Lest We Forget

By Leslie

I have been totally engrossed in books, primarily historical novels about World War II and the Holocaust, over the last several years. Surveying the New York Times Books Review section each week, this huge interest, some also would say a near obsession, is shared by the reading public. The Best Seller List has seen titles such as, “The Nightingale,” “The Lilac Girls,” the “Tattooist of Auschwitz” and “All the Light We Cannot See” remain solidly entrenched amongst the top 20 for months, if not years.

My latest “read,” a book entitled, “The Plum Tree” was a wonderful, quick – too quick – read, and most unusual in relating the sorrowful, disgraceful story of WWII as it affected ordinary Germans – Germans who lived amongst, worked with, and even loved the Jews in their midst; the Germans who did try to assist their Jewish neighbors – albeit a minority, and who lived and died attempting to oppose Hitler.

It is with a sad heart I read about the rise of anti-Semitism, especially in the US and France, and the rise of the neo-Nazi, right wing in Germany. Human beings are quite capable of forgetting – in fact, it is indeed – I suspect – a survival mechanism. But, as these books remind us – We should never forget!

May 2019

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Brief . . . But Spectacular

By Leslie

At the end of many of the PBS News Hours is a charming five minute segment entitled, “Brief . . . but Spectacular.” Known and unknown individuals present their usually animated discourse on a vast array of topics. Two weeks ago, we had a “brief but spectacular” visit from one son and daughter, the former from Philadelphia and the later from Portland. They were without children, a rare occurrence.

Todd and Kathy dove into a number of “tasks” to assist Bill. (We did take them at their word – “just give us stuff to do”). These tasks were accomplished in record time – allowing a visit to the botanical Gardens, festooned in its spring flowering finery. And no trip to Tucson can be without a trip to Bookmans – what fun. Of course, Mexican food – real Mexican, non-Taco bell, capped the trip. And we “discovered” a little Mexican restaurant, which opened about two years ago, virtually right around the corner. If you haven’t tried “Benny’s Mexican Restaurant,” I’d highly recommend it – As I would the brief, but spectacular weekend we had with our children!

April 2019

how i ended the gulf war

By Kat

in the 1980’s i moved from my home state of maryland to virginia beach. just before I left, a friend advised me, “don’t get involved with a military man.” i had not even realized that it was a town populated by navy and marines. my wish was simply to live near the ocean, and enjoy the beach. at any rate, her words were wasted.

at thanksgiving, i was invited to a gathering of folks with no family in the area. that day we became a family of sorts and i met a man who i eventually lived with for five years. he was, of course, a navy man, stationed at an airfield in norfolk. after a time he was reassigned to the uss america, an aircraft carrier. the ship would leave port for two- to four-week cruises, which meant he was home more than he was gone.

until december of 1991, when the ship headed to the gulf war. desert storm raged for 100 days, during which my eyes were glued to television coverage and my heart bled with fear. there are no words to describe the impact of receiving a letter explaining what he wanted me to tell his family in case he did not return.

my own family was supportive; my dad came to visit and stayed with me through the initial few weeks. dad literally pulled me away from the tv at one point, made me take a benedryl and go to bed. it is difficult to imagine what it is like for families who go through the fear and concern for years at a time. those 100 days were some of the most stressful i have ever experienced.

letters were regularly mailed back and forth. though, at one point, when none had arrived in nearly 10 days, i think our mail carrier began to worry that i might do him harm. like all the other military spouses and partners, i lived for those missives of love, reassurance, and private thoughts that only someone in a war would have.

sometime in february 1992, i put together a care package i hoped would cheer up my faraway partner. into a box went homemade cookies, a couple of books, lollipops, fudge leftover from the holidays. it took a little longer to decide what to add that would simply be for fun. after some creative thinking, i crafted a large peace symbol from clay and hung it on a chain, tie-dyed a t-shirt, made long bead necklaces, found an old bandana to which i affixed buttons with sayings like “make love, not war”, “save the whales”, “wage peace” and mailed the package off to the america.

amid the tension and concerns of making war, my gift became a great excuse to have some fun aboard ship. one morning my partner donned the tie-dyed shirt, slipped the beads and peace sign on, tied the bandana around his head, and headed for the tower. along the way, sailors laughed and yelled out, “you damned hippie!” and “hey, we’re at war here; take that stuff off!”. my guy laughed, shouting back, “i’m into peace!”, declaring that, “i will wear these clothes until the war ends!”.

the next day, the war in the gulf was over. naturally, he attributed this to the “peace package” I had sent.

May 2019

¿Que Paso?

By Nando

I was a student at Tucson’s Miles Elementary School, small for my age and dark for my neighborhood.

One Friday after school while on my bike at the playground gate, I was accosted by another student who began raining blows and invectives upon me. He struck me once for each “Dirty Mexican” or “Greaser” expletive he felt had to accompany his blows.

It was awkward for each of us while I was straddling my bike, to be effective in either scoring or evading blows but enough got through, accelerating my wobbling out the school gate, homeward, six blocks away.

I thought I had avoided adults at home until my dad told me my Nana and my Aunt Concha had noticed my bluish facial lumps. Mom was still at work at her Tucson Police Department office, Telephone: 126.

Dad sat across from me, angled his head left and forward, and said “Que Paso?”

I told him I had gotten into a fight at school because this guy was hitting me and cussing me out. I told him about the specific expletives and hate. I asked him why he beat me up.

He nodded, then left and came back with two sets of maroon, maybe 8-ounce gloves, and took me over some of the fly-weight Golden Gloves basics that had served him well about twenty years before. He could stop his sharp jabs as he pleased, never touching my face but getting me to respond and begin to anticipate. We stopped the sparring. Nodding his head, smiling slightly without disturbing his narrow moustache, he said “Not everybody can be Mexican.”

I realized years and years after this 1940’s incident that he had not answered my question, it did not merit an answer. I also realized that he gotten me back on the horse.

Later still, during 2019’s pre-election spate of racist this and racist that, and of victim me and other untruths . . . and beliefs stronger than truth, I recalled the above seven decades-ago incident.

I wondered what had happened to our thinking and values, or how our changes, good or bad, were brought about. And wondered if I was into a senior case of ED, Encroaching Decrepitude, and recalling just the good old days . . . which were not all good, re: above.

My experience was one in which the male child was brought up to forebear, be tough, and macho . . . macho before that term was media recast as a neologism meaning something like violent misogynist. It had back then mostly meant manly, forbearing, responsible, chivalrous, even. So, a macho first-response or reaction was not to wallow in victimhood, or in being less.

The three strong ladies of my childhood house were of the culture and would not adulterate the young male’s upbringing with undue, or even for them, situationally unbecoming, warm feminine caring. For example, my nana or aunt might have said, without showing sympathy, “Que te paso?” Or, “What happened to you?” . . . and not taken the warm fuzzies any further. A too empathetic response from them might have been such as “Ay! Mi’jo! Que te paso?” My Dad said: “Que paso?” or, “What happened?” placing no value or emphasis on human presence, my injuries, or even acknowledging I was his son.

Today, his comment on not everybody being able to be Mexican, well . . . so avant reverse racist? I still wonder what is happening.

April 2019

Senior Peeing

By Kat

last week something strange happened. twice, upon awakening, i had the normal urge to empty my bladder. as i climbed out of bed, the urge became ur–gent. as i hustled to the bathroom the pressure was overwhelming. oh my gosh, i thought, i might not make it! when i opened the bathroom door and my bladder saw the toilet, i distinctly heard it sigh oh yes and it promptly let go. before i reached my destination.

my own will was worth nothing. i had no control. later in the week i mentioned the incidents to a friend, who immediately said, oh you’re . . . and then he said that awful word . . . incontinent. i was horrified. he went on to tell me that lend-a-hand could give me diapers. gasp. diapers!!!

well, my bladder must have been horrified too; it hasn’t happened again.

April 2019

Into the Woods

“When you bring your body out into the landscape you’re bringing your body home.” the late John O’Donohue, Irish poet.

By Kat

There is healing energy in nature. When we leave behind the concrete, steel, bricks, asphalt and general busy-ness of the city, the body begins to relax and the mind lets go of the constant chatter associated with the stresses of life.

In the sound of gurgling water, there is peace. In the low-hanging branches of a tree, heavily laden with leaves, there is peace. In the warmth of the afternoon sun, there is peace. In the sight of undulating mountains, there is peace.

Silence overwhelms the brain-chatter, easing the breath, calming the spirit. After a time, the soft, sweet sounds of nature join the silence. Soft bird calls, small rodents scurrying through the underbrush, the swish, swish of deer, parading through dried leaves, the scrapes of tiny claws as a squirrel shimmies up a tree trunk.

The sights, sounds, and earthy odor of the woods combine to create a feeling of peace and of coming home.

February 2019

Another Animal Visitor

By Sally

After finally getting a nice day, after many wintery ones, I went outside to enjoy the sun. Walking around a little, I noticed something in the grass. I couldn’t make out what it was, so I walked over to it. To my surprise, it was a turtle. Not a small one, the size of a dinner plate.

As I stood here, wondering where in the world it came from, and where or what to do with it, a couple from the park walked by. I called to them and asked, “Do you know who I can call to find out where to take this turtle?”

The man got all excited. “You have a turtle?”

“Yes,” I said, and showed him.

He picked it up and held onto it, smiles all over his face. He showed his wife, and she, too, was surprised.

I was thinking of taking it inside and keeping it in the spare bathroom, in the tub. But then I thought of my cats. It would send them into wonderland, this new, alive, toy.

I decided it must belong to someone close by, but hadn’t a clue who it was.

After considering the mess I would have to clean up (outside of the cats) and the smell, I asked the man if he wanted it.

His eyes lit up like a little kid with a new toy. “Oh, yes!” he said. So I let him take it home, feeling fairly confident that the turtle would have a good home.

Even thought it was a short acquaintance, I found myself wondering about that turtle, thinking off and on that I should have kept it, but assuring myself that it was a good thing I didn’t.

Miss you turtle! (I think I would have named it Hector. Why? I haven’t a clue!).

March 2019