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September 30, 2010

Close Call




Grandpap Clarence was one of five children born to John and Agnes Gorinski. John slaved for years in the coke ovens of Mammoth Pennsylvania. Owed his soul to the company store. While Andrew Carengie and Henry Frick are heralded as great philanthropists over southwestern PA and throughout the world, pap John died of black lung at a young age. Nobody wrote about him on Wikipedia.

Clarence watched and learned, apparently. There would be no coke ovens for him. He grew up and served in World War II before resuming his plans of marrying Margaret Sivak (Maggies namesake). Together they headed off to Penn State University where he played football and pursued teaching. When I was about eight years old, I found a sword on the upper shelf of a closet in their attic. Heavy, almost Lord of the Rings style. It may or may not have been used in ground combat. Pap preferred to not say much about it.

The details are sketchy to me, but my father and two uncles retell a story from when the world was at war. A Company of soldiers slept somewhere in the rolling hills of Europe. Waking to the flash of gunfire as the only light, Clarence struggled to take cover. The zipper on his sleeping bag was stuck, leaving him exposed in the open. With the sound of fighter plane engines and machine gun bullets pelting the ground all around him, Clarence rolled under an army Jeep and writhed his way to...freedom and life.

My dad has a few close call stories of his own; better stories than I do. Mine mostly involve near-misses with fireworks and driving, both seperate and together.

The Discovery Channel has a fairly engaging (or distracting) new show called I Shouldn't Be Alive. But given the astronomical improbabilities of any single persons existence, really, who should be alive? Yet here we are. And here I am, reflecting on all the close calls you see while looking down just one branch of my family tree. I'm sure that every branch of every family has it's legendary close calls and auspicious happenstance. All of such stories exist only in hindsight (for you don't read blogs written by the grandchildren of men who were killed in WWII). I believe this is the realm of nothing but Divine Grace.

This does not mean that God specifically intervened to protect my grandfather so that someday I might live to type about it. If that's true, you also have to believe that God chose to withhold miraculous intervention on behalf of Paps fallen comrades. I don't think that's the case. But I'm pretty sure that it's by Gods grace that any of us are here, given the chance to make our own choices and decisions that shape the future. I do believe that sometimes, rarely, you do have to stand up to injustice and make war to make peace. But on a typical, daily basis, we should have little room for bickering and hate and ungratefullness.

Again I should mention that we ARE here. The fact that something has never been created from nothing is part of the reason why I think close calls and family trees and love point to God and not blind physics, whatever the details may be.

What will Amy and I and our own crew look like in 10 or 100 years? There will be joy and fun and sorrow and hardship; hopefully far more of the former than the latter. We're blessed. These are good times. Even so, with a decision, a meeting, a relationship, a step in one direction and not the other, an X or a Y, the look changes drastically. Realizing this without having any idea of what or how is a bit frustrating for a worrier and over-thinker.

I'm compelled to pray, listen, and trust. The closest calls are the most meaningful. And they aren't ours.

September 19, 2010