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Tag: Family

Open letter to a sailor

We had a family tragedy in October, when a sister died, leaving our nephew without parents. He’s 22 years old, in the Navy, deployed in the Pacific. Ships go weeks at a time where sailors cannot contact family members. It’s hard, on both sailors and families. Here is my open letter to Quaid, our sailor, in one of the most difficult of weeks.

 

January 22, 2017

Dear Quaid,

Not one day goes by I don’t think about you and hope you and your shipmates are safe during your deployment on the USS Carl Vinson. I’m packing a care package for you, with something inside for Christian as well. I remember you said you might pull into port by mid-February. We are trying to be patient as we wait to hear from you.

I wonder if you received any news of the inauguration? Trump was sworn in Friday. Whenever you come to port, wherever that is, you will be setting foot into a world that is different from any you have known. His speech set a tone heard around the world:

          This American carnage stops right here and stops right now….

          We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first — America first….

Within moments, the White House website changed. Gone were pages confirming LGBT rights. Gone were pages helping citizens with disabilities. Gone were pages on climate change. Gone were pages on healthcare and civil rights.

Then, on the day following the inauguration, millions marched through cities on every single continent. Yes, even Antarctica. What started as a Women’s March on Washington turned into a global march in protest of this President and his administration. The news is saying it was the largest protest in history. Marches were held in every major city in the US, in numbers that shut down parts of the cities. Washington DC, the center of it all, had an estimated 500,000 people, three times the number attending the inauguration itself. Every major city, from London to Los Angeles, Paris to Chicago, Melbourne to Denver to Seattle.

On that same day, as people protested around the world, Trump launched two new direct attacks on the press. For those who know history, silencing the press is an ominous sign.

Some conservative friends are trying to back up a bit, saying he wasn’t really their candidate! They try to reassure their Facebook friends they really are nice people! Why, they do good things all the time! Yet, they go to bed every night, tucked safely into their white privilege, unaffected by their vote.

I spent the day in a seminar learning how to make the voices of resistance heard. Organizationally, it’s all about showing up, speaking articulately on specific national issues at the local level. It’s about getting our elected officials to represent all of his or her constituents. It’s about forming a more perfect union, despite the odds just now.

My dear Quaid, I open my emails every day hoping you had a little window of Wi-Fi so you could let your family hear you are OK. Your family is surrounding you with prayers for your safety and for the safety of everyone on the ship.

Fair winds and safe seas. We love you, Quaid. Your mother would be most proud. 

Love, Kay

 

 

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Cousin Dee

dee-ann-editMy cousin, Dee Ann, passed away suddenly in October. We grew up in the same small town in Indiana. I had no brothers or sisters, so my cousins meant everything to me. This was half a century ago in rural Indiana, in the 50’s and 60’s. The front yard was the baseball field and the sand box was in the back. Grandma Neva lived in the house trailer beyond that. Dad taught us how to tie a lure to our fishing line and he taught us how to cast. We had a merry-go-round and rope swings and a teeter-totter and a tree house or two. Our moms wanted us out of the house. So the cousins played outside a lot.

After Dee moved to California, I lost track of her. We fell out of touch. Life got in the way. It wasn’t until this year that I figured out how to find her. I contacted her son through Facebook and he told me Dee’s phone number. Dee and I started texting. A couple times after her death, I’ve reread those texts. They stop in April, because we started calling and that was better. Still, having more texts to reread would be nice right now. On the phone, we talked about her son, mostly. He was her everything.

In one of our phone calls, Dee reminded me of a time I was baby-sitting her. I’d forgotten this ever happened, but Dee remembered.

I was eight years older than Dee Ann. This made me prime baby-sitter material. I was sitting for Dee and a friend of hers. They were maybe 7 or 8 at the time. That night, one of those huge Midwestern thunderstorms came rolling in. The kind where lightening strikes, and you can see it out over the prairie. Then you count how many seconds until you hear the thunder. That tells you how many miles away the storm is. Then the skies open up and water just pours.

The little girls were scared, screaming and running around, crawling under the bed. So I invited them to come out on the front porch with me. I don’t know how I knew to do that. Perhaps from my own dad. Out on the porch, we could see the lightning. Count the seconds. Reach our hands out from under the roof and get wet. Sit on the porch step and stick our bare legs out into the rain.

Pretty soon, they weren’t afraid any more. We’d seen the rain and thunder for what it is: the beauty in those bolts of lightening, the water that will wash us clean.

Dee reminded me, earlier this year, of our night on the porch so long ago.

This October, Dee died sitting in her favorite chair on her front porch. I’d say that’s a good thing. Out on the porch, you can face down any fears you might have. No hiding under covers. Out on the porch, you see the beauty in those bolts of the lightning. Then count the seconds, without fear, as the sky opens up and the splendor surrounds you.

 

What Children Learn in India

Everywhere in India, my daughter drew a crowd of kids. They wanted to know where she was from, when she got to India, and how long she’d stay. They wanted to know what she was doing there and if she went to college. They wanted to know what she thought of India. Parents clustered outside the circle, waiting and sometimes listening while their children met this new person.

 

 

They took family photos with her.

 

 

 

Then we’d all look at the photos together.

 

 

 

Sometimes, they just looked at her, this new and different person. Open inquisitiveness with new people is valued. Kids expected that Katie wanted to meet them just as much as they wanted to meet her. Children learn people are good and differences interesting. Children learn privacy may matter, but not more than having family and friends nearby and inviting new people into our lives.

Children learn the life-affirming goodness of people.

 

 

the wedding

Rain had been forecast for the weekend of the wedding. The rain held off, though. Instead, sun warmed our August days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May the sun continue to warm their lives together, for as long as they both shall live.

my toast

My daughter gets married in a week. I’m giving a toast on Friday, the night before the wedding. We’ll go to the rehearsal, then to supper, and then to a fire pit in the park. Brad will bring his guitar. We’ll roast marshmallows. Parents will give toasts.

I’ve always been shy about public speaking and I’m a bit nervous. Sarah’s dad died a few years ago, or he would probably be giving the toast. I needed to step up.

Here’s what I’m saying:

When Sarah was little, one of her first favorite books was The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. It’s the story of a little boy and his very first snowfall. He goes outside and makes tracks in the snow, he makes a snow angel, and he builds a little snowman. He sees some big boys. They’re having a snowball fight. He wants to play with them, but he knows he’s not big enough yet. So, instead, he makes a snowball and puts it in his pocket to save it for tomorrow.

This is Sarah. Always saving for tomorrow. She could save Jelly Bellies until they petrify. Now, our tomorrow is here.

Sarah, you have grown to be a strong, independent, and ethical woman. Yet somehow, you have managed to maintain your sensitivity and innocence, and, you look quite beautiful tonight.

Eric, I could look forever and not find a better father than you are, to Liem, and maybe to another baby someday. I will be honored to call you my son-in-law. No, my son.

Ann and Peter, I look forward to grandparenting with you. (No pressure, kids.)

Liem, just when I thought my heart was ready to burst, you come along, and teach me that Lego’s have “pieces” not “parts” and that “old people can have adventures, too.” I’ll always be ready for adventures with you, if we are biking, or swimming, or even playing basketball.

So, here’s to Eric; his soon-to-be wife, my daughter, Sarah; to our friends, our family; and, to tomorrow.