Category Archives: Relationships

Listen to your Momma

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
and understand.

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.

.

Not living the Dutch way with sex

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.

 

 

 

 

Just a Plaything

This is an adult relationship
one not full of fantasies.
We’ve known each other
so very long –
before two marriages and after them.

And suddenly you were there
to fulfill the desires put in play
when we worked together –
but you were married, then I was.
I knew there was someone you
loved more – that I was a dalliance
until she finally broke down
and said yes.

Then you were gone,
no explanation, no call, no letter –
just gone   . . .
one night I didn’t want sex
and that was it.
What gets me most is how you ended it –
I could accept a quiet, this is not working,
But not a No Vacancy sign swinging in the wind.

.

 

 

 

Aunt Lillian

Thank you isn’t enough
for what you’ve given me.
Words have no meaning
in a world of emotions.
When I hit bottom
crawling on hands and knees
a hand was outstretched
in quiet support. . .
love without strings.

I saw hope through your eyes
gained strength in the purring
of your voice
learning you saw something
I didn’t but that must be real.
Learning  to believe in me
through the respect in your eyes
caring for myself
while you questioned after my health

I can never repay unconditional love
but through your giving
perhaps the lesson can be learned
and one day
I can attempt to love
somebody else
as you have loved me.
Thank you – my mentor, my friend.

 

 

Dreams and Choices

DREAMS

In dreams are visions born and choices made,
slipped under the skin before
the consciousness can react
making stands which force resolution.

Once I dreamt of living my dreams
in happiness and fulfillment.
Laughing with friends, stimulating, enriching,
finally within a circle of balance, goodwill and peace.

You came and held out
the long grasp of your hand, and I
full knowing the losses, feeling great pain
of their removal from my life,
took the offered hand and turned my back
on the warmth of open acceptance.

But still could not resist
one last look back, eyes brimming with sorrow,
at the choice I was making,
deep inside knowing it wrong,
but thinking I could change him,
heal his sorrows, end his pain.

Lot’s wife understood
the burning need for the last look,
to what she knew, she understood
even though she
would be forever turned to salt.

One darting look back,
forever turned to stone,
a lesson I must remind myself
each time your hand
extends to mine.

Misplaced Rage

Huddled on the sidelines
I watch
as you argue, berate
those to whom anger
does not belong . . .

Yet understand,
for learning confrontation
is a painful process
taken in tiny steps
a little at a time,
until strength is gained.

And you know,
even as the argument wanes
understanding of your actions
shines clearly in your eyes,
and that haunted look
of a child who has wronged
creeps across your brow.

But the time
has not yet come
for anger to be placed
where it belongs –
inner pain still holds
too firm a grasp,
and fear of rejection
looms as too harsh a reality.

Better the waiter,
life guards, clerks, delivery people –
they are accustomed
to undeserved pettiness . . .
soon the day may come
when you can look your tormentor
in the eye and spit back
the grief and rage
hoarded in years of submissiveness.

But for now –
where does the waiter go
at day’s end
and who becomes
the unwilling victim
of his pain . . .
where does the cycle end?

I walk down
a leaf-strewn street
and glance upon a dog
with tail tucked between legs –
and cry . . .

The Door

 

The door moves in the breeze –
gently swinging back and forth
not quite sure if it wishes
to completely close,
locking out intruders
from the harbor of the home . . .

. . . or swing wide, allowing
all interested parties
permission to enter the sacred
hollows of an empty vestibule.
To “pillage and plunder”
or bow in reverence
to the deities inside.

Perhaps a gatekeeper
would be the answer.
He alone holding that
secret password which when
voiced grants passage, secret words
or gestures symbolizing mutual
understanding an respect,
a silent promise no to violate
the treasures that lie within.

Yes, a gatekeeper seems
the best solution,
for we all know don’t we
doors have no minds,
they operate by outside stimulus,
gentle hands or barking orders.
The door, holding so much power,
fails to see its own authority,
allowing others to govern
its destiny
.

Shady Sady

Hiding away in her private
world of poetry and blankets
wrapped tight for protection
from the elements, wanting
fulfilment of desires
but unwilling to seek them . . .

Shady Sady, eyes of grey –
living in a land of half shadows
and misty images,
floating away into other hands.

Sad-eyed girl of forty,
wanting mother’s arms tight
about her – a father, loving and kind,
to make all decisions, ease
all burdens.  Wishing her daughter
the life she lacked courage to lead.

God damn it! Go for it baby!
Hold that head high!
Be haughty. Have an air
of self-contentment.
Your love won’t be found
in pages of books –
or wishful fantasies.

Seek out your desires,
reach for happiness,
even blankets get holes in them.
Nothing is perfect.

Yet you turn your head
in pensive wondering,
shy denials of insecurities
deeply penetrating.
And sit – reading words of others,
rocking back and forth,
back and forth,
back and forth . . . .

Relationships

THE VICTIM

Her eyes, wellsprings of pain,
hinting of torture,
black circles under rims,
dark enough to leave one to ask,
whether they are bruises or not?
Movements covert,
a shrinking in upon oneself,
cowering in anticipated trauma,
knowing too well
one hit follows another,
but desperately trying to fend off
the next,
standing in a void, an emptiness
of pleasure, thinking somehow
these blows are restitution
but of what she can’t fathom.
An atonement of some past life.
Not willing to speak out,
to draw attention to herself,
the glimmer of life though
still seeks to shine,
in the trembling beauty,
the grace of hand,
a consciously remembered
knowing of her right to exist.
She will persevere,
and, hopefully survive.
Her body no longer carrying bruises,
her soul remembering
but no longer blanketing itself
in pain.

Lillie, Earth’s Angel

Being alone, truly and completely alone, should not be a burden carried by a human being for long. I’m not so sure we were born for it. Our lives are such fragile existences just as they are – it only takes one blow to unhinge the mechanisms which hold us together. There are few who can survive for long in such conditions. I was lucky enough to have known a woman who had survived essentially alone in a cacophony of insanity for forty years.

In her late twenties, Lillie immigrated from Sweden to marry the love of her life. Two weeks after she married, he died. A new foreigner, not able speak the language, not knowing a single soul, she had a nervous breakdown and committed to the Wingdale Mental Hospital. She was put to work washing floors. Just as she was getting better, she fell and broke her hip. Arthritis quickly set in to immobilize her.

My mother was a charge nurse at Wingdale State Hospital in Wingdale, New York. It was a facility where the elderly and mentally unbalanced were housed until the 1970’s when the government dismantled them and dumped most of the inpatients onto the streets, ostensibly to be cared for by the communities in which they lived. In reality, few received the necessary care. Mom worked in the wards for the elderly insane women. It was there she met Lillie when Lillie was in her sixties or seventies.

Mom was appalled by the conditions these women suffered – cold water showers on mental gurneys that was essentially waterboarding. Bed sores from not being turned. Diapers not changed for hours, indigestible food. She reported all the aides and began a campaign to close down the facility, writing up to Rockefeller, then governor of New York. She eventually succeeded.

While Charge Nurse on that floor, she arranged for a private room for Lillie, wading through a multitude of paperwork to do so. Until then, and after, she brought me and some women from the church to visit her regularly. She was given a radio to hear music and connect to the outside world. The thing is, Lillie spent all her time praying for us, for people she heard needed help from the Lord. There was nothing in her that thought for herself.

Mom wanted to remove her from the hospital, even thinking of bringing her to our home if a good residential home could not be found. Just as Mom got permission to release her, they found she was riddled with cancer and only had a couple of months to live. The Doctors felt it would be too much of a shock on her system to release her.

I remember Lillie as a being of light, an angel on Earth. I say that not for its poetic value or to milk emotion. It’s a fact. No one could live forty years in an open ward of a state hospital for the mentally challenged, with nineteen other women, and amid constant clamor, no one to talk to and still stay sane. Not only that, but to pray continually for others, never herself.

She certainly didn’t get mental stimulation from the aides. How did she do it? Monks and other religious individuals who live in isolation do it when they are either by themselves or living in a community designed to support mutual silence. But Lillie – what did she have? I will never be able to completely convey the atmosphere of the open ward . . . those rows, one piling on top of the next, with its toothless crones strapped to their beds, holding their dirty cloth dolls, caterwauling at ear-splitting din. They were all in hospital gowns with stringy hair and vacant eyes above mouths that either cried or raged. Could you do it? Would you last a week? A month? A year? It is an environment that none of us should ever face. We have to be more aware and more willing to act so the Lillie’s of the world don’t have to wait forty years for salvation.