Dave and Cathy's Family Blog

August 20, 2018

How to Listen

Filed under: Poems — dave9169 @ 5:57 pm

Listening is not just absorbing,
but if you don’t know better
start there.
Let your narrator do
most of the talking.
Listen like your life
depends on it,
because sometimes
and perhaps all the time
it does.
If there are elements
you’re not getting, look for small
gaps in which to ask questions.

Don’t be afraid to dig a little,
not because you’re nosy
(although that’s perfectly okay),
but because right now
this story has been entrusted to you
to understand.

If you are doing it right,
your brow will scrunch a little,
your eyes will get bigger or narrow,
your mouth will open or close,
your lips will purse or smile,
you might even laugh.
This is your body’s way
to show you are
following the narrative
as intently as you
would trace your
baby’s first steps.

Don’t try to change the subject
if it gets heavy.
If anything, concentrate even more,
because now your life
really does depend on it.
This is how you connect,
how you nurture, maintain
and help the troubled souls
of the world lighten the
darkness they feel inside.

It won’t always be easy,
you won’t always have
the right words to say,
but if you listen right,
the empathy will
show in your face
and provide a safe
path for the story
to find its way.

As you get better at this,
you will get better
at recalling details
and see themes emerge.
Keep at it and the arc
of a life begins to form.

When you remember details
and make connections
you can provide observations
but don’t be heavy handed.
Be kind with your questions.
Seek to understand,
not show what you know.
Don’t judge, and don’t assume
there is something wrong
with her because she
can’t see something that
is so plainly evident to you.

She lives her life deeply.
Shares her life purposefully.
She doesn’t always have time
to step back from her situation
to see things from a different angle.

That is what you are there for,
you alone have been trusted
with her story, a privileged
glimpse into her soul.
Treat that gift as kindly
as you would treat
an ancient thousand year-old
manuscript whose pages are frayed
and easily torn.

This listening stuff is
not surgery, but it does
require a similar degree
of delicacy if you seek
intimacy and depth
in your relationships.

And remember, you
won’t be able to help everyone,
but at the very least you’ll
provide a resting place
for a story that has waited
all this time to find
the right listener.


August 15, 2018

Crabs of León

Filed under: Poems — dave9169 @ 6:02 pm

Every summer evening,
starting around five,
these slow moving creatures
leave the dull comfort
of their city apartments
and make their way
to the park which
is shaded by the
broad leaves of
welcoming trees.

From a distance,
it looks like a mass
migration of
Christmas crabs
coming out of the forest
en masse to reach
the regenerative
powers of the sea.

In thick soled shoes,
flowered dresses,
and buttoned up shirts
they crawl through
this verdant space with
a noble lentitude that’s both
beautiful and hypnotic.

You can get so lost
watching them saunter by
in their gentle
hand in hand stroll
that before you realize it
all the park benches are
full — the murmuring of voices
in complete harmony
with the shimmering leaves
of the trees.

Wander to the bluff
and you’ll hear the loud clink
of metal as the more active
of their kind engage in the
ancient game of bocce ball
that leads to the same type
of oohs and aahs you might
experience at a game of
little league baseball.

On Tuesday and Thursday
nights you will see a gaggle
of them in front of a stage
dancing together in a
circle or in pairs
swaying to the rhythm
of a classic cha cha or salsa.
Even those who can’t dance
tap the beat with their canes
or watch as they
savor their gelatos.

What is this magic
that transforms these
visibly worn bodies
into children
three hours before dusk?
I don’t know.
All I know, is that for
a moment in time,
each day,
the precious crabs of
León, Spain
take over this space,
fill it with their grace
and make it their own,
and to me,
it’s the best show on earth.

August 12, 2018

Reflections on a Train

Filed under: Poems — dave9169 @ 6:07 pm

With my destination almost in sight
I catch the big wide eyes
of a baby girl
fixated on mine.

A man at the midpoint of my life,
back on a train,
right hand above my head
gripping the metal handle,
the wooshing sound in my head
as I travel back in time to a
similar moment so many years ago
when my own daughter stared at me
with that same newborn intensity.

I think of how she turned that focus
into a purpose, a career,
and a beautiful life
she now has in a country
so far from where she was born.

The baby girl is also soaking
in the sights of her world.
I exchange a smile with her young mom.
“Que ojos mas grandes,” I say to her.
Yes, she doesn’t even blink,
like she doesn’t want to miss a thing,
her mom acknowledges.
I nod my head.

Keep that curious spirit
I want to say to her.
Stay connected to the world
around you and notice the little things,
like the smell of these olive trees planted
firmly in mesmerizing rows,
on these undulating hills
we are now passing through,
on a train in Spain,
bound toward the new place
my daughter calls home.

September 1, 2015

Another Year Around the Sun

Filed under: Poems — dave9169 @ 8:51 pm

Another year around the sun
another year to reflect back
another year to start anew
another year to plunge in deep
another year to climb that peak
another year to take a trip
another year to thank your parents
another year to squeeze her hand
another year to tuck them in
another year to dream and do
another year to do it better
another year to gaze at stars
another year to catch the rise and set
another year to learn new things
another year to lend a hand
another year to take a chance
another year to laugh out loud
another year to drink good wine
another year to sleep in late
another year to tell your tales
another year to listen well
another year to drive your car
another year to use your feet
another year to reach that place
another year to know your face
another year to hold on tight
another year to let things go
another year to keep friends close

And another year to blow out candles,
love with all your soul,
and be thankful for
one more turn of this earth.

April 28, 2015

The Old Country

Filed under: Poems — dave9169 @ 9:39 pm

It is my father who taught me this language,
introduced me to this place,
and instilled in me this habit
of getting on a plane and visiting
the old country

I return for…

…the welcoming committee at the airport
the cousins, the uncles and especially the aunts
who jump up and down like teenage girls at a concert
and embrace you tightly
and don’t let you go until you’re covered in kisses

…the scenes of my childhood
eating pan amasado for breakfast
cramming into those standing room only busses
that took me to school in fifth grade
kicking the futbol across dirt fields
and into goals with no nets

…the weekend days of my adolescence
spent with my abuelo rodolfo at the estadio atletico
punching volleyballs into the sky
and hearing them thump off the red clay
slurping oyster shells for almuerzo
learning to turn snot into projectiles
one nostril blow at a time

…an evening at a sidewalk cafe
sipping drinks with rosa and her friends
before the riot police cleared the crowd
with those clinking gas cannisters that suddenly
settled and hissed around our feet
Running to the bathroom for relief
laughing while tears rolled down our faces

…the night i stayed awake till the morning
drinking cafe con leche with my favorite aunt
talking about my beautiful blue-eyed grandmother
who took us in when my father showed up
with us at her doorstep to start a new life
We reminisced on all the could have beens
had we been raised in the old country
instead of leaving after a year

It is okay though I remember telling her
when I sensed her voice weaken slightly
Without these continents to cross
we would not have these airport reunions
Without these gaps between visits
there would be no longing to know more
And without these special connections
nurtured through decades of loving repetition
there would be no real reason to
return to the old country.

April 17, 2015

Keep on Living

Filed under: Poems — dave9169 @ 9:36 pm

The lady at the pool talks about her neighbor:
he died yesterday,
just came back from the funeral,
it’s so sad.

But it’s life and you have to keep on living, she says.

Conversations like this are more frequent these days.
Sometimes it’s a Facebook post
in memory of someone you don’t know,
but your friend or a friend of a friend knows.
You read the string of condolences:
so sad,
rest in peace,
too young.

But it’s life and you have to keep on living.

The girl you talked to on the phone for hours in high school,
when teenagers still talked on the phone,
gone at 40 to cancer.
The sadness creeps into your soul
and you can’t stop thinking about it for days.

But it’s life and you have to keep on living.

Your parents lose two long time friends in one year.
Friends of yours too.
Life of the party guys who provided toasts at your wedding.
Immigrants who went north just like your parents
to start families and live out their dreams.
This one hits you harder.

But it’s life and you have to keep on living.

This perhaps is the toughest part of the age you’re in:
young enough to feel alive,
but old enough to be in touch with death
more intimately than you would like.
Neighbors, strangers, friends and family
who are no longer here,
natural or due to disease,
it doesn’t matter.
You miss them.
You think of your own parents.
You can’t go there.
why do we have to lose anyone?

But it’s life and you have to keep on living.

So my advice to you is this:
don’t linger too long on this topic.
Reach out to the ones you love instead
and let them know they mean the world to you.
If you are too shy or uncomfortable being direct,
listen, smile, hug and repeat.
Show up or acknowledge the events
that mean something to the special people in your life.
Laugh with them, eat with them, comfort them.
Stay connected, be present,
allow others to console or compliment you.
Yes, one day you will be the neighbor
being referred to by the lady at the pool,
or the subject of a sad post the friend
of a friend is scrolling through on Facebook.

But you are not there yet so keep on living.
When you do, you help everyone you touch live too.

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