If I roamed in speech like Mark Twain, Making sure of my woods, river, sea, I'd wander in a circle, find an old goat, A grandfather, a porch, gold, river pirates. A wooden rocker and an audience, newsprint. Of innocents abroad, of jaded women here. If I enlisted like Mark Twain, casually, Caustic humor, avoiding combat, dinner. Serving for two, yes two, weeks And late for dinner. Tents and shovels. Tour of duty, the South, Rising late For breakfast, late home for dinner, Lectures from well meaning adult fools Who don't understand that war means blood. If I prayed like Mark Twain, for he did, It would be short, sweet, to the point, An argument of reason, intellect, An avoidance of familiarity, a face, questions. He prayed for salvation for his absurd truths. He never even got a letter in return. I am not Mark Twain, although I ramble in A concrete jungle, a zoo of originality, Of pauses and starts, hesitation, then Galloping on two feet with little hands. Children are my joy, his too. I enlisted, found a hole with my name, Foxlike I waited for the big dog, But all he wanted was sex. Sex, with me! Fraternizing with peers, I said no, and no, I found the door to file papers of abuse. Learned men are a grouping of Rotten apples, grapes on a vine. I have no time for old boys. Networks, bah. I don't pray. No, never got an answer, Not even a no. I figure God will Send me a postcard, or an email Asking for money, when God gets around. Everyone wants money. I have a hole in my pocket. Leaking. I am an emotional clamp, holding together A family of squirrels. Who knew? Mother always knew best, then I, Me, became the All Knowing Mother To mine own be true. Schools and crossbows Peeking from Concrete towers of sand. Sand stolen from the river. Free. Wait, there's a charge? Grumpy black bear, Moose Feet, It's something Twain saw, In the City of Gold at sunset In San Francisco, My dream city. Twain and I would have whiskey Talking politics, reading Dickens. Laughing at the words lost On a system of learning. Unlearning. Creeping, shadowing, loathing. We'd chat, sympathize, reconnoiter The political landscapes with Enough comedy for years of shows. Appalled that thinking people still hate. Appalled at the randomness of the bible Applied at a voting booth. Politics And religion rarely join joist to hinge. Mankind at its best, condemning sky, water, Others because they can, do, lust after. He'd shake his head, write a book, Find Adam in the park. Discuss with disdain, And I would listen, rapt, filing for later All of the similarities through time, A century of time, of things he thought Would mend, but haven't. So I write.
“Shh, old man,” Reggie mumbled to himself as he eyed the TV. “It’s not the end of the world yet.” He leaned closer to the television. “The end of the world hasn’t come yet, for we old soldiers still sit in purgatory uncalled. Surely that devil would call us if he knew we sat at ease.” The TV blared, for Reggie used the sound against the loneliness of his soul.
News reports troubled him: the president declaring war actions, kids dying, no one understanding why killing was so easy for the man, volunteers sent packing as democratic pigeon minders, told they got no business, old people dying and no one caring.
”Hush, Reggie, pray he doesn’t call you. You can barely keep time at a social dance with the old women down in the basement of the church. Not much of a social, all of us left by families that know our minds are going. Not much to be happy for, to care for, to do. Puzzles and number thingy squares. Old women knitting. Women ruminating like cows, no brains left. Young folks and nurses bugging folks to be active. Folks showing us computers, damned machines. Shh, damn it, man, don’t get so upset. Don’t call attention to your dark soul. You don’t want the attention of that type. They bury us with trumpets blowing and our service honored, but there is little honor in what we did. We killed, oh that we served as God willed. Oh, that peace was close, but it ain’t coming.”
The news flooded the room. Missiles launching from planes, children laying dead, yellow gas coating everything. Reggie looked down at his hands. His hands, beautiful hands, that had held a child when it was born, helped it learn to walk, paid with labor to send his child to school, and watched with pride at the start of the Great War III. Strong hands that had served him, that had held his wife as she sobbed at the telegram from the War Department, now sat idle in his lap. Sad hands that watched the news take his wife’s will to live, that buried her.
“Reggie, man, you have to keep quiet, man. Don’t say your thoughts too loudly, or they’ll have you out the door as a traitor. I’m you, you know, still you. I’m me. I was…I am, I get so confused these days.”
He moved the food on his plate around in circles. TV food, the folks next door brought TV food to him each night. They said it was okay he didn’t know them. He hated that. They told him names. They had no faces. The food was placed on his TV tray. One plate, one fork, one spoon, one glass of water. His teeth were worn and so his food was precut, mushed by him into the catsup. He took a bite, swallowed, and took another. Food had no real meaning, it just kept him alive. It all tasted the same.
“When’s it morning, old man, when’s morning coming? Not soon enough. Devils on the TV, devils in church, next it will be devils in my home.”
The door to the room he sat in opened and closed. Reggie didn’t bother looking around.
“What do you want now?” he asked. “You don’t normally come for the dishes. Got something for me?”
Whoever had entered the room hissed at him, “Good evening, Reggie.”
“Don’t know why you bother me every night. I’m an old man. Got a devil for president, a war to begin more wars, ain’t nothing going to ever be okay again.”
“Your pain, it seems worse tonight, Reggie. Shall I take it from you?” The stranger moved to the front of the couch. He pushed the plastic container of pills in front of Reggie.
“Pain means I’m alive. I’m an old man. Ain’t nothing going to matter ever again. Leave me alone. I don’t want nothing from you.” He watched the TV change to a game show. “See they roll that wheel and people guess words. Fools always take too long. You want to watch this show with me? I ain’t about to go out with all that fireworks on the news going on.”
“I can take your pain away, Reggie. I can ease the burden of your heart.” The stranger sat down and rested his hand on Reggie’s knee. “I’m worried about you, Reggie, you don’t do anything but watch that idiot tube. The news will make your heart stop, if you keep watching it.”
“Heart stopped years ago when the wife died.”
“Reggie, all you have to do is tell me that I can take your soul to a different plane. But you have to say it.”
“Hell, you think you’re the devil or something? Take my soul to a plane. A plane to a place where no-one gives a damn. Nah, you get out. I’m not going with no devil. I have my own devils inside me. I live my own hell, don’t need to go to one.”
“Heaven won’t come to you, Reggie, not ever. You’ll never find relief sitting here. Come with me, Reggie, you’ll be warm and with family.”
Reggie watched the wheel spin. “Hey, weirdo, you know that phrase right there? Daniel Webster said it.”
“Fine, Reggie, fine. What’s the phrase?”
Turning to the illusion beside him, Reggie laughed and said, “Get the hell out.” He leaned back in his couch and closed his eyes. “Devil wouldn’t want me, I’m too much of a grumpy old Gus. Close the door as you leave. Damn curmudgeon needs his rest.”
The devil stood and smiled. Reggie was one of his favorites. He could bide his time. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Reggie.”
In every building, there is a castle waiting to happen. The lucky one’s make it.
There are days when I wake up and the words race to the page before my fingers realize they are typing. Those are the best days, when I can write 10 poems before 10 in the morning. I love to write. I get my ideas from things I see or read or trip over. The dogs don’t mind those mornings, they get put out and I stand on my deck to see the day while they look for turtles to retrieve for me. Lucky for the turtles, I’m quicker than the dogs when it comes to letting them in.
There are moments when the world crashes in flames around my simple soul. I sit motionless, letting crises after crises take me in sorrow or anger. Raging against injustice is as natural as breathing to me. I’ve been doing it since high school. That’s a long time. The world moves in circles, or perhaps on a pendulum. I’ve been accused of thinking with my heart and not my head, but I use both. You should be glad I do. In my lifetime I’ve seen amazing things. I ponder about my mother whose world has changed even more. She was five years old when WW2 started for the U.S. She remembers sitting around the radio as if it were a television on the seventh of December, 1941. Her grandmother was afraid for the young men whose lives would never be the same. Her mother was worried that her husband would have to go to war. He said he wanted to go, but his telephone company job couldn’t spare him. My mother says she sat watching the adults talk about the evils of Hitler and understood the needed to be stopped.
My memories started with my vision of course, a few flurries of blurred moments. I remember the Cuba incident, the assassination of the heroes of the 60s, transistor radios and the movies. I remember when we got our first TV. I remember when I was 2 and saw Peter Pan on my grandparents black and white tv. We started by sitting on the floor and ended up in laps and on the sofa when the crocodile turned up. I remember Vietnam and my father moving to the other room for his dinner as he watched the news. Walter Cronkite was the man of the hour and told the news as he saw it. Censorship abounded in the 60s. I remember riding on buses. I put together ideas that seemed old as time itself, but in truth were new to my parents too.
When the first man walked upon the moon, I dreamed that someday I would travel to the stars. I dreamed that I would fly upon an airplane over the tossing seas and see parts of the world that were different from my world. In high school, I got the opportunity to fly to Germany. It was very different from the U.S. I think the trip to Dachau was the worst part of the trip and still can’t get the images out of my head. I took one picture. It was sunny and spring. Tulips flowered along the wire fences. The guard towers were empty, but I could imagine the guns aimed in at us. The picture didn’t come out that way. In fact, none of the pictures on that roll of film turned out. There was one picture though. It was night, there were spotlights crossing the yard. A figure knelt by the wire fence. There was a fog. Spooky, yes? It could have been an exposure problem. It probably was, but I was stricken by the idea that emotional turmoil could be held in a place and never really released from it.
Money turned out to be important when having friends. I had very little, my parents investing in books to stimulate our minds and not in junk or stuff. I had enough toys, you can always tell when a child has enough. The floor is covered with things that don’t have a place. So, without the trappings of nice clothes that matched everyone else’s clothes, without the money for hanging out or beer, I found my self in a unique place. I was weird. You all know that of course. I don’t hide the fact. I found myself looking for something I believed in. Music was my passion at the time, but I wanted something different. I wanted to know I had helped the world be a better place.
I argued with my father about his use of the n word. I won. I told him it was unacceptable to call names, even in the car while dealing with incompetents. I explained the history of the world and the significance of the trauma that black Americans faced. I explained how it changed their perspective on the world, one that we as whites could think about but never fully understand. He never used the word again. Mom told me she had a similar fight with Grandma over Brazil nuts. She had done the same thing I did. Mom was in the car for my lecture to dad, my indignant sixteen year old sense of duty and honor offended. I’m sure she smiled while she had her head turned out the window. We were raised to be circumspect and obedient. Raising our voices to our parents was frowned upon, but sometimes, I think my parents were glad to know we were thinking of more than ourselves. It took me in great stead as I grew.
I wasn’t religious. I wasn’t raised within the confines of a religion. When I was twelve, I thought a lot about God. People did weird things in his name. I was like most kids, I would pray for something trivial “Please bring my dog home, he’s run away” and hoped that there was a greater power than mankind. I looked for fervor in my world. What I learned was that there were mysteries we didn’t understand yet, and science admitted it. So I stayed on the outside looking in jealously. I wanted my life to fill that void within me. I could never find it. Where others heard the voice of God, I heard Walter Cronkite. Where others felt at home and comfortable not asking questions, I was still the four year old asking why. What was worse was asking who, what , where, when, and more whys. I never have gotten an answer. The sisters at the College of St. Benedict told me that was okay, that someone needed to ask the questions about faith so that others would think about their own. Lovely women, the sisters. They would talk about things that I needed to talk about. They terrified me. I was shocked the first time I saw a nun in a bathroom. I had never thought about their humanity before. It was their humanity that bolstered the teachings my parents had given me. In the college, there was an air of safety. In the real world, there was again the issue of money. Money seemed to control everything. I vowed I would never substitute money for needed, clean and tidy. Silly me, the world revolves around money.
What was the most important thing I have ever done? I taught. I taught kids of all ages and loved every single one, except one. I don’t know why I couldn’t get along with that child. He seemed to have everything a child should have. Loving parents, good clothes, friends, but he kept ramming people into the water fountain and I had to deal with bloody lips and tears. He kept hitting, for no reason except he was taller and faster than the small kids. Didn’t matter what I said to him, we couldn’t get into a rhythm of learning. I had a wise boss who transferred him to another class where the teacher understood something I didn’t at the time. Bullies need to learn that they can’t bully. Her students took care of it on the playground, she was turned away at the time. But I watched because I was facing her. It solved the problem and the child did really well in her class. His bullying others was symptomatic of a society that had been oppressed and parents that told him it was okay to hit. They meant in self defense, but kids don’t always hear your whole sentence.
I loved teaching. Finding a creative way to do anything was a lovely challenge and my cluttered but organized brain understood a child’s need for tactile, visual, audio, and other stimulations. I hope that the kids remember learning something from me that is important in their daily lives. I wanted them to love learning. I hope they do.
Transistor radios, then high fi systems, and records and tapes becoming discs, the rise of the computers and success of Apple, HP, Dell, IBM all new to me and new to my children at the time. there is a cartoon of a three year old holding a phone and smacking his forehead. The caption reads, “Grandma, it doesn’t matter which finger you use to push the button on your computer, just click on it.” Technology. I never thought I would meet people online from Iran, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Germany, France, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden China, Japan and the rest of the world. I have people I read that live in South Africa, Australia and in the Philippines. I have friends in Mexico. My daughter married a young man that I introduced her to because I met him in a video game called Everquest. I went to a ball called the Labyrinth with her, and he was willing to come meet her in person.
I’ve been greeted coming off a cruise ship with a sign that said, “Hissistor of the Horde.” That’s my nickname, I still use it when I’m gaming. Most of the gamers in the world fall into the category of 40-70 year old women. It’s an escape. We all need an escape.
I wonder what the next thirty years will be like, I’d like to be here to see it. I hope I will, medical advances may keep me around a lot longer than previously predicted. I’m a shut in now that the heat of the summer is here. Virginia is hot, humid and rather unpleasant. My brain reacts badly to heat. My thought processes show, my physical abilities become unpredictable. But in air conditioning, I continue to make rather good progress. So I’m inside until the rains cool things down. I promised the dogs I’d start walking them again when it cools off, they aren’t happy at having just backyard privileges. How many turtles can you find in a backyard, after all? At least no snakes this summer so far.
The world is changing. We’ll change with it and be amazed we do. I hope your day is full of pleasant new discoveries and that all is well in your world.
I was thrilled to see the blossoms of Spring trees over the last month. It brings a lot of random chatter to mind. Chatter that outweighs the squirrels who now bring the feeders to the back door and bang until I fill them. They’ll hang them up themselves soon. I think they have the right idea. If we want something in life badly enough, we should look to be actively working towards that goal. My goals? I want to continue reading everyday. I have two books waiting for my attention. Carl Hiassen’s Bad Monkey and Jonas Jonasson’s The One Hundred Year Old Man, who climbed out the window and disappeared, these sounded so good from the titles alone. It made me scurry to the bookstore clerk and buy them, with all the enthusiasm I learned from the backyard squirrel gang.
My husband has been following Spring training for the Nationals for the first time. He’s an Eeyore who feels like Chicken Little. But the Nats seem to be having fun. I was hesitant to show enthusiasm because if things go wrong, I get to hear about it. I don’t like drama unless it’s on the stage or in a book, so I’ve kept mum. But as the first game of the season came along, I decided to take the plunge and become a number one fan. I failed at being a cheerleader, as I cheered for all of the players from both teams. The Braves vs. the Nationals, and the pitching was fantastic. Both teams were very well coached and gave off that special aura of teams that cared. I’m supposed to stick to one side or the other, but the sportsmanship and the game intensity left me breathless and exhausted at the same time. Life can be like that. It has its showers, and thunder storms, but in the end, I want to be that person that has overcome the storms and played the game to the absolute best I can.
Fatherhood has been on the horizon. The concept of the father who works full time and the son who wants to play ball is about the economic sphere you are in. Look at LaRoche, who left the Nats, and took his golden first base mitt with him. It was in the news for several days because he retired, turned down millions of dollars to be with his son. His family is a baseball family. His father brought LaRoche to watch him practice and play. LaRoche started bringing his son when he was old enough to understand that this occupation was his father’s passion. The son was there, in the dugout and sometimes practicing, with the Nationals and never caused a disturbance of any kind. If fact, he was our good luck intern so that we took the National Baseball East award (is it called something like that?) The year he left, we didn’t win our pennant. But he was told his son wasn’t welcome at his new team. The NEW team’s management thought that his son would be a distraction. So LaRoche quit. Literally, he took his ball and went home. Six months of intensive baseball moments, and they wanted to take that father son balance and remove it from LaRoche’s life. He made the right decision. Boys need their dads. They need to toss a ball around or go biking or have a special moment together. Our society had moved from male to female to mocking males to not understanding why the male image was so hard to maintain. Or sure, being a doctor is nice, but if you have a son, shouldn’t you teach him how to be a man? Shouldn’t Fatherhood and being a man have positive ramifications? My husband worked 60 hours a week, he couldn’t be there for playing ball with my son. It’s one of his deepest regrets. It took my son a while to see what a father is. Hardworking, worried, kind, intelligent, non-apologetic and still involved as much as possible. He sees that the times he thought his dad was ignoring his needs was only part of what his dad did. Both of my children took martial arts and ballet. It was easier for me to involve them in activities that took place at the same time. When it was time for a performance or level exam, the kids would look up and there in the very back was their Dad still dressed for work, grinning his support and never missing a moment. His dad was there. He taught my son patience, even though patience was hard for him. He taught my son to respect women. He taught my son commitment. I know he would have spent more time at home if he could, but like LaRoche, he put his family first and kept us safe and loved. Mr. LaRoche is lucky to have such a wonderful opportunity.
April Fool’s Day is such a silly day. I have trouble thinking of pranks these days. My favorite Fool’s Day was when I came into the family room to tell my kids TV OFF. They had put suction cups on their heads and string tied to the TV and had their tongues hanging out of their mouths sideways moaning like zombies. Heehee, they had been listening.
I loved being a mother of two intelligent kids. They came up with the wildest ideas. A cardboard box was a castle, another was a horse (a great steed), and a big dog became a Princess protecting the dragon while the knight on his steed tried to invade. They could make up anything with whatever items were on hand. Police training was in the front, with bicycle traffic having to follow the officer’s hand signals. If you ran the light, you served five minutes in their jail. Even mothers had to comply. Dinner was slightly delayed as we waited for the traffic of the neighborhood to pass by. Sand was marvelous. We had big trucks and little trucks, Matchbox cars and generic cars, blocks for roadways and buildings, and the kids drove their vehicles around and around. I gave them a sheet and we colored a neighborhood onto it. Now they had a new map, and it was time for The Phantom Tollbooth, a lovely way to teach words and puns, to be read at bedtime. Bedtime followed bath time which had the kids learning to take showers with an umbrella until confidence was gained and they could shower without it. We sang dinosaur songs at bedtime. There was always a book at bedtime.
There wasn’t any data on the impact of language, although my parents had done the same thing for my brothers, sister and I. I grew up reading, my children did also. Now they say a child must hear 150,000 words before they turn 5. I’m sure I gave my children twice that. The future of the world will rest with children who have heard words and have hope, and children who have been ignored because the family was too poor, too tired, and had too few resources. Poverty clones itself. I watched that happen when I taught. Parents who didn’t have the education or opportunities that I had, who had to work two or three jobs to make things work, are facing an uphill battle. Their parents didn’t have time, the freedom from prejudice, or resources. Poverty weighs on your soul. There are strong community leaders out there. People who sit on their porches or in churches or school who help change hopelessness. Families like my parents who believed in the power of books and knowledge. We could change our situation. My mother went to college when we arrived in high school. She worked hard and got her BS, MS and PHD in six years. That was my role model. My children had their father and me. I went back to school when my daughter was in kindergarten. I worked hard and took my children to class if I couldn’t find a babysitter. I earned my Masters. Now both of my children have Masters. Intelligent kids. They’ve outdone me in their aspirations.
Baseball, flowers, kids and random thoughts today. Men empowered. Women empowered. You have to put your best foot forward in life. I like jumping in puddles and hopping. Does that count?