Can I have five hundred dollars? I figure since the pandemic has been going on for so long that most of you have saved up at least that much, that it is just lying around your house, and if you send it to me, I can make really good use of it!
You see, yesterday Cheri’s mom had a doctor’s appointment in Grand Forks, about 80 miles way, and Cheri said she would meet her there to go with her. I volunteered to be her chauffeur, so we drove up north, enjoyed the changing leaves, actually had lunch in a restaurant (!), and I dropped her off at the clinic.
Grand Forks holds a lot of history for me. Dad was stationed at the base, about 15 miles west, when I went through high school there, at good old Red River High School. (Of course, as I have said before, the “Red River” we talk about up here is the Red River of the North, which separates North Dakota from Minnesota.) When my family moved away to Texas (scene of the “other” Red River, of lesser note), I stayed and went to college in Grand Forks at the University of North Dakota. Summa cum laude, BA in Latin in three years, but who’s boasting… Later, in 1985, we were appointed to Wesley UMC, and spent four years there, where the boys were born. So, in many ways it became at least one of my hometowns.
It of course has really changed since we lived there, 35 years ago. There was a huge flood (cue the Red River again) in 1997 that destroyed a great deal of the city and created with it some significant changes, with dikes and diversions and loss of some neighborhoods. Driving through the city now is almost a new experience, trying to locate landmarks. The big grocery store became a bank, one mall turned into a shell of what it once was. The hardware store I worked at my first year of college is completely gone, and even worse, the donut store near the corner of DeMers Avenue went away. Of course, we still have the Red Pepper, one of the finest sub sandwich (the Grinder) and pseudo-Mexican food places around. It’s a perennial dump, but the food is great… make sure, though, that you go to the one on University, not one of the other two built later. The original is always the best.
Anyway, I had probably a good hour to burn, so I remembered a small antique “mall” – it was really a big store located near the clinic. I parked in the lot, put on my mask (of course…) and went to see what I could see. I was amazed! For a fairly small place, it was packed with all sorts of things that I am really interested in. For instance, since we collect Red Wing Stoneware, I am always looking for the illusive lids to go on top. They are rare and hard to find. I saw one that certainly would fit one of our 20 gallon crocks – it was a bit pricey, so I kept looking. There were alphabet baby plates that were about 120 years old, or more, and pottery pieces from what was the University of North Dakota pottery – again, very expensive. There were the usual trinkets – not so much antique as just old, but as I worked my way through the stuff, over and over again, I came across things of real interest to my collecting heart.
The capstone, however, sat over in the corner. Realize that eastern North Dakota could easily have been called New Scandinavia, having been settled by the immigrants from that region of the world. That being the case, remnants of their travel and settlements crop up now and then. What I saw was a nice sized immigrant trunk. It was completely rosemaled, which is an artistic technique done by the northern European folk of painting with floral and other decorations, to brighten the wooden piece. This one was also dated: 1786. It was really in nice shape for being 234 years old. The worst part of it all was that usually those types of antiques are priced what you might expect, and then I don’t need to worry about them. This one, however, had a tag on it that I really thought was a mistake. The price was ridiculously reasonable. I looked at it, walked away, looked at it again, walked away, and went back a third time – and then walked away. You see, Cheri and I have an agreement that when it comes to purchasing anything beyond a certain price, that we consult each other, and at least talk about it before acting too rashly. As much as I really desired that trunk, I desire my loving wife’s opinion more, and so I didn’t buy it.
I expect I brought up the subject of the trunk a good three or four times during the 80 mile trip home. I know I said something about it as we sat outside on the patio during a beautiful October evening. I even mentioned it this morning. Actually, I think I’m pushing my luck, but it is really is a great trunk. I doubt we will drive back up to Grand Forks to buy it, or by the time we go back, it will be long-ago bought by someone else. Anyway, it’s just a thing – but it sure is nice…
What occupies your mind and your thoughts? Granted, it probably isn’t usually something you want to possess. It could be sometimes, however, that it is a “thing” that you are thinking about, like a new car or a new home or a new something else. Maybe it’s someone – not to possess, but to bring into your world. Maybe it’s simply an idea of how to do something either more fully, or more simply – it’s a goal or an aim, or a vision.
I hope and pray that “it” is not colored and filled with fear. That is, with all that is part of our world these days, from pandemics, to politics and worse, it is very possible that we could find ourselves idly captivated by worry or uncertainty or again, simply the fear of what could become part of our lives, or what we deathly are trying to avoid.
Fears and worries are as much of our lives as hopes and aspirations. They all make up the inner thoughts and musings we claim in our lives. However, I fully believe, so long as our desires and hopes reflect an honest and humble mindset, that it is far better to aspire than to fear. It is far better to think about what could be, than to fear what might become. I’ve known folks who approach the first footstep out of bed with worry and despair, and it is true that “our lives are what our minds are made of.” We all go through seasons when it seems easier just to shake our heads and look down, instead of looking up and claiming hope to be the core of who we are.
It’s not a silly thing like an old trunk that I am talking about – that’s just a symbol of searching for all that might bring us joy, or better yet, opportunities that arise which allow us to bring joy to others. What will you intend to “catch your eye,” or fill your thoughts today? How will you live, approaching the brighter side of your world, the more hopeful and joyful part of living? Believe me – that’s worth taking time to explore.
Word for the day: opsimath. Pronounced OP-sim-uth. It’s a unique Greek based word, I think, as it breaks down into opse, which means “late” or “in the end.” In the New Testament, the word is often used to talk about “late in the evening,” or “at the end of the day.” So “late” doesn’t mean, in this case, running behind, but rather simply the time of a day, or even of a life. Math, out of which we create mathematics, really means “learn.” We have stolen the word to limit it to numbers and calculations, but the earlier Greek understanding included the entire enterprise of learning – “all that which is learned.” So, “opsimath,” means someone who begins to learn or to study late in life.
What a great gift, especially in retirement, to have time to learn. To try something new, or explore some area of our existence that we “never had time to do before.” When I was in college, I took a year of Italian. I was never really good at it, because I was too busy doing other things. One thought I have is when my birthday comes around in January, to perhaps take the year to once again become an “opsimath,” at least as far as Italian goes…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.