Saturday, March 31, 2012

Friday, March 30, 2012

Wet Cement

The memories are a gift, a legacy of hours sitting in circles in Grandma's back yard. We serenaded the neighborhood with folk songs and harmony's beauty that hopefully camouflaged the bad voices. There is a hodge-podge of instruments including kazoos. We made up in love of music what we lacked in stage quality.

And now my daughters have taken the passed baton. They sing in the other room, squeezed in together at the desk chair, intent on the screen. The YouTube karaoke is blaring. So are their voices. They belt out, uninhibited, Adele and Taylor Swift. Their harmony is sweet and sometimes gone-off-key. They laugh, regroup, and pick up where they left off. For hours they sing and fill my home with their music, and my mind with my memories, until we send them off to bed. They don't know it, but they are cementing their own family memories.

It is a gift they give me, but it is also a gift my family's legacy gives them. Because music speaks to the part of us that never forgets. My mother-in-law, succumbing to Alzheimer's, struggles with our names but can still sing How Great Thou Art. She's falling asleep to all that she has known except the lyrical and melodic.

Music reaches us in places that are untouchable by other means and cements its place there, a finger in wet cement scrawling, "Music was here," that hardens through the years into immeasurable gift.

Today's five minute Friday word is Gift.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

When Flu Is Answer to Prayer

Who prays that it is the flu?

He sat in the doctor's office, and when they siphoned blood into a syringe and mentioned white counts, he couldn't stop his mind from sliding the slope into a time when monitoring every cell in his blood told us how long his clinic days would be. Some days they drew blood twice, occasionally thrice. He hates counting blood cells.

So he prays for flu while they swab his nasal membrane.

I had the flu once, when I was pregnant 12 years ago, and it's not your average cold. It's hardly an answer to prayer.

But it is for Mike, and, really, it's already too late. His mind is back there now, remembering what he longs to forget. Feeling terrible from the flu feels akin to cancer, and how he hates feeling sick.

He doesn't really know how to feel bad anymore. Mike's perfected feeling good. It's a life mission now. He eats well, exercises daily without fail (even with the flu apparently), and guards his sleep. These things insulate him from the past, the pain, and the fight of your life, literally. These are the only things you can do to put comfortable distance between cancer and health. That, and pray it's flu.

Yesterday he pulled out the face masks from the back of the closet, behind the box of leftover syringes we used to use to inject medication to stimulate red and white cell growth. The masked man waded through the neighborhood pollen, the old athlete in him trying to "walk it off."

Later that night, I watch him, agitated, staring at the ceiling at 1:24 in the morning, unable to sleep. I know his thoughts are teasing him.  He is wrestling the onset of a panic attack. That's when I, too, am tempted to slide the slope. I pray silently beside him that he pins his opponent to the mat and wins the match.

Back when he was fighting cancer, there was no mental wrestling, only time and energy to combat the real enemy, cancer. He was too busy surviving to engage in mind games. And that's how I know it's just flu. I closed my eyes relieved, pray Mike rests, and thank God for flu. 

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, ~James 1:2

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Finding God in Almost-Black Fingernail Polish

It was my first assignment. The editor has read my writing, and even asked to print some of it. It makes me

But this is different. An assignment is faith in the unseen. I'm being entrusted to write a print-worthy article ahead of time, before there is evidence of a well-written piece. And I don't even have this kind of faith in myself. 

The feature necessitates an interview with a teenager and her mother. How hard can that be? I have three teens of my own, I am a mother, and we already know what to talk about — her story. Easy, right?

But I'm still reeling from my own story unfolding yesterday, and I'm distracted. I find out the day before that the mom is the owner of another magazine, which means she knows about publishing articles and interviews and will see that I'm a fake  novice. She will recognize my mistakes. I will be found out, and I think I'm humiliated even before I ring the doorbell. But I push myself forward into the doorbell and wait, counting the two strikes already against me.

She answers the door and glows like campfire kindling, all sixteen years of her. I notice almost-black fingernail polish chipping, and it finds my almost-black insecurity and chips away at it. We find seats in the living room, and I clumsily prod my new voice recorder into action.

She leans back into her seat and into her past to tell her story while I lean into my faith and find the assurance of things hoped for.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Odds: Kelly

Edited to Add: I wrote this on Saturday to post on Monday, but Kelly's house burned to the ground last night. She, her husband and her two children escaped with their lives. Please pray for my new-found Kelly and her family? I so appreciate it, friends.

: :

My phone whistles the sound of a new email. I'm sitting at my desk, and it's a blog comment, so I click through.
Hi Dawn, it's me.... Kelly. Every year at this time, I think of you...for weeks. I just happened to google you and somehow came upon this sight, pressed one button and BAM I saw "The Gate". It has been ten minutes, and I am still covered in goosebumps with my heart pounding at the sight of it, and the memories of that moment. How we made it through that is indeed a miracle. We were so young... and I remember it like it was yesterday. In slow motion, swinging on the gate, the bottom hinge breaking, worried we'd get in trouble, trying to move it, seeing it fall, seeing you run, watching it fall... horrifying. trying to lift it, looking around for help.... screaming gut wrenching screams, frozen but moving, looking desperately for help. running in circles screaming, then by some crazy miracle, watching those girls lift that thing off of you and slide you out. I cannot believe I just found all this... still trembling. Wow. I hope you get this message and know that you are always in my heart. Would love to reconnect. xo Kelly
I realize when I finish reading that I am no longer sitting but standing, trembling. I hear knocking, but it's only my heart, so I continue tapping out a frantic response wondering if she will ever see it. The earth's axis is oddly off kilter, so I sit to regain my balance while all my life swirls a slow vortex before me.

Her instant reply tells me she has not left the page. She couldn't, wouldn't. She's hopeful, and in short order we are on the phone screaming each other's name into each other's ear. The familiar sound is surreal.

What are the odds?

We connect on Facebook and synapses are firing, memories are flashing. We can't get enough of each other. I am a wreck. I can't work. Or sit. Or think a straight thought--for two days so far. It's the same for Kelly.
It happens like this:
Kelly's Status:   Today I have reconnected with a long lost childhood friend, Dawn Crowninshield Gonzalez. We went through a horrible and terrifying event when we were just little girls of 10. Lost touch years ago, but on the anniversary every March, I think of her and remember. Today I decided to do another search for her, and somehow stumbled upon a blog she had written just a few weeks ago, on the anniversary, and just like that, we were on the phone. Don't ever doubt the power of the universe to bring things back to you...good and bad. Amazing.
Dawn: Kelly, the anniversary is really March 3. I'm having trouble working glad you found me. :) Really grinning ear to ear.
Kelly: oh believe me, I know the date... Amazing to talk with you!!! Will have to spend some time catching up on everything. Looking forward to it! xo
Dawn: This is making me want to get on a plane and head straight for Boston. I called Wayne to tell him, because I couldn't stand it. It's like Christmas!
Kelly: I know!! I wish we could go for a long lunch!! Do you ever come up here???
Dawn: My dad lives in Boxford, and we've just reconnected in the last two years. He's come to visit the past two summers, but the last time we were up there was about 5 years ago. Not sure when we'll be back in the area, but if and when we do, you and I are getting together, girl! I still can't believe you found me.
Kelly: Had it not been for the picture of the gate, and your mentioning me in the post, I might not have actually made contact. So happy you did. :)
Dawn: And I am glad you did. It's so good to be found. What a day.
June: Oh Kelly, dear I ask what happened?
Lori: Dawn Crowninsheild! How are you! I just saw your name in Kelly's post and it made me smile. :-) Yeah, Kelly!
Kelly: ugh.. the most traumatic moment of my childhood, probably of my life. Growing up in Andover, my parents signed us up at the Phillips Academy ice skating club where we could ice skate every weekend, and bring a friend. This one good friend of mine, Dawn, who moved into my neighborhood from Alabama when we were 3, was never allowed to come. Her mother was kind of protective. Anyway.. this one particular weekend, she was able to come. So we skated all afternoon, and when it was over, we waited up by this gate for my mother to pick us up. A 10 or 12 foot wrought iron gate. In 1979, these things were not secured, and we were swinging back and forth on the gate... switching sides and riding it back and forth, weeee...
Karen: I remember it, too! That gate is enormous!
Kelly: When all of a sudden, one of the hinges broke, and the outside bottom corner of the gate hit the pavement. we thought we were going to get in trouble for breaking the gate. I thought maybe we could move it back to the full open position but it wouldn't budge. This was wrought iron and huge. you know how heavy a wrought iron fry pan is, right? multiply that weight by a thousand. suddenly, the second hinge let go with a loud thud. I turned to look at saw it leaning, falling.... I saw my friend running with her arms covering her head... I saw she was never gonna make it.....

Kelly: when all of a sudden.... SLAM!!! It fell on top of her and pinned her to the ground with the most hideous clang that only wrought iron on concrete can make....
Kelly: and I was like....'Dawn?' "DAWN???" "DDDAAAAWWWN??!?!!!" I just remember screaming and looking down at her between the iron slats on the gate, she was unconscious... or dead.... I freaked out. I was ten years old. there was nobody around.... I ran back to the rink for help, just screamed "the gate, the gate, dawn, the gate, HELP' and ran back up to the gate. when I looked, there were 2 high school girls standing there. One of them somehow in one of those adrenaline fuelled superhuman strength things, lifted that gate off of her and the other girl reached in and pulled her out.
Kelly: I was completely in a panic, and she was not moving, and was bleeding and her body looked a bit mangled. Then the ambulances and police and my mother showed up. It was hideous. she was very badly injured and spent hours in surgery. fractured pelvis, ruptured spleen [It was my bladder], internal bleeding, I think a fractured skull.
Kelly: She was hospitalized and then bed ridden for months after... and it was all just awful. Then a few months later, they moved very suddenly to Mississippi and we had kept in touch a little in the beginning, but then lost each other at least 28 years ago, maybe more. I blamed myself for this accident for years and years and years. Every March 3rd, I think of her, and that gate... and this year was no different. She was on my mind this morning, so i decided to peek online to see what I could find, and I found her, and found a blog she had written like 10 days ago, about that very day, with a picture of that very gate.... and she talked about me, and the horror that we went through....
Kelly: So I posted on the blog, and she saw it immediately, and we spoke for the first time in probably 30 years.... she is alive and well.  Thank God. I have been flooded with memories of it all day long.... I may have to go see that gate. I have avoided that area ever since the accident... too much to deal with, and guilt is a horrible thing. But finding an old friend is amazing.

Dawn: Kelly, I am in tears reading this story that I know, but don't know, from your perspective for the first time. And, oh my, how traumatic it was for you too. It wasn't our fault, yours or mine. It was an accident. I never dreamed that blog post would pull you out of nowhere back into my life. Oh happy day!
Joelle: This just simultaneously broke my heart and renewed my faith in the universe.
Kelly: I am in tears writing it! Bitter sweet. I have got to pull it together here.. I gotta go make dinner for the kids! LOLOL. Deep Breaths. Today is a GOOD day.
Dawn: I'm thinking the same thing about dinner. But I'm in the attic instead looking for the tape recorded call from your mother to mine to tell her of the accident. You are going to hear this one day, Kelly. God kept me alive. I might have bled to death before they could have cut me out from under there. And there's a tape, too, of you guys from school. Do you remember taking a tape recorder to school for everyone to record their well wishes? I still have it! No school work must have happened that day for any 5th grade class. Oh my. So overwhelming. I have a picture of us, too, Kelly, somewhere. I am on crutches, you are next to me and we were in my front yard. I have got to find that picture!
Dawn: And those of you who remember me from Andover, please friend me. I'd love to reconnect with you all. Mostly they're good memories. :)
Danyelle: Dawn we never met but I know this story all to well... I feel a lot of closure and new beginnings for you and Kelly! This is an awesome Facebook story :)
Dawn: Danyelle, how do you know this story so well? From Kelly?
Danyelle: Yes.
Kelly: That day is also My Gate Story. It impacted me and haunted me for years. Danyelle and I met in 7th or 8th grade & remained friends for this day.
(I had tried to share all this to my wall and said that it was my gate story from Kelly's perspective.)
Dawn: Kelly, it IS your story too. I think I never realize how traumatized you were until today. It will link us forever. You have to remember that I have no real memory of the actual events. I don't even remember switching sides. I remember swinging. That's it. You were traumatized for years in ways I wasn't.
Kelly: We each were scarred that day. But time has a way of healing everything, making it less horrific over time. Its all good now :)
Deana: Amazing!! Glad you found each other ♥

: :

At the time or our accident, there was turmoil taking place in my family, boiling over really. As soon as doctors allowed me to stand on my feet again, mom moved us abruptly from Massachusetts to Mississippi. I wasn't fully recovered, but I was well enough to travel, so we did.

While I was in the hospital a nurse washed my hair -- twice in the month I was there. My broken pelvis kept me from bearing my own body's weight, so I laid in a hospital bed, and she leaned over my brokenness, pouring warm water from a pitcher over my matted hair. The basin that caught it was propped roughly under my neck and emptied repeatedly. I would need dry clothes, and my bed clean sheets when it was over. It was tedious and much work, but she must have known clean hair can heal a little girl.

My right eye is scarred now, the one that squints after the skull fracture at my eye socket. Emergency exploratory surgery left my torso unsightly, and I would never again wear a bikini, not ever. Kelly had been mercifully unharmed, safe on the opposite side of the gate when it fell. It was my solace. In high school I envisioned her beautiful and bikini-clad, a balm to my bad quasi-memories.

But Kelly had no stitches to hold her together, no wise and tender nurse. It was 1979, before counseling helped kids when they'd been broken. She didn't even get to see me recovered and gain a measure of comfort in that because I was suddenly ripped from her life like a scab from our wounds that had not fully healed. That ordeal, ours, hers and mine, the same yet different, stung bright again just six weeks later when I vanished.

And this is how it was for 33 years, until I had the crazy thought that the odds might be in my favor.

High School Seniors: Mississippi and Massachusetts

Wounded, Healed, and Scarred
Friends Forever This Time

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Related Post:  Knowing the Odds: An Open Letter to My Rescuers

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Weekend Scripture

O Lord, I love the habitation of Your house
And the place where Your glory dwells.
Psalm 26:8

Joining two beautiful weekend communities, Sandra's and Deidra's.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Friday, March 9, 2012

I Do: Desire

The place is familiar where we put mutual loves ahead of our own. The first time they were infants and toddlers. There were magazines and support groups and advice for novices and commiseration with other new parents. We understood it was just for a time, and we were eager. We were young and buoyant.

This morning, I descended the stairs quietly at 6:15 dressed for work already, folded three loads, and washed last night's dishes. When I left, I turned the kitchen light off and said goodbye to no one in particular. I heard the kids, up now, getting dressed for another day of middle school and high school. You were still asleep because you always wait up for a son who comes home from work at 11:30 on a weeknight wanting to talk. I love you for this. I miss you for it too.

There are no support groups to help us now. We might just be a minority, you and me, parents of teenagers that are still married to each another. I'm in need of Can't Remember Our Last Night Out and POTS (parents of teenagers) International.

We've grown adept at putting the kids before the marriage. And why would we stop now, when we're so close to being finished? We're tired, but it's time to finish strong. We understand it's just for a time, and we're willing. But we're also turning gray.

We missed our anniversary last month. What do you say we celebrate it? We know sacrifice. We just didn't realize that we are worth it, too.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Knowing the Odds: An Open Letter to My Rescuers

I look at the picture of my grown self holding the gate with a rung, a space, a rung, a space. What are the odds that, when it fell and pinned me to the earth, my head would be trapped in a space, not crushed under wrought-iron rung? What are the odds? It's not the only thing I don't know.

This is the day every year I think of you girls. I don't know your names, but you were in high school and walking down the sidewalk, probably talking and laughing about boys or your latest hairstyle on a Saturday afternoon. I was ten and trapped.

How I gained your attention I do not know. Perhaps you heard Kelly or me scream, but I'm not sure either of us did. Maybe you heard the groan of the hinge as it let go, or the outside corner of the gate thud eerily to the concrete with the ping sound only metal makes. Maybe you didn't hear anything, but saw it happen with gaping eyes that flung your bodies into reaction before rational thought led you to a safer way of help.

I may never know, but I know this: I'm grateful.

Two nameless, faceless girls ran to my rescue thirty-three years ago today. Kelly went in search of an adult. I'm guessing she didn't recognize you for the unsuspecting heroes you were. One of you lifted and suspended hundreds of pounds from your teenage girl's bent bicepts. The other of you crawled under—crawled under!—reached me, and dragged me, and yourself, out from the impossible, crushing weight. And what are the odds of that?

The next day, my father and teenage brother tried to lift it like the high school Girl-Hercules did the day before, but their strength proved futile against wrought-iron. They couldn't even scoot it. Not even an inch. Not even with their love for their daughter and little sister, recovering in ICU, brain intact, but body mangled on the inside.

I remember none of it, not the falling gate, not the girls who delivered me to the medics, nor the ambulance that sped me to the operating room. Medical shock can have that affect on a person who suffers trauma if it's . . . well, traumatic enough. So I have facts that fall short of memory, as if I had read a biography. But I lived this miracle.

There are many things about that day I don't know, and I'm grateful for some of the not knowing. But you girls . . . I wonder, still, what made you rush courageously into danger for me, and I want to know. Since I've never saved anyone, I don't know that either.  I know not near enough of this, except how eternally grateful the receipient is.

So, girls? If you're out there? 

What are the odds that you're out there? And suddenly, I think the odds just might be in my favor. Why not?

And if they are, I'd like to know you,

and thank you.

With Jennifer today.
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