Category Archives: peace

Touch.

Standard
Touch.

When a baby is born and you pass her around, you wonder what she is thinking as she lies in your arms. Living in another state from our grandchildren, we spent the newborn visits hogging the first baby, trying to absorb her and letting her absorb us…hearing our voices, feeling our sway, sensing our scents. On her tummy, and eventually on her back, once she was stronger, her dinosaur bones, I would slowly spell out the letters of her lengthy name with my index finger. “K…e…n…n…e…d…y…”and finish with a big tickle up the neck, “KENNEDY!”

I could soon enough see that she came to expect it from me. Which was, of course, the point.
Eventually the child could walk and talk…funny how that happens, and quickly…and her mama turned the spelling of her name into a rhyme, “K-e-n-n-e-d-y, that’s my name, I’m sweet as pie!”
And, as kids will do with every parent’s perfect plan, Kennedy twisted that rhyme into her own ridiculous singsong, apropos of nothing, “K-e-n-n-e-d-y, that’s my name, football pie!” Then the laughter, the glee.

I’m sure I did the same thing thirty years ago on the back of the baby girl who named me Mamie, albeit with a much shorter name, K-a-t-i-e. I have done it using the few letters in Noah. “Again, Mamie!” The unique arrangement of letters in Loftyn. I have barely begun to do it on the quickly broadening back of Jackson, whom we haven’t seen since late December, as he grows and forgets while we all quarantine in our respective states. I may have done it only once to the new Myles.

My calendar tells me it’s almost time for what would have been my monthly hair color appointment at my friend Mary’s salon, and I remember a wonderful woman who retired from there named Penny, whose gentle, capable hands at the shampoo bowl reminded clients of a loving grandmother. Penny always made sure there were no suds in your ears and that the water was never cold.

Beyond even that date will come Easter, when sometimes my sisters and I would crash our hard-boiled eggs into each other, “egg fight!” Someone wins, someone loses, but then everyone wins because two of us like yolks, while one of us likes only the whites. It is often a holiday that my brother-in-law has had to miss because of work, likewise his son, the chef, cooking for families who prefer a restaurant for their fancy ham, maybe pork belly and farm-to-table eggs.
My mind wanders to their other son, all six foot four of him…did he let me draw his name on his back for comfort as I “rode” the MRI machine with him as a toddler? He’s married now, and his wife gives the longest, most heartfelt hugs of anyone I have ever known.

Just outside both my back and front doors, birds are building nests. Spring is dawning, which would usually be yet another excuse for a pedicure with my mom. Last time we went together, before her winter vacation in Florida, the young women massaging our calves with lavender sugar scrub were discussing an Instagram post in which some unknown harlot tagged our girl’s boyfriend. Should she text him? Ask him to explain? Or become Nancy Drew first and confront him with evidence?

As the weather warms, I yearn to climb onto my stand-up paddleboard, hibernating in the basement, and to lunch with my friend afterwards. And to reach my fork to sample from her plate, or share some fries, maybe a sip of each other’s beer.

Zoom and Facetime prevent the grandkids from forgetting our faces, as does an old-fashioned letter written to help bridge the chasm. Distance isn’t the problem; my best friend and her husband drive across town to stand six feet from their grandsons. My sister does the same to see the babies she moved residences this past year just to be closer to. Her daughter had ice cream delivered. Proximity is not the problem.

Today, the sun shines and more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit are promised, so I will take my mom for a ride in the car since we’ve been shuttered at home together-ish. Side by side. Last week when we did the joyride, we stopped in the driveway of her best friend who came outside to chat from a distance, bundled in an over-sized Cleveland Indians jacket. The boys of summer, benched for now. If we do the same visit again this week, we may have to call that our Easter since it is a holiday usually shared with her family…our family.

Months ago, as regular flu season kicked up, I stopped ending my yoga classes by giving everyone a gentle neck massage. Some folks say that’s their favorite part of class. Others, like my friend Joolz, only tolerates it. She doesn’t want to reject my touch, but she is one who has trouble relaxing, finding peace at the end of practice. Which makes her appearance there even more valuable to me.

Mass on Sunday is on TV for now, and while I may have balked at the exchange of so many handshakes at St. Bridget’s and often surreptitiously squeezed sanitizer into my hand and my husband’s (or once, the open handbag of the woman in the pew in front of us!) I do miss the waves, winks, and thumbs-up of those friends, each of us easy to find in the same pew week after week. The big ones and the little ones. Some of us grabbing breakfast afterwards. I miss the Eucharist. It is called Communion.

My original yoga guru ends class by saying “unity in diversity; all are one.” I miss meeting her for coffee after class. I miss the group of faces I would see at noon on a Wednesday, and even more the several with whom I shared tiaras and mimosas one year ago today for a 50th birthday celebration. Thanks, Timehop.

Before this all happened, we had Thanksgiving and an 80th birthday party for our mom. We had a Christmas with the kids. Before this happened, we rang in the new year on a mountaintop from a hot tub while fireworks exploded in the valley below. Before this all happened, we made it to the in-laws in Florida for a golf visit. Before this happened, we had a weekend in Quebec with our friends. Before this happened, we celebrated our bestie Ken’s birthday.

Before this happened. And now this has happened. And everything from this point on will be “after.”

I just miss touch.

touch3

(Photo from Mother’s Day 2019)

 

True musings

Standard
True musings

Funny, when I started this blog years ago I used the word “musings” to describe it, but I’m not sure I have done that at all. I think I tend to use Facebook for my musings, Twitter for my criticism (most people I know in my age group and older are on Facebook so I can be meaner on Twitter and still not blow my cover), and Snapchat for…well, snapchat.

I avoid writing unless I feel I have the time and inspiration for a full, concise essay with a message and hook and an ending. Why? No one sees this anyway, for the most part! So I’m gonna MUSE!

Yesterday evening, I realized as I stood in line for fresh peach ice cream, a seasonal offering at Mitchells, that at that very moment when my husband and I were capping off a long day of sun, food, and cocktails in the searing late summer Sunday heat, a boy I went to high school with–and with whom my husband would eventually cross office space with–was sitting at a service to bury his 19-year old son who had committed suicide. We had visited with the family at the wake earlier in the day, not knowing what to do or say besides a hug, tears, and the promise of prayers. Being thankful for our mental health and that of our children, my husband and I, murmuring taboo words about what life would be like for this family now that every day would cease to be about managing the lifelong depression and emotional chaos of this boy. Realizing that on the day of his birth, they had a perfect baby and life was just beginning, and no matter what happened in the years after that, on one blissful day that baby was fresh and new like we all are once and nothing was “wrong.”

I wouldn’t look at the poster boards of photographs of the boys as a child. I didn’t know him, had never met him.  I didn’t have waterproof mascara on. I was afraid of touching that place which I wanted to avoid.

And then, fully appreciating the possibly obscene juxtaposition of our day vs. theirs, we went off to enjoy Cleveland’s refurbished downtown areas, waterfront, dinner, drinks, ice cream. Celebrating our own fifteen years of wedded bliss, and bliss is pretty much an apt description of it. Why do some get so much on their shoulders, and all that has been on my shoulders, it seems, is the sunshine that I seek so fervently this time of year?

So why write when I have no pat answer or cute meme to punctuate these thoughts? Musings. I’m just musing. And that’s how it works.

And a few less important things that really take up room in my head: I want our local weather person to stop telling me whether to eat my meal on the patio or in the air conditioning. I want her to stop instructing children what weight jacket to wear to the bus stop, and for the sake of all that is meterological I want her to stop sharing recipes. Just tell me the weather. I can make the rest of the decisions on my own.

I think BlueApron or whatever this gourmet food delivery and recipe thing is called is stupid. How hard is it to go the store and buy the six items needed for a recipe? This is another reason why people hate Americans. I know I’m right about this, and I know you probably feel the same way about some things I do, like posting yoga poses and swishing with coconut oil and still having a land-line. But these are my musings, so today I’m right.

Now, after months, I wrote something. So now I’m free to go make a playlist for my noon yoga class, because I feel like that’s fun and this is work. Why, I’m not sure, because I get paid for the yoga and not for the writing. Which is another hilarious turn of events since  my intention was not to necessarily teach yoga. But two great yoga jobs were tossed into my lap like a hot potato (vs. a football, because if you toss a football into my lap I will let it fall because I think football is mostly unnecessary in my life, but a potato (hot or otherwise) I will never let pass me by) and I am completely, unexpectedly energized by teaching.

Have a day. No pressure, it’s Monday. Open heart and no complaining.

 

 

Beam Me Up

Standard
Beam Me Up

“Beam me up…

Gimme a minute

I don’t know what I’d say in it…

I’d probably just stare, happy just to be there

Holding your face.

Beam me up…

Let me be lighter, I’m tired of being a fighter

I think…

A minute’s enough

 

Just beam me up.”

She fell in love with the song from Pink’s “The Truth About Love” album as soon as she heard it. The dramatic instrumentation, the tender, heartfelt vocal, the melody soft but strong with those minor keys of angst, building the feeling. She shared Pink’s song and the lyrics with plenty of people, because the song reminded her of profound losses: her sister’s baby, eventually her own father (…in my head I see your baby blues.)

The only detail that didn’t sit well in a song so perfect it always drew a tear and required a replay was the part about a minute being enough. What is that about? How could a minute be enough when you long for and miss someone so desperately, and then you get to be “beamed up” to see them again? A minute could never be enough.

Her dad is in her dreams, sometimes. Fairly regularly, in fact, but never the focus. His presence there is purely incidental: it is a holiday at home, so of course he is in the family room in his chair, or outside with the grandkids. She hears his voice in reply to someone’s question, catches a glimpse of him from the corner of her eye smoothing back his shock of white hair the way he always did. He’s there, as he should be, but in the dreams she is always conscious of the looming dementia. In the dramatic irony of a dream, she knows about the dementia because it has come and gone. She knows everything about it, about what’s coming, but he does not. She awakens troubled and anxious, vestiges of her sleep-self worrying that he is still driving but losing his sense of direction, still talking but sometimes seeing things. She’s afraid he will mention a puppy under the table or a bug skittering in the corner. In the dreams, she’s stressed, holding it all together and not sure what to do. But some part of her consciousness always knows it is a dream, because she knows how all of this ends. She simply can’t stop it this time, any more than she could in real life. The dream isn’t about him, so it doesn’t matter. She’s just dreaming, and he is there. Just like the pets and the kids and the occasional former co-worker or high-school classmate. Like intricate puzzles put together with a few of the wrong pieces, forced in awkwardly, dreams are.

One September night, still warm enough to sleep with the bedroom window open for the sleek purring body of her black cat to somehow relax into the tracks of the frame, she understood what it meant to be beamed up.

She dreamed, and this time it was just her and her dad. There was no context, no preface. They stood outside in the darkness facing each other, as suddenly as if they had both been dropped there like a slide from an old projector. Outside of what or where, she didn’t know, couldn’t tell. A place, a building maybe? They were a mere few strides apart, facing each other in the almost-blackness. In a fraction of a second she understood that this dream was different: he had already died, and he knew it. The dementia had come and gone again, and he knew it. And he knew that she knew it all. Revelation was instantaneous. They rushed to approach each other with arms open, no time to waste. He wore a shirt she didn’t recognize, the only thing that wasn’t familiar to her. They hugged, and her dad was once again the right size; the right height, a bit shorter than his youngest daughter in adulthood (he had introduced her around the dementia ward as “the tall one”) so her face was over his shoulder at the crook of his neck, the right density. His back and shoulders were smooth and strong and bullish, the way their dad had always been. Robust, immovable in a hug. He smelled like dad, the cloud of soap and toothpaste and shaving cream that had always breezed behind him as he rushed down the stairs, the last one to shower in a houseful of females. Somehow she could even see his tan in the darkness, sense rather than see the glossy blue-against-white of his mischievous eyes. They hugged strongly—tightly, but not hard, he was so staunch and she gripped the muscles of his back for emphasis. She knew this would be brief, and she rushed her tearful, joyful words, “oh, we love you and miss you so much!” And because she had always joked with him, added, “we don’t want to, but we do!”

He chuckled, still in the hug, unable to see each other’s faces except in mind’s eye, and said, “I know.”

Then they pulled back, still linking forearms but facing each other in this unnamed night-place. His smile was perfect, lighting up his face in its familiar jocularity, and he said to her, with just a trace of disbelief and humility, “I really love it here.”

Her heart spilled over to hear those words. She had already believed he was in a better place, THE better place, and it was what he had believed too. But to see him, feel him, smell him, and recognize the same wonder in his voice that she had heard him use in the past to describe a mountain, or a golf shot, or a talented child, or a great meal, convinced her down to her soul. She grabbed him again, sliding her arms around his shoulders and squeezing his meaty clavicles with her fingertips.

“I’m so glad,” she choked out near his ear. And she meant it. And she wanted him to know that she meant it. She was so happy for him, and she was desperate to impart the whole remaining family’s love and joy to him in what she inherently knew was a very brief opportunity. She squeezed him tighter, burying her face in him. He squeezed too.

She woke up.

Just like that, she was back in her bed at around three in the morning, her husband asleep next to her, her cat curled up and humming, the sounds of the night falling softly through the screen. The whole thing had taken no time at all. A hug, a few words. But now she could feel her dad in her arms. His voice and scent and warm, living skin lingered. She hadn’t hugged her dad that often when he was alive; she would be more inclined to chuck him on the shoulder, while he would have yanked a piece of her long hair from behind and then dodged her retaliation. She felt, for a moment, what she supposed could be called bliss.

The vestigial flavor of that dream lingers, and she deliberately goes inside her thoughts to enjoy it from time to time. She had her dad back, her real dad, tangible in her arms. And then one day, a couple of weeks later, her earbuds delivered that beloved Pink song while she was walking to one of her sister’s houses, to collect the mail or let out the dog, on a sunny, end-of-summer day. Now, it all made sense, and the lyrics didn’t leave her frustrated any more. A minute was all it took.

A minute was enough.

From Rachel, on her first birthday… (with peace)

Standard

A conversation today with my sister prompted me to post this poem. I haven’t thought about it for a while. I wrote it in 1996, when I sat down with paper and pen and it flowed out almost in its entirety, fully formed. I definitely felt like a vehicle or a channel, because I did not have a hand in creating this–it came straight out in the pen. It was made into a framed print, a photo of which I have included here, and I no longer had it saved as a document anywhere. When I sat down today to “copy” it down, I still knew it by heart. Rachel’s spirit, or the Holy Spirit–but I humbly admit, not my own. I hope it comforts someone else out there.

Rachel S Lemon Hospital photo, November 26, 1995

Rachel S Lemon
Hospital photo,
November 26, 1995

From Rachel, on her first birthday

It is okay

To hurt, this day

For things I’ll never be…

But don’t forget,

Your world holds things

You’d never want for me.

Disappointments I will never have,

Pains I’ll never suffer

I will not fail

I will not fall

And we’ll never hurt each other.

By today, I may have walked

But would I have ever run?

By someday soon, I may have talked…

Would I ask of you, “how come?”

So there are many childish words

You never will hear spoken…

No, my heart was never whole…

But my heart was never broken.

I may not get to be with you

But I’ll never live in fear

You’ll never get to see me smile;

But you never saw my tears.

I lived from warm & loving womb

To a castle in the sky…

And there’s no need to wonder how

There is no reason why.

I paused here, not to hurt you

And not to say goodbye…

But just to put my angel face

Before this family’s eyes…

So now you have an image

Of the girl who would be me

For you are still not ready

To blindly set love free

Until the time when you believe

The things you cannot see.