Archive for June, 2005

Does anyone remember the scene in the second or third Star Trek movie — I forget which — when Dr. McCoy asks Jim Kirk how he’s feeling, Kirk answers, with a sense of wonder: “Young. I feel young.”

I feel old. More than that, I find, to my bemusement, that I am old. I am an old lady. I’m not sure how this happened, but this afternoon, I was bringing in a load of laundry from my clothesline, struggling up the back steps, all three of them, and wrestling with the laundry basket to get the back door open, and I realized what I probably looked like to the commuter traffic that was, at the time, streaming past my front door. If they even looked at all, that’s what they saw: a fat old lady wrestling with laundry. Sheesh.

And I hate leaving home, these days. Tomorrow we’re off to visit our son for his birthday, and I mean, come on, it’s not clear the other side of the world. We’re driving 400 or 500 miles to Pennsylvania, probably down through Massachusetts and Connecticut, into New York State, and across the Hudson River, maybe touching a bit on New Jersey before hitting Pennsylvania. And all I can think is two things: (1) Massachusetts has the worst drivers in the entire U.S. It’s a fact, it’s been proven by some insurance institute or other. And (2), HOW HIGH IS THAT D*** BRIDGE OVER THE HUDSON GOING TO BE?!?!?!?!?! I am terrified of heights, always have been. Give me childbirth any day. Yet I know he can’t come home — it’s the busy season for the railroad that employs him — and this is his first birthday away from home. And — well, I promised I wouldn’t say anything more about That Other Thing. (See back a few posts.)

Okay, so where’s all that Trust In God I’m always telling my kids they should have? Why can’t I just say, “OK, Lord, this trip is in Your hands, I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the scenery”?

Because I have 60 years’ worth of Other People’s Catastrophes rattling around in my brain. The time that a chunk of I-95 came crashing down, and all those cars hurtled into space. The 1989 San Francisco earthquake. TWA Flight 800, a whole lot of schoolchildren on their way to France for their senior trip having no idea that 11 minutes later, they’d be in pieces, floating in the Atlantic Ocean. A cloudless September day, a secretary sitting at her desk with her morning coffee, booting up her computer and looking up to see what that godawful noise was, only to find a jet-engine propeller boring down on her. 9/11.

Things happen.

Ironically, it’s not even that I mind the end of life, since I know it won’t be an end, but a beginning (I just hope it’s a good beginning…). I just don’t want to die in terror. I want my last few minutes on earth to be “painless, blameless, without shame or suffering,” and I want my last thoughts to be, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” not, “I can’t believe this is happening” — assuming I’m even capable of thought. What do you think about when you find yourself hurtling into nothingness??

It’s so old, not wanting to travel and see new places. Old people like to sit at home. Young people like to Go.

Pray for us on this trip.

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As I think I have posted before, I have been steadily transcribing the Matins and Vespers prayers of the Church into my computer, formatting them into a Franklin Compact planner size so that I can take them with me either when I travel, or on my way to class, or just out for a morning walk. It started when I first learned of praying the Hours, when I was 12; something about having a fixed time for praise and supplication has just always fascinated me, and when I came across a Horologion for laymen (now, unfortunately, out of print), I scarfed on it. That was something like 12 years ago. Then I attended the Summer School of Liturgical Music in Jordanville, NY (being at the time a choir director), and learned that there were a whole lot of other prayers that I wasn’t praying, and without them, I couldn’t learn the music I needed to in order to graduate from the course.

That finished me, and over the past year, I have been transcribing first the Octoechos, then the Triodion, and lately the Pentecostarion. I do have permission from my spiritual father, though he asked, “Did another priest tell you to do this, or is this something you dreamed up on your own?” Once I explained the circumstances to him, he blessed me to keep praying these prayers, and I must say that my understanding of the Church has taken off since reading the various Canons. For example, who knew that the entire week of the Fourth Tone has Canons to the Theotokos asking for her protection specifically from Moslems?? Could have used that around 9/11!

Today I have entered the rubrics for the Matins of the final Saturday of the Souls. There is no form of death that is not covered in these rubrics. It’s sobering to read prayers for people who have “been rent asunder by beasts, who have been devoured by fish, or who were buried in earthquakes or pits or under cliffs” — among many other forms of perishing. And all of them committed into the compassionate hands of the Lover of mankind.

It brings a thought to mind, though. We all have people in our lives whom we just can’t stand, who just rub us the wrong way. There are multitudes of people who have seemingly gone out of their way to wrong us. And there are people who have inadvertently wronged us, people who live to stir up trouble, and idiots with whom we share the road. And they all cross our paths at one point or another.

Now, someday, all these people will also die and face God. And what then? I mean, supposing you were already dead, and by God’s mercy you found yourself in paradise, and along comes this schmuck who tried to steal your job, or who made your work or school life miserable. And he’s standing there before God, being judged, and his life is the usual mess of good stuff and bad stuff that all of us have. You get to see him as he really is, wretched and trembling and possibly terrified at finding himself not in his body anymore. And — what? Would you really stand there and say, “I hope I don’t have to live with this guy in eternity, too”? Because what would be the alternative? Could you really hope *anybody* would spend eternity in hell???

I don’t think I could, and I’ve known some doozies in my lifetime. Thing is, there are people walking around out there who, when they say they’ve known some doozies in their lifetime — I’m at the top of their list. Yet I know I hope not to spend eternity in hell, so what makes me better than my own doozies? Which means…either I go to hell, or I’m gonna have to spend eternity with these characters. Including all those wretched teachers who made my son’s life so miserable when he was just a kid. You have no idea what forgiveness costs until you have to extend it to somebody who hurt your kid, especially when they should have known better.

Could I really wish them in hell, for eternity??….

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Visiting my priest yesterday, and since my daughter lives not too far away, I thought I’d pop over and see what she was up to. What she was up to was lying on the sofa, the victim of a tummy bug. She wasn’t writhing in agony, and she was able to hold a civilized conversation — well, as civilized as it can get with an almost-two-year-old showing off all his toys and his Ain’t-I-Cute flirty grin, which is very charming, but distracting when all I want to do is swoop her up in my arms and tuck her into bed with tea and toast and lots of mothering. Slight problem: Even when she was a little kid, she always hated that kind of fuss, and now that she’s an adult and would probably welcome it — I’m not quite sure how to go about offering it. And then there’s the Grandma Thing: How do I fuss over The Baby without making my own “baby” feel as if her only use in life is producing entertainment for The Grandparents?! I like my kids, not just their offspring!

Once I was back home, a tree service showed up to do some yard work I’d contracted for — nothing radical, just clearing out some saplings that are growing inconveniently close to the house, and fertilizing a couple of ornamental trees we bought two years ago. (I’m sure I could do this, if I knew what I was doing. With my track record, though, I’d feed them something that would be sure to kill them off.) Got chatting with the cutter, and discovered that (a) he had gone to the same college as my son, and (b) he knew my son, not from the college, but from the place where they both worked. We had a lovely chat about forestry in general and my trees in particular, and my son incidentally; then, when he had gone, I e-mailed my son to tell him this guy had said Hi.

And lurking in the background — hope I’m not boring anyone with this same old tale — is an awful awarenesss of two people with whom I once shared daily life, two very special people who just aren’t Daily anymore. It’s a weird feeling, to visit these adults in their own homes, in the environment they have created for themselves, and some of it is very familiar and some of it is so different, I wonder whose looking glass I stepped through. (Case in point: When we visited our son in November, I walked into his house and found it full of Mission-style furniture. I would never, in a million years, have chosen Mission for him while he was living at home; but the second I saw it, I said, “Yes, this IS Chris.” It suits him exactly. Our daughter, on the other hand, has so much furniture from home that walking into her house isn’t all that different a feel at all.) It’s so strange to see these two competent, capable adults carrying on with the business of life — and still remember when they really needed a parent to direct that business for them. I’m very proud of them. I wish I could see a whole lot more of both of them.

However, one of the great benefits of having adult children is being able to relate to them on an entirely new and much more equal level. Yesterday my daughter was telling me about a singer named Tom Waite (or it might be Waites, can’t remember — he’s generally so far off my radar scope, he’s in another dimension), who was described as “Cookie Monster with a fifth of Wild Turkey.” And then she put on a Tom Waite CD. I howled — the imagery was so bang-on accurate! I’ll never look at Cookie Monster the same way again! Thanks, Christa.

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Tone 8: It is the day of Resurrection;/ let us be radiant for the festival,/ and let us embrace one another with joy./ Let us say, O brethren, even to those that hate us:/ Let us forgive all things on the Resurrection:/ and thus, let us cry:

Christos anesti ek nekron,/ thanato thanaton patisas,/ ke tis en tis mnimasi, zoin harisamenos!

Christ is risen from the dead,/ trampling down death by death,/ and on those in the tombs bestowing life!

Christos voskrese iz smertvikh,/ smertiu smert poprav,/ i sushnim vo grobekh zhivot darovav!

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I purposely kept this off the other blog, which I know these two read, just so I wouldn’t exacerbate the situation. It’s been a long, long time since I had to deal with this kind of…well, I guess I’d better not say it. No point making things worse.

I will say this, though. Those of you who are mothers know this: There is no worse pain than watching your kids hurt. You would do anything on earth to stop that pain, and when you can’t, you need to talk about it. This is a girl whom we welcomed into our home, were prepared to accept into our family, loved not just because our son did but because she is genuinely loveable — and to read the kind of response I just have, takes my breath away.

I notice no one is saying anything about dissing me….

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