At our dad’s memorial service, our brother reminisced about the special visits our father made with him to visit with Fannie Jenkinson. She gave him muffins straight from the oven, news of up-Island, and the advice to “just keep a-goin’.” Robert said, “I think of those words every time I run the Chilmark Road Race and climb the sadistic course Hugh Wiseman set with a mile-long uphill stretch.” We can all relate. The first poet laureate, Frank Lebby Stanton, wrote this poem in 1910:
Ef you strike a thorn or rose,
Ef it hails, or ef it snows,
’Taint no use to sit an’ whine,
When the fish ain’t on yer line;
Bait yer hook an’ keep a-tryin’—
When the weather kills yer crop,
When you tumble from the top,
S’pose you’re out of every dime,
Bein’ so ain’t any crime;
Tell the world you’re feelin’ prime—
When it looks like all is up,
Drain the sweetness from the cup,
See the wild birds on the wing,
Hear the bells that sweetly ring,
When you feel like sighin’ sing—
To have a community that wraps their arms around you is an incredible thing. Ten years ago, life was hard. I was struggling. At the age of 87, during one of the coldest and snowiest winters, my father agreed to go with me to class once a week. The class held at the Grace Church was a long drive from Chilmark’s North Road, and it didn’t get out until 8 pm. Nine o’clock feels like midnight in the winter. It was an eight-week course. I drove us down and back. It was the NAMI Family-to-Family educational program for family, significant others, and friends of people with mental health conditions, taught by NAMI-trained family members who have been there.
We left this class appreciating the importance of having each other’s backs, becoming each other’s champions, minimizing our disagreements, and increasing our tolerance for mistakes even when it’s hard.
Dad cultivated friendships with a wonderful group of people and continued to write letters and emails; and placed weekly phone calls until the very end.
At his memorial, Rebecca Gilbert shared these beautiful words of wisdom for those of us that grieve: “In the compost we put everything we don’t want to deal with, everything that’s stinky and slimy, and that we wish we could throw away but we can’t, so we put it in the compost. And after a certain amount of time, which cannot be rushed, and which mostly happens invisibly underground, that becomes the source of all fertility and all new growth, and I think the grieving process is very similar. I’m sure Bobby planted seeds in a lot of our minds and hearts, and I know they will be growing over the coming years.”
The wisdom of this, coupled with my brother’s wish — “If anyone feels wronged by my father, forgive him, and if possible, put it in the past” — reassured me. I feel we really are going to be OK, and we are going to be able to stand on his shoulders and keep his spirit going, living life and celebrating and supporting one another.
It is impossible to list everyone, or adequately convey our gratitude or a list. The partial list of friends who helped include Linda Ferrini, Marie Wise, Susan Pratt and her friend Christina, who came from Hawaii for a vacation and spent almost the entire day helping a family she didn’t know — friends of friends are your friends in action — Betsi Convery Luce, Heather Goff, Bill O’Callahan, Holly Nadler, Abby Lakis, Guni Lakis, Katie Dawson, John Thurgood, Max, Joey, and so many others. Thank you.
Sunday, Sept. 17,. Chilmark Church music director Sean McMahon and his wife Siren Mayhew will be performing at the Eastern States Expo in Springfield. In his stead, beloved Island singer-songwriter Mark Alan Lovewell will lead us. You may remember him from the Blessing of the Fleet at Menemsha in May.
At the Chilmark library, on Saturday, Sept. 16, Priscilla Warner, author and certified sound healing practitioner, will usher in autumn with a healing sound bath. We are encouraged to wear comfortable, loose clothing, and bring a yoga mat.
The library is also hosting an author’s talk on Sept. 27 at 5 pm: Kathy Elkind will share stories from her book, “To Walk It Is to See It: 1 Couple, 98 Days, 1,400 Miles on Europe’s GR5.”
In 2018, Kathy Elkind, a long-distance walker, writer, and eater, and her husband decided to take a grown-up gap year in Europe and walk the 1,400-mile Grande Randonnée, a footpath reaching from Holland to Nice. They walked the GR5, the Andalusian Coast-to-Coast Walk in Southern Spain, and parts of the Cammino Materano in Italy.
If you have any Chilmark Town Column suggestions, email Claire Ganz, firstname.lastname@example.org.