Payback Is Indeed a Bitch

Lately it seems that more and more of today’s movies and television shows focus on the protagonist getting revenge for some hurt they’ve received at the hands of another. In one t.v. series it’s not just one episode, but every episode that details the ins and outs of making someone pay for something they did, or said at some time in the past. All that bottled up rage intent on settling score after score for various ostensibly despicable infractions, meaningful only to the show’s lead character.

I’m as much a fan of the notion of an avenging karma as the next person, but to spend hours and hours of viewing time at the altar of Vengeance gives me the willies. Can we spend that much time vicariously planning and carrying out payback with impunity? How must it affect each of us? And how does it affect the whole of us?

A couple of days ago I read about a man who showed up on another man’s doorstep, rang the bell, and when the owner of the house answered and identified himself, the first man shot him five times. It seems some thirty-five years ago, when both were in middle school, the dead-man-to-be put a jock strap over his future murderer’s head in gym class. Every human I know has at one time or another been the recipient of bullying, and I’ll be the first to say that it is never okay. But give me a break. A jockstrap over the head warrants the cold blooded murder of a husband, father, and grandfather? And to hold on to that level of toxic anger, that truckload of self-poisoning vitriol this man harbored throughout all those years? That’s just messed up.

Somewhere along the line we’ve allowed, and even promulgated, the kind of thinking that says, “I’m more important than anyone or anything else in the whole world.” I can’t help but wonder what kind of world that mind-set will build. Sadly, I have a feeling that it doesn’t build anything at all – it only destroys. One has to wonder what society in our lovely land will look like in the next fifty years.

 

 

One Memory of Papa

Pop took me deer hunting in the mountains of New Mexico when I was about nine. We went with Granddad Miller (my Mom’s dad), and several of my uncles. These were real cowboys – they all worked ranches, raised cattle, and rode horses. And this was the late nineteen fifties. The guys didn’t seem to be overly pleased with a girl-kid being in the midst of their man-thing. I think they thought it wasn’t proper. But Pop took me anyway.

We left the farm house at about four in the morning. I got to ride in the back of Granddad’s pickup with Pop and a couple of my uncles, until we got a few miles from the house. We stopped in a clearing, where Granddad built a fire and made coffee in an aluminum coffee pot. Once the coffee was done, Granddad poured a little cool water in it to settle the grounds. The smell of that coffee in the pre-dawn, cold mountain air is something I’ll never forget.

Breakfast consisted of cold biscuits sandwiched with fried sausage patties, and some of Grandmother’s canned plums. The men drank coffee and discussed strategies. I sat transfixed, watching them.

After the men determined who would hunt which area, Pop and I peeled off from the rest. We headed over to the other side of the mountain from where we ate. It was a long trek, and Pop showed me how to walk so I wouldn’t make any noise. He told me the most important part of hunting is patience. He sat me on a flat rock, and told me to watch down the mountain. If I saw a deer, I was to slowly lift my hand. He would be positioned a ways off, and would be watching along with me.

I don’t know how long I sat there, but it felt like hours. I never saw a deer, and neither did Pop. But I felt so grownup, so much a hunter. I’d been offered a glimpse into the secret life of being male. But more than that, something about that experience resonated with the deepest, primal part of my spirit. It was one of the best gifts my Pop ever gave me.

Missing Mom and Pop

I never thought I’d miss my parents so much. It seemed they’d always be somewhere, waiting for me to call, write, or come for a visit. Mom would be planting and caring for her annual vegetable garden. When he wasn’t preaching, Pop would be raising cattle, and the hay to feed them. Even if I moved around a lot, which I did, I always knew if I really needed them, they’d be there. I had the comfortable security of knowing that they always had my back, were always ready to give me counsel or to rub salve on and bind up the wounds from the blows life metes out to all of us.  But they’re not here anymore, and even though my belief is that I’ll see them again, I find myself a bit surprised at their ageing, becoming ill, and then passing away.

I recognize that we humans are fragile things made of dust. I understand our lives are mere puffs of smoke. I’ve learned that by Universe Standard Time, we’re here and gone in less than a nano-second, taking our place in the endless Human Procession. I’ve accepted that death, just like birth, is part of the whole cycle. But I still miss you Mom and Pop.

Why I Write

I’ve often been asked why I write. Why do I spend hours out of my day pounding away on my laptop, taking notes, recording thoughts, or dreaming about writing? Am I striving to generate a blockbuster add-a-new-wing-on-the-house novel? Or are my motives more altruistic than that – do I hope that someone searching for escape from reality will be pulled into an alternate dimension through my words? Or, in an act of supreme hubris, do I believe my stumbling attempts at sharing the reflections of my spirit might give hope to the despairing, or motivate someone to reach for his dreams?

I must honestly concede that I do hope for all of those outcomes. But after a great deal of introspection, I’ve finally solidified the cumulous-ness of my thoughts into the overarching gestalt-answer to the question of why I write.

My strongest writer’s motivation is the same as that of Los Conquistadores who scratched their names into the sandstone of Inscription Rock: I want to leave something behind that says I was here. I want someone to remember me after I’m gone. And so I write.

Homo Sapiens has spawned perhaps billions of deep thinkers. Our current consciousness is only aware of a few, and those only by virtue of their writings. Who knows how many Mozarts lived before the art of music notation was created? Or how many John Donnes verbalized their reflections on the human condition before the alphabet was generated?

We humans are fragile things made of dust. Puffs of smoke who, by Universal Standard Time, are here and then gone in less than a nanosecond. Beyond my beautiful children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, I want to leave a mark. And so I write.

 

The Four People I DON’T Want to See in Heaven

The Four People I Don’t Want To See In Heaven

To clarify, it’s not that I think these people should be banned from entering the Pearly Gates. In fact, I hope they all arrive in Heaven happily and to great fanfare when it’s time for them to do so. I just don’t want to run into them there.

The first person who comes to mind is my ex-mother-in-law. Although I don’t want to see her in Heaven, I DO want her to see me. Because that’s the last place she would expect me to put in an appearance.

Next, is Elizabeth Taylor. Having been raised on Ms. Taylor’s movies, from National Velvet, to Butterfield Eight, to Cleopatra, I was in awe of her grace and exquisite beauty. A goddess on earth, how much more lovely will she be when cloaked in her Heavenly garments? I can’t imagine the sunshine of my afterlife being clouded by feelings of abject inadequacy.

And I don’t want to see my first grade teacher Mrs. Holt. It’s not that she was a bad teacher. She was extraordinary. She taught me to read and write, opening worlds to me I never dreamed existed. But she was a perfectionist. I shudder at the thought of constantly being told to stand up straight, stay in line, and stop talking, lest she report me to the Principal.

And finally, I don’t want to see David Brown. David was in my third grade class. He lived just up the street from me, so we often walked home at about the same time.

One afternoon after school, David offered to show me His Bits if I would show him Mine. Never having seen that particular part of male anatomy before, I figured that sounded like a great idea. I told David to go first, and he did. However, being raised in an extremely conservative household, I had second thoughts about my end of the bargain. Modesty won out, and after completing my observations, I turned and ran home as fast as my eight year-old legs would carry me, leaving an undoubtedly wiser David with his pants around his ankles.

So, if allowed, I’d like to request that if any of these four people see me in my perambulations down the streets of gold, they do me a favor and make a quick detour down a side street. Or duck into an open doorway. It will be a good deed, and save us all some uncomfortable moments.

Gone But Not Forgotten

Just home from nine days with grandkids. What fun! Only downside is it rained all the time, until the final day, so we had to find stuff to do.

Didn’t bring my laptop, so couldn’t post until now. I won’t leave it home again.

I could wax philosophical about how Time is changing their little personalities, changing their outlooks, exposing their inner-most processes. But that would be maudlin – something that’s not allowed in my world. However, it was great fun to see how they are maturing into beautiful young people. I’m blessed.

Prayers for Sylvia

Over the past forty-five years, I’ve played the piano and sung for countless funerals. Most of them have long since blurred into the morass of my long-term memory. A couple of them stand out as being particularly tragic or sad. But the funeral for which I played and sang today struck a chord in my soul that I’ve never before felt.

Today’s funeral was for an elderly man who died of cancer. He was survived by his wife of fifty one years, who also has cancer. Sadly, this kind of funeral is not unusual. But nearly one year ago, I played and sang for the funeral of this couple’s fifty year-old daughter, who was their live-in caregiver. She also died of cancer, leaving her ailing parents alone to struggle with their illness.

And today I sat on the dais and studied the face of the mother/wife, the only one of the three left. I’ve seen hysterical, moaning, cursing, and even drunk family members at funerals. I’ve seen family members who were bored silly and wishing they were anywhere else but in church. But never before have I seen an expression like the one on this woman’s face.

Frail, pale, ill, and broken, she didn’t cry. She looked neither to the left nor to the right, but stared straight ahead. She looked as if her heart had been slowly crushed to powder, and then blown away by some poisonous gust.

She must certainly know it will not be much longer before the Pastor will speak the words for her that he has spoken for her husband and daughter. That thought has surely come to her, especially at night as she lies alone, staring up into the darkness.

So today, I’ll offer up prayers for Sylvia. And tomorrow I’ll send her a card with a note inside. I’ll tell her my heart breaks for her, and that I’m thinking of her. But mostly, I’ll pray for her to have courage in the face of whatever comes next. Courage, and peace.

 

Smart Technology: Friend or Frankenstein?

Recently, a news commentator voiced some concerns about smart technology. He stated that the phones, pads, books, GPS, and other devices can easily be tracked, pretty much anywhere in the world. The good news is that the possessor of such devices can never get completely lost. But the down side is that, as long as the item is in one’s possession, one can never be truly alone.

There are dozens of aps available for the innumerable devices out there, the continuing technological advances of which render them obsolete before they even hit the store shelves. Consider this: retinal scans, voice and facial recognition, eavesdropping devices (how do you think television ratings are tabulated?), all have been in use for years. They’re way outdated. Want to guess what fun tricks the technology is up to at this minute? Neither do I.

Want to call your mom? You no longer have to put your index finger into the hole of a rotary dial; just speak her name into your phone, and voila, it’s Mom time.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it when my children or grandchildren call. I cannot get enough of hearing their voices, any time or any place. But I do not appreciate getting calls from telemarketers when I’m trying to hammer out my daily page quota. And I don’t like the feeling that BIG BROTHER is listening to me, waiting for me to say or write any of the trigger words that would cause them to train their Cyclops eye on my life, or the lives of my friends and family. A friend with a security clearance tells me even this blog will be mechanically scrutinized.

So, here’s a message to anyone reading this: I’m not subversive. I’m just a Wife, Mom, Stepmom, Grandma, Great-grandma, Retired Educator, and Church Musician who wonders where all this is taking us.

Retrospective

I just turned sixty-two, and have been ruminating about what direction my life path has taken so far. A recent health scare has acted as a catalyst for the introspection – that and the fact that my forty-fifth high school reunion is coming up this summer. Forty-five years since graduation, and so much water under the bridge. Would I do things differently, if offered the chance? Some, but surprisingly, not a lot.

Things I would change? I would appreciate my parents more openly (Mom was my greatest fan, and personified absolute, unconditional love, and Pop wanted me to have a good life.); I would be a more conscientious student (never had to study much, so just floated along); I would take better care of my body – the vehicle that’s brought me thus far; I’d worry less about the future (said with the realization that hind-sight is better, etc.); and I would make some different choices in raising my three sweet sons.

But there are some things I would not change for any amount of money, fame, or anything else this life has to offer. I would not change who my parents were – they did the best they could do to teach me the Faith, and to see to it that I got a college education; I’d not change the timing of anything in my life – the timing has been perfect to get me to who I am in the present; and I’d not change anything about my strong, intelligent, loving, generous, and hard-working sons. Of course, I’d not change one thing about my incredible daughters-in-law, the mothers of my astounding grandchildren, two of whom have made me a great grandmother. And finally, I’d not trade my wonderful, loving, supportive husband, and the children and grandchildren he has added to fill out the gestalt of our shared life – the children who have welcomed me with such generosity of spirit and kind acceptance.

In general, I’m thankful for who and where I am. I don’t know if there is such a phenomenon as “Fate,” but if so, hats off. Whatever the future holds, I’m grateful to have made it this far. And I’m exceedingly grateful for today.