Archive for December, 2013

One eye sees, the other feels. (Paul Klee)

This year will probably be the last one for our artificial Christmas tree. The bottom lower branch no longer lights. Our angel has toppled so many times she lies, as if exhausted, at the base. She is supposed to be reigning from above. Maybe she is afraid of heights. I suspect that is better than being a fallen angel.

My husband and I celebrate the full twelve days of the season, even if those days include the ordinary chores of laundry, rug-scrubbing, and bill-paying. Holiday music plays in the background. The greatest celebrations include a full day with our grandchildren.

On December 26 Miss Rebe pretended to be mommy-having-a-baby. Her imagination swelled as she followed that experience with a brain, and then a heart transfer with her newborn. None of these moments fit into anything resembling real life. However, Rebe did understand that surgery includes cutting followed by blood. Even in play young people recognize suffering.

“Don’t look, Daughter,” she told me. Of course within seconds the transformation had occurred and been reversed—several times. In a kindergartener’s world magic slips into the ordinary as easily as wind blows through an open window.

Somehow Rebe’s fantasy touched something real. Physical brain and heart transfers don’t exist beyond imagination. Empathy does. Answers may not come in easy packages. Time may not heal. In-a-better-place isn’t always the best response. Yet a quiet soul and listening ear can speak in unexpected, healing ways.

Most holiday seasons are tainted in some ways; that’s the nature of anything that has created form. This December has been filled with sadness, illness, and tragedy. I have seen friends and acquaintances suffer. Some have died, suddenly, at a moment when the lights were expected to be brightest. Instead they extinguished.

After her imagined ordeal Rebe told Daughter it was time to go home. Apparently she had returned into pretend-mommy mode. Baby, yet unnamed, lay tucked in the crook of her arm. We were on our way. She didn’t say where.

But then, life’s journeys aren’t mapped anyway.

pic from the Optimism Revolution

love tainted world Optimism Revolution

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Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. (Maria Robinson)

Our family waits for the arrival of my husband’s mother and sister. They live six-hours west of us where nine inches of snow is possible. Jay’s mother, Mary, is 93-years-old. One of her daughters is driving her into town for a funeral. Mary’s sister has died and she is the last living person in her family.

As soon as the travelers arrive I let my sons know. We are concerned; Mary can barely stand. Yet, her heart remains rooted strong in family.

Part of Mary’s agenda includes plans for her own funeral. I’m familiar with the process, although I have never done it with the honoree  present. Mary’s other daughter has material handy for us to view. Whenever my mother-in-law shows emotion I know we are on the right track. When she says, “How do I know? I won’t be there,” I realize the mechanics of planning may be present; however, heart isn’t. She adds that she doesn’t want a eulogy that praises her; it should praise God. She also wants humor.

I suggest asking my older son, Greg, both a stand-up comic and a man active in his church community. The conversation drifts into a discussion of his latest book, “Open Mike,” the tightness of his style. She grins, proud, and laughs with us. A suggestion is made to complete the outline. “So, who do you want to do your eulogy?” But I sense a return to how do I know? I won’t be there.

Let our list of whats, wheres, and whens be sufficient as we return to the moment, to life as it is. Now. More family members arrive, just what Mary needs as an extrovert’s extrovert.

I think about the struggle I’ve had in the past few months with a pesky virus that is only now beginning to subside, even though my soprano has been knocked out by a throat as dry as desert-baked sand. A little alto sneaks out occasionally, but it is weak and inconsistent.  I realize that this is nothing in comparison to the suffering many people experience. No one is invincible, although as a young person I certainly lived as if I were.

Somehow I expected to be in my twenties forever, slender without needing exercise and diet control. Possibilities lay ahead of me—but I rarely chose them. Tomorrow would always be there, or so I thought. Those days will never return. Nevertheless, this moment lives, ready to be seized.

In my last blog I mentioned how three words, consider the source, became valuable advice from my father. My mother-in-law showed me how rich grandparent bonding could become. Since I worked in hospital pharmacy my hours didn’t fit a Monday through Friday schedule. I was off Fridays and asked to watch my first granddaughter on that day even though my son and daughter-in-law already had child care. I have never regretted that choice.

In fact my gift has tripled. I now have three grandchildren. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t think about my granddaughters. Somehow even a Cheerio in the couch cushion isn’t the irritation it could be when I consider the source, a beautiful blonde four-year-old girl with a smile that could light the city.

I have no idea what legacy I will leave my sons and granddaughters, but I’m not sure the spiritual can be weighed anyway. I prefer to live this moment and build upon the next, with as much gratitude as I can manage. Today. Tomorrow isn’t promised.

more beginnings than endings PIQ

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Learning is weightless, a treasure you can always carry easily. (Chinese proverb)

The anniversary of my father’s death was this week. One of the gifts he gave me is a phrase he repeated during my teens: “Consider the source.” Like most adolescents I didn’t have a clear notion of who I was. Every critical word ate through me as if it were acid. I reveled in J.D. Salinger’s coming of age novels. Romance bored me. I wanted to read about people who saw the world from a unique perspective. I wondered why I was so different, and didn’t realize that my self-questioning probably wasn’t much different than other kids’ thoughts about themselves.

Being one of the popular kids—such a glorious thought—but for me it would have been easier to understand how to make rain fall back into the clouds, fountain style.

“They’re just jealous,” my mother would say. That notion escaped me completely, even though it felt good at the time. Jealous of what? Sure, I’d written a one-act play that won first prize in the Greater Cincinnati area. My grades were better than average. I sang soprano relatively well. But those things never came up in ordinary conversation, especially when the other kids told me I had cooties. I looked in the mirror and wondered what set me apart; it never told me.

I didn’t know that consider the source, three simple words, needed decades to learn. The source of people’s actions and words come from diverse places. Most of the time they tell more about the giver than they do the recipient. The flatterer may want something and the detractor could be jealous, self-involved, or simply unaware.

I can still hear my father’s tone as he spoke to me. It didn’t carry censure, as if one person were right and the other wrong. He asked me to consider the whole. If the taunt came only to make the speaker appear superior, it had no substance. If I chose to be mean-spirited, that would create a win for my adversary—and a loss for my character.

Now, I don’t remember the specific events of three days ago. So, if I decide to live in a past decade most of it will be false memory. Even if I recall every uncomfortable second exactly as it occurred, I would be losing this precious present moment. My skin doesn’t fit as well as it did then, but my spirit has a better notion about who this 67-year-old woman is. Oh, I still have plenty to learn. I misunderstand often enough to need to apologize more often than I would like to admit.

However, I cherish my father’s teaching and I cherish the life he gave me. This day is an opportunity. I pray that I use it well.

only visit the past

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