Saturday, August 29, 2009

FROM DARK TO DAWN



“This is the saddest day of my life.” He says still draped in sleep from the night before as he slumps into a chair beside me. “It’s the last day of my band.”


“No it isn’t.” I reassure him knowing how much effort went into arranging tonight’s upcoming farewell concert. “Everyone will be home for Christmas break and you’ll do a show then.” Tyler is not reassured, visible loss in his eyes.


I think back to his first public performance, terrified and frozen; barely able to swallow much less sing. His “band” has changed several times since then, different names, different members, but this group, From Dark to Dawn known locally as FDTD, has been together for a long time. They write all of their own music and it never ceases to amaze me that the crowd sings along as if the music was on the radio daily.


When my boys were young they played sports and belonging to a ‘team” provided that sort of camaraderie that seems part of healthy development; all for one and one for all. As parents we are programmed for this. Athletics are a comfortable, predicable part of parenting. I never realized how sportsmanship is in the player, not the arena.


The musicians are a unique crowd and not one that we as parents are necessarily prepared for. Their alternative hair and dress raises eyebrows and makes most parents uncomfortable. People stereotype the group making the assumption that they abuse drugs and alcohol and nothing could be further from the truth.


The band experience has been incredible.


There is no rule book, no guideline to follow and no coach calling the plays. The band is self governing, bringing everything from within. The commitment and dedication to their music and to the group is not mandated, they just bring it themselves...consistently.


There are several bands in town, our small CT town seems to be the new Seattle, and most often they will play shows that feature four or five bands playing in order of seniority. The most profound difference between athletics and music is the lack of competition. During the shows, they roadie for each other, stage hand for each other and always have each others backs. They share equipment, work the light and sound for each other and when a guitar string breaks in the middle of a song, it will be a musician from another band jumping up and handing in his guitar.


These kids, all long hair and alternative, have a deep-rooted sense of honor. They have visible, genuine love for each other and that is what makes it all work. They do not have a showcase in the foyer of the high school that features their State Championship trophies. They are not sponsored and funded through the town. They do not have their equipment provided or facilities for practice or performance. Coordinating shows means renting a building, making tickets, selling tickets, hauling equipment etc.


And yet, with a last minute, late in the summer idea for a final show, in spite of the fact that many of their peers have already left for college, they fill the house.


Tyler’s band is the featured band playing last, as they are the one dis-banding for college. The crowd is ready and the energy high. They play most of their music, brand new songs and those where the audience swells with sound as they sing along. Finally near the end, Tyler asks everyone to sit. He and Mike grab acoustic guitars and the lights dim.


The boys sit on the stage together, Tyler sweetly singing a song Mike wrote for his girl. Their fans hold up lighters and cell phones in tribute. These two have been friends since elementary school and Mike has nearly lived at my house over the last year. Tyler’s decision to attend a local art collage leaves him saying good-bye to his friends, several of whom are going to the same college four hours away.




The love in the air is tangible, palpable and my heart aches with bittersweet pride. I scramble home after the last song to heat up a mountain of food that I prepared earlier, knowing the bands will inevitably show up at our house. They do and it is just like the usual routine; no one speaking about the finality until the end.

Matt is the first to leave and he comes into the kitchen and stands before me. “Well, this is it.” He says, looking twelve-years-old, “I’m leaving tomorrow.” He will be Mike’s roommate in Vermont. He gives me a big hug and I tell him that we love him and will miss him. I offer a few motherly words of advice for good measure and ask him if he has an address yet. “I’ll probably need to send cookies.” I tell him and he quickly scribbles his dorm address on a post-it note, placing it on my fridge.


Watching these boys end this chapter to begin the next is not easy. I know they will all find their way and continue to play music in spite of their distance, but FDTD is irreplaceable.


“We booked a Christmas show.” Tyler tells me later smiling.


“I knew you would.” I tell him.

Friday, August 14, 2009

FEEDING STRAYS

It is safe to say that my husband and I agree on major fundamentals in the way we see the world and it is also fair to say that we are polar opposite on others. It is also evident that this provides both balance and chaos; perhaps more truthfully a blend of both.

On the day to day front line with the kids, I am the active disciplinarian, chasing them around to pick up after themselves, do their homework, keeping track of their whereabouts and who they are hanging out with; my busy husband somewhat oblivious to this. Brad, however, is the real backbone of discipline, sticking to the rules and abiding by the consequences. The kids know that I am the soft side…the one who will cave in eventually.

Balance.

Our children are now teenagers and social and I love having them around. Summertime is made for friends and this has brought to light a new set of differences in my husband and I.


I am yes to sleepovers and groups of kids hanging out in the family room.

Brad is no to all of this and why does it always have to be our house?

I have come to realize that most this has to do with food.

Brad is gourmet.

I am meat and potatoes.


Brad is cook to order, exact portions with appropriate garnish and perfectly paired wine.


I am casserole with enough for an army; plenty of leftovers to feed the masses.

Brad is plan in advance; headcount required.

I am set one more place at the table; the more the merrier.

This has become a huge problem.


Brad enjoys creating in the kitchen and it is artistry.

I enjoy seeing the hungry eat…plain and simple.

The difference was evident from the beginning of our marriage. We hosted regular dinner parties, large and small. I made things pretty, he made them tasty and it was enjoyable for both.


One evening, a stray cat wandered to our porch; young and shy and thin. I offered her some leftovers, artistically and lovingly prepared by my gourmet husband, only to meet fierce opposition. “Do not feed it! If you do, it will never leave!”


My need to nourish won over this obvious statement and I took to sneaking her cheap hot dogs in the empty, wooded lot next door, only to find out later that Mr. Gourmet was doing the same. Over discussion and some good red wine, he softened and “Kitty” became our first married pet.

It is apparently true of teenage boys…if you feed them they will never leave and Brad would prefer not to. There is something so enjoyable to me about watching teenage boys eat and the regularity and cost of it makes my husband crazy. .


Trevor is prone to ask to have a few friends over for a couple of hours, which always means ten or twelve and the hours always come around dinner time. He falls naturally into the role of host and looks for food to offer.
I cannot help myself when groups of kids spontaneously evolve at my house and I find myself in the kitchen, cooking up batches of quesadillas or baking brownies. They move as groups like locusts and we either have more of our share or none at all, creating what I see as balance

Tyler’s band will often appear late in the evening, rummaging through he freezer for the bags of homemade burritos I put there for that purpose and I count shoes in the doorway to know how many have spent the night, leading me to make big batches of waffles or pancakes.

Like stray animals, they can smell across town when I am baking and somehow appear as things come out of the oven. They know that if they come to my house with girl trouble or broken hearts, I will attempt to mend them with chocolate chip cookies.

As the summer comes to a close, some of my boys will be moving off to college and I am sad to see them leave. I know that I will continue to attract the next batch of strays as Trevor is still in high school. I know that Brad will continue to grumble about locusts and the food bill, but every so often over a bottle of red wine, I see him soften and go out to grill them hot dogs, moving them from strays to pets.

Friday, July 17, 2009

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE


“I’ve been thinking about my future,” she said, chin tilted up to the left, eyes slightly narrowed. I could tell by her tone this was a serious moment. Cadence’s future is perhaps the hardest of my three children to foresee, mainly because there are so many places she could go.


“I don’t want to be the President of the United Sates,” she says, “because I think that is very complicated, but I do know that I want to be involved with public speaking.” Quick breath in and she continues, a clear monologue rolling in her mind. “But I don’t want to wait until I’m an adult and I feel very strongly about a lot of things and I would like my voice to be heard.” She says, ready to explain.


I am astounded, as always, that she is ten and that she is mine.

I grew up wishing to be invisible. I grew up always doubting my opinions and dodging the occasions where I may have to express them for fear they wouldn’t match everyone else’s. I grew up thinking of ways to never, ever have to speak in public.


“For instance,” she stands up from her place on the kitchen stool, momentum building in her like a race car engine, “Racism. People always think of racism as white people being prejudice against black people but it can be black against white or any race. I just wish we could all have green skin and people would stop seeing color as an issue.” We discuss some current events that are rumbling across the television screen in the corner of the kitchen and her conviction builds.


I think about the many gifts she possesses and the places they could take her as I wonder about her new revelation about her future.


Cadence has the gift of music. She is filled with music that permeates from her lungs and through her limbs. She has a Broadway voice and an MTV dance style that we have worked to keep a lid on. She writes beautiful music with her brothers and composes in her head, hearing the melody, the chorus and the parts of accompanying instruments. She loves theater and adores the stage and is never, ever intimidated. I thought her future was clear.


Cadence is a lover of science and her head swirls with questions and hypothesis. She has created life lessons out of baby powder and water and sees relevance in everything. She is in perfect rhythm with nature and can often be seen rescuing moths, spiders and all sorts of small creatures that get trapped in our home. She cannot tolerate irresponsible loss of life, no matter how small and won an argument with her grandmother recently about defending the most despicable of God’s creatures…mosquitoes. “Every living thing has a right to live and a purpose for being here.” She maintains.


“What purpose could a mosquito possibly serve?” Grandmother offers in defense for killing the little blood suckers.


“They are food for the bats.” Cadence answers. Case closed. Clearly her future lies here.


From the time she could talk, she has always expressed herself. Boldly. Clearly. Often.


It never matters if her point challenges the receiver or goes against the grain. I have always told her that she was given two very specific gifts from God: a big voice and a kind heart. “They must always be used together.” I tell her, “A big voice without kindness can be harmful and a kind heart that stays quiet is not helpful. You are not afraid to speak up and it is your job if someone is being left out to stand up and say that everyone should be included.” It is a job she has embraced and has a collection of friends that are the peripheral of the popular crowd.


“I need to find a way to discuss these issues with people now.” I mention student council, which Cadence points out at this age is mainly a popularity contest and we settle on exploring the internet.


“I don’t think I will start out with Racism, she strategizes, because it so… what’s that word?”


“Controversial?” I suggest.


“Yes, controversial.” She answers. “I will start with something that most everyone agrees on first, like animal cruelty.” Start on common ground, I think. Brilliant.


“Eventually I would like to be able to speak to people all over the world to help them understand that we need to get along. I like to think of the world as one big family and we can’t speak for only part of our family and ignore the rest.” She says, confident that she can make a difference.


“You know that if you become a public spokesperson, those who disagree with you will try to tear you apart.” I say, fearing for her.


“Oh that’s no problem.” She smiles, “I can handle it.”


Yes I believe she can, I think.


Undoubtedly… her future is there.


photo by profiles.tigweb.org


Friday, July 03, 2009

100


The previous post 'Nothing Is Impossible' is my 100th post!

off to celebrate..... :)

NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE

As a child, I loved the mystery of a gift.

Sometimes, opening the gift was a disappointment; not because the gift was unsatisfying, but because the mystery had ended. At Christmas time, the mystery was magnified by the number of packages and the length of time they laid beneath the tree, glowing in the shimmer of twinkling lights. I can remember sitting with my pile of gifts, picking them up one by one, imagining what was inside. I was never a peeker. That would ruin the joy that came with slowly opening the package when the long awaited moment arrived to reveal the truth beneath the wrapping.

I have come to realize that this process defines parenting.

Receiving the gift of a child all bundled and wrapped in sweet, soft clothing is a mystery that is revealed slowly over a long time. We pick them up and hold them, imagining what they will be, but it is time that reveals the truth of who and what is beneath. As parents, we see every little miracle and clues from the start that shows each child’s brilliance. We learn over time that the mystery we thought we figured out early on continues to have surprise twists and the unwrapping is endless.

My first born was an early-at-everything baby; walked early, talked early and excelled in all physical endeavors. I knew right away that he had the ability to be a mover and a shaker and a profound athlete. He had a vocabulary that was astounding and insight and perception beyond his years.

I am still unwrapping this one.

Over the years, difficulty with attention and anxiety moved him out of the middle and closer to the edge. Athletically capable, he lost confidence and eventually withdrew from sports. He struggled with attention and impulsivity and the scorn from teachers who assume all behavior is willful, eventually losing faith in himself. As the academic challenges grew, he tried less and less, resisted me more and more. He retreated into his music and his art. I ebbed and flowed as a parent between the shores of over involvement to the deep waters of tough love. He continued to make wrong choices and did not heed my advice. As his senior year inched along, I was uncertain that he would fulfill his graduation requirements. He had an abundance of credits, but needed one particular credit in order to graduate.

US History.

Our country’s story has only recently become interesting to me. I hated history as a teenager. I learned what I had to in order to get by and then left the learning behind on the high school floor; discarded and unwanted.

Communication with his teacher reveals that he will need to achieve an A the final exam to pull through a passing grade.

Ace the final in a class that he had invested nothing.

“You can do this.” I tell him. He looks at me with a ‘you’re out of your mind’ look and then down at the floor. His ship Is sinking and I begIn to tread water, hoping to shore up the battered vessel and plug up the holes of tough love.

“I will help you,” I tell him “IF you do exactly what I say. Bring home the study guide and we will make a plan." He sends me a text message from school after receiving the study guide. This is impossible.

“Nothing is impossible if you are willing to work hard,” I tell him “and even the impossible is worth trying for.”

He agrees to try and with him as a willing participant, I am hopeful.

With ten days to go, I designate the dining room table as study central and inform the family that all hands are on deck with the daily responsibilities. I cram all of my work into the early part of the day or late into the evening in order to clear the hours needed to tutor him. My background is in teaching and I know how he learns. I am tutoring a subject in which I know next to nothing and praying for a miracle.

We pour through the text book, beginning pre World War One and discuss and converse and take notes.

“What was the event that triggered WWI?” I ask.

“The assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand.” He answers.

“Right, but remember, that is just the spark that ignites the war…there are four sticks of dynamite in Europe making ready for the explosion…what are they?”

Confidence fills his eyes “Militarism, Imperialism, Nationalism and Alliances.” He answers and goes on to explain each. I begin to believe my own words that anything is possible.

We take breaks hourly to let the new information settle and clear the path for more learning. “Can you believe the Germans sent a secret note to Mexico asking them to declare war on us to keep us distracted? And promised to give them some of our land in return?” I ask him, outraged at the news.

“What was that letter called, the “The Zimmerman Note?” he asks, checking his knowledge? Relief settles in my stomach. He is getting it.

Bleary eyed, we work our way through Hoover and the Great Depression. We wade through agencies, acts and programs with FDR’s New Deal. We watch as WWII wages in Europe and Dictators ruin the lives of their country’s people…Mussolini and Stalin and Hitler; the Great Famine and the Holocaust. The week is coming to an end and we are just reaching Pearl Harbor; days to go and we have much to learn before the studying can even begin. I begin to doubt my overzealous belief that he can learn a year’s worth of information in a week’s time.

On the last day, he tackles the two possible essay questions that will count for 45 of the 150 points on the test; a five paragraph essay with a thesis statement and all supporting facts to back it. He goes back to the drawing board many times until it meets my approval and then studies and re-writes from his head.

He takes his notes and new found knowledge Sunday evening to study with a friend. They pour over the study guide and he finds himself the teacher instead of the student, a process that I know will bring it all home.

We pull up in front of the school on Monday morning. Graduation is set for Wednesday. Everything rides on the outcome of this exam.

“Trust yourself.” I tell him “You know this stuff.”

He comes home feeling good about the test, but the waiting that day is endless. I prepare a speech in my head for either outcome, knowing that the more difficult one will be convincing him that the impossible is still worth fighting for, even if you don’t reach your goal.

I stand in the doorway to the family room where he is lost in playing the guitar. He sees me and freezes in mid rift.

“You know that you learned a year’s worth of information in one week and that it would have been easier if you had done the right thing all year.” I say, preparing him for the news.

He appears to not even be breathing and he is motionless. “I got an email from your teacher with your grade.” I tell him quietly. He swallows and says nothing.

“You got a 91. You are graduating. You did it!” I tell him.

His head falls back in silence, deep slow breath falls from his chest and his eyes close. All of the lessons that I have struggled to teach him about hard work and effort have finally made their way home in the very final hour.


As we sit watching the Graduates’ parade onto the green, the drizzle becomes light rain. I listen to speeches and see proud parents glow at the mention of their children’s achievements of honors and academic excellence.

Ours is a story different than most.

It is a story of struggle and despair.
It is the story of a near miss and an impossible challenge.
It is a story of hard lessons and obstacles.
It is a story of never giving up, reaching higher and harder and believing in oneself.

There is not a prouder parent in the audience.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wild Thing

“Read it again.” He would say in a voice that blended command with hopeful wishing. Blue eyes fixed, silk strands falling around his face, he would pop his thumb back into his mouth, bunching Blankie up tight in his lap. Tyler had an insatiable love to be read to. He also could not get enough of certain stories no matter how many times we read them. No. Matter. How. Many. Times! He had a special bond with Max, a kindred spirit from Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.


Night after night I read about Max driving his mother crazy “making mischief on one kind…or another,” Tyler taking in every detail with glee.


I would read “Max’s mother called him…”


“Wild Thing!” Tyler would yell around the thumb in his mouth.


“and she sent him to bed without his supper.” I would finish, watching a glaze of injustice ripple through Tyler’s eyes.


I never knew why this was his favorite story and wavered between the fact that he himself was a wild thing and the power Max finds over the frightening creatures by “staring into their yellow eyes without blinking once.” Probably a bit of both.


That seems a lifetime ago as Tyler just celebrated his 18th birthday. In classic Tyler fashion, he had a list of things to accomplish on that day, his own personal right of passage for this milestone. He planned to do everything on that day that he could not do the day before as a seventeen-year-old. The list included the obvious: take passengers in his car, buy a lottery ticket, buy cigarettes (even though he does not smoke,) buy reading material reserved for 18 and up and of course, get a tattoo.


You can imagine my reaction.


Wild Thing came to mind.


I was horrified.


I was also certain he would not go through with the tattoo. Tyler is not fond of needles.


I was mistaken.


Wild Things are forever.

Happy Birthday Wild Thing.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

LEVEL STRETCHES


Ebb and flow.

Fits and spurts.

Ups and downs.


Life is not intended to be consistent.


I have accepted this.


For a while, the pace at which I journeyed on my path would have the sort of predictable changes one would experience on a bicycle ride in New England. Looking ahead, a looming hill would allow for the preparation that the next stretch would be difficult and that momentum gained eased the struggle. Coming down the other side would require holding steady with the wind whipping my hair and gravel kicking up behind the tires; applying just enough brake to stay safe; eyes focused on the path rather than my surroundings.


Inevitably, living in New England, level stretches connect the hard pumping struggles and wind whipping rushes, allowing for a bit of coasting and the kind of leisure that allows me to breathe in the trees and whistle with the birds; absorbing the beauty surrounding the path.


Level stretches are where relationships flourish and ideas are born. Coasting allows for conversations with God and for contemplation to run free. Level stretches are where words find their way from racing thought to fingertips, zipping across invisible netting from coast to coast, blog to blog, screen to screen.


I love the level stretches.


I seem to have lost my way.


I do not recognize my path now.


The peaks and valleys are one after another, back to back, hill upon hill and I crave a long, flat, monotonous path to coast for a while.


Perhaps this is how the middle of life is.


Leaving behind the ease of predicable little children and reliable routines, racing day after day to keep up with work and schedules and deadlines, slipping in just under the wire again and again. Handing over car keys and trust all at once to the children whose lives are pulling them to separate. Check, check, checking off days on the calendar at a pace as rapid as eyelid flutter.


Maybe over the crest of the next hill it will come again; level ground for coasting.


I am ready.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

WITNESSING GRACE


The children gather noisily in the parish hall, waiting to make their surprise entrance into church. It is the second to last service for Father Hank and they have collected books to donate in his name to the Read to Grow program; he is unaware. He pops out from behind the Alter during the offertory hymn to see where the children are; he wants them up on the Alter for communion and he is reassured that they are coming.


In classic Trinity fashion, they are announced and make their way to the Alter, loose ends dragging everywhere. They are holding hand made cards and books, some yelling “Hi” to family members…”I’m up here, Mom!” A little girl bellows. They are not intimidated to approach the Alter, as I was in childhood; it is familiar territory to them. Hank gathers them close on Baptisms, Christmas Eve and here and there on a random or unknowingly meaningful Sundays to serve as Assistant Ministers.


As the group, ranging in age from one to thirteen, make their way toward him, he coaxes them all up beyond the Alter rail to stand with him in this Holy, Sacred space. “Come on up everyone, there’s plenty of room.” He smiles as they gather in number.


An announcement is made that the books have been collected by the children in his honor. “We know Father Hank loves books, even though most of the adults were hoping to give him live fish.” The parish applauds and chuckles. Each and every Christmas Eve when the children retell the story of the birth of Jesus, Hank preaches to them, as they sit gathered at his feet. On his first Christmas Eve with us, he talked about Jesus and his followers and how they had a secret code to say that they were Christians; the early Christian symbol of a fish. “I was wondering…. since it is Christmas and I want to give my friends a special gift, what I could give them to help them to remember Jesus” and of course, out came large cardboard boxes that contained Beta fish, complete with bowl and food; one for each and every child present.


We had three kids at the service.


We had two Beta fish at home already.


The following year it was Hermit Crabs, each in a small plastic aquarium with crab food and we worried that he would eventually work his way up to farm animals.


The children spread around the Alter like the smile on Hank’s face, some tugging on the linen and others rubbing fingers on the candelabra. “Father Hank…Hi!” A squirmy little girl said. “Hi” he beamed back. They continued to fill the corners as Hank flashed the sign language for “I love you” to them and they signed back; a symbol he taught them and used often. When he is sure he has everyone in place, he speaks to them. Deviating slightly from the liturgy, he explains to them about the last day Jesus had supper with his friends.


“We use this host, but Jesus took a loaf of bread and he broke it and told his friends that it was his body that would be broken for them. Now they didn’t really understand what he meant and we don’t really understand fully either. And then, because they had wine with supper, he took the cup of wine and told them this was his blood and again, they didn’t really understand.”


Hank paused, his small audience captivated. I kneel at the alter rail only a few feet away and wait for him to continue. He looks as if he is elsewhere and the pause lingers. I wonder if he has forgotten his place, thrown off-course by the little heads gathered by his knees or if he is caught up in emotion. With a visible shift, he returns, face flushed and looks out at the congregation. His eyes showing straight to his soul, he smiles and he says, “I just got a message from my good friend, Jesus. He said, ‘Now you’re catching on, Hank.’”


He continues with the story about how Jesus’ friends asked him how they should pray. “So he told his friends, well this prayer would be good.” The organ plays and voices lift the Lord’s prayer, little ones included. I struggle to sing passed the lump in my throat and Hank continues…


“…In unity, that means all together, in constancy, which is like steady as she goes, and most importantly… and this is what Jesus wants you to know most of all, in peace. And on the last day, bring us to your eternal kingdom, that’s Heaven; all this and so much more we ask in Jesus name.” He tells the children.


“These are the gifts of God for the people of God…that’s you,” he continues, as he holds up the bread. He stops and looks at them.



“Jesus loves you more than anything.” He says, as they nod. “I love you the whole world but Jesus, even more than that! He says, connecting with each of them.


He moves carefully around and between the little people “The body of your friend, Jesus.” He tells them. They depart one by one and I am in awe of lesson they are receiving. As a young child, I was taught that the Alter was taboo, forbidden, reserved for only Holy men; that the average person was not worthy to be so close to God in the sacredness of this Holy place.


I think back to a sermon long ago when Hank described Jesus’ relationship with children. Jesus asked that the children be brought to him and he welcomed them with open arms. This does not seem foreign to us, but as Hank put it, in His time ‘these were not your little Gap kids, all clean and cute.’ Children in those days were less than second class citizens and were unworthy and unimportant.


Hank has taught our children that each and every one of us is worthy in God’s eyes and Hank places himself no higher or spiritually greater than the sticky little fingers that tug on his robe.


To watch him today was to truly witness God’s Grace.

FAREWELL TO FATHER HANK

Farewells are never easy and this one harder than most. As Father Hank departs from his time with us to take him into retirement and to find out "What the heck God has in store for him next," we say farewell; Godspeed.

Three Things: Angels, Cell Phones and Hard Hats


I hold Sara’s furry little body in one hand. She is alive, but life is evaporating quickly and I rub her with one finger looking for some response. I put drop of water on her lips that rolls off and drips onto my hand along with Cadence’s tears. Hamsters are supposed to live two years and Sara is just a baby. It is time to leave for church and Sara makes her final exit, eliciting quiet sobs from Cadence. We place her in a check box and tuck her in with tissues, agreeing to a funeral service after church.


At the end of the service, Father Hank zigzags his recession from the alter, stopping to greet the smallest of parishioners along his path. His stop with Cadence lingers a moment as she speaks to him quietly about Sara. He speaks back to her, pats her back and then moves along. Later that evening after the funeral, I answered the telephone. “This is Father Hank and I was wondering if I could speak to my friend Cadence.” They chatted for quite a long time about Heaven and hamsters; Hank, whose life is enmeshed with so many, is never too busy for the needs of his parish, large and little.


Hank is always walking the walk; teaching by example. He is a vessel of divine interchange between God and his people. He reminds us regularly that we never know when we are entertaining angels unaware; witnesses to God’s grace daily as he uses people to do his work. Being with Hank is like entertaining an angel, but fully aware. I have never met a more humble servant to the Lord. Hank embodies absolute devotion; loyal to God’s truth and not to the restrictions of earthy policies.


For the last ten years, Hank has stood before us, Sunday after Sunday, breaking the rules designed by the church; radical in a peaceful, loving way. He stands before us, boldly breaking tradition with regulation and says that “Everyone… without exception…is invited to our Lord’s table.”


Having been raised a Roman Catholic, but an Episcopalian of ten years; I have adjusted to the group confession just before Communion. I have adjusted to the idea that all baptized Christians are eligible for Communion, even the very young. This was the biggest adjustment; children receiving communion without a formal right of passage at a designated age. At the age of three, Tyler asked one Sunday morning “Did Jesus say ‘take this all you grown-ups and eat it, this is my body given for you…’” That Sunday he received his first communion.


Hank reminds us regularly; Jesus did not say all of you Catholics or Episcopalians or even those of you without sin. He indeed said “Take this all of you…” and Hank takes him at his Word. Jesus outstretched a hand to the unclean, the sinners the lost and the exiled and said “Come, follow me.” I believe He speaks through Hank’s mouth on Sunday and every day.


Hank practices a unique method that combines divine communication and technology known to us fondly as: “Cell Phone Theology.” When faced with situations not clearly defined in the Pastor Play Book and even when they are and the plays don’t make sense, Hank engages in a prayerful state that uses that a high tech direct line to call Jesus for the absolute Word on WWJD. More often than not, the answer was clear all along.


Hanks sermons are laced with scripture and he speaks with bible ready in hand. On occasion, he uses other props and I am sure none of us will forget Hank preaching with his hard hat and life vest on. Our experience, he explains, is not to be a passive one, but one in which the Holy Spirit shakes things up and we need to be prepared for Him to move in and through our lives.


Father Hank describes our congregation as a beautiful New England pond; picturesque and placid on the surface but with a multitude of events happening beneath the surface; good and bad. He has taught us to be aware that the person to our left might be celebrating and the person to our right grieving; it is up to us to reach out to one another.


Father Hank preaches always in threes, beginning every Sermon with three points, seemingly unrelated and speaks poignantly, fluidly, pacing and pausing and feeling every word until he wraps the three together in a tight and powerful message. I believed that I have finally, after ten years, learned the three that he came to teach me.


I have learned to be open to angels and finally understand that some days they will surround me using the people in my path, and that at other times God will use me in a small but divine intervention in someone else’s life, as long as I remain open.


I have learned that doing what is right might mean stepping over the line; outside of the easy and the obvious. God’s answers to our questions are there for us when we learn how to communicate with Him.


I have learned that it is important to shake things up and to be prepared to

endure the bumps and sharp turns that may result. We are supposed to be actively partaking in this journey; not sideline observers.


And so as Father Hank prepares to move onward in his journey, I stand ready, hard hat on and cell phone in hand to mingle with angels and to practice the lessons that he has taught me over the last ten years. I am honored, grateful and blessed to have known Father Hank.

Friday, February 13, 2009

ROMANCE


He had one pink silk rose, forty dollars and a plan. Of course he doesn’t have a car and forty dollars wasn’t enough. “I want to give her roses and tell her that I will love her until all of the roses die…but see, one won’t die because it is silk.” He explains.

He wrote her a beautiful song, recorded it and put it on her iPod and waits anxiously for sixth period to end so he can leave school. I drive him to the florist to locate roses that match the silk one and yes, swipe the debit card where he comes up short.

“You can take the car.” I tell him before he asks, knowing he wants to bring them to her before the end of the school day. He scribbles on the card, dabs on some cologne and grabs the keys. I hand him the bag with the giant chocolate kiss I bought for him for Valentines Day, knowing he would rather give it to her than eat it.


“Thanks Mom.” He smiles as he departs on his mission.

“Drive carefully.” I tell him.


A+ for romance, I think to myself.