55. Splinterly

It’s time for another installment. I don’t know how I know this, I just do. It’s a feeling of need… a need to push out some thought or feeling, a need to tell a story, a need to share something. When you have a mystery splinter, you know that you need to get it out of your fingertip, even when you can’t see the thing. A tiny pin prick of pain reaction flares until you find and remove it. Ouch!  And that thing could be an idea, an insult, a little rejection, disappointment, curiosity, a hope. Splinters come in various forms.

I used to draw greeting cards to work out psychological splinters like stress or mild anger or confusion, hopelessness, shame, joy, and love. I wound up with a bunch of weird cards… a broken coffee mug, a grave, a lighthouse, an overturned wheelbarrow… and I thought of these images as symbols of my feelings. A bunch of tiny splinters on the maple dining room table. Once I worked them through with watercolor, I could sigh deeply and leave that feeling cluster on a piece of paper. That two hour process worked well, though obviously I’d have more feelings than I could ever illustrate.

“Splintered” is the feeling that comes over you when you realize as an adult that some of your life was false. Let me demonstrate. Pull a twenty dollar bill out. Set it on this computer screen and examine it carefully. Let’s say it’s counterfeit and you must hand your twenty over to the Secret Service. They give you a receipt but no money. You were duped, my friend. Somewhere along the line, someone slipped a fake in among the real bills– maybe in a dark bar or a race track or an Amish market. And now multiply that scenario by a thousand or ten thousand. Through no fault of your own, you lose.

“Of course your father is your father. He raised you, after all.”

“Grandma was a practical nurse…who delivered babies on the side sometimes without a license…and sold drugs.”

“Oh, Uncle Larry?  He had a touching problem when he was young. That’s why he lived with your Grandmother’s people in Huntingdon…at the prison”

“Aunt Dotie is Harold’s second wife, dear. Actually, your cousin Sandra is her neice, not her daughter.  Dotie’s twin sister died when Sandy was an infant, and Dotie stepped up. Your cousin Mandy is Dotie’s child. I guess we never told you.”

Or my favorite, “Your Uncle Eddie went on a long vacation and came back as Aunt Sally.”

It doesn’t have to be one singular event or epiphany. Finding out that your parents were victims of abuse who had all control ripped away from them as children can release a trickle of material loose in your mind that foams into a lather as each eccentric moment fits into a pattern of control put in place to extinguish fear. Things that didn’t make sense slowly come into focus when you realize that you had the wrong lens on the specimen. A process of rewriting your own history may take the rest of your life as you watch older family dig deeper into bunker living to defend against invisible enemies.

“So I’m your daughter not your sister? That makes our parents, my…well, yours, my  grandparents? And so, then, who’s my dad? Wait, do I want to know this?”

Imagine gravity turning off and stuff that used to be solid and heavy starts floating around like you are at the space station, but you’re in  your living room, floating above yourself as you read the letters or will or listen to the phone call that ended gravity. “I always sensed something was hidden. My one uncle treated me like his son, and now I see that was the truth. And everyone else just played along. Fine for them, but what about my sanity?”

“Okay, I’m adopted…thus the lack of any resemblance to anyone in this family in any way, shape or manner. I’m 27. Wasn’t there a time before now that might have worked?  And the time I wanted to see my birth certificate, remember, when I wanted to go to England and needed a passport? You lied all the way through that.”

“You can narrow my biological dad down to one of three guys? Awesome!”

I’m tripping, man, splintering what had been a solid piece of an American family tree. The hurt goes deep to the roots and bubbles back thickly as sadness and sap, which I will boil off into angry steam.

54. unbarbed

The world may be a poorer place today. A chunk of gravity is missing. A person who grounded others’ spirits and beliefs has died. Her name is Barb. Hers was a life well lived. How I even know her is a lovely bit of grace. Let me tell you, Blogdom, about this silvery woman.

Three or four years ago my wife was on her way to a ladies mentoring tea at our church. The intent of the meeting was to match up mentor women with mentee women. I pictured my accomplished wife as mentoring a 25 year old single mother of two, one of whom would have special needs. (My wife has that kind of heart and skillset.) Off she went on a Saturday afternoon, I think, hoping to be the person she needed when we were 25 and starting our family.

Later that day I asked how it went and with whom she was partnered. “Barb”, was her answer.

“Barb?” I questioned her. “Isn’t she the older woman in your Wednesday night group? She’s what? 75?”

“Yes”, my wife replied with a smile. “God told me to mentor her. And she told me He spoke the same thing to her. So that’s what we’re doing.”

We don’t argue with God in my family. So my wife and Barb began a friendship over the next few years. They spent time together and prayed. They shared their loving concerns about family and friends. And a funny thing happened. Other women with similar needs began to attach to Barb and my wife. Chris came along and loved Barb. Then Cindy, and I have no idea how Cindy got connected. Then my friend Candi met with them and pretty soon they had this thick bond based in prayer and love. Thursday night was the designated night for the group and they faithfully met…until Barb began to have trouble with her lungs. Why is it that just when you learn to love and trust and really get it going, something tragic seems to arise?

Well, no matter. The ladies just decided to meet at Barb’s house, since she needed to be on oxygen and had limited mobility. They adjusted and Barb became the physical center of the spiritual center. Sara (my lovely wife) always said how wise and deep Barb was. As Barb went from specialist to specialist, her prognosis just got worse and her life expectancy shorter. She needed a lung transplant but was not a good candidate for such a surgery. After that last hope expired, Barb went home and settled in to meet Death with dignity. She continued to meet with her prayer circle even though she was confined to a hospital bed and oxygen.

Last Monday she died after a long time of suffering, relieved here and there by morphine. Why did she linger and suffer?  Another older woman I know who is very familiar with death proposed this explanation. “She had given her life away and always been there for others. In her final days she reaped that same harvest of love.” I’m okay with that perspective. Why is it that just when you learn to love and trust and really get it going, something tragic happens? I suppose so that we are left wanting more, craving the crystalline moment of joy we once had.

Barb is most definitely in heaven today, checking out the many folks she loved and was loved by in life. If she’s not there, then I am cancelling my subscription.

53. Mitchlessly

Okay,  it is almost universally known in the coffee shop that Summit Nation meets on Thursday mornings at 8:30. Yes? Well, of course, yes!! And seeing that it has met as stated for the past three plus years, it is inconceivable that a regular observer/participant would not acknowledge this truth. Mitch, the young turk of Chambersburg’s new wave funkadelic no socks scene, expressed a heartfelt desire to be a member of the inner sanctum sanctorum not two months ago. He was fully vetted and given a seat at the table. He attended in earnest a time or two, played a little impoverished chess, and then moved on to other scenes. The problem is that Chambersburg is not big enough for a lot of scenes, and I just saw him making a new scene with an afternoon music group. Absolutely I confronted him. I worked him over like a dirty brass doorknob. It was not exactly the final scene from “A Boy Named Sue” where the pa and son fight it out in “the mud and the blood and the beer”. In fact, there was no resemblance between the two, but I like the reference. Closer to scolding a puppy. Anyway, his parting comment was “Go ahead, blog about it!”

He called my blog bluff. “What could I do? I got all choked up and threw down my gun, I called him pa and he called me son, and I came away with a different point of view.” Actually, I walked back to my office and began blogging. I’ll show him the error of his ways. It won’t be all dressy and dramatic like facebook bombing. No, I’m putting it out there mano y mano, plus my two failthful blog readers. I’m calling you out, Mitch.

Two days later.

I may have been too harsh with Mitch. Apparently he has gone missing and is feared kidnapped by mafia types. A ransom note demanding two jelly donuts was found at table one if we ever hope to see the Auburn Acolyte alive again. A fund has been set up to raise the necessary funds to meet the kidnappers’ demands. A jar with Mitch’s picture is glued down next to the  cash register. “Please Help!!! Mitch has been kidnapped and may be hurt. We cannot go to the police or he could wind up on Jeopardy. Last seen wearing a flannel shirt, an earring and a hardwood flame hairdo. No socks and skinny jeans that may be capris. Cloth shoes that are stylish. Your tips are appreciated.”  Now we’re looking at a crime scene. And all this could have been prevented.  If only Mitch had attended the Coffee Summit faithfully. I’ll never forgive him.

Guys like Mitch think they’re gonna live the high life forever. And forever turns out to be tomorrow in a cardboard box. He’s out there somewhere. We’re just not ready to call this a recovery mission yet.

Two weeks later.

It’s been fourteen days. We released a balloon with Mitch’s name on it (um, the marker ran dry after M I T, but it’s the thought, right?) in front of the shop. Unfortunately it got stuck in the crabapple tree and lodged there. We took it as a sign that Mitch has not crossed over yet. He may be stuck on a cosmic traffic circle between heaven and earth, having to serve his time of repentance in  a  constant left hand turn. It’s a little known factualism that NASCAR drivers who did not make the Chase in life, are condemned to this traffic circle for eternity or until they gain the pole position. It’s really frustrating to sort out who is leading and who is being lapped, when suddenly the pole position guy will be raptured and it all starts over again. These checkered flaggers are recycled back to earth as waiters in mime restaurants until they are purified seven times. It could be years before Mitch is released from this dizzying fate. And then what? How do you take orders from mimes? The balloon deflated and just sits there limp in the tree, M I T. And we have to explain to strangers that it’s a makeshift memorial to Mitch and not a freebie from the Massachusetts Instiitute of Technology. Truly tragic.

Two years later.

Unbelievably this morning at Coffee Summit a tall, thin vagabond in skinny jeans (possibly capris) and no socks shoved open the door to the coffee shop. He had a long red beard that flamed out from his thin face. His Willie Nelson length hair was bunched up in a hipster Rastafarian sock hat with the Jamaican flag colors woven in it. 34 inch finger nails dragged across the floor as he approached our table. He had a bizarrely familiar pair of eyes behind stylish glasses. Could it be?  From behind his chapped lips a voice that had not been heard in two years, said, “My name is Sue. How do you do? Now you’re gonna die.” The red bearded spectre reached out his Edward Scissorhand hands and reached for my neck. It was just our luck that his lengthy nails prevented him from grabbing anything inside of 39 inches,and as I was sitting with my back against the wall, I was in the safe zone. I knew then that it was Mitch because he attacked just like he played chess: hurting himself with each move. He thrust his long fingernailed hands at me only to be self-repulsed by their powerful recoil. Boing!

Ten Minutes Later.

After many thrusts and parries, whatever they are, Mitch lay exhausted on his back. It seemed like a dream when all the former barrista girls came out in long flowing white gowns to attend to him, to cut his hair, nails, deodorize, trim, mend, etc. In 28 minutes he was back to his former self, though his eyes were glazed over by the crust of wisdom. Through a fog I called to him, “MItch, I am your father.” Clarity lit a small fire in those tired traveler’s eyes. “Yes, Summit Master.”  He gave the signature half smile and was seated in his rightful place at the round table. The gears of the universe clicked once again and time moved forward without anyone ever mentioning the lost two years that went by in the blink of an eye.

52. tweetly

Ned is the name of the baby robin that chirped so tweetly to me on a very hot Fourth of July as I walked down Holland Ave with my brother. His back tire had blown out due to overinflation and the fact that the tire was 17 years old, thus ending our bike ride prematurely. However, for Ned it was divine intervention when we rolled our bikes by him, squat in the middle of the hot macadam. I picked him up with the full knowledge of the responsibility that I was accepting in this gesture. I would hand him over to my wife’s capable mother hands and stand back in amazement. Meanwhile, Ned’s mother cheeped at us from the nearby shrubs and trees. She reminded me of the whackos who don’t want you to have medical care. I could imagine her going back to her Fox Channel birdbrains and claiming that I had taken Ned to a death panel, when in fact, Ned was on a death platter in the middle of a suburban street in the middle of a red state’s scarlet belly. “No care is better than the government takeover of healthcare”, so they chirp. Fly to Honduras and get back to me on that belief.

Once home, old knowledge of raising baby birds kicked in almost immediately. Sara gathered up dry grass and made a nest in a laundry basket. Out came an eye dropper for hydration. Raw hamburger was formed into beef worms, and Ned gobbled up the love. He got comfortable quickly and adjusted to being inside our house. Our dog began to grow jealous because he could smell the burger being hand fed to Ned, and he was not getting any. Just like she eats popcorn at night with Johnnie the dog, (post # 13 Doggonitedly)  my wife began to do the “two for you and one for you” routine. She was not eating raw hamburger but sharing it with Johnnie in case you were wondering.

Annie the cat came by to inspect the bird. She was thoroughly nonplussed. Just another day in the life of a cat who was rescued in similar circumstances ten years ago. Come to think of it, Johnnie was a foster rescue dog also. Altogether we had three rescued pets in the living room sniffing each other. Technically Ned is not a pet. You are not legally allowed to keep a wild bird as a pet, and we had no intention to do so. We knew that in a week or two he would be hopping around, demanding to be fed like most teenagers, and then fly off. This was not our first robin rodeo afterall. And here it is, the 16th of July and Ned is loose in the garden, scurrying around under pepper plants and green beans, trying to get the hang of finding his own food. My wife has even gone the extra mile and bought worms for Ned to practice finding. She drops the worms near him and urges him to peck them. So far he has not gotten the hang of it. He seems to prefer the moistened cat food and burger worms that we have been feeding him. Oh yeah, and the liquid vitamin D3 my wife had to buy for Ned’s total nutritional needs. I know, we should all be so lucky when we fall out of a tree.

I fell off a tree swing when I was 10 or 11 and broke my wrist. No bird swooped in with food and lodging and vitamins. No, my buddies kept swinging over me and laughing at me as I lay in a dry creek bed moaning. Then they practiced their spitting skills on me, working out the wind’s force as they swung out and then back on spit bombing raids over my broken body. I think their disregard for human suffering motivated me to get up and stumble home. Yeah, it was broken and swollen and throbbed with each heartbeat. I got a cast that kept me from swimming for the rest of the summer. No burger worms or cat food for me. What’s a kid to do?

51. Dramatically

I don’t know what the deal is with all the drama going on these days. I wonder if it is a by-product of pampered parenting, indulgence. My buddy Clark says that indulgence is the worst form of child abuse. “You can get therapy for sexual, physical, and psychological abuse and heal up eventually. But with indulgence, you don’t even know you have been abused.” I appreciate the insight. I believe it is profound.

It is truly a disservice to your children to present a peachy world that they are entitled to. I am reminded of a comment made about George W. Bush, “He was born on third base and told he’d hit a triple.” Well, yeah, that creates false expectations in folks, based on false beliefs of superiority or an imagined destiny when their family takes turns kissing their soft buttocks. The expectation grows that they are deserving of special privileges. This false view of the world is not limited to the wealthy. It happens in poor families also. Somehow, as parents insulate their young children, then adolescents, then adult children from the harsh consequences of life, these woefully unprepared folks stumble into the bright lights of real world expectations with soft behinds which cannot tolerate even mild disappointment. Unable to problem solve, they opt for the whiney, screamy, hyper displays we know as drama. Thank you, Jerry Springer.

Hey, it’s good to suffer…if you suffer in a linear fashion and suffer well. At the end of good suffering come wisdom and maturity. Thick skin comes from irritation and toil. A new vision is adopted, one that is more rational, problem focused, and effective. On the other hand poor suffering is cyclical: the afflicted person does not problem solve. Instead heorshe blames and complains and embraces their victimhood. The situation changes or else someone else causes change. The drama child then reinforces hisorher ineffective reaction to pain. The takeaway is that whining and blaming and  pouting achieved their goal. The self limiting strategy is strengthened.

Years ago I recall a young father, husband, drug addict who wanted to claim his just rewards and respect for the first two attributes while completely denying the last. Instead of admitting to his dysfunction and beginning some reconciliation with his desperate wife, he screamed, “I would take a bullet for my family!!!” Now this was a fairly safe comment since no guns were apparent in our safe little counseling room in a former church parsonage. If folks had burst in with loaded guns, I’m not sure that he would have been so loud and bold. His tired wife responded, “I just want you to clean up the mess you made on the stove a week ago. Can you do that?”  He swore on his life that it was as good as done. Wow, he deserved an Oscar just for the counseling performance of the year, best male actor in a drama. He went home and broke a window and went back to Baltimore for more drugs. The kitchen remained a mess without any bullets fired or the death of any family members. It remains with me 15 years later that the intensity of his drama was roughly equivalent to the falseness of his life.  His lies were not getting the desired effect, so he jacked up the volume, rhetoric, and body language.

Oh false drama! See what thou hast wrought?

Anyway, it appears to me that such extreme emotional outbursts are growing more common. I don’t want to hear another word about facebook and the insanity that reigns there. Texting, sexting, facebook posts, and godonlyknowswhatelse have seeped into our modern culture like backed up sewage. We are getting used to the filth, adapting like carp near sewage treatment spillways. We are growing fat with putridity.

How is it that educated adults cannot resist a calculated response to a facebook post that baited them into the semi-public forum? And why is turning off your phone not an option when your ex- calls or texts you 40 times in one day? Do we need driver’s ed class for technology now? Drama, theatrics, exaggeration… remember, it’s pretend.

50. Explosively

In 1975 I moved in with three guys into the second floor of an old, once grand house on Floyd Ave. in Richmond, Virginia. It was a shotgun flat with the kitchen and a large room with a bath out front overlooking Floyd Ave. Then came a square room with maybe one window. Then my large room with two big windows and a separate doorway. Then another bathroom, a back staircase, and then a single room with its own locked door. I moved from around D.C. to Richmond with all my stuff during one early evening. Must have been October. We stayed up late drinking beer and talking. It was exciting to be living away from home for the first time in my nineteen year old life.

In the morning I was hungry and sauntered through Bruce’s dark room into the big front room/ kitchen with a bath area. My roommate Weird Conspiracy Paul was sitting in his designated Spartan area with a chair and a mattress  on the floor.  I asked if he’d like some pancakes. He gave an enthused “yeah!”  So I began putting together the ingredients in a bowl. Meanwhile I turned on the gas oven to preheat a cookie sheet on which I planned to pile up freshly fried pancakes. As I whipped up the batter, I chatted mindless nothings with alienboy Paul.

Then the moment of truth arrived. You see this stovetop had a visible pilot light, just like the stove at my parents’ house. I assumed incorrectly that it also had a pilot light in the oven. Wrong. As I turned the front burner knob on to heat the skillet, a soft “poof” was instantly followed by a thunderous, concussive “whoooomphhh”.

In one long slow motion trauma film with four camera angles I sensed the oven door exploding out as it disgorged the cookie sheet in a straight line right at Paul. He screamed as it came toward him like an incoming missile-launched Exorcist baby. In the same millisecond I was aware that the panes in the old double hung window next to the stove were exploding out onto the stoop and sidewalk below. At the very same time I heard the locked door of the room we were in buckle open and slam against the outside hallway wall. The hair on my arm was singed and stinking. The plaster dust drizzled down from the hundred year old plaster ceiling like a fine snow. I wondered if anyone was maimed or killed by the shattered glass. I peaked out and saw, amazingly, that there was no loss of life or scalps below. Then I remembered to breathe.

“Holy Shamolie!” I said or some equivalent. Paul shakily brought the cookie sheet up to the expanded stove that had grown about an inch and a half. We didn’t speak as much as just utter vowels…”Whoa, oh, wow, no”. I walked to the hall door and pulled the door shut. I could not believe that the concussion waves had blown this door open and nearly off its hinges. “HallolieShamolieLAkaLaka” I said, or some equivalent. Real speech was knocked out of my voice for a few minutes.  Well, so much for the pancakes.

I spent the rest of that day measuring glass and shopping for glazing and tools to repair the blown out panes, sweeping up the mess. Thanking God that no one was killed inside or out. But it was not over. The next day my roommate Bruce was taking a shower in the bathroom attached to the blast zone. He was lathered up with shampoo and soap when the old horsehair plaster above him let go and coated his wet naked body like Shake and Bake chicken coating on a frying rooster. He screamed and cursed and came out of the dusty room spitting out dirt and plaster and hundred year old horsehair. The image haunts me to this day. He looked like a cross between a survivor from Hiroshima and Kentucky Fried Chicken. We laughed till urination as he floundered and swore at us, which just made it all the funnier.

49. Fadedly

Heat seems to affect folks’ short term memory. This results in a lot of forgotten appointments or last minute fade aways when the days become long and hot. I’m fine with human frailty since I majored in it in grad school. Sometimes being a counselor is like being a cab driver. I show up but the client does not. Unlike a cab driver I cannot simply pick up a random person who flags me down for therapy. First of all it would be too public and therefore unethical. Secondly it would be weird. Who waits on a street corner in the hopes of a mental health worker driving by with a lit up “In service” sign? And those that do I think I addressed in an earlier post called Crazily, #33 if you are keeping score at home.

However, missed appointments allow me to blog, which is a lose/lose deal.  I am off the leash for an hour of mental meandering, fueled this morning by some Stevie Ray Vaughn licks. Fabulous. Another hour to chill before trying to wrap my brain around the next client’s history and issues and feelings. Okay, analogy two. Listening to clients tell their stories is like being a mental bricklayer. I take notes and join together their stuff in an ordered fashion, because, as Shakespeare wrote, “Life is a tale told by an idiot”. My job is to sort through it all and lay down course upon course that is mostly square, level and plumb. Session after session builds a psycho-spiritual foundation that, hopefully, the client incorporates over time…if heorshe catches my cab when the light is on.

“How does counseling work?” I am often asked. “I mean, how can talking about problems change anything?”  On one hand it seems pretty obvious that talking/communicating about any problem is how you solve it, whether IT is the atomic bomb or the BP oil spill or HIV. On the other hand it’s equally clear that JUST talk will not solve anything. Still, still, still…a calmness comes after folks have vomited out their emotional lava flows onto the funky carpet of my office floor. Once their emotional spasms cease, they can think more clearly and rationally.  In this process a person can peel off layers of falseness and unnecessary psychological defenses. Their souls get exfoliated and become supple and fresh again. Sounds good, huh?

Yeah, yeah. Does it always turn out productively?  No.Too many variables. However, most of the time I’d say there is a level of improvement, and, of course, sometimes there are enormous gains, even transformed lives. Once I knew a woman who had been hospitalized for being out of control, in emotional spasms, while her stoic husband stood by unable to comfort her or offer any support. In this unruly process a struggle broke out. Ironically or poetically her wedding band was broken, split when she fell on the kitchen floor.

A couple of years later she was stuck in the very same hurt, a pain that seared her liver.  She wanted to move on, to recover.  She knew a lot about nature and once told me that after a fire or some other destroyer of habitat hits a natural site, one of the first recovery plants is poison ivy. Oddly enough poison ivy helps hold the soil and shades the ground so that other people-friendly plants can get a grip on survival. She was in this poison ivy stage in her scorched marriage. Nasty, itchy, clingy, counter intuitive. She wanted to scream at him, “I hate you for not loving me enough to save me then.” Yet she also wanted to scream, “I love you still, Blockhead. Love me back.”

One Saturday morning she brought the ring and some other totems into my office. I asked her to conjure up the pains and hurts, not just from that betrayal but from all significant hurts in her life, of which there were many. She lit a candle, played some soft music, and then wailed for an hour. This time her husband was right next to her comforting her through the awfulness and the acid reflux of regurgitated shame. In the end she seemed transformed. I was surprised a bit when she left the ring with me. “I have no room for this any longer. Maybe you can use it to help someone else.” And I have over the years pulled out the ring and told her story in outline form.  She was a very fine woman whose marriage broke through to another ring size.

How does this counseling thing work?  Like that sometimes, even on hot days when memories almost fade away.

48. Pontifically

Okay, as the Gotye song plays “somebody that I used to know”, I must sadly report on the shocking meeting I witnessed in the D’italia’s north window seat for two, today at the lunch hour. Andrea, the head barrista at my coffee shop, sitting opposite Ron, a 3rd round draft choice for my Coffee Summit.  And it could not come at a worse time. I am expecting the Pope to join us this Thursday at Coffee Summit Nation, but Ron could have jeopardized that whole big-hat thing with his shenanigans in the front window of a public house. It was disturbing. Andrea had the turkey/cranberry salad sandwich on what appeared to be rye bread, while Ron was eating the ravioli. The worst part was that neither of them invited me to join them. Shocking!! (They carried on as if I were an annoying gnat. It was gnot gnice. I suspect it all goes back to our last chess game that Ron lost in a hail of pieces.)

Naturally I accosted them like a Dateline reporter with a hidden camera. “Well, RON. You haven’t been to the Summit in months now, but you have time to lunch with the fair young Andrea of Needmore Castle?”

“I have to eat”, was his curt yet lame reply.

“And ANDREA?  Do you realize what you are doing?” (Because I certainly didn’t.)

I don’t even recall her reply, but it may have been “Are you going to out us on your blog?”

‘Well, yes, my formerly forgiven flamingo’ I thought to myself. This is exactly the sort of useless stuff I’ll put in my blog on a hot July day now that my mother-in-law is home with her own electricity.

We blathered. I threatened impossibilities. I ordered my take out (chicken,bacon, mozzarella… awesome) and left for the coffee shop (two doors north) to lean on Jake for support. He was also unaware that the Pope was expected on Thursday.  However, he (Jake) is on the schedule for Thursday so I know we will have excellent service with or without the Pope. I  picked up my sandwich ten minutes later and gave them one more chance to be obsequious. Not even a nibble on a sequin. I left in a foil wrapped, styrofoam huff with a bag of chips. The audacity of  the inhumanity appalled me and left me searching for other words that would exaggerate the absurdity of it all.

Just in case the Pontiff can’t make it, I have a tall hat made of oak tag in my office. It was not that hard to make, honestly. It would take longer to explain why I made it than the actual construction time. I have a nice green scarf that I could wear as a stole and a walking stick that a client gave me. I can get my shepherd schwing going. I need a big ring for the guys to kiss. I can’t wait. Then we’ll see what Ron has to say! Oh yeah. Sorry, Ron, Andrea, you’re just somebody that I used to know.

47. Powerlessly

Okay, it’s the killer heat wave of the summer of 2012. Without any blockbuster movies or other huge news distractions, we are focused on the weather for now. No Son of Sam shootings or celebrity kidnappings or international dramas going on. Just Obamacare and the heat wave…both of which will pass. Have you noticed that our American society has come to more or less expect a crisis per week? We have become such drama junkies that we need a bigger fix more often than Keith Richards in his heyday. Credit 24 hour news for filling up the old void that used to be dead air time for sleeping and just shutting down. Then the internet trumped super updated television news. Which was then trumped by Twitterworld and instant drooling over facebook gossip. “Time goes by so slowly…and time can do so much…are you still mine?” If you are still reading this blog post, what is wrong with you? Dare you ignore “Unchained Melody”‘s urgings to check your status? All sorts of wickedly dramatic things are swirling around out in this historic heatplosion and you are slowly reading this stuff? Bloghandi, at least text your Media Anonymous sponsor and talk it through with himorher. People could be talking smack about you and you’ll be the 43rd to know. Oh the horror!

Collateral heat damage occurred. This is real though not dramatic. My 88 year old mother-in- law lost power in her Mclean, Virginia neighborhood home. Her house cooked into the 90’s and there is no definitive power back up date yet.  We have electricity here in the ruburbs of Central PA, but CNN told us that there was a blackout in the D.C. suburbs. So my wife swung into action. She sped off to her mom’s aid and brought her to our air conditioned house for the weekend. Grandma T is a trouper. She wedged her large frame into our little Honda Civic for the drive north. When she arrived, we pried her out; engaged her walker; walked 12 feet; sat and rested for the three steps up to our front door; and then made the big push into the upholstered chair my wife had raised 1 1/2 inches before she left earlier this morning. “Ploosh”  she flumped into the chair and has remained there for the last few hours. She’s watching a movie on my new laptop as I type on the old desktop. We all must sacrifice in a life or death situation.

Now we’ve been talking about buying a generator. G’ma T wondered where we’d plug it in. After a lot of loud shouts (she’s a bit hard of hearing) we managed to educate her that a generator actually makes electricity and you then plug things into the generator.  The longer we talked about it, the muddier the discussion became.  “Well, we’ll need a professional to install the generator, won’t we?”  I felt myself being pulled into the response team when she used the 1st person plural pronoun. “Actually, it’s like camping, Thelma. The generator is on wheels so no installation is necessary. It’s a glorified lawnmower that does not cut grass but makes electricity.”  “Oh” she said, meaning, “I still don’t understand this.”

Along the way she told me again for maybe the dozenth time that important people live in her neighborhood and so the county will likely make sure that power is restored there as a priority. (Power to the powerful.) “Justice Scalia and Kennedy, to name just a couple.”  I’m not sure how important your political status is during an electrical blackout, but my mother-in-law believes that it gives her street the edge in getting on-line sooner.  I wonder if the justices have generators at their houses or if big limos just roll up in an emergency and whisk them away to the Underground Supreme Court, which is reported to be in the mountains of West Virginia. Such powerful people are not used to being powerless on any level and could become cranky if they have to swim in the humidity too long. A power outage involving the valves of the heart of our legal system could wind up in juris prudence cardiac arrest. Imagine if Brown vs. The Board of Education had been under analysis during a heat wave? Or Roe vs. Wade. We might not even have the internet to blather on about insignificant impulses like this. In fact,  this heat wave may well be an assault on the First Amendment.

My wife just checked in with me. “Feeling blogged up?” she inquired. “Need a blogenema?” That’s just weird enough to be notable. I chuckled and proceeded to memorialize this joke, chastened but not completely powerless.