Oddments

In search of story


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November 29.22: Coping, but barely

January 1983 was a low point in my life. I turned 40 and was starting over. I took a deep breath, went back to grad school, got an assistantship, and was assigned a cubicle.

My cubicle mate had different hours and we started leaving notes for each other. Give an English major a scrap of lined paper and stand back. Thus began our friendship.

A few years later, she developed a brain tumor which was initially misdiagnosed. It was a terrible fight she fought, but she survived. Not only that, but she earned her PhD at the same time.

That was Sandy. Sandra Littleton Uetz.

Almost thirty years later came the second tumor. She fought again but this time it was different.

I have lost a dear friend.

I don’t think I’m the only one who wonders.  When, at some low point in life, we find ourselves sharing a desk with a stranger who becomes a dear friend, what is that? Do we call it the grace of God, the luck of the Irish, random chance, some cosmic plan, serendipity?

And when the dear friend is at her low point, and we can’t do anything, what do we call it?

She had great teaching ideas, baked a mean cherry pie, was seriously conversant with Pogo and Krazy Kat and Mark Twain, collected buttons and handkerchiefs, loved books, the St. Louis Cardinals, cats, little dogs, birds, and, most deeply, her family. She was a woman of faith and fear — to live with the possibility of recurring tumors is to be just that.

One December Sandy and I drove to Valparaiso, where the square around the old courthouse had been developed into little shops. Christmas carols — REAL Christmas carols — were piped outside. We wallowed in happy nostalgia. It was one of our best hobnobbings. I promise to remember it.

One of her favorite poems, and perhaps her most favorite, is this, by Robert Frost:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

 

May the angels lead you, Sandy.

 

 


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April 30.22: Coping, but barely

Where are the toes

with which we hold

when we reach, teetering,

for the tender goaled?

When life twangs

our bearings like rubber band

and we, poor spitballs,

clawless in foot and hand,

hover on the verge of shot

yet, refusing to be denied,

become the squirrel,

wind and gravity defied,

and clutch that feeble twig,

how do we dare?

Does the soul have claws

that hold us there?

 

 

It seems appropriate, dear reader, to end Poetry Month with a question since I always start it with a question: what is poetry? Still scratching my head on that one.


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December 29.21: Coping

Last night I flipped the light switch in an upstairs bedroom and the whole house went dark. I asked every homeowner’s favorite question: now what? Then lights back on. Then off. On. Off. Off…off…

I found myself in a world of India ink. Not a glimmer, not the tiniest shard of light. Groping is a graceless ballet, but just so did I find the stairs, the banister, and warily make my way down. Why, you may ask, did I not think to grab the flashlight that’s upstairs? Because it’s me.

Bumping along, I looked out the front windows. A world without light. Disorienting, unsettling. As I inched through the house, a timid glow startled me. My battery candles! Beacons! My feet steadied immediately, and I made it to the back door, next to my shadowy Christmas tree. The houses across the pond were black. Not a light anywhere. It was as though every person in the world was gone but me.

A lightless world is an empty world.

The power company did me the courtesy of calling to tell me there was a power outage. Really?

Why are the robots never programmed to tell the customer what happened? So far as I could tell, I flipped the switch in an upstairs bedroom and shut down a small city.

How oppressive that solid, unforgiving darkness. What a slamming shut of life. Our fears are never far from us, are they?

 

 


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September 15.21: Coping

CAN YOU READ, YOU NEANDERTHAL? IT’S A SCHOOL ZONE! 25 MPH SPEED LIMIT! I DON’T LIKE IT EITHER, YOU STUPID BOZO, BUT THAT’S THE WAY IT IS! GET A BRAIN AND GET OFF MY BUMPER, YOU MORON!!!

My blog subtitle is “Coping.” See how well I’m doing?

I’ve coped by blogging, gardening, cursing rabbits and geese and my muse, baking (and eating), housecleaning (seriously), painting walls, and everything in between.

Maybe it’s more accurate to say I’ve tried to cope.

My younger son says we are dealing with low-level trauma, and I like that way of putting it. This is not an annoyance or a mere bother; this is trauma and it is permeating our lives like ammonia fumes. We are all stressed. We are exhausted from being exhausted.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for me. I am becoming a name-caller. YOU DASH-DASHED PEA-BRAINED YOKEL WITH THE WET COUGH! WEAR A MASK! YES, YOU, YOU WITLESS CREEP! Even though this is yelled in my head, it’s not something I would have mind-yelled before. This worries me.

It can justly be argued that these people deserve to be yelled at, to be tarred and feathered, that there’s such a thing as too much tolerance, that if we don’t at least mind-yell we’ll implode. Nonetheless, I am not sure that my creeping impulse to commit mayhem is exactly coping. 

Some day my subtitle will change. I hope I will too.

 

 


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April 7.21: Coping

Until the next pandemic

we’ll pack our masks away;

I’ve no idea when,

but it will be some day.

They’ll go into the drawer

inscribed The Fibber McGee,

where souvenirs and remnants

await next century.

When comes that barefaced day

we hug with glad impunity,

when everyone is safe

with ’round-the globe immunity,

I think that I might feel

a twinge of slight regret

and miss that unloved sign

of one-for-all mindset.

I’ll miss the muffled greeting of

“Hey, I like your mask!”

acclaimed by passerby

I didn’t even ask.

And then I must return

to pre-pandemic place

where no one ever hails me

with “Hey, I like your face!”