The Wide Angle: Fellowship — the art of talk

Published 3:45 pm Sunday, July 24, 2016

This past Monday I attended a funeral for a family friend.

He was a teacher of mine in high school and a family friend that I used to work for in the summers as a house painter. They called me the Van Gough of house painting or so I would like to think.

At any rate, it was a nice service for the remembrance of a man that shaped me in many ways and it was a chance to catch up with friends and acquaintances back home.

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It was a Lutheran service at a Lutheran church in Lakefield, Minnesota and as Lutheran’s are wont to do, there was fellowship after the service.

I can’t tell you how much Lutheran’s love their fellowship. I grew up in a Lutheran church back home in the sprawling metropolis of Lake Wilson, Minnesota on the blissful greenish-brown shores of … Lake Wilson.

Weren’t real imaginative back in the day.

So I know first hand Lutheran’s love of fellowship. After most services, those attending retreat to another sort of worship — that of black coffee and cake or cookies or some other kind of treat — where the fellowship branched and wound, twisted and turned on any number of subjects.

There was very little segue from topic to topic. That’s just how fellowship works. Heck you’ll be lucky if you’re even talking to the same person by the time it’s done. You’re talking with someone about grass height and suddenly you’re talking to someone completely different about their grandchildren — and you’re not even sure who’s grandchildren you’re talking about.

My dad is a champion fellowshipper. Always has been as far as I remember. He’s so good in fact that he takes his world-class fellowship skills on the road, often times turning a quest for milk into an hour-long affair.

Which doesn’t seem like much until you consider that the sprawling metropolis of Lake Wilson is only 280 people last I checked, maybe less than that now.

Yeah, our bid for the Winter Olympics failed predictably, though I think it’s because of our firm stance that ice fishing on the twin lakes flanking the town be admitted into the games. That seems about right anyway.

It doesn’t take long to get from point A to point B. Often times point A is clearly visible from point B. Hopefully that gives you scale as to dad’s fellowship skills.

This service was no different. We met in the fellowship hall and talked about the deceased and a varierty of other subjects. There was of course coffee with iced tea and juice or lemonade — I’m not real sure. And of course there were cake and bars — much to the chagrin of my mom who was thinking something more along the line of sandwiches.

I admit, I was fairly surprised, but not disappointed. Church ladies make some fantastic treats so it was adequate enough. They are on the opposite end of the spectrum from lutefisk feeds where I take a very “anti” stance. I go firmly on record as saying that this dish is one of the worst foods ever.

I blame this on only being half-Norwegian. I think it’s what kept the peace between me and my grandpa who sometimes eyed me with a certain level of distain. Of course he didn’t hate me but you could tell that sometimes he was questioning whether or not to admit relation because of my feelings of lutefisk. There was no middle ground for the two of us in that regard.

I tried appeasing him once and tried a prepared meal from Hy-Vee. Instead of earning a level of grudging respect at the very least, I got a, “well that’s not real lutefisk.”

I thought about questioning whether or not there is such a thing as real lutefisk given my dislike for the gelatinous food-formerly-known-as-fish, but considering he probably was already wondering if I wasn’t found along the side of the road, I thought it best not to tax the situation.

So we sat down at this past Monday’s funeral, enjoyed our cake and whatever we were drinking and talked because that’s what Lutheran’s do. We talked about the weather, we talked about a classmate’s farm and his vacation home we talked about horse racing (the short of it being is my family used to race horses and mom and dad still occasional venture north to Canterbury Downs).

We talked and we talked and we drank coffee and talked some more until we got to the question that is the original point of this column.

A former teacher of mine asked, “So how long does it take you to get here … two hours?”

“Yeah, give or take,” I responded sagely, giving the impression I kept close, intellectual track of these things. Truthfully, I have no idea because of one very good reason as I’m about to relate.

“Really?” she said. “I would have thought it would take longer.”

“Oh, it seems like it,” I answered, inwardly trying to bring the number of windtowers I counted on previous trips to mind. It has no bearing on the story, but it’s an excellent example of the above conversation. That trip between Austin and anywhere west is like the journey Frodo takes to Mount Doom — long and tiresome with the only difference being at least things happened to Frodo.

The trip is a straight line broken every now and then by a curve that at best offers a slightly different angle to the western horizon.

Now you may be wondering, “Eric. If this is your point, you took a long, arduous route in getting here.”

To which I answer around another bite of cake, “Congratulations, you’ve been fellowshipped. Welcome to life as a Lutheran.