The Hole Inside

Bing Images

Bing Images

Couldn’t branch out at tender age
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t risk a verge to the unknown
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t risk propriety’s dress parade
were it not for the hole inside.

Painted on eyes,
colored up lips,
feather soft cheeks
façade for drab,
shriek out for worth.

Couldn’t learn to twirl debris
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t dance in battered sighs
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t sink beneath life’s heft,
were it not for the hole inside.

Painted on eyes,
colored up lips,
feather soft cheeks
façade for drab,
shriek out for worth.

Couldn’t embrace my solitary
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t reach life’s reason
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t find solace in the crush
were it not for the hole inside.

Painted on eyes,
colored up lips,
feather soft cheeks
façade for drab,
shriek out for worth.

Couldn’t escape the putrid pit
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t seek deep healing lift
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t evade death’s cold rattle
were it not for the hole inside.

Painted on eyes,
colored up lips,
feather soft cheeks
façade for drab,
shriek out for worth.

Couldn’t have a far view
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t have found solace,
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t have met the cure,
were it not for the hole inside;

Couldn’t fly on joy’s wings
were it not for the hole inside;
Couldn’t learn love’s embrace
were it not for the hole inside.
Couldn’t have known my soul’s lover
were it not for the hole inside.

Shining eyes clear,
smiling lips and crinkled cheeks,
love and beauty merge at last
with wisdom’s perfect love;
my hole is day by day healed.

Advertisements

HOMECOMING

image:google:fineartamerica-semmick

image:google:fineartamerica-semmick

I hadn’t meant to stay so long.  Orders were clear: get in, gather the data, get out.  Unobserved, preferably.  No tampering with the timeline; no drawing attention to yourself.   I’d made other trips without incident and didn’t expect any this time, even if it was Paris, 1831.

I dove into the culture and studied the societal and political factors that would lead to the June, 1832 death of 800 insurgents.  Falling in love with Amélie was a surprise, but by June, 1832, we’d been living together for months and our child was nearly due.  Any thought of going back home had long left my mind.

I was confident I could protect her.  We would leave the city for the day.  It was her political student brother, Alain, that drew her to the streets that day to try to save him.  By the time I saw her face-down on the Rue du Bout du Monde, the city was in chaos.  I took a blow to the head and all went black.  I woke in our apartment to find Alain had survived and had dragged me off the streets.  We searched but never found her body.  In my desperation and grief I knew the only way I could save her was to go home.

Transport back to the Twenty-Fifth century was simple.  Activate my Travel Device and I would return, arriving the same day I left, February 15, 2415.  If not for the fact that it was DNA specific, I would have taken Amélie back with me long before.  Somehow I managed to appear coherent and convinced our project manager it was vital I return to Paris, 1832.  I tried two more times but no matter how I tried to alter the events of that week, Amélie died, her body never found.  My project manager was beginning to look at me strangely so when the assignment to study the Anasazi, 1275 A.D., Southwestern U.S. came up, I took it, hoping my nightmares of Amélie dying would fade with in the heat among the Anasazi.

It had been over two years, the memories of Paris getting dimmer, when I met Amy in the company cafeteria.  I’d been many places in time and she was fascinated by my history stories, though she never knew I was relating actual travel.  She was in Genealogical Research and only those of us in History Research time-traveled.  It was so easy to be with her.  It felt like coming home and I was able to finally put Paris, 1832, to rest.

Today’s trip had been tough, a week’s blizzard in 206 B.C. at the first section of the Great Wall of China in the Qin Dynasty had left me chilled to the bone.  I had just sunk down in my easy chair next to a roaring fire when Amy got home.

“Darling, how was your day?”  She called from the kitchen and went on before I could rouse myself. “I’m so excited.” she said.  Mimi meowed as Amy put out fresh food; water ran at the sink, a drawer opened, closed, ice tinkled in a glass.  The welcome sounds of home, especially after a tough travel trip.

“I just wish I had been able to find this before Mama died,” Amy hung her coat in the closet, “the missing link, my 7th great grandmother!  From there it was easy and I got back to 1832, Paris, to my 13th great grandmother, Amélie Gaubert.”

The truth was clear, even through tears; the tilt of her chin, her blond hair, wide smile, twinkling eyes; all so familiar; not identical, but a strong resemblance.  I had descendants generations older than me.

“She had a son, during the Paris insurrection of 1832.  She died giving birth so there’s no clue to the father.”  Amy crossed the room and lowered herself carefully onto my lap.  “Are you crying, darling?”

I wrapped my arms around her and our unborn son, “There’s nothing like coming home, to the ones you love; to family.”  I said, and kissed her.

[2nd Place Award, LinkedIn Writing Contest #15]

FIRST KISS

The idea had startled me but as we talked about it and I gave it some thought, it seemed the natural thing to do.  My brother, Mark, who had been my defender against teasing at school and who had made sure I went to college after our parents died my senior year of high school, Mark needed me to do this.  He was the one who had stayed by my side and helped me out of despair when my Ron was killed in that train derailment, so how could I refuse him?

His Elaine had been pregnant I don’t know how many times, but never able to carry a baby to term.  She was now desperate and Mark, faithful, strong, loving, rescuing Mark, had asked me to do this for them.

Why not?  Ron and I had no children, I would not marry again, and had no desire for children, but I could do this and give back to Mark some of what he had given me.

The in vitro was an easy outpatient procedure, a mere day away from work. I managed the museum staff by day and at night fed my cat and put my feet up with a book just as I had the last ten years.  The little fertilized seed grew.  I explained the favor for Mark and Elaine to my staff as I began to show and life went on, predictable and uneventful.

Mark and Elaine were thrilled.  Mark pampered and Elaine gushed and giddied and I smiled in indulgence.  Elaine had baby showers and everyone seemed so impressed I would do this, which seemed a little extreme; after all, I wasn’t doing much more than carrying the package for them.  I’d always been strong physically and while I will admit the last two months had been uncomfortable, none of it seemed that difficult or impossible.

Tonight, however, I could not rest or find ease lying, sitting or standing.  I’d been to the bathroom again as my bladder seemed to stay squashed and just as I maneuvered myself carefully back onto the bed, my water broke.  I called the taxi and Mark, and then waddled out the door.

“Don’t push!”  The nurse commanded.  The glare of the delivery room lights bounced off the white walls and bored through my closed eyelids as I huffed and panted and gritted my teeth through the long slog up the hill with each contraction and slid down the other side when they eased.  The sound of monitor beeping mingled with the overhead hospital intercom and the faint noises the nurses and doctor made as they worked.

Mark and Elaine, gowned and masked, on either side of the delivery table, gripped my hands; Mark telling me how great I was doing and Elaine crying.  She had pressed into my hand a small silver cross on a ribbon for her baby’s wrist and every push, every pain, every effort seemed poured into the rounded edges of that cross as it made indentations in my palm.

Then came the great wave of release followed by the sound of the first cry of the baby girl I had carried into the world.  My head was spinning as the nurses and doctor gave more instructions and worked to finish the job.  Mark pried his hand from mine and took the bundle the nurse handed him.

“Thank you,” he said into my eyes as he leaned over and placed the bundle next to me so that I could see what I had done for him.  His eyes brimmed with tears; his face was lit up with a huge grin.

She was beautiful!  I kissed her cheek and a huge rip opened my heart.  Out bloomed a wave of longing, love, desire and beauty.  All those things I hadn’t felt since Ron was killed.

Mark picked up his daughter and handed her to her mother, Elaine, whose face shone with joy even through her tears.  “Thank you, God.  Thank you, God.” she kept saying.

Those months of life pushing and kicking; that little heart beating against mine now pierced my heart and I was back among the living.  That first kiss had set me free. Free to ache, to feel sorrow and pain, free to cry again.  Through my tears I could see Mark with his arms around Elaine as hers held their baby girl, their heads bent together.  I wanted to be in that hug, but from here on out, I would be Aunt.

[2nd Place Award-LinkedIn Writing Contest #13]

Escape

image:scrapbookheavenga

image:scrapbookheavenga

I was in the kitchen when I heard the roar of propellers.  So loud, they must be right overhead.  In my gut I knew it had to be them.  I went outside and looked for the searchlights that would be tracking Buffalo and Bear Cub.  I’d told them it was dangerous to go.  Or maybe I just thought it but never said anything.

High in the sky, an outhouse, a blacksmith’s anvil and a Christmas tree, their propellers making waves in the air above them, were north of where I stood, probably just about at the 10 Freeway.  No circling.  No searchlights.  They just hovered.  Back inside I turned on the TV to see if I could find a news report and there it was.  Breaking news.

The news camera caught the tears that fell upward where they met the flames falling from the car as it careened off Buffalo and hit the trailer of the semi as it barreled east on the 10 Freeway.  Before the spinning and clanging were finished five more cars were tangled in the tears and flames.  No one said whether or not there was anything left of Buffalo.  They wouldn’t give names, until the immediate families were notified.

Was Bear Cub gone as well or had she left Buffalo’s side when she saw the car’s bumper about to reach her nose?

I stood rooted to the spot as the reporter droned on.  I’d wanted Buffalo out of my life.  I’d dreamed up ways to end our relationship.  I’d thought about how to leave without alerting the world outside our four walls what our life really was.  Oh, she cleaned up well and put on a good show, but that wasn’t the real Buffalo.  The party had been over for a long time and I had come to the point where I no longer wanted to dance.

When she brought Bear Cub into the house, I’d stepped aside with a mix of relief and dread.  It was bizarre watching my dance partner cook with someone else, all the while telling me her driving days were over, that she was just being kind to Bear Cub.  Did that innocent know what was ahead?  Was Bear Cub even innocent?

The news report was replaced by the blare of a commercial and I was jolted into action.  At the hall closet I pulled out the golf bag, went into the bedroom and stuffed in all the wallpaper that would fit.  If I hurried, I could be gone before anyone realized that I had been here when Buffalo and Bear left.  I could deny all knowledge of the real Buffalo and Bear Cub.

Years went by when that house and Buffalo were a blurred memory, the details of that time watery and undefined.  Was it even Bear Cub or was it Lamb that was there at the end?  I couldn’t remember.  I was too wrapped up in my new life with its Saran Wrap and I was grateful I’d escaped unscathed by those days.

One day not too long ago I found a picture of Buffalo that had been taken in the old family home one time when I’d taken her with me for a family get together.  That must be why the memories had begun to come back.  I looked on facebook and twitter and LinkedIn every now and then to see how Buffalo was doing these days but I couldn’t find her anywhere.

I don’t even remember the last names of Lamb or Bear Cub and anyway, they’d probably be married by now and have new names, because after all, who would want to stay with Buffalo over a lifetime?  It has never even occurred to me that Buffalo’s name might have been changed as well.

Last night I woke with my heart pounding; the wax paper covers binding one sweaty arm, one leg cold and shivering.  It may be nearly forty years but I feel her hot breath, her sticky paws.  They said she died in that late night crash, but I know she’s out there somewhere.  I know she knows my real name.

Elastic Hands

image:123rf

image:123rf

The dishwasher swish-swashed through its wash cycle.  Still, the rainbird drank from full water pressure that spit out flowers and tweeting birds that flitted across the lawn.  Just as all the flowers had landed and the tweeting birds had found the high wire, it was the dishwasher’s turn to flush soapy water down the drain and take a long drink of fresh water that began the rinse and the feral cats ran to escape.

I hopped, one footed, diagonally across the kitchen tiles, counting the beats of the swish-swash, and avoiding the cracks in the timing of the rainbird.  One foot might work, but only if I had enough hands.

Mother asked for a bag of ice from the freezer in the garage.  Hand 1 gripped the key to the side garage door and reached towards the garage.

Mother can’t reach behind her toilet to clean the bathroom floor.  Hand 2 swiped the Lysol drenched sponge around the base of the toilet in the hall bathroom.

Mother has decided to work on some art and needs fine point, colored markers.  Hand 3 took the Visa card and headed for the corner Walgreens.

Mother will only drink purified, filtered, reverse osmosis water.  Hand 4 balanced the three empty, two gallon water bottles and left for the grocery store.

Mother’s scoliosis has twisted her back and made walking painful but she can walk enough to see that there are empty spots in the flower garden, so seeds and plants from Armstrong Garden Center at the ready, hand 5 digs holes in the garden soil.

Mother rests well at night, usually somewhere between eight and twelve hours.  The house is quiet and dark and it is the one time that I can block out her needs and try to rest.  That is I might rest if I could find a bed large enough for all these hands.  They get in the way, getting tangled under me when I turn from side to side in my sleep.  They remind me each day I’ll need to stretch.  In fact, I’m sure there’s something else that needs doing because this morning when I woke up, there was a sixth hand.  There had to be, or else how could I type this?

Juggling

Today my brother got inside one of my rentals in Nashville.  Finally – after weeks of my trying to coordinate schedules between him and the tenant.  He does his best to look after things since I’m not there much these days and I’m grateful for his willingness to help, to be my onsite eyes.  I know it’s a frustration to him to have to work with a constantly moving target and it’s a frustration to the tenant to know that her life will be disrupted for those few minutes.

Two thousand miles to the west, out the curving highway that pushes its way through the verdant, lush, rolling hills of Tennessee, through green valleys and mountains of central Arkansas, across the grass plains of Oklahoma, north and up and over its western mountains, ever gaining height to the magnificent peaks of Colorado; then descending from their heavenly aeries down into the high desert of New Mexico, the summer heat in an impossibly blue sky brewing huge billows of white that erupt in lighting and thunder and water that kisses the sage and pinon pine so that they live another year; the highway rolls on, slowly loosing height in Arizona as it skirts the deep ravine that is the Grand Canyon, moving on to travel south of the lower tip of Nevada to snake below sea level across the California desert until it reaches its destination in the Pomona Valley, once known for its oranges, now a tired city inhabited by ever increasing percentages of Spanish speaking people who work and play and raise their children and survive in a town where the heat of the summer and the decreasing property values hang over the atmosphere.

image:simonsfoundation

image:simonsfoundation

There I live as ringmaster in my little world, playing the juggler, tossing up balls: the rentals, the tenants, my brother, the cost of owning property, the income they bring in; the balls go up and down, each one caught and tossed high again and again, periodically joined by new balls: the washer is on the fritz, up goes a ball; the gate and fence are broken down, up goes a ball; the porch light hangs precariously, its electrical wires exposed to the elements, up goes a ball; the roof is leaking, up goes a ball.  And on and on, the balls go round and round and up and down; my arms tire, my resolve flags, but I summon forth new resolve as the tenants pay the rents and so the circus act continues another month.

Maybe I’ll just chuck the whole thing and let that load slide off my hands to land where it may, affecting what it may, my eyes and mind numbed shut by the daily frustration of managing property; equally difficult whether from a distance or near.  Of course, part of that frustration gag is that the tenant doesn’t tell me when there are problems, which means I can’t stay ahead of the maintenance and cost curve rabbit.  I want her to understand that I don’t want to be a slumlord.  It costs much less to keep it up peeling as we go along than it does to rebuild a portion of the fence.  Is she used to no one caring?  Has she become accustomed to people treating her badly, hitting at her and doing battle with her spears instead of treating her with respect?

And if I just let it all go, there goes any retirement equity right along with it, and then there’s the mortgages to deal with and the resultant cratering of my credit, so no, I don’t drop the balls; I keep on catching them and tossing them heavenward once again, this time with a prayer and a plea: give me strength, God!  I can’t see that my arm muscles are any larger or firmer, but my prayer muscle sure is.

image:confetticouture

image:confetticouture

I’m hit with the thought that recurs with frequency these days: anything worth having takes work.  I’m pretty sure that was one of the first lessons I learned as a kid.  It took work to keep the family fed and the clothes washed and the bathrooms cleaned and the furniture dusted and the beds made and the dishes washed and the car running and the lawns mowed and then there was homework to do and places to be on time because Daddy didn’t like being late and we’d better not hold up the caravan.  All four of us kids had our appointed tasks and we don’t seem to be any the worse for it, now that we’re adults.

What happened to that knowledge?  What changed that there are whole segments of society that believe it’s the job of someone else to meet all their needs?  Did not everyone get the memo that was lived out in our house?

Somewhere along the side of the winding highway that we travel between the cradle and the grave, or perhaps behind the pretty façade of our socially acceptable fashions and haircuts and fast cars and big houses; or possibly lost in the thrill of having the latest technical toy that works at lightning speed so that we’re always entertained; somewhere in all the stuff we find necessary in the 21st Century, that truth was lost: anything worth having takes work.

I admit that I find it just as easy as the next guy or gal to let someone else do the heavy lifting, but a funny thing happens when that becomes my pattern, I get bored.  Dissatisfied.  Unfulfilled.  Depressed.  Lethargic.  Nagged at that this laziness is eating through my soul and will leave me morally and ethically cratered and one day, instead of waking up to a fresh morning, my soul will drift along the ceiling looking down on my wasted form which has turned to dust and is sifting away in the slight movement of the air in my stale bedroom.

So, bring on the balls, let me get juggling.  There are tasks to accomplish; places to go; people to know, cities and towns and countries to see, and life, life is out there for the taking.

Salt

image:google

image:google

The headline of the article caught my eye, “Do you lie to your elderly parent?”  The choices were yes, or no.  Does “sometimes” count?  Is it really a lie if it’s for their own good?

Ok, not that I really want to admit to it publicly, but yes, I have lied to my mother.

Like right after she’d collapsed with heart failure, spent a week in CCU not expected to recover, another week on a regular hospital floor and then four weeks in a care facility getting physical therapy to get her back on her feet.  They sent her home with pages of information on how she should eat and things she should do after heart failure, but the biggie was: No Salt.

I was determined to be there for Daddy and Mother.  To do whatever they couldn’t do.  And if that meant following the new diet restrictions closely, then that’s what we’d do.  I would pick up the slack and somehow I’d make their lives normal again.  I’d fight against Mother’s heart failure and against Daddy’s cancer.  I’d set aside my life to be there for them; which wasn’t as hard or as selfless as it might seem because the bottom had dropped out of the Real Estate market and my business had just about dried up, and anyway, I suddenly had more important things to do.  So, I flew in from Nashville with one suitcase, moved into the spare bedroom/storage room and cleaned house and ran errands and did the shopping and got them both back and forth to their doctors and made sure Mother had everything she needed.  Except Salt.

I wasn’t sure of the routine with their food, so Daddy had taken over the cooking.  He’d finished his six month round of Chemo and was doing well and as if nothing had happened, went on doing whatever was needed in the house, just like he’d always done.  I’d get the food Daddy cooked on the table and call to Mother to tell her we were ready to eat.

She was still living in her pajamas and her pale purple brushed cotton robe, sitting sideways on the sofa in the living room, her feet up, her legs covered with a pale green and lavender lap blanket that one of her hospital roommates had given her.  Her insulated cup filled with ice water and a box of Kleenex sat on the coffee table where she could reach them.  The classical station on the radio played softly and she was more content than I’d ever seen her.  She’d used a safety pin to hold back the window sheers right at her eye level and she sat for hours staring out the front window, her eyes taking it all in as if the grass and trees, the birds and flowers, the lizard that followed the sun around the porch, the cars passing and people walking on the sidewalk were brand new images to her.

The only times she left the sofa were to make her way slowly to the bathroom or the bedroom at night or to the dining room table.

When I called, she roused herself from the sofa and used her rolling walker to finally get to the dining room table and got herself settled in her regular spot on one side where her placemat sat next to a Kleenex box, the stack of crossword puzzles, pens and pencils in a coffee mug, cut out articles she was going to read one day, her bottles of prescription pills and the latest volume of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.

image:google

image:google

“Where’s the salt.  I need salt.”

“There’s no salt.”  I lied.

“Yes, there is.  I know there is.”

“This is your new salt, Lite Salt.”

She glared at me and fussed under her breath as she sprinkled the Lite Salt on her food.

“This is terrible.  I can’t eat this.”

“Sure you can.”  I sat on the other side of the table and passed the regular salt to Daddy.  “Remember what the doctor said?  No salt.”

Daddy salted his food and said nothing.  Mother grumbled and tried more of the Lite Salt and took a few bites and grumbled some more.  Daddy passed the regular salt back to me and I salted my food.  This went on for months.  Same routine.  She used the Lite Salt but she wasn’t happy and she let me know it.

It was more than six months before she was back in the kitchen helping to get meals together.  By that time, I’d hidden the Morton Salt carton in a bottom cabinet behind the pots and pans.

“Where’s the salt?  I can’t cook without salt.  You have to salt the soup while you’re making it.”

“Here you go.”  I handed her the Lite Salt.

“Where is the salt?”  Her voice rose, color flooded her cheeks, she glared at me, arms on her hips.

image:google images

image:google images

I moved around the kitchen, emptying the dishwasher, gathering dishes and silverware to put on the table.  She’d finally give up and pour in some Lite Salt, grumbling under her breath as she stirred the soup, or mashed the potatoes, or browned the roast, whatever the meal.  I acted as if her complaints went in one ear and out the other, saying nothing, appearing calm, staying strong, while I bit my tongue to keep from yelling back at her.

She was so stubborn!  Her ankles and feet stayed swollen and for the life of me, I couldn’t understand how she could not see the connection.  How could she miss that connection, God?  She hated the swelling and complained about the pain so how could she think taste was more important than being healthy?  I just didn’t get it.

Besides, I ate the things she cooked with Lite Salt and they weren’t that bad; even if I Daddy and I did sometimes add regular salt, from the salt shaker on my side of the table, where she couldn’t reach it.

I look back on that time now and think about all those months of agony she put herself and us through and I’m just glad she finally adapted.  It took somewhere around a year, but her taste adjusted and she quit fussing over the Lite Salt and she stopped asking for regular salt.  Now when we eat out, she complains about how salty everything is.  And, the regular salt shaker now sits on her side of the table with her Lite Salt and she passes it to me when we eat, never even tempted to use it herself.  So, yes, I lied about salt with regularity and read labels and bought only reduced salt items and sometimes told her that was all the store carried and we made it through.

She learned to live without salt and I learned that I could not stop Daddy’s cancer or make their lives like they used to be.  By the time she adjusted, Daddy was worse and I was in the middle of learning what it meant to give Daddy twenty-four hour care and then I learned to live through missing him so much my heart hurt.

And meanwhile, life with Mother continued.  Her heart rebounded to 98% function, which the doctors didn’t understand and couldn’t explain.  We called it a miracle and I’m sure it was because after all, Daddy prayed for it and his faith was huge, so it had to be a miracle.  But it wasn’t the miracle I wanted.  I wanted the miracle where Daddy no longer had cancer.

Instead, I had to learn to accept that I was left with the difficult parent and the strong, loving, supportive one was no longer here.  I had to learn to be honest with Mother even though I know it means I’ll have to repeat what I tell her, because she won’t remember the details and I’ve had to learn to accept that for some reason, her ability to reason logically is gone.  Possibly it’s because she’s eighty-five, but I think it has more to do with that time when she collapsed and the oxygen to her brain was diminished.

She’s grateful I’m here because it means she can stay in her home; and it does feel nice to be appreciated, but, I don’t need the appreciation as much as I need the miracle of your strength, God, because she may have lost some mental ability and her memories can often be spotty but she hasn’t lost her stubbornness and her strong will to do what she wants to do, regardless of the consequences to her well-being.

So, help me, God, to keep on learning to respect and love her, even when she makes me so crazy I want to scream.  Remind me she is who she is and my job is not to change her, my job is to be here so that her last days are comfortable, so that she feels safe surrounded by the sameness of her home, the sameness of her routine.  Help me God, to not just spend my time counting the days until there’s life after Mother.  Help me to know, God, with your help I can do my job; I can love her.

Ah, there it is: that message that brings peace, that brings rest, that brings relaxation; that says, it’s ok, Victoria, I’ve got your back.  Love, God.

 

Epilogue:  I told Mother I had written about her trial with salt today.  Her response?

“Oh, you weren’t here when I had to go through the torture of giving up salt were you?”

“Yes, Mother, I was.  It was right after you came out of the hospital.”

“Oh, that’s right.”

And there you have it.  I struggled over that time and had to hang on to my belief that she would be better off without salt even as I worried that it might cause lingering tension between us; but when all is said and done, in her memory, it was a difficult time, but a memory into which I didn’t figure.  That gives me freedom to go ahead and do what needs to be done; it makes me glad it didn’t cause a rift between us, but most of all it makes me smile as it reminds me that the time of salt really wasn’t about me at all.  It was all for her.  I love you, Mother.