Monday, December 26, 2016


My uncle died. I am sad that he is gone, that I will never see his wry smile except on the backs of my eyelids. I am not sad that his pain is over. Chronic illness in these last years made his life a daily challenge, made him old before his time. I am sad that I did not figure out how to be supportive, that I  did not make the transition from niece to friend.

So many of our best family stories feature Mark.

My earliest memories of this uncle are as the humbug in the dark room upstairs who loved cats more than little girls and who did not celebrate Christmas with the rest of the family. The first year he decided to rejoin the holidays, he bought my sister, my cousins and me wild things from Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. Ted got Max because he was the only boy at that point. My sister Gwen, Ted's sister Gretchen, and I got Wild Things 1, 2, and 3 in age order.

I am Wild Thing 1.

This toy, now more than thirty years old, still has pride of place in my bedroom.

When I was graduating college, Mark called and asked if he could come. I was surprised, but my mom pointed out that Mark had never had kids of his own, but he had me. He came, and I was glad he was there.

I thank him for teaching me cleverness, for honing my wit, and for showing me through his choices that it is possible to challenge the systems in which we participate. I can be a devout Methodist with heretical tendencies because Mark was an anarchist who worked for the IRS. Remind me to tell you the story about the name tags sometime.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


Today I had a taste of what the foolish bridesmaids felt like, knocking on a locked door.

I thought I was being one of the wise bridesmaids. Two and a half weeks ago when a former pastor and professor's death was announced, I rearranged my standing obligations so that I could attend his memorial service this afternoon.

Winter has descended upon the area, and the drive up up up to Westmoreland Circle today was both treacherous and gorgeous.

The parking lot was empty, and the church was locked.

Another alum arrived, similarly confused. Eventually, his Google-fu told us the service had been rescheduled at a different location earlier in the day.

Although I was not particularly close to Jim personally, he was an important part of the community that shaped the faith that has carried me through my adulthood, and the world is less bright without him in it. I am oddly bereft at having missed the opportunity to mourn in community.

Since I had made space in the day for holy things, I stopped to walk the labyrinth at American before coming home.

The campus is a fleeting frosted wonderland.