Love Revealed


Dear Blog,

I’m ashamed. It wasn’t my intent to neglect you. Really.

I was charmed by short stories contests and I needed all those ideas in hopes of getting published. I know, it was hurtful to ignore you for so long, but there is good news. I did get published and now I can share my winning entries with you. See, good things come from change. And now that I’m back, I’ll be sharing more often. I hope they make you smile.

Sincerely, Diane M. How

This short story was published in the 2014 Saturday Writer’s AnthologyUNDER THE SURFACE, Anthology #8.

Love revealed

I noted my morning appointment on the calendar.  The fine print underneath my scribble caught my attention.  Valentine’s Day.  It probably would have slipped by unnoticed had I not checked my schedule.

Amorous fantasies of this holiday had faded into reality sometime during our 40-plus years of marriage. Perhaps its complacency or indifference, whatever, but a simple exchange of a box of candy or a purchased card usually marks the occasion.

But, romanticism is incurable.  While the sea appears calm, under currents are never still.  Dreams, as translucent as they are, swirl just below the surface, waiting to be resurrected.  My romantic dream involves a scripted poem or a passionately profound thought, penned on linen paper, left on my pillow or tucked somewhere unexpected.

With my empty coffee cup placed in the already cluttered sink, I grabbed my coat and looked for my husband to say goodbye.

“I’ll wash those when I get back,” I nodded toward the kitchen.

“Ok.  Be safe.”  He gives me a quick peck before trailing off into the computer room.

Guess he didn’t remember either, I reason.  A deep sigh escaped my lips while I buckled the seat belt and pondered the dispassionate parting.  Even our kisses had faded to a mere brush of our lips.  I tried to remember the last time we’d hugged.

The thought dissipated when Willie Nelson’s voice echoed through the radio speakers. You Were Always on My Mind.  The song always makes me cry, so I pushed the scan button and searched for a distraction.

I pulled into the driveway of the couple I’ve come to visit and opened the car door.  The wicked, cold wind blew the notepaper from my hand, but I quickly caught it before it got away.  I grumbled under my breath while I fought to untangle the graying strands that whipped across my face as I walked to the entrance of the brick bungalow.

“Good morning, Mr. Smith.” I said to the slightly built fellow when he opened the aging red door.  “Just wanted to drop by for a short visit to see how you’re doing.”

“Please, please, come in out of the cold.”  The elderly man ushered me in and closed the door. I followed him as he shuffled past the antiquated brown couch into the tidy family room where his wife rested in a medical reclining chair.

“Look who came to see us.  It’s the hospice volunteer that called earlier.”  He grinned at the woman he had spent 67 years adoring.  I couldn’t help but notice the difference in their size.  Mrs. Smith outweighed her husband by at least 30 pounds.  How did he manage to get her into the chair, I wondered?

“Good morning Mrs. Smith.  Happy Valentine’s Day.”

The woman’s eyes darted in my direction then quickly returned to study the loose thread that dangled from the soft purple quilt wrapped around her legs.

“Oh, my.”  Mr. Smith clasped his wrinkled forehead.  “I completely forgot.  I’m not very good at remembering those things.  I should’ve bought her some flowers.”  The man berated himself as he leaned over and kissed the woman’s cheek.  “I’m sorry honey,” his voice barely audible.

“Habada, habada, habada, habada, habada.”  The robust woman smiled as she loudly proclaimed her repetitive gibberish reply.  She might be unintelligible but she’s seldom silent, I thought.

“Can you understand her?”  The 93-year-old’s voice paled in comparison to the volume coming from his wife.  His eyes pleaded with me to explain what she said.

Mr. Smith stroked his wife’s hand gently while he waited on my reply.

“Not really, but I think she forgives you.  Look at that beautiful smile.”

The man took a deep breath, patted his wife’s shoulder and wandered toward the kitchen.

“Sometimes, she seems happy, like today.  Other times, she fusses like she’s angry and her chant is more like an argument with herself, or maybe the disease.”  The old man’s voice quivered with emotion as he spoke.

“It must be difficult not knowing what she’s trying to say.”

I looked up at the framed certificate on the wall, recognition from a prominent senator for Mrs. Smith’s efforts as chairwoman of his campaign.  Next to it hung a plaque engraved with stellar remarks for her accomplishments as an instructor of English as a second language.

Every room was adorned with paintings created by Mrs. Smith.  On either side of the cherry wood china cabinet were two exquisitely detailed landscapes she painted while in Germany.  A portrait of a Japanese emperor was suspended over the piano.

Pleasant reminders of yesteryears, of happy times before Alzheimer’s disease invaded her brain and slowly stole away her ability to function independently.  It was an eleven year battle nearing the end.

“Can I help you?”  I asked as I watched Mr. Smith begin the daily routine.

“No.  I can manage,” he insisted.

The frail man picked up a plastic medicine bottle and studied it carefully before removing the cap.  He placed a pill in a ceramic bowl and then repeated the effort three more times.  Next, he prepared some instant oatmeal for the microwave.

“At least let me fix her scrambled egg.”  I suggested.

“No.  I know just how she likes it.  I have to stick to my routine or I’ll forget something.”

His eyes lingered on the microwave oven as if he was trying to decide which buttons to push.  I worried about the inevitable.  How much longer could he care for her in the home without more assistance?

I looked at the large metal contraption that consumed most of the dining room floor.  It looked like an oversize sling shot.  It was another sign that the disease was progressing rapidly.  “I see the medical lift arrived.  Will you be able to learn how to use it?”

“The nurse told me not to touch it.  She said it’ll help the staff when they give her a shower or move her from the bedroom to the chair.”  He muttered in a defeated voice.

“But if you can’t use it yourself, how are you going to get her up every day and then back to bed in the evening?  You’re going to need to make other arrangements soon.”  It was a subject I hated approaching as much as the man hated hearing.

“I’ll find a way.”  The proud man pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and lifted his glasses to dab his eyes.

The despondent look made me decide to table the discussion.

Mr. Smith wheeled his wife into the kitchen and secured her chair next to the table.  He picked up the bowl with the pills in it and using a pestle, he pulverized the contents into a white powder.  He then mixed all of it into some applesauce.

His wife continued to jabber as the proud man fed her each spoonful until every drop was scraped from the bowl.  Next, he tested the oatmeal with his lips to be sure it was the right temperature and consistency.  I felt like an intruder watching their intimate ritual.

I search for a new subject to discuss.  I decide my romantic curiosity needed to hear their love story again.

“How did you meet your wife?”

“We both grew up in small towns in southwest Missouri, not too far from each other.  I was home on leave from the Army and my buddy told me about this diner, so I decided to try it out. The misses strolled over to my booth, chewing gum and holding a pencil in one hand and a note pad in the other.  She had on a white pinafore apron and her curly red hair was tucked behind her ear.”  His eyes glistened as he spoke.  He paused to gently wipe a napkin across the woman’s lips.

“When I ordered toast and eggs, she scowled at me and told me I needed to gain some weight.”  He chuckled as he told the story.  “Those emerald green eyes hooked me and she pretty much ran the show ever since.”  He brushed his hand across her cheek.

I pointed to the collage of pictures hanging on the wall.

“You were an officer in the Army?”

“I was an airplane pilot During World War II.  She spent a lot of lonely days and nights worrying about being a widow.  But she never complained.  When the Korean War began, I flew a helicopter.  She wrote to me every day.  That’s what got me through each week.”

He nodded his head and glanced back toward his wife.  “We had some good times too.  She loved Germany and Japan.  She even learned to speak German and a little Japanese.  I think sometimes she speaks German when she’s talking.  She loved being an officer’s wife.  It wasn’t always easy, but she stayed by me through it all.”

“I can see how much you love her.  It shows in the way you fix her meals and give her the meds, even in the way you touch her so tenderly.”

“She took care of me for more than 50 years.  She kept me on schedule and made sure I remembered people’s names.  I couldn’t have done it without her.”  He gazed into her eyes as he spoke.

“I never told her how much I appreciated it.  I often forgot her birthday.  I seldom sent her flowers, never had a romantic bone in my body.  But I love her and hope she knows it.  Now, it’s my turn to take care of her,” he said as he brushed her thinning silver hair.  “I just hope I’m doing it half as well as she did.”

His soft spoken words made the tears spill from my eyes.  There it was.  Love in its most powerful form.  Tested and true.  Unwritten.  Unspoken.  Unconditional love.

I cleared my throat and wiped my eyes.  “Actions speak louder than words.  You’re doing just fine.”  I reassured the gentleman as I prepared to leave.  He walked me to the door and I gave his hand a gentle squeeze.

The morning replayed in my mind as I drove home.  No flowers, no candy, no card.  Yet, the profound love I had just witnessed left an imprint on my heart and inspired me to make a detour before going home.

A short time later, I pulled into the garage and gathered the grocery bags out of the back seat.  As I climbed the stairs of our split level house, I heard my husband get up from the couch and meet me at the top of the stairs.

“You went shopping?” he asked.

“Thought I’d fix us some steaks and potatoes for dinner tonight.”  I replied as I put the items away.

“Sorry, I forgot to wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day before you left,” he said.

The sun reflected on the shiny, clean counter top.  I glanced toward the sink and noticed the dishes had disappeared and the floor had been mopped.  I smiled to myself.

I drew him close and the unexpected passionate kiss I planted on his lips brought a smile to his face.  “I was going to say thanks, but actions speak louder than words,” I said as I took his hand and led him into the bedroom.

Preserving the Written Word


There are many benefits to having writing as a hobby, especially if the tools used are pen and paper. DSCN0788

Letting ink flow on unblemished, pre lined paper is an inexpensive opportunity to relieve stress, release unspoken emotions, provide entertainment and possibly fulfill a life-long dream, like publishing a book. Divulging one’s deepest fears, childhood memories or built-up resentments in private could save a person many dollars and hours in treatment. Besides, even if carrying years of unnecessary baggage buried deep inside doesn’t apply, perhaps a humorous antidote will emerge, providing a good laugh when needed.

In addition, scripting your thoughts can be done any time day or night. No reservations are necessary and inclement weather does not prohibit participation, in fact, it can provide a perfect setting, such as It was a dark and stormy night. Some of my favorite poetry spilled forth while sitting on a sandy beach in Maui while waiting for my daughter to get off from work.
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Whether it is five minutes or five hours, having two simple items within reach have made me feel I wasn’t wasting time while sitting and staring at four walls in a doctor’s office or waiting for the dryer to finish the cool down cycle.

While many people enjoy hobbies that require physical stamina, I’m sure there must be some calories burned during the challenge of writing. Why else would they call it an exercise? Of course, taking long walks provides me with loads of inspiration and sometimes I carry a small notebook or voice recorder to remind me of what it was – not that my memory is slipping or anything like that.

Yet, my strongest reason for writing with my trusty ballpoint and spiral notebook is to preserve the art of the written word. While I must confess that I have long used a laptop to record my stories and novels, I continue to scribble my first thoughts on a yellow pad or record them in a journal, DSCN0792which I keep close at hand at all times just in case a treasured thought floats by and justifies the effort.

One thing for sure, even though writing a thoughtful poem or interesting article may have slipped my mind over the years, I recognize my own handwriting and I know that I composed something that was worth committing to paper. It’s fun and satisfying to see how I’ve grown as a writer and a person. Life’s challenges have changed dramatically over the years, and so has my reaction to them.

So to all of the people who have not tried writing with good old fashioned pen and paper, I recommend turning off the television, silencing the phone, grabbing the nearest ink pen and blank piece of paper, and get writing. Who knows where it will take you! Give it a try and let me know if it feels as good to you as it does to me.

And the Countdown Begins!


Just a few days until the madness begins.

I heard about National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO) late in October last year.  I had no outline, no conception of a plot or climax; only a newspaper article that I had kept from 10 years ago about a wild horse sanctuary in Nevada.  During a writing class I took many years ago, I developed three characters that had found their way into my mind and visited often.  I introduced them to each other and they proceeded to tell me their story.

Honestly, each day I sat in front of my computer with no preconceived notion of what I would write next.  Yet, the characters knew and took me to places I could never have imagined and by the end of November, Burning Embers became a reality.

NANOWRIMO gives me the push I need to finally compose the novel that dances around in my head like bits of a tune whose words I can’t remember.  For those who have never taken the challenge, it is every procrastinators dream and nightmare, but well worth the effort.

Thursday, I will begin writing the sequel to my first novel.  This time I have developed an outline and will introduce a few new characters who have stopped by for a visit.  I haven’t really had time to get to know them, but I’m sure they will introduce themselves and unveil their true identity as the month progresses.

I’ve given fair warning to my family, stocked up on extra coffee and cleared a few hours each day on the calendar.  I’m excited and apprehensive.  It’s not an easy challenge, but most things in life that are worth it come with a price.  Can’t wait to see how the story unfolds.

Interested in joining me? Visithttp://nanowrimo.org

An Old Dog Or An Old Fool?????


I have always proclaimed my ineptness when it comes to computers and their infinite ability to make me feel ignorant, though never more than through this week’s efforts to the weekly writing challenge – And Now For Something Completely different.

How can it be so difficult to insert more than one picuture into a post?  It’s not like my portable einstein gives me a clue as to what I’m doing wrong- well, perhapps it does, but it is in a foreign techinical language that I have yet to master.

Still, I am a hopeful person, so I persist.

Perhaps my theme is designed to hold only one photo.  I may be on to something.  Let me struggle for another two days and see if I can get the grasp of this.  Oh look!  Third picture and I successfully changed positions.  Thank you new theme!!

Please tell me I am not the only one who struggles to make sense out of something that was designed to be so simplel  I need some support and encouragement.  Can an old dog learn new tricks or will I remain stuck in the paper and pen world until I fade away?

North, South, East or West?


Devoting time to the start of my third book and family emergencies have distracted me from writing on my blog recently, yet each day on my journey in life brings me closer to understanding the direction in which I am heading.

When I began my blog in March, my search for a purposeful life (after retirement) was evident in my posts What Now and What Now Continued.   I hoped that my mission would become evident to me through my writing.  I often find that the veiled truth is revealed in such subtle ways that only come to light when I script my thoughts.  I have struggled to find a constant theme for my blog, but I may be getting closer to identifying a topic of interest that would bring the results for which I was hoping.

Volunteering with a hospice group has provided me with an opportunity to share my poetry and books in a way that provides comfort and/or distraction to others who desperately want to find peace in their lives.  The satisfaction that it brings to me means more to me than any number of books that I have sold.  I would love to incorporate more of that into my blog.

Another opportunity to share what I consider a gift also presented itself this week.  I am blessed me with a calm, insightful demeanor that seems to sooth others during a time of crisis.  I find unexpected words of comfort and often, friends and family have related that my efforts helped them find peace.

My niece has been a caregiver for her grandmother for five years.  Her grandma is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease and the time has come where caring for her in her home is no longer advisable.  While some may find it a relief to relinquish the responsibility, others struggle with strong emotions, such as guilt, that surface during such a transition.  Hopefully, my words are helping her to get through this painful experience.

My niece said she could not stop crying.  I shared with her that grieving is not only appropriate, but necessary.  It comforted her to realize what a special gift she has been given in the unique relationship with her grandmother she has served.  It cannot be replicated by anyone who did not serve in the same role.  For every difficult moment, there were many cherishing memories that she will be able to hold in her heart for years to come.

As caregiver, she served in a parenting role, always setting limits and having to insist on difficult tasks like bathing and taking medicines.  Now she has the opportunity to return to the role of granddaughter and enjoy the remaining time by bringing love and tenderness to her grandmother during her final days.

The Peaks and Valleys of my life have blessed me with peace, strength, and a sort of wisdom, which are meant to be shared through my blog.  Perhaps a new opportunity presents itself.

The Right Words at the Right Time


One of the books I picked up recently at a used book sale is The RIGHT WORDS at the RIGHT TIME by Marlo Thomas  and Friends.  It was published more than a decade ago, yet the messages contained within the pages are timeless.  The amazing short stories, by well-known men and women, describe how something that someone said changed their lives forever.

I loved that I could pick up the book and read two or three stories when I had a few extra minutes.  Many of the messages were profound, some were surprising, a few were familiar.  Did you know that Dwight Eisenhower once said “Never question another man’s motive.  His wisdom, yes, but never his motives.”  Isn’t that thought provoking?

The only problem with the book is, it wasn’t enough.  I could have read two or three more volumes.

Words have a powerful impact on my life.  Many times someone has said something that stuck with me and helped me see a new angle on an issue.  Wouldn’t it be great if I could remember some of them now?  I could share them with other bloggers or start collecting them for future reference when  a senior moment sets in and stifles my attempt to write an interesting post.

Oooh, oooh, wait!  One truly inspirational thought comes to mind.  I’m going to start typing fast so I don’t forget it.

My brother Rob once told me “Problems are merely unresolved opportunities.”  That piece of advice helped me to focus on the result rather than be blocked by the challenge.  It helped me work through countless events at work and in my personal life.

OK, another one just flashed by, except I have no idea who said it and when I searched for the author on the internet, I got numerous unconfirmed responses.  Whereever you go, there you are.

Maybe you can help satisfy my need for more.  What right words were spoken to you or read at the right time?   Would you be willing to share?  I hope so.  My thirst for knowledge has not been satified.