For the most part, I think I’m a pretty capable person when it comes to the basics of American life. I may not be able to fix a car, but given enough time I can puzzle through the arcane 1040 tax form instructions, or load a moving van with reasonable competence, or do a load of laundry without turning everything pink.
But there is one area where I realize that I am far out of my depth: picking furniture and determining whether it “goes together” with other furniture or, say, a rug. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I am fundamentally furniture-challenged. So when Kish asks my opinion on a particular chair or end table or desk, I know that she is just being polite and humoring me, because no rational person would ever rely on my furniture opinions.
I never had to make a furniture decision until I got my first apartment during college, and my decisions were based entirely on what I could afford — which wasn’t much. Stylishness didn’t enter the equation, which was a good thing, because college life isn’t conducive to maintaining fine furniture unless fine furniture increases in value with beer bottle rings on every flat surface. And after college Kish and I lived with an eclectic collection of college remainders and other hand-me-downs that we were grateful to get until we bought a house — at which time Kish, fortunately, made all of the furniture decisions.
So here I am, in my late 50s, and I now realize that I am completely clueless in this basic building block of American life. Does this chair “go together” with this cabinet? You might as well ask me to perform a differential equation for the value of X prime.
We’re still discovering things about our new house. One discovery that is yet to be made is what kind of perennial flowers have been planted in the front flower beds by the previous owners. We bought the house in the dead of winter when the front beds were a place for dead leaves and snow mounds. Now, spring’s arrival has brought some dazzling green sprouts of unknown provenance.
Are they tulips? Irises? Daffodils? Beats me — but with the April showers we’ve been getting, I’m betting we’ll find out soon enough.
When death visits your family, it inevitably causes you to think more soberly about your own mortality. It’s morbid, sure — but it’s also human nature.
For young people, of course, death seems very remote and abstract. It’s something that happens to extremely old people — ancient, really — and seems to come on a generation-by-generation basis. Typically, that is exactly what happens. If you are surrounded by parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and even in my case a great-grandparent, it is as if there are multiple generational shields protecting you from the inevitable.
But as the world turns and those older generations are winnowed down, you become uncomfortably aware that your turn at the wheel is drawing nearer. When your last surviving grandparent dies, you know the scythe will be swinging one generation closer. Then, as parents pass, you become much more sensitive to the health of those uncles and aunts who represent the tattered remains of that final generational ring of fortification. In the Webner family, unfortunately, we’re now down to exactly one uncle and one aunt.
So live long and prosper, Uncle Mack and Aunt Corrine! You’re my last line of defense.
The landscaping work in our back yard is finally done. It was a big job that required removing a deck, breaking up and hauling away a cement pad, digging out randomly placed concrete blocks, installing a new back fence, grading the yard to a uniform level, and then putting in a patio, stepping stones, and some new greenery and shrubs. No flowers yet, of course — Mom long ago drilled into me that you never plant flowers in the Midwest until after Mother’s Day — but we’ve got space for them when the time is right.
We love the result (and so do Penny and Kasey). I particularly like the view, which not only gives us a good look at the brick of our German Village neighbors, but also a peek at the tops of some of the buildings in downtown Columbus.
With the completion of our back yard landscaping, we move one step closer to realizing our vision of what our new house will be.
In the grand scheme of things, April 3 is not a particularly significant date. It’s not a deadline for tax filings, or the day on which battles were fought on which the future of the world depended, or significant wars ended, or important discoveries were made.
If you run an internet search on important events that happened on April 3, you’ll see there’s really not much of great consequence. In fact, the list is pretty remarkable for its blandness, filled with events that are likely to provoke nothing but a shrug and a “so what?” On April 3, 1043, for example, Edward the Confessor was crowned King of England. On April 3, 1864, there was a “skirmish at Okolona, Arkansas.” (Really? A skirmish makes the list?) On April 3, 1948, the first U.S. figure skating championships were held. And April 3 has been a popular day for countries to conduct nuclear tests.
So, in the grand scheme of things, there’s not much that is remarkable about April 3. But 33 years ago, on April 3, 1982, in a white-framed church in Vermilion, Ohio, Kish and I were married, so it’s an important date for us. We don’t mind that not much of historical consequence happened on April 3 — it’s as if we get this special day all to ourselves.
We had the calling hours for Mom today, and it was a very nice occasion. My siblings decorated the room with photos of Mom and produced a terrific video as well, and we were surprised and delighted by the people who had journeyed from near and far in a driving rainstorm to pay tribute to a woman who had a life well lived.
One of our friends who did not know Mom, but who stopped by to pay their respects, mentioned that the room really didn’t feel like a mournful occasion — and she was absolutely right. There was a very positive vibe as old friends reconnected through their recollections of this kind and positive woman. It was exactly the kind of upbeat event that Mom would have wanted, and appreciated.
The photo above was placed next to the sign-in book. It is one of my favorites, of a fresh-faced, bright-eyed, dimpled ingenue just back in Akron after two years at the Mount Vernon College for Women in Washington, D.C. The inscription, made out to Dad in Mom’s careful handwriting, reads: “To Jim, As Ever, Agnes.” I think it is a fitting coda.
Unfortunately, it happens to be the name of a less-than-great song — one that probably now will stick in your head for the rest of the day, sad to say — but the statement above is a sentiment that aptly expresses my feelings, so I’m using it anyway.
I’ve been amazed and touched by the kind words and comments we have received from friends and acquaintances in the wake of Mom’s death. Whether it is memories shared by my best friend in high school and my college roommate, or a poem and expressions of sadness and support from colleagues at work, or a funny recollection from one of the very nice people who cared for Mom during her time at Mayfair Village Retirement Community, the outpouring of positive thoughts means a great deal. They help to center the conflicting feelings that you experience when a loved one has finally succumbed to a long and difficult illness, and to focus and lock in on the positive memories that you will carry with you going forward. It is affirming, too, to know that there are so many good people out there who will interrupt their days and act with a generous spirit when others are struggling with loss.
We will move on, of course, because that is what people do — and, in this case, what Mom obviously would have wanted us to do — but all of these positive and supportive thoughts will make the moving on process much, much easier. I know that everyone in the Webner family feels the same way.
I am a strong proponent of saying “thank you” in response to offers of help and acts of kindness — so thank you to everyone. We really appreciate it.