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Posts Tagged ‘family’

 

separated smilesThe way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain. (Dolly Parton)

“Put a smile on your face.” A quote. Made by almost any parent. Well-meant perhaps, but misleading. First, the smile needs to be placed in the heart. It isn’t an accessory, like a hat or sweater.

As a teenager, I recall fussing about my thin, flyaway hair. I tried to make it look like someone else’s.

“Pretty is as pretty does,” my mother said with a face that stated, “And you are not pretty in appearance or deed.” That notion could have been restated. “This may seem important to you now. I can show you a better way.” I am glad I eventually discovered a new mirror.

The illustration pictures separated smiles. Without the rest of the person, they appear strange. The completed faces that belong to these mouths, have blessed me. One belongs to my sister. Another to my daughter-in-law. The baby’s grin belongs to my growing, youngest grandchild.

Sure, I’ll put on a smile. A smile that comes from the heart and soul. Not to a command. Sadness is real. It doesn’t need to be fed, but it does need to run its course.

Perhaps joy may take some time. Like waiting through a pandemic. Like hours of labor before birth. Like the negative space that gives lace and art its beauty.

The picture is metaphorical. I have heard all three of the voices attached to these lips, felt their presence, even if that physical touch was distant. These voices speak love.

The past can’t be changed. I offer my mother no advice. However, I have plenty to tell me. I don’t advise someone else about how to feel. I do tell them they have value, then give them space to discover it for themselves.

 

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Cherish your human connections, your relationships with friends and family. (Barbara Bush)

 Jay’s cell phone rings. “Hi, Dakota!”

Our grandson has his own phone. He is calling to help this senior citizen. He called my phone first. Someone else answered. My buddy is taking care of me—he knew before I did that my smart phone had left its less-than-smart user.

I call from our land line, grateful that we still have one. The response? “The owner of this phone left it at Kroger’s.”

I laugh, and then don my mask again to make another trip out of our cave. Jay drives. I am pleased with his company.

Amazing how folk have become dependent upon a hand-held rectangular device. Unfortunately, the phone must have fallen from the side pocket of my purse. Some kind, honest person returned it to the desk.

I am grateful. My connection with the world found. Now, to find connection with me, that old lady I see in the mirror. That old lady who longs to play with trucks on the floor with her grandson.

Time now to call someone else who needs to hear a voice that doesn’t come from a TV set. A phone. An amazing invention when used for providing kindness.

 

 

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open door

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. (Ernest Hemingway

In 2012 I wrote a journal during Lent when memories of trauma ate through the present. Today I survive, as imperfectly as everyone else. I decided to reread an entry or two. This story appeared on an ordinary Wednesday when I was babysitting two of my granddaughters. Rebe was four and Ella was a toddler:  

I’m rinsing breakfast dishes as the doorbell rings. Jay is busy with Ella, so I answer. Outside a young girl stands sobbing. She asks to use our phone.

     “Who are you?” I ask.

     She doesn’t answer. Instead she tells me her boyfriend beat her up, and she wants to call the police.

     Jay is standing behind me by now. He holds Ella. I don’t know what else to do. I don’t want this girl standing out in the cold. I let her in and get her a glass of water, then finish the dishes as she calls from our living room.

     When I get back, Ella blows kisses to her and the girl smiles and tells me she has a one-year-old child.

     “How old are you?”

     “Eighteen.”

     The girl’s skin is a flawless ebony. I would have guessed she was much younger.

     While I don’t watch the clock, it seems like a long time until two policewomen arrive in two separate cars.

     We leave the room. I need to change Ella’s diaper anyway. On our way into the bedroom we hear one of the officers ask, “So why do you stay with him?”

     Apparently this is not a first-time event.

     After the girl leaves with bus money we provide, one of the policewomen comes back into the house and chides us for our kindness. This girl’s live-in is trouble. It is her choice to remain in jeopardy. Drugs are an issue.

       We should have called the police and made her stay on the porch. Twenty-twenty hindsight. (Although, an addition added to this entry in 2020, I doubt I would have followed her advice. After all, an abused eighteen-year-old girl is a child in need.)

Ella as a baby

       I am relieved later while Ella and Rebe watch Caillou, a children’s cartoon show, where a lost toy dinosaur is the only problem. Two little girls wrapped in the discovery of a stuffed toy and the loving concern of Caillou’s father.

     Real life isn’t always that sweet. I have been fortunate. My flaw today was trust. Yet, I pray that our little Ella’s blown kisses can be a blessing into the soul of this lost girl. A seed, perhaps. One that can grow someday, even if I never see it blossom.

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I believe every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine. (Neil Armstrong)

 Sure, the word challenge has an encouraging, powerful ring to it. However, human experience adds a bite to it, the kind that draws blood, pain, or detours.

I was experiencing one of those Atlas-earth-carrying moments when I noticed an old homemade card on the floor by my bookcase. Huh? What is this? It looks familiar.

A birthday card from my father. He died more than ten years ago. He comments on the years since I was born, then mentions what a beautiful person I have become.

The how of the card’s appearance now, on a floor that was vacuumed yesterday, is curious. But the message is clear. I am worth the effort of any struggle.

I remember a night when I was sixteen. I hallucinated as the result of a dangerously high fever from a throat infection. As the fever rose I claimed the colors were wrong on my dresser drawers and stairs and needed to be rearranged. Now.

Both dresser and steps were an everyday, nondescript beige. Then I needed to take the number one million and convert it into a tangible object. Before morning. And take it to school. My arms churned as I counted. One-hundred-fifty, one-hundred-fifty-one.

My mother panicked as she hunted for aspirin, the fury of her feet on the floor amplifying my count. Somehow my parents managed to get me to swallow the small white tablet.

My dad told me he was good at math. He would do my assignment. Then, he would take care of the colored wood as I slept. After all, he knew a lot about paint. He carried me up the stairs to my room.

Somehow, that next morning I remembered most of the evening. The absurdity struck me as a nightmare, someone else’s nightmare. And yet, the loving response of my dad stayed with me.

I hold the long-ago card now. My father present in this moment even if he left the earth in a past decade during the last century.

“Thanks. I wouldn’t be here without you,” I whisper. My life is finite, too. May the heartbeats I have left, bring peace.

 

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You know what the great thing about babies is? They are like little bundles of hope. Like the future in a basket. (Lish McBride)

I tell my hours-old granddaughter how beautiful she is. Everyone does, even if the message is a smile or a touch. Little bundle of hope. I look at her instead of the news. And leave my cold, wet coat on a chair. The outside world can wait while we meet:

You haven’t become complicated yet, Adeline. Your wants and needs are identical: warmth, food, protection, a pair of arms.

I pray for you, my old-lady blessing. Then I realize. You are the one blessing me with the freshness of possibilities. With love. As you grow may I learn to repair, seek no more than the basics, and celebrate life.

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We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives. (John F. Kennedy)

One dollar. I want to keep this one separate from the others in my wallet. Long enough to celebrate the moment. When I told my friend Ann that my sister-in-law needed serious surgery, she asked me to get a card and sign it for her. Ann is blind. She doesn’t know my family. She gives out of kindness.

Her dollar is a symbol. When I see it, I think of a simple woman’s generosity. Her borderless love. I could resemble a worn scarecrow or discarded carved pumpkin; she wouldn’t care. Our house could have dirty windows with bedsheet drapes. It wouldn’t matter. (Our windows are properly clothed. I can’t make false claims about their condition.)

I made a card for my sister-in-law. I will give it to her, signed with Ann’s full name. Ann can have the dollar back. Of course, I won’t be surprised if I see it again. Marked to be given for someone else. I suspect this is what real-world love is all about.

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(photo of the two children taken by Alice Zeiser)

I choose not to place DIS in my ability. (Robert M. Hensel)

Buddy Walk Day. The Saturday after Labor Day brings

A sea of shirts in bright colors. Yellow this year. Thousands.

One day without any uninformed person

dropping both eyes and mouth into parallel

frowns and an I’m-sorry. Down syndrome isn’t sad.

Apologies come after simple happenings.

Spilled water—nothing a napkin can’t handle,

or an it-took-me-forever-to-find-a-parking place.

Smiles follow. My granddaughter takes her cousin’s hand.

Or does he grab hers? It doesn’t matter.

This group knows we are all one.

And celebration comes naturally

when our common space is love.

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