The Obit Writer (II)

Here’s the latest work of the Webner family obit writer:  Mom’s obituary, which was published today in the Columbus Dispatch and in the Akron Beacon Journal, Mom’s old hometown newspaperMom hasn’t lived in Akron for 40 years, but we know she still has good friends there who would want to know about her passing.

IMG_5049The on-line versions of the obits appear on legacy.com, which must be a kind of national clearinghouse for obituaries.  The website versions of Mom’s obit also include links to an on-line “guest book” where people can give their condolences and share their memories, and directions to the funeral home where we will be having calling hours later this week.

The website also offers a link to ancestry.com and information about how many Webners were recorded in the 1920 census and fought on the Union side in the Civil War.  Other links provide information on funeral etiquette, such as helpful advice that you shouldn’t wear flip flops or glittery clothing to a memorial service.  It all shows how news websites are far more flexible — and provide far more advertising opportunities — than print newspapers.  People die, but the wheels of internet commerce roll ever onward.

Our family would like to thank everyone who has shared words of encouragement and support and kind thoughts about Mom.  They are all much appreciated.

The Obit Writer

More than 30 years ago, I worked for the Toledo Blade.  Although I technically was assigned to the City Desk, my designated “beat” was writing obituaries.  Day after day, I took calls from funeral homes, interviewed grieving survivors to get facts about the departed, and then wrote the obituary as a news story.  During my six months at the Blade, I wrote hundreds of them.  It was not an uplifting job.

IMG_1777That long-ago job, though, has ever since defined my role when there is a death in our family.  My task is set — and it is a good thing.  Everyone wants to be useful and helpful when death comes calling, and writing the obituary (which most newspapers now treat not as a news story, but as a paid death notice) is something I know how to do.  You wouldn’t want me figuring out flower arrangements, but the obit I can handle.

I also remember an experience that occurred years ago, when my grandmother died.  The minister who presided over her service kept calling her by the wrong name – which as you can imagine was not well-received by the members of our family.  Ever since, I’ve vowed that when members of our family who have died are formally remembered, whether in print or in remarks, someone who actually knew them will help to do the writing or the talking.

When I write an obit for a family member, I always think about what made the person unique, and try to make sure that gets included along with the standard facts about age, education, and survivors.  If I do my job right, when I’m finished I always feel a bit closer and more connected to the loved one who has gone beyond.  That’s a good thing, too.

Thinking Of Someone Special

I am thinking today of someone very special.

tUp7Hbj_eRrm9ZbIIZSY9FBmsJGsR-VeouygXyLaKpU=w205-h207-p-noSomeone who brought me into this world.  Someone who took care of me when I was little.  Someone who brought me comic books and jello and 7-Up and put a cold compress on my forehead when I was too sick to go to school.  Someone who let me paint my room weird colors when I was a teenager and put up with my friends and our curious behavior when I was in college.  Someone who watched Richard when Russell was born and treated my wife like a daughter.

Someone who dutifully laughed at all of my jokes, no matter how bad.  Someone who always was in my corner and confident that things would work out well.  Someone whose life has touched mine in more ways than I could ever hope to count.

Now her pain and discomfort have ended, and she has moved on.  We will miss her.

Goodbye, Mom.

Uncle Mack And The Woodworking Trip

They say that every story has a moral.  The moral of this story is:  make sure, upon pain of potential death or horrible disfigurement, that you use the right equipment — mechanical, and human, too.

It was the early ’80s, when Kish and I lived in the D.C. area and Uncle Mack and Aunt Corinne had a suburban spread out in Reston, Virginia.  One of his former law partners had decided he no longer could use some woodworking equipment and had asked Uncle Mack if he wanted it.  Uncle Mack — always avidly searching for some new hobby or interest — responded with an enthusiastic yes.  The price of the equipment was a drive to this fellow’s retirement home on the Maryland eastern shore to pick up the devices and drive them away, and Uncle Mack asked if I would give him a hand.  Being an ever-dutiful nephew, I said yes.

I drove out to Reston on a wet Saturday.  Uncle Mack had somehow obtained an actual delivery van to use — a wise decision for which I have been forever grateful, because I probably wouldn’t be here to tell the tale otherwise — and we set off.

After a long drive through D.C. ‘burbs and over Chesapeake Bay bridges we arrived at the guy’s house and went to his woodshop.  Calling it a “woodshop” really doesn’t do it justice, because he had every known piece of equipment that could be used to cut, shape, bevel, or sand wood — from stand-up metal equipment like band saws and mitre saws, lathes and belt sanders, to grinders and hand tools for detail work — as well as a supply of raw lumber.

Uncle Mack’s eyes took on a glint, and I could see that he was envisioning making fine wooden birdhouses, beautifully finished wooden bowls, lovely moldings, and entire rooms of sturdy yet delicate furniture with Amish-quality craftsmanship.  He wanted it all.  At one point I remember him looking longingly at a thin piece of wood with the retiree.  They agreed it was a really nice piece of wood.  “Cherry, eh?” Uncle Mack said.  “Sure, I can use that.”  It was indeed a terrific piece of lumber that might be turned into a bannister or a baseball bat.  It was added to the delivery pile.

I learned that day that old woodworking equipment is heavy.  The stand-up devices were made of metal from top to bottom and weighed approximately 200 pounds apiece, with narrow bases and wide table tops and sharp edges.  We huffed and puffed and wrangled them into the delivery van, but — how to store them to prevent damage during the drive back?  We had no clue, and no cloth wraps.  So we simply placed them upright in the back of the van, moving them next to each other cheek by jowl, until the rear of the van was jammed with metal, power tools, planks, boards, and blocks.  The  van sagged with the weight, and the retiree’s woodshop was denuded.  He looked wistful about it, but his wife appeared to be delighted.

After thank-yous and farewells, we started back, with Uncle Mack at the wheel of the overloaded van.  As we approached one intersection, moving at a pretty good clip, the car in front of us stopped suddenly and Uncle Mack jammed on the brakes.  We felt the momentum shift in the rear of the van and then heard staccato banging back there.  The next thing I knew there was a loud whang! from right behind me and I felt the metal shield that separated the passenger compartment from the storage area shiver with a strong impact at about my neck line.  After the sudden stop that poorly stored stand-up woodworking equipment, with all its razor-sharp saws and points and metal edges had come hurtling forward and toppled like metal dominoes, and only the metal guard had saved me from being beheaded by the edge of a falling band saw.  When we realized what had happened we both breathed a sigh of relief, then burst into laughter.

We finally got back to Uncle Mack’s house, and reasoned that we should drive the van into his back yard so we could move the heavy equipment directly through his walk-out basement to the inner basement that would be his shop.  When we drove the overloaded van into the back yard it promptly sank axle-deep in the soft ground.  We unloaded the van, tracking mud through Aunt Corinne’s beautiful basement, until the woodshop was crammed full, then tried without success to rock the van out of its deep muddy ruts, coating the backyard with mud droplets as we did so.  Finally we gave up and I drove home, grateful to have survived the experience.

I don’t think Uncle Mack ever used any of the woodworking equipment, or that fine piece of cherry wood.

Sisters

1941351_955763927780741_4444622675154134683_oThe Kishman sisters have been painting the Emerald Isle, well, green.  They’ve visited pubs, driven on the wrong side of the road, and done just about everything you’d want to do in a trip to Ireland.  You can follow their exploits on Heidi’s Facebook page.

Today they’re in Belfast, and tomorrow Dublin.  On the trip they’ve had a chance to reconnect, check out the family homesteads from their Mom’s family, and enjoy the hospitality of the Irish people, who have the reputation of being the friendliest in the world.

I’m glad they are having a good time, but it will be nice to have Kish back at home.

Breakfast At Pistacia Vera

IMG_4978Yesterday morning Russell was heading back to Detroit, so we decided to have breakfast before he hit the road.  We took a short walk to Pistacia Vera.

Pistacia Vera is one of those Columbus eateries you might not have heard about.  I think there’s a reason for that: German Village residents are trying to keep it a secret, because it’s great and they don’t want to have to fight crowds to get a table.

The restaurant has great coffee, lots of very tempting pastry options, and a small menu of breakfast options like quiches, croque monsieur, and muesli and yogurt.  Russell went for the muesli and yogurt, and I got a ham and cheese croissant.  We both ordered cups of Pistacia Ver’a excellent coffee, served Americano-style.

Russell’s greek yogurt was topped with crunchy toasted grains and almond slices and some fresh fruit, and he relished every bite.  My ham and cheese croissant was buttery, light and flaky, and went perfectly with my cup of coffee with a bit of fresh whole milk added.  I think we got the day started off right.

If you haven’t tried Pistacia Vera, you really should.

85

4Miu79FwsMUqSAi0OlswViKmU2flGKuIuoD3cVmlFWTuokb6p5ENIB6qZhEFZkcdg1Ek6Fu4SdPsxa62KpfQRtb2zEEkUISI5webPwCls1yuFiA7pemcCV3J2npusrBYRP0XXfB4TEBbbGETsVKm6J49uhWlJ6cd43dms5MSkNiui6mlo6CbBeRpk80XiCTYe_idwg-WfhikXfQ_ZAS8d6-KqsY8SEToday we celebrated Mom’s 85th birthday.  The birthday girl wore purple and enjoyed some cake from Mrs. Goodman’s Bakery, and a good time was had by all.