Old Spice and King Edwards

My father was tall and handsome and smelled of Old Spice and King Edward cigars. He was a sailor on an oil tanker. He worked in the engine room as an engineer. Mother would take us with her to see him when he came in to port, especially in Texas City. We would stay at the Holiday Inn and always drove out the long jetty while we were there. We spent more than one Christmas in that motel because Daddy was in port. The smell of an oil refinery is perfume to me. It means getting to see Daddy.
We would go to the dock and watch them tie up the ship sometimes. Often, as soon as the gang plank was down, a tall, slender man, broad shouldered, long legged, would stride down in his white tee shirt and dark khakis to greet us. In a few moments, he would climb back up to the ship to finish his shift. Later, we would return to pick up that same smiling sailor in his fresh white tee shirt and camel colored khakis smelling of Old Spice. Mother was so in love with him, it made me love him, too.
He and I loved each other. He had struggled apparently all his life with emotional issues and developed full blown mental illness in his early 40s. When he was balanced, he was wonderful! Adventurous and full of humor. When he was down, it broke our hearts. When he was manic, it broke our hearts. He was never abusive or mean. Just ill. Lying in the bed barely moving with depression. Or never putting his head to the pillow. Always working toward some project that never got moving. Trot lining usually. He loved to be out in that old boat on the lake. So do I.
After he would be admitted to the hospital, Mother would spend half a day gathering up things and putting them away. We would go see him every weekend. Finally, he would get to come home. Mother and I tried to count how many electro-shock therapy treatments he had during the seventies when that was supposed to be the answer. We lost count or could not continue counting at over 100. If one could have seen up close and personal the condition he was in, it was understandable that when a psychiatrist told you the only way to get him back was to consent to such treatment, desperation answered.
He loved cigars. He smoked King Edward cigars, Camel cigarettes and a pipe, too. He would sometimes get the makings and roll his own cigarettes. He always wore khakis and white tee shirts. He wore top siders in the summer. He kept his hair clipped completely off. Mother would use the clippers with no guard and buzz his hair off every few weeks. If it was cold, he would wear a flannel shirt and a small black toboggan.
He read Louis Lamour westerns avidly. He would read them over again, making a little box “x” inside the cover to record reading and re-reading the different stories. He liked lemon meringue pie and homemade banana pudding with meringue browned in the oven.
He was eccentric and romantic and creative. He was brilliant and handsome. He was a sailor and a fisherman. I miss the man who held my hand and loved me so much. I came to him later in life and he was patient and kind and gentle to me when I was a child. When I was a teenager, he and I would get in these heated conversations about politics and world affairs. Finally, Mother would call time out and we would stop. How stupid and liberal I was and how much I might have understood sooner had I listened. Still, he was my father. At the store, I pause in front of the Old Spice things. Even yesterday while in the soap isle, I picked up a new flavor of Old Spice body wash to take a sniff. Checking to see if it rings true to the label. Maybe a little. At any rate, my mind races back to childhood, when ships and refinery lights and salt air meant paradise…………..seeing Daddy……………

 

 

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A Lifetime

On June 30th, we will be married 30 years. A lifetime of growing together and alongside each other. A lifetime of figuring out how to keep in the same boat paddling the same direction.
Some things we have worked out:
When we don’t like each other much, we remember how crazy about each other we were in the beginning when things were really tough and hang on till we do like each other again. This doesn’t happen much anymore. For my part, I am crazier about him now than ever before. Love is a choice. Love requires feeding and pruning, grooming and tending.
We don’t argue anymore. This is difficult for me because I like to argue. But our rule is that if it is important enough to argue about, it is too important to argue about. Secondly, we don’t try to resolve any thing in the evening or near bedtime. Go to sleep mad, if needed, and if it was important, it can be discussed in the clear light of day. Most likely, it is one of those “Mama, he’s looking at me” things anyway and we won’t recall what the issue was.
I learned a long time ago the real meaning behind “Let the wife submit to her own husband.” Not to all men, but to him alone. And it is the wife’s choice. He submits to Christ, so this is not as difficult as it may sound. In such a situation, the blessings are immeasurable. He assumes full responsibility for our household and all our business. I do my part under his authority and consent. When something goes awry he takes care of it. I don’t have to fuss with anyone or anything. I am expected to keep up my end, but I am not left to keep up both ends. By my willing submission to his authority without exception, he protects, nurtures, encourages and loves me.
My only concern is that I am not doing enough for him. I want my part to be done better. He never complains outright about things, so it is not easy to determine if I am getting it right. I suppose if I mess up royally he would explain it to me.
I spoil him all I can, deferring to him and his plans. I want to be with him and do things with him. I don’t want a separate life only spending a few hours a month on a date or something. I want to be in the truck, on the buggy, on the tractor, on the boat right alongside him. It takes extra time and effort to take me along and help me with my gear. I guess he wants me there. He always expects me to load up.
He is my best friend. He knows me better than I know myself most of the time. He makes me tell him what I am worrying about. He catches my tears. He advises me and prays for me. He refuses to let me wallow in my depression. He checks me when I don’t check my own attitude.
He has no clue about shopping for gifts for me sometimes. But, then, one of our two greatest accomplishments helps her Daddy figure out just what it is I was wanting. That is fine, too. One of the things that makes him so precious to me is the father his is to our children. Though they are both nearer thirty than I care to recall, he is still fathering them in a marvelous fashion.

 

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Not that there are thorns on rose bushes, but that there are roses on thorn bushes.

Surveying the beautiful life we have and are sharing, it has not and is not always a rose petal laden path.

But, the roses on the thorn bush grow lovelier and more fragrant with each passing year.

Love grows richer and deeper with each passing year.

Not settled and ordinary, but robust and flamboyant, with deep roots and sturdy canes.

Yielding blooms in all seasons and all weather.

Not blown to pieces by the storms, but sparkling with raindrops caught in the ever returning sunlight.