Saying Goodbye Again: You are Like the Rain

Last weekend in DC I saw 2 shows by 2 iconic men. First, it was Paul Simon on his farewell, “Homeward Bound” tour, where he wowed me with his musicianship and imagination on a song called, “Rene and Georgette Magritte At Home with Their Dog After the War.” Backed up by yMusic, the song is full of mystery, delicate laughter, and Simon’s eloquent hand gestures that are themselves so beautiful as to seem surreal.
Two nights later, I was at the Birchmere to hear Nils Lofgren, whose wife, Amy, comped my tickets for his nearly sold-out show. Like Simon, being in the room with Lofgren’s music fills me with joy at his virtuosity, his musicianship, his own clear love of creating something as ephemeral as
music. Nothing compares to the joy of watching a grown man blissed out in the refracted joy of playing guitar with his three  brothers, all on stage, happily jamming to an audience full of family and old friends. It was a heaven.
Then Nils played Like Rain, something he’d written as a man-child, seventeen, my son’s age. I cried. The first anniversary of another beloved son’s fentanyl overdose approaches. My sadness is unspeakable. What to do? Can anyone lessen my anguish, or my family’s? If only we could
stand together and sing.

Embrace others if you can, even at work. Let them know you share their humanity. Perhaps your heart sings a similar song. Maybe you walk the same path. No human alive has has not experienced a deep loss.

Send a note. I have never been so lonely, or so relieved to hear from friends. Nils signed my guitar: Believe. I must. What else can a body do? Believe and love. The only way out is through.

TAGS: grief, loss, Paul Simon, Nils Lofgren, music, comfort, lovingkindness, loneliness, opioids, Fentanyl, comfort the grieving

Bowie Tribute on The Health Care Blog

Thanks to the editors at www.thcb.org for featuring my tribute to David Bowie and one of my favorite songs, Ground Control to Major Tom.  I’ve contributed to THCB in the past, but always about health policy. I’m glad to have found a kindred spirit there, who can appreciate that we do, in fact, mourn our icons and celebrities and public figures, who come to represent and even become a part of a time and space in our own lives.

I have since colored the image and hope others will find it mysterious, joyful, with a bit of longing for a time when life seemed that it truly might last forever.

Bowie in the stars

And just in case you’d like a clean copy of your own to color, feel free to try this version–but be sure to share what you come up with!

The stars look very different today

The stars look very different today

What Are Mothers For?: Ready to purchase on Amazon!

If you have ever loved a child, been a beloved child, or remembered happy moments shared with adults you loved, What Are Mothers For? will speak to your heart. With whimsical drawings accompanied by simple text, the book shows and tells the story of my memories of my childhood–some inspired by my grandmothers, my mother, and my sisters. The book follows the life cycle, from when we first come from the stars, to when we have children of our own.

Thanks to the expert design and layout support of Min Enghauser of The Torpedo Factor, the book LOOKS fantastic–and I hope you love reading it as much as I loved writing and drawing it. Here is a short link:

www.amazon.com/dp/0692562370

And an early image: We arrive on a wing and a prayer:

on a wing and a prayer, 1

We have so much to learn and absorb, to do and become.

interior book spread

In the end, we create our own beauty, and the beautiful lives that follow us.

It would make a beautiful gift for the holidays, a new mom, a mom-to-be, a grandmother. Many women are mothers by virtue of birth and adoption, and many more by virtue of the love they give to children.  Please consider a copy, the first in a series about all kinds of people (and  maybe a few animals, too).

tags: mothers, motherhood, parenting, children, love, aging, giftbook, picturebook, Janice Lynch Schuster, What Are Mothers For?, growing up, learning,

LAST WALTZ

for Grandmom

 

Grandmom in Alaska

Because she believed, I did,
all those Sundays she filled me
with forbidden fruits,
a grandmother’s reward
for having persevered. Everything
tastes better with sugar,
even oranges and secrets
kept from home.

In old St. Jerome’s church,
we’d kneel for communion,
long after my parish priest
had dispensed with being
an intermediary for God,
and handed me a wafer
All that was holy
flourished in my palm.

The years sped by so fast,
time invisible as angels.
Now, though belief is less rote,
I mouth her prayers
to lift her journey
to its end. If there were candles
I would blaze a trail.

I smell her Noxzema kisses
and count pennies won
at gin rummy, and remember
how I danced on her toes
and she laughed.
“Step lively,” she’d say.
“Here’s your hat,
what’s your hurry?”

Surely, now, some light-
footed prince has freed
a card for her and swept
her away in a drift
of stars, a cascade of ‘wow’
a mystery that sets
her free.

Key words: poetry, end-of-life, vigil, grandmothers, family, grief

GARDEN IN WINTER

IMG_1983

The gardening catalogues land
with their beautiful images
of what you could pull
from the dirt if only you had
the latest tools in this year’s
Pantone colors, and sand
delivered from some Holy Land.

If only you outfitted the place
with brilliant bottle trees
in primary colors to remind
you of an African sun
you have never glimpsed.

If only your beds
were smoothly made in boxes,
deer proofed. If only your kitchen
garden grew herbs fit
for the mouths of queens.

As it is, just promises
of summer, empty as your head
that night in the bar
when the married man
tied his gold ring to his shoe
laces and told you he knew
how to make love grow.

 

key words: Gardeners Supply Outlet, Audobon Society, Homestead Gardens, Riva Gardens, gardening, flowers, love

All Soul’s Day

For Grandmom
June 26, 1915-November 4, 1994

I was born into a golden dream
of an old woman’s heart.
She held me when others could not,
rubbed my ear, whispered lullabyes,
rocked me hard or soft.

I thought I’d always be her doll.

What I held for granted vanished
that November, all the gold
in the world could not have saved us.

My turn to whisper, then, holding
her rosary in both our hands,
my incantations some lament
I could not name. I thought she’d always
be mine to love. Our souls surely rested
together in  worlds that do not end.

What would I trade
for one more moment
in the corona of her love,
science of her affection,
calculation of her black pen
working problems in ink
until I understood what ‘x’ equaled?

I would always be her doll.
We could pack the car again,
drive out into the night,
just over the speed limit,
me in my pink seersucker skirt,
her with a map and quarters
enough for any toll.

What river could we not cross,
to get back on that highway
that lasted beyond night?

 

tags: grandmothers, love, grief

 

What Fire Was Like

 

 

leaves on fire

What we needed, we did not want.
What we wanted, we did not need.
Whatever safety I sought in you
Did not exist there.

We were in a cold room, two sticks
for hearts. When they rubbed
together, some kind of furious dance,
a spark, ignited the bed,
set the house on fire.

There is no joy in melting
into the other. No self in the end,
no sense of what made
us whole—or what we made.

The skeleton frame of the house
stood still, smoldering and terrible,
while we watched, our hands seared
by nothing we could touch.

key words: Janice Lynch Schuster, poetry, divorce

Frozen

I no longer remember why I hated
My mother, such strong words
For pass-a-day disputes. She was a girl
Herself, and I, hers. What she knew
Of love and safety, to me, a long list
Of should-nots built on her mistakes.

On the coldest days, in snow,
She would wrap my hands and feet
In baggies under mittens,
Hoping to keep me dry with what she had.
We made do, so long,
Frozen in joy, snowflakes on our tongues.

I could not wear go-go boots
Or make up, and she warned me
About boys. I believed nothing
Of what she said, so learned
It on my own, she held
My broken heart, and stood me up
My own two feet all any woman
Needed, or could trust.

Now we are both old women.
The numbered years slip by,
like ice on plastic-wrapped hands.

It sears you, then melts.
You try to grab things,
Change them or just hold tight…
And they are gone.

 

key words: mother-daughter relationships, love, childhood, memory, regret, aging