Archive for fear

Once, and Never Again

266

Once, I was volunteering at school.

my youngest son was in Peter Pan.

He didn’t like drama much-

I was working with kindergarden girls-

singing…giggling

I was late getting home

and you were standing at the door-

smiling at me, in your ball uniform.

“Oh, you scared me!” I smiled.

I didn’t know it was the last time

I would ever open my door

and see you standing there, smiling

See you there at all…

For me, life ended that night,

I sat and watched you practice,

almost took your picture, but you

seemed so far away-I never imagined

how far away you would be

in a few hours. Again, I almost did it-

took a picture, but it was getting dark

I never imagined it would be my last chance.

You held your head, and ran to me,

collapsing ina slide as you fell to the ground.

I screamed “Call 911, Call 911!”

How can a parent call 911 and tell them to go

five miles away to some ball complex?

You killed my son-taking 12 minutes

to find their way there when a fire station

was right above us? Why, “nurse”,

did you not recognize heart failure, do CPR?

Why didn’t I pump your heart, even though

I didnt know anything but your breathing

was raspy and  an ambulance came

and the nurse just stood there when I screamed,

Cant you do something?

Why didnt I realize no sirene

was coming from the fire station?

When finally an ambulance came in the back way,

they knew they were given the wrong directions.

“Bag him” an EMT screamed, as they pulled out

a stretcher-I ran to the front of the ambulance

and got in, I saw them rushing to send currents into you

because your heart had stopped, because 911

had gotten the wrong directions.

A chaplain leads me away, it will always be with me

slow motion hell that you were dying-

they were too late, because somebody screwed up.

A decade ago, a slow motion nightmare-

I wanted to die too-A lot of me did-forever,

I wanted all the people who begged you to play

to hurt like I did-to die like you did.

God forgive me, I have yet to change my mind.

I leaned on your little brother, till he grew up

and had to find his own life, you were

A vague memory, someone he should have had

to guide you,, teach you, love you,

And he has only flashes of memories,

looking in album,hearing us talk,

or maybe a sharp breath as he awakes

from his nightmare, again, and again…forever.

I see myself now as an empty soul,

robbed of my most beautiful memories,

because you didn’t want to disappoint friends.

Beni-hana, you will never know how much

it has meant that you did not beg him to play,

that you have listened to me, wrote songs for us,

that he is still alive to you as he is to me.

Some like to say these “God did this or needed that”

and I want to scream, “God wasn’t there!”

My health gone, the pain worse everyday,

People think time will heal that you were stolen.

Never on this side of hell will that happen.

I needed you, God gave you to me,

He did not take you away, negligence did.

I cannot pray, I cannot forgive, I need you,

and nothing will ever change that.

My beautiful son, you were so amazing-

different , special, your love was beyond compare.

One day, I will open a door, and

you will be there, smiling, and I will hold you,

and never ever let you go again.

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MUSCADINE MEMORIES

DSCN2817One day last week when I was at your house-okay cleaning out your now empty house, I noticed the most wonderful vine of the old fashioned Muscadine grapes growing up a tree at the edge of your yard.

I have never seen anything like it! Oh, Dad, how I wanted to run in and get you and show you the redbud tree hanging full of Muscadine grapes. You and mom grew up very differently, but I lost you both in your 87th year. Mom was a few years older, so I had to watch you drown in the misery of waking up without her after 62 years together.

l I haven’t been able to write for the past few months, since I lost you. There is so much inside me, I know I will never remember the feelings as I did when they were fresh, and I will always resent it. What kept me from writing was not because of you passing, but the pain was nearly as bad. A violation by someone, of my deepest thoughts, written in my journal, had made me feel as though I had been robbed of my most precious gift-the truths, good or bad that I written in a journal to the son I lost when he was 15 years old nearly every day.

When I saw the Muscadines, I knew the only reason they had survived was because they were wound around the branches so high in the redbud tree. Your neighborhood is full of bears, and my son who lives next door has seen many walking through your yards. My aunt on the hill above you had lost her grapes to the bears, as had neighbors and friends, I couldn’t think of anyone who hadn’t lost their grapes to the bears. A surprise for you, dad, but a couple of months too late.

All this time that I have been unable to write, I have though of you and mom, of my Andrew, all the loss, the sickness and pain I have endured, all the court stuff I had to endure in order to settle your estate. Hell has been my constant companion. Maybe that’s why the wild grapes were so special-a moment of joy and beauty amidst all the pain.

I can write now, the anger over having been put through a completely unnecessary hell during the weeks proceeding your loss have dissipated to the point where not writing would let the evil win-and I damn well wouldn’t do that. So I will write a few of the memories that the Muscadines brought to me. Perhaps, in some small way, they will help me heal.

Dad, I had seen your health failing for a long time, your memory and rationality fading as well, and I had been working to get things in order. I felt a lot of guilt, many of the decisions I had to make were hard. I knew without a doubt that I was doing what you wanted me to do, but there was still a ring of guilt to suddenly be the ‘one who held the gold’.My kids and I will never forget your slightly evil (but loving) smile, when we would want something that your conservative mind could not quite go along with and we would see you smile, as you looked at us and said, “You know the ‘Golden Rule?” And we did know it. Your “Golden Rule” had always been, “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.”(possibly first used by Confucius) -and it had always before meant YOU. Suddenly it was ME.

Part of me anxiously awaited my turn at “holding the gold”, and part of me had always feared the responsibility that came with it. Now, that I did “hold the gold”, even though you were still here in a weakened condition, I found the responsibility both humbling and empowering. Every decision that was made was MY responsibility, every mistake made was my fault. Suddenly, I wondered how you could have held that responsibility all those years and smiled as you reminded us of it. It was completely terrifying.

Thinking back, again, (and not having allowed myself to write it), I remembered the little gift your grandchildren and I received within moments of your death. My son’s friend, who had been with us when you died and had loving called me “Mah-mah” since his childhood, had called my son on his cell phone and told him to look at a photo he had made with his phone. In his picture, directly over the spot where my mom (and soon you) would be buried, there had suddenly appeared a beautiful rainbow, so perfectly centered above your graves that it had seemed like a message from God.

Muscadines…they reminded me of so many of the moments in nature I had shared with my grandparents, parents and children through the years. Those little snips of beauty that stay with you as though your mind was a camera, even though you had no actual photo. I thought of Andrew, three or four years old, staring up at a huge sunflower. I will never forget the look of wonder on his face as he gazed up at that eight-foot high flower, as golden as the sun, above him. I remembered finding the hillside filled with bloodroot flowers whenI took a walk with my children were they were quite young. I showed them how the plant got its name from the Mercurochrome-colored fluid that flowed from the stem when it was injured or broken of. Many years later, I witnessed one of my children, telling the same story to their child.

Once, when I was about ten years old, my grandmother, aunt, my mother and I, went on our daily walk in my grandparents pasture. Suddenly, my grandmother almost stepped on a snake. My mother screamed and my aunt laughed, “Its only a garter snake.” she smiled as she saw my mother look away. My mother was never afraid of snakes or spiders and was quite embarrassed at her own reaction. “I hadn’t looked that close yet”, she mumbled, and we knew it was true. Mother always told me that she was much more afraid of men than of spiders and snakes, “because you knew what a spider or snake was going to do.”

My aunt ran a little country store and to this day, I can see my mother marching in with a black widow spider she had caught in a jar. Even the men stepped back a bit as she told them about catching it on the very steps they had just gone up. I could write a book on “the little store” stories that my cousins and I shared as we enjoyed freedoms modern children no longer have-wandering the neighborhood without supervision. To this day, my favorite “little store” stor is the time mu cousin, Johnny, who was maybe 14, pretended to vomit on the store’s steps as my furious uncle tried to sweep up the fake plastic vomit before someone stepped in it. A crowd of cousins stood at the edge of the store building giggling away. When my uncle realized that he had been duped by a teenager, he was madder than ever.

Sometimes, in this rough and often cruel life, a simple scene like the muscadine grapes will bring us back to all the good memories we have had. For a moment, we smile, we realize how much love surrounded us, even when we were a bit naughty. WE close our eyes and remember those who are gone now and find ourselves smiling rather than shedding ear. Just for a moment, those muscadine memories surround us, comfort us and ring us home. Maybe life wasn’t so bad after all.

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