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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

Friday, February 29, 2008

Words Fitly Spoken: Part II

What Makes People Want To Listen?

It's early in the morning of that strange glitch in time we call Leap Day, February 29. I have a friend who was born on this day. I suppose that feels a little bit like being the part of the song on a scratched vinyl record that skips nearly every time it's played. Anyway...
Happy Leap Day!

Some friends who read at POI but don't comment are wondering where I’m going with all this talk about Obama. “Tom, don’t tell me you’re jumping on the bandwagon, too!” They feel compelled to remind me that Obama has the most liberal voting record in the senate, that there's no way he can pay for all his promises, and that he has connections with some pretty questionable characters. None of which (so far) has garnered much attention, and if and when it does, it may not matter to the bandwagon.

At this moment in the primaries, the bandwagon consists of roughly 25% of the electorate, but with each passing day, an ever-stronger breeze billows Obama's sail while his opponent’s ship, sails slack, sits in the distant doldrums. If it becomes clear that Barack’s ship has come in; if Oprah's prophecy comes to pass and "he is the one"; if upcoming state events knock Hillary out of the race and Obama becomes the Democratic nominee; his support will presumably double overnight.

Some may be saying, “Tom, not so fast. Hilary can still pull off this hat trick.” If so, that change of fortunes will be equally amazing. Likewise if McCain, whose future seems more dependent on underlying currents than winds of change, can somehow keep pace with the Democratic nominee, that too will be a fascinating story.

So regardless of who you support at the moment, there’s no denying that we are about to witness a political phenomenon unlike anything in recent memory, and in many ways it may boil down to which candidate makes best use of
words fitly spoken.

Students of rhetoric are familiar with Aristotle’s three elements of persuasion: ETHOS, PATHOS, AND LOGOS.

Part II is about ETHOS, from which we get the word Ethics. ETHOS goes much deeper than personality. It is that intangible quality in a person that causes listeners to believe that the speaker's character, knowledge, and judgment is worthy of respect. It's the degree to which an audience believes that the person they are listening to acts the same when "no one is looking." If a speaker comes across as contrived or put on, listeners will conclude that the worst observations are the most accurate reflection of the person's ETHOS.

I don't mean to pick on Hillary, but ETHOS has been the basic problem with both her and Bill for much of their political careers. Op-Ed Columnist MAUREEN DOWD said two days ago:

"The fact that Obama is exceptionally easy in his skin has made Hillary almost jump out of hers. She can’t turn on her own charm and wit because she can’t get beyond what she sees as the deep injustice of Obama not waiting his turn. Her sunshine-colored jackets on the trail hardly disguise the fact that she’s pea-green with envy. After saying she found her “voice” in New Hampshire, she has turned into Sybil. We’ve had Experienced Hillary, Soft Hillary, Hard Hillary, Misty Hillary, Sarcastic Hillary, Joined-at-the-Hip-to-Bill Hillary, Her-Own-Person-Who-Just-Happens-to-Be-Married-to-a-Former-President Hillary, It’s-My-Turn Hillary, Cuddly Hillary, Let’s-Get-Down-in-the-Dirt-and-Fight-Like-Dogs Hillary....If she can only change this or that about her persona, or tear down this or that about Obama’s. But the whirlwind of changes and charges gets wearing. By threatening to throw the kitchen sink at Obama, the Clinton campaign simply confirmed the fact that they might be going down the drain."
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Here's how Slate on Youtube illustrate the point:
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Some may cry "unfair!" But fair or not, since the on-screen ethos of Hillary is ever-changing and hostile under pressure, the public tends to believe the reports of what Hillary is like behind closed doors.

Likewise, if the race is eventually between Obama and McCain (who has his own ethos and authenticity issues), the ETHOS, attitude, and personality contrast between them may be as stark as the following Youtube contributions: We've already seen the original video of "Yes We Can" derived from Obama's speech.

Well, here's the one called "No You Can't" derived from McCain lines.

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There is so much more to say about ETHOS, but alas Pathos and Logos are waiting in the wings. I will be working on the Thailand video for the next few days, so it will be a while before I can post Part III .

[Bob sent me this animated Walt Handelsman cartoon Friday PM.]

Monday, February 25, 2008

Words Fitly Spoken: Part I

I confess. I'm a recovering political junky. It all started when I met Ronald and Nancy Reagan in 1980. Secret Service would not let Governor Reagan use my pen as we shook hands, but Nancy was kind enough to scrawl her name on my clipboard as we shared an umbrella in the rain. Ever since, I've been fascinated by Presidential races, and along the way I've gotten handshakes, photos, and autographs from many candidates and all three Republican Presidents. But so far this primary season I have deliberately avoided politics.

(Okay. Okay... I did write one tongue-in-cheek movie review last November, and yes it was a thinly veiled op-ed on Hillary. Sorry if that was too harsh. But other than that essay, I've held off until now.)

One of the reasons I enjoy reading comments at POI is that they come from a diverse gathering of "friends on the front porch." Some don't share my views, but you don't mind that I do. Some don't share my faith, but you don't mind that I do. (By the way, my blog header mentions that I'm a follower of Christ as reminder to myself not as an earned merit badge.) We come from across the continent and beyond—Canadian, American, Men, Women, Catholic, Protestant, Democrat, Republican, White, Black, Hispanic, Malaysian, Thai, etc. Old friends. New friends. People I see every week, and people I will never meet in this life. That's what I love about blogging.
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I'm saying this because politics can set people's teeth on edge, and I don't want to do that. Maybe it will help if I say up front that this series of posts is not about issues. Not that issues aren't important—they are—but issues will always be with us. This primary season, however, has already offered something that comes along perhaps once in a generation. If I were teaching a "public speaking" class again, my students and I would be immersed in this discussion. I hope you find it equally interesting.

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” Proverbs 25:11

Words Fitly Spoken: Part I
She Said He Said

On a July evening in 2004, this Republican was watching the Democratic Convention when a young legislator from Illinois delivered the keynote address. I had never seen his face before, and frankly did know his first from his last name, but after months of listening to John Kerry's haughty air, I turned to my wife and said, "Now here is a Democrat who's going to be President someday." It wasn't that I agreed with everything he was saying, but I was very impressed with his ability to say it.

Four months later Barack Obama was sworn in as a U.S. Senator, and four years later we all know his name. I still disagree with him on some very important issues, but I agree with the way he disagrees with me. His disarming tone is a force all its own. He's like Reagan in that regard, but his words soar above those of "the great communicator." He has MLK's gift of rhetorical rhythms, and JFK's ability to offset inexperience with themes of promise.

I don't mean to dash the hopes of Hillary's loyal entourage or McCain's reluctant mutineers or Huckabee's faithful few. This is not an endorsement; nor is it a prediction; it's simply a "hat tip" to one of the best public orators since... well, since the men he was falsely accused of plagiarizing this past week.

In last Thursday's debate, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton engaged not in a war of words but in a war about words--about their value compared to actions, their power to persuade, and their source when borrowed. Evidently Hillary knew she was no match for Obama as a public speaker so she began belittling the importance of "good speeches" a few weeks ago. To counter that attack, Barack added to the beginning of his stump speech a short string of famous quotations followed by "Just words?" He barrowed the device from a friend, Deval Patrick, who used it two years ago. See the comparison here, but keep in mind these lines are simply literary allusions.

So it seemed petty indeed when in the middle of the debate Hillary accused Obama of stealing that part of someone else's speech. Obama was speechless--no pun intended--but he eventually muttered, "The notion that I had plagiarized from someone who is one of my national co-chairs. This is where we start getting into silly season in politics..."

Hillary had this rehearsed line up her sleeve (we'll assume she wrote it herself): “Lifting whole passages from someone else’s speeches is not change you can believe in. It’s change you can Xerox.” She got booed. I'll admit, if Hillary could prove that many of Obama's orations are in fact the lip-synched words of lesser-known politicians (or if his book The Audacity of Hope was entirely ghost written), she'd have a point, but those particular lines have been "lifted" throughout American history.

For instance, Jefferson first penned "all men are created equal," and then Lincoln used the phrase in the Gettysburg Address, and then MLK used it in "I Have a Dream," and so on. One of the other lines Obama "lifted" from Deval Patrick's speech was the quotation attributed to JFK, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." BUT WAIT, perhaps Hillary should have also debunked Kennedy for "lifting" those words from Khalil Gibran who said in his 1925 published work, "The New Frontier" (36 years before Kennedy's Inaugural), "Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country?...." BUT WAIT... maybe she should also question Gibran's originality since Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, in a Memorial Day address is 1884 stated: "It is now the moment when by common consent we pause to ... recall what our country has done for each of us, and to ask ourselves what we can do for our country in return."

See what I mean? In the world of politics, a quotation often gets attributed to the person who said it best not first.

By the end of Thursday's debate, Hillary was temporarily in a much better mood, as you can see in the first part of this youtube clip. Then two days later in Ohio (Saturday) her honor turned to anger as she pretended to challenge Obama to a "bring it on" debate (the one that's been scheduled for weeks). The next day in R.I. (Sunday) her honor turned to mockery in this speech.
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I'll post the second part of this series Wednesday or Thursday (after Tuesday's debate). In the meantime, if you haven't seen the following two videos, they will underscore what I'm saying about Obama's disarming gift with words fitly spoken.

The first is his Yes We Can speech delivered in New Hampshire. The second is the Yes We Can music video that inspired these artists after they heard the speech. This line seems to stand out as uniquely his own: "In this unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope."

Now do you see what Obama means when he insists that there is a difference between momentum in a race and A MOMENT in history? This is not an endorsement. It is a study in effective rhetoric that Hillary will find hard to top and stop. Sore words rarely trump words that soar. Likewise, McCain (no matter how many "my friends" he inserts into his speeches) will have difficulty overcoming the face-to-face charisma of this young senator whose name is becoming easier for Americans to say with each passing day.
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Part II will attempt to distinguish between the MOMENT and OBAMANIA
by applying Aristotle's elements of rhetoric: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Wedding Book

In my mother's last year of a long struggle with cancer, her chemo-treatment left her tired. I spent a weekend with her while Bob, her recently-wed second husband, was away on business. This is a conversation-story in which I learned for the first time that Bob was the baker who made my parents' wedding cake more than fifty years before. This story was shared at Mom's funeral in February of 2008.


The Wedding Book
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My mother’s living room still knows the meaning of its name,
but it’s a quiet sort of living to be sure.
Gone are the days of horsy-back rides,
our daughters’ song and dance upon the hearth,
and wrapping paper strewn on Christmas morn.
That sort of living in the room has faded like the snapshot
left too long upon the kitchen windowsill.
But rising early and alone with a pad and pen,
I was drawn to the davenport
and I saw that life without us
found ways to gather undisturbed
in corners where the carpet is not worn—
and countless numbers scrawled on torn
scraps and backs of envelopes in the nook
and scribbling in the margin of a book
left waiting on the corner chair,
and photo albums in the shadow of the stair.

And then it was I saw the wedding book
left waiting on the bottom step.
Its pebbled ivory cover took me back the fifteen years
when last it lay upon lap,
the time my girls sat spellbound at my side.
They'd never seen the book before--
a splendid volume of full-page black-and-whites
with details crystallized in time:
You can almost feel the softening varnish
on the blackened pew rails;
and smell the winter on the woolen coats;
and hear the hatted women in the crowd
whispering, “Don’t look at the camera,”
while children gaze bewildered in the lens.














It’s as if the photographer knew
these weren’t just wedding pictures—
especially in the group tableaus—
it’s as if he knew…
this was the cast party
of the unfolding play
that was our life before we lived.
Each shot is in the old historic church that shares its name
with the fort that once stood there
and the old lighthouse still standing
and the avenue that in its day
tied Port Huron to Detroit
and all points in between…
and thus became the byway of our lives.

The Wedding Guests

I rose to put some coffee on,
and when the pot had sputtered its last sigh,
Mom was up to share a cup
and ask me what I had there in my lap.
And so began a conversation
that saw us through to lunch and gave a glimpse
of how life’s yarn is spun and knit…
and how a Providential twist
can turn into the tie that binds.















I opened to the reception picture,
the most intriguing of them all.
There’s a clock on the wall
that says it’s nearly nine, and in that moment
the basement of the churchis filled
with shared contentment.

Mom pointed at the page.
“Doesn’t my dad look handsome there?
Look at Mumma, and your Dad’s mom,
and that’s Aunt Edith beside her.”

“Isn’t she the one who kicked
her underwear off the bridge?” I smiled.

“No. That was Aunt Dean,” she laughed,
turning back a page to point her out
and obliged to tell the story once again.
“Jupiter! She was walking home
across the 10th Street Bridge
in downtown Port Huron—
not Military Street, the other one—
and right in the middle of the bridge,
her elastic snapped and down they dropped
like a parachute 'round her ankles.
Do you remember?” Mom laughed.
(I wasn’t there, of course,
but nodded so as not to break her thought.)

“On the spot she had to choose—
her dignity or her drawers?—
she could not have them both.
The coming traffic forced her call,
and with a flick of her less than dainty foot
she nonchalantly kicked her panties
through the railing on the bridge—
pshhhhew—and let them billow down
to the boats below. Black River’s
busy that time of year, you know.
And then she walked right on home
like nothing happened.”

“Enjoying the cool summer breeze,” I added,
since she’d left out that line.

“Yep. That’s what she said
whenever we made fun.
But you have to remember,
that was during World War II—
there was a shortage of rubber,
and they were chinsin’ on elastic.
My land! we couldn’t even buy stockings—
we had to draw hose seams
on the back of our legs with eyebrow pencil.
Between the air-raid drills and Hitler
and our loose underwear,
we ladies lived in constant fear."

I’d heard the storyand its tie-in to the war
a hundred times before
(as I had the many that followed),
but it was wonderful
to hear Mom’s laugh
and the lilt in her voice again.

The Wedding Cake

Mom turned the page
to the picture of the cake
and told me something
that I’d never heard,
nor was there cause
to hear it until now.
“Did you know Bob made
the wedding cake we served?”
“Your Bob?” I asked,
wanting to hear more.

“My Bob,” she smiled.

“His family owned a bakery
near the corner of 10th and Lapeer—
just five blocks from the bridge.”
“The underwear bridge?” I asked.
“Just a walk from there, and around the corner
from our house on Lapeer Avenue.”

“ Time out, Mom. I’m confused.
You said OUR house on Lapeer?"

“Well, we didn’t live there yet, of course,” she said.
"We didn’t move there ‘til you were born—
Let's see... Kathy in ’52; Paul in ’53;
Dave in ’54;and you in ’56—
So this was five years before.
Those were fun days weren’t they, Tom?
You in droopy diapers riding Duke,
and Dave and Paul wearing pots on their heads
in the sandbox, and Kathy playing dress-up...”

“They were magic years, Mom, but… the cake.
You were telling me about the cake.”

“Oh, yea… Well, Bob and I
were in class together since 7th grade.
He’d come over to talk sometimes
when Barb and Jean and I
were sitting on the back-porch swing.
(She turned back to the reception page.)
That’s Barb there serving cake—
but that wasn’t the cake I’d ordered.
You see what happened was…
an acquaintance of ours had offered
to make a wedding cake,
and she brought it to my house—
you know, Grandma’s house
on Forest Street—the day before.
But the cake was not what I'd described at all,
and soon as she left, I just bawled.
I had no time and no money left to fix it
and then I remembered Bob.
He worked at his folk's bakery on 10th.
So I caught the bus, and...”

“Wait a minute, Mom.” I said. “Why a bus?"

“I didn't have a license; I didn't have a car—
it was your dad who taught me how to drive,
but that was later on;
and Daddy, my dad, was workin' I guess;
and Dad Collinge was probably at the Grotto;
and Mumma never drove—ever...
but we always managed to get around—
just like she still hops a bus to the beauty shop
and she's just shy of 100. Isn't that something?
I used to take the bus every day
from Riverview to Stone Street.
This is when I worked at Star Oil."

"I remember that you worked there—
it was by Pine Grove, but I guess
I never heard about the bus."

"Here's something else
I'll bet I never told you about Star Oil:
I worked in accounts receivable? Imagine that.
Me who flunked bookkeeping—
all I remembered about bookkeeping
was it being the only word
with three double letters in a row,
but they hired me just the same.”

My jaw dropped,“Now that I did not know..."

“What? About the double letters?”

“No that you worked in accounts receivable.”

“Ironic isn’t it, but that’s what I did…
right up ‘til a few months before Kate was born.
That was the only “job” job I ever had.
Then you kids became my job
and your dad, of course…
but he was working that day ‘til five,
climbing poles for Bell,
saving his days-off for the honeymoon…
so he couldn’t take me.”

“Take you where?” I wondered aloud.

“To the bakery to see about a cake.”

“Oh, yea. You got me thinkin' about that picture
of Dad smiling at the top of a telephone pole.
Most of your stories I know by heart,
but this cake one I’ve never heard,
and we keep veering off...
So it’s what time? Noon?
The day before the wedding...
and you still need a cake...
you get to the bakery… and then what?”

“I was afraid it was closed.
The door was stuck, but then
I pushed it, and the bell that hung inside
rang so loud it scared me.
No one was at the counter—
which was fine because I knew
I was about to cry again…
so I just stood there staring
at baked goods behind glass.
I loved the smell of that bakery.
I used to walk you kids
there for doughnuts. Remember?”

“Mom, the cake. I’m like five years
from existing at this point in the story.
If you don’t get this cake,
I may never be born.”

Mom laughed, “You know how I like to tell things—
they're not tangled they're connected.

So… I’m standing there and Bob comes
from the back to the green counter out front.
We’d lost touch since high school—
I’d heard he was married now—
but he was always such a friend.
‘Hello, Bev!’ He says, ‘What can I do for you?’
He said that. ‘Do ya mean it, Bob?
Can you really do something for me?
I think he could tell something was wrong.
‘I’ll sure try. What do you need?’
And then I just bawled.”

“Mom, you just walked into Bob’s bakery…
and started crying? What did he do?
Had he seen you like that before?”

“Oh, probably. Everybody knew I cried easily,
but he just smiled and said:
‘Bev, for you I can do this.’
‘How can you do this by tomorrow?’
(I was so embarrassed to ask.)
‘For you, I’ll bake it this afternoon,
let it cool overnight, frost it in the morning,
and deliver it to the church myself.’
He scribbled the order on a pad,
open and closed the register drawer,
and said, “No charge.” And I cried again.

The cake was there the next day.
It was beautiful with little roses
on each of the sheet cake squares.

That was the last time I saw Bob
until our 50th Class Reunion
seven years ago. You know the rest."
I did know the rest,
but this story brought a smile
that had been missing
from a chapter of our lives.
Some things take time to understand.

Mom went to the kitchen for a bite,
and I turned to the last picture
at the back of the book.
Mom and Dad are sitting cheek-to-cheek
in the back of a borrowed sedan,
smiles beaming with all the love and happiness
they gave to us for forty-some years.













Dad died unexpectedly in ’95,
and Mom lived alone for a while.
Then the Class of ’48 called to see
if she was coming to their reunion.
She was ready.
By stepping briefly into her past
she was able to re-enter the present
and look ahead. Long story short…
Bob was also there and alone that night,
and their friendship was rekindled.
It slowly grew in the forgiving soil
that comes with age until it called for
a gathering of friends and family
about a mile from the other church
(the one in Mom's wedding book).
In a little chapel there
we shared another wedding cake
that as far as I know…Bob didn’t bake
the afternoon before.

Mom was right: Her stories aren't tangled at all...
they're unbelievably connected.



© Copyright 2008

The above post is an abridged version of the story printed for the guests at my mom's funeral. It was suggested by a friend that I submit it in a narrative contest that tells a story in an interesting way in less than 2000 words. The original posts are in the February archives as separate chapters. © Copyright 2008, TK, Patterns of Ink

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Speaking of Hibernation

I slept until 10:00 this morning without even knowing I was “sleeping in.” On Saturday, we usually sleep an extra hour or so (compared to weekdays), but I haven't enjoyed a "long winter's nap" in ages. Best yet it was totally guilt free. I almost feel “normal"--whatever that is. Julie and I enjoyed a nice “Cream of Wheat” breakfast and cup of coffee. There's just something about Cream of Wheat on a cold morning. After that, I surfed cable news and the web for the latest political developments, which prompted the series of posts soon to come.

Warning: I've waited as long as I can, and I'm about to put my toe in the precarious pond of politics, but don't worry... I'm making no endorsement, and I'll try not to change the tone of our on-going POI conversation. Just think of it as a neighborly chat among friends over a cup of coffee (or a bowl of Cream of Wheat).

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hibernation

I took this picture of our family home while walking our dog on New Year's Day, 2008. You may recall from January 4's post that Mom and I had spent the afternoon before in the front room looking at photos. That seems an eternity ago.

This is the "house on a hill in a woods somewhere" that I wrote of thirty years ago. If you click on the photo to enlarge and look closely, you'll see the porch swing at the left, hung high for winter, Mom's new bay window in the center, and to the right is Mom's husband Bob who came out to greet us that morning. The house is set far from the road in a woods. Beneath the fresh snow between Kip and the house is a paved circle driveway that goes up to the front porch.

A week ago tomorrow morning, we pulled away from Mom's house and went to Port Huron for her funeral. The house looked like it does in this photo with new snow from the night before.

After that long day, Julie and I drove the 3.5 hours to the west side of the state where we live. As we neared Grand Rapids, the groundcover of snow became deeper. Thirty miles later our own roads and streets were piled high with the record the amounts of snow that had fallen since I left for Thailand.

When we got to our driveway, we were relieved to see that a good friend had come over with her snowblower and cleared us out. I don't know what we would have done if without her help. My daughter Kim's car has a parking spot beside but not in our street. (She is away at college in Chicago.) If you enlarge the photo and look closely in the pile beside our driveway, you can see her '95 Saturn hibernating in a cave of snow.
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Hibernation is an amazing state of existence. In our backyard there are four box turtles that I haven't seen them since Halloween. At first frost, they disappear in boroughs dug along our basement wall. We won't see them again until all the snow is long gone. They hibernate for over five months--nearly half a year. Box turtles live to be 30-40 years old, but in this region they experience only about half of the "time" they share with us humans. Isn't that something!

Do you ever wish you could hibernate? I'd like to for a while--not for a whole winter. I like the winter. I even like snow.... Not like Rip Van Winkle to wake up having missed important events of life.... I'm not sure what I mean. Maybe a snowbound week away would do...
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in "a house on a hill in a woods somewhere
in a woods where no on sees
(save those who pass with a lasting stare
at its glimmer of light through the trees)."
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Update Wednesday, 2-20-08: These "lake effect snow warning" maps may help explain some of the discussion in the comment section. "Lake effect snow" is a phenomenon that occurs in places like west Michigan; Cleveland, Ohio; and Buffalo, N.Y., where cold arctic air blows across the warmer exposed waters of the Great Lakes, creating its own very localized "snow storm." West Michigan has been in a two-day "lake effect" storm since Monday night. Schools were closed Tuesday but not today (so students may learn about ice, momentum, chain reactions, and cars in ditches today--all part of a Michigan education). Sometimes the winds come from the west (Chicago area), but today’s are coming from the northwest (Green Bay area).
Between regular systems and "lake effect" so far this year, total snow accumulations for west Michigan are just under 100 inches. We will likely make that mark by March.
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Added April 26, 2008: Here's an amazing clip about an extreme type of hybernation. Hat tip to Lone Grey Squirrel.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Is It Just Me?

Before I begin this post, I have to ask something…Is it just me or does everyone add lyrics to life’s little jingles? I just turned on my laptop, which runs Microsoft Windows, and heard those five notes that chime for all non-Mac users when their computer comes to life.
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Though embellished with other tones, the five primary notes seem to say
“Wel-come-to-Win-dows.”

I’ve never heard these words uttered, of course, much less sung, and yet I hear them in my head as if those five notes are the “elevator ” version of the original short libretto written for robotic elves or angels. Likewise when closing Windows and those four other familiar notes fall trippingly through the air as my screen goes black, I can almost hear the words “Good-bye-for-now” in the notes.

Am I simply personifying hardware, putting words in its mouth so to speak… or did Bill Gates and Company successfully program both the software and its users to hear the same subliminal messages when they use Windows?

I suppose it’s possible that there are three kinds of Windows users in the world: (A) Those who do not hear the music [i.e. You’ve never really noticed the notes when you open Windows]? (B) those who hear the music, but the notes are just that… random notes; and (C) those who hear the notes and then imagine words that fit them. (Follow up question for this last group: Does everyone hear the same words or is it just me?) In which group are you?

You're probably shaking your head saying, “Tom, I'm in the group that thinks the words to the opening five notes are ‘Tom-has-gone-craz-ee’ and the closing four notes are ‘you-need-some-help.’”

Alright…alright… point well taken. Now let me see… what was I going to write about when I turned this thing on?
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[P.S. I really will post something in a day or two... We've been home since late Monday night. It felt good to be back in the office at school, and while things don't quite feel "normal," it is great to be home.]

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Complete

To those left listening
life seems to end
as if not quite complete
like the song of a music box
when the last note plinked
hangs all alone
and we’re left to finish
the melody from memory.
Sometimes though,
I’ve reason to believe,
when all have left the room,
the unwound spring
lets go a little more
‘til the last note
of the song is nudged
into the night
for God alone to hear.

© Copyright 2008, TK, Patterns of Ink
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On behalf of my family, I'd like to thank you all for your continued prayers. Last evening's viewing was such a happy-sad time. We were so pleased that the skilled staff there at the funeral home were able to reflect Mom's beauty and the beauty of her spirit and the peace and rest she longed for. Even more pleasing was seeing Mom's beauty reflected in the hundreds of faces gathering in the room.
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I sense that you understand that in these times somehow God gives strength that transcends the grief and transforms the place into a giant "living room," a non-stop flow of friends and family where hugs and tears and--best of all--laughs are mingled, and the hours are lost to the moment.

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I know Bob will not mind my pointing out something that made us all smile when it occurred to us before the guests arrived at the funeral home ....
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Last night as we were gathered there was the very night (57 years ago) when Bob made
the wedding cake told of in the series posted below. This realization was not the least bit awkward. In fact, it seemed perfect as Bob's and Mom's family were both there together, struck by God's providential timeline. Jim and Kathy requested that copies of "Visiting Home" be printed for our guests so that others could know how that act of kindness long ago ties perfectly into these last pages of Mom's story.
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Today is the anniversary of the wedding day that began
Bringing Home the Duncan Phyfe. It is all the more fitting that on this day, we journey once again along that byway of our lives between Detroit and Port Huron, where our family's roots remained through all these years. This afternoon and evening in Mom's hometown marks the second day of visitation before Monday's service in the very church where Mom and Bob were married in May of 2001,
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I hope these thoughts provide a sense of how your prayers are playing out in the real lives of people far away.

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Sunday Update: Sunday's viewing in Port Huron was equally well attended as the one for our family circles in Macomb County. There was a steady stream of friends and family for about five hours. It was very tiring for Bob, but I trust it was an encouragement as well as many old friends and fellow Wertz Warriors came by to pay respects and offer support. It's been very nice to get to know Bob's family better this past week.
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My Grandma, Mom's mom, looked wonderful(age 97 and doing very well but for the sadness). Mom's sister Jackie and her family were there as well as her brother Richard and his family. It's always great to catch up with the cousins. Carol and Connie came (daughters of Dad's brother Jack--best man whose car was in this picture). Uncle Bob's kids came (that Dad's haircut brother) as well as two of Roy's girls (all the way from New Jersey).

For those of you familiar with the Duncan Phyfe story (posted August through December), you'll be interested to know that I met the following people yesterday: the lady who rented my parents' upstairs apartment on Lapeer Avenue (scroll down to "flipping houses" here); the granddaughter of Mr. Kellermen who hired Mom at Star Oil. (The family still owns the business. Mr. Kellermen's granddaughter Emily married Bob's grandson Craig six years ago.)Our neighbors from Atkins Road, the Hales, Harris', and Bev Palmer was there with three of her kids.(I didn't just meet these folks. We are life-long family friends, but we see each other too seldom it seems.)
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Over the dinner hour, my brother Jim and I drove to Mom and Dad's first apartment on White Street--the one to which they first brought home the Duncan Phyfe. As we drove west on Chestnut, I laughed at the slight downhill grade (where Mom got going too fast) because it is more noticeable than I imagined. I will be doing some revising of that chapter based on today's first-hand observation. It may come as a surprise that I'd never seen it before, but Mom's recollection of those streets and the small apartment was nearly "spot on." These thoughts are in my head because Mom and I had been talking of these things at length and in great detail throughout the fall. My brother Jim had followed the story during those months, and for us it's just a natural part of working through these days. I think Mom would be glad.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Finally Home: Thursday, 6:45 AM

More later. Please continue to pray for Bob and all of us in the days ahead: viewing Saturday, Sunday, and funeral Monday at 11:00AM in Port Huron. We're staying here through Monday/Tuesday, and our kids are driving over tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

On Showing Compassion

About twenty-two years ago, between our first two daughters, Julie had a miscarriage. In the weeks to follow, many couples shared with us that they, too, had gone through this experience, but until we faced the trial ourselves, we did not know that so many around us had gone through it. These days at death's door with Mom remind me of that time. So many people who have walked a similar path have helped us know what to expect, and more importantly, let us know that they are praying for us. Your support has been encouraging.
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The height of the human condition is not knowing passion but showing compassion. It is not about self but others.
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Julie made it back to the east side of the state Tuesday afternoon and she and I spent the night with Mom in the hospital last night. Her vitals are far below what is normally required to sustain life.
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I'm so glad I made it back from Thailand in time to look in Mom's eyes and "visit" for those two days before this time of sharing duties and grief with family has been a blessing, but if nothing happens soon, we may simply have to return to home and our duties at school until the days of the funeral.
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As we sat in that small darkened room last night, it occurred to me that this is that first week in February when I typically spend a weekend with Mom while Bob is traveling with Wertz Warriors. It was this week two years ago that I wrote the following little booklet which was originally posted April 1, 2006. I thought it might be of interest to some readers at this time—especially since the last chapter tells of a remarkable friendship that showed itself in kindness the day before my parents wedding.
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My mom had a "cake crisis" the day before their wedding, and she turned to her old friend Bob for help. Nearly fifty years later, that friendship was renewed at the PHHS Class of ’48's 50th Reunion. Mom and Bob married in 2001. It is the same compassion shown in the last part of this story that I see each day at mother’s bedside.
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Visiting Home: Preface to The Wedding Book
[1st in a series of 4, originally posted April 2006]
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My mother’s living room
still knows the meaning of its name,
but it’s a quiet sort of living to be sure.
Gone are the days of horsy-back rides,
our daughters’ song and dance upon the hearth,
and wrapping paper strewn on Christmas morn.
That sort of living in the room
has faded like the snapshot
left too long upon the kitchen windowsill.

But rising early and alone with a pad and pen,
I’m drawn to the davenport
(as Mother always called a couch)
and in the hush of daybreak's light
I see that life without us
finds a way to gather undisturbed
in corners where the carpet is not worn—
and countless numbers scrawled on torn
scraps and backs of envelopes in the nook
and scribbling in the margin of a book
left waiting on the corner chair,
and photo albums in the shadow of the stair.

The piano is now a desk of sorts, a place
to stack the hymnals and press like grapes
vintage sheet music in its overstuffed bench
that drops the unsung pages to the floor.
The room is long-since silent of their songs,
but the echo brings a smile
to me and framed familiar faces
forever looking on from every wall—
loved ones gone, and younger versions of us all,
and elementary pictures of children
(now grown and out of school)
still looking on and listening
from a dozen years before.

There is no clock to mark the time…
not even a metronome,
but the living room has heaps of living *
that make it feel like home.
© Copyright 2006, TK, Patterns of Ink

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*One of Mom’s favorite Guest poems begins “It takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home...” Those who have read "Bringing Home the Duncan Phyfe" will understand why it's Mom's favorite. This preface was written from recollections of Mom’s living room over the past decade more than its appearance that morning in February. It provides the setting for the three chapters of "The Wedding Book" which follow.

This story-poem continues at these links: Part II, Part III, Part IV.

The Wedding Book

[2nd in a series of 4 posts.]

And then it was
I happened on the wedding book
between the curtain and the stair.
Its pebbled ivory cover
took me back the fifteen years
when last it lay upon lap,
the time my girls sat spellbound at my side
in our Iowa living room.
They'd never seen the book I'd taken home
(with a plan but not permission)
to secretly capture each photo and face
with my camera’s eye—a documemory
I called it, a montage put to music
for Mom and Dad’s 40th Anniversary.
But before I tackled that task,
we held the book and took our time
the way Mom did when we were kids
with stories at each turn.

It's a splendid volume
of full-page black-and-whites
with details crystallized in time:
You can almost feel the softening varnish
on the blackened pew rails;
and smell the winter on the woolen coats;
and hear the hatted women in the crowd
whispering, “Don’t look at the camera,”
while children gaze
bewildered in the lens.
It’s as if the photographer knew
these weren’t just wedding pictures—
especially in the group tableaus—
it’s as if he knew
this was the cast party
of the unfolding play
that was our life before we lived.




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Each shot is in the old historic church
that shares its name
with the fort that once stood there
and the old lighthouse still standing
and the avenue that in its day
tied Port Huron to Detroit
and all points in between…
and thus became the byway of our lives.
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Part III: "The Wedding Guests"
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Note: The setting was Fort Gratiot Methodist Church. Many generations on both Mom and Dad's side lived in Port Huron. My older siblings and I were born there, but in '61,Dad was promoted at Bell, which called for a move to the north-east suburbs of Detroit. After that, Port Huron became a retreat of sorts. Gratiot Avenue was the route we took to PH before I-94 came along in the 60's. Past and present were interwoven at Port Huron by stories we heard the grown-ups tell at Grandma's house and picnics at parks called Lighthouse and Pine Grove and Palmer, and during the endless days we swam in the shadow of the Blue Water Bridge with Dad. TK

The Wedding Guests

In the basement of Fort Gratiot Methodist Church. Pierce Sisters left-front (mentioned in Dream Pony); Gr. Grampa S. to their left; Gr.Gr. Grandma Thorton behind him; Grampa S. in the front; Grandma S. ("Ofergosh!") behind him; Grandma K. (Porcelain Peace) to her left, and Aunt Edith in the lower right.
[3rd in a series of 4 posts.]
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Just then I heard
what sounded like a song
from down the hall.
It was, in fact, my mother’s voice
(muffled by her bedroom door)
in morning prayer. One by one,
she lifted us by name to God.
I knew this habit to be true,
but hearing it brought a sense of awe
for things beyond our realm
and unspoken fear
for what life might have been
without her steadfast supplication.

I rose to put some coffee on,
and when the pot had sputtered its last sigh,
Mom was up to share a cup
and ask me what I had there in my lap.
And so began a conversation
that saw us through to lunch
and gave a glimpse
of how life’s yarn is spun and knit…
and how a Providential twist
can turn into the tie that binds.

I opened to the reception picture,
the most intriguing of them all.
There’s a clock on the wall
that says it’s nearly nine,
and in that moment
the basement of the church
is filled with shared contentment.
Mom pointed at the page.
“Doesn’t my dad look handsome there?
Look at Mumma, and your Dad’s mom,
and that’s Aunt Edith beside her.”

“Isn’t she the one who kicked
her underwear off the bridge?” I smiled.
“No. That was Aunt Dean” She laughed,
turning back a page to point her out
and obliged to tell the story once again.
Jupiter! She was walking home
across the 10th Street Bridge
in downtown Port Huron—
not Military Street, the other one—
and right in the middle of the bridge,
her elastic snapped and down they dropped
like a parachute 'round her ankles.
Do you remember?” Mom laughed.
(I wasn’t there, of course,
but nodded so as not to break her thought.)
“On the spot she had to choose—
her dignity or her drawers?
she could not have them both.
The coming traffic forced her call,
and with a flick of her less than dainty foot
she nonchalantly kicked her panties
through the railing on the bridge—
pshhhhew—and let them billow down
to the boats below. Black River’s
busy that time of year, you know.
And then she walked right on home
like nothing happened.”

“Enjoying the cool summer breeze,”I added,
since she’d left out that line.
“Yep. That’s what she said
whenever we made fun.
But you have to remember,
that was during World War II—
there was a shortage of rubber,
and they were chinsin’ on elastic.
My land! we couldn’t even buy stockings—
we had to draw hose seams
on the back of our legs with eyebrow pencil.
Between the air-raid drills and Hitler
and our loose underwear,
we ladies lived in constant fear.”

I’d heard the story
and its tie-in to the war
a hundred times before
(as I had the many that followed),
but it was wonderful
to hear Mom’s laugh
and the lilt in her voice again.
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Part IV, "The Wedding Cake"

The Wedding Cake

[4th in series of 4 posts.]
Mom turned the page
to the picture of the cake
and told me something
that I’d never heard,
nor was there cause
to hear it until now.

“Did you know Bob made
the wedding cake we served?”
“Your Bob?” I asked, wanting to hear more.
“My Bob,” she smiled. “His family owned a bakery
near the corner of 10th and Lapeer— just five blocks from the bridge.”
“The underwear bridge?” I asked. [See previous post.]

“Just a walk from there, and around the corner
from our house on Lapeer Avenue.”

“ Time out, Mom. I’m confused.
You said OUR house on Lapeer?"

“Well, we didn’t live there yet, of course,” she said.
"We didn’t move there ‘til you were born—
Let's see... Kathy in ’52; Paul in ’53; Dave in ’54;
and you in ’56—So this was five years before.
Those were fun days weren’t they, Tom?
You in droopy diapers riding Duke, and Dave
and Paul wearing pots on their heads
in the sandbox, and Kathy playing dress-up...”

“They were magic years, Mom, but… the cake.
You were telling me about the cake.”

“Oh, yea… Well, Bob and I
were in class together since 7th grade.
He’d come over to talk sometimes
when Barb and Jean and I
were sitting on the back-porch swing.
(She turned back to the reception page.)
“That’s Barb there serving cake—
but that wasn’t the cake I’d ordered.
You see what happened was…
an acquaintance of ours had offered
to make a wedding cake,
and she brought it to my house—
you know, Grandma’s house
on Forest Street—the day before.
But the cake was not what I'd described at all,
and soon as she left, I just bawled.
I had no time and no money left to fix it,
and then I remembered Bob.
He worked at his folk's bakery on 10th.
So I caught the bus, and...”

“Wait a minute, Mom.” I said. “Why a bus?"

“I didn't have a license; I didn't have a car—
it was your dad who taught me how to drive,
but that was later on;
and Daddy, my dad, was workin' I guess;
and Dad Collinge was probably at the Grotto.
and Mumma never drove—ever...
but we always managed to get around—
just like she still hops a bus to the beauty shop
and she's just shy of 100. Isn't that something?
I used to take the bus every day
from Riverview to Stone Street.
This is when I worked at Star Oil."

"I remember that you worked there—
it was by Pine grove, but I guess
I never heard about the bus."

"Here's something else
I'll bet I never told you about Star Oil:
I worked in accounts receivable?
Imagine that. Me who flunked bookkeeping—
all I remembered about bookkeeping
was it being the only word
with three double letters in a row,
but they hired me just the same.”

My jaw dropped,“Now that I did not know..."
“What? About the double letters?”
“No that you worked in accounts receivable.”
“Ironic isn’t it, but that’s what I did…
right up ‘til a few months before Kate was born.
That was the only “job” job I ever had.
Then you kids became my job
and your dad, of course…
but he was working that day ‘til five,
climbing poles for Bell,
saving his days-off for the honeymoon…
so he couldn’t take me.”

“Take you where?” I wondered aloud.
“To the bakery to see about a cake.”

“Oh, yea. You got me thinkin' about that picture
of Dad smiling at the top of a telephone pole.
Most of your stories I know by heart,
but this cake one I’ve never heard,
and we keep veering off...
So it’s what time? Noon?
The day before the wedding...
and you still need a cake...
you get to the bakery… and then what?”

“I was afraid it was closed.
The door was stuck, but then
I pushed it, and the bell that hung inside
rang so loud it scared me.
No one was at the counter—
which was fine because I knew
I was about to cry again…
so I just stood there staring
at baked goods behind glass.
I loved the smell of that bakery.
I used to walk you kids
there for doughnuts. Remember?”
“Mom, the cake. I’m like five years
from existing at this point in the story.
If you don’t get this cake, I may never be born.”

Mom laughed, “You know how I like
to tell things—they're not tangled they're connected.

So… I’m standing there and Bob comes
from the back to the green counter out front.
We’d lost touch since high school—
I’d heard he was married now—
but he was always such a friend.
‘Hello, Bev!’ He says, ‘What can I do for you?’
He said that. ‘Do ya mean it, Bob?
Can you really do something for me?’
I think he could tell something was wrong.
‘I’ll sure try. What do you need?’
And then I just bawled.”

“Mom, you just walked into Bob’s bakery
and started crying? What did he do?
Had he seen you like that before?”
“Oh, probably. Everybody knew I cried easily,
but he just smiled and said:
‘Bev, for you I can do this.’
‘How can you do this by tomorrow?’
(I was so embarrassed to ask.)
‘For you, I’ll bake it this afternoon,
let it cool overnight, frost it in the morning,
and deliver it to the church myself.’
He scribbled the order on a pad,
open and closed the register drawer,
and said, “No charge.” And I cried again.

The cake was there the next day.
It was beautiful with little roses
on each of the sheet cake squares.
That was the last time I saw Bob
until our 50th Class Reunion
seven years ago. You know the rest."

I did know the rest,
but this story brought a smile
that had been missing
from a chapter of our lives.
Some things take time to understand.

Mom went to the kitchen for a bite,
and I turned to the last picture
at the back of the book.
Mom and Dad are sitting cheek-to-cheek
in the back of a borrowed sedan
smiles beaming with all the love and happiness
they gave to us for forty-some years.

Dad died unexpectedly in ’95,
and Mom lived alone for a while.
Then the Class of ’48 called to see
if she was coming to their reunion.
She was ready.
By stepping briefly into her past
she was able to re-enter the present
and look ahead. Long story short…
Bob was also there and alone that night,
and their friendship was rekindled.
It slowly grew in the forgiving soil
that comes with age until it called for
a gathering of friends and family
about a mile from the other church
(the one in Mom's wedding book).
In a little chapel there
we shared another wedding cake
that as far as I know…Bob didn’t bake
the afternoon before.

Mom was right:
Her stories aren't tangled at all...
they're unbelievably connected.

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The four posts above were begun in February 2006 and originally posted for Mom's 76 Birthday, April 24, 2006. My grandmother is now 97 and still hops the bus to the beauty shop. She has come three times to see Mom in the hospital. Because she is still very sharp mentally, it's been hard for her to witness this. With each passing year, she continues to amaze her children, grandchildren, great-grand children, and great-great grandchildren.

At the time of the original writing, Bob was on his annual trek with Wertz Warriors, a legion of snowmobilers who raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Special Olympics each year. Bob is the official photographer for the event, and his photos can be seen in the book found at this link. He was prepared to go again this year, and Mom was going to stay with Julie until I returned from Thailand.

At the time of this re-posting, because of Mom's hospitalization the last week of January 2008, Bob was unable to travel with the Wertz Warriors, but his friends have been keeping in touch with him during these difficult days.
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