02 September 2006

Monday to Friday

It is early evening on Saturday, September 2nd, as I write this entry. While it was a warm day, the morning was cool and damp and now the evening is pretty close to perfect. Tal and I ate supper on the porch and, were it not for college football having begun pretty much in ernest, we'd still be sitting overlooking the pond.

What a difference a week makes. Actually, what a difference five days makes. This time yesterday we were at a local pond trying our hand at bass and bream fishing. Last Monday afternoon we were enjoying (sadly, I have to admit) our final day of fishing at Shining Falls Lodge before heading home Tuesday morning.

On Monday Tal caught a great northern pike measuring 35 inches.

Yesterday evening he caught a large mouth bass which weighed in at about 5 pounds. Both are pretty good examples of their kind.

But, look at his mode of dress. When I took his photograph on Monday afternoon, we'd just finished a delicious shore lunch of fried walleye, baked beans, rice crispy treats and wonderful hot coffee, a meal which warmed us, at least temporarily. Yesterday afternoon we needed no warming!

Makes me think not so much of the weather, as both extremes we experienced this week are to be expected in the places where we fished. What I think of is our individual tendencies and our corporate tendencies to run hot and cold -- depending on what is going on and who is saying what.

01 September 2006

Granny and Grandaddy

While I wrote the piece about my grandmother and our shared birthdays, I recalled a photogrpah I took with one of my first cameras, probably in the mid-60s. Thanks to a cooperative scanner, I can share it. Of my grandparents outside our family home at Brookgreen, I suspect it was taken on a Sunday afternoon as they were leaving to return to Georgetown.

A good depiction of them both and clearly a lucky shot for a gradeschool photographer, this is pretty much the way I see them in my memory.

Remembering Granny Tarbox

Saturday two weeks ago – the day Tal and I left on the second part of our vacation – would have been my grandmother’s 108th birthday (if I am remembering her birth year correctly). One week ago today I turned 53.

I have thought of Granny daily for several weeks. One reason for her being so much part of the tail end of this and every August is that I always had the honor of celebrating with her, on her birthday or mine or sometime between the two dates, sharing a family party and a cake. Our gathering was always either at my house or hers and our cakes were always made with by my mother or her. We blew the candles out together. And, my father always took our picture together. Lots of always-es!

There have been wonderful celebrations of my birthday since her death, full of good wishes and providing memories to cherish. While Tal and I were at Shining Falls, Chickie Harristhal produced a birthday cake following the evening meal, the most distant cake of these 53 years. But, Granny's a missing piece of every birthday and always will be. Truth is though, there were years when I wished for my "own" birthday celebration. The bigger truth is that having my "own" celebration hasn't ever been what I expected it to be when I'd done my wishing.

I've thought of Granny, too, because of a story in Matthew's gospel which I happened upon recently while looking for something else. Isn't that always the case? Like when consulting a dictionary? What I read was Peter's response to Jesus' foretelling his own death and resurrection (16:21-27). Peter hears Jesus say that he will be tortured, killed and rise from the dead on the third day. Peter is understandably horrified, essentially telling Jesus to take it back, saying that it simply isn't true, can't be true.

Enter Granny Tarbox. What comes next in the gospel account was her line long before I knew it belonged to Jesus. "Get behind me, Satan." Except that Granny's translation was the King James, so what I hear, even as I read those words aloud in church, is "Get thee behind me, Satan". Granny had many favorite lines, "let there be light" when we turned the dining room lights on before a meal or "what a glorious mess" following the opening of gifts at Christmastime, but this one ... this one was special. She said it when someone wanted her to do something she didn't want to do. She said it when someone did something that seemed outlandish to her. She said it when she read some newspaper articles to Granddaddy. She said it when she herself was deciding between one thing and another, sort of shaking unwanted thoughts with the words "Get thee behind me, Satan".

Granny died before our society reached the litigious heights it has in the past decade or so. She would certainly use the line she and Jesus shared were she to catch an episode of court TV. It would seem to her to be a waste of time, the arguing and complaining and the name-calling and posturing. It's interesting to me how much we, as individuals and as a culture, need to blame. We certainly confuse closure and revenge. We say we want closure and what we really want is revenge. We say we want it (whatever it is) to be behind us, out of sight and no longer an influence, when what we really want is to get even, to make someone pay.

Granny was the first person I ever saw privately pray. She set aside time for that deliberate activity. I remember getting up in the night one time when my siblings and I stayed with Granny and Grandaddy while our parents were out of town and catching sight of her, the house finally quiet, sitting in an upholstered rocking chair in her bedroom, soft light coming from the lamp that now sits on a shelf in my living room, her Bible open on her lap, her hands relaxed and her lips moving ever so slightly. That sight is one of my most enduring memories, not just a memory in reation to her, but of all the memories I have. Unseen in the night, I took from that fleeting sight knowledge I would have to grow into.

You see, to me it looked as though she were sitting alone. I know now that she was many things in those moments, but alone wasn't one of them. It seems to me now that she understood something I am only coming to grasp. The only way to get that "something" to be behind us is not to go it alone in this life. The only way to get that "something" to be behind us is to be in relationship -- in relationship with people we know and trust and to be in relationship with the divine.

It's those relationships which will help us overcome the temptations, like the one Peter held up to Jesus and like the too-many-to-count that crop up before us every day of our lives. The courage to say "get thee behind me" to those temptations, knowing we're not really losing anything important in the process, comes from deep, abiding relationship. Granny Tarbox had legions on her side everytime she uttered those words, everytime she confronted temptation. She didn't have to stand up to them alone and neither do we.

Happy birthday, Granny, two weeks ago. I shall always observe the returns of your day with love and gratitude for all the gifts you gave consciously to us all and for the myriad gifts you gave while in the act simply of being your best self.