Raising Canes

Use the gifts you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. –St. Therese of Lisieux

Marvin Dykhuizen

Uncle Marv is 99 years old. He likes to walk to breakfast from his modest home on Tulip Ln, on the north side of my hometown. He’s WWII veteran and remarkably sharp, despite his age. The problem with Uncle Marv is that he’s mostly lost his eyesight and his hearing isn’t good. He’s remarkably spry, and has always been fit. Unfortunately, the daily walk to breakfast entails crossing the fairly busy Elmood Avenue on the northside of Lafayette. My great uncle is a true Dykhuizen, meaning he’s a talker. He still calls my 75 year old Dad, “Jimmy” and it makes me laugh.

Dad quizzed Uncle Marv about his daily walk, mostly with safety concerns for our family patriarch. The answer he got makes me giggle and shake my head.

“Well, Jimmy, I say a little prayer to the Lord for my safety before I leave the house,” he shared. “Then, when I get to Elmwood, I look both ways, and if I don’t see headlights, then I raise both my canes in the air and start waving them like crazy and I step out into the street and just hope for the best. When I get to the other side, I say a prayer of Thanksgiving that I made it safely.”

My first instinct upon hearing this story is to giggle. I mean, I can just picture the cars slamming on their brakes hoping to not be the person that runs over the crazy, old, blind guy with the canes. Perhaps family members should intercede? Then again, the man has survived the Great Depression, served his country in WWII, raised a family, had an enduring marriage, and is mentally astute and prayerful at the age of 99!! Who the heck are we to tell him what to do, ha?!!

Trusting in providence is Uncle Marv’s street crossing strategy. My guess is it’s the same simple, but strong faith in the Lord that helped him survive a century of mayhem that you and I can only begin to fathom– and with his good humor in tact.

I’m a BIG fan of the early Christmas card. You see, if I send one first, most folks will tend to include us in their own mailing when they get around to it. It’s a joyful thing when my mailbox starts to fill up with all those adorable family photos and clever letters. I mail one to Uncle Marv right after Thanksgiving every year. He always calls me shortly after it arrives to give me his “oral” Christmas greeting and asks about the boys and Tom. It’s a 30 minute piece of sunshine in my year for which I can rely. It’s a call that seeks nothing and it brings something reliably bright.

These tiny little sparks in our lives are really not small at all, I’ve decided. So today, inspired by Uncle Marv, I suppose I just want to acknowledge my gratefulness to the Lord for all the people who bring something bright. Your small acts make me believe in goodness. In 2020, I’m all about every single act which confounds the toxicity, brings love, and spreads a little holiness.

Just for fun, I’d like to name a few of the things that have made me smile lately.

  1. My normally tidy husband had a series of food mishaps this week, soiling four t-shirts in 2 days. The spills got to be so ridiculous that he presented himself shirtless on the back porch after the last episode and declared open season on the stain stick. Instead of choosing anger, Tom went with laughter, and the self-deprecating humor gave us all a big belly laugh. #TakeThat2020
  2. My parish, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, inspired by the citizens of our pastor’s hometown of Pendleton, has posted hopeful signs along 146th St and Oak Ridge Road. “You are not alone”, “You are Enough”, “Don’t Give Up”, “Your Mistakes Do Not Define You”, and “You are Worthy of Love”….among others. #TakeThat2020
  3. A particularly holy young man, John Tiplick, was playing a recent tennis match as my son’s doubles partner. After a couple of errant shots, a coach I adore raised his voice in John’s direction asking him “What in the world are you doing, John!!?” John turned to his coach with a very earnest smile and replied, “Playing tennis, Coach!” Anger instantly diffused. #TakeThat2020
  4. Covid snatched from us many events of the year, including Zach’s confirmation mass. The parish responded by holding a very small alternate mass for Z and another young person in similar circumstances. Two children were confirmed, two families were present. Do you know who else was there? Our pastor, a brand new deacon, the music director, two additional musicians…and a parish staff member who had actually retired the previous week. All those folks were there loving up these two teenagers. This particular momma was nearly moved to tears by the extraordinary kindness. #TakeThat2020
  5. A kind local tennis guru took a few minutes he didn’t have to teach me how to wrap a tennis racquet with overgrip today. Nice matters. #TakeThat2020
  6. Laine Schwegman climbed on my couch to re-take and “fix” a “chubby” photo of me with her mother, Renee. She’s a talented, very good human and being around her makes me have great hope for the future. #TakeThat2020
  7. Nick Fred texted me “I love you Mom.” #TakeThat2020
  8. Coach Chris Sciaudone of Guerin Catholic Boys Tennis has somehow kept the ball bouncing in nearly impossible circumstances this tennis season. The young men whose season (and mental health) he has saved will always remember his hard work, compassion, and incredible example of strength in adversity. So will their parents. #TakeThat2020
  9. Kristy Murphy shared her volleyball ticket with me at Covenant Christian High School last weekend. This made it possible for me to use an actual bathroom (and not the port-a-potty designated for tennis families) during the boys tennis tourney being held at the same location. I am a princess who likes indoor plumbing and sinks to wash my hands. It wasn’t a small matter to me. #TakeThat2020
  10. Todd Metzger went out of his way (and fronted the cash) to get Z’s only tennis racquet re-strung in record time so that he would have it for the GC tennis match this weekend. He didn’t have to, it was pure and altruistic act. #TakeThat2020
Hopeful messages on 146th St.

To those who make my life and those around me even an itsy-bitsy little amount better, THANK YOU. That thing which felt insignificant to you? It wasn’t miniscule at all. When it’s dark out like it has been during 2020, those who journey alongside? YOU MATTER.

My handsome, messy husband and I BEFORE the chocolate attacked his t-shirt!

A lot of people are struggling right now. I’ve had my days for sure. You guys…? Let’s take Uncle Marv’s lead. I say we raise our canes too, trust in Providence and let the Lord handle the hard stuff. After that, we’ll ask for the grace to do our little part. Even if all we can do is be present for someone, it’s a beautiful gift. Make the call. Donate your time. Write the note. Buy the cup of coffee. Send the text. GET BUSY DOING GOOD. It’s much more contagious than COVID-19!

P.S. I really WANTED to run this with the shirtless photo of my husband. But, I want to remain married a little more, ha?

If you’re experiencing stress or tension give it to Jesus. Tell Him, ‘I feel like crawling the wall, but I love You and I want to give this to You.’ Do you think our Lord wasn’t tense living with those twelve screwball apostles?” –Mother Angelica