Saturday, June 23, 2012

Another of the Five

John Spinneweber had no peers, was unique, a man of many talents in one category. John was a carpenter of rare abilities, builder, cabinet maker, master of all woods with a passion for cherry. I was new to my town, asked around, and was given his phone number, as I wanted a closet, planning to convert one of several extra bedrooms into a complete dressing area. He arrived one afternoon to look at the space and to discuss how to do it. Then he left. Just like that, leaving me with only his interest and energy. John was tall and lanky of some guessable age just a bit north of my own. He was balding, with a Clint Eastwood smile and similar mannerisms. About two weeks later he returned and asked to see the rest of the house. We had purchased this intact wonder with no idea of the Edwardian House and how to preserve it. Our expertise was the endless exposure of forty years of the eastern seaboard colonial house. This purchase was missing nothing. Complete with every single original chandelier, wall sconce, and magnificent wainscoting, curved walls, fireplaces, mind bending stabbed glass ala Tiffany,crystal etched door glass, windows with transoms, Brass everywhere, and English oak quarter sawn panels everywhere, we were living in an architectural wonder in nowhere land, a town open only to the native born, and their numbers were dwindling.This would be my home for ten years with little to amuse me but this brick pile. John was an answer to a call. But while he circled slot he wouldn't land. After the sixth visit, I asked if he actually wanted this job. He grinned and said he did, that he came so often to determine if we could work together. John knew what I did not: this was going to be a long term project, three years of hourly rate, time and materials, the most expensive way to contract for anything. we were babes in this woods. To his credit, John did not lick his chops.He built the required room and near the completion he announced he had figured out how to install an air conditioning system to cool our six thousand square feet. Given that we were well into the heat of the summer, our interest was certainly piqued. He went away, leaving us to think about it, and in short order we booked him for air. Gutting the master bath and the kitchen came next, all the while living in the mess, plaster in my teeth, coating my hair, and covering everything we owned. We were so deep in we were never going to get out. Money pit hardly defined it. Someone else resided the place, and John often sat within the sooty walls all day doing who knows what, but at lunch and breaks we became fast friends. He was as lonely as i was, but he was attracted only to my mind, so we talked for hours...on my clock...about politics and religion and his Life. John was a staunch Catholic,had lost his son, the light of his life, to a congenital heart condition when a very young man, and a daughter who was a Carmelite nun,complete with wimple, veil and robes. She came to the house to see her father's work, and to meet me. I knew enough to feel honored. I asked John what she wore when she was on vacation from her convent and at home with him. He looked puzzled, then said, "well,that!" what? Since she had given herself to God, he said, she was never again seen without her robes. What do you call her, John? "sister"' he said. No, what's her name? "sister" he repeated. John, when she was a baby what did you name her? "oh! Cathy"! John was generous, kind, intelligent and great company for me, and as interested in my house as I was. It was truly magnificent, and his skills guaranteed we would improve it with great care. He felt privileged to be permitted to do the work. In the three years it took, I was closer to him than most others in my life We had this incredible work in common. In our time together his wife died,ending a marriage more of duty than love. But he was frantic to find a new wife, never intending to leave his substantial money to the Catholic church. He chose the young crossing guard a block from my house because she had two sons. It was a loud shout about his losses. He wanted her sons to have His legacy and his money. John had never seen the ocean, never flew in an airplane, and the delight of his life was to dine at a major hotel in downtown Pittsburgh as the guest of one of the wealthy families in town, who then got the hotel manager to show him the basement, for John wanted to see the inner workings of the place. I miss him more than I care to admit. Generous and accommodating, he valued me in all my aspects, never once compromising me, careful to never cross the line, always preserving my honor. John was the perfect gentleman, completely under control of his religious beliefs, always aware of his personal responsibility to me and to himself. I mourned his losses with him, cheered his choice of bride and witnessed his new happiness, glad for him. We expanded each other. Taught each other, respected each other. Some time after we sold the house and moved away, John fell from a ladder and struck his head. He never regained consciousness. He would have been mortified. Embarrassed beyond belief to have made such a mistake as to misstep. I chuckle and shake my head, knowing. John was easy to love. He smiles that Eastwood smile in my head and I know that wherever he is, the place is brighter for his presence. He was a gift to me, and I learned to see parts of the world differently because of my time with him. He ranks high on my list of five, contributing to my growth and teaching me why wisdom and old fashioned propriety matters. I am a far better person for his friendship and his grace.

Monday, June 18, 2012

One of the Five

Sometimes when sleep won't come, someone arrives to fill the space. Last week such a one came bounding into my reverie full blown, and together we caroused across our memories for hours, in a dream state. His name was Christan Martin. I have been blessed with five incredible men in my life. One of the things they all have in common is to be loved equally well by both men and women. Everyone wants to be at the table with them, in their presence, breathing the same air. Each of them is a gift. these men connect at some mystical level with everyone they meet. We all want to live and die with them, to be in their company nonstop. They eclipse all others. Chris was a new pastor to our church. Firecracker, open, available, gifted. I was about twenty five, happily married and the mother of a four year old girl. Like so many others, mind melding with Chris was a given. When out of his office, he could be seen everywhere with a small boy atop his shoulders. His little boy desired only to be wherever his father was. Jet black hair knobby knees and stunning eyes, he looked closely at us all to try to see what his Dad was drawn to. The answer was so simple, so pure. Chris believed everyone who crossed his path, or whose path he crossed, was a gift from God to be discovered and enjoyed. In short, I think he sought God inside everyone. Wish I could say I learned from his example. I'm learning very late. Chris attended Franklin and Marshall College, and Harvard, and earned his divinity degree from Princeton while he was making his mark as a flyboy based in Hawaii and keeping the locals hopping in the company of Don Ho, of Tiny Bubbles fame. He was pursued by a quiet Yakima girl who bought a one way ticket to Hawaii. She was married to him for forty four years before his life here ended. She was an anchor to his crazy wild energy, so like that which my own husband of fifty three years is for me. Well. Someone has to hold those of our ilk to the earth, lest we go flying too close to the sun. Chris had the ability to let you know that because you are God's creation, you matter. He loved the idea of paying it forward, of the magnitude of the importance of loving, no holding back. He risked all the time, every moment. His was a seeking mind. He was a farm boy from Lancaster County, PA, an athlete and a scholar, but you had to discover that for yourself.You just wanted that thing he had, the self confidence to give himself away. After four years in the private sector, he joined the Air Force and served as chaplain for 40 plus years. Frequently decorated, all over the world and influencing so many, i kept up with him about twice a decade. He was one of those who just picked up the conversation where we left it. I saw him once more when on a hot summer night he appeared with his family , hauling me out of a night time swim. Finally, I located and called him in 2000, to find I was six months too late. Chris had died of a brain tumor. His fab kids took leave from their easy trick....and went with their parents on a world tour to see every last nook and corner Chris had wanted before heaven. At last when his ravaged brain wouldn't allow him balance, confining him, he marked out his remaining days like you'd expect. He remained engaged and involved in the last of his life. He knew his future. He'd soon be home with the Lord he loved, the One he shared, for whom he claimed As his Father.Chris believed we are here to love. To do it as best we can, to make the effort to do it freely. To tell each other NOW, when we are vibrant with life. Not when it won't matter anymore. Why do we wait? Tell someone you love now. I have learned many important lessons from my men. None is so important as this.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Treasure People

Oh, I have so many many! They email me, send me cards of encouragement and good cheer, lift me up to the very face of God for kisses, exhort me to victory and applaud every huddle I jump. I am blessed beyond belief, marveling that these people exist in my life. They have offered to dust my house, grocery shop for me, hold my head if sick, visit, take out my trash, teach me how to wear head scarves, wear scarves to keep me company. Who does that? Who? My relationship with these fab humans covers more than thirty years, and in hours of chemo have put themselves right in the chemo room in their emails to me in real time. When there is need, they drop everything and respond. In my hand is a worry stone. Black, smooth, reassuring and comforting, from a river of living water, found in a river bed on a hike a very long time ago. It resides in my pocket, or beneath my stroking fingers, a talisman of promise signifying the absolute constancy of permanence and shaping. Constant bathing by a cool clear stream for who knows how long, my fingers now apply their subtle pressure to make my mark upon that Permanence, and the stone, warming to my touch, returns the favor. This came in the mail: so do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:31. It came from a treasure person, one of those sustaining singers who shared herself and her faith in the mission purpose of my choir. It is no accident we are called Promise as we live out the promises of scripture. I love that assurance...worth more than many sparrows. I whisper to those little brown birds at my feeder and say I am worth more than all of you little guys! I know of whom I speak. This is my Lord, to whom I owe everything. His promises to me are money in the bank, life affirming and powerful. It is my source of courage. And it is bulwarked by the uncommon and consistent support of so many treasure people who step right in when I am shaky. When I falter. When the darkness whispers my name. They turn me around, reminding me that nothing has ever been said about my demise, even when I raised the question. To trust all those people who tell me with authority that survival is not only possible but assured. This cancer is curable. Cured. Pay the insurance price and reap the benefit. Six months of chemo and radiation? Kidding? Well, no. Do it. Do it bravely. Trusting. Take all those hands holding me up, hold tight to them. They know what they are about.How many ways can they be thanked? Give to receive. Walk along side. Hear the lesson. Take notes. We are bound together. We can look the other way, but believe me, we are still bound. It is about understanding what is in it for all of us. Any moment it can be you. Yeah. I thought I was home free, just because I have lived a long time, well past this kind of trouble. Wonder where that is written? Foolish in the extreme. We are bound together. No one is alone. No one.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

God of the Universe hears my cry

Let me come right out with it: I am a Christian. Bold. Out loud, straight up, in love with my Lord kind of Christian. Crazy for God. Out of the box. Exuberantly, fully, no holds barred sold out for Him Christian. In His God aspect, God of everything God, He rolls down His God of the universe thunder voice across time and space and into me saying, "you are mine! Mine!mine!" no choices. I belong to this God. Like all else that He made, I am in the pile and valuable to Him. Not sort of. Not twentieth on the list. I matter to Him. He sacrificed His Son for me. Mind bending. In His Son aspect, as Jesus, only Son of God, He speaks to me of His Promises. Those He made to Israel, to His chosen, to His me. I claim them all. God gave me to Him. He is Master. Savior. King of Kings. Lord of all. Alpha.Omega. Beginning. End. Jesus, name above all names. I love Him like crazy. He loves me with a passion. With compassion. no holds barred. Love beyond explaining. Without reservation. Oh my goodness, without restraint. He is crazy about me! In His Holy Spirit aspect, He lives deep within me, speaks in holy whispers of intense love, guiding me, helping me, teaching me, motivating me and bonding me to Him. I love this aspect, need Him in this way, want to know Him more, and more until there is nothing else in my realm of existence. I seek Him out, day and night, and cannot get enough of Him,share him, sell Him, want everyone I know to know Him. He is my delight, my teacher, my companion, supporter, advocate, who knows what is required of me.Knows the purpose for me, the Reason I was made, and why God loves me. I love God because He loved me first. I can't resist love from this Being. Resting in that, so little else retains importance. But satisfying as this sounds, I find that staying close is my responsibility. I need to want to. The world gets in the way. Diverts me. I forget where my nourishment resides. God rarely imposes. He let's me wander away. Lost in the weeds. Out from under his wings. Playing in traffic. He knows exactly where I am. It's me who is lost. How prodigal. When I am lost enough, He sends out a call and I respond. He still knows my name. He brings me back on the sound of His voice. Reminds me where I belong. Beds me down and tucks me in. There is no greater love.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Life in the Cancer Lane

In the way of things, I have buried myself beneath the covers, amassed great books to read, like Be A Miracle, The Amateur, and The Harbinger.each keep me stepping, but not fast enough. Having felt really well after chemo, it is only that I didn't know the pace of the drill. the weekend was a wipe and by late afternoon today I am recovering from the flu-like misery that is the horned child of those chemicals that seek out any residual calls I might be harboring. Suffering is not becoming. It hurts. But I feel hungry so maybe I have passed this week's glitch. I have discovered I am held in the arms of incredible people who have taken me to their hearts, wrapped me in their arms and have stormed heaven with prayers for me. Humbling in the extreme, but I din't wish to blow it off as trite and unimportant. If you know my history, I am the product of unloved and unwanted, so this level of concern for my health and my recovery are way outside anything i have ever experienced. I marvel and pinch myself and what has happened is that I have had to see myself as these many see me: strong. Unbroken. Able. Winning. I'm trying to recognize myself within their framework of recognition of who they perceive me to be. It is permeating my chemo team, too, for they barely know me but have determined that i am up to this trial, able to stand straight within the blast of poisonous wind, to prevail. I pay attention, and closely, to the bald statement from my doctor that my body is free of cancer, that what we are doing is insurance against recurrence. A believer triumphs. So I march forward, bearing up, facing the day, demanding of my body the mundane: eat properly, eliminate, rest, meditate, laugh at the ridiculous, refuse the negative voice, keep a positive attitude for there is great reason to remain so. I am learning material I had no desire to know. But I stay focused where I do know treasure is: the cardinals on the deck, the gold finches in the trees, the thrush that sings to the morning sun, wakens me to the day and reminds me that along with them I am God's creature with her own voice, her own song, her own purpose. I am not my cancer. I am the same woman I was a year ago, or a month ago or a week ago. Life happens.what I do with my life defines me in the world. It is a gift to know who I have been in the eyes of my friends. In the world in which I function, I am a wife and mother, a grandmother, a good friend to many, a writer, an encourager, and with this part of my journey, one who will share the experience. I know myself to be blessed and cherished. Those are pacer bricks on a difficult road. The road is crowded and perilous. But I walk it held close on the path by these, my ardent supporters. Life in this lane requires my attention, but it is not all my life is about.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Life and lemonade

In the past two months life has been lived beneath the lemon tree. No cherries, grapes, or Bartletts. Only lemons. In this hiatus time I have learned things I never wanted to know about. Like cancer and how it grows. Like the difficult paths to it's defeat. Like how much courage it takes to walk fearless over hot coals in very bare feet. Like the unspoken fears that are horrific compared to the ones that are speakable. I never wanted to know a surgeon up close and so personal that he could lift a whole system up and out of my body. Like his incredible skill with a robotic scalpel. Who wants to know that on a personal level? Why is it essential to be intimate with a now unreliable bladder, and it's quirky failures on the way to surgical recovery? My journey has only begun and getting a good start out of the gate to health land required serious activity upon my body, from which I am still recovering, so that I can get to the really hard work of chemo which will include hair loss. Not maybe, or, we'll see, but definitely,definitely, and very soon after the first treatment. Omg. At my age I stupidly thought I'd gotten safely past this deep dark forest. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I am in very deep woods and for now the memoir is tabled, twitching there like some blob trying to hang on to it's importance. When some of this is under my belt, perhaps I can return to those chapters, get them edited and out to an agent or whatever we are to do now in the fragmented world of publishing. But that I have found my blog and marshaled my thoughts before the next siege, it is heartening, as even with chemo hard on my heels, I have found my thought process and determined that in the midst of this misery, I am alive and have every hope of wellness at the end of this cure. Not maybe. Definitely. And you who read this will walk with me and hopefully talk with me until one day in late November I will have this behind me. Hope is the beacon.