Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Smiling through rain and sun

My one-eyed bright white light
Peers at me wondering where
I’ve been and why it took
So long to remember her

Smiling through rain and sun
Alike she cheers me on without
Great fanfare or even the
Hint of a bill for services

Rendered day or night
Without complaint and with
No thought of tomorrow
Or what lurks around the corner

Today the sun is out, the temperature is a bit warmer than yesterday, and I just finished cleaning out several kitchen cupboards. They were groaning under the weight of out-of-date or unused ingredients and yummy snacks I used to eat. That was before Lucy (my pacemaker), a broken jaw, kidney disease, plus whatever else has piled on since 2016.

My MRI (to help clarify the kind of peripheral neuropathy I have) did not happen as scheduled, thanks to a mistake made by the hospital. I’m now scheduled for December 29. In the meantime, I’m learning to pace myself and take time to put my achy feet up, meditate, read a bit, listen to music, or play the piano (not with my feet up!).

I still struggle with bedtime coming too quickly—before I’ve gotten ‘anything’ accomplished. At the same time, I’m keenly aware that my feet, legs, mind, heart and hands have worked with minimal rest for most of my life. I seem to have inherited from my parents and most churches I’ve attended the need to accomplish something (for others) in order to prove my female worth in this tired old world. It’s way past time to turn the tables.

Thank you for stopping by! When I review what you’ve been reading, I’m often drawn to an old post that makes me weep—not with despair, but with a kind of joy I didn’t think I would experience in this life.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 December 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, December 2017

baptismal waters

During her last years on this earth, Mother and I found each other in ways I never dreamed possible. The hospice near my parents’ home (income not a consideration) took exquisite care of her during her last three months. This piece honors her and the angels who cared for her pain-wracked body. 

baptismal waters
rise gently enfolding her
world-weary body

* * * * *

I’m standing in a windowless, high-ceiling concrete room
with a concrete floor, drainage holes and air vents.
A deep whirlpool tub stands in the middle
filled with warm steamy water.
The room faintly resembles a large sauna minus the wood.
Functional, not beautiful.

Mother is in hospice care after suffering a stroke weeks ago
and then developing pneumonia in the hospital.
Her ability to communicate with words is almost nonexistent.
Today she’s going to be given a bath.
I’m told she loves this, and that
Sister #4 and I are welcome to witness the event.

For the past hour caregivers have been preparing her–
removing her bedclothes, easing her onto huge soft towels,
rolling and shifting her inch by inch onto a padded bath trolley,
doing all they can to minimize pain and honor her body.
Finally, they slowly roll the trolley down the hall.

The hospice sauna room echoes with the sound of
feet, soft voices, and running water.
It takes a team to carry out this comforting
though strange and even unnerving ritual.
Mother is safely secured to the padded bath table and
then lowered slowly into the water.
Her eyes are wide open.

For a few moments she fixes her eyes on mine.
The table descends bit by bit.
How does she feel?
What is she thinking?
At first her eyes seem anxious.
Is she afraid?
The warm waters rise around her and the table stops descending.
Her face relaxes and she closes her eyes.

The team works gently, thoroughly, not in haste.
They focus on her, talk to her and handle her body with reverence.
My eyes brim with tears.
This woman who bathed me, my three sisters
and most of her grandbabies is being given a bath
by what appears to be a team of angels in celestial garments.

They finish their work and roll Mother back to her room.
Her bed has clean sheets.
Fresh bedclothes have been laid out.
Caregivers anoint her body with oil and lotion, turn her gently,
and comment on how clear and beautiful her skin is.
They finish clothing her, adjust the pillows to cradle her body,
pull up light covers and leave her to fall asleep.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 June 2014, lightly edited and reposted 26 November 2021
Photo found at etsy.com, John McManus Fine Art

choices I don’t want to make

If you had gently hinted
just one short year ago
that today would find me
lost and bereft
I might have laughed

On the other hand….

To say my situation is
better than so-and-so’s
misses the point altogether
while denying reality
screaming in my feet

How to live with this
malfunction on the outside
and agony on the inside
challenges my educational
upbringing and experience

Daily and nightly reminders
pile on unavoidable witness
to the slow decay of this body
still struggling each day with
choices I don’t want to make

I haven’t posted regularly for what feels like an eternity. Actually, it feels like hanging in midair, waiting to find out how this will play out. Peripheral Neuropathy. My new ‘friend’, though I still don’t know the full picture. The day after Thanksgiving I’ll have an MRI with the hope that my neurologist will learn something new or at least helpful.

My focus today is on what I enjoy doing. Unfortunately, my feet like to remind me of what I don’t enjoy. Nonetheless, my new curriculum is interesting. Bottom line: What would I like to do right now? What brings me joy, so that I don’t even notice what my feet feel? (For example: looking at David’s Longwood Garden Photos; playing the piano, riding my indoor bike.)

In addition to two books I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m also reading a book by Mims Cushing (who lives with this disease) and Norman Latov, MD, her neurologist. Title: You Can Cope with Peripheral Neuropathy: 365 Tips for living a full life. It’s a bit dated, but the self-help pointers are ageless.

Bottom line: I feel myself becoming a ‘different’ person–not so driven, more laid back, grateful for small gifts of each day and for you.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 November 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, December 2015

absent without leave

absent without leave
my mind wanders aimlessly
searching for anchors

solid reality
is hard to come by these days
drifting on breezes

the doorbell rings
abruptly interfering
with today’s daydreams

A cheery young man delivers my mail-order packages. I’m happy to have them, though I would have loved being interrupted by something more spectacular.

Something like this would do:

Two weeks ago I was feeling my usual morning reluctance to get up from my breakfast seat by the window, and get on the rest of the day. Suddenly I heard a great commotion outside. A large flock of blackbirds had invaded our feeders and our backyard, gobbling up whatever they could find. Males fought for seats at the bird feeder, while females and younger blackbirds scoured the yard for whatever they could find.

This went on for several minutes. Suddenly a large male took over the feeder just outside the kitchen window, opened his great beak, and let loose a masterful ‘conkeree’ louder than loud! King of the Castle? Maybe. At any rate, without a moment’s hesitation the whole herd took off into the trees before disappearing into the wild blue yonder. I was mesmerized!

Thank you kindly for your visits in the last few weeks. I’m still learning to live within my physical means. So far, three things bring me great joy: playing the piano, reading, and writing. In addition, I’m learning to be content with what I’m able to do on any given day. Definitely a step in the right direction.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 November 2021
Video of male red-wing blackbird calls found at YouTube

The Meeting with My Parents

Diane and Elouise standing by the Savannah River
20 Nov 1993, the day after meeting with my parents

On 19 November 1993 I met with my parents in Savannah, Georgia. A gift to myself on the eve of my 50th birthday.

It took 1 ½ years to prepare for the meeting. It wasn’t a declaration of war. It was an attempt to see whether my parents and I could begin talking about my childhood. Put another way, could I hold my own viewpoint without trying to change my parents’ viewpoints?

The biggest unknown was how my father would respond. His habit was to talk over and down at me.

Now I’m in Savannah. My father is sitting directly across the table from me, with my mother next to him. I’ve asked a pastor we all know to be present. He convenes the meeting and turns it over to me. David is on my left hand; my sister Diane is on my right—both instructed not to talk or try to argue on my behalf.

I read from a single-spaced, 1 ¼ page statement. Here’s the heart of what I said about the way my father punished me as a child and teenager.

The spankings were abusive. I was very small; you were very big. I had no power; you seemed to have all the power. The spankings happened regularly for most of my growing-up years. They were terrifyingly predictable. I dreaded nothing as much as I dreaded being spanked. Worst of all, the spankings were administered in a way that shamed, humiliated, and silenced me. . . .I have been lost for most of my adult years. Lost in a sea of shame, humiliation, and fear–fear of opening my mouth and saying directly to you what I need to say: I did not deserve to be shamed, humiliated, and silenced.

Though my parents were in this together, my mother wasn’t in the room when I was being punished. My question for her was simple: What was it like for you when I was being punished? Where were you? What was it like to hear us crying and pleading? She didn’t remember hearing anything.

From my father, I wanted one thing: an apology for the way he shamed, humiliated, and silenced me. I asked for an apology, which was immediately denied. Thankfully, getting an apology wasn’t my goal.

There was one unexpected disruption during the meeting. My father abruptly walked out of the meeting, left the building, and sat in his car. We could see him through the window. No one said anything. It was my meeting. I waited several minutes. Then I signaled to David to come with me for moral support. We stood on the sidewalk beside the car while I talked with him for a long time. Eventually he agreed to come back and finish the conversation. I was astonished and relieved.

After this meeting, D and I visited my parents (in Savannah) on several occasions. I always had a list of questions to ask. I learned a lot from these informal conversations, though my father was clearly set in his ways and unwilling to change. Still, these conversations were a gift I hadn’t anticipated. Not surprisingly, many of my father’s rough ways reflected my grandfather’s unpredictable, harsh beatings of my father. A sad legacy.

Thanks for stopping by today.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 November 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser on 20 November 1993; Diane (on the left) and I are at the Savannah River waterfront.

My overflowing cup

My calling is to die
In daily increments
With mega doses of reality
Served up on weary plates
Of hyper-healthy veggies
And dreams never to be
Lived in this lifetime

Stumbling through each day
I resist the truth that my feet
Have already lived out
Their guaranteed lifespan
Of hiking and dancing
Or even strolling by the river
Come to carry me home

Looking into my shrinking world
I wonder what I’m missing
While my overflowing cup
Stubbornly splashes drops
of joy and beauty
I never hoped to experience
This side of heaven

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 November 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, 10 September 2021

Setting My Boundaries

Okay…sometimes it’s a bit more complicated than this.

Ready or not
Time creeps up
On closed doors
Never to be opened
Without weeping
And gnashing of
Teeth set on edge
Since my childhood

I review notes
From two years of
My life as the
Prodigal daughter
Or so it seemed to
My parents who
Never walked
In my shoes

Plus notes from
Conversations with
Sisters suddenly
Part of the picture
Even though they
Didn’t ask to be part
Of this drama unfolding
According to my script
Not theirs

Bit by bit I clarified what I needed and wanted to do. My psychotherapist didn’t tell me what to do. She listened, asked questions, and sent me home to keep working on one of the most life-changing events of my life.

In an earlier post I included the letter I sent my parents, telling them not to call or write to me. I would call or write when I was ready. My letter was not well received. My father wrote back to me. Nothing in his long, single-spaced, typed “Dear Daughter” letter was encouraging. I decided to return, unopened, any further letters from him.

The planning phase for this meeting took one and a half years. During that time, Mother became the good parent who remembered us on holidays and birthdays. Seeing her determination to be the good parent, I gave up thinking this was about my father and me. It was about all three of us.

Also, through conversations with my three sisters, I learned who might sit beside me as a witness at a meeting with my parents. My husband David would be there. So would Sister #3, Diane, who lived in Texas.

Finally, I asked a trusted pastor friend who lived in Savannah to host the meeting. We would meet in a conference room at the church he served. He also agreed to stay in touch with my parents after the meeting.

All of this took time and multiple conversations.

As for the meeting itself, that’s another post. It took time to work through what I wanted to say, how I would say it, and what I wanted from each of my parents. Slowly, from May 1992 to November 1993, I clarified how to structure the meeting. I also clarified the roles David and Diane were to fill. In a nutshell: keep your mouths closed and listen!

Yes, the meeting itself was a bit of a drama. Stay tuned.

Thank you for your visits and encouragement! Sometimes it seems this meeting was the most important thing I ever did for myself–even more important than marrying D, though not nearly as much fun!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 November 2021
Boundary image found at pinterest.com

Ghouls and Fools 2021

Behold my four ghouls
Some greater than others
Designed to affright
disgust or delight

Traditional Irish Jack-‘o-Lantern (above) inhabits
the Museum of Country Life in Ireland

Modern carving of a Cornish Jack-‘o-Lantern
made from a turnip

Modern carving of a North American
Jack-o’-Lantern pumpkin
designed, hand carved and photographed
by my delightfully irrepressible Sister #3, Diane
who died of ALS in February 2006

Happy Halloween, Everybody!

2020 Comment: This old 2017 post is already getting looks, so here it is! The original title was Ghoulish Gallery. The changed title (Ghouls and Fools) is an obscure, slightly hidden archaic reference to our current State of Affairs only two weeks away from the 2020 Election.

2021 Comment: I can’t imagine Halloween without these beauties, and without you! Thanks for stopping by!

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 October 2017, reposted 21 October 2020 and 30 October 2021
Halloween witch image found at pinterest.com
Images of Cornish and Irish Jack-‘o-Lanterns found at Wickipedia
Photo of Jack-‘o-Lantern pumpkin taken by Diane Renich Kelley

Food for soul and body | Longwood Gardens 2021

larger than life
roped off yet inviting
sparkling fountains sing

Several photos caught my attention this morning. In the photo above, a number of visitors to Longwood are standing and sitting around, watching water dance and sing in the air. D and I are sitting on a small bench, taking a short break before walking on to the meadow garden. Most visitors that day were on the older side of life. Probably grateful (as were we) for a splendid day after weeks of stifling heat and humidity.

Here are three more photos of the Italian Water Garden, minus sound effects (water falling and cascading down; no piped in music):

I’ve decided to begin writing haiku again. It’s relaxing and peaceful. Food for soul and body. Last night I slept well, though you’d never know it from my dreams. I was caught in the maze of our strange, disconnected health systems here in the USA, trying to find my way (late, of course!) to the next diagnostic test site.

So here’s to writing haiku, and to you! Today it’s cool and rainy where I live. Maybe the rain will turn into sparkling fountains.

Cheers!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 October 2021
Photos taken by DAFraser, 10 September 2021 at Longwood Gardens

Setting Boundaries with My Parents

Boundaries. Not my favorite topic. When I was young, my clergy father set the boundaries. My job was to keep them. Daddy’s Rules for Good Girls invaded every area of my life as a female child and teenager.

Nonetheless, if I wanted to find my adult voice with my parents, I needed to set and maintain boundaries with them. The way any adult would. I was in my late 40s.

My goal called for ways to cope with my own unscheduled panic attacks. The kind that screamed at me NOT to go through with this madness.

Three items in my files document my determination.

  • First, an index card with names and phone numbers of six people I could call at the drop of a hat. They included my psychotherapist, my husband, two AlAnon friends, and two pastors (not my personal pastors).
  • Second, on the opposite side of the index card is a list of nine things to do when I have panic attacks or feel overwhelmed.
  • Third, an encouraging card and letter from a woman I’d walked with through her own boundary-setting agony.

The point of these items was to take care of myself no matter what.

In early May 1992, I wrote the following letter to my parents. This was more than 1 ½ years before I met with them in Savannah.

Dear Mother and Daddy,

D and I will be on vacation when you’re up this way in June. We’ve decided not to change our plans. Also, I’ve decided I don’t want you to stay in our house while we’re gone.

I need privacy right now, and for the indefinite future, in order to work on some personal issues. For now, that means I don’t want calls, cards, or letters from either of you. I also don’t want to plan any visits with you. I’ll let you know when I’m ready for a change.

Emergency messages can be left on our answering machine, or given to D at his office or here.

Love,
Elouise

My letter was not well received. In a later post I’ll write about how I handled my father’s at-distance anger, and how I set up a meeting with my parents on the eve of my 50th birthday.

Please note: This is not a template for anyone. It’s what was right for me at that time in my life. I got through this thanks to my own hard work, and strong support from D, my psychotherapist, and friends listed above on my ‘panic’ card.

Cheers to each of you! Life, when lived with integrity, is never easy. I pray you’ll find wisdom and courage for yourself this day.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 October 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser, 10 September 2021, Longwood Gardens Meadow

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