Tuesday, June 23, 2009


So, it turns out people want last year's hero clicks as much as they want last year's cell phone. Just in case, Dad is carefully cataloguing them, and storing each collection in its own separate baggie. During his work, he discovered some interesting (though probably not surprising) facts:

All female hero clicks have big gazangas.

The heroines, while well-endowed, are fully covered. The villainesses all have low-cut dresses.

In amongst the collection there are some surprising figures. Dad is particularly taken by the penguin hero clicks. Dad loves penguins. He wishes he could have one as a pet. He'd take it for walks, holding it by the flipper. He'll be saving out at least one of those pieces.

There are also rabbit hero clicks. We really don't understand this game.

None of us were quite ready to part with James' big yellow crocs, the ones that earned him the name Big Bird from his (our) friend Jenny. They're in pretty good shape still, but they were too big for me, Mom and Mary. They fit Dad nicely though. He's not likely to wear them out in public as James did, but even that is possible. His red high-topped Converse are already something of a legend on campus. I hadn't put it together until now: that's where James came by his Converse fascination.

Mom and I took what we hope will be the penultimate load of stuff to Goodwill today, but of course gauging that sort of thing is always risky. We think there will be only one more load.

A close friend of ours, Tom Mullen, died on saturday, at the age of 74, from a stroke. His family and ours were entwined in several ways. His older daughters were close friends of Mary's (I thought of them as additional older sisters). His son Brett and daughter Ruth were both friends of mine and James'. His late wife Nancy was a loving presence in our lives, taking as much interest and joy in our doings as she did in those of her own children's.

Tom was an accomplished man, graduating from Earlham in '56 (several of his student pranks still live in the Earlham oral tradition), then Yale Divinity School, then back to Earlham where he was dean of students, then professor of applied theology, then Dean of the Earlham School of Religion. He wrote books on faith and religion that were known for their humor. He was a smart, loving, principled man who made Earlham, and Richmond, better places. But those aren't the things that immediately spring to my mind with Tom. My first thought is, he was a hoot. Tom was a funny guy. Like many dads, he was particularly fond of tormenting his children, embarrassing them in public whenever he could. Sarah and Martha remember leaving for summer camp, and having their father chase the bus, screaming "they're taking my babies, they're taking my babies!" On another occasion, a close relative asked him please to wear a tie when she introduced him to her fiance. On the day, Tom dutifully showed up wearing a tie over his t-shirt and shorts.

As de facto daughter, Mary came in for some ribbing early on, and when Tom learned she gave as good as she got, he was thrilled. They lovingly sparred for the next forty-odd years. I'm sad to say I hadn't seen him in years, but the rest of the family got to see him one last time, when he came to give his condolences two weeks ago. Like many folks, he had a wealth of James stories (which, as you can imagine, are especially appreciated right now), and he told several of them, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying. He mentioned that James and his first wife Nancy became fond of doing jigsaw puzzles together. Mom and Mary opined that James must have bored her at times, but Tom said "Nancy Mullen didn't bore. And she certainly wasn't bored by James." Brief pause. "He bored me sometimes."

That epitomizes Tom beautifully for me, him coming to offer tears, humor and comfort in equal measure to his friends. We say good bye to him on Saturday, then to James on Sunday. We're all grateful to have a chance to offer what comfort we can to a family who has been so quick to help us in similar circumstances. I'm feeling the ties of this community very deeply right now.


Birdie said...

It is a well-known fact that good girls do not know what sex is, only bad girls do. Thus the hero click costumes. (By the way, Ben loves the crystal diamond.)

The physical minutiae of someone's life dissipates, but the memories grow and intertwine with others' shared remembrances. Home is where you need to be right now, re-establishing you roots and being fed. My condolences for your friend Tom, who sounds like a lovely gentleman.

Java said...

The memories are golden.

I agree with Birdie, home is where you need to be. You all need to nourish and comfort each other.

I hope that the service for James on Sunday is a healing experience for all of you.

Java said...

And ya' know, I would like to have a giraffe as a pet. Perhaps your father and I can walk our penguin and giraffe together. Wouldn't that be the talk of the town! The four of us, wandering through the streets of Richmond. I will get a pair of Converse shoes for the occasion. I'll go with a different color, though, not the red.

Marta said...

gordon recently commented to me that earlham is a beautiful place sometimes, and i know it's true. i'm sorry about yet another loss, but glad you're in the midst of so much love. thanks again for sharing. i've been painting all day -- our new (gay!) pastor, who starts in august -- and thinking a lot about you (painting is very meditative for me). much love, marta

Greg said...

I'm glad you are there, in the midst of such a loving and friend-full community, pal. There is great comfort to be found there. Sorry to hear about Tom.

TThorn said...

Thanks for sharing so warmly and openly about James and Tom Mullen. It leaves a great feeling. Mary is right; through is the only way.

RichT said...

I really appreciate this and all your other blogs about James. Even with the facial hair he still looks like the little kid that used to carry that stuffed lion around with him (Rupert? Basil?)

We (the Thompson's) were devastated to hear about James. It was less than two years ago that I saw how wonderfully your parents comforted my folks after my sister died. Even though I've also lost a sibling, I won't pretend to know everything you're going through. I do know that it's fruitless to look for fairness in any of this though.

As it turns out, my oldest son Andrew is very similar to how I remember James as a grade schooler. Although his mini-lectures and odd fixations can be maddening at times, my world is a far better place because of him.

Although I wasn't nearly as nice to James (or to you for that matter) as I should have been, I am a better person for having known him and for being your friend for all those years.

My wife Vicky and I wish you nothing but the best.

Marta said...

i've just learned from google that 1) those figures are "heroclix" 2) that it's a good thing micah hasn't heard of them yet 3) micah and james would definitely have gotten along and 4) the six-year-old version appears to be "bakugon," a phenomenon about which i am completely mystified, but to which micah is completely devoted. xo marta