You Are the Gift!

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

Perchance, on this the twenty-second commemoration of a lesson learned, it is time to reflect on our first, foremost, and greatest Teachers.  More than a generation has passed.  In that time, I have acquired much knowledge. Yet, I am forever reminded that the more I know, the more certain I am.  I know nothing with certainty.  What I once thought was the greatest treasure, a tradition I could never part with, was other than it appeared.  I never imagined what would become my truth.  Today, I share the tale with you.

Originally Published December 25, 2009

On this the twenty-first year anniversary of my first holiday season without what are thought to be tangibly traditional gifts, I can truly say that, I, Betsy, remember it well.  The occasion changed my life forever.

It was October 12, 1988.  Mommy, Berenice Barbara sat across from me at the kitchen table.  This was just as it had been all of my days.  We chatted cheerfully.  Conversation between us was never superficial.  Nonetheless, for us, serious contemplations were fun.  A pleasure for the profound has not left me. It was and is the reason I revel in the company of my Mom.

On this one extraordinary occasion, Mommy declared my family would no longer celebrate any of the conventional holidays as we had.  No presents would be exchanged in the future.  Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, the Winter Solstice, whatever we might wish to call the customary holiday, in our family home little or large luxuries given would not appear.  None would be purchased or placed under a tree.  Trinkets would not sit on a shelf, nor would these be stashed in a closet for a charitable sharing on a December day.  The season of gift giving would not be ours.  

Once the words entered my ears, I exclaimed in horror.  I inquired; why would this be our newly adopted truth.

In her defense, Berenice Barbara offered a dismissive statement that I knew was suspect.  Mommy had never thought the notion of age appropriateness a wise or welcome one.  She forever spoke of the need to honor individuals for whoever they might be.  My Mom often discussed; people need not be constrained by a chronological age.  Yet, perchance her experience of my reaction caused her to offer a rapid retort.  “You are too old for presents,” she proclaimed.  “Too old?” I responded.  For minutes, we talked to no obvious avail.

It seemed nothing could be done to change my Mom’s mind, thankfully.  Her steadfast stance evoked my evolution.

Days later I learned, her own distress for what had recently occurred in our lives encouraged this unexpected and ultimately, very welcome reflection.

While it is true, on that day, Mommy and I had our first and only significant argument, I am grateful for what emerged.  The lesson I learned was a truer value than any bobble or bangle.  Occasions are worthwhile when one feels no sense of obligation to give or receive.  Gifts are given daily in every exchange.  

A word, a touch, a look, the mere presence of a person can mean more to those who bequeath and receive than any material object might.  This veracity is one that fills our hearts, our heads, our bodies, and souls.

More than a score has passed since that date.  I look back on what, for me, was once an unbearable idea.  Today, I cherish what has been my ideal.  

To those beings who I experience as beloved, beautiful, inside and out, to individuals familiar to me, and who intentionally interact in a manner that honors reciprocal reverence, you are the gift.  Your presence in my life is all that I cherish.

I thank you Mommy!  I like and love you more than mere words might ever begin to express.  You, just as all beings, are genuinely a gift!

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How Much Money is Too Much?

Recent reports reveal a reality that invites further questions.  If money can’t buy me love, can it buy me happiness?   “When has having more money made you less happy?” asks The Take Away, America’s Conversation News Program.  I share my answers.

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

From birth to the ripe old age of near nine, I was very well-off, and yet, not very happy.  Later, after having been extremely poor and ecstatic, I became well off again.  The two experiences of being with and without wealth were as dissimilar as can be.  Bliss, I learned, is not a by-product of affluence.  I share the story.

I was born into a wealthy family.  My natural father and Mom made much of their lives.  Together they started a business.  The firm, with my natural father at the head, grew.   The person who was never emotionally, ‘Dear Old Dad’ to me, was skilled at what he knew.  He knew how to calculate the numbers and create great wealth; however, not necessarily ethically.  As much as this troubled my Mom, who had stopped working with him almost from the first, for twenty years and ten days, she stood by his side.  For her, the last eight and a half were a struggle.  The reason; I was born.

You see I was an unexpected and unplanned birth.  My parents did not want another baby.  My sisters were older and could be left with sitters.  My natural father had come to love the social scene.  Mommy, years earlier, realized that her husband was not the man she had hoped he would be.  The thought of having his child . . . Well, let me just say, this possibility did not appeal to her.

Nevertheless, the two brought me into this Earthly sphere.  However, neither spent time with me.  A woman was hired to raise me.  Kind as she was, Mary was not Mom or a semblance of a Dad.  All the material goods I could ever want, and more were bestowed upon me.  After all, the man I might have wanted to call “Daddy” had big bucks.   Perhaps, this papa figure thought he could buy love.  I know not with certainly.  We barely ever spoke.

Thankfully, Mommy divorced the person who never was my Dad.  She refused all child support and alimony.  Mommy said the “money was dirty.”  She wanted none of it and took nothing.  We moved far away and were extremely poor.  Ultimately, my Mom married again.  At the time my true Dad, the person who cared for me and chose to live and act as a caregiver to me, was a student.  Neither he, nor my Mom made enough money for a single person to survive; let alone a family.

We grew our own fruits and vegetables.  Mommy cooked and baked every meal from scratch.  We purchased food fare when whatever we needed was on sale.  Bulk prices were the best bargains for us.  Mommy, Daddy, and I ate all our dinners together.  Conversation flowed freely.  We traveled to State and local parks for entertainment.  The company was good.  The quality of life was better.  

Years passed.  Each parent finished graduate degrees and went on to earn large sums.  Life remained glorious.  I realized the difference between the” good life” and greater is not found in dollars and cents; it is in dignity and sense.  Daddy had the ethics that my natural father did not.  Mommy never lost her moral principles and honorable practices.  Their values and habits were ones I consciously adopted. Thankfully, these have served me well.  I hope, as my parents taught me to appreciate and act on, I have served others.

Related Research and Reports . . .

You Are the Gift!

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

On this the twenty-first year anniversary of my first holiday season without what are thought to be tangibly traditional gifts, I can truly say that, I, Betsy, remember it well.  The occasion changed my life forever.

It was October 12, 1988.  Mommy, Berenice Barbara sat across from me at the kitchen table.  This was just as it had been all of my days.  We chatted cheerfully.  Conversation between us was never superficial.  Nonetheless, for us, serious contemplations were fun.  A pleasure for the profound has not left me. It was and is the reason I revel in the company of my Mom.

On this one extraordinary occasion, Mommy declared my family would no longer celebrate any of the traditional holidays as we had.  No gifts would be exchanged in the future.  Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, the Winter Solstice, whatever we might wish to call the customary holiday, in our family home presents would not appear.  None would be purchased or placed under a tree.  Trinkets would not sit on a shelf, nor would these be stashed in a closet for a charitable sharing on a December day.  The season of gift giving would not be ours.  

Once the words entered my ears, I exclaimed in horror.  I inquired; why would this be our newly adopted truth.

In her defense, Berenice Barbara offered a dismissive statement that I knew was suspect.  Mommy had never thought the notion of age appropriateness a wise or welcome one.  She forever spoke of the need to honor individuals for whoever they might be.  My Mom often discussed; people need not be constrained by a chronological age.  Yet, perchance her experience of my reaction caused her to offer a rapid retort.  “You are too old for presents,” she proclaimed.  “Too old?” I responded.  For minutes, we talked to no obvious avail.

It seemed nothing could be done to change my Mom’s mind, thankfully.  Her steadfast stance evoked my evolution.

Days later I learned, her own distress for what had recently occurred in our lives encouraged this unexpected and ultimately, very welcome reflection.

While it is true, on that day, Mommy and I had our first and only significant argument, I am grateful for what emerged.  The lesson I learned was a truer value than any bobble or bangle.  Occasions are worthwhile when one feels no sense of obligation to give or receive.  Gifts are given daily in every exchange.  

A word, a touch, a look, the mere presence of a person can mean more to those who bequeath and receive than any material object might.  This veracity is one that fills our hearts, our heads, our bodies, and souls.

More than a score has passed since that date.  I look back on what, for me, was once an unbearable idea.  Today, I treasure what has been my ideal.  

To those beings who I experience as beloved, beautiful, inside and out, to individuals familiar to me, and who intentionally interact in a manner that honors reciprocal reverence, you are the gift.  Your presence in my life is all that I cherish.

I thank you Mommy!  I like and love you more than mere words might ever begin to express.  You, just as all beings, are genuinely a gift!

An Inauguration Invitation

YrTckt

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

I am asking you to believe, not just in my ability to bring about a real change in Washington, I’m asking you to believe in yours.

~ Barack Obama

The invitation arrived in an electronic mail.  As much as America wishes to be hopeful, I had none.  I saw the communiqué and thought it would not be possible.  I would never be selected to attend the inauguration.  Of all the millions who are moved by this historic occasion, while I am amongst these, my anecdote is and would be far less remarkable.  My personal reflection on the Obama election, would not be tragic.  Nor would any thought I might muse of move a reader to say, “Yes.  She should be seated at the swearing in ceremony.”

Whatever I might communicate is certainly of little interest to most, if not all.  Surely, the saga of a grandson, or grand-daughter, of a slave, one who worked as their ancestors had, might mesmerize more, or at least a legend such as this would enthrall me.  Indeed, it did.  Only yesterday, I saw and heard a film essay on James “Little Man” Presley.  This steady man in Mississippi began his career when he was six [6.]  On camera, this glorious gent recounted his reality of fifty years of work in the cotton fields.  He shared his sorrow; as a Black man, he was barred from restaurants and royalties that might be awarded to a white man.  “Little Man” Presley also presented his pleasure.

As he spoke of his thirteen children, wife, employer, and the Journalist who has known him since the day of the Correspondent’s birth, I cried.  When Mister Presley at the mention of the President Elect Obama, and said he voted for him, I knew what I, and everyone else must feel. That individual his family must be bequeathed entrance to the formal investiture.

Once again, as I stood blubbering, I bemoaned what I had faith I had no right to feel.  Regrettably, I would not be able to attend the official observance.  The installation of Barack Obama into the Oval Office would be one I would miss.  It was true; my yarn could not compare to the composition an elderly man or woman, coal in color, might submit.  Some of these individuals never felt their tally counted.  For many, it did not; not until the Voters Rights Act 1965 was passed into law.  Yes, a request for my narrative could not negate the truth of my tale; it was nothing in contrast to what others might tell.  My complexion had always made me more privileged and that is wrong.  

To my core I felt and continue to feel if the new Administration offers free transportation and tickets to the event, they should not be given to me.  

I had never, through my actions, given up on the country I love.  I had no reason to.  Granted, I frequently felt there was no hope for my homeland.  However, these moments were fleeting.  Prejudice did not permeate my very existence. Nor did bigotry shade my second-by-second experience.  Every thought I might express was not filtered through a truth I could never forget, for I was not dark as pitch.  I did not realize repercussions for nothing more than my race.

I am an activist.  My current age does not make my participation worthy of note, at least not in the year 2008, or 2009.  I am one of millions.  Four or perhaps more will readily appear in the Capital Mall in Washington, District of Columbia.  Almost all will reach the destination without assistance from the Obama Administration.  Why should I not do the same?

For me, without tickets, which I vigorously tried to obtain through conventional means, I would not truly be part of this momentous occasion.  I would be disengaged, detached from the essence that bonds me and helped me to believe.  I imagine as one in a crowd of countless, all I would see would be projected onto a screen.  I would feel separate, not equal to those more worthy of the honor of an invitation.  

Surely, the historic significance would be not be as I hoped.  Were I to go, as a one amongst the masses might, I would grapple with what has long haunted me.  I would not feel as connected to what means so much to me.

Hence,  each time the invitation appeared in my mailbox, the opportunity to pen my prose, to state why this inauguration was so very important to me, I submitted what I knew was not enough, not special, and not unique.

Each time, I did not request what I hoped for, in many ways, more so than accommodations to the services.  My dream was not to merely be welcomed to the Capitol.  I wanted to find what was, and still is lost to me.  The people I think of as parents, biological proxy to me.  My desire was the President Elect and his staff might make a personal dream come true.  Thus, I engraved and placed into the ethereal Internet for weeks.

Dearest Barack, Michelle, Malia, and Sasha, and all those who consider themselves part of the Obama Family . . .

I know not how to best express what this inauguration means to me.  Attendance at the investiture would be the fulfillment of a dream, a desire to return the love that was given to me.  Perchance, a bit of historical context might help to explain why this occasion moves me.  My beginnings were not humble.  Some might say that my childhood was filled with hurt.  However, for me, the circumstances were joyous.

My parents had been together for years.  They prospered financially.  Yet, as a family they were disconnected.  My birth was accidental and a source of anything but delight.  It was decided another person, and her family would raise me.  Mary [Hazel] Washington, and her husband, Arthur, thankfully took me into a world that was not my own.  I became the white child who was far more accepted in a Black world, than she was in her own Caucasian community.  My complexion was light as was my heart when with the persons who truly cared for me.

Later, at an age younger than Natasha Obama currently is, I witnessed an extraordinary event.  My natural mother and father were home, together, in my presence.  The two had grown farther apart in my five years on Earth.  As they spoke of the 1960 election, they argued.  The conversation was animated, more so than any I had heard in the past.  My Mom, the ultimate Progressive mentioned she would not vote for the Republican candidate, register in the Grand Old Party; nor would she lie to the man whose bloodline I share and say she had.  I was intrigued and remained so forever.

The two, Mommy, and her husband whose home I lived in, but rarely saw, and never really knew, divorced. However, sadly, the Washington’s exited.  Much occurred in the time of transition.  Mary and Arthur had reason to believe they were no longer needed.  Oh, what they did not know was how wanted they were, how honored I was to be raised in their world.  

The people who did not reject me, taught me to trust.  Mary mentored me in empathy.  Arthur, her spouse, and their offspring, through their actions, helped me to understand the principle, love thy fellow man.

I never forgot how safe and sane I felt when with what felt to be my family, the persons who served as my surrogate parents.  I could not have had a better home, more love, or been as welcome as I was in the neighborhood where residents did not appear as I did.  At the age of eleven or twelve, I had an opportunity, the first of many, to stand up for the rights of the people who gave me more than a physical presence in the world.  I marched for equality, civil rights for all.  With Civil Rights leader Father Groppi, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I was among the many who said and sung, “Set my people free.”

As I aged, I searched for Mary [Hazel] and Arthur Washington.  While I never located the couple who bestowed upon me the freedom that comes with acceptance, as a politically active person, particularly in the 2008 election year, I saw them frequently.  The Washington’s were within me each time I made a telephone call in support of Barack Obama.  My mother and father, brownish-purple in hue, were with me as I waved banners for a President Elect Obama.  Mary and Arthur drove to rallies, spoke to relatives.  The two were close at hand when I registered voters.

My hope is that if I am able to find my way to the inauguration, Mary [Hazel] and Arthur Washington will know that with thanks to them, “Yes, we can,” and indeed, “We did achieve a dream!”

Mary [Hazel], Arthur, and sons, Arthur Junior and oh, how I wish I recalled the name of the younger, if you read this, please, please, please, get in touch with me.  For as long as I recall, I have, from time to time, searched telephone books, cyberspace communities, asked relatives, sought some clue of where you might be.  I wanted, I yearn for you to know what as a five and one half year old I could not, did not know how to share.  You, your kindness, commitment to my well-being, the care you bestowed upon me has forever meant more to me than mere words.

I speak of each of you, your family, even when my mouth is closed.  Who you are exudes from my every pore.  So much of what I think, say, do, feel, and am, at least all that I treasure of me, is with thanks to each of you.  Mary, I know my parents rejected what seemed the perfect reason to name me Hazel, your given name, as you requested.  Nonetheless, please trust that while you and I may not share a moniker, for me, we share sooooo much more.

I thank you for being my first and best teacher.  You are a mentor, one that money cannot buy.  If I have any hope in 2009, it is that perchance, one day, you and I will meet.  I wish to do more than merely greet you with a smile.  Even from afar, I will, as I have, embrace the being that is you, and express my sincere gratitude for the being you helped me to become.

The Washington family, this is my Inauguration Invitation to you.  May we begin to bring hope for a renewed future alive.

Hugs, kisses, and references for other realities . . .

April 15; From Learning to Love, To Loving to Learn

Dearest Gary . . .

Once again, it is time to speak of the past, to reflect on the present, and to acknowledge a future that would have never been without you.

Today is tax day.  This date is looked upon with doom and gloom.  On April 15 many in America are reminded of what for them is a burdensome task.  In 1947, as the calendar page turned for the fifteenth time in the fourth month of the year, Jackie Robinson put on his first Brooklyn Dodgers uniform.  Color lines were broken in professional sports.  Centuries earlier, in 1743, the Revolutionary War ended on this date.  The Continental Congress ratified articles of peace.  The sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln was assasinated in 1865.  John Wilkes Booth did the deed in the Ford Theatre.  In the twentieth century, the Titanic sank and my cousin Alexander was born.  I too  came alive on this date.  For me, April 15 is the first day of the Renaissance.

Years have passed since my conception began.  The act that consummated my being was but a moment in world history.  It remains barely visible by those throughout the globe.  History books do not document my emergence.  Birth certificates were not filed.  Indeed, at the time of my nativity I was considered an adult, fully developed, and, by most standards mature.  Yet, I was but a neophyte, barely an embryo.  On April fifteen, Gary, you walked into my life and everything changed.

You too may recall the day, the evening, the hours, and minutes of conversation.  Perchance you too still marvel at how two persons who are infinitely different politically, whose professions, are starkly dissimilar could come together as one, and enjoy the company of the other with an intensity that is unimaginable.  I can only trust this was as true for you as it was for me.

They say actions tell a tale.  The four hours of verbal engagement, followed by your call minutes after we departed, for me, speaks volumes.  The force of what ensued was enthusiastic and loud.  Most every moment with you was extremely passionate.  I never knew what to expect.  However, I was always certain I would learn.  What I did not, could not understand at the time was how much my friends, family, familiars, and even those I only encounter for seconds on the street in my daily life might glean from our meeting.

Our engagement, estrangement, push, pull, approach, avoidance, affection, and abhorrence of what was or would not be apparently was infinitely instructive to those I knew and those I was yet to meet.  At the time, no one might have predicted what has since become a spoken truth.  Humans who hurt us do not mean to cause us harm.  They too struggle to survive.  When any of us is in pain, invisible as the injuries may be, we lash out as a wounded animal might.  We work to protect our hearts and souls.  In doing so, we each die inside.  What we fear becomes our future, and will forever be if we do not work through what we thought was and yet, may not have been.  Feelings do not fade away.  Emotions are edifying.

Those close to me tired of the constant confusion that was our relationship.  People in my life were bored with talk of the battle that existed within me as I traveled through the “tunnel of love.”  Many mused, “move on; he is not good for you.”  Yet, I knew you were my mirror, the darkness to my light.  I did not recognize that the enlightenment I experienced would illuminate the path for others.

Only yesterday, as on most days, two of the individuals that walked with me through the pain, persons that love me enough to let me be me, mentioned how helpful my insights, with thanks to my knowledge of you are.

Gary, I thank you for being open with me.  I greatly appreciate the trust you bestowed upon me.  When you shared what is truth for you, I was able to glean that the world for others is never as we might perceive, or believe it to be.  

For you, people are, or were when we last spoke, negative and unhappy.  In your life, there was reason to believe that people who presumably love you have agendas.  Those we adore or wish to be intimate with manipulate.  I recall when you offered, in your family, a celebration of your birth was an occasion to gratify those who organized an event.  Gifts were not presents to you; people gave as pleased them.

I remember your heart and the hurts that scarred what is the most exquisite of organs.  Gary, your spirit is more special than you will ever know.  Sadly, the bruised beauty that beats within you expels a bitter blood.  The sour fluid that fills your being spills out onto those you meet.  Through you, I discovered antipathy averts empathy.  People are easily wounded.  We are all fragile beings.

When our history teaches us that we cannot trust even those who say they love us, we learn to act just as those who harmed us deeply did.  People who have experienced constant criticism come to expect that even a compliment is a cut.  Words meant to express kindness are thought to be tools used to wedge or whittle a way into a person heart.  The “perceived” schema is to probe.  Once a person achieves a position of import, if our past tells us people cannot be trusted with our heart, we feel certain they will become too powerful.  A beaten being will sense anyone too close will pounce, be punitive, and punish us for being vulnerable.

Through my association with you Gary, I found me.  I realized our wounds are reversed, as is our approach to life is.  In my life, compliments pierced my flesh for I could not possibly live up to the potential others thought I had.  Benevolence was but a thoughtfulness that I thought was the essence of every being.  I could not trust wondrous words bequeathed upon me.  I had no faith that I might be a beautiful being inside and out.  I truly believed the best, was anyone but me.

Nevertheless, in my attempt to understand you, I acquired an acceptance that I was not the only imperfect being.  Indeed, we are all flawed and that is the finest find.  If we are to grow, we must be open to opportunities that abound.

You Gary used to tease, “Right and correct are synonymous.”  I now know neither construct exists.  What is “right” is our relationship with self and others.  If we are to connect “comfortably,” we must not impose our beliefs, our personal philosophies, or standards on others.  We must act on authentic principles, not on perceptions.

I have come to believe that the only absolutes are love and peace.  These will not be realized if we do not acknowledge our history, and how it has affected us.  On this day, April 15, 2008, Gary, I kiss your sweet soul, as do all those in my life who have learned through our story.  Gary, you have taught many the value of vulnerability.  Openness may be the most misunderstood notion.  If we are to ever have peace of mind and harmony throughout the globe, we must seize the strength that is born through sincerity.

Gary, I came to realize when I shared myself with you fully, when I offered my earnest apprehensions, when I exposed all my wounds and worries you did not destroy me.  Indeed, when I was most real, so too were you in return.  My awareness likely came too late for us.  Too much damage was done.  It takes two to heal a union.  Insert whatever cliché seems apt.

The lesson remains.  Love blooms when we work to empathize, sympathize, and have compassion.  We can never know what is not communicated.  Hence, again, on this anniversary of my birth into being, I share myself with you.  It was, and will forever be time to speak of the past, to reflect on the present, and to acknowledge a future that would have never been without you.

With love, trust, and care . . .

Spockette [Betsy]

April 15, The  History of Hurt Hearts . . .

Presidential Candidates and the People; Politics is Personal

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

A tired and emotionally torn Hillary Clinton trembled slightly as she voiced her concern for the country and her campaign.  A somewhat shaken Senator said, “You know, this is very personal for me. It’s not just political.  It’s not just public.  I see what’s happening . . . It’s really about all of us together.”  Indeed, Senator Clinton, it is.

For months, former Senator John Edwards has shared a similar sentiment.   Once more, in an interview with ABC News George Stephanopoulos, Presidential hopeful Edwards emphatically declared, “I want to be the president who fights for the middle class, fights for working people. The kind of people I grew up with, George. I said this last night. This is not abstract or academic for me. It is personal.”

Republican hopeful, Mitt Romney also embraced the phraseology a month earlier.  In a campaign advertisement released in his home state of Michigan, Mitt reminded the voters, “For me, Michigan is personal.” The place of our birth, the era in which we evolved, the circumstances of our lives are all personal, as are our reactions to these. When we cast a ballot in favor of a policy or a Presidential aspirant, as profound as we wish the decision would appear to be, essentially it is personal.

Each and every individual is influenced by what occurs in the privacy of his or her home.  Our hearts speak more loudly than our minds.  However, reluctant we are to admit this, humans are emotional beings, who rationalize their resolutions, often after the fact.  

The New Hampshire primary elections, as well as the Iowa caucuses were stark reminders of the fact, we cannot predict what people will do.  However, if we understand what truly motivates us, we may better understand the incomprehensible.  From the moment we enter this Earthly existence, we learn what is Right, Left, Middle, or ‘just wrong.’  

Mommy exclaimed, “Do not do that; it is inappropriate.”  Daddy declared, “No more.  What will the neighbors think?”  Grandpa gave the evil eye when he thought some word or deed not becoming of a little lady.  Grandma gently tapped young Sammy’s small hand when the lass reached for what the older woman thought unacceptable.  Brother James also guided the girl’s decisions.  “What are you; crazy?” he would say.  James’s manner was never gentle.  Sammy’s nursery school teacher was far kinder, although equally critical.  “Young women do not do that.”  “We do not speak that way in class, on the playground, in the cloak room.”  “I hope you do not do that at home!”

What Sammy did at home was never correct.  She wanted so much to be appreciated, especially by her elders.  Even among her peers, Sammy felt it vital to feel needed, wanted, valued, and cherished.  She realized at a tender age, that if she was to be happy, she must obey the rules.  Sammy learned to be a good girl.  Today, she still is.  When voting in the Presidential primaries and in the General election, Sammy will cast a ballot for the candidate her friends’ vote for.  Conventional wisdom is always best.  

There is a certain contentment you feel when others concur with your opinion.  Life is calm  Sammy, prefers agreement; she wants no arguments.  Perhaps, that is why she struggled to decide, whom would she vote for.

Sammy remained undecided up until she spoke with acquaintances of the Clinton cry.  Although Sammy and her friends were not Clinton constituents, indeed, they feared she might be soulless, ultimately; each plans to cast a ballot for the candidate.  Just as women in New Hampshire expressed, it would feel good to possibly place a woman in the White House.  The tears Hillary shed resonated within many of the “gentler sex.”  They thought the candidate’s cry was a show of strength.  Throughout America, and New Hampshire women [and men alike] personally identified with the pain Senator Clinton expressed.

Some New Hampshire women admitted they were touched by Clinton’s display of vulnerability at a local cafe, when a voter asked her how she remained so upbeat and Clinton’s eyes, in turn, became misty.

“When I saw the tear-up replayed on the news, it looked like Clinton was truly moved.  It proved she had soul,” said Carol Brownwood, a New Hampshire voter and Clinton supporter.

New Hampshire women voted for Clinton by a margin of 13 percentage points over Obama, according to exit polls.

James, Sammy’s sibling, was never much for conventions.  He was a rebel.  For him every issue was a cause.  As an adult, James will likely not vote for the most popular candidate.  He plans to weigh every angle, assess each agenda.  James will do his own research before he decides whom to support in the Presidential Election of 2008.

Even as a youngster, James had a mind of his own.  He knew what was truly important and what was trivial.  It did not much matter to James what his Mom or Dad might think.  This chap was certain when he thought a particular point of view right or wrong.  While James valued his parents’ opinions, and he did, he was his own person.

When James screamed “No,” at the age of two, it was not a phase; this tot could be authentically defiant.  No matter his age, James was never afraid to speak up.  “You are just wrong,” he would tell his mother or father.  In truth, James often took what his parents thought to heart.  However, he would never give Mom, Dad, or most anyone else, the satisfaction of knowing that he thought their opinion wiser than his own.

In his youth, James was independent and strong.  Competitions were his pleasure.  Enrolled in Little League, Soccer, and Football at an early age, James learned to be a sportsman.  He understood how important it was to win.  He still does.  

Throughout his life, James has been a fighter.  In college, the young man was considered a radical.  He protested for peace.  The little guy was his friend.  An underdog could soar when in the company of James.  He cared for his fellow man deeply.  This chap worked on a political campaign.  He was an activist, and he was motivated to make more of his life.  James studied as hard as he played.

Later, as an attorney, James did not shy away from a fight.  In his professional career, he retains his principles.  While James could make scads more money as a corporate lawyer, he serves the downtrodden.  James is known as an aggressive trial lawyer.  He fights for what is right.  John Edwards is his candidate of choice.  As he ponders the tales the populace aspirant tells, James relates. For James, just as for John Edwards, the battle for change is personal.

One Edwards supporter, departing after a big rally in Des Moines on Saturday night, said he hasn’t heard a message as passionate or strong since Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign.

Nice clothes aside, Edwards has turned street-fighter for the final stretch run.  His message can be boiled down to a single word — “Fight!” — which he repeats over and over and over and over again: Fight.  Fight.  Fight.  Fight.

Edwards has rolled out anecdotes he never used in the past to make it all the more personal.  They conjure up images that hardly square with his slight frame and good looks.  He was, as he now explains, a brawler as a kid, taking on bullies the way he later took on corporations and insurance companies as a trail lawyer.

“Like many of you, I had to fight to survive,” he told an audience of nearly a thousand people on Saturday night.  “I mean really.  Literally.”

He describes the southern mill town where he grew up as a tough little place and tells the story of getting into a fight one day with an older boy.  “Got my butt kicked,” he says.  When he got home, his father offered a stern lesson in life.

“I don’t ever want to hear, son, about you starting a fight,” he says his father told him.  “But you listen to me and listen to me clearly.  I don’t want to ever hear that you walked away from one.  Because if you’re not willing to stand up for yourself and if you’re not willing to fight, no one will stand up for you.”

Emma, James closest friend is not a fighter.  She is a woman, yet, not one who sees herself as a warrior. While Emma might love to have a woman in the Oval Office, she does not want Hillary Clinton to be her President.  John Edwards does not move this passionate person.  Too often Edwards goes negative.  Emma experienced enough combativeness in her life.  She is turned off by the fervor she experienced in her family home.  

Emma grew up in a good home.  Her parents are well-educated.  Each, is a professional in his or her own right.  Economically, her family is considered Upper Middle Class.  By all appearances, this young woman has had a good life.  She and her folks are healthy, slightly wealthy, and definitely wise.   However, when Emma was young, she realized, for her Mom and her Dad, every event was a drama, a trauma, a crisis, or a catastrophe.

Emma often hid under the bed, went to another room, spent time at a neighbor’s home, just to avoid the chaos she experienced when with her relatives.  As the little girl blossomed, she realized there was fun to be had.  “You cannot choose your family, but fortunately, you can choose your friends.”  A cheerleader, a “Journalist” on the school newspaper, active in a school leadership program, Emma was quite popular.

Academically, Emma had been and continues to be a serious student.  She is enrolled in graduate school, and is doing very well.  She is enthusiastic and energetic; however, she has never been energized by politics . . . that is until now.  Although, in the past, Emma defined herself as apathetic, now she sees herself as an activist.   Emma intends to vote for Barack Obama.  She feels as many throughout the country do.  Individuals, particularly those in her age are excited.  This may be the first time Emma will vote in an election.  She is stoked and not alone in her excitement.  Since hearing Obama speak, for Emma, this election is now personal.

“I just started hearing a lot about him last year, so I started doing my own research,” says Kinkead. “I wanted to know who this guy was that everyone was talking about. I know he has a liberal voting record in the Senate, but he just seems so open-minded to me. He’ll be able to work with Republicans and get stuff accomplished. Hillary Clinton has too much baggage.”

Young voters helped propel Obama’s win in Iowa and McCain’s in New Hampshire. Exit polls in New Hampshire indicated that 31 percent of the youngest GOP voting group went for McCain, with 23 percent voting for Romney; 51 percent of young Democrats supported Obama, while 28 percent supported Clinton.

In Iowa, Obama won 57 percent of the youth vote, compared to 11 percent for Clinton.

The social networking site Facebook has been a huge hub of political interest, with students flocking to Obama on the Democratic side  . . .

Others in the cyberspace community may be connected however, the do not wish to join the rally for Ron Paul nor do the oratory skills of Barack Obama sway them.  Beth is among those who walks to the beat of a different drummer.  This woman is not old or young; however, just as the candidates and constituents she too is deeply affected by her history.  Beth’s parents were and are scholars.  Amidst her earliest memories, Beth recalls research.  Daddy would ask her of newspaper articles she read.  The discussions were deep.  He was not only interested in her superficial comprehension skills he wanted to be certain his daughter became a critical thinker.

Mommy’s style differed; however, the intent, and results were similar.  Beth’s Mom, a brilliant woman, read endlessly.  She spoke of all the information she devoured.  This highly erudite parent encouraged her daughter to be herself, not part of a group, not identified by her gender, not even rigidly tied to which hand she preferred to write with.  Beth, just as her mother, never fit in, and she was fine with that.  Mommy and Daddy were principled people, not influenced by peers or popularity, and so too is Beth.  Perchance that is why she supports Dennis Kucinich.  She feels personally obligated to her country and all the people.  For Beth ethics matters more than an election win.  

I think the question isn’t whether I have a chance. The question is whether peace, health care, jobs for all have a chance. Everyone participating in this chat, everyone reading it, needs to ask what this election means for them. If it means not staying in Iraq until 2013, then perhaps people should consider my plan to leave Iraq immediately and employ an international peacekeeping force. If you want peace in the world, consider that I’m the only candidate who rejects war as an instrument of foreign policy.

This isn’t just about Iraq or Iran, this is about a president wise enough to work with leaders in the world to avoid conflict.  While I wouldn’t hesitate to defend our country, I’ve shown more than any other candidate that I understand the difference between defense and offense. . . .  I’m the only candidate running who voted against the war and against funding for the war. To me it’s inconceivable to say you oppose a war you’ve given hundreds of billions of dollars to.

If people are participating in this and are concerned that they have an outcome in this election that relates to their needs, they should know that I’m the only candidate who would create a not-for-profit health care system that would cover everyone.

No other candidate is saying they would cancel NAFTA and the WTO — I’ve seen the devastation wrought by these agreements. I’ve stood in front of the locked plant gates, with grass growing in the parking lots. I’ve seen the boarded-up nearby business communities, the neighborhoods where people had to leave because they couldn’t pay their mortgages.

I’m the only candidate talking about a profoundly different energy policy, moving aggressively toward wind, solar, and investing heavily in green energy, reorganizing the government along principles of sustainability. We have to challenge these oil companies — we’re in a war in Iraq because of oil, one of the principle reasons we’d attack Iran is because of oil, we continue to destabilize our relations with Russia because of oil.

It’s time for Washington to get control of our energy polices, and the only way we may be able to do that is to take control of the oil companies. We cannot sacrifice our young men and women on the altar of oil. We must regain control in the nation, of our ability to truly be a government of the people, by the people and for the people. That’s why I’m running for president, and in the end if I win, the people of the United States will win.

For a time, people, from various backgrounds, also endorsed Dennis J. Kucinich.  Beth met declared Democrats, Independent minded Greens, Libertarians, and even Republicans who thought the Congressman from Ohio was the only one who could and would turn this country around in a way that gratified them personally.  

A wide breadth of the population thought the Presidential hopeful would be the best for the country as a whole.  However, as is oft occurs, personal perceptions became the reality. The true Progressive, Congressman Kucinich was haunted by a claim continually, reiterated by Americans, “Kucinich is not electable.”  This statement was frequently preceded by the phrase, “Kucinich is great, but . . .”   Group think set in.

Intellectuals, pundits, so called professional political analysts, and regular persons would  say this is not so; however, as we assess human behavior, it is a challenge to think otherwise.

A public less aware of the dynamics of a caucus, or familiar with a seventy-two page rulebook, concludes a decision to influence a voter’s second-choice in Iowa might be thought a sign of weakness; perhaps a concession, or even an endorsement.  Some avid Kucinich supporters began to question the candidate’s faith in his campaign.  More importantly, many Kucinich backers felt personally abandoned.  The slogan “Strength through peace,” was less forceful than this allowance.  To suggest an alternative commitment may be less strong than the sweet smell of freshly baked bread or a promise to stroke your back if you rub mine

Intimidation is not unknown. Also, it is possible for a leading candidate to help a weaker rival against a stronger one.

More often, though, the gaming of the caucus and the wooing of supporters is subtler.

In a training video prepared by the Edwards campaign, for example, a cartoon precinct campaign named Joe leaves for the caucus with a calculator, Edwards signs, and fresh bread. The narrator explains: “His homemade bread is perfectly positioned. Everyone can see it and smell it, especially the undecideds.”

Then, too, “there are always stories of ‘I’ll shovel your walk the next time it snows,’ ” said Norm Sterzenbach, Iowa Democratic Party political director.

While these tactics are troublesome, perhaps what worries supporters of any candidate is their own “personal” standing . . . in the community, in a crowd, in the cavern known as their rational mind.

Might we speculate as to why a presumed front-runner receives more funds in support?  After a primary win, contributions come in.  Every person in the electorate scrutinizes a candidate and the company he or she keeps.  The assumed quality of a spouse can be an asset or a deterrent to the campaign.  If nothing else, when humans are involved, whom a Presidential hopeful weds, why, or when, will certainly be a distraction.  Americans, humans are invested in the personal.  People ponder their lives and wish to know what occurs in the lives of others.

Politics is personal.  Running Mates, and these are not possible Vice Presidential choices, warrant an in-depth and detailed article in the Washington Post.  These individual have greater access to the future President than any other person might.  If Americans elect x, y will have the President’s ear, heart, body, and soul in their hands.  The electorate believes spouses are significant.  The personal permeates the political, or at least, Newsweek Magazine thought so.  This periodical devoted a full spread to the Bill factor.

His New Role

By Jonathan Darman

Newsweek

August 21, 2007

“Man, I like that stuff,” Bill Clinton said. “I shouldn’t eat it, but I like it.” It was Sunday, March 4. On a private plane headed south from New York, the former leader of the free world was staring hard at a fully stocked bowl of food. A recovering snack-addict since his quadruple-bypass surgery in 2004, Clinton was thinking about falling off the wagon with a few bags of Fritos and some granola bars. No one on the plane was going to stop him-certainly not Malcolm Smith. The Democratic minority leader of New York’s state Senate, Smith was just happy to be along for the ride. “He sat right in front of me,” Smith later gushed to a Newsweek reporter. “We shared the food.” . . .

For Hillary’s campaign, “The Bill Factor” is a complex one. To some he’s a shrewd politician, a clear thinker, a brilliant explicator who was president during an era of relative peace and indisputable prosperity. To others he’s “Slick Willie,” an undisciplined man who let his private appetites, and his addiction to risk, blur his focus, distracting the country for much of his second term.

Nonetheless, a polished President offers the public a sense of personal security.  The Clintons are a known entity.  They have a traditional marriage, and they have proven themselves in many arenas.  Regardless of whether or not  you agree with their positions, the two are accomplished; certainly not on the fringe.  

Barack Obama is also quite an achiever.  Born to parents who separated when the future Harvard scholar, United States Senator, and front-running Presidential aspirant was but two years of age, Barack  Obama went on to create a stunning and successful Christian family of his own.

When wife Michelle Robinson Obama is by the candidate’s side, audiences marvel.  The couple is physically beautiful.  The two are statuesque and poised.  Each is extremely accomplished.  Michelle Obama is the a vice president at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Initially she was criticized for retaining this position during the campaign.  However, since she agreed to reduce her workload and currently works far fewer hours than she had, the public, many of whom took her to task for her “personal” life, are now content.  People specifically enjoy how real this spouse is.

[Michelle] She has revealed that the man who may become the world’s most powerful politician is sometimes banished to the spare room for being “kind of snory and stinky.” He also admits obeying her instructions to give up smoking before the campaign.

[Michelle] Obama got off to a rocky start in her early speeches when she talked about her husband’s dirty socks and how he was “stinky” in the morning, an image people perhaps might have found a little too human. Those references have since been dropped from her stump speech, and she’s not giving many interviews these days.

On the other hand, Elizabeth Edwards volunteers to speak to anyone, everyone.  Wife of John Edwards, Elizabeth, is equally at ease in most any situation.  She does not hesitate to speak her mind.  

Elizabeth Edwards will say in one breath that her job is made easier by the fact there are now “so many more female role models in careers like entertainment, the media and politics.”  But she will also say she’s not about to make the same mistakes Clinton did.

“Hillary Clinton in 1992 is a lesson in what not to do,” offers Edwards, also a lawyer by training, whose husband is one of Clinton’s opponents in the presidential race. “She was dismissive of the range of options women had chosen, declaring, ‘I don’t bake cookies. . . . I don’t stand by my man.’ That turned off some people.”

Elizabeth Edwards has been startlingly outspoken during this campaign, calling in to a live news-talk program to take on right-wing pundit Ann Coulter on national television and saying there was too much “hatred” of Hillary Clinton for her to win the general election. She maintains she’s not behaving much differently from 2004, when her husband was the Democratic vice presidential nominee. “There’s just a lot more coverage,” says Edwards, who has received additional attention since revealing she is battling incurable cancer.

In a campaign where every issue is personal, even illness can be the cause for insults.  John was judged harshly as he continued to campaign.  Some said he was consumed with ambition.  Many mused, why did Elizabeth not take it easy.  The drive to the White House is long and hard.

Nonetheless, many men, women, and spouses seem up to the challenge.  As we learned in what many thought to be a “personal” attack, some aspirants thought to seek the presidency when they were in kindergarten.  Others decided later in life.  Each has a history of profound accomplishments achieved at an early age.  As Americans, we appreciate a good wunderkind tale.  

In this country, the legendary captivates our attention.  After all, we all wish to aspire to excellence.  The excellence achieved by another gives us reason to believe, and we do have personal stake in a candidate’s story.  

Another aspirant also has a tale to tell.  At an early age, Dennis Kucinich was also considered a genius.  He had dreams and accomplished more than most thirty-one year olds.  Dennis Kucinich was elected Mayor of a major city, Cleveland, Ohio.  The young public official stood on principle against a corporate giant and saved the city and the community millions.  While the yarn is legendary, it is not as distinguished or as frequently discussed as wife, Elizabeth Kucinich is.

True, English born Elizabeth Kucinich is not close in age to her husband, as are the wives of numerous other candidates.  Conservatives John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson married women much younger than they.  However, that is but a minor source of intrigue.  What mesmerizes America and is among the stories supporters felt a need to stave off is the metal in the exquisite woman’s mouth.

O’Donnell: I have to ask you about two very interesting things. Because America has had a traditional of having traditional first ladies, if you will. You would be the youngest first lady ever if your husband were elected president. You have a tongue ring. What about that?

E. Kucinich: What about that?

O’Donnell: Well, it’s very unusual. I don’t know that there are many political spouses who have tongue rings.

E. Kucinich: I’m 30 years old. I’ve had it for 10 years. I don’t see it as being a problem. I do still wear pearls.

The English Elizabeth Kucinich hints at the truth the American electorate is embarrassed to avow.  In this country, politics, policy, and proposals do not garner support.  A president is not placed into the Oval Office when the constituents prefer his or her plan.  Appearances matter more than the issues or a solid, substantive agenda.  

Each ballot is a personal endorsement for a look, a life style, a gesture, a posture, and on rare occasions, a principle.  A vote for a candidate is an endorsement for the values of friends, family, business associates, and anyone who might judge an individual.  Americans want to elect a winner, someone whose rise, will add to a voters personal sense of worth.  

Principally, what most Americans wonder about as they assess the Presidential contenders, what causes citizens of the States to worry, and weep is as a questioner in a recent debate inquired.  “Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?”  If a constituent thinks, he or she can “personally” relate to the answer a candidate delivers or the manner in which they reply, then that candidate can pack their bags and move into the White House on January 20th. In Election year 2008, Hillary, John, and Mitt are correct; for them, you, and me this process is personal.

Personal, Personalities, Preferences . . .

Sad Conversations With Bushies

copyright © 2007 Possum Ponders.  Sedalia Tales

One recent morning as twelve of us stood on the sidewalk for our regular Saturday morning vigil, a young (thirty-something) man approached.  He smiled and seemed friendly enough with his greeting.  He said he’d seen us there the week before and just wished to see what we were about.  Our signs made very clear just what we were about.  We mourn for those who have died and protest the war in an effort to end the ongoing succession of deaths.  Signs always include the number of Americans killed in Iraq to date and today included at least one with the “T” word.  We are pretty outspoken overall and even at that do practice measured restraint in our messages.  More beyond the fold.

Recognizing our hats (mine says Vietnam Veteran) and the uniform shirt of another man, he stumbled over the words “so you are veterans.”  Not all of us are, but two of us right in front of him just happened to be.  Then the one way conversation began with “What do you think we should do about terrorists and what about the Buddhist terrorists?”  (his words, not mine).  No amount of explanation of either fact or history was to deter the young man.  He continued to be polite but misinformed through a several minute conversation.  One member of the group gave him a DVD to review and we all invited him back next week to continue the interaction.

Hard as we tried, none of the three of were able to penetrate the right-wing slogan spouting ideas the man posited.  We simply could find no common ground from which to begin a real conversation.  His ideas were set in bedrock and we had no drill strong enough to penetrate the barrier.

Today’s episode reminded me of last weekend spent with my creationist, fundamentalist Christian, right-winger, war supporting son.  He is an adult who lives with a wife in North Carolina.  We spent a weekend as father and son in Virginia Beach.  Our goal was to find some of the connections we had when he was younger.  Just as we have so many times, we were forced at last to keep the conversation to light subjects for complete lack of common ground.  Saturday was spent hanging out in the hotel room while he watched TV and I followed a childhood story diary of mine on Kos.  Our only meaningful conversation had to do with creationism.  Even there we had no middle ground.  At least he agreed to read a book on the subject.  I mailed the book early this week.  Will be interesting to see if he finds any place for the book in his life.

How do we approach these closed minds.  I am at a breaking point in frustration.  So many are so misled and continue to ignore facts in the face of the fiction being put out from the administration.  Finding common ground is sometimes outside my reach even though I pride myself on being a somewhat sane and very rational human being.  Whatever are we to do indeed?

Crossposted from Daily Kos.

RFD VET: Rabies

copyright © 2007 Possum Tales.  Sedalia Tales

My father was a country veterinarian in the time of James Herriott and others.  His practice was very rural and served a fairly uneducated population of people.  Vaccination for animals or people was in early stages of development; so many dogs had canine distemper or rabies in those days.  Such an animal is the subject of today’s story.  Follow into the hospital, down the hall, and visit with Dad as the possum tells another of his tales.

My father established his veterinary practice in the early 1940’s in very small town, Kentucky.  When the business first opened the office was on the grounds at our house.  A two-car, wood frame garage and an attached office with dog kennels behind served as the veterinary office until I was about 5 or 6 years old.  At that time the business moved into town (all of about 2 miles from home) and continues to exist there to this very day under the auspices of new and much younger veterinarians.

In those early days rabid dogs were fairly frequent in the county.  Any dog or other animal thought to be “mad” was usually shot on sight by either a land owner or the local police.  One suspect animal somehow escaped notice and was brought to my father’s clinic.  His examination concluded the animal was indeed rabid and needed to be euthanised (humanely killed).  In the course of the evaluation, my father suffered a bite wound on the hand and was off to the local hospital for treatment.  A course of anti-serum injections as preventive treatment ensued.  My father developed a nerve disease (Guillain-Barre syndrome), essentially an allergy to his own nerves, and was paralyzed for many weeks as a consequence of the injections.

Following a few weeks of care in the local hospital, Dad was transferred to the house for ongoing attention.  During the home treatment phase he occupied a bedroom in the front part of the house.  The same bedroom and bed became my furniture as a teen.  Dad’s physician came to see him nearly every day for in those days house calls by a family physician were part and parcel of the practice of medicine.  For many weeks Dad lay in that bed without walking about.  Mother apparently attended basic needs and saw to his overall care and feeding.  On Sundays we three boys would all pile into the bed with Dad waiting for him to read the comics from the Sunday paper for our enjoyment. 

Memory is a funny thing.  Sometimes the worst times are erased from memory in some sort of protective act.  Those memories of newspapers on Sunday are about all that remain of that terrible and truly life threatening event.  Dad did finally recover and returned to practice for many more years.  For all those years we occasionally remembered the time of his paralysis, but no really fine telling of the story was ever made to us kids. 

All that remains for me of those days is a collection of memories.  My father is long dead.  Home is far, far from that part of the country where we lived in those years.  And yet the times remain as bright and clear as in the time of their occurrence.  I can still remember yelling out the back door to my father to get the phone since we answered in the house and he was in the clinic about 50 feet away.  Ahhh, such fine memories.  The times of a country vet in those days were hard, but as a child I missed all but the good times. 

Crossposted from NION.

April 15 Again. Another Beginning?

© copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Oh, dear Gary, it is dusk on April 15.  I nearly forgot to write and wish you happy anniversary.  On this date, many years ago, we met.  My life was changed forever.  I thank you.  I know that I often mention how I was transformed because of you.  I told you in person, on the telephone, in electronic mails, and in so many missives.  I wonder; did you ever read any of these exposés.  I hope one day you will tell me.

Minutes ago, I realized I did not wish you well today.  I did not acknowledge the date. This surprises me.  Physical distance is not a distraction.  I still think of you often, especially on April 15.  This morning I awoke to the radio.  The broadcaster reminded me of all that occurred on this date in history. 

Leonardo da Vinci was born in 1452.  Mentally, I noted what the newscaster neglected to state; my favorite cousin came into this world centuries later on April 15.  The anchor mentioned, in 1912, the British luxury liner the Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean.  The vessel was near Newfoundland.  Hours earlier the ship struck an iceberg.  Fifteen hundred [1500] individuals lost their lives during this traumatic event.  They drowned in the freezing Artic Sea.

The announcer continued.  On this date, Jackie Robinson became baseball’s first Black major league player.  He debuted with the then Brooklyn Dodgers.  A story followed.

When Jackie Robinson stepped onto the diamond at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947, it was the beginning of a year that would test not only his personal courage, but the mettle of a nation.

I do not think my meeting you on April 15 tried others in this country; however, our first acquaintance placed me on a path unlike any other.  My strength was at stake.  I never imagined what was to come.  I could not have conceived of the pain I experienced.  To this day, I am grateful.

Jackie Robinson said it well and for me.
“Whatever obstacles I found made me fight all the harder.
But it would have been impossible for me to fight at all,
except that I was sustained by the personal
and deep-rooted belief that my fight had a chance.”

I was not out to change a nation.  While fighting racism has been a cause of mine since early childhood, the battle did not apply to you and I; although, it was an issue we discussed frequently.  You might recall Proposition 187 and all the words we exchanged on this topic.

I have never believed people could or should try to transform another.  However, I do acknowledge that those that come into our lives have a deep and lasting effect. 
The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances:
if there is any reaction, both are transformed.

~ Carl Jung

I realized immediately upon meeting you, everything was about to change.  Indeed, it did.  I did!

Gary, when our lives were intertwined, nearly every moment was an enigma to me.  I tried to speak with you.  I wanted desperately to understand.  I felt shut out, shout down. often, I thought to approach.  Yet, I feared, if I did the door would be shut in my face.  I dared not try.  Oh, the tears I might cry.  I did not wish to be that vulnerable.  Still I was and I was not.

I shared my every thought with you.  Trembling at times, I stood up to you.  I did not hold back.  I was open; I was honest with you.  To an extent, you reciprocated.  Upon reflection, I realized I was not truthful with myself.  I thought I was.  Before you, I genuinely believed I knew me, inside and out.  You my recall I am extremely analytical, reflective, and logical.  I always was.  I was and am Spock or as you called me “Spockette.” 

Yet, even a scientist such as I, cannot dissect myself under a microscope, and see what is truly there.  We are too close to ourselves.  Our perspective is distorted.  The image is skewed.  People must look within, and be willing to see themselves in others.  If we wish to have a fuller perspective and understand who we are and why, we cannot place the onus on another.

When I looked at you Gary, I saw me, or more accurately, my mirror image.  You are or were the black to my white, the dark to my light.  You are I, reversed.  Our histories are very different.  Our political views are opposite.  Philosophically there are parallels.  None of that is as important as what I grew to discover; our foundations, our fears are all too similar.  We merely act these out differently.  You are me and I you.

I think this relationship is true no matter who is involved.  We are similar and yet, never the same.  I was reminded of this today.  In cyberspace, another person wrote of her pain, a relationship gone wrong, and how she copes.  I was reminded of you, of me, of us.  I shared our story with her, again, in written form.  Gary, she inscribed a response in reply.

Oh my mentor, my muse.  Do you recall my telephoning you years ago, only to tell you of my love for writing.  I wanted you to know, for without you, I would have not discovered this passion.

Before exchanging endless thoughts with you on paper, I did not consider what communication meant to me.  My interests are expansive, extensive, and ever evolving.  I love learning and sharing the elasticity of wisdom. My experiences and escapades enlighten me. When I inscribe, and present the details of these to others, their reactions help me to understand life’s lessons better than I might.  I crave connections.

I revealed much of this to you before.  However, tonight, on the anniversary of our meeting, an oddity occurred.  Once again, you brought the unexpected into my life.  The woman I speak of is an author.  After reading our saga, she asked, “What have you published?”  I cried as I read these words.

It is my dream to make public my thoughts.  Gary, do you remember the book I began long ago?  To date, only one article I penned was approved and distributed worldwide.  I am read in cyberspace.  Yet, I long to be in print.  I yearn for my words to be in black and white, and read all over.

Perhaps, the words of this woman will be the motivation, my inspiration, the encouragement I need.  Perchance this was not a random encounter.  Just as April 15, years ago, gave me reason to find myself and be better than I knew I could be, possibly this April 15 will be my newer beginning.  I am sustained by the personal and deep-rooted belief that I have a chance.  My faith helped me find myself after meeting you.  Then, as now, I feared failure and success.  I grew to understand life is neither; it is opportunity, infinite and scary.

April 15.  This Date in History . . .

  • The Relationship; We Meet . . . [Chapter One] By Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org.  June 22, 2005
  • Leonardo da Vinci  Museum of Science.
  • On This Day. April 15th.  The New York Times.
  • A Test of Courage: Jackie Robinson’s Rookie Year, Weekend Edition. Sunday, April 15, 2007
  • Spock.  Startrek.com.
  • Fast Forward; The Story Unfolds. Fade into Feelings. By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org. November 12, 2006
  • Why I Write and Write, Then Write Again By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org.  August 15, 2006
  • “Death Ends a Life, Not a Relationship.” In Memory of . . .

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    In the last sixteen years, I have only used the word in my writing.  It just does not seem apt for me anymore.  In 1991, my Grandpa passed, or as some say, he died, although he never did.  I am reminded of this today for someone I knew from afar for many decades, and met face-to-face only a year ago on this same date, took his last breath this afternoon. 

    It is a somber day; yet beautiful.  Phillip, is gentle man, a giant.  His heart is, to coin an expression, more golden than gold.  His spirit is softer than the yellow metal is in its purest form.  Phillip’s goodness is great.  You may think it odd that I presume to know so much about this man.  After all, we only spoke on a few occasions in the past year.  However, I am closely acquainted with Phillip’s family.  I have, by extension been apart of this loving circle for generations.

    On March 11, 2006, I spent hours chatting with Phillip.  We discovered all that was between us.  Until then, we never understood that we were truly connected.  Without communication, there is much conjecture.  When we open our hearts and minds much is realized, at least Phillip and I thought so.

    Our conversation was deep; it went on throughout the day and into the evening.  We spent hours relating to what was, is, would be, and could be.  I never felt so safe, so sane, as fortunate to be part of his, my, or our family as I did on this date a year ago.  Strangely enough, when we first spoke Phillip was sitting in a sacred chair.  It is my Mom’s favorite chair.  Mommy settled into that seat for years.  She read, smoked, smiled, and laughed, all from that chair.  I felt certain she was sharing the wooden bench with Phillip as he and I chatted.

    No one sits in that maple structure anymore and has not since Mommy took her last breath.  My father gently looks over at the white and wood construction often throughout the day and every evening.  He has for years.  He discusses the day with Mommy as he sits across from her.  Fresh flowers are neatly positioned in front of her fixture regularly.  Father always buys her favorite blossoms and talks to her about his choices.

    When Mommy’s body, in a physical sense was here on Earth, each morning my parents would brew their first cup of tea and walk through the garden examining every new shoot on each beautiful plant as the tea steeped.  They kept a pictorial log of the gardens growth.  They mounted photographs on a rolling file so that they might flip through these, as if watching the transformation through time-lapse photography.

    Mommy and the love of her life were both avid readers.  They frequently exchanged books and articles.  They still do today, although Mommy sends her circuitously.  Nevertheless, my parents still share.

    I too share with Mommy.  She is so very much a part of whom I am, what I think, say, do and feel.  She is forever with me.  Now, she and Phillip are sharing or so I imagine.  Perhaps, when he sat there in her chair with her, she and he knew.  It was time, time for them to meet and be one.  Phillip is my father’s younger brother. Yet, Mommy and Phillip  had never met.  Families do some not so funny things in the name of love, caring, concern, or knowing what is best.

    I suspect, as I think about the life after this Earthly existence, those of us bound by the properties of this planet rarely imagine what is most important, love and peace.

    After I learned Phillip was lost to my physical touch, I looked around me.  I examined all my possessions and wondered were any of these truly valuable.  Did my clothing, my car, even my home have any actual worth.  Were these assets or distractions?  I pondered whether life itself was significant.  What is the meaning of it all?  I could think to leave this planet, for I do inquire what is the point.  Yet, I think that decision would not be wise.

    I have to believe there is some reason I am here.  My Grandpa taught me so much.  He gave me reason for living.  Grandpa taught we to be open, honest, curious, and concerned.  Grandpa, born more than a century ago was, is, in fact a peacenik.  Grandpa regularly recited . . .

    Hearts, like doors, will open with ease,
    With two very, very little keys.
    And don’t you know the two of these
    Are “Thank you, Sir” and “If you please.”
    Grandfather Mitchell memorized . . .
    “Two wrongs do not make a right.”
    Grandpa felt deeply, ‘Love always endures.’  What seems like centuries ago, I yearned to visit a beau.  This magnificent man lived states away from where I resided.  Roundtrip airfare was two hundred and eighty nine dollars.  I certainly did not have dollars to cast to the wind, only to watch them fly across the country.  To this day, I do not know when I mentioned the subject to my Grandpa.  Surely, I never expected, nor did I ask him to pay the price of such a costly ticket.  Without hesitation, he did.  If you knew how extremely frugal my family is, you would trust, this was weird, wonderful; ye still bizarre!  Nevertheless, it happened.

    I could not get over such a gesture!  I thanked Grandpa over and over again.  I was and to this day, am grateful for the gifts he gave me, this one and the less tangible treasures.  Grandpa turned to me one day and said, “Betsy; No one does anything they do not really want to do.”  He assured me he offered me the opportunity to travel for that was what he really wanted to do.  While he appreciated my expressions of gratitude, I need not thank him again.  My going and enjoying was his pleasure.  For Grandpa facilitating growth was love and love was the reason for living.  Sharing love brings peace.

    Grandfather Mitchell taught my Mom the same.  Love and peace were forever his lessons.  The scientific method was his preferred tool for instruction.  Grandpa gave Mommy the freedom to think and to be who she was naturally.  My Mom is, was interested in every entity.  She was a scientist, just like her father.  He was a Chemist, a Pharmacist, and a lover of people.  She was a Social Scientist, a little lessen enamored with human foibles.  As a child, Mommy saw too much pain.  It hurt her heart.  She longed for love and peace and worked to create it.  She did.

    Observation, examination, and experience were my Mom’s mentors.  Mommy embraced learning easily.  Her father, my Grand encouraged little Berenice Barbara to explore and share her discoveries.  The two chatted often.  They were, they are, two great minds with millions of thoughts, each inspirational.  They imagined all the people, sharing all the world, and living in harmony.  I trust they still do.  I suspect now that Phillip has found his peace, he has joined them.  The three are together giving rise to greater love.

    The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.
    ~ Morrie Schwartz [Sociology Professor]

    My Mom wanted me to learn as she had.  Curiosity continued to be the teaching method of choice; love and peace were still the curriculum.  Berenice Barbara the parent had two overriding principles.

    “Do whatever makes you happy, as long as it does not hurt anyone.”
    “No one has the right to tell you what to think, say, do, feel or be.”
    Mommy never did.  If I asked for her advice, and on occasion, I did, I would hear the previously stated philosophy.  Oh, if only I knew what made me happy.  If only I was certain what was wise.  I find no joy in their departures; although I have never felt they left me.  I am in some ways more with my Grandpa and Mom now then I was in life.  I feel their presence. Rarely, if ever do I speak of them in past tense.  I definitely do not say; nor do I believe they “died.”  I feel their love and I am at peace.

    This is exactly what I was saying to Phillip little over a month before he passed.  Phillip expressed his deepest fear.  The doctors had expected him to exit Earth months ago.  Physically, by all accounts, Phillip was ready to pass.  However, he stayed.  When asked why he lingered, Phillip shared he did not wish to leave his two daughters alone.  He, with help from his wife’s spirit, raised them since they were very young children.  Becky passed on Mother’s Day decades earlier.  The girls are in their early twenties now, still so young. To be without a mother and a father, Phillip did not wish to do that to them. 

    I was visiting at the time he made this statement, though I was a room away.  Upon hearing his reflection, I knew I must speak with Phillip.  I entered his hospice room.  I proceeded to his bedside, walking right past his mother and sister.  I put my face to his and began to tell my tale.

    I said, for as long as I could recall, my worse fear was I would loss my Mom.  I missed her even when I was in the same room with her.  She was [is] so alive, infinitely interesting, open, brilliant, and vibrant.  I had hoped to pass before her.  Surely, without her I would fall apart.  How would I live? Who would teach me as she had. 

    I was close to my grandfather and feared his demise; however, it was different.  To this day, I am unsure how, for my Grandpa engaged me for hours daily in my younger years.  I even lived with him for a couple of months when I was eleven years old.  Perchance, I had accepted the convention that Grandfather’s pass, since my paternal Grandparents were never on Earth in my lifetime.  I know not.  I did understand that though Grandpa’s body was not visible.  He still lives large in my life.  Only last evening I quoted him on a blog.  I attributed his words to him.  Grandpa lives!

    Nevertheless, without Mommy, I knew I would not function.  As I attempted to tell Phillip this, I cried uncontrollably.  Finally, gasping for air, I quoted Morrie Schwartz of Tuesday’s With Morrie fame.  Professor Schwartz told his former student, author Mitch Albom,

    “Death ends a life, not a relationship.”
    Tearfully, I told Phillip my Mom never left me.  She is so much a part of who I am in every moment.  Berenice Barbara is within me.  I am as close to her as ever.  She still teaches me.  I also share the lessons I learn from her with others.  I assured Phillip as best as I was able, he was not leaving his daughters or other members of his family.  He was only changing the way in which he would be with them.

    After I spoke, a hug festival ensued.  Love and peace filled the room.  Grandpa and Mommy were there with us all.  The two are still teaching.  Yet, much remained unsettled.  It is challenging to grasp the unknown.  Yet, I must trust that ultimately Phillip has.  Today he decided to take his last breath as he held his daughter’s hand.  I hope she too was [is] able to understand he is not gone. Only his appearance differs.  Amy and Stacy, I love you so.  Your Dad does too.  He will continue to be there for you.  He will teach you now as he was when you were younger, as he did while working through his own rite of passage.

    Another relative of mine, Nicholas has been ill for years.  He too is young, still in his fifties.  His son has not yet graduated from High School.  I wonder if Nicholas might also want to be there for his family.  Might he muse that though his body may wither away, he will not.  If only we knew to our core, that death is not our undoing.  We live in and through all those that we touch.

    I kiss your sweet face Phillip.  I would ask you to say hello to Mommy and Grandpa were I not able to do so myself.  It is almost midnight and I must sleep.  I was never able to slumber well unless I said “Pleasant dreams” to those I love before I went off to bed.  Thus, I wish you “pleasant dreams!”  May we all live and rest in peace.

  • Tuesday’s With Morrie By Mitch Albom