“Sharing Stories Gives Us Something to Clap About,” Sept. 5, 2017


(Dear Reader: I’m taking this week off for vacation. The following column is from 2013. But I assure you, my brother was equally ecstatic this week after Clemson’s recent win.)

Happiness means different things to different people.

Take my brother. Blind all his life and crippled by cerebral palsy, he lives alone with plenty of time to dwell upon the things he doesn’t have and the loved ones he has lost.

But last night, when I called him, he was as happy as happy ever gets. Why? Football.

Clemson University had just won its season opener. And Joe was over the moon, so to speak, an orange-blooded, paw-footed Clemson fan-atic.

It started long ago when he married Tommie Jean. She, too, was blind and depended on him in many ways. But she flat-out insisted that he root with her for the Tigers. They shared 10 good years and seldom missed a Clemson game on the radio.

Then he lost her to cancer and for a while, it was hard for Joe to take pleasure in most anything. But he remained fiercely loyal both to his wife’s memory and her team.

The game had just ended when I called him. No answer.

“You’re probably clapping too loud to hear the phone,” I said to his voice mail, “or you had to go change your pants. Call me.”

Five minutes later he rang.

“Hey, Sister! You always call me when the Tigers win!”

“I’d call if they lost,” I said, “but you’d be too mad to talk.”

He chuckled. “I appreciate it.”

“Did you like that game?”

“I loved it!” he said. “I clapped so hard my hands hurt!”

We all need something to clap about once in a while. I thought of that this morning when my husband pulled the skimmer basket out of the pool and found a scorpion about the size of Danny DeVito.

We live in a desert. Deserts have scorpions. We know this. But it was the first scorpion we’d seen, and we won’t soon forget it.

Lucky for my husband, it was dead and didn’t sting him. He was happy about that. There’s nothing quite like a little deliverance to make you feel glad to be alive.

Later, when I called my sister, I didn’t mention the scorpion. She worries enough as it is. She was as happy as Joe, for a different reason: Food.

Her neighbor, my friend Martha, had brought her a chicken casserole. Bobbie loves Martha almost as much as she loves chicken. Which is to say, a lot. But it was the kindness as much as the food that made Bobbie feel like clapping.

Usually, stories of victory and deliverance and kindness are enough to keep me clapping for days. And they might have, if not for a few minor mishaps.

First, I tried to change a light bulb. Big mistake. It shattered in daggers all over me and the room and cut a slit in my hand that bled like a slaughtered pig.

While vaccuuming up the mess, I somehow snagged the bedskirt and sucked it half off the bed. I had to take the vaccuum apart to get it out. I don’t know about you, but when I take things apart, they never go back together the same way.

I was not happy. So I went to the kitchen to get a Diet Coke and when I popped off the top, it exploded. In my face. In my hair. All over my world.

I stood there a long moment, covered in sweat and blood and Diet Coke and slivers of glass.

Then I started to laugh.

Life is an ongoing story. We take turns telling it, sharing it with one another in pieces, long or short, funny or sad. You tell me your stories and I tell you mine. They are threads of one fabric, patches on a sacred quilt that covers and warms us, tells us who we are and sustains us in times good and bad.

Through our stories, we share in each other’s joys, bear each other’s burdens and laugh at our own bumbling mistakes.

In the beginning was the Word.

It’s still spoken every day.

That is something to clap about.


  1. Kate Sciacca says

    I recall this column… and enjoyed it more the second time around! Who could forget a “scorpion the size of Danny DeVito?????” As I read your column my boys in Blue are in a free fall… oh well, at least it’s back to what I’m used to. We head to AT&T to watch them lose to the Giants next Monday…should be great fun ?

    Hope you are enjoying a well deserved rest.

  2. I love reading stories about your brother who has been an inspiration to me. We have a disabled Son–well, he became disabled at age 22 from a car accident. Upon reading over the years of your brother and his adapting as all of you did to his disability it really helped me realize one thing… We are all disabled in some way… Adapting and moving forward is what life is all about. Thank you for your always positive and real stories–Love them!
    Jill from Monterey 🙂

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