Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Thoughts on death - yeah, really

I'm behind on my entries but I've been struggling with how I should deal with this subject. I said earlier this year that I was going to address all the stuff going on in my life here. Talking about someone near to me dying wasn't on the agenda. Man plans, God laughs.

My uncle Nick died last week. He wasn't really my uncle, he was my godfather. I've called him uncle my entire life. After my dad died four years ago and my godmother died three years ago he and my mom became a couple. It was kind of weird but it was also kind of cool. He married my mom's oldest friend so they'd known each other for about 50 years. It was good for both of them.

I can't tell you that I was real close to Nick for most of my life. He lived in Arkansas and I lived in Pennsylvania. I probably only saw him a half dozen times in my life before he and my mom got together two plus years ago. One of them was when I was exactly one month old, at my baptism. In the last couple years I'd gotten to know him better and I'd come to like and respect him. In some ways he was just like my dad. In other ways they couldn't have been more different. My mom can be pretty orderly, Nick could be pretty free form. They were fun to watch together.

What sticks with me most is a ridiculous favorite line of his "I'm just a poor white Ukranian on a fixed income". It was after he passed away that I realized the really funny part of that line. Nick wasn't a wealthy guy in worldly terms. Yet there are few people I've known in this world who lived more richly. Even with some major medical problems he'd laugh and tell the most atrocious jokes and flirt with all the girls and dig into his pocket to slip me a little something when he thought I deserved it. He crocheted gorgeous blankets and just gave them away. He loved his children and his grandchildren. You were sure to hear the latest adventures of Rossie the youngest grandkid.

People keep asking me how I'm doing, and how my mother's doing. I guess we're doing OK. There's a part of me that hurts and I know there's nothing I can do about the pain. Instead of focussing on it I remember Nick as I've gotten to know him over the last couple years. I'll always treasure the Bible and Book of Common Prayer he and aunt Janet got me for baptism and confirmation. And there'll always be a special place in my heart for that "poor white Ukranian" that blew into my life and then suddenly disappeared.

I miss you Nick. And I love you.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Just some random thoughts

I'm trying desperately to get ready for two solid weeks of camp coming up. So naturally I have an uncontrollable desire to write something for my blog. Jimmy Buffett is jamming away in the background (Barometer Soup CD) and my brain feels like it's going to explode.

So here are some of the things that are on my mind:

Story in the Buffalo News today about an area soccer team made up of Yemeni-Americans. A youth team made up of kids born here in the States. They're being taunted and threatened, called terrorist and told to go back where they came from. How many times in American history do we have to live through this idiocy? How many of the youth and adults spreading this abuse are descendants of folks who lived through it when they arrived in this country? This is a national tradition that needs to end, now. It has no place in the 21st Century. Yes there were some Yemeni Americans from this town who were convicted for their association with Al Qaeda. Shall we return to the days when all Italians were painted with the brush of a Capone or Lucchese? (as only a single example)

As someone who is a small part American Indian may I remind you that you're all damn foreigners.

I'll probably explore this in more depth later but I remain puzzled by the "WHY" of body peircings and tattoos. I've asked a lot of folks who gotten a piercing or two (I'm talking about beyond an ear piercing or two) or tattoos. Allowing that folks who go whole hog (dozens of piercings or large portions of their bodies tattooed) are a different category (Are they?) I ask folks the simple question - Why? And the most common response is some variation on "I don't know".
For the record let me state that I'm terminally boring. Other than length I've had the same haircut since I was in 5th grade. I can't stand having ink on my fingers or hands so the concept of getting permanently added to my body is incomprehensible to me. And as for punching holes in my body......fuggehdibowdit. For most of life I wore a single piece of jewelry, a small silver disk with my initials on it on a silver chain. A gift from my wife. Today I've gone whole hog, I wear a gold wedding band on my left hand and an heirloom ring (which is actually steel I believe) on my right. I'm about as far from metrosexual as you can get. The best reasons I can think of for doing this to yourself (or a variety of other things) are pretty sure to tick off a lot of people. So I'm keeping my thoughts to myself. At least for the moment.

(JB just ended so I had to pop in a group called Cartoon from State College PA. Friend gave me the CD and I've made it one of my faves for years)

On a completely unrelated topic I've been thinking about what appears to the fundamental selfishness of our culture. It's amazing how much of what I see in advertising, music, pop culture is based on the concept of me, me, ME! Even more frightening is how much I see of the same idea creeping into the faith community. People who have no interest in the others in their faith community except as backdrop to their personal worship life. The list goes on. It's a destructive concept inside any culture because we can't live without one another. Try it, you can only use what you create yourself. So electricity (and everything that runs on it) is out, so are roads, any manufactured or produced product. You're left naked out in the middle of the woods somewhere. Not an attractive prospect for most of us. I'm worried about the growth of IM -ing and even blogging. Because while we may want to believe that this offers us "relationship" it's an essentially selfish relationship. Because we can turn it off any time we want, we can ban certain people so they can't even reach us.
There's a whole lot more to this concept than I have time for today. I still have all this work waiting for me.

Something else I'll want to dive into sometime in the future is the question of where faith and religion collide. But later. Maybe much later.

Meanwhile the music plays, and my thoughts wander...