Karma Bites

She looks over my shoulder
that sister, born dying –
whom I mocked, cajoled
and judged so harshly

She breathes down my neck
that sister, I despised
for her sin, and mistakes
how she always abandoned me

She taunts me constantly
ridicules my failing ways
her thoughts poisoned darts
attack me at my core

My eyes are opening,
compassion too late
“Karma bites”, her ghost
hisses as illness seeps in.

(For Reena’s Xploration Challenge: karma bites. Image my own)


Day 189 “Karma”

He sat in the middle of the auditorium, and with his flaming red hair and beard, and booming voice, everyone knew who he was.  On lecture days, he attended both sessions, even though they were repeats, and he made comments that bounced off the walls and caused the audience to stir uncomfortably.  He was full of himself, and long-winded, and while I was amused at first, I soon joined my peers in dreading his presence. 

When classes switched at midterm, there he was, front and center in my Counselling Adolescents class, deflating my bubble of anticipation.  His was always the first hand to shoot up and when the instructor acknowledged him, he would settle into his seat, clasp his hands on his belly and begin his epic pronouncement.  Nothing that he said invited response, it was instead an endless declaration of his own accomplishments, real or imaginary.  I shared my fellow classmates disgust of this fellow, and like the others, chose to keep my distance. 

“He must be awfully insecure,”  my husband offered.  “People like that usually are.”

I tried to feel sympathy for him.  Maybe my husband was right.  Maybe he actually will make a good teacher, and is as gifted as he likes to proclaim.  Maybe I needed to give him another chance. 

In our final week of classes, the student body was divided into mock schools, complete with a pretend principal, vice principal, etc.  Each “school” team was given an series of issues to explore:  preparation for the real world.  My assigned principal was mister pomp and circumstance.  I knew in that moment that this would be a wasted exercise and committed myself to sudokus for the remainder of the course, sitting in the back where I would be undetected.  I remember little of what went on as those little math puzzles can be wonderfully addictive.

On the last day, a real principal visited our team and presented a dilemma to be acted out.  A disgruntled parent was to appear before the principal and teacher to argue that her child had been unfairly treated.  Principal Pomp turned the tides on the parent, berating her in defense of his teacher.  After the role play, we were asked to comment on what we saw.  Ignoring the blah, blah, blah, I hunkered down to break the current pattern on my page.

That is when I heard a fellow classmate tell the “Principal” that he did a wonderful job.

I was on my feet in protest before I even knew what was happening.  “No he didn’t!” I objected.  “He was condescending and patronizing and quite frankly, if I had been the parent I would have punched him in the nose.”

Whoops!  Did I just say that out loud?

I sat back down.

“Actually, you are right,” the real Principal responded.  “Your tone was out of line for someone in a position of authority.  How should he have responded?” 

The spotlight was now on me.  “Well, as a parent, I would want to feel like I was heard, so he should have acknowledged her frustration, and then invited input as to how they might resolve the situation.  Everyone present was an adult, so everyone deserved to be treated as such.”

I didn’t hear the response, mortified as I was that I had just embarrassed myself and acted unprofessionally in front of a future potential employer.

The next day, our last day, I found myself elevated to heroic level as people cheered me in the halls: word of my outburst had traveled quickly.  I deflated the pomp.  Momentarily.

It would be a while after graduation before we all had interviews and found our various jobs.  Occasional work was all there was for newcomers, and so like many of my peers, I went from school to school searching for that final resting ground.  In my third year, I landed a job at a tiny school, thirty minutes out of town.  With a staff of twenty, I knew it wouldn’t take long to get acquainted, so I sought out my colleagues and introduced myself.  All seemed very friendly, except for one fellow who left each room when I entered.  I finally caught up with him in the staff lounge and when I offered my hand in introduction, he replied:  “I know who you are, Beth.  I am _____________”.

Yes, you guessed it.  He’d shaved the beard, and somehow his hair wasn’t quite as red, but here we were, face to face, colleagues in a staff of twenty. 

Now if that isn’t karma, what is?


How Tables Turn

“All I want is to have my family around me.”

I was giving my father a therapeutic touch treatment to help ease his pain.  His suffering was relentless in his last years.

“I guess they’re all too busy for their old Dad.”

“You didn’t exactly teach us how to be around you, Dad.”  I didn’t want to be unkind, but he needed to hear the truth.  When I was too young to understand about his ‘needs’, I thought we were an inconvenience to him.  Mom would whisk us off to bed before he got home from work, so we’d be out of the way.  Later, when his secret was out, we would have to call ahead to make sure it was okay to come home.  When I moved out and became a parent, Dad would visit for ten or fifteen minutes before he had to leave.

“I suppose that’s true.”  Were those tears in his eyes?  “I lived a very selfish existence.”

“Yes, you did. You just have to be patient with us, and give us time to see that you have changed.”

He caught my hand in mid-motion and gave it a squeeze.  “I always loved you, though.”

“I know that now, Dad.  But there were many times when I didn’t.  I could never compete with sports.”  Sports were Dad’s excuse for everything:  I can’t come see your play, because the game’s on; or:  I’d love to spend time with my grandchildren, but this is the deciding match.  Trouble is, there was always some sporting event on.

“Silly, isn’t it?”

“You missed out on a lot.”

“I know.  I know.”

My father had changed.  We never could have had this conversation years ago.  He was too intimidating, and never open to criticism.  Something in him had softened.  Mom said he cried regularly over all the things he had done to us throughout the years.  Still, I wasn’t totally convinced.

“It’s ironic how the tables have turned.  It was always Mom who suffered with so much pain, and now it’s you.”

Isn’t that the truth, Dad’s face said.  “I wasn’t very sympathetic either,”  he confessed.  “Serves me right, I guess.”

I didn’t say anything.  Dad had never understood Mom’s suffering; he couldn’t tolerate weakness.  Now he depended on oxygen to breathe, and didn’t go out much because his immune system was so compromised.  His life was reduced to pain medication and ointments.  Mom seldom left his side.

“I messed up, didn’t I Squeegie?”  It was his nickname for me when I was little.

“You certainly had your trials, Dad.  No one can imagine what it was like to be you.  I guess you did the best you knew how.”

He squeezed my hand again.  “You’re a good kid.”

“I wish I could take your pain away, Dad,” I responded.

In the back of my mind, I was remembering something my father had always preached:

You get out of life what you put into it.