I carry a flip phone with no internet access, which often leaves me dependent on other people to look things up for me. I was going to be in Marquette, Michigan, Sunday, so, Saturday night I called my wife at home to ask if she could give me the name of a church and mass times. She told me Saint Peter Cathedral had masses at 8 and 10:30 am. The later mass sounded good to me.
I got up early to get ready and be to the church on time. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember the name of the church she gave me. I typed “catholic churches” into my GPS and it brought up several but none of them sounded correct. Opposed to calling Melissa and admitting I forgot the name of the church, (even after she suggested I write it down) I decided to find a McDonald’s. With their Wi-Fi, my iPad and the GPS I could find the church on my own. All was going well until the GPS led me to a place where there were no golden arches.
It was 10:22 a.m. and I really didn’t want to be late for mass. The GPS showed another McDonald’s less than two miles away. I told it to take me there. “Continue on West Spring Street.” Said the GPS, then “In one quarter mile, turn left on Seventh Street.” When I stopped for the sign at Fourth Street, I heard church bells. Looking to my right I didn’t see anything and there was no church straight ahead. I looked to the left and saw the tall bell towers of Saint Peter Cathedral, just one block away. I made a quick turn that direction, thinking I would be on time…if I could find a parking space long enough for the van and the trailer I was pulling.
I turned right on Baraga Street in front of the church and saw the parking lot. It was full but there was a lot across the street with plenty of available spaces. I read the sign, “Marquette Police Department? Well that explains why there are so many squad cars there.” I opted not to park illegally in the PD’s parking lot. At the far end of the block there were several diagonal spaces open. I parked across four of them and started walking back to the church on the other end of the block.
The air was cool and the sky was clear. It was a gorgeous morning. I was admiring the large brick structure with its steep pitched red roof and beautiful stained-glass cathedral windows. The towers at the corners, each with a cross on top, seemed to reach right up to heaven. It is such a majestic building. The bells were still ringing out, sending a message of welcome, inviting all to come and worship.
I walked briskly toward the front doors. There was an elderly lady ahead of me who walked with a cane in her left hand. Her white tennis shoes shuffled slow and carefully below her full-length grey down-filled coat. The coat was trimmed with red velvet around the collar and the cuffs of her sleeves. She was trying to push her black gloves into her pocket while she moved slowly across the sidewalk. I extended my arm toward her, “Would you like to walk to church with me?” I asked her.
Being quite a bit shorter, she looked up at me over the top of her glasses, “I would love to.” She answered, while wrapping her right hand around my left arm. We walked to the church together. I asked her name, “Sunny Beach.” She replied, “It’s a nickname.
“I’m Tom.” I told her, “It’s also a nickname; short for Thomas, but only my mom called me that and it was usually when I was in trouble. We shared a laugh about that. “Are you from Marquette?” I inquired.
“No.” she answered, “I live in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.”
“Really!” I responded, telling her, “My dad owned a radio station in Port Washington, just down the shore from Sheboygan. I spent a lot of time there as a kid.”
Sunny commented, “Port Washington is a very nice town.”
“So is Sheboygan.” I chimed in, then asked, “What brought you to Marquette.”
Without missing a beat, Sunny replied, “My car.” Her little body shook as she laughed. I laughed with her as we continued toward the front doors.
Inside the vestibule, she asked me, “This isn’t a High Mass is it?” I told her I did’t know. An usher greeted us, handing each of us a worship sheet. She took the tri-folded pamphlet and asked him, “Is this a High Mass?” He told her it was not.
Inside the church, I asked, “May I sit with you for mass?”
“Of course you can.” Sunny replied. I asked where she would like to sit. She started walking almost pulling me along for the first two steps. “Halfway toward the front will be fine.” We turned into a row and took a seat.
The man on the pipe organ played beautifully, certainly as well as Diana Bish, the organ lady from PBS Television. I lowered the kneeler in our pew and Sunny and I both kneeled down to pray before mass.
When the cantor announced the opening song, I opened the red, hardback hymnal. Sunny shuffled through the pages of her book, still looking for the right page. As the congregation began to sing I handed her my open book and took hers. She took it from me and quietly sang along with the refrain.
Mumbling through the words of the verse, she leaned over looking at my book. I ran my finger under the words. She began singing louder as she followed along. When we sang from the worship sheet, she looked a bit lost, so I pointed to the line we were singing on her page. She nodded in appreciation and sang along. Sometimes, she would bring the music closer to her face so she could read it.
It reminded me of days long ago when I would go to Church with my mom. After the song ended, she leaned toward me and said, “I’m so near sighted I’m surprised I can read any of this. Every week they make the print a little smaller.” We shared a quiet laugh about that.
A lot of my non-Catholic friends tell me a Catholic mass is like an aerobic workout: stand, sit, kneel, stand, kneel, sit, stand…up and down and up and down. Sunny had no problem getting up and down.
When it came time to offer one another a sign of peace, she shook hands with everyone around us, including the people behind us who were nearly out of reach. “Peace be with you.” Then, she started waving to everyone behind us. I asked her, “Did you get peace out to everyone?”
“No,” she said, “I was trying to get my daughter’s attention, but she never looked at me.”
I instantly felt guilty. “I didn’t realize your daughter was here with you. I feel bad for asking you to sit with me when you could have sat with her.” I said.
Sunny waved her hand toward me as if telling me not to worry. “She could have found me if she wanted to. I’m the only one in here with a coat like this.” Then Sunny waved her finger toward the front of the church, indicating I should pay attention to the priest.
At communion, I offered my arm. Sunny held her cane in her left hand, taking my arm in her right hand. We walked slowly toward the altar. She said something but I did’t hear her. I leaned my ear her way and she repeated herself. “I said you can pick it up a bit. You know, walk a little faster?”
When mass was over, we made our way toward the doors. A lady in her late sixties I suppose, was standing near the baptismal font, looking right past us. Sunny called to her, “Hey, Linda.” Getting her daughter’s attention.
Sunny turned to me and said, “Well thank you for sitting with me, Thomas. Maybe I’ll see you here again.” Then she walked briskly toward Linda - at least four times faster than we walked together, “Why didn’t you come sit with us?” She asked her daughter as the two of them walked away together.
She left me standing alone at the end of the pew. I laughed. When I first saw Sunny outside, I assumed she just walked slowly. Maybe she was waiting for her daughter to catch up. The next time I attend mass at Saint Peter Cathedral, in Marquette, Michigan, I’m going to look for Sunny Beach, from Sheboygan, Wisconsin. She was a nice lady; I might even challenge her to a race.
The man playing the pipe organ was filling the cathedral with beautiful, joyful music as the people were visiting and making their way to the front doors. It was a good morning.
Delaney’s husband was driving her to the Baltimore, Maryland airport on Friday morning. She was flying to Houston, Texas to attend my nephew (her cousin) Ren’s wedding. I called to say good morning and wish her safe travels.
Annie spent Thursday night in St. Paul, Minnesota at my cousin Andy and Sarah’s house. He would drive her to the airport in the morning. She was also going to the wedding.
I called to wish Annie safe travels. She was en route to the airport with Andy. “When you get out of the car, I double-dog dare you to give Andy a wet-willie. Then, you better run fast because he’s pretty quick for an old guy.” (A wet-willie is licking your finger tip and sticking it in someone’s ear. Gross! I discovered it in elementary school.) We shared a good laugh and she said she would get right on that.
Next, I called Andy. “When you get to the airport, I triple-dog dare you to give Annie a wet-gumby. Then, you better run fast because she’s certainly not afraid to take down an old guy such as yourself.” (A wet-gumby is licking your thumb and index finger, then grabbing someone’s chin. Gross! I learned about it in elementary school.) Andy laughed, saying he would get right on it. Visualizing the mayhem, I chuckled to myself. “This should be good; I wish I was there to watch. Gee, I hope airport security doesn’t lock them both up!”
I was driving across the Florida panhandle, around the Gulf of Mexico, west on I-10. Destination: Houston, Texas. The overhead highway information sign read; TROPICAL STORM WARNING IN EFFECT. “I’ll bet there is,” I laughed aloud, thinking about the pending ruckus I initiated, “and it runs from the Gulf Coast to Minneapolis, Minnesota.”
I would pick up my girls at the airport in Houston. Delaney sent a group message, “I’ve got dibs on the front seat.” Annie quickly responded, “My flight arrives an hour before yours. I’ll already be in the front seat when you get there.” I set my cruise control at eight miles-per-hour over the speed limit, “I’ll beat you both there!”
The race was on. Three people, from separate, far-away places, racing across the country to Bush Intercontinental Airport, in Houston.
Annie texted, “At the airport, through security, boarding soon.” A short time later, Delaney reported the same. I kicked the cruise control up another two miles-per-hour.
Annie was disappointed when telling us her flight was delayed forty-five minutes. She had a connection to make in Dallas-Fort Worth, which is always a mad house. A late departure could cause her to miss the connecting flight at DFW. With a nonstop flight, Delaney declared victory by default. I added another notch to the cruise and snickered - I’m going beat you both there!
Annie was 1,200 miles away; Delaney was 1,400. I was only 550 miles out. Airplanes are faster than cars, but considering the girls had to deal with airport security, boarding, baggage, blah, blah, blah - I could still beat them.
Traffic was moving along well in cities where it often gets congested: Mobile, Alabama, Pascagoula and Biloxi, Mississippi and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. But, when I got to the Houston metro area, it slowed way down.
I was thirty minutes from the airport when Annie said she’d just landed. “Darn it. I’m so close.” Within a couple minutes, Delaney also reported landing in Houston. They still had to taxi to the jetway and deal with the baggage claim crowd, plus find each other to meet me outside Terminal A. I hurried as much as anyone can – at ten miles-per-hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
They beat me there, but that was no reason to concede defeat. Being careful not to tell any mis-truths, I said I was driving around outside the airport complex and I would head their way. “I’ll drive by the arrivals lane. If you’re not there yet, I’ll go around. Call me when you are together.” When I drove to the pickup area, they were waiting on the sidewalk.
We said our hellos, shared quick hugs and tossed their bags in the truck. I honestly don’t remember which one got the front seat and neither questioned if I arrived before them or not. It didn’t matter; we were on our way and right on schedule. It was 3:30 in the afternoon, the hotel was forty-five minutes from the airport. We had plenty of time to settle into our room, clean up and make the reception at 6:00p.m.
Just outside the airport complex, the battery light appeared on my dashboard. “Well, that is never good...” I said, also losing my power steering. “…not good at all.” The girls questioned what I was talking about. “I just lost the serpentine belt on the engine, which should overheat in just a moment.” We were in the center lane, at a red light. There was a gas station on the other side of the intersection. I turned on my right signal. “Come on light, turn green.” As the traffic light turned green, the red temperature light came on. Red and green - it was like a Christmas tree…but without the associated joy.
I was about eight cars back from the intersection and needed to get over to the right lane. Fortunately, the car in the next lane, behind me, flashed his headlights, allowing me to change lanes. I got to the gas station, shut the engine down and lifted the hood. Steam rolled from the engine compartment. Is there anything that stinks more than the putrid smell of hot anti-freeze? And, of course it sprayed all over the engine making a big mess!
I called AAA for a wrecker; they said one would be available in 90 minutes. Great. I’m in Houston on a Friday afternoon with a broken car and can’t get a wrecker until after 5 p.m. So much for making the reception.
The girls went to work on their smartphones, searching towing services and repair shops. In just a few minutes, the roadside service people called back, they had a wrecker that could come in twenty minutes, but Delaney already found one that was just five minutes away. Annie found a repair shop that could work us in, seven miles away. AAA recommended Christen Brother’s Automotive Repair, just three miles away. As AAA members, we would get priority treatment, moving to the head of the line. She would let them know I was on my way.
The driver from Humble Towing Service arrived. How appropriate. Although the H is silent, (it’s pronounced Umble) humble was exactly the way I was feeling with all these people helping me get back on the road. The tow truck driver loaded my truck onto the flatbed. We would ride with him to the shop. Here we go again - who gets the front seat?
Delaney jumped in first, I was second, then Annie squeezed into the cab, sitting on my lap. It was tight quarters, but we were on our way. The first mile wasn’t so bad. The second mile, I started to notice, Annie has a really boney butt. I spent the next half mile trying to shift a little, seeking relief. The next quarter mile, I was in pain. Annie’s tailbone was cutting off my circulation and no doubt had broken my femur – probably both of them. The final 2/8ths of a mile seemed like 100 miles long. The driver turned into the parking lot which had a big bump. Ouch! Annie opened the door and we fell out like clowns coming out of a clown car. Whew.
The shop got my truck right in as promised. This shop was amazingly clean. Not only in the customer waiting area, but even the mechanic stalls were clean and shiny. The owner asked if we would like bottles of water and offered cookies and snacks while we waited. It was southern hospitality as good as it gets!
The mechanic came in with the bad news. My serpentine belt was gone, as I suspected. He pumped pressure into the radiator and showed me where the water pump was leaking. “Can you put a new pump on today?” He said yes and the truck would be ready to go between 5:45 and 6:00 p.m. “Go ahead and do it. I can’t drive it home with a bad pump.” I told him, “I really appreciate you guys working me in on a Friday afternoon.”
I called my sister to let her know we would be at least a couple hours late to the party. Patti, and everyone I told our story to, expressed how sorry they were that I had car trouble. “No need to be sorry.” I explained, “I drive over 100,000 miles each year. A car is going to have things that need to be repaired in that time.” I told them, “My repairs are needed out on the road more often than not. Do you know how lucky I am to have this problem in town and not out in the middle of Montana when it’s twenty below zero?” I truly felt no misfortune – just blessings.
At 5:50p.m., the guy at the desk told me, “Your truck is out front and ready to go.” The total bill was just under $500. Again - no misfortune – just blessings. It would have cost me the same at home.
The party was fun. Ren and Lauren had a beautiful wedding. We ate well, danced, enjoyed beverages and got to visit with family and friends – some I hadn’t seen for decades and I met some new friends too. What a great weekend!
Sunday, I took the girls to the airport, then started for home. The weather was threatening; severe storm warnings and tornado watches were issued for much of northern Texas. Fighting strong crosswinds and heavy rains, I made my way up I-35 to Norman, Oklahoma. At least the truck was running well.
I stopped for a couple hours to visit my brother-in-law, Gary, his four kids and his grandkids. We had a blast, but that’s a whole other story! I’m telling you - those kids are mischievous. My nephew Wade, picked me up in his arms, like a groom carrying his bride. They came after me with a can of shaving cream! Luckily, I escaped. After our visit, I drove north to Oklahoma City where I met my brother Gerard for a late dinner. Then pressed on toward home – Minnesota.
The Kansas plains were exceptionally windy. Along the way, I listened to the news on the radio. Not long after I passed through Dallas, parts of the city were hit by tornados that did a lot of damage. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
The wind and rain continued all the way home. The closer I got to Duluth, the stronger the winds. The rain came down even heavier and it was cold! Melissa called to let me know Lake Superior was under a gale storm warning with twenty-five-foot waves expected. Wow.
The highway sign in Florida read: TROPICAL STORM WARNING IN EFFECT. I remembered saying, “I’ll bet it runs from the Gulf Coast to Minneapolis, but I was off a bit. The storms ran way past the Twin Cities, all the way to Lake Superior. Despite all the weather, I made it home safely. Thank goodness for guardian angels!
Mom, where’s my…? Mom, do you know how to…? Mom, can you…? Mom, will you…? Mom…?
There is no shortage of requests for her time. Although “me time” is very important, most young mothers forgo such time to themselves, because – well, they don’t have time. The kids are calling, the clothes dryer buzzer is going off, dinner needs to go on and she can’t remember the last time she got to vacuum the floors, let alone dust the house. Between the kids, (who always come first) a full-time job and for many, night classes too, there’s just no time to decompress. Whew! She is tired.
Our oldest daughter called wanting to come visit alone. She needed, and deserved, a little “me time.” She picked a date in October to visit the north shore. It would be a late birthday present to herself. The fall colors, Lake Superior and mild weather conditions make for a very serene setting. I imagined things could arise, causing her to postpone or cancel her trip, but she seemed determined to come.
A few days before her trip, I asked what she wanted to do while here. Sydney replied with a text, “Go to Grand Marais. Hike, go out to eat, shop, get coffee and go sit on the beach with my book.” Simple enough requests. We could make all that happen.
A couple days before she was to head this way, the weather service issued a winter storm warning for North and South Dakota and parts of Minnesota. “It isn’t going to reach the north shore.” I assured her. Determined to make this trip, that was good enough for her. Thursday after work, she headed out, driving in rain most of the way – no snow, but also no sunshine. We needed the sun to light up the fall colors.
My wife had to work on Friday, so Sydney and I headed to Grand Marais on our own. It was cloudy, rainy and windy. Driving north on Highway 61, we talked about how the wind pushed and rocked the van, as it came gusting in from the lake. That same wind provided spectacular conditions on the water.
The strong winds tried to yank the van door from Sydney’s grip when we stopped at a viewing area. The water was steely grey with white caps that emphasized the turbulence. Lake Superior seemed angry; relentlessly she threw one big wave after another to the shore. Crashing against the rocks, the swells sent large white plumes of water billowing into the air. The wind carried sprays and mist splashing on any sightseers she could reach. I wondered if we might see some surfers out on the water playing with the big waves. The feel of the air warned, winter is coming.
On the ride to Grand Marais, the overcast sky were thin. Diffused sunlight was enough to make the trees glow. It really was a pretty drive for such a cold cloudy day.
Our first stop in Grand Marais was Sven and Ole’s Pizza. Sydney ordered the Ufda – a great choice. She was surprised there were seats available in the dining room on a Friday afternoon at one-o-clock. She’d never been to Grand Marais on a quiet day.
After lunch we went next door to White Pine North. They always have coffee brewing and the store smells awesome, plus they have a great selection of candies and chocolate covered coffee beans. Yum!
Our next stop was the Lake Superior Trading Post, only a few blocks away, but I was going to drive because of the cold wind.
Turning onto First Ave West, I was surprised there were so many open parking spaces right in front of the store. That’s when it occurred to me the waves coming in off the bay were pushing right over the beach and into the street. There was about eight inches of water standing in the road and spilling into the alley on the north side of the building. The sidewalks were islands surrounded by water.
Cars couldn’t pass through the water, but we were in the van (it sits higher) and I was determined to get to the Trading Post. I drove slowly down the road so as not to create a wake. “Dad! What are you doing?” Sydney asked. I told her I was going shopping; I had an idea.
I backed into a parking space right in front of the store. “We can’t get out of the van. Our feet will get soaked.” I got out of the seat and walked to the back of the van, opened the rear door and stepped out onto the dry sidewalk. “Oh my gosh Dad. This is ridiculous.”
“Are you coming with me or not?” I asked. Sydney laughed and joined me. People standing on the walk up the street were watching with disbelief. I’ll bet they were all wishing they had a van! We shopped for a bit, then returned to the van, climbing in the back door. People watched, still amused.
As we left the street a Toyota Prius was driving toward the water. “Don’t do it buddy.” I said to him through my windshield, “The water is too deep for you. You might short out your electric motor.” I chuckled over that.
Sydney questioned if it was too windy to go hiking. I told her, “The trail is in the woods. The trees will block the wind.” We were determined to go for a hike. I wanted to take her to Devil’s Kettle at Judge Magney State Park, to the waterfall where the Brule River splits. Half the water runs over the falls, dropping fifty feet into the pool below. The other half flows into a pit – the Devil’s Kettle. It is said that no one knows where the water in the kettle goes. I think people smarter than me know, but I’ve never researched it - sometimes it’s best to let folklore be.
We enjoyed the two-and-a-half mile hike to the falls. The trail was a little muddy in spots and the 200 plus steps (each way) were wet and a little slippery, but, oh, the sights and sounds. The view of the river in the gorge below was beautiful and the sky lightened from time to time, showing off the beautiful fall colors. It was a rigorous walk, yet peaceful. When we came out of the woods, the wind was right there to greet us.
Passing the Kadunce River on the way home, Sydney pointed out a man in a wetsuit in the parking lot. We turned around and went back. I struck up a conversation with two girls standing by a car with Ontario license plates. They were all surfers, but the girls didn’t have their boards or suits with them. They surf on Lake Erie, and were amazed by the big waves on Lake Superior.
The guy was down by the lake, sitting on a rock, putting on his flippers. He walked backwards into the water; I assume to keep the waves from catching his flippers and tossing him over. He looked to be about six feet and the waves were higher than he was tall. About waist deep in water, he turned around, laying on his boogie board. He paddled with his hands and kicked with his feet.
Charging into each swell, riding up the front of the wave, going almost vertical, he got on top of the wave. The water seemed to engulf him and he would disappear behind the wall of water. I’ll admit my anxiety was running high. I felt relief each time he reappeared on the backside of a wave, only to be met by another. The waves were so big and powerful, I wondered which one would swallow and devour him.
There he was; a tiny speck on the surface of the largest fresh water lake in the world. He challenged and defied the powerful waves. The whole scene reminded me of David and Goliath. He was determined to slay one giant wave after another in his battle. I lost sight of him.
Just when I thought he had met his demise, he surfaced about thirty feet to the left, riding his boogie board on top of a big wave, charging to the shore. The wind carried his voice ahead of him. “Woohoo!” Victory was his. Like a cowboy who wrestled the calf to the ground in a rodeo, the surfer dominated this wave, for the moment until her fury diminished as she leveled on the shore.
Meanwhile, Sydney walked the water’s edge looking for rocks - Lake Superior offers a great selection. She spotted a stone she wanted to take home to her girls. She carefully timed the waves rolling to the shore. At a calculated moment, when the wave returned to the lake, she took a couple steps closer to the water, bent down to grab her chosen rock and run back inland. At the same time a new wave came in, crashing into another wave. It sprayed into the air, soaking Sydney’s backside from the waist down. “Gah!” She cried out, “That water is COLD!” In her soaked britches, we made our way back to the van. It was hard not to laugh at her.
We started back toward home. “I guess I misjudged that wave.” Sydney shivered as she cranked the temperature all the way up and turned the fan on high. It was pretty warm in the van. I popped a chocolate covered coffee bean in my mouth and offered her one. She declined, “I need something hot. Real coffee to warm me up.” In Grand Marais, we turned into the Java Moose. There are a lot of great coffee houses along the north shore, the Moose is one of them.
We sat sipping our coffee. Outside waves from the bay had splashed up halfway across Wisconsin Street. The beach was still under water. “I guess you’re not reading your book on the beach today.” I said with a smile.
She wrapped her hands around her warm cup, embracing the heat, “I’ve scratched that activity from my list. I just want to go home and soak in a hot bath.” We took our coffee to the van. Outside, Sydney shivered again, “I’m still freezing.”
When we walked in the front door, Melissa had a fire in the woodstove. The house was warm. “What happened to you?” She asked Sydney, who walked by in her wet jeans.
“I misjudged a wave.” Sydney answered over her shoulder while continuing toward her room. We all shared a good laugh about that. I went to the bathroom, put the stopper in the tub drain and turned on the hot water. A few minutes later Sydney came from her room, headed for the bathroom with a book in hand.
Melissa was determined to help Sydney find that warm atmosphere to relax with a good book – even if it wasn’t on the beach. She met Sydney in the hallway, handing her a bottle of wine and a glass, “Here, you might want this.” Sydney took the bottle, the glass and her book and entered paradise, closing the door behind her.
Later that evening, Sydney brought her rock collection to the kitchen to show us. Now, keep in mind, rocks look different, and prettier, wet than when they’re dry. She presented the rock. “I risked my life and got soaked over this piece of gravel?” We all shared a good laugh about that.
On Sunday, Melissa was going back to Grand Marais with Sydney. I asked if I could go. “Why don’t you stay here and finish cutting the firewood. This is going to be a girl’s day out.” Hmph.
I pulled the cord, starting the motor, determined to finish splitting and stacking the pile of wood today. As they backed out of the driveway, I muttered, “Girls day out my foot.” I know my wife, “If it means sorting through every rock from Duluth to Grand Portage, she’s bound and determined to help Sydney find the perfect rocks for our granddaughters.” Thankfully, Lake Superior was calmer today.
I pulled the lever forward. The hydraulic cylinder groaned as it pushed the steel wedge into a big log, determined to break it in half.
I stopped at the McDonald’s in Las Vegas, Nevada to grab a bite to eat and get a large ice tea for the road. I wasn’t far from the Nellis Air Force Base.
Three young people came in, two guys, one gal, in military camouflage fatigues. They got in line behind me.
I checked the thermometer in the van before I came inside: it was 73° and beautiful. I commented to them what a nice day it was, but I am aware they also go out to train in those uniforms with long sleeves, long pants, hot boots and more (not to mention the weight of full gear) when it’s over 100°.
I told them I appreciate what they do and I wanted to get their lunch. They all three insisted that wasn’t necessary, but I told them, “It’s too late. I already told the cashier I was getting your lunch.” One of them explained they were getting lunch for seven people. I still insisted on treating them.
We shared a little conversation. They asked my name and I gave them my card. While I waited for my order to come, I went to get my ice tea. One of the guys tried to swipe his card to pay, but I got there and swiped mine first. (I was quite impressed with my cat-like reflexes and speed.)
Anyway, they thanked me, one saying it was nice that I was “paying it forward.” I thought about that: anytime we support the men and women who serve our country, we ARE paying it forward in a big way! Paying it forward isn’t always with money. There are lots of ways to support our troops that don’t cost anything.
I went to a table and sat down. As the three were leaving, they stopped by my table. Each one shook my hand and thanked me again - in return, I thanked them. Their service to our country is greater - far greater than my small gesture to them.
As they were each shaking my hand, I honestly felt safer, knowing these three wonderful young people are there to protect our country.
May God bless, and protect them - always.
I don’t remember who started it. I suppose it might have been me, although I’m not usually one to instigate trouble. Regardless who started it, it’s been going on for years and it’s still going on.
The first time I remember it happening, my wife had done something that annoyed me. I’m sure it was nothing big, but it was something because I felt a need to react. I went to the bedroom. Our cat at that time, Salem, was sleeping on Melissa’s flannel pajama pants, which were neatly folded at the foot of the bed. I moved Salem, unfolded the pajamas, tied a knot in the right pant leg near the foot opening, then re-folded them. I put them back where I found them and put Salem on top to resume his nap.
Later that night, I was folding laundry in the bedroom. Melissa came in to get ready for bed. She slid her left leg into her pajamas, then her right. Her foot obviously wouldn’t go through. “What the…” Confused she immediately looked to me with suspicion.
“What’s wrong?” I asked innocently.
With an accusing tone, she said “Someone tied a knot in my pajamas leg!”
“Really? A knot? In your pajama pants? Who would do such a thing? Maybe it happened in the washing machine.” She wasn’t buying it. “I saw Salem laying on them earlier. Maybe he did it. He’s quite a prankster you know.”
Melissa scowled as she untied the knot, put on her jammies and climbed into bed. I put the rest of my clothes away, turned off the light off and got in bed myself. “Goodnight, honey.” I said sweetly, suppressing my laughter, trying not to make a sound.”
“Stop laughing, you’re shaking the bed.” She said. A few mornings later I found a knot in one of my favorite socks…and it’s been going on, back and forth ever since.
Once a garment has been sabotaged, you have to wait a few nights, preferably more, before retaliating. If you respond too soon, they will be expecting it, thus nullifying the element of surprise. Patience is key here. Revenge is sweet, but like a good wine, it must be properly aged.
Melissa eventually conceded defeat; or just tired of the game. She hadn’t returned fire for months and months; maybe even a year. Then, a few weeks ago, on a Sunday night, she was in bed reading. I was hurrying to finish up a couple things. It was late and I wanted to get to bed; I had an early dentist appointment the next morning. I brushed my teeth and went to the bedroom to put on my pajamas. That’s when something went awry.
I slipped my right leg into the flannel pants and was already lifting my left leg – but my right leg wasn’t through yet - it was like something grabbed my foot. With my other leg already in motion, gravity took over. My upper body started making its way to the floor. Instinctively, both my hands clinched tightly to the elastic waist band on my pajamas as if that was going to save me. With my feet tangled in the cloth, I stumbled a couple steps forward, bent over, bouncing off the side of the mattress. I let loose of my britches just in time to grab a handful of the bedspread, saving myself from crashing to the floor. I landed on my knees in a nearly perfect position to say my evening prayers.
I caught Melissa peeking over the top of her book; watching this spectacle with delight. She quickly turned her eyes back to the pages, appearing aloof to my situation. I quietly thought, very funny Melissa; I wasn’t about to give her any satisfaction by saying that out loud. She pretended to be engrossed in her book, trying to stifle her laughter.
I pulled myself to my feet, standing next to the bed. My pajama pants were on the floor with my legs still tangled. I retrieved them, untied the knot, then started to put them back on. I hesitated while I inspected the other pant leg, just to be sure.
I turned off the light and crawled into bed. Melissa closed her book, setting it on the nightstand, then turned off the lamp. “Goodnight, honey.” She said sweetly, suppressing her laughter, trying not to make a sound.
“Stop laughing, you’re shaking the bed.” I told her. I laid awake thinking; plotting. Perhaps in the morning, I would chain and padlock her car to a tree. She would have to call me and with a mouth numbed by Novocain, I would try to tell her where the key was hidden. I drifted off to sleep remembering, don’t rush things. Let the revenge simmer…it will be all the sweeter…zzzzzz…
Several days passed. On Friday morning after Melissa left for work, I was making the bed. Her old, worn, brown hoodie sweatshirt was laying on the bed. I folded it, noticing the hole in the armpit. I had an idea to surprise her. I went to my sock drawer and pulled out my needle and thread. I started stitching on the brown fabric, but all I had was white thread. It was very noticeable and looked terrible.
I called Aunt Di. “Would you happen to have any dark brown thread? All I have is white. I could come by in about an hour for coffee and do my sewing while we visit.”
“I do and I would love to,” Di told me, “but I won’t have time for coffee today. I need to finish a couple things and go to my quilt club at one-o-clock.”
Di is a member of the Faith Lutheran Church Quilt Club. They meet every Friday afternoon in Silver Bay, Minnesota. They make beautiful quilts to sell during the local Bay Days celebration, raising money to purchase material for the club. They also give quilts to high school seniors for graduation and provide free quilts to vets at the Veteran’s Retirement Home. My Uncle John used to join them for coffee on occasion and told me they were a real nice group of ladies.
“I could meet you at your quilt club, do my sewing and join you for coffee there.” I suggested.
Di said she would like that very much. “I think the girls would get a kick out of meeting you.”
When I arrived, the ladies had just finished a quilt. They folded and hung it on the wall racks with the other completed quilts. They laid out another large piece of fabric, taping it down to the surface, then a layer of fiber filling and finally the quilt top. It had orange and black Halloween theme patches and fall colors all sewn together. It was really neat.
“I went ahead and threaded it for you.” Di said, handing me a needle with a tail of brown thread. Then, she climbed a two-foot step ladder and crawled across the table top toward the material.
“Didn’t your mom teach you not to climb on the furniture?” I chuckled.
Di explained, “Karen usually does this, but she couldn’t be here today. Since I’m the next youngest person, (at 78 years of age) I get to do it.” I asked what she was doing, “We use push-pins to hold the layers together where we’re going to tie it with yarn. We can’t reach the middle of the quilt from the floor, so we climb on the table to do it.”
Being taller than the ladies of the quilt club, I reached to the middle of the quilt and put my finger on a spot. “You mean like here?” I chuckled.
I was face to face with Di. On her hands and knees, she glared over the top of her glasses. “Don’t you have something to do?”
The ladies continued to work; I told them an original joke I made up. Nobody laughed. “I don’t like that one.” Di said, “Tell them the one you told me the other day.” I did, but again, nobody laughed. When I mumbled something about this being a tough crowd today, Di asked, “Shouldn’t you be sewing your shirt?” The ladies all laughed about that.
I sat on a stool, turned the brown hoodie sweatshirt inside out and lined up the two edges I wanted to stitch together. I pushed the needle through the fabric, pulling it out the other side. I gave it a light tug, then started another stitch. Di observed from the table. “I thought you were fastening on a button. If I knew you were sewing a seam, I would have put a little knot at the ends of thread.
“It’s no problem. This is working just fine.” I said and kept stitching. Then I asked, “Do you have any more of this brown thread?” Di told me where the thread was. I pulled a long piece and threaded it through the eye of the needle. I pulled the two ends together, tied a little knot and resumed my work.
When Di came o the quilt table, she came over to inspect my work. “Your stitches are nice and evenly spaced, but they could stand to be a little tighter together.”
“I don’t want them too tight.” I said, explaining, “I’ll probably have to pull them out tonight.”
Confused by my comment, she leaned in for a closer look. Di wrinkled her face, “What are you doing?”
“I’m sewing the face shut on Melissa’s favorite hoodie.” I announced proudly. A couple more ladies came over to see. One asked why I would do such a thing. I explained our tradition and how it had died out the last year. “Melissa restarted it by tying a knot in my pajama leg on Monday. I’m just upping the ante a bit.” I went on to explain, “I sewed it shut at home with white thread. The seam really showed, so I tore out the stitches and called Di to see if she had some brown thread.”
Di quickly defended herself, “I thought he was sewing on a button!”
“I never said what I was doing. I simply asked if you had any brown thread and that I would meet you at the quilt club.” I replied.
“Don’t you involve our quilt club in your nefarious deeds!” Shelby said, drawing a good laugh from the other girls.
After pulling the last stitch through, I cut the thread and turned the shirt right-side-out to show them my work. Most agreed that I did a pretty nice job. They all laughed when one of them said, “It’s a shame to waste good stitching on such foolishness.” I wondered, why can’t I get them to laugh like that?
I asked Di if I could have some more thread. “I think you’ve done enough sewing for today,” she said.
“I was going to repair the hole under the arm while I’m here.” Di looked at me with skepticism. I held the sleeve up, showing the hole. “Seriously, I was going to fix this.” Di was reluctant, but pulled off another stretch of brown string and threaded the needle for me. I finished mending the hole. The ladies, ready for their break, began migrating toward the table for coffee and snacks.
I hadn’t formerly met all the gals in the quilt club, so I introduced myself. Arlene said, “I’ve heard all about you.” Bev said, “Di told us about you.” Hmph. I wondered, told you, or, warned you?
I told the ladies [TP1] a story: “Melissa was a photographer for the newspaper. She bought a new pair of black dress slacks for a big photo assignment, but the legs were too long. I hemmed and pressed them for her. My ability to sew, very well might have been why she married me.” I said.
Bev commented, “Well it certainly wasn’t for your sense of humor.” The ladies and I all laughed about that.
After we had ice cream bars, I folded the sweatshirt and said I needed to get home. The girls said I could come back anytime, then returned to the quilting table.
At home, I set her hoodie at the end of the bed, then went about my business. A few hours later, Melissa walked into the kitchen wearing her old worn, brown hoodie. I had to fight off any smirk or sign of emotion. She finally started laughing. “You goof! I thought I was drunk and must have put my shirt on backwards. I felt the front for the pocket, then figured out what you did.” We shared a good laugh about that.
“Did you notice I fixed the hole under the arm?”
She lifted her arm to look. “Hey! You did!” She said with excitement, “Thank you, honey.” Then she gave me a hug.
We had a fire in the woodstove that evening and watched a movie. The house was pretty warm at bedtime, so I thought I would just sleep in my boxer shorts. About four in the morning, I woke up feeling chilly. I was going to put my pajama pants on in the dark, so as not to wake my wife, but I felt something odd – almost like a package a new T-shirt would come in…or maybe a new pair of pajamas pants. Did my wife surprise me with new jammie pants tucked inside my old pair? I carried my PJ’s to the bathroom.
I turned on the light, excited to find the present my wife left for me. “What?” Someone, used black duct tape to seal off, not just one, but both legs of my pajamas! “Boy! That woman just never gives up.” I said as I pulled the tape from the flannel. I was going to ball the tape up and throw it away, but had a better idea. “There’s no sense in letting this duct tape go to waste.”
I lifted the lid and seat on the toilet and used the black sticky tape to securely fasten the seat to the bottom side of the lid, then closed them together. I snickered, “Let’s see who’s laughing when someone sits on an ice-cold porcelain rim in the morning.”
I went back to bed, trying hard not laugh or make any noise. “Stop laughing, you’re shaking the bed.” Said the sleeping person next to me.
As I laid there, I thought to myself, I’m going to have to come up with some new material before going back to the Quilt Club.
…to be continued…
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