Michael Munas' Journal|
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|Tuesday, August 18th, 2015|
|Worn in Glorious Circles
In the fifties, my parents were newly married. The house was new and all the trim was fresh with carefully stained pine wood. The freshness of our home was substantially changed by years of running the vacuum into that new molding along with the dinging of walls and trim with numerous furniture rearrangements, several carpet changes, door slamming, random kid scribbles and later many inadvertent wheel chair scrapes.
Now, I look at the house where I was the parent and many of the same kind of marks are there: a dented cold-air return, a bathroom door jamb that was broken during a kid fight, door knobs that rattle, more wheelchair scrapes, overspray paint marks on concrete from hastily completed school projects, and windows with broken latches.
And to think, some folks have homes that are never worn -- living rooms where no one is allowed to tread (one step away from putting up velvet ropes on brass stands), perfectly vacuum-striped carpet and couches covered with protective layers of clear vinyl.
|Monday, June 8th, 2015|
We’re both on the front with the autopilot set. Actually, the old tub tops out at 6.7mph with a tailwind; consequently course corrections at the helm are only necessary every several minutes. We can’t believe the scent of all the blossoms pouring from the shores. We aren’t sure if they are berry blooms, multiflora rose or some mix thereof as it changes discernibly from week to week and place to place. It’s as strong as any imagined sachet -– of course naturally more delightful as it mixes with lake smell. We are both acting like a couple of fools repeatedly going “hmmmm, Hmmmm, HMMMMMM” breathing in as much as we are able, coupled with a growing urge to become more intoxicated by the gift and sex of native plant life.
|Thursday, May 7th, 2015|
|How do we weave what we are into what we wish to be?
As kids, we had a potholder loom which was simple and fun to use. Then came the leathercraft kits with the thick vinyl thread. I remember making a change purse that wrapped around your wrist like a wristwatch but no one ever used it and certainly, I can understand why.
|Friday, March 13th, 2015|
I'm always expecting this thing to bark.
|Tuesday, March 10th, 2015|
|Like most everyone else, it makes me happy to see a thaw
…but this is the last time we will see this particular snow and all things end and come with a necessary and sometimes unnoticeable grieving.
I see the diminishing bits of once high-plowed banks and drifts now made solid, black and cindered with road dirt and it reminds me of being young and finding a Dairy Queen Mister Misty cup in the melting snow of our side yard.
Well, there are no more Mister Misty's or Dennis the Menace themed cups. Arctic Rush is what they are called now and certainly there are no orange-flavored ones -- gone just like grade school and winter snow.
|Wednesday, March 4th, 2015|
|Eau de Phthalates
There is a brand of institutional air-freshener that has a rubber duck on the label and it smells just like a rubber duck. I’ve seen it at the hospital from time-to-time and in most cases it smells worse than any scent it is intended to mask.
|Thursday, February 19th, 2015|
|What I will never and always carry
Years ago, before I was married to her, Marie at seventeen, had a boyfriend (Bob) that had recently served as a Marine in Vietnam. For whatever reason, he had become severely alcoholic -– to the point of waking in the mornings to drink copious amount of hard liquor. This put an extraordinary strain on their relationship and as a result Marie told Bob that she planned to leave him. While I'll never know the exact details of that exchange on that day, I do know that he threatened to kill himself if she went through with her decision.
She walked out of his small trailer and he put a gun into his mouth and ended his life. Obviously, this incident affected Marie significantly and I think she always carried a measure of undeserved guilt in her heart over it. Ever since I knew her, she never liked guns and certainly never liked to be around them.
We lived gun-free for the nearly thirty years we were together. To this day, I really have no desire or feel the need to own one. I know there are many people that carry them with the fear of some situation where they perceive they might need such protection. I do not. I always figured if someone shoots me then so be it and that the risks I would take to “protect” myself with a firearm aren’t worth the risks of someone else getting hurt by accident if I had such a weapon. But even more so, there are already enough fears in an everyday heart and I want less of them.
In one of our really old photo albums, there is a photograph of Bob and it reminds me of the suffering in his own life as well as the immense suffering unleased unto others. I feel a bit of tempered anger towards him for how this impacted Marie’s life.
A good friend of mine once shared this: “A life lived in fear, is a life half-lived” and it seems to make all the sense in the world to me.
|Wednesday, February 11th, 2015|
|I'll be with you
The times that I held you
in days soft and small
with your bony knees
(I remember, so dusty)
and that impish frown
still you'd always come
whenever I'd call.
It didn't feel like eye-to-eye
as you grew far away
in a torment of becoming
and the petulance you'd cast
but still, I want to catch you
whenever you fall.
The days that we made
will come always to last
can it be without touching
that you still hold me fast?
|Wednesday, January 28th, 2015|
|Friday, January 16th, 2015|
She was a German gal in her twenties when they met during the war. I could see in her eyes that she must have been quite a looker when he brought her to the U.S.
He died several years ago, she only has a few teeth left and her hair is little more than a grayish thin veil. She kept getting out of the stretcher and constantly tugged on her IV line as if it had no purpose.
“Altered Mental Status” is what they say about her now but her smile was good as she took my arm. On the way to the restroom, she exclaimed “It’s really nice here and the people are so nice”.
|Wednesday, January 14th, 2015|
|That which survives
While I do give to some charities, I don’t give a whole lot of money to these causes. I much prefer to give my time to help others by doing no-charge things like: volunteering at the hospital, mowing lawns, plowing driveways, repairing computers and the like. The one comment I’ve heard the most at the ER is, “It is so wonderful of you to take the time to volunteer” but, for me, it is primarily a selfish thing. When I drive home at night and realize that I may have truly helped someone, it leaves endless energy and a lasting happiness in me. Of course, it may be that I’m just permanently somewhat manic. “If we think only of ourselves, forget about other people, then our minds occupy very small area. Inside that small area, even tiny problem appears very big. But the moment you develop a sense of concern for others, you realize that, just like ourselves, they also want happiness; they also want satisfaction. When you have this sense of concern, your mind automatically widens. At this point, your own problems, even big problems, will not be so significant. The result? Big increase in peace of mind. So, if you think only of yourself, only your own happiness, the result is actually less happiness. You get more anxiety, more fear.”
~ Dalai Lama XIV, The Wisdom of Forgiveness
|Wednesday, September 24th, 2014|
|Too Damn Lonely
At eighty-eight, he had lost his wife of sixty-plus years just a few months ago. He told me that it was difficult for him to do things these days. For instance, she knew how to keep the flowers in the yard but now they had grown into just a big tangled mess. He lamented that often he will get the idea to do various activities or get together with people but it feels just “too damn lonely” to do so. He cried several times as we talked.
It’s hard to know what to say because everyone’s loss is different and certainly unique to them. What I did offer was something was this: Imagine your wife is still checking up on you every day – and try to honor what she would have wished for you by living your life in ways that would make her proud of you. In other words, her voice will always be in your heart, and it will help to listen to it.
We talked for nearly half an hour and eventually he started smiling with the thought that his wife “would be scolding him just about now”. I mentioned that being connected with folks is one of the best medicines available and just look what we had accomplished in less than an hour.
After several major strokes, my dad ended up in a VA nursing facility and when I would take the kids to visit, we would often see him by himself in a room endlessly tracing the border of the tray on his geriatric chair. The way his mind had been reduced prevented him from much real interaction and it always broke my heart to walk into that room and see lonely like that – this man who was a painter, teacher, artist and my father.
|Friday, August 22nd, 2014|
I’m intrigued at how anger works in subtle ways. Often, it is understandable and even justified, but can easily add-up in a heart until it dominates a person’s character to a point where they become trapped by such continual harsh sentiments. I see it at work, in relationships, in politics, in religion, or even something as inane as driving down the road. I especially notice it in my Facebook account where angry folks sling all sorts of vitriol in the form of Liberal vs Conservative condemnations at each other. I think at the end of all this, neither side will ever be convinced by the other using such tactics and more than likely, they will have expended massive amounts of energy without changing much of anything.
It’s important for me to be vigilant of how anger works in me as I fear that I won’t readily recognize this process. While somewhat simplistic, Buddha wrote an interesting take on anger:“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned”
|Thursday, July 10th, 2014|
|With a Decent Happiness
Today, I was noticing the Cabbage Butterfly pairs rolling and tumbling through the grass -- as if everything in the world is as it should be. Maybe they are smarter than most of us. Soon, it will be one year since Laurie Jean and I were married and I am such a lucky man to be with someone who has such an open and caring heart. She has added so much strength to my weakness.The Rain
By Robert Creeley
All night the sound had
come back again,
and again falls
this quiet, persistent rain.
What am I to myself
that must be remembered,
so often? Is it
that never the ease,
even the hardness,
of rain falling
will have for me
something other than this,
something not so insistent—
am I to be locked in this
Love, if you love me,
lie next to me.
Be for me, like rain,
the getting out
of the tiredness, the fatuousness, the semi-
lust of intentional indifference.
with a decent happiness
|Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014|
|What Age Would Belie
The flight of decades, consumes more of the body than anything in an open heart. I’m often overwhelmed by what I learn about growing old from the old -- or maybe, it’s really what I have learned about staying young.
|Thursday, June 26th, 2014|
These sandals were made of red tooled-leather and yes, they had previously belonged to one of my sisters. The house was just a few years old and my parents were young. I remember believing that they knew everything and could rise to any challenge. I’m much older now than they were then and I still don’t have many answers. This makes me think of how fragile and connected we all are, even if there are those who can’t see it.How the trees rise and stand up, with strong trunks,
with branches and leaves?
(Surely there is something more in each of the trees,
some living soul.)
~ Walt Whitman, “Song at Sunset”, from Leaves of Grass
|Thursday, June 12th, 2014|
There were those nights as a kid when I was afraid to get out of my bed -- even to get a drink of water, for fear of the wolf-like man under the bed. Surely though, if I jumped far enough, he wouldn’t be able to grab me by the ankles. Of course my logic had all kinds of flaws which would be reasonably obvious to most adults.
I wonder how many current fears are just as unfounded but seem just as real as the wolf man. Sometimes, it takes something as simple as stepping off the bed to know.
|Thursday, May 29th, 2014|
|I learn something (about taking care of myself) from you
We talk about your father’s work at J & L Steel and how you met your partner in the 40’s at West View Park’s Danceland. You tell me that your parents staunchly did not want you to marry. Even so, you married, went fishing together and ultimately raised your family along the banks of the Ohio. Now in your 90’s, you look at each other knowing what the other will say before it is expressed. We talk about: the old theaters in the once big steel town – you can name at least three, all of which sound grand; the loss of the trolley line; and shoulder-to-shoulder shopping on well-dressed Saturdays.
Your parents and most of your siblings are gone, yet you keep moving forward. I ask how you get your groceries and you mention that one of you still drive, but it seems not for much longer. Then I wonder who will take care of this for you, especially since they closed the nearby Foodland. You tell me your pain and discomfort somewhat lessened while we talked and I’ve had the best night ever.
|Thursday, May 15th, 2014|
The other evening at the hospital, I was helping with the family of an elderly and dying patient. Hopefully, I was able to provide some comfort to her and her family -- a popsicle for one of the grandchildren, a Pepsi for one of her daughters, some warm blankets, and a few words here and there.
The selfish part and opposite to what may seem logical is that I enjoyed this. Of course, I don’t like to see anyone suffer but it’s more that in such a difficult process, I might somehow provide a palpable level of emotional support that may have value to these folks(So much for pure altruism). When I was young, I couldn’t imagine being around death or dying. Mortality sat on some far-off shore to me and I did everything I could to avoid it.
We have such short lives.
* * *So set its Sun in Thee
What Day be dark to me --
What Distance -- far --
So I the Ships may see
That touch -- how seldomly --
~ Emily Dickinson
|Friday, May 2nd, 2014|
|The Hand of the Living
I met a 96 year-old meteorologist last night. He had fallen at a care home and was significantly injured. We talked about isobars, forecasting, Accuweather and on-air weather personalities -- but the most significant thing to come to me out of this night was that we are all very small and so short-lived.When the dull nights are over, and the dull days also,
When the soreness of lying so much in bed is over,
When the physician; after long putting off, gives the silent and
terrible look for an answer,
When the children come hurried and weeping, and the brothers
and sister have been sent for,
When medicine stand unused on the shelf, and the camphor smell
has pervaded the rooms,
When the faithful hand of the living does not desert the hand of
~ Walt Whitman, from “Leaves of Grass”