Sunday, April 15

Dear Jim,

There’s sure been a lot of wind lately. I’ve been inside all day. At least it’s nice not to wear shoes.

Last night my neighbor and I went to dinner. We hadn’t been in at least two weeks.

Instead of going to the Chinese place like we used to, we went to a Mexican place over where I lived for eleven years. It was the first time in the thirty-eight years that I’ve lived here that I went. I used to pass it all the time no matter where I lived.

I liked the food and I enjoyed the company of my friend, but I did not like being in my old neighborhood. Living there was the most unhappy period of my life. It aged me.

My friend was telling me how much he loves the houses in that neighborhood. They are beautiful – built in the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s with a ton of trees on the street. He hopes he wins the lottery so he can buy one. I hope so too. I wonder if I’d see him again.

Remember your house? I didn’t like it or your neighborhood. I know you didn’t like your neighborhood. Did you like the house? I loved my house but didn’t like the neighborhood. Too suburban.

The important thing for me isn’t whether I live in a house or an apartment, but whether or not there is a lot of light, a lot of windows, especially on the south. I’m becoming more and more light deprived. Part of it is fluorescent lights, but an increasing part is that aging eyes receive 40% less light than the eyes of a young person.

I’m going to get a new tablet before winter. It will not have bad lighting built in like the one I have now. I’m also going to get a tall lamp with healthy bulbs.

One of the things I read is that you need healthy light coming down on you like the sun, not up to you like a desk lamp. And I don’t know if you can do this in an apartment, but there are tubes that can be hooked up to a device outside that will bring natural light over your work area.

I’m supposed to go to the eye doctor this month, but I’m thinking of changing doctors. I love the office though. It feels great to be in.

You know how the media talks about how depressed old people are in rest homes? One of the reasons is the fluorescent lights. Another is the bad light from all the TV’s and the third is the inability of old eyes to absorb natural light like they used to.

A long time ago I looked up lighting in rest homes. There was a guy who designed rest homes so that the rooms receive a lot of natural light and, I assume, use light bulbs that make rooms feel good to be in.

I will not be able to afford to live in such a place. I won’t be able to afford to live in even a gloomy rest home. If I did live in one of those lousy places with fluorescent lights and TV’s on all day, I would lose my mind. Remember the movie about the insane asylum where at the end the Indian breaks the window to escape from the place? That’s what I think I would do in a rest home.

I remember one time that you said ”Television is the killer of the soul.” I say television is a weapon parents and the staff in rest homes use to kill the souls of children and old people.

If I won the lottery like my neighbor hopes he does, I wouldn’t buy a house. I would make arrangements to move into one of those well-lit rest homes as soon as I turned sixty-five or seventy, whatever age I thought I would begin to need assistance. It would be great to be an old man in a place that feels good to be in, basking in the peaceful glow of natural light, listening to birds instead of television.

What we do to old people is horrible. What we’ve done to dad is terrible. Dad is defeated.

I feel defeated too. I have to force myself to pray. That’s scary.

I’ve heard on religious radio stations that faith is something you sometimes have to work at. Sometimes you have to ask God to keep you in faith. You have to keep praying even when you’ve lost your faith because eventually you will regain it.

I think dad has lost a lot of his faith. He hardly prays. What means the world to him I think is when we hang up he says, ”Be careful. I love you. God bless you.” He may have lost hope for himself, but he hopes everything works out for me.

Sometimes when I don’t feel like saying a prayer for dad, I’ll ask God to let him right into heaven when he dies. He just can’t believe what’s happened to himself.

There’s that priest from Miami I think I told you about. He has a radio show for two hours every night. At the end of the show, after he’s done listening to the troubles of some people and bantering with others, it’s prayer time.

A listener will call. The priest says, ”Por su doloroso pasión.” The caller says, ”Ten misericordia de nosotros y el mundo entero.”

They say it ten times. What reverence and humbleness. Do you think it’s beautiful? It reminds me of dad.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko


Dear Jim,

What a great week off. I haven’t worked since Tuesday. Each day I’ve been outside over four hours reading, writing, and walking. I feel healthy doing that.

Before my holiday, I worried about how I would make use of the time. I looked up an outdoor walk commemorating the Stations of the Cross for Good Friday. I participated five years ago, but did not see any notices for it for this year.

I thought I should go to the Holy Thursday service, or three hours on Good Friday, or a sorrowful music performance on Good Friday night, or communion on Holy Saturday, or Mass today. With so much free time and extra energy, I ”should do something” to honor Easter, worship God, thank Jesus.

But I didn’t want to. On Palm Sunday I felt a change of mood. I felt solemn. I told dad I was feeling the Easter spirit.

I put the clock radio in the drawer. I didn’t listen to my other radio. I didn’t worry about getting things done.

I didn’t go to any of the Holy Week rituals because I didn’t want to be inside and I didn’t want to put money in the collection basket. The main reasons are I don’t think Catholics take their faith seriously. They want to ooo! and ahhhh! on Good Friday as the huge lightweight cross is passed from the people in the front pews to the people in the back pews. ”Aren’t we progressive?”

It is really very phony. When did that shit start? I’ll have to ask dad but he probably won’t remember.

I feel lonelier at church than I do anywhere else. To sit through one of the long rituals would have killed me: ”I don’t know these people. They aren’t my friends. There is nothing to talk about. I don’t want to see people I know from other places and don’t like.”

On Friday I said Happy Easter to the cashier at the grocery store. She appreciated it. She said ”Happy Easter to you too.” Our exchange meant more to me than attending all the Holy Week ceremonies and Easter Mass would have.

The Good Friday walk I mentioned at the beginning of the letter. When I was volunteering at a church, one of my co-volunteers encouraged me to take the walk. She wasn’t physically able to do it.

I arrived at the place it started at least fifteen minutes early. The musicians were rehearsing. During a lull I asked them if this was the Good Friday walk. They said yes, but they were not warm. Nobody said ”Glad you could make it.” Nobody smiled. They looked at me as if I were less than.

So I sat on a picnic table until the walk started. The leader and an important priest were there talking. They had an attitude of self-importance. I was looking for reverence.

The walk was a struggle. We stopped for every station. Whenever we stopped I wanted to sit down, but it would not have been appropriate.

It was warm in the sun. Cool in the shade. I kept taking off my ski cap to put on my sun hat, and I kept taking off my sun hat to put on my ski cap. In the sun I stood in the shade of a telephone pole or street lamp.

Finally the walk ended. I ran into the woman I volunteered with. She had driven down to say hello to people.

As we were talking, she saw the leader of the walk coming toward us. She said ”Oh! I’ll introduce you guys.”

After they said hello to each other, she said ”So-and-so, this is David Vaszko. We volunteer together at one of the parishes.”

He says, ”Oh, weren’t you the one who kept putting his hat on and off? That was odd.”

”Yeah. That was me.”

”Don’t you walk by my office every day? You look familiar.”

”I walk all over.”

But he didn’t tell me where his office was or what its’ name was.

Then someone he knew came up to him. He said ”Excuse me,” then talked to the guy. I wanted to leave but didn’t want to be rude, so I waited.

Then he turned to me and said, ”I’ve got to go to breakfast with my friends.” He didn’t invite me. ”I hope you come on the walk next year.” But he didn’t say ”We’re always looking for volunteers.”

I thought ”No way in fucking hell am I going on the walk next year with you snobs.” He talked down to me. He should have invited me to breakfast and encouraged me to volunteer with the group.

On the way home I thought that guys like him are why people leave The Church, and why so many who try to return to The Church say fuck it. He wasn’t warm, respectful, diplomatic, or Christian. He was just a busy-body.

I never told the woman what I felt about him. They were close and she and I had a good relationship. I wanted to tell her he talked down to me but I’m glad I didn’t. She was really good to me – always encouraging me to do more in the parish because she respected me and knew I was struggling.

During the week I kept thinking about what Holy Week means. I was wishing I felt part of The Church. I would have loved to participate in one of the ceremonies. When I was coming home at 6:30 Thursday evening, I thought “In a few hours Jesus will be arrested.”

I got lucky. When I came home yesterday there was an invitation to dinner. The real short friend of mine who I told you has the sick sister and the old girl friend of mine who you guys adored and now has a husband, wanted the four of us to eat dinner and then watch a movie.

So the couple picked up my short friend, met me at the Mexican restaurant around the corner, paid for our dinners To Go, then drove us back to their house. The food was great. They all wanted to taste my menudo and they all loved it.

I was leery about watching the movie because movies overstimulate me and most TVs bother my brain. But I knew I should go and I was right.

The movie was The Darkest Hour. It’s about Churchill’s appointment to Prime Minister and his struggles to outwit Chamberlain and Halifax so that Parliament and the nation would accept his demand to fight to the death against Hitler.

You would have loved it. I told dad he would have loved it.

I didn’t get home until 11:30. Some neighbors were having a loud party that didn’t stop until 1:15.

I laughed. I got to spend Holy Saturday night with people I feel good being with, and one of the few nights I went out happened to be one of the few nights my neighbors were loud and I couldn’t have gone to bed early.

Happy Easter to you and mom Jim.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko

Friday, December 22

Dear Jim,

The days are getting longer.

I am trying to get in the Christmas spirit. On Wednesday I finally took out the battery-operated Christmas tree that mom gave me. I love it. She received it from two swingers at church who bought it at Gumps.

I remember you bought somebody a present at Gumps, but I can´t remember what it was. The old lady across the street from us when I graduated from high school had a friend twenty years younger than her who had a great position there. I still know his name but never met him.

It´s a struggle this year. I took out the tree, but left the Silent Night chimes in the closet. I definitely do not feel the peace of Christmas.

On Sunday I´m going to Sis II´s. I don´t think there will be a lot of people. I want to relax, so I hope not. I really want and need to talk with Sis II. Dad´s mind is shot, so she is all I have in the family.

Speaking of family, I was reading the New York Times the other day and thought of you. Two years ago a 25 year old New York City cop was murdered on duty. The other day after the trial but before the verdict:

¨the officer´s mother addressed the courtroom in an emotional plea for the maximum
sentence for her son´s killer, whom she refused to look at. She spoke of Mr. ____´s
lovable personality and living with the knowledge that she would never dance with
him at his wedding or see him become a father. ´This is my life sentence, without
parole,´ she said.¨

A totally different perspective than what mom and dad had toward your murderer. Mom and dad forgave him and prayed for him. If you had read the article you would have said the family of the murderer suffered too.

When the guy who killed you hung himself in jail, I wonder if his kids were happy for us because either he evened the score, or because we were spared the trial and all the questions people would have asked us, ¨Do you hope he gets the death penalty man?¨ I wonder if they were relieved for themselves for not having to go through the stress of the trial or having to visit their father in San Quentin.

I was glad he hung himself. I didn´t give the slightest shit about his kids.

One time when dad was driving you, mom, and I somewhere, you were talking about something that happened in the Bay Area in the 1950´s. A guy was sent to prison for arson. He claimed that he did not do it. He told the prosecutor something like, ¨You´ll pay for this.¨ When the guy got out of prison, he looked up the prosecutor then killed him.

My reaction was ¨Good!¨ ¨What balls!¨ ¨Serves the career-building attorney right!¨ Your comment was that the guy in jail could have tried to make peace with himself in jail, to learn forgiveness, to not waste all those years cultivating vengeance.

I wonder what the two families thought. Did the prosecutor´s family say, ¨Yes. Well even though that was 15 years ago, our dad/brother did ruin someone´s life. We don´t like what happened, but we cannot complain.¨? Did the family of the murderer say, ¨If he had broken out of jail the first week and killed him, that would have been OK, but now we lose our father/brother a second time. We wanted him back.¨?

Well Jim, Merry Christmas.

Thanks for praying for me.



Copyright © 2021 by David Vaszko