Keep You and Love You or …? (Five Minute Friday: STUCK)

Do you have those traditional sayings, those to and fro set conversations that only your family uses and fully understands, comforting in their familiarity? We had quite a few growing up, often reassurances of our love for each other.

One of them was for when someone had done something foolish or mildly exasperating. I can still hear my dad’s voice as he smilingly asked:

“What are we going to do with you? Keep you and love you? Or chuck you in the dustbin?”

“Don’t chuck me in the dustbin!” I would plead.

Then might follow a light hearted debate about how practical it was to put me in the dustbin – how full it was, whether I would fit, etc.

But the exchange always ended with:

“I think we’d better keep you and love you,” and maybe, “I guess we’re stuck with you,” followed by a long cuddle.

To a stranger, this might sound an uncaring exchange but it was always reassuring for me because I knew the ultimate outcome. We might go through just the essentials of the ritual or we might tease it out at some length. But I was always sure of the end result and I knew the message of this family saying was that I would always be loved no matter what I did or what happened in my life. As I got older, we would turn it round, with me or my brother or even my children telling my parents that we would always ‘keep them and love them’.

I think of the word ‘stuck’ most automatically as a negative – to be stuck with something or someone because it/they have been forced on us; that we have no escape, no choice about it. But one of the other Five Minute Friday bloggers reminded me this week that we could use the word ‘placed’ instead https://traciecollier.com/2018/04/26/stuck-in-the-middle/. Similarly  the lyrics of the song ‘My Guy’ have been circulating inside my head:

‘Nothing you could say could tear me away from my guy,
(My guy)
Nothing you could do ’cause I’m stuck like glue to my guy.
(My guy)
I’m sticking to my guy like a stamp to a letter,
Like birds of a feather we stick together,
I’m tellin’ you from the start I can’t be torn apart from my guy.’

For a long time, I didn’t understand that analogy: ‘a stamp to a leather’ (weird pictures of postage stamps on a belt came to mind!). Of course, now I realise that it refers to a design embossed into the leather, a permanent mark that cannot be removed. Embossing isn’t something that ‘just happens’; it’s the result of a definite decision, a deliberate action. And when someone chooses to love us, and love us long term, they become a permanent mark on our lives, that remains long after they are gone. Their words, their actions, their values become woven into our lives forever.

When it comes to people, ‘stuck’ is something we choose. Keeping and loving someone is a choice, a daily choice, sometimes a moment by moment choice. Love is a verb not an adjective, a deliberate action.

I’m glad that when people look at me, they will see the permanent mark of my parents’ love embossed on my life. I pray that my husband and children will know the same security and faith in the permanence of my love for them. And I hope that all of us will know, whatever happens, that our Father God will never throw us in the dustbin but always keep us and love us.

(Five Minute Friday is a community of bloggers who, once  a week,  write on a given word for 5 minutes flat. You can find more offerings on this week’s theme here: http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/04/26/fmf-link-up-stuck/)

 

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TURN (Five Minute Friday)

I stayed up far too late last night. And all for the sake of a thunderstorm. Not because it kept me awake or frightened me, you understand, but to enjoy it…

The last few days have been unseasonably hot and sunny, like July in April. We’d eaten meals in the garden until the heat drove us back indoors. A smattering of damp air yesterday afternoon cleared the built up humidity, leaving that newly wet earth smell, fresher than clothes straight out of the laundry. Then the sun and heat and cerulean sky returned.

Strange how the weather can turn.

Late into the evening our conversation was interrupted by the loud rumble of thunder. Straightaway I was at the window, waiting for the accompanying lightening. The whole sky flickered like a faulty light bulb. And then I was counting the long moments to the next thunder clap to see how close the storm was. My dad had taught me that each second’s difference represented a mile in distance.

In fact, it was my dad who had taught me to love a thunderstorm, just like he did. This was nothing to be feared; this was a glorious show by creation to be relished! He joked that the lightning was God flicking heaven’s lights on and off and the thunder was God rearranging his furniture!

As a teenager, when a storm came at night, I would hide behind the curtain next to my bed to watch the natural pyrotechnics out the window. Now I sit my conservatory where it’s more like Ultra HD and surround sound.

How could I not stay up?

(Five Minute Friday is a community of writers who each write for 5 minutes on a given prompt word each week. More responses to this week’s prompt can be found here: http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/04/19/fmf-link-up-turn/)

 

TOGETHER (Five Minute Friday OTHER)

As usual, with the Five Minute Friday prompt, http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/04/12/fmf-link-up-other/  my thoughts started in one direction but ended up in another! So here’s the final results of my musings, a poem inspired by the view from my conservatory one evening, memories of my parents, and my own twenty five years of marriage:

 

I look up

As the sky saturates from royal to navy and

Two tall sycamores silhouette against the blue:

Two distinct trunks grow straight and side by side

But their canopies of ever thinning, ever reaching

Twigs and branches have grown so intertwined

That they have become a unity,

Impossible to distinguish between one and the other.

Only death –

When one goes on to bud, leaf, seed, and drop again

While the other remains only an empty silhouette –

Will individualise them once more.

 

Then I look down

At the interlocking fingers of our clasped hands.

Letting Go (Five Minute Friday RELEASE)

So it looks like we have sold my dad’s flat.

We first put it on the market over a year ago, when we had to sell it to pay for his care home placement, but it never progressed beyond initial viewings. It was frustrating at the time but, looking back, it was a blessing in disguise. By the time he died, we no longer had the financial pressure to sell so took it off the market.

This year, with a new estate agent and I guess the timing being right, it all appears to be going through smoothly. But it will still be a wrench to say goodbye to the place.

My boys have asked for time to visit the flat to do just that. One described it as a place of real significance for them. I suppose they may have even more memories invested there than I have.

My parents moved to be near us a week before my dad’s 80th birthday. Mum was 77. What courage to make such a major change at their age! But it was such a good decision. They and we all benefitted from their proximity.

A five minute blog post is nowhere near enough to tell you of all the memories packed into one simple, cosy little apartment. There are painful ones: my mother falling in the kitchen and breaking her hip; staying up all night with her on a riser recliner chair in a desperate attempt to conquer panic and find sleep; with my brother meeting my dad on the front step to tell him she had died; the repetitive notes on the dining table left by my dad to combat his failing memory; the continence supplies in the hall cupboard.

But there are plenty more joyful memories: 80th birthday celebrations for each of them; their golden and emerald wedding anniversaries; the ever present supply of jam tarts for their grandsons; sat on the floor with my head on my mum’s lap when I needed her comfort and strength; my dad’s familiar jokey catchphrases when he greeted us at the door; the flourishing selection of roses, clematis and aquilegia they planted in pots along the path and under their window (despite the leasehold restrictions!); the regular sherry and cake get togethers with the upstairs neighbours who became good friends within less than a week of meeting; the holding crosses kept under my parents’ pillows at night or in their pockets during the day, now treasured by my sons. I could go on.

It will be a sad day when we hand over the keys. But I know we have to let go and I know my parents would want us to. They would be amazed at the inheritance they have left us compared with where their lives originated – and I don’t just mean the financial security. They will want us to invest wisely all that they have left us and pray that the new owner of their humble little flat is blessed with as much peace, joy and love there as they were.

Coasting or Yearning (FIVE MINUTE FRIDAY ‘Settle’)

Sorry for such a late post for my Five Minute Friday link up. http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/03/29/fmf-link-up-settle/

It was really late at night, way past my bedtime. But then it always is, isn’t it? Those times when your kids bring up a conversation that you know is worth giving up sleep for, when they need your support, when maybe some word you say may lodge in their minds and be of real significance to them, when they just need to talk about what is really going on in their lives. It’s never an opportunity to pass up.

I had one of those this week. And I had another interesting conversation with my other son as we drove along the motorway. That’s another opportunity to really talk with boys – when sat parallel rather than face to face, so a car is ideal. But one conversation linked in my mind with the other.

Do some people just settle for the routine of life? And if so, why? Are they truly happy with the standard expectations of get an education, get a job, get a house or flat, get a partner, get a family? Asking those difficult uncomfortable questions like ‘What’s the point?’ and ‘Why am I dissatisfied with my apparently easy life?’ are deeply unsettling.

It would be so easy to coast.

But I think that if someone is worried about coasting and asking some of these questions about purpose and meaning in life, then they are not coasting at all.

They are not settling; they are yearning.

There’s a theory about change that refers to the push and the pull of decision making. We all need something to push us – something to disquiet us about our current situation – and something to pull us – something to inspire us for the future – to stop us from stagnating.

And that’s where yearning comes in.

We don’t always know what we are yearning for. We don’t always have a clear picture of how we want things to be instead. But yearning for something better, something more – unsettling as it is – can be the first signs of actual change, like shoots breaking the soil’s surface.

But we can seek, ask and knock.

If we do, I know Who will show, answer, and open the right doors for us.

And what amazing new things He could bloom in our lives.

(Talking of yearning, check out my son’s tune of the same name:  https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fsoundcloud.com%2Fpaddy-manning-831424521%2Fyearning&h=ATOIMrOUEnQoo8PxdNj_3AtdTpALF4jxa3LVxrOI7W1kUnsCdpM6fGwS312sKO_hhqZsRPUNACoTsJyVN6tzsyQWqpleEEfm7uD2e-0mAu4yz72-Gds)