Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Good Man

Roger M Watt - April 8, 1914 - March 27, 1981

My father was a good man.  He was born in Oklahoma 98 years ago today.  He grew up during the First World War and the economic boom of the 20s.  When the bust happened, he moved to Los Angeles with his family.  In 1934, he met my mother at a Halloween Party.  He was 20, she was 15, and he was in love for life.  The raven haired, dark eyed beauty won his heart and his devotion. When my mother became bedridden with tuberculosis, he visited her every day, bringing her books from the library and news of the world.  They married on Father's Day in 1939. 
During the final years of the Second World War, my father was drafted into military service and left my mother with her parents - pregnant with their third child and my brother Jim and sister Judie.  He contracted malaria in the Philippines and spent most of his service in a hospital in Hawaii. 
On March 27, 1946 my parents and their three children moved to Grants Pass, Oregon.  This is where I was born, the youngest of their seven children, where we would all grow up and go to school and church, stay or leave or come back again. 
I was living in Portland when my father died.  It should have been one of the happiest times in my life.  I was loving school.  I was young and beautiful.  I was a featured performer in a new play.  I was 21 years old and my heart was broken.
Even after all these years, it's hard for me to put into words what my father means to me.  He loved me unconditionally.  He loved everyone unconditionally.  He believed in service to his fellow man.  He was devoted to my mother and to each of his children.  He would rather lay on the floor surrounded by small children than have a serious philosophical discussion.  I never heard him say a bad word about anyone - save Richard Nixon.  He loved auto racing, football, and ABC's Wide World of Sports. 
As a little girl, I remember climbing up into his lap as he watched the evening news and leaning my head against his chest.  I felt safe and loved and happy.  Saturday afternoons meant going with him up to the church to prepare everything for the coming service day.  I loved slipping my hand into his and walking through the empty church, knowing God was there watching us.
I still remember how full that church was on the day I had to say good-bye.  So many people were touched by his simple life.  Everyone cried.  People came up to my mother weeping and wondering how they were going to get by without him. 
I know he's still with me, still with us.  I hear a certain honest laughter and he's there.  I hear a man jingling the change in his pocket and he's there.  Someone calls out "Grandpa" and runs to receive a big hug and he's there.  I slip my hand into his and walk through the streets of my day and know that he's there.
Rod Watt was a good man.  He wasn't rich or powerful or heroic - except he was.  Rich in friends and family, powerful in love and compassion, heroic in giving everything for anyone less fortunate than he.  I miss him every single day.  I love you Daddy.

Friday, February 3, 2012

There Be Dragons

So we're one month in to 2012 and it's been kind of rough.  The election mudslinging has started early.  Long term relationships between non-profit organizations are threatened by political machinations.  Major companies pretend to support one lifestyle, cave when threatened by a PAC, then switch again when public opinion cows them.  It's going to be a long year.  I can see lots of unpopular ideas being promulgated and lots of "facts" being tossed around to prove one side or the other as right/wrong - good/bad.  And so I thought I'd make my position known and just refer anyone who wants to drag me into their battle to this post for the next several months.
Like Martin Luther King Jr., "I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up."  I was raised to believe that all people deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.  That unless I am willing to walk in another person's shoes, I have no business telling them what they should or shouldn't do, be or shouldn't be, have or shouldn't have.  I was taught that education and culture are key to building dignity, equality and freedom.  I was taught to vote with my heart AND my mind, to listen to others argument and position when it is done with respect and honor and willingness to listen to mine. I was taught to be willing to compromise when the good of all was more important that what was good for me. I was taught to build up others, to believe of them what they may not believe of themselves.  And to show what is possible when people are willing to let go of the past, let go of the pain and look toward a better tomorrow.
And so, let me clear about this.  I will not take part in any movement or campaign that has at its core the stripping of rights from ANYONE, the tearing down of ANYONE, the vanity and self centered nature of ANYONE.  I will not vote for someone because he or she is the lesser of two evils.  I will commit to looking beyond the sound bites, the advertising, the PACs, the money being thrown at me to convince me of a position that I know in my soul to be self serving, petty minded, ignorant and designed to tear down the very heart of a country and a people I know can do better.  I know can be better.  I know ARE better.
I will not listen to arguments that young people are lazy, apathetic and self seeking.  I know many, many young people and every one of them is committed to their education, their future, their family, their country. In spite of the difficulty they are facing in finding work, finding homes, finding comfort, they believe in their ability to change things for the better.
I will not listen to arguments that retirees are bleeding the country dry because they failed to plan for old age and long term medical care.  I watched my mother go from a house that she owned out-right, to apartment after apartment, to assisted living, finally to foster care - at one point having to give away every last dime she had in order to qualify for Medicare to pay for her care.  There has to be a way to allow our citizenry to age with dignity and grace and give back to us from their years of living and wisdom - not to be discarded and forgotten. 
I will not listen to arguments that say someone is not entitled to love another, to marry another, to raise a family because they are gay, straight, poor, rich, native or immigrant.  I will not listen to any argument that places one human being above another.  This is a deeply held core belief for me and I will not allow it to be violated.  All beings deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.  Love one another is the core belief of every faith.  And I can love you even if I don't understand why you are where you are on the path.  All I ask is that you grant me the same - love me even if you don't understand my path.  Until you walk it - you cannot know it.
Our system is broken.  Our country is broken.  Out of our brokenness can come so much good - but only if we are willing to work together.  We must stop yelling at each other and begin to listen.  With our hearts and with our heads.   Love.  Just love.  Love One Another.