Thursday, September 4, 2008

Fractures of Forgiveness

“I was able to go to her yesterday,” my eldest cousin said today. “I am not sure if you knew this but it had been five years since we had spoken. We were able to make peace. I was able to make peace with her before she passed and know all of that has gone away.”

To tell the truth, I had no idea. I don’t know much about my family here in the US. Let me rephrase that. I do know too much about them. But I know not to try to know too much about them.

My mother, filled with tears, grace and light, had called me earlier that day. She told me that my cousin passed away that morning. I knew this cousin had been suffering from pancreatic cancer and my husband and I had prayed for her often. She was nearly ten years older than myself. My mother asked me to call the eldest cousin to ask for more information about the showing and funeral. I obeyed.

I didn’t how to say anything but the polite thing. “I’m am very sorry for your loss. I am glad you were able to make peace with her. What are the arrangements for her?” I asked.

My mother taught me that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. (It is one of the only sayings she can’t get right without mixing in some other metaphor.) It’s not that she wants me not to disclose our family’s locked hidden secrets, I just think she is asking for respect without trouble. The truth is that for the past ten years or so having the older friends that I do, my brain has become a repository for many secrets. I dare not open my mouth for fear of creating some concoction that will inadvertently sever me from them. I love my mother. She deserves for me to behave graciously and tight-lipped. She’s put up with all of this mess for over 70 years. So I tend to focus on the truth. It’s sometimes the only thing that can keep the pain that unforgiveness generates on a leash.

She is trapped inside a month of gray,
and they take a little every day.
She is a victim of her own responses,
shackled to a heart that wants to settle, and then runs away.

It’s a sin to be fading endlessly.
Yeah, but she’s all right with me.*

The mayor took a plea today. I suppose in a city like Chicago one is too enchanted with proper city amenities and culture to become too disenfranchised with city leaders. There may even be accountability involved, who knows. In Detroit, things are too small to even know what all of that looks like. We just take it. It is painful. It’s like a chemical reactor that makes small children look at you strangely because you appear to be white and living in their neighborhood. It closes the Catholic school down the street and reopens it as a charter school while the public school on the next block closes. It causes the dark person in their late model car to cut you off at the light. You have use up gas to haul all of your smelly recycling with your car into the plant instead of having it picked up at your home. There is a sewage treatment facility with money in their pocket while the city’s workers are jobless with picket signs in front of it. You can’t scream to the little child that your husband has lived in this neighborhood all of his life. You can’t re-shufffle institutional changes within education. You can’t honk at the car that cuts you off without fear of repercussions. You can’t demand city officials reexamine how recycling could revive their budgets. You can’t point a finger at who’s palm in city government was greased to get the sewage treatment contract.

You deal. Day after day.

She is leaving on a walkaway.
She is leaving me in disarray.
In the absence of a place to be,
she stands there looking back at me,
hesitates, and then turns away.

She’ll change so suddenly-- she’s just like mercury.
Yeah, but she’s all right with me.

I opened my Bible and read twice of wisdom this week. The first time on how David felt it wise to abdicate to Solomon. David was forgiven by God of adultery and murdering Solomon’s mother’s first husband. And yet from that mess he received a son who would become king. The second was of what Solomon, who as king could have any given good thing from God, when asked of God what he desired most, Solomon requested wisdom to lead God’s children. My husband spoke specifically about forgiveness today. And this is wisdom. He said we could not as a family and as a people who live in this city mock the situation further by emphasizing it. We had to forgive and move on. This had to be demonstrated in our subtlest actions. And this is from a Caucasian man who has been at the brunt of the “dealing with it” for all of his life.

Keep some sorrow in your hearts and minds
for the things that die before their time:
for the restlessly abandoned homes,
the tired and weary rambler’s bones.
And stay beside me where I lie.

I am too relieved to hold onto anything about the mayoral situation. I feel released inside now that it is over. I feel empathy for the prices paid yet at the same time feel confident that the beginning of accountability has come. Yet this is what I feel today. I can only intend to continue to feel this hope.

She’s entwined in me-- crazy as can be.
Yeah, but she’s all right with me.
She’s all right-- she’s all right with me.

I will go see the cousin that passed at the funeral home. I will see all of the family that did not come to my wedding and hope they love my merciful mother a little more. I will vote this November with my fears reverberating from the lack of connection in every direction as well as the quake of the country’s collective unconscious sullenly stirring. I will look ahead the future instead of back at scandal. I will try to be my mother, my husband, King David and his son King Solomon. Yet mostly my mother.

*Mercury by The Counting Crows (Yes, Adam, I know it is not a song about love but a song about addiction. Humor me on this fractures of forgiveness line.)