Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fighting the Demons


     
     Walking down Galena Blvd was always a “Take your life in your own hands” kind of walk. If it wasn’t the cars whizzing past as if the very demons from hell were after them, it was the drug dealers on the street corners or the gang bangers walking around as if they owned the whole darned town…then again maybe they did.
     My neighbor's son was back from Iraq and told some really horrible stories about what had gone on down there. It made me angry that so many had lost their lives in that war. 
     I hate war, but right now I wished I had the tools and the people available to wage war on the trash controlling my  neighborhood. The kids next door sold crack, weed, whatever they could acquire and they did it openly. Calling the cops did no good; they never bothered to show up. 
     Little Mick got told off by his mom about selling it from their house so he walked over and sat on my front porch and started selling it from there. Whenever I’d go out to get the mail he’d glare at me and gesture with his head that I should get inside; I wasn't so stupid that I was gonna argue with him, but out of defiance I'd take my time, wave at people walking by and slowly turn around and go in. He'd swear and growl under his breath the entire time; if I hadn't known better I would have thought he was possessed.
     Four weeks into it and I'd had just about enough. I called my son, Daniel and told him what was going on and how long it had been going on; first he let me have it for not saying something sooner, then very quietly said not to worry he'd take care of it. 

*********

     Sunday was my favorite day of the week. I got to get out of the neighborhood and go to church in another town. I loved spending time with my church family, singing, praying and listening to the message. It always refreshed me and gave me the energy I needed to be able to handle the week ahead. Dreading coming home I prayed and asked God to give me one peaceful Sunday. I arrived and found my lawn had been mowed, everything swept up and there was no one on my front porch. I gave God thanks for the brief respite and went inside to take a nap.

*********

     The new week dawned and my first thought, instead of thanking God for the blessing of a new day, was about what I’d be facing this week. Putting my music on full blast I sang loudly while I cleaned the house. I heard the clang of the mailbox and my heart fluttered slightly as I made my way to the front door. The mailman handed me the mail with a cheery grin, whistling as he walked away; a glance to the left assured me Little Mick was back on his porch. He looked down quickly, but not fast enough to hide the fear in his eyes and then quietly said, “Hey Señora, you need any help with anything you let me know, I promised el Jefe I’d look out for you. By the way, I mowed your lawn for you ayer (yesterday). You might mention it to el Jefe (the boss).” 
     I had no idea what he was talking about. What Jefe!!? Calling my son I was practically shouting in his ear, “Mijo, ¿en el nombre Santo de Dios que hiciste?!?!?” “Son, what in God’s Holy name did you do?!?!?” 
     “Madrecita cálmate! Esto no es bueno para su corazón!”, “Mami, calm down! This isn't good for your heart!?” He spoke softly to me until I’d calmed down.
     “Mijo, what’s going on? And what jefe is Little Mick talking about?” I started crying. I told him about the fear I’d seen in Little Mick’s eyes.
     “Mami, do you remember when I got involved with el Ministerio Nueva Esperanza (New Hope Ministry)? I didn’t know what I was doing or how I was going to do it; I just knew that this is what God wanted me to do. We prayed together and you asked God to give me strength, wisdom and courage and to direct me where He would,” I could hear the soft music in the background as he sighed wearily. 
     “Mami, I’m fighting a war here. The cops fight the drug and gang war in one way and I have to fight it in another. Someway; somehow God has made it possible for me to communicate with the gangs. I was afraid at first, but that verse you were always quoting to me, 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love and of a sound mind,” reminded me that I had to rely on God to help me through that fear. I know there’s a better way to fight this war and I’m doing it.”
     He talked for a long time about meeting el Jefe a few months back, while walking the neighborhood. El Jefe hadn't appreciated him talking to his people and had threatened him, but Daniel kept going back and had started taking his lunch break in the park where the Demonio's (Demons) hung out. The first two times they’d taken his food and thrown it away and when that didn't work they’d smashed it in his face. He’d gone back with double the lunch and had offered them some. El Jefe had pointed a gun to his head and asked him if he wanted to meet his maker. Although he was afraid he felt like God was offering him an opportunity to start sharing and a puzzled and frustrated Jefe had finally sat down and listened. He knew that he was alive only by God’s grace. 
     El Jefe said he didn't want anything to do with God, but had started sending his little sisters to church and when he’d heard what was happening with the next-door neighbors, he’d paid Little Mick a visit. He hadn't threatened him, just told him to stay off my porch and show me respect.
     “Sometimes, I get through to them and sometimes I don’t. I get discouraged, but then one of the guys will show up and want to talk and I know that is God’s way of encouraging me,” his voice grew husky.
     We finished talking and I hung up the phone and leaning my head against the wall I started to cry again, this time from shame praying that God would protect my son. 
     When my son had been born, shortly after my husband’s death, I’d made a promise to God that I would give Daniel over into His service the way Hannah had given Samuel. I’d wanted him to have a safe life, no gangs or drugs, but serving God had taken him in that direction anyway.
     I’d made promises to God as well, but I’d forgotten myself and had wanted to hurt the drug dealers, the gang members; anyone else who hurt la gente (the people) in my neighborhood. It had taken my son to bring me back to the realization that I wasn't serving God as I’d promised.
     This war needed fighting, but not with anger or retribution. I talked to God and told Him I would rest in His promise for my life; I would go into this war armed with His Word.
     I baked cookies and made tamales, then armed with my Bible and the basket, I walked out to join Daniel for lunch as my iPod played Rest in His Promise.

                                                               **********
Rest In His Promise
Words and Music by David Ruis

When the sun’s brightly shining                               When the wars and the rumors
And it’s touching my face                                         Are encircling the earth
And Your favor is resting                                          And Your judgments are falling
And it seems all is grace                                          And there’s no where to turn
I will lift up my eyes                                                   I will lift up my eyes 
And give glory to Your name                                     And give glory to Your name
And I’ll rest in Your promise                                      And I’ll rest in Your promise
Over me                                                                    Over me

When the sunlight has faded,                                   You are sovereign, Lord
And the darkness my friend                                      You are holy, Lord
And the sorrows are rolling                                       You are faithful, Lord
and the suffering just won’t end
I will lift up my eyes                                                   When the heaven’s are opened 
And give glory to Your name                                     And You ride like the wind
And I’ll rest in Your promise                                      And Your kingdom of justice 
Over me                                                                    It will come without end
I will rest in Your promise                                          I will lift up my eyes 
Over me                                                                    And give glory to Your name
                                                                                  And I’ll rest in Your promise
                                                                                  Over me
                                                                                  I will rest in Your promise

©2003 Vineyard Songs Canada (Admin. by Music Services)
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
CCLI song #4211653

**********

Written for Blue Bell Books Twitter Club: Thursday Short Story Slam Week 29: Dramas and Freedom at: http://bluebellbooks.blogspot.com/2012/10/thursday-short-story-slam-week-29.html

And for

Hyde Park Thursday Poets Rally Week 75 (October 18 - October 24, 2012) at: http://promisingpoetsparkinglot.blogspot.com/2012/10/hyde-park-thursday-poets-rally-week-75.html

Tropical Toxic Art Illustrated By Asaf and Tomer Hanuka

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Momma Is There A Man on the Moon?



     I can’t remember how old I was when it was slapped into me that there was no man on the moon. I’d gotten so used to cuddling with momma on that big oak rocking chair granddaddy had made for us, or on the patchwork quilt with momma and daddy, and we’d talk about the man on the moon.
     All the seasons were beautiful, but Fall had always been the most wonderful time of the year for us. Everything was so vibrant, the color of the leaves; the oranges, reds, yellows, browns and purples fascinated me. As for the scents of Fall, I couldn’t really have described them I just knew that they all came together in a wonderful, magical way. The first thing I smelled when the windows or front door were opened was the last of the apples that had finally fallen off the trees in the yard and lay on soft beds of cool, moist leaves. While the beauty of the trees and scents always caught my attention, it was the moon that sent me on wonderful adventures.
     As soon as the leaves started to turn colors momma, daddy and I would go out on a wonderful leaf seeking adventure to see which of the leaves was the most perfect in color and what stories they would tell. They always had wonderful stories to tell and somehow, someway daddy could hear their voices.
Before raking the leaves we’d go through them carefully and pick the best and most colorful and with these we’d make a great big wreathe to hang on our front door and with the rest we’d make so many different things; a tiny village with pipe cleaners and tissue paper and leaves glued to the sides for walls; we’d make leaf people with toilet paper rolls to walk the streets of that village and finally we’d put leaves all over the house; under candles, in glass bowls with pinecones and every breath we took said Fall was here and Christmas was on the way.
     Daddy would rake the rest of the leaves into a great big pile and on that, he’d lay the patchwork quilt that momma had worked so hard on. While momma prepared the apple cider over the fire pit and added cinnamon sticks, daddy and I would cuddle and we’d feel each leaf and he’d explain why the trees were taking off their clothes. Since God was their Daddy, He would tell them when it was time to go to sleep and He’d wake them up when the cold was over and buy them brand new clothes.
     My favorite time was then we’d all lay on that quilt; I always felt so safe between them, like nothing could ever hurt me and I’d put my hand out and touch the moon and I’d ask,    “Momma what is the moon made out of?”
     “Why my love, the moon is made out of sweet apples and rice krispie treats,” she’d reply.
     “Momma, will I ever be able to visit the moon?” I would ask excitedly.
     “Someday my love, I believe we all will,” she would answer patiently.
**********
     Momma went to heaven when I was six years old and everything changed. Papa didn’t talk to me anymore and when he wasn’t working, he’d sit and hold momma’s quilt. I felt like I was invisible.
     Several months later Grandma and Grandpa moved in with us. I heard daddy telling them I was getting unmanageable. I missed momma so much and I just wanted to feel safe again and one night I made the mistake of trying to climb into grandma’s lap; she glared and pushed me off. I didn’t do it again. I tried one more to connect with her and leaning against her I asked the same questions I’d asked my momma about the man in the moon. Daddy had gotten up quickly and left; grandma slapped me and sternly said, “It’s time for you to grow up. There is no man in the moon.” Pretty soon, we stopped celebrating everything. There was no Easter, no Christmas, no nothing; holidays were too painful for daddy, because they reminded him that momma was gone.
     I learned to pretend that I didn’t need birthday parties and how to smile through the tears. The dreams I used to have about being a princess with a momma and daddy that would love me forever disappeared like snow on a summer’s day. Life had intruded in a harsh way and I went from being an innocent child who was her momma and daddy’s precious treasure to a quiet shadow living on the outer fringes of my daddy’s life.
     Graduation was sad and lonely; another celebration no one shared with me. I left for college and never looked back. I met the love of my life there and finally I came to understand how much my daddy loved my momma. I can’t imagine my life without Charles or our children.
 **********
     I always missed my momma and spoke to the kids constantly about her, but I never mentioned my daddy or my grandparents. Daddy had all but forgotten me and I didn't want him to hurt my kids the way he'd hurt me, so I shoved him into a corner and tried to forget about him.
☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺
     The day had been a comedy of errors and my cheeks were sore from laughing so much. Working with kindergartners had its ups and downs and today had been a particularly hilarious day; I was so glad this was a four-day weekend.
     There were several errands to run after picking up the boys, Christian and Anthony, from school. I was laughing hysterically as I walked in the back door; apparently Christian thought his teacher had killed the class pet, Homer the rabbit and had served him for lunch. He wasn't upset so much at the idea of rabbit for lunch, but he said it had just tasted like regular hamburger to him.
     Charles came around the corner from the living room carrying Beth, our 10-month old, “Sweetheart, I need to talk to you.” After getting the kids settled Charles sat and pulled me down on his lap,  “Honey, your Aunt Elise called. Your dad’s dying and he’s asking for you.”
     My chest felt tight, I had a lump in my throat and my face felt funny. He held me for a while, then me settled me with the baby while he packed everything for both the kids and us.
     I can’t remember the drive down there, but I do remember walking off the elevator at the hospital. The return of the feelings I had when momma died almost made me turn and run and only Charles’ arm around my waist kept me there.
     Aunt Elise came up to me and hugged me, “Baby, he’s calling for you. You don’t have to talk, just listen, okay?”
     It felt like lead weights had been attached to my legs and I looked over my shoulder at my husband. I didn’t want to have to do this alone.
     “It’s okay love, we’re all coming with you,” he said.
     The room was dark, the blinds drawn and all I could hear was the “beep, beep, beep,” of the heart monitor, the slow dripping of the IV and the hiss of the oxygen machine. A bony hand slowly lifted from the bed towards me.
     “Baby, is that you?” came a guttural whisper.
     “Yes daddy, I’m here.” I could feel my chin start to tremble and tears started to fall.
He wouldn’t rest no matter what I said; he needed to talk. He’d lost himself after momma died and then he’d lost me. He’d been so ashamed of what he and his parents had put me through that he’d never contacted me. Could I forgive him? Did I still love him? All I could do was nod my head.
     “You know what I miss so much baby?” he asked gruffly.
     “What daddy?”
     “The man in the moon,” he replied breathing with difficulty.
     With tears running down my face, I asked, “Daddy what’s the moon made out of?” In a hoarse whisper he replied, “Out of sweet apples and rice krispie treats, my love.”
     “Daddy, will I ever be able to visit the moon?” I asked through a throat made husky with sobs, my entire body shuddering.
     “Yes baby, but I’ll go first and see your momma.”
     The next several hours I spent with my head on his pillow. I opened the blinds and described the colors of the Autumn leaves to him and the smells that make Autumn so special and he got to know Charles and his grandchildren. He finally slipped away in the early hours of the morning and I cried for what might have been and for what would never be.
 **********
     The boys took me for a walk the night after we arrived home. We searched for leaves and when we got home Charles had put my mother’s patchwork quilt on the leaves he’d raked. The five of us sat on that quilt and reaching up to touch my face Christian asked, “Mommy what’s the moon made out of?”
With a tears rolling down my face I smiled, “Sweet apples and rice krispie treats, my love.”

 ~~ ♪ ♪ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♪ ♪~~

Picture courtesy of © Rolf Hicker: www.d-moos.mraircheck.com

Written for: Blue Bell Books Twitter Club: Thursday Flash Fiction Week 28: Innocence and Dreams

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Journeys Await


  Wordle:  My Favorite Colors and Words
     Chicago is quite the busy place; people running, walking to and fro. Every now and then I wonder if I’ll ever get used to living in Illinois, but then the aromas of all the different restaurants on 79th St. overwhelm my senses and I come to the realization that not only do I love Chicago, but I’m also hungry.
     Now to choose, what shall I eat, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Puerto Rican, Italian? There are so many choices, but I go straight for the most affordable; besides I really do love Chinese cuisine. I order the number 3-dinner special, plus a mango smoothie and eat and drink slowly, savoring every bite and sip.
     The day has been busy and I’m so tired, but I can’t leave without visiting North Avenue beach on Lake Shore Dr. I lay on a bench with my bag for a pillow; my legs drawn up and crossed. Big sigh! Oh yeah, being lazy for a bit makes me feel so relaxed and the pressure I’ve been feeling behind my eyeballs all day, slowly fades away and I feel the warmth of the sunset on my face. Forcing my eyes open, I find that God has once again, painted the evening sky with colors too incredible to describe...ah, such a feast for the eyes.
     Running to catch the train, for a second I stand totally still under the bridge and my inner child shouts just to hear the echo and laughs gleefully.
     The train finally arrives; not many folks get off the train, but a swarm of worn out folk get on; we can hardly wait to get home. I find myself a comfy seat and sit quietly until everyone is settled; setting my phone alarm I snooze for a bit.
     The alarm awakens me and once again the child in me takes over. Everything is lit up in the City of Lights and it kind of feels like Christmas. Pressing my face against the window I smile with joy.
     Chicago is a wonderful place to visit and work in, but I love being home. I unlock my bike and pedal down Galena Blvd. The Paramount is all lit up again for one of its Broadway productions and for a moment, I wonder what it might be like to actually visit Broadway.
     Shaking my head, I remind myself that tomorrow will be another busy day. I’ll visit the company’s bookstore and hopefully gain some much needed knowledge before leaving for Austin next week. I’ll be visiting the first of my company’s branches; my last stop will be Spain. I’m tired out just thinking about it!
     I’ve never really done much traveling; never really wanted to, although I’ve been to Puerto Rico, Texas and Wisconsin. Is that considered traveling? Nah, I didn’t think so! Now the only place I’ve ever really wanted to visit was Seattle. It may not be exotic, but I’ve always wanted to visit the Space Needle.

     The train passing overhead, the lights twinkling all up and down New York, and Broadway and the Mexican corn truck passing by remind me that tomorrow is another work day. I have to go home, make my lunch for tomorrow and jump into bed. Still smiling I pedal faster.

   
♪♫  ♪♫  ♪♫  ♪♫  ♪♫  ♪♫

Written for: Short Story Slam Week 27: Locations and Sensations at:

Appreciate the opportunity. Thank you!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Heart’s Harvest



     The roosters had started crowing early this morning; well maybe it just seemed that way because I’d gone to bed late. Those darned chickens had been causing a ruckus and Noah and I had discovered a fox attempting to break into the hen house. We’d chased it away and then after checking the girls, I discovered that Noah’s part time worker had used regular wire instead of the galvanized hardware cloth I’d bought for that particular project. Brad’s mistake had almost cost me my sweet girls and my best egg layer, Mildred.
     Anger had me vibrating and I could actually feel my hands shaking. My husband and I had spent the next five hours putting the galvanized cloth in place to keep out any other predators. It was a temporary measure until everything could be done properly in the morning light.
     I’d been running my mouth because I was so angry and was just surprised Noah hadn’t chucked me in the pond. I was kind of getting used to it. It wasn’t his fault and I’d wanted to apologize to him, but since I was still angry it wouldn’t have sounded sincere; I decided to wait until morning.

     God had gifted us with another beautiful day. Morning had come with breathless beauty once again. Our bedroom window was open and faced the rising sun and while Peppy and Miguel did their crowing, I took in a great, big breath of the fresh air that gently drifted in our window. As the rising sun touched the flowers, trees and grass it brought everything to startling life. The colors of the flowers; the beautiful reds, blues, violets and the eye-popping yellows and oranges just fairly shouted, “Look at us!” The yellow and green zucchini’s, the rich, red, succulent tomatoes and bright green skinned watermelons tempted me to bite into them and the water in the pond sparkled like cool, wet diamonds as it reflected the sun, while the soft sounds of the chickens, roosters and cows soothed me.
     The smells were amazing every day, but oh my, in the early mornings, just as the sun was rising and with the wind blowing, the smells were so wonderfully vibrant and they would flow gently over me and kiss me good morning.
     My happy sigh was so big it shook the whole bed and Noah’s smooth arm came around me and hugged me to him tightly. Turning, I buried my face in his chest and mumbled, “ I’m sorry.” A sudden chuckle brought my eyes up to his and I found them sparkling with laughter and love.
     “My love, you are amazing! I’ll never grow tired of living my life with you. You make each day so exciting,” he chuckled again and rubbed his hairy chin over my cheeks.
     My face reddened and his grin grew bigger, then he rolled over and swatted my hind end, “Come on it’s time to get up. It’s gonna be super busy today. I’ll make sure the hen’s garden run is put together right and then I’ll join you and our momma’s so’s we can pick all them tomatoes.” The day passed a mite too slowly for me; I really wanted to see my Noah’s face. He reminded me a bit of a young, handsome Grizzly Adams.
     The time finally came to pick tomatoes and you’d a thought it was a party. Lots of family members and friends; adults and children had shown up to help and we all worked hard and steady under the hot sun. Every once in a while I’d hear a giggle and I knew another tomato had disappeared down somebody’s gullet, but I cannot tell a lie I enjoyed a bite or two myself.
     An hour or so towards sunset I heard another sound I really enjoyed. I knew momma would soon be singing one of the many songs I’d grown up with whenever we worked in the fields. My momma’s sweet, husky voice called the kids over to her and they sat by the truck with cool watermelon juice and she began to sing, “Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before. Every day with Jesus, I love Him more and more. Jesus saves and keeps me and He’s the one I’m waiting for. Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.”
     We finally finished, but left enough on the vines for the neighbors or any visitors that would be stopping by tomorrow to pick. Noah set up a nice little bonfire area, brought out the grill and we sat around and sang more songs and reminisced about our younger days. As usual my big brother Abel brought up the first time Noah had thrown me in the pond; not something I wanted to remember.
     “Hey Abe!” Noah called out, “don’t leave right away, cuz I’m gonna punch your lights out for messing with my pearl!” Everyone laughed, but Abe had gotten the hint and shut his mouth right quick.

     I loved sunrise, but sunset was pretty special too; here surrounded by family and friends, feeling pleasantly tired after a hard days work, my husband’s arms around me, the smells of the night and the occasional soft moo of the cows, the chirp of crickets and the giggling and laughter of kids I was content. I sighed big and my husband’s arms tightened around me and I felt his kiss on my head as I joined in the singing.


This is written for: Bluebell Books Twitter Club Thursday Short Story Slam Week 26:


also shared with: Thursday Poets’ Rally Week 72 (September 5 -12, 2012) at:
http://promisingpoetsparkinglot.blogspot.com/2012/09/thursday-poets-rally-week-72-september.html

Thanks for the opportunity!



Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Fairies Did It!



Black & Whites Of Fairy World




     The ice cream disappeared, as if by magic. Everyone turned to look at me and fingers began to point.
     “There she is, the ice cream thief!!” my little brother shouted. “I just bought that gallon of Moose Tracks. It’s my favorite and I didn’t get any at all.”
     “Come on! There are eight of us in this house and I’m the one that gets accused?” my eyes filled with tears and a knot formed in my throat. “Fine believe what you want, but have you forgotten I hate that flavor? All I eat is French Vanilla! Stick your nose in everyone’s mouth and take a whiff. You should be able to tell who ate your doggoned ice cream,” I said sarcastically.
     Minutes later, with everyone glaring at me (again), we stood against the kitchen wall rolling our eyes as Petey actually took my suggestion seriously and smelled our breaths. Can you say gross!!
     He stood in front of me and demanded, “Open your mouth!” I refused for about 10 minutes, not because I was guilty, but because he made me so angry.
     “Aha!! She has sweet breath. She’s the culprit!!” he shouted.
     “You dork!! I’m diabetic, my breath’s always sweet!!” I shrieked. “Fine, fine," I huffed, "even though I didn’t do it, I’ll buy you another gallon and I hope you get fat!”
     The pleased smile on his face when I handed him the ice cream, almost made me whack him with the bag. Oh man!
     Standing outside my bedroom I took a deep breath and flung the door wide. The giggling and  buzzing of what sounded like bee’s wings stopped immediately.
     “It’s only me guys and thanks a lot! Stop stealing his ice cream. I keep getting in trouble for your pranks!”
     What can I say, I really like the little buggers; they’re so darned cute! It’s not like anyone would have believed me anyway. They’d think I was daft!
     I’d learned a very important lesson. Never bring fairies home or feed them ice cream. I bent over and picked up the empty Moose Tracks container and threw it in the closet with all the rest.

*********
Written for: Thursday Poets Rally Week 70 (August 9-15, 2012)

Thanks for the opportunity!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Winter's Delight


          I’ve never known what it was like to enjoy the snow or cold; when everyone talked about all the good times they had; hot chocolate with little puffy marshmallows, hot soup that warmed you from the inside out after an afternoon of fun and sledding down snow covered hills; making snowmen with carrots for noses, buttons for eyes and cranberries for lips; walking down the street on Christmas Eve, while everyone’s voices harmonized beautifully to traditional Christmas carols; kind of made me feel envious. Had I really missed all that much?


I love my parents, I really do, but they had never permitted me to take a step outside during the snow and cold. Frail and sickly as a child my parents had always coddled me and been overly protective; a sneeze had usually meant a nosebleed that had them rushing me to the hospital; spending time outside in the hot sun had me running temperatures so high I’d start convulsing.
The seasons had passed me by and all I’d known of them was what I could see either from the living room window or on the way to the doctor’s office.
The way momma dressed me always had everyone laughing at me; the neighbor kids and my siblings. My body was covered from head to foot with just enough of my eyes uncovered so I could see where I was going. I don’t think any of the neighborhood kids even knew what I looked like until I tried to sneak outside to sit on the porch when I was 10 years old.
The worst time of the year had always been winter. The first time I watched the Christmas Story with Peter Billingsly I doubled up laughing like a hyena. That was the exact same way momma had dressed me just to get me to the car while poor daddy struggled to fit me in the back seat, what with me not being able to put my arms down and all.
Why do people say they feel like they’re on the outside looking in? For me it was the opposite. I was on the inside looking out wondering what it would be like to run through the powdery snow or to never be sick again or even to catch a snowflake on my tongue and feel it melting as it ran down my throat.
My childhood memories of winter were of me pressing my face against the window as I watched the kids screaming with laughter, their noses runny from the cold and their cheeks cherry red as little puffs of air passed their lips while working hard on misshapen snowmen as their parents helped.
As an adult, even though I rarely got sick now, I continued to confine myself to the house, unless I had to go to work; even then I would wrap myself up tightly and make sure my face was covered before walking out the door.
Yesterday my sister Shelly caught me with my face pressed against the window watching the kids frolic in the snow. She’d whispered something in her husband Darryl’s ear and off they’d gone, on a mission from God, according to her.
This morning after breakfast she’d hurried me into my bedroom and told me to dress warmly and then presented me with an early Christmas gift; a purple, down winter coat, with matching gloves, scarf, cap and boots. Panicking a bit, I reminded her that I’d never gone out into the snow unless I was completely protected.
“Silly sister, snow is for enjoying and for letting your inner kid out and I think it’s way past time for you,” she’d smiled.
After much hemming and hawing from me, we finally walked out onto the back porch together while my nieces and nephews cheered.
My brother Patrick cleared his throat and presented me with another gift, an adult sized sled. That was a bit too much for my first time out and I almost lost my nerve. It took a bit of coaxing from Pat and Shelly, but I finally put myself in their hands and followed them to the top of the hill in the back yard. Looking down the hill (it was a long way down after all) I looked from one to the other and huffed, “If I die you’re both gonna get it,” and crawled in between both of them. I held on for dear life and screamed as Darryl pushed us off. I don’t remember when the scream turned to laughter, but it did.
All I saw on our way down was a blanket of white powder with snowmen dotting the landscape and I could hear the whistling of the wind as it rushed passed my ears. We finally reached the bottom, but someone’s snowman had lost its life in our journey down that hill.
We landed with a thump, our faces covered in snow and for the first time I knew what the kids had been feeling all those years ago. Tumbling off the sled unto my back, my eyes sparkling, my nose runny and my cheeks as red as cherries, I shouted, “Let’s go again!!” and ran back up the hill as fast as my legs could carry me.
************
This was written for Short Story Slam Week 24: Life Behind the Corners of Your Smiles.

Please visit the site and read some really amazing stories and poems from really gifted writers and maybe next time you can submit one of your pieces. Blessings!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Insurance Sucks!!! Sorry!


h
     Laughing, as I read the New York Times headline Senate Backs Bipartisan Bill to Speed Drugs and Avert Shortages by Robert Pear published: May 24, 2012, I coughed and tried to get something more out of my inhaler.
     “Oh for goodness sakes,” I cried out, “it’s wonderful to get more meds out and I’m glad they’re being approved faster but come on!” I understood how important it was to have these drugs available, but what good did it do if they were available and you still couldn’t afford them?
     What they considered affordable really wasn’t; worse my doctor kept telling me there weren't generics available for most of my meds; if and when a generic was available I still couldn’t afford it.
     Dumbfounded, I still couldn't believe how much my medications were! Month before last I’d paid out over $2000 for thirteen medications and I’d finally put my foot down. The allergy meds I used, while under my insurance had been expensive, but somewhat affordable. Now that same medication had been made an over the counter med and believe it or not, was now so expensive I couldn’t afford it. I was due to get it again this month and I had to decide whether to buy my meds or pay bills and buy groceries.
     My insurance was supposed to help, but after the recent changes brought about by the latest bill that had been passed, I was paying more for everything, including emergency room and doctor visits. The doctor’s office had called me several times to remind me of appointments I needed to make. They couldn’t understand why I said I couldn’t afford it. Once again, I went through the long explanation; eight hundred dollars a month could only go so far and using $500 of it on doctor appointments didn’t leave much room for groceries, utilities, etc. Their response? Can you borrow the money? What the heck!!?!?!?? If I don’t have the money to buy medication and etcetera, what the heck makes them think I can afford to borrow and pay back?
     I thought about the $200 I paid for my medical insurance and for a moment I wanted to cancel it. What good did it do me to even have insurance?
     Oh well, life is life and I knew everyone else was going through the same thing. I stuck my tongue out at the NYT article on my laptop and with a sharp motion closed it out.
     Even though I’d been griping I hadn’t forgotten that God would provide as usual. He always did. I took as deep a breath as I could; gasped and coughed a bit and finally decided what to do. This month I'd buy groceries and maybe next month I'd have saved enough to buy one month's worth of medications. 
     Walking out of the kitchen I stopped and leaned against the fridge trying really hard to catch my breath. After resting for a bit I headed out the door. Hopefully someone had an extra inhaler I could have.

*********
Written for JP At Olive Garden Poetry Picnic Week 36 at: http://gooseberrygoespoetic.blogspot.com/2012/05/poetry-picnic-week-36-online-media.html
Thanks again for the opportunity! Blessings.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

An Extraordinary Strength


 
   My father was the pastor of our church and mom was his right hand and steadfast supporter; she was also the head Sunday school teacher, head of the Women’s Auxiliary and Girls in Action, the Sunday school superintendent, teacher to the teachers, dad’s sounding board, and the scapegoat for many of the women who either didn’t like the way things were being run, or just wanted someone to gripe at. 
     The  church had no pianist at the time so mom took it upon herself to learn to play that instrument and began taking lessons by mail; she called them correspondence lessons. I still have no idea how that worked!! But still she plodded on week after week and six months later she could play any song in the hymnbook. Her busy week didn't even begin until she’d made time to do visitation with dad. It was remarkable that she could do all that and still be a mom to two boys and two girls and later an additional two; my little brother and myself.
     Dad was forever reading his Bible and studying and he taught us how important it was to love God and to be gentle, kind and loving. He had a true servant’s heart no matter what the situation might be. Dad had such a faith and he always said that no matter how often he might question God, he knew God wouldn't get angry with him and every question would come back with the right answer.
     While mom agreed with him 100%, her faith was a bit different, but just as strong. She trusted God and never questioned anything that happened in her life, because as she said, "God is at the helm and He doesn't make mistakes. He's never let me down before and He never will."
     Mom had a special gift for prayer and boy did she pray. There was never a day, or night that you didn’t find her praying for everyone, by name. I’m not just talking about us, her children, but everyone at church, her friends, anyone she met at the grocery store or on the street. She had a special strength that I know now was possible only because of God and she constantly reminded us that her strength was not her own.
     Even now I’m amazed at the strong woman of God she was; laughing and joking when she should have been crying and always willing to hold the hands and pray for and with those that spent their time belittling her.
     My siblings and I still joke today and say that whenever mom was needed she could be found on her knees praying; she had permanent indentations on her knees.
     I thank God for a mother whose prayer and faith helped us get through our teenage years; we couldn’t have done it without her. Although out of the six of us only three continue to serve in the church, nonetheless we all know that it was her heartfelt prayers to God and her tears for us that helped us get where we are today.
     Mom loved and trusted God and that made it possible for her to be so many things to so many people. I’m so proud to have been gifted her as a mother. She may not have been perfect, but she showed me how faith, love and prayer can give you an extraordinary strength.
     Mom you were a queen among women. We miss you so much, but one day we will see each other again. I love you.

**********
Written for JP AT Olive Garden: Poetry: http://gooseberrygoespoetic.blogspot.com/2012/05/poetry-picnic-week-35-month-of-may.html

As always, thank you for the opportunity and for bringing back such wonderful memories. Blessings!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Brightest Star


NGC 4414

     She hasn’t been here in so long, but still her laughter, warmth and love resound throughout the house and all the scents that made it Mom’s house; the garlic, onion, cilantro and tortillas are the perfume that made this house a home.

     In the living and dining room, I quickly swipe the dust off of the coffee and end tables and touching the piano keys, it’s almost as if I can still hear her playing it. Oh I miss those times when we’d all grab our instruments; the tambourine, guitar, congas, harmonica, scratcher, shaker and if necessary spoons and gathering around the piano we’d sing. We didn’t need any excuses to sing together, we just sang because we liked it and it made us feel good.

     Dad’s deep, beautiful, rich baritone and mom’s husky alto would join with our voices as we’d harmonize, singing the hymns we all loved so much; Amazing Grace, Old Rugged Cross, Are You Washed in the Blood, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus and He Can Turn the Tides.

     He Can Turn the Tides was always my favorite and at night I’d sit at my open window and sing it. I envisioned God’s hands as He lovingly shaped each planet, adding all the characteristics and terrain that would make it special and unique and could see His hands as He decided just exactly where the stars, suns, moons and galaxies should be hung. Would He use a giant crayon to color in the moons? Would He use oil or water paints to give the stars those amazing colors?

     For the life of me, I couldn't have told you which star was which, but what I did know was that God sure did have quite an artistic touch to Him and boy, was He ever creative. I’d lay down on my bed facing the night sky and gently slipping into dreams, I’d skate across the sky with stars under my feet while running my fingers through the galaxies and all the time feeling the warmth of God’s many suns on my face.

     I’ll be 51 years old this year, and still dreaming about playing out in space with all the cosmos at my fingertips. Of all God’s awesome creations I’m still in awe of His great work in creating space and all it’s worlds, but I think I’m most in awe of His creation of the brightest star in my sky, my mother. I miss you mom.

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He Can Turn the Tides

Verse 1
He can turn the tides
And calm the angry sea.
He alone decides
Who writes a symphony.
He lights ev'ry star
That makes our darkness bright.
He keeps watch all through
Each long and lonely night.
He still finds the time
To hear a child's first prayer.
Saint or sinner call
And always find Him there.

Refrain:
Though it makes him sad
To see the way we live,
He'll always say, "I forgive."

Verse 2
He can grant a wish
Or make a dream come true.
He can paint the clouds
And turn the gray to blue.
He alone knows where
To find the rainbow's end.
He alone can see
What lies beyond the bend.
He can touch a tree
And turn the leaves to gold.
He knows every lie
That you and I have told.

Refrain:
Written by Richard Mullen/Jack Richards


☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ****☼ ☼ ☼ ☼


Thanks once again for the opportunity. Blessings!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

In Her Gilded Cage



Sitting on the ledge of the carved window she looked outside; it was so beautiful. The trees were so green and lush and the brightly clothed flowers invited all to go out and play. The wind teased the tall grasses and she longed to feel it against her skin and in her hair. She wondered what it was like to walk freely with nothing covering her face and her bare feet touching the ground.
Shivering she remembered that today she would be introduced to the man who would be her husband. She'd never seen him face to face and wondered what he would be like. Would her appearance give him pleasure? What would their lives be like? Would he give her children? Would they know happiness?
The last seventeen years of her life she'd been taught how to cook, sew and to know her place; walking out in public she was to walk with her face down looking at her father's or brother's feet and always remain three steps behind. Yes, she knew her place, but just once she wanted to know what it felt like to walk side by side with a man; to feel protected and valued, just for who she was and not for what she could do or for the heir she would provide.
Looking around the fine castle that had been her home and her prison she did not relish exchanging it for another gilded cage. Though only the finest of garments would touch her skin and the most excellent of foods her lips and while she would have everything, she would not have freedom. 
A fleeting look around the room brought no emotion, no feelings of home; of anything. It was after all just a cage.
         She turned and walked away, acceptance in her golden eyes; it was time to meet her new owner.
**********
Written for Poetry Picnic Week 33 at JP At Olive Garden at: http://gooseberrygoespoetic.blogspot.com/2012/04/poetry-picnic-week-33-fortresses.html
Once again, thanks for the opportunity!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sunlight Whispers


stock photo : Church stained-glass window with sunlight shining through
     I keep hearing little noises in my house. Thinking it was mice, I bought D-Con to take care of those little buggers, but the sounds haven’t gone away.
     The noises never wake me up and they’re not scary. I only hear them during the day, when I’ve opened the curtains in my living room, when I’m playing the piano and when I run my hands through the little dusty streams coming through my stained glass window as the sun shines through them.
     There it goes again do you hear it? A child’s shriek of laughter; giggling, joy, the occasional sob and a little voice asking for a Band-Aid and then a question, “Who are you? Do you like my house?”
     I’ve lived in this house for seventy years and today will be the last day anyone will ever reside in it. My son allowed me to stay here through today; he knows how much I love this house. It holds my history; I was born here, married in the back yard, had my first child in the upstairs hall. I lived every day of my marriage here and held my husband as he passed on home.
     After standing three hundred years they’re tearing it down. I guess it’s time to put it to rest.
     Still I will miss it and walking through the house I gently touch the wood of the walls; run my hands over the doors; rub the floor with my feet, so smooth. It’s still beautiful in spite of its fragile age. Sighing out loud, I hear the giggles again and the question, “Who are you? Do you like my house?”
     No, they’re not ghosts. They’re my memories; whispers of yesterday and I can take them with me wherever I go.


********
This was written for JP At Olive Garden at: http://gooseberrygoespoetic.blogspot.com/2012/04/poetry-picnic-week-32-topics-on.html
Thanks for the opportunity!! ;-D

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Magical Rainbow

 


   I woke up this morning and heard the gentle pitter-patter of soft rain on my windows. Quickly, I pulled my chair over to the window and like an excited child pressed my nose against the glass. A joyful and excited gasp passed my lips, as the sun broke through the clouds and gifted me with a beautiful rainbow. It looked 3-D! The desire to put my hand out and touch it was strong, but I knew I’d be pulled in. Smiling, as I glanced around my room, I put my hand out and touched the rainbow, and the fairies and leprechauns met me on the other side.
     I played with them for a while, helping the leprechauns protect their gold and flitting here and there with the fairies. A joyous day full of laughter and fun.
     The pitter-patter of the rain came harder and faster and the rainbow melted away as the sun hid behind a cloud. I said my goodbyes to my friends, opened my eyes and smiling made my way downstairs to make breakfast.
     Maybe it would rain again tomorrow.
*******
Thanks for the opportunity!!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

In Moonlight's Vision

 


    I sat on the sand and let the moonlight glide over me like honey, while the wind played with my hair and tickled my skin and somewhere down the beach a baby cried with me. I listened to the whooshing of the gentle waves against the shore. I looked back at our duplex and wondered what Mitch was doing. We should have been enjoying the moonlight together; instead we hadn’t spoken since we’d arrived.
     Mom had asked me before we left if I was going to stay with him; as if that was such an easy decision to make. I just didn’t know what I was going to do.
     I missed his smile so much; it had been so long since I’d last seen his face light up with one of his all encompassing, here comes the sunshine, smiles or heard his laughter.
     I’d brought him here every year for the past four years. I don’t know what I expected; a miracle maybe? Maybe I thought that if he was reminded of how happy we’d been here he would want to be a husband and father again. Our son was going to be seven this year and he didn’t know what it felt like to be held by his father. I didn’t know what to say or how to act around him anymore. Anything I said set him off and he’d sit in his room and I wouldn’t see him for days. I’d spoken to him about counseling, but he told me it was his business, to leave it alone. I missed him so much; I wanted my husband back, but I didn’t know what to do to make that happen.
     We’d arrived five days ago; mom and dad had kept Mitchie for us. I’d brought him to the duplex and now instead of spending a nice leisurely dinner with my husband holding hands or just talking, I was sitting out on the beach at midnight by myself.
• • • •
     “Why do you keep bringing us back here?” he’d shouted. “Do you want to remind me that I can’t walk out on that beach with you anymore, is that it!?!?”
     Tears started streaming down my face, “No! I just…I wanted to remind you of how happy we’d been here,” I shouted back at him. “I just want you to remember how we met and how much we loved it each other, but you’re so wrapped up in feeling sorry for yourself. You’re so selfish Mitch!!” I’d started sobbing loudly, holding my stomach with one hand and the other on my chest to ease the tightness.           
     “I feel like I lost you when you lost the use of your legs and you don’t have to tell me that I’m being selfish as well, I know I am. All I want is what we had before, but I guess we’re never going to get it back. I don’t want to give up, I want to keep trying to save our marriage, but it’s no good if only one of us is fighting for it. I’m just…I’m done.” I’d turned and walked out the front door. I hadn’t known where I was going; I’d just known I had to get away from there for a while. I’d come back later and start moving my things to the other duplex. I’d ignored him as he called my name.
*****************
      I’d been sitting out here since 8:00. It wasn’t quite chilly out, but neither was it warm. I knew I needed a light sweater, but I felt like a total wuss for having lost control and having screamed at Mitch. I kept trying to understand what he was going through, but I couldn’t and I was too afraid to ask him about what had happened over there. It’s not as though he usually answered me when I asked him questions anyway. Lars had tried talking to him right after he’d come home, but he hadn’t opened up to his little brother either.
     I heard a muffled giggle and a masculine voice say, “Suzy, you just get more beautiful every day,” followed by a sigh and then a very passionate kiss.
     I lay back on the sand with a sad little smile and rolling over on to my side I allowed the tears to flow and gradually dozed off into sleep.
*****************
     I loved this resort area and had been coming here since I’d started working for Hughes Systems Analysis. I programmed computers, created software and analyzed and upgraded systems and helped new up and coming companies choose and set up computer systems that worked best for them. It really helped that my type of work paid extremely well, because two years ago instead of staying at one of the huge resorts again, I’d bought my double duplex and now rented the right half out to vacationers year round and the left half was always available to friends and family.
     At the beginning of the month I’d rented out the right half to the Johnson family from Colorado and we’d already become fast friends. They had another eight days to go on the first vacation they’d had in years. I was supposed to be on vacation, but the company I’d been visiting on the island had allowed the owner’s son to play computer tech and I’d been trying to fix what he’d done. 
     I’d arrived home after 9:00 p.m. three days running and Milly Johnson had insisted on making dinner every night. Together we’d decided she’d cook breakfast and dinner for the remainder of the week and Saturday and Sunday I’d make breakfast and lunch and we’d grill out together for dinner.

     I woke up extra early on the Johnson’s last day to say goodbye and to make sure they got to the airport on time; I arrived home and decided to lay down and catch a few more z’s. I’d finally fixed all the problems with the computer systems at Driscoll Supplies, with the understanding that if that happened again, they were on their own. I’d also had a nice long talk with the owner’s son and he’d applied to one of the colleges. He was going to learn how to program and fix computers and I’d promised to help him in any way I could. I was smiling as I drifted off to sleep.
************
     I was clumsiness personified; unless you put me in front of a computer then I was as smooth and coordinated as a champion ice skater or professional dancer. My family teased me mercilessly, because I was constantly falling over everything and anything. Sometimes there wasn’t anything there and I still tripped over it! Yeah, I know that didn’t make sense, but that’s the way it was.
     After my nap, I finally felt rested enough to start my vacation and decided that I’d start my day off with a nice long run. I opened the front door and shot through it without looking. My glasses went in one direction; my towel in another and my forehead hit something really hard. I bounced up pretty quickly (I’d had plenty of practice after all) and stopped abruptly at a crunching sound.
     I was nearsighted and blind as a bat without my glasses. “Dear Lord please tell me that crunch wasn’t my glasses?” I prayed out loud.
     “No, those were mine,” a deep voice responded.
     Looking around at the blurry deep rich greens, bright blues and yellows I asked awestruck, “Is that You God?”
     A loud guffaw was quickly muffled and few minutes later a voice still choked by laughter said, “I’m Mitch Michaels and I believe these are yours.” I felt the hard wire rimmed glasses as they were placed in my hand, but the only thing I was actually focused on were the double M’s in his name. Of course the next thing out of my mouth was totally unintelligent. “Ooh chocolate!”
     I always found a reason to associate everything with chocolate; to my undying embarrassment, at my last presentation to Nasquk and Assoc., one of the employees had asked a question, but his name, Crispin Pounds, had thrown me off balance and all I could think about was a Mounds bar. I’d had to excuse myself long enough to eat the chocolate bar I carried in my bag. I still couldn’t think of that day without wanting to sink through the floor.
     A shout of laughter and the top of a curly, blondish brown head was what met my eyes once my glasses were on.
     “Are you okay?” I asked.
     Gurgles and gasps of laughter and shaking shoulders were all I saw for minutes until he brought himself under control.
     Finally with one hand on his stomach and the other wiping tears of laughter from his eyes, he’d straightened up and looked into my eyes. My dark brown eyes met his golden brown eyes, which were surrounded with a darker brown and out loud I thought, “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.”
     He snorted loudly, “How can someone so gorgeous think of candy all the time?” he asked.
     “Ah, not just any candy; it has to have chocolate somewhere in the mix,” I blurted out. He started laughing again.

     Apparently, Mitch had forgotten to bring a sun umbrella for his little sister and instead of going all the way back to the hotel for it, he’d scooted both of them over in front of my duplex and they’d made themselves comfortable in the shade of my coconut palms, which happened to be right outside my door.
     Over the next two weeks we came to know each other very well. He was from Portland, Oregon and had two siblings, his brother Larsen, who was at Officer Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, and his little sister Lanie. Their parents had been gone a little over a year and had been only children, so the three of them were all that was left. He was on reserve status with the army for now since there was no one else to take care of Lanie.
     I found we had things in common; he was a computer programmer, and like myself, loved to cook and run. He started running with me every morning. He’d carry Lanie on his shoulders, when she wanted to tag along, and sometimes she’d sit in front of the condo with Mae and Carl (they were the duplex’s caretakers when I was gone), while we jogged up and down the beach; the good thing was, he didn’t fall over everything so he was able to help me up…a lot!
     He seemed to go into shock when I showed him all the pictures of my family and there were quite a few of them. I’d made doubles of all the ones I had at home in Chicago when I’d decided to buy this duplex, that way I had all my pictures here whenever I came to the island for work or just to vacation. There were ten of us, including mom and dad and I was the youngest.
     We found ourselves hanging out together for breakfast, lunch and dinner and before that first week was up we knew that something special was happening. We couldn’t be sure that the romance of the balmy tropics wasn’t playing with our senses so we attempted to play it cool. Every night before we went our separate ways, we’d walk barefoot under the moonlight just talking and of course there was lots of laughter, usually me falling on my face as we walked said beach. Those nights were magical, even if for some reason he started tripping over his own feet. I loved how he looked, his hair and eyes glowing in the moonlight and I teasingly called him my fairy king; he’d called me his hot chocolate princess and we’d both blushed. One night after a particularly embarrassing fall, he helped me up and didn’t let go of my hand and before leaving me at my door he’d held me and kissed my forehead. He’d said, “I never really noticed the moon before, but you’ve made it a thing of beauty.” I’d had to work really hard to keep my sigh back.
     Two weeks after our meeting I took Mitch and Lanie to the airport. I’d fallen in love with him, as well as his little sister and it was so hard to see them go. I held on to her trembling little body as she sobbed and clung to my neck and Mitch had held on to the both of us. I cried all the way home.
     After my two months were up, I cleaned up both sides of my duplex and set a ‘For Rent’ sign on the right half and met with Mae and Carl to make arrangements for weekly cleaning until I returned; this was the first time I hadn’t looked forward to going home.
************
     I’d been back in Chicago for three weeks and I had never been so miserable in all my life. The company started sending me chocolate flowers and chocolate covered fruit baskets and finally the boss came into my office and asked me out right if I was thinking of leaving. I just cried while he awkwardly patted my back.
     I arrived home that evening tired, miserable and out of sorts. I walked into the kitchen and right into Mitch’s arms. With his hands cupping my face he told me he’d realized that it wasn’t the weather in Portland that had him feeling so miserable, but the fact that he missed me so much. He’d known that I wouldn’t want to leave my family, so he’d applied for a job at Hughes Systems and had moved himself and Lanie over, lock, stock and barrel. I just held on to him and cried; mom cried with me and dad coughed and claimed he’d gotten an eyelash in both his eyes.
     We waited a year, at mom and dad’s request, before getting married. During that time Mitch and his family learned what it was like to be part of a huge family and they loved it. We made so many wonderful memories and thought that our wedding day was the happiest day of our lives, then five months later we discovered we were expecting and Mitch held me and cried with happiness.
     Three months before our son’s due date, George, Mitch’s best friend was killed by sniper fire in Iraq. Without talking it over with me Mitch had himself taken off reserve status and put on active. He’d attempted to explain his reasons to me, but I was so angry and afraid that I wouldn’t listen.
     Six days after our son was born, Mitch was shipped out. I’d had a difficult birth and was still in the hospital.
     I held on to him and cried, “Take care of yourself my fairy King. I love you!”
     “I’ll be back before you know it my hot chocolate princess,” he’d responded.
     I sat in the wheelchair and watched until the car that carried him away from me had disappeared from sight.

     I was so lonely in spite of having all my family around. The few months he’d promised stretched out and became three years. I’d faithfully written to him seven times a week and had mailed letters out every other day. Sometimes I received replies right away; sometimes it was weeks or even months before I heard anything.
     The three years he’d served he’d been back home two times. The visits had been brief and uncomfortable. He hadn’t smiled or talked much; his eyes cold and hard. The worst part of it was that he’d treated me like a stranger and he hadn’t touched or held either Mitchie or myself once. Our walks on the beach in the moonlight seemed light years away.

     June 15, into the first month of what would have been his fourth year I received a visit from his commanding officer. My heart stuttered and he caught me before I hit the floor.
     “Lieutenant Michaels isn’t dead ma’am, but he is paralyzed from the waist down. The doctors say he’ll never walk again. I’m sorry. He’s at Walter Reed in Washington and will be ready for release in a couple of weeks. If there’s anything I can do for you please let me know.”
     I waited for him to leave and then I cried for hours holding Mitchie. I cried for us, for me, but mostly I cried for my husband. I was happy he was alive, but I wasn’t sure he would be. I wanted to leave right away to be near him, but Mitch said he needed to rest and he’d see me when we came to pick him up.
     Two weeks later, Lars and I drove down to Walter Reed to pick up my husband, but he only allowed Lars in the room and refused to see me. Lars had argued with him, but to no avail. I’d waited patiently until he’d been loaded up in the van and tried speaking to him, but he hadn’t responded. He finally spoke to me the night we arrived home. His temporary nurse had helped him get in bed and was out for the evening. I finished up some paperwork I had and had kissed Mitchie goodnight and made my way to bed. I’d climbed in bed after my shower and with relief I’d laid my head on his chest and put my arm around him.
    His body stiffened then, “Get out. I’m not sharing a bed with you,” he said quietly.
     Three days later I ended up moving all my things into the second guest room, but I refused to give up and chattered the way I used to. I tried pretending everything was normal, but after I’d bent down to kiss him and he’d turned his face away, I called Lars. With his help and the company’s we’d been flown to St. John. Every year, when I’d reached my limit I tried again and hoped that this time a miracle would occur, but I’d come to the realization that this would be the last time. I’d taken my vows seriously and I would love him until the day I died, but inside I felt like I was already dying a little each day and pretty soon I’d be worthless as a mother and a daughter. It was time to let go.
************
     I woke up to the sun in my face and the start of a nasty sunburn. The ground beneath my ear was soft and warm and it had a heartbeat. I sat up abruptly and looked down into Mitch’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup eyes. “How did you get out here? Are you okay? Are you hurt?” I was panicking and tears were running down my face as I ran my hands over his face, arms and chest and suddenly I realized he hadn’t protested once.
     “First off, since you never came back I called Mae and she and Carl came down to help me look for you. Second, I’m okay and when we found you I didn’t want to wake you, so I had Carl carry me over here, so I could lie next to you.” After a short pause, he said quietly, “Can I ask you a question?”
     I’d been struck dumb, he hadn’t spoken so much in the last four years and all I could do was nod.
     His eyes were wet as he asked, “Do you still love me? Can you still love me in spite of these useless legs? I won’t be able to kill bees for you or take spiders out of the house and I won’t be able to change light bulbs for you or run down to the corner store for Snickers Bars and when you run and fall down I won’t be able to pick you up. Can you look past the wheelchair?” The last question was gruff and the tears were falling down his face.
     I almost punched him! I was so angry. “You…I…you stupid idiot!! How can you ask me any of those questions?” My eyes were sparkling with tears and anger.
     “I can kill my own bees and spiders and I was changing my own light bulbs before I met you. And I’ll miss that you can’t run on the beach with me and your helping me up after one of my idiotic spills, but it’ll be okay as long as I know you’ll be waiting for me when I get back. “
     My bottom lip started trembling and I turned my face away as the tears I’d been holding back flowed freely down my face, “I love you so much and I never stopped; I can’t. My heart hurts when I think I’m gonna lose you. I always thought only cheesy books said stupid things like that, but it’s true. You’re part of me and you always will be.”
     His big warm hand turned my face back to his and he kissed my forehead and eyes. “I’m sorry I’ve been such a jawbone of an ass and thank you for not giving up on me. I don’t know how I’m going to make it up to you for the last four years, but I’m going to try. I promise.” His head lowered as he gently kissed me.
     “Hey boss, I’m going to town to buy some groceries…boss, boss! Oh they’re finally kissin’ again Mae. Put the sun umbrella over them. We’ll be back in an hour.”
     We never even noticed they were gone.
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