Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Day One-Hundred-Twenty-Two, American Genius

1) Saying goodbye to Darren, two mornings in a row.
2) With Uncle Billy and Wyatt, who is a pill.
3) With Mr. Bergman, who looks less like Shatner in profile.

I had meant to abandon the family Smith, for their good as much as my own.  But I lingered and dragged my feet.  I passed another day as their guest.  And I am better for it, I have no doubt.  And I am sure they'll survive the intrusion.  They've got a sound moral base that cannot be corrupted by an odd hippie here and there.

It was in the morning threatening to rain.  That will take the fun out of a walk.  So I had a fine breakfast and played with the dog, and Wyatt, who is a pill.  We even did some math together.  The young Smiths are home-schooled.  He is working on a rudimentary algebra.  He is all of seven years old.

It has not yet enthralled him to any degree.  You can't say he loves the sport.  I did what I could but it took Mom's efforts to get him to do the work.  I'm not certain I wouldn't home-school my own kids, but to do it right takes more effort than you can imagine.  You can't get lazy, not even once.  And it can be like pulling teeth.  Marne (or Good Mrs. Smith) does stay on top of things.  I admire her effort but don't envy it.  I'd want a whip and a chair.

Good Mr. Smith was off at work.  He is in the grain bin business.  Let me know if you are in the market.  I am sure he can get you a deal.  But there are no bonbons being chewed up at home.  The soap operas go unwatched.  Four healthy kids will keep you busy.  I don't care who you are.

I'll introduce them, if I may.  Grace is off at school.  And making us proud.  I owe her a debt.  If they hadn't been delivering her to college, their wheel would not have fallen off in Montana and I never would have made these new friends.  Thank you, Miss Grace.  Now study.

Then there is Anna.  She is sixteen.  She's the only one I fear.  She's a very pretty sixteen-year-old girl.  I know how unkind they can be.  Now of course Anna has been raised right, and is prisoner to her own gentle nature.  But just knowing that she is sixteen is enough to keep me on my toes.

Elsie is twelve.  She has dimples.  I have arbitrarily made her my favorite.  She is very strong for a twelve-year-old.  And looks you in the eye when you talk.  And I see in her the signs of genius, or gentle madness, or both. One day she'll run for President.  Please give her your vote.

Then there is Wyatt, who is seven, of course.  He is a pill.  I like him.

Darren and Marne, Mr. and Mrs., keep 'em all growing up right.  And they are, though morally upright, more cool than they'd admit.  Or know, at any rate.  Cooler than me, at least.

We did in the afternoon go to visit Marne's father, Mr. Bergman.  He looks like William Shatner.  His is the house with the trampoline.  He wasn't home yesterday.  His kind-hearted wife made us all pizza.  There was me and Marne and the kids.  And her younger brother, Billy Bergman, youth pastor and trampoline champ.

You should have seen this fellow bounce.  He is twenty-nine years old.  But as a rule he hangs out with teenagers.  It gives him a youthful glow.  And the laws of physics don't apply to him.  He's half monkey/half helium balloon.  And perpetually cheerful.  He radiates goodness and makes you want to be better than you are.

Maybe I am better than I am.  Or better than I thought I was.  I'll have to explore that in later days, when I am not among the Pure of Heart.  I am not sure whether the Smiths amplify my goodness or overwhelm it.

Or create it out of whole cloth.

Mom, Grandma, Mrs. Bergman, was very nice to me.  She new the details of my adventure.  The good woman's been reading my blog.  And had kind concerns about my comfort and safety.  It makes me blush but it's nice.  And, it bears mentioning, she does put together a truly spectacular pizza.

A lot of people think they can make pizza at home.  A lot of people are wrong.  But Good Mrs. Bergman does have the gift.  Man, that pizza was good.  And I very much appreciated the way she bullied me into eating as much as I wanted to but was afraid to admit.  Thank you!

Now Mr. Bergman should get his own essay.  This man is a hero of mine.  It takes a certain kind of man to let his boys dig a trampoline pit in the basement.  It took them three years, by the way.  Some credit does go to them.  But they inherited that odd dedication from somewhere.  Cheers to the whole happy family.

What particularly impressed me about Mr. Bergman is that he is an inventor.  He invented the Agri Speed Hitch, which lets you hook things up to your tractor without the danger and difficulty of standing in the mud, hoisting and setting pins.  Big deal, you say, city boy, so what, so what, so what.

Here's so what, smart guy.  His innovation, over the course of a year, saves tens of thousands of man hours and prevents countless injuries, minor and horrific.  His efforts, without question, have made the world a better place.  And in no vague way.  It is quantifiable.  Families are happier, the economy is stronger, people are better fed.  Farmers have more energy.  Their fingers go unsquashed.  And it all started in his barn.  An American innovation.  One young man with a welder, a bold idea and a dream.  Edison, Fulton, Alexander Graham.  Walt Disney and Steve Jobs.  He is in that class.  Not famous, perhaps.  But he should be.

And he was nice to me.  I felt kind of unworthy.  I have not yet made my mark.  But I'm not giving up.  I'll figure it out.  Someday.  Someday, perhaps.

I will tomorrow be back on the road.  One pill of a son is enough.  The Smiths are about exactly my own age.  I don't think they want to adopt me.  But with some bit of my heart I wish they would.  I rather like it here.  But I was the one who signed up for this nonsense.  Tomorrow I promise to walk.

A LOT OF MEN would be content just to look like Shatner, and never do anything else.

CHEERS, TOO, to Andrew, family friend.  I value comic genius.  Boy oughta be on SNL, I tell you what.

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