I didn’t wake up this morning thinking, it’s a good day to get out a blog post. The weather’s sublime, the Bruins are playing a matinee, and I just spent the morning at Pret and Paula’s house picking up my copies of Cooking With Fire, Paula Marcoux’s amazing new book.
When I opened my email and read the most recent howl from Michigan by friend John Wolf, however, I just had to share. John is ok with this, but my hope is that we may encourage him to tell his tales of life between Nagg’s Bridge and Duffield from his own virtual setting someday.
For now, thanks to John for the gift of a “story unused” and too good not to share.
My main non – heyhowareya social contact for the last year and a half has been a weekly Sunday evening visit with an 85 year old friend of the family. He taught with my Dad, they lived near us and he was among the first people to greet my Mother and me when we came home from the hospital. His wife died 1 1/2 years ago and he asked me to visit him, which I did nearly weekly. He was always interested in building things, Taught history for nearly 50 years and was someone who, though he had a lot of interesting things to say, could listen too. He found the topics from Blue Oak and Joiner’s Notes interesting, and had a wealth of information about ship building, along with a house full of ship models, which he only recently quit building. Interesting topics always came up from nowhere: “Riding in a Sherman tank was a lot like riding in a cocktail shaker….” , “My Dad commanded the 8″ disappearing guns defending Portland”, “Oh, didn’t I tell you, Samuel Elliot Morrison was one of my history profs and my senior advisor.”. That sort of thing.
He had been ill, so I hadn’t seen him for several weeks. I stopped last Sunday and found him home. He told me that the cancer he had been treated for twice already had come back and that there was nothing to be done. He had a hospice nurse coming weekly, and was comfortable, and after a rough couple of years he was ready to go with no real regrets. The conversation went on from there, and at some point I brought up a former friend who became convinced that the world was about to collapse and the poor people would come out of the cities to take our food, so he moved to an island in the straits of Mackinaw and built a fortified camp. Mr. Graham said that it must be some kind of story or narrative that got caught in some peoples heads. Horrible things were about to happen, so get yours and make sure that no one can take it from you. He mentioned a former colleague who built a bomb shelter in his basement, stocked it with canned food and planned to defend it with a .45 even from friends. I knew the man slightly, he had a toupe that looked like a dead woodchuck. We both shook our heads, and moved on to other things.
That night I was unable to get to sleep. I thought about bomb shelters and fortified islands, and thought of another story that tells us about how to survive in hard times, and for that matter in good times. I’m sure you know the story too, If you watched Captain Kangaroo, you heard him read it in a book called “Stone Soup”. A group of soldiers ride into a village where the villagers have hidden what food they have. The soldiers sigh, and declare they will have to eat stone soup again, “but it would be so much better with an onion, or a bit of cabbage, or carrot”… You know the story. I used to think it was about how the soldiers conned the villagers, but have come to think that it tells about how, with some encouragement, people can pool what little they have, and everyone can eat. I made a mental note to bring that up on my next Sunday visit, and eventually got to sleep.
The next day, Mr. Graham’s daughter called to let me know that he had died quietly in his own bed during the night. He lived a long and happy life, during which he touched many people, and we will miss him.
This left me with my story unused. You seem like a person who would find a bit of carrot, so I have told you.