Sunday Morning ~ Leaving

Sunday Morning ~ Leaving

Ukacoka usamatseka mwala, koma kutseka mayani. ~ When leaving do not block the exit with stones, but with leaves.

~ Chewa proverb

August 18, 2019

Hi Everyone,

I’m sitting at the lake while Amelia plays around me. In and out of the water, never very deep, she’s careful. She’s made some friends and they are looking for frogs. I asked her where the friends come from as I heard them speaking a different language. She told me Connecticut, then asked, “Wait, what language do they speak in Connecticut?” 

The lifeguards have a hard job I think. It’s hard to pay that kind of attention to all the human activity buzzing around. I’m not a water person nor a strong swimmer. I’m grateful for lifeguards but don’t trust completely that they will notice every mishap or threatening situation. When my kids were little all I did at the beach was count. One-two-three-fourrrrr…five! Ok, all heads were above water. Then I’d start again. This past week I only had to count to two, but still did, over and over. All accounted for. Everyone safe. I always place our blanket near the lifeguard stand. I look back occasionally to make sure he or she is paying attention and I’m always a little surprised that they are. I think lifeguarding is a noble job. Guarding life. Let people have their fun: romp, splash, run, dive, all the while knowing that someone is there if you need them. Wouldn’t it be just so nice if they weren’t only at the beach?

The kids see me as their personal lifeguard. They expect me to protect them. This was obviously true when my own kids were small but I didn’t look at life from their perspective back then. I do now. How I always want to keep them safe. How I wish I could protect them, even as adults. I know this is not an original desire.

It’s terribly hard to know your child struggles, suffers, and hurts themselves and I know I share that angst with other mothers. It’s a constant for me that I go over what I did wrong and how a different reaction from me would have changed the course of their lives. A silly futile exercise that only upsets me more and I look for Rumi quotes and images of the Virgin Mary for comfort. I watch my little innocent granddaughter playing without a care and wish she could be this sprite forever.

I sat through Amy’s funeral this week and prayed for her mom. This could be me, I thought. I watched her mother, full of grace, with complete composure, and wondered how I would ever walk into the church, never mind greet people with a soft smile and gentle hug and genuine gratitude. Grace is the only way I can describe it.

So I’m conscious of leaving leaves behind and not stones. Who knows what kind of suffering is unspoken behind us and there may yet be a soft wind that blows the leaves away.

Love to all,


Sunday Morning~ Speaking Out

Sunday Morning ~ Speaking out

Mbewa ya manyazi idafera ku dzeje. ~ The shy mouse died in his hole.

~ Chewa proverb

August 11, 2019

Hi Everyone,

I, like everyone else I know, am sick about people being shot at Walmart while they do their school shopping. Likewise, I’m sick that people are being shot at a nightclub. Oh, yes, and students trying to get through a school day. They are being shot there too. So I’m thinking about fear. I’m thinking of all those afraid of being targeted for who they are or where they are. And I’m thinking about the fear of speaking out. Yes, I’m thinking about that, too. I called all my congressional reps this week and asked them to speak out. I asked them to speak out publicly, as our leader, and say they will not stand for this. And not one of the three committed to do so. Angus King’s staffer said he was considering a response, Susan Collins had no response, and Jared Golden’s staffer said he was looking into studying the cause of gun violence. God help us. I told them as a constituent I want them to speak out before we die in our holes. Or words to that effect. 

I’m thinking about my little grandchildren and their innocence and glee and shudder the thought away of what is happening to kids sleeping alone and scared. I can’t imagine it. Well, I can imagine it and the thought horrifies me. Actually, “horrifies” seems so weak. I don’t even have a word to describe what it does to me, but it is so bad I don’t want to think about it. This is dangerous. I force myself to think about it. 

My grandchildren are with me for the week and I’m loving every minute. But the early mornings I thought I’d sneak out of our outside bed and get some writing done have not materialized, thus it’s Tuesday and this isn’t finished. The kids are afraid to be alone. They seem to have internal motion detectors as every time I move they check to see if I’m still there. So instead of some early morning alone time, we snuggle and talk about our dreams and the merits of an intact mosquito net. Sweet little angels. At six and three they are still making sense of the world and seeing who is friend or foe. So far spiders and flies are suspicious. Random dogs all seem to be in the friend category. Blood is a definite foe as the sight of it sends them into near hysteria, even it if is a little smear from a slapped mosquito. Blueberry picking near the water’s edge, a most idyllic Maine summer scene, has been marred by blood-curdling screams when the hint of blood appeared on a scratch from a thistle. I have patience with this in true grandmother fashion and have a bag full of bandaids I don’t mind wasting. I would never have been so indulgent with my kids, something my daughter reminds me of regularly.

I sleep on the porch in the summer under a mosquito net. It’s wonderful to feel the breezes and be surrounded by night air. The kids and I get ready for bed and head to the porch. They are scared of the dark and won’t leave my side. They won’t get into bed without me. They said they worry that birds will get us. I tell them the birds sleep at night. They said they’re scared about mosquitoes biting us and I tell them that’s what the net is for. James asks if the holes are too big? I tell him not for mosquitoes. They can’t fit through these holes. It’s a special net made just to keep mosquitoes out. We turn on the solar light and cuddle under the net. I read them Blueberries for Sal and we talk about how we picked blueberries at the lake that afternoon. (Funny they aren’t too worried about bears.) They relax as I read and I feel their little bodies soften even more. They sink into their pillows and I can feel the tension leave. They smile when I say something funny. They frown when they tell me what they are scared of and I’m fascinated by their thoughts and perceptions. They listen intensely as I explain why we’re so safe here. They believe me and I turn out the light. 

This is the bedtime I want for every child.

Love to all,


Sunday Morning~ Mothers and Broken Hearts

Sunday Morning ~ Mothers and Broken Hearts

Wolira samugwira pakamwa. ~ A mourning person, they cannot count his words.

~ Chewa proverb

August 4, 2019

Were they young or old? Were they black, white, yellow, red, or brown? Are their mother’s still alive to bury them? I’m particularly curious about the last query.

I think my earliest memory of random killing is of Northern Ireland. I mean repetitive senseless killing where one group hated another so much they just killed them. It seemed different from the war in Vietnam. In my child’s mind the killing in the war was expected, but the killing in Northern Ireland was scary. It happened on the streets and in stores and churches, not in uniforms and jungles.  Vietnam’s the first war I remember coexisting with, but that was far away, and even though my brother was in there fighting, it seemed an unreal made for TV drama, just like the TV show Combat that my brother loved to watch. We’d fight about that. I never enjoyed being entertained by people getting killed or things getting blown up. I still don’t. I wonder what young children think of our country now. How does this all manifest in young minds and mindsets? How will it shape their psyche? Gandhi experienced violence so what was it that made him such a powerful non-violent activist? Wouldn’t it be so nice to know just the trick. I chuckle when people worry about me going to Africa and warn me that it’s dangerous. 

What is it like for family members to get the call? At his daughter’s funeral, a friend said, “I got the call that every parent has imagined, but no parent is prepared for.” A fun night out at a club or a concert, a shopping trip for toilet cleaner and paper towels––what is it like when that turns deadly?  Minding their own business, enjoying the show, maybe turning to their friend and sharing a joke or an observation or exclamation, and then…bang…lights out. How do mothers bear it? Well, they have to and that’s that. That’s what my mother would say. You strap your ankles and go out there and get through your day. That’s what she said when I asked her about growing up in the depression. I asked if she were hungry, She said, “Well, yes of course we were! We stood in line all day to get a potato or a loaf of bread.” Like, what a stupid question, were we hungry? But she wasn’t out there lobbying for transparency in banking or attending political rallies because she endured hunger. Her son was in active duty in the most senseless war, yet she wasn’t out protesting with students. She stayed home and cleaned the oven, starched and ironed shirts, made cream cheese and olive sandwiches, and burned the rubbish, but the war and her son must have been on her mind constantly. How did she cope? I wondered about this and thought, well if she isn’t worried, I’m not worried. I watched her, though. I thought I detected a hint of concern when she’d check the mail for a letter from him. It seemed to me like there were lots of letters from him, but she didn’t think so. She’d say under her breath, “Jeeze, couldn’t he just jot a couple of words?” I overheard her telling someone that he’d written how much he appreciated the Tang she’d sent, even though he’d had to mix it with muddy water. She and her friend had a little chuckle over that humorous remark. Hahaha, such a wit that boy. It never crossed my mind that he wouldn’t come home, but I was just a kid so what did I know? I never detected anxiety about him from either my mother or my father. But were they always looking out the window for the official car? A letter like that doesn’t come in the mail. 

My father fought in WW2 and it seemed rather romantic going though all the old photos of his navy ship crossing the equator and the risqué celebration that warranted. I think about that now and wonder, how fucking weird is that? The men all dressed up like women and had a party when they crossed the equator? During a WORLD WAR? But it was all very exotic back then, a kid, looking through black and white photos with white scalloped borders of men wearing coconut shell bras and wigs made from mops. What fun war must have been! No wonder they weren’t worried.  

Sure, plenty came home in body bags from Vietnam, but they didn’t affect us. Not my family. We were playing Monopoly at the kitchen table on a winter Sunday evening when the phone rang. It was a rare event that the family was all playing a game together, having fun, no fights, some laughter. My mother went to answer the phone and we heard her yell in a screechy sort of way, “You’re at Logan?!” And without a word we all ran from the table, threw coats over our pajamas, and ran to the car, my father already behind the wheel with the engine running. We drove to the airport and somehow found my brother waiting, spiffy in his uniform, standing on the curb. How we found him there I don’t know. Maybe in 1969 there was only one door. (How strange to think of how small and simple that airport was then.) Someone in the car yelled, “There he is!” We pulled over and my mother got out so my alive brother could slide into the middle of the front seat of our Chevrolet station wagon. A seat bigger than my living room sofa. Pulling away from the curb my father laid on the horn until my mother said, “Reno! Stop it!” and to this day, that is my happiest family memory. 

My brother came home from the war, my kids came home from school, my son came home from the rock concert, my husband came home from Walmart, I came home from church today. I guess I should be thankful that no one shot us.

Church today. The church was filled to the brim with the year-round community and lots of summer visitors. I always marvel that people on vacation go to church. Tanned families with small kids in flowery summer dresses and teenagers in clean shirts and khaki pants take up pews and pews. They go to communion and I watch the little ones with their arms crossed in front of them because they are too young to receive. They smile as they receive a blessing instead of a wafer. How I always believed that those blessings would protect my kids. I had to. It was how I controlled my anxiety when I couldn’t protect them myself. Mikail, the student living with me for the summer, studies opera and sang an aria during communion. His voice filled the church, bouncing off the windows and walls and seemed to form a bubble around everyone there. What a gift. We have a priest here for the summer, a biology professor, who’s sermons I love–– a hybrid of science and spirituality. He’s a gift. At the end of his sermon today he asked for prayers for a woman who grew up here, whose wedding we attended, and whose child I delivered. Just last Sunday I was chatting with her mother, Nancy, about raising kids and how we worry about them forever, and we wondered how anyone can have kids and not believe in God? I mean who else do you turn to when you are anxious for them and can’t do a thing about it?  We laughed and chatted and said we’d keep each other’s children in our prayers. They’ve all got stuff to deal with. Our kids grew up together. We care about all of them. That was last week when the world was different.  I wondered why Father Matt would ask for prayers for Amy? Was she sick? I saw her mom go up for communion and she looked ok, not grief-stricken or anything. Hmm, I thought, I’ll find out after mass. At coffee hour I found Nancy and asked, “What’s up with Amy? Everything ok?” Nancy looked at me and said, “She died on Monday.” as she choked back tears. 

So Amy wasn’t shot, but a young woman with small children has died and her mother is heartbroken. I’m heartbroken for her. Could something we’d done have saved her? Probably not in her case. But for other mothers who got the call this week, yes. There is something we could have done. And their blood, as well as their mother’s broken hearts is on our hands.

Love to all with a prayer that we find a way to stop this madness,