Colorado Travelogue: Red Bank

I tagged along with Karen to a yoga studio in Denver on our vacation. On the mat next to Karen is a woman who lives in Connecticut, although she grew up in Red Bank, NJ.

Karen grew up in New Jersey and we lived in Tabernacle, NJ during our early years of marriage. We are stretching and sharing stories about the Jersey Shore. I have never heard of Red Bank, NJ.

Later, we walked along Broadway avenue to Illegal Pete’s for some mexican food. We strolled by a creaky weathered bookstore with a rack of $3 books and I picked up a thick regal-looking volume of “Edmund Wilson: a Life in Literature.

I read the synopsis inside the cover and put the book back on the sidewalk rack and went into Pete’s. After savoring a carnitas bowl and soft tortilla, we walked back down the sidewalk and I passed by the book rack, until my daughter Lauren said, “Aren’t you going to buy the book?”

I took the book inside, handed the clerk a twenty and she fumbled around trying to find seventeen bucks change. Apparently this isn’t a cash infused enterprise.

I opened the book and read the first two sentences.

“Born May 8, 1895, Edmund Wilson, Jr., was a shy boy, the only child of Edmund and Helen Mather Kimball Wilson. He grew up in Red Bank, New Jersey, thirty-some miles south of New York, near the ocean.”

I wondered if the Connecticut lady on the mat who grew up in Red Bank, knew any relatives of Edmund Wilson.

What made me pick up one book…only one book off that rack?

Life is full of wonder.



Blowing Leaves

Once a month I take communion to Christians at a local retirement village who can’t make it to our Sunday church services. Last Sunday, I read from the Gospel of Luke. I looked up from my reading of the crucifixion account and saw Marge with her head tilted toward the heavens, eyes closed. Next to her is Floy, and she also is intent, but only because she struggles to hear as she cups her hand to her ear coaxing the words of Luke from my lips to her 93-year-old ear. Marge is 94 years old and I ask, “Can you see well enough to read the Bible?” She said, “No, and I can’t really make out your face, but I can see that your shirt is checkered.” I lied and told her I was handsome and she replied graciously, “I can tell by your voice.”

Marge always asks about my parents and tells me that she once lived across the street from them on Meadowlark Lane and I tell her that was the home into which I was born. She can’t always remember my name or what happened yesterday, but she can tell me details about the house from 1959. I tell her that Paul Stumpff, a fellow congregant, helped my Dad roof that house on Meadowlark Lane. Marge said, “I remember Paul on the roof of that house helping put up a television antenna and he got quite a shock and they drove him to the hospital and the doc told him, ‘You’ll be ok. If you had really touched heavy voltage, you’d be dead by now.'”

I don’t take these folks communion with the idea of taking up a collection for the saints. However, I hear Floy asking her husband, Morgan, if he brought the checkbook and he mumbles something under his breath and pulls out a check already prepared and filled out and I pray while remembering the Bible lesson that morning about the Rich Young Ruler who built more barns to store his riches. I pray for happiness found through giving, that giving will be a discipline we seek, like beggars pleading in a great reversal to give away our only two copper coins to a passerby on a crazy city street corner, while we sneak a providential smile, and as I say, “Amen,” and I realize there is no collection plate, so I reach out my hand and take a folded check and a crisp Lincoln bill from Marge and I put it away with the used cups and wafers.

I leave them and walk outside as wind-blown leaves somersault across the parking lot like fleeting beauty. Behind the eyes of the faithful, behind eyes that barely see, there is loveliness in simple memory. And there is music in simple scripture heard by brittle ears still stirred by the faith of their youthful soul, that resounds like a tower of bells.

 “A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.” John Keats

Reading to my Children

I’m a lousy Dad. At least it feels that way sometimes, the feeling you get that you didn’t say enough or share enough or that you put on a mask and didn’t reveal your inner self to your children, that they never really “found you out.” And maybe that’s best, because as my wife often says, “Just once I’d like to get inside your head for a day and see what it’s like…or maybe not, I might not recover.”

And so just like any Dad, I have regrets. I worked too much, played too much golf, didn’t laugh enough, cry enough, teach enough…and then I realize that maybe the best thing my kids can know about me is that I’m broken, I’m a jar of clay, brittle and easily shattered, but sometimes capable of holding vast amounts of beautiful refreshing drink. I think they’ll get that, because they’ve experienced the same human condition of loneliness coupled with euphoria, brokenness mingling with beauty, the spiritual world breaking in on the physical and revealing itself as the real one, the happy one, the way to perfection that trumps all the masks that we wear.

I used to read to my kids, not as much as I should have, but I read to them some. So when I read Robert Bruce’s blog, “The Time Robin Williams Read Narnia to His Daughter,” it struck me as so true. That our children just want us to be Mom or Dad, not some made up character with lot’s of money and jokes, a walking Father Knows Best.

Here is an excerpt from Robert Bruce’s blog, 101 books, which talks about Robin Williams reading Narnia to his daughter Zelda.

“I would read the whole C.S. Lewis series out loud to my kids. I was once reading to Zelda, and she said ‘Don’t do any voices. Just read it as yourself.’ So I did, I just read it straight, and she said ‘That’s better.’”

Robin Williams was famous for his voices—and the frenzy at which he shifted in and out of character. To have Robin Williams as your father—it would be like having a Monet, a Hemingway, a Jordan.

But, still, he’s your father. He’s not “Robin Williams” as we know him. He’s just dad.



Revealing truth to our kids is sometimes as easy as getting out of the way and being real. Of letting other spirits speak for us what we cannot say well. Wisdom, beauty, relationships, truth are the things we should pass along to our kids. Yes, they remember the funny faces, our jokes, our quirks…but they long for meaning that we often miss because we wear masks of adult condescension, always trying to teach more than we need to teach, or hide what we don’t need to hide. We just need to live and speak and work and play and read…in our own voice, without the mask. Just be real, that’s all my kids ever wanted or any kid wants really, just read to me about life Dad, in your own voice. That’s better.

Here’s the entire piece written by Mr. Bruce if you’d like to read it.

The Time Robin Williams Read Narnia To His Daughter