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Freedom From Terror: MLK JR’s Legacy


“Your father and his brother, the mayor, came into the kitchen with a rope. They said a black man had raped a white woman and they were going out hunting for him. I was terrified.”

Until I was an adult, my mother had told me nothing about her dashing, handsome husband, my birth father.

She asked me not to look for him because he was “dangerous.” I honored her request until I was forty-seven years old, when I searched for and found my father, an old man living in South Georgia.

Mom was a beautiful, small town Northern Pennsylvania school teacher who had spent years caring for her sick mother. He, a charming Southern soldier on leave, had swept her off her feet. They married on a whim. On their honeymoon, he took her to visit his traditional, southern family where she discovered his true identity.

With a flare towards the romantic, mom picked her china pattern, ‘The Georgian’ by Homer Laughlin,  learned to make Southern Biscuits, got on a train back to Pennsylvania and seldom saw the man she married until after WWII.

He returned to discuss divorce, disown me, and disappear. He never appeared in our family story until I found him in his kitchen forty-seven years later.

“I always wondered what happened to you, but I never did anything about it.” sad words from my elderly father, as I sat at his knee bawling.

We spoke on the phone several times and then three months later he died. The end.  Yet my work was just beginning. I needed to forgive the trauma and loneliness, depression and anger that remained in me.

When I read this article, I remembered him again and thought about the terror he was responsible for in that Southern town so many years ago.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/08/29/1011562/-Most-of-you-have-no-idea-what-Martin-Luther-King-actually-did

Life Lessons


English: Photograph of Paul McCartney of the T...

Paul McCartney 1964

I turned 64 the other day and the lyrics from the Beatles’ song “When I’m 64” began to run through my brain as if they were programmed. The song was written by Beatle Paul McCartney when he was 16 in 1966. I was a senior in high school.  You’ll find the full song with lyrics below:

love_lyrics_125.htm

The full story can be found here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_I%27m_Sixty-Four

None of us imagine being “old” when we’re sixteen, but looking back we remember singing those songs as if it were yesterday.

I only had a few Beatles’ records and seldom listened to the radio. It wasn’t a part of my Christian culture.  My life didn’t revolve around music, but rather cruising the roads in boy’s hot rods piled full with friends, screaming myself silly at basketball games, and on Sundays going to Alliance Youth Fellowship at Church.

I spent a lot of quiet, interior time as well; roaming the woods and pastures, writing stories, sitting in trees, being in companionship with my many dogs and cats.

None of these times prepared me well for my future.

I found family life to be very stressful, though I had longed for it with all my heart.  I never imagined the demands that commitment brings, especially commitment to raising a family, and signing on to self-denial until your children are grown.

This wore me out pretty quickly, and unfortunately, the stress showed in ways that I was unprepared for.  Anger was the most comfortable for me, and most hurtful for my kids.

I learned early that I would be the kind of mother who needed to apologize and seek forgiveness often because I so often flew off the handle with my kids.

Once my husband asked me if I couldn’t “think” before I became angry.  My immediate answer was, “No”, because the anger never gave me time to think, it always just “appeared” suddenly and furiously.

I know my children bear scars from my unpredictability, and that they forgive me now, but it took years for me to accept their forgiveness and to forgive myself.

That I am a different person now is such a relief…and transformation was years in process.  I’m sure God was involved but I had so often asked God for help in the past, and then blown up in anger immediately afterwards, it took something more for me.

Why are some people just naturally better at coping with life, I’ve wondered? Do they not have these explosive tempers? It seemed to me that they never struggled as I did.

I had not realized that I was depressed most of my life, though I was also a pretty happy young person. I would spend dark times in college, suffering through what I know now are depressive episodes where I would question everything but God holding my hand.

“Why art Thou cast down oh my soul, why art Thou disquieted within thee?” Just one of the many Bible verses I would pray out loud as I walked to my Social Work assignment in South Philadelphia in tears of melancholia.

I so longed for, but never found any other person who truly understood me, or came along to help me deal with my intense emotions, though I always tried to be emotionally transparent.  I know I must have appeared capable, pleasant, funny and actually was all those things,  and possibly didn’t have words to ask for help.  I was always called upon to help other people, and did…which just added to my stress.

I could handle being an Resident Assistant, a Social Worker, living and working in a dangerous city in a foreign country, but at the least little unexpected stress in the privacy of our  home I was in danger of falling apart.

There was no formula that worked on me. It took years and(thirty plus) years of counsel, Bible Study, Discipline, and then medication, for me to finally be able to “think” before I become angry.

I’m a pretty calm presence in my home these days, even when the unexpected happens, and I think it comes from trusting that God will work things out for the best and that I don’t have to control everything. He’s still holding my hand.

Now I’m 64!

I would have benefited from more people sharing their life lessons with me. How about you?

Here’s an interesting website called “The Legacy Project” I found at Cornell. It’s a compilation of  the life lessons from 1500 older people.

legacyproject.human.cornell.edu.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/10/health/elderly-experts-share-life-advice-in-cornell-project.html?_r=1&src=tp&smid=fb-share

Freeing my Heart


I pull out the generations of pots and pans with abandon before I can feel pangs of nostalgia. I wash them without allowing myself to feel sadness or think about betraying my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother Lucy Julianne. I keep in the forefront of my mind, “I don’t bake pies anymore, so I don’t need five generations of pie pans”.  Am I convincing?

Quickly, I dry them and hurry them over to the “giving” pile, feelings beginning to surface, “How can I just give Lucy’s antique pie plates to the Rescue Mission, even though my mother never used them and they have no personal memories for me?”

I WILL FREE MYSELF.

I will NOT force this legacy on my own children, even though it is bittersweet, and not entirely unwelcome by me, I know it has not been a healthy place for me to live.

As I place my pans back into their shelves, so few are mine because I had little need or opportunity to purchase what I wanted, I feel inspired to bake a pie!

Possibly, the piles of pans had my mind clogged as well as my kitchen shelves?

Holiday Warmth


Morning Joe

Morning Joe

Since our  holiday parties; one Muslim consisting of Saudis and Afghans, another Burmese, another Indonesian, and finally family Christmas, I’ve been hibernating in our bedroom, feet by the radiator, laptop on lap, and organizing twenty years of my life.

At first, I stayed in bed for hours, unable to rouse myself until around 10 am, unable to feel shame, guilt or any feelings except pure bliss under three layers of covers, two dogs and one cat. Darkness outside, chill within, I couldn’t force myself to do morning.

This was “our” early January routine: Dogs woke Jon up at 6am to go outside, he returned for one more hour. At 7 he got up, turned on bright lights in our bedroom, set the TV to “Morning Joe”  on MSNBC, turned up the heat in the room to a toasty 68 degrees,  brought up strong coffee and left-over Panetone as I lay unconcious in bed.

The smell of coffee usually woke me in time to race to the bathroom, returning to several hours of just sitting in a daze. I speak in the present tense now, because this is my morning without an appointment on cold days.

This year, for the first day in forever, since returning from the Tropics, I am doing well in winter! Depression hasn’t hit yet, but I felt it nipping at me last week, as I began to feel guilt for not accomplishing “more”. Instead, I tried to look back at the many years of deep and debilitating darkness that would overtake me during these months in New York State. The crying, the feelings of despair and lack of self worth. I remember one winter when I felt Joan Lunden (sp) on “Morning America” was literally my only human friend.

So, my formula is working, and let me say, has worked! Though I’m not quite better yet, and it is only 10 degrees today, I’m not so “dead” as I was last week.  I’ve even had about one week of productive work, which I’ll blog about later.