Sunday, August 5, 2018

August 5: Book Club, Classic Saint Marty, Sharon Olds

Welcome to Sunday evening.

Book Club ended about an hour-and-a-half ago.  My friend, author John Smolens, was the guest of honor.  We ate, talked, asked questions, drank, and talked some more.  It was a lovely gathering.  My Book Club has been going strong for close to 15 years or so.  That's a pretty good track record.  Members have come and gone.  Meeting nights have changed.  We've added a Secret Santa gift exchange at Christmas.  (Okay, I forced that one on everyone, but nobody's complaining.)  I can honestly say that some of my best friends are in this group of people.

They've seen me through a lot of ups and downs in my life.  They were there when my wife and I separated.  They were there when we reunited.  They've seen both of my kids grow up.  And, when my brother and sister and father died, they were at the funerals.  That's the kind of friends I have. 

I've been very lucky to have this group of people in my life for so long.  They really have lifted me up, over and over and over.

And a Classic Saint Marty from about three years ago . . .

August 4, 2015:  Felix the Cat, "Jaws," Sharon Olds, "Wonder"

Later, because it was Christmas, Ives had somehow felt compelled to leave the nice watch he'd bought his son in the room, instead of returning it to the store.  He put it in his top drawer, as if his boy would come in anytime now to claim it.  That drawer was stuffed with school paraphernalia, prayer cards, baseball cards, playing cards, a Felix the Cat comic that Ives had illustrated himself, years before.  And pamphlets, a dozen of them, from different seminaries, clipped together, one of them with the sun's rays extending outward in the shape of a cross, the title:  In God's Service.  On a shelf Robert had a edition of the World Book Encyclopedia, which he had bought when he was ten with his own money; an Oxford Book of Saints, his marker left on the page describing Saint Francis of Assisi.  A row of books on sciences, a picture book of pretty flowers from Celeste.  A paperback novel called Invasion of the Star Creatures and a book on ancient Egypt.  He saw that in a row on the inside cover his son had drawn three symbols:  that of an ankh, chrismon, and crucifix, one leading to the next.  In a bag he found a copy of Fanny Hill, which had one of his son's friend's names in the margin, certain pages marked off.  It made him laugh.  Then on Robert's desk, where each night he had worked by lamplight on his schoolwork--what "good" youngsters do--he found an edition of A Christmas Carol, which Annie had given him, opened to one of the middle chapters.

Ives is surrounded by reminders of his son.  The Christmas following Robert's death, Ives goes into Robert's room and catalogs his son's belongings--his books and cards, scribbled notes.  It's almost as if Robert is going to walk through the door, sit down, pick up his copy of A Christmas Carol, and start reading where he left off.  Robert's story is incomplete, and Ives wants him to return to finish it.

Greetings from Munising, Michigan, on the shores of Lake Superior.  Actually, I'm in a hotel in Wetmore, which is a couple of miles beyond Munising.  It has been a fairly pleasant day, discounting a disappointing lunch and messed-up hotel reservations.  My kids spent several hours at a swimming pool with a water slide, and I got to watch America's Got Talent

As I sit on my bed typing this post, I'm wearing one of my favorite tee shirts, with the classic logo for the movie Jaws on it.  For years, I'd wanted this shirt.  Every time I hit Old Navy, I'd scour the vintage tee shirt racks looking for it without success.  Then, one year, I found it--in my six-year-old son's size.  We bought it for him, and he wore it all the time.

One day, my son and my sister (the one who is currently a patient at the University of Michigan hospital) handed me a package.  Inside was a vintage Jaws tee.  My sister ordered it from Amazon.  Every time I wear it, I think of her.  I think of how my son loves my sister, and vice versa.  They probably planned my tee shirt surprise for over a week.

Like Ives, I feel like my sister's story isn't complete.  She's supposed to come to my daughter's high school graduation, show up for my son's school Christmas programs.  This morning, my son saw me wearing my Jaws shirt, and he said, "Me and Aunt Sally bought that for you."

"Yes," I said.  "You sure did."

My son touched the shirt and said, "I miss Aunt Sally."

I nodded and said, "Me, too, buddy."

I'm still hoping that my sister, by some miracle, beats this cancer.  Still hoping that she's around to see my son graduate from high school and my daughter go to college.

Saint Marty isn't on vacation from hope.


by:  Sharon Olds

When she calls to tell me my father is dying
today or tomorrow, I walk down the hall
and feel that my mouth has fallen open
and my eyes are staring.  The planet of his head
swam above my crib, I did not understand it.
He lay, behind bevelled-glass doors, beside
the cut crystal decanter, its future
shards in upright bound sheaves.
He sat by his pool, not meeting our eyes,
his irises made of some boiled-down, viscous
satiny matter, undiscovered.
When he sickened, he began to turn to us,
when he sank down, he shined.  I lowered my
mouth to the glistening tureen of his face
and he titled himself toward me, a dazzling
meteor dropping down into the crib,
and now he is going to die.  I walk down the
hall face to face with it
as if it were a great heat.
I feel like one of the shepherd children
when the star came down onto the roof.
But I am used to it, I stand in familiar
astonishment.  If I had dared to imagine
trading I might have wished to trade
places with anyone raised on love,
but how would anyone raised on love
bear this death?

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