Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy 80th Birthday, Mr. Rogers

I am resurrecting this post in honor of what would be Mr. Rogers' 80th birthday.

For some of you, this will be a repeat.

But I think it bears repeating.

It's You I Like
Fred M. Rogers

It's you I like,
It's not the things you wear,
It's not the way you do your hair--
But it's you I like

The way you are right now,
The way down deep inside you--
Not the things that hide you,
Not your toys--

They're just beside you.

But it's you I like--
Every part of you,
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.

I hope that you'll remember
Even when you're feeling blue
That it's you I like, It's you yourself,
It's you, it's you I like.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I got a great present for my birthday from my husband. Proof positive that this man knows me inside and out. I received an audio book "The World According to Mr. Rogers: Important Things To Remember".

I have never really been all that open about how I felt about Mr. Rogers. Mostly because everyone made fun of him, and because I watched his show years after I was too old to watch, and because the production values were somewhat cheesy. For me, none of that mattered. Fred Rogers soothed my soul.

I read a quote from him that went something like: "The older I get, the more convinced I am that the space between communicating human beings can be hallowed ground.” For most kids, Mr. Rogers was silly, and had very little impact on their lives. If you ever wondered why that show lasted as long as it did, it is because that show was for me, and kids like me.

Even though I enjoyed the puppets, and the trolley, and the entire Land of Make Believe, the real draw for me was the man himself. Fred Rogers provided a window into a life that I had no concept of . . . one where a grown man was kind, and gentle, and loving and understanding.

The early 70s was a very very tough time for my family. I was the last kid, born years after my brothers and sister, and my house was chaotic, to say the least. I learned firsthand what violence was, what drug abuse looked like, what abuse felt like, and how scary being left alone felt. Finances were stretched too thin, and patience was stretched too thin.

I knew every nook and cranny of our house. I knew where to hide when I heard my dad's key in the lock, and I heard the begging cries and earsplitting screams of my brothers and sister when they were beaten by his belt, day after day, when he returned home from another day of debt, and pressure, and pending financial ruin that he could do nothing to stop. He was a bully, and he was crazy, and for some reason, he had some kind of moral objection to beating a baby, but no problems whipping the others. They were older, and they were sacrificed for me, and I could do nothing but run and hide, heart in my throat, and cover my ears and rock and cry until silence signaled that it was over, again. There was nothing that protected me from this horror, nothing except my hiding places and Mr. Rogers.

Mr. Rogers was the voice of calm and reason for me back then. Every day after first grade, I was the first one home to a dark house. There was NO money for daycare, my mom worked all the time, and luckily for all involved, I was a kid that could be trusted to be left alone for hours at a time, and so I was. I remember staying very still and quiet during those hours, wondering if there were monsters in our basement, and wishing that someone, anyone would come home soon, and dreading that at the same time.

I can't tell you how comforting it was to watch Mr. Rogers. Seeing him coming in and singing, smiling at me and telling me that he was glad to see me meant the world to me. Having him explain the world to me through Picture Picture and his gentle, unhurried words was like balm on my scared, tiny soul, and I loved him dearly. I never understood why there were men like my dad, and I never believed there were men any different until I found Mr. Rogers.

After I grew up, I learned a little more about Mr. Rogers. It didn't surprise me to learn that he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his commitment to the well-being of children, that he made over 900 shows or that he had been awarded more than 40 honorary degrees. He was an extraordinary man disguised as a very humble, fragile, quiet person.

Fred Rogers died on February 27, 2003. I was 37, married, with two children of my own, and I cried like a baby. My grandparents had all passed long before I was born, but I can't imagine that losing a grandfather could have been more painful than that was. Explaining my reaction to my husband was nearly impossible, and seeing the look of pain on his face was heartbreaking.

It pleases me to no end that my kids love Mr. Rogers. We watch him together and I am able to experience him all over again through their eyes. Fortunately for them, his kindness is nothing out of the ordinary. And I am proud of that.

I love you, Mr. Rogers.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Channeling the Soul . . . David Soul

So . . . life is funny.

Anyone that has been married for as long as I have (soon to be 13) might be able to relate to this. There comes a time when you re-evaluate things . . . try to see where your priorities are versus your partner's. You try to see if you two are even looking at the same book anymore, nevermind whether or not you are on the same page. You try to figure out if you are both rowing in the same direction, or if your boat is just spinning in the water, or maybe even sinking.

That has been happening here.

As you might imagine, this led to many long talks, some civil, some not-so-civil. Everything was on the table: divorce, trial separation, sharing living space as parenting partners only, counseling and staying together. About as fun as a broken back.

Funny enough, just about the time we were reaching some pretty final agreements, my sugar went through the roof (no idea why) and my back went out. And when I say it "went out", I mean WAY out.

Picture this: After my shower last Wednesday morning, I was stepping into my PANTIES, for God's sake, and a lightning bolt seared through my spine, taking me immediately to the ground, breathless with pain. For the next 2 hours, I crawled, naked, through my house, dragging my useless lower half with me in a vain search for a telephone I could reach.

By the time Hub came hustling in the door, I had been on the floor for 3 hours, 3 dogs nervously sitting around me. He calmly assessed the situation, dressed me, and called 911. He then sat with me through the following days of bedrest, hospitalization, pain, transport home, and aftercare. He even bit his tongue as I slept, drugged, through his ENTIRE birthday.

As I sit typing this, I am resting here at home, waiting for my very very dicey, bulgy lower back disc to calm down enough to attempt therapy.

This morning, it sort of seems like the worst of the back issue is behind me (ha ha). After being off work for so many days, Hub has returned to work. Today is the first day since last Wednesday I have been able to get out of bed and bathe and dress myself completely. I wisely decided to sit on a bench before attempting the high wire act known as "putting on my panties". Yea, me!

So, as I was sudsing up this morning, I ruefully decided that life had shown me really quickly that maybe I need my partner way more than I thought I did. Maybe there was more left here than we thought there was. Maybe one more chance is warranted. Maybe this had happened for a reason, to give us both a chance to slow down and reconsider things.

As often happens, music started running through my head as I lathered up my hair.

Forgive me, David Soul.

Don't give up on us, baby
Lord knows we've come this far
Can't we stay the way we are?
The angel and the dreamer
Who sometimes plays a fool
Don't give up on us, I know
We can still come through . . .

(followed, of course, by my NEW verse)
Wash my ass with that loofah
Because I can't reach there
I can't put on my own underwear
I'm pretty much a slug now
and I depend on you . . .
But don't give up on us, I think
I can still blow you . . . .

Romantic, huh?

Editorial note: After reading this, Hub commented that he thought I was glad he was still here just because I was hurt, and as soon as I was better, I would be unhappy again.

Hmm. Fair enough.
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