Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dad, Watseka, and Thank You

A month or so ago, I was wondering if my Watseka memories were entirely accurate. I wondered if I was looking at the past through rose-colored glasses. I asked myself if I was daydreaming about something that had never existed. It's easy to get dragged deep into bovine waste and get real cynical - real fast. I have to be careful not to abandon the idea that any place is good and decent.  

I recently returned from a ten night stay in Watseka. I am happy to report Watseka is everything I remembered – maybe even more!

Ten nights is the longest stretch of time I’ve spent in town since the summer of 1982. I’d planned a shorter trip. I was supposed to have arrived on Wednesday, March 16, 2011, with my family to visit my folks. The boys were looking forward to the trip.

As many of you know, things didn’t work out as planned. I left for Watseka six days early.

On Thursday March 10, late in the afternoon, my Father suddenly died. I made the seven-hour drive that night with my son, Colin. The rest of the family would join us as soon as we figured out the plan for the next few days. There was business to be done; funeral arrangements had to be made and my Dad’s clients needed to receive direction.

I’ve been gone from Watseka thirty years. Nearly every non-family Watsekan with whom I’ve remained close has moved. Friday morning I felt like a stranger in town as I ventured out to take care of business.

I should have remembered what I’d been writing. I wasn’t a stranger, I was among friends.

Early Friday morning, Dad’s loyal assistant was in his office taking care of things. Local lawyers immediately took care of Dad’s Friday business. The funeral directors were wonderful and caring. Everything got on track. People in Watseka saw things they could do to help – and stepped up and did them.

Dad’s visitation and service were well attended. Old friends and colleagues (both Dad’s and his children’s) paid their respects. Our teachers from Watseka schools showed up and visited with us.

With their eyes, handshakes, and hugs, each Watsekan we met or saw over the first few days let us know that he or she meant what was said. Watsekans don’t spend a lot of time with bovine waste.

When out-of-town friends and family left, I might have been forgotten as I stayed through the week. But, in Watseka, that wasn’t going to happen.

I look like my Dad. Nearly everywhere I went people recognized me, stopped to pay their respects, and asked if I needed anything. My folks’ house was deluged with visitors bringing food and good cheer. Local lawyers welcomed me with open arms when I asked questions and sought assistance with Dad’s office. The judges welcomed me with kindness and warmth when I stopped by to say hello.

I received calls and emails from Watseka friends and classmates. I saw old friends and acquaintances. I ate at my favorite restaurants, including one owned by an old friend. I was invited to lunch every day after my family left. I helped at a fish fry in the Church where I received my First Communion (I was welcomed like I’d been there every Sunday since). I was nearly dragged to a party by a friend on Saturday night, so my last night in town would be "filled with levity.” The hosts, whom I barely knew, welcomed me like I was a war hero.

For ten days and nights, I was treated with kindness and respect everywhere (and I mean everywhere) I went. Prayers and good thoughts were palpable.

I am not prone to bursts of public discussion regarding matters of faith and religion. I have a propensity to use profanity when I do - and that confuses the faithful.

Just this once, however, I’ll make a careful attempt . . . .

Dad died during Lent. Lent demands observances of forgiveness, acceptance, redemption, kindness, resurrection, new life, and love.  

In some places Lenten observances require effort. People have to work hard to forgive, accept, and love. In Watseka, those practices don’t seem to require exertion; people come by them naturally.

My Dad wasn’t perfect, but he was a Watsekan. He belonged to Watseka. Watseka takes care of its own.

Even after thirty years, I am a Watsekan. Now, especially during this Lent, I feel very blessed to be from Watseka.  The good that Watsekans displayed following my Father’s death mitigated the sorrow that naturally followed my loss. I feel that, as a Watsekan, I am obliged to act like one wherever I am.

There wasn’t any better place to be a kid.

Thank you to everyone who was there for my family and me last week.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Watseka Children - Out of Control!

This is taken verbatim from today's
Times Republic (link above): "Watseka Police ticketed Sarah Snyder, 2, Watseka, at Saturday in the 500 block of  West North Street for failure to wear a seatbelt by a driver. She was issued a citation, posted bond and was released."

I heard the child's mother told the officer:  "This kid of mine is completely out of control! I don't know what to do." This is apparently not the first time young Ms. Snyder has taken the car without permission.

When a two year old engages in this type of behavior, and fails to wear a seat belt to boot, you know she's going to be trouble.

Apparently the mom was going to exercise a little "tough love" and let Sarah sit in jail. But, the child obtained funds from her E*trade account to post bond.

I tell you, if we don't get these kids under control there will be anarchy in
Iroquois County!