Friday, April 3, 2009

Ode to Coffee

I grew up on Folgers, brewed thin, with plenty of cream and sugar to make it blonde and sweet, as my dad still likes to say.

In junior high then high school, Starbucks called my name, often, and I slowly graduated from Brownie Frappuccinos, extra whipped cream, please, to the sophistication of mochas and lattes. When I got my driver's licese, Molly would bribe me to take her places after school with the promise of a drive through Starbucks along the way. Of course, I acquiesced.

While in college, married, and on a budget, I would sometimes "splurge" on a cup of brewed coffee from the school cafe or the rare trip to a coffee shop. I grew to like it almost as much as my beloved espresso drinks.

I learned about both the ecological and humanitarian concerns surrounding the coffee business and I dutifully switched to fair trade, despite Gabriel and my wallet's initial protest.

And then Linda came to live with us.

I drink my coffee stronger now.

She spent some time working at a coffee shop in downtown San Diego, and strong opinions on the necessary strength of coffee. At first I could hardly choke down a mug of it. But over the past 6 months, I've realized that I like, need, and crave it that way.

There's something about a hot cup that simultaneously dulls and bites at your senses. Now there isn't much worse than a cup of watery brew.

At the end of last sumer, I found myself mulling on a poem from my Contemporary Lit class I took several years ago. It grabbed me at the time, and then resurfaced seemingly randomly last August, and wouldn't leave my mind. It's by Charles Wright, from his Country Music anthology:

Clear Night

Clear night, thumb-top of a moon, a back-lit sky.
Moon-fingers lay down their same routine
On the side deck and the threshold, the white keys and the black keys.
Bird hush and bird song. A cassia flower falls.

I want to be bruised by God.
I want to be strung up in a strong light and singled out.
I want to be stretched, like music wrung from a dropped seed.
I want to be entered and picked clean.

And the wind says “What?” to me.
And the castor beans, with their little earrings of death, say “What?” to me.
And the stars start out on their cold slide through the dark.
And the gears notch and the engines wheel.

That middle stanza haunts me, the desperate longing for a connection with God that is undeniable and transformative. It became a kind of mantra for me. A hunger.

And then, last September, I got a phone call. Linda, my little sister, made an accusation against my father, something long in the past. She needed an escape. She came to live here.

I welcomed her, while my family reeled, trying to find a way to cope, but things seemed to shatter more than heal.

Linda arrived depressed and desperately needing the therapist we lined her up with. Twice a week sessions sometimes seemed to help. Sometimes she'd open up to e. We'd drink coffee together. Play with Liam.

But she was consumed with herself and her problems, and rather than fighting them, they became her excuse for self-destruction: drugs, cutting, purging. The list goes on. Darker and scarier. Each new thing was another hit. I felt pummeled.

I went from being her rescuer and safe haven to a loathed authority figure. It culminated in her committing herself to a mental institution in Fayetteville, claiming she was too suicidal for any other alternatives. It was a dark and scary place for her. And for me.

Last month, when Linda was released from the hospital, my mom, brother, and grandparents, made an emergency trip out here for an intervention. It was a long week, but Linda is now in a program in California, tailored to those with her issues. She'll be there for several months.

It has been a long and difficult journey for me, for my marriage. I have no regrets. I did everything I could for my sister, and now it's up to her. But there is still much sorrow, and the difficulties have not simply vanished for the rest of the family.

I don't think the punches are over, but I am stronger for them. I know my mother better, my sisters, my brother, my husband, myself, God. Deeper understanding does not come easily, but, yes, I know it is worth the pain. There will always be a tomorrow.


  1. Coffee- CoffeeAM dot com had a great selection of coffee and it isn't roasted until you order it. They have quite a selection of Organic and they do have some fair trade. The five pound bag is the best deal you pay for 3 lbs and get 2 free! This is where we always buy our coffee and haven't found one we didn't enjoy.

    As for the trials you have been through this year your writing shows such strength. I will be praying for this situation. I want Linda to have healing in her life.

  2. I'm glad to see you embracing the difficult times. They do make and shape us and our relationships. God allows the trials in our life so that we will draw near to Him and call upon Him. All our other relationships are strengthened too as we draw together during the difficulties.
    Love and prayers to your family.