bio-Father’ Ghost

The day of his funeral or maybe the day before all the drama that was to come, I lay down on my bed in the bedroom off the basement rec room. Dad built that bedroom around me when I moved back home when I separated from my husband.

Dad’s chair was in the rec room. He spent 23 years sitting in that room watching TV. I’d spent a good portion of my teen years in their with him. Today when I picture him he is sitting there in front of the TV or out on the deck rocking, thinking as he liked to do. I tried asking him what he was thinking one time and got that, nothing, answer so I would look at him and wonder what thing was making him bit his lower lip as he did when he was upset.

So I’m drifting in that mellow sleep before and I start up at the clear sound of his voice calling me from the rec room. He’d do that because I was handy, being so close. I started up, and sat there a moment, got up and went to the door. I put my hand on the knob, then stopped. Oh my god, I wanted to go out there. I was terrified but I still wanted to go there. Being in that half sleep I stood there with the pull of his voice in my heart and the rational part of me rearing up. Finally, I let my hand drop and I whispered to him that he had to go. It wasn’t that he wasn’t passionately loved or desperately wanted but because it was time. If I went to him he’d have trouble doing what he had to do and so would I. I literally feared more for him. For me I’d have risk it but not for him. I knew he had to go.

I sat on my bed and weeped tears that needed to be shed. Over the years I’ve thought about that. Reason tells me he wasn’t there. Of course he wasn’t. But what would have happened if I’d gone to his call? I wonder if anything would have changed. What if . . .

I was so rich to have grown up with his loving, steady presence. He is much of the reason I’m alive and only normally crazy. I had said everything I ever needed to, to him. There was no unfinished business. There are regrets that I didn’t accept his invitations to things like riding the brand new Metro, the DC subway, the day he went. He was all dressed up in a suit and tie for the event. I was too lazy to get dressed and didn’t realize the point wasn’t riding the Metro but doing it with him. Another thing I wish I’d done is to have gone to see Superman with him. I was sleeping and he called me from upstairs phone on my new bedroom phone to invite me. I didn’t want to get up, I wish I had. There is now a whole string of things attached to Superman, Christopher Reeve, falling off horses, and back injuries of one sort or another. These are the treads between the anchoring strand.

The web of life is a marvel and my parents are anchors without which the whole would crumble. In many ways I’m lucky and even with the hard parts I’m content. I was loved by a father who was with me from the day I was born to the day he died. Some threads are more durable than others, his was the strongest and still is.


b-3 Wishes

I play games in my head of “what if . . . ” all the time. As a kid we all wish for those 3 wishes so we could be rich, beautiful, and smart. But it’s really an interesting game to play as an adult towards the other end of my life. I think these things while going to sleep or even day dreaming, resting my mind.

I’m not that old, nor ill, but I’m in a stage where my number one wish really is to get rid of a lot of this stuff I’ve acquired over time. I have no way easy to get rid it of without feeling the huge loss I’d feel if I just gave it away. I’m deeply sentimental. I have no family who would treasure it for its history as I do. I don’t want more so don’t need riches. I’ve outlived the rage for great beauty, being smarter, maybe. Then I suspect there a point where smarter becomes a burden.

If you had 3 wishes what would they be? Would you reject your urge to gather wealth and power and go for the humanitarian instead? How about world peace? What would we be if we didn’t get into fights all the time? It would be a radical change in human nature to come to a point where we didn’t feel the need to fight for the right or water or money or whatever we think we have a right to.

What would happen if humans didn’t fight for everything they wanted? I suspect our species would be very short lived. There would be outliers and they would just take over. What would that mean? I don’t know, maybe we’d be happy worker bees making honey for the queen who rules us. Maybe happy is better than all this freedom we don’t know how to handle and often don’t even want. Then the outliers would end up fighting and send their worker bees to fight for them. Hum, no improvement with that scenario.

What if we eliminated the outliers with our wish, there would be no bosses. This doesn’t bode well for us, we’d never get organized enough to get anything done, we’d starve or die of the cold or something. Certainly innovation would grind of a halt if we didn’t have an instinct to do the hard stuff and push back against those demanding conformity.

OK, so world peace is out. So we accept there will be fights. How about getting rid of the nuclear weapons? No, we have only used them only twice and yet we are constantly at war with 6,000,000 refugees looking at their lost homelands today. So, war is the problem. If you can’t have world peace and it doesn’t seem to matter if we have weapons of seriously mass destruction, then what? Can we change the laws of physics or introduce magic to eliminate the ability to kill each other? Is killing really the awful thing or is it the smaller horrors of poverty, abuse, and domination that are really what we want to go after? Is there a magic answer to war?

Let’s see, how about something really easy, wish that everyone would be nicer. That would be wonderful. People wouldn’t drive like maniacs and endanger others, they’d hold the door for you, they would be OK with supporting welfare for those who can’t work. Wait, would they? Maybe not. Nice usually ends once your hand goes into your pocket. It wouldn’t change our ideas about who deserves what. If we all agreed on things this world would quickly depopulate as humans died out of boredom. It would still be good if people had better manners. OK, maybe this is possible but is it worth a whole wish?

How about taking only half the wealth of people who are too wealthy and giving it to those who need more. You can’t do that? Why not? Oh, their wealth is paper wealth, not like real money. If you took it away you’d be closing Apple, Microsoft, all the big banks, lots, just a huge number of the biggest businesses in the US and even the world. Who cares, you think. Well, where do the people who work there go? What about the investors? That is yours and my retirement money. Now the whole world is poor. At least you’ve mostly gotten rid of income inequality, no probably not. The uber rich are always there even if he has five horses and you just have a goat. We are back to the times of plagues and massive starvation around 1500 or so. No wealth isn’t a good idea. Lots of things are bad with that idea, forget it.

Is there something I can do with my wish for the world? How about eliminating cancer? All the cancer patients will now be all well. What could be wrong with this? Not too much if done right but then what about the next thing? What about Alzheimer’s? Them too? What about AIDS, MS, what about every sick person? Can you leave anyone behind? Now we really will have a population problem and the old folk will have to go through the dying process all over again as will their families. Or maybe not, everyone will just drop dead without suffering. Really, why and when? Are they supposed to know when or is it just random times? Oh no, this is all too complicated. There are too many details. What is fair? Should those born with handicaps that limit their ability to live a full, pain free, productive lives live as long? Who will care for them? Even more complications that have no fixed answers. I’m sure not going to be in charge of managing this new world, even if I have a wish or two left.

It’s beginning to look like three wishes won’t save our world. What good things can be done on a smaller scale? Now we enter the territory of power. If a smaller scale how will that work? So you opt for being the richest person ever. It’s all cash so you can spend it. Part of the wish is you don’t have to pay taxes on it. So you have this money. What is the first step?

Oh, you have to use a wish to make you live long enough to carry out your plan. Now you’ve used two of your wishes, one for wealth and the second for health (instead of beauty). You have one wish now. It’s crunch time. Everybody wants your wealth, they have their hands out or an idea of how to connive getting as much as they can from you. You have to spend more of your time and wealth protecting you from the money grubbers than doing good. Who can you trust to help you? Who should get money? It will disrupt the economy of the country/world to put too much new cash into the world so you have to care about this stuff. You have to hire body guards because the jealous will hate you. You have to live behind a fence with cameras and guard dogs. You have to protect your family. It has all gotten way out of hand. This isn’t worth it. You can’t do good when you spend all your time protecting what you value. This isn’t your wish. Is there one? Maybe it is to be smart enough to deal with all of this. That’s your last one.

After all this I think 3 wishes is a trap. Having to turn down all those grand dreams might lead to regrets. Maybe I’d wish on a smaller scale. I’d wish health for my family, friends and myself, happiness for us all, and enough money to live comfortably but not enough to make anyone want what we have so we can live peacefully. The greatest part of that happiness would be to be content with the choices I’ve made in life across the board.

I suspect a smart geni would give three wishes with a mandatory year between each one, two to made messes and a third to set it all back where it started. Maybe I had those three wishes and that’s how I know I’m content with our little house, the love we share, and the community we are still in the process of building and taking care of. The best place is to feel content and just dream about the possibilities as a doorway to good night’s dreams.

bio–Questions to Mom

When my father died and I realized there were questions I wish I’d asked him about his life that would go unanswered. I decided to ask my mother those questions about her life. I really didn’t know a whole lot about her life, only surface things like you’d find in a public biography. I found that I really couldn’t. It wasn’t her unwillingness to answer but that when I probed her past she often broke into tears she didn’t feel comfortable prompting her to shed. I now wish that I had gone ahead and asked some of them because those questions reflect on my own past, not just hers. I will never know some things about myself that would give my heart ease just to know. I don’t know that they would make a difference but they might have.

Maybe I did ask and forgot the answers because I don’t have a mental file drawer with that label on it so I just can’t find those answers. I have a huge amount of information in my miscellaneous drawer. I filed a lot of what Mom said in that drawer because I didn’t know what to do with it, do I believe it, trust it, want it? With Mom, because I had so little trust in her good will, I didn’t listen to her with my heart. I was so very ready to defend myself at the drop of an adjective. It took so many years for me to be able to let down my guard.

What I’ve come to wish I’d found out is about my childhood behavior and specifically looking at ADHD and my relationships. I’ve said for many years that I was ADHD but never really, really thought about the implications of that idea in my childhood and relationship with my mother. On the other hand I have wondered if I didn’t sour the milk for my sisters. How much of what happened can be laid at my feet, how much was all her, and how much was just incompatible personalities? Those are questions I’ve asked myself all of my life. She certainly blamed me for most of it for our 59 years together.

Mother told he she realized she hated me when I was 18 months old. The way she said it made me totally believe her. I so wish I’d asked her more. For her answer to be so specific and me, so young, I wish I knew what it was that she identified about me that would lead her to say that. But I was afraid to disturb the pleasant balance we had finally found with each other and I was going to ask her to go back to such painful things? No. It seemed the price of the current peace between us was the answer to that question, but I wish I knew.

When I look in my baby book Mom wrote so many glowing things  about how I was always happy, babbling away, constantly in motion, cooperative, anxious to please and so on. But I wonder if this was a lie for public consumption when they she showed the baby book to friends or maybe so she wouldn’t have to face what she probably felt were her failures as a new mother. At 5 1/2 years old she wrote about her concerns for me that I was not tractable, wouldn’t be guided by her. She called me aggressive and uncooperative then, so I tend to believe the rest was wishful thinking on her part. I suspect she didn’t hate me all the time, but in waves. I probably was adorable at times but often enough I was difficult and willful that it made me very hard to parent. She didn’t seem to be the kind who questioned herself about motives or method so didn’t look to herself for solutions. As far as I ever remember, she blamed something or someone outside of herself when issues arose. At home is was usually me.

Mother never accepted that she did not have a patient personality. She was not only impatient with getting things that she wanted completed, done but she was incredibly and increasingly impatient with those who didn’t agree with her, who didn’t know as much as she thought she did about a subject, and especially she was impatient with children. She had this idea that children were little adults capable of reasonable, rational decisions. She thought children could make good decisions, meaning do what she said, and that children were there to wait on adults without demur. That all sounds harsh but as she aged the veneer of sociability and good manners she had cherished as a younger woman wore thin and her impatience sometimes came out and over rode good manners to a point even I found embarrassing. When I’d say, “Mother!” she’d say things like that’s just the way I feel or something else you’d expect out of an old lady.

I recall one time she had a business acquaintance staying with us for a few days. He was a nice, middle-aged guy from Australia. As usual the talk turned to politics and he said something about being ashamed of his country’s milk-toast attitudes and lack of activism about Viet Nam. Mom jumped on his for his lack of patriotism. I was astonished that she’d do that to company, and someone she didn’t really know. I saw his reaction, it wasn’t good. She just stuck her nose in the air. She truly astonished me at times because of the mantra she had about manners, breeding, propriety and so on. I don’t think she ever saw that her behavior violated that standard she had set.

Even her best friend, Ad, would comment on how “difficult” Mom was at times. They decided to go on a driving tour of  North Carolina one time when Mom was probably in her early 70s. Us three kids talked about betting on the durability of their friendship for this trip. I thought they might end up coming home early but they managed. I’m sure it was more about Ad’s loving, forgiving heart than anything else. Ad was not spared Mom’s sharp tongue  and bad temper but she usually just let it roll off with the occasional humph and, “well I never …!” I always internally cheered her on. There was no reason for her to put up with Mother’s ill manners. I really never understood why Ad did it but was glad she did. I loved her so deeply. She was the one I looked to as a loving, female adult in my life.

In reading Anne Lamot’s work she talks a lot about her mother and what an awful mother she had. Our mothers were similar in some ways in that they were neglectful, self-centered, and unsupportive. Reading her stuff got me to reading other women’s thoughts on their mothers. So much of the stuff that came out of the self-help movement of the 70s and early feminist work of that period was about mother to mother, how this conflict about child rearing played out. I didn’t relate to it at all, having no children. The current crop of women’s literature is so much more one-on-one with our mothers about what happened to us as children and how it as informed the women and mothers we became. As we have grown older the deeper schisms are being examined and as our parents have died we are freer to tell the truth we know about our own childhoods and the parents we feel we had.

My view is from the bottom up. I always feel like I’m looking up to see both Mom and Dad. In a way I saw the part under the surface, under the dress-up clothes and after the party but my point of view is also from a child’s eyes, a child’s expectations and needs. That makes me a much harsher judge because their emotional, intellectual and spiritual wrinkles, freckles, and shiny spots are amplified. They stand out more for me because I didn’t have a context in which to judge them, only my needs that were met/unmet. I had no tools to be compassionate or understanding that they had failures and successes, that they were winging-it. I didn’t know that adults didn’t know everything. Just as my mother expected me to know how, what, when, why to do things I expected the same thing of her and she let me down. She failed to be the adult she was supposed to be. I had to find the loving grown-up mother outside of my family. I grew up on this precarious ledge outside, not in the warmth of my mother’s home.

I’m lucky, my life has been good and I am happy now. I know I miss my mother so much now because of our unfinished business. I totally love my father but don’t think of him as often. He’s been gone 20 years longer than Mom but also I don’t have the conversations with him in my head like I do with Mom. When he died I had made sure there were no things left out, unsaid.

bio–Moving Closer to God

Like so many women, I’ve worked most of my life against the patriarchal image of god. I’ve done it consistently for almost 50 years but I still run into that guy with the white beard in my head, much to my frustration. I’ve worked hard to replace that image and maybe that is the problem. I’ve come to think that broadening my images might be a better way to go about what I’m trying to do. I don’t need to replace him just ask him to move over and share my head.

It is very hard for me to see the god I was raised with as a warm and loving anybody, much less father. He is really a scary dude. The biblical god is cruel, whimsical, and takes pleasure in the slaughter of thousands and thousands of people on a regular basis. It created us, gave us a test it knew we would fail, then punished us forever for the failure. Is god a power that really needs people to praise it all the time? For what? It’s ability to make people suffer? I don’t get prayers asking for things, though I do it out of hope, not faith. Could such a power exist, I suppose so but as a human it seems all so pointless. I want the god who choses prayers of thanks, for those things are the miracles in the world.

I’ve been looking for a god of real justice, of love and mercy, a god who holds you in her hands and gets you through all the shit and pain, fear and jealousy without going totally crazy. I’ve found her little by little, sighting by sighting as I look at life with gentler eyes. If I take the chance of looking every bit of life in the eye I find that spark. To look everyone in the eye I had to quit assigning blame. I had to really see that we are all actually dealing with our own stuff, theirs just looks different than mine. Even if they are the royalty of Dubai.

Our lives are all so messy, and it is all just awful to have to clean up after ourselves. Some of us end up living in the squalor of our messes, some give up and let it pile up higher day by day for not being attended to. Some of us learn to cope with some of it, trying to clean up after ourselves, even helping each other at times. Having some sustaining power who cares if I make it, makes a difference. I really seem to need someone to answer to, someone who cares. Sometimes I think I might be getting ahead of the game, others times I know I’m losing ground fast. But either way my god gives me hope that I will make it because I’m not really totally on my own.

Holy books are great, up to a point. I replace the male pronouns and write down useful things I find. It’s so hard to winnow out the chaff, there is so much of it. I keep looking for more efficient tools to clean it up with. I’ve found a few the most important being I try to live a simpler life so I don’t make so many new messes.

To get where I want to be I need a god to whom I can’t lie, a god to whom I can’t avoid admitting what’s true. If she sees the mess, I have no excuses left. I need a god with compassion, not one who seems to want to send me to everlasting hell for not trusting myself or knowing what to do and making a mess out of my life. That god is too scary. That god saps me of hope because I know there will always be failure in my path. I need a sense that god cares, this christian god is untrustworthy. I don’t know how to placate this god who demands too often that believers fall on their swords, demands too often I give up who I was created to be to the designs of someone else’s ideals.

Admitting that life is a mess is the essential starting place. Change only happens when you see there is a need. Sometimes it is tweaking, sometimes it is cleaning the Augean stables. Without the hope of a god, it’s all pointless. How can it be done and even why put so much effort in when in the end you are just going to die, go poof, into nothing. The mess is just too huge. The mess is all over, everywhere, next door, here in our own homes, not just in some foreign land. How can we look at all the poverty and injustice without a god to give us hope that there is some reason. I don’t buy that god is mad so is killing innocent children. And it’s too hard to live in a world where the only answer is, shit happens.

In my teens and 20s I went through a period of blaming god and saying if he was real I wanted nothing to do with him. I basically I wanted a new god who was at least not so much of a jerk so much of the time. It’s not the fear of hell but the injustice of it that made me reject the whole thing. Being in college in the late 1960s meant I was very much into the feminist ideas. I thought since god isn’t human but I need an image if I was going have a relationship with a god that I would chose a female image. I had good role models of loving mothers, even if mine wasn’t. I’d kill two birds with one stone and make this god into the mother with whom I could have a positive, accepting relationship with. I was done with job’s god.

Men have interpreted the creation story to justified the subjugation of women for thousands of years. I refuse to live by that book. The rules given to Moses were reasonable but men were so unable to accept them as applying to themselves that they turned the laws on their head and made the commandments the very reason for violating their god’s rules. In the end I’ve given up reading the old testament. There is too much just awful stuff in there to ferret-out out the bits of wisdom. The Tao Te Ching is a lot most accessible. So often institutional religion has drained the spirit out and replaced it with hubris and coercion. The whole institution thing is so corrupt, I appreciate why so many have tried to start over. That is in essence what I’ve done, starting with the very face of the divine.

From that starting point I became a seeker, which I remain to this day. I found that Quakers encourage this seeking, are rooted in a personal source of the light within each of us, and the idea of personal responsibility to the light that we seek to lead us through the mess we inevitably make in our lives. In becoming a Quaker I’ve grown in the image of that of god in each of us. I’ve been amazed by power of the Light and its continuing revelation though each and every person. God is working in and through each one of us. In some people it’s just a bit harder to see than in others.

It is particularly hard to see in those who have given up because the mess around them makes their light really dim. God shines through in the work of our minds and hands. Even a gun that has no other use than to kill people is a work of art, each concept executed in that weapon is the result of the light that someone found inside themself, that reveled itself. Look at the knitting Friends do in meeting. They take this long piece of yarn or thread and they make beautiful things. They make useful things, they make necessary things. That inclination to create is god shining through. God looks like a baby blanket, like a row of lettuce, an old used tire that needs to be cleaned up, it is all god’s work through us. In there is the face of God.

Even those who would deny that god exists because science shows them how all the pieces fit together still can’t answer the question that points to god. How did it all start? Where did the first spark come from? You can trace it through black holes to other dimensions but not back to that very first thought that came before the very first atom or spark of light. I side with those who say god exists and that I am is proof that she is.

b–And Going Away

I sat in the den with the TV on at 6:00 so I could catch at least a brief glimpse of the horses before the race. I usually look at them and pick who I think will win, sometimes I’m right sometimes I’m wrong but it gives me a horse to root for. This time it was all American Pharoah. I looked at the others but no way did I need to find someone to root for, it came with this day. I’ve watched just about every Belmont in which there was even the slightest hope of a Triple Crown. With this colt it felt hope rose so much higher than in the past, or maybe it was just my desire for one rose each year. Whatever it was, I was in tears before the gates opened.

I was a bit terrified as I watched, thinking bad thoughts of Ruffian and other horses who left their life on the track. These gorgeous, graceful creatures are so fragile. We’ve bred them to run only so far, with legs like toothpicks and hearts enough to break any horseman’s heart.

I kind of tried to narrate my own call of the race as AP walked nonchalantly into the number 5 slot. Moments later number eight, with his butt swinging out a bit, was in. The starter wants to get them off before the horses do something stupid so it took maybe two seconds for the gates to slam open and eight carriers of hope to bound forward pounding for the rail, if they can get there, all but one settling for second best. AP, who didn’t break well but fast enough, took the lead, and totally owned it. I don’t know about anyone else but owners, trainers, and friends of competitors who listend for anyone but AP.

I was truly worried about him staying sound until AP caught his stride and made it look easy. Once he wasn’t going to have to avoid another horse I felt more comfortable that he’d make it home in one piece. By the last furlong I’d actually almost forgotten my worry. As he crossed the wire my prayer of thanks was that he’d made it sound and then that he’d done it, won.

My bet is that even the owners of the horses that didn’t catch him weren’t all that disappointed. Frosted was the other name I kept an ear out for, intrigued by the gray (which is also being called blue roan by some), and was glad he had made it out in second place but certainly would have wanted to trip him if he’d come close to catching up. He’s a lovely horse and ran a good race but he isn’t AP.

I hand-road AP every stride from my couch, no whip, just prayers. I was so excited that the dogs got to barking along with me, the midget jumping up and down on the couch with me. As I wasn’t sure they understood this was like the coolest thing in twice their lives, I figured I’d just catch my breath, clear the tears I was crying off my glasses and hope the dogs would now lie down and relax.

I kept looking for the dun the female commentator who does the interviews usually rides. I wondered if that’s AP’s stable buddy, probably not. I looked at the visage of triumph on the jockey’s face, the joy and pride in the face of Bobby Beathard and the elation of the owners and just grinned. I even tried to let go of a my dismissiveness towards the owners, I kind of liked the son. I have to admit to a level of resentment towards those with all that money when there is so much need in the world. On the other hand, I’m glad their horse won, congratulations, finally.

b–Moving on

It seems many of our friends are moving, downsizing or getting away from noxious conditions. We were asked to share our experience with this. That is what follows.


     We are in the same process. We have been here for the whole 27 years of our life together. We have touched every surface in this home. We have painted, sanded, tiled, wallpapered, washed, waxed, and loved every bit. The deck outside was built with money from my mother’s estate, the tree out front with money as a housewarming gift from Mardi’s when we first moved in. 

     We have probably tilled every inch of the yard to plant and harvest. We dug and trimmed and encouraged things to grow. The yard was almost perfect this spring. Maybe saying it’s time, you’ve done what you can. Even the roses planted 2 years ago, which I was always afraid to plant because I don’t like using chemicals to keep the bugs away, were super abundant just as the peonies bloomed. The wisteria that I’ve been tying to get to bloom well finally did for the first time in my memory. I made sure to take pictures.

    The peonies have traveled from one house to the next with me and the dwarf red maple is from a seedling dug up in my mother’s yard as are the aucuba and and ajuga. Some of this we can take with us, some only the pictures and memories but all of it will come with us. I’ll miss eating the asparagus next year. We planted it several years ago and it should be of an eatable size next spring.

     Sorting stuff has gotten easier over the years. I have lost the need to be able to touch everything I own. It is OK for it to give others use and pleasure. A whole Jeep full of stuff went to the meeting house for the Strawberry Festival this Sat. I’ll go say a last good bye to all 7 boxes of stuff there. I will bring a thing or two back, maybe some earrings or a book or two. It is a relief to feel so much less acquisitive. In many ways that has been one of the burdens of my life. I’ve been like a turtle, needing to carry my home with me, just in case. I’m so much lighter as my needs and fears are fewer.
     In this process I’ve been striving to look forward rather than back. I can do that looking back from our new porch, doing it now bogs my spirit down because back feels too much like I’m losing something. Looking forward is gaining something and a grand new adventure. Looking forward opens me. It lets me open both my soul to the adventure and my hands to letting go of whats slowing me down. I’m terribly sentimental so this is a bit hard. Mardi has gone overboard with her culling and regretted giving some things away, having to replace them just to move from day to day. She is really into this simplifying but the moving has her scared.
     We haven’t even found a house yet and we have to wait a while to really aggressively look because the uncertainty is so scary. We are doing the part that pleases us, the simplifying, first. Starting that was the hardest part. It’s gained momentum as boxes for the thrift store fill up. We’ll see what next step we are ready for. I’m grateful that we started this. With sorting out I’ve found more space to wiggle my toes, along with some long lost possessions  We are in no rush except houses are getting more expensive. Now that I’m retired and so is she we are fairly unrestricted in where we can live. We just need to be able to get down into town for the music and events we enjoy and have enough money left to not be to scared to use some for pleasure.
     One day at a time, one finger at a time we are changing handholds. Even walking requires a moment of suspension when you are waiting to catch your balance again. You sound like you have your forward foot reaching for the ground. Once it settles I hope you find your new home brings you all the peace and health and joy your are looking for.

bio–Mother’s Days

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Page 1 is Life-A Work In Progress 
.....(find next in order)

Parents are myopic. They see only what is right in their face after it filters through their hearts. Being a teacher of other people’s children is a totally different set of lenses. Any parent knows kids are not nice, they are not kind, they are not smart about things like money and friends. That is why they have parents.

Offspring need training in both the skills of survival and as social beings, how to be part of the “group.” The most important thing parents give kids is a balance between trusting themselves and trusting others. If young people haven’t learned to trust others like peers, parents and teachers then they have a horrid time with relationships. They have trouble working and even playing with others and romantic relationships can’t thrive without trust. If children don’t learn to trust themselves to solve problems or have good judgement they are really unable to do it. Their decisions are default decisions because they don’t see themselves as able to know what to do and often they hold a low opinion of their skill.

Of course there are the parents who go too far and never let the kids learn from their mistakes, they do as someone said just today, they smooth the road all the way to adulthood and then don’t understand why their kids can’t stand on their own two feet. Consequences are the learning tool, mistakes are the environment for the learning. They think someone else will fix things so they never become truly independent adults. All their failures will be blamed on something outside of themselves because they never learned the base lesson of personal responsibility.

The wisdom of the day when I was born was Benjamin Spock’s Baby and Child Care, in which he said that children learn by example, you don’t have to push your kids or tell them what to do. He later retracted that and deeply regretted the anguish that advise caused so many parents and children. My parents had the philosophy that children knew what was right or wrong, you just corrected the wrong stuff because they should know it’s wrong. So my sisters and I only heard about the bad stuff. We never knew if we did things well or right. We never learned to trust ourselves, we lived never quite sure what was expected of us. To top that off our mother was inconsistent in what was going to piss her off. Some things we had no doubt about but often times she just came out of the blue at us.

One of my earliest memories is of my father telling me I had to do as Mother told me to do. My reply was that I didn’t want to do what she said, because she was mean. I had to have been about 3 years old then. I remember she put in the closet when I was bad at least a few times. I remember having screaming fits at her. We just didn’t hit it off from the beginning. In retrospect I suspect there was what is called these days, a failure to bond. I suspect the foundation of the problem was that I was a very independent, ADHD kid. My memories fit the classic pattern of non-stop movement, real smart, being called bossy, more comfortable with adults than kids, problems getting along with kids at school. When I was 40 my father died and it was at that point that she and I managed to establish a more loving relationship. Up until then we had built up so much anger, fear, and resentment towards each other we could hardly share, it usually ended with both of us upset. I think I heard, “I resent you so much,” as often as any other statement of feelings from my mother. Mothers really shouldn’t give in to the desire to yell, “I hate you,” at their small children no matter what they have done.

At one point a few years after after Dad died I asked her when she knew she hated me. Without a pause she said, when I was 18 months old. I was blown away by that answer. It came so quickly she had obviously asked herself the same question. She didn’t deny hating me as I kind of expected her to do. My reaction wasn’t surprise but gratitude because, if I was that young it couldn’t have been my fault, even if it was about me, which I’d suspected all along. She was supposed to be the grow-up. I had never been able to understand what I did that was so wrong that she hated me when I was so little. It had to be about who as much as what I did. It was more than just me being a willful, hyperactive child who was too smart for her own good, it was that she didn’t expect and didn’t know how to mother a child like me. This just wasn’t what her child was supposed to be like. It was about her as much if not more than it was about me. If her kids weren’t perfect it was a reflection of some failure of hers and she was much about appearances. It never seemed to strike her that she might need help coping with me. It was all on me to change.

I would tell her fantasy stories to try to get her to approve of me about how I had friends and did this or that with them. She just thought I was crazy and at 8 she took me to a child psychiatrist. That was in the days when psychiatrists actually treated patients as therapists not just as pill pushers. I saw Dr. Olshaker for maybe a year, maybe less. The last time I saw him was the time when he met with my parents, I assume to talk about my treatment. I have always suspected Mom didn’t like what she heard so pulled me out. I recall she was mad when we left that day. Years later, when my dentist recommended I get therapy for stress because I was grinding my teeth at night, she said she wasn’t happy about it as she was sure they would put the blame on her. I figured that what what she was told by Dr. Olshaker all those years before.

Now in my late 60s, and she has passed on, I am working more diligently on the legacy of what she gave me. I am shocked at times to see my mother move my hand, or say something, or I see her in the mirror. We eventually came to a fairly comfortable relationship but not anything near the ideal mother/daughter relationship. I couldn’t confide in her or trust her to really care deeply what happened to me. It was enough that I could honestly say “I love you,” without thinking caveats. She specifically told me she really didn’t want to hear my problems. Of course we did talk about some on a superficial level because as a teacher, school was my life and as a teacher, the system was my problems. But I didn’t seek her advise and she really didn’t offer any, just some sympathy, which was probably good.

I don’t think I would ever have been ready for much advise from her, I never have believed she actually understood me. She and I were so very different in our approaches to life and politics. She was poor listener and that was one of the “problems” between us. I wanted a mother who understood me and wanted me happy. She wouldn’t listen to me. She’d hear my words and then try to tell me how I felt or what I meant by what I said. It infuriated me. How could she every know me if she couldn’t listen to me. It always seemed that any time I tried to talk with her, it always got turned to what she wanted to say, what she thought, or what she believed. It didn’t matter that I had gone to her for help with my thoughts and issues. She seemed to always turn so that it was really about her, not really about me. She was so much less than helpful. I felt so isolated. As much as I loved and trusted Dad, he wasn’t any real help in the daughter’s problems department. When I did try to talk with Mom I suspect that I was so defensive I really couldn’t listen well to what she said. She made me so angry with no place to spend it. She cared to little about me. When Dad was there I’d just go hug him and cry, I resented her so deeply. In retrospect it was probably a bit of a set-up, I looked for her to do the things that reinforced my beliefs about her. If I let my guard down and tried to talk with her, her first slip-up would close me off in a flash.

Mom was very social and liked to have parties. My sisters and I were the help, and at times she treated us with the same distain she had for all servants. She ordered us around and if there was an empty glass that needed to be filled she’d be haughty in commanding us to do our jobs as “hostesses.”  Of course clearing dirty dishes, cleaning the kitchen, and making sure everyone had their after dinner coffee and drinks was our job. I liked the parties but the way she treated me in front of her friends took a lot of the pleasure out of them. I didn’t mind helping but in her cups she’d say awful things about me. She did it in front of company or to people at these parties she gave or the family went to, just to embarrass me. She even admitted to intentionally trying to humiliate me.

What saved me was the very thing that made Mom so upset, that I was totally me from the beginning. There was no artifice. I did what I wanted and really didn’t care what anyone said. I didn’t recognize authority that I didn’t grant, even as a small kid. That was the abrasion the turned into the wound of resentment and hate. I wasn’t a tractable kid.

The greatest grace was my father. I have said often that he saved me. He taught me to love and to trust. He defended me to, and from Mother, he argued for me and really tried to find a way for the two of us to at least peacefully coexist. I was his favorite and I believe that made Mother resent me even more, that Dad took my side instead of her side against me. I was his first child and he wore his love for all of us on his sleeve, especially me.

Mom used the words “propriety” and “breeding” a lot as we were growing up. She wanted us to be the proper, sweet, perfect children in cute dresses and black patent mary janes a true Southern Lady, as she saw herself, would breed. Patti, who is 22 months younger than I am, tried to be perfect, sweet, and happy but could still never please mother. Robin, I’m not sure how she saw things. She never saw much advantage in being mother’s favorite but she would lord it over Patti and me at times.

One of the things mother did was to place on my shoulders responsibility for  anything that went wrong in the family. I was the carrier of the entire emotional life of the family including between her and Dad. She held Robin, who is 4 1/2 years younger than I am, up as the one to emulate. My opinion was, right, my baby sister is the one I want to be like? She seemed smart enough but was so ordinary and boring and totally self-centered. On Robin’s part, she accepted Mother’s judgement of me and blamed me for anything and everything wrong in her life until she was in her 30s. There has never been more than a blood bond between us. We never did learn how to be friends.

Mom always talked about how important family was but actually was the one who tore it down by pitting us against each other. She told them not to trust me, not to follow me, not to do what I did. I understand why she did that but the consequence was much broader than I suspect she ever really thought about until it was way to late to repair. In the end, a couple of years or so before she died we were talking about problems she was having with Robin and her husband who were supposed to be caring for her but weren’t. I was telling her what I was trying to put in place to protect and take care of her. She said to me, “I guess I was wrong about you.” I couldn’t say anything. I was grateful that she had come to that conclusion but it was so late in the game for us. There was relief in it but little joy.

Life-A Work In Progress

I’m attaching it here to TRY to keep the bio in order. It is next to impossible with the existing structure of this web site. This is a repeat of the separate entry in the top menu.

Page 1 of my bio

When I read something I really feel a need to know more about the writer. What biases does the writer travel with? How does she see the world? What loves/hates/frustrations/passions tint his life? So, in that vein I will reveal a bit of me.

I kind of want a space to talk about my history because it has so much to do with what I write. I don’t want this bio to be overwhelming and I am wordy so I’m breaking it into bits, I don’t know how many but some. This one is about the facts of my early life. It isn’t in any depth. That will

I was born in Oakland Calif as an early baby boomer. I am the oldest of the kids. I have sisters only, so no experience in growing up with brothers. My dad was a writer and in my early life there Mother was the classic housewife. She had gone to college with the specific intent of getting her Mrs. and after the war came (on the day they got back from their honeymoon) she became Rosie-the Riveter in LA while Dad was stationed in the Pacific. When Dad returned he started working in San Francisco as they spent the usual period struggling to save for a house. Dad had a degree so didn’t use the GI Bill for college, instead went back to work for the Associated Press, which he’d been “on loan” from, to the army during the war.

Two more daughters later Dad thought San Francisco was boring so asked for a transfer to Washington, DC, where the actions was, and it really was back in 1950. We moved here at the end of 1951. The image of Ossie and Harriet pops to mind. Mother took that for 2 years and had to get out of the house (apartment). There were many causes and I can’t speak to all of them or even the order of importance to her but no matter what mothers were supposed to do in the early 1950s, this Mother was going to work. She hired a maid to take care of us and the apartment. I have a blurry memory of being walked to school for kindergarten but really don’t remember much except the first few days I was in the wrong room and when I left I was sad because the teacher had a parakeet that I liked. I remember taking my kitten to school for show and tell, and naps, and liking school. I never outgrew naps or kittens or liking school. I suppose that is how I got to be an elementary school teacher. Or maybe not.

Mother had taught us to read as small children and she got into this battle with the principal at our school because the wisdom then was to leave teaching to the teachers. The other thing was that the school was taking it on itself to place us in special instruction for speech and I’m sure I was seeing a school psychologist. I suspect they thought I was being abused. I recall in 3rd grade being given anatomically correct dolls to play with. I am guessing the results of that was really why Mom pulled us out of public school and put us in parochial school. I went to a child psychiatrist about that time. At some point, I don’t recall how long I went to see him, the doctor had a conference with my parents. Mother was less than tolerant of opinions that she didn’t like, it didn’t matter who held them or how expert they were. That was the last time I saw him. Mother diverted the shrink money to my horseback riding lessons.

I come at life and faith through a lens of need. I was a lonely child, over weight, disliked by my mother, undefended as far as I knew by my her. I grew up saying I didn’t understand what the problem was. I was a nice person. Why didn’t kids like me? My mother told me it was because I was “fat” and bossy. Well, yea, and I also felt I was right. I usually was, which made me less than popular. I was in fact a rather classic ADHD kid. I was constantly on the move, jiggling and bouncing, talking non-stop and I was a bossy know-it-all. I suspect that was the core of the conflict with my mother when I was very small. She had no idea what to do with a girl who didn’t want to be frilly and dainty. No young girl was allowed opinions, and you didn’t disagree with your mother. I don’t think she ever imagined having to pull her daughter out of trees, yell about keeping shoes and clothes on, worry how it looked when all her daughter would wear was jeans and shorts. Were girls supposed to live on their bikes? I didn’t give her any options, I was doing what I was doing and I didn’t like her so I didn’t want to do what she told me. One of my earliest memories was a conversation with my father where he is telling me I have to do what Mother says. My response was she was mean and I didn’t want to do what she told me. I never really changed my mind and after while it became a reflex to resist her.

My dad was my savior and idol. He loved me as I was and that made it bearable even if it was more confusing. I was his first child and it was clear I was the apple of his eye as a small child. It was very important that my dad was there. I have no idea if I would have survived without his love and faith in me. I suspect he felt a bit adrift with all the females in his life. My mother was a hard woman to live with a lot of the time but I think basically they loved one another. They were a private couple, even from us. There was little hugging only the briefest peck between them in front of us. But there was lots of hugs and kisses between us and them, especially with Dad. We would throw ourselves at him to hug him and kiss him. We gave each other kisses good bye and even hello. But on reflection neither of them shared a lot of their lives with us, especially Mother. Dad was more open, talking about his childhood and war experiences. Mother talked a little but I learned more in one trip with her to Memphis for her 50th high school reunion than in all the years before. By that time we had reached a point of wanting to make things better between us.

Now my 50th reunion is this year. How strange to think of that. I’ve had next to no contact with any of Mom’s family since that trip in 1988. I never heard from them when Mom died a few years ago. Maybe they didn’t know at the time as I had no way to contact them. They had Mom’s address but they didn’t use it. When Dad died his brother and 2 cousins came for the funeral and stayed with us for a few days. The aloofness of Mom’s family kind of reflects the difference between Mom and Dad. We grew up without extended family. We are all the family we have.

We grew up in Maryland, for the first 10-11 years we lived in a townhouse style apartment. When I was in high school we bought a house and when I think of growing up it is more of living in that house than the years in the apartment. I had what I thought was normal childhood. Besides the running battle between Mother and me there was school. At first the nuns were intimidating but quickly became a focal point for me. I watched the way they talked quietly together. The way they put their hands up their sleeves when they were standing around. I wondered what the convent was like. I wondered how they became teachers, was it the same as the lay teachers? I wasn’t popular but I did have friends, the girls I hung out with at recess. I had one friend in 4th grade but she didn’t last much past that. There was something so alien about me that I couldn’t have real friends. But on the other hand I wouldn’t be picked on. I was big, 2nd tallest in our class, and I was a good 20 pounds over weight. I didn’t take any shit. I had no compunction about telling obnoxious boys what to do. I could face almost any of them down. They gave up messing with me because I mostly ignored them and if I wasn’t they would back down. It wasn’t worth the risk I’d get really mad about something.