March 9, 2022

when an email or a cake can be a gift


The night of my birthday (how did SO many things happen on my birthday? during a pandemic even) right before we watched Jim Gaffigan with the fam, I got an email from an elderly man from our church. He and his son Michael, who is special, attend our church. Michael is older than me by a few years. He's very high functioning and incredibly social. In his dad's words, he "was born mentally challenged". He's worked at the same grocery store for like 37 years. 

I don't even remember how we met. I think he approached Curly after mass to say that he liked her hair. Maybe about a year ago? Shortly after we could attend mass in person again while masked. We meet lots of people through 'the hair'. Michael started seeking us out each week to chat with us as we walked to our car after 5:30 pm mass on Saturdays. Turns out he has the same b-day as Reg. Reg texted him on his cave-isolation birthday. 

Michael likes to send cards. He sent Mini a get well card when she had covid. Way back in the fall when he asked Curly what she was up to, I shared Curly's school b-ball game schedule with Michael and his dad. They were excited to come to a game in our home gym that is only a few blocks from our church. 

People, they enjoyed that one game so much that they rarely missed a game for the rest of the season. They even when out of their way to attend her away games. I had to be sure to text them whenever there was a schedule change. I don't think I blogged about it, but Curly's team won every game but the first game when Curly apparently had a touch of the jitters. It was a very exciting season. Our school is small and not known for fielding a great team. Curly and one of her besties scored almost all of their points. 

See what I did here? I gave Curly a
mask that thankfully is more
 intense than what the
 pandemic calls for. 
After every game that Michael and his dad attended, Curly thanked them for coming. Michael had me take a photo of he with Curly after several games. 

Michael sat next to Reg at that first game. We didn't know him very well, other than to chat for a few minutes after church. Afterwards, Curly asked Reg how it went. Did Michael talk to him the entire game or ask too many questions? Was he OK to sit with at a game? Reg said he was fine to sit next to, that he knew the game and was excited each time she scored. I believe Reg said he preferred to sit next to Michael over me, as I cheer too loudly. Guilty as charged.

In that game, the first time Curly drove to the hoop and scored, or hit an outside shot, or something:


One of Curly's teammates has some issues. She didn't like a call the ref made. I mean, been there, right? But, most of us can recover after an unfavorable call. For this girl, well - it didn't end well. She refused to back down, hollered at the ref, and had to be escorted from the gym. She marched out while flipping off the entire gym full of people.


This loose cannon girl performed similarly at the one game that my in laws attended. Well. That was fun. They are VERY opposed to public school. My kids attended Catholic school for years. I was ready for any snarky comments my in laws might have, because we encountered our fair share of kids with behavior issues at Catholic school too. Fortunately, they said nothing. 

Fun fact:  My anti-vax MIL was the only person in the gym NOT wearing a mask (this was when covid was still a MAJOR concern) and it still irks me that I didn't tell her to go out to her car and get her mask, or send Reg. I assume that she forgot hers in her car. But alas, I kept my masked mouth shut, out of fear that I might join the 'troubled' teen and end up flipping a bird and getting verbal and having people think that 'troubled' was my kid and she'd learned her behavior from me. 

OK, *wipes sweat from brow just thinking about it* getting the post back on track:   right after Christmas, I emailed Michael and his dad links to watch Curly's dancing competition at Thanksgiving, thinking they'd enjoy it. 

His dad emailed me on my birthday to say how much they liked watching her dancing. He didn't realize it was my birthday but he gave me such a nice gift. He wrote (an excerpt):  

I wish to commend your family for the manor in which they exhibit their Christian values, which were acquired from their parents, to my son Michael. (he goes on to describe how he and his deceased wife wanted Michael not to be hidden in a corner and how he ended up becoming so social)Thank you once again for your family's friendship to Michael.

I was so touched by this. So nice of him to recognize my kids this way. It truly doesn't take much to be kind to Michael. He's easy to chat with and interested in everything we do. Still, it does warm my heart to see my kids make the effort with him, and it touches me that his dad appreciates that effort. 

It's the Grinch.
In other 'nice news', when Curly couldn't have her friends over for her birthday right before Christmas because Mini tested positive that morning, her good friend dropped off the cake that she'd made to bring to the cancelled get together. 

Curly was super bummed about not hanging with her friends. I kid you not, she had

Sometimes it really is the little things. Am I right? Any little thing moments in your life recently? For your birthday?  


Nicole MacPherson said...

Michael sounds really sweet and lovely!

That cake is adorable, I love it so much. The Grinch! How cute. I bet it was yummy too.

Beth Cotell said...

It's ALWAYS the little things! At least that's what I'm learning as I age. Bringing a cake over, inviting someone to a basketball, simple conversation, etc. are the things that make life wonderful and special.

And public school or not, that girl must have some issues that go beyond basketball. I hope she can get them sorted out before she does much damage to herself or others.

Ally Bean said...

I'm all about paying attention to the details, the little things. Therein is where I find the joy in my life. The cake is WONDERFUL... although one of Max would have been good too. 😉

Busy Bee Suz said...

The story of your family meeting and inviting Michael just warms my heart. Like you said: It's so easy to be nice and being nice to one person at times means the world to them.

I had a good laugh at the mask you put on Curly. If she played the game with that one on, I commend her for EVERYTHING.

The cake is awesome!! Your kids surround themselves with quality friends!!

Colleen said...

You have been through a lot of down times lately, and it's so nice to see you recognizing and enjoying the upswing. Happy humpday!!

Ernie said...

Nicole - He is really a very sweet guy. He texts Reg when he is watching a sporting event like the Superbowl and Reg is always touched when he reaches out to him.

That cake - how cute was that?

Ernie said...

Beth - Amen to the little things. It can be just the thing to make someone's day. It really isn't that hard to provide a little thing for someone.

Oh, this girl. She is troubled. Her mom is a single mom and has her hands full. The sister who is Mini's age has her own set of struggles.

Ernie said...

Ally - Yes, I totally agree. It is so often the details that make someone know that you are paying attention, thinking of them.

This little girl and her clever cake has become Curly's bestie over the last few years. Curly is bummed they will go to different high schools, but I told her that that will just mean her circle will expand.

Ernie said...

Suz - Thanks Suz - yes, taking the time to chat with someone who enjoys connecting with people is really so simple. Michael is delightful.

That 'mask' wasn't supposed to look like a mask but I was struggling a bit with the drawing tool so there we are. I was like WELL, I WILL JUST CALL IT A MASK.

I could not believe the timing of the cake delivery. They do tend to choose amazing friends.

Ernie said...

Colleen - Thanks. It has been a rough couple of months. I'm having a heck of a time with my daycare at the moment and need to write a post (or 10) about the goings on there. I tend to attract the weirdos of the world, and then I also have long term solid amazing families. The little things will get us all through the down times though.

Kari said...

Michael sounds so sweet! He got a show with his game! How exciting! :)

I love the cake! Ella also had COVID on her birthday. Winter birthdays are tough, as you know.

Charlie said...

That’s so lovely. What a great new friendship for you all. Good for your kids and I’m sure very good for Michael and his dad. You must have been so proud to read what he wrote. Nice to read about some kindness in the world at the moment (although the current atrocities are also bringing out lots of kindness around the rest of the world in support). When you get chance do let us have some more stories about the weirdo people you always seem to meet in your daily life! We could all do with some humour and I find those stories hilarious!

Jenny in WV said...

It's always great to make a new friend and one who likes basketball is even more awesome!

Love the Grinch cake!

Gigi said...

Michael and his father sound like a fine addition to your friend circle!

Ernie said...

Kari - Yes, I cringed a little extra when the girl melted down during the game (to put it mildly) as we had brought guests and people should've been on their best behavior.

Winter birthdays are rough. Curly has had some decent birthdays though - maybe it is because of the BEFORE Christmas date. We once did lunch with she and Mini and their two besties at the American Girl Doll Restaurant. I also surprised her with a sleepover and they girls made Christmas cookies.

Ernie said...

Charlie - It is a nice new friendship. Funny how if I stop and talk to people after mass my kids get restless (in nice weather they just walk home because we are like a block from church). Now if Michael stops to talk to them, they chat patiently and wouldn't dream of complaining afterwards that we stood around too long. Maybe they are growing up? I saw someone post a photo of a bunch of strollers left at a train station by Polish moms so that moms coming from the Ukraine would be able to pick one when they arrived. That warmed my heart.

Careful what you wish for - I need to start drafting posts about the people I babysit for and all the goings-ons here in my daycare. I've had a run of bad luck lately. I swear there is a sign out front that says: WEIRDOS WELCOME. Get excited. It'll be a few weeks I think, I have scholarship news coming next week - if I finish it. Have I mentioned daycare woes are making me nuts? Maybe if I write about it, I'll feel better. I think my posts this week were a bit boring. Excitement to follow.

Ernie said...

Jenny - Yes, we welcome all friends, but people who appreciate basketball hold a special place in our hearts.

Isn't that cake the cutest?

Ernie said...

Gigi - This is true. Michael texted me last week. He and his dad were driving along and they spotted me taking a bunch of tots out for a walk. We draw attention to ourselves seeing as we are a small army of little people. Safe to say, I felt very 'seen.'

Anonymous said...

Michael sounds like a sweet guy, the friendship sounds beneficial to him and your family as well. I’m definitely trying to instill in my children to be kind to everyone, even kids like Loose Cannon. Maybe don’t spend time with kids who behave that way, but always show a little kindness because everyone could benefit from it. My daughter has been recognized in school a few times this year for kindness and that is a little thing that is huge to my Mama heart!
I also try really hard to show gratitude and thank people, because little actions do mean a lot and people deserve to know their efforts were appreciated.
My birthday is in a couple of weeks so hopefully there are some little things coming up for me :)

Maddie said...

What a lovely post. Small acts of kindness mean so much & it sounds like you and your kids have brought a lot of joy to Michael and his dad. And what a lovely note. Warms my heart to read this. :-)

Ernie said...

AM - Thanks, yes I agree. Acts of kindness go a long way. Whenever my kids have come home grumbling about someone being grouchy or snappy, I remind them that we just don't know what is going on with them. Everyone has a bad day sometimes. Long story, but Tank was in special ed for math. In 4th grade, a girl with Downs Syndrome was in his class. She was fixated on birthdays, so they did a little surprise party for her in the special ed classroom. Tank got to attend. He made her a sweet card that said something like YOU ARE THE NICEST PERSON I KNOW AND YOU WORK HARDER THAN ANYONE. He got an award for being so kind to her. I got all emotional when I read what the card was for. Tank got all sheepish with me and was kind of like BIG DEAL, SHE IS THE NICEST AND MOST HARD WORKING PERSON I KNOW. Like, quit making such a big deal.

Happy almost birthday! Hope you have some little and big things headed your way.

Ernie said...

Maddie - I'm glad that you enjoyed this post. I do appreciate that running into Michael after mass causes us to slow down and connect with him. Last week he followed us all the way to our car and we never saw his dad. We looked at each other like, HMM? Then we asked him where his dad was, he waved back at the church and was like OH, HE'S TALKNG TO SOME NEIGHBOR. Then we spotted him walking out the front door. It was so cute. Michael acting like his dad was talking to some boring neighbor.