad bought it from him. Lorn came down and played with me when I visited Grampy. That’s how I met her.”
Built in 1930, the 1314 sq. ft. home still has three bedrooms and one bathroom. Sitting on 1.5 acres, the gas pump no longer exists, the concrete steps crooked after settling, and the wall cracked. As a child, I loved jumping from the wall, arms pumping, channeling my version of the Bionic Woman. Riding our bikes in circles around the driveway, running over a dead frog, and making it poop always makes me smile. Offering Reva Hornberger, mom’s best friend, mudpies when she came to visit, my childish version of hospitality.
“Do you want to see your old bedroom? It’s my blessing room.”
Walking up the stairs felt surreal. Visions of the boys and me sneaking down the stairs at Christmas, excited to open our gifts, remains a dynamic memory. Matt and Ron scared me with stories of witches walking on the roof and bodiless hands roaming about while I lay in bed, trying to sleep; once terrifying, it now makes me smile. I held my breath as Mary opened the door, revealing her blessing room.
From within these walls, Mary creates works of art out of paper, sending them all over the world to bless others. During COVID, she made cards for nurses to encourage them. On my second visit, Mary showed me graduation cards made for friends grandchildren. Even though her health challenges Mary, she still can make the trip to her blessing room to bless others.
And to think, I once called the room mine. Double closets on each side of the window, my bed sat between them. Looking out the windows, the Pennsylvania hillside holds natural beauty. Watching deer play and the occasional wild dog run, nature in its glory. When Aunt Mabel came to visit, I shared my bed with her. When the boys scared me too much, I slept on the floor in their room. My life in Mary’s blessing room never seemed dull.
Across the hall, Matt and Ron’s old room now holds a double bed. The beauty of the wooden ceiling escaped me as a child. However, I cherish the memory of crawling out the boy’s window and jumping off the porch roof. When Mom found out Ron twisted his ankle on the landing, it didn’t bode well for Matt and me.
“Can I look in the attic?” I asked Mary.
Parting the clothes in the closet, I climbed into my favorite hiding place. For whatever reason, I loved hiding in the attic. Covering the floor in pillows and using a flashlight, I would read for hours in my little cubby hole. I left my mark, writing the love story of my younger years on the walls. Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries and Parker Stevenson captured my attention and heart. Alas, Parker and I’s relationship didn’t last, but the memories always will.
Coming down the stairs, we exited through Mom and Dad’s old room, now Mary and George’s. The small bathroom, unchanged, reminded me of Dad pretending to shave my face, covering my chin in shaving cream, and scraping it off with the lid of the razor. Their headboard sits against the window sill, unlike Mom and Dad, whose headboard rested against the wall, allowing Dad to sit on the edge. Back bare, in his white underwear, a plume of white smoke creating a cloud, Dad would sit smoking, looking out at the valley below.
When Three Mile Island occurred, I packed a survival kit for the family and hid it under their bed. Sleeping on the floor beside mom, I had a plan to save us all. My young mind didn’t understand the situation’s complexity, just knowing it threatened our lives. Now Mary’s dresser sits where I once slept.
“I think I’ve finally forgiven mom and dad for moving to DuBois,” I said to Lori after our visit.
“God had different plans for you,” Lori said.
Leaving Tidal left its mark on me, the move traumatic for my young self. Yes, we had opportunities in DuBois not afforded us in Tidal, but I didn’t care. Running the hills barefoot and fancy-free made me happy. Counting the countless stars at night made my imagination soar.
Sleeping on the hill with Ginger and Tricia Unger, playing baseball in the backyard, picking wild blueberries, and selling them door-to-door, all part of my childhood. For only spending twelve years living in Tidal, its impact forever shaped me. Starting life in Armstrong County equals one of life’s biggest blessings.
Looking at the glowing Christmas tree cut from glass, I couldn’t help but think of love. Given to my mother decades ago by her sister, my Aunt Margie, the tinted green glass glistens with glitter. Slowly, the sparkly pieces flow inside the triangular glass, up and down the foot-high tree, their journey never-ending. The base, a sphere of white, coated in more glitter, begins the glow. Red, circular gems highlight the angular cuts of glass forming the tree’s branches. Sitting beside my favorite tree, its star, broken off years ago. Each year when I unpack the precious object, I vow to perch the star once again in its appropriate place, but somehow, the days slip by without the project completed.
“Your aunt gave me that.” Mom said.
Instantly, my heart became attached to the inanimate object. Chosen from my mother’s Christmas decorations at her death, Aunt Margie’s tree holds the most value. Besides my mom, no one directed my path more than her.
Born Margaret Priscilla McNutt on Monday, October 20, 1924, it was Leap Year. Calvin Coolidge was president. Although her entrance into life happened in Sugar Creek Township, located in Armstrong County, PA, the earthquake occurred in South Carolina. My aunt entered the world the same day as the Southern Appalachian Earthquake, covering 56,000 square miles from South Carolina to Tennessee. Learning the earth moved the day my aunt began her life journey seems appropriate. Aunt Margie moved mountains one hug at a time.
Describing the warmth Aunt Margie generated when she wrapped her arms around me, challenging. Her smell, a mixture of lotions and cooking spices, pepper her favorite one. Melting into her generous figure never got old. When she visited, I always sat close, she would sling her arm over my shoulders, nestling me into her side. Many life-changing chats occurred when we assumed the position. Always encouraging and uplifting, I miss the security of her arms most.
“God will never give you more than you can handle.” Aunt Margie said as we walked to the hospital room where my father lay. She stood beside me as I said goodbye, watching dad take his last breaths. Battling lung cancer, dad entered heaven surrounded by his family. As he left our world, Aunt Margie gave me the strength to keep going. Unbeknownst to me at the time, she knew pain more intimately than I was aware.
“I remember the night my dad told us that he was dying. Dean and I were picking lima beans to can. There were three long rows of beans. My dad came out to us walking with a cane. He told us to be good for our mother, and it wouldn’t be long before he would leave us. It was very hard to digest because he had never left us. He took his stroke on November 25, 1936.”
My mother was barely five years old when she lost her father, my aunt, almost twelve. When I asked my mom about grandpa, her reply was the same. “He died when I was little. I didn’t know him.” But my aunt did.
“My father drove a car (I think it was a Model T). Anyway, I would watch for him coming home and would meet him in front of the house. He would stop and pick me up, and I got to ride down the driveway with him. He always brought something home in his lunch; I got to eat it. It was wonderful!”
Aunt Margie’s experience with her father was like mine. Each night Dad came home from his job as a truck driver repeated itself. He paid me a quarter to sweep out the cab. Then we went to my uncle’s store a mile from our house. I could buy whatever I wanted with my hard-earned money. Often, candy cigarettes were my choice. Dad smoked, I imitated him.
My aunt understood me in ways no one else did.
Married to Harry Mead Boltz on June 20,1942 in the small town of Chicora, PA, they had five children. Nancy Lea died in infancy, a cousin I never met. In addition, both parents and her siblings, James, Alex (Dean), and Viola, were living in heaven. On the day she walked me to my father’s deathbed, Aunt Margie understood my pain. What my aunt taught me to do, continue to live.
Housewife, the career listed for Aunt Margie in “Descendants of John McNutt” written by her daughter-in-law, Cinda, doesn’t quite capture the essence of Margaret. She loved her family, always putting them first. Walking into her home was one of the safest places on earth for me and so many people whose lives she impacted. Always greeted with a hug, Aunt Margie’s robust shape enfolded you completely. No one ever held me the way she did, no matter what my age. Active in politics and church, she negotiated complex topics with grace. Loving everyone, no matter which side of the aisle they chose. Judge of Elections in Sugar Creek Township, Aunt Margie never did tell me how she voted. But I do know the Lord came first, attending church with her often.
“You never know what will happen.”
Sitting on Aunt Margie’s front porch, I heard the words often from her lips. Life change occurred when I spent a vacation with her. In my early thirties, life’s struggles were winning the battle. Every night, we sat on her porch and talked. Her children came and went as we enjoyed our evenings together, just the two of us. As I poured my heartache out to her, hopeless, she gave me hope. And Aunt Margie always pointed upward when she did. My mother and she shared a favorite Psalm. Both women requested the words read at their funerals:
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
“Well, I guess it’s time to go.” Aunt Margie said.
After their spouses moved to heaven, mom and Aunt Margie became closer than ever. One of the jobs they shared, taking care of two elderly women with dementia. Every night, one or the other would spend the night with them. Aunt Margie, living over an hour away, would come to stay with mom and me during her shifts. Some of our happiest moments together occurred in the hours before 9:00 p.m. when she slept elsewhere. Florida Rummy and Phase 10 were the card games of choice. Fans of “The Golden Girls,” the pair nicknamed me Blanche because I loved to talk about sex. The topic wasn’t a favorite of theirs, which only made me talk about it more. When I miss them, I think of them around the card table, playing one more hand.
“Ah, you’ll make it. You find a way.”
I wonder if Aunt Margie ever tired of saying the same things to me. When we play the next hand of cards in heaven, I’ll ask her. In the meantime, as I continue my journey on earth, I understand a little bit more of what those eight words meant.
Defining anxiety is new to me, more importantly, my anxiety and how it manifests. Anxiety happens because I’m either focused on the possibility of a potential “nightmare” situation in the future or worried a past traumatic event will happen again. Anxiety robs me of the present. Aunt Margie’s eight-word statement was her way of bringing me back into the “here and now.” Her confidence in my ability to survive surprised me, but I’m beginning to understand. When she said those words, I couldn’t imagine life without her. But she was right, I’ve made it. I did find a way.
Aunt Margie’s life inspires me. Only after her death did I begin to understand how difficult her journey on earth was. Sharing her birthday with an earthquake seems prophetic. She experienced ground-shaking events time and again in her life. Yet, she persevered, always finding a way. From losing her father at an early age to experiencing the loss of a child to caring for the love of her life through Alzheimer’s, she never stopped finding a way. Mom and Aunt Margie only talked of such things when asked. Complaining wasn’t something they did. No, they spent their lives loving the people God gave them, always and forever.
Glow, beautiful, luminous tree, glow. From your lights shines the light of heaven as Aunt Margie’s spirit lives on in all who knew her. The box is in mint condition, waiting to nestle my favorite Christmas tree in its midst. Maybe next year, I’ll find glue to hold the fragile star in place. Underneath the warm hue, I’ll deal another hand of Florida Rummy, remembering the remarkable woman who taught me the most important lesson of all. Love
“Don’t think too much, Bethie, Ok. Just don’t think too much,” Butch’s words from the driver’s seat of his Toyota as he pulled away from our father’s funeral.
Standing by the road, watching him through the car window, my sixteen-year-old brain couldn’t comprehend his message. How could I not think too much? Less than an hour ago, I watched my father laid to rest. My hero was gone, my godlike worship of him destroyed. The pedestal where I placed dad toppling with each passing minute.
Numbly, I turned and walked back to my uncle’s house where family and friends were feasting on food, telling stories of Ram Rod, a man who seemed larger than life. But wasn’t. How desperately I wished I could drive away too. Instead, I must find a way to live without the one person I worshipped most.
Not only did I lose my father on June 14, 1986, I also lost my faith. My childlike innocence was gone. Experiencing pain so profoundly made me doubt my heavenly Father. Why would a loving God allow His children to experience such heartache? No thanks, God, I’m better off on my own. Or so I thought.
Over the next eight years, I strove passionately to “not think.” Alcohol became a welcome salve, pot its faithful companion. Numbness came with the combination of my two favorite things. After flunking out freshman year at SRU, my mother informed me, “I’m not paying for you to party!”
As if life wasn’t challenging enough, I was determined to make it harder.
Somewhere in my drunken haze, I promised my mother, “I’ll finish school. I’ll get my degree.” Living up to those words became my life mission. Working full-time to pay tuition, I managed to flunk out two more times before finally achieving my goal.
But once you accomplish your mission, then what?
“What about becoming a flight attendant?” Caroline, my Sales Director at Fort Magruder Inn, asked me. Having spent the last two years of my college career working as a front desk clerk, she took me under her wing. “My daughter works for Piedmont Airlines; I can get you contact information. I really don’t want to see you working in hotels and restaurants the rest of your life. It’s not the life you think it is. Please, won’t you give it a try?”
And so, when she gave me the Vice-President’s address, I sent him my resume. Within a week, I was scheduled for an interview. Realizing I was entering the grown-up world, I knew I needed to give up weed. Drug testing comes with adulthood. On my last day of classes at Christopher Newport University, I threw away my one-hitter, determined to begin engaging in life fully cognizant.
“Yes, I think we can get you on this flight,” the ticket agent said when I checked in for my plane.
“What do you mean, “think?” Piedmont sent me a ticket; doesn’t that mean I already have a seat?” I replied.
Smiling kindly, the ticket agent explained I was “Non-Rev,” short for non-revenue. In the airline industry in the mid-’90s, you could fly free as long as a seat was open. If paying customers booked the seat, you were out of luck. Having never flown before, how was I to know?
Arriving safely in D.C., my anxiety level was high. With time to kill between my connecting flight, I found myself emptying the contents of my stomach into the public restroom. Dressed to the nines in a short skirt, jacket, and heels, not the most ladylike position to find oneself. And then things got worse.
“All flights are canceled” rang over the PA system of Reagan National. Thunderstorms settling in over the city grounded all planes. Panicked and broke, I called mom.
“Find a hotel. I’ll deposit money in your account to cover the cost. You’re going to be ok.” Easy for mom to say, she wasn’t the one stuck in the current murder capital of the country alone. But what choice did I have?
How I found myself at the Marriott, I don’t recall. But I remember the relief of closing the door of my room, locking the deadbolt, falling into bed exhausted. Alone and scared, I opened the bedside drawer, finding a Gideon Bible. Pulling the book from its hiding place, I randomly opened its pages, reading words I don’t remember, praying for peace. Sleep came, although peace was far from me.
“My flight was canceled; I can’t make the interview this morning. Can I come back Monday?” My words to my contact at Piedmont.
“Interesting,” was the response, “So-and-so made it. She took the train when the flights were canceled.” Seriously, lady, I barely know how to fly. How the hell was I supposed to know to take the train? Gratefully, she relented, “Alright, I’ll send you another ticket for Sunday. You can interview first thing Monday morning.”
Non-revving back home, relief began to flood my senses. However, my anxiety remained at a high level. All weekend I was unable to eat, realizing I was at a pivotal moment in life. A “golden opportunity,” as my brother Dutch described it. My chance out of the status quo into something more vital and larger than me.
When the ticket didn’t arrive for Sunday, mom yet again saved the day. Wiser, she gave me her Discover card to use. Purchasing a ticket, I arrived safely to my destination, now having flown four times. I was becoming a pro.
Arriving for my 9:00 appointment, I surprised the recruiter. She knew she hadn’t sent the ticket; impressed by my tenacity, she pulled out my file and put me back in the line-up.
“Ms. Minick, this way for your drug test.” What? I never thought I would get drug tested. Great, after all this, how would I explain to my family that I didn’t get the job because I couldn’t pass the drug test? Wonderful!
God was with me, even though I wasn’t with Him. My weekend of anxiety, not eating, and fasting cleaned out my body. I had no worries, but I didn’t know that at the time. This turn of events caused me to relax for the day-long worth of interviews, making a good impression on the interviewers, landing me the job.
No longer able to use drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of my father’s loss, I began to face reality. Feelings began to surface I had long ago suppressed. Watching as friends married, their fathers walking them down the aisle angered me.
“I’m not getting married; I don’t have anyone to walk me down the aisle. Besides, who needs it? They leave you anyways.” Words to a fellow Flight Attendant in the middle of an aircraft swap. Often, during trips, we switched planes with other crews. On this day, I handed my craft over to a bride-to-be, gushing about her upcoming nuptials.
Pain isolates, as does grief. No one can understand the hole created in your life but you. While everyone carried on living, I was struggling to make it through my days. Dad died. God abandoned me. No one understood. I was all alone.
But then Pete.
A man of God, Pilot Pete had a reputation in the industry. While other men were cheating on their wives, Pete was sharing God’s love with all he met. Quiet, Pete never imposed his beliefs on others. Instead, he did the best he could to accept others as they were. Grace and kindness were his calling cards, not once seeing him angered. I hated flying with Pete. But as a rookie Flight Attendant, I had no choice.
Landing in Philadelphia late one night, the crew made its way to baggage claim for hotel pick-up. Me in front, Pete, and the First Officer behind me as we made our way down the escalator. Standing beside the tall panes of glass, looking into the dark night for our limo, Pete asked me a simple question.
“I’m mad at my family.” Was my brusque reply.
“Why?” Pete asked.
“My dad died,” I replied gruffly. Why of all things, I said these words I do not know. Pete represented God to me, and I wasn’t a fan.
Ever so quietly, Pete replied, “So did mine, when I was seven.”
In an instant, life changed. This man of God knew my pain. And, from my perspective, his was even worse. At least I had my dad until I was 16; he barely knew his. But he still loved God? How?
“God never promised us a rose garden.” Pete said, “He promised us life everlasting, free from condemnation through the death of His Son. God knows your pain. He has never left you; He is always with you. God wants you to turn back to Him and let Him be your comforter.”
“One day at a time. You don’t have to solve the world’s problems or change who you are. God loves you, just as you are. Let Him.”
Our ride to the hotel was silent. Lost in thought, Pete gave me something to think about that night. When we reached the hotel, tucked in my room, I opened the nightstand drawer. Just like the night in D.C., a Gideon Bible was nestled in its midst. Opening its pages, I began to read.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4 NIV)
Life didn’t change overnight, but one day at a time, I found my way back to God. What I realized, even though I turned my back on God, he never turned His back on me. In my pain, I found someone who understood it. Because of Pete, I found my way back to God and His promises.
Eight years, many tears and self-destructive days later, I found comfort in the arms of my Father.
Kirk taught us to spread the positive. Here’s the backstory:
First, we weren’t even supposed to be in Hilton Head. We were supposed to be in Asheville, NC. We booked the trip before COVID. Ron took the trailer for its annual inspection. The brakes didn’t pass. In fact, the inspector said they were paper thin. He said we could take it anywhere if it was flat, but definitely not in the mountains. Asheville is in the mountains. We didn’t want to go anywhere flat either, not until the brakes are fixed.
We found this fact out Thursday around noon. Things weren’t looking good for a weekend getaway, so desperately needed. Determination pays off. We found one of the last rooms in Hilton Head that took pets, Red Roof Inn. Great place if you have dogs and want to travel. No frills, and I mean no frills. But has the necessities and is cheap for Hilton Head. One and a half miles to Palmetto Dunes, can ride your bike everywhere from there. Here’s a clip from our Friday night ride:
Secondly, in none of our conversations did we consider spending Saturday afternoon at the hotel pool. We played Pickleball in the morning, didn’t really have a plan for the afternoon. Possible tennis, possible golf, possible nothing. Ron wanted to take a shower, I wanted to work. Being a Minick, work is how you get through life’s heartaches. Our weekend get-a-way had a lot to do with how hard the anniversary of Cody’s death is for me. Trust me, it doesn’t get easier. So I headed to the pool around noon with laptop, phone and water, to work.
You know what happened?
When I got to the pool, I decided to dip my feet in the water before getting to work. That’s when our new friends, Kirk and Edith asked me if I wanted a beer. I said I’m more wine than beer. Edith said, “I have wine.”
I took that as a sign I was to take the day off.
Kirk’s mother passed away 6 weeks ago, nine days before her 101st birthday. She went to sleep Friday night, didn’t wake up Saturday morning. Cause of death was listed as COVID, although she had no symptoms, and was not ill. In Kirk’s words, “She was done. She lived her life, and it was time to go.”
He has two siblings, a brother and sister. They thought about hiring a lawyer to have “COVID” removed from the death certificate. The cost is $3000-$5000. They didn’t pursue the issue. Why? The statistic is already recorded, what difference would it make at this point.
Edith was napping.
Tee wandered in at some point. Kirk was quick to introduce himself. Another friend made. She was a young COVID tester, getting away for the night. She has an artists heart and a sweet smile.
Ron joined us after about an hour. He was leery at first. I could tell from his body language he didn’t trust what was happening. I’m not sure how long it took Kirk to get him to start relaxing. Kirk is a beer and wine salesman. He knows how to make people relax. And I know the moment he broke down Ron’s defenses.
I was mid-story when Kirk interrupts me and says this to us:
“You know, 98% of the time when someone says something good about someone they don’t know it. The reason being because they say it to someone else. I make it a point of telling people when someone says something nice about them.
“Son, this here girl loves you. The way she talks about you when you’re not around makes that very clear. I just wanted you to know that.”
Kirk is right. Can you imagine how much better the world could be if we told people the nice things other people said about them? Ron and I have talked about this moment ever since. It’s impacted both of our lives. The more you think of the possibilities, the more exciting the thought becomes.
We are so quick to tell the negative. We need to be quicker and more intentional to tell the positive.
That’s what we learned from Kirk.
By the way, Kirk and Edith are from Boone, NC, right outside of Asheville. All four of us booked the room the day before. None of us planned the trip to HHI in advance. If we went to Asheville we wouldn’t have met.
In Kirk’s words, “Sometimes the Higher Power brings us together for a special purpose.”
We received a free year of Apple TV when Ron transitioned to the Iphone SE. As a result we discovered “The Morning Show.” We were immediately hooked, already we’ve watched three episodes.
Adjustments were made to my puzzle area. The towel on the table made it impossible to put the pieces together. An investment in a folding table has helped immensely. Progress has occurred. Ron misses the coffee table, but is willing to adjust.
Since the semester ended, I’m focusing on improving my writing. Currently, understanding passive voice and applying it to my writing is top priority. My friend Johnny is helping Ron and I with this task. I’ve found a website to help further my mission. I’m beginning to understand, but the light isn’t completely on at the moment.
Dahlia’s continue to bring a smile to my face. My northern friends remind me how blessed it is to live in the south. I’m grateful I can work outside, as I’m doing now. Sunshine on my face makes social isolation bearable for me.
Another week is here. We’re grateful for our health and God’s provision in our lives. We pray for our nation daily. We’re trusting God to lead in all things.
A few days ago I dropped my phone in the toilet. Gratefully, the phone still works. The decision was made to wait until the device quits working before ordering a replacement. While exploring new options for the phones replacement, I “accidentally” hit the “Confirm Purchase” button.
I immediately told my husband of my dire mistake. His response, “You’re a smart girl, I find it hard to believe you “accidentally” purchased a phone.”
Well, O.K., maybe it wasn’t an accident. I’m not admitting to anything. Yes, my husband spoils me. Yes, I’m grateful for the life God has given us together. And I’m thankful my new phone is arriving by May 15th:-).
I discovered a new show, “Good Witch.” Light, funny and easy to follow. The show pairs well with my efforts to complete a puzzle. So far during the pandemic, I’ve started two craft projects: chalk painting and crocheting. Both are back in the closet where they prefer to live a quiet, uninterrupted life. The puzzle lives in front of the T.V., waiting for me to work on it.
My favorite photo from May 1, 2020 is the one to the left. Sophia, our little princess Rat Terrier, is precious. Her and Rocco, a Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix are photogenic. Taking photos of them is a pastime for me. Look at that face! She gets me every time:-).