As i edit this post from my past Democrat columns, i still miss Erma Baird, and all of those folks, now over that bridge, who were like family back home those many years ago. Life goes on and seems to come back to me in my older years. It was a lovely way to grow up, and those folks like Erma, Charlie, and Sharry made it that way.
SAN DIEGO – This has been a difficult column to write. Numerous things from my perch in the Southwest corner and far away in Lebanon made my past weekend (January 18-20), poignant with significant personal events.
Working backwards, Sunday was moving day. Our daughter Sarah, after a semester of commuting to San Diego State University from our home, moved into a dormitory for her second semester. I once again experienced the difficult art of letting go.
Her departure was rough on the old man. While many have experienced a child leaving home, my role as the at-home parent, a.k.a mister mom, and at a substantially older age than most parents, made Sarah’s departure particularly emotional.
The day before, Saturday, January 19, I became an old man according to the Beatles. On their “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band,” album, McCartney sang “When I’m 64.” I reached that magic number. Robert E. Lee reached birthday 200.
Friday, the beginning of this significant weekend, the initiating event was sad. My mother, Estelle Jewell, called to inform me Erma Baird passed away.
Mrs. Baird, her husband Charlie, and their daughter, Sharry Baird Hagar, have been a part of my life, literally since I was born. Sharry, Henry Harding, and I were baptized on the same Sunday at the Lebanon First Methodist Episcopal Church South on East Main in the late spring of 1944.
Erma is one of my wife’s favorite people in Lebanon.
On one trip to Lebanon, Charlie and Erma came to call while we visited my parents. Mischievously, Erma smiled and said, “I have something for you.” She gave Maureen pictures of a play the Methodist Youth Fellowship produced when I was fourteen. Many friends were co-stars but somehow I had been chosen to play Jesus as a young boy.
Maureen focused on this goofy looking guy at center stage, complete with a page boy wig, knee-length toga, and madras Bermuda shorts showing underneath as he sat spread-legged on a stool. I am not sure Maureen has ever completely recovered from laughing at the photo.
Erma, of course, loved the reaction.
The women of the “greatest” generation, as labeled by Tom Brokaw, were an incredible group of people. Their role through the Depression, World War II, and its aftermath was the synthesis for change. They balanced being a housewife and mother with pioneering equality in the workplace. They were strong; they were supportive; they were always busy.
Erma Baird had all the characteristics of the women of her generation. She was also one of the sweetest, loving women who ever walked the face of the earth. It seemed to me she loved everybody and could always find something good about any person or any situation.
She was that way when I can first remember her in my life, and she was that way when I visited her just before Christmas.
Even though, I am some 2,000 miles from Lebanon, the impact of losing Mrs. Baird hit me hard.
In the middle of all of these significant events, my daughter Blythe informs me my grandson Sam has spoken his first words, “Kitty Cat,” and is obviously connecting the word to the two felines who reside with him. It was a big day for the Jewell household. We are informed of Sam’s “firsts” almost daily, but a baby starting to talk is a giant step.
Years ago, a great deal of this weekend’s events would have washed over me. I would have kept on “chooglin’” along as Creedence Clearwater Revival exhorted me to do.
But late that Sunday evening, I sat before the fading embers in the family room fireplace and reflected: The world continues to change with significant events. Letting go of children, getting older, losing friends who have completed life’s cycle, and welcoming new friends into the cycle is constant. If all of us can deal with the cycle as have Erma and Charlie Baird, my parents, and many, others of that generation in Lebanon, we will be all right.