Kintsugi (huh?)

kintsugi-1-e1439584328650The Japanese have an awesome way with broken things. Their 500 year old art of kinsugi or ‘golden joinery’ restores broken objects, using a silver or platinum laquer. They don’t pretend something isn’t damaged; they repair it with gold leaf to enhance, not hide the breaks. A piece that was priceless becomes more so. To the Japanese, the spiritual background or history of the piece is what is important making the piece more beautiful for having been broken. This belief is woven from their philosophy of wabi-sabi, meaning to ‘find beauty in broken things’. Wow.  How much more are we, who have been broken by loss, disappointment, and other life crises, deserving of a little gold leaf – or a lot.

I’m not saying everything in us can be healed. Like make-up, even gold leaf can’t make devastated pretty. There’s nothing that make losing a mother too early, a child ever or a spouse suddenly – ‘okay’. That pain can never be erased; maybe it can never be completely healed. Some things just can’t be ‘fixed’. That kind of broken leaves us irrevocably altered. All we can do is try to patch our lives as best we can, and bear witness.  If a bit of gold leaf helps do that, definitely gild the broken.

We are not less because we are broken. Our torn places are testament to our history. To elevate the cracks, the painful scars on our spirit, is to reincarnate the spirit of the person who is no longer here.

Real estate has a cutesy name for a house that needs a boatload of work – handyman special. I suspect the only people who get warm fuzzies from this term are those who love a challenge – as well as their hammer and drills. Sometimes I love to DIY broken or time-worn challenges, though not always successfully, especially if they required a drill.  Still, I try. Continue reading

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Guilt Trip

LettingBirdsGo

No one programs this trip into GPS but, survivor guilt is something anyone who’s lost someone feels at one time or another. The soldier who returns from devastating traumas of war. A parent who’s lost their precious child. Siblings, like my sister and I, who lost a young brother. Those still standing after a disaster. Or maybe, like me, you were the ‘healthy’ one to the partner no longer here.

Being a survivor isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

Yet, survivor’s guilt is ridiculously normal. (Yea, I’m normal!) Teeny bit or boatload, it’s not unhealthy, even if it feels that way sometimes, unless of course it doesn’t ease over time, becomes overwhelming or obsessive. If it does, there is always help waiting to reset the balance. But even when survivor guilt is the run of the mill, ‘normal’ kind, it’s still a buzz kill.

Don’t get me wrong. Having done everything I possibly could, every day and year I had my husband, I live with no guilt about my life with him. He and I did the very best we could with what we were handed, and when he left this planet, I know he left knowing, as I did, that love survived it all. So what’s the guilt about then?

I’m here — and he’s not.

When my young brother died, I was a new mom, complete with house and babies, but he didn’t live to have any of it. It felt so wrong, so ridiculously bizarre, that his life was stolen and mine was beginning. He’s been gone many years; my husband only two yet, an empty space is still an empty space. Their journeys carved gaping holes, making it easy to think – why them and not me?

The hole only a grandpa could fill was never more glaring than at my granddaughter’s engagement party this past weekend. Our beautiful, sometimes rebellious teen, with a gorgeous singing voice, has become a gorgeous, gracious soon to be Mrs. I didn’t have to ask if she, too, was remembering the grandpa who mentored her, taught her to drive, loved and believed in her. She is the woman we always knew she would become yet her doting grandpa won’t be here to share her wedding next year. As we celebrated the engaged couple with laughs, hugs, toasts and enough steaks, and beer to float all the milennials’ boats, I believe he was there. I suspect he watched as paparazzi gramma snapped away, soaking up every bit of happy with my kidlets and grands. I wondered, was he watching somewhere in the ethernet, teasing our grandgirl about ever present can of Red Bull? Did he whisper to her ‘You did good, sweetie’? I’ve never been into Houdini vanishing acts and can’t say what he can see or feel (he’s not talking) but I believe that chatty man would never miss that party.

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An Accident . . . of Fate

MyCarRingI don’t know who she was. I don’t know her name, age or where she was going that sunny Saturday noon. But a few nights ago I was told that she, an unsuspecting passenger in the car that hit mine that Saturday — died. I had wondered, in the days since, if she and the driver, not much older than I, were alright given the force of the crash. The truth did not set me free, if indeed I had needed it. Instead, her death hit hard and I grieved for a woman I never knew, who was merely a bit player in a sad, now deadly scenario.

I should be used to life’s wayward swings, its errant pendulum. How else could I explain the crazy things that happen in mine and everyone’s life? Could there another explanation for why, leaving my husband for just an hour, I came home to find him dead of an embolism? Was it his crazy luck of the draw or mine; God’s ‘plan’ or the universe blinking? Whichever way we toss the cards, we’ll never get to hold a full house for long. Even if we get a straight flush in our grasp, none of us hold on to it forever.

Accidents don’t come with a bell around its neck.

When I envision that fateful day, just 3 weeks ago, I wonder what might have changed the trajectory of each of our fates. Maybe I could have browsed longer for gifts or took another route home. The mom driving the car behind me, could have taken the kids that usually sat in the empty car seats instead of likely leaving them with her husband so she could run some quick errands. And the car barreling toward both of us? What put them on that road, in the wrong lane and speeding without slowing down. Were they going to visit friends, grandchildren, even an early movie? All I know is that something went terribly wrong that noon hour and a woman is dead because of it. The driver? I have to think a spirit is broken, and a heart is heavier than the weight of all three of the cars.

Just one moment can change everything. A momentary lapse in judgment or ability can happen and, in a blink of an eye, something irrevocable happens. That kind of realization can cause a mighty kick in the gut.

Message received. Continue reading

Making America ‘Real’

American-Flag-Faces

Immigrant makes good. That’s the dream every pilgrim held as they sailed to these shores and it came true for some — not all. If your eye or skin color didn’t match the Mayflower brand, you had a tougher time and some were often stuck in time; the wrong time. The dreams of today’s immigrants are no different. Armed with culture, appearance and beliefs dramatically different than ours, that big open door often gets stuck. Many Hispanics, Muslims, and Vietnamese find themselves outside looking in, a ‘no vacancy’ sign neatly posted. Many achieve US citizenship but will always seem less than equal to natural born Americans. Most ironic is that many of those ‘less thans’ have fought and died for the country they’ll never achieve ‘same’ status in.
 “The McNichols, the Posalskis, the Smiths, Zerillis, too
The Blacks, Irish, Italians, the Germans and the Jews
Come across the water a thousand miles from home
With nothin’ in their bellies but the fire down below
They died building the railroads worked to bones and skin
They died in the fields and factories names scattered in the wind
They died to get here a hundred years ago they’re still dyin now
The hands that built the country were always trying to keep down”     Bruce Springsteen
Nearly 40 million American neighbors, co-workers are foreign born. Unfortunately, many of us didn’t get that memo. Watching the Charlottesville, VA protests, the often hidden underbelly of American prejudice raised an ugly head. It was hard not to be ashamed and indignant hearing the hateful rhetoric and bizarre beliefs. We are all people whose ancestors escaped caste systems, brutal prejudice, and pillaging to come here. We don’t get to vanquish others and still pretend to be the good guys. Newsflash, people – there is no making America ‘white’ again; it never was in the first place. So those Neo-Nazi flags, the KuKluxKlan torches? Um, no, not in MY America.
I have blonde (helped a little) hair and blue/green eyes. Didn’t put in the order for it, especially as an Italian American, I just came that way. But what if I didn’t? Anyone who’s struggled to pick a paint color for their living room, knows there are dizzying shades of white. We mix different genres of design style and call it ‘eclectic’ and our blended cuisines become chic ‘fusion’.  Yet, we somehow can’t find the coolness in the people variety.
When I was in grammar school, one of the sweetest girls I’ve ever known arrived from Argentina. My town was so white bread, so generational in its population, that her pierced ears alone made her exotic if not suspect. Her parents’ warmth and love each time I visited their apartment made me feel more welcome and understood than I sometimes did in my own home. More than 60 years later (gulp) I still treasure my beautiful Argentine friend, partner in crime at our all-girls high school, bridesmaid in my (first) wedding, and still one of my dearest friends. When my youngest daughter was small, her lifetime friend came from Japan. That little girl learned English with the help of my daughter and her best bud (son of my best bud) who patiently pointed out trees, clouds, and other sights each day in car pool. Now both young moms, they still hold each other in heart, separated only by ocean. Hey, how else would my daughter have discovered those Japanese donuts with potato filling she loves? (I’ll still pass, thank you)

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