Posts tagged Write on Merge

Stranger in the Night

DSCN2196She sat shivering under the thin cape beneath the glow of the gas light, tears trailing down her cheeks. She felt no one cared whether she lived or died, or for that matter, even existed. As she looked around the corner, she saw a well dressed man approaching her. A chill of fear went through her as he approached. He reached down and placed a handful of currency in her tattered glove. “The bells of St. Brigit’s are calling tonight.” he quietly spoke. “What does that mean?” she spoke to herself. She stood up, wiped her tears and realized someone did care. She just wondered who it was.

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A Wonderful Memory of Days Gone By

“That’s my favorite Christmas song!” I said as I looked up at my mother.

She smiled back at me, busily wrapping gifts and checking the stove.

I looked outside, and noticed the dark gray sky, hoping, that soon snow would be coming down onto the mountains around our house. Going to my grandmothers farm for Christmas would not be a problem, because it was only up the hill from my house.

“Mom,” I asked with hope in my blue eyes, “Could I PLEASE open just one of my presents tonight. My friend Sarah’s family does that. It makes Christmas last another day. . Besides, with my birthday right after Christmas, it is the only really special time I have.”

Mom sighed as she removed a pumpkin pie from the oven. “ I like for you to wake up on Christmas morning-very early- (she smiled and brushed her hand through my curly hair) and see you sneaking through the house to find the presents under the tree. “You know that I hear you!”

“But Mom,” I begged, you told me that all your family had was stocking hanging on the end of your parent’s bed, with some fruit and maybe one toy. Things don’t have to always be the same!”

“Oh, alright.” My mother said, as she rushed about. “But just ONE!” she emphasized.

I jumped up, shouting “Oh, thank you, mom, thank you!”

I remember that day-49 years ago. I remember the dress she wore, the tattered apron over it,The tired look on her face, the flour spilled on the table.

Tears fill my eyes as I wonder where time has gone. My own children are grown and have children nearly that old. I lost a child 7 ½ years ago, and I often refer to this time of year as the “Helladays” because they make me miss my young, lively healthy family so much.

I struggle to cook a few snacks for the teen I still have living at home. Where does time go? Why do we loose those people and times we treasure so much? I wiped a tear and turned on the radio as I cooked.

That same song came resounding through the speakers. I was surprised, filled with a mixture of sweet memories and loss.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the years!” the orchestra and singers sang in a rhythm that could have come from that long ago day.

I sneaked into my sons room and handed him a small wrapped gift.

“Whats this, Mom?” he smiled.

“Just a little memory,” I said. Merry Christmas!

He got up from his video game and gave me a hug. “You are the best mom in the world,” he said.

And for a moment, I saw my mom saying the same thing to her. I held back the tears, so he wouldn’t see me cry and walked slowly back to the kitchen.

Perhaps the Christmas spirit was still alive after all.

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Storm of the Century

We had watched the weather channel for days, awaiting the storm that was predicted to hit on New Years Eve. I started home from the store, with the wind picking up. I knew the storm was on the way. I hurried up the steep mountain road, hoping to beat the beginning of the snow. The kids were both home, I felt tears on my cheek.

The television was still on the Weather Channel, predicting “The Storm of the Century.” The kids, 14, and 17, were excited, as they looked out side. I was not so exuberant. We we were alone and I didn’t have a four-wheel drive. I would be stuck up here for days. I knew the electricity would likely go out and we had only a fireplace and a portable radio for comfort.

 I went down into the basement to get some wood to start a fire. Gathering the wood, I raced back up thee stairs, wanting to get the fire started before the winds got too fierce and we lost power.

 “Mom,” My daughter yelled, it’s snowing like crazy!” The excitement in her voice echoed down the hall.

 Sure enough, the air as filled with huge flakes of snow, already sticking to the ground. I rushed to get newspapers for kindling, and ran to the kitchen for matches. My son lit a candle in each of the main rooms, so that we would not be left in darkness. I was proud of how prepared we were.

 Suddenly, I thought of our elderly neighbor, Mr. Carter, who lived down the hill around a steep curve. He didn’t have a generator and was not able to contend with making a fire or cooking. We had to go get him!

 I yelled at the kids that we had to go find Mr. Carter. It was already dark outside by the time we got ready to go. We loaded up a wagon, in case he couldn’t walk up the hill and started down the road, streetlights still glowing in the snow and stiff wind.

 The wind took on a loud roar as we shivered in the blowing snow. I thought I heard a faint voice in the wind. “Oh, no!” I thought. “Mr. Carter had started up to our house own his own.’

 “Mr. Carter!” I called back. “Don’t go anywhere, we are on our way!”

 I heard a weak voice near where his long driveway started. “I’ve fallen.” he cried out. I think I hurt my leg!”

 Suddenly, the lights went out. We could see nothing in the swirling snow. I shouted out, hoping to hear his voice against the power of the wind. “Mr. Carter!” I cried out. “Can you hear me?”

 Nothing. The forest was silent between whirls of snow and crackling limbs. “Mr. Cater, can you hear me?” I shouted again. The snow fell on as we wandered in the dark, now on a desperate search.

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A Tale of Two Famiies

John and Robert had gone to the same high school. They had known each other since they were in 3rd grade. Though they had not seen each other in years they enjoyed talking at their 25th year High School Reunion.

John married Sarah when they were young, they had raised three beautiful children. He was a Fireman, his wife, an office worker. Robert was a lawyer, his wife, Susan, had stayed stayed home with their three kids, the first born when she was 26.

John and Sarah lived in a modest house a few blocks from the main road that went through their end of town. They spent a lot of time together, hiking, camping, playing ball. Robert and Susan lived in a big house on the mountain. Their kids went to private school, they traveled all over the world, belonged to the country club.

As the men started to talk, John noticed that Robert was fighting tears. John whispered to him, “Are you okay?” Robert shook his head “No.” and lead John away from the crowd. Five months ago, Robert and Susan had lost their 12 year old son. He was swimming in their pool and started having trouble breathing. They had quickly called 911, but it was 10 minutes before an ambulance arrived. The 911 caller wasn’t familiar with the location of the new road way up on the mountain in the wealthy suburb. In their fear, Susan had not made directions clear. She failed to stay on the phone with the 911 operator. By the time the ambulance arrived, their son was in cardiac arrest. An hour later, the doctor at the hospital came out and told Robert and Susan that they had done all they could, but their son hadn’t made it. It took an autopsy to find out that their son had an undiagnosed heart problem.

By that time, Robert was fighting tears too. He was a Fireman, an Emergency Medical Technician. When his oldest daughter was 16, she had suffered a seizure while running and playing ball in their yard. While her brother called 911, John had given her treatment for the seizure. He was trained in what to do. It was a close call, their daughter was breathing with snore-like gasps before John got her to respond and breathing again. By the time the ambulance got there, John’s daughter was conscious, resting on a lounge chair. She survived.

It had seemed that Robert and Susan had everything, a big house, socially popular, the perfect life they had dreamed of. John and Sarah had struggled to meet the bills, they lived in a neighborhood of older homes, safe, but nothing fancy.. They didn’t have much time for social activities. They were too tired after work anyway.

This is life. No matter how we try, things don’t always work out as we have planned. Money won’t buy back your child if no one is there to help them, and struggling to pay the bills or living in a small house may make families spend more time together, perhaps become closer.

My situation wasn’t like either of these, but a mixture of both. I was a mostly stay at home mom, my husband a blue collar worker, we had six beautiful healthy kids until one night, our 15 year old collapsed at a ball game without warning. Even though a fire department was in sight of the ball park, the parent who called 911 didn’t give proper directions or stay on the phone with the 911 operator. An ambulance was sent from downtown instead. It was 10-12 minutes before the ambulance arrived because it did not have proper directions. Our son was in cardiac arrest by the time he was loaded in the ambulance. He died because no one at the park knew what to do and help was so slow in arriving. Like the fictional Robert and Susan, our lives were ruined when we lost our son.

Many years ago, when I took a First Aid Course, I was taught not to give CPR if a patient was breathing. That nigh, a person who said they were a nurse came up to help us, but did not seem to know what to do. We lost our son, I lost my health and faith for nothing. There are no words for what our family has gone through.

I have one question, to which everyone of us would give the same answer. Which family would you rather belong to?

Please, listen to me!Get out and learn to do chest compressions, how to use a portable defibrillator, take a First Aid Course. You may save your child, your grandmother, a neighbor, a stranger. Don’t wait until it is too late, thinking that it won’t be you or your family. Contact Parent’s Heart Watch (www.parentsheartwath.com)or the local Red Cross to find out about current First Aid Courses. It could be you that saves a life.

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Forgotten Misery

 Thomas McCord's house "The Grange," built in 1819 and situated opposite Black's Bridge, at the first lock of the Lachine Canal, Nazareth Fief, Montreal, QC, 1872

It stood alone in the barren plain. Since I was a child, my mother had wondered what the structure was, and why my grandpa had saved the photo of his father standing there by the steps.. Was it a church? The oddly shaped windows and door seemed to make that a possibility. What about the apparently hexagonal room that served as the second story? Was there a third wing to the structure that could not be seen?

Even in the tattered photo, the building was obviously abandoned, its siding tattered, a few broken windows, eerie, haunting. Why couldn’t I have found this picture when my grandpa was alive? He lived to be 91, we labeled so many photos together, from civil war era battle fields, to boxes filled with faded mementos that cousins sent to him. Each was hoping beyond hope that he could identify the people in the ragged box they had found in an old closet. He often did-why was this one never labeled? Why was it tucked in an envelope at the bottom of his grandfathers chest?

Years went by, the photo forgotten, now rested in the bottom of another drawer in the stained and faded envelope. As I lay reading by candle light, my teen walked in with an old book he had found in the discard pile at the school library.

“Mom”, he whispered, so as not to startle me, “something about this picture looks familiar, do you know what it is?”

I took a deep breath, and peeked at the cover of the faded old book. Ukrainian History. That just didn’t strike me as having anything to do with anything I recalled. Then I thumbed through the dusty book and saw a chapter titled “Famous famines in Eastern Europe”

I gasped. I hesitated to turn back to the picture. What could that have to do with my grandfather? Slowly, I turned into the candle’s glow to get a better view. It was the same building, it had to be, surely no other building looked like that one. My great grandfather wasn’t in it of course. The script below the photo was in Russian, with an English translation below it. Prague, 1933: Grain famine caused by Stalin’s troops.”

“My great grandfather wasn’t from Ukraine.” I said as I looked at my son. What did that picture have to do with my family, again, I asked myself why there was a photo of that church in my grandfathers chest.. I turned the page. On it was a painting of a lady with a foreign name-one I recognized from my study of family history. Underneath the photo was her name, and the inscription, ‘”One of the few survivors of the great famine of 1933” Then it hit me-the genealogical connection that I could never find-the missing link that no one would talk about.. My great grandmother had come to America, changed her name and painfully put her past behind her.

I handed the book back to my son. “I don’t know.” I said to my son. “Perhaps you just saw it in a history book.”

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