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UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

tina-at-5-sheep-farmOne day in the spring of 1958, a woman gazed silently at a black and white photograph. The picture was of a little girl kneeling in the snow, her arm around a black dog.

“Her name is Tina,” said the man who had handed her the picture. “She’s 7 years old.  I love my daughter more than anything, but I can’t keep her. My wife…she isn’t Tina’s mother, you know? She resents having a reminder around of my other marriage. I had to send Tina back to my ex-wife, to keep her safe.” The man twisted the hat in his hands as he continued, “But Tina’s mother hasn’t had Tina with her for years; she’s remarried now with two kids and she…well, she’s emotionally unable to deal with another one. You see?” He swallowed hard before adding, “My daughter needs a home.”

The woman handed the photograph to her husband, who took it and studied it for several minutes before giving it back with a small smile. He said, “Well, honey, what do you think?”

The woman touched a finger to the image of the child smiling hopefully into the camera and then looked into the eyes of the little girl’s father. “Yes,” she said. “We’ll take her.”

The little girl in the photograph was me. And the woman, who agreed to open her heart and home to a child she’d never met, was my adopted mother. My new father, of course, played an important, loving part in this decision, but it was my mother who was willing to take on the full-time, thankless and often heartbreaking care of a previously abused child. Loving me would be a challenge for her from the very beginning.

In the first place, I didn’t want to be there and was heartsick at being taken away from my father who I loved desperately despite his refusal to leave the woman who was abusing me. Moreover, I had a natural distrust of women. The two in my life so far had either abandoned me or beaten me. In my mind, why should this new one be any different?

My new father had a much easier time of those turbulent first months; because he was gentle and quiet like my daddy, I bonded with him quickly.  But when he went off to work every day, my mother was the one left alone to deal with a bitter, confused little girl.

The spring day in 1958, when I arrived on my new parents’ doorstep,  I was in terrible shape, not just emotionally, but physically as well. I was malnourished, nearly 20 pounds underweight, had rickets and suffered from constant ear infections and bouts of bronchitis.  It was Mom who sat by my bed all those nights, who rubbed my chest with Vicks and gave me my doses of cough syrup and antibiotics. She cooked me my favorite Lipton chicken soup and made me hot strawberry Jello to drink.  And yet, as I recovered, it was Dad’s lap, not Mom’s that I sought for comfort.

Like many abused children, I was a bed wetter. It embarrassed me and I tried very hard not to, but several times a night, night after night, I would drench my bed.  And several times a night, my mother would rouse from sleep to check on me. On finding me wet she would awaken me, change my bedding, wipe me down with a warm, wet washcloth and dress me in fresh pajamas. She would then kiss me and tell me, “It’s okay, sweetheart. It’s not your fault,” and put me back in bed.  I eventually outgrew this humiliating disorder but I know it was at the cost of many hours of lost sleep on my mother’s part. I don’t think she ever heard a thank you from me for her patience, even though in the past I had been verbally and sometimes physically abused for my incontinence.

In the weeks and months to come, I tested my new mother’s love again and again.

When she asked me not to do something, I did it anyway. When given an order, I ignored it. When she attempted to discipline me, I would draw myself up to my full 46 inches; look her in the eye and say, “You can’t tell me what to do. You’re not my “real” mother,”  words that years later, Mom confessed, had been like a knife in her heart. But she went on loving me anyway.

To help me make friends in my new school, she often arranged with my teacher to surprise my class with donuts. My new playmates would say, “Your mom is so cool!” I would glory in the attention, but I don’t remember ever thanking her.

I look back on those early days and shake my head at the endless, loving patience my mother showed.  No matter how many times I hurt her feelings by refusing the affection she was so hungry to give, my mother never gave up. Night after night, she tucked me in and then sat beside me, stroking my head.  “I love you, Tina,” she told me, over and over. “Other parents have to settle for whatever children are born to them, but I chose you.  And I’m going to keep on loving you, no matter what.”

And one day, I finally believed her.

Mom’s been gone now for more than 30 years and I miss her more than I can say. I wish I could have her here with me one more time to tell her again how sorry I am for what I put her through in those early days, and to thank her for her unconditional love.             Was she the best mother ever? Well, if being willing to bare her heart to a broken, homeless little girl is any measure, then yes, yes she was.

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AGAINST ALL ODDS ~ By Tina Wagner Mattern

In the years before I met my husband, my dating track record was abysmal, consisting mostly of men who thought I’d placed an ad in the personals: “Doormat seeking man to support. Only abusive, married, alcoholic, drug-addicted parolees need apply.”

By the time Fred came along, I was a bitter twenty-six year old woman who believed that there was nothing a man could do for me that a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates and an electronic device couldn’t do as well.

We met in Hawaii. I was vacationing at the Sheraton Waikiki, when one morning, Ted, the pool boy I had spoken with several times approached me as I lay soaking up the sun.

“So, you’re single, right?”

I nodded, a bit uncomfortable, since he wasn’t really my type.

“Great!” Ted grinned. “I want to introduce you to my friend, Fred. He works in the hotel liquor store.”

I reluctantly agreed to the meeting; the next day, by the pool, Ted tapped me on the shoulder. I opened my eyes to see him standing beside a very cute, blonde-haired guy.  “This is Fred,” Ted grinned.  As I sat up, he turned to Fred and said, “This is Tina. Talk amongst yourselves.”  He gave us a thumbs-up and went back to work.

Fred wasn’t really my type, but I liked him right away; he was smart and funny and nice, the complete opposite of the men I had dated up until then. We went out every night for the next two weeks.

The days flew by and it was time for me to go home. The night before my departure, Fred took me to dinner and as we sat sipping our drinks he suddenly handed me a small, gift-wrapped package. Surprised, I took it opened it to find a lovely, 14 karat gold chain. Wide-eyed, I stared at it. Gold was very expensive at that time. I knew he had spent most of his paycheck on the necklace. The men in my past had never given me anything; I had always been the gift-giver. Touched, I said, “What’s this for?”

Fred smiled, “Well, it’s a gift, you know.”

I didn’t know what to say. The two weeks we’d been dating had been fun but I was leaving. Now, Fred had tears in his eyes. “I don’t want you to go.”

I tried to make light of this unexpected situation, smiled and said, “We can always write to one another, right? And I’ll probably be back again next year.”

He cried when I boarded my plane the next day. I felt guilty for most of the flight home, but by the time I arrived back in Portland, my thoughts had moved on. The time with Fred had been entertaining; he was sweet but it was over.

The love letters began arriving within days after I got home. Heartfelt, amusing letters that brought his face to my mind and a smile to my lips. And then there were the phone calls that somehow lasted for much longer than I had intended them to.

“I love you and I miss you,” he told me; words that made me uncomfortable but unexpectedly haunted my dreams.  And then one day when I answered the phone and heard Fred’s voice, I was blindsided by the realization that I missed him. When I admitted this to him, his response was joyful and immediate.  “I’ll come to Portland and we can see if this thing will work!” he said.

“What?” Oh boy, I thought, what have I gotten myself into?

“I mean, it will work,” Fred promised, “because I love you, right?”

It sounded so simple when he said it that I found myself saying, “Well, okay. I guess we can try.”

The next thing I knew, Fred had sold almost everything he owned and booked a flight to Portland. I picked him up at the airport and was surprised by how glad I was to see him again. The next month went by in a happy blur. On my days off, I spent every free moment showing Fred around Oregon. He had only been away from Hawaii once, and not to the West Coast. His enthusiasm was contagious and I was delighted when, on a drive to Mt. Hood, he looked wide-eyed at the pine forest lining the highway, and exclaimed, “Look at all the Christmas trees!”

And then our “honeymoon” period came to an abrupt end. My father called me about our horse-racing business. We owned 7 Thoroughbreds that were being managed by a trainer at Playfair Race Course in Spokane, Washington. Dad’s phone call was to the point.  “I think this trainer is ripping us off. You need to go to Spokane for the summer. Be at the track every day and keep an eye on things.”

I assured him I would and told Fred, “We have to leave next week to spend the summer in Spokane with the horses.”

Fred was shocked. “I can’t go to Spokane! I have to find a job.”

I shrugged. “Bummer. Well, I guess I’d better go make my plane reservations.”  A week later, I had moved into an apartment near the track at Playfair. I missed Fred, but business was business.

Fred was despondent; he couldn’t understand how I could just leave him in Portland alone, but within no time, he’d found a job, bought a car and began spending nearly every penny he made flying to Spokane on the weekends to spend time with me.

I put him to work cleaning stalls. He never complained, following me around, doing whatever tasks I assigned him, happy just to be with me. The more he did for me, however, the guiltier I felt. My feelings of friendship for him were glaringly different from the love I saw in his eyes. I wondered if I had made a huge mistake ever inviting him into my world.

And then Dad called once again. “Who’s this guy living in your house?” he asked.

“That’s Fred,” I told him.

“Is he paying rent?”

“No.”

“Well then, tell him to move out.”

“Okay.”  And with that, I called Fred and said, “Dad says you need to either pay rent or move out. Sorry.”

Fred was stunned. “Are you kidding me?”

I chewed my lip, feeling both guilty and relieved. “Yes, but I’m sure you’ll find a place soon.”

At this point, I don’t know why Fred didn’t just write me off as a bullet dodged, and move back to Hawaii. But he didn’t.

When the summer was over and I returned to Portland, I missed Fred’s company. I realized that I did care for him, loved him even, if only as a friend. So, I called him. And Fred, bravely ignoring the alarm in his head that said, “This psycho woman is going to break your heart,” came to me.

A ludicrous pattern began: I’d miss him and call—he’d always come. But then before long, I’d start feeling that I should be out looking for “Mr. Right,” and send him away. Days later I’d miss him again and call. He’d groan, but come back.

At one point, fed up with the whole situation, Fred said, “Lose my phone number!” Fine, I thought. But when I learned he was dating someone else, I was devastated. I picked up the phone and sniffled, “I miss you.” Fred hung up on me.  An hour later though, he was at my door.

And then, two years into this absurd, mostly one-sided relationship, I went to Disneyland with a group of girlfriends for a week of partying. We went out every night to the local dance clubs and everyone had a great time. Except me.  By the 3rd night I found myself sitting alone in the hotel room, strangely depressed. What is the problem here” I wondered.  And then suddenly, it hit me like a two-by-four upside the old bean, “Oh my God, I’m in love with Fred!”

I processed this astonishing fact for some time and then picked up the phone and called him. It was late and it took a while for him to answer. When he did he sounded sleepy. “Hello?”

“Guess what?”

“What?”

I took a deep breath. “I love you.”

“Yeah. I know.” Fred said.

Overwhelmed by this sudden turn of events, I muttered, “Well, you might have told ME!”

He laughed, “Right. I tried, remember?”

“Well, there is that,” I admitted.

Within the week I was home and in his arms.

This just proves what I’ve always believed: God has a sense of humor. Fred is nowhere close to what I thought I was looking for. I had planned on a man 10 years older than I—Fred is 6 years younger. I ordered tall—Fred is 5’6. I like dark-haired men—Fred is blonde.

Aside from all that he was just a friend; no way could he be Mr. Right.

But against all odds…he was.

And thirty-six years later, he still is.

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FLAWS IN THE SYSTEM

I’ve been giving this grandmother thing some thought and this is what I’ve decided: There are some serious flaws in the system.
The first flaw seems rather obvious: in order to have grandchildren, you must first have children. This is just not right. It’s like saying you can’t have the fun of getting a puppy unless you invest in a mom dog first.
Fortunately, I do have children, a son and a daughter. But this brings me to my other bone of contention—Flaw number two: In order for one to become a grandmother, one’s kids must agree to marry (hopefully) and bear children. I find this arrangement blatantly unfair.
My twenty-nine year old son, for instance, has been dating a beautiful girl for four years now. I’m certain that there will be wedding bells at some point in the not-too-distant future, but in the meantime, whenever I mention marriage, he just grins and if I bring up the subject of children, he shakes his head and looks at me like I’ve suggested he bring a herd of rabid weasels into his house.
My daughter, who is twenty-six, is also in a committed, two-year relationship with a great guy—they are completely amenable to the whole marriage thing “down the road a ways, when our careers are established.” But when I mention babies. . .she just rolls her eyes and says, “Yes, mom, there will be babies, but it’s going to be a while.”
When is a while, I want to know? For crying out loud, I’m turning sixty years old this year! With any luck at all I’m going to have the most beautiful grandchildren God ever put on the earth, but I can see it now…there they’ll be, racing over to the swing set at the park, and then patiently waiting for their grandmother and her walker to get there twenty minutes later to give them a push.
“Grandma, we love you!” they’ll say and I’ll be cupping my ear and yelling, “What?”
Later, when its bedtime, they’ll be all snuggled down, waiting for grandma to read them their story. . .and waiting. . .and waiting—because its past eight-o-clock and their grandma is sound asleep, holding Goodnight Moon in her wrinkled fingers, snoring and drooling through her false teeth.
Then the day will come when I’ll offer to drive my teenaged grandchildren to the mall and my kids will look horrified and try to distract me with a prune milkshake, which will probably work because I will have forgotten all about my offer by then.
And finally, if I make it to my grandkids’ graduations, I’ll be the elderly woman in the stands, telling the stranger sitting next to me about my hemorrhoids.
Sigh. It just isn’t fair.
Maybe I could guilt them into getting married and providing me with grandkids: I could get a chimpanzee, dress it in cute baby clothes and surprise them with it when we go out to dinner. Then when the waitress comes to take our order I could sit it on my lap and coo, “What would Grandma’s little sweetheart like to eat?” Or, perhaps I could walk back and forth in front of their homes with an empty stroller and a sign: WILL WORK FOR GRANDKIDS.
Neither of those two ideas strikes me as being very effective though. So it looks like I’m just going to have to do what my husband says and be patient, which you may have guessed by now, is not my forte. I just need to keep myself busy and out of trouble while I wait.
Let’s see…Perhaps I could buy a Harley and form a biker’s club with other frustrated women who are waiting for grandkids; each of us could get tattoos of babies wearing Harley logo wings and we could call it the Grannie’s Angels! But I seriously doubt that my husband would be too thrilled with that idea; he’s not entirely convinced I’m a competent SUV driver, let alone a motorcyclist.
Maybe I should take up knitting. With the years I may have to wait, I would have time to make each of my prospective grandchildren several rooms-full of king-sized blankets, coats sized from birth to approximate age forty, and everything else they may ever need from underwear to socks and sleeping bags to car covers. But all that sitting around knitting would probably make me fat and lazy and nobody wants a fat and lazy grandma.
Sky diving might be fun, but then again, if I got killed, I would automatically forfeit my chance of being number one favorite grandmother, so that’s out. What to do…what to do…?
After mulling this dilemma over, I have good news! I have finally come up with the perfect solution: I’ll go to medical school, become an OB/GYN and then, by the time my kids are ready to have children, I can deliver them myself!
I am going to make an AWESOME grandmother! Eventually.

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Arlett’s Christmas Repairman

      

     I can tell you this much, there isn’t no one coulda been more shocked than me to have Jesus show up at their front door on Christmas Eve.
I mean, it ain’t like I’ve ever been some church-goin kinda gal or anything. I always believed in God though, don’t get me wrong. There is just way too much proof, to my way of thinkin, to ever doubt that. I mean, think about it; somebody wrote a whole big long book about Him clear back in a time when people probably couldn’t even read. But even if they could, well frankly, a lot of the book is downright boring, especially that who begat who stuff back there in the beginning. We’re not talking about a bestseller here, like something by that Danielle Steel woman. No, the book is just way too complicated to not be a true story. And as far as Jesus goes, I seen pictures of him that were painted hundreds of years ago by famous old guys, so I always knew he hadta be real.
I believe in miracles too. Not the kind on that “Touched By An Angel” TV program, since I don’t think angels go around announcing the good they’re doing and glowing all over the place like lightbulbs. I’m pretty sure it’s in their contract somewhere that they have to keep a low profile.
No, I believe in the kinda miracles where people pray for some sick little kid with a brain tumor the size of a honeydew melon and the next thing you know, the little kid is on TV sittin on his mama’s lap, grinnin like someone just gave him the deed to Disneyland. And the doctors are telling the TV guy, “Well, we’re certain there is a scientific explanation for the tumor disappearing…” and lookin like fools.
And I believe in those kinda miracles like they have on the 700 Club sometimes, where some poor schmuck who’s been shooting everything into his arm from heroin to cough syrup, hits rock bottom one day, falls on his knees asking for God to come help him and, TA-DA, God does it! The guy gets up off his knees with a big old grin, quits drugging, with none of that miserable withdrawal stuff, and goes off to become a minister to poor folks in the ghetto. Those are the kinda miracles I’m talkin about here.
But nothing I ever saw on TV coulda prepared me for Jesus comin over to my house.
Naturally, the first thing I did after it was all over, was to call my best friend, Nola Jean, and tell her to meet me at the Pagoda Chinese Restaurant bar so I could tell her all about it.
“Nola Jean, I got something to tell you that’ll knock you on your butt!” I said on the phone. “You just ain’t gonna believe it in a million years!”
Nola Jean said she hadn’t heard any exciting news since her next door neighbor, Ruth Bromley told her about catching her husband, Bert, out in the tool shed with that horse-faced piece of wrong-side-of-the-tracks trash, Inez Townsend. (Those are Ruth Bromley’s words there, not mine. I don’t gossip no more since Jesus saw fit to bless me with His presence and all; it’s the least I can do.)

“You’d have to go some to knock me on my butt, cause you know I heard it all,” Nola Jean told me. “”But I’ll be there with bells on, you betcha.”
When I got to the restaurant, Nola was already on her usual barstool, which is right next to my usual barstool, and she was in the process of fishing the cherry outa the bottom of her Stinger. She was concentratin on it like a scientist lookin at a two-headed spider through a microscope, so she didn’t see me come in.
Bald Bill did though, and he gave me a cheery wave and a, “Happy New Year, Arlett! Did you have a nice Christmas?”Bald Bill is Nola Jean’s and my favorite bartender. He don’t care how often we come in, unlike some of them. He’s always pretty polite and he don’t ever ask us to leave unless we fall off our stools or start a fight or run out of money or something. He looks a little like Mr. Clean, only short.
“Hey Bill. You have no idea!” I said, plunking myself down and reaching for the Screwdriver that he had already set down for me. I used to drink Martinis’ but that was before I came up with my theory. See, I got to worryin awhile back about what they call, “excessive alcohol consumption.” Now of course, I don’t drink no excessive amount, only a couple-three times a week, and I never drink anything at home but beer or wine, so I really don’t have much to worry about, but I did figure out that if Vitamin C is so good for people, adding it to alcohol should pretty much cut out any harmful effects. And orange juice tastes just dandy mixed in with Vodka. I thought I’d invented a new drink the first time I ordered it but Bald Bill told me it was called a Screwdriver. Kinda weird name but what the hey, long as it’s good for me.
Nola Jean grinned, waving the cherry at me before popping it into her mouth; it was the same color as her favorite lipstick, Forbidden Fuchsia. She smacked her lips and then leaned over to plant a big kiss on my cheek like always. And like always I grabbed my cocktail napkin with the naughty jokes on it and scrubbed the lipstick off. I gave her a one-armed hug while I was picking up my drink.
“So, what’s the big news? You pregnant?” Nola Jean chortled. Bald Bill laughed out loud.
“Nope, more amazing than that!” I said.
Nola Jean grinned. “More amazing than you bein pregnant at 72? This I gotta hear!”
I set my drink back down, reached over and grabbed Nola Jean’s hand so’s that I’d have her full attention. And then I cleared my throat and said real quiet and serious-like, “Jesus came over to my house on Christmas Eve!”

Nola Jean looked at me. She blinked. Finally, she took a big long slurp on her straw and laughed. “Course He did. Elvis and the Easter Bunny couldn’t make it and He didn’t want you to be disappointed.”
“Honest to God, Nola Jean, it’s true! Jesus was at my house. Really!”
“Jesus came over to Arlett’s house on Christmas Eve. Honest to God!” Nola Jean announced loudly to nobody in particular.
An old Chinese man in a booth by the window looked over at us and shook his head. Bald Bill stopped drying a glass and raised an eyebrow.
“Never mind that,” I sighed, reaching for my drink again, but then setting it back down. “The important thing here is that He did. He coulda chose anybody, but He didn’t. He chose me!” Just remembering Jesus standing there on my front porch, all lit up by the Christmas lights hanging out there, made my backbone thrill up and down like a rollercoaster ride.
Nola Jean, chompin on a handful of peanuts said, “Arlett, you are just so full of shit.” Ignoring her, I went on with my story.
“He was in disguise of course, but I knew Him right off. Even in the lawn service uniform and all, I seen it was Him.”
Nola Jean snorted and said, “Hi there, the name’s Jesus; I was in the neighborhood and–“ She reached for her purse and pulled out her compact to check on her lipstick, which was mostly gone between gumming up three glasses and my cheek, so she spread on another coat before snickering, “Thought I’d stop by and see if you needed anything. Was that it?”
Sometimes Nola Jean can get pretty annoying, especially when she’s been drinking, which is most of the time, and it’s just lucky for her that I’m a good enough friend to overlook her snide little remarks instead of maybe calling her a fat, blowsy old cow, like some other people might do.
I picked up a menu, shoved one in front of her and said, “Order something.”
She laughed, waved the menu at Bald Bill and when he came over, ordered a number one: chicken chop suey, egg foo yung and fried rice. “I’m ready for a fresh drink too, Bill,” she added.
I went with my usual, number three: pork chow Mein, sweet and sour spareribs and white rice. Bald Bill pointed at my drink. “You want me to bring another one when the food comes?” I looked over and saw that my drink was still full so I shook my head.
“Now here’s what happened,” I said in a very pointed fashion. “In case you’re interested in the biggest thing that ever happened to me.” Nola Jean must have noticed I was getting peeved so she made a big show of putting her Stinger down, folding her arms over those big balloon busties of hers, and looking at me like was about to give her the scientific formula for becoming invisible. She nodded, which I took to mean I should continue.
“I was waiting for the lawn service guy to come because one of my sprinklers broke that morning and was spraying water all over the sidewalk in front of my house. I mean, Christmas eve or not, my sprinkler was shootin water out like Old Faithful. My water bill was gonna send me to the poorhouse. In the meantime, I was in the bathroom plucking out those little hairs that keep croppin up like some kinda damn chin-weeds or something. You know, them nasty, black wire-brush ones? Well, there I was doing that when the doorbell rang, so I fluffed up my hair, cause you never know who might be at your door, and went to see who it was.”
Here, I stopped for a minute, picked up my Vitamin-C Special, as I call them, before going on. “Who’s there,” I said in a real deep voice so’s that if it was a mugger out there, he’d think I was my husband, if I had one, just like you taught me, Nola Jean.”
“Damn tootin, I did,” Nola Jean said with a loud belch. “And you’re just damn lucky to have a best friend like me to save your ass,” she added, poking me in the chest none too gently with her index finger. Her voice was starting to get that loud and slushy sound it gets when she’s had one too many Stingers and no chop suey.  Bill looked over and shook his head, so I took aholt of that finger of hers and planted it firmly back down on the bar.

“Shush up that mouth of yours Nola Jean!” I told her, setting my drink back down so hard some of it sloshed over onto the bar. “I can hear you just fine without you drillin a hole in my chest and yellin in my ear.” Now, where was I?”
“You was telling me that Jesus Christ came over to fix your sprinkler system,” she cackled, slapping her hand on the bar, tickled as all get out with herself.
I ignored her. “Who’s there?” I said again, to get her back to the story. “And a man says, “Fernandez Yard Service—you called us?” Which I did. So I look out the little peek-hole and sure enough, there’s a man in a yard-guy uniform out there. It says, “Fernandez Yard Service” right there on his hat. “Okay, just a minute,” I say, and unlock the two deadbolts and the chain lock so’s I can open the door.”
Nola Jean butted in, “You should get yourself one a’them big-ass barkin dog recordings, Arlett. Now, that’s the kinda stuff rapers are scared off by—big-ass dogs!”
I ignored her and continued. “So, there I am unlocking the door. I open it up and Oh my gosh, it’s Him! Jesus! I recognized Him by the pictures I seen of him all my life. Even before He took His hat off, I knowed it was Him. I took three steps back, my eyes all buggy, I’m sure, and said, “C—come in! I mean, please,” I added. Then, soon as He come in the door, He did take that hat off and all that long, brown hair come fallin down on his collar and…well, there He was, in all His glory!”
Nola Jean made a loud, very unladylike raspberry sound with her lips; I ignored her again and said, “He looked just like His pictures: beard, mustache, big, sad eyes.” Just remembering those eyes made me shiver on my barstool. I reached for my drink, but then stopped and hugged myself instead. “But just in case you’re thinking anybody could look like that, there’s another way I knew that it was Him, the Lord.”
Taking a big sip of her drink, Nola Jean gestured with her straw, which I took to mean, “go on,” so I did.
“He was wearin a name tag!”
Nola Jean choked on her Stinger. “What?”
“Honest to God,” I said. “I mean, He was. He really was! It was right there on his chest. One o’them mono-grammed things; it said, “JESUS”, sure as I’m sittin here.
“Your lawn guy’s name badge said JESUS?” Nola Jean, said. “Well, I’ll be damned!”
“You will be if you don’t watch that mouth on you,” I said sternly. “Now I’m tellin you that it was Jesus, nametag and all.”
Bald Bill showed up right about then with our food. He picked up Nola Jean’s empty glass. “Ready?” he asked. She grinned real big and leaned over, dropping them big bazongas of her onto the bar, batted her eyelashes up at him and said, “You betcha, honey.” She gets pretty friendly sometimes after four drinks or so. Personally though, I don’t think Bald Bill would sleep with Nola Jean even if he wasn’t married. She’s just too big for him, that’s all there is to it. She’s smoosh him like a piss-ant. Not to mention the fact that she’s thirty years older than him.
Bill just smiled and looked at my drink, which for some reason was still full. The ice cubes was all melted though. “Something wrong with your drink, Arlett?” he asked. Surprised, I shook my head. “No, I don’t think so. I guess I never even tried it. Musta been too busy talkin.”
He picked it up and said, “No problem, I’ll get you a fresh one.”
See, I told you he’s a nice guy.

Nola Jean poured half a bottle of soy sauce over everything on her plate, then proceeded to scarf it all down like somebody who hasn’t had nothing to eat in six months. But to be fair, Nola Jean’s a big girl. She don’t eat like a bird because she’s got a lot of space to fill, and that ain’t me mean-talkin here, it’s just the truth. Now me, I do eat like a bird, a hummingbird, Nola Jean says. It peeves her no end that I’m skinny and she’s well, fat.
Bald Bill set a new Screwdriver down in front of me and I picked up my fork, ready to go on with the story. “Now, where was I?” I said. “Oh yeah. Okay, so I gotta tell ya, I’m pretty well flabbergasted at having the Lord right there in my living room. I say, ‘Jesus!’ And then, cause it seemed like the right thing to do, I grab onto the chair next to me and use it to sort of ease myself down onto one knee.”
Nola Jean’s eyes got all big. “And then what happened”
Over in my side-vision, I noticed Bald Bill edging closer. His eyebrow was at full mast.
“Jesus just looks at me for a second, then He smiles and reaches for my hand and pulls me back up onto my feet. ‘No, Signora!’ he says and pointing to his nametag, he says something that sounds like ‘Hey Zeus’. Well, I have no idea what that means, so I just sort of stand there, feeling all overwhelmed and happy.”
Bald Bill was smiling big by then and shaking his head. I know he’s one of those church-going people and he probably reads the bible and stuff, so maybe he was familiar with Jesus’ language.
Nola Jean was tuned in by then, but she was shakin her head too, like she was just not buyin anything I was sellin. “Okay, so then what?” she said.
“So, like I said, I’m standing there all speechless, bein in the same room with Jesus and all, and He’s standing there smiling and looking expectant, and I’m lookin at him like a calf at a new gate and wondering what I have in the kitchen to fix for Him, when he says, ‘I am here to fix your sprinkler.’
Well, I’m just shocked. To think the Lord Himself would come all the way to earth, to my house, just to fix my sprinkler! And I gotta say, I’m a little surprised to hear that he’s got an accent just like Mr. Fernandez and the rest of his crew.
‘I will have this done for you as quickly as possible,’ He says then. ‘If you will just show me where your water shut-off valve is…’
“All of a sudden, I find myself remembering all the rotten things I’ve done in my life, stuff I know must have been written down in God’s book somewhere and I’m overwhelmed with shame. ‘Jesus, I say’, ‘I don’t deserve to have you fix my sprinkler.’”
I pick up my drink and bring it up to my mouth, but all of a sudden I realize that I’m not very thirsty so I set it back down.
“Aw, Arlett. You been a good person,” Nola Jean said, “You always buy Girl Scout cookies when they come around.”
Bald Bill reached over and patted my hand. “She’s right, Arlett. Nobody’s perfect. So, what happened next?”
“Well, that’s when the real miracle happened,” I said, going on with the story. “Jesus just stood there, not saying anything, just looking at me with those eyes of His. And then, just when I was feeling like I was gonna bust into tears or something, He looks over at my fireplace, where I put my Nativity Scene every year. ‘May I, Signora?’ He asks, and I take that to mean He wants to get a closer look. So I say, ‘Of course!’ He walks over and stands there looking at it, not saying anything, so I go over and stand next to him. After a minute, He picks the baby Jesus up, looks at it, and then smiles before putting it back down. I’m kind of shifting from foot to foot, still feeling really unworthy and all when He turns to me and says, ‘I must go fix the sprinkler now, Signora, okay?’ I swallow kind of hard and say, ‘Okay’. I take him to the garage and show Him the water valve. He nods at me and says, ‘I will have this repaired quickly.’ He shuts off the water and asks me to open the garage door so He don’t have to come back into the house, which I do. ‘It is cold outside’, He says, ‘You stay in where it is warm. I will come tell you when I have finished.’”
Nola Jean shrugged. “I don’t get it, what’s so miraculous about that? So he fixed your sprinkler…”
Bald Bill shushed her and said, “Go on, Arlett.
“I close the garage door after Him,” I said. “And then I go back into the house to wait. I sit down at the kitchen table and think about my life and about how I shoulda paid a little more attention to God. I’m just dumbfounded that Jesus would take the time to come visit me, let alone do repairs around my house. Well, I sit there thinking for a long time until I guess maybe I fall asleep because all of a sudden, there’s a knock at the door. I go and open it and there He is, hat in hand again. ‘It is finished, Signora,’ he says. I take a deep breath, grab His hand and say, “Thank you, Jesus.” He stands there smiling at me, His eyes all warm and soft and says, “You’re welcome, Arlett. Thank you!”
Well, my mouth falls open. “You’re thanking me?” I say. And then I realize…His accent is gone, and He just called me by my name. Before I can say a word, He reaches out His other hand and puts it on my shoulder. I feel a big rush of, something…joy, I guess. He looks over at my Nativity Scene again, turns back to me with a little smile and says, ‘Thank you for remembering my birthday.’”
“What? No way!!!” Nola Jean’s eyes looked like they was ready to pop out of her head. “What happened then?”
I got that funny joy feeling again, remembering. “Then, I think I closed my eyes for a minute because when I opened ‘em, He was gone.”
Nola Jean harrumphed, “You’re crazy, Arlett. I think you dreamed the whole thing.”
Bald Bill leaned over the counter and said, “Maybe. But maybe not…” He picked up my second untouched Screwdriver. “So, what do you think…would you like a coke, Arlett?”
I thought about it for a long minute and then smiled real big. “Yeah, Bill. I believe I would.”

 

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When A Tornado Touches Down

I have experienced many different kinds of loneliness in my life:

At the age of seven I found myself alone on an airplane, traveling across the United States, to be adopted by strangers. The story ended happily, as one of the greatest blessings of my life, but I remember the loneliness of that time as if it were a heartbeat ago.

I have known the loss of a beloved cousin, a dear friend, to a premature death.

When I was seventeen, I thought I would die of a broken heart because the boy I loved stood me up for the Junior Prom.

There have been countless Christmas’s, New Year’s Eves, Valentine’s Days and birthdays spent alone, lonely and depressed because the men I loved had moved on.

And I’ve known the kind of heartbreaking loneliness that is caused by the betrayal of close friends.

But I know now that there is no loneliness that compares with how you feel when you’ve been told you have cancer.

No matter how many people gather around you and hold you and cry and tell you they are there for you—your parents, your husband or wife, your own children, best friends, it doesn’t really matter. In the final scope of things, you are alone. They don’t have cancer. . .you do. And not one of them can save you.

* * *

My husband had been pacing for well over an hour, picking up his keys, laying them down, gathering his briefcase and name badge, only to place them back on the table. Finally, he turned to me and said, “Are you sure you don’t want me to stay home? I feel like I should be here when you call the surgeon.”

I walked over and laid my head against his chest and he put his arms around me, hugging me close.

“No,” I told him, “I’m not even going to call him until at least two o’clock. I want to make sure my biopsy results are in.”

“How are you feeling?”

“Like I swallowed a Big-Gulp of nitroglycerine, so don’t squeeze.” I whispered.

“So, you’re going to call me as soon as you talk to him, right?”

“Yeah,” I said, kissing my husband’s worried face. Now go to work. I’ve got to go make sure the kids are up.”

He retrieved his things and I walked with him to the door. We kissed and he left after a last anxious look.

I headed upstairs to wake our fifteen year old, Aaron and twelve year old, Summer. When they left for school, instead of calling out my usual, “Bye, guys, have a good day,” I hugged them both, one at a time and said, “I love you.” Aaron, a little surprised, grunted and mumbled “Uh…yeah, okay—me too,” which is how he usually responds to any emotional outbursts. Summer hugged me back, patting me reassuringly.

“I love you too, Mom. It’s going to be fine. Really. I’ll see you after school.”

As the door closed behind them, I stood there staring at it, wondering how I was going to get through the next seven hours without having a nervous breakdown. Seven hours might as well be seven days or seven years; it was all relative . . . an eternity.

Around eleven o’clock, the telephone rang. My heart did a double back flip. Was it my doctor, calling to tell me the news was good; calling to say, “I told you the silly lump was nothing?” Or was it him calling to say the news was bad? I reached for the phone. Picked it up. Held it shakily to my ear. “Hello?”

“Is this Tina Mattern?”

“Yes.” My heart did three forward rolls and a summersault.

“Hi there! This is Brad with AT&T. How are you today?” “

Barely resisting the urge to throw the phone across the room, I snarled, “You don’t want to know!” and slammed the receiver down. I glared at it. “Ring again with anybody but my surgeon and I’m flushing you down the toilet.”

The rest of the morning and early afternoon were taken up with pacing, staring out the window and sending telepathic messages to the doctor; “Put down the scalpel or whatever it is you’re doing. Go call Tina.” It seemed his psychic network was busy; he didn’t call. The telephone, apparently well intimidated, didn’t ring once.

Finally, at two o’clock, I picked up the phone, ready to dial the doctor’s office. I took a deep breath. Took another. Then a couple more, until I realized I was very close to hyperventilating, so I put the phone back down and waited until my breathing was calm. Centering myself, I cleared my throat and picked the phone up once again. I dialed the surgeon’s number. On the fourth ring one of those nasally women’s voices answered, asking to which doctor’s office I would like to be connected. When I told her, she informed me that his receptionist, Mercy, was out of the office temporarily.

“Call back in a half-hour,” she said.

I groaned, sending the thought out to the receptionist: Lady, you need to pee or eat lunch or whatever it is you’re doing, on your own time. Right now you’re supposed to be answering the phone.

I sat down on the sofa, gathered Sam Hill, my twenty-one pound cat onto my lap. After a few minutes though, his deep chest rumbling purr began to grate on my jangled nerves so I set him down on the sofa and got up to go into the kitchen where I could pace back and forth in front of the oven clock.       Twenty more minutes crawled by like dying slugs. I dialed the phone again.

“Dr. Blank’s office, please,” I said firmly.

Another nasally voice put me on hold for three very long seconds, then returned and said, “The receptionist was just here, but she stepped out of the office again for a minute. Could you call right back?”

What the HELL is wrong with this woman’s bladder! Picturing her in a broom closet with a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniel, I hung up and set the stove clock timer for ten minutes, figuring whatever she was doing, she should be able to wrap it up by then.

I watched the numbers count down to zero. This time, when I dialed, I finally got through. I asked to speak to my doctor.

“He’s not in,” the receptionist said, sounding slightly annoyed, as though I was being a self-absorbed, selfish jerk to expect the poor man to be in his office at two forty-five in the afternoon.

“What?” This wasn’t what I was expecting. Just yesterday, when I came out of surgery, he had patted my shoulder in his comforting way and said, “Call me tomorrow and I’ll have your results.”

“I…what?” I repeated, taken aback, not having prepared myself for the possibility that he might have stepped out of the office. “When will he be back in?”

The woman sighed. “He’s out of the office for the rest of the day. Was there something I could help you with?”
She was there in my mind’s eye, drumming her short no-nonsense nails on the desk as my mind struggled painfully with the unexpected realization that I was going to have to wait another day at least to find out what my surgery had turned up.

“But. . .he said to call him today. He said he’d tell me my biopsy results.” My hand was gripping the phone so hard my fingers were going numb. “He’s my doctor. I need him,” I whispered.

“Wait,” she said, putting me on hold.

Let her be sending him a message to call me, I prayed, knowing I wouldn’t be able to sleep or eat or even take another steady breath into my body until I knew what I was facing—good or bad. In a moment, she was back.

“Let’s see,” she said. “Did your biopsy results come in. . .?” She was silent for a few seconds; I could hear her shuffling through papers.
I was prepared for her to say, “No, they didn’t come in yet.” I was prepared for her to say, “You will have to call the doctor again tomorrow.” I was heartsick about it, but I was prepared. Nothing could have prepared me for what the receptionist did say:

“Yes, it appears you do have a small cancer” she announced brusquely. “A one centimeter tumor.”

My heart stopped. What? WHAT? My legs gave out and I dropped onto a kitchen chair. Something was wrong. There wasn’t enough air in the room. My mind wasn’t working right. . . I shook my head, trying to clear away the sudden darkness.

The woman’s indifferent voice was in my ear, blithely laying out treatment possibilities; words coming at me like bullets through the telephone, firing into my brain with deadly accuracy; Mastectomy. Chemotherapy. Radiation. Words that stunned and terrified me every bit as much as the one she uttered first. Cancer.

Wait! No… WAIT! My mind scrambled to understand what she had just said. This can’t be right! You’re not my doctor. . . I have to wait and call tomorrow.

The room began to shimmer and distort. I laid the telephone on the table and put my head down between my knees. The voice was still coming through the receiver. I put my hands over my ears.

I have CANCER.

Inside my chest, a tornado touched down.

Why can’t I breathe?

I sat back up, gasping.

“Ex-cuse me! Are you there?”

I stared at the phone where it lay on the table like an armed grenade.

Cancer.

“Hell-o-o-o. . .?”

I watched my hand reach out and pick it up.

“We’d better make an appointment for you to talk to the doctor,” Mercy was saying, all business. “Let’s see…okay, he can see you tomorrow at three-thirty. Okay for you?”

I felt my head nod.

“Okay?” she repeated, impatiently.

I heard myself mumble something inarticulate, which she took to be an affirmative.

“See you then,” she said.

I sat holding the telephone until a dial tone pierced the silence.

What is that sound?

Oh.

I placed it back on the cradle.

A strange coldness moved up through my legs, through my stomach, through my chest, to my face. I was frozen, unable to move.
I stayed that way for what seemed like hours, but in reality was probably only ten minutes, staring out into nothingness. Finally though, the thaw began; I started to shake.I shook for a long time. Shook as though there was an earthquake in my soul. Until I heard someone calling my name.

“Tina…? Honey? Did you talk to the doctor?” The telephone was somehow back in my hand; my head filling with the sound of my husband’s worried voice.

“Freddie? You come home now. Okay?” I whispered.

As I put the phone down, the thaw reached my throat, my mind, and then my eyes; I was able finally, to cry. I cried the way I hadn’t done since I was a child, deep gut-wrenching sobs, my arms wrapped tightly around myself because I felt like I would fly into a million pieces if someone didn’t hold me together.

But there was no one there; it would take my husband at least a half-hour to drive home; the kids weren’t due from school for almost an hour. Mercy’s voice echoed in my head, over and over, “Yes, it appears you do have a small cancer.”

Looking back, I realize now that I probably never even heard the word small; size is meaningless when it comes to cancer. My mind heard the “C” word, period, which equaled death, or at the very least, losing my breast and/or months of suffering through poisonous drugs that would probably make me wish I would die.

So I cried and I rocked and I waited for Freddie to come through the front door.

A half-hour can be a very long time. A half-hour can be a lifetime.

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A Feather From Heaven

By Tina Wagner Mattern

After I got the call from my sister in Florida that our mother was in intensive care, I was on a plane within the week. I knew she was very ill—double pneumonia, congestive heart failure and anemia due to internal bleeding somewhere—but Mom had battled most of these health issues before and had triumphed. Nearly 81, she was our family’s indomitable Energizer bunny. So when the pulmonologist broke the news that our mother was not going to live, my brother, sister and I were stunned and heartbroken.

I looked down at my vibrant, funny, bossy, inexpressibly lovable mom and wondered: how can anyone so alive be terminally ill? There she was, hooked up to beeping machines and wearing a CPAP with the highest saturation rate of oxygen available, but unlike the other patients in ICU, she was her usual silly self, making faces, teasing the nurses, joking and laughing. Even after the doctor had explained the dire prognosis to her, her irrepressible attitude didn’t falter. “You know,” she told us, “I would’ve thought that hearing I was going to die would make me a basket-case, but strange as it seems, I’m really at peace about this.” We, her children, of course, were not. “Don’t cry,” she said, wiping our tears. I know where I’m going after all. Heaven’s going to be wonderful.” We did our best, but heaven seemed so far away.

Throughout her days in the hospital, Mom had a positive spirit that became infectious; she entertained and inspired family, friends, neighbors and loved members of her church; each visitor was treated to her off-the-wall sense of humor and uplifting faith. As long as her pain was kept under control, she was the sassy, often hilarious life of the party. Visiting hour rules in the intensive care unit limited callers to two at a time, but there were rarely less than 6 in Mom’s room. The wonderful attendant staff, captivated by this high-spirited, anything-but-ordinary patient, smiled and looked the other way.
One afternoon, Janet, Mom’s best friend and long-time comrade-in-shenanigans, came for her daily visit. This time she brought her twelve-year-old granddaughter, Kimberly, with her. Janet and Mom tossed insults and droll comments back and forth as Kimberly and I alternately laughed and rolled our eyes. After a few minutes of this though, Janet grew serious and handed Mom an envelope. “Here, I brought you something,” she said. “Open it and read the note.”

Mom smiled, drawing out the folded sheet of paper, and began to read out loud a lovely little poem about angels. “Oh, that’s sweet,” she said, when she finished.

“Now, look in the envelope,” Janet instructed. Pulling it open, Mom peeked inside and chuckled. “It’s a feather!” She held the tiny white plume up for us to see. “Must have been a small angel, huh?”

Kimberly and I laughed.

Janet, smiling through suddenly teary eyes, leaned forward and grabbed Mom’s hand. “Listen, you—this feather is important. When you get to heaven, I want you to send it to me to let me know you got there.”
Mom laughed. “You don’t want much, do you? Okay, I’ll see what I can do.”
During the week to come, our family and Mom’s dearest friends stayed close by her side, treasuring every second; cherishing every wisecrack, every laugh, every tender, reassuring hug. Each of us imprinting on our hearts the moments spent with her.

Much too soon, however, the day came when I had to return to Portland. Saying goodbye was agonizing. How could I leave knowing I wouldn’t see her again? Mom though, with her unshakable faith, hugged me and whispered, “I love you. This isn’t goodbye, sweetheart, it’s see you later.” My last memory of my mother is of her grinning her irresistible grin and blowing me kisses through her oxygen mask.

Early the following Monday morning, I got the call: surrounded by her children, grandchildren and dearest sister and brother, Mom had slipped gently from their arms into God’s.

On Tuesday afternoon, my phone rang; it was Janet. We had been checking in with one another throughout the weeks leading up to Mom’s death, so I assumed she was calling to see how I was doing. Instead, her voice brimmed with excitement. “I have something to tell you,” she said. Intrigued by her unexpected tone, I asked,”

What’s up?”

“My granddaughter, Kimberly, stayed with me last night,” she said. “We finished watching a movie and were just sitting there on the sofa, when I looked over and saw Kimberly’s arm go up in the air. ‘What on earth are you doing?’ I asked her. She turned to me and held out her hand, ‘Grandma, look!’”
Janet’s voice dropped to an awed whisper. “It was a little white feather, Tina. Right out of thin air!”
My arms broke out in goosebumps and a delighted smile spread across my face as I pictured my mother entering Heaven, pointing to the nearest angel’s wings and saying, “Hey, I need to borrow one of those feathers!”

“Oh Janet,” I said with a lump in my throat, “She made it! I never doubted that she would, but what a sweet miracle you’ve been given—we’ve all been given. Thank you, Lord.”

Janet sniffled back, “Amen Tina, Amen.”

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Gotta Love Me

By Tina Wagner Mattern

         

          When our cat, Brodie, was born, his mother, Ginger, developed a breast infection, so he and his siblings had to be nurtured and hand-fed by their human grandmother, my good friend Ellen.  She tended them devotedly; hers was the first face the kittens saw in the morning and the last one at night. In their minds, Ellen was their mother, and since she was human, they must be too.      Consequently, Brodie had no idea he was a cat—as far as he was concerned, he was a vertically challenged kid in an orange fur suit.

          From the first day that Brodie came to live with us, we could see that he, like his surrogate mom, was a people-person. His philosophy was clear: Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet. He was crazy about everybody. And he was absolutely certain that everyone felt the same way about him. Whenever the doorbell rang, Brodie would jump up and bolt for the door, radiating “Someone’s here to visit me!” excitement. Salesmen, visiting friends or family, all were welcomed with hyper-drive-purring, head-butting enthusiasm.

          One afternoon, we had a repairman in our home to fix our refrigerator. Brodie was ecstatic to meet him and followed him like a puppy to the kitchen. I was busying myself around the house with laundry and dusting, etc., when I heard a deep male laugh coming from behind the fridge. I peeked around the corner to find the man down on his hands and knees working…with Brodie perched on his shoulder, supervising.

          “Good grief”, I groaned, “Brodie, get down!” The man laughed again and said, “Nah, it’s okay. He’s just helping.” Brodie gave me a smug look and made himself useful by giving the nice man a shoulder massage.

          Throughout all the years Brodie was with us, our furry little goodwill ambassador took great pride in his charismatic charm. Even those folks who were “not cat people” somehow changed their minds when confronted with Brodie’s sweet, seductive attention. He reigned undefeated until the day our beautiful friend, Terra, came to stay with us for a month.

          Terra loves animals—all animals—cats included. But she is very allergic to the fur of felines: one touch and she breaks out in hives, her sinuses go nuts and she’s just generally miserable. So it’s understandable that she would avoid like the plague being in close proximity to a cat.

          Brodie took one look at Terra when she walked in the door, and fell head- over-paws in love. Our dear friend apparently exuded some mysterious human-catnip essence that Brodie found absolutely irresistible. Food, toys, even coveted kitty treats were suddenly unimportant; getting close to Terra became his prime directive.

          With no doubt as to his reception, Brodie waited until his beloved sat down on the sofa and then launched himself into her lap. Placing his paws on her chest, he turned on his purr-box full-throttle and stared meaningfully into her eyes. This gambit had always guaranteed quality petting in the past. Terra giggled, all the while trying to push Brodie away without actually touching him with her hands.

          “Brodie!” I cried, “Get down!”  When he completely ignored me, I retrieved him and sat him down beside me.  “You can’t bother Terra,” I explained. “She’s allergic to you.”  Apparently, Brodie wasn’t buying it; as soon as our attention was diverted by conversation, he was right back in her lap again. Variations of this scene continued to be played throughout the next month. He pursued her as single-mindedly as a starving ant at a Martha Stewart picnic.

          One evening, after Terra headed upstairs to get ready for bed, I heard her laugh out loud. “Tina—you’ve got to see this!” she called. I ran up the stairs and found her in the bathroom, where Brodie, wearing an expression of triumph, was on his back in her sink. The message was clear: If you want me out of here, you gotta pick me up!  Terra kept the bathroom door closed from then on.

          Well, there’s more than one way to skin a mouse. Our determined little furball was not to be defeated so easily. A few evenings later, after Terra was settled for the night, I was once again summoned by a squeal and giggle. Brodie had flown into the room, pounced onto the bed, and begun massaging her back.

          “Guess you’re going to have to keep the bedroom door closed too,” I groaned and picked Brodie up and brought him with me downstairs. “Now listen,” I told him in no uncertain terms, “You have to leave Terra alone! She’s ALLERGIC!”  Brodie sulked for the rest of the evening, but somewhere in his creative little head, a new plan was already hatching.

          It took several days to work out the logistics, but once Brodie figured his new strategy was foolproof, he settled down to wait patiently for the perfect time. It didn’t take long.

          My husband, Fred, Terra and I had watched a movie and were pleasantly surprised that throughout the evening, Brodie hadn’t even attempted any of his usual ploys for his sweetheart’s attention. In fact, he seemed to have mysteriously disappeared.

           “Maybe he’s finally losing interest,” I said, hopefully.

          Terra just smiled, “He’s so sweet, poor little guy. Well, I’m off to bed”. 

          Upstairs, (as Terra described the following scene to us later) she got her pajamas on, washed her face and brushed her teeth, all the while keeping an eye out for her little stalker. But Brodie was still nowhere to be seen. “Goodnight!” she called out, and, taking one last look around for her furry shadow, opened her bedroom door and went in, closing it behind her.  Once in bed, she sighed contentedly, turned off the light and settled herself for a good night’s sleep. She was just dozing off when…Foomph! An 8 pound kid in an orange fur suit, landed squarely on her chest, purring jubilantly. His strategy had worked! Hiding under the bed for two hours had paid off! Surely his sweetheart would finally see that they were meant to be together! 

          We could hear Terra’s laughter…and wheezing, all the way downstairs. Her amended nightly routine from then on, included checking for furry little monsters under the bed.

 

          Brodie was one of the dearest members of our family for many years. He was unfailingly sweet, clever, and irresistible. We have countless memories of him to treasure, but none as unforgettable as the time our boy set out to win (and he did, of course) our friend, Terra’s heart.