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If I don’t ask “Why me?” after my victories, I cannot ask “Why me?” after my setbacks and disasters. ( Arthur Ashe )

As usual, I’m multitasking, poorly. The image of sweeping the beach at low tide hits me. The tide comes in before I’ve put the broom back in the closet. A missing cell phone. A forgotten load of wash—from last night waiting to be spun. My husband’s TED hose soaking in the sink. I wonder how fast I can dry them. He needs them now.

The phone rings. Shannon asks how I am and then says she has good news. She is getting a new kidney. Today. At 1:30.

Wow! Shannon has been alive because dialysis has been giving her some good days.

Shortly after the designated gift of life is expected, she calls again. The match is not as complete as it is supposed to be. I hold my breath. She remains calm.

“I’m still at the top of the list.”

The top of the list. The top of the transplant list. She sees blessings despite big-time disappointment.

Top-of-the-list for a transplant means imminent need. Yet, Shannon wastes no time with why-me.

The tide of confusion continues inside the house. It will end. Eventually. In the meantime, sun reaches through the window. Hope arrives. Her name is Shannon Owens.

 

 

 

 

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Mission: to Hear

 

Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it. (Flannery O’Connor)

I insert hearing aid number two and notice an immediate change. The refrigerator hums. My husband’s voice adds a decibel—or three hundred. A car coming down the street exceeds the speed limit. I don’t need to see the vehicle to know. It needs a muffler.

Apparently, I am supposed to be learning how to hear. A peculiar notion. Older hearing aids amplified sound. Newer equipment allows for variations in background sound and volume.

I understand the concept of learning to listen, however. After a while, the hard-of-hearing individual retreats. There are only so many times a person can ask for something to be repeated. And what-are-you-talking-about can only be asked a limited number of times.

My mission: hear the birds, the wind, the radio in the background, and sort the sounds out from the telephone and my husband’s question about what is for dinner.

Studies show hearing loss can lead to dementia. Sure, I often wonder why I came into a room. I have not yet reached, who am I or whose house this is?          

Example of one of my off-the-wall conversations. This one is partially fiction, but typical:

                “Did you bring the de—-?” Garbled sounds come from my comrade’s mouth.

                “The what?” I ask.

        The answer sounds like de followed by a stifled sneeze. He continues to speak, so I’m not sure how much I missed.

                “Bring the what? Demolition?” I close one eye and tilt my head. “Details? Desk?”

                “Uh, no. The dessert! The one you spent hours making!”

                “Oh yeah. Got it.”

Today I go for my third hearing-comprehension check.

“I see you have only been wearing your hearing aids four to five hours a day,” my technician says as he looks at his all-knowing screen connected to the wiring in my ears.

“Huh? Four to five…?” I think about it. Those times I went to the Y pool and forgot to put my artificial ears back in when I came home. The times I did housework or edits first and remembered hours later… Uh, yeah, could be.

Truth, it’s got me.

“See you in a month,” my expert says.

I wonder if I’ll be any smarter in a louder world.

For anyone else who fights a similar battle, you are not alone!

After I’m dead I’d rather have people ask why I have no monument than why I have one. (Cato the Elder)

Sometimes a story needs to be told anonymously because it could create unnecessary fuss when names are introduced. Especially when fault isn’t the point. A good friend of mine was kicked in the chest at work—by someone who was too mentally challenged to understand anything but an immediate angry reaction. This individual had nothing against my friend.

She was asked if she would return on Monday. She didn’t pause. “Of course.”

She understood what measures needed to be taken to prevent another scene. She lives compassion for others. She knows instinctively what her charge needs and what creates fear.

Angels appear in jeans and gym shoes more often than glowing gowns and wings. Folk don’t hide from people in ordinary clothing; heavenly appearances tend to be a tad freaky.

Thankfully, goodness can be as close as a next-door-neighbor or family and friends who show up when needed most.

Simple love. It looks easy-smooth on the outside but is more precious than jewels locked behind glass. Nonjudgmental love can’t be assessed.

It can be appreciated. Evil hasn’t won yet and won’t provided some good-all-the-way-through folk continue to be who they are.

Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone’s hand is the beginning of a journey.
At other times, it is allowing another to take yours. (
Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration)

A fall at some unknown moment severed Hummel boy-doctor’s hand. A Hummel girl has dropped her prize flower, a similar injury since all parts of the artwork are made as one. I am not experienced in ceramic or porcelain surgery. Boy and Girl are permanently scarred by amateur super-glue procedures. A lot of warm, soapy water keep my fingers from bonding together faster than my patients can.

Neither figure complains. Inside they are hollow. Most Internet searches refer to a Hummel’s monetary value. They don’t mention their history.

Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel’s 1930’s drawings were the inspiration for the porcelain art, postcard drawings of children in Germany and Switzerland. A simple beginning for beautiful, innocent designs.

Franz Goebel acquired rites to make the figurines in 1935. World War II made them popular exports.

The pictured cracked pieces belonged to my husband’s grandmother. While I am pleased to own them, they are things. Relationships are far more valuable.

People scars may or may not show. When someone is willing to share with me a significant hurt or loss, I feel honored. That person trusts me. My ears may need battery-operated amplification to work, but my heart works fine—provided I keep it open long enough.

In casual meetings folk ask one another, how are you? They answer, “Hanging in there.” Then they walk away. A single-phrase answer is enough. Taking another’s hand asks more, even if a situation can never be healed.

I don’t know enough to fix my own problems much less someone else’s life. However, a smile into the soul verifies worthiness. At one time or another, we all seem to need to be reassured!

I am thinking about changing my how-are-you to good-to-see-you, or a simple smile and wave. Hanging-in-there answers leave too much unsaid.  

Peace, and may broken and glued places sparkle in sunlight.

 

 

The large cat doesn’t deter one small robin.

I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don’t know the answer. (Douglas Adams, author Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy)

I am at a small prayer gathering. Something hits the window behind me. I can’t see it but know what is happening. My friend, Pat, has already warned me not to jump, startled. Kamikaze Robin has returned.

This is one determined bird, admirable if he weren’t shortening his lifespan with each strike. Is he developing internal bleeding? Is this how the term bird-brain began? Studies have shown birds know more than their brain size would suggest. However, birds fight one another in a mismatched fight. More bravado than self-protection.

“What is he doing?” I turn around after his next strike.

Our small group has no idea. There is no point in asking. None of us speak robin.

Robin, pausing between strikes

One article, researched later, gives me a notion. However, I can’t always understand my own motivation much less the plant-loving, territorial drive of the avian population. (The highlighted link provides a few suggestions.)

For me, I refuse to answer a question about someone else’s behavior because I don’t live inside that person’s skull. After learning a few traits, past experiences, present habits, I get a clue. Not X-ray vision into complicated brain structure and memories.

A few days after the bird incident, at the Y, a young woman doesn’t answer when I talk to her. She isn’t aloof; she’s legally deaf. “I read lips well,” she tells me. We speak, and I feel blessed to learn more about her life. She lost her hearing in the navy. She served twelve years.

The class begins. I smile as I watch her follow the instructor.  She is a survivor.

I don’t know what has happened to the robin. He hasn’t penetrated the window. But then, I haven’t accomplished any of my impossible dreams either.

 

 

Soaked shoes on a warm register take the shape of a wild cloud on a gray day.

Little by little, one travels far. (J. R. R. Tolkien)

Day by day, the toddler grows into an adult. One word at a time the child learns self-worth, or not.

Little by little, backed-up storm water travels in wider circles from our driveway into our garage. I realize our problem is trivial. The clips of the flood damage in Nebraska provide enough evidence to prove our labor is minimal. We succeed. My husband and I discovered the ankle-deep water before it reached the basement or lawn mower. The car was outside, wheels untouched.

My shoes dry on a warm register inside. Muddied socks already swirl through suds in the wash machine—healing.

I don’t claim an immunity to tragedy. Nor did I miss near drowning, in a metaphorical sense. Many years ago, March 17 began one of the most difficult times of my life. Do I remember every detail? Not all, but more than I would like. All unnecessary to repeat. Each life’s purpose is to live in today. Eventually. Many people reading these words have their own memories to overcome. Ugly events arrive. They also pass, like the dark, dirty water my husband and I move toward an overwhelmed drain.

My husband and I work, together. I don’t believe any recovery happens alone.

Without friends.

Without help in some form.

Perhaps one struggling person will come to my mind today, someone who could use a call or a visit.

A thought. Perhaps now is the time to follow through on it.

Little by little…recovery happens. And one travels far.

 

Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods. (Aristotle)

Ann and I share peanut butter sandwiches and listen to music. We sing along and fake the lyrics. It doesn’t matter whether we know the words or not. The sky promises rain. Inside we celebrate sun. Ann couldn’t see blue if it did suddenly break through unexpectedly. My friend is blind. Her eyes don’t work; her heart-vision does.

She often takes an Access bus to visit a friend in a nursing home. It cheers him up.

“How long can you stay?” I ask.

“What do you need to do today?” she answers. “I don’t want to overstay my welcome.”

The kitchen floor needs a scrub. I have edits. Always. However, I suspect I need the presence of a friend. A shared awareness of a moment that exists now and won’t return.

Ann has the uncanny knack of knowing how I really feel. The last time we were together I’d been upset, and she sensed it. Today is better. We celebrate in simple ways. I could wear a shirt one tear away from the rag bag; she wouldn’t know, or care. She cherishes more lasting values. Who a person is, an ability to give, to care.

The television is off. I’ll face the world scene later. After I accept the fact that both good and evil exist.

Ann and I blast out the words we recognize in old songs and hum when the lyrics don’t get through to our hearing aids.

“I’ll be your friend forever,” she says.

Forever is more than I can grasp. A lot has happened since time began. However, Aristotle was onto something centuries ago. Friendship has tangible value.

May you always have friends you can trust.

 

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