pull up a chair

where wisdom gathers, poetry unfolds and divine light is sparked…

Category: birthdays

any hour now…

it is, like so many of the lines we draw inside our lives, invisible, undetected from the outside. and yet, for years now, it has loomed, larger and larger. defined me, in many ways.

especially in these last two weeks, i’ve noticed.

if there is a lull in the whirl around me, there it creeps. the voice that whispers, “this is how it looked for him, the parting frames. these were his final days.”

and, now, it’s down to hours.

my papa is the one whose eyes i see the world through right now. especially as i look upon the ones i love so dearly. the ones whose face i study. whose voice, whose laugh, whose footsteps i could pick out of a crowd of hundreds of thousands. the ones whose rhythms, rise and fall, thrum within me.

my little one especially. the one who holds my hand still, as we walk to camp most mornings. the one who, as i tuck him into bed, lets it all spill out in whispers, stored up, saved for that blessed hour at the edge of day and night when the stirrings simmer over. he is young enough, baby enough, to still climb into my lap, to still reach out while getting water from the fridge, and wrap me in a squeeze, unannounced.

i’ve done the math. done it over and over, for years and years. and now it’s come.

my papa died when he was 52 and six months and eight days.

that’s how old i’ll be tomorrow.

and as the hour comes, so too does the drumbeat in my heart. i am, in some ways, coaxing it over the line. don’t give out now, i tell it. don’t take me now.

and as i say those words, i imagine he did too. never would have thought his time was up. shouldn’t have been, damn that it was.

it is the oddest slipping of my self into his self. as if the two of us have, for these shadowed days, blurred, become the oddest form of one. i cannot not see the world through the lens of what must have been his. cannot not count the days, the hours.

i’d think it odd–might be too shy to mention it–if i’d not found out that i am hardly alone.

but months ago, i wrote about how it is to become the age your parent was when he or she died. and by the hundreds, i got letters. i am not the first, nor the last, certainly not the only one who’s done the final calculation. who knows, to the hour, when the line is crossed.

when, God willing, my life’s hours extend beyond the hours that were his.

and so there is a holiness like no other draped across these days. today especially, perhaps. the day ticking toward the last.

if you were told you’d one day left to live, how would you live it?

a cocktail party question, perhaps.

except when it’s not.

and i’d think this might be the closest i could come to taking a pass at that question in real time.

and so, this holy blessed day, i am entering into the hours as if a bride. i am paying supreme attention.

i’ve been in the garden, squished my toes in mud, as the hose rained down. as my delphinium and roses drank their morning’s rejuvenation.

i watched the sun play peek-a-boo with clouds.

i cuddled with the cat.

i let my little one sleep in. no camp today.

today, he and i are playing, the way it should always be. except most days it can’t be. we don’t let it be. most days we let life get in the way of living.

we are holding hands today. walking down the street to a place where the screen door slaps, and the kitchen cloud of frying bacon and coffee perked and pancakes sizzling on the grill wafts out onto the sidewalk.

we aren’t walking by today. we are asking for a table for two, please. three, if his big brother will join us. will make a holy celebration of this day.

they’ll not know why it is their mama seems full to bursting all day long. they’ll not hear the unspooling dialogue inside, the vespers of deep thanksgiving, the holy pleas and promises.

they’ll not know how very merged is the consciousness of their mama and their grandpa geno, as she and he criss-cross the holy line of what was his, and what is hers. and she holds up his final hours, once again, in a sacramental lifting, one last time, of a holiness that for so long has defined her.

her papa’s life cut short. too short. and a long-held prayer that she’d do right by whatever hours came to her.
dear God, be with us all. this most holy day, and every other.

an odd sort of meandering today, perhaps. more like the whispering of my soul. in white-on-black. like trying to catch a cut-glass rainbow, splattered on the wall. trying to wrap in words this inescapable line in the landscape of my soul. it’s an odd, sad mix of fear and hope, of chest-expanding promise and crushing loss. i’ve no choice, really, but to go on a prayer, and plan on being here tomorrow. not just for me, but, especially, for that little one i so love, who still so deeply needs me. as did my brothers need their papa, as did my mother. as did i.
how would you spend your hours if you had some inkling they might be among your last?

birthdays in fractions

today is the midpoint, the halfway-there, the get-out-of-the-car-and-stretch-your-toes, the hard cold wall of the pool before the flip and the long lane of strokes back to the other end, back to the finish line.

especially if you’re 5. and it’s lightyears from one cake with candles to the next. and everyone else in your class has been hauling in cupcakes and 6’s for months. and you’re just barely trudging along. waiting. waiting for six.

today is 182.5 days from 5; 182.5 days ‘til 6. today is my little one’s half birthday.

in our house we are perhaps a little bit nuts. we flutter and flap about birthdays in fractions. even the big people around here note their halves. but the little ones, they get the works: the red plate is set out for breakfast, the champagne flute awaits the orange juice. the cupcakes are baked, the menu is set. my little one wants breakfast for dinner; pancakes and french toast and oatmeal for breakfast. and tonight, he has visions of all of us huddled under blankets, hands in the popcorn bowl, once again watching born free. he specified lights out, everyone on the floor, under the same blanket. even the cat.

when you have birthdays in fractions at our house, you get to dream. you get to pick. you get to spin the lazy susan of choices, grab for the one that speaks loudest to you.

it’s all about being cherished.

children, i’m pretty certain, need to feel cherished. and, lord knows, there are plenty of moments when a child does not feel too cherished. truth is, there are plenty of moments when i as the mama do not feel too cherish-y. i might feel dash-out-the-door, throw in the towel, take this job and tank it, i quit, pink slip submitted. but i don’t. i haven’t. by the grace of God, the litany of sins remains, like jimmy carter, impure thoughts, red flags tossed on the field. no play executed. not yet, anyway.

so when a chance for cherish presents itself, i reach out, i grab, i run for the goal post. seize it, i say. pull out the cupcake tins. bring on the candles. give the boy a whole day to bask.

now all of this might have something to do with the fact that the mama around here was born in the absolute armpit of the year. january 3. a day when not a soul in the world has much air left in the lungs for blowing out candles. they have been huffing and puffing their way through the long breeze of holidays, and one more cake, one more round of candles, just does not fit in the picture. one year, when i was little, when i cared a whole lot about my birthday, someone asked me if it was all right if we just skipped the cake that year.

there will be no skipping cakes for my boys. we will blow candles for one-fourth and three-fourths, if we have to. but it seems halves will suffice.

you’ll excuse me while i scoot off to the kitchen; i’ve got oatmeal and pancakes and le pain francais to get cookin’. i’ve got a boy who has reached the mid-mark and we’ve got some cherishing to cherish.

anybody out there have your own brand of birthday indulgence? little ways to raise up the day? sweet somethings that have been born over the years, been passed down from one mama or papa to the next? please, pull up a chair. do tell.

p.s. you oughta see what we do for whole numbers. oy. let’s just say birthday fairies and crepe paper by the roll are key players. but more on that down the road. this is a day for fractions.

blessed, blessed day

the plan is this: stitch one blessed stretch of time with as many moments of grace and delight as i possibly can.

already i have been out bowing to the moon, listening to the rush of the wind, the far-off cry of the trains rumbling into the city. the birds, they were quiet, nestled still in their limbs, in their slumber.

see, i hopped out early. barely fluttered an eyelid, saw 6 something winking at me in bright red numbers, leapt. not a moment to waste on this day of days.

listening to my own challenge from yesterday–the birdsong v. the treadmill–i pulled my red-plaid flannel robe tighter, slipped old shoes on my feet and went out to inhale God’s world, to bow to the moon. to use the burgeoning goosebumps as reminder that i am so extraordinarily blessed to be alive, here at the mid-century mark.

in days of old, every move mattered, mattered to the extreme, on my birthday. i made lists, stacked one blessed moment on top of another. and when the birthday ebbed, i ached, thinking i needed to wait a whole nother sweep of the calendar before once again i could indulge in such simple pleasures, stacked one on the other, all through the day.

over the years, i got wiser. realized the true gift was seeing each day as a blessing. stitching grace, beauty, magical moments into any old day on the page.

and so, for instance, i set tables. set them as if it’s my birthday. old blue willow plates, a basket of clementines, coffee poured into my old favorite mug, the red one with little white hearts all around, and a few chips at the rim.

i make rich simple foods, foods of the earth, unadorned as often as possible. a snippet of herb, plucked from my sill, is enough to send me swooning.

i breathe deep, i breathe lasting.

the one gift i give on my birthday is the rare and incredible gift of taking time. i will dally over coffee, take a long walk to no particular place. i will sit before the fire, writing, flipping pages in a book that delights. i will drink in the tick of the clock. i will, thanks to the public school schedule, be with my boys all through this day.

nothing fancy. not a drop. intentionally, consciously so. i will, all through the day, whisper a long-winding prayer: blessed God you have kept me aloft and afloat. have not let me bob under the waters. filled my lungs, filled my heart, filled my arms. i am awake to your gifts, lord. i am awake. and that, in the end, is the most marvelous gift.

may you, each one of you, live this day stitched with riches and grace. simple riches. the ones you can’t buy. the ones that come from living awake.

i sign off hoping and praying that your days and mine, we never forget that each blessed one holds the possibility for all that is breath-takingly, spine-tinglingly good.

that, after all, is the ultimate challenge: to live a day, not in a rush toward some other day, some other deadline. but deeply to dwell in the blessing of blessings. deeply to dwell in the riches within.

may there be even one moment in this day that’s unfolding when you find yourself whispering, ah this is a day that is blessed, this is a double blessed day.