Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Memories

Forget the third day | Our 9/11 Wedding

11 September 1965
D and I on the right; Sister #2 and J (now deceased) on the left

It’s already the 4th day of our bedroom and den updates. Yesterday was chaotic, at least for me. Our painters/carpenters got down to the nitty gritty. Translation: lots of noisy pounding, trips up and down the stairs to bring in supplies, and prepping the new den and bedroom ceilings for paint.

This morning they removed heavy old furniture from the bedroom, installed new baseboards and a bookshelf, and who knows what else. Lots of up and down the stairs again, plus sawing and pounding.

Yesterday was our 54th wedding anniversary, marked by the absence of any big celebration. Partly because of tributes to all those impacted by the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks 18 years ago. Sadly, we’ve inherited more problems we never saw coming, and seem to be without resources to address long-term. That would be ongoing fallout from long-term health and well-being issues.

So what about our 54 years of marriage? On the day we married, D and I inherited challenges we never saw coming. So what has it taken to survive and thrive? Here’s some of what it’s meant for me.

  • Learning to ask for help from trustworthy people
  • Learning to tell D things I don’t want to talk about because I feel embarrassment, shame or humiliation
  • Learning to listen to D without jumping in to have my say before he’s finished with his say
  • Overcoming my fear of being female in a male-dominated world–without making D the enemy
  • Making painful mistakes in my relationship with D and starting over–small steps, one at a time
  • Learning, especially now, to let D do what I might be able to do for myself, but don’t have energy to accomplish
  • Forgetting about perfection in anything–housecleaning, playing the piano, keeping to a schedule….
  • Taking time to be together away from home–Longwood Gardens, the Zoo, church, visiting neighbors and family members….
  • Ending each day together, relaxing with Smudge on our laps sound asleep!

All this and more, of course. The bottom line is still the same: Marriage has been hard work and a form of dying. Not in a morbid way, but dying to My dreams for us, My way of seeing D’s world, My brilliant ideas….and finding there’s life in creative thinking together about even the most difficult problems We face.

Thanks for visiting!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 September 2019
Photo of the lovely couples; taken 11 September 1965 in the church basement following our double wedding ceremony; Savannah, Georgia

On the second day

On the second day
Four men plus one disconnect
Our important lifelines
Most painful was the internet
Which drives me into my
One size fits all office and
Temporary bedroom
Hoping for a quiet moment
In which to write a line or two

Already marked off my list
For the day – one lovely walk
In this end of summer weather
Accompanied by incessant
Mowing and sawing and pounding
Plus the nearly total absence
Of children now gathered
Inside school rooms bursting with
Joy and unexpressed sadness

Agony seeps beneath closed doors
Daily flooding the earth in
Sorrow and tears of pain
Drenching carefully chosen outfits
And routines that proclaim
All is well especially when it
Isn’t and we’ve forgotten how
To accompany one another
Through these trying seasons

I walked by the grade school this morning, thinking about burdens children carry to school. Not huge book-bags, but things like hunger for food, for peace at home, a best friend or an adult willing to listen and cheer them on. The kind I had when I was 9 years old. Her name was Mrs. Hanks. She taught me much more than how to play the piano with grace and joy.

As you can see, our internet connection is back. I’m relieved, though the electrical work is taking longer than anticipated. It’s an old house, designed by a carpenter in the mid-1900s for his wife and family of many children. It’s full of wonderful bits, and some not so wonderful realities such as strange wiring patterns and lack of attention to squaring things off.

The contractors just left. Time to release Smudge from his laundry room penthouse, and get on with what’s left of today.

Cheers!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 September 2019
Photo of Mrs. Hanks and me, taken by JERenich in Spring 1960

Sorting through closets

Sorting through closets
I’m overcome by sadness
about what?

Beloved outfits, yes
And also reminders of a time
when I was what?

Somebody?
A worker bee all dressed up for slaughter?
A shining star in someone else’s grand career?

I need another outlook
On these outgrown outfits
Consciously assembled to cover
A harmless woman
Not seeking glory or fame
Easy to work with
A good team player
Not given to outlandish clothes
Or calling attention to herself

I’m not mean
I’m neat and tidy
Unpretentious
Don’t mess with me
And by the way
I’m not sure who I am

Today’s work isn’t the end
It’s a beginning
An expansion
Not of what’s in my closet
But in my spirit —
The spirit of our Creator
Whose expansiveness goes
Beyond the boundaries of my small world
Into the vast unexplored territory
Of the woman I am already becoming

Most of my time right now is spent getting things ready for the contractors. They’ll begin work this coming Monday. In the meantime, we’ve been sorting things out, making another dent in our worldly goods.

As relieved as I am to be doing all this, I’m also grieving. The poem above is about going beyond my small world. Still, I carry happy memories of past collaborations with colleagues, and lively courses with students. My clothes are a reminder of good times, not just the other times.

Today I’m expanding. I also feel the drag of my upbringing and life as a woman in college, seminary-land, church, and society in general. I remind myself that our Creator is constantly expanding, moving into new territory, and calling out to us to follow, ready or not.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 September 2019
Image found at pixabay.com

Shades of memories

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
Image found at creativelive.com

Haunted

Haunted by a slave market photo taken
On our way to summer Bible camp
To be indoctrinated directly and
Indirectly by the ‘good’ news of
White Christianity posing as the answer
To every question we might have
Including how slaves are to behave
And not behave toward their masters
And mistresses and white folk

Deep south heat rises from the ashes
Of lynchings, cross burnings and beatings
No water of baptism or gorgeous lake
Could ever quench the flaming seed planted
Fertilized and watered daily in us
We were God’s children
We were special
We were white
We were privileged
We were better
We belonged

Sit up straight little children
Hold very still and look into the camera
Not every child gets to visit a cleaned-up
Slave market in cleaned-up Sunday go to
Meeting clothes and live to tell about it
In this enlightened age of freedom
And justice for all

Was this the first slave market in the USA? It claimed to be. But does it really matter? Here it is, kept alive in the middle of this small Georgia town. A daily reminder to all inhabitants of who they are and are not.

The photo was taken in 1958 on a bus trip from Savannah, Georgia, to a summer Bible camp we attended regularly. I’m in the very back, tall, with glasses. Sister #2 is standing directly in front of me. Sister #3 (Diane) is sitting on the front row, second from the right. My father made this a regular stop on the way to camp, and loved taking photos of us on the market steps.

This was one small cog in the machinery that kept us in line. Good little white girls and boys obediently lining up for a photo op. Relieved to have our superior status, even though we knew something wasn’t right and that we’d done nothing to earn white skin.

Our nation is coming apart at the seams. High time? Yes. Dangerous? Yes. Can we get through this and emerge stronger, wiser and more compassionate? I wish I knew.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 August 2019
Photo taken by JERenich, 1958, in Louisville, Georgia

Are we there yet?

What child doesn’t know
the longing to be done with this
Wearisome winding grind of a trip
Everyone said would be lovely
Fantastic and most of all
Life-changing

Sitting there in the back seat
I toy in my mind
with going back and starting over
Resetting expectations and
End goals and a thousand other
Minutia I never dreamed
I would negotiate without maps
or trustworthy guides

Still, there’s this nagging truth —

Even if the trip is life-changing
That’s not what I had in mind
Did you?
I just wanted to be there
Part of the scene without
Calling undue attention to myself
Or others who threatened to undo
Me if I didn’t walk the walk
And talk the walk and stumble
And fall on the walk so I would
Have a really good Once I Was Lost
And Now I Am Found story to tell
To the nations

Forgive me if I ramble
It seems that’s all that’s left —
Rambling through memories
Searching for myself
As I know myself today not
The little girl of yesterday
Who just wanted to be there
And then one day decided
She did not

Yesterday was spent in another doctor’s office with yet more homework to do. This morning D and I went out for an early walk before things get hotter than hot. The sun is relentless these days, sometimes with pop-up thunderstorms that dump buckets of water at will.

Wherever you are in your journey, I pray all is well and that you’re having a lovely if sometimes exasperating ramble.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 August 2019
Photo taken by JERenich, Spring 1947, Seattle, Washington
Sister #2, Elouise, and a friend; Sister and I are wearing Easter outfits made by Mom

On this side of heaven

On this side of heaven
Components are missing
Without which I am expected
To keep functioning
Albeit slowly and with effort
Especially in the white hot
Heat of summer sun
Boiling over into my veins
Weary muscles screaming for
Blessed relief

Outside I hear our neighbor’s
Lawn mower chugging back and forth
Droning its way through
This week’s crop of tender grass
Now rudely chopped and left
Lying in withering weather
Unable to cry out or scream
Enough is enough please
Let me rest in peace or go
To seed just one more time

Inside the air conditioner labors
Creating semi-civilized space
In which to sort through
Accumulations of a lifetime
Heaving and tossing what
Will never rise from the dead
In this life or we hope in the next
Dust flies in the face of reality
Only too eager to coat the past
With its tell-tail pall of powder

The last few weeks were a blur of doctor appointments, conversations with contractors, decisions about our bedroom reclamation project, and sorting through accumulated belongings.

So far, so good. We’ve managed to leave a respectable amount of livable space throughout the house. The actual work won’t begin right away. In the meantime, I’ve become allergic to keeping things around that have no clear purpose.

Not that we haven’t done this before. We have. But this time it feels different. Our late-70s have begun, and who knows how long we’ll have beyond that. So yes, I’m laughing and crying my way through bits and pieces I’d forgotten about, then letting them go. Feeling lighter with each fond, relieved, or I-can’t-believe-I-did-that farewell.

Cheers!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 August 2019
Cool male cardinal photo found at mix.com

Mom and Arnica Ointment

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~~~Arnica Flowers and Healing Oil

Touching Mom was never easy for me. That included everything from an arm around her shoulder to a kiss on her cheek. Hold hands? Forget it. The ache for physical contact was there, but the reality—or even imagining the reality—was an immediate turnoff.

In the late 1990s I got a telephone call from Savannah. Mom had just been taken to the hospital. She’d had a stroke. No, it wasn’t the kind that could be easily reversed. It wasn’t major, and it wasn’t minor. It was what it was. She couldn’t talk clearly or move independently.

Mom was 78 years old. Too young, I thought, to die. I immediately made arrangements to fly down for several days. I wanted to see her. I loved her. In fact, during the last several years we’d developed the most positive relationship we’d ever had with each other.

The afternoon I arrived I went straight to the hospital. There she was, arms and hands covered with multiple bruises. The result of too many attempts to find veins to poke for various medical tests.

Mom always bruised easily. But this was horrific. Though she couldn’t talk, she signaled early on her extreme displeasure (slight frowns) and even embarrassment (a few tears) about the way her arms looked.

I didn’t know what to do, so I sat there talking to her and looking at the bruises. They were ugly.

When I travel, I always have a small tube of arnica ointment in my bag. It’s great for many things, including bruises large and small. It’s anti-inflammatory, has no nasty side effects, and needs no prescription.

I pondered the tube in my bag. Normally I would just give it to Mom so she could put it on her skin. Not possible today.

I took a deep breath. I knew what I needed to do, though I didn’t know how I would get through it without feelings of revulsion. If that sounds over-dramatic, it was not. Touching Mom in any way, except for a brief hello and goodbye hug, wasn’t even on my to-do list.

What I really needed, so I thought, was to maintain that ‘safe’ distance I loved and hated so much. The emotional and physical distance that seemed to shield me from being rejected.

When I suggested putting arnica ointment on her arms and hands, she perked up immediately and moved her right arm ever so slightly closer to me. I can’t even describe my gut feelings as I began applying the ointment. Just touching her skin was difficult enough, much less applying ointment.

She watched my hand intently as I gently rubbed the ointment in. It took a long time to do one full arm and hand. When I finished her right arm, she signaled that was enough for the evening. The nurses were coming to get her ready for the night.

The next morning she raised her right arm for me to see. Her eyes were bright. Her skin wasn’t 100% clear, but the difference from the day before almost took my breath away. She looked over at her left arm and pointed with her chin. She wanted me to do the left arm, too!

Mom’s arms and hands didn’t fully recover while I was there. Yet the difference between before and after was as dramatic in her body as it was in my heart. I got over my fear of touching her.

I still have regrets about what she and I missed in our relationship. This wasn’t the last time I ever saw Mom. It was, however, the beginning of the end. As unexpectedly wonderful as it was sad.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Psalm 23:5

 © Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 June 2015, reposted 13 August 2019
Image from purepro.com

Parting is such sweet sorrow….

Tomorrow we’re driving to our son and daughter-in-law’s house for a last chance to see our granddaughters for a while. They’ll celebrate their 19th birthdays later this month. However, by then they’ll be enrolled in their colleges, far from home. In the photo above they’re modeling their new, handmade sweaters–a Christmas gift, as I recall.

Grandma/Queen Elouise (that would be me) has been feeling a bit nostalgic today. I don’t usually post pictures of our granddaughters, but below are a few of my favorites from way back. Plus one Smudge treasures dearly.

About six years ago our  granddaughters and their Mom rescued Smudge from a state park. He was about 4-6 weeks old–soaking wet, skin and bones, bedraggled and frightened. On their first birthday after the rescue, Smudge sent them a birthday card. As you can see, he freely edited my carefully worded note from him to them. I still crack up when I read it.

Here are several photos, all from way back when they (and we!) were very young. D and I are in the first photo; our son and daughter-in-law show up further down. Along with Carolina and Eliza, of course!

Thanks for indulging my bit of nostalgia! Hoping you’re having a great weekend.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 August 2019
Photos taken by DAFraser and Scott Fraser, 2000-2001

Islands of sanity

Islands of sanity hover
In the distance
Small protected spaces
Untroubled by storms
Picking away at sandy shores
And beaches of pristine
Water marshes alive with
Small chicks and crabs
Feasting on invisible bounty
Sheltered within my heart

This was a disruptive week due to our unexpected waterbed leak. I find myself depending on a few safe spaces not affected by our immediate crisis. They feel a bit like anchors or touchstones. Things I can count on right now for a bit of sanity.

I love my attic perch, looking out the window into the tree tops. I love sitting with D and Smudge in our den in the evenings. I love the sight of daughter Sherry’s glowing stars shining down from the ceiling in my temporary bedroom when I go to sleep at night.

Writing the poem took me back to my childhood. Often when I needed safe space or a bit of peace and quiet, I went out to the old dock (see photo) on the river that flowed by our front yard. I sat on the wooden picnic table and watched the river, the marsh hen chicks learning to balance on marsh grass, and little crabs diving into the mud at low tide looking for food.

Tonight I’m still that little girl at heart, grateful for small islands of sanity.

Hoping you have a restful Sabbath,
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 August 2019
Photo taken by DAFraser, July 2010
Dock in front of my childhood home in Savannah, Georgia 

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