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Archive for September, 2016

Having a place to go—is a home. Having someone to love—is a family. Having both—is a blessing. (Donna Hedges)

A group of eight friends gathers. Our purpose is spiritual; we share our lives as they are, not as we want them to be. S has thirteen children, now grown. At one time she took in a boy who had been abused. S’s family was suburban white with Cherokee ancestry; the little boy was dark as sweet milk chocolate. When a family picture was taken the boy slipped in with the rest of the village-sized group.

However, when friends and extended family saw the photo they raised their eyebrows. “Uh, something we don’t know?” The children saw him as part of the family. The boy hugged S, and called her Mom. His temporary siblings realized how little his skin color mattered. The boy did matter.

In fact, when the time came for the child to move on six years later, S. had tears running down her face. A part of her left with him.

My husband lies in a hospital bed. He is improving, with the progress expected of a patient who has been in bed for a week and a half after surgery. Discharge date could be soon. Maybe not. No way out of walking through the fearful places.

“I live here,” I say to the cafeteria staff when they notice I’ve become a regular. It’s easier to get a sympathetic smile, and then go on.

This experience can’t be explained in a few words anyway. Sure, the doctor and staff can talk about how digestion works, and how long it takes for the body to function again. The experts can’t predict how human spirits will act and interact. Hope comes through other people.

And friends and family have appeared like sun drying flooded waters.

Finally, a chance to breathe arrives. A trip to dinner—my meal is paid. Movie and ice cream—my wallet remains closed. And my sons decide I could use a little time with my grandkids. They are right on!

We go to a local restaurant. A blackboard covers one wall in the back corner. My three girls pretend to be teachers. I am the only pupil. The two older kids take turns. Ella fills the board with dainty designs that become one mass of lines; she covers herself with chalk dust. When I ask her a question she uses the appropriate teacher face. And I know I am honored to be here as Grandma, the student.

I think about S and her family. I don’t know them. I’ve never met the young boy who is certainly a man by now. But, I know that the gifts of things haven’t made the deepest impressions in my life. The present of presence? It makes all the difference in the world.

struggle part of the story

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People forget years and remember moments. (Ann Beattie)

I missed two fun events that featured music and song. Singing makes my soul feel rich and full. There will be other opportunities, and I need to forget about times that cannot be retrieved.

This moment demands all my attention: a darkened hospital room where my husband recovers from surgery—from an unexpected but not life-threatening condition. Details are unnecessary. Insert any life crisis here: health, trauma, devastating news…

I go home overnight, and then return to the same colonial-blue couch in a standard white hospital room. The situation worsens. Yet the sun shines and I try to gather its rays deeper than any surface can allow.

My husband picks up a newspaper and puts on his glasses. He reads. Even if the news predicts Armageddon on every page, he’s awake, alive. And I celebrate our relationship as the IV piggyback dose of Phenergan, for nausea, puts him to sleep again.

Yesterday I called and let my sons know Dad will be staying at the hospital longer than anticipated. They rearranged their work schedules to be here. My sister-in-law and niece, both nurses arrived. They asked the right questions. These are not the blessings I asked for.

But, they are gifts nevertheless. I wait for a better tomorrow, yet live in today.

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Every student needs someone who says, simply, “You mean something. You count.” (Tony Kushner)

I am in a familiar place and ready to exercise—at least to the degree I can right now. My muscles feel somewhat stretched, relaxed. Few people are here today. The weather probably has something to do with it. Mother Nature is having violent, adolescent mood swings. One moment hot, the next stormy, followed by cold.

Then I hear the ubiquitous political discussion begin. A woman responds with a rant about how the world is ready to self-destruct. Our streets aren’t safe. Neither presidential candidate has worth. We shouldn’t bother populating the world. Our children don’t have a chance…

I sigh and move away. But, even though I’m not wearing my hearing aids, her voice penetrates the air and everything else. An idea comes to me; I decide to pursue it. I introduce myself to the lady.

True,” I begin. “A lot of bad stuff is out there. But I know some great kids. And they have made at least a few corners of the world better.” I tell her about Kate and how the kids in her class who have autism come to her for encouragement. And friendship. I mention our youngest granddaughter, Ella, who has Down syndrome, but has brought many members of the family up, in one way or another. Only four persons noticed I had new glasses; Ella was one of them. She is both aware and loving.

The woman comes closer to me. Closer than our culture usually finds acceptable until we know someone well. Yet, it seems okay. Even more than okay. Because, she tells me about a member of her family who had Down syndrome and died in her sixties. That person was an important part of her life.

And I let her know how important she was as a caretaker. She agrees that her relative saw and understood more than people knew she did. I see a new glow in my comrade’s eyes. Her nearness no longer feels as if it is trespassing inside my personal space.

Somehow I doubt this woman sees life with any less cynicism. But, perhaps, just perhaps, a seed of possibility has been planted. She did some good making the world a better place for her relative; maybe there are young people today doing the same thing.  

Later I tell my granddaughter she helped someone without even being there. She smiles. True, a student is generally considered a young school-aged individual. But, Kate shows me new apps for my iPad. She creates a collage of photos from a family birthday party within seconds. “And these are all free.” Twelve-year-old Kate teaches seventy-year-old Grandma.

I don’t plan to give up student status for a long time. The teacher’s age doesn’t matter. The relationship does. And so does gratitude. you-matter-you-hear-me

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Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand. (Albert Einstein)

I have more than enough work and projects to keep me indoors for the next century—or at least it seems that way. However, as Jay and I put clean sheets on the bed I look outside at the clear blue. And it calls to me to come outside and play.

How much worse will my back feel on a shady trail in the woods than it does now? I look at the clock. We have just enough time in the afternoon to enjoy the warm, but not-too-warm, early September.

Jay knows most of the trails in the park. He chooses one that winds through prairie grass reaching twelve-feet high. He can walk much faster than I can. Yet, as other people come through he lets them go first. “We move slowly,” he says, emphasis on the word, we. But he chooses to stay with my uneven step.

And the slow travel allows the discovery of a bird nest hidden in a bush on the side of the path. Jewel weed abounds. The stem of the plant can be opened and spread on skin to ward off poison ivy. The jewel weed acts as a guardian angel plant since it seems to follow poison ivy patches. Canopies of branches stretch across the trail. Huge bluebird houses, large enough for other birds, hide high in the trees.

We step over and into last year’s dry, dark brown leaves. Yesterdays that can’t be returned. The past. I remember when I felt I would always be 25-years-old. I acted as if each moment could be prolonged forever, too.  Some of those moments ended as regrets crunched now by the heel of my shoe, especially on my right hip where the pain hits sharpest.

But, I also notice the pain doesn’t stop me. Instead it teaches me to savor beauty while it lasts.

I smile as I recall a recent yesterday: My two older grandchildren visited. Kate and Rebe healed with their presence and their humor. They pretended to find cures from a mock healing source on a Walmart Internet site. And for no external reason at all I chuckle as the trail twists and so does my aching back.

The sun shines and casts moving shadows. I call the brightness, hope.

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