Reflections on A Day Taken Off

2

June 6, 2021- Thirty-nine years ago, today, Penny and I formalized our commitment to one another-and the marriage would last, through thick and thin, for twenty-nine years. I was hoping for at least forty, but we take what we are given. Some people are married for fifty years plus, and are inwardly miserable. We were not either. Speaking of which, as an aside, an indie artist, at a gathering on Saturday night, played a clip of his, on which a local philosopher opined: “”One who claims to be miserable, and at the same time insists he is right, is stating the impossible. It can never happen.”

Processing the loss of one of my closest cousins, I received word that a fellow member of the American Legion Post to which I belong had suffered a heart attack and is in hospital, facing the now de rigeur bypass surgery. He is one of the regulars, at our Sunday morning breakfasts, holding court and waxing eloquent about everything under the sun, in the style of an English aristocrat. That he is of Sicilian descent matters not. T’s heart and soul are rooted in the Merry Old Isle.

My day was otherwise occupied with the mundane-getting laundry done, gluing the front right quarter panel of my Hyundai, with the same substance that’s kept the back left in place, for nearly three years and watching episodes of “The Underground Railroad” and “Peaky Blinders”. Five of us pondered another set of quotes from the Universal House of Justice’s (Baha’i Governing Body) compilation on Social Action. I got in another workout.

In all this, I am looking at what is going on in the wider world, and just shaking my head, keeping up with it all, yet feeling as if it’s all a dream. The most important things in my life are all revolving around family, friends and the children-always, the children.

One of the traits that my cousin, John, had was presence, centering on who was in front of him, for as long as the person needed. That has not been my strong suit, though I am getting better at it. I am still not great at the perfunctory- greetings or conversation for their own sakes, especially online or long-distance. Birthdays and anniversaries are different; they draw my attention, because they matter so much. The rest of it-well, maybe my agenda is too broad and the next thing is always on my horizon. Still, I am making progress at being present, with someone who is in front of me, at any given time.

Twenty-nine years did teach me something.

What John Built

2

June 5, 2021- The man in full sat in a lawn chair, next to his wife of 46 years, and enjoyed being surrounded by their seven children and twenty-three grandchildren. This was the type of family gathering to which he, and the other forty-seven of his maternal grandmother’s “babies”, had grown accustomed.

He grew into manhood by becoming a diver in the United States Army, which included service in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. One sultry afternoon, he paid a call on one of his cousins, who was also stationed in Vietnam, showing that there were still means for soldiers and family members to find one another-even in a war zone.

In civilian life, he distinguished himself by earning his degree in Business Administration, and using it in a variety of ways- serving as a civic administrator in six communities, across his adopted state of Maine and building his own contracting business, all of which kept home and hearth in good stead, as his seven children grew into adulthood.

He was the second born of seven, and kept his siblings close, especially in the dark days of 2006, when four family members passed on, within months of one another. He kept some of his cousins close, too, even as our lives diverged. When I was tossed out of my apartment, under what turned out to be false pretenses, in February, 1977, I had a place to sleep for a few days, until the next more permanent residence presented itself. He and his wife kept my excess possessions for a year, when it was time for me to move, of a sudden, from Maine to Arizona.

That was who John Edward Madigan, Jr., one of my closest paternal cousins, was. He built a solid family, alongside his darling Mary; built much of the house in which they raised their family; built trust and confidence, even among those with whom he disagreed, socially and politically; built a successful contracting business, from scratch. He even began to build a place for himself in the Maine State Legislature, before cancer and COVID-19 muddied the political waters.

The greatest thing John built, though, was his heart. He seldom, if ever, missed a child’s or grandchild’s special event, whether religious, athletic, scholastic or any of the once-in-a-lifetime keepsakes. There is no life he touched that wasn’t the better for his having been there. When, on June 2, 2021, he went to be with his Lord, and to rejoin his parents, brother, sister-in-law and nephew who preceded him in death, John would surely have entered their presence with his shining eyes and mischievous grin.

John built a palace of love.

The Swiftness of An Airy Year

2

June 3, 2021- Today continued the credence being given to a cosmic adviser’s assessment that this year will be dominated by the energy of the Air Sign. Changes have indeed been swift, and at no point more so than today. A long-standing effort to give some limited funding to an African entrepreneur saw its initial disbursing, early this morning. Our family home was sold. I I was able to safely communicate a change in my financial security, to concerned vendors and other recipients. A diagnosis was given on a fairly long-standing health issue, and I look forward to having treatment, very soon.

The changes have been swift, but are not overwhelming-as yet. I know others who are experiencing similar levels of change. The changes are, for the most part, refreshing and reassuring. There are the normal levels of passings, mostly among those with prior serious health issues. There are also people living, healthy and happy, into their nineties and beyond. I met a gentleman on Tuesday, who is 90-and could pass for 55. Then, there is Mom, also in her nineties and enjoying a new chapter in her life.

I, like others dealing with such issues, will naturally adjust my current schedule, as there is nothing more pressing than taking care of my one critical health issue, which will involve an outpatient procedure and likely not be followed by much downtime, if any. You will all know, when it is over-probably within the next three weeks.

Much Ado….

0

May 30, 2021- Have you spent much time in your life, building a small matter up, until it becomes overwhelming? It often occurred, that the matters, which so affrighted me before they were resolved, quickly became lost in the fog of the mind’s archival footage, once a day or two had passed.

These are matters most often related to finance, or to interpersonal relationships. Panic attacks and anxiety (which are serious medical matters, deserving of professional attention) aside, it generally happens that careful thought and emotional grounding can help to put things in their true perspective. Past unpleasant experiences can cloud one’s judgment, so it is important to recognize that each situation is different, that learnings from the previous bad experience can be put to use for a better outcome, this time and that the person, him/herself, is different now than before.

There are situations, of course, which are dire and which deserve all the “ado” they can be given: The illness or disability of a loved one, especially of one’s child, spouse or parent; a natural disaster which threatens or damages one’s home; a sociopolitical riot or rampage in one’s home area. That, in turn, is why we humans are social beings-that we may call on one another and anticipate support in a truly dire emergency.

I have had such emergencies in my life, and am fortunate that my family and close friends have been responsive and helpful, in a nonjudgmental manner. I would do the same for them.

A Few Learnings

2

May 27,2021- The squeaky toilet kept waking me, and in my semi-conscious state, I thought it was the room next door, which was being renovated, that was the problem. I got up, for the day, and found that it was my room, at Days Inn- Grants, that had the issue. Having had plenty of experience with such things, I fixed the toilet myself, and so informed the desk clerk, upon check-out. It was a simple matter of re-attaching the chain to the release lever.

I have now returned from the journey to help Mom move out of the family home and become settled in a more social place. She has all her wits about her yet, so I have every confidence that this will be a bright chapter in her life.

For myself, I know that the journeys that await me, this summer and autumn, will be more leisurely, without the sense of urgency that I felt this time, especially heading east. There were deadlines and commitments involved. Thankfully, the COVID protocols, to the extent they still exist, are very cut and dried. Masks are worn, when the community or the enterprise requests it, The same is true, with respect to physical distancing. Dealing with the pent-up aggression of drivers is more a matter of not using the passing lane, except to pass. If I find I am being tailgated, no matter the lane, there is always the next lane over to the right-or if that is where the aggression is happening, I can bide my time and let the impatient one go around.

The nice thing, this time around, is I heard a lot of “Come back and see us!” This is always gratifying, especially to one who has encountered the opposite, in times long past. Then again, I have cast off a lot of baggage, over the years.

I was asked, by a loved one, what new things I had seen and what I had learned, on this trip. I saw the Missouri State Capitol, and Harry S, Truman’s birthplace. I was reminded that people around major cities can be extremely impatient, if they are overbooked, overloaded and uncomfortable being in a given place. I found that would-be thieves are discouraged from breaking into my car, when they see the blue security light-which makes my double security system that much more gratifying.

Finally, I was reminded that, even when someone is making the most obvious of errors in reading or speech, to not interrupt them, to let them finish. After all, the world is not going to cave in from that error.

Home Base Bound: Day 1

2

May 22, 2021, Bedford, PA- It is most often a good idea to end a visit to one’s hometown with a call on an old friend, or two. So, I spent my last hour in Saugus with a couple who live diagonally across the street from our old house, and down a couple of houses. It’s always good to catch up with local news and discuss what would be best for the town.

With the future of Saugus set, for now, I headed to nearby Wakefield’s Gingerbread House and got a coffee and breakfast, for the road. This was enjoyed at a Massachusetts Turnpike Service Area, giving me an extra boost, in the event that the Connecticut and New York portions of the trip became traffic-jammed and tedious. There were a few short backlogs in Connecticut, passing through Hartford, Waterbury and the junction of I-84 and Rte. 7, west of Danbury. This is de rigeur for the Constitution State (Connecticut’s ratification was what put the Great Document over the top, and put our country on the map, for real.). New York’s segment of I-84, sometimes a scene of long back-ups, was smooth as silk today.

The drive through Pennsylvania is frequently the longest stretch, east of the Mississippi. I zipped down I-81, and headed over to the Oley Valley, visiting with Beth and David Glick, their faithful collie, Manny, and their interesting house guests, Beth’s relatives from Illinois. The couple have four vibrant and talented children, the eldest of whom can pilot a small airplane. We discussed the relatively small number of women pilots, which, considering that Amelia Earhart was one of the pioneers of American aviation, seems a bit disconcerting. I think the young lady will do a lot to counter that, given her self-confidence, and her parents’ support.

As I have a late night Zoom call, I left the Glicks’ house, after a sumptuous dinner, and made my way to this community, in west central Pennsylvania. One of Bedford’s draws, for me, has been Bedford Diner. I found the omelets and freshly-ground sausage patties there to be worth making this my overnight stop, when heading towards New England. The old diner appears to have closed, but the crew is now at Route 220 Diner, so that will be my breakfast stop, tomorrow. It’s gratifying that people for whom I have developed warm feelings are able to bounce back from hard turns, and continue with what they do so well.

Goodnight, all, from Janey Lynn Motel, in Bedford.

Around Hometown: Day 5

4

May 21, 2021, Saugus- Mom gave me my marching orders. I am to do several sit-ups, every day, henceforth, eat smaller portions and get out on the trail more often. While she is still very concerned with COVID variants (she is fully vaccinated, but frets about the deniers causing havoc), she knows I am not at risk for the disease. Thus, taking care of the Septuagenarian Sag is to be one of my main focuses.

This comes with her own promise to me, to engage with her fellow residents and end her long self-imposed isolation, which came to an end with her move of last week. There are several activities she can join now, so I look forward to the resumption of her letters-which she stopped, out of annoyance at being stuck in the house, for so long.

Today is the twenty-first day of the fifth month, in the twenty-first week, of the twenty-first year, of the twenty-first century. Twenty-one is the Industrial Age’s hallmark of maturity. This, in and of itself, means little to actual maturity, which varies from person to person. When I was 21, I was in the throes of adjusting to a rapidly-changing set of circumstances, in my life, but using the methods of an adolescent. Maturity, for me, came around age 40. The century, though, has begun heading into its maturity, with the human race, likewise, being dragged kicking and screaming into its own maturity. Forces like nationalism, racism, misogyny, sectarianism, patriarchy and material jealousy are bound to fade-though not before each goes through its “wounded predator” stage.

My current visit to my hometown will come to an end, tomorrow morning, and the road southward, then westward, will occupy me-and this blog. I have my marching orders, though, and my filial sense has not faded, even as mother and son share the status of advanced age.

Farewell, childhood home, and may you become the place of memories for another family.

My childhood home
The old backyard
Our dogwood tree

Around Hometown: Day 4

2

May 20, 2021, Saugus- In anyone’s life, priorities must be made, kept and never be fodder for apology. I took stock of my charitable efforts, this afternoon. They are, by any definition, responsibly generous. I will not apologize for not taking on additional causes, no matter how persistent and vocal the appellants are. There remains one appeal on Facebook, to GROUP contributions. If no one contributes, in three weeks’ time, that will end-and I will not apologize, no matter how harshly, or how widely, I am criticized. I have told those who might benefit, that there are no guarantees. Besides, I know, and people who know me best will concur, that I do not live for my own comfort, alone.

I felt better about myself today, observing the process of refuse collection and donation retrieval at the old family house. It is just about empty now, with a few boxes to be taken to Mom’s new residence. We had a vibrant and wonderful family dinner, this evening, at Teresa’s Italian Restaurant, in the town of MIddleton, about 10.5 miles north of here. Whatever tensions or differences of opinion might have arisen in the family, over the past several days, vanished, with the awareness that we were all here for Mom.

I will spend one more day here, visiting an old friend around Noon, and going back to Mom’s place in the early evening. Then, the road back to Arizona opens up, with the knowledge that I will be back here, in midsummer, to honour Mom’s progress in this new chapter of an incredible life.

Around Hometown, Day 3

2

May 19, 2021, Saugus- Today was a bit of a break from the house clearing. I focused more on getting the car’s regular service. No problems arose there. Otherwise, today was mostly spent resting.

I made the choice to spend the last two nights here at Chisholm’s, rather than sleeping on the carpet in the old house, “for old time’s sake.” There is only so much emotional value, in spending time where ghosts actually did call on me, in my childhood. There are also the ghosts of my own inferiority sense, which I realize now was just a reflection of the inferiority that some very vocal people, in my family and close by, seemed to feel in my presence. It would have been better, had they never felt that way. Putdowns flowed pretty freely, back and forth, in the days of my youth. Much of that has been overcome, but there is the residue that I sense, after being with certain people for more than a few hours.

I know this much, though. There is no length to which I would not go, to defend and protect any of my family and townspeople from attack. Every one of us has been wrestling with demons, and for far longer than we sometimes care to acknowledge. I have urged people who want my help, in other communities and countries, to learn to work together at a local level. That admonition has sometimes been put to the test, these past few days, in my own situation. I find that a good thing; self-purification makes giving advice to others a whole lot more trustworthy.

Around Hometown: Day 2

2

May 18, 2021, Saugus- My visit with Mom, this evening, produced a lot of talk of her long life, with the joyous acknowledgement that her life is far from over. She is grateful that she has us, her children, tending to the house and making time to visit her in this first week in new quarters. None of us would have it any differently. Mother has given us so much of herself, from my own Day One, onward. Another woman in our nuclear family has taken on so much of tending to her needs- as well as initiating and maintaining the process of clearing and selling the old house. This week is the least we men can do to help out. I will likely be back, in late July or early August, to follow up with Mom’s progress in adjusting to her new home. In the meantime, she has plans to join in the Center’s activities and I know she will make new friends.

Curiously, the “don’t forget about us” calls and messages I have been getting, from elsewhere in the country and across the globe, have both made me put this current effort into perspective, and have triggered some old trauma, which has only been vaguely in my memory. I have figured a way to help another family, experiencing dislocation, even as my mother has successfully been resettled. There is someone else, in another part of the world, whose difficulties are, in large part, the result of his community’s failure to act in concert with one another. When I have encountered such dystopia, in the past, the feelings that have arisen are confusion, anxiety, then sadness, and finally, an angry outburst at those who refuse to work together. There is also a measure of self-loathing, as invariably those same people will turn and list all of what they claim are my own shortcomings and all the ways that I have failed them.

My psyche is changing, though, and I am seeing more clearly that the only way out of any impasse is for those on the ground to work together-and never for someone from outside to swoop in, throw money at the problem, and leave. That colonialist and patriarchal method has become the default for so many, in impoverished communities, both in this country and elsewhere. I am no longer going to blame myself for the refusal of others to help themselves, regardless of their own past experiences.

When I left Saugus, so many years ago, I was hobbled by fear, uncertainty of self-worth and the Rescuer Syndrome. That was not my parents’ fault, but it was my burden to cast aside. It is gone, now, and I feel it important to hold others to the same standard. All communities, especially those which are disadvantaged, need to band together and raise themselves up-confronting, as a unit, every single obstacle in their way.