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Random Slooooww Takes

Another Way for week of January 20, 2017

Random Slooooww Takes

My husband and I had just been having a discussion in which a lot of negative statements about random people (drivers, slow people in parking lots, etc.) were streaming out. As we got out of our car to enter a grocery store to pick up some take-out chicken we had ordered for a family reunion, I challenged both of us to think positive thoughts about ten things or people we found in the grocery store.

For instance, I see a smiling young man and think, wow, what a happy good looking fellow. He put me in a better mood. Score one. That kind of simple happy thought was what I was suggesting.

So next, I’m waiting at the deli for the chicken as my husband scouts other parts of the store. It’s one we don’t get to very often on the far side of town, and has a wonderful selection of gourmet and specialty products. At the deli they have tickets to mark your place in line, which is fine with me. No messing up who’s next in line that way, right? In my new happy mood, I’m fine with waiting. We have plenty of time before the reunion.

One customer enjoys his third “taste sample” before ordering a huge quantity of like three or four slices (dripping sarcasm here) of one specialty meat—a duet the deli worker and customer slowly play out. (Like this: customer names a meat, they discuss its merits, deli guy cuts a sample, customer chews it, decides to take it, deli guy then cuts another sample to test the desired thickness of the cut, which customer approves, deli guy cuts the three pieces ordered, puts them in a deli bag with price, then wraps the hunk of meat and puts it away. Repeat. Three times. And THEN customer moves on to the cheeses.)

Another clerk does the same with another male customer in front of me who acts out roughly the same choosey scenario only he at least orders a stack of his preferred meats, like maybe a half or full pound. A third male customer is next in line, and then me. At this rate we might get to the reunion some time this week.

I begin to look for a secret camera filming me being Ms. Patient Customer Annoyed By Overly-Picky Male Deli Customers. It reminded me also of Zootopia’s hilarious (but oh so frustrating) scene where a sloth takes his slooooww sweet time helping a hurried customer at the Division of Motor Vehicles.

When the exceedingly lengthy session with the first customer wraps up (and he leaves), I notice that the deli workers exchange some words and carefully disguised looks of their own. That particular deli worker then exits the scene, apparently because it is HIS lunch hour now. Ok.

My real life persona is yes, getting increasingly annoyed; the wife who pledged a Ms. Cheerful resolve, long gone. My husband returns to find me still waiting. I mutter my snarky description of what’s been going on in line.

Do things like this happen to you too? You determine to think good thoughts about people instead of being all judge-y and then this happens. Frustration. Delay. People surprising you with their ineptitude or unawareness of others.

Meanwhile, what are others thinking of me: the frowny woman with messy hair and slightly stained coat? Or horrors: do they watch my ineptitude when I sometimes try to give a clerk the exact change, fumbling to find the hiding dime?

Still, the exercise in turning one’s thought positive is a worthwhile one because without my resolve, I would have been even more impatient and frustrated. I would not have paused to think about these wonderful guys, perhaps on errands for their wives who were preparing beautiful New Year’s platters for some party at home. Or who so willingly took over grocery shopping for the family. I would not have been inwardly praising my husband for having the foresight to order the chicken ahead of time even though in the time we (still) waited, we likely could have caught, butchered and fried our tasty chicken.

We know that gratitude begets gratitude and happiness; researchers have proved what the writer of Proverbs opined centuries ago: “A cheerful heart doeth good like medicine.” Or like writer Thornton Wilder penned, “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”

I challenge you—and myself—to train yourself to think thankful and positive thoughts as you awake in the morning, thanking God for being there, for your day, for your loved ones, your treasures. The good thoughts will help you get through waiting in lines, a traffic jam, the red light that has decided that it will never ever change as long as you are sitting there.


If you haven’t seen the Zootopia segment, here you go.

Does just watching this drive you up a wall? You’re with me!


What are your tips for thinking positive thoughts and cultivating gratitude? With your permission, I’d love to share them with others. Email me at or write to Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, Va. 22850.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books, most recently Whatever Happened to Dinner. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication. 





















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Another Way Media, PO Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22850






When I “worked” for Charles Wampler Jr.

Charles Wampler Jr., a local poultry “icon” as our paper called him, has died at the age of 101. I feel privileged to say I worked for him, kind of, one autumn. I arranged a “professional internship” with the company his family founded, which was a continuing education sabbatical for me from my regular job at then Mennonite Media. awamplerfoodsI still have “a company shirt” for WLR Foods (a company long ago swallowed up in merger). I learned a lot that fall being exposed to how working in corporate communications a for-profit poultry company is worlds different (with many similar principles) than working for a not-for-profit media firm. You can read the story of that internship here.

The wonderful stories and laudatory remarks about Mr. Wampler have poured forth. He helped to found our area’s United Way chapter, served as a state legislator, was a great philanthropist and board member for the hospital, his church, the university (JMU and Virginia Tech) and countless charities. Word on the street is that he did these things because he enjoyed them, not to make a great name for himself. He truly deserves the outpouring of praise and remembrance, from senators to employees to little country stores. (Update: Opps, this is a different Charlie Wampler! Common name in our county. But I love the sentiment and the lovely drawings Grandles Glen View Market comes up with in little Singers Glen, so I’ll let it stay.)


One comment posted on our local TV channel’s Facebook page said:

From Tina Merica Warner: “I worked for Wampler Foods many years ago and you could not have met a nicer person than Charlie Wampler, Jr. He made a point of speaking to everyone he came in contact with and never met a stranger. RIP Charlie. My thoughts and prayers are with the Wampler Family.”

And Mr. Wampler’s daughter said this in a 2015 100th birthday article (he was born on Thanksgiving Day, 1915, so fitting for a turkey producer!) about her father in The Washington Post: “He would walk through the processing plants and call people by name, and they would call him Charlie,” recalls daughter Barbara Melby, 72. “He treated everybody with respect, and I think that was the secret.”

But 101-year-old legends have many great stories circulating about them, including this from that same Washington Post article. His father, Charlie Sr., who was inducted into American Poultry Historical Society’s Hall of Fame for his role in discovering that turkey eggs could be hatched without a mamma turkey keeping them warm, was an inventor and innovator.

“My father did all the thinking,” Charles Jr. commented when the WP reporter interviewed him. “I did all the work. And that’s a fact.” The writer recorded that everyone then “erupted into laughter at the line: daughter, reporter, photographer, even the birthday boy (2015).”

The line that caused me to erupt in inner laughter came the fall of my “professional internship” when Mr. Wampler came around the corporate communication office when my boss, Gail Price, was not there. Earlier Gail had introduced us, explained what I was doing for her and the company, and he had been content with our slightly unorthodox “grown up” internship.

This time, Charlie walked through the office, said hi and then asked me quizzically, “Are we paying you?”

Inside my head, I roared, secretly believing this told me a little something else about dear Mr. Wampler. He knew how to watch a dime. But politiely I responded, “No sir,” and added, “My own company is paying me.” (To my own boss’s foresighted credit, Mr. Ken Weaver!)

Mr. Wampler meets my mother. So, what happens when one man “who doesn’t know a stranger” and is wont to erupt with great lines, meets my mother, who absolutely doesn’t know a stranger either and has been known to say whatever is on her mind?

Several years after my internship, my mother and father enjoyed a 50th anniversary trip to Puerto Rico and like they did everywhere they went, looked up missionaries or churches. At a church there they ran into Charlie Wampler Jr. also traveling in Puerto Rico. They struck up a casual conversation and were surprised to learn Wampler was a Church of the Brethren member and from Virginia. “Our daughter lives in Virginia,” they explained. They shared their commonalty of both having been poultry farmers, even though their “career tracks” went markedly different directions in terms of monetary success. Mother of course recognized the name “Wampler” from some of their deli products she had tried at one time.

Mom, who often wrote to companies to tell them what she thought if a product did not meet her expectations, proceeded to tell Mr. Wampler that his chicken hot dogs, which she had tried because of sticking religiously to a low-cholesterol diet, were not worth carrying home. I’m not sure what happened next but I don’t think my mother will mind my sharing this story because, in her book, it was the truth and they needed to know.

I salute Mr. Wampler and the family for Charlie’s volunteering as many as five days as week as a greeter in the local hospital cafeteria up until he was 99, and “part time” as recently as two weeks ago, according to his obituary. One woman I know who works at the hospital says she’ll miss his greetings.

His grandson, Harry Jarrett Jr. reflected in the 2015 WPost article, “Everybody loved him because he was, and still is, obviously, very personable.” Harry is a former pastor and communicator par excellence himself. The Jarretts now operate the family farm “Sunny Slope” as a special events destination (weddings, events, reunions). “He cares about people. He remembers people’s names. I don’t think he was just interested in building a multimillion-dollar business, which of course he ended up doing. But he really had a heart for the community.”

We could do worse than emulate Mr. Charlie Wampler Jr. for his faith, his community spirit, and for his love of and interest in people. RIP and many happy memories to the family.


Any Charlie Wamper Jr. or Sr. stories to share? I’m all ears. Remembrances?


When the Christmas You Got is Not the Christmas You Wanted

Another Way for week of January 13, 2017

When the Christmas You Got is Not the Christmas You Wanted

I’m still pondering the events of the past couple weeks. People ask, “Did you have a good Christmas?” As with the even more common question “How are you?”, people don’t really want or need the complete run down.

But where and when can you share some of the quiet and small disappointments that leave you leaning on bigger truisms such as “It could have been worse.”

Oh yes, lots worse. We had relatives who lost a beloved mother—too young—three days before Christmas. Locally, a house fire claimed lives of two kids the day after Christmas who never got a chance to finish growing up (ages 12 and 14). A fun and adventurous former colleague of mine (also with children who are maybe 9 and 12) is fighting for his life against a vicious and stubborn cancer. If there is anyone who is putting up a more tenacious cancer battle, it might be the pastor who has waged her war for 10-12 years, including a leg amputation.

My heart has been heavy with all these difficulties, let alone thinking of Syrian refugee children in Aleppo going through hell while the children don’t having any inkling of why they must suffer so.

Someone else’s suffering is just about always worse. I feel embarrassed at my own petty problems. The short version of our story is some of my grandchildren were sick to the point that it did not seem wise for them to travel to our house for Christmas as they had planned and longed to do all fall. Having a little one spend a day and a half in the hospital four to five days before Christmas and another son trekking to an emergency room on Christmas Eve in an ambulance is not how any of us want to spend the week before Christmas.

Still, it’s okay to name your own disappointments so you can deal with them and move on.

I know that dozens and even hundreds of families dealt with sickness at Christmas—usually the minor colds and flu that put a monkey wrench into plans. Avoiding bugs with little ones around is almost impossible. What’s fun is figuring out how to rescue plans and bring a bit of cheer to whoever has the biggest disappointment. In our case we ended up driving about five hours early on Christmas morning to get to our daughter’s in time to spend the better part of a day and half with her and her family.

Once we resigned ourselves to our change of plans, we focused on having as happy of day as we could. Long distance we figured out a menu that I could transport to them with mostly stuff I had on hand, and my daughter scurried out Christmas Eve to buy a turkey breast. It made me newly thankful for clerks and other workers who work late on holidays, not for procrastinators, but those who have to change plans.saminhospital

My daughter also mentioned her gratefulness for the hospital workers who cared for her five-month-old son Christmas Eve when they likely had families to be with as well, and also for the nurses and helpers who came around to the three-year-old grandson hospitalized earlier that week. They helped him “make” a gingerbread house (actually applying some of the frosting and decorations), and Sam even received a visit from members of a local professional basketball team. These kinds of wonderful good will gestures are made in every children’s hospital and pediatrics department all across North America, I’m sure. It has made me and my family much more mindful of those who are sick and suffering over the holidays—and those who take care of them.


So when we don’t quite get the holidays we planned and hoped for, thanking God for our blessings anyway is something I’m sure Mary and Joseph did too with their unexpected change of plans some 2000 years ago. I love the choice of words many versions of the Bible use in talking about all of the events leading up to and after the historic birth of Jesus. Luke 2: 19 says, “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” We do well to do more contemplation on what’s important as we go through life.


How was your Christmas: great moments or disappointments? Email me at or write to Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, Va. 22850

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books, most recently Whatever Happened to Dinner. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  


Learning to Cook Gluten-Free

Learning to Cook Gluten-Free: Plus an Easy Gluten-Free Sugar Cookie Recipe

No, not for me, but a grandson.

Which means our whole extended family is embarking on a journey nobody wanted but everyone gets to participate in–which is something every family which has any of various food allergies experiences. I touched on this a few weeks ago, before I had tried mixing up our own gluten-free flour blend, which I learned about from Julie of Mennonite Girls Can Cook fame, here.

So here’s a summary of some of my learnings so far:

  1. My first discovery was wow, you can make a flour out of almost any food that grows in a garden, rice paddy, tree or bush: peas, beans, chickpeas, potatoes, rice, corn, popcorn, nuts! I’ve been cooking over 40 years and did not know some of these flours were possible.
  2. You don’t even have to buy a wheat grinder. You can use a coffee grinder, which I have but don’t use much any more. And of course that takes forever, but you can give it a try.
  3. This stuff can be very expensive in ground forms. But if you don’t have the patience or time or makingflourblendresizedgrinder and can find a bulk food store that stocks these items already ground up, you will likely save megabucks over buying them from a health food store. Nothing against health food stores, except not being able to afford much there. I ended up buying one bag of potato starch (different from potato flour) in a health food store which cost double what I paid for the other bags purchased at Sharp Shopper, (a small chain of grocery outlets that have all kinds of things for less, such as canned or frozen items which are almost past their best “sold by” date). But their bulk food section has a wonderful selection and fresh items not soon expiring.
  4. Help is always at your fingertips online. Here’s a great WikiHow To Do Anything on making your own flour, and storing it. If you are not using such flour right away, do freeze it as it will keep much longer (year or more); just be sure to bring what you use to room temperature before mixing up, especially if using it in a yeast dough recipe.


    Julie’s Blend Flour that I mixed up at home. I shared half the results with my daughter whose son has Celiac.

  5. Don’t feel you need to reinvent the wheel. I am ecstatically grateful for all the research and experimentation Julie did in coming up with her blend.
  6. But do experiment and adapt. I ended up using Julie’s Blend of flour for a Christmas cookie very similar to our all-time favorite simple sugar cookie recipe of Mary Lou McMillin from my church. These tasted grittier than using normal flour (duh) but my grandson enjoyed his special Christmas decorated cookies.
  7. Stick your neck out. I also tried my hand at Julie’s Winner’s Bread (scroll to bottom of that page) and baked it for James for the holidays. He was able to enjoy grilled cheese sandwiches with our homemade vegetable soup the same as we did. What a treat for us all–that we could eat grilled cheese without feeling sorry for James because he had his own homebread and sandwich. (The bread disappeared so fast I forgot to get a picture of it!)
  8. In some ways, this is like learning to cook and bake all over again. The steps of recipes I have down pat from years of using them—even if I don’t have the recipe totally memorized—are like second nature. Julie adds steps or hints throughout her recipe that I found very helpful—and very new. Instead of kneading this bread, for instance, (which is too sticky and gooey to even think of doing), you wet your hands with warm water to smooth the top of the loaf.
  9. Bring your best concentration game to the kitchen so you don’t lose track of which steps you’ve completed or else you’ll make a big expensive mistake. For instance, the blend called for one cup of most of the flours, but then switched to just ½ cup of two flours, and I accidentally doubled the amount of cornstarch. I did not throw it out when I discovered my mistake, and just went with it.
  10. Don’t first try these recipes while simultaneously keeping a toddler from hurting himself, or walking a baby on the hip while cooking. Aim for naptime!

I know I have a whole lot more to learn.

I adapted Julie’s Lemon Butter Cookies – gluten-free recipe from Mennonite Girls Can Cook blog because the cookies seemed so much like Mary Lou’s, which I decorate with different colored sugars at different times of year/occasions. Here are Julie’s.

Simple Gluten-Free Sugar Cookies


  • 1 cup butter – salted
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 lg. egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups Julie’s Flour Blend + 1 rounded tablespoon (or use any purchased gluten-free flour mix)
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • sweet rice flour – for handling the dough
  1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Add egg and beat well.
  3. Add vanilla.
  4. Blend well the xanthan gum into the flour.sugarcookiedough
  5. Using as little sweet rice flour as needed, you can either roll this dough out or form walnut size balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheets. Press them slightly with the bottom of a cup or glass which you’ve buttered and then dipped in plain white sugar (so it won’t stick to dough).pressdowncookies
  6. Top with colored sugar or sprinkles of your choice, or leave plain.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes …  just until the edges begin to turn golden.
  8. Remove from oven and cool on tea towel, paper towel, or cooling racks.
  9. If you didn’t add colored sugar, ice or otherwise decorate as desired, or leave plain.

These were the Mary Lou sugar cookies (decorated with happy colors) I shared with staff at MennoMedia when announcing we would be grandparents in 2013.


Allergies in your family? How have you adapted your cooking when sharing family meals? I’d love to hear! 


If you have gluten-free recipes or websites or tips to share, here’s your space!


Both cookbooks from Mennonite Girls Can Cook include marked GF recipes suitable for gluten-free diets, and available here.

Mennonite Girls Can Cook

Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations

Fly on a Wall Sunday School Class


James Madison University, just blocks from our church.

Another Way for week of January 6, 2017

What can you learn listening to secular university students talk about their faith or inner life like it was a reality TV show of some kind? Peers talking candidly to peers, with a bunch of over-50’s listening in?

That was the premise of one Sunday school class for adults at our church recently.

If you were in the student shoes, what do you say? What do you NOT want to say?

I loved the concept of listening in, and soon got out my pen and paper to take notes. Our congregation sits almost next door to a major university of 25,000 students, the “gown” growing larger every year whether the “town” likes it or not. We are realizing—and have for years—that the university should be very much on our radar for outreach. Mission. Engagement. Whatever you want to call it.

Some years we have done better than others and our new young pastor (still in her mid thirties and her husband, also a pastor), are especially interested in connecting with this demographic just because they have enjoyed working with students so very much.


Fellowship meal at our church, Trinity Presbyterian.

How do you talk about your faith or inner life when this Sunday is the first time you’ve even stepped inside of a church, as one student said, “in many many years”.

One pondered, “I wonder if our generation goes to church less than previous generations?” Well, maybe, but suddenly I am back in college myself. For the first time in my life when I wake up on Sunday mornings, I have the option to NOT go to church. I drag myself out of bed the first few Sundays as a college Freshman and attend “campus church” at my Christian college, which feels like just another version of the weekday chapel services I’m required to sit through. So of course it feels scandalous the first time I just sleep in and don’t go to church. Deliciously naughty. That’s part of going to college, or really just being a young adult and able to make your own decisions (whether or not you go to college).

Another student admits he doesn’t know Christian theology or Bible stories. He’s not alone in that, either.

So it is refreshing when the lone practicing Christian (Catholic) among them pipes up and offers that she actually loves the liturgy, the ritual, and the idea of sacrificing (even Sunday morning sleep), to put your life out there for a larger purpose and reason.

Another fellow talks about how kids on campus complain “There’s nothing to do here” in our comparatively small town and inwardly I roll my eyes. One talks about the “campus bubble” and I recall how I could go weeks without ever stepping foot off my campus, which happens to be on the other end of this same city. When you don’t have a car, and in a time when this city had NO bus system at all, you are definitely in a campus bubble. They hint they would like to be about more than parties and hook ups, though that word is not used.

The Catholic student talks about how in one of her music classes, her professor had the various parts (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) work together to figure out what was off in their singing and how to fix it. Perhaps that’s also a model for areas where colleges or universities seem to represent many lost opportunities—especially where there are major retirement communities like we have here with hundreds of lonely people often living far from their families; refugee and immigrant families struggling with jobs, housing and language; and single working parents still needing help to keep food on the table.

These students could have been from almost any university in the U.S. or Canada—even Christian colleges. How does what they had to say—and the potential to engage with them hit you? Are there possibilities to help them become more connected with your congregation and with faith—or the needs you are helping with in your area?

Thoughts, examples, or stories you’d like to share? I would love to do a follow up with your examples. Email me at or write to Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, Va. 22850.

More on Trinity Presbyterian Church.


Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books, most recently Whatever Happened to Dinner. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

A Day in My Life at 65

alarmclockAnother Way for week of December 30, 2016

After a lifetime of setting the alarm at least five mornings a week, with most of the last three years getting up at the ridiculous hour of 3:15 a.m., my husband and I are enjoying not setting the alarm.

Yes, I’m still gainfully employed and do indeed need to get to work by 8 a.m. We just don’t have to set the alarm because after getting up all those years as early as we did, and not sleeping as soundly as we used to, well, the sun or the dog or the cat gets us up if we snooze too long.

So, most days after I get up and let the dog out, I make a small pot of coffee for myself and enjoy hobby writing for my blog, my newspaper column, or the magazine I edit before going to my day job. My husband gets up when he feels like it, having retired earlier this year, (a very good decision, by the way, given his circumstances). He makes his own pot of coffee (I drink decaf and he drinks regular) and he seems to enjoy puttering in the kitchen to fix a little breakfast for himself.

Then three or four days a week, he heads off to the wellness center of a nearby retirement housing complex where he works out doing strengthening exercise in a gym and pool. (I never, ever thought I would write those words about my husband. Yes, I’m very happy he’s working out!) Meanwhile, I get myself ready and head to my job. If I have time before I start work, I take a 20 minute walk; if I can’t squeeze it in then, I try to do so over my lunch time.

After work, I throw together a meal: meat, potatoes or another starch, a vegetable or a salad, and usually, vanilla ice cream for dessert. I would say my cooking is less complicated than it was when we were raising our three daughters. In reality, I often don’t cook more than three nights a week; the other nights we have either leftovers, eat out (fast food or cheap restaurant) and every other week, have a Lions Club meeting with an evening meal. So, the fact that my husband doesn’t cook more than steaks, hamburgers and in the ancient past, barbecue chicken, and now fixes himself lunch and breakfast, my cooking has been cut way back. I do enjoy cooking when I have time; I also dig having company, including our children and grandchildren.

bdaymelodie60thAt 65, I do think more now about the time I have left: will I get another ten, twenty or thirty years? Forty was not a big deal for me, joking even when I got to 50 and 51 that “Fifty-one is practically 50, which is not far from 49, and 49 is not far from 40 which might as well be 39.” Follow that? You could say I was in either in rabid denial, or that I was quite happy in my own skin and comfortable with getting older, or something like that.

But 65? That’s a number to reckon with. If I get to live to be 85, wow, that’s only twenty years away. Twenty years is not that long of time so I’m starting to think, what do I want to still do in the next 20 years? Where do I want to travel while still on this earth, and able? Will I be in heaven or the afterlife in 20 years? Psalm 90: 10 in the King James Version says the days of our years are three score and ten, or perhaps four score (if you remember that a score is 20). So the Bible puts the average life at that time 70 or 80.

Thank the Lord, we don’t get to know these things, or at least most of us don’t. So the important thing is yes, get around to doing the things we really want to do, and try to enjoy each and every day or minute as we live it. Like one of my favorite authors, Thornton Wilder wrote in the play “Our Town,” in lines spoken by Emily, “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?”

So, that is my goal for the New Year: to spend more time reflecting and expressing what is important to do, and then doing it, as time and funds allow. My husband and I have always dreamed of spending time volunteering for disaster work or other longer term assignments. I hope we can still do that, depending on health.

And even though I’m not retired yet, it sure is nice not to set an alarm. There are too many years of that. Time to celebrate!

For a free booklet, “A Loving Legacy” for families with aging parents to fill out together, email me at or write to Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, Va. 22850.


Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books, most recently Whatever Happened to Dinner. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication. 

Turning Tables: A Christmas Story

Another Way for week of December 23, 2016
Turning Tables: A Christmas Story
Why had Midge insisted they invite her father to move in with them? Didn’t they truly have enough “family” on their hands when their 28-year-old son, Bob, had moved back home?
“Coming, Dad,” Midge sighed in response to her father’s insistent “Midge, Midge, I need some help back here!” On her way past the bathroom, she grabbed a package of corn pads, adhesive tape, and scissors. Of course Cleve couldn’t reach his toes himself. Of course the cushion helped his walking be less painful.
“Can’t you turn up the heat in here?” Dad asked when she got to the door of his room.
“You’re still cold?” she shook her head. He had on long underwear, a thick flannel shirt and sweat pants, plus a plush men’s housecoat. His bushy eyebrows just furrowed in response.
“Well it is December and this is still Siberia to me,” he shrugged. Ever since her mother had first become sick several years ago, Cleve missed not being able to sojourn in Florida for three or four months of sunshine. He said the cold crept into his toes at the end of October and didn’t leave until April.
“Do you want a new corn pad?” asked Midge, holding out the supplies.
“Well no, why would I? You just put one on yesterday,” Cleve reminded her.
“You just took a bath, I thought you’d want a clean one.”
“That costs money,” he shot back. “You think …”
“Yes, I know it doesn’t grow on trees,” she responded. Did fathers ever change?
“But I wouldn’t mind if you helped me get on the computer again,” Cleve said without the edge in his voice.
Midge smiled. It was his favorite pastime. Email, Facebook, they both helped him stay in touch with his family, he said. Friends from longer ago who now lived too far away. There was a daily devotional he loved receiving, and checking to see if there were any new pictures of his great grandchildren posted. For the 100th time she was glad her daughter Bianca had had the patience to introduce him to the computer and then the Internet years ago, while her mother, Olivia, was still living.
Life before her mother’s cancer was so much easier for all of them. Cleve was not quite so, what? Cantankerous? Curmudgeonly? Needy?
All of the above. “I’ll try,” she gave him a half smile without an eye roll. “I just need to gather some Christmas gifts I want to take to the office.” She turned on her father’s tablet which he kept by his chair so it could update.
“Hmph. Christmas. I sure don’t need anything. Don’t you go spending any money on things I don’t need,” her father reminded her again. “What I want I won’t get back.”achristmastree
Of course it was true. None of them would ever get back her mother, and this was their first Christmas without her. Almost a year now. “I know, Dad. I know. But give me a sec and while your computer fires up I’ll find your favorite places for you. And I’ll turn up the heat.”
Whether her father stayed with them longterm was still up for grabs. They had said they’d “see how it went.” It was okay, and she was grateful he was still fine to be by himself each day until she came home at noon and fixed lunch for them both. In the afternoon while she went back to the office, he took a long nap. Together they’d go for a walk in late afternoon: just once around the track (for him) at the nearby elementary school, or inside at the college gym when it was too cold. There was much to be grateful for. Her husband Dave could fill in at home when not seeing clients. She was thrilled their son Bob now had a job–they didn’t actually see him a lot. Yet he could be leaned on in an emergency, or if she and Dave wanted a date night.
So many tables had turned—Cleve and Olivia had often kept Bob and Bianca when they were small so she and Dave could go out.
Midge started the car, finished packing her briefcase, then ran back in the house to help her father get settled with his tablet. “Remember you can always go back to the start up screen if you lose where you are,” she prompted. “Here’s the phone. Call me if you need me.”
“No, I won’t bother you. You have so much to take care of,” he shook his head, his face puckering as if he were going to cry. “But it’s nice to be here,” he finished as he shook himself out of the near sob.
Midge walked back and gave her dad a half hug. “Love you,” she said pecking him on the forehead. “See you.”
He just smiled and started hunting for what his sisters, nieces and nephews were doing or saying on his Facebook community. He was actually humming a Christmas carol. Things would be okay.
For a free booklet, “Getting Through the Holidays When You’ve Lost a Loved One,” email me at or write to Another Way Media,  Box 363 , Singers Glen,  Va. 22850.
Getting Through the Holidays When You’ve Lost a Loved One
Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books, most recently Whatever Happened to Dinner. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  
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