Saturday, August 12, 2006


Ruth's mom died this past week and her memorial service was today here in Michigan. Since this is my final vacation week of the summer, we're out at the cottage with the kids all this week, so we attended (but without the kids).

The pastor was long-winded. He hit his 15-minute quota and then overshot it by a good ten more. His primary message was that we should count our days. He actually used the line about how, from the moment we're born, we're all dying. He really went on and on about it. And then he started talking about goats for some reason. Meanwhile, I towed the fundamentalist line and took the pastor's suggestion literally. I did the math in my head (and with my finger as a 'ghost pencil' on my program) and -- roughly ten minutes later, about halfway through the lettuce-pray (Part VI, subparagraph 2) -- came up with a number I was happy with: 11,777.

I took the number of years I was alive and multiplied it by 365, arriving at 11,680. Then, remembering my middle school science, I figured out how many February 29ths I had lived through (2004, 1996, 1992, 1988, 1984, 1980, and 1976 -- my deliberate omission of the year 2000* was my only error) and added those to reach 11,687. Then I just needed to figure out how many days it had been to today from my birthday this year. As the pastor finished the prayer, I finished my addition and felt confident with 11,777. I just checked time and's Date Duration Calculator and discovered my error.* My days are therefore officially numbered at 11,778.

I also want to set something incredibly minor straight. In the service, Ruth did an excellent job of encapsulating her mother's life, peppering in appropriate anecdotes to emphasize key points. One story she included was about the summer night over a decade ago when Grandma Lucy and I sat on our respective porches watching a line of strong thunderstorms that fired along a line just to the north of our lake. For about four hours, starting at sunset, the horizon across the lake was alight with near constant lightning (and we're talking gorgeous cloud-to-ground bolts), and it was only just far enough away from us that we only rarely heard the faint sound of thunder or caught a warm, instable-air breeze. It didn't rain on our lake until after the worst of it was over. It was far and away the coolest weather event I have observed at the cottage.

My only tiny contention is with the way that Ruth presented it at the service. Basically, she said that, as Grandma and I were watching the lightning, Grandma was calming my fears about the storms and convincing me that it was something beautiful rather than something to fear. By that point, though, I was already over my fear of storms and into wonderment -- the stage where I remain now. I had checked the radar that day and had seen that we were in store for something that night. I actually made popcorn around Hour Two and sat on our porch like the whole thing was a summer blockbuster unfolding on nature's screen before my eyes. Both Grandma and I were respectfully amazed by the show that night. The story played well at the service the way Ruth told it, though, so I'm happy to let that memory morph a bit in some people's eyes.

Incidentally, the coolest site I know for weather pictures is called Extreme Instability. This guy is amazing.

Grandma Lucy was 90.

*NOTE: I remembered something about the '00 years incorrectly. I thought that it was 'every fourth '00 year doesn't have a February 29th.' In fact, every fourth '00 year has the extra day. That's basically because the number of days it takes for the earth to revolve around the sun is not exactly 365, nor is it exactly 365.25. The last time eight years passed between leap years was surrounding 1900, and the next won't be until 2100 (2096 will be a leap year, 2100 won't be, and 2104 will be). Fascinating, no?