Sunday, November 22, 2015


Yesterday, Caryl asked if I could start staining the trim on the new windows in the front entry. I replied that I’d get to it soon, but first I needed to finish a paragraph I was struggling with in my blog. As soon as I said this and headed toward my desk, I started smiling—laughing a bit at myself, really—as two seemingly-unrelated vignettes formed in my head in rapid succession. In the first, my dialogue with Caryl turned into an Arlo ‘N’ Janis cartoon. The last two panels went something like this: Janis: “And how many readers do you have for this blog?” Arlo: “Uhhh, can I count you?...”

The second vignette: Years ago, after I had been in my new parish for a few weeks, I made my first pastoral call on Rollie (not his real name), who had been in the nursing home for a number of years. Rollie had been an accomplished musician, and, as he sat on his bedside chair, he described with glowing eyes and gracefully moving hands the oratorio he was working on. (“Then the trumpets come in…” etc.). After a few minutes, he paused, and with a bemused look on his face said, “But I’m stuck, pastor. I want to use the word ‘alleluia’ in my oratorio, and I think Mr. Handel has that copyrighted.” That sounds like a punchline out of another cartoon, but Rollie was dead serious. So I sobered my smile a little and assured him that anyone was free to use the word “alleluia,” and that he wouldn’t get into trouble. He seemed a bit relieved, but the next time I visited him, he told me about his oratorio and said, “But I’m stuck, Pastor….” He was still worried about the copyright. It became clear to me that Rollie’s oratorio was the product not only of his musical aptitude, but also of his growing dementia.

What stands out in my memory—more than the cloud that came over him when he fretted about “alleluia”—was the way Rollie’s eyes glowed (in that house of dulled eyes) as he was describing the glories of his oratorio. I could almost hear those trumpets.

The hapless Arlo often reminds me of myself, with Janis (Caryl) listening to my latest scheme before leveling me with a comment that is both smart and loving.

But I also identify with Rollie. I am (I hope) a bit more fully into my right mind than he was when I visited him, but, still, this little blog project is sort of my oratorio. And if the day should come when I slip a little, I hope my eyes shine like Rollie’s when I explain to the visiting pastor, “I’m just finishing a paragraph that I’ve been struggling with in my blog!” A really sensitive pastor will tell me that he’s one of my readers.