Livin’ Large

A stranger’s furrowed brow, faltering voice, eyes locked on mine helped to make the message unvarnished. His partner silent, shaking her head in disbelief, a Sharpie style embellishment of clarity.

“Your place is beautiful, so many huge trees, private and beautiful, secluded but easy access, storage buildings… but your house! No dish washer, no garbage disposal, no walk-in closets, one TV and only one bathroom? Sorry, but this is just too primitive for us.”

Primitive? I live in primitive conditions?

Take another look.

My Halloween tree, craggy and huge, is home to an owl…night music for the velvet hours spend in the Sunday Room, a large sun room named by a three-year old just learning the days of the week. Sycamore shade keeps the room cool in summer protected in winter. Red-bud trees announce spring along with oak leaves that hold until those red-buds blossom.

A real barn, red and tin roofed, may now be emptied of lifetime collections but it is safe harbor to memories, to a karma of diverse talents and fierce determination to solve any problem.

We washed dishes together, he meticulous with scalding water and me with quick hands and ragged towels. What mechanical thing could replace that time?

Each room bustles with constant and sustaining memories. Family, children, their spouses, grandchildren, friends and neighbors push back against the walls of this house making a mansion where walk-in closets need not apply. Even that one bathroom proved to be a miracle of scheduling, taking turns, learning to G.I. shower during crowded holiday visits.

Among my Catholic friends, a particular practice involving St. Joseph is about 100% guaranteed success. When a home goes on the market, a statue of St. Joseph is buried in the yard to insure a quick sell. Several friends check weekly to see if I have handled that particular real estate boon, promising that it is more important than half empty rooms, bright lights, stashed family photos and a fresh cookie smell.

And still I resist, making little effort to acquire that stature of the saint, even if I knew where to buy it. The For Sale sign persists in advertising my primitive living conditions while I keep reliving volumes of sharing my life with Bob and our family–most definitely Living Large.


Troubled? The Bishop Was Troubled? (CCR)

If you, Gentle Reader, have children or grandchildren the abuse scandal is that bull’s-eye painted on the essence of those children.   Look at the beauty of your young ones and decide if the reaction to abuse would be a horrible bastardized-Jesus-forgiveness or a rage to remove.

Playing the scripture card to justify a plea for forgiveness is ignoring the fact that the story says the temple was  off-limits to the money changers.  Even your Jesus, a man of peace and justice, had limits of acceptance.  If you believe in the hell created for sinners, do you remotely harbor a belief that Jesus/God forgives those in hell?  Loves the sinner, hates the sin kind of rhetoric…loves those in eternal flames?

The Kansas City Star, Saturday, May 21, 2011, front page article by Laura Bauer and Glenn Rice

“One day after prosecutors charged a Roman Catholic priest with possession of child pornography, Bishop Robert Finn said he knew about the ‘very troubling’ images months ago but was told they weren’t pornography.”

Bishop Finn contacted a police officer and described one or more of the images.  Remember, the Bishop was very troubled by the images but decided to describe one or more to a police officer so that the officer could make the judgment as to just how troubling, how close to pornography, how much the diocese would have to reveal and justify.

Bishop Finn also admits that Ratigan was not honoring the restrictions put on him by the bishop.  Ratigan continued to ignore the restrictions.  The bishop continued to admonish him not to ignore the restrictions.  The bishop put Ratigan in a private priest residence and Ratigan continued to celebrate Mass.   Mass.  The Bishop allowed Ratigan to celebrate Mass.

On Wednesday, May 18, the Star reported on the study commissioned by Roman Catholic bishops citing reasons why priests physically and sexually abused children.  One of those reasons was priests were poorly monitored.

The Bishop confesses to being troubled but made the decision to keep his concerns in-house, to ignore the need to contact civil authorities.  The Bishop placed restrictions and Ratigan ignored the restrictions.

Again, I know that Ratigan is legally innocent until proven guilty.  Ratigan, trained and monitored by the church (that church which covered his actions) was allowed to continue under the presumption of innocence?

Maybe there are those who would go so far as to say that the church is innocent until proven guilty.  The burden of proof weighs heavily, to the breaking point.

There are those who would take the guilt off the church (where it belongs) and use the comedic line “The devil made me do it.”

Self-protection, denial, justification and dishonor continue to allow this obscene scandal.

Rings On My Finger

I am a chronologically old woman, 7 decades measured and counting. Growing up in a nurturing protected neighborhood, that mythical village, my siblings and I shared the blessing of never having quite enough, of always being required to try harder.

Political correctness came long  years later and our discipline included the occasional ‘good spanking’ to teach a lesson.   The culture of that time believed in ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’, especially in questions of attitude.  Mom and Dad struggled as the country climbed from the depression, giving us the best that was theirs to give.

We received our early formal education and training from women of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth.    Jesuits and Benedictines handled a large part of our college educations.  Discipline and humility held up the foundation.

Two marriages to two good men gave my life balance, reality checks and the richness of ‘for better and for worse’.   Each marriage extended my  family and I am grateful for what I have learned from each member of that very large group.

Marriage gave me the most precious gifts of my life–my five children.  Each of them fills me with awe and appreciation.  Their gifts are strong and enduring.  Life situations have not always treated them gently, but they handle what happens and they move through it.

My education provided me with a paycheck for doing what I would liked to have been able to do for free.  Teaching was a 28 year ‘fire-in-the-belly’ that never banked.

Through my time from childhood to crone I have often been overwhelmed by the generosity of  friends, colleagues, neighbors and acquaintances.   These past four months are powerful life lessons in the blessings of enduring support.

And now?  Now I am Grandma/Nana.  No one could be more blessed by the lives of the five grandchildren who gave me my new titles.  With my wedding band, I wear a five stone mother’s ring given to me about 30 years ago.  Next to those two rings,  I wear a five stone grandmother’s ring that I gave to myself 18 years ago.

Rings on my finger, blessing of my life.

Sam and Papa’s Snowman

Raymond Briggs made a beautiful video called The Snowman. Sam and Papa loved it together, watching with Sam sharing Papa’s chair.

Sam awoke this morning, dragged a blanket to Papa’s chair, clutched a shape book based on the video and quietly snuggled in to remember his Papa.

“Nana, you can never leave this house…never leave this place.”


“Because maybe Papa will figure out how to get loose from heaven so he can come back to us.    If you leave here, how will he know where we are?  Papa has lots of jobs to do here so when he gets loose, he will fix stuff.  Besides Papa misses me.”

Wish me a wish.


Some years ago, granddaughter Molly and I vegetated in a very long Kansas City, Kansas K-Mart line.  Molly was maybe 6 at the time and completely on course to becoming the amazing young woman of today.  A few sighs but no real complaints let me know  she wasn’t certain  her purchases were worth the wait.

Softly, slowly her young voice turned heads and brought smiles, a moment of relief to the tedium, as she gained in volume singing:

“This is the line that never ends.  It goes on and on my friends.  Some people started  standing here, not knowing what is was.  They continued standing here simply just because this is the line that never ends….”   (Sherry Lewis and her puppets did a great rendition of the original, “This is the song that never ends…”)

Pure Mollyism.  Next month Molly will be 17 and those years have provided me with  hundreds of insights into why ‘Mollyism’ should be added to Webster.

Recently, Molly won an award for her beautiful ceramic piece.  Even as she accepted congratulations, she began to talk about her friend, Erica, and the piece disallowed because of ‘religious symbolism’.  Erica had created a Buddha which Molly called amazing and certain to win a prize had the piece been accepted in the competition.

During our conversation, Molly was spot-on in her reasoning.  With a clear awareness of subject matter, go to any museum in  any  country.  Religious themes will be a huge part of the collections, even dominating is some museums.  No piece of great art stands discounted for depicting  church related subject matter.  The Sistine Chapel, The Pieta, Caravaggio’s John the Baptist are breathtaking in their beauty–true works of art.   Besides, Molly reasoned, Buddha does not represent a religion but rather a philosophy.  Who can deny that every piece of art represents the artist’s philosophy be that a philosophy  of beauty, design, world view, of spirituality, and even religion?

Pure Mollyism.

Six Year Old Wisdom

Kansas City, Kansas is a treasure of memories.  Both Bob and I did our becoming in KCK, wandering the neighborhoods through our grade and high school years.  Favorite eating spots, parks, teen hang-outs no longer exist— closed, demolished, victims of urban decay.  The city slipped out from under us, moving south and west.

Still, I love the place.  Despite warnings that poverty pockets invite problems, I drive the corridor leading to the best of those memories.  There was a time that I wanted a home in the Westheight Area and still drive those streets ‘picking out’ my future house.    Ward High School,  St. Peter’s Parish, Tauromee Avenue, Mom’s old apartment all hold firm on the pull of their magic.

Fritz’s Train restaurant is on that 18th Street run and Bob and I have taken our grandchildren there for about 17 years.  The wonder of having food delivered by moving electric trains is a magic all its own.  During one lunch break,  3-year-old Sam watched as a fire truck pulled up and the responders came in for lunch.   True to my concept of KCK hospitality, one of the fire people saw Sam’s wonder and asked if Sam wanted to see and touch the truck.

I do love Kansas City, Kansas.

A few days ago, six-year-old Frank and I finished an adventure with lunch at Fritz’s.  The place was full and the noise level high.  At first, we were unusually quiet but Frank never stopped checking out those coming and going.  Finishing lunch, Frank was content to sit, observe and talk.

Then it came…the wisdom of a six-year-old child.

“Nana, where are the people with black skins?  Why aren’t there any black skins in this place?  I don’t see any.  Where we eat at my home, we always see people with lots of different skins.”

On this day, at this lunch hour, his observation was correct.  Not always so, but this day, in this restaurant, in this  integrated city, his observation was correct.

I would not have noticed, taking the mixed neighborhood for granted, knowing that Bishop Ward, Keeler Women’s Center  and Donnelly College are rich in ethnicity, in diversity, in acceptance.

Isn’t it pretty terrific that a six-year-old boy is keeping an eye on us making certain that we didn’t mistakenly get in the wrong restaurant?




Tick Tock

The year was either 1953 or ’54, early in my Kansas City, Kansas high school years.  Bob was my brother’s friend and they spent hours in the basement workshop.  Time moved and my 14-year-old heart fell in love.  When I sort photos, seeing him through the years, breathing becomes a challenge.

Circumstances changed.  Our lives went in different directions.

In 1958,  while in college, I met a good man and we planned a future together.  Five amazing children who reflect so many of the dad’s best qualities, a trove of beautiful memories, a life filled with many of those ‘for better and for worse’ moments followed.  The sadness of divorce also followed.

Within a short time, circumstances changed again and Bob reentered my life.  First love.  New love.  This time, I wasn’t a teen.  I was a package deal…five children,  an aging mother and a teaching career.   Welcome to this new world.

We lived and loved that new world.  Five beautiful grandchildren were born in our new world.  Each baby gave Bob the magic of complete,  total love and acceptance.

On October 21, Bob left us.  He died.  He went away.  Those memories everyone talks about?  Those memories that are  to bring ease?  Those memories that are  to comfort?  Not yet.  All the memories do is tear at the heart and the gut, wrenching out the huge well of missing him.

A friend  told me that I had always loved too deeply, that I needed to see life with more discretion, that I lost the ability to emotionally self protect.  Imagine that…protecting oneself from all that love has to offer.

In our church, we say a prayer asking forgiveness “for what I have done and what I have failed to do”.   The failure hurts the most, missed opportunities, deliberate decisions to slide by an opportunity, hugs not given, smiles held back, anger over stupid stuff.

Yesterday, my brother said that my Bob was his best friend, his lifetime best friend.  My own lifetime is  overflowing with gifts, the riches of my children and grandchildren,  of family, of friends, of so much more than I deserve.  I keep hearing that time will actually ease this emptiness that stands in Bob’s place. Maybe.  Tick Tock.

Tick Tock.