Firing from the Lip

A collection of thoughts, stories, tall tales, half truths and opinions from the Heartland of America.

My Photo
Location: Missouri, United States

An irreverent but loving grandfather of five and father of three, I enjoy writing of family, love, life, and the never ending fascination of it all.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Reading's Gift To Me

One of my earliest memories is of reading, or at least beginning to. My father had wired a small light under the dashboard of his old pickup, and I sat in the floor between he and my mother reading comic books. I was just a little boy, but I remember how proud I was the first time I read to my dad, and how proud he was of me.

As a teenager, I went through the same coming of age issues as everyone else, and my relationship with my father was difficult at times. Even though it seemed we had nothing in common, we sometimes found a glimmer of our old closeness discussing a book one or the other had read.

Reading was always a favored pastime for me, but in the months following a serious accident in which I suffered a broken neck, it became my saving grace. Lying in bed wracked with pain from the spinal fusion surgeries I'd undergone, worrying about moving the wrong way and causing the paralysis I'd secretly feared all my life, and too proud to admit it to anyone, I found my escape in books.

As I read I could become part of the story. I could forget my pain for just a moment and ride with Lee at Gettysburg, or fight desperately to get off the beach at Iwo Jima under heavy fire. Books gave me the opportunity to do what my broken body could not do. I could immerse myself in the magic of the written word to the point of making the temporary harshness of my reality disappear.

Through reading, I revived my spirit and refreshed my soul. I have never been a quitter, I've been a fighter for as long as I've lived, but even fighters tire. Even the strongest of men have moments when they need lifted up by a friend. During my long days of struggle and pain, the great writers spoke to me, and raised me up. Through their words, I could enjoy the beauty of the world outside my walls, far beyond the confines of the bed I lay in, and I knew that as long as I didn't give up it would be waiting for me at the end of this trial.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Take It Like A Man!

My sons couldn't have been more different. Todd, the eldest, was a quiet, studious kid who played trombone in several bands in high school. I was very proud of his talents as a musician, and when work permitted, I loved listening to him play with the symphonic, jazz, or marching bands. He was a committed student and I never worried about him getting good grades and staying out of trouble.
If Todd was a calm sea, Adam was a tidal wave.
A big, strong, rambunctious kid, Adam thought just about any problem could be solved with the appropriate application of brute force. He played varsity football, starting as the left offensive tackle, and seemed to take it as a personal insult that any opposing player would dare attempt sacking his quarterback. In class, he was everything Todd wasn't. If Adam needed a 75 to pass, I think he stayed up late figuring out how to get 75.1. He drove me crazy, and I loved him to death.
When the boys were in their early teens they began to settle their differences the hard way. I called it knuckle and skull diplomacy. Their mother had little patience for such negotiations, but I knew they didn't really want to hurt each other. They were just two little bulls in the same pasture.
Pulling into the drive one afternoon after a miserably hot day at work, I was met by my wife on the deck. She told me not to sit down, but to go upstairs and see what my two little angels had done to my wall. I found a large hole in Adam's bedroom wall and after looking it over, I went downstairs to discuss it with the boys. I let them know that fighting inside the house wasn't going to happen, and to drive the lesson home they were going to pay for the repairs, and my wages for fixing the damage. Since I love them, I gave them the cut rate of ten dollars an hour, and planned on taking my time repairing the wall. Their faces fell as they mentally calculated what this would do to their meager cash reserves. Warning them not to take it any further, I sent them upstairs to sit on their beds and reflect on a better way to settle their differences.
When I got back from the lumber yard, I found Vickie chuckling as she fixed supper. I asked what was so funny? She told me when the boys had walked past her on the way upstairs, they were talking about how much money this might cost? She said Adam looked at Todd and, sounding disappointed, said, this wouldn't have happened, if you'd stood there and took it like a man.
My sons are gone now. Todd is a federal corrections officer, Adam is a United States Marine, they're both good men, and I'm very proud of both of them. Sometimes, when the house is quiet I can almost hear their voices from those long ago days, and it makes me sad that they're grown.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Death of A Hero

Our community said goodbye to US Army Staff Sergeant Michael Deason today. Deason was killed in action in Iraq on August 31, less than a week from the end of his tour and his return home to his wife and two children.
Deason's father had requested the procession wind it's way through our city so 'Mike can see home one more time.' The family asked the community to turn out, to line the route for SSgt Deason, to let him know his sacrifice was appreciated and his loss mourned. He wouldn't have been disappointed. Hundreds of his hometown folks stood silently as he passed, carried to his final resting place in a glass sided, gloss black travois hearse, pulled by a motorcycle.
I hope his family found some comfort in the presence of their neighbors and their show of respect for SSgt Deason. May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Four Old Chairs

They're four very old chairs, well made, sturdy, seats worn smooth from the use of many years. They sit in my dining room now, surrounding an equally old table bought long ago for five dollars at a yard sale. We always thought we'd replace it someday, but never did. The little nicks and cuts in it's surface were put there by my children long ago. When I'm lonely or sad, our table has the power to take me back to soft talks with my kids, to pictures proudly colored and presented for display on the refrigerator door, to tired little heads napping gently as I watch.
The chairs belonged to Vickie's grandmother, a lady long since passed from this world. Vickie spent many happy days in her grandmother's house as a young girl, and the old chairs in our dining room are a connection. A physical reminder of a love that endures. To her they are ice cream sundaes on hot Summer days, gentle touches when she was crying, warm hugs, pies and cakes from her grandmother's oven, and memories of a gentle time when she was loved as only a grandmother can love.
Vickie's mother died when she was fifteen, and she became both sister and mother to her two little sisters. When she was at her grandmothers house, she could just be the kid she was and for a time, put aside the responsibility that she was far too young to bear. Her grandmother tried to help Vickie all she could, and she knew how very afraid her little granddaughter was, and how much she missed her mother. In her, Vickie had someone to turn to, to cry to, to admit her fear of failing her father as she tried to help raise her sisters.
The old womans love and tenderness was a gift to my wife, and because of that, a gift to me as well. She helped make Vickie what she is, loving and gentle, kind and wise, strong but tender. A woman I thank God for every day of my life.
We could get another table, a newer table, a larger table, but it would mean nothing to us. It would not bear the scars of our lives together. It would not remind us of those we've loved and lost in our youth. Our old table and chairs are hand me downs, but we will never part with them. They remind us too much of how lucky we've been.
They're just four old chairs, a scarred table, and a thousand loving memories.

Monday, September 04, 2006

'The Crocodile Hunter' Dies

I was saddened to learn of the death of Steve Irwin, the irrepressible Aussie with the childish grin who never lost his wonder at the power and creatures of nature.
Mr. Irwin was a conservationist, naturalist, television host, zoo curator, and teacher. He entertained millions of people with his signature line when things went awry. 'Cricky! She's a beaut!' I laughed every time he said this while he was rolling around in the mud on top of a captured crocodile.
His death from a stingray was sudden, unexpected, and tragic. I for one will miss this man, his zest for life, his love and devotion to his vocation. Rest in peace Steve.