Between The Forceps And The Stone
I plagiarize this title from a Joni Mitchell album I love and a reminder from an article I just read about protecting children.
“I know no one’s going to show me everything. We all come and go unknown. Each is so deep and superficial between the forceps and the stone. Well, I looked at the granite markers, those tributes to finality, to eternity. And then I looked at myself here. Chicken scratching for my immortality.”
Joni Mitchell. “Hejira”
As a young man visiting my grandparents, I wondered if they know how close they are to death? In one of my discussions with my grandfather Stephen, I asked, “Grandpa, will you be dead soon?” Nearly swallowing his
Copenhagen chew, he responded, “Jimmy, are you ready to get rid of me?” “No, Grandpa, I just want to know if old people think more about dying than they do about living?” Then, after an uncomfortably long pause, he replied. “Good question Jimmy, I guess it is true; I have little urge to plan for next year’s crop because odds are I will never plant it.” Then grandpa added, “I think that is a shame; we need to be grateful for every day God graces us and live it to the fullest even if the body is slowing. You know we could be called back to heaven at any age—we are all just a breath away from dying—your father was called back to heaven; he was only thirty-five years old.” Wiping a tear, I choked, “I will miss you, grandpa; when you’re in heaven, will you be happy there?” “I believe I will be a young kid again, and I will miss you also, Jimmy—now how about having some fun right now, what would you like to do, Jimmy?” “drive the Jeep, Grandpa.” Off we went to have fun living life.
I remember when I would wake and run into the day excited, full of joy, and have no idea why. It was just a new day filled with wondrous unplanned eventful things. I could create an entire fantasy world out of windshield boxes I would get from the Oldsmobile Garage body shop just down the street. I would spend hours mesmerized by the things of life, from butterflies to buffalos. I lived across the river from the local Zoo; I loved walking over the bridge that spanned the Mouse River to visit Eastwood Park and the Zoo. The bridge gave me a high overlook to the moving river waters and the jungle of overgrown grasses and shrubs below. I could see the fish swimming and snapping turtles basking on the shore. Often raccoons would be washing, and skunks are roaming the tall grass. But, the Zoo, Oh-My, there were Lions, Tigers, and Bears there. The Park had a statue of Teddy Roosevelt riding a horse we would climb on. The tale was Teddy was trying to ride his horse across the river and sunk—when they pulled old Teddy and his horse out, they became forever encased in the bronze statue placed in the Park. We lived in a poor neighborhood our house a converted farm granary, but I saw none of that; as far as I was concerned, I lived in Eden and was living the dream.
I credit my mother and grandparents for instilling wonder and amazement into me. Childhood on 4th avenue was the petri dish that grew an adventurous nature as I grew into a man. Grandpa’s stories and my mother’s heart for a boy who would bring snapping turtles, raccoons, stray cats, stray dogs, and pigeons home and ask, “Can I keep it, mom?”
I am eternally grateful for my world on 4th avenue and visiting the farm south of Lone Tree. As I grew from boy to man, I wanted to try everything sticking to nothing. When I say everything, I mean from Drums, Piano, and Coronet to wild rides down the treacherous Hiawatha Street on homemade carts. Later it was drag racing, flying, skydiving, scuba diving,
and girls. I left home the day after graduating High School; I drove my muscle car out to Seattle to extend the adventure in new lands. Since then, I have had plenty to write stories about, some adventures, some misadventures, some blunders, and some success.
Now nearing my grandfather’s age, I look out the winter’s window and dream of the days since I was pulled into the world by forceps and ponder if I made my mark and lived a good life. Maybe winter and another birthday take you back through the adventure. So how do I transition from childhood memories to a Christmas Greeting and message?
Christmas is but a week away; I am beginning to look a lot like Chris Kringle, a white beard and burgeoning belly fueled by Linda’s cookies, hot cross buns, and mulled wine. Christmas is the time for kids of any age to be kids again. So, Linda and I wish you a Merry Christmas and joyous life, all of you.
Back to the question: “Grandpa, will you be dead soon?” I can now say I think more about living than dying at grandpa’s age. That attitude and belief came from a question a young boy asked his grandfather sixty-five years ago. I believe the day will come that I will be just a memory etched on a granite stone at the small country cemetery in the hills—I hope it will say he lived it abundantly when my time comes.
Merry Christmas—never forget what Christmas is all about—God’s passion for restoring humanity and bringing His children home.
I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep