In Memory of My Dad #8

Good Saturday morning friends, 

The wind has laid, finally.  I feel like I can breathe now.  It really has battered us, our homes, our fences, our shingles.  But today is a good day and I have a story from my dad for you.

Hanging with Watoshy, in ’95

Sitting there playing with my bacon and soft scrambled eggs ,my roomie’s voice came to me as if in a dream.

“So what do you guy’s talk about on your Wednesday night boy’s night out?’  She asked slowly sipping her cup of java.

That question is being posed by countless hundreds of thousands of wives in as many countries as there are wives to ask the thing.

My mind goes back to the night before.  There are five or six guys sitting around a too-small table that is covered with beer steins and ashtrays so that you can’t get comfortable.

What do we talk about?  Banal chatter.  Inane conversation.  Most of these conversations would put the proverbial fly on the wall to sleep faster than a shot of Ny-quil.

One member of our group is halfway in his cups and  he is talking incessantly about making an eagle on the 4th hole at Crosswinds Golf Club.  His audience, a male nurse, nods his head and pretends to listen intently.

Another member expounds on the relative merits in the difference between East coast women and their counterparts here in Oklahoma.  The rest of us listen half heartedly and try to decide, should I have another beer now or wait five or six minutes.

Looks are deceiving.  We aren’t just sitting here getting stupid.  We are male bonding.  Getting in touch with the inner man.  Getting in touch with that beetle browed individual that lives in all of the male species.  That Cro-Magnon type that laughs a loud, raucous laugh that predates the invention of the wheel.  That huge, hairy-chested, callous, double hauled man who laughs in the face of danger.

I’ll call him Watoshy for the sake of conversation.  Women don’t understand Watoshy, but then women aren’t supposed to understand.  Women are here to jerk on that spade bit when Watoshy starts to roar.  Women are here to help us up when we get to drunk to dance.  Watoshy likes women, he just doesn’t bring one out with him every time he decides to go to Ned’s.

Anyway, it takes a lot to waken Watoshy.  He lives in every man that you know.  He is sleeping, just waiting to be awakened by some pointless male chatter, or by some sports activity such as a rousing game of eightball, or a spirited game of ping-pong.  Maybe a night of poker playing or just a lot of beer drinking.

Suddenly one of our group says that he put his boss on a plane to Pittsburgh earlier that day, and now his boss wants him to work all weekend, uncompensated.

Watoshy stirs and grumbles in his sleep.  An imperceptible moving of the shoulders goes ’round the table as we watch the speaker out of the corner of our eye, wondering how he will take this bit of news.

Beast that he is, Watoshy comes awake, shakes his head.  He is hungry and begins to feed off this emotionally charged bit of information.

Another of our group says that he and his main squeeze, a buxom blonde named Stella, are no longer a twosome.  Serious trouble.  So we all make noises in support of him.

Watoshy is fully awake by now.  He looks around the rapidly filling room, he has made male contact and Watoshy feels good.

Val springs for another round of brews.  We all watch the last speaker, his face is white and his hands squeeze the now empty beer glass as he conveys this last bit of information.

Watoshy rises and makes a full circle of the room, stopping at a table filled with college men, he joins them in a rendition of an old drinking song. 

Later…..much later, outside the lounge, my brother and a lifelong friend trade friendly insults and pummel each other around.  Nothing is meant by it, it’s just Watoshy flexing his muscle knowing that he has the rest of the night and that it belongs to him.

“Remember those girls from college?” says one friend, “you could tell them anything and they’d believe it.  I sure miss the seventy’s.”

“Yeah, they were gullible,” says my brother.  “The military girls were my favorites though, talk about gullible.”

“Gullible girls,” someone ought to write a song about that.

“Worked half the time though,” says my brother with an evil grin. 

I stared at the sky hoping to witness a supernova when I heard J.R. say why don’t we adjourn to his house for any unfinished business or an unopened bottle of Jim Beam.

Watoshy is feeling 18 and slim once again, and the mood is infectious as I hurry to my pick-up.

We’ll all feel bad in the morning, but what the heck.  We’ll live.  All of us.  Besides, you gotta play hurt sometime. 

Bob, on the left.

In Memory of My Dad #7–Golf

My dad was a golfer.  There was usually a set of golf clubs in the back of his work truck, just in case.  As a little girl I remember times when he’d suddenly remark, “Let’s go hit some golf balls.”  Oh the joy I would feel.  I was going to get to golf!  So he’d grab his clubs and that handy little golf club picker-upper and we’d head to large park or walk across to the empty field across the street.  I quickly learned I wasn’t there to golf with my dad, but I was sent to get the balls after he’d hit them.  He’d holler at me, “There’s one to your left, or farther, go farther.”  I never even got to swing the club.

Here’s a story written by my dad about golfing:

You may hear women complain of being a golf widow.  Big Deal.   It’s you the golfer who is hurting.  It’s your hands that are numb and bleed at night, it’s your back that aches and twitches.  Your legs are sore and your neck is sunburned almost black from hours of standing over the golf ball.  You are in a mortal panic, it’s you who is one of the walking wounded.

When you play a good round of golf, you are deathly afraid that you can’t repeat the swing your next time out.  When you play badly you think, “why couldn’t I have been born a mule, then I could get some use out of all this green grass.”

You say to yourself, “I don’t need this kind of suffering,”  but you know that you’ll be back tomorrow and that’s what makes the wonderful world of golf so exasperating.

Golfers like to wear shirts with small animals emblazoned over the pockets.  Penguins.  Alligators.  The small Polo horse and rider.  I have many shirts with the alligator logo.  Once playing in South Texas I hooked a ball far into the left rough.  When I went into the jungle grass looking for the ball, I spied an alligator with a shirt that had a little golfer over the pocket.  I don’t even think he was a member of the club either.

I used to play a pretty decent round of golf, but since having this stroke, anytime that I don’t fall out of the golf cart is a good round.  I could play the game with a broom stick and a road apple now and still score as good.

You’ve got to look good to play the game halfway decent.  I have a pair of green canvas golf shoes and an oversized Reebok Sweatshirt, and a pair of wide shorts that end just below the knee.  Billy Brewski calls it my grunge look.  I may play to a thirteen, but I look like a three out there.

Shoes are more important than “top of the line” golf clubs.  Especially if you are just starting out in golf and walking a lot of holes.  You need to invest in a good pair of golf shoes if you are going to take the game seriously.  Cheap golf shoes have crippled more men than Madonna.  I first started to play the game of golf with a pair of shoes bought from Sears-Roebuck.  They were a putrid black and red check against a cream background.  I liked to have crippled myself before investing wisely in a pair of Foot-Joys.

Better yet, take an already broken-in pair of shoes to the cobbler and have them converted into a pair of golf shoes.  Say to the cobbler, “I’m giving these shoes to a friend, the lucky stiff.  He don’t know how lucky he is getting to play golf everyday while I’m at work.”  This may get you a price break from the cobbler. Now he may only charge you $17 instead of the $20 for the $9 job that he is doing on you and the golf shoes.  Also you won’t feel so bad when you throw the shoes away and swear off the game for good after shooting a light running 85.

To have a good time on the golf course it is imperative that you get to the course bright and early.  You can’t have much fun on the golf course at night, unless you are accompanied by a blonde and a blanket, and are waiting for a Drambuie front to move in.  Of course this kind of stroking and putting isn’t recognized by the USGA.

The first order of business when you arrive at the course is to order a Slo-Gin fizz.  This will steady your nerves and stop the churning of your stomach from the night before when you made the golfing date show up bright and early to have a good old-time.  It will also help relieve the pressure on your sternum so you can make at least a partial shoulder turn without tearing something loose deep inside of you.

Next move.  Find out who you made the golf date with the night before.  Greet everyone you meet with a big smile and a huge “Hi there.”  Soon you will see someone else with a puzzled look on his face, saying, “Hi there” to everyone he meets.  It’s 8 to 5  this is who you made the date with the night before.

Get on the first tee and follow tradition, lie about how you are playing.  Say “my handicap is a thirteen, but I’m playing to a nineteen.”  Then the other golfer will tell a couple of lies himself and the games are ready to begin.

Forget about playing even close to your regular game.  It’s the deal you make on the first tee that counts.  Keep the bets small, never more than a $2 nassau.  Then lose about $6 or $8 bucks maneuvering your opponent into the unenviable position of buying lunch.  On a good day you can come out ahead by $8 or $10 using this ploy.

Advice is always prevalent on a golf course.  The best I ever heard was when a guy came in after shooting about 150.  He asked the members of his foursome what he should give his caddy following the round.  “Your clubs,” was the answer he got.

So go on out on these unseemly warm days we are having.  Remember these few rules and you’ll have a good time.  And if that don’t work, say to heck with the USGA—-grab you a blonde and go at night.

In Memory of My Dad #6

It’s Saturday. Which means I’m thinking of my dad today. 

He died on a Saturday.

My sister nailed it when she compared it to a new born’s age.  You count every day of their life.  Here in the beginning stages of my dad’s passing, and our grieving, we count each day too.  It’s been 12 days, It’s been 18 days.  We have now entered the week stage.  Five weeks.  Thirty-five days.

I have a storage building sitting in the backyard of my mother’s house.  It was the very first thing I bought, outside of a car.  My uncle owned and ran a portable building shop and he sold me a building for $600.  I, being very young, but needing a place to store my stuff when I moved back in with my mother, paid him $50 a month for a year until it was paid for.  Interest free.

My dad asked to store some boxes there once.  The building just sits.  No one ever adds to or takes away. 

Today something compelled me to go to the building.  I opened the heavy door, cautious of waspers that sometimes fly about.  I pulled the heavy door open, stepped inside, and the Texas panhandle wind blew it shut, leaving me in the dark.   Outside, I saw a rake lying near and propped it open.  Inside were boxes from my highschool years, old clothes, a box of carebears from my childhood, an old couch and chair, a desk, and several boxes belonging to my dad. 

They were labeled in his handwriting:  Important papers, Colored Bottles and Teapots, and of course Books.

I love his handwriting.  But more than that, I love his writing.  His actual writing.  So often the people who knew him and speak of him, talk about his words.  Just today at my garage sale, an old co-worker of his spoke of  how he could write and use words so well.  I know that his special friend Jane fell in love with him through his commentaries in the local newspaper before she ever even met him. 

Being a “writer” myself, I was thrilled when I opened a box and found his stories from his stint at the newspaper, and then I found a journal.  A small, light green spiral bound Mead notebook.  On the cover is  printed in his hand NOTES #1 Journal.  The inside cover reads in cursive The Journals of Bob, and printed on the back cover is The Journals of Robert lee—soldier, statesman, Author.  My mom always cautioned me about keeping a journal.  Others will someday read your innermost thoughts and feelings.   I’m anxious to read this journal, but I’m also excited.  I’ll hear from him again.  His words will live on. 

I do believe my dad lived longer than he ever thought possible.  In the Important Papers box, there was a manilla envelope filled with printed computer articles with titles such as “Brain Basics:  Preventing Stroke”, “Guidelines for Management of Ischemic Attacks”, “Practice Guidelines for Acute Stroke” that my sister had mailed him  in 1998. 

And written in his hand on the outside of the envelope in a red pen are these words:

In these, my final years, I believe in Love.

I also believe in Kindness, Tenderness and Mercy.

I believe in The goodness of mankind. 

I above all believe in family.

I must never let my life be ruled by drink or drugs.  I must never let my happiness depend on the thoughts, whims or demands of another person.

I swear that I will never forget the goodness of Truth and honesty.  I will always remember the harshness of life…And, I will always know its warmth.

I have known its Love.



55 years, and holdin’

2 or 3 strokes

Each Saturday after today, I’m going to share a story from my dad. 

Until I run out of stories. 

Or Saturdays, whichever comes first.

In memory of my dad #5


As we packed up the house this past week, and walked out the door to spend the night in our new home, I looked around the rooms at the emptiness of them.  The pictures were off the walls, the furniture had been carried out.  There was nothing  left except an old chair or two and a sack of trash here and there.  The sun had set, the day was done, and we were exhausted.    

Pausing at the door, I took a deep breath and told my husband, “I’m
sad.  This is sad.”  He sweetly replied, “Well we can bring sleeping
bags back and stay here. ”  I giggled.  “No, it’s not that.  It’s just that there are lots of good memories here.”

 Memories of birthdays, Christmases, celebrations of many kinds.  There are memories of family, friends, snowed in days, and dog dribble.

And there are memories of my dad, who died barely 3 weeks ago.  Those are the memories I don’t want to leave.

The house I’m moving from is the last place I saw him walk.  That’s the last place I saw him alive.  And it makes me sad.

I’m leaving that place.  And it almost feels like I’m leaving him and his memories.  I can still see him coming down the hall into the kitchen.  I can hear the crinkling of the Chips Ahoy Chocolate Chip Package being peeled back.  And then there he goes, back down the hallway to the bedroom with a handful of cookies in his big old paw of a hand. 

Or I see him with his coffee cup struggling down the hallway, sloshing his coffee.  My husband used to tell a joke about him.  He’d say, “My father-in-law doesn’t drink coffee, he spills most of it.” 

The last time he was here was at Thanksgiving.  My sister insisted we watch a movie.  He finally agreed, even though he’d already seen it.  He laid on the floor with my sister and we laughed and laughed.

I sit in this house right now, the house I’m moving from.  I don’t have internet at my new place yet, so I come here to blog.  I’m alone in this quiet house, but if I sit real still, close my eyes, and listen hard, I can hear my dad.  I hear him holler for me to come fix the TV in the bedroom because he’s pushed the wrong button on the remote, or figure out how to get to his email on the computer, or get his basket of pills out of his truck. 

I see him laying on the end of the bed, on his stomach, snoring with the TV blaring when I come home from work.  I only wish I could hear him snore one more time.  Just one more.  I wish I had more coffee spills to clean and TV remotes to fix.

But I can’t look back, I have to move forward.

I have new memories to make.  New roads to travel. 

I wish he was here to travel them with me.  I wish we were making memories still.  I want him to see my chicks.  I want him to stay in my new house.  We laid laminate flooring instead of carpet, simply for the ease of cleaning up coffee spills.

I’m moving ahead, but there will be times on my journey, I must pause to remember my dad.

Just for a moment, but not too long.
I have promises to keep,
and miles to go before I sleep,
and miles to go before I sleep.

2 weeks—Memory of my dad #4

Today it has been two very fast weeks since my dad’s death.  I’ve been doing okay, I really have.  My loved ones (and his) have been grieving something fierce, and I’ve been worrying about myself because I seem to be living life just like before February 27th.  I ponder if I’m giving myself time to grieve, if I’m dealing with this like I’m supposed to?  Of course he’s the first thought I have when I open my eyes, even before I begin deciding what day it is, and he’s the last thought I have before I fall asleep where I long him to visit me in my dreams.  He only has talked to me once in my dreams, and he told me he had to go alone, that was pretty much it.  The rest of my dreams have been busy planning the funeral and such.

A few moments ago,  I literally collapsed on the couch with exhaustion from packing, moving, and unpacking my home.  My body is weary and my mind is exhausted, and my little niece who was busy cleaning out her clothes came into the room holding a tee-shirt her Grandpa had bought her.  You know one of those “Someone who loves me very much went to blah blah blah and all they brought me was this lousy shirt.”  Holding it against her chest, she said, “auntie, I have to save this even though it’s too small for me.”  That’s when my eyes welled up and the hurt returned. 

I know I’m going to have days like this.  I know when my mind and body slow down enough, it will hit again.  I’m thankful for my busy-ness right now. 

Thursday I celebrated my birthday and that evening I blogged about my age, and the question of middle age.

Ironically here’s a story written by my dad on the same subject.  Enjoy.

~Trying Not to be Caught in the Middle ~

“Good God, brother, you walk like an old man, what are you 54, 55 years old?” my brother groused as I creaked and groaned my way to my feet.

“Whatever it is, you’ll be there sooner than later,” I told him and made my way to the fridge for a refill.  You’ve go t to give as good as you can take in this day.  And I keep my needle honed for jibes such as these.

Middle age–why do they call it that?  Because we often find ourselves in the middle.  Too young to enjoy the quiet pleasures of the aged, but too old to handle the excitement of the young.

Some wise old sage (I think it was one of my friends) said, “Youth is wonderful, too bad it’s wasted on the young.”  I concur.  It’s too bad the young don’t possess some of the mellow qualities their elders have in abundance.

Three score and 10.  that’s what we’re allotted, and if those figures are correct, then I’ve by-passed middle age and no one even told me I was ever there.  Someone once wrote, “If you pass fifty, be on your guard against impulses, which if obeyed, can lead along a perfumed path to folly and incalculable risk.”   The only impulse I suffer from is to take a nap in the afternoon, and the sooner after lunch, the better.

Having lead a rather active life between the years of one and fifty, and having acted on many impulses, I’m curious as to what the next few years might bring.  Because if I’m going to make a fool of myself, at least I’d like the opportunity to pick my own gig.  So I’ll play the proverbial grasshopper waiting for whatever.

Middle age, according to my calculations, is somewhere between 30 and 65.  To the stripling of – say 16 – then thirty might be middle age.  If you’re a geezer of 80, middle age could be 65 or 70.  It’s all relative.

With the life expectancy being increased daily by the Abflex, people can expect to live to be a hundred by the next century.  Then, by the simple ciphering of numbers, middle age will come at the relative young age of 50.

A friend recently told me, “I’m in the middle, I have too much energy to sit still and not enough energy to move about.”  Then waxing philosophical he added, “You’re as old as you feel.  That’s as plain as your face!”

“Don’t you mean, as plain as the nose on your face,” I asked.

“I said what I meant,” he added.

In respect to his age and mine, I didn’t pursue the matter any further.

So to those of us that have reached middle age, we may as well yield to it and become synchronized with the years.  You can’t kid the calendar.  Be prepared to agree with the fellow who insists that there must be some pleasure in senility.  Maybe after all, age is just a mirage to those of us who no longer have youth in great abundance.  But I’ll struggle, struggle against growing old.  Because the longer I stay young, the shorter I’ll be old.  Anyway you look at it, it’s time to take my nap.

Bob Briggs
August 17, 1996

Home Before Dark: A story written by my dad


The benches were damp that morning along the hike ‘n bike trail there in Clearwater, Texas.  Remnants of an early morning storm lingered and kept away the usual occupants of the park.  No kids, no squirrels, no homeless people.  Just me and the thin morning light kept each other company that day.

I was recovering from a small stroke if there is such a thing and was following my doctors orders to try to exercise a little bit.  Tired and worn out from the mile or so I had walked, I sat on a park bench to blow and catch my breath.  That was when I saw the old man approaching.

I watched him coming up the slight incline from the old folk’s home, he was swinging his head side to side as if expecting someone to appear out of the fog.  His face was wrinkled and was lit by a ray of sunshine that quickly peeked out and hid itself behind a cloud.  It would be a bright day as soon as the sun burned off the mist.

“Have you seen Bill?”  He asked in a quavery voice.

I guessed his age at around eighty.  He was sweatered under a heavy Carhart coat, the kind that construction workers wear.  A cap with loosened ear flaps met the old gray tattered muffler ’round his skinny neck, black buckled overshoes completed his ensemble.  A checkerboard wrapped tightly in plastic was cradled under one arm.

I told the old gentleman that I guessed I had not seen Bill.

“He’s a big fellow, kind of stooped and he wears a cap just like mine.  Sort of our trademark.”

No, I had not seen him.

The checker player started to sit down beside me and then changed his mind and kept looking up and down the bike trail. 

“Bill hasn’t been feeling good.”  The old man continued.  “He said he might go on up to Kansas to visit his son.  Wouldn’t you know, it’s a damn poor time for him to go traipsing off.”  Over on main street I could hear the honking of horns, but they were invisible to the elderly checker player and myself.

“If you see ol’ Bill, tell him his partner is lookin’ for ’em.” 
I assured him that I would, and the old man shuffled off up the gentle incline.  He was wavering a little and the pigeons scuttled off to either side of the trail.  The sun was beginning to come out now and thirty yards away the old man sat down in the sunlight with the checkerboard resting on one knee.

A young couple, obviously in love, strolled by without a second glance.  Then another pedestrian, this one a middle-aged man with an umbrella came walking by.  The elderly checker player stood and watched him approach and when he drew even, stopped him.  They held a conversation there in the middle of the trail.  The checker player lifted one hand, no doubt to show the middle-aged man his partner’s height.  After the middle-aged man started on, the old man started back to where I sat.

“You see I don’t know his whole name, ‘ol Amos knowed ’em, but he died.  Ol’ Ray mighta knowed what it was, but he’s gone too.  Yeah, they wouldof knowed how to get aholt of ’em.”  The sunlight looked small and puny through the early April foliage.

“You see Bill didn’t show up Monday or Wednesday and now he ain’t showin’ up today.  I’m ‘fraid somethings happened.”

I said he would probably show up soon, trying to put a ray of hope in the old man’s existence.

“No, I don’t think so,”  the old man said before rising to his feet and starting back towards Restful Pines nursing home.

I remember standing under the long shadow of a street light, one handing a baseball into the air, trying to decide…..was it really best to be the last one home before dark?

Bob Briggs 1943-2011

written January 27, 2001

The Funeral

This morning I opened my eyes and the world was still turning.  It still is, and more likely than not, it will continue to do so.  Everything is real.  Nothing has been a dream.  Although it seems surreal, we laid my dad to rest yesterday in a beautiful service.  A service I hope he would’ve been proud of.  My sweet husband J-Dub said even though funerals aren’t cool, that was the coolest funeral he’s ever attended.

My dad’s nephew, Kevin,  delivered the message and told stories that  reflected his life.  Although many weren’t told, or couldn’t be, I hope they are being told somewhere.  Remember stories only happen to those who can tell them.  Tell your stories.

My dad had a t-shirt  he loved to wear and wore often.  It read, “Being Bob is my Job.”   Everyday was Saturday to him, and all he had to work at was just Being Bob, and he did it like no other.  His nephew spoke about him being Bob the Parent, Bob the Patriot, and Bob the Provider, providing us with an abundance of laughter, joy and memories.   A beautiful slide show remembered his life.  Bob Seger sang, “Like A Rock” and that’s what he was.  As strong as he could be.  My brother Stan said he was a Superman, and that’s true, nothing could get to him.

The Patriot Riders, a group of veterans, honored him by lining the walkways and leading the procession of cars to the graveside.  A very long procession of cars, I might add.  His sister Jeanne said Bob would’ve enjoyed knowing he stopped all that traffic. 

His pall bearers donned Hawaiian shirts in his honor, I know he would’ve gotten a kick out of that. 

The Marines played Taps and presented the flag.  It was a proud moment.

At the conclusion a white dove was released. 

It lifted itself to the heavens, I watched it as long as I could, and then it was gone.  Just like him.

His friends have made a facebook page in his remembrance, and it is a comfort to read the stories and see the love people had for him.  One friend wrote it perfectly, “It is clear that Bob was well-loved, and has loved well.”  How true, how true.

The tears that pour down my cheeks and fall on this keyboard aren’t tears for my dad.  Why cry for him? His struggles are over.  My tears are selfish tears.  Tears of hurt.  Tears of loneliness and sorrow.  Tears of missed opportunities and dashed plans.  I am grateful to have had nearly 36 years with this man. 

This man who held me, laughed with me, encouraged me, danced with me, who never judged me, never spanked me, who gave me horsey rides and sloppy kisses and insisted I was rubbing them in instead of rubbing them off, who prayed for me, who believed in me, who taught me the important things without knowing it, who loved me bigger than Hog Eyes and Sauerkraut, Alabama.  (I’ll have to tell you the meaning of that someday). 

I know I’ll see him soon, but I can’t see him today.  I’ll have to wait and press onward.  He would want me to.

The prayers of friends and loved ones have reached the ears of God, and He has carried me and my family past this hurdle.  But as I gaze down the road I’m traveling today, all I see is a path of hurdles ahead.  tomorrow, next week, next month, next year.  Today.  Right now.  We still need your prayers, please.

When hanging up the phone or in emails to him, he would tell us, “Love you back.”  I hope he knew how deep my love was for him, and still is. 

Love you back, dad.

P.S.  The pics of the funeral are from the Patriot Riders,

In Memory of My Dad #3

Hello friends,

Here’s a second story from my dad.  This was dated January 27, 1996.  It is called Marking One’s Progress Through the Ages on the Doorjamb of Life.  He had celebrated a birthday 11 days prior.

As I write this I reflect back to the 16th of January.  That was the day that I turned 53 years old. 

For lunch I had a fine piece of catfish, cornbread and fried potatoes, and a mess of turnip greens.  A slice of key lime pie completed the repast, what more could one ask for his birthday meal?

Remember how you loved birthdays as a child?  The presents and the birthday cake.  The thrill of having one day that belonged to you alone.  All this helped to make a wonderful anniversary.

Perhaps the most thrilling was the fact that you were a whole year older.  You had the inch to prove it too.  You stood there proudly, at attention, while your mother marked your progress on the door jamb.  You were inching up on your older sister every year.

Ice cream was the “piece de resistance”.  It was made from real hen eggs and cow’s cream.  They don’t make ice cream like that anymore.  It sat there in a big wooden freezer packed with ice and salt.  A huge layer cake waited there in the background, the multi-colored candles just waiting to be lit and blown out therefore making your wish a cinch on coming true.

But what happens to that pride in growth as we add 40, 50, or even sixty years?  We still lap up the kudos and cards from our friends and relatives, but we make as little fuss as possible over the number of years.

Birthdays are really very traumatic experiences.  Today’s accent is on the young.  Looking, acting and dressing the part make more than a few of us older than our years.  After a fine bite of catfish and cornbread I can almost pull it off too.  So instead of trying to submerge the past, there are those of us that try to preserve and respect it.

It is said that the most catastrophic birthday that we have is the one on the day we are born.  Up until now no one has recorded the innermost workings of a newborn babe’s mind, and that is something that will have to wait a few years before being documented.  They also say that the 40th is the big bombshell for women.  I wouldn’t know about that, but even now on my 53rd, I’m not yet ready to throw in the towel.

So today I feel good about turning 53—despite the sad state the world we are living.  Each new birthday becomes an achievement for me. 

I wonder if our lack of pride for middle-aged birthdays is because we have forgotten that we are still growing.  As each new season passes we have a new set of memories that make us more tolerant and sympathetic toward our fellow-man, and surely we should be for adding another inch of spiritual growth, it is the most important of all.

On my most recent birthday I’ve had a year’s worth of memories, ordinary, yet beautiful to me.  I’ve also had unhappiness, but part of my growing process is learning that no one can grow without his own fair share of unpleasantness.  The lessons I have learned go a long way toward that old saying, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” 

Each birthday adds to my ability not to worry about mistakes that I might have made during the past year.  next year I’ll try to remedy them, and if they can’t be fixed, so what?  I won’t dwell on them. 

The only birthday that I won’t be proud of, is the one where I back up to that spiritual door jamb and find that I haven’t grown an inch. 

In Memory of My Dad #2

My family and I are in the midst of burying my dad.  It’s hard.  But tonight we sat around my grannie’s kitchen table and told our stories.  And we laughed.  And laughed.  And laughed.  It’s good medicine.  It’s what my dad would’ve wanted. 

My dad was a writer.  He spent some time writing sports and commentary for the Tahlequah Times Journal.  While we were rummaging through 2 drawers of my dad’s belongings searching for a compass to lead us towards his final wishes, we discovered a couple old newspapers.  Inside were stories from my dad. 

This one is dated December 9, 1995. 

The thin morning sunlight cuts through the nearly bare trees warming my body as it shows up at work as it has for countless number os years.  I can hear the dried leaves skitter by as I sit here and try to draw strength for my upcoming trip to Texas for the holidays. 

Some people pray or actually go to church before going on an extended trip.  Others break out their good luck charms or their religious medals (such as St. Christopher, the patron Saint of travelers)–and that ain’t a bad idea, seeing as there’s an outside chance that God is a Catholic.

I meditate.  I sit quietly, as it were, commune with nature.  After an hour of this my whole state of mind rearranges itself into a more harmonious state, and I’m comfortable with myself once more. 

I don’t know how this miracle happens.  But in sitting here alone, the pathway ahead becomes more clear, my cares become lighter and that elusive feeling of happiness is not so hard to attain. 

“Quiet sitting”, as I call it, begins early in life.  All children have a need to sit quietly and reflect on the happenings of the day.  Every one of us can remember such a spot:  an attic or cellar, a fence row or the spreading branches of a mimosa tree (just right for sitting).

My own personal quiet place was a huge blackjack oak tree.  I could sit there in that fork near the top and watch the eagles and red-tailed hawks soaring on the uplifting thermals many hundreds of feet above me as the wisps of cloud tendrils weaved themselves in and out of the tree branches.  On a clear day you could see forever from my tree.

These  were our private retreats where oldsters were never welcome.  An escape hatch where we could lick our wounds, real or imagined, after a solid bout of sparring in the real world.  In those early years we didn’t know grown-ups needed their own little corner of the world, a place to sit down and go through their own little confusions and sort out their own problems that sometimes seemed insurmountable.

I have a rough-hewn bench since the climbing days of my youth.  I call it mine although I am not the deeded owner.  It sits between two giant sycamore trees  This hard psychiatric bench is just right for sitting, and the sun nearly always finds it.

In the month of February it is a warm spot in a cold world.  I can see the first green shoots as they nose their way sunward during these days when winter holds the world hostage in its icy grip. 

My bench sits near a busy back country road, but I seem to be in a wilderness where time waits on you rather than the pressure cooker that we call the world today.  April builds a new world here, the sun lingers and early spring flowers push their heads above ground for their first peek at this brave new world they are about to become part of.

On a July when there are no floaters out, the bench is a quiet place, shaded and silent.  It’s not much, but you can live quiet there.  If I am really quiet, perhaps a few birds will come along and serenade me with their warblings.  Perhaps old man squirrel will whisk by and stop for a while questioning my sitting–so still.

I have sat on this bench in the fall when the rich autumn colors are reflected in the waters that babble below my bench.  And now there is a melancholy note to my bench sitting as I try to store up enough peace to last me the entire winter. 

In this hurried pace that we call modern living, I highly recommend that you find you a quiet place to just sit.  It’s therapy and inexpensive and even the busiest person can steal away for an hour or so.  Try it and you will enjoy a little of the miracle.

Till you’re better paid.

love, love, love, love, love

This won’t be eloquent.  I don’t have the energy to make it sound pretty. 

My dad is gone, and my heart is broken.  A million shards. 

People say cherish the memories.  And I do, and I will.  But what about our plans? 

You may think I’m stupid, but I wanted him to see my chickens.  They’re coming in 2 weeks you know.  I wanted him to read my blog everyday and leave me snarky comments about how it has no plot.  I wanted him to enjoy my new place with me.  Even if it is a trailer house.  I wanted him to dribble his coffee on my carpet as he staggers down the hallway with his unsteady gait.

I had so much more to share with him. 

I will write about my dad today, and I will write about him tomorrow, and the day after that.  I may write about him for the next 19 years. 

So please be patient.

 Bob Briggs

January 16, 1943-February 26, 2011.

I love you, Dad.