Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Suicide in Slater Park

OCTOBER LIGHT--I said to my husband recalling a novel by that title written years ago by John Gardner. Shocked and saddened today when I read in the Times that a man despaired;killed himself on Monday in Slater Park.I go to the Park almost daily and it is my husband's favorite outing.It is a place of family picnics and fishing on the pond and gaggles of geese and children running excitedly through them.It not a sad place but an oasis of beauty and peace. So it is sad to think that someone despaired there. Monday was such a gorgeous day.I remarked that the light had changed. The bright sky was blue;intensely blue and the fluffy clouds; white clouds sailed in blue;high relief. All was bathed in a glow; kind of golden light. And even though it is a sign of the change of seasons from summer to fall; it is also a glowing light that seems to shed glory on even the humblest scene. And in that light pouring down like liquid gold on us all, a man decided to end his life. I am thinking of the Pope's urgent message to think of life and its sanctity at every stage--the newborn, the criminal condemned to death and the lonely old. He stressed the loneliness of the aging. I think that is something to contemplate--the loneliness of the old. As I age I feel a kind of deep loneliness because in a way my path of disability and care giving has caused me to diverge from the path of some friends. And also so many times when we hear from old friends and acquaintances, we hear of their disability, their diminishing, their despondency, their diseases and sometimes of their deaths. We all know that we are as the poet Emily Dickinson expressed it-- on a trajectory towards eternity. Because I could not stop for Death – (479) BY EMILY DICKINSON Because I could not stop for Death – He kindly stopped for me – The Carriage held but just Ourselves – And Immortality. We slowly drove – He knew no haste And I had put away My labor and my leisure too, For His Civility – We passed the School, where Children strove At Recess – in the Ring – We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain – We passed the Setting Sun – Or rather – He passed Us – The Dews drew quivering and Chill – For only Gossamer, my Gown – My Tippet – only Tulle – We paused before a House that seemed A Swelling of the Ground – The Roof was scarcely visible – The Cornice – in the Ground – Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet Feels shorter than the Day I first surmised the Horses' Heads Were toward Eternity – But knowing that we are all going towards the same destination and hearing that someone chose to quicken and end the journey early makes me pause. So often in the Bible life is compared to a race--one that we must finish , that we must run well. Sometimes I think of our souls that are within us as a great thoroughbred longing to reach the finish line, and we are told by Saint Augustine that we are meant for God and "our hearts are restless until we rest in thee." I hope that the man who died at Slater Park found himself racing towards the waiting and welcoming arms of God as he sprinted into eternity.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Vanished neighborhood storefronts of Pawtucket

Every day walking and driving around  in Pawtucket, I am swept  by a feeling of both strangeness and  familiarity that takes me by surprise.  Something is missing in a  long-known place.  More often than  not I am looking at a  building that once housed a store  and now it is  all  gone or  it is obliterated and seems to have disappeared into an entrance to an apartment.  In my old childhood  locale I look for  places  that are no longer there.  Just to name a few--at the corner of Pond Street and Prospect St. there is a vacant lot where once there  was a drug store,  Another favorite drugstore  has also been razed  at the corner of Summit Street and Division Street. This was a  dear place because it had a  cool and welcoming soda  fountain and  a friendly   soda jerk who would flavor cokes to order with cherry or vanilla flavoring.  Also he  dispensed strawberry and root beer  floats.  The  floors were tile and the overhead fans created a cool oasis on a hot summer day. Now there is nothing there but a small fenced lot.  Right next door on Summit  Street there was a cleaners --I think it was  called Keenan's--now it seems to be a  church. Division Street still has many stores but no where can I  find the cobblers. The tavern at the corner of Brewster and Division  is there  but it  looks different and it is no longer called  FORD's.  Most missed is the  small grocery store that sat  on the corner of Meadow Street and  Brewster Street. Because  we did all of our grocery shopping there we  went  most days to that store   which was  owned and managed by Modesto "Mike" and his wife Helen.  I miss it and think of them both every time I drive  by the building that  still stands there but is not  a storefront.   Also I was a daily visitor to a store that was close to my school then called Saint Joseph's now  it is part of Saint Raphael's Academy  and   takes up the corner of  North Bend and Walcott.  There were two stores across the   road--one was a grocery  store and I think it was called McCormicks.  The other right on the corner was  more like a drugstore.  Now there are no stores, but I can see where they once were in the  buildings.  When I see the students from Saint Rays  changing classes I wonder where  do they go when they  want and need a quick coke or a candy bar or a  wonderful salty pickle from the barrel in Mc Cormicks.  That is what we used our milk money for --what  do  the students today do with their milk money.Do they actually buy milk with it?
 No treats, no adventures no forays into small cool, dark places on their ways   back and  forth.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Saints in Pawtucket


When I was growing up in Pawtucket I felt myself surrounded by  good people--in my  family, in my neighborhood and in my daily  routine. In watching the canonization of Father Serra  yesterday I  began to think about the fact that even  saints are flawed --all of us are flawed.  So  what makes a person a saint?  I don't know but  I am suddenly thinking  of  the  people from Pawtucket who seemed saintly to me.  What  was the nature of  their sanctity?  Of course, I think that my mother was a saint--I'm not going to go there--not today.
But I want to recall some of the cloud of witnesses that  were  a fact of my daily life. At another time I  will  try to tease out the particulars of these  extraordinary ordinary people. Today I want to just name a few.
Modesto Lunadelli who ran a grocery store for years  at the corner of Meadow Street and Brewster Street.

Jack White  who owned the 2-decker  that we lived in on the second floor at 130 Englewood Avenue.

Sister Mary Michaeleen who was my 8th Grade  teacher at St. Joseph's School on Walcott Street.

Al McAloon  who ran a Catholic bookstore and lending library, Saint Augustines  in downtown Pawtucket  that my mother took me to every Saturday.

Henry Shelton who tirelessly  fought  for help for the poor.

Jenarita Fox who  started at the Grove Street School  the first Special Education classes  that my two sisters with Down Syndrome could attend and learn to read.

There I have named six and I will stop here and   hopefully find the words so describe their sanctity as it came into my  life in future postings.
In the last years of his life my Uncle Joe Coleman, who had the religious name Brother Cyril, often spoke of seeing saints everywhere--on the bus and in the streets. They were all shining-- he would tell me. These are six that even  I could see glowing  before me in our small, important place--Pawtucket.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Anna's Anniversary

Today is the  anniversary of  my Aunt Anna's death.  It was a painful death and she was frightened.  We often had spoken together about  her idea of "a happy death" and had always  imagined with her  that we would together  create a happy death bed  scene ---for her.  We would sing  her favorite  hymns and  would recite her favorite prayers -- but  that did not happen.  She was in too  much pain and  suffering and full of fear because of a terrible black bile that  she was spitting up constantly. I also felt horrified and thought that black bile was an image of death itself.  We tried to recite the rosary together but we could not keep it up.  I became too angry at the  doctor who would not or could not seem to alleviate her  suffering.  I had not  thought that instead of praying  I would be  making the air  blue calling for nurses and  the doctor and wondering out loud what could be done to help ease her pain and anxiety.  She  knew she was dying; she thanked me over and over for all the ways I had helped her, and she seemed to approve  when I yelled at the doctor.

Today
I want to do something for her and I have done the usual --having prayers said and visiting her grave. When I came to visit her every Friday, before she was unable to  walk,  I  took her to Chelos for her favorite  fish and chips. Today I did the same and got a take out order to share with  my husband.
But that seems like so little.  I  am inspired  to share some of the choices we made for her ideal death maybe   that will help  ease the grief that I feel every day for her.

Favorite hymn

MOTHER OF CHRIST

7/29/2007

MOTHER OF CHRIST, MOTHER OF CHRIST
WHAT SHALL I ASK OF THEE?
I DO NOT SIGH FOR THE WEALTH OF EARTH
FOR THE JOYS THAT FADE AND FLEE, BUT...
MOTHER OF CHRIST, MOTHER OF CHRIST
THIS DO I LONG TO SEE
THE BLISS UNTOLD WHICH YOUR ARMS ENFOLD
THE TREASURE UPON YOUR KNEE


MOTHER OF CHRIST, MOTHER OF CHRIST
I TOSS ON A STORMY SEA
OH LIFT YOUR CHILD AS A BEACON LIGHT
TO THE PORT WHERE I FAIN WOULD BE, AND...
MOTHER OF CHRIST, MOTHER OF CHRIST
THIS DO I ASK OF THEE
WHEN THE VOYAGE IS O'ER
OH STAND ON THE SHORE
AND SHOW HIM AT LAST TO ME

Here's a verse that Anna  always sang--

MOTHER OF CHRIST, MOTHER OF CHRIST
HE'LL NOT SAY NAY TO THEE
WHEN HE LIFTS HIS FACE
TO THY SWEET EMBRACE
SPEAK TO HIM,MOTHER,OF ME.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Galway Kinnell and other poets in Pawtucket

Reading Rick Benjamin's essay in today's PROJO about the Pawtucket poet, Galway Kinnell,  made me think about the poet and also the times that my mother, Margaret Coleman, who also wrote and published poetry met his mother in local stores or  at the  library.  She would come home and tell me of the meeting  and of the growing fame of Galway.  She loved his Irish name  --that his mother  had dared to name him for  a city in Ireland.  And reminded me that   she had thought if she had  a son to name him after her native county, Tyrone,  like the actor Tyrone Powell.
I took umbrage and  wondered out loud what county or town she might have named  me for-- she answered without a pause   "MAYO--that  would suit you."

  Tonight I am thinking of Galway and of the  wonderful  directness and romance of his works--how much he wrote from daily life. How he dared to describe the details of pain and suffering that are part of all love. How poetry is a  way of  understanding and  responding to daily trials and joys.

Here is a poem he wrote on   the care of an old father with Parkinson's

Parkinson’s Disease


BY GALWAY KINNELL
While spoon-feeding him with one hand   
she holds his hand with her other hand,   
or rather lets it rest on top of his,
which is permanently clenched shut.   
When he turns his head away, she reaches   
around and puts in the spoonful blind.   
He will not accept the next morsel
until he has completely chewed this one.   
His bright squint tells her he finds
the shrimp she has just put in delicious.
Next to the voice and touch of those we love,   
food may be our last pleasure on earth—
a man on death row takes his T-bone   
in small bites and swishes each sip
of the jug wine around in his mouth,   
tomorrow will be too late for them to jolt   
this supper out of him. She strokes
his head very slowly, as if to cheer up
each separate discomfited hair sticking up   
from its root in his stricken brain.
Standing behind him, she presses
her cheek to his, kisses his jowl,
and his eyes seem to stop seeing
and do nothing but emit light.
Could heaven be a time, after we are dead,   
of remembering the knowledge
flesh had from flesh? The flesh
of his face is hard, perhaps
from years spent facing down others
until they fell back, and harder
from years of being himself faced down
and falling back in his turn, and harder still   
from all the while frowning
and beaming and worrying and shouting   
and probably letting go in rages.   
His face softens into a kind
of quizzical wince, as if one
of the other animals were working at   
getting the knack of the human smile.   
When picking up a cookie he uses   
both thumbtips to grip it
and push it against an index finger   
to secure it so that he can lift it.
She takes him then to the bathroom,   
where she lowers his pants and removes
the wet diaper and holds the spout of the bottle
to his old penis until he pisses all he can,
then puts on the fresh diaper and pulls up his pants.   
When they come out, she is facing him,   
walking backwards in front of him   
and holding his hands, pulling him   
when he stops, reminding him to step   
when he forgets and starts to pitch forward.   
She is leading her old father into the future   
as far as they can go, and she is walking   
him back into her childhood, where she stood   
in bare feet on the toes of his shoes   
and they foxtrotted on this same rug.
I watch them closely: she could be teaching him   
the last steps that one day she may teach me.
At this moment, he glints and shines,
as if it will be only a small dislocation
for him to pass from this paradise into the next.
Galway Kinnell, “Parkinson’s Disease” from Imperfect Thirst. Copyright © 1994 by Galway Kinnell. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved, www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com.
I look forward to next Sunday and the  presentation as part of the Pawtucket Arts Festival of the winners of the Galway Kinnell  Poetry contest.  Hope to see some of  my blog readers there and to meet Rick Benjamin.