Monday, January 23, 2017

The waiting room

Flickr photo by thekirbster
I sat in the waiting room at the optometrist’s office

I’d been waiting for a good while when an older couple walked through the door

They looked to be in their 80s, but I’m not very good at guessing things like that

The woman seemed to be in better shape, and the man leaned heavily on her arm

He was stooped, with a head full of silver hair and bushy eyebrows

She was smartly dressed, with a buttoned-up navy coat and a candy-cane-striped pin on her collar

The woman took a seat across from me, while the man continued to the counter

I was afraid he might fall


If I had one word to describe him, that would be it

I heard him tell the receptionist that his glasses were broken, and she pointed him to a young man behind a table

That left the woman and me, looking across at each other

“Are you from around here?” she said loudly

She beamed as she talked

A face like an angel

“Well, yes ma’am I am,” I replied

And I told her where I lived and then asked her where she was from

She mumbled something and then said, “We go here and there and do this and that and go around and round”

It was then I knew she was having trouble with her memory

When she finished talking, she paused, giving me a turn

I told her that my wife was a teacher

That there were a lot more people in this city than there used to be

That I had a niece who lived in Chicago

Anything that came to mind, I shared

And her responses were generally about the same

“We go here and there … and do this and that … and go around and round”

I finally noticed that her husband was wrapping up his business with the glasses

He was slowly making his way back toward us

The woman noticed too and said

“My husband … he’s a good guy”

He grinned at the woman and said warmly

“Who are you bothering now?”

He nodded to me, and the two of them walked slowly out of the waiting room

Arm in arm 

Monday, December 5, 2016

The blue pitcher

My wife keeps a blue pitcher in the kitchen.

If you look inside, you will find:

2 marbles

2 seashells and one fragment of a seashell

a round, pink pencil sharpener

2 key chains, one which says “USA”

a 2013 rabies vaccination id tag, which belonged to—but was never worn by—our previous cat

3 paperclips, two small ones and a big one

a golf ball marker

2 extra keys

a basketball air pump needle

a silver trinket of unknown origin or potential usage

a metal square which says “Calvin Klein”

a tiny binder clip

a small plastic bag with a gold button inside


$1.70 in change,

plus one cent in play money

Why does my wife keep these things in a blue pitcher?

I do not know,

but there is something about it

that helps me understand

why she likes

the bits and pieces

inside of me.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Marriage advice

A while back

Cheryl and I were sitting in the middle of a group

finding ourselves to be the oldest ones in the room

—which for some reason, seems to be happening more and more—

And during a lull in the conversation


—who happens to be 15 years our junior—


Mike and Cheryl, what’s your advice for marriage?

And we laughed

because we almost never get asked this kind of question

Want to hear our response?

(which took us about a week to come up with)

I say, Be faithful to God and be faithful to your spouse

—which sounds kind of preacherish—

and Cheryl adds, Don’t forget to be kind

And you know what?

—Now that I think about it—

in the day-to-day living of marriage

Cheryl’s part 

might be the best advice of all.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A communist in the audience

Flickr photo by TEDx UniversityofTulsa
As a teenager, I spent a couple of summers working in the Harding University media center.

(If you need an overhead projector set up, I am your man.)

One of the perks of the job was setting up AV equipment for various seminars on campus—the best of which was the “Youth Leadership Forum.”  Interesting speeches, plus a good number of high school girls in attendance.

My favorite part of the forum?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

As I recall, Harding president Cliff Ganus would kick off a session talking about some patriotic theme.  He wouldn’t get too far into his speech, though, before a man in the audience would stand and interrupt.

How dare the Harding president fill these young people’s minds with such terrible ideas? the man would ask.

And it would soon become apparent that the debating gentleman was actually a communist, and he would begin to put forward—somewhat convincingly—the benefits of the communist system.

And we media center workers—sitting up in the audio booth of the American Heritage auditorium—could see all of this unfolding below us.

Now, Dr. Ganus handled the man in stride, but the students in the audience … well, that was a different matter.

The more heated the communist got, the more heated the audience got.

Some scattered boos.  People jumping up from their seats.  Questions being yelled.

A few students singing God Bless America.


I worried about the communist.  Would he be okay?  Would he make it out alive?

At the peak of the unrest, Dr. Ganus would regain control of the situation and ask everyone to be seated.  He would then properly introduce the communist—who happened to be a member of the university faculty.

You see, the communist was a plant.  He was only pretending.

And, in the end, the students were encouraged to think about their experience and were reminded of how important it is to listen to other people’s perspectives.

A lesson in showing civility … in being respectful … even when we disagree.

Monday, September 26, 2016

More grace

Flickr photo by faungg's photos
I had this dream
I’m not kidding
a real nighttime, fast-asleep dream

I’m seated at one end of a conference table
surrounded by old friends
Some of them are sitting on top of the table
Why are they sitting on the table?

We’re wrapping up some sort of seminar
and we’re discussing potential topics
for our next get-together

The conversation slowly winds its way around the room
and then, suddenly, all eyes are on me
“Grace,” I say
“I’d like to hear more about grace”
and I start to cry
Why am I crying?

And all of the people
around the table and on top of the table
nod their heads
“Yes,” they say
“We’d like to hear more about grace.”

Thursday, August 25, 2016


Growing up
I looked forward to the day
that I would shave

So when the time finally came
in junior high
as I stood at the sink
in the middle bathroom
lathered up a Santa beard of
Barbasol Shaving Cream
broke out a brand new plastic razor
began to shave

And soon after
a dream began
a dream of growing a mustache
like Coach T at school
Full Fu Manchu

So that by my late teens
I was trying regularly
to grow the perfect stache
Just check out my senior pic
Sport coat
Big grin
Tiny stache
like a worm crawling across my upper lip
a sickly worm

And I refused to quit

One time
in college
a minister’s wife
came up to me and said
Mike, you give it a good try in about 10 years, and you will look just like Tom Selleck
Tom Selleck!  Magnum, P.I.!
Now in the mustache world, that IS the peak
as I’m sure you know
And this minister’s wife was being completely serious
and sincere
I think

So I pressed forward toward the goal

Until one day
I met a girl
a really cute girl
who shook her head and smiled and said
Um, no
No stache

Can you believe it?
How dare she kill the dream?!

Which brings me to today
this very day
30 long years later
when I know, FOR A FACT, that I could achieve killer facial hair
and that same girl smiles
and shakes her head
and sweetly says
No, Mike
No stache.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Woman on a plane

Sitting next to a woman
on a plane
from Charlotte to Dublin

We’ve been in the air a few hours
and neither of us can sleep much
so we talk
to kill time

I tell her about where I’m from and what I do
and she shares the same
I gather a few extra details along the way
like that she’s almost a decade younger than I am
and a mother of 5
and eventually
we discover some common ground …


She grew up Mormon
and I grew up …

“Church of Christ?” she says,
“I’ve got some relatives in Mississippi who are Church of Christ!”
and we chat some more about church and families and our travel plans

She’s heading to England to visit her brother-in-law’s family

Her brother-in-law—she later tells me—is married to her brother
It embarrasses her to say this
I can tell
Then she adds, somewhat fiercely,
“I love my brother.”

And the conversation
from there.