Memorial Day; Dying In Our Arms

That is exactly how it must play out.  Hawk or Dove, we, the living, must hold each individual in our arms as if, in the moment of death, we were there to comfort every woman and man who died serving in any armed forces.

Hawk and Dove are nouns most used during the Viet Nam era, words that defined personal philosophy and used to justify treatment of the military.  A personal philosophy of war somehow gave reason to denigrate women and men who stepped up and stepped into horrors known only to those who shared participation.

Every white stone in seemingly endless rows, lined across a military cemetery represents the life and death of a member of the military, a story, a history, a record of a loved one.

Memorial Day honors the memory and the service of participates of all wars, all branches of the military, all those who served.  Our reaching out and touching individuals with comfort and validation can only be figurative once the white stone appears.

Memorial Day is our opportunity to speak, to acknowledge, to appreciate.  It is our opportunity to offer comfort and validation to every member of the Armed Services.   How grateful we are for the opportunity.

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A Veneration Too Far (ccr)

“A Veneration Too Far” is a throw away line in a BBC mystery, perfect words for a long-standing attitude of members toward the Catholic Church.  From childhood Catholics learned that we worship God and venerate the Saints.  Somehow that veneration morphed into a veneration of priest, bishops, cardinals and the Pope.

A few weeks ago I wrote several blogs about the crisis scandal in the Catholic Church.  The writing precipitated reading and research of the institutionalized cover-up of venerated Men of God sexually abusing children.  At this moment, simply thinking about shattered innocence is devastating.  Men of God sexually abusing children and that abuse protected by other Men of God– right up the chain of command– is vile.

When the United States scandal came to light dedicated and well-meaning Catholics defended the church.  As bizarre as it sounds,all the defenses were bogus.  Denial was rampant.  Victims took the blame in so many forms.  Defenders of the church impugned the motives of the victims trivializing the harm.    Number spins attempted to disparage the depth of the problem.  Offers to counsel victims played the We Care card.  Some church officials went so far as to condemn the news media saying that the evidence was simply an attack  by detractors.

Programs to protect children from potential abuse by lay persons became a requirement for working in Catholic situations.  As a volunteer in a Catholic elementary school, I participated in one of the programs, Virtus. Through it all, the hierarchy of the church continues to diminish and deny even to the point of saying that the problem was a United States problem.

When the abuse in other countries became as public as the United States scandal there was no place to hide.  Our church was dirty is the most heinous meaning of the word.

Catholics wait.

We wait in our cherished parishes or we wait alone, refusing to attend Mass unless and until justice delivered.  We want acknowledgement, condemnation, swift removal of the sinners who desecrated practice and doctrine while pretending to follow the professed teachings of Jesus.  We want civil prosecution of any man involved in acts of abuse and any man involved in the cover-up of the acts of abuse.  We want every man involved publically drummed out of the church, no exceptions.

Pope Benedict XVI  stated: “The greatest persecution of the church does not come from the enemies outside, but is born from sin inside the church.  The church has a profound need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn on the one hand forgiveness but also the necessity of justice.  And forgiveness does not substitute justice.”

Perhaps Benedict’s word’s usher the cleansing.  May it be swift and certain.

When Awake Is Better: Night Musings

Insomnia is a plague, a terrible affliction of mind and body but there are times when the mind is so filled with good things that extra hours of thought are a blessing.

Last night’s reasons to be awake….

Yesterday we did the garage sale search looking for those elusive wood and metal toys. After a morning of zero finds, I am convinced that wood and metal toys gather dust in the attics of antique stores or are touted in high dollar green-catalogues.

While driving in a beautiful lake community, we saw our neighbor’s truck and trailer loaded with rock and pipe.  Steve was ankle-deep in mud, bent over a loaded shovel.

Steve is one of those naturally gracious humans ready to smile no matter what the interruption.  Bob’s “How’s it going?” brought a typical Steve answer. “Great.  Just enjoying my life.”

Further conversation explained that he was doing drainage repairs to the house as barter for some equipment the home owner was willing to trade.  Barter.  What a great way to handle parts of the struggling economy.  And what an unusually nice man.

Thursday was Sam day, the highlight of every week.  Sam is close to 3 1/2, tall, thin and filled with wonder.   Taking advantage of a break in the rain, we were playing outside when a pick-up pulled into the driveway.  For over a year, this man has come multiple times wondering if we wanted the driveway sealed for a really good price.   Sam watched and listened as the man sat on a step and began the sales pitch while Bob kept shaking his head.  “Not now.  Maybe later in the summer.  We just don’t have the money now.”

Sam jumped up, ran to the toy room, opened his cash register and counted out eight pennies.  Hurrying back, he handed the man the fist full of money and said, “I will pay for Papa’s driveway.”   What a beautiful little boy.

During the past two months our family has experienced multiple health challenges.  Many things about the health care system are miracles of restoration and comfort.  Some are frustrations of the most maddening sort.   “Too big to fail” was one of the justifications for the financial bail-out.  “Too big to be transparent-to big to admit mistakes” might be applied to health care.   How I hope the evolving situation will prove me wrong.

And now the last chapter of wakefulness.

Why is it that so often it is easier to handle a loved ones physical problems than to handle the mental and emotional problems?  Why do so many of us reach out to alleviate physical pain while dismissing emotional pain as weakness?  How odd we are.

We profess to love but can withhold that love if the beloved needs on-going support for mental, behavioral and emotional sickness.  For some of us, there is no question that we would help a loved one fight cancer with every ounce of determination.  But let a loved one fight depression, and we bail.  We can sit by the physically dying for weeks on end, but we pass on the emotional dying calling those symptoms weakness or craziness.    Wonder why the boot-strap mentality is so difficult to shake.

Black Jack and Rosalind Russell

So many clichés about aging…so many cutesy sayings to get the laugh and cut off the whining.  Basically, the whines deserve to be squelched.  Someone just might suggest that the complainer’s  happiness lies in the natural alternative to aging.

I love being alive, love my life, my family, my friends, my activities.   When any group starts, “Well, my (surgery, illness, problem) went like this…”,  I have been known to draw tongue  blood  determined to avoid contributing to the ain’t-it-awful-one-upmanship.

Granted, verbal processing  is vital to some folks. With that need in mind, it is my duty of respect to listen, maintain eye contract and wait for the pause.

Despite the rehashing of medical miracles, we, the over 65 group, are good for a lot of grins.

Consider the Miracle Of The Hair.  80% of women are without a single visible gray hair and 99.9% of men are gray, white-haired or bald.  Must be part of the Venus/Mars deal.

And speaking of Venus/Mars…How about those commercials for the little blue V-pill.   Most prescriptions have totally scary side effects, but 4 hours and still worth the risk?

We make lists to remember what was on the other lists that might have been on the list we lost while we were thinking about what we should have handled yesterday.  Or was it last week?

Picking up yesterday’s reading material and going back several pages to figure out what happened before we dozed off makes for slow return of library books.

Waxing  nostalgic for the days of our youth when everything was amazing is a definite clue to geezerhood.  (If you, Gentle Reader,  grew up in the 50’s, you are part of the group that holds claim to complete accuracy about that decade’s perfection.)

Tsk- tsking about the current dress or hair styles while pretty much enjoying the view is an old person’s game.

Excusing totally embarrassing memory lapses with that senior-moment sheepish shuffle is coin of our realm.  (My spouse’s name is what?)

Which brings me to Rosalind Russell.   Some years ago, Bob and I caught the tail end of an old movie.  We both recognized the actress but could not come up with her name.  It plagued me for weeks.  Then, at approximately, 4:00 AM I awoke, sat up in bed and shouted, “Rosalind Russell”.    Now we had a tag for the longer delayed memory stuff  struggling to get out.

And Black Jack?  Well, we do have surprisingly  intriguing conversation considering our combined ages total 146 years.  One of those conversations was about candy and gum from those perfect 1950’s of our youth.  Valomilk, Grapette, Teaberry Gum but what was that licorice gum that lasted about 3 1/2 minutes before it turned to tasteless rubber?

We loved that gum, but naming it was threatening to be a Rosalind Russell.  Bob needs his oxygen aided REM sleep so I determined to force the connections and find that name prior to the next 4:00 AM surge.

I am not proud of how I handled it.

Black Jack is now the tag for bolts of memory hurled from the mind and out the mouth at  the most inopportune times.  Consider a hushed church, soft organ music, walking back from Communion, head bowed in reverence, and out pops “Black Jack!”

Poor Bob.  He had to sit in a different pew to convince people that his wife didn’t come to Mass that day.  And who was that woman playing cards in church?

Pony Poop?

One of these beautiful days, I will convince my friend, Tim, that he needs to meet each of you via blog comments.  He is my elementary, high school friend and neighbor from Tauromee Avenue, St. Peter’s Grade School and Ward High School, Kansas City, Kansas.

Roots run deep in KCK.  Just ask any Dotte and they won’t need those seven steps to Kevin Bacon as connection to most other Dottes.

How I wish the following lines were mine, but they are not.  They are Tim’s.  “In a room full of pony poop,  (all Pollyannas) are happy because somewhere in the room there is a pony to ride.”

So I am waiting at the doorway, saddle at the ready and smiling in anticipation for the moment that this current medical mess gets rinsed of pony stuff.  The sunset beckons.

Pollyanna Needs Her Bliss

I have no idea where the Pollyanna mystic began.  Probably a telling literary lapse on my part  but I do know that ‘Pollyanna’ has been both lobbed and hurled at me.

Because I don’t know the precise origin of Pollyanna, I cannot dispute the label.  But I do know that there is comfort in my ignorance (hurled) and in my bliss (lobbed).

A recent chain of family medical challenges did lead to several rants against flagrant mistakes, good-old-boy networks and obvious incompetence.   There was a huge temptation to blast through the blog using lots of  *%#@*.

You stopped those rants,  Gentle Readers, as you reached out in kindness, offering comfort and prayers.  Your response reminded me that Polly has served me well.

Pollyanna is my fallback, my rear guard.  When a situation baffles me, when my search for answers is futile, when I realize that there may never be a satisfactory answer, Polly is there.   She protects the belief that everyone deserves respect.  Everyone has a story.

My job is to contain the*%#@* in favor of polite courtesy.  Maybe that is clinging to my belief that good–like Mighty Mouse–saves the day.          Ouch!  Is that tongue in cheek thing suppose to pinch?

I DROP

Some years ago the educational system culture began the self-esteem fiasco.  Red pencils were trashed.  The connotation was damaging to self-esteem.  Every scrap of work was to be praised no matter how skilled the student was in working the new system–minimum effort gets maximum points.   Trophies became the standard, handed to every kid on the losing team so self-esteem wasn’t damaged by the realization that the other kids played a better game.  Birthday parties became expensive extravaganza’s competing against the last bash.  The ME culture up and running with gusto.

As with all nasty medicines, this self-esteem prescription had a debilitating side effect–denial of personal responsibility and first focus on ME.

To be clear, each human has value.  Each person deserves respect.  Every level of honest effort and competence gets an ‘atta-girl/atta-boy’.  But red pencils are necessary to effort and competence.

A Man I Know has reaffirmed another beautiful lesson.  A vision of one’s place in the world cannot be from a mountain of ME.

A series of very difficult symptoms landed A Man I Know in hospital.  Multiple tests determine a serious and potentially life threatening condition exacerbated my medication being taken for a separate and difficult physical problem.  For multiple days various medical specialists came with their piece  but it took far too many of those days to put the puzzle together.  There continues to be gaps in the knowledge.

During those very difficult days,  A Man I Know, soft-spoken and welcoming, rarely acknowledged his pain.  His room felt like a haven for hospital personnel–a place to visit, share stories and be validated by the responses of  A Man I Know.

In faltering English, the woman who mopped the floor, took 5 minutes to change the plastic bag in the waste basket, lingering longer each time she cleaned.

Another woman, taking the food tray, shared her story of upcoming testing to move up the caregiver chain.

Several nurses had life moments to share including the miracle birth of a child after  years of longing.  Another talked about the journey from an island nation, through New York and finally to Kansas.  She decided that she couldn’t come to our Christmas celebration because alcohol was not a part of the day.  All this with quiet smiles and a shared sense of fun.  And all this directed to a man hiding his pain, terrified of the total picture that might emerge,  listening, commenting and always welcoming.

Talk about an “I” Drop.