Happy Mom´s Birthday Jim,
I haven´t called dad yet. I want to sing Happy Birthday to You with him, but my mouth hurts from dental surgery on Monday.
I guess you know about the fires in Sonoma County? I did not find out about them until dad told me yesterday afternoon.
He went for a ride with the owner of the rest home to look at the damage. He was surprised at the destruction, but he didn´t tell me 1500 buildings had been destroyed.
Sis I and our cousin are in danger of losing their houses. They can´t sleep because they worry about being evacuated.
Sonoma County. God´s country. It´s not supposed to happen there. The wind picked up again last night and today is smoky.
Sis I has a great piece of property. All her hopes and memories. All our memories. How abandoned the people who lost their homes, businesses, and jobs must feel sleeping in a gym with hundreds of other people. ¨What am I doing here with all these bastards?¨
Dad said yesterday that we never know what the next day might bring. People were watching burning pieces of whatever fly over their houses. Our nephew hosed down his house before they evacuated it, but it turned out to be a false alarm. He bought the house last year.
In one area eight blocks were burned. People said it looked like a war zone. One radio
announcer´s voice trembled as she reported.
I remember the Labor Day weekend after graduating from high school. We went to Clear Lake to get plastered.
On night we watched the glow of a forest fire on the other side of the hill. It was pretty.
I´m surprised they didn´t evacuate us.
But it isn´t pretty in the day. I´ve seen two daytime fires. They terrified me.
Last night I was listening to Public Radio. I always listen to Public Radio when I am sick or real weak.
They interviewed an 87 year old American who lived in Moscow in the 1950s. He attended college there and ended up working for our government or a U. S. business there.
He talked about Kruchev. We all know that Kruchev criticized Stalin. But I didn´t know that his statements brought a loosening of the Russian police state. The cops didn´t arrest anyone who criticized Stalin and Kruchev.
There was great hope in Russia and eastern Europe, but it did not last. Kruchev invaded Hungary during its´ rebellion. He turned out to be just like Stalin.
I remember when Sis I was in high school. She was reading a paperback about the Hungarian Revolution. She came crying into the room where dad and I were. She showed dad the book and cried to him, ¨Why didn´t we help them!¨
It´s been forty-nine years since you were in Poland and Czechoslovakia. I remember the charred and mud-splattered piece of the Russian flag you brought home from Prague. It hung on the wall in my bedroom until after you died.
I remember the story you told about the Polish family you stayed with.
The kid told his dad, ¨If you don´t let me go out tonight, I will tell the authorities you have that thing in the garage you are not supposed to have.¨
That was the adventure of your life. You wanted to experience a real culture, the great Catholic and Western tradition you loved profoundly. You wanted to free yourself from the horribly anal life here in America. You slept in the snow in Poland so you could make up for the suffering you did not have to undergo in Vietnam. You wanted to prove your manhood to yourself.
You almost didn´t make it.
´67 and ´68 were the most challenging years of your life.
You went to Europe just as it was rejecting Catholicism and its´ pride in being Western.
It´s too bad you didn´t get to meet John Paul and Benedict when they were in their forties. You would have loved to hear how much they knew about The Church and European history. You would have loved to feel how much they loved The Church.
You have suffered a lot bro. I want to acknowledge it.
I love you,