Friday, February 23, 2018

My Mother Taught Me Better Than That

Today is my birthday. But last week, my husband Murray decided to give me an early birthday present.

Our phone company had a great deal on an IPhone. Murray was so excited when he gave it to me.

I think my first words were, “I wanted an IPad.”

Not a very grateful response to an expensive gift.

Murray says he’s sure I told him I wanted an IPhone. What I remember is saying I wanted an IPad, to read ebooks. Maybe sometime I could get an IPhone, but for now, my cheap flip phone did everything I wanted, even text.

I’ve been having quite a bit of difficulty learning to use my new phone. My sons Benjamin and Caleb both use an IPhone. Caleb said almost every blind person he knows has one.

Well, that stiffened my spine a little. I refused to let myself be one of the only blind people who couldn’t use something, a former rehab teacher, who felt pretty capable of learning new technology.

Of course, the people Caleb knows are younger than I am, with far more flexible brains and fingers.

Caleb’s been working with me on using the phone. He is an encouraging and patient teacher. Yet we must remember the rough, raw student-material he has to work with. Me.

On one web site I found while looking for IPhone manuals, it said that people who’d never used an Apple product, or even a smart phone, would find learning to use an IPhone a difficult and frustrating process. It might take them several months.

That made me feel a little better. Maybe I’m not a dunce. Maybe.

It’s true. I’m used to using computers and devices with definite, clear buttons to push. Here we’ve got flicks and slides and drags, and finding the correct place on the screen.

Definitely frustrating. And not only did I not show Murray the proper thanks for his gift, but I’m constantly irritable about it. Sometimes I want to yell, “If you didn’t give me this dumb thing, I wouldn’t be having all this trouble!”

My mother definitely taught me better manners than that.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Beloved, Let Us Love One Another

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)

My husband Murray was talking with a lady at work the other day about Valentine’s Day. She said it was her favorite holiday, not because of romance, but just because we should love each other.

Murray said, “Yeah, like 1 John 4 7 and 8.” Turns out, she also knew the song from those verses which we used to sing with our kids.

God is love, and 1 Corinthians 13 shows us a great description of what God’s love is.

I have added this chapter to my group of bible passages to memorize. I find as I practice memory verses, the meaning comes through more clearly to me than when I’m just reading.

This chapter is a challenge I want to spend time learning about. I’m not putting down romantic love. That is a great gift from God. But in these verses, there is so much more to consider and work into my daily life.

1 Corinthians 13,

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind;
love is not jealous or boastful;
it is not arrogant or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends;
as for prophecies, they will pass away;
as for tongues, they will cease;
as for knowledge, it will pass away.
For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect;
but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child;
when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.
So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Such a Big Part of Our Lives

This article will be published in the Winter, 2017 issue of DIALOGUE Magazine under the title “A family Dog and So Much More.”

My son Caleb has always traveled with skill and courage. Early on, my husband Murray and I encouraged him to get a dog guide. In June of 2007, between his junior and senior year in high school, Caleb went to The Seeing Eye in New Jersey.

When Caleb got his dog, he laughed, and we did too. Her name was Esther, and so was one of the two cats who were part of our home. Two sweet Esthers, both such a big part of our lives, and we lost both this year.

Esther was a golden retriever. Her doctor, who has been a veterinarian for 26 years, said, “I’ve never met a golden retriever I didn’t like. They don’t make bad ones.”

Caleb’s mobility skills and confidence grew even more once he had Esther. He has never been afraid to travel alone to unfamiliar places, and Murray says Caleb always walks confidently.

Esther was accepted by students and staff in high school. Caleb got a special hat for her for the occasion, and she walked, happily,  with him in his graduation ceremony.

She didn’t actually walk with him in the marching band, but she was always there with him for practice and other band activities. At Caleb’s final marching band award ceremony, Esther got “The Two Left Feet” award.

Esther also attended college with Caleb, approved his roommates in the dorm, and walked with him at his graduation for his bachelors in English. He said she slept through every class he took, sometimes yipping in her dreams, which amused the other students.

Our youth minister used to stop by our row in church to say hi to us. “Hello, Abigail … hello, Martha. Good seeing you in church.” I asked Caleb what he was talking about, and Caleb said, “He’s pretending he can’t remember which Bible name Esther has.”

Our family always worked hard—not with a hundred percent success, but not bad—to support Caleb with using Esther as a dog guide. We didn’t feed her table food; we wouldn’t pet her when she was working. If we bought her a new toy, we’d give it to Caleb to give to her. He was in control of her.

But when the harness came off, she was a family dog. So many wonderful memories.

When she was young, she’d greet us by jumping up and placing her paws on our chest. Esther weighed around sixty pounds, and Caleb carried her around the house like a baby.

She usually lay by my feet at the dinner table, not begging, but hopeful. I didn’t purposely drop crumbs to her, but she seemed to think I was the most likely to do that. She loved to lick my feet, and always sniffed them disappointedly when it got cold enough for me to start wearing socks in the fall.

Esther met us at the door when we came home with a gift in her mouth, either a toy, or a shoe. After Caleb retired her a little over a year ago, she would jump up before he even opened the front door. She could hear him coming home. Until her last days, when she had trouble walking, she still met Caleb at the door. He was her person.

But since she retired, she spent most of her days, while Caleb was at work, lying beside my feet as I worked on the computer or read or knitted. She was my precious friend.

When I came down stairs in the morning, Esther met me at the bottom with a toy in her mouth, growling. She hated thunder storms, and even when I couldn’t hear the thunder, she could, and she’d forget she was a big dog and try to climb in my lap.

A memory I’ll always hold dear. This summer, when Caleb, Sarah and Murray were all out of town, I had gone to bed when I heard Esther jumping at my bedroom door and crying. It was thundering, and she needed me. She was a very well-behaved dog, and she’d never done that before, but there was no one else she could reach in the house, and it was an emergency.

In August or September of this year, we noticed a lump on Esther’s face and took her to the vet. She had a tumor, and, since she was twelve years old, they discussed with us treating her with hospice care, making sure she was as comfortable as possible for however long she seemed to still be enjoying life.

Some of the closest and hardest times I’ve shared with my children is when we’ve lost pets.

I remember Rebecca coming to my room one night, and we cried together after she found her box turtle Scumbo dead. (Murray was responsible for that name, and Scumbo was truly a fun family pet.)

Rebecca and I lay on the living room floor for most of the night with her kitty Holly the night she died.

Sarah cried with me earlier this year when my cat Esther died.

And early on November 6, Sarah, Caleb and I all sat on the floor around our sweet dog, waiting for the veterinarian office to open so Caleb could call for an appointment.

Later that morning, Caleb and I both stood with our hands on Esther as the doctor put her to sleep.

When Caleb gets another dog, we’ll love him and have fun with him. But that will never change the fact that Esther was such a great part of our lives.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Sweet Memories, Where do all These Thoughts Come From?

June 19, 1995: Sarah went to the hall closet to get her flip-flops, and then Rhoda came upstairs. Sarah came running into my room sayingRhoda was chasing her. (Sarah was still nervous about the kitty.) I asked if she had her flip-flops. She said she just had one. I said she needed to get two. She said, "No,because I want to be Diddle diddle Dumplin'."

June 27, 1995: Last night Rebecca asked us, "When it gets dark outside, and it's time to go to sleep, does Jesus turn the light off? Is there a switch?"

June 27, 1995: This afternoon Sarah and I were doing Humpty Dumpty,and Sarah said, "All the kings horses and all the kings men, had scrambled eggs for breakfast."

June 30, 1995: This morning Rebecca asked if they could take their flip-flops and their tennis shoes on our trip, and I said yes. Sarah asked, "How can we take tennis shoes and flip-flops because we justhave two legs and two feet?"

We were talking about how the people of Israel walked in the wilderness, and God had to give them water out of rocks and food fromHeaven. Sarah asked if God cooked, and I said yes. Sarah or Caleb asked if there was a kitchen in Heaven, and Rebecca said, "A holy kitchen."

Caleb was in the bathtub, and I went in to help him. I asked,"Are you ready young man?" He said, "I'm a big o frog."

July 3, 1995: Last year, Caleb went to school after lunch, just for the afternoon. Last week we were talking about how next year he will go all day, from after breakfast until almost supper time. The nextday or so he asked me, "Do you know why I want to go to school after lunch?" "Why?" "So it will be quicker." Murray said he'd like to goto work after lunch, too.

This afternoon, we were talking about how chickens gave us eggs, and cows gave us milk, and Caleb asked who gave us bananas. I said banana trees, or banana plants. Caleb said, no, that wasn't right. I asked him, "Then who does give us bananas?" He replied, "Monkeys."

July 6, 1995: One night Rebecca asked when she and Sarah were sleeping on thecouch in the living room, "When Rhoda grows up, will she be a lion?"

Yesterday Caleb said, "I'm the vehicle guy. I drive tractors, lawn tractors, trains and mopeds."

July 12, 1995: Today at lunch the kids were talking about birthdays and how old people are, and I said Grandpa Brinkmann is 67. Caleb said excitedly, "He's gonna have a bunch of candles!" and Rebecca said he would have a big cake.

July 15, 1995: We were talking about who my Mommy is, and I said it is GrandmaBrinkmann. Rebecca asked, "Does she tell you what to do?"

July 20, 1995: Last night at Vacation Bible School, the kids made telescopes out of construction paper rolled into spirals with papercups at the large end. Caleb excitedly showed us his, and we askedhim what it was. "It's a paper long thing with a cup!" he replied.

This morning I was telling the kids the story of Adam and Eve. Rebecca asked me if sometime I would make up a story about Adam andEve living in the garden, and the devil asked them to eat the fruit,and they said, No.

July 24, 1995: We told the kids that missionaries are people who go around telling people about Jesus. Yesterday we asked Caleb to prayfor missionaries. He prayed, "Help us to go around telling peopleabout missionaries."

July 28, 1995: At breakfast Rebecca asked, "If all the people who love Jesus tell all the other people, is Heaven big enough for everybody?"

At lunch Caleb said, "If we turn the house over, and put thecarpet in the air, we'll walk on the roof."

August 4, 1995: One day Rebecca was being mean to one of the other kids, and I reminded her that Jesus wanted her to be kind to them. She said, "But Mommy, everybody does sins." I said yes, but we needto try not to. She said, "But it's hard." (God bless her—isn’t that true?)

It's been raining a lot this week. The other day Rebecca asked,"Mommy, you know our shower hose? Does God have a great big hose to make it rain?" I talked a little bit about clouds and how they work,and she asked, "Does God have a button He pushes to make the cloudsrain?"

Rebecca has been playing songs on the piano, and we always sing a lot. The other day she said that we are like computers for God. He gives us music and we print it out when we sing or play the piano.

August 5, 1995: The people from Taiwan were here today, (Ping-Hwei came to visit us first the year before we adopted him, to make sure that was what we, and he, really wanted.) and we were discussing how they eat rats there sometimes. Rebecca asked why they ate animals. I told her that we ate animals. She said no, we didn't. I said sure we did, like hamburger is from cows. She said, "That's food; it's not an animal." (This was probably the beginning of her decision to be a vegetarian.)

Sarah was sitting on my shoulders tonight, and she called,"Daddy, look how cute I am!)

August 8, 1995: Tonight Rebecca had fixed up something she wanted to show Murray. She said to him, "It's ready for you. Your treasuresare laid up."

August 15, 1995: Last night Rebecca called down after she was in bed, "At night-time, if we didn't go to sleep, and just played, wouldit still get to be another day?"