Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Hands in Time: Miami Memories

It was her hands that I saw today as I quickly stacked and sliced the sandwiches for our lunch. Slow, deliberate, and graceful were her pale white hands as she delicately sliced the toasted tuna salad sandwich. How often in my life I have imagined her hands, as I hurried from one task to another?


Delzel's Drug Store from 1958--1965, next to the Coleman Theatre.

She worked at the Delzel's corner drugstore, just south of the Coleman Theatre. During my freshman year in high school, my girlfriends and I would run downtown for lunch. The first students to arrive always ordered and saved a table for others. There we were, already training our bodies and minds to rush, organize, eat, and run. 

She was never in a hurry. Each order was written carefully as if by hands and nails that had just been painted. Then I'd watch as her soft, wrinkled hands slowly stirred the tuna or chicken salad. The mayonnaise, not ever mayo, was drawn by a rounded butter knife that made curved strokes across the face of the bread. She scooped up a perfect serving size and spread it on toasted white bread, as if it were frosting on a cake.  Rarely did we order lettuce, but when we did, the leaf was sure to curl like a lace between the slices. My mind was sparked by a stark contrast when those same soft hands picked up the butcher knife to halve the sandwich. The knife seemed awkward with its hard black handle resting in her soft flesh. But, like an artist, she placed the knife at just the right angle, corner to corner, then carefully, with her left hand on the tip of the blade, she applied pressure, and with the right hand, downward went the knife, slicing the sandwich neatly in half with no meat bulging from the side. 

No matter the number of orders or the time restraints we operated under, her schedule never varied--one perfectly-formed sandwich at a time, picked up like fragile glass, placed on a thick white plate, decorated with an even number of chips and one sweet pickle. She hand-delivered these sandwiches to each of us as a mother might prepare for a family she never had. 

After school we'd often stop at the drugstore for a cherry coke, and she'd tell us about her nephew who was about our age. We wondered if she had a husband, or if she was a spinster. Did we even know her name? 

Today, I saw my her hands in mine as I pulled out the lite mayo, relish, and celery from the fridge, opened the can of tuna in water, lunged for the bread in the cupboard, and then began an unmeasured mixing of flavors and colors to build my own tuna salad sand. Just then the phone rang and Murphy Doodle, our puppy jumped to help me find the phone. "Unknown" strikes again. I growled at the phone like a dog with a bone. 

Then I turned back to the tuna, washed my hands and took a deep breath.  "Slow down," I heard a voice inside of me whisper. I looked down at the counter and saw my hurried hands. They suddenly looked older, softer, but scratched and scared with time. Brown spots covered the back of my hands, blue veins stood out creating an unevenness in my thin skin. 

With a deep breath I found myself remembering and chuckling over time. . . seven grain bread on our plates, no white bread for decades. Lettuce fresh from the garden topped my husband's sandwich, and filled my salad bowl (no carbs, no bread). I stopped, smiled, turned to a drawer and pulled out the ice cream scoop. Slowly, I picked up the tuna and placed it perfectly on top of my salad, then I gingerly added sliced almonds and yellow banana peppers for taste and color. A smile crossed my face, and memories danced in my head. I saw her smile at me. 

She had watched us grow, graduate, and take on the world, but I don't believe we ever said good-bye, so I cherish her memory. 


The Timeline of building occupants connected to the Coleman Theatre. Thank you Ron Enderland at Miami Oklahoma History


Friday, April 23, 2021

The Breath of Life

Death never knocks. He just enters.

When my mother died of Sepsis over thirty years ago, I only had time to pray, "God's will be done." Eight weeks later as my father lay dying of a broken heart I cried my prayers to the Lord asking for help and guidance for his soul. I knew he was lost and lonely without my mother. 

In that same decade, my former mother-in-law, Rose Rains, nearly lost her husband, Don, to a heart attack while they lived in their home on Grand Lake.  Shortly after big Don survived this terrifying moment I visited with Rose.  Till the day, I die I will hear her voice retelling the time when she rushed her husband from Grand Lake to the Miami Baptist Hospital.

Rose's voice often became high pitched when she felt frantic or upset. I can imagine the sound of her voice as she drove and cried, "Don, don't you dare die on me.  Please don't you die. Don't you dare die Don." I often wonder how many times she prayed those words and cried them out loud. 

Sometimes the Angels step in and save a person's life.

Don didn't die that night and they lived to enjoy a few more warm and cozy years on Grand Lake together, but those words never left my heart. 

Death never knocks. He just enters...

Recently, I rushed my husband to ER one Saturday night. He had fallen on a boulder a few days earlier (while trying to retrieve a lost golf ball) and bruised his left side. Bruised and broken do not carry the same definition. Three days later the ER doctor explained how lucky Jack was to not  have punctured his lungs or spleen with those two broken ribs!

The doctor's last words were "Take it easy, Rest and heal." He might have added that coughing can hurt, but Jack learned that on his own when his allergies kicked in with this Oklahoma wind. Two days of coughing and Jack felt worse. On Thursday his family doctor said, "This looks really bad. We need to run a CT scan." Really bad is best described as black and blue bruises from his armpit to his back bone around to his chest and down his front and back. By Thursday he looked like he was carrying a five pound ball on his left side, and his ribs were pounding with messages like "You need help." By Friday when the CT scan was complete he looked and felt looked like life was draining away, and now the ribs were threatening his life and still we stayed home. At seven o'clock the doctor called us back with the results and said that his lungs were filling with fluid and he had six broken ribs. If he felt faint or light headed to go straight to ER. Meds would be available tomorrow.

( Authors Note: When dealing with stubborn people, just say GO TO THE HOSPITAL NOW.")

Death never knocks. He just enters....

During my worries and restlessness that week, I discovered an old book that had fallen off the shelf a few days earlier, "Meeting God in Quiet Places" by F.LaGard Smith. Like a whisper coming through the Aspen my heart heard, "he maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside still waters." There on the cover I saw the green green pastures that carry my heart to a home long ago. 

I began reading aloud to myself to calm my soul when Jack walked by and listened as I read a parable about rabbits and perception.

    "Jesus taught in simple parables to test people's hearts, not their ears...a person whose heart is already turned toward God will easily see God in nature." (Daily we sit at the kitchen table and marvel at the beauty of nature in our backyard. It is a time we share and value together. 

    "Rabbits lives depend on hearing the approach of danger...If the rabbit on the hill can teach me anything, maybe it's that I need to make sure I'm on the right wavelength: God's wavelength."*

We talked a while about our feelings and fears and came to a deeper sense of calm. Within minutes TIME stopped for us. As Jack walked away he stopped turned toward me and said, "I'm dizzy." Then he dropped to the floor, white as ash.

Death never knocks. He just enters...

I found my voice to call to 911. 

Time passed. The fire department and ambulance arrived. They took my husband to the Health Plex as he struggled to breath and his heart had gone into AFib.  I was left  standing stund. Trouble had phoned ahead, but we weren't listening. 

Now I sat with my husband and watched him breath. I didn't cry. I whispered a scream "Don't you Die. Keep breathing. Don't you die. We're a team, don't you leave me."  Now I knew how Rose had felt that night. 

Sometimes the Angels step in and save a person's life.

Three doctors stepped in to perform the surgery to drain the blood and fluid from his lungs. When at last I could be with him I, too, could breath. 

Jack remained in ICU three days. Today we are in our sixth week of healing. We are both breathing better. We have shared many deep deep fears and realizations that come to people when we they've seen the ghost of death.

I picked up the book "Meeting God in Quiet Places" again this week and noticed my notes from the hospital hours. I, honestly, didn't want to read them or relive them, but my heart and head pushed me to reflect. 

I found these lines, "LIfe is all about conflict. Peace comes not in the cessation of conflict but in the learning how to deal with conflict. The peace begins on the familiar battleground of our own hearts...The peace of God comes to us when we use the quiet time of our life to turn our hearts over to God so that he can prepare us for whatever struggles we face... out of these special times with him, we will emerge better prepared for the spiritual battles which lie ahead." **

Joy in my heart

There is a time and place for reflection, and we are blessed to have the life to reflect upon. 

**This story was prefaced with an earlier blog: "March On" <https://literallyletty.blogspot.com/2021/03/march-on.html>

Helen Stapp died August 26, 1989

Johnie Stapp died October 21, 1989 

Ralph Don Rains died December 15, 1995

Rose Roberts Rains died November 21, 1999. 

*pgs. 23-25 "Meeting God In Quiet Places"

** p. 84 "Meeting God in Quiet Places"