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Archive for the ‘sister’ Category


I woke this morning from a dream turned nightmare. It starts colorful and bright, euphoric and exciting.

I’m carrying my baby so beautiful no one can take their eyes from her. Her face shines up at me from my arms as I walk through the store, showing her everything and she taking it all in.

A knowing look from a familiar face catches my eye. The world is illusion, replaced by reality. The bundle of joy in my arms turns to a wad of filthy rags. There is no baby and there never has been.

The world turns grey and dark, sharp and hard. I feel their eyes on me, like pawing hands pulling me apart seeing everything I really am. Most look on horrified or disgusted, a few pity me. I want to disappear, to cease to exist. But I don’t. I’m on display, my crazy rantings are on display.

Hands are gently pushing me towards the doors.

My sister come rescuer whispers, “Everything will be okay.”

I feel reality so sharp, my body is bleeding from cuts no one can see. I’m covered and cannot move without wanting to cry out. But I don’t, the pain of humiliation is too great. I keep silent.

I woke this morning from a dream turned nightmare. I don’t know where it came from. I tell myself I’ve never had delusions. At least I don’t think I have.

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cutting apple

I wish I was a food designer. I’m sure they’re out there. People paid to come up with flavors of things like chips, jelly beans and protein bars.

I think a girl named Twig makes all the protein bar flavors. They all come in some kind of animal feed flavor – oats, wheat, or rice (crispy’s) and sugar.

Sure these things are good for a day or two and then they begin to wear on me. Fruit and grain, fruit and grain, day after day. Sure they throw in a few nuts every now and then, but it’s the same basic taste.

With my flavors I could open a “Protein Bar” Bar. So this is me ordering in my Protein Bar Bar.

“I’ll have the Chicken Fried Steak and Gravy Protein Bar, a side of Shrimp Fried Rice Protein Bar and a Margarita Protein Bar. Oh what the heck give me two Margarita Protein Bars. I’m not driving tonight.”

The waiter would chuckle and say, “Excellent choice, Madam.”

My sister would say, “Do you have the Lobster Dipped in Butter Protein Bar on the kids’ menu? I’m not very hungry. Can I substitute a Martini Protein Bar for the drink?”

I would roll my eyes behind her back and the waiter would chuckle again.

When he left I would say, “You know they have a special key on that computer that says “Spit in the Food” protein bar and he just used it on your order.”

She’d squawk, “No they don’t,” but she would closely inspect her food.

She thinks I don’t notice, but I do.

After she devours her little, tiny meal, she’d want a bite of mine which in reality would be half my food.

When I’m sick, I would have a Chicken Pot Pie Protein Bar and think about my Grandma.

And sometimes late at night when no one’s looking, I would have 4 or 5 Chocolate, Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream Protein Bars and maybe 2 or 3 Turtle Cheese Cake Protein Bars. The next day I would pretend I didn’t know who ate them.

Yeah, my protein bars would be like meals at the Jetson’s.

(This story does not in anyway reflect the things I might or might not do in reality. As for my sister who thinks your friends might see this and think it’s about you, you might want to consider why.)

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02 (5)

April

Uncertainty

April 1

I was cleaning off my desk. I wanted everything to be ready, just in case. There was a pile of self help books. All designed to help you figure out what you really want to do. I keep starting them, then tossing them aside. I’m not sure I ever really performed the exercises or answered the profound questions. Why do you need so many books to answer one simple question – “what should you do with your life”? I set them aside. Possible lymphoma the doctor had said. Perhaps, if she were right, I’d go through them during chemo.

I boxed up all my paints – oils, watercolors, pastels, stabilizers, thickeners, and brushes. I doubt I’ll be using them any time soon. Perhaps I should give them to some young artist, maybe the Allen boy. Art supplies are expensive and he’s in college. He’d appreciate them.

I found the paint set I got for my tenth birthday, tubes of acrylics in a little wooden box. There were plastic inserts used to mix the paints with just the right amount of water. I used these to create my first masterpiece of a horse, Old Billy, eating grass in front of the barn. The brushes are gone, the paints dried up and the plastic inserts have disintegrated, but I think I’ll keep them just the same.

I keep thinking about my mother, diagnosed with cancer at my age, dead two years later. But I don’t have to worry, I don’t have cancer.

I sorted through some old files and found sketches I’d made in high school. When I was young, I thought I’d be an artist, a painter. I’ve been painting and drawing for as long as I can remember. I don’t know what I’ll do with these old pictures, but I can’t throw them away.

When should I tell my family? My younger sister, Allie has depended on me since our parents died. I don’t want to worry her if it turns out to be nothing, but I don’t want to wait too long either. I just don’t want to worry anyone if I don’t have to.

For more in this story, select the Meet Me By the Gate tab at the top of the page.

 

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(To start from the beginning, check out the Meet Me by the Gate tab.)

July 11

Item # 40 – Pink floral china

Logan, my darling boy,

I hope you aren’t reading this until you are an old man with children and grandchildren, ready to retire with a wonderful wife. But if things don’t turn out the way I hope, I want you to have the pink floral china my mother and I brought back from Europe. And when you are married, I want you to use them often. Those dishes were never used enough.

***

 Charlie has been scarce most of the day. I guess he took my suggestion to get back to work to heart. It’s good for him. He needed to think about something else for a while. It wasn’t long before Allie stopped by. Without Ladies’ Guild, I guess she has time on her hands.

The painting in front of me was of Allie, not today’s Allie, the seven-year-old Allie. The dark lawn in the painting was forested with trees. Evening had set and fireflies flickered among the trees. At the edge of the canvas, just in the corner was the face of a little girl with red pig tails peering over the edge of the canvas. You could only see the top half of her head and her eyes. But those eyes told you a hundred stories of mischief.

“Remember when you left for college, it was just me and Grandma?” she was saying, peering over my shoulder much like the girl in my picture.

Allie picked up a bottle of water and sprayed herself in the face. How could someone look so glamorous and be so clumsy?

“I remember. You missed me so much you never wrote me.”

“Grandma was so sad. I hadn’t really noticed it until you left. When we lost our Mom, she lost her baby, her only child,” said Allie.

I hadn’t thought of what it must have been like for Grandma to watch her daughter get sick and die.

“I became her distraction,” Allie continued. “We’d grab copies of the latest fashion magazines and sit around in the evenings trying to decide which outfit to make next. She’d get out brown paper grocery bags and we piece together a pattern. It was amazing what she could do. Her creations looked like they came from the magazines. I’d try them on and she’d take pictures. I still have those pictures.”

She paused for a moment, staring out the window.

“I never knew.”

“That’s when I found my talent, my appearance. It’s all I really am. I know it deep down inside. I’ve made the best of what I had because I had nothing else,” she said.

“Allie, you’re more than looks.”

I wanted to tell her as long as she believed that, it would be true. The minute she realized she was more, she would be.  It sounded like something your mother or sister would say.

But Logan came bounding in as only a ten-year-old boy can.

“Hey Logan,” Allie called, “Are you going to visit your Dad or are you stuck with Granny Liv all summer?”

“Allie.”

Livia’s eyes narrowed. I’m sure Liv was not a nickname she wanted to encourage, let alone Granny.

“I didn’t realize you were here,” Livia continued.

“Cami says if she wanted a little bastard around, she would have had one of her own.”

I was shocked to hear that kind of language coming out of Logan’s mouth. I knew his new stepmom didn’t like children, but she needed to watch her language.

“Who’s Cami?” Livia asked, suddenly perking up.

“The latest replacement unit,” Allie explained. “She’s a socialite wanna be. You know her, she just joined the Guild.”

“Did she? And she called Logan a little bastard, did she?”

Livia’s eyebrow rose at a dangerous level while she drummed her finger nails on the table.

“I think Cami’s about to find Ladies Guild more difficult than she ever imagined,” Livia said, smiling at Allie.

The two of them conspiring together was a bit scary, but I was a happy to learn that Cami’s life was going to get more difficult.

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(To start from the beginning, check out the Meet Me By the Gate tab)

July 10

Item # 37 – Honeymoon photos

Charlie,

I want you to keep the picture of you and me on our honeymoon in New Orleans. I remember a jazz band playing while we danced in a square at sunset. I was dancing on clouds. It would make me happy to think that you will look at it every now and then and remember me.

 *** 

Charlie received a letter today from a little girl, Yamile in Sihisbamyo in the wilds of Peru. She was only five when he last saw her and her younger brother. Now her brother was sick. She wrote to Charlie for help. She begged him to hurry and come save her brother.

He folded the letter, tucked it in his pocket and went back to making my soup. Outwardly he acted as if nothing had happened, but his face had frozen in an odd look of hardened serenity as if it was taking all his will to appear peaceful. Periodically, he would stop what he was doing to grip the granite counter, staring at it, tracing the veins as if they were roads on a map.

He brought me my soup, patted me on the shoulder and asked how I was feeling. When had I stopped being his wife and become his patient? That’s how it was with Charlie and Allie to a lesser degree. I was becoming the sum of my illness. They were both so concerned I might break they were seeing less of me and more of my cancer.

So it was not out of pure selflessness that I told Charlie I was feeling better and didn’t really need him hovering over me. In truth my appetite had returned and my strength with it. I insisted he work on his project, check in with the engineers and students working with him and generally keep things moving. However, I didn’t expect not to see him for the rest of the day, but perhaps that wasn’t such a bad thing either. Maybe we both needed a break.

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(To start from the beginning, check out the Meet Me By the Gate tab)

July 9

Item # 36 – Christmas card from Grandma

Bryan,

I found this Christmas card in some of Mom’s old papers. She kept it all those years. I think she would want you to have it. I keep it in my purse hoping for a good time to give it to you, but I’m not sure that time will ever come. So if I haven’t given it to you yet, take it. They would want you to have – Grandma and Mom.

Remember I love you. We all love you.

Jo

 ***

 Bryan hadn’t answered any questions. In fact, he just added to them sending the table. I was going to make one more attempt to find the brother I was missing, the brother of my childhood.

When I pushed the door open and stepped into his world, I felt a pang of envy. He wasn’t in the main studio. Instead I found myself alone with a completed bronze horse and rider.

I heard the sound of steel hitting steel in the courtyard beyond the studio. I picked my way through saw horses holding plaster molds. Large chunks of granite and marble, their half hidden inhabitants waiting to be revealed. A woman roughed in bronze was reaching for the sky. Her face seemed sad almost pitiful.

In the courtyard, I found Bryan with a hammer in one hand and a chisel in the other working to free a sleek modern form swirling in and around itself from the tan granite. Dust had settled on his head and clothes mingling with his sweat, so that he almost looked like a sculpture come to life.

He saw me and paused mid-swing. It was hard to tell if he was expecting me or was shocked to see me.

“Back so soon. I was giving you a little more time.”

His hammer continued rhythmically slamming against his chisel.

“Why did you send that table?”

“Direct and to the point, you’ve changed since we were kids.”

“Why did you send a table from Olla Podrida?”

“I wanted you to know it’s not too late. You have a gift and it’s not too late to put it to use. It might take some time, but you can still be an artist. You have real talent,” he replied.

Bryan spoke in rhythm to his hammer.

“I’m afraid I’m past that now.”

My mind raced ahead to what my last days would be like if I went down the same path as Mom.

“You talk like you’re an old woman. You have plenty of time.”

Metal against metal rang clear.

“I’ve come to a point in my life I’m afraid I can’t turn back from.”

“You sound like Mom. She never had what it takes to make it,” he continued.

“She got sick. She didn’t give up.”

I knew she didn’t give up because, like me she never really started. I felt the need to defend myself through her.

“I know more about Mom’s illness than you ever will,” Bryan yelled.

He slammed his hammer into the granite, cracking the statue in half. The pieces fell to the ground with a heavy thud. His face was twisted with anger.

“What do you want Jo?” he asked.

“Some explanation of why.”

“There’s only pain back there. I’ve finally got my life together and I’m not going to let you drag me back.”

“I just want to know why? What happened? What did we do?”

“There’s no explanations, no answers. Why are you here? After all this time, what do you really want?” Bryan asked.

His voice sounded like his hammer, slamming each word.

“I don’t want anything. I just wanted to see how you were.”

“Is it money? Do you need money for drugs?”

“Drugs?”

Until starting the chemo and radiation, I’d never done drugs in my life and now only for nausea. I didn’t even smoke or drink.

“God, Jo,” his voice softened. “You look like hell. What are you on, meth?”

“Meth?”

He thought I was an addict. I looked at the window behind him. I wouldn’t have recognized the woman there. I’d lost at least forty pounds. My cheeks were hollow, my eyes dark, I looked tired.

“I have connections. I can get you into rehab,” he offered.

I remember how he looked when Mom was sick. He didn’t look that different from me now. He’d lost weight and looked tired all the time. He lost the look of a child, looking more and more beaten. I didn’t want to see him look like that again. Not when he looked at me anyway. He was right. I did want something from him. I wanted to use him as a crutch and he didn’t owe me that. I hadn’t bothered to find him until I was sick, until I needed him. I didn’t need to drag him back there.

I took the card he offered me, from some rehab center nearby. I left letting him think I was a meth addict rather than his worst nightmare.

God, let him have some peace. He seems to have been a long time coming to it. I’d rather he think I’m a drug addict than to know I have cancer.

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