I’ve been away from my Interim Geezer blog. I think the last time I contributed to the blog was when I was still on drugs. I have had another project that has consumed my time and energy, but it has been a project that turned into a labor of love.
This last April I had a lunch date with my son, Jonathan. I value those lunches with him. He is a neat kid and never one to suppress his feelings. Even when he is all pouty and pissy I know how he’s feeling. But having lunch with Jonathan means a lively conversation.
I don’t remember what led into the new paragraph of our conversation. I did not see him indent, but he was waxing on about all that I have seen and experienced in life. I think it was a flattering way of telling me that I am an old fart. “You should really write down all that you have experienced.” Was he questioning my memory or was it more of a challenge?
Actually, I had been considering assembling my thoughts and my story for the sake of my kids. I had recently heard a husband and wife tell they had each written their personal story for their family. But they were much older than I am. They surely had more to write about than I did.
But wait—I have been accumulating stories about my ancestors. Since my kids never knew my grandparents and Emily and Jonathan hardly remember my parents, maybe including the three previous generations within the document would be an additional perspective to my story.
I started writing shortly after that special lunch in Monona with Jonathan. I was pretty well recovered from my knee surgery and waiting to get back to work. I had time to get a good start on the project. I plopped my laptop on the kitchen table, much to the displeasure of dear wife. She didn’t like the power cord running from the laptop to the outlet. Hey! I am of an age that I think things like laptops work better when they are plugged in rather than depending upon a battery.
I decided to begin with my great-grandparents because that is the first generation that is complete. What a hodgepodge of people: a 1st generation German-American, a Danish immigrant, a stern and snooty great-grandmother boastful of her Huguenot heritage, a great-grandfather silent about his forbears who settle Connecticut, survivors of the Irish potato famine. It was like the set-up for a joke, “there were eight great-grandparents who walked into a bar,” but no way would any of them have walked into a bar. Why did they come to Wisconsin? What lured them or their parents to come to a place with harsh winters and hot, humid summers?
There were a few coincidences how families from different branches of my family tree seemed to have crossed paths in different parts of the country. My Schaub great-grandparents met in church choir. My parents met in church choir. My sister and her husband met in church choir. Peggy and I sang in the same church choir but at different times.
Writing about family members is not the same as writing a college term paper. There’s emotion and memories that the writer has to stop and acknowledge. I often had to pause to relive those moments in my mind. Such was the case as I began to write the story of my grandparents. A grandfather, my namesake, who I never knew but the stories about him make me wonder how much I am like him. There was another grandfather who was not a warm individual. I had two kind grandmothers, but both were too sickly to remember doing many fun things.
The story of my parents was interesting: a taciturn farmer and his hot-tempered, smart-mouthed wife. Theirs was a common story that ended sadly. They were unable to enjoy their senior years because of my mother’s early on-set Alzheimers and my dad’s ping pong match of mini-strokes vs diabetes. My mother often said she wanted to live to be 90 and then be shot in the back by a jealous lover. Things don’t happen in life the way that we would like, thus, the title of my project: Shot in the Back by a Jealous Lover.
My portion of the project was about my life as a Lutheran pastor. Golly, that will never be turned into a Hollywood blockbuster. Maybe I should take some literary liberties and rewrite about a life of booze and drugs, sex and wild parties. But, then, I would have to Photoshop pictures to fit the story. I don’t have the ambition. I will keep myself boring and unexciting.
Putting one’s story into black and white demands a certain emotional energy. The result, however, is therapeutic. This Sunday’s lesson in the narrative lectionary is Joshua’s recitation of the history the people of Israel endured in the wilderness. One of the key points of the lesson parallels my feeble project: knowing one’s story defines our identity.
Maybe I know myself a little better for having taken the time and energy put things in writing. Maybe I’m a little happier with myself for naming the demons. Maybe I’m proud of myself (but not too proud—I am Lutheran) for having done this project especially for my kids whether they read it cover to cover or not. Maybe my wife will be happy that my laptop isn’t plopped on the kitchen table.
The big question: who should play me in the movie version of “Shot in the Back By a Jealous Lover,” John Goodman or John O’Hurley?