1.Joyce and I were talking about the idea of having funeral before you die. It's not, of course, an original idea. I think I've read stories in newspapers and magazines about it. I just Googled "funeral before death" and got all kinds of hits--including this one, a place advertising a "Living Funeral." (Link to site.) The site steals a little bit of my thunder because I'm talking here a little about The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the famous scene when Tom, Huck, and Joe Harper attend their own funeral, hiding in the balcony. (Here's a link to the entire chapter, Chapter 17--and you'll need to read the chapters preceding it to see why people in town thought the boys were dead.) Here are some relevant paragraphs from that chapter:
As the service proceeded, the clergyman drew such pictures of the graces, the winning ways, and the rare promise of the lost lads that every soul there, thinking he recognized these pictures, felt a pang in remembering that he had persistently blinded himself to them always before, and had as persistently seen only faults and flaws in the poor boys. The minister related many a touching incident in the lives of the departed, too, which illustrated their sweet, generous natures, and the people could easily see, now, how noble and beautiful those episodes were, and remembered with grief that at the time they occurred they had seemed rank rascalities, well deserving of the cowhide. The congregation became more and more moved, as the pathetic tale went on, till at last the whole company broke down and joined the weeping mourners in a chorus of anguished sobs, the preacher himself giving way to his feelings, and crying in the pulpit.
There was a rustle in the gallery, which nobody noticed; a moment later the church door creaked; the minister raised his streaming eyes above his handkerchief, and stood transfixed! First one and then another pair of eyes followed the minister’s, and then almost with one impulse the congregation rose and stared while the three dead boys came marching up the aisle, Tom in the lead, Joe next, and Huck, a ruin of drooping rags, sneaking sheepishly in the rear! They had been hid in the unused gallery listening to their own funeral sermon!
Aunt Polly, Mary, and the Harpers threw themselves upon their restored ones, smothered them with kisses and poured out thanksgivings, while poor Huck stood abashed and uncomfortable, not knowing exactly what to do or where to hide from so many unwelcoming eyes. He wavered, and started to slink away, but Tom seized him and said:
“Aunt Polly, it ain’t fair. Somebody’s got to be glad to see Huck.”
“And so they shall. I’m glad to see him, poor motherless thing!” And the loving attentions Aunt Polly lavished upon him were the one thing capable of making him more uncomfortable than he was before.
Suddenly the minister shouted at the top of his voice: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow—sing!—and put your hearts in it!”
2. Not that I need another reminder that I'm old ... but I got a notice this week from a FB friend that her husband, a former student of mine, was turning sixty this week. John Mlinek, whom I taught the very first year of my career (1966-67) in one of my seventh grade classes, is hitting the Mark this week. Sixty. Students I taught in seventh grade are turning SIXTY! I have a long history with John. He was in the first two shows I ever directed at the Aurora Middle School and went on to have a fine career in theater and in just about anything else he ever did (including teaching near Dayton). I got to see him play Hamlet at Kent State, Macbeth in Columbus in an open-air production (a dog wandered up on the stage at one point; oh well). He has directed many shows himself, and his wife, Kim, now is a tech director for many sports productions you see on the Tube. John has remained ferociously loyal to me over the years. When he's in town, he gets in touch; he invites us to his annual Oscar Night each spring; he never forgets us. When I directed my final show in Aurora at Harmon Middle School (spring 1996), he came back and performed a cameo.When a friend and I founded the Aurora Youth Theater back in the late 1960s, John was one of the first high school students we called to get involved--and did he get involved! Eventually, he and his friend Dave Prittie were running the AYT, which, sadly, has disappeared. They wrote and directed shows, performed in them. John and Dave also made films when they were in high school, and I was always flattered when they brought them over to show us the "final cut." Anyway, John was and is a special young man. I say "young man" because, well, he's younger than I! Joyce and I love him like a son.
Here's a story, just to show you. Years ago (in the thrall of my Billy-the-Kid phase) I had gone, alone, to the Midway Drive-In between Kent and Ravenna to see Dirty Little Billy, an anti-heroic film about you-know-who. It starred Michael J. Pollard (who'd made a name for himself in Bonnie and Clyde.) Gary Busey and Nick Nolte, unknown at the time, were also in the cast. This must have been the spring or summer of 1973. Our son was barely a year old, and Joyce had no interest in dirty little Billys. She had plenty on her hands with Dirty Little Steve. So I went alone. After the film had been going for a little while, I heard a knock on the car window. There were John and Dave. They'd dropped by our house to see me, and hearing where I was, they came out to join me. (They were KSU students at the time.) They climbed in the car, and we "enjoyed" the film together.
3. As I've posted here (or FB?), Joyce and I have finished watching the first two seasons of Longmire, the TV series about a contemporary Wyoming sheriff--and we've enjoyed the episodes a lot (took a while to get "hooked," I'll admit). I noticed, early on, that one of the verbal characteristics of Walt Longmire (the sheriff). When he's talking informally with folks, he occasionally (often?) ends a sentences with so ...
4. And I'll end with a Dumb Dream from last night. For some reason, I was interviewing candidates for the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame. Oddly, these interviews took place at Harmon Middle School in Aurora. I sat in a little practice room, and the groups came in--I told them they could bring only one instrument with them. One of the first groups was the Rolling Stones--but they looked like middle school kids. I told them they didn't need to audition: They were the Stones. They seem pleased, as was I when I woke up immediately after they launched into "Jumpin' Jack Flash," which, oddly, sounded just like the recording even though they had with them only one acoustic guitar.