Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fighting the Demons

     Walking down Galena Blvd was always a “Take your life in your own hands” kind of walk. If it wasn’t the cars whizzing past as if the very demons from hell were after them, it was the drug dealers on the street corners or the gang bangers walking around as if they owned the whole darned town…then again maybe they did.
     My neighbor's son was back from Iraq and told some really horrible stories about what had gone on down there. It made me angry that so many had lost their lives in that war. 
     I hate war, but right now I wished I had the tools and the people available to wage war on the trash controlling my  neighborhood. The kids next door sold crack, weed, whatever they could acquire and they did it openly. Calling the cops did no good; they never bothered to show up. 
     Little Mick got told off by his mom about selling it from their house so he walked over and sat on my front porch and started selling it from there. Whenever I’d go out to get the mail he’d glare at me and gesture with his head that I should get inside; I wasn't so stupid that I was gonna argue with him, but out of defiance I'd take my time, wave at people walking by and slowly turn around and go in. He'd swear and growl under his breath the entire time; if I hadn't known better I would have thought he was possessed.
     Four weeks into it and I'd had just about enough. I called my son, Daniel and told him what was going on and how long it had been going on; first he let me have it for not saying something sooner, then very quietly said not to worry he'd take care of it. 


     Sunday was my favorite day of the week. I got to get out of the neighborhood and go to church in another town. I loved spending time with my church family, singing, praying and listening to the message. It always refreshed me and gave me the energy I needed to be able to handle the week ahead. Dreading coming home I prayed and asked God to give me one peaceful Sunday. I arrived and found my lawn had been mowed, everything swept up and there was no one on my front porch. I gave God thanks for the brief respite and went inside to take a nap.


     The new week dawned and my first thought, instead of thanking God for the blessing of a new day, was about what I’d be facing this week. Putting my music on full blast I sang loudly while I cleaned the house. I heard the clang of the mailbox and my heart fluttered slightly as I made my way to the front door. The mailman handed me the mail with a cheery grin, whistling as he walked away; a glance to the left assured me Little Mick was back on his porch. He looked down quickly, but not fast enough to hide the fear in his eyes and then quietly said, “Hey Señora, you need any help with anything you let me know, I promised el Jefe I’d look out for you. By the way, I mowed your lawn for you ayer (yesterday). You might mention it to el Jefe (the boss).” 
     I had no idea what he was talking about. What Jefe!!? Calling my son I was practically shouting in his ear, “Mijo, ¿en el nombre Santo de Dios que hiciste?!?!?” “Son, what in God’s Holy name did you do?!?!?” 
     “Madrecita cálmate! Esto no es bueno para su corazón!”, “Mami, calm down! This isn't good for your heart!?” He spoke softly to me until I’d calmed down.
     “Mijo, what’s going on? And what jefe is Little Mick talking about?” I started crying. I told him about the fear I’d seen in Little Mick’s eyes.
     “Mami, do you remember when I got involved with el Ministerio Nueva Esperanza (New Hope Ministry)? I didn’t know what I was doing or how I was going to do it; I just knew that this is what God wanted me to do. We prayed together and you asked God to give me strength, wisdom and courage and to direct me where He would,” I could hear the soft music in the background as he sighed wearily. 
     “Mami, I’m fighting a war here. The cops fight the drug and gang war in one way and I have to fight it in another. Someway; somehow God has made it possible for me to communicate with the gangs. I was afraid at first, but that verse you were always quoting to me, 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love and of a sound mind,” reminded me that I had to rely on God to help me through that fear. I know there’s a better way to fight this war and I’m doing it.”
     He talked for a long time about meeting el Jefe a few months back, while walking the neighborhood. El Jefe hadn't appreciated him talking to his people and had threatened him, but Daniel kept going back and had started taking his lunch break in the park where the Demonio's (Demons) hung out. The first two times they’d taken his food and thrown it away and when that didn't work they’d smashed it in his face. He’d gone back with double the lunch and had offered them some. El Jefe had pointed a gun to his head and asked him if he wanted to meet his maker. Although he was afraid he felt like God was offering him an opportunity to start sharing and a puzzled and frustrated Jefe had finally sat down and listened. He knew that he was alive only by God’s grace. 
     El Jefe said he didn't want anything to do with God, but had started sending his little sisters to church and when he’d heard what was happening with the next-door neighbors, he’d paid Little Mick a visit. He hadn't threatened him, just told him to stay off my porch and show me respect.
     “Sometimes, I get through to them and sometimes I don’t. I get discouraged, but then one of the guys will show up and want to talk and I know that is God’s way of encouraging me,” his voice grew husky.
     We finished talking and I hung up the phone and leaning my head against the wall I started to cry again, this time from shame praying that God would protect my son. 
     When my son had been born, shortly after my husband’s death, I’d made a promise to God that I would give Daniel over into His service the way Hannah had given Samuel. I’d wanted him to have a safe life, no gangs or drugs, but serving God had taken him in that direction anyway.
     I’d made promises to God as well, but I’d forgotten myself and had wanted to hurt the drug dealers, the gang members; anyone else who hurt la gente (the people) in my neighborhood. It had taken my son to bring me back to the realization that I wasn't serving God as I’d promised.
     This war needed fighting, but not with anger or retribution. I talked to God and told Him I would rest in His promise for my life; I would go into this war armed with His Word.
     I baked cookies and made tamales, then armed with my Bible and the basket, I walked out to join Daniel for lunch as my iPod played Rest in His Promise.

Rest In His Promise
Words and Music by David Ruis

When the sun’s brightly shining                               When the wars and the rumors
And it’s touching my face                                         Are encircling the earth
And Your favor is resting                                          And Your judgments are falling
And it seems all is grace                                          And there’s no where to turn
I will lift up my eyes                                                   I will lift up my eyes 
And give glory to Your name                                     And give glory to Your name
And I’ll rest in Your promise                                      And I’ll rest in Your promise
Over me                                                                    Over me

When the sunlight has faded,                                   You are sovereign, Lord
And the darkness my friend                                      You are holy, Lord
And the sorrows are rolling                                       You are faithful, Lord
and the suffering just won’t end
I will lift up my eyes                                                   When the heaven’s are opened 
And give glory to Your name                                     And You ride like the wind
And I’ll rest in Your promise                                      And Your kingdom of justice 
Over me                                                                    It will come without end
I will rest in Your promise                                          I will lift up my eyes 
Over me                                                                    And give glory to Your name
                                                                                  And I’ll rest in Your promise
                                                                                  Over me
                                                                                  I will rest in Your promise

©2003 Vineyard Songs Canada (Admin. by Music Services)
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
CCLI song #4211653


Written for Blue Bell Books Twitter Club: Thursday Short Story Slam Week 29: Dramas and Freedom at:

And for

Hyde Park Thursday Poets Rally Week 75 (October 18 - October 24, 2012) at:

Tropical Toxic Art Illustrated By Asaf and Tomer Hanuka

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Momma Is There A Man on the Moon?

     I can’t remember how old I was when it was slapped into me that there was no man on the moon. I’d gotten so used to cuddling with momma on that big oak rocking chair granddaddy had made for us, or on the patchwork quilt with momma and daddy, and we’d talk about the man on the moon.
     All the seasons were beautiful, but Fall had always been the most wonderful time of the year for us. Everything was so vibrant, the color of the leaves; the oranges, reds, yellows, browns and purples fascinated me. As for the scents of Fall, I couldn’t really have described them I just knew that they all came together in a wonderful, magical way. The first thing I smelled when the windows or front door were opened was the last of the apples that had finally fallen off the trees in the yard and lay on soft beds of cool, moist leaves. While the beauty of the trees and scents always caught my attention, it was the moon that sent me on wonderful adventures.
     As soon as the leaves started to turn colors momma, daddy and I would go out on a wonderful leaf seeking adventure to see which of the leaves was the most perfect in color and what stories they would tell. They always had wonderful stories to tell and somehow, someway daddy could hear their voices.
Before raking the leaves we’d go through them carefully and pick the best and most colorful and with these we’d make a great big wreathe to hang on our front door and with the rest we’d make so many different things; a tiny village with pipe cleaners and tissue paper and leaves glued to the sides for walls; we’d make leaf people with toilet paper rolls to walk the streets of that village and finally we’d put leaves all over the house; under candles, in glass bowls with pinecones and every breath we took said Fall was here and Christmas was on the way.
     Daddy would rake the rest of the leaves into a great big pile and on that, he’d lay the patchwork quilt that momma had worked so hard on. While momma prepared the apple cider over the fire pit and added cinnamon sticks, daddy and I would cuddle and we’d feel each leaf and he’d explain why the trees were taking off their clothes. Since God was their Daddy, He would tell them when it was time to go to sleep and He’d wake them up when the cold was over and buy them brand new clothes.
     My favorite time was then we’d all lay on that quilt; I always felt so safe between them, like nothing could ever hurt me and I’d put my hand out and touch the moon and I’d ask,    “Momma what is the moon made out of?”
     “Why my love, the moon is made out of sweet apples and rice krispie treats,” she’d reply.
     “Momma, will I ever be able to visit the moon?” I would ask excitedly.
     “Someday my love, I believe we all will,” she would answer patiently.
     Momma went to heaven when I was six years old and everything changed. Papa didn’t talk to me anymore and when he wasn’t working, he’d sit and hold momma’s quilt. I felt like I was invisible.
     Several months later Grandma and Grandpa moved in with us. I heard daddy telling them I was getting unmanageable. I missed momma so much and I just wanted to feel safe again and one night I made the mistake of trying to climb into grandma’s lap; she glared and pushed me off. I didn’t do it again. I tried one more to connect with her and leaning against her I asked the same questions I’d asked my momma about the man in the moon. Daddy had gotten up quickly and left; grandma slapped me and sternly said, “It’s time for you to grow up. There is no man in the moon.” Pretty soon, we stopped celebrating everything. There was no Easter, no Christmas, no nothing; holidays were too painful for daddy, because they reminded him that momma was gone.
     I learned to pretend that I didn’t need birthday parties and how to smile through the tears. The dreams I used to have about being a princess with a momma and daddy that would love me forever disappeared like snow on a summer’s day. Life had intruded in a harsh way and I went from being an innocent child who was her momma and daddy’s precious treasure to a quiet shadow living on the outer fringes of my daddy’s life.
     Graduation was sad and lonely; another celebration no one shared with me. I left for college and never looked back. I met the love of my life there and finally I came to understand how much my daddy loved my momma. I can’t imagine my life without Charles or our children.
     I always missed my momma and spoke to the kids constantly about her, but I never mentioned my daddy or my grandparents. Daddy had all but forgotten me and I didn't want him to hurt my kids the way he'd hurt me, so I shoved him into a corner and tried to forget about him.
☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺
     The day had been a comedy of errors and my cheeks were sore from laughing so much. Working with kindergartners had its ups and downs and today had been a particularly hilarious day; I was so glad this was a four-day weekend.
     There were several errands to run after picking up the boys, Christian and Anthony, from school. I was laughing hysterically as I walked in the back door; apparently Christian thought his teacher had killed the class pet, Homer the rabbit and had served him for lunch. He wasn't upset so much at the idea of rabbit for lunch, but he said it had just tasted like regular hamburger to him.
     Charles came around the corner from the living room carrying Beth, our 10-month old, “Sweetheart, I need to talk to you.” After getting the kids settled Charles sat and pulled me down on his lap,  “Honey, your Aunt Elise called. Your dad’s dying and he’s asking for you.”
     My chest felt tight, I had a lump in my throat and my face felt funny. He held me for a while, then me settled me with the baby while he packed everything for both the kids and us.
     I can’t remember the drive down there, but I do remember walking off the elevator at the hospital. The return of the feelings I had when momma died almost made me turn and run and only Charles’ arm around my waist kept me there.
     Aunt Elise came up to me and hugged me, “Baby, he’s calling for you. You don’t have to talk, just listen, okay?”
     It felt like lead weights had been attached to my legs and I looked over my shoulder at my husband. I didn’t want to have to do this alone.
     “It’s okay love, we’re all coming with you,” he said.
     The room was dark, the blinds drawn and all I could hear was the “beep, beep, beep,” of the heart monitor, the slow dripping of the IV and the hiss of the oxygen machine. A bony hand slowly lifted from the bed towards me.
     “Baby, is that you?” came a guttural whisper.
     “Yes daddy, I’m here.” I could feel my chin start to tremble and tears started to fall.
He wouldn’t rest no matter what I said; he needed to talk. He’d lost himself after momma died and then he’d lost me. He’d been so ashamed of what he and his parents had put me through that he’d never contacted me. Could I forgive him? Did I still love him? All I could do was nod my head.
     “You know what I miss so much baby?” he asked gruffly.
     “What daddy?”
     “The man in the moon,” he replied breathing with difficulty.
     With tears running down my face, I asked, “Daddy what’s the moon made out of?” In a hoarse whisper he replied, “Out of sweet apples and rice krispie treats, my love.”
     “Daddy, will I ever be able to visit the moon?” I asked through a throat made husky with sobs, my entire body shuddering.
     “Yes baby, but I’ll go first and see your momma.”
     The next several hours I spent with my head on his pillow. I opened the blinds and described the colors of the Autumn leaves to him and the smells that make Autumn so special and he got to know Charles and his grandchildren. He finally slipped away in the early hours of the morning and I cried for what might have been and for what would never be.
     The boys took me for a walk the night after we arrived home. We searched for leaves and when we got home Charles had put my mother’s patchwork quilt on the leaves he’d raked. The five of us sat on that quilt and reaching up to touch my face Christian asked, “Mommy what’s the moon made out of?”
With a tears rolling down my face I smiled, “Sweet apples and rice krispie treats, my love.”

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Picture courtesy of © Rolf Hicker:

Written for: Blue Bell Books Twitter Club: Thursday Flash Fiction Week 28: Innocence and Dreams