Thanksgiving 2022

Thursday, November 24, 2022

(We interrupt the previously scheduled episode recapping my 1972 Coming-of-Age Jaunt through Europe, to interject this Thanksgiving message.)

I am thankful, three weeks before my 73rd birthday, that most of my deadlines these days are self-imposed and freely adjusted. Had I been able to maintain my original plan, this week would have had readers with me in Jerusalem, where I celebrated my 1972 Thanksgiving meal with a jar of peanut butter and the loaf of bread I hoped to stretch for a few more days. Instead, the recap falls short by six weeks and eleven nations. I was still in England, and still thinking I would spend most of my sojourn in France. I anticipated upgrading my high school French and working on my novel. I certainly had no inkling of getting as far as Israel. I had, however, just committed to visiting a new friend in Switzerland.

I give thanks for my God-bestowed but only-recently-acknowledged ADHD. Even as—at this stage in life—unfinished projects challenge me in space and time, the fascinating twists and turns of my distractibility refuse to let me become bored. I am rich in both hobbies and relationships. All by itself, my whimsey in spiders has brought me friendly correspondents on six of the seven continents. My early teaching career allowed me to teach groups of junior high students, and in some cases, my later career brought me their children and grandchildren. Members of each group now show-up richly on my FB friends list. As God supplied me with diverse teaching venues, I once had a class of Cacua-speaking adults from the remote jungles of Colombia. They needed the basics of government and economics to help them pass their (Spanish-language) primary-school equivalency exams. We taught the class tri-lingually. Later, in China, I had three weeks with high school and college students who hoped to improve their English. Over the years, God gave me experiences with both public and Christian school students in California. In the middle, for a decade, I taught a tightly-knit cadre of students in Colombia. Some of those children I had the privilege of shepherding from fifth grade through twelfth, and I’m able to correspond with them now as adults. For all this I am thankful.

I am thankful for the families God has given me, both the family of my birth, and the family I began 50 years ago (next July) by marrying Vicki. In July, I camped with the cousins among whom I grew up. We who could remember our wonderful grandparents and great-grandmother could now see each other’s grandchildren. This week, Vicki and I have three of our five children, with their spouses, and seven of our fourteen grandchildren. My step-counter tells me that in the five days since the grandkids arrived, my daily walking stats double over the average from the previous six weeks. Few gratifications in life can match watching grandchildren grow and their parents negotiating the challenges. The oldest two boys have their voices changing. The younger ones still want to cuddle with Papa and have stories read. I also thank God for the amazing technology that allows me to teleport to Brazil to help homeschool my grandsons there, and then zoom over to England to keep current on the antics of my British grands.

My life puts flesh to the end-time description given by God to Daniel, “Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (Dan. 12:4, ESV). Living now, two-and-a-half millennia after God instructed Daniel to “shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end,” I am grateful to have a storehouse of ‘to-and-fro’ memories from visits to twenty-some countries. I also carry more information through my pocket phone than Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson could access had they owned every book then in print. I am thankful for capabilities unavailable to any previous generation. I am also grateful for the Scriptures that provide a solid place to stand as floodwaters shift the sand from all around us.

As a child born just at the end of two World Wars, I have lived through a Cold War and times of increasingly dangerous proxy wars. I am thankful that both I and my children have been spared the call to arms. Amidst ‘wars and rumors of war,’ I am thankful that, in my call to overseas service, I could carry literacy rather than kill-or-be-killed armaments. I could spread the Word of Life rather than the Kiss of Death. I am thankful to be living in a pocket of peace, the likes of which so many in our world are unable to enjoy. I am not facing a winter without heating, nor the threat of incoming missiles. I have done nothing to deserve these blessings that I enjoy, just as many of the people without them have done nothing to deserve their absence. Even in Colombia, which was struggling with a civil war within our earshot, I could say, as did David, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8). For this I am thankful.

(A conversation, just now, with my Brazilian son-in-law reminds me how thankful I am to be familiar with the tastes of both the peaches, apricots, and plums that won’t grow in the tropics, and the tree-ripened mangoes, papayas, and bananas that only show up in North American grocery stores with a pittance of their sweetness and flavor. I have tasted avocadoes, sweet and creamy as only the tropics can produce them, but have temperate-zone persimmons in the back yard as I write this.)

I am thankful that though riches and fame were never high on my list of ambitions, God’s plan for my life has delivered for me a modest level of each. I enjoy a nice house, a satisfactory pension, and a yard big enough to entertain my horticultural curiosities. Although—as late as 2016—I entertained no ambition to run for elective office, in 2018, I finished ahead of the Libertarian in my race for Congress, and in 2020, an amazing 42,015 voters marked their presidential ballots for me. I am thankful for each one of you. That total exceeds even the popular votes for George Washington (39,624 in 1788-89, and 28,300 in 1792) and for John Adams (35,726 in 1796). I am thankful that both Washington and Adams performed so well in the strenuous times with which they were faced—as have generations of patriots since—and that my family and I can enjoy the benefits thereof. I pray that those benefits will continue.

Even as God blessed me in ways I never sought, He has also gratified the desires I did entertain. I wanted to leave the world a better place for my having been here. Now, I can look at five grown children who are each contributing to the betterment of mankind. I can look at three generations of students whose lives I have touched. I can see riders lined up to utilize a bus system for which God put me in the right place at the right time to help get started. I can look back at teenagers I encouraged in the 1980s—coming from the pre-literate, indigenous peoples of Colombia—students who went on to graduate from prestigious universities, and who now supervise educational systems they have built from the ground up, on land to which their people now hold legal title. I hear of hundreds now worshipping Jesus among people-groups that had none fourty or fifty years ago. Oh, the marvels I have witnessed! Thank you, LORD!

On this Thanksgiving Day, 2022, I pray that each of my readers will enjoy a time of family and good food. I pray for God’s peace among those, worldwide, who currently feel the weight of man’s free will, expressed as it so often is, as man’s inhumanity to man. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Coming of Age, 1972: Episode #10

Saturday, November 05, 2022

The night ferry from Dublin brought me to Holyhead, at dawn. From there I set my feet for London, hoping to find waiting mail. The Welsh countryside was beautiful, and the street signs entertained me with names like Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Glyndyfrdwy, and Brynsaithmarchog. Holyhead sits on an island, connected to the British ‘mainland’ by the world’s oldest major suspension bridge.

It was a pleasant day. By walking some and getting a few rides, I covered about 150 miles before sundown.

I only skirted the outlying districts of Birmingham, rendered magical by yellow street lamps in a slight fog. I don’t remember where I thought I might get to spend the night, but a lorry driver stopped and offered me a ride. I’ve had readers in the British Isles for eleven days now, so we might as well use the correct vocabulary. There are no truck drivers in England, only lorry drivers.

We drove the M-40 the rest of the night, and the conversation was good. Not long before dawn, he dropped me on the outskirts of Winchester, and I rolled out my sleeping bag in a recently mowed cornfield. I might have slept a couple of hours, and the sun was up when I awoke.

How often does one get to Winchester? I thought I ought to get a look at the famous cathedral before I returned to my pursuit of any letters waiting for me in London. As an inveterate whistler, as I walked I whistled The New Vaudeville Band’s 1966 whistling hit “Winchester Cathedral.”

I walked naively into Winchester and took a nice look at the first big church I came to. Yeah, it was nice, if maybe not worthy of all the hype I had heard. Then, thinking I could check-off Winchester from my bucket list, I started across the city to reach the highway north. In the process, I stumbled upon the C*A*T*H*D*R*A*L. Boy-oh-boy. The laugh was on me.

I spent a goodly amount of time properly appreciating an amazing feat of architecture, built between 1079 and 1532. The interior length runs a football field and a half, with burials from an even earlier building, as far back as Cynegils, King of Wessex (AD 611–643). More recently, the Cathedral contains the remains of Jane Austin

When finally I had seen enough of the Cathedral—and seeing on the map that I was only a couple of miles from Tichborne—I hiked out of Winchester on the M-31.

In England, I could not have repeated the details, but I recognized the name had been important on my family tree. Refreshing my memory as I write this, John Tichborne (1460 - 1498), born at Tichborne, had one son, Nicholas (b. abt. 1480 and recorded as “Burgess of Hindon,” living at Tisbury, about 50 miles west of Tichborne) who sired Dorothy (abt. 1510 - abt. 1572), who married John Sambourne. Their grandson Richard (1580 - abt. 1632) married Ann Bachiler. After Richard’s death, their three sons crossed the Atlantic with their maternal grandfather, the Rev. Stephen Bachiler, and settled in Massachusetts, thereby planting my mother’s family in America.

Several days ago, when I began writing this episode, I had no idea I would be posting this on Guy Fawkes Day, nor any intension of mentioning the religious struggles of the 16th and 17th Centuries. Yet as I poked around on the web, it couldn’t help but come up.

Richard Samborne would have been distantly related to Chidiock Tichborne (1562 –1586), who was executed at age 23 for his part in the Babington Plot, a conspiracy by a small group of Catholics who hoped to murder Queen Elizabeth I, and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots. Chidiock left behind a wife, a daughter, and three poems that can still be found in print. Other than Chidiock, the Tichborne family were able to remain Catholic and even (by concession of King James I) retain as Catholic their family chapel inside the Church of England St. Andrew’s Church in Tichborne. On the other hand, the same King James I took lands and livelihood away from Rev. Stephen Bachiler, a “notorious inconformist.” There are hints that his Bachiler line arrived in England as Huguenot refugees from the slaughters in France. It makes sense that Stephen Bachiler (1561-1656) was an early proponent of the separation of church and state in American Colonies.

In Tichborne, I found the village library and went in, but had no idea what I might find, or how to go about it. Year’s later, I discovered Tichborne’s Elegy.

Tichborne’s Elegy

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares, My feast of joy is but a dish of pain, My crop of corn is but a field of tares, And all my good is but vain hope of gain; The day is past, and yet I saw no sun, And now I live, and now my life is done.

My tale was heard and yet it was not told, My fruit is fallen, and yet my leaves are green, My youth is spent and yet I am not old, I saw the world and yet I was not seen; My thread is cut and yet it is not spun, And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb, I looked for life and saw it was a shade, I trod the earth and knew it was my tomb, And now I die, and now I was but made; My glass is full, and now my glass is run, And now I live, and now my life is done.

After sitting in the library for a short time, I caught a ride into London. My strongest memory is passing Wimbledon. I don’t follow tennis, but I recognized the name.

Coming of Age, 1972: Episode #9

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Once I left Limerick and turned myself in the direction of London, I felt the tug of possible mail waiting for me in Earl’s Court. All of Ireland is only one fifth the size of California, and the trip from Limerick to Dublin is about the same as a trip from Los Angeles to San Diego, though the highway in 1972 was just one lane each direction.

From the portion that I walked, my strongest memory is the carefully designed and manicured garden on front of one house. I stood for a short time to admire it, and I’m sure my neighbors ever since have wished I had learned more from the study.

The ride I remember was with an older gentleman in a truck. We rode together long enough to pass several cemeteries, and each time, he crossed himself without interrupting our conversation. This gesture had not been part of my Methodist upbringing, and I wondered now—without saying anything—whether this was an Irish show of respect for the dead, or a more general Catholic practice.

My Irish ancestors had been Catholics, although only nominally-so within living memory. In Seattle, on the very day that the lockdown lifted at the end of the Spanish Flu, my grandmother’s sister and her beau beckoned a justice of the peace to the house for a wedding, while my grandparents waited a few days to have a wedding mass. Neither marriage lasted, though, and while I was growing up, I never knew my grandmother to practice anything I could identify as Catholic. My dad, upon enlisting in the navy, faced paperwork that asked whether he was Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish. The question stumped him. He checked the middle box, while not identifying with any of them. He attended Protestant services at sea.

Vicki’s family had also been nominally Catholic, until in her early teens she asked her father to begin taking her to mass. Then, just a few months before she met me, she became fascinated by the faith she saw in a couple of Evangelical friends at UCLA. They helped her to a ‘born again’ step of faith. When we first met, she was on fire for Jesus, and many of our early conversations were Christo-centric. Indeed, at Easter, after we had known each other about six months, I took her to the beach for a day—her favorite spot—and we sat under the jets taking off from LAX. I came away from that day with a dim view of the relationship potential between an agnostic like me, and a ‘religious fanatic,’ as I then perceived her. My parting words, as I took her home, were “Vicki, I think you will make someone a wonderful wife, but it won’t be me.” To my surprise, I had said just the right thing. At the time, she was trying to slow down two other fellows who wanted to marry her, and she wouldn’t have to worry about me. Over the next fifteen months, we each had other romantic interests, and Vicki and I could just be good friends, under no pressure.

I arrived in Dublin, but didn’t see much of the city. I bought my ferry ticket for a sleeper to Holyhead and stayed close to the terminal. I do have a favorite picture of Dublin, though. It is of my mother, from a much later trip. I trace some of my love of travel to Mom, who never got much of a chance to do so. My dad saw a lot of Asian ports while in the navy. My mother had wanted to join the WACS, but had been talked out of it. Then she had looked into going to Europe after the war to help clean up and rebuild. But again, it didn’t fit the limited vision of people whose opinion she trusted. To them, it wasn’t appropriate for a single woman. Occasionally during my growing years, however, she would reminisce over those dreams, and so there was an element of her yearnings in my travel. Some twenty years after my trip, she and my dad did get to Ireland for two weeks, and they visited us once during our years in Colombia. Most of my mother’s travel, however, was vicariously through other people's travels, or through a retirement spent teaching English to immigrants. If she couldn’t go to them, she would make the most of them coming to her.

The crossing to Holyhead was uneventful, and the boat put me back in Wales just at daybreak. It would be the longest day of my trip.

Coming of Age, 1972: Episode #8

Friday, October 21, 2022

My short visit to Ireland—three days of hard travel—did not allow me time to get as far north as Sligo, from whence hailed my paternal great-great-grandfather Carroll, nor to get out of the car in Cork, which I incorrectly thought had been the birthplace of my great-great-grandfather Kelley. However, I did spend a delightful overnight in Limerick. I have to assume the city figures somewhere in my DNA. Here is a quick one that I wrote just today:

An illustrious PM named Lis Truss
Said, “No longer can I hold this trust.”
The greatest frustration
Is viscous inflation
But we shan’t dissolve Commons. It is this thus.

I’m unable to find a photograph of the Youth Hostel in Limerick, and I have only a vague memory that it was somewhere near the city center. In lieu of photographs, I will tuck in a sampling of limericks from my collection.

What I do remember is the uproariously fun discussion we had when we discovered that the 17 guests who gathered in the common room that evening spoke 14 different dialects of English. Between us, we represented Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, Boston, Georgia, Texas, Scotsmen, Welsh, several areas in England, and—of course—the standard and correct English that we speak in California. Since everyone was traveling, we each had recent observations of the funny differences in the ways English speakers say things. In addition to a cheap and clean place to sleep, one of the benefits of the Youth Hostels is trading experiences with the other travelers. Often, many were coming from where I hoped to go next, and could give impressions and advice.

When we could laugh no more, an Aussie girl told me she wanted to go for a beer, but didn’t want to be the only girl in the pub. She offered to buy me a drink if I would be her escort. Had she not asked, I probably would not have thought to include a pub in my Irish experiences. I’m glad I did. It was quiet, but the atmosphere was friendly. She did turn out to be the only female in the room, but we enjoyed our conversation walking over and back, and each drank one beer.

For a day that started in Loo Bridge and included the Ring-of-Kerry, I was more-than-ready to turn in when we got back to the Hostel. Just a few days earlier, I had attended a play by the Royal Shakespearian Theater, in Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon. As nice as that had been, now I was sleeping a night in the city that had given its name to the Limerick, the apex of English literature and culture.