Friday, March 24, 2017
Last night, I cooked chicken on the grill. It was delicious and there were no complaints from any of the three, which is a rarity. I cook a lot of chicken and everyone is apparently sick of it but for me.
In the middle of the meal, middle jumped up and ran across the room with a terrified look on his face His hands went to his throat in the international symbol for "I'm choking on your cursed chicken, Dad!" I stood up, reviewing the Heimlich maneuver in my head while speaking to him calmly in an attempt to ease his panic. I saw that he was breathing, so I put my hand on his shoulder and looked into his eyes. "You're breathing, buddy. Everything is going to be OK."
"I've got a bone in my throat." I resisted the urge to tell him it was no wonder with the wolfing of food he and his older brother do. Instead, I led him to the kitchen and pulled a piece of bread off the loaf.
"Here. Chew this well and swallow."
"It'll push the bone down." It's a trick I learned from my Mom as a child. We ate a lot of whole, fried fish and bones in the throat were a common occurrence. He took the bread and chewed it carefully before swallowing. Within seconds, his face lit up and he grabbed me. It was the biggest hug he has ever given me, by far.
"Thank you, Dad."
I didn't reply. I just hugged him back.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
It has been over five years since I wrote a blog post. I have written part of a book (or two) and probably 300 short stories since then. Five years ago, the youngest had not started kindergarten and it felt as though it was going to take forever to get her there. Now, she is tall, wears glasses and cool boots, talks about Undertale and wants to become a veterinarian.
In the class e-mail today, Mrs. C informed the parents the children have earned a treat due to their exemplary fourth-gradeiness. They want to be allowed to bring a stuffed animal and a pillow to school for reading time. My girl set hers aside this morning before school in anticipation of taking it tomorrow. My tall, strong, big-mouthed, independent girl wants to take her tiger and pillow to school.
It has taken a million forevers to get to this blink in time, where she is frozen in my mind as still my little girl, snuggling down on her pillow and reading with her tiger beside her. It is just a pillow, but she is not just any little girl.
**Edit**She was almost late for the bus today as she could not stuff the pillow she wanted to take into her bag. She asked if she could take on e of the smaller ones from the couch and my initial response was, "We don't have time." Luckily, I paused and remembered my vow from many years ago that I would always say "yes" when she asked to ride in the spaceship grocery cart because every kid should be able to ride in the spaceship. So, I picked a pillow and stuffed it in the bag for her and we made the bus stop with seconds to spare.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
“He got tall though didn’t he? Made all-state in basketball as a senior.”
“I know who he is. I didn’t stop listening to music with Led Zeppelin you know.”
“Only because you picked good ones, sweet pea.”
“I don’t know which Daddy you were watching. I’ve had a lot of struggles and fought myself a good bit over the years.”
She smiled and drank from her cup.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Monday, October 03, 2011
You know what makes me laugh? A squirrel falling out of a tree. I mean really falling: thirty feet at least. I have only seen it once. I was at ECU in a park-like common area in the lower campus near Umstead when I noticed two squirrels giving each other hell about something. They were both on the ground about a foot apart, jawing back and forth over an acorn or a Nab someone had dropped. All of sudden, one took off up the closest tree with the other one right on his tail. They went around three times on the way and three more on the way down before hitting the ground and running to the next big tree in line where they proceeded to twirl their way up to the lowest branches. There were a few jumps between limbs and I lost sight of them as the leaves were in, but I could see the movement and hear the scritch-scratching of their little claws as they tunneled through the foliage. Then, one of them burst from the coverage and headed out a big white oak limb. The other took a moment to find his bearings before starting pursuit on the same piece of wood. Before the second could gain any distance, the inexplicable happened. I thought squirrels were the most sure-footed little furry SOB's there were. What, with their scurrying around on telephone wires and thin ledges of buildings and all. This fellow though, must have gotten into the Sunday morning trash behind Umstead and been a little unsteady on his feet. It was a long way away, but I swear I saw his foot slip off the limb right before he fell the distance of a first down to the ground. I fancied I heard a little cry of ,” craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap.”
When he hit, he bounced. Just a little. Then he was still for a heartbeat before popping up and heading straight to and up the tree he and his nemesis had climbed seconds before, apparently none the worse for wear.
I lost track of the second one and assumed he skidded to a safe stop before tipping his cap to the daredevil who was willing to go to such lengths. I went back every once in awhile for the rest of the year with a pack of crackers ready to throw down as bait. If there had been YouTube back then, it could have been the rodent version of Bum Wars and you could share in my mirth. For while I get no pleasure of watching two lonely alcoholics duke it out, you trade them in for squirrels with slippery feet and you've got a pocket full of laughs.
Monday, June 06, 2011
The British had gained control of the air and the Russians were making huge strides to the east. America had been gearing up in Europe and had landed in Italy while hopping islands in the Pacific. On the night of June 5, 1944, a 19 year old Sergeant from South Carolina prepared to jump into France with his colleagues from the 82 Airborne Division.
I wonder if Uncle John Lloyd is in any of those photos you see of Ike visiting the paratroops the eve before D-Day. I wonder why he volunteered to switch companies and jump, as his unit was not scheduled to. Was he embarrassed he had been stricken with appendicitis soon after jumping into Sicily? He had already been through about the most rigorous training the Army had to offer. He had nothing to prove to anyone but himself. I wonder how my Dad felt on the day the Western Union man came to the door, fifteen years old and losing his favorite brother so soon after losing his Father in a train accident. How did Granny handle it? I know she turned to prayer and belief in God's will. Is that the time Dad lost his faith?
John Lloyd had not been home since he had left over two years before. I suppose he wrote letters as that is what you always see in the old movies. Today, the troops are able to keep in touch through blogs and cell phones. Imagine someone having to call home from the belly of a C-47.
"No, I can talk. The light is still red."
"Yeah. We're about to jump. Don't worry. It's what we've been trained to do."
" I said don't worry. Alright, every body's standing up, I've got to go."
"Yes. I have it all. Kiss the kids. The light's green. I love you.""
I wonder about the last time my Dad spoke with him. What did John Lloyd tell him when he left? To take care of their Mother? Uncle Monk was joined up and gone by then. Uncle George was blind. Two of the three girls were already grown and out of the home. The young teen was going to be the only sighted male in the house for awhile.
My youngest Aunt was seventeen and was too busy to go to the prayer meeting at Ebenezer Church on June 5, 1944. She went out with her friends instead. To this day, she feels ashamed she was not there to pray for the troops and her brother. It's silly to think that way of course, but she still speaks bitterly of herself when she remembers that day sixty-seven years ago.
He was first buried in a temporary grave in the days after the invasion. Later, the family had a choice to bring his body home for burial as many so chose to do. They decided to allow him to remain where he fell, a solemn marble cross marking his final resting place alongside thousands of others. Granny never saw his grave. I don't know if she ever flew in her life. Her faith told her she would see her boy again. Whole. Healthy. Shining that sly smile that runs in that side of the family. The smile I see on my oldest already.
There are photos of the temporary grave. Uncle Monk must have been able to find it during his time there. In the Ardennes, he ran into members of John Lloyd's unit. They spoke fondly of their fallen comrade, but there was other work still to do.
The other children made the trip over the years, some more than once, finding tangible proof of their family's sacrifice noted in a peaceful field overlooking the Channel. One day I will make that journey with my kids. I plan to sit and talk to him. Then, I'll probably pull them all close to me and hug them fiercely, as I am sure Granny did with John Lloyd when he left Florence County for the last time in 1942. As I am sure she would have given almost anything to do so again every day for the next thirty-six years.
From The State Newspaper
"John Lloyd Johnson Jr., of Florence, was a sergeant in the 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment. His brother, W.W. Johnson, of West Columbia, visited his grave at Normandy for the first time on Memorial Day last year. 'It affected me more than I expected that it would,” he said. “I was 15 when he died. He was my older brother, and he was my hero.'”
John L. Johnson, Jr.
Sergeant, U.S. Army
Entered the Service from: South Carolina
Buried at: Plot F Row 21 Grave 28
Normandy American Cemetery
Awards: Purple Heart
Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!
You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward
which we have striven these many months. The eyes of
the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving
people everywhere march with you. In company with
our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts,
you will bring about the destruction of the German war
machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed
peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is
well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened.
He will fight savagely.
But this is the year I944 ! Much has happened since the
Nazi triumphs of I940-4I. The United Nations have inflicted
upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle,
man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced
their strength in the air and their capacity to wage
overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of
war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained
fighting men. The tide has turned ! The free men of
the world are marching together to Victory !
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to
duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less
than full Victory !
Good Luck ! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty
God upon this great and noble undertaking."Yes. I have it all. Kiss the kids. The light's green. I love you."
Thursday, March 10, 2011
"What are you doing," I asked, somewhat annoyed as I had been quietly reading.
"I am a vampire. I am going to suck your blood," Ms. Greer replied.
"If you are a vampire, you have super-human strength, right?"
"Of course I do"
"Well then, pick me up."
She wrapped her arms around me and strained. I could tell she was trying with all her might, but I just would not budge. "Anytime now," I implored her, knowing that she was about at the point of giving up.
She released me and looked down, resignation etched into her face. 'Go sit down." I said. Her shoulders drooped as she turned and returned to her seat, still thirsty. I returned to my reading. Only after waking in the morning did I realize this story could have ended so differently in the hands of another, more talented dreamer. Maybe if I send it to Showtime after Dark . . .