Seriously Grateful

Blog and Photos by Dale Parsons

I followed the WordPress Discovery Prompts for 30 days. The last prompt was the word grateful. Rather than writing something serious, I chose to make it light and goofy. For example, saying I’m grateful my name isn’t Sigmund. Sigmund isn’t a bad name, I’m just grateful it’s not mine. I should have taken more time and expressed serious gratitude for so many things, and people. I’m doing that now.

Grateful means one thing to me. Family. It isn’t possible to put everything family means in a post like this. Or a book. Or a series of books. People spend lifetimes putting together scrapbooks of black and white photos, then Polaroid color photos, then color photos developed by Kodak, then printed digital photos, and now they’re viewed on a tiny screen, thousands of them, stored in a little flat box not much bigger than a business card you carry in your pocket. Not only that, but you talk to people with your camera now, and you can watch TV, listen to the radio, and look up all kinds of things. The one great thing about it is that instead of your family photos being stuffed in large books on a shelf at home, you carry everything with you all the time.

I don’t know if we ever dreamed we would have eight (at this point) grandchildren, but we do. We have reached the point where getting everyone together in one place is difficult. They’re all so busy with their families and work. Life recycles. When we were younger we had to travel to see my family and my wife’s family. Now it’s happening again. We’re the ones who often travel to see everyone. We love it.

These guys are our closest buddies, just a few miles from where we live. The photo is a few years old. The one in the middle is now taller than I am, and I’m 6’3”. At least I used to be.

This is what always happens to me at some point or other. I didn’t find out until years later the little guy on the left was copying me. He’s not really sleeping!

The little one I’m holding just celebrated her 1st birthday. Our son’s family lives in the Chicago area where he is an adjunct professor of Philosophy.

This young man will carry on the tradition of model railroading. We passed the family Lionel trains to him.

The little man in my wife’s arms is the youngest of our grandchildren. He lives with his family in the Nashville area where his mom and dad are on staff at a great church.

This is so cute!!

We are so grateful for an amazing son-in-law, and three beautiful daughters-in-law. They are all incredible, talented people. We are so blessed they are all part of our family.

Stories don’t make it. Photos only try. Just one word.

Grateful.

Grateful! Discovery Prompts Day 30!

Well, I’ve reached the end of the Discover Prompts provided by WordPress. They do this every April, but since I wasn’t blogging like a fiend in April, I started using the prompts thirty days ago. So, does that mean I have nothing else to write about because no one is giving me a topic? Oh, no, my friends. I have sooo much to expound upon in literary prose that I will keep busy for a very long time.

The final prompt is grateful. There are so many things for which to be grateful, it is not difficult to begin. It will actually be difficult to end. Just when I think I’ve exhausted the list, more thoughts arise. So, here goes.

I’m thankful to have a neck. If it weren’t for my neck, my head would be attached directly to my shoulders, making it very difficult to turn when someone calls my name. Obviously, I could turn my whole body around, which I would have to do if I didn’t have a neck, but then I might trip over something that was previously in front of me but is now behind me.

I’m thankful my name is not Sigmund. I have never liked the name Dale, but I dislike the name Sigmund even more. I would have grown up being called Sig, (no one would have ever called me Mund), and that would have been very annoying. I have been called all kinds of things, many of which can’t be listed here. But I would prefer being called Dork, or almost anything else to being called Sigmund.

I’m grateful for knees. Stick figures illustrate how important it is to have knees. We should all be thankful. If it weren’t for knees, our walking would be stilted. Falling would be particularly dangerous and landing on our faces would be more frequent.

I’m thankful for tortilla chips. They are the perfect snack when I want something but I don’t know what. Chocolate? No. Milk? No. Spaghetti? No. Egg Plant? No. Tortilla chips are the go-to every time I just need something to chew. Crunchy.

I’m grateful for doorknobs. I’ve have been locked out of the house, by my own doing, and getting back into the house would be far more difficult if there were no doorknobs.

I’m grateful for paint stir sticks. When I forget to have paint stirred at the store, I have to mix it myself. I would have to use my hand if there were no stir sticks. I take so many things for granted, it’s good to remind myself about all the things I am grateful for.

I’m grate for toothbrush handles. If it weren’t for the handles, I would have to hold the bristles between my fingers. It would be so much more tedious to brush my teeth without a toothbrush handle.

I’m grateful for spoons. I do occasionally eat ice cream with a fork if I’m eating it right out of the carton. My wife prefers that I not do this, but when she’s not around, she doesn’t know. I get our ice cream at night when we’re watching our new Netflix or Amazon Prime series, so she doesn’t see the little fork marks in the ice cream. Ice cream inevitably melts as you’re eating it. So eating it with a fork would be difficult. It would also be hard to put a bite of ice cream in your mouth and take it out while smoothing the top, like everyone does, with a fork. I’m grateful ice cream is the only food we put into our mouths and then take it out.

I’m grateful for plastic milk bottles. Drinking out of a carton with the triangle opening at the top is difficult. Most often the milk pours out the sides and runs down my cheeks and onto my shirt. Drinking out of a plastic milk bottle is much easier. Not that I actually do that anymore.

I’m grateful for toast and frosted mini-wheats. One piece of toast and about ten frosted mini-wheats with a cup of hot tea is an incredible snack late at night while we’re watching TV. Of course I have to give at least one to Maggie as she loves mini-wheats. I usually take out a few extra to share because I’m not will to have less than ten. I try to chew them quietly. They can be noisy if I’m not careful.

Extension cords deserve more gratitude. If it weren’t for extension cords, our walls would be far more crowded with things that have to be plugged in. All of our furniture would have to be the height that anything electric placed on top would have a cord long enough to reach the plug. Electric items would have to take turns because there probably wouldn’t be enough wall plugs for everything.

I’m grateful for radio stations. When I’m turning the dial on the radio trying to find something to listen to, its gratifying to hear plenty of choices vying for attention before I finally decide to listen to Pandora.

I’m definitely grateful for bubble wrap. The joy of sitting and popping the bubbles in bubble wrap is hard to beat.

I’m grateful my childhood dentist was wrong. He said I wouldn’t have any teeth by the time I was sixty. I’m way over sixty and I still have my own teeth. Most of them have been repaired, capped, crowned, drilled, filled, ground and polished, but they’re mine and I’m proud to have them.

I’m grateful for taste, smells, food, drinks, coffee, mochas, water, tea, jokes, tears, yawns, sneezes, kleenex, napkins, egg cartons, Tupperware, refrigerators, ice cream, bread, butter, jam, cheese, frying pans, cinnamon rolls, deep-fried pieces of cinnamon rolls with powdered sugar icing on them, extra powdered sugar icing, sidewalks, tires, trees, flowers, ants, bees, (not wasps), wood, grass, lawnmowers, birds, squirrels, dogs, movies, music, Netflix, computers, iPads, tin cans and string, sticks, dirt, stones, asphalt, highways, dirt roads, pathways, wooden docks, donuts, candy, M&Ms, almonds, Oreos, chocolate chips, Oatmeal, Cocoa-Puffs, gum, turn signals, stop signs, “Signs” the movie, instruments, those who play instruments, teachers, doctors, nurses, neighbors, friends, police officers, store owners, gas stations, jobs, paychecks, careers, laughter, hunger, thirst, fishing poles, bobbers, empty fields, tractors, hay, tomatoes, lettuce, bacon, pepper, avocado, plastic, rubber, glass, blankets, t-shirts, dishwashers, clothes dryers, two-by-fours, nails, glasses, suspenders, pants, hats, and pancakes.

It’s impossible to list all we are grateful for. When we try, it is a powerful reminder.

There is nothing for which I am
more grateful than our family.



Dale Parsons

Discover Prompts Day 24: Elixir, the Magic Potion

It really is a wonder we survived our childhood. There were all kinds of home remedies we were subjected to. From “Lucy’s Juice” to sweet nitre, I don’t know how we made it.

When we were kids, there was a bottle of “Sweet Nitre” in the back of the fridge. It was always there, like a skeleton in the closet or a ghost in the attic. If we ever said we were ill, or if anyone had a fever, it was time to take sweet nitre. My dad was the one who came up with it, I am certain he was forced to drink it when he was a kid. Why else would he make us drink it?

Sweet nitre was not sweet. It tasted like a mixture of cow urine and cat poop. I’ve never tasted either one, but I’m convinced both were in the bottle of sweet nitre. It was never my mom who served it to us. Always my dad. It was the magic vomit potion. Moments after drinking it we were in the bathroom (if we made it) throwing up everything we ate since the week before. I am certain the reason we were vomiting was that the potion was toxic. Even our little bodies knew better than to keep it inside. I looked up sweet nitre several years ago, and it had a warning in big letters saying it should never be taken internally as it was POISON. How are we still here?

Another great thing we did was eat Vicks VapoRub. Yes. I said eat Vicks VapoRub. If we had a sore throat, my dad, yes, him again, put a big gob of Vicks on his finger and made us eat it. “Just hold it in your mouth and let it go down your throat slowly” he said. Ughhhh!!

My dad’s mother was the queen of all remedies. Her term for anything medicinal (whether it was homemade or not) was “lickdob.” “Put some lickdob on it” she said. Whatever it was. Sliver? Lickdob. Flu? Lickdob. Hungry? Lickdob. Tired? Lickdob. We had to be careful because some of her lickdob was nasty.

While I was in college I worked with a professor building houses during a summer. I fell and cut my leg and it became infected. I spent a few days in the hospital with blood poisoning. When I spoke to my grandmother she told me I should have put a beet poultice on it. I thought, “You can eat the beet poultice. If this happens again I’m going back to the hospital!” No, I didn’t say it out loud.

One time when our triplet sons were sick, my aunt and grandma were going to apply some “Lucy’s Juice.” Lucy was my grandmother’s sister. She made an elixir with turpentine, kerosine, Vicks, and couple other things I can’t remember. Luckily, we found out about it and said, “No way!!”

I know home remedies have been around for generations. Elixirs of all kinds people swear by. I just swear at them instead of by them. No thanks.

The lake is a wonderful elixir that doesn’t require me to swallow anything. Listening to the water lap the shore on a calm day is magical.

A favorite of ours is finding sea glass, or beach glass. We have found some amazing treasures. Some pieces have clearly been in the water for decades. My wife recently found an intact pop bottle from 1963.

Coffee is my go-to elixir every day of every week. All day. Coffee smells wonderful, tastes amazing, and brightens my mood, without fail. A mocha, on the other hand is like heaven with a cherry on top. Love it!

The best, surest, always available, never ending elixir is family.

Family with coffee? Oh, man. Now it’s getting dangerous.

Discovery Prompts Day 19: One Plus One Equals Three

In ninety seconds we went from a family of three to a family of six. We knew we were going to have triplets six days before they were born. The due date was April 10. They were born ten weeks early by cesarean section. We had no idea what to expect. We were supposed to have our cesarean class the afternoon of their birth.

The morning began like any other day. Any other day with the knowledge we were going to be the parents of triplets. During the last weeks of the pregnancy the doctor was becoming concerned because my wife was gaining more weight and size than was considered normal.

“The same thing happened when I was carrying our daughter”, my wife said.

“This is not the same thing. You are beyond where you would have been normally. We need to make sure everything is okay”, the doctor said.

He scheduled my wife for an ultrasound. The day of the procedure as the technician was doing the scan, the screen appeared to be covered with arms and legs.

“My God! It’s triplets!” the tech yelled.

My wife began hyperventilating, I tried not to pass out. The tech left for room to get help. Another tech came in, looked at the screen and said, “No, it’s just twins”. We were supposed to be relieved. It didn’t work. The doctor scheduled us with a specialist at a large medical center about thirty miles away.

A few days later we made our way to the medical center that very soon would become our home. We met with the specialist, a wonderful obstetrician. He gently began another detailed ultrasound that included measuring bones for comparison. He measured the two babies. As he was about to finish, all of a sudden he said, “Young lady, you have three in there.” Two were head-down, the third was across the feet of the other two.

The doctor did his best to assure us everything was going to be okay. He told my wife to go home, go to bed and stay there. Our weekly visits with our local obstetrician would continue until the babies were born.

The day began uneventfully with our normal visit to the clinic to meet with my wife’s doctor. We were quickly ushered into an exam room so she could lie down while waiting for the doctor. Our local doctor was a gentle, elderly man who was a trusted figure in our community. He often carried a corn-cob pipe, which was with him today. He did the normal exam, then leaned back on the table.

“We are really looking forward to the birth of these babies. We have a team of doctors who will be meeting this afternoon so that we can plan our strategy for the birth, for caring for the babies, and for you. This is the thirtieth anniversary of our hospital, and it has been thirty years since triplets were born in our community.”

We listened intently, and felt more calm the longer he talked. Then everything changed.

“Of course, all of our plans are shot down because you are in labor and you need to go to the medical center right now. Are you not feeling anything? he asked my wife.

“No”, she answered while tears began to roll down her cheeks.

“You are beginning to dilate. You are having contractions and we need to get you to the medical center as soon as possible”, the doctor said.

An ambulance was considered, but the doctor assured us I could drive my wife to the hospital. He told me to go home to retrieve anything my wife would need and come back to pick her up. We were soon on our way. I drove eighty-five miles an hour, hoping to see a State Trooper or Sheriff Deputy, but none were to be found.

When we arrived at the medical center, our doctor came in and really tried to comfort us, but he wasn’t successful. He then tried to explain what was going to happen.

“We could give your wife a drug that would stop the labor. However, if the drug doesn’t work and the babies are born anyway, your wife now has a drug in her system she doesn’t need, and the babies do as well. If we go in and get them now, we have all the people here that we will need. If we wait and they are born in the middle of the night, we might not have the team here that we need.”

I didn’t know what to think or say, but then had a thought. “Doctor, if she was your wife, what would you do?” I asked.

The doctor then examined my wife again and said, “This decision has already been made for us. She has dilated more and we need to go in and get them now.”

A nurse standing close by said, “Doctor, they were supposed to have their cesarean class this afternoon.”

“They told me they already had their class”, and he looked at me and winked.

“That’s right”, I said. I was taken from the room and dressed for the procedure.

When I next saw my wife, she was lying on an operating table, surrounded by equipment, doctors, and nurses. She had a sheet just below her chin that blocked her view. Her arms were stretched out to the sides with IVs in each. I was seated on a stool close her to head and encouraged to talk to Mary and try to keep her calm. They forgot to appoint someone to keep me calm.

“Is everyone ready?” the doctor asked. “I’m going in.” He then proceeded to make an incision and immediately a great deal of liquid poured from my wife’s abdomen. Within just a few seconds, the doctor lifted a very small baby and said, “Baby number one is a boy”, and handed the infant to a nurse who quickly left the room. “Baby number two is a boy”, and again the baby was literally run from the room. “Baby number three is a boy”, and the same thing happened again.

I noticed a tear rolling down my wife’s cheek and I asked, “What’s the matter? Everything is fine. They’re okay.”

“I don’t hear them crying”, she said.

I told her the babies had all been taken from the room immediately and they were doing fine, even though I hadn’t yet seen them.

The head of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) came and asked me to follow him. We went into another room, and there were our three sons, each lying on a table surrounded by a team of specialists working to stabilize them. The doctor told me the condition of each of the three boys. “Baby A” was sixteen inches, 4 pounds, “Baby B” was fifteen and a half inches, 3.3 pounds, “Baby C” was fifteen inches, 2.9 pounds. Each of the babies was on a ventilator.

I stayed with my wife four days. It wasn’t until the fourth day that she was able to see the boys for the first time. I had become somewhat accustomed to all of the machines, IVs, and constant care the boys were receiving. My wife cried when she saw them. Their little chests were rising and falling with the pressure of the ventilator. Their tiny bodies looked like bones with skin stretched over them.

My wife was finally able to return home from the hospital on day four. We hated leaving our little boys. From that day on, we went back to spend time with our babies every day, sometimes twice a day, until they were all able to come home. We didn’t get to hold them until the ventilators were removed and they were able to breathe on their own.

Over the next ten weeks there were ups and downs, gains and losses, and surgeries. There were moments of incredible fear, but there was also constant encouragement from the amazing doctors and nurses of the NICU.

When all of the boys were finally home after ten weeks, it was time to learn how to care for them constantly. They were released on apnea monitors, so we were trained in infant CPR. We had apnea alarms, but thankfully, we never had to use CPR.

Where have the years gone? Trace Adkins has a popular song called, “You’re Gonna Miss This”. If you haven’t heard it, you should. The early days seemed like years. Now the years seem like moments. I wrote a book many years ago (unpublished) called “One Plus One Equals Three”.

These are the boys with their older sister. Two of the boys are identical, one is fraternal. The doctors called them “a pair and a spare”.

This was our Christmas photo two years ago. Another grandson has joined our family since then. Life has been good. Very, very good. It’s been thirty-six years since we proved one plus one equals three.

And now, time for coffee.

Discover Prompt Day 4: Our Street

We have actually moved to the small town where we live three separate times. No, I’m not joking. We purposely moved here three times. The picture on the left is beautiful. The old buildings in our little village don’t look anything like it. But it’s our town, and we love it.

One of the things we loved to do as our children were growing up was going “alley riding”. One of the communities we lived in had a pretty large business district for a rather small town, and there were lots of alleys. We rode our bikes down one alley after another. If we rode all of them, it took about an hour.

What I loved most about alley riding was ending up at the “big parking lot”, next to the railroad tracks. The parking lot wasn’t that big, but that’s what we called it. Our three boys loved riding in the open space. I loved watching trains roll by.

One day I decided to go alley riding from our little street where we live now. It took ten minutes. I wasn’t disappointed though, we love our street. We love our town. It’s a great feeling.

The first time we moved to our town was 1987. Our daughter was ten, our triplet sons were three. I taught in a private Christian school and was the youth director and assistant pastor at the school’s sponsoring church. We moved a year later. I was invited to return to town in 1996 to become the senior pastor of the same church. We lived here eight years. After thirty-one years in ministry, I retired in 2004. We moved again, to another small community thirty minutes away. My wife, who began teaching in our public middle school here in 1997, made the thirty-mile drive every day. After four years, we moved back again. This time, we bought a beautiful two-story bungalow that we loved for nine years.

In fact, we still love the house, even though we moved again, three years ago. My wife has always been wonderful at making our house, wherever it was, our home. The house had French doors between the dining and living rooms. We loved the long front porch and spent many hours rocking.

Now we live on our street. She is old and bent over, but she’s ours. She has a family name, well-known in town, also carried by the hardware store, a lumber yard everyone remembers, but no one sees because it was lost in a fire twenty years ago, and a museum. She is mostly pleasant but sometimes allows younger drivers to go too fast. Something frowned upon by people like us.

We actually have two lots, which is very nice because we only have a close neighbor on one side. The house on the other side, although occupied by lots of stuff (we’ve been informed) has no people. Our back yard looks like a park. We have bird feeders that squirrels enjoy. Deer have visited several times. There is a creek that flows across the back of our property, so there is just a hint of sound, if the water is high enough, of water trickling over rocks.

Streets get old. People do too. People on the street come and go, the street stays. Sometimes streets need repair, just like people. Streets do feel bad when people they have loved leave, but it’s part of life.

If we listen to our street, we learn a lot.

“I may look old and broken, but my foundation is still strong.”

“I need fixing sometimes, but my path is always the same.”

“There is a beginning, and an end. Both matter, but real living is somewhere in between.”

“Lots and lots of people helped me be what I am.”

“A street without people is just a connection. It’s the people that make being a street fun.”

“My name is just a tag so people can find me. Who I am is the people around me.”

We love our street, and our town.

Loving Tennessee

Recently, we enjoyed a week in beautiful Tennessee. While we were there, we visited the Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park in Manchester, TN. What a fascinating place!

The early morning air was cool, but by the time we had been exploring the park for an hour, it was plenty warm. I did purchase a “Old Stone Fort” hooded sweatshirt, just to be sure.

The Old Stone Fort was built hundreds of years ago. The land in the area was used by Native Americans. It is incredibly interesting, and somewhat haunting to walk through what is left of the building. To think that the stones were placed so many years ago, and remain where they were carefully laid is amazing.

While we were there, people were fishing along the river. I don’t know whether they were successful or not. The beauty was smudged just a little, by some careless folks who decided to toss sandwich bags and plastic bottles along the rocks. Some thoughtless parent even left a dirty diaper laying by the water. Unbelievable.

Wooden stairways say so much. How many feet have used these steps? I wonder what the people were talking about. How many children complained of sore feet?

I was intrigued by this old sickle bar mower that was left to rust into oblivion along the river. I actually looked up the serial number and Google returned actual photos of the old machine. History.

If you make a trip to Tennessee, take some time and travel to Manchester. The Old Stone Fort State Park is well worth the drive. On a sunny day, the beauty is unmatched.

It’s time for coffee.

Travel to Australia

Have you ever been to Australia? Do you have a desire for LONG-distance traveling? If you do, Australia is a terrific destination.

We had the incredible privilege of visiting Australia. It was our first trip half-way around the world. Our son and daughter-in-law were married in Queensland and we were thrilled to attend.

We were able to make all connections originating with our local Flint Bishop Airport in Michigan. From Flint we flew to Atlanta, then on to Los Angeles International (LAX). Our flight from home was mid-morning, but we didn’t leave LAX until 11:00 p.m., which was 2:00 am home time. Obviously, by the time we were in flight to Brisbane, we were exhausted.

We flew Qantas Airlines round-trip from LAX to Brisbane. The attendants were wonderful and made our flight as comfortable as possible. We were offered dinner as soon as we boarded, but we were too tired to eat. We immediately fell asleep and awoke some hours later, far over the Pacific Ocean.

Qantas food was very enjoyable, and plenty of coffee and other drinks were frequently offered. We were able to walk around the cabin as needed to stretch our legs. There were many choices of entertainment including movies, music, comedy, and, my favorite, watching live progress of our flight on a digital map.

Being international travel rookies, we made a couple significant mistakes. We didn’t purchase our visas until we were at LAX, which maybe wasn’t a problem, unless it had been. I don’t know what we would have done if they had said, “Uh, you were supposed to get these weeks ago.” When we arrived in Brisbane, it was immediately apparent we had no phones. We didn’t know about purchasing an international travel option from Verizon. Luckily, our son and his fiancé arrived pretty quickly.

The family we stayed with provided a car for us to use. Driving on the left side of the road from the right side of the car was tough at first, but we managed. However, I soon discovered my “I know where I’m going” attitude didn’t stretch from the US to Australia. We left the rehearsal dinner and were quickly lost, but just happened to see a couple from the party on the road. We followed them to their house and they told us how to get to our home.

Our host took us to a local country club to see the resident wallabies that were everywhere. They were lying in the grass just feet away from our golf cart and couldn’t have cared less we were there.

It would have been great fun to see a koala, but it didn’t happen.

We were only able to stay in Australia for five days due to work schedules. Our trip was amazing, just not long enough. Someday it would be fantastic to return.

Free Fun

Do you love a campfire? Isn’t there just something about the crackling sound and constant change of the flame that is mesmerizing?

I love coming out to the fire pit after a great campfire the night before to see if there are enough remaining hot coals to start it up again. To be genuine, you have to start it naturally. No blowing on the embers. You have to find small, dry twigs, stack them over the hottest part of ash, and see if they’ll ignite. It’s a thrill to see that first flicker of flame.

Why keep a fire going on the second and third day? Just because I can. No productive reason, other than pleasure. Yes, just like a kid. Our record is four days. No charcoal lighter, no paper, just dry sticks in the coals.

Why do you like sitting by a fire? What is it that makes you stare? To me, there is a calming effect that is hard to match.

When I was a kid it’s a wonder I didn’t burn the house down several times over. I remember making a stove out of a coffee can and a tuna can. I used a can opener to make holes around the closed end of the coffee can, lit charcoal in the tuna can, then turned the coffee can upside down over the burning coals. The bottom of the coffee can is the grill. My grill meat of choice was balogna. Baloney. Ummm, sizzling, curling balogna, fried to perfection in the garage.

There are lots of simple things to enjoy. A campfire is one. There is incredible pleasure in returning the second or third day and finding enough coals to ignite the flame again. It’s something about ashes that look cold, finding fuel, and discovering the coals are still alive. Flame. Not an inferno, just a nice, constant but ever changing flame.

Makes me want coffee. Where did I leave it?

Another Dog Who Loved Us

After our golden retriever, Lady, left us it was some time before another dog found us.

One summer afternoon, I played a terribly dirty trick on our little boys.  I retrieved a new tent I placed on layaway and put it together in the back yard.  I went inside where the boys were eating lunch and said I had a surprise for them.  I went back outside and yelled, “Here!  Come here!  Here boy!”  I whistled, then went back inside.  Of course, they were all excited, “Did you get a puppy?!”  I took them outside and when they saw the tent they started crying, “We thought you got a dog and it’s just a tent!”

Not long after my ill-advised stunt, my wife saw an ad in the newspaper for a rescue shelter.  There on the page was a very cute little terrier-beagle mix with adorable eyes saying, “Please, please take me home!”  We went to the rescue and the puppy adopted us.

Our boys were excited as they could be.  They played with the puppy in the back seat of the big car I was driving when all of a sudden, “Dad!  She’s pooping!”

Sure enough, the pup was hunched over in the familiar pose, leaving a warm pile of fresh steamer filling the car with an aroma never mistaken for anything else.  I quickly pulled over to the side of the road and cleaned up the mess.

Libby grew quickly but was never bigger than a small beagle.  She loved playing with the kids and was very attentive to them.  Her energy never ended.

We moved to another rental home to get close to the university where my wife was attending classes.  Now that our boys were in school, she was studying to complete her degree in elementary education.  Our neighbors had a boy who was about the same age as our triplet sons so they spent a great deal of time playing together.  One afternoon our Libby grabbed the neighbor boy, but luckily did not break the skin.  She was very protective of her turf and her boys.

We accepted the pastorate of a small church in a distant town which meant another move.  We quickly settled into our new home, our children into a new school district.  The church we pastored was in the beginning stages of building a new facility which was going to be on the same property as our home, which was also owned by the church.

Sunday morning was always a very tense and anxiety-filled time for me as I anticipated speaking to the people.  Five minutes before the morning worship service was to begin, with my anxiety peaking, a church leader walked into my office and with his familiar exaggerated gesturing, said, “Your dog bit the builder!!”

I pictured a limb torn and tattered, and expected the builder to be furious.  The truth was much less dramatic.  The man went into a metal shed in our yard to retrieve something he needed.  When he came out, the dog grabbed just his pants but no skin.  It was becoming apparent that a change was going to be necessary.  Our Libby was unpredictable and that was making us nervous.  As she got older, she was becoming more protective.

We had Libby for two years but determined it was time to find her a new home.  The wiry and energetic little dog would no longer be running around our yard.  We would not have to worry about her anymore.

Once again, we were without a dog.  A ten-gallon fish tank and several gold fish took her place.  Fish don’t fetch and they’re hard to cuddle, but they generally don’t jump on or bite anybody, either.

(The dog in the picture is not Libby, but looks just like her.)

Dogs Who Love Us

Our lives would not be the same without the many dogs who shared our home.  Each in his or her own special way brought happiness, love, laughter, and heartache.

Lady was a beautiful golden retriever who claimed us as her own when she was just a pup, a few weeks old.  (I realize the photo is terrible, but it’s actually Lady.)

Lady was a real princess, and all puppy.  She was the perfect addition to our family and she showered us with love and play.  Lady was happy to ride a rubber raft in the waves when we were able to spend time at the beach.  We still have furniture with Lady marks on it.  It’s not damage, it’s memories.

Lady was with us for a temporary move to Tennessee.  She liked riding on the back seat window ledge behind our daughter and three boys.  By this time, she was a full-grown playmate and loved romping with the kids.

After a year in Murfreesboro, we prepared to move back to Michigan.  We were down to one car, an Olds Cutlass that had seen much better days.  The fan only had one speed that was equal to a breath of air.  I found a small oscillating fan and attached it to hang in front of the vent.  I thought it was a perfect solution.  When we loaded the car for the long trip, the kids were in the back seat, and I tried to put Lady in the front.  She took one look at my motorized contraption and flew over the back seat onto bare legs.  We started the trip with screams and scratches.

We settled into a rented two-story house, Lady had her own little house in the back yard.  There were two old ladies living next to us who took a strange interest in Lady.  We started receiving anonymous letters in the mail condemning us for having our dog hooked to a leash in the back yard.

After returning from a trip out of state, during which we had friends feeding and taking care of Lady, we arrived home to discover our dog looking at us through the fence of the old ladies’ yard.  I was furious!  I couldn’t lift her over the fence, so I went to their front door and demanded they return our dog.  I should have called the police!

On a cold snowy winter morning, Lady gave birth to a litter of puppies. They were a mixed breed, half of the pups were black, the others looked like purebred retrievers. For the first several weeks, Mary snuggled each of the puppies every day. One of the males was taken by family friends who named him Charlie.  Charlie was a great dog with all the character and appearance of a beautiful golden.  For many years, even though we might not see our friends for quite a while, when we visited, Charlie came bounding through the house to climb on our laps as if we were his long-lost parents.  Our friends said he didn’t act like that with anyone else.

The next year, our hearts were torn apart when Lady began having seizures.  We called the veterinarian who said she would probably not recover.  As cold tears rained down from the sky, our Lady was put to rest. We placed her in a grave as we all cried.  One of our little boys asked if we could sing his favorite song, “Arise, Shine for Thy Light Has Come.”  We held hands and sang as the rain continued to fall.