Thursday, December 29, 2011


My brother died today. Well, he's actually been dead a day or two. The brain scan was flat--a straight line. Kent's body "lives" only via machines. They will be turned off later today. I loved this brother of mine. We share an abusive father and a middle name. Kent was there for me during the most difficult time of my younger life. No woman could have had a better brother. We met late in life. I was a teenager; he was grown. Our connection was immediate, deep and strong. The years and family drama often separated us for long periods of time, but we remained deeply connected at the heart and in the mind.

Last Saturday, he sent a one line email. "Having surgery on Tuesday. Wish me luck." It was such an unusual gesture that I called him a few days later. We laughed, talked about the surgery, and I reminded him that "only the good die young." He laughed again.

He was fine immediately after the surgery. Talked to his daughters. Tried to walk a bit. He was moving out of ICU into another room. Suddenly; without warning, he collapsed. And now we prepare for his services.

I didn't know that I'd be so sad. I've been consumed with goodbyes, partings and "bon voyages," but this is not a journey I expected. I've decided to leave before I take my extended leave to attend my brother's funeral. I feel no obligation. What I feel is the desire to participate in the formal ritual that celebrates his life. I feel the strongest desire to be with his daughters--my nieces whom I barely know and express my love for their father and for them. My nieces just lost their mother two months ago. Death is cruel. I want to hug his 90+ year old mother, who has now lost two of her three children, and thank her for sharing those children with me. I want to stand with our sister, who now faces life without the siblings with whom she grew.

Perhaps the good DO die young. Perhaps they do. Rest in peace, James Kent Jordan, III. Rest in peace my dearest brother. I am so very grateful to have known and loved you.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I recognize the movement of time in ways that I haven't before. Time used to creep along--tick. tick. tick. Now, one godchild is a man with children of his own; another, seemingly born yesterday, is already nine years old. I see myself aging, but I feel like me. I'm not afraid of age; I rather enjoy the privileges of aging. Mostly what I feel each day is an overwhelming sense of gratitude for my life and for the lives of those who have touched me. There are people I love who would likely say otherwise. For example, I've fought (likely an understatement) with someone very dear to me for nearly ten years. We've fought about stuff, mostly politics and issues. We've fought about work stuff; we're annoyed by the reflections of ourselves that we see in the other. Retirement allows me to put down the armor and embrace my friend--tell her that all our hard times were the consequence of roles we played rather than our hearts. I'm grateful for family, QUEER FAMILY in particular. We've found a home, of sorts. We're male and female, straight and gay, young and not-so young. Some of us are actively grieving; others are grieving in other kinds of ways. Nevertheless, we laugh and love and eat and drink together. I'm grateful. It comes at a perfect time. Family lost; family gained.

I'm grateful for the clarity with regard to relationships. Grateful for the privilege of asking forgiveness and seeking forgiveness. Grateful for the clarity that allows me to understand when I have or might have been wrong; when I have wounded, intentionally or not. Apologizing isn't painful. Harboring ill will is. I'm grateful for the clarity that helps me understand that years and history are not necessarily a foundation upon which a steadfast and loving friendship is built; neither offers a solid basis for a relationship. Time is just that--time. It accounts for something, but it can't hold an improbable relationship together. I'm grateful that I can be comfortable with the reality that there are some people who just don't like me. Some are people with whom I've never had a conversation or disagreement. I'm grateful that I've determined which relationships are essential, and that I'm able to let others go. I'm grateful that I'm willing to fight for the relationships that really mean something to me.

There are few people more different in manner, temperament and way of being in the world than my partner and me. Bunny and I spend our days in endless spats over the most ridiculous things you can imagine: "Why did you leave your book on that table." "Why don't you stop ordering me around?" Blah, blah, blah. Oh yeah, it's real stuff. We were middle-aged when we met; we fell into a relationship kicking and screaming; I was severely bruised from an abusive relationship, and she endured a year or so of absolute craziness with me. She's controlling as hell; I refuse to be controlled. I don't share enough information with her before I make a decision; I've diagnosed her OCD. We're both "set in our ways." I've actually been leaving and getting my own place for the past 16 years. I've never made good on that promise. I travel; she doesn't. I'm loud; she's not. I live out loud; she's relatively private. I'm a people person; she rarely remembers a human's name. So why? Every, single morning when I awaken, and every, single evening when I go to sleep, I am absolutely certain that she loves me. She's loyal, steadfast, and she LIKES me. We're friends. Best friends. I need her. I adore her. I can't imagine my life without her, even though I'm still going to leave and go get my own place today and tomorrow and the day after that.

It's daunting to imagine leaving her for 4 months while I travel abroad. It's the one sadness with regard to this trip I'm about to take. My time with her is so precious; I don't want to waste or squander a minute of it, but we need to do the things that broaden our worlds, that feed our spirits and our souls. Our love will carry us through this brief separation, and I'll return with stories to share and appreciation for her understanding of my desire to do this. She's the best. Lord, she works my nerves, but I've got a universe of love for her and a heart full of gratitude for all she is and does for me. I'll miss her so much; the longing has already begun. I lay awake and listen to her breathe and want to change my mind about the trip. Too late. I have to believe that everything is going to be all right.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


I feel strangely drawn to old traditions, even those I think I've rejected. I'm happy. I AM HAPPY. And that's all inclusive. Yes, there are always sadnesses and sufferings; that's the stuff of life, but, for me, happiness isn't a life without sadness or suffering. That's dead, actually. Happiness is learning to live in such a way that the realities of living don't slay us. We get up and begin again. We smile and we hope. I love being alive. I can't think of anything I want; there's nothing I need. My problems are those of my friends--persons dear to me who suffer from illness or tensions in relationships or loss of loved ones. In some cases, I can literally feel their pain; in others, I can't. But this isn't the point. When I face those situations and occasions over which I have no control, I've found myself turning to (and I can hardly write the word) prayer.

Now here's a disclaimer. I know the word conjures up all kinds of religious images. I can hear folks say I'm getting old (true that) and scared of dying (not quite yet). I feel sheepish about it and still unsure about what it all means. I tried to pray when my mother was dying. Maybe I did pray, but I didn't ask whomever or whatever I prayed to extend her life much as I would love to have her here right now. I have two friends who are quite ill. One believes in something (Something?); the other claims no religious beliefs. Though I've been away from organized religon for many years, I wonder what folks do when they face that thing, that HUGE and unfathomable thing that no human can help or soothe or solve. I wonder.

A dear friend gave me a book on prayer. "writing to GOD" is subtitled "40 Days of Praying with my Pen." She knows me well. Knows that I'm thinking about praying--what it is and what it means and why I'm thinking about it--and she knows I love to write what I want; when I want. I've only opened the book once, but I'm acutely conscious of its presence on my shelf. I confess that I ordered another book on prayer. It's a prayer journal. It's stuffed safely in my trip bag. I'd decided that I'd begin writing at the beginning of the new year. I've changed my mind. I go to sleep and awaken thinking about praying and hearing the prayers of the good "sisters" in my church tradition. I've also thought often about St. Paul, who, as many know, really gets on my nerves. Some of the words attributed to Paul poke and prod. At the moment, and for several days, I'm stuck on "pray without ceasing." What the hell does that mean?

I'm determined to figure out what's nagging me, disturbing my peace and peace of mind. Adding to rather than subtracting from my joy. I've repaired some relationships, asked forgiveness in others, set things right even if the settin' was rejected. I've done what I need to do. EXCEPT there's this idea of praying without ceasing to a god/God/Gods/gods/divinity I don't know if I know or where to find it because I can assure you it ain't likely in no church no where that I know.

What I do know is that praying doesn't have to be on knees, uttering stock words and phrases to something. It ain't begging for a miracle in my life or anyone else's. If I do have a prayer it is to let me be content in whatever state I find myself (yeah, I think that's Paul again). It ain't "Jesus don't let me suffer," but rather "whoever or whatever you are, please let me learn how to suffer with grace and dignity and gratitude for the wonder and joy I have known. " No, I don't believe that "what don't kill you will make you stronger." I didn't need all of the pain that I've suffered. I don't believe that I've learned anything from some of that pain. It was just pure unadulterated evil perpetrated, and we've all seen more than enough of that. What I do know is that we learn to survive by surviving; we understand our strength often during our moments of great weakness.

Happiness is not a destination. We don't just arrive at happy and take up residence. Happy doesn't mean that all is perfect in my world. Happy doesn't mean that my life can't change quicker than I can type the next letter. Maybe prayer is an ultimate expression of gratitude for whatever your happy is. For each day I am drenched in gratitude--unspeakable gratitude for being loved by entities known and unknown.

Bless be the tie that binds.........

Thursday, December 8, 2011


After 25 years, I think I'm beginning to feel like a person again-- a real human being. Not a representative or a symbol; not a token or a "diverse" person or "multicultural." I'm not fighting any battles, championing any causes, mentoring "colored people" from various places and at various stages of their student, faculty or staff careers. I don't have to speak for the untenured or for students who have been leveled by the unexpected ravages of racism, sexism or homophobia. I just get to be me, Margaret, whoever that is. I've worn this mantle so long that I'm not quite sure who I am without it. What I do know is that it's been a long time since I've felt so free; even longer since I've had the opportunity to refrain from speaking or entering the fray. That's what my impending retirement has given me. I get to keep the best part of my job--teaching and students--and leave the rest behind.

As I go through each day, I feel the load lighten. I lose the baggage of unkind people and unpleasant relationships. I lose the leeches, who suck the blood and life, and once they've used you up, they move on. I lose those who take and refuse to give in return. I've gained a beautiful "queer family" that envelops me with love and laughter and caring--men and women who simply enjoy being together, preparing and eating food, loving life. There are days that I feel like Saul, scales falling from my eyes; seeing--really seeing for the first time. I'm finally creating a life here--one that bears little resemblance to what I've experienced for the 11 years I've been here this time.

I'm about to leave for a great adventure--a 4 month voyage on a floating campus. I'm so excited; I'm so scared. I'll miss my family desparately. My partner, Mrs. B., in particular. We've never been apart for longer than 3 weeks, but this is something I need to do. The sea restores and cleanses; it rejuvenates the soul and the spirit. This adventure requires a blog of its own.