Things I Learned from R. B. (May 17th, 2020)

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Episode 15

I excused myself from the table, walked through the lobby and out the front door to catch a breath of the frigid night air.

It was December 18th—my birthday.

I was at Captain John Longhollow’s Seafood House, courtesy of an invitation from R. B.

He explained that it had been a tough year for him, without employment, and he wanted to honor me with a dinner, but hoped I would accept it as his entire gift to the whole family–for Christmas also.

I agreed.

I was upset with the situation. It wasn’t that I wanted anything from R. B. for Christmas, nor did I think he should scrape together nickels to get drugstore toys for the full-grown kids. I just didn’t want to know his reasoning. I didn’t want a generous act to seem like a banking decision.

I didn’t say anything because I knew it was silly and childish on my part, but as the dinner conversation drifted away from our friendship and settled in on his airplane trip back home to Rhode Island for Christmas, I just needed to get away.

So as I stood there in the night, musing my fussiness, the heavens suddenly opened and a beautiful snow began falling to Earth. It was like huge cornflakes being poured into an ample bowl on breakfast morning.

Tears came to my eyes because I had been given grace to continue my delusion. For years, I had surmised that snow was delivered every birthday—a gift of God, offered for my enjoyment from the graying skies.

I stood in the snow until its dampness chilled me. Then I strolled inside, noticing that all the patrons had their noses pressed up against the glass windows—like children peering into a snow globe.

Everyone, that is, but R. B.

He was struggling through his salad course with a frown on his face, as if saddened that he had spent so much money and depleted his funds beyond the practical.

I was so enthralled by my birthday snow—and so hungry—that I sat down with great civility and ended up enjoying our evening. It had been months since I had seen R. B., so I decided to be grateful instead of resentful.

A lady entered the restaurant and explained that the snow was falling quite heavily, and that in no time at all the Tacoma road crews would be unable to keep up.

R. B. ignored the warning and ordered a sherry to finish off his dinner. He offered me the same, confident that I would pass. After he finished his liqueur, we headed toward the car.

He wanted me to drive.  We were not far from my home—perhaps ten minutes on a normal day—but on this night, we drove for an hour-and-a-half and still hadn’t reached our destination.

There was one final large hill to ascend—which had turned into an ice rink. Vehicles were sliding and bumping all over the place.

I realized we weren’t going to make it up, so I let the car go as far as it was willing to travel before sliding backwards. I then turned the wheel to the left and went to the other side of the road. I let the car gingerly bump up against a fence, where it settled in place.

R. B. expected that I would turn around and try the hill again, but his car’s tires were too bald and there was no way to gain the traction to perform the ascent. So after sitting for five minutes in the ever-chilling car, I explained to him that the best thing to do was bundle up, leave the vehicle and walk the rest of the way—a little less than a mile.

R. B. didn’t like the idea. He kept insisting that he was certain we could make it up the hill.

I should have let him try.

I should have kept my mouth shut.

I should have given him his rightful position as owner of the vehicle to do what he wanted.

But I was cold and the lobster I had just eaten lay bitter in my stomach. I tucked the keys into my pocket, got out of the car and started walking. R. B. stumbled from the vehicle, screamed at me, but still followed.

It took a little while to get home. R. B. wanted to argue in the middle of the blizzard, but finally we arrived at my doorstep and climbed into the house, greeted by the bubbling of youthful energy from my children, screaming in delight about the precipitation.

We joined together in the living room and lit a fire to warm the house, as we continued to stare at the beautiful, heavenly flurries.

After about an hour, R. B. thought he might walk back to his car and try to get himself home. I could tell he was completely uncomfortable being with us. It made me sad and mad all at the same time.

Even when we started singing Christmas carols, he was fidgety and kept looking out the window, saying over and over again, “I think it’s clearing.”

Disgusted, he finally stood to his feet and headed to the door.

I had to make a decision. Would I let him do what he wanted to do—knowing how unsafe, dangerous or even deadly it was?

I probably should have honored his autonomy and his human choice.

But I had watched for four months while he deteriorated, lost his way, failed to get employment and acted and dressed more and more like a derelict.

Right or wrong, I made a stand, and explained that we would not allow him to leave because it was dangerous. He cursed me, became violently angry and stood over me, screaming his defiance.

My kids were scared.

I think my wife was waiting for me to kill him—because she had selected where to bury the body. But I let him yell while standing my ground.

Not only did R. B. have to sleep in our house that night, but the blizzard was so massive that the community shut down. The airport was closed, so R. B. was unable to go to Rhode Island for his Christmas holiday.

We invited him to stay, which he did—but he was really never there.  Over and over again he explained that it “just didn’t seem like Christmas” without being back home in Providence.

Our little family worked awfully hard to change our surroundings into R. B.’s childhood memory.

It got better. He calmed down.

He started singing with us.

He helped make Christmas treats.

And by Christmas Eve, it seemed like he had settled his soul and was just a little bit grateful to be safe and warm.

Realizing that we didn’t have gifts for him, on Christmas Eve morning I asked my two older boys to hike up the hill to the bus stop. I gave them forty dollars to buy “R. B.-type” gifts. I also gave them ten dollars for lunch.

They were thrilled. They returned early evening and placed their purchases into the garage, where my wife wrapped them up for Christmas morning.

About 7:40 A.M., we awoke R. B., who overnight had uncovered a fresh batch of grumpiness, but quickly changed his mind when he realized there would be presents under the tree just for him.

It was an unexpected Christmas.

R. B. laughed. I had never heard him quite as tuneful in his voice and open in his spirit.

The next morning, the roads cleared, and R. B. walked to his car.

I didn’t hear from him for almost three months. I pursued contact, but every time I left a message, he never returned the call.

Yet, that year we had a Christmas that was planned by the snow from Heaven. It was significant, it was enlightening, it was surprising, and it was God-like. As it turned out, that was the last time I got to see R. B. in Tacoma.

In May, when I told him we were moving on down the road to brighter prospects, he grunted—and wished us his best.

Cracked 5 … February 2nd, 2019

 


Jonathots Daily Blog

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Cracked 5

Things That January Is Known For

A. The vicious snowstorm of 1873

 

B. The blizzard of 1961

 

C. Record-breaking gym memberships

 

D. The ice storm of 1943

 

E.  A holiday honoring a man that most people under the age of forty have no idea who he is

Mad Snow Man


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Catchy (Sitting 7) Accumulating … July 23rd, 2017

Jonathots Daily Blog

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On May 8th, the largest blizzard in the history of meteorology in the state of Nebraska dumped nineteen inches of wet, slushy snow all over Lincoln, closing the freeways and the airport.

Matthew was at that airport.

He had cleverly put together a plan to meet up with three of his old college buddies from the “Leaven of Seven,” and explained to them in vivid detail some of his ideas about how to take the money from the eccentric billionaire and attempt to make Jesus not only the Christ, but popular again.

He had left messages with each, and they had successfully negotiated their air itineraries to have at least a two-hour layover at the Lincoln, Nebraska Airport–all at the same time. It was a feat of magic, only to be expected from those who had benefitted from higher education and had never had to be concerned about anybody but themselves.

When the announcement was made over the public address system that all flights were canceled and that the local motels were also filled, Joanna Lawrence (Jo-Jay) let out a tiny whimper that culminated in a miniscule scream. Yet it was loud enough to alarm people around her who already had experienced the danger of the sky falling.

“I can’t believe this,” said Jo-Jay. “I am going to need lots of alcohol.”

Matthew interrupted. “You always say that, Jo-Jay. You don’t need to be intoxicated. You just choose to be drunk. And if there isn’t a crisis, you’ll tip your glass to the threat of one.”

Jo-Jay paused and peered at Matthew with a surprised expression. “Wow. That was deep. I think you just changed my life. Why don’t we get a drink and celebrate?”

Paul Padwick thought that was hilarious. When he agreed to join them at the Lincoln airport, he requested they no longer use his college name, Pee Pee. (Matthew had texted him back and said, “If we call you Pee Pee, will it piss you off?”)

Michael was supposed to join them from Washington, D. C., but missed his flight, and in trying to catch a later one, discovered they were all canceled.

So after much inquiry and questioning, Matthew, Jo-Jay and Paul Padwick (never, ever to be known again as Pee Pee) discovered that they were going to be stuck overnight at the airport without the benefit of a shower.

Just moments later, poor Jo-Jay found out that the bar had closed at the establishment out of fear that cantankerous folks who were trapped in tight quarters might get along better without being totally sauced.

“I guess,” said Matthew, “we should find our corner in the airport, where we can bed down for the night.”

Bedding down had become possible because airport staffers had begun to circulate cushions and blankets, formerly the property of the “Cornhusker Airline” before it surprisingly went out of business. So the three of them, taking their cushions, blankets and a respectable supply of candy, chips and soft drinks, found a remote corner in the airport where the Cornhusker Airline had formerly dreamed of building a massive terminal.

It was quiet, it was pretty warm and it was just a little bit spooky–the kind of atmosphere which was ideal for old friends to catch up and discuss plans that might bring them together once again.

Jo-Jay had barely opened up her Doritos and begun to consume them like a starving woman when she croaked, “Can I get this straight? At least let me hear it from your mouth. Basically, from your message, you have an old man who died with some sort of religious compunction to leave behind money to make his God the Number One God in the world.”

Matthew corrected her. “Actually, it’s Jesus–but you are kind of close.”

“I guess I felt like the Jesus thing kind of maxed out a while ago. You know what I mean?” posed Paul, making his contribution. “Like, the ones who were really interested in it had already gotten on board and everybody else gave it a look-see and passed on it for their own reasons.”

“That is so true,” agreed Jo-Jay. “I mean, short of lying, cheating and fudging the figures, you either dig Jesus or you don’t.”

Matthew leaped in. “Well, I kind of dig Jesus, but I wouldn’t call myself religious–though I think it’s admirable to be Christian. So I might classify myself in that category…”

Paul laughed. “Well, it’s admirable to be a weight lifter, but don’t you have to actually lift something?”

Jo-Jay roared with laughter. “Yeah, God-guy. If you’re going to be a Christian, don’t you have to do a lot of Christian things?” She reflected. “Or maybe not, come to think of it. There seem to be a lot of those who claim the title who don’t pursue the agenda.”

At that point, they all just stopped speaking.

Maybe it was the darkness falling outside that left the room even more dismal. Perhaps it was the realization that the area they had selected for their resting space was a little chillier than they thought. Or maybe it was just the awkwardness of being back together.

But they didn’t hurry it. No one tried to make small chat or bring up the consistency of their candy bars. Just a moment to reflect on who they were, where they were and what the hell they were going to do about this “heavenly” issue.

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … March 16th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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PoHymn March 16

I Am Common

I am common

Don’t blow smoke

I can be an ass

Quell your sermon on esteem

Teach me to be honest

Escape the perils of self-worth

And find the worth of true self

I am common

One with all

All within my one

For snowflakes may be unique

But never travel alone

A drizzle, flurry, blizzard

Do you catch my drift?

I pursue no culture

Just human blood

I possess no country

Merely a searching soul

I see you

It is my mirror

For you are common, too

Separation creates the anger

Segregation invites the danger

Nationalism destroys our peace

Religion vacates the heart of compassion

I am common

No better, no worse

I believe, not bound by verse

I clear my eyes

To give window to my soul

I scourge my mind

So half can become whole

I am common

And so are you

The sooner we appreciate this

The quicker we will know

No one is better than anyone else

Please, help me grow

I am common

So I come as a man

Will you meet me in the middle?

Doing the best you can

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Cracked 5 … January 26th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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cracked 5 logo keeper with border

Things You Should Not Do During a Blizzard

A. Leave your front door open to measure the depth of snow drifts in your hallway.

 

B. Let the chihuahua out to play in the snow.

 

C. Invite neighborhood gangs over to your backyard for a snowball fight.

 

D. Ski to the closed Ace Hardware to break in to steal a snow blower.

 

E. Robustly sing “Let It Snow.”

cracked 5 blizzard

 

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