What Really Means Love Today

Lately the news has been grim. We seem to be riding on this roller coaster of misinformation that draws our compassion in far too many directions. It really appears that on any given day we could lose sight of what is really important to us, based upon where we see our world headed. At least for me that is a fear. Sometimes I wonder if it just self- persecution or if my insight is really trying to match up with my intuitions.

I’ve always been a feeling person, one that operates from the heart. I can sit in my home and feel tears when a dad is making sure his daughter is ready for college, because that same emotion impacted me when my little girl started her first year of college away from home. I remember, I cried all the way home, a two hour drive where I really thought I had lost my world and I wasn’t ever going to have it back. But fortunately she did return a stronger and more confident, now, young woman, whom I am so very proud of.

My son has had a similar effect on my life. I have a picture of him and I standing on the shores of the Temperance river – me kneeling and he standing next to me with his Twins cap and a smile – pressed lips smile. We were together and we had just had a lot of fun and it was a moment frozen in time that for many years afterwards I would struggle because I wanted that time back. He grew up, found his own life and moved into the next chapter of his young adulthood. I thought I lost him, and there were many nights when I cried myself to sleep. But now today, he’s a strapping young man, and he has a good life, one that I can be extremely proud of.

It is those moments of reflection that I do understand the meaning of love. It is such moments that I look at the world around us and I wonder if everyone feels the same way I do. I wonder if people watch the news and they sometimes lose hope because there are so many wrong things happening, that our minds cannot wrap ourselves around them soon enough. In trying to do so, we forget those moments in our lives that have greater value. It is the people we love that we are close to and count on knowing and seeing throughout the various chapters of our lives.

I think that’s the piece we have to stay focused on. What is important is to know the love we already have and can feel in our family, our loved ones, those friends we are closest to, the people we know we can trust and count upon on a daily basis. I think by doing that we can by example be representative of a good, peaceful march upon the negativity that surrounds us.

I think we all need to practice love.

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A Little Boy

when I was a little boy

I had no idea

the man

I would become;

inside all of this

anxiety

remains that little boy

screaming

sometimes to not recall

the day

innocence gave its

departure notice

to his only

grasp upon

sweet reality

 

when I was a little boy

I understood

universal

love

A Christmas Message

We are approaching that ultimate day of family and love and Grace, with all of its beauty, delight, misconception and forgiveness, and I am reminded of where my values first evolved. Going through some papers in my den I came across a picture of my grandmother, we called her ‘Granny’ and I was immediately flooded with the wonder of memory. In looking in her eyes in the picture, I could see the woman that helped shape me and our wonderful extended Irish family into the people we are today. Along with my father’s Nordic influence, we have embraced lives of love and respect that I am proud to celebrate on this Christmas morning.

However, there are always reminders, always moments, forever tellings in our lives that give us pause and naturally ask us each to never forget that the evaluation of our beings is a constant process in our lives.

There are days when I still don’t know who I am. It is Christmas Eve, and I am reeling over a conversation that took place with my family yesterday evening. I know I’m confused, but I am not sure if it is because I am still, at 58 years old, reminded I am the youngest in the family, and I still allow my feelings to interfere with a quiet composure, or am I justifiably irritated by a sense of seeming entitled ignorance. Let me be clear, I love my family and all each member represents in my life; though, inevitably there are times when I need to feel allowed to recognize there are just certain behaviors I feel compelled to not tolerate. This coming from a man whose made far too many mistakes in my own life to throw stones.

I lived a sheltered life, growing up white in a small town in central Wisconsin. I was not exposed to racism beyond what I read in a newspaper, or saw on television. I grew up laughing at ‘The Good Times’ and J.J.’s ‘Dyn-O-Mite’ and ‘The Jeffersons’ making it to the East Side of Manhattan, and laughing at their uncanny ability to muse at themselves. Meanwhile Archie and ‘The Bunkers’ were slaying the dragons of good taste a few floors below in the heart of Queens.

In my life, there were incidents I read about that horrified me, but they didn’t touch me. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot, I was listening to the report on a radio in my grandparent’s sunroom, a place where at the time for some reason my grandfather was not sitting in his chair, smoking a pipe, while looking over the harbor of Lake Superior, quietly wondering what his life had measured. He was always reading the paper, always had an opinion, but in the eyes of a 9 year old, he smiled and gave me a pat on the head, for he knew my world was built around waiting when he would take me down to the canal to watch the ore ships steam in. He wasn’t there to see the confusion in my eyes, or my wondered expression when the report indicated that MLK, Jr. had just been gunned down on the balcony of a Memphis motel room.

The time was now around 8 PM, Thursday, April 4th, 1968, and the world as we knew it, continued to turn itself upside down. Racism was suddenly apparent and people were reacting in an explosion of ‘civil disobedience’ across the country. My grandfather has a beautiful smile, and I can visualize it as I write these words, but that smile would turn to a sudden grimace as he would have no words. I ran into the kitchen where my mother was chatting with ‘Granny’ her mother, my grandmother, the woman I would dedicate this writing to and I told them the report.

They went quiet, and quickly turned on the television, which at that time would need to warm up, allowing the riots to already begin before we saw the original pictures of mayhem, starting in the streets of Memphis and escalating in several major cities for the next three or four days. I remember watching storefronts obliterated with bricks and being fascinated, if not a little terrified. The press would later call it the Holy Week Rising, and this horrific weekend would be another in a string of race riots that would mark a cornerstone in the historic bearing of the civil right’s movement and racism in the 1960’s.

I was nine years old, and my greatest concern again was fixing the loop to loop on my matchbox car set so I could run my track around Grandpa’s chair. I looked out the window of the sunroom and saw the Duluth Harbor and the aerial-bridge and all seemed well. I still was too young to realize a world outside our warm and comforting home contained an ugliness it would take me years to understand, a world I still try to define as my involvement in it becomes far more prevalent than that of a young boy playing with toys in his grandparents home, celebrating Easter surrounded by family.

I listened to the conversations turn political that were honestly white noise(sic) in the forefront of my mind, but I knew something important was happening. I could tell by the expressions the faces of all the adults held. I knew the table conversations the remainder of the weekend would be far different than originally planned. We would talk about a nation in turmoil the next few days. We would talk about a man revered by my mother and her mother for his peaceful intent, for his ‘dream.’

It was 1968 and while ‘Granny’ as we know her continued preparation for a probable ham dinner in the coming days, I began to be cognizant of a world outside my own that demanded attention beyond a simple television article. There was clearly nothing simple about the change our country would endure as my thinking would shift from childhood toward adolescence. A civil right’s leader had been gunned down and a people of hope and faith were suddenly halted in their tracks. The death of MLK, Jr. changed my world as I knew it.

I recall suddenly being directed there were certain terms we could no longer use as freely as we once had. The word Negro had transitioned to Black to today’s African-American and its many variation – still today, the term mulatto has now become bi-racial – but the most disturbing and vitriolic being ‘nigger’ a term used quite viciously in my childhood. It was a word we didn’t hear at our family dinners. Granny insisted we recognize tact and decorum in her home. This value was taught to me at a very early age, and I am forever grateful.

I recall years later a specific incident when arriving home as a young adult I had come across a book of jokes, that contained disparaging and racist commentary. I remember at the time feeling clueless of the nature of their impact. I walked into my very white family home and tossed a couple of them around, and was immediately shunned by my loved ones for producing something our world could no longer tolerate. I was mystified and hurt and confused, but more importantly immediately reminded where I came from. The shame and guilt I felt in that moment were overbearing. I took it to heart, and from that day on, recalled again those early values instilled by my grandparents, and as I envisioned a family dinner with Granny presenting as the matriarch of our simple existence, made a pact with myself that I would never ever again partake in such discrediting misinformation of a person of color or culture different than my own.

That moment in 1982 helped shape me into the person I am today. Certainly there have been many experiences in my life that have been integral, but moments like those, when my family reminded themselves and me that we can be beautiful people together in a world where everyone deserves that same element of Grace, I began a journey of sensitivity toward my fellow human beings that I hang onto with every fiber of my being.

So today again, I am reminded of who I am. For a moment I can take solace in the knowledge that our world is one of good, where love and compassion do exist and we live in a society where acceptance and sensitivity to another person’s needs are real. We live in a world where humor and a good joke are real, yet there is also a boundary of recognition that is an earmark of respect that is one of the most important values in our lives.

Today, while I recognize Christmas in the world around us all, I am reminded of my grandmother, ‘Granny’ for the love I know she would wish we all share together in the arms and energy of our family and friends. I am reminded there is truth in the realization that our world is a constant learning curve and we must all recognize the individual merits we bring to whom we are today, together and in the future. The education of our lives as human beings living in a world of constant change is certainly eternal in its mystique.

Love your family, your friends, the man or woman or child or vagrant or executive or definition of difference on the street, your neighbors, the person that cuts you off on the road today while you last minute shop. Love the world around you. Love yourselves.

Thank you ‘Granny’

Have a Happy Christmas everyone.

Be A Racist, It’s Ok, It’s 2017

I walked into a nightmare today,

names were dropped, words were tossed,

I couldn’t get past an,

an, an, an,

omission of a hopeful anomaly,

that turned awful, horrific, debatably

ludicrous,

seemed we were all so frivolous,

funny, fanatics.

Seemed we were all lost in the comfort of our

WHITE PRIVILEGE!

White privilege regarded itself,

and no one else really mattered.

All the doors were closed,

we all looked at each other,

nobody cared, nobody cared,

nobody,

anyone within a couple of feet with

the ability to see and hear might have thought,

wait a second,

I thought it was the 21st century,

the 21st century – 2017.

Years beyond the days when civil rights

meant understanding there was a need to change,

a need to understand,

a time to respond to the changing mind,

and realize, realize,

real eyes would be watching now,

more cognizant, more genuine …

Have you noticed all the bi-racial advertising,

I mean there’s nothing wrong with it,

just advertising meeting a market,

nothing wrong with it,

the windows are all closed.

Nobody knows,

‘the trouble I’ve seen’,

the long and winding road …

Old man river,

and its four decades later,

we’re still safe though,

nobody heard the word said out loud,

except,

oh wait,

except, except, except,

accept responsibility,

we all heard it and we need all to

open the doors and try to squeeze through,

because we have suddenly narrowed

nearly a half century of effort.

But its ok,

the doors all remain closed.

Simple, right?

 

While Sitting Alone

The picture window,

my guide to the world around me,

could be a rainy day,

I watch the slick survival of a city,

might now sunshine cast shadows,

while domesticated bird houses

offer a gallery,

for my child-like eyes,

to always wonder why.

 

Soft fabric of the green sitting chair,

matched the other nearby,

always vacant to my stare,

yet, I could rely upon its permanence,

never to leave me,

always after eyes searching the world,

step back in to my shelter,

and there the matching green …

There’s always something

reassuring

about the static in life.

 

I once was a young,

who only felt tears when

necessary rites of passage,

would slow my way.

Eventually I’d find windows

to imagine, take me away

to different places,

my mind a brilliant coaster,

never letting me stay in one place

forever too long.

 

Sitting differently today,

the furniture rearranged,

wishing all those moments

I wanted to get away,

would somehow return,

I could then seen them both,

sitting with smiles,

the usual way,

because back then,

I never felt that breeze.

 

The picture window,

still remains,

a different set of eyes,

glancing through their destiny,

wondering about the other side,

where the glass is pummeled

by the occasional stray bird

trying to find their way,

child reaches,

and wings drift away.

 

I remember one afternoon,

listening to the rain,

wanting everything

to always stay the same.

We Are Here, Again

When I was a child, I remember well,
the gathering of family, all indeed similar.
In the early morning anticipation, a spell
of wonder, love, then all arrived from afar.

Conversations were readily heard inside
the walls of a gathering of similar soul.
The children played a sweet naive pride,
allowed adults to know love, and be whole.

Tragedies occurred, stories of love replayed,
throughout our lives a similar world in now;
we are the eyes of elder, those who stayed.
The evolution of time, we are here, somehow.

The Sitting Hours

I always looked forward to the late hours,

the night flying by with dialogue and absurdities,

everything we could say we believed, and more importantly,

we loved,

We did delight in knowing we could look in each other’s eyes,

well into the twilight,

all of us, whoever might have chosen the time,

or simply allowed ourselves to be drawn in,

that was the key,

we knew always we wanted to be there.

 

These are the holidays we would request

each other’s company,

my sister, brothers, and mom,

our sister’s, children and the occasion of¬†relatives …

so current on everything we knew.

to be important in everyone’s lives.

With dad in the background, an occasional chuckle,

he’d pass out the a beverage¬†with endearing blue eyes,

we all heard his screams inside,

the delight of our lives, he is a beautiful man.

 

We were, are, can be the beautiful people,

the family that smiles, tells jokes, lives lives with uncanny candor.

These are the nights when time would value,

only the shared nostalgia of wanting the laughs

in the history of our lives.

These are the holidays when love does always,

compete well with the nature of our own,

sweet recall, when the essence of everything we believed,

in the realm of the human condition,

could suddenly find the energy

to contribute the next line,

so the stories never found a way to end …