I then quietly said goodbye

Published 10:15 am Wednesday, February 18, 2009

“You know how we lock into our own myths” — Mary Davidson

I moved back to Austin in 1980, and it wasn’t so long after that that I started to attend a writing group Jerry Lilja mentioned in the community. Those in attendance included, besides Jerry: Judy Bergen, Dorothy Schulz, Betty Benner, Mary Ann Lynch, Peggy Benzkofer, Karen Brezicka, Stan Miller, myself and sometimes Michael Cotter. The hostess for this was Mary Davidson who was living at home with her mother who often times created the finest desserts when the evening drew to an end.

During the time together we shared our writings that generated good discussions. One that still sticks out in my mind was a fictional piece Jerry Lilja wrote about a man suffering a fatal heart attack in his car in the garage.

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Mary facilitated the discussion as the evening moved along, and she resupplied the coffee. She may have stepped outside or into another room for a cigarette now and then. It seemed to us that she writing the greatest novel ever written up in her room. Mary, I believe, was a constant reader and a blessing to her mother and family.

It was a couple years ago that I stopped at Sacred Heart Hospice to see Mary. We had coffee together and a nice conversation. I think I left a bunch of poetry for her to read over and returned the following week to listen to her critique, and we talked some more.

I’m glad I had some time with her before her memorial service Saturday at Mayer Funeral Home with Fr. Fogal officiating. There were some woeful and joyful expressions by family with heartfelt feelings. In closing we all sang Mary’s favorite song Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound.

Following the service I walked down the street to Mary’s house on the corner. We used to visit when Mary and her mother lived there. I quietly said goodbye.

The quote above comes from back in that time.

I would like to mention a piece “Homework isn’t done? It’s OK here” at Hazel Park featured in Monday’s Star Tribune. Students are proving they know their stuff. When it comes to getting good grades, homework doesn’t matter. A geography teacher who helped develop the program pointed out seeing a high rate of kids failing because they didn’t do their homework, even though they understood the material.

Under this new system, Hazel Park has seen fewer students get the best grades, and fewer get the worst. Students who know how to “game the system” by faithfully turning in homework and extra credit, even though they don’t understand the material, are having a harder time. Students who don’t turn in homework, but know how to do the work, are having an easier time.

The school has also tracked whether the amount of students doing homework has dropped. It hasn’t.

Education remains a mystery to me. I think it is too controlled. Back in our day at Austin High Ray Wescott was the principal, and Mr. Kirchdoefer was the assistant principal and there was one counselor.

This brings to mind the quote of Albert Einstein: “Education never ceases; it’s only interrupted by school.” Einstein nearly perished in school.

I believe the freethinking Bohemian side of me combined with the controlling Norwegian side formed a genesis of schizophrenia that held little regard for one another.

I would like to close with an opinion piece on Charles Darwin by Rick Weiss that caught my eye the other day. When Darwin thought about marriage he divided a sheet of paper into two sections, “Marry” and “Not Marry.” Under the first heading he noted: “a friend in old age…better than a dog anyhow.” In the second he tallied counterarguments: “perhaps quarreling,” he fretted, and “less money for books.”

He argued that the “immense amount of suffering through the world” argued against a benevolent creator. At the same time, he hedged, it seemed foolish to reject the assertions of so many intellectually “able men” who “fully believed in God.”

In the end, the article says he punted. “The safest conclusion seems to be that the whole subject is beyond the scope of man’s intellect,” Darwin concluded.  “Every man must judge for himself, between conflicting vague probabilities.”

Darwin’s humility in the face of insufficient evidence —“I don’t know”— is as important a lesson as any to be found in biology tests today.

He knew enough to not pick fights over what he did not know.