Archive for May, 2015

Memory is more indelible than ink. (Anita Loos)

My friend C gets an A+ in the inspiration department. Several weeks ago she shared some of the challenges she faces caring for a disabled husband. Then she added a delicate and beautiful twist to her story. She added the sunshine known as gratitude and then rain fell—from my eyes. I haven’t forgotten that Tuesday morning circle with my friends.

C’s husband was once a brilliant, actually super-brilliant architect, who could play bridge or design one. Then, several years ago he developed a rare, bizarre condition. He has gradually lost the strength in his muscles as well as the strength of his mind. C cares for him night and day. Dialogue, true conversation, belongs to the past.

While C lives with complications, distractions, aggravations, and opportunities to scream-into-the-sky-about-the-injustices-of-life, she is one of the most balanced individuals I know. Perhaps this is because C gives because that is who she is. Sure, she would probably admit that life with someone who is becoming-a-child-but-doesn’t-know-it is something like trying to tame a rabid wolverine. But she maintains a sense of humor.

She watches her husband and sees the past, knows that those years are a real, tangible part of who they are now. Some of those times were serious, some tender, some humorous. It would not be fair for me to share those moments in a public forum, nor would it be necessary. Finding the human in all three categories isn’t difficult.

In my life some events were tragic, but something good happened later that never would have occurred if I had not walked that path. Moreover, the next oasis became sweeter. Then again some situations I thought would stand forever lasted as long as a puddle after a summer storm.

As I write these words and think about C, I mentally make a gratitude list. Okay, maybe that should be a written list so that the next time my own opportunities to scream-into-the-sky-about-the-injustices-of-life appears it won’t take as long for my stress level to decrease.

That need becomes amplified when another friend, J, stops by with a load of stuffed animals and children’s books for my grandchildren. J and I are almost the same age, born two weeks apart. Her husband has always been a kind, intelligent man. I enjoy being around him. A fellow writer. He is eleven years older than she is—no longer old from my point of view. He has been diagnosed with dementia. It is in the early stages. Hopefully medication will slow the inevitable process.

In the meantime he is focusing on his garden, creating something alive and beautiful in his own back yard. He knows, in time, he will recall nothing about it. He doesn’t know when. Perhaps snows this winter will cover more than ground next year. So J takes videos, savoring each dig, each bulb… each flower.

“Memory is more indelible than ink.” For some, not for all.

Both C and J celebrate life on a deep level. Not the kind of celebration that calls for the clicking of glasses and loud music, the kind that calls for a wonder about the past and an awareness of the sacredness of the present.

ever had a memory Words of Wisdom

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Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship. (Buddha) 

Ella’s daddy wants her to have a nap today. The stitches on her chest became infected. They had to be surgically repaired last week. She needs to catch up on her sleep and recover. Ella, however, has a different plan. I lie down next to her because we don’t have a bed for her. Napping at our house is not part of time-with-grandparents routine.

I had told her it was time to sleep and she told me it wasn’t dark out.

“Nap, Ella, not nighttime.”

She grins. I know what tactic she is forming so I open the book we just got from the library and begin to read. She decides she wants to tell the story.

This is a ploy, but I want to hear her version. She flips the pages back and forth and makes faces at me. Yep, I was right. Our granddaughter wants me to laugh, actually outright giggle. This will stop the possibility of sleep in the middle of a perfectly good day for play.

Oh, why was I made out of malleable wet sand when it comes to my grandchildren? I try to keep my lips set into a serious straight line, something like holding back the water from a burst pipe with a paper bag.

“Okay, sleep time,” I say.

“Night, night, Mawmaw,” Ella says, at least a hundred times—in different tones. “I love you,” she finally says.

“I love you, too,” I respond.

Then she makes a tent of the book over my face. I finally laugh. She has won. She giggles and I want to hug her forever.

You are ornery and sneaky, little girl, I think. But I wouldn’t change anything about you—even if I could.

“Uh, the nap was a bust,” I tell my husband and see disappointment in his face. We didn’t follow instructions. Okay, I didn’t follow directions. But they required willingness from another participant who didn’t want to miss one minute of the day.

I am so glad Ella’s heart is now working properly. Her spirit has always shone, even with a blocked valve, and her ability to find contentment in the simple inspires me.

Chances are I won’t seek employment as chief disciplinarian anywhere. This story wouldn’t fit well in the resume. But the position of Grandma, also known as Mawmaw, works just fine for now.

Actually, I feel somewhat honored.

listen to your heart

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Happiness is holding someone in your arms and knowing you hold the whole world. (Orhan Pamuk)

Recent talk among several groups of friends has centered on gratitude. I don’t take it as a coincidence. Ella grins at me as she watches several versions of “five little monkeys jumping on the bed” on YouTube. “Oh dear,” she says as each one falls. Falling is forbidden for her at the moment. The stitches in her chest are deep; they will heal from the inside-out and that will take time. The best recovery in a lot of areas begins as an inside job. I put my arm around her and know I hold the whole world.

Small details jump out at me: the pink edging around her shoes, the smallness of her body and hands, the sunshine white-blond of her comb-resistant hair, even the yogurt stains on her jeans.

Her seven-year-old cousin arrives and without a word Ella lifts her t-shirt and shows Rebe her scar. No whimpering. This is a statement of fact. Rebe looks at me, her eyebrows raised, but she doesn’t speak either. She gives Ella a kiss on the cheek. The children seem to know this is answer enough.

Play continues. Pretend games, a mock form of hide-and-seek, i Pad entertainment. Lots of giggles. Running, monitored and limited in a small house.

My memory goes back to a time when I was in water aerobics class. The news had been fresh that our youngest granddaughter would have Down syndrome, an A/V canal defect and duodenal atresia. At that moment we saw our granddaughter as someone who had not yet been born. So far all we knew were problems, unseen and vague roadblocks, the kind that lead many women toward abortion. Ella had not yet seen her parents’ faces and no one had seen hers.

I recall following aerobic moves as a song played in the background. It was only a rhythmic drum beat. I was seeing the rest room doors behind the instructor, not the instructor. I knew our granddaughter would be a girl—that was all. And the rest of what I understood was surrounded with fear. I wanted to know more than the skirted figure on the door of the restroom could tell, and I didn’t want to know.

Now I look into Ella’s eyes and see sapphire blue, a hint of humor, a ton of strength, and a spirit the angels could emulate. Yes, our little girl has been through more surgery in her short life than I have in my almost 69 years. Yet, she accepts the next day as another experience, not the morning after.

“May I sit next to you, Ella?” I ask.

She smiles. A lot of words aren’t always necessary. Sometimes they get in the way of a simple message. Love loses its beauty when it is over-defined.

learning to be brave and patient


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Spring is the time of plans and projects. (Leo Tolstoy)

My husband bought a mini Sequoia tree when we visited California last year. The seedling made it through the winter inside the house. The giant, ancient trees have lived to be three thousand years old—but not in the Midwestern United States. The bark may be fire resistant. But I’m not so sure the bi-polar temperatures of our region fit the needs of a Sequoia of any age. Two weeks ago layered clothing was a good idea. The air carried enough chill to make a polar bear feel at home. Today shorts and t-shirts are suitable attire.

Jay put baby Sequoia in the sun to soak up some rays. Unfortunately baby has been losing both color and a few limbs. Now it stands as a tiny, slender six-inch stick that could be mistaken for a pine twig blown into the ground after a storm. We both walk by baby. I won’t speak my thoughts. Jay loves this plant. If it survives I will call it Lazarus II. Jay takes care of the botanist life in our world. Plastic flowers may not be safe under my care. I have better luck feeding human creatures. I can intuit people needs more easily.

One morning as I am leaving the house I see a speck of green in the pot, not on the dried brown twig, but a few inches away. It is barely a quarter of an inch long and green as new grass. The new growth wears the same miniscule spikes that jut from its dried clay-pot mate.

Hope has been born. Tiny. One seed the size of an oatmeal flake can fail for the same reasons any seed doesn’t make it. When we were in one of the California national forests I took a picture of a game wheel that could be spun to discover whether or not your fantasy seed would survive to maturity or not. Would it land onto a rock, become bird food, or travel all the way into the ground and thrive?

Within hours the flash of green in the Sequoia pot yields to sudden summer heat and bends over. I lift it with my pinky, a useless move, probably causing more harm than good. Perhaps I touched it with my black thumb—don’t know.

Possibilities abound. I don’t think about them often. Even the circumstances that make each individual unique are amazing. Perhaps if my mother had conceived at another time a different sperm would have grabbed another egg and created a tall, blue-eyed boy who grew up to be as bald as a chunk of granite but learned to pitch a 90mph fast ball… or a gardener who would never allow a tiny sequoia to die. Okay, the sports hero stuff is unlikely in my family, but I like the notion. It’s a moot point from a realistic point of view, but a glorious one from a gratitude perspective. I am who I am and that needs to be sufficient. The fact of existence is in itself miraculous.

Dead sequoia should have gone out with the yard waste pick-up this morning. Then again, there’s always that fresh little sprout that could appear, even for a moment, even for that one miraculous, celebratory moment.

win big Sequoia seed

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Man has never made any material as resilient as the human spirit. (Bernard Williams)

I have just shared the news that my youngest granddaughter is doing extremely well. Her joy has leaked into me. All is well in my world. However, within minutes I learn that all is not well in another person’s world.

I greet the young woman I introduced in my April 14 post: A Child’s Wish: I Hope You Never Git Hert. She tells me she has stage-four cancer. My hug feels tense, overprotective; I wanted to relay hope, a huge cancer-crushing hope. She ran a marathon last week. That run was her choice. Chemotherapy doesn’t fit anyone’s desire.

I would reach for a second hug-try, but the lack lies within me, not within her. I haven’t processed her news yet. This can’t be real—it is. I sense frailty in her body and I want to change it. Make her well. Now.

Platitudes go nowhere. But I tell her that I thought about her at two in the morning again last night. I did. Perhaps she had taken part in an immediately forgotten dream. It doesn’t matter. Something about her inspires me. An ordinary kind of sacred. I suspect that this girl is planting seeds in people simply by being herself. She demonstrates how courage works, but the kind of growth she initiates in others doesn’t necessarily appear until later—sometimes years.

Philosophical banter is too lofty for someone who is suffering. It isn’t what she needs right now. I tell her once again that she is incredible. She smiles, briefly, as if a little light has gotten through to the part of her that doesn’t see her beauty. Enough for now maybe. Incredible is such a vague word. It doesn’t say as much as I want it to express. At some place every analogy limps. My words can only be a representation of a thought, chosen to celebrate a spirit I want to see thrive as long as possible, the life of a common hero.

She is that hero, with seeds left to plant… and she knows the fight is never easy.


Heroes Jodi P PIQ

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