That Strange Flower, the Sun



by Wallace Stevens

That strange flower, the sun,
Is just what you say.
Have it your way.

The world is ugly,
And the people are sad.

That tuft of jungle feathers,
That animal eye,
Is just what you say.

That savage of fire,
That seed,
Have it your way.

The world is ugly,
And the people are sad.


Tomorrow I am hosting a surprise birthday party for my father, and it is already 2 a.m. as I write this.  I’m exhausted and in need of some sleep, but want to write to fulfill my challenge for this 18th day.  I have so much that needs to be done, that I wanted to do but will not get to, but tonight my heart is weary with all the drama that surfaces when one just wants to create a simple celebration for a guy who’s made it through 85 years on this troubled planet of ours.

One person telephoned me last week screaming because she did not receive an invitation.  She was sure I sent the entire world one but blamed her for not RSVPing, when neither was the case.  She called me ignorant and low class and insinuated that I am a liar.  I finally had to hang up on her; there was absolutely no getting through to her.  In addition to that, my nieces aren’t speaking to each other and are worried about being in the same room with each other, then out of what seemed to me to be nowhere, my daughter started complaining about her undergraduate graduation, which was so many years ago I could scarcely recall it.  Once I did, I could not believe she was still harboring anger over something I had long forgotten about, and something that to my mind never even happened.

I’m feeling spent, like there is no way to please anyone,

and that I live in a world of my own creation that no one understands.

Sometimes I have trouble understanding the millennial generation.  They are such a privileged generation, yet often it seems they have the biggest complaints of any I have ever known.  My grandparents grew up during the depression, and it seemed they never took anything for granted.  My grandmother made use of every scrap, even though she grew to be a wealthy woman.  My parents grew up during World War II, but they learned to find ways to be happy and to have fun in times of toil and trouble.  I am a baby boomer, who grew up under the fear of Soviet bomb threats, and I was taught that hard work is the key to success.

My generation had enough comfort and even wealth to spoil the next, and we did.  I saw the negative effects of this over-indulgence in my college students, and I see it sometimes in my own children and in my friends’ children.  The generation that most seemed to have everything material and idealistic turns out to be the least satisfied.  Not across the board, of course, but just generally speaking.  We see more kids than ever, it seems, abandoning their families and traditional values for a country club kind of lifestyle, drugs, alcohol, or just general dysphoria.  Not all of them, of course, but more than ever, it seems to me.  What are they in search of?  What are they forfeiting on their quest for independence (or is it happiness)?

I don’t know how to help malcontent people.  I am so used to trying to find what is good in a bad situation, I don’t know how to persuade them to see what is wrong with their thinking or feeling, or how to address their complaints.  I don’t know how to help angry people.  Take the lady who called me up insisting I never sent an invitation when I did….I told her I would be happy to send her another invitation because she was most definitely on the list and I had plenty of extras.  She would not have it.  She just wanted to be angry, and I could not help her with her anger; all I could do was send her another invitation.  I tried to convince her she was not excluded, but she wanted to believe she was.  I guess that way she could believe that I was some sort of evil person.

There is too much competition and too much projection going on in the world some days.  None of us can help what someone else is feeling, particularly if they will not listen to reason.

I had hoped to write a tribute honoring my father, but the week has gotten away from me and I am out of time. I will speak extemporaneously, and hope that by the time I do, my heart is clear again and not boggled down with the complaints of others who are dissatisfied with me.  I am never intentionally remiss as I was accused of being by both the ranting woman and the graduate.  I never deliberately tried to hurt either person, and most the time I am just doing the best that I can.

People can be very hard on one another, and as a consequence that person can become hard on oneself. Having suffered viciously uncomfortable and painful head trauma, I gained a surprising amount of self respect.  I have learned that, even when others hate and revile me, I am going to make every effort to be kind to myself.

I am sorry that sometimes people can’t move beyond their suspicions and disappointments.  I think that if they could accept me as I am, they might like me a whole lot better than they do, or than they act like they do.

One thing for certain, I am happy to be a daughter who looks on the bright side of things.  I don’t think my father would tolerate my being anything less.  And for that, I am most grateful.


This is Day 18 in the 31 Day Writing Challenge, 31 Days of Breaking Free from Fatigue


© debra valentino, all rights reserved,

8 thoughts on “That Strange Flower, the Sun

  1. Hang in there, Deb.. seems like family events always bring out the best and worst of people. This is all about you honoring your dad, and everyone else/their issues, is minutia. I thought long and deep about your insights concerning the generations.. I guess I have a somewhat different viewpoint.. I know that my parents were raised during the depression, and my grandparents/ great grandparenst were the ones doing the childrearing during those bleak times. There were lots and lots of “boarders” and extended families living in small places… both generations were adversely affected. I think its common to see what good qualities they developed from such strife and such hard times, but there are an equal number of negative habits as well. I am sure most of us bemoan the arduous task of downsizing an older parent or grandparent. They simply cannot get rid of anything, some to the point of hoarding. I see a disconnect between being frugal and being ridiculous when it comes to driving across town to save a few cents on a gallon of milk (consuming pricey gasoline in the process). Many of these habits that developed from doing without are now manifesting in negative ways, like accumulating way more than is necessary and being unable unwilling to part with ANYTHING. Even when every resource is plentiful, I have seen people living in terrible conditions even though they could well afford comfort and dignity. I know my own mother, who often times went hungry during the Depression, cannot understand when someone turns down extra helpings of food or chooses to avoid a food they should not eat, and no amount of education helps her realize that eating the wrong thing, or in excess, is ok, simply because it is there and should be consumed.
    As for our children’s generation..yes they have been indulged… and yes, they do have complaints.. but what I believe is they have a much harder more complicated world to live in than we did , starting out.. they also seem to be doing things a a good 10 years later than when we did them.. getting married when they are 32 instead of in their early 20’s, thinsg liek that.. same goes for their careers.. they change jobs a lot.. and good for them, I say… I wish i had not “drunk the kool-aid” that hard work and integrity and dedication will reward you.. It won’t. Not in this world. They do not feel they have to buy a house and have a family as major stepping stones in life.. yes, they are selfish in some ways, but I also see them as more enlightened as to embracing differences in people and being much more tolerant than the curmudgeons their parents (us) have become. Maybe its just me, but I love our kids’ generation..

    • So many interesting observations you make here, Cindy. I agree that millennials are an interesting generation up against a number of challenges unknowable to any generations before. I don’t usually generalize, but for the purposes of getting another post complete, sort of indulged my frustration. Your points are well taken, especially the one about the food issues of our parents’ generation. I love when anything I write inspires others to think and especially when they themselves are inspired to write. Thanks for your insightful comments.

  2. Deb, your post would be great published in a paper or magazine, I’ve not heard the generations expressed as well as you did. Your loving kindness to others will get you thru this joyous day for your Father. My favorite quote I use when I’m down
    is “I can’t help the way I feel right now but I can help the way I think and act.”

    • That’s funny, Judy, as I was so tired when I wrote that post, and also ashamed to be feeling so down. So I am glad you enjoyed reading it. I love your favorite quotation. It really is so true. Thank you.

  3. It sounds like tomorrow has come, yesterday is now behind you and you can celebrate and cherish a 85th birthday for your dad. Enjoy the moment as those thoughts you carried last night will clearly not be with you today, unless you want them to be! I took a class on the three generation. Baby boomers, generation X, and millennial which gave me some understanding and comparison between behaviors. My son demonstrates similiar behavior as your daughter. So rest assured you are not alone in your thoughts and feelings. The class helped me understand the generational differences and most importantly, the advantages as well. Have a feast today!

  4. Debra, I am sorry to hear of the negative drama, you have had to experience, during a time of honoring your father in such a beautiful way! “Give your best to life & leave the rest to God.” This is one of my favorite quotes. This is what I see you doing; which is the best thing of all!

    One thing in life I have learned very well is the impossibility of making everyone happy-especially when they are not really happy with themselves-taking it out on others, as to what the impossible woman was doing. I compliment you for handling this person, in such an accommodating way; kudos for you! The people I want to be the happiest tomorrow is your dad & you! It would be nice, if all your guests could be happy too. However, this is what you won’t have control; this is their chance to be happy or not; it’s up to them! If they aren’t happy, it certainly isn’t your fault! Be assured, both my husband & I will be praying for you, your dad, & the guests tomorrow! May the celebrating begin!!!! Tell your dad one of your admirer’s & her husband wish him a very Happy Birthday, with a wonderful year ahead! Having you, as his daughter is a real blessing by itself! Enjoy this joyful time celebrating your dad & his 85 years of life!

    • Thank you, Faithful Reader. I know that I cannot make others happy, but they sure can make me miserable! I am going to try to regain my focus of cheerfulness and good will, and hope the rest of the universe will find the same. Thank you for your good wishes for my father. He received one birthday card in the mail so far and was overjoyed by it.

Please share your thoughts.