Tuesday, June 28, 2005

To market to market to buy a fat pig

We left on Saturday June 18 to visit Rebecca's uncles - Stan and Ken - in Roncevert West Virginia. If you're a person of significant means, a golfer, or a person whose family provides hotel and maintenance services, you may recognize the area as the town next to The GreenBriar. Regular people aren't allowed in anymore, they cite security concerns, but Stan and Ken got themselves invited to a reception and sales pitch for the new homes they are putting up there.

Stan is an elderly grumpily man whose filters have gone and his catty asides are a little too loud. But he has a heart of gold. When we told them we were getting married, he said, "Well, I think anyone's a fool to get married. I never did, and look how much good that did me."

Ken's the sweetest, most kind man in the world (with the exception of my father). It was nice to talk about religion, beliefs, and church culture. As DRE, my responsiblity is to provide access to accurate experiences and information about many religious ideas and spiritual paths, not to promulgate or even much discuss my own. So this was a nice end of the RE-year for me. It wasn't GA, but then, I was too fried for GA. Crispy crunchy.

Ken attended Union Theological Seminary in the late 40's. He studied under Paul Tillich (theology) and Reinhold Neibuhr (ethics).
I was there in the late 80's/early 90's, studying under Beverly Harrison (ethics), Phyllis Trible (Hebrew Scriptures) and Jim Washington and Dick Norris (Christian Church History). We enjoyed swapping stories of student unrest, frustration, and faculty open houses.
I especially enjoyed hearing about the ways that the Seminary experience is timeless.
He was happy for me that the upper room above the Refectory was turned into a pub during my years. I was happy for him that he was able to hang out with Paul Tillich and other students and wine.

We had a delightful time talking about church politics.
Ken was a minister for only a brief time, then he began to build houses. He said that constructing a building was the kind of concrete creation he needed after his service in WWII. He showed off his purple heart and silver star, and, unlike my relatives, told us how he got them.

He earned them.

Once he stopped preaching, he and his wife had attended two different churches. Ken preferred to end the hard working week of a carpenter by sitting quietly with piety, decorum and a sparce, simple liturgy.
His wife preferred to attend one that was a joyful boisterous community response as a topping on the drudgery of the week.
He was amazed that Unitarian Universalist congregations have people who desire both within the confines of the same worship hall.

So am I, I said, It's challenging. Is the Service of the Living Tradition intended to be a boisterous celebration or quiet reflective time? Depends who you ask, and who gets to their email first to tell you that it was wrong or right. (Why is is that people are faster to send off angry 'you were wrong' emails than happy 'thanks, that was great' emails?) (And if you can answer that, it may lend some insight into why I post more on crankycindy than here.)

He played for us. A brilliant jazz keyboardist, he played and played, and showed of his new grand piano. His wife had made him contain his musical instruments in the organ room (previously knows as the garage), and his organs and stand up piano and electronic keyboards were crammed in there side by side elbow to elbow. She's gone, and although he's changed next to nothing in the house since her passing years ago, he did decide that a grand piano in the family room (previously known as the breezeway) would be ok. The other large space takers in the room were the unused hot tub, and a ton of an exercise machine from Sears in in the 60's that was supposed to exercise for you after you strapped yourself on and turned the switch.

But I digress, 'cause he can play. His face gets a glow, his jaw goes slack, and his eyes are unseeing while he plays. I'd fall asleep at night to the sound of his playing at the other end of the house. No bedtime tv was needed to quiet my spinning brain, he'd play and I'd be transported to somewhere in the same neighborhood as his own mind.

When we left, he was fixing the ceiling above the piano, trying to create better acoustics. We drove past the house and he blew us kisses until we were down the hill.

Home again home again jiggity jig.

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