A to Z Challenge: Todd

This character sketch is not fictional. Todd was real and although I have trouble remembering some of the details, this is my best recollection.

It feels right to use his real name. Todd is no longer with us. He left far too early. Everyone at the service was aware of that reality, and the church was full. This is only part of his story, but it’s the part I know best.

I first saw Todd in our backyard, at night, in the back row of people gathered around a small bonfire. He was part of the youth group that was re-enacting the experience of the persecuted church. They had come, one or two at a time, being very quiet and trying not to attract attention. It was my first witness of Todd’s faith and his willingness to express it. He was not the average young person there.

My husband started talking with Todd that night, and he started appearing at our home. He was a football player in a high school nearby, but was also a serious enough student to want to do well academically. My husband had taught math and sciences and Todd wanted help from time to time. He would appear after practice, around supper time, but wouldn’t come to eat. It took a few years until he felt comfortable going into the refrigerator or joining us at the table. He was extremely polite and unassuming. Gradually he began to feel more like one of the family.

There were quite a few people who saw a promising character in Todd. His high school coach, youth leaders, families like ours and friends. He wanted to overcome a troubled background, and he was doing it.

Todd did well in school and was something of a celebrity at graduation time. He was accepted at a state university, recruited to play football and declared a double major in social work and criminal justice. On breaks and in the summer he would come back to the hometown and work, stopping in to see us (or to do laundry). Like any young person going to college, he needed money and other kinds of support. My husband and I felt almost like proud parents when Todd graduated college and invited us to the ceremony.

Todd and another friend (Carroll) stopped by for dinner. A normal sized man fit neatly under Todd’s arm. He was quite a presence.

After his team won the national college football championship Todd played NFL football for the Titans and the Packers but was plagued with injuries. He finally left the sports scene and came back to our hometown. He had a heart for youth programs, coaching and motivational speaking. He desperately wanted to be a role model for young men.

As I think over our time with Todd, what I see that he was trying to find was family structure. He was looking for a father and a family, a place where he belonged that didn’t depend on his physical or academic skills. He loved being able to come to us whether he was expected or invited. He would sit and talk with my husband for hours into the night. When his back was against the wall financially he wanted someone to care enough to help. He wanted a place to leave his “stuff” in between jobs and residences. He wanted a safe place to come when he was sad or disappointed. He wanted someone to listen to his news when it was good and be glad with him, and someone to listen when it wasn’t good.

Todd didn’t tell us he wasn’t feeling well. I don’t think he was aware of how serious a problem he was experiencing. He was found dead in his apartment at the age of 35. We weren’t blood relatives and had no access to results of the autopsy, but to our knowledge it was not drug related. That would not have been in his nature. God gave us a lot to think about through our relationship with Todd, and we are grateful for the time he was in our life.

Tents, Togetherness: Relationship Tools

Tents, togetherness and relationships. Makes perfect sense.

We’ve spent a fair amount of time living in tents, my daughters and I – enough to be thankful we have houses to live in most of the time. Tents probably wouldn’t be much of a thing if we didn’t want to be outside, where it sometimes gets cold and rainy. They allow us to spend time with people in places we might not normally get to visit.

Some tents also provide gathering spaces bigger than our houses, and we’ve done a few of those also. Small tents give us intimate space with a few people. Big tents give us casual space with many, many people. Both are useful and available in a variety of styles, and a frightening array of prices.

I’ve had a fascination with tents since I was a small child. My father set up a used army tent for me, in our yard, for one of my birthdays. I spent a good deal of time in it that summer. I’ve gone on to own three or four tents and they were all dear to me. Some of them leaked but I loved them anyway.

Tents are a relationship tool, but I’m not saying there is a guarantee the relationship will be good. But you and others will be together, like it or not.

There I’ve about said it all for tents and togetherness. Here are my illustrations from my own experience.

Tents in our backyard in Florida served as extra bedrooms for people who got very little sleep. This one was big. It also leaked.
The one on the right is my “other” tent, ready for occupancy at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Requires being horizontal.
In Cambodia I attended many large gatherings in tents. They know how to put on fancy events in them.
Yeah, this is snow. It is the food tent at the Birkie International ski race in my hometown. It was not very warm inside, but better than being outside.
And talk about togetherness! Happening here.
A tent allowed us to gather, during the pandemic, for my sister-in-law’s memorial service. Technically, we were outside.
In 2020 I rented a wedding tent. It did keep us fairly dry in the downpour, at night. Another pandemic gathering outside.

This spring (if it ever arrives), I want to put my tent up by the pond behind the barn, and listen to the spring peepers. Probably no one will join me but I will strengthen my relationship with nature, or frogs and mosquitos… All good.

A to Z: Selling Our House (Letter T)

T  for Touch Ups, Thresholds, Tools, Titles, Timetables, Temporary Troubles, Trips, Tired, Thankfulness

I should have added Trash to the T list because it seems we do indeed have a roomful of it to go to the curb each trash day.

At the beginning of this project, selling the house, there were big endeavors like whole house painting, like reworking an electric panel, like moving the renters out. Now some of those things are past and for the last two or three days I’ve been working on smaller details. I call them touch ups.

The rental house with fresh paint looks (and smells) better, but amazingly I was left with more touching up than I expected. I didn’t think I was that picky about paint, but I’ve found that the line between baseboard and wall is more important to me than I remembered. I was glad there was left over paint. And as I scrubbed the floors around the edges, there was paint spatter to be scraped off.

There’s something about a completely empty room that draws attention to things like switch plates and electrical outlets. Really, what else is there to look at? Some of them are beige, some are white, sometimes the cover plate is one color and the switch itself is the other – so noticeable, in not a good way. I am not ambitious enough to make them all the same throughout the house but I did try to deal with the ones that were close enough to be seen together. I like white.

All the heating/cooling vents had been removed for painting, and I guess I must have said I would put them all back. Some of these were really old and rusty so “touching up” means cleaning and painting them. Bath fans needed new grills put on. One of the bath vanities had curiously lost two door knobs and a drawer handle which needed replacing. Light bulbs were missing or burned out in numerous places. Door stops and wall protectors were needed. Today alone, I made two trips to the hardware store and it’s been this way most of last week. I am getting very familiar with the layout, and it’s a big store.

All those other T words in the title have meaning for me, especially the last one – thankfulness. Time, another T word, has brought great changes. I am amazed that we are this far along and thankful that each day brings a little more progress.