Thursday, February 25, 2016

Exit Notes

I do not fit this new stage,
a bra fits better, even one that is too small
or too big-straps too thin cutting into my small shoulders
and digging in-
a universal truth we gave up
on our way out of the comfort zone.

For you who are ten, twenty, five
years my junior, I'm just babbling, scribbling
with tapping fingers on a plastic tablet
a directorial note for myself, as though
I will return one day and re-step on this stage.

Where was mother at this stage?
Did I experience her loneliness, her
ample body tottering on solid pavement
her eyes fearful, her mouth ready to remind
me of what I had no knowledge of.

"You never were my age!" I remember yelling at her
when I was sixteen, eager for freedom and adventure
shaming her for having married early in life.
As though she knew what she was doing.
As though she had the freedom to refuse that stage of
life that chains itself to other stages, while the mothers in the
family and the fathers too, sign contracts and give their daughters away.

I'm not giving up my freedom, even at this stage. I will
choose the day I die, and how I die, I say this now
and maybe tomorrow too, while the sun is shining
and my teeth don't hurt
and the results of the last mammogram are
not in yet.

The minute you die, though, most people who knew you
will not remember much about you. Just the moment they
stood up to you, in big and small ways, to check their stand
on things, even their view of the audience obscured by the
feeling of power at that moment,
on that small piece of stage
where our verse was spoken,at times in a single word or phrase,
often borrowed for the moment, too afraid to know how
to stand up tall, a la Whitman
or Shakespeare, revealing
more that ever
the struggle
that life
from its first to the last breath.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Together in different worlds.

My grandchild and her grandfather, both researching a topic, side by side, talking about their findings, sharing wisdom and hints, back and forth, about a topic they both delved in; she, for her term paper; he, just for fun.

For many family members, the gathering around the table to share a meal still exists, where a certain time and place become sacrosant, and traditions continue for generations. It was that way for my family back in Italy when I was growing up; it was mostly that way during our children's growing up years, the seventies, the eighties, the nineties. Yet, at about the middle of the seventies, the computer appeared, and families were using it for a variety of things. My children gravitated to it early in their lives, and their education and recreation were accommodated by the many uses the computer served.

To say that we lost those good times when we all sat around the dinner table, or fussed together to put a meal on the table before sitting down, and shared our daily issues with each other because today we no longer take that time to sit together is being nostalgic at the least, and plain insensitive to our modern world for the most part. We lead a much busier life than ever before; and our work follows us home, and even on vacation.

We are connected, and can choose to be so one hundred per cent of the time. Or not. We can "unplug" and choose not to answer phones and check emails or facebook messages. We choose to stay active or not. We choose to remain in a circle of friends and relatives, or not. We choose to know a lot about politics, or not. We choose. And we have many ways to stay involved that we forget many times that all of it, the drama and the comedy will go on whether we are involved or not.

In my lifetime, I saw the electric grid connect our house to the rest of town close to the time I started school. Good thing too, or homework would have been sloppy. The radio was next, a great big contraption that became the gathering place soon after supper. We sat, staring at the radio till late in summer, listening to the world's news, and the world's music. When television arrived at the neighbor's house, we were invited after supper and accepted with gratitude for the opportunity to sit quietly for a Perry Como's special around Thanksgiving. The lavish table was set with abundant food and festive decorations, representing what American homes were like. I remember going home after that program and dreaming about America. I was already living in another world five years before that thought became a reality.

Not once, in our technological evolution did we say to each other, we can't have this device that allows me to work anywhere, to work faster, communicate instantly across the universe, understand the world and its forces with better clarity. We are inventors and dreamers, constantly seeking ways to improve our understandings and capabilities.

We could blame our misery to fire, to the first force we discovered that changed our taste buds, and our survival rate. And from there, every single thing we have shaped out of the elements to create, connect, improve and lift us into another world, another space. Or, we could set a lavish table now and then, and give thanks to our ancestors and public education where we learned to connect the dots in unusual ways so we could have running hot water at the touch of a faucet.

Yes, we are still the humans on the prairies, or the caves, hunting for food, collecting wood and poking holes in shells. Only now, we have more choices on how to live, and we have more choices on how to stay together. As we become more fragile, we no longer have to visit our doctors for check ups; we no longer have to wait days and weeks for test results; we no longer have to collect wild herbs and make a poultice for our hacking cough. Our worlds have shrunk. But our horizons have expanded.

It's a great time to live.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The fish you didn't catch.

I'm not a fisherperson, never was. I admire people who take themselves out on a river or a lake, rain or shine, cool or warm, and cast off into the unknown for an imprecise return on their investments.
That boat you see in the photo, will cost you as much as a motor home. How much is that, you ask? More than you want to know.
About more than all the fish you will catch, all the vacation outings you can accumulate.
Fishing, like golf and other outdoor activities we count as recreational are meant to distract us from what keeps us from being happy; are meant to take us away to unknown territories where other skills are required to pass the hours; where time has no meaning; where others like you will brag about their endeavors in the days and years before you met, in the times of their lives where luck kissed them on both cheeks.

Yet, our hope remains strong and forgiving.

Tomorrow, or next week, our luck will change, our weight will improve, our finances will resuscitate, and our college bound children will finally get accepted into the school of their choice.

Tomorrow, we will sign up for lessons, purchase better rods on sale, take out a loan for a more reliable motor, cut down our calories by making our own chips and salsa, and then, with genuine enthusiasm we will great the Chinese New Year with a bowl of take out noodles and fortune cookies that will list numbers for good luck which we will parlay into a lottery ticket for the next Power Ball of millions plus.

Thank heavens for our calendar year. Without it, we'd be lost in space, going deeper and deeper into dark holes, wishing the trip would end, somehow. With a calendar, we can start anew, twice. And if we are really curious, and pick up a few ancient manuscripts through our Facebook friends who profess literary literacy, we might learn a thing or two about catching fish in this new lunar year of the Monkey.

As for me, I would not fish even with new knowledge. You see, I know the dangers of shallow and deep waters. But I do wish happy fishing to all fisherpeople out there. May you catch your biggest yet.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Not flooded? Count your blessings.

If you read this, you can still see. Yes, sight is probably the first failure of nature we notice, for some of us earlier than for others. I got my glasses in my twenties, by accident, for sure. With nobody else in my family with "four eyes", that  awful condition would never happen to me. Besides, I was fond of carrots and other magic tricks to enhance not just my eyes, but my complexion, my hair, and other parts of our bodies we pay close attention to in our youth.

But eyes, eyes were my exception.
But it did, in an accidental way too.

I was teaching a normal-size class of 30+ one day at Bishop Conaty High School, in my first year of teaching, and as I walked to the back of the class and looked up to the front where I had written the assignment on the board, I had trouble reading what I had written. I asked a student in the back to read from the board for me. She did so and easily.

I had already decided in college that if I had to wear glasses as so many others did, I would do so with style. Well, time to put that resolve to the test. The exam itself was reasonably priced at my budget, but I could not find any spectacles I liked and could afford. A gorgeous pair, the same one Audrey Hepburn wore in one of her movies popular in the early sixties, imported from Italy, would cost me half my salary!

Now, that was then. Today, fifty years later, the same unbalance is present. Lenses and frames are not reasonable at all by retirees' standards. What is a pensioner to do? Even recycling frames doesn't work, as some lenses just can't be fitted in some frames.

With costs going up, life for retirees is about counting any small blessings we still can see; count any thing you can still do for free, like a walk around the neighborhood, a visit to the library, a group social you all contribute to, a house that needs no repairs...

One of my regular blog mates just wrote a piece about having too many vacation time shares she needs to sell off. Goodness, I thought, that's a no brainer. Most retirees would love having to deal with such inconveniences. I am not being mean spirited; just realistic. Most people live on fixed income, and have nothing else they can sell off to offset costs going up. I could go on and on about the plight of old people...

Realistically, this is a good time to live. Great medical support is available and in real tough situations there are support mechanisms in place. The best part, we are a big group, and we can influence political and societal outcome if we work together toward common goals.

For the moment though, let's just count our blessings.