Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Category: Haiku/Poetry

baptismal waters

I’m working on a book of poems selected from my blog. This morning I came to this description of my mother’s “baptism” not long before her death. The setting is a not-for-profit hospice near my parents’ home in Savannah, Georgia. Reading this account always makes me tear up with gratitude and sadness. 

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, reposted 28 June 2022
Photo found at pixabay.com

On singing myself to sleep

Before I go to bed each night, I make an informal entry in my evening journal. Here’s the heart of what I wrote last night. I had in mind the ongoing three-ring circus of politics in the USA as well as my own health issues. Though you may not have had a blood draw early this morning, perhaps you can relate.

Today was gone before it began
I never caught up with it or myself

Tomorrow already bears down–
An early morning blood draw plus
everyday tasks amid unrelenting
uncertainty and distractions

Be close to me this night
Open my ears to hear and follow You
It’s time to rest beneath Your wings
And sing myself to sleep

I’ve often sung myself to sleep. Whatever pops into my mind. As many lines and verses as I can remember. Followed by the next song–usually a hymn–that rises to the surface.

When I was in grade school, it was somewhat onerous to memorize hymns (all stanzas, no mistakes). Nonetheless, I’m grateful for the comfort they bring to me. Especially at night when I’m feeling a bit lost in the craziness of our war-weary world.

Singing myself to sleep isn’t magic. It is, however, a way to do for myself something I can’t remember anyone doing for me as a child–singing me to sleep. In addition, it shuts out all those other voices clamoring for attention.

Thanks for stopping by today!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 June 2022
Photo found at pinterest.com

A Ramble for My Friends

The Vernon River, Savannah Georgia

Dear Friends,

I haven’t written much lately about my health, or what I’m doing these days. This post is about the big picture I now live with, especially aging and blogging.

As I see it, I’m turning a long, mostly slow corner. I call it acceptance. Not acceptance of any particular culprit, but a welcoming attitude about things that slow me down.

Physical challenges aren’t automatically my enemy. I’ve tried to ignore or fix them. It doesn’t always work. Instead, I’m learning to welcome some of them into my life, one day and one night at a time. Not for solution talk, but for acceptance rather than making my feet (for example) the enemy.

Of all that’s happened in my body the last ten years, top concerns are my kidneys, my heart, and my aching feet. Plus: whatever it takes to become a content and productive woman at this time in my life.

For the last several weeks I’ve been turning a corner. Suddenly I find myself ready to let go of many things I’ve collected over the years. Not just books and clothes I’ll never wear again, but files full of my academic and personal history. Not everything, mind you! Some of my documents remind me that I’ve had an unusual, difficult, and reasonably rewarding life as an academic in the classroom and as dean. I loved the challenge of working with women and men eager to learn and to teach.

And what about blogging? About a month ago I began working on a new poetry project. D gave me the idea, and at this point I’m all in. I’m doing it for our children and grandchildren. Basically, I’m making my way from my first published poem (2 January 2014), through other poems. Sometimes I let a poem stand alone; sometimes I include my comments. It reads as an informal family history–from my point of view.

In addition to this, I often pick out an older post someone visited and give it a good read. I’m stunned at how these almost-forgotten posts speak to me today. I’ve begun reposting some that have moved me to tears.

Then there’s always the fun stuff, like the post yesterday in ‘praise’ of Smudge! Plus occasional devotional pieces from my morning reading each day.

However….progress depends on how I feel from one day to the next. If I need a lazy day, I’m learning to grab it! Life is short, and I’m a latecomer to whatever it means to accept and honor myself as I was and still am.

Thanks so much for visiting, and reading this ramble!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 June 2022
Photo of the Vernon River found at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org

birds flutter

birds flutter swoop dive
cat’s jaw quivers, tail twitches—
agony of spring

* * * * *

To Prince Oliver Smudge the Second, aka Smudge:

I hereby dedicate this haiku to Your Royal Catness
with the clear expectation that you will
immediately cease and desist
from all yowls of neglect and outrage.

You say it deeply pains you to watch me day after day
writing only about Me, Myself and I.

To be brutally frank,
I know much more about Me, Myself and I
than I do about the mystery of
Your Inner Being/Inner Cat/Inner Stalker.

HOWEVER

If you read Your Very Own Haiku with an open mind
you will discern therein
just how much I DO appreciate your agony day after day
as all those Nasty Spring Birdies flaunt their freedom in the Great Outdoors.

No.  You may NOT go outside to play today!
I’m No Dummy.

Her Royal Highness,
Queen Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 April 2014, reposted 8 June 2022
Photo taken by ERFraser, 2 March 2022

man walking my way

I first posted this haiku and commentary on 13 December 2013. I wish I could say women feel more secure today than we did in 2013. Sadly, the main point of this haiku was to bring my inner fears to light. I can still feel my heart pounding. It isn’t about the man. It’s about the way I was brought up female, and the mess in which we find ourselves today.

man walking my way
across deserted playground
trees inhale . . . . . . . . hold breath

Is he safe?  It’s 6:30am.  What’s he doing here at this time of day?  Looks like he’s been sleeping in the park. Rumpled work clothes—not very clean or stylish. He’s watching me. Thank goodness I’m wearing sunglasses.

I glance around, trying to seem nonchalant. No one else is in sight. He doesn’t look friendly or unfriendly. His face doesn’t register any emotion I recognize.  I’ve never seen him before.

I have my cell phone; it’s turned on. What should I do? Yes, I’m out in the open in a public space. But it’s deadly silent and I’m alone. My anxiety spikes. I know he sees me.

The distance between us is closing. If I keep walking my normal route, I’ll pass him before we pass each other.  Then I won’t see him at all–where he is or what he’s doing.

Why is he here?  Why isn’t anyone else out for an early morning walk?  The leaves on the trees are silent.  I’m holding my breath; my heart is pounding.

I walk on. Now he’s behind me.  When I turn around to walk home I see him walking out of the park.  When I get home I write the haiku above.

Even after decades of personal work I feel undone.

Is it right to call 911 when the emergency is internal, not clearly external?  How do I justify calling 911 or raising a ruckus? Is it enough that I don’t feel safe?

Moments like this remind me of the shopkeeper and other unwelcome experiences.  Some men pushed the envelope verbally or bodily, putting me on edge and on guard. Others went over the line.  Even then I didn’t raise a ruckus.

Do I really know how to take care of myself?

Is this inner turmoil common to being female?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 Dec 2013, reposted 3 June 2022
Photo found at foursquare.com

Shades of memories revisited

What will become of today
After the sun sets
And the moon moves on
To other nights
In other places

Will anyone remember
Or care what happened
Just now
When I laid eyes on you
And you on me

Shades of memories echo
From your eyes and face
Just beyond reach
Whispers calling to me
In the dark of dawn

A small poem for a large presence in my life. I’ll never forget the first day D’s eyes smiled at me. Just the way they do today. It was 1961. I was a sophomore in college; he was a junior. The quiet type, except for that sparkle in his eyes. I’d never had a man, or boy for that matter, smile at me with his eyes the way D did. To say I went all weak inside would be an understatement. Now, 58 years later, he still has the gift.

Happy Wednesday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 August 2019, reposted 25 May 2022
Image found at creativelive.com

Homecoming on the grounds….

deviled-eggs-620

Too bad you couldn’t hear me working on the mouth-watering, deeply poetic account below. I was laughing my head off–even though the menu is pretty much a killer! One of my favorite memories from the 1950s….

Homecoming this Sunday on the grounds
of the Montgomery Presbyterian Church
Come One, Come All!
Sunday, 12:30 to 5:00 pm
All Ages Welcome!

Beneath aging water oaks
Long wooden tables covered with oilcloth
and butcher paper groan with food
Children race shrieking with joy

Ladies arrange and surreptitiously rearrange
table settings to favor their own delicacies
properly positioned for easy access
and maximum compliments

Piles of coated, crispy southern fried chicken
Bowls of homegrown boiled corn on the cob cut in 2-inch portions
Mounds of southern white potato salad swimming
in mayo, relish, cut-up hard-boiled eggs, salt and pepper

Molded bright green and orange jello ‘salads’
defy description
laced with canned mixed fruit, grated carrots and raisins,
small-curd cottage cheese and pineapple bits or
My Mom’s strawberry jello salad
with real strawberries and rhubarb!

Platters of thick-sliced juicy homegrown tomatoes
Hunks of sugary-sweet southern-style cornbread
Pots of honey-bee honey and real butter

Obligatory cut green beans drowning
in canned cream-of-something soup topped
with crispy brown onion fries

Boiled collards and turnip greens swimming
in chunks of fatty ham and Tobasco laced broth

Plates of beguiling, deviled eggs dusted with red paprika
Baskets of buttery white rolls and salty potato chips
Nary a boiled carrot to be seen

Lemon chiffon pie, sweet potato pie
and banana pudding with soggy vanilla wafer edges
Cheesecake in graham-cracker crusts
topped with canned cherries
smothered in red glop

Pecan pies and German chocolate cakes
Chocolate chip cookies, decorated sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies
Moon Pies and Tootsie Rolls

Hot coffee with caffeine and real cream
Sweetened iced tea with lemon slices
Water and funeral home fans for the faint of heart

Yet more glorious still—
Pit-cooked, falling-apart whole barbecued pork
prepared and reverently tended overnight by real men
on the grounds of hog heaven

***

I was 8 years old when we moved to the Deep South. I loved nothing as much as potluck dinners. This annual event, however, outdid all the others.

I never could get enough of that sweet-potato pie. What about you? What’s your favorite potluck dish?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 January 2016, reposted 22 May 2022
Luscious image of classic deviled eggs from vintagecooking.com

Falling in love with today

How soft and easy
the pillow of yesterday
when heart, mind and body
were young and strong
filled with adventure

When did the lie creep in?
The lie that weak isn’t strong
or even beautiful in its
softening and yearning for
more time on this precious earth

Peering into the rear-view mirror
of life as I’ve known it has become
a daily gift to myself and to those
I loved and let go along the way
while holding them in my heart

I’m painfully aware that my energy for blogging has plummeted in the past several months. Not because I don’t want to show up, but because I’m still coming to terms with the ups and downs of nondiabetic peripheral neuropathy.

At the top of my daily list have been painful feet plus awkwardness when walking. A close second has been keeping pots of soup or stew ready to eat, along with cut-up veggies ready to eat raw or steamed. In addition, the weather is warming up nicely, the birds fight daily at our two birdfeeders, Smudge loves my lap, and I’m learning to walk outside with my handy-dandy hiking pole.

Bottom line: I’m learning to treat my feet as part of me—not as my enemies. They aren’t going away, and even if I live to be 100 years old, I can’t thank them enough for taking me places I never dreamed I would go. So yes, we’re on the same side now. No more glowering looks or worse. Instead, I’m learning to listen to them, thank them for letting me know enough is enough, and give them and myself the break we deserve.

I pray your day includes giving yourself the breaks you need and deserve.
Cheers from Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 May 2022
Photo from eventbrite.jpg

Falling in love with yesterday

Peering into a deep well
I inch closer to the edge
One evening after another
In the moment, but not quite,
Old memories stir feelings
Captured in forgotten photos

Who am I now? What did I leave behind? Is there any logic to this madness of yesterday’s joy and today’s old-age awkwardness?

I want to hang onto today and yesterday. Not content with one or the other. I want to see, remember, smell, taste and breathe in the beauty and pain of this world, captured in fleeting moments of wonder, distress, and despair.

The last several weeks have been rough. Marked by several dark nights filled with raging winds, pounding rain, and unpredictable bolts of lightning.

They’ve also been filled with beauty: songbirds waking each day with their dawn songs, a red-breasted male grossbeak sitting on our porch rail, a large bushy red-tailed fox trotting nonchalantly through our back yard, and the full moon casting a nighttime spotlight on our neighbor’s front yard.

Thank you for your visit. Especially during these unpredictable days and nights of uncertainty, fear and unexpected losses.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 May 2022
Photo of our children taken by DAFraser, 1972 at the San Diego Zoo

Gratitude and Weariness

Going nowhere fast
Drifting from one possibility
to the next
Weary with long lists of
thou shalt nots

I want to go back to bed
and listen yet again
to early bird dawn songs
full of life, energy and gratitude
for making it through another night
without marauders or being
captured by wind whipping trees,
sending shock waves through
this war-weary world

Though my body wants to move
I’m not sure where to take it
The phone is out of order and
I’m out of steam

I think I’ll go cook something up–
maybe a huge serving of music
plus madness on this sunny day
that fogs my eyesight with tears
of gratitude and weariness

How long can this world live in crisis mode? Together or apart, it doesn’t matter who I am or where you are. We’re part of a fabric woven with intent, now unraveling with shocks of truth. Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? In the meantime, I still want to go back to bed and listen to the birds’ dawn songs. Full of life, energy and gratitude.

Praying this finds you more together than apart, no matter where you live or who you voted for or against in the last election.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 April 2022
Photo found at countrygardener.co.uk

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