Sunday, July 31, 2016

July 31: Wonder Twin's Backyard, Fannie Flagg, Classic Saint Marty

This evening, I went to my friend Wonder Twin's house.  It was Book Club night.  Our get-together was supposed to be this past Thursday, but Wonder Twin's mother took a spill and got a little banged up (bruised face and arm, skinned knees).  We had to postpone until tonight.

It was worth the wait.  We barbecued hot dogs and bratwurst, ate fruit and hummus, and talked about Fannie Flagg's novel Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!  It was a really great night.  Usually, our book club meetings last about two hours or so.  We sat around in Wonder Twin's backyard for four hours.  (My son went in the hot tub and hunted Pokemon.)

I am home now, near exhaustion.  I've spent the whole weekend working on lecture notes and the final exam for my online film class--about eight hours yesterday and another four hours today.  It's ready to go now, and I'm ready for bed.

I do have an episode of Classic Saint Marty that aired one year ago.  I don't remember writing this post, but it's so full of hope.  It didn't make me sad rereading it.  It reminded me what a fighter my sister was, how she never gave up.  It made me happy because I felt her spirit in it.  I'm not wallowing here.  I'm celebrating.

July 31, 2015:  Something Beautiful, George Burns, A Frank Fairy Tale, Sharon Olds, "The Struggle"

On his back, Robert must have had time to see something beautiful, and not just the ugliness of a city street at the end of life.  Even with the tremendous pain in his badly gutted belly he would have looked up beyond the fire escapes and the windows with their glittery trees and television glows, to the sky above the rooftops.  A sky shimmery with the possibilities of death; light exaggerated, the heavens peeled back--a swirling haze of nebulae and comets--in some distant place, intimations of the new beginning into which he would soon journey.  He would have seen a few pale stars, maybe a planet or two, Jupiter or Venus. Remembering his Catholic schoolboy's mythology he might have imagined Apollo and his chariot, somewhere "out there."  And he would have seen the moon and its sad expression and imagined in its pocked luminous surface the faces of his mother and father and sister . . . The moon?  Was it out that night?  Ives tried to remember.

Ives is trying to picture his son's last moments of life, on the sidewalk, bleeding, struggling for breath, staring up at the starry night.  He imagines that Robert saw something beautiful and comforting--meteors and stars and planets, clouds of cosmic gases, a Greek god.  Above all, Ives wants to believe that Robert wasn't alone, that, in the bright face of the moon, he saw his family smiling down on him.

As a Christian, I believe that death is an entry into something better.  That's what I've been taught my whole life.  When I was younger, I really liked the image of God as George Burns, smoking cigars and telling jokes.  Vaudeville.  I imagined God performing in the Catskills.  "Did you hear the one about the snake and the naked woman?" He would say.

Something better.  That's what Heaven is supposed to be.  The other day, one of my best friends said this about my sister:  "She's only 54.  She's not ready to die yet."  I guess my friend is right.  My sister had the same Catholic upbringing I had.  The Virgin Mary and the manger and Jesus and all.  Every night when I was a kid, my family would get down on its knees and pray the rosary.  Clouds and angels and harp music.  We all believed in God's goodness and mercy.

My sister isn't ready to be measured for her wings just yet.  Even in her diminished state, she's been pretty adamant about that.  The doctors have asked her if she wants to be kept alive by any means possible, and my sister has answered very clearly, "Yes."  So George Burns is going to have to wait for a little bit, if my sister has her way.

I saw a picture of my sister this evening.  She was sitting on the side of her hospital bed, a nurse kneeling in front of her, in case she should fall.  I haven't seen my sister out of bed for over six or seven months.  She's thin, having lost close to 120 pounds over the last half year.  She looked pretty exhausted to me.  When my sister goes to the bathroom, there's blood in her stool.  That's to be expected with the chemo.  She's probably going to need a transfusion.

She's weak but determined to stick around.

Once upon a time, a little angel named Frank was put in charge of sweeping Heaven every night.  Frank had to clean up after all the archangels and cherubim and seraphim.  After choir practices, he spent hours putting away sheet music and musical instruments.  Frank never got a day off.

The day Jesus was born, Frank dusted all the stars.  He polished the angel harps and trumpets.  He counted all the halos.  Fluffed all the wings.  Frank made sure that first Christmas was perfect.

After all the shepherd and star and magi crap was done, Frank sat down to rest a little.

But God, who looked a little like George Burns, said, "Nice work, Frank.  I like this Christmas stuff.  We should do this every year."

Frank looked at God and said, "I don't think it'll catch on.  But let me tell You about a little thing I cooked up called an iPhone."

Moral of the story:  Heaven is just an app away.

And Saint Marty lived happily ever after.

The Struggle

by:  Sharon Olds

When the minister would come into the hospital room
my father would try to sit up, he would cry out
Up!  Up! for us to raise his bed-head, then
silently he would wrestle himself
up, sweating, he would end up
leaning on the pillows, panting, a man, erect.
The minister would kiss him, they would pray, then chat,
he would hold his eyes open unblinking,
rigid adherent to the protocol of the living,
he would sit for the whole visit, and then,
the minute the man was out the door, cry
out Down!  Down! and we would lower him
down, and he would pass out.
Later the doctor wold pay a call and as
soon as my father saw that white coat
he would start to labor up, desperate
to honor the coat, at a glimpse of it he would
start to stir like a dog who could not
not obey.  He would lurch, pause,
then thrust up slowly, and unevenly, like a
camel, a half-born animal--the way,
they say, his soul will pull itself up
out of his dead body and wobblingly
walk.  And then, one day, he tried,
his brain ordered his body to heave up,
the sweat rose in his pores but he was not
moving, he cast up his eyes as the minister
leaned to kiss him, he lay and stared, it was
nothing like the nights he had lain on the couch passed
out, nothing.  Now he was alive,
awake, the raw boy of his heart stood
up each time a grown man
entered his death room.

God bless you all!

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you had an awesome book club gathering.

    Glad you have your sister's spirit keeping you company.