Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

Living in the shadows of St. Olaf College like we do it's natural that our street is largely populated current and retired St. Olaf professors. The most colorful of these was Gordon Rasmussen, who sadly passed away a couple of years ago.  One of a kind, Gordon was.  He grew up in a tiny town in South Dakota speaking mostly Norwegian.  He went on to master Latin, Greek and Hebrew and become a professor of religious studies.

The highlight of our Memorial Day Block Party was when Gordon would reminisce about his 50+ years on our street.  He once said that when they got married his wife, Char, didn't want to have any children, "so we compromised and only had seven."  Another time he told the story about how all the houses on the street were white and he wanted to paint his red.  He painted every other tier of siding red, turning the house into a candy cane.  He left it that way for most of the summer, and when he finally painted the whole house red all the neighbors were so relieved nobody was angry it wasn't white.

Another friend on the street is the swimming coach at St. Olaf (and college Hall of Fame inductee for his own swimming exploits while a student there).  He told me that Gordon used to come to open lap swim wearing a huge fluorescent pink swimsuit, "So I'll be easier to see on the bottom of the pool."

He and his wife Char would take a slow walk up and down the street every afternoon.  You could always tell Gordon was coming because he was preceded (depending on the wind) by a waft of cigar smoke.  Our conversation was always the same; even though his brilliant mind getting wrapped in the haze of dementia he still had a ready joke.
"Hi Gordon, how are you doing?"
Dramatic pause, puff on cigar, and then he'd assume a serious expression.
"I can't answer that question.  I'm Lutheran and we're not allowed to brag."

We all miss Gordon. I'd say "rest in peace," but I have a feeling resting in peace would bore him.  So I'll say Rest in joy.

All of this is a long, but hopefully mildly entertaining, way of saying that if I list all of the things I'm thankful for at this time I'm afraid it will sound too much like bragging.  But unlike Gordon, I'm going to do it anyway.  Because I'm not Lutheran. Or Norwegian.  Or remotely humble.

This has been a wonderful and remarkable year.

We had 2 children undergo surgery - neither serious and both highly successful

I made a change professionally that has led to the best and most successful year of my life.

I'm thankful for Alice, who fills my life with more grace and beauty and joy than anyone, especially me, deserves.  I'm thankful for three amazing children, and especially this year for little Nicholas who proved it's never too late to join a family and multiply its happiness (even while minimizing its sleep ;-)

And I'm grateful for you, the folks who drop in and take time from busy lives to read the words I need to write, for allowing me to do what I got into forestry to do, and for crediting me with more and deeper meaning than I'm probably capable of.

Thank you.  Best wishes one and all for a safe & happy Thanksgiving!

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