My Best Friend’s Grammy

She was real woman before it was fashionable; before we became obsessed with the shell, the surface, all that could be bought and sold. She played a mean game of basketball before Title IX. She could catch fish at will. At 12, she shed her clothes and jumped from a Morrisville bridge to skinny-dip in the river below. She moved to Alaska after the earthquake and found a home in a building that had just slid down a hillside. In her 50’s she burned the dirt road between PA and Alaska many times camping and birding along the way. She was an avid reader knowing intuitively the power of the written word. She kept sharp with the New York Times Crossword puzzle and the knowledge that wherever she was – she was supposed to be. Grammy – at 95 – was the real deal- A REAL WOMAN.

Liberated long before the word was part of the radical women’s nomenclature, Doris was forever waving the banner for Planned Parenthood – an organization that remains under attack by those seeking to thrust women like Grammy into that tight box of post-war decorum. Losers – all, against women like Grammy. She was a woman with positions and beliefs to which I can only aspire. I ask myself now if I would be brave enough to give condoms to the young people in my family? If I would be mortified if I pulled my wallet out of my purse only to shower the table with condoms – brightly colored condoms? Ahh, to believe in something so strongly that nothing short of success could thwart or embarrass. I’m not sure I’d handle the exaggerated rumors of my death with the grace and aplomb of Grammy. I wonder if I could simply complain of discomfort in my chest and not cry like the little girl I’d be reduced to with the knowledge of a broken rib.

I’ve never had the pleasure of Grammy’s cooking but I am told her cheesecake was food for the gods. And she often questioned if this was on the menu in the kitchen of the Big House.
I believe in our most peaceful moments we will hear Doris Caum whispering her latest proclamation –

“YES DEAR, THERE IS CHEESECAKE IN HEAVEN.”

With love and admiration,
Gwen Davis-Feldman
2/26/11

POWER TO THE PEOPLE: RIGHT ON

My father, like most mortals, had his faults but working hard for a living was not one of them. I think of that first morning I woke up before he did and made my first pot of coffee – a surprise. I remember the look on his face, as he tasted the unadulterated liquid – the color of his skin – my father, the beautiful man. Only now can I see the struggles he must have endured – in silence I suppose for there was very little bitterness. There was the time he was ‘let go’ from a construction job, installing cabinets in late 1950’s California new ‘tract housing.’ There were large shipments of cabinets being stolen from the job site. It was here that I came face to face with the ugly stereotype linking all theft with people of my ethnic background. His friends from the job still came to see him, to tell him the thefts continued, and that they knew who was responsible. “Why don’t they tell your supervisor?” I asked. “Every man has to protect his own,” I was told. My father did found another job – reading schematic diagrams for a large cabinet manufacturer – “…a union job” he told me. This is the point, the very instant I can tell when our standard of living began to change. The house we bought was newer, larger and the neighborhood and schools much safer and close. My mother was able to quit her second job and be home in the evenings with her six children.

So, I owe a debt of gratitude to a Union and, I suspect, the majority of other Americans do also. Unions are responsible for raising the standard of living for thousands if not millions of families. There is no other body or organization that can hold to that claim. Even those administrators and middle managers who wave the bottom line in the faces of the rank and file have received the benefit of unionization – maybe not in the present but through past generations and by extension. And today, the flag-wavers of cutbacks throw up the salaries of union workers – and while not much real income has been gained in the downturn, those salaries still look good to the unemployed; a group pitted against its working brethren so the management ‘in charge’ can overhaul collective bargaining agreements. Some unions, like education, present likely targets because they represent those who have been perceived as powerless. It’s a common mistake, especially in this time of world-wide revolution when the human animal is pushed to its limit of dignity and ability to care for its own.

Truth and humanity will out because unions are woven into the fabric of our lives and remain defenders of the idea that a person can go to a job and work unafraid of the capriciousness of human nature. My dad became a proud strand in the cultural fabric of this country. I, too, proudly carry that strand forward.

YESTERDAY – February 17, 2011

Yesterday I found what makes my fiction unreadable. I should be happy with this realization and fairly skip to my computer with a newly found desire to write. But no. I realize my fiction was not true – sounds like an oxymoron; true fiction, but my fiction was not true to human nature. You see, in my 2nd book, my 1st adult novel, Eve, my main character, becomes locked in a room over her garage – a room that, years ago had been a refuge from an abusive husband and even more ungrateful sons. Eve proceeds to slowly breakdown – ending in a terrified night of darkness and sounds of menace outside the locked door. At the end of her head-banging breakdown comes Paul. The man who manages to put things (including Eve) to rights.

Yesterday morning, early, I found myself locked out of my house – on a second story deck off my bedroom. I normally don’t feed the wild birds in the morning as it’s all I can do to get myself together for my part-time job and get my cats fed. I’m not sure what possessed me. Maybe it was the hour; before seven, or the temperature; above freezing or both of these combined with a bright and welcoming sun. I do know that once I opened the door, my cat, Ms. Piskins was there ever the predator in spite of her cuteness. So, I pulled the door behind me never thinking it would continue to that heart deadening click – informing me I was locked out and the closest person to let me in was 90 miles away. Immediately I thought of Eve. I had time to allow myself a small chuckle as I realized I certainly couldn’t sit down on the frosty deck in my ratty nightgown and slam my head into the wall hoping some man will save me. Instead I sat in the cold patio chair and looked at door thinking of all the things I could do to open it; I needed a credit card but I don’t usually carry one when I (rarely) feed the birds. I spotted my cat mocking me from the other side of the glass I told her that unless she could find some opposable thumbs she should shut up. She did close her mouth but her tilted head seemed to scream, “fat-lot-of good opposable thumbs are doing you right now!” She was right. The sun vanished as I stood up to take action. Maybe, I thought, if I could wave my arms wildly enough a driver could spot me and stop. I thought I saw my neighbor go by, I waved frantically but my deck is at the rear of the house making observation possible only with expert 50 mile an hour peripheral vision. Screaming was of no use as my closest neighbors are one half mile away on three sides and one of the three sides is a cemetery – my screams were sure to fall on deaf ears there. I became serious when I realized I’d have to break an insulated, tempered, double-paned 65 X 28 piece of glass. I kicked the center of the glass but my slippered feet could not get enough sustained power to break it. I picked up the deck chair and slammed it s light-weight metal legs into the glass several times to no avail. There was nothing else to do. Fear crept over me when I realized I would not be free until 6:30 that evening. Part of me, like Eve, wanted to cry from sheer frustration. I looked around the deck railing searching for a rope of some kind to climb down to the lower deck. That’s when I spotted the big, steel C-clamp holding the birdfeeder platform to the top rail. I loosened the C-clamp hoping the wicked birdfeeder would fall to the ground. It didn’t – out of spite I’m sure. I slammed the C-clamp into the window and watched as the frosted veins grew into an eerie giant glass web – before falling to the floor.

Why couldn’t I have drawn Eve as a more capable woman? Why couldn’t Eve with my own life? Why does the frightening sound of shattering glass remain in my ears reminding me of this crime scene of my own making? Yesterday I learned what caused Eve to fail as a character. Today, questions remain as to what can make her succeed.

Learning

The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies. You may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins. You may miss your only love. You may see the world around you devastated by evil lunatics or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it, then:
To learn.
Learn why the world wags and what wags it.
That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust,
never alienate, never be tortured by,
never fear or distrust,
and never dream of regretting.
Learning is the thing for you.

T.H. White , The Once and Future King

To My Wood Stove

I’d rather say thanks
Let your coals be banked
In defense against
Winters that reach us
Let felines swarm
Your hearth to keep warm
Strutting haughty
and capricious
You stand in your space
Never change a face
Exuding oneness and heat
Times I am rotten
No wood’s gotten
You go cold with
Nothing to eat
Holding no grudge
Your doors always budge
Taking all wood remains
I push you to welter
Like the hot summer swelter
Of which I often complained

God Should Be…

I just opened an e-mail from a friend
asking me to keep a candle burning
and pray for God to cure
cancer

Shouldn’t God be:
stronger than cancer
bullets
poverty
greed and
stronger than bombs
and other things that
explode into lives
lost in senseless war?

I will send the e-mail along
just in case S/He isn’t