Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Well, it happened again.  The three of us went to a wonderful concert by Luis and Roy http://www.tenors.net and enjoyed chatting with a lovely lady who told me I was "an angel" for being Sam's mom.  I don't understand why people feel that they need to tell me that.  I realize they think they are complimenting me, but for some reason it just makes me cranky.

Instead of speculating and grumbling, however, I have decided to write down some true stories about "angels".   

Ash Wednesday
Sam and I were walking down the center aisle to receive our annual smudge when suddenly he stopped and refused to go any further.  He reached into the pew beside us and, with his best smile, touched the woman sitting there who was praying earnestly.  As she stared into his smiling face, tears began to flow down her cheeks.  Sam made it very clear that he wanted her to get up and come with us.  People were backing up behind us, unsure whether to "cut in line" or not.  Rather than cause a further scene, she got out of the pew and came with us.  We got up to the altar rail and Sam knelt down beside her and began to babble and stroke her arm.  She just cried and cried and said things like, "Oh thank you."  Then the pastor came by and, instead of just doing his thing and moving on, he knelt on the other side of the rail and said "Thank you Sam for teaching all of us so much about compassion." I don't have the faintest idea what that was all about.  I'm just the mother.  I don't mean to be irreverent  here, but I kind of know what Mary must have felt as she watched her son do weird and miraculous things.  I'm  not the angel.  I'm just the amazed and fortunate by-stander.

Marriage Counselling
I play cuatro.  I love cuatro.  One of my favorite cuatro players is Queque Domenich.  Amazing guy.  Check him out on iTunes.  A few years ago, I got to play "back up" for him along with 200 other cuatro students at the graduation ceremony for the Chicago Cuatro Orchestra Program.  (ok I'm practically old enough to be the grandmother of any of the other students, but I was just as excited as they were.)  It was incredible.  We didn't know he was going to be there.  I will never forget the thrill of playing with him that night.   Afterward, we all lined up and he patiently signed all our cuatros. 

This is the cuatro that my husband misplaced.  I was devastated.  

The next day, when I took Sam to Esperanza, I was still very upset.  Eddie, one of the verbal guys in the room, noticed and asked me what was upsetting me.  I told them and asked, "Do you think that losing such a precious cuatro is grounds for divorce?"  I was sort of kidding.  But they took me very seriously.  When I came back to get Sam that afternoon, they had worked out an answer.  No. Losing one cuatro, no matter how precious, is not grounds for divorce.  5 is the magic number.  If Charley loses 5 cuatros then I can divorce him.  In the meantime, some retribution must be taken for the loss of this one precious cuatro.  The consensus was that Charley should pay for me to take kickboxing lessons.  

This advice made me laugh, which always helps a bad mood.  But when you think about it, it is pretty good advice.  In the room they have one of those big hanging bags that you can kick and hit, and have found it very useful for working out frustrations.  They recommended I try it.  More than that, it is incredibly healing to have someone - or a whole room of someone's - take my feelings seriously.

Murder Most Foul
When Billy called to tell me that our dad had been brutally murdered by a couple of crack addicts as they robbed his home, I went into shock.  I didn't know what to do with myself or what to feel.  I called Kelly, the weaving workshop instructor at Esperanza, to tell her that I wasn't going to be able to volunteer for awhile.  My friend Phillip took the phone away from Kelly.  He knew just what to say.  "Your father has died?  I bet you are feeling very sad right now, aren't you?"  He went on talking very matter of factly about my grief and, as he spoke, I started to feel again.  I started to cry for my dad.  Then Phillip took the cell phone all around the second floor of Esperanza finding people who knew me and telling them, "Jeanne's father has died.  Talk to her."  They all had something to say to me.  Sometimes it was in Spanish, and sometimes it was in some personal language that no one has figured out yet, but they all sounded caring.  I cried and cried and cried as they kept on passing the phone from person to person.  And that was the experience that gave me the strength to face all the stuff that came next.  

These people have cognitive disabilities or sometimes it is called cognitive challenges or mental retardation.  But whatever you call it, it doesn't impact their heart and their feelings.  They give so much joy and love and wisdom.  It is in our hearts that we feel the impact of miracles and they understand heart better than most of us.  These people are a gift from God to me and they have changed my life for the better.  I think that makes THEM the angels.  I'm just a recipient of their grace.

Bobby Tirelli, another friend from Esperanza, says in his new book, "I like angels.  They're real entities of love.  They've saved my life a hundred million times."  Amen, Bobby.


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