Monday, January 31, 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

I hope you're sitting down.

Hi, blog friends! This is not bad news! It's good news, in fact very good news (though of course not as good as the Good News).

I have a granddaughter.

And you may ask: "How can this be?! Old Bob has never been married and has never had a child!"

Here's the story.

About 1995, thoroughly disgusted with the way the liturgy was being mangled in a certain Latin-rite parish here in Minneapolis, I started going to the Ukrainian Catholic parish here, which uses the Byzantine rite of St. John Chrysostom.

(To the best of my knowledge, this rite has survived unchanged since about AD 400, except for the translation from Greek to modern Ukrainian. In the Orthodox Slavic world, the liturgy has always been in the vernacular. What is now the Ukrainian Catholic Church worldwide was split from Rome in 1054, but in 1596 some of the bishops asked to be reunited to Rome, and were, and are now a church sui juris.)

The first few times I went to Divine Liturgy there (at 8:00 am, yuk, but I was much younger and stronger then) I heard the liturgy recited in English, and then, after I got the hang of how it is structured (same as Roman but a little different), I started going at 10:00 to hear the liturgy chanted (a cappella, mind you) in Ukrainian. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

I sang in the choir for part of one liturgical year, and discovered that during Divine Liturgy time is irrelevant. It's exactly as if we are lifted out of time to brush with eternity, and nothing earthly matters at all.

During those many years at this parish, I made many friends, learned to hold a (very halting) conversation in Ukrainian, and did a bit of a stint as an ESL tutor to Ukrainian refugees, mostly Soviet Ukraine.

One very odd sidelight is that one of the best friends I made is a man almost exactly my age, an engineer, a family man, who - get this! - served (not by choice!) in the Soviet Army when he was young, exactly at the time I would have been serving in the U.S. Army if I hadn't flunked the physical exam. It's not impossible that he and I, now friends, could once have been enemy soldiers staring at each other across the Berlin Wall.

During all this time, and before, my favorite eating place was a Ukrainian deli-bakery-butcher shop where I could get heavenly delicious meals and practice my Ukrainian at the same time. This is where I met Maria. Her immediate family came here from Ukraine about 2004 or 2005 (when she was about 13 or 14), and she went to De La Salle High School, my old alma mater, knowing very little English, if any.

In 2010 she graduated from high school and went to college in Duluth. A month or so in her first term we happened to meet and she mentioned that she was still having trouble with English, especially formal written English such as college papers demand (I had a prof once . . . but no.)

So I gathered together a pile of English language reference books: dictionary, thesaurus, grammar, style guide, and so on (packrats have two of everything), and gave them to her. She was so happy that she gave me a huge Ukrainian bear hug (much more enthusiastic than an American one) and told me that she was adopting me as her grandfather.

Since then, we have corresponded regularly. I write her more oftem than she writes me, because she's up to her eyeballs in difficult course work in a pre-med curriculum. But she is happy to have me in her life and has said so:

Me, Nov. 2010:
Hi, Maria, I hope you don't mind that I call you "doroha vnuchka" [Dear Granddaughter]-- if you do, just say so and I won't do it any more. I hope you have a very good month in school before Christmas. Anything I can do to help, just let me know. I'm praying for you all the time.

Hi Didusyu [Grandfather], of course not, i really like when you call me vnuchka :) I hope it will be a good month too, but it's going to be very busy one. I hope everything is well with you. Thank you for caring, it's good to have you "didusyu". Thank you so much!! :) God bless you!

Me January 12 2011:
Grandfathers do worry about their granddaughters.

because that what they feel like doing.

Oh, yes! I want to know that you are okay, well, and happy!

thank you, it's good to know that someone like you care about me.

I'm very happy in my soul (v dushu?) that I can give you some happiness.

im happy for you too

Maria January 18:
Dorogyi Didusu', [Dear(est?) Grandfather (Grandpapa?)
Thank you for telling me what you just did. Your words make me think about life, faith and people who really understand the meaning of God's love. I'm glad to felt better. I promise to write as often as i can and Im glad to have you in my life Didus'. To have you as a techer, friend and person that i can tell everything to means a lot to me. You have my full permission to do so. [tell people about me]
God Bless you! Love always
Vnuchka ♥

* * *

First came the pure joy, the kind of happiness I have never felt in my life, the kind that comes from giving without expectation. I have to explain that while I think I have a hard head (one friend calls me "the Bell-Curve mind") I have a very soft heart, full of sentiment, shmaltz, and romance. When I was young my favorite play was Cyrano de Bergerac, and still is way up there, with that heartbreaking fifth act and its last scenes.

Then the joy became alloyed with worry -- something every parent and grandparent knows, I'm sure, but I never did. Worry by day, worry by night. I asked some middle aged moms and grandmas if this was normal or I was crazy, and they all said it was perfectly normal, and one grandma I know told me that I would be crazy if I didn't worry. These smart women also told me that kids at "that age" also do the fly-away-come-back dance, and it's normal for them to be sometimes uncommunicative.

Of course I'd like to hear from Maria more than I do, but the nature of the situation is that it's just not possible. All I can do is be patient and understanding, and love, love, love without thought of reward. I think St. Ignatius said that was what we should do to imitate Christ. One day a couple of weeks ago when I hadn't heard from Maria for what seemed an eternity, the verse "Oh, Jerusalem!" (I think Matthew, Palm Sunday) popped into my head.

Oh, am I learning so many many new things! My heart is growing and stretching, and even with the down side, I love it. One close friend remarked to me recently that perhaps God kept romance, wife, and children from me so that in old age He could give me this. Blessed be God!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Two multiple murderers

It occurred to me this morning that two mass murderers, Major Hasan and Doctor Gosnell, were known for what they were -- but the evidence was ignored.

My cynical self says: because one is a Moslem and the other an abortionist, in today's politically correct America, neither can do any wrong.

And I have this creeping little nasty suspicion that in the end, both of them are going to get off with slaps on the wrist.

I am sickened but not surprised. God have mercy on us!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Something new and joyous

A bit over a year ago, I gave a pile of English-language reference books to a young Ukrainian immigrant friend who was just beginning college. She was so happy to get them that she told me she was adopting me as her grandfather! Well, well! and Oh, my goodness!

We have been corresponding regularly, and of course she is so busy that she doesn't have time to answer all my letters; but she is very happy to have me in her life and has said so.

I wrote to her a few days ago:
To give you a grandfather's love means to smile with you, rejoice with you, weep (плакати) with you. It means to help you, to teach you, to learn from you (like how to write good Ukrainian). I'm not a parent, nor a teacher, nor one of your peers, I'm an old man who has lived long and learned much (and the best things I have learned are about God and our holy faith). This puts me in a position different from the others.

She responded:
Dorogyi Didusu', [Dear Grandpapa]
Thank you for telling me what you just did. Your words make me think about life, faith and people who really understand the meaning of God's love. I'm glad to felt better. I promise to write as often as i can and Im glad to have you in my life Didus'. To have you as a techer, friend and person that i can tell everything to means a lot to me.
God Bless you! Love always
Vnuchka ♥ [Granddaughter]

A close friend, and grandmother herself, told me that she thought God gave me no girlfriend, no wife, and no children, because He was preparing me for this.

Anyway, it's lovely, and makes my heart warm and light. Please pray for her and for me. Thanks very very much!


On Jan. 22nd, 1973, the US Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, legalized abortion, essentially for any reason, through all nine months of pregnancy. Since then about 52 million American who should be here are not.

Now it is very wrong to treat a person as merely an economic unit, but the loss of 52 million people between ages 1 to 38, has to have had a devastating effect on the economy of this nation.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

More about my brother

My brother John fell away from the Faith sometime in his middle teens. I was shocked by that at the time. I've learned since that it happens to almost every kid raised in a religious environment: they "kick against the goad" in their teenage years, or they "outgrow" what they were raised with. It happened to me too, but that's another story.

When John went to college, his undergraduate major was philosophy, which I suppose pounded the nails in the coffin of his agnosticism or atheism. All I know for sure (because he hardly ever discussed personal matters with me) is that one of his favorite philosophers was Ludwig Wittgenstein. In fact, he named his cat Ludwig.

It would take a mind more educated and sharper than mine to explain what Wittgenstein believed. From looking at articles on the net, the most I can figure out is that his philosophy is incompatible with religion in general and Christianity in particular; because in his philosophy one has to be able to prove whether a statement is true or not. This of course isn't the case with our Faith because the core is Revelation, specifically the self-revelation of God in the person of Jesus.

Late in the evening of December 29, when John collapsed at home and had to go to the hospital, I prayed to Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas to "whack John upside the head and show him the light he's been missing." I'm certain John read these three greatest of Catholic philosophers; and even if he disagreed with them I suspect he respected them all the same.

Anyway, John died in the hospital early the next morning. Early the following week, I had a dream that John and I were in a confession line in a church together. I think that's a good sign. At least it comforts me.

Monday, January 10, 2011

R.I.P. John Wirth 9 Jun 1942 - 30 Dec 2010

I could write one sentence or I could write a book. All I know right now is that I have very little idea what or how much I'm going to write.

I was conceived on or about John's first birthday, June 1943 (Pop told me that I was supposed to have been born March 10, 1944 but came early).

The picture at right is of course the two of us, living in Minneapolis sometime during the war. I can't judge kids' ages. I estimate it was the fall of 1945. The piles of leaves say fall, and I look like I was about 19 or 20 months; John would have been 3 and a few months.

He was Big Brother, I was Little Brother, and that's how it was all the way. There were modifications, refinements, and amendments as the decades went on -- the biggest being when he came home from the USAF in 1963 when he was 21 and I was 19 -- but there never was any real change.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A star inside a crescent

When I was a kid, back in the fifties, we had a superstition that if there ever appeared a star within the horns of the crescent of the new moon, the Mohammedans of the world would rise up in holy war against the West. We knew what the word jihad meant (despite modern lies to the contrary).

The more learned of us knew that that was not possible, because what appeared to be empty space was actually the unlit surface of the moon, and the stars were farther away than that. However, after Sputnik, there seemed to be a reason to worry.

Well, I've never seen that phenomenon, but I have seen jihad, even though I never thought, fifty-some years ago, that I would live long enough to see it.