Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | August 28, 2019

Encounter Beside The Road

I helped a guy today who was riding his bicycle to work and had a flat tire on the bike path in front of my house.

forest bike bulls

Photo by Philipp M on Pexels.com

I was outside working on the lawn near the road, and he asked if I had a compressor with a new-type valve inflator that he could use. I told him I did not have that type of valve inflator, and he thanked me and continued on his way.

I stopped him about 20 feet later and said, “Hey where do you work?” He said about a half-mile away, just around the corner, at the foundry. I told him that my bike rack was still on the back of the car, and that I will load up his bike and give him a ride to work. He was grateful.

As we travelled to his workplace, we talked a bit, and he happened to mention that he just got out of the service. We arrived at work, unloaded his bike, and he thanked me for a big favor as he thought he was going to be late for work for sure. I told him that I like to help people out whenever I can, and I would hope that folks would do the same thing for my wife and kids if they ever needed assistance. Then I thanked him for his service to our country.

As he was walking away, I saw the back of his shirt. It read: “Operation Enduring Freedom.” In that moment, I realized that it was “he” who had done “me” the great favor, one that I could never repay. I think in the end that he was as much or more of a blessing to me today then I was to him.

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Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | June 9, 2019

A Little Birthday Soul-Searching

Dear Mom,

Today is your birthday. Last year, we celebrated with a small cake and a card or two. The highlight of our evening together was your youngest great-grandson blowing out the candles with you, all the way from Texas, through a modern miracle of technology–video chat.

Not long after celebrating your 81st birthday, God summoned you at the time he had appointed from before the creation of earth. It was much too soon for those of us who love and cherish you. But it was His timing for you. I’m sure He looked down from heaven and saw the great pain and suffering that you had been enduring for many months, and which you were so willing to endure for the sake of your husband, your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. And he said, “Enough!”

So you were gently taken on angels’ wings to your new, eternal home—a place where there is no more pain, no more suffering, no more struggles, no more fears, no more tears. And you rest now in the arms of your loving Savior where someday we, your family, will also rest and rejoice in the work of our Lord and commune with you once again.

Mom, I did not know how deep human grief and loss could be before we lost you that night. I wonder everyday how things might have been different, how I might have been able to change this outcome. “What ifs” haunt my soul. But I know that God’s will and work always prevail, and “what was” is “what was destined” to be.

Mom, on the night you passed to your new life, Venus shone as brightly as I’ve ever see it in the clear summer sky. I took it as a sign from God that all was OK and as it should be. It was a small comfort to me as I drove those few short miles to do the hardest thing that I’ve ever done in my life: break the news to Dad that you where no longer here with us.

Mom, I love you more than I could ever adequately express in a few feeble words . But I believe you are at peace and at rest today in a land far away, awaiting our arrival, where our great reunion will be filled with love, and hugs, and celebration, and joy, all far exceeding our understanding today and our meager attempts to convey with pen and paper.

Rest in peace, Mom. I love you. Until we see you again.

Love,

Your Son, Mike

Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | September 28, 2018

A Phone Call From Heaven

I received a phone call from my mom a while back. I picked up the phone and, without a moment’s hesitation, she started talking to me. It was clear that she was very anxious to speak. I don’t remember those first words, but I was both thrilled and confused to hear her voice. I interrupted her and said, “Mom, where are you calling from?” Without skipping a beat she replied, “I think I’m in heaven. And it’s beautiful!”

I was thrilled because anytime I hear my mom’s voice these days, it is a special experience. Confused because Mom passed away earlier this summer.

Of course, this was just a dream. But I was so startled that I abruptly woke up. At least two hours past before I fell back to sleep.

In the weeks following this dream, Mom has appeared in several other dreams. I’ve begun to recognize that I’m dreaming while I’m still in these dreams. But it doesn’t matter. They are so vivid, so real, and her voice so authentic and clear, that I just want to stay in each dream as long as I can, to converse with mom, to touch her, to hug her, and to tell her over and over that I love her.

Short of heaven, my dreams are as close to mom as I will ever be again. In that respect, my dreams are among God’s most precious gifts to me. I will cherish every one of these wondrous gifts.

What is left of mom on this earth are photos, the few physical things that were hers, the years of precious memories that I and so many others have of her, and the treasured dreams that I’ve had the past few months. And then there is the anticipation of many more dreams to come as the months and years stretch on ahead.

I now await my dreams with great expectation. And my dreams await me.

Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | April 13, 2018

Measure Of Success

On a cold, rainy, miserable afternoon in Michigan, i.e., a normal April day, a young man’s thoughts turn to  baseball, street racing, and other, even more exciting pursuits.  Since I am not a young man, my thoughts turn to old-guy technology conundrums.

Thus, I would like to share Mike’s solutions for solving phone freezes, slow downs, and other issues. These solutions have been developed over many years of trial and error, blood, sweat, tears, and “ah ha” moments. Take each step in order. If one doesn’t work, move on to the next one.  You are guaranteed success–if not with steps one and two, then certainty with step three.

So here we go.  How to solve most any phone issue:

1. Shut down the phone. If that doesn’t work, then

2. Rip the battery out. Do this with conviction! And do it, preferably, with an audience. If that doesn’t work, then

3. Drive a stake through it!

If you end up working through the last step, it may not solve the problem. But it will definitely make you feel better about the whole situation.  And that is my measure for success!

Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | March 7, 2018

105 Years

Grandma and MikeI visited my grandmother’s grave today–as I do most years on her birthday.  She would have been 105.  We lost her in 2011 at the age of 98.

A long life such as hers has many advantages, especially for one who can maintain his or her health.  Grandma was active until the moment she died.  The day of her death, she walked from her apartment a couple of city blocks or more to the nearby Meijer store.  After doing some shopping, she walked back toward her house and stopped at a Burger King along the way for lunch.  Apparently, it was a typical Tuesday for her.  She was found late that afternoon by a neighbor.  She had collapsed in her bedroom, her coat still on and her shopping bag nearby.

It is often said of a person that he or she lived life on his or her own terms.  This was certainly true of my grandmother.  She lived alone and independent the last 30 years of her life.  She was an active senior citizen and fully engaged with her apartment community, her church, and her family.  She took a huge interest in her children and grandchildren, and was so proud of every one of their accomplishments–she was her family’s number one cheerleader.  Certainly, her family was her life.

Grandma was the family historian, telling stories of relatives and family life from years long gone.  She left a wealth of notes, letters, and newspaper clippings related to family members and friends.  I have the privilege to be the steward of much of this memorabilia, including the personal writings of her grandmother, Angela Matilda Donne Gibson.  She is the reason that I know so much about my paternal ancestors going back to Angela Gibson’s forebear, the great poet John Donne, who lived in the 16th and 17th centuries.

A few years ago, I did a series of video interviews with grandma in which she vividly and colorfully recalled some of the most interesting times of the early 20th century.  These videos are a family treasure today.

Grandma loved board games, she loved reading, and in her 80s and 90s she learned to use a computer, kept up with email, and had a Facebook page.  The Facebook page still lingers today.

It is said that those who remain in our memories never really die.  Grandma will, of course, remain in my memory for the rest of my life, and in the memories of my children and two of my grandchildren (her great great grandchildren) as well.  And as the years pass, as we relay stories of grandma to generations that follow, no doubt a part of her will remain alive here on earth for many years to come.

Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | October 31, 2017

Legend

Sleepy HollowThere was something in the moody and dogged silence of this pertinacious companion that was mysterious and appalling.  It was soon fearfully accounted for. On mounting a rising ground, which brought the figure of his fellow-traveler in relief against the sky, gigantic in height, and muffled in a cloak, Ichabod was horror-struck on perceiving that he was headless!—but his horror was still more increased, on observing that the head, which should have rested on his shoulders, was carried before him on the pommel of his saddle . . .

from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Washington Irving.

Autumn is the season of ghosts and goblins, of witches and witch’s brews, and of all manner of supernatural goings-on.  Halloween is in October for a reason.  As October keeps its annual appointment, nights begin to chill and leaves begin to turn their familiar hues of browns and yellows and reds.  Evenings shimmer in ever-earlier twilight; sullen smoke from a warming campfire rises in the distance on the edge of a woods.  The disturbed rustling of leaves in a barely-moving breeze—faintly illuminated by the clear, cold moonlit sky—somehow commands a greater attention at the crest of autumn than it would on a midsummer night’s evening.  It is at this time of the year that one finds himself in this land between the living and not-so-living, between the real and the imagined.  He may wrestle with unaccounted-for trepidation—perhaps outright fear—gripping his soul in a manner only possible in this season of unrelenting decay and unyielding march toward the dead of winter.

It is while thoroughly embedded in this backdrop that I took a long walk the other evening.  With the sun setting so much earlier now than just a few weeks ago, it is quickly becoming impossible to do the things I most love to do—things that require daylight hours well into the evening, namely kayaking and bicycle riding.  The kayaking is all but gone now, though I will extend it as far as I can into the shoulder season.  By November, my bicycle riding will be consigned to weekend afternoons, at least for as long as the weather holds out.  With any luck, I may be able to ride up to Thanksgiving.  In any case, I am slowly becoming resigned to the evening outdoor walk, the exercise of desperate last resort.

So I found myself walking along a country road that eventually lead me to a foreboding, unlit bicycle path.  The path rambled on for a couple of miles through an area of thinly-spread structures and sparse human habitation.  About half-way into the evening’s trek, I came upon a wooden bridge that traversed a nearly-forbidding marsh—a lowland of odious hospitality.  The bridge was long and narrow with vertical-slat railings on both sides; it had barely enough room for two bikes to pass in opposite directions.  On this evening, though, I was all alone—no bikes or walkers or joggers to be found anywhere.

As I started out across the bridge, my thoughts ran to Sleepy Hollow and Washington Irving’s vivid description of the headless horseman.  I had already stepped onto the bridge, affirming my commitment to cross it; so I continued on, quickening my pace and finding myself glancing over my shoulder with a neurotic frequency.  In my mind’s eye, I imagined the headless horseman at the foot of the bridge.  He sat upon the largest black horse I had ever seen.  Steam billowed from the horse’s nostrils, filling the evening’s cool air around the four-footed beast’s head.  The horse was chomping on his bit, barely restrained as he anticipated the command from his master to charge forward onto the bridge to terrorize the unfortunate soul that lay before him.

Of course, this scene played out only in the depths of my imagination.  The reality was that I never saw the headless horseman that night.  In spite of my preoccupation with him, he would have to wait for my dreams to make his horrific appearance.  However, the truth is that I did keep glancing over my shoulder as I crossed the bridge as quickly as possible.  For one never knows when his imagination may get the best of him!

Originally posted in October of 2010.  I thought it was worth a repeat.

Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | September 27, 2017

Extended Summer

paddlingIt’s been a while since my last post.  So much is happening these days, and so little time to write any of it down.  We’ve enjoyed a week of unseasonably high temperatures—it has been, in fact, a bona fide heat wave!  We’ve had day upon day of 90 degree-plus temperatures—and in September!  That rarely happens even in July in Western Michigan.

With all of this great summer weather, you would think I’d be spending my waking hours out in the “Banana” (my little yellow kayak).  In fact, I just yesterday got out on the water for the very first time in September.  Two things have conspired against me this month.  First, the weather has been almost too hot and humid to want to go.  In July, I’d suck it up and load the wilting Banana atop my little SUV and make a mad dash to the water.  After all, you expect to contend with heat and humidity in July.  But somehow, it just doesn’t seem right in September.  I found myself, instead, waiting for cooler, autumn-type kayaking conditions (you know, “normal” weather for fall).

The second thing is a little bit beyond the whims of a persnickety old paddler.  I injured my right hand two weeks ago yesterday, spraining the base of my thumb, I think.  I was doing some out-of-ordinary work with my hands and noticed after about three hours that my hand was really beginning to hurt.  After four hours, I was in a great deal of pain, and I knew that something was up when the base of the thumb swelled to around three times its normal size.  I iced it that evening, and bought a thumb support-wrap for it the next day.  I figured I’d give it a few days.  It was nearly constant pain for the next three or four days, but I could tell things were improving by the day, if only a little bit.  I just had to be patient.

Fast forward two weeks: the patience was gone; it would be the last day of the heat and humidity; my kayak was calling to me like a son calling from deep in the woods for his dad to come rescue him.  So it was on!—messed up hand and all.  I rescued the Banana from its mooring on my garage wall and away we went.  Aside from the struggle getting the kayak up on and down from the SUV—which involved substituting my right hand for an elbow and forearm—things went well.  I may have a few weeks to completely heal up, but I’m back.  Extended summer is over.  Bring on the fall!

 

Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | November 3, 2016

1908

cubs-winWith the Cubs win of this year’s World Series, there have been a lot of perspectives offered concerning the passage of time, and what was here then, and gone now. For example, Mark Twain was still alive in 1908, the last time the Cubs won it all. Teddy Roosevelt was president, and Grover Cleveland–born in 1837–died that year.
 
I got to thinking about this in a more personal sense, and was amazed to realize that my Grandfather was a boy of 7 in 1908. He has been gone for 25 years now, having passed on at the age of 89.
 
Even more interesting: in 1908, it would still be another 5 years before my grandmother would be born, and she passed away 5 years ago this month–at the age of 98!
 
1908 was a long time ago.
Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | March 2, 2016

The Great Cake Debate

cakeboxWell, so we had a big cake box sitting on the kitchen counter, ready to be thrown out. There were a few crumbs and some nice big globs of frosting left–exactly the type of BLTs (bites, licks, and tastes) that you can eat and not need to count. Free! Right?

I confess that I was tempted to taste just a little bit. But why? The smell of sugar normally puts me off these days. As I folded the cardboard box, preparing it for the garbage bag, I repeated several times: “All sugar; sugar bad; sugar poison.”

The whole thing is now safely tucked into the trash can outside. It is safe from me now. I won’t attack food that is in the trash. I know that much about myself.

Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | February 10, 2016

Snuggles Blowing In With Gusts Of Kisses – Best Weather Forecast Ever!

cocoaI have one special daughter.  Actually, I have two special daughters—they take turns being especially special.  My school-teacher daughter had a snow day today and reported her personal weather forecast for the day as she was cozily tucked into the warmth of home and family.  Here it is.  I love it!

Snow Day Forecast: 100% chance of mommy time with occasional flurries of joy and silliness. Hot cocoa in the high temps with a swirl of marshmallow splashes. Snuggles blowing in with gusts of kisses.

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