Going Wodwo

Friday, February 13, 2015

8:33PM - and so it began...

1966. turbulent times, but i was from a church going, baptistic family. we were entrenched in the life, and our beliefs were an integral part of our every day life. there was church camp in the summer--we were campers, and those of us who grew up in it became counselors as we got older. and as we church kids grew, we were more than a head count in the congregation--we were the hope for the future. we evangelized along with the group "God's Invasion Army", going from door to door, inviting the neighborhood to come to church, house by house. we were not intrusive--but in our hearts, it was an order from God, to go and tell others. well, we invited. we didn't preach. but we did invite! we were one of the "faithful" families, who was there every time the doors of the church were open. sunday school and morning service on sundays; youth group at 6, evening service at 7. in the summers, there was a "singspiration" at como park, and we went as families, as a youth group. the park and lake rang with hundreds of voices that came from around the twin cities churches. we knew all the words by heart, and we kids knew every harmony. of course, wednesday night, there was a service, and afterwards, there was choir practice. because i loved to sing, i was there. i sang from the time i was actually too young to be in the choir: i did solos, sang for events, sang in groups. mom was the treasurer of the church, dad was a trustee--he carried the "keys to the kingdom", as it were. i was bound for nursing school, and the assumption was that i would eventually go on a mission field. i pretty much expected the same thing.

and one weekend, after coming home for church from nursing school, it happened. (it was a baptist school of nursing: it was as close to a cloister as possible, with house mothers living in the dorm 24/7, hours prescribed for us, signing in and out of the dorm. as a freshman, i was allowed to be out until 10 p.m., but one night a week, i could stay out until 11. we had classes, early, and if we had clinical practice, we had to be on the floor by 0645. we could be expelled from school for drinking, swearing, for public dancing, for wearing our uniform in the wrong place, in the wrong circumstances.) as fate would have it, the youth group was there that evening service, and my friend tim was sitting with a stranger. this guy had been coaching the youth softball team, and worked at the gas station down the road from the church. the pastor's pronouncement was "if he's going to coach this team, he'd better be coming to church." this man was a bit of an enigma for the church, at the time. he was "older", and "worldly", and smoked, and worked at this service station where the kids who skipped church would go and hang out. when the church found out that he was from new york state, separated from his wife, and she lived in-*gasp*- new jersey, it was almost more than their small church heads could contain.

tim introduced us after the service, and i really didn't like him, much. i though he was kind of full of himself. he didn't like me, either--too intellectual, too smart for him. he was a one room schoolhouse guy from pennsylvania when he was small, and eventually a high school dropout from binghamton, new york. as time went by, we got to spend time talking, and get to know each other. the score was: i was in school, the church and family had great expectations, i loved music, and was in the choir at school--and going on tour with them. he was: a navy man, who went in at age 17, when a local judge gave him the choice of the service, or going to jail. he had gotten his GED in the navy, gotten married when he was 20, much madness and some kids occurred. eventually, his wife packed up the kids, left him in new york, and went back to new jersey. having nothing better to do at the moment, he and his also-newly separated buddy took off, leaving the bad memories behind. a series of events led him to minnesota, and when a new girlfriend didn't work out, he moved to the twin cities. that's when we met.

adventures ensued. he tried to get his wife to move to minnesota, to reconcile and start over. nope. she wasn't having any part of it. in fact, she had already gotten pregnant with no assistance from him. he felt no guilt about pursuing his divorce.

long story shortened a bit--yep. i got pregnant. my folks, rather than being devastated, asked what our plans were. my plan was to finish school, and the folks agreed to keep assisting with tuition, because they'd already put money aside. (mom, ever the pragamtist, told me, "well, you just have to remember that it's the "good" girls who get caught. the "bad" ones know how to avoid this sort of thing.") they were careful to stay neutral. word got around the church, and it almost caused a split in the ranks. i went and talked to the pastor about the "situation", and he refused to marry us. "too much disparity between you. he's so much older than you are. he's a drop out. he's a smoker and drinker. he's a bad seed. he'll never amount to anything. it'll never last. i give you guys 6 months." and on it went.

word got out to the school. i don't know who told them--it might have been my pastor. it might have been my mom. i was called into the dean's office, and questioned: "and what do you intend to do?" this situation was unheard of. we had to be granted permission to even get married while in school, by the dean's office, and the board of directors. they had no idea what to do with a rebellious child like me. i had no idea what to do, either. i'd never done this sort of thing, before... so, my answer was, "i'm going to finish school. i'm going to have this baby. i'm pregnant, not brain dead." (it was expected, historically, that even a married student who got pregnant, was to drop out. i refused. they might have been on the cusp of tossing me out, but they didn't. i don't know why, but i'm glad, to this day.) so, time went by, and we eventually got married. (that is a whole story on its own. another time.) so far, we had messed up a church that had never been faced with this kind of thing, before. some congregation members were in favor of throwing me out. some said, no, but she should give up the baby. some said, she should be ashamed. i already was. i didn't need any assistance or suggestions. my mom was steadfast, and told off those around her who were naysayers. "quit badmouthing. this is my family." my dad just shook his head.

the school was properly messed up, too--but my classmates, my blessed classmates, were open enough to embrace me and the whole thing. they rallied around me. they delighted in my expanding belly. they threw me a baby shower, got us a crib, cheered us on. i don't know if it was because of their "christian spirit", or if more of them housed the heart of a rebel than i thought. i suspect the latter.

so, the church and school lived through the embarrassment of their "golden girl" doing all the wrong things--marrying the older, divorced guy; already had a bun in the oven; didn't drop out of school, and had the temerity to actually end up having a good life. my rebel hubby ended up going to college, getting his bachelor's degree in christian education and a minor in psych, and pastored a church for 3 1/2 years. he was then recruited into the sheriff's department where he worked for 20 years as the chaplain, deputy, GED director, ad infinitum. i went back to school, too, and became a nurse anesthetist, after several years of being an O.R. nurse, and "passed gas" for 38 years.

scandal? not now, maybe, in this day and age. it was, in ours. i was not cut out to be a "bad girl", and it took many years before i could even talk about it without feeling the horror of what i'd done. God was more forgiving of me than i was. i finally realized that things change, times change, and i needed to, as well. i got over it. mostly. and the nicest touch was that some years after we were married, we went to a church reunion. the pastor had moved on, and gone elsewhere to another church, another state. he had returned for the occasion. the hubby had graduated from college, was pastoring, and was growing up, as was i. we were wandering around, visiting people, when we heard a shout from across the basement--"hey! HEY!! britt--i need to talk to you!!" and there was "that" pastor, running across the basement, heading right for us. and he'd done the run, just to tell us that he had never been so delighted to be proved wrong in his life, and he wanted to apologize for his lack of vision, and lack of faith. he was a man of honor.

our perpetual joke has been that since we were only supposed to make it 6 months, we get 2 credits for every year we're married. thus, we are coming up on our 94th anniversary...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

12:33AM - broken deck solitaire

they stack in my brain
like used playing cards,
these old memories;
taking up space,
jumbled in the pockets
of a mind worn
like an old sweater:
familiar, comfortable.
shaped by years of wear,
the sweater accommodates them.
and when the hour grows late,
i am given to taking them out,
shuffling them,
and laying them out--
pattern according to hoyle,
or tarot,
or solitaire,
depending on the mood.
friends go in this stack,
adventures in this one.
parents go over here,
and childhood is shuffled,
intermingled with the folks.
grandparents are over here,
and relatives join the layout,
knowing secrets never told,
but kept in common.
that suit is tight,
reluctant to give,
not knowing
what the results might be.
grownups do that, you know.
and in the glowing lamplight
of my thoughts,
my hands move over them,
hover for a moment,
and move them again,
never quite satisfied
with the game.
sometimes the rules
have changed,
and the fleeting things
i see in the deck
move on
and wait for another game
to be played.
but i know
that no other restive hands
will play this deck,
cheat at my solitaire,
or manage the layout,
for these are my cards,
and mine alone,
and i cherish the worn edges,
the bends, the slight folds,
the images that only i can see,
and games only i can master.
and another generation
may keep their cards
tidily in a clean deck,
recorded for posterity,
listed, noted,
and shown to others,
but i'll keep mine
close to my chest,
even closer to my heart,
and only cheat myself
when i lose
a card or two...


Monday, November 24, 2014

8:14AM - finis

and, as a token act of civil rebellion, the old cat was buried, where he shouldn't have been. local laws have opinions about interment of "pets and livestock". so do families. sometimes a little rebellion is a good thing--it salves and soothes the heart.

circumstances surrounding the whole old cat ordeal were actually ideal, from my selfish point of view. he got to die at home, gradually, peacefully, for the most part. the final day, he'd collapsed in the hall in the early morning hours--my hearing his fall, and going to "rescue" him gave me the opportunity to hold him, comfort him, and have some last time with the poor thing. the pain meds that had been prescribed a year ago were perfect to relieve pain, mildly sedate, but still leave him as functional as he could be, without discomfort. this is a good thing.

when he passed, the weather had dropped into below freezing for better than a week. when a pet passes, decisions have to be made--and the chill outside let us have him "rest" without damage, right on the premises. selfish, but practical. decision made, the weather broke, and a random comment from another friend about "woolybears and night crawlers on the ground, moving--the ground must not be frozen, yet" assisted in the decision making process. things could be taken care of on our own terms--more comfort in that than a "mass cremation" or "disposal" at the vet's.

so--the hand of God, serendipity, chance, or fate--however you might care to classify it--all of it let those of us who were concerned move positively, and "get 'er done".

so, the rebel lives on in our hearts. a touch of civil disobedience, without any big repercussions--and an internal peace reigns.

fait accompli.

mission accomplished.

and all's quiet on the western front. mostly. i heard his footsteps again, last night, but it was a good sound: the regular route, final patrol done.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

9:05PM - all good things...

must come to an end. we knew he was old and ailing, that cat...but he had heart, and wasn't ready to throw in the towel. his teeth were bad, but at age 20, he was like a 96 year old man.

he half heartedly tried to check out, a couple of times--but amoxicillin was his friend, and it was like the elixir of life. it brought him back from the brink, twice. because of the recurring nature of the problem, erin and i talked about what to do for him. we decided that the best thing we could do was to take the best care of him we could, without taking extreme measures.

because of the dental problems that were the root of the problem, we knew that taking him to the vet would get the verdict of either euthanizing, or taking the chance of a full dental extraction, with a general anesthetic. it is not a simple procedure--the entire tooth, root, and capsule has to be removed, and any infected tissues resected, and then stitched closed, for healing. even if we had proceeded, there was a substantial chance that he would not survive the anesthetic. the recovery would have been just as chancy. so, conservative care was the choice.

as he began to fail, i treated him with amoxicillin. there were two times when the infection kicked up and he needed help. i used my store of amoxicillin, making an oral suspension for him--which gave him both systemic and local application. it worked. twice, he came back from what had appeared to be the brink of death. he followed us around, demanding food, requiring "special treatment" of mashed fresh cooked shrimp, milk in a bowl, special cat food from chuck and don's, and as he got more demanding, baby food, in the form of meat. anything that he wanted, he got, one way or another. if a plate was left unatended, his furry face was in it, checking out what you had, and trying to get to it before your return. he gained weight, he got sassy. but, truth will out--he was still old. his joints were deteriorating--his front feet began to turn out months ago. he looked like an awkward ballerina, when he walked. his back legs were weakening--he walked on the length of his lower leg, and hadn't used just his feet for months. his nature didn't change. he stayed sweet, and every night, he would climb the ladder of hard cover books i'd built by the bed, check on my well-being, and settle in to sleep on me. just four nights before he died, he did the same thing. three nights before, he came in to check on me, but the ladder was too much.

i called the vet to see if we could get more amoxicillin for him--but unless i was willing to pack him up in his carrier, and haul him to the vet's office in below freezing weather, there would be no antibiotics. he was so frail, and had lost so much weight, that it was decided that the trip might kill him, when coupled with the stress of the vet's office, having bloodwork drawn, and going back home again. sometimes we reach the point where things just can't be fixed.

so, we offered food and water, moving both ever closer as he got weaker. he didn't complain of pain, but cats usually don't. because of the nature of the problem, there had to be pain, so as he began to refuse food and water, i began giving him some pain medicine that had been prescribed for him a year ago, when he had kidney and bladder stones. it was good medication--he visibly relaxed. there was enough of it to stretch out over time, in its small, pre-measured doses. his level of consciousness became less and less, and last night, after some visiting time from the grandkids, and a petting from erin, he went to sleep, again. i was checking on him every 15 minutes or so, to gauge the need for more meds. i ran out of pain medication, and was making a secondary dose of default medication, when things felt differently in the house. i stopped the task, and went to check on him--and he'd quit breathing, comfy in his own bed, in the warmth, without strangers attending him, hurting him all the while trying to ease his pain. it was just done.

and i wonder about the wisdom of "animal hospice" when euthanasia might be quicker--but the small things he did over the last days make me know it was the right thing. we assisted him with food and drink as long as he wanted it. he had pain control. he was warm and safe. i "rescued" him when his legs gave out yesterday morning, trying to get to the litter box, and he "cat-thanked" me, while i cradled and held him, taking him back to his bed. and there was no crying or yowling, no recriminations, no struggle--just sleep.

i might second guess the choice, except he slept away with a small smile on his face, long, elegant tail draped over the edge of his bed, stretched out across the floor, paws crossed in front of him, casual and relaxed. he was among his people, his pride, and he was safe. and then, he was gone.

last night, i heard his footsteps in the hall, coming to the bedroom, walking up to the bed. the sound stopped at the edge of his usual patrol, and they left the room, again. earlier, i had "seen" him at the end of the trunk in the great room--his decision making spot: to the lap, the kitchen, or the tub for a drink--and then it was gone.

i suspect that after 20 years, the "usualness" of the cat will take a long time to wear off. and after 20 years, he will be mourned no less for having been a "fixture". he was an exceptionally kind, tolerant cat. he can hang around for a long while...

Friday, October 17, 2014

8:32AM - how i spent the first day of the annual teacher's state meetings

(excerpt from a letter)

wow. thursday is done, already. it's MEA--the teacher's association meeting, thursday and friday. today, i'm taking care of auden, so mom and malie can have a girl's day off, together. it's just in time, because while she was here, yesterday, she got a little tired out toward the afternoon, and 'fessed up that she felt like she wasn't getting much attention. so, she had a long lapsit and gentle wrestling session with grandma, just for the holding and snuggling. she is one long drink of water, and she's so mature, that it's hard to remember, sometimes (and not just for me) that she's only 7. this is a kid who can explain psychological nuances, knows math extremely well, and is reading the first "harry potter" hardcover in her reading time at school. second grade. she got only positive reviews at the parent-teacher conference, and they are talking about putting her in the high potential classes, even more. she is funny and smart, and her energy frightens me. when they dropped off auden this morning, her mom remarked that malie had been up since 0400, and malie stage whispered to me that "really, it was 3 a.m...i looked at my clock".)

yesterday, with her, was exhausting, but in a good way. auden takes lots af care and attention--manda has been a pretty attentive mom, hovering, and answering every cry of his. she still does it, because he has mastered the "shriek" when he's ignored. (i'm good at ignoring him for a few minutes. i don't live in an attached town home/quad home like they do. no immediate neighbors to complain--lucky me!) but i still have to answer to the rhythms of his day. i have to remind me that he's still playing catch-up, from being almost a month early. but, malie, when she's turned loose, here, has a million things she wants to do, to accomplish, to see happen, to make, to create... we started out with scratch pancakes "because they are fabulous, grandma. they are the best pancakes in the world!" and she packed away a half dozen of them, until we ran out of the preferred syrup. i found another bottle, different brand, of "lite" syrup. she dutifully put in on her cakes, but after a bite, i saw this 7 year old kid reading the ingredients on the bottle, trying to be subtle. i suspect she found something in them, from being "lite", that didn't meet her foodie standards. i have to go get the real stuff, for the next time she's here. healthy is as healthy does...

after breakfast, she was immediately in search of something to do. luckily, there was a handy project, from an adventure we'd had, about 6 months ago. she fell in love with a wooden castle, that was hinged so it would open, and you could see in the rooms, follow the little staircases, and check out the windows. there was one area that had a box the height of the room, so it could hold things, be a dungeon, a closet, etc. she's played with it numerous times (i'm so glad part of her is still only 7!) and yesterday, she was determined to paint it. i'd let her pick out some acrylics for painting it, way back when we got it, so the hardest part was laying hands on them. once we got them, i introduced her to foam brushes, which are great for painting large areas (this castle is about a foot and a half high, made out of lightweight craft wood, so it's easy to tote around.) once she got started, she was totally occupied, all day. i was kept busy in between baby upkeep with finding things to decorate this project. by the end of the day, she'd acquired some "reindeer moss" for decorating (grandma, the horse has to eat something. and i need to put some by the mermaid's pool on the roof, too.--the whole bag went home with her). she raided my cache of flat gems from the renaissance festival stuff, we found textural paint so she could frame the windows in gold and bronze, she'd labelled each room for the occupant, i'd "donated" my plastic swords (appetizer toothpicks), she had decorated the walls with tasteful stickers, framed in gold, and had gotten a set of my altered book metal "comments" to glue in each room for the occupants to read "for positive thoughts, grandma". she found some little flowers to decorate the mermaid's pool, had gone through a half dozen ideas about who was living there, and then, accidentally discovered my "artist's trading cards", which started a whole new spate of activity. "grandma, the castle has to dry, anyways. i think i could make one of those cards for your collection...do you have any more blank cards?" and away she went, making another card for the album. why yes, i slept like the dead, last night...

speaking of dead, the old cat has been trying to die for almost a week. he can barely walk, refuses to eat, but is still up, walking, drinking water when he remembers to, and looking for warmth in his bed. i sacrificed my lavender "rice bag", and have been heating it up for him to sleep on. i don't know what's keeping him going, but at 20, it would be cruel to expect much more time from him. so, i'm running the long-term cat hospice, right now, in the middle of everything. i'm very lucky that malie is tender hearted, because she knows how to leave him alone, and let him rest. he was extremely friendly last week, and even climbed up on laps he's never gone to before on pizza night. he visited each of the babies, and let them grab his fur. i think he was saying his goodbyes. now, just the wait. i'm hoping he'll just go in his sleep, but i may have to drag that poor little soul out to the vet, yet. it's hard to decide what's best. i'm going to hate not having him around, but another pet would be one more thing for b. to trip on, and get hurt, himself.

oh--key word: "hurt"! did i tell you i broke a toe? i must have. it's the most excitement i've had in a long time. foot is still technicolor (it's a week, today). toe is tender, but buddy taped. foot is still swollen (gorgeous, having toes that resemble vienna sausages. i lead a glamorous life.) ankle is starting to bother me from favoring that foot. oh, well. stupid move, stupid foot. i'll live. i may never wear high heels again, but that's okay. i'll stick to the clogs and boots.

*end excerpt* and that's how thursday was. that's how the week has been. and after hearing a loud thump from the bathroom, i'd best go check on that old cat, and make sure he didn't break himself getting out of the tub. *sigh*

Sunday, September 28, 2014

10:31AM - october, coming

there’s a storm front coming.
the hands, the wrists
there’s a storm front coming.
the trees laugh at me,
the blue sky calls me “liar”.
the birds carry on,
looking for something moving
in the grass,
and that downy woodpecker
has found it—
(eat all of the ants
you can find, friend.
my treat!
that grub’s for free.)
leaves dance in the sunlight,
making their scat jazz
against the breeze,
celebrating the last days
with a celebration
of noise and color;
carnivale of their own making,
end of days,
four horsemen of their apocalypse,
and the sun shines on.
but there’s a storm front coming.
bones don’t lie.
the wrists

Sunday, September 14, 2014

2:23PM - grandma malie

she stood tall among
her victorian peers,
broad shoulders, sturdy,
swedish farm stock,
come to america, to better things,
and ending up on another farm.
pa knew best,
he thought.
work hard, move on--
her dreams for her sons
were school, degrees,
a city life,
not at the whims of the weather,
the heat, the cold, the storms,
or not...
and she made do.
i remember her kitchen:
her, standing by the oven,
bread in hand.
her sons would holler, "ma! stop!"
and she would cradle the hot bread
square in the middle of her apron,
hugged to her chest,
knife in hand,
cutting slices,
drawing the blade toward her
with the confidence
of a surgeon who knows his craft.
and the hot bread
would go into our hands,
onto a plate
(if it made it that far),
and she would laugh
at her sons' fears,
knowing the knife
like a part of her hand.
and the knife never got her.
a stroke did, instead.
her sons never saw it coming,
neither did she.
and she was gone.
but today,
i heard her laughing,
while i cradled that loaf of bread
against my chest,
sawing with knife on sourdough,
making thin, beautiful slices
with the same motions she did,
pulling disaster toward my chest,
her hands covering mine,
and later,
i see her smile
in my mirror.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

12:15AM - and another drama begins...or continues, perhaps.

eldest daughter was very late coming to get the boys, tonight. they came over for internet access, and any food they could find. i warned them early on that there wasn't much to eat, and that i had dual babies, so not to expect much from granny, tonight. i did manage to get them fed, hubby had supper, the babies eventually went home, and the boys were still here. their mom usually gets them about 8 or 830, to keep them on a rough schedule for school. (kids in the autism spectrum do better if they are kept on a consistent schedule, no matter the age) and it got later and later-- and finally, at 10 p.m., the hubster was wondering if she was going to get these boys at all, or if he had to bring them home. i told the boys to start shutting down, and finishing conversations, and i'd drop them off. and just then, gabe came in. she had been out with a friend, and hadn't bothered to tell us about that--but the bombshell dropped after she shooed the two boys out to the van.

a couple of weeks ago, her S.O. was about 2 hours away, helping a "friend" get her house fixed up. she is fighting foreclosure, and is having a rough time. understood. but the S.O. spent nearly 2 weeks up there, fixing, whatever. he came back one day earlier than he'd planned, to go to his brother's cookout, and that was that. except that today, he informed gabe that he's moving out in 3 weeks, to go live with cindy. he'll help fix things on the house, help pay the rent, etc, and just be a roommate. but, he's moving out on gabe. he's leaving his son, and he's taking the dog. he's taking his recliner, and only leaving the hubster's old one because gabe spoke up and said "no". he's taking the 7 quart crock pot, and leaving her the little one. ditto with the food processor. and he's taking his income with himself, as well. he's going to try to arrange that their son's disability check from the S.O.'s disability will still go to gabe, but since there's not a marriage license involved, it may not be possible.

this leaves gabe 3 weeks to find a job, make arrangements for the boys' transportation to school, for transportation to therapies for them, to get them ready for school...and darin will be gone. he seems to have a talent for avoiding the tough stuff--his first girlfriend in high school became preggers with his first son, but her mom refused to let him have any access to the kid. all he has is a tattoo of the birthdate. that kid's over 26, now, and doesn't know his dad, at all.

thing is, reece, my daughter's son with him, has challenges. there is something "wrong" with him, and they've never put a name to it. there are some developmental delays, some "difficulties" that he has. gabe has always been the one to take him to therapy, doctor's appointments, etc. gabe's other two sons are autism spectrum, as well (did i mention that this sig other was her hubby's best friend in high school? they both had learning disabilities--shared classes, activities. and while they could hold down a job, it was never anything particularly challenging. for jim, the hubby, it was never for long, either.) so, she is being left in the lurch by buddies, who had been classmates. the sig other had been the best man in the wedding. there's a soap opera for you...

i don't know where this will all lead. luckily, we can still continue to pay on her house, as we've done all along. we might not be able to pay it off as quickly, now, but we've paid it down to under half of what it was, 10 years ago. (this is why i don't fly away on vacations...) she and her boys need some kind of shelter, and this is it.

i know gabe was hoping to be the one to tell him to leave. it would have been satisfying for her. i'm only glad that this part of the saga is drawing to a close. i've worked for years to be neutral in their lives. for a long time, i've longed to go over there and toss him out, myself. but, physical confrontation could have injured him seriously. oh, yeah--he's the one i've helped out time after time, made trips to the E.R. with at ungodly hours, who is maintained on chemotherapy for a plasmacytoma that partially ruined his spine, who has had a spinal reconstruction, ad infinitum. i should be grateful that he's well enough after all these years to move on. i seriously doubted that he'd live to see reece go to kindergarten.

i suspect we haven't seen the last of him. he'll be around to see reece on occasion, and to get the rest of his things after the initial move.

now, i'm relieved, and really, really, angry, and i feel as though we have been taken advantage of, thoroughly. and i think i'll never forgive this man for the beatings, both physical and psychological that he's inflicted on my oldest grandson, who, despite it all is a sweet young man, who loves, not hates, who helps, not hinders, who is kind, not mean, and who declared that he would never swear in his life, because he's already heard enough of it to last a lifetime. and he doesn't. remarkable for a 21 year old, who has had such crap visited on him.

and maybe--just maybe, we'll all breathe a little easier, even if we're buying the "manager's special" and from the clearance racks a lot more often. cheaper than psychotherapy...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

5:26PM - thinning

my life in that old shopping basket,
that's what i found;
chunks of flint,
(flintknapping, a good skill, with grid, gone...)
stamps, 22 cents, first class.
lapel stickpin; honeycomb and golden bee.
shell ring, perfect for little fingers.
spools of thread,
dedicated to beading
that thing
i was going to finish.
mouse trap,
for the cat's failures:
mouse moved out,
cat stayed until she died.
trap, dusty and faded,
testament to
the good intentions we all carry.
pennies, decades old,
barrette that used to ride in my hair,
some 60 years ago.
matchbox from the cannery, cannery row,
so long ago, i'd nearly forgotten
the smell of the waterfront,
the sound of waves on boats.
basement dust over all,
mixed with fine sawdust
hiding the fingerpicks
from two or three stringed instruments ago.
there are new ones
scattered in the cases,
and i'd wondered
where this one had gone--
eloped with that
roller-skate key,
once, the key to the universe,
one-foot skating down the hill,
screaming all the way.
sled skates for winter,
mastering the frozen puddles.
and it all goes in the trash,
of more important things,
like room to move,
room to breathe,
room for other memories
for the next wave of family
to sort, decide, and toss.
thinning out the weeds,
but not in the garden, this time.

Friday, July 11, 2014

4:30PM - "...he was such a nice man..."

we moved, the year i turned 7. the new house was in a smallish town, but considered a suburb of minneapolis. we spent a lot of time commuting to our old life, our old stamping grounds. the dentist, the doctor, all were "over there". church was "over there', too--right in downtown minneapolis. i was 11 when the folks decided that driving downtown to go to our church was getting to be a real task. i was heading for junior high at the end of that school year, and my folks recognized that my circle of friends would enlarge: friends closer to home, not across the city, would be valuable.

so, the first change was going to a small church situated on the edge of minneapolis that bordered on columbia heights, where we'd moved. it was across the county line--from hennepin to anoka county, and the line ran right down the middle of the street that the church was situated on. it was a nice, conservative, small baptist church, whose beliefs and tenets were very close to the one we left. (that one had a congregation in the low thousands, a list of choirs from which to choose, a full pipe organ in the front, and several pastors. the senior pastor was paul rees, who went on to become the director of world vision ministries--one of the foremost children's charities on the globe.) our new church had a transistor organ in front, one choir with about 12 members, a youth group, and one pastor, who was annually given assistance in the form of an intern/youth pastor, from nearby bethel college/seminary (now bethel university). the choir director was often an intern from the bethel music program, as well. yep. a little church, of about 115 members.

the congregation was extremely conservative. it was a rule of "noes": no smoking, no drinking, no dancing, no swearing, no movies, no gambling, not even playing cards. (i was 11 before i even saw or held a deck of playing cards in my hands. when i did, it made me shudder, inside. i took the rules very seriously. there were jokes about "baptist poker"--the game,"rook"--but in truth, i've still never played it. i was 17 when i saw my first movie, "ruined" by my then boyfriend, who took me to a drive-in, and we saw "a big hand for the little lady"--henry fonda, cowboys, and poker. told you he ruined me--movies, gambling, and kissing, all at the same time. i was so fascinated by the movie that watching it was all that went on, outside of a quick thanks smooch when he got me back home. couldn't be late, or another date would be out of the question!)

back to the real "thing". i'd always had women for sunday school teachers, at the big church. they were kind, wore sensible shoes, smelled faintly of powder and cologne, and inevitably had a pair of white gloves tucked in their purse, somewhere. their dresses were usually navy blue, and sometimes, a floral hanky would peep around a lapel,to liven things up. their hats were just so--never tilted to advantage, lest someone think that they were less than serious! at the new church, my 6th grade class was taught by a man. he was tall and rangy, balding, always wearing a suit and tie. as a meeting and a handshake revealed to dad, he and my father worked for the same company, in different locations. he, like dad, was a machinist, tool and die maker, and master journeyman, like dad. his face was tanned and deeply lined, his hands large, with permanent machine grime that just wouldn't budge. he wore glasses, and was kind, but strict in his teaching. we behaved. he was impressive.

he was one of the trustees of the church. like the deacons, they were concerned with the day to day care of the congregation, but the trustees were charged with the care and upkeep of the physical plant of the church building. it wasn't long before the next church election found dad on the board of trustees, too. the two of them had much in common--married, kids (only one, for dad), camping, boating, fishing, hunting all filled their talk as they worked on projects at the church. someone broke a leg on the communion table? dad would turn a new one in his lathe. a leak in the baptistry? my teacher would step up, step in, and save the day.

his kids were my friends, too--i was the youngest of the bunch, but my friends always tended to be a little older than i was. kids my own age didn't do much in the way of thinking, reading, adventures...so, with reluctance, my folks allowed me to pal with the bunch. there were two daughters, one son. son was an award winning state champion water skier, who went on to garner recognition nationally. the daughters were swimmers, and also award winners. i was nobody, and didn't have any particular talents like theirs, but we were a part of the youth group, and they tolerated me, and even befriended me. their mom was typical of the era--the late 50s, early 60s. she was a homebody, busy with the 'ladies' work" at church, and willing hostess to many youth group meeting in their home. the parents gathered us in to their sight for most meetings, so they knew exactly who, what, where, when, why, and how many were involved in amy event. good, solid people. salt of the earth. kind, caring. we loved it and hated it.

as we grew older, our scope grew larger, too. weekend youth activities included things like a trip to their cabin, learning to water ski (never did. i tried, but, nope...), fishing off of the docks, etc. we all felt like one family. it was valuable for me, because my real family was around, but distance and schedules separated me from most of my cousins. instead, our church lives were pretty well entwined, and everything felt safe.

until one day, there was a dark rumbling in the "vineyard" of the church. little foxes were spreading rumors, destroying the grapevines. we didn't want to believe it. he was gone. my teacher was gone. no, not dead, but had moved out, lock, stock, and barrel, because he had a woman on the side. in a sense, it was a death. the things we believed in as kids were killed by that choice. the family who lived a few blocks away was destroyed. the love they had for their dad was smashed, and a perfectly good wife and mother abruptly became a divorced woman, looking for a job. we kids were well into junior high, by then, but it was as though there had been a "shift" in the whole congregation. in retrospect, i wonder if it was the first time that the rules had been broken so blatantly, and we people were internally required to examine our lives, our beliefs. other than hushed tones, here and there, though, nobody spoke of it.

something had changed. it wasn't as though actual lines had been drawn--but there were those who maintained some amount of compassion for the man. the majority of the church were on the side of the wife and kids, who were truly injured by this. it shamed the family, by reflection, in those days. somehow, it had to be the wife's fault, you know. he was such a nice man... their mom had to work, so she became more scarce. the family grew up, went to college. (there are scholarships, just for children of divorce, you know.) they mostly disappeared. once every decade or so, i'll hear about them. the oldest sister, who was married, childless, took care of my oldest daughter when my folks were in texas for two weeks, getting an idea of what retirement would feel like. she was tender and sweet with my then year and a half old kidlet, and afterwards, i never saw her again. the other sister married a lovely man, moved on/out of the immediate area, and i've never seen her again. the brother married a schoolmate from nursing school days, and spent his days, teaching. i have no idea what happened to their mother.

she became invisible. she disappeared from church, from social circles, and eventually, from the neighborhood. and the wave that had struck our little church kept moving with the change we were seeing. the 60s were upon us, and so was a mounting battle for the young people in that little church. i know that change was lurking, just under the surface--but this was the incident that will forever carry that scent of the sea change with it, in my heart.

and he was such a nice man...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

10:25AM - we are the product of what we experience...

a comment on a "home town" page on Facebook tossed me back in time, about 50 years--maybe a bit more. a photo showed up, from the town historical society, of the home that my mom's best friend lived in, while i was growing up. it was a cute little bungalow/cabin place, and since we were in the early 'burbs, nobody though it strange to see such a near-primitive structure there. in my day, it was well-kept, painted, tidy.

mary and ron lived there, with their only child, wayne. mary was brunette, with an easy smile, and a "peppy" step. she worked at many jobs, but the one she worked for the most years was that of waitress. she was so quick, so eager, that she made good tips, and made it into a career. ron...i don't know about ron. he was a veteran, as was my dad, but something was disconnected in ron. whatever this thing was, it made him into a different kind of person than the dad i knew. my dad was a reader, quiet, inventive, busy. he worked at a big aerospace/regulator company as a tool and die maker, machinist, and jack of all trades. he was a master journeyman, and valued. at home, he carried on the same kinds of things--tinkering in the basement, making furniture, designing and building his own motorhome when he found the commercial ones not to his taste. weekends were church, camping, fishing, hunting, and mom and i were part of it. that was a dad, in my book.

ron was more like that when i was about 11. there was hunting on the weekends with wayne, some fishing...but ron was very fond of alcohol. he was pretty much a 'hail fellow, well met" sort of a drinker, back then.

ron and dad tried to connect, but never did, like mom and mary did. they were WWII wives, had "only" children, had common childhoods. my mom was about 10 years older, so maybe it was the big sister-little sister connection that they had. the difference was, ron never darkened the door of a church. i don't know why--i just remember seeing mary alone, every time church was open. she and mom would pal, and sometimes she'd join our bunch in our row. mary was given to tears, easily. i believe that ron was her secret sorrow, and she cried for him, and prayed for him often. he just got deeper into drink. he was seeing a psychiatrist at the V.A., and had pretty much convinced the psych doc that mary was the crazy one, driving him to drink. (i suspect undiagnosed ptsd, from the war days. it was never dignified by giving it a name, back then. "shell shock" was the throw around diagnosis they used in those days, and it was seen as a "weak man's problem." nobody wanted to be seen as weak.) wayne emulated his dad. he never went to church. perhaps that was another sign of weakness.

mom and mary were pretty tight friends, and whenever there was a ladies' meeting, they'd hang out together. there were a few phone calls, but they were never discussed with me. mom didn't cotton to gossip, and if someone told her something in confidence, that's where it stayed. that impressed me, as a kid. mom didn't "do" coffee with the ladies next door, across the street, because "all they do is sit around, smoke cigarettes, drink coffee, and complain about their husbands." mom saw that as a sort of treason. after all, she'd picked him, she said "yes", she'd married him. if she complained about him, she was really making commentary on her abilities to pick a proper mate.

life went on. wayne was in my 6th grade class, and buddied with dave, who was as thin, curly blonde and blue eyed as wayne was dark haired, pouty-lipped, and red cheeked. wayne was a prototype early "bad boy", with pompadour and d.a.--sturdy, good looking, and a 6th grade tease. wayne and dave were the ones who put "greenie stick-um caps", stacked high, on all four feet of the teacher's chair. when she pulled her chair in to sit at her desk, she thought the chair had exploded. the boys were rewarded by having to first, stand at the front of the class, get yelled at supremely in front of their peers, bend over/grab ankles, and miss glynn proceeded to break a yardstick across their bums. then, she marched them to the principal's office. he had a paddle. no wimpy yardstick for him...

and then that day in 7th grade...wayne and another friend, jim, took their .22 rifles out to "the woods". they were having a great day--the squirrels were plentiful, and they were doing what boys of their age did, back in those days: they were practicing skills learned from their dads, in preparation for becoming a man, in their own right. wayne bent down, to accomplish some task. jim took aim at another squirrel in a tree. and wayne stood back up, just as jim pulled the trigger. wayne took the shot square in the middle of his forehead. he dropped, never to rise again. the details from there were fuzzy to my perception. it was a tragedy, and one that involved mom and dad, by church and friendship ties with mary. his death devasted the neighborhood. jim lived down the block from us, and i knew him. wayne was my mom's friend's son, my classmate, my occasional good-natured tormentor--and now, he was gone. just, gone. jim disappeared into a closet in his basement, and didn't come out for days. i don't know if he was able to go to the funeral. i think he was supposed to be a pall bearer, but i don't remember if he was able to even function. he was changed, forever.

i remember going to the viewing, before the funeral. i'm not sure if i went to the actual service. i've blanked that out. but i remember seeing my friend, laying in a casket, wearing a suit for the first and last time. his face was pale, and even though the undertaker had done a good job with the "face putty", filling the hole in wayne's forehead, it was still there. wayne's hair was done in the pompadour, with the sides slicked back, the forelock pulled down a little, just like wayne wore it...but the hole was still there. and mary wept. and wept. and wept. ron was stoic, red-eyed, and smelled of booze. and he smelled of booze. and he smelled of booze. wayne didn't care, but wayne was all that mattered in those moments. irrevocable choices were made. paths were chosen. and time went on.

mary became even closer to mom and the ladies in the church--they were her anchors. they had kids, they knew what loss was, by connection. ron became closer and closer to the bottle. mary confided that even though she was young enough to have had another child, she didn't want to take the chance, with ron's drinking. he sank farther and farther into the bottle. he spent more and more time at the V.A., talking to the shrink. mary got crazier and crazier in his stories. he stopped working. mary worked harder and harder. and finally, ron died.

and so, on the occasion of my oldest daughter's wedding shower, given by the ladies of the church, gabe was given some hand embroidered towels by mary. and after the festivities were over, and gabe and been throughly "gifted" and loved by those blessed ladies form the church, mary came over to me, and with hanky in her hand, applied often to her eyes, she leaned close while tears rolled down her face. she looked across the room at my mom, and gabe, and mary whispered, "she should have been my granddaughter, too.", and she walked away, wiping her eyes.

and i teared up, honoring lost times, lost plans, lost innocence, and i felt my heart break, just a little.

Friday, May 9, 2014

11:13AM - for all those new little ones born this spring:

new ears

grandma held this truth:
"they visit the babies, you know,
those generations gone before us."
you can see them;
you can see their faces
settle in the baby’s
for just a breath or two,
fleeting glimpse of chin,
lift of eyebrow,
hint of smile,
curve of cheek,
tilt of chin.
and just when you think
you know who this child is,
another drop-by
changes everything,
just for a moment.

those baby eyes move
in their sleep.
we think
they are dreaming--
puppy dreams,
hands and feet moving,
ever so slightly,
breath held, a hesitation,
then expelled softly,
scent of milk and heaven:
a conversation
begun generations ago,
now continued.
stories whispered
from long ago,
forgotten by us,
given to this new one
to carry forward
in their heart.

grandma said,
"they know, the new ones.
they still know
the language
of heaven,
and don’t share with us,
lest we overhear the gifts
from the ones before."
they are eager,
eager to know
what makes us who we are.
and the secrets become theirs
to hold and remember
when they grow old,
and their face becomes
part of another familiar one,
and they drift by
to whisper more stories
into the newest ears
in the family.

2014 mjd

Monday, April 28, 2014

11:41PM - and in the mail...

music obsessive, here. since 1962, seattle world's fair, in my head, i keep hearing some music that was played there. for years, i looked for something that might be "it" on an LP. (my folks may have had one, but i am not certain. never have found it.) doing research yielded one exhibit and one composer that might be "it". today, it came into my hands--reproduction, sanctioned by the guy who wrote it, on a C.D. JOY!! enhancing it even more was the uneven, elderly printing on the package--and all of the old, truly old postage stamps that brought it here. there are four 11 cent stamps that have a jet plane on them, in red--"air mail" stamps. there are four 6 cent "letter" christmas stamps, four 6 cent "give blood" letter stamps, and two 33 cent, and two 37 cent stamps, all for letter correspondence. whoever mailed it probably cleaned out their desk to find enough postage. and--they were cancelled, in a small town in new york--with a permanent magic marker, by hand. *sigh* i'll bet that reduces any worth to anyone who had any interest. but i still find them charming.

and tonight, i'm going to listen to this, and see if it really is the jackpot. perhaps i only dreamed it--but i think not. it is coherent enough in my mind that i can see the building, the dim lighting, the images being cast on the walls around us. we'll see if the brain agrees.

hope springs eternal. so do earworms. maybe in this case, memory worms.

Monday, April 21, 2014

3:48PM - along came mary...

easter, yesterday--the usual crew came over, plus the eldest's sig other, who doesn't hang around very much (he probably knows the general feeling about him--he has to--he's not totally stupid.) and, along came mary, to borrow a phrase. we had plenty of food, adequate seating, kids running around, doing what kids do, teenagers hooked to their electronics and the internet. we had a good time, visiting, eating the meal, accomplishing the egg hunt, divvying up the acquired booty, the mandatory splinter-in-the-finger treatment and removal...

and, as the afternoon wore on, it became time for folks to head on home. the babies were getting restive, the mommies were getting tired, and granny needed to get the kitchen and dishes done. i had purchased easter candy, but rather than break it up into a big nest or basket, as i did years ago, i left it in the packages, and offered the gang a chance to "shop" in the bin it was stored in. as i left the room to go and get baggies for "loot", i heard the commotion in the great room. it sounded almost like a stereotypical "bargain basement" moment, with rattling cellophane, thumps and bumps, and when i returned with sandwich baggies in hand--there was virtually nothing left in the bin. our guest, mary, had elbowed her way into the family bunch, and filled her arms with full bags of candy, and put them into a bag she'd found, and placed them on the couch, tied shut, so nobody could access them. there were full bags of jelly beans, boxes of peeps, chocolate eggs, cadbury eggs by the full box. my daughters looked at me, wide eyed, mouths hanging open. they said nothing. mary was oblivious. in fact, she looked a little defiant.

i went out to the kitchen, after opening up the remaining bags and cartons, and making sure everyone else got some of everything that was left. i bagged some ham for each of the daughters, so they could make sandwiches for the family, and mary followed the girls out there, too. she asked of she could have some food, too--and proceeded to clean all the ham off the serving platter, clean out the bowl of mashed potatoes, took half of the remaining yams and apples, and left the asparagus and artichokes behind. she took orange tapioca, and half to the berries that were in the bowl. and she packed them into another bag she produced. as she left, she took three cans of soda, loaded them in her purse, and grabbed a bottle of water.

i feel like a food shelf.

this "girl" is part of the baggage we carry. she was a friend of the daughters as she was growing up. my kids had a habit of taking in strays, and she was one of them. there were other girls, who became part of the family for periods of time. we still keep in touch, the daughters remain friends with some of them. but this one--this "mary", has never grown beyond the childhood she never had. mary is one who is still here. she has called me "mom" ever since we met, and has called britt, "dad". we have become her imaginary family, in her head. she assumed it, believes it, and lives it. she has insinuated herself into our lives, and tries her best to "be" a part of us. we have allowed it, in limited amounts, through the years. we do so, warily.

her mother, who was about 10 years older than i, was a oner. she was a product of her times and life, i guess, but assumed no responsibility for her own actions. she was loud, whiskey-voiced, and coarse. when she was pregnant with mary, she continued to drink, smoke, and do drugs. mary was born with a cleft palate, most likely a result of her mother's habits. her mother also had a habit of switching husbands and boyfriends, often, as well. mary never knew her real dad. she had a bunch of older siblings, who had a couple of dads, as well. while mary was growing up, her mother's "boyfriends" took free advantage of mary, on several occasions, from what we've gleaned. mary, while not being the sharpest knife in the drawer, was blessed with sunshiny blond good looks--an alice-in-wonderland face and hair. her thinking ability was dimished. i don't know if it was nature or nurture, or the physical and emotional abuse she lived with. i just know that over the years, she has had a tremendous amount of inability to cope with life and situation. i also know that she is capable of great manipulation, when necessary.

she has had a history of breakdowns, medication abuse, and hospitalizations. i don't think she's ever tried suicide, but one of her sisters did, several times, and succeeded, in the last attempt. her other sister has verbally and mentally abused her over the years, as well. their mother, because of cigarette smoking, diabetes, and drinking eventually developed heart problems, COPD, and vessel disease. several times, she was hospitalized in critical circumstances. i still remember the night mary called, in real, cruel tears, telling me her mother had died. i comforted her, and spent an hour on the phone, trying to help her figure out transportation, arrangements, logistics, etc. when we hung up (it was 3 a.m., by then) the phone rang again, in 10 minutes. it was mary, this time, so angry that she was spitting as she spoke--her sister had called her to tell her her mother was dead--and that it was all mary's fault, because of the mental problems mary had been having--and the second call was after her sister had called, again, to tell her that mom was not really dead--the sister had just told her that to be cruel, and emphasize mary's vulnerability. it was just plain meanness. and the sister laughed about it. over, and over.

mary has always found solace in her beliefs and her church. this, while it should be a safe place, found her in a situation of counseling, after one of her numerous breakdowns. the pastor had been working with her, in sessions at the church office, for months and months, when things turned. we noticed that she wasn't doing as well as she had, but put it down to whatever turn her life was taking. then it came out that the pastor had been sexually using her during the later sessions. when she tried to get someone to listen to her, they blamed her and her lack of "balance". she reported it to the police, at last, and got some proper attention paid to the situation. the pastor stayed where he was. he conveniently "got sick", and having difficulty breathing. when it finally went to court, mary"won", but any sentence for him was blown off because of his position in the community, and because of his "illness". he presented a pathetic picture, sitting in his wheel chair, with an oxygen tank hanging from it. her allegations had ultimately caused a split in the church. still, the pastor stayed. mary left, punished for having been taken advantage of. it is her "secret". it is not spoken of, it is never acknowledged. it is one of the elephants in her room.

she had a couple of boyfriends over the years, but having a relationship takes energy and skill. she is alone, now. she had a great time with the gang, yesterday, holding babies, talking. (she has had a hysterectomy, and will never have children. this is a relief to us, a sorrow to her. i let logic guide my heart in this one. she never could have taken care of a child. she hasn't learned to take care of herself, and i doubt she ever will.) there have been many more "adventures" in her life, too--the suicide of a nephew, the aforementioned sister, the eventual death of her mother, the estrangement from a family that is bigger than i thought it was, no contact with her mother's sig other or his kids. she has been treated several times for "self medication" with her prescription drugs. there has been an absence of anything positive in her life for a long, long time.

and all i can do is watch. it is seriously like watching the proverbial accident happening--can't look away, because you might miss that moment in which something really happens, or because you're afraid to even anticipate the ending.

and that's where i stand, now. all i am is the food shelf, the phone number in the middle of the night, the lady who will buy cat food for mary when she runs out of food stamps and food shelf offerings. she goes to a church, but i fear that they, too, grow weary. she has been a part of this scene for so long that it would be cruel to cut her out of the gatherings, but years on prescription drugs have taken their toll, i think. any "upbringing" that she may have had has gone by the wayside, reinforced by living alone with whatever goes on in her head.

so, next year, i'm going to have to have "special bags" for each family, with labels. more work for me, less competition at the "bargain basement". the family can come back later, and clean out what they want. leftovers, same deal. i will not leave her alone with the food, again. (i did take all of my prescription meds out of the bathroom while she was here. never mind that they are for blood pressure and cholesterol. anyone with a love of drugs will take whatever they can, and sort it out, later.) or, i may start limiting her presence. i don't want to ostracize her, but i am getting old, and weary. i have enough on my plate, right here.

i hate being the bad guy. but, i hate seeing her descend to a lower level of competence, by her own misuse of her own prescription drugs.

i still stand gobsmacked at her behavior, at her sense of privilege, and her attitude.

maybe our family is a lot more ordinary and "normal" than i think we are. we laughed about our brand of "crazy", last night. we named ourselves the pleasantly weird.

i'll take that.

Friday, March 14, 2014

3:59PM - found treasures

they lie in a smallish bin,
these pieces of the past.
my grandmother's steel bead purse,
flapper days, they were,
back in the twenties.
black silk stockings,
still unworn, tag intact,
proclaiming their purchase
from a toney, upscale store,
"$5.00, one pair",
a king's ransom, that was.
and i hold them up to the window,
admiring the beautiful "clocks"
knit into the ankles.
they draw the eye, there-
her ankles were like a colt's,
my grandfather said...
my mother had those, as well.
my daughters also sport them-
delicate, slender,
surprisingly serviceable
to their modern, working, running ways.
and i see my grandmother,
tall, slender, also a working mother.
running was not permitted,
but she was a skater.
her colt-like ankles
let her sail and dance
on figure skates, her exercise
of freedom, for her day;
a brave, young wife,
who would strike out,
alone, again,
but for her daughters.
and grandpa skated off,
other adventures in mind,
his freedom never involving
roots--only skating
and dancing
to the next dream.
i fold up the stockings,
and put them back,
saving my grandmother's dreams
for another day.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

8:47PM - lent

my middle daughter just made a fairly lengthy post to Facebook about lent, the concepts thereof, and the lack of education in the concepts in our family. another "aha" moment for me, but not really...

i grew up in a largely catholic-dominated neighborhood, once we reached the suburbs. it was an eye-opener for me. i was a 7 year old kid, yanked out of the big city, and poked into the sticky clay soil of the burbs, and expected to grow. our neighbors were catholics, or "distaff catholics"--the lutherans. other choices in the immediate surrounds were russian and greek orthodox. there was a methodist church a mile from the house, but they were foreign to us.

as time went on, there became apparent that certain lines were drawn. i admit, my parents were "hyperchristian" in their lives--they watched every word out of their mouths, every thought in their heads. i grew up without ever having gone to a movie, until i was 17. no, i never saw bambi, pinocchio, old yeller. (i did read every one of the books, though. books were encouraged. i could hold up conversation about what they'd seen, but i had more details.) i used to be a little wistful when i saw my friends and their families pile into their car and head out to the movie theater, or when the kids would hike off to the heights theater, money in hand, popcorn and jujubes in their eyes, and full of stories of the cartoons and movie they'd seen. but, my folks would say, "no, we don't go to movies." later, i'd come to understand that the rationale was that they didn't approve of the lifestyle of so many of the stars and moguls, and they didn't want to spend their hard-won cash to support an industry that didn't need their dollars. dancing was another of the dreaded no-no's. i was excused from the dancing portion of phys. ed. every year, in gym class. there was no arguing--it just wasn't done. again, later, i found out that my mom's objection wasn't the dancing--i could participate in the folk dancing part of the unit every year--but ballroom dancing was offensive to mom. she did not think it proper that any young woman should be put into the arms of a stranger, and that he should have permission to put his hands on her. (it was to my never ending joy that "real" dancing took a turn for the "rock and roll" during those years, when we might shake it for all we were worth, but nobody was hands on without permission.

other things that were on the list of "dreadeds"--playing cards. i didn't play cards. only old maid, go fish, authors. my cousins, who were even more strict in their instruction, played "rook"--aka "baptist poker". drinking was also off limits--this, while accepted behavior in any conservative christian home, may also have been generated by her father and uncle, whose drinking behaviors were questionable. swearing, too--nobody swore in our house. the commandments disallowed use of
god's name in vain, so we didn't even use "i swear it!" in casual conversation, because there was an implied connection to the name of God. (the "no drinking" attitude was written into the bylaws of the baptist organization to which our church belonged. if one became a member of that church, one made a promise to abstain from alcohol. in the last 15 years, that has changed, and there is no longer any mention of liquor, or alcohol consumption. apparently the congregants are beginning to assume a spiritual adulthood, and are deemed capable of making independent decisions about this. never thought i'd see the day!)

lent went pretty much uncelebrated. as baptists, we knew about the progression of events in the easter season. we saw our liturgically inclined friends parading around school with ashes on their foreheads on ash wednesday. and we saw their beliefs change the whole school menu on fridays, for the next 6 weeks. fish. only fish. there was no "food line" like there is, now--you got two choices--take it or leave it. ergo, most of us "prots" felt the papal influence early. so--ashes were a part of a child's perception of the beginning of fish every friday for all of lent. then, there were palms. they, too, were a foreign thing. we knew the story of the palms being waved and strewn for His triumphal entry--but it was another symbol, where none was needed, by our standards. (i was interested to find out, many years later, that the ashes for ash wednesday were made from the burned, dried palm leaves from the year before. recycling at its finest, on so many levels.) fact was, we were not taught to give something up for 40 days. it was pointed out to us that our lives should include enough differences from a life ordinary that we are aware of that all the time. from early days in my life, i was taught to be "in the world, but not of the world." the effect was, we did not "do" the things done by most of our friends. we were to be set apart. okay, so we weren't jewish, but we had our own set of rules--a mishmash of old testament rules and commandments meant to be somewhat mitigated by the new testament "grace". it didn't really work. we church kids were noticeable by our language ("washed in the blood", "saved by grace", "the blood of the lamb", "oh, shoot", "darn it", and so forth.) we were more daring than those mormons, who wouldn't drink caffeine, or coke, or anything with "enhancing drugs" in it. as i got older, i recognized the importance, particularly to our parents. most of them came from immigrant backgrounds, and traditions and decency were extremely important to them. yes, we had to wear our "good" clothes all day sunday. no swimming on sunday, either. it was a day for quiet family time, visiting relatives, or reading and doing quiet activities. i used to pressure my mom into an occasional game of monopoly, but dad would be drawing plans, planning projects, doing fun, but practical things.

there was safety in the rules. it was a kind of "fencing", that gave us an operating plan that was pretty universal in conservative churches. it gave us a worldview that was safe. it is dangerous out there, where one lives day to day, making decisions that will affect the way we are seen--and lord protect us from being a "stumbling block" to some other person, who might be unchurched, and thereby rendered closer to sinning by our bad example! i believe it was legitimate, in its time. we have grown, however, and while rules are important in living a life, they have to be our rules, and not those of a "group" or "board" that sets them. yes, suggest, guide, teach--but give us the rationale and reasons, so we can make a cogent choice.

and lent--that much misunderstood spring "advent"--i know that there are many non-catholic congregations who celebrate with palm fronds on palm sunday, now. it is a positive, appropriate thing for the congregants to be able to appreciate the representation of the palms. and while i'm still not big about "sacrifice", i attribute that to the other point we were taught--the ultimate sacrifice has already been made. christ's death was the price, and his resurrection proved his acceptability by God as that sacrifice. the sacrifice made, the price paid. so, instead a time of sadness and feeling sorry for ourselves, we were anticipatory about easter. there was no reason for christmas if easter didn't fulfill its promise--and, christ bought it for us. that holiday was ours, and we celebrated it to the fullest, with hope, joy, appreciation, prayers of thanks, and a big family get-together.

it's pretty difficult to stay sad for 40 days in the face of that.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

2:13PM - ephemera

going through dad's old stuff, one box at a time. finding lots of printed stuff that looks as though someone might be able to use if they work on old electronics, etc. there are a couple of volumes of military issue instruction books on transistors, basic electronics, etc--but i fear that they are so outdated that unless there is a special niche audience, they must go. the one on transistors goes back to 1960, from naval operations aviation training division (dad worked at a place that had lots of military contracts, and was required to stay ahead of the general population)--such a new concept that there are side by side comparisons of tubes and transistors. there's a 1951 course book, via the army and air force, on electric fundamentals--direct current, no less. i'm fascinated with all of it, but recognize that it's only a chapter of the past, with no place in modern application. and the paranoid survivalist in my heart wonders if, when the grid goes down, it might represent something totally "new" to the generation left.

must toss it out, or donate it. make room. get rid of stuff. move on to the new technology. with the exit of that generation, goes all of the hybrid information and learning they'd acquired. and i have to throw away the end of the era.

and so it goes.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

4:07PM - winter potato

i do not trust them,
these winter potatoes.
their skins change;
thicken, thin,
they show odd changes
that reflect changes within.
the work of making them
into a meal
brings its own kind
of reflection.
i am like this,
this lowly tuber,
striving to last
through another winter.
our skins wrinkle alike,
thinning here,
thickening there,
showing changes
that may bespeak
bigger things
eyes look at me,
sprouting spiders,
pretending it's spring,
challenging me
to remove them
before they jump.

i cut one in half,
dark heart revealing itself.
my paring knife,
kitchen surgeon's,
cuts out the near-rot,
spares some flesh,
and i wonder how
i have entered my own winter,
still relatively intact.
my heart houses
some dark spots,
and i know mere knife
is not the answer.
i see trial by fire
for this pot of pieces,
and know i am not exempt
from the same.
i pretend it's spring, too.
i do not trust
a winter potato.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

1:05AM - friday night.

the house is still, for the moment. old cat has discovered his dinner in the living room, the tube is on low volume--just some hawker whispering about some trouble light i should buy. it's been a productive week--nothing fabulous, but it's interesting that my aging body is remembering how much fun it is, puttering in hidden corners, rediscovering projects, fabric, the stuff hobbies are made of. i've found e's old bead loom, some latch hook rug projects, the rhinestones and setters from some "bejeweled" manias from the 80s, appliqués for making t-shirts with paint and beads (that was quite a birthday party!), and yarn for hoped-for projects, as well. i found two complete mosquito nettings--distantly intended for "princess beds" for the girls. actually, employed a couple of times for bugs! it's a good thing that i've still got some time until the babies start arriving, because it'll be an amazing thing to actually reach to bottom of the fabric stash.

among the other projects found: a swedish whittling knife, and basswood, for random shaping. ukranian egg dye and several styluses, for making pysanki eggs. it was a great price at the time, and i'd still like to give it a whirl, just for the fun of it. hundreds and thousands of seed beads--probably meant for the beading loom, but transferable to some sewing projects, i know. a partial bolt of quilt batting--handy, and it's getting cold enough for me to just want to roll up in it without benefit of the quilt. some leather, for pouch and shoe projects: i made one pair of ghillies, a while ago--i might try another pair, just for the fun of it. specific fabric for reproduction doll clothes--braided wool for dolly hair, specialized scissors for quilting, some rotary cutter blades, a pinking shears...the list goes on and on.

the treasure trove for b. was the big box of photos i found stashed in a corner. (i think there's another one, as well...for another day!)the hubby has been losing some memory. it's a part of the parkinson's, as well as the brain implant. possibly, just from aging, too. he recently lost his oldest sister, and that brings their numbers down from eight sibs, to three. he is the only one of four boys. his closest cousin was three years younger than he was--and jackie died when he was 47, from an aggressive colorectal cancer that was misdiagnosed by his family physician. i believe hubby fears losing all the memories of his past, his childhood, his family. so, his project was to sit and go through the photos, more for old times' sake than for organizing. he laughed, he cried, and he loved sitting, playing "vacation solitaire", and "five card reunion". by the time he'd looked over some of the packets and a few letters saved in there, he was exhausted. the plan is to sit down with all three daughters, and progressively sort through them, and divvy them up. i feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of ephemera and collected goodies. the girls need to step up, step in and start claiming some of the stuff for themselves. seeing the photos will be good for them, as well--it'll bring up some shared times and shared memories that should give them some bonds they might have started to ignore.

so, more, tomorrow. i'm rather glad it's going to be miserable, outside. there are friends with whom i need to touch base, but i think they will be happier in the warmth of their dorm/apartment, too. the room i'm working in is warm, from its position in the house, and it will be welcome for thawing out, after a few reluctant errands are run.

i'm liking the retirement gig. i'm loving having the time to actually do these things. i still chafe under the necessary tasks of upkeep and maintenance and upkeep for the hubby (yep. susie homemaker gene is still busted) but i'm starting to feel as though i might eventually win at this task. i might triumph, yet.

stay warm, kiddies. stay safe. and wear your long johns. indoors, even. baby it's cold outside!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

7:21PM - argh.

okay. i gave in to her. the oldest daughter. she has so many negative things in her life that i figure that once in a while, i should just brace myself and do something good. it was her birthday this week. because of the hideous weather, she called and on her idea, cancelled her birthday party on sunday, preferring to defer it until next weekend. the weather is supposed to be better, and she is concerned about her preggers sisters, and their safety.

so. giving in. her two oldest sons both have laptops, either by cooperative effort on their part, or by my wallet. either way, they are both older, in love with the computer, and responsible for the care and feeding of said instrument. there is one desktop computer in their house. her sig other got it (used), set it up, and pays for minimal internet access, through the county. he "lets" her use it, and refuses to let her oldest use the internet. he says "he's not worth it". nate is 20. he's still in school. he is working part time, through the special school he goes to. yes, he's mr. aspergers, with a.d.d. he's trying to learn how to manage money, and has no real grasp. maybe someday. we'll see.

so. back on track. (speaking of a.d.d.) i buckled, and got eldest daughter a laptop. it was not a terribly expensive one, and we got a deal. of course, after that came things like software, etc. between all of that, the total was close to $600. with some fear and trepidation, i gave it to her, early. she was excited, and wanted to get home, so she could get the feel of it. in my head, i'm seeing her abdicating ownership to her 10 year old son, so he can play mine craft with his brothers. she assured me that it wouldn't happen.

tonight, they came over so erin could cut the boys' hair. they all came armed with laptops. and sure as shootin', the youngest settled down on the couch with her laptop, and started participating in an online game of mine craft. i don't know what he pushed, clicked, or "hit", but the computer has been frozen up, twice in the time he's been on it.

and i'm sitting here, wondering how i could have been as dumb as i was, to give in, and buy what amounted to the world's most expensive video game for her 10 year old son. i should have my head examined. i should have known better. at the very least, i should have followed my gut instinct of "no". sucker.

it's just that i keep hoping she'll show some kind of maturity, somewhere. she's 45.

Navigate: (Previous 20 entries)