On the Corner
by Robert Docter –
Please excuse a personal moment.
Mother’s Day approaches, and my thoughts turn to the mother of our six children. I think of Diane. These are warm, slow, friendly thoughts which wiggle through the chambers of my brain and awaken beautiful memories that give definition and meaning to my life. They trigger powerful feelings within me, and, when combined with my thoughts, reveal to me the immeasurable dimensions of love. In all my life, within all my travels, through all my associations, in every walk of life, I have never met a more wonderful person than Diane.
We have nine grandchildren at this writing. They call our home “grandma’s house,” and they all want to go there. Locked in her arms, feeling the comfort of her warmth, relaxing in the security of her care, giving themselves fully to the purity and authenticity of her love, they experience trust in the beauty and safety of a true relationship. She gave the same gift to their parents. It’s a remarkable gift she imparts, for it begins a spiral of positive development that yields feelings of worth and confidence and self esteem. These, in turn, produce a willingness to trust others and risk in relationships, to feel comfortable in openness, to reach and stretch and try and, finally to achieve. From her the gift is not a studied response, not a carefully planned step, not even a conscious decision. It is the way she is. Genuine.
The love she gives so generously is not simply delivered in hugs and warmth. Somehow, she is able to communicate an expectancy of value choices that clearly underline the significant differences between “should” and “ought” without ever laying down an edict or rule. It’s something non-verbal connected with a caution that sends a clear and distinct message. The child seems to own the value rather than feel an imposition of authority. Trust.
Her great joy is doing things for other people. Nothing makes her happier than being able to surprise someone with the product of her effort. She gives of herself completely–often to the point of physical exhaustion. No task is too daunting. No job too demeaning. No request too disheartening. This is not to say she is without boundaries. She knows how to say “no,” but she also knows how to sense the scope of a need. Twenty-five years ago a mentally retarded adult followed the band into the corps on a dismal Sunday night in Hollywood. He lived alone, and, somehow, in the crowd he found Diane. He is now hospitalized in a county nursing home. He’s not an easy patient. But Diane talks to him two or three times a week–hears him out, helps him deal with his frustration, communicates a caring spirit and sends him money and gifts every week. She never talks about it. He’s a person who needs a friend. Sacrifice.
She doesn’t seem to need a lot of status. Her responsibilities at the corps are behind the scenes. She’s the record sergeant for the Sunday school and she helps with junior church. She is unsung, often unnoticed–in the background making the system work. Watching the children develop through the years is the payoff for her. She knows she has made a contribution to their lives. Empathy.
The other day she looked at me from across a room darkened by early evening. We were maybe ten feet apart. She looked into my face and said: “I can only see your nose. I don’t see anything where your eyes and mouth are.” I defused my pain by making fun of the size of my nose. Her voice sent no signal of sadness. Her tone carried no fear. She simply stated a fact of her impending vision loss. It’s worse when the light source is low. Outside, in the sunshine, she’s doing fine. It’s macular degeneration–a gradually decreasing ability to see at the point of focus, the midpoint. Things just disappear from sight into a hole. Slowly, the hole gets larger. Maybe that’s why she drinks in the faces of those she loves–so she can store them in her heart. Courageous.
In the fourth century B.C. the Greek architect, Dinocrates, constructed a magnificent temple at Ephesus to the goddess Diana. There was a double row of 20 columns on each side 60 feet high. It was identified as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It has disappeared. Today, another Diane builds temples with her touch in ways that will live through the generations.