Processing Father’s day with Christmas Lights and Memories

When you actually read this, I should be asking you,”How was your Father’s Day?” In “real time,” mine starts in 22 minutes… .

I have a lot to process tonight, two days worth. I’ve been antsy all night and unable to focus. Taylor went to bed because we were out late last night and now I am going to “sort out” the plans verses how the plans are actually playing out.

As I scurry around my house tucking things way, trying to figure things out (I always do that when I’m feeling unnerved), I came across the Christmas tree I put on my mom’s grave, usually on her birthday, as that is close to Thanksgiving. She LOVED Christmas trees. That’s all fine, but this time I froze. What the heck am I going to do for Archie? I hated even thinking about it, so I didn’t. I shed some tears and walked away. This weekend is hard enough. I can’t “lean into” Christmas right now.

I pop the computer open, open a new page, and…stare at it. Something is wrong. Something’s BEEN wrong all night, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I don’t know that I can now, I just know that I can’t figure out how I feel or process this weekend staring at a computer screen in the same place where I always sit because…this weekend is hard. What do I do? How do I process? Pray.

For some reason God brings to my mind the blue Christmas lights Arch and I got on his last trip to MN. The way his trips worked if I tagged along was that we would drive as far as his back could tolerate, stop and get a hotel room (where he’d sleep maybe two hours then pace the rest of the night because his back hurt) then we’d drive to the town that he would have his meeting. He would drop me off somewhere in the town where I would wait. We’d have a general meeting spot that I would check and see if he were there while I visited a small town cafe and maybe talk to the locals or meandered around the antique shops.

My favorite was a tiny town in Big Falls…or Little Falls…it’s been a while, were I accidentally sat on the stool of an elderly gentleman, around 80 years young. He came in and gruffly (kinda kidding, kinda not) told me I was in his seat. I offered to move, but he insisted that he didn’t mind loosing his seat to such a “pretty lady.” I had to grin. We talked for about an hour, him showing me pictures of his kids, grandkids, and his loving wife that has passed just a few years before. He spoke of how he got there by laying the oil pipe up to Alaska and how his wife stole his heart. He shared how lonely he was without her. Then Archie walked in. He had a chance to meet my new “friend.” Time to go.

Anyway, in one of the antique stores there was a string of the old blue Christmas lights that reminded me of the ones my grandparents used to put on their tree every year. It was only $1.00 and it had replacement bulbs! When Arch met me, his back was hurting and he wanted to walk a bit, so he wanted to see the Christmas lights I had bubbled over. I never thought he’d actually want to get them because it was just a single strand, but he said,”It’s just a buck, go for it!” I plugged them in at the hotel room that night just for the memories. When we got home they went into a bag and onto a shelf because we didn’t decorate for Christmas. So sad. At least he had gotten to see them once.

The Blue Christmas lights! I thought I remembered where they were and sure enough I did, but what now? The sun had just gone down and it’s a full moon. Outside sounded like as good as any place to process, so

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welcome to my world. Time to write.

The plan I had for Taylor’s first Father’s Day without her Dad looked like this:

Friday: I was going to get off early from work (knowing she would be dreading the weekend) set up the tent, have supper, then head out to Tri-Way Drive-In Theater (one of only 400 Drive-In’s left in the United States), then home to camp in the back yard.

Saturday: Get up early enough to catch Dunkin Donuts for coffee and bagels (she and her Dad’s favorite “take out” coffee), then off to the Depot to browse/shop, because that is her most favorite shopping place on earth (she loves the atmosphere, music, and prices), off to Mishawaka for the Christmas Tree Store, Sam’s Club, and anywhere else she felt like, because we haven’t been in a really long time, dinner on Archie (on of the birthday restaurant gift cards we had gotten him but he never had a chance to use) then home for smores and back yard camping

Sunday: Coffee and bagels at home, church, kayaking, then chilling.

Now the reality:

Friday: Taylor picked me up at work, as I did get off early. Unfortunately, she had stopped off at the store and went down the card isle. Of course the card that caught her eye was,”To Dad from your daughter.” Out of habit the first thought was,”A card for Da…”. Tears-isle 4. She was grateful no one was around. Then she came to meet me, still aching.

We threw in a bonus: since I got off earlier that 5, we had enough time to bowl for $1.00 a game. We did that as a family nearly every week when she was a freshman and sophomore in high school. She then joined the bowling team and Archie and I went to all of her games. Lots of fun. Lots of memories: she and her dad would always pick crazy names for the computer. Her’s was usually about being awesome in someway (to trash talk her dad) and he finally settled on “Butter” (because he was “on a roll” :D). We’re talking about four years of being “regulars,” until she started college.

We still went on and off and the two of them would dual, harassing each other constantly. I was usually always dead last, but who cares? They were so entertaining, and besides, I was the encourager: “You were just dusting out the gutters. Now that they are clean, you won’t do it again. Don’t let it get to you.” “You’ll clean it up, no worries!” and so on. That was my position and I was completely content.

Now…it’s different. First we had to pay for the game. We were asked where Archie was. I choked out that he went home in Feb (but didn’t cry! Baby steps). They were of course shocked. We were the only customers in the alley that afternoon. It was like we had reserved the whole place just for us. The owner just sat in one of the booths and watched. He’d always kid Archie about being “Butter” and we had thrown him a massive curve that he hadn’t expected. When we left he made sure to tell us to come back again. We told him we both work til 5 and that’s after the $1.00 games, and now we’re on a tight budget. He was quick to let us know there were a couple of options and told us he’d see us again.

We made it through our first bowling game without “Butter.” No funny names, no competition (she beat me by nearly 50 pins both games), but we still smiled at the memories.

Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven”

I don’t know where the folks are spiritually at the bowling alley. I hope that, though Taylor and I are very different people than when Arch was still with us, we showed God’s strength to those who knew us when we were “whole.”

Oops! I’ve “talked” your ear off. See what happens when you find the right place to write? …and that’s enough for one day. See you tomorrow.





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