nonsensical text

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

on learning more than english (a tribute)*

Paralyzed – I sit here knowing that I need to write; I need to express this loss in a way that can somehow capture the enormity of a man’s impact on my life.  What right do I have to this encompassing grief for a man I have not seen in over twenty years? How do I reconcile the fact that I will never see him again? With whom do I unravel in an atmosphere of compassion and understanding?

Mr. James Bradley was my eleventh grade English teacher.  That sounds so mundane. He was anything but. I came to him with so little self-confidence, an almost-woman-child who could skate by with good grades in most things without ever expending full effort. There were many parts to me which were so broken, but they were buried deep.

I remember the first day of his class.  We, the class, sat stupefied as he listed item after item that we would be expected to complete in the coming year.  The list was terrifying. He ended with the unshakeable pronouncement that never, under any circumstance, did he grade with a curve. One student piped in, “Well what if we all fail?”

“Then I fail you all,” came the reply.  But Mr. Bradley did not just throw us out into the depths of critical thought and leave us to flail around on our own.  He coaxed us with encouraging words; he built up the basic knowledge that we needed to accomplish every task he set forth, and he did so in such a way that made us proud to discover that we could do so much more than we ever expected of ourselves.

In many ways, he was a bear of a man – all gruff and stern. Then you looked in his eyes, and you could see a gentleness and humor there which was ingrained into every aspect of him.  He allowed me to see this side of him, and he saw and understood a depth in me that many could not. In his presence, I was unafraid of my vulnerability. He was one of the first good male role models I had in my life, and he made me want to give my best even if I didn’t have to do so to succeed.

But, all of these words are so flimsy.  They can’t convey to someone who didn’t know him, who didn’t know me, the degree to which he infiltrated my soul.  If I had never met him, I might not be. On more than one occasion, his gentle presence helped me to find some light in a tunnel so deep and long that I couldn’t find my own thoughts, let alone see my fingers in front of my face.

I envy those who found a way to stay in contact with him through the years.  I mourn that I didn’t discover he was on Facebook until it was too late.  I am thankful that he had the love of his family, people who took care of him the way that he took care of us. He will be missed.

*I smile slightly with the knowledge that using no capitals in a title is, perhaps, a contrary way to start a tribute to an English teacher.  I’m sure I have managed at least one other error of grammatical judgment. I hope that, somewhere, that brings a smile to his face.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Fifteen years ago in two days time (this coming Saturday), my baby boy, Caleb, was born. He never breathed outside of me. We had his funeral soon after - closed casket, not wanting to make this harder on others than it need to be. For a brief time before the funeral, we had a private viewing. My mother, my in-laws, and us, that’s what it was supposed to be. I guess I took longer saying good-bye than I expected. Perhaps I also forgot to take into account that my father was always a little early when he came to things. Perhaps, due to our complicated relationship, I didn’t really have the opportunity to know it in the first place. He was immediate family, so the funeral directors let him in. He didn’t know he was going to see his grandson face to face for the first and only time. He didn’t know my baby would be so similar in size and appearance to the way I looked in the incubator after being born prematurely so many years before. I didn’t mean to watch my father’s heart break, even a little. I know it did.

One year and two days ago, my father passed away. He struggled with oral cancer for a comparatively short period of time. The end was not easy, but it was faster than it could have been. I feel blessed to have been with him along with all of his children. Many past hurts were laid to rest before his passing – another blessing. His funeral was in the same funeral home, the reception afterward in the same church that holds Caleb’s graveyard.

 It occurred to me today that I was at the midpoint, equidistant from both dates. Perhaps I am also at a point equidistant from the innocence of Caleb and the brokenness of innocence-lost my father had lived to attain. As I stand on this point in time, I strive to see I am not on a line at all, but a circle. What appear (on my flat-map perspective of life) to be endpoints join together on the opposite side of the globe, the side we call eternity.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

this space

has been untended for far too long....

somehow, I must learn to fill it again. Line by line, slowly if need be...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

blog time

There is something about the passage of time which is misleading. Some days are very long indeed, but suddenly, upon looking backward, months have passed, and it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when they did so. So it is with this blog. Weekly, I would begin to write a post in my head. Weekly, I would convince myself I was actually going to type it up (usually on Mondays – a remnant of Sleeping with Bread), and yet when Tuesday came, I would postpone my goal for yet another week instead of writing it anyway.

I looked back at some archives this week and couldn’t believe that my most prolific posting was in 2006 and 2007. I can’t even believe I have had a blog for that long, let alone that is has been mostly idle for the past several years.

In the same way, life around these parts is passing. My second born turned eighteen yesterday, and he is about to graduate from high school. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we first dropped him off at the doors. Granted, it was only four years since he was homeschooled through eighth grade, but still…..

One would think that this passage of time would have spawned the basis for many blog posts, but the truth is, I have had varying versions of the same post running through my head the entire time. It’s all about motivation – or lack thereof.

When I was younger, most specifically in my teens and twenties, I took great pride in certain things. As a teenager, I was fond of uttering the self-truth that I was extraordinarily proud of my inferiority complex, “I feel more inferior than you feel, and I’ll prove it!” But that was not the extent of my pride. Silent pride covered my intelligence, my thinness without exercise, my ability to look into someone’s eyes and know their pain on a personal level. It has taken me this many years to realize how misdirected my pride actually is. You see, I seem only to revel in those accomplishments I had nothing to say about. Through my pride in them, I am taking credit for God’s work – those natural abilities borne into my genes. I don’t like working for anything.

I don’t know whether laziness or fear has been the prime motivator, but the fact remains. I don’t like doing anything that doesn’t come easily to me. Speaking to people on a deep level when I am vulnerable myself – when I have hidden weakness and don’t want to admit it, making phone calls to just about anyone (but doctors and businesses are the most difficult), writing when the words don’t just flow from my fingertips: these are things I avoid like the plague. And now that my earlier prides don’t come so naturally, well, I avoid thinking about them too.

S, the second born, has a quality he leeched directly from his mother. Whenever trying something new, he watches. To the outside observer, he would appear not to be interested at all, but he is watching with intensity. Then, off in his own corner of the world, he practices. He is not willing to try anything in front of others if he is not absolutely sure he can do it. Only a small fraction of the things observed ever make it to the stage of public opinion. As an onlooker, I see the pity in this. So many talents don’t see the light of day because they are rough, raw, and imperfect.

And yet this fear of failure is pride as well. I do not judge others harshly. I am usually able to acknowledge the strength without tearing apart the weakness. And yet, somehow I feel that I cannot fail in front of others and choose instead not to even try. Logically, I know that the result of this action is failure every time while trying would result in the possibility of at least some success. Also, I would have a lot more right to pride for trying, and even possibly succeeding, in something that doesn’t come naturally to me. Instead of stealing God’s glory and staking claim to its privileges, I could acknowledge those glories as His, freeing me up to stop trying to do other things on my own power and steam- learning instead to lean on Him to help me through the rough patches and wash away the fear.

Time will tell, though I expect it might take me years to look back and see what it says.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

for mel

I am hereby making a commitment to post SOMETHING this week. Now, I will try my hardest not to let that something just be a single sentence, but I am fully aware of my tendency toward procrastination and forgetfulness, so no guarantee!


Friday, May 07, 2010

maybe one word will help

Looking at the date on my last post makes me intensely aware of just how good I am at ignoring the obvious. I still think about posting at least once every week, so I am able to think of myself as a blogger who hasn't written in a little while. Yeah, right. I don't really have anything to say right now (or, conversely, I have too much to say about nothing in particular, and I don't have confidence in my ability to spend the typing time with arthritic fingers and a very sleepy brain). I am hereby posting this paragraph in an attempt to jar myself into action. I don't want to be silent forever.