Pre-school Drop Off Ain’t No Joke

We once had a dishwasher that had a little clean-out basket designed to catch all the food particles that would not otherwise be churned up and drowned in the suds on their way to the Ohio River (or wherever they go).  Our new dishwasher does not have that little basket and the large food particles now remain stuck to the plates and bowls long after the wash and rinse cycles – leaving us to scrape them away into the trash can where they will probably end up in the Ohio River.  But our new dishwasher has that cool silver finish and it looks really good.  Looks, you know, are everything – even when it comes to kitchen appliances.  If it didn’t make me sound really old I would say something here like, “they don’t make things like they use to”. 

Why all this about the the little dishwasher basket you ask?  I have become that little basket for my family.  I catch and do all the things that those who still work and have a real life cannot do because they have a real job and a real life.  Now, I am not complaining – let me be clear.  I love being able to do things for my family and being retired affords me those opportunities.  If I can make their lives easier – I’m all in. Without that basket – our dishwasher would get clogged and probably quit working and so it is with the things I can do for the “fam”.  Without me their lives would get clogged up with .., well, you get the idea.  

My most recent job has been helping out our daughter with her kids while her husband is out of town.  Today, I took Conner to his pre-school and experienced the military-like precision in which children are dropped off in the morning.  I had no idea things had changed so much since our children were in pre-school.  By the time I was briefed on how, when and where this transfer would happen, my head was spinning and I found myself wrestling with the details as I tried to sleep the night before the big “drop-off”.  Where do I go again? What happens if I’m too early? Too late?  I was a nervous wreck.  I was told not to have Conner there before 8:20AM but not after 8:30. That ten minute window had to be observed or something would happen – I suppose something really bad. It went through my mind to do a dry run the night before. I had no idea how long it would take to pick him up at home, secure him in his five-point harnessed – could be safe on the space shuttle – car seat, drive downtown to his school – get in line within that ten minute time frame – say the right thing – not have my truck breakdown while in line – get him out of his car seat like I know what I am doing without needing to call for the jaws of life – kiss him good-bye (is that allowed?) – and drive off with the appropriate speed and demeanor.  In keeping with my earlier analogy of the dishwasher – I was a basket-case.  

I woke up at 5AM to run through the checklist a dozen more times.  Geez!  What happened to the days when we would throw the kids in the front seat and practically push them out the door when we took them places.  I’m pretty sure there were times my mom dropped me off places when I was a kid and never even came to a complete stop.

I paced the floor and watched the clock click down toward zero hour before heading out to complete the mission.  I can do this! – I can do this! – we raised two children and I can do this!  But, what if there is traffic? What if I hit every stop light? What if I get behind some slow driving old lady on her way to the beauty shop? Dear God, I thought, I’ll be late!  I hurriedly got to my truck and rushed to get Conner.  I managed to get him squeezed into his lunar capsule car seat (surprisingly not hanging upside down) without leaving an arm or leg hanging out and not disecting part of his stomach in the vice-grip-like buckles. We were on our way.

Traffic was actually not too bad and as we neared the dreaded drop off zone I, like a good soldier followed orders and made my way through the parking lot across the street. This part of the elaborate pre-school drop off plan was designed to reduce traffic jams along the side streets as other parents, grandparents and/or dishwasher baskets formed a perfectly straight line toward drop-zone “Alpha, Charlie, Bravo”. However, I quickly noticed that I was the only one driving through the parking lot. Just as I was feeling really proud to be the only one following orders, I realized I was the only one winding through the parking lot because I was thirty minutes early. There was no traffic jam because everyone else was just now leaving their house or eating at McDonalds.  I was second in line.

Conner and I moved into position and waited.  Being twenty minutes early, I was unsure what would happen when the door finally opened.  Would I be disciplined for arriving before the ten minute time frame? Would Conner be kicked out on his second day of pre-school? Would I be the subject of a staff training video entitled, “What Not To Do When Dropping Off Your Grandson at Pre-school”?  I was also unsure if I needed to take Conner out of his car seat.  I noticed the people in front and behind had already released their children from theirs.  Should I?  But, would that not be a violation – even against the law?  Perhaps I should wait and when it is my turn, then take him out.  But how will I do that? My truck is huge and I would need to lay across the center console on my stomach and lean into the back seat in order to free him from his confines.  My feet may hit the gear shift and cause me to ram into the car in front.  Maybe I should get out and walk around to his side.  But, that seemed slow and dangerous. Angry grandparents will be honking their horns and leaning out yelling at me – may cause one to stroke out or have a heart attack. Then we will have to wait for an ambulance.  I didn’t know what to do.

Finally it was our turn.  I pulled into place. A really nice lady opened Conner’s door, greeted him with a warm “Good Morning!”, and without any trouble whatsoever, released him from his car seat without breaking a sweat or dislocating his elbow. She then shut my door.  It was over. Mission accomplished.

There is an old saying that things usually are not as bad as they seem.  In other words, we tend to create problems in our minds by overthinking things.  I have to quit doing that. 

This old dishwasher basket can’t take it.

Peace! Steve Mc


My Moment of Grace

It took only a moment, a flash of time almost too small to notice or calculate. And yet in that blink of an eye, my life and the precious life of my grandson, nearly ended.  It was my fault that Conner Jack would experience his first, and God willing, only car crash.  The mental video has played over and over in my mind for several days now and my sleep has been interrupted with the nightmare that, by God’s grace, never unfolded.  How could I have lived had Conner been injured or killed by my pulling out in front of an oncoming pickup truck?  Had the young driver not been alert and manage to swerve and brake quick enough, the result could have been tragic.  His fast reaction resulted in two damaged vehicles but no injuries.  

There are so many times in life when seconds and inches mean the difference between life or death.  Had our two vehicles arrived even one second sooner, the impact would have been squarely on Conner’s door and the result unthinkable. Instead the impact happened just beyond the place Conner sat in his car seat.  Was it luck or was it something more?

God’s grace is profound.  The very idea of undeserved forgiveness is life changing. Knowing that scripture declares nothing can tear us away from that grace, that God has cast our sins as far as the east is to the west, washed whiter than snow, forgotten and remembered no more, is so hard to believe that many refuse to accept such mercy.  We must earn it, they suggest.  We must be good, do good, please God in some way in order to be accepted.  It all sounds good but it’s not true.  We are incapable of goodness, at least the level of good that God could accept.  We are simply helpless. And that is the only way I can find peace in understanding the driving mistake that nearly took my life and my grandsons.  I was helpless.  I made the mistake of turning in front of an oncoming truck and all I could do was brace for the impact.  In that horrific moment, grace found us.  On a narrow two lane highway in the county countryside, we were given life, love, forgiveness and grace.  God found us helpless and we found God.

There are seconds in life that change us, that teach us by revealing to us a God who may seem hidden for much of our days and nights.  We are so consumed with our problems and the mundane thoughts about our lives that we forget we are living.  Conner and I are alive for reasons I don’t understand and though the horrific images and booming sound of our car wreck replays over and over in my thoughts, I can accept it now as a blessing, even thankful for the experience.  As if God slapped me across the face to wake up and embrace life, embrace family, friends, even the very problems I am so consumed with. He has my attention.  

After a sleepless first night following the accident, I went to see Conner.  I prayed that there would be no lingering effects upon him.  When I came through the door he was playing with his little brother, Thomas.  He was laughing, running around like the little boy I knew him to be, the accident the farthest thing from his mind.  Upon seeing me, he ran and gave me a hug.  I squeezed him tight like I’ve done hundreds of times before.  But this hug felt different.  This hug was undeserved, perhaps unlikely to have happened considering what we had lived through. God had given Conner and I one more embrace and a long lifetime ahead to thank Him for it.