Tag Archives: Sons

October 28 – Maui Sunrise

by Linda C. Wisniewski

I had forgotten light arrives before the sunrise, that the sun sends beams in advance of its peek above the horizon, so slowly there is no single moment when darkness turns to light. Dawn is a gradual process, like my sons growing up before my eyes.

I saw it coming when they ran long-legged like colts in the spring. I glimpsed their adult bodies when they stood before me clean-shaven in jackets and ties, their little boy faces still there somewhere, if I squinted hard.

I saw it coming as we stood together at the summit of Mt. Haleakala, the clouds parting and green treetops appearing below us in the growing light. The younger one had driven us there in his rental car, three hours in predawn darkness on a winding road, higher and higher, the lights of Maui like glimmering jewels falling far below.

When he was four, he sat in the back of a gray Toyota as it climbed to the top of New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington. While his father drove, I read the warning sign aloud: “If you have a fear of heights, you may not appreciate this driving experience.” He begged us to stop, and we turned around as soon as it was safe, secretly relieved. Now he was the one reassuring me as I imagined the symptoms of altitude sickness.

At the top of the peak, safe and slightly short of breath, I gazed at my boys with pride and wonder. They have called me for advice when choosing an apartment, a job, a new car. But at twenty-nine and forty-two, they can do these things without me and we all know it. They have jobs I barely understand using tools that didn’t exist when I was young.

Once they were sullen-faced teenagers who chafed at my words. Now they end our phone calls with “Love you!” They cried when I left them with a babysitter. I cried when they left home for college. Now they have homes of their own.

The older one brought me a blanket and wrapped it around me as I shivered in the wind. Once I zipped his jacket, put on his mittens, wiped his runny nose. I was freezing now, waiting for the sun. His brother said to let them know when I wanted to call it. Now I was the protected one. My two boys stood taller than I, their precious heads back-lit by the sunrise we all knew would come.

Linda C. Wisniewski shares an empty nest with her retired scientist husband in Bucks County, PA. Her memoir, Off Kilter, was published by Pearlsong Press. Linda has been a member of Story Circle Network for many years and a longer version of this blog appears on her personal website. She blogs at www.lindawis.com.

_________________________

August 12 – I Forgot

by Christine Ristaino

I forgot. I forgot you weren’t a service dog. You were what they called a “Career Change Dog” because you sat and refused to budge when you were near busy streets. You see, a service dog can’t just do that, you know. But my son needed a dog who could help him sleep, a dog who he could pet, a dog who could relieve the stress that built up before he’d drop to the floor and seize. They were called psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. And you didn’t care. You seemed happy enough in your new career. You were like a sensory blanket, keeping my son warm at night. You were the one he went to when stress was brimming from his bones, through his skin, and outward, before his brain began to seize, you were the one he went to.

Yesterday I took you with me to drop him off at school. He ruffled your fur before he left. Then I wrapped your leash around a chair at the coffee shop to get a warm tea. Who could have predicted the chair would close on your toes, pulling out two toenails and spooking you so you ran, terrified, in all directions, pulling that damn chair through traffic and finally striking a moving car?

I ran after you, but the young store owner sailed past me, gasping as the car hit. I couldn’t have foreseen you would rise from the dead and continue to run, pulling the chair with you toward more cars. It was like a slow-motion movie, where the dog does some crazy, funny, thing, but turns out okay. Only this was real life. I couldn’t watch, couldn’t look, couldn’t see you die. But unexplainably, you weren’t struck again. The store owner dove onto the chair and stopped you, breaking her finger.

I took you to the vet; no broken bones, no internal bleeding, just two toenails. Now, as I type, you are curled by my feet, my son in school. I forgot you weren’t a service dog. I totally forgot!

Christine Ristaino is the author of All the Silent Spaces, a memoir about overcoming violence. She is also a professor of Italian language and culture at Emory University, where she leads workshops on the topics of overcoming violence, leadership, diversity, privilege, writing and talking about difficult topics and creating a public voice.

 

__________________________

July 20 – Gesher Tzar Me’od – The World is a Narrow Bridge

by Mary Connerty

© Pat Young | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Pat Young | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The best conversations I have with my son seem to happen in the car. A few weeks ago, while driving home from our synagogue after teaching in our religious school program, my son asked why we call Sunday school “Gesher” and not Sunday School or Hebrew School.

Hmmm . . . I tried to rack my brain to remember what I had learned about this moniker, but could only think to tell him that Gesher meant “bridge” in Hebrew and, in true practiced educator fashion, turned the question around and asked him why he thought that might be appropriate.

After a “harrumph” and a “Mom, why can’t you just ever answer my question?” I got him to suggest that the bridge referred to bridging childhood to adulthood, to leading to a knowledge of Judaism, to paving the way for living in the world. Pretty good for a 15-minute drive, I thought, but something felt missing. So I began to research:

Gesher (Hebrew: גֶּשֶׁר, lit. Bridge), according to Wikipedia, may refer to:
•       Gesher, a former political party from Israel
•       Gesher, a kibbutz in Israel
•       Camp Gesher, a summer camp in Ontario
•       Gesher, the former codename of a microarchitecture computer chip

Not very helpful.

A deeper search led me to a quote from Rabbi Nachman: “The whole world is a very narrow bridge; the important thing is not to be afraid.”

Rabbi Nachman was an amazing 18th century Hasidic Jew who combined Kabbalah and Torah study to teach that one should face life with simplicity, faith and joy. In fact, for Rabbi Nachman, experiencing joy was a mitzvah, a commandment. When he teaches that the world is a very narrow bridge which we must not be afraid to cross, he transcends any peculiarities of his 18th century Hasidic Jewish world and gives us a timeless roadmap for life. After all, fear is not particular to any one group of people, and living fearlessly can be a real and daily struggle for many of us.

For me, the Nachman quote explains perfectly why Gesher is the perfect name for Sunday School lessons of any faith, but also can serve as an anchor for all of us, particularly women, to live beyond our comfort zones. Mustn’t we try to teach our children and to remind ourselves that life is precious, that care must be taken, but to live in fear is not to live–it is to stay stuck on one side of the bridge?

Each day, we all face bullies, spiders, pressures from school or work, family illness, cyber hackers, potential terrorists, and who knows what else.  So, as strange as it may seem for 21st century women (who may or may not be Jewish) to learn from an 18th century Hasidic rabbi, we learn from Rabbi Nachman that if we have faith, we don’t need to be afraid, or, at least, we can move forward in spite of our fear. This is a lesson for us all, and a reason to keep walking across the bridge.

Mary Connerty

Mary Connerty is a mom, wife, Linguistics Ph.D., runner, gardener,  and writer. She is tentatively, yet daily, stepping out onto the bridge.

July 17 – No Explanation

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

“I don’t believe this,” I exclaimed to my husband. “The caregiver at ARC informs me that Stephen needs a new wheelchair. The one just purchased last year is already missing a headrest and a foot rest.”

Stephen lives in a home for the disabled; as he was born with profound disabilities and was predicted to die within weeks, then months which now have become 50 years this August 17, 2015.

Oh, I made an attempt to keep him at home, until sleepless nights coupled with uncontrollable seizures gave me no choice but to relinquish his care in a setting where caregivers had 8 hour shifts; thus relieving them of the constancy of his care.

These caregivers are only paid a minimum wage. Thus, the constancy of his care is compromised by the frequency of staff leaving for a better paying job. And, yet, the legislature drags their feet regarding any increase in the minimum wage for workers caring for the ‘least of these among us.

Their primary concern is to halt all abortions. You know their spiel about the sanctity of life, blah, blah, blah. Does that include quality of life as well? Have any of them visited or cared for a child who is profoundly disabled in all facets of their bodies?

Stephen needs touch and a constant pair of eyes and ears. Vicky, a massage therapist, gives him a massage twice a month and then reports to me the state, or lack thereof, of his home and care. She has become my eyes and ears regarding his care.

Stephen, I pray that when you and I both are not bound by the limits of the physical realm we can have a conversation about all these years and the profound impact they have had on each of our lives.

Patricia Roop HollingerPatricia is a retired LCPC/Chaplain from a inpatient/outpatient psychiatric hospital as of 2010. She is a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and the daughter of a mother who will be 102 on July 12th, 2015. She is a voracious reader, musician, lover of cats, and is currently exploring her writing skills.

May 25 – Meeting Juno

By Patricia Roop Hollinger

“Juno, SIT!”

Juno sat.

“Juno, give me a paw.”

Juno gave Brayden a paw.

“Juno, give me a high-five.”

Yep! Juno could do that one also.

Who is this Juno, you wonder? He is a keeshond that my great-grandson, Brayden, recently became the proud owner of. Juno is a wiggly, snuggly, loving ball of gray fur that no one could resist in spite of wet sloppy licks on the face. Love in its purest form.

Brayden’s Oma, Beate, shared her love of cats and dogs with Brayden when he arrived from the womb. It is evident that he and his pets speak the same language. The language of love pure and simple.

Juno is just another great-grandchild for me, as is Brayden. “No,” I do not object to revealing that I have entered into the realm of great grandparenthood. It is a privilege and honor. Especially when folks tell me: “But you don’t look old enough to be a great-grandmother.”

Brayden’s grandfather, Michael, was my son who was also a lover of a keeshond named Dogen. They were inseparable. Especially when Michael suffered from chronic pain from a work related injury. Dogen was the most potent medication for pain relief during that saga.

Brayden was born 2007 and Michael died 2009; thus memories are mostly through stories and photos of the grandfather who would have loved to have known him.

The reader can only imagine my delight when I saw photos on Facebook of Brayden and Juno eyeing each other lovingly when they met at the BWI airport. I knew then that Michael had a spiritual hand in this occurrence. Thus, my delight when I met Juno and Brayden luxuriating in their delight with each other. Michael had joined us in a most profound way.

Today I found a photo of Michael with Dogen and mailed it to Brayden with the following words:

“Brayden, your granddad Michael with his keeshond Dogen,
Greets you with this loving slogan.

He wants you to know he watches you and Juno.
It makes him so happy that is makes him just glow.

Your missing front tooth, Yep! He knows about that too,
that you count to 100….and play T-ball;
there isn’t much he doesn’t know about you.

Give Mom and Dad some hugs and kisses,
For being with them he so much misses.”

Patricia Roop Hollinger is a retired Chaplain/Pastoral Counselor/LCPC after employment at Brook Lane Health Services, a mental health facility, after 23 years. Lover of nature, gardening, cats. Pursuing her love of reading and writing since retirement.

January 18 – Righteously Pissed Off

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

wheelchair

“Mrs. Bubel just take your son home and wait for him to die.”

These are the words that resonated in my ears as yet another M.D. gave me this advice. Stephen was born at Methodist Hospital, Houston, Texas in August of 1965. He weighed 4 lbs. 8 oz. The diagnosis was Cytomegalic Inclusion Disease–a viral infection contracted by the mother in the first trimester of pregnancy.

On January 6, 2014 there was yet another meeting with staff members regarding the state of Stephen Bubel’s care, or lack thereof. For you see, Stephen did not die as predicted. His 24/7 care led me to call one of those M.D.’s in desperation.

“Dr. Dutton,” I said, “I need help before either Stephen or myself winds up in an institution.”

My plea was heeded and help was provided.  Stephen has lived in an institutional setting ever since. Caring for the Stephen’s of the world does not pay well and is never-ending. Care has ranged from being first class to benign neglect.

“So….what are Stephen’s strengths?” the coordinator asked.

“We have been over this every year,” I said in protest. “Can’t you see that his wheelchair has no footrest…he is unshaven….his hygiene sucks…and you want to know what his strengths are? I want to know when his daily needs are met. Fuck your damn forms.”

Yes, I was “righteously pissed off.”

Another meeting of the minds and words is scheduled for February 10th. I am once again hopeful that his basic needs will be attended to as they have been intermittently over his 48 years. Stephen is unable to walk, talk, or take care of bodily needs unless his mother does become “righteously pissed off.”

Patricia Roop (Bubel) Hollinger was the mother of Michael Bubel who died in 2009 and Stephen Bubel, age 48. She is an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, and LCPC by profession. She is also a cat lover, a voracious reader lover of words, gardener, bird-watcher, and she plays piano and organ. Pat married her high school heartthrob in 2010 after the death of her second husband.

December 1 – I Hear Your Voice

by Khadijah

autmn owd

I haven’t forgotten the sound of your voice any more than I have forgotten the sound of my mother’s heartbeat when I rested my head against her chest during cold Wisconsin nights.

I haven’t forgotten the sound of your voice any more than I have forgotten the sound of the wind shuffling its feet through kaleidoscope colored leaves in the Kickapoo Valley.

I haven’t forgotten the sound of your voice any more than I have forgotten the sound of my breath exhaled in cold clouds of wishes half-formed.

“Assalamu Aleikum.

Ummi? Is that you?

Assalamu Aleikum?”

Yes, it’s me, it’s me here listening and waiting, thinking and planning, hoping and striving. Yes, it’s me, still holding you as close as ever I did those hours spent each evening going over the blessings of the day and looking forward to what we would do on the next. Yes, it’s me, pulling you still in your little red wagon with your name painted on the side, full of books and stuffed animals and the Cheetos truck you wouldn’t let go of. Yes it’s me, sitting in the swing on Grandma and Grandpa’s porch, holding hands, looking at the stars, never imagining I would be a world apart from you, my little blonde whirlwind.

Yes, it’s me.

Just a few words, a few seconds of peace snatched out of a world that is increasingly chaotic.

All of the words I had stored up in a full heart, behind closed lips for weeks suddenly change form, becoming tears that refuse to be held back, tears of love and joy and loss and patience and pain for you, for me, for what has been and what may be.

I cannot speak, but I can hear, and I hear your voice as it always was, reciting Qur’aan all day long, no matter what you were doing.

I cannot speak, but I can hear, and I hear your voice as it always was, asking questions that made me think with my head as well as my heart.

I cannot speak, but I can hear, and I hear your voice as it always was, before.

Your voice and the wind blend together, and I hear the cry of the child that has become the man.

Khadijah is still trying to adjust to life in the States after almost ten years in Yemen. She is a writer, translator, teacher, herbalist, fiber artist, and homeschooling mother to her eight children. Her oldest, Mujaahid, is in a village under siege in northern Yemen with his wife and children.