HOW GRIEF INVADES LIFE WHEN IT KNOCKS ON DOOR

I was in tears when I completed reading a book about grief today. I don’t know why. Maybe because I believe that the author, the late C.S. Lewis, came to terms with the death of his wife in 1960 and with his standing with God. It is a road I am traveling after the recent death of my wife.

Lewis, a British novelist best known for his fantasy world of Narnia, identified grief as his adversary after his wife’s death in “A Grief Observed,” a 72-page book published in 1961. He described in detail how he dealt with his wife’s decline during a battle with cancer in his role as a husband and later as a widower and as an evangelist.

He questioned the temporal and eternal relationships common to most men (if not also to women) who genuinely love the person to whom they are married.

Like Lewis, I devoted several years caring for my wife as she battled deteriorating health that ended with three months of hospice care. I may have grieved during that time and later but in a different manner than Lewis.

We were aware that Lou was leaving me, and we treated those final years with as much love and grace as we had while falling in love, rearing a family and pursuing careers. God was always a partner in this undertaking. We also believed that Lou would be “in loving and caring” hands when she departed.

During the month after Lou’s death, I was busy 24-7 dealing with legal matters and with moving to a smaller apartment in downtown Eugene to be near activities that would occupy my mind and my time.

Then I realized that I was not consumed by grief. I was lonely. I also was reminded that life can be more meaningful when it is a shared experience. So, I turned to God for help and was led into a confusing, frustrating but lovely dilemma about how to deal with this challenge.

That chapter of my life is being written. I may not be successful in finding another person who wants to join me in this experience called life, love, even marriage, but I found a friend and I am no longer lonely. Meanwhile, I am an optimist, a believer that love eventually conquers all — in this world and in the next.

Based on the reading of this book, I believe that Lewis came to terms with what he referred to as grief for his late wife and with how it impacted his relationship with God.

Why else would he conclude this book by quoting Dante: poi si tornò all’eterna fontana, which means in translation: “Then unto the eternal fountain she turned”? By this he meant that his late wife turns unto God, the eternal fountain of life and grace. By that admission Lewis suggested that he, too, had reconfirmed his dependance on the grace and love of God.

Reason enough to cry tears of joy.

students wanna know about elves, reindeer

How many elves work in Santa’s workshop and how do his reindeer fly were among the most frequent questions mentioned in letters written by 130 Oregon coastal second grade students this past Christmas.

Artwork by 40 fourth graders illustrated the advertisements that accompanied the letters in the Times-Herald, a newspaper published in Newport.

Spelling was not corrected by News-Times personnel, including the following:

I wunt a new bike.

Am I on the noty list or nis list

I got my mom a prezint.

Many students concentrated on establishing a “good conduct” record for the past year. Several estimated they had been 90 percent nice. A few split an even 50 percent. Another student, however, appeared to have a more realistic view of life, writing: “It’s hard to be nice.”

Students wanted a variety of gifts, including puppies, fish, unicorns, bikes, horses, dolls, sports gear and a real Caterpillar, the kind that tosses logs around and works construction.

“I want a pet bird because I like animals. my othe reason that they are cool and they are my favorite animals and will take care of him myself every two days….”

A couple of letters sought gifts that many of us enjoy year round. A second grade girl wrote: “I want a house because me and my mom want some privacy.” Another student wrote: “I wish I can live with you (Santa). Next wish I want to stay with my mom and dad.”

Several students posed personal questions of Santa: How old are you? How many elves work in the shop? How are you treating Mrs. Claus? How do you fit through a chimney with a big tummy? What is your favorite cookie? And what do you want for Christmas, Santa?

One of my favorite letters may best reflect the spirit of the season:

“My clas has been viery good including myself. We shuld not be on the noty list. Becus we work hard. I belev in you (Santa) bcause wen I wak up on crismis morning theirs pesents that wernt ter before.”

huffing, puffing TAUGHT AN IMPORTANT LESSON

My father shouldered a violin as a boy and played it every day until he died at age 78.

My mother sat down at a piano and learned how to play hymns and classical music, a talent that she shared with family members for much of her adult life.

I was expected to follow in their footsteps.

First, I was introduced to the C scale, which wasn’t too difficult to play on the piano with one hand but a bit of a challenge with two.

After helping milk the cows in the morning, eating breakfast and doing my farm chores, I was expected to practice my piano lesson before resuming more interesting activities.

My mother served as my teacher and directed that I practice at least a half hour a day. An hour would have been more to her liking, but I usually argued that the chickens or farm animals needed my attention. School also was an effective method of skipping practice.

What I learned during those formative years was how to play chords in any key. Thus, I could accompany my father when he played popular and folk tunes on the violin. I thought we were quite a team. Mother smiled in agreement and then directed me to continue practicing my lesson.

Needless to say, I didn’t become skilled in playing the piano. I learned how to play the drums but gave that up in high school when no one could play the sousaphone (much like the tuba) in the band.

So, I shouldered this monster on my shoulder and began to oomph and pah my way through marches and more sophisticated musical scores. My piano training had taught me to read music. So, the only challenge to playing the sousaphone was marching for miles with this octapalian monster hanging on my left shoulder.

I became so skilled that I was invited to try out for a college band at the conclusion of my senior year in high school. I showed up with my personal mouthpiece in my pants pocket ready to show the world that I could play with a “big-time band.”

When my turn came during the tryout, I pulled the mouthpiece out of my pants pocket, stuck it in the sousaphone provided by the college and began to hoot and toot. Only I couldn’t get the instrument to hoot or to toot. I huffed and puffed and blew my brains out but could only produce a sorry, soft sound.

The college band director smiled and told me the tryout had ended. I left the college campus dismayed, knowing that my hooting and tooting career had ended.

On the way home I discovered than a dime had become lodged in the stem of the mouthpiece while it was in the pocket of my pants. No wonder that I could not muster enough sound to strut my stuff during the college tryout.

Fortunately, I was invited to join the college band and marched a million miles or so during football games and civic celebrations but first checked the stem of the mouthpiece for a wayward dime.

wayward turnip incident may reflect aging reality

I refuse to accept the fact that a 90-year-old automatically becomes a member of the Over-the-Hill Gang and, therefore, must be considered elderly, or as some of my friends put it: An Old Guy.

I must acknowledge as a debater and as an former editorial writer that critics of this viewpoint may have a point. So, I’ll begin by making a concession.

Despite my best intentions, I recently found myself on my knees looking for a turnip that I dropped on the floor of my tiny kitchen. (The kitchen is so small that my mini refrigerator sits in a nearby closet.)

I was peeling and preparing to eat the turnip, a juicy morsel the size of a softball, when it slipped from my hand and fell to the floor. After rescuing the turnip, I found myself stuck in the kneeling position. Ah, no trouble, I thought. Like the little train of childhood, I thought I could stand. Again and again I thought I could, but try as I might, I couldn’t.

So, I scooted around, grasped the sink in my tiny kitchen and pulled myself into a standing position. For the record, turnips and other objects that fall on the kitchen floor will henceforth remain there.

So, there’s the best point I am willing to acknowledge to support the negative view of growing old.

I must admit , however, that many of my friends, some who are more over the hill than I am, often complain that their hearing aids seldom work, that their wheelchairs won’t take them places they want to go and that they couldn’t see even if they could get there.

On the positive side, I established a few rules of personal conduct after the turnip incident to ensure that turning 90 does not automatically qualify a person as being over the hill:

First, I walk a mile a day, every day. Well, most days.

Second, I think about the first step before I take it, especially when a misstep to the left or right could throw me off balance and put me on the floor with a turnip.

Second, I plan the journey before I take it. I added this rule one night after finding myself in the closet en route to the bathroom. I became so tangled in clothing and confused that I ended up in the kitchen where I dropped the turnip.

Third, I extended the rule-making to cover driving a car, which I intend to do until my license expires when I turn 96. (I trust that the license will be renewed then if I purchase one of those self-driving vehicles.)

In any event, I find that fellow residents in the retirement home where I live avoid discussing their aches and pains or consider themselves members of the Over-the-Hill Gang.

I suspect that none of them have dropped a turnip on a kitchen floor.

Scary, steep view greets newcomer to matt arena

My first trip to the Mathew Knight Arena on the University of Oregon campus was memorable.

Granted, the house that shoes built has been around since 2011, but I arrived a few years late.

Took an elevator to my seat, which was about as close to heaven as you can get in this world.

But it was worth the wait. I watched the Oregon Ducks women’s basketball team beat a professional team that had only lost once before in such a pre-season setting and that was 20 years ago. The score: 93-86.

I was one of 11,530 people who turned out to watch a group of Ducks who are ranked No. 1 in the country and whose record remains 0-0 even though they took down the likes of Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Nneka Ogwumike,

Yes, I was about as close to the ceiling as you could get in a seat perched at a hazardously sharp angle. I had to be careful not to drop my bucket of popcorn on top of cheerleaders a half-mile or so below. Reminded me of the crow’s nest in Mac Court.

But you can’t find a bad seat in the house, especially with the 32-by-36-foot center-hung scoreboard staring you in the face and the sound so loud you wish you were hard-of-hearing or hadn’t forgotten your ear plugs.

I thought of Shoedog Phil Knight when I first viewed the enormous $227-millon cavern dedicated to a son who died in a scuba diving accident. How Phil and his wife Penny have contributed so much to so many, especially to the University of Oregon. Not only athletic facilities but the law school and library and endowment of professorships.

And a seat so high in the sky that I felt a bit threatened as I clung to a handrail while climbing down to my perch to watch the Oregon Ducks take on the best that memorable night of Nov. 9.

I was surprised as Coach Kelly Graves played everyone off the bench during the game. He must think he’s coaching a team rather than just a group of super stars, including Ruthy Hebard, Satou Sabally and Sabrina Ionescu, who play like pros.

Ionescu, who scored 30 points, hit a shot from just inside the half-court as the clock wound down to give the Ducks a 73-69 fourth-quarter lead. No big deal. Says she practices the shot.

I’ll be back to watch the women make a run for the national title. Only my next trip to Matt Arena will take me to a seat about a half-mile lower than the one I sat in Saturday night.

Can’t afford to spill my tub of popcorn on the cheerleaders.

You Can go home again!

Thomas Wolfe was wrong. You can go home again.

A least that is where I’m going on Nov. 1 when I move into a one-bedroom apartment a half-block from where I once spent more than two decades working as a Register-Guard staff member. That was an era during which newspapers were the primary news sources in Eugene and around the world.

I am moving into the seven-story former hotel building on Broadway where I once covered noon  luncheon speakers at several service clubs. As a reporter I checked out money from a petty cash fund to pay for the meal. Later, I wrote a story on a typewriter, making sure that I made two carbon copies.

You will find me on the sixth floor looking south with Spencer Butte framed in the living room window. Our family once lived in south Eugene where we could see the butte. Today, trees block that view from the house where Lou and I reared four children.

Two years ago, Lou began spending her days in a wheelchair. We sold our house and moved to a retirement home in north Eugene so she could meet people and so I didn’t have to cook. The facility is ideal for an over-the-hill population, serves three meals a day but is far removed from the action both of us once enjoyed.

So, after Lou’s death on Sept. 21, I visited the hotel downtown and was invited to join another over-the-hill group. The evening meal is the only meal served there, but I know how to fry eggs and to thaw frozen lunches. So, I’ll survive.

Meanwhile, I can walk across Broadway to The Shedd, a musical venue, I can walk  a couple of blocks and shop for veggies at the Saturday Market, I can catch a bus to the University of Oregon campus where I once taught or I can walk across a parking lot to attend learning in retirement sessions in the former Register-Guard building.

Who says you can’t return home again!

* * *

P.S. My new mailing address is: 222 E. Broadway, No. 610, Eugene, OR 97401. My e-mail address remains unchanged: deanrea@comcast.net

DOG-GONE GOOD READING IN WEEKLY NEWSPAPERS

            “A neighbor’s dog came into the yard and killed our rooster” was reported to the sheriff’s office in an Eastern Oregon community in early May.

            A couple of “deceased chickens” also merited a call to police in another report.

            Meanwhile, a driver told a sheriff’s deputy that she swerved to avoid hitting  a deer and her car ended up in the ditch.

            These abbreviated reports often appear in weekly newspaper in summaries of fire and police reports. Some readers may question whether they merit publication because they seldom include names of people who make the reports. Readers, however, often recognize addresses and can guess who registered the complaint and who may be the victim.

            In any event, these fire and law enforcement reports are grass-roots examples of how newspapers inform as well as entertain readers about community events.

            As a reader of several weekly newspapers, I decided to share examples that appeared recently in reports by police departments and sheriff’s offices:

            Three male subjects are walking up the street knocking on doors.

            I have  two miles left of gas in my car. If  I run out of gas, I will need help.

            Someone is trying to put a knife under the door.

            A disabled semi is blocking the Lexington bound lane.

            A 62-year-old male fell. He doesn’t appear injured, but they can’t get him up.           

            Found a dead deer in garage. Door open.

            A male is sitting in the skate park drinking a 40-ounze beer and looks very intoxicated.

            My girlfriend attempted to commit suicide within the last 20 minutes.

            Five Black Angus cows are on my property.

            A neighbor came out with a frying pan and threatened her daughter with it.

            Two subjects argued for four hours last night, then the male flattened the female’s car tires.

            I’m being blackmailed by e-mail.

            A kayak is trying to come off the top of a car on the highway.

            A large yellow lab mix is on the front porch and is blocking the only entrance to my house.