Thursday, December 25, 2014

Jesus is Here

This Advent season found me in a muddle: disorganized, foolish. The Savior is coming, I told myself, but how will this happen, how can this be? Nothing was under the usual control. And while the old answers still made sense, I couldn’t understand them any more.

Christmas did come to me, though, in a strange way: a dream that I was teaching Jews.

The dream Rabbi wasn’t happy with this strange shiksa; he walked out of his own study; while I in Sunday School mode was explaining the Exodus to Jews and how to let their children know: "You are free!"

I had a right to be there in my own mind. As a Christian, I worship the God of Israel and not only that: my first husband, Alan, has the blood of the Covenant in his veins, the DNA of Abraham in his cells. He is one of the descendants Abraham was promised, circumcized on the 8th day et cetera. Therefore, my own children sparkle as Abraham’s sons.

It’s about belonging, I was going to tell that small minyan of Jews; it’s about this STORY. It’s about being a people--once no-people, now a people--called into being by Adonai.

So: SHMA! 

Well, it was a new approach from a Moabitess of a shiksa. Like Ruth, I married a Jew and like Ruth, I fell in love with Adonai. So, shmah! Shma! You are free!

When I woke up, I realized that was my Christmas: Jesus is born a JEW. 
The blood of Abraham pumped in his veins.  Son of the Covenant with Abraham, Jesus carried the DNA of his forefather David. Circumcized on the eighth day, he would know the Scriptures well enough to be wiser than all his teachers.
 “Salvation,” he would tell the Samaritan woman at the well, “comes from the Jews.”

Well, Hallelujah! Christ is born, son of David, son of Jesse, descended from Abraham and from that Moabitess Ruth, that shiksa, Jesse’s grandmother.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Surprised by Grief

I woke up grieving about men at Wellesley, and my son listened to my lament.

First, I should explain the New York Times Magazine carried a story about women at Wellesley turning into men. The student body now includes transgendered males as well as gays and lesbians and whatever permutations and mixes there are of gender.

The lament:

"They made the Wellesley constitution and by-laws gender-neutral!

"A man won the hoop-rolling race --

"A man is a head of residence...

"They can't have Big Sister/Little Sister Sunday any more; it has to be Big Sibling/Little Sibling...

"The trans men complain about feeling out of place at Wellesley; excluded and shy about raising their deep voices in class.... The women's culture is diluted."

E.g., trans man student grew up as a girl, feeling out of place among girls, enrolled in a women's college; took testosterone and had surgery; and now feels out of place as a man at Wellesley. Then he goes forth from Wellesley with his deep voice and broad shoulders to take his place in the world of men, getting better jobs and 25% more pay than his Wellesley classmates.

A Wellesley woman was talking on TV about the benefits of a woman's college, and she forgot to mention there are some transgendered males enrolled at Wellesley. One of the trans men complained to her that he felt excluded, and she apologized to him!

The kicker, the reductio ad absurdum: An organization on campus called Brothers excludes women from membership!

Am I merely grieving over a changing world? Must true equality proceed with women giving up their places and language? Or, am I feeling betrayed by a severe abdication of Wellesley's mission?

All I feel is disappointed and outraged that the safe place for young women to develop into educated adult women has now become a place where they have to take care of the feelings of MEN. Have they also re-written the alma mater?  (Which begins/began, "To alma mater Wellesley's daughters all together join and sing...) to change Wellesley's daughters to Wellesley's offspring or God forbid, SONS and daughters? Are we going co-ed by stealth? The camel's nose so to speak is well under the tent:

2 men holding their Wellesley diplomas 2012

I feel so strongly that if you want to live as a man, don't go to a women's school!

And if it turns out I grieve over a changing world and not "just" a loss of sisterhood, then Wellesley's mission has changed into one I no longer support.

"I'm going to change my will," I told Nick. "Save the birds; leave Wellesley's share to the Audubon Society."

"Leave it to your kids!" he cried. "No, forget the Audubon Society!"

"Forget Wellesley," I answered as if I ever could.


Sunday, August 03, 2014

Point of View

When they were small it was all one could do to get a LITTLE respect. My daughter, age 3, used to shout, "You're not the boss of me!" I begged to differ, and we struggled over authority; but then suddenly, she has not just grown up to be her own boss. Suddenly, so it seems, SHE is the boss of ME.

This morning I noticed a Times column called "Reverse Parenting." A glib writer has moved her family into her childhood home; she has bought her parents out. And now, to make room for her stuff, her parents' stuff must go. "But that is your grandmother's," the mother protests when a precious linen dresser scarf goes on the "throw" pile.

I realize that for quite a while now I have been reading writers making a meal about elderly parents. Roz Chast had an affectionate sendup of her mother making her father a vest out of old bottle caps. "Your mother is a brilliant woman!" the father shouts at the New Yorker cartoonist. Now, Roz draws their ashes in little bags at the bottom of her closet, among her shoes.

Then I further realize how many putting-mom-in-the-nursing-home essays I have read. I have even written one myself! Even as I wrote it I thought a better piece would do it from the parent's point of view.

But how write the mom whose children take charge of her life? I could start one, but then my attention would just drift away.

In old age one learns to "gouter humiliation," as the monks say. Well, I don't think I'll get to like it, but we'll certainly have to get used to it.

Just: the next time you read one of those "reverse parenting" pieces, have a thought for the parent whose role has reversed. (At least I have reserved a place for my ashes.)


Saturday, May 03, 2014

It's Not Just Willpower

I think this is the last think I will post about getting old.

Because from now on I won't have time. Time is something I am running out of; the future is shrinking.

But for now, I will just post about yesterday. The past? I have plenty of past.

Rising at 6:30, I ran to make coffee and walk the dog and say my prayers and practice the piano and pay bills and do a lot of writing at my computer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's just a matter of getting up early!!! See how much I get done!  Just like the "old" me, who was the "young" me who still must be the "real" me.

At 12:30 I crashed and crawled in to bed and slept for three hours. When my daughter Winifred called from Hong Kong I told her it's not just a matter of getting up early or even a matter of willpower.

My body will not do what it used to to. But if I'm not nice to it, it will do even less.

So today I got up a little later and worked a little slower. The situation, in spite of the American creed of improvement and progress, will not improve. I am lucky to be alive. I am lucky to be healthy. I am even lucky to be old, which I actually am.

I actually am old.

It's a bit embarrassing.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

E-mail from George H. W. Bush

I don’t know what your guilty pleasures are in life, but one of mine is socks....
I’m a self-proclaimed sock man. The louder, the brighter, the crazier the pattern -- the better! It’s usually the first thing people notice I’m wearing whenever I’m out in public and that’s the way I like it.
So when Chairman Reince Priebus asked me to write to you on behalf of the Republican National Committee (RNC), I told him... my letter to you had to involve socks.....

Republicans are up against an opposition that is willing to do, say and spend whatever it takes to expand their hold on power. The Democrats are desperate and determined to fully implement ObamaCare and force their agenda of higher taxes, more      spending and less freedom on the American people.
You can get your own [socks]  today or as a gift for your favorite Republican by sending a special campaign contribution of $35 or more to the RNC now...
George H.W. Bush

 And my reply:
Dear Mr. President:

Is there anything I have said or done that made you think I'd be receptive to this approach?

I am very opposed to the Republican agenda! 

If you like, I can offer detailed reasons:

--I am pro-choice. You, George H. W. Bush used to be, too, before you changed your position to run with Ronald Reagan.

-Congressional Republicans oppose the President at every turn, following an obstructionist agenda. We voters
do not forget who shut down the government, closing our national parks, et cetera.

--State Republicans have gerrymandered districts to a fare-thee-well, and are now trying to
push unconstitutional restrictions on the right to vote.

--Republicans are associated with the Koch Brothers and other billionaires who are destroying our
democracy and our economy.

--Republican fiscal policies are cruel. For example, the Republican states that have refused
Medicaid expansion have hurt low-income and unemployed persons substantially. For another
example, House Republicans have been trying to make cuts in programs that help the poor, while
continuing to subsidize the mega-rich with tax breaks.

And just for the record, I remember that you, George H. W. Bush, initiated the methods
of Roger Ailes in 1988. You owed your his election to lies about Kitty Dukakis using cocaine and burning an
American flag. The dreaded "Willie Horton" ad set the standard for negative campaigning. Ever since,
I have noticed that Republican candidates have a problematic relationship with the truth and even
with reality.

Sincerely yours,
Pat Andrews

Friday, January 03, 2014

Epiphany 2014 Letter

"He became a man and he dwelt amongst us and we behold his glory...."

In 2013 I enjoyed the sameness in days—the glinting from dog's golden coat as she scampers through her walk; the grandsons growing tall, conversing in strange speech of minecraft and clash of clans. For the fall semester. Cassie and I brought Louis to school M-W-F mornings, walking over in time for the morning bell. As I've said before, "my boundaries enclose a pleasant land."

And fun! Last night quizzing Angus for his Geography Bee at school, we conversed about dams, rivers, the location of Custer's Last Stand, the area of The Solomon Islands. Things to think about
when walking Cassie: "Hmmmn, does Czechoslovakia still exist?" 

And now the daily Office reveals the Glory of Epiphany: great fountains of Light. Pretty good times:  the kids, the dog, the book group, a memoir-writing group, piano lessons. I plan to give a Psalms talk to the Episcopal Church Women in March, which I love to do. 

In St. Louis last April to my sister and I visited our 91-year-old uncle Frank He can't see any more, is confined to a chair, where he listens to books on tape. Call him at random and you'll discuss the Armada ("that Philip was so stupid!") or the History of Music. Sue and I also enjoyed a visit with our cousin Tracy and three of her "grands." 

A couple months after visiting Frank, I joined the Tams on their summer college tour for Amelia. We met up in Amherst, where we stopped in to Grace Church Columbarium to visit dear Denny's niche. We continued to Boston, where we got together with the Perrys and two of the Andrews sisters, Heather and Kristen. Kristen has a wonderful new house in Wendell, MA, and she too has been practicing the piano. Emmet and Jack enjoy their pet snakes, and they help out with shoveling snow which there is a lot of about now. Sammy and Jack McCarthy continue as the fastest swimmers in the family and also more competitive leagues. I returned from Massachusetts well "familied."

In addition to Kristen, Karen also moved this year and now lives in Haverhill nearer the quads. They helped her every step of the way; and, as we all do, they said, “No more moving!” Connor, Ben, and Megan started jobs over the summer; Rachel came back to Davidson with me for a good long visit. In between introducing me to “Merlin” and “Sherlock” on Netflix, Rachel edited the family cookbook revision. Thanks to her work, it should be ready by the end of 2014.

I hope to get to Mass.  again this summer to see our quadruplets graduate from Pentucket High School (!) Connor, Megan, Rachel, Ben, and Amelia make five planning to start college this coming fall. Max and Hannah are already in their junior and freshman years respectively out in Colorado. They keep on growing into amazing young adults.

I hope this letter finds you going from strength to strength even as many of us struggle with challenges that mount as the years go by. My prayers go with you all in things said and unsaid in our annual connection of friendship and love.  

Love and Blessings,

                  Deb Cannavino m. Alan Caplan --- div. --- Patricia Caplan Andrews --- wid. Denison Andrews
Karen-Caplan      Tory Caplan       Nick               Amanda &              Heidi&                 Heather& Drew         Kristen                             
Perry                     & Peter Tam      Caplan       Craig Ewington         Brad Rude            McCarthy                  Andrews    
Megan, Connor    Amelia (17)     Sophie(16)   Angus(13)                Max (21)               Samantha (11)              Jack Semler(9)  
Rachel, Ben (17)   Isaac (15)        True (13)       Louis (10)                Hannah (18)         Jack (9)                    Emmett Semler(6)


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Bah Humbug

I don't like it, I wouldn't miss it if it went poof, and yet Halloween is a civic duty. The neighbors decorate their houses, and the kids come around and we give out candy. In my town, kids even stand in line for hours to receive candy from local merchants. Yes, I curmudgeonly ungoodnaturedly disapprove of all that candy.

In fact, I like it even less than Scrooge liked Christmas. At least Christmas is ABOUT something. All the candy et cetera have something holy and good at the center of it all. Ditto Easter, Mother's Day, July 4th, and so forth. Even holidays without candy are about something: veterans, civil rights martyrs, the day the British left Boston.

So that's the first thing: it's not about anything except candy and scariness. The scariness is something else I dislike. I hate skeletons and ghosts and witches and death eaters (yes, my grandson was a death eater one year, where a few years earlier he had asked to be a flower). I do scare easily, especially of the big kids who seem to maraud around at the end of the night. In Cambridge, the moped-riders across the street chose Halloween to egg our house, thoroughly because we had asked them to keep the noise down. That'll teach us.

Plus, our neighbor has a big skeleton of a man sitting down holding a skeleton of a dog on a leash that about makes my heart stop every time I turn into my driveway.

On the Internet some posters tried to make up mythological background--some old Druid thing that Christianity took over when they could not stamp it out. But who knows. Our Halloween customs aren't that longstanding, going back maybe two hundred years. How do I know that? Well, like every other thing you see or read on-line you'll just have to accept it because I have typed it.

I would make up a better mythology myself. I would say, it's the day Persephone has to pack her bags and kiss Old Demeter good-bye while she returns to her husband Hades in the underworld. And as she enters there, some of the ghouls and goblins get loose and drift back up to earth for a while.

It's just one of those things you put up with and don't talk about. That's what I mean by civic duty. But here I am talking about it, oh well.