Wednesday, July 30, 2008

As Long as Mable's Able

When I was seventeen, My Grandfather had a stroke. He was sitting there, at our kitchen table, about to bite into an apple, and he fell face forward on the table. The stroke was in the Brain stem, and he fell quickly into a coma, where he stayed for two weeks. I still remember my grandmother swabbing his lips with glycerin as we visited him in the hospital. I came to visit him one day in the hospital, but our time with him had already come to an end.
My Grandmother, having to see him in that condition for the two weeks before his death, always said that
she hoped that she wouldn't die of a stroke.
She lived another good 19 years beyond him, and outlived another husband to boot.
She was "strong like an ox," just like her own mother who lived to be 90.
With this in mind, She expected to live a long, strong life, and that she did.
Referring to herself, she'd say,
"As long as Mable's able."
That pretty much summed up her philosophy.

But as fate would have it, what dis-abled Mable was a stroke-
in the right hemisphere of her brain.
But it was also A Stroke of Fate.

We all thought it was ironic, at first or perhaps a cruel joke. But what we realized, during her last two weeks, was that, as My Brother Paul so aptly put, in her Eulogy,
"When God Gave Grandma A stroke, he gave us all a gift."
A gift?
It was the very thing she had hoped would not be her fate. She was a woman of dignity, and to be left in a state, where she was unable to care for even her own personal needs, must have been a blow.

But, as is very often the case, what's best for us, is not always what We think is best.
What we all learned-- all 14 grandchildren, and 30 great grandchildren, was that the two weeks we did get to spend with Grandma were precious. Not just because they were the last weeks, and we were savoring them as such, but also because the time we each spent with her, was a testament to the individual dynamic we each shared with her.

When I sat with her, and held her hand, she knew it was me, when she felt the bitten fingernails on my hands. It immediately brought me back to the times, both as a child and as an adult, when, we'd sit together, and she'd hold my hand. She'd run her thumb over my bitten thumb nail, and say, "That's ca-ca." In other words: Don't bite your nails.

When my brother Mike held her hand, she felt the ring of my grandfather's that she'd given him. They shared, at that moment, a connection, a memory of a special occasion, when she gave him something that represented my grandfather had worn and cherished.

When my sister Debbie held her hand, she felt the ring she had bought my sister, as a token, for taking her on her errands. She never drove, and so had to depend on others throughout her life to take her on errands. She was grateful for this, and my sister was glad to be of service,

Each one of us shared with her, an almost magical experience of the unspoken.
Grandma was unable to communicate with words, but with her touch, she got her point across, in the most eloquent of ways. She was a woman of little formal education, but she educated us in those two weeks, in a more profound way than even the most educated of her grandchildren could have even attempted.

When you'd ask my grandmother if she liked something or someone, she'd often respond, waving her hand back and forth in her Italian American Way, "Mezzo, Mezzo."
I always understood it to mean "half and half'"
Indeed, Grandma's stroke of fate was "Mezzo, Mezzo",but even as, ironically, she watched Highway to Heaven at the moment of her stroke, It was in that moment that we were all given an opportunity to become Grandma's other half, holding her hand to communicate with her and interpret her needs, and with that union we became "Tutto," whole.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Was The Only One

I Was The Only One
Who thought moths
out in the middle of the ocean
was interesting
at the time
But It really made me Wonder.

They seemed misplaced
but probably
less misplaced
than a Big Fiber Glass
Sport Fishing Boat Seems
to a Mother Child Whale Pair

It's Nice to Share a Point of View
Or a Tendency to feel a Sensitivity to
Something that could be easily overlooked
or taken for Granted--

There is Wonder all around
When We Stop to look.
Thank You Meredith,
Thank you.
that come from all over the place:
from the sky,
from the earth,
from a scrap of paper,
from a passing shape..."
Pablo Picasso

Monday, July 28, 2008

A "Namaste Approach" to Life, and I Think to Myself, "What a Wonderful World"

I went to a Meditation workshop recently with a friend. It was conducted by two people.

One was Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance, and psychotherapist, and the other, Jonathan Foust (Sudhir), the co founder of the Mindfulness Training Institute, Washington D.C.

Each took turns presenting a topic, and then we, as a group, at the same time, would practice the concept.

Tara's main focus was on helping us to rethink our tendency as individuals, of feeling unworthy.
Jonathan's was to help us focus on cultivating embodied awareness.

One of the exercises we did was an awareness exercise, in which you chose a partner, and interlocked arms facing your chairs in opposite directions. The participants who came to the retreat together, practiced the exercise together. One at a time, each person would sit, with his or her eyes closed, and tell their partner what they were aware of.

Responses were:

I am aware of my heart Beating.

I am aware of My Breath.

I am aware of feeling the warmth in the room.

I am aware of others talking.

I am aware of Your Breath.

I am aware of discomfort in my upper back.

If you were practicing with a friend this was not too awkward, for you knew one another, and you were facing different directions, with your eyes closed, but arms interlocked.

The next Exercise We were asked to pair up with someone we did not know.
This had the potential to be uncomfortable, because this time, We were face to face, in our chairs, knee to knee, eyes open
I am aware, that this will be uncomfortable for me.

I look to my right, and take a deep breath
committing to dive right in, and asked the man to my right, if he'd like to be my partner.

We arranged our seats to face one another, and introduce ourselves.

Next we were given the instruction.
Each, in turn was to look into the other's eyes, and say to his partner,

"Tell me, What do you Love?"

Deep Breath.
My Partner asked if I'd like to go first.
I generally try to, to ease the other's discomfort, and also to look my own in the face, since anticipating my turn, in an awkward situation would typically have my heart racing.

We agree that I will go first, but before we begin, he asks,
"Do You Bow?"
Being of a Yoga Mindset, I answer, "Yes, I do"
He suggests we begin by bowing to one another.
I nod.

In Yoga, at the end of class, the teacher and the students generally Bow to one another, saying "Namaste'."
A simple translation is:
"I recognize the divine in You"

We now Bow together.
I bow slowly and deeply, for I feel it is a gesture of reverence.

We Begin.
I take another deep breath, look him in the eyes, and ask,

"Tell me, What do you love?"

He answers his first question, and I nod, to acknowledge his answer.

I ask again, he answers, and I nod,
each answer becoming more personal.
He answers once, "I love my family." And I begin to cry.
It's not the first time I feel what another is feeling, but I immediately recognize the power of the Namaste Bow.
I have recognized the Divine in him, and he in me.
When it was time, for me to share, He put his hand on my knee and was clearly
both grateful to be heard, and able to recognize who I was and what I was about.
I was grateful ,too.

I thought to myself, that day, what the world would be like,
If we all bowed to one another, before we interacted.

What I experienced that day, I Bow to,
For there is the spark of the Divine in

"I see God in Every Human Being"
-Mother Teresa

Behind Closed Doors

Behind My Closed Door
there have been hurt feelings

Behind My Closed Door
there has been disappointment

Behind My Closed Door
there has been resentment

Behind My Closed Door
there has been depression and anxiety

And then I opened my Door
For Ventilation
and I realized

Behind My Closed Door
there has also been
at the birth of our children
-at seeing them grow-
at seeing our marriage grow

Behind My Closed Door
there has also been
in the resolution of wrongs

Tenderness and Affection
with Family and Friends
and Total Strangers

Behind my Closed Door
There is
The feeling of true love


Open or Closed
I wouldn't Trade it For the World

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Something Wonderful In Store

There is great solace in the ocean. And great mystery too.
When we go out sport fishing and we leave the docks at 4 am
I'm certain there is something wonderful in store.

It may be the deep orange glow
of the sun as it is lifted from the horizon
sea from sky

It may be the seemingly impossible dance
of the hooked White Marlin
Tail walking on the water
Bill piercing skyward--

or a sea dotted with Sea Turtles
sunning themselves
on the mirror-clear
sparkling-crystal bed

or the mother child
whale pair
side by side
slow motion tail lifting
rising skyward
and fanning the surface

or the unexpected site of myriad moths
in the middle of the ocean
no rest in site
flying endlessly
until spent
and then resting upon the still blue

and polka dotting
the sea
as far as the eye can see

How can it Be?
A hundred miles out
nothing to sustain them
but the wind

but they fly
in search of something
or they fly
just to fly

losing track of land
and now pressing forward
because they must

they seem
out here in the blue
and I marvel at why
as I see them fly

one coming to rest
on my shoulder for a bit
and many
now resting on the sea

I am unsure
of whether they rest
or have come to their final resting place now
and have left

lacy papery wings behind
to become the sea

its endless flow
an endless source
of something wonderful in store

for those who wish to see

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Little By Little, One Step At a Time

My Brother in Law Tom is a pretty entertaining guy. He never fails to make me laugh. He has more nick-names than anyone I know, and he also wields more catch phrases that are all his own--Ways of getting his point across that either leave you in stitches or really hit home.
One of My favorites is
"Little By Little."

You see he has a fondness for projects,
both large and small.
 I like to marvel at his progress and his great Creativity.

He's a dreamer and a man of vision, and when you ask him about a current project underway, he'll proudly explain his creative approach, summing it up with,
 "Little by Little."

You see, he's OK with a work in Progress.
I admire that a great Deal.

I consider myself a Work in Progress.
I think we all are, really.
And as Human Beings
Learning and Growing are our strongest suits.

Little By Little
 we gain the experiences we need to get to the next level.
Little by Little
 we learn from our experiences.
Little By Little
 We grow into the people we are meant to be,
And in so doing
Little By Little
We make a difference in the Lives of Others.

Tom's Fiancee Alicia asked him how they were going to get their refrigerator up a challenging flight of stairs.

He simply answered,
One Step at a Time.