Let me first explain the title of this post…as it says in Jeremy’s obituary: “Jeremy Richard Elmquist passed away March 19, 2017″…we decided to bury Jeremy in a mausoleum…we never thought of it before, but when it was shown to us…we liked the idea…Jeremy’s casket would be placed in a vault some 20 or so feet above the ground, in a marble vault…somehow, that felt good to us…so we made that choice…

After the service at the grave site…we were able to watch them place Jeremy’s casket in the vault…and seal it…as they were doing the work, on a high lift, it went like this…first the casket goes in, then the put on a steel cover and seal it, then the marble stone is affixed to the wall…I asked the funeral director, if they will have to take the marble stone off the vault to carve the inscription, which will be done later…

He told me, “Nobody will bother Jeremy, till Jesus comes a-knockin.”…somehow, to this very down to earth Dad, I liked that explanation…because first of all I believe that, and second because it gave Judie and I, great comfort…

There have been many tears shed since that day in March…but we decided that we would mourn, yes, but that we would celebrate Jeremy’s life…and we have…every day, Judie and I share things which only we would know…but also things we have heard over and over from those who knew Jeremy…he was quite a guy…he will always be our “kid”…as in, he was a great kid…but he was a man, special in every way…

At the funeral, all three of Jeremy’s brothers, his Mom and me, said something…I will add what I said in this first post after his passing…I assume I will post other comments in coming days…I will let my words close this first installment about Jeremy’s passing…

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Jeremy's funeral

Jeremy’s Funeral Eulogy

Hi, I’m Jeremy’s Dad…I’ve always been that…and I have always felt honored to be so…

I will try to do two things…to tell you a little about him…and then about the last few days…at least I will try…

 

Jeremy was a special person…he was courageous, strong, loving, lived life to the fullest he could…just a good man…he was our son…we have always been honored to be his parents…

I have always said, “Death is always a surprise.”…even when expected…this was  surprise for us…we knew there were going to be tough times ahead…but expected him to come home from the hospital…

So this was a surprise for us…he was such a trooper…never giving up…but all the medical problems in his body, it finally came to this…he was ready, he knew the Lord in a personal way…he had a relationship with the Lord that most would like to have…

Once a friend told me, concerning our view of our relationship with Jesus Christ…”Jim, we fell in love with Jesus before anyone taught us how to be a Christian”…that is Jeremy’s testimony…his life was filled with his love for his Savior…

Jeremy has been the joy of our lives for all of these years…we made a commitment years ago to have Jeremy with us…I said to Judie one day, who else would love and take care of Jeremy like us…so Judie and I have been together for over 50 years…and Jeremy has been right there…a three-some…

For me, he has been my best friend…I have many friends in my life…but when I went somewhere, Jeremy was with me…fishing, he was my partner, in trying to catch those little buggers…or go out to eat…whatever…he was there…he will be missed…my hero…my example for life…my best friend…

He loved his brothers…and since we live in Little Rock and Jared and Marisa live here…Jared has taken over the once a week pizza chore…and we went every week…during the last few years it has been more difficult for Jeremy…he was subject to falling and had a loss of balance…so when we went up Jared’s driveway, it was a bit dicey…

I, too, am not so surefooted anymore…so, here we were going up the driveway…Jeremy tucked his hand in mine…and when someone asked if someone had Jeremy…his comment was, “Dad’s got me…but who’s got Dad.”…that was a standing joke every Pizza Saturday…and everyday that it fit…

He also had another shot for his Dad…in the car or most anywhere, when I would make a comment about something…and then say, “But who am I?”… a comment would come from the back seat…”Chopped Liver”…a standing joke…I’d say, Mom’s one thing but “we’re…”…from the back seat…”Chopped Liver”…he was quick…had a mind like a steel trap…

Jeremy had stroke in 2014…and it had its effect on him…then last year he had two more…they were more severe…and along with effects from his radiation, which still keep developing years after the treatment…he was going downhill…had trouble choking while eating, walking, falling…just all kinds of physical things…he never complained…had to wear pullups, helped with bathroom duties…but never complained…just kept going…

We had promised Jeremy that we would take him to Branson…but it just was not going to happen, because of his condition…but it killed us not to fulfill that request…then my older brother passed away and we felt we had to go to the funeral in Minnesota…our number 3 son, Jess, Jennifer and his family are there…a few days before that, Jeremy asked Judie the question…”When can I see my brother?”, meaning Jess…

We decided that if Jeremy was good enough to go, we would take him…well, let’s face it…I couldn’t go without him…one of the things he loved was a road trip…and in these last days, he was so fragile…so it was a struggle for him to face each day…so the trip was for my brother…but also for Jeremy…

He loved to go…he immediately started to get out his CD’s…his DVD’s…clothes…ready to go…the trip was a blessing from God…saw Jess and Jennifer, Joseph and Julia…went to Jack’s funeral…and he got to see his friends at CUB Foods in Coon Rapids, where he worked for 16 years…

I remember while we were there…he had a bad morning…what I called, “He just checked out.”…as he would do…just unresponsive in normal ways…but slowly was coming around…as we were in the store, having to help him walk…walking around and talking to people he knew…Judie was kind of moving us on…Jeremy said, “Wait, I want to see my friends.”…showed who he was…of course we stopped and saw his friends…

That Road Trip was one of the blessing of these last days…you can ask Jess or Jennifer about it if you want more about that…

Oh, we have never known the road ahead…an old Sunday School chorus, was really our response…“The Lord knows the way through the wilderness…All we have to do is follow.”…that is what we have done…

These last days have been a whirlwind for us…let me give you a bit of information…and what lead up to Jeremy’s passing…

Early Thursday morning he fell…and I wrote this: Just to let you know, Jeremy has had a few bad days…he will have some good days…then a series of bad days…loss of balance, confused, lethargic, choking when he eats…no doubt he needs 24 hour care…meds, bathroom duties, showering, dressing (everything backwards the last few days)…yesterday evening we had to help him walk to his bedroom, and do his nightly things…he got in bed, looked up with eyes that were not focused as usual…after we got him in bed, he stared up at the ceiling…I asked him what he was looking at…he finally said, “My trucks.”…on the shelf…I told Mom when we got to bed, “It feels like we are losing him.”…we both checked on him during the night about 4 times…but then about 5:30 this morning, Mom yelled for me to come to his bathroom…she had seen the light on…he had fallen backward toward the toilet, between the toilet and the wall…Mom was trying to get him up…I got there and got him up…he was shaking/shivering, we don’t know how long he was there…but saying nothing…I got there and picked him up to a standing position…and held him tight, told him, “Dad’s got you”…Mom was right at my side…we sat him down to let him go to the bathroom…helped him back to his bed…settled him in…I hugged and kissed him and told him to call for us if he needed us…this is like most of his “things”…we don’t know why, or really what is happening…it doesn’t act like a stroke…so we waited until this morning…still unsteady…but as he is up…things seem better…we will “up” his one med that seems to help when he is under stress…keeps us busy, and younger than our years…that’s good I guess…Dad 

That was Thursday morning…then by Thursday afternoon we realized that we should take him into the hospital…they found some internal bleeding and his hemoglobin was very low…he was in the hospital on Friday and then on Saturday he had a procedure to check for bleeding in the esophagus and stomach…they found problems and the cause of the bleeding…

He came back to his room…this was Saturday before noon…he was good, upbeat…but the doctor wanted him to stay until Sunday, so they could monitor him after his procedure…he wanted to go home…and eat something…how about Whole Hog…

He had a good day on Saturday…Judie went home to get some sleep and clean up after being with Jeremy for two nights…I stayed…he was fairly comfortable and about 8:00 I went home to get some sleep…Judie, again stayed the night…

I went to bed so I could get up early and go to the hospital…I was up about 3:30 and then back to sleep…at about 4:00 I hear some pounding on my window and yelling my name…Jared was there…I’m deaf in one ear and can’t hear out of the other, like my Mom told me so many times…I was lying on my good ear so I didn’t hear the phone…Judie was calling that Jeremy was not breathing and wanted me there…

Between some neighbors and Jared, they got my attention…and we raced down to the hospital…we learned on the way that Jeremy was gone…his heart had stopped…I told Jared to slow down…he said it was for Mom I should be there…I told him, your Mom will be okay…just wants me there…knew I would want to be there…

We got to the hospital…went to the elevators…when the elevators opened…Judie was coming out of the waiting room across the hall…my mind raced back about  45 years earlier…when we stood in a waiting room in a Minneapolis hospital…two 30 year old parents, of 4 young boys…and found out that our youngest had a malignant brain tumor and would not live more than a few months…

And back full circle…I was coming across the hall in a Little Rock hospital…and see Judie…strong, full of faith…wanting me to be there with her…because I would want to be there…when I saw her…it was like 45 years earlier…all kinds of people around…but we might as well have been alone…

I saw only her…I yelled across as I approached her…”Babe, you were here. How wonderful, you were here.”…then I said, “Where’s Jeremy?”…she said in his room…we and Jared, Marisa, the grandkids…all went there…

Oh, how restful he looked…I leaned down and kissed him…he was cold…but he was my son…I loved him so…still do…I looked back a number of hours as I was alone with him in his room…he laid there so calm…but I looked at him…his arms and hands were full of needle marks where they tried to get blood work done…his veins would collapse…his arms were so sore…

But now, that was all over…he was restful…he was already in heaven…there was rejoicing there…and here…we decided that right then and there…this would be a time of sorrow, yes…but it will be a celebration of Jeremy’s life…

Dr. Keller, at Mayo Clinic, who did a number of Jeremys surgeries…wrote after Jeremy had his strokes last fall…”Isn’t it wonderful the Lord used your own son to bless your lives.”Trip 2012-Mayo Dr. Keller

Profound and true…Jeremy was a blessing to whomever he met…

Some verses popped into my head when I thought of Jeremy on Sunday…II Timothy 4:6-8 “…the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

 

 

50th Wedding Anniversary…Skylark…Jackson…Royal Wedding…And Love Becomes Devotion…

(I thought just before Valentine’s Day I would republish this post from July 2013, for the love of my life…well, also to others who may deem this fit to read…of course it is more than our 50th anniversary…we are headed to our 54th year…but why quibble, I just love to be married to Judie)…

Can you imagine, Judie and I will have been married 50 years on August 3, 2013…now thatJudie and Jim doesn’t seem possible except the math of the deal proves it…We met the summer of 1961…I in my 1953 green Ford and she with a group of college girls just coming out of Feld’s grocery store on Highway 55 in Golden Valley, Minnesota…being the great guy I was, ah, change that…being the great guy, I am…I tried to make those girls comfortable in their new surroundings, if you know what I mean…no motives on my part, of course, except to be helpful…but it did only take about two years before Judie and I were married…so something happened…I’m still trying to figure out what and how it happened…

Johnny Cash and June CarterJust the other day someone a bit younger than we are asked how love changes from the beginning of a marriage and throughout that marriage…if I understood the question…not that after 50 years you don’t love your wife/husband, but how does it change…both Judie and I said yes, love changes but it all starts with an attraction…all I could think of was a song by Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter, called “Jackson”…it’s a fun song talking about a “big talkin’ man”…it starts and ends like this…”We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout.” and then says, “We’ve been talkin’ about Jackson, ever since the fire went out.”…Oh, I think all marriages begin with that descriptive phrase…and it’s what I thought about when asked this question…”We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout.”…I think everyone begins at that level of love…but what then…

I remember very well that “hotter than a pepper sprout” time and it was important…but when we started talking about marriage…there were more important things that became important…spiritual things, children, etc…and if couples Skylark Glenn Close, Christopher Walkendon’t…50 years of marriage is a lot harder than if you do consider them…I remember the movie “Skylark” with Glenn Close and Christopher Walken…it is a great movie…the middle movie of a trilogy…”Sarah, Plain and Tall” was the first…but in “Skylark”, they were now married and they were suffering a terrible drought on the prairie…and Jacob had to send Sarah and the two kids back to her home in New England…when the rain finally came on the prairie…Jacob went back East to bring them home…that love scene is one of the best I have ever seen/heard…and opposed to what is around today…it was not in bed or in private…but out in the open for all to see…I will add it here with this explanation…I gave this to Judie, in written form, for Christmas in 2010…it will help that questioner with how love changes, yet stays the same…it is a wonderful scene…with a little written by me, for Judie, that Christmas, then the scene…here goes:

 

Skylark: Sarah Plain and Tall

A memorable quote

(The best quote I know…I have loved this scene since the first time I saw it…and wondered how I could use these words with you…this Christmas seems to be the time…I love you with this kind of passion…and though it may not be exactly like the passion of our youth…it is as powerful and even more real…read and enjoy…this is my love for you…and us for one another…as it is, today…)

Jacob Witting: I love you, Sarah. There are some things that can’t be written… in a letter. I’m not good with words.
Skylark Glenn CloseSarah Witting: You’re fine with words. I never thought you’d come. I dreamed about it at night when the sea sounded like wind through the grasses. I thought about it at night when Caleb had bad dreams. I saw your face everywhere, Jacob, everywhere. I’d look at the sea and see your face there, and in the sky. When I looked at Anna and Caleb you were there. Once in the street I saw somebody that looked like you and I rushed after him. Once I met the train because something told me maybe you’d be there… but I never thought you’d come. Here I was like a child come home to my beautiful sea and I should’ve been happy but I was frightened. And I am frightened because… this terrible love for you is so strong I, I’ve never known such a thing before.
Jacob Witting: [whispered] I know.
Sarah Witting: I never thought you’d come.
Caleb: [Jacob kisses Sarah] They’re kissing and hugging!
Chub ‘Chubbers’ Horatio: Of course they are.
Sarah Witting: Once Matty asked me how long I’d stay here and I know now. I came to stay long enough to say goodbye. I think, Jacob, our baby should be born on the prairie. It’s the right thing.
[pauses]
Sarah Witting: You were right – some things can’t be written in a letter. You, you said it once; sometimes words aren’t good enough Jacob?
[he smiles, they laugh and hug]

Now that still causes tears to come to my eyes…and those of you who know this kind of love or have had this kind of love, understand the words and the emotion and the feelings…you feel it now, don’t you?…the scene goes on with some words like this: “This terrible love for you is so strong.” and “Nobody ever told me how hard it is to love someone.”…all this is a love that I term, “is turned loose”…not holding anything back…and it develops over time…

In thinking about this post, I read again something from a “My Daily Bread” that I use everyday…it was about Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding…”Be who God meant Prince William and Kate Middleton Weddingyou to be and you will set the world on fire.”, the Bishop of London began his message to the Prince and his bride…he quoted St. Catherine of Sienna…he affirmed their choice “to be married in the sight of a generous God Who so loved the world that He gave Himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ.”…then he urged the couple to pursue a love that finds its center beyond themselves…it was a serious ceremony as you can imagine, full of pomp, ritual and ceremony…if you have a few hours you can watch it on Youtube…or watch bits and pieces…I recommend it…the brides brother read from Romans 12: 1-18…”I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God…what is good and acceptable and perfect.”(vv. 1-2 nrsv)…

Fairly serious stuff…but marriage is some serious stuff…there will be highs and low…ups and downs…but if love finds its center beyond ourselves…love will grow to something we cannot fully explain…and in talking to those who have lost their mate after many years, they can tell you that that love still remains in their lives…with reminders that keep on blessing their lives even years later…

Molt Prairie Winds CafeA number of years ago we took a trip to Billings, Montana…it was September of 2007…I have written about Molt, Montana before…a very small town outside Billings…about 20 miles…and in one of the few buildings left in town is the Prairie Winds Cafe…a great restaurant…but I’m not going to talk about that now…while there, I was looking around and on their bulletin board was a news clipping…I wrote about it back then…here is some of that:…While we were there last September we found a picture on the bulletin board…I had Judie “take a picture of the picture”…the picture of John and Grace Leuthold…it was an article about them being married 71 years…but the thing that caught my eye was the statement John made…”Love becomes devotion. That’s what we have.”…that spoke volumes to me…it really doesn’t matter the relationship…with a spouse, children, parents, with others or with our God…as I wrote just the other day: a committed love always turns to devotion…a loyal, steadfast, faithful love…the idea of belonging together in the relationship…Molt...Love Becomes Devotion

Both John and Grace are gone…even before we saw the article on the bulletin board at the Prairie Winds Cafe last fall…Grace passed away peacefully, Thursday, May 22, 2003 at 90…and John passed away at his ranch home of 75 years, in Molt, Wednesday, May 26, 2005 at 98…The picture we saw on the bulletin board is below…the caption on the picture from the “Billings Gazette” in Billings, MT, February 14, 2002, (Valentines Day) was...John and Grace Leuthold, who live near Molt, have been married 71 years. “Love becomes devotion,” John said. “That’s what we have.”

So I bring you full circle…how does love change?…well, I don’t really know, but I do know it does…and it become better and Jim and Judie 2013better…deeper and deeper…so for your 50th Judie…I may have to change my gift to you…maybe it will be more than a trip to McDonald’s for coffee and a Sausage McMuffin with Egg and Cheese…I may have to add us sharing some Biscuits and Gravy…or maybe even an apple pie…or maybe this post can be part of our 50th…I love you more than you know…or maybe you do know…Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary…

I wrote this in February 26, 2012…reposted it later that year…I read it again this morning, February 5, 2017…5 years later…it is still a favorite of mine, hopefully you will enjoy it too…the movie is one to see over and over…especially as you get older…I mentioned in the text, that I “slipped” into my 70’s when I wrote it…well, I “slipped” into 75 in the meantime…enjoy as I did…

Mrs. Palfrey, David McCullough And Me…At The Claremont…Oh, And Rachmaninoff Too…

Last night Judie and I watched again, “Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont”…a wonderful movie with Joan Plowright…so I thought it would be good to post what I wrote about it the first time I saw it…nothing has changed in my thoughts about it…maybe just a richer outlook on the film…it is wonderful…and if you are looking for a good story and film…this is the one…so when you read about cherry blossoms in the post…remember, this is a repost from February 26. 2012…hope you enjoy it again, as much as we did last night…

Some time ago I viewed an interview of one of my favorite authors, David McCullough…(John Adams, Truman, etc.)…anyway, he was asked his favorite movie…he had a rough time with that…he went back to how old movies made an impression on him…he named a few…”Sense and Sensibility”…”Harvey”, with Jimmy Stewart…”Treasure of the Sierra Madre”…”Advise and Consent”…and others…but he brought up one that he had just seen…”Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont”…an independent English film…with Joan Plowright…right away when he described the film…and knowing how much I like his writing…I knew then I would buy it…and I did…it is as he described it…simple, beautifully performed, beautifully written…funny but certainly a drama too…let me share some of that movie with you…

I suppose I would agree, this was a “comedic drama”, as someone described it…I laughed and I cried at I think the appropriate points…and with my hearing being what it is…seeing it twice is probably important for me…but I think also for everyone else…this wasn’t the sort of fare that wins Oscars today…and no explosions, no racing cars or trucks, no superheroes, no cars running off cliffs, no gunfire, no killing, no people flying through the air…or jumping off one building to another…in fact there are no action scenes…hold on, there is one…Mrs. Palfrey falls on the sidewalk and skins her knee in one scene, this allows her to met Ludovic Meyer, who becomes her friend…so this film has a “story” to it…and great acting by actors who have been in the business for years…and new comers who did a wonderful job…its a story with a strong script, excellent acting and some sumptuous English scenery…at the New Forest Palace grounds near the Abbey at Beaulieu…unbelievably beautiful…

Mrs. Palfrey comes to London from Scotland after her husband dies…she, now in her mid 70′s, “has always been someone’s daughter, someone’s wife, and someone’s mother.”…now she wants to live life for herself, and does it well, with the help of Ludo (Ludovic)…she read about the Claremont Hotel in a magazine…but she is surprised by the condition of the hotel…and it just wasn’t what she had planned on…but she makes the most of it…meeting the “rest” of the tenants as time goes by…everyone from the quirky staff to the residents…the bellhop is a portly and sonorous balding man who mumbles more that he speaks…and the residents range from overly-nosy to irritatingly grumpy…but they all want to know why Mrs. Palfrey’s grandson, Desmond, doesn’t come to see her…one of the reasons she moved to London…the residents are wonderful British actors…all of them make her stay memorable, for her and for us…

All but abandoned by her family at the Claremont…Mrs. Palfrey strikes up a friendship with a young writer…one day as she took a walk to mail a letter and go to the library…hurrying home to miss the impending rain storm, she stumbles and falls outside a Ludo’s basement apartment…the 26 year old man with the odd name of Ludovic, helps Mrs. Palfrey and in return asks that she help him write a really great novel…he wants to use her years and experience to aid in his telling the story…she agrees and he walks her back to the Claremont…and wouldn’t you know all the residents immediately believe this is the elusive Desmond…Mrs. Palfrey allows this deception to continue and even invites Ludo over for dinner at the Claremont posing as her grandson…everyone is taken with her “grandson” and their friendship grows…

These two newly found friends discover they have a lot more in common with each other than they do with other people their own age…Ludo inadvertently leads Mrs. Palfrey through her past and Mrs. Palfrey inadvertently leads Ludovic to his future…the story builds on itself, and reaches deep into the characters and pulls out a fantastic end of life/beginning of life set of circumstances…the story builds scene after scene moving us deeper into their lives…we see Mrs. Palfrey’s love of her dead husband, Arthur, and the beginnings of Ludo’s relationship with a beautiful young lady thanks to a recommendation by Mrs. Palfrey…that recommendation came, in a moving scene, when Ludo asked Mrs. Palfrey what her favorite movie was…and it was “Brief Encounter”, a 1945 British movie…a movie filled with Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto Number 2…music that fit that film…

Ludo, also asked her favorite song…”For All We Know”, was her answer…and in a wonderful scene he sings that song…a moving moment in the film…(at the end of the movie, Rosemary Clooney sings “For All We Know”)…the record company originally wanted $50,000, which would have been a budget buster on this independent film…after seeing the finished film, they threw the song in for $5,000…speaking of the end of the film…I will not rob you of that pleasant trip yourself…but toward the end after Ludovic and Gwendolyn, “two ridiculous names” meet in a funny and quirky situation, at a video store, both reaching for “Brief Encounter”…they take Mrs. Palfrey to Beaulieu Castle and grounds, both historic and beautiful…just seeing it on film is emotional, powerful…as they visit, Mrs. Palfrey gives this bit of advice to Gwen, “Always remember to make the most of every moment. It is the single most important lesson of my life.”…Oh, yes, I would agree…

As I just slipped into my 70′s…not without notice by the way…I do see the end as closer than the beginning…and in this time of my life I want to make the most of every moment…not with trips around the world…not to Disney World…not even to downtown Little Rock…but just life itself…I don’t want to hide life behind all the glitz of this world…but I want to see the wonder like I did last night…a clear sky with a sliver of the moon…and Venus just off to the lower left of the moon…so clear…so bright, close, against the moon…it is one of the wonders I never want to take for granted and therefore, miss…and today, the blue sky and the cherry blossoms just outside my window…and before all of this is gone I want to make the most of it…and as Mrs. Palfrey said to Ludo, “Lucky for me, to have tripped into your life.”…that goes for me too…have a great week…

Hey, why not get “Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont”…you will enjoy it too…let me leave you with Steve Tyrell, and “For All We Know”…16 – For All We Know

It all started, I guess, with something I read…from Our Daily Bread, a devotional reading I use most everyday…with the happenings around the world and even here in America…we worry about what can happen…Oh, I know the old bromide: “What you worry about hardly ever happens.”…but there is a palpable fear in many, concerning terrorists killing innocents…it’s easy to become overly concerned about the criminal acts over which we have no control…Psalm 37:1 says: “Do not fret because of those who are evil.”…Our Daily Bread

So that’s where it started…instead of worrying over such large and uncontrollable possible happenings…maybe we should lower our concerns to things we can control…that will bring us comfort, peace and calm…starting with Psalm 37:1, is a good start…

I heard a story on the radio the other morning about an 84 year old black lady in Mississippi, who had wanted to go to college when she was young but couldn’t afford it…she worked all her life cleaning houses, took in ironing and did other household duties…she lived very frugally and when she was 84…she gave tens of thousands of dollars to a college for a scholarship to be given to black students who would otherwise not be able to go to college…she was asked by a reporter why she had not spent some of that money on herself…her answer, “I did spend it on myself.”…it was a simple thing…a simple gift…couldn’t give to everyone, but someone every year would benefit…it brought her fulfillment, contentment…so I guess she did spend it on herself…

Yesterday, the idea of little things popped up again…I took my vehicle in for some service and was sitting in the waiting room…they just added a whole front to their dealership, so the area I was in is brand new…the waiting room is large, well-lit and has a few cubicles for people to use their laptops as they wait…as I sat in a chair looking in that direction…I noticed that someone had spilled coffee while they were working at the cubicle, the desk was cleaned off but I noticed it had run down the wall, and over the baseboard…it was an old spill, cleaned off the desk but whoever cleaned it up didn’t check further, to see if they got it all…I reported it to someone with the thought…small things make a business flourish…as it is with business, so it is with a life…small things make us flourish…simple things, things we can do something about…

Simple Things in LifeIts been on my desk for a few days, the topic of simple gifts, little things, and what we can’t change…I guess I have always been a simple man, not wanting too much…wanting to be like my Grandfather, who was a simple man, but a great man in my mind…and like him, not trying to be something I was not…taking care of my family, loving those around me…trying to take care of those things which I could do something about, at home, work and out and about…being a good man…and “…not fret because of those who are evil”, but take care of the simple things in life…the things I can do something about…instead of turning myself in knots about things I can’t control…

“Simple Gifts”, it is a Shaker hymn and dance…you may have heard the melody in “Lord of the Dance”, written relatively recently…but let’s stay with “Simple Gifts”, which was written by Shakers over a hundred years ago…let’s see if I can give you a taste…

No doubt this is purely American music, a hymn written by a religious group established here in America during the 1800’s…their group though certainly uncommon in some of its tennets, they where certainly part of American history…basically believing that living simply is living godly…I’m not so sure they didn’t have something there…rising during the 19th century at the time of the Great Awakening…when there was soul-searching in this county…we live in a time where a good soul-searching would do us some good…but it must start with simple things, simple gifts lived out by simple people who know who they are in God’s eyes and decide to live that out…like the woman in Mississippi did…she lived her whole life to give that simple gift…

Aaron Copland, a composer of what I call “American Music”…certainly different from European composers of past centuries…and though I love much of that music, I really love what Copland wrote…and one of the best and most well known is his “Appalachian Spring”…according to Copland himself, the music had nothing to do with Appalachia or Spring…it was just a name suggested, there is a little more to the story but let’s leave it there…regardless, he used the Shaker “Simple Gifts” in his “Appalachian Spring”…you will immediately hear the melody…I will add it here and you will enjoy it all…powerful and emotional…and I’m sure you will say, with me, the name “Appalachian Spring” fits his music…simple, powerful, emotional…just wonderful…we need, today, to find those things which lift us up and give us hope… 

This is the Christmas season…a simple story really, with such power, the power of the Almighty God, sending His Son to this earth as a babe…a Nativity scenesimple gift but a gift of hope for a people who are certainly needy…I am one of those needy who claimed that simple gift for my own…I have tried to pass on the gift to those around me…that Jesus came to save this sinful world…a simple thing, this simple message…a simple gift, to give hope in a time of things we can’t control…but we know with Him, in the end, things will “come ’round right”…

Lutefisk, Lefse And Ring-A-Ding-Ding…”Uff da”, I Said…

Here is another Christmas post from the past…it will hearken back to Minnesota culture…but you will live through it…just sit back and enjoy the Scandinavian humor and culinary delights of Christmas…Merry Christmas…

Oh, yes it is Christmas time in America…and what comes to mind to a Minnesotan…even a transplanted Minnesotan???…it is all the Christmas traditions of childhood and beyond…and it happens to me…even here in Arkansas…we still have Azalea flowers on our bushes…and it seemed a bit strange for me to be putting Christmas lights on bushes that still are flowering…so it is red, green, blue, yellow lights blinking with pink flowers underneath…quite a sight…and all the while Minnesota has snow and cold…but we do have our “White Christmas” CD playing in the background…maybe that will help…

Christmas traditions…part of ours is to make lefse…every year we make lefse…we learned to make it many years ago in Minnesota…it is wonderful…it is a simple recipe…not simple to make but once you get the “hang of it”, it is…we did it with the whole family…in fact that is the joy of it…the whole crew gets involved…someone mixing the dough…it is made of boiled potatoes (riced potatoes, put through a ricer), flour, melted butter and cream…mixed to the right consistency…someone to roll it out very thin, almost like what a crepe ends up like…and then someone to put on a lefse grill (yes, they have grills just for this, Target, etc. have them)…using “lefse sticks” (yes, there are sticks made just for lefse) you turn it over and then stack it to cool…of course everyone must try some warm…butter, sugar, cinnamon or brown sugar…whatever…it is so good…it is like a flat bread…most cultures have that kind of bread…this one is just a little better than the rest…and everyone gets in on the act…

We have been making lefse for most of 40 years…and it is as loved today as it was years ago…you can eat anything rolled up in it…not only butter and sugar but meat, cheese, just anything you would use bread for…so very soon we will be getting together with the kids and  grandkids and making a huge pile of lefse to be used over the holidays…Christmas Eve with a little pickled herring…and how about Swedish Sausage…Oh wait, that’s another story…ignore my mention of Swedish Sausage…more about that later…But thinking about that…we bought some Swedish sausage and Swedish meatballs when we were in Minnesota last summer…we have already had one “ring” of Swedish sausage and will have more at Christmas…but also Christmas Eve we will serve lefse and Swedish meatballs…with gravy…so good…all this is traditional food from years gone by…and still served in Minnesota and all over the Upper Midwest…as well as the Pacific Northwest…

But one of the foods we will not be serving (mostly we can’t get it here) is Lutefisk…it is a “lye” cured cod or whitefish from Norway…served with melted butter and cream sauce…I won’t go into “how” it is fixed but let’s say it is important…it is served with lefse, mashed potatoes, white gravy, Swedish meatballs, rutabaga, etc…lutefisk is also served in the Upper Midwest and in the Pacific Northwest, much like lefse…but tastes and smells a whole lot different…Madison, Minnesota claims the dubious title of Lutefisk Capital of the World…they serve and eat more there than anywhere in the world…you can look that up online if you would like and see the huge gatherings of people who come there for their lutefisk suppers during this time of year…

Lutefisk has been on the receiving end of all kinds of jokes…Ole and Lena jokes: We tried the lutefisk trick, putting it under our porch, to get rid of the raccoons living there…but now we’ve got a family of Norwegians living under our house!!!…humorist Garrison Keillor: Lutefisk is a repulsive gelatinous fish-like dish that tastes like soap with an odor that would gag a goat…and it looks like the world’s largest chunk of phlegm…encouraged to eat “just a little” was like vomiting a little, it’s just as bad as a lot…

The jokes and stories go on and on…I have tried lutefisk myself a time or two…probably to say I ate it once…and the next time or so, because good Scandinavians “should” eat it…like it???…nothing ever was mentioned or came to mind that we were suppose to like it!!!…enough cream sauce and melted butter covers a multitude of sins, it was told to me…but for many years WCCO AM radio (in Minneapolis) had a couple of personalities…Boone and Erickson who were very talented…and they did one of their Christmas traditions called “Lutefisk Lament”…I have saved it for the last…it is a poem, of a sort…along with their Scandinavian accent and humor…I hope you will hang on to the end…since some of you are not from the Upper Midwest…the humor may escape you…but open your mind…and think like a Swedish or Norwegian farm kid from rural Minnesota…get in character now…get ready to go on stage…let’s go…click on the link and enjoy Boone and Erickson’s “Lutefisk Lament”…(I will add the words to follow along…not all will be in this version…but you will be able to follow)…Merry Christmas…(click on the link)…

Boone and Erickson – Lutefisk Lament

Lutefisk Lament

Charlie Boone & Roger Erickson

‘Twas the night before Christmas with things all a bustle
As Mama got set for the Christmas Eve tussle.
Aunts, uncles and cousins would soon be arriving
With stomachs all ready for Christmas Eve dining.
While I sat alone with a feeling of dread,
As visions of lutefisk danced in my head.
The thought of the smell made my eyeballs start burning.
The thought of the taste set my stomach to churning.
For I’m one of those who good Swedes rebuff:
A Scandahoovian boy who can’t stand the stuff.

Each year, however, I played at the game
to spare mama and papa the undying shame.
I must bear up bravely, I can’t take the risk of relatives knowing I hate lutefisk.
I know they would spurn me, my presents withhold,
if the unthinkable, unspeakable truth they were told.
Then out in the yard I heard such a clatter,
I jumped up to see what was the matter.
There in the snow, all in a jumble,
three of my uncles had taken a tumble.

My aunts, as usual, gave them “what for”,
and soon they were up and through the door.
Then with talk, and more cheer,
an hour was passed as Mama finished the Christmas repast.
From out in the kitchen an odor came stealing,
that fairly set my senses to reeling.
The smell of lutefisk creeped down the hall
and wilted a plant in a pot on the wall.
The others reacted as though they were smitten,
while the aroma laid low my small helpless kitten.
Uncles Oscar and Lars said, “Oh, that smells yummy,”
and Kermit’s eyes glittered while he patted his tummy.

The scent skipped off the ceiling and bounced off the door,
and the bird in the cuckoo clock fell on the floor.
Mama announced dinner by ringing a bell.
They pushed to the table with a yump and a yell.
I lifted my eyes to heaven and sighed,
and a rose on the wallpaper withered and died.
With wooden legs I found my chair
and sat in silence with an unseeing stare.
Most of the food was already in place;
there remained only to fill the lutefisks space.
Then Mama came proudly with a bowl on a trivet.
You would have thought the crown jewels were in it.

She placed it carefully down and took her seat,
and Papa said Grace before we could eat.
It seemed to me, with my whirling head,
the shortest prayer he ever had said.
Then Mama lifted the cover on the steaming dish,
and I was face to face with the quivering fish.
“Me first,” I heard Uncle Kermit call,
while I watched the paint peel off the wall.

The plates were passed for Papa to fill.
I waited in agony between fever and chill.
He would dip in the spoon and hold it up high.
As it oozed on the plates, I thought I would die.
Then came my plate, and to my feverish brain
there seemed enough lutefisk to derail a train.
It looked like a mountain of congealing glue:
oddly transparent, yet discolored, the hue.
With butter and cream sauce I tried to conceal it;
I salted and peppered, but the smell still revealed it.
I drummed up my courage, I tried to be bold.
Mama reminds me, “Eat, before it gets cold.”

I decided to face it, “Uff da,” I sighed.
“Uff da, indeed,” my stomach replied.
Then I summoned that resolve for which every breed is known.
My hand took the fork as with a mind of its own.
And with reckless abandon that lutefisk I ate,
within twenty seconds I’d cleaned my plate.
Uncle Kermit flashed me an ear-to-ear grin,
as butter and cream sauce dripped from his chin.
Then to my great shock, he whispered in my ear:
“I’m sure glad this is over for another year!”

It was then I learned a great and wonderful truth,
that Swedes and Norwegians, from old men to youth,
must each pay their dues to have the great joy
of being known as a good Scandahoovian boy.

And so to you all, as you face the great test:
Happy Christmas to you, and to you all the best.

Posted by: Jim E | December 20, 2016

Grandma’s Christmas Fruitcake…A Gift To You…

Grandma’s Christmas Fruitcake…A Gift To You…

 

I wrote this about 1995, give or take a few years, I really can’t pinpoint the year…I think I have shared this every year since then in some form or another…with some audience or another…read it to the students at school over the intercom…gave it as a Christmas letter…Oh, all kinds of ways…I always thought it was about my Grandma and her fruitcake she always made…but in the end it became something more…I don’t really know what it will be for you…but enjoy Grandma’s Christmas Fruitcake and all the love that always came with it…

There are all kinds of jokes and stories about fruitcakes…there is one that says…there are only so many fruitcakes that have ever been made in the world and they are the same ones being given away every year…or the one that fruitcakes are good for something, like a doorstop…and another, that the post office this time of year puts out a warning…if you get a package with no return address, it is over 5 pounds and it smells funny, be careful, it may be a fruitcake…and it goes on and on…

But I can tell a story about fruitcake and about a woman who made them…it was my grandmother…Grandma Reggin, my mom’s mother…she is the only one I know who made fruitcake and did what is suppose to be done with them…gave them away…

Grandma was born in 1896…in fact she would have been 114 years old last July…she lived a little over 72 years…and she could cook and bake…and she made fruitcake…every year, I always ate a little fruitcake but never cared much for it…the candied fruit was a little much for me…but my Grandpa Reggin, he loved it…he loved the candied fruit, the nuts, the spices and the dark cake, full of flavor…he loved everything about fruitcake…and because he was a hero to me…I tried to eat it…but just couldn’t get into it…

My Grandma, at Christmas time, when people visited, would put out ample slices of fruitcake, and I would watch while the Hungry Boy cookies, the decorated sugar cookies and the date-filled cookies, that my Grandma was famous for, would disappear…but much of the fruitcake was still on the plate…

My Grandfather, as I said, loved fruitcake…and he really liked it with a real cup of coffee…(Grandpa was a coffee roaster for McGarvey Coffee Company in Minneapolis…I use to go and watch him roast those green beans that had no smell…into those dark beans we know as coffee beans…full of aroma)…and by a real cup of coffee, I mean he wanted one that, as he put it, “That I can stand a spoon up in.”…and maybe a little cream…and he would savor that fruitcake with that “real cup” of coffee…I can see that picture in my mind, and “I savor” that time with him…

So Grandma would make fruitcake…I mean she made fruitcake!…we lived next door to my grandparents and I went over there everyday…and close to Christmas every year she would begin to bake in earnest…she made pounds of fruitcake…wrapped them in waxed paper, “tin foil” and ribbon…and put them on the unheated covered back porch to keep fresh until she gave them away…she also made Hungry Boy cookies by the hundreds and other cookies to give away…she would give them to the paperboy, milkman, mailman, at the gas station, the meter reader…just anyone who provided service to her during the year…and off they would go with some cookies and of course a fruitcake to share at home…it was her gift of love at Christmas…

No doubt I loved Grandma very much…her modeling this love at Christmas…her unselfishness and devotion to others came out often…when anyone would criticize someone…she would say, “You just don’t understand.”…the idea was, if you only understood, you would not criticize…never an unkind word came out of her mouth, at least in my presence…she was without peer in that area of life…

I remember getting in the car with her and going down to pick up my Grandpa after work…I would go with her often when I was quite young…and especially the day or so before Christmas, when she and I would load up the old Plymouth with all the precious cargo she had made…go down to McGarvey’s and take the bounty into the office area and the giving would begin…

It was an large open office area…with all the desks in a row…and down at the far end, behind glass walls, were the offices of the president and other officers…and in we walked…Grandma in front and me trailing behind carrying my share…as we passed each desk, she would place some cookies, all wrapped up…and of course, a fruitcake at each desk…they all thanked her and talked to her as we went on with our Christmas giving…

And as we inched toward the president’s office, I was apprehensive…but my Grandmother was not…she was a simple woman…as people would look at her today and even then…but not to me and to those who knew her…she was kind, generous and loving…and did not hold a negative thought about anyone…nor that they would ever think anything negative about her…that was her attitude and it was disarming then as it is today…it didn’t really matter what the president or those in the other offices were doing, she would stand there patiently…and they would always stop what they were doing and come out to wish her “Merry Christmas”…talk for a while…thank her for her gifts and we would leave…I don’t know if anyone else could have got away with that…but she did…

So this wonderful woman, who spent some of her growing up years in an orphanage, because her mother could not take care of her…had four children…all raised in a house 20 feet by 40 feet…and out of that kitchen in that house came a legacy which I share with you today…one of giving and love…it was Grandma’s Christmas Fruitcake…

And at the end of her life…I sat on the hospital bed next to what had become a frail body of this marvelous woman…and leaned over and took her beautiful face in my hands…kissed her and told her again, the wonderful gospel story of Jesus…who came as a babe, who lived and died for her…who was waiting for her…to escort her home…and for the last time told her I loved her…and let her go…

I wish you Joy, Peace…and wonderful memories…Merry Christmas…

Posted by: Jim E | December 17, 2016

A Christmas Story…Well, Make It Two…

A Christmas Story…Well, Make It Two…

I wrote this in 2012, a Christmas story, well, two of them really…they take me back to Minnesota and my childhood…with a dear neighbor…and then a story from a teacher I worked with for years…both very important to me…and I hope will make you think of your life and memories you have…Merry Christmas…

At Christmastime, I reach back to memories of the past…and my childhood…when you get my age, most people that I meet everyday are much, much younger than I am…it gives you Christmas tree snow coveredpause…Oh, it is not a negative thing…it’s positive…I love the fact that I can remember so much more than most around me…that I actually experienced the history that most people talk about…and you know, I remember talking to people who were born just after the Civil War…who fought in WWI…who fought in WWII…these were actual people, who were there…and, of course, with my age comes the passing of most of those people…almost all of them have died…and just yesterday, Judie’s Mom died…she was 92, almost 93…so much history she experienced…and of course, all of that personal history is now gone…only what we remember of her wonderful life is still with us…all of us who knew her will try and keep that alive…

Age is a funny thing…it comes upon us while we are awake or asleep…it comes with or without our permission…and Christmas upon Christmas comes and goes…I remember so many…but in my 70 plus years, they all seem to run together…it is hard to remember each and every one…in fact what happens is we layer them, one upon the other, so we view them as a stack of slides…viewing them as a whole rather than separating them…only special circumstances make one memorable from the others…let me tell you of two memories…one that is many stories, stacked upon the others…and one that someone told me and experiences it over and over every year…these two stories are the same kind of thing, only different…stay with me here…

When I was born on February 3, 1942, Jim Burton was about 70…about my age now…and 26 pendulum clock Jim Burtonyears later, I officiated at his funeral…now that may not seem strange to you…but it does to me…he and his wife, Mary, were great friends of our family…Mr. and Mrs. Burton (as I respectfully called them growing up) were our neighbors…they lived next door to my grandparents on the south, separated by two lots and we lived next to my grandparents on the north…that neighborhood was two generations old when I was born…Jim Burton was the real estate agent who sold those small lots to people like my grandparents…all during my youth, because Mary was blind and they were aging, my mom took care of them and their needs all the years I can remember…this was a close neighborhood and everyone knew Jim and Mary Burton 1everyone…

On Christmas Eve my mom and we three boys walked over to Burton’s (many times on the way home from Christmas Eve services at church)…to spend some of the evening with them…I wish you could have seen the inside of that small house…Jim had been in the jewelry business and the house was filled with clocks (in fact I attached a picture of the clock he gave Judie and I for our wedding, almost 50 years ago)…to a young child they were beyond counting…10 or so grandfather clocks, wall clocks, mantel clocks, “Regulator” clocks…just all kinds…large and small…and it certainly fascinated a young child…inside, it was reminiscent of a “Charles Dickens” scene…dark but welcoming…the furniture was from another century it seemed…overstuffed, worn and it had that “old” look and smell…and there on the table was their Christmas tree…lights and decorations and a fewChristmas lights in dark presents…and we would relax there with a cup of tea and goodies…settle back and listen again to the stories they told…the stories of other Christmas’ in other countries (she from Norway, he from England)…and stories of their time in America…there in the dim light…dancing over our faces…this couple, whom we loved and had become such an important part of our lives…weaved the stories of a lifetime into our lives on those Christmas Eve nights…

On the way home in the darkness, with the snow crunching under our feet…we asked mom questions and rehearsed things we heard…so much of which I have now forgotten…I miss the stories of Jim and Mary…from another age…from another time…

Christmas Tree at nightAnd so with that story of Jim and Mary Burton…in reality, many stories stacked upon each other year after year…I go to a story of someone who grew up on the plains of North Dakota…we worked together in my former life…a friend and a great teacher, who sent me this after I told one of my Christmas stories to the staff…it is a keeper…you will understand after you read it…he virtually re-lives this every year…

“That takes me back to my youth on the plains of North Dakota, when on Christmas Eve afternoon, my mother packed a shoebox of items to give to an old bachelor neighbor who lived by the river a mile south of us…I can still see the box and its contents: cookies, a Christmas napkin, a new handkerchief and a tin of Prince Albert pipe tobacco…About four o’clock, my dad and I walked to his place and gave it to him…It was a Hallmark scene and I can still see the snow falling and hear and feel the wind as it made small drifts on the path in the pasture…That was a long time ago, but I still take a walk on Christmas Eve afternoon around four o’clock…Even though my father has been gone for seventeen years, he still goes along just like he did on that special trip so long ago”…

With that I wish you Joy and Peace…and wonderful memories…Merry Christmas…

Posted by: Jim E | December 6, 2016

Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941…

This is something I wrote December 7th, 2010…I will share it again this year, for Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day…

Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941…Christmas Eve 1941…

It was only 17 days between the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7th, 1941 and Christmas Eve, December 24th, 1941…even for someone who loves history, it becomes difficult to comprehend how close those two dates were…and to think about how people in the United States were feeling about that time, it was so close to Christmas…I was born February 3, 1942…that was a little over a month later…my brother had been born in 1939…(here is a picture of our family taken in 1944)…my Mom and Dad were very young parents, struggling through the depression that still held a tight grip on this country…in fact the world…so it was a hard time anyway, and then comes the attack on Pearl Harbor and over night this country was in the middle of the Second World War, and so was our family…not only at war with Japan but Germany also declared war on America…this country was not ready to defend itself, let alone attack our enemies…it was a dark time…

I don’t know how to put it so we might have a perspective of how Americans felt at the time…the closest thing that comes to it would be “9/11″…if you remember how numb you were and how we didn’t really know what was going to happen…I remember that night, after all planes where ordered out of the skies over America…and a number of military helicopters flew over our house…I really wondered where things were and if we would be attacked again…it was a helpless feeling…one full of possible danger and questions…

If that was our feeling, how must it felt for those living in 1941…many people didn’t even know where Pearl Harbor was…and thought our oceans that surrounded us would keep us out of war…it was a very difficult, frightening and dark time…

Today is December 7th…it is always a time for me to remember as well as do many other Americans…it is one date that we should remember and be thankful for those who served in that war…and it is because of them that we are still free…

About two months ago I found a book that connects those two dates…it is really a Christmas book…but it is also about two songs of that time as well as our time…”O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”…the book is, “In The Dark Streets Shineth”…it is written by David McCullough, who wrote “Truman”…”John Adams” and many others…he is one of my favorites…because of what he writes about and how he writes…his books are compelling…this one is no different…it comes with a DVD which shows McCullough with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at their Christmas concert…I will add a portion of his presentation of his book on YouTube…the rest you will have to get the book to see the rest of the DVD…the book is only a little over 50 pages but it is very good…it also has pictures of people of that time…both at home and also overseas…the book is unusual because the DVD and the book are the same…when you see the DVD you are hearing the book in its entirety…the book has many more pictures and it has the speeches of both Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt…both are worth the read…

Churchill came, as McCullough says, “at considerable personal risk”…across the Atlantic “in great secrecy” to meet with Roosevelt…and then he would speak to the combined Congress before he returned to England…but before that would happen, they appeared together at the White House, Christmas Eve, to light the Christmas tree…both would speak…before 20,000 people gathered there…it would have been an unusual night…the world at war, raging all over the world, with no end in sight…with things going very badly for both Britain and America…and it would be that way for a couple of years yet…no victories on the battle field or at sea for a long time…everyday bad news…

But their messages both referred to the idea of “light”…our faith, our freedom…and as Churchill said, “amid all the tumult, we have tonight the peace of the spirit in each cottage home and in every generous heart…Here, then, for one night only, each home…should be a brightly-lighted island of happiness and peace.”…the next day, Christmas Day, Churchill and Roosevelt went to church…”where with the congregation they joined in singing ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ which Churchill had never heard before.”…this American Christmas carol written in the late 1800’s has a line in the first stanza “Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light.”…McCullough then tells how that line in particular must have stood out to Churchill and Roosevelt…after his comments the night before of every home being a “brightly lighted island” in the dark…here I will add part of the DVD…it is only about 3 minutes of the over 10 minutes…but will give you a feeling of the rest of the book…

McCullough then goes to the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”…written in 1943 by two New Yorkers…by 1942 there were one million Americans serving overseas…and that would grow…”when recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943, the song became the most popular song of the era, even more than ‘White Christmas’…”…this song expressed the longing for home and a light in the darkness felt by so many of those away from home for so long… click here for the song…06 – I’ll Be Home for Christmas …and who can now listen to this without understanding the longing for home by our troops who are overseas right now…the feeling is palpable…

So please, as you enjoy your Christmas season with family and friends…don’t forget how “History can be a great source of strength and affirmation, and especially in difficult, dangerous times.”…and the music we love can give us more than just something to listen to…

And how about this Christmas photo nostalgia…two young kids, oh, about 1949 or 1950…that’s me and my younger brother…just after WWII…seeing Santa…Jerry looks a little wary…me?…just as good-looking as usual…

Okay, okay…but let me wish you a Merry Christmas…we all need to remember…because that’s when life really begins…and will give us strength to bear whatever comes…memories are powerful reminders and give us courage to go on…remember our troops and do some good things for people you don’t know this Christmas…it will leave memories for you to remember…

And as this book does and as the two leaders of that day did…they “delivered a powerful message of hope that still resonates today.”…lets do the same…may joy, hope and peace be a part of your Christmas season…

Posted by: Jim E | November 26, 2016

Growing Up…An Adult…Or…Pajama Boy…

I wrote this almost 3 years ago…seems to apply today too…I heard this song again this year, just yesterday…it has become a Christmas song…one I have always liked…the song is “Toyland”, from an operetta by Victor Herbert…written in 1904…I will send along one of my blogs from February 2014…it talks about “growing up”, with references to “Field of Dreams”, “Saving Private Ryan”, “Toyland” and other things…and it holds most of the “bones” of what I believe about the cold, hard facts about “growing up”…and the joy of that transformation…and where it leads…

Growing Up…An Adult…Or…Pajama Boy…

Now in my 72nd year, it seems odd that I can still see me as I was growing up…Oh, not everything but many things…the people around me, my parents, my grandparents, other relatives, neighbors and friends…they are still at the age that they were the last time I saw them…many have died and others drifted into their own lives, as I have…but growing up was a wonderful time, many uncertainties of course, many sorrows…but mostly good memories…as I have said many times, “life is hard but life is good”…and it is that…img027

But as I remember those years, I realize that my memories are only snippets, pieces of a puzzle that we all toil over, as we grow into who it is we will become…I do remember though, I always wanted to be an adult…to make decisions that adults got to make…go places, do things…but mostly to be a man, have a job, have a family…heavens, I wanted to be like my Grandpa…he was a man’s man, he had a job and worked hard…he was talented, he could build…he built his own house…he knew about plumbing and electricity…he fixed his own car…he was faithful to my Grandma, to his family, to his neighbors, to his friends…he was responsible, was in control of his life…did not want to depend on anyone…he was a free man…he lived in that kind of world…

The world has changed a lot since those days, I know…but even today, the right and chance to be free…to be in charge of our own lives without interference from the government or anyone else for that matter…we see that kind of desire from many in our society…when I saw our own government come out with a “sales pitch” really, about Obamacare…with the picture of what some detractors havePajama Boy described as “Pajama Boy”…living at home, with his parents…a 27 year old in a “onesie”, drinking hot chocolate…it was disquieting to me…I thought, “Are there adult age “kids” like that?”…and I guess there are…but it runs against everything I believe and my Grandfather would wonder, like me, what is happening to this country?…

And though there are things which are disconcerting to me…I somehow still believe in America…I still hold on to the beliefs that established this country…based on freedom, liberty and self-reliance…I still think it is there, though there are forces which are trying to undermine it day by day…the desire to get a job, to be on your own, setting up goals and working over years to reach those goals…I believe that is still within the heart of most Americans…to move on, not be dependent on parents or the government to reach those dreams…

It’s funny, thinking about growing up…I think I remember when “it” happened…now I don’t know if it was that moment in time…but a “happening” made me believe I was on my way…and maybe you can remember the same kind of thing…it was one particular Christmas, I describe it this way, “the year I grew up”…that Christmas came and it was just not the same, we had the same kind of Christmas, the tree, presents, the meal, friends and relatives…but something was missing, I didn’t know what it was for sure…it was somehow less fun, though I still loved it…then I realized what many have said since then, Christmas is for kids…the magic of being a child at Christmas is wonderful…and even as an adult there is a certain magic about that season…but for a child, it is more, and that is what happened…there was a changeover, I didn’t necessarily like it…but knew it was good…it was what I always wanted…to become more Babes in Toylandlike the adults that were around me…and so I left childhood behind…

There is a song, from the Christmas season even…I heard it again this year…”Toyland”, written by Victor Herbert, in 1904, one of the songs in his operetta “Babes in Toyland”…in the song which is the theme of the operetta tells the story of what I am talking about…happy in childhood, that toyland, but once you pass its borders, you may never return again…I think you will remember the melody of the song…

Toyland, toyland
Little girl and boy land
While you dwell within it
You are ever happy there

Childhood’s joy land
Mystic merry toyland
Once you pass its borders
You can ne’er return again

When you’ve grown up, my dears
And are as old as I
You’ll laugh and ponder on the years
That roll so swiftly by, my dears
That roll so swiftly by

Childhood’s joy land
Mystic merry toyland
Once you pass its borders
You can ne’er return again  

And so, we who’ve passed its borders, though we may not have wanted to let it go at the time…once we have, we can never return again…and those who wish to, or try to, or remain beyond the years allotted to childhood, are in for a “rude awaking”, as my Mom used to say…life passes by with astounding speed, with experiences we must have to make it successfully through the gauntlet that lies ahead…

It reminds me a bit of the film “Field of Dreams”…at the end of the film, Ray Kinsella, having brought Archibald “Moonlight” Graham to play baseball on his field in Iowa…his brother-in-law urges him to sell the farm…The next morning Mark implores Ray to sell the farm. Karin says that they won’t need to because people will pay to watch the ball games. Terence agrees that “people will come” to relive their childhood innocence, and Ray refuses to sell. Frustrated, Mark scuffles Field of Dreamswith Ray, accidentally knocking Karin off the top of the bleachers. Archie runs to help and, stepping off the field, becomes the old “Doc” Graham. After he saves Karin from choking, Ray realizes that Graham cannot return to the field as a young man. After reassuring Ray that his true calling was medicine, the players shake his hand and he leaves. Suddenly able to see the players, Mark urges Ray not to sell the farm.

Given the chance to stay young and play baseball, “young Doc Graham” decides to cross “that line” between staying forever young and becoming the “Doc” Graham he was always meant to be…it is always the choice we all have to make…I know people who never have decided to “grow up”…they always stayed immature and dependent…thinking this was a choice they could make and things would remain as they were…but it never works that way…the ends are difficult and most of the time disastrous to all involved…an immature person is ineffective in life, making little impact in their own lives or the lives of others…

My Grandpa was forced at an early age to chose…he was sent by his father from Canada to Minneapolis to friends who said they would take responsibility for him and his two brothers…it did not go well, it was an abusive situation and at about 13 he ran away to make his way…it was a difficult time…spent some time in an orphanage, went West and worked as a cowboy and in the end fell in love, married, had a family, and grandkids…one of them, me…he was my hero, my Saving Pvt. Ryan whispersidol…I wanted to be like him…responsible, be a leader, be loyal, and all that he was…and like at the end of the film “Saving Private Ryan”…Private Ryan, now an old man, stands at the grave of Captain Miller…he remembered the words of Captain Miller, “James, earn this… earn it.”…this follows:

Old James Ryan: [addressing Capt. Miller’s grave] My family is with me today. They wanted to come with me. To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel coming back here. Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.

Ryan’s Wife: James?…

[looking at headstone]

Ryan’s Wife: Captain John H Miller.

Old James Ryan: Tell me I have led a good life.

Ryan’s Wife: What?

Old James Ryan: Tell me I’m a good man.

Ryan’s Wife: You are.

[walks away]

Old James Ryan: [stands back and salutes]

That’s really all my Grandfather ever wanted…to be a good man…it’s all I have ever wanted…

Posted by: Jim E | November 19, 2016

Thanksgiving 1987…Oh, I Remember That Year…

 

Thanksgiving 1987…Oh, I Remember That Year…

This is a post from last Thanksgiving, 2010…but I enjoyed reading it again…maybe you will too…memories are a wonderful thing…hope you enjoy the story…Jim E

Most memories of special days kind of “run together” if you know what I mean…we can’t just “pull up” let’s say, Christmas 1990 for instance…or July 4th 2005…you get what I mean…unless something specific and of great import happened on that day, they just “run together”…for me Christmas has always been special…since I was a kid, I remember how important it was…we had all the traditions and what mom fixed for Christmas dinner…and all the rest…it was true for Thanksgiving too…we always had a traditional Thanksgiving feast…and leading up to those special days of Thanksgiving and Christmas, we did special things…and Judie and I have continued many of those traditions right up to the present, added a few and passed them on to our kids…so, for as long as I can remember we have carried on in a very similar way…

Is it any wonder then, that I can’t “pull” any one particular holiday out of the vast array of those special days…they just stack on top of each other, year after year…and if you asked me to tell you what the 1972 Christmas was like, I couldn’t tell you, except to say it was a lot like all the rest…so when we talk about Thanksgiving or Christmas, since they are traditional, I would be telling you about lots of Christmases or Thanksgivings, not just one…not that they are boring mind you…each one is special and celebrated as though it would be our last…but they do tend to “run together”…like glass slides stacked on top of one another, and looking down through them into our past…

So how can I remember Thanksgiving 1987???…let me tell you…it was a day to remember, one of the last that all of our kids were home for Thanksgiving…Jay, Jared, Marisa and Jess were all in college (Jared and Marisa had married in August of 1987)…Jeremy was still in high school…it was one of the warmest Thanksgivings we could remember…the sun was shining and we had to drop the blinds in the dining room because it was so hot (in Minnesota the angle of the sun is so low that time of year, it poured in the South windows)…it was in the high 50′s I suppose…and we had our traditional meal…Turkey, Swedish sausage, Down South dressing, Oyster stuffing (Sidebar…it is stuffing if you put it “in the bird”, it is dressing if you do it in a side dish…end Sidebar)…mashed potatoes and giblet gravy, green bean hot dish (Sidebar…hot dish is “Minnesotan” for casserole…end Sidebar)…some other veggies, squash, pickles, relishes, rolls, a special raspberry jello/w sour cream and marshmallow topping (Sidebar…not a desert but used like a sorbet, a “palate cleanser”, just wonderful…end Sidebar), pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie, maybe cherry or blueberry or custard to make it four and whipped cream…

But you know, none of that was the reason I remember Thanksgiving 1987…this is the reason remember Thanksgiving 1987…his name was Muffin…Muffin was Jeremy’s Christmas gift the year before in 1986 (this is his picture in 1986)…he was a Shih Tzu…Jeremy wanted a dog and Judie thought it would be good for him to have a companion…thus…along came Muffin…it was an early Christmas gift that year…Jeremy and Muffin became inseparable…he slept with him and every waking moment the two of them were together…as with most family dogs, he became part of our family…and he was a special dog…even after many years being gone, he still holds a place in our home…let’s say when he had to be put down…there were many tears over that loss…but memories linger on…

But what about Thanksgiving 1987???…Oh my, the day before Thanksgiving, disaster struck…Judie had put Muffin outside while she did some things…she was busy and had to run to the store…when she got back she remembered Muffin…but as hard as she searched and yelled his name…no Muffin…when I got home and Jeremy got home we went about making up fliers with Muffin’s picture on them…we put them all over the area…frankly, I thought we had lost him for good…but drove around looking for him…and after all that effort we decided we had done all we could do…all of us, Judie, Jeremy and myself were at a loss…upset at losing such a good friend…we were heartbroken…all we could think of is that someone had picked him up and taken him…Shih Tzu’s are a desirable dog for many people…

We got up the next day…it was Thanksgiving Day…spent the morning fixing the meal of the day…but keeping an eye out for Muffin…no luck…the meal time came and all around the table were a bit down…all of us felt sorry for Jeremy, he was miserable…we were part way through the meal…everyone around the table…I went to the kitchen for something…I was at the sink looking out the window…our back yard wasn’t big, but it butted up against a large empty field…all grass and used then for grazing horses…it was lined with furrows from when it used to be farmed…as I gazed across the field on that beautiful day…my eyes caught a glimpse, way out in the field, of a little black and white animal jumping over the furrows in the field, you know how I felt…that feeling just billowed up inside me…I yelled, “There’s Muffin!!!”…everyone at the table jumped up…they raised the shades at the windows and looked out…Jess ran out the door in his stocking feet…onto the deck, out on the lawn, jumped the fence and out into the field…and that quick too…

By the time Jess got back to the yard with Muffin, everyone was out on the deck and in the yard…my mom took this picture of Jeremy, in bare feet, with Muffin…what a homecoming…everyone was laughing/crying…you know how that happens…it was a powerful moment of relief, for he was found…and emotional release, Jeremy’s dog was home…Jeremy is a special child…to all of us…and all of us were thankful…it is what we prayed for…Jeremy’s dog was found…Muffin had been gone for a little over a day…he was dirty, grass and straw was stuck in his hair but he was home…you may not be able to read the emotion on Jeremy’s face in the picture but then, maybe you can…let’s just say he was happy…no, elated and thankful, on that Thanksgiving 1987…

So we will celebrate this Thanksgiving…2010…with the same expectation…well, maybe not exactly the same but with the same thanks we had that day…so many years ago…and we will talk of that day again, as part of our Thanksgiving 2010…part of the tradition of this family, blessed beyond what we deserve…but thankful for all the blessings…

I hope you have enjoyed the story…really a Thanksgiving feast of thankfulness…pie anyone???…

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