Monthly Archives: January 2015

Bedtime Stories

Every night, almost without fail, I pile into Will’s bed to read Harry Potter.

August 24th, 2012 is when we started.  Every night they are at my house, we read.

Some nights it’s a page.  Other nights it’s a chapter.  photo

Liv has crashed in for some of the highlights – the first page, the introduction of Delores Umbridge, Dumbledore’s death; but it’s usually Will and me.  Me and Will.

And I’ll read.  I’ve been know to read for over an hour.  He’ll raise his hand when he has a question – “what does condescending mean,” or “Who is Cattermole?”

When we’re done, without fail, he’ll ask “how many pages did we read?”

And I answer.  2.  12.  28.

So far, we’ve read about 3800 pages.  187 chapters.

Every time we finish a chapter, he studies the illustration on the next chapter . . . there are these little drawings above the chapter names . . . We spend a few minutes, every time, talking about that drawing, and what we think it means, about what’s coming, about what’s next . . .

The thing is, the end is in sight.  Harry and Hermione are in the tent.  We only have about 10 chapters left.

Will’s a different little guy.  When I was his age, I was all about baseball and kickball and football and hunting and fishing and being outside.  He isn’t.  I mean, he goes fishing with me, or hunting, but he’s way more into electronics and gadgets.  How things work and why.  So sometimes he comes to my world and sometimes I go to his.

I’ll fumble my way through a minecraft session, he’ll play with the fishfinder on the boat.

But, for that brief period every night, no matter how our days went, our world’s intersect . . . our interests blend . . . over magic and wizards and heroes and villains . . .

And, each night, at the very end, he’ll look at me, with those tired brown eyes – “Can I roll over on you daddy?”

I lie there on my back, and he crawls up on me, and nuzzles his head against my neck.

And we lay there, and listen to each other breath, and he giggles at my heartbeat.

“I love you daddy . . . you’re my best buddy.”

And I lie there, my arms wrapped tight around my son, my boy, and I think about what it means, about what’s coming, about what’s next . . . and I reply “I love you too buddy . . . I love you too”



The Gifts I Gave . . .

This is not even remotely close to a serious post.  However, every last word of it is true.

From December of 1992 until February of 1997, I worked at Lighthouse Christian Bookstore.  It changed names and owners a couple of times, and it wasn’t a continuous period of work (there was a 3 month sabbatical at JByron’s Department Store, and a 3 month run in the Winn Dixie Seafood department, and the worst lawn service job in the history of the world – but this isn’t about those).

I cannot even believe I’m allowing you guys into this side of my mind, but my friend Katherine somehow drew this out in the comments on one of her posts, so hang with me.

Because, without fail, every gift I gave anyone during that time period was purchased at Lighthouse Christian Bookstore.  Every single one.  All of them at either 10% or 20% (different owners equal different discounts) off.

I bought my mom most of the seraphim Angel collection.  She loved ‘em, or so she told me.  They were kinda creepy, I thought.  I put them on layaway for, like, 18 months or something.  Longest layaway plan in history.  Then I bought her a Bible.  Then a Beth Moore Devotional.  Then a Beth Moore Devotional Bible.

I bought my dad a genuine leather Bible, KJV.  Then I bought him a Charles Stanley Devotional.  Then I bought him a Rick Warren Devotional.  Then I bought him the Men’s Devotional Bible.  Then I bought him . . . you get the picture.

I also used my employee discount to score items of affection for potential women in my life.  I’ll never forget scouring book after book of “birth name” cards.  Come to find out, these were for newborns, and you’d put them in a first Bible or something.  But they’d have the name, a la “Amanda” and its definition (“worthy to be loved” or “beloved” – they all basically had the same definition since there were no Amandas in ancient Rome).  It’d be a glossy card, with like a picture of a seagull or a mountain or a sunset in the background; text would be in the the calligraphy font straight from Microsoft Works 1.0.  How I didn’t score more dates by leaving those $.49 cards on girls desks and in their lockers at school, we’ll never know.  I was certain that would leave a trail of cheerleaders in my path.  I did not.

Anyway, my sister reaped the most benefits of all, because I ascended to the man in charge of the music side of the store . . . This means she benefited from my behind the scenes music access.

First, you need to understand that I was under the impression that I was IN the music industry.  Sure I was making $7 an hour selling Bill and Gloria Gaither Videos . . . but that doesn’t take into account the perks.

Like free backstage passes to meet Steven Curtis Chapman?  Mark Lowry?  Petra?  Michael English?  How could you put a price on that*?

*Technically, those tickets all had prices on them.  But whatever.

When Christafari sold there 100,000th record, and the band decided to call Christian Bookstores and thank them, who picked up that phone?  Mark Mohr didn’t carry on that conversation by himself.

When Jars of Clay decided to send a Gold Record to all their mega-stores, who was only 9 album sales short?

So I was kindof a big deal.  Which meant I could take home the standup displays after they’d run their useful life.  And this is where my sister really benefited.

Off the top of my head, I remember bringing home:

A life sized Carmen.  A 3/5 scale cutout of PFR.  Andy Griffith (because she was a huge Andy Griffith fan).  The Steven Curtis Chapman Great Adventure display AND the SCC Signs of Life display.  Signed Third Day posters.  Signed DC Talk posters (not actually signed by them; but really good reprints).

This is to say nothing of the bands I brought home who never made it, but woah if they had, we would have some serious memorabilia for the Alt-Rock-Christian-Retro movement that’s afoot* . . . a Believable Picnic Poster?  Boom.  Imagine This promo tents?  Nailed it.  Keith Brown, well, anything?  Give me a hard one.  Oh, a signed East to West Poster, by the dude who’s now in Rascal Flats?  Please . . . I could’ve had tons of those if I’d wanted (if by “signed” you meant “not autographed so much as re-printed”)

*What do you mean it’s not afoot.  Just wait.

None of this really has any point at all, I just felt like y’all needed to know.

Anyway.  That was life with me in the mid-90’s.

I thought, he walked, on the water

Leland Thompson was the truest Floridian you’ve ever met.

He was my first hero.  And he passed away on Sunday evening.

Uncle Leland was my grandfather’s brother.  He spoke with a rattle in his voice that belied his years of life; slow, deliberate speech, with a southern drawl and that gravel that told me maybe he’d smoked in his past.

He and Aunt Margaret lived on a farm in Dade City.  If you imagine a farmhouse from the 30’s, complete with wood paneling and hardwood floors, a gorgeous front porch – the exterior painted white.  No trim colors of any kind.  Just white.  Set by a pasture, next to the woods, under a hammock of the most stately oaks ever seen, just at the end of a dirt road near the river . . .

In his younger days, he was elected sheriff of Pasco County.  As an officer, he once apprehended a man after the man shot another officer while the three of them were in an elevator.  His farm had hundreds of cattle, and pigs and gardens and all the stuff farms should have.  He was a real life hero, as well as one in the imagination of a little boy.

When I was little, he’d always slip my mom a dollar for both me and my sister, right at the end of our visit.  He’d pretend we were in on it, and wink, and say “Now, Mrs. Joy, these young’uns need some ice cream – so here’s a little money for each of them.”

He would always make time to take us on rides on the Grey Gopher, his old army jeep.  Some of the most thrilling memories from my childhood were of my parents telling us we were going to Dade City on Saturday, and getting there, knowing we’d take the Gopher out for a ride.  We’d see deer and hogs and turkeys and alligators – some of my love of Florida was formed in those tattered vinyl seats.

There were summers when I’d spend whole weeks on that farm

His barns were filled with hay bales we could climb on, or a recent batch of kittens, or maybe some little fluffy chicks he’d give us to bring home, much to my mother’s chagrin.  There might be a horse in the stable, or a docile cow, or his tamed deer Buddy might show up in the pasture.  He once let me pet some buffalo that wandered in.  His front porch was a southern Sunday in the south with old folks in rockers and someone singing gospel and sweet tea and chicken and dumplings . . . in short, it was everything a country boy could want out of life, all in one place . . .

I’m rambling a little bit, but it’s hard to put into words . . . the last time I saw Uncle Leland was 2011 . . . we had brought him some furniture from my apartment.  Cancer and time had savaged my hero.  He met Will, and Olivia.  He teased her about how pretty she was, about boys and school, and he gave Will a watch.  We visited for a couple of hours.  He bragged about his grandkids and kids, and I knew, when I shook his hand and hugged him goodbye, that it was probably, you know, a real goodbye . . .

Each of my kids, in turn, gave him a hug, this man who was so large in my mind, a frail and genial old stranger to them.  In that moment, I flashed back to my childhood:

My grandfather, my Poppy, Uncle Leland’s brother, died when I was 12, and Em was 7.  It was sudden – I talked to him on Saturday, and Sunday he was gone.  Poppy was buried in Dade City, in the city cemetery there.  As was always the case, after the funeral, we all headed to Uncle Leland’s after the service.  All of my cousins and uncles and aunts were there, and it was a family reunion of sorts, somber at first, but warming as the day went on.

If Uncle Leland was my hero, Poppy was my buddy – we talked on the phone almost every day, about sports and fishing and who knows what else.  But like most 12 year olds, I didn’t fully grasp the situation.  I was sad, but I didn’t completely understand.

And, as we got ready to leave that June evening, in the late 80’s, I’ll never forget saying goodbye – he put his arm around me, and around my sister – he looked us in the eye, the only time I’ve ever seen him misty, just hours after burying his brother.  He always called my mom “Mrs. Joy,” and his raspy voice scraped the words one more time . . .

“Mrs. Joy – the young’uns are gonna need a grandfather now . . . here . . . Let me get ya’ll some ice cream money . . . ”

I’m out of town for work today, 2500 miles away, so I won’t be there this afternoon, after the funeral in Dade City, when all the Thompson’s will head down that dirt road out to the farmhouse near the river.  Bring a dish, comfort Aunt Margaret . . . it’ll start somber, but warm as the day goes on . . . there’ll be sweet tea and chicken and maybe a gospel song . . .

And I’d give all the ice cream money I’ve got, just to do it one more time, to sit there with him, in that little white house, under those stately oak trees, set by the pasture . . .

Happy Birthday, Gilly

In honor of your birthday, here’s a list of things I love about you:

  1. I love what a fantastic mom you are to my kids.  You truly show them unconditional love, and you make me a better dad.
  2. I love that you’re always willing to go on an adventure.  Alabama, Pennsylvania, build a tower, climb a mountain, or getting ice cream.
  3. I love the crazy way you dance, arms flailing all over the place.  It’s my favorite.
  4. I love how you are addicted to the DIY network.  Can’t stop, won’t stop.
  5. I love how you hate movies, but put up with my crazy shenanigans anyway.
  6. I love the way you make baked ziti.  I think about it at least three times a day.
  7. I love the way you snuggle with these crazy-nuts dogs I stuck you with.
  8. I love fishing with you.  First mate.
  9. I love when you get excited about a project.  Any project.
  10. I love the way you’ve made our house a home.
  11. I love the way your mind works
  12. I love when you go for a run or workout, and you come home and your hair is a mess, and you look so incredible to me.
  13. I love how sexy you are.  This could’ve been on here 30 times.
  14. I love that you do dates with Will.  He’ll remember those long after we’re gone.
  15. I love that you spend so much time with Liv – homework and girls days and coffee and haircuts  and running.
  16. I love the way you love my crazy family.  Bacon Sundays and birthdays and drop ins and vacations.
  17. I love that you read, that you continue to learn.
  18. I love, no matter how much I tease, how much you love John and Sherry.
  19. I love your style – sexy, professional, and appropriate for our teenaged daughter to emulate.  That’s not an easy balance to achieve.
  20. I love how excited you get over good food.
  21. I love even more how excited you get over your good friends and spending time with them.
  22. I love that you love to fish with me.
  23. I love that you encourage me.  No matter what.  I know you have my back.
  24. I love when you make that adorable face, the “Gilmer face” as the kids call it – it’s cute and fun loving and reassuring, as crazy as that sounds.
  25. I love when you act silly.
  26. I love when you kiss me
  27. I love when you hug me.  Every day when we get home.  That’s a big deal.
  28. I love that you always want to fix whatever you can for me – be it a job, or a truck, or a hurt . . .
  29. I love your skills with a sniper rifle and energy sword.
  30. I love being your husband.  You are my dream come true.

Happy Birthday, Babedro!