Monthly Archives: August 2009

Monday the 31st.

Today would have been the day I went to my Grandparents. My sister did instead; I went to school.

You know how new moms sneak into their kids’ bedrooms to check and see if their baby is still breathing? I realize I had been doing that with Grandpa. Every week, I would check on Grandpa–not quite to see if he was still breathing, but yeah, pretty much.

He is in decline.

And he’s running out of how much further he can go.

That last thought hangs like a dark, vile secret in the back of my mind. I don’t think about it, exactly. It’s more like knowing it’s there and trying not to let myself find out about it. But every week, I’d sneak over to my Grandparents and check:

Nope, he hasn’t run out yet.

Sometimes I would get there and find out he dropped a lot further than I had thought. Then it would be all anxiousness until the next week, when I could check again:

Nope, he hasn’t run out yet.

Now I’m going to school. I can’t check anymore. I know where I left him, and I know where he’ll have to wind up. And so, according to the scary black closet in the back of my mind, he is in free-fall. He is dropping like a rock. I find myself expecting him to die any day now. I find myself thinking about it more and more.

He could have let go.

I don’t know.

I could ask. Part of me wants to. The other part of me doesn’t want to know.

Friday the 28th

Today I was going to make a point of not talking about school, but somehow that isn’t working. Not only did I spend the majority of the day there, but I’m still trying so hard to process it all.

I started the day out by laughing at us, ’cause we took the truck in today. T., L., and C., all sat up front (literally rubbing shoulders, they were so squished), and I sat in the back seat with two bulging knapsack and three lunchboxes. The back seat is so small that even lil’ ole me had trouble finding room for my legs. I swear we looked like some scene out of a country-hick-comedy, but they boys didn’t quite get the humor in the situation.

I returned to the college all of the books that I replaced with ones I found cheaper online. The last one to go was my huge bio book; I had bought it USED (complete with fuzzy corners on the hard back, and a noticeably softer binding) for $152. I got one online in better condition (it did have highlighting, but the cover was better) for. . . $31. And the lady at the bookstore wondered why I was returning so many books. Um, hello? I can get them for 1/5th the price online!

While studying medical terminology, I couldn’t help but notice a few things. ‘Home’ (as in homeostasis) means the same, unchanging. Path (as in pathology) means pain, suffering. Not that I’m trying to find undue clinical support for my general resistance to life changing or anything. . .

And lastly, I finally figured out my online course. Yay. I have to do a lot more online than I thought. I’m going to see if I can do a little more before I crash tonight.

(And I made it under word count–293! Woo-hoo!)

Thursday the 27th

Today I found out that I’m starting to get sick. It’s just a sore throat right now, but I hope it blows over by the time the weekend is out. At least I seem to have avoided D.’s puking bug, which is very nice. One public preformance at the hospital is quite enough; I don’t have to go for Act II at the college, thank you very much.

I also found out that you can’t return textbooks if you don’t have your credit card on you, and I didn’t have my credit card on me because why take your credit card when you aren’t going to buy anything? Just so you have a chance for something unfortunate to happen to it? And also, am in training to become a marine.

Not really on that last part. But carrying around so much weight sure makes it feel that way.

At supper today I said I was glad that tomorrow was Friday because it felt like this week has lasted a whole month. (Dad said “speak for yourself.” Apparently, he had just asked earlier in the day whether it was Tuesday or Wednesday, and had to be brought up to date.) I do feel like it’s lasted forever. It’s just so different, in so many ways, and I feel like I’m just faking it. I don’t really know what I’m doing or what I’ve gotten myself into. I’m hoping that after another week or so, that will wear off and I’ll figure out my own rhyme and reason to this mess.

All I really know is that God is in charge, and I’m trying desperately to keep that in focus. When you see how much anatomy you’re supposed to know by the end of 15 weeks, your chest tends to constrict and your mind narrows to such a tiny point that you loose sight of the bigger picture: God is in control.

[306 words. I really need to crack down on myself here.

Wednesday the 26th

Today I realized that I really want out of this English class. I feel pretty ridiculous, on account of I already switched English classes once, but this is just a huge thorn in my side and I want it out.

The first class I was signed up for used a text called “Dreams and Inward Journeys”, and they meant that literally. They wanted you to interpret your dreams and read them in front of the class. I wanted to burn the book. Their prescribed inward journeys were, if anything, even worse than dream interpreting. So I schemed and arranged and carefully checked, and ha! I got myself switched to a different class, one that just used a sane, normal “Prentice Hall Reader”. Cleverness abounding.

But the instructor. Oh, the instructor.

I could tell you all the reasons why she makes me want to pull my toenails out with rusty pliers, but suffice to say nearly any one of her students would do a better job of running the class and actually teaching writing. And her students are not exactly geniuses; they were seriously debating what editorials were. (Suggestions included reporting that spelled it out for you instead of just giving you the facts and making you figure it out, and corrections for errors.)

My last hope is to try to switch into an on-line class, where I at least don’t have to be present for the madness. Unfortunately, my last check showed the on-line classes as full. I’m hoping that by begging, pleading and petitioning I can get in anyway. And that it will actually be an improvement.

B., this went up to 268 words. Do I get my wrist slapped for writing longer than I was supposed? It’s so hard to stop!!

Tuesday the 25

Today I looked up “type A personality” and “OCD”. No particular reason; I just felt like it. Okay, so a PT at the hospital has called me both of those things, and I just wanted a little better of an idea exactly what part of my personality she was picking up on. I suspect as far as type A, she was thinking things like “They are often high-achieving workaholics who multi-task” and “have difficulty relaxing,” due to the way it overlaps with OCD’s description of “The phrase “obsessive-compulsive” has become part of the English lexicon, and is often used in an informal or caricatured manner to describe someone who is meticulous, perfectionistic. . .”

See, she was telling me that I would do fine in college, that I was so OCD I could probably do it all in one year instead of two.

Pause.

Well, actually, I was so OCD, it probably would take me two years, because I would want to do everything perfectly.

Who, me?

You don’t think that she would find it OCD of me that I was busy buying reusable plastic slipcovers for my softcover textbooks, do you? So I can keep the books in better quality and get more in buy back next year. That’s not OCD, is it? How about wondering how I was going to keep my PTA paper to only 5 pages, double-spaced?

I do want to nail a 100. Every. Single. Time.

It is inevitable that I won’t.

Being obsessive, I’m wondering how I will cope with that fact.

Monday 24

Today was the first day of classes. In some ways it was a bit anti-climatic–after all, we basically just went over the syllabi (syllabuses?). On the other hand, it was a nice warm-up, being able to get the gist of courses and professors (some a pleasant surprise, and some not so pleasant. I seem to have exchanged Professor Trelawney in for Professor Umbridge. A step up, perhaps, but not too much.) without being suddenly overwhelmed with work. It was most wearing in terms of being constantly bombarded with new places, new people, too much change and “difference” and people who looked like they were playing “life” and still didn’t have a clue what it was really like. It was just a tad surreal, in that respect, watching people who seemed to have no consciousness except for the present. You look at them and wonder what will happen when the slam headfirst into “reality”, when what style that you dress in really doesn’t matter because the universe doesn’t care.

The most relaxing part of the day was probably while I was waiting for my brother to show up where I knew he was going to eat lunch. He had, ahem, –misplaced his drivers license and lunch was the the only time we’d be able to meet up. Since I didn’t have any homework yet, I pulled out my knitting. It was relatively quiet and abandoned, though a group of obviously very close people conversed in Spanish beside me. It was basically the only homey part of an exceedingly institutionalized day.

The Florists’ Rose: Soul Music

Lead, Captain, lead!
I’ll die for you,
and you’ll die for me–
the florists’ rose.

Come, Children, come!
I’ll love you,
and you’ll love me–
the florists’ rose.

Work, Stranger, work!
I’ll be your brother,
and you’ll be mine–
the florists’ rose.

Florists’ roses are bred to look beautiful, ship well, and last long. In doing so, they breed out almost all of the fragrance. What appears to beautiful is found lacking.

There are three songs that were introduced to me at about the same time, so I kind of think of them as a trilogy. Taken separately, I don’t think they effect me nearly as much, but I see them all as pieces of the same puzzle.

Alone, the song “We Need Roots” doesn’t hit me hard. It’s a folk singer lamenting a perishing folk history. But I can’t get the phrase “we need roots” out of my mind. I can’t shake being haunted by the refrain “we’ve lost more than we’ll ever know”. Because we do need roots, though not the ones he thinks he’s crying for, and because we have lost so much more than we know.

And maybe I’m not quite getting the full force of “Degeneration” because it’s not sung in a language I know. But it is far more powerful than “Roots”, even though musically I can’t get it. I just watch the sad, sad words scroll across the screen:

Your great-great-grandfather
was the one who cleared the soil
Your great-grandfather
was the one who worked the soil
And your grandfather
turned a profit on the land
And your father was the one who sold the land
to become a government functionary
And as for you my young lad,
You don’t know what you will do
In your little one-bedroom,
Too expensive and cold in the winter,
Sometimes a vague desire comes to you
To own something of your own,
dreaming at night
of having your own little acre of land.

Your great-great-grandmother
had fourteen children
Your great-grandmother
had almost as many.
And as for your grandmother,
three were enough for her
And your mother didn’t even want you
You were just an accident
And as for you my girl,
you go from partner to partner
When you make a dumb mistake
you escape it by aborting.
But some mornings
you wake up crying,
After dreaming at night
of a big table surrounded by children.

Your great-great-grandfather
lived through The Great Misery,
Your great-grandfather
went around picking up pennies
And your grandfather, miraculously
became a millionaire.
Your father inherited some of it,
he put it in his RRSP.
As for you my youth,
you owe your ass to the Ministry,
No chance of getting a loan
from a banking institution
to calm your fantasies of
holding up the bank teller
from a drunken notion stemming from
voluntary simplicity.

Your great-great-grandparents
sure could party
with your great-grandparents
things were swinging hard in the evening
and your grandparents
saw the birth of rock and roll
With your parents it was the disco
that’s where they met.
As for you my friend,
what are you doing with your night?
Turn off your TV,
don’t stay all cooped up.
Thankfully somethings in life will never change
Line up your nicest clothes,
because tonight we’re goin’ dancing.

And that is far worse. It leaves me feeling hollow and sick. At this sad grasping for their lack, and their reaching out for comfort and at all–oh, so little– they find to cling to. But for all the misery in their words, it cannot stay with me. The words are foreign, the tune does not nestle into my mind, and the picture is symbolic.

The one that leaves me in almost in tears every time, the one that stays with and makes my heart ache the worst is “De La Rey.”

Not because I’m a Boer, or at the horror of war and the pain of being torn from land and family. Not for the words, which are still foreign. But for the music and the singing that gives cry to the human heart. Because when they sing,

“De La Rey, De La Rey,
will you come and lead the Boere?
De la Re, De la Rey,
General, General,
as one man we will fall around you.
General De la Rey”

I hear them crying, not for the Lion of West Transvaal on his brown horse, but for the Lion of Judah on His white horse. I hear the longing of a people looking for a savior, to guide them and lead them. I hear the love and devotion for those who know the love and care of the one over them. I hear, not in words, but in music, the longing of the souls of men.

I don’t mean to say that’s what they mean to be singing for, only that I understand that there are certain things that are common to all mankind. There is a resonance between us, because it strikes at something far deeper than individual circumstance and personal preference. It strikes us at our very core, at the parts of us that are common to all.

We grasp it in little bits, here and there. Sometimes it is easier to see our lack than to understand what will fill it. We are physical people, and we want to understand our problems as such—as physical problems with physical solutions. And so we cry about those physical laments, not quite realizing they are an echo of our spiritual laments that will never be filled by the physical trappings of this world.

Somehow it seems easier to cry for a general to lead us against a physical army in a physical war, than to cry for God to give us the strength to get out of bed in the face of a spiritual war. One seems to be so much more real and undeniable; who can dispute it? When ‘our few against so many’ is not a metaphor, but a plain counting of the facts, you can grasp the scope of the problem.

But the spiritual problems seem to be so much harder to grasp. You can’t see, and you can’t count. Some people say they’re nothing more than superstitions; that they don’t exist.

Yet we all want to get up and sing “De La Rey”, even though we don’t know who he is or what he did. The song carries from person to person not because of De La Rey, but because of the common longing to be saved–Because of the common feelings of being overwhelmed and oppressed, because of a common desire to join together under one, to strive toward a common goal. But we would never be satisfied with De La Rey. We would still be looking to be rescued. And we continue to try to fill the gaping hole we find within ourselves.

They may have indeed found very real problems, but their cures fall woefully short, despite their appearance of hope. Those that sample the “cures” find, like Solomon, that it isn’t enough.

So when I hear these songs, I mourn for those who have discovered their loss without finding true comfort, and my own heart aches for my “General, General” to come and lead me.

{Editor’s note: I actually wrote this some time ago, and recently stumbled upon it in my drafts. I think I hesitated to post it, because I felt I was, so to speak, reading myself into someone elses’ work. Don’t get me wrong—I do believe there is that longing, acknowledged or not. But I have enough artistry in me that I think I would be very frustrated/annoyed/etc to find someone else deliberately refusing to pay any mind to what it was that I was trying to say—and essentially, that’s what I’m doing here. I am not addressing what these individual artists have tried to address, but have rather asserted that they are talking about something entirely different than what they have ever spoken upon, and may very well fiercely disagree with.

Well, tough beans to them.

That’s not particularly polite or considerate, is it? No, it’s not. But the fact of the matter is that if you are going to get up and say something publicly, you have accept the fact that you’ll get a few tomatoes thrown at you, or that your words will be wasted on the unwashed heathen, or that people will be sticking their fingers in their ears and humming a different tune all the while you’re at it. I expect, should they ever even discover what I’ve done with their works, that they are already rather used to people defacing their works.

But what it rather comes down to is that they have had their say, and I have had mine. You may ignore us all (it may be best that way), or throw in your own two cents (but beware of falling tomatoes), or tuck all collective thoughts into the back of your mind for later pondering. P’rhaps you’ll come up with something better yet. —The Editor, namely me, who wrote this tattered thought to begin with.}