The month of February has been designated annually (since 1976) as Black History Month in the United States. In his proclamation address announcing the designation, President Ronald Reagan noted: “understanding the history of Black Americans is a key to understanding the strength of our nation.” Indeed. In 2019, the Census Bureau estimated the Black population to be about 48 million individuals, approximately 15% of the entire US population. This year’s theme focuses on the Black family. It’s fitting to honor Black Americans whose presence has enriched our country.
As a child, reading was one of my favorite pastimes. I couldn’t have been very old – maybe ten or eleven – when my imagination began feasting on the classics. (If you’re familiar with any of my posts in 2013, it should be clear my reading tastes tend to be eclectic.) What I especially enjoyed were adventure tales where seemingly ordinary people performed heroic deeds.
During our childhood, my brothers and I often played Cowboys and Indians. (This was an era before political correctness.) One of our favorite heroes was The Lone Ranger, a fictional character who (with his Native American sidekick Tonto) fought against injustice. The Lone Ranger wore a mask. At the end of each episode, the Lone Ranger and Tonto rode off on their horses as another minor character would ask: Who was that masked man?
Back then, only criminals and thugs wore masks … for concealment. In stark contrast, the Lone Ranger’s mask represented good. When people needed his help, they’d initially greet the masked man with suspicion, believing his mask signified evil intent. Though the mask concealed his identity, it also served as a warning to bad guys. They recoiled in fear knowing this legendary masked man was determined to uncover their evil deeds and throw them in jail. Preferring anonymity to fight lawbreakers, the Lone Ranger embodied silver-bullet dedication by serving law-abiding individuals selflessly.
Ninety-seven years ago today, my daddy entered this world. As one might expect, he had a significant impact on my life and I’ve posted about him numerous times in this space. With the recent commemorations of D-Day, I’ve been thinking often about Norman Arthur Stricker whose Army Serial Number was 37 404 688.
In an interesting turn of events, I’m spending this day some 14 miles from the Florida condo he and my mother shared in the years before his 1994 death. I thought this would be an appropriate time to debut a new subsection of my blog devoted to my Stricker roots. It’s located here and if you’re related to the Stricker family in any measure, I hope you’ll enjoy this tribute to my dad.
The recent commemorations of D-Day have sparked my reflections. With this final day of June 2019, my thoughts center on my father-in-law (FIL) whose birthday it is. He was born in 1921. I’ve mentioned him in several previous posts, most recently here.
Born in Kansas, the second child of Fred and Georgia, Max learned early the importance of hard work, a way of life embedded deep in their German heritage. He often reminded his sons how his own father tied a block of wood to the child’s foot so he could reach the tractor’s gas pedal. Able-bodied children learned the value of work to help families survive.
This work ethic propelled young Max into adulthood. Ambition and aptitude directed him to Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science (now Kansas State University) where he prepared for his future career as an engineer. As sometimes happens, these plans were interrupted by the shadow of war. Like many of his peers, this engineering student enlisted in the US Army.
When Max reported for active duty, he served with the Signal Corps stationed in the Philippines. His eldest son (also named Max) was born during this overseas deployment.
Following World War II, Max pursued various engineering and corporate positions that brought him success. He was wise and expert, an admirable man. He and his wife raised four sons, each of whom exhibits distinct character qualities (even facial expressions) learned from their father.
Looking back though, I’ve come to realize … to my regret … I didn’t know my FIL well. He was an imposing figure to me, tall and commanding as one might expect of a former Army officer. As his daughter-in-law, I found myself unable to establish a comfortable level of familiarity where I could characterize him as my friend. Though he was kind and cordial, he seemed a generally quiet man, sometimes prone to share stories, but usually content to observe the interactions and conversations of those around him.
Mostly, what I know of the man is what I’ve seen reflected in my Beloved. The second child of a second child, my Beloved mirrors his father’s disposition as a generally quiet man. Observing my Beloved’s love for me and for his children and grandchildren, I’m grateful to his father for being a good dad and provider.
Perhaps more than anything else, I realize my FIL passed on to my Beloved a precious spirit of play. Pictured at right in the final years of his life, Max displays the winning hand in a monumental match of Texas Hold’em. To start, there may have been eight or ten competitors sitting at that roundtable contest. One by one, they went down in defeat to the most seasoned (and senior) card player at the table. Even as a man in his 80s, Max delighted in being champion of all.
We don’t have much occasion to break out the cards these days, but whenever my Beloved splashes his grand-twins in their mini-pool or welcomes the grandchildren to hop on top his truck for a raucous ride around the lawn, I’m gratified by his joyous spirit of playfulness … and how Scripture – once again – demonstrates its essential Truth to our everyday lives.
Memorial Day. A designated Federal holiday, the name signifies a specific day set aside annually to memorialize and honor those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Earliest observances of the day pre-date the Civil War.
In my younger years, I recall hearing the day referred to as “Decoration Day.” That was understood to mean my relatives were headed to the cemetery to decorate graves with flowers and flags … and occasionally, a sprinkling of tears. I don’t recall the decorations being placed exclusively on graves of military deceased, though I admit, I probably wasn’t paying close attention.
With her 92nd birthday approaching (the end of August), my mother Ruthe must contemplate the final days (or years, we hope) of her incredible life on this planet. I’ve shared her stories more than a dozen times in this space, among them Everybody’s Fine, The Tale of Bobbie Pringle (in 2 parts), and Safe In His Arms. I’ve also posted poems where she was my subject: Mother of Mine, Touchstone. Along life’s journey, she has embraced numerous adventures, taken surprising risks and absorbed monumental losses. What a blessing she has been to me (and her other offspring)!
The photo above was taken a couple weeks ago. She needed groceries and I was in town, so we drove to the nearby SuperCenter. Because she lacks the stamina she once had, I suggested she try the motorized shopping cart. I’ve never used one of these devices … nor had she until that day! (Keep in mind, she’s almost totally blind, with only a sliver of cloudy light squeezing into the uppermost corner of her left eye.) Still, I figured the electric cart was worth trying, since I worried her knees might give way during our trek through the massive store.
As things turned out, we managed to collect her groceries without inflicting excess damage to the cart or any merchandise lining the aisles … and thankfully, no customers were permanently injured during this endeavor! When she first grasped the forward/reverse lever, the cart unexpectedly shot forward, leaving me far behind. I caught up quickly and decided to set my hand to the “wheel” to control the cart’s speed and direction. It was my chance to walk beside her, guiding her to the k-cups, the oatmeal and her other important purchases. Making our way (slowly) around the store, she depended on my guidance, but strange as it might seem, she was leading the way … as she always has! Continue reading “Leading The Way”→
My ninety-one year old mother lives about six hours away. Given her disabilities (she’s nearly blind and doesn’t hear well), she no longer drives – which means in order to spend time with her, I must first travel to her home. On those occasions when my Beloved makes the journey with me, the distance is the same but traveling together makes the trip both sweeter and (seemingly) shorter. Time alone on the road is generally more tedious.
During my last couple trips though, I’ve been accompanied by three young fellows (unbeknownst to my Beloved). These guys couldn’t be more chatty and when we travel together, I’m certain to be entertained as well as challenged to consider the world from a different point of view.
Most people understand – at least in a theoretical sense – how quickly life can change. In the two months since I last posted, the silence hasn’t come about due to a lack of blogging material. No, no, no. Furthermore, every single day without a post brought a deeper sense of unease … the pattern of my life seeming slightly upended!
But the respite from my daily pattern was necessary and welcome … necessary because life demanded I attend other matters and welcome because it freed me (somewhat) from my irrational obsession to slavishly maintain daily posts – no matter what! With each day that passed, my figurative pencil grew more insistent and red-faced. Much to my surprise, people continued to drop by and read previous posts. (I am gratefully humbled by your interest.) Continue reading “Random Vicissitudes”→