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5 Jan

You Say You Want A Resolution

This past weekend I tried to explain New Year’s resolutions to Emilia.

“A resolution is something that you decide that you want to do in the upcoming year. You say it out loud or write it down, on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, so that everyone knows what your resolution is.”

“But you’re not supposed to tell other people your wishes.”

“It’s not a wish, really. It’s something that you want to do or have happen, and you make it happen for yourself.”

“So you don’t need stars or fairies?”

“No, you don’t need stars or fairies. You’re your own fairy.”

“Can you be someone else’s fairy?”

2 Nov

To Dwell In Unapproachable Light

dante-paradisoToday is All Soul’s Day, or the Feast Of All Souls, which is a name that terrified me as a child, because I imagined that it referred to a sort of buffet of ghosts, which, really, is a discomfiting idea at any age. But it’s not a ghost buffet, thankfully (or regrettably, depending on how dark your interests skew): for Catholics, it’s the rite of The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, which means, basically, it’s the rite of remembering and praying for those we love who have passed and who have not yet – yet – reached what Catholics call the Church Triumphant (Heaven) and the ‘beatific vision’ of God. It follows All Saint’s Day, which celebrates the souls of the just who have reached the Church Triumphant and are, presumably, getting down with some celestial karaoke and partying with the Lord.

This is one of the teachings of the Church that caused me to wander away, confused and frustrated.

12 Aug

We Are The World

When all was finally said and done, it wasn’t appearing on CNN in a tutu – nor appearing on CBC in a tutu, or posing in Central Park in a tutu, or watching as a limo slowed down on Fifth Avenue and the passenger leaned out the window and hollered – at me – hey, I saw you on TV in that tutu! – that stood out as the most memorable moment of my week last week. Which, when you think about it, is memorable in itself: I had a week in which I appeared on CNN in a tutu and that particular experience will not be recounted here because, during that particular week, stranger things happened.

Stranger things, like the prayer circle.

27 Jul

A Real Boy

pinocchio_poster_92_500Every visit to the doctor, now, brings bad news. In the early days, there were reassurances and messages of hope – some boys make it out of their teens, there are ways to slow the deterioration of his muscles, he might stay mobile for a long time, he might still get to enjoy some of his boyhood in the ways that other boys take for granted – but now, there are only somber descriptions of what will happen next, of what needs to be done to make things easier, of what use can be made of his diminishing time.

They want to put rods in his spine, she tells me. So that he can stay upright for a bit longer.

Rods in his spine. He won’t be able to bend, I think, before remembering, he cannot bend now. Not in the real, active sense of bending, anyway: he slumps, he droops, he slides forward in his chair, unable to hold his own weight even while sitting, a Pinocchio without strings. His spine is collapsing under the weight of his body, his muscles having deteriorated beyond the point where they can provide any support. He’s like a doll now, a puppet. But he has no strings by which he might be pulled up. He has no Blue Fairy to wave a wand and make such strings unnecessary. He has only surgeons, and rods.

28 Apr

This Narrow Valley

There’s a home for the elderly that Emilia and Jasper and I pass every day on our walks to and from preschool and junior kindergarten and ballet lessons and karate. Emilia calls the ladies who live there her ladies – “we need to wave to my ladies, Mommy!” –  and she waves and blows kisses to them when we see them sitting in their enclosed verandah, and, when they come out outside for their daily constitutionals, she stops for chats and hugs. They give her extra candy at Halloween. She thinks that they’re awesome. “Just like Grandma, only not so far away and also they give me candy instead of cake.” Which is an important difference, you know.

The other day, after passing her ladies and dispensing the requisite waves and kisses, Emilia asked this: “why are some grandmas in wheelchairs?”

“Because they’re older, sweetie, and their bodies aren’t working so well anymore, and they can’t walk as much as they used to, so they need help. Wheelchairs help them get around.”

“Are they going to die? Because their bodies aren’t working?”

“Not just yet, I don’t think. But yes, when people get much older, they’re closer to dying.”

“And when their bodies aren’t working they’re closer to dying too?”

This is what you get when death is a semi-regular topic in your household. “Yes, sweetie, when their bodies aren’t working.”

“Is Tanner going to die?”

Ah. Ugh.

7 Apr

Dear God


When I was twelve years old, I was confirmed in the Catholic faith. The priest who  administered the rite of confirmation was a man that I – in the manner of all judgmental twelve year olds who recoil at elders who seem weird and smell bad – did not like, although I did not, at the time, dislike him quite so much as I did the nun who led the weekly catechism classes for young members of the Church. Sister Anne was elderly, and terrifying; she wore her black habit like a suit of armor and carried with her a old wooden ruler, the kind with blade-like metal embedded along the outer edge, and she would menace us with it, sometimes cracking it down upon the side of a desk when some unfortunate child failed to list the Seven Sacraments on command. Sister Anne, my classmates and I decided, was not on the Right Side Of God.

Nobody that frightening could be good, we told each other as we congregated outside during a class break. God wouldn’t stand for it. “She’ll be punished some day,” someone said. “She’ll go to hell.” That thought was somewhat reassuring.

One of the boys disagreed. “God doesn’t seem to care all that much if the priests are scary, so why not the sisters? And the sisters don’t even do anything, not like the priests. He lets them” – he practically spat the word – “be the bosses of the church.” A few of the other boys nodded, and there was much shuffling of feet. Somebody murmured something about creepy being worse than mean, and a couple of the boys moved away from the group. “God doesn’t really care about what those guys do. He just cares that we know the sacraments,” he added. “It sucks.” I had no idea what he was talking about, but I knew that I really didn’t like the way church felt at this parish – a parish that my family had only recently joined, after relocating – at this parish, with this priest and this nun and these scared children, and it seemed to me that if anyone was to blame, it was probably God, who was in charge of the whole business, as I understood it.

24 Mar

Clockwatching, Redux

tannerToday, Tanner goes to the doctor. This is, in itself, nothing new – Tanner sees a lot of doctors – but today, he’s seeing the doctor so that they can start fumbling toward answers to difficult questions concerning when and how and how long. How long until his food needs to blended? Until he needs to be intubated? Until he can no longer sit up on his own? Until his lungs are compromised? Until he cannot breath on his own? Until my sister can no longer look after him on her own? Until, until…

The clock ticks so much louder now. Tanner’s condition is aggressive, relentless: his muscles are breaking down quickly, and as his muscles break down, so does hope.