Power of Touch


Some time ago, a friend and fellow author, Amanda Bretz (https://amandabretz.wordpress.com), described a tender moment between herself and her father. No words were uttered. A simple squeeze of the hand spoke as loud as a pastor from the pulpit. The power of touch amazes and encourages me, especially when words are not enough.

As a writer, I draw upon an infinite source of words to fill the pages of a book, yet there are times when words are not enough to convey the intensity of the moment. A gentle kiss, a stroke of a hand on one’s cheek, a strong embrace conveys emotions unreached by mere speech.

Perhaps that was why I wrote the following poem some years ago as my mother suffered the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Although she could not verbalize her thoughts, we spent many hours just holding hands and sharing gentle squeezes, along with heartfelt smiles. I think if she could have expressed her thoughts, she would have said these words.

      Timeless Treasure

The memories of yesterday
Will become distorted over time
The written word will lose its strength
A verse will lose its rhyme

The laughs we shared will pass by me
My words will make no sense
Such simple things we once enjoyed
Will now seem rather dense

Old photographs will fade away
Your face may lose its name
You’ll think I’ve traveled far away
But my heart will know you came

No need for words, no bouquets bright
No trinkets made of gold
No promise for a miracle
Just your hand for me to hold

Your love’s the only treasure
It will endure through all the pain
Just speak to me in silence
You’ll be my sunshine in all the rain

Have you been struggling to find the right words? Could the answer be in the power of touch?

Tell me your story. I’d love to hear it.

Her Lifeline


Most of my posts are passionately lighthearted. Even the most humorous writers have a serious moment now and then. A tissue may be required.

Her Lifeline

 

It was a foolish dream, tucked in the corner of her heart for more than thirty years, still it had survived, even kept her moving forward during difficult times, until today.

Rose Ellen stared into the mirror and assessed the changes since she had last seen him. A little sagging, a few more greys, but not too bad she decided. Life had been good to her. No need for a walker, no hearing aids, no serious medical issues, her memory still intact. Yes, she had been blessed in so many ways, yet the longing for something more was always there.

Anticipation accompanied Rose on the walk to the beach. It was the good kind. The kind that made her feel like a young woman again. She took off her sandals and let the ocean splash over her feet as she strolled along the shore, lost in the memory of his warm embrace and passionate kiss. It brought unexpected flutters in her belly, just like the first time. The delicious scent of his woodsy aftershave lingered in the air and she wondered if it was her imagination or someone walking past.

She glanced around and found no one in sight. Her thoughts drifted again and she smiled to herself, picturing him standing on a beach in cargo shorts and t-shirt. His well-toned body and dimpled smile had drawn her attention, but she’d been enamored by his kindred spirit and passion for life. In between work discussions, he’d asked about her dreams and encouraged her, even showed her, how those dreams could be reached. `Dreams don’t just come true, you need a plan. And a plan B` he always said.

He never focused on his own accomplishments, which were significant, rather, he built her self-esteem by recognizing her knowledge and abilities. He urged her to return to school to finish her degree. Their friendship grew as the years passed. They shared childhood memories and family stories that brought laughter and tears. Often they discussed values and strong beliefs, as if testing each other. She never met a man so willing to help others, expecting nothing in return.

He was a man of character and she ached to tell him how deeply she loved him. She knew she’d never summon the courage to say the words that pressed on her lips with every encounter.

A small child squealed nearby and stirred Rose back to the present. The sun beat on her uncovered head and made her sway. She decided to rest for a little while on a bench under a towering palm tree. The glare from the water penetrated through her sunglasses and she closed her eyes, drifting off again.

The intense heat reminded her of the day that changed everything in her life. It started with such a simple conversation.

“I’m leaving early to mark the trail in Ste. Genevieve for my club’s next 10K walk.” Rose’s voice did not reflect her normal enthusiasm.

“What’s up? You seem bothered by something.”

“Oh, it’s nothing, really. My co-chair can’t make it, so I’m going alone. I’m just a little apprehensive about being in an unfamiliar rural area.”

“I’ll take you.”

“Don’t be silly. You don’t need to waste vacation time on me. I’ll be fine.”

“Consider it done. I’ll clear it with the boss and meet you by my car at noon.”

A smile formed on Rose’s face as she shook her head side to side. “You’re something else. Is there anything you wouldn’t do for someone?”

His dimple surfaced as a grin spread across his face. “For you, no.” He turned and walked into his boss’ office.

Rose tried not to read too much into his response, but excitement and nervous energy made the morning pass quickly. Rose felt her heart pound, like a smitten teenager, during the hour drive to the location. Each time their eyes met she looked away, afraid that he could read her mind. How foolish she’d feel if she blurted it out. She wanted to believe that he held similar feelings for her, but she buried the thought.

***

They finished marking the trail, ending in a park near a lake. The temperature neared 100 degrees as they stood and admired the tranquil waters.

“We could just jump in and cool off.” He laughed as he skipped a stone across the still lake.

“I love the water. It always make me feel at peace.” Rose wiped sweat from her brow with the sleeve of her blouse. “Guess we’d better be going. We’ll both be stuck in traffic if we wait much longer.” Rose tightened the cap on her bottle of water and turned to walk away.

He reached out and took her free hand, pulling her close. “I love you.”

Rose didn’t resist his embrace. She let the tears stream down her face without any effort to conceal them. His lips met hers with an urgent, passionate force. He offered a second, softer kiss that took her breath away.

“I love you too.” He kissed her again. She looked into his deep blue eyes and released a heavy sigh. “I thought those words would follow me to the grave, without ever telling you.”

Neither spoke much on the drive back to the office. He reached across the console and squeezed her hand, a mixture of joy and pain in his eyes. Their unspoken words hung in the air. Both knew that nothing more would come of the revelation. The price to their families would be too great. An occasional, discreet kiss in the parking lot, an especially long squeeze of the hand when no one was looking, silent gestures that only the two of them understood, would have to be enough. An affair of the heart, that’s what they had called it.

Before summer’s end, a job transfer took him overseas. They remained in touch, often corresponding by mail. Cautious to never reveal the depth of their love, each read between the lines. The distance between them probably saved their marriages. The temptation to be together would have been too much.

“That’s why God made oceans,” he once wrote her. It was then that their dream took form. A lifeline they shared. An unrealistic plan that neither controlled. Should both spouses pass before they did, they would meet in Maui on the beach. Many years had passed before they reconnected. Today they’d share another passionate kiss without the guilt of hurting someone else.

The scent of his aftershave, stronger, closer this time, stirred Rose from her nap. She cupped her hand over her eyes, blocking the sun. There he stood, looking just as she remembered. The sandy brown hair showed no hints of grey. His sturdy, toned body much too fit for someone his age. She closed her eyes again, unable to accept the reality of the vision before her.

“Rose.”

She forced herself to look again, then looked away, the pain too much to handle. “When?” The word choked from her dry throat.

“Last week. I’m so sorry.” The young man’s eyes grew moist as he stepped closer and placed an arm around her shoulder.

“You look just like your dad.”

“I hear that all the time. It’s a compliment.”

Rose nodded in agreement. “How did you know I’d be here?”

“He asked me to come, just before he passed.” The younger version of her true love held her as she wept. When she stilled, he continued talking. “Dad loved you very much. He told me after Mom died, but I knew that from the first time I saw you together. Remember the time we all went to the ballgame together?”

She nodded. “I remember.”

“I respected him for not cheating on my mother. And you too.”

The handsome man pulled something from the pocket of his shorts and handed it to Rose.

“He carried this with him wherever he traveled. He said it was his way of keeping you near.”

The gold, four-leaf clover still shined like the day she gave it to the love of her life.

“He said he’d see you on the other side.”

“Always have plan B.” Rose forced a smile and clutched the treasure to her chest.

 

This story won first place in the Saturday Writers July,  2016 “The Sense of Scents” contest.

Gratitude Challenge


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Unsubstantial fear seldom lingers long enough to take root in my mind and suck me into its clutches. Perhaps my eternal optimism makes me somewhat delusional in that I always strive for a positive outcome when faced with a negative situation. Some might caution that concerns about the aging process fall into the realism category rather than just an apparition. As I near the age of collecting social security, the search for a balance between the two worlds becomes more difficult.

While the days of scheduled doses of meds for high blood pressure remain at arms length, wrestling with uncle Arthur (aka: arthritis) has become all too familiar. During one of my restless nights of trying to find a position that did not apply pressure to an unhappy hip or knee, which is nearly impossible if you sleep on your side, my mind began to slip into a dark abyss. Abhorring the notion of getting back up to take something for the pain, I began searching for an alternative distraction. Prayer often serves as my relief and after a few decades of the Rosary, I eventually squirmed myself into an acceptable shape with the use of extra pillows and a little luck.

As I mentally traveled some of the by-ways in my journey, I wondered if I could somehow avoid the daily use of pills by pre-medicating with gratitude. Could Philosophical Schools of Thought delay the inevitable aches that accompany the Golden Years? And with that in mind, I challenged myself to write at least one good fortune each day, for at least a month, and see if it made a difference. Even if it doesn’t aide in warding off the need to swallow an Aleve now and then, the resulting list of blessings might come in handy when (or if) I become physically or mentally challenged and need an affirmation of the prosperity I have enjoyed for so long.

And so began the month of August. With pen in hand, I began testing my inspirational hypothesis.

August 1: Today I’m thankful for more than 22,000 days of exceptionally good health. So many others have been challenged from birth, yet for some reason, I have been one of the lucky ones. Short of a broken wrist and irritated gall bladder, my visits to the doctor have been few and far between. Meanwhile, my volunteer hospice visits warn me how fortunate I have been. Even my worst day does not compare with what others are experiencing.

August 2: I joke about the challenges of being together with my spouse 24/7. Seems we’re glued at the hip. Reality is, I am blessed to share my retired years with my caring and playful partner. Just last year, three of my dear friends buried their husbands, leaving them to struggle alone. Everyday household chores, decisions and adjustments to finances create new hurdles for them to overcome, besides the silence of an empty home and the loss of a faithful friend with whom to share their thoughts. My heart aches for each of them and watching their struggles deepens my appreciation for the gift of being married nearly 42 years.

August 3: Bright morning rays pour through my bedroom window long before I’m ready to rise each morning. A room-darkening shade could take care of that, but the greeting serves as a reminder that my eyesight allows me to revere a sunrise at my choosing. A world void of masterfully detailed butterflies, brilliantly perfect flowers and warm precious smiles would be difficult to endure. DSCN0372Fall Bouquet

August 4: Mother’s don’t get much better than the one who raised and nurtured me. She would have been 85 today and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her unselfish ways. Tears still fill my eyes with each memory, yet, I strive to celebrate the 82 years she spent with our family, and not dwell on the years she has been gone. Mom and PumpkinsHappy Birthday Mom. Miss you bunches.

I’ll continue to share my thoughts through my blog as the month progresses. Why not join me in my gratitude challenge and share some of your thoughts.

Four Legged Friends – From Fear to Fondness


I’ve often heard the phrase A dog is man’s best friend. I am sure that is true for most, but for me, the unexpected appearance of a canine can send me into an immediate panic attack. A neighbor’s ferocious boxer probably was at the core of my fear. Unlike me, my daughter never met a dog she didn’t love. If something happened to Lassie http://www.lassie.com/ during an afternoon show, she cried for nearly 24 hours until the next episode aired, when she could be reassured that she was alive and well.

I once tolerated a dog named Henry that my daughter toted everywhere as a child. Heck, I even wrote stories about his adventures. There was the time his arm was crudely torn off in a kidnapping attempt. Another time, he was rescued from drowning in a swimming pool. Henry traveled with us and was known to play hide and seek in the hotel lobby or restaurant on numerous occasions. Heck, I nearly faced abandonment charges when he decided to take a nap in a baby crib at a Top Value Stamp store. The charges were dropped after I drove another 80 mile roundtrip to retrieve him.

Henry and Henrietta
When Henry met Henrietta, my daughter’s interest seemed to wane. The pair took up residence on her their homemade sleeping bags and became sedentary. By then my daughter was old enough to know the difference between a stuffed animal and a live dog and she frequently begged for the latter. My husband and I agreed to a compromise when a neighbor entrusted to us a funny looking creature that almost looked like a dog, a Peruvian guinea pig http://www.guinea-pig-paradise.com/guinea-pig-breeds.html.

My daughter named him Opie and he was the first of many. His most fierce bite was a nibble and he didn’t require much maintenance. In fact, most of his time was spent in solitary confinement, inside a large cage.
patches_puddlesMuffy, Buffy, Harley, Puddles and Patches followed.

Two small water turtles also called our house home for a while until they were stolen from the swimming pool in the side yard. With my bawling daughter in hand, I visited our neighbor and suggested that I was pretty sure her son was the thief. A short time later, she returned the two miniature pets with an apology. My daughter turned to her dad and asked they could take them to the river and release them to their natural habitat. It was a pretty mature decision for a young child.

I always felt guilty that we did not afford our daughter the pleasures of a four-legged best friend, but nearly any unexpected sound that resembles a dog set off an alarm in my head that released enough adrenalin to cause a panic reaction. Even as a child my daughter seemed to understand and she recognized my problem was not imaginary. As she grew older, she found my condition humerous at times.

For instance, I was browsing through a general store with my, then, teenage daughter. In another isle, she found a wooden duck with a long handle on it and rubber flappers on the wheels that made a slapping noise when it was pushed. kinderkram-duck-wooden-push-toy[1] The sound effect was much like that of paws trotting and caused me to jump and squeal, like a fool. When I realized the toy would not harm me, I looked around the room where a dozen people were bent over with laughter.

Unless a dog was under lock and key, I did not enter a house. I would sit in a car rather than take a chance, no matter how many times I was assured He wouldn’t hurt a flea. Most of my friends and family accommodated my fear. However, I won’t forget the time I took my nieces and nephews back to their house after an overnight stay. I was greeted by their full grown German Shepherd as she stood on his hind legs and planted her huge paws on my shoulders. I can still see the look of confusion in his eyes when I screamed bloody murder.

I’m ashamed to admit that I even offered up my daughter to an aggressive Doberman Pincher when he charged out from a nearby garage and threatened to eat me alive. I grabbed my daughter by the shoulders and placed her between me and the beast, jumping up and down and yelling to the top of my lungs. She bravely confronted the aggressor while commanding me to shut up and stand still. The owner stood nearby laughing hysterically. What can I say? Desperate people do desperate things.

The opportunity to redeem myself came when a friend offered a black Labrador puppy to my husband. My husband contacted our daughter, who lived nearby, and asked if she was interested. She eagerly accepted the offer and a few weeks later, Hammie became part of the family. KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I knew it was time for me to tackle my problem because I didn’t want my daughter to have to choose between me or the dog. I embraced the chance to bond with Hammie while he was small enough to be loveable. My husband and daughter were pleased to see the change and even caught me kissing his little head once.

Hammie has stayed overnight at our house often and I’ve even attempted to walk him on my own. Unfortunately, he flunked out of obedience school. The word stay means nothing to him and he now weighs 60 pounds. At the risk of landing face-first on the asphalt when he eyes a squirrel or rabbit and takes off, I usually hand over the leash to my husband and walk by his side. He’d much prefer my husband anyway.
hammyA

Being an only child (yes, I’m talking about the dog), Hammie is spoiled and enjoys being the center of attention. He loves to explore every nook and cranny of our home with one limitation. He is terrified of the plastic gate that is used to contain him to an area. It’s not a bad thing sometimes. He doesn’t try to push it down or escape. In fact, he will not pass over the gate even if it falls down. He demonstrated his limitation when I fell down the stairs and he rushed to my rescue. Forced with the decision to cross the fallen gate and come to my aid or retreat to edge of the stairs and whimper sadly on my behalf, he chose the latter.

Hammie’s role as king of the house has been challenged during the past six weeks with the arrival of Herkie, a 47 pound Basset Hound. herki_bed My daughter offered to care for her until she completes her required stay before flying to Hawaii to be reunited with her owners. Herkie adjusted quickly to her new surroundings. She confidently plopped herself down on Hammie’s bed and took a nap. The first night, Hammie was beside himself trying to understand the change. He laid at the end of the bed and stared at Herkie most of the night. Overall, they get along fairly well, but Hammie still seems a bit miffed about the arrangement.

My daughter and her boyfriend took the dogs to a lake house over the weekend. They needed to leave the house for a while and put both dogs in an upstairs bedroom with the plastic gate across the entrance to the room to keep them confined. Upon return, they found Herkie milling around downstairs while Hammie sat whining on the other side of the flattened gate upstairs in the bedroom. Even with the temptation to join his buddy roaming freely about the house, Hammie feared the wrath of the plastic object. (I can relate. Fear is fear!)

An internal alarm still goes off occasionally when a dog approaches unexpectedly, but my reactions are not quite as traumatic as they once were. When I met Herkie for the first time, I reached out my hand to pet her and she anxiously jumped to greet me so I withdrew my offer. No problem for Herkie, she just rolled over on her back and begged for a belly rub, for which I obliged. I’m making progress. Actually, I’ve replaced fear with fondness – at least that’s what I’m working toward.

How about you? Do you have a fear you’re working to overcome?

Bountiful Baskets


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It’s funny how a thought sticks in your mind until it finds its way into a post. This weekend, my daughter and I made baskets while at Girl Scout Camp Tuckaho http://www.girlscoutsem.org/Programs/Camp/Camp-Tuckaho.aspx. We’ve both been involved in Girl Scouts since 1977 and as a treat, each year about nearly 100 adult volunteers from two districts come together to share talents, laughter and treasured memories with one another.

One of the many baskets displayed by our instructor, Pat Vogel, http://www.bittersweetbasketsandsupply.com/ was titled Bountiful Basket and it made its way into our conversations enough times that it settled in my brain. I returned home late Sunday evening and dragged myself into bed. (Hey, weaving baskets for hours on end and walking across icy fields to get from lodge to lodge was hard work!) Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the laundry basket bursting at the seems with clothes that needed washing. I smiled and decided to wait until morning to tackle that chore.

My thoughts continued to turn to bountiful baskets as I rested my still tender fingers against my disgustingly bloated stomach. Seemed I overfilled the bread basket that occupies the area where I used to have a waist. One thing for sure, we always eat well while at any Girl Scout function; it goes hand to hand, or maybe I should say mouth, with a bunch of women and fresh country air.

As I tried to fall asleep, I realized that although my body was worn, my mind was traveling at a high rate of speed. It wasn’t long before I found myself sitting in front of my laptop. Why? I had recevied the most bountiful blessing on Friday when my last post, Rock, Paper, Laptop, was Freshly Pressed. It was the first time for me and I was overwhelmed by the response. By the time I returned on Sunday, more than 1500 fellow bloggers had viewed my post and many of them took the time to hit the “like” button and/or leave a comment. What an extraordinary event!

To all those who took the time to read my post, write a comment, put a smile on my face with the click of button, or follow my blog, thank you, thank you, thank you! I hope all of you have bountiful baskets filled with great things this week.

Fight or Flight – The Black Cloud Theory (Part 1)


Today’s DP Post challenge reminded me of a story that I wrote sometime ago.  It is an excerp from my book, Peaks and Valleys.  I’ve divided it into two parts and hope you enjoy my Fight or Flight experience enough to read the second one tomorrow.

I have a theory that there are celestial forces that cause a black cloud to align over my head like a hovering spacecraft on a regular basis.   I have no concrete proof of this theory, but it repeats itself frequently enough that I am pretty sure I am right.

I encountered this unfortunate occurrence the first time my husband had to travel without us to Louisiana for a few weeks for his job.  Suddenly, I was like a single parent of our four-year-old daughter and sole caretaker of our mobile home.  Always the optimist, I believed this would be a great opportunity to show I could manage both tasks successfully.  The first few days weren’t bad.  I dropped Laura off at daycare, went to work, came home and fixed dinner.  Laura whimpered at bedtime when her daddy was not there to tuck in his baby girl.  The weekend came and I was oblivious to the unexplainable nebula of darkness that formed in the skies above.

Laura’s blue eyes widened with excitement as she watched me push the nearly immovable coffee table across the room.  An innocent look of wonder crossed Laura’s face as I unfolded the full size sofa-sleeper.  I had planned our little living room camp-out the night before as I tried comforting Laura to sleep.  I hoped she would someday cherish the memory as much as I cherished having a sleep over at my grandparent’s home when I was small.  Her long blond braids bounced as she grabbed her tattered flannel blanket and her hand-me-down stuffed dog, Henry, and jumped onto the newly made bed.

I read her a story and soon she was fast asleep.  Despite the metal frame from the stow-away bed poking my back and hips, I too drifted off to sleep about midnight.

“BAM! BAM! BAM!”   I was jolted awake by what sounded like shotgun blasts which vibrated the wall near my head.  It was pitch black when I jumped out of bed and slammed both shins into the anvil of a table.  I probably would have paused to tend to my injuries, but my heart was pounding out of my chest with anticipation of the next round of ammo coming through the wall.  I stumbled across the room and worked my trembling fingers between the slats on the tightly closed blinds, trying hopelessly to see from where the ghastly noise had come.

Silence filled the room.  All I could see was the familiar trailer next door and a starlit sky above it.  Anxiously, I moved from room to room checking every window in great expectation of some horrific monster with a gun.  At each window I saw nothing, but peaceful moonlit yards.  My breathing began to slow and my heart no longer pounded louder than the clock on the wall.

         I did not imagine that noise, I told myself.   I glanced at my daughter sleeping soundly and began to question my sanity even more.  If the noise had been as loud as I remember, how could she still be asleep?

A few minutes passed when I heard a light rap on a distant door and a voice say, “Hey Mike, get up.  The police are on the way.”   It was Jerry, the neighbor, from two trailers up the road trying to stir my next door neighbor.  He seemed relatively calm as he walked back and forth waiting for Mike to come out.

I could not go back to bed until I knew what had happened.  I quickly got dressed and decided to go outside to get an explanation.  I listened as Jerry explained to Mike that he had been home from work for just a short while when he heard the engine of his new car start up.  He grabbed his loaded 20-gauge shotgun and chased the would-be thieves down to my trailer where he pulled the trigger and let off a few rounds.  Now I understood why the shots I heard were so close to my house.  The boys had jumped out of his car and it rolled until it was stopped by Mike’s car.

The only casualties from the shotgun blast were a few cars across the street which looked like they had been sandblasted.  Within a few minutes, the police arrived with a canine unit and having a great fear of dogs, I excused myself to check on Laura.  She was still sleeping soundly and oblivious to the excitement of the night.  I put on a pot of coffee and settled down with a paperback until dawn.

to be continued…….

Fall is Fading


My mother loved to make our annual trip to the apple orchard.  This time of year brings melancholy moments and today, my thoughts turned to her.  This poem found its way into my collection after one of our visits.  Perhaps another simple soul will enjoy it too.

Here’s to you mom.  You’re always just a thought away.

Memories of Autumn

Leaves painted in gold, slowly drift to the ground

Crisp autumn winds make them dance all around

The apples are ready, wagons stuffed full of hay

The trip to the orchard makes for a wonderful day

Mums bursting in color,Purple, rust and bright yellow

The cider’s been brewing, it’s sweet, warm and mellow

The sun’s warm on my back, fall has made quite a splash

I cherish the moment, it will fade in a flash