Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Gold medal month

So how did the girl who was always picked last end up being such a sports junkie? The family sports gene totally missed me: I can't play golf, don't really get into hiking and climbing and hunting and fishing, would rather sit in the cabin and read all day than waterski or swim and play volleyball. But I am an Olympicsholic. I admit it.

I can still remember where I was when that little Romanian 14-year-old, Nadia Comaneci, scored her first perfect 10 on the bars in 1976 (I was standing there in my underwear, ironing in a stifling second-floor walkup apartment overlooking West Seventh and Randolph in St. Paul). And Mark Spitz? No matter what Michael Phelps does in the pool, Spitz is still my all-time favorite McDreamy.

Maybe it's because I raised a bunch of athletes and did a little swimming myself a very long time ago that I realize how extraordinary these Olympians are. Their dedication to perfection is something I find quite awe-inspiring. Sometimes, of course, it's downright obsession and probably borders on madness and narcisism. Nevertheless, the Olympics are still a blast to watch, and my anemic patriotism gets a free boost, too, despite living in the city where John McCain is having a great big party next month.

This year I'm glued to the TV as I am every four years, although I haven't stolen any planks from the garage for a makeshift balance beam this time. I just can't get that dismount down.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Remembering Cathe

A little more than five years ago, a dear friend from college, Catherine, died after an on-again, off-again battle (she called it "inconvenient") with breast cancer for years. She was 49. Her little boy was 11. It broke our hearts.

Cathe had a way of collecting friends like some people collect coins. She polished all of us and scooped us together in a pile. Lo and behold, we became friends, good friends who gather several times a year to flirt with Italian waiters, eat too much and drink a bunch of wine. Sometimes we top it off with a forbidden cigarette, just because Cathe liked being a bit of a rebel.

After she died we had a tree planted in her honor on the campus of her alma mater, the College of St. Catherine. Each spring it boasts pink blooms, and a bench now graces the site, too. On July 31, the anniversary of her death, I sat there again, drinking in a kind of silence almost antithetical to Cathe's nature: She was Irish and never shut up, except sometimes in church, and even then she usually found something to whisper and giggle about.

As I sat there thinking about Cathe, I hoped there is, indeed, the afterlife to which we Christians cling. I have some good gossip I need to tell her and I need to feel again the special kind of exhaustion that endless laughter brings. I need her to tell me a story. I miss her "cackle."

Suddenly, my reverie was interrupted. Someone walking to his car after a campus summer music conference had burst into a perfect-pitch rendition of "Amazing Grace." Thanks, Cathe.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

My 'basket' list

I see that actor Morgan Freeman, one of my favorites, had a serious auto accident yesterday. So here, with every good wish that he recovers from his injuries and in the theme of one of my favorite Freeman movies, "The Bucket List," is my Top 20 things I intend to do one day, in no particular order:

1.) Drink really good Irish ale in an Irish pub, in Ireland.
2.) Eat a meal in Tuscany.
3.) Publish a book of my poems.
4.) Go to my grandkids' grade-school "spring sings."
5.) Go downhill skiing again (I haven't since Nicole was born), as it was the only sport that didn't embarrass me.
6.) Dip my toes in the Pacific Ocean; closest I ever got was being sprayed by its mist on a foggy cruise of San Francisco Bay.
7.) Run a 5K. Really, I would. I just don't know if I could.
8.) Learn to back up while towing a trailer.
9.) While I'm at it, learn to back up using rear-view mirrors.
10.) Dock the boat all by myself.
11.) Learn to take good pictures that don't cut off heads.
12.) Learn to play bridge or chess or some other mentally challenging game. Best I can do is 500 and cribbage, neither of which I can even remember how to play anymore.
13.) Make pasta from scratch.
14.) Continuing the food-preparation theme, I'd like to bake a pie with a lattice crust. They're so pretty, but I've never tried it.
15.) Put my boxes of photos in some kind of order in albums before I forget who's pictured.
16.) Make a quilt.
17.) See the Grand Canyon.
18.) See Mount Rushmore.
19.) Ride a bike or walk to my office at least once. It's 9.1 miles. I clocked it yesterday, and I can do this.
20.) Lose 20 pounds before Nate gets married.
21.) Just for good measure (you've heard of a baker's dozen, haven't you?), learn to play the piano.

Instead of calling this a "bucket" list, I think it should be called a "basket" list. As in handbasket. Because that's probably where I'll end up at the rate I'm going.