We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Losing Daylight

Summer                                                                Monsoon Moon

The big Dodge Ram sits in our garage, so it won’t get hit with hail in case we have a thunderstorm. Nothing says I don’t give a damn like returning a pock marked car to the rental folks. Supposed to go back today.

Kate had a couple of days clear of nausea, then got hit hard yesterday. It’s difficult to describe how debilitating it is to experience this inner discomfort regularly. I can see it. I can sort of imagine it, but she’s dealing with it. No. Fun. At. All. I feel bad for her, with her.

Here in Conifer we’ve already lost 20 minutes of daylight since the summer solstice, 14:59 on June 21, 14:39 today. I go to bed at 9 pm and I can already tell the difference. It’s beginning to get dark now at 9. The darker it gets the happier I am and, as an added bonus, the darker it gets the cooler and wetter it gets, helping sleep and mitigating wildfire probabilities.

Feeling a little sad this morning. Kate and I had an argument last night. It happens, but I never feel good when it does and the feeling lingers. Reminds me that our moods are fickle, sometimes referented, sometimes not, but always changing. Not becoming attached to one mood or another, up or down, being equanimous (yes, it’s really a word. either that or it was made up in our Mussar group) helps level out our moods. Although, I do appreciate both a good up and a good down. Vitality does not lie in sameness.

Looking forward to seeing Minneapolis and friends the first week of August. Groveland Unitarian-Universalist celebrates becoming a Covenanting Community in the UUA on August 4th. They wanted me to come and I’m pleased they do. Like the days in Durango I’ll get a chance to catch up with folks with whom I’ve had long term relationships, seeing Woollies and I hope docent friends as well as the Groveland folks.

Plus, I’m staying at the Millennium Hotel which is on the edge of Loring Park. I lived in Loring Park up on Oak Grove, a wonderful third floor apartment that, thanks to its location on the hill, had a beautiful view of downtown. That was back in 1975/1976. Which is, wait for it, 43 years ago or so. 28. Whoa.

I’ll get to see the statue of famed 19th century fiddler, Ole Bull. When I was chair of Citizens for a Loring Park Community,  we turned down the Daughters of the Sons of Norway who asked us to let them move it somewhere cleaner and safer. Than our neighborhood? Come on. I’ll also get to walk to the nearby Walker Art Museum and the somewhat further away Minneapolis Institute of Arts. When I head to the MIA, I’ll pass through Stevens Park, which was my first home in Minneapolis. I was a live-in weekend caretaker and janitor for Community Involvement Programs. The old Abbott Hospital was right across the street. Lots of Stevens Park stories.

Not to mention that wonderful road trip across the Nebraska plains. Which I actually enjoy when enough time lapses after I’ve done it.

 

Minnesota

Summer                                                                        Monsoon Moon

Got to thinking about my posts about stuff that’s different here in Colorado. Watch for falling rocks and wildlife highway signs, for example. Reminded me of my first years in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

© Superbass / CC-BY-SA-3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons

© Superbass / CC-BY-SA-3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons

I lived in Appleton, Wisconsin for a year before I moved to Minnesota and the first winter there was brutal. Lots of snow, really cold. Just what I had imagined and wanted. I had not anticipated that some folks would take their battery inside at night. Or, that others would have engine block heaters. I’d never experienced local option over bar licenses. Appleton was dry; the county wet. Deer hunting was a season when grudges could be settled. The Great Lakes were a nearby reality, not a distant notion from U.S. history books.

When I moved to New Brighton to go to seminary, it puzzled me, even after a year in Wisconsin that there were posts with electrical outlets at each parking space for the dorm. Oh, the block heater thing again. The epic cold. I still recall translating 20 below zero into centigrade for my Taiwanese roommate. His face? Priceless.

Minneapolis lakesInside the city limits of Minneapolis/St. Paul there are several lakes. Full sized lakes, not ponds or reservoirs, but lakes. This means getting to learn the streets takes a while since many have to curve at some point to go around a body of water. Not to mention, speaking of water, that the Mississippi is the river that runs through them.

Then, most puzzling of all for this Indiana boy used to Indiana and Illinois politics, Minnesotans seemed to actually care about politics. Corruption and cynicism were not the two C’s of government in Minnesota, more like caring and compassion.

Like Wisconsin, Minnesota was part of that strange U.S. creature, the Upper Midwest: Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. All three of these states shared lots of border area with the Great Lakes and the greatest lake, Superior, washes up against all three of them and only those three in the U.S. Also in all three, as you drive north, you enter the northwoods, the arboreal forest that begins in Canada at the edge of the tundra.

Burntside Lake, Ely

Burntside Lake, Ely

This is still wild country, not rich enough in resources, except for the Iron Range of Minnesota, and far enough from the usual transportation routes to be pretty hard scrabble for folks who choose to live there. The exception are those communities that have ports on Lake Superior or Lake Michigan. That’s right, ports. These are lakes with a thriving shipping industry, huge lakers carrying coal, wheat and other goods from state to state and to Canada.

 

Mariposa

Summer                                                                     Woolly Mammoth Moon

Ruth at DomoSuch a sweet kid, that Ruth. When she left elementary school last year and entered Mcauliffe middle school, she was still a child, a fast maturing child, but still looking backward, not yet out of recess and whole day class with one teacher. Over the course of this last school year, she stopped being a girl and has become an adolescent, not quite a teenager yet, but definitely no longer a child. This last year has also moved her further and further from the immediacy of the divorce which has reduced her reactivity, allowing her to concentrate on her academic interests like math and Chinese.

When up here, she cooks, sews, makes art, watches TV, discusses politics, goes to Lake Evergreen for paddle boarding, comes up to the loft and sits in her chair. We talk:

Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
 

ruth-and-hair330As with Joseph, it’s a delight and a privilege to be part of this transition. It’s a miraculous moment, somewhat like a chrysalis. The Ruth that has emerged from childhood is different in substantial ways. More thoughtful. More adventurous. More eager to learn. More engaged with others. More on her phone. Bigger, taller. This turn, from elementary age to middle school age, is captivating. I can see why a teacher might want to focus on this age group.

She recommended that Kate and I watch Lady Bird. We did. What a perfect movie for her, for her time in her life. Lady Bird comes of age, has sex, chooses her own path. When the movies starts, she has a cast, a pink one, on her right forearm. It comes off part way through the movie, a symbol of her increasing growth. I could see Ruth traveling through Lady Bird’s transitions, just as, I imagine, Ruth could, too.

 

Old, but not dead

Summer                                                                         Woolly Mammoth Moon

20180705_07254120180705_072553Sixth dead tree down. All limbed, the slash moved to the road, and Elk Creek Fire Department notified. They have a new program this year. We put slash within 5 feet of the road and in 5 foot or so piles. They’ll come by and chip it. This is not a small deal since the last slash chipping I had done cost $600. Sometime in the next few days I’ll cut all six of them into fireplace sized chunks and stack them.

Just a few stray aspen in the wrong places to fell and I’m done with tree work for the year. I like it. It’s outside, the smell of fresh cut wood, get to use my body, creates firewood and helps give our property a better chance in a very high fire season. I miss the same sort of work that our large gardens in Andover used to give me, but I have no intention of recreating those here. Too hard up here, other things to do. Well, if we had a greenhouse, I’d get back to it. I miss working with plants, with the soil.

20180704_110235A friend wrote about my life here in Colorado. He is, he said, intentionally simplifying, trying to have fewer obligations, yet I’m taking care of dogs, doing more work around the house, cutting down trees and teaching at Beth Evergreen. Now I happen to know that this same guy, who is older than I am, recently completed a show in which he made posters of all the bridges across the Mississippi in the Twin Cities. He has also found a patron who loves his art, so he’s producing larger art works across various media. Not exactly slowing down in that sense. Life in the old lane does force us to make choices about how to use the energy and time we have, but so does every other phase of life. Now though we know ourselves better so we can get more bang for the time and energy.

His comment did give me pause, wondering if I’m ignoring the moment, the actual state of my life. Kate and I were talking about this a couple of days ago in relation to her diminished energy, occasioned by Sjogrens, arthritis and this damned nausea that afflicts her. When we whack down the nausea mole, I’m hoping the other symptoms will give her some rest for a while, especially since her shoulder surgery has been so successful. Even so, we do have to adjust to our current physical and energetic and intellectual reality, and she’s not likely to go back to the energizer mode of yesterday.

20180704_111915Here’s my situation. I have my chronic illnesses, collected along the way. I don’t hear worth a damn, have stage III kidney disease (stable), glaucoma, high blood pressure, an anxiety disorder (which, frankly, is much, much improved), arthritis in various spots. A repaired achilles tendon and a titanium left knee make my legs not what they were. All these are facts. If you ask me, I’ll tell you, though, that my health is excellent. None of this drags me down, either physically or emotionally.

ancora impari

ancora impari

Having said that, my intellectual faculties seem intact though I admit it’s hard to know sometimes from the inside. I’m emotionally more stable, less reactive, have a more nuanced approach to relationships, much of this thanks to the lessons of mussar at Beth Evergreen and the very sensible approach to life that is Jewish culture. THC helps me sleep better than I have in my life. Writing still excites me, makes me feel puissant and I have projects underway, a novel and a collection of short stories, plus an idea for a novelization of the Medea myth. Kate and I have a great relationship, we do a lot of things together, enjoying the years of getting to understand and appreciate each other. Grandparenting is a wonderful life moment.

Right now, in other words, I am old, 71 is past the three score and ten, yet I’m still eager, still curious, still hopeful, still physically able. So for me, 71 is my age, but decrepitude has not captured me yet. It will, if I live long enough, I’m sure, and slowing down, when it becomes necessary, is something I foresee. It doesn’t frighten me, since death doesn’t frighten me. Until then, I’m going to keep plowing ahead, purpose driven and excited about life and its various offerings.

 

 

 

Barely Legal

1968 or so, found by Mary Munchel

1968 or so, found by Mary Munchel

Venn Merging

Beltane                                                                                  Woolly Mammoth Moon

Yesterday two worlds came into contact, even if only briefly. The first was Kate and mine’s current world, the world of the Rocky Mountains and Reconstructionist Judaism, Evergreen and Shadow Mountain. The other was our old world, the world of the Land of Lakes and the Woolly Mammoths, Andover and the Twin Cities.

First, Ode showed up at mussar. Then, Tom and Paul. The middot of the week is grace and reading Rami Shapiro’s book, The Art of Loving Kindness, carried us into a discussion about shabbat as a “counter-cultural rebellion” which encourages living one day a week as if work and worry are not the point of life. Has always made sense to me, BTW, long before Beth Evergreen, but I’ve never acted on it, never observed a sabbath day.

Anyhow the context of the conversation made me realize what a grace-full moment it was for me when Tom, Paul and Mark showed up here in Colorado. It was, in one sense, perhaps even the best sense, ordinary. I knew they would find the conversation fascinating, because it was a conversation we’d been having for over thirty years. How do you live? What about life is important? How can we move ourselves into a more meaningful, graceful, gratitude filled existence?

So that moment at the synagogue smooshed together two venn diagrams, Minnesota and Colorado. And it felt really good. They met Rabbi Jamie. Debra referred to the four of us as the quadruplets, older white haired white guys of similar size and habitus and life.

Then the party moved over to Shadow Mountain. My slow cooker Irish stew was, well, partly there. The lamb was tender, but the potatoes were not. Neither Kate nor I, though she is much more able at it than me, are big on hosting events at our house. Too busy at one point, now a bit less able. But these were friends who would forgive an underdone potato for the  conversation around the table. And the occasional poking of Rigel’s head under their arms.

Kate went to bed, then got up, came out and said, “You have the best friends.” Indeed, I do.

This morning at 8:30 we’ll take off in the giant SUV that Tom has rented. First stop, the Crow Hill Cafe, then The Happy Camper. Maybe the Sasquatch Outpost? Certainly Kenosha Pass, South Park, Fairplay. On down through South Park. Maybe we’ll look at the Rocky Mountain Land Library, maybe we’ll stop in Pagosa Springs for a soak in the hot springs. Not sure. Doesn’t matter.

We’re headed to Durango in the southwest corner of the state. The 416 fire, north of Durango, as of yesterday:

“While residents in two areas were allowed to return to their homes Thursday, the 416 Fire grew to 32,076 acres with no update on containment.

The fire, burning just 13 miles north of Durango, is still being worked by over 1,000 firefighters who are battling this thing from the air and the ground. Burn out efforts, that is, efforts to burn up the fire’s potential fuel, continued throughout the day.” 9News, Denver.

Here’s a link to a Durango Herald article on fire analysts, very interesting.

A leather jacket, leaning on the nose of the plane

Beltane                                                                           Sumi-e Moon

09 11 10_Joseph_0256-1He wore a leather jacket, leaned on the nose of his liaison plane, a dashing aviator surely in his own mind. It was a pose redolent of the early days of World War II when young American men, he must have been 23 or 24 at the time, answered the call. This was the so-called Greatest Generation, looking for adventure after the downbeat thirties, soaked in the dustbowl and post-depression blues.

He told me stories of flying these little planes, sort of air taxis, close cousins to the Beechcraft single prop planes. One time, he said, he was in a huge thunderhead, his tiny plane ravaged by the winds, bucking, twisting, lightning strikes and rain all round. “Never,” he said,”did I want to parachute out of my plane, but this once. And I couldn’t do it.” The air pressure in the thunder head conspired to keep his cockpit door closed.

He told me too of flying under utility wires just for fun and dropping sacks of flour on troops training below to simulate bombs. Then there were the trips flying personnel of the Manhattan Project from place to place. A close brush with the greatest and deadliest secret of the war.

Stillwater, Oklahoma, home of Oklahoma State University, had, has a topflight journalism program and he had graduated from it before joining the then Army/Air Force. He dreamed, he told me once, of buying a boat and traveling the Gulf of Mexico, writing as he went. I wish he had.

counter intelligenceThere was, though, the story of counterintelligence work that soured me on him from a single digit age. As a recruit in this branch of military security, he spied on possible Reds who’d infiltrated the Army. “I made friends with them, then went through their lockers, that sort of thing. I reported back.” A man, I thought as a very young boy, who would make friends with someone in order to betray them is at least morally flawed, certainly not someone I’d look up to. And he was my father. Sure, it was war time. Sure, there were spies. And, sure, someone needed to find them. I just didn’t want one of those people to have been my father. But he was.

He was a distant man, plagued by migraines and allergies. Often we had to tiptoe around the house while he lay in living room in the dark, a cold cloth laid over his forehead. He sneezed. A lot. Used the cache of my brother’s no longer needed baby diapers as soft handkerchiefs.

BiloxiOne year we drove all the way to Biloxi, Mississippi from Alexandria, quite a journey. We rented a room in a motel by the beach while Dad went to an allergy clinic. When he came home from one visit to the clinic, his back looked like hamburger, having been pricked, in orderly rows and columns, with possible allergens. Oddly, I don’t remember, perhaps I wasn’t told, the results of any of these tests.

Meanwhile, we had the beach and that same Gulf of Mexico. I made a point of getting out there.  Even then strange places, different from home, drew me like magnets. I met a boy at the beach. We both had trucks and cars that we drove on roadways we made in the sand.

It was not long after a fireworks celebration had been held beach side and unexploded or partially exploded fireworks lay everywhere. We were boys. An opportunity offered itself. Soon we were opening small firecrackers, bottle rockets, fountains and scraping out the black powder.

fireworksWe made a little pit and filled it with black powder, then placed a plastic dump truck over it. We’d both seen movies where the fuse was a line of gunpowder so we made a small crevice in the pits side and dribbled black powder in a thin line away to what we calculated was a safe distance. Lit it.

Nothing happened. I imagine the sand was damp, dampening the powder, but that didn’t occur to us at the time. He, I don’t remember his name, offered to put a match to the powder under the truck. We really wanted to see that truck go up. He did. It worked, blowing up the small truck in spectacular, wonderful fashion. His thumb, too.

We went home and Biloxi was a bizarre memory, my Dad’s hamburger back and my friend’s thumb gone. When Katrina took out the Biloxi waterfront, I thought about that week.

Dad made me shine his high topped shoes every Sunday morning, a task I hated. He gave me a quarter for it, later thirty-five cents. I mowed the lawn, too, with a cranky push mower. He never did it himself. Paint the fence. Salt the weeds in the interstices of the bricks in our sidewalk. Carry buckets of water up from the basement that flooded predictably. He made me do these things, never explained them, never did them himself, save for the carrying of the buckets and then only with me. I know, hardly child abuse. I’m pointing here to the underlying, assumed authority of father that rested in his heart.

father2I have no warm memories of him. No moment of, God, I’m glad this guy is my Dad. Mostly my memories are blank, him lying on the floor, watching television, eating. Memories devoid of emotional valence.

When I began to do well in school, well enough that I would become my class’s valedictorian, he told me, “Grades aren’t everything. It’s how you get along with people that counts.” Not that it wasn’t true. It is. The lack of validation was what left a hole.

Even then I pushed back against authority, his, scout leaders, the school system. He wasn’t able to distinguish critical thinking and willingness to challenge authority from a defective personality. He didn’t see that I was tight with my peers, that they constantly chose me for leadership roles precisely because I was willing to say and do the things they only thought about.

Later, he bailed me out of a drinking related expulsion from campus when I was a junior. He bought me a car, a Volkswagen Beetle, so I could commute to school which was 20 miles away in Muncie. I moved back into my old room, ashamed. Even in this incident, my fault, I don’t recall warmth, only fulfillment of duty on his part.

father estrangementIt led to the rupture that mattered the most. I was at home, my hair was long, early Beatle’s long, which was not very, even for the day. He asked me one day, “Charlie, are you a homosexual?” Long haired musicians were often considered gay in those days. I laughed.

“No.”

“Well, then, cut your hair or get of my house.” That was the last time I was in Alexandria, or talked to him for over ten years. Sure, I was misguided, abrupt, overreacting. Yes. But, and this was the lesson I took from this incident, I was the child. He was the parent. It was his responsibility to find a way over the gap, a gap he had created out of his Roosevelt Democrat, communist hating paranoia. He never did.

He was not an absent father in the sense of not coming home at night, of always being unavailable due to hobbies or travel. He was an absent father in his heart, walled in, tucked away behind the moat of his early childhood, his own father’s abandonment. From the vantage point now, years long past look different of course. I can see the roots of his difficulty, even be moved by them. But their work was done a long time ago, long before I knew I could rewrite my narratives.

father driftMaybe it could have gone differently. Maybe. But it didn’t. With Mom dead young and Dad unable to cope I felt, though only in retrospect, like a rudderless boat. Navigating that craft through the astonishing turmoil and wonder of the sixties was difficult. In a real sense I failed.

It took into my thirties, with treatment for alcoholism and long term Jungian analysis, to regain the helm. This was not Dad’s fault. I’ve come to believe that no matter what the circumstances of our childhood, when we’re least able to shape our own lives, we alone are responsible for our adult lives. It’s our task to find, in whatever way we can, the tools necessary to give us a life of our own making.

This is the essence of reconstruction. We cannot wish away or abandon our past; it will be and is what it was. Yet the interpretation, the hermeneutics of that past is ours. Would that Dad had had the chance to reconstruct his own story, to dig out the bravery it took to live a life in spite of Elmo’s sudden disappearance, to join the military, to raise a child with polio. These are not trivial accomplishments, but somehow they did not shape him. I don’t know why.

 

 

 

 

Hoping for a good result

Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon

Incheon International Airport

Incheon International Airport

Sister Mary reports high levels of security in Singapore. She’s eating lunch at a mall near the St. Regis Hotel where at least one of the principles will stay.

I hope Trump succeeds. And, if he does, I’d vote for him for the Nobel Peace Prize. If I could. With a Korean daughter-in-law and a son in the Air Force who spent a year deployed in Korea this is personal. Not to mention Mary has spent most of her adult life in Southeast Asia, Mark much of his. Peace in Korea would make the world a safer place and improve the lives of many Koreans.

Joseph bought me a chunk of barbed wire taken from the Korea DMZ, the line that separates the two Koreas, established at the end of hostilities when the armistice took hold. We didn’t make it up there though I hope to on a return trip to Korea.

20160406_152903On the ground in South Korea a vital and energetic economy has created a vibrant country with feet both in the world of Samsung and the past. Riding on buses or trains through the country side, ancient tombs dot the hillsides. We visited this palace/fort in a city near Seoul. The procession of women in hanbuk at the international airport in Incheon, with the Bottega Veneta and a moving walkway in the foreground brings the two worlds together.

SeoAh's mother and sister in Hanbuk at the wedding

SeoAh’s mother and sister in hanbuk at the wedding

So did Joseph and SeoAh’s wedding. Like all instances of American foreign policy we’re not effecting exotic people in strange lands, but real people with daily lives that focus, like ours, on family, work, hopes, dreams. Every culture deserves a chance to live its way of coping with these matters without the threat of extinction.

In spite of my antipathy toward Trump, look at the embarrassment of the G7, this is not about him, but about the future of a people who have become important not only to my current life, but to the life that will follow after I’m dead.

 

 

 

Living With Father

Beltane                                                                  Sumi-e Moon

father's dayFather’s day is coming. It’s a weak second to the emotional powerhouse of Mother’s day, but for symmetry reasons, I suppose, it exists. My father didn’t know best. He wasn’t the wise, supportive counsel that a struggling, grief stricken teenager needed. Fatherhood as a single father after my mother’s death was a bridge too far for this closed off man, stuck in his tidy traditional understandings.

It was a tough moment for him. When she died, I was 17, my sister 12, and my brother 5. He tried. He had no choice. The house was still there. We were still there, us three kids. We had growing up to do. And now he was in charge of it all. Food, school, counsel, love.

Looking back through the long telescope of advancing age, my own, I can understand that it would have taken a much different man than my father ever was to embrace the difficulties and make a new reality for all of us. This is not a criticism of him, just a statement of fact. Emotional skills needed to handle a grieving family? Nope. Grasp of children’s ordinary struggles? Nope. Awareness of his own pain and an ability to find help with it? Nope. Daily work, cash for the family, that sort of steadiness? Yes. Bless him for that. Without it our little family would have foundered completely.

father's day 3Not all who are called respond to a challenge well. I’m sure he wanted to, sure he tried. Perhaps in a sense this revisits the question yesterday about the universe having our back. My own father didn’t have my back, so it’s tough to see the universe doing better. Like the universe I believe my father offered what he could,  as well as he could. It didn’t measure up. From this distance I’m sure there’s no reason to doubt his good intentions. His intentions were restricted by a fatherless upbringing, by a sturdy German understanding of family and authority, by a belief in his primacy as father in a 1950’s post-WWII household. We needed flexibility, outright love, much patience. As did he.

We all failed. I wish I could write this into a stirring testimony of his secret strengths, the things unknown even to himself that made things ok, but I can’t. It was a tragedy, a long, rolling tragedy, that continues to claim its own pain.

father's day 4Perhaps one incident can stand in for all those years. In 1991 or 1992 my new wife, Kate Olson, Joseph and I rented an RV and took a trip that included a visit to Alexandria, my hometown. By this time, almost thirty years after my mother’s death in 1964, Dad had remarried. When Raeone and I adopted Joseph, I made a concerted effort to reconnect with Dad, believing that Joseph needed to know his grandpa. It was rocky from the beginning, but both of us, Dad and me, tried.

We had a new schism during my divorce from Raeone, harsh words were exchanged and I wrote him a letter pulling back. With Kate in my life I wanted her to meet him, to have another shot at Joe and him developing a relationship, hence the trip. When we got to Alexandria, Dad told us we’d need to meet him downtown. Rosemary wouldn’t let me in the house. I suppose she was taking Dad’s side, trying to be supportive, protective.

But he didn’t challenge her. Didn’t fight to be back in our lives. We took a walk around downtown, he put his arm over my shoulder, clearly wanting to be closer, but unwilling, as he had been most of the time since mom’s death, to reach for the courage to make it happen. He wouldn’t confront Rosemary, make her allow us into the house in which I was raised.

Turkey Run hiking trajil

Turkey Run hiking trail

When we left Alexandria that afternoon, I knew our father and son relationship, as a living thing, was over. We went to Turkey Run State Park, a couple of hours or so from Alexandria, found a spot for the RV and parked for the night. After we’d parked, I put on my running clothes, shut the flimsy aluminum door and took off running the trails in the rain. I cried, I shouted, I protested, I ran and ran and ran until I was exhausted. It was the next to last time I saw Dad before his funeral some 15 years later.

Father rewriteOver the last 8 weeks in the qabbalah class on time we discussed how to rewrite these kind of  narratives of our past so they lose their power to harm us. I believe with Dad I did this long ago by abandoning my notion of him as a superhuman who should (note: should) have been able to heal all our wounds and nurture us into our best selves. I also abandoned my false hero notion of myself or either of my siblings needing to take on that role, covering for his inability. We were all fallible, all wounded by mom’s death and trapped by the stories of our time. We did the best we could, all of us, even Dad. It was not adequate, but that’s the way life turns out sometimes.

I chose to do what I could to see that my sons had an available father, one who showed them love, even in the hard times. It’s not been easy, though it’s been nowhere the emotional drama of my nuclear family. I hope neither Jon nor Joe have a reason at any point to run the labyrinth of their own lives trying to leave me behind. Blessed be.

Sad. Conflicted.

Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon

decoration-day-190x300Memorial day. Means honoring war dead and veterans. Means the 500 mile race in Indy. Means parades.  Means heat and sticky asphalt depressing under the weight of tanks and half-tracks in small towns.

In my immediate family. Mom and Dad both veterans of WWII. Mom overseas in Algiers and Italy. The Casbah, Capris, Johan the ceramic dachshund. Dad flying liaison planes, dropping sacks of flour as “bombs” for training, ferrying Manhattan project scientists, flying under utility wires for fun, getting caught in a thunderhead, wanting to jump but unable to open the door due to air pressure.

Joseph, now a major, serving longer than either one. A weapons officer. Calling a B-1 bomber to overfly North Korea during his deployment there. Directing bombers over Libya during the elimination of Qaddafi’s regime. Meeting SeoAh in Seoul, spilling coffee on her. Training flights, check rides, top secret security clearances. Now considering what his next career move might be. Could be part of any action in Korea.

weapons school graduation

weapons school graduation

And me. In the struggle against the Vietnam War, before Iraq and the forever war in Afghanistan our stupidest military intervention. Embarrassed now at the fact that I took some of my anger out on U.S. military folk. They act under orders and we need them for defense. They don’t choose where they fight. The evil bastards were the McNamara’s, the Cheney’s, Bolton’s, Wolfowitz’s. They were war mongers, playing out their racist, jingoist fantasies with the lives of my son and others like him. Let me say that again. Bastards.

I remember all of this on Memorial Day. The great sadness of rows and rows of crosses decorated with flags. Speeches made in cemeteries where lie those sacrificed to Ares. War planes flying over head, bands playing America the Beautiful, the National Anthem. Old women with sashes and young children waving small flags. The colors marching on before.

memorial day casbahConflicted. Glad beyond words that the Nazi’s dream died and at the hands of some of us, my parents included. Glad that Korea, South Korea, remained free so Joe could meet SeoAh, who grew up in that same Korea. Glad that we are strong, able to defend our homeland. Wary, but sometimes proud, that we can intervene on behalf of others. Angry that we too often spend lives and treasure in pursuit of one ideology or another, ideologies held by crass men like Trump and his kind. The Bannon’s and the Pompeo’s. There is no clear yes, no clear no, only a muddy world in which bad things happen to good and bad people alike.

Yes, I remember. On Memorial Day. These things.

 

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