Try Again

March 20th, 2021

“You say it’s your birthday
It’s my birthday too, yeah
They say it’s your birthday
We’re gonna have a good time
I’m glad it’s your birthday
Happy birthday to you” – Beatles

I am sixty-three today.

So what?

I don’t know. Except for the fact that today is the vernal equinox, this date means very little. All I know is that at this moment the eastern sky is glowing red, and my little grandson, Asher, is sleeping nosily next to me. I look forward to the dawn, and Asher looks forward to his next feeding (he is three months old).

I’m sixty-three today. That is not a winning number. Sixty-two is a good number. That is when I qualified for Social Security. More to the point, when I qualified for it, my wife, Karin, also qualified for her Social Security check and for Medicare. Karin never worked long enough to get Social Security on her own. The Byzantine regulations of the SSA required me to get my dues before Karin could get anything. In any case, age sixty-two made a financial difference. Sixty-three does not.

God, our lives have changed in the course of a year. A year ago, Karin and I were thinking about traveling, at least to Texas to visit our family there.

Now…

We are not going anywhere.

Asher, for a variety of reasons, is now our responsibility. This kid is ours. If and when the girl we love gets though rehab, then maybe, maybe, she can care for the boy. Until then, Asher is our baby. And we love him. So much.

Years ago, I was part of a German men’s group, Schlaraffia. It was a standard men’s organization. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the primary purpose of the group was to get away from the wives for one night a month. Need I say more?

Karin spends part of her Thursdays in Zoom meetings with her knitting friends. I keep away from that. A few of the older women in her group are widows. I sometimes think that their husbands aren’t really dead; they are just in hiding. These guys maybe changed their names and moved to Belize to avoid the nagging.

Karin and I are both retired. “Retired” can mean a lot of things. It can mean that a person has moved on to another part of life, or it can mean that a person has simply given up on life. I have seen both things happen. Karin and I have not given up on life, perhaps because we can’t. We have too many people who need us. That is not necessarily a bad thing.

So, what to do on my birthday? Well, change and feed Asher. Maybe make Karin breakfast. Take a well-served nap (I’ve been up since 3:00 AM). Whatever.

Try again.

Jizo

March 16th, 2021

Asher really looks like Jizo.

Jizo is a Japanese bodhisattva. In the Buddhist tradition Jizo is the protector of small children. He is often portrayed a happy monk, with chubby cheeks and an innocent smile on his lips.

When Asher sleeps peacefully, which is actually not that often, his round little face settles into an image of utter serenity. His breathing becomes soft and gentle. When he finally relaxes, the boy smiles in his sleep.

Asher smiled like that when his mother held him in her arms yesterday.

Image result for images of jizo

Asher’s mom hasn’t held her son very often during the last six weeks. After her relapse, she was in jail for a while, and now she is rehab. The young woman will be in treatment until the end of June. Karin and I are bringing Asher to the rehab facility twice a week so that the young woman can connect with her three-month-old son. They get four and a half hours together each week. That isn’t much time, but it’s all that we can do for now.

The young woman sat in a rocking chair, holding her baby boy. She said nothing. She just held Asher close, as close as she could. She looked at him in silence. I don’t know what she was thinking or what she was feeling. I didn’t ask. I let them be.

The young woman has dreams, both for herself and for Asher. She wants to come back to our house to live. She wants to raise Asher in our home, at least for the first few years. She wants to build a treehouse for Asher. Actually, she wants her younger brother to build it, but her ultimate goal is for Asher to have a treehouse in the big locust in the backyard.

The young woman dreams of taking Asher on trip one day. It will have to happen after June of 2022, because that is when the young woman finishes her parole and gets “off paper”. She wants to take Asher to Destin Beach on the Gulf Coast of Florida. We took her there many years ago, when she was just a girl. The beach was like a paradise for her. It is her Garden of Eden, and she wants to return to it. The young woman wants Asher to experience it with her.

First things first. The young woman has to complete her treatment before any of these dreams come true. All this will take time.

The important thing is that she still has dreams for the future. The woman wants to live. She’s strong and resilient. So is Asher.

May Jizo bless them both.

A Conflict of Values

March 12th, 2021

“Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.” -Dorothy Day, foundress of the Catholic Workers

I sat in Mulligan’s with Mike yesterday afternoon. Mike was swilling a Miller Lite, and I was sipping on a black lager. Mike had just finished working his shift at the trucking company. I used to work with him on the dock. Then, five years ago, I was miraculously able to escape from there into retirement. Mike’s tales of frustration and woe are very familiar to me, and they always reinforce my decision to get out of that hellhole.

The trucking company was a local operation when I started there back in 1988. It grew and prospered, and it was finally devoured by a global conglomerate. Now the company is simply another tentacle of a worldwide transportation monster. With financial success comes a concomitant loss of humanity. The larger the corporation, the more ruthless the bastards who run it.

I was a dock supervisor at the company for almost twenty-eight years. When people would ask what my job was, I would jokingly say,

“I try to get blood from a stone.”

That’s really what I did. My job was to move freight as efficiently as possible. It was all about profit, all the time. I had a boss whose first, and only, question to me every morning was,

“Did we make money yesterday?”

That’s all that mattered when I was there. Apparently, that is still all that matters.

I don’t like corporate America. That does not mean that I am a socialist. I am not. I don’t like socialism either. I am a veteran, and I am convinced that every veteran has lived under a socialist regime. Look at the U.S. military. I defy anyone to show me any practical difference between the operations of the U.S. Army and that of the People’s Republic of China.

My oldest son, Hans, sent me a text while I was commiserating with Mike at the bar. The text said (with a couple misspellings),

“Tonight is my last day. Just can’t deal anymore.”

Hans was talking about work. Hans pumps concrete for a company in Texas. He usually starts work dark and early. He faces the same issues that I did in my job. He’s finally leaving that firm and going to another, hopefully better, organization. Hans has worked for the same corporation for three years, and they have lied to him and abused him the entire time. He’s exhausted.

It strikes me that corporations and the military have very different values. I remember when I was an Army officer my commander telling me,

“Mission first. Men always.”

At the time, that seemed like an empty slogan, but it’s not. Soldiers are trained to get the job done, and it is expected that somebody will care for the welfare of these people. Hans is a combat vet. He gets the job done, no matter how long it takes or how fucked up it may be. His recent employer knew that and exploited that fact. Hans’ company had no qualms about working him for 18 to 24 hours at a pop. However, the management in this business made no attempt at all to take care of Hans. The corporation was all about getting the mission accomplished, but it apparently did not give a damn about its employees. The company cared only about the money.

Soldiers are loyal. Hans should have quit that job years ago. He didn’t. Why? Because soldiers don’t quit. They just don’t. Hans tried to work with the management in good faith, and they did not reciprocate. Loyalty is a two-way street. It requires trust. Hans stopped trusting.

The company treated Hans like a commodity, like a piece of equipment. That’s what corporations do. The Army, despite its flaws, does not treat soldiers like things. When Hans was in the Army, and when I served, there was always a sense that each soldier had some intrinsic value as a human being. There was always some level of mutual respect. That sort of regard is seldom found in the business world.

It does not surprise that vets find it difficult to adjust to civilian life. We return to a culture which does not often share our values.

Meatloaf

March 9th, 2021

On Thursday evening Karin and I ate meatloaf for supper. This was extraordinary because, in our thirty-six years of marriage, we have never cooked meatloaf. It’s not that we have anything against meatloaf per se, it’s just that it has never really appealed to us. Meatloaf is an old fashioned kind of comfort food; a relic of meals in years past. Of course, if a person does not have fond memories of meatloaf, it is hard to be nostalgic. My mom made meatloaf. It seldom turned out well. I don’t know why. Maybe she overcooked it. I just remember that it often had the flavor and texture of drywall. I never had the ambition to replicate that eating experience.

So, why did Karin and I dine on meatloaf?

Because a friend from our church gave it to us.

Sharon is a member of small cabal at St. Rita who have chosen to provide Karin and myself with homecooked meals twice a week. This is truly a godsend. As we care for our three-month-old grandson, Asher, Karin and I find little or no time to cook. Even if we found the time, we wouldn’t have the energy or motivation to stand in front of a hot stove. So, it is awesome that the folks from our parish are helping us in this fashion. They aren’t the only people looking out for us. Chris from the Zen sangha brought us soup. Heidi from Voces de la Frontera cooked for us too. As did Mary from Catholics for Peace and Justice. It all helps.

Asher is a wonderful little boy, but he is labor intensive. He needs to be fed, cleaned, and comforted. Sometimes, I just carry him in my arms for a while until he falls asleep. That qualifies as my walking meditation practice. All these things take time, and they can occur at any time of night or day.

Karin freaked me out yesterday when she told me that she thought that she was getting sick. It turns out that she is okay, but I don’t know how I would have cared for both Asher and her. Asher is a two-person job. Karin and I work in shifts, and there is no slack in the system. I know that single moms raise their babies, but I can’t imagine how they do it. That is beyond me.

Right now we are enjoying a moment of blessed peace. Karin is in bed, getting some much needed rest. Asher sleeps near me, looking like the cherub that he is. He smiles when he sleeps. I also smile when he sleeps.

Karin and I are going to send Sharon a thank you note.

The meatloaf was really good.

Zoom Court

March 5th, 2021

I’ve been to court before, many times.

Usually I have attended court proceedings as an observer, although I have been on a jury twice in my life. I was chosen as foreman both times. Yesterday was first time that I found myself as a participant in a court case, although not necessarily as a very active participant.

Karin and I, via Zoom, were involved in the Asher’s case in Children’s Court yesterday morning. That was very different than all my other court experiences, mostly because we were not actually in a courtroom. There is something about being in a courtroom that is unique. It is almost like being inside a church or a temple. There is a formality about the place that separates it from the laidback lifestyle of the rest of American culture. Court cases follow a certain kind of ritual, and it often feels almost religious in nature. The judge wears robes like a priest. In a courtroom people come to worship the goddess Justice.

With Zoom, that formality is lessened. The stakes are still as high, but the setting is much more casual. The whole process doesn’t feel quite right. In a courtroom, in the presence of your friends and enemies, a person can sense the emotions of others. On Zoom, well, it is much easier for people to wear their masks.

Karin and I said almost nothing through the brief hearing. There were three lawyers present: one for the mom, one for the ex-boyfriend, and the guardian ad litem, Asher’s advocate as appointed by the State. Karin and I, as Asher’s caregivers really didn’t have much to say. The father, the mother, and the judge have more legal heft. Karin and I just sat there holding up Asher so that his mom could see him. The young woman hadn’t seen her boy for over a month.

Why were we all there?

Ask anybody on that Zoom conference why they attended the meeting, and they would no doubt tell you,

“I’m here because I want to help Asher.”

They would all be speaking the truth, but in different ways.

I cannot speak for anyone else. I know that I love Asher dearly, and I want the best for him. I also have to admit that I feel frustration toward perhaps one other person in his life. I don’t know how much my love for Asher motivates me in contrast to my negative feelings toward this other individual. I wish that I could say that all of my intentions are pure, but that would not be true.

The court appearance, short as it was, was nerve wracking for me. I clearly felt that Karin and I were at the mercy of people and powers beyond our control. There are forces stronger than we are. I know that.

I understand that the influence that Karin and I have on Asher’s life is decidedly short term. We are old. It is doubtful that we will live long enough to see Asher reach adulthood. Somebody else needs to lead him into the future. I do not know who that should be.

Karin and I care for Asher each and every day. I just fed him and changed his diaper. The boy sleeps quietly next to me. Maybe tomorrow someone else will love and care for this young man.

Today, if only for today, I do.

Winter Dawn

February 28th, 2021

It is now 4:30 AM. I fed Asher and changed his diaper an hour ago. Now he sleeps next to me in his bouncy chair, making little mewing noises. He will no doubt wake up in an hour or so, hungry again.

My wife, Karin, and I have come up with schedule for Asher’s night feedings. It’s taken us a month to sort things out, but I think we finally have a plan that works. Karin is by nature a night owl, so she is comfortable with staying up quite late. I spent over twenty years working third shift, so I am used to waking up dark and early. We trade shifts some time between 1:00 and 4:00 AM. The times vary according to Asher’s sleep pattern. It’s not the best possible system for Asher’s care, but it is all we have for now.

After I feed Asher his bottle of formula, I generally walk with him through our darkened house. He needs to burp, and the walking calms him. It is good for me too. The slow, steady pace is kind of a meditation practice for me.

At some point, I usually stop to stare out of our patio door. I like to watch the approaching dawn. Asher does not watch with me. He is generally asleep at that time, with his little, round cheek welded to my right shoulder.

Winter dawns are somehow different from those that occur at other times of the year. I’m not sure why that is. Our patio door faces to the east, more or less. I can see the sky slowly brightening over the branches of the bare trees in our backyard. The horizon turns a gun metal grey at first. It looks cold somehow. The early twilight is uninviting. The landscape is only slightly more distinct, and the snow on the ground reflects the weak light. The wind moves the tree limbs like they are black, skeletal hands in the air. I can see things better, but the message from the sun is still “stay inside the house”.

It seems to take a long time for the sun to come. First, there are flashes of pink at the tree line. It’s like the night sky is leaving grudgingly. Objects in the yard remain dim and colorless. The world becomes gradually brighter. It happens too slowly.

Then, all at once, an orange ball of fire crests the roof of the neighbor’s barn. A knife blade of pure light stabs through the glass of the patio door. Suddenly, all of the snow is glittering and brilliant. The yard is alive in all its details.

Morning.

A Very Narrow Focus

February 24th, 2021

Our world has contracted. Over the course of the last year, the scope of our existence has, for the most part, shrunk down to the size of our house. My wife and I used to travel a lot. We used to be active members of our community. Now Karin and I almost always stay at home.

This change in our lifestyle, as is the case with most other people, is primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are no longer many places for us to go, and we are not necessarily interested in visiting the places that are open. For instance, I used to meet friends and pray at the synagogue. The synagogue has been closed for nearly a year. I used to go to meditation practice at the Zen Center. The Zen Center doesn’t even exist any more. Karin used to join with her knitting group at a local McDonald’s every Thursday morning. Now they meet on Zoom. About the only thing that Karin and I still do regularly is go to Mass at our church. Even that has become much less of a communal experience. Things have become increasingly impersonal.

During the last few months, a few friends have cooked us meals and brought them to our home. These visits have almost always been “dump and run” operations. There has been very opportunity for idle chatter. We sometimes did not even know that a delivery had been made until we heard our dogs bark, and then discerned the squeal of tires in the driveway as our benefactor fled the scene.

The weather this month has made it difficult for us for us to do any outside activities (except for snow shoveling). Frequent snowstorms and single digit temperatures have made me reluctant to go on the long walks that I was accustomed to make. Even the dogs have not shown much interest in exploring the world beyond our front door. Except for running small errands, we have stayed indoors.

This month also began with a radical change in our routine. Karin and I suddenly became the sole caregivers for a two-month-old boy named Asher. We had forgotten just how time consuming it can be to provide for an infant. It did not take us long to remember how it all works.

Asher is low maintenance, as far as babies go. That does not mean that he can care for himself. On the contrary, he requires our constant help and vigilance. The fact is that, at this very moment, as I write these words, Asher is trying to get my attention. He is making curious grunting/growling noises, reminiscent of the sounds the girl made in “The Exorcist”. I will no doubt see to his needs, which probably have something to do with getting him a new diaper.

Let me make this clear: Right now, Asher is everything.

Our focus on Asher has taken an laser-like intensity. Karin and I have other interests. We have other people we want to help. All of those activities and people will have to wait. There is only one person in our world, and he weighs about eleven pounds.

It’s okay.

It all becomes worthwhile when I carry Asher in my arms. I look at his round, cherubic face. I see the trace of a beatific smile there, like that of the Buddha. Asher is pure love. He is pure joy. He is new life.

Snowstorm

February 16th, 2021 @ 5:48 AM

I just fed Asher. Asher woke up (sort of) at 4:30. He has a particular cry when he gets hungry. Karin was awake with him until almost 2:00 AM. Perhaps she didn’t need to up that late. I don’t know. The trick is to sleep when Asher sleeps. If a person waits too long after Asher dozes, then he is up again, and the cycle of feeding and sleeping and pooping repeats. I sleep poorly at best, and I am attuned to Asher’s little moans and cries. Some of them are false alarms, but usually I can tell when he needs somebody, and that somebody is me.

By the way, Asher is our grandson, and he is ten weeks old.

It’s snowing and blowing outside. It’s white and windy and nasty. Even our two dogs won’t go out in this shit. I encouraged Shocky, our border collie, to rouse herself and go pee. No response other than a bleary-eyed refusal. Shocky and Sara, our two elderly dogs, will eventually go out the door to take care of their business, but it will be with extreme reluctance.

I am letting Karin sleep. She needs it. We both need it. We are in our sixties, and we are getting a bit old to care for an almost newborn. Karin and I are the designated caregivers for Asher now that his mother is in jail. We are capable of loving and caring for the lad, but it is tiring. There is no denying that.

Our son, Hans, called us from Texas yesterday. They had evil bad weather there too. Hans’ wife, Gabi, gave birth to their daughter, Madeline, on Saturday. Due to medical issues, Gabi and Maddy could not return home until yesterday. This was a problem since the power, and heat, was off in their apartment for several hours yesterday. The electrical grid in Texas failed miserably during this extremely unusual cold snap. The snow and the intense cold essentially shut the entire state down.

Wisconsin, where we live, is prepared for winter, but that doesn’t mean that we all like it. My front yard looks like a lunar landscape. It will take me hours to shovel things out. Would it be easier with a snow blower? Maybe. I don’t know. I do know that I am retired, and we have no place that we need to go. If it takes all day to clean out the driveway, so be it. Karin prefers that I don’t have a heart attack.

I could ask our youngest son, Stefan, to come here to help me clean up the snow. I don’t want to do that. Stefan is a welder with the Iron Workers Union, and he spends every day doing his job in the cold and snow. He works hard enough already. I want don’t want to be a burden to him. Stefan pushes himself way too hard. Karin says the same thing about me.

Asher sleeps. His sleep is fitful, but that could be because he was almost two months premature. Asher sleeps the sleep of the innocent. He’s too young to have screwed up anything. He can’t have any regrets. Sometimes, like now, he smiles in his sleep. He just dreams baby dreams, whatever they are.

I wish that I could sleep like him.


You Can Never Go Home Again

February 14th, 2021

“She can not live with you any more. You know that. Right?”

Several people from the Child Protection Service (CPS) us asked that question. Karin and I know that the Asher’s mom cannot live with us again, at least not until such a time as when the young woman can prove to CPS that she can safely care for her little boy. Karin and I aren’t too bothered by the fact that the young woman is currently banned from our house (except to visit Asher). In a way, the girl’s absence is neither good nor bad. It just is.

The situation feels much different to the young woman. She freaked out about the rule from CPS when I told her about it during a phone call.

“Where will I live? I will freeze on the street! What will I do?!”

I tried to comfort the girl by explaining to her that Karin and I would not let her freeze in the dark. She responded by saying,

“You let me freeze on Bly Mountain.”

Oh yeah. That.

The young woman often comments on her two month stay on Bly Mountain in Oregon. Back in the fall of 2015, she had an extremely negative experience at a Christian, Bible-based rehab program. After she left that organization, Karin and I didn’t know what to do. We were all out of ideas. The young woman was out of control at home, and we couldn’t think of anywhere else for her to go. Finally, her cousin offered to take her in, if we could bring the girl to Oregon. The cousin and her husband were homesteading/weed growing on Bly Mountain in the Cascades. So, Karin and I flew with the young woman to Oregon, and she stayed in a trailer on the cousin’s property on the mountain in the depths of winter. The young woman survived that ordeal and returned to Wisconsin after several weeks. However, she has not forgotten about the experience, and she likes to remind us of it. Maybe she should.

I have tried to explain to the young woman that the question of her future accommodations is something to be handled at a later date. First, we have to find out where she is going for treatment, and for how long. There are other burning issues that have to be resolved before she gets a new address.

The young woman’s anxiety is understandable. She has always felt that our house, in particular her bedroom, was a safe harbor. At some point in the future, it may be one again, but not now. She won’t be sleeping in her own bed until the State of Wisconsin lets her do so.

Looking at it from a larger perspective, she is not the only person who can’t go home. I never got to go home once I joined the Army. I went to West Point in July of 1976. My parents sold their house shortly thereafter. They didn’t even tell that they sold the house until I was due to come back home for Christmas break. I eventually came back to my family, but I never again entered the house where I had been raised. Now, after 45 years, the structure still stands on 82nd Street in West Allis. Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to go through the front door of that house. It’s not my home any more. I would only find ghosts hiding in those old rooms.

I remember the last time I went to visit Karin’s family in Germany. That was in 1998. We stopped to see Karin’s aunt and uncle. Tante Aga and Onkel Kurt had grown up prior to WWII in Silesia, which is now part of Poland. They were unable to return to their home town after the war ended. When the Berlin Wall fell, and communism collapsed in Poland, Kurt and Aga finally made the journey back to Silesia. Kurt told me about how disappointed they had been with the experience. He said,

“Polnisch! Polnisch! Polnisch! Kein Deutsch mehr!”

“Polish! Polish! Polish! No more German!”

The town was still physically there, but it didn’t match any of their memories. The home of their youth no longer existed, except in their own minds. I think that fact hurt them more than if they had never had the opportunity to return to Silesia

The young woman will get to be with Asher in our house. She will have the chance to be with her son, as often as she likes, or as often as we can handle it.

But she won’t come home.

Help from Afar

February 12th, 2021

“They look like shit.”

That was the comment of one of my nieces when she saw a picture of Karin and myself on social media. The photos had been sent by Shawn upon her arrival at our house last Friday. My sister-in-law, Shawn, had flown up from Texas to help us care for little Asher. Shawn showed up at our house at the bitter end of a tumultuous week, and Karin and I were pretty ragged.

Karin and I had not expected that Shawn would suddenly make the long journey to Wisconsin, especially since we were hip-deep in snow, and our local temperatures were the lowest they had been all winter. Shawn had been here before during the depths of winter, but not for a long time. It’s been at least a decade since she made the trip up to the north country.

I guess she was due.

Shawn decided to fly here on the spur of the moment. She has a good friend who let her use her accumulated flight miles to make the trip. Shawn convinced her employers to give her a week off (Shawn cares for an young autistic man). In a way, it seemed pointless to me for Shawn to visit us for only a week, but I was wrong.

It’s hard to describe how tired and lost Karin and I felt a week ago. The girl we love was/is in jail, and we were responsible for the young woman’s two-month-old boy. We had all sorts of people (mostly of the government sort) talking with us or visiting our home. We have a mountain of paperwork to complete, and we really don’t have heads that are clear enough to do it. All of a sudden, Karin and I are parents again, and we are out of practice.

Shawn’s visit was a godsend. She swiftly and effortlessly slid into our routine. Shawn cared for Asher when Karin and I were tired and irritable. She gave us breathing space. Shawn was with us here for a week, and that was enough for us to get a tenuous grip on our new reality.

Shawn is good for conversation. She is smart and she is deep. One morning while we drank strong coffee, I asked her why she came to us. She said,

“I don’t know. I needed to be here. I didn’t know what I would do. I do know how to feed a baby and how to change his diaper. I thought that would be enough.”

It was.

Shawn is a vegan. We’re not. We had to adjust our lives a bit to her presence. That was probably a good thing.

Shawn had many long conversations with Karin and/or with me. We talked about babies. We talked about the Virgin Mary. We talked about Buddhism. We talked about racial violence, sexual abuse, and bad craziness. We have known Shawn for over thirty years. We all have a history together.

Shawn’s presence helped me when I received phone calls with the girl in jail. Those were/are always stressful for me. They reek of fear, guilt, and sorrow. I literally collapse after talking with that young woman. I’m not angry with her. I’m not offended by what she might say. I am just exhausted.

Shawn talked to me after one of the calls. She gave me her perspective, and that helped. Shawn can see and hear different viewpoints.

Shawn and I made one trip outside of our home. We drove up to the east side of Milwaukee and visited one of my friends from the synagogue. We went to Ken’s house. Ken is a writer. He publishes novels. I am a writer (obviously). Shawn is a writer. She is working on a book about Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Ken invited us into an empty room in his basement, where we could drink craft beer in a socially distanced way. Shawn doesn’t drink alcohol, so she had tea. Ken’s wife, Julianna, was there too. We all talked about writing. Shawn talked about her Catholic essays. Ken told us about his Jewish stories. Julianna listened and made perceptive comments. (Julianna is a yoga teacher, a woman in serious pain from back surgery, and a Buddhist). It was important for me that Shawn get to meet Ken and Julianna. These people are integral to my life.

Yesterday afternoon I drove Shawn to the airport. She was wearing a scarf, mittens, and a humungous cap that Karin had knit. I pulled up to the American Airlines entrance, and I pulled out her bag.

We stood facing each other on the curb, and we placed the palms of our hands together in gassho. We bowed ever so slightly to each other. We chanted softly,

“Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo”, three times.

She hugged me.

Shawn walked away.

Asher is sleeping next to me. It is a fitful and edgy sleep, but he sleeps.

In the end, it is all about Asher. Shawn’s journey was all about Asher.

I’m tired, and I hear the boy cry out.