The Nakedness of an Estate Sale

When I moved into my neighborhood with my wife, our first real house, there were many surprises for us. Many, that as children, we probably never noticed or even considered about a neighborhood and the people who call them homes.

  • The almost-naked neighbor who walks around almost every day in front of his window. (I have spoken to him quite a few times and I still have yet to hint, “You know, windows do go both ways.”)
  • The neighbor who seems to need a joint each evening at around 9 PM to calm down (that is the house with the raccoons in the backyard. I like to assume those raccoons are very, very chill… and then raid our trash for munchies).
  • The neighbor with no furniture in his living room. Not a single freaking chair. (This will probably be our serial killer, which we all will tell the documentary filmmakers someday: “I don’t know, he really kept to himself…”)

Then there is the arguing. It is like carolers during the holidays, except it doesn’t follow a specific calendar. Every house gets them visiting at some point or another. They build into a chorus, voices reaching new heights together (both volume and octave) and then like a song, ends. The silence is always the hardest part when you hear it from the outside, for you know that is when the crying is probably going on.

The most we seem to say to each other, even though we spend so much time so close, are the lawn signs.

Vote! Sale!

We put our hopes on display, declaring to those who might care what we find important or what we might need. But even those seem to deteriorate in time, like jack o’lanterns three days after Halloween.

The thing that impacts and shocks me the most are the estate sale signs. Continue reading

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Short Story: A Children’s Nightmare

The children could have spent all day looking at that tombstone. It was the most foreboding piece of marble in the cemetery. But for the children, the size of that tombstone brought along pictures of giants and monsters. And the fact that it said “Better Dead Than Alive” under the name “Jake Hawkins,” couldn’t help but make them think that it was good he was dead. Did he terrorize a village with his footsteps? Did he steal maidens from their wedding days? Did he eat people? Whatever he did in life, there was a celebration in his death.

It might have been that problem that confused Lisa the most. For Lisa did understand death. She understood the concept at least. Her Grandmother still tells the story of Lisa when she was three and they were at the park across the street from Matt’s house. Lisa was playing on the swings and her Grandmother was talking with her Grandfather about who they knew buried in the other graveyard beyond the playground.

Now her Grandfather grew up in a strong religious background and from time to time he would try to convince people of that fact. Especially in his old age he seemed to go back to those studies as a form of support for the coming end. It also seemed to give possibility (when he truly allowed himself to believe) for a hope, feeling and moment of happiness for the people gone.

But her Grandmother was exactly the opposite of her Grandfather. She was an atheist of the strongest kind (actually she had an opinion about everything and every opinion of hers was strong). Her husband and she would spend days arguing about things like a game perfected over the decades of holding hands in their little time.

Well, on this day her Grandmother wanted to take Lisa and go over the hill and visit the tombstones to pay respect to their old friends. Her Grandfather did not like this idea because of two reasons:

  1. Lisa was just a three year old and he didn’t want to take responsibility for what that experience could do to her precious young psyche.
  2. The second (he said) their spirits have moved on so it would be only a waste of time. They were in heaven or wherever. Of course, there was probably a little of his own fear of death associated with that difficulty.

His wife grabbed this argument and sunk her teeth into it like a shark with raw meat. Her argument to number one was that the sooner Lisa is introduced to the problem the less difficult it would be for her as she grew older. It would help her maturity. She also said that she would “If given the opportunity teach her about sex.”

Now while she went on to argue against the “silliness” of number two the mention of the work “Sex,” awakened the Grandfather to a new understanding of reality. Little Lisa will grow up. Little Lisa will fall in love. She will have children. She will have a life and there is a good chance that he won’t be around to see her and the life she creates.  The concept took his breath away. He just never pictured everything going on without him and it was very stunning. Lisa’s children. Lisa’s children’s children. All that time and ages that will go on and on without him. Maybe even someday he will be forgotten? Lost in the eternity of time. And these little moments of perfection with his wife (playing their game) and Lisa laughing on her favorite swing will slip slide away into a growing void. Her beautiful child laughter. Disappearing until it’s gone….

He fought back a tear. If he allowed it to fall, he would never have heard the end of it from his wife. Over the last few years she has had a hard and harder time figuring out what is the game and what is the reality. Oh well, it made them happy; it made her happy. Continue reading

Short Story: Under The Angelic Glow Of Dusk

“The Time has been catching us off guard,” she said to me and I, still reeling from the wind and the parties, only laughed at her notion and called her mind a good hangover waiting to happen.

She did not like my comments (typical) and shunned me for the first two days of our assignment. This probably wouldn’t have bothered me so much if we weren’t supposed to be wife and husband in this little life moment. On Friday, I got sick of her little games and in a dark corner in a dark moment after breakfast (which consisted of coffee or tea (decaffeinated), corn flakes (dry), and milk (cold).) I confronted her about the so-called importance of our assignment.

As she angrily argued back at me her wings rustled under her silly white dress. She hated me.

I laughed at that and reminded her small mind that she wasn’t capable of hate. Her and her little angels and their white hair and white eyes and white gleaming teeth never hate- Even those easy to. She then said it may not be hate but it was the closest she had felt to it. I had to laugh at her honesty, even though just the sound of her voice annoyed me.

She then stated that she was very sure she hated the sound of my laughter (it is a dark loud, booming laugh that echoes with screams of those inside) and then went and compared it to angry bells banging against the side of her ears. All the noises of lost times.

We had two days and she was going to use them. “For what?” I asked comically (I already knew the answer).

“To spread a little happiness,” she said….

…So Hope spent her days sprinkling the hollows of the Retirement Community with her magical daydreams, moonbeams and silly wishes of joy. I, I being of knowledge and reality and logic pure, wallowed in the dark corners talking with the spiders under my robes. Continue reading

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, April 2015

kids-bike-16-inchYesterday, I got to have one of those dad moments. It is so cliche, it could be used in a TV commercial (and probably has been), but there is a reason for it. It is a great feeling.

I got to teach my son how to ride a bike.

We went to our local park that has a smooth cement trail around it. After a few falls and nervousness, he was up and going, and there I was huffing and puffing to try and keep up.

Yeah, I could go on about the symbolism of the kid finally being able to race away from the dad, leaving the early years behind, but I’m not in that frame of mind. If anything this has opened a whole new world of possibility for us. I look forward to taking him on different trails in our area, finding new bike paths to explore. In other words, my summer just got a lot more interesting.

What is also interesting is that most of what I mention below is all done while sitting down. My Fitbit would probably be disappointed by my list this month, actually. But I listen to it enough, so I think it is all fine. Continue reading

Non-Ghost Believer

GhostSome people don’t believe, others do, I’m somewhere in the middle but leaning heavily much more to the “no” side. Not a full-time denier but someone who believes he has reality on his side. And I can roll my eyes and yawn with the best of them.

Yes, I may watch the occasional special on a cable channel (I’m not recording them on my DVR or anything), but I would probably turn the channel after getting the gist of the ghost.

“Beheaded… yada yada… tragic lover. Got it. What else is on?”

Consider: If there were ghosts, the south would be filled to the brim with the ghosts of slaves; Germany would be unlivable because of the ghosts from the Holocaust; and every battle field (from Gettysburg to Iwo Jima) would need barriers to keep us living people out. And it would completely change the funeral home business.

I live in a house where someone died. They died in the same room I sleep in each night! Who knows, I might even sleep on the very spot that he took his fated last breath. Yet… I got nothing.

So why is it I can still be scared or hypnotized by the idea of a ghost? Heck, when I saw Paranormal Activity I was up for days, every bump was enough to wake me up fully.

“This is ridiculous, Scott,” I mumbled to myself again and again. “This is absolutely ridiculous. There is no such thing as ghosts. No such thing… What was that noise?!” Continue reading

Why The Littlest Angel is the worst holiday story… ever

The First Cover for the "classic"When The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell was published in 1946 it was a holiday phenomenon. This “classic” story has since been published numerous times (with many different illustrated versions); made into movies (cartoon, musical, and live action); and in the list of best-selling children stories of all time (!) it comes up in the top 20. 

Heck, even holiday crooner Bing Crosby sang a song based on the plot of it! 

I remember the first time I heard this story. It was at catechism. and the teacher read it to us as if she was bestowing a great holiday gift on us children. I can still see her smile. While the other kids casually sat near me with crossed legs, I remember really being bothered by the story. I couldn’t put my finger on it then, but that reaction to the tale has never gone away for me. And that day, I raised my hand for I had some questions.

My hand is still up in the air.

The fact is, after thinking about it far too much, and being haunted by it like Marley’s ghost each year, I can’t escape my problems with this narrative. I have come to the opinion that this Christmas traditional yarn is… just awful. Horrendous. Possibly the worst holiday story. Oh, God, it is just bad.

Okay, it takes a lot for a story to be a worst holiday yarn than the appalling song “The Christmas Shoes” (which for those lucky not to know is the materialistic and disturbing ditty about an ignorant child who leaves his dying mother’s bedside to go shopping, assuming that the shoes he puts on her feet will go with her soul to heaven and there impress Jesus), but The Littlest Angel does it. It does it ten times over.

Grab a cup of hot chocolate and a Christmas cookie, snuggle in by the fireplace, and let me tell you why… Continue reading

New WKAR Book Review: Mitch Albom’s The First Phone Call From Heaven

Current StateI am back on WKAR’s Current State today with a new book review! This time it is for the new novel by Mitch Albom, The First Phone Call From Heaven.

You can listen to my latest book review here: http://wkar.org/post/book-review-mitch-alboms-first-phone-call-heaven

If you would rather read my review, you can do so below.

Mitch Albom’s book can be found on amazon here. If you would like to learn more about my book reviews or hear/read past installments you can do so via my site (here) or via this page on Current State’s official website.

I hope you enjoy the review! Continue reading

The Mary Jane Legacy (It’s not about what you may assume…)

Something different on my site today, and from a different Scott Southard! My dad has his own blog where he writes on his experience working in health care and as a manager. In his most recent post he shared memories of his mom, my grandmother. It is a touching piece and I think really captures her strong personality and amazing mind. I hope you enjoy it.

Healthcare Leadership: A Discourse

This month marks the fifth anniversary of the passing of my mother, Mary Jane Southard.  She was a hard worker and a very smart woman with several graduate degrees, held a position in public education of which she was the first Michigan woman to do so, and was responsible for launching the education of innumerable children in our community.

Grandma S. copy

Even now, people in her town still recognize our shared last name and ask about her or have an endearing story to share of her seemingly unceasing generosity and kind heart.  It always fascinated my sons and me when out with her that people in their fifties or sixties would approach her and ask if she knew who they were.  And, like some sideshow act, she would look into these people’s eyes and without fail recognize them and call them by the name they preferred as a five-year old… and then…

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The 3 Mes: 22 Days Until 40

Number 3I’ve become very self-centered over the last few months.

Not in a “I’m going to be rude” kind of way. No, this is more like I get lost in thoughts, staring off into the distance. It’s like…

I’m sorry, I was someplace else right then. I’m back now.

A few posts ago, someone commented that I was going through a mid-life crisis. At the time, I brushed it off. Me? No!

I didn’t have any of the signs we all know from television and movies! But… now…  I think this might be my version of it. An exclusive and unique mid-life crisis. Sounds like something I would do. And to get through this stage in my life, I thought it might be “fun” to document my thoughts and feelings. Capture this moment. As a writer, you never know what will lead to inspiration and right now all of my focus seems to be on this, this shift. It is new, it is different, and it won’t happen again.

Okay…. Oddly, at this time (22 days off from life’s halfway mark) I feel splintered, broken into three different versions of myself.

There is the present me, the future me, and the past me. And I can see them in the mirror, they haunt me. When I get dressed in the morning, I sometimes wonder which one I am dressing like, which one I am going to be that day. This may all seem very dramatic to some, but I am a writer. It comes with the territory, drama is in the DNA. One of the great truths for all three of the mes. Continue reading

The Issue With My Clock or the Post With Breaks

The Broken ClockMy clock has switched.

I’m not sure how this happened, but everything is upside down and it is the new norm I have to accept. I’m Alice in a world where the ceiling is now the floor, and that is just how reality will have to be. We are all mad here.

Let me explain this better: When you are young you are always counting up to experiences.

  • When I am 16, I will learn to drive a car.
  • When I am 18, I graduate and go to college.
  • When I am 21, I can drink (well, I don’t like alcohol very much, so I watch my friends drink…. I just have never liked the taste or smell of beer or wine. Okay, I do admit I drink a little but the stuff I do enjoy, the mixes, usually involve chocolate or fruity flavors and they can come in glasses that some would find embarrassing. Well, just the color would be embarrassing for many to be near. So I keep to the soda when I am out in public, because I like to believe I have a certain swagger in my step and a coolness that I aim to keep, and the fruity drinks don’t help).

More counting! Then there is a wedding… and a house…the first baby… and a second… And suddenly, right there, when you have reached your limit on kids, and they begin to age out of diapers and clothes… everything turns.

It’s like in one of those cartoons from the 1940’s where the clocks have a face and the hands are attached to the nose and they spin in a strange fashion. Well, that is my internal clock, and now with 40 fast approaching, I feel the face’s confusion.

I have begun counting down to things… The outcome at the end, I don’t want to even imagine.

(I need a break, just a second. I have a soda around here someplace.) Continue reading