Morning Comfort

13 Jun 2017

12/5/15

Morning Comfort

When I walked this morning, day was just a gauzy, gray hint of light. Suddenly I heard the crack of a gunshot. Then another. Some early morning hunter had sighted his deer. Then two more shots quickly.
From her investigations somewhere in the field or woods, Foxxi appeared at my side. For the rest of the walk she synchronized her steps exactly to mine. I guess she somehow felt that I, as her Human, could protect her from the threatening sounds that had echoed into our walk. I was glad for her company as well.

BAMorris

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Mother Lessons

06 Jun 2017

1/10/17

Mother Lessons

My mother might have been called nosey. She seemed to be involved, when I was a child, in many people’s lives. We always seemed to be carrying somebody’s child to church, or taking someone else to the doctor or the store. She knew whose husband had lost his job, or which mother had no money to buy new shoes for her kids. In today’s world, she would be deemed a busy-body.
But in the 1950s, she was just being a good neighbor. I dare say everyone knew everyone’s business in our small community. So it really was no secret when a man lost his job or a mother had no money because her husband drank it up instead of bringing it home to her.
We were not wealthy. Mom had been one of those in need herself after my father left us. She had gone looking for work, any kind of work, from more well-to-do members of our community: any job to put food on our table and keep us in our home. She made it through that trying time, so afterwards she extended a helping hand to those less fortunate. Giving back, I’d call it.
She worked in the homes of the more financially secure for our livelihood. She was still “the hired woman.” But she shared her blessings, passed on our little extra, to those who didn’t have any extra, or even enough. I think in her mind she was just being a good Christian.

BAMorris

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My Fur Baby

10 Aug 2016

3/27/16

My Fur Baby

Winkie likes to lay on my chest. He’ll crawl up on me, his rear end nestled in my lap, and lay his head on my heart. Sometimes he puts his paws on my shoulder, almost like he is hugging me.
I think this reminds him of when he was a kitten. At barely two weeks old, I’d cradle him in my left hand, and feed him a bottle, holding him against my heart so he could feel its beating. Now he settles in that same position, and falls asleep, his purr a motor of pleasure and contentment.

BAMorris

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Widows

26 Oct 2015

7/4/15

Widows

I celebrated the 4th yesterday with a friend’s family. We had the usual food: hot dogs, hamburgers, baked beans, salads, and birthday cake to honor two members of the family. I have known the hostess and her family for over ten years, and feel like a part of the family: a distant cousin, if you will.
There were three widowed women at the celebration. All had been married lengthy years to their mates before their death. Listening to them talk, I was struck by a common theme they all expressed. All of them said they had trouble sleeping now that they were alone. The bed felt empty without the body of their husband that they had grown accustomed to having there beside them. There was something about the absence of the security (physically, emotionally, soulfully) of their mate there beside them that held sleep at bay. One said during the day it was easy to fill the hours with people, noise, and activity: all things that occupy the senses and the mind. But in the stillness of the night, when it is time to lay down the burdens of the day, check the windows and doors, and make sure all is right in your world, all is not right. Something is very wrong, and there is nothing you can do to right it. How to sleep with the sense of wrongness that is the loss of your mate?
I listened to the ways each woman had tried to adjust and compensate. Pillows piled up on the empty side of the bed. A huge sleep pillow to hug. Cooking in the middle of the night. Some of their methods worked for that night. But the next night brought on the renewed battle to lure sleep’s soothing presence into their bed.
I would never have thought that lying down alone to sleep would have felt so alien, so wrong to a woman who is now a widow. But I have spent a good part of my life alone, so it isn’t new to me.

BAMorris

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Smitty

26 Oct 2015

10/25/15

Smitty

I am going to reunite with someone I knew in eight grade; someone who has become a legend to me.
I can feel his reluctance to see me, but curiosity, too. I guess we both wonder what fifty years have done to the other. So much different in the world since then! The battle he fought to attend what had been an all White school was part of the larger war against “Separate but equal.” I taught many years in what was then a predominately Black school, watching White students find their way in that strange environment.
We both have questions. Him: Why now do you find me and reach out? Me: How did you come to be in my math class in 1963? I hope we can find some common ground upon which to build a here-and-now friendship. I hope that one common math class can open the door to laughter and caring between two seniors who once were “sort of friends” in the brave new adventure of integration.

BAMorris

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Senior Prom

17 Aug 2015

8/8/15
Senior Prom

John and I were “going out” at the time of our senior prom. Going out was that nebulous term that meant a boy and girl were mutually interested in each other, walked to class together (and maybe he carried her books), talked on the phone, and acknowledged to everyone else that they were a couple. It did not in any way mean they went anywhere outside of school.
He was a shy boy, very uncomfortable with girls and being a boyfriend, and in some ways, with himself. He was sweet in his innocence.
As prom approached I hoped he would ask me to go with him. A prom at that time was a girl’s coming out party, so to speak. It was the one time she got to dress up in all her glory and show the world who she might be when she became woman. We all dreamed of going to the prom with the perfect date.
But John didn’t ask me. He, instead, took a girl his parents chose for him: a nice Greek girl to meet their standards and their culture. He tried to explain to me but he didn’t have the words yet. On some level I understood because my mother was still controlling my life to a large extent as well. You didn’t and couldn’t refuse your parents. Just the same, I was disappointed and sad. Part of me wanted him to stand up to his parents and say, “I have a girlfriend and I want to take her.” Part of me wanted so badly to go to that magical dance that I’d have gone with anyone who asked! No one did. So, come prom night, I sat at home.
I attended many proms later as a high school teacher. I loved to see my students acting like the adults they would grow to be, in their tuxes and evening gowns, and on their best behavior. But for me, that senior prom in 1968 always felt like something I had been denied, a lost opportunity.

BAMorris

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Summer Suitor

17 Aug 2015

8/7/15
Summer Suitor

He would come midmorning, and plant himself at the table for the day. I would resume my work as if he wasn’t there. Often I would forget he was. But he was the rock in the shoe that made life uncomfortable, a rock that caused me to limp. With his brown eyes glued to me as if I were the puppet master and they my puppet, he’d sit unspeaking and watch me. Under those eyes I could not sing to my favorite songs on the radio as if I were the performer at a rock concert. I could not dance wildly, seductively, to the music. I could not lay down for a nap in the hot, sticky afternoon if I finished my chores. I could not be me with him there.
Once, peeved by the heat and humidity of the weather, and the steam of water-sprinkled shirts rising from under the hot iron, I asked him, “Why don’t you say something? It’s creepy you sitting there all day watching me and not talking!”
“What do you want me to say?” he had replied.
In truth, there was nothing I did want him to say. I knew he had a crush on me and I certainly didn’t want to hear him say anything about his feeling for me!
I should have known from my own experiences how it felt to be drawn to an unattainable lover, like a moth to a light. But unlike my silent suitor, I had never wanted to be sucked into the orbit of my fixation. I had been content to gaze from a far, and dream of could-have-been, might-have-been meetings. Doug wanted to be the moon to my earth. So silently that summer, he sat in my kitchen and drank in my actions, while I tried to ignore he even existed.

BAMorris

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Predators

08 Aug 2015

8/6/15

Predators

Predators look like ordinary people: your neighbor, your doctor, your uncle. They start their predation with acts that can be explained away as being misunderstood. They draw their victims in and use their normalcy to often turn their victims into partners in their crimes.
I’ve known a few pedophiles. To the world they present themselves as nice men. No one would ever have guessed the dark demonic desires that bloomed in their souls. They were like a rich ruby red apple, beautiful until you bite into it to find a nasty worm at the core.
Mostly I have known their victims. One was an 11 years old who was in a foster care girl’s home for acting out behaviors. No one knew the why of her behaviors. It was only when she was given a new night gown to take home with her on a home visit, that after two years of unproductive counseling, her truth came out. At age six her mother had given her a new night gown and then presented her as a gift to her father. This child assumed every girl had that experience, therefore it was normal. When her foster mother gave her the new night gown, the child thought her foster mother, someone she had come to trust, was preparing to give her to the foster father. The tantrum she threw and the words she used about the new night gown allowed her therapist, and then the authorities, to unlock the hell that her life had been for each visit home.
Other victims had been teens by the time I came to know them. But their stories were similar in that abuse started early with someone they trusted (father, step-father, mother’s boyfriend, uncle, neighbor) and continued with new predators throughout their growing up years. It was almost like childhood victims ingested some unseen radioactive shame that could be read by predators as an invisible tattoo or in pheromones from their skin. They all thought it was somehow their fault they were abused over and over, and they all were clueless how to prevent it from happening again.
One adult woman I met in a therapeutic seminar was still luring in men who wielded their power over her and used her as their tool. She wanted it to end; recognized the patterns in her life; but did not know how to stop being a victim. I can only hope that her recognition of the patterns and the acknowledgement that she was no way at fault, was the beginning of her taking back her power and her body.

BAMorris

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No Shoes

08 Aug 2015

8/6/15

No Shoes

The man who had no shoes thought his life was bleak, until he met a man with no feet.

My mother knew her family life was bleak. There was her father’s neglect of his wife and children. There was his physical abuse of them. There were her mother’s efforts to keep body and soul together through all the years of her husband’s tumbleweed ways. Mom finally left home to work so she could attend high school and have a better chance at life.
Then she met my father. He had no family. For some reason, when his parents divorced, the court gave custody of his brother and my father (ages 4 and 5) to their father: another tumbleweed man. My grandfather wasted no time in renting his sons out to farm families as laborers. That is how my father grew up: estranged from his mother and hating his father, who was only present to collect any wages my father might have earned. That tie was severed when my father was old enough to do a man’s labor and tell his father he would collect his own wages from now on.
My mother’s view of her situation changed when she met a man who had no place to call home, no ties to family, and no education to speak of. Suddenly shoes weren’t as important.
I don’t know how he wooed her: that was lost in the desertion and subsequent divorce that eventually came. See, my father had a bit of the tumbleweed in him, too.

BAMorris

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That’s Absurd!

05 Aug 2015

8/4/15

That’s Absurd!

Sometimes the absurdity of life makes me shake my head.
Years ago I had a high school student. He lived with his mother and stepfather. They were a tight family. I’ll call the boy Thomas and the parents Mr. and Mrs. Jones, for clarity’s sake.
Mrs. Jones became ill, and died quickly as a result of her illness. Both Thomas and Mr. Jones were devastated by their loss. But they had been close as father and son, so they leaned on each other to get through their grief.
Enter the absurdity of the law. Mr. Jones went with his son to get his learner’s permit, only to be told he could not sign any of the papers because he was not Thomas’ legal guardian. Never mind that Mr. Jones was the only father Thomas had known, as his mother married Mr. Jones when Thomas was just a toddler. Never mind that they had lived ad father and son for a decade and a half. Never mind that Thomas had no other living relatives. Mr. Jones was the same as a stranger to Thomas as far as the law was concerned.
When Mr. Jones tried to find a way to make his relationship with Thomas legal, Social Services got involved. Should Thomas be removed from the home and placed in foster care for his protection? Should Mr. Jones be charged with breaking the law for having an under aged minor with no familial relationship live in his home?
Thus started a long and very painful period of month, where Mr. Jones had to prove he was fit to be the father to a child. He had to apply to adopt his own stepson. He had to undergo a child study of his home. His background was reviewed to make sure he was not a criminal. Thomas’ physical and emotional states were examined for abuse and neglect.
Finally in a burst of brilliant insight, a judge ruled that Thomas could continue to live at the home while the adoption process was carried out. Eventually that judge was able to look at all the paperwork that half a dozen agencies had complied, and award Mr. Jones the title of “father” of Thomas Jones. Everyone who knew Thomas celebrated when that happened.
I ask: how absurd was it that a man and his son, who were suffering together the loss of the woman they both loved and who had bound them together, had to jump through hoops, pay thousands of dollars, and suffer so many months of unsureness about their fate?

BAMorris

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