Did I tell you where I was going last weekend? I went home for a quick visit to attend my 85 year-old stepfather’s wedding. His new wife, Betty, is my, uh,…..see if you can follow this…..Betty is my father’s second wife’s third husband’s third wife. Yes, indeedy. Daddy was married to Lois almost 20 years before he died. Then five months later Lois married Terry, whose wife died the same day as my father. Lois and Terry were married over 25 years until she died a couple of years ago. Got that straight? Relax, there’s no test. But it explains how I ended up with two brothers named Don. And the remarkable thing about this patchwork quilt family is that we reached this point with only one measly divorce. We’re just a loving and loyal group of folks-- albeit with a few health issues.
It was a beautiful wedding. With her four kids and Terry’s assortment, when the preacher asked if everyone in their families would stand just about everyone in the sanctuary stood up.
It was a glorious, if brief visit. I needed the break and it came at just the right time. After a long struggle I think I got a handle on this job about two hours before I left for my weekend off. And it was a wonderful break. I realized how much I missed my house and 23 acres of trees and critters. Our place has the most peaceful sounds at night. I missed my reading chair and my bathtub. I missed the sweet drinking water that comes right out of the tap at my house.
And I missed being in church with my church family. I was astounded to catch up with a dear friend and find out her son’s wife is expecting a baby. I used to baby-sit Chris every afternoon when he was in the second grade.
But the crowning touch was when Nancy Gray handed me a DVD her Sunday School class had made for me. I think she was planning to mail it to me but was able to just hand it to me when she saw me. It was a really cool tape with the class singing a hilariously convoluted but sincere rendition of “If I Had a Hammer” then followed by the morning’s worship service. I have enjoyed myself to pieces watching it. But that still wasn’t the best part. When Nancy handed me the envelope she told me “Dana put some kind of nut in there. I don’t know why, but she said you’d know.” I didn’t have to look in the envelope to know it was an acorn.
Dana Dunlap remembers a story I wrote once about the year my mother died. I was thirteen and Daddy was barely 50 and we were both too young for what was happening. The world was moving too fast. We took a lot of walks that autumn trying to sort things out in our heads. We never really talked much on these walks but I remember the feeling of holding his hand and knowing how much he loved me even if he couldn’t fix things. I remember the acorns we would pass in the streets in our neighborhood on those walks. We lived on a street aptly named Oak Knoll and the trees were huge bur oaks with acorns the size of golfballs.
Years later, when I was grown and had a job and two kids with all the stress that life brings, I once passed an acorn on the sidewalk. Without thinking, I bent over to collect it. I kept it on my desk for a long time without really knowing why. But it comforted me and I never argued the reasons. I’ve since become somewhat of a constant collector of acorns. Most coats I wear usually have one or two in the pocket. I can’t really explain why but they bring me peace.
I think I shared this story with Dana around the time her own father was sick in the hospital. She understood. Sometimes the world moves too fast. Sometimes the world gets too big. And sometimes you just need a hug. And, if you are really lucky-- really, really fortunate, you have a friend who will send you an acorn in the mail when you need one. I call them portable hugs. I keep a bowl of them at my house. Come over sometime and I’ll give you one.