Tuesdays at the Nursing Home: Deep Subjects

When I stop by his room, Freddy's up in a Gerry chair- a sort of rolling lounge chair for people who can't sit up in a wheelchair. It's the first time in months, since his double, below-the-knee amputation, that I've seen him out of bed. He's got his new upper plates in. His hair's been cut and he's been to physical therapy and had lunch in the dining room. A big day, surely, but Freddy looks glum.  He stares down at the watch on his wrist, the one he bought from the Avon catalog during happier times at the retirement "hotel," and sighs.

"Are you feeling down?" I ask.

"What?" His face wrinkles like maybe he didn't hear me, something he's taken to doing since his return from the hospital.

"Depressed," I say. "Are you depressed?"

He just stares at me through thick-rimmed, black glasses and shrugs.  "Well, sure. Wouldn't you be?"

There's no other accessible chair in the room, so I sit down on the hard linoleum floor beside him, so we're closer to eye level with each other.

"What's got you down?" I ask this like I don't know the answer because it's what you do when you're the social worker. You don't assume. But really I ask because what the hell else is there to say? And he answers with exactly what I knew he'd say.

"Oh, I don't know. My condition. Being in here. Where I used to be. Who I used to be. The loneliness. Missing my wife. Christmas. I guess that's about enough."

I nod and wait for some wonderful piece of solace to fall out of my mouth, only it doesn't. Instead I feel myself sinking right down with him because really, what can you say to that?  So, what do I finally say in all my therapeutic wisdom?


He glances at the Avon watch, then at me.  "Deep subject," he says.

I sigh softly.  "I wish I had a magic wand," I tell him.

"Oh, you do do you?" His eyes twinkle a bit and he half-smiles. "What would you do with that?"

"I'd start off by waving it over you."

He smiles, taking pity on me probably and we sit in silence for a few moments. "Well," he says.

"Deep subject," I answer.

This dance with Freddy reminds me of being in church, I think. The priest says a line- then the congregation gives their rote response. And all most of us ever seem to hope for is a tiny bubble of faith to surround and protect us- just long enough to carry us safely through from one moment into the next.




Sequins Before Five P.M.

I love my new home. I love my new neighborhood but perhaps I failed to truly appreciate how wonderful it really is. Today I came home and was standing outside with the dogs when I caught a glimpse of someone moving toward me, someone who sparkled in the late afternoon sunshine.

I was fiddling with a solar light when he rounded the corner. When I saw the boy, dressed in a little, black, sequined cocktail dress, black men's dress socks and little, if anything, else, I looked away, pretending to focus all my attention on the glass jar in my hands. I used the moment to adjust my expression, to assimilate the information streaming into my consciousness and as quickly, let it go. I looked up, met his level gaze, returned his slight smile and said "Hey."

"Hey," he said, his smile mirroring my own as he walked by, strolling casually down the street.

I know what I did next was wrong. I leaned out into the street, fumbled with my cell phone and snapped this picture. And in the moments that followed I thought of all the things I should've, could've said...

"You totally rock that dress!"

Too much perhaps.

"Aren't you cold? If you'd hold on a minute, I believe I have a jacket that would fit you."

"What size shoes do you wear? I have boys. They left some snow boots here. I know they don't go with what you're wearing, but you must be cold."

"Are you okay? Can I give you a ride somewhere?"

This wouldn't have been the effect he was looking for perhaps. He wasn't searching for a mom. I don't know what he was looking for but it wasn't a mom.


Tuesdays at the Nursing Home- To Have and to Hold...

Last week he arrived alone for the first time. Pushing the throttle on his electric wheelchair and advancing toward me I thought he seemed somehow smaller. I followed him down the hallway and into my office, took a seat and waited for him to speak.  Marriage counseling is at best a risky proposition. Couples usually wait to seek help until they are one breath away from divorce, out of options and seeing my office as the last depot stop before court. But when a couple has been married for 67 years, as Bill and Louise have been, the task seems even more daunting. What possible help or advice could I have to offer?

They had been squabbling, they said, and this wasn't their way. But in the past few months, as the day wore on, Louise would, without fail, begin to snipe at Bill. Bill would react by retreating into his office. Once there, he'd sit staring at his stacks of file folders, all meticulously organized to contain the facts and figures of their lives- past, present and future.

"She says she wants to move back to our old house. She doesn't like the apartment. She doesn't like the woman they send in to help her get dressed in the morning. Even worse, she wants to get her driver's license again." Bill would smile ruefully and shake his head. "She's not being logical. She's not thinking about her own safety, let alone that of the other drivers out on the road. Her memory's slipping. Since the stroke, she can barely use her right leg. I ask her how she's going to be able to manage getting in and out of the car or working the gas and brake pedals and she just tells me to mind my own business!"

Louise, when given her turn, would rail against the rules imposed upon her in their "Catered Living" facility. She talked about having raised four children while Bill worked long hours and how he just didn't seem to realize she was a strong, competent person and didn't need him or anybody else telling her what to do.

"I miss the intimacy," Bill sighed. "It's hard to hold your wife when you're both in wheelchairs or hospital beds. You probably think I'm a foolish old man but I still have feelings. I miss being touched but I don't think she misses that part of our relationship at all."

We worked for months, tweaking, adjusting, reframing, explaining and finally we arrived at a happier day-to-day atmosphere between the two of them. Shortly afterward Louise got sick and nearly died.

When she came back to their upscale retirement community, she was put into the skilled care facility and Bill was stuck going to visit her two and three times a day.

"They won't let me take my electric wheelchair in, so I have to transfer to a regular wheelchair and try and push myself down the hallways to get to her room." He smiled wistfully and pointed to the boot on his left foot. "It's kind of hard to propel yourself with a broken foot and one arm that won't work. It takes me a while to get to her but she really counts on seeing me."

I sighed inwardly and thought about the foolish regulations facilities make and rigidly maintain. I looked at Bill, seeing tears spring to his eyes as he talked about missing his wife.  It was as if the years had fallen away and the 88 year old man sitting in front of me was suddenly a small, lonely boy, grief-stricken and afraid.

"Are you sleeping?" I asked eventually, feeling inadequate and knowing there were no words adequate enough to soothe a pain 67 years in the making.

Bill shrugged and gave me his fleeting, familiar half-smile. "Oh, I sleep alright...as long as I turn my face to the wall and don't look back at the empty bed across the room."


True Love at the Five and Dime

They say you'll never find true love if you go looking for it and I'll confess, I wasn't looking. In fact, it was almost the last thing on my mind. What I needed, I thought, was a new car battery but what I found in the Auto Department of the Kernersville Walmart, was true love.

I entered the store through the grimy Customer's Entrance of the Auto Department, prepared to do battle because this is what women do when they're on unfamiliar and allegedly unfriendly turf. I was prepared to be oversold and lied to, even though this was only a battery and somewhat straightforward. I had researched the brand, the model and the price and no grease monkey type was going to con me.

The man behind the desk was a few inches shorter than me, with a three-day old stubble of white facial hair, glasses and a friendly smile. He listened politely as I told him which battery I wanted, checked his computer, walked over to the stocked shelf and returned to declare they were all out of that kind but had it's slightly less well-rated cousin.

"That's the kind I put in the car my wife drives," he said, as if knowing this would sell me. "I always make sure she drives the best car because well...because she's my wife." He shrugged and smiled at his computer screen. "She drives a Toyota now too. Took me the longest time to get her to take it too." He shook his head and chuckled. "See, she's short and we couldn't figure how to get the seat up high enough for her to see over the steering wheel. Buddy of mine showed me." He shook his head. "You know, there's a..."

"Lever on the side," I finished, because I have a bad habit of finishing other people's sentences despite my best intentions not to. I nodded wisely. "How long've you been married?"

"Gonna be 51 years next week. We got engaged on April 1st, can you believe it? April 1st!" He chuckled and shook his head.

"Did she think you were kidding?" I asked, forgetting all about the stupid battery.

"Oh, no. She says 'The joke's on you 'cause I said yes!" He smiles like he's the happiest guy on Earth. "We still get along, you know? We talk and do stuff together. We still like each other.  Got 4 kids. That part, well, if I was to do it all over again, I'd just have a cat, but we're happy."

"You look like you're happy," I say, smiling at him.

"I met her on March the 17th and proposed on April 1st.  See, I was in the Service and I wanted to make sure...So we wrote letters until I got back and we got married. People thought I was crazy, you know, getting engaged after just two weeks. My pals said, 'What're you doing? Are you crazy? You don't even know her good!' But I just said, 'Tell me somethin', you open up a bag a marbles and there's a diamond sitting in the middle of them. How long does it take you to figure out you want that diamond?"

He smiles up at me. "That shut 'em up and we've been happily married over 50 years."


Halloween Beginnings...

It's beginning to look like Halloween around here...

Tuesdays at the Nursing Home- Between and Beyond

This morning a patient I'd been seeing for the past 15 or so years didn't show up for his appointment. I can only remember one other time when he hadn't shown and it was within the past few months. He'd been struggling with poor health for several years, so I wondered if he was sick again and had forgotten.  After 15 years, you tend to know someone fairly well, especially in my business, so I just knew something was wrong. I remembered how frail he'd seemed in our last session and how I'd thought of the Indian saying about fragile people's souls being light to the ground.

I didn't want to bother him if he was sick, so I sent a brief text asking if he'd forgotten me.  When his daughter from South Carolina called back a few hours later, sounding like she had a cold and asking me to call her as soon as possible, I just knew.

Tom didn't believe in God. Didn't believe in an afterlife. "When you die, that's it, Nance. You're just dust." He said this when his father died, said his father believed the same thing. Yet a few months later, when he'd gone out for a pre-dawn walk, he'd seen his father standing at the end of the walk. "Maybe it was just a guy who looked a lot like him." But the man vanished as Tom approached and while he wouldn't admit he'd seen his father, I could tell he'd wondered.

Tom was hovering between here and there his daughter said. She said they didn't know why he was dying, only that he was.  The doctors couldn't understand what was causing him not to respond to their treatment or what had caused such a buildup of fluid. "But they know he won't come back," she said. "He's going."

She sounded so matter of fact, so composed and I listened, remembering the trials and tribulations of her adolescence, how aggravated and frightened he'd been and how proud he'd been of the woman she'd become. I felt oddly detached, as calm and removed as the voice on the other end of the phone, as if none of this were truly real and happening.

I told Tom's daughter I'd come to the hospital as soon as I could, by six at the latest. Then I hung up and returned to listening to a book by the Long Island Medium- not because I'm a fan but because I wanted to hear what a woman from Long Island who channeled dead people, sometimes in Bath and Body Works store or in Nordstroms sounded like. I thought I could use a character like her in a story...because that's just what writer's do- we steal people.

The Medium talked about how people sometimes send symbols or appear as a symbol. She told a story about a cardinal appearing to a woman who'd lost her husband.  And while I may believe this is possible or even true, something about her brash, confident manner was off-putting. Like she knew for a dead certain fact what happened and how everything worked on the other side. Like Marissa Tomei in "My Cousin Vinny," only without as much heart.

At 4:30 I saw my last patient at the house and as we spoke, Tom died.

At 5:30, as she was leaving, the woman stopped on the porch and pointed to a corner of the screen. "Oh look," she said. "There's a bird trapped on your porch. How'd he get in here?" She looked around. "The door was closed and there aren't any holes anywhere. That's weird." She shrugged. "Oh, well. See you next week."

I propped the screen door open, closed the door into the house and gently shooed the little bird out and on its way.

"There you go, Birdie," I said, watching him soar off toward the trees. "Fly on home."


Tuesdays at the Nursing Home- Kind Betrayals?

     I punch in the code to enter the locked Alzheimer's unit and hear Daisy's wails echoing down the long hallway. She's almost deaf, so communicating with her is tenuous at best. I take a seat beside her in the common room, aware of the circling patients all around me, swirling into and out of their own delusions and fleeting memories.
     I touch her arm, stroking her gently and realizing she's lost too much weight since my last visit. "Remember me?" I ask, knowing this is an impossible question, yet relieved when she looks into my eyes and nods, mouthing something that I take for acknowledgement. I look into Daisy's eyes trying my best to communicate everything I can without saying much at all. "I'm sorry," I murmur. "I'm going to do something about this."
     But really, what? I remember her from the other, unlocked, assisted living side, remember how terrified she was the time they put her over on this unit for punishment because she'd shoved her roommate in an argument over the thermostat setting in their room. I remember her eventual full-time transition to this unit and the way she'd seemed to accept the inevitability without protest. Now this, hours and hours of inconsolable crying.
     Without warning, a stout, bald man wearing a sweater vest rises up behind us, clutches the half-wall divider and peers out at the crowd before him. "I've got $104, can I get $105. $105, do I hear $105?"
     Daisy doesn't hear him. Everyone else ignores him. He turns, taps the man sitting beside him. "Come on, buddy, it's $105 to you."
     In a room down another corridor Faye sits in a rocking chair, eyes wild, mouth drawn up tight, her fingers so tight on the wooden arms the knuckles have blanched white. "Crystal's got a gun and she's gonna shoot me!" she says. I tell her I know she got "sent out" recently and put  in an unfamiliar psychiatric facility where they changed all of her medications and sent her reeling further into psychosis. "They made a mistake and sent you where the doctor didn't know you. I can get Dr. Jones to help get things right again."
     Faye glares at me. "I know what you're trying to do," she says, her words rushing at me through tightly controlled anger. "You're trying to cheer me up. Don't you dare try and cheer me up! I know who that doctor is- he's Sanford Haynes, a known Communist and a hired assassin. So don't try that on me! I'm not going to the hospital."
     I leave her for the relative sanctuary of the nurses' station and order her to be "sent out" again, this time to her usual psychiatric hospital and her familiar psychiatrist. She will hate me for this, I think, and maybe fight the police if they have to come and take her. She will wonder why she's been betrayed again and then, at some point weeks from now, she will return, cheerful and sane, to await her daughter's weekly visit and fast food sack full of bad-for-you goodies.


Writing Prompts

I saw this:

And then I thought...what if this?...

For perhaps the first time in his life, the Pirate was terrified.  He was losing her and nothing, no one, not her family, not the doctors, not even his love seemed an equal match to the demons in Elizabeth’s head. 
She had lost so much weight.  Her skin was waxen. Her eyes, dark and sunken, held no spark, no trace memory of any happiness the two of them had ever shared.  Day after day he entered her room at the sanitarium, hoping for a miracle.  And every time he left bowed with heartache.  She was slipping away a bit more every day.
In desperation, the Pirate did the only thing he could think of to do.  He stole her back.  He walked her past the prying eyes of the staff, across the grounds and behind the ridiculous carousel some well-meaning, thankful father had presented as a token of his appreciation.  When he was sure they were out of sight, the Pirate led his mute, compliant captive through a carefully concealed break in the chain-link fence and into a waiting sedan.
He couldn’t say later how he came up with the church.  He only knew she used to love it- loved the way the stained glass colored the dust motes floating in the late afternoon sunlight, loved the tender smile on the Virgin’s face as she stared into the face of her newborn son.  The Pirate only knew this had been her sanctuary once upon a time.  So he stationed two of his men in front of the chapel’s thick wooden doors and led his lady down the center aisle to settle her beside him on the wide, front pew.
She never questioned him but then, he didn’t expect her to, not really.  She hadn’t said one word to anyone since her release.  Hadn’t even acknowledged their presence. Still, when he leaned down and pulled his guitar out from beneath the bench, he’d hoped she might recall it.  But she just sat, staring down at her hands as if she didn’t recognize them either.
“Remember this?” he whispered softly.  “Before they…before you were…”  He broke off, clearing his throat with a sound that even to him was half-sob, half-cough.  He glanced over to see if she’d noticed but Elizabeth was still staring down at her fingers, slowly pleating the fabric of her wrinkled, cotton skirt.
“We used to sing this,” he said, trying again. “I wrote it for you.”
He hugged the guitar closer to his chest and felt the tissue-thin membrane between despair and hope rip apart.  It was as much for himself as for her that he began to sing.


Saturday Afternoon with Loveseats

There is a saying hanging on the wall in my kitchen that just about sums up my thoughts on the meaning of life...

"There are things you do because they feel right and they may make no sense and they may make no money and it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other and to eat each other's cooking and say it was good."

Today four sweet pranksters came to help me pick up a sofa I'd purchased.  They wouldn't let me pay for gas, even though it was a 60 mile round trip. The blew me off every time I tried to thank them for taking their entire Saturday afternoon to help me.  They cut up and carried on the entire way there and back.  They sat on every sofa and chair in the store, made faces, snort-laughed and chased each other like ten year olds.

We laughed the whole way to Winston Salem and back. But more than anything- they made me feel so lucky and loved.

What more can we ever ask for in life than to know what it is to love and be loved?

Lucky, lucky me.


Tuesdays at the Nursing Home

I'm on the locked Alzheimer's Unit this afternoon when an attractive, petite woman walks up to me. "Tell me," she says, "what's missing on me?"

I look at her carefully. I'm weighing this question, giving it serious consideration even though I know she's got dementia. I study her, take in the bright green peasant top and jeans, the chic haircut.

"I don't know," I say finally, "but I love your hair."

She screws up her face and I realize she has no teeth.

"No, what?" she says. "What did you say? I can't hear you. Look at me. What am I missing?"

"Your teeth?" I ask, completely forgetting for the moment that she has dementia. "Did you forget to put in your teeth?"

She shakes her head.  "No, I don't think so.  Something's missing on me. What is it?"

The symbolism of the moment is completely lost on me as I struggle to answer.

"I don't think you're missing a thing," I tell her.

She shakes her head and leaves me to wander up to the next person.  "Come on," I hear her say, "what's missing on me?"

I spend the next hour sitting with a woman who's new to the unit.  She's driving the staff nuts because she keeps asking for her daughter, sure her girl's disappeared and needs her.

"Please, please stick with me," she begs.  "Please help me find my daughter. She wouldn't just go off and leave like this."

I soothe.  I lie. I tell the truth. And nothing helps. Nothing matters. Thirty seconds later she clutches my hand, her eyes filling with tears. "Please help me find her," she pleads. "I'm so lonely here."

I hate broken heart Tuesdays.


This weekend I accompanied the Youngest and his girl on their move to New York City- the land of Law and Order's crimes against humanity and Midnight Cowboys.  I know...and Breakfast at Tiffany's and a host of other wonderful places and people...but this is my baby we're talking about.  I wasn't just watching him leave the nest to fly gracefully around the tree...he did that in college. Now he's soaring like a hummingbird heading to South America for the winter of my discontentedly anxious, watching-from-afar, ever-changing motherhood.  And as I must realize, over and over again, he will be fine because he is one of the most competent, savvy human beings I know.

So, his place wasn't surrounded by junkies and homeless people. It was even better than my first apartment in Philly.  A colorful fruit and flower stand marks the corner where he now lives.  We set his belongings out onto the sidewalk and no one rushed up to steal them. A couple pushing a stroller did stop but only to argue about the state of their relationship.

"No," she said, stopping to face her young husband. "I want to talk about this...You always brush it off but this time we're going to talk it out."  I carry a box into the building and return to hear her say, "Fine then, I'll just call a lawyer! Is that what you want?"

By the time I came back for the next box, they were gone.

The neighbor across the hall had to open his apartment so we could get the new, not huge couch into the boy's studio loft.  It's that small but cozy and inviting, with a lovely view.

My brother's family came up, seasoned New York visitors and residents.  My brother and I spent the day making up the backstories of every interesting person we saw, including their current dilemmas and hopes for the future...The biker bouncer with the long beard stuck guarding a Porky the Pig-esque figure outside the bar. He makes no secret of his disgust for the Pig but like people and their dogs, he favors the porcine mascot.  His wife taunts him about this late at night when he comes home drunk and wakes her up. She once told him his performance and accompanying body parts made it difficult for her to tell him apart from the fiberglass oinker.

Two transvestites worked the corner, their feet swollen and painful from the unaccustomed height of their new heels.  "You know, Nance, it only takes one minute and 32 seconds to be in agony in heels that high."

"You should buy better shoes, John," I tell him.


It's Happened Again!

Five minutes ago we were here...

And now, suddenly, we're here?!

How is it this keeps happening? First the oldest gets married and now, not a month later, the youngest graduates from college...with two majors and a minor, a successful comedian, a boy becoming a man...

I know, this is how life's supposed to go. One moment you're feathering the nest and trying to wrap your mind around this fragile, new creature that is your baby- the next second- they've flown the coup and the sudden silence is deafening.

A few minutes ago I was in charge of their well-being- now I must watch nervously from the sidelines.  I know only as much as they share but I feel and imagine so much more.

They don't need me like they did and this is a good thing, I remind myself. It means they are launching, soaring into their futures with strong wings and brave hearts. I am so proud of the men they're becoming...etc, etc, etc...And yet- I miss my babies with all my heart.

Selfish, but true, and all a part of the process...Dammit.


Ophthalmologists See Straight Through You in Randolph County

This quote was taken directly from a Randolph County, NC Commissioners Meeting.  I am a fiction writer and I can only aspire to invent a character as wonderfully quirky as Evangeline James.

"Evangeline James spoke, saying that she was currently a notary public and doesn’t charge because she is “for the underdog.” She said that she believes that before anyone is issued any type of firearm, there should be an international background check performed. Ms. James also said 'the eyes are the windows to the soul, meaning that ophthalmologists can look into our eyes and see every single thing that is wrong with us. So cut the crap and get everyone an eye check.'"

When writers gather and someone tells a story that is simply too wonderful, the highest compliment the others can pay is to ask "Are you gonna use that? Cause if you aren't, can I have it?" That is how I feel about Evangeline. I just have to use that somewhere...


What Happened?

When did this happen?

When did he grow from a little boy who loved his yellow raincoat and his pacifier

Into this man?

Weren't we just lying on the family room floor playing with his "little guys?" How did this happen? What happened to the baby who didn't sleep through the night for years? Or my little boy who cried because he turned 5 and I told him he was a "Big Boy" now?  Where's the boy who stood by my side at book signings, arms crossed, unsmiling because he was on duty as my "bodyguard"?

I know, things change.  My boys have grown up and I have grown older.

But no matter what- the more things change...

The more they stay exactly the same...


Even Though I Now Live in Town...

I still manage to live down an unpaved country road...


Things Worth Writing About...

Forgotten people...Like Bobby the man who sits in a corner of his room at the nursing home, so slumped with defeat his body has grown into the shape of a fat comma. Behind him, on his bedside table, is an 8 x 10 portrait of himself back in the days when he still had hope.  In that picture he's leaning in toward the viewer, smiling all the way up to his eyes. When I look at the man he's become, all I get is a quirked eyebrow, a short, sarcastic nod toward the young boy in the photograph and a shrug.

Or Annie, pulling herself around the nursing home in a wheelchair, muttering to herself words I can't understand and moaning softly. But when I come up behind her, slip my arms around her neck and lean in to hug her, she laughs like a delighted five-year-old. "Let's blow this popstand," I whisper. "Uh-huh, let's do that!" She says, knowing neither one of us is going anywhere.

Or Faye, Belle's former roommate. She's got six kids, all frequent visitors, all promising she'll be going home soon, then telling the social worker they just can't tell her the truth...that no one's coming, that revisions to her home aren't so it will be wheelchair friendly but more livable for the members of the family hoping to move in.  Somewhere down inside her ample soul, Faye knows this. The weight of their betrayal pulls her sideways in her chair and pins the stroke-paralyzed side of her body against the uncomfortable metal armrest.  "Hey, Baby Girl," she says. "I been lookin' for you all day. How you doin'?"

I like the losers, the disenfranchised, the hurt and angry underdogs.  Maybe because I've always felt just a little out of place and uncomfortable in my own skin.

That's why I like the Pirate who lives down the alley from me. Mad as hell at the Historical Commission, angry with the cops and college students, gentle with his five year old daughter, mouthing the obscene words he hurls so she won't hear him spouting his irate truths.

I like the crack whore and her boyfriend, the way she tries to hard to befriend my dogs, trying to reassure them when she and her man suddenly spring out into the alleyway fresh from using or whatever it is they've been doing behind the dumpster.

And I dislike the moralistic, self-righteous do-gooders who claim they're only in it for peace, harmony and justice.  I dislike them intensely.  It's easy to hide behind the shield of piety.  It's easy to preach forgiveness.  It's rolling around in the trenches and having your ass handed to you a few times that teaches life's true lessons.  But as usual, I digress...

Writing Blocked

I'm blocked. Have been for too long to say. But I'm trying.  A few measly paragraphs.  Does it hook? Feedback anyone?

            I used to be normal, just like you.  Then one day I woke up and realized my kids had left home, my husband had traded me in on a newer model and I was now standing on the edge of a cliff called “The Rest of Your Life.”  
Shortly after that, due to a misprint on Craigslist and short bidding window, I became the proud new owner of a house on Tate Street.  A sweet, yellow, Dutch Colonial overlooking the college campus, right in the heart of the funky, downtown district.  I felt like I’d rediscovered the hippy girl I used to be-only a bit older and wiser.  Or so I thought.
            That was before I arrived home one day and found the Pirate’s dog leering at me through a gap in my own privacy fence.  I didn’t know it then but Fate was about to teach me a very valuable lesson-there are no U-turns on Life’s Highway.  


Goodbye, Belle

Today I said goodbye to Belle, my patient from the nursing home.  For the past 4 years I've spent a portion of almost every Tuesday with her but her funeral made me realize something- I knew a very small part of her.  In fact, it's that way with all of my patients.  I come in right before they go out.

I get to know and love people who most often no longer resemble the person their families and friends knew and loved...or in some cases, despised.  I walk in when almost everyone else has walked out.

Is this the carcass of life then? The last dregs? Or is it, as I've come to view it, the reduction of a person down to their very most basic essence? It is hard to be funny and wise when you're in pain, or suffering from dementia, but I find this in almost every single person I meet.

Belle was spoiled by her husband and when he died, I learned, became clingy and needy but also feisty and full of ribald jokes.  When I came along, she was going deaf.  She grieved for her home and husband. Couldn't understand why her friends and family had seemed to desert her. And eventually, she invented two new friends who stood by her until the end.

I miss the woman I never knew and treasure the friend I made during Belle's last few years. I will miss her.


I'm back....again! Bet you forgot what I even look like, it's been that long, huh?

 It's been a time of transition around here. For one thing, I've said goodbye to my sanctuary of the past five years, the Little Cabin in the Hollar. It was a hard decision but one born of necessity. It was time to make changes big and little in my life and in order to do so, I had to say goodbye to my little farm.

There have been many goodbyes and changes, some painful and a few hopeful. I live in-town now, surrounded by the vibrance of UNCG's college life, in an elderly Dutch Colonial that had been sorely abused by renters. With a little effort and elbow grease, it's coming back to life.

Still, even this new home may turn out to be temporary as it seems the winds of change aren't quite finished with me yet. That's all right because I have my eye on another battered gem a short distance away.

After all, houses are only brick and wood.  It takes family and friends to truly make a home. My hooligan boys are still as strong and present in my life as ever, although even our family's configuration is changing...for the better.  The Eldest Unnamed One will be getting married in April.  And the Youngest graduates from UNC and will be heading off to make his fortune in the Big City.

My dear, sweet lady in the nursing home, Belle, enjoyed one last wonderful Christmas, thanks to my cousin Omar and his wife's donation of a big, fancy wreath for her door.  Last week, after a battle with pneumonia, Belle died in hospice.  Her funeral is tomorrow, on Dad's birthday. Somehow this seems fitting.

There have been many sorrows these past six months, much grieving and loss. But it's almost Spring and I feel the beginnings of new possibilities.  The scent of Hope is in the air.

Some things remain the same and for those, as always, I am very thankful...

I'll try to be here more often...with tales from my new life in the "city."  Maybe I'll tell you about the Pirate Dog and his wild-eyed owner who live down the alley...He's not the Moonshiner but he's just as much of a character.