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Posts Tagged ‘learning at any age’

From discord, find Harmony. (Albert Einstein)

An Old Man’s Final Wish

Along a back window

at a huge family gathering

at a rented hall

the oldest uncle sat in his wheelchair

with the youngest child curled in his lap.

 

In the center

long tables covered with

gold, red, or blue

painted signs demanded isolation.

They claimed truth, whole

perfect, beyond criticism.

 

The families divided the space

into zones, while ugly words

stung the air—

How can you say that?

I can’t forgive you . . .

You are a fool.

 

While the family members argued,

the elderly gentleman and the tiny girl

met with approving eyes,

a twining of fingers, a gesture, a smile.

 

He celebrated the exquisite fit of

her name to her personality,

despite the hardened hearts

that fed her and his inabilities

to respond beyond a crooked grin

and speech delayed by multiple strokes

and advanced age.

 

She giggled, tugging gently

at the sagging folds in his face.

Then, as the toddler grew tired

and slept in his arms,

the man’s wife, gone twenty years,

appeared, clothed in soft light.

 

She called to him.

 

Before he allowed his spirit

to separate from his body,

he whispered his final wish

into the girl’s small ear.

 

The buffet opened as

the child’s mother noticed

her waking in the lap

of the dead man.

 

Unwilling to touch cold flesh,

several family members

abandoned their divisions,

at least for that moment,

and called to the girl,

 

Please, Hope, come to us.

 

They didn’t know they were

echoing the gentle man’s

deepest desire for his family.

 

poem previously published in For a Better World and in Piker Press

 

 

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Experience teaches us only one thing at a time—and hardly that, in my case. (Mark Twain)

Wow! I see individual leaves on the trees. A male and female goldfinch at the birdfeeder. Sky, blue with white slivered memories of larger clouds. All seen through dark sunglasses. The world no longer appears wrapped in fuzz.

Not to my cataract-free eyes. My brain remains as scrambled as ever. How many places have my thoughts run as I drive a few miles along a familiar route? Past politics. Into man’s inhumanity to man. Through global warming. My stomach considers lunch and dinner preparations—I should have stopped for breakfast.

There’s a speed indicator on a pole. How long has that been here? I pass this way often enough to drive it blindfolded. Okay, almost. The number on my speedometer drops. Into a one-thing-at-a-time ordinary pace.

Ugliness remains. I look at it differently. I can be peace by joining others who live love. By not giving up. My cataract-free eyes have sight yet can continue to seek vision. Wisdom, it is earned. Never an automatic right.

 

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There is no such thing as the Queen’s English. The property has gone into the hands of a joint stock company and we own the bulk of the shares! (Mark Twain)

A wet snow falls as a man outside the post office asks about our day.

My husband smiles and answers, “Fair to middlin.”

“You know where that expression came from?” the man says.

We don’t. I have never thought about it because it isn’t an expression I would likely use. However, the gentleman’s friendliness intrigues me. Mother Nature is in one of her icier moods. He doesn’t seem to care.

“I’m a country boy.” He grins displaying a huge gap where at least five teeth are missing.

I guessed he has a southern background by his accent.

“Well,” he begins at a slow, mellow pace, as if this were a gentle April afternoon. He must peg us as city folk because he gives a full explanation about where the bacon is found on the pig, the loins, the better cuts versus the less choice. “The middlin is up from the end, not the best quality. It’s still mighty fine though, the part that’s not bad at all. So, fair to middlin is good stuff. Makes up a great breakfast.”

I am not a big meat fan, but I listen anyway. No thanks to slaughter stories.

We wish him a fair to middlin day, better if possible, and move on. The next day I ask Google. The pig story does not appear. It is neither verified nor proven untrue.

The Urban Dictionary refers to the phrase as a term coming from the deep south. It describes cotton that fits the definition but lacks quality.

Later I find a closer explanation to this man’s tale. In America somewhere in the mid 1800’s fair to middling, often pronounced without the g, referred to the quality of livestock. The term did mean better than average.

Perhaps the friendly grown-up country boy with the optimistic, good-enough definition comes with another point of view. One that morphed over time. And gave him strength to ignore bitter circumstances, like ice and snow.

Today I walk in sun that has quickly melted the white. Same month. Same city. The cold continues. For now. Today is all I can experience.

The historian tells only part of any one story, and it contains bias. The future is made up of speculation.

Now, I celebrate the gift of life.

 

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Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.
(Erich Fromm)

Human animals think too much—without questioning the truth of their source. Unfortunately, we upright-moving creatures are born with ego and an overdose of certainty, based on experience in a tiny section of the world.

I wrote this poem more years ago than I recall. My granddaughter was a toddler. She is now in fifth grade. A ballerina. Grade-A student, She also happens to be significantly taller than I am.

These verses are based on an incident that occurred at the Museum Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. My beautiful girl may have grown up, but she chooses her friends based upon inner qualities, not incidental skin tone. I am proud of who she has grown to be.

Naked Baby Dolls

 

Child-proof dolls

with painted black hair

and eyes forever open

 

lie on the floor

of the toddler room.

Figures identical, except for

 

brown or peach plastic bodies,

the dolls are naked.

The children don’t care.

 

Bare babies and honesty

fit the simple ambience

of parallel play.

 

I watch as each doll

passes from child to floor,

and back again. The brown babies

 

get picked first.

My toddler granddaughter pouts

as another child grabs

 

the dark doll she had been cuddling.

I try to hand her the paler version.

Her frown deepens. On the rug

 

the dolls that wait

look anemic, pale.

I think about human skin shades

 

from ivory to licorice, and mentally

list a larger number of darker tones.

Nutmeg, cinnamon, chestnut, bronze

 

chocolate, mahogany, coffee, umber.

Strange that at this age

the little people choose the toy

 

with the richer complexion.

Yet only a few of the children

resemble darker hues. The toddlers’ choices

 

contradict the prejudiced

adult majority. Someday I pray

these children see beyond the exterior.

 

The dolls wear a paint layer

thin enough to be chipped off.

Their differences can be altered with a brush stroke.

 

People share diverse histories

and cultures, but living hearts beat

a common rhythm.

 

May we grow

together

as one human race.

 

(This poem has been published in the anthology, FOR A BETTER WORLD and in the online magazine PIKER PRESS.)

 

 

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It gets really tricky giving advice. The older I get, the less advice I give. ( Anne Heche.)

My father taught me to consider the source. I find that easier now than I could as a teenager, before I knew who I was. Strange that I recall being berated because my eyebrows weren’t penciled dark enough. My hair was the color of spun gold, with eyebrows that disappeared into a fair, freckled face.

The advice-giver. Why are there so many of them? And why do they have voices that match the average street preacher?

And—does it need to bother me?

My brother-in-law has an MD. When he said I was losing weight too quickly after surgery and was risking metabolic damage, I listened. Advertisement come-ons could be another matter. An invitation to skydive because it jump starts adrenaline? Probably not.

What is the best and worst advice someone has ever given you? My dad’s fits somewhere at the top. Any advice that told me I shouldn’t try because I wasn’t good enough. Definitely. In the don’t-think-so category.

 

 

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I have come to believe that giving and receiving are really the same. Giving and receiving—not giving and taking. (Joyce Grenfell)

“Do pebbles grow into rocks?” my young step-grandson asks as he gathers odd-shaped stones and places them inside a cardboard treasure box. The box rides inside a red wagon.

I smile and tell him rocks are more likely to break into pebbles. I smile, but don’t laugh. His innocence warms me. He finds a tiny lock on the side of the road and adds it to his collection. Then, he puts it inside his pocket, to take home.

For him, all of life is a collection of serendipitous learning experiences. The tracks left by a bulldozer, a dusty trail made by the thin wheels of the collapsible, fabric wagon. The dusty wheels create mud after the wheels travel through a deep puddle.

The thought strikes me that rocks and keys may not be the unique metaphors I imagined them to be in my series, The Star League Chronicles. Black rocks act as weapons for the Malefics, the evil League. Chase Powers, the main character, operates an ancient, rusty, magical key. Sometimes, the key knows more than he does.

Sometimes play teaches me. And I haven’t been a child in a long time. My teacher-key contains no magic. Often its key is no more than a realization, a prod to notice a beauty I hadn’t noticed because I’d been stuck inside ubiquitous bad news forecasts.

This little boy trusts me. A breeze cuts through the afternoon heat. I am at peace despite that fact that I have an approaching deadline—and more words to write and edit than I want to think about. Right now, I could be pecking away at the non-magical keyboard-keys (pun semi-intended.) With the hope of creating magical scenes.

Instead, I follow a red wagon into a child’s imagination and allow my love for this boy to expand.

Work challenges will continue tonight…and tomorrow…weeks after. Until the story fits into a whole.

For now, I give and receive experience. And hope to remember this beautiful day in the middle of July.

 

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The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another, and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it. (J.M. Barrie, novelist and playwright)

Random, dead, moss-covered wood. I’ve felt a kinship with it at times. Yet, the fallen logs create artistic patterns. Hollow centers offer homes for wildlife.

My husband and I walked under a lacy shade of branches. They protected the ground from the late-May heat. The pattern of dead and alive seemed to ramble, aimless. Nevertheless, there was a wholeness to the scene.

Recently, my husband and I attended an event. I am intentionally vague about whether the event was a picnic, graduation, family reunion, or none of the above. The setting was accidental; the story reveals a story within a story, the one that occurred instead of the one planned.

One of the guests passed out after a possible seizure. An individual honored at that moment ran to her defense. She saw the need for a 911 call. Two of the attendees were nurses and two were doctors. They assisted the fallen person more thoroughly than the paramedics did.

After the ill guest was taken to the hospital, any separated groups bonded. A different story developed based upon mutual care and love. We met as friends, not strangers.

I hoped to hold onto that intimate feeling forever. Then I totaled my car the same day my husband and I returned home. A tree won when the accelerator stuck…or I missed the brake…or fate decided my time with Little Beige should end. I don’t know what happened. This incident was the first in my years behind the wheel. It doesn’t matter how the accident happened. My 2005 Toyota will soon become junkyard fodder.

Like the dead branches my car has a history. Soon to be buried. I am okay, relatively anyway. So is my husband. We were not physically injured.

Neighbors arrived immediately. With offers to help. With support. With the difference between rotting in the moment and survival.

The story changed. I am not the only character in my tale. Nor, am I the only heroine. And that is what makes the difference. Sometimes, simple actions may have saved someone more than anyone will ever know.

Thanks to all who take that extra step forward.

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