Shattered – Mishelle Christene, Purple Ink and Fountain Pens

My friend.

Once, she lost a loved one.

We mourned, we cried, we laughed at the wrong things. Or maybe the right things.

She didn’t feel well.

We met and drank coffee  and Pepsi and solved the world’s problems and tried to sort our parenthood and wifeliness, and a good Christian life.

We prayed.

She got the diagnosis. I refused to believe.

We broke bread and cried a little and prayed a lot.

And I saw her strength, and her youth, and her  sweet soul.

And I accepted what the doctors said, but I knew she’d beat it.

Or so I convinced myself.

And we decided hat we’d concentrate on things more fun than the world’s problems.

And I went home and prayed some more.

She had surgery.  We chatted, we talked, she was tired and sore.

But feeling better every day.

We made plans to get together when she left the hospital.

And she got home from the hospital, but I couldn’t get over there, new job and all.

So we chatted some more.  And she was feeling better.

A little better every day.

So we decided I’d be taking her for coffee when she felt just a little bit better.

Soon.

And I waited for her to tell me to come on over, with beverages and purple ink that she probably already had in her stash anyways.

And I messaged, but she didn’t respond.

And then she died.

Just like that.

Shattered.

I still owed you a coffee my friend. 

Dammit.

 

lyrics and music for hymn god be with you till we meet again

God Be With You Till We Meet Again

lyrics and music for hymn god be with you till we meet again

Its no secret that I’ve been a hospice volunteer for over a decade now.  I continue to see my little piece of involvement in end of life care as a privilege and a gift.  I know that when my feelings change, it’ll be time to move on to something else. But I’m not there yet. Even after all these years, sometimes I experience a goosebumps moment.

Recently, I regularly spent time with a bedridden patient and sat with her while her husband got out of the house and ran a few errands.  He’d visit with me a bit, make sure she was settled, assure her he’d be back shortly.  Then he’d take off to take care of the little things that we don’t even think about.  Little things become a logistical issue when you’re a full-item caregiver.  While he was gone, she and I would visit until she tired, then she’d rest.  I’d stay close, within touching range, in her line of sight, and I’d read a book until he returned.  She always woke up when he returned.

One visit, while she was sleeping, he initiated a frank conversation about her death and his own life after she was gone.  He said he’d be okay if she just died in her sleep one night, and that their sons would be around to keep an eye on him.  And he promised me that he’d take care of himself, that he’d be okay.

The next week, while he was out, she spoke to me about how her husband and sons would manage without her. She said she knew they’d be heartbroken and lonely, but that it would be okay anyhow.  She told me she was finally going to see her son again – the one who’d died in a horrific accident decades ago.  She said she’d see me again, but neither of us said “next week”. She drifted off to sleep and I stayed by her side, holding her hand feeling bones and warmth and heartbeat beneath delicate skin .  Her eyes fluttered open as her husband returned from his appointment.  This tiny little bedridden woman flashed me to most brilliant smile then turned her gaze towards him.

We chatted for a bit, then my visit time ended and I prepared to leave. I leaned down over the hospital bed,  she and I shared a gentle hug.  I turned towards her husband, standing right there.  Instead of releasing me from our hug, he pulled me closer, over to her bed. He placed my hand on her shoulder.  He said we were going to sing together, God Be With You Till We Meet Again.  I’m sorry to admit I didn’t know the words.  So I hummed along and listened as she gathered enough breath to get a few of the lyrics out.  He, a man very near his ninth decade, sang with the voice of  youth.  He sang with strength, and sorrow, and utter faith and trust.  We ended the song with tears in our eyes, and we said goodbye.

Then, as he did every single week,  he asked if I’d taken a look at the literature he’d left for me.  Photos and testimonials and pamphlets for a miracle health product which had saved his life.  Yes, it was an amway product pitch, each and every visit. That  slightly awkward multi-level marketing opportunity provided us a transition from this confidential little life story back to the day-t0-day of the world around us.  Plus, you know, it was an amazing opportunity, too.

As I headed  towards my car, I heard the click of the deadbolt, just as I’d heard each and every week since I’d starting seeing these two.  In the car,  I paused before starting the ignition. I reminded myself that goodbyes are part of the deal when spending time with people who are dying.  I took a few breaths, gathered my composure, and mustered up some patience for the inevitable highway traffic I was about to face.  And I drove off.

Later, I contacted the hospice office and asked for an update on the patient’s condition.  I was told that her decline continued but there was no evidence that her passing was imminent.  Of course, we never can tell for certain, but there were no changes that would suggest she would die very soon.

But she knew.  And he knew.  And so did I.

We knew I’d never again enter that overheated room, where she liked the drapes closed  for privacy.  That I wouldn’t  hear about their farm, long since sold,  or sift through and admire photos of children and grandchildren.  I knew that I’d never again gently deflect his requests for me to share marketing materials with all my friends. We knew that we’d not have another opportunity to thank one another for the gift of our time together.

And she passed away, quietly, in her sleep.

Goodbye.

 

 

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Stick Figure of Tim

Tipping According to Tim

Stick Figure of Tipping TimUpdate on this this tipping post.

I’ve got tipping down pat at home, but I’ve recently spent some time in Europe.   Friends who live here said you pay what your’e charged, you don’t have to worry about doing math in your head, tax and tip are included.  Easy, right?  Not.  So my friends, some who have traveled far more extensively than me, said of course you have to tip, just only 10%.  Then, when I asked politely, I was told by locals that only Americans tip.  Of course they’ll not say no, but really, it isn’t necessary.  To top it off, I am handed a restaurant tab that say, in bold “service not included”.  So, am I to tip and expect quiet sniggering behind my back?  Or am I to pay the exact amount and risk being cheap?  Or… a possible solution, how about pretending I don’t know the local currency and having the round up to the nearest whatever?  Yes, I have seen some do this.  Creative, I suppose.  Instead of being tightfisted or American (why should that even be an issue?), I’m just not very smart.   Hmm.

 

Husband and I pretty much agree to disagree when it comes to tipping. He’s old school – 15%, a dollar a bag, etc.  In contrast, I’ve worked for tips and tend to be (possibly) overly-generous.  Ask my barista.  It is unlikely we’ll ever be on the same page, but there are worse things a marriage can suffer.

And…here’s Tim to the rescue.  His blog is a romp to read, plus he has stick figures.  And charts.  I love charts.  So, now we all know where we fall on the tipping spectrum. At least based on a relatively small survey of New Yorkers a couple of years back.  Thanks, Tim, for doing the heavy lifting.

Here’s the link: Wait But Why on Tipping

Seashore Shawl

Noblesville, Yarn, and My Seashore Shawl

Seashore ShawlOn a recent trip, I found myself in the delightful town of  Noblesville Indiana, with plans to meet some friends for lunch at Rosie’s Place.   Someday I want to live in a town like Noblesville, a quiet suburb just northeast of Indianapolis. As I walked to lunch I couldn’t help but notice the courthouse that anchored downtown Noblesville –  backed against the White River and  surrounded by shops and businesses which then gave way to homes built before I was born.  Perfect.

I’d done my research ahead of time, and found not only the lovely diner where we’d meet, but a yarn store that looked quite promising.  So, of course, I made a point to arrive a little early to check out  Black Sheep Yarn and Fiber Arts,  housed in a beautiful old Victorian conveniently right next to public parking.  Which cost twenty-five cents an hour. Twenty Five Cents an Hour.

 

So I found this Freia yarn I hadn’t seen before.  It caught my attention and I’ll tell you why .  First, the name was Freia*.  Freia is an old Nordic name., lso spelled Freyja, Freja, and Freya.  It means “lady” and is the name of the goddess of love, beauty, war and death in Norse mythology.  Freya also happens to be the name of one of my sisters. And, in my lifetime, I’ve met very few people blessed with that moniker.  I’ve heard it has recently become popular in Great Britain – I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open on my next trip across the pond.  In any case, so the name caught my attention.  And the color ways… oh my!  Well, and then as I looked more closely – this yarn is merino/silk and well worth a quick fondle.  I was enamored.  In any case, this delightful little skein made it into my bag, the back of my car, and after a more than a few hundred miles, onto my needles at home.  And you can see the results – my Seashore Shawl.  I’m pleased with the results, I received a couple of compliments, and, well, life is pretty good.

 

* For more information about Freia Fibers, check out their site: Freia Fibers.  But be warned – that delicious merino/silk is not available online, but only through a limited number of retailers.  I’ve put in a request at my LYS and the owner tells me she’s on the waiting list.  Fingers crossed.

parsley growing in my garden

Parsley

parsley-in-bedParsley!  Who would think this humble herb would have such strong attachment to my Italian heritage?

It is early spring,  cold and damp enough to require extra layers. One of those sun-barely-up mornings that calls me to wander the yard and see whats up.  I’m in my jammies and bare feet, against every ounce of my common sense adultness.  All around me is tinged a warm sort of pink from the rising sun.  No cars, no planes, no music or doorbells or conversations, just an occasional twitter or tweet, the kind that birds make.  Emergence and rebirth, the scent of damp earth, a scampering bunny escaping the threat of me… this time of year a survey of my city-lot size domain of green brings peace, stillness, a calm.  Steam swirled up from my coffee cup, my only source of warmth. It’d be a short exploration.

As I wandered into my rain-soaked garden I  saw determined parsley plants pushing up through the mud.  This year, they’ve beat they’ve managed to beat the chives and the daffodils.  Determined little plants!  Back in the day, my Italian grandmother, Nonni, grew  parsley.  She was in California, so her garden had bundles of green year-round.  They grew in a long bed that followed the fence delineating property boundaries.  On the other side, the Gaspars had concrete, but my grandparents yard was green everywhere.  The parsley shared space with lilies of the valley.  Wow, I wish I’d have a high definition camera back then.  Or any camera, for that matter.  I think I was six, and of course preserving what was plain old normal at Nonni and Grandpa’s never crossed my mind.  Now, decades later, I can still see, smell, feel that little tiny piece of my past.

Back then, the only parsley everyone else knew about was that curly stuff. It usually showed up on a restaurant plate next to the baked potato.  And nobody ever ate it, ever!

But my Nonni grew flat-leaf parsley from seed she’d brought from Roccamonfina. That parsley came across the Atlantic in steerage, tucked away in a little packet just like the ones that held future tomato and zucchini and pepper plants.  Nonni nurtured and pampered and encouraged those little seeds into a small but productive garden in the tiny lot they shared with several families Methuen.  Then they made it over to Lawrence, again a small city lot, hardly enough sun, but they grew and ate every year, and saved seeds for the next season.  Finally, a big move to sunny southern California.  Oh my, the garden flourished!  Grandpa was retired by then, and he would spend half his days puttering, trimming his roses, plucking tomato beetles, shooing the chickens, trimming the lawn. Grandpa had a green thumb.

Nonni would hand me the shears and scoot me out, the screen door banging behind me.   And I would  snip parsley, just a little from each plant, not too much, so more would grow back for next time. I’d come back into the house with an armful of fragrant greenery.  Then I’d help her mince and mash that parsley with salt and lots of garlic, making a pungent paste. It would seem to take forever to come together into the absolutely smooth consistency Nonni required.  Later, my mother would be express her horror that  Nonni had let a youngster handle a sharp knife.  That perfectly smooth paste would go into Nonni’s braciole. I still dream about that rolled steak and the cooked-all-day sauce that went with it.

Our Italian heritage is more than name, language, history.  We find our culture and our past in the simplest of things sometimes, and some of our strongest connections come at random… like walking through a rain-soaked herb garden just after dawn on an early spring morning.