Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Spinning the plates

Driving in to work this morning, Khatchaturian's "Sabre Dance" came over Sirius XM Pops, and I realized: some weeks are just like that plate-spinning routine on the old Ed Sullivan show: the best you can do is run around and make sure all the plates are still spinning. You don't actually accomplish anything NEW, and it's pretty exhausting, but the best you can hope for is to keep those plates spinning.

(Also, note to self: do not, when you have just gotten out of bed to work out, calculate how many hours it will be before you're done for the day, especially on nights when you have a couple of evening meetings.)

I didn't stay terribly long at the visitation. I only saw a couple people I knew. I got to shake hands with the family and sign the book and I suppose that's what's important. It was open-casket, but what made it okay for me was that she was wearing her police chaplain's uniform. Somehow that seemed right, that the last time I'd see her (well, at least in this earthly shape) was wearing the uniform of the job that was so important to her and that she was so very good at. (Several places it's been mentioned how she was as much a mother-figure to the cops as she was a chaplain. One of the younger officers - I didn't know him but I overheard - was asked how he was doing, and he kind of shakily said, "As well as can be expected.")

Two things did get to me a little bit: first, the police all had that black band over their badges, like I had only seen before on cop shows when a colleague was lost in the line of fire. I guess I hadn't thought of them doing that for someone who died of more natural causes, but it makes sense.

The other thing was that they had taken the special chaplain's plate (in our state, we only have rear license plates, so the front plate can be anything, and there is a market for specialty "vanity" type plates. She had one that announced she was a chaplain and had the local police shield on it) and propped it up near the casket. And seeing that reminded me of all the times we had driven somewhere together, either on church business or just to go out to lunch after church (in fact, one of the last times we rode together was to the memorial service for a well-known and well-loved former dean here). And it made me kind of sad again.

I didn't stay very long - as I said, I didn't know many people there and after I had paid my respects and said a few prayers I figured that was all that was needed, so I headed home. I was almost out of milk, and today and tomorrow are going to be plate-spinning days, so I figured I could stop and get it then. Even though it was nearly 7 pm and late afternoon/evening is the WORST time to be at the wal-mart. Normally, I get really irritated with humanity when I have to go there when it's crowded and especially when the bored teenagers are treating it like our version of a mall. But this time, it didn't seem so bad to me. Oh, it was still busy and probably the sort of behaviors that bother me were going on, but I was kind of stuck in a bubble of pensiveness and I didn't notice - I grabbed the carton of milk, and a loaf of bread (finally they had the lower-sodium white bread that I can use - since I never seem to have time to bake bread these days). And I bought a newspaper because it had a story about my friend in it.

I don't recommend that method (being in a bubble of sadness/pensiveness) as a regular way of avoiding being annoyed at bad behavior in the grocery store, though.

I was also thinking about my maternal grandmother's funeral - the first one I remember going to. (Mostly, when I was a kid, the few family funerals that happened, one or the other of my parents went to, I suppose they felt that really young kids - my brother was really small when my paternal grandfather died, for example - might not do so well). I remember feeling relieved after the funeral was over and then immediately wondering if that was an okay way to feel, and if I shouldn't feel a little guilty for feeling relieved it was over. I also remember the lunch after it - it was what they called Chicken and Dumplings, but the dumplings were more like biscuits that had been baked and then set on top of the chicken mixture. It's funny the stuff that sticks in your head - how that, and how sitting there in the Fellowship Hall of the little Congregational church my mother had attended as a child and teen, were the things I mostly remember from that event.

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