April 25, 2014

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

The ‘voice of the turtle’ is still heard loud and clear

Cynthia DewesIn the spring, it seems anything is possible. For some reason, our chemistry and our psyche combine to help us think about future opportunities rather than past failures. We consider life rather than death, health rather than sickness. And nature contributes to this effort with her usual display of new growth and warming breezes and sunshine.

Many animals have their babies in springtime. Country people on their rounds may find nests of baby rabbits, or sometimes a hidden bower where a fawn or two live with mom. Birds are building nests under porch eaves and moving into fancy birdhouses in bird lovers’ yards. As Scripture says, the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.

When one is further along in the span of life, when the end is closer to us than the beginning, we may ignore the “turtle’s voice” and dwell on gloom. We think ho hum, been there, done that, what can possibly turn up now? It’s definitely a tendency we have to fight and, as a member of this group, I realize the necessity to keep trying.

There’s a plus to this stage of life, though, and it’s exactly the many years we have behind us, holding memories of the people we’ve known, the experiences we’ve had. Admittedly, my memory is not what it once was, and my memory has always been selective anyway, according to my husband. But I digress.

Fortunately, my memories include a lot of characters. My husband, astute as usual, called them my orphans and he was right.

There was the middle-aged maiden lady we met, for example. I figured she was lonely, so we’d invite her over to dinner now and then. Now, I’m not sure that eating with a family of six kids under the age of 10 would be appealing, but she seemed to welcome the invitations.

Unfortunately, she turned out to be a terrific bore with not much to contribute to conversation and absolutely no clue about children, but she seemed to enjoy it. The coup de grace came one day when I was building up to a migraine headache about the time she arrived.

As dinner progressed, I felt so sick that I had to excuse myself and go to bed. The family bravely carried on, with my quiet spouse struggling to make small talk and the kids ramping up to the anxiety of the occasion. Suddenly, one of the boys threw a roll at his sister, who promptly returned the favor. The others started in, but Dad quickly sent them all to their rooms, For once, our guest was tactful and left.

Then, there was our neighbor, Dick the Bruiser, a TV wrestler who sounded mean but was really a marshmallow. One day, he ran by in shorts on a cold day, looking for his horse. Apparently, it escaped from his yard and was fleeing through the neighborhood. “It’s roundup time!” he shouted as he sped by.

And in church one day, one of the altar servers standing beside Father up in front suddenly threw up. The look on Father’s face was unforgettable, as was the time when one of the children was learning his prayers, and it came out, “Hail Mary, full of grapes.” Ah, those spiritual memories.

Of course, in the past there were lots of events, and people, who weren’t so amusing. But time has erased or dimmed most of them and I’m left chuckling. I figure I’m listening to the voice of that turtle.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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