Jul 042022
 

July 4, 2022 — Mom, it’s hard for me to believe you’ve been gone for over a decade. When you died, you had been long lost to us already. Your passing brought a strange relief. Yet, I’ve never gone a day without missing you, especially on your birthday, my birthday, holidays, and sometimes just random moments.

In the last 12 weeks, I’ve missed you more than ever. Mom, you wouldn’t believe how the world has changed in the last decade.  I hope you know only the good things.

Do you remember when your two grandsons were born a few months apart?  The oldest — mine — came two weeks late. Darn stubborn, he would not come out, even after an entire day spent at the hospital. You and Dad were driving down from home. The plan was that I would be admitted and induced at six a.m., and by your arrival at six p.m., the baby would be here or arriving soon.  God laughs when we make plans. The hospital released me, and we all went to Olive Garden for dinner.

We were back at the hospital two days later at six a.m., and you and Dad followed.  You came in and out of my labor room, and I tossed all my pain and anguish on you rather than Herman. I told the nurse  “Get that woman out of here.”  She removed you, and you came right back, patting my shoulder, giving me ice chips, talking to me in a soothing voice.  And no, I didn’t deserve it after how mean I was to you.  But you kept being my loving mother.

I didn’t want you in the delivery room. But as soon as your first grandson arrived, his father took a Polaroid picture (remember those?) and took it out to you and Dad in the waiting room. No one could deny the fatherhood of our son. Draw a little beard and mustache on him; he was a dead ringer for his daddy. You and my Dad came into the delivery room, and Herman first held the baby, and then you did.  I was too shaky from the delivery to hold him.

A few months later, your second grandson arrived five weeks early. No one expected him to arrive, though his father arrived three weeks early in 1960. I was two-and-a-half, but I remember my annoyance at finding my grandparents in your bed. My grandmother told me, “You have a baby brother.”  I think my response was the two-year-old equivalent of “Big whoop.” You and Dad had left our home in the middle of the night and my grandparents flew in from the farm to ride shotgun for me. You had my little brother so quickly that Dad was back at school in time to teach his 8 a.m. class.

And thirty years after the last baby was born in our family (my brother) you and Dad became grandparents of two boys in four months.  You reveled in being a grandmother — you were over-the-moon with your babies. You stayed with us for two weeks, teaching everything from bathing to holding to feeding. I cried when you left. When grandson number two arrived, you and Dad flew to Iowa to meet him and sat under a big shady tree while your son told you every precious detail of his baby’s early delivery.

And now you’ve become a great grandmother, Mom. That tiny baby born in Iowa is now a daddy.  He married the most brilliant, beautiful girl he met at college five years ago, and their baby boy came this spring. While we probably should not have been surprised, he came early. Way early. Six weeks early.

Oh, Mom, your great-grandson a beautiful baby. He has dark, big eyes and dark hair that swirl in a circle in the back just like his daddy. He has a few cowlicks like his grandpa. I hope you can see his daddy and mommy tend to him; it will melt your heart. The baby came six weeks early and had to be cared for in a NICU by angels on earth.  It was hard on your grandson and his wife, but they were rock steady.

You were the first thing I thought of when I heard he was here. Mom. I felt it in my bones that you were especially watching over him. Of course, he has your son and grandson’s nose and eyes. I found Dad’s old Ektachrome slides of my baby brother as an infant that proved my point.

Yesterday, the baby made his first trip to Wrigley Field; yeah, that place you burned your knees so badly on your first visit. On subsequent visits, you learned to wear a hat and long pants and enjoyed nine innings of watching other people’s babies until you had your own to watch. Both of your grandsons grew up to be rabid baseball fans (one Cubs, one Reds, as Dad would say, at least it’s the national league.)

Last week Herman and I got to meet the baby. During our visit, the new grandpa and Herman went to Wrigley Field to watch two of the worst teams in the National League duke it out.  Yes, you guessed it, the Cubs and the Reds.  I held the baby and whispered to him, away from his parents, “Gloriana, Frangipani,” a wisp of the song you sang to me as a child. I felt like I was holding him for you as I held him. I could feel you channeling your love for babies through me. It’s funny, but now I notice babies more; maybe it is your genetic influence.

I fully understand now that life is a river that bends and changes. While history and remembrance exist, one never sees the same river twice. We are all connected by the ebbs and flows that life gives us.

Usually, I  would not quote myself from past writing. But this paragraph I wrote the week my mother died resonates again with me today as I contemplate the birth of her first great-grandchild and the sublime grace I felt in meeting him for the first time.

Grace appears, and we reach out to grab it, like the tiny, milky seeds from a dandelion plant on a hot summer afternoon. I find it in the old stories, connecting the dots, comfort in the words. Maybe it is telling this story for others who are beginning the journey. Maybe it is just learning to absorb and soak up every ray of sunshine, a glorious blooming flower, and a child’s toothless grin and fill one’s soul with the goodness ripe for the taking. 

 

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May 162022
 

May 16, 2022 — A few minutes ago, I saw Dr. Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General, state on CNN that more than 100 people were killed in shootings across the country over the weekend.

I am sick to death about every death.

I am sick to death that our black brothers and sisters must be constantly under attack for their color.  I am sick that hate has persisted across four centuries in this country where we are all from other places, except the Native Americans.

I am sick to death that a man who was a Buffalo police officer for many years died as a grocery security guard, protecting other people.

I am sick to death that a teenager (hospitalized a year ago when he made a murder-suicide threat at his high school) could procure the weaponry and armor for a terrorist-style attack on a grocery store. I am sick to death of people saying it’s not about the guns.

I am sick to death that these shootings will cause people to buy more guns, and more ammunition and stack them neatly in their homes, awaiting Armageddon.

I am sick of repeating every trope every time this happens.  Nothing changes. It’s always somebody else’s problem. When people are interviewed after a shooting that has taken their loved one, they always say, “I didn’t think it would happen to my family.”

We are the only country that has this many shootings. Why is that?  Because we allow the everyday person to own military-style guns. Do you think the second amendment meant that every person should be able to own an AR-15?  Why not give every citizen a musket and musket balls? Would that be more in the spirit and times of the second amendment?

Don’t tell me that my stance means I’m against all guns. I’m not — I grew up and live in farm country. People feed their families by hunting; some do it for sport. Sometimes people even shoot an errant snake. And some believe they need guns for protection.

From “The Street” one hour ago, “A mass shooting occurs, the news covers it, calls for gun control or reform grow louder for a while, nothing of impact happens legislatively, the country forgets about shootings until the next big one.

Anyone paying attention can see that pattern and there are plenty of examples to choose from.

This year there have been 202 mass shootings — shootings with 4 or more victims other than the gunman — and nine mass murders in the U.S., according to gun control advocacy group Gun Violence Archive.”

But no one — and I mean no one — who is not in a military conflict needs an automatic rifle.

Why do people insist on lumping all guns together?  And why do gun sales continue to climb while Congress has no consideration for any sensible gun laws? I gave up after a nutjob blasted into an elementary school and killed a classroom full of innocents. I knew there would never be any change

But they are all innocents. The finger of blame can go many places, and it rests firmly on the shoulders of every person who defends all guns in this country.  Or the person who allows for racism is behind many of these attacks.  I am an immigrant just like African Americans, though my ancestors weren’t forced to come to this country against their will and be enslaved. We owe them a debt—black lives matter.

And there is also blame to go to the media (Tucker Carlson et al.) and social media for fomenting hate speech. But, frankly, without access to guns with large magazines and tactical gear, there would be far fewer deaths. This is not a red herring, it is the gospel truth.

When churches and grocery stores aren’t safe, no place is safe. Our country has always experienced violence, from the wild west to the lynching and riots.  We are a hateful people made worse with the present of weapons that can bring down an armed security guard, just doing his job, in a minute. I am enraged. When will we ever learn?

 

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

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Mar 282022
 
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Elizabeth Taylor at the Academy Awards

March 28, 2022 — All anyone can talk about today is Will Smith’s reaction to a joke in poor taste told by Chris Rock on the Academy Awards stage last night. It’s so hard for me to imagine that almost everyone in the media has overlooked the big, and I mean the big story of the night. The proliferation of the Side Boob.

When it comes to body and fashion, mostly I got nothing. God did not gift me good looks, and my penchant for penny candy has made me larger than life in several ways. But when it comes to cleavage, baby, I’m number one. (Rather number 42DD.)  I don’t care if it is a memorial service for Wendell Willkie or the circus coming to town; there will be a lovely décolleté showing if I have to dress up.  When you got it, flaunt it. When it’s all you got, flaunt it greatly. And I have noticed a few male eyes looking at my boobal region when I take the girls out for a fancy event.

My husband was a low-budget wedding photographer for a 1986 ceremony where I served as a bridesmaid. The girls were so young and perky, still not thirty, and always up for a test drive. The bride chose hot pink gowns for her maids, with a neckline somewhere south of Patagonia. Let’s put it this way: I was a standout in the crowd.  The girls were still poised, proud, happy, and seriously upright.

When the many rolls of pictures came back from the drug store, my chest featured prominently in many of the photographs. It was a little bit too obvious. That marriage where I was a bridesmaid and he the photographer didn’t last.  I wonder if that had anything to do with it.

On the Oscar stage last night, the three hilarious co-hosts came out at the show’s beginning, and sure enough, Amy Schumer presented herself with something beyond cleavage, like grapefruit in a transparent grocery bag. She’s hilarious, but lemme tell you; she needs wires like the Roebling Brothers used for the Brooklyn Bridge.  The Side Boob is not a good look for her, but she could rock cleavage.

And I swear I saw some nipple on one of the Williams sisters. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but if I see some cleavage, I would just as soon as the nipples do not show.  Wardrobe malfunction, indeed.

After watching the boobs trot out for an hour, we changed the channel to watch “The Weakest Link” and missed the most exciting adventure on the stage since a streaker ran behind David Niven.  I saw that one life, long ago, in a world where we all went to the theater and enjoyed films together. We ate popcorn with too much butter and our feet stuck to sticky floors.

That was a long time ago, but I remember the streaker.  He bared his nipples, but that wasn’t anyone’s most enduring memory. What I remember and indeed others do as well is what Niven said,

“But isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is stripping off and showing his shortcomings?”

Girls, if you’ve got it, flaunt up, but do it the old-fashioned way with wires and pulleys like your grandmother did.

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