Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Precious Moments with My Dad

Lake Superior, Grand Marais, MN
Grand Marais Chamber of Commerce

On April 13th I drove five hours to see my dad. I had the glee of a child. It was my 68th birthday and I'm rich enough to still have my dad. The miles from the Twin Cities to northern MN flew by. 

On May 11, one day after my mother's birthday on the celestial level, my dad turns 100.5. There will be a cake and humble celebration. If you think I can comprehend the span of time in which he's lived--you would be wrong because I can't.

Since my dad sleeps a lot--he wasn't up when I got there. It was after 4:00 in the afternoon, and he was resting. Willard was asleep. I went in and started to sing my own birthday song to our party of two. He awoke happily; he was instantly elated to see me and joined into the silliness of the moment. (It reminds me of a day over twenty years ago when I ran into my mother at our local K-Mart. Her face was radiant. It was like she more than won the Blue Light Special. No, she had won the lottery.)

There aren't a long line of people who want to join you in a dance on the day you were born. But I knew we'd make music together: this was my dad. 

I said we had to celebrate and would he come with me! He was game, after all he spent a life in sales, and he knew a sales pitch when he heard one. 

The Blue Water Cafe was closed so we made the stairs at the Gunflint Tavern. He ordered a gyro sandwich because I told him mother loved them. But he didn't know what to do with the Greek-wrapped sandwich on his plate when it was placed in front of him. Still, he ate it as best he could. The tooth pic holding it together puzzled him. 

We had a fruit cobbler as I felt I didn't need all the sugar in their no doubt, man-sized carrot cake. (Indeed, I felt my dad would faint over the price.) 

Over my few days on the Shore as we call it (short for North Shore), the list of happiness was a list of little things. He loved seeing his old '99 Buick Century; even more, he was delirious to sit in it. It was like seeing and being with an old friend. His old polka tapes still sat in the console he'd purchased to hold coffee and change. 

Every day was a love-fest as I didn't drive north in the winter months. We would talk often, sometimes even he calling me. But nothing could match the promised "forehead kisses" given in person.

On perhaps the most outstanding day of my short visit, we did make it to the Blue Water Cafe for the blueberry pancakes he loves so much. It used to be a stack of three, but now it's one blueberry pancake, three strips of bacon, and syrup (warmed, thank you). You are special at 100!

The topper after our brunch was taking my brother's suggestion to swing into the Dairy Queen. He didn't like how I pulled in, but that's all right--shades of years ago. I ran inside and purchased two small vanilla ice cream cones. I delivered it to him as if I was on skates at a car-hop through his lowered window.

Then we drove to where the Coast Guard station is situated and looked at the idyllic Grand Marais harbor. He was out of his mind. He insisted he hadn't had a cone in YEARS, while I know my brother has taken him there in recent times.

I cautioned him to keep licking the cone or it could get the best of him. Then he expressed his joy as only he could: 
I feel twenty-five years younger, he said.

See what a simple cone can do?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Song of the Sage

"Grace Elvina, Marchioness Curzon of Kedleston" 
by John Singer Sargent - Wikimedia Commons

O Keeper of Wisdom! O Giver of Gifts!
You gave so softly with Thy lips,
You gave so softly I never knew--that
Ever softly wisdom grew;
For my calendar turned a page,
On the softest day I ever knew!
The calendar of my days
Turned into You--
So softly as sage my age turned
Wisdom's truth--;
So now they come both broken
And whole, telling
Scattered secrets of their soul;
And I full of wonder open wide;
Listening, all my wisdom seemingly tied
To Yours alone, with my experience sown,
So softly into my words no one heard!
So softly spoken, in mystical ways,
You blessed me with wisdom
And I turned--Sage!

©1995 Connie Nelson Ahlberg - All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Rising / My Saints in the Corner

The Last Supper by Salvador Dali

To save the world, starting and staying with our own breath,
we need to continually open to our prophet as ego falls away
like a coat too cumbersome to wear.

Our spiritual life isn't dependent on the retail calendar. Indeed we are better off by ignoring it.

If everything is part of our path as Buddhists teach, then it truly is an Earth School here.

I have a theory that one of my missions is to learn to: let go. Currently I am living in what was my parents' condominium called Woodhurst West surrounded by tenents who may have moved into Woodhurst in the '70's or '80's. Simple math tells you their lives would be drawing to a close.

Yet I've found I'm rarely ready for my neighbors to "fly up," as I say. I am perpetually startled. What Buddhists plan for in their daily mindful meditation, Christians seek to ignore. "I'll think about that tomorrow," in the tradition of Scarlet O'Hara sums up many of us.

I feel I get to know and appreciate residents belatedly if at all. I find myself mourning, in one case, a retired minister and his wife who died five months from each other. I call them my "Saints in the Corner." First Joyce Stevens died unexpectedly from a blood clot following knee surgery. I bought a garden angel to honor her. To keep the pottery angel free from blemish, it rests on my white carpet.

"I lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my strength," Psalm 121. Now the scriptural quote on Joyce Steven's memorial is my favorite as were the voluminous cream roses on her casket. Their petals were as exquisite as the life they honored.

After Joyce Stevens died, I saw her husband's light all the more. I found him remarkable. I was crestfallen that I had been so late to discern the humility, grace, and intelligence of Ed Stevens and his wife. Ed was always smiling, somewhat whimsical, and toward the end, forgetful and unsteady.

Once I happened to be in the garage with him and saw he was on route to dispose of his light bag of trash. As we walked side-by-side, Ed started to lean too far over; and I grabbed his sleeve with a gentle tug.

Catch me if I'm falling.

Their unit hasn't sold so I still see their nameplate near their door. They should be inside I tell myself, still living the decorum we all saw. They were private. And we all respected their privacy. After two lives in religious service to various church communities, they deserved just the green trees, hostas, family and friends gathering around. 

 Ed Stevens
Joyce Stevens

Joyce told me once that either she or her daughter had a poem of mine. I can only say, I have their lives.