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

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chickens · Ducks · Farming · Humor · Nature · Neighbors · Relationships

Ugly Ducklings

We all know not to count our chickens before they hatch.

A neighbor visited and chatted with my husband about wanting to incubate a batch of ducklings. She’d found a brand new incubator at an estate sale but didn’t know how to use it and was leaving for an extended period of time. They discussed the timeline and agreed to do it. I’ll call her Gabby because I inevitably find myself backing out of a room once she starts talking. It’s all pleasant chitchat, I just get the distinct sense that not only is my input is not required in these “conversations”, but worse, that she might NEVER stop talking.

My work day was interrupted later in the week by Garrulous Gabby dropped in carrying 16 fertilized eggs. They were carefully wrapped in a worn yellow towel, a situation so precarious she was literally biting her tongue and staring at the eggs. Her head was leaning so far forward as she walked that I was afraid she would break into a trot or fall on her face on the eggs. As soon as I took them from her she exhaled deeply and immediately took up a line of thought I didn’t follow, sucking up all the air in the room. She made endless trips to her car for the incubator and its various parts, talking the whole time, while I impertinently prepared a spot for the 2 foot square contraption in my dining room.

I am a reluctant farmer’s wife so gall rises within me whenever I enter these situations. How do I get reined into them? “Isn’t it wonderful?” The farmer cajoles over-enthusiastically.

“No!” I say. I am the one that ends up with stinky chicks in my closet for  weeks on end. I am the one that ends up shaving years off my life scaling fences while running away from mad-cow infested beasts. I am the one that has to listen to interminable conversations about ducks despite my attempts to stay out of his dealings with her. “It is not wonderful!”

She checked in frequently while she was away, yakkity voicemails to boot, “I can’t find your husband’s number… I know there are 21 more days to go. Ducks incubate a week longer than chickens, you know…. We are having a great time. I just don’t want you to feel like I abandoned my project on you.”

With a week left, the farmer starts preparation for the arrival of the ducklings. Humidity in the incubator must be adjusted. Temperature too. He’s starting to get excited. I’m staying out of it. I’d just like the space in my dining room back from its barn status.

We wake up in the morning to very loud peeping. No critters in the incubator but boy those eggs are rocking back and forth. That can’t be right. He looks at his calendar again. Hmm. Sure enough they start hatching and we are all befuddled. Not only are they very early, but there are no bills, and no webbed feet. They are all chicks!

It makes for great laughs with everyone that’s come through, curious about the operation. Gabby hasn’t checked in and I’m not about to initiate contact. This is going to be good.

A few hatch and the farmer brings in a massive cage with feeders, waterers, poop catchers, warming lights, receiving blankets, the works. I might as well set the dining chairs on the table and move it into the kitchen. The nesting boxes and barn doors can go right here.

Some eggs haven’t hatched and we leave them in the incubator. Maybe it was a mixed batch and the ducklings will hatch in a few days. By the next Saturday, I’m tired of dust and ridiculously loud cheeping. I declare the rest of the eggs are duds. I text her, unable to contain the surprise any more, “Your ducks are ready for you to come pick up.”

“What?!” She screams, calling back immediately. I put her on speakerphone. This is going to be really good. “That is terrible. They are not supposed to be ducks! I thought they were chickens!”

All six people in the room fall over laughing. We’d all heard, repeatedly, that they were duck eggs. The farmers wife shakes her head in dismay.

Don’t predestine your ducklings before they hatch.

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

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

Image result for LOVE public domain

“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/

Crush · horror · Love letters · Puppy love · Relationships

The Love Letter that Would Change My World

Image result for love letters public domain

To look at me that sunny August morning, one would never have guessed that my heart was flailing arrhythmically within me. It flounced, trying its level best to maintain a beat. Internally I floundered like a cow on skates and try as I might, I could not get my brain to engage. When he wasn’t talking any more, I smiled my winsome smile, said, “Okay, have a nice day,” and  sashayed away like a peacock, my head held high in dignified poise.

It left me nauseous, my mind reeling for days afterwards. In the coming month, I can’t tell you how many people snapped their  fingers in my face and said, “Hallo, earth to Hannah!!”

I was a teenager hopelessly in love with Gage. I’d known him since I was a child and he’d gone off to attend a fancy boarding school hours away. I only saw him on the first Sunday of the month at church. He was ravishing, airing his finery like a supermodel. I swooned whenever I saw him. He was hands-down the most handsome creature I had ever beheld. To make things worse he was humble and fun and made a point to say hi and chit-chat whenever he was around. Did he know he was killing me?

The Monday after I saw him that July thirty years ago, I determined to write him a letter telling him how I felt about him. It was pages and pages long. The verse and prose poured out of me like sublime strands of silk from a spider’s spinneret, scintillating, captivating. I know not the source of the breath-taking lines I used. The balladry astounded even me. I said things like, “You are the raw ingredients for the perfect making of a man.”  Page, after page, after page. Then I mailed it.

How I prayed that the post office would lose that envelope. That July was the longest month in history yet August came all too soon. I vacillated between relief at having sent the letter and shuddering with dread that I had been so stupid. But it was too late. Everyday I wondered if he had received it yet. How many such letters did he get each month? The horror was unbearable.

And now I sat in the car stunned, wanting to die. He was home from school and had bee-lined for me. I’d smiled casually and said hi.

“I got your letter,’ he began with that grin.

My sympathetic nervous system kicked into full-throttle. By the time I got a grip on myself, he was done talking. Friends, I have no idea what he said. I couldn’t very well ask him to repeat everything he’d just said. So I wished him a nice day, turned around elegantly and walked away, a fraud. A very swank fraud.

(My ten year old thought I needed to end this with this line: And some how we are still friends to this day.)

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

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/

Aging · Caregiving · Death · Health · Relationships · sad · Teasing

Knock Your Ass to the Floor

I’m scraping my left overs into the kitchen-scrap bin for my chickens. I smile sadly as I think of Coach. I wish it was his left-overs I was scraping …

As far as I can tell he has always commanded authority, even though he is the biggest kid on the planet.

I would watch his stooped form hobble into the front room, an iron-grip on his aluminum front wheeled walker. The caregiver has him firmly by the belt. She has finally learned to do it properly. When the caregivers first start, they inevitably pull his belt up as high as they can. Pretty soon his every step is higher and higher, driven by the abominable wedgy, until he is barely walking on tip-toe, then his legs are flailing about, trying to make up with the floor; and the caregiver, blood vessels pulsating on her temples, is about to strain bulging arm muscles from carrying a grown man by the waistline.

“Hi Trouble,” I tease.

He glances at me furtively,  and chuckles. Just a few months ago he would have said, “I’m going to knock your ass to the floor.” I love it! Walking has become arduous now. He keeps shuffling along, as though fearing that he won’t start again if he stops.  With every other step, the left Hush Puppies shoe rhythmically hits against the right one and his left knee buckles slightly.  I watch with bated breath, willing him on.

Sadly, his speech is also failing him lately. I can tell by the gleam in his eye he is trying to tease me back and can’t. My heart breaks. I’m certain it would have been a good one. When he finally sits, exhausted, I bend over to wipe a little rivulet of drool from his dignified chin and plant a playful kiss on his forehead.

“Wow! THIS is the BEST comb-over in the world!” I exclaim and  realign a stray hair. “I don’t care what anybody says.” He looks at me  through brilliant blue eyes and smiles again. He tries hard to say something and then abandons it. Instead, he shakes his head in mock dismay. So I raise my eyebrows and shake my head slowly as I say it for him. “… knock my ass to the floor.”  He smiles, trying to glare at me and settles for a fist.

We used to erupt in laughter at “the fist.” It was the formidable mechanism of knocking asses to the floor. One was liable to get it several times a day for one reason or another. A tear comes to my eye as I realize we are getting the fist less and less any more.

‘I’ll miss that someday,’ I think to myself as I clear his plate after breakfast. He did’t eat much, again. Nothing tastes good any more. I breathe deeply and stare absently out the kitchen window as I scrape the plate’s contents into the kitchen-scrap bin. Bacon, eggs, and rye toast. His favorite.

Today, I’m scraping my left overs… I wipe away another tear. I wish it was his left-overs I was scraping …

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

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/

Death · Relationships

Grief

Reblogged & modified from 2/1/15. This one came to me as I was processing  being at the morgue for the third time for an immediate family member. There’s no place like it. I have several people grieving the passing of their loved ones right now. My heart goes out to you and feels, somewhat, the state of your mangled hearts..
There’s a bog
called the morgue
Whence I slog
blurred senses clog.
Grief is a smog,
A ravenous hound dog.
I trip on  logs
Get caught in cogs.
I think I’ll blog
To flee the fog
The brutal flog
Low, low,
Low on the hog
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/