Monday, September 28, 2009

If I Had a Daughter (Terri Hendrix)

(Click on the picture to view it clearly)

Today is our daughter Sarah's 28th birthday - unlike the poem below, she is not married... but the sentiment is the same ("she made it to here"). As parents, we do our very best to raise responsible, kind, smart, generous, witty and respectful children and sometimes, despite our hard work, for one reason or another, it turns out otherwise - to know that, almost three decades after her birth, our daughter is still a source of pride and blessings is more than my husband and I could hope for, much less be able to verbalize...

We hosted a party for her yesterday, at her request, at our home... and it was a joy to see her friends mingle with her office mates hanging with her boyfriend's buddies - she shone as she greeted, introduced and made everyone feel welcome in the worlds-colliding gathering. We grilled out, we played card/drinking games and we engaged in stimulating conversation - okay, there was football game watching, too!

She has not only survived but she has thrived - we did many things right... but we are also lucky to be able to call this amazing young woman our daughter...

If I Had a Daughter by Terri Hendrix

A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen

POEM: After Our Daughter's Wedding by Ellen Bass

While the remnants of cake
and half-empty champagne glasses
lay on the lawn like sunbathers lingering
in the slanting light, we left the house guests
and drove to Antonelli's pond.
On a log by the bank I sat in my flowered dress and cried.
A lone fisherman drifted by, casting his ribbon of light.
"Do you feel like you've given her away?" you asked.
But no, it was that she made it
to here, that she didn't drown in a well or die
of pneumonia or take the pills.
She wasn't crushed under the mammoth wheels of a semi
on highway 17, wasn't found lying in the alley
that night after rehearsal
when I got the time wrong.
It's animal. The egg
not eaten by a weasel. Turtles
crossing the beach, exposed in the moonlight. And we
have so few to start with.
And that long gestation—
like carrying your soul out in front of you.
All those years of feeding
and watching. The vulnerable hollow
at the back of the neck. Never knowing
what could pick them off—a seagull
swooping down for a clam.
Our most basic imperative:
for them to survive.
And there's never been a moment
we could count on it.

QUOTE: "Suddenly, through birthing a daughter, a woman finds herself face to face not only with an infant, a little girl, a woman-to-be, but also with her own unresolved conflicts from the past and her hopes and dreams for the future.... As though experiencing an earthquake, mothers of daughters may find their lives shifted, their deep feelings unearthed, the balance struck in all relationships once again off kilter." ~ Elizabeth Debold and Idelisse Malave

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ma-Me-O Beach (Joan Armatrading)

Was it really only 48 hours I was gone? - amazing the tricks time can play on us...

As noted previously, my husband and I celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary last week - actually, the date of our union was September 18... but the celebration took place the last few days, as we decided to check into a hotel on the Ft. Lauderdale beach as a well-deserved and long-overdue getaway...

Since I spent the majority of my summer taking care of mom, and then the last month at home attempting to catch up from being away, I had forgotten how much I'd missed being outside... in the sun... particularly at the beach - my husband and I have now vowed to do this at least once a month, even if for only one night. There's much to be said for the curative powers of the ocean, an overload of sights, smells, sounds, sensations and salty tastes - I am tan, I am relaxed and, most importantly, I feel that I am on my way to a self-healing of great magnitude...

It has been a most difficult year, as I was reminded often over the last few days, remembering back to August 2008 when we took the family beach vacation Mom had always wanted, which would be our Last Hurrah, since she went on 24/7 oxygen a few weeks later - I segued from being a mess as I watched her decline... to experiencing the redemption of aiding in her peaceful passage...

I just felt so aware and flexible and receptive during this time off - what could have been a problem... wasn't... because I didn't allow it (room changes, husband's behavior, inclement weather). It all happened for a reason, and I took delight in whatever came my way (the trade-off of a larger room for one with a balcony, letting go of expectations and rediscovering the prose of two of my favorite authors:
Pat Conroy and Anna Quindlen)...

I slept... a lot... I woke up to watch two glorious sunrises... and then went back to sleep... I stretched... I walked (some days twice!)... I gave and received love... I had my favorite meal (calamari and a dirty martini)... I reclined on a rented beach chair under the shade of a fluttering umbrella... or not, when I wanted to bake in the sun's rays... I wore my mom's bathing suit... I felt more limber and thin and self-confident and, yes, even beautiful than I have in a while...

I immersed, literally and figuratively, in the reconnection with my husband... as well as solitude and serenity - may this be the start of a new year of health and gratitude and acceptance... in my relationships with family and friends... and for myself...

Ma-Me-O Beach by Joan Armatrading

Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen

POEM: All My Body Calls by David Whyte

All my body calls
for something in this sleeping
we call the spirit.

But how
from lifted arms
where stars run through fingers
and the night is like sand
do I breathe a fragrance of its wisdom
do I call its name
or listen to the drops
that trickle down to earth
and hear
life being given
not only through the moving hands of the forest
but through the hand that reaches in
the dark unmoving regions of the chest
and uncovers slowly
the enormous
shape of the ocean.

QUOTE: "Don't grow up too quickly, lest you forget how much you love the beach." ~ Michelle Held

Friday, September 18, 2009

Peace Like a River (traditional)

Today is my 33rd wedding anniversary - for three hours, I had my air ducts cleaned out. Lest you think that is a metaphor for... something else... I assure you, it is the literal truth - we have been on a straightening/cleaning jag (motivated by a party we're giving next weekend) and that was one of the things on our To Do List. Later tonight I intend to invoke the metaphor as well - our evening is low-key because we are headed to a hotel on the beach for two nights mid-week for our actual celebration (more on that as it gets closer... :-)

I've spent the day re-evaluating what's kept us going these 3+ decades - my daughter told me earlier that she didn't think she'd ever get married because we are the only people she knows who have stuck it out, while everyone else is divorcing, some even multiple times. I told her that it shouldn't discourage her, and that we have had just as many troubles as everyone else - the risk is the reward, and the leap of faith is the longevity... that we just keep getting up and doing it again... amen (to quote Jackson Browne)...

My husband makes me crazy... and he makes he feel adored - he is frustrating... and he is flattering. He is honest, even when I don't want to hear it... and I know I can trust his words and his actions (how many people in our lives can we say that about?!?) - he is intuitive, which is sometimes annoying but mostly a blessing. For my birthday last month, he wrote in my card: "Another year of challenges and you keep on going with class and dignity! I not only love you but admire you!" - sigh...

Tomorrow will be two months since my mom's passing... and one month since I've been back home in Florida - I'm beginning to move past the numbness and into question/overanalyzing mode. I've been lucky to have some good friends who will listen to my process without judgement and I'm finally feeling... dare I say it?... peace - I still miss mom and I still cry a good bit... but I know I am a better person for the experience...

Last Sunday was Water Sunday at our UU church - the format is that people bring water from (or use tap water that symbolizes) their summer vacation or travels. It's a lovely ceremony, and one in which I usually participate... but all I could think of was that I spent mid-May through mid-July refilling mom's oxygen tank twice a day with distilled water... and I knew I couldn't verbalize that without falling apart - water as a life force was quite literal in my case...

After the service, I was speaking with an older woman from the congregation who spent her summer at various doctor's offices - she too had refrained from the public ritual of sharing. We decided to ask the interim minister if she could "officiate" while we privately poured water into the community bowl and spoke our tearful intentions - it was quite cathartic... and, yes... even peaceful...

By the way, the ending hymn of our church service was Peace Like a River and, when I got home and turned on our local folk and acoustic radio show at 2 p.m., it was the first song the DJ played - meant-to-be... :-)

Wind chimes ping and tangle on the patio.
In gusty winds this wild, sparrow hawks hover
and bob, always the crash of indigo
hosannas dangling on strings. My wife ties copper
to turquoise from deserts, and bits of steel
from engines I tear down. She strings them all
like laces of babies' shoes when the squeal
of their play made joyful noise in the hall.

Her voice is more modest than moonlight,
like pearl drops she wears in her lobes.
My hands find the face of my bride.
I stretch her skin smooth and see bone.
Our children bring children to bless her, her face
more weathered than mine. What matters
is timeless, dazzling devotion—not rain,
not Eden gardenias, but cactus in drought,
not just moons of deep sleep, not sunlight or stars,
not the blue, but the darkness beyond.

QUOTE(S): "Love is the river of life in the world." ~ Henry Ward Beecher

"As I make my way around this life, I look for signs and baubles and charms and amulets and secret texts that there is a meaning and significance to human life that is under the control of some great moderating force. I like the glimpses of sorcery and fantasy that sometimes enter the human arena at the oddest, most unexpected times." ~ Pat Conroy

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Only Way (Mark Erelli)

Because we remember... and rebuild... and continue to visualize peace:

9/11 marked with mourning and a spirit of service
Associated Press Writer
September 11, 2009

Cold rain mixed with tears as mourners collected under umbrellas and a dreary sky Friday to mark the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks with old rituals and a new purpose - honoring the spirit of those who rushed forward to help.

Skies were gray in New York City, at the Pentagon and at the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 in a Shanksville, Pa., field, where now-familiar ceremonies honored the nearly 3,000 people who were lost. Friday was also the first time the anniversary was observed as a national day of service, following an order signed this year by President Barack Obama.

The rest of the story can be found here...

SONG: The Only Way by Mark Erelli

BOOK: On That Day: A Book of Hope for Children by Andrea Patel

POEM: We Have Not Come to Take Prisoners by Hafiz

We have not come here to take prisoners,
But to surrender ever more deeply
To freedom and joy.

We have not come into this exquisite world
To hold ourselves hostage from love.

Run my dear,
From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.

Run like hell my dear,
From anyone likely
To put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.

We have a duty to befriend
Those aspects of obedience
That stand outside of our house
And shout to our reason
"O please, O please,
Come out and play."

For we have not come here to take prisoners
Or to confine our wondrous spirits,
But to experience ever and ever more deeply
Our divine courage, freedom and

QUOTE: "When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it ... always." ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Revolution 9 (The Beatles)

Something I read today:

09/09/09: Today is the 252nd day of the year. When added together, those three numbers equal... 9. This is the last time there will be single digits in the month, day and year for the next 1001 years.

You can read about the many significances of the number 9

Today also would have been mom's 79th birthday - she was born in 1930, which always made it easy to do the math and figure out how old she was...

Every day since her passing has been hard... and it whams me over the head at the most obvious of times (seeing a woman with a portable oxygen tank at the grocery store... the thirtysomething episode when Michael realizes his dad is dying... mom's birthday today) - other times it creeps up for no apparent reason... yet the tears, heartache and melancholy are the same...

Immediately after mom's passing, my husband said that it was impossible to imagine Life Without Connie, the matriarch, a larger-than-life figure who kept our family together in the bad times and good - each day that goes by has me questioning... floundering... scrambling to re-find my equilibrium... which will *never* be the same...

Scenes of the last two months of her life play out in my brain and, much as I have touted the "no regrets" philosophy, I do wonder if I could have said, done and thought things differently - then I realize that, since I can't go back, I can only use the experience to affect and affirm my actions/reactions from here on out...

I miss you so much, mom - Happy Birthday...

I walked among the Grave Markers,
Near my old home town,
And I saw a number of
Old friends.
John: Killed in world war two,
Buckey, Tooter,
And Teenie.
All were childhood pals.
There was Ann's mother, And
Verna Karhryn's Mother and
father. Uncle Levi, Aunt Sally,
And Mr. Smith. I saw Uncle
Charlie—And so many others
That brought fleeting Memories
of other days.
Then I came to the plot,
That Mama had bought for herself.
Suddenly the world was still,
Except for a bird
That was singing.
Once again I heard
Mama say to me,"Son, when I die.
Take me home!"
I think that they were glad,
That I came and walked among
Their headstones,
And remembered
Each of them,
As they used to be.
I think that they were glad,
That I came all alone,
And did not disturb
The bird
That was singing.

QUOTE: "We're meant to lose the people we love. How else are we supposed to know how important they are?" ~ The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Three Women (Carrie Newcomer)

How amazing to think I've been back almost three weeks... and haven't posted in almost two weeks - overwhelmed and sensory-overloaded and crazed, oh my!

M just offered up A Challenge!, which I'll rise to in the next day or so - in the meantime, I wanted to mention a most lovely evening at my friend Nancy's a few nights ago. I appreciated The Circle of Life theme... and it was nice to celebrate a few friends' August and September births as well as honor mom's passing - thanks to all for allowing me a chance to talk about the experience, even for a bit... and with more than a few tears...

I loved everyone's contributions (Sandy's Gibran, Alisa's P.D. Eastman, Judi's poems, one of which is reprinted below) - I also reference the perfect book Susan P. gifted me with (she had no idea we used to use that song in our pre-K graduation video, oh so many years ago, in my preschool director life). I brought a few photo albums as well as Mom's plastic tiara (which many of you will recall I had on a pillow on her couch back in Georgia before bringing it home to rest on a shelf in my curio cabinet) - the feelings are still fresh and the grief process at this level is new to me. I don't want to segue into "business as usual" and gloss over what is real and deep and ongoing - I cherish my women friends, their importance being one of the many legacies from my mom...

The below essay came to me in a forward, unattributed - it suits...



When I was little, I used to believe in the concept of one best friend, and then I started to become a woman. And then I found out that if you allow your heart to open up, God would show you the best in many friends.

One friend is needed when you're going through things with your man. Another friend is needed when you're going through things with your mom. Another will sit beside you in the bleachers as you delight in your children and their activities. Another when you want to shop, share, heal, hurt, joke, or just be. One friend will say, 'Let's cry together,' another , 'Let's fight together,' another , 'Let's walk away together.'

One friend will meet your spiritual need, another your shoe fetish, another your love for movies, another will be with you in your season of confusion, another will be your clarifier, another the wind beneath your wings.

But whatever their assignment in your life, on whatever the occasion, on whatever the day, or wherever you need them to meet you with their gym shoes on and hair pulled back, or to hold you back from making a complete fool of yourself... those are your best friends.

It may all be wrapped up in one woman, but for many, it's wrapped up in several... one from 7th grade, one from high school, several from the college years, a couple from old jobs, on some days your mother, on some days your neighbor, on others, your sisters, and on some days, your daughters.

Thanks for being in my circle.

SONG: Three Women by Carrie Newcomer (scroll down to page 17)

Forever Young by Bob Dylan, Paul Rogers (illustrator)

POEM: Just Lying on the Grass at Blackwater by Mary Oliver

I think sometimes of the possible glamour of death -
that it might be wonderful to be
lost and happy inside the green grass -
or to be the green grass! -
or, maybe the pink rose, or the blue iris,
or the affable daisy, or the twirled vine
looping its way skyward – that I might be perfectly peaceful
to be the shining lake, or the hurrying, athletic river,
or the dark shoulders of the trees
where the thrush each evening weeps himself into an ecstasy.

I lie down in the fields of goldenrod, and everlasting.
Who could find me?
My thoughts simplify. I have not done a thousand things
or a hundred things but, perhaps, a few.
As for wondering about answers that are not available except
in books, though all my childhood I was sent there
to find them, I have learned
to leave all that behind

as in summer I take off my shoes and my socks,
my jacket, my hat, and go on
happier, through the fields. The little sparrow
with the pink beak
calls out, over and over, so simply – not to me
but to the whole world. All afternoon
I grow wiser, listening to him,
soft, small, nameless fellow at the top of some weed,
enjoying his life. If you can sing, do it. If not,

even silence can feel, to the world, like happiness,
like praise,
from the pool of shade you have found beneath the everlasting.

QUOTE(S): “If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.” ~ Tom Stoppard

"Friendship is a combination of art and craft. The craft part is in knowing how to give and how to take. The art part is in knowing when, and the the whole process only works when no one is keeping track." - E. L. Konigsburg