Friday, August 17, 2012

Per Stirpes

Everything comes at its appointed time.  The strongest barriers break down in sorrow.  Emotions are mangled and wrenched from their hinges.  Rebuilding leaves me witless, but instills some degree of stamina and a certain tranquility.

It’s a gift.

I refuse to be a casualty of grief.  I am learning to cope.

Recently, while stuporously affixing my name to documents that had neither meaning nor clarity, I came across the term “per stirpes.” 

Through sheer Sherlockian deductive reasoning, I concluded it was a type-o…although “per stripes” seemed equally absurd.

However, my adviser explained that “per stirpes” (pronounced “stirpes”) actually comes from a Latin term meaning “from the loins.”

Wow!  What a powerful concept.  Apparently all my biological offspring are my “stirpes.’”

Stirpes are fundamental and essential to resisting the urge to dwell among the garishly demented.  Over-coming obstacles to conquering sorrow involves a whole tribe of stirpes.

And so, we have sleep-overs.

Sleep-overs are therapeutic.  Sleep-overs are reparative.  Sleep-overs lessen the lateral g-forces of bereavement at work.  Sleep-overs are the panacea to all the world’s tribulation. 

On pre-designated evenings, one little stirpe gets to spend the night. For some reason, each kid equates that to standing alone atop the gold-medal podium while the national anthem is played.  It must have something to do with Bacchanalian indulgence in root beer and chocolate milk by a doting grandmother. 

I know there will come a day when a sleep-over with Grandma is not all that.  But right now it is.  I’ll take it.

As members of polite society, I have made a list of manners and civilized behavior to be observed at all times and under all circumstances, especially sleep-overs.  After all, society would self-implode without regulations. Just look at Rome.

Sleep-over protocol;:

1.        PDA mandatory.

2.       No “wubba-wubba” tales after 8:00 p.m.  That includes any late-breaking stories on the news.

3.       There are age restrictions for scary stories.  “Click-Shhhaaaawwww” cannot be related to anyone under 5…or over 50.  (This is the Granny Preservation Policy)

4.       Continence is imperative – especially for Grandma.  Specifically, no runs, no drips, no errors.  And no Wikki-leaks in Grandma’s big brass bed.  One must never confuse one’s toilet with one’s bed.

5.       NPO essential.  That’s a medical abbreviation for “nothing of nutritive value is to be taken by mouth after parents leave.”

6.       There is to be no spitting, slobbering, drooling or reciting the Gettysburg Address in a single sustained belch. 

7.       And finally, absolutely NO surface- to- air missiles under any circumstances.  When one controls one’s sphincter, one controls the world!

Of course, I do have a “special needs” stirpe.  His name is Duke.  He is a dog.  He has full rights as a grandchild.  Ergo, he has sleep-overs.

I haven’t the heart to tell Duke he isn’t an official stirpe.  In fact, his pedigree is somewhat suspect.  I’m not sure whose loins actually produced him.  He doesn’t seem to notice that he’s a quadraped without thumbs.  It’s glaringly obvious that we’re not an exact genetic match.  Heck, we’re not even on the same periodic table!  But I’ve always been a sucker for a furry fact, so he plans to inherit.

However, Duke has his own specific set of behavioral expectations, slightly amended from his siblings:

1.        No soft food after 4:00 p.m. that might produce sphincter napalm, nocturnal flatulence, or vapor trails.

2.       No tongues. No drool. No panting.

3.       Do not indulge in any behavior that might bring shame, humiliation or endangerment to the family.

4.       Do not chase your tail – or anyone else’s for that matter.

Duke is truly the Anti-Lassie.  And he’s not exactly sportin’ the highest intellectual wattage.  Cute dog, but dumb.

The other morning right after Duke got up and generously anointed his territory – (he now owns the greater portion of Mount Springs Road) we started on our walk.

As luck would have it, we encountered a pair of pitbulls who looked like two sides of a Rorschach ink blot, prowling, paranormal, malevolent cronies of the night.   They were like Siamese twins conjoined at the mandibles, Cerberus without the third head, Cujo and Baskerville, the Jaws brothers.

Well, being as I had left home without mace or tranquilizer dart, I tried to urge Duke into the safety of our neighbor’s porch without alerting the Hounds from Hades of our presence. 

Duke, the pathetically inept, jowl- deprived, adorable, looking like he’d just been groomed by Shirley Temple, his ears endearingly coiffed into ringlets and his armpit hairs meticulously curled with a curling iron, began to bark.  It was akin to chumming the waters during Shark Week.

The beasts turned in unison, perfect synchronization worthy of an Olympic event, and pondered the gauntlet that had just been thrown down by an opponent devoid of brains.

They snarled in James Earl Jones/Darth Vader tones, deep and menacing with malice, sucking air rhythmically in and out.  It was the perfect storm.

In order to preserve this canine stirpe from becoming a Happy Meal, I picked Duke up and put him under my shirt, like some kind of mutant marsupial, to shield him from certain carnage.

We stood on the porch of strangers, like hanging chads in a Florida election.

And then it dawned on me that I could be disemboweled at any moment by a pack of salivating werewolves trying to get to their prey, in an attempt to protect  a dog with delusions of grandeur.  Definitely not smart.  .

This in turn triggered the harsh language mechanism I try to keep concealed just behind my uvula, and I stood swearing, shaking, and incontinent at the doorstep of complete strangers.  Duke looked at me like, “Cute Grandma, but dumb.”

The fiends, however, merely regarded us with the contempt of the supercilious and continued their stroll down the road.  In relief, I took Duke back home amid threats of dismemberment, and fed him a plateful of soft food.  He licked my face, nuzzled my cheek, and promptly broke Rule #1.  But we hugged it out.

Like I say, Duke’s cute.  And cute always trumps smart.

I am trying to keep my ducks in a row.  But there are times when the entire gaggle is in panicked disarray, quacking hysterically all over the pond.

It is said that every house suits the needs of its owner. I get it. There are so many reminders of Dennis in every corner of our home.  I’m OK with that.  He and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead.  I ponder them in the chambers of my heart somewhere between the entry and exit wounds of Excaliber. 

But as we continue the healing process, I say to all my darling Stirpes, “Let there be SLEEP-OVERS!”

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Eyes Have It

Mourning is nuanced with complex delicacy.  It teaches us the wisdom of remaining patient, open, loving and vulnerable. 

Reflection and remembering are requisite to mourning, which is painful because when one remembers, one must also revisit.  No easy task when one’s heart has been harpooned.

But the subtleties of sorrow allow one to sense the light when it is still dark.  I am often sad and joyful simultaneously. 

Relationships are living entities that death does not impact.  That brings peace and empowerment. 

I am learning.  I used to not know a lot of things.  I have learned so much of late.  But then knowledge without understanding is impotent.  Sometimes I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.

I do know it is possible to function and foster healing even though maimed. 

I am taking my time.  I can see more clearly if I pace myself.

Of course, having clarity of sight doesn’t always translate to clarity of thought.  Oh no.  So I rely on routine to impose order on chaos.

Every morning I arise at an hour populated by insomniacs, the carelessly disturbed and the severely foolish.  I ingest a handful of medications which include vitamin supplements, sugar pills, placebos, and any candy remnants stuck to the floor from the soles of the grandchildren’s flip-flops.

On several occasions, I have been sorely tempted to toss back a few buckyballs to jumpstart my center of gravity and realign my internal magnetic field.  But then I feared it might impair my ability to move in any direction but due north.  So I abandoned the idea.

Then, if I’m not arrested for wanton vagrancy, I return to the nest to digest the latest headlines.  I think I’ve developed dyslexia, however, because I have noticed that lately I’ve become alphabetically incorrect.

For instance, in order to seem current on breaking news, I told the girls I thought the sanctions imposed on Penn State by the NAACP were just and proper.  In unison, they said, “Uh, you mean NCAA.” 

Well, isn’t that what I just said?  They assured me no. 

I decided to change the subject and talk about the GOP and the up-coming RNA convention.

With barely concealed mirth, they exchanged their “Mom’s-becoming-preposterous” looks and amended the letters to RNC.  Hmmmm.  Apparently RNA and DNA do not refer to the genetic make-up of the Republican and Democratic parties.  Oh, such a babble of voices.  Talk about politically challenged!

In festering and futile frustration, I hurled empty and vacuous threats to call NCIS, the NBA, PETA and the UVULA to report them for flagrant nuisancy and elder-mocking…a sin if not a crime. 

I chuckled to see them flummoxed by UVULA.  It was a source of immense gratification to know that if my son-in-law, a doctor, had not given a brief lesson in anatomy, they’d have still thought UVULA was a university in Los Angeles!

Recently, our family received a letter from the Moran Eye Center informing us that because of Dennis’ donation, two people who were previously blind, now had the gift of sight.  They thanked us for our generosity.

We wept with gratitude.

I personally wanted to find out just who it was that that received this gift and could now see.  I simply wanted to know.  And maybe look into his eyes again.

Of course, I understand that would be a breach of medical protocol and a violation of the HIPPA policy.  I get that.

But I reconsidered.  I don’t need names.  I don’t need specifics.  I know Dennis’ eyes so well, I could pick them out of a crowd of strangers.

They see with such clarity. They don’t just look at things, they see through them.  They are blue and full of knowledge as well as faith.  They have the gift of Second Sight.  No blurry vision.

They are kind, patient, wise, courageous and loving.  They witness the world with wonder and reverence.  They savor beauty with fascination, but do not flinch at adversity.  They will not blink when staring down the unspeakable.

But the true litmus test will come when I relate to a total stranger the fact that I just told our daughters UVULA was a university in Los Angeles.  If the eyes crinkle up in glee, identification is confirmed.

Thornton Wilder says that “What is essential does not die, but clarifies.”
Oh yeah.  I’ll know those eyes when I see them again.