I heard a crow. not close not far. the caw was short but mellow, floating in the grey.
toxic dreams stirred and slept. an old friend calling to awake the day.
i heard a crow.
I heard a crow. not close not far. the caw was short but mellow, floating in the grey.
toxic dreams stirred and slept. an old friend calling to awake the day.
i heard a crow.
The Last Shot
It was not long before morning light assuaged the murky blackness. Three lay along a ditch line; small dark shapes scattered front.
Whistling broke the dawn stillness. The boys readied, squinting to capture sight. ‘They’ had come back.
With handshakes in a lonely dinner years later, the boys were now two. The way it had started. Just a different ‘font.’
Bones creaked and ‘heavier’ toted the gear. Yet nowhere had they enjoyed more those last special years.
Dinner for four, hearts set in love. They hugged him a salute and then there was one.
Leaving most decoys to make room for the bourbon, beer and dog, the one set out alone with memories and miles to burn.
The last hand shake with a Canadian grey wisped head, who smiled and pointed, “look yonder over the ridge.”
The points of black shuttled in and then out. He turned and smiled and walked to the truck. And the farm path he strode; 870, dog and full heart.
A friend sent this. Its rawness focused me. Stripped away: No Senior Pastor, children’s ministry, choir, adult studies, divorcecare, coffee/doughnuts, jamming music; No arms to crawl in with, sharing of tears, patterned days, striving, surviving….
Been there? It is when you get stripped of pretence. You get whipped. You make wrong turns, the artillery patterns to your quadrants. You are alone. It is the slapping of life’s unexplained, unwarranted, unreasoned particulars that rip your heart, strip you bare. What do we have? The unmerited/merited fashioned life percolates and then storms into our world and we are left holding…what??
We cannot even rationalize with intelligence. The agony is too deep. It blames us, incinerates and blisters. It is unadulterated pain. Choking and spitting. Where oh where are can we secure relief? Where is our God? The waves of terror sweep toward and over. Nowhere is there sanctuary. Our emotional state raw.
This is where we find the essence of loving Him, of decrying our pride of self and cry. We become detached of this life and pursue the fulfilling of Him to be true.
We can let the waves swallow us or renew…never going back to what was. And find HIM. HE loves us. And we desire this forever. No slurping the saccharine.
The grey sludge slurped out from under the moving tires as the late spring snow integrated the winter grunge. Emma was driving home from school, having had another exhausting day with hard case students. (Now 37, she was primed early in an occupation for which she had been hammered and molded since youth.) She had stopped to grab groceries, calling her son to let him know that she would be later than usual. She placed the phone next to her on the passenger seat.
The phone rang and though Emma seldom answered while driving, she thought it best with the weather and her lateness. She was approaching a semaphore, a green glow through the spiking snow. Reaching down, she picked it up believing Patrick might be calling.
The red Chevrolet saw the red too late. It blurred into the neutral zone and met Emma, it’s metal caving her door. She never heard a voice. Patrick heard the crash.
Wind had traumatized traffic as the paramedics finally reached the hospital. Emma was moved quickly to a room sequestered with readied triage doctors and nurses. Unconscious, she was aware of nothing. The impact of the wreck had whipped her head sideways as the airbag grasped her body. It had been 45 minutes since.
She was floating through a darkness… a brilliant light in the distance. There was no pain. Slowly…the sense of ambient warm liquid secured her. No concept of time. A pod of unknown dimensions. Just being. Shadows emerged in the gathering light, separated from one another. She felt no movement, ascertained none; the first shadow came closer.
The emergency waiting room smelled like sweet bleach as Patrick slipped-dashed his way in. He moved through the gathered people to the desk. He was told that his wife was being cared for and that he would informed when they had ascertained anything. Running a hand through wet curly brown hair, he asked if they could just tell him if she was going to be alright, really. The same answer echoed.
Susan had Emma in April, 1980. A year later Emma would have been known as a ‘miracle on ice’ baby, ironic as hockey had been a divider between her and her parents. a platform for sullen demurring and active rebellion.
Susan had grown up in a family of girls. She was the eldest. The only son had died tragically and as with any child death, the family was shaken to the core. Her father, whom she adored, died a few years later, bringing the sorrow blanket down once again. Her mother remarried and the youngest daughter joined the four. The theological presence for the family was the Catholic church. The family’s foundation was in a small city south of the Cities on the Minnesota river, dominated by Federated Coop and Green Giant, the grain and vegetable kings of the times. Vivacious, athletic and stapled with empathy, she was received by all as adorably receptive. An All American cheerleader rolled in beauty and warmth. Emma was her third child, all black hair, dark eyes with tipped out ears.
The dark charcoal arrangement was smiling, with cocked head in her way of attention to the moment. Emma just watched as the image ‘floated.’ She loved her mother, who had stood by her in all situations. Even when the verbal fights lunged past spirited they hung to their deepness.
The image wizened.
The north wind heightened and sirens could be heard whining in distant corners of the city. The snow became hard, sleet like. Evening lumbered in, grey shifting black. And in the sitting room, Patrick waited. Family were coming, but for now the loneliness of the unknown laid on his shoulders. Entrants moved about with the sameness of the emergency room shuffle; the resigned, hopeful, tired, worried, scared and for some praying…a tightness of movement. Patrick sat in a chair near the far corner as if to distance himself from the nightmare. As he slowly moved his head vertically through his hands, a light blue smocked figure called out a name, his. He stood quickly and moved. Together they went down the tunnel hallway and stopped half way. As the situation began to unfold surrealism crept in with the dialog exchange. The bright lights could not block the foreboding deep in Patrick’s gut. Head trauma. Coma. Unsure. Taking pressure off brain. ICU.
Dad sketched in
Another shape visualized. her father. After Emma had been born that April, her father had a rebirth the following July. A hard nosed former professional hockey player who had now committed his life to Christ. Going from a position of worldly toughness he had accepted the mantle of Christian security and change. His heart had been touched. With the change, his past began to churn itself to be visibly challenged by this new love.
A mother wed seven times, living here, there; Father who had started another life and only really wanted to be part of his when he became “successful.” He and his sisters had fended for themselves, placing their heads, those formative years, in a bedroom usually shared on pillows billowed in rubber. He sometimes on the floor. A bag of chips served as supper at times. His sisters had made early life choices that followed dead ends. He found himself locked out of the bedroom to wait until it was less occupied. They had little. He lunged his way into sports which provided a set of ‘bumpers’ for him to reside between, supported by a small cadre of friends. His marriage to Susan had been a strong underpinning for him, until his fulfillment to monogamy failed. The years of drinking added to the craziness. He was awash in guilt, remorse (where he had little before) and examples of living by the world’s standards. His rebirth was divine. The fleshing of it would hurt. Not only did he need to understand where he came from and the barmy erratic life lived, he needed to understand and learn what he now was desiring to profess.
The confession of unfaithfulness blindsided his wife and though they truly began to live as one, she never dealt with the hurt deeply. It clung, draped with anxiety in part. ( It took time for her to grip her past losses and shake anew… she did with her Savior’s grace.) His baseline was knocked out and his immediate family began to watch a past life part. As he did. This while he maintained the family financially, physically and now spiritually.
With no family role models to learn from, he tacked on his own.
His image seeped away.
Emma disliked hockey. The sport took her father away for long stretches, serving him to be more the percussionist of the family, the underlining and reinforced beat…with the melody seemingly sparse. It was not problematic totally on his whereabouts, she succumbed to the witness he loved ‘hockey people’ more. As he embraced his new life, he had to face difficulties his past had planted as standard, learning and living his love for Christ and thus incorporating this new love with his stewardship for his family. During Emma’s young life the shifting balance was unsettling.
That she loved them was not a question. More a misunderstanding of loving. She certainly learned early how to ‘play’ them, going full throttle when Dad was gone and let the nurturing Mom handle many of the tough situations she presented.
Emma began walking as her father tried to gain his footing with his accepted faith. Not only was he rebuilding his own base but also patching the tapestry of his wife’s broken spirit while training his children (he would later attempt to gain a foothold to constructively rebuild the fragmentary sections of a terribly splintered family of brothers, sisters, Mother, step Mother, step Father and Father.) All of the elements of suburban drama unfolded and the years themselves developed stretch marks of new beginnings, changes, reversals…crashing of norms and acceptances following the desires of development. When her father took up the mantle of ministry, he began once again to be gone at length, leaving her mother to care, comfort and discipline.
Emma’s young life caromed about and in its fecklessness she found certain acceptance, both in sports and as homecoming queen. However she did present difficulties well beyond her older siblings paths. She blazed her own. Against the traffic.
Patrick was admitted to her room. The machines were ‘up,’ drips hydrating and sedating. a mask facilitating breathing. He had many questions but the Dr. would not be available again for a time if not the morrow. He touched her arm, the skin warm and brushed her hair with his fingertips. He prayed.
Thomas. her brother…the image with a small tight smile and laughing eyes.
He had been there during those sometimes turbulent times; consistent in his fair treatment of her, Thomas looked out for Emma as if he had consciously decided to protect, right or wrong, excepting he took to it naturally. She felt safe with him home, perhaps too safe. He delivered a deep love and truly took a hold in her life. In his presence she felt better about herself, as if he belied the demons from entering. When Thomas left for Dartmouth, Emma felt an overwhelming sadness. His absence set forth a chain of events she had never considered… he held her close during those times.
He slipped on.
Patrick left the room and met some of the members of the family who had been able to get to the hospital. He proceeded to call others to describe the situation and explained that visiting should wait. It was late. He felt suddenly very tired. Jack and Jenny, their children, were in Grandma’s care, an embryonic embrace he was thankful for. As the totality gripped him, the seemingly grasping of hope out of tempered surrounding, he felt his throat tightening. Tears began to surface. Nothing seemed real. All there waited until visiting hours were over for any words that would be encouraging. The doctor came around eight that night, while the ‘family’ who were present were shifting about in a waiting room provided for them. In a methodical, practiced voice, he explained what was known, what wasn’t and what the next few days might hold. A brain injury, the affects undetermined other than swelling on the right side. She was in a coma. The pressure on the brain needed to be deflated before they could really center gate the situation. There was no time frame that could be submitted for any arousal from the coma nor for understanding the situation in its entirety. A broken little finger on her right hand was the extent of external bodily injuries. He concluded that personal affects had been locked away, to include the jewelry Emma had been wearing…her wedding ring. Patrick had not noticed. They left to silence.
Rachael sleeked near
Rachael…the beautiful, brilliant smile…the child her father embraced in her ability to placate inner turmoils. She could only describe her relationship with Rachael as adolescent diluted hate. They were so varying. Yet Rachael had stood with her as the rest of the family when the world tipped south. Her ‘being there’ was an expression of love Emma had not expected and after Jack’s birth, when most of the outside world dissipated and her family was left to defend and love, Rachael took her position and in love secured her duty. They had grown closer.
She was gone.
Patrick needed to get home to his children. He gave and received dulled hugs and took his leave, sloshing again in a world torn dark. Everyone has been ‘shot.’ Those that can need to get behind the wheel and drive. He needed to be the driver. In numbness, he drove beseeching his Lord, and headed home.
Of the over 100 case studies Emma had done for her job, she reflected that her friend Angel’s family would top all in coarse human behavior. She had moved from the city and together the two ‘rough and tumbled,’ pushing aside norms to frolic against absolutes. Safe together. They walked the heights of abandoned barns, mucked in swamps up to their necks only to be saved by the other. Broken bones and black eyes. Angel helped Emma party. They plunged to dark sin and held hands as innocent young girls. They cried together. She felt a sister of sameness and together pushed each other to craziness, fostered and festered to extremes. Liquor became relevant and together they cauterized others seeking extreme pleasures. Yet they formed a bond that was deep. Later, after the thunderstorms and reawakening, Angel would exit prison and join a Bible study with Susan. Let go and be loved. She let it be known that Emma was the only one who had been there…the one constant good in her life. Angel had begun to rebuild.
She whisked away.
A little kaleidoscope of visages past, her people that were part of her main path. Her mind did not focus on good, bad, indifferent. She just saw.
Stevie’s outline slipped in focus
He had put on a full court press since youth. Vivacious, handsome, living outside the box; his youthful friendly happiness and ‘anything goes’ veneered to Emma. It became a substance fest relationship. He was a ‘good’ kid and they were friends, on her half anyway. When his parents divorced while he was in 9th grade, it shattered his understanding of family, blowing him away. He became determined to be a self made man…and pushed hard the envelop of self serving, yet cloaked all in a mask of glittered happiness. Later, his mother would declare that Stevie was so difficult that she did not understand why God gave him to her. He noted.
With high school graduation, there came the opportunity to go the route of college as her sister and brother. She would follow her brother by playing a collegiate sport It was at college where she struck a wall of isolation never previously known. At the foot of the wall was loneliness, an overwhelming blackness that smothered her even while she glided about in sports and dorm. She was vulnerable. Extremely so.
When Emma went away to school, he was the only consistent person, calling almost daily and coming to see her on weekends. His superficial flattery competed hard on her loneliness. It was when Emma became pregnant that he abandoned…she could not party anymore. He never got past himself and slid more into alcohol, sex and drugs.
And so the pursuit ended in a situation neither desired, she because of her internal components knowing being pregnant was wrong and the absence of a future she could comprehend. He not ready to be a father. As Emma extracted herself from the life of parting and concentrated on her child, with the love and support of her parents, he dismissed her from his world. She could not party like he desired.
Stevie never changed
When her son Jack was born, she took hold of herself, righted the ship and began to take classes at the school where her father had begun to help coach the hockey team. She gravitated to a strata of teaching and social benevolence. The need was great in the public spectrum of education.
She graduated, working and raising her child. The ‘family’ worked hard at bringing Stevie into Jack’s life. However they found themselves swallowing despair and anger at his inability to grasp the situation of no Emma and being a father. This process drained her.
Emma knew her son needed a father, so, with hope on her part they tried counseling, a Christian counselor. She had pushed for them to seek counseling. As always, Stevie silver tongued himself with generated sympathy, but he wanted really no part of a life that would tie him down, yet he still wanted Emma, he could not let go completely, partying or not.
It was the counselor who told Emma that Stevie was not the problem, but that it was her. She needed to understand that HE was never going to change…she had to decide if that was what she and her son needed. It was not. The decision was still hard. Even Stevie’s parents loved Emma, their son not. Emma shoved away the manifested intent of an artificial father and Stevie fought back in his loud now uncultured desire to control her, while being controlled himself with his indulgences.
Patrick spent time with Jack and Jenny, holding them as needed and letting tears flow. After they were asleep, he sat in the living room in darkness. Weariness clung like medieval canopy stretched and tattered. His toes felt tired. The far wall became a screen. A long distance stare. Remembrance replaced vision. Slowly his mind escaped to that day. Up on the Kaduance River:
Patrick had stolen one of her rings, so to pick the size for the engagement one. Now, he suggested that they go up to the River and hike into the Falls. Emma was grand for it. The Spring day picked was delightful. Emma was running late and Patrick was afraid that the day would escape the asking. Once in route he felt better yet nervous. He was at a 60/40 percentile that she would accept. He understood her love, yet was she ready? They made their way along the river’s trail, pants pulled thigh high, shin to knee deep, light to each other. Emma gave him a splash once, but he just turned away…his hand was in the front pocket squeezing the ring tightly!
They approached the Falls and found one couple there. Thankfully they left and the Falls was Patrick’s stage. They entered waist deep. When the moment handed itself to him, he asked, finally releasing the ring from the pocket vault. “Yeah!!” An Emma response and total in her verbal embrace. Patrick was relieved to have the ring out of his pocket!
He could see them, in the pool. She had been so alive, so immersed in freedom to love.
The balm of healing, bringing a rebirth, in herself, her faith, and in love. A big shaggy maned artist who presented himself the goal of being known. He was good, to Emma and Jack and love developed. He took her life beyond the hardness she had known. He was a carefree soul, grounded in Christian faith, who loved music. Where music had eluded Emma of any significance or influence after her bout with heavy metal with the ‘wild bunch,’ Lonnie was a total music head. Through their connection she was introduced to a kaleidoscope of music. Lonnie would make many mixed CD’s for her to listen to…alt. music, funk, gear box rock and roll. She began to take a better look at music in applications to her life.
But there existed a love with strings. So new to Emma such feelings that she was not aware of them for a time. Lonnie was committed to his God, Jesus, and he salved Emma’s tarnished view. But the carnal seemed to esteem too much. His image. Lonnie craved a big time stage and yet still played the church bizarre. His love of recognition layered a barrier that Emma was never sure how to rip. As real as his Christian faith was so to his concern of image, self image. He internally submitted to the greener grass, the next best opportunity. Connectivity throttled him and his itinerant desire to be anti-culture. Emma found herself a stage hand to the band. The ship sailed, with her standing on the dock. Not enough room. It hurt. He had given her time to feel real but the commitment beyond self was not external. She had taken another bullet.
James skated in.
The hockey world of her father’s opened up an avenue for Emma to feel some romance after Lonnie. James, a hockey player who was coursed to play in Europe, came in and with his ‘capital’ being western Canada allowed her the opportunity to travel. Far distances. She spent a week that summer with him and his family in Alberta. When he invited her to visit him in Europe for a week, she was excited to expand on her adventures while not sure of where or how the two of them would mesh. She made proper arrangements with family and flew over.
They were in a small town where she knew nobody but James, spoke no foreign language and was alone most of day as he involved with hockey during day and game nights. She had taken to running to quiet her unease and simple loneliness that kept creeping in. She loved the trees, the running, the view settling. She became friends with a ‘teammate’s wife who spoke broken English. They communicated with an English/German dictionary as a bridge. Emma was thankful for the time they could spend. As she became disillusioned and isolation amped, she leaned on her new companion even more, but sporadically. She felt a parting of her relationship with James, the contours becoming wider. This brought tension and exasperation to be fueled by his passion and her’s lost. They began to spar verbally. And given Emma’s emotive tension, a desperation. She began to reflexively withdraw. Her new friend could see the situation and she believed, as Emma, she needed to go home.
In the quietness of the suite, Emma looked in her suitcase and took out the CD presented to her by Patrick before she left, thinking at the time she would probably not listen. In the case was a piece of paper with a list of songs handwritten. She looked at the song list. A sudden compulsion to play it moved her to take her small player out and insert. She hit play and layed back on the bed, emotionally exhausted. Out came the melodies and moved quietly to ease over her, soothing. After listening several times, she knew she had to go home. Just go home. Here with James was not good. She did not think past that.
James was livid. She felt bad, however she was choking on reality. Emma had to get out. Where did the excitement wean itself from the travel? Where did loneliness begin to creep its way in? Where was she exactly? Geographically in Switzerland. Beautiful gorgeous Switzerland. Excepting the glory of the scenery eluded her. The pieces of a dramatic, exhaustively lonely past were pushing in. What was she doing and where was she ‘going?’ The suite seemed small now. With the smallness came a self hindered belittlement that she knew and hated. Tears welled.
Susan sent the ticket.
Before she left, she bought Patrick a tin…a tobacco tin. She did not really know why.
James lifted away
Patrick could not sleep. He went to the kitchen, pure habit, and poured a glass of milk. Rubbing his head, milk in hand, he stepped down to the family room where he kept all of the family’s CD’s. Walking with the stair light glow silhouetting, he twisted a small lamp switch on. He extracted a ‘Grateful Dead,’ sitting long legged on the floor, inserting it. He listened a bit then pulled it. Tried another, same. He grabbed one of the boxes where he kept CD’s he had patched together over the years. There were several boxes. He slid a composite in. While the music ‘spun,’ he tinkered through the various slide covers with dull numbness. He started to concentrate on finding two…one made for Europe and one for their wedding. He found the later and it played through the night.
He had grown up enveloped in music of tradition. A fourth generation staid in manner and sensed in tradition, hymn constant. The last name had been changed upon arrival in Camden N.J. from Isaackson, a name of a best dear friend. The better to assimilate at a time when nationalities hung tight. The move to Mpls. found the family firm in the plumbing and sewer business, practice and supply. They moved to the north side after robbers broke in, stepped over a sleeping Patrick in his crib and went about their business. The north side of the river proved safer and the shop grew.
The playing fields for boys activities were the family’s back and front yards and the street. Touch and tackle football, basketball, and wiffle ball, played with a tennis ball, using the townhouses across the street to act as home run bleachers; a suburban shadow of urban stick ball. The participants were neighbors of all ages, if you wanted to play you were in, the rules and results always worked out. There were always enough. Patrick was a sports nut as his best friend and older brother.
The house and garage showed all of the attributes of games played; garage door dinged and dented, ball splats and broken lights. They set up an ‘rink’ for road hockey in the street (when ice was not available) and when so, they tested the thinness of early pond ice by skating on it. The ‘electric glide’ of new ice too stimulating to ignore. Off the familiar fields and onto the fields of organized sports he took up soccer and, ‘encouraged’ by his father, played basketball. He presented these skills at a private school in Mpls, Minnehaha Academy. The connection of the school was the conservative covenant church they attended.
He entered community college employing the seven year plan, sliding out with a degree in Art, to perhaps teach, or not. No one was hiring. He took a place with the family business which had moved to Maple Grove, MN. Emma was his first girlfriend not named Gretchen, though two could not really be counted. There was never a depth with any. Emma and he were introduced by Emma’s high school friend Joanne who had a crush on Patrick but was not in the playing field for his heart. Actually, no one was then. Gracious, as she held him in high esteem, she settled Emma to think about going out with him, even though James was still on the board. There were a few ‘group’ dates to acclimate, then they went to the State Fair alone. His nature was settling and his honest comment that he thought he peed his pants when a burst of fire works caught them unaware whittled at her resolve. Presenting a gentleman, he held back from telling her about the chocolate dot on her cheek as he did not want to bring unwanted attention to the ‘mole.’ When he did, she laughed. The mildness was genuine. The humor sincere and played even.
James never came up nor discussed. Emma told Patrick just a couple of days before she was to leave. Damn if Patrick understood why Emma had gone out with him upon learning about James. When she told him that she was going to Europe, he was beside himself. His proclivity of making CD’s from various tracks enjoyed strummed to his consciousness. He wanted to send her off with one. He called and asked if he could see her. Emma was nervous, so she brought Rachael with her. She wanted some space, so that she could enjoy/understand the coming trip and her feelings about Jamie. Patrick presented a ‘hinder.’ When Patrick saw Rachael, he ‘downed out’ but summed up the nerve to give her the CD. He really had nothing to lose, as he registered it; if she did not want it she would throw the CD away. It was a healthy way to stay away from rejection and Emma had the safety net in that she was dating someone else. Down the line the music might lay some seeds, ground work, in a subliminal way. The reality was that he probably had one shot (and there was Rachael in the car!!) and so a glint of desperation focused in as well. He threw ‘deep,’ hoping she would catch it. There was no promise made.
It was a long night. No calls came. The early spring sun peeked, then slid behind dark layered clouds. The air damp. He was still on the floor.
They had such different tastes in music that the ones on the wedding were the only ones that they could agree on, even though concern of Grama Doris having a heart attack when she heard Mason Jennings sing about crossed legs was softly laughed about. The European CD was all Patrick. In retrospect when Emma had teased him about all the love songs on it, he had to agree, though he just meant to send her off with songs he truly liked and hoped she would also. A dice roll off the brick wall.
Jenny came down sleepily, much earlier than Patrick thought. She had heard the music. He reached and cuddled her close. She and Patrick had recently been listening to songs she liked. They sat there for a few minutes. She asked about her mom. Patrick did what Dad’s do. Comfort to reality. Jenny looked at the player. When Patrick said Mom was in a deep sleep, Jenny offered; they could make a CD for Mom so she could listen while she slept.
Jack descended a little while later as the two were selecting Jenny songs. He sat on the other side of Patrick and quietly listened. When Jenny told him what was happening, he asked if he could include some of his songs. The three of them began the process, interrupted only for a quick breakfast. No school today, they were going to finish making the CD and go see Mom. Nothing else mattered. Patrick kept the phone ready for just a few incoming calls, otherwise all attention was on making the selections and keeping the children’s faith alive.
When it was completed, they cleaned up, the kitchen and themselves and headed to the hospital. The clammy feeling of uncertainty embraced Patrick on the drive. He kept mute. The children were worried but continued to fixate that all would be fine…Mom’s don’t die. The drive was long. They pulled into the parking area and sloshed toward the entry. Jack carried the CD player, Jenny the CD. Patrick carried them both in silent prayer.
For his children:
The children held tight to the doorway of the room. Blue clad nurses were in attendance. Patrick slid to a corner, taking Jenny’s hand. Jack stayed attached to the door. He felt an ethereal unease. Suddenly to him the magnitude became present, real. As the last nurse was finishing, Patrick asked if they could play some music for Emma. Of course. When they were alone, he moved to the side of the bed and asked Jack to bring the recorder. He placed it on the bed table and Jenny took the CD out of a little handbag. The volume was adjusted and the children stood watching. With the suggestion that they stand on either side, Jack went to the far one. Both postures ridged. Patrick began to say something, but he found his throat constricted, again. Jenny lifted her hand and took her mom’s finger. Jack reached down and touched the other.
Jack and Jenny
Out lined in synchronized vibrations
These images were different, sonic toned visages. Her children. Time seemed to enter the domain. Time past and present. Jack, the handsome strapping boy she had held tight during those early years, filtering the ugliness Stevie torched them in. Grandma Susan and Grandpa John to build him during the trials as well as unconditionally secure him. Oh, Jack, my son…
The image began to have features. As did Jenny. Cute as a kitten, curly brown hair DNA’d from Patrick, she was a joy. A present to her and Patrick’s love, especially when miscarriages prevented others, one severe.
Stay Jenny, please………Jack………….
The music. She heard music now not just felt vibrations. Consciousness. Real… Familiar…What… Where? She felt presence near. Melodious currents. The essence of time now committed to her, began the small transition, formulating toward recognition. A pressure on her finger. Her finger. Emma tried to ‘feel’ the pressure back. The music came a little clearer. An ambiance of the known! YES! They were THERE!! I am HERE! Oh she wanted to respond. Where was her body? She was HERE!!
They stayed for a time. Thomas came. He touched Emma’s arm and kissed her forehead. He was going to take the kids home for a bit. Patrick needed to stay and hear from the doctors. They left. Patrick sat down by the bed, now placing his hand on hers. He turned to stop the music, but decided not to. He waited.
PATRICK…PATRICK….. HERE I AM. She knew his touch.
John and Susan came soon after. He had taken the red-eye home from St. Louis arriving an hour earlier. Together, they got to the hospital as Thomas and the kids were leaving. Instinctively Jack and Jenny went to their ‘comfort.’ John took them aside and prayed. Earnest, no frills, a wounded heart prayer but cushioned for young ears. Thomas and the kids departed and the two, hand in hand searched out the room. They entered to see their son in law and daughter. Embracing, Patrick gave them what information he had. Susan whispered some questions. John just looked at his daughter. A million and one thoughts surging through his brain.
The doctor came. Details were still sketchy as to a damage assessment. They thought it might be best to induce the comma longer to accelerate the decompression. The hospital staff was now coming in waves for the morning ‘tune-up.’ The three stood out of the way until the all clear visualized. Then Patrick let Emma’s mother and father take the positions vacated by his children.
John brushed her cheek with the back of his fingers, ever so lightly. He then sat and layed his hand on hers. Susan gently put one hand under and one over Emma’s left hand, silent in her thoughts and both in their prayers. Patrick leaned against the wall and looked on.
Emma felt the pressure. A thought of existence and acknowledgment jumped. I am HEE……
REEEE! She pushed down with her left hand. Susan felt it, looking quickly up… trying to process the happening. She looked at John’s bowed head, then back at Emma. Patrick watched her confusion, slowly pushing himself away from the wall.
Yes.. Yes.. Yes, I am here. She pushed again with her left hand. Now the reality was seeping to Susan. She looked at Patrick, her eyes glistened. Patrick left the room immediately to gather any medical staff available.
It was like pulling open rusted hinges. Emma flicked once. Subtly, the left eyelid grazed open. A blur of gray hair speckled with black formed. It began as a shimmer then progressed in articulation. She looked as her right eye began to open as well. Susan stood maintaining her touch. John now looked at Emma’s face. His dark eyes matched hers. He looked deep.
Dad! Dad! She could not speak, but a tear welled in her eye. She was cognizant. She knew. Her dad. Now her mom! Yes, Mom!
Patrick was back with three nurses and they all looked on.
Her Patrick. Oh, such a love….
The music kept playing.
It was a grand day that Spring afternoon when they exchanged vows. Inclusive of families and friends excitedly congressed at the national landmark church, !st Baptist of St.Paul. Huge wooden doors. No flowers were allowed because of the historically designation, but none were needed. The ‘flower’ came down the aisle with her father, a covered lace dress, sleeveless, with a short train. A cathedral veil adorned her head. She carried Calla lilies in her bouquet. Her smile wide. In front, he waited in a dark blue suite, his brown hair shortened and down.
It was cathartic for many who had been directly or indirectly purposed to the journey. Brothers, sisters, in-laws formed the wedding party.
The wood framed pews, sectioned as in old days creaked in unison. As the Groom waited alter top, The Bride and her father walked to meet him. Beauty shone and the great equalizer, love, adorned. The love shared sprouted to the underpinning of truth, as love is what commits to right. Out came the loves for all there, the life times of realities smothered in those moments by two who were committing themselves to each other. All who were there loved. It could not be shaken. It was too deep. It sharpness enthralled.
He had purposed her, loving the ‘spit’ and spirit, broken by her beauty. She took time to come to him. He was so different, his kindness suffocated her as she felt undeserving. Mercy and Grace. the sheer love of God was hard for her to embrace. It took real time. And him. Life had sucked so much energy past. He was the book of Hosea to her, God’s unlimbered full love. She had hesitated for she believed he was above her. Her self esteem derailed. Then one day, in a car, by herself, she ‘heard,’ she knew. TRUST ME. JUST TRUST ME.
His compassion followed along on her questions, never loud, overwhelming or selfish. His components were to deal with the questions, the conflicts, the hurts with a salve of how he could make the situation different, compatible to understand. He showed Christ’s love.
The Union Depot served as the reception. On each table, there was a CD for their guests. Songs they chose to share. There, the happiness overflowed. Greek food served and a dance floor to ‘shine.’
His family could sing but hers could dance.
We all have music heritage. Brought upon us early then selected in age. She attended a John Denver concert with her mother when she was nine, staying at a motel downtown. The concert was fine, but it was more the get away that she enjoyed. When she ‘aggravated’ to the heavy metal it was more circumstantial than enjoyment. She just did not adhere to music. Never considered the ‘metal’ an escape. Just something the group listened to.
Lonnie introduced her to the ability of music to inspect one’s soul. He made all sorts of mixed tapes from funk to alternate country, christian soul and rock and roll. “Black Crows,” Sly and the family Stone,” and “Janis Joplin” began to have meaning.
She took that background with her as they separated and she sought firm ground again, so when he gave her the CD for the ride to Europe, she was not really shocked. But then again she did not really expect to do anything about it. Yet it was that CD that shook her.
He had a much richer course of music travel. When he went back and forth to Minnehaha Academy, that 45 minute ride one way each day, he listened to music. He had grown up on traditional, with his father being a very pleasant singer, but the commute began his transition of sorts. His older brother introduced him to grunge and he purchased many of that genre. His parents, unlike hers, never tried to part him of his choices, so such as the Grateful Dead became a staple.
When he began community college, his choices began to surge. Surrounded now by many of the arts, he was introduced to many sources and types. His artistic tastes took off. He and a buddy liked to listen to music that others did not like. He had begun making his own CD’s in high school and now he immersed himself in making wider choices and varied scopes. He would listen to them while working on his college arts programs. It was during this stage of life that lyrics became more important than the cover music. One of his highlights was going to a Bruce Springsteen concert where it was inclusive, with strict ground rules that were implemented for such a venue. A very small gathering.
He loved making his own mixes.
Together they really had an eclectic foundation, where she liked Prince, he did not. But being who he was, he would concentrate on the aspect of a performer that merited attention. Prince could play the guitar.
The wedding CD was put together with some songs off the Europe CD and a few others they both could agree on! He was a little concerned Grama Doris would find the first song off color, but he should not have fretted.
Grama remembered crossing her legs on a hot summer day, windows down and catching Grpa’s eye looking. Nothing changes under the sun.
There are days that simply swell a heart, bring a skin layered warmth. Beyond expectations. To have such a day visit refreshes as a first breath breaking water. Thankfully filling.
Recitals are common place. Happen everywhere, from youth to adult, with attendance primarily family with a few other attendees thrown in. The count matters not, for excitement, nerves, pride, and endurance all come together for any performer at such time and most are looking to have it completed. Love will come from the seats no matter what takes place, good or otherwise.
I usually am non existent on anything beyond ten miles of home; Christmas excepted. Just that time of life. Yet as his ‘time’ came closer, with my youngest home on leave from University, I was curiously occasioned to ride along. I hid the intention, for many times I want to attend an event for the sake of family and friends but the body says no.
A calm assurance prevailed me to venture the two and one half hours to St. Peter. You see, my nephew was playing. Noah Grothe. I love this kid as I do all the family Klaers. And to be with my wife and youngest daughter before she went back to school prevailed the event with added delight (my oldest having to work.)
The outer family gathered for lunch a ‘hiccup’ from the school. Klaers are a supportive clan, the base layer love. All who could were trekking down.
Gustavus Adolphus is an old college brought on stage early in Minnesota history, the oldest of several Lutheran colleges in Minnesota. It began in 1862 during our Country’s worst nightmare and moved to the current location in 1876. It had a major face lift in 1998 when a mile wide tornado tore into it, one of the worst disasters to a U.S. education institution ever. It survived and now sits in the top 100 for liberal Arts education. Music was and is a major component of study.
Noah is a senior and to complete his major in Music he, as all must in the program, needed to ‘develop, communicate, orchestrate and perform a senior recital with the instrument of choice-to show development in different strata of musical themes. The length to be beyond an hour and short of two. It is a exacting yet compelling in the coming together of lessons, theory, education and performance. The recital an exclamation point after four years completed.
He comes from a background of piano, tethered together with discoveries of various other instruments along his growth cycle. I don’t think he ever did not like an instrument. It was in prime adolescence when the trombone became king, the sole occupier of ‘first chair.’ High school featured his involvement in both band, orchestra and jazz band, the latter where I heard him play that sliding brass horn while performing both junior and senior year at ‘Famous Dave’s – Mpls’ allowing me to take in a music that was not exacting to my ear, which mattered not, then indulge in great ribs. Most of the family came and the event was fun. That he cased his trombone and headed to St. Peter was never anything but, ‘hope and pray he does well.’ He sort of ‘shipped’ off my radar excepting notification that he was doing great.
Now we were headed down for his Senor Recital. Most were wondering if he would play piano, sing, and/or play a guitar along with the bass trombone that had become his ‘side arm.’ I think we were wondering how a trombone would carry the recital on its own. Sing, yes, but only one arrangement with a choral group in which he was involved. He arranged the song. But excepting the closing number, he played his trombone with a piano as accompaniment. No worries. He took us on a ride.
But none of that was material to us until we entered the small auditorium; quaint, as if it was built for one-on- one interaction. The program spelled out the itinerary and I was smitten to see that John Phillip Sousa wouldn’t be joining us nor be smothered with Jazz. The program had jazz of course, but Sousa never showed. The performance was nicely layered with music of his choice demonstrative of his wide range and ability.
Entering the hall, I sat myself down where I thought I could be most comfortable and would guess that between fifty and one hundred found seats of choice. The hall looked to sit perhaps three hundred. Mild yellow lights reflected nicely off a ‘soft’ acoustic ceiling with dark wood trim to extenuate the lightness. The stage offered a mellow atmosphere. Hoping that he was not entering in a nervous state (as if one could) the recital began exactly on time. 1:30 p.m.
It was when he entered, all six foot seven (or thereabouts) with red hair catered toward a strawberry tint and rose cheeks, dressed in shirt and tie, that I found myself relaxed. A delightful aura accompanied him, a visually relaxed confidence in what he was about to be, a ‘Schauspieler’ extraordinaire. His precision of movement as he proceeded to his trombone was comforting and as his chosen accompanist came curtain left, they both bowed and readied. ( A wonderful piano player who understood it was Noah’s recital.)
The music rolled out in stages all designed to illuminate his artistic involvement as well as ability. Then came the extreme surprise. His methods to nurture the music to fit the song (described in the Program Notes nicely written by Noah himself) caught me puzzled. Was this a brass instrument? Melodically, he persuaded the trombone to echo the tone of a French Horn, muted trombone without the mute (he put one on later for one piece) and a softness of tone I was unfamiliar with. Nothing brassy to his art. Music floated out matching the tome of the stage and it was hard not to see the Glow. The music drifted on shimmering light. His topics of play ranged from Telemann’s Sonata in F minor, a scale tailored toward melancholic vibrations to a mellowed out ‘James Brown in the Twilight,’ from the Concerto for bass Trombone and Orchestra. With a trombone ensemble playing an arrangement for five, I was alone, swept up and caught by mood, yes, but there was an aura surrounding the tall figure, that Glow, which gradually became brighter. It was reflecting throughout the hall. Closed eyes extenuated the feeling.
Then ‘Danny Boy,’was performed, with Noah, by the glee group G# Men’s Acapella. The Glow continued as his formalized arrangement echoed around me. I… watched Noah. That Glow separated him as the lead sang sonorously. A separation distinct as he directed and sang.
They departed and he returned, guitar in hand and took a stool set center stage front and proceeded, quietly, to thank all, but foremost his mother, sister and his Father in heaven. There was a hush, more muffled than any before. He had picked a worship song, one that he had employed in his days of worship leading both on campus and off. He invited the audience to join him…and they did, but it was his playing, his voice, surrounded by the beautiful audience ‘choir’ singing to God, “How Deep the Father’s Love” which enchanted.
I was mesmerized now. Noah was immersed in a tranquil, loving and lingering song sung not just to God but to his family, friends and mankind. The stage was immersed in the light of Noah’s Glow. I had tears in my eyes.
Noah’s Glow…enraptured me. I did not want to leave. And did not, until all were gone. I watched the empty stage grow dim as the Glow ebbed away. Then it was gone. But some of it was left inside of me. His parting “gift.”
“When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.” Exodus 33-35
She came into my life mid stream. She was just leaving her origin. For me, she categorizes an 8. That was before our first date. After, she was off the chart.
I was struck by her simple beauty, yes, but it was while we had arranged the disciplining of Blue, our ‘going to be millionaire racehorse,’ when I was first ‘pressed’ upon her in the barn. After, as I participated in negotiating around all the horses and people while watching her work, mucking out stalls, feeding horses, tending all duties necessary for those who wanted to board and ride, without necessities; as Amy cared for all with amazing grace entrained. Tirelessly and coordinated with a discipline that I don’t ever remember mastering. She was seamless in her efforts and controlled in her actions. A purpose for everything and fetted in her own way. Oh, and she had this beautiful full bodied dog, Tyler, blondish white, who did whatever he was told and when he was left to his own instinct, followed her. They were inseparable. A beautiful girl-woman, understanding and completing her work tasks while always ready to give a horse a nose rub, a pat, an encouraging word. She owned none. Mattered not, to her or the horses. They all knew her. But I was 17 years her senior and that bridge seemed long.
Not long enough. Fact is that I chainsawed it down and burned it. For after I gained the courage to ask her out, we were engage five days later (she probably has the days down better than I, but it was short!) That she said yes, well, you could not have found a happier guy (I think most potential grooms say or think this, but what? I did feel that way.)
The Butters were on their way North to fish and I asked them to stop by the Farm… T. McGill Farm. They came around midmorning and Amy met them in the kitchen. I was off somewhere else. Billy asked her if she was my niece, as I had not said anything about being engaged. That would be a natural question, especially if it was indicative of my past, many short circuited wrecks. In her polite and verbally direct manner Amy stated that she was my fiancee. I came in shortly after and I could see that Billy and Debby, his wife, were still processing the response, happily but questionably. I assured then that what Amy had said true and that indeed, the man from ‘Baker Street’ was going to be married.
Feb.20 is my bride’s birthday. She not only has been a tireless worker and calming, loving companion, but she has held me together through many down times, literally and figuratively. A mother who has two daughters who absolutely adore her and a circus of animals, both past and present, who all gravitated to her simple charm, love and affection underlined by extreme devotion.
So we simply acknowledge that God has ordained another year in the life of our wife, mother, friend. Thankful we are. God bless you, Babe. I am thankful for your love and devotion…Happy birthday!
I met Joe, oh, maybe five years ago. I was driving in from Minnesota to meet some chums from my Penn days. Driving with layovers in places I could rest for a while. I wanted to see some more of the Country, especially West Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. Lee and Traveler, his faithful horse, their final resting place.
I rolled into Philly and checked in at the Marriott Hotel, downtown. I threw my one bag on the bed and proceeded to head to the place that I knew best, The Class of 1923 hockey rink. It would be a tricky place to drive to if you did not know how. I certainly did. Spent years there chasing or stopping pucks on that ice sheet, my class being the first one to spend all four there.
I pulled into a place that said no parking. I parked and proceeded to enter the down stair entrance. The cold smell that greeted me was the same smell I remembered 42 years previous. I like sameness in life when it is a producer of good remembrances. Here there were many. They certainly lathered over those that were less commemorative. I went to the Plexiglas and looked out. Ice arenas have a certain home quality to me. They represent a game I loved and provided a sanctuary for many years. ‘1923’ creamed to the top of a long list.
Joe came about and we fell into a chat. He was the arena manager. As we talked I could not help but be drawn to his Jersey nature. This and the curb appeal the rink demonstrated. The ‘old lady’ was looking fine, something I was not expecting. Fact was she was looking better than fine. And Joe was the reason.
I found out he had been directly involved at the old Spectrum in Philadelphia, where the Flyers displayed two Stanley Cup banners from the ceiling; Cups they had won while I was on campus at the University of Pennsylvania. He had come over a number of years later to Penn. Thankfully. He produced programs that continued the traditions of ice hockey at Penn while reaching out to Drexel University and several area clubs and high schools. He found a rhythm for ‘Her’ that had been lost when in a political game of kickball Div.1 hockey had been booted off campus. The ‘lady’ was turning a profit. This while the University kept a not so secrete desire to be rid of her and growing more grass. But Joe and many others would not let that happen. So with the drive that comes with dreams and hope, Joe demonstrated that ice hockey and skating still belonged on campus. And in West Philly.
You know how it is when someone sparks you. Joe entreated me to the atmosphere I remebered back when Penn was rocking the house and the Band was playing “The Red and the Blue:”
THE RED AND BLUE
Come all ye loyal classmates now
In hall and campus through,
Lift up your hearts and voices
For the Royal Red and Blue.
Fair Harvard has her crimson
Old Yale her colors too,
But for dear Pennsylvania
We wear the Red and Blue
Of course it was the chorus that we players chanted in hoarse voices while on those winning surges, when we felt we could beat anyone, especially B.U., which we did:
Hurrah, hurrah Pennsylvania!
Hurrah for the Red and the Blue!
Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah, hurrah,
Hurrah for the Red and Blue!
Joe was not there then, but he could have been…. He epitomized everything good about Penn hockey and more. He knew how skating and hockey would be lessons, experiences, and memories for any Penn connection. By its Rink, Penn could reach out to the greater community; colleges, universities, high schools, clubs, kids that just want to skate, etc., meeting an active desire to be part of the Philadelphia experience. Joe went to work and made it thrive beyond what was considered. He did it the Philly way; tough, tender, sharing and caring. He took over the helm, steered clear of the icebergs and took many on wonderful journeys.
I was back two years ago and had to have some time with Joe. He brought me up to his office and we shared stories and he caught me up on what was going on and some of his vision. I attended willfully his voice. He sparked me again to where and what the ‘1923’ was and would be. Then he surprised me. He went to a closet and pulled out a jacket, one of those parkas that are water proof and have an inside liner which allows you to wear one or both. On the heart side was the logo for Penn. I was…thankful. We shook hands and he once again told me where I could park my car for the weekend, a place that only he could park, and I headed down to see which mates had arrived. I remember thinking of the Highball song that we used to sing at the Football games for some reason. It seems to fit now in a fashion of deep respect.
Joe died at his desk, two days ago, at the rink, after moving porpane tanks, chucking garbage bags into the outside container and various other ‘jobs’ that he always was doing. After climbing the steps, he placed the folders down that he had brought with him. They were never opened. He was found a time later. As he would have opened the folders almost immediately to task the never ending scheduling of ice time, job hours and job needs, it is speculated he died almost instantaneously. I am living with that.
To Joe, you were special:
“Drink a Highball at nightfall
Be good fellows while you may
For tomorrow may bring sorrow
So tonight, lets all be Gay!
Tell the story of Glory
Drink a highball And be jolly
Here’s a toast to dear old Penn!”
Here is a sincere toast to Joe Crowthers, a friend to Penn, Penn hockey and to anyone who met him.
In sympathy and God’s grace and love