Easter Greetings from the Thorp Gang

Holy Saturday

“Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” – John 20:29

How dark a Sabbath dawned the day after Jesus’s crucifixion: the so-called savior dead and in the ground; his disciples scattered, and the Passover at hand—a remembrance of freedom for God’s chosen people, once again marked under Roman rule.

Our Holy Saturday is not so dark, for although we did not walk with the living Lord or see His risen self, we know the story and believe what we have heard—that fear-filled seventh day was followed by an eighth, a day of resurrection and re-creation. A day of joy and wonder.

So we rise this Holy Saturday, not with trepidation, but anticipation. We rise to the same hell-bent, broken world the apostles did, still filled with pride and pain and broken people; we look with wonder this morning at four inches of fresh snow fallen silently over night and rejoice that God has seen fit to grace us with another day, another hour, another breath.

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Brendan is spending the Easter Triduum in the Eternal City. He is in Rome this semester and has visited Ravenna, Assisi, and Venice, as well as Ireland, Bulgaria, Greece, and France. He will spend next week (his spring break) in Poland and the Ukraine, and will be home at the end of April to work and save for one more year at the University of Mary. God willing, he will graduate next spring, a year early.

Gabe is winding down his senior year at St. Michael-Albertville High School, still discerning his future.  He has been accepted to Thomas Aquinas College, which he visited last summer for their Great Books program, and UMary. He has also applied to NET Ministries, in which he would spend next year traveling the country with a team of other young adults, leading retreats and other events in order to evangelize Catholic teens. He expects to learn whether he has been accepted as a NET missionary in early May.

Emma turned 16 yesterday—since it was Good Friday, we celebrated with presents but without cake. She finishes her sophomore year of high school this spring and will get her driver’s license this summer. (A nerve-wracking car accident early in the winter slowed our lessons a bit.) She still bakes, sings, and plays the flute; still avoids compliments and hugs (except from her closest friends), and still plans to go to UMary in 2020.

Trevor is nearly a high-schooler now, lean framed and long haired, with a questioning mind and a gift for music:  strings, keys, voice, and percussion. He is a drummer in no less than six groups: 8th-Grade Band, Middle School Percussion Ensemble, this summer’s High School Drum Corps, two rock bands (his and Bren’s), and a praise and worship group at our church. Our youngest son will be confirmed this spring and is also discerning a possible vocation to the priesthood.

Little Lily is wrapping up her kindergarten year already. Dark-eyed and quick-witted, she loves to read, to do arts and crafts, and to dress in her own feminine and funky style.  She loves Jodi, tolerates me, and adores her “cute little dog Bruno,” whom she orders around and addresses with baby-talk despite the fact that he’s bigger than she is. Much to Jodi’s chagrin, she loves being licked by him and presents her bare arms to a tongue-lashing multiple times a day.

Bruno is soft-eyed and hard-toothed; all male, all Airedale, and all of eight months old. He is a lunatic, and we love him.

Jodi continues to do good work for the same company in Maple Grove and continues to grace our family every moment with her selflessness, her faithfulness, and her peace. She has time for everyone but herself, and she deserves better love than I can give her. But she stays with me, convinced (I suppose) that I can be taught and one day I’ll make a man, or at least a living. I am blessed to have her with me.

And she may be right, you know. In the past year I left a job I loved at our home parish to answer a call to write and evangelize; I wound up unemployed, then sorting packages for FedEx in the wee hours of the morning, before landing at another local parish doing what I set out to do. As is typical, I saw this as a sign and ran with it, convinced I knew God’s plan and could carry it off on my own. A few months later, my new employers lost their faith formation director and asked me to consider taking on the role, at least for a time.  I said I would pray on it, confident the answer would be no. Ten minutes in front of the Blessed Sacrament, the answer came: Why do you think I put you there?

I am insecure and impractical; bull-headed, soft-hearted, romantic, and rash. But I can be taught, and I believe I will make a man (and even a living) one day. God works, not just in broad strokes, but in the details of our lives. He put us exactly where He wants us, day by day, and if we are open to him, we cannot help but succeed, because He wills only the best for us. He cannot will anything else or anything less, because it’s His very nature. He loves us, because He is love.

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In the end, that’s the only thing that makes the world bearable. He is the reason we rise, this morning and every morning, to begin again.

Vigil

We search for signs. Signals too dim to light our way stop us dead. We wait—for what? An invitation is ours each day; each moment we are born again, to do more good. To do better. God is God the Everpresent:  He leaves not—each dawn an Easter; each day a rebirth

Happy Easter, dear ones. Know our thoughts and prayers are with you even when we, ourselves, are not. We love you.

Always,

Jim and Jodi

Brendan, Gabe, Emma, Trevor, and Lily

Airdale Chronicles: Blesséd Bruno

IMG_20180319_174442886Bruno is eight months old today, napping in his crate in a Super 8 outside of Green Bay while Gabe and Trevor read and I write. We spent the past few days at my folks’ place in Michigan, which means Bruno got to spend time with their dog, Maggie, an older, big-boned Oorang type Airedale. Too old to roughhouse too much, but not too old for Bruno to begin to notice something different about her.

What’s it like having an eight-week-old male Airdale pup? I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again: like having a preschool boy who’s somehow going through puberty.

He got his first adult haircut a week ago. What a difference a day makes: he went in a big, woolly pup and came out a much lighter, leaner dog, clearly an Airedale despite a shorter than average cut (due to matting) and his corkscrew ear. He seemed an odd combination of energetic and embarrassed when we brought him back from our groomer—especially when Rosebud said he was naked.

He’s hardly the same dog. But then, he’s been different for the past two weeks. You see, Bruno is blessed.

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting with Fr. Nathan LaLiberte at his parish in Delano for Confession, among other things. The other things took almost too much time, which led Father to check the time near the end of an hour and say, “I’m sorry, but I have a call coming in—let’s get you cleaned up quick!”

The sacrament was not rushed, of course, but afterward we said our goodbyes, and he walked me toward the door.

“We’ll have to reconnect again sometime when you’re not pressed for time,” I told him. “This is the second time I’ve brought Bruno along and…”

Father put his hand on my arm and stopped us both. “You brought your dog?”

“Yes,” I said.

“I love dogs! Is he out in the car?”

“Yup,” I said. “You were very encouraging when we were considering getting him. I was hoping to introduce you two.”

“Just a minute.” He called into the parish secretary: “I’m expecting a call. If it comes in, tell them I’ll be just a minute. Don’t let them hang up—but I gotta meet Jim’s dog!”

“I love the name,” Father said as we walked to the car. “Did you get him on St. Bruno’s feast day?”

“Nope—it’s kind of a family name, or nickname, I guess. My Polish great-grandfather’s name was Bronisław (bro-ne-swaff), which means defender of glory, but when he came to America, people called him Broni or Bruno.”

I opened the car door, and Bruno, who lay curled and napping on the back seat, stood and stretched: seven and a half months and fifty pounds of fluffy brown and black puppy. I took his leash and called him out, warning Father that he can be a bit mouthy but that he doesn’t really bite.

As if to spite me, or out of respect for the Roman collar, Bruno exited the car, sat promptly and politely at Fr. Nathan’s feet, and allow our priest friend to thoroughly rub his ears, neck, and shoulders while praising his canine nature.

“He’s a beautiful dog,” Fr. Nathan said. “Would it be alright if I blessed him?”

“Of course,” I said, and Father knelt and took Bruno’s head in his hands. Again as if on cue, Bruno’s eyes half-closed and he stretched his face toward Father’s.”

Whether the blessing was memorized or improvised I could not tell, but with beautiful words and through the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi, Father blessed and consecrated Bruno, among other things, to bring joy and peace to our family. When he was done, Bruno loaded up on command and rode home a happier, holier dog.

He’s getting better day by day. Good boy, Bruno. Good dog.

Airedale Chronicles: Bruno At Six Months

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Name: Bruno

Aliases: Bru, Bru-ski, Muttley, Fluffydog, Fat-Dog, Bonehead

Age: Six months

Occupation: Complete Nut

On Saturday, Bruno reached his half-birthday. People ask all the time how things are going with the puppy. I tell them, imagine your son hit puberty during the terrible twos.

Gone almost overnight are the tiny puppy teeth. We found some of his tiny incisors, and I snatched out three hanging molars myself, but those needle-like puppy canines simply disappeared. His adult canines are lengthening daily. They look worse, but feel better.

He no longer snaps or chews on us, but he approaches everything and everyone he loves with jaws agape. He wants to mouth you. He also wants to rub his head and body against your legs like a cat, to push himself between them as you stand or beneath them as you sit. (He took little Lily for a ride the other day by standing up while she was carefully stepping over him.)

If you are lying down, his first move is to stick his cold wet nose in your ear, and if you’ve only just gotten up and are wearing your pajama shorts, he likes to run that same nose from the back of your calf to the back of your knee, leaving a cold wet snail-trail to help bring your morning into focus.

As a young friend of ours says, he “got his puberty.” He is rapidly approaching fifty pounds, and beneath the dark puppy fur on his head, ears, shoulders and neck, he is rapidly turning tan. And he stinks. Again almost overnight, he went from a sweet-smelling puppy to a rank jock of a dog; we’re bathing him weekly to keep up (or rather, to keep the smell down).

Wanderlust has also kicked in, so we keep him tethered outside and are beginning to work specifically on coming when called.

It was bitterly cold for awhile, then quite icy, making the walking of a forty-plus-pound, high-energy puppy treacherous. Thankfully for the past few weeks Bruno has seemed content to play and sleep in the house, all the while gaining size (and storing energy, apparently). Yesterday I took him for a walk, and was struck by how much stronger, more energetic, and more fearless he is. He strained forward with his body and his attention; he needed constant reminders not to pull, and shot this way and that to investigate chunks of snow, icy patches, debris, and other dogs. A Pomeranian elicited insistent whining, two separate retrievers sparked whining and great leaps up into the air, and the pair of enormous, booming Great Danes up the street (which Bruno refused to walk past as a pup, and had to be carried), garnered leaps, barks, and playful growls and snarls.

He jumped around, spun circles, scrambled and skittered on the ice, snapped at his lead, and was generally nutty. He paid acute attention to the neighbor’s horse (his giiiiiirlfriend…) and to a pickup hauling a bouncing and rattling aluminum trailer (which caused him to jump back, scoot sideways, and stare). Then, when we returned home, he tore around the house, a rubber mallard in his jaws, tossing it violently, shaking it viciously, and generally showing himself to be an adolescent terrier.

He still tries to sit in my lap. He still has one corkscrew ear that springs sideways from his head. We joke that this ear is attuned to the voices in his head while the other is listening to us. Which one wins the moment is a crap shoot.

He’s a good puppy, on his way to becoming a good dog. Good boy, Bruno.

Airedale Chronicles: Little Big Dog

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Bruno at 15 weeks, with size 14 boots for scale

I took Bruno to the vet today for the last of his vaccinations. He will be 15 weeks old on Thursday, and in the past month, has gained exactly 11 pounds and (I’m guessing on this) about three or four inches in height. When he first came to us, he could scoot under the lowest cross-brace on our kitchen chairs or plunge beneath the futon almost without breaking stride. Now he belly-crawls beneath the futon and pushes between the chairs. At more than 27 wriggling pounds, he’s a lot to scoop up these days—like when he doesn’t want to get in the van or walk into the veterinary office. And he’s still got that puppy awkwardness, only magnified by his adolescent frame. He trips, stumbles, rolls, and keeps going.

The doc remembered him—she doesn’t see many Airedales—and voiced her approval of his growth. She checked him over and commented on how muscular he is for a puppy. On my way out, the lady with the mini (toy?) schnauzer said, “Look at those paws! He’s gonna be HUGE!”

I don’t know whether to be proud or scared.

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Forty-Third Birthday, Extended and Remixed

I am still a such a kid when it comes to birthdays. I still love the food and fun, the off-key singing, the warmth and glow and light and presents. Yes, I know that material wealth does not avail, but I love receiving (and giving) gifts. I can’t help it.

At the same time, birthdays are also a bit melancholy. As each year passes, I find myself reflecting on those things I have not yet done, and the speed with which time seems to pass these days. That mix of joy and anticipation with reflection and blues often leaves me quiet, recollected, and prayerful—which, in the end, is not a bad place to be.

Nevertheless, when my 43rd birthday rolled around on Friday, I struggled a bit. Jodi and I worked during the day, which is not unusual, but Gabe needed to work late afternoon through early evening. In addition, a couple of conversations with my bride (one somewhat veiled, one not so much) led me to believe that she was struggling to come up with a gift of any sort, much less the one she hoped to purchase. It was shaping up to be a subdued celebration.

So when Emma was offered a babysitting gig for Friday evening, I sighed and surrendered. We would celebrate Saturday, gift or no gift.

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