Mary Beth Writes

First written 2/18/2017

Yesterday was the funeral of Jack Jude. I met him off and on over the years we lived in Racine.  He was a smart, compassionate, wide-thinking, justice-for-all judge in Racine County. We were not close friends but we knew each other, and talked from time to time when we ran into each other in the Law Enforcement Center. Twice, when I encountered complicated legal snafus in regards to the guys I worked with, I called him. He would listen and then suggest options and strategies.

I know Jack’s unexpected death has rocked many lives.

Today is a funeral in Chicago, of a good friend’s aunt. This aunt was creative, sophisticated, laughed easily and had many adventures in her life. She provided a window to the world for her niece, my friend.

Last night late I received an email from another friend that her dad passed away yesterday. He was an awesome dad from the generation where so many of them were not. He was curious, could-fix-anything, was a loving and faithful family man and orchard farmer.

I woke this morning to a clear azure sky, a blue jay in the neighbor’s tree, a hawk streaking past our window, a squirrel tap dancing over our heads, the promise of a day of warm breezes.

There is something so impossible about death on a sunny day. When the world is gray and bleary, we can kind of take in what’s happening. But not on a day like these days; bursting with light and warmth.

My dad’s funeral was on a September day like today. Sunny, balmy, breezy, jarringly beautiful. After the funeral dozens of people came to our house to eat the food they all brought. Someone had sliced a huge turkey roasting pan of fresh peaches and then sprinkled them with brown sugar. I ate nothing but peaches that afternoon. Bowl after bowl of sweet, probably freshly-picked local peaches.

After a while my brother (who was just 19 that year) said he couldn’t stand to be inside anymore and was going out to work on the tool shed my dad had been building. Did I want to help?

The rest of that day we stayed outside, away from the mourners. Paul hammered and sawed. I sat cowboy style on an empty 50-gallon barrel, rocking from side to side. I was 14 years old, full of peaches, warmed by the sun, and cooled by breezes. It was gorgeous afternoon and I have never understood in words how that luscious memory would become my strongest memory of the day my father was laid to rest.

My theology teacher Paul Hessert once said, “Without silence, one could not have music.  It’s the quiet, empty spaces between the notes that turn sound into music.”

I think a funeral on a sunny day is something like that. An empty space that allows us to rest in the beauty that is around us.

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Mountain Top Toddler

We drove to Chicago to help care for our 2-year old granddaughter. There is a lot going on in their family as is true of any family with a toddler, a new infant, and two working parents. Such as; my daughter went back to work the same week their daycare center closed for a 10-day break. A perfect storm of domestic hoopla. 

We only watched her from 7:30AM until 4PM on Monday and Tuesday. When our son-in-law came home from work, he took over. Other relatives are watching her the next few days. 

Here are three things I noticed about taking care of a toddler.

"Death Comes for the Archbishop" and How to drive to the Y without a map.

I read Willa Cather’s “Death Comes for the Archbishop” when I was in high school. I heard it was an important book which made me curious (still does), so I borrowed it from the library and read the whole thing.

It was mud. I didn’t care about the characters; two middle-aged priests who go to the American southwest to build and strengthen the Catholic church. Snooze. Nothing cohesive happens. They do a bunch of walking around in the desert followed by episodes of trying to be helpful a few days here, a few years there. Yawn.

When Weaving is NOT a Metaphor

I wrote this 12 years ago.  It's long and even I get confused as to what I wrote when one gets about half way through this  - and I was there!   But some of you will be interested to read how those "ethnic weavings" from Guatemala begin.  Next time you buy something hand woven, for less than $20, you will understand that price is not right.

.....

Retirement Smackdown

I just made a list of fourteen friends who have retired in the past five years. Of the fourteen, SEVEN retired early and abruptly when their employer’s business practices, for various reasons, changed or failed.

There is a myth out there that retirement is a fixed event with a date one knows years in advance. Then at the desired retirement age there will be a company party where one gets a memento from their employer - and after that they live aimlessly, trying to find purpose.  

Cahokia

Last week we went to Cahokia with our pals, Otis and David. Our Corps of Discovery (not to be confused with Lewis and Clark’s expedition of the same name) started because, at my daughter’s request, Otis had sewn a quilt for her. Len and I decided it would be fun to drive to the central Illinois village where he lives to pick it up, thus saving them the fortune it would cost to ship it.

And if one is going to be tootling down along the Mississippi River, why not hop on down to Cahokia, across from St. Louis?

I mean, how much further can it be? 

4th Thoughts

I’m reading a new book about the Upper Midwest, late 1500’s - 1750ish.  The book is Indian Women and French Men; Rethinking Cultural Encounter in the Western Great Lakes, by Susan Sleeper-Smith - and I am reading it as avidly as my granddaughter listens to story hour. 

This is from the introduction: “In kin-based societies, behaviors change as people struggle either to attain or retain symbolic capital – what people sense as honor, prestige, respect, or authority.”

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