Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Waters Rising

We were about an hour from Burlington, Iowa--the first photo, pictured today--and I went there a few times when I was a student at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. Out of the five years I was in the area (there and at the U. of Iowa in Iowa City), I can recall going out to fill sandbags and so on during three springs.
That's sandbagging this week in Iowa City in the second photo, and part of the flooded U. campus in the third. It was never this bad when I was in the area. I was a freshman at Knox stuck on campus during spring break when I went out with a few other students to help on some levees in the hot sun. A Red Cross truck came by with food and drink, and that's still one of the best meals of my life. Another year we sandbagged at Acquaca, after which we repaired to the Blue Parrot bar. Never anything like this. My thoughts are with those folks today.

Update 6/27: Flooding has been widespread and it continues. I remember being out there on the levee where we were told to fill up muskrat holes. I thought that was kind of silly. But not today--when a single muskrat hole in Winfield, Missouri led to a levee breach, and a town flooded.

Posted by Picasa
Sports Update

Tiger Woods held off Rocco Mediate in a marathon U.S. Open. How Woods did it, while dealing with knee pain, for an extra 18 holes and then a sudden death hole, is quite an epic story. But so is Rocco, at least where I come from. He's from Latrobe, PA, about 10 miles from where I grew up, and where one of my sisters and her husband have pretty much always lived. Latrobe was also the hometown of golf legend Arnold Palmer (the Latrobe airport is named after him now) but though he's cultivated a western PA image, he's more of the Rolling Rock Country Club set than the Rolling Rock Beer plant guys. But a guy named Rocco Mediate, that's more like it. Rocco is 45, pretty old to be out on the tour, and he's made a life for himself playing golf, despite the fact that he rarely wins a tournament. This was his big, big chance. I suppose it satisfies some working class hero dynamic to come close, but not be the winner. But if he had won, that would be quite a story, too.

I've begun watching the Lakers again, who got into the finals with the Boston Celtics. I started watching NBA basketball in the first place when these two teams played each other in the finals just about every year, and the games were tape-delayed and shown late at night. Magic, Kareem, Bird. Some really great games. This year's Lakers looked good in the western semis and championship, but once again they aren't measuring up to an Eastern team that had less formidable competition and had a tougher time with it. The Lakers lost two in Boston, although they came back from 20 behind to almost win the second. They won the third at home, and had a huge lead early in the fourth, but Boston came back to win it, the biggest collapse in NBA history. They got a big lead in the fifth game (also at home) and almost lost that. In his postgame interview, Kobe said the cocky words about going to Boston and winning both games, but I could see he didn't believe it himself. LA has a good team but they're inexperienced, and for the Celtics Doc Rivers is a very good coach, with more seasoned players. I don't see this going past the sixth game.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


My father and I had a difficult and incomplete relationship. Now I'm in the decade of my life that was the last of his.

There are times that I am astonished by his life. He came from a coal patch, growing up in a company owned house. By then the coal was about played out there. He was young in the depths of the Depression, when people in such places were starving. The only story I know about him as a young man--which I heard as a child, told by his brothers around a card table with their wives, as well as my father and mother--had him driving somewhere, perhaps West Virginia, looking for work, sleeping in his car, washing his socks in a stream or maybe a gas station rest room, and hanging them on the car windows at night. The socks hanging from the car windows--that's the image that remains.

But he did join the Civil Conservation Corps, and several times during his life I remember him extolling the virtues of the CCC. He was also editor of a camp newspaper, something I don't remember him talking about--but I still have the mimeoed copy of one of these stapled-together, magazine- like periodicals.

He worked all his life, although from a few years after my youngest sister was born, my mother had to work as well, to support the family and our home. He lived long enough to have several grandchildren, although his relationship with them was as distant as it was with his children. Still--supporting a family, buying and maintaining a home, going to a job every day, children and grandchildren--I have done and had none of these. However grudging his support was at times, I always had a roof.

His final illness was ugly and humiliating. At the end he was in the condition of a crippled infant. Although ALS is not supposed to affect the mind, I think it diminished his substantially.

Not long after he died I saw him in a dream. His eyes were very blue. He was smiling; he glowed. He looked at me as if to say, this is the real me.

I remember times in life when his eyes looked almost as blue as that. Is the potential the real? Perhaps after death it is, or in dreams.

After his death, the corneas of his eyes were taken to be used by someone else. Now perhaps someone else in the world is looking out from my father's eyes.