Tag Archives: Service

Courage at Twilight: 9/11 at 20

I was in a hotel elevator, at a conference on domestic violence prosecution, in Provo, Utah, when I learned of the attacks on the Twin Towers. The scheduled speakers yielded to the television screens as we watched, stunned and horrified.  Twenty years later, I walked amidst 2,977 American flags planted in a field, a Healing Field, in my new residence city of Sandy.  Each flag had a tag with a name and a story of where he worked, how she was loved by family and friends, what their hobbies were, their age, their loved ones, and the location of their death: World Trade Center; Pentagon; Flight 93 in a Pennsylvania field near Shanksville.  I read a hundred or so tags on flags flying for the people who died on 9/11/2001.  I had dressed in a jacket and tie, thinking it fitting.  The next day I drove Mom and Dad slowly around the field, twice, because they couldn’t walk, but they wanted to see, they wanted to honor, and I told them about the persons I had read about—the Flight 93 pilot, the World Trade Center trader, the Pentagon general, the child traveling with her mother, the secretary, the cook.  And the next day I descended on the field with 300 other volunteers to remove the tags, roll up the flags, and yank the three-foot rebar from the ground, one each for 2,977 persons, including 411 first responders, whom we have promised to always remember.  I rolled flags and yanked rebar with people aged from 10 to 80.  One of the octogenarians poked me with the butt of a flag, and apologized, and I joked, “You know, I have always been told to watch out for pretty ladies rolling up American flags,” and she laughed.  A small older man followed me and others as we pulled rebar from the ground, carrying heavy stacks of the stuff to the flatbed trailer.  I called him “Rebar Man” but his real name was Ishmael Castillo, a brawny little man with a big soft heart who came to help.  I thanked the organizer, and he gave me a 20-year commemorative bronze medallion.  I saw the Alta High School NHS photographer looking in the now-empty field for his lost lens cap, and I asked him if he had received a 9/11/2021 medallion, and gave him mine, because I had bought one for myself on 9/11.  “That is amazing,” he gasped his thanks.  The empty field will endure, now, until 9/11/2022.

 

Courage at Twilight: The Little Chores

I have asked Mom and Dad to save up for me the little chores they would like me to do when I come home from work.  I’m no handyman, but I can do the little things: change a furnace filter, snap in a new smoke alarm battery, carry toilet paper to the basement bathroom, heft the water softener salt into the tank, unclog the corner rain gutter, snip out the old dog wire, tighten a door knob, pull the empty garbage cans back from the curb.  These little chores give me pleasure, not only because they are quick and easy, and not only because I am capable of doing them, but also because Mom and Dad appreciate me for doing these little chores: my doing them makes their lives just that much easier.

Courage at Twilight: Finding Myself Again

Nearly a month into this experience, this mission, I began to notice rising feelings of distress.  I felt irritable and overwhelmed and stretched—that old rubber-band feeling where any more pull will break the band.  My emotional energy reserves were gone.  And I didn’t really know why.  My sisters encouraged me to have compassion for myself, to realize that after living alone for years I am suddenly sharing space with other people all day every day.  Continue reading

Courage at Twilight: Missionary Work

I had intended to accept an invitation to gather with the men of the neighborhood to help an ill neighbor with yard work he could not do.  “Bring your chainsaws,” the organizer goaded, “and show what real men you are.”  I chuckled, knowing his heart was pure.  As I sat with Dad in the back yard, however, and he talked about all the things he would like to accomplish in his yard, I decided to change course.  I chose to stay home and help with his yardwork, which I suppose is my yardwork.  An impish niggling voice accused me of being selfish for not helping the neighbor.  But I shrugged it off and responded, “Nope.  That is not my mission.  This is my mission: to be here, to help here, to the end.  This is missionary work.”  And so I got to work pruning trees and weeding flower beds and yanking out the long Virginia creeper vines.  A smile on Dad’s face, and his call of “Looks great!” confirmed what I already knew, and made me happy to be so engaged.

Courage at Twilight: Newspaper Elf

During a visit to Gilbert, Arizona to see my sister Jeanette, she took me to a state park near Sedona, high above the desert, with a little trout stream flowing through the pine forest.  On the park lawn grazed a squadron of pig-like creatures called collared peccaries, or javelinas.  I asked a uniformed park ranger about them—he told me javelinas are not pigs at all, but a cross between an old-world swine (which is a pig, I thought) and a new-world raccoon.  I stared at him stupefied, wondering if were joking.  Sadly, he was perfectly serious.  Of course, such a cross is genetically impossible, for the same reasons a dog cannot breed with a cat, or a chicken with a rabbit: impossible.  (Idaho does boast its jackalope, a cross between a jack rabbit and a pronghorn antelope—Google it.)  On another visit, Mom and Dad brought back a life-sized rusted metal javelina that sits quietly on alert, on their front porch.  When the Deseret News stopped its daily circulation, opting for online distribution, Mom and Dad subscribed to the New York Times, which is tossed every day out of a car window onto the driveway.  Leaving the house for work in the morning, I noticed the newspaper, bagged in blue plastic, sitting on the javelina’s snout.  I asked Mom about it, and she whispered simply “newspaper elf.”  Another morning, I saw from my home office window a man crossing the driveway.  Ah, so he must be the newspaper elf.  But on Saturday the newspaper was in the driveway.  “The newspaper elf doesn’t work on weekends,” Mom explained cheerfully.  “We have to go and get it.”

Courage at Twilight: Dirty Laundry

Mom said to me soon after I moved in, “I’m old, and I can’t do much, but I can do laundry and I like to do laundry.  Would you let me do your laundry?  I would like to do that for you.”  I felt inclined to decline, and demurred.   Dirty laundry is a sensitive subject for me.  Returning from a five-month separation in 2014, I gently insisted on doing my own laundry.  Home from my eviction, I found I could not allow her to handle my dirty laundry, though she wanted to.  I could not let myself be vulnerable in that way.  Now, with my mother’s request, I am trying be vulnerable enough to allow her to do something for me that she can do and wants to do and likes to do, even though I like doing it, too.  For me, separating the colors from the whites and putting in the soap and running the machines is fun.  And I like folding the clean clothes and putting them in their organized place.  With Mom’s offer to wash my dirty clothes, I have come full circle to my childhood.  Mama is taking care of me again.  How tender that she wants to.  After thinking it through and breathing deeply, I said to her, “Mom, I would be very appreciative of you washing my dirty clothes.  Thank you so much for offering.”