I was enamored of Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays With Morrie, (both movie and book) as was my late husband, who had ALS. I’ve always meant to read Albom’s book The Five People You Meet In Heaven, and at last I’m finally getting around to it. Sure does make you think.
I’ve seen some very depressing things lately and I struggle to sort wheat from chaff. People film a person drowning and don’t help? They laugh instead? Graphic animal cruelty image videos play on auto, on my FB feed, startling me and angering me. A girl urges a peer to take his life?
I’m well-read I think, I am good at sorting … I have to be. With back-to-school around the corner, (mine our grown) news segments feature topics about the nervousness kids may feel this time of year. I saw orange leaves yesterday. The seasons are beginning a change.
In the news segment that suggested children should have a trusted adult to speak with at school, and not necessarily a guidance counselor, it was noted that janitors are often privy to what cliques are clicking and bullying and so forth. It was certainly true in my case, when I was in grade school, that I felt a rapport with the custodian. In my case I uttered giggles, never words. Here is an excerpt from my book Under The Banana Moon, about that subject: QUOTE:
My school was on the “historic register” of old buildings. Burnt-red brick was its skin. Ornate iron hooks were its helpful hands that held our coats against the walls; like the Willy Wonka factory. Each radiator- lined classroom had a coat “room”- a dark narrow hall-like passage behind one of its walls. I imagined lots of hidden and useful crannies in my own brain. I wondered about my brain’s folds. What purpose did they serve? As the only non-sensate organ I had, as the only organ that could withstand a scalpel’s plunge and feel no pain, I admired and loved my brain. The school fed my beloved brain. I loved my school. The water that flowed through those radiator pipes; warming us in winter, was my school’s veins. The clanking of the radiators was its heartbeat. The children and the noise in the school ruined my orgasmic experience with my brain and with my school. Can’t have everything.
The school’s caretaker Mr. Rayder, nurtured the building; meeting its needs spouse-like. In the noisy cafeteria, he blew up his muscles for me with milk straws. He was Popeye, a Jerry Lewis with a bald head and muscles. Who could reprimand him for blowing straw papers off of straws one after another? It was he who swept the school.
He propped his push broom against the cafeteria wall and sat next to me in a chair too small for him. He winked and showed me his tattoos. I chewed my grape jelly sandwich and looked them over. He picked milk straws out of the white carton that held them on a nearby counter. I always sat close to the smell of the kitchen and away from the kids, but I never ate any of the food the ladies prepared all the years I spent there. Every day I ate the same bagged lunch. Jelly sandwich. Fritos. Pudding still hot in the thermos. School milk. This is the first lunch I brought to school. This is as it would always be. The hooks looked like this:
Without looking into my face, Mr.Rayder stuck the straw papers up his nose, walrus like. It was easy to laugh. It was Mr. Rayder who kept those wooden floors in my school shimmering like a sea. A sea of wood, I thought. Trees, once alive, once holding hands underground. Trees were sacrificed; all for me. When I wore those awful shoes; they clicked off on the floors like castanets in my ears all day, shattering the respect I should have for the trees’ sacrifice.
I imagined the hooks like this:
“Mommy- just stick to buying low soles. Quiet shoes”, I told her. The clicks followed me around. I never wore the maroon shoes again. ENDQUOTE
It (the custodian’s unconditional comraderie with me) was not a cure-all for my heightened senses but his quiet and slapstick and subtle entry into my world tamed anxiety that fueled muteness and autism behaviors. At least for a little while. Anxiety is a vulnerability ‘loop the loop’ experience; it somersaults, cartwheels and planks. Maybe that’s why ‘sticking to routine’ (like eating the same meal for 6 years every day without variation) are so soothing. Knowing exactly what to expect is far preferable to the alternative. That’s why sudden news horrors are so troublesome. They are like firecrackers on your shoulder. I am enjoying an unwinding of my day, with Mitch Albom’s book.
That custodian was one of many many people who came into my life, albeit briefly, and served a soul purpose with an idelible mark on my life personally. Another person was Zsolt, my woodcarving mentor. Donna Williams my friend and mentor. And Steve Selpal too. All have passed away. I know that on the next plane, they continue to guide. About a month ago, in the early hour of morning when dark is still feathering the bedroom and light is beginning to fuzz the edges, I thought I heard a female Aussie voice quite clearly (if only in my dream-wake state?) which said, “Kimberly, just write.”
I knew that Steve (Stevo, fellow autie, peer, artist, writer, teacher, rare light!) was very ill with cancer, and his passing was swift so it seems. I was the first person he ‘met’ online who shared an autism diagnosis, back in mid-2000s I think it was. We shared many art and writing emails and a few phone conversations. Some of Steve’s last paintings were of chakras. I share here some advice he gave me a few years ago, after a literary rejection:
“Don’t let day to day rejections like this cloud the tunnel to the future. Let the rejections just blow smoke behind you as you are propelled ever forward.”
Steve has spoken to me with great humor about being a “brush nazi.” He’d often send students back to scrub their brushes again and again after asking them to do the shirt test. Oh, so you wouldn’t wipe that brush on your shirt? Then it’s not clean enough! That’s Steve, he cared about the students, the art, the art materials that were used. He had this to say in an email (one of many) to me with the hope (in his words) that I’d share his words someday in an art and mentor book that I was developing at the time:
“My ideal teaching planet would have 8 to 10 rabid, maniacal, fanatic art majors… hungry for the zeal of artistic exploration (!) inspired by the mere hint or crick of the eye wrinkle of one my aging octogenarian professors (…yes Emeritus). When I was an art student, I immersed my whole being into the task of being an artist and focusing on each lesson revealed by the great master professor. That was my position back then and I still feel that way now. (Laughter and Applause.)
(((((Some of Steve’s chakras:))))))
Steve continues: There were inexorable revelations of each individual personality of the 8 to 10 students coming to the fore and defining their desires and wishes for their art time (as it were). None of these students, equal number boys and girls, were art majors- or serious about art in any way. However, they had some of their own preconceived notions about what they wanted to get out of the class.”
I was thinking….that scientists need to study naked mole rats. It’s possible there is a cancer cure within the naked mole rats’ genetic make-up, because for some weird reason they do not get cancer.
It’s been a heck of a month. Here are some unfinished arts I’m working on right now:
Next blog, I will share some of Al’s vegetables. Clay, I did not forget and will send you canned goods soon. The garden is coming along very nicely. Remember readers, and I know you’ve heard this before- tell people what you have to tell them while they are in a physical entity to hear it. An old comrade Stacy recently found me online because stacy had heard a weird rumor that I’d died. I assured Stacy I did not. Said Stacy:
“Whew! Just knowing you’re out there, comforts me.”
There are many people for which I could say the same.