Monday, July 30, 2007


It's strange that there he sat in my kitchen chair with glasses, with a gentle air, with a giggle or two when the banjo clucked like a pained chicken. He gripped his guitar during his solos, attacking the new runs, participating in a singular joy of musical expression. He, in fact, was a professional trombonist, but his lungs refused to answer to the mouthpiece after awhile. I never heard him play, but he used to for a local group, going into bars perhaps, perhaps inhaling the smoke of others, never from a habit of his own.

All I knew of him was that he liked jazz, the Em chord, his friend James; he had a sweet wife; he sat unknown in front of me in church for a couple of years; he showed up at the same bluegrass class; then, he made a way into my kitchen on Tuesday afternoons. The cancer was already there, they say. Yet he seemed quite healthy five weeks ago as we played at his family reunion. Three weeks ago, he occupied his normal spot at our practice. Yesterday, he died; the lungs refusing any more breathful musical progressions whatsoever.

The last time, he came over, I tried out a new song learned from a Laurie Lewis c.d. called "When I Get Home"; it's a peppy tune which talks about going to heaven, finally being satisfied, about making music with a million angels, "gonna play me a harp of gold that's just like David's", etc. John heard it and smiled and commented that he really liked it.

I hope heaven is not a myth. I hope it has harps and mimosa-flower-smells and God's crushing love and reunion. I hope John is basking in its music right now, upheld, reunited, regarded as chosen, swaying, tapping, sliding his trombone once more, smiling.

I must trust that John is there. I must be thankful that for awhile, my kitchen reflected a small bit of its grace and light and welcome to him.

Thank you, God, for John's life here on earth.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Unwinding from the sounds at Queen City. Hearing the ring&roll of the fivestring. Hearing the doodle, doodle doo doo of the small one. Hearing the dadadadadda from the soundboard. Hearing the harmonies, clinging to one another and then rolling in the hay and back up again to do the work. A bluegrass festival. Rhonda Vincent took our money at the gate, and then she entertained us on the stage. Wonderful. Smooth. Enviable. Enjoyable. Missouri bluegrass girl making it big now.
My friend and her friend and I sat and swayed and talked, clapped and laughed and made plans for our own groups. It was super. Bluegrass is an amazing art form.


Monday, July 02, 2007


As my class was leading "Panther Boy" from the alumni banquet stage this weekend, I saw my tall, strong dad in his striped polo and Levi's, at his '57 table, pointing me out to one of his fifty-years-ago sidekicks. His dimples were flashing as customary, eyes a-glinting. My sweet little mother with her natural brown hair by his side. He was indicating, later I learned "the prettiest one up there" said as a funny, but meant pridefully. And, as I see him now, the past, present, and future meld together, making me realize that I was granted that opportune glimpse.

And perhaps now I'll always see him pointing, waving back at me when I did so to egg him on, to aid him in his offspring identification. When he's no longer here, perhaps we'll still be waving, pridefully, gleefully, to signal our enduring, immortal blessed connection.

I'm counting on it.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


Walking into the airport VFW Hall ushered me into a confrontation with age: faces appeared from all over to the country to reconvene again as alumni celebrating a 25 year high school class reunion. These faces were lined, fuller, interesting, inquisitive.
We stared searching for evaporated years, inquiring, collapsing the time from our joint starting gate to the present. How many children? What are you doing now? Where are you living?
I stared at my best friends from basketball, student council, band, church. Why didn't we stay in touch? I silently ask. Why did I go through a tough spell quite alone? What happened during those years to me? What have you suffered too? What have you celebrated? When will you disappear again? It was wonderful to hug them and remember, yet it made me somewhat tired and melancholy.
We arise in our different plots, set apart now, once blooming and fading together, now in another perennial bed. Rising, blooming, and falling around other forms. It's as it should be, yet the loss hits me somewhat because those friends were the early safe giggling smart loved ones. We tripped and skipped and laughed together as small town youth. We have many solid memories of equal superficiality and depth.
When I saw their faces this weekend, they were the same, but we had traveled far apart, keeping with us the memories, but inevitably replacing each other. I know that's the way the world works, but I'm sentimental and feel loss.
Yet, I have pictures of us in the year 2007 arm-in-arm. Still holding on. Still moving forward. Still planted together by virtue of the gazebo-ed Square, the long maroon building, the choices of our parents and God to plunk us in that soil, that grouping, that cycle. That infamous class of 1982.
It's the strangest thing to think about: those who are granted to be our side compansions. It never ceases to amaze me regarding its purpose.
May my old friends be blessed and safe until we meet again.