Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Memories

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

Love Sorrow | Mary Oliver

Facing old age and death is no picnic. However, the post below still helps me re-imagine my relationship to my own sorrow. She’s a small version of me and needs to be loved day and night. Thank you once again, Mary Oliver.  

This poem from Mary Oliver struck a chord in me. Partly due to the current pandemic, with its waves of sorrow. But also because of my personal history. My comments follow.

Love sorrow. She is yours now, and you must
take care of what has been
given. Brush her hair, help her
into her little coat, hold her hand,
especially when crossing a street. For, think,

what if you should lose her? Then you would be
sorrow yourself; her drawn face, her sleeplessness
would be yours. Take care, touch
her forehead that she feel herself not so

utterly alone. And smile, that she does not
altogether forget the world before the lesson.
Have patience in abundance. And do not
ever lie or ever leave her even for a moment

by herself, which is to say, possibly, again,
abandoned. She is strange, mute, difficult,
sometimes unmanageable but, remember, she is a child.
And amazing things can happen. And you may see,

as the two of you go
walking together in the morning light, how
little by little she relaxes; she looks about her;
she begins to grow.

© 2008 by Mary Oliver
Published by Beacon Press in Red Bird, a collection of poems
“Love Sorrow” is on p. 64

Dear Mary,

Your poem about loving sorrow brought back memories of my childhood and adult life. Especially things taken or withheld from me before I understood they were mine. Plus bits and pieces I lost or gave away throughout my life.

Sorrow, especially if it showed, was an indulgence I needed to give up. Or get over. What’s done is done. It won’t do to make my friends uneasy, or get into trouble with adults who wanted me to be someone else. I learned early to swallow or deny sorrow. Especially in public.

I think you would be horrified though not surprised at the world as it is today. We’re drowning in sorrow and anger, trying to figure out how this tsunami pandemic caught us so unprepared for death and dying, as well as living mindfully.

I don’t want to drown. I want to live and grow, especially now as time is running out.

Thank you for showing me how to befriend my sorrow. How to welcome her into my life, and learn to live with her as the child she is. And how to watch her begin to relax and grow into a strangely wonderful companion.

With gratitude and admiration,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 May 2020, reposted on 20 June 2022
Image found at 123rf.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

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

Farewell, Scotland! | Dear Readers 2

P1070327

Edinburgh Castle, high above the city

This week D and I have been looking at photos/slides taken in 2015 during our 50th wedding anniversary trip to Scotland.  It was fabulous! We flew out of Philadelphia on September 1 and spent nearly 2 ½ weeks in Scotland. Here’s one of my Scotland posts. A tiny peek into a stunning trip. Don’t miss the panorama below, taken from Edinburgh Castle. Click to enlarge (2 times if needed). 

For the record,

  • D drove us safely over 650 miles on the ‘wrong’ side of the road without any scrapes or bruises. Every now and then he had just a bit of what he called ‘terror on the road.’ Especially on the narrow, winding back roads we enjoyed for most the trip.
  • We have over 2000 photos to help us remember this fabulous trip.
  • We left our pedometers (Fitbits) at home, which is most unfortunate since we climbed up and down the equivalent of at least one mountain each, and walked over 100 miles each in cities, towns and forests.
  • We ate breakfast most days like royalty (thanks to our Bed & Breakfast master chefs!), learned to depend on TESCO and The Cooperative Stores found all over Scotland, and enjoyed more versions of yummy carrot-red lentil soup than I knew existed in this world. Usually served with an enormous, thick slice of heavenly bread.

We spent time in Edinburgh, North Berwick, Stirling, Glasgow, Oban (Isle of Mull and Iona), Grantown-on-Spey (Cairngorms National Park), Huntly (George MacDonald’s home), and Aberdeenshire (Castle Fraser).

Most amazing and somewhat strange was being together and doing only what we chose to do on any given day. The weather was mild, sometimes chilly damp and windy, but overall stunningly beautiful.

Here are several more photos from the first day of our trip. Enjoy!

First, a panorama looking down from the Edinburgh Castle to the City. Click on the photo to get a closer look. Can you see the ferris wheel?

P1070428

Here’s a flag of Scotland whipping around in the wind above the Castle. Note the wind-worn edge.

P1070379 - Copy

Now we’re down on the street, walking away from the Castle.

P1070333

This colorful window garden caught my eye–one of several in a small, quiet courtyard just off the busy street.

P1070459

This magnificent organ was in the church where John Knox once preached. No, I didn’t get to hear it being played–one reason I have to go back some day!

P1070477

Finally, here’s a little street beauty from a residential area just below the Castle.

P1070356

I hope you all had at least one or two happy adventures during the last few weeks. If not, here’s hoping you survived whatever other adventures came your way.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 September 2015, lightly edited and reposted 11 May 2022
Photo credit: DAFraser, September 2015, Edinburgh, Scotland

Snooteville, Tennessee 1981

So make that Nashville, Tennessee, 1981. I’m not sure what inspired us to pose in this magnificent manner. That’s daughter Sherry on the left, son Scott in the middle, and I wish I didn’t know who that woman is on the right! By this time, I’d finished my course work at Vanderbilt, and was probably getting ready for comprehensive exams.

In any case, this photo cracks me up every time I see it!

The lovely framed temple rubbing on the wall was a gift from D’s mother. She brought it back from a tour of duty (as military librarian) during the VietNam War. The empty shell on the fireplace shelf was one of our great finds while visiting beaches on the East Coast.

I wonder what look D had on his face when he snapped this one! I don’t think it was planned. We were probably worn out from having to pose with smiles on our faces….or something like that! In any case, I love this photo.

Hoping this day brings moments of happiness in your life, no matter how they happen to find you!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 May 2022
Photo taken by DAFraser, Nashville, Tennessee, 1981 

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

%d bloggers like this: