Getting Educated

I took a pot of tea and a plate of banana bread to my ninety-year-old neighbor this week. Her eyes sight is not what it used to be, so I figured she was feeling a little lonesome without the comfortable companionship of her daily allotment of newspaper stories and books. Her farmer sons are as attentive as busy farmers sons can be during harvest season. So, when she called to chat, I suggested a cup of English Tea and a “little something” to go along with our chat.

She was amiable to the idea.

Not that our little town keeps us in gossip, but there’s always someone who has gone to the hospital and could use a prayer, or a highlight on recent coupon finds, a memory to peruse, grandkids’ news to catch up on, new pictures to check out, and possible remedies for what ails you to try.

God has always blessed me with elderly ladies. There’s always been a neighbor—somewhere—to spend an hour or two with. I love sitting by and listening to stories that no one else wants to hear, laughing about how the world has changed, and remarking at how, in fact, the world really hasn’t changed all that much.

Disease, accident, or a quick death will find me sooner or later. I’m not under the illusion that I’ll live in peace and prosperity forever. Not on this side of the Great Divide. So getting to know my elderly friends is like a life lesson in how to handle the inevitable challenges—weakness, failing eyesight, loss of hearing, loneliness, bittersweet memories, and so much more.

My friend says she wants to educate me because I’m dreadfully deficient in coupon savvy. I don’t seem to know the four cardinal directions or how to properly clean a window. I waste money on needless supplies when—with a little time and effort—I could make something like the store-bought kind from scratch. I also don’t save used envelopes. When it comes to molding me into a proper country housewife, she certainly has her work cut out. And nothing could please her more. Or me for that matter.

We have a cacophony of authoritative voices shrieking at us all day long from newscasts to blog posts (Hopefully, not this one!) informing us of how to live right. How to make the world a better place. How to become strong, beautiful, holy, and helpful.

Yep. The world offers lots of great advice.

But not one of them makes me snort my English tea in laughter like my friend.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

Auld Lang Syne

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon…

It’s hard to look back and remember. Two dates in October stand out for me, the birthdates of two people I loved who have passed on: my mother and my husband.

It should be uncomplicated. I loved them. They died. Be grateful. Accept. Move on.

But when is life uncomplicated? There are a host of reasons why memories of loved ones haunt us. Mistakes they made. Mistakes we made. The whole death process. Our own impending death. Our existence here. Their existence…where?

I’ve been studying up on my Irish heritage. Of course, that can’t be simple either. My DNA reflects Irish, English, Scottish, Scandinavian, Iberian Peninsula… Lord, my ancestors were passionate travelers. History references all sorts of lost longings…the people and communities we once belonged to. The families we had…or wished we had.

So when I write the date on the chalkboard for the kids each day, do I include a reminder…this was grandma’s birthday? Your dad’s birthday? Of course. Right? We should remember. Selectively.

Relationships are hard even when we aren’t together anymore. That’s the irony of it all. We can’t really forget. Sometimes we’d like to. There’s a lot we’d like to purge from our psyche. After all, we only have so much brain space, and we can only carry so much emotional baggage. Right?

So why is it that the tune to the words—words we don’t even remember half the time—brings tears to our eyes? Why do we make resolutions on New Year’s Day? Why do we try so hard to start over?

Not being a cultural engineer with all the right answers or human rights activist with all the right causes or even a particularly good mirror…I struggle with these questions.

Why am I here?

And where do I go from here?

Though I may not have the answers, I believe they are worthy questions to ponder. That’s why the song brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes.

It’s a good question.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

Seasons

HeartBeats

Getting old(ish) is not easy. At least not for me.

I can’t believe that one tiny leap to save a dish from falling off the counter will throw my back out. Or that my eyes without glasses see hazy green lumps where trees used to stand. Or that my kids know far more about the entertainment world than I ever did. And don’t even get me started on technological advancements. Magic. That pretty much covers it in my book.

Yes. I said book. Paper pages bound together with a thick cover. Book.

So I understood the other day when my ninety-year-old neighbor shrugged and said: “Whatever” to every social, political, or cultural question I put her way.

When I mentioned that it looks like an early winter, she just smiled.

Then it hit me. She’s seen ninety winters…springs…summers…and autumns too. Good heavens! This woman has seen the end of WWI, the Depression, the entire expanse of WWII, the rise of the sixties, the civil rights movement, the space age, the computer age… You get it.

I guess a little perspective gave me a bit more patience. I realized that she has survived cancer, her husband’s death, and the loss of much of her immediate family, and many friends. No, she doesn’t give her opinion about a lot of things. I suspect she is too wise for that. She knows what I can’t see yet. The other side of history reveals the blunders of people who jump to conclusions…and judgments.

So…I saw a glorious red and gold maple leaf fall from a tree today. Maybe autumn will come early. Maybe it’ll be right on time. I don’t need to decide. It’ll come when it comes, and then I’ll know.

But I’ll still have to wear my glasses.

 

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

Beyond the Scar

Lacy touched the ragged scar on her cheek and winced. The pain, long since faded, lingered only in her mind. “Z for Zorro.” She bit her lip. “No mask or mascara in the world can fix this, honey.”

“Mom?” Jason stood in the doorway and peered at the reflection of his mother.

She glanced in the mirror and met her son’s worried, forlorn eyes. “Nothing, kiddo. Just—” She couldn’t think of a quip fast enough. Lord, she was weary.

Jason stepped into the room. “It’s not so bad. I mean, you’d have to really look carefully to even notice.”

A laugh jerked in her middle, tumbling over the tears she wanted to free. “Yeah. It’s practically invisible.” A quick swipe and her eyes were nearly as dry as her tone. She turned around and squared her shoulders. “You ready?”

Jason lifted an armload of books and grinned. “Mr. Baxter will love these. Vintage Hardy Boys.”

Lacy ran her fingers through her son’s tumbled locks of curly hair. “No doubt. Being as rugged as the hills himself, he loves the old and familiar.” She grabbed her keys, swung her purse strap over her arm, and led the way to the bookstore.

~~~

A bell tinkled as Lacy entered. Old man Baxter glanced up from a table crowded with paperbacks.

Jason hustled ahead of his mom, a grin spreading wide across his face. “Look what I brought, Mr. Baxter.” He edged a stack of mysteries aside and placed the Hardy Boys securely in the center.

Mr. Baxter lifted one book, his gnarled hand clasping the cover with gentle care. Rifling through the first pages, he whistled low and glanced up at the boy. “These are a special find, son. Collectors always looking for vintage pieces.” His gaze strayed to Lacy.

On autopilot, Lacy offered a little wave. The scar seemed to stand out more when she smiled, so a flashed grin sped by.

Mr. Baxter rose with a nod. “So glad to see you’re up and about again. Car accidents—dreadful affairs.” He waved to the back of the room and swept his gaze to Jason. “I’ve something to show you.”

Jason jogged in the direction indicated, his eyes growing wide at the sight of a glorious double bass standing in the corner. “Oh, man! Can you play it?” He ran a finger along the polished curved wood.

Mr. Baxter ambled up grinning from ear-to-ear. Cradling the instrument in his arms, he hefted it out the back screen door and held the frame with his foot. “Come into the light, and I’ll play a little something.”

Jason jogged forward and slipped into the sunshine. Lacy, an ache tugging on her heart, stepped outside and backed into a shadow.

Mr. Baxter plucked the strings, his body swaying to a nightclub melody.

Blocking the bright light with her hand, Lacy watched her young son and old man Baxter as the music floated over the air like a sweet memory. Focusing on Mr. Baxter’s face, it suddenly seemed as if years evaporated: his eyes brightened, his mouth turned up in a happy grin, and his skin smoothed. The man stood in his prime, his back arched just so, his legs sturdy, his hands strong, and his vigor restored.

Swallowing back a gasp, Lacy blinked and dropped her hand. Jason and Mr. Baxter could be brothers, their love of books and music binding them stronger than the years that divided them.

As they returned to the car, Jason buckled himself in and glanced at his mom. “You okay?”

Lacy turned the key in the ignition, and the car roared into life. With one hand, she passed her fingers over the scar. “I never realized; we all have scars. Age brings them on in multitudes.”

Jason shrugged. “I guess it all depends on what you’re looking for.”

Lacy pulled into traffic and glanced aside. One eyebrow rose.

“Well, if you look beyond the scar, you might find happiness.”

Peering ahead, Lacy smiled.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

Picture Perfect

HeartBeats

One of my favorite Mom-things to do is to read to my kids. When they were little, I especially loved reading books with detailed pictures—pictures that are real-er than real, if you know what I mean. Tasha Tudor was one of those artists who created art that lifted mundane realities into the Heavenly Spheres.

This the morning when I looked around my kitchen, (The one I left pretty darn clean the night before.) I saw…a coffee spoon and a dribble of coffee on the counter, a splotch of jam on the floor, a spider web in the window (with a spider no less!), and a vase of withered flowers on the table.

And there, lying on a chair, sat Tasha’s book.

As if I had nothing in the world better to do, I opened it and glanced at her world for a moment…or twenty.

By the time I lifted my eyes and looked at my kitchen again, it had magically changed. I saw well-fed school children engrossed in a new book… happy coffee-ed college kids heading off to educational adventures, an arachnid ally taking a bit of rest after a long night’s work, and the glory of late summer wildflowers  (granted—a little worse for wear) plucked by loving hands.

I suppose there are a lot of ways of looking at our world. And though it is a parent’s duty to keep an orderly house, there is something to be said for seeing the kitchen…and the living room…and…(fill in the blank) with an artist’s eye.

I suspect Tasha would agree.

 

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

HeartBeats

Turning Points

So I was driving along a long stretch of country highway today, golden corn waving at me from each side, Italian music playing (Not mine—my daughter’s. I don’t know a word, but I enjoy the beat nonetheless. Maybe more. I feel the emotion without being told what to think.)

And as I swerve around ka-billion woolly-worms maniacally crossing the road, I notice out of the corner of my eye a long gravel driveway guarded by stone lions.

But that’s not what stops my heart. Between the stone lions is a little girl dressed in what must be her best dress—very colorful—dancing to her heart’s content.

I had just finished reading Michael Tabb’s new book, Prewriting Your Screenplay (Yes, while in the orthodontist’s waiting room. My kids don’t have perfect teeth—yet.) and I had reread the section on turning points.

Turning points.

Yep.

Characters in books and movies aren’t the only ones who have turning points. You. Me. The guy in line ahead of you at the store. The cafeteria lady at school. The UPS delivery person. Go on…. You know what I’m talking about. Turning points can be as simple as those moments that catch our eye—and our heart—and make us pause. Make us think. Make us feel.

What did I feel as I raced (Not speeding!) along the road, my heart beating to the rhythm of an Italian pop singer? I felt courage. The courage of whoever the heck put up those stone lions in the first place. The courage of a child dancing for all the world to see. The courage of farmers throughout the ages, daring to plant crops, no matter what the weather and the world might throw at them.

In our fractured world, knit together by the flick of a computer cursor, we have to hold our courage in our hands every day. What turning point caught your eye this week? What heartbeat touched yours?

Do I really care?

Yep.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

Like a Ballerina

Lydia didn’t know why she had to wait, but since waiting was such a big part of life, she tried to amuse herself by watching the other people in the room.

A young woman tugged at her t-shirt, her foot jiggling as it hung crossed over her leg. The woman’s elbow perched on the arm of the chair, and her eyes scrolled over the bent magazine page, but Lydia doubted she was really reading. The woman’s gaze kept wandering to the door.

A man in a neat suit sat ramrod straight with a briefcase perched obediently next to his chair. He checked his watch and harrumphed noisily. Pulling out his iPhone, he scrolled with quick, thumb jerking motions bearing stark testimony to his mood.

Lydia frowned, biting her lip. Her gaze darted to the door her mom had gone through—it seemed so long ago. Her stomach rumbled.

The receptionist called the young woman.

She leaped to her feet like a ballerina, though her face looked more like an acrobat walking a tightrope. Tossing the magazine, the page still folded backward, on the table, she slipped her purse strap over her shoulder and sucked in a deep breath. She strode forward.

A scene from a movie where the main character faced a firing squad flashed before Lydia’s mind. She blinked.

The door opened, allowing the young woman in and an older woman to escape. Her eyes red-rimmed, and her gaze wandered the room like a sailor lost at sea. The new woman meandered to the suited man and tapped his shoulder.

He glanced up, still holding the iPhone at eye level. “What’d they say?”

The woman shook her head and glanced around. “Not here.” Gripping her black purse like a life preserver, she headed to the door. “We have to talk.”

The iPhone disappeared into a hidden pocket, and he gripped his briefcase almost as hard as she gripped her purse.

Lydia watched them traipse out the door. She felt a knot tug her insides. The image of a dog being kicked to the road sent a shudder through her body. She glanced around. No dog. She frowned.

The door opened, and her mom slipped through. She clutched no purse, and her gaze remained clear. Searching the room, she found Lydia and smiled.

Lydia’s stomach relaxed, and she smiled back. She straightened up.

Her mom reached out and helped pull her to her feet. Her orthopedic shoes clumped as she stepped forward.

“You were a good girl?”

Lydia nodded. She squeezed her mom’s hand. “Why’re we here?”

Her mom peered down and then glanced aside. The empty room could tell no tales. “I just had to make sure.” She pressed her hand over her protruding tummy.

“You’ve got the baby still?”

“The baby’s okay.” Her mom started toward the door.

Lydia swallowed. “Not like me?”

Her mom stopped in mid-step. Turning, she bent and peered into Lydia’s eyes. “No one is like you, Lydia.” She ran a hand over her soft hair. “You’re perfection.”

Lydia grinned. The knot was gone. The image of her dad’s open arms brought tears to her eyes. “Is Dad home?”

“Waiting for us.”

Lydia limped to the door—but her soul soared like a ballerina.

 

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00