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Archive for March, 2013

There is a road

that runs straight through your heart.

Walk on it.

(Macrina Wiederkehr, “Seasons of Your Heart”)

The top of my stove needs a good scrubbing. It wears the residue of dinner, at least the splattering from it. I’m amazed at how much it wants to remain adhered to the surface, like a memory: a trauma perhaps, or a life changing event.

Instead of staying with these thoughts I think about the joy I’ve had preparing special foods on this surface. I have created my own recipes, many that worked. I have also followed the directions in a cookbook, then dumped the result into the garbage, like the time I added baking soda instead of corn starch to a cherry pie filling. That caused one bubbling mess before I realized what I had done wrong. The clue came when I saw an unopened box of cornstarch on my counter. It helps to smile at my own foibles. After all, no one, except the cook, suffered from that experience.

The word suffered brings me back to my original concerns. Some folk I love are hurting. And I can’t scrub out their problems with elbow grease and a steel wool pad. I can diffuse the energy that binds me by cleaning—praying all the way. Somehow, that helps. Don’t know how, but it does.

You can’t change anyone but yourself. Not a new concept. But haven’t most of us tried, in one way or another? “Shoulding” all over someone leads to frustration. Distant silence translates into I-don’t-care. How, just how, do you find a way of letting people find answers? I listen. Yes, but it feels so helpless sometimes.

Eventually, as I scrub, I look outside and see the trees covered with snow. It’s the end of March. That isn’t out-like-a lamb, the way spring is expected to appear. Mother Nature doesn’t need permission from the calendar. The branches create an incredible, random pattern of white, one that won’t remain forever. Spring will arrive. At least it always has. The snow on the street has already melted.

The passageway out has opened. Now that the stove shines again, I look for the road that runs through my heart. It considers the possibility of miracles. They could happen. Maybe not. In the meantime, I release all choices that are not mine, and whisper love without judgment for someone special to me. The gray lifts as the sun peeks through, just a little. Hope. No promises.

I accept that as enough, for now, and take a stroll through the road that passes directly into my heart.

walking in the light

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The future is there…looking back at us. Trying to make sense of the fiction we will have become. (William Gibson)

I have just picked up Kate from school on the Friday of Kate’s ninth birthday party. We are on our way to get her little sister, Rebe, at her baby sitter’s house.

“Remember when I was in pre-school, Grandma?” Kate remarks. “You used to pick me up every day.”

My brain has an overflow valve. When it gets full, memories leak out. But this scenario is most unlikely. When Kate was four-years-old I worked in a hospital pharmacy. Sure, on Fridays, my day off, Kate and I went to the library for story-time, but that was not a daily event. I tell her so.

“Uh uh, I remember it.”

Apparently that time at the library expanded in her short-life’s memory data base. Books, a delightful children’s librarian, and Grandma must have been important to her. Somehow I don’t feel compelled to argue about facts, details. Her emotions surrounding that Friday event remain solid, valid, despite exaggeration. Some other day we will explore reality.

Recently my husband, Jay, and I traveled with another couple to Grantsville, West Virginia, where he and his friend since high school visited in the late 1960s. They stayed at a hotel owned by a navy friend of Jay’s. Our traveling team had no expectation of reliving those days; the hotel closed and the owner died several years ago. However, Jay’s friend had wanted to return to the area. The trip was a pilgrimage of sorts.

The charm of Grantsville  has remained, population listed on the 2010 census as 562. It went up to 563 in 2011. Grantsville is located in the heart of West Virginia, the quintessential small town. I knew where we were going to stop for lunch when I saw the sign on the local restaurant: Come in as strangers. Leave as friends.

The first person we met, at a small local museum, had an eerie resemblance to the hotel owner when he was younger. However, he said he is not related to the owner in any way. The hotel is set for demolition. I’d hate to think we went back into time—via Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone series that aired from 1959 to 1964.

Since we left intact, I’m pretty sure we didn’t journey into another dimension. The parking meters, however, did belong to another time, a pleasant surprise. Jay pulled a quarter from his pocket. There was no slot for it, only for nickels and dimes.

Therefore, I had to have a photo of that meter. Someday we can say, “Remember in 2013 when we stopped in that town and got 1 ½ hours’ worth of parking for 15 cents?”

Actually, I’d much rather recall snuggling with my grandchildren on the day of Kate’s birthday party—and maybe even exaggerate the heck out of how long that time had been. A little equal time in the false-memory game is fair play.

parking meter Grantsville WV March 2013

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Nothing is better than simplicity (Walt Whitman, 1855 “Preface to Leaves of Grass”)

As Rebe stuffs a cloth doll under her shirt I know she is Mommy and I am Daughter. Again.

“When’s the baby going to be born, Mommy?”

She changes her mind several times. First the birth will occur on Tuesday, then Saturday, then Sunday. All the while, Mommy shifts baby’s position, not down, but up—as high as chest level.

Somehow I refrain from laughing. After all, I’m either three or five-years-old and couldn’t understand the absurdity of a bumpy-chested pregnancy. Pretend mommy keeps changing her mind about my age. Doesn’t matter. I’m in this game to celebrate my granddaughter’s simplicity for at least a little while. It is a precious invitation.

The birth occurs in a hospital, suddenly, appearing directly from an imaginary car to a bed. Mother drives herself, by the way. And three-or-five-year-old daughter is present for the entire experience. A C-section. Mommy doesn’t know that word, obviously, but she knows the baby needs to appear somehow.

“The doctor has to cut my belly,” Rebe says. “Then he has to put me back together again with a needle. That’s the tricky part.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“She cuddles the doll with genuine maternal instinct.”

“Where’s Daddy?” I ask.

“He’s the doctor.”

“Right.” I nod. “That’s why he couldn’t stay. Because he is so busy.”

“He is also the nurse.”

I bite my lip, and then add, “Really, really busy.”

“He also does the laundry.”

I want to ask if she means the laundry at home or in the hospital, but I can feign a serious face for only so long.

“So is the baby a boy or a girl?”

“A boy.”

“Have you decided what we are going to name my little brother?”

She thinks for a minute, and then says, “PBS Kids.”

Uh, I have a brother named PBS Kids. I am known as Daughter. It’s too bad Dad is so busy as doctor, nurse, and laundry worker. Maybe he would have chosen more conventional names.

Rebe hands me my newborn brother, a cloth doll with eyes that don’t close, dressed in pink frills, and further humiliated by being forced to wear a diaper made of a facial tissue and Scotch tape. Sure I have imagination, plenty of it. But, it isn’t pure like my five-year-old granddaughter’s.

I have a to-do list for the rest of the week that would be too much for the next two months. But, right now, I can forget about all that and spend time with a little girl who won’t be small forever.

save the kid in you

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The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be either good or evil. (Hannah Arendt)

Computers fascinate my granddaughter Ella. She knows how to maneuver the icons on her Samsung Galaxy tablet, and her small fingers move with alarming speed from screen to screen. Sure, her tripled chromosome adds learning challenges. However, since she creates an atmosphere of joy wherever she goes, her efforts spread courage, too.

If Ella can work harder to reach a goal, so can I.

Since I have experienced the wonder and beauty of a child with Down syndrome, I wince when someone uses the R-word, that taunt that ends in a d. It is not used by the medical community, only by the unthinking. (By the way, Ella is a child with Down syndrome, not a Down syndrome child; the difference may appear subtle, but it isn’t. She is first a person, and second, she is a child who has a challenge to overcome. Also,  the word syndrome is not capitalized unless it is part of a title, such as the Down Syndrome Association where the emphasis is on an organization, not a person.)

Grammar, however, is secondary. An understanding of people is what matters.

Today is the day to pledge to end the r-word:   http://www.r-word.org/

Many folk who have handicaps have more determination than college graduates. Actually, with help from the caring, some people with special needs have earned college diplomas.

So, today, right now, replace that put-down word with respect. It goes a lot further and delivers a lot more truth.

r words

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Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. (William James)

Five-year-old Rebecca knows the days of the week now, and she knows I pick her up from preschool whenever I can on Wednesdays. However, the message didn’t get through the system today, and the kids lined onto the buses a minute or two earlier than usual. Since the parents and grandparents have to wait outside, this freeze-cat grandmother waited in the car until the last minute.

Rebe sees me from her bus. She had already told the bus driver, “Grandma could be coming.” All turns out well. I am known at the school and my appearance is part of an established routine. However, I am glad the confusion happened because it is concrete evidence of how important I am to this little girl. She told all her friends, including her favorite bus driver, she was spending the day with Grandma.

Rebe grins. Fun time begins. A stop at the grocery that should take five minutes requires twenty because Rebe sits in a car cart, her taxi, and we stop in the wider sections of the store to pick up and drop off imaginary passengers.

When I bring her home she becomes the mother and I am the child, always an interesting scenario.

“I’m going to have a baby,” she says as she pats her cousin’s cloth doll, positioned under her shirt. “Today.” The delivery, of course, is simple. She pulls the infant out from under her shirt. No hospital admission. No paperwork. No bed necessary, really.

“So what is the baby’s name?” I ask.

“She doesn’t have one yet. She was just born.”

At least we know the baby is a girl. “Oh, well then how about Emily, Grace, or Mary?”

Rebe looks at me with complete seriousness: “Hadalittlelamb.”

“The baby’s name is Hadalittlelamb?”

“Yes.”

Do not laugh. Smiling is okay. But the full-blown guffaw is forbidden. “Okay.”

“We can go home now.” All life is shortened and edited in Rebe’s imaginary world. I don’t always know where we are in it, however.

“I’ll go get the baby’s car seat. Okay, Mom?”

Apparently I made the right choice. It’s hard to tell with a child’s fluctuating imagination. But Rebe forgives me for not reading her mind in the world of pretend. After all I’m pretty rusty at it.

I do know that there will be Wednesdays when I won’t be able to be at school for a variety of reasons, so she will have to ride the bus to her babysitter’s house. My little girl will need to know—in advance.

Yet, somehow, I feel like I will be missing something on those days, too. We’ll catch up on the next week. She won’t be little forever, and my wrinkles deepen just a little bit more every day. May I savor every precious moment.

pic from What Makes My Heart Sing

from What Makes My Heart Sing

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