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Posts Tagged ‘suffering’

This Tanka is written for my friend, Marita. Thinking of you!

Sometimes…

Under the covers
My body warms with the weight
My mind takes a break
When harsh realities speak
My soul refreshes…with time

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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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Thank you to Indigo Spider and Sunday Picture Press for her inspiring picture prompts. Here is my submission.

Visual Prompt 1 — Bridge by Marilyn Elmore Bragg (from chessiesphotos.wordpress.com/)

THE BRIDGE TO QUIET

As I step on the weathered walking bridge, I feel a gentle sway, a rhythm set by the wind and my body movement. My feet respond to the tempo, like a dance, a cadence dance. Such music to my soul! The soft mellow flow persuades me to move on, and the healing effect is already part of me. I can feel it infuse my very being. I love the tenderness the bridge shows me as my body feels its light soothing breeze caress and wrap around me in waves of warm-air rhyme. The well-worn bridge boards, seasoned and discolored, hold me close as I walk from the middle to the sides breathing in its welcome. Falling isn’t a worry. Life has already felled me and I now hope to be lifted. The motion beckons me as we step forward, the old stained-by-rain bridge and I, melded as one.

Looking up, I see, ahead, the cottage, my home for the next month, my hoped for Shangri-la, a place surrounded by lush green forest trees and overgrown spreading bushes. The time alone will be my elixir, my time to become whole again. The rocking chair on the covered porch is moving slightly to and fro, hardly noticeable, but I know it is the kindly wind once more welcoming me and whispering to me, hoping to mollify me, to release and then mend my deep hurts, bind my wounds and renew my broken spirit.

I look behind me, back at John, standing alone on the other side of the bridge, his kind sad eyes following me as I become smaller to him, moving farther away from his touch, from his life. Tender-hearted tolerant John, who took the time to find this haven for me. Never a better husband has there been. Eleven years of deep intimate love he has given me, and I, him.

The day we met, our hearts knew, our eyes spoke to each other with bashful blinks. What fun we had exploring and  learning together. Our first kiss, so shy and awkward, young lips, hardly touching, and then laughing together about it later on. Holding hands has never grown old.  I still love to weave my fingers in his, to squeeze his hand, embrace the sensual feel it gives, and then smile at his crinkled eyes, knowing he is smiling back. Soul mates. That is what we are, what nothing can take from us, not time, not disappointment, not life hurts…not even miscarriage.

My brow furrows as I think of the word miscarriage. Once, I looked up the definition. It said ‘failure’.  Does that word convey the pain of seeing your much-wanted first baby born blue and without breath, the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck. NO. Does that word explain how you feel when a year later your second cannot make it to term and is born on the bathroom floor three months too early, and dies before the ambulance arrives. NO. What about the third, fourth, fifth and just three months ago, the sixth. NO. NO. NO.NO. That word does no justice to the emotional pain. None.

There is a movement at a distance. It stops my thoughts and I see John waving goodbye, hugging his chest, then pointing to me, a motion to show his love, that he understands and knows I need to heal. My John needs resuscitation, too, and badly wants a child. He will miss me as much as I will miss him. John, also broken, is putting himself aside for me, giving me this time alone, to take what is withered and broken inside, to pull it out of me, painful like a stillbirth, to cry and scream and moan even more than I have, and to work at healing – going from in to out.  My compassionate John.

As he turns to walk away, John holds up his phone. I smile, pull mine from my pocket and wave it to him. After giving me the thumbs up, he turns, shoulders a bit sloped, and walks a distance back to our car. Panic sets in. I have not spent a day without him in such a long time. I miss him already.

I look down at my phone, a reminder of why I am here. A new medical procedure we learned about last week sounds hopeful.  Can I make peace with what has already been so I can move forward and try something new? Can I endure more disappointment? Do I dare hope once more?

I turn back looking toward the trees and bushes as I hold the sides of the bridge, touching the railing, like I would an old friend I know very well. The sway and rhythm again appease my spirit and take away my restlessness as I make my way to the nestled cottage, across this bridge to the land of quiet, alone.

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Thank you to Indigo Spider for Sunday Picture Press and the inspiring photos posted weekly as visual prompts.  I have chosen the picture below but wish I had time to write for all of them. Please visit her blog and join in the fun!

Visual Prompt 1 — Old School by Trevor Litchfield (from Trev’s Teleautograph)

SCHOOLHOUSE

I did try. Honest. I did. I told her once. Actually, twice. She didn’t listen. Or, maybe it was that she couldn’t at that time. Her mind couldn’t handle the possibilities or consequences back then. I understand now it would have complicated our lives.

But, what about ME, my mind, my life?

I know she grew up in a rigid environment, in a poor family, with twelve brothers and sisters, and a strict Catholic background. The priest was akin to God and could do no wrong. When he told families they should go to church every morning, 7:00 A.M. mass, they went.  When he said no meat on Friday, fish it was. When he handed out small white donation envelopes, they took them and didn’t question the number stamped on the left side to track the amount given.

Her Mom worked herself to the bone at home. Her Dad worked when he could but liked his drink more. She never talked much about her younger years but I remember once, in passing, she said there was never enough food in the cupboards.  She was often pushed aside at the dinner table by those with longer arms.

Things were different later, after she left home, when she married and had children of her own. She lived in a comfortable middle class home in a tight-knit community with neighbors who shared her values as they watched each others children. LIfe was good and the memories made there were sweet. I cherish many of those memories, too.

But why didn’t she believe my other ‘memories’?

The old parochial school has forever unnerved me, and now that it’s closed and empty, it’s even worse. Each time I head across town, I swear I’m not going to drive by, but I know I will. I always do. All these years later it still has me in its grasp, even though weeds have replaced children on the pavement and bushes are growing where the basketball hoop once stood.

My eyes glance at the small window and door of the protruding attached office. I remember when it was built, new, in front of the right  L wing by the playground. Now, rotting plywood is boarding the framework, keeping wandering animals at bay.  A shiver ripples through me as my mind recalls. I pull my sweater tighter and button it to my neck. The tightness and warmth feel good.

I startle…the time. I’m late. Time always escapes me here. 2:30. Mom will worry.  I told her I would stop by around 2:15. She sounded so strange on the phone earlier, insisting I visit today even though, like clockwork, it is shopping on Tuesday, BINGO on Thursday and Mass in the small stone cathedral on Sunday.

“Please, Linda, come in, come in.”

“Do you have a cold Mom? Your voice is so hoarse.”

No, Linda, not a cold. Please, sit here beside me.”

From the pocket of her worn sweater she pulls out a fresh newspaper clipping. Her trembling hands pass it to me. I look down at the blaring headline “ARCHDIOCESE ADMITS AND APOLOGIZES FOR ABUSE AND SEX CRIMES AGAINST STUDENTS FORTY YEARS AGO.

I can feel Mom’s eyes watching me as I look up. Our eyes lock and I follow her single tear as it caresses the crevices of her wrinkled cheek and stops by her now-thin lips. I tenderly wipe that lonely salty tear away thinking how salt is used as a preservative, how salty tears can preserve our spirit, our soul, can help us to survive.

“All I ever wanted was for you to say ‘I know’.”

As she gently grabs my hand, she whispers “I do know now, Linda. I do know.”

Floodgates thirty-nine years strong open as I give her my full heart. I am her little girl again feeling the warmth of her bosom as she rocks me back and forth. I hear her soft voice, balm-rich,  murmuring again and again “I know, I know, I know, I know….”

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A surgeon’s sharp knife
Penetrates death-dealing cells
Dare I hope for more?

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This weekend I spent time with my memories. Not all of them. There are far too many for that. Fifty-nine years of  living has taught  me how to reach in and pull them down from the inner shelves of my mind. One at a time, I can dust off whichever I choose and enjoy the gift of reflection.

My memory folds keep and nourish my experiences as well as things near and dear to me, like family, friends, loves, good times, hard times, travel, work, sorrows, joys and even things unknown to me.  Some are easily attainable and others I have tucked away, cradled deep in the recesses of my mind.  These I have to unfold a little at a time, like an accordion, rhythmically, because of their heaviness, and eventually when enough air enters the folds they open themselves to me.

I woke up Sunday morning very early with a restlessness inside, a raw longing that wouldn’t go away. It was more like an ache, a gnawing, and unreachable. It was deep enough to touch my kidneys. I finally gave in to it and dragged myself out of bed. It wasn’t even 6:00 A.M. I sat at my desk staring at the computer without turning it on. How could I take care of myself, take care of whatever this ache was?

I decided I should write, get my feelings out. When the pencil touched the paper nothing happened except the gnawing grew and the rawness became sharper. Words weren’t there.

I knew, then,  what I must do, what I had avoided for quite some time, what I didn’t want to do. As a master at deceiving myself, I no longer had the luxury of time. I was long overdue to face my albatross.

Breathing deeply, audibly, I decided to dig into the very nook and cranny of my memory that I prefer to avoid, the ‘What If’s’ and the ‘If Only’s’. These are very painful to me and when I go there I deal with fear, despair, hopelessness, grief and tears.

Opening the “If Only’s” takes great courage on my part because the crevices often feel like canyons.  My heart becomes heavy and broken knowing many of the ‘If Only’s” were decisions I made that changed my life. Sometimes they were decisions made because I was backed into a corner, sometimes because I didn’t know how to do it any other way, sometimes because circumstances dictated it, and more than once the decision I made was one I continued to regret all my life, despite being the right decision at the time.

I have learned the hard way, that to move on, I must make peace with what burdens me. So, revisit I must. Revisit I did. It was a long hard day, one filled with memories that made me laugh, then cry, comparisons of ‘what if’ to ‘what is’ and vice versa. I held close to me some of the ‘If Only’s’ and refused to let go for hours, finally giving in to what I knew must be. I laughed at the preposterousness of some of my thoughts and cried when my heart ached.

Finally, long after midnight, I was able to put to sleep memories that needed to rest.  Folding them gently, lovingly, I placed them in hibernation, beyond the folds where the accordion can soothe them awake, into the innermost of folds where some day in the future, time will wink and nod. I will know then, I can caress then once more, for a while, without tears and, then,  put them back, not in the innermost of folds, but this time in the memory folds of joy where they can be taken out a little at a time and, then, more often, fondled lovingly and put back for a later visit. Someday, they will be my joy.

Yes, Sunday, I organized my life once more and in the process I didn’t sell my soul.

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Thumbnail for version as of 16:42, 16 February 2007

“It has a name – Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. You must schedule a double mastectomy as soon as possible. Be prepared for the possibility of having your ovaries removed depending on your test results. Without this radical treatment, you have, at best, two extremely painful years. Your son must also be alert and vigilant with testing. He is at risk for testicular cancer and breast cancer, too.”

The words above are a summary of what my long-time dear friend heard a few days ago. When I was told, the words screeched in my ears too loud for me to take, like long fingernails scraping a chalk board over and over, making me wince. I can’t begin to imagine how they felt to her as she tried to keep her wits about her and ask questions only to get answers she didn’t want to hear.

Vibrant and beautiful, a young fifty-five, she has a tough road ahead of her. I wish I could take all the pain, anxiety and fear she must face and instead give her what she deserves, a life to enjoy with family and friends without the uncertainty of wondering where it will all end.

It is impossible to describe her in just two words but to start, she is ‘beyond thoughtful’. She has always sent cards with her own beautiful words of kindness and love to everyone, especially to those experiencing life’s bumps and pot holes on this sometimes tragic road we call life. She often sees in one’s eyes what others miss. Compassion and kindness are what she is all about.

There is a little shop here in Portland that sells unique handmade jewelry. One day I was shopping, trying to figure out what to buy as a gift for a friend when she walked in also looking for a gift. We talked (and shopped) while enjoying each other’s company. Before I left, she came to me and clasp a beautiful green stone bracelet around my wrist, gave me a kiss and whispered it was so me,
it had special qualities just as I did. I love to wear the bracelet because every time I see it I see her kind, vivid blue eyes.

My calligraphy isn’t as beautiful as hers, and my words won’t be as inspiring as hers always are, but I am going to keep her close in my thoughts with many cards and a heart full of love as she goes through what will probably be the scariest ride of her life.

Pati, all of us who love you will be with you, holding your hand, wiping your tears and caring for you, just as you have done for us.

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