Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Why Not?"

What's in your wallet?

Yesterday morning my children and I traveled to my mother's home to visit with her and my sister Belinda following Holy Mass. It was a beautiful fall day in Michigan, sunny and warm. The fall colors are absolutely breathtaking. On the way, my 11 year old daughter Alyssa and I sang "You Raise Me Up," and she also sang "Danny Boy" by herself.

We were greeted with a warm reception, and enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared so lovingly by my mother, a fantastic cook. We had stuffed chicken with gravy and mashed potatoes, salad, and various fruits.

Throughout the afternoon we shared stories and current events. We Skyped relatives in Germany. Nick carved a pumpkin.

Aunt Belinda has been teaching Alyssa how to crochet, and showed us some new books that had such lovely patterns in them. She also helped Alyssa along on a red scarf they began two weeks ago. My sister gave Alyssa a brand new metal crochet needle, because the week before, Alyssa broke the wooden one she had been given by her aunt.

My sister has also been giving Alyssa voice lessons. She copied some songs and put them in a brand new folder that has horses on it. Belinda played the piano as Alyssa sang "Amazing Grace" and other sweet songs.

Oma also accompanied Alyssa on the piano. My 13 year old son Nick picked a green pepper from his Oma's garden and helped prepare dinner. Later, we had homemade gourmet pizza.

Andre, my high schooler, alternated relaxing in the living room and wandering in and out of the kitchen, sometimes giving out hugs and sometimes joining in the discussion.

Before dinner, Oma made tea. She got out the tea set from her hometown of Bavaria. Her parents had brought it to America and gave it to her when they visited from Germany in the early 1970's.
We all sat in the kitchen and enjoyed good conversation, each others' company, and sipped tea from the beautiful gold tea cups. Oma began telling us a story, and she had something very special for show and tell.

One day during the previous week, she was going through a drawer when she came upon the wallet of her husband, my father, who died suddenly from a massive heart attack on October 16, 1982 at the age of 46.

He had his first massive heart attack in 1975 in church, on his way up for Holy Communion, and almost died then. He was 39 years old at the time, and learned that he did not have much longer to live.

My mother remarked to her grandchildren that there are no pictures of my father on display in the house. For the first time, I realized that there aren't, nor have there been, visible pictures of my dad around the house. Their separation still hurts her that much.

Mom had not seen his wallet in many, many years. As she began opening it up, she said that she had found something noteworthy inside it.

As she opened it up, many questions ran through my mind. I just knew that she had found something interesting in that wallet, and wondered what it could be. Did she find pictures of us in it? I greatly hoped that she found something in his wallet that had to do with us, and that all these years later, her discovery would lead to a message of love for us from the past.

Holding my father's wallet.

My mother explained that she had gone through the contents of his wallet and found a piece of paper among his ID and various cards. She held his wallet in her hand as she spoke, and removed a small faded, folded green piece of paper.

She unfolded it.

Then she read it to us.

Some men see things as they are
and say, "Why?"

I dream things that never were
and say, "Why not?"

Alyssa looks at her grandfather's wallet.

What would someone find in your wallet,
and what would it say about you?

God is at work in you.


"Some men see things as they are and say, 'Why'? I dream of things that never were and say, 'Why not'?" Robert Kennedy made this quotation famous during his 1968 Presidential campaign. Although he apparently used it on several occasions as a kind of slogan, the only occasion for which we have been able to find documentation is his speech at the University of Kansas on March 18, 1968. In its original form, the quotation was said by the serpent in George Bernard Shaw's play Back to Methuselah , and was used by President Kennedy in his Speech to the Irish Parliament on June 28, 1963: "Speaking as an Irishman [Shaw] summed up an approach to life: 'Other people,' he said, 'see things and say: why - but I dream things that never were and say: why not.'"-

Pictures copyright 2010 JKP.