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[dc]“I[/dc]nto each life some rain must fall,” said my dear Aunt Eleanor, and so when it rained all day on Saturday I thought of her. This is a true memorial, truer than a stone with your name on it. Say memorable things. Grandma said, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” She also said, “We are all islands in the sea of life and seldom do our peripheries touch,” which is also true, especially during a pandemic. My periphery has only touched that of my wife and daughter since February. Whenever handshaking becomes legal again, I hope I remember how many shakes you should do (three? five?). And which friends do you hug and for how long.

God Bless America

I go for a walk and see a deranged man yammering to himself, a perfectly well-dressed lunatic having an episode, and then I notice the little device clipped to his ear.

In the pandemic I’ve started watching TV again, a habit I lost in 1982 when I got too busy. I can only watch for about half an hour and then I get restless and I only watch baseball, only my Twins, with the fabulous Byron Buxton in CF and a manager named Rocco Baldelli and amid a bunch of talented Latino players we have Max Kepler, a name right out of the 1890s.

Watching baseball makes me feel I’m in America and an old man needs reassurance on that. Back when I lived in Denmark and felt I was walking around with a big red A around my neck, it was thrilling to walk into the Anglican church on Sunday and say the words, “Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name,” like standing under a hot shower. Same when a sausage was served in a bun, to be eaten in the hand, not with fork and knife. Copenhagen was a strange city, where pedestrians stood waiting for the light to change even though no traffic was coming, but the Lord’s Prayer and a hot dog restored my sense of identity. They had no baseball, they played a game they called football but only used their feet and wore no helmets.

Grandma and Aunt Eleanor would’ve done fine in a pandemic, being farm women, hardy, self-sufficient, devoted to family. Grandma wasn’t a joiner, she had her eight children and sister Della and brother Lew and that was enough. She lived a close compact life, even without a virus to require it. They called it “visiting,” and women were good at it and men not so much, except Uncle Lew. When he was old and failing, he said, “If you don’t have time to come visit me now, don’t bother to come to my funeral,” and he meant it. Sitting and visiting was fundamental to life, and the conversation was all reminiscence, never about politics.

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My daughter, home from school, is like them. I hear her in her room, doing FaceTime or Zoom or some app I’ve never heard of, and a flock of girlish voices chattering. It’s what holds her world together. I don’t understand a single thing they’re saying, any more than I understood Danish, but I love the sound. I grew up a loner and never acquired social skills, that’s why I have to write books.

I am of a bygone era, I write on yellow tablets with a rollerball pen. I don’t get contemporary fiction, I want to go back and reread Dickens and Cervantes and Tolstoy. I go for a walk and see a deranged man yammering to himself, a perfectly well-dressed lunatic having an episode, and then I notice the little device clipped to his ear.

I need fixed markers in this attention-deficit world. Mine are my wife’s shoulders and my laptop computer. When people dare to congregate again, I need to go to church and feel absolved of my sins and then go to comedy clubs and watch stand-ups ply their trade. I need to stare at the screen so I don’t miss the fly ball to deep left center and the outfielders stretching out full tilt and the ball rolls into the gap for a double. Such graceful things can happen within this fixed finite field. Bases loaded, one out, our pitcher is struggling, disaster on the horizon, and then there it is — a squiggly grounder to the shortstop who underhands it to the second baseman who pivots and fires to first for the DP, catching the runner by a half-stride, and reflexively we jump to our feet and say, YES!

I want more of those moments, in church, in comedy, in my own kitchen looking at the salad my wife made. YES! I say. Praise the Lord for the zucchini.


Garrison Keillor
Prairie Home Productions

Republished with permission