Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

through fading light

She drifts through fading light
Heavy with good old days
And nights of celestial fare
When aging memories signified
Faded minds and shrinking lives
Cemented in the here and now
Reliving ghosts of yesterdays
Remnants of fruit gone sweetly sour
With age and bitter longing

Written on the airplane after reading yet again Emily Dickinson’s poem “These are the days….”

My poem is a comment on aging and the conceit of the young. I’m thinking of the way my own young eyeballs used to roll in their sockets when the “old” folks got going. Relentlessly they recalled and relived their happiest, most longed-for yesterdays. How silly! Don’t they know the past is gone? And then there are all those not-so-longed for yesterdays.

To my mind these aging relics were out of touch. Couldn’t they see the relentless coming and going of life’s seasons? Yet even then I was already collecting and hoarding my own memories. Preparing for days when I, like all those old folks, revisit the glories and not-so-glorious memories of yesterday that hover just beyond my grasp.

We can’t relive the past, We can, however, go back the way a short Indian summer takes us back to a bit of warmth and beauty before cold winter sets in. We can take that brief, spectacular look into the rear-view mirror of our lives and connect with ourselves yet again. This time with eyes more forgiving and content than we ever dreamed possible.

This week we’re on the West Coast, visiting our daughter and her husband. Being with them reminds me again that life is short and precious. I pray for you and for all of us the courage to stop and look back from time to time.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 December 2018

Packing the easy way

Dear Friends,

No, I haven’t disappeared from the universe. I’m just deep into packing for a trip to visit our daughter and her husband. Sherry took the photo above. The magnolia came from a tree in their yard.

Here’s my old normal way of getting ready for a trip:

  • Update my trip checklist so I don’t get all frazzled
  • Start panicking about getting everything done before we leave
  • Keep doing whatever I normally do
  • Reassure myself that the checklist is really half the work
  • Stay up most of the night before the trip — frazzled
  • Sleep several hours and then get up in panic mode
  • Stuff the last thing in at the last moment
  • Holler for D to sit on the suitcase and help get it closed
  • Leave the house frantic about what I might have forgotten to do or pack

No, I am not one of those frequent travelers who always has a small, compact carry-on and a plan for minimal packing. There are reasons, of course, for my lack of this gift, but I won’t bore you with the details.

So my new normal (assuming I have other opportunities for travel) kicked in the day after my birthday. So far, so good, even though it’s taking a lot of discipline to stay away from my computer and you!

The upside is that I’m not yet freaking out, and might even make it to the front door with time to spare.

I’m taking my laptop (of course!), and won’t make any promises about posting while we’re away. However, photos might be fun to put up. So we’ll see what happens.

Thanksgiving was bitter-sweet for us. We had dinner with our son, daughter-in-law, granddaughters and grandson. Plus their two big dogs and two small cats. They’re planning to move in the coming year. Not sure when, but it was our last Thanksgiving dinner in the old house they moved into shortly after the girls were born.

Thank you for your many good wishes and notes about my birthday. We had a quiet day at home. Neither of us is what you’d call a party animal. Instead, we love quiet days at home, which this time included playing the piano and going for a walk. Plus reading pertinent and impertinent birthday cards. Actually, more than one of them gave me happy tears.

Cheers!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 November 2018
Photo taken by Sherry Fraser Seckington, June 2015

A Birthday Gift to Myself

Dear Friends,

Yesterday I turned 75. No fanfare. Just a quiet day at home enjoying my retirement family: D, Smudge and Marie. Plus telephone conversations with our two children. And a walk outside with D in cold, windy weather.

At this age there aren’t many things I want for myself. Nonetheless, during a conversation with a friend earlier this week I identified something I’ve wanted all my life.

When I was 15 years old Mrs. Hanks, my piano teacher from when I was 9, asked about my plans after high school graduation.

‘I’m thinking about going to Bible college.’

‘Have you ever thought about going to a music conservatory and majoring in piano?’

Fear gripped my heart. I would love to do this! Yet I had no confidence in myself beyond what I’d already done, and no vision for what this might mean for me.

Mrs. Hanks said she had a friend teaching in the best music program in the state of Georgia. In fact, she’d already spoken with her, and this woman would be delighted to meet me and talk with me about scholarship possibilities.

When I told my parents about this, my father said he thought I would be better ready for life if I enrolled in a Bible college in South Carolina. Some of my friends had already studied there, and he was certain I would get a good education there.

I felt torn between fear and excitement about the unknown, and my desperate need not to fail. I also knew I would make it at the Bible college. So I chose the Bible college.

Many times I’ve looked back at that decision and wondered what might have been. Music has always been where my heart feels most at home.

Thankfully, beginning with the Bible college, music has always been part of my life. Sometimes for pay; sometimes as a volunteer. Even when I was a professor and dean at the seminary, music informed everything I did. It made its way into my thought processes, the way I said or wrote things, my imagination about this world, and about this huge universe presided over by the Greatest Musician of All.

Now I’m 75. My fingers and reflexes aren’t what they used to be. Even so, I long to recover some of the freedom I used to have at the keyboard.

Even more important, my mother wanted me to become a musician. Not a famous musician, but the musician she already heard in me at age 5 when she began teaching me to play the piano.

So a few days ago I contacted a musician friend and asked her to recommend a piano coach for me. Someone who can help me, at this age, to regain some of what the years have taken. My happy birthday gift to myself. And maybe for my mother.

Right now I’m a 75-year old kid who can’t wait to open a present I’ve wanted for too many years!

Thanks for listening,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 November 2018
Photo found at birthdaycakeformom.com

pennies from heaven

pennies from heaven
lie scattered on moss-crowned stone
beneath curved aspens
dancing in autumn splendor
yesterday’s green burns golden

This morning’s wallpaper. The kind that makes me all weepy in a happy/sad way. Life is short. Every passing season reminds me that our days are limited, and that life is beautiful as well as harsh. I pray for each of us a week filled with gratitude for little things, little people and small acts of kindness that grace our lives each day.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 November 2018
Photo of Aspens in the Rocky Mountain National Park found at wallpaperup.com 

My Mother’s Depression

My mother’s depression
Is not my depression

It doesn’t belong to me
Nor did I invite it in to stay
Yet it lives in me now and again
A link to this woman who bore me

Deftly intertwined it moves
As though it were mine
A weight I bear unbidden
My lot in this half-life

What would it be like
To let it go as an alien?
To visit without falling into the pit?
To understand it from her point of view?

I’ve been turning things like this over in my mind and heart for the last week. The insight isn’t mine. It’s a gift from a friend who has walked with me for several decades.

‘My’ depression isn’t mine. Yes, it’s real and present. Yet it was and still is my mother’s deep depression, fed by my father’s behavior toward her and toward me.  The sad price of being a gifted white woman in post-depression (ironic) and post-World War II life in the USA.

Held back, kept in check, insanely busy with housework and babies, submissive preacher’s wife, versatile church musician without a pay check, resourceful volunteer ever ready to help others in return for nothing, cheery and even-tempered, industrious and persistent, she held it all together in her bent and broken body.

Uncomplaining, weary, in pain 24/7 and depressed. Sometimes crying herself to sleep. Other times waking with horrifying cramps.

My heart goes out to her today in ways it couldn’t years ago.

Yet I can’t accept her depression as my depression. It isn’t mine. This one insight invites me to stay connected to her reality without making it my reality. I can only breathe my air, not hers.

These days it seems ever more acceptable to trash women of all colors and make them into problems they are not. In response, I want to do justice to the woman my mother was while showing mercy to her as the woman she could not be or become.

She was not the problem then, just as I am not the problem now.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 November 2018
Book cover photo found at bookdepository.com

More than enough

I’m out of gas
Stalled
Unable to move ahead
With certainty

The warm air
From my small space heater
Reassures me humming
Staring silently
With its one orange eye
You can do this

Last night
Which was early this morning
I sang myself back to sleep
A-B-C not do-re-mi
As first lines of old hymns
Popped into my head
Somewhere at F or G
My weary body slept

In my waking dream
I was listening to a choir
Sing a beautiful song
I didn’t remember writing
But they did
Perhaps this is enough
Even more than enough

This morning
Marie sits on my kitchen table
Smiling as I write morning pages
Without knowing
Where this is going
This stream of unconscious
Consciousness
Begging for a life on paper

And it is enough
More than enough for today
This gray steely freezing cold day
That promises nothing
But the first fringes of winter
Creeping into autumn uninvited
An early guest at a table
Still set for normal

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 November 2018
Photo found at tripadvisor.com

Moldy, moldy, moldy | Dear Friends

Dear Friends,

My body is moldy, my house is moldy, my mind is moldy and I’m not giving up!

I now have data from the first of three mold tests, with two tests to go. One of the two makes me laugh out loud every time I think about it. It’s a hair test for ‘heavy’ metals.

If you see me from time to time, you know how short my very fine (not heavy) hair is. Especially in the back. I like it that way.

So now this lab wants a measured (by weight) amount of hair from 5 to 6 places on my head, preferably from the back of my head. Each ‘strand’ should be 1 inch long! They’ll be lucky if I can find that much from the top of my head.

The worst moment will be after the deed is done and nothing can be glued back onto my head! As my trusted partner of more than 53 years, D will have the honor of clipping those precious hairs from my head. I don’t want to end up looking like a molting sheep.

The third test has to wait until I have the proper computer screen. It seems my old faithful isn’t young enough to calibrate within the limits of the vision test.

Then there was a visit with my cardiologist yesterday. Always stressful, no matter what’s going on with my heart. Especially with the added reality of almost constant work on Alzheimer-related testing. Though I don’t have it, my genes mean the risk factor rises with every year of my life. Mold is a big Alzheimer’s issue, best dealt with early and often.

I’m sleeping well most nights. Last night was an exception. I was surprised how weepy I was early this morning. I lay there thinking about my life and how difficult yet astonishingly wonderful it has been. And how many gifted, dedicated people I’ve had the privilege of working with. And how much I don’t want to leave this life just yet.

Despite all the health stuff, I turned a big corner last week. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone about myself or my worth. I already knew that in my mind. Last week my heart finally began getting and loving the message. I’ve already passed on bits and pieces here and there. It’s done, even as I keep growing like a persistent bit of mold–the good kind, of course!

Today I’m taking it easy. Practicing justice and mercy on behalf of my weary body and soul. Eager to keep moving ahead, yet no faster than my feet will take me on this damp, rainy day. The photo at the top is there just because I like it.

Happy Tuesday, and thanks for stopping by.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 November 2018
Photo taken by DAFraser, Hoyt Arboretum, Portland, Oregon, October 2012

Dancing in the face of partisan politics

Pray tell me
How do I dance
In the face of partisan politics
Straining to separate me
From other human beings

And how do I dance with freedom
In the face of threats
To undo me
Or you
Or us

Age and health
Weigh heavily on me
As does diminished ability to move
Freely on my own

And this dance floor seems too small
To hold my aching heart
Longing for more
Than I can ever accomplish

Or perhaps
The ‘more’ is already here

Behind and around me
Invisible
Doing what You intend it to do
Making its way unseen in
Bits and pieces I gladly gave away
And passed along so that
They don’t belong to me
Anymore

As health issues come creeping or crashing into my life, I feel like fighting back. Making sure I’m still out there, doing my thing. I feel the tug of wanting to make a difference.

Perhaps it’s time to rest, dream and even drift through each day. Grateful for living this long. Grateful for opportunities to connect with neighbors near and far.

It seems slow dancing is what’s called for. Listening to internal and external music. Connecting with family, neighbors and strangers. Reading. Listening. Praying for the next generation. And writing my heart out. Preparing for whatever is around the next corner.

Elouise

Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 November 2018

Autumn in the Park | Photos

Grab it before it’s gone! Autumn loveliness. Including my friend Rita’s way-too-lovable dog (above) who has more energy than both of us put together.

D took all photos. Normally he doesn’t bring his camera when we walk through the neighborhood. But this year’s brief autumn flame-out was too much to resist. He took the photos in and around Gladwyne Park, open year-round to the public and to pets on leashes.  D took these between 4 and 5pm.

Here’s my favorite tree to stand beneath in the fall! It always takes my breath away. Especially when the late afternoon sun is hitting the leaves just right. The closeup below shows damaged leaves–heat, insects, too much rain or not enough rain. Still, the colors come through right on time.

The first year we lived here (well over 30 years ago), I remember stopping my car to stare at the fall colors in this park. I hadn’t seen anything so beautiful since we’d lived in New England. The tree below is the largest on the lot. It’s a maple, similar to the one above. And look! Just below you can see Rita’s beautiful little dog walking Rita through the park! He’s that little speck of white fuzz pulling Rita along.

Here we’re coming to the recreational area of the park. You can see picnic tables on the right, and the corner of an athletic field on the left. Beyond the picnic tables there’s a basketball court and playground area.

Finally, several random photos taken as we leave the park and head home.

Even Rita’s little bundle of energy is ready to go home.

Here’s to at least a few more days of autumn glory! Thanks for stopping by.

Elouise

Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 November 2018
Photos taken by DAFraser, 4 November 2018

At loose ends with myself

At loose ends with myself
Wandering up and down
The stairs of my distraction
Overturning this and that
Within my overactive mind
A clock ticks relentlessly
Counting down the corridors
Of tasks undone and words
Never recorded yet dissipating
Into a gray atmosphere silent
And secretive not yet menacing
Though the thought occurs
to me that I am being unraveled
strand by limp strand falling
to the floor of unknown reality

Unraveled. A word rich with possibilities. Terrifying and welcome all at the same time. Loss of control. Change of direction. Once-blind eyes coming out of misty half-truth and patched-together personas. Fragility unbound and hanging out there. Human. Vulnerable. Out of control in the best possible way.

All this and more went through my mind today. It isn’t just about getting older. It’s about getting real. Becoming a real rabbit, a real human being, a real baby. Not just a make-believe look-alike.

Here’s to more loose ends of the fruitful kind. Those that lead to something greater than you or I could ever become on our own.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 November 2018
Image of unraveling butterfly found at movestrongkbs.com

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