Remains of a Day. Part One of Three.

My mother’s ashes were carefully poured into several small popcorn paper bags. The bags were evenly divided into two mom-made Christmas stockings. One with the name “Mom” and a small jingle bell dangling and the other with the name “Russ” with a small jingle bell dangling. Russ was her second husband who preceded her in death. The two stockings were placed inside a cloth bag with giraffe skin material and a print of a giraffe on one side. My niece mentioned that mom would have done the same thing. Mom would triple bag the fragile stuff when she worked as a cashier.

One hundred years from now someone might dig up two jingle bells.

Right underneath the sycamore tree that my mother loved sat a three to four foot hole sixteen inches in diameter. My brother-in-law Mike prepared it earlier in the day and next to it was piled moist orange earth. The bonfire was a couple of yards away and the wind lightly sprinkled ash on us with a scent of carbon dated air. We gathered around and Margie held the weighted sack. There were eleven people circled, but I felt a much larger crowd, like when we took the “Big Picture” at family reunions.

One hundred years from now a reunion might take place around a celestial mountain lake.

I read a poem about the tree that stood over us. The sycamore stood over one hundred feet tall. My mother would often ask my sister Marge to take pictures of it. Mom requested to be placed under its shadow and embraced by its roots. I had come earlier in the day to sit under it, walk around it, and look at it from a distance. Its grandeur and uniqueness was breathtaking. Maybe in an odd sense it took my mother’s breath away. At its base there were ridges, grooves, and gray/black terrain that gives way to smooth ivory skin as it reached to the sky. My wife said to me that my mother’s skin was beautiful, even after her death.

One hundred years from now many branches will have fallen and maybe this monument of God’s artistry will be gone. Maybe this memorial will fall away from all memory.

Caption: Pay Attention

I was reminded to pay attention. Why? Am I indebted to it? If so, do I have enough time to spend on it? Should I get a mind equity loan and pay it in installments? It would most likely be a balloon loan hanging over my head with captions in it. Like the one yesterday suspended above me; “put the wheel barrel down, back away slowly, and go get your son”.

Bash told me he wanted to gather wood with me. He was engaged with helping someone else when I finally found my beat up boots. Then I did what comes naturally, I set out alone. The grove across the street was stuffed with fallen branches of all sizes. I dragged a few larger ones across to our driveway and fetched a wheel barrow for the kindling. One tire was flat and I injected it with a sealant that resuscitated it. That’s when the bubble appeared like a cotton ball just off my left temple. “Go get your son.” I had just said no to have friends over after church since I had been away for three days. Family time I said. There I stood like a big fat liar with a caption hanging, waiting for a response.

So, I fetched him. Maybe one of his tires needed airing up. He dropped what he was doing, threw some shoes on and walked and talked a few feet away. The cotton ball captions between us cast little fluffy puddles of moving shadows on the ground.

He started seeing things in the branches we carried, like one does when looking at cumulus clouds. Creatures and feet dragging and dinosaurs and letters were infused into severed dead things. He walked on the wall and was taller than me for a moment and he let me know. He asked questions about what kind of sticks to pick. He commented on how big the “forest” was and I remembered the little grove of trees on the other side of the Stump’s house when I was a kid, how big it was and the bravery it took to enter into it.

We laid the twigs like a pile of pick-up-sticks on the bonfire circle and I wondered what Abraham thought as he paid attention to his son. God didn’t caption me with a “Go get your son, your only son…” and yet I wonder if in some odd way, as I pay better attention, that someday, as I send him out into the world with a few of our memories in his backpack, I will feel a sting of separation because of the installment payments of attentiveness. He is my son, and I long to fetch him again and again.

Reflections on a Ballerina

 

You were found

right before first position,

just for a while.

 

We brushed prayers out and up

for beauty not to be fleeting,

just for a while.

 

We rubbed our toes in your chalk

pictures on the driveway,

just for a while.

 

Our arms were extended,

flowing like a swan’s,

just for a while.

 

And we gathered you

under our wings,

just for a while,

 

because,

in a while

you will dance.

Aurora Borealis. Happy Birthday my son of wonder!

We stood in awe

of the celestial

apparition.

 

We Pointed

guiding words

of wonder.

 

The glowing curtain

danced and skipped

in the northern sky.

 

It hung nervous

in its translucent

evening gown.

 

The ghost furled

in the folds of

the wind.

 

Together we strained

to see the mystery

of us.

 

For my son Nathan on his 23rd birthday.  23rd?!  Ah time, you have aged me again.

 

© Gerald Allen Barrett

When Sleep Came

Your eyelashes moved the

air between us.

The lids which carried them

would swing open and shut…

open and shut.

 

And there, soft blue would

circle the light within you.

That little light of yours

that did shine…

did shine on us.

 

When we were with you

lower loves were called up

to the higher one.

Agape’ would surface…

it would surface in us.

 

Your family would see

your smiles spread across.

Sometimes you would

lend them to the rest of us…

to rest on us.

 

A language from above

you would speak.

A coo of your own tongue

would rise with our questions…

rise above our questions.

 

Without a first step,

without a framed embrace,

without a formed word,

you spoke to our lives…

spoke into our lives.

 

And we slowed down

down to our being

where the still small voice is

that voice you heard

that voice we hear.

 

And when sleep came,

it came so sweetly and

air slipped in and out and

God held our breath…

God held our breath.

 

For the Webb family

in honor of Aiden Josiah Webb

April 1st 2011

 

 

© Gerald Allen Barrett and parentheticallyspeakingin3d, 2012.

It Is A Quiet Mourning

It is a quiet mourning.  Even the words stopped their breathing.  The hospice nurse kept checking her fingers.  They were bluing.  The fever, that was making a last ditch effort to rescue her body, broke.  When I laid my hand on hers it was cooling.

My baby sister held that hand a few days ago.  She and her mom agreed it was comforting and then tears.  She was my mom too, but at that moment she and her were they.

“We are the you and I who were they whom we remember.”  Wendell Berry

Ellen, my older sister read that aloud.  It is a sentence which requires more than one reading.  Its truth applies not just to Wendell’s decades love for his wife, but it applies to any long term relationship.  I witnessed this truth over and over again.  My siblings would all rotate around my mother’s bed and it would echo a book from younger years.  “Just Me and My Mom.”

It was grace upon grace.  We knew when to let another into the country chair with the cushion.   We took turns to sit close enough to count the freckles on her arm.  There was no positioning, no “saving a seat”, no arguing over whose turn it was to ride “shotgun”.  It was grace on grace.  Our mom became my mom to each of us.

Our Mom moments are tucked into the breast pocket of our hearts.  No longer is there a seat close enough to catch her breath.  We will “sit still” as she so often sternly said.  We will sit still with each other now.

 

For my siblings as we process the next days, weeks, and months.

 

© Gerald Allen Barrett and parentheticallyspeakingin3d, 2012.

Cracks

When I was young, I had your back

by uneven steps on the sidewalk.

I stopped paying attention.

I had destinations.

Oh, your broken back.

 

The dandelions pushed through

to see if I would look down.

I kicked the buds off their bases.

The cement was mine and I

didn’t notice the shin splints.

 

The wheels turned.

Skateboards and bicycles

sent bumps up my discs.

I got off the walk

by borrowing your car.

 

I left you by the side of the road.

I was center lined and selfish.

Things were said, better off dead.

Your broken back.

Your broken heart.

 

I’ve seen my kids stutter step

down the walk protecting

a spine of a mother kind.

They look down

while clasping her hand.

 

Their mom wants them to look up…

to watch were they are going.

But I hope their hindsight

serves to see the curved

back they once protected.

 

 

Written for my mother, who stuck with me even when I stepped on cracks.

 

© Gerald Allen Barrett and parentheticallyspeakingin3d, 2012.