Sabbatical Journal May 2008- John Calvi
Getting my annual letter out was very difficult. Sabbatical since Thanksgiving spoiled me- staying away from my desk, not even thinking about my trauma or torture work. I’ve been very successful. But now face the office mess- 10,000 emails from the last 30 months have to be culled for new addresses- yes, 10,000. 80 pages of street address labels have to be gone over to note who has died, moved, etc. Oh, merciful heavens- grant me in my next life a secretary and computer literacy! Changes for the website need to be edited and sent to the new daddy with less website management time. Envelopes have to be printed and can I get all this done before the rates go up? No, a phone call about a death in the family changes everything- no matter. As I go through each persons name and address I have memories of this ones face and that ones story and the other ones pain- 25 years and thousands of people. I am awash in revisiting my own journey of helping others. Some part of me aches to stop sabbatical interruption. And there is also an ache to know what is now happening with this one and that one who I know are in crisis but working without me so I can rest. Life can be so rich in love and healing and not enough time to feel even half of it as the noise of the world pushes us each along- not enough reverence or time.
Once upon a time I was upstairs making the beds with my mother when she said, “I found a pistol in your fathers dresser drawer. I’m afraid he will come home drunk one night and shoot us all in our sleep so I’ve given it to your uncle to take away. If Daddy asks you anything, tell him I told you I threw in it the river.” Decades later I’m retelling this memory during therapy and wondering if I am remembering right. I call this uncle one evening and explain. “No”, he says, “I don’t remember any gun. Maybe it was another uncle.” We talk for a bit and hang up. But 10 minutes later he calls to say my aunt has reminded him of the gun and yes it did happen, it was a Beretta. He didn’t remember it because he got rid of it- it was broken and could have gone off accidentally. I asked what year that was and he said he was just back from a trip to Okinawa so 1960- I was 8 years old. This was the madness, violence, and stupidity I waded through in my parents’ house as a child. That uncle died today in surgery as they tried to mend his heart, but it was too late, too far gone. He’d just celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with his family all around him two weeks ago. When I reach back to recall this new man married into the family, I see a tall handsome young man so happy and strong, who loved children and was so clear about right and wrong. He made me feel safe whether he was teaching me to swim, use a microscope, or explaining the lives of insects. He was a bright light who did some kindnesses along the way to save a life here and there. I did have 2 moments of repaying his kindness. Once when I told him he was the only adult who ever acknowledged how bad things were in my house and offered to take me to his house whenever I wanted, forever if I chose. He was very happy for my gratitude. Several years later, when he had lost a leg to disease and was newly walking on a prosthetic, I did some massage and energy work on him in his home. He was not easy to get to sit still in that big easy TV chair but somehow I was able to sneak up on him and soon found out he was particularly susceptible to energy work. He lapsed into a trance of calm and quiet he hadn’t known even in sleep for a very long time. It was a gift of peacefulness, a loss of pain and worry beyond his understanding and very beautiful for me to see- a tiny bit of payback, of returned kindness for him that washed me also. Giving the eulogy in the big Catholic church was odd and familiar. I named his essence, made people laugh and cry. Ministry feels second nature. But with my large sprawling family with whom I am largely estranged, few of whom know my work, felt like doing the usual in a past life setting. I was a comfort to his family who are dear to me and know me well. I was very grateful and happy to do hard work and be of use.