THE FAMILY AS WE MEET

Delayed Contact – How would you get along with your sibling(s), parent(s), or any other person you’ve known for a long time — if you only met them for the first time today?


How would I get along with them today? If I had just met them?

96-Matthew-HouseOnPaloAlto-1953

Probably not well. Mom might be an interesting person to talk to about her experiences in the thirties and forties. Her cynical take on politics and the way the world was going. Her disdain for government and the people who run it. Her dislike of “the old boys network” and the “old boys” in it were eternally amusing. She had a sardonic way of expressing herself that I think I have inherited. I miss her. She always had a unique “take” on whatever was going on.

I loved my brother though we had little in common but DNA. Our interests were so different. Our ways of dealing with the world almost diametrically out of phase. We shared a common understanding of how hard it had been to grow up in our world and come out unbroken.

96-MatthewAndMarilynApr1948

It’s a bit of a moot point whether or not we were unbroken, but we hid the damage well and managed to have productive lives. We were deeply supportive of each another. Yet I wonder. If we hadn’t been born to the same parents, would we have ever sought each other out? If Matt had lived longer — and so wish he had — we might have discovered more common ground as we matured. I wish we’d had the chance.

My sister was the odd child. Socially awkward and very much her mama’s darling, I think she watched me — especially me –with much envy and resentment, never understanding what it had cost me to break free of the family so young (I was barely 16) and go it on my own. I know she found me a hard act to follow … but she found life a hard act. By her mid 30s, she had retreated not only from the family, but from the world. She was a modern-age hermit and as far as I know, still is. Drug-addicted and lost, somewhere. She does not leave a forwarding address.

I’m always a bit envious of close-knit families, though I wonder what is hidden in there, what lies beneath the cheery surface. Maybe everything is just as you see it. Maybe not. It’s a bit late for me to find out because so much of my family has passed.

Maybe next time around the wheel.

STAY CLEAR OF LANDMINES

Happy Radars – Are you a good judge of other people’s happiness? Tell us about a time you were spot on despite external hints to the contrary (or, alternatively, about a time you were dead wrong).


This is one of Those Prompts which I could answer it in one word. Or I could write book. I’m inclined to be one-word-ish on this. I think I’m an excellent judge of what is really going on if:

  1. I know the people intimately
  2. Spend more than a few minutes with them
  3. I have my radar turned on.

72-Geese_03

I’m not a particularly astute judge of strangers unless I have some urgent reason to be. Moreover, I prefer to avoid intruding on friends’ personal business unless I feel I’ve been invited in. Even then, I tread softly. Other people’s private lives are a minefield. You can get blown to pieces if you don’t watch out.

So mostly, I don’t intrude. Most especially, I don’t judge and I don’t take sides.

Taking sides is how you lose friends and body parts.

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

Tunnel Vision - You’ve been given the ability to build a magical tunnel that will quickly and secretly connect your home with the location of your choice — anywhere on Earth. Where’s the other end of your tunnel?


Yesterday morning, I might have suggested an exotic destination … Tahiti maybe or even Paris, especially if I could move through time as well as space.

But now? Today is different. We got yet another call from a friend who has discovered metastasized cancer. By accident because he has no symptoms. If this were the first or second such call, maybe it would be different, but it isn’t. Far from it. These days, there is a bell tolling in the background of our lives. It never stops.

It’s a sad bell. Haunting. It counts the living and the dead. Those who have moved away, too far to travel. Those who have mentally moved, now unavailable. Those who died and failed to leave a forwarding address. Others, whose lives are too full of other stuff, too crowded for us.

Our world grows smaller, shrinking by degrees, day by day.

crown and eagle tunnel sun rays

Like potatoes being slowly grated, life strips away layers to force us to discover the exact minimum necessary to be a life. I am afraid when the phone rings. It makes my stomach knot.

To all of you who are putting off seeing people you care about for months and years because you’re too busy, or it’s too much trouble to rearrange your schedule? Life turns on a dime. Everything changes with head-spinning abruptness. People you intended to make time for — but never got around to it? They can, without prior notice, not be there. Gone forever. Regrets are not good companions.

My tunnel?

I want one that to connect me directly to our people. To friends in Arizona, Texas, and Florida. To the other end of Massachusetts, to Connecticut and Long Island. To Maine, Colorado, Switzerland, and Cornwall. I want to pop through the tunnel and spent a few hours sipping tea, laughing, and talking. Seeing friendly eyes, listening to voices unfiltered by electronics. Not just virtual friends, images flickering on a screen, but warm-blooded friends who I can touch and hug.

That would be my magic tunnel. It would be a tunnel worth having. And keeping.

72-Bridge-RI-River_50

John Donne
Meditation 17
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

“No man is an iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee….”

THROUGH FAIR AND FOUL

On Bees and Efs

I’ve had the same best friend for more than 40 years. I hope we live forever, so we can always be friends. She’s the one who knows me. She makes the sun shine for me.

Cherrie and Marilyn

I know her. We make each other laugh. We put up with each other’s tantrums, sympathize — empathize — with one another’s illnesses, worries, pain. Family crises. Quirks and weird idiosyncrasies.

We’ve know each other so long and so well, and survived such long separations, we don’t need to explain stuff. We know. We get each other.

Sometimes we talk daily. And then, weeks may pass without a phone call or email. It doesn’t matter. We haven’t forgotten.

We could never forget. Not while there’s life in the body and electrical impulses in the brain.

A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE: SUMMER MEMORIES, OR WHY IT’S GREAT BEING A KID

A Photo a Week Challenge: Summer Memories

I thought these might be a perfect entry for this challenge. Not me, but my granddaughter and friends when they were children. Before makeup and boys and drama.

Almost the definition of why it’s great to be a kid.

Summertime Ready

Summertime SET

Summertime - GO

Anyone want to do it again?

Anyone want to do it again?

A SMART USE OF TIME: CYBER FRIENDS ACROSS THE WORLD

What do you have time for?

Unlike my fictional character Harold (Soup and Sandwich), who I have brought by for a few visits, I’m not particularly well-organized. I wish my apartment could be as neat and clean as the one I attribute to the Commander of Clean, Director of Dishes and Lord of the Laundry. Instead I am King of Clutter. No matter how hard I fight, I am losing the battle against my possessions.

Even so, I try to effectively allocate my time. Certain times should be assigned to particular activities. Work and commuting take a big chunk of life. While I ride back and forth in my General Motors car which has miraculously escaped recall, I think about ways to fill the other hours including the topics I should let loose on Word Press. What adventure, or misadventure Harold should have next.

Entry to the College

When I sat down at the computer to coördinate all the thoughts running around in my head, I got a message on Skype.

“U there?”

It was a guy I’d never met in person, but had talked to often.

He lives in the middle east. I’d met him on the language learning site, Livemocha, when it was also a social site. Its members helped others learn the language they already knew by correcting exercises and chatting in text and voice.

During the past two years, we’ve become friends. Our talks have covered a wide range of topics. If you think you have it tough, talk with someone who lives where the power goes off each day at 6 am and stays off until 2 pm. Obviously, there is not enough power to go around in his homeland.

The differences of our personal circumstances is offset by the similarities of our ideas and concerns. We both can see futures we would like to have. It seems that when you have a computer and some power, no matter how fleeting, you can dream as big as cyberspace itself.

So instead of spending my Saturday evening creating great thoughts for this site, I spent more than two hours helping my friend study for his English competency exam. He sent me pages of text to read and questions to ask. He sent audio passages to go with the text. He reported to me in his timed responses what the text and audio where telling us. We moved past grammar, on to reading comprehension, then conversation. He has a week until his exam. That week contains his hopes of moving on as a language student.

Why would I give up my Saturday evening for this? Why would I spend hours reading passages and questions out loud to this young man? He is a nice person and I have enjoyed our talks, but I’ve never met him, maybe never will.  And I really wanted to do something else.  My mind was set on a particular activity, and it was not English grammar.

Yet, he is a friend. He reaches across cyberspace to ask me to lend a hand. Nice to know I can contribute to someone’s education. Education is the most valuable thing we can ever have. Even if you win the lottery tomorrow, your knowledge will remain your most precious possession.

If my friend benefited at all from the few intense English sessions we had recently, I think I got the better of the deal. He showed me what life is like in a culture different from mine. I am patient as he goes through his exercises. He is patient with me as I ask questions about his life. Some of my questions are no doubt naïve, but I’ve learned so much by asking them.

If he’s successful and becomes a language student, I hope we get to meet. He has taught me an enormous amount by asking me to read aloud and pose questions from an English textbook.

So, how did you spend your Saturday evening?

WE’RE ON OUR WAY!

Pick Me Up

What is the one word or phrase that immediately cheers you up when you hear it?

 


“Friends are coming to visit!”

That does it every time. Since I’ve been out of the hospital, now more than a month, visits from friends and family have totaled zero. Lots of promises, but I haven’t seen anyone in the flesh. No smiles or hugs except electronically. A few phone calls, a handful of emails, a couple of cards.

I guess everyone is busy.

If anyone out there feels like dropping by, hey, I’d love to see a smile on a face I love!