An American Dirge

An American Dirge

 

Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice

Philando Castile, Michael Brown

And on and on and on and on

Hero cops, and racist cops

Museums that recall genocide

Museums so we don’t forget lynchings

Two towers leveled, thousands lose their lives

Guantanamo

We mourn, tears flow, and on we go.

 

Don’t kill my buzz

Say some.

We’re trying to have a good time here.

Life is beautiful

American is beautiful.

 

Dylan Roof shoots

An African American Bible study group.

Survivors forgive him.

Adam Lanza, blighted boy,

Kills 20 six and seven year olds.

A troubled shooter ends his life

And leaves a nation drenched in tears.

Stoneman Douglas, Columbine

Captive targets, grief abides

More troubled shooters

Express their ire.

Children grow up before our eyes.

 

San Bernardino, Orlando,

Fort Hood, Aurora, Santa Fe,

Boston Strong, and Las Vegas

A marathon, some country songs

Homegrown terrorists

America mourns and mourns.

 

Don’t kill my buzz

Say some

We’re still trying to have a good time here

We’re trying to pretend

(And maybe pretending

Will someday make it so)

That America is still beautiful.

 

Charlottesville, torches

In the night,

A President allows

Displays of spite.

Democrats are demons.

Republicans will save you

(If you are rich and white

And Christian).

A leader says, “I don’t sow hate”

But 14 Democrats get bombed,

And worshippers in Temple

Are slain in prayer.

2 more troubled shooters bound for jail.

 

Freedom made America shine

Now we wallow in mourning and tears,

Again and again, they seem our fate.

Can we save our father’s dreams

And stretch them to our modern needs?

 

Americans still say don’t kill our buzz.

We’re trying to enjoy our lives out here,

And pretending that American is still the home

Of “spacious skies” and “waving grain”

“From sea to shining sea”.

 

[One dirge is not enough. We may need more. It would be great if this was our last dirge, our last moment of national mourning caused by a neighbor’s loneliness, hate, or radical thoughts. People are having a harder time pretending that life in America is basically normal because the blips on their radar are starting to burst their happiness bubble. As for those of us who can’t seem to turn away, we want to understand how to find ways to cure it. If we don’t will this ever end? Isn’t America tired of reanimating itself after each tragedy? Isn’t America tired of tears yet?]

 

 

 

 

 

Losses, Memories, Joys, Tears, and a Japanese Maple

I introduced my mom, Velma Augusta Hatch Brisson to my readers in July because we were getting ready to help her celebrate her 100th birthday. She was born in 1917. This kind of milestone is not considered as great a thing as it used to be since many people live beyond the age of 100 these days, but it is not really a contest or an accomplishment. It is just a fact.

We were a lucky family. Who gets to enjoy their mom’s company well into their own senior years? It has its down sides because mom needed more care and she was still bossy. She would still look over your outfit and say, “are you wearing that?” But we were not orphans like most of our friends. Now we are. In November of 2017 mom died and it has now been six months since she passed. We, her children, have spent the last six months getting the family home ready to sell. It is a poignant labor of love to sift through all the memories collected in each possession, each room, each corner of the yard that surrounds the house.

Yesterday I sat out on mom’s back deck for lunch with two of my sisters, perhaps the last time we will meet, as we did so many times, on that back deck. You can almost see the family coming and going as we sit around that patio table. Sometimes, in the pictures in my mind, the family members who live in Florida come by and the level of talk gets loud and tangled with lots of individual conversations ebbing and flowing throughout a sunny afternoon. Sometimes the great grandchildren are there, visiting, playing on the back lawn, hauling out all the toys and games stored in the shed. Sometimes it is just the few sisters who live near mom, and mom, hanging out on a rare warm, dry day.

For me the years passed before me as I sat looking at the lovely Japanese maple tree that we all bought for mom. It will now belong to some other family, or perhaps, because the house is old and in bad condition, it will all belong to some flipper, who might even rip out that tree. You can’t have something and not have it. Does that fit the Schrödinger conundrum? I don’t know. You can’t have the tree and not have the tree. But you can have the memories. You can have the firefly evenings, the homework around the dining table, the brother shimmying down his sheets from the upstairs bedroom window only to be faced with a table full of his family (and dad) sitting down to dinner. You can have the ice skating rink in the backyard, and the ball games and the games of Tag and Red Rover. You can have the memory of mom having to stuff a crying child on to a school bus, and mom putting together a countertop full of sandwiches for all our school lunches (8 of us).

You can have all the day old bread, and the trips to the dairy to buy milk, all the tar-heeled walks to church in our high heels to sing in the choir or meet with the Youth fellowship. All the shopping trips with dad to the Midstate, the movies for 50 cents at the Hollywood Theater. Elvis had us dancing in the aisles. All the school days and instruments rented and discarded and all the books read. (People gave us boxes and boxes of books.) All the second-hand boxes of clothes we sorted through to find outfits that were suitably stylish. It all seems so wonderful now. But our feelings at the time were all over the place.

You can keep all the Christmases and the Easters, even the one when everyone had measles (awful). You can have all the graduations, the birthday cakes, the smiles, the songs, the friends, the broken hearts, the tears, the grief (my sister was killed in car accident at 29),the joy, the weddings, the babies, the toddlers, the tweens and the teens. You can keep them all because they are imbedded in your mind.

So why is it so hard to let go of that well-used house. I don’t want to buy it. It needs too many repairs. But I think the grief over the house gets magnified by the loss of our mom and the end of it all, the end of our childhood, even though we are ridiculously old. Our lives have lost their center.

These memories barely scratch the surface of a life lived in a simpler era which is probably gone forever. So I’ll throw that loss on the pile and mourn it too, because while it was happening I did not realize that these things would not be the memories of everyone. Now that I know the ravages of human hate, now that I know how poor we were and why that poverty has been difficult to leave behind, even knowing all I know, I still treasure those memories from our days of innocence and ignorance. I still am grateful for  how earnest my parents were, and how everyone around us pitched in to lift us up. I am sad right now, but we have all been there, all felt the sadness of loss. My mom’s life was a life well lived. You are missed.