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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Déjà vu…

It’s a rainy Saturday morning.
The newest of our family fleet
will not shift out of second
and so took residence at the shop.
It seems to me a vehicle just five years old
has no business going lame
in the company of older cars
(with twice the miles)
that plot on without complaint.

At any rate, being one car short
and needing to spend a few hours
in my office, I offered to drive
my oldest daughter to the school.
(She cleans in the left-over hours
of college life and love).
Seeing the rain, she grabbed an umbrella
and tossed it behind the seat.
Five minutes later I dropped her off
at the front door, parked the car myself,
reached blindly behind me,
and spread the umbrella wide
in the “V” of the open door.

Colors flashed. What’s this?
For a moment I didn’t know,
but it was the orange and blue glow
of my old Phi Beta Chi umberchute
(as I sometimes called it to be cute),
a lingering remnant of my college days.
Sure I knew the thing was still around.
Every now and then,
I’d seen its orange handle wave at me
from darkened corners
where such things become obscure,
but I had not used it for some time because...
it’s a very large umbrella—
it's bright orange and blue
like a jester’s hat or jockey's silks,
and my taste has rightly mellowed
since my freshman year.

The last time I remember using it on purpose
was when our girls were babies on the beach
and it served as a cabana for some shade.
Years later, when the girls played
"Singing in the Rain," it was a prop.
That's all they know of it, but long before their time
the umbrella knew a different song.
The one I sang as it spun on my shoulder
all the way back to my dorm...
"Gee, its great after bein' out late/
Walkin' my baby back home..."

That was ages ago.
Mostly since then it’s been behind others things,
in a box and buttoned down,
(as we all in time are more inclined to be).
Until this morning,
when from nowhere
we were open and adrift in time
as the rain drummed its fingers impatiently above,
forgetting the loose ends that brought us to that lot.
And from somewhere in the distance,
I heard the band in the bleachers
playing the old Phi Beta fight song:

Cheers, cheers for Phi Beta Chi
Orange and blue colors wave them on high.
‘Round the campus you will hear
voices resounding load and clear:
(ba-da-da)
We never falter; we never fall.
Soon we’ll be champions over them all.
Step aside and let us by
for we are Phi Beta Chi.

The words came back from half a life ago,
and briefly echoed in the orange glow…
like a scratchy LP of our voices
in the rain.
Me…you…
orange and blue
déjà vu…

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Not Since '87

I mentioned in a this post several weeks ago that my oldest daughter was born in October 1984, and the next day in the hospital room I took a picture of her in a miniature Tiger helmet with the series playing on the TV behind her. The Tigers won that year. Then in '87, the year our second daughter was born, the Tigers took the East Division. Each year we added to our family, Detroit went to the play-offs. I was beginning to think we should be put on their payroll. That was the last year the Tigers took the East Division [a feat not yet accomplished this year].

(Sidebar: That '87 season was a tight finish with Toronto back when their current bench manager, Ernie Whitt, was a catcher. Whitt was a local hero in my home town. He had graduated from my high school (Brablec) in ’72. He was also a member of my church youth group, and dated my pastor’s daughter. She has a funny story about a plumbing malfunction at Ernie’s house when she was having dinner with his family, but I’d better not tell it without her permission.)

Anyway, Detroit took the East Division in '87, and who were the winners of the West Division that they had to face?—none other than the Minnesota Twins. (Obviously this was back before the “wild card,” when there were only two divisions in each league.) I don’t even want to tell you what happened in that post season. I will tell you that I was in the Twin Cities at an ACSI convention the day game five ended and the news of the pennant was shared to a thousand of Minnesota fans. What are the odds that this boy from Detroit would be in Minneapolis/St. Paul at that moment?

Here’s the irony of today's news that the Tigers have clinched at least the wild card slot of the play-offs: The '87 World Series Champions are the only team still nipping at our heels for the division title now that the White Sox are out of the running.

As Rod Allen said in the champagne drenched locker room after today's 11-4 victory over Kansas City, “These boys bring their lunch pails to work every day.” The comment made Manager Jim Leyland choke all up and pay tribute to his friend and former Tiger, Alan Trammel. I don't know much about Leyland, but seeing that moment, he's a class act in my book.

The week ahead still holds plenty of excitement (and celebration?) for these lunch-pail guys who are fun to watch not only because of their skill but because of their renewed love of the game.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Wrong Numbers

I'll never forget that June night in 1994 when I came home late from videotaping a wedding and heard my wife on the phone down in the family room. It was unusual for her to still be awake at that hour. I was halfway down the steps when she pointed at the television with wide-eyed urgency. I saw a white Ford Bronco driving down an abandoned four-lane expressway with countless police cars escorting it as if in a parade. Hundreds of spectators cheered on from every overpass.

"What is it?" I mouth as she spoke.

"O.J." she mouthed back, trying not to speak into the phone. She was dying to tell me more so she said, "Well, my husband just got home. I need to go so I can tell him about this. Good bye."

"Who was that?" I asked.

"I don't know. She was calling her friend about this O.J. thing and dialed us by mistake. We just started talking and couldn't stop."

"That conversation was a wrong number? How long did you talk?"

"Only about ten minutes. It’s fascinating…Sit down and watch."

"I take it O.J. is driving the white Bronco. What's with the police escort?"

"No. That's his friend driving. You can't see O.J. He's leaning over, and they think he's got a gun."

She went on to explain the melodrama that became known as "O.J.'s low-speed chase." The original live telecast lasted over an hour and "replayed" throughout the night. Nearly everyone old enough to watch TV at the time remembers that bizarre footage. NBC interrupted the NBA play-off game to cover the uneventful pursuit even though it was on virtually every other channel. It was America's first dose of "reality TV" (long before the avalanche of shows that tried to recapture that "live-and-unrehearsed" voyeuristic genre).

Books have been written and college courses are still taught on the sociological implications of our nation's immediate obsession with this event. There was nothing light-hearted about the televised trial that dominated our living rooms for next fifteen months, nothing laughable about the national obsession over the grizzly details of a gruesome murder, and there was certainly nothing funny about the October '95 "not guilty" verdict that seemed to be a peace offering for the '92 L.A. Riots. But I must admit... I still laugh at the thought of two ladies—connected only by a wrong-number—talking like a couple of middle-school girls about a white Bronco on a freeway.

Given the right subject, women know no strangers.

The most wonderful things that are true of my life can be traced back to a wrong number. Not the one Julie received in 1993... that's just a funny "female" thing. I'm talking about the wrong number my mother dialed in 1964. She talked to a perfect stranger for nearly an hour, and when she hung up some dominoes began to fall that only God could have put in place... and they're still toppling across His boundless tabletop. I hate to leave you in suspense, but I really need to get to bed.
I'll continue this post in a day or so (or perhaps next weekend) stay tuned for...

"That Call and Calvary" Here.

About a month after posting this, the "old news" OJ story became big news again as the killer was interviewed in a book called If I Did It.
.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Cutting Hair

I cut hair.
I’m not a barber, and I don’t stand at busy intersections wearing a sign: “Will cut hair for food.” It’s not something I do as an occupation or out of desperation. In fact, I have only one steady customer… myself. I’ve been cutting my own hair since high school.

I was thinking about it this morning: cutting hair is one of the subtle rhythms of life.

Somewhere in a shoebox at my mother's house there are pictures of my brothers and I crying while Dad, standing behind us in a white T-shirt, is giving us our “first hair cut.” From that time till the time we moved out of the house, the home hair cut was a way of life, a recurring ritual of sorts, for my three brothers and me (and for my Uncle Bob. He and Dad cut each other's hair once a month for many years). About once a month on a Saturday night (so we'd look sharp the next day for church), Dad would set up shop in our knotty-pine basement down by what had been a wet bar until we converted it into a closet.

I remember climbing up on that stool and staring down at the checker-board tile, strewn with fallen brown and blonde tufts from my brothers' sheering. I can still hear the whispering buzz of the electric clippers and their clickity glissade across a comb-full of hair. The little sharp teeth of the blades tickled their way up my neck and around my ears. The steel blades were cold for the first boy in line and hot for the last. As the youngest (until Jim was born in '68), I was usually last. Sometimes the blades got so hot Dad would wrap them in a cold washcloth and sweep the floor while they cooled—then it felt like going first.

We didn’t mind short hair cuts when we were kids. These were the “Father Knows Best”/ “Leave it to Beaver” years, when virtually every male in America wore the same length of hair, a standard held since the dawn of modernity. Don’t believe me? Look in any yearbook or class composite through the mid-Sixties. Some brushed it back; some up; some down; some slicked it with Brylcreem or Score; later some used Dippity Do... but it was all pretty much the same length.

Short hair was a cinch—all of our role models had it: movie stars, pop singers, sports heroes, teachers—everyone! Highest on the list was my dad who got a “crew cut” when he joined the Navy and kept it all his life.

What we hated about hair-cut night was not the cutting of our hair but the interruption of our play. Because Dad's clippers didn’t work well with sweaty hair, he'd make us stop playing and “cool down” an hour before haircuts. It was that hour that we hated—the haircut itself was a breeze. In fact, the breeze from running up the steps and out the screen door felt twice as nice after a fresh hair cut.

Part of our home barbering ritual was the fact that my dad and my Uncle Bob (who also sported a crew cut for decades) cut each other's hair. Those two crew cuts kept them connected during the years when life's road widens and siblings tend to lose touch. Every month or so we'd drive to our cousins in Marysville an hour away. (Or they would come to our house.) The rhythm of cutting hair kept our families close through two decades. I have no doubt that was one of the reasons those two brothers kept crew cuts long after hairstyles changed... and oh, brother, did they change.

Some say it was The Beatles who introduced “long hair” to my generation. It's true that the Fab Four were derided as “mop tops,” but if you look at the pictures from their early years—the Ed Sullivan-“I Want to Hold Your Hand” years—the Beatles’ barely had enough hair to shake to the rhythm of “She Loves You Yea, Yea, Yea.” It took several years for longer styles to become common. The Beatles arrived when I was in 2nd Grade—not until I was in junior high, did some of my peers start “growing” their hair, and not until high school (in the Seventies) did the hair length on guys range from “clean cut” (a shrinking minority) to shoulder-length-or-longer / down-to-there hair (usually worn by the “hippie freaks,” “burn-outs,” and heavy metal rockers in my school).

This was the peak of the Viet Nam era, and by then long hair had become a political statement, my generation's way of flippin' the bird at previously held values (simply because they had been previously held). In the early years of the hair-length debate, it was a fairly accurate means of “profiling” one’s attitudes. It may sound like Archie Bunker, but the stereotype was pretty consistent: If you were a pot-smokin,’ McGovern-voting, veteran-bashin’ Pinko, you had long hair. If you were still hoping the best for Nixon ,you had shorter hair—not Opie-Taylor short…but you were probably showing plenty of ear (unless your were Elvis).

Now top this political froth off with a “spiritual” cherry, and you’ll understand what it was like for teenage boys of that day who ran in conservative circles. Maintaining a short haircut in “fundamentalist” churches took on the significance of circumcision to the many sons of Father Abraham. To put it in a New Testament context, it was as if our Lord himself had said, “And by this they shall know you are my disciples…” [John 13:35] and then He held up my school picture as an example of the proper haircut.

I sometimes forget that most people have never heard of "fundamentalism" in the context of the 20th Century church. I don't have the space or time to explain it here so I guess I'll just say that the movement's good intentions to produce character sometimes resulted in a caricature instead, an inordinate emphasis on certain outward appearances. Not unlike the Amish culture, self-evident standards of distinction were to be strictly followed for harmonious inclusion in the group. In churches like mine, short hair was practically an ordinance. On youth group outings, it became hard to tell who was more counterculture, the hippies handing out flowers or us short-haired guys handing them tracts.

Somewhere in my basement on a cluncky worn-out cassette tape, I have a little-known song that lampoons this chapter of fundamentalism. You have to hear its twangy gospel style to fully appreciate it, but thanks to a fellow blogger named Chris, we have the lyrics and a Youtube post is here: "If Your Hair's Too Long":

A rich young ruler came one day
To ask about the narrow way
But his hair was long and he couldn't be saved
The preacher looked at him through tears
And said the problem's on your ears

If your hair's on your ears,
there's sin in your heart .
Get it cut today and make a new start
You'll live a life of fear and dread
With that tangled mess upon your head.
If your hairs too long there's sin in your heart

My friend if you will enter there
You'll not go there with your long hair
If your hair's too long, there's sin in your heart.
They'll be held behind with those I fear
Who wear their hair upon their ears

If your hair's too long there's sin in your heart.

For some, the humor of that song hits close to home. The longer fundamentalists spiritualized hair length, the further they went out on a “limb” that couldn't hold even Absalom, who was, by the way, the poster boy for short-hair advocates. To hear them tell it, Absalom was not only hung to death by his long hair—but because of it. God just couldn't endure his vain Fabio locks a day longer.

Hermaneutic took a holiday, but I didn't know it (or the word) at that time. For instance, I heard sermon points from more than one preacher (whom I still consider dear friends) that said Jesus had short hair. All the artists from Rembrandt to Warner Sallman had gotten this detail wrong. This anthropological update surprised some, but as far as I know, it inspired no lasting works of art. (This is not a challenge to photoshop Sallman’s icon with a crew cut just to make a point. Sacrilege! Besides, I'm pretty sure James Caviezel has since put the argument to rest.)

By the time my oldest brother Paul hit high school, we were contemplating an appeal to Dad. It was my sister Kathy who went to bat for us. “Dad, could you leave a little more hair on the guys? She’d stand there like a supervisor at cosmetology school pulling at our uncut hair telling Dad which parts to leave alone and which parts to "only trim." The look she was after was called “soch” (pronounced like the first syllable of social). To our surprise, Dad agreed to leaving more hair on our heads: "Hey, I don’t mind cutting hair every other month.”

Unfortunately, in Dad’s mind this simply meant giving us haircuts short enough to last two months before his anti-Beatles feelings kicked in and he revved up the sheers. So my brothers and I began secretly cutting each other's hair. By trimming our hair behind closed doors, we could keep Dad's clippers at bay for months. When my brothers went off to college, I simply did it myself with the help of a mirror. That's how this "cutting my own hair" thing started. By 1974, when I went off to college, I had it down pat.

While most college campuses of America were in a lingering cloud that smelled like burning hemp and flags, I went to a well-known university in the south that required my haircut for all of it's 3,000 plus male students. This was not a problem...this was an opportunity.

My skill (dare I say "art") of maintaining "the proper length of hair" became a regular source of spending money. I put a sign-up sheet on my dorm room door, and come Saturday morning, I went from room to room on schedule to cut hair at $2.00 a head—a true win-win for a twenty minute inconvenience. The house-call approach was not so much about customer service as it was about having each guy clean up his own mess (while leaving my room neat and undisturbed for my roommates).

After several months, I got called up to the Dean of Men's office. Local barbers were complaining that an unlicensed student was cutting hair in the dorms. When I explained how my service worked, the Dean smiled and approved of it. I'm not sure how he explained it to the barbers, but based on a previous meeting with the dean, I knew he had a pretty good feel for his jurisdiction, so I thanked him and resumed cutting hair with impunity. (And believe me, on that campus, impunity was a fleeting fancy to be enjoyed like the last sparkler from the box. The Dean of Men's waste basket was lined with the crusty-burnt sparkler wires of impunity, but I enjoyed the brief sensation all the same.)

During this time, I continued cutting my own hair as needed. I'll never forget one Saturday evening when I was walking my girlfriend to her dorm. At the end of the walk, she smiled and said, "You cut your hair today didn't you." "Did I take too much off?" I asked. "No, it looks fine, but there's a big clump of hair in your ear." I reached up and pulled out a wad the size of a GI Joe toupee. It had been there all afternoon and evening.

That's the main drawback to cutting your own hair: you have to be sure to clean up the area and yourself afterwards to keep the ladies happy. Other than that, it's a useful skill that has saved me roughly $5,000 to $6,000 over the years (which has in turn been spent by my wife and daughters on haircuts). But it's not about the money; it's about perpetuating the ol' home hair-cut tradition. It's good to keep some things going.

To this day, I have no regrets for honoring my father during those years and missing out on the worst "bad hair days" of history. As a less fortunate friend of mine once said, "If you remember the Seventies, you didn't experience them." I remember them vividly. Thanks, Dad.

I don't want to sound morose, but when my father died in April of 1995, and I stood there at his casket before they closed it... I reached up and stroked his gray crew cut once and then again and again. In our early years of shared life, he had done that often to his young sons, but I had never done it back...touched his hair as if to say "I love you," but in that hour it seemed a very natural thing to do. His hair was upright and perfectly in place as it—and he—had been all my life.... It was soft, very soft against my hand.

Monday, September 11, 2006

9-11

Sometimes Death stands quietly
in bedside corners...
watching, waiting,
somehow knowing the plan.

But there are moments imposed on time
when even Death seems caught off guard
unable to count,
unwilling to look on.

And so began
our autumn of mourning
as grief
......upon grief
.............upon grief
showered down
like ashes from an ancient time...
at home in a fallen world.
.
© Copyright 2007, TK, Patterns of Ink

Written early Wednesday morning, September 12, 2001
Posted today, the Fifth Anniversary of that event.

Friday, September 08, 2006

2006 High School Retreat:
"Stick to it" is this year's official theme, but
"Don't be a cow, Man!" worked pretty well.

"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid." Proverbs 12:1 Whoa! Are you sure the Bible says the word "stupid?" Well, the NIV translates it that way. It's not a word educators are comfortable with, but in our opening session, Mr. R [our speaker] told us that his Hebrew teacher said the original word [translated as stupid in the NIV] means... "like a cow."

I like cows; I like milk; and as Wilber in Charlotte’s Web says, I even like the smell of a barn--manure and all; and I don't think cows are particularly stupid (in the animal kingdom), but to put it bluntly… the life of cows, like most barn animals, can be boiled down to bodily functions: they eat and excrete, and do it pretty much at their leisure. In fact, they do things humans do in private very much in the open whenever they feel like it. So the proverb could be paraphrased, "If you want to walk a path of wisdom, get used to discipline, but if you hate correction you'll eventually live like a cow." (Remember... the prodigal son did not turn his life around until he was living like a pig with the pigs.)

Don't be a cow, Man! was an underlying theme of all three messages shared over the two-and-a -half day retreat. The warning was not an insult. Every student knew exactly what it meant: Don't reduce yourself to thoughtless functions; don't settle for less than your high calling in Christ Jesus. We are called to be more than cows and discipline is a part of that calling. Setting goals is not enough, we must also assess the obstacles that come with worthy goals and strive to “stick to it” as we press toward the mark.

This was my 26th consecutive "first week" high school event of this kind, and it was one of the best among those I still recall. For starters, we were at a great camp with unbelievable facilities, food, and friendly staff, but what made the retreat itself great was a camaraderie and unity between the classes, students and faculty. That intangible “chemistry” is not always evident at the start of a school year. The events, chapels, “free time,” and campfire testimonials were something many of us will remember for years to come. Now comes the challenge... to strive, to persevere, to stick to it.

.
P.S. Since I alluded to Charlotte's Web above, I should say that E.B. White's classic fable is wonderful story of Christ-like sacrifice and love in which the cast of barnyard characters depict the best of human behavior. Click here to enjoy the months of anticipation for this coming film starring Dakota Fanning. I have directed the stage adaptation of this tale on two occasions. The theme of the story was underscored by my father's death two weeks before opening night in 1995. The cast really pulled together for us during that time. This is a very powerful story that transcends its "kiddy lit" genre.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Porcelain Peace
Remembering the Quieter of My Two Grandmothers

My Dad's father died
before I was old enough to say the word "Grampa."
My mother says he once held me on his knee,
but I’ve no memory of it.
And in the decade to follow,
(the years I do recall)
I was too young to understand
that my quiet Grandma was grieving his loss
and learning to live alone.

When we entered Grandma’s house
as a family in a row
with Mom and Dad as bookends,
the glass-paneled door
from the large porch to her front room
was like Alice’s looking glass (in reverse).
We stepped in from a whirling world of motion
to a lamp-lit haven of porcelain peace,
a serene world of doilies and Royal Doulton figurines
forever waltzing on the walls…
beautiful, delicate, fragile...
to be admired but not held.

We didn’t do much in Grandma’s house
but sit on the sofa just inside the door.
To the left was a fireplace
but it seemed the space
was kept for its mantle not its hearth.
I never saw a fire there.
To the right, there was a smaller sitting room
and in it was a giant Oriental urn
with images of Samurai drawing swords,
a lavishly gilded “vase” that I was sure…
could swallow a small boy whole
if he dared to climb a chair and look inside.
I never did.

Straight ahead, beyond the arch
(with shelved columns of still more figurines)
was the dining room
that had not had a meal in years,
but in its closet was a cardboard box of toys.
During longer visits, if we’d been good,
Grandma would open the door
and pull the bare bulb's string above,
and in the shadow of the coats
we could pick some things to play with on the floor.
I always chose the bronze 1915 Model T Ford
(which was actually a bank with a slot in the top
with the name of a local bank on the side)
and “drove it” on the floor around the table.
Mind you I didn’t race or crash
or whisper a “varoom"—
just crawled behind a quiet country drive
along the of patterns in a Persian rug.

Sometimes Grandma took us
to the kitchen for a drink of milk or water.
It was a tidy little galley in classic 50’s
chrome and Formica and GE appliances.
I remember perching
on a white-and-yellow Cosco stool
(with little drop-down steps
for reaching the high shelves).
Whenever Grandma offered us cookies,
Dad always gave a subtle shake of his head to decline
and thus display our manners.
Then she would insist "they'll go to waste,"
and Dad would let us each have one.
It was a delicate dance of sorts
to see her slowly pass a plate
trembling at each turn...

Parkinson’s” they called it.
The disease we rarely mentioned
seemed to make her soft and brittle
at the same time,
like an antique china doll,
fondly admired but rarely held…
This is not to say she wasn’t loved
nor that she never showed love to us all.
She was a dear sweet "Mrs. Clause"—
in a less-than-jolly way.
She didn't laugh as those around her did.
When something struck her funny,
she held it in by covering her mouth
as if gently pressing a napkin to her lips,
and tilting her head slightly toward
the cause of her hidden smile.
It was then that we could see behind her glasses...
and know that she was laughing—
her eyes would more than sparkle,
her eyes could laugh out loud.

While we kids never quite relaxed
at Grandma's house, there was one thing
that actually frightened me:
I never walked to the bathroom alone
(but never said why aloud).
It was an unspoken rule based on childish fear.
You see, it was there,
in that porcelain-tiled room,
that Grandpa died in the night a few years before
(or so I’d been told by my older brothers and cousins).
Venturing down the hall and past
the bedrooms that looked as if
they had never been slept in
was a frightening thing to do
even with a brother by my side.
The narrow bathroom was immaculate
with little unused soaps of sea things
in a porcelain clam-shell bowl beside the sink.
On the wall were embroidered towels too perfect to touch
(so we wiped our wet hands on our pants);
on the floor were poofy pink rugs that showed footprints
(so we walked around them).
The tank cover matched the rugs, and on it
was a spare role of Charmin hidden in a crocheted cap
beside a square bottle of diluted perfume
with a squeeze-ball atomizer that was by far
the most alluring thing (to a boy) in the room.
The room was such
that every sense of touch and sight and smell
belied its function altogether
and added to our fear
of disturbing its peace.

It was all these unexplored feelings
that made the whole house feel like a parlor,
a place to visit not to live…
and why Grandma, like her many figurines,
seemed so breakable.
The atmosphere created by my dad
may also have been prompted
by the whispered account we later learned…
of a “break down” Grandma had when she was young.
To this day, I'm not sure what it was,
but she convalesced for months before resuming life
and eventually entering marriage and motherhood.
(Such things were not discussed until we were adults.)
All I knew at the time
was she was my quiet grandma,
with the softest cheek I'd ever kissed...
She was mother to my dad and my wonderful aunt and uncles,
and there was nothing fragile or delicate
about the lives her children and grandchildren lived
whenever we gathered.

In fact, I remember one 4th of July
when Uncle Roy brought a trailer-load
of fireworks right there to Grandma’s house.
He lit them off in the front yard,
and gave us each a box of magic “snakes”
that sprung wildly out of flames
and left black circles on the sidewalk
that stayed for years.
But this was outside the house, of course.
No such recklessness
ever stepped through the looking-glass door.

I do remember something else…
cleaning pheasant in the basement sink
after a day of hunting with Uncle Bob and friends
and helping Dad pick BBs from the meat
and keeping a pheasant foot
to pull the tendons that curled the toes
like puppet-string talons.
We played with them for weeks.
Some time later I recall
having a Thanksgiving feast
with all the cousins down there
in the open, brightly-lit basement
with the green-painted floor.

But upstairs was a different story;
upstairs we just sat and smiled
in the porcelain peace
surrounded by the fragile pieces
and admiring Grandmother's glazed grace,
trembling at each step
or sitting in a quiet chair.
And we’d wait there
watching for those silent moments
when her eyes would laugh out loud.
.© Copyright 2006, TK, Patterns of Ink


Grandma K can be seen here between to talking women. The one to her left is my other grandma. My Grandma Spencer is another story--many other stories, in fact. She's still alive and well at 95. Lots of drafts about her waiting to be posted here someday. But there is a post about my Grampa Spencer here at Past Perfect.) Grandma K. eventually moved from her house on Griswold St. into my Aunt Betty's house in Indiana. I remember happy visits there. After some good years there, she died in '72. My brothers, male cousins, and I were pallbearers. Here is a picture of the pallbearers and their siblings many years before when we were kids on a couch.

On Grandma's Couch

That's me with the gun (which did not come from the box in the closet). The front door mentioned in the previous post is to my right and the fireplace is to the left. The archway (with the shelves) to the dining room is straight ahead. Paul and Dave are to my left. Kathy is in the back. Jim was about ten years from being born.

The second picture is on the same couch (though I'm puzzled by the different curtains). It's circa 1958 with all Grandma K's grandkids (several more were yet to come). That's me, second from the right on the floor between my cousin Keith and Paula. Dave is in the center of the couch and Kathy and Paul are on the right end. When my grandmother moved to Indiana to live with my Aunt Betty, we were given the couch. None of her other children wanted it, but for us it was a step up from what we had. I remember how abrasive and uncomfortable the deeply "embroidered" fabric was. We still had it when I was in high school. When you took a nap on it without a pillow--you'd wake up with one of those paisley "fern leafs" imprinted in your face for about an hour.

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