Monday, June 26, 2017

Poor Timing and No Sense of History


The current Catholic Bishop here in Memphis was assigned to this diocese a year ago. He announced recently that most every priest in the diocese will be reassigned.

In this time of political unrest, the people have turned to their church for solace. They need the comfort of the priest they know and have an established relationship.

The Bishop’s argument for this change is that the message should be the emphasis of Catholicism rather than the priest.  There is general discontent among the faithful.

It is unfortunate that this current Bishop has not familiarized himself with recent Catholic history of the Mid-South. In the mid-1960’s, Memphis and Nashville were part of the same diocese. I moved into the area during the upset, and am not sure exactly what happened, but I do know the Bishop upset the Catholics of west Tennessee.

What followed was a most unpleasant period. Volunteerism and contributions to the church dropped dramatically. It was only a matter of a couple of years until Memphis was granted its own diocese.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Will this Bishop be “promoted” and a new one sent here?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Diagnosis


This morning I took George, our better than standard poodle, to the vet. The last couple of days he’s been acting as though he wasn’t feeling completely up to par.


We thought at first the weather might have been the problem. A tropical storm hit the Texas and Louisiana shores causing heavy rain and high winds in the Mid-South. George is terrified of electrical storms. When one hits in the middle of the night, he forces himself between my night stand and the wall and then tries to dig his way right under my head between the mattress and innersprings. But yesterday morning there was no lightning only strong winds and lots of rain.

He followed me out for the papers and wet against a mailbox post before coming back in the garage, but he refused to join me in the house. He lay down in the doorway between garage and kitchen staring at me with pitiful eyes. I dried him with a beach towel and left him covered with it from head to foot where he remained looking doubly pathetic until I finally insisted he come in the house.

He went to his bed in the den where I covered him with the towel and a blanket. He stayed that way for over an hour. By the time I got ready to take him to the doctor, George was beginning to act more like himself so we stayed home.

This morning he was acting puny again, and since its Saturday with no Sunday office hours, we went to the vet. I don’t blame the dog one bit for not fully appreciating the vet. They use a rectal thermometer, and I don’t want to know how they get a urine sample.

Although he has gained three pounds, George passed his physical with flying colors. There was no apparent reason for his change in behavior. It might have been the weather or it might have been another case of ADR (Ain’t Doin’ Right).

They took a blood sample to be sure and to establish a baseline for any future problems. It cost me $220. It was worth every penny to make sure The Dog was okay.

Shopping at Walmart



I found a keychain in a drawer. It was a double 3” X 5” piece of Lucite with a snapshot of all our children taken about twenty years ago at Graceland. It’s the last shot I have of them all together before our son’s schizophrenia consumed him changing our lives forever.

I took it to Walmart to be copied. I only go there when I have no other source. I resent the fact that it has changed retail in our country. I used to love shopping in Dime Store in small towns. Besides putting countless small family owned stores out of business, Walmart robbed us of a small piece of our regional diversity.

Walmart controls the prices manufacturers charge for their product and therefore the quality. They are also extremely slow to pay them.

It doesn’t require a degree in labor relations to see Walmart is not a great place to work. They pay minimum wage and squeeze the employees as hard as they do their suppliers.  Female employees in the past have charged the company with discrimination.

But despite all this, there are occasions when I feel compelled to shop there, and this was one of them. I had a choice between patronizing Walmart and driving across town to start a complicated and lengthy process with Graceland for copies my snapshot. It was a no brainer decision.
The woman who waited on me was polite and most helpful. She obviously wasn’t familiar with the process, but between the two of us, we made it work.

Pressed for time, as usual, I decided to do my food shopping there as well. The selection might not have been as varied as in other stores, but it was clean, the prices were good and the other shoppers were most helpful and more polite than in my local Kroger. Part of that might be because most of the Walmart shoppers weren’t wearing ear buds.

In this country’s political upheaval of the past year, the large percentage of our population trapped below the poverty line with no means of escape has become glaringly apparent. This country is no better or stronger than its weakest citizen. Cultural values as well as politics and economics are the cause.
What’s the remedy? I don’t pretend to know, but I am going to change one aspect of my own behavior in hopes of starting a trend. Anyone who has read my book, Raiders and Horse Thieves, Memoir of a Central Texas Baby Boomer, knows my origins are exceedingly humble. As a result, I’ve never looked down on anyone for being poor. I reserve that for politicians who chew gum on the dais during the Presidential Inauguration.

But I have looked at those series of pictures on Facebook of people in Walmart behaving or dressed out of the norm. Never again will I participate. It’s time for us to stop laughing at those of us less fortunate and start looking for ways to help them help themselves.  

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Snail Crawled Into the Police Station


A snail crawled into the local police station. He was a mess. His antennae were bent, and his shell was askew with a large scrape along one side.

"I was mugged by two turtles," he tells the desk sergeant.

"What did they look like?" Asks the policeman.

"I don't know," replies the snail. "It all happened so fast."

Monday, April 17, 2017

Cologne


George, our better-than-standard poodle, had his usual monthly appointment with the dog groomer late last week. As we were leaving, the owner spritzed him with cologne. George didn’t react, and I didn’t think anything of it until we walked into the off-leash dog park later that same afternoon.

A large dog of dubious heritage met us at the gate, sniffed George up and down, and said, “Ewwww, man. Do you stink. Can’t imagine where you’ve been, but you better find yourself something good and dead and roll in it right away. You’re disgusting.”

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

We May Not Need It


While walking my dog in the park this morning, I phoned my sister-in-law to find out what’s going on in her part of central Texas.

We are both concerned about the wall our president wants to build between Mexico and Texas. It presents a couple of obvious challenges. The legal border between the two countries is the Rio Grande River. If the wall is built on U.S. territory, are we willing to give the land between it and the river to Mexico? It may not seem like much to us, but it does belong to someone who might need every little bit of land they own to make a living.

As a developer, I'm surprised our current president isn't more considerate of the potential loss of useable land.

There’s also the question of Big Bend National Paark. It's gigantic. The suggestion has been made that it would be easiest to build the wall around the northern boundaries and leave the park to be policed by the border patrol. If this is done, tourists to the park would theoretically be required to present a passport to visit Big Bend. The thought that any elected official would consider placing that majestic park outside our national boundaries is ludicrous.

The latest number of illegal aliens crossing the border between Mexico and the U.S. has been reduced to 18% of the recent past. They’ve heard our laws are being enforced and are staying away. Perhaps we won’t need the wall after all.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Love Your Rock


According to existential philosophical theory, we all live lives of quiet desperation. Some aspect of our existence is limited in such a manner that each and every one of us experiences great pain or frustration. An existentialist believes the way to achieve happiness is to learn to accept and/or love your limitations.

Sisyphus is a figure in Greek mythology who scorned the gods and hated death. His disobedience earned him a terrible punishment: he was sentenced to spend eternity in back-breaking labor that accomplished nothing.

He was ordered to spend all day every day pushing a gigantic boulder to the top of a steep hill only to have it roll back where he started.  For Sisyphus to find happiness from the existentialist perspective, he must learn to love his rock.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Classic Wisdom


“Never touch your idols: the gilding will stick to your fingers.” Flaubert made this observation in Madam Bovary which was written in 1857. I believe it’s as on target and right as rain now as it was then.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Dead Fish


The fish in the pond closest to the entrance at the off-leash dog park are dying. The banks have been littered with their bodies. Others are scattered through-out the park where they were dropped by the dogs.

This pond is downhill from a nearby apartment complex with pristine lawns brought about by frequent sprayings from their lawn service. The consensus among the regulars is that the chemicals used on the lawn have washed down into the pond killing the fish.

If the chemicals are harsh enough to kill the fish, they must also be polluting the pond where most of the dogs swim and/or drink.

My better-than-standard poodle, George, hasn’t eaten in two days. I suspect he’s eaten some aged dead fish. Yesterday I boiled a couple of chicken backs and wings to make him some broth, but he didn’t even eat that. The regular food I put out this morning is still untouched at mid-day. If he doesn’t eat by tomorrow, we’ll be visiting the vet.  

In the meantime, I’m grateful for weather warm enough for us to keep the back door open because if flatulence was a sport, George would be eligible for the Olympics.

 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Best Defense is a Good Offense


When the current administration makes an outrageous accusation such as the alleged wiretapping of Trump Tower during the election by the Obama administration, I’m forced to wonder what is the man really doing?

He reminds me of a slight-of-hand conn artist.  I suspect he wants us to get caught up in following the wiretapping complaint and not notice something else more nefarious he’s trying to accomplish.

A Gentleman in Moscow

Amor Towles writing style in A Gentleman in Moscow is the epitome of civility. The use of language and depiction of one elaborate scene after another is light hearted and charming and slightly over the top. His occasional use of magical realism adds an “other worldly,” almost fairy tale quality to the story that might convince the reader that his tale is merely entertainment, and he has no ulterior motive.

Count Rostov is tried by the Stalinist regime for being a “corruption to his class” and found guilty, but because he wrote a poem in support of the rebels prior to the revolution, he’s sentenced to spend his life in the Hotel Metropol rather than death by firing squad.

It reminded me of the story of The Man Without a Country in which an American seaman is tried for treason and in the moments before sentencing, is heard to mutter, “I wish I’d never heard of this country.” The judge grants his wish and sentences him to life on board a series of American naval vessels where he’s denied the access to any contact or knowledge of his former home.  

The tone of A Gentleman in Moscow is consistently upbeat. The Count has a positive attitude (along with four desk legs of gold coins) and manages to construct a meaningful life within the walls of the Metropol Hotel. He recognizes it as a world within itself and makes the most of it.

This alone would make it a successful piece of work suitable for a long plane ride, but halfway through, it becomes a bit more. The tone of the language never changes, but the weight of all the senseless and terrible things the government inflicts on the people finally pushes the work from the light fiction category into scathing political satire.
The Count’s ability to slip a glass of liquor into his hip pocket to hide it from the hotel manager and carry it to the chef in the kitchen without spilling a drop is magical realism. Another example taken from that same scene is the chef forcing the hotel manager out of the kitchen with a stalk of celery rather than his cleaver.
The main character is a highly intelligent man who has been forced to spend too much time suffering too many fools.    Under the ultra-polite, highly cultured veneer, I suspect there’s one hugely outraged Count Rostov. He’s incensed not merely for himself or for his family but for the entire nation.

This reader was not amused when the authorities forced the hotel to remove all the labels from the wine bottles and declared all the wine to be either red or white. At that point, I realized I was reading political satire. The description of the national department store’s liberal decision to allow city residents to shop there was even more scathing; the man who would “buy your grandmother’s jewelry at half its worth”. This totally sold me on the satire aspect of the story. The author lured me into a piece of fluff and entertained me while also reinforcing the lesson that Communism under Stalin and Khrushchev was cruel and dysfunctional.

 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Quick, Get the Broom


 

The city limits of early twentieth century Memphis, TN, were delineated by North and South Parkway, two wide lanes going each way with a broad median between landscaped with ancient trees and flower beds carefully tended by the city. Traditional columned brick houses stood on either side behind ornate wrought iron fences with more primal trees and age-old shrubs. The Parkways were an architectural and horticultural showplace. Over the years, the trees grew forming a canopy over the streets.

The Memphis City zoo is in Overton Park bordering on North Parkway. Directly across North Parkway from the zoo is the Parkway House, an upscale mid-twentieth century high-rise apartment house. Most of the units have balconies offering wide panoramic views of the surrounding city.

A half block long and wide mound of rock with dead trees set here and there for the residents to climb and surrounded by a stream for drinking and to keep them away from the visitors, Monkey Island was one of the major focal points of the zoo. The stream was moat-like and butted up against a wire fence that surrounded the entire exhibit.

One memorable day in the early 1960’s, someone forgot to close the gate on Monkey Island. The first tall object available outside the zoo for a monkey intent on exploration was the Parkway House.  Most of the residents of the Parkway House were venerable ladies of a certain vintage who regarded their broom as a valuable means of defense as well as a cleaning tool. “Quick, get the broom,” could mean something needed to be swept up or the household was being invaded by a raccoon in the back yard, General Sherman’s entire army, or in the case of my own beloved mother, the horses had jumped the fence again and were eating the fruit trees. A Southern woman swinging a broom is not to be regarded lightly.

It was a hectic time for the zoo keepers who had to lure their charges down from the heights of the Parkway House before they got swept away, but no real damage was done. It was a high adventure for the monkeys, and made an amusing memory for a couple of women who were attending nearby Southwestern College at the time.

 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Nudist Etiquette


What do you take to a cocktail party at a nudist colony? Why, a towel of course. It makes sense, but seems rather inconvenient. The main point of a cocktail party is to mill around and talk to everyone which means every time you get out of a chair, you must remember to take your towel. (stand, fold the towel, and hang it over your arm)

After a couple of drinks, it could be a challenge to keep up with your towel. Wouldn’t it be much easier to wear underpants?

And while we’re on the topic, imagine attending a cocktail party of senior citizen nudists. Not a pretty thought.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Waste Not, Want Not


Our children’s first dog was a Toy Poodle/Pekinese we adopted from the Memphis Humane Society. His name was Tyrone. Tyrone was extremely macho despite weighing less than fifteen pounds.

Someone had spent considerable time with this dog who was housebroken and had some obedience training. He was found hanging out in the parking lot of a grocery store in a largely Black suburb of Memphis and went out of his mind with excitement any time we encountered anyone of color. Tyrone trusted me but would offer to eat me alive if I put a towel over his head to dry him after a bath. All indications suggest he’d been raised by a Black family and left in the car at the grocery while his master/mistress went inside to shop, and the car was stolen with the dog inside. The thief threw something cloth over his head and threw him out of the car.

Tyrone fit in beautifully at our house. We treated him like one of the children. At the McDonald’s drive-thru, I’d order four Happy Meals and one junior burger with no pickle for Tyrone.  He ate Mighty Dog canned dog food, and I must add, you haven’t lived until you’ve been awakened by someone asleep on the adjoining pillow who has Mighty Dog breath.

Tyrone lived with us seven years before developing a heart condition. I had to put him to sleep in May, 1991. At that time, there were no medical specialists for pets.

Three years ago, I decided it was time for another dog in my life and went in search of another twenty or so pound poodle mix. I wound up adopting George, a better-than-standard-Poodle.

Both dogs I’ve adopted have been exceptional to the point that I grieve for the people who lost or had to give up them up.

Since the hamburgers, table scraps and popcorn Tyrone ate probably contributed to his heart condition, I decided to invest in the best possible dog food for George. The only table food he’s allowed are cheese, boiled eggs and salmon scraps.

Pets are big business in today’s world. The veterinarian schools through-out this region offer specialists for everything from skin conditions to cancer. I buy dried dog food and treats at one of a chain store specializing in dog food. A clerk there recently put his bag of chips down to wait on me laughing as he did that he’d never allow one of his dogs to eat such junk. Our dogs have a better diet than us.

It can take a while to get used to the treats offered there. You can buy dried duck feet one at a time or in a bag. The same goes for pig ears and snouts. The healthiest treat is freeze dried lamb lungs. (Say that five times quickly.) Some enterprising soul at the slaughter house has discovered a profitable business in the animal parts inedible to humans. Waste not, want not.

 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Small Dog Attitude


Early one morning recently my better-than-standard poodle, George, and I entered the off-leash dog park for our morning jaunt and passed an obviously frazzled younger woman and her dogs on their way out.

She had a small dog under one arm with its tail facing up and forward. Her sweatshirt was soaked on one side from having struggled with a dog fresh out of the pond. She put the dog down for a moment to pass the time of day with me and get her hair back into its pony tail and out of her eyes.

The little dog was about 15 pounds and had an attractive long reddish-brown coat. Her little black eyes shown with pure mischief. “I think she’s half long-haired Dachshund and half Chihuahua,” her owner smiled ruefully. “I live in the apartments next door and bring her out two or three times every day to get her acquainted with the other dogs, but we never get to stay very long. She always heads for the biggest dog in the park and picks a fight. I just pulled her off two Rottweilers.”  

Monday, February 20, 2017

It Isn't Funny Any More


The jokes about our incumbent head of state are beginning to wear thin with me. The constant upset and frenzy is wearing me out.

We’re in a fine pickle right now, but it’s our own fault. Everyone is responsible for part of this.
The newspapers are no longer impartial and are as concerned with giving a political slant to a story as they are reporting the facts.

Our politicians have discarded the concept of mediation and compromise. They no longer socialize with anyone outside their political party. Gone are the days when members of the two parties could respect the opinions of the other and socialize. Many fine decisions were compromises reached in a social situation by members of the opposing parties for the good of our country.

Today’s members of the House and Senate seem more concerned with the success of their political party than serving the welfare of its citizens. Our esteemed members of Congress should have term limits and be forced to subscribe to Social Security and Medicare.

The public also deserves a healthy share of the blame for this fine mess. Everyone lives at a break-neck speed, too busy to keep up with current events. A major percentage of us turn to the internet for our news.

What we don’t stop to consider is that the internet follows our online history and provides us with the news and information from the bias it perceives from the sites we’ve visited in the past. It determines our political prejudice and then feeds it.

It is my modest opinion that its time for us to stop, take a deep breath and start studying the issues from the most unbiased sources available. I’ve subscribed to the National Review and the Wall Street Journal. Once we’ve boned up on what’s really happening, then it’s time to act.

I intend to do my research, find out who represents me in the House and Senate, and then write them. The letters will be polite and concise. I’ve been told from sources who should know that they really do listen.

According to the system that’s over two hundred years old, Donald Trump is our president. Yes, he’s a flawed individual and might not have the dignity or attitude or apparent intelligence we’d like, but he’s got the job.

It’s time for us to stand up and do our part. If you don’t like what he and the Congress are doing, assume the position of a Loyal Opponent. Contact your representatives in an informed, dignified manner. If you approve of what’s going on, give your representatives a call or write them.

Our country is a major power in a world that has shrunk. All the hysteria and carrying on has a terrible influence on everyone everywhere. It’s time for us all to stop and get a grip. If we act in a more decorous manner, perhaps it will wear off on Mr. Trump. One can only hope.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Green Bananas


The woman who lived directly across the street from us in our first house in east Memphis was the original owner. The house was built in 1958.
We moved into the neighborhood in 1971 and were transferred to New Jersey in 1990. In those almost twenty years, our neighbors became part of our extended family, and when we came back for visits, we stayed with the neighbor across the street.

In 1990, her original hot water heater was still working. I won’t go so far as to say all its burners were functioning at full force, the water was tepid at best, but it was still working. She pampered it; practically turned off all the water in the house when she walked to the mailbox and back to make sure it didn’t leak during the five minutes she was out of the house.

It became a joke we shared as well as the first topic of conversation either over the phone or upon my arrival. Sometime during the mid-1990’s her son put an end to our fun. He came in from California for a visit and when the water wasn’t hot enough to suit him, he ordered another hot water heater and had it installed. What fun was that? Where was the challenge?
The plumber inspected the old hot water heater before replacing it and discovered it was lined with porcelain. My neighbor swears he took it to a plumbers’ museum.

We’ve all become accustomed to buying appliances with built in obsolescence. Nothing is built to last.
Which is why I was taken aback recently when purchasing lightbulbs at the hardware store. I found a neighbor there searching through all the selections, and it was she who brought the irony of the situation to my attention. All the bulbs were LED and costlier than what we were accustomed to paying.

They were also highly touted on their label for their lasting ability. Some were guaranteed for nine years; others for 20. My neighbor who is on the far side of eighty opted for the nine-year bulbs while I, the everlasting optimist, popped for the 20.

I didn’t mention this to my husband, the eternal pessimist, who at almost 72 refuses to buy green bananas for fear he’ll be gone before they’re ready to be eaten.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Big Scene


During the early stages of writing my first novel, a close friend kiddingly asked why writing takes so long. My answer sounded flip but wasn't really. It's hard work birthing babies and killing people off in a book when your goal is to write a believable story, a tale the reader can identify with.

This morning I faced an even greater challenge, the sex scene. In my first writing class, I was warned about being too specific. There's a reason why the movies indicate an intimate scene with curtains blowing at a window or ocean waves pounding the sand. Too much more can rapidly disintegrate into pornography.

It took less than 15 minutes to write the scene. I spent so much time building up to it that it took no time at all to describe the incident. Even our grown daughters shouldn’t be embarrassed.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Oh, the shame of it all.


 
I was in northern California last week and watched the presidential inauguration in the lobby of a Sacramento hotel. Earlier in the week, storms had uprooted trees and knocked down lines all over that part of the state. The hotel parking lot was crowded with heavy duty trucks, and the lobby with outdoorsy looking men dressed in tight jeans and wide brimmed Western hats. I was reminded of Glen Campbell’s Wichita Lineman.

 
All in all, it seemed an unremarkable ceremony. It was interesting to study the body language of the former presidents and watching George Bush wrestle with his rain cape was a hoot.  

But hold on there. As Mr. Trump began his address, I spied a familiar face back of the new president’s right shoulder. Horrified, I waited for the camera to swing back in his direction hoping all the while that I was wrong, but I wasn’t.

There was Rick Perry, former governor of the great state of Texas right out there in front of God and most of the world, civilized and otherwise, chewing gum. He isn’t much younger than I and should be familiar with the poem Mother used to recite about gum chewers.

 
The gum chewing girl and the cud chewing cow
are somewhat alike
yet they differ somehow.
What is that difference?
Oh yes, I see now!
It's the thoughtful expression on the face of the cow.

Doesn’t Texas have enough image problems without that?

 

 

 

 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Flowery Name Camouflages the Heart of a Mighty Hunter


 

One of the regulars at the off-leash dog park found Lily. She’d been abandoned in a park just across the state line in Mississippi and had assumed responsibility for guarding the dumpster there.

A terrier mix, Lily has the same coloring and shaggy fur as Benjie. Her rescuer wanted to give Lily a home, but his Blue Heeler, Ruby Jean, was jealous to the point of making herself sick over the intrusion.

Lily was subsequently adopted by another regular at the park who had recently lost her dog. The two are part of a group who meet most every morning at the park to walk and enjoy the fresh air while their dogs romp and play together.

The park is inhabited by all the wildlife typical of the Mid-South: rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, bobcats, voles and moles.

True to her breed, Lily is an efficient hunter of small vermin. She also has a “soft mouth” which means she can catch and kill a varmint and carry it back and forth across hundreds of acres of park without leaving a mark on the body.

Lily’s mistress is a narrow minded individual when it comes to dead critters and won’t allow her to carry her trophies home in their car which explains the mole cemetery by the park’s back parking lot.

At one point, earlier last fall before the sharp freeze, Lily had caught 8 ½ moles. The walkers explained that the ½ mole was “deceased” (their choice of words, not mine) and half gone when Lily found it, but they decided to give her a half credit in case there was a run-off later in the mole catching season. She’s caught so many since then it’s become routine, and they’ve lost count.

I’ve seen a mole up close thanks to Lily. They’re bigger than the hand of an average-sized adult woman with other-worldly looking front paws. The snout and tail have the appearance of delicate pink porcelain. Despite all the time and money I’ve spent battling moles and voles in my own back yard, it gave me a fresh appreciation for Mr. Mole in Wind in the Willows.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Turtle


Early one morning a month or so ago, I walked through a low wooded spot at the end of a pond in the dog park. A turtle shell lay in the middle of the path.  It was missing large chunks from the edges. The day was overcast making it difficult to see clearly, but it also looked as though there was a jagged hole in the middle of the shell.

I stepped around it and went on my way with the thought that I was leaving the poor thing alone to die in peace, but when I looked back to make sure my dog was following me, he was sniffing the shell, and I thought I saw the turtle’s head stretched out as though trying to ward off the dog’s attention.

I went back that afternoon to check on it, but the turtle was gone. It had found the strength to move on to the nearby body of water to hibernate or perhaps die. There weren't many in the park that day. I doubt it was disturbed by another dog walker. 

While out Christmas shopping a day or so later, I received a call from the woman who grew up on the farm next to ours in the early 1950’s. She had sad news. The man who had been my friend since we were in the three-year-old class in Sunday School had died from a heart attack. Although life had carried us in vastly different directions, and we did not stay in touch, I did hear of him now and again through mutual friends, and we had recently re-connected at my book signing in Bastrop.

The death of this man who learned to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey at my third birthday party left me feeling as though I’d lost a significant part of my roots. Hearing about him or from him now and again had helped keep me grounded in the community of my childhood, and now part of that connection was gone.

A former neighbor died a few days before Christmas. Her youngest two children (of five) had been about the same age as my two oldest and are still close friends. At Easter, we would hold the egg hunt in my back yard and serve refreshments in hers.

She’d been in a nursing home in the throes of Alzheimer’s for years. Her middle-aged sons had taken turns stopping by to feed her dinner on the way home from work while her cousin and others from her church had regularly visited with communion. She received the same loving attention she’d given her community. Now she was dead and at peace.

Although I’m not wise enough to totally understand, I’m sure there was a reason why she was so terribly sick for so long. Part of it may have been to draw her children even closer together. They are such a close family. Perhaps it took that long for them to adjust to the idea of losing her.

Through this most holy season and the experience of losing these loved ones, my thoughts keep returning to that turtle. Although it may not be as visible, the shell around my heart has sustained some terrific blows from the loss of loved ones. There are also great holes in my life where people I love are missing.