Karen Larson
Karen Larson

    Karen Larson is one of my all-time favorite human beings.  She won a permanent seat in my Hall of Fame when she hung in there with Rosie during the hard years.  Our family had the great good fortune of drawing Karen to be Rosie's mentor for confirmation.  Karen exhibited immense love and patience for Rose at a time when Rose was distracted by depression.  On occasion, Karen would set up a dinner date with her.  She would arrive at the appointed hour and sometimes Rosie would refuse to go out with her.  Even though she was home, Rosie would refuse to even come to the door to say so.  Karen was a clear pond of water, receiving the rebuff, simultaneously feeling the pain of rejection and the pain one feels when a loved one is suffering, and remaining the steady and patient adult, essentially being changed and unchanged at the same time.  I would be obliged to send her away with an apology.  She could have resolved then to not put herself in that position again, but not Karen; two weeks later, there she would be on the doorstep again, loving our beloved, miserable daughter, ready to give and give again to Rosie and ready to take another rejection, all without a flicker of impatience.  Karen never saw me after I shut the door after she left.  I wept.  Even now I tear up.  In a few seconds of presence, her own sensitivity and love for Rose refreshed the anguish I felt witnessing Rosie's suffering, she modeled for me again how to love selflessly, and how to be present with pain.
    Karen and I are more similar than dissimilar, but one way we are quite different is in our theology.  I think.  She is preparing for ordination so I asume she would accept the characterization of being a theist.  I describe myself as a post-theist because when our pastor uses the word "God", I haven't the remotest clue what he means and yet I am not an atheist.  Karen must have some sense of what the word "God" means because I have heard her use it.  My guess is that she is deeply realistic and that she does not allow herself to be distracted by words, concepts, history, or theology, as I do, and that one thing that faith means to her is that she will proceed with what she knows right now.  If she can't express it in words or assert or defend a theology, well that's fine, but she does know how to listen, how to love, how to hurt, and how to step forward and see what the next moment looks and feels like so that's what she does.  If she's theist and I'm post-theist, but we operate in the same way, then what's in a word?
    Another way we are similar: both of us are writers.  Here too, we are different however.  She's one of those reckless modernists who no longer puts the comma before the "and" before the last item in a series and now she says I am a cranky  medievalist - my words, not hers - for persisting in putting two spaces after each period.  I assume the problem is with not wanting to waste the effort of striking the space bar twice or not wanting to waste the extra nothing, which is what a space is, a nothing.  I live in a cosmos abundantly provided with commas, semicolons, and nothings (i.e. spaces) so I am okay wasting a little nothing sometimes.  One reason I enjoy listening to her sermons and reading her emails and birthday cards is that her writing has the precision that comes from the long practice of examining each written word.  Few people recognize how precise and lean her English is; they don't think about why she is compelling and so easy to understand, they are just compelled and understand easily.
    Anyway, she's one of my favorite humans.

Lester Wiley
Lester Wiley

   Few people have had truly adverse effects on my life or happiness.  Lester Wiley didn't have much effect on my happiness, but not for lack of effort.  He did cause me a great deal of stress.  He had a negative net effect on my wealth to the tune of about thirty thousand dollars.  How?  On November 18, 1994, he broke into my house, stole a bunch of stuff and set three closets full of clothes on fire before taking his leave.  That fire pretty much hollowed out my house.  Few books were lost.  No journals and no family photographs were destroyed.  We never did retrieve a couple of pieces of jewelry that had belonged to Adele's mother.  And a sable coat.  (I didn't know until I researched this article that male sables are five times bigger than female sable.  That's called sexually dimorphism.)  The most valuable item I lost was my childhood doll which I called Clownie.  It was quite important to me.  Monnie made it for me.  In my bedroom closet, I found a melted ball of fifty year old nylons that she had used to stuff its head.  Insurance covered most of our losses so it was simply a high stress way to renovate.  He's a sad case.  I have discovered that about two weeks before the writing of these words, he was reincarcerated into the state prison at St. Cloud for receiving stolen goods.  Again.  Again that means he probably stole them, but the police do not have enough evidence to make it stick as burglary.  They had to settle for receiving stolen goods.  There he is, in jail and having been there most of his adult life, will continue to be until March of 2014.  He's forty-seven.  The only assets he has are in a box in a storage facility at the prison.  His only skills are probably illegal ones.  His family is probably done with him.  Only a pretty desparate woman would let him into her apartment.  I assume that somewhere in him is a sweet guy, a generous one, one willing to sacrifice for the right cause.  He probably won't get the chance to test his worth.  I shiver when I think that seventeen years ago, Lester was in the room I am sitting in now.  Scary.  Sad.