Daily Archives: April 14, 2006

Helping at Mom’s

After we get home from church and change, we head south to Springfield, to help Mom pack. My sister Main and niece Erin are there, with Mom, surrounded by boxes. My specific job is to empty and take down the shed in the back yard. It’s a refreshingly discrete and concrete task, as opposed to all the ambiguities involved in deciding what to pack and what to throw away, decisions that require Mom or Main. So I don’t know how Dawn and Erin keep themselves busy without getting in trouble.

The shed was originally constructed with screws, but the screws are pretty much all rusted and just spin and don’t come out when I apply the power screwdriver to them. So I end up mostly kicking apart the shed. I use a hammer a little bit, but even better is a short length of two-by that I use as a battering ram. I have some tin snips that I use a couple times too.

The shed is full of dimensional lumber that apparently was once a deck off the back of the house. Glenn saved all the wood, like he saved everything else. There’s nails sticking out of the deck wood, and I try pounding them down, but give up after a while. There’s just too many boards. There are old lawnmower parts in there too. And two tires from Mom’s car three cars ago. And lots of plastic flower pots. Dog dishes. A big old folding sandwich-like sign. Fence parts. Just a lot of junk.

After I remove and separate all the junk and take down the shed I realize that I probably could have just dumped the shed over, over the stuff inside, without moving and separating everything, because the shed doesn’t have a floor. But I didn’t really know that until after I took stuff out. Then I knock apart the doghouse that none of Mom’s dogs would ever use. Then I join the gang inside for pizza.

Good Friday

When we get to church, not only have we missed the Hour of Reflection service, but there are no seats left now. Dawn woefully leads us to a spot in the St. Anthony Chapel, where we can sit on the marble steps, dwarfed beneath and behind one of the massive pillars that form the cathedral crossing. The four pillars each sport a Gospel author; the other side of this particular one depicts St. John. Our side in the chapel is blank marble, except for an audio speaker about a third of the way up it. So we can’t see anything, but we can hear just fine.

And we can at least sit. Unfortunately there’s also a lot of kneeling, and on the marble steps it’s pretty painful. But then I suppose it’s rather gauche to whine about pain when it’s the Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord.

The reading from Isaiah is utterly and overwhelmingly heartbreaking.

He was spurned and avoided by people,
a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity,
one of those from whom people hide their faces,
spurned, and we held him in no esteem.

I think of this woman whom Dawn and I see most mornings on our walk to work. She is apparently homeless, or is semi-homeless, or is in some way a street person anyway. We see her when we walk by the Catholic Charities facility on D Street, the John L. Young Center. We say good morning to her whenever we pass by, or we exchange waves if she’s on the other side of the street. I love how excitedly she waves to us. She doesn’t seem inclined to talk to us, though. We were crossing the street together recently and I tried to initiate some type of conversation with her, but she just kind of wandered away. But anyway, she has this issue, some sort of compulsion, where she applies cream or balm or something to her lips and all around her mouth and nose around her face. I’m not sure if she has a rash or condition, something that requires this medicating, or if she has simply this compulsion that really now has made her face raw and rubbed and chafed and looks really painful. Sometimes her lips will be cracked open and it’ll be hard to look; it just seems so dreadfully painful.

This Isaiah reading makes me think of her, and how there’s nothing I can do for her, but that she seems to suffer so. And suffer in anonymity.

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our sufferings that he endured,
while we thought of him as stricken,
as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses,
crushed for our sins;
upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,
by his stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep,
each following his own way;
but the Lord laid upon him
the guilt of us all.

And I love the strong verbs in the passage: pierced and crushed. It’s a great passage for Good Friday.

The gospel reading is two chapters from St. John, from Gethsemane to being laid in the tomb. Again with the “I AM,” what Christ says to the gang who have come to arrest him, echoing the name that God said to Moses. And I don’t know why but I like the odd little disagreement about the inscription on the cross.

“Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’
but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews’.”
Pilate answered,
“What I have written, I have written.”

Again, I have no idea why this sticks out to me. It’s a funny little moment. I wonder if that’s why it’s memorable enough for St. John to have included it. St. John is always harsh to my ears when he writes “the Jews” instead of “the Sanhedrin” or whatever. So this might be more of that, only this time a little more subtle, but anyhow St. John’s way of making the Jews more responsible than Pilate. Or it’s also not altogether dissimilar to the “I AM.” The grammatical construction is somewhat the same, declaring that something is simply what it is. The subtext is power, either the power of God or the power of the prefect. Power does not need to explain. Maybe it’s that parallelism that I like. Or maybe it’s just Pilate being snotty, and that’s kinda funny in so solemn a setting.

There’s veneration of the cross afterwards, but there’s such a long, long line of people waiting. And we have to go to my Mom’s to help pack for the move. So we don’t stay. But I think veneration of the cross is way cool. It’s way primitive or something, kissing the feet of the corpus on the crucifix. And I like the polite way that the altar server will wipe the feet after every kiss.

Day Off

We take the day off from work so that we can go to Good Friday services. We have toast for breakfast, then head out.

First we stop at the DMV so that I can renew my license. Apparently I can’t renew it online. I forget that you have to pass through metal detectors, and get bags x-rayed, to get into the DMV. What a pain. Same with the library. Life in DC, I guess. The DMV is especially bad, where I even had to take off my belt and shoes one time. This time I hurriedly gather up wallet and keys and phone and pocket change and everything I can find and stuff it all into my backpack, so as not to set off the metal detector. But of course I do set it off. But seems like everybody is setting it off and the guard is too busy to figure out why so he just waves us through.

I’m pleased that the line to get into the main room isn’t long at all. This is one of those setups they use nowadays, at least in DC and Maryland but I figure it’s pretty standard, where you first check in at a main counter and they make sure you’ve got all your paperwork in order before they give you a number and you wait to get service. My number is C41 and the estimated wait time says one hour and thirty-six minutes. We might not make it.

They also give me a form to fill out. It’s an application for a license and is confusing because I’m here for to renew. It says I need proof of residence. But isn’t my license proof of residence? But it doesn’t say so because this is an application for a license. And there’s also an application for voter registration. Dawn suggests that I use it to change my registration, so as to register as a Democrat, whereas now I’m not registered with any party. DC is very much a Democratic Party town, as in going for Kerry 90% vs. President Bush getting 9% in 2004. That’s right. Only nine percent. We would in fact have only Democrats on the city council except for the fact that that the city charter requires two members be from a different party. Yup, that’s right. Congress forces on us an affirmative action quota for Republicans.

So anyway pretty much local elections are decided by the race in the Democratic primary in September, not the general election in November. So Dawn tells me that, as much as I yack about politics, I should register as a Democrat. But I’m not a Democrat. Maybe I’ll register as a Green.

And Dawn thought that we’d be in and out of the DMV in twenty minutes, having come on a work day and not a Saturday. But that 1:36 estimate proves to be pretty much true. And we have to bail after an hour and a half because we have to get to church. We give our number to the young woman sitting next to us, who’s got like A60-something.