Four Part Harmony

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

The calendar says Spring. Mild temps and blue skies. It mostly is here but my friends in Nashville have snow flurries today. Snow in March. Winter Vortex has reached its icy fingers south this year. Fingers that crawl along the keys, trilling the notes, filling the ears with the soar, the pound, the Montague and the Capulet of the couplet flowing into sixteenth notes on the sixteenth of November when there could be snow and winter’s blast, but not here. And not now.

Here is where the surf and sand and desert flowers bloom at the foot of tall peaks as the keys lift and fall and music runs up and down the scale. By the way, I saw a scale today. A scale model plan for a cardboard microscope, so inexpensive and versatile it could be used in far-flung places where no funds exist for medical care, and so easy to create that one day every boy and girl could have one in their book bag. Assuming, of course, there will be book bags necessary to carry iPads and tablets and iPhones. Or perhaps, all the technology will be embedded in their skin. No book bags necessary.

Further assuming, of course, technology will continue to amaze and capture our money and time with ever evolving advancements in productivity and touch-friendliness thrills that we just can’t live without.

Like the trill of the falling and rising ivory and ebony, pulled by the taut wires to the soundboard; the same as vocal cords to the human soundboard. I’m enthralled and amazed at four female voices tight harmonies at they pelt out a tilt on traditional Sweet Adelines barbershop harmonies gone modern with jazz riffs and scats.

See, people continue to amaze me at what can be accomplished when someone believes and tries and stretches and achieves. Frankly, I’m more impressed at a Cappella tight jazz harmonies than I am a piano virtuoso. And I do love piano.

No, I can’t do either, although I can sing better than I can play, but the piano keys don’t change. Well, they can go out of tune, but the relative space between a half step or a full step remains, right?

Can’t say the same about the human vocal instrument. Not enough diaphragm support or not enough air coming in or the throat tightens and the riffs and scats don’t go traditional or jazz. They don’t impress at all. That human instrument requires rest and fuel and strength and stamina. Not to mention hard work. And control. Now that is truly amazing. Taming the vibrato, tuning the chords just so and controlling it to go from soft soothing to loud and powerful. When it’s done right? Exquisite. And should the notes be placed out on the tongue or operatically back in the throat? Which style floats your boat?

“Wish I had boat,” she said, as she sat on the edge of the bathtub, trailing her fingers through the water, making waves in the floating fallen hairs and particles of dried hairspray and collected dust. “Maybe then I’d clean this bathtub more often.”

With a groan, she stood stiffly, used the handle of her cane to help pull herself upright, got her feet turned around and started out of the bathroom, “Not that it matters, since I can’t get in the tub anymore.”

“Oh, you could get in,” I said as I push the lever down to empty the tub, “I just have no idea how I’d get you up and out.” I wield the long handled cleaning brush through the water to move the hair and debris toward the drain.

The drain whirlpools, catching the dreams of someday when there’s money I’ll travel, jostled in the swirl of snapshots of youth decayed to frailty and hairs grayed, bouncing against today’s dandelion flowers peppered on green grass and the hummingbird feeder hook on the tree limb that sways empty in the breeze, encircled by the tiny glistening quiver of birds looking in vain for a sip.

The kaleidoscope spins pink light from the window sheers; Febreeze air freshener particles dance, tickle my nose and gag my throat in the dance with Sassoon Ultra Hold hairspray, Baby Wipes moist, Polident denture wash, Fragrance Free Depends Women’s Underwear, Witch Hazel Pore Astringent and Ponds Cold Cleansing Crème.

What I want to know is this. How does she come out of this bathroom without smelling strange? She’s the queen of sponge baths. Can’t get in the tub anymore and making the trek to the shower in the other bathroom, more than once a week, is too wearying a task to even contemplate. So she says and so it appears. Yet, she doesn’t smell bad. Perhaps the magical powers of these conflagrating aromas cancel each other out, or buoy one another up? Their harmony rises and falls at the flick of the aerosol.

Not that I mind. As long as she can sponge bathe, that’s one less task for me. I dread the day when I’m the giver of sponge baths. I don’t want to go there. I don’t want her or me to be compacted to that. I pray for her to go quietly in her sleep after a normal busy day of private bathroom ablutions and unbidden spontaneous naps in her chair at the dining room table in front of the TV, Irish tenors and Doo Wop harmonists her lullaby.

I don’t want to be the caregiver of diaper changes and bed-fast ministrations. I want the song to be easy. I want to sing the song I like. I care about me. I care about my comfort. I am selfish.

Help me, God. Move me beyond self. Be here with me in this, God. I’m helpless, without you. I’m all about me, without you. Take her easy, God. Trill the music of the life dance through the melodies of the lift of her spirit to you in soft soothing tones of rich harmony; the Trinity reaching to welcome her spirit; the glorious finale to her four part harmony.

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Purity vs Perversion

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Soft downy baby fuzz
cherubic dimpled cheek
tiny curled fist flailing,
tugs her heart,
fills her soul,
twinkles her eye,
brightens her smile.

Or so it should be
for a Mom.
It’s understood.

Curled at her breast,
imbedded in her heart –
his aroma, his suckle,
kicks against her ribs,
delight at mother’s
milk. His drowsy
relaxed satisfaction.

When did he stop being
her baby, her boy, her son?
When did he become
something to possess?
When did her weaning
not take?

Did she lust after his
toddler chubby legs?
Did she need
to imbed in his
pubescent skin,
to taste his man-ness?
How soon?

Was her bed too
cold, too empty
too stale after the
sperm donor left?

How did she think
it acceptable?
Forget normal.

Were they a mother-son
tied together,
invisible
strings to the hollow
inside spaces;
once caught
held tightly, webbed,
firm, unable to
separate?

Would he agree?
Or does his hollow
inside cave howl
to be free?

It hits the light of day
and the mother cockroach
scuttles out away from
the light.

Not me!
I could never!
It was her,
or him
or
I don’t know
but don’t look at me!

Did no one glimpse
his fragility
his frailty
his betrayal?

Perversion attempts
swallowing purity.
The stubborn black stain
pushes back against
whitewash
cover-ups.

Purity holds fast.  Doesn’t give up.
Purity’s deep river
demands full immersion.
Red, rich blood shed
on the cross – the
only antidote
for black stains.

Will he find hope?
Will he throw himself in
its flood?
Will his vision of love
recover,
transform,
heal, or is
perpetuation inevitable?

Even so, Lord Jesus, come.
Come and heal.

Why does my heart
ache for his victimness
and discard her
in her perpetration?

Are both not offered the
same cleansing flood?

Even so, Lord Jesus, come.
Come and heal.

I find myself hoping
it’s all a ploy
to deflect truth from
a sexually active
fifteen-year-old boy.
Boys will be boys.

As if mere handing over of a
soul and giving away
the gift of sexuality
to the first taker
at youth’s
tender age
is healthy;
carries no consequences,
buries no pain,
deflects all wounds.

Don’t confuse typical
or common
with right,
with healthy,
with purity.

There’s so much pain,
so much dysfunction,
so much sharp sticking perversion.

Even so, Lord Jesus, come.
Come and heal.

Our only Hope.
Even so, Lord Jesus, come.

Spotlight truth so
false promises of fake
satisfaction peel away.

Revealed is tender baby skin,
soft fuzzy downy hair and
cherubic grins.

Perversion fails.
Purity lives.

Attaché

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

I’d been trying to decide for weeks.  Or was it months?  It was the not deciding that was driving me nuts.  Should I or shouldn’t I?

The situation would never change unless I did something about it.  I went to sleep thinking about everything that was wrong and how it could be fixed.  When I woke, those same thoughts just continued on.  It was beginning to wear me out.

This could be resolved.  All I had to do was make a decision.

It didn’t start out so difficult.  Oh, sure, we had our differences.  Any two beings do, when they are required to work closely together and are thrown into a high pressure situation.

In the beginning, I was quite taken with the idea of a co-conspirator, or a collaborator, if you will.  What fun we could have being creative together.  We both had so much to offer.

I imagined the acclaim we would receive for our stunning performance.  Had any duo accomplished such sterling results?  None.  That I could think of.  Why, there could be honors and bonuses and perks and acclaim.  Wealth, perhaps.

The awards ceremony would be a night of glittering gowns and stylish tuxedos, flowing champagne, caviar and lobster, all beneath bright chandeliers.  Wonderful music would soar through the crowd, swirl around the vaulted ceilings, trill up the circular staircase and waft out among the stars.  All of it pointing to our success, our great, divine partnership.

People would talk for days about how worthy we were of our rewards.  They would go on and on about our uniqueness, our stunning beauty, our ability to thrill a crowd, our skill in bringing pleasure and enjoyment to the masses.  I saw it all in my vision of our future together.

I was holding up my part of the bargain.  I was groomed and pampered and manicured and styled and dressed for perfection.  I made the sacrifices for beauty.  I did what it took to keep my hour-glass figure.  I endured all the beauty treatments.  I knew my part.  I was superlative in my part.  I practiced my art and I was a master.

My partner, however, had become the bane of my existence.  He flaunted his beauty constantly, stepping on my toes and over my lines.  He didn’t share the limelight but hogged the show.  His voice was quite a terrible screech and so loud!

He had to go.  That was all there was to it.  Of course, there would be the reduction in novelty appeal without him.  There would be a risk in changing the show, but really, when you’re an entertainer and you’ve lost the attention of the crowd, well, clearly, something must be done.  Only one of us could survive this and I was determined it would not be that bird.  It would be me.

I had the solution.  All I had to do was make the call.  I picked up the business card from my dressing table,

FREDERICK ROTHSCHILD
Cultural Attaché to the Stars
Fixer – Problem Solver
1- 976-415-9862

I would do it.  I picked up the phone and dialed.

“Mr. Rothschild,” I used my most charming stage voice, “this is Mademoiselle Charmaine.  I need you to get rid of the peacock that’s in my act.  That stupid bird is ruining my fan dance.”

Wish

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

I was covered with dust and grime from digging through boxes in the garage when I found the one marked TOYS. Using a Swiffer cloth, I wiped off the small box and my hands.  What toys did we have that Mother would have saved and that Daddy would have tucked into the tightly stacked boxes on the shelving in the garage eaves?  We never had the money to buy anything expensive that would be worth keeping, so I couldn’t think what it could be.  I peeled away the packing and memories flooded my mind.

I was ten years old.  We had just moved from the San Fernando Valley to Simi Valley at the foot of the Simi Hills, close to Daddy’s new job testing rocket fuels at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory.  Any money that Christmas season would go towards a modest Christmas dinner.  If there were any gifts, they would have to be handmade.

The weeks when Daddy and my two brothers spent time at night in the garage while my sister and I worked with Mother in the house to create something for Christmas seemed an eternity.  What could they be making for us?  There were many things I could wish for, but nothing I could think of equaled the sound of tools and the secrecy that barred us from the garage.

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

At last the day arrived and we gathered in the living room, around the spindly tree covered with one string of fat bulbs, lit in alternating red, blue, green, yellow and white; silver tinsel carefully spread strand by strand over the tree, a red construction paper chain and a few cardboard and construction paper figures we had made.  Mother had carefully kept a box of shiny Christmas ornaments.  We treated them like they were gold.  It was beautiful and mysterious.  We read the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth and then opened our gifts.

The gift from Daddy and my brothers to my seven year old sister and I was miniature doll furniture.  Wooden and handmade.  I was mesmerized.  This was a better wish than I could have dreamed up on my own.  The detail, the time, the beauty of the craft it took to create small works of art. I was overcome with joy and happiness.  It didn’t matter that we had no dolls small enough to play with on this miniature furniture.

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

“You made these?” I asked Daddy. “Did the boys help?”

“Yes, sweetheart,” Daddy’s eyes twinkled, “we worked together.”

All these years later as I stand in the garage and look at those labors of love and ingenuity, I am again overcome and need to share it.  I dig my cellphone out of my pocket and tap on my sister’s number, 500 miles to the north.

“I just found the gift from one of my favorite Christmases,” I said when she answered.  “The miniature furniture Daddy and the boys made for us in Simi Valley.  Remember?”

“Not now, Kenzie,” my sister said to her great-granddaughter, then back into the phone, “that stuff they made for us?  The worst Christmas ever!”

We talked and remembered and laughed and got caught up on current emergencies and challenges and said good-bye.

I sat in the dirty garage fingering those small pieces.  Funny how the same family experience can be so different, sibling to sibling.  I still felt the wonder of a Christmas wish that had no name, the beauty of just us six, our little oasis of love and security, wrapped in our own swaddling clothes of family working together, laid in the manger of belief and trust.

It was a wish I never knew I’d made but it was lived out by my big, strong Daddy who made Christmas beautiful for me and by the special treat of Mother’s Christmas turkey that was always delicious; it was the love we had that turned out to be the greatest wish.  It lived on as my brothers and sister built Christmas traditions with their families that in some form continue what we six had.  It still lives on even though Daddy is now gone and Mother’s strength is waning so that I do most of the Christmas turkey.  It lives on in eternity because it is the wish of the love and mystery and beauty of Christmas.

Oral Surgery

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image source:Bing images

She looked vulnerable. Her face as pale as her cream colored sweater, the gauze the dental assistant had placed in her mouth, in an effort to stem any blood from the holes where one rotted tooth and two broken off teeth had been, was half in her mouth, half pushing against her lower lip. It made her lips lopsided and puffed out. She seemed hazy, woozy, not alert; though she didn’t appear to be confused about where she was and who I was. They had her in a wheelchair in the hallway beyond the alcove with the surgery table. She was hunched over, more so than usual, and when she spoke, the garbled sound startled me.

My memory’s veil parted to inject reality with jumbled scenes of hospitals and pharmacies and doctor trips that litter weeks and months of calendars. Loss of weight fading into frailty; acquiescence to the inevitable; slipping away from activity to bed days; from determination to make her favorite foods to barely swallowing; from moving through slow paced days, dressed in clean and matching clothes with hair coiffed, to no longer giving me repeated instructions on how to launder the clothes. Well, that last part might not be so bad.

As I came closer, she removed the soiled gauze for a new piece and spoke clearly. What a relief. The curtain to full-time caregiving closed. I breathed again and felt my insides relax. Hold your horses, imagination; we’re not down that road yet. So it appears. Thank God.

She was groggy all the way home, even though she spoke clearly and appeared aware of her surroundings. Appearances can be deceiving, don’t you know. Later she asked me about the trip home. Did we stop at the pharmacy? Yes. Did she remember we stopped at Armstrong Nursery since were right there on the same street? No. Did she remember we got her a slushy? No, she said as she looked at the slushy cup on the table in front of her.

“That was a breeze,” she kept saying. “Why did I worry so?”

“Yep. Getting knocked out is the best way to go,” I said, laying out her pain pill and antibiotic next to her water bottle.

She slept a lot the rest of that day. Spent several hours in the recliner with her feet elevated. Left the TV off. That’s a major difference for her, believe me.

There was something else that was gone, as well as those three teeth. In their place she had a lightness of spirit. Like looking at life refreshed, looking at life renewed, with clearer eyes, clearer vision, clearer joy.

The next morning her chin was purple. Just on the one side. Like an outside mark of what had gone on inside. Maybe life should be like that. A quick mark on the outside. A tale-tell hint that shouts,

Mother

Mother

“Hey, something has happened on my inside!”

Maybe solutions would be found faster. Maybe we’d make choices with care if the results appeared on our faces that soon. Maybe we’d face the truth head-on if we could see with that clarity. Maybe we’d see the signals for what they are. Danger. Road washed out ahead.

Maybe not.

Of course, the hints are there. Have been. They’re left by history, by all of mankind before us. Take poison and you’ll die. Treat yourself well and then treat others well and you’ll leave a legacy of care. It’s not difficult to understand. It’s not rocket science. It’s just hard. Hard to trust. Hard to believe. Hard to act. Hard to give.

That where Mother was. She found it hard to see through the unknown of oral surgery all the way to belief. When it was all finished, except for the bruising, she said, “God took care of me.”

He does. He puts up the signposts. He’s the one standing just beyond the fog of today. He’s offered help. He’s ready to give it.

I get that in my head. I want to get it in my heart. I want God to be my first go-to guy. I want to know I don’t need to see through the fog to be at peace. I’m asking for help here, God. Help me see through the unknowns, God. Help me reach out, God, all the way to you.

Age trumps…

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Spring.
84°F today.
Some places still
sleep in their winter.
It’s only March.

Spring, on my
dark, warm street.
It’s only 8:30 p.m.
Enough time later for
night’s cool
crocodile breath.

Sprinkler heads won’t
pop-up.
I pull, urging water
pressure on.
Finish the job.

Eureka!
Wet hands and feet.

I don’t shiver.
The day’s warm breath
that warmed the house.
means an easy task.

Nearly 80° inside.
Cooler out now.

“Close the door.”
She says.
She wears
pants, socks, shoes,
blouse, undershirt,
sweater, heavy lap blanket
over her legs,
light blanket around her
shoulders.

“I’m cold.”
She says.

She’s 86.
Age trumps 80°F.

Fly, Soul, Fly

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Stacked up newspapers
wait to be devoured.

Mother doesn’t do computers.
She’s old school.
She reaches to touch paper;
devour crosswords,
comics, recipes, an
historic article, anything
fauna or flora.

I take the pages up
one by one,
turn my fingers black.

Images flash, letters scramble,
words jolt. Stories full.
Big desire,
small attainment;
huge graft born of petty theft.
My eyes cross.

He suffers. She kills;
a dog is maimed,
orators promise,
a bird goes extinct,
blood flows,
a nation crumbles,
an infant cries,
an Oscar is won.
A child is sold in slavery.
Solutions hollow out.

Can I still breathe?
I’d swallow
if it would just go down.

His or her
way is as good as mine,
so they say.
Live and let live.
Yeah, dude.
Coalesce, co-exist.
It’s all the same.
We all die, right?

Mist in my eyes
bathes the trying of
life’s whirly cesspool.
I can’t read any more of this.

Just what has all this
inky pontification
to do with rescue,
relief,
regard,
reality?

On its own,
I see no freedom;
no fleeing the downward
pull of self
in this avalanche of
worlds and words.

Yet, still we drown in
the futility of trying.

Is there not some point?
Is there not a higher need?
Fly soul, fly.

image: google images

image source: google images

Is there not a bigger resource,
Is there not a healer
greater than life?
Fly, soul, fly.

Is there not a bigger help
than this spinning ball’s
undertow?
Fly, soul, fly.

I think I see a glimmer of
a grand design in
care for the
stray,
damaged,
irreparable.
Yes, there it is.

Fly, soul, fly.
Back to the start,
back to when it was beautiful;
back to the beginner,
back to the one who started it
all.

Hey, I hear you, skeptic.
You’re right, those who
seek a higher power
should be mocked;
unless that power can
eradicate
transform
transfigure
illuminate.
You with me?

Fly, soul, fly.
I admit I’m helpless;
any help must come to me;
from the eternal.

Fly, soul, fly.
I cry; I yearn.
Wash my soul, I plead.
Clean the black off my fingers;
dry the mist of my eyes;
open them to the beauty
of him who loves purely,
of him who can more than
repair
reclaim
rehabilitate;
of him who transforms.

Fly, soul, fly
To him who with a puff
of air
gave life.

To him who with a wave
of a hand divided seas
from land.

To him who spoke
and the world was born.

To him who put the survival
will
in each spirit
then set that
will
in a body.

Fly, soul, fly.
To him who loves us.

To him who grieved so at man’s
selfish choice,
he threw himself into the world’s
mad crush to show the way out.
Fly, soul, fly.

Hello, God.
I read the need for you
in the news today;
there in the pain,
there in the trying.

Who can go this alone?
I can’t.
Change me;
walk beside me.
Be my guide.
Make a difference.
It’s not real life without you.

I breathe deep.
I can make
it through this stack
of papers.
If you’re here With me.

You wash the black
off my fingers.

You wash the black
off the world.

Fly, soul, fly.