Thursday, October 26, 2017

Happy 95th Birthday Little Mama

On October 28, my Little Mama will be 95 years old. 

Do you know her? Do you know her strength, her humor, her generosity, her incredible curiosity about life and people, history and government, civics? Do you know about her life spent so creatively, (one time when I was young they did a full two page color Sunday edition of the Charlotte Observer on her and the Christmas showroom people traveled hundreds of miles to come to)? 

Would you know that at 19 she dropped out of college to join the Red Cross during WWII, had gas vouchers, drove anywhere in the country she was needed and that the only thing that kept her stationed on this side of the ocean was the letter from her much-beloved brother saying, "I'm here (in the thick of battle) please stay home to take care of Mom and Dad." 

As long as I can remember, Mama worked, side by side with Pop, she was the buyer, had the eye, made things beautiful. Sundays after church they'd be at the store working getting ready for the six-day work week. But she never failed to plan special things and trips and picnics for us. When it snowed she was the one that would trek the neighborhood kids for miles while Pop stayed home and made the hot chocolate. 

She was the best friend of many and held troves of secrets for everyone, sacred and quiet and to this day I know none of them. She walked all of her friends through the valley of the shadow of death and helped them stare straight into the face of it and held the hand of so many as they died. 

She had best friends, but Margaret was the best of them all. When Margaret came to work in the store it was before the civil rights movement, she was the only one they ever trusted to run the store when they were gone and manage everything. I remember as does Mama, the mother of a schoolmate who came in and in the ugliest of language made the statement that she would not be coming back if that.... was going to be working there. Mama said, "Can I walk you to the door? You certainly don't need to come back." 

The house was often filled with people and Mama was the queen of graciousness. The people were different walks of life and there were gay people (probably still in the closet) but Mama knew and appreciated them all (as did of course, Papa). All were welcome. 

Mama has read more non-fiction than anyone I know in her life and powered it down as well in these last 10 years, she watched every single moment of every primary debate of each party and every single town hall and debate from that point forward. Don't talk to her about civics, government or history unless you know your shit and for God's sake, don't bring on the fake news. (You probably didn't want to be the person who said to her, "Give Trump a chance" she figured by that time everyone should have clearly seen the BIG writing on the wall.)

 I should write stories about her, I really should. I didn't know another mother who thought the kids were sick of school and should be taken out for a day or two to go on a joy ride of adventure. She has been brave beyond belief, creative beyond measure, full of love and fierce independence. 

Well, Mama, it's almost your birthday and on this day and tomorrow and on your birthday on Saturday and for every day after the world owes you a thank you for the walk of love, courage, perseverance, humility, kindness, wisdom and intellectual curiosity you have shown us.

Happy Birthday Little Mama. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mama - Mother's Day of your 92nd Year

There are a few things that I associate with my Little Mama more than others. 

How cool her hands were and are, on hot foreheads.
How soft her voice was and is, in crisis.
How steady she has always been when everyone around her is falling apart.
How clearly she recognized the signs of weary school girls who needed breaks and responded with  out-of-school passes, emergency day trips and much-needed adventures.
How fearless her design/color eye was and how she brought the trends early to a small town that otherwise would not have seen those trends for a good three years. 
How when so many other mothers didn't work, she worked sometimes seven days a week but never, ever, ever sacrificed a moment of quality with her girls.
How she trekked the neighborhood kids for miles in the snow. 
How she stocked the kitchen for the inevitable masses of friends that would show up to eat, to talk and to laugh.
How when customers came into the store in the early 60s and complained because the salesperson was black, she told them they didn't need to come back. 
How when I moved from Seattle to Santa Fe, she and Margaret drove in before me, placed all the furniture, put groceries in the fridge, flowers in the vases and turned around and drove back to North Carolina before I even got there.
How her dreams often told her that bad things were coming and how those dreams made her feel helpless. How that recurring dream that I would die when I went off to college left her with no peace. How on the day I would get so sick, she would call and ask me repeatedly, "Are you sure you are OK?" And how when I came out of that semi-coma, she would be sure that the only meals I ate in the hospital were the ones I wanted which meant raisin toast from home just the way I liked it.
How when she was in her 80s and working as an editor with me, when there was an all-nighter to pull, she did it better than me.
How when she speaks about the world it is firmly and with the hope that heads and minds and hearts will open. 
How when her friends were dying, it was she who spent hours day after day with them on the phone or by their sides, walking them through their fears and worries and pain. One after the next after the next, after the next.
How when her mother, her father and my father died, she alone would watch the life leave their bodies and kiss them good-bye.

How she has been fearless in life, in work, in love.
How she has been insatiable in her desire to learn and grow smarter, wiser and fairer.
How she has never lost her sense of humor.

How she is a mother who has taught her daughters the walk of women and the walk of love.

Lee and Mama.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The New Year's Eve Blessed Quiet

The New Year's Eve Blessed Quiet.
What struck me this morning was the true blessed quiet of last night.
For the first night in 22 days one percussively wracking sound on one end of the house had not been followed by a similar sound in two other places and then again and again.
For the first time in what seemed a very long month, the members of this house slept longer than an hour, quietly and peacefully.
The blessed quiet was the sound of healing and a new day. 
And, as it often is with symbolism, the blessed quiet came home on the eve and day of New Year's. 
Today as I do the WHOOHOO stripping of all the beds, 
throw open all the windows and let the sun pour in, 
place the Christmas stockings by the Near Year's Day dinner plates and sit down with the two I share my space and so much of my heart with, I think...
may this year begin for everyone with 
a blessed thoughtful and peaceful quiet, 
may that be followed by a very loud WHOOHOO, 
may the light POUR in and wrap us up, 
may there be moments of shared sweetness, of good food, of heart, of the truest gifts in life 

may the deeply grateful AMEN always follow!

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Suffering and the Grace

This morning  I woke with the same thoughts I had gone to bed with the last three nights, the suffering and the grace in life. The hand in hand of the awfully beautiful and the beautifully awful. (Roland our hospice nurse had introduced me to that concept.) 
Three nights ago, I was thinking about Ferguson, the grieving hearts, the deep suffering and the deep injustices and it wasn't until an image crossed my desk the next morning that I glimpsed some grace. 
The next night five hours before bed, I got the phone call that the unspeakably awful, and the tragedy of tragedies had brought the deepest suffering to three that I love and as I pondered that the last 30 hours, I have only been able to think that what was so suddenly ripped from their lives had been preceded by so much love in so much sweetness in so much depth and so much consistency that it could only be defined by grace. 
Yesterday when the alarm clock went off and Sweetheart who is long overdue a day off and long overdue a Thanksgiving not cooking for others, got up to cook for not 15 or 25 but 50 and did so for most all day so that we could have the grace of delivering food to the homeless shelter where women and children in the midst of living deep suffering had found a moment of grace and respite and safety. As I packed up the pies, I looked at the boxes with the sweetest of them all where the first and second graders had learned to get the pumpkin out of the pumpkins and bake their first pies and send them to people who needed them more, and the seed of true Thanksgiving had been planted. 
When I met my friend to walk into the kitchen and I looked at her beautiful face I thought of the suffering the last few years have brought her and how she had midwifed so many of the dying without any respite to her own heart and how the grace flows out of her eyes. And late in the afternoon as I sat next to my friend of 56 years and held her hand, as she looked me in the eye and we talked of the friendship that had us side by side and the grace within it, I could see the searing agony of her heart. Life is the awfully beautiful and the beautifully awful and grace and suffering walk side by side. 
On this day I can only breathe a quiet sigh of gratitude for the light in the dark moments and the dark moments that break our hearts open and make them one day and somehow more beautiful, more compassionate, more full of grace.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

We Should All Hope When We Are There, We Are There

The day did not start out as a "can-I-get-an-Amen!" kind of day.
No, more like it started out crooked-needed-to-be righted-and-flipped-upside-down kind of day.

But the afternoon had brought right-side up flipping and now I was working on the Amen part, just not knowing it, or maybe it would be more apt to say the Amen part was working on me.

I walked into the Blue Note Grill and they were the first people I saw.
Her puffy white hair, his Southern or maybe Southwestern casual elegant. I put them at 91 or 92. I've gotten better at assessing age these last years, knowing who was old before their time, aging gracefully, younger than any of us deserve to be with miles well hidden, the like.

I ordered a pinot grigio and a basket of fried pickles. Sweetheart would later explain to me that what made those pickles the good side of incredible was the drying out the pickles before the frying. Water and frying don't mix he'd said. They were extra crunchy and dead-on perfect.

Friday night and we were out, the rare, very rare, very, very, rare Friday night out, or any night out. Not only was I getting wine and pickles but music, good music and it was only 6:30 at night. Talk about blessings piling up.

I waited for him to get there and studied the older couple, my eyes going around the room and constantly back to them. I wondered about their stories, each and shared.

The music started. Sweetheart came. We ate pickles and pondered ribs.

The elderly man reached for his companion's hand and helped her up. He helped her squeeze through the two, too-close tables and when they made it through, she began with effort to shuffle walk, clearly it was difficult. He was there for her to lean on. I thought he must be walking her to the restroom and I thought how sweet.


little did I know.

I looked up from my pickle and there they were.
On the dance floor.

Agile, two-stepping, free as could be.

It was the first of a set-full of dances, the only break they took the last dance, the one for the cloggers and the one that started after their food arrived.

They had danced the slow waltz, a faster two-step, and a few imbetween. They had danced without a falter, without hesitation, without a shuffle. They had transported themselves to another time, to many times, to the place where age and depression, reality and fragility could not find them, to the best of the moment and the best of life.

We were inspired.

Last week I saved an image,  thinking how perfect.

I said to sweetheart, "would you take their picture, I want to write this." He said the camera was in the van. He walked out,  came back, stopped at their table. They listened, she reached over and took his hands, he pointed at me, she waved, they moved together and smiled for the camera.

I think I  hope to God that when I am wearing support hose and those orthopedic-athletic shoes  I will have on a hippie skirt, a hippie shirt and a slivery shiny belt. That I will have a modicum of style or grace and mostly, that when I am 90 or better yet sooner, better yet now, I will have enough spunk, courage, rhythm and desire to find my damn way around a dance floor.

He came back to me. "Twenty five years they've been together."

"Second marriage you think or third?"

He said, 'it doesn't matter, 25 years."

"We are almost there," I said.

He looks at me, his eyes a little glossy and mine were right-back glossy.

He says they'd told him, "you never know when it will be the last dance.
So every week we have a date night and we dance.
You never know when it will be the last dance."

No saving the last dance for them, just dancing it.

We looked at each other and Sweetheart said,
"We should all hope to be there when we are there."

Can I get an AMEN?!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Papa Rides Shotgun


It was a week of deaths, the powerfully moving and the inconseqential. Uncle Sammy, the last of the Pollard brothers died, and the Hyundai and Subaru did too, all right together. One important, two, not so much at all except...

Sweetheart had gone to the mechanic's to clean out the glove boxes on Wed, he came home that night with, "I think I found a little box of Papa."

I looked at him.

For three years, ashes had traveled all over with me and the poem "I Will Remember You" had traveled in my head, to be spoken each and every time I left a piece of the old him behind.  "I Remember You" comforted me, the gift of Hospice to us right after.

As far as I knew the ashes had all made their dust-to-dust way home, although my sister's small box and A's small box in NY I wasn't sure about. (I had flown to NY with that box of ashes and he had bicycled his way from Brooklyn to a part of NYC, taken them from me and bicycled away again. Mama had told me when I got home that Papa hated New York, it didn't matter. He had loved Anthony. He would love a shared trip to MOMA or the Guggenheim.)  Papa's ashes had been scattered miles apart  in Mother Ocean and miles apart in his blue, blue, mountains, he had slid into the crevices of the foundation of his beloved Heidi Sue's new house and she swore she'd never had an easier build,  he was under P's favorite rose bushes and next to the bee hives in E's garden.  He continued to veer off the road, peek under the bushes, trespass and treasure hunt, his lifetime curiosity continuing--- the curiosity that made us all prefer he ride shotgun than drive.

The last year and a half of his life, I'd run him to every doctor's appointment or out to see the leaves, wherever he had to go or got to go, the few places he got to go...he always rode shotgun. He never failed to comment on something we passed, usually and often with a single word, "Beautiful."  The beauty never failed to get through even when other things weren't sticking as often, mostly I wasn't sure what was sticking. We drove past the fenced in area where for months we'd passed the goats and baby goats. Each time I'd point and say  "goats" in the odd kind of way you do when you see baby goats and find yourself trying to sound like a baby goat as you do it. But that last time, as we drove past, I heard his voice go, "G--g--g---g--oa---oa---oa---tssss," in an exact mimicking of my mimicking the goats. He had looked at me and his face had split wide-open with his enormous smile.

He had noticed. I should have known.

The man listened and he heard. The man lived in wonderment and awe and had done his best to gift that to us. Throughout our lives we had opened our eyes to his extended hand, the one that held  the tiniest bottle imaginable filled with the tiniest nosegay imaginable, of violets. A morning treasure from his morning walk from the obvious and the hidden patches, his morning call for us to see, and mostly his morning call to us of love. It was his way.

I remember clearly when I'd gone to get his ashes. I was dreading it. Walking in the front doors of the funeral home hadn't helped, neither had the shout in the background that followed...

He had been.

I had placed the box carefully on the seat beside me in the shotgun position, expecting to cry my way all the way home. Instead, I'd burst out laughing. He had distinctly given me a nudge, I could see him grinning and I could hear him laughing and then I could hear him singing like he always had, an old hymn, "The Lord's Prayer", or "Oh What a Beautiful Morning." It was the latter that I heard fly out of my own mouth, him riding shotgun and us singing our way home. Once again he was guiding me to a place where music, wonderment, peace and comfort became my heart.

All of this flooded through my head in about 2 seconds of "Papa in the glove box?"
Sweetheart handed me the box and sure enough it was Mama's--- the tiny little box we'd gotten for her to keep a few ashes in, just for her. But the ashes had made her too sad, they were too much a statement of what was not, of what had been, of the no place to go now.

We had taken him with us, to the old house,  to Grandmama Pollard's, and Mama had tucked the box into the glovebox for safekeeping. Two years ago.

 I could hear Papa laughing and I started laughing.

Who knew? Papa had been riding shotgun for months. With Mama or me, or Mama and me together. With his girls, listening, and not missing a trick.

Lord, was it fitting.

And in the fitting way of perfect timing and serendipity, he had surfaced just in time for his last beloved brother's funeral.
He had made it to all but one, and he would make it to that one too.

Yesterday I dressed for Sammy's funeral  and slipped the tiny box into the pocket of my coat.

 I heard the HA and felt the sweetness of it all.

 I put Mama in the car and off we went for one more time, Mama, Papa and me. This time Papa was driving the car with me. God forbid.


Uncle Sammy---Thank you  for your love. Amen and Traveling Mercies.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Saturday Night Surprises and EJ Turns Sixty

It is 8:20 and we are driving the 25 miles back home from Saturday night at the mall. 

The Saturday night at the mall part had hit me pretty belatedly. 

Sweetheart had driven around the miles of cars in search of a parking place, (my parking angel had clearly not recognized his old white van) and we had traipsed what felt like a mile to the heart of the outside shopping area. (The mile part had come from me being hungry, really hungry in my mind.) I'd left him at Barnes and Noble holding the pink bag while I went on my mission. 

But, I was jostled and in the midst of it before it hit me. 
Where I was, what day of the week it was, and the-season-to-be merry-realization. 

We weren't "doing" any part of Christmas this year and hadn't the last few, that part of me had died sometime in the last few years and hadn't resuccitated itself. 
I couldn't remember the last time I had been in a mall, and I was sure that Saturday night at the mall would now be in my book of cold-day-in-hell-before-it-happens-again-firsts. And then there was the unseasonably warm thing, December 8 at night, 70s. All of it making for something that speeded up the cranky on the way to bitchy scenario and made me walk faster and try not to think.

I made it to the inside part and found the escalator and touched the rubber rail. Immediately I went to my hand-sanitizer prayer. Please, please, please God let me have that in my purse. 

I made it upstairs to Justice. Justice has nothing to do with justice. Period.  
I have 15 min to find a present suitable for Mama to give our 10 year old friend and one that will pass muster from both of them. Even with the 40% sale, small fortune is ringing through my head. I find something I'm not sure about, dark purple and navy and find the glowy-nail polish of the same color, check the time, and am out of there on the run.

The only reason we are out on a Saturday, in the December summer, with Christmas shoppers is EJ's 60th surprise birthday party. I have 5 minutes to get Sweetheart and walk across the mall street to Maggiano's and wait. It is about this time I realize I'd forgotten my cell phone. Crap.
We get there 10 min ahead of the 7:30 "supposed to" time. I check with the front desk. No reservation. I'm starting to get that sinking feeling and hoping I'd not made up the restaurant name through some flight of brain fancy. They tell me they only have one surprise party and give me the name.  I am thinking that Kathryn would not have used a pseudo-porn name to book the party, but, it sounds like one. (The pet and street you grew up on thing is plowing through my head and I realize hers would be Cadillac Aberdeen. Nothing like this one.)  I'm getting steadily uneasier. I check my purse for the 4th time for my phone. We go by the door and wait.  

Sweetheart sighs and then sighs again. I hear him.

We watch all the cars come and go and let out the people by our door. 
5, 10, 15, 20 minutes pass.
 I'm thinking we have already missed the window of "SURPRISE!" and EJ's look of happy followed by her  trademark yet beautiful tears. Sweetheart has left his phone in the car but there is only one thing I can think to do. We trudge the 2 miles back to the van and call Mama. 

"Mama, I hate to ask you, but would you go over to my house and see if my phone is downstairs?" 

It had been a long day of errands for Mama, she was tired. I hated to ask. From her sitting room door to my front door is about 75 feet, unless you are Mama right now. And that rolling walker is about to walk its on nine miles. (Tim Conway, Carole Burnett Show.)   I watched the minutes tick by, I figure 8 will  about do it. She calls. No phone.  

We got back out of the van, Sweetheart signs again---the quiet sigh intended for me to hear but not really hear. 
We start to walk the 3 miles back to the restaurant, I am walking, he is lollygagging. 

Maybe they came when we were gone? Nope.

4 miles back to the van, more sighing and lollygagging and we head home. 
That's when the hunger and the "Survivor" thinking really kicked in. I hear Sally Field put on 40 pounds to play Mary Lincoln, I could do that.  

We pull in the driveway and it is 8:47, one hour and 2 minutes after the Surprise was to happen.
K has texted, "Are you coming still?" 

"Where ARE YOU?" I text back. And I start scrolling through the old texts until I find the unopened one, the text of  a few days before that said Carrabas. 
My phone chimes, they'd had to wait forever, they haven't ordered yet, we can make it.

I head downstairs. Sweetheart has turned on the tv and kicked off his shoes and is half-lying on the couch.

"Not so fast, get-up, we are going!"

"Really? We are going NOW?"

"We are going NOW. Period. EJ's birthday, on a mission, tonight, big deal, out the door. NOW." 

The whole time we are walking to the van I am wondering about running back in to make a quick peanut butter sandwich, but know better than to lose the momentum. I don't know how 60 mph can turn to 25mph. But it does. Always, when I am in a hurry and Sweetheart is driving, it does. He and the van are torturing me with a 58mph flashing but I am for certain, we are going nowhere.

We get there. We hug everybody. I sit down and pull the crab dip and bread to the spot right in front of me, drink half my Sangria in a gulp and think how this is a Surprise party with surprise pieces we hadn't a clue about. In the end, it will be a better story and EJ loves to laugh.

I look at her and the beautiful family she loves, it is all good.

The big-loving, beautiful Smalls.

I hand her the pink bag that is filled with chocolate and holds her card.

"Dear beautiful, beautiful, beautiful one" it begins. 
What it doesn't say is what I am thinking...

This will not be the year when your honey is non-weight bearing for six months. This will not be the year of a raging infection that the doctors put into his leg when they were supposed to fix it.

This will not be the year when you are standing beside his bedside after the surgery to repair him and they call you about  the tiniest spot they found on your mammogram.

This will not be the year when we go for your biopsy and they biopsy the wrong place.

This will not be the year when they tell you, you have cancer.

This will not be the year when you begin radiation.


this will be the year of

of your honey walking again
of you singing melodically and happier and stronger than your already melodic, happy and strong 
of you bringing music as you always have, into this world
of you crying more of the tears of happiness and empathy that water the world
of you bringing the truest of big love every place you walk in this world
of you bent over laughing
of you having a year as beautiful as the you I have known for the last 55 years

Happy Birthday Dear Old Friend.
I am grateful for the Saturday night surprises turned into laughter and grateful that you had birthday cupcakes for breakfast.
And mostly I am grateful for the knowing and loving you, and the family as beautiful as you.

EJ, (her birthday cupcakes, Kathryn who planned her Mama's party and the one whose picture comes after knock-out and gorgeous in the dictionary and me

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Thank You For The Love Within the Ethers

"You aren't supposed to pick the flowers," she said to me. My ebullient and golden, near-perfect friend said something so strange to me.

"But you are. You ARE supposed to pick the flowers. Papa taught me to pick the flowers."

I was standing in her driveway having this conversation, looking down the gravel road at the fields of flowers.

And then I wasn't.

I was somewhere else staring ahead at the sidewalk in front of me.
There was  a grey vertical cloud a bit of a distance away, almost planted on the sidewalk.
It began to take form, shifting itself, shifting itself, ethers into human.
Clearer and clearer.

He stood there with his white hat on,  big as the benevolent, beneficent, broad and face-splitting glorious smile on his face.

He covered a mile in a moment.
He wrapped me up, a hug as deep as they come, the kind he'd always given me.
He poured his strength right into me, filling up my cracks, crevices and gaping holes, all of the dark and scary places.
I hung on for dear, sweet  life.
I hung on to the shared, the remembering, the now, all that is good, all that is sacred.

And then, he was gone.

I woke up, I could not remember where I'd been.
I breathed, it was easier. I laid there, it was quieter. I looked at the day, I had enough courage.
I remembered.

Papa had come to visit.
He had shape-shifted ether to form.
He had heard my only call, the one a few weeks back when I had finally whispered to him, "I need you."
He had wrapped me up in the big "it came to pass it didn't come to stay" hug and made me right. 

Like always.

Spirit world "come" home to me, a visit in the guise of a dream.

I do not have enough thank-you's.
Not this day, not any day.
There are never enough thank-you's for the love of this world, of the spheres and for the love that never ends.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

She is pure-out, full-on glory and grace

Some people are just born with grace in their beings, blood, breath. Maybe not enough people, but enough to remind the rest of us of the path that is possible and the way of that path.

I watch her. She walks toward me, it has been months since I have laid eyes on her. I see first her beauty. Her hair is a new color, but it is rich and deep like her and it must be the color she was born with because it not only becomes her, it is her. Her beauty reaches out in front of her and trails behind her, it reaches softly like her being and like her smile. I feel that first, I see it second.
I look harder.
And then I see her now.
She walks with what is more than an imperceptible limp, an almost awkward gait. She walks with that delicate precision that is the giveaway of the too careful, it is the sign where anything less or anything more, is far too painful if not impossible. She is fighting a new battle, one of many and this one the hardest, this one is to keep walking and keep moving and make the impossible, possible, it is the one that is her statement, "I am winning this round."

We hear  about and see diseases, the kind that eat away, the kind that destroy, the ones of the mind that leave the silent, the ones of the body that bit by bit take it all away.  I have watched my mother, my sister, my sweetheart battle pain that I can't comprehend. I have watched one friend die with cancer and when she left being so transparent, weightless and changed in body, that there was nothing left but her bright and shining soul.
This friend has battled one illness after another, she has opened the door to death, smiled graciously as is her way, had the requisite conversation and gently but firmly closed the door with a firm, "please come back later." Death and death's dark friends the ones that challenge and hone, scare and silence us, have stood watching her, too often. They took her mother, her grandmother, her aunts, all the women, a decade before they were as old as she. She is determined to fight the fight of her ancestors and her own at one time and win the battle for all of them.

She is one of the truly brave and beautiful. Her childhood scarred and scalding. Too much of the never-knowing, the unexpected grief and pain, the judgment, the dark corners, everything but the comfort and the consistency, everything but the grace and graciousness that are her inherent being, everything that would challenge her young and make her want to be normal, because she believed normal would be where she would finally find acceptance or safety. At 60 she has finally begun to accept, normal is not, and has never been, her path. She has had a string of successful careers and businesses, and a string of disappointments. She has been the outspoken speaker for the underdog, the downtrodden, the abused and the scared. That voice of truth cost her a business and a home she loved, those in power bent on taking it all away from her not realizing that all to her was her boys and her own heart and they had no power over those. They had come to tell her the night before, "you leave tomorrow, we are evicting you in the morning, it is over." Quietly she had closed the door, turned back to the music, smelled her just-picked flowers, continued baking and cooking, feeling the softness of the home she loved, determined that until the last conceivable moment she would immerse herself in all of it.

She raised those boys alone, no help from their father, she worked, she nurtured, she never missed a chance to empower them or support them or encourage them to be everything a human can be. And, they are. Now they are men that we all long to know and meet, kind, compassionate, smart, successful and fully devoted to their wives and children, doing it all, just like she did.

She would go on and earn degrees in her spare time and use those to speak for herself and for those who most needed  to be spoken for. She would reach out her hand to help someone to and over the bridge that they could not even see.  At some point she began to understand her work was other-wordly---that it was about energy seen and not seen. She became the student of the shaman's path.
Physician heal thyself.
Go to the place that is the darkest place within you, the dark place of the spiritual, of the emotional, of the physical and find your way back. And when you have done it, do it again, and again, and again.

She has. Her body born fragile, has continued to be challenged every year, always with more to come. And now on top of all of those challenges, the little tick that bit her years ago and left its poison to wreak a demolition derby in her body for the next five years has almost won. The views are split and many, how do you heal those with this type of sickness, what might work, or has the best chance of working before everything quits working. She has taken the only path for her. Wholistic and careful and non-traditional. Expensive, more than she makes in a month. She walks, she drives, she works, she takes care of the animals, her doctor unable to understand how she can do any of it, but it is who she is and she will do it.

She tells me, "last week I began walking into chairs and tables and I cannot control the direction of my steps, the pain is unbearable and I am scared."

I am running out of words, I am running out of hope to spread, I only can find a little humor and a true, real question to share. "WHAT were you f--ing thinking when you wrote the blueprint for this life? what were you thinking to become a saint in one go-round???"

She laughs. She nearly always finds a laugh. But the laugh itself is quiet and thoughtful. She has lived so many miles of challenge, of fight. She has always found her way and she has always found her way alone. The moments when most she has needed anyone, they have not been there. She has not complained, (I try to think when I have ever heard her complain) but she has suffered and then she has gone on, to heal herself and do it. It is as she says, her path.

I watch her walk towards me. I see her pain. I see her heart. I hold her heart in mine.
I have faith in her.

I see her glance behind her at darkness and his friends, she waves to them and keeps walking towards me.
She is nothing but beautiful.
She is one of the strong, one of the Amazon strong and she is pure-out, full-on grace and glory.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Liquid Brain, The All Out Snotty Crying Strength, "It Is What It Is"

Four years ago it was always the same. I'd go see the Healer, he would look at me and I would begin to cry, not just a little crying, not the sissy kind of crying but the big-full-on-broken-down-full-on-wearied-out-full-on-worn-out-gone-to-hell-in-a-handbasket-full-of-snot-crying. The hiccuping kind. The kind you most often feel stupid after. The kind that if you "pride"yourself on strength, makes you mad as hell you "showed" weakness. The kind that after it happens more than three times you finally give in to the learning and say, "It is what it is." Sometimes it might be the quickest way of getting to "It is what it is."

Meme told me she'd had a full-out-hiccuping-day-long-cry and she was really upset with herself. That's the way strong women are until they aren't, until they get to, "it is what it is." Or, until they get to the place they realize that in certain moments we don't have a clue and we can't define what it actually is: bad, indifferent, educational, life-changing, beautiful, funny, awful, awfully good, what it is or  the opposite of what it is. Sometimes it really is about silver linings, things that are illusions, grace on the other side of that waterfall of challenge, strength in the middle of the snotty nosed cry. Sometimes maybe oftentimes it is about how when life shifts up our lessons we have to shift up our labels and our semantics to keep up---and most often we do this with a WTF planted on our faces, our bodies rolled into question marks and all if it, right before we hit our knees.

Meme's long ass hiccup day of crying had taken her straight to that place and the place we find ourselves loudly saying, "this isn't me, this isn't who I am. I am stronger than this."

I'd said to her, "But it is. It is who you are, it is who we all are. We are all the pieces and all the parts and it is always what it seems and what it doesn't seem and most especially when we say, it isn't who we are..."

 I told her that the year of liquid brain had brought me to a clearer understanding of things like who we are and what we take for granted about ourselves and how we think about ourselves and the pieces that make it all up, that with liquid brain it all goes melting down the street in front of us and we can see it but it has all run together and so we stare and wait until it solidifies a little bit and forms any kind of new solid whole that once again spells out life. Liquid brain is like throwing ourselves up in the air in pieces and watching as they float back down and happiness is catching some of them and putting the some back together. The some back together becomes the new story and new stories mean change, mean we've moved on from the old and the letting go and we are free to write the new challenge, with new humor and new sweet. We can trade the old weak for a new strong, the old job for a new title, the cancer for the grace, the family can expand with in-laws and the story can grow as long as we need it to, until it is time to throw ourselves up and catch the rewrite, again.

Liquid brain is like snotty nosed crying, it brings you up short and just pauses you and you go on living as best you can and in a way that usually people only get a glimmer of how far you have melted and how far you have to go. Sometimes they see a together person when all you see is that liquid running down the street in front of you. Perceptions, perspective. Damn if it doesn't make you strong while it softens up all your edges, and damn if when you put your Humpty Dumpty self back together again you don't discover that you are no longer made of something hard, something rigid, something really defined, but instead, something sweetly, strongly soft with blurred and open spaces and something that  if you fall, will only crack, heal and then be whole again.

She repeats. "This isn't me, I don't wallow, I'm so strong, I never cry." And I think how all that crying and all that liquifying and all that letting go only made and makes me stronger  and how it is making her stronger too.

It is hard to pick up one illusion and discard another, hard to become everything we believe we are not. But if we can find that place inside that recognizes or gets the slimmest math glimmer of parts of the whole, we can maybe get to the loving of each of the parts. And whether the part is the big snotty cry that takes us straight to strength,  the big shout of whoohooo that takes us straight to heart, the big glue of laugher that holds it all together or  the big sigh of surrender that takes us straight to where it really all happens, it is what it is and what it is, is all of it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Moving Through Hatred

We have had this talk more than a few times these last two decades, the Healer and I. The talk about the times to come, the earth changes, the changes in consciousness that have to happen, the big fork in the road, and the way home. In the last few years each time it becomes harder and harder for me to understand human behavior and judgment I have found solace that it is in the moving through we get to the other side. It is in the suffering, we find Grace. It is what it is and within that there is a way.

I dread going downstairs to Mama's today. It is all I can do myself to get out of bed. My heart is like a boulder. Last night for the first time in 20 years, my Sweetheart went outside and screamed into the sky, not once but five times. He screamed. What else can you do at times but send it  up to to the angels. That is my take on screaming into the sky. His was knowing full well that neighbors on all sides but one had probably voted For this day. He wanted them to know how he felt. He wanted them to know he hated them. I feel like crying, Mama will have cried already, I believe my Sweetheart has cried as well, although he will never let me see that.

Last night as he screamed I went to the place of eerie quiet where it is all there is to do. It is the place where helplessness and hope meet inevitability and shrink into nothing. And nothing is what it all becomes in that moment until it re-forms and guides me someplace different.

I tell him I cannot bear to hear the word, to not say the word, I am almost shouting myself, silence to shouting can too often come quickly.

"DON'T say HATE."

"I hate them all, all of them who voted this way, I hate all of their ignorant, stupid, uneducated, self-righteous, Christian selves."

"Don't make like the Bible scholar you aren't. It is not all the Christians, so don't blame the Christians.

"You tell me what you want me to call them and I'll call them that."

I don't have the answer. I am not sure in this moment how to define without labeling how to explain without judging, how to even talk about it.  It is the calling each other anything except the sweet and good where the walk becomes precarious, it is only in the love we are safe. But in this moment I'm faltering. I think of Billy and Franklin and spending money on the bill boards for hate. I know they didn't speak for God even if they are so misguided they believe they did. My own anger boils up and it is all I can do to not scream at the sky myself. It is like that with hate. Hate begets hate and it multiplies as fast as rabbits and rats.  I think that the religious leaders of Iran who foster hatred and the religious leaders of America who foster hatred are no different. I think about how the "right" is to me so wrong and the label in that. I think about governments built on religion, wars raged for religion, and the narrow views of the few. I think The Handmaid's Tale is not a work of fiction, of the 1,000 bills in legislatures across this country legislating women's activities, health, behaviors, of the fear, of the need to be right, of the hatred driving it all. I think of the  Dalai Lama who said it would be the Western Woman who would change this world. I think it is time to dress up, get out of the house and start the world changing. I wonder which state I'll be living in next. I think it was easier when I moved from NC to Seattle the first time, it was me, Milda and the pick-up truck. Now how to get us all there and how would Mama adjust.

I think about it all and try to find my hope. I think about it all and try to keep my faith. I think about it all and know that love is always the only way out and through, around and over, the only thing and way that makes the big changes, brings about the big healing. I think about it all and step clear and dead into the center of the hatred that boils and spews and wounds and kills. I step into that center and know that this is the path of healing, this is the path of finding our way home, this is the way and the place we all go back to love, but only, only, when we all get sick enough of hatred, we can hate no more.

(Note: This is written on May 9, 2012 the day after North Carolina passed an amendment to their Constitution. An amendment as I understand it funded by a hate group and 12 years in the making. An amendment that will take away rights not only of homosexuals but heterosexuals, the 2nd amendment to the NC Constitution, the first being against interracial marriage. A sad history and a sad present.)