Small is the number of people who see with their eyes and think with their minds.” ~ Albert Einstein

A Member of the Patriot Group Riders in Front of WBC Protestors

“Bigotry dwarfs the soul by shutting out the truth.” ~ Edwin Hubbel Chapin

So Kate Gosselin is having temper tantrums on “Dancing With the Stars.” Kim Kardashian is tweeting pictures of herself in a bikini. Madonna wants her daughter to wear more conservative clothing.  

WBC Protestors: Lunatics Laughing

Meanwhile, back in the real world, a 15-year-old New Jersey girl sold her 7-year-old stepsister to a group of men for sex. We’re seeing new allegations that then-Cardinal Ratzinger failed to defrock an American priest who allegedly molested 200 deaf boys in Wisconsin. And an appellate court ruled that Albert Snyder has to pay the legal fees for Westboro Baptist Church to the tune of over $16,000.  

I’m sorry. What? Westboro Baptist Church, that hate group that protests at fallen soldiers’ funerals? That group of lunatics who rejoiced in the deaths resulting from 9/11? That Westboro Baptist Church?  

Let me see if I have this correct:  

  • Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder was killed in Iraq, and his body was sent home for burial.
  • Members of Phelps’s group waved signs saying that “God Hates Fags” and “God Hates the USA” at Matthew Snyder’s funeral in 2006 because “military deaths are God’s punishment for America’s tolerance of homosexuality.”
  • According to a website created in Snyder’s honor, his relatives filed the civil lawsuit against the Westboro Baptist Church to “bring an end to the reign of terror and abuse that they inflicted” upon grieving families of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Albert Snyder sued Westboro and was awarded $11 million (later reduced to $5 million) in damages by a federal jury in Baltimore because the group “intentionally inflicted emotional distress on the family.” This award was overturned on appeal. The case is scheduled to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.
  •  Now, Snyder’s father, Albert has been ordered to pay $16,510 to Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas for legal costs.

Those are the most basic facts. What you have to infer, of course, is the magnitude of the most recent court ruling. Consider, Phelps and his band of haters make it their mission to protest at military funerals. They wave hate-filled placards at the mourners: “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” Really?  They sing songs of hate at the top of their voices all in the name of their god, who they say supports their actions.  

Now let me pause here. I am no Biblical scholar, but I have read many parts of the Bible. I do know that the god in the old testament is a more wrathful being than the loving god of the new testament. There is conflict there, and anyone who wants to find verses to support his or her claims can likely do so with enough searching. Still, I find it truly abhorrent that these nut cases are using god as their rallying cry for hate-inspired protests. However, the WBC contends that “God’s hatred is one of His holy attributes,” which in their small minds completely justifies their actions.   

“Too small is our world to allow discrimination, bigotry and intolerance to thrive in any corner of it, let alone in the United States of America.” ~ Eliot Engel

Shirley Phelps-RoperOkay. We’re back to that whole First Amendment thing, free speech for all no matter how nasty, racist, conservative, liberal, whatever. I get it. I really do. I support your right to protest. Hell, I even acknowledge that the Klan has the right to protest. But protest at a funeral? What happened to common decency?  

Have we become such a myopic society of us versus them that we no longer acknowledge even the barest niceties, you know, the right to have a funeral in peace? I mean, and this is a bit off subject but still on the subject of hate-filled protests, when we have been reduced to a society in which people see nothing wrong with spitting on members of Congress (and no, that wasn’t made up. I watched the video showing the spray of spit), what kind of society have we become?  

Of course members of Congress aren’t sanctified, nor are they above anyone else. Having said that, I don’t believe that it’s all right to spit on anyone. That’s the way that my parents raised me. Were these people raised in barns near donkeys?  

But back to my main point: Losing a family member to war, however that person died, is unbearably hard. Burying a child is beyond painful. Imagine, if you will, for one moment what it must have felt like for Mr. Snyder and his family and friends to have to be escorted into the service entrance of the church so that they didn’t have to see the protest signs. Imagine what it must feel like to kiss the coffin of your son, daughter, mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, while outside litanies of “God Hates Fags” are being screamed across the street.  

No one should have to imagine that.  

“Anger and intolerance are the twin enemies of correct understanding.” ~ Mahatma Ghandi

WBC Protestors: Stupidity Speaks for Itself

A little background on WBC for those of you who may not know a lot about this fringe group. Westboro Baptist Church is a small, homophobic, anti-Semitic hate group that stages protests all around the country. The group pickets any institutions or individuals who they believe are against god’s law, and they believe that their protests are a form of preaching to a country that is doomed.  

Since they are incorporated as a church, WBC is non-profit. It should be pointed out that WBC has no official affiliation with mainstream Baptist organizations and considers itself an “old school” or “primitive” Baptist church, i.e., belief in man’s total depravity and limited atonement for the elected.  

WBC targets include “schools the group deems to be accepting of homosexuality; Catholic, Lutheran, and other Christian denominations that WBC feels are heretical; and funerals for people murdered or killed in accidents like plane crashes and for American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.” WBC also protests at “dozens of Jewish institutions around the country, from Israeli consulates to synagogues to Jewish community centers, distributing anti-Semitic fliers to announce planned protests at these sites.”  

The only time that WBC has been convinced not to protest is when a local radio station in Pennsylvania offered the group airtime in exchange for not protesting at the funeral of the Amish schoolchildren who were gunned down in 2006 at the West Nickels Mine School.  

“Nothing dies so hard, or rallies so often, as intolerance.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

Patriot Guard Riders Line the Street of Funeral Procession

Now I would be remiss in this post if I did not take a few lines to acknowledge the Patriot Group Riders as they have been instrumental in shielding grieving families from Phelps and his hate-mongers. I pulled the following from a letter of appreciation to the PGR from a Sergeant after learning of what the PGR does:  

“One thing we didn’t anticipate was the disrespect and hatred shown by the Phelps church group . . . protesting at our fallen brothers’ funerals, waving the banners and signs that they wave so ignorantly and so proud.  The first time I read about that in the ‘Stars and Stripes,’  I had to read it again, because I couldn’t imagine anyone being so hateful and disrespectful.  I just about cried after reading the article . . . Then, a few days later, there was an article about this group of bikers who were now putting themselves as a barrier between the protesters and the grieving families of our fallen soldiers.  I couldn’t believe that when I read it, either . . . the feeling we all felt that someone was actually doing something to counter the protesters was the best feeling I can’t even describe.  I was filled with pride to know that fellow Americans were giving up their time, honoring our fallen, regardless of whether they knew them or not, and providing a barrier from the protesters for the families grieving.”   

According to their website, the Patriot Group Riders have two objectives in their mission when attending funeral services of fallen American service men and women:  

  1. Show our sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families, and their communities.
  2. Shield the mourning family and their friends from interruptions created by any protestor or group of protestors.

I have seen news footage of these awesome men and women and how they use their motorcycles and the American Flag to shield families from the likes of WBC. I am including a YouTube clip that I hope you take a few moments to watch. I know that watching the clip really helped to quell some of the intense rage that I was feeling immediately after reading about the injustice served up to Mr. Snyder by the courts.   

(If you are interested in making a donation to Mr. Snyder to offset the fine, please visit matthewsnyder.org. Since the announcement about the ruling, Snyder and his family have received thousands of e-mails and letters of support, as well as financial pledges to help pay the legal fees associated with filing a Supreme Court brief, as well as the outrageous fine.) 

  

I am also including a more tongue-in-cheek protest of WBC by Michael Moore . . . “Fred (knows) a lot about dog vomit.”  

  

 

Advertisements

Touching Home Base

Chugach State Park AK by JJ

Fall Colors Chugach State Park, Alaska, by Janson Jones*

“And you would accept the seasons of your heart just as you have always accepted that seasons pass over your fields and you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

“Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower.” ~ Albert Camus

It’s been rainy and cloudy here for days, which is all right considering that my spirits have been rainy and cloudy for days as well. But a few days ago, something subtle changed: It is beginning to smell like fall.

Looking Skyward by Janson Jones
Looking to the Sky by Janson Jones

I remember when I was a child, fall lasted longer. And before they were such harbingers of air pollution, the smells of neighbors’ fireplaces infused the night with the comforting aromas of woodsmoke.

The falls that I spent with my family in Great Bridge were especially wonderful. With the longer days, my cousins and I would stay outside as long as possible playing hide-n-seek well past dark, the big Sycamore tree in the front yard serving as home base. The sounds of tennis shoes crashed through the thick carpet of fallen leaves as we all raced home so that we wouldn’t be tagged “it.”

Leaves and sticker balls everywhere. Ignoring calls to come in now. Irreplaceable memories of our innocent days.

On Sunday afternoons, smells of burning piles of leaves permeated the neighborhood. This was before Great Bridge was overdeveloped to the point that trees are almost non-existent. The big trees in my aunt and uncle’s yard were enormous. Someone tied a tire swing to one of the trees in the backyard, and we would push each other so high, high enough to get flutters in our bellies.

My cousins Butch and Sheryl tried to get me to climb the tree with the tire and then jump off a branch while in the tire. If any of our parents knew an iota of the things that we did. Good times.

“Autumn to winter, winter into spring, Spring into summer, summer into fall—So rolls the changing year, and so we change; Motion so swift, we know not that we move. ” ~ Dinah Maria Mulock

Fireweed Chucagh St Park
Fireweed, Chucagh State Park, Alaska by Janson Jones

Sundays at Great Bridge were such a large part of my life for so long. Being an only child, those times spent playing with my cousins are some of the best memories of my life. We were a motley group. No one wore designer clothes or expensive tennis shoes. We were made equal by our extreme ordinariness.

Of course, I was different—no blonde hair, no ordinary name, the ony one with no siblings—but after their initial mistrust faded of anyone who didn’t know what iced tea was, I was never treated any differently.

In actuality, the younger ones, the ones who were my age, were my second cousins; my first cousins were closer to my mother’s age, daughter’s of my Aunt Ronnie and Uncle Ros. We were all close, until the first divorce, the first move out of the area, the first pregnancy. Time and circumstance, as they always have a way of doing, stepped in and ended our idyllic lives.

I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw one of them, but I’ll be seeing all of them soon. My Aunt Ronnie died yesterday. She had suffered from Alzheimer’s for a number of years. That most unkind of diseases that takes over the brain, erases memories, makes even the most familiar face into the face of a stranger.

The last time she saw me, she did remember me, fleetingly. But it was so long ago

“A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made.  The acoustics of this season are different and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air.”
Eric Sloane 

Eastern Tiger Swallotail by Janson Jones
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail by Janson Jones

For me, Aunt Ronnie was the closest thing to a grandmother that I had. When my cousins called her grandma, I was always so envious. A part of me wished that I could call her grandma as well.

I used to buy my Aunt Ronnie butterfly pins for Christmas. She loved butterflies.

I never knew my mother’s mother. She died when mom was only eight years old. The youngest of 12 children, my mother was raised by her older brothers and sisters. My Aunt Ronnie was almost the oldest of the 12, so my mother’s relationship with her oldest sister was very close, more like mother and daughter than sisters at times.

I wasn’t as close to Uncle Ros. I don’t really know why, but the first time I met my Aunt Ronnie was when Mom and I were visiting the States while Dad was stationed in London. I remember that my cousin Jeanette and her husband at the time had been in a horrible car accident, and everyone was recuperating.

I was overwhelmed by all of the people and completely unused to so many children in my own age range. It was great. I never wanted to leave. 

“Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.” ~ Stanley Horowitz

December Snow Anchorage by JJ
December Snow, Anchorage, Alaska by Janson Jones

Once my dad retired from the Navy and we moved back to the area, visits to Great Bridge became almost weekly events. 

Christmas at Great Bridge was such an occasion. We would open presents on Christmas Eve. So many presents everywhere. But Christmas Day we would all get together for Christmas dinner.

I know that I’ve written about Sunday dinners at Great Bridge before, but Christmas dinner was the ultimate Sunday dinner: turkey, stuffing, country-style green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, greens, country ham, homemade biscuits (usually two batches), sweet tea. Homemade banana pudding, fudge and pies for dessert.

And the most amazing aspect of this feast was that until she was in her 70’s, my Aunt Ronnie made almost all of the food by herself. If someone were going to contribute something to the dinner, it was usually dessert.

We would eat in the early afternoon, and then the parents would watch football and nap on the couch, Uncle Ros in his recliner, while all of the cousins would go outside and get into whatever we could, depending upon the weather. If there was snow, so much the better. There was no keeping us inside.

Then later in the early evening, people would snack on ham biscuits, turkey sandwiches, cakes and pie. Sleepy, satisfied and totally at ease in each other’s company

“Change is a measure of time and, in the autumn, time seems speeded up. What was is not and never again will be; what is is change.”~ Edwin Way Teale

I remember their long driveway would be packed, two-wide with cars, the overflow going onto the street. Leaving was always strategic, depending upon who was parked where and whether or not the car was small enough to turn around in the front yard.

Anchorage Dawn by JJ
Anchorage Dawn by Janson Jones

Eventually, we stopped going to Great Bridge for Christmases, long after I had gotten married (the first time), and Alexis was born. Of all of my children, only Alexis really remembers Aunt Ronnie. My mom would take Alexis with her when she would go to Great Bridge to visit. Alexis would play with my cousin Theresa’s daughter who was a few years older.

Christmas celebrations had moved from my Aunt Ronnie’s house to one of her daughter’s houses. It just wasn’t the same.

And of course, we had all grown up, gotten married, moved away, changed jobs, had children. My second cousins still went, but I kind of dropped out of the fold.

I saw many of them at my Uncle Ros’s funeral several years ago. It was an event that I had to attend and then return to work, so I didn’t have time to visit with anyone. Sunday will be different. I have the time now. I have the memories. I have the regret. I have the loss, the second in less than a month.

“Once more I am the silent one
who came out of the distance
wrapped in cold rain and bells:
I owe to earth’s pure death
the will to sprout.” ~ Pablo Neruda

My mother says that she isn’t going to go to Great Bridge for Aunt Ronnie’s funeral, that she’s never going to another funeral again, that she doesn’t want to see Aunt Ronnie in her coffin; it will give her nightmares.

Turnagain Arm Sunset Anchorage AK by JJ
Turnagain Arm Sunset, Anchorage, Alaska by Janson Jones

I don’t agree with her method of coping, but it really doesn’t matter if I agree or not. Does it? Her unwillingness to visit the family bothers me tremendously, just as her unwillingness to go to Uncle Melchor’s funeral bothered me.

We are so different, my mother and I. While I love to keep hand me downs from family members, appreciate antiques and the memories that go with them, my mother calls it clutter and sees no point in it. I see a tea service that she bought on Portobello Road in London as something to be cherished, a reminder of our time in London and that wonderful section of booths and shops. My mother has no use for it.

Who knows, when I get to be her age, maybe I’ll feel the same way, but I doubt it.

My memories make me who I am. All of the little nooks and crannies in my mind are filled to overflowing with the sweet and the bittersweet. To me, that is life. Little pieces of jewelry, a china cup and saucer, a silver sugar bowl—each is part of a story, my story.

It makes me sad for my mother who only wants to think about happy things, who won’t watch anything deep or sad, who loves sitcoms and talk shows. Don’t misunderstand. It’s not what she does but what she doesn’t do that makes me sad. What saddens me is that she closed a part of herself off a long time ago, and it has been so long since she went through that door that I don’t think she remembers how.

 “There is no answer to any of these questions. It’s a matter of time and timing, of seas and seasons, of breathing in and breathing out. It’s a matter of balance.” ~ Peter McWilliams

Yes, funerals are for the living. My mother wants to be cremated, as do I, as does Corey, all for different reasons. What happens to our bodies after we die is not really the important thing. But memorial services allow a chance for those left behind to say goodbye, to talk about the person who has been lost with fond words, to forget petty arguments, to remember Sunday dinners and sticker ball fights, new bicycles at Christmas and melt-on-your tongue homemade biscuits.

Dawn in Deland Florida by JJ
Aurelia's Dawn, Deland, Florida by Janson Jones

My Aunt Ronnie’s death is like the closing of yet another chapter in my life, a very good chapter, one filled with so much loving and giving. The woman in the casket is not the woman I loved. The woman I loved is already gone; unfortunately, she has been gone for quite a while, ravaged by an unrelenting disease that rips apart everyone touched by it.

But in my mind’s eye, I still see her smile quite clearly. I remember her dining room table, filled to overflowing, and the conversations around it. That was my Aunt Ronnie. The woman who said come and see me sometime. The woman who liked “The Old Rugged Cross” but did not like “Amazing Grace.” The woman who accepted butterfly pins from a young girl with as much relish as if they were rare gems.

These are my memories, the pictures inside the permanent locket of my heart, the ties that bind and make us who we are. The sweet tea of the soul. Piles of fallen leaves. Running as fast as possible when the coast was clear. Touching home base. Being safe. Knowing unconditional love.

 

More later. Peace.

*Many thanks to Janson Jones for giving me the perfect images for this post. Your photographs help me so much to form the words that I need to say.

Grace in Small Things #29

 

“Like a bird on a wing . . . over the sea to skye”

Let’s see where we are going today . . .

1. Telephone calls that bring good news. Much better than the other kind.

2. Suddenly having a line from a poem pop into my head, and then being able to search for the rest of it because you can do that now so easily using the Internet.

3. When my hair doesn’t frizz all over and decides to give me a break. This seems so trivial, but my hair and I have been doing battle since I was a little girl and my mother used to do weird things to it, like cut it all off on a whim, and I don’t look good with short hair. So I have grown to appreciate very much those special days when my hair decides to cooperate with very little effort, especially now with my torn rotator cuff.

4. The song “I Will Remember You,” by Sarah McLachlan. The line, “I was so afraid to love you, more afraid to lose,” is the perfect description of my initial love for Corey.

5. “Amazing Grace” played on the bagpipes. When I was very little, about 5, we took a trip to Scotland and saw a pipe and drum performance in this huge arena. In 2007-09-25t164259z_01_nootr_rtridsp_3_life-brazil-bagpipes-dcretrospect, it was probably a Tattoo. That was when I first became enamored with bagpipes. I loved that way they looked and sounded and how complicated it appeared to play them. It was also when my mother bought me my first kilt. Somewhere, there exists a picture of me in full Scots regalia: kilt hose with flashes, red Stewart tartan kilt, and a beret. It was the only time in my life that I looked good in a beret.

More later. Peace.

“Amazing Grace”

Sunday Dinner

“I Once Was Lost”

When I was a little girl, I mean really little girl, about 8, my Aunt Ronnie used to have one of those electric chord organs in her back bedroom. My Aunt Ronnie is my mother’s oldest sister and has pretty much served as my surrogate grandmother on my mother’s side. My mother was the youngest of 12 children, and Aunt Ronnie was the oldest, so there is a big age span between them, which is why I have always viewed her as my surrogate grandmother, that and the fact that she is the grandmother to all of my second cousins who are my age.

I should probably be explaining this better, so let me regress a little. When we came back to the states after being in England, we settled in Norfolk for a number of reasons, but one of the main ones was that several members of my mother’s family live in Great Bridge, which at that time, was still a pretty rural place in Chesapeake. Every Sunday, my mom and I would drive to Aunt Ronnie’s house for Sunday dinner, and I would spend the afternoon playing with my second cousins, which was a wonderful thing for me because as an only child, I wasn’t used to playing with family members my own age.

Those Sunday dinners deserve some space all their own. My Aunt Ronnie and whoever happened to be in the kitchen helping would turn out these incredible meals: roast chickens, chicken and dumplings (home made dumplings), pot roast, but the main course was always accompanied by southern style green beans, home made biscuits, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and some kind of homemade dessert, like banana pudding or an apple pie. None of it was frozen. Nothing out of a can.biscuits

I remember my first dinner—It was my first taste of southern sweet tea. I drank it down in one big gulp. Everyone looked at me as if I were some kind of weirdo, which, of course, I wasn’t. I just had never had anything as wonderful as sweet tea. Those were also the days of the kids’ table and the big table. We had great times at the kids’ table . . . until the adults remembered to look in on us. But, as usual, I digress.

My first cousins, Aunt Ronnie’s three daughters, were mostly my Mom’s age. Those Sundays were some of the best times of my childhood. Before them, I knew nothing about running wild through fall leaves, playing tag, playing hide and seek, finding toads, having sticker ball fights, getting bruises from climbing tall trees, swinging on tire swings, all of the fun things that normal children do.

In England, I had friends, and we went to the park, but it wasn’t with the same wild abandon that I had with my cousins. It was the difference between being in a city and having to be watched and being in what was still relatively untouched country neighborhoods with few cars coming down the streets. We could play in the streets, and every once in a while, one of the grown ups might yell out the front door to get a location on us, and we could hear from ten houses down. The windows were open. Everyone knew who we were. We could run through everyone’s yards, and no one really cared.

Of all of my cousins, I was probably the one who was the most scared to do things, not because I was a girlie girl, but because I didn’t know how to do a lot of the things that seemed to come second nature to them, and I knew that they would laugh at me. For example, they never could get me on a minibike. But I was one of the best at climbing trees. I wasn’t afraid to climb anything. Stick ball. Nope. I pretty much sucked at connecting any kind of bat at any kind of ball (I had bad eyes but wouldn’t admit it for years). I tried a couple of times, but decided that I liked rolling sticker balls in the mud and then playing war with them until we were cold, wet, and filthy.

“How Sweet the Sound”

Sometimes, my mom and I would go to my Aunt Ronnie’s house during the week, and none of my cousins would be around, and then it would be totally different. It would just be Mom and Aunt Ronnie sitting around drinking coffee, and I would have to amuse myself however I could. That’s when I discovered the small electric organ in the back bedroom. I think that these organs were probably popular during the 60’s. Some were small enough to sit on desks, and others were on stands. This one was on a stand, and I think that it had 18 keys on it. There were a few chords on the left. Very simplistic.

At that time, I hadn’t begun formal piano lessons. I was playing instruments by ear only. I picked out some rudimentary tunes: “Silent Night,” “Jingle Bells.” And then I found an old hymnal, and I taught myself a couple of hymns, “The Old Rugged Cross,” and “Amazing Grace.” Now, in all of the times I was in the back room playing with the organ, no one ever bothered me. They just drank their coffee, and once in a while said something about how nicely I was playing. But when I played “Amazing Grace,” I knew right away that I had done something, but I wasn’t sure if it was good or bad.

My mother came into the bedroom with this strange look on her face. I had been playing and trying to sing the words as I was singing. She asked me very quietly to stop. Of course, I wanted to know why. The only thing that she would tell me was that Aunt Ronnie didn’t like to hear that song. So I stopped, but being a child, the next chance that I got, I played “Amazing Grace” again. This time, the reaction was much stronger. My mother came stomping back to the bedroom and turned off the organ and gave me one of those looks. I got up and started reading my book, and that was that.

I never played the organ again at her house other than the occasional Christmas carol, and that was much later when the cousins were older, and by then, we were sneaking bourbon, beer, and wine into the back room. The organ was just something to play to irritate the adults with more noise. I never found out why the hymn upset my aunt so much other than a quick explanation that it reminded Aunt Ronnie of something sad.

“And Grace Will Lead Me Home”

Personally, I have always loved “Amazing Grace,” and I decided years ago that when I die, it’s one of the few things that I want played at my memorial service—on the bagpipes, of course. Because, if nothing else is true, I believe in grace, perhaps not in the most traditional sense, but grace nevertheless. And I believe that even though the child in me could not understand how a song could elicit such painful memories in my aunt, something led me to that particular song in that hymnal.

amazing-grace-phlox
Amazing Grace Phlox

And more than once in my life, I have been brought back to the lines “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound/that saved a wretch like me.” They have come out of nowhere, when I have least anticipated it, at times when I have most needed it. As always, my spirituality is very personal and private to me and therefore, I am not willing to say more about it, nor do I believe that this is the forum in which to do so.

But mulling over Thanksgiving dinner brought back fond memories of those really wonderful Sunday dinners with my family in a time and place long gone. Those streets are unrecognizable now. Everyone has moved on to different places. My aunt wouldn’t know me if she saw me. The tragedies of Alzheimer’s. I have third and fourth cousins who I have never seen since we stopped going to the family Christmas gatherings long ago. But it’s nice to revisit these memory sand castles that we have tucked away in long-term niches gathering dust in grey matter, if for no other reason than to know that we still can.

Enough for now. More later. Peace.

Things that break or touch my heart or bring me to tears (in no particular order)

In the Gloaming
In the Gloaming

Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings
The scene in The English Patient in which Almaszy is carrying Katherine from the Cave of the Swimmers
Finding a picture unexpectedly that I haven’t seen in years that brings back painful memories
When one of my children is hurting and there is nothing that I can do about it
The scene in the final M*A*S*H after Charles has taught the Korean musicians to play and then finds out that their truck has been blown up, and he breaks all of his records
Finding a dead baby bird
Knowing that I wasn’t with my dad when he died
Arlington Cemetery
“Amazing Grace” played on the bagpipes
“Taps” played anytime
Thinking about the poem “My Mother’s Pink Sweater”
Seeing pictures of flag-draped coffins still coming home
The Viet Nam memorial
Remembering how I used to be able to hike the trails on Skyline Drive
The time Alexis brought me a dead baby rabbit and I had to bury it
All of the times the boys’ frogs died
Hearing that tone in Eamonn’s voice when he is hurting
Not hearing the water from the pond outside my bedroom window
Missing all of the wind chimes that used to hang from the rafters of the house
Not having Mari nearby on a daily basis, or Jammi, or Rebecca
The smell of baby blankets
Memories of CHKD
Richard Shelton’s poem “Letter to a Dead Father”
Not teaching college any more
Not being able to roam the galleries of the Museum when it was closed
Hearing a beautiful pipe organ well-played in an empty church
Hearing the closing Hallelujah at church
Listening to the twenty-one-gun salute at my father’s funeral
Hearing Kelly sing “Because of You” at Wanna be’s takes my breath away
The scene in Return of the King when Frodo leaves on the boat with Gandalf
Still waking up from hospital nightmares screaming and crying
Seeing that look in Brett’s eyes that lets me know that he just can’t do it today
Knowing that one of my dogs is getting too old to go on
Realizing that someone I confided in betrayed me
Waking up in pain yet again
Hearing Alexis’s voice on the other end of the phone and knowing that she is in pain
Watching the planes fly into the buildings
Memories of Caitlin’s dark brown hair
Having to acknowledge how different life has become for everyone because of my physical changes
Looking at Corey and worrying about where his dreams have taken him and just how much has been taken from him
Remembering how I used to drink in authors and pour out that knowledge to waiting minds and missing the ongoing challenge of that so much
The beauty of Ondaatje’s book The English Patient and the equally haunting beauty of David Lanz’s “Cristofori’s Dream,” together they are almost too much to bear
Finding out that I have actually been mistaken in believing in happiness
Wondering where all of the time has gone