As I was reviewing some of my entries in our Mission Accomplished coaching group led by Deborah Hurwitz
I discovered a note to me from Janie, one of the other members, in which she highly recommended Jane Yolen. Because of my six children, I was familiar with her as a children's writer, particularly Owl Moon, but when I went to research her further, I discovered that she has written over 365 books of many different kinds, including poetry. What really struck me was the reference to her Radiation Sonnets, which she wrote when her husband was going through radiation treatments for cancer, which eventually killed him just as cancer killed my husband. Most of my recent poetry has been wrestling with his death, though there were a few poems I wrote about his illness. I ordered her book though I am not sure how easy it will be to read, even 6 years after my own husband's death. It wasn't until last year that I could read C.S. Lewis's A Grief Observed, and I found his anger and struggles with faith very salutary in my own journey.
What pierced me to the heart was reading her husband's gravestone,
which included "Beloved Husband, Father, Papa," and ended with "The man who knew everything." Those were encomiums I could give to my beloved husband as well. He didn't have a photographic memory, but seemed to remember everything he had ever learned or read or heard, including all 47 (or however many there were) of the verses of "Wichita Lineman." Teachers in our children's schools quickly discovered that they couldn't make random assertions about the state of the world--or almost anything else--because our children would return the next day with a quote from my husband disproving it. Occasionally he would get tired of their asking him endless questions, and would tell them to go look in the dictionary or encyclopedia (in the days before computers) or later to check their research assistant, Dr. Google.
On matters concerning the Catholic Faith, he was almost infallible. One of our friends who eventually became an Archbishop said that my husband was the only lay person he knew who had read Canon Law from cover to cover--both the older 1917 version, and the newer one. When he baptized our son, he stayed with us overnight, and at 2 in the morning, he and my husband were still eagerly discussing Canons and Sections. However, I told them that I had a new baby, and was going to bed! I don't remember when they finally gave it up, but it was a glorious day for my husband, a civil lawyer, when he could dig deep into Canon Law with someone who was an expert in that field.
At work, he was known as the institutional memory for the company, which had had innumerable spinoffs and buyouts in the 30 years since he had worked for the original biotech startup. He told me that one day he was talking with a group of people who had worked with him for many years. One of them asked him if there was anything he didn't know. He thought for a minute or two and finally said, "College basketball in the sixties--I don't really know much about that."
When our two oldest daughters were going to a public university that was close to where he worked, he would take them to lunch every week, ask them about their classes, from biochem to history to linguistics to English literature to Hebrew. He genuinely loved discussing anything intellectual with them (when they were babies, he told me he couldn't wait for them to be adults so he could have some really great conversations with them!) but he also kept up with their friends, boyfriends and eventually husbands and all the crises and resolutions they experienced. I am convinced that one of the reasons they emerged from a very secular environment with a strong adult Faith was the time he took with them to answer the questions and issues that inevitably emerged in their classes, their readings, and their interactions with so many diverse students and professors.
I am still thankful to him for helping to form six adult children who may differ on many things but whose moral values are steadfast and being passed on to my twenty-two grandchildren.