Thursday, May 26, 2011

More "Ma"

I would come home from work and Ma would make me coffee in an old mug. The best I can say about her coffee or her cooking was that it was hot and had the right color(most of the time). I enjoyed her comforting presence and her one dimensional view of life. Life was simple to he and black and white. If you were family you were loved, and there was no need to say the words. That would be redundant and a foolish waste of energy. Just as there was no reason to comment when the sun rose at dawn--only an idiot would make note of it or someone who wrote poetry(a fine example of splitting hairs). Sitting in our living room we had wonderful conversations about everything that was important in her world like being a Catholic. She knew I was not a Catholic and that was a great concern. To her I was Jewish because I wore a hat and I was not Catholic. In Old World Poland around the turn of the century there were Jews and Catholics. Therefore, if I was not a Catholic, I was a Jew. One day we had this conversation about God. I said nobody knows what God looks like. She looked at me like I was the town dunce(still loved though because I was her grandson). She sadly shook her head and opened her Polish Bible and found the page that showed a beautiful picture of God. He must have gone to the barber for that painting because His long white hair had every strand in place. I thought He had aged well, probably the result of clean living. Anyway, case closed, on to the next theological connumdrum Ma had educated once more. I like to think that when she went to heaven , a merciful God appeared to her just as He looked in her bible so she would not have any trouble recognizing Him. They would have long talks about what to do about her grandson.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


With thanks to my daughter Laurel for arranging this one.


My memories are filled with larger than death giants
striding across my small world
They give fear
never take it away
away--to yesterday or
tomorrow where it lives and
grows by itself
always alone
towering above the dead and dying
Come here while you still can
to this second
Feel its heartbeat
Hear its rhythmic sound
where the Presence lives
where you live
where life is


Not sure I have this one quite right.

Museum Peace

In the distance I saw an ancient unlined face of a woman
I walked the polished stone floor in her direction
Her velvet arms prevented me from drawing closer
She did not care for sunlight or the touch of the living
Preferring the company of the beautiful helplessness of armless Greek gods
I came too late
Perhaps by a minute
Or a thousand years
She had made her decision
No more asking a question
No more listening for an answer
Her eyes were closed forever
Her expression forever formed
She had traveled inward
At peace with her own mystery
Leaving behind a marble message
"Let the caller and the called disappear, be lost in the Call"*


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wedding suit suits me fine

Talk about packing a lot into a day! I might have broken presumed immutable laws of physics regarding time. Up at five a.m. to prepare my breakfast and lunch. On the road at six with one of the managers from work to go to Manchester to attend the N.H. state traumatic brain injury conference. We set up a booth promoting our health care agency, the radio show and suicide prevention film. Heard Gov. Lynch speak to open the huge gathering of professionals and a fabulous keynote speaker, Tricia Allen, who has written several books about surviving a tbi, breast cancer, her husband's affair and subsequent divorce--which reminds me to give my daughters my "men are swine" speech again. She had the booth selling books next to ours and we really connected. She was warm and funny and had a real spiritual presence about her. In a poor choice of words I said, "You should be bitter" She laughed and I did too. Humans must have an inner gyroscope that brings us back to balance, but sadly we often we can't find it within--blinded by rage that causes us to focus on the windmills we insist on tilting at while wearing our warrior uniforms. I invited her on the radio show and bought one of her books. "Gifts From the Broken Jar". The title is based on an eastern fable that I was familiar with. I also connected to a producer from NH public television who was anxious to get his hands on a copy of our suicide prevention film--luckily I had a few with me. I met so many people, I lost count and almost consciousness(the dangers of mathematics). At the end of the long day I arrived with just enough time to have dinner, shower, and put on my wedding suit which is the only suit I own. Karen kept it all these decades proving she is an eternal optimist(not to be confused with an eternal optometrist). I gave my short speech looking like a thousand pennies(15 lbs. less and I would have been able to comfortably button my jacket) at the retirement festivities for Jim Sacco in front of a couple of hundred people. It was a great night filled with well deserved tributes. Home, exhausted and fell into bed. I know I could never have physically gotten through a day like that at 420 pounds and lived to tell about it. and I would not have been able to wear my wedding suit. I suppose I could have rolled it up in a ball and wore it has a hat, but the audience would not have been able to concentrate on my speech.

Friday, May 6, 2011


A few days ago I showed our film on suicide prevention at our monthly staff meeting--a presentation made possible by the urging of the owner of our agency. It can be a raucous bunch these fellow workers and friends of mine and I didn't know what to expect. Certainly not glued to their seats in respectful attention listening to real people and their families talking about living on the edge of a bridge staring at the gravitational force of water down below. I was proud of my often unpredictable radio show co-host--a client who would not normally be present at a staff meeting. I asked him to say a few words at the end. He talked about the suicide of his mother a few years ago and how she was once young, beautiful and healthy before illness drove her over the edge. Not hard to believe after we saw her picture at the end of the film in the dedication section. There were lots of red faces and a man my age spoke privately to me about his father's suicide when he was twenty. We looked at each other and knew that his father's death and my brother's suicide really happened five minutes ago. The passage of time--just another of life's illusions

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


There came a time when my grandmother began showing signs of age. A great shock to me. I thought she was immortal. It was agreed that I would buy her three story house and move in so that I could keep an eye on her. It was a reversal of position that happens so often in families. Ma, as everyone called her including my brother and I, cared for us when were young and my mother was working at the old National Biscuit factory down by the Hudson River. This is before my mother moved us to Iowa and went to Palmer School of Chiropractic. We would sit in the dark and listen to radio shows like "The Lone Ranger"-ah, to possess the deep sonorous tones of this champion of justice. Ma would knit without comment while we imagined the destination of whistling arrows and galloping horses. The juxtaposition of Old World Poland and the Old West is something young boys were blind and deaf too. Ma was Ma. Ma had always been Ma--a certain vague age between sixty and eternity frozen in my memory forever. Our years together before I married Karen was not the challenge everyone thought. The only challenge was watching her breakfast on powdered donuts and half cooked bacon and eggs--now wonder I thought she was immortal. One time we were sitting in the living room having a typical philosophical conversation. I should say that she had little sense of humor. I now know that, like other luxuries, humor could not be afforded in the Great Depression of the 1930's. Ma was waxing nostalgic about being the last one standing. All her Polish lady friends that would gather at her place on Friday after work were all gone. I said in my best pseudo scientific voice, "Ma, most people die in their seventies and you are now in your eighties. If you were going to die, it would have happened years ago. You are going to live forever." Her look was one of sadness for her not quite right grandson but other then a slow shake of the head there were no disparaging remarks. After all I was family, her grandson to be loved wordlessly, even if I was not quite right in the head.