Happy Mother’s Day?

For the grieving moms, children lost to overdoses and gun violence, to illness or accident, all of you who have whisper-sung their lullaby at a funeral.

For the hearts carrying unmarked loss by miscarriage, for those who tried and tried, whose fertility couldn’t meet the call. To the adoptive parents, thinking of the woman who birthed this child you love with every fiber of your own body. For the ones who stepped in through marriage, and stayed, even when the marriage didn’t.

For the pastor mom, working on Sunday. For the trans fathers and trans mothers, on a day when maybe no one really gets it, and the gay and lesbian parents wondering why, even today, we have to use these labels.

To the mothers whose own moms have died. For the stay-at-home fathers and mothers, unpaid and too often unsung. To the mothers living in poverty, no home in which to stay.

To the woman after her abortion, grieved or relieved, and to the terrified teen in Georgia today.

To the incarcerated parents and to the grandparents standing in, to the soldier mom and the brave woman who knows Not this body, not this lifetime.

To all of you, I send comfort. To all of you–not a Happy Mother’s Day–but the day you have, the day this life has given you.

God Bless You, Lester Bagus, Jr.!

Just when I start to lose my optimism about our democracy, a miracle happens.

I spent a full morning at Denver’s Lighthouse Writers Workshop, puzzling over the past and editing the post I had planned for tomorrow. As I ride my bike to the gym, fuzzy-brained and tired, I see signs exhorting me to vote. And I hear myself think with a sigh, Not this again. It all feels like too much right now, like too hard a push for good things to happen this mid-term election.

I lock my bike and step into the Carla Madison Recreation Center, a colorful four-story building erected less than a year ago at the bustling corner of Colfax and Josephine. Behind me, a man enters the building and approaches the desk. He’s holding a small plastic bag carefully in his left hand. He wears a cap embroidered with insignia, and a gold cross shines around his neck.

Where did you say that thing is? he asks the young woman behind the desk.

See those orange pillars there? she replies. Just behind them and then to the left. She points through the glass doors. He looks perplexed, and I see that his plastic bag contains a ballot.

I’ll show you where it is, I offer. I just dropped mine off yesterday.

He smiles at me, broad relief in his brown face. His voice holds some southern gravel as he thanks me. Oh, I almost asked you outside. You look like you work here. We step back into the November sunshine and walk together between orange pillars and toward the drop-box, a squat white rectangle not easy to see. You know, he tells me, I never voted before. This is my first time.

ballot boxI stop walking and erupt: God bless you! I see his face shining, full as a Thanksgiving platter. I can’t believe I get to be here with you casting your first ballot! I say.

God bless you, too. I’m glad you’re here with me. You know, I volunteered for Vietnam when I was sixteen years old, and this is my first time voting.

My skin tingles as I watch him drop his signed ballot in the slot. As his envelop lands on top of others, my temptation to cynicism falls away.

We look at each other and grin. I’m sixty-seven years old, and I’m finally voting! He gives me a big hug. I breathe in the scent of his aftershave, and I soak up the warmth of his satisfaction and of his hope.

Before we say goodbye, he introduces himself to me and shakes my hand. Thank you, Lester Bagus, Jr.