Wish I could swing putting in for this right now, but life is intervening. I did want to help spread the word, though.
Dr. Jennifer Gunter wrote this powerful response to the recent George Will column about rape on college campuses. It’s easy to tell who is the wise voice of wisdom through personal experience and who is the voice of ignorance.
Dear Mr. Will,
I read your recent column on the “supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. sexual assault” and am somewhat taken aback by your claim that forcing colleges to take a tougher stand on sexual assault somehow translates into a modern version of The Crucible that replaces witchcraft with rape hysteria.
I was specifically moved to write to you because the rape scenario that you describe somewhat incredulously is not unfamiliar to me. Not because I’ve heard it in many different iterations (I have sadly done many rape kits), but because it was not unlike my own rape. The lead up was slightly different, but I too was raped by someone I knew and did not emerge with any obvious physical evidence that a crime had been committed. I tried to push him away, I said “No!” and “Get off” multiple times,” but he was much stronger and suddenly…
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On Monday mornings, my parents usually head to their favorite grocery store. Because my dad is bald and needs to protect his head from the sun, he usually wears a cap when he goes out, often his SeaBee cap.
It’s not unusual for people to comment on his SeaBee cap, thanking him for his service or mentioning a family member who was also in the US Navy or another branch of the military.
While they were checking out, the man behind my father was asking him about his service; Dad served in the Pacific in World War II and was called back into active service during the Korean Conflict. When it was time to pay the bill, a woman who was third in line, having heard the conversation, came forward to pay for my parents’ order. Her husband, now in his 50s, had been career military and she wanted to express gratitude to the prior generation of veterans.
My parents were so surprised! My mom said that she had heard stories about paying it forward, but had never seen it in action. I told my mother that it is good for people who are used to giving, as she and my dad have been for decades, to be able to accept a gift so others experience the joy of giving, too.
Mom is already planning to give extra food/money this month to Mother Teresa’s Cupboard, which aids local folks who are hungry, to pay it forward again.
In the United States, today is Father’s Day.
Many of my Facebook friends are also middle-aged and have been posting photos of their dads, with messages about how much they miss them. It has brought home to me how fortunate I am to still have my father here and nearby to celebrate with today.
It’s not that he is young; he’s 89.
It’s not that he hasn’t had health issues, including three different cancer diagnoses and a double bypass.
It’s not that he has a great family history. His father and all three of his siblings who made it into their 70’s have been afflicted with Alzheimer’s.
Yet, my dad has managed to bounce back from illness, stay sharp, and keep active.
At least a good share of that is helped by my mom. They exercise together and she keeps any eye on his diet. They are careful to make all their doctor visits and lab tests and to take their medications properly. They laugh often. They stayed engaged with their community.
Most of all, they have been there for me and my sisters and our families, no matter how scattered we were.
I have been the luckiest daughter, though, because my parents retired near us, twenty-five years ago this month. I can’t imagine how life would have been without them nearby for all but three years of my elder daughter’s and all of my younger daughter’s lives.
My dad does follow my blog by email, so he will see this post.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad! I hope you enjoy the fresh strawberry pie we have chilling in the fridge for after dinner.
This has been a terrible week for national and international news. It is overwhelming.
News I got today from a sick friend just added more.
Near the end of February, I had written a poem about her cancer diagnosis. While I had been getting news about her, I had not spoken to her until she called me this morning. She has been very, very ill. Simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation reduced her to 85 pounds and she nearly died from internal bleeding.
What is so overwhelming is that I found out that her cancer is one that should have been able to be diagnosed early with routine medical screening, but it wasn’t caught because she has had periods without medical insurance and others on Medicaid. It’s not the Medicaid itself, because she has very good doctors treating her now through the Medicaid system, but through whatever combination of difficulty finding doctors who would accept Medicaid and periods with no insurance at all and labwork expenses and lack of continuity of care and whatever else, what should have been found in a pre-cancerous phase has advanced so far that successful treatment may not be possible.
Right now, she is in a period of trying to regain strength. There may be further radiation or surgery if she can get strong enough. There is no way to know.
The nursery rhyme tells us that “Friday’s child is loving and giving.” While I don’t universally subscribe to the accuracy of nursery rhymes, as all Wednesday’s children will be grateful to hear, in the case of my younger daughter, who was born twenty -four years ago yesterday on the Friday before Trinity Sunday , the nursery rhyme was definitely true. We didn’t know her sex until her arrival, but we had chosen the name Trinity for a girl, after a high school friend. It was an extra bonus that she was born so close to Trinity Sunday.
Her birthday this year fell on Pentecost, and at early morning Mass where she was both singing and ringing handbells, I began to reflect on the gifts that she has given to me as a parent and a person. (I recently wrote a post about the impending end of the resident-daughter-in-church-choir era here.)
Trinity reinforced a lesson I had begun to learn from her older sister: that children come as their own individual selves, with a large portion of their temperament already formed. Even before she was born, Trinity reacted strongly to her environment. For instance, she would startle markedly in utero if there was a loud noise nearby. As an infant, she was so sensitive to sound that she would awaken if someone across the room turned the page of the newspaper.
This sensitivity extended to people and emotions as well. It was clear at a young age that Trinity had a social conscience. I remember her playing with paper dolls and creating conversations between them, as though performing a little play. She told me that this doll worked at helping people who were poor, but her sister liked to have lots of nice clothes and things so she had a job where she made a lot of money, but she also gave money to her sister that she could use to help people.
Trinity’s empathy also encompasses the environment. She went on to major in the Science of Natural and Environmental Systems at Cornell and will soon start a master’s program in Conservation Biology at ESF, with a goal of restoring native species to ecosystems. Her empathy does not extend to harmful invasive species!
Trinity also taught me the importance of solitude. Perhaps because she was so sensitive to the world around her, as soon as she could crawl, Trinity would sometimes go off to her room to play alone. As she got older, there was always solitary reading, writing, thinking, dreaming time built into her day. This alone time is vital for keeping her sense of personal balance and I expect will remain so. Her example taught me about being alone without being lonely.
Trinity was also spiritually aware from a young age. She was blessed with a sense of prayer and connection with God as a child. Unfortunately, dealing with the church as a human organization is more complicated. Her place in the church was severely tested in her early teen years, when we left our home parish over an emotionally abusive and unstable pastor. Trinity was halfway through the two-year preparation for her confirmation, so we joined a parish where many of her high school friends were members, so that she would have familiar classmates for the final year of preparation. It was still very difficult to decide that she wanted to be confirmed in a church that had hurt her and many friends and family very badly. She also had to write a letter to the bishop who had refused to protect us, asking to be confirmed. I never read the letter, but she apparently forthrightly told him of her struggles with the situation. She did decide to be confirmed and receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit, whose gifts she displays in her own quiet way. The red vestments and banners in the church, the symbol of the tongues as of fire, and the readings and prayers of Pentecost reminded me of her confirmation and her spiritual gifts yesterday on her birthday. Next Sunday will be Trinity Sunday, so I’m sure more reminders are in store. Each of us is a child of God in our own right; Trinity has always clearly shown that being my child does not make her God’s grandchild or child-once-removed, but always her own unique reflection of the Divine Light.
In other ways, Trinity has taught me to patiently and quietly deal with suffering. When she was sixteen, she was hospitalized for a week with severe colitis, which was diagnosed as Crohn’s disease. I stayed in the hospital with her and she was such a good patient, despite pain and some pretty harrowing test prep protocols. Given that we were already dealing with a chronic illness with her sister, Trinity’s diagnosis was a big blow to our family. After catching everything her sister had brought home from school before she was old enough to go to school herself, Trinity had been remarkably healthy during her own school years, so her level of equanimity in the face of illness was amazing to me. The next two years were filled with side effects from meds, follow-up tests, second opinions, diet changes, concerns about health care facilities when looking at colleges, etc. Finally, after transferring her care to a gastroenterologist near her college, she was put on a carefully monitored program to cut back and out the medication she was taking, which revealed that she did not have Crohn’s disease after all, for which we are all very grateful. I will always remember how calmly and maturely she dealt with a very difficult situation and an uncertain future.
I should probably close before I risk embarrassing Trinity any further. I don’t think she reads my blog very often, so perhaps she will be spared. Thank you, Trinity for the privilege of being your mom for the last twenty-four years. I wish you a great year to come, as you embark on grad school. I’m sure you will keep learning and that others will learn from you by example, as I have.
Thanks to Walt Whitman and Jenni for this message.
This image is courtesy of RUGU and speaks very loudly to me today.
Whitman clearly understood something that most take far too long to appreciate, I know I did and paid for that time wasted dearly. He intuited that it is not the choices made in comfort and ease alone that creates strength, will and provides us with the impetus to grow. We define ourselves by ALL the choices made but when we contest with others who would write the lines of our life’s play THEN we discover the path that WE would take through life and the lessons from which we will grow.