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Archive for April, 2011

We have the world’s most wonderful neighbors.  Ray and Joyce, a couple of smart, funny, good, engaging people, have lived in the house next door since before we moved in to ours.  They have two lovely daughters, Dayna and Camille, who both were babysitters for our younger daughter, and who have now graduated from college and moved on to start their own careers.

We don’t see Ray and Joyce enough — we are all too darned busy — but we do talk to each other in our back yards, share gardening tips and sometimes, plants; discussions about current events;  get in a meal together now and then; and talk about life, kids, animals, and the like.

Animals.  Ray and Joyce called this morning, in tears, to tell us the news we knew was coming:  that their elderly yellow Lab, Miles, was about to go to the veterinarian to be euthanized.  We had all known this was coming:  there was the evidence we saw each day from our window, as Miles struggled out the door to walk through the yard to relieve himself.  And Joyce had told us, over a month ago, that the time was coming soon.  Ray and Joyce decided to wait until Easter, when both of their daughters would be home to see Miles one more time, to take that final step.

This morning, while getting our daughter off to school and unloading the dishwasher, I looked out the window and knew that today was the day.  Ray and Joyce were both outside with him, and Miles struggled once more out the door and through the yard, slowly, painfully, with Ray and Joyce walking beside him.  A little while later, the phone rang:  it was Joyce, telling us that Miles would be leaving soon for his final trip to the vet’s office.  She was crying.  I immediately started as well, and Ben wasn’t far behind.

We pulled on our shoes and grabbed a camera and tissues and went down the back stairs, crossing the yard toward Ray and Joyce’s house.  Hugs were passed all around, with many for Miles.  A final photo was taken of Ray and Joyce and Miles – with Miles sitting down, as he hadn’t been able to do in months.  A great dog, who had reached the end of his days and needed to be relieved from pain and suffering, was about to go to God.

Ben and I have struggled with this decision before, as have so many.  We count ourselves among those who are grateful that laws allow for a compassionate end of life for our animals — and we wish that the same were true for people who face the end stages of devastating illness.  We have spent thousands of dollars on our animals, at times when we don’t have such money easily available – because we believe that they are a part of our family, and should be treated with love, respect, and care.

Knowing when to say goodbye to a pet is crushingly difficult.  And the hole left in the heart — just as with the loss of a beloved person — aches and can not be refilled.  We remember them – the beloved pets who have filled our time on earth — with love and gladness.  And to Miles, we offer our grateful thanks for sharing such happiness and pure joy with us.

Joyce, Miles, and Ray on Miles’ final morning.

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Tomorrow is Patriots Day in Massachusetts – a day when we celebrate the beginning of the American Revolution.  And yes, it’s also the day when the Boston Marathon is run.  It’s become known — far too often, I’d say — as “Marathon Monday,” but around my house, we stick to “Patriots Day.” There are several reasons for this.

Lexington, the town where my family resides, has about 30,000 residents and its downtown is far too filled with real estate offices and banks.  But if you walk away from the commercial center toward the Battle Green, you can see the spot where the town Belfry stood, ringing the alarm that called the minute men to muster on the Green.  You can see the spot where the old Meeting House stood (First Parish in Lexington now stands at the head of Green, not far away from the original spot), and you can see the Buckman Tavern, where the Patriots met to plan their response to the incursion of the British Regulars who were headed west out of Boston to forestall an armed insurrection.

Tonight, my husband will portray John Hancock in a midnight re-enactment of Paul Revere’s ride to warn the colonists of the British advance.  The Rev. Peter Meek, a United Church of Christ minister (and a fine actor) will portray the Rev. Jonas Clarke, who served the First Parish during the Revolution, delivering a stirring extemporaneous sermon that will rally the troops to make their stand for liberty.

And, in the early morning light, a re-enactment of the Battle of Lexington will occur on the Green.  In nearby Lincoln, the minute men will march through the woods toward Concord, as they did on that morning when the first shots were fired.  And in Lexington and Concord and Arlington and other nearby communities, there will be Pancake Breakfasts, parades, road races, and the smells of grilled sausage and hot dogs will fill the air as hundreds gather to watch the events in the cool spring air.

On many days of the year, I think of Lexington as a good New England town — one with excellent public schools, reasonably good town services, and a growing diverse population which enriches our community. Our town has been visited by white supremacist groups, by hate groups, by political candidates (probably all of them were attracted, at least in part, by the role the town played in the start of the Revolution).  But at its core, our town is so much like thousands of others.

Except on Patriots Day.  On Patriots Day, the flags fly on houses, families hang out on the sidewalks to enjoy the parades and reconnect, having survived another winter, the businesses are all decorated with red, white, and blue, and the town bursts with pride for the role it played in the Revolution.  The eight Patriots who died in battle are remembered along with the British who fell, and for this one day, at least, it is again, in the words of Sam Adams, a “glorious morning for America.”  It is an occasion for celebration and for honoring the best of who we, as Americans from many cultures, many traditions, are.

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I went into my chiropractor’s office last week.  I like my chiropractor – he’s a nice guy, we usually chat about his children, the weather, or how my back is feeling.  On this particular morning, I walked in and he said to me, “What do you think about Donald Trump running for President?”  “Donald Trump for President!,” I exclaimed.  “Now there’s a stupid idea.  How dumb does he really think we are?  This birther stuff is ridiculous,” I blathered on, referring to Trump’s stated obsession with the idea that the State of Hawaii’s “Certificate of Live Birth” for Obama is not good enough.  “Who the heck believes this stuff?”, I exploded.  One look at his face told me the answer:  he did.

Deciding to dig myself in completely, I continued, “And Michele Bachmann’s just as bad:  giving a speech in Concord, New Hampshire about the ‘shot heard round the world’ that started the American Revolution…in Lexington and the other Concord (Massachusetts).  Please,” I continued, “Can someone ask these people to just get their information straight before they sound off?”  Not content with the amount of damage I’d done myself, I suggested that it would be nice if these supposed candidates for President showed that they had a clue about matters of foreign policy and government relations before they decided they should make a run for the nation’s highest office.

The exchange, among other things, proves that one really shouldn’t have discussions about politics with those whose views we don’t know in advance (yes, the chiropractor started it, but I shouldn’t have taken the bait).

On the other hand, Trump and the birther devotees have reminded me, on this day when we are noting the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, that such down and dirty arguments connect back to the racist history of the United States — and so, I suppose, we really shouldn’t be that surprised that the birther argument — and similar arguments about Obama’s heritage, religion, what-have-you, have taken hold.

The ‘inconvenient truth’ is that the seeds of this behavior were sown long ago, when the country’s Declaration of Independence was being written. New England communities were built off the proceeds of the Triangle Trade to Africa.   Thomas Jefferson, statesman and slave owner, included references to slavery in early drafts of the Declaration, James Madison supported the repatriation of slaves to Liberia and the Caribbean, and the Civil War ripped the country apart as battles raged over slavery, as Katrina Browne and James DeWolf Perry discuss.

So even while many rejoiced at Obama’s election as President, many others focused on all the reasons why this man of mixed race and heritage could not, should not, be President of the United States.  Which brings us to Candidate Trump.  I find Trump’s bombastic blathering outrageous and obnoxious, and I can’t take him seriously.  Unfortunately, my chiropractor, and thousands of others, do.  Trump is, I believe, just one more face that shows us the racist history of our country — a man who will swear that his pursuit of the ‘truth’ about Obama’s heritage has nothing to do with racism, but with the laws of the United States.  And those laws can not, surely, allow a black man to be president.

Back in September, I wrote a piece focusing on the fight Al Sharpton and Glenn Beck were having around Beck’s so-called “Restoring Honor” rally, which compelled Sharpton to stage a “Reclaiming the Dream” event. The two threw mud at each other, and it was not a pretty scene.  At its core, the fight occurred about race and class, I believe.

And here we are again.  It is the anniversary of the Civil War. Yet, 150 years later, we are still wrestling with pigs.  I fear we are doomed to keep engaging in such wrestling matches until we confront the realities of this country’s racist past, and the huge challenges of building a future of equality, together.

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