Monday, October 1, 2012

Circle the Wagons

I can’t help it, I’m proud of my family.  Everyone needs a group such as these extraordinary people.  When a crisis hits there is not another bunch of individuals I would rather have around me than those I call family.  Not everyone can hold it together as these do, especially when life has put your little world into a whirlwind. 

When Hurricane David hit back in the 70s, my Aunt Peggy and her family huddled down in our home with us and I’m surprised my mom didn’t put the woman in restraints and duct tape her mouth shut.  Peggy took all the joy out of a category five storm.  She was useless.  She never volunteered to help with anything and the tasks she was told to do she whined about and did half ass.  She wanted to be the first one fed and the last one asked to pitch in.  She couldn’t control her fear or her mouth and made everyone around her on edge.  She was chaos within the chaos, and a hurricane has enough of its own, especially with eleven people in one tiny home.

The Mess that Is Me has been quiet for the past couple of weeks because another of life’s storms hit our family with the passing of Teri’s mom, Betty Phillips-Braden.  While I was able to put some words to paper, jot ideas into my ever present notebook and get some outlining done in the spare moments of solitude I was able to snatch, my time and attention was needed elsewhere and so I gave it.  Fortunately, I am my own boss and have that luxury.  The girls were able to take time off, as well, even though Teri worked remotely.  Sadly, not every company is as sensitive and understanding in such situations.  It’s a poor sign of the times, but that’s another post, altogether.

Whenever I have taught small groups, I have pulled two life lessons from the Harrison Ford movie, The Witness, as examples.  Now, I don’t normally pull life lessons from movies, especially if they star Will Ferrell or Adam Sandler.  However, The Witness holds two qualities that I strongly believe prove the strength and endurance of any family or close knit group.  These are traits I expect out of my family and they know that no matter what they will receive them from me.

The first scene was when the entire community came out and helped a newly married couple raise their barn.  (If I didn’t mention it, the majority of the movie takes place in Amish country.)  Any male that was able contributed to the construction while the ladies prepared the meals and kept the lemonade flowing.  The little kids, of course, just ran amuck.  It was a community effort.

In like manner, the troops rallied when we moved Sarah from the beach to the mainland.  Our family and those friends that are at times closer than family showed up with trucks, dollies, and willing hands ready to haul boxes and furniture.  Tools were brought to dismantle and reassemble a little girl’s bunk bed as well as washers, dryers, and cabinets.  What could have taken days by ourselves only took a few hours with the help of great people.

The other scene I use happened at the end of the movie.  The bad guys had arrived and were ready to kill Harrison Ford and the witness he was protecting.  The grandfather signaled to the little boy to sneak out and ring the bell.  And he did, ringing it for all he was worth.  The clanging gong of the bell echoed over miles across the fields and each person who heard it dropped what they were doing and ran to the source of the call.  Tools were left in fields, stitching needles were dropped beside chairs, and tasks left unfinished.  Someone was in trouble and the community answered the call.  They didn’t know what was wrong.  It didn’t matter.  They were needed and they answered the cry.

That was my family this week.

Teri had just returned from spending a week with her mom, we were in the middle of moving Sarah, and the van seemed to be suffering PMS.  Wednesday morning before the alarm clocks begged to be smacked back into snooze, we received the call.  Momma Betty had taken a turn for the worse and we needed to get back up there.  To be honest, we weren’t ready.  I’m not talking emotionally ready, because no one is ever ready to say goodbye to a loved one and if they are I don’t think they were really that loved to begin with.  No, I mean physically ready.

Anyone who knows me or has read these blog posts for long knows that cars and I don’t get along.  I’m really good at breaking them and lousy at keeping them running.  I have to admit though I am much better with our latest vehicle even though another sits dead in our driveway.  Still, our Mazda was showing signs of overheating, so I put it in the shop to get it looked at before we left.  It’s always nerve-wracking when I do that because it’s never anything minor even though it should be.  It’s like going to the doctor for a checkup and getting admitted into the hospital.  Our car was admitted.

There was no way our Sebring was going to hold all of us, not to mention the luggage, so we rang our bell.  It was our son and his boyfriend that answered and we were able to trade the Sebring for the Scion for a week.  Soon we were loading the bags.

This brought us to our next dilemma, however.  Money.  Like most of middle-class America these days we live paycheck to paycheck.  The problem was we were leaving on a Wednesday and our paychecks didn’t hit until Thursday.  Again I pulled the bell cord and another son ran to the sound offering us gas money for the trip up.  Now we were loaded, fueled and on our way.

When we arrived, others were ringing the bells and it was our turn to answer.  Meals were cooked, laundry done, people entertained and food purchased.  The house was filling up with people and things needed to be organized.   Luckily, the girls are great at that and had no problem stepping up and leading the brigade with whatever had to be accomplished.  Nothing was left undone and those that were needed to make the funeral arrangements were freed up to do it without worry that something was being forgotten.  The girls even ironed shirts and calmed feathers.  What needed to be done was done and everything flowed smoothly.  If others dropped the ball on something, the girls picked it up and ran with it.  It is how families - at least, our family - operates, and I’ve never been prouder.  They even pitched in with a birthday party.

Family and those friends close enough to call family are our support system.  A couple we are extremely close to stayed in close contact even over the miles making sure we had everything we needed.  It made the girls smile when at the service they saw the flowers our friends sent sitting there.  Answering the bell is sometimes just that simple, a quiet note or text of encouragement, but has a great impact.

In good times and in bad, I know I can count on my family.  We may have a unique wagon, but I wouldn’t trade this family for any other in the world.  I love each of them deeply, and I know I am just as loved in return.

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Suggested Reading ~ The Gift of Sacrifice


  1. What a heartwarming post to describe a heart wrenching situation. Sorry to read of your family's loss but how wonderful that everyone was able to come together to ease the process. Glad to hear you all made it through and I agree, it is the times we need our "family" the most that they tend to just appear. It's reassuring to know someone will be there to ring the bell whether we ask or not. Have a great day!! : )