Saturday, May 28, 2011

Changing Seasons

I love the changing of the seasons.  I love to see summer changing to fall as the dropping leaves mark the shift to shorter days and cooler nights.  I even love winter rest when everything seems to wait in silence.  Then spring comes back with singing birds and budding trees and joyous flowers.

The shift from spring to summer is subtle but it's still real.  You have to look for it.  You have to notice the rise in temperatures and the sun's more direct rays.  The gardens go from fresh and green to full production and quickly change to browning vines and withered stalks.

Writers often use the seasons as a metaphor for life.  Our seasons are joyous and sad as we enter one and leave the other.  And yet, it represents the way we are going, the progress we are making.  I can't be too depressed that I have accomplished things in this stage or this season.  Some of them I get to continue, but for some there is no need to redo.  For them the memory is enough.

For some of my accomplishments or successes, other people take up the baton and the race continues.  My children teach their children, and their seasons and lives take up when mine is leaving off.  It never seems to get back to the beginning again; the seasons and the cycles roll on in a spiral or a looping progression of advancement.  That's right and, yet, the changing of a season carries a sadness that is undefinable. 

The final verse of Robert Frost's poem "Reluctance" says it well.

Ah, when to the heart of man
   Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
   To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
   Of a love or a season.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pain is a Poor Companion

2D structure of opioid analgesic tramadolImage via Wikipedia
My mother died with cancer when I was ten years old.  She was ill for several months and finally went to the hospital to finish her final days where pain medication was available.  I was not considered to be of much importance during this time, so I did not get the chance to see her much.  The last time I went to the hospital, I wore a blue taffeta dress and my hair had been rolled in curls, but it had not had time to dry so the curls didn't hold.

She was glad I came, but the morphine had caused difficulty with her vision.  She hugged me and felt that my hair was damp.  I think she thought the family was not being attentive to me.  I felt really sad that my hair was not perfect and that she could not see me, but I hoped she knew how much I wanted to be there.

Before she went to the hospital her pain had been severe, but she tried to carry on.  One day her sister came to visit, and she insisted on fixing her hair and face.  Mama said, "I hope you know this doesn't make me feel better."

Her sister Gertrude replied, "Well, it makes me feel better."  I understand how Gertrude felt.  Now I take care of my daughter Carol.  She has Rheumatoid Arthritis.  She has lost one arm due to an infection, and all her major joints have been replaced by artificial ones.  Sometimes she has a flare that causes extreme pain and her disability is total.  I feel helpless in the face of her suffering.  Like Gertrude and Mama's hair and makeup, I just want Carol to look like she is doing better.  I feel better if she can laugh and participate in life.  

I hope it's not selfish to want her to be happy so I don't feel bad.  She loves the Mavericks, and they pulled out a come-from-behind win tonight.  I was thrilled, not because I am an avid fan, but because it gave her joy.  I hope I can find something to give her joy tomorrow.  
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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Age-Appropriate Behavior

Yesterday I heard about the woman who was giving her daughter Botox because she was involved in a pageant.  I understand the child was removed from the mother's care.  My mother was dedicated to the idea that you did child things when you were a child and grown-up things when you were grown-up.

Out society seems to have turned that theory upside down.  Everything these days is devoted to the idea that we can change the timetable.  It is true that in the pageant world all the girls wear makeup and clothes that hint or imply sexuality--the lingering look, the suggestive walk, the extreme makeup, even with Botox.  But this is not confined to the pageant world.  Advertisements appeal to children on a sexual level that is beyond their comprehension.

No matter how much the parents want to promote their child's achievements, introducing them to sexualized clothing and behavior at six or eight years of age is stupid.  I don't take this stand just because I am a religious prude.  The human brain develops on its own schedule.  You can teach these behaviors to a child and children are great imitators:  They will do what they see others do.  Teaching them to imitate adult sexual behavior robs them of the joy of growing up.  By the time this is appropriate, they've already done it.

Developmental theory proposes that children encounter stages where they learn as their brain can accommodate new material.   Teaching a child that the value of her life lies in perfect makeup and stage presence distorts the process of growing up.  I have not addressed all the reasons a mother who is not qualified to handle Botox should not be doing this, but they extend beyond this post.  The more immediate question of allowing or expecting kids to engage in adult behavior makes me mad.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Grandchildren Make a Difference!

I had an awesome experience yesterday.  I got to participate in an interview with my granddaughter for her speech class.  The project was intended to teach the teenagers a little about previous generations.  The teacher called the elders among us a "living time machine." 

She asked me about the radio, movies, and news events I remembered from my childhood.  It was a lot of fun to remember on cue moments from my childhood, to be forced to recall details and try to make them meaningful to the class of sophomores.

I keep learning this lesson:  It's not just the memories that are so precious, but telling them, that keeps me alive and excited about current living.  It's the telling that makes them live again.  It's sharing that experience with this new generation that keeps it alive.  The lessons of the past generations don't have to be relearned if we profit from what happened to those who have gone before.

My Uncle Jimmie used to say "Experience is the best teacher, but if you pay attention, you can learn from the experience of other people.  You don't have to do it all yourself."

So I hope I get asked to relate memories again.  Writing about them is good too.  But there is something about those questions that brings up stuff I would not have focused on or thought about.  The memories I rehearse have a format that is familiar--not much new is happening--until the questions come.  To fit those memories into the language and context a student can understand makes them live again.  (You may have noticed that I used "awesome" in the first sentence of this post.  Language is important to how we relate.)  They are framed by different borders and compared on different scales.  I had to struggle to answer questions that I thought I knew.  It was wonderful.  Maybe I can get an appointment to be interviewed now and then.  It might be a real refresher for me.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Joy Stored

Snow fell silently across the rough slope
covering the landscape's ragged grain.
The little boy filled with joy and hope,
ran into white wonder in spite of his pain.

"Look at it, Mother," he shouted. "It's magic.
I see a castle and there's a great horse."
She saw the scene as completely tragic.
"It's a lie," she said. "It will melt, of course."

The child made tracks to circle round
and gaze on her with solemn eyes.
"The snow will melt and soak the ground
but the beauty here is not made of lies."

"I know I'm dying, but you don't need to be sad.
Now there is laughter and white flakes in the air.
One day you'll remember that today we were glad.
And when you remember, I will be there."