Saturday, June 25, 2011

WATERING THE VI & JORGIE TREE


Dick & Caryl (Nasby) Jorgensen, Barb (Jorgensen) and Phil Lewison, Betty
(Jorgensen) and Jeff Rohr,  having just watered the "Vi & Jorgie Tree"

Our parents, Violet and Leon (Jorgie) Jorgensen, left to their children the legacy of a family cabin. Oh, they left us no property or building; what they bequeathed to us was the kind of family they built: Kids who grew up knowing we were loved unconditionally (and completely equally, regardless of the fact that we try to tell little Bobby that he was the favorite); kids who had chores to do (although Dicky would often disappear at dishwashing time); kids who grew into the kind of adults who continue to share that same love, who communicate openly, who forgive easily.

It may sound like I’m trying to boast about the kind of people we are, but I really am intending to say a word about the kind of family Vi and Jorgie made. I’m tempted to fall back on one of those old sentimental recipes: “Pour in a heap o’ love, stir in a generous dollop of hard work (but just a soup├žon of money), season with a sprinkling of careful discipline, and marinate in the word o’ God….” As the product of this recipe, I have nothing to brag about; I’m just grateful.

Although our parents had a copy of Dr. Spock on their bookshelf (and I have nothing against child-rearing books), I do not, on reflection, have the impression that they were experimenting on us kids with the latest child development theories. They seemed to know in their bones – or from the traditions of the no-nonsense second and third-generation Scandinavian immigrant families in which they’d grown up – that this is how you raise kids. The chief ingredient – love – was no theory; it was a given – inherited, no doubt, from their parents.

I didn’t mean for this to turn into an essay on parenting skills. (That’s a-brewing.) I started to say that the kids of Vi and Jorgie now love and accept each other and that this, more than our mingled meager finances, is what has allowed us to happily share a family place in the Black Hills for over twenty-five years. (Our brother, Bob, of Jorgensen Log Homes, who built the cabin, was invited into the partnership, but said, “Why should I buy in; I can sneak out there any time I want.”)

Every once in a while, when hearing of our shared endeavor, someone will say that they’re not sure if they could pull this off in their family. We tell them that there are strategies we’ve developed to make it work: A partnership agreement, regular meetings, and an acknowledgement that we don’t make assumptions. (Like “I’m sure my sisters will love the framed picture of brother Dick over the mantle.”) We take a consensus vote almost every time we want to buy a new case of toilet paper. At our meetings we talk, we laugh, we’ve even cried. But the main strategy is that we are the children of Vi and Jorgie…

… and that we are the children of our spouses’ parents: Albert and Ardea Lewison, Olive and Bob Nasby, Wardean and Elmer Jeffries Rohr.  (We are the legacy, that is, of parents with some pretty funny names.) As with the sentimental recipe, above, I am also tempted to say that there may have been, in fact, something about their generation: emerging from a depression and a world war to build a country – and a family.

We’re planting memorial trees to our parents in the valley in which our cabin sits. These thoughts were inspired by the picture, above, of the six of us gathered around the Vi and Jorgie tree.

One of my mantras in ministry is that there are no perfect families – and all of ours are far from it. But these four families, at least, seemed to have this in common: The love described by Paul in First Corinthians, a love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” We now-graying kids of Vi and Jorgie and Olive and Bob and Albert and Ardea and Wardean and Big Jeff are the beneficiaries of this love. We hope to pass it – and a cabin – on to our kids.

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More reflections on building the cabin.


We, the children of Vi & Jorgie, etc. are also no dummies. We augment those "meager finances" by renting the cabin and 74 acres out to close personal friends. Happy to talk to you about it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

THE EVERYMAN REVIEW

When I was in 10th grade I was cast as Rip Van Winkle in the school play. At the time I sported a flat-top haircut – the same post-war style my father wore. (I had some of that gel glop that I used to flatten it down when the center started to grow faster than the edges; this was no doubt a very flattering look.) But even I knew that a flat-topped Rip Van Winkle would look stupid; I decided to let my hair grow so that by opening night I was able to comb it over into a style I later learned was called – no kidding – the “collegiate.” This exercise in thespian verisimilitude was the beginning of the end of the flat-top for men all over the country. Soon everyone was wearing the collegiate – and it all started with an experience that could be summarized as “Dick Jorgensen is Rip Van Winkle!”

A few years later, I was spinning a drug-store rack and came upon a book called “The Lord of the Rings.” I was intrigued because we’d just read “The Lord of the Flies” in English class, so I thought I’d give this new book a try. I loved it. The next week the cover of Time blared, “Lord of the Rings Sweeps Nation!” Who knew that a reporter was looking over my shoulder at the Rexall?

Time marched on. I discovered a small restaurant called "McDonalds" and gave it my business; I abandoned my eight-track tape player. Years later, I thought my feet looked stupid (there’s that word again) in Earth Shoes. So good-by Earth Shoes – for me, and for all of the fashion world.

I began to think that I was a trend-setter, or, perhaps, the fabled “Everyman.” And it’s happening again. After giving the Facebook the old college try for a year or so, I find my enthusiasm for the medium waning (oh, certainly not for your posts, dear Friend). So my usage is slipping into infrequency. Sure enough, as soon as I realized this was happening I saw this headline in Salon.com: “Is Facebook’s Growth Slowing?” Sorry, Facebook. And look out, Twitter; I’m about to give you a try. What will Everyman’s verdict be?

(Of course there’s always the exception that proves the rule. Back in those flat-top days I was attracted for a time to a new sensation, “The Beatles,” but quickly rejected them and turned back to my beloved Kingston Trio. The Fab Four somehow managed to survive.)   

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

"BILLS WIDE IN VAIN:" ON HEARING MY NEIGHBOR'S LEAF BLOWER


R.S. Thomas was a Welsh preacher-poet who wrote about his rural parishioners in a time when the tractor was just beginning to replace the horse team. R.S. never met a machine he didn’t hate, and his disdain for anything mechanical or electrical fueled his poetry to the extent that it became a sub-category of a whole lifetime’s work. In the sonnet “Cynddylan on a Tractor” (which came to me as my neighbor fired up her leaf blower) the old curmudgeon is gruffly humorous on the subject:

Ah, you should see Cynddylan on a tractor.
Gone the old look that yoked him to the soil,
He's a new man now, part of the machine,
His nerves of metal and his blood oil.
The clutch curses, but the gears obey
His least bidding, and lo, he's away
Out of the farmyard, scattering hens.
Riding to work now as a great man should,
He is the knight at arms breaking the fields'
Mirror of silence, emptying the wood
Of foxes and squirrels and bright jays.
The sun comes over the tall trees
Kindling all the hedges, but not for him
Who runs his engine on a different fuel.
And all the birds are singing, bills wide in vain,
As Cynddylan passes proudly up the lane.

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More about R.S. Thomas here and here.