My mother died in November, the night before Thanksgiving. It had been a long and sad journey, and it was not an unexpected death. Still, she was Mom. I found myself mute in her absence.
And I have had some crazy medical challenges myself in the past few months, including a tumor on my right acoustic nerve which resulted in many many many conversations that included the words “Huh? What? Say again?” and “Why are you mumbling?”
I find myself contemplating the end of my own life in ways that I never have before. For the very first time in my existence, I thought the other day, “There’s no point in replanting this lilac sprout. I won’t be here to see it bloom.”
That kind of thinking is NOT what I want. Not at all. I want to be the old woman who says, “I will plant you today and someone will love you later!” I want to be the woman who thinks, “Well, life has been great so far! Let’s see what’s next.”
I’m trying to be her. I really am. I think about her. I channel her. I embrace her spirit as I walk around my spring-filled yard.
But sometimes I can’t do it.
Today I was able to embrace that “here I am” woman all day. I pulled some weeds from my perennial beds. I did laundry and I cooked good food for my son and daughter-in-law as they prepare for their first child. I walked the dogs and I looked at the sky. I breathed in the scent of lilac and lily-of-the-valley.
And then I came inside. I turned on the news. I saw that another group of innocent children was slaughtered in their classrooms by an angry man with a lethal weapon.
I broke at that moment. I broke.
I lost my hope. I lost my belief in my country and in my fellow Americans.
So. Here I am. Back in this space where I have found support and encouragement over these many years. I need you all, dear readers. I need a reason to believe that all is not lost.
I am at a funny point in life. One of those odd, serendipitous moments that seem to follow me.
Tomorrow Paul and I will head to Florida to visit two of our very best friends. The kind of people who you trust implicitly. The kind of friends who, on the eve of your visit, when your husband hasn’t really started to pack, you think to yourself, “It’s OK. Dave will have something that fits him…..”
As we plan our trip, the first vacation we have had together since the summer of 2019, I find myself obsessing over how I look.
I turned 66 this week.
I have jowls. Actual JOWLS. I am gray, I am pale, I do not look like anyone’s version of a woman who should be walking the beach.
Or am I?
As I contemplate my aging self, I take stock of the multiple leg bruises caused by my dogs, my blood clotting issues, my awkwardness. I look at my doughy middle. And my sagging “ladies”.
Why do I feel shame?
I used to be young, pretty, smooth, fresh.
But then I lived my life. I had three kids. I aged, as does every human who is lucky and blessed.
This morning, at about 3 AM, I woke up thinking about the arm that I injured yesterday while trying to clean out the house where my parents lived for 60 years. Yesterday I gently, lovingly wrapped dozens of pieces of glassware to be donated. I carefully sorted through the kitchen drawers, wrapped in memories of dinners past, and placed each spatula, each knife, in a box for someone to take away.
As I thought back on the day, I reached out to find my ice pack, wrapping it around my forearm. I remembered the moment when I had been pulling down my Dad’s old gardening tools to toss into the dumpster. An ancient string trimmer had become rusted to the rack my Dad had built to hold it. As I pulled, it fell down with a crash, catching my arm as it did.
I barely noticed the damage at the time. But when I got home, I saw the swelling, the broken blood vessel, the emerging black and blue.
Do you know what I thought at that moment?
I didn’t worry about my health. I didn’t worry about the fact that it actually hurt like a toothache. No. Instead what flew through my head was this, “But I’m going to Florida! I don’t want to have an ugly bruise on my arm!”
Not painful. Not aching. Just ugly. That was my fear.
As I drifted back to sleep last night, ice pack wrapped around my bruise, I suddenly remembered a woman I saw in Germany a few years ago.
Our German hosts had taken us to the gorgeous island of Sylt, way up on the North Sea. We went to the beach, of course, and it was absolutely breathtaking. I wanted to swim, but there were no dressing rooms, and our young German friends informed us that if we wanted to put on a bathing suit, we should just do it on the beach.
I didn’t. I felt fat. And old. And silly.
I was experiencing my one and only time to visit the North Sea, but what I was thinking about was my flabby thighs. I was far too embarrassed to change my clothes on a mostly empty beach in front of people I would never see again…..
So I waded into the water, but only up to my knees. Where my shorts began.
As we walked along the gorgeous, wild, impossibly amazing shoreline, we saw other people enjoying the day. One was a woman that I cannot forget. I so wish that I could talk to her tonight, before I head South to put my full old lady on display.
This woman was lying on her stomach on one of the many beach lounges that line that stretch of shore. As we passed, I realized that she was both completely nude and completely at ease. I kept a view of her out of the corner of my eye, as I strolled through the very edges of the waves in my shorts and t-shirt.
After a few minutes, the woman arose from her lounge. She stretched for a minute, then ran her hands through her hair. Slowly, with great grace and an obvious sense of pleasure, she walked across the sand and into the pounding surf. She raised both arms above her head and dove into an incoming wave.
I watched her for five or so minutes as she endured in that very cold water. Then I watched her elegantly and nonchalantly walk back to her lounge, where she lay back down in the August sun.
I think of her often. I am thinking of her tonight.
I wish that I could talk to her.
I would say, “Thank you for the model you have shown me.”
I would ask, “How is it that you are so comfortable with your old body? You have short gray hair, like me. You have round hips and a belly, like me. How do you dare to walk in public showing your every flaw?”
Of course, I could never really say any of this, but I do imagine how she might answer. I think that she might say, in complete seriousness, “This is what a grandmother looks like. I have gray hair because I have been lucky enough to have lived for several decades. I have wrinkles because I have laughed and cried as the situation has demanded.”
I think of her looking at her sagging breasts and belly, and imagine her saying, “I gave birth to my children! I fed them. I cooked for them. I worked hard.”
I imagine her telling me, “This is the body of a woman who has lived. Be grateful that you were able to achieve this.”
And then I try, very hard, to imagine myself telling her, “You’re right! My bruises and bumps and wrinkles are nothing to be ashamed of!”
And that is profoundly confusing for me. I have always had words. I was the second-grader who got in trouble for bringing a book into the girls’ bathroom so I could get to the end of my chapter. I was the third-grader whose teacher pulled her aside to say, “Honey, I know you have a lot to say, but can you practice waiting to say it later?”
I have always processed the entire world verbally. If I didn’t talk about it, I wasn’t sure it had really happened.
But I am out of words right now.
I feel stiff. I feel frozen. I feel as if every one of my deepest and most profound emotions is stuck in my throat.
I am learning that grief presents itself in strange ways.
When my Dad died, I cried and mourned and wrote about him and talked about him and somehow put everything in place.
But with the death of my Mom, I find myself at a loss for words.
One of the many things that Mom and I shared was our love of the spoken and written word. We were both readers. We were both writers. We both preferred verbal puzzles to mathematical ones.
We were also both more emotional than logical. We both struggled to force our hearts to follow our brains, instead of the other way around.
And now she is gone.
And I have no words.
I have tried and tried and tried again to come to this safe space where I can write just what I feel. But I can’t quite get my arms around the hugeness of the hole in my world.
I have no words.
Mom was graceful, even when she was unaware of that grace. She was stylish, as I can attest now that my sister and I have sorted through the 12 bags of her clothes.
Mom was opinionated. She was strong. She was fragile and breakable, and we all spent so much energy trying to protect her from the life around her. She was never able to fully grasp how much we loved her and looked to her to guide our way through this life.
I have no words to express the strange feeling that I have without her in my life.
One moment I feel like a balloon that has escaped its knot, rising and rising into the stratosphere with absolutely nothing to guide me.
The next moment I feel like the wise woman of my own village; the oldest and wisest, able to fold my mother’s lessons into my own.
I am here because I am afraid that if I stop writing, stop speaking, I will simply disappear. Without the reflection of my Mom in my mirror, am I really there?
I have lost my words.
I believe that they will come back. As I embrace my beautiful granddaughter and watch her falling into a good book, I see my Mom.
Life is a journey. Life goes on, no matter what we think about that fact.
My Mom is gone. For now, my voice has gone with her.
I will look to my children and to theirs, and I know that I will find it once again.
I am a summer person. I love the heat. I love the sweating and the thunder and the bees and the barbecue. I love the beach.
But even I have to admit, I really love a good snowstorm.
I love blizzards and nor’easters here in Massachusetts because they are such a visceral reminder that while we think we are in control of our own lives, nature is laughing right out loud at us.
I love these big storms because they force me to look beyond my usual safe and secure and technologically supported life. They force me to think, “Oh, oh….if the power goes out…..” I feel strong, smart, and prepared when I plug in my portable battery, double-check my generators and make sure the solar-powered flashlights are all charged up.
I feel excited and ready for a challenge when I make batches of calzones that can be eaten either hot or cold. And when I charge up all the flashlights. And bake some cookies because……really?
All of this preparation and pioneer-womaning is great and it all makes me appreciate a good snowstorm. But there is something I love even more.
I love a good snowstorm because it leaves behind it a small patch of untouched perfection.
No footsteps mar the perfection of the white. No dirt is anywhere in the image. No human impact can be seen on the landscape.
A good snowstorm is the ultimate “Do Over”. It allows me to look out my window, watching the birds flit from branch to branch. It lets me watch as a tiny chickadee picks the seeds out of an overgrown perennial.
A strong storm is a reminder to all of us that earth has been here a lot longer than we have. It reminds us that the roads are only a recent addition to the earth. It shows us that if mother nature set her mind to it, we’d be gone.
I love it.
I love the expansive spread of pure white snow across a yard.
Today’s New England blizzard is reminding me of one of my favorite memories as a teacher. I arrived at school one morning after a storm of some 12 or 14 inches. My students gathered in the classroom as usual. They handed in homework, did the “attendance” record and sat down to do “Before School Work”.
At exactly the moment when the official school day began, I told them all to put on their coats, snow pants, and boots. As I recall, they were excited and bewildered in equal measure. I lined them up. I walked to the door of our classroom, and then led them down to the outdoor exit. The exit that would take them outside to the playground.
To the playground that was covered with pure, untouched, sparkling snow.
“Nobody has been out here yet,” I told them. “Go!”
There was a short frozen moment of hesitation. And then the door burst open and out they ran. Twenty-four ecstatic ten-year-olds burst out into the pure, untouched snow. They laid down their footprints. They rolled in the snow. They buried their faces in the snow.
THIS is what I love about snowstorms.
They let us start fresh. They let children feel the miracle of laying down the very first footprints on that pristine palette.
A snowstorm tells us to stop, to slow down, to savor the moment. It tells us that no matter how powerful we feel ourselves to be, our footsteps will not last in this world. They tell us to embrace the moment of icy, sparkling joy. And they remind us that those moments are not eternal. They remind us that the snow will soften. It will become gray and icy and old.
A good snowstorm reminds us that every moment of joy is a moment to treasure. And it reminds us that even if it’s cold out there, we should go out and jump into the drifts.
Life and love and joy are all as ephemeral as a snowstorm, I guess. And that’s why we have to embrace and enjoy every one.
This is not our usual ‘New Year’ celebration, is it? We are now two full years into this relentless pandemic. We are, as Americans, at each other’s throats every single day over concepts both serious and stupid. Should we work to protect the rights of all voters to express themselves in each election? Should we push back against the biases we see in our media outlets? Do we really have to wear masks in the grocery store? Why do I need to get a vaccination if I’m not likely to die from this disease?
This year we find ourselves facing a New Year’s Eve that is fraught with anger, with frustration, with fear, with sorrow.
For me, and my immediate family, this is the year without our parents. This is our first look into a future with neither Mom nor Dad. A year in which we feel unbalanced, unanchored, adrift.
I want to write the usual hopes for the upcoming year and the usual funny looks back on the mistakes and mix-ups of last year.
But I can’t.
This year, I find that I am simply blank. There are too few thoughts in this weary head.
As I watch the waning days of 2021, all I feel is resignation.
I am resigned to the fact that more and more people are going to get sick in the next few weeks. I’m resigned to the realization that our country, and humanity as a whole, has completely mismanaged the enormous challenge of our global pandemic. Even though we KNOW that viruses cross borders, that viruses do not care what languages we speak or which gods we honor, even though we KNOW that every human on this little planet is at risk, we have still failed to look out for each other.
We have vaccines, but we aren’t going to share them because…..money.
My disappointment in the human race is profound.
I am resigned to the fact that the country in which I live is headed off a cliff, and that there is nothing in the world I can do to make it better.
Politicians will continue to yell and scream about nothing. People will continue to insist that they are on the “good” team. Temperatures will rise, storms will rage, glaciers will melt.
I’m usually able to summon up at least a modicum of hopefulness; I am a woman who surrounds herself with children, and that in itself is usually enough to keep me optimistic.
But as we come up on the first anniversary of our near insurrection, I read that our government is “weighing the possibility of seeking criminal charges”. And I realize that none of this theater is actually about stopping us from charging off that cliff. It’s about stringing things out until we get close enough to the famous “midterms” to impact the way we feel, and the way we will vote. It’s about liars, cheaters and traitors trying to wiggle out of the responsibility they have for what happened, and about those who are supposed to be holding them accountable finding the most politically expedient way to do that.
As our children are about to head back into schools that are literal petri dishes of infection, with no actual plan in place to keep anyone safe, I am aware that as a society we are happy to sacrifice our youngest children and their teachers so that the factories can keep churning out the endless piles of junk that we all so enjoy ordering online.
I have no uplifting, hopeful, empowering thoughts for next year.
I am blank. I am bereft. I am as empty as any candidate’s promise to save us.
I wish you a 2022 of abject boredom, in which nothing remotely dangerous or scary happens to you or to anyone you love. I wish you a year empty of new variants, devoid of new mask recommendations, extra boosters, or anything involving the word “antibodies”.
May your greatest surprise in 2022 come in the form of an unexpected blossom on a plant you thought you’d lost. May your biggest challenge be trying to remember the name of that wonderful teacher from elementary school.
I wish you peace. I wish you rest. I wish you at least one fabulously delicious meal shared with people who make you laugh out loud.
Most of all, dear friends, my New Year’s wish for all of us is that one year from now we find ourselves saying, “Well, that was certainly an improvement.”
When I was a child, Christmas was really magical. I mean, seriously magical. As part of a giant Italian family, the celebration of Christmas spread over several weeks.
There was the night when Dad placed the bright, hot orange window candles in our bedroom, and my sisters and I would fall asleep bathed in that magical glow. We’d whisper about hoped-for gifts, promised treats, and the possibility of actually seeing Santa this time.
There was the setting up of the tree and the hot dusty smell of those huge old painted bulbs. Do any of you remember those? For a few years they would be perfect, but every time they were lit, they’d heat up and cook the paint that covered them, eventually leaving it cracked and peeling. That hot paint smell is one of my best and sweetest Christmas memories.
And we had the joy of a Sicilian Christmas eve. Oh, the food! Octopus, cooked perfectly by my Grampa, salty and “al-dente”, studded with green olives and tiny capers. Exploding in my mouth, telling me that Christmas was truly here. The shrimp, the pasta, the array of cookies.
And the exchange of gifts. On Christmas eve, we got gifts from our Nana and Grampa and from our loving aunts and uncles. Dolls, books, playdoh, brand new crayons in the box with the sharpener.
These Christmas Eve gifts were the appetizers of the Big Day for us.
Because when the evening was over, we’d head home to await the big guy. Oh, my gosh, the memories of trying to sleep with those warm orange lights!!
One year, my sister Liz and I woke up in the night. CHRISTMAS EVE night. We heard sounds on our roof. Seriously! We mean it! There were sounds on the roof!~ We were shivering with excitement.
The next morning, we woke up and ran outside. It had snowed that week, so the roof was coated in a nice white layer. And there on the roof, right in front of our wondering eyes, were long, thin trails where something had been dragged across the snow……
We knew, without a doubt, that we were seeing the tracks of Santa’s sleigh. We had no thought for the tall willow trees that stood beside our house or the way that their long branches used to drape across the roof in the wind.
It was Christmas magic.
When I grew up and was the mother of young children, the magic of Christmas happened through my kids.
Oh, I know how trite that sentence is. I know it’s boring and cliche and completely unoriginal.
But in my case, it’s completely true.
I remember coming out of my parents’ house on Christmas Eve. My Grampa was gone, but the tradition of the Sicilian Christmas Eve was carried on by my Mom. The octopus was there. The shrimp was there, along with the meatballs, the eggplant, the ridiculous supply of cookies. My kids opened gifts from aunts, uncles and grandparents. They played with cousins. They became more and more wound up as the party progressed.
I remember trying to get them out the front door and into their car seats. I remember pausing, somewhat obviously, and gazing up at the sky over the house. We live in a very rural area, far from any airports. My parents’ house was less than 20 miles from Logan Airport. So as you can imagine, there is always a flight or two overhead.
“Oh, wow,” I remember saying, pretending to be casual, “Do you kids see that red light way up there? I wonder……just thinking…..could it be…..?”
Invariably, all three kids would jump into the car and demand that we “get home, get home! Hurry!”
That was a kind of magic. And the magic of staying up until 2AM trying desperately to get all those presents out of the attic, wrapped, put together and placed around the tree….while not waking up any of the three kids. Well….that was a wonderful magic that Paul and I complained about but loved so much.
I remember one year when the toys were finally placed by 2AM, and the kids woke up at 4. I love looking back on our sense disbelief when we heard those little voices whispering, and asked each other, “This can’t be the end of the night, can it……..?” I remember falling asleep in front of a movie, on the living room floor, at 6pm with our youngest in my arms.
Now the magic of Christmas is found in the simple repetition of traditions. Now I make the octopus. Now I fry the shrimp.
Now I give gifts to my grandchildren a day or two before Christmas. I am the “appetizer” to the big event.
Now the magic comes to me in the annual gathering of cousins and the few remaining aunts. It comes from seeing my Grampa’s eyes in the faces of his grandsons. It comes from the taste of the octopus, cooked by my little brother, as perfectly flavored as Grampa ever did it. It comes from my sense that life goes on, that children still believe, that a few marks on the roof can give little children faith in something more beautiful and profound than our everyday lives.
There is magic.
Christmas is magic.
Tomorrow morning I will lie in my bed, with a dog on each side and my old husband snoring beside me. And I will smile, knowing that my daughter and her husband are probably looking at each other in the earliest light of dawn, asking “This can’t be the end of the night, can it……..?”
Buon Natale a tutti.
Merry Christmas, friends. I hope you are able to find your magic.
I’m sitting here tonight in my house. The Sunday dinner is in the oven. The house is clean. The laundry is folded.
I don’t know what to do with myself.
Mom, this is the night before your wake.
How do we come to grips with that fact?
Everything is in order, just as we think you’d want it to be. There are flowers, and beautiful music, and photos of you and Dad and all of us. All through our years together as a family. It’s all set. All organized. Your kids will do you proud, I promise.
How do I do this without you?
For all of my life, you’ve been there when I needed to dress up and present myself well. Today I looked through my closet, trying to choose what I should wear tomorrow as I stand beside the casket that holds your precious body.
Will I look OK? Will you be proud?
How do I know if I’ve chosen the right clothes, without your unerring sense of style to guide me?
Mom, I don’t know how to conduct myself without your guiding hand.
I’ll do my best. I’ll channel my inner “Zena” and put on makeup. I’ll wear earrings that match my blouse.
I’m not sure that I can really go through this without you there. When Dad died, we had you there to help us. I stood beside you. I handed you tissues during the wake. I sat beside you on the couch as we chose the music for his service.
Now what do we do?
Momma, I’ll do my best. I’ll stand there and smile. I’ll shake hands and give some hugs, even wearing my mask. I’ll thank people for coming, and I’ll say all the right things. “She lived a long and happy life. She had a peaceful death. We’re happy that she’s with Dad now.”
I’ll say all of that.
But inside of me, inside of the little girl who hides within my aging self, I will cry and sob and ask the universe, “How can you possibly go on without my MOM?????” I’ll ask myself, over and over and over again, “Did I do it right? Did I look OK? Did I ask the right questions and give the right responses?”
It will all be done well, and everything will be fine.
But long after your wake and funeral are over, long after the last flowers have faded and the last cards have been filed away, I will ask myself, “Am I OK? Did I do it right? Does she know that I truly loved her?”
My best prayer for you is that one day, in that special place on the other side of the veil, you will look at yourself and see yourself as we do. I pray that one day, on the other side, you’ll look at yourself and say, right out loud, “Good Lord! I was fabulous, wasn’t I?”
Until then, dear Momma, please know that every time I find myself needing to get “dressed up”, I will think of you, and try to follow the stylish lead that you have given me.
My mother died last week, the night before Thanksgiving. She lived a long and very full life, and she left that life reluctantly.
Mom was a practicing Catholic, so my family grew up with the typical Catholic imagery of life and death. Heaven or Hell and all that. In her very last days, Mom was unsure of what was coming. She expressed her doubts that she’d really be reunited with our Dad, who was the love of her life for over six decades. She worried that her death would be a true ending, and she held on tenaciously to every fading breath.
Yesterday I spent the day with my grandsons. I hadn’t seen them for 10 days, the time of our vigil by Mom’s bedside. Both had been sick, as had their Mom and sister. They were in COVID quarantine, and as I grieved for my Mother, I missed all of them terribly.
So I was filled with relief and joy to have them here yesterday, although I worried that my sadness and my distracted mind might bother them.
I should have known better.
My little Johnny, all of four and a half years of wisdom, was working on a puzzle of the “Polar Express.” I was sitting with his baby brother on my knee, just watching the puzzle master at work. Suddenly, Johnny asked me,
“Is Great Grandma a spirit now?”
“Yes,” I answered. “She is.”
“But, what is her spirit?”
“What do you mean, honey?”
“What is it? What is her spirit?”
“I don’t know,” I answered as truthfully as I could. “You can’t see it. It’s the part of Great Grandma that loves us. It’s still around us.”
This seemed a bit too metaphysical for such a young child, but I wasn’t sure how to proceed. My daughter and her family don’t go to church, nor do we. I know that the kids have talked about life and death. I know that they have looked at and thought about the deaths of birds and salamanders and other animals. They’ve been through the death of their family dog.
But I didn’t know how much of the “invisible spirit” idea a four-year-old could grasp. I didn’t want him thinking of ghosts.
Johnny never stopped placing his puzzle pieces. He never even looked up at me.
He just said one thing before I broke down in tears and he came to give me a hug.
“Nonni,” he said. “I think her spirit is you now. I think it’s you.”
It was later in the day, as we were eating a snack, that I asked Johnny what he thought about spirits. He thought for a minute, then looked up at me seriously.
“Remember Moana’s Grandma? She turned into a spirit of a ray.”
That was all this sweet, wise little soul needed to know. He wasn’t thinking of Heaven or Hell or worthiness or sins. He was thinking that he’d learned everything he needed to know about spirits from one Disney movie.
Call me crazy, but I am so happy to think that my strong, powerful, smart Momma is out there somewhere in sparkling spirit form. Maybe she is a spirit cat, like her precious kitty Tess. Maybe she is an octopus, so fitting for our “pulpi” eating Sicilian family.
Or maybe, just maybe, her spirit really is me.
I don’t know yet.
But I know that Johnny has taken a valuable lesson from one sweet movie. He doesn’t fear death, because even at his tender age, he understands that spirits go on and that death is not goodbye.
This, if you ask me, is the most perfect belief a human could have.
I have been home lately, at loose ends some days. I have had extra time on my hands.
So I’ve watched and listened to a lot of the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse and also the McMichaels trial. I have learned quite a bit about the American legal system, about the laws that govern many of our states and cities and about our American relationship with violence.
As a confirmed lefty, of course my initial reaction to the Rittenhouse trial was one of pure outrage. I believed with every fiber of my soul that he was guilty of murder and should be sentenced to jail.
And that goes triple for the actions of the men who chased down an unarmed Ahmaud Arbery and killed him for trying to protect himself from their loaded guns.
I watched both trials with all of the ingrained beliefs of a good progressive left wing activist.
I have two Black Lives Matter flags on my property. I have a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker on my car. I have been a slightly socialist voter since the 1970s.
But in the past couple of weeks I have learned some things, and I’ve changed my mind a lot in terms of Kyle, if not the McMichaels.
I learned that in spite of the assurances from my lefty news sources and social media contacts, Kyle Rittenhouse’s Mom did not drive him across state lines with a loaded AR15. She didn’t drop him off in a riot zone.
I also learned that in the state of Wisconsin, people routinely carry loaded weapons around town. I learned that in Wisconsin, it’s illegal for a minor to purchase an assault weapon like an AR15, but it is not clear that it’s illegal for that same child to own or to use that gun.
I learned that the conservative part of our country honestly believes that the surest sign of patriotism is to grab your gun and head out into the streets to stop those “bad guys with guns.”
So I’m thinking.
At the tender age of 17, a boy in Wisconsin is not allowed to vote. He’s not allowed to buy himself a beer. He is not considered an adult, and can’t sign a contract, consent to medical treatment or ask to be emancipated from his parents.
Why not, you ask?
Because medical science, and neurological research, shows that adolescents do not have brains that are developed enough for them to make logical decisions about their lives. Science understands that the adolescent brain is impulsive, disorganized and deluded into believing that its owner is immortal.
So why do the adults who make our laws allow those same immature brain owners to carry loaded weapons into dangerous situations?
I’m not excusing the reprehensible actions of Kyle Rittenhouse. In my view, carrying a loaded weapon is proof that you want to shoot someone. Sorry, but that seems obvious to me.
But that doesn’t convince me that Kyle should be in jail.
I do NOT want to see even one more young life lost to the endless gun violence in this country. I can’t see any way that any good could come from putting this kid in jail. He would have become a martyr to the right. An immature, pudgy, gun toting martyr.
No lives would have been saved.
No lessons would have been learned.
Instead, it is my deepest wish that the law makers at every level of this country walk up to the nearest mirror. I want them to look into that mirror and I want each and every one of them to ask this question: “What the hell do we think is going to happen when we allow every man, woman and teen in this country to drag around a loaded weapon? What do we think is going to occur when we let hidden, loaded guns be brought into bars, restaurants and churches? Why do we act shocked when people with loaded guns end up shooting each other?”
I am angry about the deaths that happened in Kenosha. I am disgusted, and appalled and horrified.
But I don’t hold one stupid, meat-headed kid responsible.
WE, in this country, WE have allowed ourselves to live in a nation where weapons of war are bought and sold by people who have no training and no experience. WE have allowed our teens to buy these weapons because, in the words of Kyle Rittenhouse, they look “cool.”
WE have allowed our elected officials to air campaign ads in which they hold those same “cool” guns while threatening anyone who has a different point of view. WE have voted for people who brag about murdering their colleagues.
I am disgusted. I am scared. I am in shock.
But I don’t think putting the blame on one idiotic kid is the solution to the mess in which we find ourselves.
My mother is in her last days. She has had a good, long life, filled with struggles and triumphs, as are the lives of all who are lucky.
This has been a difficult journey for her, as she has very, very slowly lost her strength of body, but never her strength of heart.
I am sad. I feel helpless to ease her on her way. I am blessed, and I know it, because I am surrounded by my loving siblings and because I have a chance to tell Mom how much I love her and what a good Mom she has been.
Still, I feel deeply sad that I can’t find the right way to honor her.
I woke up this morning in my own snug bed. As I slowly rose to consciousness, I remembered a dream. A very vivid dream of my Nana, my Mother’s mother. In the dream, Nana was serving us dinner, as she did thousands of times in my life. She made chicken cutlets, in her special Italian way.
I woke up with the taste of those delicious cutlets in my mouth, and the determination to make them today in my heart.
Because I am something of a food hoarder, and a patron of our local farms, my freezer is well stocked with fresh and local meats. I got up early and took a package of chicken breasts out to defrost.
The day went on as usual, and I was busy taking care of my two little grandsons. There was playdoh and hallway soccer and trucks and more superheroes than I can count.
But as the afternoon wore on, I decided that I wanted to enlist the boys in the preparation of my “Nana cutlets”.
So the boys helped me to slice the chicken breasts, to pound them (18-month-old Max was particularly thrilled with this part), and to bread and fry them.
As the chicken simmered, I talked to the kids about Nana. I used the few little Italian phrases that I know. I told the silly story of the way that Nana would call us in for lunch by yelling something that I thought was in English.
“Come in, fill your belly” is what I heard.
It was many years later that I realized she was saying, “Come in, figli belli!” She was calling us her ‘beautiful children”, but we didn’t understand that.
I smiled to myself today, looking at my own “figli belli” and making cutlets with them. I loved the way that my Nana’s memory was shaping my day with the kids.
And after the boys went home, I looked at my leftover flour, bread crumbs, and egg/milk combination. I didn’t need any of it, and would normally have thrown it all out. But then I remembered Nana. I had a clear and wonderful memory of her standing at her stove, frying the cutlets.
When all of the chicken was gone, and only the coatings were left, Nana used to make a little pancake out of them. She would mix it all with a fork, and pour it into the hot olive oil. Then she’d mix it up in the pan, and gently flip it over to form a crispy little something that she let her little grandchildren eat.
Nana called it something that sounded to us like “Bishy woh-woh.”
It was DELICIOUS.
Once again, it took me many years and several classes in Italian to realize that this wonderful leftover treat, given as a gift to the grandkids, was actually called “pesce uova”, or “fish eggs”.
I love the history of this little dish. I love using my Nana’s recipes, although none are written and all are stored in my aging head. I love sharing this food, this love, with my grandchildren, just as Nana shared them with us.
I love that tonight, as Mom is readying herself to cross through the veil and join her parents on the other side, I love that tonight my grandkids helped me to make Nana’s cutlets. And that we will eat “Bishy woh-woh” with our dinner.
I pray that my dream means that Nana is close and that she is reaching out to Mom. Reaching out to bring Mom home.
I pray that one day one of my grandchildren will wake up from a vivid dream, and will make some special meal that they remember from their time with me.