05 June 2012

Organic Divinity

One of the books from Mom's library that has given me enormous comfort over the years is a college text from her Madison days, Frank Lloyd Wright's "The Natural House," published in 1954 by the Horizon Press.  From the faux burlap cover to the stinky old book mustiness within that only gets better with age, Wright's weird prophecies and theological claims are prairie truths that, unlike the easy sway of tall grasses and wildflowers, root one deeply in the natural house of our family.

Mom's childhood house was her true home, on Milwaukee's west side, a town called Wauwatosa, that, despite her loyalty to her roots, she couldn't wait to escape.  After college she moved back to Milwaukee, met my dad, an east side Jew, and together the two of them made a family.  They weren't a particularly successful unit as couples go but they made four smart and loyal children who would, and did, follow them to the ends of the earth--or at least the continental United States.  Milwaukee, Sacramento, Deerfield, Brookfield, Bayside (all between 1958 and 1967) and then divorce in 1976; followed by Mequon, Bayside, Wauwatosa (and re-marriage to a west side man).  And then Milwaukee's east side, Oconomowoc, Brookfield, Wauwatosa (and divorce) followed by a return to the east side where she has lived since 1990.

Today those loyal kids, now adults, moved mom to a new home where she will find comfort and care from a generously hearted nursing staff that understands precisely what a person needs when their body is ravaged by breast cancer, lung cancer and leptomeningeal carcinomatosis.  It is from this home that her soul will leave her body, in its time, and be united with those souls who preceded her in the world.  Mom's skeptical about that reunion, which makes sense.  After all, stable structures never did a home make; rather, she found the foundations to be in her garden, with her children, and the continually widening circle of people she met who found her kindnesses uncommon:  poll workers for democratic elections; poor black citizens in need of a friend at the welfare office during the 70s economic hardships in the "inner-city" ( a term she once said was absurd -- "I hardly think there's an 'inner-suburb!' -- fellow clerks at the Boston Store; the old and the infirm at the Protestant Home and Gilda's Club where she taught dozens of the sick and the dying how to knit, sew and make baskets from sticks, twigs and such; and our friends, batches and batches of our friends, who found my mom's home to be the most open, the most tolerant, the least judgmental, of all the homes in the world.  Oh yeah:  and her books.  We packed ten boxes of them last week to take to the home.  Not sure they'll make it but she was offended that we would even consider excluding them from the journey.

She's looking out a corner window today, with a sliver of Lake Michigan in the distance.  She's not very hungry.  She knows the score.  We live and we die.  After six years of battling this cancer, a truth has taken hold.

"I believe a house is more a home by being a work of Art."

"I believe truth to be our organic divinity."

It is truth that we are born against our will; and it is truth that we die against our will.  So say the Sages.

Today the Dogwood at 8th and Berkeley bloomed pure beauty.  Minna and I noticed a proud Silver Birch on the walk to school, just moments after she finished practicing Charles Leslie's "Swaying Silver Birches" on the piano.  And on our kitchen window an African Violet she taught me to cultivate kicked over three new flowers, just like that.   Art in the home; truth; organic divinity.

Mom's first home was the one into which she was born.  And her last home will be the place she will die.

I believe we're all okay with this.  Especially with the knowledge of how beautiful and kind all those places were in between.

"I believe truth to be our organic divinity."


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