Monday, April 21, 2014

A Little Wallow

I am sad, little baby. The smile that was once mine, no more.

I am sad, little sunshine. You walk in hurried step away, away from my door.

I am so sad to go unnoticed, preening in vain.

I am sad my sadness is foolish, wasted pain.

What is this layer between us? When did it arrive? How can I dispel it?  Pest, weed in its thrive.

A little wallow for today.

I am too prideful to let more than this show.

I am so sad, my little baby, to watch you, watch you go.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Cold Water for a Lost Son

Each year, I find some strand in the fabric and focus on it, keeping it in front of me for all the days of Lent and - when possible - from there forward. It's complicated, obviously. The Easter thing, Lent, the whole thing. There is so great an intimacy with pain and faith pressed into this ritual, if you tried to consume it all - even academically - at once it would make your head infinitely spin.

So as an adult, having come upon the need to reflect at about the same time I realized there was no way to ever resolve my complex feelings about the season, I set upon a different, more directed system.

This year I was particularly drawn to finding connection with the loss of a son.

It has left me sad and serious, filled with doubt.

I wonder how a deity could offer his son in sacrifice for the benefit of others. Would I do the same? Would I watch my child's deep pain, his abandonment, abuse and injury and not intervene? Could I allow him to accept my order to lose himself so that others might be found? As a deity would I know for certain that I could get him back? What if I had erred? Did the Lord have any of these doubts as he cast His son to the wicked?

Even while I have had this on me, in me and consuming my thoughts, I've held it all at bay, because I can honestly say I'm not strong enough to think about it any more deeply than what an arm's length examination allows. The loss of my own
son would ruin me in ways I am certain I am too feeble to even imagine.

I know I would doubt. I would doubt and likely choose, selfishly, cruelly, to keep my son to myself. I am weak, even though I convince myself of a real and abiding faith. I suppose we should all be grateful I'm not the gal who had to make the call. Then, too, we should be grateful that the truth is the truth and we shall all know it, whether for good or worse, some day.

I gave up hot water showers during the days of Lent. This, because I was trying to find a way to remind myself daily of the shock and despair of a lost son, so that I could in some tiny way empathize with that pain and bring myself closer to the true sacrifice. I failed, obviously, because I still can't take in that searing pain; no cold water could compare.

I am humbled (often) but always on this day as I am, again, unworthy of such sacrifice on my behalf and unable to recompense for such loss.

Perhaps I won't return to the hot-water shower tomorrow as I had planned.

Perhaps I could endure just one more day of cold water for a lost son.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Let's Take a Ride on the Bus

I don't like this bus. It's dirty and the driver is impolite. 
...Got it. Here's this cool, clean bus with innovative seating and newer PA systems.
There are not enough seats on the cleaner bus.
...O.K. Let's hold a public lottery to see who gets to be on the newer bus with the polite bus-driver. 
Umm. Excuse me? Sir? I'd like to be on a clean bus.
...Fine. Complete this fill-in-the-dot test correctly. If you only get 1 in 100 wrong you can step to the front.

I'm not particularly good at fill-in-the-dot.
...Please display some musical talent or throw a ball. 
I've never taken music lessons and I'm not very athletic. Is there any chance I can get on a better bus?
...No. You 'regular' people - - (holds nose) - - please step up to the dirty bus with the bad driver. 

That's not fair!
...Try being more open-minded to change. You're not suggesting I should only aspire to a dirty bus with an impolite driver are you? 

If we begin with the premise that the answer is not to clean and secure the first bus, the bus that everyone can take, we will always be at odds. The results will be devastating and here's why: all these buses end up in the same terminal. We will all be living in a society with people who've been subjected to these tests and filters and I can assure you there will be hell to pay in a community where the have-nots have had it with the haves. Check your early American history for a description of the hell. Don't fool yourself into believing that everyone will move on and forward, quietly swallowing the inequity. Eventually, this thinking always fails.

Charter schools? Not the answer. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sometimes It's Right to be Crazy

So you hold our citizens hostage for over a year and in response we don't give you permission to travel to our country. And you're walking out of that deal feeling offended? I'm not sure you should be a negotiator for a living.

The Chicago Tribune today reports that Hamid Aboutalebi will not be granted a visa to enter the U.S. Mr. Aboutalebi is the person Iran has named to represent their country as a United Nations Ambassador. He also happens to be a guy who participated in the hostage crisis that for 444 days kept 50+ innocent Americans trapped inside the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. OH! You're a diplomat now?

Sorry, Mr. Aboutalebi. There are consequences.

When you terrorize, brutalize and bully my brothers and sisters for over a year, ruining them and their families, and then continue a pattern of arrogance and defiance toward me, you do not deserve a soft admonition and a short attention span.

If Mr. Obama was even tangentially involved in beating, starving and terrorizing a group of Iranians for over a year would he be received with good grace and a handshake in Tehran? What message does Iran send to our country when this individual is selected to be their chief diplomat?

It may well be a violation of some rules to refuse this visa and there may be consequences to using legislation in this manner. That's fine. The first message that should be coming from this stance is: our commitment to justice does not mean you can use our rules to your benefit and our detriment. That would be crazy. The second message that should be coming out loud and clear is: we know crazy and you do not want to test our crazy.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I Remember Your Mother

My old boss' mom just passed away. She was about a million years old, I think. (OK - almost 102! - but that's really, really OLD.) I hadn't seen her since the late 90s and, as luck would have it I was unable to join the family in sitting Shiva, a custom this old Catholic rather appreciates.

So I didn't get a chance to hug my boss and tell him how I love him and am thinking of him. I didn't get a chance to hug his wife or his daughters and I didn't get to share the stories or smile at others' recollections. I didn't get a chance to tell my boss: I remember your mother.

When I first started working for this boss he was at the very top of his game - young, ambitious, not a little bit cut-throat. You had to be in his line of work, and I was at once attracted to and a little repelled by the force with which he managed to shut people down or inject frenetic action into a room. A warrior, he was, fully armed and charged for battle every day.

That is, until his mother called.

You could almost hear the armor falling behind him, clanging like abandoned toys as he would turn and walk to his office.

'Ohhhkaaayyyy,' he'd heavy sigh and, head hung, trot off into the dark, wood-paneled room, casting aside piles of files and urgent messages to hear her admonitions, answer long, thickly-accented questions, and so on.

When he was in a particularly brave mood, my boss would ask me to ask her if he could call her back - never 'tell', just 'ask'. Over the years as she and I got to know one another, she'd sometimes rather prefer to speak to me than to him.

"Don't bother him. He's busy, I know," she'd tell me.

So we'd chat for a moment or two and without fail, most of her chatter was about her son - asking me if he was eating enough, in rain if he was carrying an umbrella, in brisk weather whether he had a scarf, boots to keep his feet dry.

Here was her son, just fifteen feet from me, talking to some of the greatest captains of industry, a stone-and-steel expression on his face, critical transactions being bandied about the office, stacks of importance against every wall and the constant ringing and clacking of a busy, busy operation...

And here I was, reassuring his mom that the boss had a sandwich and that I would send him home with warm, dry clothing. There was so much humanity and vulnerability in her need to watch over him even in that late stage of her parenting, and there was so much grounding in knowing that part of his life. I've sat across from millionaires often in my life since then, and always I smile to myself wondering if their moms call their offices to check on their well-being.

I'm a mother now and I have a son. I cluck and fuss after him and try to make sure he's eating well and staying warm. Every so often, as the winter months forge new generations of Chicago survivors, I pull my son to me and wrap a warm scarf around him and give him a kiss because I love him so, so much.

And, EB, I remember your mother.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Truth: Why I Am a Cub Fan And Always Will Be.

"I feel sorry for you," they say to me. "Why on God's good earth are you a Cub fan?"

Because I remember the truth.

I remember sitting on Ricardito's lap. He smelled like soap. I'd begin to doze, plays and pitches running softly in my dreams. And then UP, prompted to a full sit - sometimes an unintended stand - as a particular play might warrant.

"Mira eso chica!" would ring out behind a "Hey Hey!" or a "Holy Cow!"

I remember my mom pointing to her elementary school literally shadowed by the giant walls where, inside, our team played. "You were born a Cub fan," she'd smile at me, revealing sacred lineage.

Dave Kingman hit a grand slam at my first game. I can close my eyes today and feel the rush and roll of 30,000+ fans coming to their feet as he rounded the bases. I define exhilaration by that memory.

Every baseball fan has their memories, their moments that connect them to their team. In that way, mine are no exception. These are just some of my favorites.

The difference for me is that I believe the experience of being a Cub fan is a commitment to the truth like no other fan experience is.

The truth is I can't remember how many games the Cubs won when I sat on Ricardito's lap. I remember love. I can't remember if we won that game that Kingman slugged his way through. I remember jumping up and down, cheering him home, blurred with bliss.

The truth is, most days you're not the champion. You do not strut into the office, applause propelling you to great and further success. Most days you're mediocre, you're regular.

But you get up and do your job. You brave it, no matter the deficit you bring to the morning. You don't just do that one day. You do that every day. And you love through that and smile and celebrate through that and you feel joy. That, after all, is your life.

There is no great glory in the winner winning.  He is already cast in gold. The truth is, after a time, he bores.

But the day the faltering arrives - when tired and defeated he succeeds - oh joy! What love there is in that moment!

You can't be committed to the outcome if it's known to you. You have to struggle - even when you're beaten down again and again, you have to get up. Get up and get up with a full heart. Go at it full steam again. Today might be your day! That is why you live. That is living.

Most days I'm not a winner. I'm just plugging away, doing the best I can. But some days - some close-your-eyes-and-smile-just-before-the-tears-come days - some days I am a winner. A screaming, jumping, joyful winner.

That's why I am a Cub fan. In my lifetime I will be that witness. I will see that game and I will feel that thrill that only a Cub fan can feel and I will share it with all those who know, like I do, what the truth is. And if you're not like us and you're not committed to that truth...

The truth is, I feel sorry for you.

Monday, March 24, 2014

On The Drive

I'm not a patient driver.

I'm not a patient, driver.

I said this to myself once one way, once the other, over and over.

Oh for the love of spinning and sins MOVE your damn car!

I was trying to get out of a parking spot in a crowded little grocery store - it's ethnic and chaotic but it has the best fresh bread around and carries the neck- bones I need for my sauce (which they don't have at the big chain - bah!) so I had to go there even though it was Sunday midday and I knew the lot would be a mess because people who like good bread and neck-bones simply don't know how to drive, honestly!

The man coming into the parking lot had used the entire driveway to position himself into my spot after I left, without giving consideration to the fact that I couldn't get out whilst he occupied the whole space, fence to fence like a woman wearing a dress that had long passed the saucy and gone on to press embarrassingly against her seams.

Making matters worse, he was waving at me impatiently to move out of his way. I had words with the air between us, let's say.

Finally, I escaped!

As I passed, I saw he was an older, grandfatherly man. He smiled at me, tiredly, through the grey of our tinted glasses and I wondered what she'd sent him to the store to get and how many trips alike he'd made in his life.

Not three blocks away I was caught again. Slowly, painfully the silver tin-can-car in front of me plodded. Brakes for no reason. Stops. Stifles. Starts.

'Oh Peter!' I called in vain.

Finally, again, escape!

As I passed, I saw she was a middle-aged woman, clearly frantic, her husband seated patiently as passenger-teacher beside her. I could see she had even skin and a soft swoop in her hair, caught in a tidy bun behind her. She was dainty - not meant for Chicago streets.

And then, now, how brave she must be, to be learning something new at this time in her life.

I continued my hurry home.

To eat and enjoy the warmth of my family, reflecting all the while on the drive.