Monday, September 26, 2011


"I miss him." he said it quietly from the back seat, pulling my heart string with only a tiny slice of voice.

"Wanna call him?"

"I can't.  He is in Russia."


"But I can text him. Can you show me how to text?"

"Sure."  I pulled the contact up into the SMS menu and handed the phone to the boy.  He received it with a focus I wished I could see elsewhere, like in school. 

We sat down to dinner, silently chewing our salad.  School was good, we had already covered that.  Just before the staff came to take our plates, he piped up again.

"I even miss the dog...."


"She always snuggles up right next to me, even though she is so huge and takes up most of the bed."


"Yeah.  I miss the cats too. One fat one and the other one is really skinny."

"What do they do?"

"Well the fat one is really dumb just like our bunny.  She stalks me so whenever I come down the stairs she just follows right next to my feet.  As soon as I stop, she sits next to me. She used to be skinny but she got fat after she had kittens.  She stayed fat even after she stopped milking the kittens. "

I thought better about telling him the correct word was "nursing".   He was on a roll. 

"The other one is exactly the opposite.  He runs around and catches his own food, like birds and stuff."  I winced at this, thinking of the bird lovers who cringe at the sight of house cats left outside, but again I said nothing.  

"But he is still really skinny, too skinny, because you can see his ribs. I remember once I went with you to our vet, and they had a chart that showed what cats looked like if they were too skinny, and they said if the ribs are showing the cat is too skinny.  It should be like you can't see the rib but it's not like a huge chunk of fat..."  He ran his hands against the T-shirt outside of his own ribs as he said this, slightly rounding out his frame to illustrate the perfect feline shape. 

"Is he alright then?"

"I think so.  He eats a lot, we feed him twice a day and when we were gone the neighbors came to take care of him and the fat cat.  He also catches his own food.  But he stays really skinny."

He laughed gently as a thought came to him.

"Oh and before we went to camp, we washed him because he was really dirty.  He really didn't like it but he didn't scratch dad.  When we came back, he was just as dirty as before we washed him."

We both laughed at this, him at the memory of his smelly cat, me at the sight of his first big smile of the day.  Our soups came and went, we munch on brownies from the desert bar and he attacked a baked potato stuffed full of bacon bits. 

"Can you imagine how much I am eating?"  He said with an eye on the bacon potato, not waiting for an answer specifically.   Before I realized it, he was attacking a second one. 

"A bit much don't you think?"  I observed as I watched him dug out all the potato and stuff the skin full of bacon bits again.  

"Oh all right. "  He sprinkled a few bits of potato back on top the way chef Emeril Lagasse does his "bam!"

I let it go, forking my own pasta with enthusiasm. 

"What else do you miss?" 

"Well the skinny tom cat has a girl friend cat that comes over and plays with him sometimes. She's kinda pretty because she has black fur, white belly and white feet."  He raised half of a potato skin stuffed full of bacon to his mouth and took a bite.  "It is probably just a stray cat.  But both dad and I feel bad for the fat cat, because we think she is really lonely and that's why she stalks us.  She has no companion, so sometimes she sits really close to this giant dog and try to play with it."

He started on a plate of mac and cheese, before moving onto his own desert.  As we talked and ate, the afternoon sun had settled behind trees and curtains of night drew all around us.  Sparks of lights shone through the windows, illuminating figures, shops, and allowing us to peer into diners sitting at the tables in other restaurants.  They saw us too.  Sitting by the window, arms drawing imaginary illustrations as we talked, smiles creeping up corners of our mouths, despite a long day of drudgery, things left undone, and people gone missing that pulled on hearts.   Mouth full of sweets, weariness melted as we moved between shadows and sparks of light ourselves.

"I really do miss him so much..."  

Just as quietly as when we came in,  the boy said to no one in particular as we walked out, letting the night air carry a half spoken wish away into a land afar.  Perhaps there is no cure for missing someone, perhaps there is a dream waiting for him tonight, a dream sweeter than all the brownies and ice cream this place can offer up.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


The church parking lot was quiet, with a few cars parked here and there next to the sanctuary. I know everyone will arrive soon, so I embrace the few minutes of quiet sitting alone in the car reading. A sense of disconnectedness creep up as I stare out into the void of morning grays.  I let it go, focusing a refreshing sense of peace in corners of my mind.

Sound of cars soon broke through the morning silence.  I step out to see Carina, Lynda and others walking towards the van.  We load boxes of school supplies until the cargo area is filled.  Between loading trips, I pause, and hear the sleepy silence again, mingled in the cool morning air, like chilled 7-up poured over ice.

I can't see the stars right now, and the moon looks pale.  I remember their brilliance, however, on that blacked out night.  They shone against the velvety night sky, as I lay under thick blankets in stretched out lounge chairs by the pool staring back at them, mesmerized.  Trees pitched their branches high, their silhouette menacing, as if in protest of being overshadowed.  But even they softened as my lids grew heavy, turning into dancers posing against a dimly lit set of stage curtains.  Neighborhood block parties went on around us, so we didn't feel completely alone.  But the magic and wonders of a starlit sky outweighed everything that night, pulling me close into an embrace, and only letting me go on a tether of silvery light.  To eyes and hearts that are open, something magnificent appeared that night, with more brilliance than all the power combined from all the generators on our tiny blue planet.

350 backpacks for 350 children - fishes and loaves
"Can we join hands?"  Marjolene asked as we finish loading both the cargo and our own supplies for the day.  We comply in a circle and listened to the lyrical prayer bounce off the gray world of concrete and stucco, catching light and fanning out a rainbow of possibilities.  The day ahead is long and filled with dry heat, but I know I will sprinkle everything with tears that cool my scorching face.  I will douse doubts and complaints in my heart with smiles of gratification seeing children lined up to receive their fall school supplies.  I remember their faces from past trips, but I never tire of seeing them again.  Their joy, always abundant and unabashed, never fails to spill over onto me, in songs and claps, in whispers and hugs, in simple words and big smiles, like seven up poured over ice, buzzing with thirst quenching explosions.

So it was with anticipation and excitement we finally set off into the direction of Centro Shalom Mexico.  The road will be bumpy, but all I see are sweet smiles of success, already.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


I don't remember his fist, but I remember the fall.

The back of my head stung, like a hammer was ramming through it.  I tried to force open my eyes but only tiny silvery stars leaped into view. The rest of the world was a blur.  I strained to hear the sound of a baby crying, mine, in the background.  It was far and fading as if someone was carrying him away, closing him behind doors of distance, and of barrier.

"So this is what it fells like,"  I said to myself.

I heard a punch then, not at me but into the wall. The crunch and crumble of plaster and whatever lay behind its once pristine surface, surrendering a fabricated wholeness to the weight and velocity of  assault.  I knew just how it felt.

I needed to see what it looked like. I squinted to keep the stars from buzzing, and saw pink insulation protruding from a jagged hole. Brown and gray construction materials reached out like a wrangled head of hair pouring down from a dark, lifeless and empty head.

Like a tired old man crying, without tears. 

I strained to listen again, sounds of an animal huffing and puffing, wild, crazed and seething. Blood rushed in my ears like an ocean or the sound of a first winter rain. I wanted to run but my legs wouldn't move.  Shards of something broken scattered about me, like fallen pedals but they had sharp edges that looked biting.  Were they my prized collections of blue and white china? I wondered if I had returned to a childhood dream where I needed to reach for something but my legs wouldn't carry me.  I tried to scream but no sound came. Everything around me seemed gray, thick and unmoving, gelling me in place, like in a dream. 

A dream that belonged to the night, happening in a sunny afternoon, in my sand colored living room outfitted with cream sofa and scallop patterned curtains.  The ocean room designed for waves of laughter and tides of gatherings, "for generations to come", one relative had said.  I had believed her, along with that promise of "for better or for worse, ... ".

It took forever, but my elbows finally worked, propping up a leaf like body shaking with fear. My head moved though a hangover like pain blinded me once more.  I couldn't speak, didn't want to. When my belief of harmony finally crashed like a tidal wave, over and through me, it left no words behind in the ghost town of my chest.

I moved, finally, like a shadow.  The shadow and the shape of a lost animal.  I crouched; I crawled, towards the ever fainting sound of that cry.  Was it upstairs? I wanted to be there, I needed to be there, to hold that small bundle of warmth and life and to know that it wouldn't go through me like the rest of the world just did. 

I limped up, turning to tell him to "get out", baring my teeth as I said the words.  I came to the stairs and climbed along the railings to stand. Not for long, before I fell, then stood again.  I stood and watched him leave, watching like a hawk, eyes blazing, lips dripping with something salty and thick.  I stood silent and still, not daring a move, lest I fell again, until his shadows retreated beyond the line of my sight.

-- A Few Thankful Things --
  •  A dear friend who called, after a travel excursion and telling me all about her thoughts and we share laughter and understanding.
  • Study groups, for better or for worse.
  • Beauty all around me, too many to list.  Physical, emotional, spiritual, amazes me every minute of every day.
  • Recovery, from everyday falls, from small mistakes, to reach peace slowly but surely.

Finally, another question.   Does the below ending work?  Or is it unnecessary?  Why or why not?

At the sound of the door clicking close, I collapsed.


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