Beltane and the Island Moon
Sunday gratefuls: Murdoch. My deepening understanding of what family means. These Islands. The Beach. The deep blue Sea. The Sky above and the Earth below. Critters. Here six inch slugs on the pillar of Joe’s patio this morning. That silly walk Cattle Egret. The darting shades of yellow and orange. The jaunty Brazilian Cardinals who bob and weave in their hunt for food. Plants, so many plants. Green in all its shades and hues. The eye which lets me see and the ear which lets me hear. Sort of. The fingers which let me touch.
Sparks of Joy and Awe: The quiet of the holiday, a memorial for those who served celebrated amongst those serving. Sacrifice. The warrior spirit.
An odd day yesterday. Joe’s toothache went from annoying to awful. Due to military bureaucracy his care demanded shifting from a Navy dentist to an Air Force one. Unsatisfactory results all round.
He came home in pain with no real solution offered. After four hours or so of shuttling between buildings, care by a dentist whose chairside manner came from a grumpy old man across the street handbook, and a walk home, Joe was down. In pain and no assurance that it would get better.
Mary, Seoah, and I sat with him, commiserating, complaining about the system, about the dentist. “Tooth pain is awful.” Stories of our own toothaches and their eventual resolutions. He laid down on the couch.
Together we binge watched Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Seoah made popcorn. Off and on Joe slept. Later, when he said he felt a bit better, Mary offered, “I think having his dad nearby helped.” Oh.
Thought of Kate after I’d spent a whole night on the bench near her bed. “It made me feel better to look over and see you there.” The power of presence. Of love. Of history.
Family and its bonds. The mystic bonds of memory. The comfort we give each other by being there. Showing up. Holding hands or hearts. And, minds. Irreplacable. The neighbor is not the father or the mother. The friend is not the son or daughter. The wife. The husband. Important, significant, meaningful, yes, but not. Family. One of those human matters that requires poetry, not Hallmark sentiment.
Even in death family continues. Kate sits beside me this morning as I write, informing my words, whispering in my ear. I whisper back, “Love you.”
I did not know these things as I grew up. Our family, as I remember it, our nuclear family, was a version of these things, yes, but pallid, at best a pastel version. Not sure why. It wasn’t bad or harmful. Just not very vivid. To me.
The extended family, Keatons and Ellises, Morristown Indiana and Oklahoma, was a bit more vivid. But not much.We had our separate orbits around the suns of ancestry, each family, and we knew we were in the same solar systems, but interplanetary travel was mostly limited to holidays and the occasional reunion.
Each of us is his or her own memorial day, every day, every minute. Those who lived and died beside us carried in our hearts, not forgotten. Some are inspirations, ongoing support and love. Some are ghosts, haunting our days and nights. Kate’s mother Rebecca was such a ghost, a toxic spirit whose presence never let her sleep well. My grandfather, Charlie Keaton, is an imp, a trickster figure. Uncle Ike a solid mountain of unconditional love.
In this sense a nation is like a family. It has its heroes and it villains. Its Lincolns and its Trumps. And their spirits help us imagine how we might manage this trouble or this moment of triumph.
On this memorial day (I know the government says it’s tomorrow. But this date is the one hallowed in me by years of observance.) we might consider who is in our pantheon, whose spirits travel with us on this pilgrimage from birth to death. Are they benevolent or sinister, helpful or harmful?
How do their voices, their stories shape our understanding? Can we change our reactions to them? We probably cannot change their presence, but we can choose how we react to them.
In memoriam: Curtis, Gertrude, Kate, Merton, Rebecca, Mable, Charlie, Virginia, Riley and that other great cloud of witnesses who now speak at least through me. Perhaps you too.