Thursday, December 17, 2015
All of This Really Happened
has come now to a different sort of music.
Mary Oliver, from Heart Poem (2009)
The night before Dad’s sudden, unexpected death, I caught him watching women’s college basketball on his desktop computer while Lindsay and Mom persevered through some Sherlock Holmes movie about as exciting as a routine pop up. It wasn’t just women’s basketball, though. It was undefeated, #7 ranked Oregon State women’s basketball. This past week, I’ve found myself consistently coming across quirky stuff that Dad would love: about David Letterman’s new Charles Darwin beard or the Brits winning the Davis Cup or the end of that lousy Lions-Packers game. I’ve impulsively wanted to email the link to him. Then I realize he’s no longer here.
My spiritual director, Dianne, an elderly African-American woman who has lived in Detroit her entire life, told me that when her husband died, she had similar feelings. Then, she realized that, if her faith meant anything, it must mean that he was still here, somehow some way. She decided to write him long letters. The look in her soft, confident eyes made it clear that she decisively knew he read them. Heck, if dad can still read I’ll shoot him emails. I’m sure the replies will come mysteriously.
On our first day back in Detroit, a week after Dad’s memorial service, Matthew, the Manna Meal soup kitchen guest from Modesto, told me that he’s convinced that I’m the type of guy who belongs in a nudist colony. I wasn’t really sure what he meant, but I felt the love because he proclaimed it with a big smile, nodding massive approval. He lives on the side of the church, 20 yards from Michigan Avenue.
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock on the drive out West and would perform it on the street for tourists to earn some income. I believe her story because she recited it from memory around the bonfire at the church retreat two months ago. To close the service, Sami danced with a tambourine as gospel legend Ange Smith belted out “Wade in the Water."
On Monday, Deborah called up. She needed water. She’s lived in the same house on the eastside since she was 1. Now she’s 60. She’s got a college degree, but can’t find a job anywhere. That’s a major problem when water rates have escalated, her pipes leak and her property tax bill adds up to a couple thousand dollars each year. She spends much of her time volunteering at the soup kitchen a few blocks away.
Then, we delivered to Tonja, whose average monthly water bill is $120 and she owes $1400 to the water department. In the past year, the water department enrolled her in a payment plan, but she can’t keep up. When she was telling me her story, we had to step inside her house because a stray pit bull was roaming the neighborhood.
We are organizing a faith-based Keep The Water Flowing Sunday, encouraging local congregations to donate all their bottled water to the cause. Pray for the water to come flowing in again, and better yet, for the mayor and city council to change their minds (“repent”) and implement the water affordability plan passed by city council in 2005—to turn the taps back on. While you’re at it, pray for a white Christmas and another win for the Oregon State women’s basketball team.
Happy Birthday, Dad (December 17, 1941--November 17, 2015).