Friday, May 31, 2013

The Week of Dad's Death: May 31, 1996: Back to Being Billy

I don't know how much attention we paid to it last night, but the Jazz creamed the Sonics, 118-83.  John Stockton scored 14 points and dished out 12 assists, helping Karl Malone score 32 points.  I have no memory of this game and I seriously doubt that it registered with Dad.

He was barely alive.

When I came home from Eugene, Dad thought I looked like hell.

I don't know why, but I hadn't had a haircut for months and I had let the beard I wore back then get shaggy and shabby.  The odd thing is that I didn't think much about it, but when I look back at pictures from those weeks I was home to help Dad die, I'm embarrassed.

Sometime, as Dad's condition worsened, he asked me to get a haircut and remove my beard.

"I want to see you the way I remember you when you were a kid."

I went uptown the next day and when Nanette asked me if I wanted a trim, I told her, "No.  I want way more than a trim and I want the beard off, too."

"Your dad's request?"

How'd she know? 

"Yeah.  And I think he's right."

I came back from Nanette's and when Dad saw me,  he caressed my face.

"God Damn It.  That's better, Billy."

When Dad and I just talked about ballgames or what was going on in Eugene or when he wanted me to do something, he called me Bill.

When he was proud of me, like if I made decent putt when we played golf or if I stroked a timely hit in a baseball game, he always cheered, "Atta boy, Billy" and when he called me Billy, I could hear a little bit of the Tennessee and Kentucky, the home states of his mom and dad, in his voice.

But, in the last days that Dad could speak, "Atta boy, Billy" changed to "Thanks, Billy".

Dad needed help in ways that were embarrassing to him.  Maybe it was easier for him to have Mom help him with some of these things, but when I was up all night with him, I helped him.

When he needed some cleaning up during the night, for as long as he could talk, it was, "Thanks, Billy."

When I brought him a Popsicle or a grape during the night when his mouth and throat were parched, he ate what he could, and always said, "Thanks, Billy."

You can see what was happening.  It's common.  The dying parent becomes the child, in need of what a child needs: feeding, cleaning, wiping, help walking.  I had become my father's parent in these ways.

But, he didn't call me Daddy.

He called me my childhood name. 

It was his perfect way of saying thank you.

Three Beautiful Things 05/30/13: Last Day of Instruction, No Harsh Words, Patiently Waiting for the Deke

1.  Even though WR 115 meets two more times, today was the last day of instruction.  From here on out, it's get writing done.  I laid out for my students the nine things I hoped they had learned about structure, development, reading, recognizing the abstract in relation to the concrete, formatting, and using research resources in the library.  I gave it a pretty good shot this quarter.  Whether it sticks is out of my control!

2.  I never spoke a harsh word in class this quarter.  I'm trying to think if I spoke a harsh word all year long in class.  Can't remember.  I was in a good mood every time we met and never once gave voice to any frustrations I might have had, mainly because I didn't really have any.  This approach worked and is working.  I'd like to think it helps my students see that I mean it when I tell them I'm on their side.  Yes, I had to deal with some thorny things, but I did so calmly and quietly.  I've always tried to be this way with my students and, this year, in my part-time work as a retired instructor, I found it easier because I was so much less fatigued. 

3.  It took the Deke longer than expected to arrive for our date at the Bier Stein.  No problem.  I ate a half a tuna salad sandwich on toasted sourdough bread with a cup of beer cheese soup.  Both were really good.  I very slowly drank and pint and a half of terrific Hofbrau Hefeweizen beer, my first Hefewizen from Germany.  The others I've drunk were Pacific Northwest and not one of those local Hefs is even as remotely interesting as the Hofbrau.  I'll keep drinking the local ones.  I like them.  But, wow, I really liked the taste kick this German one has -- and without a high alcohol content.  I enjoyed this time alone at the bar, taking in the spacious environment, yakking a little bit with the those working the bar, and having time to reflect on stuff. 

The Week of Dad's Death: May 30, 1996: Kellogg Friends

The call from Mom came either in the very last days of April or right at the beginning of May.

Mom and Dad had just learned that Dad had inoperable liver cancer and the doctor said he had a month to live.

Dad's health had been lousy for the last year and a half, but none of us knew he would be dying this soon.

When I got off the phone, I sat with the fact that Dad was terminally ill and I knew that I had to drop everything in Eugene, get some help to take care of things, talk to my boss, and get to Kellogg as soon as I could.

My only option at Lane Community College was to take a leave without pay.  I would make that work, no matter what.  It so happened that I was teaching an overload in the spring of 1996.  I must have had four research writing courses and a course in Shakespeare.  It would take two or three instructors to cover my schedule, an unhappy prospect for my boss.

But, I didn't let the difficulty I was causing him deter me. On May 10th, I headed for Kellogg.  My classes got covered, the cats and my gardens would be tended to, I figured out my income, and if anything went wrong, it would be peanuts compared to what I needed to do for Mom and Dad and the rest of my family.

Walking in the front door of our family home early in the evening of May 10th unsettled me a bit.  I'd been told Dad has lost weight. Indeed.  He was gaunt.  His hair was a shock of white.  His ears stuck out funny from his head, thanks to his gaunt face, in a way I'd never seen before.

We hugged.  Neither of us said anything.  Dad broke the silence:  "Your Ducks did great this year, huh?"

Dad and I had watched the Ducks on television back in January get creamed in the Cotton Bowl.

"Yeah.  They had a good year."

At this point, Dad wasn't yet in the intense pain that would come soon.  He could get around and joke around.

He had one wish:  a trip as soon as possible to the Prichard Tavern for a cheeseburger and Heidelberg beer and good company. 

We made that trip early in the week.  Leo and his wife and Donnie and Rosie and Carol's family and Christy and Mom all went up. 

Dad had aged about ten years, looking far older than his sixty-five years, but he gave us all one last good look at what he loved most in life:  an honest bar, some cold beer, a good burger, and, most of all, being surrounded by friends and family.  Leo and Donnie and Dad all went to Kellogg High School together.  Their stories and memories went way back.  Dad had been off of beer for quite a while, but having been given such a short time to live, having a last cold one or two was perfect.

What made the deepest impression on me over the next nearly three weeks had to be the friends of our family, but most of all, friends of Dad's who filed in and out of the house to see him and comfort him and my mom.

I had fallen into a lousy trap when I was younger.  I had gone off to school in Spokane, taught college in Spokane, and had gone off to graduate school at the University of Oregon.

I lived in the world of ideas, in a college and a university,  and I had fallen into the misconception that I lived where truth could be found and I wondered, when I was younger, how those who didn't read great works of literature, especially Shakespeare, could really know about basic human experiences like love and friendship and death without being educated in them, the way I was being schooled, once again, especially by Shakespeare.

This naive perspective of mine began to be demolished, in a really good way, in the summer of 1992, when I came home for my 20th high school reunion.  Before that weekend, I don't remember ever feeling such immediate and deep love, the love I felt that reunion weekend,  for so many people all in one place -- and it wasn't the love I was learning from my studies.

It was the love that grew out of shared lives, shared stories, admiration for what good people we were; it was love that grew out of dancing, laughing, eating, telling more stories, flicking each other some shit.

During that weekend in August of 1992, I felt like I'd found my foundation again.  I'd recovered what was real in my life.

It not only happened with my friends.  It happened with my father.  While we played golf, while we sat our on the back deck reading the newspaper over coffee, when friends of mine came by the house to see me and my dad, old affection I hadn't felt since I was a teenager, welled up and I knew Kellogg was my true home.

As Dad died, these feelings intensified, especially as friend after friend after friend filed into the house to see Dad and to offer comfort to Mom.

I began to realize that all those days Dad worked at the Zinc Plant, all those afternoons and evenings he spent uptown or at the Sunshine Inn drinking and watching ball games, all those rounds of golf, trips out finding berries to bring home, all those visits to Rose Lake, through all of it, he had formed deep friendships and bonds of affection with countless people in and and around Kellogg.

Now I really knew I was home and was overwhelmed by how the friendships between my dad and others that I'd once had the arrogance to underestimate, were deep, full of love and respect. They were friendships I didn't have to long for because I was beginning to understand that I had them with my Kellogg friends, too, even as we lived in different places.

By Thursday, May 30, 1996, it was hard to see Dad.  He was bed-ridden.  He couldn't talk.  He could hear what people said, when he was awake, and he could make slight gestures in response.

Even though it was hard, the visitors continued to come.

I experienced in an immediate way what I had learned through Shakespeare in a secondary way: dying reveals character, not only of the one facing death, but of the friends of the one who is dying.

Not Shakespeare or any other writer could have helped me experience the beauty of this truth more admirably or more vividly than my dad, my family, and my friends did in those few weeks leading to Dad's death. 

(I've written four other pieces about the week Dad died, hereherehere, here.)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 05/29/13: More Yard Work, Appreciation, Relaxed at Home

1.  I pulled a bunch of dandelions out of the front lawn before they blossomed and more out of the little meadow area north of our house and mowed the front lawn, keeping the grass fairly high.  I continue to wish my stamina were better, but even the relatively short amount of time I put in outside each day is enough to keep me motivated:  the yard and gardens look a little better and the physical pulling and pushing help me sleep even better than usual at night.

2.  I appreciate how different friends have told me that they appreciate the series of posts I've written on my blog about the week my father died.  I've held these memories and held some thoughts for quite a while and it's good to write them and to have people read them. 

3.  The Deke and I are relaxed about things.  Tonight, I was getting ready to fix dinner and she called me to say she wouldn't be home until later because she was having a glass of wine with fellow teachers and then she arrived home later than she planned.  No problem.  The dinner stayed warm.  I pulled more weeds. We aren't on any kind of strict timeline.  It all worked out.  No hassling each other is a very good way to roll. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Week of Dad's Death: May 29, 1996: Mango Body Butter

I looked back at the record and it was on May 28, 1996 that the Utah Jazz defeated the Seattle SuperSonics 98-95 in overtime to tighten the series, 3-2.  That game played on the little television on the chest of drawers in Dad's room.

When the game was over, I checked in with Dad and said, "Dad.  The Jazz won tonight in overtime."

Dad nodded with all the vigor he had.

In his last days, Dad needed the care of an in-home nurse to come by every other day and bathe him in his bed and to talk with the rest of us about how Dad was doing.

We were most fortunate that Dad's nurse was Betty Mercato, Buff's mom.  I'd known Buff for many years, but hadn't seen him for quite a while, and actually wouldn't see him again until a few years later when Ed went to work for him loading logs and driving log truck for Buff's small company.

But it was a connection.

Betty's treatment of Dad took me back to a 1984 British television production of King Lear, with Laurence Olivier playing the title role.

In that production, in Act IV, after King Lear had faced up to and suffered through the night of the tempest on the heath, he was transformed and when we see him in the woods of the Olivier production he shines with the light of a new born baby.  He does have new life and the lighting chosen in this production makes King Lear's face and nearly bald head shine with a light that seems to come from within, from his revivified and tender soul.

I don't know when someone purchased the Body Shop Mango Body Butter or why it was in Mom and Dad's room, but to soften Dad's drying skin and to refresh him, Betty used the Mango Body Butter.

When Betty finished, I went in Dad's room to check up on him and the Mango Body Butter gave his face that same look that Olivier's King Lear had.  While the shine of the butter was still on Dad's face and when the afternoon sun lit his room, he seemed sixty years younger, like a child, and his face radiated and I could see the goodness of his soul reflected in his face more clearly than I ever had.

I'd never spent day after day and hour after hour with a dying person before.  Betty was helped us a lot with her explanations of what was going on.

We family members talked with her about Dad's restlessness sometimes at night.  It wasn't quite to the thrashing level, but there were periods of time when Dad seemed troubled, unable to sleep and unable to talk about it.

Betty had a word for this that I don't remember.  Maybe Christy does.  It was a word like weebie-geebies and she told us that dying people often have troubling thoughts or memories come upon them at night, not so much during the day.

I tried to imagine what might be coming back to Dad:  his father abandoning his family?  the accident as a child that left him blind in one eye?  the drinking that contributed to his liver damage?  the intemperate behavior of his younger days?  Or was it simpler than that?  Did knowing he was dying bring on these weebie-geebies?

We'll never know.

It's often said that when facing death, persons see their life pass before them.

I had the experience as Dad died of seeing glimpses of his whole life pass in front of us:  the shining face of a child, the tender father and husband he could be, the intemperate thrasher, and the man with fears that regrets that haunted him.

Oddly enough, the tropical smell of  Mango Body Butter tied this all together for me.  Its aroma sometimes dominated Dad's room and the jar was always at his bedside.  Sometimes I would open the jar and smell it and it helped me face the reality of my father dying just inches away.

(I've written three other pieces about the week Dad died, herehere, and here.)

Three Beautiful Things 05/28/13: Working it Out, Good Gabbing at Falling Sky, The NBA at Billy Mac's

1.  Two students were back in class.  R. got the wrong meds from the V.A. and it landed him in the V.A. hospital in Roseburg, but now he's recovered and on the right meds. L.'s grandmother died and, at the same time, her boyfriend got deported to Afghanistan.  We spent time together, the three of us, and got things figured out and I repeated some instruction I gave while they were gone.  They will finish the course.

2.  A minute before class started, Jesse texted me, wondering about having a beer this afternoon.  At first, I didn't think I could, but, after class, I thought it through and concluded, that if I went home and took care of the corgis, meeting for beer would work out great.  We met at Falling Sky and after a long discussion about the wild NBA playoffs, we turned out attention to excess consumption, Shakespeare, Bartleby, the Scrivener, and "The Yellow Wallpaper".  Then Mike and Angelo showed up, followed by the Deke and the conversation veered in many new directions. 

3.  More goodness at Billy Mac's.  I ate half of a prime rib dip with a cup of Tillamook cheese soup and a single glass of Oakshire's Amber Ale and got absorbed by the Pacers and the Heat pounding on each other, playing hard every possession, making adjustments, creating drama.  The Deke and I left before the end of the game, but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of action I saw.  I tracked the end of the game at home online and look forward to all the expert analysis I'll find online in the morning.  What will the Heat do to stop Roy Hibbert? 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Week of Dad's Death: May 28, 1996: Thrashing

In his last days, Dad, on occasion, thrashed.

It was as of his whole body were having convulsions.  When he thrashed, it was actually hard to tell if he were awake and I never knew if he knew what was going on.

He couldn't say anything and often his eyes had a blank look or a look of fear, but, at the same time, it was as if he were sleeping with his eyes open.

I couldn't let Dad thrash without some kind of intervention because his bed was a twin bed.  He was a big man and the bed didn't leave him much room to thrash.  None of us wanted him to thrash himself off the bed.  The best I could do was lie across his chest and try to pin his arms to the bed.  Even in his last days, Dad was stronger than I.

I did my best to keep him on the bed and reassure him that everything was all right, not knowing if he could hear me.

I didn't really know that everything was all right, but I didn't know anything else to say.

I thought during each episode of thrashing that it was Dad's way of fighting off death.  Whether it was Dad's instinctual will to stay alive or whether it was his fear of dying or whether it was something else, I never experienced Dad's thrashing as merely physical.

I always thought there was something deeper going on, and that something deeper had to do with Dad not wanting to die.

I'm not sure that was the case, but it was what I told myself.

I do remember one day during this last week, Wayne Benson came by to visit Dad and he came to Dad's room and Dad was thrashing.  It was a scary sight.  I was lying on dad, chest to chest, keeping his arms from flailing about.  I think the sight scared Wayne.

Without thinking, I said, "He's gotta a lot of life left in him."

He was just a few days short of dying, but this was how it felt to me.  Dad couldn't talk.  He hardly ate.  He slept a lot.  He could barely get to the bathroom.  He was on death's porch.

But, to me, he had a lot of life in him.

The life in him thrashed.

(I've written two other pieces about the week Dad died, here and here.)

Three Beautiful Things 05/27/13: Doing Some Writing, Weeding Some More, Quiet at Home

1.  I took more time than usual writing posts for my blog.  I am writing about the week Dad died and wrote about thoughts I've had on suffering over the years, inspired by Betsy Tesi's sermon on Sunday.

2.  Some breaks in the weather gave me the opportunity to do some weeding and so I continued my slow, steady project of making things in our front yard look better.  The back yard needs attention, too.

3.  The Deke is tearing old sheets into strips and making a rug.  I sit about eight feet across the room from her and get some writing done.  We go long periods without talking.  The dogs rest, prompted to bark when the guy who lives across the street works on his pickup in front of our house.  Mostly it's quiet.  Mostly productive.  It's a good way to spend the day.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Week of Dad's Death: May 27, 1996: Memorial Day

On Monday of the week of Dad's death, I'm not sure anything memorable happened, but maybe someone reading this will correct me.

The cancer was taking more and more of Dad's life away.

He wasn't eating much and anytime he ate even the smallest amount, we noted it as something remarkable.  He was, from time to time, enjoying Popsicles so if someone called and asked how Dad was doing, Mom or one of us kids would answer, with optimism, "Not bad. He ate some Popsicle today" as if it were a breakthrough or a way that he was giving himself another day of life.

As his life ebbed, we looked for every sign we could that something was good.

On the day the stacks went down, the Utah Jazz played the Seattle Sonics in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.  When the series started, Dad was still fully conscious and happy that John Stockton's Jazz were playing for a berth in the NBA Finals.

Dad felt a close affinity to John Stockton because he'd been drinking at Jack and Dan's on Hamilton in Spokane for years and Jack Stockton was always ready to shoot the shit when Dad walked in and I think Dad liked it that someone he knew had a kid who was so good in the NBA.

On the day the stacks went down, the Jazz lost.  I told Dad that.  His eyes, blanked by cancer, looked sad for a second.

The series was off for a day on Memorial Day, but the television for him to watch it on was in his room.

A few days earlier, I had figured out a way to connect the small television my mom had to the main cable so Dad could have the game on in his room.  My efforts to make this happen caused my mother some panic.  It was understandable.  Mom always enjoys watching soap operas, Jeopardy, and the local news.  These diversions were even more important to her during this trying time.

I am the first to admit, I'm not immensely handy and I'm slow doing projects like this.

I had figured out the way to have three televisions on the one cable service, but my plan did require some trial and error.  Mom didn't like the trial.  She didn't care much for the error either.

I might have finally told her to leave me alone.

But I got it.  I made it work. And even though Dad couldn't watch or hear that television most of the time (or so we thought), it was clear he enjoyed having the television and the sound of the games in his room.

I don't remember any details from Memorial Day, but I do know that Mom and I established a routine.  She slept at night and I stayed awake through the night so that if I heard Dad make a noise I could help him get out of bed and go to the bathroom or help him with anything else he needed.

In the evening, around nine o'clock I strolled down to HumDinger and got a burger.  At first, Mom thought I was making a statement that food in the house wasn't good enough.  I think I helped her see that I was doing it for comfort.  The walk gave me comfort and a chance to have a few minutes out of the house.  The food gave me comfort, too.

I'd been eating burgers at the HumDinger/Tastee Freeze for about thirty years and their food gave me a sense of something stable, comforting while I was losing my dad. 

I watched ABC News Now through the night.   It was both serious and funny.  It was often cavalier. It featured the World News Polka.  Ian Shoales made regular appearances.  Dick Schapp did good and both mirthful and serious stuff.  I thought Thalia Assuras was beautiful and wry.  I thought Kevin Newman was really smart.  I often wrote letters to a woman in Eugene and read letters she sent me.

I also dug out video tapes Dad had made with the video camera he loved.  He took videos of Denny and him driving him up the river and had footage of a time when Jack and Linda visited. There were other family videos.  Sometimes the moving pictures made me carsick because Dad didn't hold the camera securely or he made quick moves.  He talked in several of them. I remember in one he was explaining his take on what was happening around the Silver Valley and some one else taped him and the hand gestures he used when speaking were suddenly alive.  I took comfort in watching this video footage of my dad being fully alive.

The Week of Dad's Death: Sunday, May 26, 1996: The Stacks Fell

I don't know how often this has happened since 1996, but this week the dates and the days of the week are the same in the last week of May and on June 1 of  2013 as they were in 1996.

In other words, Dad died early in the afternoon on Saturday, June 1, 1996 and this year June 1 also falls on a Saturday.

It's not a profound thing, but for some reason I remember things that happened that week better when I think back to what happened on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and on through the week.

Sunday, May 26, 1996 was a historic day in the Silver Valley.  The four landmark emissions stacks, the the two old smelter ones and the two newer ones at the zinc plant and the smelter were demolished on May 26th.

We had a pretty clear view out our living room window of the smelter stacks falling.  Dad was still conscious enough on May 26th that he knew the stacks were coming down.

The question was whether he could get out of bed and either walk to the living room or be wheeled to the picture window to watch it happen.

He couldn't.

The best we could do was watch the stacks fall and I went into Dad's room and said, "They're down."

Dad couldn't speak by this time, but he nodded.

At the time, seventeen years ago, the talk around Kellogg and Silver Valley was that the demolition of the stacks would usher in a new Silver Valley economy, away from mining and smelting to tourism.

The hope was that investors would be more willing to pour money into the valley with the symbols of its contaminated past demolished.

I'll let others say for certain whether that happened.

When I visit Kellogg, I see signs that such a transformation started.  The Gondola Village got built.  There are new condos around town.  Nine holes of a projected eighteen hole golf course were completed on and near the old lead smelter.  I don't know if it will ever be completed.
Skiers come to Kellogg.  People bicycle there.

But, I see more signs of economic struggle than of success.  Businesses come and go uptown.  When I go uptown, not many people are out and about.  Streets around town seem to me to be cracking; there's a worn out look to much of the town.

Dave Smith Motors thrives and so many spots around town have become Dave Smith car lots.  At the corner of Division and Cameron, there's congestion with buzz cut Dave Smith salesmen escorting prospective car buyers to look at cars.  Much of Dave Smith's business happens online, meaning that many customers who buy cars there do not contribute to the economic well-being of Kellogg.

At home, just as the Silver Valley lost towering signs of days gone forever, we were losing the towering personality and presence of our father and my mom's husband.

I know that Dad's death on June 1st ushered in a new kind of life for our family.  We all love each other and have fun together and we help each other out as much as we can, and it's all good.

But, none of us have the huge personality our Dad had.  No one is the story teller he was.  If any of us have funny names for things or nicknames for people or make funny plays on words or have funny sayings, we are almost always copying Dad.

None of us has his gift for seizing the humor of the moment, finding just the right way to give someone a bad time, telling the funny story, or just plain making people laugh.

None of us is as sentimental either.

Dad loved Kellogg.  He loved all the guys he picked on, the terrible game of golf he and his buddies played, the names he came up with for people, the days he worked at the Bunker Hill and the endless stories that grew out of his work.  He loved raising his kids in Kellogg and loved to let people know what we were doing, and, when he went uptown for a few cold ones at Dick and Floyd's or to sit with his cronies for coffee at Dirty Ernie's, he loved us to join him.

And he was devoted to our mother, and she to him.

It's hard for me to gauge the full impact of the fall of the stacks, but not the death of Pert Woolum. 

My family and I feel the sadness of the empty spot left by his death every day.

We miss him.  A lot.

Postscript:  Sunday, May 26, 1996 was Patrick Hennessey's 12th birthday.  I hadn't met Patrick yet and only knew his mother, the Deke, casually.  Almost every day I think about how much I wish the Deke and Adrienne and Molly and Patrick could have known each other and how much I wish he could see the great grandchildren that have arrived.  Pert and the Deke would have been quite a pair.  Dad would have met the Deke and probably taken me aside and said, "Well, shithead, you finally did something right."  Then he would have laughed and given me a bone crushing hug.  

A Few Thoughts on Suffering While Listening to Rev. Betsy Tesi Preach

Yesterday, the Rev. Betsy Tesi gave a sermon working out questions and responses to this passage:

Romans 5:1-5

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

I listened intently to her sermon and simultaneously had many thoughts during it.  I don't want to misrepresent Betsy's sermon, so I won't try to summarize what she said.  Here, though, is some of what went through my mind.

In my life as a literature instructor, when I taught Shakespeare and when I taught the ancient stories of World Literature, stories like The Book of Job,  The Odyssey, Gilgamesh and others, I often focused on the problem and the mystery of human suffering.  The question of why human beings suffer and how different stories and poems work with this question has been at the front of my mind in teaching literature and movies for over thirty years -- and as a Christian.

One of the ideas I worked on over these years was that not all pain is equal, that there is pain that one, to paraphrase St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans, cannot glory in or boast of, that does not produce endurance or strengthen character or give rise to hope.  In my classroom teaching, I called it misery or unredeemed pain.  It is the kind of pain that may not kill you, but it does not make you stronger. It is life denying.  It can destroy a person and is the kind of pain that can feed on itself.  It can also be overcome.

We would also look at pain that was, as things played out, a source of refinement, of clarification, even of redemption.  King Lear's suffering comes to mind, suffering which refines his egoism, clarifies his vision, and redeems him so that he sees and feels the suffering in others.  He become compassionate.   I trust St. Paul understood that for reasons that surpass understanding, suffering is an inevitable, irremovable reality and that suffering, not misery, can be a (not the) source of perseverance, building character,  and experiencing hope.   Misery isn't. 

Suffering, or at least knowledge of suffering, has to be present in compassion, since the etymological root of the the word means "to suffer together with".  The Latin form of the word "passion" (passio) means "to suffer".   The com- prefix comes from the Latin cum which means "with" or "together with".

My listening and thinking mind got quite a work out today. 

By the way, this distinction between suffering and misery is not a simple one and all kinds of overlaps occur and I don't pretend to have it all figured out.  It's been a general distinction that has helped me differentiate between, say, the suffering of King Lear and misery of Sol Nazerman in the movie, The Pawnbroker.  One other addition:  I'm not judgmental about misery.  You'll never hear me say, "It's a choice" as if to merely choose differently will bring relief.

In all matters of suffering and misery, I always feel over my head, in the midst of experience beyond my total understanding, and I keep on thinking and exploring and trying to be available to others who hurt.

I don't find doctrinal explanations of suffering helpful.  I find stories much more so. (Betsy's sermon was not doctrinal.  I'm just saying that stories help me more than doctrine as I think about the problem of suffering.)

Three Beautiful Things 05/26/13: Listening/Thinking in Church, New Flowers, Patrick's Birthday Dinner

1. As Rev. Betsy Tesi delivered her sermon on Romans 5:1-5, a lot went through my mind as I listened.  I will be posting these thoughts soon here at kelloggbloggin.

2.  After church, I drove to Gray's and bought a tray of zinnias and six cosmos plants and some composted planting soil and went to work brightening up the area in front of our house some more.  I still have kind of large areas in the back of the house to deal with.

3.   The Deke, Patrick, and I had a delicious dinner at the Bier Stein to celebrate Patrick's 29th birthday.  I enjoyed my BLT and beer cheese soup and was very pleased with my Full Sail ESB.  I'd never sampled Full Sail's ESB before and it was just right.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 05/25/13: Sound Bytes, Sick Meal, Spurs Again

1.  While I had fun taking pictures of flowers and plants on the Univ. of Oregon campus, my best snapshots were metaphorical and were sound shots, snippets of things I heard people say as they walked up the section of 13th Avenue closed to auto traffic.  One discussion among guys and gals involved the subtle differences between bongs and their efficacy in helping users get high.  It was fun to hear just these words as another couple of guys passed by, "There's a good effect and a bad effect."  Another excited guy wearing green sunglasses, "Dude.  That was so crazy.  You've got to do it again." I didn't hear any discussion of Shakespeare, Jane Austen, or the root causes of the Crimean War.

2.  If I use the vocabulary used on the city bus for when things are really good, then the meatloaf and creamed cheese mashed potatoes and the asparagus Patrick fixed for dinner tonight were sick, insane, ridiculous and bomb.  Not only that, the dinner was a superb effort on Patrick's part.  It was really good of him to work so hard to make the three of us such a crazy meal.

3.  The Spurs blow me away.  Now they are up 3-0 against the Grizzlies with their second overtime win in a row, the second time in a row 37 year old Tim Duncan was the leading scorer in OT. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 05/24/13: Getting Biscuits Ready, Pils and Margherita Pizza, Ukes and the NBA

1.  I had a great time working alongside Kathryn in the St. Mary's kitchen getting the dough ready for biscuits to be served at the free Saturday breakfast for tomorrow morning.  While we measured flour, cut margarine (Kathryn badly wanted it to be butter, but budget constraints), prepared yeast, mixed dough, and formed it into large rectangles to be cut into biscuits tomorrow, we had great conversations about everything from the Holy Spirit to chewing tobacco to the riddling frustrations of mental health challenges. 

2.  The day just kept being really good.  I went across the street from the church to La Perla Pizzeria and picked up an eight inch, red, white, and green Margherita pizza to go and took it over to Sixteen Tons so I could debrief with Jesse about Miami's spectacular overtime win over the Pacers and begin our preview of tonight's game. I enjoyed a refreshing couple of pints of The Commons Pils with my pizza.

3.  The day just kept being really good.  The Deke led a group of her fourth graders playing ukeleles in a short performance at Cozmic Pizza.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.  I packed a milk crate of ukes back to the car for the Deke and drove eagerly to Billy Mac's to watch Game 2 of the Heat/ Pacers' series and treated myself to a pink and juicy prime rib dinner.  Later on the Deke arrived and we watched the stunning exchange of baskets, the cheap shot elbow Dwyane Wade landed in open court on Lance Stephenson's head, and the great Pacer defensive stands in the last minute, both punctuated by LeBron James turnovers, both passes that David West tipped.  It was a scintillating game in what is developing into a dramatic series.  I enjoy both teams so much that I really don't care who wins. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 05/23/13: Purpose in WR 115, Frank Vogel's Coaching Decision, 2003 Moneymaker WSOP Main Event

1.  I now know that fifteen out of the original eighteen students in WR 115 will likely complete the course.  I like knowing who is really a member of the class and who isn't.  These fifteen students have written some pretty solid work.  Today I tried to help them see that everything in the course has been tied together, that the way I organized and delivered the course has been coherent.  I hope they see that and carry the principles of thinking, self-examination, and composition forward beyond WR 115.

2.  The Pacer's head coach did not have shot blocker Roy Hibbert on the floor in the final couple of seconds of overtime with a one point lead.  LaBron James, with Paul George overplaying James' right hand, made a phenomenal move to his left, took one dribble, and scored on lay-in.  I've enjoyed reading the the discussions today as to why Hibbert wasn't in the game, whether he should have been, and what a monster move James made.  The deeper I read into this, the more I see that Frank Vogel had good reason to have the players on the floor he did.  It's fascinating.

3.  Grantland published an oral history of the 2003 WSOP Main Event, the one Chris Moneymaker won, the Main Event that triggered the poker boom over the last ten years.  I enjoyed the article thoroughly.  The different people's memories were interesting and the replays of key moments were very well placed.  I always love seeing Moneymaker's so-called "bluff of the century" on the second to the last hand. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 05/22/13: Back to Working Class Lit, Rare Pepsi Jones, Helping Out with a Meal and Delivering It

1.  I got to return to MB's "Working Class Literature" course today and read my paper "On Needing Richard Hugo".  Yes, I enjoyed that the students were attentive and that there were some good questions and comments.  But, most of all I enjoyed the feeling that I was back team-teaching with M again and that we fell back into the easy relationship we had when we were two teachers, working together in the classroom to help students learn about the literature and learn to write better.

2.  It's not very often that I long for Pepsi, but today I did.  When I do have this longing, it's accompanied by a longing for Chinese food, so I went to Jade Palace and gulped down three or four small glasses of Pepsi and enjoyed my go to meal:  Combination #4.

3.  I volunteered to fix dinner for the Wirth family.  They have a new baby and so signed up at church for some help with food and dinners.  I got out the electric fry pan and fixed steak strips combined with onion, red pepper, mushrooms, corn, and brown rice.  I grated cheese in case the Wirths wanted to put cheese over the meal.  It's one of our favorites here at home and I hope it worked for the Wirths as well. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 05/21/13: Getting Rose's Point, Resilient, Superb Soup and Whiskey and Beer

1.  I think maybe my students are beginning to see Mike Rose's point that the intelligence required to do blue collar and service work is often underestimated and what the consequences of this belittling of such work is, especially for those who do it.  I don't know, yet, what they think of his point, but I think they are getting it. 

2.   I don't know what problems external to school have beset one of my students, but we sat down today to work out how she can get caught up and finish the course.  I admire students like her.  She never asked for any special treatment, let me know things had temporarily gone to hell, and we worked on how she can make up for missing class and assigned work.  I have every confidence she'll finish, but, if not, we have a contingency plan in place.  I hope the difficulties don't swoop in on her again.

3.  Wow.  That Florentine tomato soup at Billy Mac's was superb.  So was the Jameson.  At home, so was the Full Sail LTD Vienna Lager.  I wish the Vienna Lager wasn't a limited release.  I want it to be unlimited.  For what I want in a beer, it's nearly perfect. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Breakfast at Cornucopia, 05-20-13

Three Beautiful Things 05/20/13: Morning Walk, Kevin the Photographer, Charting the Years

1.  I needed to buy some stove top cleaner and decided a hearty walk to Safeway was the ticket.  After all, this is why I gave my car to charity:  so I'd walk more.  I grabbed my camera and took some pictures of foliage between the house and Cornucopia, where I interrupted my walk, near its end, for an excellent plate of bacon and eggs. 

2.  Kevin, today's breakfast server, inquired about my camera and we got to talking about taking pictures and he told me about shooting snowboarding friends in the backwoods and off 60 foot cliffs near Willamette Pass.  My jaw dropped.  This kind of daredevil subject matter is way out of  my league!  Kevin has a couple of pictures on posts inside Cornucopia and he showed them to me.  My only response:  management ought to replace some of the much less interesting pictures they have on display with more of Kevin's stuff. 

3.  When I came home from the Bier Stein yesterday and figured out when Jolene had been my student, I realized how the last several years of teaching were a blur, largely because of fatigue.  I spent time today sorting out when I taught WR 121 and when I taught WR 122 and with the help of emails and grade sheets, sorted out when I taught what sections.  Somehow it was good for me to remember as many of those students as I could, to remember the classrooms, to align what was going on in my work with what was going on in life away from work.  Because I'm feeling so much better these days, I'm also trying to chart the ups and downs of my mental health, trying to see and remember what was going on and what I was doing at school, especially in the time leading up to the two hospitalizations in April and May,  2009 when I contracted pneumonia and c-diff.  It came back to me how much the trouble with depression was in many ways less a struggle with mood and much more a struggle with fatigue.  I always fought through the fatigue at school and gave my all to my teaching and to my students.  Away from school, though, I was on my back a lot, resting, sleeping, often isolated at home.  It was good for me today to sort this out, to give myself an even clearer picture of the last five or six years.  I'm going to keep going back, sorting out, examining:  so much of this is related to the aftermath of contracting bacterial meningitis in 1999 and the many years of recovery and the many years of its everlasting damage to my health. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Morning Walk, 05-20-13

Three Beautiful Things 05/19/13: Pentecost Lector, Beef and Pilsner, Looking Back at WR 122

1.  It was really fun being this morning's lector and getting to read Acts 2: 1-21 at the Solemn High Eucharist today, a celebration of Pentecost Sunday.   The most fun was reading the prophecy from the Book of Joel that Peter delivers to the throng, after assuring the crowd that it was too early in the morning for the strangeness of the moment to be a result of too much wine, of drunkenness.  It was also fun to prepare this reading and look up all those names of places and to pronounce them correctly, to be true to their poetry. 

2.  The Senior Warden and I sat together during the service and afterward decided a little lunch would be nice, so headed up to the Bier Stein.  I savored my roast beef dip sandwich and beer cheese soup. I brought half of it home for the Deke.  I drank some really tasty EKU Pilsner from Germany with the sandwich.  Jolene and I tried to place what class she took from me at LCC and I succeeded in figuring it out when I got home.  I hope to see her at the Bier Stein again to tell her.

3.  I got to thinking about the section of WR 122 that Jolene was in and it occurred to me that it was nearly the last time I taught WR 122 exactly the way I wanted to, without the intrusion of (please forgive these next two words) Information Literacy.  The class wrote about personal work experiences, read (I think) Thich Nhat Hanh as a way of enhancing critical thinking through the concept of non-duality, played with the idea of copia by reading Robert Grudin, and then read Mike Rose and Hickam's Sky of Stone, and watched the documentary Harlan County, USA.  I enjoyed future WR 122 students and enjoyed discussions we had, but shoehorning research into the course always felt forced, always felt like trying to put twelve pounds of flour in a ten pound bag.  Dealing with databases, MLA format, secondary sources:  it was too much for a single course, especially the one I enjoyed teaching.   I felt the same way about WR 121.  So, today, in looking back at that last time I taught WR 122 the way I not only wanted to, but most believed in, I had a specific pleasure in teaching writing rekindled that I hadn't felt for a while.  I never lost the pleasure of teaching writing, but it was never the same, or as good, once I did my best to conform my course to the dictates of powers outside my classroom, and integrated (sorry, here these words come again) Information Literacy into my syllabus.  (I should note that I loved the WR 122 class I taught with Working Class Lit. alongside M. Bayless in was in a league of its own.)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 05/18/13: Kellogg Reunion, Quiet Beer, Harshing NY's Melo

1.  This magnificent day featured one of my favorite things in my life to do:  get together with friends from Kellogg.  Today, Roger, Terry, Byrdman and I congregated in Salem at Boon's Treasury for a four hour gabfest, some fine beer, solid food, and a ton of laughs.  There was even some sage advice given.   When I have times like this with my lifelong friends, I can't believe how good my life is.  I'm sure happy that my Kellogg friends and I make the modest effort it takes to see each other as often as we can.  It bolsters every aspect of my life.

2.  When the Deke and I returned to Eugene, we decided to talk over her trip to Portland and my visit to Salem and had a beer together at the nearly empty, blissfully quiet, High Street Pub.  We enjoy it when we find quiet places to have a beer and talk things over.

3.  The Pacers sent the Knicks packing.  Ha!  The Pacers harshed the Knicks' Melo.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 05/17/13: Zinnia Ready, Grantland Gab, The Multi-Tasking Deke

1.  There's triangle that looks like a skinny Trivial Pursuits wedge, by our driveway and I used to grow flowers in it.  Today I got the weeds out and with a little added soil and compost, that space is ready for some zinnias. 

2.  I took a mid-afternoon stroll to Sixteen Tons to gab with Jesse some more.  I enjoyed a pint of Deschutes Pine Mountain Pilsner and Jesse had some time to gab about the NBA playoffs and some reading we'd been doing over at

3.  That was round 1. Round 2 took place down the street at Falling Sky where I met up with the Deke and the Troxstar for a pint of Das Bitter and some more yakking.  The Deke skillfully multi-tasked:  she sipped on a Falling Sky Pourter (that's how the joint spells it), worked on the online class she is taking, and dished out wise cracks and sound advice to me and the Troxstar who were focused on one task:  drinking a beer. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 05/16/13: Introducing Richard Hugo, Dropping in on a Friend, Scratching the Popcorn Itch

1.  My copy of Richard Hugo's Making Certain it Goes On, the one I took notes in when I was on Richard Hugo tour back in 1992, is just beginning to fall apart.  I wanted to ease up on it, so I bought another copy.  I didn't realize it had been reissued several years ago with in introduction by William Kittredge.  I read that introduction today and it did just what I hoped it would:  it reflected upon the kind of guy Richard Hugo was.  It told anecdotes. Kittredge didn't  try to place Hugo in some phony baloney category of poetry.  He mentioned Hugo was a Northwest poet.  Okay.  He mentioned that Hugo thought of himself as a modernist.  Fine.  But the rest was given over to Hugo's story as a guy, a talented, but always regular guy, who grew up in the humblest of circumstances, flew fighter planes in WWII, studied with Roethke at the U. of W.,  loved taverns, drank too much booze and cheap beer, suffered a breakdown, quit drinking, went on long drives, loved to fish, lost one marriage, moved easily between laughter and sobbing, was sentimental, even maudlin, succeeded in a second marriage, loved being a stepdad, and succumbed to lung cancer and leukemia.  Kittredge wrote one of my favorite books ever, Hole in the Sky, about growing up in Eastern Oregon.  He also wrote one of my favorite essays ever, "Drinking and Driving".  Now he's written my favorite introduction to Richard Hugo.

2.  I got off the bus at Patterson and 13th, dropped by Dairy Queen and dropped a buck nineteen on an original burger (more like a slider) and, thinking Jesse might be working at Sixteen Tons, strolled on down there.  I was right.  I enjoyed a pint and a half of The Commons Holden and Jesse and I unraveled the knotty NBA playoffs and played a couple quick rounds of "What Year Did He Get Drafted?".

3.  After we had a flatiron steak, mushrooms, and cabbage salad, the Deke asked me to go out and get some beer.  I did, but I didn't stop there.  Going against the grain of my long practice not to buy junk food, I bought a bag of white cheddar popcorn.  The Deke was astonished and delighted (that was fun) and I scratched a popcorn itch I'd had for several months.  I drank sparkling water with my popcorn.  I let the beer chill for another time.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 05/15/13: My Day with the Car, Planting Flowers, Jade Palace at Its Best!

1.  I took the Deke to work today and used the car to go to the grocery store, drive to Wednesday Eucharist (and pay tribute to the life and ministry of Episcopalian public servant Frances Perkins), make a major drop off at St. Vincent's, and buy flowers for the front garden bed and for containers.  I also had the car serviced.  It's a rare day when I keep the car for myself and I made the most of it.

2.  In the meantime, I finished the preparation of two flower beds out front and planted flowers in them with the hope for more variety and brightness and put geraniums in containers for the backyard.  It's coming along, slowly.  There's more to do:  more weeds, more bed preparation, more flowers or shrubs to plant, but each improvement motivates me a little more.

3.  With all the new planting done and the transplants watered, I strolled to Jade Palace.  I don't know exactly why, but my combination plate of fried shrimp, pork fried rice, and Kung Pao chicken tasted perfect.  The pork fried rice was perfectly oiled, not greasy, not dry.  The shrimp was perfectly,lightly breaded and I love it with hot mustard.  The Kung Pao chicken was also tender and a little hotter than than the medium I ordered and that was just what I wanted.  It was a perfect way to conclude of day of driving, shopping, worshiping, pulling, digging, and planting. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 05/14/13: As if it Were Carnegie Hall, Deep Connection, The Serious and the Absurd

1.  Attendance in WR 115 was down today.  I responded with jollity.  One of my students said, "Wow!  Not many people here today."  And I said, "Yeah.  And you know what?  You'll get my best instruction no matter what the turnout for class."  Then I impressed her and the others with a Glenn Exum story about when he went to see a jazz combo at the Cd'A Athletic Round Table and only few people showed up because of a snowstorm and, in Exum's words, the combo, "Played for us as if we were in Carnegie Hall."  He emphasized again and again that when performing or teaching or preaching in church, you never put out less effort or slack off because of a poor turnout.  And, so, today, I gave the handful of students who attended class my best energy and my best instruction.  I never once mentioned the absent students and I dealt with each student who came individually, joked with them, encouraged them, and sent them home, ready to finish Thursday's project.  It was as if class occurred in Carnegie Hall.  Ha!

2.  The Deke and I went out on the town tonight.  First we each had a bowl of soup at Billy Mac's and we shot the breeze with John, witnessed Amber's bunny rabbit drama, got to see and talk and laugh with Pam and Michael, and visited with Eileen.   Something huge happened when we saw Brian.  When he lived in Texas and did a little DJ work, Brian knew the woman who, when she lived in Glen Ellyn, was like a mother to the Deke.  When the Deke realized that Brian knew this hugely important person in her life, she was staggered, nearly speechless, almost in tears:  in short, deeply moved. 

3.  We gathered ourselves in the Billy Mac's parking lot and went downtown to the First National Taphouse and met up with the Senior Troxstar Warden and yakked away, moving adroitly between the serious and the absurd and had a grand time.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 05/13/13: Water, Weeds, Kale

1.  Whoa.  The plumber ran that grinder thing for about an hour, it seemed, but finally the kitchen drain is all clear again.  He fixed that leak under the sink, too.  Oh!  Now the basement toilet works.  Water.  Water. Water.

2.  Fertilize the lawn.  Weeds.  Weeds.  Weeds.  Blackberry vines. Dig.  Pull. Pile. Clear out. Slowly.  Improvement.

3.  I agree with the Deke.  That kale salad she built was mighty good.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Three Beautiful Things 05/12/13: Yard Labor Continues, Dinner at Judy and Joe's, Ditch Nightcap

1.  The no end in sight yard project continued with mowing the front yard, more weeding, preparing a new flower bed, and fertilizing the front lawn.  I just keep at it, slowly and slowly.

2.  The Deke and I were dinner guests tonight at Joe and Judy's and we enjoyed tuna steaks, mashed potatoes, Franny's salad, and broccoli.  It was a smashing dinner and a lot of fun yakking away. 

3.  The Deke and I stopped off at Cornucopia for a nightcap on the way home and I enjoyed the simplest, purest, most satisfying of all cocktails:  a ditch.  Tonight's whiskey was Seagram's 7 which was perfectly mixed with cold clear water from the tap. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Richard Hugo Tour: By the Time I Got to Wisdom

I was tired.

I do remember that.

And I know it was August 3.1992.

The day before, on Sunday, I drove east from Burns, OR to Vale, OR on into Idaho to Boise, Sun Valley, and all the way to Salmon.

The drive was glorious.  The Sawtooth Mountains staggered me and I kept my concentration by chewing Skoal wintergreen and listening to Joseph Campbell on cassette tapes -- which meant that in the future whenever I chewed Skoal I thought about the hero's journey.

I wasn't exactly on a hero's journey, but I was in search of a deeper understanding of Richard Hugo and Hugo was enough of a figurative father figure to me that I was looking to understand a father more deeply.

I got up as early as was practical to drive out of Salmon and to head out over the Lost Trail Pass to Wisdom.

Along the way, though, I stopped at the Big Hole National Battlefield, completely ignorant of what had happened there in 1877.

When I found out, it nearly buckled my knees:  the predawn surprise attack by U.S. forces upon the Nez Perce, the stiff Nez Perce resistance, the many deaths, and then the Nez Perce carrying on in their attempt to relocate in Canada.

I walked the battlefield, read markers,  explored the visitors' center, watched a film there, and eventually I left to drive to Wisdom.

To prepare to drive to Wisdom I read Richard Hugo's two Wisdom poems, "With Kathy in Wisdom" and "Letter to Kathy from Wisdom" at the battlefield.

Then, by the time I got to Wisdom, I was tired.

I opened my Hugo collection again to the Wisdom poems, which are also Kathy poems, and barely took any notes.  

First, "With Kathy in Wisdom".

the cliff is there>them on it is the dream

That's all I noted.  I remember standing on the desolate main drag of Wisdom near a general store looking up on the hill, locating what I decided was the cliff of the opening of the poem and dreaming Richard Hugo's dream of him and Kathy.  

The deeper feelings I had then and have now about Richard Hugo's love affair with Kathy grow out his letter poem to Kathy, "Letter to Kathy from Wisdom".

It's my favorite love poem in all of poetry.

I'm not sure I can articulate very well why, but here goes.

First of all, none of the external details of the poem relates to my own life.  As a man in my forties, I was never lovers with a younger woman; no one ever mistook me and a lover for father and daughter.  I don't fish.  I've never known what Hugo writes about here, going together with a lover to a remote town in the West to fish, eat in a small town diner, none of it.  I've never returned to the small town diner and thought about a young lover's demons and her breakdowns and her doctors.

What moves me so much in this poem is that it expresses my basic desire to be kind.  What moves me is Hugo's kindness, his hopes for Kathy, the way he assures her that while they are no longer lovers, their love endures. 

Two words:  "lovers matter".

Later:   "you were my lover and you matter". 

I don't have the language of a literary critic to explain why these words move me the way they do.

All I can say is that again and again, Richard Hugo gives his attention to what it's like to be in a world of "uncaring skies", where there's "gloom/ubiquitous as harm", where "our lives/are on the line".

This is not a poem of glamorous lovers, but it's a poem of love.  It's a world of tender, unlikely lovers, of "a lovely young girl and a fat/middle 40's man", "scratching for a home".

That's the best I can do right now. 

I'm not going to tell stories of lost lovers or even broken friendships with those in my life from whom I'm estranged and who matter.  The kindness I feel remains unexpressed.  Only I know it. 

These lost friends and lovers matter. 

By the time I got to Wisdom in August, 1992, I was thinking about lost friends and lovers, and now, in 2013, there are more to remember and this poem awakens my feelings for them, my private feelings of kindness and goodwill.