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. 🙂

 

 

 

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.

hikersonbrightangeltrail

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.

 

grand-canyon-backpacking-rim-to-rim

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

Fired Up

 

This morning  I read an article titled 5 ways total strangers can make your trip better

It reminded me of one of my all time favorite conversations with a complete stranger….

It happened like this….

We were  visiting our eldest daughter in Wisconsin.  Lunch time rolled around and  daughter suggested we needed to visit her new favorite place to eat……

The deli @ her hometown grocery store.  (I love that girl!)

So we piled in the van and headed into town.

Everything was just as she promised.

Broasted chicken, fish, roast beast,  fresh watermelon, strawberries, salads, dark roast coffee, etc. etc.

The only thing they didn’t have was adequate seating.  As we stood there weighing our options I worked up the nerve to ask a  businessman sitting at a table by himself..“Would  he mind if we joined him?”

“Not at all!”

So we grabbed another chair and the (5) of plopped down next to him.

Community building started right away…

Who we were, what brought us to town, yada, yada…

And how about him?….turned out he worked as an engineer for one of the bigger businesses there in town… more small talk…he loved his job…  yada yada… and then somehow we stumbled across his current passion…

Brewing artisan beer in his garage.

One question led to another…

It was fascinating.

We were introduced to  the microbial  world of beer fermentation (and none of our party even drinks beer).

You could feel the energy around the table. There was a genuine sense of connectedness and letting down of our guards.

Then before we knew it, it was time to go our separate ways.

Pause.

That sense of connection is the main reason I blog. It has created opportunities to get to know people I otherwise would have never met…

and at a level that is virtually impossible to get to any other way. I’m sure it has a lot to do with the type of topics we  interact over. Last count, Mrs DM and I have met seven of you in person, some of you more than once.

Without exception, you have all been exactly as I would have expected..except better.  Each time, it has felt like I was meeting a long-lost relative.

So tell me, If I was sitting @ the deli table with you right now, and  asked, What is something you enjoy that gets you fired up what would it be?

I really do want to know! DM

 

 

letters

 

Letters

bundle letters

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I came across some letters between 40 yr old Anita and her 60-year-old friend, mentor, and former college professor Ruth.

The letters are deeply personal and without a hint of pretension…refreshingly so.

Stuff you would never tell another person, unless you trusted them explicitly….

They cover many of the same issues  I wrestle with as a man, and we have as couple.

The letters that I have read so far have covered things like the inner angst Anita was having at  turning 40, such as:

” I looked in the mirror today.  I didn’t just glance to fluff my hair.  I gave myself a good, long look.  First, I cocked my head for a general assessment.  Then I leaned in for the scarier, unforgiving version of my own reflection.

     For the first time, it was a forty-year-old face staring back at me.  A smidgen of cheek sag…a bit of something turkey-like beginning on my neck…and some forehead frown lines all staking their claim on this once-unmarred facial frontier…”

Anita’s inner struggles to find a balance between career, motherhood, marriage, and her personal needs.

She had questions about sexuality in their marriage of 18 years.

She wrote about the struggles with an ongoing pattern of anger in her life….

There are a dozen additional letters that I have yet to read, all on topics of substance.

If you’d like a copy of these letters  you can get your own copy of them here. 😉

Pause.

CS Lewis wrote:  “We read to know we are not alone.”

Do you have a person or three with whom you have this kind of relationship?

I hope so.

Someone(s) with whom you can unpack the nitty-gritty of your inner world?   Someone you trust explicitly..someone who won’t judge you. Someone with whom you can be completely honest and share the most, off the wall, bizarre thoughts that occasionally (or regularly)  flitter through your brain?😉

Not to worry, we all do it.

I have several such relationships, and that is not by accident.  Back in 1995 for reasons that are not relevant here, we left a local church group I had sunk my emotional roots into…deeply. Unfortunately, 95% of my closest relationships were people in that group, and by and large,  the intimate conversations with those people came to a screeching halt when we left.

Swore I would never, ever again, keep all  of my relationship eggs in one basket, in one spot.  One of the spin-off results of that decision was to start keeping in  better touch with a handful of people via e-mail, interacting on things of substance in my life. That impulse eventually morphed into me starting  my first blog.

Same dynamic, just on a larger scale.

Spent some time with a young couple last night that are struggling. Towards the end of the evening, that came up (their struggling).

I was  glad they felt safe opening up to us.

Nothing harder for me than “festering” relationship stuff where I feel stuck.

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Those of you that occasionally or regularly interact here on this blog.  I appreciate it.

DM

 

Moose Hunting

This morning I had to stop by a farm to check on some possible work. As I was waiting for the hubby to finish doing chores,  I asked his wife if her mom was still living with them?

She teared up instantly.

The words just tumbled out…

Up until now we’ve had a bath aid coming in two to three times a week, but starting next week, I asked for help every day.   I just can’t do it any more…”

I listened. …and the words kept coming….

“I promised her I would never put her in a nursing home..but….but you have no idea how hard it has been.”

“How is your mom mentally?”  I asked…

“Ever since her stroke, she’s gotten worse.  Right now, she probably has the mind of a 5th grader…..

She’s lived with us  seven and one half years…..”

I (DM) remembered when her mom  first moved in.  I assumed she was still with them, but you never know. Her mom reminded me of my mom, the first time I met her….about the same age, body build, both have a twinkle in their eye.   I sensed she (the mother) had mixed feelings about moving in with her daughter, and yet, due to circumstances outside of her control, there was no other option….

Tonight as Mrs DM and I were out on a date, I thought back to this mornings conversation.  In the past an interaction like that would have left me feeling uncomfortable, but it didn’t.

I was humbled she trusted me enough to be vulnerable and tell me what she was really thinking.

Raw, unguarded pain.

Come to think of it,   I had four different conversations like that just this week.

And in none of those conversations, did I feel any pressure to say something wise or helpful.

When a person is really hurting,  the most helpful (and hopeful) thing you and I can do is to listen.  Really listen.  Not fill the moments of silence between the two of you with words.  Yes, there is  may be a time to speak, but mostly, just the act of listening, (or asking a question) does more that anything else to communicate hope.

I really do not have a clue as to what it’s like to be a full-time care taker for more than a few hours at a stretch.

Some of you do.

My dad, who is in his mid 80’s,  will occasionally put it like this…“Once a man, twice a child.” 

Not so sure I want to do the childhood gig a second time.

Told my wife this night I am going to ask my brother-in-law Loren to take me out moose hunting when I start to fail… wait until it’s good and cold, prop me up against a tree, out in the middle of nowhere and  call it good.  We laughed, because  first of all, I don’t hunt, and second of all, Loren is my mom’s go-to person when she needs to dispose of a pesky critter.  I know this is not the politically correct (Christian) way to talk about aging, but, if I am granted a long life (and there are no guarantees) I do not want to fritter those last years away, stuck in some room, needing to have my diaper changed every few hours.

So,  if you ever hear me talking about going moose hunting, you’ll know something’s  up….

DM

Morning Commute

As I went through an intersection this morning on the way to work, I thought I heard something roll off the top of my tool box and hit the pavement…like a metal pipe.

I quickly checked my side mirrors to make sure all of the tool box doors were shut (they were) and continued on for  two more minutes…

Then it dawned on me.  The aluminium  handles from my siding break would make that kind of sound. (They are  a round pipe attached  by cotter key’s so they shouldn’t be popping off)

But just to be sure,  I pulled off to check.

Sure enough, the back handle was missing…. sitting in the middle of an intersection, two miles back 😦

It was 7:30 AM, on a Friday morning, right in the middle of  work traffic.

I  called my co-worker to let him know what I was doing and would be a few minutes late.

When I got back to the intersection,  there it was, right in the middle of the road..a four way intersection where two major highways cross. Traffic clipping through there at  a healthy 35 mph.

“This will be interesting,” I thought to myself as I sprinted over to the first median. Looked both ways, then made a bee-line for the handle. The cars closest to me were stopped for a red light, so I  ran back  across 4 lanes of traffic.

I smiled at the guys in the front of the line, as if to say.

“Don’t run me over OK ?” 😉

What

a

rush.

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The rest of the day was equally intense.

We were working on a punch list for a newly sold condo for an elderly widow.

(A punch list is a list of misc. items needing to be taken care of when a house sells.)

I’d already swapped out two ceiling fans, installed a new kitchen  counter top, new sink, repainted several rooms…etc. Today’s list included two replacement windows, swap out a utility sink, hang three mirrors, install a set of vertical blinds, attach two thresh holds on a laminate floor, and hang two shelves above the computer.

I had hoped to get everything done before she moved in, but it didn’t work out that way.  The replacement windows were the biggest challenge.  I’ve put in several hundred of these over the years, so one way or the other, the window was going in. Well,  the old ones did not want to come out.  It is a brick condo, and the nailing fins were behind the brick.  I told my sister later, it was like pulling impacted teeth that had to be cut out, one chunk at a time. 😉

Nasty dirty work.

I went through a dozen saw-zall blades.

It took me twenty minutes   to figure out how to get the first window frame out…all the while my customer was sitting on the bed watching me.

After the first window was finally installed, the guy in charge of the general upkeep of the grounds stopped by and told me, the windows didn’t match the rest of the windows in the complex and were not going to work.  (Keep in mind I had several thousand dollars I needed to collect  on the completion of today’s punch list.)

I had matched the interior of the windows rather than the exterior, because there was more than one shade of brown throughout the neighborhood….

In the end, it all worked out.  I got my check.  Customer thanked me for doing a great job on everything.

It’s a good thing I love what I do.

How was your day?

I want details! DM