A family friend starred in a musical called “Mother, I’m Here” that had its one and only performance in Schenectady in the late 80s. We had the cast recording on heavy rotation in my family’s house. The show followed four girls from childhood to adulthood and into old age and has a million beautiful moments in it. Today, I’m remembering a line in the song “Dear Diary,” sung by our friend as she played a teen:
Dear diary, I think the mirror lies, ’cause when I take a look I don’t see me at all. Inside I know I’m brave and beautiful, so tell me why I look so pimply, scared, and small?
I always loved that line–it seemed so perfect to me as a pre-pubescent girl. Why did I look like a spazzy, frizzy-haired, powerless *child* when I felt like a force of nature, like I contained universes? Nothing about my life as it appeared seem to match how it felt. I was particularly irritated that my parents had chosen such a pedestrian, common name for me. I really felt more like a “Cassandra” than a Kerry. If I’d been Cassandra, they could call me “Cassie” if I remained girl-next-door cute and spunky, but I’d have Cassandra to fall back on if I reached my full majestic potential, or became a partner in a law firm. It would work either way. Clearly they hadn’t thought this through. Continue reading “Yes I will”
I miss my dad, I said to Nathaniel last night, when I could not stop myself from crying during the Barcelona-Manchester United game. We’d bought a ticket for my dad back in the spring. It was going to be the first in-person Man U game for both of them.
I miss my dad sooo much, I said on Facebook, immediately regretting it. Triple “o” so? Not my usual style–I’d counsel against it. Multiple vowels to intensify the “so.” “So” to intensify the “much.” “Much” to intensify the missing. Vague upon vague upon vague. Much missing? What’s missing?
I’m not missing anything. Continue reading “Missing persons”
On the day my father died, I came home from work early and sat with him. His eyes were closed most of the time, which was par for the course over the last two years. He’d mostly stopped speaking, but when I kissed him he moaned a little and fluttered his eyelids, acknowledging my presence.
I had a vision of him then. He was outside, moving through a field. Ahead of him, the sun was so bright that I couldn’t see what was there, and it threw him into silhouette. I couldn’t see his face, because he was striding away, moving quickly as usual. But his hair was thick and dark, and he moved with purpose and ease.
In the bed, he grasped my hand.
After he died, I held it for a very long time. I remembered my duty: to be a witness. His skin was soft and smooth. He lay as if sleeping. I memorized his face and his fingernails. For each of my sisters and brothers, I held his hand, keeping it warm though he no longer could. Silently, one by one they each had their turn: Continue reading “Visions”
Don Rowland Searle
January 14, 1942 – June 13, 2017
Loving husband and father. Doting grandfather. Engineer, gardener, Manchester United fan. Steadfast, gentle, honest, genial, determined, kind.
Grateful for the gift of his life, our hearts are broken at the loss of it.
Continue reading “Don Rowland Searle”
My father came home from the hospital last night, and his prognosis is uncertain. While I feel a deep sense of peace with the decision to bring him home and prioritize his quality of life, I struggle to express that peace meaningfully, especially with my children. I find that I am a pillar of strength except for the moments when I am not. This is a list of things to remember in the midst of uncertainty.
The short version:
Stay true to the Coach Taylor principle: Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. Even when you are, by definition, losing.
The long version:
If your goal is to avoid death, you will eventually be disappointed.
Don’t give in to the temptation to turn grief into outrage. Every death is painful for someone, but not every death is an injustice. We’ve gotten so many good years with our dad; some people never know their fathers; some people’s fathers die much younger; some people’s fathers live to 101. Saying it’s not fair that your dad is dying is like saying it’s not fair that the stone you picked up isn’t a bird. Continue reading “Things to remember right now; AKA, the Coach Taylor principle”
Every morning as I arrive at work, I make a right turn down into the driveway that goes under my office building to the garage. I have to cross the sidewalk, and am acutely aware that this very last part of my commute could be the most dangerous. The sidewalks are busy, full of people on their way to work or finishing their workouts, unlikely to notice an underground garage in the middle of the block. It’s true today, as always.
I look carefully to the left. No pedestrians. I look carefully to the right. No joggers, or women with strollers, or people with the earbuds in and music turned up. The way is clear; I make my way forward and turn across the sidewalk.
WHAM. On my right, out of nowhere, a man slams his hands into my car window, the rest of his body landing with a thud a split second later, his face up against the window, before bouncing backwards again. I roll down the window as he waves and turns around. “Are you okay!?” Continue reading “Fast and furious”
I’ve been away this weekend on a retreat in the mountains. The program has been centered on quiet, and on the works of Flannery O’Connor. And so, I re-read “Revelation” this weekend, and I am reminded of just how treacherous a trap it is to believe that you have sufficient good judgment to sort people into the deserving and undeserving. (If you haven’t read “Revelation,” you should.)
Recently, I eavesdropped on a debate my friend Jordan got involved in on Facebook. He astutely argued that if you’re interested in building a political party that can win elections, you should stop thinking of people as existing on a binary scale–you’re either a good person or a bad person–and instead think of each individual as a person who does a good thing, or a person who is currently doing a less good thing, and even a person who is doing a bad thing.
In “Revelation, ” the protagonist Mrs. Turpin reasonably observes that she is fortunate to be middle class, but credits herself for responding appropriately: She is stewarding the resources given to her. She has manners. She isn’t rude, even to people who don’t really deserve her kindness. She’s a respectable, decent person by all commonly held standards of the time. But despite being a good woman, she is also, as a girl she encounters says, “a wart-hog from hell.”
The story is not about how someone who thought she was good was actually bad. It is about about both/and. Mrs. Turpin is both good and bad. She is herself and a wart-hog from hell, too. As are we all. Continue reading “Sunday morning, on mercy and uncertainty”