[Quiet Thoughts] Be Kind Anyway

Photo: Angel is on the hoop! So excited!!! I used a little liquid stitch to hold these early pieces in place (shhhhhhh, don’t tell anyone I’m cheating). Started stitching on the upper left wing today. I’m calling this the “proof of concept” angel. I could end up making upwards of 3 before Christmas. This first one, to get the kinks out, one for my mom and one for my sister. Wish me luck. That’s a lot of stitching between now and Christmas!

 

In the darkness of a lonely Bahamian alleyway, a man shot another man over something trivial. Maybe over nothing at all. The man who died was my uncle. That event was 30 years ago last Thursday.

Such an event is seismic, of course. At the epicenter was the widow he left screaming in the dark, the toddler girl home state-side with grandparents never to see her father again. The next ripple out included his parents, my grandparents, and the three siblings left behind. My father. His sisters. And then the next ripple out would be the rest: the spouses, their children, the friends, the acquaintances. The community. The future never to be. The absence. The ache.

When my two aunts put up their mourning posts on Facebook, my heart stopped. I was only 3 when my uncle died. I don’t even have the foggiest of memories of him. Yet his death represents an outsized event in my life because of all the choices made in the thereafter. The reactions and reactions to those reactions, the silences and the screams. The sisters figured out a way to live somehow, mostly tending to their father and now mother, my grandmother, who, in the haze of full-blown Alzheimer’s, is pictured on Facebook staring blankly at a pillow printed with pictures of my uncle. My Father began a long, quick-quick-slow descension  into understandable (but utterly destructive) mental illness. Picture a fireball explosion, the soundwave that blows over the buildings around it, and the long, unattended fire that ends up eating everything afterward. That’s my life with my father over the past 30 years. The fireball is shocking. The soundwave is devastating. But the fire, the fire is what does the most damage.

30 years of madness. I was direct witness for 25 of them. I’ll remind you (or tell you), I’ve been estranged from my father for 2 years.

But I called him last Thursday.

It was a stupid thing to do. Foolish and stupid. I did it because, well… It’s hard to stop loving a person, even the most harmful. I cannot talk to him, I can no longer allow him to be in my life. But of all the days in the whole wide world, on such a big anniversary, I thought it was wise to check in with him, to let him know he was thought of. Lord knows his two sons, now 14 and 6, don’t know anything about any of this. Yet they, too, are a direct result of all of it. All of it.

Unfortunately, I called a man who had not seemed to have learned anything. No lessons for 30 years, no lessons from the last 2. “I disagree with what you and your sister have done,” he said to me. “But you’re grown women who get to make your own decisions. I taught you how to do that.”

He spoke and spoke. A cascade of words. Mostly about how he can’t look back, always ever moving forward. “Regret is stupid. I don’t live with regrets. I get up and keep moving forward.”

We didn’t talk about his late brother. “I do wonder, sometimes, about what he would do if he were here,” he admitted eventually.

I do, too. I wonder how it all would have turned out.

He talked about his big future plans. Something about some business somewhere. “Gotta provide for my boys. I’m old as dirt. But I need 10 more years so I can raise my boys.”

His second wife has left him. She’s suing for custody. “Gonna fight her tooth and nail. Got my papers out. I can’t wait to go to court. Gotta fight for my boys. I’ll be damned. Gonna fight tooth and nail.”

I half-listened. Then he said.

“And you know why I didn’t fight for you and your sister?”

“Nope. And you know what? I don’t want to know.”

“Well, I’m going to tell you anyway,” he said.

“Actually, no. You’re not. I’m full and grown and I’ve decided that I don’t want to know. I don’t need to know. And I’m sorry I called you.”

Then came it all. The demands to know why. The questioning of all my choices. How could I? How dare I?

And then I hung up my phone.

Because I could. Because I can. Because I’m grown. Because 2 years wasn’t enough time. Because now I know: there will never be enough time.

There were other things said… but no need to share them here. The pain of it was surprising and swift, heavy and lasting. Alcohol numbs. Friendship relieves. Prayer heals, if slowly.

During Rector Search duties this week, I was introduced to the Paradoxical Commandments, often misattributed to Mother Theresa, but actually written by Dr. Kent M. Keith. I had never heard the prayer, but it really moved me. The lines particularly poignant for me this week are:

  • People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
  • The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
  • People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
  • Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.

That call was a hurtful mistake. One I hesitated to make, one that I regretted afterward. Yet, I know that the gesture was the right one. It came from a loving place, a knowing place, a dutiful place. It was the right thing to do. I did good anyway. I loved anyway. I gave my best. I got kicked in the teeth. I won’t make that particular mistake again. But I will spend my life loving anyway. And doing good anyway. And helping people anyway. And giving the world my best anyway. As I can. As I am able. Until I’m not able to anymore.

And that’s where my Quiet Thoughts are this Friday. This is a mean world. Sometimes you don’t have to go far to find the meanness. Encounter it and then counter it. Choose and then choose again. And again. And again. Choose to be kind anyway. Build the world you need right now. Build it because someone else needs it, too.

A chilly rain is falling in MetroWest this evening. A careful observer can find fuzzy things and green things, happy signs of good things to come. The biggest change out here is that water is moving again. Once still surfaces, suffering under the heavy oppression of frost and freeze, have returned to movement in dramatic fashion. Ponds and rivers lap and lash at low-paved roads, waving at cars passing by, glittering and glistening in the strong Spring sunshine. Our breaths are still held in waiting for the first kit sighting. Soon, soon, we hope.

Fridays are for wishes. This Friday, I wish you shelter. Shelter from the rain. Shelter from the cold. Shelter from the darkness. Shelter from the madness. Be it a favorite pub, your first baseball game of the season (GO O’s!), a new book to escape in, a new project on the needles, the planting of seeds for the new season, or anything else, let it be a comfort to you. Let it envelope you for a good chunk of time and hold back the pressures and the stresses. I wish you poetry. Something brief and beautiful. Something to print out (or tear out or copy or whatever) and put in a place where you can read it often. I wish you the opportunity to perform one act of kindness. Don’t worry about the consequences (within reason!), just do one kind thing. I wish you a good story, told by a very good storyteller, preferably over good food and wine. If you’re living in Massachusetts, visit my friend’s new restaurant in Lincoln! It’s excellent!  I wish you a squeeze of a hand, a kiss on the cheek, and the knowing that you are loved. Be sure to tell someone you love them this weekend. You never know how much that will mean to the person who hears it.

Dear Reader, you are loved anyway. You are loved because you are full and whole and human. You are loved because you make mistakes. You are loved because you make choices that others may disagree with. You are loved because you fall down sometimes. You are loved simply because you are and you are whole and you are real. Because you are loved with such profound depth, by more people than you will ever really know, I hope that you will choose to live today and every day choosing to love others the same way. Love anyway. Be kind anyway. Do good anyway. Build anyway. Help anyway. Give anyway. Shine your brightest anyway. Because you can. And you’ll make such a world of difference when you do.

Until Friday, take care anyway.

 

 

 

One Comment Add yours

  1. Ken says:

    Thank you for sharing. My mom is your father. I had many years of no contact. We are on a text a week regimen now. Even that can be painful.

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