Saturday, September 28, 2013

Interacting with Yesteryear

I visited with my mother Thursday. Actually it is probably not correct to say that we visited. She has Alzheimer’s and has not known me for over two years. But I was there. We were in each other’s presence. The last two times I saw her she lay in a semi-sleep and barely said a word. But today she talked constantly. Some of her words were intelligible. Sometimes she could string 6 or 7 words together in the right order. I sat by her side and listened to her for an hour and a half. I tried to decipher a little of what might be going on in her mind. It was as if a reel to reel recording was being played over and over inside of her. She is part of the recording and she is interacting with the characters and verbalizing her part of the recording. The recording is obviously worn and it skips a lot. And from what I can pick up she changes to different reels at times. I make a few feeble attempts to let her know I am there but I cannot release her from the recording that has become a reality within her. So I give up and just listen. From what I can tell the recording she is interacting with took place sometime in her early adulthood. Once I heard her refer to her two kids. If she just had two, one of them would have been me. Once I heard her cite an antiquated phone # 550-J. I am left to wonder whose phone # that might have been. Finally it is time for me to go. I tell her goodbye. I tell her I love her. I kiss her on the forehead. I leave saddened but thankful. I had not heard my mother groan or moan or scream. I had simply witnessed her interact with a reality of a yesteryear. She seemed content in that reality.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Story Snaps the Picture

One of the most wondrous benefits of a story is that hearing a story might bring from our mind and soul a story of our own. Yesterday I shared a story about the now disconnected phone numbers that had belonged to my parents. Hearing that story my Uncle George, my mother’s younger brother, remembered a story about my mother.

My mother at age 20 had just graduated from junior college and obtained a job as a one room country school teacher. She was still living at home and wanted to use part of her new income to help the family. So she had a phone line put in. It was the first phone the family ever had. George recalls that the phone # was 865-W. To make a call you simply picked up the receiver and a real live operator would make the desired connection for you. It seems that mother also bought new living room furniture for her mom that year and at Christmas time bought a present for every member of the family right down to the tiniest niece and nephew. That was not a small feat since my mother had 10 siblings most of whom would have been married with children by that time. Uncle George remembers helping my mother wrap the gifts at the kitchen table and recalls how proud she was of herself and how happy she was to be able to do that. That would have been perfectly in character for my mother but I had never heard the story before. I am so glad my uncle shared that story because it gave me a slice of my mother’s life I would not have had otherwise. It enabled me to see my mother through a different lens. I saw a picture of her as a young single 20 year old three years before I was born. I can see her smiling face amidst a mound of Christmas presents on the kitchen table. That is a beautiful picture. A camera could not catch that picture but the story did.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Disconnected Phone Numbers

(502) 863-3615 was the phone number my parents were assigned when they moved to Georgetown, KY.  They lived in Georgetown for 42 years – from August 1964 through late October 2006. Their residence changed six times over that span of time but the phone number remained the same 502-863-3615. I had that number memorized. Still do. If someone asked for my phone number I could rattle it off 502-863-3615. I have dialed that number thousands of times. That’s the number I dialed growing up if I was going to be home later than usual. It is the number I dialed after each commute I made to college just to give mom peace of mind. It is the number I dialed when I announced that I was getting married. It is the number I dialed when I told my parents they were going to be grandparents (and again, and again). It is the number I dialed to announce the birth of those grandchildren and to tell my eager parents the names of those new grandchildren. It is the number my parents called me from often to ask “when are you coming home”? And it is the number the calls came from to tell me about some crisis for which I needed to come home. That number was disconnected in October of 2006 when my parents moved to Blacksburg, Virginia to be near my brother and his family. I loaded their possessions on a Ryder truck and as I drove away in the big yellow truck I remember thinking that I would never call that number again. Indeed an era had ended. Soon (502) 863-3615 would be assigned to someone else. I have been tempted a few times to dial that number just to see who would answer. Each time I have squelched the temptation.

Not long after moving to Blacksburg my parents became cell phone only customers. I never bothered to memorize their new number. I did not need to. I simply stored the number in my phone under the title Dadmom. Mom’s illness gradually eroded her ability to use a phone so it was always Dad who carried the phone and answered. Over the past seven years I have either called or received calls from that number probably on average of 3 times a week. Yet I had to check the contacts in my phone in order to actually know the number (540) 558-8150. I am not sure what would happen today if I were to dial that number. Perhaps I would get my Dad’s voice mail. More than likely I would get notification that the number had been disconnected or was no longer in service. Soon that number will be assigned to someone else. My Dad died 13 days ago. I sure am missing the phone calls. An era has ended. I guess it is time to delete that number from my contacts list. Maybe I will do that tomorrow. Maybe.

Monday, September 16, 2013

An Old Family Seat

My Great-Great Grandfather George Cloyd owned the first horse drawn mowing machine in Laurel County, KY. I am not sure how long the useful life of the mowing machine lasted but I am in possession of the cast iron seat that came with it. My grandfather found the seat to be more comfortable than those on the other horse drawn implements he farmed with so he would exchange the seat from one piece of machinery to another. My Dad remembered using the seat himself as a young boy growing up. By the time I came along we had long since ceased using horse drawn equipment. But my Dad wanted the seat to keep as a family heirloom. I remember going with him to retrieve it. It was attached at the time to a horse drawn hay rake. We unfastened it and took it home. Dad painted it and mounted it on the deck at the back of the house. I acquired it about 15 years ago and a few years back I got Jeanette’s Uncle George to mount it in a suitable and usable fashion. I have sat in it a few times. And my children have taken their turns lounging in it as well. Frankly, it is not that comfortable. I am glad I never had to use that seat in the course of day’s work. In one sense its significance is ornamental. But I treasure it for its historical and sentimental value. It has been in the family for six generations. In that span of time there have been a lot of Cloyd bottoms in it.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Ice Water Baptism

My Dad received Christ as his savior in his 21st year on this earth. A short time before he and my mother were married he waded into a farm pond with a country preacher and farmer that everyone affectionately called Preacher Kirby. It was January. There was a thin skim of ice on the pond. That day in front of a crowd of witnesses and at least one camera he was baptized “buried in the likeness of Christ’s death and raised to walk in the newness of Christ’s life”. This week we buried my Dad’s body beneath yellow Kentucky clay. But absent from that body he was already living in the presence of Christ.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Preaching Shoes and Son Shoes

Today I preached my father’s funeral. I did it because he requested that I do so. But I did it at my own insistence. If the task had to be done then the task belonged to me. But in order to do this task I had to put on my preaching shoes. So I put on my preaching shoes and laced them up real tight. And for the past four days the responsibility of preaching my father’s funeral has consumed me. Today I delivered the thoughts that had been burning on my heart. I hope my words helped others. I found catharsis in the experience.

But now I have to take my preaching shoes off. I had them laced pretty tight. This afternoon I put on my son shoes. I drove around town and took a look at the various places we lived and the places we used to go. I drove back to the cemetery. I read my Dad’s name on the tombstone. I picked up a handful of the barren clay under which my father’s body is buried. I crumbled the clay in my hand until it soiled my fingers and palm. I am going to miss you Dad. I am going to miss you bad. Son shoes are a lot harder to wear than preaching shoes.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Loss of a Great Friend

Yesterday I wrote in good humor about saying goodbye to my old friend Flip Phone. Today I am mourning the loss of a really great friend. My new phone rang this morning at 8:45 CT. My brother was calling and the news he bore broke my heart. He called to tell me that our dad, Larry Cloyd, had died this morning of an apparent heart attack. The news was not surprising. My dad was 79 and suffered with numerous illnesses. I usually spoke with him 2-3 times a week. We spoke for the last time this past Saturday morning. I was sitting in the Dairy Queen restaurant and “Flip Phone” rang. Like always dad said “tell me some news”. I did not have much news to tell him. We did not talk long. He seemed tired. Now he is gone. So today with fragile mind and voice I have been calling and texting and emailing my brothers and sisters. We are planning a celebration of my dad’s life. Why not? We have something to celebrate. We had a good dad who loved his family and provided for them. We grew up watching a man who worked hard and lived honestly. We got to observe a man of faith who lived his life with generosity and pursuing what was right. So on this coming Sunday afternoon Sept. 8 from 2:00 -5:00 PM we will gather at the Tucker-Yocum-Wilson Funeral Home in Georgetown, KY to receive friends and family and to laugh and talk and remember the life of my dad Larry Cloyd. The next day, Monday Sept. 9 at 10:00 AM we will gather at the Buck Run Baptist Church near Frankfort, KY for a funeral service. I will be speaking at that service. I will do that with honor and at my father’s request. There will be tears and there will be sadness but there will also be rejoicing not only in a life well lived but in the eternity that my father now enjoys. So if you knew my dad, come help us as we share memories and celebrate.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

An Outdated Friend

I said goodbye to an old friend today. For over three years this friend has been securely by my side, snuggled in the left pocket of my pants. Before this friend there were others like her, simple and dependable, yet able to connect me to friends, family, and even a few foes at a moments notice. All I had to do was get this friend out of my pocket, flip open her cover, press a few buttons, and miraculously I could talk to people who were far away as if they were standing right beside me. This friend never had a name, so I will just call her what she was. Flip phone. Her color was black but the years of riding against the cotton, and wool and polyester of my pant pockets and constantly being dinged by coins and keys and soiled with dirt and sweat had left her partially white or at least a dingy gray. She no longer held a charge very well, her contract was long ago up, and my continued association with her was causing others to think me ancient and out of touch. So today I traded her in. Yep, I got all of a $5.00 credit on my next bill. I embraced the future and left the Verizon store with a new I Phone. I am not to sure about my new friend just yet. I guess we will eventually get along ok but right now I am still trying to figure out how to flip her open so I can get to the key pad.

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