Monthly Archives: May 2013

Riding in the rain

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I hate it. As much as I love riding our motorcycle, I hate, hate, hate riding it in two situations:

1. The rain

2. On loose gravel.

Today, I took the bike to the Little One’s soccer game an hour from home. It was a beautiful ride there … sunny, 90 degrees. She and her team won 3-0 which is good, ’cause they’ve had a rough season. I knew it “might” rain on the way back, but it was beautiful, sunny, so we hit the freeway, going 75 miles an hour.

Then, I watched the sky get darker, darker, and then giant pellets of rain began to fall. Inside, I panicked. I know the tires are getting bad. I know that the freeway is no place for a motorcycle, especially when it involves my youngest daughter riding behind me, passing semi-trailers.

So, I rode off the first exit we came across. There wasn’t anything there … I mean, no gas station, no McDonalds, nothing. I told the Little One it would be OK, and said that as long as we kept the freeway nearby, we’d make it home. I turned, and wouldn’t you know it — gravel.Now, I am immersed in my two biggest motorcycle fears. But I also wanted to stay brave for her. I have to figure this out. We slow way down, and dodge the holes, the puddles, and the fear. We hit a patch that is rolled and ridged and my gut tells me I’m going to dump the bike (as I did just last summer), but instead we sing and talk out, letting our voices and our laugher rumble and vibrate with the bumps.

Eventually, we found not only pavement, but a McDonalds where I bought her a hot sandwich and a cold drink. She changed into warmer clothes, and the rain stopped. I checked a map, and decided to not re-enter the freeway. There was a paved road through a small town, which would lead us back home at a slower (and more safe) speed.

We were on the road literally three minutes, and the deluge resumed. Not only rain this time … dark rolling clouds, vicious wind, and blinding drops. I breathe deep. “You doing OK?” I ask my rider.

“Yep,” she said. She’s a trooper, that one. We pull over to another gas station, and I tell her to finish her dinner. We areLife there briefly. The rain stops, and although the skies remain dark, we press on. By now I’m chilled. I’m vacillating between fear and anger — anger at God who seems to play with my head as I beg for clear weather and safe travel, to get my kid home in one piece. We come upon civilization, and the weather clears and we travel on. We find ourselves in the middle of no where, and the sky splits again, soaking me and sending us into a repetitive cycle of chilling cold, barely drying, and saturating soaking again, and again and again.

Add to this the sound a motorcycle tire makes when it hydroplanes, even at a slow speed, and my adrenaline levels spike miserably. I’m in constant prayer, bargaining with God for safe travel, and spitting under my breath that He’s chosen here, when I am vulnerable and powerless and protective to crap on me. My theology is brittle and wrong, I know, I’m working on it. But putting my kid in a dangerous situation is not the way to soften my heart.

Eventually, we hit a stretch of road that is so saturated that I am sure I will slide the bike out from under us. At that point, my daughter asks me if it’s OK if she sings. “Yes!” I yell over the sound of the bike and the rain. “Any requests?” she asks. “Whatever you want,” I yell.

At first, she’s quiet. Thinking. Then her strong, clear voice begins with selections from her favorite band of the week. There is a calm, that comes over me from the back of the bike. I can barely hear most of her words. But the warmth of her song brings me peace. Peace with my situation. Peace with God.

A few songs and laughs later — despite the increasingly crappy weather — we see familiar roads, slower speeds, the promise of our warm house and a good dinner. I feel the tension seep out of me just like the dampness drying from my jeans. It feels good.

 

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Teaching an old dog ….

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My dad needs to keep busy.

I shared a bit the other day about him and the garden boxes. The other day, when I was mowing, he came out and asked me if I’d let him mow sometime. Now, I love to mow. I enjoy the “quiet” (with my own thoughts), and the sunshine … it’s a little bit of heaven on earth. But I told him maybe he could help me (since the entire lawn takes hours).

Today, he came to me and asked if the keys were in the mower. I told him, “Listen, Dad. You can’t just get on and go.” The church owns a zero-turn mower, and there’s a method to “doing it right”. It’s an expensive machine, and Dad’s … well, he’s an old guy, you know? Mowing the acres is rough on you. It’s a bumpy ride, and a zero-turn involves a lot of adjusting. Constant adjusting, actually. It’s a mini workout, out in the sun, constantly jiggling.

I could tell my Dad was seriously underestimating the process by his flippant attitude.IMG_2784

But I promised. So, we headed out the shed. I showed him the basics, and he fired it up, and proceed to almost take out the garage door. We got it outside, and my little lion man and I dodged and wove so that Grandpa wouldn’t run us down. Seriously. I feared for my own life. I’m not exaggerating.

Eventually, though, Dad decided to take it slow, and he ran some circles around the lawn before engaging the blades.

“So, you want me to hang out … you know … just in case?”

“I’ll be fine, don’t worry about it … ” I am doubtful, but I don’t want to discourage Dad. A big part of him being here is that I predetermined that I would not treat him like a child. We’ll deal with things as they come along, you know? He’s a grown man, with a lifetime of experience and stories … I’m not going to reduce him to a toddler.

Still, I grabbed a book and headed out to the backyard swing. I was a ways away … across a couple of acres. I could see him, struggling at first. At one point he got off the mower, which of course cut the motor. And he didn’t remember that you had to set the parking brake to start it again. But I let him work it out … asked him if he needed any help … and eventually he spent 3 hours mowing, enjoying the quiet, the sunshine … and came in tired but satisfied.

This journey we’re on is one of discovery, for both him, my family … and me. Today was another win. Hoping the days to come are full of them.

Garden boxes and flashbacks

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I have this unkempt circle of flower “stuff” in my front yard. There was a circle of stones, perennials and overgrown grass that formed what was, at one time, a cute little garden around our protruding water pipe. I, being the dreamer of gardens yet to come, have fantasized about what this little plot of ground could be.

I thought, if I remove the stones, mulch the grass, and put up a little white fence, maybe it would improve the look of it, you know? Understand I know very little about gardening. Like, I have these visions of grandeur, but my actual ability falls far behind my ideal. So a couple of days ago, I thought … hmmm. I could dig up the rocks, fill in the holes, and maybe put some herb boxes out around it like a faux fence.

When my dad moved in, he had a couple of odd wooden boxes he had used for storage. I asked him his plans for them, and he said to use them for whatever. So, I drilled some drainage holes, filled them with top soil, and planted some herbs. I started the project, and it wasn’t long before Dad showed up.Dad

“What’cha doing?” he asked, strolling out of the house, baseball cap in place.

“Just planning on digging these rocks up,” I tell him, starting to leverage them out with my shovel. Dad watched for a minutes, then came over.

“Give me that thing, you’re going to hurt yourself.” I obliged, more because it’s easier to let him have his way sometime, I’m learning. Plus, I figured it would make him feel useful.

He surprised me. He dug those rocks out, and I picked them up and tossed them into the back of my SUV to use around the fire ring in the back yard. A couple were too big … we had to call in my teenage son (the young buck, as Dad calls him). But before I knew it, the rocks were gone and I began hauling dirt from last summer’s pool project to fill it in.

As I did, Dad went behind me, tamping the dirt down, leveling it with his shoe.

“There’s a lot of weeds here, don’t you think?”

I agreed. I told him I was going to mulch it down, and he nodded. “That’ll be good,” he said, bending down and pulling out some of the grass. He stood up, all six-foot two of him. looking skinny and old and grey. But he looked at me, and smiled. “This will be nice,” he said. I smiled, and agreed. I told him my herb plans, and he volunteered to help me make the boxes.

Tonight, I was outside watering my two existing boxes. I showed Dad the peas in the backyard, took him around to see if any strawberries survived my lack of encouragement from last summer, then we landed by the new project in the front yard. “You’re gonna need at least four boxes,” he said.

“I don’t know, I think three will be good.” He disagreed. We went round and round for a few minutes, and he finally measured, dug around, and decided that if we made the new boxes a big longer, we could alternate long-short, and have a “pretty nice looking spot.”

I watched him, while he figured it all out. When he first moved in, I was pretty sure he was losing his mind. He would repeat himself frequently. He would wander, and do things that were totally … odd. I tried to tell myself he was lonely. He needed people, and needed something to do. Tonight, he was determined. accurate in his measurement (he actually relented and decided three would be better than four boxes), and laughed frequently as we talked about the project. He declined but enjoyed me trying to get him to taste my “almost wild” chives. He bent down, and pulled more grass.

“That looks better already,” he said. “It would only take me about 1/2 an hour to pull this, you know?” He kept pulling.

I sighed. “That would be great, Dad,” I told him. I’m still going to mulch, but it will look better without the long grass.

Before long, he was bored with that. “Tell that boy to grab a golf club. I want to see if he can hit that ball like I think he can.”

My dad’s a long time golfer. He tried with me, to get me to enjoy the game. But golf is one of those games that you only get everything right 1 in a 100 times. At least, it feels like that. I’ve never pushed any of my kids that way. But Dad was insistent, and while E had no desire (and rolled his eyes at me multiple times), he tried. Dad tried to help him. I showed him what I knew.

It’s been years since I’d done that. I remembered it all, like it was me standing there with the club. I remember the feeling, the technique, the feeling of my dad standing over me, telling me what I was doing right and wrong. Ethan tried. And before long, he was hitting it way out in the softball field.

golf clubBefore I knew it, he was running out, gather in the golf balls, and hitting them again. And again. I went inside, and the next thing I knew … he had broken his first golf club (hitting, not throwing it against a tree like most golfers). He was grinning … proud … something he didn’t even want to do dug a little into his heart.

Having my dad here hasn’t been without challenge. We’re all still learning to figure out the rhythm of life and how things can be … should be … might be. I think a lot about how to balance the needs of my husband, my kids, my dad … my life.

But tonight … tonight was one of those times that I was glad he was here. Giving him purpose again … giving him projects that help him feel a part of the family … seeing him pass on his love to his grandson… it was a good night.