Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, always one of my favorite holidays, came at a good time for me this year. Still reeling from the election results, it was healing for me to stop and give thanks for the good in my life.

My brother, his daughter, and her daughter came down from Iowa for the weekend.  Thursday, we met up with part of my not-related-by-blood family for a wonderful traditional meal, followed by the traditional walk to the Plaza to watch the lights come on, followed by traditional pie. Pie always tastes better when you've earned it!(Have I mentioned I like Thanksgiving traditions?)

Friday, we went up to the Nelson sculpture garden to play #LifeImitatesArt. My sister Julia and I first played this game many years ago when we visited the Smithsonian in Washington. One must become one with the intent of the artist; try to BE the statue. I love the game. We got to be outside in the gorgeous weather (no shopping for me!). Katy got to run off some of her energy. Tony got to play with his camera. We all got to laugh some; to enjoy time together sans electronics. What more could I ask?

I'm finding the old adage to be true: as we age, days take just as long, but weeks and months speed by. The time distortion isn't helped by the frequent time zone switches. Even as I was enjoying the day, I was wondering, "how did we get to Thanksgiving already?  who took October, and where did they put it?"

December is here; I have to turn my thoughts to the bustle of the holidays; to think about shopping, cooking, holiday gatherings, and who is going where and when? I'm totally not ready. Surely, there's a pause button somewhere. I just need a moment or three to catch my breath.

No?  No pause button?  **sigh**
In that case, bring it on! I'll surf the wave, do what I can, let the rest go.

Ready, set????

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Election Blues

For the first time since starting this blog, I've run into a mental wall. I've been wanting to write about my reaction to the election since I woke up to a text saying, "How can this be?????"

But I start to plan my words, and they get stuck.  but, but, but, but, but.... why?????

For the last ten days, I've been obsessively scouring the web for commentary, for articles, for anything to help me understand why 47% of the voters of this country would choose a man who raises the hackles on the back of my neck.

I feel like I'm stuck in one of those dreams where you can see the danger, and you're screaming it to the world, but the world can't hear you.  danger, Danger, DANGER!!!!

He is the embodiment of the type of man I fear.

I can't say I was entirely surprised to find he had won the day. My gut knew he might, though my heart and head didn't want to believe it. I'd even voted Republican in the primary because I was so worried about the possibility - for Kasich, who seemed the best of the bunch. (It was the first time I'd voted a Republican primary ticket.)

As election season wore on, I made it a point to talk to his supporters when chance allowed. I wanted to try to figure out what made them willing to vote for him despite the way he treats women, minorities, his sub-contractors. The answers I got didn't make sense to me - the gist of what I heard is that they were tired of government as it was, and he, as an outsider, would shake things up.

Well, shaken things are.

My heart, for one. If 9/11 was a one-two sucker punch to the gut, this election is a right cross to the jaw. Reading about his first cabinet picks, I feel much as I did the afternoon after the planes crashed into the towers. My world has changed, and changed towards the dark.

I see a path where innocent people are hounded and marginalized, where women's voices are silenced. Where bullying is acceptable; a step backward to a world where it's acceptable to not acknowledge all people are people.

If I can find a positive in this farce, it is this: Racism, xenophobia, misogyny have grown like a cancer beneath the veneer of our society. Lethal, spreading unremarked beneath a cordial surface of code words. Trump stripped away the surface layer, exposing the marauding cells to the light - and they have swarmed to the opening.

Cancer exposed is cancer that can be treated.

I am still afraid. very afraid.

In my fear, since my words won't come, I'm relying on the words of others. I've been going back to the words of one wiser than I, who endured much, who lived anyways:

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” 
― Viktor E. Frankl

I can choose.
I can't cure this cancer of belittlement and hatred, but I can be kind.
I can't change the world, but I can work on loving those in my little portion.
I can't eliminate the ugly, but I can work on behalf of beauty. I can pick up trash in the park,
I can't make it safe (has it ever been?), but I can stand up to injustice when I encounter it.

Be kind anyways.
It's a place to start.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Goodbye, Walter

It was about this time last year that I got one of THOSE phone calls. Our friend Walter had driven himself to the hospital (?!?!) because he suspected he was having a stroke. They checked, and no, it wasn't a stroke, it was worse. It was brain cancer. His right side wasn't responding because the tumor had wrapped itself around one of the nerve centers in his brain.

The hospital he was in didn't have a lot of brain cancer experience, so we worked to get him transferred to KU Med - a premier treatment center. They did more tests, and went in to see what they could see. What they saw was bad - the tumor had spread far enough that it couldn't be completely removed. They took out what they could and woke him up to give him the news.

He was completely shocked by it, and never really recovered - the news put him into a tailspin. They tried a second operation to see if they could get any more of the beast; radiation, chemo. He spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in the hospital and in rehab. We visited several times a week - bringing what food was allowed by the diet they had him on. Often when we came, his other friends were there. Walter was on a dark path. We knew we couldn't walk it for him, but wanted to be with him so he didn't have to walk it alone.

Walter was one of those who lived his life in compartments. In thirty years, I met his family just once; at his mother's funeral. His people lived in different worlds, and he took care to keep them separated.

Shortly after the New Year, his family started showing up more often - one sister in particular started to take charge of his care. Walter was supposed to call us on Tuesday to let us know he was ready to get picked up and taken home. The call never came. She checked him out, took him to her house, and I never talked to him again.

I hate how this story ends. All year, I tried to reach him via text and phone, but he never responded. Yesterday, came the news he is beyond reach.

Walter is one of those friends who came with my marriage, one who I kept when we got divorced. My kids called him Uncle Walter. He had an loud, booming, infectious laugh. He loved the Chiefs and the Royals, dancing, art, getting out of the city into the woods.

I'm sure his sister took good care of him as his world narrowed. My tears this morning are for us who are left behind to mourn his passing from our lives.

I can't cry for him. He is free now. Free from the prison his body had become; free to cheer on his sports teams; to draw and camp and dance the two step once again.  Somewhere, I can hear him laughing again, as I haven't heard since he woke up from his first operation. His laugh is big, boisterous, free. Free!

Go in Peace, Walter.
I will miss you.