To understand this story, realize I, the narrator, am eighty-five years old and look it. The story begins as I was exiting a gas station, having paid for my gas, and coming in were a fourteen year old Muslim girl and her mother. The girl held the door open while her mother entered, and then, looking at me, she smiled and stepped back, holding the door so I could exit. Her mother, wearing a hijab, did not look pleased.
I thanked her, and concluded in my mind that with young people like her, there was great hope for the displaced Muslims in the US and Germany, whom we thought would never change. The younger generation would certainly change to better values, would assimilate in the Judeo-Christian West, and make us all proud we had helped them.
Sure, there’s no certainty of that, but prayers are answered, and I know of some people who are praying for that. This Western Civilization has met adversity before, and conquered.
A coincidence is two or more things happening at the same time, or something happening when we are ready for it. Since we have what seems like an infinity of time (not quite) for something to happen at just the right time beats all the odds. It’s like a minor miracle. I love miracles. Don’t you?
We live in a universe of wonders. My second son, Paul, died on the Feast of the Lady of Guadalupe, whose shrine in Mexico is the most visited religious site anywhere in the world, of any single faith. He has good company, and yes, I believe he’s still alive, somehow. I’m writing about him here.
He was a rock climber. That means he climbed difficult mountains, like in the Shawangunks, in NY, where he got his practice. Then he went on to the Half Dome, in the California Sierras (Yosemite). That’s not what he died of. He knew enough to quit before it killed him. But there was still a coincidence there, anyway.
The name goes back to Roman times. Valentine was supposedly a priest of the new Christian faith, and since the Emperor’s edict forbade the marriage of Christians, he went ahead and married them anyway, breaking Roman Law. They executed him for that, and so becoming a martyr paved his way to sainthood. The romantic English took to that, and commemorated his memorial day (they were Catholic once) by making his feast the day of lovers.
I and some of the people I know still refer to it as Saint Valentine’s Day, and my brother Rudy, whose middle name is Valentine, has a name day, as the Latins call it. Here’s to my youngest brother, whose star-crossed love life has really had some happy results, named Philip, Sondra and Andrea. I love them all.
Loretta, my wife, got a dozen roses today for the first time in her life, on February 14. Thank you, St. Valentine, through the same Jesus Christ you worshiped. And hey, through a simple guy like me.
When we remember the good things, not the bad, like somebody’s impulsive slight, but the noble, the kind things done in the name of the good ethos that has usually prevailed in the Christian West (at a cost), we are handing on what succeeding generations will value. I have helped others because of the nuns and clerics who have helped me.
Hey, my helpers haven’t all been do-gooders. There was the adulterer who gave me a tax break, who kept California from admitting mid-Eastern terrorists (to some extent), and there was the nasty college professor who assigned readings against my fondest beliefs. But it all did me good.
What doesn’t kill me will strengthen me, at least here in the West. Some of the greatest contributors to this civilization are unknown, unassuming people who blend into the background. Thank God there’s enough of them.
Teeth are so important. Back when the Innuit lived alone in the Arctic Circle, when a grandmother lost sufficient teeth to prevent her from softening the skin garments her family used, she would isolate herself on an ice floe and drift out to sea, to be gone from her loved ones in an inconspicuous way. Survival was harsh in the frozen north.
When my granddaughter got a new tooth, it was an occasion of joy. And you know what, when my son bought me a few new teeth (removable bridge) it was the same for me. I could now eat without fear of choking.
I am glad we brought the Innuit into civilization in Alaska. I don’t know how they’ll manage it (removable bridges are pricey) but at least now there’s a chance those grandmas can get other ways to soften the garments, or better yet, buy warm garments.
First as a student, then as a teacher, I’ve longed to be right. Don’t you want to be part of the truth, the way, the life? It is heaven to make a statement you believe is right, and then have the Almighty prove it, simply, to be right, even if by chance.
Isabel Allende, the author (24 books), used to say Jesus Christ was always on the left. She was partly right. I make the statement: Jesus Christ was always in the right, whether on the right or on the left. You get what I mean by having chance (history, here) prove you’re right? Would you could all have that feeling!
If you live the right life, how can you miss? Teacher said. I have so many rights to be thankful for. But now in my old age, don’t talk to Freddy, he knows too many times when I’ve been wrong.
Life is an adventure, and if you don’t believe it, let me tell you, it is like walking several of the various wards at Creedmore, the mental asylumn (I haven’t done it). Yes, the real world, where most of those benighted people run wild, is where the steel hits the grindstone, you might say. I pray for them all, because although they make for a bumpy ride, there are parts of any adventure that have to be uncomfortable to say the least.
From my youth I remember Men of Iron, Captain Ahab, The Call of the Wild, Huckleberry Finn, Ivanhoe, Heidi’s Alm Uncle, Starbuck in Moby Dick, and many lesser characters. They have their counterparts in people I’ve met.
Sometimes I heard the voice that said, “It’s all right.” There must be an indwelling spirit that calms all human beings who seek it, and is the source of our peace in old age.