As I stand here today, I can’t reconcile the fact that Mom has died With the woman I knew. She was a force to be reckoned with, a force of Nature, and the quinticential matriarch. I hurtled myself at her thousands of times yet she stayed strong, unwavering. A mother. I didn’t realize how much I would miss her until now when its too late. The woman I saw on Monday evening was not the woman I knew in this life. Her essence was gone and we all know how much a woman she was. She gave me many things in this life – helped me when I needed, probably more than she should have. She encouraged me to be a strong woman. There was no way I \could fill her shoes – One sister is much better that. Two others still follow in her wake, – I was her antithesis. But even in this I defined myself by her measure. My sisters, aunt and I stood around her hospital bed and solemnly sweared we wouldn’t followed the same health choices she did. We agreed we would be closer to each other. Some of that has come true, some not. After she died, I moved to California to be close to my children. I just didn’t realize they would feel about me Finally, I realized I had to o back to Connecticut to be where family could help me out when needed and where I was wanted. In the course of looking for a new apartment ,I stayed in my mom’s bedroom for two months. I saw her life and the things that comprised it. My anger dissipated and we made peace. It was a tough one – one I couldn’t have survived. She was a remarkable, powerful woman and I had just been too angry to see. I miss her but I think she might be proud of me now.
As I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death
what evil is there to fear?
‘Tis but colored air
to be changed with the sun’s rising.
Or . . . .
Creatures beneath the bed,
come to snatch the hands,
of little girls who carelessly
abandon them to the bed’s side
under cover of night.
The horrific rapist
who takes our precious trust
as he spills his seminal fluids
into his chosen receptacle.Or those
who repeat the acts over and over
to their children or others
The inquisitionist sharpening
his emotional knives to extract just
that bit of information more
to make his twisted imaginings
a reality even though drawn from one
who would do anything, say anything,
to make the pain stop.
For few horrors are more potent,
then those stored in genetic memory,
merged with the weighting our days,
that enable a mind to envision
a nuclear bomb as an answer.
A politician who’s popularity is
dented by the evil coming from his lips.
Virus codes which can infect pain and death
on select populations while avoiding others,
leaving them intact, fostering legacies of discontent,
of narrow-minded bigotry and racism.
Of an exhausted, drained mother
who looks with love at her young children,
giving them everything she possesses within
for the nourishment of their souls,
while shattering her mirror
so she won’t be forced
to see her own reflection –
who has never been able to grasp
how to love herself, forgive herself,
nurture herself . . .
for doing nothing more than breathing.
How else could she walk
through the valley of the shadow of death
unless those shadows
were the echoes of her soul,
the holes in her true being,
the gaps between reason and understanding.
Down to the very acceptance of fear’s worth,
the acknowledgement of fear
as a long-time companion, and as such,
a dear friend.
As she rocks her children to sleep,
praying for their safe passage.
through their valley of shadow
to the coming of the light.
I never wrote a poem for her,
She was too uncomplicated,
too surface, a known commodity.
Yet it was a lie, of self-defense,
because still waters run deep
and she is one though whom
God’s eyes shine.
Her luminous soul reflected
in each act with which
she undertakes her days.
A vision of beauty,
exotic and rare,
unfettered by life’s social constraints,
conforming only as a means
acting with a will
I failed to possess
at such a young age,
all I longed to be and more,
reflected in the eyes of this child.
He took the boy child’s face
between strong hands,
ones rough from painting walls,
pounding fence posts . . .
man hands – nothing soft about them.
“Boy, don’t ever treat women with disrespect,
but never, ever treat your Momma
that way. She carried you,
gave you life, bore those labor pains
so you could live . . .
Listen to your Momma, and your Sister,
so when you grow older
women will love you
because you hear what they say
He didn’t know if he deserved those words –
for they were words that
had never crossed his father’s lips,
and couldn’t be sure he deserved.
Even yet, the boy stored the words
inside his young heart.
And though he made mistakes here and there,
he became a man of shining example.
I was just reading in motherwellmag.com, an article written by Peggy Orenstein, October 10,2016, about the substantive differences between the Dutch way of handling teenage sex and that of America’s. The repercussions felt by the two were impressive. And got me thinking about my own experiences, other articles and popular fiction. I have to hand it to the Dutch, they have their ducks in a row, in a number of ways.
This world has so many cultures. In some a girl who has had sex, even by rape, is stoned until death. Others consider her disgraced or ostracize her.There are many who marry of their children at horribly young ages with pregnancies common as low as twelve.
The Dutch saw the free, casual sex trend of the 70’s had found a different way to face the issue head-on. The government, schools, community leaders, and families worked together to talk and treat sex as an opportunity to educate young people about love, sex, protection and commitment. Judgements are few. As a reult, children understand the preciousness of sex and wait until they are in committed relationships where both partners share the responsibilities for protection and there is not pressure from peers and pregnancy and underage sex rates are much lower than ours.
When I was a teenager in the early 70’s (yes – I can remember that far back), sex was still hidden unless you were in the boy’s locker room. We drank and smoked pot a lot, so inhibitions were lower. It hasn’t changed much as I can see, except the drugs are worse and inhibitions lower still. I didn’t know if even my best friends were having intercourse or not in high school. I read girls have clubs about shaving below, how many they’ve scored and what variety. I did everything but the final home run but with a bunch of partners. Hell, I was a minister’s daughter – I had a reputation to consider!
My parents found out I had succumbed to my baser instincts when I called my mother from college and described my symptoms and asked what it was (she was a nurse and therefore god). Her answer was “So you’ve started having sex?”. I was floored. She went on to tell me I had a UTI and it was called Honeymoonitis by medical people as it so often happened on honeymoons, caused by intercourse. She then told me to go to a doctor for help, to make sure we were both clean when we were having sex, and, for God’s sake, use protection. So much for the Sex Talk.
Oh, there was an earlier sex talk. One day, on the Football bus, a boy cried out, “Debbie, I had a wet dream about you last night!” I was mortified. After I arrived home I asked my parents what one was. They sort of described it. I mumbled okay and left. A few minutes later my mother entered my room to ask if I had had one. (which only confused me more) and I explained what had happened. She said “”OK”.
Sex education involved a banana and anatomically appropriate charts (desexualized). My daughter’s involved carrying an egg around, splitting the responsibilities with her partner, to approximate what having a baby would be like. I would have stuck the egg in the refrigerator and pulled it out Monday morning.
A decade later, books speak of highly charged sexual episodes – and these aren’t the heaving bosom romance books but ten top NY Times books. And judging from them, we have mucked it up more as the years go by. Do parents give any advice at all? Do they talk about waiting until one is in a deeply committed, loving relationship? Do they have a clue what is going on?
The Dutch still have a lot they could teach us.
My Grinch is coming out. Thanksgiving was when my Mother was alive and put out a huge spread which she would always take a picture of. Thanksgiving is now the time everyone seems to gear up for Black Friday – except for us poor folk. I’m lucky if I can do a little Cyber Monday but not much. These times they have been changing. I feel like Albert in Miracle on 42nd Street – “Who put the commercialism into Christmas?” Although now it starts before Halloween. How can you be thankful when you can’t keep the Holidays in linear alignment?
My family always treats the Holidays with great stress. Who should go where – what to bring – Should we try to force ourselves into uncomfortable gatherings? There is so much stress, you can’t find it in you to give from your heart. You stand, feet moving back and forth, shuffling to find an easier position. Your Holiday contribution to the meal lies untouched, except by you, the only one to eat it. And worse, it was a staple on Mom’s Thanksgiving table – Heresy!!
Gratitude? To either be with persons you don’t really want to be with or be sequestered within the walls of your empty home. Honestly, the fact that we have a home is an amazing thing to be grateful for. And if not your own home, than a shelter or another person who offers you a bed in which to sleep.
Disgruntled by what you have to bring or that no one appreciates it, or that you have to go to a Community Meal? Let us get down on our knees and be grateful we have access to nourishing food. Think of the refugees, those in Aleppo or other sites across the world that have no food, water, shelter. And those within our own community, particularly the elderly and children.
So many of us struggle with the holidays, particularly so because of our disease. Most of our friends and relatives simply don’t understand why we are so uncomfortable, withdrawn or manic. Why can’t we be better? We can’t, that’s why. We are doing the best we can. Just realize they struggle with our illness too. They might really want to relate better with us but don’t know how. If we need to, we can gently explain it to them.
But there are real and valid reasons for gratitude and thankfulness. We do get help. We can get services to assist us even if persistence is necessary to obtain them. Our support groups can help. Even if we are hanging in by the skin of our teeth, there are crisis centers to call, ministers to talk to, friends or neighbors to talk to. We can keep to our traditions. Watch all those sappy movies that have little to do with real life. Do things for others. Pray for guidance and understanding. Smile as much as we can because the act itself, even if forced, realigns your face and emotions. Finally, realize that it is only a month and a week before it is over.
wasted pools of stagnant morbidity,
dripping, splashing, splattering
aching vestiges of painful pride
dissolving last traces
of fetid humanity.
Torrents of undisciplined passion
dwindling ever so slowly to mist . . .
then . …. nothing….
yet from the dank murk
of swampy Netherlands
is a seed nourished,
cleansed of grime
and cracked from it’s casing
a waving frond
in a verdant meadow of life.
I’ll leave you behind
I bitterly cried
as I glared in the mirror
at a face ravaged by pain,
bloated with frustration
fed with rage and despair
But my child,
the quiet voice said
there are no chains around you.
Only your own fear
kept your eyes blind
to keep the radiant freedom
which was always within you,
could not be chained
could not die, but slumbered,
waiting for conscious mind
to know her truth.
The walls, the limits, the boundaries
are only the product of fear.
True freedom was always
unblemished and held..
Soul chainer you were only,
ever, the visible reflection of me.
The aching which ripples through me
in ever widening waves,
permeates each pore,
suffusing it in the lament
for one to encircle me,
wrap me up, penetrate
to fill all those empty holes.
And yet I fear
for touch may burn skin,
sear the soul, the rage within me
still seeks the source
and not having divested itself
upon its owner –
knows only to burn all
who have come close and seek
to infiltrate hallowed halls
and so I, feeling the flames
flickering so close to the surface,
turn away from gentle touches
that I not be the bearer
of a scorching that maims.
With sure lipped bravado
he jet-sends his jeers
to ears waiting, knowing
expecting those words to come,
a fine dance of discontent
within the classroom walls.
Listless teacher, burned out
from too man kids and too many years
crying out for silence
to deaf ears, churning minds,
squirming bodies. A Saint
might be able to achieve, but
one who hides beneath cover
of smile, whose eyes reflect out,
carrying no inner workings
the poor children carry the
hidden legacy of a broken system.
To look at the children,
the ones who care, yet are not
closed to the outer world,
their bodies retreat into themselves
curled up in a concave impression
of distancing, of
protecting the heart and mind,
placing all extremities out front,
to give the illusion of active attention,
so a measure of safety is gained.
Their eyes wells of sadness.
We witness in silent horror
as our children slowly
are divested of their gifts,
stripped bare of courage and strength,
rendered helpless in the feudal system,
where teachers are all powerful rulers,
infesting the masses with
their brand of corruption.
And, in the corner
facing a stark wall,
eyes turned away from the maelstrom
a boy draws mazes,
over and over again,
seeking his way out.