Saturday, May 03, 2003

I’ll always remember the very first time I saw her name in print. “Kelli Sue Woods.” It was written on the little pink card affixed to her clear bassinet at Hinsdale Hospital in Hinsdale, Illinois. She was not yet twelve hours old. Kelli was one of those kids that like to keep you up late at night. The night of her birth was the first time she pulled that trick, making her introduction at 12:08am on September 9, 1980. It was well after 3:00am before I hit the sheets. And then I was back at that little window staring into the hospital nursery just a few hours later, reading that card. “Kelli Sue Woods.” As we left the hospital a couple of day later they gave us her tiny arm bracelet with her name on it and, of course, a copy of her birth certificate came in the mail a short time later. All of them carried the same brand… “Kelli Sue Woods.”
When she was about three we took her to Central Hardware to get her fingerprinted. They were doing one of those special “don’t let your kid get stolen” emphasis. Some elderly lady sat behind a folding table, rolled her little hand on the ink pad, and pressed each finger gently onto a piece of paper. There! Now she is safe from the world and all of its evils. If somebody kidnaps her we’ll be able to show the police what her fingerprints look like. And then all we’ll have to do is check the fingerprints of every blond haired, blue eyed, kid in America to find the one that matches. Then we’ll have our Kelli back. Somehow I think they were hoping we would buy a wrench or something before we left the store.
I remember some year later as she came home from school and proudly showed me her Social Security card. Social Security? She was maybe… I don’t know… seven? But sure enough there was her name all typed neatly in and signed in ink underneath. “Kelli Sue Woods.” This little bundle of energy and cuteness was now officially backed by all of the authority and power of the United States of America! Impressive!
High school came around all too soon. With it came a driver’s license. Ugh. She and I went out in frequent spins around the neighborhood. One of those drives accidentally ended up in Jerry Edmonds front yard. That’s another story for another day. She drove and I prayed. We got through it. A short time later a crazy man at the Drivers License Bureau gave her a laminated card with her picture and name on it. “Kelli Sue Woods.” She was now an officially sanctioned driver in the state of Illinois. Who came up with this system? She was just a kid. Barely a kid! And now she was a kid driving my car.
On graduation day they called her name from the stage, formally proclaiming “Kelli Sue Woods” as a graduate of Civic Memorial High School. I was a little fogged and shocked on that day. My wallet was twitching under me… sensing something huge was about to happen. That something was called… college. Kel started out tamely and ended up like a lion. One and one half years at Lewis and Clark Community College flew by. Then came the transfer… the dreaded transfer… to Greenville College. I had nothing against Greenville. It was just that she wanted to LIVE there. This was totally unacceptable! And yet her mother took her and they moved her into a sleazy little dorm room. Every month I got a bill for the tuition of “Kelli Sue Woods.” She finished college like she finished high school, walking across an over-sized stage to receive a diploma declaring “Kelli Sue Woods” as a graduate of Greenville College with a major in education.
And then just as quickly as she came into being… she ceased to exist. It took Debbie’s mother nine months to make her. I’m not certain exactly how long she was engaged to Mr. Joseph McGill. Maybe it was nine months. Maybe it was longer. But I am absolutely sure it was on their minds for much longer than that. January 11, 2003 found her standing on a stage again. This time she was there with pen in hand, signing “Kelli Sue Woods” for the last time. When she put the pen down I uttered some magic words and turned her into Kelli Sue McGill. One second she’s Woods and the next second… POOF…she’s McGill. She probably never realized it but I was always working magic in her life. Whether it was helping her mother get her started, Loaning her the name “Kelli” (my middle name is Kelly,) letting her make her first road-kill in my car, (a former skunk and now merely a horrifying, crippling, odor,) or baptizing her into her faith and signing her certificate, I really tried my best to make Miss Kelli Sue Woods all that God wanted her to be.
About two weeks ago I finally got use to her being Mrs. Joseph McGill. It took awhile. The dainty smell of cosmetics and girly stuff in her room has been replaced by Scott’s gym socks. That will drive reality home in a heart beat. And then yesterday the most wonderful thing happened. Something good actually came out of the Alton telegraph. Yesterday I saw for what I am certain is the very last time the name “Kelli Sue Woods” in official print. Her former name was in the paper declaring her a “Greenville Scholar” because she had made the deans list at least three times.
Wow. My Kelli. She was gone for more than three months and then she dropped by, quite unexpectedly, to visit. There she is, for the entire world to see. Kelli Sue Woods is a scholar! I never doubted it.
You know how when they build a new ship the navy takes her out for a “shake down cruise?” They go out and sail around the high seas for a while, never getting too far from home, just to make sure all systems are functioning well. Then they drop back by home one more time and then it’s off to see the world. Well… that was my yesterday. Kelli Sue McGill has completed her “shake down cruise.” She dropped back by the old shipyard yesterday, appearing in the newspaper as Kelli Sue Woods, just to let us know that all is well. And then she sailed back out into the world. And hey, it’s ok! She’s ready for whatever comes her way! Because my little Kelli… she’s a scholar…

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

I needed gas. That is all. I didn’t need a phone call. I didn’t need a lecture. I needed gas. Why can’t a man just get what he needs anymore without having to take everything else the world has to offer along with it.

It was noonish. Yesterday. I had to be someplace. It was not far away but that little “gas pump” light was on and I’ve never seen it light up before on this particular car. So I really did not know how far I could go before the light became battery powered instead of gasoline powered. Know what I mean? So I stopped at my friendly, local Amoco dealer.

The weather was good and the top was down on the car. I slid my debit card through the “pay at the pump” slot and it told me to fill ‘er up. I let the pumping begin. I strolled around to the front of my car. It was covered with bugs and I was just checking to see if I needed to clean anything off with Mr. Friendly Service Station’s squeegee.

My cell phone rang. Actually it vibrated. I can’t hear ringing phones in my car because my stereo is too big. My stereo makes me smile. So I keep the phone on vibrate. As it did I leaned against the front of my car and answered it. (Note: The front of the car places me approximately 7 feet from the nozzle which continued feeding my thirsty gas tank.) The phone call was long distance. So what? Like it matters anymore. When you have a cell phone you can call Bangor, Maine, or you can call East Alton. Same price. This is one of the good things about cell phones.

While standing against the car, seeing the digital numbers drive me toward bankruptcy, talking to my friend on the cell phone, a pick-up truck pulled up behind me. I noticed him right away. Something did not feel right. For some reason I just didn’t think this guy was here for gas. I don’t know why that thought entered my mind… but it did.

(Teachable Moment: For those of us who consider ourselves “Born again children of the Living God,” we need to take these moments seriously. You see, God’s Spirit now resides in us. And sometimes He has a hard time keeping quiet. Sometimes He wants to tell us things. Once we learn to hear Him, if we keep in practice, it isn’t really that hard. So when you get “that feeling”… pay attention. Head’s up. Something just might be about to happen.)

So I turned toward the pick-up truck and watched a man get out. It was a black truck. Nothing fancy. Rather used and slightly beaten is the way I remember it. So was the man. He wore jeans and a “feed and seed” ball cap pulled low over his eyes. I was not even slightly surprised when he began walking toward me. Again… I do not know why. I just was not.

“You are breaken the rules.” He said. We were face to face.

I lifted the voice part of the phone away from my face and said the most brilliant thing I could think of at the time. “What?”

“You are breaken the rules,” he repeated.

I asked the man on the phone to hold on for just a second. I intentionally did not cover the mouthpiece. I wanted to make sure that if I were about to meet my Waterloo, somebody would hear it.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what you are talking about.” The man stared at me. I stared back at him.

“The rules! You aren’t suppose to be atalkin on the phone while apumpin gas!” He wasn’t belligerent. He was simply insistent. And he was not happy.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know that.” I smiled. I turned away from him and resumed my phone conversation. My friend asked what in the world just happened. I told him that I had no idea.

My pick-em-up buddy continued to stare at me. Ok, I guess you could call it more of a glare than a stare by this time. The seconds slowly ticked away. I would suppose that probably 15 or 20 of them passed by before he turned away, walked past my gas pump, got in his truck, and drove away. He did not buy any gas. He did not go into the station. He just left.

This event requires summarization. Here is the best I can do: “While purchasing gas and talking on the cell phone a man pulled up in a truck, got out, and yelled at me three times for doing so. Then he got back in his truck, pulled onto the highway, and left.”

Yep. I just re-read it and that about covers it. I called the owner of the gas station. He happens to be a very good friend of mine. I told him the story. I think he hurt himself laughing. And really… it was funny. But I can’t help but wonder… does this kind of thing happen to everybody? What the heck was that all about? When was the last time you picked up a newspaper to read that an idiot on a cell phone blew up a gas station? You know, maybe if I was smoking a stogie while inhaling the fumes from directly above the hose I would understand. Maybe if I were wearing cotton flannel and climbing back and forth, in and out of my car with cloth seats and then running my hand along the hose of the pump I could understand. Consider this… if it were really that dangerous… don’t you think ALL terrorists would give up on exploding shoes and just start making cell phone calls from rental cars? I dunno. I mean, really. Maybe it’s time to set up security at gas stations similar to airports. You just can’t be too careful these days.

By the way, if you call me on my cell and I answer… and all you hear is a loud KA-BOOM!!!! and then nothing… forget everything I just said.