Archive | May 2012

Maffew, Clint, Clong, and Doodle

I’ve always had twins. Always.  Before they in my arms, they were in my heart.  I was a huge fan of the Bobbsey Twins books, featuring two sets of fraternal twins, Freddie and Flossie, Nan and Ned, with all their somewhat tame adventures and most proper lifestyle of the early 1900’s through the 70’s.  Somehow I wanted to BE a twin!

When I was nine years old my family moved from the white brick house with a basement to a two-story red brick house on the corner of Gettysburg Road, about a half-mile away.  Mom and Dad actually sent me to school from one house in the morning and told me to come home at 3 pm to the other one.  What a strange beginning—and ending, of sorts.  I had just turned 4 when we moved into the white house; I had acquired a kitten, a dog, and lifelong friends during the 6 years we spent there.

That afternoon I found the new house.  I unpacked and arranged my bedroom, then went exploring in the neighborhood.  The first thing I noticed was the smelly diesel in the air as the city bus stopped at our corner lot every 15 minutes.   The second was a woman’s voice calling out to her children down the street.  I wandered in that direction to find two sisters named Karen and Barbara in their back yard, taking down the laundry that was flapping on the clothesline, smelling like sunshine and clean sheets.  I started helping, popping the wooden clothespins into the pot-bellied calico bag almost overflowing as it bounced, swinging from the clothesline with a crazy rhythm.

I soon discovered that these two girls fought continuously. They always had to finish chores before they could come out and play with me. The quickest way to get them free to play was to do their chores for them.  So I learned to hang up laundry, take down that same laundry when it was dry, wash dishes the old-fashioned way in a metal dishpan by hand in water bubbly from a washcloth full of soap hanging over the faucet.  Aggie, their Mom, would reward me with a sweet lemon slice that had soaked in sugar.

Karen and Barbara had a whole arsenal of games they loved, but mostly they loved to play paper dolls. But these were not standard issue. Aggie would request out of date pattern books from Hancock’s. Then the two girls would settle on the glider on the front porch, scissors in hand, searching for different models to be their paper dolls.   They sorted stacks of each “girl” into a different white envelope with that character’s name on it.

They offered a pattern book to me so I joined in the fun. Imagine my delight when I discovered that I could fashion my paper dolls into twins!  So I found duplicates throughout the pattern book and fashioned a family with 2 sets of twins.  You know, I also had the mother of the bunch in maternity clothes.  Somehow that tied in with my dream of lots of twins.

It happened that my fourth grade class contained four sets of identical twins: Harold and Darrell, Cindy and Sandy, Janet and Joan, and Don and his brother, whose name I don’t remember.  Maybe he was “his other brother Don”.

Now, I had no sisters and all of my brothers were much older than me, so I always felt like an only child.  I guess this is why I preferred to dream of being a twin. Of having another person who looked exactly like me–same age, same smile, same eye color, a constant playmate for this almost–only child.  I knew of course that God could not grant my wish for a twin sister. So I decided to pray for twin daughters and twin sons. That request didn’t seem too hard for Him to grant.

Yet my first child, born six weeks before I turned 20, was a single boy. He was such a well behaved, compliant baby and such a joy that I often made the joke that I would have to have two ‘really bad’ kids in order to make up for this wonderful baby.

God heard me. He decided to answer that request.

When Jack, my firstborn was 14 months old, I found myself ready to deliver again. Yet this time my tummy was much, much bigger than previously. So much so that I asked Dr. Nasser to reassure me that this was only one big baby. That’s when he decided to x-ray my tummy and give me the results that surprised me. Dr. Nasser said he was positive that he heard two heartbeats, and showed me the x-ray with what he was sure were twins. I was delighted and shocked and so grateful to have my prayer answered in this way. When I told Malcolm, my husband, about the twins he was speechless. For a little while, anyway, till the proud rooster rose to the surface.  I proceeded to grow and grow and grow until I thought my tummy would explode.  Jack, 14 months old and scampering about the living room, liked to crawl up and perch himself on top of my massive belly.  That’s when he would notice the super “outie” where my poor navel stretched, and it became one of his first words.  He tried for button as in belly button, but it came out “bubbie.”

Malcolm and I had decided on names for two boys (Seth and Sean) and names for two girls (Heather and Holly or Holly and Ivy).  I was on my way to the delivery room (and no, he didn’t go with me, this was the ancient days of 1974 when men were men and left the real work to the women folk and just paced and gave out cigars), we discussed the possibility of one of each gender and decided to pull one name from the girls and one name from the boys names we had chosen. It was only then that I learned that Malcolm had an Aunt Ivy and an Uncle Seth in the family. He smiled when I told him, “Well, if I can choose twins, I can choose to have one of each”.  And that’s the way that Seth and Ivy got their names.   As for my silly bragging that God had taken note of?  They both had severe colic for 3 solid months.  Rarely did a bottle of formula go down their throat that it didn’t end up right back up again…I was tempted to purchase a wardrobe of milk-colored shirts so I’d match the upchuck.  Yet in spite of the challenges I was walking on air—I had my twins!!

It was two years later I found myself living in North Georgia in a tiny town with a bizarre history called Toccoa, shortly after the movie, “Deliverance” came out.  I could write a spooky Lifetime Movie about raising three tiny children alone out in the woods of North Georgia, perched near the lake on Hole-in-the-Wall Road.  (My husband went back to Atlanta to work to support all of us, as the tiny town of Toccoa couldn’t come close to his salary).

It wasn’t long before I learned I was expecting again. And it wasn’t long before I begged the doctors there to reassure me that this was only one large baby.  Once again they told me that I was expecting twins. This time I was so nervous that instead of going home to tell my husband I went to the local hospital to meet with a friend, Mrs. Stover, the head of hospital volunteers. She was a dear, just hugged me and laughed in delight.  She said God wouldn’t give me anything I couldn’t handle, and reassured me that every thing would be fine. So I thanked her, picked up two gallons of maple nut ice cream, and returned home to drop the bomb on Malcolm.

After I revived him–scraped him off the kitchen floor, we rejoiced that God had blessed us once again. And we knew that if He chose to give us five children to raise, he would provide the means to manage it.

So the search for twin names was on again.  With the Bi-Centennial that year, Liberty was popular; so were Robert and William, and they were family names as well.  Jack, who was now 3 1/2 years old, was an avid fan of several TV Westerns.  Clint Walker as Cheyenne was a favorite and so was James Arness who played Sheriff Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke.  When the grandparents came for dinner, Jack was positively bursting, anxious to tell us his names for the new babies.  He climbed on his chair for effect, held out his arms like a ringmaster and announced, “I wanna name them Maffew, Clint, Clong, and Doodle.”

When we stopped laughing, he explained the Matthew and Clint, but I never did figure out where the other two came from.  As it happened, Jennifer Christian and Shannon Stewart made their appearance in May, so we were spared the cowboy names.  Well, almost.  Shannon’s middle name, ‘Stewart’ was after James Stewart, another famous cowboy and a man we knew we would always be proud to say lent his sense of honor to our little girl.

You know how once in a while you’ll be all by yourself and think you saw a quick movement behind you, or out of the corner of your eye?  Yeah, I do, too.  It happens to me sometimes.  But I’ve decided that I think it’s Clong and Doodle, still chasing dreams out in the garden on Hole-in-the-Wall Road.

The Little Measuring Man

I didn’t know what to do. Vernon’s boys had only visited my apartment a couple of times. I had put all breakables away when they came for safe keeping so I wasn’t sure how they would act in our new home.  We had just settled in and things were still in disarray, but the pathways were clear so Trent could scoot about and Dalton could find the remote, so I figured we were okay.

Moving day was the day after Thanksgiving in 2003, so we put up our Christmas tree right away. Not sure how to proceed, I sat the tiny tree upon a rather tall table. None of the ornaments were breakable so I thought we would be safe.

We carted in all the equipment that goes with two disabled children from the car and piled it in the den. I sat Trent down on the floor and smiled as Tillie (my rambunctious toy Maltese) inspected his face, washing it with her pink tongue. He grinned, began his little frog sounds and hopped away to inspect the rest of the house.  He seemed to find peace in the quieter, out-of-the-way spots, and preferred to keep to himself.

I heard the front screen door close and headed back to the living room doorway to encounter Dalton.  A definite aura of reverence came over Dalton’s countenance when he entered the living room and saw the small green evergreen, covered in red and gold ornaments with an angel beaming from the top branches. He proceeded slowly across the room to the Christmas tree and paused in front of it with his hands folded as if in prayer.

Few heavenly hosts could compete as his clear bell-tones rang out, tolling the notes of “Joy to the World”.  I hardly noticed that the words were indistinguishable as I caught the holy worship in his tone and the set of his shoulders.

Dalton looked up at me for approval and touched my cheek with one hand as if to ask me to join him in his song. Through my tears I sang the words to “Joy to the World” although I knew the words made no difference at all.

This serenade was just another innocent gift that I will always cherish and ponder in my heart.  Yet my lessons were only just beginning.  I dried my eyes and followed the sounds I could hear coming from around the corner and down the hallway.

I peeked around the corner to see Trent, face composed in his studious frown, in full swing, lecturing the dozens of videotapes that we had stacked in rows on shallow shelves from floor to ceiling. The occupants before us had walled up a linen closet, leaving just enough space for row upon row of videocassettes.  You’d think the tapes were hot or sticky, the way he delicately lifted each one by a corner, swinging it deftly, sort of weighing and “measuring” it for some mysterious reason only he could fathom.  He would lift one tape from the shelf with his left hand and place it, swinging it gently, behind him to the left.  Then he’d rise to his knees and reach for another with his right hand, repeating the sequence, hefting the tape as he lay it behind him to the right.

This process fascinated me.  Trent would concentrate, very serious, just jabbering at the tapes, excited to have managed to get this far in his little army of destruction.  I left him to his industry, not about to get in the way or to stop him.  Once again I had something to ponder.  Was he upset with me?  Did he love the confusion of the pile of tapes all over the floor?  He seemed extremely proud of himself as he reached higher and higher up the shelves.  Maybe this was a project that delighted him, designed to show his prowess or his endurance.  I knew one thing for sure, though.  In this rickety old house with its creaky floors and drafty halls, I had discovered a young mind that fascinated me.  A tender heart that humbled me with its reverence.  And I was totally and hopelessly in love.

Author’s Note:

Trent is a my husband’s son, a young man who weighs about 40 lbs.  He doesn’t speak, although he’s extremely expressive.  He doesn’t walk, doesn’t eat and his activities are pretty limited.  He conquers the world in spite of cerebral palsy, mental retardation, aphasia, asthma, a feeding tube, incontinence, and a myriad of other disabilities almost since birth.  You wouldn’t know that Trent is soon going, Lord willing, to celebrate his 22nd birthday.  Yet I’ve been so very blessed to have known him since 2003.  And this is the story of the day my life changed–when I met Trent.

Dalton is Trent’s younger brother.  Dalton is now almost 20 years old; he weighs about 125 lbs and blossoms daily in his own beautiful autistic world of wonder.   He can walk and at times run, he’s a whiz with a TV remote, but neither speaks nor hears very well.  He’s severely retarded, also aphasiatic and incontinent, but otherwise sees the world through brilliant eyes.  At the time we met, he was 11 and Trent was 12.

© 2012 His Kid, Inc.

How Do You Count Riches?

Got Rich?

Not me.  Well, oops, let me back that one up.  I’m UNBELIEVABLY wealthy.

I just don’t have lots of money.

I can count among my gems lots of amazing friends; a very close, loving family that I can delight in sharing with, don’t have to “pull punches,” we can just say what we feel for the most part.  I’m a member of the most genuine church to worship in that I have ever seen.  We’re all flawed, and we goof up, and we happen to laugh at each  other and ourselves a lot.  But we just plain old love the Spirit, worship the Lord, let Him know it, and do all we can to share our faith and glorify Him.  So I’m PLENTY wealthy.

As for money?  Assets?  Funds?  Not really, not yet; we’re on the debt-free path, courtesy of Mr. Dave Ramsey, and doing our best, but we’ll get there.  But all in all, my life’s motto is to spend less than I make, relax and enjoy the simple things.  Love my friends, share good food, lots of laughs, keep busy making days when we fall over laughing…so that time’s not wasted.

I used to absolutely frantic-ize over gift giving.  It had to be really nice; unusual; something jaw-dropping to the recipient; and a gift they’d never think of or think to ask for.  But that’s changed this last year.  Maybe I grew up.  I’ve finally learned that the gifts I choose to give my children, grandchildren and friends are lavish love and unconditional support, because that’s what really matters to them.  And to me. And to Him, in the long run.

If you don’t count my lemonade stand, I began working when I was 12.  Babysitting for friends from church and those who answered my little typed want ad.  My first “real” job was at age 16, employed as front desk/receptionist for a podiatrist.  I  can’t believe he hired me, but I was “mature” (built) enough to pass for 18-21, so it didn’t present a problem.  And the next summer I returned to the same job.  I love that kind of work; encountering people in an uncomfortable or anxious situation, and helping to make them feel at ease, and make the awkward moments just as smooth to get through as I can.  Helping people is my thing.

I’ve been doing financial work for the past 18 years, and that’s fine.  As long as it’s something that helps other people better their situation.  My background has been broad and varied, and now it seems it will mesh into quite a package for some lucky employer.

I’ve worked in a church setting; for a missionary to the Ivory Coast; in education; for a safe company; preparing audit reports for a bank; posting payments, preparing reserve checks, and other functions for an auto finance company; prepared and monitored the IT budget for an airline; pilot-tested new billing software; billed Medicare for a hospital, major insurance companies for a home health agency; and in a sales function, worked for myself.

Most recently I’ve spent a week in fund-raising.  Our church is hosting a Community Fair next weekend (May 26th) with everything free.  Games, Food, Bouncy things for the kids to play in–all free to the families of Claremore, OK.  I’ve been surprised and amazed, and so encouraged to be on the receiving end of the kindness and generosity of the businesses that support our little town.  No one hesitated.  No one was stingy.  Every business, whether a major national chain or a tiny shop with one owner, providing services all alone, stepped up and opened their wallets, their hearts to the hundreds who will visit our Fair and enjoy the games, the amusements, the refreshments, and the prizes.

What’s the catch?  We’re fishing.  Using a hook.  Not a metal one, but a spiritual one.  We’re extending our arms open wide, our smiles genuine and engaging.  We’re loving them.  Simply giving and loving.  That’s really hard to beat.  And so thoroughly fulfilling to be a part of.

So…what’s the next chapter?  Where will my skills and God’s providence lead me to next?  I’m anxious to discover!!