An Extraction of Epic Proportions

Looking back, it was a situation comedy writers would struggle to dream up, wrought with “No Luck” humor and tragic undertones. But, from it, I made a more-than-memorable acquaintance. 

Myssy and I were invited to spend four or five days in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, at the oceanfront home of my brother-in-law’s new wife’s father. Let that sink in: my brother-in-law’s new wife’s father. We lost my sister, Kelly, in 2000. She and Chip have two kids, Chloe and Logan, who were nine and six when she passed. A couple of years later, Chip was remarried to Marcy. At the time of the invitation, we had three small children: Evan, Audrey, and Claire. Chip and Marcy had a new boy, Brooks, and another on the way.

We love Marcy. We attended their intimate wedding on Daufuskie Island, and tried to keep the kids familiar and seeing each other as much as possible, though we lived four hours apart before they moved to Texas. Still, crashing the beach house was bringing the relationship to a new, potentially-uncomfortable level.

Richard Cox
Richard “Cappy” Cox

We arrived around noon on Saturday, meeting out for a casual seafood lunch. “Cappy” Cox, Marcy’s father, was spending the weekend on one of his boats up-coast, we learned. That evening I manned the grill, and we team-fed our large group – one of Chip’s sisters, Cindy, and her two daughters were there as well – a fun, relaxing dinner. I consumed a couple of beers, nothing to speak of for me.

Except that after we all went to bed – they’d given us Cappy’s master bedroom and bath – I became violently ill. Repeatedly ill, throughout the entire night. What was going on? I wasn’t food-poisoned – no one else was sick. Dawn came and I was empty but in excruciating discomfort. I couldn’t move without pain. I was given Phenergan to relieve my nausea symptoms, which were long passed, though it did help me get some rest. But by noon or so, yes, Mys touched my abdomen, vaulting me off the bed in pain. “Get your flops on” was her response.

Why, in all the days of my life – and they multiply out quickly – why this one day for an incident of this magnitude to occur? It couldn’t have been a more disruptive, un-fortuitous time.

Forty-five minutes after entering the doors of Carteret Medical Center, my appendix was being extracted. It was described as “gangrenous and ready to burst” by the doctor who removed it, a near-miss that could have led to weeks in a hospital bed. I felt so much better afterwards I would have kissed the man, given the opportunity. Chip and the kids came to visit me. Sitting by my bed, he was giddy with relief, the shared affection sort of forgotten territory for us both. He and Kelly were high school sweethearts, and he was like a big brother to me.

Jay photo 1But, I was forty-four years old. Why, in all the days of my life – and they multiply out quickly – why this one day for an incident of this magnitude to occur? It couldn’t have been a more disruptive, un-fortuitous time. I pondered the trip down. My back was twinging with a little pain, but nothing more. I wrote it off as driving fatigue. No signs of what was about to happen.

Jay photo 2I was released on Tuesday and had to gingerly keep myself dry for the rest of our stay. Sitting poolside with my legs in the water was my only plunge. Cappy, a quick-witted, lover of good times, had returned and ultimately found great humor in my condition. We toasted future health. I was able to join him and the group on a bumpy boat ride for lunch the following day, observing the majestic wild horses of the Outer Banks on the way.

As we packed to leave, Cappy assured me I was welcome to return, as long as I had a thorough TT-1physical examination before I came. Chip, Marcy and the kids ran out and had the above T-shirt made for me, “I left my appendix in Atlantic Beach.”

Cappy was his grandfather’s tag, for being the larger-than-life captain of his boats. It fit his personality well. I saw him a few more times through the years. He was always quick to smile, and to make others laugh. He lit up the room. He loved his daughters and all his grandkids immensely. On this day, he is being memorialized in his hometown of Greenville, North Carolina, gone at 71. Richard “Cappy” Cox, you were one of a kind, and you will be greatly missed.

https://www.wilkersonfuneralhome.com/obituaries/obituary-listings?obId=15464960&fbclid=IwAR29rO-B_SDOhBBeIs_g6HLHWmIsLkuztP9JlyosJ-KrhhLFBJ6kjP5S_xQ#/obituaryInfo

Outer Banks photos contributed by Jay Drumheller, all rights reserved.

© 2020

 

 

The Fundamentals of Racial Harmony

 With the current racial issues dominating the headlines following George Floyd’s murder and funeral, and now the weekend shooting of Rayshard Brooks, I’m reminded of a scene from my second novel, The Lost Lantern, a book ultimately about racial harmony.

The novel takes place partially in the 1960s, but mostly in mid-1980s Myrtle Beach and Murrell’s Inlet, South Carolina. In the scene, William McMillian, a black man, takes his white friend John Gates to a coastal point on government-owned wetlands for an important discussion. William has often come to the spot throughout his life to contemplate issues and consider important decisions. There is a single tree along the shoreline, its branches all growing to the west, the result of a perpetual ocean wind. William has just received the most devastating news of his life, the aftermath of racial injustice.

Here’s the excerpt:

“I’ve done a lot of thinking here, John. I know I’m not a great philosopher, but I’ve had some good moments at this spot. Times when I just had to get away from our neighborhood, or get away from Danny’s (restaurant), from cleanin’ it and keeping the kitchen running right. I’ve been here late at night, with a full moon out there over the water… so beautiful, stars so clear and bright. And all I could think about was how great God is, and how wonderful this world could be.

I’ve thought about those branches. The branches of that tree… as black people. And the wind is white people. Whenever a branch starts to grow into the wind, or fight back, the wind picks up stronger, or shifts, until over time, the branch can’t do nothin’ but turn and join the other branches… defeated. If it doesn’t turn, eventually it’ll break. And it will fall and die.”  – William McMillian, The Lost Lantern.

Lantern ThumbWhen I wrote this I believed that the prevailing racial winds had changed since 1987. And I still do. Opportunity – and oppression – are becoming colorblind. In my opinion there is a small percentage of whites living in the past, unfortunately with the ability and position to exercise incredible ignorance and stupidity. I still believe we live in the greatest country in the world, that we will continue to grow and get through all of this – together. We need faith, hope, kindness, and love. Maybe that’s naïve and not hard-hitting. But it’s fundamental. With fundamentals, you need repetition.

The Lost Lantern and The Long Shadow of Hope are available on Amazon.com or on my author page at: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01EYPU3RQ

Thanks for reading, A.S. © 2020

 

 

 

Pedaler’s Prayer

Great Cycle ChallengeLast June I was humbled by the generosity of a great number of friends and family members who supported me financially and with continued encouragement in The Great Cycle Challenge. Nationally over $8 million was raised by some 15,000 riders for children’s cancer research, and personally, after riding a bicycle 603 miles for the month, we raised just over $3,000 – No. 1 in the state of West Virginia and in the top 230 in the nation!

Those totals came after more modest goals – 500 miles and $1,000 – were originally proposed. Because, after returning to work in March, I rode a total of only 62 miles in March, April and May in (lack of) preparation – no base from which to build upon. Ol’ friend Matt Mandeville shamed me into upping my mileage goal (putting his money where his mouth is), even though I was essentially starting from scratch and having to ride little chippy 14 to 20 milers initially while I got my legs, lungs and big arse in better shape. In truth, I had no idea what to expect concerning donations. My brother Barry Thaxton got it started – maybe the donations rolled in more heavily when it appeared I could actually exceed half my goal. LOL.

bike-in-b-n-wWhy did I do it? One, WE ARE BLESSED! How can I not do something? Two, eradicating all cancer is the true goal – my sister and three of my closest friends have been taken from us – but a child suffering and losing that battle is especially heart-wrenching and incomprehensible. We’ve seen that the fear and uncertainty involved in a child being diagnosed is beyond devastating. I pray this can help end that. We need hope! Three, I was gifted a worthy bike by a special person – Rich Harper, proprietor of John’s Cyclery. I feel I must continue to do what I can to pay his generosity forward. If you care to read that story, please click on:     https://andrewspradling.wordpress.com/2016/08/20/immeasurable-kindness/

This spring, I was able to ride 476 miles in March, April, and May – the last six on Hilton Head Island yesterday – and am prepared to attempt 188 miles a week to reach 750 for the month (800 would feel REALLY good). Optimistically, I set my fundraising goal where we left off last year – $3,000. To put the mileage in perspective, I flirted with these numbers 28 years ago (at 28-years-old), when Derek Watson got me hooked and we rode nearly every day – and were occasionally joined by fitness legends Rick Robinson and Dave Walker.

DrewUnfortunately, like everything else, due to Covid-19, The Great Cycle Challenge has been postponed until September. This creates a degree of uncertainty for my participation at that level. Myssy suggested better lights and 4:30 a.m. starts – not the worst idea safety-wise. I will keep you posted and with the help of health-purist Larry Ellis, keep pedaling over hill and dale with lofty goals, songs, and suspenseful tales in mind. Have a great summer!

Learn more at https://greatcyclechallenge.com/   Thanks for reading, A.S.

 

 

 

High Marks from “Integrity Personified”

When I reminisce about my junior high school days, so joyous at the time, a handful of educators stand out above the others. Some because of what they taught and how passionately they did it. Others, for who they were – for what they were.

 Sam Owens was my Spanish teacher for three years. More importantly, he was a pillar of integrity, professionalism, and kindness in a place that, it turned out years later, had a despicably-dark underbelly of the worst kind.

 Though he was a tremendous teacher, I was not a student of Spanish. I saw it as credits I needed to get through high school. I did what I could – sang songs with vigor, participated as much as possible, to offset my inept conjugating of verbs. He took pity on me. Once, when the coaches I most wanted to please – and for whom I became a two-time all-conference player – were subtly bullying me for playing another sport, Mr. Owens was the person this 13-year-old went to crushed, confused, and emotional. He didn’t console me, he resolved the issue. It was something he probably wouldn’t even remember. For me, it was an illogical, few-day hiccup in an otherwise blissful stay – including with those coaches – over forty years ago. But, that I went to him, speaks volumes to me now.

 That Sam Owens, an author himself, read my second novel, The Lost Lantern, and took time to write a favorable review, also means the world to me.

 The Secret of the Lost Lantern May 1, 2020 5-stars

Lantern ThumbThe story of a shocking murder lingers beneath the myriad of events detailed throughout novel. Waiting to be exposed to the reader, the facts relating to this horrendous crime remain concealed among the intense compassions of human nature, the evil racism lurking within the local culture, and the diverse concerns of sophomoric teens. The surprising solution to the disappearance of a beloved resident of Myrtle Beach is at last revealed in the secrets of The Lost Lantern, the extraordinary title of this novel. A worthy read for anyone, but especially for those beach-loving natives of Appalachia, whose people and home play an intriguing role in this sun–drenched community.

The Lost Lantern, and The Long Shadow of Hope, are available on Amazon.com

 Thanks for reading, A.S.

Exploring Racial Harmony: Teaching “The Cay” in 2020

While it’s currently corona-stalled and banished to on-line only, I have been in a new arena the past eight months – the classroom. I once, beginning 38 years ago, intended to teach English and coach basketball. The whirling dervish called life took me in some different directions, and now I’ve landed back where I began. I’m teaching Creative Writing to sixth graders, and I assisted a lifelong coach with the same middle school’s boys’ team and coached the junior varsity, two reasons blog posts have been flowing like mud in the same time frame.

The classroom work has been interesting and I have varying levels of writing talent among the 180 students – some quite accomplished. To teach the value of reading to writers, to be able to point out some excellent author technique, and for a break from the growing mountain of papers to be graded, I thought it would be fun to read a book with them. I chose The Cay, by Theodore Taylor.

The CayIf you’re not familiar, The Cay is set in Dutch-held Curacao during World War II. A Caribbean Island just north of Venezuela, at the top of South America, the area is a target for German submarines because neighboring Isle Aruba’s oil refinery has begun producing and shipping aviation fuel for use by the Allied Forces. Taylor’s lead sets the tone for the book aptly: LIKE SILENT, HUNGRY SHARKS that swim in the darkness of sea, the German submarines arrived in the middle of the night.

Young Phillip Enright, 11-year-old son of an American petroleum engineer, has to leave the island with his foolishly-squeamish mother, who longs for the safety of eastern Virginia. Of course, their ship is torpedoed and Phillip ends up on a raft with Timothy, an old, black man (portrayed by James Earl Jones in the TV movie), and the ship’s cook’s pet, Stew Cat. Making matters worse, Phillip is hit in the head by a timber during the ship’s demise, and after a couple of days on the raft he goes blind.

“It makes no sense to dislike an entire race of people.” – Timothy, of The Cay

Adding to the tension between the two characters is Phillip’s ignorance and attitude about blacks, purely a mirror of his mother’s beliefs, which he doesn’t actually understand. The book is narrated by Phillip. He thinks of Timothy initially as a “big, ugly Negro.” Timothy is a West Indie native, and calls Phillip “Young Boss” in his native accent. When they land on their cay, a small island that is part of the unnavigable-by-ship Devil’s Mouth, Timothy sets about making plans for their rescue and keeping them alive in his pleasant way. Phillip refuses to help with chores he is able to do, thus tension eventually comes to a head until Timothy smacks Phillip for a particularly disrespectful outburst. After that the two become fast friends. Timothy teaches Phillip how to be self-sufficient: to catch rainwater, to fish, to bare-hand lobster, and to climb trees for coconuts, in case his stay on the isle outdistances 70-plus-year-old Timothy’s life. They even talk about race. Timothy tells Phillip it makes no sense to dislike an entire race of people, and that people of all colors are the same on the inside. Ultimately, Phillip respects and loves Timothy, and as he matures he realizes everything Timothy did to save his life… both before he dies protecting Phillip during a hurricane and after.

Lantern ThumbMudboundThe theme of my second novel, The Lost Lantern, is also racial harmony. More so than The Cay, to achieve my goal, harsh examples of racism, and racists, had to be depicted. It grates on the soul and sensibility… but it was realistic. It is certainly authentic to South Carolina in the ’60s and ’80s, where and when The Lost Lantern takes place. The Lost Lantern is more closely related to Hillary Jordan’s Mudbound than Taylor’s young adult effort (released in 1969) as Lantern’s black and white friends team together to overcome tall racial odds.

When asked by students about reading my books, I have told them that they must be 17, that the books would be “R or NC-17 rated,” if there were such distinctions for novels. Less than ten percent of my students are black, but many, white and black, initially found The Cay to be racist. One young man (privately) found the term Negro offensive to the point of tears. In his mind it was the N-word, not the commonly-used, proper term of the World War II era. Still, I was sensitive to his point. He said he didn’t like the way the kids “were looking at him.”  Like the protagonist Phillip Enright, most of the students are just beginning to reach maturity. If they were looking, they were watching for his reactions.

I believe that had my junior high English class read The Cay in the late ’70s instead of Romeo and Juliet, it would have been uncomfortable. Race then could still be volatile. In today’s world, I never felt the students looked at each other as black, yellow, mixed, white, brown. The friendships I’ve observed seem colorblind. Ultimately, nearly all of the students enjoyed the book because it was about friendship, love, respect and loss. Time marches on, worldwide problems obviously change, but for some, hopefully a small minority, maybe race relations stay the same.

© 2020

 

 

29 For 29

Sure, it’s a play on one of my favorite reoccurring sports series by ESPN. Hard hitting, unvarnished truth. It’s a reminder of why sports-related novels are few and far between – sports truths are dramatic enough presented as non-fiction.

Shadow Copy thumbnailIn this case, 29 represents the reviews written about my college football-based sports novel, The Long Shadow of Hope, AND, after a little over two years, the match – 29 reviews reflecting opinions about my second novel, The Lost Lantern, a  Myrtle Beach-Murrells Inlet-based tale of racial harmony and good over evil in the form of racial bigotry.

Hard-hitting, faced-paced plots are the goal for my novels. They haven’t been Michael Johnson out of the blocks, but as I put the finishing touches on my third, I feel The Lost Lantern picked up momentum over the summer in sales and perception, with a  4.9 average out of five stars. Here are some of the opinions rendered:

Lantern ThumbMRE4 – I didn’t want the story to end… August 21, 2019

The setting of this story made it the perfect book to read while vacationing in the Myrtle Beach area. The character development was so good that I found myself feeling angry and deeply rooting for the “underdog.” By the time I got to the last third of the book I couldn’t put it down because I was so engrossed in the storyline that I needed to know what was going to happen with the characters I had grown to love. I finished the final 100 pages on the road trip home. Really great read. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy.

A page turner from beginning to end! August 8, 2019

I loved the characters and the settings. From West Virginia to the low country of South Carolina. My favorite character was William and the story of the Lost Lantern.

Bandit – Fantastic surprises await! July 19, 2019

Spradling’s masterfully crafted characters in the accurately depicted Myrtle Beach of the 1980’s are intricately woven into a web I could not put down. I literally shouted expletives out loud at one point, then was amused at how attached I was to the people and the storyline. It really delivers as a great read of many facets: a love story, crime, murder mystery, and more! This is one you’ll suggest to your friends!

W.McCallister – Very addictive story. July 7, 2019

Very interesting and detailed story. I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.
I love the way all of the characters are so entwined.
Several unexpected twists were very creative.

A.F. – Great summer read! June 12, 2019

Great summer read. Good story with many sub plots that come together nicely. Really good character building. Enjoyed the twists and turns that kept me engaged in the story. Definitely recommend and looking forward to reading more from this author!

I want to offer a sincere “Thank you” to all who have given me a chance and taken the time to read my novels. I truly appreciate you! Thanks for reading, A.S. 

Threads

It was when I observed my son’s recent high school graduation pictures that I saw it, realized it, and the emotions began to rip through my soul like raging flood waters. The jacket I wore. I hadn’t considered it or given it any thought at the time. Throw it on and go.

We have an emotional ritual that we endure every summer. His birthday celebration on July 26. Her anniversary on August 6. This Tuesday marked the nineteenth year since her passing. The year 2000 was the ultimate “Best of times, Worst of times” in our immediate family history, exceeding the premature passing of our grandfather thirty-three years earlier as his three daughters – one, our mother – were birthing the eight grandchildren he would briefly enjoy, spoil, love, and depart from. He would have been 110 Saturday.

Kelly headshot copyHere’s the tale of two cities. My wife and I were preparing for the arrival of our first child. She, nearly three hundred miles away, was fighting for her life. We’d always come together as frequently as possible. We love and adore their children, and hoped to model our child rearing after hers. While we were choosing colors, painting, attending Lamaze classes and baby showers, she was battling the cancer that had begun in one breast, and had, after removal “success,” come back with the fury of a conquering army.

She told me a couple of months before our due date, at an annual family vacation, her goal was to see our child born. I replied, “Well, you need a new goal. You’re doing great.” I was naïve about death. She, a 39-year-old nurse who had last worked in drug research, was not. She was thin and frail from chemo and the disease eating at her bones and organs, always in hat to cover her scalp. She realized her own mortality as she and her husband held their household together and raised their nine and seven-year-old. It was a confusing time.

Not long after, due to protein levels, it was quickly determined we needed to induce the following morning. She was there – from over four hours away. She had to be wheeled into the waiting room. I was crushed when I saw her physical state. But I was so wound up for the coming of our child – I had to let it go. Again following her lead, we chose not to learn our baby’s gender. “There are so few surprises in life,” she used to say.

Evan's birthShe was to go into delivery with us to witness our miracle, but the epidural my wife was given halted the expansion of her cervix, and at 10 p.m. after a 5:30 a.m. start it was determined a cesarean would be performed. My big sister, due to medical bureaucracy and insurance concerns, would have to miss the birth. But she would not miss the welcoming of our son, named Evan Kelly, Kelly after her. I can still see her long, thin fingers holding him, speaking baby talk to him, and immediately loving him. She had a way with babies and children. She embraced the “precious present” and had an unquantifiable love of life.

Earlier, in the fall of 1999, upon learning that her cancer had returned, she and her husband hosted a party to make the announcement. Her friends formed such a strong support group she never had to cook another dinner. A couple of months later, in December, they held another party for the upcoming holidays. We traveled to attend.  They had been high school sweethearts. He was like a brother to me. That was the night we told them we were pregnant. And though we said let’s keep it between us, she couldn’t hold it in. Their friends were our friends, and good news was welcomed. A quicker eight months you could not imagine. Phone calls to her – with talks of her children’s advances, of hopes, fears, expectations, pains, worries – were frequent, and yet now I wish that I’d spoken with her twice daily.  

Because eleven days after Evan’s arrival, with her children, her husband, our mother and father, her closest friends, and me by her side, she peacefully let go and moved on.

Baby Evan reducedWith the services for both there and here planned, I returned home and realized that, having become a more mature man, I needed a new black suit. The picture with Evan was before her memorial service here, where, due to love, his health, a crutch, a barrier, a conversational buffer, pure selfishness, a bit of contempt – I could not let him go or put him down. I must have held him for three hours straight.

131.JPGThe next picture (above) is nearly nineteen years later – graduation night. Our family. Our growth, our progression, our happiness. Same jacket. She would laugh at that. I think daily about how she would love our children, and how they would be enriched by knowing her – the same as her own kids, who have become successful adults, each with their own niche in other regions of the country.

Baby D with KAfter a tumultuous start due mostly to my immaturity, we became the closest of friends. I wrote a poem in college about a cherished neighbor who had passed away. In it I mention a Cincinnati Reds game we attended in our youth. “I like that image, heavy binoculars,” she told me. Words. I was a sportswriter when she left us, not always fluff, constantly striving to improve. I became a novelist, which I had but an inkling of early on. If she had disapproved of a thought, any notion, in one of my books, she would have called me out on it. But if she believed in it, she’d have been my trumpet section. She always protected me. She literally fought for that which she believed, and she’d pump me with courage to make me stand tall, move forward. That was our history. That was our thread.

 

© 2019

What A Day Off Means To Me

                                                                             My old friend Jody Jividen was an avid runner who inYod 85 his heyday kept meticulous records about his daily near-sprints through the streets of Dunbar. Once I began to ride a bike somewhat seriously Jody would tell me, “Don’t plan a day off. They’ll come on their own.” Which meant, for him, he could have streaks of consecutive weeks in which he RAN. I never made the mistake of saying “Did you jog today?” more than once. That was offensive to the former Marshall University Cross Country athlete. And, happy drewif I persuaded him to take a day off to play some one-on-one, you’d better know that you were in store for some rugged hoops. The courts at Shawnee Park are named in his honor. We all lost Jody to colorectal cancer in August of 2002. Charleston’s Run For Your Life (in connection with the Smoke On The Water Chili Cook Off) began as a tribute to Jody’s memory as well.

IMG_0287I took a day off yesterday, which of course made me think of Yod. I’d ridden just shy of 90 miles in three days, 318 in fourteen rides through June, which is not impressive except that, I didn’t get to ride in April and May, so I’ve really been building a base in the first half of the month. We concluded our 3-week middle school basketball period with a morning practice and late-afternoon game, and while I could have squeezed a ride in between those events and the raindrops, I chose to rest (clean the kitchen).

 

“Don’t plan a day off. They’ll come on their own.”

Great Cycle ChallengeI’ve currently raised $1,568 for Children’s Cancer Research, good for second place in West Virginia, 615th in the U.S., but I sure hope for more. I put new cleats on my shoes. I have 10 days remaining to see what I can do in the Great Cycle Challenge. Through the rain that has become our state, through weariness of limbs, in memory of Jody, our friend and colleague Mike Cherry, my sister Kelly Spradling Simmons, I will not take another day off.

https://www.facebook.com/andy.spradling

Postscript: Internet was working slowly this morning. Got in 32.4 to surpass 350.  

©2019

 

The “Why” of It

Great Cycle ChallengeAs of today, because of the generosity of many friends and family members, I have raised $1,174.63 of my $1,500 goal for Children’s Cancer Research. This month, I’m attempting to ride my road bicycle 650 miles in the Great Cycle Challenge, to fight children’s cancer. I surpassed 205 miles yesterday, and have yet to ride today. I am behind pace and afraid that goal may be unattainable. But the goodness of people is already apparent, and that’s the important issue. We all know someone touched by cancer.

It has been nearly three years since I posted “Immeasurable Kindness,” the story of Rich Harper, our local bicycle shop owner, giving me an incredible gift.

https://andrewspradling.wordpress.com/2016/08/20/immeasurable-kindness/

(or on this blog site in August, 2016)

bike-in-b-n-wSince that time I have released my second novel, The Lost Lantern (available on Amazon.com), and am coming down the home stretch of my third. Along with my wife, I’ve watch our three children continue to grow and amaze us, our son graduating high school with high honors. This spring, I returned to work as a substitute teacher, finishing the final ten weeks of the school year as a long-term sub at my own former junior high. Now I’m jumping into coaching basketball as well as an assistant there. We are currently in our 3-week practice period, adding to my daily fatigue.

As I re-read “Immeasurable Kindness,” I thought how can I NOT be doing something? I’m quietly cynical at times and see the bad in our world. Sometimes I wear blinders, while my wife constantly reaches out and helps those in need. But people have been so very good to me, God has been so very good to me, I have to do something to give back. Forcing myself into a little fitness at the same time is a win-win.

Thanks for reading, A.S.

© 2019

A Swing Through Time

kids swinging.JPG

Maybe the long, firm hug, the glassy eyes, and the tears spilled said it all.

On one hand it was easy to laugh about, and yet on the other, it was the most real and recently-reoccurring emotion. One that most parents of growing children – those who actually parent – struggle with, I’m sure.

We were doing a good deed. We gave our kids’ swing set to a young family around the way. A swing set that brought immediate shouting, laughing – and departing tears to the new children. They were in. The swing set hadn’t really been used much in the past few years. It was one that was in danger of falling into disrepair without some TLC. But one that – a blink ago – brought so much joy to our children. So much laughter.

Trio 11x17 cpd.jpg

I can see them twelve years ago, innocent and wide-eyed, laughing and struggling to climb into the collapsible swings. “Push me, push me,” one would ask as I pulled their swing backward, higher, and higher – “beep, beep, beep” and then – on release – a launch sound, “Pppshhhhhooooooolllllllll.” That was my swing routine with them.

I can see my wife with her beautiful smile and playful personality standing behind the children and their friends as they climbed one of the ladders, ever fearful of a slip of the foot. Once safe, I can hear her loving banter and their gleeful shouts as they joyfully slide the slide, turn, and of course try to walk back up the hard way.

It was an adventure to their tiny bodies, through the tunnel, into the little club house. Their joy brought to mind my Grandma Betty, who could, on park-sized swings, push us high, then run under us to the other side. She was amazing to me.

Our oldest is about to graduate from high school and will soon leave for Virginia Tech’s School of Engineering. Next in line is just a class behind. The reality of those departures have spring-loaded my wife’s emotions – and mine. You love and nurture, and do all that you can to prepare them, and pray that you’ve done enough. You realize you cannot stop time, but that only through time can you see the results.

© 2019