Remembering Susie. Anna Sue Ford, December 17, 1935 – January 20, 2014
Here’s what I wrote on the obituary web page: Susie was a dynamic force in education in the arts in Iredell County. She served as an example of a dedicated and committed teacher as I began my teaching career as one of her colleagues. She gave freely and joyfully of her time and expertise. Thanks, Susie, for friendship and example.
What else to say? These things for here, for now. (1) She had a trait I have known in kind people and in wise people: the ability to criticize, to correct, to disagree without being personal or judgmental. (2) She often made her students her friends and children. Her adult friends she held close, often calling us her “fans.” (3) Each year she auditioned students to be in a select choral group, which she named for herself, Fordsters. Throughout her career they gave excellent concerts, and a number of years ago, performed an alumnus concert. To honor her at the memorial service, about thirty of them gathered to sing three selections. (4) The minister mentioned an air of sadness about her. He attributed it to love. Where there was love is now sadness. Maybe. But it may have been a love lack. I see that kind of sadness in people, married or not, with children or not, who have failed to realize a deep and reciprocated love. Maybe. She alone and God know that aura of sadness often with her. (5) She taught in one school for 37 years and then retired to her home town and served her church (in which she grew up) as Sunday school teacher, choir member, and fill-in director. She lived in the house where she grew up. That’s one way to live a good life, yes. (6) Most of all, I remember her for enthusiasm and energy and fun and humor and laughter and unselfish gifts of self. Dinners, drinks, movies, concerts became more fun because of her being with me. She was a congenial companion, a buddy.
Around the Town.
(1) A sign at a restaurant reads: “Try our alternative healthy offerings.” Do they realize what they are advertising about their regular offerings? I do. That’s why I don’t eat there.
(2) Conversation with a grocery bagger. As I bagged items into my own cloth containers, I asked him whether it was easier to bag with plastic or paper or containers like mine, if he did other things other than bag groceries, if he knew that when I was his age, the only bags we had were paper, and they had no handles. He answered the questions politely and seemed interested. His grocery chain, he said, was the only one who hired people to bag exclusively. He liked his work, he said. I thanked him for letting me give him a break by bagging my own groceries, if indeed that were a break. He said he enjoyed the conversation.
Monday, January 27. It’s sixty degrees. I’m wearing a light jacket and a baseball cap. The air smells fresh and there’s a strong odor of pine and earth. I wave to cars with bare hand. Pine needles look alive, fresh.
Tuesday, January 28. It’s twenty-five degrees. I wear heavy pull-over and warm stocking cap. I salute cars with my head; removing my hands from my pockets causes bone-chilling stings. The air is cold, damp, hard to breathe. Pine needles look drawn-in, shrunken.
Fiction. Dennis McFarland, Nostalgia. Pantheon Books, 2013.
The friend who gave me the book for a birthday present wrote: “For your birthday, a sweet evocation of Uncle Walt and a sour dose of post-traumatic stress disorder by a writer who gets the shattering truth…”
It’s a Civil War novel. Uncle Walt is, of course, poet Walt Whitman, visitor to patients in army hospitals around Washington, DC. The book presents horrible and visceral images of the horrors of war, pictures of civilian life and manners, and convincing portrayals of the sufferings of stress disorder, for example: “Truthfully, he can think of no words for the terrible deep-rooted compunction that so often overtakes him, the sorrowful dereliction that makes his hands shake and his imaginary wounds sting and bleed, that sops him with the sense that no on can really be trusted, that he is alone, beyond forgiveness, less than human, and will forever dwell in a half world of rattling skulls, the stench of latrines and the sweet coppery stink of burning flesh, the sucking sound of the blade going in, the blade coming out–a kind of boiling syrup that pours over him and darkens the air, stills and steals the air, leaving an ash of bafflement and ugly, pointless vanity.”
Time and space are overlaid in interesting and well-done narrative structure.
The writing is powerful, magnificent. The reader stands witness to human tragedy, suffering, meaningless, and the possibility of recovery through understanding and love.
Priest Humor. The priest was extolling the virtues of religious based education of the local parish school. He congratulated parents for the financial and spiritual support of their children. He said that he himself was a product of Catholic education in elementary school, until the nuns took up funds and paid his parents to take him away. Whether literally true or not, there’s probably truth there.
Thank you for reading. I hope your week will be good.