Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Guatemala Nod

One afternoon Rosary praying
circled together in the chapel
She looked up from the depths of her Catholicism,
found this atheist daughter's eyes
and winked.

I took it as her endorsement
her blessing
to close my eyes
and recommence
my sinful daydreaming.

Rosary chanting faded to a buzz
as I left them there
and found myself stretched
for him

His hands
long, tapered, and skillful
met me there
playing my unsaintly parts
I dreamed climbing mountains and
sweet summits.

I took it that way.

She is Everything

She is everything.

We are just back from a humanitarian trip to Guatemala where the green greets you before your plane even lands. Coerced into going, she landed in a paradise of bougainvillea, mango orchards, and jacaranda trees. The fruits of that volcanic ash soil first nourished her soul. The week kept wrapping itself around her and she met it - at first with the tentative tread of a reserved person but then with the full power of her quiet personality. I saw her.

I saw her best at the hospital. We walked into a Franciscan-run institution where the outcasts of Guatemala land. Babies are left on the steps. Adults with any stripe of disability are granted sanctuary and clean care. Slack jaws and drool and deformed limbs sent me cowering inside myself. She, on the other hand, met it. With that warm, crinkly-eyed smile and her arthritic hands, she reached out to them and said in her English, "Hello." It was universal. They turned their faces up to her and smiled.

I saw the strong woman of my youth insisting on doing the dirtiest work, the thankless tasks, throughout the week. She wore her frilly green blouse, donned an apron, and was on the rusty school desks before anyone else could find sandpaper. She grabbed the stickiest pots, chiseled away at dried wood putty, and climbed to the back of the van.

I saw the empathetic woman I've come to know as an adult. Only she could sustain Aunt Penny's elbow with just the right touch. Not of pity, not of support, but of quiet presence. She cried in the market. This woman of reserve broke down when we bought sets of school clothes for our sponsored children. She then recovered and laughed along with the tickling and storytelling on the van-ride home. She showed up in Guatemala and was present. She has done so forever.

She is wonder woman. She is Unstinting Giving. She is my mom.