Thanks for the Memories


Swift July 30, 2007

Wayne Danielson

Thanks for the Memories

John 21: 18. Verily, verily I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither

thou wouldest; but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee,

and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

John 14; 16-28. If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you

another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;  Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot

receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall

be in you.  I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.

Not long ago, I had a dream. It took place in England in the 1930s.  In my dream, it was a pleasant

summer morning, and I was a young boy going off on a trip by myself—kind of like Harry Potter going to

school. I wore knickers, and I had a plaid shirt and a tan jacket on, and I carried a large leather bag with all

my things in it.  I was walking along a village road to the train station. All at once this boy I knew—a bully—

appeared in my path. He tried to stop me.  I tried to go around him, but he blocked the way.  I knew I had to

get to the station or I would miss my train. We began to push each other back and forth, and then we began

to fight in earnest.  He was hitting me hard and I was hitting him.  He got me in a bear hug and started

tossing me around. I fought back, with all of my might. And that’s when I fell out of bed.

I hit my head on the bedside table on the way down, and cut myself.   LaVonne

woke up and put a Band-Aid on and give me a bag of frozen peas to reduce the swelling. A nice-sized lump

appeared on my forehead anyway, but nothing was broken. I’m fortunate to have a hard Swedish head.

I spent the rest of the night thinking about that dream.  Why did it affect me so much? Why I was so

into it that I actually started wrestling with the pillow, and fell off the bed?

Toward morning, I solved the mystery. I decided it was a typical dream for me.  It was a dream about

the loss of freedom, the loss of mobility, the loss of personal power. It was a dream about no longer being

able to do the things I really wanted to do. It was a dream about being held back, counseled not to do this or

not to do that.

I was a Boy Scout once, and I’ve always clung to the values expressed in the Scout Law—A Scout

is courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, brave, clean and reverent and so on.  Only one law gave me trouble.

You’ve probably guessed which one it was.  It was obedient.  I’ve never been good at being obedient.

All right, I can be obedient enough on the surface to get by in polite society.  But underneath, I must

confess that most of the time I’m pretty much of a rebel.  Frank Sinatra’s song, “I Did It My Way,” should be

the national anthem as far as I’m concerned.

LaVonne knows of this character defect – it’s no secret after all—and she recognizes that the

possibility of changing me into a more agreeable person is remote.   She doesn’t complain about my

behavior—although she sometimes gives me a stern look at the airport when I go charging toward the gate

knocking little old ladies to one side or the other.  LaVonne grew up in a Lutheran family – she’s from

Minnesota and South Dakota Lutheran stock on her mother’s side—and I think Lutherans have better

manners than some of the Methodists I hung around with as a child. I imagine that I must be something of a problem.  But do you think most people enjoy being obedient? Do you enjoy being obedient? I just don’t.  I have a lot of trouble with obeying.

If I were running for president and the other candidate told me to concede, I’d say,  “No way.  You

concede.”  I wouldn’t be any different from Al Gore or George W. Bush.  It would take the Supreme Court to

make me concede.

The point is that the dream wasn’t just about catching the train.  It was about being held back,

restrained, blocked. It was, quite simply, about not being able to go where you want to go when you want to

go there.

The Book of John has this wonderful piece in it about Peter, the disciple of our Lord, and what would

happen to him.  In the verse Jesus says to Peter:

John 21: 18:

“I tell you truly, Peter, that when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you

liked, but when you are an old man, you are going to stretch out your hands and someone else will dress

you and take you where you do not want to go.”

And that’s the problem I have with growing older.  I’m like the aging Peter, I understand him. I know

how he felt. The prophesy of Jesus had come true. He was once the companion of Jesus Christ. Now, many

years later, Jesus, the center of his life, is gone, and he is just an old man being led around while people

say, “Look here.  He was one of them. This man right here.  He was Peter.”

Peter must have hated that.  He had been the first among the twelve. He was the one who first knew

who Jesus was. And now he was an old man being led around where he didn’t want to go. As we grow

older, the degrees of freedom in our lives seem to disappear, one by one.  And living can become very

difficult indeed.

The optimistic Robert Browning says in one of his poems:

Come, grow old along with me. The best of life is yet to be, The last of life, for which the first was made.

On some days when I think of these lines, I say to Robert Browning—

“You just run along and grow old by yourself, Bobby. I’m not ready just yet.”

Disobedient. Disobedient.

I’m like J. Alfred Prufrock, a character in what many critics call the greatest poem written in the 20th

century, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” 

Composed by the young American expatriate T.S. Eliot while he was a student at Oxford, this poem offers

deep insights into the feelings of older men and women. These lines attracted me when I was young.  Now

that I am older they have taken on an even deeper meaning:

I grow old ... I grow  old ...

I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.   ã I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

Like J. Alfred Prufrock, I have heard “the mermaids singing each to each,” and now I don’t hear them

anymore.  I wish I did.  But the reality is—age does come, and with age, restrictions come as well.  Freedom

diminishes little by little. And in our dreams a bully stands in our path, obstructing our movement, keeping us

from going where we want to go.

Years ago, I was invited to give a guest sermon at St. John’s Methodist Church in Austin. I took as

my text the famous verses from Luke 7: 27-33:

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you.

Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy

cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.

Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.

And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? For sinners also do even the


“This is a hard teaching,” I said. But this is our father’s business. This is what we must do.”

Later, I stood at the door of the church greeting the members of the congregation as they passed by

on their way to have lunch at McDonalds or Burger King.

One lady was bristling about my talk.

She shook my hand vigorously and tried to smile, but then she stopped and said:

“Young man” she said, “I know the Bible pretty well, and I know that it says that Jesus said that. But I

don’t agree with it one bit.  And when I get to heaven I intend to ask him about it.”

At the time, I thought that was funny and strange.  But I never forgot it.

And now, years later, I know exactly how she felt.

If someone hit her on one cheek she was going to hit him right back.  If someone asked for her coat

she was going to hang onto it for dear life.

She was disobedient, rebellious, I suppose. But the idealistic injunctions of Our Lord, which had

seemed reasonable enough to her when she was young, no longer seemed so reasonable to her. She was

after all at an age when someone was more likely to steal her purse, or her coat. Did she have to let them do


We are all distressed by the restrictions that come to us as we grow older.

They can become especially onerous to us at holiday times.  Then especially we often wish things

were different, the way they used to be.  We wish we could participate the way we used to participate. We

wish we could be at the center of all the activity—decorating, cleaning, bustling about, shining the silver,

polishing the brass, ordering everyone to do this or that. We wish we could be in control again, be the boss

again. But we’re not at the center of the action now. Now more often than not we are mere observers on the

side rather than vital participants in the middle.

On this Thanksgiving Day we probably won’t get to make the dressing for the turkey exactly the way

we want to. We’ll have to take whatever appears on our plate, and say, “Thank you for the lovely—oyster

dressing is it?  I’ve always wanted to try that.” And we’ll have to say, “Thank you for the lovely—er—

cranberry and crab meat sauce. Did you get that recipe from Martha Stuart?”

Holidays can become a little grim.  And we we may say to ourselves – “God, exactly why are you

doing this to me?  Don’t you think you could lighten up a little?”

It is then, I think, that God often sends the Holy Spirit to us bearing in his arms  -- our memories.

We have lots of them.

And when things get tough we can resort to them.

Amid the strange goings on, we can kick back in our chairs and let our eyes glaze over and

remember, remember ....

The thing I like about baking bread is that it’s almost impossible to make a mistake.

Making bread is simple.

You just take flour and water and salt and yeast and mix it up, pound on it for a while, let it rise, form

it into loaves, let it rise again and bake it—usually as fast and hot as you can.

Out of those ordinary ingredients you almost always get a great tasting product.

The priest who wrote The Secrets of Jesuit Bread Making says that you must never eat bread right

out of the oven.  In my opinion, that’s just wrong.  No one who has just baked a loaf of bread and taken it hot

out of the oven and sniffed its wonderful, homey smell can resist breaking off a piece and eating it while it is

still hot.

I don’t care if the Pope himself told me not to do it, I would still do it. I guess I’m just a Methodist at

heart. I’m a protestant.  But I don’t think God would have made hot bread taste and smell so good if he didn’t

intend for us to eat it right out of the oven.

I can’t help it.

The other day I was home grading papers. I was hungry, and there wasn’t anything to eat in the

house that appealed to me.  I decided to make some French bread.

It took about a hour and a half from start to finish, and as I went through the ritual of mixing and

kneading and waiting for the dough to rise and making loaves and marking them with seven slashes and

letting them rise again, I kept getting hungrier and hungrier.

When the piping hot loaves came out of the oven, I put them on wire racks to cool while I made a

cup of coffee.  But as soon as I could I broke open a crusty loaf—illegally warm and delicious—and I ate

half of it. As I snarfed up homemade French bread and black coffee, I thought it was the best meal I had

ever had.

And I thanked God that my Momma had taught me how to bake bread when I was a little boy, and I

had remembered it all my life.  As I ate, I thought about my mother in her simple Iowa kitchen, with oil cloth

on the table, and newly washed dishes draining on the sink, and bread baking in the oven, and me sitting at

the table reading a book and waiting for the baking to be done.  while mother, never still, sat near the

window darning socks. It was just mother and me that day. Outside the house the winter wind moaned and

snow fell, but inside in Momma’s kitchen we were warm and protected, well fed and happy. 

Thanks, God, for the memories.

When things get tough, when we think we can’t go on much longer, God sends us -- memories.

I remember making cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving dinner.

We had an old meat grinder screwed to the top of the kitchen table.  Down below was a bowl to

catch the juice and the cranberries. We poured the ingredients into the grinder—whole cranberries—cut up

oranges, peels and all—sugar

nuts.  As I turned the handle on the grinder, the sauce came pouring out—bright red, with pieces of

orange peeking through, and juice spattering the table and running down onto the floor. The aroma  filled the

kitchen—the crisp clean smell of the cranberries and the tang of the oranges. It was delicious. Put aside to

ripen during the day, the cranberries became by dinner time a magnificent blend of flavors and textures, just

right with the stuffing and the turkey. Homemade cranberry sauce is delicious.

Thanks, God, for the memories.

Old age has its problems, as the preacher Ecclesiastes, observed in his gloomy diatribes.

Ecclesiastes 1:14-18.

I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. That which is crooked c   µannot be made straight; and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.

I communed with mine own heart saying Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more

wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom

and knowledge.

And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is

vexation of spirit.

For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

Ecclesiastes goes on and on about how depressing it is to grow old, but at the end of it, he

remembers something simple and correct:

Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun.

At the end of it, he thanked God for the memories that comforted him.

Sometimes we may feel diminished, a little stiff and sore in the morning, more restricted than we like,

more rebellious, and not obedient, not obedient at all.

But when things are well along the way toward becoming unbearable, we can ease back, and shut

our eyes, and let people around us say, “Look, grandpa is sleeping,” when we’re really not.  And, with God’s

help, we can remember:

We can remember going to the football game, when climbing to our seats in the stands was no

problem at all. No problem. We can remember one game in particular  -- how cold we were, bundled up in

blankets, sitting close together, stealing each other’s warmth, yelling and screaming like teenagers,

laughing, hollering at the officials, saying the coach must be crazy to play that young quarterback, and then,

amazingly, that young quarterback throws a pass—a long, long pass. It soars high and true toward one

player in the middle of a crowd of defenders in the end zone—and he leaps—leaps high in the air—and he

catches the ball—and he comes down with it—and it is wonderful --  the most wonderful pass that has ever

been thrown—the stands empty—and the game is over.  Driving home in the dark and rainy night, we say

over and over again, “That was a wonderful catch.  I’ve never seen anything like it in my whole life. I never

thought he could do it.  I’ll remember that pass forever.”

Now many years have gone by. And we have remembered it, haven’t we? And remembering

reminds of other good things in our lives – the things that God has given us that help us to be who we are. 

God sends comfort.

Thanks, God, for the memories.

The words of the communion service put it this way:

It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks

unto Thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God.

We should give thanks at all times and in all places. And at this time of year we should be truly

thankful for the memories that sustain us, uphold us, encourage us, and restore us to our rightful minds.

.. I grow old ... I grow old ...

I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

Kermit the Frog says, “It’s not easy being green.”

And some of us say, “It’s not easy growing older.”

Feeling disobedient, rebellious and cantankerous often goes along with the process.

Sometimes it gets pretty bad for us, and, let’s face it, for our families.

When those times occur, I think it is good to remember that God has not left us comfortless.  Just as

John wrote in his book, the Lord has sent us his Holy Spirit to comfort us.  He has sent him to us bearing

memories. Thanks, God, for the memories.

Thanks for the Memory

Shep Fields

Words and music by Leo Rubin and Ralph Rainger.  Introduced in the film “Big Broadcast of 1938” by Bob

Hope and Shirley Ross, it was adopted by Hope as his theme song.

Thanks for the memory

Of candlelight and wine, castles on the Rhine The Parthenon and moments on the Hudson River Line How

lovely it was!

Thanks for the memory

Of rainy afternoons, swingy Harlem tunes And motor trips and burning lips and burning toast and prunes

How lovely it was!

Many’s the time that we feasted

And many’s the time that we fasted

Oh, well, it was swell while it lasted

We did have fun and no harm done

And thanks for the memory

Of sunburns at the shore, nights in Singapore You might have been a headache but you never were a bore

So thank you so much.

Thanks for the memory

Of sentimental verse, nothing in my purse And chuckles when the preacher said “For better or for worse”

How lovely it was

Thanks for the memory

Of lingerie with lace, Pilsner by the case And how I jumped the day you trumped my one-and-only ace How

lovely it was!

We said goodbye with a highball

Then I got as “high” as a steeple

But we were intelligent people

No tears, no fuss, Hooray! For us

So thanks for the memory

And strictly entre-nous, darling how are you?

And how are all the little dreams that never did come true?

Aw’flly glad I met you, cheerio, and toodle-ooo And thank you so much.