By Mat Tombers
This weekend my godparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
In the Hallmark section of a local pharmacy, I couldn't find
a card for
60 years. They stopped at 50. But John and Eileen got married
ago in Minneapolis, began to raise a family there, continued
to do it in
St. Louis and finished the job in New York.
They are lovely people, with ready laughs and a pack of children
have had packs of children. Sitting next to John on Friday
a picnic at the home of one his granddaughters, her husband
two children, he looked around the yard, jammed with sixty
and said to me, "You know, with the exception of you,
Eileen and I are
responsible for all of this." And they were. Playing
game of volleyball were their grandchildren and great grandchildren.
was a delightful moment.
Then Sarah, Mary Clare [two of their children] and their husbands
all drove over to the condo in South Minneapolis where one
Clare's classmates from grade school held her First Friday
of us attended the same Catholic grade school in Minneapolis,
Benedictine nuns, a humorless group if there ever was one.
At the party
was Liz Russell, with whom Sarah and I had gone to school
eight harrowing years. I'd seen Liz about fifteen years ago;
hadn't seen her for thirty. They started talking like they'd
other yesterday. It was a delightful evening of rummaging
shared past, members of the same community reunioning with
memories, filled with laughter and behind that laughter some
of the pain
that it hid.
Both Liz and I had lost our fathers during those years, unexpected
deaths for which we were not prepared. Sarah had lived through
mother's double mastectomy, in the days when that was generally
considered a death sentence. Do you remember those days when
was whispered in the way "AIDS" was in the early
'80's? I do. We were
All of us have had interesting lives and this weekend was
celebrate. As the evening was winding down John and Eileen
revitalize the party.
Saturday evening my devout Catholic godparents went to afternoon
a local Catholic Community and renewed their wedding vows
in front of
all of us. And then we retired back to the hotel where we
and attended a dinner that was a celebration of past and present
future, because John and Eileen still live for the future,
which is one
of the things I admire and love about them.
[Regular readers of this column will have encountered my godparents
before. John built the Adirondack chairs that sit on our deck.
organized all the funerals for those in her parish who died
Mary Clare and Sarah took turns introducing everyone in the
room. At my
table was the old school tie contingent, including Liz and
and Mary Clare's classmates Fay and Fran. There was a slide
took the room through sixty years and entertainment of various
It was at my table that I overheard Liz say something about
September 11th had changed her life. Thinking of this column,
to her and asked her how it had affected her, here in Minneapolis,
away from Ground Zero.
It was a global reminder, she said, that time and relationships
precious. She has three sons. They are all going salmon fishing
year in Alaska, not the vacation of her dreams but of theirs
wants to share it with them because now she knows in a way
she has never
known that this might be the last vacation they ever take
That is what September 11th has left her with.
So this morning, Sunday morning, I was curious as to what
the papers in
Minneapolis would be like. What news would fill its pages?
First of all, before I saw the morning paper I was awakened
by the clock
radio in the room with Minnesota Public Radio airing a debate
if, why and how we might be invading Iraq. That was sobering,
thought, sipping my coffee, wondering what the hell I was
supposed to be
doing to influence a policy that I don't quite agree with.and
exactly what I thought about invading Iraq.
Then I went down and got the Minneapolis Star & Tribune
which was devoted in its main columns to the fact that this
tenth anniversary of the Mall of America! Yes, ladies and
has been ten years since the Mall to end all Malls has opened
Actually, it was a very thoughtful look at the pluses and
the minuses of
being home to the Mecca of Consumerism.
But what surprised me were the echoes of September 11th that
pages of the paper. The FBI whistle blower, should you have
is from Minneapolis and her actions have created a storm of
in the FBI community. She's recently been roundly damned in
newsletter that goes out to former agents. And a huge group
agents have stood up in support of her. Those that were trained
J. Edgar Hoover do not like her. It might even be said they
There was also a very good interview with a young man from
is on duty in Kuwait, who said that he was very glad he had
because he realized how much he had taken for granted.
Yes! Let's have that kind of experience for more Americans.
feels like there was lot he took for granted by going to Kuwait
what he would think with a few months duty in India?
It was good and healthy and I was delighted to see it printed.
Minneapolis is also corporate home to Northwest Airlines,
which was not
commenting on its plans to cut or not cut flights on September
while other airlines are being quite open with the fact they
down - out of respect and recognition that people probably
flying much that day.
A group of local firefighters have created a firefighters
dedicated to the victims of September 11th. A feature story
the recently discovered tape from the firefighters on the
78th floor of
Thumbing through the pages of the paper and looking around
realized that September 11th, painfully real to all of us
who live in
New York, is also a seminal moment other places in America
- a moment
that shapes the way we react to everything.