Left Behind after a Death

A social media post reminded me the other night that it was a year to the day since my cousin, Joe died.  I’m sad I didn’t remember, I spoke to his mom earlier that day. We talked for an hour about all sorts of trivial things, but she didn’t mention him till we were wrapping up.  Even then, she told me it was his wife that missed him.  She said: “Lizzy called this morning and told me she had been dreaming of Joe.”  I’m usually more on the ball and can pick up things with my “third ear.” She called because she was sad, but I missed it. 

I grew up close to my cousin and his sister.  Our families would get together every weekend when we were kids in Brooklyn.  He was the best man at my brother’s wedding.  He went to prep school in New England on a scholarship, and after that, as the years past, we saw each other very little.  I know he was a family man; crazy about his kids and a good husband.  His son posted a sweet memorial that day and wished his dad would have been around to meet his first granddaughter.

When hurricane Maria caused chaos in Puerto Rico, Joe went to get his recently widowed mom and brought her back to stay with his family until he was sure things were better in her town.   It was November when he dropped his mom off at the airport. That day, Joe told his mom that he wasn’t planning to retire anytime soon.  He liked his job and was in good health.  “I’m in it for the long haul,” he told her. They said goodbye, and he went to work.   A few hours later, a co-worker found him slumped over his desk. It was his heart. He was 60 years old.  My aunt didn’t go to the funeral; she didn’t want to see her little boy buried.

trees in park

This incident got me thinking about how after death, life goes on around us here on earth. I remember feeling disconnected from everything and everyone whenever I’ve lost someone very close to me.  I sat at my desk one day holding back tears because I was in pain and the world keep spinning on its tilted axis.  The sun and the moon each came up as scheduled, people worked, laughed and played all around me as they had the day before and the day before that. I wanted to scream “STOP!  It still hurts, Can’t you see?  I’ve lost a part of me.” Intellectually, I know we all take turns with grieving one thing or another; and we all grieve differently, but at that moment, it hit me how personal grieving really is, but as they say, “the beat goes on.” 

Growing up, as an Evangelical in Brooklyn, I knew nothing of the “Day of the Dead” traditions.  In that fundamentalist religious culture, anything otherworldly is anathema, considered evil and would lead straight to perdition.  It is that way for Halloween and the “pagan” Gaelic origins in Samhain.  I find it interesting that both the Aztecs and ancient people of Scottish-Irish islands had similar celebrations before Christianity got to there. I was curious and learned that other ancient cultures in addition to China and Japan also set aside one day to celebrate or honor the dead ancestors.

 I found out later in life that my grandparents traditionally celebrated the Day of the Dead, but with a somber tone.  Even though they were not Catholic, they liked to be respectful of the family members who passed on before them. It was a day of quiet reflection for them. When I converted to Catholicism several years ago, I found the celebrations of All Souls Day and All Saints very comforting.  I’m glad that the Church did not erase the sentiment behind these “pagan” traditions.

In my family, we have lost many loved ones prematurely by today’s standards, but really who is to say how many days are in the itinerary for this journey.   Because we don’t know, we are encouraged to live each day to the fullest, to take every opportunity or to “make it a great day.”  What happens when things don’t work out the way we plan? 

A long time ago, I decided to embrace the idea that life or success is not a straight shot.  At least it hasn’t worked that way for me or others I have met along the way.  As I mentioned to someone the other day, getting to our goal is perhaps more like using the subway system or public transit to get our errands done at the different stops along the way.  Let’s say we have a “to do” list, and sometimes we forget or miss an item and have to go back, or we find something interesting but unexpected, and we are detained for longer than we planned.

Of course, sometimes the train malfunctions and we need to rethink our strategy.  The problem is out of our control, but we need to get things done.  What do we do?  We get out and walk, take the next train, find other means of transportation or look at how we can rearrange priorities to maximize our time.  

I’ve been fortunate to have great role models.  Grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles who taught me that is possible to overcome obstacles.  I have heard stories of any one of them who was helpful to someone in need, even though they may have been confronting their own struggles.  People remember them with love and admiration. 

None of them were famous or of great wealth, but they left a mark that they were here.  During these days of celebrating life and death, I didn’t light candles or put out food for their visit, but I remember them and honor their lives every day.  And if there is a bridge or door or whatever for the spirits of our loved ones to visit, I hope they are pleased with how their seeds have grown and flourished. 

I loved the movie “Coco” #Disney magic.

 

Why Bring Flowers?

Used to be Love, Flowers, and Goodbye

adult blur bouquet boy

Tildie slowly exhaled and closed her laptop.  Every morning after meditations, she checked her emails and social media. Now and then Tildie would come across the story of the eighty-year-old man who walked five miles to have breakfast with his wife in a memory care facility. When people asked him why he continued to go daily for so many years if she didn’t remember him; his answer always gave Clotilde “Tildie” Delsapo reason to pause: “She doesn’t remember me, but I remember her, and I haven’t forgotten how we used to be.”

Tildie dressed this morning with an old Barbara Streisand – Neil Diamond duet on her mind. The song, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” had taken on a new meaning for her. On rough days she would sing it fighting back the tears.

Today Tildie decided to stop on her way and buy fresh flowers from the garden nursery. She knew Sergio could still appreciate the beauty and perhaps the sweet fragrance would trigger a memory.  She would make sure there were sprigs of lavender with hopes that somewhere in his new world he would find her.

At one time Sergio and Tildie were two spirits bound by love flying high above the clouds and earthly troubles. It wasn’t all rainbows and chocolates, but she had chosen to file the bad memories in a separate place. Tildie remembered the laughter, the tenderness and the adventures they shared.  She remembered their late night talks. In her arms he was able to unlock the complex emotions he kept hidden from the rest. Tildie recalled how finding a smiley face on a post-it note in her notebook, kept a silly grin on her face for the rest of the day.  

Sergio Miviere taught her many things about the world, about love, about herself.  He helped her believe in her talents and pursue her dreams.  Sometimes as they ate ice cream by the seashore, they would people watch. They would sit close together and whisper stories. They could build on each other’s imagination to create vignettes about their surroundings.  “How do you come up with this stuff?” he told her often as he giggled like a small boy. 

He had a scholar’s mind and could rationalize or give explanations in great detail about anything.  Teaching was second nature, everything was a life-lesson, and she loved to hear him talk about the world around them.  Yes, she thought, intelligence IS sexy. 

She first started to notice a problem, when he talked to her of people she didn’t know, or he would say, “Remember the other day we were at  …” but she had never been there.  He had been there for business or with friends. She wanted to ignore the signs, but others started to ask concerned questions. 

By far the saddest moment was when Sergio finally put aside his pride and acknowledged that his difficulty went beyond distraction or the stress having a lot on his mind. She watched him change before her eyes as he became angry and fearful of what was to come. Tildie promised Sergio all her love; to be with him forever. 

In the years that followed they took extra care to cherish every moment.  Every sunrise and sunset marked another day they were together. They received each day in gratitude, but little by little Sergio went down a path that left Tildie behind, alone to make difficult decisions.   

brown moth hovering over lavender flower

The day Sergio moved to the care center was just another day of muddled talk and confusion for him. He stared at the ceiling as they helped him to bed unable to find words to ask questions. In that bed, Tildie left a shell of the man she loved, but also a piece of her heart.  That night she couldn’t sleep, and the next morning she was at the Center by his bed before he awoke.  He didn’t know who she was, but she knew him.  She remembered who they used to be, Sergio and Tildie. 

On good days Tildie thought there was a flicker of recognition. He would let her lay in bed with him. She liked to believe that his spirit remembered hers. She held him and sang to him “May I have this Dance?” until he fell asleep. 

Blog bouquet of flowers by Amelie Ohlrogge on UnsplashToday there was a vase of fresh flowers on the desk by the window with sprigs of lavender.  Sergio’s eyes widened, perhaps in recognition of a memory they shared, but he no longer had the words. These moments had become Tildie’s life.  How could she learn to say goodbye?

 

 

The more I write, the more I become aware of my process, and I’m beginning to see patterns in my writing.  Even though I don’t post every day, I make it my business to sit down and work on something. I wrote this piece for my critique group this week. It’s flash fiction, and my challenge is trying to stay within the 750 words. I looked at some things in my drafts folder and started a few other stories, but nothing seemed to motivate me enough to put energy into it. 

I went to see the new “A Star is born” last weekend. It was excellent on its own but some aspects still reminded me of Barbara Streisand. I started playing some of my favorites and was inspired to write this story with limited knowledge on the subject. It was well received in the group. Coincidently, another writer shared a personal account and a few poems about the same topic from a different point of view followed by some interesting discussion.  I got some great suggestions which I will work on in the future, but it will certainly be more than 750 words. 

(Pictures are not my own. Borrowed from Pexels on WordPress)

A Book Review from a Writer’s Book Club

shallow focus photography of couple ants holding book figurine
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The focus

I joined a new book club because I like to read and discuss books with likeminded people. A book club offers the opportunity to explore books and authors that wouldn’t otherwise catch my attention, and I was glad to find this one through my local writers’ group. The club’s focus is Twentieth Century Classics from a writer’s perspective.   This month’s pick was “Quartet in Autumn” by Barbara Pym.

I have been writing and making up stories all my life, but it has been within the past few months that I’ve decided to own the title of “writer,” or “unpublished writer” to be exact.  It had been a while since I had participated in a book club group and I liked the idea of reviewing the book as a writer to determine what makes it a classic. 

The author and her book

The author, Barbara Pym, introduced the Quartet, the four main characters, at a 1970’s London office where they create an ensemble of unremarkable and unmarried middle-aged office clerks waiting to retire.  Working together for many years, they develop a vague relationship bordering on friendship, but the characters, accustomed to living alone, can’t imagine crossing the line from co-workers to friends.  The book has moments of British humor and elements of surprise.

I had never heard of Barbara Pym.  As I began to enjoy the story, I looked her up to see what else she’d written.  It turns out she has quite a following, and she often is compared to Jane Austen.  There is even a Barbara Pym Society.  While her writing has similarities to Austen’s stories of everyday English life, one book critic in a 2015 New Yorker article points out that Pym’s novels don’t have the fanciful happening ending.  In “Quartet in Autumn” however, the story of these unassuming characters leaves one with this message from Letty Crowe: “But at least it made one realize that life still held infinite possibilities for change.”   

How it relates

I liked the book from the beginning and considered it a page-turner as I read with anticipation trying to guess how the writer was going to play out the lives of the low-key characters in the story.  You may have noticed that my tagline “Verbal Snapshots of a Simple Life.” That is precisely what caught my attention about “Quartet in Autumn.”  It triggered an interest in more books by Barbara Pym especially after I read critics describe her work as “comfort food.” That’s precisely the feeling I would like to create in my writings. The book speaks to my conviction to treat each person with kindness because I don’t know what they struggle with in their life.   Her stories focus on people doing mundane things, as everyone does in real life.  If we take the time, we can notice that each person has a story and as I’ve learned, each person is the star of their own movie. 

Six people besides me attended the book club meeting; three didn’t like the book at all, one was lukewarm, and the woman who recommended the book is a member of the Barbara Pym Society.   Discussing books in such groups highlights the power or magic of the written word.  It reminds us that how we receive a book or a story depends on where we are in our own lives.  Is the writer tapping into a universal truth? Can the reader identify with the characters, why or why not? Is there anything familiar in the storyline such as time, place, occupation, relationship or social nuance? 

For example, half the group thought the main characters were mere “blobs.” They saw the characters as grey people in a dark room and read the book with no expectation that it was going to offer anything more. Their final synopsis was that the novel was boring and depressing.  I think however that the author’s intention was just the opposite.  I think she wanted to show that we adapt to changes in our lives and find unexpected opportunities where we thought there were none.  Sometimes life forces us to find alternatives to suit our personal evolution.

Writing style and expectations

It is not surprising those folks that found the book boring appeared to be of the mind that an adventure is around every corner and if it’s not there, one is obligated to find it. Fortunately, not every writer is a Hemmingway or in need an adrenaline rush to make life appear worthwhile.  I tend to enjoy finding treasure in simple things. I don’t mind a quiet walk in the mornings. I do enjoy exploring and experiencing new adventures, but I am content with living a simple life where each day may or may not bring new opportunities for drama or swashbuckling pirates for example.   

In the interpretation of the book, beyond the printed word, one realizes that the people portrayed in the story are not monochrome at all; they all have a particular story, and their backstory brought them to where they are in the present.  The characters dreamed of different plans for their life. They didn’t envision themselves in a backroom office waiting to retire, but life happens, and they made it work for them.  Even at this stage of life, they found as long as one has breath, it’s never too late to change course, and make a difference one person at a time.  That is a message that I want to send in my writing as well.

Recommended

I would recommend this book to curious minds like myself, willing to discover what’s beyond that which you expect to see. I would challenge the reader to see the value and worth in others that may not be like you but have a place in your world.  Take a good look at the people in your neighborhood such as the clerk at the deli counter, the valet at the parking lot, or the maintenance man in your building.  Say good morning, thank you or I appreciate your service.  It means I see you; I recognize the humanness in you is the same as it is in me.   I believe if we can regain that human connection we make the world better one person at a time. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my book review.  I’m planning to continue to share my impressions and let you know what I’ve learned from these great writers.  It will be my turn soon to pick three classics for the book club to choose.  We have a list, but I’d like to hear your recommendations.  Thanks for stopping by.

Here’s a little more about my writing style.  https://rosalind.life/2018/04/19/letter-r-reality-and-beyond/

pile of hardbound books with white and pink floral ceramic teacup and saucer
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

 

Why it Matters

The Question

During Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Senator Kamala Harris asked Judge Brett Kavanaugh the question that crossed my mind while hearing his opening statement.  “Do you agree that men can be friends with some women and treat other women badly?”  To which the Judge responded, “Of course, but the point I’m trying to emphasize is…” At which time he brought up the 65 signatures of women who have been his friends since he was fourteen. 

Here is a segment of Judge Kavanaugh’s opening statement:                                                  “Dr. Ford’s allegation stems from a party that she alleges occurred during the summer of 1982, 36 years ago. I was 17 years old between my junior and senior years of high school at Georgetown Prep, a rigorous, all-boys Catholic Jesuit high school in Rockville, Maryland. When my friends and I spent time together at parties on weekends, it was usually with friends from nearby Catholic all-girls high schools: Stone Ridge, Holy Child, Visitation, Immaculata, Holy Cross. Dr. Ford did not attend one of those schools. She attended an independent private school named Holton-Arms, and she was a year behind me. She and I did not travel in the same social circles. It is possible that we met at some point at some events, although I do not recall that.” Judge Brett Kavanaugh at Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

The Belief System

For several years I co-facilitated groups on Family Violence Prevention, specifically working with men who batter.  The educational model centered around the dynamics of power and control in relationships.  As part of the curriculum, we explore belief systems that present one person as inferior to the other and as such may imply permission to abuse another person whether physically, verbally or emotionally. 

One of the belief systems we addressed centered on the Christian teachings of the two Marys of the mentioned most New Testament. The belief dominates cultures based on strong Catholic traditions which include the Catholic Mariology dogma of a pure virgin, the Mother of God – Blessed Mother Mary.  The New Testament also highlights the story of Mary Magdalene, who according to tradition was a prostitute until she met Jesus Christ, and she became a vital figure in the community of believers.

During the educational sessions, our groups explored how these traditions are passed down through generations creating a belief that categorizes women in two roles; chaste, sober women as mothers and wives, while every other woman is of less value. One group of women is protected while the other is dehumanized. Strong language I know, but I think that during the past century we continue as a nation to figure out the boundaries and social norms in response to recognizing a women’s equal human rights.  I think the people in power feel threatened on many levels and in the effort to turn back the clock, we have lost that vision of justice for all.  

It is my opinion that this deep-rooted belief system may be the reason why there is a detachment from the events in Judge Kavanaugh’s memories; the reason he has no recollection.  In his introductory statement, he mentions the kinds of girls he chose to socialize with, girls from other Catholic Schools in the area.  I’ll bet that these probably were also the daughters of his parents’ friends or the sisters of his “brothers” at Georgetown or Yale.  He added that Dr. Ford “did not travel in the same social circles.”  One could wonder if that perhaps that made Dr. Ford a “non-person” to young Billy Kavanaugh and his social group.

Point of View: Privilege or Tradition

My theory can explain why her name did not get noted in his calendar and why he says he does not remember.  We tend to keep memories that are important to us.  It was a significant memory for Dr. Christine Baisley Ford but not for Judge Kavanaugh or any of the others.  The others did not feel trapped or fear for their lives.  It seems that for the others at the gathering, it was as Dr. Ford described it, just like any other “spur of the moment” gathering at someone’s house.  The other teens may remember it vaguely one of many chances to have a few beers, and if one got “lucky,” maybe get a piece of a$*.  Dr. Ford’s friend, Leland Ingham Keyser, came forward in support of her friend although she didn’t remember the event. We don’t know what she experienced that day. There were, after all, enough “friends” left in the house for another “triangle” –two boys and a girl.

During his testimony, Judge Kavanaugh made excuses for underage drinking.  Reports say he lied about the drinking age in Maryland at the time of the incident in question. Various online news sources point out the law was changed seven months before he turned eighteen in January of 1983.  A couple of times he mentioned that seniors at Georgetown Prep could buy alcohol because they were of age, but didn’t own the fact that he was seventeen when enjoyed his beer.  Is his view based on privilege or traditions and beliefs that “Boys will be boys?”  He avoided many questions with indirect answers, and instead repeated practiced statements to take up time.  Do we remember that he had coaching sessions before the hearing?   

Emotional Response

The Family Violence Prevention program also had an educational unit that discussed how people use angry outbursts to intimidate and get situations under control and to turn in their favor.  We see that displayed with Judge Kavanaugh and Senator Lindsay Graham, who I believe had additional reasons for his show of unbridled rage.  Kavanaugh started the afternoon as I saw many men in our groups, angry, blaming others and indignant that they were accused of such terrible things.  I would have had more respect for him if he had at least owned the allegations from his friend or his roommate, that he drank severely and that these circumstances presented so often, it was difficult to tell one from the other.  Instead, he belittled his friends in an attempt to make their recollection of him void, without importance or significance.   One he described a drug addict and the other disgruntled roommate – so much for loyalty.

How about those tears?  Was he ashamed or remorseful?  I’ll bet, not because he hurt these women, but because his future and the persona he worked hard to create was getting challenged.  The world was learning about another side of Judge Kavanaugh.  I believe Mark Judge’s testimony is in his book Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk, in which he described what life was like in the elite schools in the suburbs of Maryland.  In it, he has a character named “Bart O’Kavanaugh.” As a writer, I rename any character based on a friend or family member.  I play around with the names, leaving clues for some readers to recognize the person.   I believe Mark Judge did the same but put little effort into concealing the name to protect the innocent.  I wonder why?

Why it Matters in 2018

He was just a teenager in high school, a red-blooded young man in college, why does it matter now? Has it been an issue in his professional life before now?  Somehow the Judge Kavanaugh that we see now, managed to effectively play the game he was trained to win early on.  Could it be that his character was never questioned because he had the right credentials or the right pedigreed?  The current line of questioning centered on his professional experiences, until the allegations were made public.  After so many years in Washington DC, he was privy to the types of questions and then like a good athlete or debater, he began to practice and build muscle.  Besides the fact that there appears to be a cover-up of his character flaws, if we look back at his decisions in lower courts, we will notice patterns of consistent rulings or dissentions based on his beliefs and conservative politics.  In my opinion, they are not necessarily based on the merits of cases in front of him.  

blur close up focus gavel

I will briefly summarize points that caught my eye as they pertain to issues that are important to me.

-He has demonstrated that he does not favor separation of church and state. A 2015 dissent indicating ACA infringes on religious freedom and that organizations should not be mandated to offer contraception to their employees.  He has suggested that he is open to widening the flow of public funding to religious schools and during a CNN appearance in 2000 he predicted that the court would one day uphold school vouchers. 

– He wrote a 2016 opinion saying employers can require workers to waive their right to picket in arbitration agreements. 

-In 2014 ruling over an EPA rule on toxic mercury from power plants, he wrote in a dissent that EPA had acted wrongly in not weighing costs when it first decided to write a regulation. 

-He said the 2010 Dodd-Frank law had wrongly placed “enormous executive power” in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s single director, which Republicans and the banking industry want to replace with a multi-member commission. 

-In 1999 wrote on behalf of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a group that opposes race-based affirmative action in college admissions.

Character matters

I believe our core-self develops early on.  Definitely, by high school, our personality and character can reflect how we deal with what life brings our way. I am a firm believer that people can change. We mature, we evolve we come to terms with our beliefs, our strengths, and weaknesses. We remove or replace behaviors and make modifications in our lives to become better persons.  Likewise, of course, some people go in the opposite direction based on personal experiences that negatively mark their lives, but I have found they live with hope to change.  In either direction, in order to improve, we must acknowledge there is a problem.  There must be something we want to change. 

Here is another way to see what I’m trying to say.  rosalind.life/2018/09/29/with-the-mouth-she-kisses-my-kids/

Will he be confirmed if nothing catastrophic shows up in the investigation this week?  All things are possible.  After all, DJT is President, MRP is his Vice President, and the country is littered with government-sponsored zoos that exhibit human children in cages for their safety. 

Get out and vote on November 6th!

With the Mouth She Kisses My Kids

From the movie Analyze This                                                                                                 (Robert De Niro as a mob boss Paul Vitti and Billy Crystal as a psychiatrist, Ben Sobel)

Dr. Sobel: What happened with your wife last night?

Paul Vitti: I wasn’t with my wife, I was with my girlfriend.

Dr. Sobel: Are you having marriage problems?

Paul Vitti: No.

Dr. Sobel: Then why do you have a girlfriend?

Paul Vitti: What, are you gonna start moralizing on me?

Dr. Sobel: No, I’m not, I’m just trying to understand, why do you have a girlfriend?

Paul Vitti: I do things with her I can’t do with my wife.

Dr. Sobel: Why can’t you do them with your wife?

Paul Vitti: Hey! That’s the mouth she kisses my kids goodnight with! What are you, crazy?

I wanted to add the clip for a better understanding but I couldn’t isolate the clip of this scene. I’ve just added the dialog.                                                                                                   

adorable animal animal world cat

Think about that in light of the events of this week.  The situation is not a joke.

Stay tuned for my next post to see why it matters

There is no magic to forgive and forget

broken heart love sadI read another sad post the other day about relationships and the conundrum/riddle of forgive and forget.  I believe one can forgive someone for hurting us and continue life without resentment or hold a grudge toward that person. Without going to any textbook explanation, but rather based on pure personal observation, I believe that not forgetting what has hurt us, is merely an instinct for survival.  We need to remember danger to learn to avoid it.

My dog hates medicine for her ears, it fizzles in her ear as it goes down.  It has been years since she’s had an infection, but if she hears me shaking a bottle with liquid, she stands by the stairs waiting to see if I am going to come after her. If she sees me taking a step in her direction, she runs up the stairs and under my bed.  If I give her a piece of cheese or meat, she will smell it first to make sure there isn’t medicine in it. She had a treat in her mouth once, tasted the medicine, promptly spit it out and ran up the stairs and under my bed.  I also have a seven-year-old niece that has severe allergies that sometimes cause anything from severe swelling to seizures.  From about age three and a half; she understood that some foods make her feel very sick.  Before she orders at a restaurant or any new environment she will say: “I have allergies, does this have…” It is truly a matter of survival for her.

While the breakdown of the relationship can refer to romantic partners, parent-child, siblings or best friends, the premise is the same. One person hurt another, and a trust was broken. Does it really matter why?  I believe that to expect a person to forget is selfish and would appear that your wishes, personal need to feel better or comfortable with the situation, are more important than the other person’s healing process. 

I often hear “I apologized and promised not to do it again. I’m trying to make it up to him.  What more does she want? Why does she/he keep bringing it up? ”  News flash, It’s not about you; it’s their healing process. They want to be OK. They want to stop hurting,  to heal, and be able to trust again.  You can’t speed it up, and you can’t make it better.  The process needs to come from within the person.  If you are honestly doing all you can do, keep doing it and wait it out.  There is no quick fix or magic potion.  Sometimes on the other side healing, that person may decide they are OK, but they don’t want or can’t be OK with you, and you will need to accept that.   

We are all selfish to a degree. I like the analogy that we are all protagonist in our very own movie.  We all wish life was perfect; that the sun would shine brightly every day and that it rains only on our flower beds.  No one wants to feel pain, and we all wish that our happiness is all that mattered to anyone we encounter.  Even the most loving, giving person hopes that someday, out of the blue, someone would do something special for them in appreciation.    

I believe time does heal but doesn’t mean things go back to the way they were. When a broken bone heals, there are signs that healing took place.  When something is mended, the repair makes it stronger; but sometimes it continues to be weak in that area.  Some people do manage to find that special place again but it takes work, and it takes time to rebuild that trust and with it to restore that loving feeling. 

writing muse

I used to hate it when my friend would say “It is what it is. There is no magic.”   One year I gave her ruby-red slippers and a magic wand from the costume store with a note that said “BELIEVE” written in fairy dust sprinkle.  I still believe in the supernatural power of love but sometimes, it is what it is, and there IS no magic wand.     

 

 

First Critique Group

If you’ve read my posts before, you may remember that I started taking writing seriously in March 2018.  I’ve been working on my craft just about every day.  If I’m not posting here, I’m reviewing and editing or digging deeper to get to the real story.   I recently joined a local writer’s association and today I had my first meeting with a critique group that meets once a month.   This particular group regularly has five to six members attending, which is nice to allow everyone a chance to voice their opinions.

As it happens the group just started changing the format and the focus is on flash fiction.  That suits me fine because I tend to be wordy.  I can use the help.  I like to give as much detail as possible to that a person can get the full effect and feel as if they are sharing in the experience.

This week’s topic was to write about an embarrassing moment and the lesson learned.  We were to bring six copies for folks to read along.  Of course, on my first day, I left the folder with my copies on the kitchen counter as I headed out the door.  I’ve Emailed to the group and I’m including my entry below.   Let me know what you think.

four people on lounge chairs near the beach

Critique Group: Embarrassing Moment

In the year before my retirement, “Knee Deep” by The Zac Brown Band was my theme song. That last winter, as I ran away from a New England blizzard, I prayed that tune would carry me through my golden years. I packed a truck, drove south and arrived at my daughter’s doorstep in Florida. My ultimate goal, was for “the only worry in the world” to be “Is the tide gonna reach my chair?”  That plan gets complicated in the middle of the Sunshine State, and in a few months I packed another truck and drove further south.

Shortly after arriving in Aguas Claras, Florida, I realized that early retirement is not all it’s cracked up to be. My permanent vacation would have to wait.  I became a Realtor, and after a few months, a busy team hired me as an assistant.  A significant part of his business was at least thirty minutes away, but I agreed to take the job.  It was a no-brainer.  It was a great opportunity, and with my handy GPS, I already felt I conquered the South. I became familiar with the new area; clients were starting to refer their friends, I was on my way.

smartphone car technology phone

One day, I took a particularly chatty group of snowbirds to search for a piece of paradise that would fit their budget.  They brought friends for second opinions, and half the contingency followed my car in caravan style.  The first couple of houses were in the general vicinity where our team regularly conducted business, but they wanted to check out condos near the next county to the north.  It would be another 15-20 minutes away, no problem.  I had taken clients before.  I knew how to get there.

We visited a couple of units on the other side of town, and when we finished there, the passengers in the other car needed to stop for gas. While waiting, I remembered that the route I found the last time was not the best to showcase the community.   It was Old Florida, but not the charming, sweet-tea–on-the-veranda scenes from the brochures.  There were old houses that needed maintenance and broken down cars or tractors were the lawn ornaments out front.  I wanted to reprogram my GPS to avoid that route.  All I needed to do was go back to the main road and not take the first right.  The GPS would automatically “recalculate” and we would be all set.

For some reason, as we drove away from the gas station, I turned West instead of East, and it was downhill from there.  The traffic had picked up by now, and I lost my bearings.  I drove a little further to where I thought there was a road that would connect to back, but the GPS kept yelling at me to make a U-turn. There were “NO U-TURN” signs posted all along that road. I was flustered, I could feel my face burning, but I kept going following new the directions on the GPS.

I kept driving hoping the GPS was going to turn to the main road that ran parallel, but the GPS has a mind of its own, and it didn’t. The caravan kept heading north, which was fine but instead of moving toward the East, the road curved out toward the West.  We drove through what could have been a picturesque fishing town with water from the bayous overstepping their boundaries and reaching the edge of the road. It wasn’t.

After a while, we reached the State Road where I could finally turn east and get to the condo community. When we got there, and as soon as the passengers in the other car got out I was reprimanded for taking a long way around.  A drive that should have taken 15 mins took 45.  I played it off as if I was showing my out-of-town clients the scenic route, but no one was amused.  Needless to say, they didn’t buy anything, and I never heard from them again.

ideas whiteboard person working

Lesson Learned: Don’t trust the GPS and map out your destination the old-fashioned way if you have no idea where you are going.

 

 

In Remembrance

I heard the broadcasts this morning, “It’s been seventeen years.”  Each year as September 11 approaches we are called to remember the day when the unthinkable happened.  We will remember exactly where we were and what we were doing the moment we first heard the news that our great and powerful nation was attacked on our soil.  That day in New York City there were no Republicans, no Democrats, no white, black, brown, yellow, or purple.  There were Americans fighting to survive together. We are called to remember as one nation “indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”  Let us remember, let us never forget that all that we hold so dear can be gone in the blink of an eye.

For the first responders and families who lost a loved one, the remembrance has been 17 years.   Each day they wake up without a mom or a dad, son, brother, sister, wife.  They may wake up with a scar, an illness from the fallen debris or ash-filled air.  All I have left is to pray for their continued peace and strength as I promise never to forget and tell the stories to the next generation.   

Let us not forget, let us not take our freedoms for granted.  We are not perfect as a nation, but it is possible to make it work.  

Just Friends, For all Time

Alondra Elena Delopas sat on a swivel chair in her lanai listening to the rain as the winds picked up and thunder clapped in the distance.  Baby Girl lay with her legs sprawled but her nose pressed against the screen. She struggled to see what was moving in the conservation land that bordered the small condo-villa community where they lived.  If Baby Girl saw something coming closer, she jumped and whimpered excitedly thinking she would get a chance to run out to chase after it.

Can’t Turn Back Time

shallow focus of clear hourglass

Alondra or “Lonnie,” as close friends and family called her, was having a rough week.  Today, clients canceled the only two appointments she had scheduled.  They didn’t want to look at houses in a storm; maybe they just weren’t ready. It’s happened before.  She usually found listening to the rain soothing, but today, the stormy tropical weather didn’t help her mood. She felt tired, cold and lonely.  She went back inside to read but couldn’t wrap her head around on another “kick your business into high gear” self-help book.  She turned to the mindlessness of surfing the net on her phone where she found the same stories, memes, and jokes all over again.

One story caught her eye.  It was another of those stories where old friends from high school find each other and decide to spend the rest of their days making up for lost time.  All of it made possible through the magic of social media.  The funny thing is that she recently had been thinking about her friend Bobby from high school. They had been in school together since seventh grade.  She’d adored him during high school and college but never in a romantic way.  Outside of school, they were part of the same social group from church, and they worked at the same summer jobs. Bobby and Lonnie enjoyed a lot of the same things, and she liked hanging out with him.  He was smart, witty, and amusing; they could talk for hours even when everyone else had gone.  Bobby had introduced Lonnie to her boyfriend Harry, and he started dating Bernice.

Many years later a co-worker told her that it was impossible for men and woman to be “just friends.”  She had started to argue the point by bringing up her friendship with Bobby, but before she opened her mouth, saw a memory flash before her.  It was a crisp autumn day in Upstate New York when Bobby’s parents invited her to drive with them when he returned to the State College after the break.

Trip Back to School

It was a two-hour ride, and his parents had made plans to stop at their friend’s house for lunch along the way.  Afterward, while they waited for his parents to finish their visit, Bobby and Lonnie went for a walk in the wooded land behind the house.  They chatted talked and laughed like so many times before, but in some way, Alondra sensed that it was not a day like every other.  At times she could be intuitive and sensitive to subtle changes in her surroundings. There seemed to be something in the air made her feel obligated to comment that it was too bad that Bernice could not come along.  She believed Bernice would have enjoyed the beautiful landscape dressed for the fall.  Bobby quietly agreed, and they walked on.

They stopped on a small wooden bridge as they crossed over the swollen creek.  A burst of cold air made Alondra regret that she had left her jacket back at the house.   Bobby stepped closer and put his arm timidly around her shoulder.  She felt his face so close to hers, and then as he gently turned her toward him, she felt his soft lips lightly brush hers.  Her immediate impulse was to push him away.  “What are you doing?” she reprimanded.   The hurt in his loving eyes pierced her heart, and she took his face in her hands and looked tenderly into his gentle mismatched eyes, one blue, and one hazel.  She told him she was crazy about him, how could she not; he was her dearest friend, but they couldn’t do this to Bernice.  Bobby nodded in agreement, and they started to walk back to the house in silence.

Awkward quiet moments always made Alondra respond with humor.  She elbowed Bobby in the ribs now and said jokingly that the bridge must have been bewitched because she had felt something strange too.  He sheepishly chuckled and added that without a doubt the setting was perfect for a romantic moment.  “What were we thinking? “  They said in unison, which caused them to laugh again and end the uncomfortable moment.  When they got back, his parents were ready to continue the trip.   At his dorm, they said their goodbyes as old friends do.  They promised to stay in touch and would see each other when he got back at his next school break.  And so it was until she left the state.  Their friendship survived.

That’s What Friends are For

Alondra never told Bobby of her conversation with Bernice several weeks prior.  Bernice told Alondra that she was feeling insecure about her relationship with Bobby.  She confessed that she wondered if Bobby, by spending so much time alone with Lonnie was feeling an attraction beyond friendship.  “You know, you are cute, petite and always dressed nice. Maybe…”   the words were left hanging in the air.  Alondra looked at her friend as if with disbelief.  First of all, Alondra considered herself too short and was often frustrated with her thick and wavy brown hair. Although she filled her clothes in all the right places, they were just hand-me-downs from her older cousin which she had adapted with accessories and trims from the five and dime so that they looked more age appropriate.

Bernice had powder blue eyes and baby fine blond hair that she always wore straight down as was the norm among their group.  She was tall and lanky; sometimes it seemed that she was still getting used to her young-adult body.  Alondra found the whole idea absurd and pooh-poohed Bernice’s fears.  Although she and Bobby never spoke of such things, Alondra reassured Bernice that Bobby loved her; that he was just a supportive friend who didn’t want Lonnie to deal with her recent break-up alone.

On her way home from State College with Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Alondra played that conversation over in her head.  She didn’t see it coming but did Bernice know anything before. The incident was never spoken of again by anyone.

Not that Person

Alondra didn’t know if it was the rough week that just past combined with the dreary, stormy weather that made her feel vulnerable enough to want to reach out to her old friend.  She had to admit that after that day in the woods, the “what if” would haunt her now and then.  Lonnie got a cup of tea and found herself searching Facebook profiles for Robert James Smith from Brooklyn, NY. She quickly became overwhelmed by the number of profiles with the same name all over the world.  She scolded herself and gave up the search. “This is ridiculous.  I will not be that person.”

Alondra Elena Delopas was not one to let a life lesson slip by.  Her life experiences had taught her that.  She remembered from somewhere a suggestion that moments stay in our memories so that we could retrieve their message when we need them.  She was sure these vivid memories of her friendship with Bobby came back to her so vividly for a reason now. Maybe, she thought, it was merely to confirm that Karma is a b!+@h.   “Hum,” she thought. “so this is what it feels like?”

Another verifiable cliché

Indeed the story seems familiar, almost too fresh in her memory. It seemed played out in reverse with older actors.  As she considered the analogy, she realized that her friend Nan was right when she paraphrased Gabriel Garcia Marquez. “Just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want, doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have to give.”  Remembering her platonic love for Bobby helped her understand what confused her for years.  Remembering her relationship with Bobby was the missing piece of the puzzle.  As she accepted this truth, she let go of the pain and hurt.  She became aware that there was nothing to forgive. At that moment, she chose to remember the good times, the adventures, even the caring and affection.

Alondra Elena Delopas realized that she had been more fortunate than most. Love is meant to be shared, offered expecting nothing in return. She had shared something special and given her love more than once. Each time in a different way, with a different purpose and intensity but authentic, it was a true love.  No one could say differently.

She added another verifiable cliché to her list: “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. “

A couple of years later she felt that restlessness to try to find Bobby again.  For the sake of their friendship, she wanted to connect to see how his life had turned out.  She found him and wrote a letter that she never sent.

Read it at this link from a previous post.  https://rosalind.life/2018/05/28/the-letter-i-never-wrote/

#shapingyourstory  #DigDeeper

Oh coffee, dear coffee

Friday RDP: Coffee

shallow focus photo of orange ceramic mug on white saucer

I like to say I’m a social drinker when it comes to coffee.  My favorite is espresso, and I have such weakness for its aroma. The taste must not be bitter or harsh as it goes down the throat and lands warm in one’s belly.  It’s not unlike a fine brandy that goes down smooth and velvety but then can burn a hole in your stomach when

 

it hits bottom. 

Lately, tea sits better in my stomach.  Black English tea with oatmeal cakes for breakfast is part of my morning ritual and green tea infused with fruits for during the day. Sometimes, an herbal tea gets me through the night.  When I’m visiting with a coffee drinker, however, I can’t resist the smell, the heavenly fragrance of a good cup of coffee; the intoxicating aroma of espresso does make me a bit tipsy, and I struggle with the temptation knowing I will regret it later. 

aroma beans blur breakfast

Although you can get a great coffee smell and of course good coffee from the single cup pods, I prefer an authentic espresso maker.  To be clear, I’m not talking about the big digitalized models that take up half one’s counter space; I’m speaking of a small pot on the stove top.  It brews coffee by passing boiling water pressurized by steam through ground coffee.  I’ve concluded, that the secret to both good tea and coffee is in the boiling water – a hot running boil.  Sometimes if I’m feeling really daring, I will have my espresso with milk, steamed and made foamy with a handheld frother.   I know I’m going to lie awake thinking about it tonight, then I can say  “ I couldn’t sleep last night because of the coffee.”

 

Seriously though, besides the physical pleasure from the coffee, I also have an emotional attachment.  I don’t have to taste the coffee to feel I’m at my mother’s or grandmother’s kitchen table feeling safe and loved.  When we were young, we would have a cup of hot milk with a couple of drops of coffee.  We felt so grown up when we were able to participate in having a “café con leche” with the elders.  

Many years later when I lived alone in an apartment building in an old mill city in New England, there lived an older gentleman at the end of the hall near the exit door.  Every morning as I set out to go to work, I would be assaulted with the smell of freshly brewed espresso.  I knew he was making it like my grandmother and I was often tempted to knock on the door and invite myself in.  He didn’t seem like a friendly fellow; I wonder what would have happened if we were to share a cup of coffee and a piece of warm homemade bread with real butter.   What stories would he have to tell?  What stories would we have in common?

What’s your relationship with coffee?  Is it just a way to make it through the day?  Does the smell of coffee connect you with a memory of a loved one? An old friend perhaps?

My first week at #RagTag Daily Prompt.  #coffee  

This was fun!  Is the format OK?  Not sure about pingbacks.