Tuesday, August 20, 2013

There's Been a Death in the Family.

*Look for a new posting most Tuesdays and Fridays*

Some of you have already heard that my daughter and occasional co-author of this blog, Amanda, lost one of her best friends Saturday morning.  That's what Frodo was to her; a good friend, a companion, a trusted confidant, her very own personal "shrink."  Frodo's place in Amanda's life had long ago risen above "pet" status.

When a "furry" friend acquires that status in one's life it becomes hard to tell who is really taking care of whom.  Does the act of purchasing and opening a can of Ken-L-Ration outweigh making your floppy ears available for scratching?  Is one's seemingly annoying bark not understood as a method for encouraging the other to go out and get some fresh air?  Is attentive listening less valuable than providing a fresh flea collar?

And what about the role our short-legged friends play in home security.  There's something to be said about exchanging a bag or two of milkbones for the peace of mind knowing that there is someone at home protecting all the "stuff."  Okay, so maybe a couple of times burglars snuck in during nap time and got a bit of loot, but we wouldn't really want someone to bleed to death for a five year old TV set, would we?

In times of sickness who really provided more care: Amanda with a trip to Barkstown Road for some special food, or Frodo making a pillow of himself and risking being squished to comfort someone who was sick in bed all day with a cold?

And what about entertainment?  Just think of the times Frodo has had to chase around after balls and sticks just to provide Amanda some physical exercise.  Without him a person could easily lose their throwing arm.  And without a warm tummy and floppy ears, a person's scratching fingers could atrophy and become useless for boring tasks, like typing and blog-writing.

Frodo will be greatly missed even when he was just resting from all his care-giving chores at the end of the sofa.  His very presence was a comfort.  His greatest concern now, and mine always, will be for Amanda and her grief as she adjusts to life without her companion.  

Frodo was lucky to have been a part of Amanda's life.  And Amanda was lucky to have been a part of his.  He will always exist in her heart.


The following sonnet is the second stanza of a poem by George Santayana, a tribute to his good friend WP.  Marty got this poem from Catherine LeDuke and in so doing started the poetry activity we carry on with Mother today.  Marty said she intends to include it as a part of the eulogy at my funeral.

It seems to me that the friendship between WP and George could not have been any stronger than the one shared by Amanda and Frodo and if it is deemed good enough for my eulogy then I'll share the honor with Frodo.

So with it I'll say "Good Bye, Frodo."

With you a part of me hath passed away;
For in the peopled forest of my mind
A tree made leafless by this wintry wind
Shall never don again its green array.
Chapel and fireside, country road and bay,
Have something of their friendliness resigned;
Another, if I would, I could not find,
And I am grown much older in a day.
But yet I treasure in my memory
Your gift of charity, and young hearts ease,
And the dear honour of your amity;
For these once mine, my life is rich with these.
And I scarce know which part may greater be,
What I keep of you, or you rob from me.


Jimmy LeDuke (I'd love to hear from you...feel free to comment below, or click HERE to send me an e-mail.)


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"My God, What Have We Done?"

*Look for a new posting most Tuesdays and Fridays*

Sixty-eight years ago this past Tuesday, the crew of the Enola Gay watched in awe as their payload detonated over the city of Hiroshima. "As the bomb exploded, we saw the entire city disappear," said Commander Robert Lewis. "I wrote in my log, 'My God, what have we done?'"

While I believe James Neville LeDuke felt similar angst about his small role as a Tech 4 Sargent stationed in Los Alomas, New Mexico in 1945, I never really engaged him in any discussions about that period of his life.  The end product of the Manhattan Project was generally looked at by most people as a necessary means to the end of WWII.  While I would not hesitate to take part in a friendly debate with any of my peers, I am not going to use this posting today to express my views, pro or con, on the subject of the Atomic Bomb.

Rather, I will continue to ramble on in my usual light-hearted manner to tell a little about what I have learned while sneaking around in Catherine LeDuke's house and confiscating her books, papers, and personal writings.  

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hiroshima -- The Connection

*Look for a new Posting most Tuesdays and Fridays*

 [This is a companion post to one from earlier today. Some of you have been waiting all day to learn the mystery of how Emily Dickinson is related to the bombing of Hiroshima.  If you're just joining us, check out Part I here.]

One of the greatest disappointments in my life is knowing how little I got to really know my father, James Neville LeDuke.  I have no one to blame but myself and perhaps a careless surgeon who misjudged how long to keep a  62-year-old man in the OR.  I sometimes find it hard to realize that I was only 34 when Daddy left us in August of 1977.

I graduated from High School in 1961, spent the next 5 years struggling to earn a college degree at Knoxville, and then accepted an invitation by my draft board to spend the next two years saving our country from the hands of Communism.  Thank you, thank you, we have all been spared the perils of Socialism today due to my assistance.  (...Or have we?? Nevermind...)

Upon returning to the "land of the free," I dove head-first into the task that all of us of our generation were encouraged to do; leave home, start a family, begin a career, and amass great wealth.  My only success would be that I did at least help get two beautiful daughters launched into the world.  

My biggest failure, I now realize, was how poorly I kept in touch with my parents.  Had I not had a wife during this period who was as good a letter writer as James Neville was, I would know even less about my father.

The point of this bit of auto-biographic rambling is to express how much I regret not having had meaningful conversations with by Dad about a wide variety of topics.  Granted, the list of subjects I would discuss with him has grown by leaps and bounds as a result of my snooping into his private files and letters.  But my imagination runs wild with the possibility that I could somehow spend all day tomorrow with him just talking, drinking coffee, and even offering him a cigarette or two.

Emily Dickinson and Hiroshima: What could they possibly have in common???

*Look for a new posting most Tuesdays and Fridays*

A good part of the fun that I have in rummaging through Catherine LeDuke's stuff is getting to share with family and friends some of the treasure hunting stories related to the more "interesting" discoveries I make.

Two facts are important to keep in mind as you read on to discover the meaning of the title of this posting: Emily Dickinson was one of mother's favorite poets and James Neville personally built the A-bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.  Only the first is actual fact; the latter is just LeDuke family lore.

Catherine LeDuke and James Neville had a great love for English Literature; especially poets and essayists of the nineteenth and early twentieth century.  The book shelves at 114 LeDuke Street are filled with classics; Emerson, Hawthorne, Irving, Hemingway, Whitman, Thoreau, and Catherine's ever-favorite Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Emily Dickinson.  None of the books in our possession are "First Editions" unfortunately, and all are so well-read that they are falling apart.

In the past several years while Amanda and I have been reading the daily letters written between James Neville and Catherine both before their 1936 marriage and during their WWII experience, we have come to appreciate even more how much these two fine teachers had in common.  Rarely a whole week ever went by without one of them mentioning a list of books being read.  And we came to look forward to mother's regular inclusions of a few lines of poetry and often whole sonnets as the mood often struck her.

In November of 1945 James Neville purchased a book of poetry by Emily Dickinson which was intended to be an anniversary present for Catherine.  James Neville had requested a two-week furlough for the middle of December and he would present this gift in person on December 23rd.  The book was entitled Bolts of Melody: previously unpublished poems by Emily Dickinson.