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Thank you, Stephanie, of BeKindRewrite, for your Inspiration Monday prompts. It has been some time since I have written, but I just couldn’t resist the title No One Remembers But Me. It took me back to a time long ago, a walk down memory lane.

NO ONE REMEMBERS BUT ME 

When I close my eyes, I see the two of us, Mom and me, sitting together on the enclosed front porch of our small, white, two-story house. The supper dishes are washed and dried. Lunch is put up for Dad’s long day of logging in the woods tomorrow. I can faintly hear Dad talking to Mr. Brud Gilbert, also a logging contractor, as they sit at the kitchen table, the makeshift desk Dad always uses for his part-time bookkeeping work. My sister, Lu Ann, is off playing with her friend, Marlene, and my brother, Ernie, is swinging from the Tarzan rope in the huge tree behind our house.

On this warm and sultry evening there isn’t even a hint of a breeze coming from the porch screen door or the large, wavy, meticulously clean windows that give us a view to all the goings-on around this part of Main Street. The stifling air doesn’t bother us, though, as we sit together watching sporadic traffic pass by. We recognize each car, know who is in it, and know most of what is happening in their lives and the lives of their families. We even know their joys and sorrows on their personal roller coaster ride through life.

Through the screened porch windows we see Mr. and Mrs. Bouvier drive by at all of fifteen miles per hour, perhaps heading to tell someone who has not yet heard, about the invitation they received a few months back to attend John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy’s presidential inauguration  My paternal grandmother, Mae Lumbert, driving like the hot rod she is, whizzes by in her red VW bug, in a hurry to pick up someone in need of a ride to church services this evening. Mom comments on what a kind woman Grammie is. A couple of minutes later, Butchie Nadeau and Harold Coro fly by on Butchie’s old bike. They both have fishing rods in their hands and Harold is hitching a ride on the front handle bars. We wonder if they are going to crash before they get to the Moose River bridge. Mr. and Mrs. Vincent Smith float by in their large black car. Whenever I see Mr. Smith, it reminds me of the story Dad told me about working for him at Smith’s Hardware Store for a while when he was just out of high school. At the young age of eighteen he needed the work. He was already married to my mom and I was born just after he graduated from school.

Mom looks over at me with a twinkle in her eye, and starts to sing one of her old French songs. The words are coming from deep in her heart. I know them because I always listen intently, not only to her words, but to her voice, a voice untrained to some, but, beautiful to me, and full of love and fun. These are the very songs someone taught her when she was a child sitting with her family and friends on the front piazza at the boarding home her mother, my grandmother, owned and ran.

As she finishes her song, Mom glances my way and asks what the meaning of this song is. I translate the words from French to English for her. She smiles at me, an intimate mother to daughter smile and changes her question. What can we learn from the words of this song? I think for a minute about the song and what it teaches me, what the meaning behind the words are. This song is about a girl who ignores her parents warning not to go dancing on the old rotten wooden bridge. The consequences are disastrous. Sometimes I almost want to cry because some of these French songs are sad. They teach lessons about hard times in life, and hurts and disappointments that result from our choices. We talk a bit about how to make decisions that will benefit us in our own lives.

Mom winks and then starts to sing another French song. This time it is light and funny. I smile and start to sing along with her.  We laugh together because we both know that I can’t carry a tune for the life of me. I can’t even tell the difference between a good singing voice and a bad one. It doesn’t matter, though. Mom loves my voice just the way it is. She always tells me if a song comes from the heart that is what matters.

No one remembers but me…

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              Leo Veilleux, Charlene Lumbert Bisson, Rollande Veilleux –  August 2010

A GENUINE GOODBYE

Last weekend I drove just under four hours to my hometown, Jackman, a community nestled in the mountains of the northwestern part of Maine. It is a secluded wilderness where beauty surrounds you at every turn. A variety of life, flora and fauna, is abundant and always available to enjoy. No matter where your eyes look, you can see trees, lakes, and forest land. Dirt roads leading into the quiet of the woods can bring you the calm you sometimes crave and a treat you rarely get to see, a glimpse into the world of moose, deer, and bear, along with other members of the animal kingdom.

Jackman is the place my heart will always know as home, where my earliest memories were made, where I learned at a young age the meaning of love, the meaning of family, and the meaning of being genuine.

As I drove past the Attean look-out area a few miles before town, I knew I was getting close. To the left, at a distance, I could see acres of trees surrounded by a pristine blue-gray body of water, Attean Lake. Dozens of different shades of forest greens and browns set the scene. Most painters would consider it a dream to set their canvas up high on the look-out and paint the picturesque setting ahead. For me, it meant only one thing…home. My heart tugged and nostalgia set in. All I could think of was…home, I’m almost home. Memories began flashing through my mind like the old-fashioned View-Master I once owned as a child.

This particular trip was bittersweet. I was not the only one heading north. Many others were also on their way, driving from different parts of Maine, from other states as far away as New York and Connecticut, and even from across the border, in Canada. Our hearts were heavy as we journeyed north, but the heaviness often gave way to thankfulness as we reminded ourselves what a privilege it was to have known someone who so profoundly touched each of our lives

My uncle, Leo Veilleux, was a genuine man. There was not one fake or superficial thing about him.  What we saw was what we got! He was genuine in friendliness, generosity, unselfishness and helpfulness. He also had a deep love for people. This trip home was for him, for his memory, for his family, and for me, too. I wanted to say goodbye to him, to someone I had loved and who had loved me.

His wife of forty-four years, ma tante (my aunt) Rollande, the perfect complement and life partner for him, grew up in Lac Megantic, Canada. She was there, waiting to greet all of us. Standing beside her were their four children and six grandchildren. Visiting was from 8:30 A.M. to 10:00 A.M. with a celebration of his life service at 10:00 A.M., a trip to the cemetery, and then a buffet luncheon for all at a local restaurant.

We arrived at 9:00 A.M. There was a line of people almost out the door by the time we got there and it never stopped. I have never seen anything like it.  By the time 10:00 A.M. came, the front yard was still full of those wanting to express their condolences and inside packed beyond overflowing with over three hundred people sitting as close as possible, and standing in every conceivable corner that could be used.

This was a clear testament to the kind of man my uncle was. Everyone loved him. He made each of us feel comfortable and special.  When he talked with us, he didn’t focus on himself. He turned his attention to us. What a lesson we can all learn just from this one simple life skill.

A number of us then attended a brief ceremony at the cemetery. There was a soldier standing at attention by the grave. A lone bugler stood thirty to fifty yards from the grave playing Taps. They unfolded and then refolded the flag, and gave a final salute as the flag was passed to his wife, Rollande. It was poignant and heart wrenching. His family stood there, in the coolness of the autumn day, their hearts breaking, but together as a unit.

We then went to the Hillcrest restaurant, a beautiful spot on the crest of a hill just outside of town. By the time we arrived from the cemetery, it was packed solid. They had prepared for 260 people, and, again, there was standing room only. I did not mind having to stand. I was proud of the love he was being shown. It was evident by the amount of friends coming to bid him their goodbyes. This was the best kind of reciprocation for his years of genuineness.

Because he worked in the service field, Uncle Leo came into contact with the public on a regular basis. He met many of his out-of-town, life-long friends this way. One person he met while he was working at Pomerleau’s store happened to ask him for advice on how to take care of the deer he had just tagged. My uncle, who was a jack-of-all-trades at the store, had also learned how to butcher and prepare meat. He offered his assistance. That was the beginning of the Veilleux/Paquet friendship. This year marked a friendship twenty-nine years strong for the families. This particular friend’s adult son spoke at the service.

Another person from ‘out of town’ but with a family camp in the area (Ellen Carruthers Darsch, daughter of Lil and Ed Carruthers)  wrote this: “Even when you are not from Jackman, Leo Veilleux always made you feel like you were born there and one of his best friends. Jackman has lost a special person. My heart goes out to Rollande and his family.”

Was there a place you asked him to go with you? Was there a wedding you wanted him to attend? Was there a party waiting for his laugh? Was there someone needing help cutting up a deer or moose? Was there a family in need of food? Was there someone in the hospital who could use a visit?  Was there someone wanting to see a moose for the first time? Was there a new person in town?  Uncle Leo was there for all of them.

Children, too, especially loved Uncle Leo. Ma tante Rollande always cared for children in her home. These children came to love both of them and called them Mama and Papa just as they had heard the Veilleux children, and, then, recently, the Veilleux grandchildren call them. Now, the second generation, children of the parents ma tante had taken care of, were cared by her, too. ‘Papa’ would bring them to pre-school and drop them off. All the other children, when seeing him, would get ready for some serious high-five hand moves. If one of the ‘real’ parents happened to drop off his own child, the children would say, “But where is Papa?”, totally disappointed that their high-five partner wasn’t there today.

When one parent tried to explain to one of the children ma tante cared for how things would be different and explained that ‘Papa’ wasn’t here anymore, those big eyes looked up and said, “But, we have to go over there and hunt for his glasses. Papa needs his glasses to read the newspaper. We can put them near him.”  Yes, out of the mouth of babes real love is manifested.

The Jackman community will feel a huge loss, too. He was on many boards, involved with the ambulance system, the hospital, the Jackman Regional Center and many other things I don’t even know about. He was a huge presence and an asset to the town. Whenever someone called, for whatever reason, he was off and running to help out with whatever was needed.

What defined Uncle Leo best was his love for his wife, his four children and his grandchildren. He showed his love for them at every possible moment. He was a hands-on dad and a hands-on grandfather, too. He took them hunting, and fishing. He picked them up and dropped them off, he attended their games and cheered them on. He was always there and available. Most of all, they had fun being with him. He was a true family man in every way.

Often, at family gatherings, or sometimes when we were just visiting, he would look over at his wife, then turn to all of us and say, “C’est mà femme, la, mà femme!” “That’s my wife, over there, my wife!”  Proud as punch he was of her, of the long marriage they shared and the quiet support she gave him all those years. The two of them truly did become one.

I could easily fill several volumes with stories about Uncle Leo. I did not even come close to showing all the good and positive about him. I could talk much more about his many qualities, his faith, examples of the love others had for him, and the love he showed in return, but I won’t go on.

Instead, I will remember him by keeping him close, deep in my heart. I will remember how I felt as I left my hometown at the end of my weekend, after my time with family. My eyes filled as I thought of this honor in my life. I got to spend time with, and to love…a genuine man.

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Thank you to Stephanie of BeKindRewrite for her prompts. Again, they were all so good. I chose Children’s Prayers with a slight adaptation. This story deals with something many children have had to face. It is true to life and needs to be told for all those young children who deal with things we adults sometimes forget.

A CHILD’S PRAYER

The sobs were coming from a bedroom down the hall, heart wrenching sobs, then gasps for air, sometimes deep, sometimes shallow.

Gina lifted her head from the pillow, and, listening intently, she turned slowly.  She pulled herself up and swung her feet around to the edge of the bed. This was something she never expected to hear.

Swallowing hard, she thought of the many reasons a mother can never get used to the sounds of heartbreak coming from the heart of her child, especially a five-year old, so innocent and loveable.  Her eyes glanced down and saw the brown teddy bear laying next to her feet. She bent, picked it up and hugged it to her chest.

As Gina entered Evan’s bedroom he looked over at her, tears brimming, spilling from his blue eyes and rolling down his cheeks. He pulled the covers over his head.

“Evan, sweetie, can I sit down on your bed next to you?”

“O.K.”

“Can you tell me why you are crying, why you feel so badly now.”

“No.”

Slowly, a blond head with tousled hair peeked up from under the blankets.

“Is it because Daddy isn’t living here any more?”

Her sweet boy’s head disappeared again and the howls of his heart breaking into a million pieces were almost more than she could stand. She lifted his blanket just a bit and put his teddy bear next to his arm and then lifted his arm over his stuffed friend to hug tight. She listened to more of his sobs and his gasping while he tried to catch his breath.

“You know, Evan, Daddy loves you very, very much. He has always told me how special you are to him.  What is the special name he calls you?”.

Evan lifted the blanket and pulled himself up still hugging his little friend.

”His buddy”.

“That’s right. And, I know for a fact,  he doesn’t call anyone else his buddy. That shows how important you are to him and you will always be his buddy, too”.

“But, Mommy, why did Daddy leave me?”

“Remember the other day when you and I went to the beach.  I told you that Daddy is always going to be a part of your life. You will always be able to visit with him and he will come here to visit you. Daddy will always love you.  He hasn’t stopped loving you. He never will.

“But he isn’t here anymore. He left me.”

“Sometimes grown-ups make decisions that are very hard for children to understand. Remember, sweetie, even though he isn’t here anymore you will still see him often. You can call him anytime and when you start kindergarten soon Daddy will be there, too. He can go to your school just like I can. He will never stop seeing you. Never ever stop.”

“Mommy, can I say a prayer for my Daddy?”

“Of course. Let me hold you and Teddy tight.”

“Dear God – Please help my Daddy to come back home. I like it when he tickles me awake and when he cooks I sit on the counter and watch him. I miss him, God. Please, please bring my Daddy back home to me. Amen

As Gina struggled to hold back her tears, she kissed his tear-stained cheek and give him a huge, tight hug.

“Let me tuck you in with Teddy Bear. You know when you feel very sad you can hold him close and kiss him. And when you cry for Daddy, it is ok. Everyone gets sad sometime. There is nothing wrong with that. The important thing to remember is both Daddy and I are your family and we will always love you THIS MUCH, both of us. I will turn off the light now and when you wake up tomorrow morning you can call Daddy to say hi, o.k?”

“I love you Mommy. I feel better. But I still want Daddy to come home again.”

Gina sat on the edge of Evan’s bed caressing his cheeks, those plump cheeks she loved to kiss, and waited until he fell asleep. She watched as his breathing became slow and regular. Then she made her way back to her bedroom, alone.

She shut the door quietly, threw herself on the bed and wept uncontrollably.

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Thank you to Stephanie of BeKindRewrite for her Inspiration Monday written prompts. I chose the last prompt and decided to write a Tanka poem for it. Please visit her blog and join in. You will find inspiration there!

Her Nose Gives Her Away

compare and contrast
faces back then with those now
size up and assess
visual paternity test
yes, her nose gives her away

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/katietakespicturesdotcom/6006599007/sizes/z/in/photostream/

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Thank you to Indigo Spider of Sunday Picture Press for three amazing pictures, visual prompts for the week. I have chosen the second picture. Head over to her blog and join in the fun!

Visual Prompt 2 — Title and Artist Unknown

BRIDGE OF SMILES

Standing at the top of the curved bridge, Jeanne stopped short. Where was she? What was she doing here?  In the water below she saw the reflection of an old woman, someone she didn’t know. Panic spread to her soul. How could it be? She stared at the still water, hardly a movement, except for the blinking eyes on that barely moving old woman. The dark tree branches from the water’s edge gave the air a misty feel. The gray bricks of the bridge and the high round shape of the walkway made a perfect circle for her to peer down under and look through. Maybe, just maybe, if she peered hard enough…

Jeanne squeezed her eyes shut, then opened them and continued to let the water soothe her until she remembered. Him. His laughter. His touch. His warmth. Ahhh, yes, yes. Her tense wrinkled forehead softened. Her mouth curved up into a smile. Yes, there had been good times. Even when there had been hardly enough to eat, and no work during the depression, they still had each other to hold. And children, a house full of busy, noisy children. A passing memory, a whiff of baby lotion, of clean, air-dried laundry and bread baking caused her to look even deeper into the water. What were their names?

Debbie sat on the edge of the bank watching her grandmother, seeing the smile on her face, the smile which had, of late, become so elusive. She looked beyond the bridge, to the other side. All those white granite stones had names on them, family names, and dates. Everyone there, lying deep in earth’s dust had been loved by someone, even if it had only been the woman who birthed them.

She thought of her Grandfather John, his name carved there, too, in the small plot beyond the bridge. He had been a gentle man, a hard worker who never tired of providing for his six children. She had heard stories from her mother about his kindness to others. Debbie had felt his kindness, too. She remembered the times he took her fishing in the river below his house. Each time she insisted on a new hand-made fishing pole from an alder. He always winked at her, saying no, then off they would go, hand-in-hand, to look for the best one to cut. That was such a long time ago.

Coming here, to this bridge had become a family ritual, a place to come to catch a glimpse of a passing smile on a face that had once worn a perpetual smile.  After Grandfather John was gone, no one knew how to ease Grandmother’s grief. It was so hard watching her mind move inward, forgetting things and forgetting people. She often didn’t remember her own children’s names, and none of the grandchildren.

As Debbie looked up her heart swelled with love. This woman she no longer knew well, who had always been so special in her life but was now almost a stranger, this woman deserved the kind of love she had given out all her life. Visits here would continue as long as possible. There was something about the bridge that allowed  her to go back in time, to remember. She saw Grandmother lift her head and look toward the white granite posts.

Looking beyond the water, at the grassy area, Jeanne’s eyes caught the white markers. She stopped smiling. She lifted her head, sadness in her dull blue eyes. Where was she? She looked down at the water again, puzzled, then turned to see a young woman coming forward. She looked so familiar. She didn’t remember where she had seen her, but when she looked at her, she saw her own blue eyes, smiling back.

“Let’s get your sweater, Grandmother, and then we will head home for dinner. We’ll come back again, soon.”

Debbie put her arm through her grandmother’s, touching fondly her paper-thin, see-through skin, and slowly they walked, arm-in-arm toward the car.

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There is a war going on at my house. It’s not a knock-down, drag-out fight. It’s… W-A-R…between me and my computer. The sad thing is, I know I am not going to win!

I consider myself a competent woman in many ways. I did well in school, not at the top of my class, but certainly not at the bottom. I have always had many friends and still do today. They often seek my advice and a couple of them even willed their children to me should something happen to both them. (Thank goodness, nothing did. What was I thinking to say yes. Bringing up two alone was quite enough, thank you)!  As a single parent, I learned early on to pick which battles needed fightin’ and which needed to be left to the wind. I learned how to become more flexible, when I thought I already was. I have always been mild-mannered, often to a fault, and can’t hold a grudge if my life depends on it. My two children are now grown and leading good independent lives of their own. I have had a fulfilling career and worked hard, often, too hard. I am well-respected by those I work with and money hasn’t been too bad, even though it could always be better, but that is a given.

Why do I turn into a sniveling, angry, unreasonable idiot when my computer acts up? I don’t have the answer. My insides start to churn, and I can feel my blood boil. My body temperature goes up and at the same time my blood pressure hits the roof. I’m never sure if it will ever come down again. Physical changes I can handle, but, oh, those other ones are much worse!

My mind does a complete turn around. The easy-going person that I normally am rivals Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, like a turn-taking play, with me playing the villain. If a psychiatrist happened to walk by and saw the transformation, he would hit me with a diagnosis in a flash, since I change almost faster than the words come out of my mouth. The choice words my brain is trying to route to my mouth, those I haven’t heard in ages.  If I am talking on the phone with someone, I can’t remember what I was saying and usually hang up. If I happen to be messaging, I pity the person.  A letter is often followed by several # ###keys in a series of made up words that anyone would know, and, then, I rudely end our conversation, with my unreasonableness showing through when I am offered words of advice.

I text my daughter in a frantic state telling her my computer is rebelling again. She calls back. The conversation goes something like this:

“I have had it. The computer is doing its weirdness again. I can’t get into my bank accounts. I can’t see how far my stocks have plummeted today. WordPress isn’t working. I can’t bill my invoices. And, Facebook, forget it!”

“Maybe it isn’t the computer. Maybe it’s RoadRunner. We have had 100 degree weather lately. Too much for the grid.”

“No, it is the computer. Ever since your supposed network-engineer brother set up the wireless system, it has been going in and out.”

“My laptop was working just fine on your wireless connection.”

“That’s because you haven’t used the connection much. And are you saying that I am stupid, that since it is set up right, I am the one who is doing it all wrong, that I don’t know what I am doing?”

“No, I am saying it might not be your computer or the wireless connection that your network engineer son, who happens to earn double our salaries put together, and who happens to get sent to Amsterdam twice a year by his company to trouble-shoot and straighten things out there, you know, THAT son who set up the wireless network in your home…. obviously, it was too complex for him to set up your router, just so much more complex than his job!”

“All I know is I am sick of it, and I am sick of being called stupid because I don’t know how to set up or fix computers.”

“No one thinks you are stupid. You know that.”

“Well, obviously everyone does. I think this computer is junk. I need to get a new one. Maybe a new one will work better. Or maybe this new router needs to be a better quality.”

“Your computer is working just fine, and, besides, my brother,…your son, has a computer always waiting in the wings so when the one you are working on is fried, he can give you the one he has reconfigured and then take your current one, and change those innards, too”.

“See, I always knew you two thought I was stupid when it came to computers. It is embarrassing, you know, that I have destroyed more computers than anyone I know, and that he has to set me up every couple of years with the one he has stripped and changed around.”

“I don’t think you are stupid, Mom. You have done well with technology. You didn’t grow up in a world filled with technology.”

“You can say that again! We didn’t get dial phone until I was in eighth grade, 1965. My phone number, until then, had always been 114. Now, look at the world! I remember when my grandmother was one of the operators in my home town. She told my mother, once, when she was connecting to see if our number was still busy, that she heard me tell my old boyfriend, Mike John, ‘My grandmother is the operator today, we need to be careful what we say.'”

“See, how can you think you don’t know anything when you have experiences that we will never have. Why don’t you reset your router and modem. On second thought, why don’t you wait for me to do that. I will be over in a little while”

“Aha, I always knew you didn’t trust me. See, proven right!”

“Ok, Anne Shirley. Stop acting like I am the sixth-grader Gilbert Blythe. Get that nose of yours down a notch.”

“Give me  a break. I am just letting you know that I am not as stupid as you think I am. I know you are appeasing me, you are putting up with old-fashioned me. . Don’t even think I don’t know.”

“I am sooo looking forward to our conversations 20 years down the road, Mom.”

“When I am eighty, you mean?  Well,  just shoot me now, why don’t you! But, first, shoot the computer. Everything is the computer’s fault, anyway, you know.”

One day later:

“What the ####. I just lost power. My WordPress is down. Just great!! My story is lost. I need to get it to Indigo Spider by 3:00 P.M.”

“She will understand, Mom. Just email her.”

“A lot you know. I don’t get special favors in life, you know. I wasn’t born a spoiled brat. I told you before, and I will tell you again, computers are ruining my life!

“Yes, Anne Shirley.”

“Like you really understand.”

“Love you, Mom. Hope you get to finish your story. But, I have to tell you, you are OBSESSED.”

“Yeah, right! Remember, I used to change your diapers!”

“Yup, and I REALLY don’t want to go the role reversal route today!”

Yes,  my computer and I will always be at odds. It’s a love/hate affair. (Yes, affair as opposed to relationship. I would never give the computer enough credit to think I am having a relationship with it). I fear these kinds of conversations will come up again as the world of technology becomes more complex. I better dig my heel in and hold tight. It’s going to be a rough ride.

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Thank you to Indigo Spider for the picture prompts this week. It is difficult to choose. I am looking forward to reading all the stories. I have chosen to write for Sunday Picture Press visual prompt #3.

Visual Prompt 3 — A Window on the Past by Marilyn Elmore Bragg (from chessiesphotos.wordpress.com/)
Window To My Soul
A replica of the long ago window was etched in Elizabeth’s mind. Every aspect of it was alive, a vivid capture, imprinted and engraved with indelible brain cells. This wasn’t a mere snapshot of a window, taken in haste, but a full album, which, when pulled from the mind’s memory shelves allowed for  different perspectives, lighting and composition. Often, when an especially hard decision had to be made, the window was a light to her soul, helping her see all angles, to better analyze and debate. The outcome was always a decision made from the vantage point of a balanced view.

Elizabeth sucked in deeply, eager to see her inanimate guide again, this window that had given her a view into her soul twenty-nine years ago. That decision had set her course in life. Now, she was in need of such help again.

Her mind flashed back to what once was. She had never lacked in the dating department. Men were naturally drawn to her. Her curves talked to them. When she walked, her bounce teased the eye. Her long, thick, soft brown hair followed the tilt of her head. Men, and women, too, couldn’t help notice her face, sensuous yet innocent. She never gave much weight to her outer appearance, though. She was what she was. After all, she had nothing to do with it. Genes, passed down through the generations, decided who this part of her was. She just happened to get some of the best from both sides.

What mattered most was the person she was inside, what her heart was, and her accomplishments. She worked hard at being fair and kind, respecting others, and helping when there was a need. Yet she needed to be her own person, one who could take care of herself, independent enough to always survive.This followed her throughout life, and in her career she was known for her fairness and good decision-making skills.

She thought back to the summer of her inner turmoil. Her closest college friend was spending a couple of months at an exclusive resort in the Catskills and had begged her to come. It would be a gift. Money was no object to her friend’s family. She had finally said yes and packed.

Then she thought of Don. She wouldn’t see him for two months. Don, who had her heart, loved her and gave all of himself to her. He could be described as everyone’s best friend, happy-go-lucky, and average in everything. He definitely was not a mover and shaker. She knew they would never be rich but felt she could live a comfortable middle class life with him.

Elizabeth still remembered the first time she had seen Thomas that long-ago summer. Her heart quickened. He was a looker, aristocratic nose, angular chin, easy-going, confident in every move he made. She knew his type. Whatever he wanted, he got. He could make anything happen. She saw him watching her. It excited her, an excitement she had never felt with Don. Such a pull. This was not part of her plan, not part of her being-fair code. But things happened. And they happened to Thomas, too. There were two full months of living the good life, fun, laughter, sunny days and sultry moon-filled nights with beach sand stuck to everything.

The road curved and Elizabeth turned when she saw the Catskill Resort sign. She was so close. She pulled in and saw ahead the dirt road that led to the old fort and her window. She parked. The knots in her stomach grew.

Half running  through the woods, she stopped short. There it was, in front of her, thick scored cement block walls. She had to stop. The memories were too powerful, overwhelming her. She needed to catch her breath. She bent over, with a hand on each knee and waited. Finally, able to look up, she saw, there, in front of her, her window, still faded gray wood, parched from the sun with peeling paint. Shivers ran the length of her spine. She walked up to it, slowly put her arm out and let her fingers gently caress the wood and glass, those same ones she had once touched and now were in her memory from all those years ago.

She remembered that last night long ago,  sitting alone, near the window letting it reflect back to her. She had cried and reasoned, said everything to justify letting go of Don. But she couldn’t. Don was in her soul. Her heart felt sick at the thought of saying goodby to Thomas, of letting go of how he made her feel, of the endless possibilities and easy life she could lead. But, let go she did.

Sometimes she would read in the newspaper about a new business Thomas was starting up, or the new cottage he and his wife were renovating in Newport. Once, many years later, he had called her. It was probably the Lagavulin scotch talking. He told her she had been the only one to break his heart. But he had moved on as she had.

Elizabeth knew she had made the right decision. Don was good to her, a hard worker and a great father to their three grown children. With her career, they had been able to make it work. Things had been going great until last year.

Her computer broke down and she had logged on to Don’s laptop. There, in front of her were messages from someone named Lisa, explicit reminders of many rendezvous. After sitting there frozen for hours, Elizabeth copied them, emailed them to herself and then printed each of them.

That night when Dan came home from work, he walked into packed bags sitting in the hallway. The emails were hung up with clothespins on a piece of wire that was strung from the kitchen window by the sink all the way into the dining room.

The last year was rough, then four months ago Elizabeth met Rick. She still had it, that same curvy body and the same tilt of the head. At age fifty-four her face was beautifully seasoned, not so innocent anymore but still sensuous. Rick was kind and funny. He had time to enjoy her company since he was coming to the end of his career, a good career that had allowed him the finer things in life. They laughed often, enjoyed each others families and looking forward to traveling. With Rick she would have the luxury of retiring early and enjoying a soft relaxed pace.

Don’s letters of apology, cards and phone calls never stopped. Sometimes, it was a single rose with a ribbon left on her doorstep while she was at work. Other times it was a quick email to make sure she was alright. When the kids told him she had the flu, he had her favorite restaurant deliver chicken soup. He never saw Lisa again, told her it meant nothing to him, that he had lost his head and would make it up to her for the rest of their lives if she would give him another chance. Even after he knew about Rick, he didn’t stop.

Elizabeth sat on the ground looking up at this window, the window to her soul. She thought of Don, and their long life together, and the lives of their children and grandchildren. She touched her hurt heart thinking of what she had learned last year. She remembered back to her long ago summer with Thomas. Don had never known about Thomas. She had always felt guilty for not telling him. Was she really any better than he was?

Now, with Rick in her life, there was excitement again. He was like a fire that never stopped burning, had a love for anything old and all that is new. He kept things positive for his family, kept them close together, even after the tragedy of losing his wife.  She knew she could enjoy every day with him, for the rest of their life, knew he would spoil her with whatever she wanted and then give her more.

Sitting alone, staring into the panes of glass, Elizabeth thought about her many life decisions. Just after dusk, she saw the reflection of a young girl, just twenty-five years old, walk slowly away from the window, wiping her tears. She, too, stood up, following in the footsteps of that young girl, knowing what she must do, the answer etched clearly in her mind.

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