As Summers Go, This One Is Going

During my high school career I was no thespian, however, I could act the fool when called upon. My friend was the thespian and starred in our senior high school play, “Finian’s Rainbow.” One of the musical numbers was, “When I’m not near the girl I love,
I love the girl I’m near.”

I have altered this title a little to fit my own needs. My version goes, “When I’m not in the season I love, I love the season I’m in.” It is a wonderful motto and has solved quite a few problems down the years. Just don’t ask me to sing it for you. I can, but you do not want to hear it… believe me.

At my age I have learned a thing or two. One of the things I have learned is that you might as well be content where you are at because that is where you are. All these people that are jumpy and nervous because they are not exactly where they want to be, waste a lot of precious time and energy.

I am old enough to appreciate where I am at. I could bemoan the fact that I’m not somewhere else, but what good would that do. I know I’m not at my destination yet, so I am determined to enjoy the journey and not miss one thing along the way.

This is the difference between the Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage and Yours Truly.

Just the other day her Majesty was complaining about the weather. “It’s so hot outside, I can hardly stand it.”

Of course, I could not resist saying, “Well, why don’t you sit down.” To which, she treated me to one of her infamous glares. Somehow, in the hot sunshine her glare did not have its normal effect. For one, she was too hot and did not have the energy to follow through on her glare.

But I love the summer. It is a wonderful time of the year and my affection for the season goes all the way back to my days in school.

I enjoy every aspect of summer and when God created summer, he created a masterpiece. Not a summer day goes by that I do not thank Him for the summer.

I need to get one thing quite clear. I am not one of those who lay out in the sun to get a suntan. That is not my cup of tea… or rather glass of lemonade. I do not fault those who lay out in the sun to get what they call a suntan. Rather, I feel sorry for those old saps. Why ruin a good day by laying in the sun?

I had one bad sunburn in my life. It happened on our honeymoon. My wife and I were married in August in the year of our Lord 1971. Upon common consent, we chose for our honeymoon location Niagara Falls.

The motel we stayed in had a marvelous swimming pool. At the time, my companion in nuptials and I thought we were living the life of luxury. This was the first time we had been on our own and we were going to enjoy it to the hilt. Too bad we could not afford a Hilton.

Late that morning we walked several blocks down the street and treated ourselves to our first lunch as a “till-death-do-you-part” twosome. I am not sure what we ate, all I remember is the company was terrific. After lunch, we decided to spend some time at the poolside.

Being unaccustomed to the life of luxury I did not know what the rules were. So, in my sheer ignorance I decided to sit by the pool and luxuriate in the beautiful August sun. Obviously, I was more tired than I realized and fell into a wonderfully deep sleep.

Finally, I began to hear a voice I recognized and soon began to understand some of the words. “Do you know it’s almost time for supper?”

I opened my eyes and tried to smile. My face would not smile. In fact, my face felt rather hot. Then the rest of my body joined in the fiery chorus informing me that every bit of my body was ablaze. I had a sunburn to beat all sunburns. I could not move. I could not get up from the lounge chair.

A short journey into panic-land brought me into full consciousness. With great care and with the help of my new wife I was able to get into our room. I laid down in the bed with every corpuscle in my body screaming in protest. The more I lay there the hotter I became. I heard of hot bridegrooms on their wedding night but this was not how I pictured it.

Fortunately, we had planned to stay in the motel for a week and for a week exactly, I lay in my bed unable to move without excruciating pain.

Ever since that time, I have had a great deal of respect for the summer sun. Even though I had that one bad experience, I have never blamed it on the summer season. Rather, I have reveled in what the Bible teaches. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Special Occasions

Every day of one’s life is important but there are four that I believe have particular significance.

1. Birth – On the day you are born, your whole family tree was altered. The fact that you had arrived was a very momentous occasion, not only for you but for everyone around you. Much thought was likely put into choosing a name that will be with you throughout your entire life. Schedules were altered and expenses incurred on your behalf. That occasion was so important that your actual “birth day” continues to be celebrated each year in honour of you!

2. Independence – Different places have ways of recognizing the transition from childhood into adulthood. I remember my dad telling me that he had to quit school after grade eight to go stooking (part of farm harvest) in order to help the family financially. His maturity was not marked by an age or date but by necessity. Some places do not acknowledge adolescence. When children are able to work, they work. But most societies have a ceremony or specific age when a person is legally or ethically on their own.

In Canada, there are different ways of measuring independence. The legal age of consent is sixteen years whereas the age of majority varies by province. In some provinces it is eighteen and in others it is nineteen years of age. Reaching the legal age has gifts and burdens. You might have privileges that were otherwise not available but also face additional legal responsibilities for your choices.

3. Elder status – When I was a child I thought that my grandparents were “really old”. My grandfathers had reached the age of sixty-five years and were retired. Their days were spent visiting with others, reading and gardening. They didn’t own vehicles so stayed close to home most of the time.

Things changed in my adulthood and people started talking about “freedom 55″ meaning that they would invest their money so that they could leave their careers early. Their planning included travel, sports and leisure. Some places began describing seniors as those individuals who had reached the age of sixty.

Something else began to change also. Instead of holding one job for thirty or more years, Canadians changed careers more readily and often would experience six or more jobs before retirement. Pension plans also evolved and offered employees varies ways to invest for their future. Now most government plans mature at age sixty-five but the experience of retirement is more often associated with health and finances than with the age of the individual.

4. Death – For some who have experienced pain or heartache, this is a relief. For others it holds fear of the unknown. For most, it is just part of the life cycle. Death for survivors is not an end in itself, though, as they hold our memories in their hearts and minds. The work we do here on earth also can be a testament or legacy for others to continue enjoying.

So why am I writing about special occasions this week? Well, it’s because I have just passed the third one on my list and feeling reflective.

On August 7th I celebrated my sixty-fifth birthday! And what have I noticed? Well, I certainly am not as old as I thought my grandparents were at the same age. I am not ready to retire as I love my work and am healthy enough to continue. I am living in a world where life expectancy has increased significantly and opportunities for adventure are rampant!

And when it comes to the fourth special occasion of which I have written, I accept that it too will come. No fear or worry. Just the next step in a life for which I give thanks.

A Discount by Any Other Name

I find too often I get all caught up with the busyness of life that I forget some things. For example, last week the Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage and I had birthdays.

Our birthdays are only two days apart, which is convenient for me. My birthday is first, and if my wife gets me anything for my birthday, it reminds me I need to get something for her birthday two days later. I could not plan it out any better had I tried.

We celebrated our birthdays, I know which one I was celebrating but I’m not allowed to mention the one my wife was celebrating. I did that once, but I learned my lesson and I will never, ever do it, ever again. Did I mention ever?

Our week was so busy we really did not have time to formally celebrate our birthdays. We try to do that every year, but this year our schedules did not permit such a celebration.

The following week, however, went a little bit slower and we had a day where by lunchtime we were finished. I suggested to my wife, “Why don’t we go out and celebrate our birthdays at some restaurant?”

Without even blinking, she responded in the affirmative.

“You,” I said as I always say, “pick out the restaurant you would like to go to and we’ll celebrate our birthdays together.”

This has been the procedure all through our life. She gets to pick the restaurant, and I get to pick up the ticket. This has worked most famously for us and as far as I’m concerned, I’m not going to change anything that still works. I have been married too long to jeopardize anything that works.

We got ready and got in the car, I allowed her to drive as I always do, and we headed for the restaurant of her choice. I love it when a plan comes together.

All the way to the restaurant, we were smiling, giggling and just enjoying ourselves.

At the restaurant, the hostess took us to our seat and gave us our menus. We still were smiling and giggling because we had a whole night with nothing to do except celebrate our birthdays.

About halfway through our meal the manager of the restaurant was going around greeting his customers. He came to our table and cheerfully said, “How’s everything going tonight?”

I’m the kind of person that does not like to miss opportunities. Since we were in a state of giggleization, I forgot my manners and responded back to him.

“This is the best,” I said, trying to hold back some giggles, “spaghetti I have ever eaten.”

Of course, the restaurant we were in did not serve spaghetti in any shape, size or form. I just like to have a little bit of fun while I’m eating.

To my great delight, without even blinking an eye, the manager said, “I’m so glad because we’ve been saving that spaghetti for the last six months just for you.”

That was just the beginning of our joking back and forth. The patrons surrounding us were laughing and it was a wonderful joke. He could give-and-take, and I could give-and-take as well. I love it when a plan comes together.

Our waitress came and served our meal and I still could not get away from my state of giggleization. Once I’m there, it’s a hard road for me to back out. So I said to her, “I was just talking to your manager, Michael, and he said if I mentioned to you how lovely you look today you would give me a discount on my bill.”

All the patrons around us were laughing and she looked at me and said, “Okay, I’ll talk to him about it and see what we can do.”

I thought she was just joking and everybody around us was laughing and giggling about it.

Then, she brought the bill for our birthday supper. As I looked at it, I noticed there was a discount line on our ticket. The discount was for one cent. I looked at it, showed it to my wife and we both burst out laughing. A penny discount, as my father used to say, is a penny in my pocket.

I took the ticket up to the cash register to pay it and the cashier looked at it and said, “What’s this?” pointing to the discount line on the ticket. She had no idea what it was.

“It is,” I said, holding back as much of my giggle as possible, “a discount on my meal for this evening.”

“A discount?” she said quizzically, “a discount for what?”

I could tell she was confused and so I told her, “Michael, the manager, said if I told our waitress how lovely she looked tonight we would get a discount on our bill.”

I think that was the first time that ever happened in that restaurant and I’m so glad it happened when we were celebrating our birthday together.

We giggled all the way home that night and I was reminded of one of my favorite Bible verses. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).

Some people take life way too seriously. If you know what to laugh at, it certainly will medicate your soul to the point of joyfulness.