Poem: The Demented


I move you

as you watch

through eyes reaching back

to dance floors hung with

cigarette smoke swirls

Your double-breasted jacket

brushing cozily against a firmly guarded chest

Slowly moving together

feeling forever young

until

the music fades away

And then you turn

to see me sitting next to you

Are you searching among

reminiscence and room?

The pirouette now is sedate and stiff

partnered hands upon cold metal rails

that follow your lead

It is not love that holds us up in the end

But the lonely grip

of the metallic burn

the flickering memories that dart

with us

in and out

as our dance partners

once did

 

 

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Saving Me


Many years ago I did something that most think was to help someone else, but it was really to help me. It was actually not a selfless move to save a part of the world, but to save a part of me.

The journey began when I decided I wanted to adopt a baby. I am adopted as some of you may recall. It was not an easy journey, as I had criteria that made constraints that other people adopting might not have through their paths. It was my goal to stay within the US and to maintain birth order (my husband at the time and I had a 3-year-old), so when approaching an adoption agency, they showed us the ‘blue book’ of the “waiting children”–it appeared as though this might be impossible. Either we would have to take on siblings of 4 or teenagers. Neither of these situations seemed fair to my daughter.

But then the social worker mentioned foster care: the backdoor to adoption. At that time, 51% of foster children got adopted by their foster parents. It seemed like a reasonable plan to me, especially since I was a stay at home Mom anyway.

I won’t go through it all, because this is not what this post is about. Suffice to say, we became foster parents, eventually to a 2-year-old girl: mentally challenged, but high functioning, emotionally rocked by her first 2 years and HIV positive.

That toddler is now my 25-year-old daughter and she just had my first grandchild today–a little boy.

It has been a rocky road all along. My 3-year-old (now almost 28) has had a rough relationship with her, which has worsened as an adult. The birth daughter that came after her, has a distant, but OK relationship. And this daughter’s life has been one challenge after another. While her health is way better than anyone would have predicted (they figured she wouldn’t live past 9 years old), she has met with prejudice, job losses, school bullies and lots of tears.

She has been with her partner for many years, a young man who is also mentally challenged, more so than she. When she announced her pregnancy, we were all pretty upset. They are poor, with no jobs, living in abject poverty. While we help, there is only so much you can help those who often do not believe they need it.There was great concern for the welfare of a baby coming into these circumstances.

But she was determined, and her determination has always been one of her greatest (and sometimes most frustrating) attributes.
So today he was born. The doctors have taken every precaution, and so has she, that this baby be born HIV free. My daughter has tried very hard to take care of herself and many around her have been helping to get her hooked up with the proper services so there will be the best possible outcome down the road.

It is so easy to be negative, but success can’t happen unless we believe it is possible. Sometimes I think that she never thought much about her HIV and just figured she would live a normal life, so she has. And I understand her desire for baby, someone who belongs to her through genes, looks like her and comes from her. I get it when no-one else in my family may understand this–because we both have that connection, that mutual disconnect from our birth heritage.

So on this day, I will celebrate her decision and her new baby, my grand-baby. Because her adoption wasn’t about fixing her, it was to rescue a part of me.

Lest We Never Forget


On this September 11th, as I am remembering that day now so long ago, it feels rather odd to no longer be a part of the ‘family’ of emergency workers. It was a part of my life for so many years, and when that day ripped the world apart, it hit me personally, when so many of my brothers and sisters  were there in the chaos. It could have been me….


Now, I am so blessed, as I am settling in to my new home, to be living a different life. Not that it isn’t without its stresses. But in this new place, it somehow seems more tidy and peaceful, even when the world is now full of such unrest. For me, it seemed like it really started on the awful day. That’s when it ramped up. Yes, there was always hate, prejudice, injustice. Oh yeah…don’t get me wrong.

What we’ve done in this very country for hundreds of years has been disgraceful. The inequity of people based on color, gender, disabilities or anything different for that matter, has always been an issue here. But the hate now seems so palpable. And no, I don’t think it’s just that we hear about it more through media. There is just more of it!

As I walk through my new community, one that is neat and friendly, I feel it is easy to become insulated. I want to become insulated some days. It’s exhausting listening day after day to the killing, the terror, the devastation of the planet and the hatred. One just wonders what happened to simply winding one’s life down and beginning to relax?

At work I sit and hear people talk. The constant whining, complaining, the mocking tones and downright meanness. What came first? Were people always like this or has our country turned sour because of all that’s hurting our world and therefore our souls? Maybe it’s simply decomposing us from the inside.

I ask every day in my daily meditation for peace: in my life and for the world. Trying to touch each person I meet with a sense of peace. How can I have a ripple effect?

My simple, small and quiet apartment is my sanctuary. It’s easy now to feel like I never want to go outside.  But there are good reasons to do it… Pushing against the beast of lurking depression, caused by bombardment of the seeming global demise–I do my best to remain positive. This home is my recharge point where I plug-in to be able to go out into a world that drains me of resources.

So, lest we never forget: that day September 11, 2001, changed the world. It tore us apart and we haven’t figured out since then how to come back together. The only way to honor those lost that day, and those who are still suffering, like the rescuers who continue to lose their lives because of the toxins they took in from 9/11–is to learn how to love again. To love each other, the earth, the animals, the trees, the air, the water….
And no walls, either outside or in, will help. Only learning to understand each other on the deepest level. And truly caring for our fellow human like we are one family.

Finding One’s Purpose


Today my middle daughter came over to see me. It’s rare that she does and today it was for a reason. This daughter has struggled most her life with a multitude of disabilities: emotional,  health, psychological and even, to some, degree physical. We were all shocked (even her) when she finally got her driver’s license and they issued her a handicapped plate for her small stature!

She came into our family when she was two years old as our foster child and we adopted her some years later. The family blending has never been easy, for any of us, but especially for her. Family life, school life, her social life and just life in the ‘real’ world has been a challenge for my daughter. But she plows on.

At 19 it was time to graduate HS. I wanted her to stay on, stay plugged into HS and continue to get as many skills she could to deal with the big, bad world. But the odds were against me. The teachers wanted only to push her out, my ex-husband didn’t want to fight with them and my daughter couldn’t wait to get out and be an ‘adult’.

So off she went, completely unprepared for what awaited her! And of course, spend three years unemployed. She also moved in with her boyfriend’s parents and has spent many unhappy moments there. Since then she has found a job here and there, but is usually fired as she is ‘too slow’ according to most reports from management. This is hard for her to hear as she is a hard worker and so willing to do anything.

These cumulative years of unemployment and being fired brought her sadness and discouragement. Finally there was hope when she was hired by none other than the huge corporation of Wal-Mart! Generally I hate that place, but was pleased they were giving a disabled person a chance. And she’s been flourishing there for many months.

Until I heard from her yesterday. She called me to tell me they instituted a new blood born pathogen policy. My daughter may or may not be a lot of things, but one thing she knows about is this topic! She has studied it, researched it, read about it and most importantly: LIVED it! So when she read it, she knew something wasn’t right. Now while she doesn’t comprehend things so well, I read it too and saw immediately she was correct.

The policy not only left out important facts, but appears to be violating basic medical rights. It’s sketchy and looks like it is hard-arming employees into doing something that they should not have to do. My daughter focused on this and said: NO, I will not do this and don’t have to because I have rights!

I explained to her that if she pushed management she would mostly likely be subjected to losing her job. She fully understood this fact. She said: I lived with this disease my whole life and am saying: no more. I never felt more proud in my whole life! Here’s a kid who struggled for years to find a job and a purpose, when all along, it was right there under her nose! She’s an advocate. And who better to be one, then someone who lives with this every day of her life?

We all struggle to find our life’s purpose. Some know from a young age that we are born to help others, or to be an astronaut, or to sing, paint, write or teach. But those of you who are like me are still struggling. Purpose can be elusive and slippery. It may not be a career that we do, but a characteristic we have; we might be a giving person that touches every person we meet. Or maybe we volunteer at many local organizations. We might have dedicated our lives to being the best parent we could be. That might be our life’s purpose. Maybe it’s caring for our planet by being a vegetarian, gardening, recycling, using solar and going off the grid. Our religious beliefs may guide us towards our purpose on earth too.

Maybe we’ve never looked closely at what our purpose might be. Or like me, I frequently toss in bed wondering what it is supposed to be. I’m sure my daughter hasn’t worried about it one bit. But it was so clear to me what hers must be. She has touched my life in many ways for sure. My journey with her and her HIV status opened my eyes to other’s struggles. We never know the inner struggles someone may have that we cannot see. Whether in their blood or in their soul, mind or heart. But they too may have a purpose for being here, like you.  And we must all help one another cultivate, share and expand our purposes here on this planet we call home.

Bring It Inside


Today I did something I don’t often do, but like to do when I can. I went to Church…yes, Church. I go occasionally to the UU…or Unitarian Universalist Church that is local to me. I used to go years ago when I lived in Syracuse, NY and loved it. I loved it for its welcoming and open community. It is an accepting and loving place without emphasis on God or Christianity. This was a comfort to me as I am not a Christian, raised by a Jewish Mother and Protestant Father and coming out pagan myself.

So when I found a ‘church’ and a ‘religion’ that was more a community of liked minded people where I could meet folks that did good things, said interesting things and often had interesting classes, I was willing to give it a try. It was an easy fit, without the religious jargon that so often gave me the willies other places did when I visited.

When I came to New England, my family and I tried the UU Church here. The building was much more ‘church-like’ than the one in NY, having a steeple and pews. This was at first a bit of a put-off, but I decided venture forth anyway.

Honestly, I’ve never found it quite like my NY family, but it has it merits I suppose. I’ve never quite gotten as involved though. It has never grabbed me the same way and even put me off in some ways. As a spiritual person, and one that keeps evolving, I won’t give up hope.

So today, I had gotten enough rest and decided on a rainy NE day, it was a good day to listen to someone say something poignant. It’s always lovely to hear the music also and maybe even meet someone nice. Being single does get lonely, and having a community is something I am trying to find.

This month is ‘inclusive’ month there: including others–gays, disabled, people of color, transgender etc. It was interesting listening to the minister talk about this (and other short talks) while sitting among an all white audience of people all over 50.  I’m willing to bet there were no transgender people listening today (although I could be wrong), and I didn’t notice any gay couples either.

One problem I’ve always had with the UU community, especially the one around here, is that they talk a big game, but don’t seem to walk that talk. One gentleman did mention the fact that we were all white and maybe we should work harder on attracting people of other nationalities. Could be tricky where we live! Hey, I’d be happy to see some young people! Most everyone looked over 70! It doesn’t seem a stretch they could attract younger people with a credo talking about inclusiveness!

So I guess my point is: it’s all well and good to say stuff, but you have to live it too. If you have a credo, don’t just read it every day, but do the things it says! Believe it, feel it, emote it. Whether you are Christian or UU, it doesn’t matter! Or even if you are an atheist–be strong in your beliefs. Get out there and beat the street.

I know I’ve always had a big mouth–my third grade teacher called me chatterbox. Hopefully now I put it to good use. And hopefully my ethics and belief system is one that is based on fairness, equity and equality. I’m not always perfect and catch myself plenty, but I try to take each person as they come. And I always open my big mouth when I feel something isn’t right.

Maybe if I keep going to this UU Church I can help them get more diversity. It’s all well and good to tout diversity within four walls of a church, but we have to take that credo to the streets and bring it inside!