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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Another Love Story

Last week I wrote a short ditty on how I (DM)  met my wife.  I asked one of my regular readers  (Paul) about how he and his significant other met….  I had a hunch they had an interesting story, and I was not mistaken.

This is Paul’s story….

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Another Love Story.

Here’s my story….
Marriage down the pan and I’m kinda holding it together BUT have you ever noticed how going for a drink, a meal, to the cinema, or just out for a walk along the beach on your own, people look at you funny.

Table for one? Sorry full up.
They aren’t but I wasn’t exactly the nice looking, respectable, rich guy.

Go into a pub, and the stares during the 39 steps between the door and the bar stool sort of got to me.
Eventually to the extent of looking round at the inquisitive faces and saying “What, private club is it!?!”

So, fed up of being single, i.e. alone, I put an advert a paper for someone (female) to join me in going out, food, drink, movies.
Just a friend, that’s all, AND I MEANT IT TOO.
Why female? Dinner for two used to be accepted as normal if it was a heterosexual couple.

Anyway, the advert. A couple of ladies answered.
Err the short list was extremely short i.e. one of them in fact and that didn’t really go anywhere because they wanted “companionship”, I just wanted a friend.

Resubmitting the advert was me on the edge of packing everything I owned into the trunk of the car and go traveling.
I had some vague idea of round the world using my skill-base to make money.
How daft was that? My skill base was what had screwed me up but hey, you work with the tools you’ve got don’t you.
Way I saw it was me probably ending up in a ditch somewhere.
Quite frankly I didn’t give a damn which ditch either as long as it wasn’t in the UK.

Then the second post arrived.
One in particular made me smile.
SWMBO (to be).
She kinda made me laugh and that stopped me dead.
A sense of humor? Wow.

So, one ‘nervous’ phone call later we met.

As above SWMBO will explain what happened (sort of).

For some reason this girl got right under my skin, past the firewalls, into my head.
No slushy bit, well the occasional holding hands. Call it being friendly if you like.
Yet there was something about her and it was driving me MAD!
It’s her manner with people, her ways, those 101 little things that you like, or dislike, yet can’t get enough of.
Then I reached the stage of dashing home to get changed to meet her.
Then she came to my works on a Saturday to sit and drink coffee while I worked!
It somehow dawned on me that we were a couple.

Aw hell! How did that happen.
The car got gently unpacked and the rest, as they say, is history.

However what SWMBO got was a raw deal.
An almost divorcee, but with her help that was finalized.
Yippee. The celebration was heartfelt and fun!

A basket case through combat stress.
I just had two pennies to rub together.
The rules of my life were:-
Look after and fill the car with gas, pay the rent, and anything else got spent on food and living.
Not quite broke the whole time but peanuts and boiled rice figured heavily on the menu.
And a warning about health issues which may put me into a wheelchair in later years.

Yet she just shrugged at all of that.
We’ve all got baggage, everyone has, but to us this was a new life we had started.
So no questions from either side, no doubts, This is day one.

We must be doing something right after 28 years of togetherness, 26 of them married.

Ultimately I got the best out of the deal although my investment has shrunk over the past year as SWMBO has lost weight.
One objection. I never knew she was so bony.

And finally some notes.
We became an ‘us’. Never one, we come as a pair.
“What’s mine is ours, what’s hers is hers”.
Funny thing? That’s SWMBO’s words.
Although she does draw the line at pinching my skivvies (shorts)..

Lastly there is a phrase I use to describe what I feel.
I’m as happy as a pig in the mire and and looking forward to growing old(er) together.

From nothing to everything yet still with little in material wealth.
Does that matter though? Not to me.
Tis the prerogative of the poor to say they are richer in other things.
In our case that’s true and I wouldn’t swap one tiny second of what we’ve got.

And here is a link to  SWMBO’s version of this love story. 🙂

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.

 

 

Knowing when to get angry

“You have to learn what’s worth getting angry about.”  Lester said to me  in his gentle way.

I was 16 years old, had just unleashed a string of profanities.

That conversation took place over 40 years ago and  I can STILL remember it to this day.

I remember thinking, “You know, he’s right.  Nobody pays too much attention to me now when I get mad.  That can’t be good.”

Lester  reminded me of Ben Franklin….

Retired farmer,

Bib overhauls…

Here’s an early crew photo…Lester is in the middle and I’m to his right:

Work crew from back in the day.  We had just finished pouring a basement wall.

And yes, that was a can of Old Mill in my hand.

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These days, it does take a lot more to light the fire.

The fuse got lit on Tuesday.

I’m temporarily working with another construction company…

My work load had slowed up, and this crew needed some extra help.

Win win.

Tuesday night  on the way home, my cell phone rang,  it was the boss…He’d just got off the phone with the customer of the job I’ve been at the past month.    It was implied we were taking too long to finish the project and we needed to start putting in 10 hour days.

You’ll have to take my word on this one, but I have been busting my chops the past 5 weeks  with a crew of 2 (just myself and a helper.)

The week previous I  picked up some  little clues the boss thought we must surely be about done, he had sent Dave to round-up the screw guns, and extension chords .  I could see we had at least another 2 to 3 weeks, assuming there were no more change orders.  To compound my frustration, the boss has not personally set foot on the job site for two weeks,…. he personally hates detail work   (which is what we have left to finish)…

Fast forward to this phone call….

After I hung up, Jack, who was riding in the truck with me and  who had heard my side of the conversation asked what that was all about?

I repeated what I’d been told.   He reacted with “That is bull@#$%”   (which is German for “That is not fair!”)

We both felt unappreciated and misjudged.

I could feel the anger start to build.  Rather than just stuff it, I wrote a punch list (things yet to do) when I got home.

The next morning I was @ the shop 30 minutes early, with the intention of talking to the boss one on one.

When  I got there,  the crew was already starting to trickle in. I asked to talk  with the boss in the office.   He said he didn’t  think it was necessary so I gave him the punch list in front of the assembled.    I told him  someone else could finish those items because I had my hands full,  framing walls and installing glass board.

He told me I was  quote “over-responding” and made light of my frustration.

(This is in front of others mind you.)

I told someone later, the mind games, the  passive – aggressive behavior, in the midst of conflict no longer works on me quite like they once did.

Anger in and of itself, is not always a bad thing…..it all depends on what you do with it.

Anger reminds me of rocket fuel.

If you’re not careful, it can ignite, blow up and you’ll have a bigger problem.

Anger can be a wonderful  motivator for change and conflict resolution.

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Update 2/23/17.  I posted this for a specific group of people.  I realize most of you didn’t know me when I was younger, but I entered adulthood as a hard core people pleaser, with a very low self image. One of the issues that dogged me back then, was an inability to stand up for myself in a healthy way.  People would take advantage of me, even older family members. I would be manipulated, talked down to, on and on. Internally, I would seethe, but NEVER, EVER< give voice to any of it….

And then, through the efforts of a friend, I addressed the low self esteem head on, and ever so gradually, my life began to change…so by the time this event took place I wrote about, my response was a 180 degree flip from the old DM….and the boss I wrote about, didn’t know what to do with me.  He was used to the  old compliant DM…so I wrote this to give hope to the people pleaser, the person with a low self esteem.  You do not have to live there.  There are greener pastures.  I am not talking about turning into a mean spirited abusive person.  I am talking about wholeness in your inner person…it is radical stuff..and it is good.

 

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