Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Tuesday, October 3, 2017


I make coffee twice a day in our “percolator,” which is actually a drip-through, but I like to say “percolator.”

The first coffee is immediate, as soon as I get out of bed. It is only for me, since Helen gets up later and prefers tea for breakfast, anyway. So I fill the water to “my” line, the first line. I always put the water in first so that I don’t forget it. Turning on the coffee pot without water is definitely not a good thing. I know. Then I empty out the grounds from last time and rinse out the basket. Following that comes a scoop of pinon and one of chocolate. Then I push the button and finish up doing the dishes from last night.

The second coffee is mid-morning, when we have done the morning things old people do—walk, email, water aerobics, newspaper [which is not paper but electronic], read morning books, authors like Marcus Borg and Bill Bryson and Anne Lamott. I fill the water to the second line, “our” line. I empty out the grounds and put in one scoop of chocolate and two of decaf pinon, because Helen’s heart can’t do caffeine. It goes very well with one of Helen’s homemade scones or muffins.

I did the first coffee this morning while still half-asleep, dark outside, 5:30, then did the dishes and toasted half a slice of Helen’s “squaw” bread. Half-asleep is not good. For when I lifted the pot to pour into my morning mug, the one old friend Gary Bass made in his potting shed, I immediately knew something was not right. It had the weight of the mid-morning coffee, not the daybreak coffee. It immediately made me think of… a story, for everything makes me think of a story.

Two construction workers opened their lunch boxes. The first one looked in and said, “Durn! Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches again!” The second worker said, “Well, why don’t you tell your wife to make something else,” to which the first replied, “Hey, I make those sandwiches.”

I got to the first part of that story with my coffee this morning. I could tell just by the weight of that pot that I would have to drink weak coffee. I looked around for someone else to blame. I was the only one there. So I had to go to the second part of the sandwich story: I made that.

We make most of our mistakes on our own. Nobody else to blame. We blame them anyway. “Look what you made me do,” as my mother used to say whenever she did something wrong. We live in community, but the way we do so successfully is if each of us acknowledges our own mistakes instead of blaming others. It makes it a lot easier for others to forgive us our mistake and help us to make better coffee and sandwiches next time.


Spoiler Alert: If you have read this column in the last 3 months, all that follows is old news:

I stopped writing this column for a while, for several reasons. It wasn’t until I had quit, though, that I knew this reason: I did not want to be responsible for wasting your time. If I write for others, I have to think about whether it’s worthwhile for you to read. If I write only for myself, it’s caveat emptor. If you choose to read something I have written, but I have not advertised it, not asked you to read it, and it’s poorly constructed navel-gazing drivel, well, it’s your own fault. Still, I apologize if you have to ask yourself, “Why did I waste time reading this?”

My book, NOW THAT I HAVE CANCER I AM WHOLE: Reflections on Life and Healing for Cancer Patients and Those Who Love Them, is published by AndrewsMcMeel. It is available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc. in hardback, paperback, audio, Japanese, and Czech.

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