Well, it’s a pretty significant week up here in the Northland – at least for Cheri’s family. Cheri’s mom will turn 88 next Tuesday, so kids and grandkids decided to have a nice birthday party this weekend. Now, I’m always pretty amazed to read of people in their mid to upper 90s still alive and kicking in this region – whether that’s the Scandinavian genes, or the fact that everyone lives in sub-freezing temps for a good half of the year, so they are preserved like a pail of ice cream, but folks do live a long time. Cheri’s dad’s mother lived until she was 93, and Cheri’s mom’s mom lived until she was 95. Of course, both of them by that time had moved into a world that includes a lot of memory loss, and other rationale thought loss, so I continue to remind Cheri she is going to live a very long time – she just won’t know it.
Right now, however, Cheri’s mom is doing pretty well, both physically and mentally. By the time my mom turned 88, she had been bedbound for a couple of years with lymphoma and other heart issues, so to hear that Cheri’s mom just got her driver’s license renewed is a little…. Interesting, to be sure.
So – it’s time for a party. Just a bit of framework: the temps on Saturday will be in the 70s, and it will be May, so any reasonable person would know that all the farmers should be in the field, planting and such, but a birthday party means they get shoehorned out of the work, at least for a couple of hours. Also, there are some grandchildren who now live far away, so their duty is to call their grandma and wish her well. The rest of us, however, will haul food and pop and cake and plates and such to what is now Cheri’s mom’s home in town, and we will sit around eating sub sandwiches and chips, and having fifteen different conversations at the same time. Sounds like most every other family on the face of the earth, actually.
If it is nice enough, we will open up the back sliding patio door, and a sub-group could end up sitting around outside. This is where we get into a little bit of a problem, because there are three categories of chairs that end up on the little patio. The first group are of course the dining room chairs that get hauled outside, but it they get hot in the least, the 40 year old varnish starts to melt and entire wardrobes will become fused to the chair itself. Ick. The second group are those canvas camping chairs that have been sold for the last 20 years or so. We have a bunch up in the storage in the garage, that we used to bring to the soccer games. They look pretty jaunty as you carry them with a sling over your shoulder, but I have always found that they are meant for people who are usually less than 5 feet tall, since they end up opening with the seat about five inches off the ground, and if you are of normal height, your knees are pretty close to your eyebrows. To get out of the chair requires you to kind of roll out onto the grass. A little awkward.
The final group of chairs of course are the dinosaurs. Every family has or had a couple or a few of them. They had light aluminum frames, which over the years ended up feeling kind of gritty and pitted. If they still had their little plastic arm rests, they were usually broken, and hanging on by a single screw. They would fold up to carry, but somehow no one ever thought to oil them so they could easily open – either that, or over the years they were so loose that they would open up as you tried to carry them with one arm, and the entire lunch in the other. Best/worst of all, they became chairs through the magic of having plastic webbing woven in the back and seat of the aluminum frame. These were usually green and white, with the added reality that at least half, if not three quarters of the webbing, being left out in the rain and sun for months at a time, even over winter when they were left behind from being put away, was frayed, or split, or outright missing. I remember one time watching my younger sister sitting in one, with three or four of the webbing strips hanging down under her seat, and then in slow motion, we saw the rest of the seat give way, as she drifted right through the frame, and ended up sitting on the ground, with her feet above her head. They really were related to those rope bridges that always existed in the jungle adventure movies, when the hero (and his girl) are being chased by the bad guys, and they have to go across the bridge, only to have the very center of the bridge, right over the 100 foot chasm, to break or split or get chopped by the bad guys, and the hero ends up hanging by one arm, holding the rotting rope until miraculously he can swing himself back up in time for the bad guys to go falling through the huge hole in the bridge.
That’s what it’s like sitting in the web chairs. Cher’s mom, of course, brought three of them in from the farm, all in various stages of splitting and decay. They really are splendid accidents waiting to happen.
So, this morning, as Cheri and I were imagining the party this Saturday, I mentioned the chairs, and then just floated the idea of increasing her mom’s birthday gifts to include a couple of new web chairs, which hopefully will last about another 10 years. Cheri was immediately on board, and so I jumped online to order a couple of them.
Do you remember when they cost about 15 dollars apiece? Well, I can attest to the fact that they don’t cost that much anymore! In fact, where before, if you were industrious, you could buy the replacement webbing, and on the hottest day in the summer, with sweat pouring out of every part of you, in the middle of the sun, you could replace the split seats with brand new strips of woven plastic. I remember one year when Dad decided to do just that, but decided that only half the webbing was completely corrupted, so he just changed half the web. Of course, they were of two drastically different colors, so when he was done, it looked like an evolutionary experiment gone completely wrong. At least we knew no one would ever attempt to steal them… Anyway, the replacement webbing today costs about what two whole chairs cost back in the 60s and 70s, which as I think about it, was nearly 60 years ago, so I guess things do change.
We bit the bullet and bought two new ones – they should be delivered to our house on Friday, to take up to Grafton on Saturday. That’s our plan, and hopefully, all will turn out well. Otherwise, watch out rope bridge…
At least we are working to be intentional, and making good plans and good decisions to create a good outcome. Yes, things could go wrong, which is not unusual as we live in life, but hopefully, we are closer on the side of a good time, and not something worth forgetting. Enjoy your week!
Word for the day: imbroglio. Pronounced a number of ways, but most often, it is im-BROIL-yo. Doesn’t it just sound Italian? And Italian, it is, from the verb, imbrogliare, which means “to tangle.” A phrase used lately is “a hot mess.” An imbroglio is a very complicated situation, or an altercation with no clear resolution, or a big confused heap of circumstances that seem to keep getting more and more tangles the more you try to sort things out. I remember when I would take the boys fishing when they were little, and sometime during the outing, one or both of them would come up to me with a giant ball of fishing line attached to their reel, with a hook somewhere inside, and asking me to “fix it.” A pure imbroglio. Often, the best I could do was to take out my knife, and re-thread a new part of line and start all over. Unfortunately, when the imbroglio deals with people all tangled up in an argument, it rarely works to take out the knife…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.