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#GivingTuesday

On #GivingTuesday — 

I am giving of my heart, letting each person whom I know be themselves without challenge.

I am giving of my mind, by applying my thoughtful effort to everything that I do.

I am giving of my spirit, by smiling at anyone whom I encounter.

I am giving of my compassion, by listening to those whose pain manifests in how they behave and the tone of their voice.

I am giving of my grace, by withholding complaint even if I feel wronged.

I am giving of myself today.

What will you do?

It’s the twenty-seventh day of the fifty-ninth month of My Year without Complaining.  Life continues.

Monday Morning with the Missouri Mugwump

One of the nuances of my writing aesthetic involves the method of construction.  My entries compose themselves nearly whole-cloth before I start the physical writing process.  As a consequence, I stumble through life distracted by my internal  voice, structuring sentences, editing grammar, rearranging phrases, and discarding weak words in favor of powerful punches.

By the time I sit at the laptop, I must frantically pound at the keys to record the passages before they vanish in the smoky depths of my brain.

As a result of this compositional reality, I sometimes think that I’ve blogged, or written an e-mail, or scribbled a note when I have not.  I certainly wrote the entry — letter — missive — did you not see it?  Read it?  Get the link? No??

It’s Monday morning, and this Missouri Mugwump woke with aching muscles and a nagging worry that I’d been neglecting my personal pledge to blog every day about my attempts to live without complaining.  So here I sit, watching the sun rise over the park, hastening to record some of my thoughts about #mytinylife.

Yesterday my friend Shari Morfin and I spent an amazing four hours driving around the California Delta taking photographs.  She’s the real deal, and as obsessed with the windmills as I am.  She suggested taking a tour of the area beyond Rio Vista where a long stretch of the creatures live.  I cast my eye sideways at her, “Windmills?  Like. . .which ones do you mean?”  I didn’t want to presume.  But yes!  She meant those windmills, my windmills, through which I wandered for endless enraptured hours during the first few months of my tenure here.

Later, she and her partner Eric Reynolds visited Angel’s Haven.  We made blended Margaritas, inspired by my newly ripe limes.  We shared cashew cheese and crackers.  They talked about their activism, their upcoming adventures on the road in their RV, and life as they know it.  We looked at some of the stellar images which Shari captured.

I’ll miss them when they take off next week; but I’m looking forward to hearing more from them and seeing amazing photographs.  I’m fortunate to have met them.  I’m honored to call them friends.  I feel certain we will connect again but if we don’t, the six months or so that I’ve been blessed to have them in my daily life will shine from the keeping shelf of my heart.

It’s the twenty-sixth day of the fifty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

The Right Antidote to Rain

Jeanne Foster put me in the mind of soup. She described a recipe of hers which resembled one of mine.  When my friends Jim and Nancy invited me to Thanksgiving dinner and asked what main dish they could provide for my vegetarian sensibilities, I gave Jim my thick potato soup recipe.  He acquitted himself superbly.

I drove home from Oakland this morning as the rain began again.  After a day’s respite, we’re deluged.  Wednesday’s shower washed the heavy smoke from the Delta but today’s will threaten the refugees of the Camp Fire.   I spare a few more prayers for their warmth, for the safety of those assisting them, and for the integrity of the hillsides above the ashes of their lives.

My body protests the chill in the air.  I’m not complaining, though; my house stands whole and inside the heat murmurs.  But I feel the cold.  My throat hurts.   I came away without leftover soup, so I set myself to making some.  It’s the right antidote to rain.

What Jim made involved a thick, near-mash.  I used a different approach today, wanting a rich comforting broth.  I succeeded; and so I share a tale of soup-making while rain surrounds my house and wind blows across the meadow.

From Angel’s Haven with love, on the twenty-third day of the fifty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining, as life continues.

Mama Corinna’s Mushroom-Potato Soup

Ingredients (no need to be fussy about it; use what you have/prefer)

  • 2-cups chopped potatoes, skin-on. Use what you like; I used purple
  • ½ cup diced celery
  • ½ cup diced carrots
  • ½ cup diced onion. I used yellow but you use the kind which you prefer.
  • ½ cup diced red, yellow, or orange peppers.  Note: I DO NOT LIKE GREEN PEPPERS. Like Nigella Lawson, I consider green peppers and white chocolate to be abominations of nature.
  • 2-cups chopped mushrooms. Note:  As far as I am concerned, anything less than cremini will not suffice.  If you’re well-heeled, use portobello.  I don’t recommend using white button, which I find boring.
  • 1 box GOOD stock. I used organic vegetable.
  • 2-T or so of a light oil. in which to saute the vegetables.  I used grape seed oil. During the sauteeing, if you eat butter you can add some to richen the mix.
  • A small amount of a red wine that you would actually drink. I used Old Soul (a local wine) because I had the tag-end of a bottle left.
  • Salt, pepper, granulated garlic, or any other seasons or herbage that you like in soup.

Note:  These measurements are neither binding nor completely accurate.  I guesstimated.

Instructions:

Giving Thanks

Tomorrow will only be my second Thanksgiving without my son; and my first away from an established life.  From 1992 through 2017, I spent my Thanksgivings with family, family-in-law, and family-by-choice in Kansas City.  Most often, the table in my Brookside home groaned under the weight of twenty or more plates laden with turkey and all of the fixings.  Each year, we’d go around the table, youngest to oldest, and identify something for which we gave thanks.

For the last four years, I’ve had to stretch myself to create a new way of living.  Still, I shared the day’s meal with people who loved me — my son, the Taggarts, the Wandfluhs, the Kenyon-Vogts, Brenda Dingley, Penny Thieme, Jenny Rosen, Steve Greene, and many others.  Christmas and the Gathering of the Usual Suspects cheerfully hovered in the offing.   From late November to early January, I hugged so many people that my face hurt from grinning.  I always loved the holidays, and in the aftermath of my 2014 separation, I needed the diversion and the outpouring of love more than ever.

Here in the California Delta, those familiar faces will not stand on my porch.  The lively stomp of boots on the stoop will not precede cold noses into the living room.  Scarves and parkas will not hang from the coat rack.  The fragrance of baking will not waft from my oven.

Instead I will chop vegetables for a salad and drive into Oakland.  My friends Jim and Nancy Carriere will host me in their home.  We’ll have a quiet dinner, just the three of us, around the table in their kitchen.  Wine will be poured.  Soup will be ladled.  Crab will be heaped on a platter.  Conversation will stay light-hearted.  We might talk of the fires, of the smoke, of the state of the nation, but we’ll also talk about Shelterbox and Rotary; about their son and mine; about the new rental property which they’ve recently bought in Oregon.

I might spend the night in their guestroom.  We will tarry over coffee or a second glass of wine.  I’ll bid them goodnight, read for a while, and fall asleep thinking of all that has been and all that no longer can be.  I’ll try not to complain, even in silence, even in the dark, even in the secret depths of my heart where no one hears and no one sees.

I have much for which to be thankful this year.  My home has not been destroyed by fire.  It could have been — I had intended to park near Santa Rosa last year, but the lateness of my build saved me from the fires of October 2017.  I also considered a private spot above  Chico, but some instinct dissuaded me, so I was nowhere near the horrendous Camp Fire which destroyed Paradise this month.  No one can be so blessed, though come to think of it, I’ve also been hit by a car twice without shedding so much as a drop of blood either time.

I glance around my house now, thinking of the shifting winds.  Rain dances on my blue metal roof.  The lime tree must be gleefully stretching its roots in the dampness of the soil.  I will soon need to find indoor spots for the succulents; they won’t like the prolonged cold and damp.  By the same token, I have to expand the stretch of pavers from my house to the parking spot.  But I won’t have to shovel a walk this year, or desperately lay down salt, or panic when the furnace falls silent.

Each year, tears spring to my eyes when it’s my turn to name that for which I am thankful.  Emotion grips me.  The world feels too tender, too fragile, too brittle.  I want to whisper, to barely speak my gratitude outloud.  I don’t want to jinx it or call the devil to its door.

My son’s first pediatrician heard a troubling sound in his heart.  We moved from Arkansas back to Missouri before we could see a specialist.  When I finally got him to a pediatric cardiologist, the man bent over my little one’s chest, eyes closed, a listening ear to the scope.  Then a smile broke on his face.  He stood and held out one hand so I could listen.

I know just what this is, he cried.  Heart strings!  Your son has heart strings!

For one wild moment, I imagined a small symphony with a choir of angels.  Their voices rose, heralding the coming of dawn.  Then the doctor explained that we all have fibers in our chest, holding the heart secure.  Some can be in the wrong place, a dangerous place.  Later we learned that my son’s heart strings were not in the scary place but in somewhere unusual.  He might outgrow them, the doctor opined; and he did, several years later.

But I always imagined angels playing their harps in my little boy’s chest.  It can’t be a bad thing, heart strings, plucked by angels, can it?

I’m thankful for my son; for my siblings; for my sisters-by-choice and for my friends.  I’m thankful for the work that I’ve found here in California, three contract gigs which keep the home fires burning and the wolves at bay.  I’m thankful that my house was not parked in North Bay when the fires raged last year or in the mountains above Chico for the devastation this month.  I’m thankful that I have enough room to change my point of view, but not so much that I can’t clean house in a single morning.  I’m grateful for life; for feet that keep propelling me forward even though they stumble.  I’m thankful for hands that can type despite their cussed lily-white spasticity.  I’m thankful for the rain which has dampened the fires and cleared the air.  I’m thankful for the sun which rises, the moon which glows, and the stars which continue to shine behind the low-hanging clouds and the gathering fog.

I’ve lost a lot in the last twelve months.  Our old dog Little Girl came to the end of her life this year; and I still expect to see her when I go back to Kansas City.  People whom I once called ‘friend’ drifted away.  Love that I once cherished faded out of existence.  Ideas which I relished have fallen away.  The innocence to which I still clung splintered.  The illusions that I held have been exposed.

But I’m still putting my best foot forward.  I’m still walking.  I’m still relentless.  I still have hope.  That has to count for something.

It’s the twenty-first day of the fifty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Patrick Corley, December 2017, Angel’s Haven, Park Delta Bay, Isleton, CA

Livingston Taylor and James Taylor, “Thank You Song”

If you are able to donate to help the victims and survivors of the Camp Fire, CLICK HERE.  Thank you.

 

Sweating the Small Stuff

I’ve had nearly five years to contemplate the science of complaint.  A few conclusions float to the top, with the curdled cream and the shards of misbegotten days.

People complain more than we realize.  They roll their eyes, honk their horns, raise their middle fingers.  Profanity escapes unbidden, unnoticed, unchecked.  Their shoulders hunch.  Body language flashes suppressed ire in waves across the room.  Shriveling glances fell their enemies.  They dash off nasty letters and outraged e-mails.  They make their cases in carefully crafted catalogs.  No-one forswears complaint entirely, not the virtuous, not the faithful, not the dedicated.  Certainly not me.

All those complainers have one common characteristic.  They bear the weight of everything ungodly in their lives with single-minded vigor.  If you consider that the nearly unbearable involves serious illness, death, divorce, and catastrophe, we’re surprisingly deft at slogging through all of that.  We might not do so cheerfully, but we do so determinedly.

We sweat the small stuff.  We endure the unimaginable in silence.

Humans hurt the ones whom they love because they assume the potential of forgiveness.  They moan about inconsequential instances to avoid lamenting those which lie beyond reach.  I see evidence of this day in and day out.  The weather; the bad drivers; the pennies rise in the price of bread.  None of these truly cause much harm to the average person articulating dismay about them.  Behind the rise of their irritation lies their helpless reaction to what really bothers them:  Their spouse’s faithlessness; their mother’s dementia; their empty bank account; their addicted teenager.  They kick the dog because he’s in their way, knowing that they could skirt around him.  They yell at their secretary.  They wad the draft of a letter and hurl it across the room.

Today I saw a couple in the grocery store who intrigued me.  They seemed to be long-married.  The man stood over six feet tall, wide of girth, grey hair falling across his forehead.  He flashed a grin.  But his hands clenched the cart’s handle and his legs trembled.  His wife barely came to my shoulders.  A hump rose between her shoulders.  One arm hung limp at her side.  Her feet dragged as she clung to the side of the cart.

I watched them make their way through the store.  They stopped from time to time.  One or the other would snake out a hand to push a can or box onto their accumulated pile of food.  Eventually they made their way to the check-out, turning ahead of me with my four items.  I didn’t say a word.

The cashier asked them how they were.  “Super,” the man cried.  His wife focused on inching the food from the buggy  I debated offering to unload for her, but she darted a dark glance over her shoulder.  I think she wanted to make sure that I didn’t bump her husband.

I paid and started out of the door, pausing to make sure the couple didn’t need help.  A bagger had come around to load their purchases.  The man’s smile had widened but the woman’s scowl had grown dark as she rummaged in her purse for money to pay the bill.  A sense of sorrow rose within me.  I wanted to turn back, to pay for their groceries, to ask if they needed anything.  I did nothing.

Their faces haunted me for the rest of the day.  I don’t know them.  I have no clue as to their story.  But I saw enough to know that they have one, and that some parts of it involve a measure of sorrow that makes my life seem easy by comparison.  I  keep telling myself that:  I’m one of the lucky ones.  I don’t feel superior to anyone.  But I am, in fact, quite blessed.

It’s the twentieth day of the fifty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

#DayOne

Just before I fell asleep last night, a memory surfaced that I had suppressed for three years, of a trivial incident, one which should not bother me, but which clearly did.

A woman with whom I had only the vague tendrils of an independent relationship asked if she could photograph me.  She said that she had always found my face to be “intriguing”.  Her query came at a difficult time for me.  My raw emotions hovered just beneath the gritty surface of my struggling form.  My life had  spiraled into a maze of intense emotional anguish.

The woman’s request seemed to present an opportunity for me to take a small step towards self-reclamation.  I’d had several photographer friends offer or ask to take my picture.  I resisted each of them.  I do not like to submit to the probe of an unforgiving lens.  I don’t like how I look. From my crooked teeth to my drifting right eye and my wobbly neck, I particularly despise my face.  (No, don’t rush to complimentary comments; please keep reading.)

That this woman reached across the severed social connection between us occasioned by my divorce provided a chance to begin my own salvation.  I’d let her take my picture for her camera club.  At the same time, perhaps I’d forge a bond with her while starting to overcome self-loathing. I saw win-win potential.

She asked me to wear a black dress.  I selected one of my favorites, one in which I like the way I look.  I fixed my hair and applied a little make-up.  On the way to her house, I stopped at a local candy shop to buy a hostess gift, just as I had been taught.  Never go anywhere empty-handed.

An hour later, I stood beneath a tree in her backyard, disguised as a corpse bride.  Draped in black netting from crown to torso, nearly invisible beneath the sweep of tree branches, I prayed for the horrible experience to end.  When it did, I made my apologies for haste and dashed away, fighting back tears.  The woman didn’t want to photograph me.  She didn’t find my face at all photogenic.  She needed a subject for that week’s theme:  Dead brides in black and white.

I struggled between sobs and hysterical giggles all the way home.  I drove my fist into the steering wheel.  I wailed in the empty car, lamenting the twenty-five bucks worth of expensive chocolate, the stupid yearning for this woman’s acceptance, the absurd notion that she actually wanted to photograph me for myself, for how I looked and what I showed the world.

The woman had said that if she “got any good shots”, she’d give me one.  She did:  A black and white shot of just my eyes in a box-store metal frame.  Its size accentuated every wrinkle, each unplucked grey-tinged eyebrow hair, the chronic puffiness.  Detached from surrounding features, my eyes had no logic, just two crazy orbs, one slightly askew, agitated and unfocused.  I shredded the photograph after I moved to California.  I repurposed the frame. The woman might have thought of it as an art piece.  For me, it symbolized the unbearable insidiousness of the session. 

I never heard from the woman again.  She never called for coffee afterwards, or sent a Christmas card, or wished me well on my departure.  She sent an email thanking me for my assistance in her project.  I answered with the practiced politeness that my mother taught me.

I remain unsure of this woman’s intent.  What she did felt like mockery, but she might not have perceived or predicted the potential impact on me.  She clearly had a goal and used me to attain it, but probably not with the thought that I would suffer as a result.  As I’ve often told my son, people live in the realm of self-absorption more than we realize.

I fell asleep last night with that memory at the forefront of thought.  I don’t know why it surfaced yesterday.  I passed a dreamless night and woke in my usual state of unrestfulness — no more, no less.  I pulled myself out of bed, started coffee, and scrolled through social media.

A friend posted on Facebook that she had launched “Day One” of a healthy regimen.  “Again,” she added.  “Day One, again.”  Though understanding that she meant to mildly rebuke herself for needing to recommence, I co-opted the label to different ends.   #DayOne became my call to action this morning.  On the strength of my friend’s example, I made steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast.  I did a half-hour of stretches.  I listened to some lively music as I started laundry.  I might be the very image of a macabre abandoned lover, but I do not have to accept that role.  I can shed my funeral garments.  I can refuse to see myself as someone’s cast-off bride.  I can adorn myself in the gossamer fabric of joy.

It’s the eighteenth day of the fifty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

 

JM Storm

 

 

Full Circle

My great-grandmother saved my life yesterday.

Though she lies in a grave in St. Louis, more than two thousand miles from me, Corinne Hahn Hayes intervened at an opportune moment.  As the house shook from an off-kilter washer, a photograph of my great-grandmother leaped from a bookshelf.  I heard the clatter and went upstairs to see if anything had broken.  At that moment, a wine bottle vibrated out of its rack and crashed to the floor adjacent to the chair on which I had just been sitting.

I don’t normally sit in that chair located at the spot.  I had a video playing on my tablet as I did some chair yoga.  I sat the tablet on the kitchen counter so it would be at eye-level.  That unusual move put me in front of the washing machine, above which the wine rack sat.

The shelves of my home hold angel statues, vases, and brick-a-brack.  Many items sit far closer to the LG washer/dryer combo than my great-grandmother’s photograph.  None of those things vibrated off their shelves in that moment except for Corinne’s photograph.

I don’t know how much more clear her message could have been.  Get up, come here, don’t stay there, she commanded.  I never knew her.  I have several photographs of her in addition to the one which fell.  She died in 1944, before my parents met.  In later years, her face assumed the stern tenderness of a widowed woman in her time.  My face bears her stamp in some regards — its shape, I think, and maybe the set of my eyes.  I imagine her gaze on me.  Perhaps she glanced down from the writing loft and sensed the danger.

My parents originally named me “Bridget Kathleen”, according to my father.  They had wrestled with a difference of view on what to call their sixth child.  She favored “Mary Kathleen”, while he insisted on “Bridget Corinne”.  Of the four, only “Corinne” had family significance.  After the first compromise, my father remained dissatisfied.  He described scribbling the permutations of the name on a paper napkin at the bar in Jennings where he drank.  He decided that “Mary Corinne” looked better with “Corley” than the combination which they had given me.  He drove to the hospital and persuaded a clerk to re-write the paperwork.  He told my mother after the fact.  He said it had been a matter of days.  She rolled her eyes at that; she once said, “Yes, thirty of them.”  Either way, I seem to have come full circle.  His decision might be responsible for invoking the protection of a guardian angel named Corinne.   Now she watches over me, as I make a new life in a tiny house on wheels called “Angel’s Haven”, in the California Delta, far away from anywhere that my great-grandmother called home.

It’s the seventeenth day of the fifty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Traveling

I took the back roads home through the Delta tonight, south on 84 to Courtland and over the River Road to 160.  Smoke lay thick on the land.  I used my brights when I could, watching for oncoming traffic.  I could not decide if the rule of fog applied, but I counted on the high beams bouncing from the eyes of frightened deer. An owl swooped across the highway. I slowed and  watched him disappear in the dimness.

Ashes lay everywhere, not from a fire that I had to endure but one three hours north, where sixty-three souls perished and six hundred more cannot be found.  Every night I scan the internet for news of that devastation.  I send a trivial text to my son, just to remind myself that we are the lucky ones.  The unscathed.

One site on social media bears a heavy list:  names of people whom no one can locate.  A string of comments provide the weary edits:  Take his name off, confirmed dead. . .But also a few happy updates:  She’s my aunt, she’s with me.  I don’t know these people, but I know folks like them, men and women who sit in windbreakers at the counter of local cafes, exchanging the same greeting day in and day out.  I envy them from my lonely table at the window.  That’s the kind of folks who died in Paradise last week — retired folk, people’s eighth grade English teachers, the greeter at the Baptist church on Sundays.

A couple of brush fires erupted near me.  This morning I anguished over whether or not to drive to Elk Grove to earn my living.  I only have 200 square feet left in the world, and it has cedar siding and pine walls.  Flames would gobble this place in an instant.  I said a prayer as I pulled away.

It still stood when I came home at eight, over the River Road, through the dark, with soot on my windshield and a cold ache in my bones.  i pulled the blue door shut and stood in the silence.  Time settled around me.  I listened:  The old familiar rattle of the electric heat; rising symphonies of tinnitus; the last rustle of a critter under foot.  Home.  My rectangle of rented dirt and a house on wheels, safe below sea level under a smoky sky.  I let go of a stale gasp of air and crossed to start my dinner in the littlest kitchen I ever hope to have.

It’s the fifteenth day of the fifty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

West Sacramento, late afternoon, 15 November 2018.

REMEMBERING THOSE WHO DIED IN ‘THE CAMP FIRE’ , PARADISE, CA.

♥♥ GONE TOO SOON ♥♥

Appreciation

An e-mail from one of the lawyers for whom I do contract work caught me by surprise.

“I appreciate you,” she said in closing.

I used to use that expression.  I stopped nearly a year ago.  Two different sets of circumstances gave me negative reinforcement for my expression of appreciation for others.

One person, who shall go unidentified, unnamed, and ungendered, protested that I should say, “Thank you.”  The objection came often, loudly, and angrily.  For several years, no explanation accompanied that insistence.  I parried as long as I could.  To me, an expression of appreciation transcends the trite and glib toss of  “thank you” over one’s shoulder.  The individual finally settled on this logic:  Saying ‘I appreciate you’ places the focus on the receiver, not the giver.  This resonated with me.  I tried to adjust my avowal.  I made no impact.  The person merely shrugged, in reality and metaphorically.  Too little, too late, came the pronouncement.

Last fall, I did business with someone in Kansas City who had taken over for someone else whose lack of competence or lack of concern cost me nearly two thousand dollars.  I wanted the new relationship to have only positive energy. I ended every verbal conversation and each e-mail with “I appreciate you”.  Eventually, the person mirrored me:  “I appreciate you, too.”

But in this case, the person lacked sincerity.  The person only cared about their profit, wanting to expend as little energy as possible to increase the net return.  The job that I hired this person to do nearly collapsed from inattention.  I struggled to overcome omissions and remissions eventually having to hire an attorney to sort out the quagmire.  I did not feel appreciated in any sense of the word.  Friends gasped at the other individual’s attitude when the omissions and remissions came out.  I was labeled “not nice” for voicing my concern when I had to seek an attorney’s intervention.

I stopped telling people that I appreciated them after these experiences.  In fact, both of these encounters — one from a close intimate, one from a friend whom I hired — pushed me a little further inside myself.

Hearing the phrase tendered to me this week reminded me of its loveliness.  I always used it with care and conviction.  When I told someone that I appreciated them, I meant it.  I believed that the extra effort conveyed my genuine gratitude.  I often added specifics:  I appreciate that you did . . . I appreciate your attention to. . . I appreciate the effort you expended when you. . . 

I am contemplating a reinstatement of the phrase to my repertoire.  Maybe it’s time that I do what feels right to me, leaving the nay-sayers behind me.  And, for the record, I appreciate the lessons which their negativity taught.  I don’t think for a moment that they intended to be of such momentous assistance, but I’m willing to take my education where and as I find it.

It’s the thirteenth day of the fifty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

 

Remembering One Who Served

By rights, I should head over to my other blog and talk about Veteran’s Day.  But I have a different focus tonight, more personal.

I wanted to post a picture of my father in his uniform to commemorate his service.  I do not have one.  Moreover, I acknowledge that many remain conflicted about my father.

I recognize that his alcoholism and abusiveness probably stemmed from post-traumatic stress related to his combat service in World War II.  I do not excuse him; I do understand him.

I have a dear friend, Jeanne Foster, who tells me not to cut him any slack.  Some of my siblings feel the same way.  But my anger towards him weighed me down for decades.  i let it go.    I see what happened to him.

I don’t deny that we children and my mother survived unfathomable brutality at his hands.  He had choices, though not as many as our society currently offers.  In his war, you served or you got branded as a coward.  The generals apparently did not understand what war does to the human psyche as they now do.  No mental health services existed for veterans in those days.  You came home, you slipped back into life, and you tried to make a go of it.  The lucky ones could fully engage.  A middle group sat taciturn behind their newspapers.  The wretched few took to drink and all of its twisted foibles.

My sister also served.  She became a nurse through the Army’s Walter Reed Institute of Nursing program. She spent a tour in Korea, possibly tending to the wounds of soldiers flown to her hospital from Vietnam.  But she never talks of that time — at least, not to me.  What I remember most of her Army days is the refrigerator that she bought for us with her accumulated pay when she got back stateside.  Our old fridge had long since died, and we desperately needed its replacement.   My mother quietly cried when the new one arrived, from gratitude and relief, I suppose.

In the movie version of The Prince of Tides, its narrator utters a phrase which I could not find in the book but nonetheless cherish.  “In families, there is no sin beyond forgiveness.”  Perhaps because I know what my father suffered on the Burma trail, I have come to forgive what he did to me. I do not presume to forgive the injuries he inflicted on my mother or my siblings; that falls to those still among the living, or, if heaven allows, then on the other side of eternity.  I can, and do, provide absolution for my part.  In the final analysis, I thank him for his service.  It cost him dearly; and paid him next to nothing.

It’s the eleventh day of the fifty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

In Memory of:

Richard Adrian Corley, 12/27/22 – 09/07/91