Promise in a Rainbow

This morning Lily, my dog, and I ventured forth to buy some groceries. I’ve just come home from a conference that I do not believe I was meant to attend but, as always I managed to find myself useful in ways I never imagined. God always surprises me. That is, being something of a recluse, when I allow myself to participate.

Earlier we had gone for our walk/run. We had to run because we got caught in what probably will be the only cloudburst today. But the rain, a downpour at times, was warm and soaking. As we drove to the market to the west a shimmering rainbow emerged between the clouds. Almost faded, its outer bands of longer-wavelength red, then orange and yellow, then green, blue to the shortest wave-length of violet. And I remembered God’s promise to Noah, therefore to me, that never again will he destroy the living things on the earth.

We all have times when we have to start over. I wish I had a nickel for every time I had to begin again. Some things we can’t, literally, start over. We can’t shove our babies back into ourselves and have them again, we have to accept that we make mistakes, try not to make them again and learn from the new ones we make. We aren’t perfect but we do pay attention and thereby eventually figure things out. Or not, but there is no end to second chances, thankfully. And we don’t have to go to a corner to think about what we said or didn’t say or did or didn’t do. Which is good because unless we know how it came across we won’t know always if it was wrong or ok. Except our conscience is pretty good about telling us.

And we encourage each other. I always hope that however I do this will only be remembered in the context of the encouragement, not where it came from. Not because whatever is encouraged is insignificant but because encouragement like love only works, is only real when it is given freely.

“I have set My rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth … Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.”
~Genesis 9:13-15
What Wavelength Goes With a Color?: http://science-edu.larc.nasa.gov/EDDOCS/Wavelengths_for_Colors.html

Advertisements

A brother I never knew

Mom held her life close to herself, reluctant to drop pearls or bittersweet memories. My living brother and I knew all our lives he’d been a twin whose brother had died in infancy. Mom did not talk about it much at all. Only recently my brother brought it up again. I live in the town where his grave is. I went to the cemetery. I had no idea the effect this visit would have.

Under the reaching branch of a red oak is a small, rectangular inlaid stone. May 1, 1957 – June 2, 1957. I did not even know he had only lived one month. I tore out a few stray meanderings of Bermuda grass, blew off the weeds. I asked the curator if I could please have a flower urn placed at his grave.

Yesterday, a few weeks after, I bought a styrofoam form and some pretty silk flowers and made a blue-and-white arrangement. I brought it to the gravesite. As promised the little stone had an urn installed at its head. I opened the urn and inverted the inserted stopper and placed the arrangement in. I knelt before the little stone and gently stroked my fingers over the letters of his name, the letters of my mother and father’s names. And I wept. I spoke softly to this little one’s tangible memory, asking whether he had grown up and was now the same age as his brother? Did he know of us? Could he please tell our parents how very much we miss them? Will he know how much we missed in not growing up with him, not knowing him? I wished for what never was and hoped for what will be someday, that whenever our days are lived my brother and I will someday meet this member of our family and bring us to a completeness, a wholeness that his little stone is now a mention of only what never was here in this life.

For whatever reason he was only here for so few moments, someday we will share with him a forever.

Rescued!

In my life I have mainly fostered orphaned baby birds. I did once have a small litter of feral kittens in my backyard that my border collie herded into a hissing, spitting mass, but I took those to the shelter for adoption. I also once rescued a puppy I found on the side of the road that someone had doused in kerosene (flea remedy? mange??), but my then-husband wouldn’t let me keep her so I bathed her and gave her to a nice lady who fostered her and found her a good home.

So this afternoon my dog Lily and I set out to run a few last-minute errands, the bank, post office. As we crested a hill in the neighborhood I saw a lady off her bicycle, standing on the side of the road cradling something very small. So we stopped.

A tiny, fruzzy, very thin grey kitten. I asked her if she thought she could ride her bike home with the kitten, I could give her a small box. Just as we agreed to this we heard a tiny, faint “>mew!<" close by. We stood by a sewer, looked at each other hoping against hope. We looked down into the shadowy darkness below. Yes, there it was, on a rung on the side of the sewer. A tiny black and white kitten, its mouth as big as the rest of it, mewing for all it was worth. So I sat down on the road by the sewer grate and stuck my arm in. I needed another inch. The other lady (Julie I learned was her name) stuck her arm. Same thing. We tried to fabricate a sling of bungee cords which scared the kitten off the rung, but he jumped back up. Clearly our ingenuity was running thin. Julie offered to ride home for some lovely cat food, about 10 minutes away.

"I live 2 streets over, do you think tuna would work? chicken??" I offered. We decided on tuna and when I returned to the rescue scene a small crowd of young girls and their mom and a friend (with a small and very interested puppy) had gathered. Julie stood, still comforting the tiny grey cat. I leaned over the grate, talking and doing my best mewing to the little one under the grate while Julie got the can of tuna open. She handed me a chunk and the little cat in the sewer practically ate the tip of my finger to get at it, then happily jumped to the bottom, totally out of reach. Uh oh. Hoping he would soon finish and be wanting some more. He did. This time I was ready. As he stretched his tiny legs toward my waiting hand I closed my fingers around him and carefully drew him through the edge of the grate. We bundled him up in a soft cloth bag with his little sibling and Julie happily rode off with the two of them.

It's a great feeling when you have helped something, no matter how small.

Reunions

I have never been to a college reunion. Not sure why not, maybe because my involvement was minimal. I was far too young when I attended college, even younger when I graduated. Maybe some 17- 18- 19-year-olds know what they want to do with the rest (or most) of their lives. Or at least have some specific interest with which to put their parents’ tuition payments to good use. Not me. I had no idea. Coasted through high school enjoying the occasional English teacher’s pat on the head for a particularly perceptive essay. Probably random. I did not excel at either math or any science, things which are pecuniarily useful. I did love to read and would analyze or critique but, being immature, agonized over the “right” bias or slant, so would often return a paper with such broad, vague sweeping statements there was really no focal point at all. And often my initial reaction or thoughts would be pretty sharp, but that insecurity shadowing me forbade me reveal my inmost thoughts.

So college. That freedom did not entrance me. When my parents left me at the dorm that rainy Sunday to return home, 600 miles away, I wept. My first roommate terrified me. She jumped into the liberal part of arts with both feet. She never went to classes, and I spent most of my first semester nights on the common room couch, waiting either for the funky smoke to clear or the boyfriend to leave or both. When she flunked out before second semester I became an intern, a sort of floor monitor. So basically I only knew the other housing staff members because we were more or less seen as police officers extinguishing all sorts of fun and frolic since we were paid by the college to do so.

But I did go to a high school reunion, my 25th. There were a handful of us there out of a class of 29, and we all were really glad to see each other. I have another one coming up, a much bigger number, and the names of many who are emailing are foreign or even unknown to me. These must be would-have-been classmates had they actually stayed and graduated with our class. Since I came in the 11th grade many of these were names I had never heard but seem familiar to a few of those I did know. So no, I won’t attend this one. It would be like going to a reunion for a class I never even knew. That would all but nullify my less-than solid connection to the ephemeral 2-years I enjoyed at a high school that completely changed my life for the better. I’d rather hold onto the wonderful memories I do have than fling them to those who had nothing to do with them.

Aunt Betty

My dad’s baby sister was a law unto herself. She had been a beautiful young woman, could have had any man she wanted. Dad always said she was terribly spoiled because she was the baby, the first girl-child in several generations, and so very pretty. I suppose prettier people have others of us at a disadvantage, but I didn’t think much of it. We only visited her once, in New Jersey, with her family.

Then she grew older, her daughters grew up and moved on with their own lives, her husband passed away. So she moved south to be closer to my dad. Mom had passed away and Dad had remarried a person Aunt Betty had also known because “Hat” (short for Harryet) had been a part of their growing-up lives. In summers Hat would visit them from her home in Kansas to where they lived in Colorado Springs.

Aunt Betty had never said much, not to me anyway. Dad always said she was self-centered. Why that justified her taciturn manner I have no idea, I always saw her as slightly eccentric but very sweet.

Dad took care of many things for Aunt Betty. He bought his nieces their prom dresses, gave Aunt Betty financial assistance whenever she asked for it. She would give Dad a “wish list” every month of things she wanted or needed- a television, computer paper, pens, supplies for her endless genealogy research, bird seed for her little but very unfriendly parakeet. Dad would peruse the list and purchase those things he knew she truly needed, occasionally omitting one or two things she didn’t really need. Then Dad passed away. My brother and I lived out of town and would alternate our visits with Dad. The weekend he moved on to his heavenly home was my weekend to be with him. As I arrived at the health center where he was staying at the time Aunt Betty was sitting outside. I greeted her.

“I’m waiting for my ride to take me back to Southminster,” she said, then, “your dad won’t let me have his car.”

Aunt Betty had recently been in a car wreck where, having gotten lost, she drove her car up over a median and broke an axle.

“Maybe he is worried more for your safety, Aunt Betty,” I replied. And added it was good to see her looking so well. Her ride drove up and I went in to see Dad.

He died the next day. Eventually, over the next year or so, other circumstances brought me back home to NC where Aunt Betty still lived. I would visit her on weekends, see how she was, catch up on news of her daughters and have lunch. I enjoyed those visits and she seemed to enjoy them, too. I moved away again, back to where I had been living in New Mexico and after a few months began arranging to return home to North Carolina. Before I made the move my cousins contacted me to say Aunt Betty was unwell and in hospital. No one really knew what was going on or what to do. Then she passed away.

The last time I had seen her she was concerned about a pivotal event in her life that had happened many years earlier. She had been a teenager. She had an argument with her mother. I don’t know what about, but her mother left for the afternoon and was struck and killed by a car. Aunt Betty was quiet a few moments after talking about this, then slowly said, without looking at me, “Do you think it was my fault?”

This greatly surprised me. “Of course not!” then I realized: over these however many years, had Aunt Betty been carrying this dreadful weight around, afraid to speak it, afraid to laugh, afraid to live? I felt a deep sadness for her, for this life she’d somehow endured, looking out through her self-created prison of guilt and remorse and grief over the loss of her mother, blaming herself.

That sort of unforgiveness is crippling. But she had allowed, through a marriage, the birth and rearing of two lovely daughters, the death of her husband and the rest of her life, this to keep her from taking a breath in freedom. She had a strong faith and spoke of it often, of her love for Jesus but I cannot help think she never allowed that love and grace to be hers.

I pray she found that forgiveness in her passing from this life to the next. Amen.

2 Corinthians 2:10