Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Love Note to a Child of God,

Ever raise a teenager? Even when you believe you are a reasonable parent and you have kissed their wounds, listened to their sorrows, thrown them a 'frickin' bone',  they walk into the room, huffing and puffing.   As a parent, you can't help help but wonder, "What did I do?"

Turns out, we may be a bit like that.

Met. Anthony Bloom writes in one of his books on prayer that we can be like that. All day we don't want to talk to Him. "Hello" in the morning. "'Night, God" before we fall asleep, otherwise, "kiss off, God."

We expect God to show up when we are ready. He was present all day, waiting on us, but we put Him off, like a petulant teenager. When we are ready and He doesn't give us what we want, I think we sound like a teenager, like the status message a friend of mine stole and reposted tonight.  She is a sweet parent and I take this because she it is not hers originally: (George Carlin's, I believe)

 I have wondered why 'the crazy' got amped or the anger bats came out in our house. I have been been a barometer for adolescent emotions I couldn't understand or anticipate -- "Hey, Yo, where did that come from?"-- Tonight, I realized something as I read my beloved friend's post. We are all a bit like teenagers when it comes to God. We think He is just like us. We don't trust His love. In the same way, we didn't trust our parents. We reject the idea that that our parents, or our Creator, have a vast reserve of love and wisdom beyond us. I am speaking the majority of us who don't have criminal parents who beat, rape, molest and berate us.

I'm speaking to us who have parents who tried to raise us the best way they could.

God, of course, kicks butt compared to our parents. They still need Him, like we need Him. We may outgrow them, but that quote shows we don't outgrow a certain kind of childishness. We envision our Creator in our image. We believe ourselves to be his Creator. Silly kids. Didn't we kick our parents just one time and discover when flesh met flesh that they were not larger than life? So to is He.

We're still teens. We still worry folks are looking at our zippers, checking to see if what's down so they can mock us. We think everyone wants to jump us and we worry no one will love us as we are. It's cause we don't accept His love. We don't trust He loves us and we're gonna sock it right back-- give Him what He deserves. We aren't gonna love him as He is. Bummer, Man, cause when we don't love Him as He is, we can't accept how great we really are.

In short, we distrust Him. It's unfair. My daughter huffs and puffs at me all the time. She shows me with each inhalation, each exhalation, that she doesn't believe I love her. Bullhocky.  So this is the reply I posted to all who think God is a construct of human imagination:

"Which religion? My faith teaches that the Creator of Man, who like you, **************, is a loving parent overseeing his beautiful children. He guides them away from what will harm them, towards what makes each one of them a better version of herself, or himself. This Creator would want them all to come home, at the end of their days, and hang out with Him forever, to laugh, and sing, and dance, and love one another and Him. The Creator has all the love he needs and pours it out on his children, who are bankrupt in love, and he had all the money he needs, but he is sorrowful to see that when he shares it, some of those children steal all away for themselves, refusing to share."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cold, Silent and Dead

Motor Oil Confession

I parent like a piston
Engine, jamming my power
Down narrow throats

My children
They throttle forward or
Gear into reverse.
It drives me to heat

Fueled into explosions

In some controlled chamber,

Sparking, though,
As engineered to convert
The fossilized DNA
Into a slow burn of toxic love.

  Someone I know died of yesterday. She was an administrator at my organization when we heard the news it was so unexpected that I think I held my breath. Usually, I do the almost Southern thing, look down and shake my head. I say, "Lord, Have Mercy" and "Memory Eternal." I just gasped and typed, "Oh. My."

     That's what it's like to hear that someone died via a net meeting.

    She was a private person, explained our CEO and that is why none of knew she had survived breast cancer before succombing to liver cancer yesterday. She was young. She was beautiful. She was accomplished and awarded and so driven- "intense," our CEO called her- that most of us danced around her. She said jump, we jumped, and hoped it was high enough.  As soon as the meeting ended, it was Friday of finals week and all heck broke loose. Teenagers are great for waiting until two hours before something is and emailing and calling and then emailing again with their sob stories.
    I kept thinking It's a shame she was so private. You see we were given the floor to interact, after the news was broken. No one had words. Stunned into silence, the lot of us, and there are a couple hundred of us.

     I see her now, laid out in a casket, as young and lovely looking as the last time she swept the halls of the corporate office and into one of our meetings. I want to memorialize her as my grandfather, my father-in-law, as less accomplished and beloved people in my life have been remembered. I have healing memories of those griefs. I cannot bring about the same perceptions. I feel about like passing as I did when my mother's parents died. At a loss for what memories I could speak and by which be healed. I don't have stories.

     We were asked to avoid publishing much about her death on social networking sites. Afterall, she withheld her illness from nearly everyone at our organization. She withheld most of herself. I saw her smile, but not laugh. I saw her beautiful but not accessible.

     That's how my daughter found me at 3:20, when she came in from school: stunned and worn from a long week of unexpected troubles. My husband and son returned hour later, laden with groceries, and I was in the same distraught state. By five-thirty, having repaired brakes in frigid temperatures, my husband came in for pea soup and found my daughter explaining to me that I always and only speak to her in tones of disappointment and stress. I speak as though she is a burden. She would like more love. Instead, I am cold and unreachable. I know this is what she feels because she reaches out blindly on facebook, asking for hugs. I type one back to her. I mimic one as as pass through the living room. I find her crying when I come back through. I ask why. When she does not respond within enough time for me to check the soup and carry on with the mountain of work looming, I leave her there with the false offer, "When you feel like reaching out, I'll listen." That doesn't count. I hurried off to accomplish dinner, grading, MFA application, emails, cleaning up.

     I rubbed her neck for sixty seconds this morning, a rare outreach I'm ashamed to admit. She hit five and I stopped cuddling her. Oh, I say, "I love you" every day as she flies out the door to school. Words. Words. Words.

     Here I am, unable to put human face on the brokenness and something accessible to her. I am a machine. Her mom machine. I wrote a poem of this a couple years ago. The machine metaphor won't stop haunting me. There it is. If I don't make penitance on this confession, I'm gonna stun my kids when I die, but I won't leave them with words to laugh and cry and heal. I'll just be stone. cold. dead.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bury My Heart at Wounded Butt

Made you laugh, didn't I?

But I'm serious. I buried my heart there today. A little piece of me died last night when my cousin Kari showed me pictures of a bed sore that nearly killed my uncle just before Christmas.

How? It goes like this. Around Thanksgiving, my uncle was retrieving mail or the paper after his wife left for work. He's been on Interferon for months, since a large patch of his scalp was removed last spring with a large patch of melanoma in the skin. Moles and the tissue to the muscle were extracted from his torso, front and back, leading to diagnoses in several kinds of skin cancer all within weeks of one another. He is reduced by the effects of chemo, but still a larger man. He was weak from the medicine. He fell hard and landed in a nursing home for breaking his ankle in three places, but that's not the worst part. He laid on the ice at the end of his driveway for forty-five minutes before a UPS truck driver rescued him. Either the force of his fall, the cold or something else led to a patch of dead tissue on his posterior. Initially, the hospital staff said it was a bruise. Later, the nursing home staff recognized dead tissue. It took a couple of weeks, but proved itself gangrenous. Part of it was removed and finally, after nearly dying of sepsis just before Christmas, a full 10" x 10" x 3" deep section of his rear end was cut out. In pictures, his tailbone is showing, it is that deep.

I've written him, but until this morning, I hadn't seen him since a family reunion this summer, just after he began chemo and he was already weakened and sick. This morning, he had something of an appetite because he's off the interferon to let the wound heal. Still, he's smaller than I ever remember him being. Cancer and chemo are wicked like this. I know the saying, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," but chemo is no friend. It's the only barbarism we have to defeat a vicious enemy. To heal from this wound, the nursing home staff and hospital recommend he stay away from the chemo. Meanwhile, he's worried about skin spots that have appeared recently. Kari tells me he'll talk to the oncologist later this week.

One year ago, I started this blog with a reflection on my husband's hospitalization with heart attack-like symptoms. Last week, Fr. Joel had a facial laceration worth 13 stitches-- just a little football injury. Nothing compared to my uncle's circumstance. If I curled up one year ago around the gasping body of my husband, I now curl up in a fetal position, at the foot of the Cross for my Uncle Dave. He is a man of faith. He has dreamed vividly in recent weeks, perhaps it's the painkillers, or it is visionary. He dreamed of ascending steps from a kind of dark basement towards a light, but being ordered back before nearly the top. It's not his time, it seems, so he ministers to his nurses. He is aware he nearly died and a weight of mortality tinges his talk like I've never seen. He was a spector of his father, my grandfather. He was always one to instigate a laugh, jokes first, then tickling. My grandfather loved to make other's laugh too. He is serious, as a heart attack, about faith in God, in the face of all we suffer and celebrate. He has three children. One has blessed his 'quiver' with two grandchildren. There may be more some day.

Please, remember my Uncle Dave in your prayers. I'm not a superstitious person, and even if I were 11 is not a superstitious number. But this past year was a rough one for many people I know and love. Some were diagnosis with serious illness, others lost unborn children, others were battling demons foisted upon them by evil in this world, others survived natural calamities.If you think of it, here is a short short list of names I whisper each morning. Please consider adding them to your list:

Mat. Maura
Mat. Valerie
Rev. Phil
Mary Anne
Mat. Kristen
Pres. Elena
Mat Priscilla

"Remember us, Oh Lord, In your Kingdom."