Juggling Reality

I’m not the most graceful person – never have been.  I can trip over nothing, miss the lip of my coffee cup, bump into a wall – and that’s just walking from one end of the kitchen to the other.  Would that these were marketable skills.  What I typically balance well though are the variable weights of the thought bubbles in my head.  Have you ever stopped to consider how many disconnected thoughts jump around your mind in a five-minute period?  Some complete, others rejected.  Some stubbornly intractable, others as ephemeral as a breeze.  So we go through our days.

Perhaps it’s the disparate qualities of these thoughts that make them manageable.  When life events collide, and the thoughts are connected despite the qualities that make them each unique – well, that’s another story…that’s the stuff of which headaches are made.  Juggling – it’s not for the faint of heart.

Over the last few days, much has happened that is disparate yet similar.  Andy turned sixty.  My aunt passed away.  Our well temporarily ran out of water – literally.

Sixty is an impressive number.  A bit frightening even though the alternative is far scarier.  And this generation of ours is making sixty look damn good.  My daughter-in-law added a perspective I hadn’t considered – a birthday just makes you one day older than the day before.  Well that just means that Andy is 59 plus a few days.  And he wears it well.  But when he looked at me yesterday and simply said “I’m sixty years old”, I felt the weight of those words.  He is surprised naturally – how did we get here?  I’m still wondering whether or not he’s going to ask me to go steady.

We also had just come home from the funeral service for my aunt.  I hesitate to write too much about her, for as much as I loved her, there are four cousins of mine and six grandchildren who are the rightful authors of her story.  She was a vibrant, social, politically passionate spitfire with a great smile.  I remember lots of family moments at her house.  Her husband and my dad (they were brothers) singing “The Bluebird Of Happiness” before collapsing in tears of laughter.  Laughter.  That’s it.  I remember laughter.  I choose to remember laughter.  And how loving they were to my children.  Her last years were stolen by Alzheimer’s – an unforgiving thief.

And she was the last of my parents’ cohort group.  The last of my aunts and uncles.  It suggests that my sister, cousins and I are now next in this ineffable path.  I find that a difficult thought to hold onto for very long; I want to drop it, so I can pick it up when I’m ready – and yet it feels like it’s covered in Velcro.  I’m not ready for all the ramifications of being a grown-up.  My hunch is none of us are.  I am in love with life and I am angry that it has to end as we know it.  My head aches.  My heart aches.  And the sun rose this morning as it always does.

The well feels a bit dry as you can probably tell.  The well guys were here already this morning and needed to swap out a part, advising us to keep the power off for a couple of hours to give the well a chance to refill.  It seems like good advice.  Sometimes you just have to power down and give it all over.  Cry a bit.  Accept that there are questions without answers or at least fight them with less vehemence.  Let the sun hurt your eyes as it warms your skin.  It’s okay.

RadiatingBlossom.wordpress.com posted a poem yesterday which has stayed in my bones.  It seems a far better closing thought than anything I could offer.

The Thing Is –  Ellen Bass

To love life, to love it even

when you have no stomach for it

and everything you’ve held dear

crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,

your throat filled with the silt of it.

When grief sits with you, its tropical heat

thickening the air, heavy as water

more fit for gills than lungs;

when grief weights you like your own flesh

only more of it, an obesity of grief,

you think, How can a body withstand this?

Then you hold life like a face

between your palms, a plain face,

no charming smile, no violet eyes,

and you say, yes, I will take you

I will love you, again.

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For Jo – In Her Renaissance

Today is my friend Joanne’s birthday.  It’s a big one to us – sixty is a pretty impressive number, and worthy of celebration.  Since I can’t be with her today, at the very least it is deserving of a post.

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A few years ago, my daughter-in-law set up my Facebook page though I had little expectation that I would ‘meet’ people in such a forum.  Within two hours of being connected, I received a message from Jo.  She had been looking for me for oh, about forty years.  And I felt a surge of gratitude and disbelief that is difficult to explain.  Honestly, I don’t consider myself one of the memorable ones.  But anyway, there was no denying that we were best friends in junior high school, two of the bar mitzvah brides in the neighborhood (a phrase of my mother’s referring to the number of bar mitzvahs we were invited to attend), and typically on the phone when we weren’t in each other’s apartment.  But life happened in between then and now.  We went to different high schools, colleges.  The last time I saw her was when she came to hear me sing at a place called “Catch A Rising Star” in New York.

“While they talked they remembered the years of their youth, and each thought of the other as he had been in another time” (John Edward Williams)

So we have traveled different roads, in different cities, in different vehicles.  And yet our travels paralleled each other.  Our majors were similar, our commitments were similar.  Our twenties were blessed with the arrival of our kids but kicked our asses in every other way. I probably built more walls around me than Jo; she remains far more open and trusting.  I am here for her today as I was for her when I was thirteen.  We have both lost our parents and understand the seismic shift this causes in one’s bearings; one’s place in the world.  She thinks I’m a better person than I am.  I think of her as a magic kite – she soars and dips in colors so vibrant your eyes have to adjust to its brightness.  You see nothing else in the sky.

Jo was going to become a bat mitzvah today, but sometimes life shouts “Plot Change!” and you have to adjust accordingly.  She was going to speak about her journey, what she has integrated into her soul along the way.  She had asked me to say something too – and I would have said the following – “This is a day that celebrates the nexus of all that has come before you and all that still awaits.  I am a better, happier person for your friendship.  The children you have taught and the parents you have guided have been led by an uncompromising, dedicated, singularly outstanding educator.  The formidable and unyielding love for Ben and Jenna is so powerful, it is its own energy force.  Your heart holds more than most can ever hope to experience in a lifetime – and you still have a long way to go.  This world which you have touched with your passion and your elation, with your sorrow and your tears, with your right and  righteous “Made In America” indignation and gentle yearnings for a view of the Gulf Of Mexico – is a better place because of the way you have chosen to grace it.  I would have thanked you for the gift of being able to speak these words.  Yet that said, I’m just as happy to write them to you here.  With love and laughter and wishes for all that you wish for yourself and more – Happy Birthday Jo.

Following Some Great Advice

LouAnn who pens the fantastic blog onthehomefrontandbeyond.wordpress.com, accepted a gauntlet – to devote one post a week to write about one’s blessings.  I like the idea, especially given all the other topics that one can entertain.  And for me there are at least three days in any given year which are deserving of individual mention.  Today is one of them.

Thirty two years ago today, I became a mom for the first time.  I would become a mom two more times – another wonderful boy two-plus years later, and one more gift that came as part of the package that is Andy (and in many ways he helped seal the deal, because I fell for that little boy the moment I met him).   But today it is about the man who can claim this day as his birthday.

I am not going to go too far back in time – for it will make his eyes roll and may somehow diminish the present.  Yet, I hold thirty-two years worth of moments (longer if one were to include the lengthy conversations we had before he actually appeared).  I have known him and loved him longer than he has known himself.  That gives me a pretty decent perspective on the qualities that make the man.

He’s a really, really good man.  He’s smart and dogged, determined and stalwart.  He loves his wife tenderly and holds their relationship tenaciously.  He still wants me in his life.  And I love being a part of it.  Sometimes he worries about me, other times he is probably frustrated by me – much of the time we just talk about the stuff of which life is made.  He has gotten certain traits from me, but he is far more his own incredible concoction of talents and flaws than anything else.  I take no credit – he has much credit to take.  And I am blessed to be his mom.  To have been a part of his journey and the keeper of some of his secrets.  To have been provided with the opportunity to laugh and cry with him, celebrate and grieve with him, ponder and occasionally just punt when there seemed like nothing else to do.

Time has accelerated since I became a mom, because its passing has been marked by their development and growth, stumbles and leaps.  I have often wished that it would slow down a bit, for I consider myself way too immature to be the mother of such phenomenal adults.  Part of the blessing I guess, is that in my heart,  he is (as his brothers are) my boys, my heart and my soul.   I always knew I wanted to be a mom, even when I was too young to know they ways to become one.  But my greatest legacy is not that I am a mom – it’s that I’m the mom of these men.  Happy Birthday my magnificent boy – you are loved beyond all measure.

(And those this isn’t a video of you, the song of course is for you)