Tag Archives: Sons

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.

 

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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

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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.

May 3 – Penteli Mountain

by Marilea Rabasa

My son and I loved to fly kites when he was growing up in Virginia. The right kind of wind could propel his paper bird high and far, with us right on its tail giving it enough slack to keep it soaring in the air currents.

He’s a grown man now, but I remember a day twenty-five years ago when we were living in Athens, Greece. We were driving home from his friend Chris’ house. Chris lived on Penteli Mountain, one of my favorite haunts outside of Athens. From the crest of this hill on a clear day in winter you could see the whole bowl of Athens, with the smog hovering overhead, and even beyond. This was where the Brits came to celebrate Boxer Day every December 26. They hiked up more for the whiskey than the view, but that’s another story.

As we turned the corner, we saw the tail of a kite peeking out from under a pile of rubbish. We knew it was a kite tail because it had flags zigzagging down the string. Also, everyone came to fly kites on Penteli Mountain in December when the weather changed. This kite had lost its wind and lay abandoned in the field, its owners having no more use for it.

And so, our curiosity taking over, we stopped the car, got out, and went to investigate. Right away our curiosity turned into compassion and we wanted to breathe new life into this broken and tattered old kite. I never thought that something inanimate could come to life. But at this time in my life there was a dying in me that I knew I had to defeat or it would defeat me. My son was part of this tragedy, and somehow we knew that the road to healing could start with repairing this kite and watching it fly again. A dust-covered old TV pinning it down to the ground was holding the kite hostage. Its colorful tail saved it from certain death.

So we took the kite home and repaired it with glue and tape. We waited for a good day with just enough wind to try and fly it. The day finally came, a clear sunny day with a nice breeze. Together we took the kite back to the mountain and flew it. We watched it continue to rise and float in the air until all the string was used up. We ran with it as it leaped in the wind. It was flying like it was brand new – a miracle!

We didn’t let that kite go. We brought it down and carefully put it in the car. We knew we would probably never fly it again, but we couldn’t let go of something that had taught us such an eloquent lesson: I was sure from that day on that there are second chances for those who have the heart to reach for them.

Marilea is a retired teacher. Toward the end of her career, she earned her Master of Arts in Teaching. “This was a critical step on my life journey because it concentrated on reflective practice. Now I have time to reflect back on my life and put my stories down on paper. I look forward to sharing them with you.”