In the dream there is a little girl, sitting on a bed.
I am offering the soldiers chocolates, and candied almonds. The soldiers, apparently, are guards in some type of corrupt regime, of which we are being held captive. They take the candy from my trembling hands absent mindedly, while laughing amongst one another, hardly looking at me.
Perhaps this will work to spare lives, I think, at least some of the captives’ lives -serving men candy. Someone had suggested I be the one to do it, one of the other adults.
I notice the little girl’s black dress is wrinkled and too big for her, bony knees sticking out. Adella reminds me of a slender young calf. How long has she been crying, forgotten, sitting alone on that big bed ~ her face pale, surrounded by long, dark hair, escaping it’s plaits and any attention from a mother’s comb?
I see out the window in back of her Marta, Mieta and Hans.
They are running across that large expanse of empty field. Running, fleeing for their lives, in their own tattered clothing, that they might make it to safety. I am glad because I love them in the dream, these people that I don’t know.
While Adella says softly to me, still weeping, “I can’t run unless you’re holding my hand”.
She looks up at me then with large, soulful eyes, such a hungry child. I try to move towards her but my injured legs don’t work at all, and they feel like lead in my body.
I don’t have a crust of bread to give her, let alone sweets for her journey. The chocolates and almonds are all gone.
She slowly gets off the bed then, walks out the door, and sets out across that barren field all by herself, head held down. I stare out the window watching her, my heart breaking, my throat constricting. She is trailing so far behind the others.
With one last effort, I manage to stumble to the door, moving in slow motion as one often does in dreams, as if with each step I bear the weight of the world. But at least Adella will see me and know I that I tried. I am trying not to leave her all alone, or behind, and this way I finally catch up to her, my pain uncompartmentalized now, as if I’ve unlocked it to let it course freely at will.
And reaching out to her, grabbing her little fingers I say, “I’m so sorry Adella, forgive me Adella, I love you Adella…
When I was a little girl my family and I lived in Heidelberg, Germany.
My father was in the Army and I remember him buying me a little, German-made stuffed rabbit, from the PX there on post. It was an old fashioned kind of toy, stuffed with real straw. My mother, my “Mama”, made Bunny “talk” to me, and when the fur wore away near it’s tail and it developed a hole, she resewed it several times. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, with the help of my mother’s voice, my bunny became real. It was loved into life. So when I came into Mama’s sewing room one day by chance, and to my horror, saw she had opened Bunny completely up to replace all the leaky straw with modern stuffing, to me she had skinned it alive.
I guess you could say that’s when my mother and I had our first disagreement of sorts, over what was real, and what was not.
My mother said the rabbit wasn’t real, and that’s why it couldn’t feel pain.
But she, a religious woman, had also taught me God’s love for us gave us a Soul, so I imagined my love for my toy rabbit, had also given it a Soul.
I remember contenting myself with the notion that Rabbit’s Soul was the real part of Bunny. And it couldn’t ever die or feel pain, or have anything wrong with it, unlike the shabby pink material, that now lay strewn across her sewing machine.
To tell you the truth, I still believe something along those notions to this day.
I remember my mother also sewing lots of clothes for me on that sewing machine, mostly dresses, as well as clothing for my dollies, and even some for my friends and my friend’s dollies. Mom loved to sew, and one of her first jobs had been working in a sewing factory. In the last year of life she imagined life could be better again, if only she still had her sewing machine.
It is true that in the days when my mother was young and busy sewing, rabbits came to life, and back to life again, entire wardrobes could be created like magic for little girls and their dollies, and life was very happy.
My Aunt Millie, Uncle Frank, Uncle Vic and Babci even flew in to Germany from America on occasion, and we traveled together to see places like France, Holland and Berchtesgaden.
I don’t remember the timeline or everywhere we visited, but scenes play through my mind of candle and cheese factories, beautiful castles that made me dream of being a princess, and fields filled with tulips. But I also remember seeing stark, underground tunnels bedecked with frightening images of horribly mistreated victims. I remember looking way up high at a balcony where a man with a short little mustache had perched, and at one time captured the attention of millions.
And I didn’t get the impression this man was a very good man, though I’m sure at my age, there was an attempt to shield me from the worst of it, the worst of the horrors of the Holocaust.
Especially by my mother.
At that time, my mother was only brightness and hope, as if she was really one of those beautiful princess creatures I had seen in books and imagined myself one day becoming. I loved her and my father with all of my heart, and all my Soul. There are no words, really, adequate to describe the love I had, and still have, for both of them.
Nonetheless, I remember my happy world, when I was a child, crumbling a little with a disturbing realization. This realization kept me awake at night, long after my mother had tucked me in bed, which was always, unfairly I thought, much earlier than my older brother. I remember crying and crying for her to come upstairs, and when she entered the room asking, “Mama, are there bad people in the world?”
I remember her focusing on rearranging the bedsheets, assuring me “bad people” couldn’t get me, and that I was safe because God was protecting me… something like that.
But that’s not what I had asked her, so her answer didn’t fit quite right.
“Mama, are there bad people in the world?”
She tried to divert again, saying something about God can make people good again, something like that, something which didn’t satisfy me at all.
I was still crying really hard the way children do, gasping for air. I asked her again, “Are there bad people in the world? Please tell me there are no bad people in the world.”
And I remember, finally, my mother giving in, telling me “There are no bad people in the world. God doesn’t make bad people. There are only people who do bad things”.
This satisfied me.
I felt now this, was theologically sound.
And I could now go to sleep.
Now that there weren’t any evil people, who could really intend, really deep down inside, anything inescapably evil.
But I remember first feeling a little bad for Mama, a little concerned that she didn’t really believe the truth that she had just spoken, that satisfied me simply because she had spoken it.
My mother grew up in a world in which her own family loved fiercely, but women were expected to take on the guilt and culpability of the very traumas that were imposed upon them, even if it severed them so to speak, from the inside out.
And my mother was severed.
Though brilliant, generous, funny, sweet, gentle and kind, those attributes one can, with all intellectual honesty, tuck handily into an obituary or a eulogy, my mother had suffered a great trauma in her youth. It was one of “those kinds of traumas” where she suppressed the pain of it, like so many women of her generation did, and as a result of that suppression, suffered diagnosed, episodic, paranoid schizophrenia.
And that schizophrenia left her, episodically, not brilliant, not generous, not funny, not sweet, not gentle …or kind.
Real ladies didn’t tell – anything the culture of the 1950’s or 1960’s – or the culture of a very patriarchal church or institution found scandalous, even if suppression of trauma, abuse, injustice or pain – the truth of them all – made the “ladies” in question, mentally ill. This is how ladies “protected” their family’s reputation, and families, supposedly “protected” them. Yes, even well meaning, loving Polish families. Women grieved in quiet submission to the very injustices done to them, by the very systems, and men, that they felt morally obligated to consider flawless.
Of course it all backfired, not only on my mother, but on me.
Because Mom began, as Dad (who was not at all about suppressing truth or tolerating injustice) put it, to project her pathology on me. She “targeted” me, especially as I entered my teen years, then even more dramatically, when my father died and Mom went off meds Dad had made sure she kept taking, for almost all of my life.
And my mother’s targeting of me became the most apparent when I started filling my father’s shoes as Mom’s primary caretaker, and now, as the only mental health care advocate in the family, could not get her back into that treatment.
The same loving mother who had made Bunny come to life with her voice, and sewn it back to life for me, now spun horrific tales about me that had social workers checking her for bruises, and neighbors and even some relatives believing.
And she didn’t just make clothing for me as a child, she had expected me to still wear little girl dresses when I was sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen.
When I was a teenager returning from one of my first dates, she yelled out the window late at night, so the entire neighborhood could hear, that I was a slut.
When I was in my forties, she committed business fraud against me, and I had to close my business and become her financial dependent, so that I could give her round the clock supervision, just to keep her alive. During the period my business was being destroyed, there were times when I had to move a heavy chest of drawers against my bedroom door to ensure my own safety, as she had been roaming the hallways, threatening my life.
So whenever I’ve thought, over the last few days, about what to write or say about my mother in remembrance, it releases a complex flood of emotions – for the beloved lady whose last words requesting “water, water… Judy, give me water” – called to mind our Lord’s on the cross when he said “I thirst”.
Not unlike taking a side excursion on vacation to tour Hitler’s underground bunker, you can rightly suspect, I am actually leaving the worst parts out.
Some have advised me to only focus on the positive, as if speaking the truth about my mother’s mental illness would be inappropriate, to speak ill of her, or to do an injustice to someone who cannot now “defend” herself. As if my motive for telling the truth about my mother must be anger, or might get me upset, all over again.
I am here to tell you the opposite is true.
I contend it is only this suppression of truth that would silence and prevent a full and unapologetic expression of love for my mother. It would also be a final, last injustice towards her. My mother, my real mother, deserves much better than that.
She is not the content of her pathology. She is neither the material trappings she came in, like the material skin of a stuffed rabbit, or her own material remains, reduced to ashes and placed in a box. She is not the things she did or did not do. And I believe no one else in the family, me being the most often targeted victim of her negative, sometimes violent behavior, has a better right to say that, believe that, and truly know it.
My mother is the unique, exquisitely beautiful and unlimited Spirit or Soul which I always viewed her to be.
I even believe we worked as a team, my mother’s Soul and my own, especially this past two decades. Together, when I was trying to get my mother back into mental health care, we spoke the paradox of unapologetic truth and love to broken systems, to people in positions of power and authority, who have the power to effect change, should they choose to be a part of the solution for the most vulnerable among us, rather than part of the problem. I believe the expression “unapologetic truth and love must walk hand in hand”, because that is the only way they work, and the only real way human life and worth can be defended.
For in the end, though it was a long battle, in the last two years before her death – my mother and I ultimately won – over those that seemed to be only interested in protecting her pathology and hastening her death.
I had found my mother in medical neglect while she was visiting her son in Connecticut.
Taking her to the emergency room, my emaciated and very ill mother finally assaulted me in front of doctors and other witnesses. They had to see the truth of her dangerous and destructive pathology. They also had to see I was the only person she had left in the world, who would not compromise love for her by compromising truth or enabling self-destruction. Mom’s medications were quickly readjusted, and she was taken off those which had been accelerating her schizophrenic psychosis since Dad died.
Double rainbows had become for me a sign of my father’s continuing Presence.
And as if in confirmation of that presence, that my father was there celebrating our victory with us, as I left the Connecticut hospital to recover Mom back to our home in West Virginia that one final time, the rain cleared and a beautiful, double rainbow – streaked across the sky.
In the months that followed, our roles were reversed.
She became my child in a sense. And it wasn’t that everything was perfect. She had memory loss, cognitive decline and a pattern of sundowning, but we shared many beautiful moments again. She was generous, funny, gentle and kind. The woman that had tucked me lovingly into bed with a precious, pink stuffed rabbit had returned, only I was the one tucking her in. Not one of those times did we not exchange “I love you”s before going to sleep.
But one night, several months before her death, I heard her crying, and she started calling out to me to come into her bedroom. I came to her bedside, and quickly realized, it was just as she had done for me over fifty years ago.
“Oh Judy, I feel like there is something I have forgotten. Something really, really bad that I must have done. Something so bad that God can’t love me again, and I won’t get to heaven.”
I said “Mom, it is impossible for God not to love you. God is Love and your Soul is made of Love, because it came from God. So even if you made a mistake in your past, even if you did a bad thing on earth, it was because you were in a bad situation, or because you weren’t thinking straight, not because you are a bad person”.
Actually, I was shouting this to her, because Mom was so hard of hearing at this point that she couldn’t hear at all unless I shouted. I had to repeat several versions of “making mistakes doesn’t make you a bad person”, and point to her heart and say “God is right here with us because God is in you and in me and never left us”.
Finally I told her “Mom, there are no bad people in the world. Their True Selves can’t be bad. We are all made from pure love, and that can never die”.
And finally, she quieted.
Something I said must have struck a chord. Something I said must have worked.
She then said a really sweet thing, something I’ll never forget. She said, “Well, I guess I must have done something good in my life, one thing good … because God blessed me with having a daughter like you”.
And she was able to go back to sleep.
But several months later, unlike that evening, my mother wouldn’t be opening her eyes again, at least not in this world. I would not be bringing her downstairs for her coffee, toast and eggs in our little kitchen below.
When the Hospice staff called me back to their facility, saying my mother had just peacefully passed in her sleep, shortly after I left, I have to admit I was apprehensive about viewing the body.
Taking my long time friend in with me for support, I prepared myself for whatever my mother’s dead body would look like. Mom had suffered a stomach infection and sepsis, had not been digesting anything, and was swollen with fluids. But when I walked into that room and looked upon my mother’s dead body I was literally floored, literally felt like dropping to the ground and weeping with joy at how beautiful, maternal, peaceful, serene, and young looking my mother’s body looked. Her countenance was beatific. She was a beautiful, princess creature once again, just like the Virgin Mary.
I was stunned, completely dumbfounded.
And I don’t know, in fact I doubt, that anyone else there saw my mother’s body as I did, just as not everyone had seen her dark side, or witnessed her sick with psychosis. It was as if her Soul, now unburdened and free, allowed me to see her in that moment, transfigured. I saw her body as if through its final movement, the Soul had cleansed it of all suffering, had undone the effects of suffering in it, leaving me with no doubt, that pure Love had just returned to Source, even while still surrounding us, rejoicing, curing everything in its path.
she is shallow and lack as well as the richness of a starlit night the desire to die and the compulsion to dance but the day of her passing she gifts confirmation that only the richness the stars and the dancing are real ~
live life like all the kingdom’s come, our chariots of fire dripping with gravy for gone are the religions of old in which we would sacrifice our own to the gods who would eat them – with a fork
unlike our bellies, the center of the pumpkin pies didn’t jiggle so much when pulled from the oven but like our minds the light was cast in delicate, albeit dim reflection a joke? no, but a season – yes to celebrate not only the child in the hay but our own incarnation in form
she’d been finding dimes one, two, three, four, on the sidewalk, in a shoe, pressed into her own hand I think he wanted to be sure she had heard the news that you don’t have to die to be reborn though he’d taken that route carryinga torch the whole way now with burdens relieved he could lift that flame much higher perhapsso that his daughter could soar bearing only the weight of her own wings
I once read I think in a book somewhere that the word “sin” really means to miss the mark like a perception gone askew with much relief I might add I found this out for I once thought sin meant I wasn’t ignorant but “bad” nonetheless one might feel compelled not to be stupid I mused if well-intended ignorance hastens death and destruction anyhow one can imagine my concern when I missed honoring the book collector’s birthday with a gift of appropriate measure it was after all his eightieth plus two and I hoped my failure to mark it wouldn’t shorten his time here or my own (even though it wasn’t my fault damn that deadly innocent ignorance) what do you give the creative genius anyway whose birthday came as stealthily and silently as the color permeating leaves in an unpretentious but blithe October? this man has everything and creates much gives much mostly himself all away to his friends seemingly numerous as the books on his shelves and unlike so many who just let books sit there gathering dust he has read most of his, his books and his persons and has kept their stories alive the most responsible and caring book curator in all the world I feel he has a way of adding to whatever he reads and whomever he meets seeing more extracting more than the written or spoken word can exhume or tell he is in fact a creative reader who once left a treasure map inside of a book about hidden railroads and secret tunnels for me to come across later as if to help me find my way home again whenever I needed the refuge is not hidden treasure the most appropriate gift found right where we left it already inside one another? so I’ve determined the only gift I can give in proportionate measure along with my own story is a thank you for his and to assure the book collector that he unlike some of us never “misses his mark” or fails to leave its impression because he forever engraves and leaves LOVE on the inner pages of our hearts
I am the tree my branches heavy with fruit the taste of my wine is sweet my branches curl in the sunlight grasping at that only which the eyes cannot see send me your laborers through heaven’s gate so that I may not die in the flesh but upon your table
we walk along it
like fine king’s men
our head’s held high
when will we venture
seeing our kingdom
through half strewn eyes
those in attendance
breaching the beach
with their sand
but I am lonely here
at the darkest side
of the table
make sure you
that we would reunite
in a next life
the forgotten virtue
that fruit of the vine
in that time
the forgotten kingdom
to wake up
the frightened philosopher was afraid to come in here he said as he gently tucked a loose tendril of wisteria back into itself they were always coming loose like wisps of hair escaping across her forehead from the tangled vine in which they grew hanging over our heads that marked the entrance to the garden his movements were swift too swift to see and I wondered vaguely do angels do such things with a hand or a wing oh yes! I said smiling I love it in here now you know once I realized from where the light was coming is it always like this? do words mean more than themselves and the events of the day do they always sing in such glorious alignment? for even when I seem to die I know there will be something in me that seems to float
some voices are thin some voices ring in my head like imposed cacophony but my voices are not like hers so I remain in the sheets my head singing my heart longing for the ones that remove all assumptions perhaps if I stay in that place that delicious place built between heaven and earth I can figure it out perhaps apologize for not incarnating today but as I roll over to hit the snooze alarm unambiguous says get up now
“For what is it that kills, if not for old habits, that die hard?” ~ Anonymous
let’s build in matter’s image said man and construct forms, and byways, and strategies, and laws they will be necessary for if not man who else will save the world? but the sound of wombman weeping troubled them so, for she would not hush nor accept their offer of plea bargain she had not contributed to her own demise nor was she blaming them for theirs worse it was rumored she had conceived without them did away with genders or reflected them both inside of herself and they held meeting to determine if they could still call her a her anymore because a song had been born from her tears or perhaps The Song had been born it was like a burbling brook, of crystal clear water, a river or the motion in it damn it grumbled the men perhaps it is the wind this background noise that’s persistent but elusive some freak deja vu of human nature the men couldn’t put their finger on it what they feared about this sound that wasn’t a sound and this mere woman who wasn’t mere woman from whence The Song sprang without effort or strategy and they did fear it like sorrow, or discomfort, unplanned and unexpected a beautiful, yet plaintive funeral song that’s what it was that she sang, that’s what it was that they feared and they asked is not this sort of thing illegal, heretical, or contagious? they wondered if her song was somehow about them though it bore no actual resemblance and she seemed sad but happy at the same time while the song seemed to grow and expand within her yet echoed back at them from inside out of their own heads perhaps they feared it and hated it so because they couldn’t hold it, or touch it, to make it definable, and containable or give it a label a form, a package or a box to make it safe for human consumption hell it was too unpredictable, too vulnerable, too wild, too free, too rapid for thought or human logistics like she had already shed her own shell without authorization or permission from higher command who did she think she was? and though they thought it must be stupid, foolhardy, this fruit what wombman had birthed they feared it must be swifter more direct than them and their inhuman prodigy as if this spirit this spirit of hers this non material thing this conception always had a mind of its own or worse was a mind of its own different than theirs free from their plans for her and the child-song’s greater good didn’t the wombman and child know they were in danger? in fact she and her own seemed quite at home in their lovely place in the woods where her table was set with invisible fine things she invited them to dine on her invisible abundance, the invisible laughing like a beautiful, tinkling, dinner bell chime how crazy was that how inappropriate they felt it was for a funeral how dare she who was she how was she even still alive yet alone, they wondered, wearing a white wedding veil had not they created what really mattered a material body of knowledge and she borne only what couldn’t be seen the ghost we thought we eliminated centuries ago for her own sake when we condemned her for understanding the fruit of the tree the first time around? I know said one how to fix this let’s burn her house down let’s set fire to her trees that hide the new child from us that way he will have to come out and show his face show us who he really is that which we cannot contain or reflect in our own image a likeness that we can’t even see and they came at her with weapons of mass destruction but the fire would not catch, or light, or burn those living trees that she had nurtured with her own hands only their suits and their instruments of death caught fire and their own hands now matched their clothing dirty and marked with inky black soot she calmly reproved them telling them to hurry wash up for dinner she said you are like soldered clocks ticking no time, while my labor is complete for this one last funeral mass this one last time we are not celebrating the death of my son, this time around for he is my song the Love of my heart and is not made of matter so cannot die we are celebrating his rebirth at the death of your own for yours is what is no longer useful the empty chalice, a rusted metal vessel all along