I got into Buddhism for some simple reasons. 

  1. It acknowledges that life involves suffering, and teaches you how to deal with it.
  2. It doesn’t assume that everyone is a sinner.  What you do creates suffering or it doesn’t, and the more you learn about living without suffering the more often you’ll choose not to do the things that make you suffer.  (One of the things that makes you suffer is creating suffering for other people.) 
  3. It doesn’t assume that the answer is “out there” somewhere.  It demonstrates that the answer has all about being aware of each moment, here, now.
  4. The question is not “How do I find the answer?”  But, “How do I stay awake right now?” Because if you’re searching for the answer you won’t find it.  You can only find it by staying awake. 

But I keep running across practices that absolutely didn’t fit that little outline.  For example, I picked up this book called A Buddha From Brooklyn.  It is about this Italian American chick that someone decided was a Buddha, so she started a meditation center.  She’s constantly getting married and unmarried.  Lots of suffering there for her and the guys and the people around them. She wears heels to meditation practice… not “wrong”, just not really practical. And it’s her goal over the course of this book to build the biggest stupa in her area … a tower with a certain  bulbous shape…  fill it with relics such as the finger bone of some dead teacher and some rice and beans so that when it’s finished if you walk around it in a clockwise circle you’ll be healed or have wishes granted.   She is believed to be clairvoyant. 

Oh, boy.  She wanted the biggest and best magical object.  Competition and the supernatural.  Dukkha in drag. 

So I asked some folks in my sangha about the supernatural.  Basically, does everyone here believe this kind of thing, and is everyone expected to believe it if they come here?  Because, honestly, I was going to have to do some serious thinking if that was the case.  The main answer I got was from Will, a guy I’ve come to respect a great deal who said, “I am a skeptic at heart and I hold my skepticism dear.  The Buddha said to be a light unto yourself and if what he said doesn’t match your experience, by all means go with your own experience.” 

Oh, whew.  But then he said to be open and explore each thing that comes your way… skepticism shouldn’t be about just discarding everything that is different from what you know now.  That’s just another kind of attachment.  And attachment causes suffering.  Oh my. 

Okay.  Alright.  Basically the basic Buddhist take is that the iconography is about helping you focus, and if it is distracting, you don’t need it.  You’re not worshiping when you bow, you’re focusing your attention. You’re not worshiping the buddha statue if you happen to have one (and there is not one in our sangha), you’re using it it acknowledge that he had a good idea when he figured out how much good being fully present in each moment does.  Such acknowledgement helps you center and focus on the now.  The rest is just decoration, and as such completely unnecessary.  In fact, our sangha’s shrine bears simple objects to symbolize each of the senses.  In behavior analysis we would call them discriminitive stimuli that act as cues to observe the environment.  Cool! 

Whenever people don’t fully understand something they think it’s magic, and where there is magical thinking, people do weird things.  More on that in a minute. 

So I asked another burning question that was more personal.  In the Buddhist teachings we are advised not to cause harm to any sentient being.  In my job sometimes I recommend euthanasia for animals that are behaviorally unsound.  The way I make my decisions is basically, if the animal is likely to cause someone harm or if the animal’s current suffering is so great as to be untenable and perhaps unresolvable, or if his condition is such that confinement is the only safe solution, and such confinement is likely to result in lifelong suffering for the animal, then I recommend euthanasia.  I do not technically have the last word, but in practice, when it comes to behavior issues, my decision is almost always the final one.  That’s hard, so I wondered if Buddhism offered any snappy answers to that one. 

This lead to some uneasiness in the sangha.  One advanced practitioner reminded me that we are called upon to engage in “Right Livelihood”, and while she was kind, it was clear that to her this meant I should be considering a job change at some point.  In fact, she approached me later and suggested that in a couple of years I might find that it was time to move away from this line of work.  She also suggested, completely innocently, that these animals be provided with sanctuary somewhere or even released into the wild.  Oh, my.  Knowing what I know, this would create really bad karma. I forget that most people really don’t know the whole story about animal suffering. Not even close.

One guy said, “The Dharma recommends not killing, but it also acknowledges that it is impossible not to kill.  There’s not solid right and wrong.”

That helped me distill my question down to, “What is more significant?  Prolonging life or eliminating suffering?”  

One guy suggested that perhaps this is one way I can either serve my Karma, or even create good Karma to carry forward.  He said, “Maybe you are meant to be there because you have the ability to protect other people from having to make such a hard decision.”  I wanted to hug him. 

I know that what I do prevents far more suffering than it creates.  But I often feel quite sad about it.  One time we had to euthanize this dog that the staff loved. He was a purebred pit bull who didn’t like other dogs and was just always right on the rough edge of our “he’s a keeper” policy for a long list of reasons. When he got sick and the decision was made to euthanize the staff was broken hearted, and some were quite angry.  My heart bled for them and for the dog, and it was one of those rare days that I broke my open door office policy and locked myself in to ponder the meaning of life and my place in it for a while.

Will said, “You’re not going to get a definite answer on this one.”  Hello, Buddha.

So I spent the next few days with some minor angst.  I even asked myself if maybe I should be thinking about finding different work.  That caused significant brain drama for a couple of days.  Talk about attachment causing suffering!  Just thinking about walking away from my job caused suffering. 

At one point in the discussion about the supernatural Will said that there are times in his work as a psycho-therapist when his clients think he’s psychic because he read their situation so clearly and even assumed correctly about some situation they had experienced but had not told him about. He said, “It’s not that I’m psychic.  It’s just that I’ve been doing this work for 30 years and I’ve seen the same patterns over and over again.”  It’s like me and the dogs.  Sometimes I know what they’re going to do next because I’ve seen the patterns before. 

Maybe that’s all clairvoyance is.  Maybe that’s what the supernatural is. It seems magical to Sam because he hasn’t seen it before, but Sue has seen it again and again and again, so she can predict what will happen next.  Sam worships at his altar filled with awe and longing, while Sue attends her shrine to remind her that it’s all available to her if she just pays attention, and she experiences no longing and is filled with peace. 

A day or two after the conversations, I found a book in my Kindle that I had not yet read.  Buddhism Pure and Simple by Steve Hagan.  It was the right book at the right time.  He wrote, “It’s not about whether you’re doing the right thing or the wrong thing.  It’s about being awake while you’re doing it.”  And if you are awake while you’re doing each thing, you will find yourself doing more things that cause less suffering and fewer things that cause more suffering.  You can only achieve this if you stay present in every moment.  The path doesn’t lead to anywhere out there, it only leads to right here where I am. 

Simple, but so alien. 

Peace (Shiwa) from the Meditator Tot.

Kellie

Shiwa Nyi-Tso

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A Tribute to My Sister

December 24, 2009

Kerrie's Tiles              (Edges not yet finished)

For my sister

 This little rug is finished except for the trim.  It will have a bright red corded border when it is done, and will be finished out to hang on the wall of her kitchen.  I made it to honor Kerrie Jo’s commitment to caring for our parents during two years of illness, injury and death all while raising her own family and putting her career on hold.  She’s done it all with grace and style.  Thank you, Kerrie.

Kerrie and I used to  fight like cats and dogs.  Physical fights.  We’d slap, punch, pull hair, and yell things I can’t imagine saying to anyone today.  

One time when we were little Mom was getting us some gerbils because a friend of hers had one that had babies.  My grandma (Dad’s mom) was with us as we drove over there to get them.  One of us asked, “Will they fight with each other?”  My mom said, “Oh, no, they won’t fight.  They’re sisters.”  That satisfied us, but Mom and Grandma were quiet for a second and then looked at each other and started cracking up laughing. 

One time Kerrie dumped all my dresser drawers out on the floor so I pulled her hair and threw a whole glass of iced tea in her face.  Not the glass, just the ice and tea.  But it was a big glass.  Then I ran outside to burn off some steam and she locked me out of the house.  I can’t for the life of me recall what I did that caused her to dump out my drawers, but it was surely something.

As adults Kerrie and I weren’t close for a long time.  That was mainly because we lived far apart.  She moved back to New Orleans when I moved to Houston.  Her family lived in Kansas for years after we were in Dallas (Irving to be precise).  But we also have very different political and religious views.  And we had a lot of fights to forgive each other over.  We loved each other dearly.  We just had no clue how to be around each other for very long without feeling like pulling some hair… either our own or each other’s.

When my 79 year old Dad fell through the ceiling of his house in May 2008, landing on his head on the kitchen island and then the floor,  Kerrie called frantically.  I was driving to work and made a quick U, threw some things in a bag at home and then headed for east Texas.  I can tell you about the sordid story of events that followed, but I’ve written about them elsewhere, so I’ll just say that for a year plus two months we dealt with brain surgery, transfusions, abdominal surgery.  We celebrated Pop’s 80th birthday in rehab, Mom had her stroke, we lost an uncle and both of my in-laws, and Kerrie’s husband had a heart attack.   Then came cancer and chemo. 

There was absolutely no time or energy left for fighting with each other.  We were at war with the inevitable.  Why make trouble where there doesn’t need to be any?

By the time it was finished, after Pop died in those short months that sometimes seem to have encompassed our whole lives, we were wrung out and strung out, but we had learned how to be close.  We had learned how to ‘accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative’ all while holding each other up.  When it mattered we were there for each other.  I changed my ring tone to “Lean on me” for my sister’s calls.   Hers for me is “Somebody Groovy”, which is high praise, let me tell you what.

My sister finished her college degree during all of this, with three kids still at home and her husband running a business.  She helps Mom with shopping and book keeping and cooking and a huge array of tasks Mom can’t do by herself since her stroke.  She goes to church and does the shopping and helps in her husband’s business. 

My sister is my hero, and I want her to know it.  This is just a little token, but the real thanks is in my heart.

Kindle: An Attachment

November 15, 2009

Kindle DX Wireless Reading Device (9.7" Display, U.S. Wireless, Latest Generation)Product Details

 

Here’s my excuse:  Apparently Kindles need a break every now and then.  My Kindle has been returned to me.  (See yesterday’s entry.)  It is like a boomerang. Here’s the history of my Kindle.

I received it sometime this summer, with great excitement and glee and it instantly became my dearest inanimate companion.  (You can read yesterday’s entry for more on that.)  I bought it a purple leather cover.  I made a shrine to it… okay, I didn’t, but I love it.  No more teetering stacks of books on my bedside table.  Just one sleek electronic device.

In late June I took the Kindle to Sequim Washington where Jesus and I were doing a seminar on the Constructional Aggression Treatment.  I had to leave early because I received a call that my ailing father had taken a turn for the worse.  I and all my stuff were taken to the tiny airport where I would hitch a ride to Seattle and fly to Dallas, then drive to East Texas where my Dad was entering hospice care.

I stepped off the teeny plane and walked across the tarmac dragging my suitcase and lugging a carry on and got all the way inside the airport before realizing I’d left the Kindle in the seat pocket.  I panicked and asked someone to help because the plane was ROLLING and I was afraid he was going to taxi off to the runway with my Kindle.  A very nice young man (probably in his 40s) went out and got it off the plane, and returned it to me wearing a bemused… nay… annoyed… expression.

I went out front and got on a bus which would take me to the big airport.  I started chatting with the folks around me.  I hopped off the bus and went off toward the airport terminal, and realized I’d forgotten my Kindle in the seat pocket.  Note to self: DO NOT PUT KINDLE IN PUBLIC TRANSPORT SEAT POCKETS!!!!  I dashed back.  Dashing is something less than running, but still took my breath away.

I got off the bus again and scurried (slower than dashing, faster than walking) through the very long airport to catch the next plane only to realize that I had my Kindle … but I didn’t have  MY SUITCASE!!!!  This wasn’t a normal lay over.  It was a wee-plane to big-plane switcheroo, and I had zoned out thinking about my Dad and forgot that it was do-it-yourself service from thither to yon.

I ran back (literally ran… if you can imagine that) back to the other end of the airport only to see two men standing with my suitcase, scratching their heads.  Between gasps I called out, “That’s mine!”  They looked at me as I slowed to a dash and then a scurry and finally a stertorous stop. One of them said, “Well, did ya forget your luggage now?” I refrained from offering a clever retort only because I was out of breath. He said, “We were just deciding what to do about it and here you came running!” I replied something like, “Pant, pant, pant… Thank pant you pant pant… so pant pant… much pant pant pant.”

“Are you alright then?  Anything else I can help you with?”  The other man was just grinning.  I wondered if they knew the guy who went to grab my Kindle off the wee plane.

There have been nights when Kindle spent the night at one of my offices.  There have been days when my Kindle was at home and I wished it were with me, where ever I was.  But I got the DX… a bigger version of the Kindle… and it didn’t fit well into any of my purses so I was always leaving it elsewhere because I have so much stuff to tote at work.  That lead to me buying the nice purple tote I wrote about yesterday.  I’m hoping it will resolve my Kindle forgetting.  We’ll see.

So, what have I learned from all this?  That I do indeed have an attachment to inanimate objects problem. I wonder what I would have felt if I had forever lost a couple dozen of my favorite hard copy books.  Would I have felt the sense of panic … and of dukkha … that I felt last night when my Kindle was missing?  I don’t think so.  I think it was the $500 bucks we doled out on the device and the $50 more on the cover that made it such a big deal.  It is actually a device I coveted but didn’t need, and certainly didn’t miss before I got it.  But I had an attachment to getting it.  I really wanted it. And when I found out I could get a purple cover for it… well… it was mine.

Another lesson in dukkha.  What do you do about the attachment when something is lost then returns to you?  If I were a good Buddhist I might get rid of the Kindle.  Sell it on Ebay, donate the money to the SPCA?  But I would still have my attachment to books.  I would still have attachments to all sorts of things.  And I’ve learned much of what little I know about Buddhism on my Kindle.  So.  I don’t know what else to say about that except that I’m keeping my Kindle.  Unless I lose it for real sometime.  (I’m not really a Buddhist, I’m just saying…and I’m going to write separately on the Complete Buddhist… stay tuned.)

And that brings to mind what I automatically did last night.  I quickly came to the conclusion that it had been stolen, possibly by one of the two women standing in the bag section looking at wallets.  I very quickly dismissed the notion that maybe I forgot it somewhere again. I did fleetingly think that if I had left it in my cart (which I had) someone had already swiped it.  But I had, they handn’t, and no one did any swiping.  It was just me being forgetful.  (Forgetfulness drives me crazy but I’m SOOO good at it!) And me learning that blaming people isn’t too helpful.

Here’s what I did with my dukkha last night.  Whenever I would think about the Kindle and feel angry or sick, I would stop myself and say, “Okay, be with that feeling.”  And I would think about the knot in my stomach and just make myself stay there with that physical sensation.  And the sensation went away.  By the time I went to bed I was still disappointed, but I was okay. I had let go.  I was doing okay with the loss.  I still had work to do on it, but I was very nearly okay.

This process seems to have desensitized me to the loss.  This morning when I first woke up and thought about it, I felt a lesser sense of loss, but went into it, just went to that dull feeling and stayed with it.  It diminished.

So when I checked my voice mail and got a message saying the Kindle had been found in the shopping cart where I’d carelessly left it, I felt a little bewildered.  Really?  I was so sure it was gone for good.  I’d done my homework in letting go of the attachment.  I’d refrained from ordering another Kindle, not just because it was expensive but because I wasn’t sure I needed to have one.  (Okay, to be sure I did peek at the new Kindle model when I went online to cut off my Kindle service last night.  It’s smaller and will fit in more purses, AND it has global wireless, not just in the USA.  I don’t leave the country that often, but that would be cool… At cocktail parties I could say, “Oh, yes, I downloaded that book while vacationing in Belize.”  Of course I haven’t been to a cocktail party in 20 years. And I’ve never been to Belize. But the DX has a rotating display, and that does come in handy sometimes.  So, yeah, I would have ordered another Kindle.)

Kindle is home now, and fortunately I did not return the purple Kindle Purse, although I have yet to find a bag for inside the Kindle purse.  Maybe Ziploc makes something suitable. (See yesterday’s post for more on that, too.)  I re-registered her immediately.  It was super easy to do… even a thief could have done it.  See?  There I go again.

Good Karma to you,

Meditator Tot

 

I had a Kindle DX.  It was the object-love of my life.  Aside from my Element, my Kindle was my favorite inanimate object.  Well, except for my angled rug hook, my sock monkey slippers and my computer.  And my Merrell’s work shoes.  And our Tempurpedic bed.  In fact, the Kindle and the Tempurpedic … does anyone need anything else, really?  Really?

I was having this problem with the kindle.  It didn’t fit in my main purse, and any other bags I had were too giant and irritating, so I went out looking for a bag for my Kindle.  It’s own pursey bag to be carried in.  I went to TJ Max.  (You can get the max for the minimum at TJ Max.)  Brought my Kindle.  Let it try on several purses.  Settled on a purple tote that somewhat matched my Kindle’s outfit, a purple Kindle Cover. I was happy, Kindle was happy.  I paid for the bag, and some hand lotion, and went to my car.  I drove home.  I started to get out of the car, and Kindle wasn’t there.  I panicked.  I said Burma.  I freaked out.  I searched the car and SPED back to TJ Max.  The manager was quite pleasant but hadn’t had one turned in.  I wanted to have an anxiety attack or something.  I was just sick.  I retraced my steps through the store, when it dawned on me that it had been stolen.

The store was packed.  It looked like Christmas shopping going down in there.  I had pulled up next to a couple of women looking at clutches… I was hoping to find a small bag to fit inside my Kindle bag that could be pulled out when I wanted to go places Kindle didn’t need to go.  (Not many places, but I was in a very consumer mood.  A purse for my Kindle, a bag for my Kindle’s purse.  Made sense to me.)

I realized that just before that was the last time I saw Kindle.  I called home and my hubby dearest got online and realized, no, there isn’t any insurance on it, and no, Amazon doesn’t really have any way to stop people from re-registering a device as stolen and preventing downloads … or at least no policy of doing that.  Apparently Kindles are big business in the Thieving and conniving business these days.  They could easily make a stolen Kindle worthless by never allowing it to be registered again without certain backflips, but no.  All I could do was “Deregister” the Kindle and feel like crying.  I didn’t actually cry but I really, really felt like it.  I LOVE MY KINDLE AND WANT IT BACK.  It had my business cards in the pocket with my work phone number, but my work cell hasn’t rung, and it’s not going to.  At least not with someone saying they have my Kindle and want me to have it back.

So I drove back home, feeling just like crap, really.  I mean, really!  I was BUYING my KINDLE a PURSE and someone STOLE it!  Now I have a stupid purple tote that doesn’t have even one Kindle DX to its name.  I was driving and it was dark and people are SO STUPID when they drive at night.  They just cruise along like they have all the time in the world and don’t even CARE that someone MIGHT have had her KINDLE stolen, DAMN THEM TO HELL AND BACK!!!

So, I’m driving in the dark and I happened to touch my neck and a tiny little pendant I got in the mail today.  It is a silver circle.  On one side is a Japanese character, and on the other, the meaning translated into English.  Zen.  Meditate.  Be here now.

I didn’t want to be there, because there was very, very VERY very annoying and I wanted to be anywhere but there.  But I wasn’t somewhere else, I was there.  I was there, in my car on a dark Irving Texas road with someone else reading my Zen library… what is someone else going to do with 20 Zen Buddhism books?  Only I need them, do you hear me?

But I touched the little silver sliver and I came back to here, now, and I thought, “This feels really bad.”  Then I’d think of what kind of stinking jerk would steal a Kindle, of all things, and I said, “Okay, but be HERE now.”  And I stayed for a while, but I didn’t really want to at all, so I wondered how mad my husband really was… Kindles aren’t cheap, you know… and I said, “Okay, but be HERE now.”  So I stayed there for maybe a few blocks.  I felt how bad I felt, and I felt the attachment to this thing, this electronic book, this object that had taken on a life of its own.  I thought about attachment and how it causes dukkha (suffering).  I thought about my Kindle.  I thought about dukkha.  I was having a bunch of dukkha.  I hate dukkha.  I think a Buddhist teacher would say I made my dukkha more powerful by staying mad at the person that stole my Kindle.  But I don’t have a zen teacher, so I might as well not get too attached to that whole idea or I’ll have more dukkha.

I thought about the purple leather tote.  I got so mad.  How could I ever use that purse knowing I got it when my Kindle needed something to ride in and that now I don’t have a Kindle at all?  Damn, damn, DAMN!!  Damn, I miss my Kindle.

So I thought, “Be here now.  HERE now.”  I thought, “Damn, I miss my Kindle.  Missing my Kindle hurts.  Now hurts.  I miss my damned Kindle.  I have to let go of my Kindle because it’s gone and I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I don’t want to, damn it, damn it, damn it.  But that’s all there is to do. All I can do is miss my Kindle because it’s gone.  And most likely, no one is going to give it back.  It is gone.”  I breathed.  I felt the tightness loosen in my chest.  I didn’t feel like crying any more.  I didn’t feel like punishing myself for being so careless anymore.  I still felt sad, but that was valid.  I lost something I didn’t expect to lose.  I’m going to have an extinction burst since that form of reinforcement is no longer available.   There may be another Kindle in my future, but that one is gone.  Breathe.  Gone.  Breathe.  Gone.  Breathe.  Breathe.  Breathe.

I am not quite through being here with the idea that someone has it, but I really have to accept that they have their own Karma.  They have to live out their own choices. They wanted my Kindle, and they didn’t think about what dukkha that would bring on them.  I have no idea if everyone feels dukkha for wrong-doing.  I think they do, but I’m not sure.  What I do know is that it doesn’t help me to create my own dukkha by attaching to my anger at whoever it was.

I’ve lost so many people this year and last.  The Kindle was a little glimmer of happy in a sad couple of years. I could hide in my Kindle.  I felt so rich, knowing I was carrying not just one, but many, many books.  So much knowing in one little place.

I got home, called the Police who very politely took my story over the phone, although I did think they were going a bit far to ask my WEIGHT, for crying out loud.

I’m going to go watch a movie on TV with my husband.  I’m going to drink a glass of wine and I’m going to scratch my dogs where they love to be scratched and when I think about my Kindle I’m going to try to stay here now.  I’m just going to try.  That’s all I can do.

Meditator Tot

Being There

October 20, 2009

My sister sent me pictures by phone of my father’s headstone.  I was on the road to east Texas for the big event.

I drove into town and drove through for a small coffee with one cream and one sugar.  (He always went for the large, but as a symbolic gesture, I opted for the small this time.)  I pulled into the cemetary thinking I would spend a few minutes there just seeing what it felt like for my dad to have a headstone.  I placed the cup of coffee right above where I figured my Dad’s hands must be.

At the other end of Dad’s row there was a headstone being installed.  I stood looking at our new headstone.  Touched it.  Stood back.  I felt like I needed to do nothing and just be there.

Over from the new installation a little woman came tottering over, tidying things up as she went. Was she headed for me?  Of course she was.  I pretended to ignore her, but of course I couldn’t. She came up and looked at the headstone.  “You’re with the Sisson family?”

I nodded.  I wanted her to go away. I coached myself to just be there. She looked at the cup of McDonald’s coffee on my Dad’s grave.  “Are you a relative?”

I cleared my throat.  “Yes.  He was my father.”

“So, there’s Grant Steven, Kellie Ann and Kerrie Jo,” she read from the stone.  “Which one are you?”

“I’m Kellie.”

She introduced herself.  I can’t for the life of me remember her name.  I think it was Jo.  My mother used to go by that name.

“I think they got it in straight.  I like to be here when they put them in to make sure they are all straight.  I put all these marks with spray paint to make sure they get ’em right.”  She toed the orange blotch on the grass. She looked at me.  “It’ll get cut off next time they mow.”  She looked at the coffee cup.

“It looks nice,” I told her.  I wasn’t talking about the coffee cup.  I was having trouble being gracious with this kind woman who would make sure my father’s grave was always neat and tidy and that it was lined up just right with the other folks that were going to dust around him.

“They came in last month and put that one down there in and it’s about 6 inches off and gets over almost to the next grave.”  It was a dark shiny stone surrounded by bric a brack.  “I’ve told them to come and move it but they haven’t done it yet.”

My sister had placed solar lights by my father’s headstone.  This lady… might as well call her Jo… pointed at one with her toe and said, “Lots of folks are putting those in these days.”  I started to explain, but I didn’t.  I would have explained if she had complained but she didn’t.  She was perfectly nice but I didn’t think she would understand. And I didn’t think I could tell her unless I had to.

If I had explained I would have told the story the way my sister tells it.  My father liked to sleep with the light on.  He always went to bed early. He would leave the overhead light on until Mom came to bed and turned it off.  Kerrie said that when Mom lays down beside him the last time, we can turn off the light.

In the last months of his life at home Pop would sometimes sleep in the guest room with the overhead light on all night.  If anyone asked him how on Earth he could sleep in so much light, he would say, “I close my eyes.”  I always knew that Pop could sleep with the light on, but I didn’t know he preferred it until those last fragile months.  When I slept in his hospice room, I would wait for him to go to sleep and turn the lights off.  He would wake up and ask me if I could sleep with the light on.  We would come to some compromise where I would sleep with too much light and he would sleep with too little.

The week before he died, at the point where he wasn’t strong enough to get up at all, my aunt spent a week sleeping in his room.  She slept on a little pull-0ut cot that was pretty uncomfortable.  One night he told her he wouldn’t mind sleeping on that so she could sleep on his bed.  He said his bed was pretty comfortable and he could sleep on anything.  She hadn’t complained.  He just always wanted people to be comfortable.

Jo said, “Well, I’m glad to meet you.”

“Thank you for taking such good care of this place,” I told her.

“We have a good crew that comes out and does a good job,” she said, surveying the expanse of stones on the big flat land. It was a nice day. It was sunny, and not hot.  Somebody’s silk flowers had blown across the meadow. She looked at it, and I had a feeling it wouldn’t be there when I came back.  I thought of how my brother and I liked to say that our  father showed his love by doing things for people to make sure they were taken care of.  I knew he was in the right place.

She wandered off, back to the new installation.  I looked at the headstone.  I touched where us kids’ names nestled between the two bigger stones carved with their names and those dates, and where our family name graced the main foundation of the piece.

I picked up the cup of coffee and sprinkled it all around my father’s grave.

East Texas With Rug Frame

October 15, 2009

Yoda in Progress

I’m off to East Texas this weekend, toting a bunch of stuff I’m giving to my sister, plus my rug frame and supplies.  My sister, Mom and I plan to sit around and do fabric work (They quilt, I hook) and deal with the event of the weekend.  Dad’s headstone will be installed tomorrow.

The other day I had to be at work early.  I accidentally woke up at about 4:30.  What was wrong with me?  I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I read for a while, then I got up for zazen.  I sat for 20 minutes.  Ah.  it was really a great morning.  I had oatmeal for breakfast, and got on my way.  That night I was exhausted, but I did my zazen again, and slept like a baby.  It’s the little things.

The secret is I have hated getting up early since I was little, and the next day I got up as late as possible on a work day.  But that one day I got up early and it was good.  Getting up early isn’t a moral issue with me like it was with my father or my husbands’ parents.  They thought only lazy people slept late. And lazy wasn’t cute to them.  I have rebelled against getting up early when people have insinuated that only the early riser is worthy of anything worthwhile.  But really, to me it doesn’t matter.  You can do as much from 12pm to 4am as you can from 5am to 9pm.  But it was just a different here, now day.  I was there at a different now.

Now I’m working on just being with what I’m doing.  I’m not good at it yet, but I’m learning from it.  If I’m eating I try to spend at least part of the time just being with the food.  (Last night I made potato, mushroon, onion, celery soup with matzo balls.  I don’t know why I made that, but it was quite satisfying.  If there’s still some left I’m having it again tonight!)

With zen I feel like not eating so much meat.  That’s interesting, isn’t it?  I never intended to become a vegetarian when I started this, I just find that what I feel like spending time with is veggie food.  I wonder where that will go.  I’m not a vegetarian today.  I don’t know if I will be one later.  I just find it interesting that when I am mindful about food, I want vegetables and grains.

I’m off to go home, pack up my frame and my zafu and some furniture that’s going to get a new life.

Things are good. The big rain drop tears that come with knowing my father is really and truly done with this world and that a big granite stone, rich with feldspar and polished to a bright sheen will hold him down in the plain East Texas dirt (and his soul must surely be in Oklahoma) came and I just sat with them, and thought, “These are some big tears, and my chest is surely going to erupt in some big crying volcano of missing my Daddy.”  Maybe he didn’t think I should sleep so late, but he loved me.

When he was in the hospice one day, it was morning and I was getting ready to go.  I said goodbye and gathered my overnight bag and hugged my family.  They trickled out into the hall, and when I went to say one of the scary good-byes to my dad, he stopped me.  He wanted to talk about something… I wish I could remember more about what.  I know it had to do with something to do with not understanding why the doctor wouldn’t let him go home, and all that painful unwillingness to accept that he was dying.

When we had talked it over, and I had explained what I understood… I remember.  It had something to do with the young woman doctor who had told him he really was going to die.  He liked her.  He was a bit of a flirt in his old age.  He was unnerved by what she said although it had been said to him in a million ways by all of us for what seemed like forever. The next day he didn’t remember what she said and didn’t understand that he was dying again.

But what happened that day was that I was getting ready to go.  Maybe it was evening.  I used to stay as long as I could.  I hugged him and told him how much I loved him.  He said, “Well, Kell… I love you, too, times a million.”

I get to have that forever, or until my own brain starts to skip beats. Right now it makes me weak to think about it, and I can’t write it without all these tears and all this snot.  But it’s like … it’s like the best thing he could ever give me, and he gave it to me in a thousand different ways.