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MONDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2002
Everything is going much better than I anticipated. The drive went easily: I drove the Michigan-Ohio leg of the journey yesterday, and Ed drove the Pennsylvania-West Virginia-Maryland leg today. Five hours each. We stayed overnight at the good old Cranberry, PA Red Roof Inn and watched what we both agree was the worst movie ever made--"Man of Perdition" with Tom Hanks and Paul Newman. Unless you're feeling particularly masochistic, don't go there. But we both slept well and woke up feeling rested. The trip was enhanced by listening to a wonderful book on tape--"House of Stairs" by Ruth Rendell writing under the name Barbara Vine. We finished tape #8 of 16 as we arrived in Gaithersburg this afternoon, so should be able to finish the book on our trip home. During our rest stop at Sidling Hill, Maryland, we took pictures of one another: here's Ed and here's me.
After checking in at the motel, I scooted over to Asbury Methodist Village where Mom had lived for three years before she died. I wanted to give the staff on her floor a personal thank you accompanied by a box of Godiva Chocolates--I know they love them--and a thank you card. I'd already sent flowers. Happily, Joseph, the afternoon Head Nurse, was on duty. We owe so much to this gentle-spirited man. I'm convinced that a number of what we called Mom's "9 lives" were a direct result of his excellent care. I'd also hoped to see Muriel, Mom's afternoon caregiver, but she was off today. I asked that at least one piece of chocolate be saved for her!
Mom's room was not yet occupied--in fact, her name was still on the door--so I scooted in to find a stripped bed against the wall with the blue air mattress that had so effectively protected Mom from bedsores. I could see dents where Mom's tiny body had laid for so long. I could still feel her presence in the room, and especially on this bed that had been her safe haven and most beloved place on earth, at least for the last two years of her life. I rested my hand on the dent where her head had rested. It felt as though I was at her bedside when she took her last breath. It was deeply comforting. Then I looked up. Outside the window--Mother's only view of the world--the late afternoon sun was cloaking the tops of trees in a warm glow. I left the room, went down the elevator for the last time, and left the building. It was dusk but I decided I wanted to see the lake one more time.
Three things happened down there that I will not forget. The first was a ruby-red sunset that reflected jewel-like in the lake. Next was the unexpected sight of two white-tailed deer bounding in front of me (I had never before seen deer there.) And the third were the ubiquitous geese who, honking loudly, rose en masse from the grass where they like to forage, and flew in front of my face in two undulating ribbons heading north.
As I've said before, I
have no religious belief in life-after-death or a heaven-hell
scenario or any such container for my grief, but that does not
stop me from believing in my lived experience. And today, my lived
experience let me know that my mother, whom I love so dearly,
is going to remain with me as long as I live. I just have to keep
my eyes and my heart open to see her.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2002
We did it. WE DID IT! My family and I made it through a long afternoon and evening of visitation at the funeral home with dinner together on Tuesday, and Wednesday's funeral Mass at the church, Mom's burial at Arlington Cemetery, and food, conversation and the last of dividing things up at my sister Carolyn's home afterwards. There was only one moment of snippiness between sisters the whole time. Amazing! I am SO GLAD this part of it is over. I know I have more grief work to do, but at least I can do it in my own way and at my own pace.
I think what's hard about the funeral/burial part of the process is that it comes whether you're ready or not. Not only that, you're thrown together with members of your family of origin during this most vulnerable time, folks with whom you might have little contact normally but often have issues of one kind or another. So there you are, each at her/his own place in their grieving, each with his/her rough edges and raw places, trying not to rub against one another in hurtful ways.
That being said, there is also deep comfort in being with family, experiencing yourself as part of a "clan." I actually feel closer to my sisters--the ones with whom I have the most complex relationships--than I have in years. Carolyn and I just had a wonderful phone conversation--I'm here in our motel room--where we processed all that went on in the last two days. A sweet reconnection.
Oddly enough, the part of the process I had expected to be the worst--actually burying my mother--wasn't that hard. Do you know why? Because I felt so strongly that the body in that casket was not my Mom. I don't think I was in denial either, it's just that the mother I love simply wasn't there. I'd felt her presence more vividly in the room she'd lived in and loved in the nursing home, the indented pattern that her curled up living body had made in that blue air mattress on the bed, the glorious sunset over the retirement village lake on Monday, the two white-tailed deer that turned to look at me at dusk, the geese as they took off in front of me, honking and forming their ribbons of flight in the darkening sky. She was more there than lying inert in a casket in the dress Carolyn and I had chosen for her burial back when we were cleaning out the family home a couple of years ago. Actually, I didn't even want to look at her body, so I didn't. The casket was open for family viewing when Ed and I arrived at the funeral home on Tuesday, but I just averted my eyes. Why would I want/need to remember her like that when I have a wonderful last memory of her smiling at me a month ago and saying, "Now take good care of yourself on your drive home"? It's all a matter of choice.
I'm still working with
my photos, so this story is not done, but it's all I can do now.
It's almost time to go to our nephew's house (on Ed's side of
the family) for Thanksgiving.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2002
I just told Ed you can
always tell how happy I am to be home by how long it takes me
to unpack. We've now been home three hours and I'm totally unpacked.
I am SO GLAD to be home! We drove the full ten hours today, leaving
Gaithersburg, Maryland at 9 AM and pulling into our garage at
7 PM. It was a long day but definitely worth it. The thought of
sleeping in my own bed tonight fills me with such anticipation
that I think I'll close down here and go curl up there.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2002
I expect it's going to take me awhile to regain my energy. Here it is only 10:30 PM and I can barely keep my eyes open. But I intend to take it easy for as long as I need to. I trust you, my faithful journal readers, will not grow too impatient for the pictures and stories that are waiting to be shared. I know you understand.
It was glorious to wake up this morning in my own bed, in my own room, in my own house and know there was absolutely nothing that I had to do and no one I had to see...except Eddie, of course. As it happened, I did accomplish something, but only because I wanted to. I finally managed to put up the "O Beautiful Gaia" home page on Carolyn McDade's web site, and the Great Lakes Basin home page that links to it. Now all that needs to happen is for the Atlantic Canada and Atlantic New England regions to finish designing their web pages so our links will be complete. It feels good to have my part of it done.
Otherwise, I painted a simple, celebratory watercolor in my journal, read for a couple of hours, and began to catch up on my emails. Tonight Ed and I sat in the living room and listened to the next-to-last tape of Barbara Vine's (Ruth Rendell's) "House of Stairs." This book-on-tape accompanied us both coming and going to Washington, DC and I'm quite intrigued by it. She is such a masterful storyteller. Actually, sitting together and listening like that reminded me of the long-ago days of our family's absorption with nightly radio. It seems so much more creative than passively watching television, probably because you must use your imagination to paint the pictures in your head.
And now, as I hear the
welcome sounds of Eddie playing the piano downstairs, I will quietly
slip off to bed.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2002
I guess whenever you go through an experience as profound as burying your mother, certain things stay with you. It isn't necessarily that they are the most important, either, it's just that they touch you in a tender place. I've already described the times on Monday when Mom was so present to me in an air mattress, a sunset, two deer and geese in flight. I did not feel her presence in that way during any of the formalities that followed. What touched me then was the presence of the living, not of the dead.
I will not forget the woman who showed up at the visitation on Tuesday and introduced herself as a former social work client of Mother's. She described how much Mom had helped her deal with the depression that set in after giving birth to her seventh child. This was in 1966 and Mom had not seen this woman as a client since then! She said that over the years she would occasionally see Mother from a distance at church, but had never spoken to her. She read of Mom's death in the church bulletin and wanted to come pay her respects.
Then there was Richard, the man who bought our old house in 2000. He'd never met Mom but said he feels very connected to her by living in the house that she had lived in for almost 56 years. He, his wife and their 13 year-old son love our old house so much that they have changed little except for wallpaper and paint. Oh yes, and the ivy. Mom and Dad had let ivy take over the entire back yard years ago so that Dad would not have to mow the lawn. I can't recall if that was before or after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 1978, but I do know the ivy took hold with a vengeance. Richard has rototilled and pulled up ivy plant-by-plant for two years and feels he finally has it licked. Well, Richard came to Mom's funeral at the church. Such an unexpectedly kind thing to do.
And the children. I hadn't seen my great-nephews, Harper and Ollie, for two and a half years, so it was a delight to spend time with them, even at the funeral home. Their parents, Jimmy and Kristen, had brought toys including crayons and coloring books for the boys to play with during the long visitation hours on Tuesday. At one point I asked if I could color too and Ollie said why didn't I draw my house and Harper recommended I put Harry Potter in the picture. So I used my black pen to draw our house with Harry Potter flying over it on his Nimbus 2000 broom. Harper liked it so much he asked if he could color it. Of course, I said yes. He signed both our names and proudly showed it to his Dad. Later in the evening we had a good time riding my scooter around in circles. Fortunately no other rooms in the funeral home were being used.
A number of my cousins were there too. From my Mom's side of the family, my first cousin Mary Margaret and Kirk, her husband, came up from North Carolina, and her brother Johnny drove up from southern Virginia. From my Dad's side of the family, I saw Donald, his wife Virginia, Sue and Dominic who drove 180 miles round trip to come to the visitation on Tuesday. The Lay cousins and I figured it had been at least forty years since we'd seen one another! Although they host a huge family reunion/pig roast at Donald and Virginia's farm each year, I've never been able to attend.
Faithful friends of mother's from the old neighborhood came to the visitation, including Donna Lee who had grown up next door to us during our childhood and teen years. She and her husband Bill, whom we knew from high school, are currently "camping out" in her mother's old house, which is still in their family. Strangly enough, her mother, Edna, died at the age of 96 exactly one month and one day before my mother died.
Peter and Connie from across the street, and Bunny and Marshall from next door came to pay their respects. These young couples and their children provided Mom with all the entertainment she needed during her last years in the house. She would sit in her easy chair, look out the front window and watch their children learn to ride bikes, kick a soccer ball, sled down the hill, learn to drive and generally grow up before her eyes. Mother loved them like family and the feeling was mutual. Peter used to put Mom's newspaper inside the door each morning so she wouldn't have to go outside and get it. Peter and Connie's three boys and Bunny and Marshall's two sons would shovel Mom's walk, rake her leaves and generally help her with any chores that needed doing. It was because of the loyal support of my sister Carolyn and these loving neighbors that Mom was able to stay in her beloved house as long as she did.
We also had a visit from the Turners who used to live down the street in the old Busby house. Mom, the inveterate social worker, introduced me to Bob soon after I'd been diagnosed with MS in 1988. He is one of those MSers who fight it every step of the way, and in so doing stays on his feet. For instance, Bob goes to a local bank building twice a day and walks up and down their eighteen flights of stairs for exercise. He's been doing this for years. It was good to see him again.
The chance to be with my two nephews and their wives, and my two nieces and their Significant Others was a very special part of the week for me. Gretchen and Matt live in New York City, Erin and Mike are in Falls Church, Virginia (where we grew up), Bill and Misty live in Germantown, Maryland, and Jimmy and Kristen and their boys are in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I know if Mom had been there to see it, she would have been delighted to be the reason we all came together. Nothing ever pleased her more than seeing her family under one roof.
My sisters and I are now the matriarchs of the family and it feels strange. When I looked at the family portrait Peter took of us at the visitation, I noticed there were only three chairs and Carolyn, Emily and I were seated in them. My, but that happened quickly!
Wednesday dawned cold, with a forecast of snow. The funeral was scheduled for 10:30 AM at the Catholic church in which I was raised and Mom's burial was to be at 1 PM in Arlington Cemetery. As it turned out, the snow never materialized and the sun showed up instead. The Catholic chaplain at Asbury Methodist Village, Father Val, and Mom had become quite close. Apparently he'd frequently bring his lunch to Mom's room and visit with her while he ate. She loved him and his red socks. The first thing I said when I met him at the church was, "Do you have on your red socks?" He grinned and raised his pants leg to show me. Father Val said the Mass and led the prayers at the burial. It was good to have someone in that position who so clearly knew and loved my Mom. With Dad we'd had a priest who had never met him and hadn't even tried to find out anything about him before the funeral. This was very personal in comparison. My younger sister Emily and nephew Bill brought Mother to life as they shared remembrances of this remarkable woman who had made courageous life choices and the loving grandmother who was always there for her family. When Emily read aloud a paper Mom had written at age 18 on how it felt to be short, we all had to laugh. By the way, she was a heck of a good writer!
After the burial everyone was invited over to Carolyn's house. It ended up just being family, including Bob, Carolyn's husband's brother. Such a sweet man! Bill, Carolyn's husband and the boys' father, died in 1984 at the age of 44 after a long bout with cancer. He had been a career Marine and served two tours of duty in Vietnam. His grave is right in front of my Dad's, and now my Mother's too. Having Bob there was like having Bill with us again.
I think we were all relieved to have the formalities behind us. We talked and related with enthusiasm but every so often I'd look around and see expressions of tiredness on even the young faces. Silly things happened like Carolyn discovering what I thought was dog doo and she said was mud on her shoe. Then I saw her open the door to her refrigerator and was amazed to see it look like a normal refrigerator. Usually it is packed so tightly with stuff that you fear for your life if you move even one stick of butter. I've never in my life seen it look like this. Carolyn was pleased that I noticed. The little ones did tricks in the middle of the living room, like Harper touching the back of his head with his hands. It reminded me of old photos of my sisters and I doing our tricks for company: Carolyn doing an arabesque, me standing on my head, and Emily lying flat on her back on the floor.
It was fun to look around and see family resemblances everywhere, like these three peas in a pod, Gretchen, her mother Emily, and her aunt Carolyn. I loved seeing my nephew Jimmy with his boys. He and Kristen are wonderful parents. Their boys are obviously loved, listened to and respected. We saw the fruits of it in how well behaved Ollie and Harper were during two very long days.
Actually we were all well
behaved. I was especially proud of my sisters and me who have
had our own relational challenges over the years. But not during
these two days, days when we put our mother to rest. And perhaps
this was the greatest gift we could have given her.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2002
Today's snow makes me ever more grateful that we are safely home from Washington, DC. We would not have been happy campers if we'd had to drive 580 miles in this white stuff! It's lovely to look when you're warm and cozy inside the house, but outside driving in it? I don't think so.
Thanksgiving day we spent with Ed's side of the family. Our nephew John and his wife Kirsten live in Washington, DC, and our niece Carolyn was visiting them from New Jersey. Now, when you speak of John and Kirsten, you cannot forget to mention their precious dogs, Ursula and Elvis. They also had an additional canine guest, Sligo, who was spending the weekend while his folks were away.
John and Kirsten had originally made reservations for us five to go to an elegant French restaurant for a sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. When we'd heard of these plans for the first time on Monday, Ed and I had had to tell them honestly that we just didn't think we'd be up for such festivities after two long days filled with Mom's funeral-related activities. Instead, Kirsten kindly cooked a delicious dinner that catered to three meat-eaters (turkey) and two vegetarians (grilled salmon). Carolyn helped cook and John helped serve. The table--John and Carolyn's mother Sal's dining room table--looked like a painting as we sat down to eat. Speaking of sitting down to eat, here are Elvis, Ursula and Sligo shown in a slightly fuzzy picture, patiently awaiting their Thanksgiving dinners.
It was so good to kick back and simply be in one another's company. It's been years since we could do so with our Dorsey nephews and niece. Unfortunately, our other nephew Joe, his wife Cheryl and their little boy Alex are currently living in Italy, so they were unable to join us. They were definitely missed, but happily Joe called while we were there so we passed the telephone around the room as families have done since Alexander Graham Bell first invented this contraption.
Our nephew John is a Mac geek beyond anything I've ever seen. It's largely due to his encouragement that I bought my iBook in March 2002 after three years as a PC user. I've never regretted it for a moment. So when John invited me to bring my iBook to Thanksgiving so he could check it out and upgrade some of its applications, I was delighted. Kind of like going to the doc for a yearly check-up. By the way, my iBook was pronounced perfectly healthy.
In addition to his work on my machine, John shared with us some of his own creative computer endeavors. He'd converted old family movies onto video so we could watch five year-old Johnny in his Superman costume and three-year-old Carolyn playing with their very dark-haired Uncle Ed. We also saw an amazing video he had made when he and Kirsten were in Florence. But what really tickled our funny bone was a radio interview that was broadcast over BBC last July. John and Kirsten were considered newsworthy because they had chosen to get married in a castle in Essex the day before going on a long distance fundraising bicycle ride through the English countryside. John told the interviewer that it was his first time getting married but that he'd done lots of long distance biking, and it was Kirsten's first time doing such a long bike ride, but that she'd been married before, so neither of them was doing something completely new!
Before we left, Carolyn
took this picture of Ed
and me. I like it a lot.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2002
Yesterday's full day of snow gave way to a sunny, white-covered world that packed a real chill. And I rediscovered how hard it is to walk with a walker in the snow. But it was worth it because I was going to see my kids at school.
Ah, how I love these kids and how loved they make me feel. As soon as I get off the elevator on the second floor--yes, this wonderful school actually has an elevator--and start pushing my walker down the hall, the children hear my windchimes tinkling. I hear voices raised in excitement, "She's here! Ms. Patricia's here!" I walk into the art room to a sea of smiling faces, hellos and cries of, "Sit here, Ms. Patricia. Please sit at our table!" How could I not feel that whatever it takes for me to get here is worth it?
The fourth graders continue to work on the Islamic art project in which we create intricate designs all over a piece of paper with a compass and then color the shapes in imaginative ways. It ends up looking like stained glass. Again, we listened to Middle Eastern music as we worked. One boy brought his Islamic prayer book to show me. He then recited a long prayer by heart and was joined by some of the other children at my table. One girl had brought in her prayer rug that Susan, the teacher, hung in front of the window so we could see its beautiful designs. She and I were intrigued by the paper bag that the girl had brought it in. All the children seemed to know that this particular rug was from Lebanon. When we asked how they could tell, they said it was because of the picture of a mosque in the center of the design. Five girls stayed after class to show Susan and me how they can dance in the Middle Eastern style. It is mesmerizing to watch.
Today was a big day for our students because Ramadan ends on Thursday and Eid will be celebrated on Friday. This was the last day of school until next Monday. Fasting is not easy for our youngsters. I noticed that a good number of the children who had completed the project and were playing with clay, managed to make food of one kind or another. I was offered a hot dog in a roll, an ice cream cone with a cherry on top, a piece of fruit and a little bowl of soup...all made out of clay!
I want to show you the amazing mural that our second and third graders have made for the hall. I'll start at one end and take you, picture by picture, to the other end. Here it is: mural #1, #2, #3,#4, #5, #6. Isn't it glorious? The second graders created the water creatures using watercolor paints on paper, and the third graders made the land and sky creatures out of colored construction paper cut into shapes and pasted together. Susan, their art teacher, really encourages imaginative use of materials. These are children who will grow up knowing they can make art and make it using their own unique style.
And now, my friends, I'm
off to bed. It was a sweet, and very energetic, day. I am one
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2002
Ah, that felt good! It had been two long weeks since I'd gone swimming and I had missed it mightily. For me, swimming is as much an emotional and spiritual discipline as a physical one. It keeps me centered and grounded. It offers an opportunity to meditate on life and my choices. Memories float up to the surface as I swim, and thoughts come from deep places within my consciousness. If there are feelings I haven't dealt with, they arise naturally as I swim my laps. Not only do they arise, but they can be reflected upon in a non-stressful environment where I feel safe and supported by the healing element of water. If I swim, I can handle most anything. If I don't, things can throw me pretty easily. After last week's immense stresses, I needed to swim more than ever.
So when I looked out the window at 6 PM tonight and saw a dark, cold, ice-and-snow-covered world, it did not look too encouraging. I called Ed and that dear man said he'd drive me to the pool; no problem. As you know, I usually ride my scooter the six blocks to the middle school where I swim on Monday and Wednesday nights. I had chickened out on Monday because of the blizzard, but today I really wanted to swim. Unfortunately, driving down there myself and using my walker to get to the pool is not practical because of the distance I would have to walk. It is two and a half l-o-n-g halls to get to the pool from the parking lot. I know myself well enough to know that after I've swum my 30 lengths (close to half a mile), my legs are noodles and not to be trusted.
So I'm happy to report
that it worked out fine for Ed to drive me there and he didn't
seem to mind assembling/disassembling my scooter for my use. He
says we can do it this way whenever we need to during the winter.
YIPPEE!!! Now I know I can make it through Michigan's long cold
winter months. As I say, if I can swim, I can make it through
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2002
Good thing I did my swimming
last night instead of tonight. I just don't feel particuarly well.
Like a cold coming on. I laid low all day and am now going to
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2002
There's something comforting about giving in and staying home to nurse a cold. I say "giving in" because that's what it feels like. I mean, if you have a fever or even a full-blown cold, you have no choice: you must stay home. But when something is in its early stages--the sore throat, achy, head-full-of-cotton phase--you have to go through the process of deciding whether you're going to give in to it or simply keep on going. Of course, that's when you're more likely to pass your cold onto unsuspecting friends and co-workers.
I woke up this morning feeling pretty bad even after twelve hours of sleep and said to myself, "I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying home." It wasn't today I was thinking about, it was tomorrow. Tomorrow when the women of the Great Lakes Basin (O Beautiful Gaia CD project) will gather together for their monthly day of community building, environmental awareness/learning and song. Tomorrow when the Raging Grannies Without Borders will be uninvited roving carolers singing anti-consumer holiday songs at Detroit's annual Noel Night in the Cultural Center. Hard as it is to miss both of these long-awaited events, I'm going to stay home, wrap myself in an afghan, sip a hot cup of herbal tea and listen to the Barbara Pym book-on-tape Ed recently bought for $1 at our local library. I'm going to pamper myself and not leave the house until I feel much better. So there.
Do you remember what it
was like to be sick as a kid? In my house it meant having your
temperature taken at least three times a day, the eye-watering
fumes of Vick's Vaporub being smoothed onto your bare chest by
Mommy's warm hands. It meant getting special treatment even as
you lay in bed feeling sorry for yourself. Paper dolls and your
favorite books, if you felt well enough to play. Ice cold ginger
ale and hot tomato soup with saltine crackers broken up in it.
Dr. P. appearing at your bedside with his black doctor's bag if
you were really sick. It meant feeling like the queen of the house,
if for only a day. It's a wonder I didn't become a hypochondriac.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2002
There's not a lot to write about when you stay home sick. My cold/virus/bug--whatever it is--seems to be progressing nicely, doing what these things do. My head feels like a watermelon being squeezed by giant hands. My nose has developed a not-so-lovely drip. Sneezes come on like the uncontrollable giggles my sisters and I used to get in church. My eyes feel strained and are happier being closed. My throat feels as scratchy as an old 78 record. Even my teeth hurt. Just your usual run-of-the-mill stuff.
I sit in the back bedroom
easy chair with my eyes closed and listen to Barbara Pym's book-on-tape.
I work a little at the computer, then make a simple watercolor
painting in my journal. It remains cold outside with snow covering
the world like in those old-fashioned paperweights that look like
a blizzard when you shake them. I stay warm inside with an afghan
over my lap and the heat turned all the way up to 63° F, which
is high for us. And I know that this too shall pass.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2002
My attitudes about organizations sure have changed over the years. In the old days nothing made me happier than to feel needed and wanted. If the group could get along without me, I felt I hadn't done my job. Now, I'm talking about decades ago. I would set things up so that I was at the heart of all decisions, activities and discussions. Very often after I'd leave, the innovations I'd introduced would be lost because no one else could organize them as I had. I liked to be indispensable.
Bit by bit there has been a complete turn-around in my way of being a group "leader." First of all, I don't take on that role if I can help it. If there's no way around it, I will act as an organizer but only in partnership with others. Being co-leader or co-founder is the closest I'll come to being in a position of "authority." And that's how it's been with the Raging Grannies Without Borders. I helped Kathy get it started--it was her dream, after all--held the first meeting at my house in early November, led songs at the Windsor peace rally, and have worked behind the scenes whenever possible. But, as it's turned out, I've missed three of our four gigs! What with my Mom's funeral in Washington, DC and being laid low with a virus this weekend, the Grannies have performed perfectly well without me. And that delights the heck out of me! Kathy has been the faithful one in this partnership; she's been at every single gig thus far. Not only that, she created the web site and was the primary organizer of the last two gigs.
This was a big weekend for our gaggle. Last night the Raging Grannies Without Borders were uninvited roving carolers of anti-consumer and anti-war songs at the annual Noel Night in Detroit's Cultural Center. This is the night when the museums and places like the International Institute and the Detroit Public Library open their doors and host festive performances of all kinds. Dancers, singers, musicians, theater groups, storytellers, you name it. For thirty years Detroit has celebrated Noel Night, but this year marked the first appearance by the Raging Grannies! At least ten women--four from our O Beautiful Gaia group and a new 79 year-old granny named Virginia--braved the cold with their silly hats, aprons, shawls, songbooks and flashlights (to read said songbooks), and serenaded the crowds with lyrics designed to turn heads and promote critical thought. At one point they went inside the Main Library, an elegant old building, in order to thaw out. Once there, a granny asked the guard if it would be OK if they sang and he said "Sure!" The gaggle positioned themselves on a balcony inside the library and sang their hearts out. I love it!!!
Tonight the Grannies are performing during intermission at an event called "Give Peace A Dance", which is a dance/networking opportunity for anti-war activists in the Detroit area. They probably won't even sing until between 9:30-10 PM. Intrepid women!
Next Saturday is our monthly meeting/rehearsal here at my house. I look forward to reconnecting with our original grannies and meeting our new sisters. Our numbers just keep growing. I expect, with Bush's determined plans to attack Iraq, that our numbers will continue to grow. Virginia, the newest Granny, the woman I told you was 79 years old, hasn't been an activist since the Vietnam War days. This proposed war on Iraq has gotten her out on the streets again. I believe that's true for a lot of folks. People who never imagined they had an activist bone in their bodies are joining our numbers all over the world. And we won't give up even when the bombs start dropping on Baghdad. No, we're in it for the long haul.
I just checked my emails and discovered Grace Lee Boggs, the 87 year-old matriarch of Detroit activism has written a column on the Raging Grannies Without Borders that came out in today's Michigan Citizen. It is happening!!!
By the way, I feel human
again. My head is no longer a pressure cooker and my teeth have
stopped hurting. I'm entering the liquid phase of this cold, but
that's easier than the building-up phase. I expect to sleep well
MONDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2002
I'm feeling pretty much back to normal today. I guess it really was a bug because no cold has developed. The runny nose has dried up and the sneezes are gone. Low energy is all that's left, but that's to be expected. I'm going to take it easy a couple more days just to be sure. And I'm afraid I won't be going to school tomorrow. Those dear ones are little germ factories. Something I definitely do not need.
Luckily I have some jobs to keep me occupied, specifically writing the thank you notes from Mom's funeral. My sister Carolyn handled so much that I felt this was the least I could do. And it's a nice sit-down job.
These quiet days are good for me but boring for my readers. Don't give up, though. Life has a way of taking off in new directions when you're least expecting it.
To give you a little something to look at, I made the following artistic adaptations to recent photos:
A yellow rose
An autumn tree
A snowy day
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2002
One step forward and two back. This morning I awoke with a stuffy head that stayed with me all day. Darn, I thought I was done with this silliness. So it really is one day at a time, as they say. But at least I've almost finished the thank you notes from Mom's funeral, so staying home isn't all bad.
I sent a group email today that was untypical of me. Usually my emails are about serious events, articles, situations in the US and the world. But today I shared two web sites that really made me laugh. Of course, they are both about the same subjects that I usually address, but their approach is humourous for a change. If you want a laugh, check them out. In both cases, turn your volume up before you go to the site.
The first comes up pretty
quickly and is titled "Technical Difficulties."
The second takes a goodly
while to download but is worth every second in my humble opinion.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2002
"You gas us, we'll nuke you." That is the headline shown on my Americia Online browser screen today. As if they are discussing a video game.
What are they thinking of? I guess the question would be, are they thinking? Not just Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld and their war-loving crowd, but the media and press who report what comes out of their mouths. Does no one realize what is being said here? Does no one remember what it means to "nuke" someone? Are Hiroshima and Nagasaki forgotten chapters in this country's violent past? And as if it weren't bad enough then, can you imagine what the Atomic scientists have come up with in the last 57 years? My God, is everyone asleep here?
We should be streaming into the streets shouting NO!!! at the top of our lungs.
Am I the only one in this huge country who feels like she's been shot in the stomach? Please wake up. Please don't remain silent. Please do something, anything to stop this madness. It is not too late. The White House has said this to see if they can get away with it unchallenged. Call the White House. Call your Congresspersons and Senators. Write letters to the editors. DO SOMETHING!
So I took my own advice and sent a group email to the folks on my list, called the White House Comment Line (202/456-1111) and let them know how I felt about the U.S. using nuclear weapons against Iraq (or anyone!), called my senators and representative and asked them to do whatever they could to stop this madness, and sent the following letter to the editor of the Detroit Free Press:
Subject: Do we need a nuclear war?
In its relentless campaign to promote public support of a war on Iraq, the Bush White House has brought out every possible rationale and fear tactic it can manufacture. Of course, no one seems to mention the fact that Saddam Hussein has not attacked or even threatened any country since 1991, but such facts have little to do with President Bush's push for war. And now he brings out the heavy artillery.
Today (December 11), President Bush submitted to Congress a new defense strategy called the "National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction." In this document Iraq and other "hostile nations" are warned that the United States is prepared to use "overwhelming force" - including nuclear weapons - in response to any chemical or biological attack.
Does no one understand what is being said here? The country to fear using weapons of mass destruction is not Iraq; it is the United States. If this country detonates atomic bombs in the Middle East, what do we think will happen? Israel, the United States' only real pal in the region, has nuclear weapons too. Do we really want to start a nuclear war? And for what? So that the US can control the oil reserves now controlled by Saddam Hussein? To get rid of a two-bit dictator that the US helped create?
What needs to happen is already happening: a UN weapons inspection team doing their work in Iraq. Does our world really need a nuclear war? Whatever became of peace?
My email pals, including Ed, have replied to my impassioned email message with alacrity. Here are a few of their responses:
From Kate in California: "I so appreciate your acting like the town crier, Patricia. I heard this on the radio last night and realized that alot of stuff is getting by us....we are like those frogs in the water, slowly agreeing to being boiled to death."
Ed wrote: "now don't get your knickers in a twist. stop. take a deep breath. there, that's better. now keep up your good work. try using reason like, we can overrun the iraq countryside with little difficulty and loss of life but, if deposing hussein is our goal as our government has stated, it means invading baghdad, a hundred and fifty square-mile city the size of detroit filled with millions of an ancient devout people who pray five times a day. it means the death of tens of thousands of our kids and perhaps triple that of the people, probably mostly women and children and very aged."
From Juli, a Michigan Womyn's Music Festival friend: "Thank you so much for keeping me 'involved'. I have become so hopeless with the state of our union that I am not even opening emails from all the action networks that I am signed on with. It is only your occasional email (which I can't bear to delete without reading!) that helps me stay alerted and action oriented to the whole damned situation. Everyday I feel a little worse about the 'president' and his mess of policies and politics. It is very hard to do anything but stomp my feet and yell at the CNN website. I just hope that our voices are being heard, somewhere, by someone. Wow, I didn't realize how bad I felt about all this until I started typing..."
Nancy wrote from her home in Ontario: "Patricia: I am also so worried about the world. I heard on CBC about an agreement that Canada has made with the US to allow US army personnel to enter Canada in the case of a "disaster" with no need for permission. It did not say what or who specifies the disaster. Candians are being allowed to help the US in the same case but under US military rule. It feels like we are all being sold down the river and it is damned scarey..."
From Dorothy in San Francisco: "Your letter to the editors of the DFP was great, and so was your letter to your friends. Yes, I will call tomorrow. You continue to be an inspiration to us all---a kind of modern Paul Revere, nudging the sleepers awake with an urgent wake-up call..."
And from Lolita of the
Detroit area Women in Black: "I was in the demonstration
yesterday on Jefferson Ave. Tons of folks honked in support of
our signs. You're quite right we need to make a noise, stay visible
and wake up this sleeping giant."
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2002
My life is back in gear. The Raging Grannies Without Borders are singing at the Peace Action holiday party tomorrow night and finally I'll be with them again. We received a group email from one of the grannies at 4 PM this afternoon inviting us to sing tomorrow. Not a lot of notice, especially for a Friday night in December. But within a few hours we had six grannies ready to ROAR! What a wonderful gaggle.
Then Saturday afternoon our monthly meeting/rehearsal will be here at my house. We've started with such a bang that we need to backtrack and establish ourselves as a group before we spiral out of control. Since our first and only meeting a month ago, we've had five singing gigs! Talk about tapping into a need. From our original fifteen members we're now at 36 and growing. This is SO much fun!
In the midst of organizing, emailing, working on holiday cards, reading and resting, I started creating lyrics to my first Raging Grannies song. It doesn't feel finished but there's enough to bring to our lyric-making group on Saturday and see what we can do with it collectively. So far it looks like this:
What Are They Thinking?
(Tune: On Top of Old Smokey)
O what are they thinking,
the men who make war
It's all about power and wanting more oil.
They sit in the White House, the Pentagon too
And dream up new ways to annihilate you.
They say if you gas us
we'll nuke you to bits
So don't you dare use any germs or anthrax.
They've got all these warheads been stockpiled for years
Just waiting for leaders to trade on our fears.
They'll melt down the
countries that try to fight back
But sooner or later they'll throw in the sack.
Because if one country starts nuclear war
...There won't BE any more (spoken)
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2002
Why is everything so mixed these days? At the same time that I delight in one thing, another drives me crazy. Is it the long nights before the Winter Solstice, my coming off a bug, or simply a willingness to look at things as they really are instead of trying to make them what I wish they'd be?
Tonight's Raging Grannies gig at the annual Peace Action holiday dinner was an example. It was great fun to sing with my sisters again--I'd missed them. The Peace Action folks loved us, as I'd felt sure they would. But then I found myself getting terribly irritated during the meeting part of the evening.
Al, a leader of the Detroit peace coalition of which Peace Action is a part, announced that there would be a demonstration as soon as bombs were dropped on Iraq, but they didn't yet know exactly where that rally would be held. I raised my hand during the question period and said I'd just gotten an email announcing that the Detroit demonstration on the day of the bombing would be held at 5 PM on the corner of Warren and Woodward in the Wayne State University/Cultural Center area. Al said that there were two peace coalitions in Detroit that were trying to work together on this, but the group he's part of felt the other group sent out that email without checking first with Al's group. So Al's group is still uncertain about whether or not they would be part of that demonstration.
Gawd! If the peace folks can't even work together, how can they ask our government's leaders to work with representatives of other countries? Very discouraging. I remember that soon after September 11, there were two anti-war demonstrations held in Detroit on the same day at the same time, one at Woodward and Warren and the other at the Federal Building downtown. The older activist coalition of which Peace Action is a part seems to favor the Federal Building for their rallies, while A.N.S.W.E.R, the younger, more diverse coalition, prefers the Wayne State/Cultural Center location.
It's more than location that divides them. The student activists can be pretty outrageous in their signs and chants, where the older activists take a more restrained approach. Organizations like Peace Action (formerly SANE/FREEZE) originally formed to fight nuclear weapons, while other Detroit groups were started as faith-based responses to US aggression in Central America. They have been around for a long time and their membership is definitely older. The anti-war coalitions that formed after September 11, like A.NS.W.E.R., have a younger, more diverse membership with a good number of students, anarchists, persons of color and members of the Muslim community. I think we're seeing intergenerational and cultural conflicts here. I wonder if anyone is openly addressing that fact.
So I came home feeling
unsettled and grateful all at the same time. But one thing I know
for sure--I love being part of our Raging
Grannies Without Borders.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2002
There are moments when you are so full of happiness you don't think you'll ever run empty again. I feel that way right now. Eleven Raging Grannies have just left my home after our monthly meeting/rehearsal and lyric-writing time together. Could anything be more powerful than a circle of post-menopausal women who are awake, aware and ready to stand up and sing about it? The energy they deposited in our living room is still crackling! And this was only our second opportunity to meet in a setting where we could talk about the dreams and challenges that keep us working for peace and sustainability in a world that seems to have forgotten such possibilities exist.
Virginia, a 79 year-old newcomer to our group (she just joined us last weekend singing at Noel Night and Give Peace A Dance) brought three granny songs she'd created since Sunday! Then Peg came up with a wonderful song during the hour we devoted to writing lyrics. She went upstairs, typed it out on my computer and printed copies for us right then and there. We rehearsed it during our meeting and plan to sing it at the military recruiting station demonstration next Saturday. I forgot to mention that two of Virginia's songs were absolutely perfect to sing to military recruits. How the Universe provides!
We had a lot of issues to discuss, the main one being whom we see as the primary audience for our singing. Is it the general public who might agree with a lot of our stands on war, violent toys, the rape of the environment, the loss of civil liberties and the growing gap between the so-called "haves" and "have-nots", but are reluctant to give voice to these counter-cultural views for fear of being called unpatriotic or worse? Or is it other activists whom we can encourage with our songs and our wonderfully outrageous presence? Are we a group that waits to be invited or are we willing to show up where we are definitely not wanted, like at malls where war toys are being sold? Just who do we see the Raging Grannies Without Borders to be?
I'd say there was general agreement that our gaggle is more interested in being what the Canadian grannies call "guerrella grannies" than to play it safe and sing to the converted. We'll see how that translates into action as time goes on.
Two new grannies joined us today, at least new to our group. Marie was a Raging Granny here in Detroit before most of us even knew such a thing existed. She, Magi (another of our present-day grannies), and four other women formed a gaggle several years ago and sang together until one woman moved to Arizona, another developed Alzheimer's and their leader moved to San Francisco. Julianne, now the coordinator of the San Francisco Raging Grannies, heard about us through her sister and sent us an email this week. In it she mentioned the names of the original Detroit Raging Grannies. Kathy (our co-founder) gave Marie a call this morning and invited her to our meeting. Marie was so excited that she changed her plans for the day and drove thirty miles to join us. And we were tickled pink to welcome her into our circle. By the way, there are no closed doors here. Well, I guess we do ask that you be a woman, but except for that, everyone is welcome. Our other new granny had found us on the internet! A male colleague had sent Rose our web site's URL and said he thought this was something she might find interesting. Did she ever! Rose lives fifty miles from my house and came anyway.
I find myself struggling to express what it felt like to sit among these women today and hear them speak of what's going on in the world, and to experience their courage and determination not to give up the fight to make things better. We share a vision of how we want this world to be for the young ones who will follow, and we're not going to rest until we see signs that change is on the way.
What ever became of a
"restful" old age???
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2002
There's nothing like a winter scoot to brush out the mental cobwebs. I can't even remember the last time I was outside on my scooter. Of course a week of cold, snowy conditions and being down with a bug didn't help. But today was perfect scooting weather, brisk not cold, clear streets and sidewalks, and even occasional glimpses of the sun.
I must be getting used to the look of winter because I found everything quite lovely. A bare tree with its arms outflung like a flamenco dancer. Winter roses that reminded me of my grandmother's rouged cheeks. A bird's silhouette in the branches of a tree. Pansies that survived the snow. A woman walking by a silver tree. Canadian geese with an ocean-going freighter on the horizon. And finally a stand of trees, now bare, that I remember dressed in golden splendor a mere month ago.
Not only did I spend time
outside but I decided to take a day off from the internet. It
suddenly occurred to me that most folks with jobs-for-pay get
at least one day off a week. Since the work I do is not for pay,
I had not realized that I needed/deserved the same sense of respite.
The internet--at least as I use it--carries about forty emails
a day about world events, actions that must be taken, and information
to read and assimilate. It is not a particularly restful or restorative
activity, but one that I feel is a major part of the work I am
to do during these times of turmoil. Of course I also receive
loving, life-giving messages from friends, virtual and personal.
But every so often, it is good to take time for oneself, and that
is what today has been all about. Well spent, I'd say.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2002
There's nothing like outrage to propel you through the water with power and speed. Shortly before I went swimming tonight I received an email from one of the Detroit Women In Black. In it she provided a link to the JC Penney web site where they show children's toys. This particular "toy" was a bombed-out house with an armed American soldier standing proudly on the roof. It sells for $44.99 and is for children ages 3 and up. AGES 3 AND UP??? I was so outraged, enraged, whatever kind of RAGE you want to call it that I put out an immediate email call to our Raging Grannies for us to go on Sunday to a mall and sing and hand out fliers to shoppers outside the JC Penney store. The Ottawa Raging Grannies and Rochester, NY Grannies did this last weekend and had stories to tell.
How could we sit back
and let ANYONE damage our grandchildren in this horrendous way?
We can't. I'm already getting responses from our Grannies saying
they're ready to take this on. After all, this is what the Raging
Grannies are all about. Watch out, JC Penney. You're tangling
with the wrong grannies.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2002
I guess what I've been
missing was not so much my mother as her mother-love. From
birth, and before, I'd always known that mother-love. And now
it felt like it was gone. At least it felt that way until I finished
reading The Secret Life of Bees tonight, the unusual, unexplainably
tender novel by Sue Monk Kidd that my book group is reading this
month. In its own way, this book gave me back the mother-love
I've craved. Only this time it isn't coming from any source outside
of myself; it is totally homegrown. I saw it just now as I downloaded
the photos Susan took of me reading
a storybook to the second graders at school today. On my face
I saw the same tender mother-love as I looked at these kids that
I'd always seen on Mom's face as she looked at me. I cannot begin
to say how that comforts me.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2002
A woman who swims at the same time as I asked me an unexpected question in the locker room tonight as we were getting dressed. She asked if I'd made any New Year's resolutions yet. I answered, "No." Thinking about it later, I realized I don't follow that tradition at all. Then I asked myself why not? It certainly isn't that I'm perfect and there's nothing to change. No, it's more like January 1 is no more special than any other day; I try to be aware of what might be out of harmony within myself every day, not just on so-called "holidays."
Actually I don't really celebrate holidays. To me, either every day is special or none of them are. Same with the question of what is holy and what's not. Either everything is holy or nothing is. How could I--or any other human--be the arbiter of such things?
Except for swimming and scooting to swimming--under a mist-covered full moon, I might add--my entire day was devoted to Raging Grannies business. Preparing for Sunday's singing/leafletting at JC Penney's involves a lot of different things: creating and printing the leaflets, gathering No War Toys songs--I now have six--adapting those songs for this particular event, printing them out for our songbooks, writing and sending a Grannies' group email that communicates how our plans are developing, phoning the Grannies who do not have computers, calling the JC Penney's store to discern which entrance is best for us to sing/leaflet in front of, talking to Kathy (a couple of times)to get her opinions on things, etc. I was so engrossed that I totally forgot to eat except for some peanuts Ed brought upstairs to share. My lack of fuel made me a little slower than usual, but I still did thirty lengths of the crawl. Tonight was the last swimming night until January 6. I will sorely miss it!
Tomorrow will be more of the same. Not swimming, but Raging Grannies business. We also have an event to attend on Saturday--a picket demonstration in front of a Military Recruiting Center in Detroit. I've got some new songs to get ready for that too.
Good thing I didn't plan
to go to San Francisco this winter. I could never leave
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2002
Seems like I've been very
busy these days, but none of it sounds too thrilling when recounted
in a journal. I mean how much can you say about fine-tuning Raging
Grannies songs, printing them out, meeting with a friend who
offered to take them to be copied at Kinkos, and then came back
to help me assemble the songbooks. Judy is also a Raging Granny
and was dear to help in this way. Going to Kinkos is a big production
for me but she seemed able to do it with little hassle. I also
gave her the No War Toys flyer to be printed. Because we worked
together, all the Grannies business was finished by 3:30 PM. I
then had time to send out group emails about JC Penney's war toys
and our Raging Grannies' plans to sing and leaflet in front of
a JC Penney's store at a Detroit area mall on Sunday. I started
the morning and ended the afternoon by making art in my journal.
Dinner with Eddie, a long phone conversation with my goddess daughter
Emily, and Ed and I watching a bit of a video together completed
my evening. All in all, it was a most satisfying day.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2002
I often forget when I last had my hair cut, but not this time: it was the day my Mom died, six weeks ago today. Leesa and I made today's appointment so I could again be there when Alma was there. I do love these women. One could be my daughter and the other my mother. I will never forget how comforting it was to be with them on the day Mom died; they offered just what I needed. Here is a portrait of Alma, Leesa and me.
Those who regularly read my journal will not be surprised to hear where I went next: Belle Isle in Detroit. There weren't many people on the island this cold blustery day, but it wasn't people I wanted to see anyway. After admiring the sight of an ocean-going freighter on the Detroit River, the glass-domed Belle Isle Conservatory and Canadian geese swimming in an icy lagoon, I went looking for my friends.
During the winter months, the wild deer feel safe enough to graze in open areas rather than hidden back in the woods. Today there were dozens of does, fawns and three bucks in a grassy field close to the main road. I stopped my car, kept the heat going, put down the window and took picture after picture of these gentle creatures. You know, when I see the deer like this I just can't understand how anyone could shoot them. Deer have such grace, strength and elegance. Just look at this buck resting between snacks, a white deer nibbling everything she could find, this herd of mule deer huddled together, another buck grazing comfortably and this picture-perfect placement of deer with the Detroit Yacht Club in the background.
I was getting ready to
leave when a car pulled up behind me. As soon as a man and woman
got out, all the deer ran--literally ran--to them expectantly.
And they were not disappointed. Steve
and Dawn had brought them carrots, a real deer delicacy. I
asked if I could take their picture and Steve said, "Sure!
Then let us take a picture of you feeding the deer."
I guess the expression
on my face says it all.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2002
What a wonderful demonstration! Young and old gathered together on a frigid day to say Not In Our Name to unending war and THINK AGAIN to those who might be going to sign up at this Military Recruiting Center in Detroit's central city. After practicing new songs in the parking lot, we Raging Grannies Without Borders joined the young activists who had organized this picket, and sang from our ever-growing repertoire of anti-war songs. Virgina Haynes, a wonderful addition to our gaggle, had recently written two songs that were perfect for this particular event. Even though this was the first time many of the Grannies had seen Virginia's songs, we sang them with gusto.
There was actually a lot of community singing today. We Grannies shared our songbooks with our sister and brother demonstrators, and then joined the young activists in singing songs from their songsheets. Singing helped keep us warm.
Our numbers were small but our hearts were huge. And there were many affirming honks from cars passing by on East Jefferson, a busy Detroit street. We even got a big TOOT from a cement-mixer truck! Marie and Frank from Food Not Bombs kept us warm and happy with hot apple cider and delicious sticky rice with veggies. A young activist led us in making the Pledge of Resistance put out by notinournames.net. After about an hour we chilled Grannies repaired to a local restaurant to thaw out, visit with one another, and sing to the patrons.
We may even have recruited a new Granny there, a young mother of three named Deshunda. She adopted us grannies and waited on our table even though this was a self-serve restaurant. When we showed her pictures of JC Penney's war toys, she said she'd like to sing with us sometime. We sure hope she does.
Isn't it strange how we
managed to transform a picket/demo at the Military Recruiting
Center into a recruiting effort of our own? Rage on, Grannies!
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2002
What a successful, energizing, challenging, lifegiving, exhausting day! I was gone from my house from 11:45 AM until 9:30 PM, and drove at least 80 miles. A day to remember.
The Raging Grannies met
at 1 PM in front of the JC Penney's store at Oakland Mall in a
northern Detroit suburb. It was again bitterly cold with a strong
wind so we were happy to use Penney's
covered entrance as our singing/leafletting spot. There were
eight of us altogether, although this
photo only shows Judy, Magi, Kathy, Rosalie, Charlotte and
me; we're missing Dolores who was leafletting and Barbara who
had not yet arrived. As you know if you're a regular reader, we
were there to encourage parents not to buy the horrendous
war toys that JC Penney's is selling this year. We had songs
especially created for this purpose, and a flyer that showed a
picture of a little boy riding one of Penney's toy tanks. It said:
Please DO NOT buy war toys for your children. To create PEACE ON EARTH we need to teach our children that war, killing, violence, and destruction are NOT acceptable or inevitable. Instead buy books, musical instruments, building blocks, stuffed animals, dolls, non-violent games, and board games the whole family can play. Happy Holidays from the Raging Grannies Without Borders (of Detroit and Windsor)
As six of us sang, two grannies handed out leaflets to folks entering and leaving the store. We must have given out 150 flyers during our 50 minutes there. The responses ranged from two different women giving us a couple of dollars with the words, "Keep up the good work!", to lots of smiles and a few negative comments. Most people accepted our flyers and went on their way. All in all it was just what we'd wanted: an opportunity to get people thinking about how war toys might affect their kids. I think we made an impact in a non-threatening--after all, we're just grannies!--entertaining way. It was plenty cold but singing kept us warm. Besides there was a steady stream of people so we were always "on." It was fun.
About 1:50 PM, a rather sour-faced woman came out of Penneys, lit up a cigarette and said, "You know you aren't allowed to be here. This is private property." I said that we were aware of that and started another song. In a minute or two an older security guard stopped his car in front of the entrance and came over to us with the words, "You'll have to leave now. This is private property and JC Penney's doesn't want you here." I went into my semi-rehearsed response that we were just singing carols and handing out holiday greetings from the grannies. I then asked, respectfully of course, what law were we breaking? At this point he was joined by Captain Whittaker, the head security guard, a smiling young man who told us we'd have to leave. I asked where we might get permission to stay and he said that the office was closed and wouldn't be open until tomorrow. I then asked what would happen if we decided to stay and sing some more. He said he'd have to call the police. I turned to our gaggle of grannies and asked what they wanted to do. The consensus was that we'd accomplished what we'd set out to do and were cold and ready to leave.
But before we did, one of our grannies asked the sour-faced woman, who worked for JC Penney's and had been the one to call the security guards, if she was in a position to influence the head office not to carry such violent toys. We tried to show her and the guards the color print-out Kathy had made of the most horrendous examples from Penney's online catalogue, and offered them some of our flyers...none of which they would look at. The woman answered that yes, she might be in a position to influence such decisions but that she would not do so. She said, "I see it as a matter of choice." She added, "My own kids were raised with war toys and they've grown up to be wonderful adults. They don't do anything violent."
Captain Whittaker more firmly repeated his request that we leave and we decided it was time to comply. We had accomplished our goal of educating the public, and had maybe offered some food for thought to the "authorities" with whom we'd dealt. It had been a successful day.
After putting our Grannies things in the car, Judy and I were hungry so we went into the mall. As I told her, only the Raging Grannies could get me in a mall! I hate malls. But I had not yet eaten and it was close to 3 PM. We managed to find a halfway decent Thai restaurant and got what for me was brunchinner (breakfast/lunch/dinner). As we left the restaurant and were walk/scooting down one of the crowded halls, we passed Captain Whittaker. I said a cheery, "Hi, Captain Whittaker!" and we continued on our way. Was it a coincidence that almost immediately a security guard was behind us and even followed us onto the elevator? It's easy to get paranoid when you're a "bad girl!"
I dropped Judy off at her house--she lives near me so we often ride together--and kept going all the way to Canada. Even though I was a bit weary, I didn't want to miss the annual Solstice ritual gathering at Pat Noonan's in Windsor. It's always special...and tonight was no exception. Each woman is asked to bring a candle to light on this longest night of the year, and a reading, song, poem or sharing. Appetizers and desserts are also encouraged!
Tonight's sharings followed a distinct pattern. Two women brought poems by Marge Piercy, and two brought poems by Denise Levertov. One of those who brought a Denise Levertov poem also shared that she had never felt more hopeless about the world than she felt this year. I was struck by her saying that. I brought a Raging Grannies song--what else?--and the memorial candle that my friend Pat Kolon had made for my mother. It felt good to bring Mom into the circle. Some women simply lit their candle and remained silent or said a few words. It's the kind of ritual where each person's way of doing things is respected. Here are the candles after they had all been lit.
We sang one song of Carolyn McDade's to start and another of her songs to end the ritual. After everyone had lit their candle and shared or remained silent, we moved onto the next part of the evening: food. It was a culinary treat, believe me! This was the time when we could sit and leisurely visit with one another. But the longer I sat, the tireder I got, so about 8:30 PM I told Pat I was ready to go. She had parked my car in the underground parking garage so walked down with me to help me get it.
On the way, Pat brought up the comment we'd heard from one of the women about feeling hopeless. I found myself answering with surprising passion, "There is only ONE way to combat hopelessness and that is to ACT!" I guess I'm getting tired of folks moaning about how hopeless they feel about the world situation. I certainly feel upset, distressed, enraged and discouraged about what's going on, but never hopeless. And I don't find my hope coming down into my waiting hands/heart like some sweet little miracle. No, I work hard for every bit of hope I have. But that's the whole point. If you don't DO something, you're sure to feel hopeless. How can you have hope if you're just sitting around moaning and groaning about how the world is going to hell in a handbasket? I don't do my work for peace in order to find hope; it just happens. And for me, it is the people I meet while doing such work who give me hope. It's the feisty Raging Grannies who are willing to get out there on freezing cold days and stand strong for what they believe. It's the young activists who keep organizing demonstrations, rallies and teach-ins; the ones who teach me most of what I know. It's Cynthia, the symphony conductor who had come from Colorado to the anti-war rally and march in Washington, DC on October 26...only the second demonstration of her life. It's Conchita who has been sleeping sitting up (because one is not allowed to sleep lying down on park property in DC) across from the White House since 1981 as a solitary witness for peace. So many, many individuals and groups who give me hope. And if I weren't out there myself, I would never have met them. That's what I mean about hope being tied to action.
I guess these are my Solstice
MONDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2002
After my action-oriented
weekend, today was very laid back. I accomplished some Raging
Grannies online and phone business, caught up with the O Beautiful
Gaia Great Lakes
Journal, and added a Great
Lakes Basin Links page to our site. Other than that, I read
this afternoon until I fell asleep in my easy chair, and had macaroni
and cheese for dinner with Ed. It was just that of a day.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 24, 2002
Ed and I just finished watching our video of "It's A Wonderful Life" with James Stewart and Donna Reed, circa 1946. For years now, this movie has been a Christmas Eve favorite to show on American television. Even as one who doesn't celebrate the holidays, this movie still touches me. I always get a little teary-eyed (Ed too). As I watched it tonight, I tried to figure out why. I mean it's terribly sentimental, colored by wartime propaganda and patriotism, chock-full of cliches...and yet it still gets to me. I think I figured it out. What really gets under my skin is the message that each life is so important; that if you or I or anyone else had not lived, the world would not be as it is today.
Especially during these trying times when wars, oppression and injustice are everywhere we look, the knowledge that each word, each action, each person makes a difference is exactly what I need to hear. I'm reminded of a group email I received yesterday from Suzanne, a peace-loving friend in California. In it she shared quotations that have meant a lot to her. The one that stayed with me was:
I recently heard the
man who exposed the Iran-Contra scandal to Congress speak about
making a difference. He noted that he often hears people saying:
"What can I do? I'm only one person." And someone replied:
"Well, unless you're a multiple personality, you've got the
same as every other person who has ever made a difference in the
© 2002 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.