Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008


My next-door neighbor, the one with the bed and breakfast, died yesterday. He had cancer and had been sick for the past few weeks. He was 72.

His wife said her kids had been helping her prepare, get things settled. Her son bought her a little electric mower since the gas mower was too heavy for her. I'm sure she'll try to continue her husband's relentless maintenance of their yard and property.

She seems like the type of wife who let her husband handle all the "man jobs" around the house -- yard work, household maintenance, car maintenance, finances. I'm sure that's how things are for most couples of that generation. But it makes me a little worried for her. They had been married for almost 53 years. I can't imagine the emptiness she'll be feeling.

I wonder whether she'll continue to run the bed and breakfast. I imagine the frequent overnight guests, even strangers, might help fill the empty time and space.

I wish I could do something for her. When she told me and my mom about her husband's cancer, we went down to the nursery and bought her some geraniums. She accepted them with typical Mennonite stoicism. Then she planted them outside the living room window, where her husband could see them from his hospice bed.

Their house is full of people right now. They had four sons and 13 grandchildren. But none of them lives in town, so they'll soon clear out. And that's when I'll worry about her. I mean, clearly this is not a woman that I'm close to or that I even know very well. But her sheer proximity makes me feel a certain kinship.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Notes from the road

A few noteworthy sights from recent Kansas travels. Wish I'd gotten pictures ...

  • A personalized tag that said "MILF." Now, according to the Department of Revenue, Kansas statute prohibits "combinations deemed, by the Director of Vehicles, to have a profane, vulgar, lewd, or indecent meaning or connotation." So you won't see any tags in our fine state that say 10INCHDK or FL8ME. Personally, I would find those kind of funny to see out on the highway somewhere, but it's OK. I understand why the state wants decent, G-rated plates. So what about MILF? What does the Director of Vehicles think that means? Monkeys I'd Like to Fight? Maid In a Lovely Frock? Man, I Love Frankfurters! So how did this presumably hot mama slip this one past the meticulously prudish Director of Vehicles?

  • A semi-trailer that said, in 2-foot-high red letters, "Jesus Christ is Lord - not a swear word." Holy shit, I thought. And what is Jesus Christ hauling today? That's all the truck said. Not even a trucking company name. So what, Bibles? Holy water? Sandals?

  • A bumper sticker that said, "I'm only speeding because I really have to poop." The driver of this car was a nondescript 20-something white guy, and he was, in fact, going about 15 mph over the speed limit. And I couldn't help but wonder whether he intended to drive that car to his first job interview. Whether he intended to park it in the lot of his employer and allow his boss and everyone else at the company to associate him with rushing home to poop. But perhaps that prospect sits OK with him.