Honor Your Father and Your Mother

My parents are old. 89 and 91 respectively. That might even qualify as really old. Of course my idea of “old” changes with each passing year.

One of the commandments (I know it’s in the TOP TEN) tells us to honor our parents:

Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land the LORD your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12

mom dad 12-1-17Those are nice words but it’s not always an easy task, this honoring of your parents. Anyone with elderly parents will likely understand. At times it seems as if the roles have been reversed. My parents need more attention. They need more help. They need more understanding. They need more advice. They need more patience. They need more love. Their needs remind me of when we were raising our three children – always needing more than we had to give. And us always “running on empty” just doing the best we could.

Don’t get me wrong. My parents are doing very well for their ages. Remarkably well. And this may be part of MY problem. I still need to be “parented”. I still need their advice. I still need their attention. I still need their patience. I still need their love. And I don’t want to let go.

Recently Mom has had some health issues but she should be fine. Still her recovery at eighty-nine is not like it would have been 10 or 20 years ago and she is frustrated by this. The fact is: she has “Senior Citizen” children that expect her to live forever because she’s always been strong, healthy, active and alive. It’s selfish but it’s true. We need her to be our Mom not the other way around. Just the other day my Dad asked, my wife, Deb if she thought there was life after this life. It’s a startling question but when you’re ninety-one I suppose mortality is often on your mind. Another fact: Dad we don’t want you to leave us. Not now. Not ever.

But reality being what it is, I know that our life here on Earth cannot go on forever. I also realize that I am going to likely be facing some tough times ahead with my parents as they continue to age. Many of my friends and cousins have already lost one or both of their parents. Deb lost her Mom nearly 5 years ago. And none of us is ever ready to let go.

I will honor my parents them by giving them their dignity. I will honor them by helping where I can. I will honor them by “backing off” when I should. I will honor them by allowing them to make their own decisions. I will honor them by respecting their wishes and trying to be patient. I will honor them by remembering that THEY ARE THE PARENTS even if it seems at times that they need to be “parented”.

And I will do the best I can.

Peace,

Denis

 

 

Love Endures

mom dad weddingIn 1947 an 18 year-old girl named Dot and an (almost) 21 year-old guy named George tied the knot. He having recently completed his stint with the Navy in World War II and she fresh off the farm, these two kids met in August of 1946 and were married the following spring. For him it was love at first sight. For her it took a little convincing but not too much.

Sixty-nine years, four children, seven grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren (with an eleventh on the way) later, my parents are celebrating their wedding anniversary. And their love endures.

In an ever-changing world they have been a constant in my life. They have shared good times and bad. They have laughed and cried together. They have worked hard and played even harder. And their love endures.

Their marriage has survived 12 U.S presidents, 7 popes, the Korean War, Frank Sinatra, the building and demolition of the Berlin Wall, the Cold War, Elvis Presley, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedy Assassination, the Vietnam War, the Tonight Show, the political turbulence and racial unrest of the 1960’s, the Beatles, the Moon Landing, the “Me Decade” of the 1970’s, disco music, the Watergate Scandal, the Aids epidemic, Reaganomics, the technological advances of the 1990’s, Madonna and Michael Jackson, the Oklahoma City bombing, Oprah Winfrey, the 2000 millennium, Nancy Grace and Doctor Phil, hip-hop, 9-11, American Idol, gay marriage, iPhones, iPads and cars that can parallel park themselves. And their love endures.

mom dad 69I am blessed to be equal parts of both of them. I’d like to think that I’m the best parts of both of them. I know that I have Dad’s ears and chin and forehead and well, pretty much everything else. But the important parts are less about physical attributes and genetics and more about what has been imparted. Mom taught me how to pray. Dad taught me how to tell a good joke. Mom taught me the importance of cleanliness. Dad taught me the importance of family. Mom taught me how to do math in my head. Dad taught me how to build and fix things (and how to cuss when things don’t build or fix easily). Mom taught me that “early risers” get to enjoy the best part of the day. Dad taught me that watching old movies late at night can be just as rewarding. They both taught me how to love.

And Dad gave me the best advice ever on my wedding day. “When you have a fight, and you will, always be the first one to say you’re sorry. It won’t matter if she’s wrong and you’re right – just say you’re sorry. It’ll be the truth, too. Because you’ll be sorry that you fought.” I’ve never forgotten Dad’s words.

Having raised my own family and watching my grandkids growing up, I realize how important family is to me. I also know that the legacy of love and devotion of Dot and George will live on in generations yet to come.

Because their love endures.

Peace,

Denis

 

 

 

 

Why My Aunt Loretta Is The Reason I Was Born

My parents met in 1946.

Dad had been honorably discharged from the Navy and returned to his hometown. Young and restless after having seen the horrors of the Pacific in WWII and more of the world than he had ever imagined, he was living with his parents, his grandmother, three of his aunts and his two younger brothers in a cramped house. He was ready to be on his own!

Mom had recently left the family farm and had moved in with her married sister and her family to be near the shoe factory where she had found employment. Factory work wasn’t easy but it was easier than life on the farm, caring for a widowed father and an invalid brother. She was ready to be on her own!

On that fateful day in August, Mom was walking home from her job at Brown Shoe Factory with a co-worker named Wayne. Dad was tooling around town in his car and spotted Wayne, who was an old school freind, walking with a pretty young girl. Dad pulled over and asked Wayne if he and his girlfriend would like a ride. Wayne’s response: “Sure George, but she’s not my girlfriend.”

And off they went with Mom in the front seat between Dad and Wayne. Dad, ever the sly one, dropped buddy Wayne off first so he could be alone with Mom. Mom remembers hugging the passenger door and leaning as far away from ‘The Stranger’ as possible. She thought he was handsome and friendly but maybe too friendly. She was releaved to be safely dropped at her sister’s door.

Before driving away Dad asked Mom out – that night. There was a VJ (Victory over Japan) Day dance that evening and he was a returning Vet and she would make him so happy if she would be his date. She thanked him for the ride home but gave him the “brush off” by telling him that she was busy.

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Dot and George ~ Still in love after all these years

Dad, never one to take no an answer, went home, cleaned up and put on his best suit and showed up at Aunt Loretta and Uncle Les’ door to pick up his date in time for the big dance. When Mom realized he was there she ran upstairs and asked her sister to lie and say she wasn’t there. But Aunt Loretta must have seen something in Dad that Mom hadn’t seen, in her haste to get away from him earlier that day, or perhaps she just wanted Mom out of her house.

So Aunt Loretta yelled up the steps, “Dot, your date’s here!” And the rest is history.

That was 70 years ago and Mom and Dad are still in love and just recently celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary.

We lost Aunt Loretta a few years ago but I can still hear her laugh and say, “You can thank me! If I hadn’t opened that door back in August 1946, none of you would kids be here today!”

And so it is…

Peace,

Denis

If The Prodigal Son Had A Sister…

FULL DISCLOSURE – THIS IS A REPEAT. Today’s Gospel was the story of the Prodigal Son and I decided to repost this from September 2011…

I have two sons and a daughter. The sons both live a distance from us – one in Wisconsin and one in Korea. The daughter lives nearby. We see the sons (if we’re lucky) a couple of times a year. We see the daughter (and we are lucky) several times a week.

When we talk (Skype) with the sons, it’s usually about important upcoming events and significant happenings – weddings, births, travel, careers, etc. When we talk to the daughter, it can be mundane – what’s for dinner, aches and pains, the weather, etc.

It occurred to me recently that perhaps our daughter might sometimes feel like the older brother of the Prodigal Son. Needless to say, she’s here day-in and day-out listening to our latest complaints and answering our latest requests – always supportive, always cheerful, always ready for more. When “the boys” come to town it’s cause célèbre. And she often helps plan and carry out whatever festivities take place. By contrast, when she comes to dinner, she’s expected to set the table, help prepare the meal and clean up afterwards. Hardly seems fair…

Lucky Dad with Best Daughter in the World

But fairness is never part of the equation. Bess (our beautiful and gracious daughter) has inherited her mother’s gift of charity. She seldom thinks of herself first. She wants EVERYONE to be happy (and cared for, and well fed, and loved, etc.). She always gives of herself and she rarely expects anything in return. Her cheerfulness is contagious and she makes others happy by just being around her (again – a gift from her mother).

She’s here. She’s available. She’s constant. And I know that they say (whoever they are) that familiarity breeds contempt. But in our case it seems to me that familiarity creates family. We are family. And I need my daughter. And I hope she knows how much I love and appreciate her. I try to tell her in lots of small ways because we don’t have big celebrations for her and Travis and their children. We just have small celebrations and familiar and comfortable times together. And for me those small intimate gatherings are almost always more meaningful than the grand events planned for our sons.

And because of who she is, I doubt that Bess has ever resented her brothers or felt pushed aside when we “slaughter the fatted calf.” But just in case, she should know:

My (daughter), you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. ~ Luke 15:31

Peace,

Denis (Dad)

Thankful

Yesterday our granddaughter Anna brought home a worksheet from Kindergarten. It had a picture of pumpkins and a turkey which she carefully colored and a ‘fill-in-the-blank’ that stated:

thanful for NoahNoah is Anna’s 3 year-old little brother. At times he can be a pest. He will sometimes destroy a work of art or un-puzzle a puzzle or disrupt a tea party or throw a baby doll across the room or otherwise torment her. His behavior will likely produce a shrill “Noah!” But Anna loves Noah and Noah loves Anna. And she readily forgives him.

This love that they share is fostered in the love that their parents have for one another. Caring for each other is what my daughter and son-in-law do; it’s what my son and daughter-in-law do; what they model; what they teach. And the lesson is being learned. Loving parents create loving children. And somehow I think that Deb and I started this love fest.

I am thankful, too! Not just for Anna and Noah but for parents that are teaching their children to love one another. Thankful for forgiveness and second chances. Thankful for constant reminders that this life is precious and we are gifts to one another. Thankful that childish squabbles and petty differences can be resolved when we remember that our love for one another triumphs over all. Thankful that anger and resentment will cease when we forgive those who have wronged us (and when we forgive ourselves, too).

I am humbled by the profound and simple love that Anna and Noah share. For me they reflect God’s grace and beauty. To me they are examples of what is to come in heaven.

12-1-X2

Love! Joy! Peace!

The challenge for me of course is loving and forgiving my brothers and sisters. Not just my siblings – that’s easy. But this belief in God is troublesome. If we are all God’s children then we are all sisters and brothers. Ugh! That means that I have to love and forgive all the jerks and losers in my life. Not only that, but I have to love and forgive all the jerks and losers in all of creation! I suppose I could begin by not referring to them as jerks and losers. And of course I desperately need to receive some love and forgiveness, too.

So this Thanksgiving I will thank God for the honor of witnessing the love between a five year-old sister and her three year-old brother. I’ll try to learn from their beautiful example and attempt to be thankful for EVERYONE. And I will thank God for the forgiveness received when I mostly fail. I suppose I might learn to love someone previously deemed unworthy of my affection. Or better yet I might be loved by someone who finds me unlovable.

I’m happy to take my miracles in small doses…

Peace,

Denis

If The Prodigal Son Had A Sister…

I have two sons and a daughter. The sons both live a distance from us – one in Wisconsin and one in Korea. The daughter lives nearby. We see the sons (if we’re lucky) a couple of times a year. We see the daughter (and we are lucky) several times a week.

When we talk (Skype) with the sons, it’s usually about important upcoming events and significant happenings – weddings, births, travel, careers, etc. When we talk to the daughter, it can be mundane – what’s for dinner, aches and pains, the weather, etc.

It occurred to me recently that perhaps our daughter might sometimes feel like the older brother of the Prodigal Son. Needless to say, she’s here day-in and day-out listening to our latest complaints and answering our latest requests – always supportive, always cheerful, always ready for more. When “the boys” come to town it’s cause célèbre. And she often helps plan and carry out whatever festivities take place. By contrast, when she comes to dinner, she’s expected to set the table, help prepare the meal and clean up afterwards. Hardly seems fair…

Lucky Dad with Best Daughter in the World

But fairness is never part of the equation. Bess (our beautiful and gracious daughter) has inherited her mother’s gift of charity. She seldom thinks of herself first. She wants EVERYONE to be happy (and cared for, and well fed, and loved, etc.). She always gives of herself and she rarely expects anything in return. Her cheerfulness is contagious and she makes others happy by just being around her (again – a gift from her mother).

She’s here. She’s available. She’s constant. And I know that they say (whoever they are) that familiarity breeds contempt. But in our case it seems to me that familiarity creates family. We are family. And I need my daughter. And I hope she knows how much I love and appreciate her. I try to tell her in lots of small ways because we don’t have big celebrations for her and Travis and their children. We just have small celebrations and familiar and comfortable times together. And for me those small intimate gatherings are almost always more meaningful than the grand events planned for our sons.

And because of who she is, I doubt that Bess has ever resented her brothers or felt pushed aside when we “slaughter the fatted calf.” But just in case, she should know:

My (daughter), you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. ~ Luke 15:31

Peace,

Denis (Dad)

Thirteen Children and then some…

When I tell people that my mom is the 12th of 13 children I usually get one of two responses. The first one (and most likely) is: Wow! Are you serious? The second response, which never ceases to amaze me, is often something along the lines of “my mom (or dad) was one of 14 (or 15 etc.)” or “I knew somebody that came from a family of fifteen (or twenty)”. You get the idea. Maybe it’s true but it always seems a little doubtful. I think some people like to ‘one-up’. I just smile and say, “Oh, that is a big family”. What I want to say is, “Well okay then you win” “Just for the record, it was never a contest!” “And besides, even if your family is bigger it’s not better than ours!”

Mom is now 82 and is one of the ‘little girls’ – her younger sister is 81. All six of her brothers have passed away and three of her sisters are gone now, too. She and my dad are the only couple left in her generation. Her surviving sisters are: two widows and a nun. She also has two widowed sisters-in-law. Being one of the youngest in a large family has many blessings but watching your siblings die one by one is extremely difficult. We have spent the last few years attending a succession of funerals. With each loss Mom confronts her own mortality again.

Yesterday was a happy family gathering: a reunion. The Moellering Family hadn’t had a reunion in 10 years (not counting aforementioned funerals) and Mom couldn’t have been happier. Seeing Mom with her sisters and nieces and nephews made me realize how much of a Moellering that I am, too. I love our family! I’m proud to be part of this clan. We of the 13 brothers and sisters! We of the produce farmer granddad! We of the three aunts that were nuns! We, this big messy Catholic family that sometimes drinks too much, cusses and fights but always forgives and loves one another deeply. We, this fiercely proud group of hardworking, hard-headed, half-French, half-German, Midwesterners.

We are family!

Families. It’s God way of ALWAYS reminding us who we are. We will touch the future through our children and grandchildren. We continue to honor the past with our memories of those that loved us into being. We possess a unique bond with our siblings and our cousins that no one else can share. We are family. We are loved. We are Moellering!

Peace,

Denis

A Glimpse of Heaven

This has been whirl-wind week.  My grandson Noah was born on Monday and everything else just sort of fell in place behind that momentous event.  It’s amazing how one blessing can diminish all the crappy stuff in your life.  I’ve had my usual encounter with annoying and hateful people this week but somehow I have become invincible.  Their snide remarks and unloving behavior have had no effect on me.  Because of the love that God has shown me in Noah and his sister and his parents, NO ONE not even the curmudgeonliest interloper has stolen my joy.  I’m not even sure if curmudgeonlist is a word.  But guess what?  I don’t care!  I have a force-field of love shielding me from all the ugliness and hate in the world.  Take that – haters!

Noah "sizing up" his Daddy

I’ve had a glimpse of heaven this week.  And I’m hanging on to it as long as I can.  I don’t want to become someone who never faces reality (although it’s tempting) but for a while I plan on basking in the “afterglow” of Noah’s arrival here on earth.  Having him in our family has helped put a lot of little things in perspective – and some big things, too. 

Somehow bad drivers, annoying co-workers, demanding customers, and trying family members don’t seem to be worth getting upset about.  The annoying co-workers?  Well Anna was in my office on Tuesday winning hearts and cheering the place up in two-year-old fashion.  She told EVERYONE about her baby brother!  The gas station attendant that was smoking near the gas pumps on Wednesday was frightening but not important enough to fight about.  I just calmly asked her to put her cigarette out – so that we didn’t BOTH blow up.  I have too much to live for!  The customer that WANTS EVERYTHING IMMEDIATELY – is going to have to wait awhile.  I’ve got a baby to hold!  The trying family members – well I hope that Noah will melt their hearts, too.  After all, he’s got super powers!

And this week even simple kindnesses seemed to appear more loving, more caring, and more God-like.  It felt like people have smiled more, were more courteous, and were generally happier.  I believe the “joy of Noah” has had a rippling effect.  The best examples of God’s enduring love are these:  

  • After Noah’s first night home, big sister Anna awoke on Thursday morning to find him in bed with Mommy and Daddy.  Of course she crawled into their bed to join them.  When finally snuggled next to her baby brother, she patted him gently and said, It alright Noah, I here, I got you now.”
  • Last night while saying bedtime prayers, which now include Noah by name, Anna stopped and announced, “My whole family is here!”   And we were blessed once again for having been there.

So I’ve had my glimpse of heaven this week with my grandson in my arms and my granddaughter playing nearby.  And I’ve got to tell you – it’s a wonderful world!

Peace,

Denis

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAZqjsSZphE&feature=related

The Story of Noah

You all know the story of Noah and The Ark.  God tells Noah to collect two of every animal and put them on his boat (ark) before the Great Flood.  God saves the world with Noah’s help!  Even if you don’t believe in God, it’s a great redemption story.  A story of renewal and second chances.

Monday my daughter and son-in-law got their ‘second chance’.  Noah was born.  He is their second child.  A second chance for love.  And who knows how he will change our world – he’s already changed our family.  My guess is that he will work slowly – one heart at a time.  He is already responsible for so much happiness and he is barely aware of himself at this point.  Babies are ALWAYS about redemption and renewal – God’s way of letting us know we should keep on keepin’ on.  Noah gives me hope!

Noah looking more like Moses here

 

Noah Wilhelm Kleckner joined the world on Monday 9-20-10 with a bang!  Mommy (Bess) and Nana (Debbie) were at Bess’s regularly scheduled doctor’s appointment when Bess went into labor.  Here’s Deb’s account:

“I took Bess to the doctor for her last prenatal visit (she was going to be induced on Wednesday).  Travis stayed home with Anna because it was nap time and this was just supposed to be a routine visit.  Bess and I had lunch about 1 p.m.  She said that she had a couple of contractions earlier in the morning, but certainly nothing to get excited about.

Her appointment was at 1:45 and when we arrived we learned that Dr. Kodner had gone home sick.  So there was a longer than usual wait.  Bess had a couple of contractions and when she couldn’t talk while she was having one, we decided to start timing them.  They were 4 minutes apart for almost an hour.  So Bess went to the counter and said that she was pretty sure she had gone into labor while she was waiting.  They saw her pretty quickly after that!  They examined her and asked if she had her bag with her.  Of course she did not!  We went straight to the hospital.  I called Denis and told him to go to Bess and Travis’ house and not to goof around (as if I would – editorial comment) getting there.

We got to the hospital about 3:45.  Travis arrived a short while later.  By then Bess was telling us not to touch her or breathe on her!  She got an epidural and then life was much better.  She told Travis to go and get something to eat before things got too busy (he’s a known fainter).  The nurse broke her water about 6:15 and said she would be back in 30 minutes to check her progress.  When the nurse returned to check, she lifted the sheet and said “And…we’re…having a baby!”  It was remarkably calm and I was kind of stuck in the corner trying to stay out-of-the-way.  And just that quickly, Noah was born.

No one had planned on me being there but there was no time to leave.  I feel a little like I intruded on their very special time, but mostly I feel like I was right where God wanted me to be.  What a blessing to behold! ~ Love, Debbie”

Meanwhile big sister Anna and I were at home watching ‘Wonder Pets’ and waiting for THE CALL.  The good news came and we were summoned to the hospital where Anna would meet her little brother.

Holding my grandson Monday evening for the first time made me realize (once again) how much God has blessed us.  And I knew then that I was being given (another) second chance.

Peace,

Denis

Waiting (patiently?)

Our third grandchild was due yesterday.  YESTERDAY.  Apparently she or he doesn’t know that we (me?) are a very impatient family.  EVERYTHING is ready.  Bags are packed.  Exit strategies have been checked and double checked.  I’m sure our son-in-law Travis has developed a computer program that details the fastest, safest and most efficient way to travel to the hospital.  Now we just need the baby to join in the fun.

I think Bess is getting a little weary but she’s never been more beautiful and could be a model for some pregnancy magazine (if they have that sort of thing).  But still she’s ready to have her baby NOW.  Soon-to-be big sister Anna was telling me yesterday about how she plans to help with the baby by fetching diapers and singing lullabies.  She told me that babies go “wah, wah, wah, a lot” and that “they’re really little”.  So she’s prepared, too.  Travis is adorable – fretting over Bess and Anna and the ‘what, when, and why’, etc.  I love how much he loves my girls and I love him, too.

So here I am the granddad with nothing to offer.  I’m ready and patience has never been my ‘strong-suit’.  I just keep praying and thinking positive thoughts and try to be upbeat but that’s not much comfort to an overdue daughter and a nervous son-in-law.  I had a dream last night that Bess was hanging from some dangerously high beam at some construction site.  But I was able to save her!  And she was okay but she didn’t go into labor in my dream.  I guess I just need to feel like I’m serving some purpose even though this whole ‘having a baby thing’ is beyond my control.  When Bess was a little girl I could patch up a scraped knee but I’m completely useless in the baby delivery department.

Of course, there’s Nana Deb ALWAYS appearing calm in the face of uncertainty (man that bugs me!).  But I know that she’s as anxious as me and truth be known she’s getting a little antsy, too. 

One thing is for certain – Baby will arrive soon.  Dear God please grant me patience – but hurry!  Oh yeah, and help Bess and Baby, too.  Sometimes I forget that this isn’t all about me…

Peace,

Denis