Tag Archives: John Updike

Sometimes Dirt is in Exactly the Right Place

English: Ashes imposed on the forehead of a Ch...
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missjunebug has a long memory for certain quotations from smart people. One that has stayed with her was written decades ago by John Updike, a writer whose celebrity has faded somewhat, but whose words still resonant for mjb. One of the characters in Witches of Eastwick, a fantastical tale of love, intrigue, and betrayal, had some keen observations about the stuff of life women deal with everyday: “There was so much dirt in life, so many eraser crumbs and stray coffee grounds and dead wasps trapped inside the storm windows, that it seemed all of a person’s time – all of a woman’s time, at any rate – was spent in reallocation, taking things from one place to another, dirt being as her mother said simply matter in the wrong place.”

missjunebug would generally agree with this keen and frustrated observation, but not on this night of all nights. For tonight missjunebug has been to her church to participate in that age old ritual (the best kind of ritual there is) called weightily, The Imposition of the Ashes on Ash Wednesday. To borrow from that online encyclo of the people Wikipedia, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and begins the 40-day period of prayer, fasting, and repentance. As mjb’s insightful Pastor F. suggested, It’s time to do a 180, to recalibrate, and to walk in a new direction, thoughtfully and prayerfully. Easy to say, not so easy to do.

But as missjunebug likes to think, God gives us 40 days to right ourselves and get it right. And those dark ashes imposed upon the waiting forehead in the sign of the cross are a sign of our mourning and repentance to God, a sign of the cross that marks us with a grim reminder of our mortality, a sign that we are working to turn things around for ourselves and get right with God.

Hey, nobody said this was going to be easy. Some people decide to do daily devotionals during Lent focusing on repentance and changing for the better; others decide to give up some coveted thing or indulgence as a sign of commitment to change. Chocolate comes readily to mind for many, it being the ubiquitous shorthand for all things creamy, delicious, craved, and good. Still others turn to good works to get back on the straight and narrow path. Whatever is chosen, the sacrifice is not to be taken lightly. Forty days is a long time (place a Billy Bean/Brad Pitt/Moneyball elongated pronunciation on that phrase to give it its due.) A long time. missjunebug recommends you chose wisely and well.

What has missjunebug chosen to do? That’s between her and her Father “who sees in secret.” Don’t make her out to be like the hypocrites sounding a trumpet before them when they do their good work. mjb plans to keep her 40-day Lenten trial to herself. No doubt she’ll be held accountable. Wish her luck. Believe her when she says what she’s decided to try is harder than giving up TJ’s 73% Belgium Chocolate Non-Pareils. And you know how hard she thinks that would be if you read her recent post on non-pareils!

Why so serious? The words of the imposition make that perfectly clear: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Tru dat.

She’s reminded of one more insightful and tragicomic quotation of John Updike that will complete the grim but joyful hope of life on this earth (yes! a double oxymoron to complete the tale!): “We do survive every moment, after all, except the last one.”

Meditate on the fragility of human life, its perfection and its failings, your perfection and your failings, and you, too, can join in on the age old ritual of Lent and “enjoy” this 40-day journey of prayer, fasting, and repentance.

Amen to that.

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Perfection Wasted

Blessing to you, JBDad, from your missjunebug. Photo by mjb2010
Blessing to you, JBDad, from your missjunebug. Photo by mjb2010

missjunebug is borrowing a title from a really fine poem by John Updike for her little blog today. The perfection she refers to is her very own JBDad who recently passed away.

missjunebug has written previously about the angst she and brother experienced when searching for a care home for their Alzheimer’s-afflicted dad. After the initial move, things went pretty well for a while but the inevitable and tragic eventually happened in a series of falls that revealed their dad required more care than the facility they had chosen provided. So much for quality of life issues in the golden years.

Skilled nursing became the order of the day and with the hard work of her JBBro, the JBDad received the round the clock attention he needed and deserved at an excellent care facility that met all the needs of their dear dad. Still that did not ameliorate the devastating news the doctor revealed: final stage Alzheimers was the unexpected verdict.

Is it an axiom of life that we think there is always more time than there actually is? Maybe.

The downhill to death was speedy and unexpected. missjunebug did not even make it back in time to say her goodbyes, but her dear, dear JBBro stood vigil until the last breath of their dear JBDad.

88 years. One fabulous marriage. Two pretty decent kids. Four awesome grandkids. Two spectacular great grandkids. His own successful business. A quirky and close extended family. A strong bond to his Czech heritage. Extraordinary backyard barbeque skills. Debonair Dancer. Good Friend. Fine Fisherman. Lapsed Catholic. Cussing Master. Loner. Laugher. Lover of Life.

Now reunited with his lovely JBMarie, dancing to the sweet strains of Sentimental Journey.

missjunebug will never stop missing you, dear JBDad.

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