“I Wish You Never Left Me”

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June 13th

As I look at this list of times I’m making tonight, I think back to almost 40 years ago and another list.

Tonight I am keeping track of what time I give medicines. Medicines to try to keep my husband out of pain in this wretched losing battle with pancreatic cancer. In two and three hour intervals I give him the tiny pills with sips of water to try to ease him into sleep and ease his pain.

Many years ago, on the back of an envelope, we wrote down times. These, too, were times of pain, but pain that led to great joy, the birth of our firstborn. I still have that envelope tucked away.

Across the years we have counted minutes, hours, days and years. We marked off days in anticipation of our trip to California. We looked back at years of marriage, and so often my husband would choose the perfect gift accordingly : pearls, agate, ruby.

 

June 15th

Two days after I wrote the above, my husband was gone. It’s been only two weeks and I have wanted to write but I just can’t find the words. My world has been turned upside down. Less than three months ago we were selling our house and planning for retirement. Now I am moving once more, just me and my dog, and starting a life without the one who has been by my side for over 41 years. 

I stayed up until 3:30 one night last week, reading all the texts on his phone. All the little conversations we had about what to eat for supper, reminders to feed the dog, ideas for the weekend, don’t forget eggs.  Then I found a 43 minute clip that was unknowingly recorded. I’m pretty certain he never knew it. It was us – going through a drive-thru near our house, eating fries until we got home, talking to the dog, laughing, burping, just being. Just being together. 

 

June 29th

And though I can’t find words, my seven year old granddaughter found some. Beautiful words. This is what she wrote:

 

Sunshine

You’re the sunshine in my heart

I wish you never left me…

I sometimes wish you are here

Why wouldn’t you stay?

Wait until dawn for you to arrive…

Sunset – you should be here!

I guess you don’t belong here

My heart is beating hard as a drum

Sunshine in my heart

You are part of my family

 

April in my Heart

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Helena, AL

 

April. The month of poetry. The month we used to celebrate our mothers’ birthdays. The month we moved to Birmingham six years ago.

I’ve been writing poems everyday this month. In the midst of corona-craziness, it’s one of the things that calms me. Not to give them equal value, but God’s Word, poetry, sunshine, and fresh air get me through these uncertain days. I’ve been using three different sites for prompts each day: Writer’s Digest PAD, Poetry Super Highway, and NaPoWriMo.

The following poem was inspired today by NaPoWriMo.

 

I Love Us

 

Sometimes it’s hard to say it

I try to convey it

I try to show it

Though I know you know it

 

I love us

The very thought of us

We are two peas in a pod

Though we are flawed

I am awed

At how we are still in this together

 

I love us

We are more than love like the movies

We are groovy

Stuck like glue

Each day new

Who knew?

All those years ago

We saw each other across the dance floor

And you asked for

My number

 

You weren’t so great at disco

We didn’t want to go to Frisco

But oh those Redwoods trees

The Pacific ocean breeze

We make each other laugh

In all those photographs

And memories

 

I love us

We made some precious babies

Grand-babies

No maybe

About it 

 

I love us

We’re an A-plus

Top grade 

Like a sweet dessert

A crisp dress shirt

A little bit introvert

A little bit extrovert

 

I love us

We’re a Pulitzer Prize

Flying blue skies

Over Montana’s mountains

And Savannah’s fountains

Our love

Fits like a glove

Just a couple of

lovebirds

 

I love us

Our records and roses

Touching noses

A glass of fine wine

Hearts intertwined

 

I love us

So romantic

Hearts gigantic

Peanut butter and jelly

Lots of belly

Laughs

 

I love us

I’ll always love us

For-e-ver

 

I wish I could sing, I wish I could play

I’ve been inspired by creative kids to come up with lyrics to fit these trying times.

The song in the video below came to me this morning and I wrote another verse for it. If I could play an instrument or carry a tune in a bucket I’d perform for you. But, here’s my verse for you to sing.

I know a guy who dreams of work

He’d love to be there

About to go berserk

He doesn’t have gloves

He doesn’t have masks

He doesn’t have toilet paper 

Although he asks

He uses Quarantine

Quarantine

Quarantine

 

Book Browsings #3: Voices

 

tiaIn Book Browsings #2 I referenced the writing club I sponsored. It was called the Young Author’s Club. I found a copy of the first, and I think only, issue we put together. The girls chose the name Voices for the title. It had four sections: Book Beginnings, Short Story, Poetry and Essay. As I look over the list of contributors I can see most of their faces. Tia was the one who came to me with the request to sponsor the club. I still keep up with her via Instagram and occasionally her blog.  She works in publishing among other things. I still have the scarf she brought me back from China when she visited there with her parents. Her mother, Yulin, was our parent sponsor and a huge help. I can semi-recall the faces of Kylie, Haley, Anna and Jakob who also contributed work to Voices.

One essay, by Anna Rea, came, as I recall, from a short in-class writing prompt. Hers was titled How to Be a Bad Neighbor.  Pretty hilarious! Here are a few excerpts:

Every person in their life comes across a bad neighbor. Why wait for a bad neighbor when you yourself could be a bad neighbor? In a few easy steps you could be the most hated person on the block…

One of the many things to do to be a bad neighbor is to have parties. Now, not just any party. It has to be a loud, all-nighter. …

Another thing that really gets your neighbor mad is having an obnoxious yappy dog…

Step three of how to be a bad neighbor is to leave your garbage cans out for long periods of time….

Finally, the most important part: HOLIDAYS! Around Christmas you have to buy those big, blow-up things… you must buy at least six of them. 

I loved teaching these kids. They were not just smart, but funny, fun-loving, caring, and full of energy. One student, Caroline, really stood out. I got to know her through her writings, but also while visiting her home when we were working on a charity project and meeting her mother and younger brothers. Her mom was just one of many parents who supported me and my students that year. Caroline graduated from Princeton and is now a fellow at  Washington University School of Medicine. She is following in the footsteps of her grandfather who was a prominent and well-loved physician in Jacksonville.

JP is a logistics officer in the Marines and living in Hawaii. Carson, now married, comes to mind whenever I see the scarf he brought me back from his trip to Vietnam where his grandfather was in in the war. Same with Harrison, who brought me playing cards from his trip to Africa.

I will always be grateful for the students who crossed my path and left a footprint. I am thrilled whenever I happen upon good news about one of them.

 

 

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Bookcase Browsings #2: Vicar’s Writers

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Two of the best years of my teaching career were spent at Landrum Middle School in Ponte Vedra, Florida. I taught English and social studies to a fun group of gifted sixth graders. They taught me a lot, also. I was so fortunate to have a fantastic support group of parents who even set up field trips for us. I also had an Irish co-teacher who was the cool one and kept us all laughing.

In my second year, one of my students from the previous year came to me to ask if I would sponsor a writing club. I was so excited because she had caught the “writing bug” and I couldn’t be happier. Her mother helped out by bringing in a seasoned writer from the area, Ann Sims. She was a senior citizen who gave of her time to advise and encourage my little group of aspiring authors. Her book, Family Secrets, can still be purchased via amazon.

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I found my copy still on a shelf, not packed yet, and remembered she had signed it.

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I looked up Ann, only to find out she passed away in 2015. The interesting thing was I learned she grew up in Bessemer, AL, right where we are now! Her obituary tells of how she was a stewardess before she married, then years later she and her husband were early members of Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra. She was a Presbyterian and in her later years she played bridge and acted. I think I’d could look to her as an example for how to spend my later years. I think we could have been friends if I’d known her better back then.

 

“When I was young I longed to see the fullness of God’s face…God’s reflection is the essence of family. Now I understand.” – excerpt from God’s Reflection by Ann Sims

Hello, Goodbye

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So, I was talking to 2019:

She said, “Goodbye”

I said, “High.”

She said, “Low.”

“But, these are my goals for 2020,”  I told her. “If not high, at least higher. In three categories: books read, miles hiked, blog posts written. So, 2019, let’s take a look and you’ll see what I mean.”

“With you, I read or listened to 43 books. That averages 3 1/2 a month. With you, I hiked 132 miles. That’s an average of only 2 1/2 a week. With you, I wrote 67 blog posts. That’s about 5 1/2 a month.”

She said, “Why?” And I said, “I don’t know” 

She said, “Stop”.

I said,  “Okay. I’m done with you. Finished. You are kaput!”

So, I talked to 2020 for a bit.

“Hey, 2020!” I said,  “Hello, hello, hello.”

I said, “Go, go, go.” At first she misunderstood me.  

“No, no, don’t go away. I mean go WITH me. We’ve got some goals to take care of to beat 2019. We need to read at least four books a month. And hike at least 3 miles a week.  And write at least six posts a month.” 

2020 said, “Yes.”

 

Out of the Mouth of Babes

I have been purging papers from my old trunk and elsewhere the past few weeks. I can’t believe all the stuff I’d saved. I took pictures of some things and sent them to people who I thought would appreciate then or get a laugh out of of them. I sent my friend (junior high, HS, college, still) pictures of sorority articles, the napkins from her wedding, newspaper clippings, thank you notes, shower invitations. My kids got pictures of pictures they drew in first grade and poems they wrote in high school. And I’m not finished yet.

In the process I reconnected, via facebook, with my sorority big sister and a former student who is now about 30.

One humorous item I uncovered was written by Elizabeth, a fourth grade student from my earliest years of teaching. She had evidently heard something in church. (Some punctuation and capitalization added)

 

Once there was a man named Jonah. He woke up and a voice came out of his window. It was God. God wanted Jonah to build an ark. It was going to rain 40 days and 40 nights. They were going to build an ark but Jonah hided from God and everywhere Jonah went God was there. He was sending men to build the ark.

“The rain is going to come in five minutes,” said the men.

Everybody was coming to the ark. People were coming and people were packing their stuff. The rain was coming. The rain finally came. There were floods. The floods were like an ocean. God made waves and a big fish came out of the ocean and swallowed Jonah. 

Avetts in October #21: A Sock Without a Boot

 

“And Tiller? Without you, I’m just a sock without a boot” – Sairy from Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech

Sharon Creech is one of my very favorite children’s authors. Her books are full of endearing characters and heartwarming stories. Just like The Avett Brothers’ Songs.

Sairy’s words to her husband, Tiller, remind me of these lyrics from I Wish I Was.

 

I’m not a song

I am not a sweater

I’m not a fire

I am something better

I’m a man in love writing you a letter

Will you take it

Will you keep it

Will you read it

Believe it

I love you

I’m sorry

 

I love watching the thought process as the song is put together. As a poet I can so relate to this.

 

Avetts in October #14: Telling Stories

 

 

 

 

“…if you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer.”-   From Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

According to Ray I must be a whole writer. I have love. I have fun. I have zest and gusto, though not every single time I sit down to face the page.

This zest, gusto, love, and fun are what come shining through when I hear The Avett Brothers. They inspire me. They have fun when they are sharing their gifts with others. Their lyrics illuminate the good and bad all around us. With love.

And they tell stories, as in  The Ballad of Love and Hate

It begins like this:

 

Love writes a letter and sends it to hate.

My vacation’s ending. I’m coming home late.

The weather was fine and the ocean was great

And I can’t wait to see you again.

 

Hate reads the letter and throws it away.

“No one here cares if you go or you stay.

I barely even noticed that you were away.

I’ll see you or I won’t, whatever.”

 

And tells such a story, ending with:

 

Love has been waiting, patient and kind.

Just wanting a phone call or some kind of sign,

That the one that she cares for, who’s out of his mind,

Will make it back safe to her arms.

 

Hate stumbles forward and leans in the door.

Weary head hung down, eyes to the floor.

He says “Love, I’m sorry”, and she says, “What for?”

“I’m yours and that’s it, whatever.

I should not have been gone for so long.

I’m yours and that’s it, forever.”

 

And here’s a cute video…

 

Wise Purchases

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I don’t always make wise purchases. Like the time I got gallons of peachy paint only to get them home and realize it would make my house look like Publix.

Or the time I went along with my husband’s idea of buying a double kayak, which he went out in with me maybe three times in the water behind our house. It was too large for me to tote anywhere on my own and we eventually ended up selling it to someone who bought it as a graduation gift for her son.  I don’t remember whatever became of all the peachy paint.

But, I want to tell you about three things that WERE wise purchases and have and still are serving me well.

First is my trusty backpack. I have had it for 15 years and it’s still going strong. It was first purchased for a trip to Ireland, and has been put to use ever since for hiking, carry-on for plane flight, trips with grandkids, to the library, and even to work some days. It’s thin enough to flatten in the bottom of a suitcase it needed. I purchased it from the Rick Steves website, where you can find the updated version.

Second is my Brita water bottle. I’ve had it for about three years, not sure exactly. I actually found it marked down at Publix, but it can be ordered online. It goes with me when I travel. I take it empty through security, then fill it on the other side at a water fountain.  I’ve ordered refill filters via amazon. It’s also used when I hike.

My most recent wise purchase is a hiking stick. I ordered it for hiking, but soon after had knee surgery. I used it to hobble around at work for a short while and now use it whenever I hike up and down any inclines. It’s super lightweight and folds up into its own little bag.

Today I await delivery of what I hope is another wise purchase – a new laptop.  I don’t have a desktop, so it IS my desktop.  My old one (Asus) has served me well but in laptop years I think it’s older than me. If it’s like dog years it’s 70. I use my chromebook (Lenovo now) on a very regular basis, but there are somethings I just can’t do on it, such as edit photos. I’m excited to see if this purchase (Lenovo) will magically improve my writing and photography skills. Time will tell.