Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Gift From My Father

Today, Dec. 20, is my birthday I was born many years ago on a cold Monday morning in December. Possibly it was snowing as we lived in Central Texas. Upon hearing that my mother had delivered a little girl, my father was delighted. So happy was he about the new daughter he went to a store and bought me a Shirley Temple doll. Of course I didn't know the story until years later, and by then our bond was a strong one.

My mother, a kind person, and my father, a demanding parent, somehow or other rounded out my life through their different styles of guidance. My mother taught me kindness through example. I knew what Daddy expected of me and I attempted to please him. And I tried to never disappoint him. Right before he died at age sixty-three he told me I had never disappointed him. I thought it an odd statement as I had certainly disappointed myself several times.

Because he attempted to uplift us all by telling us we could accomplish much, I handle moments of sadness or rejection by recalling the positive statements he made to me. Then I remember it is all right and I have another opportunity to succeed.
Often I relied on the memories and the ideas he instilled in me. And that has been one of my anchors.

It's my birthday and I thank God for the parents He placed me with. And I still have the Shirley Temple doll.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Influence of One Man

It was summertime and Janie, a Junior High student, took a job as an aide in a summer school program. The supervisor of the program Mr. Garcia had a meeting of all the aides in a school cafeteria. “I want to know the goal of every single one of you,” he told them. “What do you plan to do with your life?”

Janie raised her hand, “I plan to drop out of school.”

Mr. Garcia looked surprised. She had just been selected to work in an educational setting and she planned to drop out of school. It didn’t make sense. “Why do you want to do that Janie?”

“Just because. School is boring. I like to sew. If I drop out of school, I can sew for a living.”

After the meeting Mr. Garcia sat and conversed with Janie. “I like to sew better than anything else,” she told him.

“Do not quit school. I’ll talk to the counselor at your school so you can get in all the sewing you want.” And he did and Janie stayed in school.

Janie kept working in the summer but by high school she again told Mr. Garcia she was quitting so she could get a fulltime job and earn more money. Mr. Garcia had a summer job at a shoe store. He went to the manager and told him he wanted to quit but wanted the manager to hire an ambitious young woman. Janie started selling shoes in the summers.

Janie graduated from high school and then from college. Mr. Garcia felt so proud. She told me the story and I couldn’t get it out of my mind like a song with a catchy tune. In time Mr. Garcia died and many folks attended his service. I sat there and wondered how many folks at the funeral service were recipients of his advice. One man. An influence that lives on and on.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Travels with Mary

My sister Mary and I have traversed the state of Texas many times. Each time we travel peculiar things happen. The first time I noticed was when we took a trip to the central part of the state. We arrived, ate dinner, watched television, and then settled in for the night, she by going to sleep in her bed immediately while I did my nightly reading in my bed.

After an hour or Mary raised her head from the pillow and, while completely asleep, asked, “How far is it?”

I answered, “We are in Austin in a hotel.”

“But, how far is it,” she demanded to know.

“We arrived in Austin and now we are in bed.”

“But, how far is it?” she asked indignantly this time.

“Twenty miles,” I answered.

Surprisingly enough she went right back to sleep and I went back to reading my John Grisham book, although I must admit, at that moment, our hotel room seemed more interesting than whatever John Grisham offered. The next day she remembered nothing.

On another trip to Austin Mary slipped on her nightgown immediately after dinner while I, still fully dressed, read in my bed. A ringing occurred and it wasn’t the telephone. “What is that?” I asked.

“A fire alarm.”

I spoke to my sister, “Let’s go. This might be a real fire.”

“I’ve got to get dressed.” She explained.

“Just throw on a sweater or raincoat. Nobody cares.”

She comments, “I need my shoes.”

“You don’t need shoes,” I say.

Another bell rings and my sister states, “That means it was just a false alarm. You see there was no need to get excited.”

Recently we took a trip to Houston in a new car. On our way back Mary says, “Don’t forget to remind me to buy gas.” I thought only of the delicious barbeque restaurant in Wharton.


After we ate our barbeque we drove on. Before long we passed Victoria and entered a long, lonely stretch in which no businesses of any kind can be found. Several miles later a small buzzer went off. “Ohhhh,” we both groaned remembering the gas we needed.

A word with the number twenty-six appeared on the dashboard. “Why, is the word DIE and 26 miles showing?” I calmly asked my sister. Surely, the car wasn’t telling us we were going to die 26 miles up the road.

“Look it up.” Sure enough, I found the manual and what it indicated was ‘Distance To Empty.’ DTE not DIE. We drove on.

She reached over to the dashboard and I quickly said, “Don’t touch anything. It’ll use up more gas.” We drove with no heating, no air conditioning, no lights, etc. The car kept showing the decreasing miles until the numbers disappeared completely and an asterisk appeared.

“What does that mean?” We asked each other as she drove on.

“I think we are on fumes.” She added.

We went down a small hill and there nestled at the bottom was a service station. We rolled in and began breathing normally. No wonder Mother always said, “En el nombre sea de Dios,” (in God’s name) before she ever entered a vehicle. Come to think of it…she only said it whenever my sister or I drove.