• Nora Koch

Updated: Aug 19, 2019

April 5, 2018

“We could get a table easier if we sat together.” This was the proposal of the well-dressed woman ahead of me in line, as I waited to be seated in the dining area of the National Gallery. So I agreed. I didn’t have much money, but I preferred a small amount of good food in a nice restaurant to bad food in a fast food place. We did get a table sooner. She was from New York and was fascinated to learn that I, from a small town in the Midwest, was in graduate school in Iowa. I think she felt sorry for me with my pitiful blow of soup, and insisted that I take half of her (very delicious) pâté. We had a pleasant hour together.

This reminded me of the year leading up to entrance into graduate school when I was working for the state of Wisconsin which at that time offered its employees exemplary insurance coverage. I’d been suffering from unrelenting hives and I went weekly to Turtle Island Health Center in St. Paul for acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments (Bob Dylan and Sting went there too). The treatment, in addition to a complete overhaul of my diet, did away with the hives and I never felt healthier. While I was in St. Paul each Wednesday for several months, between morning and afternoon treatments, I ate at St. Martin’s table in the West Bank area of Minneapolis where one could share a common table with strangers. I loved doing this, eating with strangers.

I was in Washington D.C. because I’d received a free plane ticket from the airlines due to a missed connection on a flight from Hartford Connecticut the previous summer; something that would never happen now. I knew immediately how I would use it – my friends, who I had just been visiting in Massachusetts, were spending a year in Washington D.C. on sabbatical beginning that fall. I spent a week visiting them there.

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  • Nora Koch

Updated: Aug 15, 2019

March 15, 2018

In three short years we crossed from what looking back seems like Eden, to a very different world. Of course, we lived in the world on the farm, but life changed dramatically when we left it. Cracks had begun to appear in the façade of innocence both in our life and in our country before we left. I clearly remember lying on the floor in front of the television when the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. My dad clicking his tongue in disapproval, stated “Look at that hair.” I was entranced. Though they broke up in 1969, it was not until years later on December 8, 1980, while driving up North Main Street in River Falls, hearing on the radio that John Lennon had been shot and killed, I realized an era was over for good.

In 1965 we left the farm and the Beatles came with me. When I was lonely I’d listen to their music or read about them. My cousin and I exchanged frequent letters in which we contributed to an on-gong evolving fictitious story about them. In 1966, when John Lennon stated at a press conference that they were more popular than Jesus (he was appalled by it), my parents reacted and forced me to get rid of all my Beatle albums. I went underground with them and took them to my cousin’s house until the heat died down, then clandestinely brought them back. Rebellion and deception had begun.

During this same time, the United States was digging itself deeper and deeper into the Vietnam War, Riots were breaking out across America, free love was emerging and revolution was in the air. Enamored by all of this, I wanted badly to go to San Francisco and be part of what was happening. We began to watch reports of the Vietnam War on TV every night.  Protesting students got killed at Kent state by American soldiers.

Having in many ways left their identity on the farm, my parents were now working away from home. I went to five different schools in a row. My family and our country were in flux; I was just entering adolescence. 

But my parents brought our horses with us wherever we went, finding places in the country for us to live and renting space for them when we had to temporarily live in the city Oshkosh, for a while. This fact amazes me. They had very little money, no longer had easy access to hay and a barn, yet found it essential that we have our companions. I will be forever grateful to them for that sacrifice.

My constants were family, our horses, the Beatles and church.

Eventually life settled down for my family, but not for me.

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  • Nora Koch

Updated: Aug 19, 2019

March 13, 2018

Peter working on a drawing of Tom Loome, 2012.

“Have you ever been looked at by Tom?” This is the question I put to Jillian on Sunday when we were talking about the impending demise of my beloved teacher. She nodded in affirmation. Anyone who has been will likely not forget it.

Nearly ten years ago I’d written “You have the kindest eyes,” on a sheet of paper set out for all to comment while celebrating his retiring from book selling. I was flattered to have been invited to the celebration, intimidated by his position, intellect and education. This remark was the best I could muster; my usual kind of remark. 

Now Tom is slowly being taken from us – much more slowly than he would prefer and his look is still as intense and searching as ever. As we are visiting him I lean into his whisper as he struggles to speak, casting about in the labyrinth of his mind – going into the mystery of who he is and where he is going, into perfect truth. That kind eye locks onto mine, a piercing, intelligent eye, a faithful eye that I encountered over twenty years before, when he was giving a presentation about his faith, soon after I’d  come to the church, long before I was his Catechism student. I never forgot that look and never dreamed it would be cast on me with any kind of familiarity.

He asks me a question; I give him a thoughtful answer. He says he disagrees with me. I say “I’m not surprised.” As we leave I tell him “I love you.” He says “and I, you.”

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