Xposted: Maybe it’s just our luck

I just posted this on my Christian Assembly and Worship blog:

https://christianassemblyandworshipblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/14/maybe-its-just-our-luck/

The lack of much activity on that blog says a little, perhaps, about people’s interest—but it says much more lot about my own waning energy for the assembly as most Christians think of it.  Nevertheless, I hope some will read this perspective about congregational singing.

By way of reminder to longtime readers, or advertising to new readers, my book on the assembly is available here.  That book was revised and reprinted about two months ago.

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He’s 8 today

My first blogpost was a year prior to our son Jedd’s birth, and I began blogging in earnest when he was born.  I’ve noted a few other numeric milestones on this blog but semi-intentionally passed by post #1500 recently.  Jedd’s 8th birthday, a milestone for him and for us, seems a good time to document a bit of his life on this blog. . . .

~ ~ ~

No one set Jedd’s alarm on Sunday night, so I woke him up on Monday morning. Three days before his birthday, I told him he was officially 7-point-99 years old!  He is a morning person, and he smiled right away.

Jedd has had more than his share of sniffles this year but is generally a healthy kid and hasn’t been to the doctor since he was two or three.  He is a little shorter than average (like Karly) and has a sweet spirit (like Karly).  He likes all people (even more than Karly) and has friends of various ages—including adults.  He actually asked me two days ago about planning a “date” to Pizza Hut with a little girlfriend, but we’re passing that by for now.  Jedd’s first friends in western NY were mostly college students, and that doubtless contributed to his strong vocabulary, communication skills, and love of people.  Due in part to interim faculty positions I’ve held, Jedd has lived in five states already and has traveled in 22.  He has seen the Gulf of Mexico, and he has breathed thin air at 12,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies and felt a “polar bear wind” in Wyoming.  He’s traveled through Bald Knob and Bennington, Corpus  Christi and Cookeville.  He has lived in Allegany County and Atchison and has seen Anderson and the Atlantic Ocean.

He thinks his 2nd grade year has been his best ever.  He reads at a level that can make it problematic to find reading material that’s challenging but age-appropriate, and I think he reads aloud better than some 5th or 6th graders.  He seems to understand arithmetic “strategies” quickly.  He likes surprises and says “Oh, yay” when I offer him just about anything, including going exploring on a country highway, running out to a store, or giving him a pop quiz on math while we drive.  “I love questions,” he says.

Jedd has played baseball, basketball, and soccer on organized teams.  Of the three, he is best at baseball (starting his 2nd year now) and seems to like it the best, too.  He has learned some things on piano, thanks to my mother, and I should probably be capitalizing on his interest in piano and brass instruments soon.  Within the previous two or three days, he had expressed his typical enthusiasm for multiple things, including pizza, Bible history, digging holes, earthworms, baseball, and pretending to set up a store to sell rocks (testing for any meteorites first), and practicing solfège syllables.  An older friend who’s known him about 1/3 of his life once took Jedd fishing, and just last week, he went again and won a fishing rod.  He still loves trains and construction vehicles, just as he did when he was two (although Thomas has been out for several years).  He points out cool-looking classic cars as quickly as we do.  He loves animals, but it takes him a minute to get used to jumpy, intrusive dogs (since he was bitten once).  He plays free games on our tablet and watches sitcom reruns on Netflix, but he likes playing outside even more.  He rides his bike and his scooter, and he loves my motorcycle.  He likes to build forts with cushions and chairs and blocks and sheets, installing temporary lighting so he can read in there.  A clip-on reading light for his bed was quite possibly his most used gift ever.

We are of course interested in his spiritual development (and are not contributing directly to it as much as we should).  He has always loved going to various Bible classes and “children’s worship” times in various churches.  We feel it is good for him to be part of “Christian family” experiences, including various small group Bible studies and informal talks.  A few times in the last couple of years, we have included him unobtrusively in communion observances although he has not made a profession of faith or been immersed.  We had some matzah in the house recently, and it was he who wanted to use them in reenacting the “Last Supper,” so we did just that.  He also expressed a prolonged interest in watching a video we have of Matthew’s gospel.  Jedd has assimilated a lot of facts and has a great deal of acquaintance with the Bible (and has three Bibles of his own).  We are working on his memorizing half a verse in Greek to “perform” for his school’s talent show next week, and he commented recently that some of his neighborhood friends believe in God but that’s about as far as it goes.  He feels some personal sadness when he does wrong, and that could be the most important thing in this sphere at this point in his life.

Tonight we are surprising Jedd with a trip to the KC Royals game with a friend from school.  In about a week we will head out to see his nonagenarian great-grandmother in DE, and she’ll be thrilled to see him, watch TV and walk with him, and see him throw a baseball.  He has another summer treat coming right after that.  It is time for a new bike, but we’ll hold off on that for a couple more months.

I hope you’ve enjoyed some tidbits just 1% as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.  Jedd is a neat kid.  His first name, by the way, comes from Jedidiah (“beloved of the Lord”), which was another given name of King Solomon.  His middle name is a form of his paternal grandfather’s name, Gerald. (Jedd is the only one to carry the family surname.)

Happy birthday, Jedd Garrett Casey.

Karly, Jedd, and Brian, May 19, in the hospital
3 Generations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ride (after the reviving)

The following is an excerpt from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, from the Chronicles of Narnia series by CS Lewis.  I have never read this classic before and have been enjoying becoming familiar with it this summer while reading it aloud to our son.

Here, two of the Narnia children are lamenting the dead lion Aslan.

“Oh, it’s too bad,” sobbed Lucy; “they might’ve left the body alone.”

“Who’s done it?” cried Susan.  “What does it mean?  Is it magic?”

“Yes!” said a great voice behind their backs.  “It is more magic.”   They looked round.  There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.

“Oh, Aslan!” cried both the children, staring up at him, almost as frightened as they were glad.

“Aren’t you dead then, dear Aslan?” replied Lucy.

“Not now,” said Aslan.

[ . . . ]

“And now,” said Aslan presently, “to business.   I feel I am going to roar.  You had better put your fingers in your ears.”

And they did.  And Aslan stood up and when he opened his mouth to roar his face became so terrible that they did not dare to look at it.  And they saw all the trees in front of him bend before the blast of his roaring as grass bends in a meadow before the wind.  Then he said,

“We have a long journey to go.  You must ride on me.”  And he crouched down and the children climbed onto this warm, golden back, and Susan sat first, holding on tightly to his mane and Lucy sat behind holding on tightly to Susan.

https://blcasey.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/e4554-lww-book-cover.jpg?w=636

P.S.  Here is another LW&W excerpt (posted on my other blog) in which Lewis, seeming to follow the apostle Peter, tells of Aslan’s nonresistance.

Spring fever or another malady?

Spring Fever or Another Malady? 

A View of (Some of) Arkansas Public Education

When I left Delaware’s declining education arena to go to college in Arkansas, I don’t think I had any idea that my new state-for-a-few-years had a low public-education reputation.[1]  I’ve since heard the tongue-in-cheek remark that Arkansas is grateful for Mississippi, or else Arkansas would be last on the list.

Having been in eight (mostly small-town) AR public schools this year, I have witnessed some questionable “education” first-hand.  To be sure, there are good things going on, as in the school with which I’m best acquainted.  Yet one can often determine something about a school by its physical condition and by the atmosphere in the hallways during class-change times, and things are not all good.  I have observed way too many times that way too many students regularly have way too little (or nothing) to do.  Now, I “get” senioritis and spring fever, but the decreased learning activity and behavior standards seemed to hit hard in several schools, virally spreading as far down as 6th or 7th grade, including the teachers.  And it started long before spring.

The situation actually reads to me as though what I’m seeing is normal.

“What are you studying?”

“We work on projects.”  (Or “Oh, we don’t really do anything in this class.”)

“Well, why aren’t you working on them now?”

“I finished mine a month ago, and Mr. X lets me go to Ms. Y’s room to hang out.”

At least 3/4 of the time, I think I can tell when I’m being snowed.  These AR students are typically straight-shooters; I’ve really not picked up any lying by anyone in any school.  Suspicious by nature, I’ve even checked up on a student or two who asked to go to the restroom, thinking someone might have worked out a signal to meet up with someone else to skip the next class, or they might be heading to the field to smoke, but in every case, a student acted as promised.  Overall, I think I’ve been getting a pretty clear picture of the status quo in these schools.

But enough about hall passes.   (This is obviously anecdotal, but it’s based on several schools.)  There are many “student aides” playing on their phones.  Sometimes, multiple aides are in a single classroom during the same period.  (I suppose it’s better for them to be aides than to leave school to go work at Sonic or to be in a study hall, but I wish they were in classes more often.)  Students ask to leave class to go to so-and-so’s room or, like last Friday, “to do volleyball stuff” with her coach.  This last one looked at me as if I had two heads (not disrespectfully) when I responded in the negative because she was “in a class now.”

One “field trip” to a restaurant included two extra teachers who had no connection to the traveling class, rendering approximately nine classes (11:00-1:30) devoid of instruction for the day.  The leftover students who weren’t going to lunch went to the gym for a free-for-all; I gathered from discussion and observation that playing around in the gym during classes was not abnormal.

But enough about extracurricular, bogus field trips.  What about technology?  I’m not one who thinks technology is an end in itself; because I speak up when it seems to take the focus off education, I have more than once been considered a backward person.  Actually, I use electronic technologies every day and appreciate them very much.  I observed a student teacher using a Smart Board to great advantage and with considerable facility.  One school distributes full-sized laptops to every student, and some students seem to use them well.  Smart phones can be an educational tool, but about 95% of the time, they’re not being used as such.  Schools and teachers don’t have consistent (or consistently enforced) rules about phones.  Students eat Cheetos® and drink Mountain Dew® in classrooms, and this is normal.  Class rolls are rarely up to date.  We’re not talking about forgetting to delete the one kid who moved last week.  The problem is much more pervasive than that.  One wonders how any permanent school records are maintained.  One class roll for a 1st-period class had four names on it.  Seven students were present, only two of which matched names on the class roll.

But enough about administrative procedures.  This question may annoy certain die-hard fans while revealing my ostrich-ness:  is football actually a class in many other schools out there?  If so, why?  I have a general sense that Friday night high school football is a big thing in many towns throughout the Southeast and perhaps the Midwest and Heartland.  A town’s football machine will be eager for next year’s championship so it can put up a “Lion Pride” (see what I did there?) sign at the town entrance.  After all,

  • the mayor played on the team 25 years ago
  • the bank president was on the committee to get a new football coach
  • the pastor of the largest church in town is eager for two of his youth group kids to be co-captains of the team
  • the principal played and later coached, and the assistant principal is one of the coaches, which led into his being given the assistant principal job, etc.)

Maybe, just maybe, football and other sports are too important in the life of a school.

But enough about football.  Or not.  I have in my hands a school’s master teacher schedule that shows four full-time teachers scheduled for the same junior high football “class.”  There is also a 7th grade football class and a high school football class.  I learned that these classes are year-long “courses,” not 9-week electives.  Three or four coaches staff each class!  Leave alone the invalidity of having any class time for football at all:  couldn’t a single coach handle weightlifting and sprints for 8 or 10 junior high players at a time?  Now, if I cared about football, I could see offering a 9-week elective in football here & there, but these football classes are full-year “courses” with a couple handfuls of boys in each one for the whole year.  The boys said they lift weights and learn plays, depending on the season.  In my book, this is worse than using jazz band class for marching band by a long shot.  (I observed that misstep in Texas, where the marching band environment is exceptionally competitive.)

But enough about football and class time.  What about education—even the learning of simple facts?  I asked some of the junior high social studies students (who said they’d studied the states last fall) to name a state that borders Wyoming.  Someone asked, “Wyoming’s a river, right?”  Students guessed Washington, Oregon, Chicago, Indiana, Texas—and Arkanswksheetas, believe it or not—before someone finally said Montana.  I’m not even much of a history student, and I’ve forgotten or learned incorrectly more than I actually know, but I figured the 10th-graders should have known that WWII was in the 40s, not the 20s or 30s.[2]  A ten-question worksheet that consisted primarily in arithmetic was left as an assignment for all classes that ranged from 7th through 11th graders.  (I believe a focused 4th-grader could have completed this sheet in 20 minutes.) 

They have football classes, yet a 7th-grader doesn’t know that Chicago isn’t a state or that Wyoming isn’t a river.  Methinks football rigor may be exceeding academic rigor at this particular school.

Meanwhile, my first-grader was reading aloud a story that mentioned “Bayside School.”  He stumbled a little over “Bayside,” not noticing the capital letter, and asked me if that were the Arkansas way of saying “beside.”  (We don’t promote any kind of prejudice in our home, and we’re very happy that he has friends with different skin colors and ethnic backgrounds, but we do notice sounds and accents.)  Jedd has a good school situation[3] this year and a particularly revered principal with a servant heart, but we’re a trifle anxious about Jedd’s surroundings in terms of education.  We’ll see what happens.


[1] My parents had been educated here and are pretty bright!  I feel my own collegiate education was at least average, and I definitely had opportunities beyond the norm.

[2] To their credit, they did know more about the Dust Bowl era than I did at their age.

[3] Way too much paper is consumed—typically a dozen sheets come home every day, presumably having been used to keep the kids busy.

Does it work?

Sometimes it makes sense to look at church practices with a pragmatic eye.  Does the thing or method have its intended effect?  Does it work?

Consider the following hypothetical conversation:

Teenager to adult Christian friend:  I’m going to quit school and __________ [fill in the blank with a negative direction in a believing young person’s life].  I don’t really care what anyone say anymore. It’s what I want to do.

Adult friend:  But we were there at your baby dedication 15 years ago, and we promised with the whole church community to uphold you as you grew into a Christian young woman.

Teenager:   Oh. I almost forgot that.  Well, I guess I won’t continue on my current path, then.  I’ll recommit to following Jesus instead.

(Said no one ever.)

Through the years, I’ve actually felt a great deal of empathy with the idea of baby dedication ceremonies.  (We are not talking about “christenings” here.)  No, there is no biblical pattern for them, and that fact alone makes many of my siblings back away from any practice—at least until they realize that many of the things they’ve been practicing for years also have no biblical backing.  But most of the baby dedication ceremonies baby-dedicationI’ve observed¹ have been fairly well conceived, with a strong concept of Christian community and a desire to do something that supports young families.  Some of the hallmarks of these ceremonies may be 1) introductions and insights into who the families are, 2) a pastoral (in the truest sense) prayer, and 3) recitation or response by the whole congregation, i.e., some type of pledge to uphold the family in their desire to be Christ’s family and to raise the children to be Jesus’ followers.  Not one of those is a bad thing, right?

Unfortunately, I think there’s no more effectiveness in such a ceremony than in the post-Constantinian practice of infant baptism, which I take as a shallow, perhaps desperate attempt to perpetuate an institution by forcing the young into it.

The day before this essay is made public, our family will have attended the wedding of dear longtime friends’ daughter, and we have looked forward to sharing in the celebration.  We look hopefully with all of them to the future of this particular marriage.  But wedding ceremonies don’t have a terrific record of effectiveness, either.  Whatever the current stats are for weddings/marriages/divorce—whether taken in the whole or in any cross-section—I imagine we could generally agree that there is a limited correlation between ceremony on the one hand and long-term stick-to-it-ive-ness on the other.  (It’s not the ceremony, after all, but the people’s character and commitment that makes the difference.)

There is to my eye a much more notable lack of correlation between baby dedication ceremonies in all religious traditions and the likelihood of said babies actually turning out to be disciples of Jesus.  I’m not saying baby dedications should cease, necessarily.  I’m rather saying that they’re not effective.  Possibly, in a less mobile society in which small Christian groups existed familially for 20 years or more, they would be more effective.

What works better than ceremonies?  What do you think?


¹ I think we might have even participated in such a ceremony ourselves about 6.5 years ago, but the fact that I can’t remember for sure may say something.

Observations of public education

Here are a few relatively harmless, easy-to-read observations related to public education.

The only PTA/PTO/PTFO meeting I’ve ever attended was yesterday, and it might well be my last.  The tiny attendance and certain things I picked up from those in power indicated that all the stories I’ve heard for years about PTOs could be true.  I have little interest in the antics and pretenses.

On the other hand, there are other ways to help your child’s school besides committees and fundraisers and candypacks for teachers.  The school music teacher and I are doing a little holiday brass demo/recital thingy next week.  A little horn, a little trumpet; a little lyricism, a little jollity . . .  Bach/Gounod, My Favorite Things, The First Noel, Jingle Bells, We Wish You.  ‘Twill be an extraordinary bit of music education that sprang from an ordinary, get-to-know-you conversation with a music teacher who wants to give her students something special.  Oh, and Jedd will get to make a few brass sounds for his class and 6 other classes in his grade.  Should be fun.

I’ve been in two special ed classrooms lately and have noted that a greater percentage of those students display questionable personal hygiene.  I speculate that the parents of some of these children may show them less affection and love, and I’m saddened by the lack of attention to appearance and cleanliness.  I also realize one more reason that special ed teachers are also special:  they want to give extra care and loving attention to special-needs children who don’t always receive as much at home.

Re-newing

The “theological context” of the public library
On the way to Bible study Wednesday night, the three of us were discussing renewing library books.  We defined “renew” for our first-grader, and then I thought I’d take opportunity, so I commented that we’d now have a little “theological lesson.”

“What’s that, Dad?”

“‘Theological’ comes from two Greek words that refer to 1) God and 2) reason or message.  So, something “theological” has to do with how God’s reason or message applies to it.”  (Don’t get too critical of that quick definition.)

“Oh, OK.”

“So, back to ‘renew.'”  In a way, that’s what God promises to do for us—to re-new us . . . to make us new again.”

“Like being new in heaven?”

“Well, yeah, that’s a good thought.  That’s one way.  But also on earth.”

“But it’s not possible to be alive again, is it?”

[exchange of glances with my wife]

“Umm … wow, Jedd.  That’s so much like the question an old Jew named Nicodemus asked Jesus once! ¹  We’ll read that tonight before bed.”

(And we did.)


¹ For more on the expression “born again” and “born from above,” see this post.  I find that the latter is a much more apt, exegetically derived translation of the expression in John 3, although the secondary reality is that being “born from above” is a second, or “again” birth.

Jedd listening to Kathryn (in our small group, currently studying James) give an answer to his question about homeless people.
Jedd listening to Kathryn (in our small group, currently studying James) give an answer to his question about homeless people.  This was two Sundays ago.  It was pretty cool that he was listening to discussion of chapter 2 and was thinking about how to treat people.
He asked the great question to my privately, and I shared it with the group. He's still listening. Everyone honored him by giving him a personal response. So much for sending the kids off to another room to watch Veggie Tales. We're keeping our kid in the group.
He asked the great question to me privately, and I shared it with the group. Everyone honored him by giving him a personal response.  Here, he’s still listening intently.  So much for sending the kids off to another room to watch Veggie Tales.  We’re keeping our kid *in* the group!

 


 

Interlude: two Bible students

Once upon a Christian Camp, there was a boy who was attentive during his morning Bible classes.  He must’ve listened well, because he received some awards.  At least three years, he was the camp’s “Best Bible Student.”

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This boy grew up and had a son.  Although the son was not then old enough for a camp, he loved going to Bible classes and remembered lots of details about Bible narratives.  His parents tried playing a Bible trivia game while traveling.  That was fun, but the boy soon had even more fun in reading the questions to his parents.

One day at school, the boy’s first-grade schoolteacher instructed the class to use the word “all” in a sentence.

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His parents knew he liked cars, so the first sentence was no surprise.  To his parents’ knowledge, the boy had not heard or read the phrase “In all the Lord has done for us,” but they were glad that idea came into his mind, so they were even more happy with the second and third lines he wrote.  The boy’s schoolteacher, who is also a believer, was happy, too.  The boy had been paying attention to something biblical.

But the parents were to grow still more pleased.

During a parent-teacher conference, they received many positive impressions about their son and his schoolwork.  They asked about his friends.  The schoolteacher mentioned that the boy’s best friend is a “special needs” child who has a severe speech impediment.  Even though they’ve heard the friend’s name every other day or so, the parents had not heard this fact before—only that their son and his friend play together and call each other “buddy.”  Imagine how pleased the parents were to find out that their son likes to help and take care of this young friend—and that his teacher has the two of them sitting together so that the son can help.

Now that’s living part of the Bible.  And the parents, and the Father, were pleased.

Some might predict that the son would be near the top of his future classes academically.  Whether he ever wins awards in Bible or other subjects, though, what the parents heard about their son’s relationship with his buddy-neighbor is more important.

May both the learning about and the living out of the Bible continue.

Teach, remember, learn

Teaching

If I could teach parents (and grandparents) one thing today, it would be that free episodes of Mr. Rogers are available on YouTube.  Most grandparents will remember the old PBS show positively.  Some younger parents today may not even be aware of its existence.  Although Fred Rogers was mocked by teenagers in the 70s and beyond, and although unkind rumors were concocted about him, he and his legacy are valuable national treasures, in my estimation.

My son and I have recently watched a few episodes — initially at the suggestion of my mother (who always knew Mr. Rogers was more valuable for children’s development than Sesame Street or any of the later kids’ shows).

I smiled inside and out when, in an episode about loving others, Mr. McFeely taught the TV audience that, in order to love someone, someone has to love you first.  In that episode, Rogers (as though he were learning the idea at the time instead of having written the episode) gently commented that Mr. McFeely was such a wise man.

I’ll bet a lot more God-based teachings came out of Fred Rogers’s creative, wise spirit — all before it was politically incorrect to be Christian or to be associated with Christianity.

Remembering, Learning, and Unlearning

I’ve known for years that Fred Rogers, besides being a Presbyterian minister, was a musician who composed songs for the show, including the opening and closing numbers.  I had thought he was the jazz pianist heard throughout most episodes, but I was wrong about that:  according to this article, most of the piano music was arranged and performed by Johnny Costa.  (Many melodies were composed — and vocals, performed — by Rogers himself.)

Straight-up Learning

As a child, I had no idea that some of the voices of the puppets in the Land of Make Believe used Fred Rogers’s voice.  It’s now clear to me that Rogers himself is “X the Owl” and “King Friday”! — and probably more.

See what we can learn if we pay attention?  Truth may not be new, but it can come newly to us if we pay attention.  We may also have to unlearn some things in the process. . . .  Some previously held ideas (like my thought that Fred Rogers was himself the jazz pianist on the show) may turn out to be incorrect.

I won’t say “RIP, Fred Rogers,” because it strikes me as meaningless to address a comment to a dead person.  I’ll just say that I am grateful for the influence of the late Fred Rogers and for his ways of teaching children.  (I’m also grateful for YouTube!)

A tribute to GMC

In their college days, my sisters called her “Gram.”  I referred to her in shorthand as GMC.  She was my Grandmother Casey, and she was born 100 years ago today in Denmark, Arkansas.  (So, this is not about General Motors.  I have nothing to say about that company, although many others might.)

Ruth Edwards Casey
Ruth Edwards Casey

Ruth Casey was a selfless woman — always giving and serving.  She worked a few odd jobs during her life — as an Avon lady, in the Harding Academy cafeteria, and a couple others.  But she was a devoted homemaker, primarily:  throughout her years, she kept house and cooked exceptionally well.

Grandmother Casey regularly got up early with Granddaddy, who was usually at work by 6 a.m. She had some good friends — among them some southern ladies named Lelah, Lucille, Laverne, Opal, and Marcella.  (My 5-year-old son just noted, when he heard me read this paragraph, that these are “very unusual names.”)  GMC was willing to try new things such as recipes shared with these friends.

She picked strawberries every year, sometimes inviting friends to go with her, and she gardened some.  Patti, a younger friend, remembered that GMC asked whether it would be inappropriate for her to wear “pedal-pushers” to pick berries in.  (Patti assured her it would be fine, but she didn’t end up wearing them!)  GMC spent many years caring for her mother-in-law, both in the home and in a nursing home.  “Ruth Casey was probably the best daughter-in-law ever,” said Patti, who also remembered GMC as “always ready to laugh” and “up there with my favorite people ever.”  One of her own daughters-in-law loved Diet Coke, and GMC surprised her with a fridge full of about 6 six-packs once.  I remember the laughter over that.

Ruth and Max Casey had two fine sons — my dad, Gerald Wayne, and my uncle, Lanny Max.  Both the boys, like their daddy, were outstanding athletes.  The story goes that my granddaddy decided against going to a Cardinals tryout camp, choosing to marry Ruth instead.  At any rate, the boys had a secure, stable home, and both were standouts in academics and sports.  My dad remembers never being in want, but the Casey family never had an abundance, either.  While my dad and uncle were growing up, they had dogs named Susie and Sandy.  Then, for a long time in the later years, the Caseys had a cat named Beth Ann — named for two friends — gracing the home.

GMC didn’t have a driver’s license until she was in her 40s.  She drank Maxwell House coffee (my sister Laura got the vintage MH mugs).  She liked to stand by the “fire” — the gas-burning stove, which she turned up high — during the colder months.  She had a small kitchen with almost no counter space, but she made do, and she had to store some items way up high in cabinets built for someone a foot or two taller than she was, so she had a step stool at the ready.  The small, enclosed “back porch” had three doors, one of which was perpetually blocked off, one of which led to the kitchen, and the other of which led outside.  The laundry was done out there “on the porch,” and one could often find stockpiled sodas and other supplies there, too.

Back in the 40s, when the Caseys moved to Market Street, there was an outhouse on the property, and it was quite a decision to have a shower installed in place of the tub-only, around 1982.  since she was always thinking of others first, GMC (who was short — about 5’3″) had to be talked into having the shower nozzle placed optimally for herself instead of for her grandson and other houseguests.

Among my four grandparents, Granddaddy  Casey died first — very unexpectedly, at 64 — and Grandmother Casey died last, in her early 80s.  She lived alone, then, for nearly two decades, but she wasn’t always alone.  The oldest of her three grandchildren, I lived in her house during my college years, and I spent more time with GMC than with all my other grandparents combined.  My sisters also lived with her some during college, as well as sharing a duplex home next door for a year or so.

A few of my friends came to GMC’s table for dinner, and she liked meeting them and serving them.  I remember Grandmother ironing my shirts, waiting for me to get home from the practice room or a rehearsal with dinner on the table, taking me out to Wendy’s or pizza once in a while, and never uttering a single cross or complaining word.  My dad has said he never saw her angry.  Oh, once in a while, she would set her jaw and lips just so, and say, “Now, Brian . . . ,” scolding me a little, but I deserved every bit of it and didn’t treat her nearly as well as she deserved.

One of the best things I ever did with GMC (in a short-lived fit of collegiate consciousness of someone other than myself ) was to ask a question of this wonderful person who had been providing so much more than room & enviable food during college . . . I asked her how often she thought of my granddaddy, her husband that had been gone for a dozen years at that point.  Without blinking an eye, she said that she thought about him every day.  She had been patient with him for years, waiting for him to quit smoking, and mostly waiting for him to come to God.  Although GMC’s spiritual thoughts and experiences were fairly limited, she was committed to God and to His people.  She once wrote to my dad while he was at a summer camp, “Max was baptized.”  It was good news, of course, but GMC wasn’t one to complicate things.

Patience, goodness, and simplicity were among GMC’s many virtues — along with love.  She loved well, and she inspired a lot of loyalty, not the least of which was shown in her sons, who loved her in return.

This is a tiny tribute to a big-hearted lady, my Grandmother Casey.  I miss her.  I’ll close with a few quotes from my dad:

I never saw her complain or say a negative word about anyone or anything.

I never saw her cry.

She had an infectious laugh that was, unfortunately, not passed on to her sons.

She was a gracious, Christian lady who was what she appeared to be and who supported her appearance with a lifetime of serving others — family, neighbors, and unknowns.