Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Gym for me in 1964 was an equal mixture of the illogical, the embarrassing and some mold for a touch of seasoning. I was short and pudgy in the tenth grade-true I sprouted a foot and thinned out the following year but it doesn't change this memory. I can still see this long thick rope suspended from the top of the gym which was shrouded in mystical clouds. I am standing lamb to the slaughter like bahing with my doomed classmates awaiting humiliation. Two strangers stood on either side of the rope and it was explained by my gym teacher, Mr. Gaurlauf,that if I lost my grip 30 feet in the air and came plummeting to the earth like a moldy comet (ok I should have washed my gym uniform) these two total strangers were going to sacrifice their life for me by getting in between me and the floor. My only question was "Why?'-why would they do this? It was all a charade anyway because I couldn't lift myself one inch off the ground-not then-not now. If heaven has a rope ladder, I'm screwed. So Mr G. wrote something in a notebook and I had to run around the gym thinking is the adult world that I am about to enter really this illogical? If I could climb the rope ladder to the top of the gym ceiling I would be part ape -part Adonis and in no need of climbing ropes and if couldn't climb the rope it would not help me in the least to get in shape.So my head is swirling with these crazy conversations with Plato about the search for logic when I get out of the shower draped in a towel and return to my locker only to find in empty. Here I am naked exploring the depths of embarrassment asking My gym teacher to find the thief who cleaned out my locker.We went around with a master key and he opened the lockers while everyone wondered who the thief was-it was CSI Beacon with Det. Gaurloff and his naked assistant Toodles. Finally the master key opened the locker to reveal all my belongings. The problem was that there was no thief-he had opened my locker.I can still see the look on the gym teacher's face. I tell you this story because it is my mission in life to spread hope. A wonderful woman actually married me years later and we have two wonderful daughters, a noble , fun loving son-in-law and a granddaughter so enchanting I walk around spellbound.Now, there is a reunion next year and I am going to walk into that gym go up to that rope hanging from the ceiling and set it on fire
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I switched my day off with the complicity of my boss too Friday and beginning in a few weeks I will be Samaya's babysitter on Fridays when Laurel is subbing at a nearby Montessori school. We will watch old movies and I will teach her how to play pool and tell her improbable stories about friends who are shadows over my shoulder. We will laugh until we pee our pants and plan train trips over the Canadian Rockies. But most of all I will thank he-just thank her.
Samaya from the sky
Samaya from the earth
Samaya from the sea
Here now she reigns
A queenly emissary from the Kingdom
Saying “See my honour and nobility”
In the miniature mirror of my eyes
Turn around and see the “threading lights”
Of my thousands of mothers and fathers
Turn around again and see the shore of time
Covered with “corals and pearls”
“I am the thread of life
With one hand I touch the past
With the other hand I touch the future”
Monday, September 21, 2009
We all seek heaven. We might not call it by that name, but we all seek it. For some heaven is straight up and turn left at the Pearly Gates. For others it is the memory of yesterday or the hope of tomorrow.
When I was a child, my mother assured me that ice cream was plentiful and free in heaven. A cold peace enveloped my young heart on that long ago hot summer’s day. Speaking of cold,
Again, who is to say what it is or isn’t? The bible says His mansion in the sky has many rooms. Perhaps we will all have our own room and get together for lunch in a gigantic cafeteria which calls to mind the day I saw heaven while eating lunch in a much smaller cafeteria.
My work entails bringing brain injured clients to a day program run by a private foundation called SteppingStones. Everything takes place in a rambling modern community building honey combed with social and charitable organizations. The diverse groups all share a common lunch room. A SteppingStones member who was hit by a car as a child was being fed his lunch by his caregiver. Food was dripping down his chin unto his bib and he could not clean his own face or even ask for it to be cleaned. Except for one arm that seemed to have a life of his own, he had little control over his own body, but he had total control over his own heart.
For some mysterious reason he has become the friend of a group of three year olds who attend a pre school in the corner of the cafeteria. After they finish their lunch they gather around their wheel chair bound friend. They tell him all about their day and are not bothered that he is unable to answer them or that bits of food fall off his bib unto the floor. After all, they have the same problem.
And then I saw heaven. The young man in the wheel chair raised his one usable arm and it settled softly like a broken winged bird on a little girls shoulder. She smiled up at him and he smiled down at her.
So here is what I know about heaven. Life is made up of moments and some of those moments are pure heaven, but you need to look carefully for them because sometimes they happen in a crowded lunch room and if you are always looking up, you may never see them. I suggest looking sideways. I also believe they serve free ice cream in heaven because my mother told me so.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
This past Tuesday we had to put together and record a fifteen minute program including station announcements and a live interview without any help. My friend and client did great and I really am proud of the proposed show that will be judged by the radio board to see if it is air worthy. If they give us our own show we will owe our teacher John Lovering everything. He was the soul of patience and an incredible instructor. He taught science at a local High School for thirty six years and it showed in his patient skill. As the weeks went by this tutoring job became personal and he began telling us how much he believed in the show. After one session he opened up about his own past and his own unlikely survival from spinal cancer. There was a time years ago when he was paralyzed for fourteen months slowly fighting his way back to his feet and his classroom. At the end of one school day he received a call from his doctor in Boston asking that he and his wife drive down the next day for serious consultation. A cold chill came over him and he kept asking why did they did to see him. Finally he was told that his latest skeletal x-ray disclosed fourteen tumors-one had already cracked a rib and another one was growing behind his right eye. At that moment he could only see suicide as an option and he knew exactly how to end his life. There was a stretch of road on the interstate where he could drive his car into the river. He began to speed up only to notice that someone was tailgating. His innate kindness prevented him possibly startling the driver into an accident so he sped up reaching eighty miles per hour and still the tailgater was right on his bumper. In a flash the stretch of land by the river that was exerting a gravitational pull on him like a Black Hole was now in his rear view mirror and its deadly power waned. The tailgater actually passed him going eighty plus as John slowed his car and his mind and returned to his wife and home. The moment had passed and thirty years later he stood before us a vigorous senior citizen with a baby face and timeless kindness in his eyes eager to help us and perhaps help someone out there listening who needs help just for a moment to escape the pull of their own personal black hole. Our teacher has promised to stay with us as our engineer as long as we need him.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
By Ronald Tomanio
At the end of the day
when you fall into bed exhausted
I advise you dream all night
Go ahead, but take off your socks
Both of them
socks cut off your circulation
causing many peaceful people to have nightmares
about a gang of foot stranglers
Now, foot stranglers notoriously show no mercy
so take off your socks
In the awake world where half the race
is punching the other half in the face
I ask you to be gentle with your feet
be gentle with other people's feet
then work your way up to the face
and slowly kiss each cheek
Remember the smooth softness
Lay down on your bed facing the stars
sleep and dream like an old cat
foot stranglers hate that.
Monday, September 14, 2009
I said my friends were and are wonderful and here is some of the reasons why. I was not the BMOC or good looking or even renown for being a scholar. If you liked me, you really had to like me because there were no bells and whistles. I always felt I did not belong-a feeling that began my first day of school as a freshmen. I sat in the back of a math class totally lost by the discussion and on top of that everyone else was twice as tall as I was. I was relieved to discover I was in an advanced algebra class for seniors.
The low point of my four years of befuddlement was losing my big toe nail. I know there is going to be some understandable skepticism but this is a true story.
Gym was a challenge for me. Our school had long ago purchased medieval instruments of torture and relabeled everything exercise equipment. I remember the store room opening and this giant
leather horse about four foot tall with handles was rolled out. The premise was that the class would, one at a time, run at this beast full out leap through the air grab the handles twist in the air and land on your feet. I'm thinking that if a student could actually do this they would never need another gym class until their 45th High School reunion and if you could not accomplish this acrobatic contortion you would be crippled for life. I wanted to request a priest not for end of life words of comfort but to guilt him into taking my turn. I took a deep breath and approached the horse and two classmates pushing the evil thing rolled it over my foot. I screamed and hopped around and was sent to the nurse-my big toe was flattened and bleeding. I was bandaged and sent home-my athletic career and my hopes of joining the Great Wallendas were shattered.
So limped around home and school grateful that I did not have to go to gym class for a while. One evening I was changing the bandage when I noticed that my big toe tail was wobbly. I tightened the new bandage and told myself to be a man. A couple days later I took the old bandage off and was horrified and petrified that the nail came off! I was too scared to even tell my mother or brother. On my little island with its own logic I was determined that at age 15 with a long life ahead of me I was not going to limp through life sans one big toe nail! So I taped the nail back to my toe and determined to make the best of bad situation. Of course a few weeks later a new nail started to grow and I was enormously relieved.
In retrospect I probably had plenty of company on Nerd Island-all those wet behind the ears kids trying desperately to hold on to their toe nails and dignity, but how unprepared for the dangerous post high school years of charging leather horses and other lurking dangers we were. While writing this I began thinking about Terry O'Neil. I see him with his boy scout uniform with the buttons straining to contain his flabby stomach, I see his horn rimmed glasses and child like smile-and I see the painfully short announcement in the local paper of his death in Vietnam.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
You said: Take one step toward Me and I run toward you.
But what if I can only limp or crawl?
What if I can only lie in bed?
Listening to the rain pound on the roof
You said: If I prayed to You
You would become the ear that listens
But what if I can barely whisper?
Or cannot summon the courage to speak?
What if I can only lie in bed?
Listening to the rain pound on the longing in my heart