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This is the final post of The Making of a “Popsidoodle.” As the weeks have gone by since its inception I have found myself increasingly drawn to writing an all poetry blog, and my interest moving toward a canvas wider than “Popsidoodle” afforded me. I thank those who have followed and visited this blog and I invite you to find my work now at my new site: http://www.ferencepoems.wordpress.com. To continue following my writings, please click the “follow” button in my new blog. I end here with a story I believe captures something of the spirit of The Making of a “Popsidoodle.”.
Elizabeth and I were kicking back in her room and riding the drafts of imagination wherever they took us. As this particular story unfolded, we were sitting next to her small desk and cutting up downy feathers from a craft variety pack of goodies. I, regrettably, was big-time antsy, a sciatic nerve challenging me to find a comfortable position on one of her child-sized, wooden chairs. Nonetheless, I was enjoying the easy banter and the sudden twists and turns that often come when Elizabeth has taken the lead. We were cutting the feathers up into small bits, as I recall, to create a soft article of clothing for an imaginary store that we were stocking.
Well, the bag of feathers was a fairly large one and after a while I thought that maybe we had enough cut feathers for the purpose at hand, but she informed me that wasn’t the case and so we continued to cut. A little later I again raised that same possibility, and that maybe her room was getting a little bit messy, with fluffy down, by then, flying everywhere. I further threw in the consideration that her parents might be displeased if we cut up all the feathers. Elizabeth didn’t even look up at me but continued to cut. Finally, as we just about reached the bottom of the bag and I had thrown out my last obsessive gambit, the philosopher in Elizabeth announced with a thoughtful expression, “You know, life is more important than feathers.”
I’m not sure what Elizabeth had in mind when she uttered those words, but they have stuck in my mind and say much to me about the art and spirituality of grandparenting. Her brief statement points to the value of presence, given and received; of honor and respect, freely shared between generations; of appreciation for the here and now, simple and ordinary; of surrender to the Love calling to us in each, non-repeatable moment. Grandparenting is awesome. May all grandparents reading this find it to be so.
It is a sound most
the song of angels,
the hallelujahs of temple
and church, brandishing
a power to bring
darkness to its knees,
and reminding us that
love and hope forever
flow like streams of light
through the recesses
of the heart.
© 2014 Dennis H. Ference
Embed from Getty Images
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest garden plant and becomes a tree, so that the wild birds come and nest in its branches.” ~ Matthew 13:31-32 (NET)
Gift of Mustard Seed
Lying on my bed,
head propped with pillows,
reading Graham Greene’s
The Heart of the Matter
for the third time, I hear
the creaking door slowly open.
She enters, gives me
just a wisp of a smile,
brushes the hair back
from her eyes, and
climbs upon my chest,
all 22 months and 30 pounds
of her. She lies there, silent and
unmoving, face directed skyward,
fists encircling the index fingers
of hands happy to provide
a mooring for this welcome,
though unexpected, guest.
After five minutes, she
opts for another mission,
climbs down, pauses
long enough for her signature,
backward wave, then exits,
leaving a grandchild’s gift
of mustard seed planted
in the fallow garden
of a wizened, old soul.
© 2007 Dennis Ference
~Presence—simple, spontaneous, selfless. It’s where life is affirmed and healing waters flow.~
Little pink sock on the basement stair,
Her mother dropped you unaware
You’d remain forever split from your mate,
Kept secretly by Grandma in this captive state.
Little pink sock for her little pink toes,
Only a grandmother can really know
That this is why here you must stay:
To work your magic on those dark, lonely days.
© 2007 Dennis H. Ference
Ride together imagination’s golden rocket
and the universe can be your playground.
Battle for the Universe
Like two frenzied birds winging
madly from wire to bush,
bush to tree, tree to window ledge,
never lighting long enough
to celebrate the sun or be blessed
by the rain–time too short, mission
too demanding: a rescue needed here,
an insurrection to quell there,
a flight to the neighboring galaxy
to stem the forces of darkness
closing in on all sides.
Each incurs wounds lethal
for the ordinary man, but these
are warriors of indomitable will;
these are heroes of mythic proportion;
this is a battle for the universe.
In the end, no final victory this day,
only a mother’s insistent dinner call,
a boy’s reluctant capitulation,
and a grandfather’s solemn
commitment to their noble cause.
© 2010 Dennis H.Ference
The four friends gathered at Elizabeth’s house for a play date. The ensuing afternoon flowed as usual: a mix of excited conversation, bouts of giggling, a sprinkling of imagination–all fueled by a snack or two.
Then someone suggested they should hold a funeral for Bobby. Everyone latched on to the idea with enthusiasm, and the planning began. Nothing elaborate. A few words, a moment of silence, a burial in the backyard. Simple but respectful.
What made this funeral unusual was that Bobby was an eraser–a notable erasure, for sure: finely shaped, particularly efficient, attractively decorated with sparkles.
Bobby recently met his end when his body split in two, a catastrophe that effectively terminated a long tenure of faithful service.
For the most part, the funeral planning was about eight-year-olds engaging in an afternoon of playful imagination. But Elizabeth, who typically moves effortlessly between the world of play and deeper thought, disappeared into her room for about five minutes and returned with four freshly written elegy-like scripts, each celebrating the life of “Boby” in a slightly different way.
I include one of these scripts with this post not because of its “cuteness” but because it gave me pause to think how much we take for granted. And I include it because I’ve come to understand that thankfulness is not just a good virtue to cultivate, but one of the pillars of the loving and generous life we desire for our children and grandchildren. And so, Bobby, from someone from a generation that knows especially well how much your kind has contributed to our world, thumbs up! And, Elizabeth, thanks for the reminder!
How Many Times
How many times
would I say to them,
“I love you”?
How many times? I wonder
as I lie awake tonight.
Hundreds of times,
thousands, as often as
spring rains thrum the earth?
How many times?
If it would protect them
from all harm; if it would help
them honor themselves
to the end; if it would
exterminate the fears
that crawl under their doors and
ride the drafts that whisper
through their window frames…
I would go for the record,
of that you can be sure.
© 2014 Dennis H. Ference
Going to See God
I’m going to Illinois
to see God. Oh, I know
God is right here.
I know that as well as
I know my own name.
But sometimes I need
to have my vision refreshed,
my memory restored.
So I will look into the eyes
of my grandchildren
this weekend–the wonder,
the joy, the promise, the light–
and I will see God.
There is no other place
to meet God but here,
no other time but now.
I know that. Still,
sometimes we all need
to be refreshed.
© 2014 Dennis H. Ference
Elizabeth, at six, wanted a sister. What her parents wanted didn’t seem to matter. When your only sibling is an older brother with friends, interests and wants of his own, the imagination can become a fertile place for hatching the most incredible solutions to the most intractable problems.
And so Elizabeth laid out her thoughts on the matter for me one day after an unsuccessful attempt to persuade her parents to climb on board the Elizabeth train. The family would adopt an orphan girl. The adoption would certainly improve the living situation for the girl, and how could her parents object to that. Elizabeth thought having an older sister would have helped her learn about life. But that was water under the proverbial bridge. She had learned a lot on her own and now she would love to pass her findings on to a younger sister, to help her through all of life’s problems and troubles.
Yes, she knew things would change. She wouldn’t mind sharing her room and her toys. She understood that an adoption would cost a lot of money, but she wouldn’t mind going on fewer vacations. And maybe I could help raise the money. And if I didn’t have enough, maybe I could open a Kool-Aid stand and give the money I made to this good cause.
This was all a little overwhelming even for someone who by now had often listened to Elizabeth’s expansive imaginings to better her world. Well, as every parent and grandparent knows, when a child’s best devised plans go nowhere, sooner or later she reaches the tipping point and tears begin flowing.
Here’s one of the places, I’ve come to believe, where the rubber meets the road in the art and spirituality of grandparenting. When the welling up in my own chest starts because my grandchild is experiencing life’s imperfections and pains, I want to make her sadness, as well as my own, go away by fixing her pain, talking her out of it, or trying to get her to pretend it doesn’t really exist. Bottom line: I would prefer that learning and growth have nothing to do with disappointment or pain.
After doggedly listening to her story and her feelings without trying to make the pain go away, however, we settled onto her bed with her in my arms. Soft tears were still oozing down her cheeks, but more slowly now, while both of us surrendered to the recognition that there are many things in life we just can’t make happen or wish into reality.
But still hoping I could be her hero, I looked at Elizabeth and said I wished there was more I could do to help. She sniffled slightly and reassured me with a smile, “This helps, Papa.”
Elizabeth and I went downstairs shortly afterwards to join the rest of the family and life went on for Elizabeth, Daniel, Mom and Dad.