Grandma To The Rescue

September is
chilly mornings
and classroom routines,
cardigans dragged home,
and the onset of colds.

Grandma packs her bag
with activities to distract,
a soup to boost bodies
and an apple crisp
fresh from the oven.

Some days
the best education
comes snuggled under
warm blankets with
inter-generational love.

(For Ragtag Communty’s daily prompt: crisp.  Grandma duty calls, be back later!)

A Toddler’s Tears

When it comes to caring,
I’m a pro – engaged,
wholehearted, well…
except that my toddler
self joins in, and no matter

how proper I try to act –
she is such a fetching child,
bright, inquisitive – she
distracts me from purpose,
gets me off-track, and I hate

being behind, and anxiety
acts up, and the subject of my
focus departs, leaves me solo,
abandoned like the baby,
memories of saturated diapers

unattended to, and the raw
scratch of tears unanswered,
and I’m not trained to care for
inner children, essentially
overlooked, innocence tainted.

Angels Watch Over Me

A letter came today  –
an old-fashioned,
hand addressed,
post delivered,
greeting.

It’s the second
in two weeks –
simple messages
of encouragement,
heartfelt.

It’s from the same
angel that everyday
texts me a message –
a positive missive,
uplifting.

A letter came today,
and I felt ten years old,
special, remembered –
humbled by a simple act,
blessed.

A friend came by today,
had a rare day off –
thought of me –
offered her services,
selflessly.

Her confidence buoying,
we ventured out – pedi’s
then lunch – her quiet
offer of an elbow,
reassuring.

We talked about life –
grandchildren, husbands,
the state of the world,
and I felt normal,
alive.

A friend came by today –
and I was a kid again,
arm-in-arm with her bestie,
spontaneous and free,
cherished.

First Glimpse Of ME/CFS

Hesitantly, I turned the key in the lock and pushed the door ajar.  A waft of warm, stale air accosted me.

“Hello?”  I’d been told there might not be a response.

Something was resting against the door, so I pushed harder to let myself in.  The beam from the light of the open doorway was thick with dust and it took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the darkness.  I was walking into a little foyer, with stairs ascending to the main level.  The walls on either side of the entrance were stacked high with boxes, and laundry baskets full of stuff.  Something lay on the floor at my feet – a coat, or a blanket, I couldn’t tell – the object of resistance.  I stepped over it and closed the door behind me.  The smell of the place accosted me then, a smothering aroma of dust, and cigarettes, and cat fur.  I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

“Hello?”  I called again, more desperate for a response.  None came.

She’ll be in the bedroom, at the end of the hallway, her mother had told me.  She likely won’t awaken.

It was the middle of the day, but dark blankets covered the windows, allowing for minimal light.  I waited for my eyes to adjust before climbing the steps to the kitchen.  The rows of boxes and debris continued and flowed into the kitchen, where dirty dishes and takeout containers littered the counters and floors.  Who could live like this?

I felt my way along the hall, carefully stepping through the hordes of items stashed there, until I reached the last bedroom.

Politeness made me knock again.  Again no response.

The situation was worse than I thought, and I seriously doubted my ability to be of help.  It all started when she was seventeen, her mother told me.  She had a terrible case of the flu, followed by encephalitis, and then one thing after the other.  She rarely gets up, and has trouble putting a sentence together.  The doctor’s have given up on her.  She hasn’t been out of the house for ten years, and we can’t get anyone to go in.  We’d really appreciate if you’d go see her.

Two tabby cats greeted me as I opened the bedroom door, as did the fetid odour of a litter box.  Shooing them aside, I approached the bed.  Rumpled bedding was tangled up in the middle of full size bed, but no sign of any thirty-three year-old woman.  Now what?

I decided she had to be somewhere within the mess of sheets and bedding, so centering myself, I began.  I ran my hands just above the bed, hoping for some sense of heat, or thickness, that might indicate there was a body inside.  Instead, I just felt foolish.  So, I stood at the foot of the bed and took some deep breaths, re-centering in hopes of some divine inspiration.

“Well?”  A thin, croaky voice emerged from under the covers.

“Hello,”  I said again, beginning to feel like a parrot.

A thin, waif-like hand appeared, followed by a matted head of hair.  She was tiny.  “Any hope?”  her voice sounded as if it was coming from under water: slurred and thick.

I was at a loss for words.  Here was this wisp of a woman, holed up this house with no daylight, and no fresh air, locked away from humanity, and all I could think of was how could she possibly survive.  I would have committed suicide long ago if it had been me.  What could I tell her about hope?

Then I remembered something both Joan Borysenko and Bernie Seigel had said during their workshops:  There is something to love about everyone.  Find it and you can help them. 

“Yes,”  I said.  “I believe there is.”

“Really?”   The word came out stretched and squeaky.

She had survived this long.  She had beaten odds, and continued to live.  It wasn’t much of an existence, but something kept her going.

“You have an incredible will.  Now, you just have to learn to channel that to get better.”

* * * * *

Patty’s story is for another day.  Meeting her taught me the importance of an idea that works.  There is something to love about everyone.  I use it everyday in my teaching practice.

(Image: www.experiencewellness.co.uk)

An Unexpected Lesson

On April 15, 1978, I married for the first time.  It was also the day my eldest sister was diagnosed with leukemia and given one month to live – a year, if she had any fight in her.  I was nineteen.

As a young woman, I viewed life’s issues as black and white, and was often intolerant and impatient of others.  Now, thrown into a world of uncertainty, I was ill-equipped to cope.  Jo was a single mother of one, and asked for my help and support.  I vowed to be there for her, but had no idea what that would entail.

Even though we were siblings, my sister and I could not be further apart.  Eleven years my senior, Jo was born with a hole in her heart, a condition that saw her constantly in and out of hospital as a child.  At thirteen, on the brink of death, a new procedure, open-heart surgery, saved her life.  Much of our family’s energy and attention centered around Jo’s well-being, which was always a difficult task.  Coddled as a child, and setback by illness, Jo was temperamental, self-centered, and high-spirited.  If there was a fight to be had, she would instigate it.  She was reckless, impulsive, and emotionally immature.  At nineteen, she was unwed and pregnant.  She insisted on marrying the child’s father, but it didn’t last.  A string of bad relationships followed, along with several moves, in and out of our family home.  It seemed, Jo had a knack for creating chaos.

In contrast, although fifth born, I played the role of the responsible, sensible child, often trying to mediate calm in our tumultuous lives.   It was the natural order of things for Jo to turn to me for help.   I signed on as legal guardian of my niece, and accompanied my sister to medical appointments.  She underwent intense chemotherapy, and many times we thought we were losing her, but Jo would rally round again.

I learned from my sister, that life is often grey –  that uncertainty, and change are givens – and this rattled my sense of self-righteousness.  I felt inadequate and overwhelmed.  Pursuing education in the medical field was never an option for me, as a I was a fainter.  Instead, I sought understanding of the psychological and spiritual aspects of illness.  It would lead me to years of study and a career.

I don’t know how much I actually ever helped my sister.  She was never open to any of the ideas or approaches that I studied, and she never became any easier to get along with.  Her survival, fourteen years beyond the initial diagnosis, can only be attributed to an incredible fighting spirit and will to live.  She never changed.  I, however, was forever altered because of her.

I was with my sister the night she died, holding her hand as promised.   She was one of my greatest teachers.

(Image from Pinterest)