Annoying

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I had a client once, Mrs. D, who was deeply depressed.  Her son hired me to come into her retirement home, get her up from bed and into the shower, dressed, visit the nurse’s station for her meds, then make it in time to the transport bus which would take her to the local senior center three times a week.  Without such assistance, encouragement, nagging–whatever you want to call it–she would remain in bed with the covers pulled over her head.  As she followed my endless instructions and suggestions throughout the steps of our routine, she reminded me of deeply pained molasses.

A few years in, Mrs. D suffered what so many aging people dread:  a fall.  She simply fell while walking down the hall, and she hurt herself badly enough that she ended up in nursing home care.  One of her sons made plans to move her out of the area and closer to his home a few states away.

Knowing that I wouldn’t be seeing her any more, I paid Mrs. D a visit in the nursing home prior to her departure.  She was, as usual, very quiet.  Her speech was slow and measured when she did talk, her economy of words so strict that they barely survived the fall from her lips into the freedom of unstifled air.

But she was perfectly clear.  And honest.  And concise.  As I bustled around her room, seeing if I could get her anything or help in some other way, Mrs. D spoke:

“You’re annoying.”

. . .

It’s ok.  You can laugh.

She was absolutely right.

I often sympathized with Mrs. D’s plight.  Why couldn’t the son just leave his poor mother alone?  If she wanted to crawl under the covers and simply waste away, wasn’t that her decision?  I felt like a bully some days getting her to move along through the steps that eventually put her on that bus to spend her day with a bunch of people she did not know nor care to get to know.  It must have been exhausting for her.

But there were other times when I would be treated to a glimpse of a beautiful sparkle in her deep brown eyes.  Usually when her dry humor found some cause to justify an appearance.  Those eyes spoke volumes.  In them I could recognize the lovely woman who resided with her family in various picture frames carefully placed along the living room window sill.

I hope Mrs. D was able to find some pleasure after she moved.  If she has passed on, I pray she is at peace and knows joy.

If I could speak to her again, have a chance to redo my goodbye, I would thank her.  For I also recognized myself in her eyes.  Not just the reflection of my annoying, over-zealous, Pollyanna tendencies, but also the deeper me that so much of that noise and clutter is designed to keep at bay.  Keep quiet.  Hidden.

I would thank her for doing more than simply putting up with me.  For showing me what courage is.  That it often involves the tiniest of steps, the simplest resolve.  That sometimes strength is found in surrender.  Or the simple act of taking the next breath.  And that honesty, with ourselves and with others, is a gift–even though it can be one of the most difficult to give and to receive.

* * * * * * * * * *

When you are gasping

grasping

from the depths

for sustenance

survival

relief from the beast

that grips your heart

in a velvet vice . . .

Who dares judge your choice

of life preserver?

(CE 2/12/14)

* * * * * * * * * *

This post is dedicated to three very special, courageous friends and, of course, Mrs. D.

Summer Snow

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I have become practically obsessed over the last couple of weeks with the mountain laurel (its scientific name, for anyone so inclined, is kalmia latifolia).   Tiny white buds first caught my attention as they started appearing on elegant evergreen shrubs that grow all around this park.  When the buds started to open, they were jaw-droppingly beautiful.  So, for today’s post I will share some of my favorite pictures of them.  I hope you enjoy!

Snowflakes in Summer!

Snowflakes in Summer …

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… starting to open up

Pink ones!

Pink ones!

a blushing snow storm

A blushing snow storm

declicate defined

Delicacy defined

Floral clouds dripping petals

Floral clouds dripping petals

Snow balls sparkling in the morning sun

Summer snowballs reflecting the morning sun

Bloomsicles!

Bloomsicles!

wandering

Gently twisting limbs

twisting

Elegance wanders

a brown-cloaked hitchhiker

A browned cloak falls

Grounded

Grounded …

Grounded!

… on a soft green cushion …

I love winter to spring!

… Summer springs!

 

Words

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I just finished reading the most incredible book I’ve read in ages:  The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.  Apparently it was made into a movie, but I don’t have the stamina for that.  Besides, there is something simply fitting about experiencing the impact of a story about the power of words directly from the author’s own hand, rather than through someone else’s cinematic interpretation.  Images are born and nurtured by each reader’s beating heart rather than plastered fully grown into their brain.

It has been quite some time since I’ve been able to read something that I knew was going to be sad.  I gave up the cathartic pleasure of having a good cry over a book or a movie years ago.  It was no longer a pleasure and rather than being cathartic, it simply hurt.  Badly.

The Book Thief absolutely brought out the tears, for it is beyond sad.  But it is also hopeful and, dare I say, pure.  The writing is haunting, extremely personal, almost poetic.  Bursts of raw, honest-to-the-bone humor help to keep the reader balanced until they reach the end of this high-wire act of fictional non-fiction.

Mr. Zusak’s tale is framed by Nazi Germany, and the vehicle for the story is death itself.  Death personified.  Death, who manages to become quite a sympathetic–even delicate–persona.

The main focus of the book (I won’t call her a heroine, as there are many characters here that earn the status of hero/heroine, no matter how small) is a young girl, Liesel Meminger.  A book thief.  Hungry for words, for understanding, for healing.  One of the main characters is a Jewish man, Max, who is hiding from the omnipresent specter of Hitler.  At the mercy of strangers and with absolutely nothing tangible left of his own, Max embodies the power and beauty of the word, as well as the danger and the horror.

Other equally critical players include Liesel’s foster parents, Rosa and Hans, and her best friend, Rudy.  I fell in love with each of them.  I fear I am slighting them terribly by not accounting their importance to Liesel and to the story.  But I am not here to give everything away, only to encourage more readers.

The depth of the characters in The Book Thief is boundless.  I felt I knew them better than most of the people in my life.  For Mr. Zusak–with the help of his insightful narrator, Death–delves deeply into their hearts and souls, whether they be a major player or a minor one, with extraordinary precision and care.

I don’t want to dissuade anyone from reading this work because they are reluctant to be subjected to the kinds of emotions that war and death can elicit.  Please rest assured that the saddest, most difficult parts are treated with great respect.  With gentle consideration of the reader and no less consideration for much beloved characters.

The real gift of The Book Thief was the awareness it brought forth of the critical importance of words.  Written, spoken, implied.  Often used for evil purposes.  To manipulate.  But more often spoken by a gentle, true, loving heart.  And therein lies the hope.  And the humanity.