Aging · culture · Health · Humor · language · Relationships · Work

There’s a Dead Duck Out There

Robert was a rough-hewn character. He lived in a nursing home outside of Melbourne where I worked as a caregiver.  We heard him before we saw him. He walked with a cane which he leaned into heavily. “Old injury from the war,” he explained, when I asked about the limping hip. The cane tapped a beat on the tiles on the floor and the metal on the sole of his shoe kept rhythm. 

He wore the same shoes every day. “Worn ’em forty years, mate. That’s a good shoe right there,” he explained academically, tapping at the toe of his right one with his cane. “It’s been there for me through the good and the ill.” They were made of very old brown leather and he meticulously polished them every morning. Even the insides had a high sheen with a dark outline where his toes nested. His room had the distinct smell of the Kiwi shoe polish he used.

It was rough being an international uni student and not only having to work to fund my schooling but adjusting to culture shock as well. The job wasn’t much to speak of. A friend had recommended me for it and I’d decided to give it a go. I was grateful for it but it was certainly grunt work. The hardest part was thinking I spoke English but having to learn a whole new version here.

I tied Robert’s shoe laces, and chuckled as he told he about the ‘deadorse” and “wilted rabbit food” he was served for dinner last night. “Where’s the lamb around here? Or how about some roo for supper?” He complained. I liked this crusty man but would like him even better if he quit scratching his nuts  in front of me. He did it every time he put his shoes on, “Only thing is, these shoes make me itch my budgies.”

He loved to talk about his wife. “We raised chooks up north,” he said,  pointing to a grainy photo of  her in her bathers on his old dresser. “She was always full as a boot on the amber fluid.” She was a good distraction while I helped him get dressed, otherwise he’d tell me to nick off. He called me a stickybeak and a perve when I first started.

I shook my head as I left to attend to a buzzer going off in room 24. “I’ll never get over this place.”

Robert loved to walk outside after brekkie. I’d been there about 4 months when he came clicking by the nurse’s station one day. I was enjoying my job well enough and getting a good handle on this culture.  “How ya going Bob? Beautiful day out out there.” I said, replenishing towels from the laundry cart.

“There’s a dead duck in the parking lot,” he announced, adjusting his hat without looking at me. He kept walking.

“Oh dear.” I said, and went back to my towels, thinking it was a good thing the garbo would be here tomorrow.

All of a sudden, my cart was pushed by a nurse of larger build in a tight uniform, running faster than seemed possible for her size. I was thrown against the wall like a rag-doll. She was yelling orders as she ran outside and my fellow off-siders were running behind her in pandemonium, dodging wheelchairs and their occupants. “What was going on?” I asked after I caught my breath, frantically looking around and wondering if I should run or hide. 

Turns out a female resident had fallen in the parking lot and Bob had saved her hide with his announcement! So much for my cultural competence…

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/grainy/

Humor · Neighbors · Relationships

“… I’d Love to Chat, Gotta Go!”

I first saw the young couple sitting on the steep outside steps of the Victorian house next door. It had been renovated so the upstairs space could be accessed from outside.

They both looked terribly thin, sitting there sunning on the steps. They smoked and drank their morning coffee. It was a cold morning and she was wearing shorts and hugging herself. Her worn t-shirt was stretched to keep her long legs warm. Her stringy jet-black hair hung limp over the t-shirt and she stroked it nervously.

Their lean bodies were covered in tattoos and piercings. He wore silver chains up the length of his arms. I watched them through my living room window and wondered what they were talking about.  I smiled as they smiled at each other. They were cute. She jabbed him playfully in the side and he held her in a mock choke-hold.

I had no shortage of distractions while trying to get out the door in time for work. I showered, got my breakfast and lunch ready, and tried to lock the door behind me.

‘He really needs to fix this lock,’ I thought to myself, having to slam the door several times and hold it just so before it finally clicked.

I smiled and waved at them as I juggled an armful and got into my car. He waved warmly, almost standing up. She glanced up and quickly looked away, taking a long draft of her cigarette into her cavernous jaw. When I returned at the end of the day, they were still on the  steps, smoking and drinking coffee.

As I walked to my door, I waved at them and he stood straight up and bounded down the stairs, his silver chains clanging as he came. His wore a leather vest with no shirt and I fought the silly urge to look under it. “Look at the eyes,” I said to myself. He stuck his cigarette in his mouth, flicked his shock of long black hair away from his eyes, and stuck his hand out to shake mine.

My hands were loaded with a dirty breakfast bowl and spoon, my purse, work-bag, lunch bag, and who knows what else. I laid what I could down on my front step and reached out to shake his hand.

“That was kind of awkward. I suppose I could have tried to help you but I didn’t want it to look like I was trying to take your dirty bowl or anything,” he said. “My name is DJ.”

I was taken aback. I introduced myself.

“That’s Denise,” he turned his head around and blew a huge puff of smoke into the air. “She thinks she’s shy but she’s actually kind of spicy, hey baby?”, he yelled. “This is our first house. It’s pretty awesome. She’ll keep it real clean while I work. You guys can be friends.” She raised a feeble arm in greeting and quickly looked away.

“We moved in yesterday. This is our first house. We’re taking it easy today coz that was pretty hard moving on the bus. Moving’s pretty hard, you know. Luckily we don’t have a lot of stuff. Just a couple bags is all. For now. I’ll get a job and take real good care of her. This is a great home.”

He told me he had spent several years in jail since he was a teenager and was recently free. “She waited for me, hey baby?”, he turned and yelled again. She looked up and nodded a wan smile. I thought that if he talked to her again she would dissipate into a wispy membrane and disappear. He spoke fast and shifted frequently from one foot to the other.  “She waited for me. I’m gonna get me a sweet ride after a while. I hate the bus. Bunch of creeps on the bus.”

“I saw you leave this morning. That’s what I’ll do every morning. Leave for work and come back in the evening. I’m gonna pump gas or lift bales of hay or work in a bank or something. I’d go crazy sitting around at home. I need to fix things, do stuff. I do like to cook. Denise doesn’t have to cook. You take a steak and put a great rub on it. Then you grab the potatoes and slice them real thin, like this,” he stuck the cigarette in his mouth again and demonstrated how with his elegant hands. “You gotta fry potatoes with a little salt and garlic. I hate vegetables but you’ve gotta eat the stuff, right?”

He laughed really hard and I got the distinct impression he wanted to high five me. I didn’t know what to do so I stupidly started to raise my hand but he didn’t want to high-five me, so I ran it through my hair and into my pockets, feeling an embarrassing rise in temperature to my face. Note to self, don’t high five strangers, especially when they’re not high fiving you.

I snapped back to attention as he was still talking. “… it’s been a long day and pretty soon we’ll be heading to The Plaid to buy some smokes and milk. Anyway, I’d love to chat, gotta go!” And he spun on his heels and ran up the stairs.

I cocked my head and stood there a minute, rather dazed, then looked around as if to see if anyone  had witnessed what I just had and could confirm that I wasn’t imagining it.

No one, darn it.

I fumbled with the lock and kicked the bags through the door, stepping over them with my milk-caked Cheerios bowl, and chuckled to myself, “That’s a good one. Love to chat, gotta go!”

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/spicy/

Poetry · Summer

Haze

A heavy haze hangs over our heads

Leaving me heaving and hanging my head.

Smoke from infernos, in lands far away,

Is drifting downwind, so the weatherman said.

Though it drafts fiery sunsets and moonrises here

Enflaming and sparking this poetic thread,

We sigh for our Oregon sweet summer days

Begone smokeyhead, begone with your dread!

IMG_20170808_065704799.jpg

 

Brothers · Family · Humor · mothers · Relationships · sons · Teasing · Uncategorized

Orange Flying, in Slow Motion

It all happened so fast, so I’m not quite sure why I recall it in slow motion. My boys were fooling around and laughing. They rarely play together so I relish these times. I was standing by the kitchen about to open the fridge.  James, moving at his usual 300mph dashed by the kitchen counter and grabbed an orange then flew the next few feet into the living room. Paul had just hopped over the arm of the red recliner  and was bouncing on it, looking out the nearby window into the yard and telling a funny story.

This is where things slowed way down: out of the corner of my eye, I vividly saw James in his blue and white striped shirt and grey camo shorts. He took on very impressive form, swinging his right arm with the orange in it while he stepped off his left foot, rotated his shoulders so the left one synchronized forward to power the left one which was lunging back as it propelled the orange at an astonishing speed  straight towards the back of his unwitting brothers head, just as James’ right foot planted onto the carpet. Wow!

Dictionary.com describes a symphony as “an elaborate musical composition in three or more movements, similar in form to a sonata but written for an orchestra and usually of far grander proportions and more varied elements.”

What I was witnessing, my friends, was a mesmerizing movement symphony of grand proportions!

In no time, Paul, with a discordant whelp, raised both hands to the back of his whip-lashed head and tumbled off the chair and onto the floor like a stuntman.

“What was that for?” was his loud, prolonged, barely articulate lament. Babe Ruth’s eyes grew to the size of a large orange and he jumped up and down like a yoyo, “I’m sorry Paul, are you okay? I’m so sorry, are you okay?” He repeated this about 8 times without taking a breath, bouncing in place the whole time and becoming more frantic.

Our stuntman rolled back and forth, clearly in the throes of death, moaning his final words, “Whhyyyy?” and never letting go of his fatal wound.

I snapped out my daze and yelled, “that is the most unintelligent thing you have done all day!”

He answered with the most unintelligent thing he had said all day, “I didn’t mean to hit him!”

I chimed, “What, where you planning to hit the window a foot away from his face?”

“No, I didn’t mean to hit him.” He said that 8 times, still bouncing up and down, but now big tears falling straight from his eyes onto the floor.

“He does it to me all the time and he never gets in trouble.”

“What, he kills you with an orange all the time?” I stuck a pointing finger at Paul in his pitiful predicament, and glared at James, “Is this the time to bring that up?

“I didn’t mean to,” he wailed woefully.

Paul’s howling reached a deafening crescendo and James cried all the harder. What a cacophony!

I leaned down and touched Paul for many reasons. The first was the principle. If he didn’t die, and I didn’t think he would, he would in years to come be sitting at a counselor’s couch recounting this trauma, and she would ask him, “And what did your mother do?”

It would be terrible to have to answer, “She laughed so hard she fell on me and smacked my forehead with hers.”

Secondly, I needed to embrace the victim and distance from the perpetrator. That would not be the time to say, “James, that was amazing! I wish you could have seen it.” No. That would have to wait ten minutes.

I finally pried a gasping Paul’s fingers from the gaping wound so I could inspect it and he was disappointed and shocked to learn there wasn’t as much as a mark. And I looked really close, for a really long time, the whole time repeating, “Wow!” in monotone.

So the melodrama died down eventually. We hugged as Paul reiterated that he didn’t trust his brother to be in the same county, for obvious reasons. I slapped my hand across his brothers mouth as he dried his tears and started to say, “He does it all the…”

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/symphony/

horror · Humor

This is Where They Cook People

I sat patiently at the small table.

I was in a Thai restaurant I’d wanted to visit for sometime. I was in the mood for quiet so I ordered my dish to-go. I was going to sit in my car and savor the goodness. The rapturous  flavors and amazing textures blow my mind. Every time. Without fail.

I had parked in the back parking lot and had had to walk  a long way to come in through the front. I resolved not to look at my phone while I waited. That’s hard to do, anymore. I kept starting to reach for it and almost had to slap my hand on several occasions. What a silly game I was playing with myself.

I was enjoying watching patrons through the dancing incense smoke emanating from the Buddha shrine. A loud lady at the table beside me had been smoking far too long. I kept clearing my throat to help soothe her raspy one, ‘Or at least take a sip of your Thai iced tea,’ I thought. She was carrying on about being wronged by Sandy again, vividly relating the offense in an almost drunken drawl. She was so disgusted with Sandy she was spitting nails and pad Thai.

As I eavesdropped, in the back of my mind I wondered who got to determine how long a casual glance may last before it becomes rude? I was long past that line.

And what was with the garish blue eye-shadow? I found myself so sucked into the saga that I was startled by the waitress, Sue, tapping on my shoulder. She was a pretty Asian lady and she smiled as she handed me my order in a white plastic bag with “Have a nice day” written across it in red. I was a little irked by her interruption and inopportune timing but I smiled back, noting her jet black hair.

As I gathered my belongings, I asked if there was a short-cut to the back parking lot. She bowed and pointed to a grey wooden door behind her. I smiled again and nodded as I walked by her.

‘That is really black hair,’ I thought.

The flimsy knob almost came apart in my hand and the rickety door swung open faster than I anticipated. I stepped into a  small dimly lit room and the door sprung shut behind me with a dull thud.

Old binders were scattered on a crooked shelf beside fake flowers.  My eyes adjusted to the darkness and after a few seconds I made out another door a few feet before me. I swallowed deeply, glanced back at the shut door and stepped forward praying to God I wouldn’t step on a cat. Or a rat. I hurriedly grabbed the next doorknob and turned it. It turned several times and nothing happened. I swallowed again and turned it the opposite direction. It turned several times and nothing happened.

My mind played terrible tricks on me and I heard people speaking loudly in a foreign language and laughing. Were they watching me? Was I even going the right way? What was this place? Panicked, I threw my shoulder at the door and it groaned. I stepped back, really lunged at it and went bolting clear through it. I took a deep breath of relief at the blinding light,  and looked around, grateful to be outside.

But I wasn’t outside.

My heart raced and dropped at the same time.  She didn’t look up. A dank smell filled the huge room I found myself in. Black mold crawled on the wall to my right and there were puddles on the busted concrete floor. A withered old woman sat contorted in a rickety rocking chair in the corner. She looked like she had been sitting there for centuries.  Her few hairs were held in a tight bun but her deep wrinkles still flapped as a home-made cigarette dangled from the side of her mouth. She spoke and rocked rhythmically in an unfamiliar language, tending to a large pot of smoldering oil that was bellowing smoke in her face.

I froze in place, rather stunned. It seemed that I should say something, but what? I didn’t want to startle her. I swallowed deeply again and clutched my warm food to my chest. A strange  noise squeaked out of my mouth and she immediately cackled and threw her head back, stirring the pot the whole time. She had 3 teeth in her mouth. The cigarette bobbed up and down as she rattled off words and fell to laughing her head off, never once looking at me.

I glanced at the door beside her. I tried not to look into the pot. I didn’t want to know what was in it and how many people were stupid enough to not merely walk out the front door of the restaurant and back to their normal lives. I was afraid I would see a residual sludge of blue eye-shadow floating in the hot oil. What was this place and how many doors would I have to walk through to get out? Was I trapped here forever, condemned to an eternity of room after creepy room?

I looked at the door again and ran for it, knowing that any minute a net would drop from the ceiling and trap me in this hell hole. The door was locked!

I started to cry as she crowed her wicked laugh. I looked at the door and saw a small lock high up on it. My desperate fingers fumbled for it, missing it several times, so close yet so far. I jumped up and hit the latch. It flipped right off and I tried the door again.

I stepped out to the glorious sunshine and the dirty parking lot. I was about to set my food on the ground so I could kiss the blessed soil when I saw a small group of wait staff, decked in their black and white uniform, smoking cigarettes on their break.

“Have a nice day!” said a young man with a mop of dark, heavily gelled hair. I looked over at them and attempted a smile and an answer. I looked questioningly from him to the door I just walked through and back to him but my eyes were intercepted by Sue’s.

She smiled and winked at me.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/tea/

 

 

Faith · Gardening · Joy · Photos · Poetry

Savoring Oregon Summers

Succulent strawberries, so shiny they look fake,

strawberry

Drip juicy goodness to stain your favorite t-shirt.

They are followed promptly by God’s gift for July birthdays:

Ravishing vanilla cake with raspberry filling;

As rich, rare, and radiant as my ruby birthstone!

Hot on their heels come brilliant bursts of blueberries.

I oblige my happy belly, fresh or in cobbler form.

And now this luscious blackberry beckons her debut.

 

What an oral orchestra, as sensational as fireworks;

What tokens of lavish love to us,

So gratefully accepted.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/savor/

Aging · culture · Daughters · Family · Fathers · Grandchildren · Grandparents · Joy · Teasing · Uncategorized

Daddy Blue

My friend Faith sent me an email with a sweet story about a man who returned home for a neighbors funeral. The neighbor had greatly influenced the young man’s life in the absence of his father. Towards the end of the story was the statement: “every night someone thinks of you before they go so sleep.”

That brought immediate tears to my eyes and made me think of my dad. I call him Daddy Blue.

It all started with him calling my son James “Soldier Blue” based on a costume he was wearing. So James turned around and called him “Guka Blue, boooya!” (Guka is Kikuyu for grandpa.)

“James!” I chided him sharply for his disrespect.

Guka grabbed James by the wrists, turned around and said to me, “Mummy Blue arrest Soldier Blue.”

I said to him, “Daddy Blue, you started it.” James had the last laugh.

_______________

That was 5 years ago. We call each other across the world every couple of weeks.  As soon as he answers the phone, I say, in a singsong tone, “Daddy Blue.” He chuckles and says, “Aaaaaw, Mummy Blue.”

We chat about events and his health. “Have you been to therapy Dad?” I ask, knowing the answer.

“Not yet, Mummy Blue. I will.” It’s his lame attempt to placate me. I call him a naughty amputee and he says it’s no wonder Soldier Blue is so naughty. “His mother has no respect.”

He asks after my family and tells me how he thinks of me every day. How proud of and happy he is for me. We have a twelve hour time zone difference so when I’m getting up, he’s heading to bed and vice versa. He says, “Well, I’m getting off the day bus and getting on the night bus now. You enjoy the day bus. I’ll sleep happy because you called.”

_SJD1041 We sign off. “I love you Daddy Blue, over.”

“I love you Mummy Blue, over and out.”

Happy Father’s Day dad.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/the-little-things/

Christian · Faith · Joy · Money · Spiritual

High on Life

Cece had just come into a large sum of money from a house sale. She was excited to pay off an large loan she had. At the title company she opted for collecting the money by check instead of a direct deposit. When it came she did a happy dance, fondled it in her hands and thanked God for that blessing. She’d never held so much money before. She couldn’t get to the bank that day and didn’t make it in till the following week.

She actually forgot it was in her purse till 5 days later.

It was spring and the sun was shining with all its might but only warming things up to 60 degrees. That was much better than the 40’s and 50’s from the previous days. It put a pep in her step and she welled up with  anticipation of the many tasks she had to do. She was learning to weld and was delighted by the prospect of things to create. Life was beautiful and every day exciting.

A smiling bank teller waved Cece to her station. “How are you doing?”

“Fantastic. I’m having a great day,” said Cece.

They chatted for a while. “Do you want a balance?”, the teller asked as they were wrapping up.

She said she did and then stuffed the receipt and her wallet into her purse. She started to walk away.

The teller said, “I’d be having a fantastic day if I had this!”

Cece looked to see what she was waving. It was the check. She walked away, a wry smile on her face. Her heart suddenly felt heavy. She didn’t think that’s why she was having a great day. She’d learned a long time ago that her happiness came from the Lord regardless of what she had. Some of her greatest joys came when she had woefully little. She was extremely grateful for the money but she’d barely get to enjoy it. It was going to pay off a debt. That would be a huge burden off her shoulders. She hated being in debt.

She was truly sad that the teller thought she was happy because she had come into a wad of money. She remembered some of her favorite pieces of scripture: “Lord, do not give me too little lest I steal and dishonor your name, nor too much lest I forget you.” “All my fountains are in you.” ‘Not my wallet, not my circumstances, you alone,’ she thought.

As she slid into her car seat she contemplated the richness of her faith. The heaviness lifted and was replaced by an overwhelming joy that couldn’t be added to by a check, no matter how many zeros were on it. She was so grateful for a soul set free and the abundant blessings bestowed on her that her heart felt it would swell in volume and burst within her!

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/volume/

culture · Family · journaling · Relationships · Spiritual

Baring the Soul

I just completed journaling my life for the last 7 years in one volume!

I visualize myself at 94, rocking rhythmically on a squeaky pine chair. The sun is warm against my wrinkles and my weak eyes are closed as I listen to a granddaughter reading me a story. The story of my life. I love to tell stories and as I review it, I’m learning that the story of my life is a darned good one, and well worth recording. Here it is on page after page: details documented, interactions interpreted, dreams divulged, frustrations unfurled. My very soul is bared.

7 years is a long time. It’s long enough to forget specifics, which makes it extra delightful to read and recall events that I was once positive I would never forget. I began journaling as a teenager. I started with a day planner and​ entered what was going on in my life from day to day. Thirty years later and thousands of miles away, those puerile entries are priceless memoires. If my house was to catch on fire, I’d run for those tattered books before putting clothes on.

After mum passed away, I was cleaning out one of her bedside drawers when I stumbled upon a diary she had written in. She didn’t express feelings but simply jotted down events. Some where are mundane as how many piglets were born or that the vet came and immunized the cows. Others were simple yet ran deep as a well. “Michael was hit by a car today and went home to be with the Lord.” I never once saw her sit to write in it but I am so grateful she did. There’s something spell-binding about seeing words in her  handwriting.

I have a sister that lives across the world and we mail a journal back and forth. She’ll write entries of her life for a few months then mail it to me. I’ll do the same and mail it back. Needless to say, I wait for it with bated breath. Sometimes it’s years before I get it.

Looking back over the years, I am struck by remarkable obstacles I have overcome. I marvel at some of the same battles I am still fighting as I grow as a person. In some ways I am a completely different person and yet in others, I haven’t changed a bit.

I write details about people’s lives that might be embarrassing to them so I wouldn’t share my journal details with anyone while the concerned parties were still alive. Within reason, I feel a protective obligation to those people, especially since they can’t very well defend themselves.

Taking time to contemplate and document my life propels me to live the remainder of it at full throttle. If you have considered journaling, I would highly encourage it. Start simply and don’t over-think it.

Here are some tips from a lifer:

1. I used many small books when I was younger and have since learned to use a large book so I end up with just a few volumes. Find a large, good quality, well bound book that will last for decades. It could end up being a valuable family heirloom for generations.

2. Don’t feel pressure to write every day or even every week. Snippets of your life and thoughts are quite sufficient, even months apart.

3. Always write the date including the year. I go as far as to date every page in case the book should somehow come apart.

4. Simply write what you did, who you did it with, where you went, and how you felt about it all. It may seem insignificant in the moment but in years to come it will ignite important details of memories. I write prayers in mine and address them directly to God. My journals really read like a letter to Him. You can address yours to a person or even simply, “dear diary”. (I’ll write dd for dear diary.)

5. Write as much or as little as you want. Sometimes I write a paragraph, other times I write pages upon pages. Divulge as little or as much as you want. Always consider the possibility that nosey eyes will find and read your journal against your will. That said, be true to and honestly express yourself. This is a very powerful therapeutic tool and will be as impactful as you are genuine.

6. I sign each of my entries for fun. I still use an old signature that I started using as a teenager and don’t use anywhere else.

7. On the outside or inside of your journal, write the start and end dates. This makes them easier to organize in the future.

8. Create a journal station where you park your book. If you can, attach a pen to it so you don’t have to spend time retrieving one. It can be your bedside,  by the bathroom,  or by your comfy chair. Mine ends up either at my bedside or by my chair. I’ll take it with me when I travel but I’ve learned I rarely journal when I am away from home. My thought is that I will have time to get caught up.

9. Pick a time that works well for you. It may be before bed, first thing in the morning, or in the middle of the day after the kids are off to school.

10. Attach meaningful letters or pictures to your journal. Birth or graduation announcements, wedding invitations or photos, and eulogies are wonderful to revisit years down the road.

Don’t get so busy journaling that you forget to live your life!