Monday, April 29, 2013

Grieving for Al

As you know, I am “technologically challenged.”  When I need help with anything connected with the computer I call my son David.  This weekend he helped me look up the history of my blogs.  I have not posted many lately.  I am busy.  Dialysis wears me down.  Also, with very little spare time, I am making slow progress editing the book about David’s trip. 

Anyway, David and I looked to see how many people were reading the blogs.  David pointed out that my readers seem to be only people who know me personally.  I have not been able to find a wider audience.  David said that was too bad.  He is a loyal son.

I was surprised to see that the blog which attracted the most readers was the one titled “I Don’t Like Al.”   Evidently the piece was read by a lot of people who live here in Montclair and who know both me and Al.  No one posted a comment on line, so I do not know what others thought of it. 

The next morning I went down to breakfast, and as I passed her table, Jean reached up and took my arm.  She said, “Have you heard the news?”  I learned that at the very minutes while David and I were talking about him, Al died.

How do I feel about this?  How do I feel when anyone dies? 

I grieve for those I loved.  I still miss Inez, my friend in Albuquerque, a good companion who saw me through difficult times.  I also miss Mary, my fiend in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, whose enthusiasm for life under difficult circumstances was an inspiration.  Both these ladies – and they were “ladies” in the best sense of the word – lived long, mostly happy lives.  Inez died on her 90th birthday; Mary just before she would have been 100.  I could not wish for either of them to live longer, except that I miss their company.

I especially grieve for John, my husband for only four years before he died at not-quite-74.  He has been gone for 21 years, and I still miss him.  He left me assets so that I am able to live in comfort in this retirement home.  He also left me insurance, which pays for my enormous medical bills.  Without him, I could not pay for dialysis, and I would be dead.  Most of all, he was a good man who gave me memories of many happy times.  He showed me how to laugh at the ridiculousness of life. He loved me, and I wish I could see him again to tell him how much I loved him, too.  

I envy those who are confident of Heaven and can say, “He is in a better place.”  I lack that “blessed assurance”, and that makes me sad.

Some deaths are tragic, and that makes me angry.  Like everyone in the nation, I grieve for the three people killed in Boston, the little boy, the young woman, the Chinese student.  Such a senseless act! 

Also, the brave volunteers who went to fight the fire in West.  What caused that explosion?  Who do we blame?  The men who owned the fertilizer factory did not intend to kill anyone.  The fireman are still dead.   May their families find comfort – somehow.

But what about Al?

Here at Montclair we have a Sunday evening church service in the living room.  A group of residents gather to sing hymns, say prayers for anyone who is ill, and listen to a short sermon by a fundamentalist minister. 

I do not agree with the fundamentalists.  They are narrow minded and often wrong.  The World was not created in seven days in 6,000 B.C.  But I go to the church services and keep quiet.  These are kind-hearted people who pray for all who are ill or need help of any kind.   They pray for me, and I am grateful. 

Last week, in his last act of rage, Al came charging into the service in his electric wheel chair, shouting obscenities, and telling the minister to stop preaching.  Jerry had to escort Al out and take him back to his room.

From hints he gave, Al had a terrible childhood.  It warped his thinking.  Did no one show him kindness to make him consider changing his mind?   His friend Mary Lou came every day and took care of him.  She was a white, Anglo-Saxon.  So she was okay.  He still hated blacks, Asians, and “intellectuals” like me.  He told me the fact that I went to college was proof that I “didn’t know anything.”

Perhaps I am lacking in Christian charity, but I am not sorry that Al died.  I will not grieve for him.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Memory Lane

Since returning to Texas in 2006, I have lived in the Dallas suburb of Garland, an hour away from Fort Worth, the place where I was born and grew up.  Yet I seldom have an opportunity to go back to the city which haunts my memories.

Last week my grandson Richard spent his spring break from the University of Illinois at Chicago coming to visit Grandma in Texas, just as his brother Doug did last year.  I still can’t get used to my little grandchildren becoming big, tall men.  Richard is particularly imposing, over 6 foot 2 with a black beard.  His long legs barely fit under the dash board of my Hyundai. 

Richard plays the cello in the university orchestra.  He wanted to hear a chamber music concert at the Modern Museum in Fort Worth.  So off we went.

With my grandson driving, we went out the front gate and turned left at the signal light on the corner.  Three minutes later, as Richard speeded down the ramp onto the expressway, I said, “Just follow the signs for I-30 West until you see the exit for University Drive in Fort Worth.”

Richard is shy.  He did not make any comments on the wild Texas drivers who kept cutting lanes in front of us. He kept his eyes on the road as we threaded our way through the mixmaster south of the skyscrapers of downtown Dallas.   As we passed Arlington, where roller coasters of Six Flags Over Texas loom right beside the highway, I thought, “Most kids might prefer going to the amusement park rather than to a concert with an old lady.”  But not Richard. 

It took just a little over an hour from the time we left my apartment in Garland until Richard pulled into a parking space in front of the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth. 

I started my “career”, such as it was, as a reporter at the Fort Worth Press.  I knew lots of people in the city.  Then I met Wallace Gaarsoe, a corporal stationed at Carswell Air Force Base.  We married, and I moved with him to Chicago.  That was more than 60 years ago. 

As Richard and I entered the auditorium at the museum, I looked down on a sea of gray heads and said, “I wonder if any of these old people remember me.” 

The program was delightful: Beethoven’s Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano in D major, Prokofiev’s Sonata for Violin in F minor, and Brahms’ Trio for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano in A minor.  Richard said he liked the Prokofiev; I much preferred the Brahms.  To each his own.

At intermission I introduced Richard to the lady sitting next to me as “my grandson from Chicago.”

The lady said, “My daughter lives in Chicago.  She and her family live in Arlington Heights.”

I said, “Richard’s grandfather and I built our first home in Arlington Heights on a little street, only one block long, called South Dryden Place.”

“I know that street,” said the lady sitting next to me, “My grandchildren went to Dryden School.” 

“That’s where my oldest son started to kindergarten,” I said.

Small world!  I went to Fort Worth hoping to encounter someone who knew me there when I was young.  Instead, I met a woman with whom I shared memories of a small elementary school in a distant suburb of Chicago.