Mortality

25 Jan 2014

1/21/14

Mortality

I am sixty-two. Not young any more, but not old either. I feel mortality when I hear that one of my classmates, from all those years ago, has died. How does that happen? One minute they are breathing life-giving oxygen; heart beating to support the body; brain doing its job as engineer of it all. The next, everything shuts off. And they are no more.
Two years ago, a dear friend and former boyfriend from my senior year (Larry), died. He had cancer so his parents knew he was ill. But then the thief crept in and snatched him away in an instant. His mother and sister had visited. His mother and father were packing for a return trip, and before they could get there, he was gone. No time to give warning to anyone who might have wanted to visit him.
Now, his best friend from high school, Danny, another character of my senior year story, is gone. No warning. His heart decided it was done, and turned off. If Larry’s passing was a shock, Danny’s was a bolt of lightning. Danny’s wife is left to plan those retirement years, alone. Their lives had been intertwined since high school, over forty-five years. If I am surprised and shocked, what must it be like for her?
I know I am mortal. My turn might be tomorrow when a car crosses the white line and sends me back home to God. I might wake with a pain in my chest and be gone before I can call out to my husband. I might go for a checkup and be told by my doctor I have three months to live. I don’t know. No one does. I am mortal, and some day this body will stop. I will leave memories in other’s minds. I hope the legacy I leave spurs them to live in such a way that their memories mean something to someone they leave behind. I intend to.

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College Roommate

24 Jan 2014

1/21/14

College Roommate

I met my college roommate for dinner after Christmas. We live half way across the country from each other now (Arkansas to Virginia). We hadn’t seen each other in a really long time, so it was interesting to come together for a couple hours.
We met freshman year, in 1968, and nearly didn’t become friends. I was a shy, quiet, old fashioned girl, away from my mother for the first time ever. Linda was much more worldly: use to clubbing in D.C., a more modern woman. She took one look at me, with my Bible as my strength, and decided it wasn’t going to work. She told me later that she did everything she could to get me to ask for another roommate. I, in turn, prayed for guidance and strength to make it work. I won.
We spent four and a half years together, and became best friends. We survived academic probation (Linda), boyfriends who rocked our worlds and then left us (both of us), late night study sessions, learning to smoke cigarettes, student teaching (me), losing friends to academic dismissal by the University, and eventually graduation. I became less pious and more cynical. She became more settled. We grew up together.
Then we took off for different worlds. She married her then boyfriend, and moved to Arkansas. Arkansas? To me that was the end of the world! She got a job as a Social Worker. Had a child and settled into the family life. I followed the sailor I had fallen in love with, first as a “seagull” to his Mediterranean cruise, backpacking around Europe for five months, and then I married him and moved to Colorado.
A Masters degree in Special Education later, we returned to the East Coast and went our separate ways. I raised one stepfamily with a man I fell in love with. Lost the man but kept his daughter. Eventually I met my present husband and we settled down to raise his daughter. Through all this, the one thing that remained constant in my life was my teaching, for forty years.
Now Linda and I are both retired. Eligible for Senior discounts. Settling in to that comfortable place in life where the battles to be fought are fewer, and the days are more often filled with happy events. I looked at her across the table that night, and I remembered the vibrant redhead with rose colored glasses (which she wore for one full year). I see her, flashing legs in mini-skirts, laughing, dancing, happy, and confident. Then, there I am, somewhere behind her, more subdued. Her shadow. My skirt longer, my long hair pulled back. The girl-next-door type.
Here we are now, forty years later. What are these memories worth? Hours of listening to the Association. Studying Shakespeare and Freud. Late nights with Virginia Slims and Zero’s subs. Leaving at four in the morning to drive to the Krispy Kream Donut store to get the first donuts of the morning as they were pulled out of the oven. Memories. Memories that are the foundation of who we are today, and that bind Linda and I forever. “Remember when?”
What do you remember?

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Snow

21 Jan 2014

1/21/14

Snow

Snow pads in on stealthy
silent paws.
Slides through the trees, across fields,
‘til it’s here.
Sits, looks ‘round, shakes itself
to free flakes.
Thousands of silvery
crystals fall.
Snow stretches. Slinks off,
trailing white.

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High School Hell

21 Jan 2014

1/21/14

High School Hell

I have heard several twenty-some-things refer to their high school experience as hell. A statement like that catches me by surprise. Why would their high school years seem like a hell? I don’t know the individual reasons. May be it was a sense of not belonging, of alienation from others. May be it was the pressure from parents to do well, especially at some subject they disliked or weren’t good at. May be it was the lack of control over their own lives. In high school everyone seems to tell you what to do. May be it was just the waiting to be out, to be free, to be their own person: the sense of being held back. But to call it “hell” seems so drastic. Hell is the worst of the worst. Was high school really the worst of the worst?
My experience of high school was vastly different. For me high school was the last safe place in my life. There I was protected by the teachers. I knew nothing horrible was going to happen to me inside the school. My mother took care of my needs outside of school. She put a roof over my head, food on our table, paid the heating and electric bills, made sure I had clothes to wear, and came home every day to share time with me. I, too, couldn’t wait to get out from under the yoke of being her daughter. I wanted to be free to make my own decisions without the watching eye of a parent influencing those decisions.
But I would not have called high school hell. I loved the friends I had there. I respected most of my teachers. I liked learning new things, and although typing was my nemesis, and I failed the class, I can’t say it made my life “hell.” All those backdrops were safety nets within which I could spread my wings a bit, but not leave the nest. Chaffing at restrictions is not hell. It’s a part of growing up.
Usually time and distance makes the stark picture of misery soften, and everything takes on a rosier glow. People I know who felt relieved to be done with school, later looked back on its peaks and valleys (mostly the valleys) with amusement. Conversations lead to “remember when.” All that anguish and sorrow of the time become mere stepping stones to adulthood. Something to remember, and reflect on as part of the process.
So I wonder. Will the newly minted adults, the twenty-some-things of today, be able to look back fondly at the “hell” of high school and laugh about it later? I hope so.

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Moon Fog

15 Jan 2014

1/14/14
Moon Fog

The moon hangs like a huge gaslight in the sky. It is so bright I really don’t need the headlights on as I drive home in the night. From the moist ground wraith-like fog fingers reach up to caress the car as I pass through. In some places the unlined road through the woods is only visible a yard long, making the future road an adventure into the unknown. I move in and out of the climbing walls of fog that twist in a spectral dance and end about ten feet above the road. Bright moon. Milky fog. In and out until I’m disoriented with the journey. Safely I reach home and leave the moon and fog to fight for dominance.

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A Love Story

07 Jan 2014

1/7/14

A Love Story

Father Sun smiles weakly upon his lover, Mother Earth. But she is unresponsive, appearing dead like a Juliet to his Romeo. Does he mourn when he kisses her frozen lips and gets no response? All her accoutrements, the trees and flowers, are dead to him, too. When he sends breezy fingers to run through her hair, the hair is brittle, dry, lifeless. He must think he has lost her forever. Or does he remember that one day, far from now, he’ll whisper her name, and feel a thin pulse beat, and know she is coming back to him yet again? Does the Sun remember?

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Arctic Morning

07 Jan 2014

1/7/14

Arctic Morning

I step outside and suddenly my tears turn to crystals. I have to keep blinking or my eyes will freeze open. The earth seems frozen into silence, where even my footsteps are muffled by the Arctic air that blankets the East coast. The wind is an invisible assassin whose katar cuts through my wrappings in an instant, to touch my very bones. I make short work of walking the dog and return quickly to the oasis of warmth in my house.

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January Day 2014

06 Jan 2014

1/3/14

January Day 2014

Ground frozen.
Crunchy underfoot.
Ice stands in puddles.
Snow crystals hiding
In grass, flowerbeds.

Weak sun lights the sky.
No warmth reaches earth.
Outside air is frigid.
Wind knifes through clothing.
Breath a fog of white.

A walk is torture.
Scarf wound tight. Gloves cover.
Thick coat protecting.
Still, icy fingers
On skin, into bones.

Winter dominates.
Animals burrow.
Plants lie in deep sleep.
Earth submits. Bows down.
January day.

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