Monday, November 27, 2017

After the preaching

Photo on
After the preaching
and the invitation song
and the standing in the foyer and shaking everyone’s hands
and telling toddlers, “Well hello, Pumpkin” and pinching their cheeks
After the local preacher or elder turns off all the lights
we—Dad and me—
get into the car and drive back to the motel
where we park
and walk over to a dimly lit corridor

It is well past my bedtime, but we stop at a vending machine to buy a couple of Dr. Peppers
This will be our treat at the end of a long day

And standing in that corridor, far from home
surrounded by shadows
in a lonely motel
I am not afraid, because my father is there
He is strong
and He will take care of me. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Big Sis

One of my earliest memories of my big sister Cindy is this …

I’m standing on the back patio, in my sock feet, playing some sort of game where the patio is a safe place and all the surrounding area is dangerous

The grass is not really grass, but it is fire or water or something like that

And the problem is, it’s time for me to go back inside, but I “can’t” because I’d have to cross over the grass

And then Cindy comes out, and I explain the situation to her

And she doesn’t roll her eyes

And she doesn’t say, “That’s dumb”

She just picks me up and carries me around the house and into the carport where the ground is safe

I think about this story now …

As I’ve watched my big sis, over the course of the past several years, “carry” our parents

Take care of them

Meet even their most basic needs

And I can say …

I’m not surprised

No, I’m not surprised one bit.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

3 brothers and 2 sisters

Mom had 3 brothers and 2 sisters
a good-sized family
at least, that’s how I always thought of it

The oldest sibling being Melvin
who had a bad back, but a wonderful sense of humor
Plain-speaking is how I'd describe him
“Why I wouldn’t name a dog Francis,” he once said
which was funny, because Melvin’s first name was Francis
and it was his father’s name as well

And next there was Pete
whose real name was Estel
a form of Estella, which was his mother’s name
Pete was a successful businessman
who carried a plastic change purse in his pocket
and he was always generous with his nickels and dimes
I learned to tie my shoes in Uncle Pete’s home

And then there’s Marciele
Sweet Aunt Marciele
who lived the longest of the bunch
She was strong in spirit and faith
That’s how I remember her
And she had a garden and a tower in her back yard
yes, a tower
I will show you a picture, if you don’t believe me

And Jim
I thought of him as quiet and kind
a mailman who did some farming too
I rode in a big tractor with Uncle Jim
I don’t think I’ve ever done that with anyone else

And Madge
who I saw more than the others
because she lived only 50 miles down the road
She’d invite us over for holidays and such
and there was always plenty of food
and Razorbacks sports watching
and laughter
She beat cancer and taught music
and had 6 children
and so many grandkids and great grandkids
that you couldn’t even count them

And coming back to Mom
Marilyn, the youngest
as sweet as the day is long
I miss them all, but I miss her most
She loved Jesus, this I know
and her family
every one of them
from Kansas to Oklahoma to Arkansas
and wherever the world had carried us

Pete, Marilyn, Madge, Melvin, Marciele, and Jim

Monday, August 28, 2017

Aunt Madge

When I was 14 or 15
my mom
and her sister Madge
decided to take my cousin Jon and me
to Kansas for a family visit

500 miles to get there, by car
and 500 miles back
and for some reason the sisters
Marilyn and Madge
decided to let Jon and me do all of the driving
All of it
I didn't even have my license yet
Only a learner's permit

And on the way back from Kansas
on a long and dry stretch of highway
with me planted behind the wheel
Mom decided to take a little nap
and I felt myself getting a little drowsy as well
and the drowsier I got
the heavier my foot weighed on the pedal
until Aunt Madge spoke up from the backseat
with a voice that sounded like a smile
"Michael, don't you think we're going a little fast?"
And looking down, I noticed the speedometer needle
approaching 80
so I slowed down
Way down

And that day was a reminder for me
that if, for some reason
Mom couldn't be around
there was another "mom" standing by
who was ready to protect and love me as well.

Marilyn and Madge

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Poem for my mom ... by Cheryl Allen

You look beautiful in that cancer bed
next to the IV stand

One of your best brave faces
sticking up above the warmed blankets
tucked under your chin

Wearing make-up
and an armful of delicate bracelets

Commenting “the nurses
must have to take a sweetness test
to work here”

Handling the whole situation
with courage and grace.

Monday, June 12, 2017

First date

Heading over to Sears dorm

in the red Ford Courier that I’d just bought that summer for $2,000

Dressed casually

but with a touch of Quorum cologne on each side of my neck

to impress my date

and a country music cassette in the stereo

because I’d heard, from a mutual friend, that she liked that kind of music

A 3-minute drive from my dorm to hers

and then a 1-minute walk into the lobby

where she’s waiting

as cute as the day I first saw her

about a year before

And then back to my truck and off to Andy’s restaurant for a Coke

We listen to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

and to the constant squeaking of a loose part in my dashboard

and we talk, a little bit nervously at first

until we fall into a rhythm,

a rhythm that will carry us for decades

Her soft voice next to me

which, even on this first night,

I know I could listen to

for the rest of my life

Monday, May 15, 2017

This little light

Just after Thanksgiving in 1964

James and Marilyn Allen,

husband and wife,

purchased a plot of land

(lot 67 of the Faculty Addition)

for $1,425.00

from Harding College

The house they built,

completed in 1965,

was ranch-style with 3 bedrooms

2 bathrooms

a kitchen (and small dining area)

a den, living room and storage room

The Allen family,

husband, wife, daughter and son,

moved in

and soon welcomed a new addition

a baby boy, born in 1966

This would be the only home the boy knew

for 23 years

And during the early years

the boy happened to be sick quite a bit

and the dad would sometimes say

“Why you could have made a mountain out of all the pills that boy took.”


“Why you could have floated a ship with all the medicines that boy drank.”

And the boy would remember those times of illness

especially the nights

waking up

sick to his stomach

and creeping outside his parents' bedroom

to call for his mother

And the two of them moving quietly to the kitchen

where the mom would flip on the light above the sink

and begin to calm the boy

by first taking his temperature

and then administering gentle words

and appropriate medications

And the light above the sink

in that small, cookie-cutter house

would cast a warm yellow glow

on top of the mother’s head

and the shoulders of her night gown

And the boy would begin to feel better

almost right away

every time.