blessèd are the innocent, blessèd are the children

“It is more important that innocence be protected than it is
that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world
that they cannot all be punished.

But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die,
then the citizen will say, ‘whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial,
for innocence itself is no protection,’
and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be
the end of security whatsoever.”

John Adams


(sleep, the time toddlers return to angelic innocence / Julie Cook / 2019)

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Matthew 5:5-9

indebted

“I don’t know who my grandfather was;
I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.”

Abraham Lincoln

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

Marcel Proust


(the cousins circa 1966 )

Family.
A difficult and delightful hodge podge and conundrum all rolled into one.
For good or bad…we all have family….

Do you see the wee awkward one there, the little one in green sitting in the
middle on the couch in this grainy old family photograph?

That would be me.

Little did I realize then that the two cousins, brother and sister, sitting to my immediate right and left would eventually come to be two of the most important people
in my life.

The age difference is 5 and 8 years respectively.
Enough of a deep and wide chasm to keep the young cousin at, what was hoped to
be, a safe distance.
Being just that, I was the little cousin who was to be endured during holidays,
for what was hoped to be only for a day at best.

The only catch was the fact that the two girls were also just that—
the only two girls in a sea of boys with a doting grandmother who had raised
two boys yet always yearned for a girl.
Of which forced these two mismatched girls to spend more time together than either
one particularly cared.

So should it come as any surprise that the older of the two girls tried twice to do
away with the younger one?

How was the fact missed that when these two cousins were once visiting their
grandparent’s farm, deciding to go out for a ride on the horses,
the older one opted not to secure the younger one’s saddle, leaving her dangling precariously between a deep raven or a bed of overgrown brambles…
with the only choice of survival being the brambles….

Or what of the time the older one was told to prepare the younger one something
for supper…and so, what was dubbed a cannibal burger, was quickly served…
simply being a raw hamburger patty that perhaps was hoped served as a last meal….

The teenage boy you ask??
Well he simply had no time for any such foolishness, opting instead to spend
time his own way…away.

And little did any of us know that on that picture day so long ago that
two in the photo would leave us far too soon.

I lived in the family of the younger of the two brothers.

A quiet lazy man who called Atlanta home.
Ours was a small family of four.
The other and older brother lived with his young brood up north in a rural
city in the same state.

The distance often limited the times spent together as “family.”

The oldest cousin in the photo was soon to move states, off to college,
where he would eventually go on to medical school,
marrying and forging his life there, away,
as it is to this very day… so his presence now is of little consequence.

Add also to the photo the fact that two in the picture had been adopted…

And so it was with my having been one of the two adoptees.

Such was that I always had felt a deep void in my heart.
I always felt a disconnect from my cousins…
as if I really wasn’t related and therefore I was always an outsider,
not really related.

We all shared the same last name,
but at some point prior, I actually had had a different last name.
Different family traits, different everything.

Of course today my grown mind knows better and that such a thought never crossed
the minds of my cousins. Simply put, I was just the little cousin…
Yet in my mind I always felt separate from what made the family just that,
a blood bonded family.

As time passed all the cousins went their own separate directions…to school,
careers, marrying and forging lives of their own.
All except for the two youngest boys.

The youngest cousin there on the floor was only 3 years older than me.
We were very close growing up, as our ages dictated that we were the two
relegated to spend the most time together.

We were the best of friends, growing very close over the years as we each dealt
with our own varying family dysfunctions, that was until he was tragically killed
in a car wreck at the age of 23 while at age 20, I was left to pick up our pieces.

My little brother, the youngest of all the cousins would eventually commit suicide
as he could never reconcile himself to having been “given up” and then in
turn adopted…despite the fact that he was always loved and cherished within
this family.

There would always be the occasional wedding or funeral that would bring everyone
back together….
but time, age and distance had placed a divide in the family,
creating a group of strangers rather than bonded relatives.

My family of 4 eventually became a family of 3, then it was down to 2 and
this past March, it became only a family of 1.

Their family of 6 eventually became 5, resting now at an original 4.

But as theirs was the greater in number, it only made sense that their family’s
numbers would grow exponentially…
blossoming to the current total of 31 while mine is up to 4 with a
5th on the way.

But oddly and blessedly enough, time would be kind as it always has a way
of coming around full circle.
It has allowed for the bridging of the chasm of both age and distance…
in turn rendering all of the divides no longer relevant….delightfully
null and void.

Each cousin has lived through, as well as survived, their own life’s tumults…
And the realization and acknowledgement of such has provided a bonding effect.

Those two cousins who sat on either side of me all those many years ago,
along now with their spouses, swooped in to take my small brood of
a family under their care when it was most needed.
And when things became really difficult, they merely intensified their care.
And that care continues as I continue putting the pieces of loss back together again.

No longer was I just the little annoying cousin but I had become more
like the younger sister…
a sister who they each knew would need their love and support.

Family, as we most all know, is a complicated affair.
Never perfect, never what we hold in our minds.
However we are blessed when we realize that our adversities can actually provide
a unifying factor.

Despite having known these people my entire life, I don’t think
we actually got to truly know one another until we became adults.
And since neither of them read this blog I don’t think they’d mind
me telling you how very lucky I consider myself having been “stuck” in the
middle on that couch so very long ago…

Family, for good or bad, we usually all have one….
and how so appreciative I am that this adopted child was blessed by one
with such a tenacious zeal.


(both of my cousins with their mother, my aunt, my now 92 year old aunt,
almost 3.5 years ago in Savannah at my son’s wedding / Julie Cook / 2014)

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their
own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8

Resilience

“‎Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you.
Never excuse yourself.
Never pity yourself.
Be a hard master to yourself-and be lenient to everybody else.”

― Henry Ward Beecher

DSCN4045
(a cut sunflower / Julie Cook / 2016)

Some of us are…

And some of us are not…

DSCN4044

What is it that makes us resilient to this thing we call life?
That uncanny ability to hold up and even withstand the often excessive plummeting experienced throughout this journey of living?

For some of us it seems to be a hidden innate, hardwired mechanism comprised of moxie, hutzpah, determination and an odd aligning of the universe producing pure stupid luck.

It is the ability to go on and on despite the assault of physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual forces.

For so many of us, it is life’s cruel and unkind events that render us senseless, dropping us to our knees…

Yet for a few seemingly invincible souls, it matters not the hardship, the heartache, the exhaustion of mind, body and soul—these are the able bodied souls who can take a licking of insurmountable proportion and keep on ticking….

Those who have survived kidnappings, beatings, rapes, tortures, years in death camps, the loss of limbs, excruciating illness and even the tragic separation from loved ones…
those who have witnessed atrocities unbearable to most human beings…
And yet these hardy souls, for good or bad, muster on…
often time not merely surviving, but actually thriving…

Have they been gifted…
or perhaps even cursed?
Are they stronger than the average person?
Are they immune from resulting miseries?

Or is there a subconscious awareness…
a drawing down into a place a great depth that reaches farther and wider….
touching upon that deeply buried remnant piece of the Divine…

The righteous keep moving forward,
and those with clean hands become stronger and stronger.

Job 17:9

Something better than before…

“Empires not based on peace are not blessed by God.
Politics divorced from justice betrays those who wish this to be so”

Pope Pius XII

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people he chose for his inheritance.

Psalm 33:12

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(Rock of Cashel/ Rock of the Kings / Co Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2016)

Empires have risen and Empires have fallen…
Nations that once prospered have perished and disappeared.

Time has not been kind to the once great Civilizations and Empires that were…

Phoenicians
Egyptians
Monguls
Huns
Romans
Greeks
Persians
Ottomans
Mayans
Angles
Picts
Goths
Saxons
Celts
Normans
Vikings

The list is lengthy as the questions remain…

Where did they go?
What really happened?

Some evolved into others as some devolved into a lesser form.

Great, rich, powerful, intimidating, influential..
Each simply ceased and are now oddly no more.
Lost somewhere along the winds of Time.
Yet their descendants quietly now roam the earth.

Was it…
Catastrophe?
Plague?
Self destruction?
Natural disasters?
Wars?
Revolutions?

Or was it merely fate?

They were once resolute.
They were once certain.
They once believed in their place in the annuals of Time…

As in…
Persevering
Maintaining
Growing
Surviving

As in forever….

What were…
Their goals
Their desires
Their mission
Their purpose

Were their pursuits pure…
Their desires true?

Were lessons learned…
Or will mistakes be repeated?

Are we today, better, because of them?
Learning from what went before…

Are we…
wiser
kinder
more practical
less self absorbed
more peaceful
altruistic
benevolent
nurturing
happier….

Are we… better…?

Are we blessed?

Or….

Are we doomed?

Destined, perhaps even cursed, to the same demise of those who have gone before…
Simply disappearing into the memory of Time…
…along with all those who once were powerful, mighty and great…?

Or have we chosen a different path, a different fate…
choosing a different destiny altogether…?

Maybe something better than before…?

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:15

Mr. Mole, Continued Forgiveness and Grace

IMG_0542
(photograph: my dad circa early 1930s)

My Dad.

There is a great deal of emotion wrapped up in that simple statement. Good and bad. There is also a good dose of guilt and regret. I am not a “daddy’s” girl. My dad was never that oh so strong and ever protective figure. I spent, or I should say, wasted a great deal of energy and time regretting and resenting him over all of these many years for not being that strong male in my life. That’s not to say however that he was not there for me—on the contrary, I have always had a dad in my life. Thankfully, I still do.

My parents were never divorced or separated, except for the when my mom quietly gave up her battle with the cancer in 1986. They had married in 1953, adopting two children over the course of that marriage. My dad, being a big kid at heart, was probably the “better” parent when we were little as he doted on us at Christmas and birthdays, being most extravagant with gift giving, even though it was never affordable for him to do so, and enthusiastically enjoyed taking us to every Disney movie imaginable. Oh to be a child, in the very early 60’s, getting to go see a full length animated Disney classic at the oh so magical Fox Theater in midtown Atlanta.

A family movie night, at home, consisted of an elaborate production of setting up a screen at one end of our home’s small hallway, lugging out the 16mm projector and setting it up at the opposite end of the hallway. Woody Woodpecker was the featured film and I never tired of watching, albeit it silent, Woody getting into the same troubles view after view. I knew that obnoxious call of his from television. It was perfectly fine not hearing him on these occasions. My brother and I would lie on our stomachs with heads propped up on hands and elbows with feet tangling up in the air. Nice memories.

But if you ever read my post Forgiveness One Step At A Time, you will recall that this oh so bucolic scene of family bliss was not the norm. There was the dark umbrella of mental illness, which hung over my small family like a cloak of death waiting to claim it’s latest victim—all the while as my brother would eventually bring the very concept of “family” in our world, to its knees.

I spent a lot of time being angry with and at my dad for not being stronger—for not doing more, for being frozen with inability. For what so many today crudely say of those lacking in tenacity or a certain strength, “for having no balls”– for not taking the bull by the horns and for not working harder at saving our crumbling world. Instead he stood by watching rather hopelessly, wringing his hands all in ill effect. It seems now it is easier for him to lament that he drove my brother to madness… which is so far from the truth.

My dad has allowed himself to be a victim of my brother’s illness, and all these many years later, he constantly pulls out a picture of my now deceased brother, at a much younger age, telling any and all who will listen as to how he drove Ed to be what he was. This, always sending me in a silent fit rage as I and others gathered around continue the litany of “no, that is not true, that is not how it was”…… talk about frustration….

After my mother’s death, my father, who was not one to spend a dime except if it was your birthday or Christmas, slowly began to divest himself of some his tightly guarded and secured assets. I think there was a sense of silent guilt that my mom had not always had the new and improved things or appliances. No house updates, no upgrades or remodeling for us. No fancy vacations, luxury cars, private schools, or extravagances of any sort for us.

We were, however, never were left “wanting” as we had what we really needed. Unfortunately however my Mom was only allotted $50 a week in order to buy groceries, clothes and basically handle a family of 4—leaving very little if anything remaining for herself– no lunch with friends, no trips to clothing stores or fun afternoons out with the other moms. She was a stay-at-home mom, but always, one, who I sensed as very unhappy—a very sad unhappy woman.

It was my friends and roommates in college who gave my dad, unbeknownst to him, the moniker of Mr. Mole, as it seemed my parents never went out for adventure, movies, ball games, etc.– never venturing far from our home, which they dubbed the mole hole. The name stuck and my dear old friends always lovingly ask today how is old Mr. Mole? Only adding to that sense within me that we were not an average family…compounding any growing resentments I was already harboring.

My dad, however, has since become very generous and kind the older he has become, not that these are traits he ever lacked— old family friends always talk about how nice a guy my dad was—and that may just have been part of the trouble—he simply was too nice and naïve a guy. I feel today that perhaps he, after losing mom, after my grandmother’s death, after he retired, after becoming a grandfather, having since remarried—thought deep down that now it was “ok” to spend a little of the tightly hoarded savings and to enjoy the little family he has remaining around him—to dare to actually enjoy and live life—all however in a very conservative small way—not being able to stray too far from those silent voices that haunt him.

If it were not for my dad, my son, his only grandchild, would not have certain opportunities that he now has and enjoys. My dad has helped to take care of and provide for my small family in ways that we could not necessarily do for ourselves and we are truly indebted to his generosity. It is now that I can see and appreciate his early frugal ways as they have helped to make life today a bit easier for all of us. My son has a very close relationship with his grandfather as they are “partners in crime” and for that, I am grateful.

I believe that it is not until becoming a parent and being able to put time and space between one’s self and that of one’s own childhood that a type of healing can finally begin to coagulate. I know this is true in my own life. All of the energies I wasted being hurt, regretting, and simply being mad that I didn’t have a strong dad have, thankfully, finally melted away. God’s Grace of healing has slowly been at work in my soul—for which I am truly truly thankful.

I have indeed been blessed, on the one hand, of having that sort of relationship a growing girl needs with a strong leading male figure, that with my godfather—a long since retired Episcopal priest. He has been that stronger male in my life– the one who I could run to with all of my worries, fears and regrets….the one who has often picked up all the emotional pieces of my life—I owe him a great deal as well. And I know today that I have been actually doubly blessed. All this coming from a once very angry young woman.

It has not been until I have seen up close the mistakes I have made as a parent, the poor decisions, the things I regret, those mismanaged moments of my own parenting– as a mom, that I have finally afforded myself the ability to “forgive” my dad and to forgive myself as well. As any parent will tell you, there are no owner’s manuals given out in hospital at the time of delivery. We simply do the best we can do with the resources we have, or don’t have, and hope for the best.

I hope one day my son will be able to look back and forgive all the mistakes I have made along the way in his upbringing. As parents, it’s as if we simply walk a minefield of error…screwing up here and there, but always hoping for the best. Humans are resilient and this is a good thing.

And perhaps in all of this, age is an issue—in my case, thankfully, it is the mellowing with age that is proving a saving grace. My dad never knew I was always angry with him or resentful, that was more of an intrinsic battle I was waging— but it is certainly nice to be able to shed some of its weight. Does he continue to frustrate me? Definitely! As he’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, his childlike nature is simply being compounded. He is manipulative in a very passive aggressive manner. He has elevated my deceased mentally unstable brother to the level of Saint—but even that, thankfully, I am learning to let go of…

So at 53 I am getting to a place of some peace—or that is, until the next crisis rolls around 🙂 I can also say a latent “thank you” to my dad, for all that you have done and continue to do for us. Hopefully God’s work in me is on going, as I know it is, just as my previous post stated– forgiveness one step at a time—forgiveness for others, forgiveness of self– Thank God!!

I am a true believer in God’s Grace, as I am indeed a product of that Grace. I believe in healing—on a grand scale and on the smaller more subdued scale—the healing that takes place in my own heart is that of a gradual slow trickle—and that is obviously the way I need for it to be—even though I would often prefer being hit over the head and suddenly being a perfect person—but who is that perfect person? I’ve yet to meet one…
May God bless you as He continues blessing and healing me—-
Here is to Mr. Mole, my Dad.