The human brain is a remarkable instrument. When faced with things we don’t understand or can’t explain, the brain fills in the missing bits from the billions of informational bytes it has stored
Case in point: our cat came Friday morning as I was leaving for school. Unfortunately, Ralph passed away earlier this year. He was a very large presence in our household for 16 years and has been sorely missed, so it’s not surprising we see him everywhere and even hear him ticking the screen to be let in
I don’t believe in apparitions or ghosts, but I do believe that influence lives on. Ralph had that kind of influence on our lives. For such a small being (he weighed in around 15-25 pounds), he ruled the house. He took up massive amounts of space. Once stretched out, he seemed to dominate our six-foot couch and king-size bed. He seldom spoke, yet always made his presence known. Even when he deigned to grace us with an utterance, it was short, to the point and soft…a far cry from his kitten days when he wouldn’t shut up and his Siamese heritage was very much in evidence. And until Ralph came into our lives, I had no idea cats had a liquid state.
Since his death, we have stumbled over him, been surprised to see him under the futon in the back room, watched him slither between the flower pot and front door as he darted inside and heard him at the window or door asking to be let in. On occasion we’ve spotted him stretched out lion-like on the couch or sprawled on the carpet runner.
Even though we know he’s not there, our brains – long accustomed to having him constantly underfoot – will insist he is still (and ever will be).
An iconic institution for my family is Denny’s. Our relationship with Denny’s began when my husband and I were newlyweds and needed a “fancy” restaurant that didn’t break our pocketbook. Back then, Denny’s offered up a fantastic entree, salad, sides and dessert for $10. For seminary students on a tight budget, this was almost too-good-to-be-true. Not to mention their fantastic Grand Slam breakfasts for under $4!
Then came the kids and again, Denny’s came to our rescue. Family friendly with a laid back atmosphere, Denny’s didn’t mind our crew of rambunctious offspring and we could fill them up for a reasonable price. Denny’s also didn’t mind how long we stayed and kept the coffee cups full.
So it’s no surprise that when planning a date night, more often than not Denny’s is our choice of restaurant. It’s got a down home charm all its own, with friendly waitresses, is always open no matter the time of day or night, with quick service and the food is still excellent and affordable.
Sorry if this sounds like free advertising, but Denny’s is all about memories for my family and me. This is where we met with friends from far away to catch up on our lives. This is where we ate out with our children and had fun just being together. This is where we hung out with our college kids and their friends. Denny’s is where I can spend a romantic evening with my husband, talking, sharing and not competing with overly loud music or blaring televisions.
Denny’s is a symbol of what America still is among rural, small town communities. Denny’s is where we can always come home, even when we aren’t at home.
“Hold this,” my father said, handing me a crushed Coke can. I took it gingerly, thinking this had to be the most ridiculous command I’d ever been given. After all, what did holding a Coke can have to do with a 15-year-old girl using the public bathroom at the lake?
It definitely made things awkward, and although I toyed with the idea of dropping the offensive item once I was inside, I knew better. Dad would have had a screaming fit. Mission accomplished, I handed the can back to Dad, who promptly threw it back on the ground where he found it.
I bit back the angry retort and sullenly went back to fishing.
I don’t remember the rest of the day, but I remember for long years afterwards thinking what a stupid thing my father had asked me to do.
Fast forward 20 plus years: I’m in the library with my small daughter who needs the public restroom. We live in a small town; going to the restroom in the library ought to be safe, but it’s not. Just the week before a child had been accosted while her mother was a few feet away in the main room. I went with her and suddenly, like a glaring searchlight, flashed back to the scene at the lake. Overwhelmed, I wanted to burst out crying. My quiet, modest father had foreseen possibilities that I couldn’t fathom at that tender age. In his own way, he had sheltered me against an evil I wasn’t even aware of. The Coke can would have been a signal I needed help and he would have come running.
Unfortunately, by the time I’d matured enough to realize the priceless gift my father had given me that long ago summer day, he was no longer living. The saddest part of life is not realizing the value of someone else’s life, nor the impact it has. We often fail to see beyond what’s right in front of us to what is invisible, yet priceless.
Sometimes, the rough exterior of a common, ordinary, gray rock–like a life– hides a glittering treasure that often goes overlooked, unseen, unnoticed.