If Your Dad’s Still Here …

This Father’s Day ends, and I’m remembering my Papa. He wasn’t famous or incredible in many ways, or anything. He drank too much and chainsmoked, and loved me and my sister, Becky,  with his whole heart. I only got eleven Father’s Days with him face-to-face before the divorce.

He stayed in our lives, supporting us financially and emotionally and seeing us a couple of weeks each summer. The ends of which I dreaded.My child’s heart waited  and waited for him to drive back up our drive.

Papa with becky and Greg on their wedding day.

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And then in 1995, he called me to come and get him. He was dying of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart failure. We drove from Oklahoma to California with him doing travelogue most of the way. He’d driven that route as a heavy equipment salesman for years. But just outside Kingman, his eyes began to roll back in his head, and when he was lucid, he told me to find a hospital.

The morning of Father’s Day that year I didn’t even realize what day it was. He’d said the night before that if he were still alive in the morning mysister and I should get him out of the hospital. We checked him out AMA,  lifted him into the back of Becky’s dust buster, and tore off for home. He said if he died before we hit the California border to pretend he was asleep because otherwise we’d have all sorts of trouble with the authorities. That’s how he was, always looking to others’ needs.

Sometime between a car full of angels who folowed us across the desert, only leaving us at Bakersfield, and an 18 wheeler tire flying over Becky inthe dust buster and under me in Papa’s car, I realized it was Father’s Day. I’d always senthim presents and cards and called him to wish him Happy Father’s Day, and I hadn’t said anything, to him or to Bake. Just drove. It was our 12th Father’s Day face-to-face.

When we made it into our cul de sac, my children’s father came from the house and carried my father in to lay him on the sofa. He lived another six months, endearing himself to my children and my friends. He’d already become my husband’s role model long before.

All that to say, if your father is here, don’t take him for granted. One day he won’t be. It will be too late to accept him as he is, to appreciate your existence because of him, to spend time he so longs for. Now, I know there are some abusive dads out there, and if you’ve got one, ask God how to handle him, and follow His guidance. But most dads are just guys who took on the gargantuan task of raising and loving children, making mistakes and keeping on going. They deserve your time, your appreciation.We still love you, Papa. Happy Father’s Day.20171126_070616

 

Mr. Hill, This One’s For You

We do see the color of our skin. People who say they’re color blind aren’t being tansparent, no matter what color they are. That being said, skin color isn’t an evaluatory tool. I won’t mention all the other human variations that aren’t evaluatory tools, because what we’re talking about since George Floyd was killed, since Dr. Martin Luther King marched, since Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, is racism in the United States.

Now for a stab at transparency. When I was in college, I asked a black girl what black people thought about something that was going on at the time. She asked me why I thought she was representative of all black people. Made sense. I’m sure not representative of all white people.

fb_img_1584673841152Charles Hill, Tammy Whose Last Name Has Changed, Dr. and Mrs. Bohn, and Dr. Serna

Later, when I taught third grade, one morning before the beginning of the schoolyear I walked into the office, and a huge black man sat at the principal’s desk. See how I said that? His size and color frightened me at first glance, and I guessed he might  be a new custodian fixing a drawer or something, at least I hoped so.  That’s because I didn’t know him, yet. And he wasn’t the custodian. He was the best principal I ever had.

His name is Charles Hill. When he’s your principal, he knows the names of even the good kids. He plays football and basketball with them at recess. He makes it a point to value all the cultures of all the kids. He includes teachers, parents, kids and the community in the life of the school. He takes up for the downtrodden no matter what color they are. He’s one of the good, no, best guys.

So here’s me, initially afraid of this giant. One day, we’re in staff meeting, and he’s trying to help the teachers talk about racism. No one is saying anything because they’re worried about pissing each other, or him, off. I’m sitting there thinking about how much I appreciate Mr. Hill’s efforts. See, I come from a prejudiced parentage with KKK members in our distant relatives. And about the time I tought this, Mr. Hill said, “Mrs. Baker, what do you think?”

Honestly, I considered lying. Not a good character quality. So I said, “I was thinking that I have a KKK member in my family tree back a ways, and I hope we’ve come a long way since then, but I suspect that a lot of prejudice has simply gone underground.” Truth.

Time goes by. One day Mr. Hill asks me to go with him and some other adminstrators to a workshop on diversity in the Bay Area. Why me? He says it’s because of my comment about my KKK relative. He thinks it was transparent, and that I might learn a lot. The workshop leader has us complete a survey, then we line up according to our score. Questions like, “Would you expect the maitre’d in a restaurant to be the same race as you?” Mr. Hill was clear on the other side of the room from me, and not because he is more educated, played professional football, or can motivate kids to do better than they dreamed they could. I wanted to cry.

On the way home, he told me stories about name calling, being pulled over for no reason, his daughters in danger. None of which happens to me, ever. He and another black administrator in our district were in the front seat. That man was on a diet. He pulled out this powder he was using for the diet, and Mr. Hill yelled, “Put that stuff away! You want the cops to think not only do two black dudes have a white lady in the back, but we got white powder in the front?” Funny, but then, maybe not so much.

About that time, my friend and brother, Charlie Crane, asked me to help him write a book about his dad. It turned out to be the story of the Civil Rights movement from his point of view. From the moment he told me about the shoe store owner telling him to put his foot on the outside of the shoe he wanted to buy because if he put it inside, no white person would buy it, I desperately wanted to write that book for him. It was the least I could do. Charlie came to speak at an assembly at my school, and while he was there, he counseled a boy in my class who needed to hear a strong black man speak truth. Charlie told the kids I am his sister that day. They were looking back and forth, and back and forth, but it was true. I am his sister.

Not long after that, Mr. Hill moved back to the Bay Area. There had just been too many incidents. I was heartbroken. But I remember him, and when I see the opportunity to help a black person win, I take it, because he showed me what it means to be black in America.

Experts

I’m not going to say anything about the current Coronavirus because I’m not an expert. I am an expert on a few things, though. For instance, I’m fairly certain there’s no earthquake vault under where I live in California because I checked it out when I was taking journalism in college. (Not that we don’t shake a little, but not a lot.) I think I’m an expert on managing dry skin because I have it. Gold Bond Ultimate, just sayin’. (This is not an advertisement, but a recommendation from my doc.) I’m an expert on my hubs, too. Maybe not completely because he keeps changing, but better than anybody else in the world. So that’s me, or some of me.

person holding green leafed plant

Who’s an expert? Somebody who’s done the work of finding out. A scientist or MD is an expert on the Coronavirus, or maybe if you want to know what it’s like, someone who’s had it. Due to that fact, I ignore a whole bunch of what I see on Facebook. But I listen to the experts, and follow their recommendations. That’s why you won’t see me in crowds for a while, including church on Sunday, darn it. We need to give the medical people a break by not all catching it together. But I said I wasn’t going to say anything about that. So never mind.

Another expert I pay attention to is that one who’s been in the trenches. If I want to know how to be a mom, I pick a mom who has stayed the course whether her kids are considered successful or not. If I want to learn writing, I listen to a writer who publishes what I want to write. If I want to be a CASA, I listen to people who volunteer as CASAs.

Why am I saying all this? Because there are a lot of folks these days who don’t know how to pick an expert. We ask sports figures how to manage finances, movie stars how to love our kids, radio talk show hosts how to manage our love lives. We even take advice from television shows, say what? Whoa!

Evaluate people! If a sports figure is living high because s/he makes millions, what’s that got to do with you? A. You probably don’t make millions. B. That dude may easily be out of money when s/he blows out her knee or his elbow. Goodbye high life. What about your hardworking parents or neighbors, wouldn’t they be better experts? Did you know that movie stars concentrate most on how to act and look good? Why would that make them an expert on parenting? Famous isn’t informed. How about picking a couple who have raised several kids. They won’t sugar coat it or give you pat answers. They’ll give you the true skinny.

OKay, you say, so where do we go for advice? Go to people who are honest and kind, to people who are humble and wise. Go to people who are willing to help and also admit they are still learning themselves. And I know you may not appreciate this next, but go to God. He’s the expert extraordinaire, and He loves you, so you can trust Him not to steer you wrong.

One last thing. God gets a lot of bad press. People say He lets bad stuff happen for no reason. Not so. Even when God allows bad stuff, there’s a reason. We may not be able to discern it in the moment, but He knows we learn more in bad times than in good. So, as an expert Father, He allows the bad times. And if you don’t believe He loves you, take a look at the world He created for you. EXPERT

 

I Hope I Can Write This

Something is bothering me. It has to do with words. Though I’m a word person, I’m concerned that I may be calling the kettle black as I write this. But It won’t let me go. It has to do with cussing. So here goes.

Ever since I was a kid the F word was a no no in polite company. It was like the most disgusting word you could use. I never had the guts, but I heard that the soap came out and some of my friends were bubbling at the mouth before they knew what happened when they dared to use it. Now I know we were kids, but that word wasn’t heard when there were women around. Just didn’t happen. In fact, if some ruffian deigned to speak it when somebody’s wife stood there, it was a fightin’ word.

Okay, fast forward. Bake and I are out for a nice Valentine’s dinner and the table across from us is graced with a dude who can say the F word two or three times in one sentence, loudly. He had other talents, too, but this is about cussing.

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Photo by BROTE studio on Pexels.com

I couldn’t help it. I looked up how long the F word has been around. Since 1475! In all those years it was saved for impolite company. Well, until lately. Now I know, there are lots of cuss words, and Facebook will attest that I have said at least one myself, darn it. But I think we’re losing ground when the big F loses the impact it used to have. When the young folks tell me that it means nothing.

It doesn’t mean nothing. Words have meaning. And I, for one, would like to see that one return to the darkside. Okay, I’ve said my piece.

Life Is Bittersweet, Pull Together

January has been so full and a classic example of bittersweet. Taking the Christmas decorations down is bitter, but not having a credit card bill is sweet.

Bake the Hubs had his shoulder replaced. Bitter slogging through insurance companies, but sweet when it all worked out. Bitter painful going in, hopefully sweet range of motion coming out. I was living two lives for a while, his and mine, bittersweet because he lives an interesting life, but I grow tired faster than I used to. He asked me once why I was so willing to help him, and out popped, “Because Jesus isn’t here.” Where did that come from?

I’m training to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate for foster kids. Bitter hours studying, but sweet to be the voice for a kid who’s experiencing one of life’s toughest times.

My little dog, Aime, is coming to her first birthday on Valentine’s Day, and so her test to become a therapy dog should be the end of February. All sweet!

Our anniversary was last weekend and we took a trip to the California coast. Sweet! Tide’s in, and we ate seafood like a king and queen. Visited the aquarium, rode the Cannery Row trolley for the first time (I can’t believe it, in all these years). Had Ghirardelli coffee while we watched the ocean, my husband’s mistress.

frozen wave against sunlight

All sweet, except it wore him out a little, minor bitter.

Not only that, but I found out Charles Martin, my favorite living author, is keynoting Mt.  Hermon Christian Writers Conference in April, and I’m going! Sweeeeeeet!!!!

We even ate sweet and sour chicken this week. I guess that about covers it. See you in February.