Clarence walked five blocks home which he had been doing for a few weeks since he read an article about the heart, which his daughter Barbara Ann sent him along with a picture of a bicycle clipped from the Sears catalog. She and her husband were due for Thanksgiving dinner, and from the looks of things, they wouldn't make it. Nuts! Clarence liked it when she lectured him about his health, which she did now with every visit--"Daddy," she said in that sweet tone that led right into the legumes. Legumes, garlic, hard breathing, whole grain cereals, and no cigars and no red meat, plus whatever she had read about recently, maybe the benefits of eating raw cotton or the dangers of chewing on lead pencils. He argued with her only to stimulate further class discussion. "Your grandfather lived to be eighty-four and he lived on cigar butts, fried chicken skin, and as much Rock 'n Rye whiskey as he could sneak downstairs for without arousing Grandma's suspicions. He kept the bottle in the cellar in his tool chest. The last three years, after he went blind, it was pretty hard for him to explain why he needed a hammer and nails." Daddy.
He had been looking forward to her Thanksgiving health homily (maybe a tip on eating raw yams or some new data on cranberry sauce and how the pancreas feels about it). She made him feel like a well-loved man. That she would think a small-town Ford dealer could become Mahatma Gandhi. To most people, Clarence was Clarence, always would be. When he thought of her great faith that he might switch to grass and berries and grow young and run marathons, her fond hope of his longevity, he was moved to tears. As he was by her improbable gifts: walking shorts, kim chee, Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. As he was by Arlene's choice of lilac wallpaper for their bedroom: amazing woman. His daughter Donna sent him Whitman's Chocolate Cherries and thought lilac was ridiculous.
I love that excerpt from Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor. I love how what could be considered pushy, graceless gestures are actually received as generous expressions of love. How wonderful to be met halfway like that.
I'm sort of amazed by what a polarizing figure G.K. is in this town. People either love him or hate him, but I feel like the hate is misplaced. I suppose people perceive him as someone who creates caricatures of Minnesotans, and folks can be a little humorless about that (Hello! Fargo). But I think his work is richer than caricature. He's a fine writer and obviously a skilled storyteller. He's also a big ol' liberal, and he just opened a charming bookstore in St. Paul. Shouldn't he be beloved, or will he need to be dead for several years before we warm up to him? What say you? Has anybody else read his books? Listened to PHC? Love him or hate him?