Tag Archives: humility

The Other Woman

Every night I pray for her.
In my mind’s eye
I so clearly see her.
My platitudes ill advised,
meaningless . . .

How can I justify our God’s plan?
Why should I be free of need
and she have anything but?

I know it’s stereotyping
but her swollen belly children
deserve an accounting.

Soon she will be gone –
disease stealing her strength away.
They will be orphans -alone –
under a tattered canopy,
thrust into begging to survive.

Just one more parent gone,
one more family destroyed
one more ten year old
parenting a large brood
under the blazing sun.

Why she – why me –
I who have nothing to give,
intimately knows every wrinkle
worn of care . . .

But I am here
babbling words to our Father
as she dies bit by bit
under the African sun
in a refugee camp
alone . . .

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.

 

 

Struck Deaf

Struck Deaf by confusion.
Your lips are moving
yet come voiceless to my ears.
Words rich with portent,
holding the essences of
what I need to understand,
fall short of intent,
fluttering in the breeze
only to drop at my feet
before their meaning
is understood . . .
It seems I must sift through
each thought carefully,
weighing its worth,
slowly digesting its content,
before a day may come,
long after the truism is spoken,
when I might think the words my own
and proudly display new found knowledge
to those who first sought to enlighten
now nodding with irritation or amusement,
and hopefully some compassion.
Always the student I must be,
but like an unruly child,
I learn at a pace of my own keeping,
comprehending only when comfortable
to do  so . . .
and my teachers’ continue
to wave scarlet banners before me
trying to catch the attention
of ears too often deaf.

 

 

In the Dungeon

Deep in the hole I lie
Far down and deeper still
The light is but glimmer
A pinhole from in the distance

The hard, sharp rocks beneath me
Tear at raw flesh
As I peer over the ledge
Clinging in terror
Fearful of the abyss

These days I piece together
One rough, sharp edge at a time
Discomfort has its own reward
while I await rescue

I call to people who comfort me
Those who help lift me from the hole
For now is a time
I am a burden to myself

The frailness of body, mind, and spirit
Want to define me.
But with help, I am more than that.

Setting the Record Straight

Setting the record straight

My daughter recently asked for more information about the years when addiction to prescription drugs had me in its jaws. My paranoia ratcheted up – was she going to build more walls between us? Accuse me yet again? Would she use the material to push me further away? I feel the loss of her love, the loss of a child before it was destroyed by memories of dark times. What do I remember? ( Please understand I don’t remember everything because of the drugs and the TBI) Crushing depression, manipulation, arguments with my mother and theft from her accounts. At times a total incomprehension of responsibility, of providing enough support for my children and myself.

Days upon days in pain, when I could not get off the couch. Driving my daughter and her friends while pills sloshed around in my stomach, seemingly weekly Doctor visits. Going to bed one Day and waking two days later to the incessant calls from my daughter to pick her up from work. I couldn’t walk much less drive. Driving my son and daughter to activities in no shape to operate a vehicle.

Of seizures followed by hope and a teenager’s anger of betrayal. Of other people parenting her when I could not. And of other people not trusting their children at my home. And her embarrassment.

Of negating the parenting of my son because he was so hard for me to control. And letting him live 3,000 miles away, raised by members of his church because his dad spent his time at his girlfriend’s and not checking to make sure he had a safe and nurturing life. I didn’t know this at the time. Not until I was a few years sober.

Of a letter jacket showing up on our doorstep – one I should have gotten myself. My daughter was one of 3 people in the history of Gilbert School, and likely the only girl, to ever earn 12 Varsity letters with no jacket to put them on. In an over 100 year old school. I just couldn’t think of it.

Of my daughter developing anorexia due to the stress of holding herself together, working so very hard for her education, and coming home to care for me. Her stress of living with a pill head mother. Her grandmother and aunt moved to take action before I did. I was too scared of what was happening. . . maybe too oblivious. I don’t think that was it. I just didn’t know what to do. I talked to her doctor but didn’t know how to take
action. And I was scared to death for her.

Of tears, an ocean’s worth, of self-pity, abysmal self-esteem and pain. Of confusion. I just didn’t know what was happening to me, to her, to my son, and my family life. Life was too painful to live. I wanted nothing more than to die. And almost did.

Sending Tasha, my dog, back to my ex’s because he wouldn’t agree to euthanize her when she was in so much pain, when I had to carry her outside to go to the bathroom. Then so upset when she spent her last two years in the garage because she couldn’t control her bowels in the house.

Not having a proper bed or room for my son when he came to visit. I could have gotten him a futon. I should have given him a home.

Understanding after the fact the guilt Alex felt for leaving my daughter with me when my son was no better off with him.

Of stripping my daughter of her summer vacation plans when my summer was spent in recovery. Being told I was an addict and my agreeing “Yep, that’s me” . And through it all, trying to get help but not being able to because the medical conditions that got me on pills where too severe for rehabs and hospitals to want to risk their reputations on.

I was in intense physical pain all the time and all over my body – inside and out. I wanted to commit suicide many times but was tethered to my kids. I wouldn’t do that to them. My ancestors were rife with all manner of abuse – I didn’t want it to continue.

I wanted so much to be there for my children but I was exhausted and there were days working as a library cataloger, teacher’s aide or caregiver. I wanted so much to be well. I even went to a meeting but felt judged by my friends. It was I judging myself. I felt like a worm and when I was outside I would pick up worms on the pavement and put them on the grass – I must have saved the same worm 100 times.

You have to understand – I was on oxygen, grossly overweight. I hated myself and knew you were embarrassed by me.

I went to my daughter’s soccer games. It had been her life since pre-school. It was her soul. But I always felt shunned by the women although Lynn took pity on me and let me sit by her. I went to my son’s as well, but
his coach belittled him and he gave up soccer for good.

Basketball had never appealed to me, so I didn’t go to the games. I knew no one there. The women sat there clipping coupons – I didn’t feel welcome.
Track I did enjoy but it hurt to stand on my feet for so long.

But I wanted her to never forget how much I loved her and was proud of her. I loved watching at games.

I loved watching her dive. Often it felt like poetry, dancing. I left after diving even though I knew she would be in races strictly because it was hard for me to breathe in so much humidity.

I knew she was ashamed of me. I tried to get help but this was one that had me in its snares. I remember stumbling in the doctor’s office, partly to show how sick I was, partly for real.

One time I was staying at mom’s while sick. She opened the door while I was taking my pills. She saw all the pills and freaked out. It was then when I got away from my doctor and went to another’s practice, which started the road to recovery.

When I was at Doctors’ offices I’d look in the cabinets for drugs. I found pills in my first doctor, ones he shouldn’t have had. I found anesthetics at one or two doctors’ and injected them in my shoulders or thighs. Stupid, insane, but I was insane and didn’t care.

But NOT ONCE did I have a drink! I knew I could – I’d already blown my sobriety, but not that. It was the only way I could save myself.
Mom tried in her way but mostly she was enabling me. I wanted to be on par with my sisters but that wasn’t going to happen.

One time I had to go to the hospital by ambulance. The EMTs needed to know what medicines I was taking. I just showed them the half-filled laundry basket full of them. They couldn’t believe it. People still are when they find how many I still have to take. I can’t. The pills hold me together and treat the symptoms of other drugs. It scares me. I wanted help, I just couldn’t get the help I need to do it. Believe that.

I was addicted so fast and tolerance level rose so rapidly. I was angry at my first doctor, at Mom, at the facilities that wouldn’t take me, at the futility of my existence, at the poor excuse I was as a mother. There was no connection with God except anger.

I am so very sorry for all my son and daughter went through. They deserved so much more. Being in CT was a bad choice in me ways but in others I needed it. I sometimes worked, had a roof over our heads, gave my daughter the school she needed. Tried very hard to get the academic support my son needed while he was with me. I don’t know how I would have made it in CA. I got on SSDI and other sources. I had people to guide me through the process.

It took a lot to get me straight again. After my daughter found me in the midst of a grand mal seizure, and sat with me at the hospital through 4 more, my doctor admitted me for a ten day withdrawal. I then went to a rehab for three weeks followed by 5 weeks of out-patient classes. Then it was back to AA.

I have been sober now for 11 years and though my life is often a hard one, I have not used. But pills are different than alcohol. For me, the draw to it comes back at times even though I choose not to follow it. It feels good to have a life again.

Poverty

LINES; LIFE IN THE TROUGHS

Being poor is hard work. I remember seeing pictures of the long lines of men in the first Depression waiting for a hand out at soup kitchens. Every time I eat now, I think of the many places in the world where begging for food, eating what is given without pride but rather humility, is an everyday occurrence. As I am coming to know, there is no shame among those who see each other in one line or the other.

Hardship has interrupted my life. Friends and acquaintances, social connections have decidedly changed. The things I do to pass the time have changed. How I speak to others is different. I have always been pretty free with the details of my life . . . I am a bit more circumspect these days.

Surprisingly, I have a sort of pride that I am surviving this period in my life. I fear I am a hypocrite for the life I live is still head and shoulders beyond that of most of the line people. I have a nice apartment, not the Ritz, but so very much more than those who live in the shelters or have “camps” in unpopulated stretches of woods. My furniture is nice because I inherited and collected those pieces for many years and it makes no sense to get rid of things I won’t be able to duplicate. I may need to wash clothes by hand but I am safe, my needs are attended to. My medical needs are addressed and I receive Social Security due to my disabilities. Interestingly, what precipitated the reversals I live with is what is providing the way out. I am feeling my way through this labyrinth of needs, expectations and adjustment.

In storm, rain, and blistering heat the lines are long indeed. You show up early. . . at least 60 minutes… and quietly move to the back of the line. In hot months folding chairs and collapsible chairs are tucked in among the feet. Some come with blankets. Eyes dart between the pants and skirts, floppy sneakers, shoes decrepit and worn. No shoe strings here, shoe tongues are ripped and falling to the side; it is suspect whether the shoes even fit. From amongst a line there is consideration and kindness, confusion and stress, fatalism and resignation. There is shame and gratitude. I’ve seen a few chest bumps between the young men. As they are waiting, some catch up on each other’s lives and the news of the street. This is a community, maybe on the fringe, but they have each other, they know the system and use it well. Thankfully, they want to help each other if they can.

One day a mother, daughter and friend were in a discussion. The mother was continually droning on and on, exposing their lives to everyone there. The poor daughter kept begging the mother to be quiet but the mother was on a roll, only getting louder while she is admonished. The mother had a little Chihuahua in a cloth jacket with a handle so she could be lifted or moved easily. Sometimes she was talking to the dog. It didn’t matter what she said, she seemed unaware of the picture she was portraying of her family. She couldn’t control her mouth or the secrets she disclosed. Most of the others were embarrassed for the daughter’s sake, eyes glancing away with the illusion of privacy. There are a lot of trough dwellers with mental imbalances but for the most part, such things are simply accepted. Mental illness often got them to the lines in the first place. For the most part, trough dwellers have a respect for each other. They don’t cross the arbitrary line.

Mostly, the trough dwellers are resigned. Even if they could get jobs, a good percentage, for any number of reasons, would not be able to hold on to them. Of course you can tell those who are crack heads and meth addicts as soon as they open their mouths and they lack teeth. Men wear ponytails and long, flowing beards. Women pony tails. Some wear flip flops in winter. Then again, when looking at the way the general public dresses, there are few that are completely off the mark. They are labeled, bedraggled and despairing but among the lines there are companionships and understanding. There is laughter and acceptance.

Before this situation developed I would see men, or a mother and her children standing on the corner of the street holding onto placards. My eyes would dart away from those who stand out for one reason or another, trying to appear non-pulsed, All those years when I looked down at those in the lines, when I didn’t understand, I never knew I would one day be in their ranks. What pithy message would be written on the board? Does this mean that I will one day be standing on the side of a road with a little cardboard sign asking for help? Won’t my family be proud of me. I speak of these things because I am normalizing them. Should I hide my reality away? It is a deep, dark, painful hurt I am harboring. Am I ashamed? You bet. Do I need to get beyond it? Absolutely.

My son and daughter believe I may become more of a trial than I am already. They are afraid I will be a disgrace or a disappointment, not understanding I am treading water, nose at the line defining water and air. They mean well but you can’t compare oranges to a refrigerator. They are wonderful people but they work from the outside in, I on the other hand, have come to work from the inside out.

Today I visited a Food Bank I had not been to before. I arrived 2 hours early. On a four block street, I passed the first 30 minutes driving up and back that space. I stopped a couple people for directions. They had no idea where it was. It wasn’t in their frame of reference. Finally, I realized I missed one last block behind a discount supermarket. Woohoo! I found it finally, with the barest of lines in rain and 30 degree bitter cold. Where was the balmy weather I had come to California for? A month before we were trying to get away from the heat. A gentleman encouraged me to sit in his folding chair. Embarrassed or no, I welcomed it when he took my hands and put his gloves on me. I was by turns grateful and embarrassed. He and his wife have 13 children under their care and they had been married around 20 years. They were so comfortable with each other, calm, at peace, noble. There is so much good in the world. Angels I meet in places unseemly. They fixed my place in the line as I went home to get a warmer jacket.

My car has become a rare gift for me. My driving abilities do no favors to it. It has gone over curbs, been in three accidents and has survived those times when I found my way driving the wrong way in a one-way street. I worry constantly what it will be like without one. Actually, I know this. The homeless are ever walking whether the thermometer reads 40 or 120. I’ve stopped saying something will never happen to me because, it ends up being what I feared.

Think positive, think only happy thoughts – it is a mantra that has become more of a prayer. With the fluctuation of great heat and biting cold, I simply could not survive. My medical issues necessitate a normalized range. Standing out in bad weather negatively impacts my health. I hope to have a drivable and attractive car at all times. Without one, especially because of my health concerns, waiting on bus stops, doing all the changing from bus to bus would be undoable.

Most people expect to be able to replace those things which break. It is expected that things break down and then you find others. Their taste in furniture and clothes changes and they find ones to fit those changes. I have come to expect that will not hold true for me. Clothes living extended lives, shirts stained become PJs. What I have may be all I get. I don’t have much, nor do I have the space to have much. I have streamlined my life, taking and keeping only what matters. Coming from Connecticut and driving by myself to Redding was a reminder that I am a living, viable human. I am a survivor, stronger then I think. I am adaptable. Should I have much more of an ego, I wouldn’t be able to take this. Most of the time I can push beyond embarrassment, reaching a numb part of my psyche, and sometimes of pride.

I have always been a spend rift. This sojourn into poverty is, to a certain degree, one of choice. Well, maybe not choice, but most assuredly, the direct consequence of poor, selfish decisions. My mother and I had this dance – if I got into a financial jam, she would help me out. She helped out a lot. I stayed a needy child, she the beleaguered parent. I worked, but I over spent.

The trouble is, I let the fear of economic necessity override my decisions. I simply didn’t know how to straighten out myself. I borrowed money to get here, Once I arrived, I was living out of a suitcase for approximately 6 weeks until I found an apartment. But the coffers echoed in their emptiness.

Here is the good part, I ran out of money. I couldn’t pay my bills. Utilities were sky high in an area that heats up to the 90s and above most of the days. During the summer my electricity was turned off for 6 days. My son came over with a head light for me “It’s great! You are going camping!” I did not respond. I didn’t know how to change my circumstances. A support person at my doctor’s offices did all the paperwork, even to the point of coming to my apartment with the papers to sign. To say I was grateful is a huge understatement. I made my way to a payee service. They pay my bills and I get an allowance. Many months I have $40-50 a week for gas, food, laundry, entertainment, clothes. The expenses add up quickly. About time it happened.

I am being fired in life’s furnace, On a fundamental level, I am grateful. Now I have a shot to improve my life by improving me. I cry a great deal more. Not having any money is hard, undeniably hard, but I am not carrying those deep, fearful burdens. There may be a way out. I will be better for all this. I will be able to respect myself. Going to the Food Banks is a necessity; there is absolutely no way my budget allows food. Every Monday I go the payee service for my check. By the next day I may only have $10 until the following Monday. Other people mingle outside until the place opens. I look at them, almost always men, and compare my life situations to theirs. There are some badly damaged people – often alcoholics and/or mentally and physically challenged. This is where I took my life. I tell myself I am different, better, than they. But I know while the choice to use a payee service is mine, we are in the same boat.

Maybe that’s what I need to focus on . . . unless I learn to stay in the present; the dark cloud heading to the future will come that much quicker. Amidst the stark beauty of Redding, I am reminded to treasure the moments. God’s mercy is flawless; I have only to lift my eyes to the mountain peaks and watch clouds writhe and dance as they spin gossamer wraps in and around trees and rock to know the power of God. God gives me the humility to accept help where I can get it. God makes sure I can live with the constant pain and respiratory diseases and has provided a way for me to live within my means.

I think each of us, the trough dwellers, is spared from judging themselves, and their neighbors, as protection against more sorrow they can bear. As I say this, I need to be honest. The Alano Building, where AA meetings run day and night, is directly across the street. People I know are there constantly. It is a Trader Joe’s day . . . the good stuff . . . so I go early, giving me a gap to return home to unload and go back in time to attend the AA meeting, none the wiser.

Handicapped people are everywhere. They can go anywhere here, the streets and buildings accommodate disabilities more than in other states and towns. Coming from the North East, where the facilities and infrastructure were set long before and budgets are too tight to do more than the most rudimentary changes, it is more user friendly. They guide their motorized wheelchairs up and down curbs, in and out of cars. I’ve seen disabled people intrepidly steering their wheelchairs more than 5 miles away from a Food Bank they frequent. The other day I saw a man and woman in their own little line, swerving around obstacles as they crossed streets, the man with a little flag quivering from above the handlebars of the wheelchair. The physically handicapped are fearsome here. I suppose it has to do with the weather. Most of the time it is bearable, but on those days when it sucks, I feel like stopping to pick them up but my car isn’t big enough to accommodate wheelchairs. And, to tell the truth, some are too independent to accept the offer of help. Last week I saw a disabled woman ,in a wheelchair, walking her dog on leash. Another day I saw a handicapped teen riding his wheelchair down the walk, his friends, on blades and a skate board, swinging in circles around him. Modern California – everyone has to have wheels.

In the food lines, most kids are absent, I guess at school or home. It is the younger child tucked in the nooks of mother’s arms. It’s hard to figure out who looks tired more. Of all the people in the lines, these are the worst to see. Their parents are ground down, full of premature wrinkles. Children wait quietly until their mothers have collected food. Even when the child has to wait for 2 hours, he does nothing to stand out.

“I became homeless 10 years ago . . . but I never thought it would be for good.” Ron said, “I have lived in my car for most of the time.” rubbing his hand through his beard. “I lived in my car in New Jersey, really liked Pittsburgh but I stay in California now.” The three of us were talking with our breakfasts before us at the Living Hope mission. I don’t do meals on the mission circuit but I have come to realize that when I say “Never, not to Me”, ,it preludes another financial reversal.

Every word spoken by Marga, every inch the visage of the serene Natalie Woods, no emotions flowing to the surface, Mona Lisa smile steadfastly affixed to her face. Listening, I realized I might be in her place and soon if I don’t find work that I can still do. She was painting an ancient child’s fishing rod she was incorporating into a sculpture. An art history major, she wants to go back to school for another degree in art history, but there are few openings to be had. Every cent she had went toward a class she was taking at Shasta College.

We all have to make concessions as trough dwellers. Our lives are constrained by the operating hours of the Missions. The Good News mission, where I am going in the morning, closes the Mission’s shelter’s dorm down at 6:00 am. Before 6:30 am the doors open in the kitchens/dining area. Row after row of tired, care worn individuals head to the closest row near the front row. While we spoke, a scurvy woman was sitting on a man’s lap, rolling back and forth in the long accepted motions of a dry hump sex play. At one point one of the Mission’s volunteers, Joe, called over telling them to get a hotel room. The man quickly became irate until the woman calmed him, explaining to her partner that Joe and she went way back and he had an understanding. There was no apology, no shame, just an acceptance that this was her life.

At the Good News mission come Friday at the crack of dawn, Jeb heads up to the little stage, straps on his guitar and gives us a serving of religious and folk music for the next 30-45 minutes. Most of us tune him out. It is calming nonetheless, soothing. Once prayers are done we line up, row by row. Marge, another volunteer, is the arbiter of structure and discipline. No one gets to the food unless they pass her. We are each allowed to fill 1 bag . . . if it looks to be more Marge will have something to say. We take our places, vulture carrion birds ready to swoop down and grab whatever looks most promising and is most accessible. On Monday afternoons, chiropractors give free adjustments for those who want them. A few days a month a dentist the line you are, the less you have to choose from. comes for extractions. For those needing to protect their medicines, medicines are saved until they are needed. Free clothing is available from certain shelters and at one, free bicycles are given to the homeless.

A couple of weeks ago, a bearded, disheveled older man I was lucky to sit next to, regaled me with stories of being a friend to the wild animals by the camp he has down by the river. Some of the food is feed for them. The squirrels and voles are comforts to him. The birds walk up to him to eat from his hand. He loves his little clearing next to the Sacramento River. He looks like an old, rung out and tattered, homeless Cinderella. He talks about maintaining the camp, smoothing the earth . . . it is his treasured home. He doesn’t want for more. That camp is his squatter property.

Every day, an elderly man reminiscent of looking like Gandalf, from The Hobbit, sits on a particular bench, his long, flowing hair and beard surrounding him, walking stick to the side. He always has company, from all walks of life. Sometimes I believe he is imparting the wisdom of the ages because his visitors are always rapt at his words. Someday I will bite the bullet, stop the car, make my way to him, and hear what he has to say.

Yes, there are some slackers but certainly not all. Most of them are. I now have a deep respect for the homeless, disabled souls with extremely poor finances. They are survivors. These are not the disreputable beings people many think of. No one wants to be homeless, poor, with very limited, or no, resources. They do not run each other down. When they can, they protect their own. They survive. There is a nobility in some. They are resourceful, can be infinitely kind, and though there can be anguish, laughter is also here, and compassion. They, with me, at least for the foreseeable future, have full lives, albeit very hard ones. Once you have reached the point of needing the Food Banks, your life is compromised in such a way that you may not be able to move beyond. So I am grateful I have not met with dire circumstances, I am still walking and may even have options. But, for most of us, life is far different then what was taught as we were growing up. The people who work at the missions are good people worthy of respect. By their help, in many differing ways, they keep wide swaths of disadvantaged people’s lives safe, fed, and understood. God is good.

My life is so different from it was when I first arrived here. I look differently at the world. Values and ethics are being crafted. I am living on less and am grateful for what I have. Had my Mother not died, it isn’t likely I would be here now. She would have been the enabler to my poor choices and reckless abandon. Funny, I kind of think she would be proud of me as long as I stayed in California. I recently received some moneys from my mother’s estate which I promptly ear-marked for several necessary expenses and gave it to my son for protection. Left to my own devices, that money would be gone way too soon and my poor financial decisions would again give rise to fear. There will be a day when I don’t need the Food Banks to have food to eat. However, it won’t happen until my bad habits and poor choices change. God has done a wonderful job at caring and guiding me. I will continue to hold the steering wheel while he directs the car. As long as I stay out of my way, I have a chance to improve myself and my life.

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.

Among the Food Lines

food line in winterThe line is long – 200 deep
some people  standing here for 2 hours
shifting foot to foot
sitting on cold cement
mostly quiet although some know
each other way back chatter away

An amorous couple
display their affections
to the ire of those around them
she plies her wares among those
with a few dollars to spare

Mentally challenged
follow steps they’ve taken
0ver and over again
sad, sometimes angry,
depends on whether they
have medications to take.

Drug addled young people
laughing, jumping, in their cliques,
checked out of traditional paths
sleeping bags strapped to their backs
pandering for spare cash

An old man talking
about his campsite at the river
off the beaten path
the squirrels and birds he feeds
comfortable and safe

Unemployed
men with hard eyes and tough frowns
others sad – no jobs available
mothers keeping children close
families struggling –
without the lines – nothing

Physically challenged
approach lines in walkers, with canes,
one man has motorized wheelchair
he rides around town with.
some stumbling, limping, in casts
many lack medical coverage
to assist glaring needs

Old woman curled in her tattered blankets
bothering no one
no home to go to
hoping the shelter
will have a bed tonight

These are the ones
not too proud for hand outs
so many others go without
but won’t associate with
the poor unworthy
who go home with food

 

Saying Goodbye

As I stand here today, I can’t reconcile the fact that my  Mom
has died against the woman I knew. She was a force to be
reckoned with, a force of Nature, and the quintessential
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 spirit was gone and we all knew
how much a woman she was.

She gave me many things in this life – helped me when I
needed, definitely more than she should have. She encour-
aged me to be a strong woman . . something that was an
inside job for me but not often an outside one. There was
no way I could fill her shoes – One sister is the mirror
of her and fit to walk in her shoes. My other sisters and I
were either more like my father or fierce individuals.
I was her antithesis.  

But even in this I defined myself by her measure.

 My sisters and  aunt and I stood around her hospital
bed and solemnly swore 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 not feel the same
about me.

My medical issues soon made a burden to my son.  My daughter
was out of the country.  Finally, I realized I had to go back to Con-
necticut  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 had the opportunity
to stay in my  mom’s bedroom for two months. I saw her life and
the things  that comprised it. My anger slowly dissipated, as I
could feel hers do and we made peace.

Our relationship had always been a tough one. A reason
I moved to California was to put as much distance between
us as possible or I didn’t think I would survive.  She was a
remarkable, powerful woman and I had just been too
angry to  see all the remarkable things about her.

I miss her, I have grown and I think she would  be proud
of me now.

Passover Week – Who would I be?

When he rode the donkey into Jerusalem that fateful week,
would I have been one of the palm wavers,
dancing before him, singing psalms of his glory,

Or would I have been the cynical one,
or one too reserved to let loose my inner craving for him
and to bless him for all he had done.

Would I be a pot stirrer, easily swayed by Pilate’s men
to decry him, to rabble the crowds against him.
to cheer as he was whipped and beaten.

Was it foretold I would be Judas, his betrayer?
Would I run and hide as Peter, denying my intimacy to him?
Or refuse to watch as he was tried for crimes unknown.

Would I have been Simon the Cyrene, the man who picked up his cross,
shouldering a burden he was too weak to do all by himself.
Or perhaps faithful Mary Magdalene,  following his footsteps to Golgotha

After the betraying, violence, cruelty I participated in,
would I then grow quiet and cry watching him move in such pain.
Or have cheered for Barabbas, the murderer, to be released rather than the King?

I want to say “Of course I would be faithful!
But as human nature would have it,  I could have been the good Jew
that jeered and plotted and planned, scared of new thoughts and feelings.

Could I have opened my mind enough to accept the New Path,
and act against traditions millennia old, that my ancestors revered?
Could I have the strength of purpose to preach, to spread this new religion?

Or would I have done nothing, nothing at all . . .