Monday, July 28, 2008

Absher Anthology

Mother’s Hands ; Mindy, May,2003
I saw my mother’s hands the other day. This might not seem very surprising
to some, except for the fact that my mother passed away nearly three years
ago. I was changing the sheets on our bed when I looked down and saw
mom’s hands. For many years people have been telling me that I look like my
mother, but I never could see it when I looked in the mirror. Yet, there I was
doing a menial task like changing the sheets and then I saw them, my mother’s

There wasn’t anything really remarkable about her hands. Well except for the
crooked fingernail on her pointer finger that she had smashed in a car door
when she was a teenager. And her knuckles were the biggest parts of her
fingers; she used to call them her Pennsylvania Dutch knuckles. Her fingertips
were rough and calloused, probably because she never used a cutting board.
And her thumb had a distinctive curve, like she was always giving a thumb’s
up! Needless to say, no one ever asked her if she would like a career as a
hand model. But you see, she did have model hands.

Her hands had the softest touch. They could soothe a crying baby or calm an
aggravated teen or corral a wayward toddler with the gentlest encouragement.
Her hands could feed many or just a few. Her hands could coax beautiful
melodies out of piano keys (sometimes), autoharps, hand bells or even little
children more inclined to sing off-key. And only when it was really necessary,
her hands could put a sting on a young behind. Her hands could bolster a
young mother on the verge of giving up. Or make the sourest lemonade taste
sweet. Her hands could make blankets, sweaters, prom dresses and, of
course, baby doll clothes. Her hands could turn wildflowers and weeds into
arrangements worthy of a king. And her hands could lead the eyes of a small
child across the page time and time again as he learned to read. But her hands
became most powerful when she folded them in prayer.

My favorite memory of my mother was when Joshua was born. Craig asked
Mom to be in the delivery room with us because he was afraid that his weak
stomach would cause him difficulties and he didn’t want me to be by myself if
he passed out. So, there the three of us were with nurses and doctors coming
around sporadically for 14 hours. After Joshua was finally born, and he was
lying on my chest, he reached his arm out and spread his fingers and Mom
reached her hand out and laid his hand on her palm. Joshua and Mom always
had a special relationship and I think it started just a few minutes after his
birth, when he felt the security of her hands.

So it’s okay if I see my mother’s hands whenever I look at my own. I just
hope that the legacy my hands leave will be half the legacy she left to me.

Mother's Day Presentation: Anita, May/10/2003

Here are my notes from the talk that I gave at the Mother/Daughter
Banquet 5/10/03.
You have chosen for your theme Mothers Are Everywhere.
There are days when I certainly wish that were true - because I NEED to
be everywhere in order to get EVERYTHING done!
But we have come tonight to celebrate the MOMs in our lives and we really
can't do that without honoring the ONE who truly is everywhere, all the
time & never changes! It is only through God's grace and faithfulness
that moms can be anything or anywhere.
I have found that being the woman that God wants me to be is what enables
me to be the wife, mother, daughter, friend and neighbor that God wants
me to be.
In Matthew 28:20 Jesus say * "and surely I am with you always . . ."
implied . . . To enable you to do as I have commanded. In reality Moms
can't be everywhere but we serve a living God that will never leave us or
forsake us. The most important thing that a mom can do is to realize that
and to pass that knowledge on to their children.
I had a wonderful relationship with my mom. Even as a teen, I counted her
as one of my very best friends. She wasn't the type to sit up and worry
when I was out - she would go on to bed - but I think she would have been
disappointed if I had not gone to sit on her bed when I arrived home. We
had wonderful long talks, accompanied by my Dad's snores, in the dark of
her bedroom on weekend nights during my high school years. Later, just
after I had graduated from college and only several months after I met my
future husband, Dale, I remember HER sitting on MY bed as I shared with
her my hopes for the future of our relationship. Then early in at least 2
of my 4 pregnancies I remember going to share the news with my parents
and Mom saying, "I had already figured that out, I was just waiting for
you to be ready to tell me." J Not only was she everywhere - she knew
everything! J
When Kristin was born - the first grandchild for my parents - my whole
family sat in the waiting room for 7 hours awaiting the announcement of
her arrival. I had never really understood the depths of a mother's love
until after her delivery - when having a very fresh memory of the pain of
childbirth and my mother said "Having you in the delivery room and
knowing what you were going through was harder than having a baby
myself." WOW!

My mom continued to be available to me - When I had a 2 year-old
struggling with adjusting to a new baby in the house and threw up my
hands in despair - mom was over in only a couple of minutes more than the
25 minutes between our houses. There wasn't much she could do but just
being there renewed my courage.
The most poignant recollection of her presence at the right time was in
May of 1998. I was 9 months pregnant - due to deliver our 4th child
within a week or so. Mom made daily phone calls from KY to check my
condition. Finally, on Thursday morning, May 14, she called and said "I'm
just going to come check on you and if nothing happens in the next day or
so I'll go back home and wait for your call." She arrived on Thursday
afternoon. Early Friday morning my water broke and we were able to leave
for the hospital worry-free knowing that our 3 children were in the best
of care! I have thanked God many times for sending my mom to OHIO that
When that baby, Alyssa, was only 6 months old, my mom was diagnosed with
colon cancer and surgery revealed that the cancer had already spread to
her liver. The Doctors told my parents, but they chose to not tell anyone
else, that she had only 6-8 months to live. My mom resolved at that time
to live life to the fullest and to concentrate on making memories. For
her, chemotherapy treatments became just an appointment on her calendar.
She choose not to dwell on death but to live! She didn't miss a single
birthday celebration of the grandkids, she organized a surprise party to
celebrate her in-law's 60th anniversary in VA. She even insisted that she
and my dad and sister make the 3 hour trip here one Sunday afternoon to
see my children in a Christmas production at church, only to turn around
and make the 3 hour trip back home that same night.
It was that same Christmas, 1999, when she gave me the most treasured
gift I had ever received - this Mother's ring. It had been her mom's and
then my mom's and being her only daughter with 4 children she wanted me
to have it. To me it is so much more than a ring - celebrating not only
the gift of my children but also my mother's love and legacy.
Late in April of 2000, Mom and Dad came to Ohio to celebrate Kathlyn's
7th birthday. Mom began experiencing some problems and that was her last
trip. In June I was able to spend a couple of days caring for her and had
just returned to Ohio when we received the call that she was dieing. As
the Lord helped to make all the arrangements we were able to leave the
camp, with Kid's Kamp in full swing and were the last immediate family
members to arrive. Immediately I went to her bedside and, reminiscent of
those high school days, sat on her bed and shared my heart. She wasn't
able to speak back but God assured my spirit that she heard. Within an
hour she was in His presence.
And at that moment I began to experience what it's like when Mom is not
everywhere! But you know what? She had modeled for me a complete trust in
the ONE that IS everywhere and I found in Him a comfort and peace that
can't be described.
No, my mom isn't everywhere, but God is! I have chosen to dwell not on
what I don't have but on what I do. In a time of intense grief about 3
months after mom's death God spoke to me through a phone call from an old
friend that I had spoken with in several years. I have never experienced
His love for me as expressed through a servant as I did that night! I
have His comfort!
I also have a rich heritage and legacy left by my mom. She was committed
to God and through His love served her husband, her children, her church,
her neighbors and her community! She gave me a beautiful example of
Christ-honoring servant hood.
And I have a new relationship provided by God - a step-mother! Just 1
year ago my Dad married Kaye. Kaye loves God with all her heart,
faithfully serves Him and has a love and care for my Dad that is a gift
to us all! But she is also a wonderful "mom" to me and an OUTSTANDING
"Grandma" to my children! I have God's faithfulness and provision!
Proverbs 31 talks of a woman who fears the Lord, diligently works to gain
and share wisdom and is busy sharing from her surplus with her family,
the poor and needy, and making a difference within her community. VS. 28
says "Her children arise and call her blessed".

Tonight I honor the memory of my mother, Barbara Absher and honor my
step-mother, Kaye Absher for their love and service for God and their
families. I am truly blessed!

Moms, I want you to think for a moment -
What kind of legacy are you building? Are we giving our children reason
to "rise up and call her blessed?"
I love studying PROVERBS. It is packed with so much practical stuff -
things I can apply and put into practice. As I have studied Proverbs
there are 3 things that stand out to me that will help us to build a
First, a fear of the Lord.
Proverbs 31:30 states "Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting but a
woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."
* Will you be remembered as a woman who loved God?
* Have you modeled for your children a complete trust and reliance on
Proverbs 15:16 says "Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great
wealth with turmoil."
* What are we seeking after? Things and possessions or a greater
understanding and love for our Lord?
Proverbs 3:5 and 6 are very familiar verses, "Trust in the Lord with all
your heart, do not lean on your own understanding - in all your ways
acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight."
But lets go on to verses 7 and 8 "Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear
the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and
nourishment for your bones."
Second, as I look at the Proverbial Woman that God wants to make me into
I see a woman seeking to serve others.
Proverbs 31:15 says "She gets up while it is still dark; she provides
food for her family and portions to her servant girls."
Throughout this chapter there are many mentions of this woman serving and
doing for her own family. This woman is not so busy with outside demands
on her time that her family suffers. No, I see this woman as focusing and
concentrating on the needs of her family.
Then, with what time and energy is left she reaches out to others.
Proverbs 31:20 says "She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands
to the needy."
vs.26 states "She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her
Legacy Women will seek to share with others from the wisdom and resources
that God has given them!
And last but certainly not least important a woman of legacy will seek
wisdom and endeavor to grow.
Let's read Proverbs 2:1-11. These verses are addressed My son. I don't
think it is inappropriate to substitute My Daughters!
Chapter 23:12 says "Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to
words of knowledge."
In conclusion
A legacy builder will have
A fear of the Lord - this involves a reverence, trust and surrender of my
whole life.
She will look for opportunities to serve God through serving others
Will continually seek God's wisdom and growth in her relationship and
walk with Christ!
Moms, let's take a moment to consider our legacy. Search your heart and
allow God through His Holy Spirit to mold you and make you.
Daughters - and that really should not exclude any one in this room -
take a moment and consider how God has blessed you through the person of
your mother. If you still have your mom, resolve now to take the time and
look for an opportunity to "rise up and call her blessed". Don't take
these moments for granted! Tell her what she means to you!
If your mom is a memory take the time to thank God for her sacrifice and
love and look for an opportunity to honor her memory!

Glimpses of Granddaddy, Beth ,February 20,1995

No one else reacted as dramatically as Mindy did when she saw him the night before her wedding in September. She walked into the room and burst into tears. She gingerly put her arms around his frail frame and openly wept. “I am sorry for acting this way,” she whispered between sobs, “but I’m just so happy to see you.” She was telling the truth, but just not all of it.
How could she tell him that his appearance shocked her? She had been so busy with school and her wedding plans that she hadn’t seen him since before his surgery, and she couldn’t believe the complete change that she now saw in him. Mindy hurried into the kitchen and collapsed into Mother’s comforting arms. As Mindy mourned the change that had enveloped her Grandfather, she could feel Mother’s warm, salty tears falling on her cheek and mixing with her own.
“Mom, he looks so sick. I’ve never seen him look like this. I didn’t want him to see me crying, but I couldn’t help it, Mother. It just hurts me so much to see him this way.”
“I know dear. We all feel like crying, but we must be strong for him and for Grandma.”
“But Mom, he looks so frail. His eyes have lost their twinkle. Did you notice how red and swollen his neck is? He can’t even turn his head to look at something without turning the rest of his body as well.”
We had all noticed the changes in Granddaddy, but no one wanted to admit it. Grandma had told each of us in the proceeding weeks about how much he was improving. “Nobody can get over how well your Grandfather looks. He says that his food still doesn’t taste good, but he is eating it anyway.” She continued filling our minds with positive reports so we expected to see the same white haired, blue-eyed, healthy granddaddy that we knew so well.
Was she blind?! Now, his hands were shaky, and he had lost a lot of weight. On this day, the reality of Granddaddy's cancer struck us all with unequalled harshness. Everyone knew why Mindy was really crying, but no on would admit it, especially to Granddaddy or Grandma.
We were all dealing with his sickness in a different way. I somehow felt responsible for his illness, and the guilt was breaking my heart. At least if he smoked, or drank, or had some other terrible habit I might be able to blame his cancer on that. Since he doesn’t, and I felt the need to blame something, I blamed myself.
I have only heard my grandfather use a cuss word once in my whole life. By today’s standards it wouldn’t have even been classified as a cuss word; but by the way that Grandma reacted to it, you would think that he had just put an evil curse on his own grandchildren.
It all began by one simple question that children tend to ask their parents and grandparents every once in a while. We had just finished a family dinner when one of my four siblings asked, “What was it like when you were growing up, Granddaddy?”
“Well, I grew up in a white house, painted green with two front doors on the backside,” his story began. His narrative continued in this manner while chaos was erupting around the table.
His tall tales were causing the whole family to gasp for breath through their laughter. Had Grandma not made him stop when the finally said the “bad” word, we probably would not have been able to handle much more of his reminiscing. The relief came when he told us about the heavenly potatoes that a friend had once made for him.
“Why were they heavenly potatoes, Granddaddy?” Someone asked between shrieks of laughter.
“Because she put them on the fire and cooked the Hell out of them.”
“Bill, do you want me to wash your mouth out with soap? I can’t believe you that in front of your grandchildren! You ought to be ashamed of yourself!” The more Grandma complained, the funnier the whole situation got until we were all practically rolling on the floor, and we had to beg them to stop.
Certainly one little cuss word can not cause a person to contract a terminal disease, so it had to be something else. His problems had begun while he was visiting me so I must be responsible. Granddaddy’s cancer was diagnosed as a result of an office visit that he made to his doctor shortly after retuning home form visiting me at Walt Disney World, where I was completing an internship.
My grandparents and my aunt Barbara had never been to Walt Disney World so my uncle decided to take them down for a few days so that they could see the parks and me. I welcomed the opportunity to introduce my relatives to my new friends; Minnie, Mickey, Goofy, and Donald Duck, and show them the castle that I shared with Cinderella.
Because my uncle was the only one who had been to Disney World before, he and I were in charge of the itinerary and tried to choose the activities that we thought would appeal to my grandparents and Barbara. We spent an entire day at each of the three theme parks on property, and at the end of each day discussed the best parts. Granddaddy liked “that show with the singing bears”, the jungle cruise and almost all of the attractions at MGM Studios.
I wasn’t able to go with them to the HorseShoe Saloon where scantily clad dance hall girls put on shows commemorative of the old west. When they got back, Granddaddy told me that he wasn’t going to wash his head for the rest of the week.
“Why not, Granddaddy?” I asked in bewilderment.
“Because one of those dancing girls kissed it, and she was pretty cute!” His eyes twinkled as he watched to see if he would receive the desired response from Grandma.
Although Uncle Archie and I were the official tour guides, we ended up following Granddaddy around the whole week. He wore a white, straw hat that was easy to spot.
“Bill, why do you insist on wearing that stupid looking hat? You look like a crazy kook,” Grandma complained. Granddaddy ignored her, as usual, and after the first day in the park she realized its value and quit complaining. Not only did it protect his scalp, covered only by thinning hair, from the damaging rays of the sun; but also it kept our little group from getting separated. We just followed the hat around all week.
One morning we ate breakfast with some of the characters. We each had menus that Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Chip and Dale had autographed. I asked everyone to keep theirs so that I could send them to my nieces. Everyone willingly obliged and preserved them well. One, however, had been slightly altered when I received it. Granddaddy had added his own autograph so that now it read “Goofy Granddaddy.”
The only thing that went wrong throughout the entire visit occurred on the first day at the Haunted Mansion ride. Grandma did not notice the moving sidewalk and consequently injured her hip when she stepped onto it. She was able to continue, but it slowed her down for the remainder of the trip, and we all concerned ourselves with her comfort. Because we were worried about Grandma, we didn’t pay much attention to the lump on Granddaddy's neck. In fact, I didn’t even think about it until Grandma called after they got home to tell me that his doctor said not to worry about it, but he would like for Granddaddy to return in December for some more tests on that lump. That is when I knew something was wrong.
I was scared to admit that there might be a serious problem. This scenario was very familiar to me, and I wished that there were something I could do to prevent what may lie ahead. It reminded me of what happened with my other grandfather, Granddaddy Jones. His cancer had been in remission for three years when he came to visit us in Maryland. During his visit we showed him and his wife all of the sights in Washington, D.C. During one of these tours his wife, Patty, twisted her ankle, and we were all so preoccupied with her that no one noticed that Granddaddy Jones wasn’t completely well. We had a good visit with them but when they got home, Granddaddy went to the hospital. He died soon afterward. Now the situation appeared to be repeating itself in Granddaddy Absher’s life, and the word cancer had not even been mentioned yet.
Granddaddy was unable to call and tell us of the doctor’s diagnosis; he had Grandma call instead. She said that Granddaddy was a little shaken up. The doctors thought that the cancer was located in his voice box. “I told them that his voice has always sound like sandpaper rubbing on wood but they wanted to check it out anyway,” she said matter-of-factly. If she was scared, she wasn’t going to let anyone else know.
Eventually the doctors decided that the cancer that they found was in its secondary location the lymph nodes, and after repeated tests, they admitted that they could not locate its primary location. My aunt, Barbara, reported that the doctors said that it was better for him to be treated while he was in good physical condition than if we waited until he got sick. “If he has surgery now, he’ll be able to recover more quickly and more completely,” the doctors told her. I guess this was supposed to comfort us, but in less than a year, Granddaddy went from being perfectly healthy to having to undergo surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Throughout his illness, Granddaddy received over two hundred get well cards. Probably the most meaningful ones came from my four-year-old niece. Exchanging hand-made cards was a tradition that he had begun with her mother many years before Kristin’s birth. Until that time, granddaddy had never written a single letter or signed a single card. That was Grandma’s job. Because of this, we were all shocked when my sister got a birthday card from him one year. He had gone through newspapers and magazines cutting out words, letters and pictures and gluing them on to several pieces of paper. The result was a book full of funny comments such as “You’ve come a long way, baby” and birthday wishes. Anita and Granddaddy routinely exchanged similar hand-made cards for several years after that before he started sending the cards to her daughter instead.
More than the cards, Granddaddy was most encouraged by the prayers that were being lifted on his behalf. After counting his cards on one of my visits, I told him how grateful I was to all of the people who had written encouraging notes to him.
“Yes, Beth, that’s real nice. But, do you know what is most comforting? I figure there are people in at least fourteen states that are praying for me, and I’m willing to believe there are a lot more than I know about. That is what helps me the most.”
Obviously a lot of people know and care about my grandfather, but when I sit down and think about it, there are a lot of things that I still don’t know about Granddaddy. I know that he is one of eleven children. I know that his father died when he was about eleven years old. I know that he had to drop out of school about one year prior to graduation to help his mother. I know that he met my grandmother because he worked for her father. I know that they eloped when they were nineteen years old. And, I know that he went to Germany with the army during World War II. Other than those things, I don’t know much about my grandfather as a child or a young man.
The mystery that surrounds my grandfather is part of what attracts me to him. I have always said that if I ever find a man who is just a little bit like Granddaddy, I will marry him in an instant. Regardless of the fact that I think he is the most wonderful man alive, I’ve always been afraid to get too close to Granddaddy Absher. That is not to say that I have never done anything with Granddaddy, though.
When I was a little girl, he would take me up to the barn and get the tractor out so that we could mow the yard together. At first, I just sat on his lap and steered while he worked the pedals; but as I grew, he taught me how to drive it on my own. We didn’t have to be mowing, we could come up with many different excuses to have to get the tractor and/or trailer out of the barn. Before I got on the tractor (actually it was just a riding lawn mower but we didn’t let that hamper our enthusiasm about the machine), Granddaddy would tie big wooden blocks to the gas and brake pedals to compensate for my short legs so that I could drive all by myself. He always stood behind me on the trailer hitch to help me if he had to because of the lesson he learned by being over confident in my brother's diving ability. He took his eyes off of David once to look at something else, and David ran the tractor straight into a fence post.
That wasn’t the first time that Granddaddy had run into trouble while giving driving lessons. Soon after their marriage, Granddaddy decided that he should teach Grandma how to drive. She didn’t feel very comfortable with the whole situation so he convinced her to go into the field with him for the first lesson.
“At least you can’t hurt anything in an open field,” he assured her. Unfortunately, he was wrong. She got behind the wheel and ran directly into the fence. He decided that he would rather be her chauffeur and remain married than challenge their happiness and safety with more driving lessons.
Since I have gotten older, I am no longer as fascinated with driving the tractor. Now I enjoy going on walks with Granddaddy when I can drag myself out of bed early enough. When he is in a large group, Granddaddy doesn’t ever have too much to say, but get him off by himself, and he’ll really start talking.
The conversations usually cover many topics. Sometimes he wants me to talk about what I’m doing at school. Sometimes he tells me about the things that have happened in Blacksburg. For example, one morning he told me about something he had seen recently.
“See that fence over there? I was walking one morning and saw a bear stand up on his hind legs, look at me, and then turn around and climb over that fence just like a man.” He then described exactly how big the bear was, and wont on to tell me about the bear that ran through downtown Blacksburg after escaping from a zoo truck.
On other walks he has filled me in on all of the details about, and history of each house we pass. He also tells me about the people who live in hem since it seems he knows about everybody in Blacksburg. Either he is related to them, or he built their house, or he knows them from church, or they were his customers at Absher’s Paint and Supply, or they were his children’s teacher or even their college professors or classmates. All of these people are fortunate to have Bill Absher as a friend because he will do anything that he can do to help them.
I have never been to Blacksburg without seeing my granddaddy hard at work doing something for the church. Last time we were there, he was cutting firewood for the young adult’s bonfire. People always call him to ask him to help them set up for a special function or fix a problem. For a while, Granddaddy was volunteering so much time to the church that Grandma had to call the church secretary to get on his “to-do” list.
After Granddaddy’s treatments began last year, he had to cut back on some of his activities so he decided to resign from him volunteer church work. But even after “retiring” from most of his church duties, he still spends a lot of time working for the church. Now instead of doing as much physical labor, he uses the telephone to get things done. He calls and organizes work parties, reminds people of special events and makes sure that everyone has a ride to get there. If someone can’t get to church, he volunteers to pick him or her up on his way, even if it might mean an extra long trip for him.
After my uncle died, Granddaddy regularly mowed Barbara’s yard, raked her leaves or did anything else that he thought needed to be done. Of course Barbara never asked him to do any of this, and each time that he helped her she told him that if she couldn’t do it herself, she could hire someone else to do it for her. He just let her arguments go in one ear and out the other so that the next time the grass needed to be mowed, he would do it before she had a chance to do it herself. Besides, Granddaddy is not one to hire someone to do work that he can do for himself.
Before he opened Absher’s Paint and Supply, he was a carpenter. In fact, he built the house that my grandparents live in now. He built it while my father was just a young boy. One day while his father was working; Dad got a little creative. He drew a larger than life, charcoal picture of Bugs Bunny on the wooden forms for the foundation. Due to the high cost of lumber, the forms were dismantled, cleaned, and then used again on the roof. Although he never said anything about it, I’m sure that Granddaddy had a lot of fun putting the roof on the house. He probably was grinning from ear to ear as he reassembled the rabbit. When the roof was finished, Grandma, Dad and Barbara found Bugs Bunny looking down on them from the ceiling. They left him exposed up there until Dad moved away to start his own family.
I think that Granddaddy has been able to find a lot of comfort and strength to help with deal with the cancer and the treatments through gardening. He wasn't’ able to do all of the work that he usually does in it, but my father and my brother-in-law were able to provide most of the labor under his direction.
Granddaddy has always enjoyed his garden. Several years ago when I was visiting, he took me up to pick peas with him. While I was picking, I noticed that there were no tiny pods with only one or two peas in them. I commented on this and found out why.
“Beth, I got tired of picking small pea pods because it requires twice the amount of work for the same number of peas so I save the peas from the large pea pods to plant each year. I have finally been able to grow peas that have at least five peas in each pod.” He did the same thing with his other vegetables, as well. Because my father isn’t quite as particular about his garden but enjoys working in it, Granddaddy shares some of his expertise with Dad. However, when harvest season comes around each year, Granddaddy calls to compare notes. He can generally brag that his tomatoes are bigger or his squash is better. Last year he was most proud of the fact that his tomatoes were ripening earlier than Dad’s.
I convinced my parent that we should celebrate Thanksgiving in Blacksburg last year. At least we could help him eat those fresh vegetables, if nothing else. We were amazed at the difference that two months since Mindy’s wedding had made in him. A healthier and heavier one had replaced his frail body. His voice was much stronger, and his hands no longer shook. On Thanksgiving Day Granddaddy woke up and told us that for the first time since his treatment began, he had awakened hungry. Evidently he had dreamed that Dad was making bacon and eggs for him so... Dad got up and made him bacon and eggs. He said it still didn’t taste too good, but we were all especially thankful that his appetite was returning.
When he got here for Christmas, he was looking even better than he did at Thanksgiving. His eyes twinkled again as I watched him play with my nieces. He still has to turn his whole body rather than just his head, but his movements aren't so rigid anymore. Judging by the energy that he demonstrated while piddling around the house with my father, he’ll probably be able to plant his garden by himself this year.
The doctors have told him not to return until April because all of his blood work is back to normal, and he has regained all of the weight that he wants to gain. Although I’m not naive enough anymore to think that he has been completely cured, I am thankful for his improvements. I no longer feel responsible for his illness.
Throughout the course of one and one half years, we have watched Granddaddy’s physical appearance change several times in several different ways as a result of cancer. Fortunately though, cancer has not been able to distort the real image of who my grandfather was and who he is today.

2-25-2001 entry. Curtis's Journal
"Dolly is a former missionary that has been teaching the Wednesday night
class on The Search For Significance. She was talking about things that
make us self conscious. She used as an example her hands
that the doctor had said would always be enlarged due to a condition
something like arthritis. So she said she was sensitive about her"old big
hands" and always wanted to hide them. This triggered my memory as
Behind the altar in the VA Tech War Memorial Chapel is the sculpture of
an extended hand. It is huge as it covers the wall from ceiling to altar
and from side to side. It is a hand calloused and enlarged showing
evidence of work. The arm is muscular with the veins and arteries
swelling under the skin as they exchange blood with the heart. I haven't
seen it for probably more than 35 years but I'm sure it is still
The hand is so vividly planted in my mind as the hand of God that is firm,
strong and gentle. It is open so that I can comfortably place my hand
in it without the fear that it would clasp or pinch. I don't see it
making a fist.
The life blood flows to and from the heart in a vibrant way, keeping the
hand warm and comfortable to the touch. I hope my hands can be as I
remember that hand; warm ,gentle extended for others to grasp when
necessary May it never grab, pinch nor make a fist!

Another analogy of the hand comes from my love of horse back riding.
While I've only broken a few horses in my life (two after I was 45) I
think I have the hand for it; one that is gentle and light but can be
firm. A rider with good hands can ride with only a slight tension on the
reins, enough to allow the horse the freedom to go but with the contact
to maintain control and good performance. That light ,steady and
consistent contact between the horse and rider results in the desired
performance and a pleasant ride. I pray that I may always deal with
others with a light rein as God reins me."

Horses: Curtis, 3/20/2001
About 10 years ago I moved out of
the city to a rural non-farm setting. My new neighbor, Dan, had been waiting
for someone like me to “go out and play”. The play was with a pair of
standardbred horses that had been retired (not due to age) from the
track. Dan wanted to train them to plow. He had them harnessed
up but he needed holders to help the process get started. So my son , David,
and I went “out to play”. We backed the pair up to the plow and
steadied them until Dan got a pin in place to connect the double tree to the plow. The click of the pin started the
process. The horses lurched forward. The plow wedged into the
ground, and since we’d started a little too fast, Dan jammed the plow
into the ground a little deeper to decrease the speed. That strategy
seemed to work for a moment, or until the hitch pin that had only been
partially installed, popped out. Get the picture? The metal doublet
slapped the horses quarters as if shot from a slingshot. The horses
bolted and David and I yelled almost in unison “let’s go, don’t get hurt”.
Well, it looked like I was trying to be a hero as I clung to my horses’
halter. I imagined the worst and then the horses suddenly stopped.
Dan and David scolded me for not turning loose. As they were lecturing
me I was almost overwhelmed by my apparent blind bravery. The real
deal was that the tongue of the halter buckle had penetrated the skin web
between my thumb and first finger. So my apparent bravery was out of
my control.
A pair dosen't necessarily mean a team.
Bravery is sometimes blind!

Meandering :September 17, 2006

Yesterday we may have gone places that National Geographic doesn’t know about. But Virginia Department of Highways knows about them because be drove on smooth ribbons of asphalt along the borders of Montgomery and Floyd Counties, Virginia.

While Christianburg, the county seat of Montgomery County, has sprawled to include multiple shopping centers and tangled thorough fares, the County Seat of Floyd County, the town of Floyd, has resisted commercialization. Instead of the golden arches there is the Blue Ridge CafĂ©, one of a kind, just a cross the square from the historic courthouse. A “real” hardware is on the opposite corner, one where you can still buy pitchforks and barbed wire as well as little red wagons. The “tourist attraction” of town is the Schoolhouse Fabric Store. This three-story pile of fabric and sewing notions draws alumni of the school and other seamstresses to get items they can’t find in crowed malls. And on Friday nights you can go up the street to the Country Store and hear homegrown bluegrass music.

While county seats towns are on most maps, it takes a detailed one to pickup Pilot and Riner even though they both have U. S. Post Offices. Probably only State Maps would have Auburn and Rogers and you may have to get a county map to find Huffviille and Basham.

Picturesque churches salt the countryside. More bland are the closed country stores that one can recognize occasionally. But the striking beauty of the drive was the well-kept farms. They aren’t the extravently adorned like Central Bluegrass horse farms but they are more rolling and bordered with well-maintained fences (mostly wire) and framed with distant mountains. Every turn of the road provides another subject for an artist’s brush by the Artist of the Universe. Nearby commercialization appears to benefit this pastoral area as indicated by new houses, fixed up old houses, and new houses fixed up to look old.

The journey was colored by intersecting gravel roads, many with the name of creeks that dissect the countryside and others that have taken on the name of the predominate family name that live off the main road. Adding color to the area is the memory of stories about moonshiners who populated the region in days gone by. Rocks and trees didn’t provide a viable income for many so they turned to the fermented products. Many of these maverick entrepreneurs also supported the community churches. This apparent contrast can partially be explained by the anthropology of the earlier settlers of the region. Way back in time, their ancestors had left Europe looking for religious and economic freedom. Many had a strong mistrust of man-made institutions. While some were God-fearing men they felt their first call was to take care of their own. Others fell captive to the products they produced and led troubled lives. This was a great area for illegal activity. A native could easily hide in the complicated countryside from those that had not grown up hunting and fishing those woods and streams.

A sport of national popularity had its birth in these hills, NASCAR racing. The moonshiners had to deliver their products. To evade the law the drivers needed powerful cars and superior driving skills to navigate these winding gravel roads. ‘40 Ford coupes were the vehicles of choice. Many had better engines than they had brakes leading to disastrous consequences. A movie, THUNDER ROAD, amplified this lifestyle to the nation.

Blending visual images with stories is an exciting activity. The apparent serenity of the countryside of today masks times past. But the journey gave life to stories I had heard all my life. I guess that is why people make pilgrimages to the Holy Land.