Thoughts on Longevity

Celebrating 33 Years of Marriage at a Gordon Lightfoot Concert

Doug and I had already made plans for our anniversary, but then I saw that Gordon Lightfoot was playing an intimate concert on our actual wedding date. Could we pass up that opportunity?

In my memoir I recount how Doug and I sang “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” as we paddled about on Lake Superior in a canoe on the weekend we met. Those two crooning young people still live in our memory, even if they have passed into middle age! And can you believe that Gordon Lightfoot is still performing at age 78, even after life-threatening illnesses?

I cancelled our plans for a night in the Northern Neck and bought the tickets. The Birchmere is an unusual place, for true music fans. The seating is general admission so you have to arrive early. Once you’re in the venue, you’re seated at tables and can order food and drink, so there’s the conviviality of eating a meal together. I loved meeting the people around us. (more…)

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Targeted at Target

a conversation with a stranger

Yesterday I was at Target comparing brands of facial cleanser. I am super-cheap about this kind of stuff.

A woman said “Excuse me.” She was in her thirties, I would guess, a woman of olive complexion and dark hair, with an infant strapped onto her chest. She said, “I ask you in the name of Jesus.”

I must have looked confused, because she repeated it twice more. Finally I got it, and said, “Ask me what?”

She gestured to her shopping cart, which had 4 cans of Enfamil in it.

“Do you need money?” I asked. (more…)

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Looking for Christ in the face of the Other

a tribute to a Muslim acquaintance

The “connectivity” of our world can bring such blessing. I received an email the other day from The Very Rev. Canon Dr. Gregory Jenks, who is the Dean of St. George’s College in Jerusalem. Perhaps you will recall that St. George’s hosted the pilgrimage which I wrote about in Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land.

The Dean wanted to let me know that one of their employees, Khalil Bassa, had recently died. Because I had included a conversation with Khalil in my book, he wondered if I would like to write a few words for their website. I was happy to do so here.

Rest in peace, Khalil.

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Conversations with Strangers

Hairdresser Edition

While I waited for my hair appointment, I chatted with two women over the magazines. They mentioned they were sisters, so I said, “How nice to make your hair a family affair.”

“It is nice, but it’s not for a nice reason. Our mother died the other day.”

I felt surprised at this, and glanced at the other sister. Tears sprang from the woman’s eyes and rolled down her cheeks. She wiped them with the back of her hand. She said, in a still-stunned voice, “She was only 90.”

“You’re never ready to lose someone you love,” I agreed. (more…)

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Hold Up. Really.

Here’s another reason to do all your banking online. Just now I went to the bank to deposit a few checks — at the PNC on Hwy 7 in Sterling — and came home with the chore undone.

As I approached the bank I glimpsed some flashing blue lights in the front, so I took a shortcut and went around back. There were electrical trucks back there, so I assumed the power was off and the cops were directing traffic. I parked my car at a little distance and walked across the parking lot toward the bank. That’s when I noticed a deputy with his gun drawn, an M-16. He barked at me: “Ma’am, get back.”

Turns out there was a robbery going on at the Wells Fargo, right next door to the PNC. As I watched, people in business wear came out one at a time, their hands over their heads. There were six or so Sheriff’s deputies in their brown uniforms with bulletproof vests. Another couple of guys in full SWAT uniforms. A helicopter was hovering overhead.

I watched another Sheriff’s car pull up. A deputy got out, pulled his Kevlar over his head and grabbed a clipboard. I suppose there’s a lot of paperwork with this kind of thing.

A few minutes later, another guy dressed all in black pulled on black gloves as he walked toward the back entrance, very purposefully. Every few minutes one of the Sheriff’s deputies ran a loop around the parking lot with his gun drawn.

I talked to another woman in front of the Dunkin Donuts. She said: “How does somebody think they can rob a bank in this day and age?”

I said: “No kidding. You have to rob a bank from the inside, not this way.”

She sighed and said, “Well, all I know is, my husband really wanted a donut.”

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Evolution

Rocks.

Rocks.

“I’ll give it to you for $2,” the mom said. “I am not carrying that home.”

My husband was holding a box of rocks. We were in the parking lot of our local high school, at a Yard Sale to benefit Project Graduation.

“But did you see this?” he said, holding up a hunk of petrified wood. “It’s a real beauty.”

“It can go,” she said.

Doug handed over the $2 with a gleeful big-kid grin, the one that reminds me why I married him in the first place.

At home he sorted the rocks: some into a baggie, some into a big tray, and others set out in a careful row. I asked him what categories he was using to sort. I assumed he would tell me the difference between igneous and sedimentary rocks. As I keep forgetting.

He said “Here’s my theory.” He held up the ziploc: “These were the first rocks the kid got, the polished kind you buy in a set.” He pointed to the tray. “Then he started collecting all kinds of rocks, not knowing what he was doing, just stuff he saw, or maybe mementos.” He showed me the rocks that were laid out. I saw many of them had numbers painted on them. “Then he started getting real specimens and putting them in geomorphic order.”

“Are they all there?” I asked.

“He’s missing #5 and #8.”

So if you’re friends with this kid, could you let him know we have the rest of his rocks?

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My “Black Friday” Story

Why I Don't Despise the Shopping Masses

I went shopping on so-called “Black Friday.” Aren’t I brave? My daughter and I went to a Kohls store that’s two miles from home — where I frequently shop — and took advantage of a good price on winter coats for both of us.

Last week I was at the same Kohls and asked the salesclerk: Are you working the busy hours next week?  She was about 17, I’d guess, and quite happy to chat with me.

She said: Oh yes! I’m working Thanksgiving for 12 hours, and the day after. I don’t mind! I’m taking every hour I can. I’m making every dollar I can to help my family!

(more…)

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The Man in the French Blue Shirt: a grocery store encounter

The grocery clerk was swiping my last few items. A man dressed in a beautiful French blue shirt with white collar and cuffs, probably in his late forties, arrived behind me, rather breathless, and plopped a package of pork chops on the conveyor belt.

“Hello!” he said, as if he knew me. “I just worked today, the first day in six months!”

I must have given him a look that told him to keep going, because he told me all about his new job, in tech sales, and how he got it through his Linked In profile, from a stranger, and he didn’t know a soul at this new company, he could hardly believe his luck.

“I’ve been praying and praying. You know you only pray this hard when you’re in trouble. I should pray this hard every day, grateful. I should thank God for my kids.”

I said, “You have kids?” (Yes, I’m really that brilliant with small talk.)

“I’m divorced, but yeah, I have kids, three of them, in college.”

We chatted a bit more, and I wished him the best of luck in his new position. I wanted to tell you about it, so you could be happy for him too, and send up a little prayer of gratitude. One person out there has a new job! TBTG!

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Overheard at Chick-Fil-A

This morning I took myself out to Chick-Fil-A for breakfast, clutching my coupon for a free breakfast entree. Yes, I’m like that.

The coffee was delicious. The Chicken Minis were much too mini. The counter guy was an extremely happy human being. The place was immaculate. The piped-in music was classical. For those of you who don’t know, Chick-Fil-A is owned and heavily frequented by evangelical Christians.

There was only one other occupied table. Using my trained writer’s eye, I would guess they were a family unit: Parents in their late forties, mother dressed in nice slacks and dressy top, father in a suit. Their son, about 18, good-looking and extremely well-groomed, with spiky dark hair, perfectly gelled.

I didn’t mean to listen in, honest, but they raised their voices:

Mother: I don’t care, I am not going to visit.

Son: You shouldn’t take it so personally.

Mother: She looks like a lesbian.

Son: So I can’t see my sister?

Friends, that is verbatim. What did I do? I said a silent prayer then me and my coffee cup just got up and left.

If you happen to be that family, and you happen to read my blogging: Please stop. Listen to yourself. It won’t be long before you lose your son too. Good grooming notwithstanding.

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In the Produce Dept with Dad: Conversations with Strangers

I went to the Customer Service desk at Meijers (a Michigan superstore) to return some bad lettuce for my mother. You know how sometimes it’s the idea more than the money? I went along with my dad so he wouldn’t have to walk so far, he’s 86 and has some arthritis.

The Customer Service clerk was a woman about my age, African-American. Here’s the dialogue, as close to verbatim as I can remember:

Clerk: (as she takes my lettuce) Now I want a salad for lunch!

Me: Salad is good. Is it time for your break?

Clerk: Ahuh, and I’m ready.

Me (noticing her nametag, which read “Cordelia”): So, were your parents big Shakespeare fans?

Cordelia: Nope. I didn’t know about King Lear until I was in my twenties. I was named for my aunt, who died while my mama was in labor. Story is her sister came into the room and told my daddy, “You have to name her Cordelia.” And so they did.

Me: It’s a family name, that’s great. Are you the oldest?

Cordelia: I am. My daddy always called me Dill. He used to say (sing-song), “I don’t like Dill pickles, but I like you!”

Me: Dads are great. That King Lear story is about a dad and a daughter.

Cordelia: I know, I read it and I see the movie.

(a little talk here about the movie versions, ending with:)

Cordelia: Oh! (getting teary), I miss my daddy!

Me: Cordelia was the favorite, wasn’t he? I think the name comes from the Latin for heart, doesn’t it?

Cordelia: Really?

Me: I’m pretty sure. Cordere. Heart. Daughter of the heart.

Cordelia: (wiping a few tears) Well that fits. Oh, I’m going to go eat a salad and think about my dad!

By now I had my money back. As I left, I saw my Dad strolling through the produce department with one of those itty-bitty cups of free coffee. He was wearing his “Grampy” ballcap and choosing a turnip. My Dad loves turnips.

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