Did you know that angels don’t always have wings? I can tell you a story that proves it.
While my mother was alive, my father was our favorite entertainment. He made up words and sang silly songs. He laughed himself to tears with his own bad jokes. But when my mother died, his laughter seemed to die with her.
A few months after her death he had heart surgery. We were very worried about him—he was 78 and depressed. Can you imagine our surprise when, only a few days after surgery, he was smiling and laughing more than he had since my mother’s memorial service?
It wasn’t until a few weeks after he was released from the hospital that we found out that he’d had been doing more than recovering during his hospital stay.
We found out, in fact, that while he was in the hospital, he had been “courting” his very attractive (20 years younger!) nurse, Gail. He told us that, at first, she had refused several of his invitations. Poor Gail, we could have told her that was futile. My dad (AKA Prince Charming) was, when he wanted something, irresistible.
Less than six months later, she accepted his proposal and they were married. With Gail by his side, Dad smiled and laughed and his blue eyes danced with joy and mischief.
Gail challenged him with her quick wit and sharp mind. She learned to play golf, although tennis was her game. She adopted his friends, and embraced his chaotic, slightly crazy family.
And, in his nineties, when his balance began to fail, she walked next to him and held him up. She cut out newspaper articles for him to read and found television shows for them to watch. She invited his friends and family for dinner.
She never stopped encouraging him. She never stopped loving him, and, when he was with her, he was always smiling.
Maybe some angels have wings, but I can assure you that at least one of them has red hair and the most generous spirit I’ve ever known.
Dad and Gail
When my son was about twelve, I dropped him off at the hair salon for a haircut. About ten minutes later, our stylist called me. “Uh, Lynn, Burk says he wants me to cut his girlfriend’s initials into the hair on the side of his head. He says it’s okay with you—are you sure?”
Is it crazy that I was? When Burk had asked me if it was okay, all I could think was—“he’s not having anything pierced, he’s not getting a permanent tattoo, he’s not smoking anything or cooking drugs in the garage—why shouldn’t I let him do this?” And, more importantly, what would he learn if I told him “no”? That I didn’t respect his ideas? Or that I was more concerned with other people’s opinions than I was with his feelings?
I don’t take credit for the confident, sensitive man he grew into—it’s just who he is, but I did try to make choices that supported his confidence and encouraged his sensitivity.
So when you’re taking your nine-year old granddaughter to her first Broadway play and she insists on wearing jeans instead of the cute dress you bought for her, don’t argue and get frustrated. Remember that although she’s only nine, her opinions matter. Then, smile and hug her and tell her she’s beautiful no matter what she wears.
(These days he doesn’t ask my opinion about his hair cuts!)
I have ordered almost everything from Amazon—toilet paper, English Breakfast Tea, Laura Mercier lip balm, file cabinets, computer cases, bathroom drawer pulls, light bulbs, and so on. One day when all my friends were busy with their busy lives, and I was watching Chicago Fire (or Med or PD), I had a crazy idea. I thought, “what if I could type in ‘friend’ on Amazon and pick the one I wanted and have her shipped to my door?” I told you it was crazy, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
There would be categories like “reads novels obsessively” or “only reads magazines” and “watches reality television” or “watches weekly dramas” and “likes to walk outside in nature” or “likes to sit in the air conditioning and look down at nature from a 17th floor window.” Stuff like that, you know?
But when I compared my ideal friend with my real friends, they had very little in common. Oh, sure, I have friends who watch weekly dramas, but I also have friends who watch reality television or no television at all. I have friends who love novels as much as I do and friends who never read fiction. I have a surprisingly large number of friends who love the outdoors in spite of the fact that I am the “looking out the window” type.
That’s when it occurred to me that what I need most from my friends has nothing to do with common interests. What I need most is someone I can trust—to comfort me when I’m in pain, reassure me when I’m afraid, and celebrate with me when I am blessed with good fortune. Because without trust, how can we ever be truly connected?
What do you value about your friends? And what do you think they value about you?
You do not have to allow everything that comes into your mind to go out of your mouth.
One of the best ways to stop an argument is to stop talking.
Stop blaming yourself every time something goes wrong—no one is that powerful or important.
When someone gives you a compliment, listen—maybe they know what they are talking about.
There are two sides to every story—what is said and what is not said.
Sometimes the most important lesson you teach your child about parenting is what not to do.
My favorite authors? How much time do you have???
I am a compulsive reader (well, I’m also compulsive about sugar, especially cookies, but that’s another matter). I’ll start with authors who have never let me down—I think every book they’ve ever written is brilliant.
Jo-Ann Mapson—delightfully quirky characters—complex, but not complicated. Her stories are page-turners with clever plot twists guaranteed to surprise even the best fiction detectives. (I recommend starting with her first one, Blue Rodeo, because the novels tend to weave in and out of one another.)
A.C. Gaughen—two novels so far, and I thoroughly enjoyed both of them. According to Ms. Gaughen, things in Sherwood Forest were not as we’ve been told.
Sharon Shinn—pure, well-written fantasy. Reading her books is like eating a chocolate sundae with a dozen cherries on top. Her Samaria series is my favorite—winged angels living on earth with humans. But where did they come from?
Adriana Trigiani—ah, Ms. Trigiani, you are a poet disguised as a novelist—every one of your novels is delicious. I want to live in one!
Kristin Hannah—another amazing story teller. Everything about her books is brilliant, but her imagery takes my breath away.
Marisa de los Santos—so smart, so intellectual, but again, not complicated, just complex in a compelling way. I am captivated by her stories and her characters and her gifted use of language.
Jennifer Weiner—Ms. Weiner has my respect and gratitude for tackling one of the biggest monsters in our culture—body image. With their sharp clever dialogue, her characters remind us that tears are born of laughter as well as grief and beauty is not defined by size.
But, enough of my favorites for today—what about yours? Which authors do you love?
I just saw the movie, Hidden Figures, and I am, once again, humbled by the strength of black women. As a middle class protestant white girl, growing up in the south in the fifties and sixties, I was sadly ignorant of the often nightmarish reality faced by “people of color”—black women in particular.
I was one of those lucky white children portrayed in The Help. Like them, I had the incredible good fortune to be cared for by more than one kind and affectionate black woman.
These women hugged me and kissed me and fussed at me when I disobeyed. Of course, I loved them, but did I appreciate them? No more than I appreciated the food my mother cooked or the hours my father worked at his office. However, the time I spent with them taught me more about generosity of spirit and the simple strength of goodness than any other experience in my life. I cannot imagine what it cost them to care for me when their own children were taking care of themselves.
Like the main characters in Hidden Figures, these women suffered the humiliations of segregation and the abuses born of prejudice, but they never stopped singing God’s praises. And, when they laughed, as they frequently did, joy spilled in all directions.
By now I’m sure many of these amazing women have claimed a special place next to God, so I send my small prayer of thanks for His great goodness in sharing them with me, and hope they will hear how well they are remembered.