The Book of Ecclesiastes and my Grandmother the Pool Shark

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

Thanks are given to the things we have, the family, the food, the shelter over our heads. But this season, this trip home, I’m giving thanks for things long past. For the foundation of history that allows me to live my life in the way that I do.

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep


For my grandmothers, both in their late 80’s and struggling with maintaining their relevance and dignity and their roles as matriarchs as the world around them ever-quickens its pace.

As their health begins to disintegrate, their memories begin to fail them but the threads of their history sharpen. My Grandmother Vaeth can’t remember the Thanksgiving dinner spent with us just 24 hours earlier, but she can remember all the lyrics to the silly songs she sang as a girl:

“A fly walked into the grocery store, alone tee-hee all alone.
He’d never been in a store before, alone tee-hee all alone.
He sat on the cheese,
Wiped his feet on the ham,
And stuck out his tongue at the grocery man.
A fly walked out of the grocery store, alone tee-hee all alone.”

She brightens at my brothers’ request to play pool at her assisted living home, and then proceeds to leave her walker behind and nearly beat him.

My grandmother Courtney, who at 88 and recovering from lung cancer, jumped up to help the boys rearrange furniture at Thanksgiving dinner. When my husband recounted that story to me on Thursday evening and said “now I know where you get it from” I took it as one of the greatest compliments I have received. As cancer invades her body, her strong, political and opinionated voice withered to a whisper. Her informed mind, her spiritual resilience, and her determination to remain independent and useful just grows stronger.

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

And I give thanks for where I come from. For Rochester, NY that has been a city of innovation; from (bad) beer, to the birthplace of modern photography

now struggling with maintaining its relevance and dignity and its role as a vibrant city as the world around it ever-quickens its pace…

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together


To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

The ins and outs of each day demand our immediate attention, like rough waves on the surface of the ocean, they rock our little boats and distract us from giving thanks for what is true, for what is fundamental. But when we reflect on our history, we find strength, longevity, and opportunity. We can learn from our history of what mistakes not to make, and what silly songs we should teach our kids. Like support beams on a house, our history serves to hold up our future.

All these random threads of thoughts circled in my mind all week. So when my dad and I awoke in the cold and early hours of Friday morning, driving around our overcast city looking for photographic inspiration, I was not at all surprised at what we found right around the corner.

Gravestone of Susan B. Anthony

My little waves had me quite distracted when I lived in Rochester, but when I turned inside and looked around where I came from, I found that this beam of support had been there all along.

A time of war, a time of peace
A time of love, a time of hate
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time of peace, I swear it’s not too late!

Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There is a Season), by the Byrds, adapted from the book of Ecclesiastes, the Bible.
“A Fly Walked into a Grocery Store” by Marian Vaeth

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