I’m not sure Chris had time to cry. He and I are swamped with being part of the leadership team for the Fulbright-Hayes group that will be heading to Ethiopia in early July. But leave it to Mom to go directly for the emotional jugular. Mom and Dad laughed. Cried. Didn’t duck intense moments. No wonder Chris and I are writers. And we did spend our young and tender years in a family of cry-ers. In Ethiopia, my dad didn’t preach often. When he did, he was more likely than not to tear up at the crunchy part of the story, the part that stabs your heart. Those were squirmy seconds–likely to make us tear up, too, likely to make us feel the weight of a strong guy’s vulnerability.
So I’m thinking about loss again, today. I didn’t know Kris Kristof (who just died at age 91) but I read these words of his in The Oregonian this morning: “War, want and concentration camps, exile from home and homeland, these have made me hate strife among men, but they have not made me lose faith in the future of mankind.” Kris Kristof swam a river in a leaky inner tube, survived concentration camp, asbestos mine, and logging camp, survived to grow cherries and teach in Oregon. I felt an immediate connection with him because of his connections with Reed College (where my baby sister works) and Portland State University (where my mom graduated from college–20 some years after she started–along with my two youngest siblings)…and also because I read the tweets of Nicholas D. Kristof, a NYTimes columnist I became interested in because he sometimes writes about Ethiopia.
I also felt connected to Kris Kristof because of my dad, another amazing guy who died recently. Going off to World War II as an 18-year-old and flying missions that were considered suicide adventures and seeing his own brother after the war, so changed they walked right by each other and didn’t think, I know you…all those things shaped Dad. They made him deeper. More compassionate. More determined to believe in the power of one person to make a difference for good and ill.
He gave me Ethiopia. He gave me the wildflower garden I can see out the front window that sparked the garden ideas for my Lanie books. So we cup the small light in our hands and walk on.