Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Aging

Empty words

How quickly things fall apart
Cloaked in bravado and mis-speak –
Brash promises shatter beneath the weight
Of human ineptitude and fierce
Reality on the ground

And yet

Each day the drone goes on
For hours weighty with words
Full of fury plus silence about
What really matters most in this
Nation dying for straight answers

Yet again

Another wandering bombardment
Of jumbled prevarications interrupts
Painting the most upbeat scenarios
We can’t possibly believe —
Empty words drunk on themselves

No, I don’t listen to or watch the “daily briefings” from the White House anymore. They sound more like run-on election-rally speeches (without the hoopla of the crowds), than steady, well-informed updates on COVID-19 and what we can or must do to protect ourselves and others.

The poem is an effort to capture what I’ve seen and heard for myself. Living 76 years has its rewards. One is a long memory of times when our Presidents (of both parties) stepped up to the microphone and helped us join hands as a nation during times of disaster.

No, none of our Presidents has been perfect. Some have been corrupt. Yet on the whole, none in my memory has been as egregiously uncaring about the majority population of this nation as Mr. Trump. His behavior right now is not helpful, not healing, and not encouraging for the short or long-term future.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 April 2020
Photo of White House Press Briefing Podium found at politico.com

Beneath trees of my childhood | Photos

Beneath trees
of my childhood
memories flood
my eyes with
dreams and sorrows
packed within
the space of one life
gazing at tamed
and untamed beauty
underestimated
until this moment
of imminent loss

Below are photos of old trees, including palmettos and water oaks, plus the river in front of the house my family lived in during the 1950s. Even though years have passed, and the old house has been turned into an elegant piece of real estate, the trees we played under are still standing. The final photo is an unexpected gift from one of our visits—a mama carrying her two opossum babies.

I grew up under these trees every day from age 7 l/2 to 13. The Spanish moss is probably the same moss, or at least its prolific offspring.

I’ve included one photo from 1996, the year Sister #3, Diane, came to Savannah for a last visit. She had learned weeks earlier that she had ALS. At her request, we drove out to the old Montgomery house for her last visit, this time in mid-winter, at low tide.

Nature and old photos have a way of cleansing us. Cherish your old photos if you still have them. And remember that someday you, too will be cherished in old photos.

Happy Monday, and thanks for visiting.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 March 2020
Photos taken near Savannah, Georgia, by DAFraser in 1996 (Diane), and 2010, following my father’s memorial service

dispensable? | today’s thoughts

Yesterday I wrote about the dilemma of being a senior citizen during this pandemic. The issue is about ending lives in order to focus more care on younger people. As much as I despise pitting older people against younger people, the dilemma is real. A reader left a comment based on her own experience. Here’s a slightly revised version of my response.

Thanks for this comment. I hear your dilemmas, some of which are my own as well. I’m fairly clear about end of life decisions when we’re in our ‘normal’ mode (whatever that is!). If the issue is about doing “everything we can to extend life,” without meaningful markers to let us know what we’re after, or when we’ve arrived, I have no desire to extend my life.

I watched one of my sisters die of ALS — according to her own clear markers. They had nothing to do with the ventilator that helped keep her alive for ten years. They had to do with a simple question only she could answer. Am I still able to communicate (by any means possible) with my family and friends? If not, give me comfort care and fluids, but no meds or liquid food through my feeding tube.

Nonetheless, this coronavirus pandemic has shaken my confidence in nearly all my carefully worded directives. Right now I’m thinking that, with regard to the current pandemic, the marker might be the need for a ventilator. Then again, I haven’t put this in writing, or communicated it to those who will need to speak with and for me. I don’t believe that fighting death at all costs is helpful or fair to others. As a Christian, I believe Jesus died ‘voluntarily.’ I do not, however, believe that his decision was without angst or fear.

Your last line is so important: “However, we need to keep asking the questions to stay in the moment and on the right path with our faith in our Creator.” To that I can only say Amen! Not an easy path. I pray you’ll find some clarity for the present moment in history.

Please feel free to add your voice to this conversation.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 March 2020
Image of social distancing found at nytimes.com

dispensable

stripped bare
windblown leaves
fall where they will
cascading quickly
descending
into darkness

let them rest
in peace
unidentified remnants
of another age
when we were
very young

my eyes blur over
stung by truth
too bitter to ignore
despite the cost
to our humanity
some are dispensable

Recent discussions about triaging elderly coronavirus patients are on my mind. Given my admirable age, it seems I’m in the endangered species category.

I don’t know what to make of this. I just reviewed my Living Will. No help there. It never heard of a pandemic like this.

Nor do I relish the idea of being involuntarily hooked to life support at the expense of someone who hasn’t lived as long as I.

Regardless of what I decide for myself, I’m troubled by the stark naked truth these conversations make painfully visible. Old age isn’t necessarily honored in this country, except in ethnic groups or tribes that actively honor their seniors. Not once a year, but daily. Whether they’re ill or not.

That’s what’s on my mind today. Meanwhile, identified coronavirus patient numbers skyrocket, and limited medical resources diminish daily.

Have you thought about your own wishes? What would you do/not do?

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 March 2020
Photo found at pinterest.com

without a flight plan

Disoriented
Suspended in space and time
Where are we going?

Calm and mindful
In a holding pattern
Waiting to land

Circling landmarks
Every twenty-four hours
Drones in the sky

Specks of dust
In an ocean of dismay
Looking for home

I woke up to the sun shining brightly, and these words from one of my daily meditation resources.

Psalm 21:8-9 and 12, rewritten by the author as a prayer for today

….You root out my fears; standing
firm beside me as I face
the shadows within.

Like a blazing sun your light shines.
My fears flee from your sight;
your fire consumes them.

….For You put fears to flight, that
love and justice might reign….

1996 by Nan C. Merrill
Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness
Published in 2003 by Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc. (New York)

So here I am, “sheltering in place” in Pennsylvania. Alone with D, Smudge and myself. Taking walks outside as the weather permits. Doing what we can to be ready for anything.

Even though we don’t live on the edge, fear weighs on me. This isn’t the way I want to die. Followed, of course, by a thousand unanswerable questions.

But the prayer above isn’t about answering my questions. It’s about our Creator putting my fears to flight, making room for love and justice. Especially now, when the mandate to shelter in place already isolates us, and leaves many more vulnerable than I am.

Praying my fears will be sent packing, clearing the air bit by bit for something new to happen.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 May 2020
Photo of Snow Geese flying near Mount Baker in Washington State found at correre.org

uncertainty

silence tiptoes
through the valley
searches for truth
hidden beneath
veiled madness
reverberating
through airwaves
relentless and
undisciplined
first one thing
and then another
without rhyme
or reason
torn into pieces
lives and hearts
skip beats waiting
for the next
moment to fall
redefining
everything

That’s how I’m feeling today. Listening to POTUS talk about the corona virus, it seems he’s making it up as he goes along from one day to the next. Picking and choosing what he thinks someone out there wants to hear? Wanting to show he’s in charge?

I’m reminded again that my life isn’t defined by POTUS. Yes, his behavior and undisciplined mind and feelings matter. Yes, he makes what’s already difficult even more difficult.

Still, he doesn’t have the power to define who I am. Today is Sunday. A day to be wise, truthful and happy as I learn to enter the fray one fiery sunrise after another.

Parts of Psalm 23 come to mind, reworded a bit.

Because You alone are leading me,
I have more than enough
to walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
especially when I fear I don’t have
what I need to get from here
to the end of my earthly journey.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 March 2020
Photo found at churchofthemessiah.com

Late winter sun

Late winter sun
Rises early
Without fanfare
Or drumrolls

Streams of light
Bathe new growth
Pushing up through
Thawed ground

Majestic limbs
Reach out
Plucking silent strings
Of my heart

I love simple things that remind me of not-so-simple things. In this case, what touches the strings of my heart.

For several days now I’ve stayed home, tending to a small but stubborn health nuisance. Definitely not what I was looking for just now.

Today’s email brought this pre-season photo from Chanticleer Gardens. It reached out and got me, in the best way possible.

Hoping your week is bringing you fresh beauty, along with everything else.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 March 2020
Photo taken at Chanticleer Gardens by Chris Fehlhaber, February 2020

A note to Mary Oliver

This morning
I woke with a start
Already caught up in
The impossible tug between
Daily upkeep and writing
Now in danger of starvation
Thanks to inedible pieces
Unredeemed if not forgotten
Standing at my heart’s door
Begging for a breath of air

Yes, Mary, you found a way to live with disciplined abandon. Doing what you loved most. Though it wasn’t easy, you found a way.

I want to believe there’s a way for me. Not to be you, but to be the writer I am, the woman I am, the mother, sister, and grandmother I am.

I was happy to retire from my professional life. It wasn’t all bad. I can’t imagine myself today without it. It was, however, punishingly difficult work, sometimes even outrageous.

So here I am, wondering how I might relate to you except in some far-off never never land.

It pains me to admit this: In spite of the inspiration and insights I gain from your writing, I might be happier if I’d never discovered you. Then again, this is probably the highest compliment I could give you.

I don’t hate my life, and I have no plans to give up. It’s just that every time I read Upstream, I realize how much of life I’ve missed, and how little time is left for me.

Gratefully,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 March 2020
Photo found at labmonline.co.uk

stripped bare

stripped bare
of unnecessary baggage,
boney fingers
and crooked limbs
exposed,
scarred and worn,
awkward grace awaits
rebirth

Dare I believe that death is like the reiteration of the four seasons? I don’t know the answer to my question. Nonetheless, I identify painfully with this photo and the words I’ve written above.

I often hear that life is a great adventure. It’s also a great misadventure of lows mixed in with highs. Things I would give anything to experience again, and things I’m glad to leave behind.

Today I’m grateful for photos. Simple photos that reach out with whispers of beauty, strength, and faith. Enough faith to keep standing through all kinds of weather. Believing and trusting. Doing only what the skeleton of a bush can do. Taking it one moment, one season, one joy and sorrow at a time.

When the time is right, the gardener will appear to usher in the next season.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 March 2020
Photo taken by DAFraser in March 2016 at Longwood Gardens

Uneasy in my own skin

Uneasy in my own skin
Now turning on me
If not one thing
Then it’s another

I love my dermatologist
Except when the phone rings
and the voracious analysts
want one more piece

of my disappearing body
bit by bit they cut and scrape
burn and stitch so often
I can’t remember when

I was once a whole woman
Or was it a tiny little girl
Fresh from the oven
Ready for sacrifice

To the sun goddesses
And my tan is better than
Your tan even if it isn’t
At least I didn’t blister!

I think the poem says it all. Yesterday afternoon I got a call back from my wonderful dermatologist. Two bits of my flesh passed with flying colors. They’re not sure about the third. So yes, they want more. Not what I wanted to hear.

Still, here’s to outstanding dermatologists who don’t always get to deliver good news. Without them, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. Not because of nips and tucks, but because of many small and a few larger patches of skin they recognized as problematic.

So…..have you been putting off a visit to your dermatologist?

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 March 2020
Image found at publicdomainpictures.net
Sunbathers at Tybee Island Beach near Savannah, Georgia

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