Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Sunday Dec. 16, 1934 – Thursday Sept. 14, 2017
When brothers are as close in age as Donald and I are – just 15 months apart – it is inevitable that they will clash over something. To be honest I can't recall what we clashed over, except that we both wanted to be the exclusive buddy of Marvin, our older brother. But we did clash and sometimes it got nearly lethal.
I recall one Sunday afternoon battle when Donald was armed with a large steel bearing that Dad had brought home from the rail yard and I had a bow with suction cup tipped arrows. At the heat of the battle he threw his bearing at me and I shot him with an arrow. We both reported the incident to Mom and she solved it in her usual – make the punishment fit the crime – manner. She threw all the weapons down into the muck in the outdoor toilet.
Those outdoor toilets served many purposes, from club houses, to refuges, to conference rooms, to say nothing of their intended use. I do recall Mom applying her – make the punishment fit the crime – method when she arrived to visit the toilet and found it filled with the aroma Donald and I had created by stirring the contents with sticks instead of pulling the nails from the wood as we were supposed to do. She locked us in the toilet for several minutes and let us enjoy the fragrance of our efforts.
But we were not always opponents and I can attest to the fact that you needed no other bodyguard than Donald when you were involved in a dispute with an outsider. As the youngest in the family I benefited more than once by having two brothers and a sister who were fiercely loyal to the family and willing to take on anyone who threatened any of us. It is a little scary to think that I'm on my own now.
But I knew Donald intimately for only 18 years or so. You who sit before me have known the kind of man he has been for the succeeding 62 years, more or less. I've known him from a distance, seeing him at family gatherings, hearing about him and his growing family in letters from Mom over the years, and enjoying his many visits when he brought his grandchildren to Eau Claire to watch one of our Easter dramas at church. How faithful he and Carol were in coming year after year. And, for a few years (four I think) we were able to bring all the siblings and their spouses – our Group of Eight – together for a special extended weekend at some place chosen because it had meaning for one or more of us.
In those brief glimpses I saw the kind of man I know you all knew him to be: still fiercely loyal to family – including HIS boisterous, growing family; generous to one and all – our children have warm memories of his kindnesses toward them (Cheri, our youngest, seldom failed to ask, during a phone conversation, "What have you heard from Uncle Donald?" or "How is Uncle Donald doing?"); supportive of his grandchildren in the things they chose to do, and so proud of their accomplishments.
I know Donald and Carol would like to have had a daughter or two, but in the end I don't think they would have traded any one of their boys. Hey, boys bring home wives, and they adopted their daughters-in-law as their own. Donald treated them just like they were . . . one of his boys.
But boys also bring home vehicles of all kinds in all kinds of condition and Donald loved nothing better that fixing, or helping to fix a troubled motor vehicle. I gave him plenty of opportunities to do so with my jalopies on my frequent visits back home. He was generous with his time and meticulous in his labor. He was a mechanical artist.
I know that Donald carried in his mind a fuller and more accurate history of our family than I do, and I will often wish, in my remaining years, that I could talk to him, mining some of that knowledge. Who knows what we will choose to talk about when we are reunited with those we love in heaven. Perhaps the things of this earth will have no meaning then and there. But somehow I think there may be some carry over; that some of the thoughts we've had here will find their completion there. If so, I'm going to ask Donald if he still thinks it was a good idea to scare me half to death by hiding in that dark coal shed and pretending he was being attacked, forcing me to decide whether to run for my life or go to his assistance.
I want to close with a beautifully expressive poem by Emily Dickinson. So many of her poems seem to have been written after observing a funeral or a burial. This poem struck me because, like her I've been through this loss twice before, with the death, first of Marvin in 2001 and then of Istra in 2009, and felt the increasing weight of loss. And now this leaves me holding the entire corpus of our family unit for the years I have remaining. Dickinson's poem reads:
I never lost as much but twice,
And that was in the sod;
Twice have I stood a beggar
Before the door of God!
Angels, twice descending,
Reimbursed my store.
Burglar, banker, father,
I am poor once more
Thursday, September 14, 2017
by Jim Rapp
With the exception
of baby Lowell Ray it
has gone by the book,
Lowell, a toddler
killed in an automobile
collision at two.
Dad next and then Mom;
no anniversaries missed;
sixty-six all told.
Marvin leaped ahead
of Istra, clearing the bar –
three score, ten, plus two.
Istra at eighty-
two, and today, Donald gone
too at eighty-two.
And I at eighty-one
am left holding the fam'ly
"crest" (there is no crest).
Left to while my years
wishing I had asked, had said,
could know what they knew.
A keeper of tales
never told, custodian
fumbling in the dark,
A parable for
those who still, from elders, can
repossess the past.
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
by Jim Rapp
Behold the bug navigating her world,
creeping along a blade of grass,
then over an adjacent gnarled
chip of bark to examine a shard of glass.
Does she know where she is headed?
Has she plotted on some bug's map
Her journey's course, or calculated
The route using a bug's travel app?
Perhaps her meanderings are unplanned –
Like mine, uncalculated – or if calculated,
Conceived in ignorance and inclined
To end, an edifice of hopes, disarticulated.
Creator of bugs and human beings, guide us,
Especially we who think we know the way:
Install in us your GPS –aim our aimlessness –
Bring us to your hostel at the end of day.
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
by Jim Rapp
"Allow the children to come to me."
A welcome denied the callous-hearted –
Scribes, Sadducees and Pharisees –
Scoffers, turning on their heels as they parted.
Why the children? I think today I saw
In the faces of my great grandchildren
Glimpses of the traits that draw
Children to the Lord, and Him to them.
God loves those who have no guile –
Ask the apostle Philip, he'd know I guess –
"Of such is the kingdom"; their smile
Is full of less – yes, full of guile-less-ness.
Saturday, September 2, 2017
by Jim Rapp
Are there really streets of gold in heaven,
Or is that image the best that John could do
To convey the wonders of his vision,
Reduced – scaled down – to a human view?
I drove today through thoroughfares of gold.
Three hundred miles of God-made, autumn laid,
Golden leis, vying for attention – bold
Golden Rod and Brown-eyed Susans bade
Me look and look at risk of life and limb,
Bade me try to find the words, as John of old,
To name the names, of what I saw, and then
Convey to all how I had driven streets of gold.
Saturday, August 19, 2017
by Jim Rapp
Men love darkness because their deeds are evil,
but evil men fear darkness because they know
the evil deeds, sown in secret, some dark night will
overtake them, and result in their own overthrow.
So their nights they light with torches to dispel
their fright and, by empeopling a pompous charade
of menacing lights, their fears they hope to depeople;
cowards marching in a Tiki Torch Parade.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
by Jim Rapp
by Jim Rapp
if you can speak your
mind without fear of losing
a cherished friendship
it is pretty sure
that you are living somewhere
it has never been
otherwise in this land of
nearly countless wars
rare has been the day
in which no guns were fired in
attack or defense
wars of words and violence
racial wars, religious wars
wars in families
wars between the states, wars in
the halls of Congress
"The United States":
sad relic of a past that
never came to be