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It’s in those quiet little towns, at the edge of the world, that you will find the salt of the earth people who make you feel right at home. (Aaron Lauritsen, 100 Days Drive: The Great North American Road)

She hands me a five-dollar bill and I can’t think of any reason to refuse. The giver’s name isn’t necessary. She lives among the many who have more health-need expenses than income. “For Jay’s birthday present.”

I’ll think of some way to get the money back to her. In another form maybe. Although I need to admit the cash-concern is my problem, not hers. She gives because she is my friend. The salt-of-the-earth kind of acquaintance. The Matthew 5:13 variety. The kind who is entertained with a cup of coffee and background oldies music. And asks no more. “I’ll be your friend forever,” she says. I believe it.

Later that afternoon I glance around the neighborhood. The gentle couple next door. He cuts our grass and trims the edges. Both husband and wife watch our house when we aren’t home. Another couple, their friendly house on the corner—these two young persons have saved us more than they know.

Our little town. Inside a hostile world. Government crime and greed remain. I continue to work toward a better world for all. Yet, I’m not sure I would have the energy without companions who care on an everyday level. Thanks. May karma, the good kind, embrace you.

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The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them. (Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist.)

Ella and I play trick-or-treat any time of the year. Our version transcends reality. The costume takes over the wearer. A skeleton drinks apple juice and it passes from bone to bone to the front porch.

Today Ella wants me to be permanent trick-or-treater while she adjusts the treat to the visitor.

“Hi,” I say, then complain. “I’m a tree, and yeah, I know the peaceful nature scene. Quiet. The woods. All that. But I have bugs climbing all over me. Squirrels are nuts. They don’t just eat them. And the birds? That early morning song is nice enough, but the pre-dawn time can get on your sap after a while.”

Ella smiles and then takes on a composed expression. “Okay. Here’s a woodpecker.”

I’m immediately out of character. Our girl has a sense of humor. Down syndrome, yes. Up personality? No question about it.

 

photo a combination of pic taken in our backyard and portion of public domain pic

 

Ah, how the seeds of cockiness blossom when soiled in ignorance. (Steve Alten)

DUBIOUS ADVICE

 

Take one opinion;

call it the whole.

Shout your words

with venom if necessary.

Cover your home,

your car, every space you touch

with bumper stickers, clever words,

succinct, biting,

so obvious, transparent,

you mimic a peacock flashing

your message across a zoo.

Then, well satisfied,

flick on the television,

curl up in your favorite chair,

or lie on a distant beach,

and revel in the comfort of your truth.

Relax, with food and wine within reach,

your part completed.

 

If we fail to look after others when they need help, who will look after us? (Buddha)

Pool water makes movement easier. Jump and kick higher. Play like a kid.

I make eye contact with others in class who find the same freeing mood.

One lady, somewhat younger than I am, splashes and laughs as she plunges through. “My fat doesn’t protect me from the cold.”

A shine in her dark brown eyes, contrasting pale skin, radiates positive attitude. At the end of class I introduce myself. Stories about my grandchildren. My books, The Curse Under the Freckles and Stinky, Rotten Threats. She tells me about her family.

“I’ve never met a writer.” She reaches out and touches my hand. “I can’t read. I’d need a dictionary to spell no. Dyslexic.”

And yet I can’t move from her spell, the enchanting kind. She speaks of a deep faith. A different style than I understand. I don’t knock what works. The divine appears in multiple forms.

She’s worked as a cleaning lady for the wealthy. “Don’t come back if there is one dust ball in my bathroom,” one rich woman had said. This gentle cleaning lady understood the metaphor, the implied identity of the dust ball. She chose not to come back.

Days later I remember her, a power she carried. Perspective. The love she had for her husband who died eight years ago. He was a minister in her faith.

Problems appear in my life. Again. They always will. I see both solutions and losses. Neither affect personal worth. Or love from family.

The pool water washed away in a shower days ago. And yet, the touch of one ordinary woman’s hand remains with me. I pray to offer the same.

 

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorns have roses. (Alphonse Karr) A Tour Round My Garden)

A Thing Or a Gift: a Poem

One living branch juts out from

our blue spruce between bare spaces where only

the scars from amputated arms remain.

I name the branch hope.

 

My portable beater whipped eggs

and created batters for more than

twenty years. Finally, it wobbled

with the heat of hot, boiled potatoes.

I call the beater faithful.

 

A slim, modern replacement waits

in its box. A tool. An object, a thing.

Or a gift.

 

A cardinal pauses on a half-alive branch.

I celebrate now.

 

(photo of the two children taken by Alice Zeiser)

I choose not to place DIS in my ability. (Robert M. Hensel)

Buddy Walk Day. The Saturday after Labor Day brings

A sea of shirts in bright colors. Yellow this year. Thousands.

One day without any uninformed person

dropping both eyes and mouth into parallel

frowns and an I’m-sorry. Down syndrome isn’t sad.

Apologies come after simple happenings.

Spilled water—nothing a napkin can’t handle,

or an it-took-me-forever-to-find-a-parking place.

Smiles follow. My granddaughter takes her cousin’s hand.

Or does he grab hers? It doesn’t matter.

This group knows we are all one.

And celebration comes naturally

when our common space is love.

It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. (Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker)

On Labor Day afternoon my granddaughter, Ella, and I play fast-food restaurant. She is at the drive-through and I am a 107-year-old customer with a special request. Since my chewing is limited, I want my order cut into small pieces: 2 hamburgers, a couple dozen chicken nuggets, five orders of fries.

She is willing to oblige.

“How much is that?” I ask as I reach for my invisible order from my imaginary car. (Fortunate, since at 107, more than chewing mechanisms would be out of order. Driving may not be advisable.)

“Nine hundred dollars.” She grins.

Wow! Service charges have gone up everywhere. However, in the pretend world I can reach into my pocket and find five dollars, a thousand dollars, or a magic frog.

Perhaps I should have given her the magic frog.

Imagination. I hope it stays with me until I am old enough to keep the nursing home entertained.

Ella’s real-life gifts appear as I get lunch ready. She makes Lego creations for my friend, Ann, to see by feeling them. Ann has been blind since birth. I don’t mind that Ella sits next to Ann instead of me.

After the meal, Ella brings Ann to our toy shelf and shows her safe-for-kid paint jars, stuffed animals, cars.

I watch. Enriched. Ella has Down syndrome: I am grateful to be favored by the up of her existence.

 

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