Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter… ©

We are excited. Aunt Rosemary is coming back from AZ for a visit. Given health and age, it will probably be her last. Cousin Kae will bring Aunt Rosemary over from OH. We’re hoping Aunt Edna can come over, too. Those three are the last of “the greatest generation” of my family, these now-nineties women who seventy years ago stepped out in faith to marry three soldiers just returned from the war. We’ll get together and tell stories…

I like the one about Uncle Bob and the Plymouth best. It was old, and sort of blue, and when Uncle Bob, from whom I get my middle name, went off to the army in WWII, he sold it to his next brother, Randall, who when he went off to the army to fight in the South Pacific, sold it to the next, and youngest brother, Mike, who when he went off to the army to fight, up from Sicily and Anzio, sold it to Bob, who was back from the army. By that time you can imagine how old and less blue it was. One day it stopped and refused to go anymore, right in front of the Plymouth dealership in Oxford, OH.

Uncle Bob went in and said to the dealer, “How much will you give me for that Plymouth out there?”

“I wouldn’t give anything for that Plymouth,” said the dealer.

“It’s a deal,” said Uncle Bob, and he laid the keys on the counter and walked back to Cedar Crest, the name of the big old house on the edge of town where Grandma and Grandpa and almost all their eight children, and the spouses of married children, and grandchildren, lived off and on during Depression and WWII years.

I told Uncle Bob, when he was in his late 80s, how much I enjoyed that story. “I don’t remember anything like that,” he said.

What a letdown! It’s important in a family to tell the stories, to keep them alive, but what if they are not true?

Another family story that my father told was that Grandma Mac, his mother, got cancer when he was a teenager. That was in the early 1920s. There was no cure, hardly any treatment for cancer. The oldest child, Glen, was gone from home, so Daddy and Aunt Helen, the only girl, number two in birth order, divided up between themselves the duties they figured would have to be carried out, who would be responsible for which of the five younger children and so forth, when Grandma died. She went to Louisville for treatment, although Daddy was a bit vague about the place and type of treatment, and lived to 96, so their planning did not have to be put into effect. It’s a remarkable story, one that would enhance even more the powers of the already remarkable Grandma Mac, but what if it’s not true?

Aunt Helen was already dead when he told me this story, and I can find no one else in the family who has ever heard anything like this. Daddy, however, always had a good mind and a good memory, and was not the type to make things up.

I’m going to keep telling about Uncle Bob and the Plymouth, and Grandma’s cancer, with the caveat that they might not be factual, because I think they are true. There is a difference between factual and true. That Plymouth and its wanderings and final resting are McFarland sorts of things. Preparing for a possible tragedy, even as a kid, is a McFarland sort of thing.

And, as part of the only stratum of the family that stands between death and the younger folks, I’m the only one who can tell these stories, for I’m the only one who knows them. That’s one of the jobs of winter in a family, telling the stories that remind us of who we are.

As Chinua Achebe, the great African author, has the village wise man say in Things Fall Apart, “There is no story that is not true.”

John Robert McFarland

The picture is of the Pine Mountain ski jump in Iron Mountain, MI, the highest man-made ski jump in the world. I started this blog several years ago, when we followed the grandchildren to the “place of winter,” Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP]. I put that in the sub-title, Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter, where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.] The grandchildren, though, are grown up, so in May, 2015 we moved “home,” to Bloomington, IN, where we met and married. It’s not a “place of winter,” but we are still in winter years of the life cycle, so I am still trying to understand what it means to be a follower of Christ in winter. I have a picture that is more appropriate now for Indiana, boys playing basketball in winter snow, but I have not yet figured out how to replace the ski jump picture with the basketball picture.

I tweet as yooper1721.

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