Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday Musings, 12 November 2011

Good morning,

The sky threatens to weep. I feel the bite of fall even here in my dining room, with the rush of heat from the register seeping into the air around me. A slight shiver passes through me. I bite into another cold grape and take another sip of tepid coffee.

Last evening, my stomach curdled as I read the 23 pages of grand jury report regarding accused child molester Gerald Sandusky. I reminded myself that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty, but the grand jury's findings have the strong stench of starkly rendered truth. My eyes winced closed time and time again. I fought the urge to delete the file. I made it to the end, only skipping the most gruesome sentences. I had no taste for conversation after I read the report. My husband queried as to its contents, but I suggested only that he read it. I could barely bring myself to summarize the findings.

The question is not why he was allowed to return to Penn State year after year, but why he is still alive. You defense attorneys might protest, and in theory, I agree: he is legally entitled to a fair trial, before an impartial tribunal, with competent counsel. So to paraphrase the hanging judge, let's give this son of a bitch all the due process he can stand, and then let's crucify him.

This news occupied much of my week, along with the sad loss of several beloved famous persons, including Andy Rooney, and the passing of a friend's daughter after a most valiant and dogged fight with cancer. In my more somber moments, I wonder if I should cancel my newspaper subscription to avoid the heaps of depressing revelations that ruin my breakfast. Then giddiness overcomes me, and I stand on my porch to watch the piles of autumn leaves gather on my lawn. My brain can only stand so much grief before it must seek comfort in the changing seasons, or the comic page, or a cup of strong Earl Grey.

On the wall of my bedroom is a framed square of embroidery. It's a pillow case, I think -- a "sham", I suppose. Its contours sport crooked stitches next to exacting ones, and a broken ring of stain where the hoop stayed in one place too long while the unfinished work lay neglected in my mother's sewing basket. She started the piece while sitting next to my grandmother's bedside after Nana's first stroke, forty years or so ago. She did not finish it. I discovered it after my father's death in 1991, and brought it home. I inserted a few clumsy inches to complete its motto, and put it in an old gilded frame that I found in my parents' basement, during the purge, while my two-month old son slept in a baby seat upstairs.

It greets me every morning from the shadows of our bedroom wall: Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

I see my mother beside the hospital bed, stitching, glancing now and then at her mother's prone figure. A doctor had suggested that Nana could hear, and so my mother kept up a running stream of chatter, story after story of the endearing antics of her clinic patients, my little brothers' successes in school, news of my sister Ann, far away and on her own. I watched the rise and fall of my grandmother's form as she breathed through a tube, under a snarl of wires and a cover that I thought was too thin. I reached one hand forward and twitched the blanket closer to my grandmother's body, smoothing the surface, wishing I could bring a fresh pillow and a sachet to place under it. My mother smiled at me. Our thoughts ran on parallel tracks. She reached across the bed and handed me a clean, ironed handkerchief, with delicate tatting on the edges, and a vague scent of lavender. I used it to smooth my Nana's forehead, and wipe the sheen of perspiration from her brow.

I have that handkerchief still, and keep it, with others, in a satin pouch in my bedside drawer. I hold it against my face and imagine that the scent still lingers. I think about my mother standing over her ironing board, patiently eradicating the wrinkles. I sat beside her as a small girl, with my toy iron, which she held against hers to give me a bit of heat so I could help. She handed me the linen napkins that we used on holidays, and I pressed them, quickly, earnestly pushing with my small hand to mimic the practiced gestures that I saw above me.

My disgust in reading the grand jury report of the travesties in Pennsylvania stems from my tattered belief in the essential goodness of humankind. Despite decades of evidence to the contrary, I still cling to that delusion. I hear my husband's footsteps on the stairwell, and I know that in a moment, he will bend over me to place his lips on mine. He will inquire of my state this morning, and glance at my coffee cup to see if it needs to be replenished. I think about a basement bedroom, in Pennsylvania, where child after child cowered, awaiting a tread on the stairs.

I close my eyes and a lament arises within me. Victim 1, Victim 2, Victim 3, Victim 4, Victim 5, Victim 6, Victim 7 and Victim 8. I cannot call their names. The ones known are kept secret, as they should be. The identity of Victim 8 has never been discovered, but the man who stumbled upon the savagery inflicted on Victim 8 reacted so profoundly that those to whom he ran with the horrible disclosure described him, fifteen years later, as being so upset that they thought he was going to have a heart attack. If the sight of what Victim 8 suffered caused such grief, I can only image what enduring it must have done.

The morning sun struggles to dissipate the steely clouds. My coffee has grown cold and a fine layer of goose bumps on my outstretched arms tells me that it is time to raise the ambient temperature. My Saturday has begun in earnest, and I leave the past, with a small, terse nod to the gathering ghosts. Fare thee well, fare thee well; I love you more than words can tell.*

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

*From "Brokedown Palace", by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter.
With a special smile going across Missouri to the Elvish Banquet gatherers.

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.