Wednesday, November 30, 2011

He Really Likes Me

A couple of nights ago I was watching one of my favorite Broadway musicals on Turner Classic Movies, "Man of La Mancha."
The next day, I was telling Joanne how much I had enjoyed watching "Man of the Mancha" once again. She reminded me of the day, 23 years ago, when I was able to come home from the rehabilitation Hospital, where I had spent the last six months of my life. Our street was lined with friends and family cheering me on, and welcoming me home. Through my tears I could see my good friend, Murl Nelson, playing his drums on my front lawn – he had played the drums for some of the major big bands, including Elvis Presley, during the 50s – with my mother-in-law, Evelyn Stuart, singing at the top of her lungs, "To Dream the Impossible Dream," the most well-known and popular number from " Man of La Mancha." My mother-in-law loved life and loved to sing. She even enjoyed my repertoire of dumb mother-in-law jokes. I was grateful. Joanne had brought this memory back into my mind.
In case you are not familiar with the musical, it was written by Dale Wasserman, with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Danon. The musical was suggested by the classic novel Don Quixote de La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes.
The main thrust of the play is that Cervantes and his manservant have been imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition and a manuscript by Cervantes is seized by his fellow inmates, who subject him to a mock trial in order to determine whether the manuscript should be returned. Cervantes' defense is in the form of a play, in which Cervantes takes the role of Alonso Quijana, an old gentleman who has lost his mind and now believes that he should go forth as a knight-errant. Quijana renames himself Don Quixote de La Mancha, and sets out to find adventures with his "squire", Sancho Panza. [Wikipedia]
This time as I watched the movie, one of the lesser-known numbers struck a chord with me. It is a musical exchange between Sancho and Aldonza, a scullery maid with loose morals whom Don Quixote treats as though she is a princess. She has watched in amazement how Sancho has taken care of Don Quixote and catered to his every whim. She wants to know why Sancho does what he does for him, and why he is so kind and loyal to such an obviously crazy man. The following musical conversation takes place between Sancho and Aldonza.
"I like him… I really like him! I don't have a very good reason,
Since I've been with him,
Cuckoo-nuts have been in season... But there's nothing I can do, Chop me up for onion stew, Still I'll yell to the sky
I can't tell you why, That I like him!"
"It doesn't make any sense! "
"That's because you're not a squire."
" All right, I'm not a squire. How does a squire, squire?"
"Well, I ride behind him... and he fights. Then I pick him up off the ground, and..."
"But, what do you get out of it?"
"What do I get? Oh! Why, already I've gotten..."
"You've got nothing! Why do you do it?"
"I like him, I really like him.
Pluck me naked as a scalded chicken, I like him! Don't ask me for why or wherefore, 'Cause I don't have a single good
" because" or "therefore!"
You can barbecue my nose.
Make a giblet of my toes,
Make me freeze, make me fry.
Make me sigh, make me cry.
Still I'll yell to the sky, I can't tell you why. That I like him!"
Aren't we fortunate, if in our lifetimes, besides our parents who are stuck with us, we find one or two people, like Sancho, who, in spite of our faults, failings, idiosyncrasies, warts, barnacles, and most nauseating characteristics, still really like us, for apparently no good reason.
I have thought about my relationship with Joanne over the past 23 years since my accident. As Sancho said about the time he had spent as the squire of Don Quixote -- "cuckoo nuts have been in season”-- for Joanne all these years as she has acted as my squire. She does, and has done for me, all these years what Sancho did for Don Quixote. She rides behind me, and I fight, then she picks me up off the ground.
I don't think anyone has ever asked Joanne the question Aldonza put to Sancho, "But what do you get out of it?" However, perhaps they have thought it.
You would have to know Joanne's dad, Joe Stuart, to appreciate what I am going to write next. One morning he was helping Joanne get me dressed and into my wheelchair for the day. As he was leaning over me, he looked at Joanne, who was on the other side of the bed, and said, "Boy your life sure went down the tubes when Jack had his accident!" He then got a sickly grin on his face when he realized what he had just said and we all burst out laughing.
Joanne has always made me feel over the years, since my accident, though she, like Sancho, may be hard pressed to say why, that she likes me. At least she always makes me feel like she really likes me. Even I can't figure out why, but it surely does make me feel good.
I am sure there must be times when she, like Sancho, might say to herself, "Don't ask me for why or wherefore, 'cause I don't have a single good " because" or "therefore."
What I write next would probably never make it through church correlation, but here goes. The Savior, the Scriptures teach, [See the numerous references in the topical guide], is our advocate with the Father. For example –"Lift up your hearts and be glad, for I am in your midst, and am your advocate with the Father; and it is his good will to give you the Kingdom. " [D&C 29:5]
I can just picture the Savior pleading our case before the Father. "I know they are "unprofitable servants" and "less than the dust of the earth. They are so very imperfect in many ways, but I like them – I really like them, I like them so much I have given my life for them. Please have mercy on them, Father."
And so when we get discouraged and may think that not even one other mortal being really likes us and can overlook some of our imperfections, we can take comfort in knowing there is ONE who does.

As a

Monday, November 14, 2011

"I Saw That All I Had Made Was Good."

My life, like yours, has been an exciting adventure, but especially since my accident 23 years ago. I really have no idea from day to day what new and exciting challenge and opportunity for growth is lurking just around the corner.

For one thing, I have become better acquainted with the medical profession than I ever wanted to. I have been privileged to come to know a wide variety of medical doctors, including a psychiatrist Joanne insisted I visit. I really never could figure out why! I have seen dentists, dermatologists, ER doctors, internists, pulmonologists, urologists, various surgeons, family doctors, doctors of infectious diseases, neurologists, ophthalmologists , cardiologists, and I'm sure some other "… ologists " that I can't think of right now. I appreciate the training and expertise of these doctors who over the years have saved my life and made it possible for me to keep coming back to them for more punishment.
Paid staff will
It stands to reason that someone in my condition would need the expertise and professional training of many doctors to keep them going. I never thought though, that I would have to employ the services of a blacksmith to keep me rolling along down the highway of life.

At a restaurant, anxiously wanting to position my wheelchair under the table so as not to be conspicuous in any way, I was going faster than I should have been, and inadvertently broke my right leg rest on the wheelchair when I rammed it into the table leg.

You would think that a broken leg rest on a wheelchair would not be a big deal. After dinner, though, I found it almost impossible to drive the chair to the van because my foot would drag along in a dangerous way. We finally got me home and figured we could get it easily fixed in the morning.

As a new day dawned, Joanne drove the broken leg rest to our wheelchair repair facility near our home. My chair is very high tech and the technicians are good at diagnosing and repairing electronic computerized problems. They took one dazed and puzzled look at the broken leg rest, however, and told Joanne they couldn't fix something like that. I guess it was too low-tech! They admitted they didn't have the equipment or expertise to do the job. The best they could do they said would be to order a new leg rest for a couple of hundred dollars, and that it would take several weeks for it to come.

There is no way Joanne was going to spend $200 on a broken leg rest without a coupon or some kind of discount. When she returned home with the broken leg rest and bad news, I had her go to the Yellow Pages and look under "Blacksmith." In all of Orange County, with a population of several million people there was only one listing for a blacksmith shop. Believe it or not it was located near our home in old town, Tustin. She copied down the address, got me into the van, and we headed out to find the blacksmith shop.

No more than 2 miles from our home we spotted an old barn that looked like it had been there forever. Sure enough, this was the blacksmith shop, and it had been there forever. With some trepidation Joanne got me out of the van and we somehow were able to cross the street to the open door of the old barn. Standing in the open door an elderly gentleman and his elderly friend – both about my age, I hate to admit – were standing there chatting. This was Andy Griffith's "Mayberry RFD" revisited. We showed them the problem and asked if it could be fixed. The blacksmith took a good hard look at it and said he thought maybe he could do something for us.

The shop was filled with junk metal, other non-discernible debris from a galaxy long ago and far away, welding equipment, discarded oxygen tanks, and a small forge. As we chatted with the blacksmith and his friend we learned that the blacksmith's father had begun the business in that very barn about 1915. The current blacksmith had inherited the business from his father when he passed away. The blacksmith had been taught the trade by his father, came to love it, and never wanted to do anything else. He said that many years ago, his father had taught him how to make customized tools, plows, and etc. that the local farmers needed. In its day, Tustin was quite a farming community. The local high school athletic teams are known as the "Tustin Tillers." He said he wasn't nearly as busy as he used to be but that he still enjoyed working as a blacksmith. About that time a young man came into the barn and took an interest in helping his older friends fix the leg rest. He had come to the blacksmith shop, to work with his friends in the passion and hobby they shared, regardless of the age differential – restoring an old automobile to its pristine state.

It turned out that fixing the leg rest was not so easy after all. It had levers and springs associated with it, but these three wonderful men worked on it as though it were the most important project they had ever tackled. I think there was some pride involved as well. Finally after about two hours, they got it welded together and attached as it should be to the wheelchair. During the procedure I made many helpful and encouraging comments – at least I felt they added an important dimension to the work at hand – a view not shared by all present. Finally, Joanne asked the blacksmith what she owed him, and with an embarrassed look on his face, he said, "Would $20 be too much? Over the years I have never had a doctor ask me a similar question – have you?

Interestingly enough, just the other day Joanne was watching our local PBS TV channel and they were doing a piece on Old town Tustin, California. One of the stops they made was at the blacksmith shop, which included an interview with our friend, the blacksmith. He and his barn truly are the subject matter of a great human interest story.

My recent encounter with the blacksmith and his friends triggered a feeling I have felt many times over the years. I am just in awe of, and appreciate so much people who can create, produce, and repair concrete physical things that bless others. If all we had in the world were lawyers, teachers, computer programmers, and insurance salesmen, for example, we would all be in a "world of hurt."

Some years ago I stumbled on to Rudyard Kipling's poem and tribute to engineers and all men who get things done through hard work, sweat, and getting their hands dirty. Kipling wrote the poem in 1907 and entitled It "The Sons of Martha!" It is based on Luke's account of Jesus' visit to the home of Martha and Mary recorded in Luke 10:38-42.
"The sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part; But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and the troubled heart… Her Sons must wait upon Mary's Sons worlds without end….It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and cushion the shock.… It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that the switches lock.… Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.… And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessed – they know the Angels are on their side.… They sit at the Feet - they hear the Word - they see how truly the Promise runs. They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and – the Lord He lays it on Martha's Sons!"

I'm afraid during my lifetime I have been much more a "Son of Mary" than a "Son of Martha." Thankfully, however, over the years I have had many friends who have been "Sons of Martha." They have bailed me out of more difficult and challenging situations than I could ever mention. As the years have gone by my appreciation for blacksmiths, and others our society labels as "blue-collar workers," has increased dramatically.

Ogden Nash, I believe, truthfully and yet sadly said that "People who sit to do their work make a lot more money than people who stand to do their work." I certainly have nothing against people who sit to do their work -- that is my modus operandi for sure -- but we certainly have missed out on something important which is also a great source of joy and fulfillment, if we haven't learned how to create something concrete and of lasting value with our hands.

Our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jehovah rejoice and have joy in the creations of their hands. In speaking to Moses the Lord said: "… I am the Beginning and the End, the Almighty God. By mine only begotten. I created all things; yea, in the beginning I created the heaven, and the earth upon which thou standest… And I God, saw that all things which I had made were good." [Moses 3:1, 10].