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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Day with Dad

For the last couple of weeks, I have been preoccupied with grading papers or with things that suddenly become crucial to do rather than grading papers.  I've been retreating to the back room, to a coffee shop, or wherever I can to try to keep my focus.  That means that the people I live with have also tried to stay out of my way and not expect much of me.

Going back a few more weeks, I have also been trying to help Dad get set up better with his gardening.  First, I found a utility sink on Craigslist to put on the back patio.  With a couple of fittings, I rigged a damaged water hose to run from an outdoor spigot to the sink.  The drain, for now, can drain into a bucket or into one of the dozens of potted plants he has in the back of the house.  That was a big success:  good quality sink, low Craigslist price.

My next project was to find some kind of cart to set up as a potting table and workspace next to the sink.  One place I looked is an auction site for government surplus sales, Public Surplus.  This site has lots of school equipment for sale, as well as police departments, county governments, etc., and you can sort by state.  I found a big printer table not far away in Georgetown.  It is the kind you used to see in Human Resources offices, out in the hallway, running constantly, printing checks with all kinds of attached documentation on fancy paper with perforations.  Those printers were noisy, so the tables for them often had a plastic cover to mute the noise while letting a person see the machine at work.  I thought this was a great idea for a mini-greenhouse work table, with wheels to boot.  But I did not win the auction.

I tried Craigslist again, and found a heavy-duty steel cart, tall enough to do potting work standing, and with big wheels.  The guy selling it said it was cluttering his garage and he wasn't using it any more.  A bit of negotiation, and I had a deal.  That makes two successful back porch improvements for Dad's gardening work.  And I have not spent even close to $100 for both items.

In all my heady success, I decided to bid on a couple of rolling shelf units, or more accurately classroom media carts that were surplus at a small school district "not too far" from where we live.  Remember that I have been living in NC for 24 years, so my memory of the map of Texas and distances is a bit rusty.  I did not expect to win the auctions because my bids were pretty low.

But lo, and behold, when the auctions closed I had won both items.  A couple of half-hearted bids had challenged my offer, but the price was way lower than I could have expected to pay.  I scheduled a day to go pick them up, and I did a little measuring of the doors to Dad's Chrysler minivan.  All looked fine to me.  Famous last words . . .

I reached a good point in my grading, came out of hiding, and Dad and I agreed to go together and retrieve the shelving carts, which I plan to use in the garage to make compact storage of boxes more easy to manage with these rolling units.  We checked the map, and to my surprise the location was 2.5 hours away.  Now that is small potatoes in Texas, but it is a bigger part of the day than I had anticipated.  To make double duty, we planned to visit Dad's oldest living sister, Joyce Harbour, in Hico, about thirty miles from the school of our destination in Huckabay.

The route was nice.  Before long we had passed out of the dried up region and into green meadows where there has been some consistent rain during the past month of storms.  The times, they are a-changing, and we passed from cattle ranches into goat ranches and eventually buffalo ranches on the road to Hico.  I don't remember many goats in Texas when I lived here before, and I don't remember ever seeing a buffalo ranch south of Wyoming or Montana.

Dad and I talked about all sorts of things on the trip.  I had brought some work to do, but the conversation was good and the scenery was interesting.  When we finally got to Hico, we took note of a little cafe called the Koffee Kup, which has received some recognition from travel magazines for its food and its pies.  I knew where I wanted to be in a couple of hours.

We headed on up to Huckabay, and I think you may know where this story is going.  It is a small school district with 192 students from K-12.  One of the business administrators met me, and she went to get the bus driver to show us where the carts are.  Immediately, he began to express reservations about where we planned to put the carts for transport.  I assured them I had measured the doors of the minivan and all should fit.  They called out the principal of the school to help me load things up.  These were generous, hospitable people.

What I had not taken into consideration was the depth of the carts.  While I had accurately found that the length of the cart would fit through the side door (45"), I had not taken into account that the door would not open wide enough to accommodate the 28.5" depth of the cart.  Nor would the cart fit through the back gate on its side.

I reckon some small-town folk got a few laughs about the city folk who drove all the way from Salado to pick something up without planning how to fit it in their vehicle.  I was chagrined and a little embarrassed.  The business manager tried to comfort me by pointing out that even if I had gotten one cart through the door, I would have had to make a second trip to get the second one because they were too thick to get both in the van.  Yes, Mike, there are three dimensions in space, even if you are looking at a two-dimensional picture.

One thing I have learned from Dad, and over the years have gotten a little better at doing, is rolling with the punches and not letting things upset me too bad.  This was one of those days that I was able to roll.  We thanked the people, scheduled a later visit with a borrowed truck, and headed back to Hico.  Dad picked up some chocolate candy for Joyce, and we went to see her at the nursing home.  I was happy that she recognized me before we even said anything.  We talked about this and that, caught up
on the relatives, gave our hugs, and prayed together.

Then it was off to the Koffee Kup for CFS (that's Texas shorthand for Chicken Fried Steak), onion rings, and pie.  Filled to satisfaction, we retraced our route back to Salado, having visited Aunt Joyce, scouted the two big shelving carts I bought for a total of $16 (and as Everly will never let me forget, spent way, way, way more on gasoline), eaten pie (a notable achievement in itself), and covered thoroughly the full range of the world's and the family's topics.  If there were any problems, we solved them several times over.  Even with the silliness of poor planning, that was a good day with Dad.

1 comment:

Roosevelt Ethridge said...

We can learn a lot from our parents. Spending time with them creates opportunities to observe senoirty in action. I respect the comment about learning how to role with the punches. I believe the more mature we become at handling life, it awards us with a patience and giltilty to role with punches. Also, it is rewarding to visit love ones who are in nursing homes. The great day with dad leaves inspiration as well as hope for quaility time becoming an asset in our lives.

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