Wednesday, March 02, 2011

He's my brother

I was walking my dog and witnessed this scene as an innocuous passer-by:

Kids 1,2,&3 are on their bikes. Kid 1 (the youngest) rides around a house leaving 2 & 3, who get off of their bikes and begin talking or planning or whatever. Kid 1 calls out for Kid 2 from afar, to the annoyance of Kids 2 & 3 (they are being interrupted). But Kid 2 gets on his bike, and then intimates to Kid 3, 'Yeah, I know. I hate him too, but he's my brother." and rides off to find out what his brother wants or needs....

Thursday, June 03, 2010

My Grandmother's Funeral

The room was full and I had been lucky. I was a pallbearer and was to be at the funeral parlor before 1pm for instructions. I believe I was there at 12:58. But I immediately ran into my cousin who directed me to the office where the nice lady found and pinned the flower that designated me.

I saw a gentleman sitting at a couch outside the chapel area that looked the part of the Baptist preacher that had been found. (He had some sort of connection to the Anderson Valley church that my grandmother's father had helped build. So it fit.)

I asked if there was a place for me to tell a 45 second story about my grandmother. He readily agreed and wrote me into his line-up.

My luck continued as I surveyed the room from the back to see a full house and as I stood there, a cousin waved me to the front, where there was a seat next to another second cousin who had hoped to see me. Since it was the only time we spoke, this alone was fortuitous. But it also proved to be a great vantage point to set up the video recorder mode with my digital camera.

And gave me immediate access to the podium for my story.

The service started with the pall-bearing cousin and cousin-in-law singing ‘How Great Thou Art’. (They play in different variations of different people and are usually called something along the lines of ‘The Linda Smith Band’ with my cousin-in-law’s voice and stage presence being the stars.)

They sang beautifully.

Then, there was a poem written by a second cousin about my grandmother's life. It was read tearfully by her dad. It was nice but I found myself with cynical thoughts about many of the lines, so I'm still a bit of an ass, luckily I keep a lot of those times to myself.

If people only knew…

Then my cousins sang an original song and the preacher cued me to tell my short story, which went like this:

A week before my grandmother died, I played some music at my grandmother's bedside while she slept on a Sunday morning. Every once in awhile, she would be conscious but without strength to open her eyes and, because she had labored breathing, her responses to questions were monosyllabic.

Since I had played "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands' while she was sleeping, I asked "So, Nanny, do you feel like you're in God's hands?"

Without missing a beat, barely audible, she responded with confidence, "Oh, I'm always in God's hands."

Then the preacher started his mix of eulogizing and sermonizing that is the hallmark of most funerals, I imagine.

The only fun part of the funeral to report was when this preacher talked about the fact that my grandfather had been his schoolteacher. He added (paraphrase), "Ralph had done some correcting when he needed to. If you correct kids today, you get in trouble."

So at my grandmother's funeral, this guy managed to get in a lament for the lack of corporal punishment in the schools.

Very Baptist, so it fit in perfectly.

But I should mention that my grandmother's preferred tools in child rearing were guilt and shame. But she did use a ‘switch’ on occasion.

Again, Very Baptist.

The preacher also said the usual stuff, as in, “Amy is going to rejoin her husband Ralph.” [Personally, I would hope that if that scenario re: Heaven were correct, she would seek out Mr. Denton, her companion for 8 of the last ten yrs of her life.]

At least the preacher did mention Mr. Denton, which was less Baptist of him. But I thought it a good and righteous mention. Mr. Denton made those years that that he and my grandmother were "just friends" the best of her life, I believe.

When the sermon was over and the last prayer said, the minister stood by for handshakes as the room emptied from the back to front, filing past the body of Amy Fern Smith one last time.

The caravan from Huntingburg to Birdseye was about 25-30 cars long, I'm guessing, and stretched a decent distance as we at the back without our flags tagged along through the two stoplights and one stop sign that are found between the funeral home in Huntingburg and cemetery in Birdseye, Indiana, a distance of 17 miles.

The pitch-in dinner at the church in Birdseye was everything I could hope for except maybe home-fried chicken --but nobody ever does that anymore – it’s always catered these days. And I really can’t blame them. It seems a little less than fun to fry chicken parts on an 85degree day or any day for that matter.

The feast included sweet tea and enough desserts to bury me in a diabetic coma if I had chosen but no pecan pie. I might be comatose right now if there had been honest-to-goodness pecan pie.

There was bunny bread, overcooked green beans with bacon, mashed potatoes without the skin, and even chicken and dumplings. And dozens of deviled eggs.

My grandmother would have enjoyed competing in the 'Who's-deviled-eggs-(or whatever)-will-be-eaten-and-whose-won’t’ contest that is always understood at these pitch-ins. My grandmother usually finished in the top half of the pack.

The cement block basement echoed with the noise of meaningless small talk and not-that-funny jokes about the food. You know the sort, “Boy, I guess I’ll have to find some room somewhere for desert.” Or some such line about over-eating.

Near the end, the plants and flowers were divided up, extra food taken home or redistributed, and the event becomes, for most of the family, the last memory made at New Hope Baptist Church, Birdseye, Indiana. The church my grandmother attended longer than it was there.

Amy Smith 1915-2010

Church Music

I had agreed to play the music for Trinity UCC in Jasper, Indiana on Sunday morning, May 30th. It was Memorial Day weekend and the organist was out of town. And her back-up and her back-up's back-up were gone as well.

So, at approximately 8:15am for the first service, I dragged the stool between the two columns of pews on cue from the preacher. I started my first song nervously as there couldn't have been a bigger contrast between me and my 6-string and the piped organ that is usually played. Or the mountain gospel I was about to sing and the Anglican hymns that are usually sung. I don't usually come to the early service, so I wouldn't know anyone besides Chris, the pastor. And the 8 am crowd was generally an older crowd. And perhaps, ‘traditionalists’.
And maybe even, ‘staunch traditionalists’.

So I strummed the first chords and looked up at the banner draped on the facing of the balcony at the back of the church. It read, "Today is a day of new beginnings."

Because I have somewhat of a 'Beautiful Mind' way of thinking and because I also believe Jung did have something in the concept of synchronicity, I relaxed and enjoyed myself.

During the 'Joys and Concerns' part of the service, where church members air either, I was counted a "Joy" by someone I had never met.

But you can never be sure. 'Cause in church, whaddatheygonnado? Boo?

The second service was the same as the first except that my sister was visiting my dying grandmother and joined me for the 'Special Music' song, 'Just a Closer Walk'. She sings beautifully. It was dedicated to my grandmother, who died about 8 hours later.

It was definitely Special Music that Sunday. I hope to remember always to be grateful for these gifts.

After the second service, there were a couple of compliments and it seemed things had went well. I was pleased and also happy that I would be paid for these services. Validations as a musician/performer are few and far between these days.

But I figured that that might have been what the banner was saying, "You get to play more now."

When I contacted Chris two days later about the honorarium, he told me that the committee that decided things met and decided to not just give me an honorarium but to go ahead and hire me because they were that sure that they wanted me back. Maybe doing new and different things as well.

As I wrote the preacher in an email, I have learned to be a little geeked when doors appear. It can be a Big Door, a small door, or a temporary door.

But I have been asking for a door. And clarity to see it.

I got a banner and a sporadic job (my favorite kind).


Thursday, March 08, 2007


Photo Hosted at Buzznet

I stopped at an abandoned family graveyard. It appeared along some gravel backroads that run through a section of the 'Hoosier National Forest' that Birdseye is nestled in.

There were about 35 headstones and grave markers. All in some stage of decay. The earliest I saw someone buried there was 1843. The latest was 1923. Most had the family name of 'Blunk'.

It looked like there was some attempt to care for it in the last couple of years. Some of the broken headstones were propped against rocks and a few had some plastic flowers. It might be something that was done as recently as last memorial day.

One headstone:

Richard Jones

A loving husband,
A father dear,
A faithful friend,
Lies buried here.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Pole barn

My cousin and second cousin working on the first stage of a pole barn for his horses.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


In southern Indiana, they say the pledge every chance they get.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


This little pond is on the property of my grandmother. It was dug out by my grandfather as a watering hole for his cows.