Saturday, August 29, 2009

Of funerals and grocery stores

I've been thinking about the different worlds we all live in. As a Texas resident, I naturally live in the world of the United States--and as such I've been glued to the TV much of the day watching Ted Kennedy's funeral and the burial at Arlington Natonal Cemetery. I thought it all impressive and well done--the music was superb, the speeches of the two sons moving and unforgettable, the determined stoic calm on the widow's face, punctuated occasionally by great sadness, so moving I cried for her. Ted Kennedy was a man with large warts, many faults in his past, but he was a man who believed in redemption by good works, as do I, and he certainly did his share of good works in the name of the public good--and the forgotten small people of this country. Kennedy truly believed the biblical injunction that we are our brothers' keepers. He was a voice for the unheard, a loud voice in the Senate, and a man much to be admired, whatever your political beliefs. His loss will be felt in Congress and the country, and he is probably irreplaceable, no matter what Kennedy comes forth to carry on his work. At the end of the day, I felt like I'd been to his funeral though, of course, I only witnessed it on TV.

But I live in another world (one of many I inhabit), that of Texas literature, and we too suffered a loss, leaving a hole that cannot be filled. Elmer Kelton, Texas' most beloved novelist, died a week ago and his funeral was Thursday. There couldn't be more contrast between the two funerals I've "attended" this week. Kennedy's was full of the pomp and circumstance that goes with the Kennedy name, the Catholic Church, and his position in government--it was elaborate, a huge cathedral, a beautifully orchestrated choir, soloists like Placido Domingo and Yo Yo May. Elmer's funeral was low key, the kind of plain, Methodist service he would have wanted--two hymns, an organist who was really good and kept the music at a lively pace instead of letting it drag into dirge-like slowness, a minister who was blessedly informal, telling anecdotes about Elmer and his testy relationship with horses. Elmer's loss will be felt in Texas literature--and western American literature--every bit as much as Ted Kennedy's will be felt in Congress. And like Kennedy, Elmer is irreplaceable--there's not anyone likely to come along to replace his combination of knowledge of ranching life and history and his passion for telling it.

So two of my worlds (there are many more--family, for instance) have been disturbed, and I am grateful to have been part of the tribute to the departing giants of both.

On a more light-hearted note, my trip to two grocery stores this morning proved my theory that southwest Fort Worth is like a small town. I asked for a roasting hen at Central Market, and the butcher, a young woman, said, "We have roasters--I don't know if they're hens." I told her that would be fine, and when she had it wrapped up I remarked, "That will make a great chicken loaf." She asked if I had my spices, and I said I didn't need any. I use saltines. That sparked a question, and soon I was telling her how I make chicken loaf--she kept asking questions, and I finally suggested she look for Cooking My Way Through Life with Kids and Books, which has the recipe--darn! I had stuffed my credit card in my pocket so didn't have my purse and a business card to give her. In the produce department of Central Market, I saw the biggest onions I've ever seen--the size of an acorn squash. And they were "sweet onions" from Hatch, New Mexico. Of course, we're celebrating Hatch chilies now. When I got out of the car at Central Market, I wondered what I smelled--it was roasting Hatch chilies.

The same smell followed me to City Market, where I usually shop on Friday and indeed had done so yesterday. I love their tuna salad, but somehow forgot to buy it yesterday (maybe because Jeannie and I were going to lunch and I didn't need it at noon) so I went back today. I told the girl behind the deli counter, who is now my friend, that I forgot it yesterday, and she said she saw me picking up wine and had my tuna all dished up--but I didn't stop for it. See, I told you it was a small town!

Trivia: With Brandon's advice, I finally got my remote mouse and keyboard working again, and I am a happy camper. I can tell the aches and pains of my back, from recent days of twisting to use the remote cursor, are already going away. Now if he could only help me find the monitor that I wear around my neck for my telemergency system, I'd be a happy camper--I have looked everywhere, even in the most remote places, and cannot find it. Tonight I had sauteed scallops, with scallions and cherry tomatoes, for supper--so good. And then I sat on the porch. Cool weather has come to Texas, and it's wonderful--a perfect porch night.

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