314. the silent man

He doesn’t say much, so it’s hard to tell if he’s thinking or what he’s feeling. His is not so much a poker face as it is a deflated basketball face. It seems that he used to have more substance on the inside that pushed his chin out and cocked his mouth into a confident smile. More bounce. Back then his warm eyes promised more to come. Now he spends an inordinate amount of time staring into his phone, barely tethered to family and friends, like an absent minded astronaut doing a space walk in the zero oxygen environment of black space.

“I’m going to eat in the bedroom tonight.”

“I’m going to bed now.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow night.” And he disappears into that black void beyond gravity’s pull. It’s a weightless but joyless place he goes, and it chips my heart every time he does.”

She is left with behaviors as the evidence of what lies within her almost champion’s heart and head.

“He’s kind and caring… my anchor, but I need him to be the captain of the ship. It’s easy to take an anchor for granted, you know. It’s out of sight and just barely attached. You don’t realize it’s even there when it does its job. In a crisis you pray that it will hold firm… but it’s hard to love an anchor.”

“He’s in chronic pain, tired, and deflated. Yeah, there’s that deflated idea again, where you have to slam the ball down to get it to come back up half as high. Underinflated, hmmmm, like depressed. But let’s not fix anything, no.  I don’t want to be a nag, but I won’t be a doormat either. I’ve done both before and neither worked out. I love who he is; I just don’t get to see much of his who. All the whats bog us down.”

“I’m all over the place with emotions and words and actions. I’m the pilot, the cook, the look out, the medic, the mechanic, fire police, security, accountant, and I swab the ship’s deck. I need him to step into the captaincy, you know, assert some authority.

“Sometimes it’s like playing with my old Mr. Potato Head. I start with a blank slate and give him arms to hold me, cuz I need hugs and touch. I’m a feely kind of girl, you know. Hugs are my drugs.

“Then I’d snap in those smoky eyes I long to fall into. It used to be automatic that I’d see his soul jumping like a pair of dolphins in those deep waters. I can’t find that accessory today, only sad or tired or glazed over eyes in today’s toy box. Mr. Potato Head, I need your soft hands to hold me. I need your strong arms to draw me into that cove where dolphins leap in tandem.

“You’re gonna need more tissues. Honk!!! Sniff. Sigh. I have a buy one get one free coupon for tissues.”

“No thanks. I get a perverse pleasure out of paying full price for things.”

“I’ll give it to your wife. I’m sure she loves a bargain.”

“Oh Yeah.”

“I have three fathers. You know my birth dad left when I was two. He went back to his native country and the familiar world where he was someone of notice. For over forty years I had nothing but radio silence, not even a pop or static on the line, as his blood flowed through my veins. However, my adopted dad showed up big in my life, and I couldn’t have asked for more. I think about that often. When I felt the empty space pull on my soul, I leaned into my Father God. He never left. He’s always held me together when I felt my seams breaking. He sent my adopted father to stand in the huge scarring gap my birth dad left behind.

“Funny thing is I’ve had three husbands also. My adolescent husband abandoned me along with the truth, dignity and the American Way. He chose the past also, where he was someone special. He burned the truth as a sacrifice on the altar of his self-indulgence. He grew like a pimple on my butt. So incredibly annoying and demanding.  Just like with my dad dilemma, I fell into God’s loving arms, exhausted and shattered. Again, My God Jesus walked as a husband with me, filling in the abyss until Chuck and I started the sequels to our first marriages.

“Chuck is the good sheriff who shows up and brings order in the bad cowboy town. I was so hopeful that he’d keep growing, sharing in my life, and not just settle for safe streets. That old song plays in my head about standing by me. I need that so much.

“Stand by Me” by Ben E. King
When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we’ll see
No I won’t be afraid, no I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me
Oh darlin’, darlin’, stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand by me, stand by me
If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
And the mountains should crumble to the sea
I won’t cry, I won’t cry, no I won’t shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me
And darlin’, darlin’, stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand now by me, stand by me, stand by me-e, yeah
And darlin’, darlin’, stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand now by me, stand by me, stand by me-e, yeah
Whenever you’re in trouble won’t you stand by me, oh now now stand by me
Oh stand by me, stand by me
Oh stand by me, stand by me
And that’s where I am today, with that old song playing in my exhausted heart. I know God held me in His hands till my True Dad showed up and made it all work. In faith I have to believe He is doing the same with my True Love.

178. Tangled words, wires and narratives

In my line of work I hear a lot of stories, so many that it’s easy for wires to get crossed and confabulations to occur. It’s as simple as confusing song lyrics when our order-seeking brains close loose data points into coherent narratives. For years I thought the chorus to John Lennon’s “Across the Universe” was “Jack-a-roo Day Ohhhhmmm”, and referred to a little boy version of John Lennon day dreaming. Wrong! The lyrics are “Jai Guru Deva Om”, a meditation mantra of sorts. According to a reproachable source I found on-line–

So all together it means, “I give thanks (victory) (salutation) to Guru Dev (or heavenly teacher), om”.

Well that’s a different twist to the same sounds I heard. Despite my forced framing of the lyrics, I could not redefine them. It reminds me of our Japanese exchange student Yushi and his lovable language concoctions. My daughter Grace came home from high school in 2005 talking about this exchange student who was like a lost puppy, who was living with a retired dentist, and could we keep him? We had a spare room since Erin was in college. We met Yush and found him to be very much like an exotic lost puppy. We accepted the challenge. Yush’s English was spotty at best. His most common expression, uttered after a fruitless search for English words, was “Sumsing”, accompanied by a nasal laugh over a wide helpless grin. Even now, years later, when there is a quiet moment in our family, and someone asks another, “What are you thinking?”, it’s not unusual to hear the reply, “Sumsing”. Followed, of course with a snorty purse dog laugh.

He loved sports greatly but did little academically. He and I played basketball and chess; we watched a lot of sports on television. And we went paintballing once then to an Orioles/Red Sox game in the spring of 2006. Yush was a character in his own way. One night as we sat down to dinner of chicken, green beans and rice, Yush looked to me and said, “Missa Hahny, you got riscence?”

I was perplexed but began using context clues to complete the pattern.

“Do you mean rice, Yush? Would you like some more rice?”

“No, riscence. You got riscence?”

“I’m not following you, Yush. Are you asking about a special rice with incense? Like an aromatic basmati rice?”

“No, no. When you do counseling, you got a ricense then?”

“Ohhhhh, you mean LICENSE. Yes, Jackaroo, I have a license.”

It must have been around New Year’s when this conversation took place. I told my friend Dave about it. The next weekend when all of us went to visit him and his family over the holidays, he had a welcoming sign on his front door that said,

“WE GOT RISCENCE!”.

As I said earlier, Yush and I played a lot of chess. One day he moved all his pieces directly in front of my pieces so that no movement was possible. He said, “I win.” Sometimes he’d stack the pieces, putting a pawn on top of a rook and declaring it a queen. It didn’t help his game. He lost a lot of chess games that year. Meanwhile we watched playoff NFL football games. One Monday on the way to school, he asked me, “Missa Hahny, why blacks always win?” Once again I put his words into a previous context. I thought about the games we had watched the day before and pondered a nonracist answer that made sense. “Well, Yush, there are Black players on both teams, so Blacks will always win.”

He smiled at me and what I thought was a nice politically correct answer.
“No, I mean in chess. Why blacks always win?”

That’s when I realized he was jerking my chain. “You little crustacean. Because I always play black. That’s why.”

Image result for highway sign bridge freezes first pictureYush laughed his little chihuahua dog nasal laugh at me. Like the 90 degree day in May when we were driving to a picnic for the exchange students. We crossed a bridge that had a sign posted: “Caution, bridge freezes first”. He turned to me and asked, “Missa Hahny, you sink bridge will be freezed?”

Yush joined the tennis team at school, but he often forgot to stay for practice. If he remembered to bring his racket, he forgot practice. If he had his racket and remembered he had an away match, he missed the bus. The only proof I had that he actually did sumsing with the racket was he sporadically hit balls against our two garage doors. Thump, thump, thump, while our border collie Nick retrieved any misses. Then it was ON, because Nick would not easily release the retrieved tennis ball unslobbered. But I think that dogs speak all languages, and he and Yush communicated better than any persons did.Image result for border collie with tennis ball pictures

Yush loved eel. We went to a Japanese restaurant in a nearby larger town and that was his first choice. His smile and eyes and sighs of comfort all matched up that night. It was home cooking, baby. I’m afraid that many nights there was loneliness and feeling “otherly”. He liked our dog Nick and the t.v. character Mr. Bean, neither of whom said much. Oh Yushi! I think he was a lost puppy in Tokyo too. His lack of work ethic frustrated his successful father who told me I should be glad I had daughters and not sons to raise. Years later in a Christmas card Yush asked, “Why am I still small? I have no girlfriend” as if I could answer that question and state of being. My best answer is “Sumsing”…Chihuahua, huahua, huh, huh, huh.

Image result for multicolored beaded necklace picturesConnecting the dots is how we make meaning out of disparate details, dots, words, symptoms, signs, etc. We pull the thread of coherence through these bouncy beads in an attempt to make patterns, units of order, and ultimately a slice of reality that fits the larger pie of reality we already know. We often get it wrong, isn’t that right Yush?