Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Running again.

But those who trust in The Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.  ~~ Isaiah 40:31

James Taylor Upchurch, Jr. 
May 1, 1927 - December 31, 2014

My Daddy was one of the first recreational runners in Montgomery. He loved his church, his family, Auburn football, fine art, and 60 Minutes (before they got too liberal).  Sailing gave him great joy and being on the water at Lake Martin was as close to Heaven as he ever got, when he was tangled up in his mortal frame. 

He laughed easily, remembered every act of love, and delighted in technology and spreadsheets.

He had the latest everything, and there wasn't a gadget that hit the market for which he wasn't first in line. 

He worked hard, so that when he wasn't working he could work hard at playing - which to him usually involved working in the yard or at the lake. When he could no longer do that as well, his new hobby became supervising those who could.

He was a maker of lists, whose motto (one of many, anyway) was "Plan your work, and work your plan."   He was Pap, not only to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but to all their friends as well. 

My daughter-in-law said to me just a couple weeks ago that when I was looking hard at something I make "the Pap Face."  It's something I realized that all four of us children do. I think it's in our DNA. 

His practical side became his most endearing personality trait. When Henry and I told my parents we intended to marry on January 5 of the following year, he advised Henry that it would be smarter to move the date up by a week, for income tax purposes, especially since, he added, "Eleanor can't cook, and I'm not sure she knows what end of a broom is supposed to meet the floor, but you can claim her as a dependent and y'all can get a refund."

We were married December 29. 

He fell in love with our Mama the first time he laid eyes on her, at age 11, at a Rotary baseball game in which both their fathers were playing. They courted in the shadow of the church in which we will celebrate his life this weekend. I don't know, really, how I feel about what exactly happens to souls when the bodies around them die, but somehow I feel certain in my bones that there was a reunion somewhere, somehow, in the dark, quiet hours between midnight and the first break of dawn that made me feel, for the first time since the day my mother died three years ago, as though order in the universe has been restored. 

Rest in peace, Daddy. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Other Woman

I wrote this story for the Christmas Eve Sunday School lesson I gave to the New Directions Class at First United Methodist Church in 1997.  I thought I had lost it, but recently discovered a copy my mother had saved among her things. Christmas Gift, indeed!

You have heard the story of the shepherds and the wise men and the heralding angels, and it is good that you should know them. But have you ever heard about the other woman in the stable the night our Savior was born?

Her story has never been told. None but Mary, the Blessed Mother, was ever aware of her presence. But her story is important, dear child, because it is also the story of the perfect Christmas gift.

I was the other woman in the stable the night of our Lord's birth. My name is Rachel, and I worked for the innkeeper who could not find room to lodge the Holy Family. I first saw the sweet-faced girt and her shy, lanky husband when they came to the door asking for lodging, and my heart ached for them. It was clear to me that the girl, who was much younger than I, was very soon to have a child. I thought for a moment about giving up my own small room at the back of the inn, but because I had never in my life had any other
place to call my own I couldn't bear to give it up, even if only for a night. I was relieved when the innkeeper showed the young couple where his stable was. I'm not even sure why I felt that pang of guilt, for weren't they the ones too foolish to make arrangements for themselves? After all, the stable had been strewn with fresh hay that very morning in anticipation of traffic to the inn. It shouldn't be too cold or too uncomfortable for them there.

After a long day's work, and the busyness of attending to the unusually large crowds who had come to Bethlehem for the census, I went to my room eager for rest, and before too long I fell into a deep sleep.

I cannot tell you how long I had been sleeping, but I was startled awake by the strangest sounds I had ever heard. It was more than music, and the beauty of it drew me out of my bed. As I made my way to the window, my knees grew weak, and I was overcome with such a feeling of wonder that I began to weep tears of happiness I could not explain. 

What I saw that night in the yard of the inn in Bethlehem surprised and puzzled me. There at the entrance of the stable was a group of shepherds and townspeople, an odd assemblage given that shepherds tended to keep to their own, and even the lowest of the rest of us were more than pleased to exclude them from our company. 

I remembered the quiet couple who had taken lodging there, and so I left the inn, and made my way to the stable as quickly as I could. The crowd of people made it hard for me to get all the way in at first, but I was able to hear the soft cries of a newborn baby. I inched my way forward and saw people giving whatever small thing they had to offer to the mother, who would tenderly accept each person's gift and smile warmly before allowing them to take a peek at the child in the manger.

At last I got close enough to the little family to see the mother's haunting eyes. She was no great beauty, but she was radiant.   When at last she looked at me, I was embarrassed. I realized I was standing on holy ground, and because I had made many mistakes in my life that made me ashamed, I felt I had no right to be there. 

She nodded her head at me, as if to invite me to come closer. I was all at once sorry I had no gift to offer them, but then the young mother turned her face to mine and whispered, "My name is Mary. Please, could you bring me a cup of cool water? I am so thirsty, and the visitors who have come to see my son have kept us so busy even Joseph has been unable to fetch some for me.

I immediately left the warmth of the stable and returned to the inn. There I found a dipper and a pail of freshly drawn water. I snatched them up, afraid the innkeeper would see me and accuse me of stealing, and ran back to the barn. As I held the dipper up to her lips, Mary gently took hold of my wrist and said, "Your kindness to me tonight is your gift to my son. God will surely bless you for it."    

With that, Mary gently lifted the swaddling clothes away from the child's face. I had never seen a more beautiful baby, and in my heart of hearts I knew at once that this was the long promised Messiah. I don't know how long I gazed at her beautiful boy, but as each second passed I felt the weight of the mistakes of my past lose their stranglehold on my heart.  As I arose I knew I would never be the same, and on that very spot I vowed to live the rest of my days as a witness to the beautiful Savior. 

So now you know the story of the other woman in the stable. She was Rachel, a forgiven and changed  woman. And you also now know the secret of the perfect Christmas gift.  It is the cup of kindness, offered to one who thirsts for it.

© 1997 Eleanor Upchurch Lucas All Rights Reserved

Thursday, September 4, 2014

It's a Boy and I'm Not Surprised

My son and daughter-in-law announced today that the baby they are expecting in January is a BOY.

They were so surprised. I was not. The minute they told us they were expecting, I knew it was a boy.

Not wishing that it would be.  Not guessing that it might be with pretty good odds of being right.

I knew it.

Let me backtrack.

When I was heavy with child and believe you me, I was heavy with child, I stood at the bedside of my grandmother with her daughters and my mother. She was in the last days of her life, and she was in a deep sleep so my aunts and my mother and I were talking about what I might be having. You know, back in the days when we almost never did know? I told them if it were a girl I was going to name her Hannah Grace; and if it was a boy, he'd be named after his father. That created some problems.

I didn't want my son, if that's what I had, to be called "Little Henry" and neither of us were crazy about the name Franklin, so we were casting about for nicknames instead.  I was leaning toward Hank -- it's what my father-in-law's old friends called him and I thought it was a fine, strong name. The other possibility, of course, was Luke, and I allowed as how I wasn't crazy about the alliteration that would create. But then, from her deep sleep, my Grandmama opened her eyes and said, "It will be a boy, and you should call him Luke, after the Great Physician."

And then she went back to her deep sleep.   She was a very religious woman, through and through, and for those who might not know, the Great Physician was the Gospel writer, Luke.

In a matter of days after that visit, Grandmama died, and less than a month later, my son was born. The one I wanted to call Hank...... who I decided to call Luke instead. You do not mess with what might have been a divine message, people.

So, fast forward all these years ahead.

After my mother died in October 2011, we noticed her needlework basket next to the chair in her sewing room, with this in it:  

This blue afghan. 
With the needles still in it. 
A work in progress.

There was no baby due at the time she laid this down and took ill, not in our immediate family and not, that I can surmise, in the extended family. I asked her who it was for, pretty sure it was just something to keep her hands busy, and she just said, "You just never know." 

But now I do. 

It was for this great grandson, the one we will all meet in January. The first who will not know what it feels like to be held in her arms. The first who will not have its toes counted and kissed by her. But he will know what it is to have been loved before you were ever born, because he will know this story, and he will know that when his Grandmama heard tell of his coming, she never had a a doubt in her mind who he would be, because his Granny told her so. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What I Saw on My Walk Today

I'm working a little harder these days on adding more jogging to my morning out-and-abouts just because I'm enjoying the challenge and I hear it's really good for your health to mix things up. I still love getting out there and just walking for the heck of it, though, and some days my body chooses what it will let me do. Today was definitely a slow it down and walk one, but it's on mornings like this that I don't mind stopping for a second to snap a picture of the things I come across while I'm out there. For instance....

Every time I see this ....

I can't help but wish that this would happen.


On this morning's walk I was reminded of some very important things to keep in mind if you want to be happy and healthy and of generally good disposition. 

Good dental hygiene is so important for overall health, and also,
people like you better when your breath doesn't stink. 

Life is a party, and you get to 
be in charge of your guest list. 


You don't really have to stop and smell the flowers, 
but you really should at least notice them when they try this hard. 


Some things in life defy explanation. Keep going anyway. 


And finally, when it doesn't infringe on the health and well-being of others, always   


Here's where I strolled this morning. 

And now I'm craving bacon. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Naming My Own She

Several years ago, the late Kathryn Tucker Windham wrote the final of her memoirs as homage to the woman who moved in with her and refused to leave. She entitled this gem She: The Old Woman Who Took Over My Life and as you might expect it has sold like firecrackers do at dusk on July 4.

It appears all we women have, or will have in the fullness of time if we are lucky, our own She with whom to spend the rest of our lives. 

My own She has now taken up full residence, and I hereby christen her on this day Myrtle. 

It has well and truly been a matter of not being able to get her off my back for months, and I read somewhere that the only way to get rid of an enemy legally is to make a friend of them. I'm all about remaining this side of legal, so there ya go. 

Myrtle has sprung up, newly born yet aged 56 years, 3 months, and 7 days old. She has persuaded me that I don't have to wear mascara anymore, and that all other make up is now optional. Thus far, I still refuse to listen to her when she suggests we can dispense with leg and armpit shaving. She never had to persuade me not to color my hair, but she was right when she said that wearing my hair really short again would bring me peace.  Myrtle weighs 20 pounds, and I know this for true because before she began coming over for the weekends only, I weighed exactly what I wanted to weigh. Now that she has quite moved in, I am resigned to seeing my weight and hers all added together on the scale. 

Myrtle has gifted me with osteoporosis, arthritis in my feet and hands, an extra flap of skin or two on my body that could provide shelter to leprechauns or sprites but which otherwise serves no purpose, and these ridiculous "age spots" that may eventually wind up making me look like I finally got the perfect tan that always eluded me in my youth.

We are colorful, Myrtle and I. We have fireworks on our leg, just behind our left knee, especially. Some folk call these "spider veins," but I prefer to think of my body as a celebration of its life and not a hostel for arachnids. She has also deposited laugh lines in places I didn't realize my face even moves when I laugh, and just to be funny has arranged for annoying little hairs to spring up in random places on my face. At least they provide me with some entertainment, as keeping them at bay is the post-menopausal woman's version of a daily aggression-fueled game of Whack-a-Mole. 

These days I need bigger shoes (thanks, arches), wider pants (whose hips are these?), and industrial strength unmentionables, and we don't even need to discuss that I might be next in line for quad-focals as I now need to take my trifocal glasses off in order to read. 

I think my favorite thing about Myrtle is that she enjoys the company of my 18 year old self, who didn't give much of a fig about what people thought. There is a lot of freedom in that, although less beer. Myrtle is quite unyielding when it comes to her bladder, and "staying up late" now means getting to the end of the 10:00 news.  (And I get extra points if, during the newscast I refrain from saying, "What is this world coming to?")

Despite our differences, Myrtle and I are getting along pretty well, and as long as I get to keep picking the music we listen to and the way we dance when nobody's looking, I reckon she's welcome to stay. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Today's True Thing

Despite all the technology I have at hand and use frequently, nothing replaces a real engagement calendar, and The Old Farmer's Almanac Engagement Calendars have long been my favorites.  They lie flat, thanks to their spiral binding, and they are bound in a hard cover that slips into a bookcase just swell at the end of the year, where they will wait to be discovered and read by some grandchild in the future, just as I was able to peruse those that belonged to my grandmother. 

I learned more than one might expect from flipping through entries in her desk calendars: how she never quite forgave her hairdresser for retiring, how much more her physical limitations bothered her than she usually let on, how set in some of her ways she was and how flexible she was about others, and in these day to day things which were worthy of notation she wrote a story of her life. Even the most banal entry revealed something about her, about what her real life was like. People edit themselves in journals; an engagement calendar is more like a Twitter monologue. You do it, you think it, you remind yourself of it; you write it on your calendar in broken sentences, punctuation optional. No need for flowery language; no need to explain. Your life as a verb, as it were. 

I was delighted to get to work this morning to discover that my 2015 edition had arrived, but here's a true thing: 

Did you ever notice how, once you get a next-year's anything, all of a sudden you just can't stand this year's anything anymore? 

"People don't realize the that future is just now, but later."
~~ Russell Brand

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Just Another Walk in the Park(s)

A few years ago I looked forward to Saturdays mainly because it meant I could get a good 10 miles or more walked/jogged out.  I haven't done that again since I participated in the half-marathon in October of 2011, for a myriad of reasons, the most charming of which is that I am so often caring for my granddaughter that there just isn't a window of opportunity to do it anymore. That's absolutely fine, of course, because given my druthers it's not even a contest which of those two things I'd rather be doing on a Saturday morning. 

All that time passed has gotten my head kind of out of that endurance game, but I'm working hard to find ways to ramp up again. With Rosemary spending this weekend with her Granna instead of me, I was able to put in a slightly more ambitious walk/jog yesterday morning, out at the AUM Wellness Center walking track. Granted, it still isn't anywhere close to what I used to do, just six miles, but when you are as out of shape physically and mentally as I am right now, it was an accomplishment of which I was proud. 

My legs were awfully stiff this morning, and the only thing for that, I've found, is to move them, so I decided that today I would just walk for the sake of walking. No pushing. No jogging. No attention to pace. Just move.   

I started out at Blount Cultural Park, where I got a little obsessed by how gorgeous the clouds were. 

 And then as I came around to the bridge I noticed there was a little parade underway. Naturally I had to stop and give it my full attention.

I decided I still felt pretty good, so I headed to Woodmere Park, a lovely but neglected little patch of property adjacent to the Shakespeare Festival. I've walked there before, but had forgotten that it just feels weird to walk that close to houses. A Peeping Tom could have a field day back there. I did a quick loop, and got back in my car to come home. 

I drove back through Blount Park, deciding all of a sudden to stop at yet another park on the way home. The water I'd had to drink before I left home, plus the water I'd sipped on after the first two walks had begun to send me a subtle message, so I parked at the way back at Ida Belle Young Park, near to the (as my Nannaw would have said) facilities.  It appeared to me that I had the park all to myself, too! No other cars in the lot, nobody on the tennis courts. 

As soon as I got out of my car, however, I noticed a person sprawled out on one of the tables in the covered area just next to those facilities, and I was just a bit wary of walking past him/her (I couldn't tell which), so I figured, heck, I was good for one short lap without that side trip.

But after that lap, I noticed that the sprawled person was still sprawled. I slowed as I got near, and started yelling, "Hey!  Are you okay?"  I yelled this out at least 5 times, but was still anxious about getting any closer. It was the second time in a matter of days that I had come up on someone that I was afraid was sick or worse in this heat (the first time turned out to be a police officer on a stake out), and so I called 911. I told the dispatcher I was not close enough to see if they were breathing, and I had no intention of getting close enough, but that I would stand where I was until help arrived. In less than 6 minutes from the time I had hit "9" to dial for help, a police officer and a team of paramedics were there.  

My car, Maude, is the gray car at which the paramedics are pointed.
The police car is to the left of me, obscured by shrubbery.
The car behind the paramedics pulled up during this whole thing. 

They were able to rouse the young man, and while I didn't want to insert myself into the proceedings, I also decided I was staying put to find out what was going on. He was checked out pretty thoroughly, the police officer spoke to him for a bit, and then it was over. I don't have the back story, but as we all were making our way back to our respective vehicles, he walked up right behind me, and I told him I was sorry if I'd embarrassed him, but that I was really concerned he was sick or hurt. 

And then he hugged me, and said, "Tha's cool." 

I'm glad I called, even though there was no emergency. I want to live in a world where we look out for each other, and the only way we get that kind of world is when we, ourselves, work to create it. 

I wonder what good we might do, what help we might be to one another, what delight we might discover each day, if we just slowed down and paid attention, don't you?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Pop and his girl, talkin' about stuff. 

Blount Cultural Park
Montgomery, Alabama

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Warning from the Riven Tree

I am not a theologian. I am not a spokesperson for the United Methodist Church. I have a history of teaching adult Sunday School classes and I led two years of a four year Disciple Bible Study, but my credentials for even those things lie only in my propensity to say YES before thinking things through.

I'm also not terribly interested in church law where those laws and rules were made by committee. Necessary evils, those, where human institutions are concerned, but hardly the stuff on which I pin my hope of salvation. 

I was raised in the Presbyterian Church but joined the United Methodist Church when I was a teenager. My best friend was a member there, and when you are a teenager who tends to be on the outside of every social circle there is, having one best friend becomes theology enough for a change. 

I was married in the same United Methodist Church I had joined so many years before. My family committed the souls of my Grandmama and Mama to God's care there before committing their bodies to the earth. My husband and I presented one of our children for baptism there, and both our sons stood at that same altar to be confirmed in the faith. I was privileged to witness my granddaughter's baptism from the same pew on which I sat when her father and mother were married. 

My husband and I moved our membership to another United Methodist Church in another city for a few years, after he had left the Baptist Church of his childhood. When we returned to my hometown, we visited another UM congregation for quite awhile before realizing that the church in which we had wed felt like home, and there we've remained for all these years. 

I love the United Methodist Church. I appreciate the freedom it gives me to enter into a relationship with God and my Christ that may look different than other's relationships. It has given me a framework  in which to walk through dark nights of my soul without losing my way. My faith is not a stagnant thing, it's a living thing, and this truth seems to me to be validated and celebrated in the United Methodist Church more than in any other in my experience. That doesn't mean it is the right or best path for anyone else, and I celebrate that denominational differences meet other people of faith in their own way. I'm used to sitting in a pew with folks with whom I see few things eye-to-eye, but with whom I share a faith in the things neither of us can see. 

The United Methodist Church is struggling right now over matters of sexuality that threaten to tear opposing camps apart. A proposal has been made by United Methodist pastor and author Adam Hamilton that there is, in fact, A Way Forward through all of this, and after reading through his proposal I find I am in agreement with him.  It's not a perfect solution, and I suspect that many church leaders fear mass exoduses from their congregations if they don't pick the right one for themselves. It's a valid concern, because each congregation has a budget to meet, and I don't mean that with any cynicism: there are folks whose livelihoods depend on their jobs as support staff for each of these houses of worship who have no say in how this goes who could be affected by mass exoduses, should that happen. 

I believe in my heart of hearts that the current stance of the United Methodist Church--we love homosexuals, just so long as they don't, you know, want to do the things that heterosexuals do, like commit their lives to one another or answer a call to ministry--smacks of the same sort of thinking that would keep people of color in slavery, women from the pulpit, and folks with skin diseases only allowed to come as far as the curb on Sunday mornings. The true ills of society rest in poverty, violence, injustice, and sub-par education for "the least of these." If we would only take our passion about the issue of homosexuality and redirect it to these things that truly do destroy families, we'd do something that really would glorify God.

I want to assure my pastoral staff that if Way Forward, or some incarnation of it, is ever adopted and my home church decides to hold fast to the status quo, I still would not leave it for rainbow colored pastures elsewhere, at least not simply for that decision, and I can't help but think that others might not feel exactly the same way. That may seem contradictory, but truth is, when I joined the church, I became part of a fellowship of believers who have never pretended to be of one mind about anything, and as long as we can embrace one another in spite of then it's where I'll stay. Those walls hold precious memories, and at the risk of sounding like a person prone to such, my personal cloud of witnesses lingers there and brings me peace.

On my walk this morning I ran across this tree, riven down the middle, perhaps in one of our recent storms. One half is still clinging to life; the other is dead and dry. Everything both sides need is in the part of the tree that has yet to be destroyed, but since it cannot put itself back together again it is all doomed.

We can mend our rift. We can. And we must. We have work left to do together.

Speak your minds freely; but remember, you are only making laws for the present time. 
Francis Asbury

Please note: I am certain that many who read this might be in disagreement. 

I love you anyway. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

In praise of bad photographs

One of my favorite iPhone apps is Timehop. In a nutshell, you tell it in which social media ponds you swim and every day it sends you a little look back at what you posted there. 

Some days are so deadly dull even the current deadly dull days seem exciting. 

Sometimes I find myself fairly well stunned by how quickly time has flown. 

I find it to be a great reminder of how well-served we are to keep whatever we are going through right now in perspective. Many of the things that consume your heart and head right now will, in time, be hardly worth noting in a few years. 

The things. Not the people. Never the people. 

Today was a case in point. 

3 years ago today I had taken Rosemary to visit her Great-Granny and Pap. I don't recall there was anything special about the visit. It was like most of my drop-ins - just a spur of the moment thing. No agenda, probably didn't last more than a half hour. 

The only thing that made this visit any different might have been that once I'd gotten home my Mama sent an email with this attachment. 
I didn't know she'd taken it. She had been given a digital camera and was still perched on the learning curve as regarded the taking of photos and the uploading of the same to her computer, not to mention sending them somewhere via email. 

The text of the email was this: "Unfocused, but sweet!"

It's as perfect a photograph as I've ever had. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

On the Road Again.

Over the past many months I've had to confine my walking to parks and such.  I have missed taking my neighborhood sojourns, mainly because no matter how lovely Blount Cultural Park might be, or how "fast" I can move on the flat track at Ida Belle Young Park, or how much I enjoy seeing the regulars at Vaughn Road Park, or how fun it has been to discover a new place -- AUM's outdoor walking track -- there's something about the chosen unpredictability of just shutting my back door and going that I've been craving again.

So, don't anybody tell my husband, whose worries about my safety had put the kibosh on my "free range" walks, but the last two days I walked in the neighborhood again. The most exciting find was a new home under construction, which probably hasn't happened in this neighborhood for 20+ years.

I am always on the lookout for the little things, though, and this morning's walk did not disappoint.

As I walked by this, the memory of "OOOOH no, Mr. Bill" played in my head. Closer inspection showed, of course, that this alarmed whatever-it-was was not that character, but they surely studied under the same acting coach. 

Just a few steps away there was this:

Wait... Was there supposed to be a real squirrel standing right here and he forgot where his mark was? Is this proof that animals in nature don't act as randomly as we might suppose? Do they need a script? And what does that mean about us? Are we just puppets on this same stage?

Of course, it's possible that this dropped off some kid's school project, but that doesn't make for very interesting philosophical questions for the next couple miles or so.

Anyway, I told somebody once that this blog was about nothing, and I think it's time I start proving that again.

How'm I doin'?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Waiting Game

I may be one of the few people living on Earth for whom the prospect of spending a day in a waiting room is something to which I look forward, so in a sense you could say my Valentines' Day Celebration started off just perfectly.

My husband was scheduled for an outpatient procedure and we were told to be there at 6:00. As in ante meridiem. So, yeah. Other than that, though, I had taken some trusted friends with me, so it was all (mostly) good. 

Big cuppa coffee..... a pretty amazing book.... a little iPad just in case they had wireless.... (and they DO, so thank you very, very much Montgomery Surgical Center) .... the day was shaping up to be a pretty nice one. Well, if you were the one in the waiting room and not the one in the back having a colonoscopy, anyway.

We were there just a few minutes before our appointed time. The waiting room at the center is a nice one and practically cavernous, with several u-shaped seating areas, a children's play room, a very nice coffee room, and the aforementioned WiFi. We were the first folks in, and we sat smack dab in the center of the enormous waiting area, close to the restrooms, coffee room, and an outlet for the iPad/my phone should I need those.

God was in His Heaven; all 'twas right with the world.

And then another duo came in, surveyed the entire waiting room and all its empty seats and seating areas, and came and sat down next to us, and while that was sort of weird, it's a free country and who knows? Might have been that they were secret millionaires who had decided to be all weird like that in a waiting room at dawn to decide to whom to leave their millions.  Hey. It could happen.

It could have been true. It wasn't true. Nope. It was THAT GUY. The one who has an unasked for opinion about everything in the world, and who hasn't yet grasped the concept of dialogue. In 15 minutes time, he had held forth on everything from how Kindles were better than books, why places like Amazon and Wal-Mart are the best things that ever happened to the American Way of Life, why medical costs were soaring out of control (it's because of disposable coffee stirrers, in case you are interested), and how he finally got rid of his toenail fungus for good. Trust me, even if that particular issue is something you are heavily invested in solving, you do not want to know more.

Thankfully, I never made eye contact with him, so it was the poor woman he had accompanied who was stuck saying, "Uh, huh" and "How about that?" and "Really?" I am quite sure she was worrying it would never be her turn to be put under anesthesia. I had had every second of this I could take, so I stuck my earphones in, grabbed my book, and dug in.

I'm my mother's child, though, so I always have one eye on the comings and goings of folks in waiting rooms, so when a young Mama came in alone with a sleeping toddler, and sat down across from us, I couldn't help but notice that she was having a devil of a time trying to fill out all the forms she had to fill out while holding her sweet cargo. I got up from my seat and asked her if it would help if I held him for her for a few minutes.

I haven't held one this small in quite a while, and the weight of his little head on my shoulder got me all dreamy. I was sorry when she had finished what she was doing, and was able to take him from me.

(Note to self: Explore the idea of being a stand-in Grandmama in waiting rooms when you retire There are lots of single parents out there who might could use this service.)

Just after I had retaken my seat next to Henry, they called him back, so I plugged my ears again, and picked up my book. I was deeply engrossed when they said I could come back and wait with him, and when I made my way back to the pre-op area I couldn't help but make note of the room to which he'd been assigned.

Oh, there's a good sign.  And turns out, it was an inauspicious one as well. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Henry was enjoying a very good nap -- we'd been up since 4:00, and the nurse kept bringing him warm blankets, so what's not to love? -- and the doctor had overslept or something, so again, I tucked into my book.  Have I made it clear that it is pretty riveting?

He was finally taken back, and I hauled everything back out to the waiting room. Thank goodness for the opportunity it gave me to position myself well away from That Guy, who was alone by this time, and looked like he was about to bust because of it. Oh, and judging by the way he was manhandling it.... his Kindle's battery had died.

There is a God.

Henry's procedure went just fine, but there was a complication that had nothing to do with the colonoscopy. It forced him to stay in the recovery area longer than he should have had to stay, and in order to leave I had to sign papers saying we understood there was a problem before we left, and it meant that there was now another waiting room waiting for us.

I'd be lying if I didn't say that we were unnerved, and I needed a minute to sort of catch my breath. Fortunately, when I went out to get my car to drive 'round and pick him up, I saw this, and it gave me a little lift.

That's right, folks.  I FOUND WALDO. Who knew he was a slightly overweight, middle-aged African-American man?  Total surprise.

After another turn in a waiting room because of Henry's alarming blood pressure readings during and after his procedure (despite having taken his meds for blood pressure that morning), he was finally cleared to come home and continue resting through the weekend. Turns out, a "misunderstanding" about dropping a prescription was to blame, and "of course" it wouldn't be "the fault" of the "health care provider."

Our Very Eventful Valentines' Day came to a close at the AT&T store, where we finally took advantage of their need to actually, you know, compete to keep our business. We were able to change to a much more affordable plan, even while procuring a very attractive new phone for myself, and switching to a family-phone-down upgrade for Henry. (Thanks, Luke and Jackie!)

No flowers. No candy, save for a square of dark chocolate from a bar I bought in December for Christmas but hid so well I forgot about it, which Henry had found a couple weeks ago and been nibbling from. No jewelry. No cards. Not even our traditional pan-seared steak for supper. He had peanut butter on a rice cake and I had a pineapple/banana/chia seed/Greek yogurt smoothie, and we watched the best ice skaters in the world fall down on their Spandex-ed rears, over and over again.

When I got ready to go to bed I had to take off the necklace I'd been wearing all day, the one about which I found myself suddenly very sentimental.

In the hardest times on the worst of days, seeing these in their rightful places means more to me than I seem able to say when I need to say it most.

I love you, Cap.