Already the middle of the month, and Lent has begun. Everything seems to have piled up around us, including quite a lot of snow, interrupted routines and life rhythms, and I seem to have lost touch with myself lately. I miss walking. I miss writing. I miss solitude. I miss feeling rested and alert.
Ancestry.com, I Love You. I just happened to look at my messages there, and found one from a second cousin with whom I had hoped to connect. I answered her reply to my message dated a year ago (!) and she wrote back. We have plans to share information and talk on the phone. This, because Peggy and I both did our DNA testing.
Aunt Grace, We Love You. When Mary called Aunt Grace the week of her birthday to see if she would like a visit, Mary learned that Aunt Grace had already made plans, so they just had a little catch up visit on the phone. Mary learned that because of macular degeneration, Aunt Grace can no longer drive. This meant she hadn't been able to go to Curves for three weeks. But she did get to go to church and out for breakfast with friends on Sunday, and then to the Casino until 4:30. And she still goes dancing once a week. Aunt Grace just turned 98.
Back Surgery, We Love You (I think). It's been a whole week since Jack had major back surgery for stenosis, called a Lumbar Laminectomy. This involved four vertebrae and left him with a nine-inch incision. (We took pictures, but he's not interested in having me post them here.) I'm happy to report he's done very well with the surgery, has very little pain, is walking much more freely, and came home on Thursday. (Thank you so much for all the prayers, support, concern, and good wishes.) I've also noticed that I'm not carrying all that pre-op stress in my body, and I am sleeping better. And, I suppose I can get away with this:
Since this was a nearly five-hour-long surgery, I planned to hole up in the waiting room with books and plenty to write about. But we also had to show up at five a.m. so instead I slept and snacked and people watched and texted people and thought--a long day. I ended up staying all three nights with Jack in the hospital, not so much because he really needed me there, but--you know--just because. To be sure.
As I write this, I'm listening to the tribute to B.B. King on the Grammy Awards, and remembering when Daniel and I saw him in Des Moines back in 1991 or 92. My then fourteen-year-old son nudged me during the show and said, "See that guitarist up there?" "Yes?" I said. "I'm better than him." I think I said something like, "Then how come he's up there, and you're sitting next to me?"
(What is it they say about teen-aged boys?)
Auto Zone, I Love You. While Jack was in the hospital someone pointed out to me that I had a headlamp out on my car. I called our local Auto Zone to ask about replacing it. The gentleman I spoke with said something like, "2000 Solara, I'm not sure. . .that may be the one where you have to take off the bumper to get to the bulb." You know the kind. . .
So I went over there and encountered Delbert, the Auto Zone Angel. When one very helpful guy located the dead bulb and couldn't get it to budge, he asked Delbert. Delbert stood there with me in the 19 degree parking lot and tugged. And tugged. Until he pulled out the old bulb and I handed him the new one. (In the store, I'd played the "my husband's in the hospital" card.)
Phone Store, I Do Not Love You. For me, this was much more difficult than Auto Zone. In the Phone Store, it seems, everything goes against logic. The battery in my phone died and it cost more to buy a new battery (and pay someone to put it in) than it did to replace the phone. Jack and I spent an inordinate amount of time going over options with Dillon, the Phone Store Devil, till Jack finally said, "I need to write this down." Once the phone decision was made, we moved to the wall of cases. There were so many choices and "bundles" and special offers, I finally said, "Dillon, I am so confused I've already stopped listening to you. Can I just tell you what i want?" "Uh, Sure." he said, stopping himself for a second. . .When I showed him, he immediately asked, "Do you want to add. . .?" No!!
While he set everything up (I will say he thoroughly knows his job, he was respectful and polite, and seemed to understand that I needed him more than he needed me.) and I sat there wondering when replacing a cell phone became an emergency in my life??? "It's my connection with the kids," was the only answer I could come up with at the moment.
Reading, I Love You. When I posted the photo of my happy little book stack on my last blog post, I thought I should mention some of my current reading. It's a long and varied list: Evelyn Underhill's classic Mysticism. About halfway through, I think. Revisiting Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee's The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul. My most recent issue of Parabola, a quarterly must-have feast on spirituality. Going Driftless, a collection of essays by Stephen Lyons on the Driftless region and its people and culture, which includes southeast Minnesota, northeast Iowa, southwest Wisconsin, and northwest Illinois. (Some debate as to whether Minnesota and Iowa should be included.) The Wisdom Way of Knowing by Cynthia Bourgeault. Meister Eckhart, from Whom God Hid Nothing. Oh, and The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit, which includes this intriguing thought: "Sometimes the key arrives long before the lock." I'm also listening to Marcus Borg's final book, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most, on Audible.
Going Out on a Limb, I Sort Of Love You. Though not a big limb, or maybe I would rather it would be a big, fat, sturdy limb. I applied for a month-long residency in New Mexico to write on my novel. (Not my novel, but my other novel--the story set in New Mexico.) Don't tell, but I can't imagine that I can actually hope to have a shot at this, but it's worth a try, right? And I actually heard back! The message was, "Thank you for your interest and good luck Deb!" Sounds promising, doesn't it!! I will know something in March. Only a month from now. Not too bad. Do I sound anxious?
And Jesus, I Love You. Once again the very difficult subject of teenage suicide, the fifth in our community in four years. But there was something different about this one, and it's very difficult to put into words. Sam was not one of the popular kids, the show choir or band or star student or athlete kids. With the previous deaths, we saw droves of high school students gathering over and over again to process and grieve, and an outpouring of support and concern from the area churches and the school. Not so with Sam. With Sam, there was mostly silence. When I realized this was happening, I decided I wanted to go to Sam's memorial service, so I attended with two friends. I didn't engage much, or even talk to Sam's parents. I simply listened and observed and later wrote my thoughts and observations. I'm still thinking about it, but here are some things I noticed: Kids. There were so many kids at Sam's funeral. Four from our church. But not the Johnston kids with whom I usually have contact through my work--the athletes, the musicians, the top students who move along a different cultural strata. Frankly, it was sort of a rough crowd. I don't know how else to say it. These were kids who have tough lives, and it shows. Where are they all the time? Why do I never see them? Are they invisible? And i can't help but remind myself, these are the kind of folks with whom Jesus preferred to hang out. . .they were his personal favorites, the ones he actually likes better than he likes me.
The pastor had a tough job. But he delivered a beautiful eulogy, followed by an excellent sermon, and a compassionate challenge to all of those rough, beautiful people. He had sat with the parents at the hospital from Tuesday night to Friday afternoon. He knew and loved this family, and he spoke with honesty and humor and anguish and mercy about all of the many aspects of the way Sam lived and the way Sam died. I won't soon forget it, and I am certain I will never forget the poignant message Sam's dad wrote to the transplant team who harvested Sam's organs: "Don't judge my son for what he has done. Think instead of what he is about to do: Because of Sam, five people and their families will have life." This, along with a cautionary note for whoever receives Sam's heart to hold on for the ride!
Funk, I Do Not Love You. (Please Go Away.) Recently I wrote in my journal that I awoke looking for something identity-related, aware that I don't belong or "fit in." Am I a healer, a shaman, a teacher, a guide? Maybe I have already undergone the long initiation. Am I native American? Am I Celtic? A blend of what? Am I or am I not a writer? A lover? And I feel so stalled out with obstacles, time wasters, trivia--too dependent upon others to motivate me--or to whom I can respond, react, seek direction, etc. Feeling flat. Does everyone feel this way? Is this just February-ness?