Thursday, October 01, 2015

A Memory jog …

Recently I ran into the son of one of my Hospice patients who died in 1982.  It really took me aback because he looked exactly like his dad, Ernest.  After the initial shock I realized that it made perfect sense because he was now about the age that his dad had been when he died.

Most of our patients had very short life spans so it was difficult to get a close relationship; but the exception in my case was Ernest.  He lived for over six months and we became fast friends. He was a 74 year old black man who lived 6 miles north of me so it was easy to stay in touch and we did so almost daily.

Ernest lived in a small cement block house that he had built years before. It was primitive but very snug with a simple front porch. The house was situated to the rear of the property and overlooked the land that had been in Ernest’s family for centuries. His many acres of open fields were rented by nearby farmers to plant tobacco and cotton.

The most unusual thing, however, was his “memorial garden”. It was an acre of lawn in front of his house that was carefully manicured and with 8 or 9 dead tree trunks that had been artistically placed. These were not random trees, but ones they had picked because of their interesting shapes. The final effect was, indeed, a “garden of memorial statuary”, somewhat resembling sentries on guard.

Ernest explained it to me one day as we sat rocking on his front porch. It seems that his grandfather had loved the gnarled and stark-looking dead trees on his farm. When he died and they couldn’t afford a memorial stone, they thought to cut down one of his beloved trees and to use that. It soon became a tradition. Ernest told me the story of each of the “statues” and who was commemorated there. He said they were re-sanded and oiled yearly and that was what gave them their lovely patinas. The two small trunks with intertwining branches were in memory of his twins who had died 48 years earlier.

That was 33 years ago but the memories flooded back as I greeted his son.  I was a little flustered by the resemblance to his dad and didn’t think to ask if the memorial garden is still intact but I pray it is.  I’ve seen many elaborate and costly memorials...but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that exuded such peace and serenity.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Pope Francis speaks …

On Thursday I listened to Pope Francis as he spoke to the joint meeting of Congress and I couldn’t help but compare the two gentlemen behind him as he spoke.   Vice President Joe Biden listened attentively and with respect and an occasional nod of his head as if he agreed with something the Pope said.  In contrast House Speaker John Boehner blubbered through … continually dabbing his eyes with his handkerchief and barely holding it together.   I was going to write about how distracting it was and how, to me anyway, it was an example of the difference between the two parties.
However, I am glad I did a bit of research before writing this entry.  I did not know that John Boehner is Catholic and that the visit of Pope Francis was the culmination of a dream that he’d had for many years.   John Boehner was literally overwhelmed and when he shocked the House the next day with his announcement that he will resign as Speaker of the House in October I couldn’t help but think that perhaps he had actually listened to the Pope’s words.
I wonder how many of the others in attendance did the same?  In his address Pope Francis said  “If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.”  Heavy words and ones that must have made a large number of Senators and members of the House cringe.   I wonder how many will actually have the moral fiber to follow through with change.
As each day goes by and I watch the shenanigans that are taking place in the effort to find a viable Republican candidate to run for President in 2016 I just shake my head.  I think my bumper sticker says it all:   "DEMOCRATS for SANITY"

Monday, September 21, 2015

North Carolina’s own …

When I saw this photo I thought it was staged and, in a way, I guess it was; but it still made me feel good.  Mainly, I guess, that’s because it happened just a few miles from where I live and is such a great example of how things have changed since I moved to North Carolina in the 70’s.  My husband loved it here but it took me a long time to get acclimated.  Now I, too, have become comfortable here although there is still a lot of “just below the surface” tension between the races.  This seems to be especially true of the Durham/Raleigh area where this drama took place and is what makes this  picture so special.

It’s pretty amazing to see the big grins exhibited in the photo when you hear that these two men were involved in an altercation a year ago where the police officer said “he tried to stab me and I nearly shot him”. But a year has brought many changes and when these two met by chance recently the policeman found that the would-be stabber now has a full time job and has turned his life around.

The Raleigh Police Officer JD Boyd decided to post his picture on Facebook and evidently it’s gone viral and has garnered more than 190,000 likes.  Along with the picture he wrote these words:   "No one is ever lost forever and as long as you continue to work to be a better version of yourself than you were yesterday things will work out eventually. I am ecstatic now to learn that he has turned his life around’


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

“FANTASIA” at the Radio City Music Hall…1941

Yesterday my son Mark told me that he had just seen a wonderful documentary on the life of Walt Disney and he wondered if I had enjoyed the original movie, "Snow White".  I reminded him that it came out in 1937 and that I was just 4 years old then.  However I do have a wonderful Disney memory that happened a few years later. I hope my long time blogger friends will forgive me for reposting about it …
My oldest sister, Mary, gave me the gift of a lifetime in 1941. It was my 8th birthday and her treat was an enchanted afternoon at the world-famous Radio City Music Hall in New York City. We were there to enjoy the live stage show and the ground-breaking Disney musical, “Fantasia”.

The movie portrayed cartoon characters performing their skits to classical music. Leopold Stokowski conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra and I sat entranced as the music wrapped around me. It literally felt like I was being carried up and into the movie that was enfolding.

I particularly remember “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” featuring Mickey Mouse as an aspiring magician who gets himself into and out of a bunch of predicaments. “Fantasia” never became a box office success but it was an enormous treat for me and I loved it.
However, the memory that burns the brightest happened at the finale of the live stage show. Two comedians were sparring with each other and playing to the audience. At the end of their performance they came close to the front of the stage and one man said, “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being here”. His partner chimed in with, “and I thank you from my bottom, too” ... while proceeding to turn his back on the audience, dropping his pants and "mooning" the lot of us.

How shocking! How crude! How DELIGHTFUL!! My virgin 8-year-old ears were burning but I thrilled to the naughtiness of it all. I couldn’t wait to get home to share the experience (in great detail and with many embellishments) with all my young friends.

Friday, September 11, 2015

14 years … but never forgotten.

On September first 2001 my dream of a lifetime was starting. My friend Douglas and I were on a plane leaving Newark and heading to Italy.  He was a retired architect and a world traveler so it was a great treat for me to be able to tap into his expertise.  He was also not at all interested in expensive hotels & over-priced we were well matched. I had read an informative book entitled “Lodging in Italy’s Monasteries” and realized I could afford a month’s stay if we traveled this way. It sounded great to Douglas too and he was happy to have me do all the arranging…which I thoroughly enjoyed. (The picture above is where we lodged in Florence.)

On September 11th we had spent the day in Assisi and returned to the small town of Bavagna, where we were staying, at around 4:30. The first inkling that something was wrong was when the people in the Piazza called to us and pointed to the little bar/coffee shop/ice cream parlor, insisting that we go there. The shop boasted the only TV in the square and it was just recording the horrific events of 9-11.

I can hardly put into words how this affected me. I felt totally shocked and helpless. A nice couple from Canada took us to their hotel and we tried to make calls to our family members in the U.S., but it would be 4 days before we could get through. When we left them and returned to the piazza a nun was waiting for us. She was probably from the monastery where we were staying although I didn’t recognize her. She motioned us to follow her and led the way to an ancient church in the center of the town. She unlocked the side door and beckoned us to enter.

The interior of the church was cool and musty and we were completely alone. It didn’t seem to matter that neither Douglas nor I practiced any type of formal religion. We sat quietly absorbing the atmosphere, each lost in our own thoughts, and in about an hour the little nun came back. We tried to show our appreciation although we knew very little Italian and it was hard to speak without crying. She kept nodding her head to show that she understood and then gave Douglas a pat on the back and me a warm hug.

Now it is 14 years later and that day still haunts me, as I know it does for so many others. It also reminds me of the compassion and love that were shown to us...not only by the townspeople of Bavagna, but from all the Italians that we encountered during our month’s stay in their wonderful country. It is a memory that I will cherish forever.


Sunday, September 06, 2015

No longer a laughing matter:

Can you imagine giving this man the power to lead our nation? The simple fact that he would have the authority to push the fabled “red button” is enough to keep me awake at night.  I am not endorsing anyone or taking sides. I am just trying to understand what is happening.

No matter if we like it or not it’s a fact that we are laughed at or hated in many parts of the world. It’s an awesome task to keep it all in perspective and I believe it takes a person with the ability to LISTEN to all sides before making judgements that can do this.  Just imagine Putin, the self-adoring leader of Russia, in diplomatic talks with a US president whose ego was even greater than his!

You might notice that I have not identified the man in the picture by name but it’s a cinch that everyone reading this knows who it is!   That’s power… and I’ll bet that the rest of the candidates for the top Republican spot would give anything to possess it.  “The Donald” knows how to work a crowd and maybe we owe him a big thanks for demonstrating how easy it is to control the thinking of such a crowd.  It should be a startling wake-up call for all of us. 

Isn’t it time that we as a nation come to understand that we are part of the whole world?  Our country is founded by immigrants and it’s the blending of all these ethnicities that have made us what we are.  Why do we downplay this?  What do we fear?  We are the richest nation in the world yet we resist sharing any of it.  Is our “stuff” worth it?  Can we afford to turn a blind eye to the simmering hatred and anger that is building every day in our own nation? Will it ever cease or will it be the end of us? 

Scary questions but ones that we need to face and overcome if we are to remain a viable part of this amazing world where we all co-exist.


Tuesday, September 01, 2015

NY City memories continue, 1959 …

Our first child, Mark, was born in July of 1959 and when he was about 4 months old we decided to treat ourselves to dinner at our favorite place, an authentic Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village. You would pass through the bar to get to the eating area in the back where 8 or 10 small tables were set up. It was also home to an indoor bocce court and it was fun to watch the old men play while we ate.

I found this photo on the Web and it is reminiscent of those days but not the same place. Sadly, “our” little restaurant is long gone but the memory of our dinner there that night will be with me forever.

We knew many of the locals by sight and that night a lot of them were seated around the bar when we entered. These were elderly Italian men from the neighborhood and their eyes lit up when they saw our baby. “Whatsa ees name?” they asked and of course our Mark became “L’il Marco” to them. They insisted that we leave him with them. “Go…Go”, they said, “…you eat, we play!”

So that’s what we did. We felt very secure leaving Mark with these men since we’d often seen them lovingly care for other children ... and, even sitting a room away we could hear them “oohing” and “ahhing” over “L’il Marco” as they passed him gently around the bar.

A wonderful memory that probably wouldn’t be possible in today’s world.