Saturday, January 15, 2011

This Poem needs naming

Was it by "chance" that your eyes met mine?
That last little glance,then,..both left behind.

I wanted to stay
Forever that way.
But, what couldn't last
Was finished too fast.

Don't ever look back
on our bitter-sweet past
with any regrets.
But please don't forget
our bitter-sweet past
that finished too fast.

Don't shed any tears
for all the lost years.
 I'll never forget
what my heart can't regret.
It's sad to forget,
but worse to regret.

I still see your face
in that special place
that time can't erase
or ever replace.

I'll always love you. And, part of me too,
will always be true to memories of you.

Friday, January 14, 2011

I Can't Stop Loving You (It is Quite useless to try)

DMIL has developed an interest in senior citizen aquatics. Since she doesn’t drive I’ve been providing transportation. Since she doesn’t swim either, (and eye-witnesses have tattled that she has supposedly almost drowned twice) I’ve taken to suiting up and hopping in the pool with her just to keep an eye on things. I don’t join the class though. It’s too boring. All they do is walk back and forth in the shallow end waving their arms in rhythm to the music. No, I find myself gravitating to the rabble rousers at the back who basically ignore all the teacher’s instructions and spend their time having water fights, racing to the edge of the pool, and singing real loud and off key just to hear the echo of their voices. I alternate between giggling at them and scolding, “You kids better quit that misbehaving before the teacher gets upset” ("kids" said in spite of the fact that not a single person in the class, including the instructor, isn’t old enough to be my parent). It is to no avail though. They seem quite gleeful about their evil influence on me.

Usually the piped in music is some kind of golden oldies or swing tunes-something to appeal to the geriatric set. But today, they were playing what I call “noise with a beat”. Not really even music at all. Since so many of them were muttering and complaining about it, I suggested to one sweet-looking, silver-haired grandma that she go ask to have it changed to something decent. “H*ll no”, She responded. “I’m already on the sh*t list.”

By the time I finished choking on pool water over that reply, a new song came over the loud speaker, and shortly we were enjoying the beautiful strains of “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” The effect on the trouble makers was astounding. They quit the mischief-making on the spot and listened contemplatively. “What?” I demanded. “That’s Ray Charles”, one of them explained. “He isn’t with us anymore”, confided the potty-mouth. “He sure had a voice”, commented a gentlemanly old codger wistfully.

I hope to never be in the situation of having to organize and keep in line a bunch of feisty retirees during a water exercise class. But just in case, I got the Ray Charles ready to go.

If God Gave Me The Chance To Do It All Again

"I'm Noel, just like Christmas", was the way he always introduced himself back then. And, I mentally rolled my eyes every time I heard it. Because, the Korean students clearly did not get the joke and why couldn't he at least muster enough awareness to realize they were only smiling and nodding to be kind? ( in time, of course, he did). And, kind they were. I should have taken a lesson from them. At 19, I was still far too shallow to taint my reputation by much hanging around with anyone "un-cool" like that.  But, I was pleased that even though he wasn't the "in-crowd", everyone in our group was kind enough to show some common courtesy. Overtly, at least. Courtesy, but not too much real closeness...Well, wasn't it up to the guys to pal around with him? After all, we girls couldn't be expected to get overly involved. I was sure proud of us. Weren't we the "mature" ones?

But, my future-husband, whose judgement about these things I was already understanding could be relied on, thought he was a really sweet, good-natured, well-intentioned guy.

Fast forward a few years. By now I'm a new mom and he is a married man. He and his almost-unbelievably lovely wife were living within driving distance. They came to visit. He was still wearing that awful siren-red windbreaker that I despised in Korea. (He had warned me when he got it that it would last a good ten years. "I hope not" I half-joked back at him.) But, by now people's clothes weren't very much concern to me. Not when I, myself, was wearing a baby-spit-up stained apron with diaper pins handily attached to it. We all laughed and chatted together and he was rather entertaining. I recalled the really good times we had teaching together and how he ended up being very involved with the students-quite well-liked actually. He and his almost-unbelievably lovely wife (and, I could hardly believe that HE managed to nab a lovely thing like her) offered many kindnesses to my teenage brother-in-law who had recently undergone open heart surgery. Knowing that I have a bit of a mean streak, I searched my memory in hopes that I had never showed it to this nice-natured, sweet, well-intentioned fellow human. "Why wasn't he more popular with you girls?" mused my dear husband, who always thinks the best of folks and liked him well enough. "Youth…What did WE know?" I shrugged it off. "I just hope he knows what he's got in that wife he has." I groused back at him. "I'm sure he does." was his reasonable and kindly uttered reply.

We stayed in spotty touch with them as time went by. They moved many states away. Contact decreased over the intervening years. We regretted it deeply when we heard about some of the curve balls life threw at them. Hardly fair for such caring folks to keep running into such hard times.

A few months ago we got an e-mail from him. His work requires him to travel now. He would be in our area in a few days. Could he drop by? "Yes. Of course. We'd love to see you." It was an afternoon that I already had off from work, so, we met and gabbed in the living room until my husband got home and we went out all together to grab a bite somewhere. And what an afternoon it was! I had guessed that somehow it would be a blessing. I just hadn't imagined how much.

After we exchanged notes on the trials and triumphs of parenting and got caught up on the last couple of decades, he began sharing on a deeper and more personal level. Life had not been easy, but they were finally getting on a better financial footing. In spite of it all, he had been active in his own and the surrounding communities. He related magnificent and sometimes miraculous moments when he went to volunteer in the relief efforts after Katrina and other serious storms. These experiences led him and his friends to start a local helping ministry. He can't afford any of this, but, God provides. I listened..astounded at times..enthralled. Had the good sense, for a change, to keep my mouth shut-except to pump for more information.

They were stories that stayed with me, but, I won't tell them here. Don't want to steal his thunder. He writes very well and he really should be blogging. But, I can't help sharing one very moving moment. He told me how it was that his mom left this life. He was taking her to the doctor when they got hit by a diabetic driver who had lapsed into a coma. His mom was killed by the impact. Believing he was going to die, his last words before the impact were "Thanks for the great life, Lord." He lived, but sustained a broken back. The next day he hobbled on crutches into the hospital room of the guy who crashed into them to offer him forgiveness. Offer. Him. Forgiveness!!!

"Did you ever have contact with any one else from the old Korea group?" I asked him at one point during the conversing. "Never at all" was his cheerless reply. And, what else was that I heard in his voice? Forlorn regret? Dispirited sorrow? The sadness of it grieved me greatly. I felt a sudden flash of anger at the lot of them. But, I can cast judgement?

But, at least I was heartened and gladdened that instead of becoming bitter from the vicissitudes of his life, this sweet-natured and well-intentioned example of decent humanity had made something inspirational of it. And, he knew what he had to be grateful for. I mean, really, "Thanks for the great life, Lord?" Except for the wild wonderfulness of helping others, his life hadn't actually been all that great. Oh, and his great wife. Whom he did indeed express great gratitude for in the course of our conversation. With good reason too. I gasped out loud when he showed me her recent photo. She is the epitome of aging graciously and beautifully. To the remarking of this, he cutely responded. "Well, that's what I think but she says she is old and gray now, so, I didn't know what to believe." OK buddy - WRONG answer. When she says that you're supposed to tell her "You are always beautiful to me"-or something like that. Come on, Boy, you've got a brain. Use it!

Ah well, no chance to do it over, so, get it right the next time.

BTW, he wasn't still wearing that old red windbreaker when we last saw him. Well, it was summer and too hot for it anyway. So, no way to know if he is still hanging on to it without asking outright-and I am much too polite to do that (Shut UP! I am too!). Who cares anyway? I didn't notice what either one of us was wearing.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Another Little Note(d on facebook)

Usually whenever I go to Korea, I know by the time I leave why it was that I was there. You know how it goes; you meet folks, friendships are formed. Or maybe impact is made when lives collide. This last time though, no experience specifically stuck out. There just didn't seem to be a special defining moment when I realized my purpose for going there this particular time. So, I'll just tell one random little incident (out of many).

I was returning back to my apartment from the airport. I had just seen" Mr. Sunny" off and was hoping to get back in time for him to call me before boarding. This ended up not happening because I wanted to see how long the trip would take by subway system. Too long! Guess I should have taken the bus. Before I realized all that, and was still trying to hurry along, we all had to get off the train at the end of one line and transfer to another one in a different part of the station. I was just sort of following the crowd when they all started running. I know what that means-the next train is about to take off. I chased after them and sure enough, the next train was literally MOVING by the time I jumped in. The door closing almost caught my foot and I actually caught some serious air landing in a seat almost on some guys lap as the train sped off.

Usually I am overly cautious around crowds and fast moving objects. "So unlike me" I was thinking, when I heard a voice speaking to me. It was the guy who almost got me on his lap. I knew it was me he was addressing because he spoke in flawless English. Looking around I could see no one else that anyone would assume was illiterate in Korean.

"Now, do you even know where you are going?" He inquired kindly.

I didn't take a bit of offense. After all, they had all seen me risk my life jumping on a moving train. Anybody that dumb probably doesn't have a clue where she is going. So, I did another uncharacteristic thing. I told him where I was going and which transfers I'd be taking. I never do that because, having been followed, I am wary of letting strangers know my destination. But, he seemed sincere enough.

He nodded hiis approval and explained, "I thought I'd make sure since I'll be getting off in two stops."

Then he tried to help me practise a little Korean. Until he gave up on me. When we arrived at his station he nudged the fellow beside him and started to to stand up. Aforementioned fellow did not budge-gave no indication that he was even aware of his surroundings. Mr. Hospitality sighed and settled back in his seat resignedly.

"Why didn't you get out?" I demanded - a little too sharply considering he had no idea that I'd ever been stalked.

"I think I'd better stay with my friend here," he murmured quietly.

For the first time I took a good look at his traveling companion. The man looked pathetic. Pale faced with head in his hands. He appeared to have been crying.

"What's the matter with him?" I gasped. (Yeah, I am the epitome of tact.)

The story came out. It was marital trouble. It wasn't quite as bad as "after 25 good years together they had their first big fight", but she had been recently suckered in to one of these off-shoot religions where they want all your money. Since she had no job, she was handing in all of her husbands savings and there was nothing left for the children's inheritance.

We talked and tsked. Mind you, the guy with the problem wasn't doing any of the actual talking. But, he was engaged in the exchange. He lifted his red rimmed eyes and listened intently to my suggestions. I do believe I saw some actual hope on his face. This is one thing I like about being a bit older in Korea. Age and experience still count for something. Folks actually seek and value your advise and ideas. Not that mine were much good. What could I do? Invite them to come for counseling with the Pastor? As far as they could tell it was religion that caused this mess in the first place! But, maybe it comforted him to have an impartial observer taking his side in his troubles.

"Hey, this is your stop." They gripped my hands briefly in farewell, then called "Goodbye! Goodbye!" as I tripped out the door of the train in the nick of time just before it could slam shut on me.

I think of them sometimes. Wonder if it all worked out. Wonder what their impression was of the 'crazy American'.

Probably they sat there and said, "Think she'll ever make it back to her place in one piece?"

"Not a chance! Hey, that's pretty funny. I'm feeling more cheerful already."

"Me too. Wanna go have some beer together?"

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Sometimes the Heart Knows How

Back in my home-care nursing days I managed to become known as the rescue-er of flattened dogs and lost babies. The baby was when I was on my way to a daily wound care. The patient liked to get her visit over with very early in the morning. Probably because she wasn't being compliant with the required homebound status, but we were on a "don't ask and don't tell" relationship. One day, on the way to her house at about 7 AM, a little tyke in a diaper-and I mean just a diaper and nothing else-dashed across the road in front of all the cars stopped at the red light. He went straight to the entrance of a convenient store. No one seemed the least bit concerned-except me (of course). I parked immediately and fetched him. Asked around, but no one knew him. Called the cops. Helped look for his parents. Soothed him when he was taken away by squad car to the emergency children's home. This was in the days before cell phones, but I used a pay phone to notify the office I'd be running late and they called all my patients for me. Of course I regaled everyone for the rest of the day with tales of my big adventure. All the patients wanted to know ALL the juicy details. For many of them it was the most exciting event of their week. I was hailed as a local hero. After work I called the police station to inquire about the little fellow. They were all like "Is this the nurse from (name of hospital)?" The kid had been re-united with his parents. The officers were openly admiring of my quick thinking and smooth maneuvers to save this child. Situation could've ended much worse.

(I had the fire department like putty in my hands for a while too, but that's whole "nuther story.)

Another time, while on the way to a diabetic's house for her insulin injection, I spied a tiny bit of half-flattened fluff on the street. It was a little dog that had been hit. Still alive but the back legs looked paralyzed. I simply could not stop to call animal control right then. Can't be late for the diabetics you know. So, I scooped him up in a disposable gown, plopped him in a basket that was in the trunk, and took him along to the home visit. It was a hot day and I didn't want to leave him inside the car, so I put him just outside the front door of the patient's house and told the inhabitants to stay away from him. Of course, the husband of my patient completely disobeyed that order, and the little dog BIT him. Boy, animal control sure got involved then! And the administrator on call. And my supervisor. And, probably the board of trustees for all I know. This time they weren't quite so accomodating. "Should have let the d#@n dog die!" (to quote one of my co-workers).

Next I added "savior of run-away kids" to my Curriculum Vitae. It was after I had left doing home-care and gone to the nurse advise line. My supervisor called one evening and asked me to come in and help out at work. For some reason I felt like telling her no. She was surprised. I'm usually flexible. But, I had made plans for a walk in the gently falling snow*, so, I just said "no". On my route I wandered down by the highway-something I rarely do. There, sitting on a large rock, was a good size boy. He smiled at me, and I smiled at him. I said, "I'm Jimmy's mom." He said, "Who is Jimmy?" I said, "Uh, you don't live in this neighborhood, do you?" (Because, come on, EVERYBODY knows Jimmy!) The story came out. He was a runaway. I was afraid he'd run again but it soon became apparent he was too tired to do anything but follow me home. He had already walked at least 8 miles, and probably more since he had lost his way for a while. Poor kid could barely put one foot ahead of the other. We were both wishing I had brought the car instead of heading out on foot. At home I handed him off to Jimmy** to watch TV together and to have someone of his age group to hang out with while we fed him, hydrated him, and called his grandmother in another state-(she alerted the authorities). His mother was duly checked out (she had been arrested for child neglect previously, and the boy didn't know it, but his dad was incarcerated at the time). Everything got worked out and the child did eventually get returned to his home. His grandmother called me the next day with the whole sorry story. Her hands are tied for legal reasons until he turns 18, but, she has every plan to help him as much as possible when she can. She was deeply grateful for our intervention. She kept saying "If the wrong person had picked him up..."

This time, with my reputation already firmly in place, no one was even surprised. In fact they'd be surprised if I WASN'T out on the rescue. Boss said to refuse to come to work any time it seemed a good idea. Figured I should just always follow my intuition.***

*Because big, fat, fluffy snow-flakes that float down softly in warm-enough weather to melt them on contact are NOT the kind that pester me.

**Jimmy really came through too. Later he told us he he had been "kind of surprised" (yeah, I bet!) when a stranger kid was tossed in his room, but he figured we knew what we were doing, so, he'd just go with it.

***But, what's going on? Am I like some kind of magnet for these types situations?

(I know that I am positively a magnet for crazies, but those stories are better left

Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Year's Resolutions? Who needs 'em?

My "new year's resolutions" (if any) tend to be of the "do-more-of-whatever-I'm-already-in-the-mood-to-do-anyway" variety. But, even that can backfire.... For example, back when I was still rather renown for being a cookie making mama, a certain year was "designated" as THE YEAR OF THE COOKIE. Home-made cookies were delivered so frequently to the pediatrician, kiddie's dentist, school teachers, classroom parties etc., that it got to where no matter what the event, I was assigned to bring the cookies. Many regrets were expressed when I could barely tolerate the aroma of cookies baking anymore and had to give it up. Gave it up for good too.
That's an odor that is still very bothersome.

These days I prefer baking bread. So, when a suggestion was made at work last year that I make a new year's resolution of "baking bread more often", I readily agreed. I've taken bread to work, church, parties, people's homes, and even the homeless is always very well received. And why not? Who wouldn't like fresh warm homemade bread from newly ground whole grains? I don't know who doesn't. But, I know who does-me and my family. In fact, we've had so much of it that we are now pretty much ruined for any other kind. Guess what that means. Yep, I'm stuck making bread now whether in the mood or not.

So, it was with some hesitation that I considered the idea that maybe I should determine to work a little less and get back some time for my lately neglected hobbies. Used to be I'd take photos and write up little things and put it all on blog posts. In fact, not too many years ago, as my blogs can testify, I took my brand new Christmas-gift camera out every single morning between Christmas and New Years to capture the sunrise. (We were having luscious, lovely, unseasonably warm weather that year.) Lately I don't even bother to take the camera along on hikes. If time is limited and a choice has to be made between taking a walk or taking pictures, I'll take the walk. These thoughts were running through my mind yesterday morning as I cautiously peered out to determine if we were in for another gloomy day of disgusting, nasty, frigid, slippery, slushy winter weather. The portion of sky visable from the slightly open bathroom window was surprisingly... clear with a nice sliver of white moon adjacent to that big old bright morning star. And, right between them was a shiny jet plane with contrails as bright as the moon from picking up the reflection of the sun which was still hidden far beyond the eastern horizen. In times past this sight would have had me dashing for the camera while mentally composing some sassy-sounding comment for a blog post. But, with the reality of the bitterly cold outside air in my face, the only place I dashed for was a quick dive back under the blankets. Apparently blogging and all that is low on the priority list right now. NOT gonna be happening. I'll just re-cycle some of my old stories and pictures for facebook. Watch for them in the "notes" section. (Or, just eventually find them all from -a blog I highly recommend, BTW.)

However...insisting on working less hours certainly turned out to be a very good decision one time previously...story coming soon.

Now my blogger friends, if any of you have made it this far into these ramblings, I suggest you get a new year's resolution of spending less time on - line. Excluding reading my posts, of course. THAT'S time well spent!

Signing off with a photo. Not a particularily seasonal one... I have to focus on the beauty of this place so the weather does not make me crazy.         (Snow and cold=Blech!)