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Sunday morning. New resolve. I can, will, and must begin a regular practice of meditation once more. Trust me.
So I set the timer to twenty minutes. Lit a candle, sat on the floor in front of it. I decided: no mantra, no severe zen stance (I’ve done them all). Instead a simple cross-legged position, back to the sofa, old dog lying nearby. Was Winnie meditating in her dog way?
Here are thoughts that arose as I sat for fifteen minutes: flame of the candle–nice, better if I close my eyes? Back to the flame. Airplane flies over my house–damned Green Township pathway! I’ll be flying soon–Paris, hurray! Oops, stop it, Phebe, let the thoughts float by like clouds in the sky…..
In between these concepts, I did have a few moments of No Thought. So when I peeked and the timer told me “three minutes more,” I was disappointed.
Yes, disappointed! For I was just getting started. “Getting started” — an odd concept since there was No Where To Get to in my meditation. I reset the timer for ten more minutes. Ahhhh.
That new Sia song insisted on wafting through my head. Notice, float by. Tears. Surprising. Oh, earlier I had remembered my father, recently dead (whatever this means). “Where are you, Dad?” I inwardly asked. Maybe this is one reason I’d been resisting sitting in meditation. Feeling. Feeling my father’s recent death. Feeling my recovering chest incision from February bypass surgery. But, wait–then I felt tears of joy: my new internist. She has knowledge and caring. Knowledge and Caring. What more can a patient ask for?
Back to the candle and its wavering flame. Wavering. Yes, kind of like the baby meditator I have become after not sitting quietly for some time. Beginner’s mind begins again. And there is nothing wrong with that.
It’s happy Father’s Day all over the U.S.A. but some of the children are not so happy.
I just lost my father last Wednesday, watched as his coffin was lowered into the ground. That makes it real! His body needed to leave since it was wracked by lymphoma, the cancer enlarging his spleen which pushed on his stomach which left him with little appetite. Going out to eat was his final pleasure in life. Going to Bob Evans, for example, was a social occasion for him and he quickly made favorites of the pretty young waitresses. I suppose they looked upon him as a grandfather or just a nice old man.
He was a nice old man. Not much of a talker, though. I sometimes wondered what our father-daughter karma was but now I think Norman Beiser was a steady listener for me. Thank you, dad, wherever you are!
Now I am a member of the Adult Orphan Society. I am 65, after all, and own a home on my own and mother furry animals rather than children. I am an adult who can sort through my thoughts and emotions, who writes about them, and shares communication with others.
One writing friend does not speak to her father because he was cruel to her in her childhood. I know another young father who is a baby daddy and has a kid by two different women, neither of whom he is married to. When I asked my own father about my early childhood, he remembered little. “I worked two jobs,” he informed me, back in the early and mid 1950’s. He also met another woman and, for this, my mother divorced him. They were too young to be married with three children. Thankfully, my mother’s retired German schoolteacher mother had saved her pennies and helped her out until she met and married my stepfather.
So fathers can vary, as do people of any age or sex. Responsibility is the word I think of when I think of a good father. In the normal realm, responsibility consists of earning money, making sure your children are fed, supporting your wife. My biological father did all of this until I was three. That was a very long time ago. I took my mother’s side for decades in my early feminist days. After I was involved in my own intimate relationships, I realized the actual truth was often something other than either partner’s view of the truth. So I forgive both my parents for the decisions they made along the way. For I am no better.
On this Hallmark day of sappy cards, grilling out, etc., I ask that we all pause, reflect a bit deeper, and really mean Happy Fathers Day when we say (write) it.
I drove my dad to the cemetery where our Beiser’s are buried. As you can see from the photograph of the headstone, there is an opening in that plot, in the ground below us. My father, “Norman,” has a space waiting for him next to his deceased wife (this is the woman he married after my mother and his divorce).
Here’s our conversation in front of the headstone:
Me: “Doesn’t it feel weird to see your name on a headstone?”
“Do you believe–or hope–you’ll meet [his wife] at the end of the light?
Dad: “What I HOPE is that someone will have my date filled in!”
That’s our dry family wit.
But that’s not the end of my holiday weekend ennui. Ennui is a French word describing a feeling that combines tiredness and boredom. It’s more complex than this. Here’s my intuitive fastwrite of a post trying to get to the bottom of these holiday weekend sadnesses:
I am single. No children. Being a lesbian still makes me an outsider to much of the world in spite of all the gay news lately about same-sex marriage. I have no family, automatically in place, to spend a holiday weekend with. No grilling out with the grandkids, no movies to watch together, no hopping in the car for ice cream.
Now, in many ways I have chosen all this. I mean, some lesbians do have children and grandchildren. I’m not one. And I’m well aware that there’s a certain Norman Rockwell sort of insipid fuzzy gladness in these images.
So I need to create my own family, circle of intimates, friends. As a matter of fact, I did have an invitation to a lesbian party Sunday evening. But I spent the entire afternoon picking dad up fifteen miles away, driving to the Bevis Cemetery near my neighborhood, taking him back home, then driving myself back home. Sixty miles. I was happy to do this (especially happy I had the energy post-cardiac surgery). It meant, however, that I’d be too tired to drive to Lebanon later for the women’s gathering. So I missed out.
So there is usually this sense of something missing most holiday weekends.
Later I realized there were two events that happened past Memorial Day weekends: Only a few years ago, I had to have my handsome elkhound Bodhi put down. He could no longer walk plus he stopped eating. Spent the night on the living room floor, never getting up.
Last year, I spent two nights in Maine meeting a woman I’d met only online. We’d shared months’ worth of emails and took an online class together. We were both in our 60’s and (now I realize) wistful for a love partnership. If I tell you I changed my plane ticket to fly home a day early this will give you the ending. One year ago. Hope and illusion.
It may take a few more Memorial Day weekends to soften the memory of Bodhi and Ms. Maine. These memories are attached only to Memorial Day weekend. I know I am strong as well as sensitive. I’ll get through this, especially now that I am aware of it. The one thing I CAN do is invite people over. I don’t have a grill but I have a spectacular deck and backyard!
It’s not a bad thing. It just “is,” in the tradition of wise speaker and workshop guru Byron Katie.
The tears flow easily down my cheeks when I’m trying to get to sleep or are just waking. In between the worlds. Transition.
The most clear and profound instance was one evening as I was reading about the heart, how it works. It was an online site aimed at children. More easily understood. With no warning it hit me – truly and beyond reason – how amazing our heart system is.
Without attention (unless something goes wrong). Without thanks. The heart beats on an incredible number of times in one life.
These are what I call pure tears–not from sadness or distress, not joy or bliss. Tears of amazement.
I am happy to be sharing a moment of sacrament this afternoon with Phebe. As it was proclaimed in this season with a different pronoun– SHE IS ALIVE!—- Not that many Sunday’s ago we met at her A-framed home in the woods to experience each other’s writing wonders! The very next day she was told that her heart and really all of her cells were in for a big hospital trip! Those doctors and nurses did a good job. Whew! It is thrilling to sit and write with this Goddess Babe sister.
After a writing retreat last fall, I came home and called her immediately. I knew that she was the one and when I called her she answered me with a delightful willingness. My writing life has been like the tide with it’s comings and goings. I needed the support of the land that is sometimes only available in…
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