Sunday, November 12, 2017

Snapshot from February 1981

I wrote this note to Jim back in 1981.  I don't think he was out of town; I think I just wrote it and put it his lunch bag or something.  At this time, we lived in our friends Tom and Liz Head's house, in the Garthwick neighborhood in Sellwood.  It was pretty much above our station, but Tom and Liz were gracious enough to rent it to us while they were away at school.  Patrick was not born yet - he was still 10 months away.  I was 30 years old, not working at the shop at this point, but being a stay-at-home mom.  Henry was 1, Myra was 6, and Saul was 5.  Jim was 32.

2/24/81 1 pm

Dear Jim,

You are holding in your beautiful hand a letter from Patty written on Coffee Man stationery.  This is truly your lucky day, for I am not a bill collector (rather, I am an impediment to bill paying) and I am not a complaining letter writer.  However, I just want to say, for your own information, that I'm disappointed to see you make the big time, I liked your old place better, and your apricot tea is even creepier than you think it is. I don't usually do this sort of thing but I just wanted you to know.

Now I'll stop trying to be funny.

I know this is a little bit silly writing to you, but I hope it it gives you a lift.

Either Henry is poopy or my beans are getting real.  He is tearing a napkin into little pieces and throwing them all around the room.  He seems to find this educational and very serious.

Have you ever wondered what I do all day?  Well, here is a sample schedule:

Patty's Typical Day

7:30 am:      After you leave, I rush about getting Myra off and Henry fed.  Myra leaves at 8:10.
8-9 am:         Shower, make bed, change kids' sheets, start laundry
9-10:30  am: Henry naps, I sweep and sometimes mop, do dishes, make bread, get another load in the washer.  Saul goofs around and asks me to buy him stuff.
10:30 - 2:  Get Henry up, put away laundry, fix lunch, put Saul to bed, play with Henry, put Henry to bed 2 pm.
2-3 pm: PEACE. Read, write letters, do obsessive type housework, etc.
3 until Jim comes home: All hell breaks loose.  Myra comes home, Saul and Henry wake up, FIGHTS, I start dinner and yell a lot, sometimes we go for a walk.  Then sweet Jimo comes home and throttles all the naughty people and we all settle down

Now that's what I call TV!

I guess I'm writing a letter when I should be playing with Henry.  Uh oh.

I love you, honey.  If this letter was fun for you to read, I'll be glad.

Henry IS poopy.  I"ll change him now and then send him off to play with our cast iron lawn dog.  It is so good with the children.


Love, She Who Must Be Obeyed

PS.  I've discovered that no one else lives in our neighborhood but us and Mrs. Cook.  No wonder perhaps!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sunday Confession

We don't go to church anymore. Haven't for, well, pretty much since Henry died. Why? I don't know. Really. I think we should go, I think we are bad people not to go. So, why don't we? Well, one, maybe we're simply lazy. It is so much easier to avoid the challenge and stay home. If we were to go to any church, our first choice would be SW Church of Christ. Yes, we agree with the objections about all the baggage that goes along with a building and paid staff, etc. Read Ron Highfield.... we agree with him. But SW supported us through our trauma, they paid for Henry's grave, they gave us love in the most tangible ways to help us through those first dark months. They LOVED us.

But whenever we go back – I'm speaking for me, now; I'm not sure about Jim – I can't escape the feeling of failure that hits me when I enter that auditorium (we don't call it a sanctuary in the church of Christ). I failed my children by not bringing them here when they were little, to bring them up in the faith. I failed Henry by not helping him be more involved in church life so that he felt more support in his depression. I was not a good role model, I should have been more involved myself, and more forceful about preaching the gospel to my kids.

I just can't be there. But anywhere else is not home. So I don't go anywhere. That is a lame, sinful excuse for not going to church.

I read on FB today a conversation about church and its shortcomings. It's not supportive of the gay community, of women, etc. People were writing off God because of Bible verses that don't seem to make sense in today's culture. One person made the argument that it's reasonable that we might not be able to understand fully the mind of the creator of the universe. But that fell on deaf ears. To me, though, that is a good argument. I can't explain calculus to my dog. Well, mainly that's because I can't understand calculus myself. But I can't even explain arithmetic to my dog. Does it not make sense that the same conundrum exists between us and our creator? He MUST have thoughts that not only don't make sense to us, but we can't even understand the context of them. Knowing this and accepting it requires a fundamental humility that is absolutely necessary to becoming a Christian. Some people, many people, will never be able to cross that line. They cannot give up “me.” They don't feel they should – in fact, it seems wrong that they should be asked to. It's a red flag to them. I understand that, but I believe that that path is a sad one, with no hope at the end.

I happen to believe that the verses in the Bible that talk about women being subject to men, remaining silent in church, etc, have been misinterpreted, that the message of Paul's letters on that subject are actually about something entirely different and of local importance, at the time they were written. But here is my crazy point: so what? How we as women are treated today or in history is important, but it is not the most important subject we should be concerned about. What is most important is this: are we putting God first in our lives, loving him above all others, and loving our neighbors as ourselves? Of course we're not. But is this what we're striving for? That is what our lives should be about. And I'm preaching to myself first.

I am blue most Sundays. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I'm not at church. Maybe it's because it used to be the day when our family would gather for a meal after church; Henry would be the one who objected the loudest when we missed an occasion to do that. Maybe I'm just having a Sunday pity party and I need to get over it.   

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

January 24, 2017

Dear Henry,

I've been thinking about the dream I had a couple of weeks after you died.  I wrote about it before:  I’ve had only one dream (that I remember) that I think was about you. It was a couple of weeks after you died. I swam or flew somehow way out to the edge of nowhere. The sounds of the earth faded into the distance behind me. It was completely silent, completely gray and empty. I waited, looked, listened. Nothing. It felt like I was in a place where I didn’t belong. Remember that feeling? Like when you’re in an off-limits area, all alone? Suddenly I felt myself being pulled back, sucked under water, tossed about. I could see the clear water about me and the clear surface rippling far overhead. I saw the screen curtain of our apartment door, so I swam through it and popped to the surface. Then I woke up.

I think I was looking for you, Hen-Ben. Looking for #3, my skinny son Henry.

That place was so foreign.  It was like Genesis describes the world before creation.  It was without form, and void, and darkness was ..... well, it was darkness.  There was a horizon, far away, but it was just discernible because there were two shades of dark.  I was there, full of breath, and color, and life, and I knew that I did not belong in that place.  But I was determined to find you, to follow you wherever you had gone, and to grab hold of you and either bring you back, or, failing that, to be with you, wherever you were.  I asked Jim last night, where do you think that place was?  He thought, maybe, it was death.  And, Henry, you were not there.  And I did not belong there.  So I was sucked back into my life, painful as it was.  I had to come back and learn to live in this living, colorful, breathing world, without you.  I'm still working on that.  I know Jesus weeps with me, and that is comfort indeed.  I love you, my sweet Henry.  - Mama Pajama