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Four Thousand Days

There was no Vae Obscurum in January. Here, it seems to be the cruelest month, one prone to take our cats when their time is finished. On January 6, Epiphany, it was our dear orange buddy Gato’s turn to go ahead of us, as did T.R. on New Year’s Day 2009 and his brother Gordon three years later, on January 30.

In 2006 a homeless cat, two or three years old, tried to take up residence in a big house that surely, he must have thought, had room for him. Unfortunately, the big house was actually a hotel turned historical museum in Fredericksburg, Texas … and they no longer take boarders, feline or otherwise. There was an equipment yard in back of the place with shelter and enough human attention for a cat obviously missing his original people, ones no amount of advertising could locate. He stayed on long enough for the maintenance crew to name him Gato … Spanish for cat.

So it was Gato had only two of T.S Eliot’s prescribed three names. Denied a fancy name, he went forward with his family name and the one known only to himself, and it wasn’t long before the Editress-to-be noticed.

Gato became the official campus kitty of the National Museum of the Pacific War: fed, housed in basic but comfortable accommodations in a tool shed, and cared for by the best vets in town on the organization’s dime. He was able to enjoy the Japanese Garden of Peace once the humans were gone, and could jump from the sidewalk level to the top of its eight-foot surrounding wall using his massive back legs. His food bowl was raided by opossums, and three battles with unknown creatures each left him wounded and under care of the Editress for chunks of missing skin.

For a year and a half this was his life, exploring and hunting the grounds at night, and regularly losing his breakaway collars, which were later found across campus in various places. The Editress worried constantly all that time, hating to leave him at night but not selfish enough to deny her organization its mascot … the Tiger in the Garden. Eventually, a rodent infestation needed to be addressed in a way incompatible with a resident cat, and no one but his constant caretaker and beneficiary stepped up to the job of being his human mother.

That Gato wanted nothing more than a home and family was evident. He shared the contents of his food dish and in no way bullied his way into place in our household. When we found Gato and T.R. sharing napping space on the Big Red Chair. we knew his acceptance was complete. He would know T.R. only a couple more months before it was time for us all to mourn Gordon’s brother.

Gato was the best-behaved cat we have ever known. He never lost his streetwise caution. He despised anyone in uniform: Boy Scouts, delivery drivers, it didn’t matter; those were the only times we heard him growl. He didn’t know what to think of being held and kissed, even after a decade. He adored laps and blankets, though, and the snuggling under the latter was a talent he taught himself. We loved him so.

Some think a cat doesn’t have a soul. I saw Gordon’s one day when he was looking into my eyes doing the same thing to me. If his soul wasn’t there, neither is mine. All of our cats recognized love as well. Gato would come mousing around for it, and retire to a nap after he got his share. He was someone, and that’s why he got a name.

Gato’s life mattered in the way Elizabeth Goudge recognized when she wrote, “Nothing living should ever be treated with contempt. Whatever it is that lives, a man, a tree, or a bird, should be touched gently, because the time is short. Civilization is another word for respect for life.”

We knew and treasured Gato for somewhere in the vicinity of four thousand days. He never had to go to the vet for sickness, despising his regular visits on principle regardless. We noticed him off his food on his last weekend, and he had to endure only one truly bad day with the acute onset of pain from a massive but undetected tumor on his liver. No one had time to help him along until his suffering passed into the evening dinner hour, and he left us with the help of a vet willing to make a house call. It was a day one of us was available to comfort him all the way through, and that someone turned out to be me.

Gato traveled on with our every recommendation. His precious life made a difference in our own. Because we loved him, we know God loved him more, and that’s why we hope to see him one bright day at the New House, the one providence has made for us all who loved to find each other again. To this day, we recommend ‘I Will See You in Heaven” by Franciscan friar Jack Wintz for people mourning their departed pets.

It takes a special kind of courage to love, once one understands the price to be paid by one or the other of the participants. More so, perhaps, for those who have pets, who seem to be purposed with the task of teaching us how to lose someone we love and move on while enduring the pain of grief.

God’s loving promises were demonstrated by his Son’s mastery of death. This life we struggle through is a testing ground, a training camp, a foundry where His work in us continues through our days to the end set in the Mind and accomplished by the Hand of our Craftsman. Be careful, attentive, and reverent with them. Pay attention to what the Spirit is doing with you in each one. Take care in who you allow to use your days, for they won’t last forever. Forever comes once they finish, for good or bad.

As I said, we passed through four thousand of ours with Gato. Only one was truly bad, which is an amazingly blessed ratio. Each of them was a gift, and knowing this through faith brings us through the pain of missing him to joyous gratitude. That’s what it is to believe.

Choose to love, -DA

*****

In production news, Boone and Sean’s Ghosts of the Republic is out of editing and passing through two rounds of proofreading as I write this. Hopefully, we will see the title to move into pre-publication and then full release this month. As always, those of you who are here will find out first.

Decades

It’s a season of transition. As always, only this year the changes are more stark.

Fall gives way to winter. Life focuses on the joy of the season, and a new year beckons afterward. Quibbling over Anno Domini reckoning aside, in this turn another decade ends as well.

If everything has gone as it should, because we have that many fingers the years group into tens as well, and order into the chapters of one’s life. Childhood. School. The Social Order. The Path. The Mission. The Changes. Eventually, The End Game.

I’ve been writing in ten of these most recently passed years, as I was purposed to do when they started. I was a child when they sat me in the pews of my local parish to stare at a sanitized image of Jesus on the Cross, and I thought how unfair it was that he had done nothing, but hung there for the sake of us, who should serve Him.

I was only a young man when times were bad, so bad yet so inescapable that I offered times such as those to Him, if He had a use for me. He did, as He does for all who believe in the magic of Christmas and the blessing of Easter. Afterward, the decades turn, His will is done, and we see more clearly all of it in hindsight than we are able in looking forward at the road ahead.

My lead characters Jon and Sean and Boone were given and changed that life. What was now is not, and it seems that the year in which I wanted to write was turned instead into seven of some sort of indenture, in which I was utilized to finish what was started.

This, due to the nature of transition that took us from where we were to where we are, unfortunately will be The Year Without a Novel. 2020, God willing, will bring Boone and Sean together in short order followed by another title of his. Afterward, a sixth for Sean and Boone’s first and last adventure will round out the catalog, should that be His plan as well.

Will I write another novel? I don’t know, just as I didn’t imagine more than a single effort in the first place. I am open to being used to a greater extent, and I am satisfied that I have been the conduit of what has come across already. Life should be lived in just such a manner of faith and contentment.

I know that in the pews of my childhood parish I wanted to be on His side, because even then, though I couldn’t yet articulate the intuition, I knew His work to be life, founded in love. Those greater premises took more than half my allotted years to formulate into relatable precepts. Now they are out in the world, in the nearly fifty-four thousand extant copies of the works people call mine.

I know it not to be so. The Editress is there, and the refinement of helpers and friends who want to be a part of what we were and are yet doing. Behind us all is the voice of the Spirit and the greater plan of Creation, being followed to perfection through those who believe and the others who do not.

Christmas celebrates only the first installment of His validation of belief. Jesus had to appear to assure us that we are not struggling through the chapters of this life in vain. He had to do so in a historical era to be documented not only by His followers but in the writings of the very Romans who hung him on the same sort of Cross as I contemplated in my youth.

Without the assurance that He experienced what it was to be alone and blind and dying, we might otherwise be tempted to make the excuse that He does not. Another device allowing bitterness a root in our souls rather than the assurance of His shepherding is thwarted. That excuse is gone.

Decades turn, and the world changes while we move through it. The hope He provided remains, as it has now for nearly two millennia and shall until He returns. Hope brings joy in its understanding. Mine is that you’re here with me this Christmas season.

Choose to love, -DA

*****

In production news, Boone and Ritter’s upcoming title, Ghosts of the Republic, stands at roughly eighty percent completion in production editing. Several weeks remain in editing, proofing and production, but it’s finally getting close. Prepare now for snug winter reading!

Your Name Here Ministries

You have a ministry, know it or not. At least I hope you do. Ministry is something for faithful people, accomplished in service to the Spirit. That third person of the Trinity moves where He will, arranging things just so the will of God is fulfilled through those who love Him.

The faithless, rather than serving, are used. We are every one subjected to the sovereignty of the Craftsman, and that precept is the main sticking point for faithless personalities. Somehow, they imagine the idea that God does not exist to be liberating rather than irrational, and do so despite all literary and historical evidence to the contrary augmented by testimony from His witnesses.

Imagination is a useful thing … when applied in a faithful mind. Otherwise, lies whispered by the enemy convince us we can alter the natural order of things by positing a situation to be so when it is not. It’s a spiritually fatal dynamic, and seeking out consensus in error and rebellion only makes matters worse.

Faithful minds see how their situation is established. The faithless decide how they wish things to be and go from there. Bedrock. Sand. Choose your building site carefully.

Wandering souls minister to themselves first, because their focus is narrow. They’ve not been called out to any higher purpose, because their imagining does not conceive such things. In the New Testament Timothy calls them “lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.”

What tragedy that is, to live without listening but braying one’s self-indulgent talking points day and night in the hope volume will suffice for validity. What pain it is to know the lessons of those lives will be absorbed largely by impressionable observers.

Did you think becoming a Christian would make life easier? It does not. It grants clarity instead, and some aspects of life afterward are difficult to watch. Life and death pass before your eyes. Good people suffer inexplicably, because being saved does not equate to omniscience, and the limited perspective of our current plane widens only to the extent we embrace our newly acquired faith.

What Christ needed to do most for you was accomplished before any of us ever were. What He does for us after we come to realize this is sometimes as unapparent as what He does with us.

He knows this, of course, and it is why we’re told to embrace the gift of faith that followed love in bringing us once and forever into His fold. Sure knowledge of divine love and saving grace and the sufficiency of Christ are there, worthy enough to keep us afloat through any storm, should it be our last.

You can give your life to Christ in a mere moment of conviction. The world can then eat at your soul for a lifetime afterward; it’s your choice moment by moment whether to stay in the fight. You’ll minister by overcoming. You’ll play your part in the temporary victories of lesser souls. Every bit of your life lived serving will matter in ways only Jesus will be able to explain once you’re able to ask Him face to face.

Being there might not build you a megachurch, but it might course-correct a single soul, one not so far along, who needed to hear your testimony. Feeding a hungry cat found on your hood one cold morning might not seem significant … until the animal makes you a better human being by showing you a lifetime of love in return. So sing. Work. Love. Live what you believe and you’ll have the same satisfaction Paul found, though he was in prison with the finish line of his race in sight.

Unfathomable numbers of small events over the course of a day work together in what He is doing, here and everywhere, all the time, all at once. Such is the extent of effort in scalable consciousness arising out of nontemporal superdimensionalism: fractal in scope, perfect in minuteness, and unassailable by any element of His Creation.

It was enough for Him in essence to tell Abraham, and answer Moses, “I am.” It is also enough from Him to tell us we are as well. Worry less. What He offers is free for the asking and was done just for you. Pick it up and put it in your pocket, child of God, and walk on.

Choose to love, -DA

*****

In production news, the Editress is approaching sixty percent in production editing Novel12/Boone6, Ghosts of the Republic. Post-relocation life makes forecasting her normally consistent progress more difficult, but hopes persist for more time on target during upcoming holiday breaks. As in everything, we’re closer than yesterday and farther on than the day before. Stay tuned, and thank you. Readers rock my world.

Season of the Witch

Ah, October. Fall arrives, and the lingering vestiges of summer in September give way to the undeniable in the change of weather and turning of leaves. Pumpkin spice suddenly is unavoidable, and then the pumpkins themselves.

Before long, the Halloween enthusiasts are busy in their merriment. November, past that point, really can’t get here soon enough for me.

It’s difficult to explain why I despise Halloween without sounding like a killjoy. Possibly the macabre and occult don’t register on those not given to implications, but here I am, being hit in the face by a season where all the messages of the enemy are on full display to the delight of the oblivious. All I see in the ensuing doctrinal mayhem is faith trying to pull souls out of the riptide of humanity sweeping them toward perdition.

I freaking hate Halloween.

It wasn’t always like that. I was a kid once, though I don’t remember any favorite costume … outside of those plastic face masks that impeded visibility and respiration while feeling like a clammy eggshell plastered to your face. It was always great fun to go out and extort various forms of processed sugar from willing and unwilling neighbors.

Being kind of a jerk of a kid tutored by bigger and older jerks—as I was—Halloween evolved into an excuse to commit minor vandalism for the joy of overreaction such delinquency can evoke.

I blame my upbringing, company at the time, and the sparse distribution of law enforcement in rural South Dakota communities. Doing so provides a ready excuse to ignore some of my more obviously innate tendencies to follow the lesser angels of my nature, you see. Those escapades are another story, regardless of any statutes of limitation that may or may not have been exceeded by now.

I failed to absorb a vital precept until after the process of maturing delivered me through a number of idiotic incidents, any of which might have converted me to a statistic. Death’s bait is adventure.

Flirtation with the macabre and the occult is spiritual adventurism. What for the unwary appears to be dress-up and make-believe is, in the eyes of the enemy, affiliative. Meanwhile, in the wings of this occult high holiday are those who demonstrate a total commitment to his camp in spiritually degrading and horrid acts for a variation of the same thrill I felt soaping windows and … oops, there’s that potential statute of limitations thing again.

I largely outgrew my rebellion. Some souls will not.

Over time, I grew to see faithful living as a guardrail at the edge of a steep drop-off. What Works and What Kills are staples in the storehouse of wisdom, and too often the harvest of lessons bitter enough to be remembered long after the fact.

God, The Craftsman, Yahweh, the great I Am, as He said, Is above all. So is his enemy, that poisonous fruit out of the first elements of Creation, who was given the same choices inherent in the gift of free will. For the sake of those who love, He endures the loss of those who will not. The nature of love as a choice imposes by implication its antithesis.

The same spirit of rebellion and reckless abandon is tainting society in ever more obvious ways. Every day is becoming Halloween in the form of self-indulgent personal definitions, as Those Who Will Not choose the temporary attire of a preferred costume over their natural state.

The costume wearers among us can’t opt out of their place in the natural order, nor can they wish an alternate reality into being. They can only pretend until Creation’s codex of natural law imposes itself at whatever time the divine clock strikes twelve at their own personal midnight.

Then the ball is over, and it’s time to go home … or elsewhere.

Choose to love, -DA

*****

In production news, primary editing continues on Novel12/Boone6 Ghosts of the Republic, featuring Boone, Ritter, Deb Vosse, Blade Altsoba, and others. She Who Must Be Obeyed is approximately 40% through her tasks on a schedule not allowing a projected publication date quite yet. Once we get closer, you will , of course, be some of the first to hear the Rohirrim-level trumpeting.

Content

How did you pronounce the title of this blog post? Due to the linguistic heritage of the English language you could have thought CON·tent, as in substance, or con·TENT, to be described as residing in an essentially satisfied state.

Is it an accident the same word, with two different meanings, could have those intricately related? Our needs and wants lead us toward an imagined state of satisfaction. The search for true contentment drives all advertising, ideology, and psychology. Theological premises good, bad, and evil leverage the promise to shape and direct the human soul each to their own ends.

We want to be satisfied. But how?

One eats, and eventually is full if well fed. Problem solved. How does one salve a wounded spirit, or a guilty conscience, or a traumatic memory?

Pharmacy is willing to present its answers. Personally, I have been betrayed by too many people on meds for whom I cared and with whom I merely associated to trust a prescription with the solution to deeper issues. Drugs might calm the mind, but it seems they also mute the conscience. Sometimes, as news stories of another psychotic break too often feature, the results can be horrifying.

“How could someone do that?” people ask. “Meds,” I whisper to myself.

Dissatisfaction is the result of missing something in what we think, feel, or sense. In one way or another, one may call that CON·tent. Cultivating substance in our lives and work leads to earned satisfaction in the same way diligent effort produces the harvest of a garden. But the totality of our existence encompasses more than just the physical.

Neglected, our spirits desiccate like an untended plot of vegetables. If nothing is there, the shell of our empty core collapses in on itself. It shows in what we think, how we live, and in the results we try to impose on a world we don’t really understand. Passion is no substitute for wisdom, as one ridiculous display of futility after another proves throughout the secular world.

Recently, the Editress and I, inveterate rummagers of bargain movie bins that we are, discovered a film featuring an actress we have in the past enjoyed. Neither her name nor the title is important. Art is what it is, and I’m sure the people producing this DVD felt it said just what they wanted.

But oh, did that movie suck.

Exhibiting the current trend to exclude white males from the cast was an early-warning sign. The evident millennial angst permeating the rest of the presentation settled into a uninspiring scenario in which nothing resolved, no challenge was truly overcome, and no premise outside of existential hopelessness emerged. Hollywood today. Meh.

She wanted to donate the CD to a thrift shop. I shredded it instead so no one else would be subjected to viewing that particular copy of the thing.

Like I said, it sucked, and I am sometimes a harsh critic.

Faith is the substance of the spirit. It connects us to the essential motivation of our Creator in setting this universe in motion. Without it, we are adrift like objects in space waiting for the gravitation of some greater mass to pull us in to a destination unknown. Meanwhile, we spin in a gyroscope of dissatisfaction.

I don’t make movies. I write. Regardless that my novels would make excellent films, I doubt the spirit required exists in the Hollywood of today. The same malaise can be evident in writing also, of course. One sees it throughout a novel in which the spiritual composition of the characters is ignored. Try as the author might, lacking that essential CON·tent, the presentation falls flat. There should have been something more, but neither the character nor his author ever came to the realization. It is the vitality of language and imagination versus the flat taste of a previously carbonated beverage translated into the written word … or the dialogue in a bad movie.

Our lives are novels, written in days instead of words. As Benjamin Franklin perceived, we each have our Author and Finisher. We have a part to play in determining whether we are notes in its crescendo or elements to be weeded out of a plot hole that is going nowhere, to be crushed and discarded like a page never again seeing the light of day.

Be Real Before It Gets Real. It’s a hashtag I use on social media. Those who know me well enough have seen in it the acronym REAL: Realize your need, Explore for truth, Accept your Creator’s gift of reconciliation, and afterward Live what you believe.

Welling up inside you will be spiritual substance: CON·tent. It will make for a satisfying story. You have His promise.

Choose to love, -DA

*****

In production news, there is some! The Editress has finished her timeline and fact-checking review of Novel12/Boone6 Ghosts of the Republic, featuring, for reasons that will be evident, a heavy assist from Daniel Sean Ritter.

Moving on to the heavy lifting of production editing began this afternoon. Unlike previous outings, the predictable pace of She Who Must Be Obeyed is skewed by our present situation, and whether this results in an early or later completion and publishing depends on circumstances beyond our control. I hope to get the title out in the fourth quarter. As in all things … we’ll see, won’t we?

A Single Step

I opened the lead title of Boone’s File, Absinthe and Chocolate, with a tribute to the strong women characters from my own story. The author’s own is inscribed first, of course. Before one writes, one must live, or nothing worthwhile translates to the written word. Eventually, an augmenting Muse arrives, mine bringing with her the magic playing out through the mind of a writer; it’s a spell passing through a keyboard and various means to eventually reside within each soul of his or her audience.

The Muse. I picture mine as sort of a Goth Tinker Bell—one with substance abuse issues—her legs clad in torn black fishnet and seldom far from her Turkish cigarettes and bottle of cheap whiskey. She shows up unannounced from another trip to Amsterdam, and around the flick of a Zippo lighter, announces, “Hey. Let’s write a [censored] story.”

Once she leaves again, thankfully I’m then able to turn our work over to her polar opposite.

I’ve been blessed to be the companion of the Editress for a month shy of thirty-seven years and her husband for a third of a century. She who edits my work and my life makes out of both what always should have been, and fully half of the hours of labor producing a Dale Amidei novel are hers.

I wish I could tell you more of the consummately professional career that was her choice from the earliest days I knew her, but she is specialized enough that to do so would necessarily also tell you who she is. Being your intentions might be less than loving, the possibility your attitude toward my faith and my politics is held as ideologically actionable, and considering that to enable the means of your inadvertent destruction would not constitute a charitable act, I continue to maintain my own privacy and hers. Suffice it to say there are no soft targets here, and you should consider yourself warned if thinking otherwise.

Those who challenge the Editress do not know her. She possesses an ability to suffer fools gladly my own circumstances never allowed to develop. The woman hates spiders with an arachnophobic passion, yet traps them to relocate outside. She looks after the Perimeter felines with the loving-kindness of a mother and the thoroughness of a vet tech, yet I know within her velvet is enough steel to parry and riposte on demand. With skills retained as a diligent conventionalist, she has never been observed to miss a human-sized target in more than three decades of handgun practice.

Seven years ago, I endeavored to cultivate whatever result might come out of a dedicated time to write. The decision followed through on previously sufficient confirmation of a talent I suspected—all through my life—was there. I undertook The Year in the Chair, from which emerged the completion of Jon’s Trilogy, two titles in Sean’s File, and Boone’s first three. Casting about for a reentry point into the Real World (such as it is), I instead found the position that, to date, has been the pinnacle of a thirty-year career path for the woman I love.

We undertook the challenge together. In it, she accomplished her goals better than anyone else could have, and I wrote the remainder of what will be a catalog of fifteen full-length novels … more than Vince Flynn was graced to have completed or Tom Clancy managed as solo efforts. I wrote half again as many as the great Ernest Hemingway, who started me on my own journey as a young man of many years ago. All this, we feel, stands as work intended for us, she and I respectively. It was undertaken at once individually and together.

Our tasks brought us home, and eventually convinced us that now is the time to leave again. For various reasons unseemly displays of bitterness forbid explaining, we won’t be back here. In the interim, though, we have grown rather than diminished.

When she is unhappy, the situation needs to be addressed as my third order of loyalty. We’ve looked at what we have accomplished here, seen that it was good, and recognize it as standing finished. Such allows us the settled decision to leave this place.

Faith, you see, does not walk by sight. Two patron spirits continually contend for our own; one brays from darkness that the search for meaning in meaninglessness is futile, while the other whispers out of light the reminder our perspective is not yet broad enough to fully discern Divine purpose. Everyone you know chooses affiliation with one or the other.

Hope is vital. Life produces it, nourishes its fruit, and thereby uses all power to extend itself through the experience of those who hold it dear. With all wholesome things despised by the spirit of the enemy, hope is a high-value target in the war for souls relentlessly besieged.

Both sides in the battle want our hope, as it is the approach to the keep of our souls. The enemy seeks to destroy while angels whisper their advice to defend, and we ourselves are both the object of contention and the battleground. After more than half a century, I yet find the contest one hell of a thing to watch.

It’s heartening to realize she and I are not yet so old, so settled, so complacent, resigned, or beaten down that the prospect of a new beginning intimidates us into the passive acceptance of unhappiness. We pursue the goal still, out of a sense of duty to the gift of living, and with the intent of making Thomas Jefferson proud of the people to whom he dedicated his famous Declaration.

The author of Ecclesiastes noted the value of contentment, placing it higher than two hands full striving against the wind. Later in that same fourth chapter is the reminder of two being better than one, for one may lift the other up. And again, there follows the verse gracing our wedding long ago: that a cord of three strands is not easily torn apart.

So we’ll head south, to a place people call COMO. There, she promises work on Boone and Ritter’s joint adventure, Ghosts of the Republic, will resume once we establish a new Perimeter. For the first time, the property will be unlet, unmortgaged, and completely ours, as enabled by a third of a century in the mode of living she and I prefer:  well below the means of diligent effort and in mutual support.

More than once during all this time, we suffered the derision of more profligate souls. Those spent freely as money flowed out and in at the same approximate rate. They never realized we were not hoarding, merely delaying gratification. We were saving toward a goal set for us in the realm of the Spirit until, finally, we could afford what we wanted.

We will be using a cultivated reserve to buy something more precious than possessions, investments, or even a place to live. We will, in a week and with God willing, buy our freedom to set out on a new path, just as He did with us when we were first inspired to believe. Whatever follows after, hope says, finally He has taught us to embrace with joy.

Choose to love. Show me. -DA

 

 

 

 

Remembrance

It started on Mother’s Day this year. It is always a time to miss Mom, of course, but amplified now with the seventh anniversary of her death approaching. Memorial Day only added to the emotion of the season. Always in the slow march of time there are more memories gathered of those once here who now have gone ahead, and such is the nature of mortality.

My hair is showing the split between the snow white of Mother’s side of the family and Dad’s dark coloration. According to the Editress, hair color is a personal choice, though her genetics have her locks darker now than when we met. It is difficult to keep track of time when your woman ages like one of Tolkien’s elves; I am reminded, once I’m back in front a mirror, though, that the days are passing. And I keep my hair as it is so I remember.

I’ve written here about my father, but not mentioned Mom. I assume it is because the emotions involved have kept me from doing so, in addition to being someone who values his privacy in the age of social media. What I can tell you is this: my mother did not have an easy life.

Imagine yourself in the snow-swept flatlands of the Dakotas in the 1930s. Your eighth-grade education has ended, and your own mother—my grandmother—makes the decision to walk out on four daughters and four even younger sons, leaving them with their father. Grandmother was a woman whose idea of child-rearing involved making her children sit on a pew in the entryway of their home for most of Sunday, so as not to disturb the cleanliness of a house just put in order for the Sabbath, among other stories best kept in the family.

I have encountered in the course of my life souls who gave me hope for their disposition. Suffice it to say Grandma was not one of them. Mother, regardless, kept the obligations of a child to her parent to the demonically haunted end of that woman’s life.

At sixteen, Mom left home. It was wartime, and there was work to be had in the national effort, first in Chicago and afterward in Washington, D.C. I have the ring my father took to war, engraved inside the band with a reminder that Mother was at home, waiting. She remained a virgin when they married four years later.

Dad lived until she was forty-eight. I remember forty-eight. You are neither young nor old in the years I thought then would count as my best. You are widowed. Two daughters, at times estranged and at needs reconciled, are on their own. You are raising a son who arrived late to the Greatest Generation and a niece adopted after the death of your youngest sister. Times are as difficult as you can imagine, and you cast about for connection … for a place where life can go on. I don’t remember Mother being big on movie-going, but she could quote Scarlett O’Hara: “Tomorrow is another day.”

What strength it is, I realize now, to keep going. To the limits of your strength and sanity, only to make it to another dawn where you may try again. People going through so much survive on the strength of self-preservation. There’s nothing extra for nurturing as in the luxury of better times. Pain is given and received in that place, and everyone is tested in their limits. Some of those are respected by circumstances … at other times life doesn’t care at all how difficult it is. You count victory in each sunrise.

Mother settled into another life eventually, with another soul whose memory gives me less hope than I would care to contemplate. A life followed—marginally better than her start—though through it all she found enough hope in her Catholic faith to see her win.

Mother’s life gave me more hope than I could have imagined through all our dark and painful years together. We reconciled with perhaps a decade left. Mother saw me publish my first novel and tried to read it, though her education left her unable to finish. She had the impression that Jon Anthony was a good boy, trying to better himself, and was proud of my debut title regardless. Her signed paperback was stolen by relatives from Chicago and never returned, and you may look for it on the used book market today. KMA, people.

As the saying goes, it’s not how you start, but where you finish. Mother finished in a third-rate nursing home five miles from where she was born. The Editress and I saw her there, to recover from a recent surgery in her last good days. She had her stroke about the time we walked in our own door after returning to the Perimeter in Texas.

Mother endured her last difficult days as she had all those prior in life, being too strong a woman to die quickly. She knew I had returned from Texas, and was glad, and aside from a single squeeze on my hand a couple days later, it was the last of our interaction. She managed the Lord’s Prayer with a hospice worker a short time later, ready, without a doubt in faith, to move on to the bright and better days awaiting a Christian soul. Now we miss her.

Understand this, young people: life is going to hurt. Pain is on the horizon as part and parcel of the landscape. Those difficult emotions have things to teach you concerning yourself and your place in the natural order. There is a Way Things Are, to which we’re subject and unable to escape in more convenient consensus or comforting delusional thinking. Your obligations to He who produced you are some of those Things.

Listen and learn from the perspective of valid faith gathered beforehand. Sooner is better, believe me, so you’ll end strong, like many have before you. Absent a perspective embracing clarity and appreciating your place in what God is doing, your soul doesn’t have a chance. I’ve seen it go both ways.

Sometime after Mother’s funeral I was in the Big Red Chair G. Gordon Kitty and I often shared. He was gone ahead as well, and I was dreaming. Mother was behind me, with her arms around my shoulders, younger than I had known her in life. I asked her if she still loved me. She answered, “I love you so much.” So hope goes that one day my hair will no longer be gray, that pain will be only a memory of lessons learned, and in the fruition of our Creator’s long work of life, things will be just as He meant for us.

If so blessed, don’t wait for the onset of poignant memories. Appreciate your loved ones now. Start from the top, where love unimagined in its intensity awaits with He who set you on this path of days, and work your way down in faith to the remainder of those who may be waiting. You and they have things to do … and we are all in this together.

Choose to love, -DA