Thursday, February 1, 2018

TEARS IN THE BUCKET

 THINKING OF MARGARET

Today is the anniversary of my mother's death. February 1 is also the feast day of Saint Brigid- the great Irish saint and patron of  nursing mothers--so it always seemed fit that my mother should die on the date of the  feast of the Queen of the Gaels.  They now call this recurring sadness Grief Work,  In the  Gospel Jesus called it mourning, blessed it and  made a promise:
--"BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MOURN, FOR THEY SHALL BE COMFORTED."
I would like to recall two poems that speak to  loss and the role of  tears   Just one for today  "Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean---"
tears-

 from The Princess: Tears, Idle Tears
Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean, 
Tears from the depth of some divine despair 
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes, 
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields, 
And thinking of the days that are no more. 

         Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail, 
That brings our friends up from the underworld, 
Sad as the last which reddens over one 
That sinks with all we love below the verge; 
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more. 

         Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns 
The earliest pipe of half-awaken'd birds 
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes 
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square; 
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more. 

         Dear as remember'd kisses after death, 
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feign'd 
On lips that are for others; deep as love, 
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret; 
O Death in Life, the days that are no more!

MORE POEMS BY ALFRED, LORD TENNYS

HIS NAME WAS MODESTO

HE CARRIED US

Writing about the  way Jack White II rescued our family from  despair at my father's departure when I was nine, made me bring to mind  so many of the events that surrounded us in those chaotic  days.
One of the principal people in our life was our grocer Modesto Lunadelli.  He ran a grocery store at the corner of Meadow St and Brewster St a few blocks from our house. Even now when I drive by that corner I can see the signs that there once was a storefront there. In my childhood going to the  store was almost a daily event.  My mother took me there when I was a toddler, and after I was four and my younger sister was born, she  trusted me to take a note and bring the groceries home.   I remember how Mike (Modesto's nickname) would pack the bag and make sure I could handle it.
On Wednesday I would leave our written order and on Thursday  Mike would deliver the large order to our front hallway.  That is how  people without cars or telephones shopped in those days before super markets ended the family store. On Saturday my mother sent me  to pay Mike and to pick up a few small things we needed for Sunday dinner.  Every week, no matter what the bill was, she sent me to the store to hand Mike  twenty dollars.  So we had a balance. 

     Since my father's gambling made our ability to pay uncertain, Mike was used to not getting the full amount, but he usually got that twenty dollars.  But when my father left, there was no income.  My mother always said that MIKE CARRIES US.  And I would picture  him putting all of us on his  shoulders. Now he really would  be carrying a full load. 

I don't know  what my mother told Mike, but I do know that  his manner  never altered.  He was still funny and full of advice and offering me samples of the exotic foods--fruits and cheeses that he ordered from Italy  to please his Italian mother. So he taught  me how to eat a ripe fig, all about the varieties of olives, and the fact  that a  great cheese could be alive with maggots.  Some shocks but all welcome and exciting experiences.  

Mike and his wife loved opera and would  listen in the back of the store to the radio operas from the Met. He understood the Italian operas and would tell me the plots of  the works of Puccini and Verdi. One day he even taught me how to pronounce my own name. Having a Pawtucket accent, I guess that I offended  his ears when I said my own name.
"Your name is not "Normer"-- you have a whole opera named after  you --say it this way  No-r-r-ma--" as he rolled his  r's and made it wonderful.  "Always remember you are a Celtic Queen."

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Unexpected Pleasures of Reading the Providence Journal


It  is not the first-- and I devoutly hope that it is not the last--- time that I open the pages of the PROVIDENCE JOURNAL and see the picture of someone from my past.

       Today, Sunday, I was greeted by the smiling family picture of my childhood neighbor --someone I knew as Johnny but  whom the Journal described as JackWhite III.  The photo shows Jack with his wife and three of his sons. It is part of a brief  notice by Michael Delaney that connects the recent  movie The Post to reporters and  exposes that first appeared in The Journal. Jack White III  brought to light the income and  taxes of Richard Nixon and this exposure eventually caused Nixon to resign and won the reporter the Pulitzer Prize. 
Seeing Jack remembered so graciously gave me pleasure  because he was my contemporary and my neighbor. My family lived in the second floor tenement of the house which his family owned and also occupied the first floor tenement. In my First Communion pictures Johnny and I are standing together in our finery for that special day. 
 Every day of my childhood was spent in close  company with that wonderful family. There were other children, and I was friends with Johnny's sister Margaret. We often gathered on the stairs of my front hallway while I told scary stories to the other children: Mary, Michael, Frances and Bethany. The most enthusiastic member of that group was Michael White who later in life became famous as a Detective in the Central Falls Police Department -- he would add to and embellish my stories.  

However, the most charismatic members of the White family were  their parents Jack White II and Marge Dougherty. First, they were both extremely good looking: Jack, tall, dark and handsome and Marge, blonde with a creamy complexion that my mother envied.  They were both funny and friendly--but  most of all--they were both good and generous people. The Whites had a television years before my family could buy one and daily Mrs.White would invite me to come inside and watch HOWDY DOODY instead of loitering around outside their door. When my mother caught wind of this violation of one of her primary Irish Pride rules -- NO POOR MOUTH!! she forbade me to accept Mrs. White's gracious invitations.  Of course, Mrs. White also understood the rules of  Irish decorum and never invited me again --she just very kindly placed a seat outside and raised the shade so I could watch the antics of Mr Bluster and Howdy from outside the house--both prides intact. 
Mrs. White was not just beautiful, funny and kind; she was brave.  She had  her babies at home, and I can remember sitting on the ground in the side yard near the bedrooms with my rosary beads in hand. Praying and listening through her cries and calls, I waited  to catch the sound of a newborn wailing. I could tell so many instances of her goodness and boldness, but it was Mr. Jack White who saved our family.
After my father's gambling habits forced him to leave Pawtucket to escape loan sharks and angry bookies, my mother was sad and overwhelmed with the burden of three daughters to support and no job. Jack White came upstairs -a rare occasion- and asked to talk to her. As I sat at the kitchen table doing my homework and pretending to be invisible, I heard him tell my mother that she and all of us could stay there in his house. That he wanted no rent until she found a job and that he would keep the weekly rent at the less than 10 dollars per week he currently charged, and never raise it.  He kept that promise until 1968 when he and his wife bought their first single family house. My mother had always admired Jack and praised his pro-union stance which she shared. When he left our kitchen, she said, "That man is no saint, but who is? He's a better man than most you will meet. No one is perfect; not even the Church or the Unions, but they do more good than harm. So never  be quick to believe anything negative you hear about Local#57." 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS RUNS THROUGH PAWTUCKET? WHO KNEW?

Does my Road to Damascus Runs Through Pawtucket??


For the past  couple of years I have been struggling with two seeming contradictory situations: 
1. I have been beset with health and physical mobility problems that made  me able to do less and  less
2.I have become convinced that the  most necessary task of the  rest of my  life is to discover how I  can best respond to God's love and how I can  show forth  my own increasing awareness of the divinity that is with in me and every human being.
 
So that with diminished  physical powers  I am trying to find a way to explore and  expand my God-given spiritual powers. This paradox is a hard one to explain and also  seems to me to demand some kind of  dedication and devotion. I am  especially moved by how many times Jesus gives his newly chosen apostles just one simple direction :FOLLOW ME.  I don't see what the path of my following would  be. I do see clearly that for Jesus it was a path that lead him to Golgotha and I have seen the increase of my own suffering but it  is not comparable to that of the Savior.

I am uneasy even expressing these ideas.  When I feel a little better I start imagining myself undertaking and completing some pilgrimage or taking up some form of active  work of mercy--visiting the imprisoned,  helping the homeless. But I am unable to do much  except send  limited charitable  donations to  support the good works of others.

So what can I do? What is the path that I am to seek out and follow when I can barely walk at  all?  I am reminded of Milton's poignant question in the sonnet on his  blindness 
"Does  God exact day-labor light denied?"
Here is the entire sonnet:

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait." 
The poet  finds an answer to his question and expresses it in the final six lines:

 "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait." 
What are the implications of  that answer that Patience gives in the poem for my  life and my limits? So God  does not need me to do anything?  I need to adjust my attitude  to bear  my mild  yoke.  That is literally the rub for me.
That means that what is right before me--the daily  inconvenient, pain ridden, boring  routine of rising and  trying to maintain this household that consists of a  person-me- who can do very little, and a person --my husband-- with dementia and memory loss who can do many things but no longer remembers? 
Is that the meal the Lord has set before me and that the poet George Herbert tells us is a LOVE FEAST?
286. Love
  
LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back, 
      Guilty of dust and sin. 
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack 
      From my first entrance in, 
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning         5
      If I lack'd anything. 
 
'A guest,' I answer'd, 'worthy to be here:' 
     Love said, 'You shall be he.' 
'I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear, 
      I cannot look on Thee.'  10
Love took my hand and smiling did reply, 
      'Who made the eyes but I?' 
 
'Truth, Lord; but I have marr'd them: let my shame 
      Go where it doth deserve.' 
'And know you not,' says Love, 'Who bore the blame?'  15
      'My dear, then I will serve.' 
'You must sit down,' says Love, 'and taste my meat.' 
      So I did sit and eat.


Where do I go from here?


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Pawtucket's Assets

I broke off abruptly to return to the Packers game and the return of Aaron Rodgers.  Sadly, that didn't go so well, The Packers lost and Cam  did a better job than Aaron who seemed to be still recovering.  Since I am still recovering, I  think I understand Rodgers  thinking he was ready to go back when he was not.  He is back on IR injured reserve list and I  hope he is back with all his usual laughter and  energy next year,  
The debate goes on about  where  the Pawsox will go and how  a new stadium will be  financed. I listed the loss of the Pawsox as one of the blows that Pawtucket  has suffered recently.  Probably the changes in the Memorial Hospital are  things that will make  the most impact on the well-being of the residents of Pawtucket and Central Falls.  What is left to us?  So much history has happened here  in this small but important city  straddling the banks of the Blackstone.
The river and the falls provide a  wonderful scenic setting, and it was when I first  visited San Antonio that I became  aware of how  vibrant and successful a RIVERWALK can be.   If the Apex site is selected for a new  stadium, I hope it unleashes a new sense of  what is possible to create along the banks of the Blackstone from City Hall  to  RIVERSIDE Cemetery and the Lebanon  Mills on the  east side of the river. That would be a great re-imagining of a major asset that we  can never lose. We need to  research and
make  better known the  history of this  city. We have a proud  colonial history as  starting point for Foundry and metal work  under the leadership of Joseph Jenks and  the first mill  to manufacture cloth under the  direction of Samuel Slater.  However, Pawtucket has also had an illustrious  history of labor organizing and  working class struggles.  This history  needs to  be recalled and celebrated.
One of the most  illustrious  assets we hold is celebrated in poetry, oratory and song internationally.
What am I talking about??  Pawtucket's greatest jewel??
 Pawtucket holds a FENIAN GRAVE.   

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A GIFT FROM MY FATHER

 INADVERTENT ADVENT WREATH IN PAWTUCKET


Why don't you think of him as the one who is coming, who has been
approaching from all eternity, the one who will someday arrive, the
ultimate fruit of a tree whose leaves we are? RILKE
I.
Today I went outside to feed
the birds and found myself pulling
the vines down from trees, wound them round
in a giant circle.,
Weaving rosehips, dried berries
of honeysuckles to make what
I surprised myself by seeing
was a wreath.
I placed it on the wall


II.
of the garage and tied into
it treats for birds and squirrels.
I had not known when I went outside
what I was going to do there.
Only the sense that they have long
ago been discarded stops me
from looking for old strings of lights,
glass balls and a tin angel.
Tonight, a cold December night,




III.
I sit and tick off all the mess
I spare myself: no tree, no creche,
no Advent candle.
I try to recall a single Christmas hour
that was special. For a long time
I draw blanks; then like timid guests
they peek around corners of my mind.
Half memories blurred by years
and tears that I am not sure how


IV.
much I remember and how much
I only hope was true and how
much I cannot bear to recall.
Gifts that brought me delight conjures
only skates, a doll and dollhouse
--nothing more ? Wait --one time a cross
on a gold chain--another time
a simple string of pearls.
I want to believe that they were from you,


V.
but since you left when I was nine
I doubt—but wait --one Christmas
morning: I walk into your room
to ask if we can see what Santa left.
Your hand reaches under the pillow
for a small green velvet box
-- gold cross and chain--I still wear--
so this must be true.
Tonight the only joys I bring to mind


VI.
smeared by your defection: your vice--
the doll house you shoplifted;
the trike we later learned you stole;
the tree you won in a card game.
But, once, yes, once I sang solo
at Midnight Mass and you came there.
Adeste Fidelis --among the faithful ones
from the choir, I saw you stand in the side door,
faithless, no longer singing, still longing to adore.

Waiting for more than Aaron's Return or Tom's Triumph in Advent

I am writing this blog post while waiting for the start of the Pacers  game and then on to the Patriots against the Steelers,  I have finished all my Xmas shopping--all on line and sometimes augmented by a telephone order.  This has been a season of recovery and recuperation and  several  financial scares.
But I was blessed with excellent physical therapists  who came twice a week to help me  regain my strength and mobility So it is heartening to me to see Aaron back in the Packers uniform.  His shoulder is healed and he is back in fighting form.  I do find consolation in watching the full recovery of  these super  athletes.  Always the fantasist ,  I  hope that I may return to a fighting form. Not  like Rodgers but like my  former self.

 But I am still waiting for that  full recovery to occur.  Instead I recover some of my function and form  but on a level that is always lower than what it was before.  Then I think that this is Advent--the season of  WAITING and LONGING and HOPING.

What are we waiting for in Pawtucket--for the Pawtucket Red Sox to get a new stadium in Pawtucket?

 For the Pawtucket Memorial Hospital to decide to stay open  and  return full services to the people of Pawtucket and Central Falls?

For the Gamm Theater  to give up the  idea of moving to Warwick and to  recognize that they  can work well with the space they have in the Armory in Pawtucket?

What I  have listed here are the three huge losses that have been  announced in the Bucket in the past few  months.

Just now Aaron Rodgers in the second possession of the game has kept  the  chances alive by  carrying and sliding to get the needed first down,  He takes what he can get--there's a lesson there. .
I need to take what   I can get in the Bucket.  

SOMETIMES WHEN I AM DRIVING AROUND  DOING  ERRANDS LOCALLY, ALL I CAN SEE IS WHAT IS NOT THERE.  That's for another blog of memory.

Today let me  count what  we still have  in the Bucket---
Slater Park-- with its wonderful baby geese and right now the  decorated Xmas trees to celebrate Family and to memorialize our beloved departed family members and friends.

 Well, the Packers just scored their first touchdown so I must give the game  my full attention and also make lunch here.