War

Up, down, sideways. My emotions are all over the place after the terrorist attack. First I’m angry, then depressed, then angry again — this time at something else. One day I’m mad at the terrorists, the next at the FAA, then at our foreign policy, and finally at myself for second-guessing.

Is patriotism the last refuge of scoundrels? Or is it hindsight?

My friend Leonard and I argue each morning on our daily walks. “Nuke ’em,” Leonard says. “No more land wars in countries where we don’t belong.” Leonard, a Vietnam vet, is suspicious of government policy.

I share his skepticism about our leadership until I read an article I find on the Internet about the major players in our state department and their preparations for a response to the attack.

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Snow

Doc came prepared. He was wearing a parka and a heavy sweater when he got off the airplane. He had two big carry on bags and a huge duffle. Why did you bring all this stuff? I asked him. Doc looked puzzled. I left half of it at home, he said.

The next morning, we got up early and drove up to the property that Jake and I owned in the foothills of the Sierras. Our cabin was on the edge of the forest high above a lake. From the deck, we had a panoramic view oft he lake and the surrounding hills.

I had borrowed Jake’s truck so that I could transport several four by eight foot siding panels to replace the ones on the north end of the cabin that the porcupines had chewed up. Doc asked what porcupines found that was good to eat in wood siding, and I said it was the glue.

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Daddy

We finally figured out what to do with my wife’s father. We locked him up. “Shoulda done it years ago,” was Kermit’s opinion, expressed at a family meeting called to decide the old boy’s fate. Really, there was nothing else to do. His wife, no spring chicken herself, couldn’t deal with him anymore. Who else was going to take him in? His brothers and sisters were either dead or as crazy as he was, Kermit, the youngest, being the exception. But Kermit, a bachelor, wasn’t caretaker material. Kermit and Earl didn’t get along anyway. “Never did, never will, “Kermit said. I once asked Kermit why he didn’t like his brother. “Because He’s a jackass,” Kermit replied.

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Bad Apples

Wanda here. I’m the director of Social Services at the Lutheran Home. I do a little bit of everything around here. I’m the chief cook and bottle washer, so to speak. Mainly I’m in charge of patient welfare. I see to it that the gals get new undies when they need them and that the guys get to the grocery store when they run out of oatmeal or prunes. It’s a good job. Busy, busy. But that’s the way I like it. And George and Ida are good people to work for.

If you have to be in a nursing home, this is a good place to be. Nobody volunteers to get in here, I suppose, but we take good care of the residents. We go the extra mile. The food is good, and we give the seniors lots to do. There’s something going on all the time. Talks, music, Bible study, exercise classes, bingo. Nobody gets a chance to sit around feeling sorry for himself.

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Power Outage

I met my first wife in an art gallery in Paris. She was an American girl who had carefully saved her pennies for a trip to Europe after graduating from college. That was my story, too. We spent a month together in the City of Lights. All we did was argue.

When we returned to the States, we went our separate ways, but we hooked up again later in San Francisco. We got married in 1962. We were often at odds, but our contentiousness took on a different pattern after we were married. Periods of peace and calm were followed by stormy disputes. We let disagreements fester, then released our feelings in a torrent of angry words.

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A Catholic Wedding

When my cousin decided to marry a Catholic, my family was horrified. Her parents tried to talk her out of it, to no avail. The wedding was in a Catholic church, of course, and on the appointed day, family and friends made the trek from my hometown to Fargo for the ceremony.

We gathered in small, uncomfortable groups in front of the wood framed building. Most of us had never been in a Catholic church before. We didn’t know what to expect. We conversed gloomily, making small talk, boring each other to death as Lutherans will.

I recalled the stories I heard when I was a child about the arsenal of weapons that the Catholics had hidden away in the basement of their churches, preparing against an attack, perhaps, or possibly a coup d’etat. Even then I doubted that there was any truth to the rumor, but growing up, I was as wary of Catholics as the rest of my Scandinavian brethren.

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