Perfect Moments

 

IMG_9337 This blog was written in 2000 by the woman lying in the photo above.  She was just 41, and Sammy the Cat loved massaging her arm before bedtime.  I found this essay after my husband successfully transferred my old computer to this one, which would now be considered old by many standards.  It was like opening a time capsule reading all the essays and seeing all the photos.  I’m sure more will show up here on my blog, because even I have noticed my absence.

Perhaps reading this from the me who is 16 years my junior, will bring you a perfect moment, or two.  And if they lead you to look for them in your own life, all the better. 

Yours, Pearly

I’ve had a couple perfect moments today and it’s only nine in the morning. I woke snuggled beneath a fluffy comforter, while a cool breeze and the morning sun spilled in through the open window. Cuddled all around me were our pets–a cat massaging my arm, two dogs curled up in balls, and a kitty purring in my ear. I stretched before joining the day, and thought, This is a perfect moment.

My daughter came in and I watched her face alight with joy as she told me all about the part she’d won in the school play. I smiled as one by one she kissed each pet, and then said, “I don’t want to forget my mama,” and planted a warm kiss on my lips. Another perfect moment.

Life is like that; in its turmoil and speed we must look for our perfect moments. Because the moments fly by to create a day that is filled with the business of parenting, couple-hood, work, and writing. I fall into bed many nights exhausted, my heart, and mind filled with prayers for loved ones, and gratitude. I sleep a deep slumber that quiets the pace of the day, and then wake to start all over again.

I wasn’t always so impassioned in finding perfection in the midst of turmoil.

It is Christmas Day 1978, the blizzard of “79” lies around the corner, but I don’t know it yet. I wake at five and I can almost see my breath in the little apartment that costs me 65 bucks a month and is warmed by an old gas stove. The silver light of a winter sunrise guides me to the halls of Sherman Hospital where I take care of patients too ill to be home with their loved ones. I tuck red carnations in the hair of my female patients, and I whisper greetings in the ears of those who some believe can no longer hear. I gently bathe my patients, rubbing warmed lotion on parched skin. I believe, as I go from room to room singing Christmas carols off key, and I see smiles stretch across yellowed faces, that this is the best Christmas ever.

I’ve found my life’s work here in the rooms of 4-South. Here I can bring joy simply by being. I listen carefully to my patients’ needs, and I gently hold the sick in healthy, young arms till the pain or nausea subsides. This time will end in ten short years, and I will wonder before I’m thirty what I will do next only to have Sherman provide yet another opportunity. But today, I don’t know that, I feel the world is at my feet, and I have found my place in it.

Later that night, in my sister’s house my family gathers for a Christmas Celebration. My parents are here; the jagged edge of divorce has not yet split them. My nephews crow with delight at the pile of gifts beneath the sparkling tree. I rush to the door as my brother and his family arrive. I gather his two year-old daughter in my arms and watch as my brother, ten years wiser than me, stomps his feet and shakes the cold from his body. My heart is full.

I say to my brother, “Isn’t Christmas just wonderful? I’m so happy today. Are you happy?”

“I’m happy, Bonnie,” he says, but I’m not convinced.

“Totally happy?” I ask.

“Bonnie,” he sighs, “ There is no such thing as total happiness, there will always be a bill to pay, a sick child or unrest in the world. That’s just the way life is.” He kisses my cheek and joins the rest of the family with his little girl.

I stand there as the chill of the winter air slips through the open door. His truth weighs heavily on my heart.

It’s June 1990. I lie in bed. Snuggled in my arms is my little daughter, just three. She’s warm, and I watch as her pink lips make a suckling movement in her sleep. I listen to my husband shower across the hall in our little brick house on Oakley Avenue. The sun shines through the leaves of the massive oaks outside my window creating dancing shadows on the blinds. The heaviness is in my heart again. It lingers there burning the sweet slumber away. I wonder how many mornings I’ve woken with the sadness that permeates my soul. Months? Years? I’ve lost track. Can’t remember when it began, or why.

The world is a scary place. God allows horrible things to happen. I’m visited by the spirits of patients whose deaths none of us had time to mourn as we walked from room to room, the smell of death in each. There are evils that await my children, and I am helpless to stop them. Marriages fail. This is life, I tell myself. It can’t be perfect.

I quickly close my eyes as my husband creeps in and gently presses a kiss on my lips and then our daughter’s. I wait till the door snaps shut before I open them again. My son arrives at my side and slips into the bed next to his sister and me. His brown curly head lies next to mine. Sleepy eyelids shutter hazel eyes.

I live in a house I love, have two children I adore, work in a job that fascinates me, and yet I am so lonely. Time for a change I say. And I know it’s true. When my husband walks back through the door after a morning of golf, the children and I walk out, bags packed, and I tell him it’s over. The little gold band I’d worn on my finger for nine years rolls on the hardwood floor till it settles beneath the couch, and the door clicks shut behind me.

“What brings you here?” Bill the counselor asks.

“My wife doesn’t love me anymore, “ my husbands says, his voice sad and heavy.

Bill looks at me. I say simply, “I cannot drive by a squirrel lying dead in the street without tearing up. Yet, here my husband is in so much pain, pain caused by me, and I feel nothing.”

We start small. We decide that every night I will soak in the bathtub undisturbed. I wonder how much good that will do, such a simple thing. But big solutions come from simple ideas.

Six months later we walk out of Bill’s office after our final visit. Thanksgiving is two days away. We have much to be thankful for as we drive home eager for a few minutes alone before gathering our children to celebrate the dawn of a new marriage. And then it happens. We sit around the supper table, we listen to our son tell first grade stories, the house is warm while the winter air rattles the windows, and I realize that I’m having a perfect moment. In the midst of bills to be paid, work to be done, people dying, worldwide unrest, I have a perfect moment of peace.

Total happiness can be achieved, one sweet moment at a time.

In this imperfect life we must find the perfect moments. I admit, I’m not always so keen on finding them, but then when the rush of life pushes me into the dark corner of sadness, fear, or grief, I look for them, and they renew me.

Perfect moments are easy to find on the shore of the Pacific in the glory of a California sunset. They are easy to find when I lie back in the inky water of Lake Michigan and stare at a moonless sky. They are effortless when there’s money in the bank, food on the table, when our bodies are healthy, and the writing comes easy.

They are abundant in the company of good friends and family. I see them golden as the sun in the eyes of my twin, and feel them in the arms of my loving husband. They are a joy to hear in the voice of my daughter, and the laughter of my son. They are comforting in the quiet of a church sanctuary where the solace of faith is strong.

They are harder to find in the sadness of a dying parent who sleeps five feet from our bedroom door and whose care now falls on our shoulders.

It’s tough to find them when the coveted role in the school play was won by another child, and in the unrest of our son’s burgeoning independence. It’s not so easy when the car won’t start; my husband has had a rotten day, or when the postbox offers up yet another rejection. But when we seek them out, because they are there, those perfect moments, that’s when they are the most satisfying. In those moments there is peace. Complete and total happiness.

July 2000. A gentle breeze fluffs my brother’s graying hair as we sit in the gazebo. I look at his handsome face and see the lines that crinkle wizened eyes. I sigh as I listen to his theory of science versus faith, and smile. He will try to convince me still of the doom that lies at my “unknowing” feet, and I will continue to try and convince him of the perfect moments life has to offer, while living with all the things he fears. And when he finishes, and the debate is over, I will have my perfect moment once again

Advertisements

Brinkley, my friend, till we meet again.

harmonyspearls

There is no comparison or way to measure the life of a beloved pet to that of a human being.  I lived that at the bedside of the terminally ill, I watched as gurneys rushed by to ICU with a young person, or someone’s mom or dad or friend on it who will suddenly, shockingly, come to the end of his or her life here on Earth.  I held  those who sobbed and sorrowed in my arms. I have been held in the arms of another as I mourned a loved one.  There is simply no comparison, and I want to say that upfront.  I want you all to know that, from the deepest part of my heart, if you have lost someone you love — a child, or a mother, sibling, spouse, or father or friend, I ache for you.

But today, it will be about our dog Brinkley…

View original post 1,526 more words

Grave Dwellers

I have often admired people who make regular visits to the cemetery and spend time with loved ones there.  I recognize the peace this brings, the healing from loss.  I have, however, never felt compelled to do this.  In fact, I arranged Grammy’s entire service, helped her choose everything for her funeral, and I have not once in 8 years stepped into the cemetery since her interment. Don’t judge me, I just don’t see her there.

Not that I am not fascinated by cemeteries. I love going to our hometown cemetery with my twinsie and spend hours reminiscing about this person or that, and how they helped shape our lives.  Without that spark of memory–seeing their names– those stories would not be evoked.

At this same cemetery, my mom’s urn is tucked behind a little plaque bearing her name on a monument that holds the remains of the cremated, and when I touch those letters, I do not feel her there.  I feel her presence more when I hear a song, see a smile, feel a hug, say a prayer, hear a story.

I stopped struggling with my desire to be like those who find such great comfort at the graves of their loved ones, or feeling bad that I don’t have that same pull.  That perhaps something was lacking in me that I didn’t “pay my respects” like others did.

Even as a child when we’d go “home” to the tiny town that our mom grew up in, there was a parade of McCoys that would walk to the cemetery to spend time with grandpa, truly a man I never knew, and I tried to stand still, my feet itching to run with my cousins, but then the stories would come from my parents and aunts and uncles and I would stand spellbound for that time where the grandpa I never knew came to life in their faces, and their voices and their laughter and their tears. A real living person come alive in them.

A few years ago, our world lost a great man whom I adored.  A writer, actor, friend.  When I went to his service, I wept and wept and could not control it, and I was embarrassed by this, he had been sick a long time, he really was in a better place, and yet, I could not stand up and say how much I loved him, I could only watch our friends, and listen, and feel their loss in my own loss.

I still miss my friend, and think of him often while I am walking the trails to the river, and along it, with Eugene and Lily Belle, and smiling at his antics (they were EPIC) and just feeling him with me asking me to write fiction instead of nonfiction, because my nonfiction was too raw, and hurt too much.  I could soften the blow by using fiction, and of course, he was right, he wrote many fictional books that merely softened his nonfiction life.  But, I stuck to my guns and he to his, much to his chagrin.

Then, I saw his wife at the local grocery, and we hugged sharing that “I miss him so much” smile.  And she asked if I’d been to his grave.  I was astonished because he’d been cremated and I didn’t know that his ashes had been buried.  She explained where he was and I stood there in utter shock, he was in the cemetery that I walked by every time I went down to the river.  He was within arms reach all that time.

So, she gave me the directions.

Go up the drive, take the first left, go past the caretakers building and keep walking from behind it till you are lined up to the bedroom window of the ranch house to the left of the cemetery and look down.

So, I did exactly that, instead of walking over the road to the river, I turned right, and then right again, up the big hill, and then left, and the building was making weird clunking noises at dawn and creeped me out, but I walked on straight from behind it, till I was lined up to the window on the ranch house and looked down, and there he was staring back at me.

She’d put a plaque on his grave marker with his photo on it.  His beautiful face and eyes and I was completely and totally with my friend for that second, and of course cried, and still cry each time I walk all the way up that hill breathless to get past the scary clunking building, and the breath catches a second in my throat and the tears come.

I love seeing him, I love scoffing at him, and even saying, “Hey, Sweetums, yah, that nonfiction thing, well, I’m writing a blog, and I’m having a good time with it, and I’m going to write about you, how about that? And I’m not softening it with fiction, heck no, you are too real, too raw, too honest to do anything but tell the truth about you.

And, it would figure you’d find yourself for all eternity behind a scary, clunking, banging caretakers building that creeps me out. That is just like you, now isn’t it?  Even where you rest, there is a story.”

And then I walk away, wiping tears, maybe laughing a bit at a memory of my friend, and his wife, and our friends together.  And I understand just a little bit better the grave dwellers, and even count myself as one.

FullSizeRender (8)

 

Take me out to the ball game…

jack_brickhouse-11

I admit it, okay?  I’m a fair weather fan when it comes to the Cubbies.  I haven’t watched them consistently since I met my life partner–A Sox fan–in 1980.  In Chicago, marrying a southsider fan when you were a northsider fan was akin to marrying outside your ethnicity or religion.  Another reason for my family to be suspicious of my guy.

When we were kids in our tiny town and met someone new the first things we’d ask were: “What church you go to?” It seemed almost everyone went to church in our little town and you were either a Lutheran, Catholic or Congregational. It was such a strong allegiance we had with our churches that you don’t much see nowadays.

The second question was, “You live in town, on a farm or in the country?”  Proximity was important when bike riding, walking or running was the mode of transport since everyone was a one car family.

The third question.  “You a Cubs fan or a Sox fan?”  Honestly, as I sit here, I can scarcely remember a single Sox fan when I was a kid. I’m sure there were some, but, there you have it.  Most just loved the ball club from the Northside.

Nearly every single day during summer the game was being called either on televisions or on radios because back in those days there were no lights at Wrigley.  You could hear Vince and Lou on WGN radio or Jack Brickhouse on channel 9 wafting through screen doors and windows on hot summer breezes.  “HEY HEY!”

And sometimes, which I didn’t quite get, a dad or two and some of the boys would have their transistor radios tuned to Vince and Lou and their television sound turned off.  I loved Jack Brickhouse so much, that even now when I pay tribute at his statue outside the WGN building in Chicago, I get teary.  In fact, I’m teary NOW!  I guess not everyone thought he was the best caller, but for me, he was the voice of the Cubs and my childhood.

I admit also, that I’m a bad baseball watcher.  I’m loud and obnoxious, and I’m not normally like this.  The truth is, I call the game better anyhow, I do!  Turn down the television and let me do it, for goodness sake.

“Strike!”

“Take it standing there lookin’ why dontcha?”

“Watch, he’s gonna get picked off at first…”

“Just keep pitching them high and outside, because that ump sees that as a strike.”

“Jerk”

“Oh man, he’s due.”

“Make him be a batter.”  

“Nice, now straighten it out.”  

And the best. “NO WAY, IT’S OUTTA THERE!  HOLY CATS! DID YOU SEE THAT?”

And if we win? Silence.  I’m struck dumb.

In this the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  My sweet, soft spoken father was a total maniac during sports games.  At home, we were watching the ’69 Cubbies playing the Mets (and you know how that ended) and my dad took off his shoe, threw it into the fireplace just as our dog was walking by. The dog lived with a yelp, and the Cubbies lost.

Dad in the bleachers at Wrigley, taking off his glasses and extending them to the Ump at the plate since obviously he needed them more than my dad.  Slamming his foot down on the bleacher in front of us and other shows of irritation that will remain a secret. Forever.

Twinsie and I would work on our tans, and pray for an infield homerun from Don Kessinger that would make the world louder than anyone thought possible. In the 70s we’d try to catch Jose Cardinal’s eye.  Wink.

And we’d share a foot long weenie with relish.  Very un-Chicago, but there you have it.  We were from the country anyhow.

And who can forget Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Don Kingman, Glenn Beckert, Greg Maddox, Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg, Rick Sutcliffe, Mark Prior… and all the players through the years whose names everyone is screaming right now because I didn’t put them on here, but I have only so much space, so hollar them out!

Them were the days.

But they are nothing compared to the epicness of tonight and this past week.  Winning the division at Wrigley against (my second favorite team) the Cards, with all my moaning and groaning and calling plays, I sat there in complete silence with my hands up in the air.  In all the years, with the voices of Vince, Lou, Jack, Harry and Ron in my ears, we’d done it.  The curse was over for at least this one day.

My friend wrote to me, “Hey, B-girl, is hell freezing over?”  And I wrote: “Sure is, and I hear they’re eating goat.”

Tonight it is the mighty match of 1969 in 2015 (Hey, Marty!) With ballplayers so young, so damned good, and so excited to play ball they don’t care about what happened then, because they have today. And more important?  They have each other’s backs. This week we will see if these young Cubbies will end the pain that so many of us have from that series in ’69, and we, who remember, will call the game, and then sit in silence, hands up in the air.  “Hey, Hey!  HOLY COW!” voices echoing from the past heard inside our heads.

Shhhh.  There’s a lot of ball yet to be played. Tamp down the hope, be realistic, but, like every year, hold on to the dream.

I’m a Cubs fan after all, yet still, I can’t stop humming, “Go Cubs Go”…

Go Cubs Go

mQ-iiSIcVLGHsPVYzQqtQcg

Bound for the trash

At the Old Folks Place (OFP) we are up and down the halls to the trash room and back as we help Daddio go through all the things he and Hedy have accumulated that they no longer want or need.

In the trash room, people can put unwanted household items–chairs, curtains, small appliances, dishes and the like and anyone may take from the pile as they have the need.

In our late night trips to and fro, we have left lots of good stuff that dad and Hedy just didn’t need anymore.

It was fun to watch these things disappear knowing someone else was enjoying them, and we’d report back to dad “Someone took the recliner, curtains, or the coffee pot!” and we’d all smile. It feels good to know that these things are useful to others.

One night in January during what NJ calls a blizzard (pfft) we padded down in our slippers pushing our little cart filled with whatnots to give away. When we got there we found this little mid century gem. The upholstery was in fairly good shape, but the foam cushions were crumbling so much that they leaked the dusty white crumbs. It needed work, but I loved the clean lines, and the craftsmanship was incredible. We nabbed it and took it to dad’s storage area to bring home on one of our trips.

For six months it sat there, on our April visit we had Rick with us so we couldn’t cart it home that time, and finally in July, we carefully tucked it into the car, putting the leaky cushions in large plastic bags, and off we went.

image

For the months since I’d first laid eyes on it, I knew I’d just restore the teak wood. It was worn, but nothing that Restor-a-finish couldn’t handle. The cushions were another thing. Off to the upholsterer they went, and for a sweet 80 bucks they were as good as new. The upholsterer recommended just gently cleaning the tweed fabric, because for its age, about 60 years, it was in excellent condition.

I just couldn’t love the final product more.  There’s something about bringing back to life a piece of furniture that had been well loved all those years, just needed some special care. I like to think of the people who sat in it, the people who bought it brand new. The life it’s had. And now it begins anew.

image

And the Award goes to…

sisterhood1

I went to my blog stats for the first time in almost a month and was shocked to see that people stopped in everyday to read, yet I’ve not written a thing since Are you my Mother? 

                                                                     Humbling.

How wonderful to discover while I was away juggling, that I’d been nominated by a lovely fellow blogger, Ellie, for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.  I am honored and thank her so much for thinking of me.  Please check out her amazing blog by clicking on her name or going to newcreationsministries.wordpress.com 

I find these types of awards a wonderful way to share more of my blogging friends’ blogs, and honestly they make me feel just a bit shy, but I want to accept this one and nominate others so you can read their blogs, too. If you do nothing, please, please check out these blogs.

Here are the simple rules for participating:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site.
2. Put the award logo on your blog.
3. Answer the ten questions sent to you.
4. Nominate ten blogs, notify them.

Here are Ellie’s questions for me:

Would you rather win an Oscar, Pulitzer, Nobel or other award? Why? (Ellie, this is technically two questions, just sayin’.)

Quite honestly, I am not an award kind of girl.  I think I just would like to write something that will be remembered, that will earn a place in my readers’ hearts. I’m no fun at the award thing.  Pooh.

What would be your dream job?

I feel that all the jobs I’ve had have fulfilled something deeply in me, and I’m grateful, but for sometime in the future, I would love a job where I could bring Eugene with me.  That’s what I pray for, I hate leaving him everyday.

FullSizeRender (7)
This the look I get when I leave for work. Pathetic.

 

What characteristics describe your husband, or significant other (or wife, in my friend’s Mike’s case)?

Honesty, grace, funny, interesting, earnest, loving, softie, loves love stories, hunky, faithful, courageous, provider, strength…  Hmm.  I need more space to list everything.

1450220_10200822675512423_865749594_n

What’s your favorite place to vacation?

Anywhere with my guy, but if it’s by a body of water, it’s even better. With our besties?  Even better!!!

With my twinse and me?  Shut up, it’s awesome. It’s not the place, it’s the people, people!

12038376_10204892020723510_7860842332399122366_n

1934863_1103291745726_7712367_n

What’s your greatest skill? 

The ability to make order from chaos.

What was your first car?

Blue ’62 Chevy with no radio and no heat, but it could pack in like 20 high school kids at lunchtime and cart us to the local burger joint in the small town we grew up in (before seatbelt laws, natch.)

What were you like in high school?

I was an energetic, cheerleading, sensitive dreamer. 

Have you met a celebrity?  Who? (Another two-fer)

When we were on Maui, we were eating at Roy’s and I went to use the restroom.  There in the middle of the restaurant was a table filled with a bunch of people, including little kids who were scattered about.  In the midst was a man who looked like Rob Reiner, but he looked much thinner.

When I got back to our table after they had left, I told my hubby and he wouldn’t believe me!  Then, we saw a copy of People Magazine, and it showed Rob Reiner and an article on his weight loss. Neeener neener to my hubby.  That’s the closest I’ve come, I think, aside from Jack NIcklaus at the Western Open in 1981.  Be still my heart.

Have you been on television?

This would be my biggest nightmare.  I choose writing for the anonymity and control of it, but there was once a show that featured the chocolate shop where I work, and I was briefly shown boxing some chocolates.  

What historical person would you like to invite to dinner?

Jesus.  I’d love to wash his feet with my essential oils, make him a lovely meal, and have a good long chat.

My nominees are:

Sandy, my favorite gal blogger buddy, at http://foundthispaintedthat.com/  She’s found it and she’s painted it and she will inspire you!

Laurie We B Late at http://laurieoconnorstephans.com My ironic, funny writing friend.

My brave, beautiful niece, Laura at seekingthestill.com

Jan at http://cookbookexperiment.com My sweet cuzzie can cook.

Elin Janne at elinjanne.com Eline’s blog is worth the looksee with her amazing photography and journaling.

Monika (or Sam, whomever shows up at the computer) at tailsaroundtheranch.wordpress.com Compassionate companions.

Mike (even though he’s a man, his blog, life, and friendship are so inspirational that I need to nominate him for an award so that if you happen upon this blog, you will at least read his!) at http://mikebcblog.com/

Daphne at grievinggumdrops.com Daphne’s blog is poignant and beautiful and all about sorrow, faith and character.

Elaine at http://thehometownrookie.blogspot.com Read all her “rookie” blogs.  Just so much inspiration packed into a little Jewish ball of fire.

And Blogger newbie Wendy, who is just starting on her journey in blogland.  https://constructiveconflict.wordpress.com/

And that’s a wrap.