Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Plaid by Forrest Hyden


Plaid us home. Plaid is protection in a flannel lumberjack’s jacket. It is warmth in a pair of red and black pajamas. Plaid is dad’s Saturday work-in-the-garage shirt and mom’s spaghetti sauce stained cooking apron.

On the physicist’s shirt, its metric lines reflect the inner core of organization—the mind’s linear thoughts visible on the body’s curved outer shell. The intersecting lines of color—some broad and some narrow—converge like beams of information, forming a grid of interlocking knowledge.

The strong red, black, and gray bars on a logger’s jacket provide fortification against the elements. A modern day knight, the lumberjack rides into battle on his ATV with his axe as a sword and his flannel for a shield. The simplicity of the pattern lends strength to the wearer (and, indeed, bearer) of the crosses.

Plaid is sensible. Plaid is stronger and more dignified than his brother, Stripe (who could always be found hanging around baseball teams and prisoners), yet he retains the quiet, austere humbleness his cousin Polka Dot so noticeably lacks.

Plaid is not noble. He will never be President, a CEO, nor a lawyer. However, plaid will be the silent strength behind these people. He will be the one to make sure that the job gets done—correctly and on time. He will be the crossing support beams on your shirt, your jacket, and your skyscrapers. Plaid is the silent hero

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Empty Nests

Since last fall, I've been haunted by some words my sister said.  We were talking about our respective teenagers and grousing how they pay rare attention to us anymore.  Gone are the spontaneous hugs, handmade Mother's Day cards, tickle fights, hand prints in hardened plaster, Santa Claus and unconditional love.   We are definitely entering the phase where we want them but they don't need us.  Then my sister made the comment I can't get out of my mind -- "Are the best times in life really over?"

I wanted to scream "No!"   Of course it can't be true.  We live in a culture that celebrates tomorrow even when today screams "Uncle."  But after seven months of pondering the existential question of "Are my best days behind me," I had to come to a reluctant and almost whispered "yes."

Don't get me wrong.  I'm hopeful for some good times ahead.  Maybe even lots of good times like becoming a well-paid, full-time writer.  Or seeing more of the world and traveling to many new places.  And if I'm really lucky, a grandmother.  I love to spoil babies rotten.  Just ask my dog.

Still, the truth remains.  The best times are over and that's okay.  So what does that mean for the time I have left?

My friend Nancy, a sixty-five year old social worker who serves people on hospice lifted up the epiphany I sought.  I overheard her describing her job to someone else.

"I visit patients and their families.  I help them get financial support if they need it or I help them put their final wishes in order.  I listen to their concerns.  Sometimes I just hold a patient's hand and we sit in silence. Every day I know I've made a difference in someone's life."

For me there has been no greater joy than having and raising my kids, but making a difference in the lives of others is a near second.  I'll focus on the later as the nest empties.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I'm Breaking In

Last night I had a familiar dream.  I'm back at the UT Austin campus and I'm making different choices than the ones of thirty years ago.  I decide to live in a dorm instead of an apartment.  I sign up for classes I want to take instead of ones I believe will mean I'm talented, smart and confident.  My parents worry about me and call me all the time even when I'm snotty about all the attention.. The registrar's office is up a steep hill and I never climb it before I wake up, but unlike previous dreams, I don't lack one Spanish credit to graduate.   I expect to fail instead of succeed, and I'm old -- every bit of 48 years.

For the past five years or ten, I awaken sad and angry from this recurring dream because I cannot hit the reset button of my youth.  I can no longer be the medical doctor my 'C' in Freshman Chemistry prevented long ago.  I can't go to another college, one smaller and better suited to my learning needs than the Titanic that was U.T.  I can't go back and say no to all those distractions -- one of whom became my husband.  And these are just the university years.  Thankfully, I don't dream too often about my daughter -- the one before she got sick.  How does the subconscious reveal a broken heart?  Even my inner guru doesn't want to go there.

But today I didn't wake cranky but hopeful; I can push the reset button -- not as the young woman (I'd like to go back and tell her a thing or two and give her some good mothering, God knows she needed it), but as the old woman I'm becoming.  Slowly, mind you, but I'm creaking along.  It is just a matter of time.

I hope figuring out the dream means I won't have it again.  While so many dreams for my life are now closed, I'd really like to slam shut youthful regrets.
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human one.
Teilhard deChardin