African · Anxiety · Autobiography · Childhood · Corporal punishment · Daughters · Family · Fear · horror · Kenyan · Kids · Parenting · Short story · Spanking

Panacea for Bashful Pupils

Image result for 1973 GTV FREE IMAGE

I bolted towards dad as soon as I saw his car in the parents’ parking line at Muthaiga Primary School. There weren’t any cars left. I hopped in beside him and settled into the edge of the seat with my massive orange rucksack still on my back. My feet barely touched the floor and my fingers braced my little body from slamming into the dashboard.

I was full of information and it was a while before I noticed he wasn’t talking much as he wound around the scenic road on the way home. “What’s this for?” I asked, making conversation, pointing to a straight green twig sitting on the dash.

It all started innocently enough. School got out at 3.15 pm and the huge mass of kids spilled out of classrooms. Those that were being picked up from school gathered behind the yellow line several meters from the main gate. Beyond that, parents were to park and walk through the gate to pick up their students. It was a great time to catch up with friends and always a little sad to watch them leave one by one. It was always best to be picked up somewhere in the middle. That way you had time to play but weren’t last to be picked up. The line monitor was a strict teacher with a huge belly. His belt seemed to hang on to the straining hem of his shirt for dear life.  He marched back and forth along the yellow line, looking for errant feet to whack back with his yard stick.

This Friday afternoon, a spectacle unfolded. A bright shiny red sports car sped past the parents’ line, revved its engine and squealed past the gate. Its driver impressively spun a tight U-turn  in the compact space, kicking up rocks and dust before coming to a screeching halt. The line monitor had to duck for his life but he composed himself and walked up to the car, obviously to tell the driver this was not the place to wait for kids. I watched with bated breath, expecting him to whack the fancy car with his yard stick. I noticed him talking to the driver who stepped out holding a rag and began to proudly buff the car. Pretty soon they were chatting it up and a small crowd gathered around the beauty to admire it, all thoughts of rules and yellow lines now out the window.

I swallowed hard and my eyes threatened to pop when I caught sight of the driver and realized it was my uncle Steve. This was terrible. He was beaming and showing off his new 1973 GTV. I wanted to die and must have shrunk to half my size with embarrassment. My heart was pounding in my ears and I feared I would faint. I swallowed hard and ducked behind a small group of taller kids when I saw him panning the crowd. I knew he was looking for me.

I was transfixed, cemented to the ground, the pounding in my ears getting louder and louder. This was the worst day of my life. What a terrible thing to do to a ten year old. What was I going to do? One thing was for sure, I couldn’t walk out there and very well get into that car. I tried, I stared at my dirty shoes, that just this morning I’d polished till they shone. I willed my tiny two-ton feet to move, but they were cemented to the ground. I looked bashfully around me and noticed with horror that, with time, the crowd was getting smaller and smaller as kids were picked up. I studied and memorized every crevice in every nail on my trembling fingers.

After what felt like an eternity, I jerked my head up in surprise as I heard the infamous engine roar to life. I mechanically tilted my head 2 degrees to the right and about screamed for joy as he peeled out, leaving his admirers in a cloud of dust. I breathed a full breath and my feet came to life, breaking into a happy dance. ‘Thank you Jesus!’ I muttered, ever so grateful, oblivious to  a small gang of boys beside me driving their imaginary sports cars, screeching as they shifted their gears.

After another eternity, just a handful of kids stood behind the line. No cars lined the parent parking line. I’d never been there that late. This couldn’t be good. I was hungry and very tired. ‘I hope I don’t have to sleep here,’ I thought to myself, looking around for where I might nest if I needed to. All of a sudden, my heart leaped when I saw dad pulling up. I’d never been happier. I grabbed my dusty cardigan off the ground and flew past the yellow line before he could get out of the car.

I hopped in beside him and settled into the edge of the seat with my massive orange rucksack still on my back. My feet barely touched the floor and my fingers braced my little body from slamming into the dashboard.

I was full of information and it was a while before I noticed he wasn’t talking much as he maneuvered the scenic road on the way home. “What’s this for?” I asked, making conversation, pointing to a straight green stick sitting on the dash.

“Did you see your uncle Steve at the school?” He asked quietly.

“Ya.” I answered quickly.

“Did you know he was there to pick you up?” He persisted.

“Ya,” I said less quickly.

“How long was he there?”

“A long time.” I murmered, going back to studying my nails.

“Why did you not go to him?” He was getting quieter and slower in his speech.

This was not going to be good. Needless to say, the stick was a switch, fresh-picked just for me. I jumped and screamed to the rhythm of a sound whipping, punctuated by, “This,” Whap! “Will,” Whap! “Teach you to hide,” Whap! “When-I-send-someone-to-get-you,” Whap! “And-waste-my-time” Whap! “Having-to-stop-what-I’m-doing-so-I-can-come-get-you-myself.” Whap, whap, whap!”

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

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Aging · Anxiety · Christian · Death · Family · Health · Heaven · Relationships · sad · Short story · Summer

Grief Gauntlet

Free stock photo of night, dark, halloween, horror

Today marks the end of my annual grief gauntlet.

It starts subtly enough with the passing of summer, my favorite season. The weather gets cooler and the days shorter. Then I know it’s time to get my game face on. On September 29th five years ago, my sister passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 49. October 13th grandma passed away from Congestive Heart Failure. October 20th is my sister’s birthday. October 22nd is my deceased brother’s birthday. October 26th 2014 my mum passed away from a massive heart attack.

So it is that the end of September feels like diving into murky turbulent waters and that I have to wait till the end of October to exhale. I experience a profusion of emotions, some at the same time. They vary from a punch-in-the-gut breathlessness to exhilarating hope, and a million in between.

I thank God for His ministry of comfort to me without which I would be a wreck. It continues to blow my mind that the Holy Spirit is called our Comforter. He personally attends to healing our broken hearts. He prepares us, buffers us, and endows us with grace to endure the pain. In John 14:27 Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” He then continues to shield and teach us about our hope in eternity. This is not a wishful thought but a certain expectation that we will see our loved ones again, whole and restored. We will also see our beloved Jesus face to face.

Death is our final enemy 1 Cor 15:26. And it is a formidable enemy indeed. He strikes a terrible blow. But after we have overcome that, if we know and loved Jesus, we will never die again and pass from death to life.

Receiving news of a family members death is surreal to say the least. If you’ve never had to endure it, let me tell you that nothing can prepare you. It sucks like crazy. But One stands with you. That’s the best you can hope for. If you are in the thick of it, He stands with you still. In many, many, many days it will get a little better. Then a little more. The sun will shine again.

To read through mum’s medical report on her final day, I am further saddened that we as a family had not made the necessary steps to protect her in the even of flat-lining. I thank God for the crash team that rushed to her side to help her. Yet they were at it far too long and I hate to think of her beholding her Savior yet being surrounded by experts attempting to jolt her back to life. Not necessary. We, especially as believers, must take steps towards believing that we have a fabulous place we are going and to do what we can to eradicate unnecessary medical heroics. Though she’d had a rough last year and we were devastated by the thought of letting her go, so we didn’t plan on what the end would look like. Please take the time to talk with those you love about what you’d like and what they’d like. Better yet, write it down.

So I look outside at this fantastical fall we are having and feel ready to exhale. I thank my spiritual family for their priceless support through prayer and other gestures of love. I’m so honored to walk this road with you and can’t wait to be finally home forever.

Mum, Irene, Mick… plus all others who have gone before us, we’ll see you all very soon.

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

photo retrieved from https://www.pexels.com/photo/night-dark-halloween-horror-782/ on 10/26/2017

Anxiety · Attraction · Battle at Kruger · Buffalo · Caregiving · Dementia · Family · Health · herd · Hormones · Lions · Maturity · Oxytocin · Parenting · Photography · Photos · Prayer · Psychology · Relationships · Self-Regulation · Tattoo · Teepa Snow · Tribe · YouTube

Meant to Belong to a Herd

 

Part I: OXYTOCIN

I took a magnificent Dementia class by fellow occupational therapist Teepa Snow. She taught a contact technique to use on people with dementia. She elaborated that it led to the release of Oxytocin, a hormone produced in mammalian brains.

I call it our herd hormone.

I later learned it controls social recognition among like kinds, and is involved in attraction, orgasm, and bonding. It affects factors like trust, generosity, and eye gaze. “An oxytocin nasal spray caused men in a monogamous relationship, but not single men, to increase the distance between themselves and an attractive woman during a first encounter by 10 to 15 centimeters” (Scheele et al, 2012). Sheep injected with Oxytocin inhibitors did not show maternal behavior towards their young whereas virgin sheep injected with Oxytocin exhibited bonding behavior towards strange lambs (van Leengoed, Kerker, & Swanson, 1987).

Wow!

When I got home from the class that night, a young man delivered medical equipment for a new resident of mine. I shook his hand at the door and commented that he had a great, firm handshake. I have a thing about handshakes and frequently request a redo if I get a limp one.

“Turns out firm handshakes elicit Oxytocin release,” I said to him as we were setting up the equipment, eager to teach him what I had learned.

“Dude!” he exclaimed, “I AM the Oxytocin man!”

“What do you mean?” I asked, taken aback.

“I love Oxytocin so much I have it tattooed on my shoulder!”

“I’ve got to to see it,” I said wide-eyed, leaning in after looking over my shoulder to make sure my husband wasn’t walking in on me gawking at the delivery guy taking his shirt off. I expected pretty calligraphy of the word.

People! The guy had the chemical formula of Oxytocin tattooed down his shoulder and clear across his chest! Mind. Blown!! I squealed in delight and disbelief as I snapped the picture below, quite like a giddy school girl.

Needless to say, I stood transfixed (10-15 centimeters further away) and stared at him in rapt attention as he assembled the equipment and taught me about Oxytocin.

Part II: CO-REGULATION

Fast forward to co-regulation, a term I recently learned. You might be familiar with self-regulation which has to do with self-monitoring so as to control our own emotions and behavior. Self-control requires time, thought, and deliberate decision making (a top-down process.)

Co-regulation, on the other hand, entails herd members influencing each other’s emotions and behavior. It is the “continuous unfolding of individual action that is susceptible to being continuously modified by the continuously changing actions of the partner” (Butler & Randall, 2013). American social worker David Belford says, ““being with“… [emphasis mine] can help co-regulate the other person more quickly because it bypasses our thinking brain (bottom-up processing).”

Co-regulation is fundamental to all human relationships from conception to death. We become stable human beings if we receive healthy regulation from our primary caretakers. If not, “we struggle with our own regulatory challenges and may turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, food or other externals to regulate our anxious or depressed systems. If this goes on long enough, we can find ourselves in addiction. Living in isolation or addiction is self-destructive, while turning to responsive people to soothe our pain is constructive.” (Katehakis, 2017). Katehakis asserts that co-regulation is a main reason why adults are in relationships.

Part III: ADRENALIN

This is an abbreviated version of what is, hands down, my favorite YouTube video in the world. Please take a minute to marvel at it.

This video has over 79 million views! 66 million are mine. What you don’t see is that at one point in the course of the scuffle, the baby buffalo falls into the grateful jaws of a crocodile! Not only is he officially having a bad day, but he doesn’t stand a chance!

Imagine that you, mum, and dad are strolling along at Kruger National Park, enjoying some family time by the river when a pride of lions waylays you. Before you now it, you are squealing for your life as the lions mount, claw, and bite at you. You have no idea what hit you in the watery brawl before you are dragged and pinned helplessly onto shore. Mum and dad are off at record speed and you are dead meat. The lions growl and snarl with drooling, primal pleasure. It’s a wonder you can hear it over your visceral groans. The uproar intensifies as they tear at you despite your failing fighting efforts. You are a sorry match for these killing machines.

Adrenalin floods your heart and the earth thunders to its deafening rhythm. Boom. Boom. Boom! The drumfire should be fading along with your draining life, yet it gets louder and louder, rumbling, stampeding. It’s not just nature’s greedy heartbeat as she gapes her ravenous jaws, it’s the hooves of a hundred irascible kin on a rescue mission. Boom. Boom. Kaboom!

Suddenly, your neck is released and surprised lions are flying in the air. Kicked cats are whimpering and scampering for their lives.

All because your tribe came back for you. It’s a fuming , foaming sea of them. You can’t make out mum or dad for the massive, cranky herd. You’ve never seen so many, never heard such enraged bellowing. It’s dizzying. And it’s all for you. That’s the power of belonging!

It gives me chills EVERY TIME.

I, for one, am just dipping my feet in the warm ocean of these beautiful concepts and can’t wait for an exploratory swim.

Have an Oxytocin rich day!

Video retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGvj7NxMMMU on 10/20/17

Scheele D., Striepens N., Güntürkün O., Deutschländer S., Maier W., Kendrick K., et al. (2012). Oxytocin Modulates Social Distance Between Males and Females. The Journal of Neuroscience, 32, 46.  PMID 23152592.doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2755-12.2012.

van Leengoed E., Kerker E., & Swanson H. (1987). Inhibition of Post-Partum Maternal Behaviour in the Rat by Injecting an Oxytocin Antagonist into the Cerebral Ventricles. The Journal of Endocrinology, 112(2), 275–282. PMID 3819639.doi:10.1677/joe.0.1120275.

Butler, E. A., & Randall, A. K. (2013). Emotional Coregulation in Close Relationships. Emotion Review, 5(2), 202–210. http://doi.org/10.1177/1754073912451630

Katehakis, A. (2014) Co-Regulation. Mirror of Intimacy, Daily Reflection October 8, 2017 via email.

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

Anxiety · Christian · culture · Family · Kids · mothers · Parenting · Relationships · sad · Single mother · Single parenting · Spiritual · Uncategorized

I Don’t Need You

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“How do you do it?” her new friend gasped incredulously. My kid sister Jackie was at a children’s birthday party and had just shared that she was a single mum.

She got this reaction almost every time.

This time an extraordinary sense of ownership welled inside her. “I do it just fine with the Lord.” She knew this wasn’t a fashionable statement but it slipped right out of her mouth before she could stop it. She felt strangely galvanized inside and her chest puffed out slightly.

Kayla was seven now. She was the hardest yet the best thing that had ever happened to Jackie. Kayla’s dad walked out on them when she was about two. To be honest, Jackie can’t imagine what life would be like with him around. My heart warms every time I observe these two for any length of time and I marvel at what a fool he was to have walked out on this.

I love the amazing and simple life they’ve created for themselves. Jackie works a few days a week as a therapist. She walks Kayla to school in the mornings and they chat about wanting a cat, the naughty boys at school, anxiety about going to the doctor for shots, and everything in between.

Especially earlier on, Jackie’s life was peppered with regrets wishing life had played out differently. She’d known all along he wasn’t great marriage material but had mercurial hopes of some future together. News of Kayla’s very presence in the universe had rocked Jackie’s world and filled her with dread. This was not her plan. She could terminate the pregnancy and continue her life like nothing had ever happened. No one would ever need to know.

I distinctly remember her phone call to me shortly after she found out. I was crestfallen and lost for words to respond to her announcement. We had an unspoken pact that we’d save ourselves for marriage. I couldn’t imagine the angst this was causing her. She was the youngest of  seven siblings and with humility, boldness, and dignity, she called every member of our family to tell them. She called her pastor and told him. She went before her church and told them. She was embraced with the associated grief and swallowed up with love and acceptance. She was overwhelmed with the love of God’s family. I couldn’t have been more proud of her, worlds away. It tore me up that I couldn’t even hug her or hold her beautiful face.

I ate up pictures she sent of herself as her bump progressed. She was gorgeous. And afraid. And sad. And excited. And oh, so remorseful. This was not what she wanted…

The first year was a blur. She had a horrendous birthing experience. Then Kayla had to go to her dad’s house for visits every other weekend. How Jackie dreaded that. She sent her off with instructions to him. And clothes. And food. “Here’s some pain medicine, she’s teething so she needs it every 3 hours. And don’t forget to use the barrier cream. She had a terrible rash last time.”

He was a man of very few words but was he even listening? She paced her house the whole time her baby was gone. She cried herself to sleep and awoke ten times before morning dawned. Why wasn’t he answering his phone? Was he with his drinking buddies again? She was ready to pull her hair.

Jackie would sob with relief when they finally got back. She kissed her chubby cheeks with a million teary kisses and held her close, thinking her heart would burst. She hated that, subconsciously, she would start the dreaded countdown till Kayla would leave again. Within a few months Kayla would actually cry for him when he dropped her off. Jackie didn’t know what to do with that. Fortunately, she was easy to redirect. Still, with consternation, she would open the diaper bag and find that things she’d carefully packed away and given instructions on, were untouched. It made her want to shake him.

And then one day he fell off the face of the earth. No call, no words, no goodbye. She heard that he had left the country and wasn’t coming back. She wanted to dance with glee. Then a new grief hit her: the loss of a dream. That can strangle one as mercilessly as the death of a loved one.

She ploughed through the banal experience of child-raising. It was peppered with constant reminders that she was alone. There were more blatant aspects like buying a piece of property and building a home: every signing appointment, every minute detail regarding the home – from qualifying for a loan to choosing counter tops, roofing, doorknobs, lighting, flooring. It would have been so helpful to have someone to run decisions by.

They talked about him now and again. Kayla asked where he was and when he’d be coming back. She asked if it was anything she had done. She wondered if he thought of them. “Will I be the only girl in the world without a daddy?” She would sob and disconsolately throw herself on her bed. Jackie answered her questions gently, thoughtfully, honestly.

She perpetually found herself having to explain, in one circle or another, that he wasn’t in the picture. Always, an awkward silence ensued along with an attempt on her part or the other person’s to recover some semblance of dignity.

Jackie snapped back to attention as the herd of screaming party goers stampeded into the room to open presents and sing Happy Birthday. She smiled through the whole affair as, almost beholding on a screen, she reviewed how good God had been to her despite immense hardships. He had seen her through. And that beautifully!

He HAD met her every need. He had helped her overcome the poignancy of her wants that He didn’t fulfill. He had housed them, healed them, provided for them. He had protected them, comforted them, delighted them. God had done more than Kayla’s dad could ever have done had he stayed in the picture. Of course she longed for a physical consort, a life partner. Someone to laugh with and encourage her. Someone to help her discipline and train this handful of a child.

But she solidly learned that she had all that and more. All her fountains were in Him, Psalm 87:7. He was a fountain of constant cleansing; a fountain of refreshment that slaked her every thirst; He astounded her when He thundered like the Niagara with power in her life; He delighted her when He filled her and her daughter with levity and delight in life.

She determined that she would raise her daughter to know that she had a Father who loved her more than anything. She had an identity and a family. She was whole and lovable, incredibly made, wanted and chosen before she was delicately knit together in her mother’s womb. She was pursued and desired, cared for, and delighted in just as she is.

Always. Tenaciously. Unconditionally. Loyally.

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

Aging · Caregiving · culture · Death · Family · Humor · language · Money · Relationships · sad · Thanksgiving · Work

Burying the Cat II

JD darted from the church and into his car in record time. Drenched in sweat, he felt like he would pass out. After he’d got a grip on himself, he reached into his front pocket of his stiff new Bi-Mart jeans for the infamous phone.

He stilled his shaky hands and flipped the little gadget open, muttering at it the whole time. 6 missed calls in 2 minutes. It was his elderly client Lynn. He pushed call.

She answered immediately. “Halo JD.”

He could tell something was very wrong. “Are you okay? What’s the matter?”

“It’s not good.” She said. He could tell she’d been crying. “Can you come?”

“I’ll be right there.” He started his car. He raced the familiar 25 miles there and let himself into the house, scared stiff. “Lynn!” he called gently.

She sat on a chair facing away from him and he hurried to her. When he got to her, he stepped back in utter dismay. She was cradling a very dead cat!

She started bawling when she saw him. “He was very sick this morning when I woke up. By the time I showered and called the vet, he was dead.” She sobbed helplessly.

He was aghast. He was tempted to say, “Is this why you called me?” but she couldn’t hear anything over the sobs anyhow. She reached out an arm for a hug. He leaned in and tried very hard not to touch the cat. “It’s okay, Lynn. I’m so sorry.”

She held him for a long time. So long his back started to cramp. Then his stomach started growling again. And that cat, he was certain he could feel it squirming, or winking at him. Or something.

Two hours later, he helped her out to a spot where they had decided Gumby would be buried. He set a chair up by the old magnolia and  scraped a perimeter for the hole. Once she approved it he got to work digging  a hole, 2 feet by 2 feet. He gritted his teeth at having to dig with his weekend clothes on, but he couldn’t very well go back home  to change at this point. The rhythmic strike of the shovel followed by the thud of the moist dirt landing was punctuated by Lynn’s soft sobs. Strike, thud, sob. Strike, thud, sob, sniffle.

He pulled his bandana from his pocket, wiped the sweat off his brow, threw the shovel off to the side and jumped out of the three foot deep hole. Lynn had wrapped Gumby in one of her towels and JD slowly reached out to receive it. He was met with a visceral wail and she clutched tightly at her stiff but beloved pet.

JD stood by trying not to the think of the tamales at his house that his friends were probably devouring without him. He didn’t want to deny her this precious moment with Gumby but he had spent all day yesterday preparing them and his cousin cooked them while he was at church.

He cleared his throat and placed his hand on her shoulder after she wiped her nose on the sleeve of her pink polyester robe. “Honey,” she started, “I don’t that’s deep enough. I don’t want coyotes and racoons digging him up. Let’s make it a little deeper.”

He jumped back in and dug first one foot, then two feet deeper. Unfortunately this also meant he had to make it wider than two foot square. He put his foot down when he was chest deep and she mistook his tear for sympathy. “Gumby always loved you so very much,” she said wanly, rocking him back and forth.

_______________________________________________________________

“Donde estas?” yelled his cousin, Pablo trying to make himself heard over the loud music in the background.

“I’m coming from buying tulips and heading to Lynn’s house,” JD replied. “Hide me a bunch of tamales.”

“Tulips? What about the tamales? Estas loco? ” Pablo scratched his head, sure he’d heard wrong.

“Hide me 6 tamales. I’ll be home soon. I think,” and he hung up, exasperated. There was nothing like missing a tamale fiesta at your own house.

She’d decided she needed tulips on the grave so that she had something pretty to enjoy when she sat by the chair she’d had him cement under the magnolia tree. That had taken another hour and a half but she just had to have those tulips. They were Gumby’s favorites, she said. She had him lay them out, first one way then another before settling on  a third configuration. He buried them then set up some rockery that the tulips would adorn.

He pulled into his driveway at 6 p.m. to find folding chairs, dirty dishes, and beer bottles strewn across his front yard and no one in sight. He was the epitomy of mixed emotions as he stood there his eyes going from this mess to the wad of cash Lynn had stuck into his breast pocket “Please take this,” she said as she hugged him goodbye.  “You’re a better son to me than my own. He’d have told me and my cat to go to hell hours ago.”

JD counted it 5 times. Nine hundred and Forty dollars.

tulip2

https://wordpress.com/prompts/deny/

Brothers · culture · Family · Humor · language · Nature · Relationships · Teasing

I’m Not a Fan of Yellow

My friend Shawn is a lovable, flavorful character. A mouthful sometimes. A potentially annoying mouthful.

He’d traveled to Namibia to visit his in-laws whom he only got to see every few years. Several women were in the kitchen wrapping up dinner – there’s nothing quite like a kitchen full of African women. Kwaito music was bumping rhythmically in the background and they occasionally paused their stirring to join in a catchy refrain or sway their hips in choreographed harmony, then burst into laughter, omwikos flailing boiling stew in the air.

Shawn sat in a small living room with 7 other guys at his brother-in-law’s new house. The overstuffed, extra firm couch was almost completely covered with colorful handmade doilies that kept falling to the floor and having to be retrieved. They were arguing loudly about politics, talking over each other, and laughing. Any tentative statements made were promptly challenged and severely scrutinized.

Shawn, a rather verbose character, was the only American in the room, surrounded by locals. Shawn talks. A lot. He has few verbal filters and is bold beyond belief. Admittedly, he had been on good behavior, afraid of being the ugly American. The men kept asking his opinions and he was careful, as his wife had tutored him,  not to take center stage and pontificate, which is his preferred mode. Topics flitted from one to the next and he presently got distracted. If he wasn’t the center of attention, he got distracted.

He was looking around the stark room in the house whose construction was almost complete. He could still smell the cement and the single coat of pale yellow paint on the wall, painted at the last minute to impress the guests.  He thought long and hard about this set up and didn’t notice the entourage of women walking into the room bearing food. He proclaimed absently, studying the walls, “I’m not a fan of yellow.”

His words fell like a giant catfish jumping out of murky waters and flopping onto a muddy beach with a splat. Everybody gasped and swallowed hard in unison. Eyes grew to the size of small plates, extremely embarrassed, and in utter disbelief. Hearts sank and no one dared to look at Mike, the heretofore proud home owner.

The strained, stunned silence in the room was pierced by Joe slamming his bottle onto the glass table as he choked over spewing beer. He had  warm beer coming out his nose and eyes. He didn’t know if he should laugh or cry. He had argued for days with his brother Mike to not paint the room and just yesterday, Mike had spent what felt like hours at the local hardware store deliberating over what color of paint to buy. Never mind they only had 6 selections. Like a keDecember Boss, Mike had ridden his bike proudly toting 2 gallons of “Egg-yolk Yellow,” dodging muddy pot-holes, garbage, and mangy dogs on his 30 minute ride home.

Shawn’s wife Maureen narrowed her eyes and inhaled deeply and then her distressed, heavy chest sank in slow motion and just kept sinking. Her eyes told his that he had erred greatly and that he was a dead man sitting. If she wasn’t holding a tray of food she would have hurled her high heels at him and clocked him right on the bridge of his crooked nose. She shook her head slowly and narrowed those eyes further. Her lips began to furl tightly, controlled by an unseen drawstring, and to quiver with rage.

No one in that room will forget those moments till the day they die. There was no recovering from this one, even for my astute friend who can normally extricate himself from just about any situation with his oratory skills. It changed the mood of the entire rest of the vacation and the trajectory of Shawn’s life.

Fast forward 3 years and her family is bursting out of the vehicle after travelling across the world to visit Shawn and Maureen in the States. It was a glorious fall afternoon and the foliage was stunning to behold. Joe was the first guest to get out of the car. He yawned dramatically and inhaled the crisp air, then shivered in the cold breeze. “You guys said it wasn’t cold!  You mean it’ll get colder than this? Mxm!” He exclaimed. His brothers shuddered in agreement as they streamed out of the car and stretched their cramped legs. Along with the others, Joe hastily grabbed a random suitcase from the trunk, flicking a stray welcoming leaf from his shoulder. They all raced into the house, certain a blizzard would sweep through at any minute.

No sooner had they stampeded indoors and dropped the suitcases in a tall pile, than Mike blurted, “Etche muntu! I thought you are not a fan of yellow, man!”  He held his arms out defiantly circling the yellow room. Everyone else, rubbing their arms vigorously to warm themselves, burst into laughter.

“What are you talking about?” Shawn asked, cocking his head curiously.

“What is he talking about?”, choked Joe incredulously.

“What is he talking about?”, gawked Maureen.

That set the tone for the rest of this visit, and my poor friend Shawn spent a pouty fall feeling picked on; while Maureen juggled the fine line between letting him face the consequences of his often tactless speech and helping him preserve some semblance of dignity among his in-laws.

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

Aging · Caregiving · Death · Faith · Family · Health · Nature · Poetry · Relationships · sad · Spiritual

Ash Tuesday

This is a tribute to one of the most dignified people I have ever had the privilege of caring for. He and his family impacted my life deeply for almost 2 years. Some people grow deep roots into our hearts in no time…

Our beloved Gorge flares in a fury of flames and ash

Started by thoughtless fun and games

Fueled by bone dry underbrush,

By cowards who then skinked away and hid. No names.

Blazing,

Devouring,

Devastating.

 

On this Ash Tuesday

Another inferno has ran its course.

“I say what I mean and I mean what I say.”

His was a life lived deliberately

With honor, honesty, & humor. No remorse.

 

Simple and humble, hilarious, approachable.

A diligent, brilliant, outstanding human being

With  warmth blazing through bright blue eyes

Fed by a fire in his belly, seemingly all-seeing.

 

His was a no nonsense, kick your ass to the floor, tell-it-like-it-is kind of warmth.

It was fueled by Polish pride and delivered with New Jersey precision.

Fiery and feisty,

Then glowing,

Smoldering,

Simmering.

Spent…

 

Coach.

The man.

The myth.

The legend.

Forever in our hearts, till we meet again.

 

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

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/

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/