When Norah Met Mr. Dan

By Tara Wood

The day before my daughter Norah’s fourth birthday, something she said foreshadowed a remarkable event.

I’d just picked her up from preschool when she cautioned me to mind the elderly person walking across the parking lot at a glacier’s pace.

She went on to explain that she has a soft spot for mature folks:” I like old people the best ’cause they walk slow like I walk slow and they has soft skin like I has soft skin. They all gonna die soon, so I’m gonna love’em all up before they is died.”

Sure, it got kinda dark at the end, but I liked where her heart was.

I was struck by her thoughtfulness and empathy and posted that quote as a status update on Facebook when we got home.  I had no idea how much she really meant it.

The following day-her birthday again on the way home from school, she asked if we could stop at the grocery store to buy cupcakes for her and her six siblings to enjoy after dinner.

How do you say no to a birthday girl?

I popped Norah and her younger sister into one of those car-shaped grocery carts and headed toward the bakery.  After we picked up the cupcakes, I stopped at a clearance shelf that caught my eye.  While I was distracted, Norah was busy standing up in the cart, excitedly waving and gleefully proclaiming, “Hi old person!  It’s my birfday today!”

The man was elderly, stone-faced, and furrow-browed.  However, before I could shush her for calling him an old person or ask the earth to swallow me whole, he stopped and turned to her.

If he was troubled by my no-filter child, he didn’t show it.  His expression softened as he replied,” Well, hello, little lady!  And how old are you today?”

They chatted for a few minutes, he wished her a happy birthday, and we went our separate ways.

A few minutes later, she turned to me and asked,” Can I take a picture with the old man for my birfday?”  It was the cutest thing every, and although I wasn’t sure if he’d oblige, I told her we’d certainly ask.

We found the man a couple of aisles over, and I approached him,” Excuse me, sir?  This is Norah, and she’d like to know if you’d take a photo with her for her birthday?”

His expression morphed from confused to stunned to delighted.

He took a step back, steadied himself on his shopping car, and placed his free hand on his chest.” A photo?  With me?” he asked.

“Yes, suh, for my birfday!” Norah pleaded.

And so he did.  I pulled out my iPhone, and they posed together.  She placed her soft hand on top of his soft hand.  He wordlessly stared at her with twinkling eyes as she kept his hand in hers and studied his skinny veins and weathered knuckles.  she kissed the top of his hand and then placed it on her cheek.  He beamed.  I asked his name, and he told us to call him Dan.

We were blocking other shoppers, but they didn’t care.  There was magic happening in the grocery store that day, and we could all feel it.  Norah and “Mr Dan” sure didn’t notice.  They were chatting away like long-lost friends.

After a few minutes, I thanked Mr. Dan for spending a bit of his day with us.  He teared up and said, “No, thank you.  this has been the best day I’ve had in a long time.”  He turned to my daughter.” You’ve made me so happy, Miss Norah.”

They hugged, and we walked away.  Norah watched him until he was out of view.

I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t a weepy mess after their encounter.

I was blown away by this meeting and thought maybe some of the readers of my Facebook page might enjoy hearing about it.  I posted the story and a photo of the two of them.

Later that night, I received a private message from a local reader who recognized Mr. Dan.

His wife, Mary, had passed away six months earlier, and he had been lonely since his beloved had gone.  The reader wanted to let me know she was certain his heart was touched by my little girl, that he needed that connection and likely would never forget it.

I asked for Mr. Dan’s phone number and called him a few days later.

We visited Mr Dan’s cozy and tidy house- reminders of Mary still proudly displayed everywhere.  He had gotten a haircut, shaved, and put on slacks and dress shoes.  He looked ten years younger.  He’d set out a child’s table, blank paper, and crayons for Norah.  He asked if she’d draw some pictures for him to display on his refrigerator.  He happily agreed and went right to work.

We ended up spending nearly three hours with Mr. Dan that day.  H was patient and kind with my talkative, constantly moving girl.  He wiped ketchup off her cheek and let her finish his chicken nuggets.

We walked with him to his front door after lunch.  He pulled out a pocketknife and cut the single red rose blooming by his porch.  He spent ten minutes cutting every thorn off the stem before  handing it to his new friend.  She keeps that rose, now dry as a bone, in a zip lock bag under her pillow.

Norah asks about Mr. Dan every day.  She worries about him.  She wonders if he’s lonely, or cold, or has cheese for his sandwiches.  She wants him to be OK.  She wants him to feel loved.

Mr. Dan thinks about Norah too.  After another recent visit, he relayed that he hadn’t had an uninterrupted night’s sleep since his wife died.  He told me that he had slept soundly every night since meeting my girl.

    “Norah has healed me,” he said.

That left me speechless and my cheeks wet with tears.

Seventy-eight years separate these two people in age….

Norah and I have made a promise to see Mr. Dan every week, even if it’s for only 15 minutes, even if only for a quick hug and to drop off a cheese Danish (his favorite!)

I invited him to spend Thanksgiving with us.  He’s part of our family now.  Whether he likes it or not, he has been absorbed into my family of nine, and just as Norah said, we’re gonna love him all up.

Taken liberally from the April 2017 edition of my Readers Digest written by Tara Wood

Norah and Mr. Dan 

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I (DM) read this tonight after work.   Just what the Dr ordered after a hard day in the trenches.  Wanted to share it with you. 🙂

 

 

 

An Old Buzzard

Tuesday afternoon I had to have a tooth pulled.

As Ann, the dental hygienist and I were waiting for the Doctor, we talked about parenting.  She has two kids, a 13 yr old daughter and an 10-year-old son.  She alluded to there being quite a bit of tension in their household between the daughter and them.

When I have these conversations, I feel  like an old buzzard on a tree limb watching  as a young family tries to navigate their way through those teen years… I can see the lay of the land in a way that they can not from my perch.

It doesn’t take much to tap into the confusion and anger I felt when I was the one trying to figure out my way through that wilderness.

Pause.

I got a call yesterday from my eldest.  She is 36.  She called me in the middle of the morning, just to visit. Said it had been a while and she was thinking about me.  We talked for 10 minutes about grand kids, her part-time job, honey bees…

She (my eldest) has the most infectious laugh, and laughed several times while we talked.  I thought about that phone call several  times throughout the day. It gave me the warm fuzzies.

When I got home later, my wife mentioned within the past two days, she has had really good visits with all four of our now grown kids.

If you are a parent, and your kids are still in the home, (and even if they are not)  one of the long-term goals you probably  have, is that after they become adults, you and they stay in touch.

Just healthy peer to peer relationships…how does that sound for a parenting goal? 😉

I have that and I take absolutely no credit for it.

I struggled with knowing how to keep the balance when they were in the house between being their parent, and being their friend.  There is a difference.  Yes, the long-term goal is friendship, but that is second compared to being the parent.  Sometimes being the parent means taking a tough stand, when your feelings tell you otherwise.

It wasn’t until one of my “dear, sweet” children, ran away that I realized,  just because we birthed them, did not mean they automatically respected us.

They too were just trying to find their way.

That experience was a watershed moment in my life as a dad.

I gave that child two choices..and neither one of them involved coming home, (initially).

Every family, every, parent/ child relationship has its own dynamics.   There is not “one size fits all” when it comes to raising kids.

One relationship that helped keep me sane was another dad who was also dealing with an out of control older daughter.  He got it.

Our culture did a crappy job preparing me to parent in a healthy way. What I longed for was real advice from real parents, who were dealing with the same issues, just further along on the trail.

Beware of both extremes…being too heavy handed, or too nicey/ nicey.

Eventually, all four of our kids did reach adulthood (alive) and eventually, got the partying, out of their system.

The human brain does not really mature until about age 25, so give them some time, even after they move out.

Parenting is like baking cookies.

My first born batch (or three) felt like I was  flying by the seat of my pants… by number four, I  started to relax.

 

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A Short Love Story

True story

He sat in the front row of the class room every morning. Directly in front of the door, so that the second the alarm bell rang he would  be the first to shoot out the door. Small for his age, he wore nerdy glasses, loved to go to the library and read, played the trumpet.

He was shy,  cripplingly so. Had no idea how to carry on a normal conversation with  a girl.

When he was 16 his brother and he were talking about girls one night.  The boy realized if something didn’t change, he was destined to be single his entire life.

There was this girl in home room, he had a secret crush on.  She was a year younger, sat with all of the popular kids in the back of the room.  She had long dark hair.  She was athletic. Played varsity basketball her freshman year.  She came from a well to do family.

Totally out of his league.

One day in Spanish lab, the cute girl and her friend asked the shy boy a question about a homework assignment.  The conversation lasted all of thirty seconds.

Would you believe through a series of serendipitous circumstances that boy eventually did get a date with that cute girl…..and then years later…they were married.

I was thinking about that kid this morning.

Because that kid was me.

 

 

Ticking

I saw my dad this morning for two seconds.

I wished there would have been some way to capture that image of him in a picture..but since that was impossible, I wanted to do the next best thing and write about it.

I had an early  trip out-of-town this morning,  and my route took me right past the farm.

And there he was…

I suppose he was outside feeding the  cats.

It was just after sunrise.

The artist in me noticed the  shadows.  (I notice shadows all the time)

I noticed he was wearing his bibs.

Keep in mind all of this happened in a moment.  When you’re going 60 miles per hour,  things fly by pretty quick.

Several things stirred in my gut, in that moment.

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12 hours later….

I just got off the phone with mom.  We talked for 15 minutes.

I asked her if Dad had seen me this morning? 😉

Yep, He figured I was going out for breakfast with a neighbor.  I told her no. Son John  and I were taking off on a 6 hour road trip and I had to stop by their neighbors to pick up a stock trailer.

My dad is in the evening season of his life.  Not sure how many more years he and mom will be able to live on the farm.  Hopefully, several more…

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Tell me about an older person in your life that has a special place in your heart…It doesn’t have to be a relative.    Maybe they are still alive, and maybe they have passed on.  What do (or did)  you appreciate  about that person, what do you miss ?  Would you mind sharing a memory or a story?  (The longer/ more detailed the better) 😉  DM

 

Doing Hard Things

What was I thinking ?!?!?

My friend Mary had talked me into going on this trip.  She had talked me into d-tasseling corn too.  I should have known.

Mary was out-doorsey.  I was not.  This was to be a camping, whitewater rafting, climb out of the Grand Canyon adventure.

I didn’t do adventures.  I read adventures.  I was a bona fide, certified, hardcore bookworm.

Mary was my best friend. She was silly, goofy, fun to be around and persuasive.

It was the 1970’s.  I look back on this experience as one of the most thrilling and hardest things I’ve  ever done in my life.  Whitewater rafting was thrilling.

The ascent out of the Grand Canyon was just plain hard.

Up until that trip, my one experience camping was an overnight, under the stars with Mary, in her front yard, camp out.

At this point I must insert a tidbit of personal info.  My DNA shows I am 56% Irish.  Dark Irish. Dark auburn hair,  blue eyes, fair skin with freckles Irish.  I was/am white white, pale white, pure white. As one of my classmates put it, blinding white.

I do not do well in heat.

There was a reason I stayed indoors and read.

When it came time to climb out of the Grand Canyon, Mary set a goal to be one of the first of our group to make it to the top.  She said goodby to me when I started to slow down.  As the temperature rose, I emotionally spiraled.  Looking ahead, there were miles of switchback trail ahead of me.  I hoped just to make it to the top by sundown!  Other than the occasional passerby, some on mules, I was alone.  I honestly didn’t know if and how I was going to make it.

I was athletic, playing several different sports – but this, this was different. This was grueling, testing me to my limits.  I was in a hard place.  In the end it came down to focusing on one thing… one step at a time.

I learned something that day.  Face the hard thing head on, and take one step at a time.  Then take the next step.  I saw what I was capable of.  I do possess determination,  fortitude, tenacity, and courage.

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Google Image  Grand Canyon switchbacks 


I took another journey recently … life changing.  Every bit as hard as climbing out of the Grand Canyon.

I signed up for a class called The Ultimate Journey.

I heard  many positive things about it.  One lady said she had been in counseling for years and this class helped her more than all the years of counseling combined.  Hmm

Was I afraid to face the past? Yes!

Hard Thing- step one.  sign-up for class.

Hard Thing – step two- Go to first class.

Hard Thing-  step three – Go to second class.

Next thing I know, I’m looking forward to class and I was sad when it ended.

I made friends.  I’m more peaceful. There is freedom.  I am more compassionate with myself and others.

 

I wrote this quote on our blackboard as a reminder:

“When it is all said and done, we’re all just walking each other home.” Ram Dass.

 

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This was another in a series of guest posts…this one written by my wife.  DM

Ordering Your Private World

“Throughout the film he contrasts the frantic pace of modern life with a thoughtful interior life….”

French film director Eugene Green in a recent interview

Those words…“the frantic pace of modern life with the thoughtful interior life” jumped off the page to me last night as I was winding down.

I forget  what it feels like to live  life at a  “frantic pace.”

My life has not felt that way ever since I began to intentionally weave “margin” into my life.  I am loath to get myself suckered into the rat race again.

It did  happen briefly last fall.   I had two major construction projects needing to start at the same time, due to weather and customer delays, but that is no longer the norm.

Don’t get me wrong…I have not “arrived” in terms of anything…BUT, I am convinced the frantic/ manic pace of life will suck the life out of me unless I am very careful.

I am a first-born type A personality.  I grew up on a dairy farm which compounded my need to stay busy, so I know what I’m talking about.

There are two young families that I know, (sort of) where the financial and job pressures are sucking the life out of their marriages. (Like  fire sucking the oxygen out of a room)  There is the illusion they have made it.  Super nice homes.  Nice cars.  Both spouses making multiple times more per year than I.

We could live off the income of any one of those four people and  have money set aside.

If that is the lifestyle both of you  love and enjoy…then there is not a problem.

Just different priorities.

If however, one of the people in either one of those situations feels trapped….then it is (a problem.)

How sad to live your life, day in, day out, commuting to a full-time job you hate,  never feeling like there is enough money, not enough hours in the day.  Being married to someone, who (initially) you thought you wanted to spend the rest of your life with, but now..not so much.

That is what I am talking about.

I’m a visual person, so it helped me to have something I could look at to get my bearings.

In my mind’s eye, I felt like I was the captain of a large ocean-going vessel, headed the wrong way….  So  I literally, drew a diagram with a large ship on a piece of white poster board/ taped it to the wall in front of my desk, with different positions on the chart showing the boat changing directions.

I needed to turn my ship around and set a new course….Well, you can’t turn a ship that size around on a dime…but once you move the rudder hard  you do change directions.

Moving the rudder meant setting some new financial, time management, and relational goals and then acting on them.

Just drawing that chart gave me hope.  I knew where we were headed,  even if the circumstances had not changed in the short-term.

There was a new sense of hope and purpose in our home, in our relationship, in my heart.

It all starts in the mind.

There were a couple of books that also helped me re-plot my course. One of them was called “Ordering Your Private World.”

I’ve written on this topic  before…As I find the older posts in  my archives, I will put the link to them here..

Here’s one of those earlier posts.

Everybody Move!

When the kids were growing up  Princess Bride was one of those movies we watched again and again.  We still quote lines back and forth  to each other….

“Anybody want a peanut?”

Either you get it or you don’t.  😉

When anyone leave our place, if you were to glance at the kitchen window, you would see whomever’s home waving.

We got into the habit years ago.  Often muttering under our breath...”Have fun storm’n the castle…” 😉

 

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So, Monday afternoon I got a call from my eldest..

She’d just gotten home from the grocery store.  Said the place was crazy busy.

Came around the  corner pushing a cart and the aisle was block….snarled up like a traffic jam.

Her mind immediately went to a scene in Princess Bride where Fezzik the giant took command of a similar situation.

In her best deep Fezzik voice. it just came out….

Everybody move!

 

People scattered.

Her husband turned red and took off in another direction.

When daughter got home from the store, she had to call her papa.   (Me )  Both of us howled.

Daughter was pretty sure by the look on most of the faces, they had no idea that they’d just heard  a line from a movie.

Eldest daughter…

You rock! 😉

I love your sense of humor.

I love hearing your laugh.

I’m  so glad we share crazy movies like this with each other.

Love you!  The papa.