Birthday

09/02/2014 @ 10:10am

Sometimes it’s best not to know.

Last week someone talked to me about helping on a grant application.

“We’re almost done,” she said. “We just need some artsy-fartsy bogus BS for an opening statement.”

“And you thought of me?” I asked.

“Well, yeah,” she said.

It’s not that I’m not grateful that people recognize that I have a skill, it’s just that “Artsy-Fartsy Bogus BS” is a little bit long to fit on a business card.

Later that same day, I got an email from a guy wondering if I could speak at a convention.

He wrote, “I used to read your columns on the Internet all the time, but then a few years ago you must have gotten hacked by some kook, because now I don’t like them at all.”

No - no kook. I’m sorry, buddy, it’s just been me all along.

I didn’t really have the heart to delve into exactly which column shifted me into “kook” territory.  Frankly, there’ve been quite a few.  I think it’s probably safer for me not to find out exactly what people think about me. Some subjects are better left unopened.

That’s not the case for everyone, of course.  Last week was my mother’s 90th birthday.  She didn’t really have a birthday - more of a birth-week. She presided over at least four celebrations during which she connected with folks who have been important in various arenas of her life. It started with brunch and a gaggle of Red Hat ladies. She chatted so ferociously that she forgot to tip her waitress, which meant my father had to make a trip to town with some money to add to the young woman’s college fund. Then there was coffee after church with the bulk of the congregation, followed by lunch with about 20 family members. The final event was an open house at the café in the small community she’s called home for the past 65 years or so. Only about 400 people live in the town, along with a couple hundred others from the surrounding farms. She was hoping that 20 or so people would be there.  When I took a count five minutes before the event was supposed to start, 43 people were drinking coffee and eating muffins. A couple of hours after it was supposed to end, the last people straggled out the door. The crowd was bolstered a little by a caravan of folks from the town where she’d taught Special Ed for a couple of decades, along with a smattering of other folks who came from every point of the compass.

We live in a world that is silly, sometimes cruel, and way too often excruciatingly painful to behold, but every now and then something redemptive happens. Sometimes it’s just the people in a small place taking a couple hours on a holiday morning to stop in and tell an old lady that they liked her; that she’d made a difference in their lives; that their world is a richer, warmer, gentler place because she is in it.

Technically, I’m not allowed to write about my mother. She laid down that law about a decade ago, but every now and then you need to break the rules. My mother is one-of-a-kind, and you could make a case that one is plenty. A world full of Opal Olsons would be a fascinating, occasionally frustrating place, but it would also be a world where children are taught and cherished, where sinners are forgiven, and where everyone gets up early in the morning to work hard at jobs that matter.

I’d just as soon continue not knowing exactly what people think of me, but I’m glad my mother knows what they think of her.



Copyright 2013 Brent Olson

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