The Cough Drop

Finding this new blog rhythm has been difficult. It wasn’t always so. Months to years I wrote most days, often trivial, sometimes touching a heart. Early morning hours prior to this “After Bob” passage were good for finding voice. Much of the voice died with him.

Don’t.
Don’t was a scribbled list started as I walked to the car for an early appointment. Don’t Cry Today. Don’t Think Sad Thoughts. Don’t BE Sad. Don’t Remember. Don’t Make Any Mistakes. Don’t Notice The Empty Spot At Your Side.
Don’t. I can be so impossibly annoying….so add that to the Don’t List. Don’t Be Annoying. A blog was forming.

A blog was forming, a blog destined to be felled by a cough drop, an exquisite cough drop shared by a friend via email.

Don is a talented friend, a man who trusts his emotions and cherishes his family both in the present and in collected memory.

Some years ago, Don visited his Aunt Ljubica . A survivor of a Fascist Concentration Camp, Ljubica was living in France. Don remembers her as a gentle soul with the soft edges honed in a life of kindness despite hardship.

As was the custom, the Ljubica’s family lined up to present gifts, shared an embrace and experience leave-taking. Ljubica, slowed by age and the injuries of the camp, had no gift. Her face, beautiful in its capture of time and experience suddenly remembered that she did have a gift. Painfully, slowly she struggled up the stairs, hobbled into her room and descended with the precious gift clutched in her hand.

With joy, with a flourish, Aunt Ljubica handed her love to Don, a box of her favorite cough drops. The power and the simplicity of love is astounding.

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When The Going Gets Tough

When the going gets tough this stutter-stepper gets more than I deserve, a gentle push, a leg-up to a new awareness, giant steps of help most needed.

On Friday, Mark drove nine hours to get here so he could spend nine more hours driving Miss Daisy (moi) to look at real estate.  He knows the city, my budget, my temperament and my tangent jumping mind.  His notebook was filled with possibilities by zip code.  At 2:00, Saturday, he redid the nine-hour trip back to his home.    He actually helped me find two perfect houses:  the one I now live in and another about 15 minutes from this home.

My current  home is perfect in every way— except for long-term old person independence which will be an issue in the unforeseeable future.  The 15 minute trip takes me to a place where that old person independence would be stretched a bit, give me more years with less upkeep.

One of my major stutters is getting ready for an auction spelled with an ‘o’ as in overwhelming.  With his usual calm, Chris laid out a plan so perfect in simplicity, a reality check for me that  defined doable.

During all my self-imposed drama, I knew I could call neighbors Steve/Lisa and Dave/Laurie.  They would talk me down from uncertainty about 101 property and maintenance issues.

Bob’s voice lingers.  “We don’t need to bother people.  We can handle this together, by ourselves.”    Right–when there was a ‘we’.   I am inching closer to those phone calls.

On Wednesday, Chris gave me Cub Cadet Lesson 101 and I cut half of the 2.34 acres without damaging anything but my hearing.  Duh.  Ear plugs?  Ear muffs?  Next time.

Well, to tell the truth, my mowing might have been less than perfect, better described as ragged.   A very few days after I mowed, I decided on a short escape-from-reality-fake-errand, one of those times when getting away was mandatory.   Returning,  I drove up the long driveway.  A red mower flashed behind one of the sheds.  Wait a minute–my mower is yellow and I’m not on it.

Brian, another neighbor, handled the grass to crisp, clean perfection.  Speechless.  I was speechless.  He just did it.  Brian used his Sunday afternoon to mow this place in addition to his own multi-acres.

Indeed, with my family and my neighbors, this house is close to perfect.

I  want to be independent, to depend on resources that I muster, relying on myself by doing, or by compensating for the labor of others.  It is tough, but after a brief hiatus from reality, I am going again.  And this new chapter of going is definitely not because I am tough.  Rather it is because I am surrounded by walls of strength.

With Permission, A Retelling:Threads of Love

  • The group’s original mission was to make baby gowns, caps and blankets for burial.

    Now it also provides families with cloth “memory envelopes” in cotton or satin, a place to slip mementos of a brief life: a lock of hair, a specially worded sympathy card, a photograph.

    The group also makes items for babies in the hospital. Among them:

    Small bean-bag pillows, covered in soft fleece, that nurses use to position sick or premature babies safely in their bassinets

    • Cloth dolls for babies in ICU that carry the scent of their parents

    • “Sleepy vests” for preemies, made with Velcro fasteners so they’re easy to slip on and off.

Between them, Sally Gripkey and Rose Anne Livingston — grandmothers and longtime friends — launched an organization that has helped hundreds of Midlands families cope with miscarriage, stillbirth or the death of a newborn.

The women in their group, Threads of Love, make delicate white gowns, caps and blankets used as burial shrouds.

“Nobody goes to the hospital expecting to go home without a baby,” Livingston said, “so most people aren’t prepared for burials.”

The clothing has taken the place of blue, plastic bed pads that, before, wrapped the remains given to grieving mothers.

“They are babies. They aren’t just things, you know?” said Gripkey, 73, a retired respiratory therapist who knows her way around hospitals. The volunteers rarely meet the people who receive their handmade gifts. Still, they can comprehend the cruel pain.

“We can’t keep up,” said Livingston, 75, a retired real estate broker who became an adept volunteer as an Army wife, moving from post to post. Gripkey first read about Threads of Love, which began in Louisiana, in a sewing magazine. For a couple of years, she made gowns on her own.

Early on, Threads of Love got a $350 donation from the church. Since then, it has been self-sustaining, with occasional donations from families touched by their kindness. “We’ve never had to have a fundraiser,” Livingston said.

She buys fabric on sale. A group from Myrtle Beach donates lace. Invariably, the seamstresses spend their own money on supplies, making what Livingston estimated is 2,500 baby items a year.

The largest burial gown they make is 24 inches long. The smallest is 5 inches; it can lie flat in a sandwich bag.

Posted, The State South Carolina’s Homepage, Mar. 15, 2011   by Dawn Hinshaw;  photos KimKim Foster-Tobin.

If you, Gentle Reader, would like to read the entire article or if you wish to  contribute, you will find the information at:

http://thestate.com/2011/03/15/v-print/1736617/mending-hearts.html

Riddle Me This. (ccr)

Recently, I reviewed a PBS program on the Inquisition in the obscene depths of that horror.   In my younger days I cried easily but not so in my seventh decade.  Last evening I wept.

It is easy to admit to being undereducated in matters of faith and morals.  I will write what I think I know.

The Pope is infallible when speaking on matters of faith and morals.  He has the wisdom and direction of the Holy Spirit.  This infallibility is an attribute of all Popes, historical and current.

Church teaching gives God the attributes of omnipotence and omniscience, all-powerful and all-knowing.  The Church also teaches that man is created in the image and likeness of God.

Now a step back to the Inquisition and Pope John Paul.  This Pope of the Inquisition wrote against and brought humiliation and harm to the Jewish people, herding them into locked ghettos at night, forcing them to wear yellow hats by day.   This happened while the Pope was overseeing the horrors of the Inquisition.  All manner of  suffering removed those who disagreed with the church.

Church defenders tell us that all such matters  can only be understood the context of time and culture.  The Inquisition gets blurred and softened  by saying that an understanding of the society of the times explains false imprisonment,  torture and murder.

Why?  How?

Had not the gentle man, Jesus, lived and taught His message of peace and justice?  Had He not walked in simple robes forgiving, restoring and gently admonishing when His chosen twelve strayed?

Where was the attribute of omnipotence and omniscience when the Inquisition cleared a disagreement with boiling oil/turpentine or with a bonfire to char the flesh of a heretic?   Remember that the same church teaches the story of Jesus using spit and dirt to restore eyesight.

God knows no time or culture.  God’s omniscience simply IS, correct?  Was the Pope not listening or was Jesus’  message not one approved by the Holy Spirit?

For the sake of understanding, let’s leave the time and culture of the Inquisition and move to modern conundrums.  The teaching is that  God created all people in His/Her image and likeness.  That still stands, right?

Two huge albatross pull Church equality into disbelief.  If God created gender inclusive ‘men’ in His/Her image and likeness am I not as much reflection of God as is any ordained person?  If my soul reflects God as does any ‘male’, why am I not a fully accepted member of the Church?

Could it be that the same infallibility that fostered the Inquisition is the  papal gift that excludes women from ordination? Riddle me this.  Help me sort.


In The Shadow Of The Steeple (ccr)

“If you had been born and raised Catholic, you would not write the things you do.  You would understand.”  Words from a person recently joining Gentle Readers and bridling at certain blogs perceived as anti-Catholic.

In The Shadow Of The Steeple appeared in January, 2008.  It is a rerun in the interest of disclosure.  I intend to follow this with reruns of other blogs that are Catholic Church Related.

There is a huge chasm between being anti-something and being pro-reform.

In The Shadow of the Steeple

Shadow is a twin, a shaded place of respite and comfort as well as a shroud eclipsing what needs to be seen. The steeple of St. Peter’s represents an amazing heritage of doctrine and tradition, giving shelter and shadow to religion, family and community.

Most specific memories get boxed and stored because emotions are always stronger than detail.  I would have said that I did not have specific memories of grade school, but snippets are there.

After dinner to dark kick-the can in the alley, digging a foxhole in the backyard, reading on Mert’s screened porch, baby sitting for 25 cents an hour, Sunday night radio on the living room floor, seven for dinner almost every night of the week, chocolate pudding for dessert, bacon on Sunday, Dad’s famous cracker soup when the budget required….Snippets of a wonderful childhood.

Long sleeved blue serge uniforms, suffocating in the spring and early autumn…
Esterbrook pens, Script ink, coupons for Grapette pop after helping the teacher clean the classroom…Absolute silence as the class lined the hall waiting for a scheduled turn in the restroom…
The privilege of giving up recess to sell candy in Sister Mary Lawrence’s fourth grade classroom…
Suffocating green corduroy slacks and weskit designed to protect modesty while playing basketball…
Getting caught wearing pink Tangee lipstick to a basketball game…
The excitement of a school year spent in a small basement space when numbers overcame the available classrooms…
Crying over the story of a young saint martyred for refusing to surrender a host to his tormentors…
Tiny paper desk mangers waiting for a ‘good deed’ piece of straw as part of Christmas preparation…
Believing–totally believing–in being Catholic…
Praying as if an answer would come…
Confessing to ease the original guilt I never understood…
The sound of snow when Susan and I did the winter walk to 6:00 Mass each morning…
Longing to play basketball without embarrassing myself as Mary Jo finessed every part of the game…
Daring the first peek at my report card, needing grades somewhere close to the standard set by Jack…
Overwhelmed by the importance of responsibility when walking with Bobby to school or to the store. “Take care of him”, was Mom’s standard.
The anticipation of recess on the girls’ side of the playground…a space with few trees and pocked asphalt. Our jump ropes and a handful of jacks the only equipment…
Rare occasions of newspaper wrapped lunch carried to school…
Terror in the stomach when Msgr. McKenna looked at me for the spelling of ‘transubstantiation’…
Awe remembering Sister Mary Regis handling 51 eighth graders with few discipline issues…
Thursday night devotions perfumed by incense and followed by a cherry coke at the Confectionary…
Wondering why a young priest rarely called on a girl for the answer to questions from the catechism…
The deliberate disobedience of stashing our winter slacks under bushes on the way to school…
Retrieving them stiff with cold on the way home…
Shame when I did not always defend the three ‘special needs’ kids in our class…
The choir nun telling me to stand on the back row and move my lips…
Having Mom and Dad discover that I charged candy bars for my friends at McCarty’s mom and pop…
Hating the hand-me-down blue winter coat worn my seventh grade winter…
Loving the off-white coat that Mom sewed the next winter…
Wondering if I actually fit into any group and praying that I did…
Embarrassment at making cheer leader only because few others bothered to try out…
Consuming pride when a teacher wrote a positive comment on my paper…
Guilt at my lack of humility and failure to thank God for the work that earned the comment…
Absolutely loving school…

Snippets that, from this distance of over 60 years, have the richness of warm chocolate swirled with cream.

I am intensely grateful for my education at St. Peter’s Parish and the Catholic community surrounding every part of those years. And that comforting vapor called time has given me the gift of acceptance for the chasm between some of the teaching and the reality of my life experience.

Freedom

With my grandson’s permission, I am posting his essay titled, “Freedom Isn’t Free”.    Cain is the first-born son of my first-born son, Mark.  They are alike in ways that they have yet to discover.  Mark and Cain share a passion with Mark’s dad, David (deceased) for history with an emphasis on military history.  They also share  an amazing ability with the language both written and verbal.  Cain received the top award from the Holland and Knight Holocaust Essay contest.  You can read that essay on http://holocaust.hklaw.com

Freedom Isn’t Free   by David Cain Day     Reprinted With Permission

What defines a hero? Webster would have one believe a hero is a man of great strength and courage, favored by the gods and in part descended from them, often regarded as a half-god and worshipped after his death.”(“Hero”) The people of Gotham would point you towards Batman, whereas a baseball fan might direct you to Cooperstown. The house-cat might tell tales of a lion, while the goldfish may dream of Moby Dick. In short, a hero is not a formulated being absolute in its definition, but is amorphous and unique to each of us. To me, a hero is a man or woman willing to risk everything in defense of the principles of America: a man or woman who puts his or her self in mortal danger so I can call myself an American and live free of oppressive regimes and tyrannical leaders. In my eighteen years, I have been lucky enough to have met many such Americans. However, one hero stands out brightest amongst them.

On September 18, 2008, Medal of Honor recipient Ronald E. Rosser visited my high school. He shared with us a powerful and moving oration about his service in the Korean War and what it means to conduct oneself with honor. During his speech, Mr. Rosser, as most humble men do, barely touched upon his own exceptional courage and selflessness, preferring to lead us to some measure of understanding. What he wished for us to understand are simple words with profound meaning. Honor, sacrifice, courage, freedom: all words which define America and her struggles, yet are difficult to explain, quantify or, perhaps, to truly appreciate.

As Medal of Honor Recipient Rosser spoke, the student body sat silent, absorbed by this man and his message. He spoke bluntly, not needing embellishment to convey his creed directly and effectively. He told of a life lived to the fullest, with each moment appreciated and savored. His story had little to do with the horror of war and intensity of battle. His words were of opportunity and fulfillment.

To this decorated hero, the medal worn around his neck was a symbol of honor for and service to his country rather than a symbol of his own heroism. But Rosser is not a man like any other.  His heroism, his actions in battle, set him apart from other men and women.  He single-handedly killed at least 13 enemy soldiers and aided wounded comrades after having himself suffered injuries (“MOH Citation…). And yet, despite all of this, he did not consider himself a hero; he considered himself blessed because he had returned home to become a teacher and police chief. Such was the power of this man’s patriotism. He was not compelled to kill and, if necessary, die by a need for greatness or fame. He was compelled to serve because what he loved (his family, country, and way of life) had been threatened. This is the measure of a true patriot, and this is what has inspired millions of Americans to serve their country.

I often wonder; if thrust into the terrible and violent circumstance of war, would I be able to reach within myself and, as Mr. Rosser did, tear courage from my soul? In the face of horror, could I conduct myself with honor, dignity and valor? If it became necessary, would I be willing to leave my body on the battlefield of American History, defending the greatest experiment in freedom, democracy and liberty the world has ever known? Ronald E. Rosser faced these same questions and made his decision. He served his country, and he is not alone. Every man and woman who has served, and sometimes died, defending the United States of America has served for me, has served for you, has served the country and most importantly has served Freedom. They have risked it all; they have paid the ultimate price. We are their living memorial, and we are their living legacy.

Almost 232 years before Ronald E. Rosser made the trip to my school, the first Americans cast the dice in the greatest gamble in the history of man’s pursuit of self-determination. When the members of the Second Continental Congress voted to approve Richard Henry Lee’s Resolution of Independence, they seized their destiny from the grip of providence and forged their own path into history. Two days later, when the declaration Thomas Jefferson penned was approved, the world witnessed the birth of the first nation founded on the principle of liberty. However, the road to nationhood was by no means easy or certain.

A bitter war of independence proved to Americans that freedom was not free and would not come easily. For eight brutal years, revolutionaries spilled their blood in a fight that would come to define the men and women who dared call themselves Americans. Against overwhelming odds, our forefathers wrested independence from the clenches of an absent tyrant and declared to the world “We shall be free!” However, that struggle for freedom was only the beginning.

Over the next two and one-third centuries, Americans of all races, creeds and classes would take up arms in defense of the virtues and principles of our great nation. Not all would fight, and not all would witness battle, but every single one of them contributed an invaluable service to the preservation of freedom. Nurses, corporals, mechanics, pilots, doctors, generals, ensigns, admirals, cooks and so many more, all worked to defend the doctrine of liberty on which America was founded. Even those who were, in the beginning, disenfranchised and discriminated against understood that while our government may be flawed, our country was truly great.

In World War II, Executive Order 9066 was signed sending more than 120,000 Japanese Americans to internment camps. However, these loyal Americans understood that even though racism and fear had gripped some in their nation, their country still needed their service. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was comprised solely of Japanese Americans. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team went on to become the most highly decorated unit in United States military history. No men better understood the fact that Freedom isn’t Free. When their freedom was taken from them, these Americans still mustered the courage and inner steel to fight for the United States. Men like this epitomize the greatness of America and the character of her citizens.

Due to history and sheer numbers, most Americans think solely of men when they consider soldiers. However, heroism has no gender.

Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, a soldier in the 617th Military Police Company, successfully defended her convoy from an insurgent attack while serving in the Iraqi theatre. During the course of the battle, Sgt. Hester lead her team in a counter attack, clearing two trenches and killing three enemies. For her gallantry and composure under fire, Sgt. Hester received the third-highest military decoration in the United States, the Silver Star. (Tyson). This soldier is an American hero, plain and simple. While some may say she has no place in the armed forces, Sgt. Hester has demonstrated otherwise. Sgt. Hester and many female soldiers have, in the great American tradition, swept aside prejudices, biases and preconceptions, writing a new chapter in history. All soldiers and veterans transcend banal categorizations, existing instead on an echelon of courage difficult to comprehend. Within this stratum resides a group of Americans who know, maybe more than anyone alive, what the true cost of freedom is.

In every war America has fought there have been soldiers wounded while defending her principles. The severities of wounds are far-ranging and can take a toll in countless ways. Some are obvious such as missing limbs. Some are not so obvious–but just as devastating–such as post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses. Yet no matter the type of wound, any soldier returning home with a part of him or her missing comprehends the full meaning of the words Freedom isn’t Free. Each time a soldier suffers pain in a phantom limb, relives the hell of battle in flashback or nightmare, learns to use a prosthesis or wheelchair she is reminded of the price she paid. When a soldier comes home to find he is no longer able to embrace his child because an improvised explosive device has destroyed his arms he understand the terrible cost of freedom. America’s wounded veterans are possibly the bravest of us all. They are the lucky and the damned: lucky to be alive and damned to live the rest of their lives bearing an awful burden. So, the next time you hear a beautiful opus, marvel at a majestic landscape, walk down the street, or simply write your name, remember that somewhere is an American Veteran who cannot. And remember, they live each day, each minute knowing full well that Freedom isn’t Free.

While the profiles I have provided deal mostly with men and women of the Armed Forces who have been awarded medals for valor, nearly all who served are worthy of deep respect. Any person willing to lay down his or her life so we may live in peace and freedom is a hero.

Now, more than 200 years since the birth of our nation, I live in the freest country in the world. America. I write, unafraid that my words will be censored or my voice stifled. I know that my basic rights and liberties will be, and have been, defended. I reap what Sgt. Hester, the men of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, America’s wounded veterans and Mr. Rosser have sown. I am free because those who came before me gave so much.

I often find myself drawn back to that September day and Mr. Rosser’s words. To be honest, two years ago I did not have the degree of awareness or appreciation of Mr. Rosser’s sacrifice which I do now. In two more years, I expect to find myself understanding it on yet a deeper level. Time and maturity bring clarity and poignancy to the story of America and her citizens’ struggle for freedom.

And therein resides the genius of Mr. Rosser’s appeal. Although he spoke to an audience of children, he spoke with such subtlety and wisdom that he ensured his meaning would continually reveal itself as those children became adults. His visit to my school was not an attempt to ease the boredom of retirement; it was a whole-hearted endeavor by one American Veteran to describe his patriotism and unyielding faith in the United States of America.

Thankfully, to most of us the concepts behind Mr. Rosser’s words are not concepts at all‑ but realities. The majority of us do not rise each morning wondering what new hell awaits us. We do not rise speculating whether or not we have the courage to fall on a grenade thus saving our brothers. Most of us do not rise to find ourselves fighting on foreign soil, or worse our own. We arise each morning safe, secure and free. And we do so thanks to the countless men and women like Mr. Rosser.

The greatest manner in which someone can thank another is emulation. Through emulation, we make our appreciation obvious to the world. However, when I consider the price the men and women who served our country paid, and still pay, I cannot imagine them wishing that toll on anyone. The price is not a one-time cost. Some Americans must continue to face the horror, so we may look away. They are the brave­‑the few. For the rest of us, the greatest thank you we can extend to our veterans and soldiers is complete and unapologetic exercise of the rights they have and continue to protect. So, I implore us all to cherish our freedom, honor our rights and hold dear our liberties. And never, ever, forget the price that was paid to secure them.

Holding Fast

For two days I have been working on a blog about Time, about incomprehensible Time. When I opened today’s email, Two-Names included the following poem in his message.  The poem is anonymous yet speaks to everyone facing life in a care facility.

Crabby Old Man

What do you see nurses? . . .. .. . What do you see?
What are you thinking . . . . . .
when you’re looking at me?
A crabby old man . . .. . . not very wise,
Uncertain of habit . . . . . with faraway eyes?

Who dribbles his food . . . . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . . . . . ‘I do wish you’d try!’
Who seems not to notice . .. . . . the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . a sock or shoe?

Who, resisting or not . . . . . lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . . . the long day to fill?
Is that what you’re thinking? . . . . . Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse . . . . . you’re not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am. . . . .. . as I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, . . . . . as I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of Ten . . . . . with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters . . . . . who love one another.

A young boy of Sixteen . . . . with wings on his feet.
Dreaming that soon now . .. . . . a lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . . . my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows . . . . . that I promised to keep.

At Twenty-Five, now . . . . . I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . . . and a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . . . .. . my young now grown fast,
Bound to each other . . . . . with ties that should last.

At Forty, my young sons . . .. . . have grown and are gone,
But my woman’s beside me . . . . . to see I don’t mourn.
At Fifty, once more, babies play ’round my knee,
Again, we know children . . .. . . my loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me . . . . . my wife is now dead.
I look at the future . . . . . shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing . . . . . young of their own.
And I think of the years . . . . . and the love that I’ve known.

I’m now an old man . … . . . and nature is cruel.
T’is jest to make old age . . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles . . . . . grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone . . . . where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass . . . . . a young guy still dwells,
And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys . . . . . I remember the pain.
And I’m loving and living . . . . . life over again.

I think of the years, all too few . . . .. . gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people . . . . . open and see.
Not a crabby old man .. . . Look closer . . . see ME!!