April, Memories, and Vulnerability

Pooh sizedGood evening from my office (aka: home away from home),

It has been a busy and productive day . . . that is both a good thing and a necessary thing. I have already addressed that requirement, but it seems to be happening. In the next week and a half, there are four dates in April that held significance for me: on the 11th, Mr. Clare Swaby, my father’s eldest brother-in-law was born in 1892. That date sort of boggles my head. That is a really long time ago. He was such an amazing man. I do not think he went to school beyond the 4th grade and yet he was one of the most knowledgeable people I have ever met when it came to knowing plants, animals or birds that inhabited a particular geographic area. In addition, he was one of the more colorful people I have ever met or known. The second date is the 14th. Interestingly, that is the birthday of both my adoptive father, which I regard as my real father as well as my second wife, Theresa. While I will tell his age if he were alive, I will not do the same regarding Theresa. My father would be 99 years old on this coming Monday. That is also amazing to me. If you have read my blog over the years, you know that he is a very important person and a very wise person. In a previous blog I once wrote that he had been dead for X number of years, but he was still getting smarter. It is still the case. He was brilliant, but more importantly, he was wise. He understood people. I wish I had that gift. The third date is the 20th, which was my parents’ wedding anniversary. They were married in 1940. If my mother would have lived another 8 months, they would have been married 50 years. I certainly look at the marriage very differently than I did growing up, but nevertheless, they were married 2/3s of my father’s life when she passed away. The last date is the 29th of April and that is the day my sister, Kristina (Kris) passed away. It is hard to believe that is already 6 years ago. She was only 51 years old. She was actually my real birth-sister. It reminds me that there is another sister somewhere. I find myself at this moment wondering where she is and what kind of a person she might be.

When I knew that I was moving back to Pennsylvania the second time, I traveled back home to Iowa to see my older cousins, and to actually visit the cemetery where my relatives are buried, It was really very moving as I stood in Graceland Cemetery and I could look out and see 3 or 4 generations of my family plots in a 500 yard space. It was a bit unfathomable to me that I was the only left in my generation in my family. I still find that a bit disconcerting. There are times I get caught up in the idea that there must be a reason. There are other times that I feel it just is. I am not sure what my position is on all of that right now. I cannot say I have jettisoned any idea of a God. It is too engrained in my DNA, my education, my experiences, my own memories. It is one of those things where I think I need a serious conversation about the what-ifs versus the what if not . . .  I probably even feel a twinge of guilt for having such a struggle, but then again, that is what faith is . . .  a battle. I do believe you have to argue, fight and question it. Without it being “purified” if I can use that image, it cannot be something that really holds someone up in the difficult times. And yet, even that seems cliche’ to me at the moment. It is something with which I need to have some intentional time, and perhaps sooner than later.

As I was working with some of my students today, four have come in during the last two days to check and file their minor completion form. There are some very strong students in that group and it has been a pleasure to work with them. I was speaking with one in particular today and she is both excited and frightened and for all of the appropriate reasons. It is such a different world to be walking into now than it was all those years ago when I graduated with my undergraduate degree. We were in a pretty difficult recession then also, but I knew I was merely continuing on to graduate school and I had been accepted so I did not have to worry. What I am realizing is that each time I have been in the position to find something new (and some of those times have been intense), However, I have always had options, and reasonable options. I think the only time I really found myself in the situation of having no idea of what was next was when I got out of the service. However, that was a very different time. I was just a boy then.

So . . . I will admit that I just got my ass kicked by a copier and it frustrated the bejebbers out of me . . . and I got chastised, but deservingly so. One of my most vulnerable areas is when I feel stupid and people see me looking stupid. I understand that it is part of our humanity. Thank goodness that someone is willing to put up with my stupidity for a bit. I will still get what I wanted printed off. And then, of course, knowing that my little tantrum was witnessed is even more embarrassing. Part of that is because I do have some technological savviness, but it certainly left my body a bit ago. I am actually getting it as a PDF, which is good thing. So why do I get so upset? I think I know what that cause is, but I also know that I should not continue to allow myself to be victimized by that memory. I think it is feeling belittled and stupid that is still the most damaging to who I am. That damage continues to mount this evening as I am actually trying to still post this and I am writing for the sixth time. I have actually spent almost two hours. Frustrated, but not yet swearing, and foolish, or so it seems, but not yet quitting. So . . . it is back to what I was trying to continue to write.

I am really struggling with exhaustion and what it does to my body, but I need to finish this post. I was writing each time now about memory and the power it has over us as individuals. Memory has the power to ground us and help us understand who we are or it has the power to paralyze us because we cannot get beyond it. It has the ability, in fact I will contend It plays a major role in us forming our identity. Conversely, it has the ability to destroy what we believe or hold dear, and thereby stealing our identity. As I once wrote in a paper, what happens when we lose ourselves? Who are we then? How do we get ourselves back? Memories are important for if we do not have them, we have no past . . . if we have no past, we cannot really look toward a future because it would not make sense. I think there are times we might believe ourselves happier if we could merely forget, but I do not believe it is that easy. We have to have both the good and the evil of that ability. It is what both Paul said in Romans and what Luther struggled with in his paradoxical systematic. At this point, I would like to write more, but that is for another time. I believe I have to pay attention to issues at hand. My body in the last two hours has managed again to force me to pay attention. This time, however, the pain is a combination of both the process and my self-inflicted stupidity. Amazing how vulnerable I am, or became, because I could not use the copier or did not know how to turn off my phone. It is true, I am, at times, that inept. Back to the beginning of my post: Uncle Clare, Happy 122nd Birthday! Dad, I wish you an amazing 99th birthday from here to wherever you are. I am so proud to be your son; I hope you are proud of how far I have come. I love you even today. So . . . now off to manage my intestines. I guess, at least, on the positive side of things, I do know what needs to be done. Last, but certainly not least: muchas gracias para su ayuda con la copiadora esta noche y para crear el PDF de la lectura. Gracias por recordarme, claramente, yo podría añadir, que yo tenía opciones en vez de ser frustrado simplemente. Perdóneme para no preguntarle más pronto; perdóneme para crear un final triste a lo que había sido un día bueno, pienso. Gracias por la sopa deliciosa. Lo que es más importante espero que el que estudia vaya bien y le deseo mucho éxito en su examen mañana.

Thanks to everyone who seems to read what I post.

Michael (aka: un hombre a veces tonto, vulnerable, y estúpido)

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