Sunday, May 10, 2009


Mother died 20 years ago, give or take. She spent some miserable years with breast cancer and various treatments, and when the time came she was more than ready to go.

I knew a woman who went into a coma after a hard childbirth, at least the doctors called it a coma, and they stood in her hospital room saying they couldn't save her and she was going to die. The thing was she could hear everything they said, she just couldn't move, couldn't speak, and couldn't do anything more than shout, inside her head, "Don't give up on me! I'm alive! I'm here!" She survived (obviously); and I learned not to judge awareness by responsiveness.

I talked with Mother a lot towards the end of her life - we all did - though I didn't generally get a response. It didn't matter; I knew she might be hearing me, and that was good enough.

Which brings me to the last time I saw her smile. She grew up practically next door to my father and his siblings, and on one of his last visits my uncle David leaned down to her, greeted her in a loud, celebratory voice, and Mother smiled. It was fleeting, in a sense, but it's as permanent a memory as I expect to have.

Sometimes I have to work to remember Mother before those last hard years, but sometimes it's no work at all. All my childhood memories end with her, the center of my far-ranging universe when I was a kid grubbing in the dirt. From later I remember her brilliance, her knowledge of every piece of classical music they played on public radio, her demons and her delights.

I lost a mentor to cancer when I was a young adult and I raged against him for years because I still needed him and he wasn't there. Mother gave me much more (including life), and I've never been angry with her for leaving. She earned her peace. But I've had plenty of occasion to miss her, and wonder what her advice would have had been along the way. And I wish she'd been able to meet Annie, and Annie meet her.

Happy Mother's Day, Amy.

Our Dads are Better

Both our dads are better. Ann's dad had medication and treatment that got him back home and his heart ticking better. My dad is home too, and taking walks and gaining weight, though the doctors don't seem to have their act together enough for my satisfaction (I set the bar pretty high here). Thank God for family, near and far.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Our Dads

My dad's in the hospital in Ohio with pneumonia.
Ann's dad is in the hospital in Illinois with heart problems.
We're in Minnesota.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Public school can be farcical due to the emphasis on test scores - they take students out of class for extensive testing, on which funding depends, and potentially low-scoring students are shuffled or gerrymandered from school to school. Education itself seems to have been displaced in importance. Last Tuesday was 3/3/09, a notable date to be sure; however Ann's elementary school principal, during the morning announcements, said "Today is 3/3/09, which is important because 9 is 3 cubed." There was no correction or retraction, and it didn't seem to rise to the level of being worth comment among staff (other than Ann).

Saturday, January 31, 2009

January 31, 2009

While many in my family deal with layers of ice and snow, downed trees and no power (living in southern Ohio, that is; Alice is spared those in Florida but has had her share of hurricanes, so it evens out), Ann and I are bummed that the weather is so nice in Minnesota today. We fell one day short of spending the month entirely below freezing. It wouldn't have been a record, but we would have felt more virtuous, somehow. A few weeks ago we had a stretch of 86 hours below zero, and we just nodded to one another: yep.

This is what winter in Minnesota is supposed to be like.

Today Ann went to a puppet show and puppet making workshop with two moms and three kids. I slept in, had breakfast, checked the roof for ice dams, then put a lawn chair up in a sunny patch of snow in the back yard and sat listening to the neighborhood noises. Eyes closed I could hear 360 degrees of sound. Birds up and to the left, eating and chiding Emmie who was on the sleeping porch no doubt making threatening gestures, neighbors walking down the sidewalk, some cars, a jet, crows in the distance. I was in the middle of blissful meditation when I heard the German Shepherd "Radar" barking down the alley. When Radar's owner walks him past our house you'd think he was the most dangerous animal alive, but when we walk past his yard he's always up on his hind feet against the fence, tail wagging, smiling, saying hi. When I heard Radar's voice I involuntarily thought of Hogan's Heroes, and the guard dogs who loved them, and laughed out loud. I don't think you're supposed to laugh during meditation (unless you're the Laughing Buddha), but I didn't feel too bad about it.

Ann is home, we've gone for a walk, and she's resting up between social events. She'll head to the Bob Marley tribute tonight with John at 8pm, about the time I start working on my tribute to the Napping Buddha.