Understanding Old Folks

This morning I put on a pair of white socks with sandals. Fashion faux pas? I don’t care. My feet were cold.

We laughed at my grandmother when we were kids. She never wore anything except dresses and sandals. And when her feet were cold—she added socks. She didn’t care what color they were—she just wanted warm feet. I understand now.

We laughed at Grandmother for believing in God. No matter how many people laughed and ridiculed her, Grandmother never lost her faith.

She was prejudiced. We made fun of her for that, too, but she made the best desserts on the planet—and she often cooked for all nine of us in the family (Seven children, three adults). Simply put, my mother was not a cook. My grandmother was. She taught me to make chicken gravy, yeast rolls, and from-scratch hot chocolate—which we called cocoa.

Grandmother was tough. When she was in her late 50s, Grandmother traveled the width of the U.S. in a wood-paneled station wagon, cooked meals over an open fire, and helped my father build a log cabin in the middle of nowhere.

Grandmother was stubborn. When she was in her 60s, she got stung by hundreds of hornets. She was deathly ill and should have gone to the hospital, but she refused because she was too sick to put on her make-up. She never went anywhere without putting on her makeup.

When Grandmother was in her 70s, she lived on a boat in the middle of the river and paddled a rowboat to get to shore. One day while I was visiting my family in the middle of the river I heard a commotion and ran to the source only to find Grandmother hanging upside down on the metal extension ladder that led from the deck down to the kitchen. Grandmother wasn’t upset about hanging upside down, nor was she worried that she might be injured—she was furious that her dress had flown up over her head and her panties were showing.

Grandmother lived into her 90s. When she left the family, she lived on her own with a parrot that bit everyone except her. This was no ordinary bird. His first word was a commercial slogan he heard on TV: “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” When Popeye bit someone—he laughed. When he flew off Grandmother’s shoulder and a truck ran over him, he hopped to the curb, flew back up to Grandmother’s shoulder and said, “Poor Popeye.” Every morning he said, “Maybelle, toast, coffee.”

Grandmother had her flaws. We all do. But she taught me a lot about old folks. When I’m wearing sandals and my feet are cold—I’m putting on the socks—even if they are white.

Amazon.com: Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

It Has Happened

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It has happened. Trees shivering their leaves off limbs and me shivering right along with them in empathy, sympathy—or just because I’m cold.

I hate cold. I hate being cold. I hate winter. I have always hated winter. There are very few things in this life I hate: fire ants, scorpions inside the house, winter, being cold.

All three of my winter memories are bad. When I was eleven, I took three cute brown and white puppies home without asking my parents first. I expected my parents to see the puppies, fall in love with them, and agree we could keep them. They didn’t. I had to take the puppies back, walking several miles through snow in canvas shoes with holes in them and wearing no gloves. I suffered severe frostbite on my toes and fingers. To this day my fingers quit working when it drops under 75F, and since it is nearly always cold here in Scotland, I spend part of my working day at the computer sitting on my hands to warm them up.

My second winter memory is worse; cutting, stacking, and carrying ice-crusted logs into the house for the fireplace—without gloves. Our family was too poor to buy gloves. Have I mentioned about my hands? Pain as severe as slowly freezing human limbs is hard to describe—and even harder to forget.

The third winter memory is taking Luke to cut a live Christmas tree when he was four. He had the necessary outfit: snow boots, snowsuit, coat, and gloves. Being a single mom supporting her child—I did not. This was deeper and colder snow—if that’s possible, and we were in it for a long time while Luke searched diligently for the perfect Christmas tree. Me—wearing canvas shoes and blue jeans—by the time Luke found his tree I would have gladly settled for a tin can and a twig.

The good thing about being a writer is that it’s okay to stay inside working—until life intrudes and forces you outside. Then it’s still winter, I’m still cold, I still hate the winter.

Psalm 74:17 says of God, “You have set all the borders of the earth; You have made summer and winter.”

Since God made winter, He has a purpose for it. That means my job is to be happy for those who enjoy the winter and follow the advice in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks.”

So I am thankful. I am thankful that winter ends.

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https://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Old Hat

Besides precious memories, too few pictures, and a much-read and much-used Bible, all I had left of son USMC Major Luke Gaines Parker was the old hat. Now the hat is gone.

It was ironic to still have Luke’s hat after he departed for Heaven at age 37. A hat should not last longer than the person wearing it – especially an old hat.

I bought the bright blue wooly hat for Luke in the Great Basin Desert of Northern Nevada when he was eleven. He left it behind when he reported to the Marine Corps for basic training.

Because it had been Luke’s hat, I kept it and wore it on cold, windy days – even though since it was a child’s hat, it was too small for me and kept popping off my head. Over the years, the hat became tolerant of me and relaxed enough to remain on my head. After I moved to Scotland, I wore the old hat nearly every day of the year – spring, “summer,” fall, and winter. Even in the height of “summer” it is still cool – often with a strong wind. The hat kept my hair from blowing across my face and getting tangled.

Now the hat is gone. It vanished. I wish I could believe that Luke reached down from Heaven and reclaimed the hat as a sort of sign. He didn’t. Heaven is a perfect place with a perfect climate. Luke would have no need for his old blue hat. When a person dies, their spirit goes immediately to be with Jesus in Heaven – if they belong to Him. Jesus is alive, Luke is alive – but he didn’t come for the hat.

I spent several days retracing walks and runs to look for the missing hat. Folks here in the Black Isle are honest and thoughtful. When they find someone’s property, they hang it on a fence post for the owner to find: shoes, socks, keys, dog whistles, shirts, hats, dog leashes. No bright blue wooly hat.

Perhaps the hat fell out of my pocket on the rocks and washed into the sea. Perhaps it blew out of my pocket when I was running and someone who needed a winter hat took it. Actually, I’m glad that it vanished because it taught me to look into my heart for what’s left that’s really important.

Everywhere I go, I see Luke’s smile. I remember the times he called me to sing a song he had just written. I still have cards and poems he sent me. When I look at his daughter’s face, I see his eyes and the bridge of his nose. He lives on in precious memories, and in the life of his daughter. These things are important. The old blue hat? Well, it was just a hat.

Every physical possession we have on this earth, no matter how valuable, will eventually wear out, get stolen, get lost, or disappear. Even the ones that we keep until we “die” will get left behind, just like Luke’s old hat when he went into basic training. No one leaves this earth for Heaven with a suitcase.

Value your children, friends, family members, pets – everyone and everything that you love – now. Spend all the time with them you can and lavish all the love on them that you have to give. You can’t spoil anyone with too much love – but you can break their hearts with too little love.

Build memories and hang on to them. Let old hats go.

Author’s books: http://www.amazon.com/Stephanie-Parker-McKean/e/B00BOX90OO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

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