Sunday, June 22, 2008

Family Photos

Looking at the photo featured in the previous blog, the amount of possibility and potential pictured makes me pause. It is a before glimpse at a family and now, nearly 50 years later I see the after. Not all of those lives are finished, but the decisions or lack thereof, took each person in a direction that perhaps none of them foresaw.

Derrol's mother recently retired. Several of those children are now grandparents. I wonder if any of them saw their dreams fulfilled.

Recently my brother sent me a photo of the newest member of his family. His youngest son's newborn daughter -- Jenna Grace. Looking upon her face, seeing the serenity, the peace, the perfection -- I pray that the world will be kind to her and her brothers and sisters. And when we look back at a family photo fifty years from now, their faces will continue to shine with promise, and will reflect lives well lived.

Parenting -- when done right -- is a thing of beauty. Sadly most of us have regrets, things we would do differently. Perhaps that is the hidden joy of grandchildren -- they give us a 'do over' chance to get that parenting thing right.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Of death and dad's and fierce love

Death seems to haunt my thoughts lately. At first I blamed it on that rich Italian meal my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed at Macaroni Grill. Great service, excellent music, delicious wine, and the food. Oh my. It had us groaning in delight. We savored every bite. Took leftovers home and savored again the next day. Even the leftovers made us swoon.

But somewhere between the first bite and the last I suffered a night of violence. It was the kind of violent dream that awakens me with heart pounding and adrenalin rushing. It is the kind that makes me desperate to pray for all my loved ones. To pray that 'this shall never come to pass,' and then pray until I fall into an exhausted sleep. "Protect, please protect...." I'm quite the believer in intercessory prayer.

Italians were hacking and shooting and attacking everyone in sight. It was a blood bath in my dreams. The Valentine's Day Massacre times ten. I have no idea why Italians, or why the violent dreams. I hadn't watched anything unusually graphic on television. Nor had I read anything overly dramatic. I wouldn't think that Melissa Bank's "A Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing" would bring on nightmares.

But one thought led to another and June first dawned. I had been lethargic and melancholy for days, fighting a mind numbing energy drain and when I looked at the calendar I understood. My father died on that day -- years ago -- but I remember seeing him in the hospital, yellow and waxy already, still struggling for a breath. An ignominious end to such a harsh, hard fought life. I'm not sure that a daughter ever gets over the loss of her first love, her first protector, the first man she ever trusted or hugged or kissed or wanted to please -- her Daddy, Papa, Father, Da, Dad.

Today, Suzanne, my new best friend at the Orange County Library, suggested the novel "Interloper" by Antoine Wilson. It is about a family struggling to come to terms with the murder of a loved one -- a son and brother. It is an experience that one can never put behind them. I know. My father-in-law was killed by a drunk driver. Years ago. But I still see that day, remember the feeling of dread when the phone rang, the horror that someone could or would rob him of his life. And take him, our heart, away from this family who needed him to keep us together.

Of course we face death every day in one way or another, some more than others. Friends fight disease, injury, accidents, toxic environments, toxic people. But I rarely bring those thoughts to bed with me. I'm staying away from the Italian foods for awhile. Ohhhhh it was soooo delicious. But most of all, I am remembering the lives of two men whom I loved with such purity it hurts.

Dads. They are a special blessing. Oh we make over mothers and daughters and wives -- but the dads. They're the ones who keep us safe, stand guard, provide the foundation on which the rest of the family grows. I know families are changing, the role of father seems less vital in some ways of thinking at that basic group, but the father who accepts his role, his responsibility, and understands the purpose of his life -- he is the heart of the family, the glue that holds it together, and the source of the purest love that was ever invented. He loves without qualification from the moment the child enters his world. Does anyone ever love a child as completely or as fiercely as a dad?

It's time to celebrate him.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Eyes Wide

Today, I prepared to hit delete, but hesitated when I read: "Every four weeks my husband drives me to Tampa and I get 13 injections around my eyes."

The Orange County Library hosts an online nonfiction book club and Suzanne, a librarian there, adds an inspiring blog each work day. Truthfully, I haven't put much time and attention into those emails. They are usually among the first I delete. Today, I read on.

She explains that she has this impairment where her eyelids won't stay open without these injections. The experience is bittersweet for her. The shots are painful and she dreads the procedure, but for one brief moment afterwards, she can see the world with her eyes wide open.

Of course for this to be inspirational, she concludes with: "And yesterday it also made me wonder...maybe there are other things in my life that I think are normal, but I'm just not looking at them with my eyes wide open." To read her entire message, visit her Dear Reader blog.

As an idealist, I know I miss a lot of subtle signals that the world is sending me. I don't go around with my eyelids drooping, my eyes are often tightly shut. Last night a documentary, "A Crude Awakening" pried them open a crack and I saw a few things that made me consider taking my head out of the sand.

Let me say first that the documentary, made by 'award-winning' filmmakers Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack, is no award winner. Although it has won several awards. It is just too campy for me and biased. It juxtaposes old advertisements with statements from OPEC's former CEO, several physicists and scientists. The blurb on the cover describes the bias: "This documentary examines the world's dependency on oil and the impending chaos that's sure to follow when the resource is depleted." The advertisements they include feature big old gas guzzlers of the 1950s, those classic Thunderbirds and moves forward to the SUV and Hummer commercials. They show historic footage of new fields being discovered around the world and how they stand empty, tapped out, today.

The documentary touches on what the financial centers of the world really trade in. It isn't money -- it is oil, natural resources. And they point out that oil has become more and more a commodity found in unstable regions. They forecast that soon (as in now, I fear) oil negotiations will become a military procedure rather than a supply and demand economic trade.

Sadly the documentary is so biased that it is easy to shrug it off and say, "scare tactics." Yet, the core essence that make it scary rings true. The oil exploration has peaked. The oil production has declined. And we are totally dependent upon oil.

Today I plan to find out more concerning alternative energies. They touch on them in the documentary and seem to discount all but one: solar energy. Hydrogen comes a close second, but we need much more research and development -- about 30 years of it -- before it is a feasible alternative. Even nuclear energy would require 20,000 new plants, worldwide, to just keep up with the demand already in place. And of course that creates the waste we don't know what to do with, not to mention depleting the uranium ore needed. They estimate it would be gone in a decade or two.

The comment that shook me, especially today in the face of the airlines' downsizing, that our grandchildren may never get the opportunity to ride on a plane. They say eventually individual cars and airplane travel may become only available to the 10 percent who can afford it.

If you buy into that notion that what we experience today, take for granted, will become something that only the most wealthy can afford, then it explains why we are moving toward gated communities, companies selling out their employees and CEOs worrying only about profits and their own bottom line. It explains why our president is so aligned with oil companies and works to help the rich get richer. It explains the rapid decline in the middle class as that chasm widens between the haves and have nots.

As I said, the film won't win awards from me, but it raises valid questions and makes some valid points. Whenever I watch a documentary, I always ask, what are they NOT telling me. Yet this one seems to be even more timely today than in 2006 when it was made.

Perhaps it is time to contact our congressmen and representatives and tell them we want action, we want research and development funds to find a way to get us off this addiction to oil. NOW! Anyone know where I can get some solar panels? My eyes are wider open today, are yours? For a thought provoking compendium of things we CAN do, visit James Howard Kunstler's remarks. His remarks leave out the role computers will play in the future, I think. But apparently our global lifestyles will return to regionalism again. That certainly makes me blink!