Monday, March 17, 2008

The Chimichanga Story -- by Weedle (and re-constructed by Paul)

Weedle had the rare gift of being able to turn the most inconsequential of occurrences into a hilarious story rooted in a kind of quirky wisdom. She liked to tell this one.

Weedle had finished a meal with friends at La Parilla, a Mexican restaurant in downtown Lawrence. She had an uneaten chimichanga left over, still in its paper wrapper, so she decided to take it home for lunch on another day. She put it on the roof of the car while she unlocked the door, set it on the back seat and drove off.

Somewhere on south Massachusetts St., she saw the chimichanga fly forward past her side window and roll down the street in front of her car. She was angry with herself for having driven off with the chimichanga still on the roof of the car. But then she clearly remembered putting it on the back seat. She turned around, and there was the chimichanga, right where she had left it, sitting on the back seat as properly as a paying passenger, but it was naked. The paper wrapper was gone. The wind, blowing through the open windows, had miraculously unwrapped the paper with great delicacy, without disturbing or even moving the chimichanga. Then the paper was rolled up again into the shape of the chimichanga, sucked out the window, and, rather than being drawn into the slipstream of air to fall behind the car, was somehow flung forward, to land in the street ahead of her, looking like the entire chimichanga had fallen off the roof of the car.

She marveled at this, and wondered how the laws of physics could account for the behavior of this thing. Weedle had a strong belief in an all-powerful and benevolent God, but like any person would who is as perceptive and analytical and especially irreverent as she was, Weedle found in this event not only confirmation of God’s wonderful abilities, but also affirmation that, for all His awesome powers and hardly-justifiable kindness toward humans, God also has a really wacky sense of humor.

For evidence of this, we have seen the duck-billed platypus, Marty Feldman’s eyeballs, and the portraits of Jesus (or is it Che Guevara?) scorched into the surfaces of English muffins and whole-wheat toast. Scholars and researchers will long lament the fact that the celebrated chimichanga, brushed by the hand of God, was consumed by Weedle for lunch the next day. Nevertheless, we know that the prophets walk yet among us, as long as we can still repeat Weedle’s miraculous chimichanga story.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Good Night, Weedle -- by Paul Caviness

Weedle believed that some part of her never got past being ten years old. She was fresh, brash, direct and irreverent. She was always able to see things from a child’s perspective, and to understand what goes on in a child’s mind. She loved animals – cats and big galumphy dogs, even stuffed animals.

Being ten, she connected with kids easily. Since she started as librarian at Shawanoe School, she said she had the best job in the world.

As an adult, too, she was strong, capable, diligent, organized, methodical; and she was capable of indignation when she felt ill-used. Once on a family trip we stopped at a McDonald’s in St. Louis, which had scheduled a bingo game for senior citizens to fill the slow mid-afternoon hours. They had not anticipated that players would arrive hours early to get seats, then not buy anything, displacing paying customers. Our family arrived, road-weary and hungry, got our food and like many other diners there, including a family with babies, had to sit on the ground outside, and it was cold out. The manager was not around to complain to, so Weedle picked up a comment card and filled it out, blasting the management for boneheaded handling of events. She then continued beyond the printed lines, and sustained her sense of outrage long enough to write all around the margins on both sides of the card, writing between the lines she had already written. If she could have written on the thin edges, she would have. No doubt the card was actually hot to the touch by the time she finished. It was, of course, completely illegible. But expressing her point, as opposed to actually communicating it to the manager, was sufficient. We never went back to that McDonald’s, and it was a long time before we went to any McDonald’s. We still don’t go to Wendy’s, but that’s a whole other bonehead-manager story.

But sometimes she was vulnerable and sensitive and easily hurt, and aware of slights, even if unintended. Her anger could be towering. She sometimes threw things at the wall or floor. Once in the car with Will and his friend Daniel, she got mad at Will for who knows what, and tossed a just-purchased package of expensive “Magic” role-playing game cards out the window, where they scattered all over the highway. It turns out they weren’t Will’s. Daniel stared glumly out the window all the way home. The kids tell me of another occasion when Walt, sitting at the kitchen table waiting for pie after dinner, said something or other that made Weedle mad. She flung the entire pie at his head. She missed, and the pie splattered against the wall. Much of it stuck there. Walt’s response was classic – he scraped the pie off the wall back into the pie pan, and ate it anyway.

Worse than her anger, to me, was her sadness. Her despondency would melt your heart, like that of a sorrowful child. And worse than her sadness was her hurt, when you couldn’t figure out what you had done to hurt her feelings and she refused to let you help her feel better.

She had many moods, mostly vivid, sometimes extreme and usually persistent, as if each constituted a different personality. I always envied my kids – my stepchildren – their ability to get around her dark moods and cheer her up. Kelly was a master at this.

But it was Will that gave her a nickname on account of her different personalities. H once made her mad with some forgotten offense, and Weedle just let him have it with an angry lecture that went on just a little too long. Will stood it for a while, but soon he put up his hand and said, “Okay, Mom - now let me talk to Good Donna.” It worked. In mid-tirade, she cracked up. She has been Bad Donna – Badonna – ever since.

She embraced the concept. Her online password was always Badonna. And our license plate says Badonna.

Somebody joked with her that for a person with multiple personalities, she was pretty well integrated. “Yes,” she said, “I all get along very well.”

She was devoted to her family – her families – a big one at Shawanoe School, one at Lackman Library, even the ones from years before at Marion Springs School and Topeka Public Library and Linwood Library.

But at home she wanted her family gathered close, and she would have kept them gathered close if she could but she understood that that would have kept them from doing their own gathering when the time was right. Many people never knew that she was not Kevin & Kelly’s mother but their stepmother. But along with their birth mother Cathy, she was absolutely their mom, and there was no distinction of relationship among the four kids.

She was a close, interested and involved mom. “What did you do in school today?” was not an idle question at the dinner table, and most of the time Laurel and Will eagerly told her their stories and a lively conversation followed, most always a cheerful and bright time.

On a trip to Chicago one time, as Weedle & I & Laurel & Will walked, chattering with each other, up Michigan Avenue in the ritzy shopping district there, a well-dressed lady walking our way came up beside us and said, “Excuse me, but I’ve been following you for a block and I want to tell you how nice it is to see a family enjoying each other and acting like a family.” Weedle just beamed. She wasn’t individually the glue that held the family together, but mostly because of her, we all became the glue.

Weedle was a force – Danny Bentley called her a Force of Nature – organized, hard-working, persistent, persuasive. She was determined, too – when the Vinland Fair Association had it 100th Fair last year, she pledged to bake 100 pies to be sold by the slice at the food booth, plus one to enter in competition for the Best Pie award. She asked me to put our little air conditioner in the kitchen window, and then went to work. She was practically a one-woman assembly line for three or four long summer days, cranking out cheery pies, peach, apple, mixed fruit and strawberry-rhubarb pies, 15 or 20 a day. Eventually the ladies running the food booth asked her to stop because they wouldn’t be able to sell all those pies before the end of the fair. The final count was 63 pies, plus her entry. And that one took the Blue Ribbon.

About a year ago, Weedle told me about a dream she had the night before, in which she died. She was eager to tell me about it – she was excited and happy about it. In her dream, she was walking along the top of a bluff overlooking the sea. She was carrying a basket filled with work to do – projects, tasks, lists of items to take care of, checklists.

It was a pretty day, and the sea was beautiful, and the waves were lapping at the rocks below.

Somehow she fell off the cliff, and as she fell through the air, she thought, “Oh, darn, I didn’t get to finish,” then blackness.

It should have been a terrifying dream. But she told me it was a happy dream. Not a perfect ending, but a pretty good ending, quick and painless and decisive and free of fear. That’s Weedle – like a ten-year-old girl, able to look at familiar things, including fear of death, with a new and bright perspective. Death for her did not mean terror, or loss, or oblivion. Death was just another damn nuisance to get past, so you could go on.

When Laurel and Will were in their mid-teens we had a little bedtime ritual they had apparently been doing long before I joined the family. Like the Waltons on TV, we called through open doors across the dark hallway, “G’night, Laurel,” “G’night, Mom,” “G’night Will,” “G’night Laurel,” “G’night, Paul” and so on, eventually degenerating to “G’night, Jon-Boat,” “G’night, Plumb-Bob,” “G’night, Lawn-Boy.” Weedle and I whispered to each other, “G’night. I love you. Sweet dreams. See you in the morning.” Or some combination of phrases like that.

As the kids grew older and moved away, the Waltons parody disappeared, but Weedle and I always whipered to each other, “G’night. I love you. Sweet dreams. See you in the morning.” To the last night of her life.

Weedle – G’night.

I love you.

Sweet dreams.

It’s going to be a long, long, night. But when the time comes for me, I’ll see you in the morning.

Paul and Weedle -- a story and poem by Paul Caviness

When Weedle and I were dating, our dates sometimes consisted of a Saturday afternoon at her farmhouse in Vinland, with a home-cooked meal, playing a game with Laurel and Will, watching a little TV or a video, or taking a walk – just simple, homey things. Maybe Weedle was giving me a taste of family home life, something I hadn’t seen much of since I went away to school decades before.

Taking a walk was special – one time all the kids were home with their friends, and we all walked across Mr. Flory’s field – this was after the harvest – to Coal Creek, where we climbed down into the ravine. The stream was barely a trickle, and we strolled along the creekbed in changing groups, talking and laughing, and the kids were horsing around

in the water or up on the bank among the trees. The branches, nearly bare, met overhead, and we moved through the sparse web of shadows but mostly in sunlight. Weedle and I held hands. We moved downstream, and when we reached the low-sided bridge at 1750 Road we climbed out, with some difficulty, and walked on the road past the little Vinland Cemetery to home.

That was one of my favorite memories, when I realized I had been accepted as a part of this family and their circle of friends, all new to me.

Weedle and I often took a walk on part of this path – Mr. Flory’s field was usually not passable, and the creek usually filled its bed, so we stuck to the road from our house past the cemetery to the creek and back. We walked hand in hand, and various dogs swirled around us or explored ahead. Sometimes we were wrapped in the gentle silence of old friends, but mostly we talked, of our days since the last time we saw each other, of the people and things we loved, of our thoughts and dreams. One time, as we detoured through the little cemetery on our way home from the creek, we talked of our future together. I said something about making our relationship more permanent.

It was Laurel, not me or Weedle, who recognized this as a proposal. But we soon enough endorsed the idea, and we made it permanent, with family and friends joyfully attending.

We still occasionally walked up to the creek. As Weedle’s knees began to give her more trouble walking, we took the car halfway up the road and walked with the dogs the rest of the way to the bridge. Eventually we took the car all the way, and sometimes we didn’t even get out of the car but just stopped on the bridge and looked down at the water, to see how the creek was running. Every few weeks we’d take the detour, usually on the way home from town, just to see how the creek was running.

I used to write little poems to Weedle – usually just greeting-card style rhymes that I’d leave around for her to find. Or I’d write something more ambitious – sometimes downright pretentious, and embarrassingly bad – and put it in a nice card. She was very diplomatic about saying she liked them all.

After Weedle died I found one of those old poems that had since changed its meaning as time passed and events unfolded. I had written about the creek only as a creek, a place where we loved to go. But now, with Weedle gone, the creek has become a metaphor, and has a further meaning for me. This is what I wrote to her:

In our courting days, we’d take the dogs
And walk together, from your old farmhouse,
Hand in hand, step in step,
Up the narrow gravel road
By Vinland Cemetery, to the creek beyond,
To see how Coal Creek was running.
The creek runs in a shady little ravine,
Cool and sweet on a hot, hot day,
Soft and promising on a chill one,
Wind and water talking together.
The creek might run high or low or nearly dry.
We looked together from the little low-sided bridge.
The dogs ran happily down the steep bank
And chased shadows through the stream
And sniffed after absent possums and raccoons and deer.

We held hands.

Concluding that the creek was running all right,
We’d turn toward home. Tired and dripping,
The dogs walked on ahead.
We’d pause in the little cemetery on the way,
Where lie old family and neighbors long gone,
And where one day I offered to you what was in my heart.

We’ve taken this walk together for years.
The creek is running all right yet,
Your old farmhouse is our home,
And what you accepted from me years ago
Remains undiminished in my heart still.

Let us always walk together
Hand in hand, step in step,
Up the cemetery road
And to the creek beyond.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

I Wish You Enough -- by Debbie Parks

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how grey the day may appear.

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.

I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final goodbye.

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, an a day to love them,

but then an entire life to forget them.

In Loving Memory of


SUBMITTED BY : The Squires Kinfolk