My Dad

My father was a quiet man.  I had known that he was in the war (WWII) in England, but not much beyond that.  My father was in aircraft maintenance – bombsights actually.  How exciting could that be?

One day, he told me about one job that he and his team had done.  It was customary for the maintenance crew to fly with the pilot on the plane’s first trip.  I guess the thought was that if you knew you were going to fly in it, you would do a better job on repairing it.

It was a beautiful late spring Tuesday, without a cloud in the sky when they took off.  The pilot, being a bit full of himself, performed a number of maneuvers in a futile attempt to make the maintenance crew sick.  Those maneuvers took them out over the white cliffs of Dover.

It was then the “normal” became “abnormal”.  The plane started taking on anti-aircraft fire.  Shells were erupting on every side shaking the craft violently with each near miss.

The pilot, who had been operating without radio, switched it on.  Apparently, they had stumbled upon a secret military operation and had been mistaken for a German bomber.  Needless to say, they returned to base where the actual flight crew was waiting.

it was June 6, 1944.  D-Day.    

This was the closest my father ever came to combat, but it underlines this observation. 

It takes a lot of people to win a war. 

So, on this Veterans’ Day, let us not only remember that army that bravely fought and fights around the world.  Let us also remember the other army of men and women that support them, that make their impossible job possible.  Finally, let us also remember the third “army” of men, women, and children who pray and wait for their loved ones to return.

Thanks Dad

Bruce

 

Beyond – by Bruce Baker

                Lost mists of eternity

                Vanished with a dream

                Conjured in the depths of mind

                Fabricated in tendrils of thought

Beyond imagining

                Captured in tangled snares

                Fighting for freedoms won

                Standing on the precipice

                Adrift in the storm

Beyond myself

                Cherished hair lock

                Caught not found

                A passion of thought

                Release our anger

                Save us from ourselves

Beyond love

The Bear

What was that!

My heart pounding, I try looking through the pitch dark windows of our family station wagon.  Ears straining to hear the slightest sound, I listen for what may have caused my alarm.  Sleeping quietly beside me, my brother is oblivious to my distress.  Whatever awakened me has apparently spared him.  As I try to settle back in my sleeping bag, I remember what landed us here; huddled together, alone in the dark.

Earlier this evening, the whole family was recovering from a wonderful day.  We had gone to White Sand.  It was like a gigantic beach without the ocean.  Afterward we had come back to Cloudcroft, 9000 feet above the gypsum sands below.  It was deliciously cool compared to the heat of the desert sand, and after dinner, my brother and I had played until the darkness had enveloped the campsite and it was time for bed.

My eyes had barely closed when an explosion sounded down the hill.  Dad dressed hurriedly, and along with the other men in camp, rushed to see what had happened.  What had happened was a bear!

The bear came down the mountain nightly to forage in the trash bins.  Just last night we watched him from our tent; our flashlights focused on his brown back.  Tonight though, he came down the mountain too fast.  Unable to stop when he got to the trash bins, he ran full speed into a travel trailer, dumping it on its side.  The men in camp set the trailer back on its wheels, freeing the appreciative owners who quickly packed up and left.  Dad then set up the car as a bed for “the children”, thinking the tent was no longer safe for us.

So here I am, at the ripe old age of nine, lying here listening to a growl, or wind, or whatever it is.  As I peer through the now foggy window, It’s like looking through black coffee; my imagination filling the darkness with things best unknown.  There’s a sharp sound, which to my attenuated hearing sounds like a cannon going off.  It’s one of the trash lids … I think.  The bear has come back to feed!  My brother is awake now and whispering, afraid to make any noise that might attract the creature not ten feet from our door.

Finally, after what seemed like days, dawn breaks.  I must have dozed off; the bear is nowhere to be found.  Getting out of the car, Mark and I are just in time to see my dad hunching over the side of the tent.   Pointing out the bear tracks, inches from the canvas, he traces the bear’s trail down to where the travel trailer had once stood, and we realize just how lucky we had been.

Saints are all around us…

                Have you ever met a saint?  Someone who was so perfect that you knew they were a shoo-in for the pearly gates?  I have met several people that would fit the bill, but today, All Saints Day, I would like to tell you about the first one.

                I was about 16 when I went on a weekend retreat with some friends to Falls Creek.  Now, Falls Creek is a youth camp in the Arbuckle mountains south of Oklahoma City sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention of Oklahoma.  For those of you not from Oklahoma, you may not see the problem here.  For a good Catholic boy to go to a Baptist camp was a tad scandalous for both the boy (me) and the friends that invited him.  It seemed like everyone either ignored me or spent their time trying to convert me.  It was exhausting.

                Then I met her.  She was an elderly woman who had a grandchild in the group and was acting as a chaperone.  I am ashamed to say that I do not remember her name, but I do remember the wonderful way she affected my life.  Welcoming and without criticism she and I sat and talked about a lot of things including our faiths, their differences and their similarities.  Through our talks, I discovered things lacking in my faith, and she showed me how to use those things within myself.  For example, I had always known that Jesus died for everyone, but somehow did not extend that to “he died for me”.   I also learned that Jesus would walk with me through the trials of my life if I invited him.  These two realizations of a personal relationship with Him have stayed with me ever since.

                As I left our conversation, I felt more at peace than I had ever felt in my young life.  There is no doubt in my mind that she was a woman of God, a saint.  I have often reflected on that weekend and the person that made it special.  My regret is that I never told her what a difference she made in my life. 

Saints are all around us, walking with us, showing us the way.  If only we watch and listen.

Boo!

Tonight, this night, All Hallows Eve

After children take a rest

from candies and such

(They can’t get enough!)

And from things that are best left unsaid

The ghosts and ghouls come out to play

The witches too I’m told

What they do I cannot say

For fear my heart does hold

 

Tonight, this night, All Hallows Eve

All mortal men take care

For spectres call

(And walk through walls!)

And goblins seek their share

They growl and cackle, moan and shriek

Till midnight comes a blast

And then the saints come marching in

To vouchsafe the world at last.

Bruce Baker