Friday, December 30, 2016


I knew by his face it was not good news.  When the doctor came in Wednesday, he had a somber countenance and began to wash his hands.  While he did, Dad said, "Well, I  hope you're going to tell me you'll see me later."  But, I was watching his face.  As he turned around from the sink, he said, "Unfortunately, the growth did not come back benign."  I knew from way back in Janis Blocker's English class (I don't know which of the four years) that "bene" meant "good," but "mal" meant "bad.  I knew "benign" meant not cancerous; the opposite is "malignant."  It didn't register with Dad at first; he said, "Well, at least you didn't tell me I have cancer."

I am feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. Everything will fall to me to handle.  All business and  I will always have to be the one who goes to really important doctors' appointments with him.  Mother is nearly deaf.  My brother is just about there, and he and his wife have their own medical issues.  In fact, he was at his own doctor's appointment when I took Dad to his.  While Dad can hear fine, he is the patient, and patients don't always hear what they need to.

I have been processing this new reality and trying to stay sane.  I have five months from tomorrow before I retire.  It had been my prayer this year, and it still is, that I will have some years with my parents once I do retire.  Time....we can never get back time.  There is so much I regret about time and my own child, but I can't dwell on any of that.  I am fortunate that I have an understanding boss about when I have needed to go with Dad to doctors' appointments.  

For the last two days, this thought has been weighing heavily on my mind:  Tomorrow night is the big Clemson-Ohio State semi-final game of the College Football Championship.  I have a zoo, so leaving for a night has always been a concern.  However, it would mean so much to Dad to watch the game with me, so I am getting everyone settled in here, and I am going to spend the night and watch the game with him from his "man cave," i.e.  Matthew's old bedroom for three years and my childhood bedroom.  We will both wear our Clemson shirts that I bought him.  I feel this is a message from God to do it because it has pressed on my mind so hard for the last two days.

Seize the day, for we do not know how many we have left....any of us.  Don't live with regrets of "I wish I had...."

P.S.  If you are a praying person, I would covet your prayers for strength for me and healing for my dad.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Those words--the title of my blog--never have had the meaning that they now do.  (I want to start by saying I have the settings so no one in my family can see this.)  Today, my dad got his second cancer diagnosis, and I don't feel "good" about this one.  Maybe it's because he's 89 this time instead of 84; maybe it's because it was found in a lymph node, and cancer does not begin there.  That means we don't know where it is at this time.  We are waiting on a referral to my oncologist here in Beaufort and the one Dad went to before.

I was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 44; four years later Dad was diagnosed at age 84.  He had it much easier than I did because he had a flat tumor on the wall of the colon.  He was out of the hospital on the sixth day and mowing his lawn the following week.  He didn't need chemo or radiation.

Tonight I came home and took a hot bath.  I do a lot of crying in the bathtub.  All of my makeup is off by then, and it's cleansing to let the tears fall where they may.  I don't know what I will do when my dad does leave me, whether by this cancer or whatever means.  I truly don't know what I will do or how I will go on.  I know I will have to, but I sure don't know how I will. this is how we all should approach life and its trials.  Life is precious, and none of us know if today will be our last on this earth.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Meaning of Christmas

I have never liked the hustle and bustle of Christmas.  Most of the time, I feel like an outsider looking in.  The commercialism turns me off.  Don't get me wrong; I like to get presents like anybody else.  But, the smallest things make me happy:  the dark chocolate Hershey bar thrust at me from an unknown, random 1st grader this week, the bag of assorted Lindor truffles (sorry, little 4th grader, but the rest are going to Priscilla's house today (I ate 3 that I shouldn't have.), the French lavender body set from another child, and the Bath and Body Works lotion and assorted cat notes from my "daughter from another mother."  It takes little to make me happy.  It made me happier to see Ashley's giddiness over her B&B pumpkin body wash I gave her.  She was excited over the container and said she had never seen that in the store; of course not, as I ordered it online.   She *is* like the daughter I never had; that was my same giddiness over the pumpkin spice creamers by bff gave me.

Let me speak of the Hershey candy---as soon as the little *unknown* girl thrust it at me and said, "Happy Christmas," I immediately thought of the widow's mite in the Bible.   That widow gave all she had; this little girl only knows me from my duty station in the hallway in the morning and the one time I subbed for an hour in her class; yet, she wanted to give me this candy.  It's dark chocolate, so could it be she didn't like it?  Maybe; maybe she can't read it yet to know what it is.  The point is, she saw me and wanted to give it to me.  Her gesture meant so much.

In the rabid push of commercialism, I focus on the true meaning of Christmas.  It is my duty (and joy) to bring happiness to others where I can.  Jesus did for others all the time; that was His ministry.  I am an epic failure at emulating Him, but still I try.  I listen for God's voice, and this week He has left me in tears with what I have felt coming from Him and the responses those couple of gestures have brought from the people He told me to minister to (and if you are reading this, you know who you are.)  

Today, I will take Priscilla her Christmas meal and settle in for more Christmas movies on Netflix with my fur babies.  Tomorrow morning I will take meal ingredients to my parents' house and cook there.  I have never done that before, but I will banish Mother from the kitchen.  Dad will likely want to help, and that will be fun.  We always talk when I cook on Sundays, and he hangs out at the doorway, doing little things to help.  Hopefully, my son will call from frigid Colorado, and my brother and sister-in-law will come for the noonday meal.  There's nothing fancy about it, but that is fine because it helps keep the focus on what is truly important:  Jesus' birth to save the world from itself.  Lord knows, we need that now more than ever.  We need a little Jesus.

                    Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friends vs. Acquaintances

Friends vs. acquaintances..........what's the difference?  I taught middle school for 19 years, and students seem to lump everyone they get along with in the "friend" category.  Then, they are perplexed when said friend stabs them in the back.  I have tried to teach them the difference between the two.

I have 1 friend...yes, 1.  Everyone else is lumped into " acquaintances." (My dad is my friend, but he is my dad, so I don't really call him a friend.)  Let me explain my reasoning.

A friend is someone you share life with--either in person or from afar.  A friend is someone who genuinely cares what you are doing and going through.   Let that sink in.  It's someone you know you can call and talk to, and she or he will be glad to hear from you and glad to listen.  A friend is also a confidante.  You know you can tell her/him anything, and it won't be divulged to anyone else.

I have written about my bff here:  While she doesn't know everything, she knows more than anyone else in my life.  If you read that other blog post, you get a sense of how loyal she is.  Yesterday, she totally shocked me....and I am NOT easy to surprise.  She showed up at my door at work bearing a McDonald's pumpkin spice latte (She knows that obsession!), a cupcake recipe book, and a Calgon take me away kit.  And a card....the card that made me cry.  Anyway, she knew I was feeling low yesterday morning, so she surprised me all the way from Sun City, where she lives in Bluffton.  We really rarely see each other; I had not seen her since August, but we talk daily, sometimes multiple times a day.

A friend doesn't have to be physically present, but she/he has to care.  That's why I lump everyone else into the "acquaintance" category.  I don't waste my time or anyone else's telling them my challenges or frustrations/problems because I know they really don't care when we get down to it. People are selfish and preoccupied with themselves.  It's not a cut against them; "it is what it is," as it says on a sign a former student gave my bff several years ago when she gave me the "Teachers touch one life at a time" sign (Thanks CH!). I also categorize acquaintances 

Middle school students seem to feel like they need a lot of "friends."  I could never relate to that because when I was their age, I was a loner; I'm still an introvert.  I'd rather than one genuine friend than a hundred would-be friends who are "fair weather" friends or back stabbers. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Just Another Day

Today is my birthday, just another day.  It wasn't always "just another day."  In fact, in all previous years, my parents always made it special.  Even though I was born a few days before Christmas, and the doctor told them to take me home on Christmas Eve and put me under the tree, it was always special.  I always had a separate cake and gifts; my birthday never got lost in the busyness of Christmas.  Even up until a few years ago, my parents got me a cake.  Now, they didn't this year; however, they did take me out to eat Sunday.

Today, I had to work for the first time ever.  Today promised to be "just another day," or so the devil would have it.  However, God brought a few people to brighten it.

My parents called right after 5am and sang to me.  Around 10am, my bff showed up at my door at work.  She came with a pumpkin spiced latte in hand and a bag of pumpkin spice creamers, a cupcake recipe book, and a "Calgon, take me away" kit.  I cried when I read her card.  I cried a lot today.

Later, the sister of a former friend sent me a recorded "Happy Birthday" via Facebook.  I don't even know how she did it.  I should note I have never even met her.  Then, there were the Facebook messages from many people:  current and former colleagues, former students from a few years ago as well as from decades ago.  Tomorrow night boss #2 wants to take me to dinner at Breakwater, a local restaurant that's too ritzy for my taste and pocketbook, but the gesture is nice.  For now, I'm going to let Calgon take me away, and then I will settle in with the furry loves of my life.

P.S.  A young buck of 40 at work said there was no way I looked 54.  THAT was nice!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Father's Love

A few years ago I was standing outside the cafeteria at work when I got a phone call.  "Ms. Garner, this is Allison at Herndon Funeral Home.  I have your father here."  My heart dropped.  Funeral home has my dad? After my initial panic, I learned he was there to sign over some insurance policies; he had begun to make plans.  Since I am the executor, she had some questions for me.

My dad turned 89 last month.  I know my time with him is dwindling.........and I am not sure I will be able to stand it when he is gone.  No one has a clue what he means to me.  Since that time, Mother was under hospice for about 10 months--sent home to die of congestive heart failure.  During that time, he and I discussed some more practicalities.  This week he told me the two of them had gone back to the funeral home and picked out their vaults and caskets.  He didn't want his children to have to think about that.  So, as it now stands, everything is in place at the funeral home except Dad's pallbearers. They bought plots in 1975 after my brother's first wife died.  They will be laid next to her. Mother is adamant about a simple graveside service; Dad will have a military funeral, and the funeral home knows whom to contact about that.  I told him not to worry about pallbearers.  I can make a simple phone call, and I know Tony will take care of it.  I threw out Tom and Elton's names.  It will come together.  There are enough men in that church who revere my dad.  It will be taken care of.

While we were on the phone and discussing this, Dad was matter-of-fact; I was a mess, though he couldn't tell it.  I told him that since we are on the topic, I planned to slip this Clemson shirt into his casket.  That's when he told me it was fine if he is put away in it.  So, it will be.  I also gave him a flannel Clemson shirt, and I will take that back and wear it.

As I sit typing this, tears are streaming down my face.  Someone told me yesterday at work she didn't believe I would retire.  I assured her this year is IT.  I need every moment I have to take care of/spend with my parents.

A father's love can not be underestimated-=----neither can a daughter's............