Monthly Archives: February 2014

With this lunch we part

Symbols have often had deep meaning to me. Soon after my separation, I chose to drop two stones in “the arms of an eagle”, otherwise known as Eagle Lake, Wisconsin. There was a hurt in my life that I needed to put to rest. Having an affinity for eagle’s and the fact that the hurt was from someone in Wisconsin, the 4 and a half hours each way trip from Duluth just to drop two stones didn’t feel wasted. Though I remember the sadness, the weight of that memory rests there in the muddy bottom.

So coming home, it was one of the stories I wanted to tell from that surreally wonderful week retreat given to me by a stranger. Who better to tell than another stranger I met, a woman lawyer new to the community group I then attended? She became excited by what I shared that resonated with something she had experienced.

She had recently been asked to handle a divorce between a Jewish couple. Within their religion it was not just a matter of signing papers. There was a ritual involved that was as explicitly written as a wedding. I wish I could remember the details. What struck her when in her mind she merged my experience with this intricate letting go, was her belief that we do need that ceremony of closure in divorce. This got me thinking. As a person who strives to live peaceably, was there a way to bring peace into the pain of divorce. Was there something in this conversation that could help.

Admittedly, it is not possible in many cases. However, when I chose to divorce my need of peace outweighed any argument we could have had over things so there was a semblance of amiability between my x and I. Neither of us went to the court when our divorce was granted. We had ironed out our own details with some guidance from a lawyer. When she called to tell us the date the divorce would be official. I ask my x for one favour. On that day, would he have lunch with me at the restaurant we had most often eaten in together. The reasons for the divorce were very real, but it did not mean we had to carry the animosity further. For the sake of our kids, peace mattered. He agreed to this meal to say goodbye to the years we had been a couple.

That day, each of us arrived at the restaurant in our own cars. Just as we did before our wedding, each of us carried a gift. By an unspoken choice, for that meal the reasons for the divorce was set aside. We took time to remember the better moments spent together through the lunch. At the end, we gave each other the gifts to wish each other well in the future. Then we parted ways.

It didn’t mean that it was smooth sailing after that. We had our differences about how to go from there. The divorce was the right decision though, as was the decision to leave it to God to guard between us. There are times my mind still remembers the weight of that divorce, but there is healing in having said a goodbye with good will. I will never regret the decision to share that final meal of goodbye that day.

And example of a Jewish ceremony of divorce: http://www.ritualwell.org/ritual/jewish-divorce-ritual-our-time

I’m Telling On You

I haven’t asked for critique on my work yet and there is a reason. It’s not that I don’t think I need it nor is it because I don’t want it. I just have a child to put to sleep first. I need to wait until she is quiet because she remembers. She remembers and I am afraid.

Grades. The bane of my teacher’s heart. Each year, three times a year I send them home, words and comments needing honesty and encouragement for the gifts of each child. Each time my child awakes reminding me what I don’t need to be told. How I say what I say matters. The honesty and yet mercy in the way I evaluate my students matter. Yet, with all the grace I use I can never know how my words will affect the person who reads them. She quakes remembering what she will not let me forget.

Mr. Walker must have known something was not right as the little girl buried her booklet in the arm wrapped around it to try to hide it from view. Small letter c, small letter c, small letter c, read a question, small letter c, self-check work, finally the stems are added to make the a’s and the b’s and the d’s, over and over, test by test. The little girl tried but the words flashed across the screen disappeared before she could read them. Yet she couldn’t fail. Her grades were all she had to prove her worth with when she went home at night. Her parents believed her report card. It was the one thing that proved she was good.

Why he didn’t confront her earlier never entered the little girl’s mind when the final grade was given. A large red F glared as her from the top of the page. Only then did she learn that she hadn’t hidden anything at all. All the weeks or days of the speed reading program, Mr. Walker knew what she was doing. The little girl’s tears trembled inside her, defiant rage gripped her. Grades were survival. She was afraid.

You would not have known the fear from the outside. When the punishments begin young enough a child doesn’t know that there is anything wrong with them. A child loves her family, needs her family especially when, in grade 4 she is attending her fourth school in four years and living in the eighth house and town in nine years. Her family is the core of her life. The strangers who enter and spend time for a day to teach her she is special will fade into the distance of miles travelled. Her family will be the only truth that follows her in life.

The truth had been something she had lost long ago. Punishment and fault correlated based on accusation not actuality. Her sisters said it was her fault. She was spanked. Her sister cried about a lost toy that was later found in the little girl’s drawer, the sister gloated behind her father’s back as the little girl was spanked. At five, the little girl laughed as the belt struck her and tears rolled down her face. She had already learned her truth about bad. Bad was what somebody else said you were.

Hitting and teasing were norms in the little girl’s life. It is hard to fight back when no one believes what you say. Her sisters decided she had done something, she was threatened, once even laid up on the table, shirt pulled up with a butcher knife held to her belly. If she didn’t confess that she had taken them, they would cut her open. Her little heart clung to her mother as loving when a phone call from work “saved” her that time. Mom had taken the sunflower seeds to work. She hadn’t eaten them after all. What in adult life the sisters would call simple sibling pranks and teasing would leave the girl unstable in a home where truth and goodness could not be achieved because she was not able to get them to believe the words she said.

Only at school was she safe. At school she was smart and capable. She could read and do math and even out jump the boys in high jump. Her actions, concrete and measurable gave her worth. Having that worth was so important that she would do anything to keep it. The stability had already begun to crumble when childhood rivalry had enlisted the competitive spirit of her classmates into a class row that had separated her from her best friend. Now with one red letter, her one safe place to believe in herself was gone.

The little girl could not hold on to the fear and anger inside. Her clothespins which had been being used to create dolls became missiles of hate as “I hate Mr. Walker” were scrawled across them in Black and Red and left where he could see. The same words were written in soap on the bathroom mirrors. The little girl closed inside defiantly refusing to ask him for anything nor to write anything on any of her papers. She sat at her desk through the days closing herself off from those who had once been her friends. She would not even ask to go to the bathroom. Her patterns of defiance escalated in textbook ways. In the crisis of her life, she had nowhere to turn.

Mr. Walker did what he could and the big red F did not find its way to her report card. Telling her parent’s she needed psychiatric help did make it into her parent-teacher conference that term. She knew because her parent’s anger at him for saying such a thing gave the little girl some relief as they sided with her against him in those moments.

She began to turn in her work at school. Life began having a semblance of calm around the parameters of her life. Life went on in what she had come to know as normal at home. At school, the little girl never found her way back to the child she once had known.

Each time I write a grade, it is with a prayer for the child and the family, knowing that what I say can matter. My little girl inside won’t let me forget. Bad is what they say you are.

Sleep little one, I will treat the children with the loving care I wish I could have given to you. I will tell the truth though. If only the truth had been told then …. But no. You have no real understanding of what truth is. I will just rock you to sleep and pray.

Poems from the past: Images of Faith

Building Blocks
About 1989

This is what you gave me, Lord.
This is what I have.
These blocks I call my life
Must build what glorifies you.
But, Lord, I have no fancy arches
Or curved windows!
Can’t you give me blocks like those?
You tell me “No”, Lord.
This is what I have.
And yet this sorrow brings me greater joy
For you promised
A master builder
To take this pile of blocks
And make an original –
A masterpiece –
Autographed by You.

______________________________________

Fine Tuning
About 1989

We tune our voices to match a tone
By listening closely until
The jarring vibrations disappear.

We tune our lives to be like Him
By listening closely until
The sharp edges of indifference disappear.

________________________________________

A Mother’s Memory
March 1992/Revised 1997

There he hung
In gray and shadow
Man yet God
Adorned in death
As close at hand
His mother watched.

Once again she
Frames a scene
To hang among
The whirling hues
Within the gallery
Of her heart.

What made this son
Give all for man?
The questions flash
Across a canvas
Torn and slashed –
Her broken dreams.

Then victory comes
And paints again
On canvas whole
Triumphant joy!
Her firstborn son –
Her risen Lord.

_______________________________________

Forgiveness
For a retreat, October 2-4, 1992

It isn’t fair!
How could you choose to die that way?
Hands stretched out
Held by man-made bonds,
Hanging there – a mockery
To all your strength and power.

They say you could call ten thousand angels
To rescue you if you would choose.
Won’t you at least call one or two
With flaming swords
To punish them for what they do?

You move to speak.
What will you say from on your rugged cross?

“Father” your voice is weak but clear,
“Forgive them
for they don’t know what they are doing.!

And as I hear your mercy speak
I realize it is not “they”
But “we” who hung you there.

It isn’t fair!
Why must I be the one to right the wrong
They’ve done t me?
Why must I forgive?
I am hurt and trust is gone.
I’ll push it down inside, I’ll let it go;
Isn’t that enough?
Why must I accept them when the things they do
Goes so against my grain?
Can’t I serve you well enough
Yet stay out of their way?

Again I feel you move to speak;
Your voice is soft but clear.

“My child,” you say in gentle tones,
“I reached to you from a rugged cross;
I paved your way to me with my own blood.”
Can you do less than find a way
To walk beside your brother … your sister
As you walk through life with me?

Bear with each other and forgive what grievances you may have against one another.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

_________________________________________________

Come in, My Friend
4 November, 1993

Come in, Friend Grief,
You who are a messenger of God
What is it you want to teach me?
What is it I need to learn?

Hold me, dear friend,
Wash me in your loving tears
Don’t let me run away from you
I need the cleansing you bring.

My heart is pain within me
My body bowed with throbbing ache
I cannot hold you in, dear friend,
I have to let you go.

Forgive me, you world around
If for this moment I break the rules of decorum
My friend is here to visit me
And I must hear the message she brings.

Come in, Friend Grief,
You who are a messenger of God.
What is it you have to teach me today?
What is it I need to learn?

____________________________________________

Biblical Relations
Around 1996-1997
Written in the front of a Bible

I am like the woman they wanted to stone.
I feel unworthy. I feel condemned by others.
I need to remember he did not throw the stones that law seemed to require.
He saw the need.

I am like the woman sneaking up to touch Jesus’ robe.
I believe in God’s power.
I am not so sure of his acceptance and love.

I am like the royal official in Capernaum.
I need to “start on my way” based on His promise,
Not on sight.

I am like the widow before the judge.
I must believe in justice enough to keep crying out
For Him to help me understand enough to go on.

I am like the blind man.
I know he is responsible for any sight I have
And I can’t just bend to what I am being told to believe.
Something tells me God is more than that.

I am like the woman at the well.
I thirst for something I don’t know how to draw for myself.
I must go to Him.

I am like the boy with the loaves and the fishes.
What I have to give seems so meager in relation to the needs I see.
It is only enough with God’s special touch.

_____________________________________________________

New Skins for New Wine
January 13, 2009

The waters are troubled, Lord
The skins stretched tight by years
Of clinging to things I understood
Tearing in the strain of
Holding this new thing
You are doing in my life I feel
Alone in a world of humanity yet
Connected with cords whose ends
I do not know I seek
Straining to see a future not
Yet here I call to you You
Answer my cry for mercy
In this time when dark and light
Are living uneasy partnership within
My skin I am stretched beyond
Old rigidity knowing the pain
Is only the ending of the old
And a preparing of new skins
Supple enough to hold what
You are creating in me.

____________________________________________

Prayer in the Garden
March 13, 2013

Drink this cup of Father’s rage
Knowing You hold the pain
of me holding the pain of
my father’s rage the pain
still gouges nail prints in
my soul aching loss
Knowing I carried more than
my own sin I held his pain
Little boy wanting daddy to be
What he wasn’t blaming mother
Resentment’s bitter cup
Not let go because he buried it
Under the stone of religious zeal
He reached so many in his need
to heal to hold that angry
Little boy lost in a haze of
Salvation’s expectation
Of not looking back on things
held back unknowingly
When the blood washed sins away

Daddy, Abba Father,
I had to go to help him die
Reading John in those last days
I felt your gift to us
Reading that day I didn’t know
I carried granny’s guilt too
In my father’s eyes
The load of my father’a rejection
Was enough knowing that
I could never measure up
Then learning that he saw me
Veiled behind the spectre of
A mother gone
Rejected long before I was
Reading to him that day
I prayed with you
Let this cup pass away
And yet I carried only
One man’s little boy brokenness
You carried the world’s

________________________________________________

Journalling thoughts
(2000’s Dates vary)

Pulsing waves flood my soul
I am comforted, calmed
By the rage of your Spirit
Your storm of desires
Washes over me
Cleansing my thoughts
Taking the debris of my life
Leaving it to rest
On the shores of peace

Through you — I am.
In you — I am.
For you — I am.
Amen

Your love is painful
Filling me with desire without fulfillment
Your love is a fire
Consuming all I once knew of love
Your love is reaching
Invading the corners of my being
Your love is unkind
Shining a light on things I don’t want to see
Your love is vital
My very life is your gift to me
Your love is cleansing
Slowly the wounds are being washed away
Your love fulfills me
Somehow I feel whole in your embrace
Your love is caring
Your eyes look compassion for my bleeding soul
Your love is rich
There is treasure in each new day
Your love is jealous
You do not let me spread myself to things that would take me away
Your love is consuming
It is taking the life I once wanted to live
Your love is guiding
It is leading me to a place that is deeper me
Your love is mine
It is one thing that cannot be taken from me
Your love is here
It is not a distant dream of someday
Your love goes with me
It is closer than a phone call away
Your love holds me
When I fall you lift me up to try again
Your love is releasing
You let me make choices that may lead to falls
Your love is forgiving
You hold no record of wrong
Your love is complete
You will not let me down

One Last Magic

ONE LAST MAGIC

April 9, 2003
Revised version, February 22, 2014

island

“There was something about the garden that invited secrecy. Unannounced in the forest glade, it opened its bowers in unexpected warmth and beauty to those who would believe in it enough to step from the cool shadows onto its pebbled path….”

She stopped and stared at the words she had written. Would anyone understand what she wanted to say? She hated the secret but her tongue froze whenever she tried to tell. She knew the garden. She knew it well and knew what no one else seemed to comprehend. The garden was hers! Built to be a sanctuary from the confines of life but not meant to live in silence. The mage turned to gaze out the window of her cliff-side home into the rising mist of the crashing waves below.

She had chosen this place for its isolation. No one dared brave the tangled rocks below so no one came near enough to discern the geometric shapes of the windows scattered among the natural shadows of jutting rock. If the sun angled too sharply to hide the windows in shadow the mist stepped up its defense with rainbow phantoms rising in wavery curtains among the spray. She’d had a lifetime to build this fortress of living stone; a lifetime of finding even living stone was cold when you walked it alone.

Her pen dropped upon the parchment leaving beads of ink to dry like tears on the page. The flowing silkiness of her robes whispered around her as she got up to pace once more, then turning abruptly she left the lighted room. Her steps, determined at first, slowed to hesitancy as she neared the door to outside. She looked out through the sheer veiling of stone into the garden.

She had almost written it. She had almost recorded the real secret the garden held but who would believe it? Who would accept the idea that what appeared to be just another wall of forest on the far-side of the garden was really a wall of living stone? To those who would listen to the magic within, a door opened into that wall. She had stepped through the door into the garden many times, sometimes to surprise, sometimes to expectancy but never had any been persuaded to walk back into the forest with her. Those who met her there remembered her. How could they forget? But it was as if she was a spectre of the place not having substance in their “real” world. With all her mageries, she was still a prisoner of this island, trapped within this paradise of her own design.

It wasn’t as if this island was isolated from humanity. There were many picnics held in the meadows along the white stretch of sand on the western shore of the island. The sound of children laughing as they picked wild flowers or rolled down the gentle slopes dipping toward the sea could often be heard. The branches at the forest edge have held tree forts of gathered branches and moss. Songs often rode on the breeze. The seas were gentle to the west and the passage to the island was swift and uneventful most of the year. Only the icy blasts of winter or the treacherous icing of the waters stilled the movement to these shores. There was a spirit on that island, they said, a feeling of peace and acceptance for those who took the time to find its shores.

There was a time she even joined them, sharing in their rivalries but the magic of the place affected their minds for when time came to go home. She would be forgotten becoming simply a warmth in the place, a fantasy they felt they had imagined on the bewitched shore.

In her loneliness, she had formed the garden weaving into its conception a spell that would let those who entered it remember her. Creating a way for them to find it, though, proved more difficult. Through the years the island had begun to absorb its own personality from the lives of those who had stepped upon its shore and she could do little to alter the frequented spaces. Only a narrow, faded trail gave a clue to something hidden within the forested wilds.

The garden took so much from her, she could no longer move far enough away from it to reach the shore. A few glimpsed her form among the trees and followed, interest sparked by the idea of a mystery to solve or a prize perhaps to gain. They felt her power on the trail and would travel a short way along its twisting path enjoying the shivers of expectancy when you know you have seen something and yet don’t believe it’s really there.

She sighed, looking out on the quiet garden, still as winter even as its branches bloomed. Her strength was so low now. She could hardly hold her reality beyond the garden’s edge. She could not remember the advent of her isolation, surely it was not meant to have been so but it had become her captor, her creator it seemed. What once she had had the power to make, now seemed to make her. She quailed at the thought and defiantly pushed her hands out through the hardening stone into the garden air. If she let it, the garden would begin to shut her out and she could not accept that. If she lost all else, this was her place of peace and she would not lose it.

She thought of the few who had come to the gardens edge. She thought of the one or two who had actually walked its path in the past few years always yearning for it when away from it but never willing to risk the belief that a magic like this might change their lives.

Would anyone ever come here, anyone who knew what she needed? Would anyone ever herald this discovery in their world? She thought of old stories from her youth. It was like in Peter Pan when fairies only lived if a child believed. “Clap twice,” she whispered sadly, “if you believe.” She raised her face to the warmth of the sun and closed her eyes so the light shown rosy through her lids.

Was it determination or desperation that led her back to this darkening spray-misted room which held the incantation? She would work this one last magic and see what it would bring. She walked resolutely to the table and picked up the pen once more. After pausing a moment to read what she had already written, she dropped her pen upon the page.

“She stopped and stared at the words she had written. Would anyone understand what she wanted to say? She hated the secret but her tongue froze whenever she tried to tell……”

Keaton raised her hands from the keyboard and stretched her neck and shoulders. Sometimes the urge to write took her like that. At those moments she could almost believe there was something to that island beyond her dreams.

Poems from the past: Responding to dreams

To the old woman in my dreams
June, 1998

Wise old woman
with craggy cheeks
and scarecrow limbs
You have been my quiet strength
my steady honesty
with all your abrupt
honest evaluations
of me
You have been my sanity

You have not bowed to the
pressure from outside
to Conform!
Fit the Mold!
You have stayed real
and strong,
despite my own devaluing
my own distancing
my own terror
of You

It is no wonder
that I do not fear
growing old
You wait for me there
You know
that whatever my life
is like now
then I will wear your face
and will not be afraid
to accept your quiet strength

Wise old woman
I did not recognize this
about You
until now

____________________________________________

The Necromancer’s Apprentice
February 27, 2000

“The waters were troubled last night, master,
the images blurred, shot through with curling trails
of venomous black and green.
Why these illusive images, indistinct?”

“Ah, yes, she dreams,
yet she knows not what she dreams.”

“Ah, but master, it is not so
the dreams were lined with memories known,
what good to dredge this feeling from the depths?
What is accomplished? What is gained?”

“What gained? She dreams,
yet she knows not what she dreams.”

“Hasn’t this gone on long enough?
Shouldn’t this odyssey find an end?
The waters were troubled, the images surreal
and can’t be touched or laid to rest.

“The cauldron bubbles and she dreams
yet she knows not what she dreams.”

What good does it do to dredge these poisons
from their depths?
She runs to hide but finds no rest
Within her soul on nights like this.

“There is no rest, she dreams,
yet she knows not what she dreams.”

“Then stir the cauldron, push the paddle
through its depths and stir
stir until the poison dredges out the soul
and let her rest, just let her rest.”

“I show the way when she dreams,
yet she knows not what she dreams.”

Your words are cryptic filled with ambiguity
she seeks rest and peace,
o master, yet you give her
these twisted threads of tangled thought.

Ah, yes, she dreams
yet she know not what she dreams.”

Will it end, master,
will it run its course and find its grave
in life well lived?
When will it end? How will it end?

That we shall see, she dreams,
yet she knows not what she dreams.

So she must hear, must tune her thoughts
accept the dreams. Is that her way,
is that her path to reach an end?
Will she find her way? This I must know!

That we shall see, she dreams,
yet she knows not what she dreams.”

“Tonight I will stand again beside the cauldron
search its depths in aid of her.
She is tired, master, her mind is weary
and needs my help to find her way.”

“As you will, my friend, she dreams,
yet she knows not what she dreams.”

“You smile, dear master, to hear my plan,
Then let the waters be troubled
that I may share this path, this way with her,
and guide her to peace.”

“As you will, my friend, she dreams,
yet she knows not what she dreams.”

_________________________________________________

Lullaby for an Inner Child
November 7, 2001

I am here now, dear little one
You need not fear
I never will leave you alone
Again here
I will stay here beside you
Until you awake
Then be here o hold you
For both of our sake

I don’t know your story
Or all of your truth
I only know something
Took part of your youth
I still feel the ache
Of your crying in dreams
I still feel the tension
Of your silent screams

Tomorrow is gone, child
We have new todays
We don’t live like then, child
We’re finding new ways
We don’t run from sorrows
We cry real tears
We stay in the moment
There’s room for you here.

It’s been far too long
That you’ve been here alone
Your only companion
The sorrow you own
I didn’t come looking
But love led me here
Now you can let go, child
Someone felt your tear.

So rest lightly, little one
Morning will come
And when you awaken
We’ll go find the sun
We’ll share in the things
You have needed so long
And working together
We’ll help you grow strong.

_________________________________

Screams
November 17, 2001

The demons scream within my head
In dream images
Ledgers disguised in human form
They scream unworthiness
Each thing I ever asked a monument
Although only a crumb
Each thing I do
A murder trail
Tried on circumstantial evidence
That finds me guilty

My voice cried out to stop them
To make them see how small the cost
To make them see the crime
Is not as they accuse
But they don’t listen
And their voices have power
To curl me to the floor
A fetal child circled in self
Reaching for the strength
She cannot find

I am undone
And she who watches gives no aid
I do not know why she is there
Is she the judge? The executioner?
The silent witness giving credence
To their cries?
Don’t leave me here alone!
Could you, is there any chance
You just might be here for me?

I wake into the silence
Of an empty room
Frantic for someone to hold
Some voice to still the screaming in my brain
There is no answer from the silent walls
I am alone within this prison
Of my skin
Condemned to silence by the echoes
Of a life once dead

_____________________________

Only a dream?
February 26, 2002

Before my yesterdays
You were
Proud young woman of Africa
Knowing things were not like they should be
For your people
There in your village
Long ago somewhere
I have never been
But I knew you
Your proud eyes not quite dimmed
By the restrictions
Of who you could be
In the society you lived in
Knowing there was something more
But not knowing the way to go
You knew me and I recognized you
Among the faces in that crowded room
And we shared
Experiences lost in the dreamtime
Yet at the end
You were blood to me
Sister in longings shared
I ask you to stay with me
Your eyes were sad as you said no
Your people needed the things you could learn
To help them be free
You had to go back or toward wherever you were aimed
You knew that you were who you needed to be
There in that village
I only saw in dreamtime
Moments of walking your life with you
Although you could not stay
I am glad I got to know you
If only in a dream.

______________________________________

morning ghost
15 November 2008

You haunt me hurling memories
to hide your face I wake
troubled until I remember You
don’t want me to see the pain
You hide I catch each memory
red and sore from too many
years of letting it hurt
I look at it acknowledge
the pain reject
the shame reject the blame
and throw away one more barrier
between You and me I move
one step closer and feel
You quaking step back
give You room
to catch your breath because
I know with each new memory
You hurl at me there is one less
barrier between us and I
am that much closer to
knowing You to set You free
it is too much for me
alone and so I call the One
who teaches me love to stand
with me as I find and free
the part of me holding what You
hold in your little hands curled
protectively in the fortress of
lesser pains that have protected
me from knowing You
from accepting You
for so long.

______________________________

Poems from the Past: For children in my life

For a little girl lost
(For the teens who shared our home for a time)
January, 1994

Fast track
Spiraling
Tumbling
D
O
W
N
Screams in the silence
Won’t somebody hear?

______________________________________________________________

LETTING GO
(To my son)
April 1994

gentle rhythm
washing over endless sea
safe, warm, protected
microcosmic world
i am life

explosive power
urging on to sites unknown
twisting, pushing, thrusting
alien world
i am door

answered cries
bringing sustenance, relief
suckling, mewing, resting
trusting world
i am nourishment

tentative steps
pushing back the walls of space
wobbling, steadying, triumphant
inviting world
i am safety

chortling laughter
echoing calls of childish glee
pretending, stimulating, interacting
delight-filled world
i am playmate

growing awareness
mastering skills as yet unknown
exploring, connecting, achieving
intriguing world
i am teacher

new doors
increasing realms of exploration
exciting, fearful, enlightening
expanding world
i am security

understanding grows
knowledge builds a core of truth
attempting, exploring, grasping
comprehensible world
i am helper

horizons broaden
old forms stifle self expression
testing, questioning, rebelling
constricted world
i am listener

paths unknown
searching for a place to be
questing, reflecting, rehearsing
beckoning world
i am encourager

decisions made
stepping into new tomorrows
planning, fulfilling, owning
chosen world
i am friend

______________________________

Sometimes
(For teens at the shelter)
October 12, 2002

Sometimes there are no words
To touch the needing
Silence falls heavy
Tumbling to the floor
Drifting like leaves into the corners
Of the room
In whirlwinds of thought
Circling round in a dance of air
Sometimes you have to be silent.

Sometimes there is laughter
Bubbling streams of wit
Splashed across the day in colours
Painted on a palette of together
With the light frustration
Of a prank’s success
You seek the chance
Retaliate in kind
Sometimes you have to laugh.

Sometimes words are all you have
To sound your presence
Penetrating walls built high
With other moments much like this
Howling storms of hurting
Humiliation a mantle
Worn as if it were the only clothes
They ever knew
Sometimes you have to cry.

_____________________

Child’s Play
(For children at the shelter)
September 12, 2004

High chair tunnels
Gleeful cries into the air
Staccato drumming on the floor
Of knees and hands
As round and round you go
Three little verses
In a rondo of
Follow-the leader
The song transitions
To other tunes
Flowing out of
Imaginations fluidity
Forte squeals into the air
Drum rolls of vehicle wheels
Crescendo of hurried feet
Scurrying about the room
Tinny accompaniment
Of musical toys
Impromptu lyrics of
“Nigh-nigh”, “heyyo”
“Hair” and “nose” and “eye”
Shoulders tall
Heads held high
Stage lights shining
From innocent eyes
Your little voices
And natural body rhythms
Play for me
A medley of living

_________________________________

morning thoughts
(For my daughter)
30 May, 2000

she lies sleeping
tousled hair
scattered around her head
like her clothes in disarray
across the floor
my youngest girl
a child no more
but woman
young and vibrant
filled with dreams of youth
I watch her sleep
my presence wakes her
with a grown
“too early, mom,
I want to sleep”
she pulls her covers
to her head and
curls to rest
until the morning
brings her
school and friends
new hopes new joys
my child
this woman lying there
my baby grown
to find her way
within the world
my heart swells
with
the knowing of her
lying there
in dreams
of futures yet untried
and yet her own
to live
my daughter
my baby once
a young woman now

She or Me

IMG_2394“I wish you could help me understand.”

“Don’t even try,” my mother and sister were terse and clear that there would be no response to my father’s last request.

I stood a moment, looking at him and knew the words had been said that could be said.

In that moment I heard again the words of the woman who shared her story of grief over her own lost years. She would wait for heaven to “redeem the years the locust took.” I would wait as well.

A lifetime of memories filled those seconds of time. There would be no undoing any words said, any actions left undone or done. My father and I had lived the lives we lived. All that was shared and unshared was finished. Even this visit was unplanned.

That Saturday morning had begun with the sound of angry words. My mother’s tension mounted as the angry man within dad surfaced accusing her of her absence the night before. I would be leaving on Sunday early. My niece’s party would be that night so we had taken time on Friday evening to eat together and visit one of mom’s friends while my sisters stayed with dad. She hadn’t been there when he pain had begun to grow and he had waited for medication.

My mother had reached her limit and the mother who I feared in my life was in the room speaking to my dad. The carefully crafted exterior was cracking and the angry child was speaking in threatening tones I knew too well. I would do what dad had not been able to do for me for reasons I did not yet know.

“Stop, mom,” I commanded.

The anger in her face felt like a hammer pounding into me. “Go away!”

I touched my dad’s shoulders and my mom scoffed at me, “He can’t hear you.” And she turned to him, her voice escalating as she railed at him for his ingratitude.

“Stop, mom!” I commanded again. I knew her. She would feel guilt for what she was doing, until she forgot that it happened too. “I love you, mom, but I know your anger. You have to stop.”

My mother stomped out of the room and sat with my sister. In that conversation she told my sister her own despair. She had little left to give in my father’s hospice care.

The angry man, who I had come to believe was a specter of my grandfather, sat in the room with me spouting words of hell fire and damnation. Something intuitive in me knew that my father was still in there and so I slowly calmed him dismantling his demons with love. When he calmed down I spoke the words I had known I would need to say when I woke in the night.

IMG_2388Today I would be saying goodbye. I was the privileged person. I got to say goodbye to him. No one could talk with him to make peace with his death. I hear it said that no one regretted the money they didn’t make when they were dying but they regretted the relationships that were missed. My father’s dementia had taken that away from him and from the family who lived with the need for family secrets. He became a hoarder of business even running for the checkbook instead of worrying about mom on one occasion when she began choking.

My father had been a pastor all my life, caring for many of the unlovely in the world. My father had been one who young people loved to be around because of his warmth and laughter. That my relationship was tainted by an unknown did not change the man he was in the life of others. In the end, he was surrounded with scripture of death and hellfire’s threats. I refused to be a part of it and had read him John. That Saturday morning I called him back to the God of love he had taught me about. I told him about how that God of love, not the condemning one the angry man spouted, had been with me in the darkest places of my life. I shared with him the words of a song about God’s faithfulness and then I left him. There was nothing more to say.

He sat and looked at those words. Then later during the nurse’s visit he told her about how he had not stopped resenting his mother for leaving his dad when he was young. He said this even though he acknowledged his mother wore scars to the end of her life from his beatings and that his dad had beaten him too. He resented his mom so much that he went in the Navy to get away from her. He gave up his dream to IMG_2131become a singer because he could not forgive. Even salvation and a lifetime of giving had not revealed that to him until this day. And intermixed with the story in the twisted threads of dementia trying to speak clarity, he wove the story of me until, when leaving, the nurse told me privately that my sisters were like my mom but it sounded like I am like my granny. I had never known until that conversation.

Later when in pain my father thrashed against the very medication that would ease his pain he looked over the shoulders of those who were trying to hold him in place and catching my eyes screamed, “When are you going to leave?” I will never know who he was talking to – his mother or his daughter – in those moments.

Now the evening party was over. My heart still raw in the late evening hours, I snuck back to my parents house hoping to give his cheek one last kiss to say my last goodbye to him. He was not asleep but sitting between my older sister and my mom.

“I’ve always loved you,” he stumbled, clarifying, “I’ve always loved all my children. I just wish you could help me understand.”

“Don’t even try,” my mother and sister were terse and clear that there would be no response to my father’s last request.

I stood a moment, looking at him and knew the words had been said that could be said. Leaning toward him, I gave him a gentle hug and a kiss on the cheek. “I love you, dad,” I said.

Then I turned and walked out of the house to the hotel room where I would spend my last night in their town. I never looked back.