For the love of guns and flooding

The typical thing would be to say, “I’m not looking for a debate” when posting about a touchy subject. The reason we’d state that is because we just want to speak our minds without being challenged. We want to believe what we already believe and nothing more, nothing less. It’s our right, I suppose, to our opinion where things like this are concerned.

The river is flooding the town here.

I look at this flooding, around the issue of mass shootings, gun violence in general and the specter of “gun control” in this country and I think, This is the river and the river is flooding the town.

We are drowning, one by one. The fields are marshy. The cars cannot move. The water has risen to the point where we forget where it ends and where we begin. The water is cold, but we’ve been in it so long that we have forgotten the cold. It’s tempting, perhaps, to speculate that it is the water that’s warmed to our skin, rather than to recognize the truth of it. We’re losing touch. Our skin is numb. We cannot feel our feet or hands. Extremities have no more information to give us.

We cannot leave it all to the civil engineers. This is our town, after all. It’s important for us to keep moving, to support the work of the people who are meant to help us understand what’s happening. When they look at the river, we want to know that they see the river bed, the water, the boundaries, the tributaries, the ocean that feeds it. We want to be sure they see the weather patterns, the global implications, the wheat fields and strip mining. We want to support the clean-up efforts, the burial rites, the grief process, the replanting along the riverbank.

We are drowning here.

Come up to the high ground. It’s a sacrifice to leave the trenches dug out to protect long-held beliefs, property, fears that have been inlaid since we were young, injured, fortified. It’s not enough to dig the trenches. The water is too much. The river is too swollen. The factors are too many and too powerful.

And we are drowning here.

It’s time to come up to high ground. We all want to live.

The answer to gun violence…

Yesterday a shooter opened fire at Seattle Pacific University, killing one and injuring several others. I sat forward in my chair when I read this because I have a number of friends who attend or teach at SPU. It was a strange feeling, two sides tugging at me; first about how unlikely it would be that someone I knew was involved and then the counter-thought of “well, you never know.”

We never do know.

Thankfully I discovered that my friends were safe. Consuming the information coming from my computer and television was about finding out this very thing. Are they safe? But I didn’t stop there. I kept consuming information that streamed out, long after I got what I needed. I was still hungry.

Or perhaps not.

There’s  a mindfulness aspect to eating. If I’m not careful I will sit and eat the food within arms reach without thinking. In restaurants I must move the bread basket far away from me to avoid it. Don’t even get me started on the “all you can eat” buffet. There’s a whole bounty of studies done on why we eat after we’re filled, after our body has what it needs on a physical level. We eat from boredom, out of fear, the loss of control, the specter of death. We are lonely and we are powerless and food is our savior and food is available. This fuel for our bodies can be our undoing. We eat until we feel nothing.

So I consumed the information and the pictures and the reports of eye witnesses. And I searched for articles on how and why it keeps happening because it seems as though it does just keep happening. Why universities? Why students? Why this university? Why these students?

Why?

We say that we do this in the name of change, in the name of reform and redemption but it’s ridiculous the amount of food set before us and the speed at which it is offered. When no good information comes quickly we are restless. We are angry. We are hungry.

Or perhaps not.

We think that this eating is about “doing” something, becoming more aware, solving the problem, knowing our place in the wide world, uncovering the mystery of “why.” But in that steady stream of meals eaten with no real regard for quality, nutrition or purpose we simply consume the information until we feel nothing.

The answer to gun violence will not come in the moments or the days after the tragedy from the banquet of information offered. It will not come out in steaming pans which sit under heat lamps ready for eager hands and mouths.  The answer to gun violence will come only when we experience the emptiness, when we sit in the grief of it. We forget our humanity if we rush from grief too soon. We forget what real hunger feels like, an aching inside, an emptiness, a weary body in need of fuel.

Perhaps we ought to back away from the table and just let that ache rise a while.

Memory eternal…

When we’d visit my Dad’s family in Dayton, Ohio the tiny house where my grandparents lived was always filled with people. My Dad had 12 siblings growing up and by the time we came along they were all married and most had children. I had so many cousins on my Dad’s side that I did not even know all of their names and the ones I did know I usually got wrong. The visits to Dayton were a flurry of activity in that house on Briarcliff lane. My family had lived in the house next door to my grandparents for a number of years before we moved 90 miles south to Cincinnati so it was always a little strange to come and visit and see strangers wandering around “our” yard. Still, we loved to visit, to meet up with cousins we rarely saw, to explore the field behind my grandmother’s house and see where she kept bees or where she grew green beans she’d can and serve to us for dinner that afternoon. If we were brave we’d find a way into the greenhouse just off the patio or sneak into jalopy one of my uncles kept in the garage there.

I would often confuse the names of my Dad’s sisters and brothers, forgetting which were related by marriage and which by blood except for Uncle Kenny. It was easy to see that my Dad and Kenny were brothers. They were close in age and looked alike to me as a kid. Uncle Kenny was famous to my friends because I was able to tell them that I had an uncle named “Ken” and with a last name like “Doll” that’s something. I liked my Uncle Kenny because he was kind. When I think back on those years and those visits this is what strikes me. He was kind. He always seemed to be jovial, happy-go-lucky, easy-going. When I think of him I always remember him smiling.

Lt to Rt -Chuck, Marge, Roger, Gary, Barb, Gene, Don, Sitting Lt to Rt-Jim Kenny, Irene, MaryAnn

Lt to Rt -Chuck, Marge, Roger, Gary, Barb, Gene, Don,
Sitting Lt to Rt-Jim Kenny, Irene, MaryAnn

I wonder if that is why the news of his battle with Alzheimer’s was so hard for me to hear. Having been through that struggle with my husband’s father a few years ago, I remember all too well how it hollows a person out, how it robs them of some essential pieces of their core personality. I remember the physical struggles Dave’s dad encountered but I remember more the emotional roller coaster and so, when I would see updates on Uncle Kenny’s condition it always hit me in a soft spot. My Dad had already lost 2 older siblings when Kenny was diagnosed so my Dad took the news of my uncle’s illness hard.

My Uncle Kenny passed away this week after a short stay in hospice. It felt too fast to me but then, I’m far away. I’m out of touch with the extended family (save for Facebook) being in Chicago with a family of my own. It’s been a long time since I saw my Dad’s family in person, a long time since we ran in the fields behind my grandmother’s house, since we rummaged around in her basement finding treasures, since we sat crammed around that table in their tiny house and listened to the stories Uncle Kenny would tell with that wide smile he wore.

It took a few minutes after I got word that my uncle had died to put things together. In some ways my life won’t change all that much. I won’t feel that loss as closely as my family who still live close to everyone there. Still, I found as I sat at my computer looking at old photos the family had posted that I was in tears, feeling that loss deep in me anyway.

Perhaps grief is the reminder of those past days, those absences we had not noticed before. Perhaps grief is what shakes up old memories so that we can hold them in our hands again, fingers wiping away the dust we’ve allowed to form on the faces in the photos, the moments we’d pushed aside, the kindnesses we’d forgotten.

Memory eternal, Uncle Kenny. You will be missed.

daydream believer…

There is something about a celebrity death that always gets me in a soft spot. Regardless of how much or how little I might have cared for the celebrity who has passed away I still find that reminder about my own humanity, about my own lacking, my own legacy.

Davy Jones died today and it hit me hard, much harder than I expected. He was 66. He died of heart failure. My heart failed a little when I heard the news. I googled it to make sure it wasn’t a hoax. That’s been happening here and there on social media outlets. But it is true and I admit, I dropped into a full on sob when I discovered this.

Sure, there was the realizing my own mortality part of it, the loss of someone who is still so young, comparatively speaking, but it was more. The moment I read the news I was transported back in time.  I was 8 or 9,  sitting in my cousin’s basement listening to The Monkees, watching re-runs of the television show, acting out our own plots for the show, choosing up which Monkee we’d be marrying. I didn’t pick Davy. He was the easy choice. Mickey was too much of a jokester. Mike was too serious. I always picked Peter, he was kind of the oddball and I had a thing for the underdog I guess. Still, the loss of one Monkee, even if it wasn’t the one I planned to run off with, was a striking loss.

I had to ask myself what it is that hit me so hard. Why am I so moved by this particular loss today?

I’m tempted to say it is because it was so sudden but that’s not quite it. Unexpected is maybe closer. And then the image that came to me was that of a door being opened, a door that has been closed for a very long time. On opening this door a flood of memories come out, a flood of emotions, long-lost hopes and goals, young thoughts and daydreams.

Here then was my childhood, laid out before me all over the floor in the hallway. Each memory scattered there was a time capsule, a toy chest, a ticking clock. I saw myself at every age I can remember playing with dolls, reading books, running and jumping and then I saw myself systematically shelving of all the artifacts of that age. I was in a hurry to grow up. And I realize at that moment, I am no longer that little girl and then also, I am exactly that girl, even now, always.  I am not grieving Davy Jones but the girl who loved Davy Jones when she was 8, the girl that knew all the words and dance moves to the songs, the girl who really was a daydream believer.

There is something about death that opens a little door in each of us and spills out pieces of our lives into the hallway around our feet. It is, just then, our choice as to whether we’ll shovel it all back in quickly and quietly or stop a moment, sit down amid the mess and put our hands on each bit of pain and joy we have stored up all this time.

One small but important piece of my childhood passed away and that piece meant something to me, something I had packed away all these years. It spilled out at my feet today and that is why I sobbed into my pasta this afternoon and why I spent some time on the floor, sifting through the memory of who I used to be.

Rest in peace, Davy Jones. Thank you for reminding me of that daydream believer I had packed away.

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