Thursday, October 30, 2008

Out of the Mouths of Babes in the Woods

The Tree Hugger and I just got back from a long weekend at our cabin in Knox County, Ohio. Our daughter, son-in-law, and 6-year-old grandson were also there.

One afternoon Phil and Andrew, our grandson, were returning from a walk to the river. Violet, Andrew's dog, ran ahead, disappearing into the tall weeds. Seeing the weeds waving back and forth, Phil said, "That might be a wild animal! Maybe even a tiger!"

"No," replied Andrew, "that's only Violet."

Phil asked, "Are you sure? Does Violet have orange and black stripes?"

"Does a tiger wear 'bells'?" retorted Andrew, referring to Violet's tags.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An Unsubmissive Cat

My inspiration for this cat-tale comes from a favorite blog, "Ruth's Visions and Revisions". Ruth wrote about her schnoodle's allowing her to clean his ears, even though he hates, hates, HATES it.

After Phil's dad died in 1983, we inherited Orville and Reuben, two of Dad's 56 cats. Orville, reclusive and shy, looked exactly like a Kliban cat and spent his days impersonating a meatloaf. Reuben was all charm, although he was only slightly better looking than Bloom County's "Bill the Cat."

Came a day when Reuben needed an antibiotic. We were new at this. We filled the dropper with bright pink medicine. I took Reuben tenderly in my arms and Phil dosed him. Wow, so easy! The next time, Reuben fled through the cat door as soon as he saw the bottle. Fortunately, he forgot the reason for his flight. He ran around the side of the house and appeared a moment or two later at the back door. We welcomed him in and shot the pink stuff into his snaggle-toothed mouth. After that, he turned into a vicious clawing machine. Did I mention that he was a polydactyl, with paws like catcher's mitts, and lethal claws on all those extra toes? We now had to close off all means of escape and take him by stealth. He would attempt his getaway as soon as he saw doors being closed.

We made Reuben finish his medicine. After all, when it comes to dealing with a headstrong cat, you must be a Man, not a Mouse! Reuben was a healthy cat who lived until age 15. I don't remember ever having to medicate him again, which was probably a good thing.

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

First Lesson. Exodus 33: (Moses said to the Lord), (. . . " yet You have said, 'I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.' Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider also that this nation is your people."

Psalm 99: The Lord is King; let the people tremble; he is enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth shake. The Lord is great in Zion; he is high above all peoples.

Second Lesson. 1 Thessalonians 1: For the people of those regions (Macedonia and Achaia, among others) report about us what kind of welcome we (Paul, Sylcanus, and TImothy) had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead--Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

Gospel. Matthew 22: Then (Jesus) said to (the Pharisees), "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emporer's, and to God the things that are God's."

From the Prayers of the People: We pray for the welfare of the world. Help us to remember our brothers and sisters who live on less than one dollar a day; the thousands of children who die every month from malaria, HIV/AIDS and other diseases, those who die needlessly for lack of good medical facilities. We remember before you those who are homeless or hungry in our community. Help us to treat them the way your Son Jesus would treat them, without enabling them, but with dignity.

From the sermon: When you and I . . . claim that place of being God’s beloved, we say that we belong to God. Not 5% of me. Not 10% of me. Not even 50% of me. 100% of me belongs to God. All of me. All of you. When we know who we are and Whose we are, we will live out of a deep place of love, grace and abundance. So today, I invite you to remember that you are an icon of the God who created you, who loves you, who sustains you all the days of your life. Today, begin to claim your identity as God’s beloved. And then act like it.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Foggy Day

Mom seems more confused and anxious than ever. Barbara, her former neighbor, who will stay here this weekend while we're away, says that Mom has asked her to drive her to Pittsburgh, "where my lawyers are." Mom has just one lawyer, and she is in Meadville.

I listened to Mom for a long time yesterday, trying to allay her worries. Mom is afraid that when she loses her sight completely, she will have to move to Wesbury, a continuous-care facility in Meadville. She plans to call Peg, a volunteer she knows from Wesbury, to find out what Wesbury is like now, but, oh dear, maybe Peg no longer volunteers there. (Mom volunteered at Wesbury for over 20 years.)

She thinks she must put "this house" on the market, but feels overwhelmed by the task. She wishes that her brother, Cliff, were still alive, because "Cliff always took care of these things for me." (He may have given occasional advice, but Mom competently managed her own affairs for more than 20 years of widowhood.)

She lives with us, in her own little suite of rooms, and yet she says, "I don't have a home of my own anymore." None of this makes sense, of course. Although I assured her that she will live in our house for the rest of her days, I am not sure that she believes or trusts the messenger. I am not a "blood relative." I'm just a step-daughter.

Friday, October 17, 2008

October Song

Two nights ago we got a phone call from George's son in Britt, Ontario. He told us that his 93-year-old father had just passed away. Another one gone from Mom's old gang. My dad's best friend, Warren, once had a cabin on a tiny island on Georgian Bay where he went bass fishing each summer. George operated the marina in Britt, where Warren kept his boat. I have photos of both Mom and Papa proudly displaying plump, glistening bass.

All day yesterday, before Mom's shampoo appointment, I dreaded telling her. She and George had corresponded during the past year or so, after I found George's home address by sending a letter to the marina. George printed all but his most recent notes by hand. Two weeks ago, his daughter penned a note for him from the hospital, where he had just had a couple of toes removed. He seemed to be his usual cheerful, chatty self otherwise.

When I finally told Mom, it turns out she already knew! She said, and this seems remarkable to me, "When he wrote about his toes, I knew he didn't have long."

Why remarkable? Because all day long she had been in a densest of fogs. "Mom, have you been drinking your water?"

"Maybe not so much."

"How did you find out about George?"

"Because two men were in my room talking when the phone rang, and one of them told me." (They would have both been Phil.) "Where are we going again today?"

"To get your hair washed."

"What day is it again?"


At a stoplight on the way to the beauty salon:

"What state are we in?"

"What do you mean?"

"Here! Where are we now? What state?"


She looked at me in disbelief. "Maryland!? How did we get here?"

"You moved here from Meadville nine years ago."

"What happened to the house?"

"The one in Meadville?"

"Yes, my house on Maple Lane."

"You sold it."

"Why did I sell it?"

"You said it had gotten too big for you."

Long silence. Then:

"After we moved to Maryland, where did we live at first?"

"In the house we're in now. That's the only place you've lived since you moved down here."

We arrived at the salon, which is in the owner's Victorian house.

"I'll just leave my cane in the car."

"No, Mom. Remember that high step from the sidewalk to the porch?"

She tottered along, cane and purse in one hand with me steering her by her other arm. We passed under a trellis, where she steadied herself by grabbing the climbing rose bush. "Ow!"

Samantha and Peggy were waiting. She no longer says, crossly, "Those girls don't know how to do my hair!" She enjoys her visit. The "girls" make a fuss over her. Samantha warms the vial of "hot oil treatment" Mom brings with her and shampoos her long silver hair. Peggy lovingly dries it and rolls it up in a bun. They hug her when we leave.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Y2K Catfood

Recently I read about the role that Y2K played in the current economic crisis. Apparently, the Fed was afraid that Y2K could lock up the markets, so they injected extra liquidity into the system to prevent chaos in case all the computers in the country went kablooey when the millennium arrived. Turns out that nothing much happened when the calendar flipped over except the usual hangovers, but the extra liquidity remained in the money supply, helping to inflate the speculative bubble that finally burst nearly 10 years later.

Y2K weighed on Mom's mind that hot summer's day in 1999 when I drove her and Sadie, her cat, from Meadville to their new home with us in Maryland. In addition to a caged cat on tranquilizers, the car was carrying at least five table lamps ("I won't know which one I want until I try them out. You can find places in your house for the ones I can't use.") and four dozen cans of Fancy Feast.

A few days after Mom settled in, we went to the supermarket. Mom stocked up on groceries, including another four dozen cans of cat food. "Mom," I said, "You already brought 4 dozen cans with you from Meadville. Why are you buying more?"

"Oh, that other is my supply of Y2K catfood."

"Y2K catfood?"

"Yes, when New Year's comes and everything shuts down, people will understand what's happening, but animals won't. How will I explain to my poor cat that the cat food factory has shut down?"

Feast of Saint Francis: 21st Sunday after Pentecost

First lesson. Genesis 1: God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every land. And God saw that it was good.

Psalm 148: Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea-monsters and all deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling His command!

From the liturgy, before the Blessing of the Animals:

And now, O Lord, we name before you this day those creatures of your making who have returned to you, but who are lost to us now in death--those whom we name before you now, either aloud or in the silence of our hearts. We thank you for the time they shared and enriched our lives, and we entrust them back into the arms of your everlasting love, through our Saviour Jesus CHrist, in whom all that is lost in death is restored to life and in whose Name we pray.

From the sermon: Saint Francis said, "Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words."

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Serpents of the Lord

Tomorrow we will have the Blessing of the Animals at our church. I think we'd better leave the pitbull at home. Years ago, we took Arlo, our beagle, to the Blessing. In his excitement, he lifted his leg on our daughter's shoe. Meanwhile, my husband, the Tree Hugger, found something in the service bulletin that delighted him.

"Wow, this is great!" he exclaimed. "I never thought I'd come to church and see something like this!"

"Like what?"

"It says, 'Rejoice, you serpents of the Lord.' I just love that!"

"Phil," I said, "That's servants, not serpents."

"Oh," he said, clearly disappointed.

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

First Lesson. Exodus 17: But the (Israelites) thirsted (in the wilderness) for water; and the people complained to Moses and said, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?"

Psalm 78: (The Lord) split hard rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink as from the great deep.

Second Lesson. Philippians 2: Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.

Gospel. Matthew 21. Truly I (Jesus) tell you (chief priests and elders), the tax collectors and the prostitutes are dong into the kingdom of God ahead of you.

From the sermon: The way of the cross is narrow. The traffic on that road will never be heavy. Humility can look suspiciously like a codependent doormat. Servanthood can look suspiciously like a disingenuous political move. Christian unity may look good in idealistic theory. But in reality, Christian unity is not very neat or tidy. So how can we possibly work out what Paul calls “salvation with fear and trembling” when it looks impossible? We can’t really—at least not all by ourselves. We must depend upon divine help, praying that God will guide us, step by step, day by day, along that narrow road to the cross.

Favorite words from the Great Thanksgiving: At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Stalled Stallion Makes Beeline for Stable

Thirty-five years ago, the family was visiting Phil's parents, who had retired to their non-working "farm" in Knox County, Ohio. Our daughters, then about 9 and 6, went horseback riding with their dad. I dropped them off at the riding stable and went shopping, being spectacularly allergic to horses. They were still on the trail when I returned to pick them up. The teen-aged stable girl said, accusingly, as if this had to be the rider's fault, "Loser's back!"

"What do you mean, he's back?"

"He came back! Loser came back! Your daughter must have gotten off during the ride." I had a sudden vision of her FALLING off.

Then our older daughter appeared, on foot. No broken bones. This small denizen of the Washington, DC suburbs explained, "He stopped to eat leaves and when I tried to make him go, he turned around and tried to bite my foot!"

He sounded like a pretty wild horse for a young, inexperienced rider. "For heaven's sake, why'd you put her on Loser in the first place?"

The girl shot me a look of disgust. "His name is LUTHER!" she informed me.