Posted in Legacy, Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, Twenty-something, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

“The Reader will have no idea what it’s about.”


My mother rarely revealed emotion, particularly grief. Anger could be presumed from the sharpening of her eyes or the tightness of her mouth. Joy, from her husky, smoke-filled, lungs. But tears, none at all that I recall, except for once, after the long winter break of my freshman year.

On that January day, I pulled out of the driveway, waving, as she stood on the lawn, a weeping toddler in each hand, and I was certain, almost certain, in the absence of my own, that tears were running down her cheeks too.

Had my departure–the beginning of the long-drawn-out end to her vocation as mother (to which she, with 8 children, and dying young, never arrived)—punctured at long last the defenses around her heart?

If so, I set in motion, a series of reckless acts toward freeing it, that began in the back seat of the mini-van with someone the age of her marriage which was about to implode as my father opened the door and found them together.

He, unlike his soon to be ex-wife, was very expressive, stingy with patience and encouragement, which she had in steady supply, but copious in his offering of disappointment and anger, enthusiasm and expectation, super-sized by gender, birth order, occupation, and societal status.

Such a public ending to his marriage seemed to free him somehow too, not his heart which he’s since guarded with barbed wire and land mines, but his inner toddler, his right to be/do/feel whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, however he wanted.

“Emotional procrastination,” is my youngest son’s latest assessment, likening his grandfather’s developmental delays to his own avoidance of schoolwork, describing it as catch-22 of overwhelm, resistance and accumulation.

I don’t know what gave rise to my parents’ emotional complexities. Theirs was not a time when childhood wounds were tended and restored and shared as I have done with mine. What little I know is that my mother gave up a child in the year before she conceived me while my father dealt with intense emotional swings even in college.

I can’t say they did their best, but they did okay. We’re a great bunch, my younger sisters and I, kind and exceedingly helpful and ladened with our own heartbreak and chemical complexities with which if not our best, we do okay.

As to my parents first born, neither eever worried much about her, something my father has been known to say out loud, “We never had to worry about Kelly.”

When they let go of their love for each other and what came of it—the six of us girls–I took on the worrying for them.

To be fair there were times when my mother expressed concern on my behalf, and this was never shrugged off like it is by many a child or grown child, but treasured as a jewel because it meant that I was visible.

“How is Kelly?” I heard her say to my father, on the afternoon he flew up in the little plane to retrieve me from summer camp unexpectedly. She had actually rushed toward the door when we arrived at my grandmother’s home but I was swept up onto the sofa in the arms of my grandfather.

“How is Kelly?”

I had never much belonged to my mother, absorbed as I was into my father’s family as the first grandchild, aligning myself in heart and mind to her mother-in-law, who was taller and richer and educated and glamorous and expressive and strong.

“How is Kelly?”

That single moment of consideration at 14 and a half in the den of my grandmother’s house combined with my mother’s tears on the lawn as I pulled out of the same driveway 3 years later, might be considered scraps of visibility by some, but of these tiny seeds, whole forests have grown.

This week I find myself becoming edgier and edgier with my baby before he graduates and leaves, and so I stop and ask myself:

“How is Kelly?”

I’m not much one to cry. In fact, after the accident that took my grandmother’s life, I didn’t cry again until the day we lost her home to my parents’ divorce. Menopause helped shift that some as has yoga and meditation and lots and lots and lots of therapy.

“How is Kelly?”

Beneath the angst with my 18 year old, I find grief and fear and confusion around how such an encompassing day-to-day way of being—mother and child–could come so finally to an end.

He came to me in the weeks before my mother died, delivered of a body forced to cry, nursed with milk and tears, and so it’s no surprise that his favorite flower as a boy was the Bleeding Heart and hasn’t he always worn his on his sleeve.

As a gift for turning to face the overwhelm of school work, we took him to the garden store to finally consummate his desire for his own rose plant.

He spent an entire day last weekend applying his engineering skills to the large boulder that he found in the bed into which he would place it. And this morning, as I write, he motions for me to come outside, not only because the baby foxes have reappeared on the rock outcropping beyond my writing door, but because his rose has bloomed.

We went to at least three garden stores, and looked at every plant, until he settled on one, a two-toned blossom with a heart-pink center and creamy petals.

The garden bed itself was built by his older brother on his visits home from school, and on his last stay he put in a new plant that he bought for his love.

And so it is that out my writing window I see roses and bleeding hearts and baby foxes soon to leave the den and isn’t it so.

“I’m sorry I neglected to tell you about its fundamental flaw,” my son says after reading this piece and okaying it for posting. “The reader will have no idea what it’s about.”

(June 7, 2019)

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Posted in Fathers, Fragile Life, Insight, Legacy, Milestone Moments, Mother to Crone, Nuts & Bolts, Round Two, Takes a Village, Teens, Twenty-something, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

“Someday” has arrived


Our community came together one day in June to raise the frame of our home–along with 3-year-old Aidan who spent the day hammering nails into the floorboards of what would be our kitchen; and 8-year-old Lloyd who knelt beside his preschool & primary teachers laying down the floor to what would become his bedroom; and Casey, age 38, who lifted beams with friends & family (and even strangers) to realize a dream come true; and me, age 40, who never had the chance to live in one place very long and who climbed the frame at the end of the day and tapped an evergreen branch to its peak while everyone cheered below.

14 years have passed.
14 Christmases.
14 wedding anniversaries.
14 winters & springs.
14 summers.
14 autumns.

Over the years, Casey spoke of needing an addition—the living room was always too small; but I countered that the boys would be gone someday and the house was already too large for two.

“Someday” has somehow arrived.

What was “raised” to be a home for 4, becomes a home for 2 at the end of summer—which is almost as unfathomable as building this home for ur family once was.

Posted in Fragile Life, Insight, Legacy, Takes a Village, Violence in the home

the fruit of pain


Having had too much to drink, I once openly grieved the separation of young children from their mother and siblings, adding to that my heartache about the emotionally abusive treatment they were receiving in their new residence.

For this admission of vulnerability and empathy, I was mocked, publicly, at a table in a cocktail lounge at the restaurant I managed during my summer breaks from school.

“If you really cared about them, you would skip your semester abroad,” he said.

I considered legal proceedings. I considered dropping out of school and getting a job so that I could afford a house that would fit us all. But these thoughts, like my voice, were futile. I wasn’t in a democracy. I was in a family.

All over Facebook, friends are sharing their stories of separation–the lasting impact–from the Holocaust to asylum-seeking to summer camp.

Feeling our own pain, however large or small, is a radical act. It allows us to feel the pain of another, without making it our own, which only serves to immobilize us.

Self-connection is necessary. Self-connection allows us to stay attuned to the needs of others while remembering our response-ability to the life we inhabit, right in the moment.

Self-connection might look like a walk, or a nap, a therapist chair, a bodyworkers table, a cup of tea in the garden, a meditation on a hummingbird’s flight, a weekend retreat, anything that reminds us of our distinctness so that the connection we offer is whole.

We have each experienced the pain of separation.

May it bear fruit.

 

Posted in Fragile Life, Insight, Legacy, Takes a Village

a boy my son’s age

~This is the face of a boy about the age of my youngest son Aidan.

~This is the face of a boy who became my neighbor’s father.

~This is the face of a boy who became the grandfather of one my son’s earliest friends (who is now his co-captain on the highschool frisbee team.)

~This is also the face of a Jew on the day he was arrested and brought to Buchenwald with his brother, a Tuesday in early June, in the year 1944.

The NY Times said that the Holocaust is Fading from Memory, while a candidate for office in this nation claims it never happened.

We must do what Germany did.

The study of the Holocaust was made a mandatory part of the curriculum in their schools, as they continue to make reparations as a nation.

How might we as a people turn to face our own past? Can we commit to remembering that which we have inflicted on the inhabits here? Indigenous. Black. Japanese. Woman. Child.

Whenever we assign “other,” we seed the unthinkable, like the shooting up of a classroom of first-graders or highschoolers or the perpetuation of years of institutionalized sexual assault.

There is light and shadow to each of us and to each nation, and to ignore it is to participate in the legacy of suffering.

Because he was liberated from Buchenwald by US troops, Mr. Rosner, #1364472, will celebrate his 90th birthday this year.

He cannot deny or forget,
because he was there.

Posted in Legacy, Nuts & Bolts, Takes a Village

Democracy & the library

(written just after the 2016 Presidential election)

When the kids were little (and before the internet), we spent hours in the library each week. Dashed out to the car with coins, not once, but twice, even though we all promised: “Only an hour on the meter this time!” Filled growing arms with piles of books even though we brought the beefy canvas tote and committed, ahead of time: “10 books each is plenty!”

Inside the library, there are still places, long neglected by my feet, which are so familiar to me. Stacks and rows, like old friends… 100s, 200s, 300s, 600s. Places where I opened my world, narrowed my world, explored my world, defined it as a new mother, as a mother beginning to reclaim herself, as a woman stepping forward.

There is the table in the mezzanine where I sat working while my kids were at school. There is a view of the town. Of cars passing. Of leaves falling. Of first flurries.

And inside–readers & writers & viewers & nappers, of all ages, and race.

There are those who always vote. Those who never vote. Those who voted democratic for the first time. Republican for the first time.

We all remain quiet.
(Most of the time.)

We share tables and chairs and computers and books.

Posted in Fragile Life, Legacy, My own childhood

Pregnancy & Grief

I often think of my 20-year-old mother today.
Irish Catholic.
Exactly 8 & 1/2 months pregnant.

Her President, the age of her father-in-law, shot dead, beside his wife, on a Texas street.
My mother was 17, the age of my son, when she went door to door with her younger sister.

“The Kelly girls,” the neighbors called them.
Their mother sent them out to campaign.

I think of the unbearable grief that I felt on 9/11 & 11/9 and on the December day when children were shot inside their first-grade classroom, and I wonder that today is not my birthday.

And I wonder, what my young mother felt in those last two weeks with me inside.

And I wonder if the sweet sensitivity of my own son is due to the grief I held as he came into the world and she left it.

Posted in Legacy, Mid-Life Mama

Summer’s passing…


I consider it part of my parting duty to impart beach culture to my mountain grown sons.

Lose the hikers.
Let the hair become wild with humidity.
Get sand… everywhere.
Let it stay.
Smell the air.
Feel the spray.
Sample slices until you find the best pizza.
Welcome the fog. The rain. Let it all be one.
Thick hoodies. Leisurely breakfasts. Coffee. Music. Chaos.
Beach chairs. Flip flops. Fudge.
Salt water taffy. Beer bottles. Bar flies. Bare feet. Sunburn.
Shellfish. Sandcastles. Donuts. Surf shops.
Waves. Seagulls. Lifeguards. Sunsets.
Salt. Sea.
Devotion. Sensuality.
Creation. Myth.
Belonging. Return.
Devotion.
Womb.