29 October 2003

A few thoughts:

1. "May lightning strike me down if I am not, in fact, the son of God." BANG!

2. Once again, filling my life with artists and musicians. I actually went out for once last Friday night, to see my friend Brian's band Mistletoe play, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I was enjoying myself. Maybe I should leave my weary hermitage more often....

3. Finished, finally, the most work-intensive mix tape in the history of my life, and am still not quite happy with it. Nevertheless, insist on clinging to my old ways of tapes and not going over to the dark side of cd burning.... yet.

4. Julia Alvarez's "In the Name of Salome" -- oh my god. Every daughter/mother/sister in the world should read it, and everyone else should as well.

5. How lucky am I to have a boss who suggests I run home and grab the dog before our late night meeting? I am surrounded by dog people at work, and this is a great great thing.

6. Cam & I are moving to South America in 2005, and if Bush gets re-elected, we may never come back.

7. Did I say "finally finished" the mix tape? I meant "accidentally erased the entire second side."

She writes to me as if we still shared
the same language. The page
a laden sky, filled with flying letters
suspended just above the lines
like blackbirds on the horizon;
the accents -- something smaller
they are punishing.

she writes, forgetting that words
cannot pull me by the elbow....

-- Judith Ortiz Cofer

9. Yesterday in 6th Grade:

-- ...and these two redneck kids brought a needle to school and kept poking each other for fun!
-- Hmm, well that's an example of something all right, but I'm not sure if -- yes?
-- I have a question?
-- Yes?
-- What's a redneck?
-- I know! I know!!
-- Yes?
-- Irish! The Irish!!
-- Yeah, Irish!!
-- No, country!
-- Irish country!
-- Yeah, that's it! Irish country!

One of those rare times, I must confess, that I could not entirely suppress my laughter.

And last week:

"I used to live in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, but then I moved to Albuquerque."

"I know for sure that I'm part Welsh, part Scottish, part German, and some other stuff. My mom's Scottish, German...and she's from Illinois, so I guess I'm half-Illinois."

10. En paz descanse Jack Wilson, who died just two weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. Rest in peace.

Jack was my uncle, the father of my cousin Diane, my only family out here. He married my Aunt Joyce, one of the oldest sisters in my dad's family of nine, and because my dad was the baby of the family there was a significant age gap between him and Jack. Jack filled the hole in my dad's life left by his abusive and alcoholic father (both my grandparents killed themselves when my dad was a teen). My dad got shipped off to spend summers with Jack & Joyce in Iowa, which is when Jack taught him how to do the "Iowa Wave" (two fingers lifted off the steering wheel as you're going 20 miles an hour down the highway) & how to be a good, caring man. Jack taught high school math & coached every sport & taught driver's ed --- he was the kind of teacher that only lives in a small town, who does everything and teaches everyone. He was Diane's hero, and just a few weeks ago she was joking about how her high school math teacher is still her best friend. When Jack retired, the entire town threw him a huge surprise party, and my dad and Megan and I went down to Iowa for it. He was one of those people who honestly touched thousands of lives.

Hard to believe it was just a few weeks ago that he was joking to me on the phone that I should make Diane spoil me here so she could be ready to spoil him on his Christmas visit.

I never thought I'd find myself at a place in my life where I'm too broke and too busy to fly home for a family funeral. One terrible underestimation I made when moving 1500 miles away from home was how much I need my family at times like this. Of course, I had hoped that after my little cousin Jimmy's funeral last May, my family would somehow be spared, at least for the rest of the year....

I would be such a big fan of a year without any deaths in the family. Even a year with only one death, that would be okay. It just seems wrong that eight people in my family have died in the last five years.

I would also be such a big fan of being able to fly home to Iowa for the funeral on Tuesday, which will be held in the high school gymnasium because they're expecting hundreds of people to attend.

And so, in honor of my Uncle Jack, an excerpt from an essay my dad wrote about him:

Jack and I spent many hours together at countryside intersections
in rural Iowa (is that redundant?). His summer job, which is when
I’d be indentured, er, visiting, was to count the cars coming through
the intersection. Just because there weren’t very many cars
coming through doesn’t mean it wasn’t a challenge to Jack’s high
level math skills, because he also had to record the direction they
came from, and the direction they went. “So let’s see,” he might
say, “we had three cars come from the north and turn west, two
went straight, and four turned east.” Wow, I’d say. I think we set a
new record for the southbound cars turning east, didn’t we?”
“Well, the mode is 2.85 and the median is....” Jack was fastidious
in every job I saw him do, including this one, but sometimes I
couldn’t tell whether he was kidding me or not. I liked that. I figured
that counting job was pretty close to the mythical Iowa recreational
activity of watching the corn grow, which I actually came to be
better at than counting cars.

Jack was one of the nicest people I have ever known. He was a lot
like my mother in that way, which is probably why Joyce fell in love
with him. I learned a lot of value lessons from Jack just listening to
him react to Joyce’s sometimes outrageous sense of humor. I don’t
remember the joke, but I do remember the interchange when
Joyce told Kathy and me a funny story about “toe jam”, and Jack
reacted with his calm Southern Iowa accent to say, “Now Joyce,
you shouldn’t be telling those kinds of jokes around these kids.” I
have rarely told a toe jam joke because of the positive influence of
my brother-in-law Jack Wilson.

Jack was also a good role model for me as a father. He wouldn’t
let his four little brats (just kidding) get away with much, and it was
always clear that his love was unqualified. Jack was a great man
and his spirit will live on through me.


"Pain tempers our love of the world, makes it more durable, more real."
– Mark Baechtel

No comments: