Monday, May 13, 2013

Prayer Partner in Yellow

    I do not have faith. Never have. I am one of those never quite satisfied, relentless seekers. Oh I am a believer. I just seem to be short on faith.
  Perhaps that is why I have to watch Miracle on 34th Street over and over, just to hear the line “Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.”  Not that I have so much of that either.
  Another sacred cinema is The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy after overcoming many obstacles learns she was the greatest of all, managing to transport herself back to Kansas to by tapping her ruby slippers together, affirming her belief that “there is no place like home.”  She returns to that which her heart longs for a story of faith, seeking and belief.  Like these characters in make believe movies I forge on.
  My greatest belief has been in me. Yes the thinking of an addict.
  I am an addict. My lucky card is that drugs and alcohol skipped the in box of genes. But ice cream, cigarettes, work, security and other people are my addictions.
   Love and my perception of what they may need is my crack. I can put them in a pipe and just smoke them. Needing them happy to quell my own anxiety. I want, I want.  That is the think of an addict. I want, what I want, when I want it. I just roll up others lives’, inhale smoking in the “should” my drug of choice baby.
  I’m getting healthier or as they say I am recovering. (Notice present tense, as the prevailing wisdom is that I will never be healed only that I have a daily reprieve based on “my fit spiritual condition.”  Ha, that is just about the same conundrum as faith and believing and all. )
  You can probably tell my meanderings are one of my defenses. My protective armor is to baffle with brilliance. This serves me so well that I often dwell in a state of confusion.
  That is why I write, in effort to figure myself out of a hole I have gotten myself into.
  Last weeks hole was a canyon. I can tell you the details, but they are redundant. If you are a parent you comprehend.
  I have dwelt in a constant state of fret since the conception of my child, which can slip into agitation, anxiety, occasions of extreme powerlessness or into explosions of rage.  Perhaps this perseveration on others is a spectrum disorder, not contained, all murky in the boundaries.
  (When I have resolved my questions of faith/seeking /prayer etc. I will pray for a conversion experience, or at least pray to be an imploder rather than an exploder. )
  But I digress.
  My thinking is an issue, smoking my kid’s life like she was a narcotic leaves a taint. (Oh did I mention that she is a grown up, an adult who has lived internationally? Since her return to my neighborhood my momma radar is on a high alert.)
I was off point in my worry and cyclical thinking wishing I could check in for an intervention. I could go to the ER and bellow, “I am being crazy made by my kid.”  Yet I am certain there is no treatment for this ailment.
 I am an extra in the opera Aida or better said I am a human prop. I stand perfectly still for thirty minutes while the rock star vocalists voices reverberate the sumptuous stage with sound waves. This is way cool. It is meditation, a Zen practice of sorts.
   During the rehearsal with the cast of 100 with resplendent voices resonating I am still spinning my mom wheels. There is no quieting my mind.  Though I pray, the way my mom and dad did repetitively chanting the rosary and have spent all of a day immersed in the opera’s splendor, my mind continues going back to my crack house of fear. It was like the gallons of Cookies and Cream Ice Cream I used to engorge. Once I had taken that first bite another would call to me, “eat me, eat me.” Silence came only when the gallon was consumed.
 The ever-looming momma voices of fear would not be quelled.
Drugging on misguided love I am in some sort of relapse. (This is when I wish I were sex addict. At least then I would have guilty pleasure.)
  Not responding to prayer, music, talks with enlightened beings, my mind remains ensconced in a fog. A limbo purgatory of the mind I dwell in the if’s of someone else’s story.
OCD baby!
When I told my homeless brother of my fears, he chastised me that I had no faith. He told me how he had reprimanded our mother through the years when she worried after him.
   A man who lives on the streets reminds his mother, a daily communicant (in layman’s terms that meant she went to mass every day.) “You already prayed, so where is your faith?”
   Stuck in this mental prison I decided to walk and pray, hoping that movement would temper my anxieties. Three miles through Detroit’s skyscraper canyons; past decrepit buildings, and along the silver glimmering thread of the river I am not balmed. My faculties are compromised. I am in a hell of distress. Rubbing a my Buddha bead bracelet and imploring any and all named deities for assistance yet still I am tormented.
   I am chastising God. “Give my kid a break. Who took her bike? What will she do for transportation? She has looked for a job for a year. How can I help her? Is she safe? I will call my Yemini friend. They can call the store where her bike got stolen. I am in a vortex of past, present and future and “what ifs.”  Obsessing. I am an obsessive. If it were a ganja I was smoking I would have chilled. But I am gallons into to my drug and still using, verging on an overdose.
  Another rehearsal awaits me. The sun taunts me with its promise, making my dark thoughts gloomier.
  This is a spiritual emergency. I do not get struck off my horse like the non-believer Saul. Yet there in front of Louis the Hatter, a haberdashery that has been decking out locals in fine hats since Zoot suit days comes a man dressed in a bumblebee yellow fleece coat with a matching rosary. It matters not that he is Black except for the matter that I am a suburban Caucasian middle age babe in a primarily African American city with a divide so big that fear has been redlined into consciousness.
  His swaying beads match his jaunty walk.  His beads a clacking in a fervency in some fierce prayer of his own. He is my disciple, the answer to my intercessions. I stop him imploring him to pray for my daughter. (Sometimes I ponder whether God turns a deaf ear to we faithless whiners, weary of our droning prattle and lack of faith.)
  He proselytizes telling me he was just at an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting. He speaks of his addiction and his spotty recovery, of his girlfriend who he says “Is a chaos addict.” He will pray for my daughter and me. I will pray for him. We remind each other that the best prayer is behavior. We hug.  I feel absolved.
  I want to tell you I remain a holy soul full of peace.
   I do not.
    When my daughter arrives in in my borrowed car to transport me home she agitated. Like some contagious plague I am lost in my effort’s to temper her mind and to manage mine.
 There is a vehicular eruption. You know the kind where you feel trapped, no exit all is magnified. I threaten to bolt from the car, and great drama ensues.
   I feel that nasty feeling of a user who did too much of a bad good thing, like when I smoked two packs of cigarettes with pots of coffee or ate all the Elf’s in a bag of Keebler Cookies. I feel like my yellow prayer partner, Mac when he slipped and imbibed a bit of beer and then a bit more, oh that very slippery slope.
   I feel funky…yet…
  The encounter with that street disciple and our conversation keeps a glint in my own dark brain. I pray some more, not for my daughter but for the release from that ever-looming limbo of parenthood, where I feel tethered to someone else’s happiness, responsible for the world.  Trained by the years of burps and ouches’’ and night terrors, I cannot put down my call to quell someone else’s alarm and silence my own siren.
  I chip away at the stone in the door that blocks light. That is how faith is for me; it is effort, great effort. But seeking is not. I forge on.
   Though hung over from anger, I forgive me and release her. And just sort of believe that God gave me Mac the man of yellow beads and golden heart to steel me against my fear.
  And my daughter, well she got her miracle. First her momma let her be. Second while running through her neighborhood trying to forget the theft of her bike she encounters a man riding it. With those powerful legs and her indomitable spirit she catch’s him and retrieves it.  And now she rides, soars on. And me, I just resolve like Mac to try to pray with my behavior and try to be a “less” loving, perfect momma.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My Angel Aunt

  It seems that grandma’s kitchen was always yellow.  
   Whenever it was freshly painted it just became a brighter shade of yellow. “Painted by Oscar and the boys,’ as Gram would tell it.
  When the Thibodeau’s  (Oscar and Terese and the kids) moved to Florida the kitchen seemed to fade, never to be quite as cheery again. Yet in a sacred realm tucked away under the oilcloth table cover were grandma’s most cherished correspondences. After a coffee, some cheese and crackers, after she had tended to the visitor troubles grandma would reach underneath her tablecloth to pull out the most recent letter from her far away daughter, Terese. It was all newsy, full of tales of her children, Jeanne, Marie, Peter, Joe, Andrew, Paul, Tom, Phillip and Mary Louise.
 “Mary Lou has traveled to Italy to study piano, Jeanne and I are taking nurses training together.” On went the chipper narrative.
Grandma bound us all and rekindled her heart to her far away girl and the kitchen came happy again.
We are a big old Irish Catholic family and these letters from Aunt Terese sealed us to our aunt and our far away family.  
 Aunt Terese a woman of such heart that when speaking of her it is natural for many to use the possessive pronoun of “My”.  My Aunt Terese.
 Before she died she left one more story that has already brought tears and hope to others. As it was told to me,
she was on many machines that were keeping her alive.
She was a woman who loved her man, a woman who showed how to love unabashedly. Unable to speak due to the tube down her throat she wrote on a piece of paper “I have a date with Oscar and I would like to keep it.”
 Perhaps he waited her under the “Kern’s Clock”, just like he waited for her under it all those years ago on Woodward Avenue in Detroit.
 She died shortly after the tubes were removed.
Now she is gone, on her date and we here on earth must grapple with how to go forward without the glow of her love radar.
 She had this light that just seemed to envelope us when we were in her presence that she kept glowing in prayers for us.
 Terese Cullen Thibobdeau had this quality where she beheld the best in people. I was never really who she believed me to be. But she believed in my goodness. She believed until I began to believe it about myself. To be held in her heart to my mind was like being held in God’s heart where we are seen as his perfect children.

My dear cousins,
  I so wish I could have been there for you mothers funeral. I shadowboxed with myself on what to do. I found peace when I reflected on what would Aunt Terese want for me. I could hear her clear as a bell “ Take care of yourself Lettie”. She was always urging that for me. My last conversation with her was two weeks ago. she rang to check on me after I had a hospital stay. She offered that I come down there to convalesce. Just hearing her voice was a curative.
  All sorts memories of your mom and dad (I liked to just call him Uncle), our shared Detroit cousin chapters and my visits to Florida have been filling my mind for days.
I vividly remember Marion’s funeral, her little white first communion dress. All of us chasing about at Sullivan’s Funeral Home playing hide and go seek. I remember later at the wake all the little girl cousins putting on one of our musical reviews. Peggy Cullen stole the show with her version of Love and Marriage.
 During that very sorrowful time, what I remember is your mom’s twinkly loving demeanor while we rambunctious little ones ran around. That funeral and your mom have stayed in my heart forever. Your mom in her faith and understanding of children made death and loss less scary. She let us know even at the darkest of times we must allow for light and laughter. And still at this time of loss I will hold to what she showed me with her expansive heart.
  I want to write a cheery letter to you mom. I want you to put it under your tablecloth and know the part of her she shared with me through the years.
It would read like this…

Dear Aunt Terese.
Just want to go on record about a couple of things with you.
 I want to thank you for many things,
Thank you for rubbing my head that time I came to visit and had the migraine. (And for sending me off to nap the year I was a young mom who came to you exhausted after the family Disney trip)
Thanks for inviting me for sleepovers back when I was a little kid when nobody would have me because I peed the bed.
Thanks for helping me love my dad, helping me to forgive by telling me stories of his boyhood that allowed for me to understand, know him better.
Thanks for introducing my folks to each other. (Both of my parent’s eyes shone with love whenever they mentioned you or Oscar.)
Thanks for praying my babies in and praying onmy friend’s who seemed to conceive by the power of your prayer.
Thanks for continuing to call me Lettie, reminding me somehow of the little girl I once was.
Thank you for the way cool cousins you gave me. I love all the Thibs and have many memories of great moments with all.
(There was even the year Andy transferred to St Greg’s’ with his ever so handsome self making me a briefly  “popular”) 
Thanks for loving Oscar so, making me dream for such devotion in my own life.
Thanks for praying for me to know such great love. (Now that you are in Heaven and can work on my behalf and I am ever hopeful that that Italian cello player you know I crushed on will come a courting,)
Thanks for my last trip to Eustis. I came right after Uncle had died. I came on Marion’s birthday. We looked at picture of her smiling under the blossoming tree. WE talked about your girl, we went to church. I wanted to get to the ocean. You drove me. Any other time we had gone to the sea uncle drove us and sat in the car while we walked barefoot in the surf. But you bravely and boldly drove. We walked the beach enjoyed the Atlantic and waved to our girls  (my Tess and your Mary Lou who lived across her in Europe)
What I remember most of that day was the return trip. The car had inched on empty. Uncle had always managed the car. You were not sure how to fuel up the car but you were determined to learn. There were more chapters for you to live, you needed to keep going. You figured it out, how to put gas in the car. I watched you. Again I was learning how to live how to carry on after loss. You move foreword, you go to the ocean, and you persevere. You fill that tank and go on with life. At his time with this big heart hole that you leave for me (and so many others) the way you lived will illumine and uplift me as I forge on during this most tender of times.
 Thank you …dear one…thanks.