Sparked by Words

Archive for February, 2018

Wasp Nest

Story is a loose thread pulled until the whole spool unwinds, all the words tumbling out like wasps from a struck nest. The writer arranges them into pleasing patterns of words that sting, of words that placate, of words that provoke. The writer then is the papery hull of the nest, tattered and empty.

Until the next story comes along. Now buzzing with ideas. Building a new nest.

 

Just a thought 34

 

Image courtesy Pixabay.com

 

Advertisements

Forgiveness

Thou shalt forgive, because one day you will need to be forgiven – the forgotten Eleventh Commandment.

This one was written for me.

I will stop cursing you if you stop killing innocent people.

I will remember those who died as they fled. The ones chewing bubble gum, the ones in their letterman jackets, the ones wearing braces, the ones studying for a test, the ones who stuttered when answering, the ones practicing dance steps.

The ones who were always late, the ones who were always on time, the ones with new haircuts, the ones learning code, the ones who played soccer, the ones who cheered, the ones learning Spanish, the ones learning English, the ones painting in art class.

The ones who forgot their homework, the ones writing an essay, the ones practicing flute, the ones struggling with algebra, the ones struggling with verb tenses, the ones who aced chemistry, the ones who nearly graduated. Oh my God, the ones who nearly graduated.

The ones who were crying and frightened.

The ones who died as they hid.

The ones who will never be twenty.

Who will never be twenty.

I will remember their names.

I will not remember your name.

I will forgive.

But sometimes you bastards make it pretty damned hard to forgive.

We’ve all had enough.

Enough already.

 

 

In memory of the students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida

 

Just a thought 33

 

Photo courtesy Pixabay.com

For Those We Love

We begin by wailing and sobbing, harrowed with grief over our loss.

We pray for the one who is gone, for we who are left behind, for those who will acquaint only in story.

We beg answers to questions never resolved except in metaphor, thoughts that weigh more than the sum of their words.

We make fists, then open palms, hold hands, and grasp shoulders, swaying as a group so that none fall.

We share memories. One is spellbinding. One is provocative. One is a revelation. One is tender. One makes us laugh.

Our tears dry while the sorrow rises with our amens and we step forward. The first step hesitates, the next holds ground, then we lose count.

We will never forget but we move on but we will never forget.

There is an order to paying tribute to those who have passed. The order controls the bedlam that otherwise imprisons us.

It allows a semblance of freedom from unrelenting despair so we can return to order.

Today, though, I am harrowed with grief.

 

Just a thought 32

 

Photo of girl courtesy of CC0 Creative Commons

 

Hawaiian Baby Doll

We lived in Paradise. Tripler Army Hospital base housing for married officers in Honolulu, Hawaii, to be exact. Our home was an apartment in side by side units that had been converted from the original wooden hospital wards before the iconic pink hospital was built. Opposite our row of housing was a mirror image of the same, separated by a strip of lawn bisected by a row of palm trees. That lawn was my playground, mine and all the other kids who lived there with our physician and officer families.

Although Hawaii is famous for its cooling trade winds and daily tropical showers, I don’t remember either. I was four in the early 1950s, my day marked by playing outside. We were safe, we were free to play. After breakfast all the kids zipped around the lawn, back and forth between houses, going home only for lunch, then dinner as the orange orb of sun settled in for the night and cast Moanalua Ridge in balmy darkness.

I learned to ride a tricycle and to fly a kite, to string tiny koa seeds into leis, and to dance hula. I tasted both cotton candy and snow cones for the first time. Each was culinary magic, one a sugary pink cloud brought to earth on a paper cone, the other a paper cone of turquoise and pink sugared ice served on an island where it never snowed. Both are still favorite treats. Most days I wore a yellow or red hibiscus blossom in my hair, plucked from one of the nearby bushes, and carried lantana clusters, each a miniature pinwheel bouquet.

I didn’t have a baby doll. I wanted one desperately but we were poor, a concept I understood as meaning not enough money to buy a doll. A grotesque cloth clown and an ugly sock monkey, both discarded by other kids, substituted for the baby doll I wanted to rock in my arms.

I did have Pudd.

Pudd, pronounced like the first part of the word pudding, was the baby girl born to the couple who lived across the lawn from us. I visited her every day, politely knocking on the door until Pudd’s mother, Mrs. Dalton, welcomed me inside.

Renaissance beautiful with satiny pink skin and enormous blue eyes, Pudd remained smiley and sweet-natured. She rarely cried. She wriggled her hands and feet but never tried to turn over. She kept silent as if concentrating on music in her own heart. She grasped my hand, making it seem like a giant’s, and she grinned and bubbled when I sang “Twinkle Star” and “My Little Grass Shack.” If I got the words wrong, Pudd never complained.

Mrs. Dalton lifted Pudd gently, holding her head carefully. She spoke in dulcet tones to her daughter as loud voices startled Pudd and caused her to jerk in fright. Pudd and her mother were great training for big sisters-to-be, a good thing as my mom would soon present our family with a sibling for me. I was ready for the baby doll coming to our home.

I never stayed long when Pudd needed a nap or it was time for Mrs. Dalton to feed her, acts I wasn’t allowed to witness. Giving Pudd a kiss on her forehead but never on her lips or the top of her head on her fragile fontanel, I said good bye until the next day, and danced down the steps to the lawn.

One afternoon my mom told me I couldn’t visit Pudd, her tearful eyes warning me not to go over to the Dalton’s house. I pestered my mom about why I couldn’t visit until she said, “They’re giving Pudd her last bath.”

My brother was born only a week or so after I’d been forbidden to bother Mrs. Dalton on the afternoon of Pudd’s last bath. I didn’t see Pudd again as I had my own baby doll to watch over and sing to. We left Hawaii a few months after my brother was born, eventually settling in Trenton, New Jersey.

Seven years later we drove to the Midwest to visit the Daltons who now had three kids like us. Only they weren’t at all like us.

The last bath hadn’t been the last one after all. Pudd’s real name was Edwina, a fact my parents revealed on the drive. Her parents had to teach it to her before she started school. The Daltons had been planning to give up Pudd to an institution but changed their mind and moved to a state that had the best school in the country for children like Pudd. Children born with hydrocephalus – water on the brain. It’s a misnomer for a defect that allows excess spinal fluid to collect around the brain and spinal cord, causing the head to swell and a myriad of developmental problems. Though Pudd’s life had been saved shortly after birth with a shunt to drain the fluid, the damage had been done.

My parents tried to prepare me to meet the Pudd who was now almost eight years old. But nothing could have prepared me. She was still incredibly beautiful, with golden ringlets and satiny pink skin. She wore thick glasses and leg braces from ankle to thigh. She could neither sit nor stand without assistance though she had learned to take a few clumsy steps. I talked to her about school, art projects, and TV shows, as I would with any friend. Her speech was nearly impossible to understand and I realized she had limited mental abilities. She wasn’t the perfect baby I’d sung to in Hawaii, but she smiled with radiant warmth as if she remembered me.  I squelched my tears.

At bedtime her parents undertook an elaborate ritual to prop Pudd between half a dozen pillows to hold her body still so she could sleep without convulsions, without breaking one of her fragile legs or arms. They would wake to check on her twice during the night. We didn’t stay longer than that one day’s visit and I never saw nor heard about Pudd again. I don’t know if she is still alive though it’s unlikely.

Pudd suffered an unimaginable, freak injury that can be ameliorated today with advanced medical technology, but her life wasn’t a lesson for all the rest of us to digest. Her fate was unfair. Knowing Pudd helped me develop a sense of compassion for people with disabilities but it wasn’t why she was put on earth. She wasn’t born to be a model for research, though her life was an example to her doctors and teachers. I don’t know why there is a magnitude of injustice in the world. Paradise doesn’t exist if one person hurts. I do know I can make someone feel that they are loved.

I love you, Pudd, wherever you are. You will always be my sweet Hawaiian baby doll.

 

Photo of Sharon at four, Bonin-Pratt family photo

 

 

 

 

Forward is the Only Possible

Like smells that dissipate over time – skunk and cinnamon, lemon oil and wet dog – past fame doesn’t fill current space. Whatever accomplishments I achieved yesterday – a good deed for a stranger, a well written paragraph in my work in progress, an angry retort I wish I could annul (not glory but shame) – are not enough for today. Tomorrow waits to be filled with distinction.

The past is a nebulous landscape, the future a cryptic horizon. Only the slipstream under my feet energizes today. Today exists for an infinitesimal moment, archaic while the moment passes.

Waft cautiously, ingest deeply. Exhale with resolve. Roll up my sleeves, engage today’s pursuits. Smells invigorate this moment, an elixir of potential.

 

 

Just a Thought 31

 

 

Alchimiste, 1648, by David III Ryckaert

This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.

 

 

This is the Wrong Post

I planned to write about the majestic launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy. I didn’t want to write this story.

I’m mad. Angry and insane with grief. I want to throw the computer across the room, tear out the plastic cartridges that hold the ink, drag the printer down the street till it shatters into a thousand pieces. Then I wouldn’t be able to tell this story.

This is a story of death. Four people died this past week. Four people I know and love. The doctor, the mother, the judge, and the animal rescuer.

The doctor was the father of my friend. I taught my friend’s children at our temple. She proved to be a parent on whom I could count to bring cookies, to call other parents, to compliment me on the lesson. She made sure her son and daughter were well prepared. We shared confidences. I looked up to her as someone whose low key demeanor belied her inner strength. We spoke often about our dads, each of us proud of these two men who were family physicians – heroes to us. I don’t know about her genetic inheritance but it is evident her father impressed on her a strong work and community ethic. He raised a good person who became a good friend to me. My hero has been gone nearly ten years. Now hers is gone also, a tragic catch-up of circumstances.

The mother lived at the memory care residence where my mother lives. Her daughter is my friend. My friend’s mother bequeathed her remarkable beauty to her daughter, also her grace and composure. My friend’s mother did not speak often but she always looked at me with a smile and sparkling eyes. She and my mom shared meals together, afternoons of music, discussions, or games, and casual walks around the gardens, happy to be in each other’s presence. I’m not certain my mom will realize she’s lost another friend. When you have Alzheimer’s, it’s the blessing of the disease that you cannot remember who your friends are or when they are gone. I’ve been holding my friend’s hand as she remembers her mother before the disease.

The judge was a family friend. Forty years ago, his mother- and father-in-law danced with my parents every week. Thirty years ago I drove his older daughter to Hebrew school with my son. Fifteen years ago he married my older son to the loving woman who bore our two older grandchildren. Ten years ago, his younger daughter became friends with my nephew at the party we threw for my parent’s sixtieth anniversary. Two years later my father, the doctor, died. The calendar marched in step with the moments that annotated our families’ lives. Important moments in three generations were shared as if we were family. In a few days we will bury the judge only a few yards from the doctor’s grave.

It is the final death, of the animal rescuer, K, that is killing me. She died last night after a nearly five year battle with very aggressive cancer. My younger son’s wife, our daughter-in-law, has lost her mother. She treated my son as her son. My younger grandchildren have lost the woman who watched them every Wednesday so my daughter-in-law could work. She got to know our shared grandson, now four, and our shared granddaughter, only two. She underwent surgeries, chemotherapy rounds, and traditional and experimental drug protocols, trying to find a cure, or at least gain more time.

When K was well she ran a wild creature rescue service. She was respected in her community as a fiercely independent spirit with an intellect as bright as lightning. She had many, many friends. She and her husband were active in their church, and lifelong advocates for social justice. I only got to meet her a half dozen times as they live more than a ten hour drive away from us. Not the kind of situation where you can drop in on someone frequently. But I enjoyed every moment I got to be with her.

She struggled. We prayed. I wish she’d had more time – for all of the family, more time. I grieve for my children and grandchildren whose grief is unbearable.

At the end of the evening, a few hours after hearing of the deaths of the judge and the animal rescuer, when I thought I’d shed all the tears my body could muster, we watched NBC’s  This Is Us. It was the episode about the funeral of the father. A TV show, reminding me of four actual upcoming funerals. From the launch of a rocket to the funeral of a television character, the day has collapsed from elation to sorrow. I really didn’t want to write this story. Please imagine something majestic.

 

A Hopeless Dawn by Frank Bramley, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

And the Blood

 

Until they bleed, writers stand in a circle, before one, behind another, scratching each other’s backs – reading, writing, reviewing. Yours is so well written, exciting, mesmerizing, now read my book.

Once in print, writers turn like a carousel for the public circuit – Facebook, talk shows, conventions, book fairs, trade shows, congregations, schools, radio broadcasts, audiences anywhere – whoever will listen. Arrived in a dream, born of my soul, please read my book.

Writing is a deeply, intensely private affair, conducted in silence in a space illuminated by the flame in our bones, propelled by the curiosity of our minds. Writers crouch over their words, bodies immobile, obsessed with story. Years of hard work, crafting the vision, someday read my book.

Only the fingers move, the fingers, the imagination –

And the blood.

 

 

 

Just a thought 30

 

 

Image of super blue blood moon