Friday, October 30, 2009

A TIME CUT OFF FROM TIME by DeAnn Louise Daigle

That’s how it felt when I went to Fran’s place out in Mattituck on Long Island. We did whatever she felt like doing or we did nothing at all. I ran a few errands for her or defrosted her little refrigerator. It was our time together and as the end grew closer, she told me how much she looked forward to my coming on the weekends.

There was no knowing how long Fran would live after she renounced the chemo and radiation. The pain grew bolder and she fed herself her own meds. Fiercely independent, she maintained control for as long as she could. Hospice grew tired of her calling them. She was afraid of being alone, I’m sure. She knew I’d come whenever she wanted me to, but she would send me away too – wanting me to go back to the city. She’d be okay.

“Let me know,” I’d tell her. “You know I’ll come.” I used up all my sick time and personal days from work and I was hoping to hang on to my vacation days. But, I had those for her as well if she wanted and needed me to come out to her.

I guess I’ll always feel I could have done more, I should have gone out there to be with her, but I needed my job too.

Because she wasn’t a close enough relative I couldn’t take a leave of absence to be with her. But, I would have stayed anyway if she needed me to. She didn’t want me. She kept saying, she was saving me for later.

But, the weekends were ours. I grew to looking forward to spending time with Fran. She was easy to be with. She probably held back on her meds so that she’d be alert enough for us to go riding. She had to give up her driving – a really big deal, but she did it. She was brave and so dear. I drove her van. We went to the shore – the sound, the bay, and on good days and when Jim was free to come, we went to the South Fork to see the ocean.

I tweaked her big toe. “I’ll see you soon, Baby Doll,” were my last words to her when Jim and I left the hospital on Sunday. I spoke with her briefly on Monday. “I love you very much,” I told her on Monday afternoon. “Who said that?” She responded on the other end of the line. “DeAnn,” I said. “Tell her I love her very much too.” “I will,” I said. She was confused from all the morphine, I knew.

On Tuesday morning I called her. “I can’t talk right now,” she said. “I’ll call later, Sweetie,” I said. When I called she was asleep.

On Wednesday, I waited and called the nurses’ station when I knew they would have checked in on her. “She’s resting comfortably.” “Thank you,” I said.

At 11:20 A.M., Dr. Emanuele called, “Fran went to heaven at 11 this morning.”

Monday, October 26, 2009

ALMOST FIVE by Ruth Berg

I was four, almost five, too young to start school in Texas. There were no public nursery or kindergarten classes in Texas. Public school began at six years old. My grandmother, Mam-ma, was living at our house out on Bridle Path. She was in charge of my sister, Bah, and me. Mother was in the hospital; Dad was away auditing some out-of-state insurance company.

Mam-ma worked at Billy Richardson’s Hardware Store on Congress Ave. in Austin. She was in charge of buying crystal, china, pots, pans,utensils...all the things for dining and cooking. Bah was enrolled at Pease Elementary School. Then there was me. What to do with me? The answer was “Send her to kindergarten at St. David’s.”

St. David’s sits on a high hill up the street from the Driscoll Hotel. As you drive up to the church, there is the feeling of approaching an ancient fortress. A long flight of stone steps lead up to a landing. Turn to the left and heavy doors open onto a small vestibule clothed in dark wood paneling. Through another set of doors lies the church’s dark interior with bits of sunlight pushing its way through the stained glass windows. It was here I was to be deposited for the year, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 to 12:30.

The weekday routine began with Mam-ma up and cooking breakfast; Bah and I dressing. Artie, the handyman who worked and drove the car for us, would arrive, have breakfast out on the back steps. After breakfast, there was a rush to get teeth brushed, hair neatened. Then we piled into the car, Artie behind the wheel with me seated beside him, Mam-ma and Bah in the back seat. Artie would start the car, slowly back out onto the gravel road. We travelled along Bridle Path, turned right on Enfield Road then on to Pease Elementary where Bah hopped out of the car. From there, we drove on to Congress Ave. and 6th Street where Mam-ma would say “goodbye”. Then it was up the hill to St. Davids. Artie would park the car in front of the stone steps, get out of the car. He would come to the passenger door, say “Time to go to school, Miss Ruth.” And every day, every week, I would linger in the car, a churning in my stomach. Artie would open the door, take my hand and help me out. Slowly, we would trudge up the steep stone steps, Artie still holding my hand. At the top of the stairs, I would pull up my knee high socks that were bunching around my ankles. The bells of St Mary’s would ring out and the bells of St. David’s would answer. Once Mother had said that the bells of St. Mary’s and St. David’s spoke to each other saying “Good morning. How are you?”

Artie would slowly guide me to the kindergarten class promising to be waiting for me after class. And so went a year of my life.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Life of the Party by Judith Blanshard

My father was always the life of the party at those summer vacation gatherings of 11 cousins, their parents and the grandparents at the farm in Maine.

The men would often stay up ‘till all hours playing poker or reminiscing, and the sound of their laughter, and wafts of snack food and smoke would drift upwards through the wrought iron grates between floors to the bedrooms, where some of us cousins were stacked up, sharing the crickety carved wooden beds that graced the old bedrooms which overlooked the back and front yards and farm.

My mother, grandmother and aunts could be heard gossiping and laughing as they washed and dried the dishes, or prepared food for the next day, or for “grownups only” at night.

We told stories and the older cousins (myself and Nelson mostly) hatched plans to ambush the younger kids in our “haunted barn”, or made a mental map of explorations we wanted to make in the mud flats or woods behind the chicken coop or up from the bay.

If by chance I managed to stay awake past the noise and into the quieter time when everyone had gone to bed, I used to love listening to the whippoorwills, and peeking out at the moonlit yard and field, where once in awhile, a tentative deer poked its way through the long grass . If I went to the bathroom, I was careful to walk along the long floorboards so as to avoid the creaks and groans of the old house and quickly, in case there were ghosts.

Monday, October 12, 2009

EARLY MORNING by Deborah Gordon-Brown

I didn't slam the door behind me. That wasn't the point. The point was just to get way, to be alone, to find somenplace where my heart could stop pounding and my rage, my sense that I could tear up huge trees by the roots, could subside. I knew I could lose it all, that in the great upholstered container of my van to which I had run, I could accelerate into oblivion, smashing into the side of something sold, eternal, something lasting far longer than my chaos, my night of pain. I wouldn't though. At least I didn't think I would. What I needed was to get away, to scream, to howl, to break open, to not be held in that house, closed in with the what was.

I don't even really remember the details of what it was about because, I think, in the long run it wasn't about details; The details were just little triggers, the tiny sparks that run along the soul before a firestorm breaks out. The van was perfect, silent until the key brought it alive, a moving container, literally a vehicle of escape.

Was it 2:00 AM, later than that? I don't remember that either. I remember a sharp, clear night with a great moon. I remember pulling out of the driveway carefully, hearing the gravel move under the tires, experiencing the sound as the background music to escape, the way sound effects on radio shows or in the movies foretell movement, change,

The moon lit my way although I did have my headlights on. I held the steering wheel carefully, so aware of how on edge I was, how little I was feeling the pull of wanting to be awake tomorrow. The sihouettes of great trees and low farms, both frightened and comforted me. Nothing was as I had known it in daylight or even on rides home from an evening event. This night of moonlight and no cars, of silence except for a brief wind, was new to me and yet part of timelessness.

The van was a stranger to the earth's history. It and I were just passing through, both of no long range consequence to the earth around us. A possom crossed the road in my headlights, giving me what I felt was an appropriately cross look. Then another, head down, scurried by. I was going slowly. I didn't want to hurt anything else that was alive.

I approached a bridge across a river that in the summer had been all current and rage. I sought its movement across jagged rocks, listening for the crash of water and barrier meeting. The river murmured. It didn't have the water for rage anymore than I had tears for my pain.

On the bridge I turned off the engine, cut my car lights. In the near distance something moved from the side of the road. I put my arms over the steering wheel, hugging its roundness, wanting arms around me. It was quiet, so quiet.

And then I saw her. She stepped out of the forest so quietly, so free and then stopped, alert, listening. Perhaps she smelled the warm motor of the van? She sensed something and turned toward me. Then slowly, keeping watch on the van, she moved a few more feet across the road, a few feet closer to me, and then she stopped entirely, her eyes curious, wary, but not afraid.

I rolled my window down slowly. I willed her to know that she was safe, that I would watch the road for her. She just stayed still and we looked at one another and as my eyes got better used to the moonlight I could make out her colors, sense the ripples of alterness on her flesh. Perhaps she could really see me. sense all of me, this doe walking alone in the night.

Softly I asked her to stay, to stay with me, to listen to me. "I am so alone", I told her. "I am so angry. I don't know if I can love." And the tears began to come.