Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Today, Lace and I will travel to Seattle with our Son. It feels less like a trip and more of a journey, journey to live, and toward prayer. We will have to learn a new language about our son's condition.

How can we ask the right questions, if we can not even use the right words. The language of NF1 is so different from the speech I am use to. It is unlike the language of poetry or the the language of Jesus. NF1 words, pathognomonic, neurofibromatosis, plexiform, are exotic words like animals from the depth of a mysterious ocean. Yet I have to enter the deep to understand their meaning and their relationship to baby Tito.

I have been busy reading all I can on NF1 . We face the unknown of what the doctors will say. Surgery? Treatable? His future? The questions rattle around like vases on a shelf during an earthquake. They tremble on the shaking surface as we try to hold onto them. And do they contain answers? Suddenly prayer blooms.

The questions are becoming more in focus as I learn more about NF1.

I remember one of my favorite quotes. I was given the book it comes from when I was a young poet. I am no longer young, but it gives me comfort.

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answers.

We have to learn to live the questions about our son Tito.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Waiting Game

Right after Tito was born, we, new mother, new father, and baby boy were left alone to bond for an hour. We both grasped at the wonder of this little guy. We were told (and teased) to count toes and fingers. The time was really to hold him and be with him and to let the beauty of life and the gift of God flow through us. We had waited 38 weeks for this moment. The joy laid a thousand hands on us, ordaining us for the task. Time seem to disappeared for us during this hour. We try to grip time, even as it oozed away.

We noticed his long fingers. Long in proportion to the rest of him. He was so little as any baby is. His hand looked like a tear drop in the wideness on my hand. In the coming months, many people noticed his long delicate fingers. At church, a woman said he had the perfect fingers to play the piano. She could imagine him playing Chopin's contemplative compositions. My Father-in-law knows my love of basketball and said his long fingers would make for the perfect jump shot. Others predicted surgeon, potter, sculptor and many other fields that require careful use of human hands. I resisted the call of playing fortune teller with my son. As a new father, I wanted to bath in the current moment and the gift of my son. God knows his destiny, and mine is to love both God and my son. The unknown caress our dream like hands in the form of clapping hands.

Now, I wait on the Lord and what the doctors will say about his future. I think about my son's fingers. Once, I got a picture of his hand folded in way most people hold their hands while praying. So, perfect that a friend accused us of staging his long fingers for the photo. His hands found that position on their own, without any help from me. He is now holding toys, my fingers, and his parents heart. His future rests in others hands. I wonder if waiting is the space between the finger of God and our finger?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Aphorisms for my son

1. Beauty is seldom theoretical as it is personal and as proof, I look into my son’s eyes.

2. Truth us is less stated and more lived. At six months, my son doesn’t understand words, but he knows when I hold him close. At Forty-five, I understand his smile, even if he lacks words.

3. Only in facing our sin can we hope to face truth.

4. Power that uses violence is self-negating; a wolf devouring its own feet in a vain attempt at escaping. Power can only be power when affirming life. Understanding this, I realize my son is more powerful than I. He can fill a room with joy through his vulnerability.

5. Words are powerful when they are tied to reality. See my son struggle to stand up and see him learn to move his toys. Hear my son coo and shed tears. Love becomes concrete.

6. Foolishness with words is believing they cannot say what needs to be said. Foolishness with words is thinking they can say what needs to be said. Silence becomes the only responds to God, even when the sigh is too deep.

7. God hears even those words. Words broken by the heart of lif

Friday, September 18, 2009

WHY the ZAGS Will Win and an update

They have the best fans. Thank you all. Go Zags!

My wife just posted this on Baby Tito's site. She said it better than I could.

Dear Loved Ones,

Thanks to all for your phone calls, notes, and emails of support. We cannot describe how fortunate we are to be blessed by each of you. Today, we heard from Seattle Children's Hospital. Now if only the Spokane doctors would call. Alas, we wait no longer. The medical staff at Seattle Children's have reviewed the reports of both the MRI and CT scans (but have not seen the actual images). They told us that there is no rush to get the baby there before September 30th. You can imagine our relief. The baby is scheduled in the Neuro-Oncology department at 2:30pm on Wednesday, Sept. 30th. The next day, he is scheduled with Opthalmology at 3:00pm. We have no idea what will take place at these visits beyond a consult. Our baby continues to thrive. He offers us endless giggles and is starting to turn over. Like the Syro-Phoenician woman, we beg Jesus for the crumbs that fall from the table.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Baby Tito's CT -Scan

Steps of Pain

Baby Tito may have NF1.
We learn all we can on NF1.
His pediatrician noticed his left eye protruding at 4 months.
Baby Tito had a MRI that week.
A preliminary report was mistaken, no communication.
Time passes.
Baby Tito's eye continues to protrude more.
A month later Neurosurgeon sees Baby Tito.
He is stumped.
A preliminary report was mistaken, no communication.
Time passes.
Baby Tito's eye continues to protrude more.
We contact friends, family, and Seattle Childern's Hospital.
CT-Scan ordered.
Baby Tito's eye continues to protrude more.
CT-Scan done yesterday.
Baby Tito's eye continues to protrude more.
No communication.
Time passes.
Baby Tito's eye continues to protrude more.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Poems for my son

Here is a series of poems I wrote for my son. Some deal with his condition. Some with the joy my son has given me. Share them and pray for my son.

Poem 1
The Pain I need to Share After Learning about my Son's NF1

My son, my son,
I weep for you. I weep for the world;
the world cruel in its self-hatred, cruel in its love
of violence. I will not abandon you, son, even as I
am weak, weak in will and strength. God,
I pray to you for strength and will, for forgiveness
For life is not a Disney movie, but filled
With suffering. How to protect you, my son?
Protect you from the terrors of biology,
Flesh, and pain, and how little you look
To face the taunts of the world; the taunts,
The cross, I know too well. I have
No shield to offer but my love,
My soul, and my god. My God
Who hangs bleeding from a tree. My God,
My God abandoned by friends and followers.
Rise from the grave, my soul and my son needs
You. As it is all we can do, my son, my son, we will stand
Together, awaiting Easter, calling it compassion

Poem 2
Song to the Lord of the Crowded Street

To touch the cloak of God, we must work through
the crowds cheering, and must work through the fear

of divine rejection. Of evil, we know only of our dear
failures of our hearts. Hearing the terror embedded

in the cry of a newborn, we can understand the condemned.
yet we continue past the disciples, past the inner circle,

to the back of he who is God. Hemorrhaging, we touch for life.
Lord, who I am to ask you to stop, and turn around to ask

who touch your cloak? Yet, I want to stop you, the divine and
point to my son, and demand healing. Lord, I know you know

what it is like to weep for your son. So I ask, plead, and bleed
for you to stop, turn around and notice us.

Poem 3
Baby Boy's Milk

A voice calls out in the night. Answer the cry
with milk. Answer the call with love. Answer
the cry with fear and trembling. Time
will move us beyond this stage of being small. He
is small, not yet ten pounds. I am small,
not yet confident. The night unfolds. My boy
searches for questions to his hunger. Feeding
in my arms, I wonder if am holding him
right. A way moves through our space.
He is old in his wisdom as I am young in fear.
Prayer comes at the end of us, circling
us like a dark bee in search of nectar.
I think about God and address God.
What is there to do in the darkness
of a late night feeding? I wonder,
Then I change his diaper...

Poem 4
Psalm to my Lord from my Front Lawn

I planted last fall the grass seed mix with faith
in water, sun and soil . I hope to see the unseen
seeds sprout in this year's Spring. It has
appeared. It has taken root and mingles
with three leafed microclover. Taking a blade
in one hand, and a three winged leaf
of clover in the other, I lounge with my soul.
I look to our newest friend, a young oak we just
added. The newness of life fills me with longing for

Sweet Lord, who moves in the wind,
who moves me beyond my smallness,
makes me take notice of others in love,
to take notice of the young
couple living to my left raising their first
boy, not even one. Our boys , both babies now,
will grow up together. To my right, a man,
barely into his twenty, drinks the poison
of fun, parties and rootlessness. Without
aim, he finds purpose in a case of malted
mash, and cheap beer. Behind me, my family,
the gift of being alive, my baby boy discovering
the sweet taste of milk and Moma's voice.
He has learn to cry at the prospect
of sleep. Why sleep when life awaits,
demands to be experienced?

He sings the song of creation in his voice,
He will soon grab a handful of grass and clover.
For now, I bring him a clover to smell
he laughs and smiles. St Patrick would understand.
Today, my baby discovers a new smell.
Today, people fight for their freedom in Iran,
people mourn the death of Michael Jackson.
Today, we will share dinner with friends. Today,
we will place ancient flagstone of coppers red
and earthen browns on the side of our house
and plant creeping thyme to fill the spaces
between to stones. Today, I will sing
praises to my Lord.

Feeding the Hungry: Remembering Norman Borlaug

My church started a community garden this summer. Our tomatoes, beans, and greens now grace the shelves of our food bank. The inspiration for the garden came from simply seeing available land and hearing the dire need of our food bank. We turned a small patch of our church land into a bit of Gospel. We also had to learn by doing. It was our small attempt to answer Jesus’ call to feed the hungry.

Bread is central to the Gospel: Jesus offers himself as the bread of life. The Lord’s Supper represents the reality of Jesus’ work of redemption, and it is also a meal. The politics of food are the politics of Jesus, and they extend beyond any ideology.

So it is that many mourn the loss of Dr. Norman Borlaug, who passed away on Sept. 12th. Dr. Borlaug was the father of the Green Revolution, which has been responsible for feeding around a billion people. Put simply, the Green Revolution facilitated the development of smaller, high-yield plants. Its effects were dramatic. India, Pakistan, Mexico, and many other nations could grow enough food for their people by utilizing available land and cutting back on the older slash-and-burn methods. Dr. Borlaug did not accomplish this out of some ideological bent. He was no idealist; rather, he took a job near the end of WWII to help Mexican farmers. Seeing the hunger, seeing the poverty of the people and the land, and seeing the need, he acted on the simple proposition, “feed the hunger.”

His love of neighbor and enemy was prevalent in his work. While the Green Revolution was feeding hundreds of millions, he nonetheless listened to his opponents’ criticism about the use of pesticides and worked on using fewer pesticides. He was in constant motion, even into his nineties. Finally, he did his work not for riches or fame, but simply to feed people that needed feeding. He answered the call.

We can criticize the lack of fanfare that his life and passing away generated — hardly a blip on the 24-7 cycle. We can criticize how most people do not know Dr. Borlaug’s work, though I am sure the people eating the bread of his work are grateful. Yet, would it not be better to hear Jesus’ simple call to feed the hungry through the life of Dr. Borlaug? Would it not be better to follow his example of simplicity, tossing aside our ideologies? Remember that life is abundant, and that all we have to do is open our eyes and ears and listen to God’s music. I love the following quote by Dr. Borlaug, as it captures the man and his work. It is best to give him the last words:

“When wheat is ripening properly, when the wind is blowing across the field, you can hear the beards of the wheat rubbing together,” he told another biographer, Lennard Bickel. “They sound like the pine needles in a forest. It is a sweet, whispering music that once you hear, you never forget.”

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Image of God or Violence? Part 3

Writing multipost piece on the border between yes and no, between love and violence, between life and death. This is the third part. Part 1 Part 2

Love moves beyond nostalgia.

I live still in a moving river with competing cultures on ether side of me. My family shares both the Mexican and American culture. Most of the members have found a place in one or the other. Some of my family can go into two both without struggle. I continued to live on the edge of them. One culture claimed the mantel of greatness, and the other complained about how the other oppressed its land, its people, and even its pride. I learn to make peace with both, while never belonging to either. Both are proud nations filled with their own histories and myths. I am uncomfortable on the border of both. Mine is the shifting ground of a fault line between the two lands crashing into each other.

My mother held citizenship in both Mexico and United States as I would until the age of eighteen. Selective Service then forced me to choose. I lost the feel of the Mexican culture long before that moment, so the choice was automatic. I chose prosperity and English. Spanish has mystery and poetry. My mother was different. She found comfort in the crevices between the two worlds. She could speak in both cultures. She would marry both a Mexican and an immigrant who pass through New York.

My father was a proud Mexican, who tolerated the American culture. He, after I turned seven, would disappear from my life for three decades. My parents spilt when I was barely able to walk, but my father continued with the occasional visits until he fought with my mother. They argued about something doing between adults, and after this, my father’s pride would not allow him to visit his first of children. If he could not have his terms, then he refused to have his first girls and boy. He was too proud for that. I can hear his pride through his thirty-year silence. Pride leads to violence of abandonment. It was not until later that I learn the reasons of the fight. My mother’s pride stopped any explanation. My father just disappeared. Soon, no one spoke about him as if he was dead, or never existed. I was left to myself to make up reasons as to why he vanished from my life. A pride has no room for others and lives alone even if the bed contains another. Pride chokes love. We live in a proud world, which in turn creates the ground of who we will be.

Love and violence formed the context of my birth. I am like the rest of humanity. Like all those before me, I was born to this proud world of negation and violence. I grew up, like all children, with horrors and joys of humanity playing in the background. The details and events may change, but the forces remain the same. A universal neurosis and sin would shape me as I started to learn to walk. Nevertheless, I knew love beyond myself in my flowing blood and in my mother’s hands as she held me. I breathed in life into my new nostrils. I was the youngest and the only male child of a Mexican family to survive. I have heard rumors of another boy before me, who died either before birth or shortly after in a freak accident. I am not sure what was his fate. Again, there was a silence from pride. They only told the story through the cracks in the silence. The incomplete story would haunt me because of what I was born with. Was I a disappointment because of my birth defect? Would they want what they lost before my birth?

Did they want a whole male?

(to be continued) Part 1 Part 2