Christmastime

image source:kansastravel

image source:kansastravel

Christmastime is here.  Carols on Cd’s and choirs on TV, tear-jerker movies of lost love and found meaning and purpose, laughter at silly lyrics of ‘you’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch’ and ‘No crocodiles, no rhinoceroses, I only like Hippopotamuses’ float across the air, the dark night lit by twinkling lights on houses and yards decked out with clear LED strings around trees, over fences, up chimneys and draped on bushes.  Whole streets are transformed into wonderlands of colors and sparkles and strings of lit icicles along roof lines.

There’s the flap on the media about how much more polite and less threatening it is to say ‘Happy Holiday’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas’ and kids now have Winter breaks from school instead of Christmas break.  They’re still out of school, though, and most of them still go to bed on Christmas Eve all hyped up and excited about those wrapped gifts under the tree.

The politically correct police try to pretend there’s no deeper meaning than Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman and apparently big business agrees as we’re inundated with advertising to urge us to shop, shop, shop, spend, spend, spend, until we collapse from all the stress and turkey and pie overload.

But there’s something deeper, richer about the last days of December than the other days of any given year.  After all, why do people decorate the outside of their houses, put up trees inside, bake goodies to give away and spend hours shopping and wrapping gifts?  If it’s all just a marketing ploy why does the time of Christmas mean excitement or joy, or peace or any number of other feelings to millions?  Oh, sure, not everyone has a happy Christmas memory from childhood but why do we all long for the warmth, the promise of peace and the happiness that seems to go with the time of year?

How could the world’s people, so different in their customs, their traditions, their histories and their memories all want the same things, peace and joy?  And keep on wanting those things generation after generation, time after time?  And keep on trying to make life less bleak, less dark, less painful.  More filled with light and beauty.  And peace and joy.  Why?

Unless.  Unless, we were made with a soul and a spirit that respond to joy and peace.  Made with a soul and a spirit that crave the knowing that we were made for something greater than the everyday.  That we were made for joy and peace.

It was that same craving that sent those three Wisemen on a road trip, following a star that they believed would lead them to the very originator of joy and peace.  They found that joy.  It came to the world in that tiny baby, Jesus.

image source:jimmyharmon

image source:jimmyharmon

Every year we go through it all again, we wrap those presents, decorate that tree.  Every year we search for peace and joy.  Every year we’re reminded of the real meaning of life.  And if we listen to the twinkling lights, the rustling of the wrapping paper and the faint sound of carols through the night, we’ll find that peace and joy.  Just like the Christmas carol says, ‘Joy to the world, the Lord has come.’  Come for you.  Come for me.

Laughing all the way…..to the laundry

image source:menslifestyles

image source:menslifestyles

Who knew laundry would be such a big deal?  I suppose it makes sense that many of those things that Mother did for all of her adult life would be hard wired into her brain as automatic responses, including which dirty clothes need to be bleached and which ones need to be washed on the gentle cycle, using only Woolite for delicate fabrics.  It appears it’s that hard-wiring that makes it tough for her to trust that laundry left in my hands will actually turn out clean and fresh and wrinkle free.

The funny thing is, she taught me how to do laundry and sent me out over forty years ago into a brave new world with the skills that kept me from shrinking and destroying un-washables by dumping them into hot water or accidentally dying everything pink by washing a bright red with lighter colors.

Meanwhile, washing methods and machines and products have evolved some in the years since I learned to do laundry.  At least they have for some of us.

When I returned in Mother and Daddy’s elderly years and took up the responsibility for the laundry in their house, Mother was still using the old standard washing powder, in hot water with bleach and yet to me, the clothes seemed dingy and the effort greater than the task required.  I’d experienced a reduction in that old product’s effectiveness myself a couple of years earlier and decided the product must have changed.  So I switched to a liquid product and was happy.  I made the same change for Mother and Daddy’s laundry with good results.  In cold water, too, which is close to heresy to hear Mother tell it, but less expensive.  So, a no-brainer.  For me.  Not for Mother.

There are some things that still need hot water and bleach.  The white washcloths and towels for Mother’s bathroom and the cotton sheet scraps she uses with cleansing cream to remove her make-up.  This is a very small load, however, so I usually wait until I have at least a half load before washing them.  And this becomes the fodder for today’s drama.

Behind me, through the door into the kitchen, Mother’s sings a Christmas carol in her shaky little voice as she putters around the kitchen, heating up left-over pizza for her breakfast, filing her insulated cup with ice and water.  The sound of her cane clonking back and forth across the room as she moves.

“If you will pull out the white towels, from wherever you’ve hidden them,” she puts the bag of ice back in the freezer, “I’ll put them in the washer.”

“Wherever I’ve hidden them?”  I am amazed but don’t turn away from the computer.

“Well,” she gets a coke from the cabinet, “where are they?”

I have to stop laughing before I can answer.

“I’m glad you think I’m so funny,” she puts the warm coke in the refrigerator, takes out a cold coke can and plops it down on the kitchen island.

“Where are they?” her voice rising.

“In the bottom of the clothes hamper, Mother” I keep on typing, “right where dirty towels are always put.”

“Really,” her tone is one of sarcasm and disbelief, “I can’t image a load that large would even fit in the bottom of the hamper.”  She moves out of the kitchen, her plate in one hand, her other hand on the cane for balance.

“You’re a trip, Mother,” I’m laughing again.

“I can’t hear you over this Christmas music,” she yells from the other room.

“You don’t want to, Mother,” I’m still laughing.  Mostly because we keep having this conversation about why her towels disappear after she uses them.  I’ve gotten over being irritated and frustrated.  The only thing left is to do those tiny loads in hot water and bleach, and forget trying to save money on Mother’s white towels load.  Her hard wired brain can’t comprehend how her favorite four white washcloths and white towels don’t stay clean and fresh for continual use.

I could do like a friend of mine did once.  He hated going to the Laundromat so he just kept buying new packages of underwear.  When he had a pile of about 100 dirty ones, he finally decided to do laundry.  I’m contemplating my options.  Do more laundry?  Order a clean towel service so that Mother always has what she wants?  None of those are cost effective.

Face it, Victoria, her ability to reason is leaving her, so you can either give her no occasion to have to reason out why she doesn’t have perennially clean towels, i.e., wash them every few days, or get over making her happy and let her use other towels and washcloths.  That means ignoring her questions and irritations.  Think you can do that?  Not likely.

The dirty clothes hamper calls, I have to go now.

Dreams of Famine

image source:endtimesresearchministry

image source:endtimesresearchministry

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that at least seventy percent of all Old Testament stories that are told by teachers to little children, and that are written in Bible Study books for Sunday School and preached on by ministers in pulpits are about David.  His life as a shepherd, as a future king, as a fugitive hiding from the reigning king, his glory days as well as his failure days as the greatest King in Israel’s history.  Even stories about his son and heir to the throne, Solomon, are all remembered and told in light of who he was, David’s son.

All that is well and good; there are things to learn from the cautionary and the triumphant happenings in David’s life, and believe me, I’ve heard them all.  More than once.  Like, over and over and over again.

The life story that most appeals to me, however, is not David’s.  It’s Joseph’s.  He was a favored son.  Not the worst way to begin life, right?

God gave him a gift: he had dreams that let him and family know what the future held.  Useful skill, right?

He was part of a large, wealthy family so he lacked for nothing.  Sounds good so far.

The biggest problem was that he was favored by his father above his ten older brothers.  They did not take kindly to that.  And then, to make matters worse, he talks about these visions or dreams he’s having, which might be ok, I mean you could tolerate some silliness from a much younger brother, but the dreams were all about how he was going to be the most important, the leader and his brothers would be his subjects.  This was far before Israel had a king, so the very idea was foreign as well as repugnant.  And all those typical, human emotions reared up in his brothers; anger, jealousy, envy, bitterness, rage, hatred and they smacked Joseph up the side of the head and knocked him into a deep pit.  It was the lone voice of reason of his brother, Judah, that saved him from being killed and instead he was sold into slavery.

When we see Joseph some time later in Egypt he has proved himself so capable that he had full charge of the household of a wealthy and prominent man, Potiphar.  God appears to be on his side again and it seems he landed on his feet, so I’m thinking, maybe this kid has more going for him than just being a favored, pampered son.  I’m happy things are going well for him and though a slave, he has the use of wealth and prominence, so he’s better off without that big, shepherding family that no longer wanted him around, right?

Or not.  Again jealousy and rage are dogging him, this time from the master’s wife and the result is that Joseph is thrown in the pit again.  Imprisoned.  For years.  Can’t have been easy, but even in prison there’s still something different about him.  God speaks to him in dreams.  And then tells him what the dreams mean.  Not only that, he rises to the top of the prisoner hierarchy.  The guys in charge see his value and put his skills to work.

This says to me that whatever Joseph did, wherever he was in those years since excitedly sharing his dreams with his brothers, he did the tasks well.  He was trustworthy.  He was not a cheat or a con-man or miserable or depressed or angry.  He never gave up.  He even reminds guys who are getting sprung from the dungeon to remember him to the man in charge.

His code of behavior and his persistence pay off, or to put it another way, when God was done working on him in the prison, He got him out.  And once again Joseph rose to the top so that by the time the land is deep in famine, he is in charge of all the storehouses in Egypt.  He has the power to destroy or to honor those who work for him and anyone who appeals for help.  And everyone, Egyptians and the rest of the nearby world, come to him for help.  Including his brothers.

This is the big moment.  This is when we will see the underbelly of his character.  Is he still angry?  Nursing an old grudge at the betrayal by his family?  Has his heart turned to false gods and practices of a foreign land while he’s been away from his own heritage and his own people?  Has he stayed true to God and the faith of his father, Jacob, his grandfather, Isaac and his great-grandfather, Abraham?

“You meant it for evil,” he tells his brothers when he has revealed who he is and they are begging for mercy, “but God meant it for good.”

I wonder.  How much trauma and loss would I have to go through before I totally gave up in self-pity?  What if I was ripped from everything I knew and it was seventeen years before I saw any of my family again?  How would my everyday vision in those long years have to be changed so that I could see that God meant it for good?  For me.  For the people my life effects.

Joseph is the guy who shows us what it means to truly believe and to fully trust in God, even when there appears no end to the nightmare.  Is it any wonder that when his brothers finally came to him, he broke down in tears and moaned and lamented so loud that all the neighbors heard and Pharaoh sent word to find out if he was ok?

One last thought.  By the time Joseph is a power in Egypt, married with children, he is no longer telling about dreams from God.  He is living the dream from God.  The fulfillment is right in front of his eyes, yet there is no boasting.  No, I told you so.  There’s just joy to be with the family he hadn’t seen in seventeen years.  Oh, and he keeps on doing the job God sent him to do.  He saves the newly formed Israelite nation from being wiped out by a famine.  Now that’s living out the potential God gives.

Home for Thanksgiving

image source:whatscookingamerica

image source:whatscookingamerica

“Why are you picking on your Mother?” my friend picks up her keys and walks out the door.

“Picking on her?” I follow her and lock the office door, “Am I? It’s just that she says things that make me feel five years old,” I unlock my car, “I guess she pushes my buttons.”

I thread through the side streets and on the freeway, merging with the headlights that fill the five lanes headed up the hill.

Picking on her?  What about picking on me?  Telling me how to do laundry, how to clean, when to clean, when to vacuum, telling me I’m late, arguing the opposite view of any thing I say, telling me to wash the windows, water the garden, clean the bird bath, bring in the hummingbird feeder and refill it.  Always giving instructions.  Telling me what to do.

Refusing to be helped when I give suggestions for things to do that will make her feel better.

“Am I picking on her, God?”  I’m embarrassed my friend thinks so.  Does Mother think so?  I hit the top of the hill and join in the flow of tail lights and headlights streaming in all directions, but what I see is Mother.  Unable to do any household chores or drive or shop.  I’m struck by a new thought.  Just what is so wrong with her verbalizing all the things she’s done in her eighty-six years of dealing with life?

I see me.  That five-year old, the pre-teen, that teenager who was told how to clean and when to go to bed and when to get up and how to live.  But I’m not that kid anymore.  So why am I acting like one?

And just like that, the kid is gone and in her place is an adult doing the job of making sure her Mother can stay in her home.  Through the windshield, off in the western horizon, a small sliver of sundown colors the night sky and as it fades to black, the irritation, the anger, the frustration, the futility of arguing with Mother, the impossibility of changing her, they fade along with it.  I’ve been trying to fix her.  To make her happy.

Not.  My.  Job.

The relief is bright and free.  I exhale.

As the days continue, it feels fragile, this new sense of happiness and joy.  I move about the tasks, testing how I feel.  I open the hot oven door and stand back.  The first blast from the oven is expended into the kitchen and I heft the roaster pan off the counter, move in front of the oven and lean over to put the 18 lb, stuffed turkey sitting in a bath of chicken broth into the oven.

“Wow,” my knees bent, I half straddle the oven door, “how did Daddy lift this thing every year?”

“Don’t burn yourself,” Mother adds water to the boiling pot on the stove top, then adds the turkey neck, liver and gizzard.

“The roaster pan is cold, Mother,” I take inventory of my internal temperature, “so it’s not too likely I will burn myself,” all is calm.  No rising ire.

My lower back creaks in protest, “That could put the back out of whack,” I straighten up and close the oven door.

“I’m sorry it’s so heavy,” Mother adjusts the stove top temperature on the pan that is boiling giblets for her gravy.

I whistle a Christmas carol, collect dirty dishes, pick up a spoon, and head for the sink.  Still no rising ire.  Just joy and happiness.  I feel free.

The phone rings several times and Mother speaks with all her kids on Thanksgiving Day.  She’s pleased.  She and I work in tandem putting the finishing touches on the turkey, the dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce.  The dining room table is covered with food and we’re ready to eat.  Just the two of us.

Not lonely but surrounded by the wisps of all the yesteryear Thanksgivings.  Wisps of when we kids were small.  Wisps of  the expanding family.  Wisps of those who once celebrated with us but are no more.  They are here in this joy, and in this warm feeling of being at home, cocooned against the cold, outside world.  And the wisps of old feelings, old burdens, old habits float higher until they pass through the ceiling and are gone.  I’m left with joy.  I’m home for Thanksgiving.  Thank you, God.

Accused

 

image source:google images

image source:google images

 I turn the key in the back door lock and walk into the house through the laundry room and on into the brightly lit kitchen where I find Mother standing by the portable dishwasher.  On its butcher-block top, she is filling her 12 ounce insulated cup with ice and chilled water. 

Her look is piercing.  No hello or how are you or how was your writing class; no pleasantries.

“I thought you were going to buy sugar?”

“I did,” I say.  “Remember?  You stood right there when I filled the large canister.”  I’m not prepared for this attack so am irritated at myself for feeling defensive.

“Oh,” The piercing look changes to puzzled defiance because she’s sure of one thing and I’m sure of the opposite and because things that used to come easy for her now elude her grasp.

“Well,” she says, “I used the sugar in the small Sugar canister.  I had to ration how much I put in the apples I cooked to put up in the freezer.”

The apples arrived on the front porch yesterday morning in a plastic grocery bag.  From one of the neighbors across the street?  Probably, as we regularly trade fruit from all our trees.

Mother uses her cane to carefully move the short distance to the refrigerator to return the bag of ice to the freezer section, then back to the butcher-block top where she picks up the iced water jug, turns around and moves back to the refrigerator, her cane clunking with each slow step.

image source:athome.kimvallee

image source:athome.kimvallee

Hot apple aroma is making my stomach grumble so I take a clean spoon to the stove where the cooked apples are still in the pan.

“They’re perfect.  The ones you made last time were too sweet for me.”

Mother comes to taste the apples and we agree they are delicious and I tell her that it’s nice living with someone who cooks these tasty things.  She’s happy now and moves slowly out of the kitchen into the dining room where she settles herself and her iced water on the back side of the dining room table, so that she has a clear view of the TV.

I move around the house, rinsing dishes she left in the sink, collecting recycle trash and garbage to put in the outside bins, opening mail, starting a load of towels in the washer, checking my email and facebook.

Mother mutes the TV on the commercial.  I hear her groans of effort as she gets out of her chair and the clonk of her cane tells me she’s coming through the kitchen towards me in the office.

“What has happened to all my kitchen dish towels?”  She’s sounds upset and I know if I look I’ll see that defiance on her face again, “did you throw them all away?”

“Do you hear the washer, Mother?”  I don’t look up.  I continue to sift through mail, tossing empty envelopes and junk mail into the trash.

“And all the white towels from my bathroom,” She leans against the door frame, “where are they?”

image source:menslifestyles

image source:menslifestyles

God give me strength.  Apparently logical thinking has deserted her in her eighty-sixth year.  I sigh, swivel Daddy’s big old-fashioned desk chair towards her and begin again.

“I’m washing a load of white towels, Mother,” I take the look of frustration off my face and hope it is replaced with kindness, “bathroom and kitchen white towels, Mother.”

“Oh,” she turns and clonks back across the kitchen floor, “I just couldn’t understand why you would throw them all away.”

I can tell by the sounds that she’s back at the table, getting settled in her spot.

“They are all perfectly good towels with lots of use left in them,” she says just before the sound of the TV at full volume again fills the house.

“Especially the brand new ones I just bought for your bathroom.”  I grumble to myself and swivel back to the desk.  I don’t know what the next crisis will be.  I know there will be one, and no doubt, it will be my fault.  Not that it is her fault she’s eighty-six, wears out quickly and is easily confused.  One of us has to take the blame.  I guess that’s why I’m here.

[1st Place Winner – LinkedIn Themed Writing Contest, 11-20-2013]

Turkey Journeys and Stars

image source:123rf

image source:123rf

Thanksgiving means extra grocery shopping.  I think I’ve found a good, pre-packaged gluten free bread stuffing for the turkey.  Two years ago, I made my own using a loaf of gluten free bread, onions, celery, chicken broth, oil and spices.  I liked it, though to be honest, when you can’t have wheat most grain products taste pretty good.

Of course I still had to stuff the turkey with Mrs. Cubison’s Bread Stuffing for Mother as she was convinced anything without wheat would not be worth eating.  She had a bite or so of mine and said it wasn’t too bad, which was why I was surprised last year when she suggested we just stuff the turkey with gluten free bread stuffing.  Works for me as I’m up for anything that makes life easier and not having to make two different stuffings qualifies.

Modifying my diet is nothing new.  I’ve spent the last thirty years finding foods that work for whatever physical quirk my medical gurus and I have uncovered.  At first it was like I was on safari in a far off galaxy, floating among the stars, spear guns and large nets at the ready, avoiding the meteors threatening to knock me off my perch; hanging on so that I didn’t float untethered into the great beyond, but bit by trial by bit, I found things that worked and that I liked.  The rosy glow of health and increased stamina to stay balanced among the piranhas being the obvious pay-off.

Try explaining all that to your elderly Mother who believes if we just eat normally, all will be fine.  Of course, her definition of normal depends upon whatever tangent she currently finds palatable.  Like the spicy hot sauce, chips and Coke she lived on for a couple of years before I moved here.

“Why?” I asked.

“My stomach was upset” she said, “and I had really bad diarrhea and that was all that tasted good.”

Hmmm.  There could be a pattern here: spicy hot sauce, huge amounts of sugar and the caffeine in the coke – do you see the connection to not feeling good, Mother?  Evidently not.

Sadly for her, she can no longer shop or drive so doing the shopping is now up to me.  I’m not buying foods that will make her health quirks worse.  And does she get ticked off.

“I can’t believe you threw out my loose leaf Black Tea,” she says, her voice rising.

“I didn’t throw it out, I donated it to the church,” I say as I fill her tea canister with Caffeine free loose tea.

“If I put something on the list, then that’s what I expect you to get,” she slams the ink pen down on the grocery list, pulls her red sweater closer around her and glares at me.

“Here’s the deal, Mother,” I put the fresh veggies in the crisper and close the refrigerator door, “if it’s so important to you to eat things that aggravate GERD, then fine, that’s what I’ll buy,” I open a 3 lb bag of sugar and fill the canister, “and when you can’t swallow your food and aspirate in your sleep, I’ll just call the EMTs after you’re gone, ok?” I slam the canister back into its spot at the back of the counter.

“Humpf,” she reaches for her cane, turns and with each slow step clonks towards the dining room, “it’s time for my painting show,” and the TV goes on at full volume.

It’s been a winding, spinning trip but from time to time she catches up to me and when she gets there I’m surprised at what she does, like offering to make gluten free desserts and saying she’s thinks the packaged gluten free stuffing I found will be delicious.  I’m amazed that somewhere in her easily confused brain that can’t remember the names of her great-great-grandchildren and which grand-children got married last year, she has learned some new ways to eat.  Proof positive: you can teach an old dog new tricks. If they don’t kill you first, that is.

image source:thispilgrimland

image source:thispilgrimland

I feel the burn of the rope over my shoulder lessen and the weight of the barge I tow easing as it navigates more easily on its travel through the stars.  I thought I was here just to help her maintain, to be comfortable, to keep her health balanced so that her end would be easier.  I didn’t know the journey would also be about me letting go.  I had no idea it would be about finding new ways to communicate.  I couldn’t see that it would be about accepting Mother’s weaknesses while remembering to recognize her strengths.  I had to learn this journey is not really about Mother, it’s about me.  What I will learn.  Who I will be.  Who I will look like after she’s gone. Relieved?  Worn down?  Blossomed into a new inner beauty?  That’s the one I’d like to choose.  Only God can get me there and thankfully He’s pulling this barge with me.

publicity….

image source:ernestradio

image source:ernestradio

A big thank you to Jane Hoffman, talk show host on ernest radio network’s beaten path, who on tonight’s radio talk show, read two of my pieces, SHINING STAR and MEDUSA.

Listen in to Jane’s gutsy program at  http://ernestradionetwork.com/

Sugar Rush

Some days excite;

possibilities of life,

expectation of travel,

affirmation that something

said or written is

worth listening to and being read

appreciated and enjoyed;

image source:magdascakesnc

image source:magdascakesnc

Exciting as cake, fresh berries and chocolate sauce.

Why not?  Wheat and dairy = no-no’s.

Just this once?

Sugar and chocolate buzz fuel the

2 a.m. forty-five mile trip home,

3 a.m. stomach distress

9 a.m. headache pushes though sleep.

Still, sugar hangover and food sensitivities

pale in comparison to the memory of

the night’s  fun and anticipation.

Remember when the rush was the thing?

Now the thing’s the thing,

The promise of hope of the

Tomorrow faith sees.

Life in Small Bursts

image sourge:itsanitsybitsyspider

image sourge:itsanitsybitsyspider

My nephew came for a few days with his wife and two daughters, the oldest two years, nine months and the youngest twelve months.  All of life was represented in the microcosm of the young.  It’s life in small bursts.  Hungry?  Fuss until you get the food you want.  Thirsty?  Point and make unintelligible sounds to communicate.  Some of Mommy’s Starbuck’s Iced Decaf Low-fat Mocha Latte looks really good, so I’ll let you know even if I can’t say the words, I must have that.  I will have that.

“It’s really mostly milk with just a little coffee,” Mommy reassures Great Grandma.

And if it looks like Mommy’s and has a little coffee flavor, then I’m happy, says the little one.  Well, she doesn’t say it, but the shine in her eyes and the look of satisfaction as she slurps through the sippy cup communicates she’s gotten what she wants.

The look of concern on Great Grandma’s face also communicates.  It’s saying she’s not entirely convinced it’s as harmless or as nurturing as milk.

“She’ll certainly grow up liking coffee, won’t she?” Aunt Vicky says.  “You have to cultivate a taste for it.  I don’t think either of my brothers did, but my sister did. I still can’t stand the flavor.”

The life microcosm doesn’t stop there; that milk-slash-coffee tasted so good that now the little ones are chasing each other through the house, in a circle through the dining room into the kitchen, through the office and back into the dining room and around and around they go, the older splatting her feet as hard as she can on the kitchen vinyl and on the hardwoods.  Just so she can hear the sounds her feet make.  The little one takes a step or two with help, but she must be after her sister and so she crawls as fast as those little hands and knees will take her.

That chase doesn’t satisfy for long.  The pint-sized engine driving these toddlers burns up fuel quickly and they collapse on the rug with dolls and coloring books and an ipad game.  Then someone starts to smell and Mommy is up and changing diapers.  There’s some fussing and struggling against interrupted play and autonomy, but once fresh and dry, the fussing stops and play resumes.

And so the cycle continues; rest, play, cry over a owie, eat, sleep, fuss, diaper change, run in circles, drink, play, cry, share a toy, want up, fuss, want down, snack, play, drink, run in circles, eat, cry, sleep, shyly hide face in Daddy’s shoulder, run in circles, want up, eat, want down, drink, play, cry, sleep and around and around and around it goes.  Frustration, joy, freedom, anger, desire, peace, control, submit, want, need, give, take, love.

The busyness building strength in hands and legs, teaching colors and sounds and language and letters, the meaning of NO and the consequence of ignoring NO; testing boundaries and limits; learning how much you’re loved even as you learn how to push buttons so that you get what you want.

We age and those cycles lengthen out as our engines propel us for longer periods of time, but has anything really changed?  The emotions may be masked or buried or ignored but they’re the same.  The need may look more sophisticated or sublimated, but it’s still need.  Those basic instincts survive in one form or another.

The aging continues, time passes and before the end, our engines have once again shortened so that we need food and drink and rest and play in shorter segments until finally the little-engine-that-could will stop, our journey in this world will end.

Mother’s engine is winding down.  Some days she wakes with plans to work in the garden, mend a torn shirt; redo the elastic on the pajama pants that keep falling down.  And when her day of eating and resting, watching TV and taking trips to the bathroom is finished and she’s slowly heading to bed, she says,

“I meant to put water in the bird bath today.  Tomorrow I’ll work on those pajamas.”

image: google images

image source: google images

And when we talk about the coming end, we don’t worry, we’re not very fearful of the stop to the engine.  Of course there’s some anxiety to the unknown but we talk about the transition to the new engine.  The engine of the soul that lives after the body’s engine has run out of fuel and its replaceable parts are no longer available.  The new engine that will take flight out into eternity, that will take us to our Maker.  The childlike anticipation and enthusiasm have not died, they live on.  There’s a new life coming!

Medusa

The moment I saw her I knew I would have to leave town, but only if she was smarter than me, which was not possible.

image source:net-cs

image source:net-cs

She was coming down C concourse in a crush of people whose flights just landed.  She looked good, casual clothes, hair tinted red, dark sunglasses, relaxed.  She saw my wave, threaded through the crowd and came to where I sat at a small table in the bar.

“Meghan,” I stood and hugged her; she slid her heavy carry-on bag off her shoulder as we sat.

“Danielle, I can’t believe how much you look like me!”  She pulled off her sunglasses and my eyes looked back at me.

“I haven’t been a strawberry blond for years, but it wouldn’t make sense for me to be a redhead while I’m here being Meghan, now would it?” I sipped my water.  It had been three months since we’d traded  keys, names and lives.

“No, it wouldn’t,” Meghan giggled and looked around.  “I hope we’re not seen.”

“We should be ok,” travelers moved around us, everyone with their own agendas, the guys behind the bar making drinks and taking money.  If anybody saw us at the airport, they would recognize strawberry blond ‘Meghan’, and hopefully just think the red-haired woman looked familiar.

I pushed a water bottle towards her, “you’ll be in Paris for six months on this work-study, right?”   Plenty of time for me to finish what I’d started here.

“Yes.  I’m just so amazed I get to go and study art in Paris!”  She gulped the water, “Mother never encouraged me and always said I’d do something as foolish as art over her dead body.”

We laughed.  Well, she was almost dead; it wouldn’t be long now.

“How is Mother,” she capped the water bottle, “still bossy and angry?”

“Oh, you know Mother.”

“Really, Danielle,” her brows scrunched together, “are you sure you don’t mind being the dutiful daughter for a little longer?”

“No,” I smiled, “I finally get to have the family I never knew growing up in the child care system.”

I’d hit the jackpot; a rich mother, semi-comatose after a stroke, a nurse to care for her, a maid, a cook, a good-looking guy who’d been pining for Meghan for years, what was not to like?

“I still can’t believe I never knew I had a twin,” Meghan reached and squeezed my hand, “have you found out if Mother knew?”

“Yes, she knew.”  I sipped my water and watched the pain and anger on Meghan’s face.  It was our skinflint grandfather who bundled me off at birth without telling our Mother, but Meghan needed to stay angry at Mother, so what was one more lie?

A toddler at the next table cried while his harried parents tried to deal with him and his baby sister.  They made enough noise to cover our conversation.

“So, you’ve got everything with the name Danielle, like we agreed?”  I finished my water.

“Yes.  Passport, ID, home address, all of it is yours,” she patted her carry-on bag, “it’s been so great staying at your apartment.”

She looked at her watch, picked up her carry-on.  We stood and hugged again.

“Give Pearsey a hug for me, will you?”  She hiked the carry-on strap over her shoulder, “She was always so good to me; even let me help her in the kitchen.”

“Pearsey’s gone, Meghan.”

“Gone?  I thought she’d be there until they took her out in a coffin.”

“She decided to retire after a fall down the basement steps.”

“Oh, poor Pearsey,” Meghan was walking backwards, still talking, “I’ll go visit her after I’m back in town.”  She waved, turned around and walked briskly back up the concourse.

I’m sure Pearsey would appreciate a visit to her grave.  This life was wasted on Meghan.  I was doing her a favor, really.  She’d never learned to fight.  I’d survived by clawing my way up out of a nightmare.

It might be weird getting rid of a twin, an identical twin.  If she cooperated, I wouldn’t have to.  If not, I wouldn’t let sentiment get in the way; I never had.

I checked my watch; perfect timing to meet Kevin, the youngest of the family attorneys, at our favorite restaurant.  He’d been trying to date Meghan for years and now his dreams were coming true.