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FRIENDSHIPS

Yesterday I visited an old friend at Saint Mary’s in Duluth. Al DeLapointe and I go back to my earliest days in Hibbing-we were both social studies teachers and our two families blended nicely. Al had major surgery and, I know, a lot of prayers for his recovery. Over the years we’ve seen less of each other but I’ve always said that ‘old friends are the gold in our lives. And old friends for me go back to my growing up in Hoyt Lakes. Yes, I drank beer–too much at times and illegally–and fell in love a couple of times as well. I don’t ever remember passing or blacking out completely but I do remember vomiting on a girl I was crazy about but never dated in the back seat of someone’s car. But nearly sixty years have passed since then and besides my friends Dick Nierengarten and Al Mugge, memories of most have faded and many have passed away. Facebook has kept me remotely connected to some who are still around.
Recent years have forged new friendships. Forty-some years ago Ed Beckers and a couple others formed a bookclub–The Greater Mesaba Men’s Book Club (the GMMBC has a link on my website) and many of us have stayed the course for most of our adult lives. Our meetings are a highlight of my every month. We are mostly literary, in that we thoroughly critique every book, but are social as well. It’s always been easy to get sidetracked into sports, family stuff, and politics. Most of our members have been professionals. I mention that because most of the people on the Range today work, as their parents and grandparents did, in mine-related jobs. The mines were the lifeblood of the Mesabi, and through bitter struggles, the unions protected their rights to decent wages, benefits, and safety on the job. And, it goes without saying, the unions were overwhelmingly Democrats. The belief that the Republicans are the party of the rich and the Democrats the friend of the working men and women was a cemented as the foundations of Hibbing High School. The Eighth Congressional District has always been strongly Democrat–always meaning the past hundred years or so.
Back to my friends. Of our current membership of eleven, four were born on the Range and the remaining seven came from South Dakota, California, Missouri, New Jersey, or other parts of Minnesota. I was born in west Duluth and grew up on the range and colleged in Winona and at the UofM. A diverse group for sure in most respects–with one exception! (I’m taking a long road to get to my single perspective). This weekend is one of my favorites–a weekend at Paul Dorsher’s lake home near Cross Lake. Paul is one of the dearest men I know and a marvelous host when we join him at the lake. Yesterday I decided to stay home in Hibbing rather than join the guys at Pauls.
I did so with deep regrets that I find difficult to justify.
On Thursday I watched the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings with great pain and anguish. Yesterday, on my drive back from Duluth, I listened to talk radio which was a regurgitation of the Cavanah/Young hearings. To me it was the entire episode, and events leading up to it, the epitome of the divisive politics of the past few months and years–especially since 2016. Since Trump’s election I have suffered the loss of friendhips within my family and outside of it. I have been a Republican since my days working for Governor Al Quie–one of the most sincere Christians I have ever known. I voted for Trump because he promised to help revitalize the steel industry and grow our economy. (Ironically, Trump won the popular vote in Hibbing–this being the first time in my memory that a Republican candiate has done so. Apparently, his message reached the miners and their unions). To my knowledge he has delivered on both accounts. The Wall, immigration policy and Obamacare are another matter. i am also male, white, and a practicing Catholic.
I chose not to join my friends this weekend because I assumed that politics would be high on the discussion agenda.
I’ve had enough ‘politics’ in the past week to last me a lifetime and . . . my friends are all liberals. In the past my exclusive perspective has been good-natured banter but, I sensed, I’d would not enjoy the dialogue at this particular time. Perhaps a weak justification for passing on time among friends. To them I apologize. To Jim, whose book selection of ‘Rules of Civility’ a special apology because the read was absolutely absorbing.
Finally, I will share a deep feeling . . . I am scared to the depths of my soul about the future of our great democracy. Just as I pray for my friend, Al, I pray for my President and my country. God bless America.
Sunday following the above.
Two flaws of mine are ‘overreacting’ to something emotional. My tendency is to bottle-up whatever the issue is that bothers me– which is not a healthy thing to do. If I chose to ‘let it all out’, all too often I’m guilty of TMI (too much information). I’m over it all now and realize that staying home, despite missing what I assume was a very good book discussion, was the best thing to do.

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