Category Archives: Rave

In which Arthur and Benedict bring me JOY!

As some of you know, my mother died last August, three days after my 60th birthday. She’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years before she died, and I suspect she’d had it for even more years before the diagnosis.

I stopped sleeping well about two or three years ago – waking up at night worrying about my mother and feeling guilty that I was not helping out more. After her death, the feelings of guilt stopped, but other worries took their place, so I continued to wake up at night worrying about this or that – work, the election, and other things I don’t want to discuss here.

Whether or not it was the general feeling of anxiety, grief over my mom’s health and death, or a by-product of not sleeping, I must have been in a state of situational depression for some time. Not that I always felt unhappy – but I never felt completely happy and some things that used to interest me didn’t interest me anymore – birds, reading, cooking…

I’d vowed to get back into reading – especially books that interested me. Most of the books we’d read for book group were fine, but only a few really caught my attention and made me want to stay up reading them all night. Two of those books were about men of my general age who for different reasons discovered new things about themselves in the course of the books. One book was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and the other was A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

Cover of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper. A man sitting on a sofaAmazon recommends books based on books you buy and in March a book called The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick was recommended and was on sale for $1.99 so I purchased it. It looked like something I would like, but I didn’t start reading it until last week. I liked it immediately and early in the morning on July 11th I was halfway finished with the book. Sitting on our back porch, I put the book down, took a sip of coffee, looked out through the screen at the bird-filled backyard and I felt something I’d not felt in a very long time. I felt JOY! All Caps with an exclamation point and bold font JOY!

It took me by such surprise and I realized that I could not even remember the last time I felt pure JOY! that I began crying. I cried because there were so many times over the past few years that I should have felt this way – when I saw my daughter after a long absence; when my brother married the love of his life; when my son graduated from Oberlin. I cried because I’d wasted so much time on being angry or resentful or guilty or scared or despairing.

Then I wondered where the feeling came from. Coffee? No, I drank it every day. Sitting on the back porch? No, I did that every day too. Hearing birdsong and watching birds? No, again, that was a daily event. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper? Bingo, it was Arthur Pepper’s search for who his wife was before they met that did the trick, I am sure of it. In fact, I’ve been on a similar search – I’ve been going through items I brought back from my mother’s house and trying to find meaning in them. Why did Mom have them? Where did they come from? Who had them before she did? I think I suddenly realized that even though I’d lost my mother in August (really, years before that) I’d not lost the memories of her and could make more memories because of the items from her house. I mean, I have not even got to the letters and have only touched upon the photographs.

Cover of Rise & Shine Benedict StoneSince that epiphanous Tuesday, I’ve been able to sleep through the night (with a slight hiccup this week because of a work issue) and have been able to deal better with things that would have made me angry, resentful, or despairing before that Tuesday. Maybe I am done with the grief – the grief that I told everyone, including myself, I didn’t feel.

This morning as I sat on the back porch drinking coffee, watching the birds, listening to bird chatter I once again felt JOY! This time, the book I’d just put down was Rise and Shine Benedict Stone, Phaedra Patrick’s second book. Coincidently, I am halfway through it.

So this is not a book review but a too-long, twisty-turny open thank-you letter to Phaedra Patrick who I hope continues to write charming, witty, life-changing novels. And no, I don’t believe we are related but it would be cool if we were.

RAS 5: Come Along with Me — Shirley Jackson

Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and purchase a copy of Shirley Jackson’s posthumously published short story collection Come Along With Me. If you have read anything by Shirley Jackson before, you know this has got to be good. If you have never read anything by Shirley Jackson, what are you waiting for?

I, like most of the world, was introduced to Shirley Jackson through reading her short story, The Lottery, in high school. It wasn’t until years later when I picked up her books about raising her children that I realized what a wonderful writer she was. After reading Raising Demons and Life Among the Savages I moved on to We Have Always Lived in the Castle and fell madly in love.

Come Along with Me is the name of her incomplete novel which is about a woman who escapes from her past reinvents herself.

The rest of the book has something for everyone: Humor (Pajama Party and The Night we all had Grippe); Mystery (A Visit and The Bus); Suspense (The Little House); Drama (The Summer People and The Rock); and Non-fiction (Three Lectures: Experience and Fiction, Biography of a Story, and Notes for a Young Writer).

At some point, I must make time to read all her novels. Maybe after this Read-a-Shelf thing is over.

Statistics: Stats: 243 pages (paperback). Started October 2016, finished May 23, 2017.

Pastor Keith does it again

Nearly 6 years ago I wrote a post about how Pastor Keith helped us through our father’s death and I shared the amazing sermon he gave at my father’s funeral. I’m here now to let you know that he did it again, this time at my mother’s memorial service. We were not entirely sure this would be possible because Pastor Keith moved from my mother’s church to a different church, but since Mom was so fond of Pastor Keith and she’d never met the interim pastor at her church until she was on hospice care, Kevin and I (mostly Kevin) made sure Pastor Keith was able to be involved.

A few days before the memorial service Pastor Keith called to get some ideas for the sermon. We talked about mom’s qualities, about her illness, about her friends, about Kevin’s upcoming wedding. I also shared with Pastor Keith the dream I had the night my mother died.

Without further comment, here’s his sermon:

Funeral Sermon for Patricia Ann Patrick (February 16, 1936–August 26, 2016)
Texts: John 14:1–4 and Romans 8:18–21
Preached: September 9, 2016 at Moss-Norris Funeral Home, St. Charles, Illinois

Grace and peace to you from God our Father, in whose house are many, many rooms, and from Christ Jesus, who has gone to prepare a place for us. AMEN

I’m grateful to Pat Patrick’s family, and to Pr. Michael Rothaar, for inviting me to participate in this service for Pat Patrick this evening. I was Pat’s pastor for five years, and she holds a special place in my heart. Pat was the only parishioner I’ve had, and I suspect will be the only parishioner I ever will have, who invariably as she was leaving worship on a Sunday morning would bow her head in front of me as she was leaving the service and… would kiss my ring. I don’t know for sure how that started, but she did it week in and week out. Someone a couple of years ago noticed her doing this, and privately afterwards said, “Pastor, do you think that’s a sign of the Alzheimer’s?” And I had to laugh and say, “No, no, not at all, she was doing that long before that became an issue! That’s just Pat.” And even after her mind became clouded, she never failed to kiss my ring, and then would smile sweetly and somewhat slyly at me. There was a delightful, childlike quality about her, an almost pixie-like quality, that enabled her to look at the world with wonder, and to laugh that infectious laugh, and to get away with some slightly goofy behaviors that only she could get away with. You can see that delight in the photos of her as a young woman—still a girl, really—as she looks up adoringly at Elvin as he embraces her. Even when she went through trying times across the years, through difficulties and challenges and losses, she still kept that air of eagerness, that spirit of amazed wonderment.

Earlier this week, Pat’s daughter Dona shared with me an experience she had the night of Pat’s death that I think in some way captures that quality. Dona had finally gone to bed that night, sleeping near Pat’s bed, knowing that the end of this life was not far off. As she slept, Dona began to dream. And in her dream, she saw Pat get up out of bed, all dressed in white. There were windows all around. It wasn’t Kevin’s house, but some other place. And in the dream, Pat kept heading toward the windows, drawn like a moth to a flame. She would get up close to a window, and would stand with her hands behind her back like a child who has been told not to touch something very precious, standing up on her tiptoes, straining delightedly, expectantly to see what there was on the other side of the glass, as though there were something of great beauty and fascination to be seen that she couldn’t quite make out. She went from window to window, trying to get a clearer view. Others in the dream kept coming and trying to tug Pat back to her bed, but she couldn’t be held back…she kept going back to the window to stand on tiptoes. Finally, someone took hold of her and pushed her into Dona’s arms, but not even that could keep her from the irresistible attraction of the sight she was straining to see. And suddenly, she broke free from Dona’s grasp, and instantly was transformed into sparkles of light. And at that moment, Dona awoke, and Kevin told her that their mom was gone.

When I heard that account, I was immediately reminded of some verses of scripture, actually verses that come just before the very same passage that Pr. Rothaar read a few moments ago from the Letter to the Romans. This letter was written by the Apostle Paul to people who were going through profoundly difficult struggles in their lives, people who were being persecuted and even killed, people who needed to hear a word of hope and encouragement, people who were unsure about what might lie in store for them. And in the verses that we heard, there is that stirring affirmation that not even death itself, not even life itself, can hold us back from the love that God shows to us in Christ Jesus. Those are amazing words to hear. We can have confidence in them. But now I want you to hear what Paul had to say just before those words. These verses come from another translation that I think captures something very important, and it’s why what Dona had to say caught my attention. Listen to them:

18-21 In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the children of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited—yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God! (Romans 8:18–21, J.B. Phillips Version)

“The whole creation is on tiptoe…” Most translations give a very dry, “The creation waits with eager longing,” but the original Greek word there is actually very picturesque, describing the whole head being stretched forward, trying to see something wonderful that is about to come. And that is what I pictured when I heard Dona describe her mother in that dream, darting from window to window, standing on tiptoe, hands behind her back, craning to peek into those rooms Christ has prepared to see the wonderful sight of the future God has planned for her and for us. As the children of God, we need have no fear of death, because we have the incredible assurance that death is not the end, that there is resurrection life that will be even more wonderful than anything we’ve experienced so far, when “the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!” We can approach even our own mortality with expectancy and hope.

Now I can’t tell you exactly what lies just the other side of the glass. Scripture says that right now we see only in a darkened, obscure way, only catching a pale reflection of the glory that will be. But Jesus often gives us word pictures of what God’s fully realized reign will look like, as did the prophets before him, and one of my favorite images is of a wedding banquet, a great feast where there is joy and laughter, where there is plenty for all, where the wine flows freely and the food is abundant, where all those who have struggled, all those who have experienced sorrow and crying, all those who have suffered in body or mind, will be brought in as welcome guests to enjoy the fullness that God has intended for each of us from the very beginning of creation, brought to sit at the banqueting table in their rightful places as beloved children and heirs of God.

I couldn’t help thinking of that picture on this evening, knowing that tomorrow Kevin and Connie, along with some of the same folks gathered in this room tonight to mourn, will be feasting and dancing as they celebrate their marriage to one another at their own wedding banquet. Yes, it’s a contrast, but I think it’s a beautiful expression of a very deep truth: Even in our profoundest sorrow, we can stand on tiptoe, eagerly awaiting joy. And as I picture Pat standing at the window, up on her tiptoes, I think maybe what she was glimpsing was that great marriage feast that will have no end, where she will join with all those claimed by God as God’s own beloved children, completely restored in body, completely restored in mind, sorrows forgotten, tears dried, and infectious laughter ringing out in wondering delight at the magnificent gift of life and freedom that is hers as a daughter of God claimed by Christ Jesus in baptism. And I picture her bowing her head and kissing in gratitude the hand of the one who has invited her to the feast, then looking up and smiling that sweet smile. And that, sisters and brothers, is very, very Good News. Thanks be to God. AMEN

The Return of the Peripatetic Son

Andrew graduated in May, spent a few days with us then went off on his post-graduation summer travels. First he went to Colorado with a couple friends by way of a circuitous route and flew back to Maryland about a week later. Not long after that he flew to Seattle with his bike and very few other possessions to embark on a 1300 or so mile solo cycling trip to San Diego.

We heard from him weekly along the way (a predetermined compromise from several times a week) about how his trip was going. He spent a few days with friends in Seattle, then took the long way to Olympia to visit Clare. He tried to cycle to Portland, but was picked up along the way by Clare and friends. He spent more time in Portland (but didn’t participate in the Naked Bike Ride even though he thought about it.)

The next time we heard from him he was in Newport, Oregon setting up his campsite. He told us he was living on rice and beans cooked over a small cooker and it was getting old.

11717422_4434734826193_956547921161502244_oWe heard from him again when he was in San Francisco where he was able to meet up with some of Dean’s cousins. He stayed a day or so with Joanne, one of Dean’s cousins.

Andrew and I had a nice conversation when he was somewhere in the middle of California. He lamented that his trip was more than half over but was really happy he was doing it.

It seemed like more than a week, but we finally heard (though Tal) that Andrew was on his way to Santa Barbara where he was going to spend some time with our friend Tal. When he got to Santa Barbara Tal set up a Skype chat. Andrew, Tal and I talked for half an hour or so. Tal knew I was anxious to see how Andrew was doing and I am forever grateful to him for that gift.

11224305_10153139103781523_278894187786000153_nAfter that I saw some Facebook posts from a friend of Clare’s showing Andrew in Topanga having fun with some dogs and swinging on a rope. He called us sometime around then and said he’d stayed with Dean’s Uncle Ed and Aunt Fran in Pasadena one night.

We talked to Andrew a couple of times in the last couple of weeks. Once when he was in Baja California and again on Sunday when he called me from New Orleans for my birthday. Again he repeated that the trip was a great one in which he learned things about himself, was able to reflect on his life and he met some great people along the way.

Andrew comes home tomorrow morning. Home meaning the home in which he spent most of his life so far, but I know that before long he will have a new “home”. None of us know what is going to happen in the future. All I hope for is that Andrew be happy in whatever he does next.

I am so proud of both Andrew and Clare. They have both turned out to be amazing adults. I cannot wait to see what happens next.

 

Frankly…the best pizza I’ve ever tasted!

We try to go out for dinner once a week or so. Sometimes more often, sometimes less often. Last night was our planned night out and Dean suggested a new restaurant he’d read about in the Washington Post. A restaurant in Kensington. We rarely go to Kensington for dinner — in fact the only restaurant in that area we’ve eaten at is one of Black’s eateries: Black Market Bistro.

Dean warned me that the restaurant he’d read about served only pizza. That was fine, I like pizza. We could not find the restaurant right away, so drove around a bit found parking (free!! — Kensington is NOT Bethesda) and followed Dean’s iPhone directions to the restaurant. We’d driven right past it but didn’t see Frankly…Pizza! on the awning until we were a few yards away. We walked past about 8 tables of patrons enjoying the warm spring evening, eating pizza outside, under the awning, and headed indoors to be seated. We would have preferred to eat outdoors, but got a nice table inside the eclectically decorated, but pizza themed, restaurant. At first it seemed very loud, but either we got used to it or the noise quickly died down.

Our waiter was energetic and friendly and suggested we choose a pizza each. Dean wavered between a clam pizza or a sausage pizza, settling on the sausage pizza. I chose the clam. They also served house made sodas, wine and beer on tap. I chose a NZ sauvignon blanc and Dean chose an IPA. Dean ordered an arugula salad, which was delicious, but I was keeping my appetite for my pizza.

My pizza was delicious. I think it is the best pizza I have ever eaten. The crust was perfect — thinish but puffed up at the edges — and wonderfully chewy. The toppings, mozzarella Romano, garlic and olive oil were amazing. Together the crust and toppings were heavenly. Dean’s pizza tasted more like a regular pizza. Good, but not as good as mine.

I can’t wait to go back to Frankly…Pizza. I will definitely take my daughter who thinks the only restaurant that can make a decent white pizza is Pines of Rome. She is so wrong.

Donna’s Diner

Elyria

Occasionally my husband obsesses about one thing or another, usually involving food. Not really in a bad way — just in a slightly annoying way. Once it was about eating at a supper club near Minocqua called Wisconsonaire. Whenever we’d pass it he’d say, “Wisconsonaire.” We eventually ate there and he decided it was not what he’d hoped and now has a slight distaste for “Supper Clubs”. Another of his obsessions was a restaurant we used to pass by when we drove to a couple of wrestling meets to watch our son wrestle. It was a huge lodge-type place in Rockville that he’d eaten at once before and thought I’d enjoy it. He was right about that one. We’ve been to Clyde’s Tower Oaks Lodge a few times and plan to go back again. His latest obsession turned out to be the best: Donna’s Diner in Elyria, Ohio.

When we were discussing when we should leave Bethesda for Oberlin, Ohio to visit our son for Family Weekend, Dean thought we should time it so we could eat lunch at Donna’s Diner. I asked him what Donna’s Diner was and he said he read about it in the NY Times. I thought he’d seen an ad or review for it and that it must be special if a newspaper in New York mentioned a restaurant in Ohio. I did look up Donna’s Diner, and found a Website for one that looked like fun, but then saw that it was in Pennsylvania.

When I searched for “Donna’s Diner” and “Ohio” and “NY Times” I found an article about a down-on-its-heels town and a diner that looked less fun than the one in Pennsylvania. I didn’t have time to read the article, but put it on my to-do list.

Dean and Andrew outside Donna's Diner
Dean and Andrew outside Donna’s Diner

We didn’t eat lunch at Donna’s Diner on the way to see Andrew, but did drive through Elyria, Ohio — the subject of the NY Times article — and saw where Donna’s Diner was located. We considered eating dinner there, but were not sure it was open for dinner. What struck me, however, was the fact that they offered a Mac-and-cheese bar: “Your Way!” “Made Fresh”.

The next day Dean suggested we go to Elyria for lunch and Andrew was up for it. We parked close-by and walked into the diner. We were seated right away and asked what was a “must-have” on the menu. The hostess suggested the Donna Burger. I asked about the Mac-and-cheese bar but it was not set up. Our server called back “Nanna —  can you set up the mac-and-cheese bar?” Nanna (aka Donna) called back, “Yes — it will only take me a minute.”

Dean with menu at Donna’s Diner

So that’s how Dean, Diane, Andrew and I got to eat at Donna’s Diner and meet the star of a 5-part article from the New York Times. Andrew and I had a nice conversation with her about the article and her plans for a “White Christmas” themed event around Christmas. She hoped to get some Oberlin students involved — perhaps with caroling around the city square.

The food was very good. Dean loved his Donna Burger and Andrew enjoyed his Reuben  My mac-and-cheese was rich and delicious (I opted for garlic, chives and mushrooms) and far too much for me to eat on my own. Andrew got to take it back to his dorm room for later consumption.

I finally read the Donna’s Diner part of the NY Times article this morning. She and I have some things in common — we are nearly the same age, her father was in the Navy.  We both grew up in Midwestern towns that begin with the letter E — and Elyria reminds me a little of Elgin. But about the time I was getting ready to go to England for the first time she was pregnant with her first child. She’s had to struggle. I’ve had life easy. She’s an icon in her hometown. I rarely visit my hometown, having moved away decades ago.

I’m so glad we got to visit Donna’s Diner and I hope that it is around for a long time. I hope that the article helps the diner and the town somehow. We’ll go back for lunch when we visit Oberlin — that much is certain.

Oh, and that other Donna’s Diner? The one in Pennsylvania? I’m sure it is not nearly as nice or friendly or fun or delicious as Donna’s Diner in Elyria, Ohio.

In Which Dona Admits to Loving Dozens of Men

In 1979 I spent a semester in London attending Southlands College and student teaching at a local primary school. The teacher with whom I did my teaching practice had a set of books in her classroom that I fell in love with and when I finished my student teaching, she gave me several titles in the collection. I’m pretty sure that I was the first person in Elgin to have copies of these books because they didn’t hit the States until a few years later. I remember being delighted yet dismayed to see the books being sold in a bookstore in Pittsburgh. Delighted because I could now easily purchase more of the books and dismayed because I was not unique in that respect any longer.

I used these books for lessons when I was a teacher because I loved the simple drawings, the life-lessons and the high vocabulary they offered. The books may have been small picture books, but when I did a readability evaluation on a few passages in several books found they were at the 5th grade reading level.

When my own children were old enough to care about books, I brought the books home and read to them from the books. We had fun laughing over the silly characters and the situations in which they found themselves.

The books are still in the house somewhere and while I’ve not seen them recently, thought about them the other day and made a mental note to blog about the set of books sometime soon.

Today when I saw the series of Google Doodles I knew that today was the day to write about Mr Men.

My favorite was Mr Chatterbox and I never really liked the Little Miss books. They seemed more like an afterthought to me and not nearly as funny as the originals.

Pastor Keith

Most of you know by now that my father died in October. I’m not ready to talk about that here, if ever. What I want to talk about, instead, is an incredible man I met in September, but got to know much better in October.

Pastor Keith Fry
Pastor Keith Fry of Christ the Lord Lutheran Church, Elgin, IL

Pastor Keith Fry is the pastor of my mom’s church, Christ the Lord Lutheran Church in Elgin, Illinois. Mom only recently started going to this church, finally giving into her friends’ invitations to attend. I think she’s gone to this church just over a year.

I liked Pastor Keith as soon as I met him in September at my mom’s book group where they discussed Take this Bread by Sara Miles. I met him again the following Sunday when I attended church with my mom. His sermon mentioned someone he’d discussed at the book group — a friend he’d made in Washington DC who had nothing, yet gave him a gift. That tipped me off that this man was a man to whom connections were important.

When, three weeks ago, my mom’s church friends alerted Pastor Keith that my dad was on life support and in critical condition at St. Joesph hospital, he made a trip to the hospital that night. By then my mom and brother had left — knowing that there was little they could do for Dad and they both needed a good night’s sleep in order to have a clear mind to make whatever decisions needed to be made in the coming days. I’m sure Pastor Keith prayed over/for/about my father and for my mom for strength. He probably also got information from the nursing staff on Dad’s condition.

He showed up on Tuesday morning as well, this time offering support by way of prayer and information. He asked a few questions about our family — he really didn’t know Mom that well — so wanted to know if we had other siblings, what we did for a living, how many kids we had, where we lived, etc. None of what we told him was of any use, really, but, as I mentioned earlier, Pastor Keith is a man to whom connections are important. He wanted to know us in order to connect. At least, that’s what I think he was doing.

On Wednesday and Thursday he was always a phone call away and on Thursday evening my brother called him to tell him that we’d need his support on Friday morning.

I’m not sure what we would have done without Pastor Keith’s support on Friday morning. He was a calm presence the room. He was knowledgeable about the process. He was there when we needed him, but it was not as if there was a stranger in the room with us — more like a dear friend. Most of all, he assured us we were doing the right thing.

All the while we were together, Pastor Keith must have been taking mental notes. He was storing our words, actions, and stories in a file in his head. I know this because he gave the most touching funeral sermon I’ve ever heard — taking what he’d observed the past week, what he’d heard from us the past week, and what he’d seen in a slideshow I posted on Facebook (yes, Pastor Keith is on Facebook). If there is a prize for funeral sermons, this one is a sure winner. It is posted after the break if you want to read it.

One of the memories I shared with Pastor Keith that morning was my vision of Heaven: When my Uncle Don died when I was 6 years old I couldn’t really process it until President Kennedy was assassinated. Then I wondered if they’d meet in Heaven. I pictured Uncle Don and President Kennedy sitting at a table drinking beer. As more and more people that I knew or admired died, they joined the table. If you read the sermon, you’ll see that Pastor Keith really listened.

Unfortunately I don’t have the gift of listening that Pastor Keith possesses. I’d like to tell you more about him, but all I know for sure is that he grew up in Texas, the son of a Baptist minister. He has siblings — maybe 3 or 4? He used to be in publishing, but about 5 years ago decided to go to Seminary. My mom’s church is his first congregation. They love him (I know, I read it on Facebook). I think I love him too.

Continue reading Pastor Keith

I have heard the mermaids singing

My daughter has discovered The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I knew she would at some time or another — I’d assumed they still taught it in schools, then I saw it in a poetry packet that she brought home from school and felt a long forgotten excitement in my chest. When I initially asked her what she thought about it, she said they had not gotten to it yet in a bored teenage voice.

Just before spring break she said, “Mom! I LOVED Prufrock!” in a not-so-bored teenage voice. She was animated and excited and quoted lines from the poem to me. We discussed the meaning of stanzas and wondered who the women were who were discussing Michelangelo.

I vividly remember reading Prufrock for the first time. I was a Freshman in college. I remember loving the rhythm of the syllables in the poem. I remember loving the pictures the words and lines painted. I remember wondering how coffee spoons could measure time or how eating a peach could be something daring to do. I was young with my whole life ahead of me. I was not going to be like this middle-aged man. Ever. I’d never be afraid like he seemed to be. I’d never regret missing out on things, because I knew I’d do it all. I had plans. Our professor was a middle-aged man. He tried to explain the poem to us from his perspective.

Reading the poem again, now in middle-age, is much more painful than it was when I was 19. At 19 I thought the man a fool for his regrets. I felt no pity for J. Alfred Prufrock. But now, I see where he is coming from. There are days that I have similar feelings to this man. Days when I regret things I’ve not done, and some that I have done. I’ve been shy all of my life and sometimes dealing with strangers has been frightening to me.

Mostly I think I’ve lived a good life so far — I’ve taken some risks — as a young adult and again as an older adult. I’ve faced a few fears and conqured them. My mom and aunt seem to think I can do it all, while my daughter seems to think I should have done more.

Some days I feel like giving in to my fears — staying home when I don’t want to face strangers. Having someone else make phone calls for me. Driving far out of my way to avoid having to drive in a city (yes, NYC, I’m talking about you). Other days, I take a deep breath and just DO. I go to meetings I’d rather not attend. I make those phone calls I was avoiding. I take the shorter route to Sarah Lawrence which goes through Manhattan (so say the signs).

What’s next? Eating alone in a fancy restaurant? Applying for a new job? Going birding with a bird group?

“And how should I begin?
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?”
–From The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Elliot