Published in the Rains County Leader on April 14, 2022:
Last week was a hard one, not so much for me personally, but for several people who are important to me. A friend lost a long-fought battle with cancer, a family member was unjustly accused of scandalous behavior, a sweet young lady lost her first love, and a friend who is normally the life of the party is suffering through a bout of depression. As if that weren’t enough, we’re entering the week on the Christian calendar during which we remember the betrayal, death, and burial of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In deciding what to share this week, my thoughts drifted back to a time when my own son experienced what the doctor called a psychotic depression. To paraphrase the opening line from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, it was the worst of times, but it ended up being the best of times. Following is an excerpt from my first memoir about a special day during that time:
My heart ached as I watched this brilliant young man, who was always going, doing, thinking, or creating, do little more than exist. Day after day, wearing baggy shorts, a t-shirt, and a baseball cap, he sat in front of the TV until I came home from work. His long, blond hair that was normally meticulously washed and brushed became stringy and oily, and more often than not, he forgot to eat. He lost weight and began to look severely emaciated. His normally erect posture became slumped and downcast. He visited with Dr. E periodically and took the various medications he prescribed, looking for the magic combination that would break the bonds that held him in his pit. I continued to pray.
Today is the 100th anniversary of Elmer Loyd Robinson’s birth. In honor of the occasion, I’m reposting the first blog post I wrote on July 20, 2011.
Daddy was a simple man. I don’t mean that he wasn’t smart. Quite the opposite. He was valedictorian of his high school graduating class, and he was great at helping me with my homework. He could figure out how to fix or build anything. When he worked for the Post Office, he could quote the manual verbatim and knew where every Texas town was located, no matter how small. But his needs and wants were simple, and he sometimes didn’t understand the complexities of the modern world. He didn’t leave behind a collection of awards and trophies or a big estate, but he left behind a legacy of peace and love that will live for a long time.
Daddy was hard to buy for because he didn’t need much to be happy. If he had a pair of shoes for work and another for Sunday, he didn’t see the need of another pair for his birthday. He didn’t understand why Givenchy for Men was better than Aqua Velva or Old Spice, and the stylish shirts and sweaters he received for Christmas or Father’s Day hung in the back of his closet while he wore his favorite button-up plaid shirts. He played golf with a set of used clubs, and he docked his used fishing boat at a dock he built with his own hands. The most excited I ever saw him about a gift was Christmas of 1957. We had a brand new Plymouth, maybe the first new car he ever owned. In those days, outside rear-view mirrors were an accessory, and one on each side was a real luxury. That year Jim and I pooled our money and bought Daddy a matching pair of chrome rear-view mirrors. He opened the present with a half-smile that said, Oh, goody, another pair of shoes, but when he saw the glitter of chrome, he broke into a real smile. When he saw the second mirror, he absolutely beamed.
Published in the Rains County Leader on July 20, 2021:
David and I have experienced several homecomings of sorts recently, and I had a very special one this past week. The word homecoming usually brings to mind a soldier returning from the war or the annual celebration held by many schools in honor of former students.However, the dictionary also defines the word as “the return of a group of people usually on a special occasion to a place formerly frequented or regarded as home.”
David’s middle sister Sharon invited us to celebrate the Fourth of July with her and their younger sister Deb and brother-in-law Jesse. Sharon lives in the house previously owned by their parents in West Monroe, Louisiana. We normally visit two or three times a year, but we had not seen his family since March of 2020, just before the shutdown. Even though David only lived in that house for three months before he went into the Navy, after such a long absence, our visit there definitely felt like a homecoming.
When we arrived home on July 8, we learned that the Senior Center was re-opening for in-house lunch service on July 12. The Center is called the Rains County Senior Nutrition Program, but it is about so much more than food. Many Center clients, especially those who live alone, have little other social contact than the time they spend with friends around the tables there. And even those of us who are not so lonely look on the eclectic lunch group more as family than simply friends. The re-opening of the Center was a homecoming for all of us.
Published in the Rains County Leader on June 15, 2021:
My father has been in Heaven for ten years, but I still miss him and think about him a lot. He’s especially on my mind in June when there is so much emphasis on fathers, so in honor of the special day we just celebrated, I want to share some of my favorite memories of the man I called Daddy.
I was Daddy’s girl, especially when I was little. When he went anywhere, I wanted to go with him. In the time before seat belts and child seats, he was my child restraint system. I remember standing beside him, tucked “safely” behind his right shoulder. As shocking as that may be to our safety conscious society, I felt completely safe and lovingly protected.
Another of my favorite memories is something that today’s children, strapped and restrained as they are, will never experience. From time to time, he would let me sit in his lap and drive the car. Of course, all I was doing was holding onto the steering wheel while he continued to be in complete control. Still, it was fun, it was a great confidence builder, and it was great practice for my later life as a Christian when I finally realized who is really in control.
I loved going to work with Daddy. The first job I remember was at a lumber yard, and when Mom would take his lunch to him, my brother Jim and I would go climb on the stacks of lumber. Later, he took a job at the Post Office, and he sometimes picked me up from school. While he cased his mail for the next day, I’d sit on a stool at a work table and practice my letters or put my fingers through the air holes in the crates of baby chicks and pet their fuzzy yellow feathers. I’m sure we broke lots of OSHA and Federal regulations, but being a real part of his life was worth being a bit of an outlaw.
A friend once told me that, when God made me, He forgot to put in the higher gears. I’m not sure exactly what she meant, but perhaps she was referring to my tendency to nod off in either a car or a church. In the early years, as soon as the sermon began, I put my head in Daddy’s lap and went to sleep. Sometimes, though, I stayed awake and sat in his lap. I amused myself, and totally ruined his ability to concentrate, by playing with his tie. I would begin at the bottom, roll it up to the knot, and release it. After it rolled out to its full length, I repeated the process. Maybe that’s why, for every gift-giving occasion, I gave him a tie.
When I was five, we moved into a house where I had my own bedroom. Until then, I had slept in a crib in my parents’ room or shared a bed with Jim in the living room. For a few months, I had occasional sleep-walking episodes during which I assume I was looking for companionship. Several times I woke up sitting on the side of Mom and Dad’s bed with Daddy sitting beside me, his eyes full of sleep and his hair standing on end, trying to stop the flow of my tears and reassuring me that everything was okay.
I also jotted down five memories of how Daddy provided support and practical aid later in my life when I was single again. Before I completely exceed my allotted word count, I’ll summarize:
He often hung curtains and pictures, installed ceiling fans, and finished many other things on my “I don’t have a honey to do” list.
In addition to caring for his own yard, he mowed, trimmed, and edged mine. He also removed and disposed of tomato worms that tried to take over my patio tomatoes.
Although he wasn’t in a position to offer financial assistance, he didn’t hesitate to co-sign a note when my old car bit the dust.
Daddy always had a key to my house, and more than once he got up out of bed and came over to unlock my door when I locked myself out.
Daddy showed me how a godly man should love his wife. His love for Mom was one of the defining realities of his life. He loved her as Paul told the Ephesians to love their wives and would have given up his life for her. He told her every day how beautiful she was and how much he loved her, and he never tired of kissing her or holding her hand.
There’s much more, but these are a few of the things that added up to a lifetime of love and care. Daddy led by example and loved by acts of service. Happy Father’s Day to the first man I ever loved.
Published in the Rains County Leader on April 6, 2021:
Naps are not a normal part of my routine, but I made an exception Sunday afternoon. In my defense, it had been a hectic week. Keeping in mind that hectic has a different meaning to retired people than to those still in the work force, here’s my story.
Monday’s schedule was normal with nothing more hectic than an afternoon workout at the gym. But Tuesday we drove to Bonham for David’s 2nd COVID shot which meant leaving the house shortly after sunrise. On the way home, we stopped at the Library to pick up a movie for later and at Brookshire’s for our contribution to lunch with Bill and Susan. They are regulars at our Friday night Bible study and recently invited the group to their home for a hymn sing. I was nominated to play the piano, and although I thoroughly enjoyed her Baldwin baby grand, I’m very rusty after ten years without a piano in my home. She loves to sing, so she invited us to come over for burgers and a practice session.
We had a great time, but we had to stop when my arthritic hands began to protest. By the time we made it home, it was time to get ready for movie night. One of our neighbors had offered to bring the makings for nachos if we would provide the venue and the movie. We watched The Matrix Revolutions and discussed things we had missed in previous viewings. It was a fun day, but hectic by our standards.
Published in the Rains County Leader on February 9, 2021:
What is one of the first things we say to our grandchildren when we see them? I have no scientific proof to back this up, but it’s probably something like Come give Grandma a hug! And more than likely, the kids come running. Maybe it’s because they know that Grandma usually brings treats, or maybe it’s because there’s something in human nature that craves the touch of another person.
One of my favorite stories from our family history is of a cousin who went to her grandmother and asked for a hug. It must have been cool, because the older woman had on long sleeves. She picked up the little girl and gave her a squeeze, but the child wasn’t satisfied. “No, Grandma,” she said as she patted her arms. “I need to feel skin.”
It’s a cute, feel-good story, but the theories of some healthcare professionals seem to back up the little girl’s need. In an article dated March 1, 2010, Maia Szalavitz of Psychology Today stated that touch can ease pain and lift depression. She further said that babies who are denied touch through lack of being held, nuzzled or hugged may fail to thrive and may even die if the situation continues too long. In April of 2018, the Healthline website quoted family therapist Virginia Satir as saying “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”
Published in the Rains County Leader on December 1, 2020:
Facebook sometimes brings sad news, and Sunday was one of those times. AJ’s Fish House, a community institution for twenty years, announced that its doors will close effective December 1. This is not only a great loss to fried fish fans in East Texas but also to my family.
When David and I moved here ten years ago, we were introduced to the tradition of celebrating Aunt Fay’s birthday at the all-you-can-eat restaurant that specialized in all things fried along with a cobbler bar guaranteed to give a sugar rush to all who partook. Each January, on the Saturday closest to the 20th, Fay’s children, grandchildren, and various hangers on gathered from as close as Emory and as far away as Houston to celebrate the life of this amazing woman.
Published in the Rains County Leader on August 18, 2020:
A Tale of Two Cities, the epic historical novel by Charles Dickens, begins with a famous opening sentence: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. If you ask most people which of these two choices would best describe 2020 so far, a huge majority would probably choose the latter. Up until last week, I would have readily agreed – but now I’m not so sure.
One night I couldn’t go to sleep, so I left David deep in the land of Nod and went into the living room. After reading for a while, I picked up my phone and began scrolling through some of the posts I don’t usually take the time to look at during the day. Fortunately, few political or controversial posts show up on my timeline – probably because of the type of posts I respond to. Whatever the reason, most of what I get are photos of birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, weddings and other family gatherings. (more…)
Published in the Rains County Leader on July 28, 2020:
There was a time not too many centuries ago when it was not uncommon for a person to live their entire life within a few miles of the place where they were born. The furthest they traveled was to the nearest town for supplies, church and school. They socialized with family and friends from nearby farms, picked a mate from that small pool of choices, raised children, died at home and were laid to rest in the community cemetery.
Then, in the early 19th century, Samuel Morse and other inventors developed a way to transmit electrical signals over long distances, and the communication revolution began. It wasn’t long before radios, telephones, televisions, computers and satellites opened up the world to those little insulated areas. While all this was going on, other inventors transformed travel with the creation of steamboats, trains, automobiles, airplanes and rockets.
Almost overnight, at least from a historical perspective, civilization changed from a collection of micro or extremely small communities to one macro or large scale, we-are-the-world society. Most of us live somewhere between those two extremes, but there are times when I feel like COVID has pushed us back into a micro world. It’s not the ultra-isolated world of the pre-electronic age. We still have instant access to more information than we can or want to take in, but our pool of human contacts has dried up to a puddle. I became very aware of that this past weekend. (more…)
Published in the Rains County Leader on July 6, 2020:
I loved the Fourth of July when I was a kid. We lived inside the city limits where the authorities frowned on the fun stuff like roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over a bon fire and shooting off fireworks. So we usually celebrated Independence Day at Aunt Fay’s. In addition to the fire-roasted treats, the menu also included potato salad, chips, watermelon, iced tea, Kool-Aid, and home churned ice cream. In later years when Uncle Dean bought the first charcoal grill I had ever seen, hamburgers were added.
While the adults prepared the food, the seven kids (me, my brother, and our five cousins) ran around Fay and Dean’s unfenced acreage, making noise and getting dirty. Sometimes we visited the food site to grab a chip or take turns sitting on the ice cream churn. By the time dinner was ready, we needed no prompting to come and eat. Everything was always delicious – food always tastes better when eaten outside on paper plates and sprinkled with a little bit of dirt. (more…)
The story of a lonely, innocent girl who gets tangled up in the sex trafficking trade in a small Texas town. It’s about her relationship with Eric, a slick suburban pimp; Jesse, a Christian tattoo artist and motorcycle rider; and Mrs. G, a compassionate but tough attorney and foster parent.