Be not afraid…

impending_doom_by_dholl

First you cry, that’s what they say…unless you’re stunned into silent disbelief, in which case you walk around still living and breathing in a world that turned strange in an all too familiar direction overnight while you were sleeping…and you keep doing this – living while dead…and then ten days in, you’re spending possibly the last warm evening of the season outside with your husband…and he starts telling you things he’s never told you before about how life changing it was for him to love and care for your former mother-in-law for the last six years of her life, and how important it became to him that she not be afraid…and like that, you find yourself back with your dad in the nursing home while he slides deeper into dementia and can’t find the handholds, and he knows what’s happening, sometimes, and he’s afraid…and you’re there to reassure him and encourage him back to peace…and when he’s dying, and he knows it, and he’s afraid…you’re there to warm his chest with your hands and remind him about love and forgiveness, and to let him go…and to stay right there until the fear of the unknown leaves his eyes and his agonized lungs call it a life and end the struggle.

That might be when you finally cry, because maybe the enormity of what has transpired has funneled down to this one fact: you can’t BE THERE for everyone you love when it’s their turn in the barrel and shit gets real, and they are justifiably afraid. But you’re going to wish you could be…so much.

Now that you’ve kicked DENIAL’s ass, you can slope right on down the road into ANGER, wherein you make it clear to one and all that their opinion is not your reality. In addition, it’s where you figure out who really loves you, because they so have their work cut out for them, by which we mean how long can you watch somebody implode, and still maintain radio silence?

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” ~Gloria Steinem

There’s no point in BARGAINING, what’s done is done, and you hope to skip the DEPRESSION stage because you have to wonder if you’d come back.

So what about ACCEPTANCE, then, the accepted final stage of grief and loss? Not happening. You can accept that it happened, but not that it’s normal, and you know that means you’ll be at odds with about half your family and acquaintances for the duration, whatever it turns out to be. Your friends will be right where they’ve always been – in your corner and ready to defend you from pain and harm – but some of the relationships in your life will be and already are fraught with tension and division.

Borrowing generously from Amanda Diebert’s moving blog piece called “Dear Trump Supporter who says they love me”

“A man actively promised to dismantle and harm my family. To destabilize the security of my child. To harm relatives and friends and you still voted for him.

“Those other reasons matter more to you than my life and my family. It was on the line and you chose. That is the reality.

“And I know, I know that makes you really angry that I actually said it. That I won’t let you off the hook. We have a long history and you’ve made it clear I’m supposed to apologize for making you feel guilty with all my social media posts about my sadness and my anger. I should get over it already. Your guy won and you are such a nice person and how dare I… 

“First of all, you love me? Stop telling me how to grieve.

“Yeah, I know that’s not WHY you voted for him {his racism, misogyny, homophobia, et.al.}, but again, it didn’t stop you. Actively applauding someone who is doing wrong does make you culpable.

“I’m tired. ……. I do not have to apologize for you hurting me.

“You hurt me and now you are telling me I am not allowed to be sad or scared or angry.

“At the very least you allowed me to be hurt by someone else while you condoned that abuse with a ‘yes’ vote. You gave it your stamp of approval and now you are telling me my pain doesn’t exist.

“That is not love.

“I keep being told (by the people who harmed me) that I need to be a model example of ‘we go high.’

“…this is a long road. It’ll take a while, but you said you love me and you didn’t mean to hurt me.

“So let me heal while you do the work to show that you recognize the pain you caused and are working to minimize its impact.

“If you don’t want to do that work: okay.

“By ‘okay’ I do not mean I forgive you or that we are cool. I mean, you have made a decision and I will react to it accordingly. Notice I didn’t say respect it. A blatant disregard for the well being of others is not worthy of respect. But I will acknowledge this is a choice you made and I will walk away.

“Also, yeah, I do judge you for this. I’m being super honest about that, just in case you thought I might try to gaslight you too.”

You can read Amanda’s blog piece here: You Say You Love Me

I relate to everything she wrote – she’s a woman and she describes the pain of people who are my world. Nothing in the days, weeks, and months ahead will be easy, and much of it won’t be pretty. But I vow never to accept those things as “the new normal.” That kind of acceptance is a bridge too far.

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The Watchers

walls what

did you see

when the riders came up mass

did you hear

and want to warn

did your windows weep

your stones cry out

did survival root you

fill your clefts with balm

for scholar and bum

set you as watchers

over revelry and mayhem

over life

.

JSmith 4/1/16

 

lawrence-kansas

 

Mass Street in Lawrence, Kansas, is a world unto itself.  Some of its buildings were here before Quantrill’s Raid in 1863, and they’re works of art in my eyes.  They embody so much of the spirit of the place – strength, longevity, resilience, the quiet joy of being free to be. They’re lovely to look at in every season.

 

 

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Family Portrait

GGED3

My paternal grandparents, John & Clara Dierking Wagner, and their two sons, Edmund and Daniel (my dad).

This would have been in the later 1920s.  There may have been a smiling shot but we didn’t find it and the sober expressions in this one are striking to me.  My grandpa’s eyes look resigned but determined, my grandma’s merely resigned.  Life was a challenge every day and nobody emerged unscathed.  My Uncle Ed lost his right eye very young, the result of a misguided attempt to cut through an old inner tube with a pocket knife, thus the inadvertent leer.  I would guess my dad’s age at somewhere between five and seven — he still has that baby-soft aura.  Uncle Ed left the farm at seventeen and made his own way ever after, retiring from the U.S. Military after a career that could have involved spying for all I know, and I totally hope that’s the case.  My dad stayed and farmed with Grandpa … you’ve heard some of those stories, Faithful Reader.  There are others …

You know who my heroes are right now?  The people who invented and developed photography.

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Forget throwbacks …

Throwback Thursday offends my sense of independence so here’s one for Friday — the house where my paternal grandpa was born, near Corydon, Indiana.  In the picture are my great-grandparents George and Salome (Sally) Wagner, my grandpa John, his sister Annie and brother Otto, and their half-sister Teena (always called Teenie, although she never was).  I’d heard stories about the house “all my life,” and when I was in college I drove my grandma there as part of a road trip to visit relatives in several states.  Grandpa had died several years earlier, and on her own after more than 60 years married, Grandma was in want of an adventure.  On the Indiana leg of our trip we took our time locating the house, and found it beautifully cared for by its current owners, much to my grandma’s relief.  The descriptions and tales from my relatives made the yard and outbuildings feel sweetly familiar to me, and the cistern at the bottom of the slope out front where my Wagner kindred stored their perishables was still being fed by the same ice-cold spring.

We humans are so connected to our roots.  Whether we understand it or not, there’s a longing for where and what we came from. Other than not having Grandpa in the car with us, the trip with my grandma was a full-circle experience.  And driving her cross-country broadened my knowledge of her, her life, and her family relationships.  This was highly beneficial for a college girl who didn’t know quite everything yet.

gpashouse

gpashouse2


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A story for the new year …

Dandelion_wine

 

 

Μaybe old people were never children, like we claim with Mrs. Bentley, but, big or little, some of them were standing around at Appomattox the summer of 1865. They got Indian vision and can sight back further than you and me will ever sight ahead.”

“That sounds swell, Doug; what does it mean?”

Douglas went on writing. “It means you and me ain’t got half the chance to be far-travelers they have. If we’re lucky we’ll hit forty, forty-five, fifty. That’s just a jog around the block to them. It’s when you hit ninety, ninety-five, a hundred, that you’re far-traveling like heck.”

The flashlight went out.

They lay there in the moonlight.

“Tom,” whispered Douglas, “I got to travel all those ways. See what I can see. But most of all I got to visit Colonel Freeghleigh once, twice, three times a week. He’s better than all the other machines. He talks, you listen. And the more he talks he gets you to peering around and noticing things. He tells you you’re riding on a very special train, by gosh, and sure enough it’s true. He’s been down the track, and knows. And now here we come, you and me, along the same track, but further on, and so much looking and snuffling and handling things to do, you need old Colonel Freeleigh to shove and say look alive so you remember every second! Every darn thing there is to remember! So when kids come around when you’re real old, you can do for them what the colonel once did for you. That’s the way it is, Tom, I got to spend a lot of time visiting him and listening so I can go far-traveling with him as often as he can.”

Tom was silent a moment. Then he looked over at Douglas there in the dark.
“Far-traveling, you make that up?”

“Maybe yes and maybe no.”

“Far-traveling,” whispered Tom.

“Only one thing I’m sure of,” said Douglas, closing his eyes, “it sure sounds lonely.”

(Ray Bradbury, “Dandelion Wine”, 1946)

… grateful to my friend Angela Petraline for sharing

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Going now …

you couldn’t let go

didn’t know how

so freedom is extracted

at the price of tears you cannot shed.

don’t grovel

reject mawkishness

you had time to get it right

density is no alibi.

you built this

don’t even think of crying

hot tears ice over

if they can’t be shared.

 

all good just late

but

better late than never.

 

separation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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