tissue bird

My pockets are dusty. How does dust get into the pocket of one’s jeans, you are surely asking yourself right now. Jeans pockets are practically sealed off! And why is dust trying to get in there in the first place? You’d think dust would be struggling to get out of my pocket! 

Then I realized this may be unique to me. I also realized the dust was mostly in my left pocket.

Which turned out to be a clue.

As it turns out, the difference between my left pocket and my right pocket is this:

In my left pocket, I carry two tissues. No more, no less. And the reason I carry two tissues is because of what happened in seventh grade.

I was on a field trip, taking one of those big yellow buses. We were going to the Morse Home. Every kid has the historical field trip where they had to go that they kind of dreaded – for me, that place was the Morse Home. Where Samuel Morse invented Morse Code, I think. No offense to the Morse Home and all the Samuel Morse enthusiasts out there, I’m sure I’d love it now, what with the gardens and all. As a kid, though, I’m not looking for ancestral houses. I’m looking for Moon Bounces. Are we going to a Moon Bounce? It’s a yes or no question. Now kids got iPads or whatever, I don’t know.

Anyway, I’m on that school bus, on the way to the Morse Home, and I get a runny nose.

From the deep recesses of my face holes I could feel the flood coming, like those scenes in action movies when they’re in the tunnel and they’re like “Don’t worry, this tunnel hasn’t been active in years” but then hear the rumbling water and they’re like “Ruuuuun!”

But this wasn’t exciting like those movies. This was awful. Because I had no sleeve to wipe my nose on (which was option 1) and, worse, I had no tissues.

Lemme refresh your memory: When you’re a boy in seventh grade? You don’t go around asking for tissues. You may as well ask your friends for a sequined penguin costume. Except asking for the penguin costume would be cooler than asking for tissues. And cool is a fragile, fragile state in middle school. 

Longest bus ride of my life, people. I’ve never been more focused on sniffing, trying to hold that river in place, desperate not to sully my seatmate, a crime I might never live down. We reached the Morse Home and I cannonballed up the aisle and out the door, looking for a bathroom.

Since then, I never leave the house without two tissues in my left pocket.

From time to time I’ll forget they’re in there and I’ll throw the jeans in the laundry and then I’ll open the dryer and it’s like a Kleenex factory exploded, but otherwise there’s no evidence that I keep two tissues with me everywhere I go.

Now, here’s why I bring all this up:

Three years ago, on Father’s Day, Finn had a present for me. He’d been telling me about this present for weeks. Who plans a Father’s Day present weeks in advance? Well, Finn did. When the day arrived, he shook me awake and gave me this oddly shaped present.

Even when I opened it, I wasn’t sure what it was. That photo at the top of the page? That’s what I was looking at.

Finn blurted out, “It’s Tissue Bird!”

Tissue Bird looked sort of like a bird, or as birdlike as a plastic cup could look, and inside were tissues, held in by Scotch tape.

“Because you always carry tissues! Now you can bring Tissue Bird with you instead!” Finn said, breathless with excitement. “And if you ever run out of tissues, just tell me because I know how to fill it up again. Now you don’t have to carry tissues everywhere because Tissue Bird will carry them for you!”

Now, I wasn’t about to bring Tissue Bird with me everywhere I went.

But I did bring it to my office, as you can see above.

More importantly that the practicality of thing itself, Tissue Bird made me feel known by my son.

Six years old, and he noticed that I carried tissues around, and so he gave me a gift that was specific to me (I can’t imagine there’s a huge market for Tissue Bird out there), and something that told me that he was paying attention to me. I felt known by my son.

That Christmas, I felt known by Lucy when I opened her gift to me: A pair of boxers with chickens on them. She knew I would like them. (Then for the next couple of months she delighted in pointing vaguely and saying “Hey Dad, there’s chicken under there” and I’d look over and ask “There’s chicken under where?” And she would crack up because I had just said chicken underwear.)

And then for my birthday the year before last, Lizzie ordered me a cake with the Mets and Virginia logos on it. And yes, I know that’s the kind of cake you get when you’re 11 years old but it was my most favorite cake ever because I felt known by her. (This is a picture of the cake. I wasn’t allowed to post a picture of my chicken boxers.)

If that feeling of being known means a lot to me, I’m guessing it means a lot to others too. So I’m working at remembering people’s names when I meet them. I’m working on remembering details of what’s happening in my friends’ lives.

It doesn’t have to be all the time and it doesn’t have to feel like a burden. But I need to do that more. I need to Tissue Bird more people. Because if you’re anything like me, then you know that there’s nothing quite like it.

Speaking of remembering names, here are:

The Top Five Incorrect Names People Have Called Me Over the Years:

  1. “Krondor.”

When I first met the kids in the orphanage in Nepal where I volunteered, I told them my name was Conor. The kids thought my name was “Krondor.” I kept telling them it wasn’t Krondor and they kept insisting. They asked me to repeat it several times and every time I did they would point to me triumphantly and say “See, brother? You are saying Krondor!” (I wasn’t saying Krondor.)

  1. “Corner.”

I lived in Brussels and my French-speaking friends always introduced me as Corner. I would point out that my name wasn’t Corner and they would say it was just easier to say because it was an English word. What kind of logic is that? Pothole is an English word. Why not just call me Pothole?

  1. “Conners.”

My soccer coach in high school called me Conners. I told him that wasn’t my name, for, like, 4 years. And I was the captain of the team. But he said “Like, Jimmy Conners, the tennis player!” but what does that have to do with anything? That’s his name! And it’s his LAST name! And my name is Conor! And I see you at practice every day!

  1. “Conrad.”

Everyone called me Conrad when I was a kid because, unlike today, Conor was not a common first name when I was growing up. People would say “Hey, Conrad! How’s it going?” and I would say, “Good, thanks” and wonder again why my parents tortured me with this name.

  1. “Conor Brennan.”

Nobody in history of enunciation has ever enunciated like I enunciate the G in Grennan. Because the world wants to hear Brennan. Like that’s such a great name? “What’s the last name on the reservation?” the hostess as a restaurant will ask me, looking down at her clipboard. “Gggggggggggggggrennan,” I would reply. Then I spell it, and when I spell the first G I say it like “Gggjjuueeee” so forcefully that it has about four syllables and my lower jaw rumbles like a mechanical bull. Then she’ll run her finger down the names on her clipboard and tell me, sadly, that she doesn’t see a reservation for Brennan.

Anyway. Off to see Tissue Bird.

By | 2018-07-25T08:02:31+00:00 July 25th, 2018|27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Tracy July 25, 2018 at 8:20 am - Reply

    I feel like this is totally what Jesus meant by “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”. Is there anything more honest and humbling than when a child sees right into your heart and calls it out? We could all use a little more Tissue Bird.

    • Liz July 25, 2018 at 8:28 am - Reply

      We could so all use more Tissue Bird!! ❤️

      • Conor July 25, 2018 at 9:22 am - Reply

        I feel like we’ve found a business opportunity for Finn….

    • Conor July 25, 2018 at 9:21 am - Reply

      More Tissue Bird!!

  2. Glenna Kaplan July 25, 2018 at 8:37 am - Reply

    Hmmm, I get called Brenda (It’s Glenna), Gwen and, inexplicably, Carolyn! I love the tissue bird story. Your kids are great!

    • Conor July 25, 2018 at 9:22 am - Reply

      Carolyn! Those people should have to go through some kind of training. Not cool.

  3. Mark July 25, 2018 at 8:37 am - Reply

    Buddy, I feel you on mistaken name, although in my case, it’s my last name. I don’t know for sure how many theoretical ways there are to spell Pflug (I think it has something to do with factorials and the square root of apple pie or something). But, on last count, there have been 1,427,342 misspellings of my name. I’m sure there are going to be more.

    • Conor July 25, 2018 at 9:25 am - Reply

      Dude, I don’t know even how you’ve survived this long. The good thing about having a name like that is……..well, I’m not sure. But I know God made you special. So there’s that.

  4. Another Liz July 25, 2018 at 9:19 am - Reply

    I need a Tissue Bird because I basically feel like I’ve spent my life with tissues in my pocket, due to allergies or something. And I’m so thrifty I also wash them.

    • Conor July 25, 2018 at 9:25 am - Reply

      Yes! That’s my kind of thrifty! That’s so me.

  5. mary ann shaughnessy July 25, 2018 at 9:28 am - Reply

    Really enjoyed this! “Little Princes” still one of my favorite books. Tissues are most useful when left in pockets and then generously spread throughout all items in today’s laundry..

    • Conor July 25, 2018 at 9:35 am - Reply

      I also feel like a big hero when I can offer my wife a tissue during the sad part of the movie.

  6. Kathy Mavity July 25, 2018 at 9:29 am - Reply

    ❤️❤️❤️

    • Conor July 25, 2018 at 9:35 am - Reply

      Hi Kathy!

  7. Denise July 25, 2018 at 9:30 am - Reply

    Oh Conor, this made me laugh. My name is Denise and in Singapore in the 1980s, I had a secondary school teacher who called me Disney. The whole class cracked up and I wanted to die, like swallow-me-whole die, right there.

    On another note, “knowing”… now, that’s a great word. Knowing God, who knows us… (Psalm 139, John 10:14) even to the number of hairs on our head. It really does give new meaning to being loved.

    God bless you and yours.

    • Conor July 25, 2018 at 9:36 am - Reply

      There is nothing like feeling known by Him! It’s the great gift of my life. Maybe even better than Tissue Bird.

  8. Carolyn with a J July 25, 2018 at 10:01 am - Reply

    I love everything about the perfect gifts! I would buy a tissue bird. Being known is most important.

    And I am also a victim of no one being able to pronounce my name. Jerilynn. Like Carolyn with a J. But I got Geraldine, Jossylyn, Jessica ‘do they call you Jeri?’, or ‘what do they call you?’

    I am a mother to three boys so I am intimate with the boy jokes, and I love that Lucy was the one with the ‘he said underwear’ joke.

    • Conor July 25, 2018 at 10:32 am - Reply

      Your username of Carolyn with a J is totally amazing. That’s how I’m going to sign off from now on. Best regards, Conor Grennan (with ONE N in Conor and it’s GGGGrennan not Brennan!!)

  9. Dorian Beighley July 25, 2018 at 10:29 am - Reply

    I can so identify…with the name thing, not the tissue thing. My homeroom (remember that…where you’d go to organize your day, chew gum and the school made sure you showed up for the day) teacher all through high school called me “Doreen” although I corrected her every single day. And, she was an English Lit teacher. HELLO, ever heard of Oscar Wilde, people? I’ve been called Doria, Doreen, Gloria…I know it’s not a common name so I just let it go. Well, obviously, not really. And, I won’t even go into the last name…I just let people spell it “Bailey”. How did this become about me? 🙂 I need a tissue.

    • Conor July 25, 2018 at 10:33 am - Reply

      Maybe we just all need to change our name. Just find something easy. Like BB8. Can’t mess that up.

  10. Crista Mathew July 25, 2018 at 10:50 am - Reply

    Lol! Conor this awesome and I can’t stop laughing. Your family is awesome too! I love Lucy’s sense of humor, Finn’s enthusiasm and Liz’s flair with birthday cakes! The name thing cracks me up. We can never make a reservation either – it’s botched every time with my first name, our last name, and when I try to make it easy with my husband’s three letter name it always turns out to be Tim or Jim! ‍♀️ Keep writing! It resonates on so many levels!

    • Conor July 25, 2018 at 11:08 am - Reply

      Thanks Crista!! I feel like we should all just have the same name. Like Hooper for guys and maybe Cinderella for girls. So much easier.
      Love to the fam!

  11. Susan Flanagan July 25, 2018 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Loved this one, Conor! Off on a tangent, and for what it’s worth, when I tell people my name is Susan, they always remember it. When I say, call me Sue, they somehow forget, and call me Pat, Ann, Carol or–. Go figure! Maybe Susan sounds professional, or serious. or meaningful, and Sue sounds casual, common, boring? But as for the sweetness and innocence of Finn’s and Lucy’s gifts (Liz’ kindness), they are treasures to be cherished forever, especially in our memories.

    • Conor July 25, 2018 at 1:31 pm - Reply

      I feel like I’m getting so much insight into names here! Of course, the curse of the 3 letter names. I never thought of it….

  12. Heather July 25, 2018 at 1:34 pm - Reply

    Krondor is awesome, right up there with any Viking hero, or some character from Skeletor. Great post!

    • Conor July 25, 2018 at 1:54 pm - Reply

      I think I need a scar. On my face, or neck, something like that.

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