In this progressive age, many of us find ourselves hundreds, if not thousands of miles from our loved ones, specifically our grandchildren. Maintaining long distance relationships becomes a choice that takes initiative, creativity and consistency. One cannot be there for all the momentous events much less the quiet formative moments that impress our lives and shape our relationships.
All nine of my grandchildren are scattered on various coasts of this beautiful country. We try to visit regularly and meet on the cell. We are thankful for those opportunities. Yet, even these opportunities don’t fill the void that time and space create in this ever changing world.
I remembered…as a young mom, twenty five hundred miles away from my own grandma, how her letters became the light of my days. Her daily life, thoughtfulness, and consistency gave me stamina and inspiration to get through sleepless nights and lonely days without the companionship of family in close proximity.
I started my letter writing campaign with the youngest granddaughter, who was two at the time. I progress through all the grandchildren from youngest to oldest. I try to write at least one letter a week.
Everyone likes to get something in the mail these days, as it has become a rarity. But what to write? I keep it simple. I include my affection for them, a memory that we have shared, a memory of mine when I was their age and in closing, I tell them what I am praying for them. With my older grandson, I began reading some of the books that he is reading and I will tell him what I appreciate about the story and characters. To sweeten the letter, I include a little treat to share with siblings. It could be gum, stickers, balloons or a dollar bill, depending on the ages and interests of the kids.
Letters are something one can pull out whenever and reread as often as the need arises. Letters are a subtle way that one can influence without the harshness of sound where words lose there meaning. Letters comfort. Letters give meaning to moments. Letters help time to stand still. Letters help us to go back to the future. Letters keep relationships alive.
(In gratitude to my grandmothers and mom, who wrote faithfully: Thank you!)
In my mind Malcolm X represented the violent voice of the civil rights movement of the 60’s. As more voices, stories and books emerge, his autobiography is not one that many people will pick up. In not knowing some of these stories, I become unaware of the injustices and brokenness that still fills our country and world. Even though, I could not agree with Malcolm’s views, I certainly got a better picture of the of a minority struggling for justice, identity and safety.
I am not sure if you could call it a real autobiography, as Alex Haley wrote it. But Mr. Haley is such a good writer, I will not quibble about that. This book read like a movie, not the usual introspection of the Memoir of today. Malcolm experienced the injustice of the racist rabble that was horrific, deplorable and inexcusable. Out of that came his confession of his illicit and dysfunctional lifestyle that only added more misery to his life. In prison he converted in an extreme way to the Nation of Islam movement. It was in this movement, that Malcolm found identity, purpose and respect. In his passion he followed the leader fanatically and quickly moved up in the movement until the leader became jealous and turned on him to the point of putting a death threat on him.
Malcolm adopted views of black supremacy and condoned self protection to point of death. This might be where he got his reputation for being violent.
Besides these strong views, he was a misogynist to an extreme. His view of women , particularly in his younger years had no grounds. It was inconsistent with his view of justice- justice for the black man, but women needed to keep their place.
At one point he goes to Mecca, and on that trip he seems to go through another conversion, where he softens his view of white people. He finds that he is accepted, treated as an equal, even admired and respected with the Caucasian race in his travels. He breaks with the Nation of Islam and begins to gravitate to the Sunni Muslims. In his life, he doesn’t hide his mistakes or discredits his story. I value it, and learned from it, even though I didn’t experience his trials or respond in the ways he did.
Malcolm despised such characters that supported the seemingly passivity of Uncle Tom. He made Uncle Tom out to be a wimpy ineffective excuse of a person. I would say to Malcolm: One must consider the times. As hard as the 1960’s were for the black people, the 1800’s were far worse. They needed a white women to speak up. They needed the Uncle Tom’s. The Uncle Toms were in reality strong men. C. S. Lewis would rightly call them, men with stomachs. He did not fight with his fist or a gun but he did with his prayers, consistency, integrity, love and his encouragement for others to escape their bondage.
Much has been said about Martin Luther King, Jr. but Malcolm did not even approve of his methods. In his passion, he seemed to forget that it takes many kinds of people to forge a movement of change, not just one kind or one way. It would do us and our politicians much good to remember that point. That we could heed the instruction of the Apostle Paul, who was unjustly imprisoned at the time:
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped,m when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
One place that we can start in the building up the body of our nation, culture and people is to know and share the stories of each other. In this time of unrest and lock down-do as the little song says that changed the life of Augustan so long ago: Tolle Lege: Take up and Read. Be thoughtful.
Some of my favorites that have been so helpful in opening my eyes to the struggle of our African American brothers and sisters include:
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe : It is better than you think!
Native Son by Richard Wright: This one was a tough, it might not be one for anyone processing any trauma of any kind. I didn’t enjoy it, but it does give a picture of the struggle.
My favorites are non fiction:
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written By Herself by Harriet Jacobs
Life and Times of Frederick Douglas by Frederick Douglas: I don’t know why they took his statute down. He was an amazing person, who we all can admire for his courage, wisdom, integrity and perseverance.
When does summer really start? I realize the summer of the Northern Hemisphere is different than the Southern Hemisphere. We have the location of the sun to tell us when. But what really makes it “when”? Is it the temperature? the vacation? the produce? the new outfit?
The temperature is still soaring with a high of 93, as it has been for the last three days and will be for the next week at least. Being Michigan, it doesn’t cool down at night. (I am so thankful for air conditioning, but only in the last 4 years!)
Since our Lake Michigan has lost much of it’s beach in this area, that’s not an option. Inland land lakes are too warm and buggy. No parades or fireworks this year. Most people we have talked to are not doing anything this holiday weekend.
Sometimes we don’t do anything because we just can’t! Sometimes we just don’t want to. In this day when we seem to get our significance from doing, instead of being, it’s sometimes hard just to sit still and enjoy the peace and quiet, when our mind remembers the livelier Fourth of July parades, fireworks, and Bar-B-cue with friends and family. There is always a bit of loss for those who have enjoyed this holiday.
My memories of the 4th of July were not nearly as exciting as my husbands. For people from a non-farming community, vacation and fun in the summer is an entitlement. For him it was a parade, going to the community park for tractor pulls, going to the lake with friends , fireworks and endless fun.
For those of us from a farming community in central California, celebrations in the summer were an obstacle to getting the work done. My holiday consisted of going to my grandparents farm at the end of the day for home made fireworks – which fascinated us enough and home made ice cream and then home to bed to be able to have an early start the next day.
Once we had our own family, we tried to carve out our own tradition but nothing ever stuck. We would go to my husband’s hometown and try to embrace his excitement but you can never go back to those carefree days-friends and family grow old and disperse.
One year, a couple of my kids marched in the Washington DC parade. All I can remember is how hot it was for all of us. I did appreciate the misery of our forefathers though on those miserable hot July days trying to make such cataclysmic decisions.
I can’t help but think about the first Independence Day. It wasn’t so neat and clean as it appears in the famous painting by John Trumbull with all our founders calmly standing around, signing this perilous defining document that set the wheels in motion for the existence of our country.
It wasn’t a neat, clean, fun day. It was hot, sticky and muggy. The signing of the document put people’s lives and livelihoods in danger. Families and friends would be divided. And the bloodshed and work only just began…The revolution could have been a disaster as so many have been afterwards and our founders all knew it.
The blessings we have today are beyond what any generation could even imagine. So if you are sad because you can’t go back or don’t have any grand plans try to enjoy what you have at hand, even if it is just a place to sit, look up, remember and thank our God for the blessings of freedom, even if its not perfect.
The last few weeks, along with the shutdown and racial unrest and protest, have brought visits of grandchildren, news of a loved one entering his last month of life due to cancer, birthdays celebrated and our aging mother not able to live on her home and needing to move on.
This is the stuff life is made of and it still goes on amidst covid, protests, wars and peace.
We can’t stop the ever rolling tide of time any more than we can stop the waves of the ocean. We can only stand a stare until the sun sets and the stars come out and the cold night drives us into our homes.
We want it to be spring forever and suddenly the dandelions turn to seeds and the summer turns to fall and when the leaves fall, the days grow shorter and darker and soon the night is upon us.
As the shut down comes to a close and life speeds up again. I take one more glance back to those few weeks, I had time to savor my moments, value my loved ones, worship my God and to learn life’s lesson that we are not here forever.
“For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died ad lived again that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” Romans 14:8,9
Two years ago, it was the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the great influenza pandemic. Several books came out on the subject. At the time I was not interested in the topic, no matter how good the writer.
A few weeks ago, as I listened to the media drone on and on about THEIR opinions, drowning out any real facts, I remembered the stories. I chose to read The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, by John M. Barry.
Surprise, surprise…our current situation is not “unprecedented” , unless one considers that we have antibiotics now to rescue those who get a secondary infection that is bacterial.
I am not medically inclined by any stretch of the imagination, but I did appreciate the historical context of the development of the science of research in medicine. The men Mr. Barry introduced were true pioneers in this new field. I was able to understand the whole problem of the “virus” better. I, also, have a handle on discerning the spurious critiques of the masses. As a disclaimer, I have to say, I am not struggling with an extraordinary fear of the virus but hopefully have developed a healthy respect for it.
Without spoiling the ending, there is no cure. However, the attempt to find the source and vaccine much was accomplished and learned through the process. We are much further along in the process and have been able to staunch the wave of misery that swept the world 100 years ago.
It is a fascinating and relevant read if you are looking for something to finish off your quarantine.
Now that we are coming to the end of the shut down for now, we look forward with questions to the future. We still are not sure if we should plan anything extravagant like a cruise, even though we might like to, but we might be able to plan a little family get together without the fear of spreading COVID or getting fined or frowned at by a neighbor.
We wonder how long before we can resume a somewhat normal life. How long before we can work again? How long before we can go home or leave home(depending on your situation)? How long before we can start to plan things again? Or have some control over our lives?
Things will most likely never be the same as before COVID, but before our lives resume the new pace, take a few minutes to jot down a few things about life before COVID.
Remember when. . .
I made the resolution to carve out time for Silence and Solitude?
The wipes in the car dried out from disuse?
Grocery shelves full and we didn’t wear masks?
Kids from different families shared play dough?
The planes were so packed, I hoped to have a seat by a skinny person?
It’s been a different season. For me, there are things I don’t want to go back to. . .and I do appreciate having time with the people with whom I actually live, but I miss our care free people time when we packed as many people in the house as we could and spilled outdoors when the house got full!
While I am writing my blog or reading others I can hear at least four different bird sounds. We live in a little woods and the birds abound. The longer we live here the more I see and learn about our bird friends.
The Birds their carols raise
Life is filled with mundane chores such as exercise just for the sake of exercise in our first world culture. I also am a homemaker so I am in the kitchen and am chopping vegetables and preparing and cleaning up food. I do laundry. I have learned to find stimulating things to listen to.
Here are some of my current favorites:
Audible books or for us we can download audio books from our library.
This is a great new resource. It is not a fear creator. Along with the news there are special feature stories that are relevant but not agenda driven. Other related podcasts that WNG puts out include: The Olasky Interview and Listening In
Social Commentary on the culture today. Well done.
The Next Right Thing
Emily Freeman has a soothing voice and has an encouraging and helpful tips on navigating a less than perfect world.
The Veritus Forum
This one is especially stimulating with discussions in all disciplines with academics and reliable professionals. These discussions are recorded from panels that are held on Ivy League campuses. One I especially enjoyed was entitled “Coronavirus & Quarantine: Lament, Hope, and Creativity Edition.”
Ann Kroeker Writing Coach
Something Inspirational for fellow writers
For those who like a good story to share with those around them-especially if you have children within your hearing.
What Should I Read Next
If you need something lively and stimulating- this one is for you. I don’t always like Ann’s suggestions but I do enjoy her interviews with her guests and hearing about new and old books. It’s nice to know what books are about before I invest the time and research in acquiring them and starting them because someone said they were “good” or because they are on the best seller list.
And then there is always music…The language of the soul.