Tag Archives: suffering

Prolixity, Thy Name is S.A.T.

Evanesce the pain,
of sitting at the skimpy school desk
gently holding my brain.
Trying to repair the wreck
I wrought; maybe staking a claim.

All the hard looks that say-
you don’t belong here,
are nothing new today.
Never mind the end’s not near,
over the Rubicon I’ll stay.

Another hurdle’s shown,
despite all of my loves,
(someday I’ll have it honed)
it’s the same as it ever was-
I just go it alone.


*Post-SAT fare. Kids, my fellow test takers – don’t try this at home: Spanish Cava and Punitions (a French butter cookie).

The Goddesses We Meet

St_Augustines_Ramsgate_Mildred“My God, this is fabulous.” I held up the heavy beaded gown. Rows of shimmering glass, the elegant tiny rectangular pink beads tightly lining the tan fabric undulated as the weight pulled my arm down. Staring in awe we simultaneously imagined her in the dress, once regally adorned.

Draping the long disused garment over my arm, I carried it and the other blouses and slacks, all carefully pressed and hung, back up the stairs. Squeezing past the motorized chair that carried her decaying body up and down, I bounded up the steps: steps that before the chair was installed, she had had to crawl up as her bones cruelly disintegrated. Scanning her bedroom I’d look for anything I could quickly do to help her now that we had organized her clothes. The bed was undone, easy for me to fix. The piles of towels on the matching twin bed were  a simple thing to organize into neat stacks of ascending order. I felt the quiet thrill of purpose as I folded.

I carefully pulled her stockings onto her feet and helped her get her shoes on. She dragged her body with excruciating effort towards the door. In the time she took to get there I would briskly straighten up the kitchen, wash the cups in the sink, and wipe down the coffee machine. Until every movement had to be carefully weighed and considered she had kept a house of perfect cleanliness and order. Now she sat in her chair as the dust bunnies mocked her. We laughed at her mental war with them together, and when she was not looking I gathered them up and threw them away. I could do that for her.

She took me to lunch and we laughed some more. She had stories to tell: sharp, compassionate and dead funny. That which had the memory of magnificence had become a source of unimaginable pain- but she laughed at the rearrangement of hairs from her body to her face, the leftover glory of her breasts that no longer appeared anywhere near her chest. We were like two school girls with the giggles. She ate meatloaf and laughed at me because I always ordered the BLT.

Aware of the cost of every step she took I’d take two or three, trying my best to correct the math: zipping in front of her, moving things out of her way, holding doors,  her walker, her purse. All the stupid little things I could do for her, and she embarrassed me with her gratitude.

By her admission, her heaping  measure of the pain life so generously offers came mostly at the end. We talked about suffering, love, death and God. She was not afraid of any subject. We allowed each other to feel the force of our personal miseries without pity. It could always be worse we told each other, sometimes with a laugh. Because it can.

I know what she looked like, sitting uncomfortably in her chair, woozy from her battle to find relief. I never knew her any other way. But when I picture her, the photograph on the sideboard that I passed each day as I left  is what I see in my mind.

There she stands, next to her adored husband: perfect eyebrows, tall proud figure and bright eyes. I see what she truly was. She was a goddess.
Rest, sweet woman, in peace.

Take Me To The River

take me to the river and set my spirit free

My 17 year old son and I attended a performance yesterday afternoon at our college by Destiny Africa, a children’s choir from Uganda. It was delightful. There was one girl who reminded me so much of my 10 year old niece. Strange what similarities we can find in people whom are different in every obvious way…Eric thought that she possessed a sort of hilarious nonchalant seriousness, but her dancing, the way she snapped her head back and forth and moved with rhythmic abandon was infectious and wonderful.

I left in exceedingly high spirits which made me uncharacteristically loquacious in philosophy class. We were discussing Peter Singer’s rather extreme view of Utilitarianism. It seemed to me unrealistic (and therefore of no real utility) and…well, reducio ad absurdum. Also, his devotion to measuring “the greater good” by suffering alone is strangely negative and yet strangely common:  the imperative (found in many philosophies, religions and psychiatric offices) to eliminate suffering altogether makes one wonder if it isn’t perhaps a one sided look at life.

Later in the evening I took my youngest son to see the Yale Glee Club High School Festival. I wasn’t sure how he would like the choral music but after the first piece he was shouting “Bravo!” from his seat (not sure where he learned that). He told me he particularly loved how no one voice was distinguishable, it was the single sound of all the voices coming together that amazed him. For the last number along with the New Haven High School Glee club they sang a rousing rendition of Take Me To The River, it was exhilarating. On the walk back to the car we just kept saying, “that was really fun!”

When I feel really low, wishing nothing more than to feel nothing, I sometimes consider methods of willing myself to eliminate the feeling of suffering. But, I’ve always known I am a flawed stoic; I can’t make myself commit to ideas that risk eliminating the river that runs along side the pain:  The chance for joy, baby – pure joy.