Childlike

 

I found myself in a writing mood one morning after an incident which seemed noteworthy to retell. The essay begins with a quote from a book which seemed so apropos.

“Colton was in that narrow window of life where he hadn’t yet learned either tact or guile.”

The author was referring to how children at a young age tend to blurt out whatever is on their mind in sometimes a rather embarrassing way. 

Intellectually disabled people sometimes tend to say what is on their mind without considering the effect also……which finally brings me to my story.

Yesterday afternoon on my way home from the daily drop-by and check-out at my mom’s house, I stopped by the grocery store for a few needed items. Most Market Baskets are laid out the same but each individual store has its own particular differences. Being in a state of semi-conscientiousness these past few weeks, it didn’t take much to place me off-balance. By the time I made my way through the dairy aisle and then the condiment aisle I was “ripe” for total confusion in the produce section.

Now I don’t now if the reduced lighting in that section of the store or my newest vow to see all things in a different hue and more calm and loving way was what guided me through the following scene.

As I made my way toward the grapes, I found that I was not able to pass through the aisle. In front of me and to the right inspecting the melons was a woman with her carriage. That was not the immediate reason for the obstruction. In the middle of the aisle and a bit to the left, where I wanted to pass was a young man, the exact height as me, that stood with his back to me. I said excuse me but got no response. Assuming that like most teenagers who find themselves in a place they don’t want to be, I expected to see earphones and an ipod as the reason for his non-response to my request to move. After closer inspection I was mistaken. So I repeated my request a couple of elevated decibels……all the while taking a deep breath and praying for patience.

Finally, I just had to place my hand gently on his arm as I squeezed my wagon past him. I made no comment, squelched the urge to sigh and remembered my renewed vow for peace within.

As always, I randomly navigated around the produce section without any set or organized route. I found myself in my usual dilemma in the apple section. Where was the elusive pink lady variety?

As I was about to wrap-up my grocery store expedition, I turned to head towards the checkout lines and found quite the surprise.

There standing before me eye to eye was the young man who could not previously move out of my way. Once again he was obstructing my ability to move forward. Nothing out of the ordinary in appearance for a teenager, he seemed harmless. I remember thinking that even though he could possibly crush me in an instant with his upper body muscular frame, his soft brown eyes told a different story and purpose for impeding my ability to move forward.

He had a unique look in his eyes that I couldn’t immediately determine. He smiled slightly at me and then said something I never expected in a million years.

He tilted his head to one side and said in the softest, kindest voice “you are so pretty”.

I said thank you and at this point realized that he was no “ordinary” 15 year old boy.

I was so thankful at this point for not losing my patience when I couldn’t get him to move in the aisle.

With my hair tied up in a ponytail and very little make-up, I knew that the beauty-police would surly rate me in the very low numbers……but somehow in his childish existence this young man found beauty. Was it youth, innocence, impaired intellect that caused him to see this? It is often said that when one sense is impaired the other senses become more keen. Was he sensing something that could not be seen?

I would like to think that the patience and peace that was WITHIN me while I shopped was what he saw and perhaps felt.

Matthew 18:3 I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

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Memorial (story written a few years ago)

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It was the fall of 1970 or 1971. Christmas was approaching and as any typical teenage girl, I was thinking about what I might like to see under the tree on Christmas morning. I am sure that the list must have had several items. However, only one item stands out as I write this story.
 
 I did indeed receive the bracelet I had asked for. It was approximately a half inch in width, made of a non tarnishing stainless steel and engraved with a name and a date….. Refugio Thomas Teran 5-6-1970. For some reason, I just wanted a POW/MIA bracelet. Was it fashion or compassion that caught my attention for these bracelets? Maybe it was a combination of both.  I wore this bracelet for quite some time. Unfortunately, I did not wear it indefinitely. I eventually put it in my jewelry box. Shamefully, like many Americans the search and hope dwindled for those who sacrificed the ultimate. 
 
Throughout the years I have worn it for a few days here and there to try and keep the memory and respect alive. I have searched the internet for information for this particular MIA (more on this later). I have looked at the name on this bracelet as it has worn away from time and wear and held it in my hands more times than I can count. One day last week  I felt compelled to put it on. Once it was on and I thought my usual thoughts and said my usual prayers, I went about my day and eventually forgot it was there. 
 
Tuesday evenings have been a time when Haley and I try to get together for dinner and conversation. This particular day Haley asked if I would mind if Ann joined us. What a question to ask. Ann is Haley’s very best friend and like a daughter to me. transferred into St. Joseph School in the 4th grade, Ann and Haley bonded together for life from day one. Her pretty little face and gentle nature graced my home often and Haley found her way around Ann‘s home as well.
 
 The reason she wanted to ask Ann for dinner, was because any day now she was about to give birth to her first child. Going out for a casual dinner with the girls will be on the FAR horizon for Ann very soon.
 
As I sat across from Ann, I thought of what a fine and beautiful woman she had become. Her long black shiny hair, deep brown almond shaped eyes and bright smile has always turned heads. At eight and half months pregnant she looked as lovely as ever. I have no doubt her inner beauty will surly make her a wonderful mother. To my left sat Janelle, to my right sat Haley and across from me sat Ann who carries the boy I already love. They are family to me. I felt so fortunate to be there with them all.
 
So why do I bring up this synchronicity? This idea of meaningful coincidences…
 For so many years off and on I wore that POW/MIA bracelet. I would pray for his family to finally have closure. Like many Americans I had  sad memories in regards to the Vietnam War. Both sides of every war lose so much.
…….and so it hit me as I sat across from this woman that I consider as a daughter. I had recognized closure from this awful war and no longer had marked manners in the company of those who resemble this era or culture. I didn’t even realize it until that moment. There looking into my eyes from across the table were the beautiful Vietnamese eyes of Ann Li
 
She had become so much a part of our lives, our family, that all lines were erased long ago as our family and hers embraced each others lives.
 
 We truly are all ONE people after all.
 
 
 
…..a meaningful coincident that I wore that bracelet that day? 
 
…..a meaningful coincident that I have written about this?
 
….a meaningful coincident that you are reading this?
 
 
After I began this journal entry, I looked for the status of Refugio Thomas Teran once again. This time I found what I was looking for.  
 
His remains were found finally. Through DNA testing of his family members, it was determined that it was him.
 
 “Tom Teran was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.”

What is the temperature of Iceland?

For the past year or so, Tuesday mornings have been relatively the same. An early rising,  preparation for the day and then a commute to the same restaurant for breakfast with my partner to discuss the day’s check list of work.

Our arrival is usually first. Then John and his father enter and usually take a booth next to us or within earshot. John’s father is tall and pleasantly thin but not too skinny. It is hard to estimate his age due to the fact that his eyes and the surrounding area is completely covered with over-sized glasses……not sure if they are remnants from the 90’s era or hip and new representing the current trend.  Each encounter with him begins with a smile and a small pleasantry about the weather. John is quite the opposite of his father. He is short, robust and very shy. He too, has glasses with a large circumference. It is questionable too if they may be too big for him otherwise, as they seem to always manage to find their way to the tip of his nose. Each Tuesday he and his father make the  pilgrimage to breakfast then Walmart. You see, Tuesday is the day the new DVD releases are put on the shelf. Without exception, John carries the newspaper clipping which displays the current movies which will be sold on that Tuesday.

The waitresses know this routine as well and take great joy in discussing the best possible purchase with John. Often times, I participate in this activity too. John never has much to say. He smiles a lot and tends to put his head down when he feels his cheeks begin to blush.

It was a typical Tuesday morning affair for all of us. Over coffee and breakfast, I glanced at the headline of  the morning newspaper……..”A Natural Marvel”. The headline referred to the previous day’s eclipse. There were pictures of people with their special viewing glasses along with quotes of their feelings at having witnessed this “Natural Marvel”. Words such as awesome, incredible, fantastic were but a few expressions that were conveyed. Millions of people across the USA, came together in varying group size amounts to celebrate and witness this “Natural Marvel”.

The following Tuesday mirrored our other Tuesdays. On this particular day,  I was checking the internet on my phone. I was looking for an article that explained something I had overheard recently.

The headline seemed rather scientific but as one delved into the article one comes to understand something quite different.

—” A recent report from CBS proclaims that Iceland is, as they put it, “on the verge of eliminating Down syndrome. But how has Iceland achieved this seeming miracle of modern medicine? Peel back the cheerful headline, and one discovers a true Pandora’s box of horrors……..in that country prenatal screening for Down’s is nearly universal, and nearly 100% of the parents of a child diagnosed with Down syndrome choose to abort. In other words, Iceland has not eliminated Down syndrome, they’ve eliminated people with Down’s.”  From Human life international

A so dear reader, you may ask what is the connection of all these things aforementioned.

You see, the “Natural Marvel” I came to realize was not the eclipse but rather…….it was John.  Each Tuesday, I realized I came to look forward to the innocence of John and the joy that he brought to all of us.

John has Down Syndrome…………..and I thank God we don’t live in the Cold land of Iceland.

 

 

 

 

 

The Cardinal, the question and….synchronicity.

I really should have written this essay a year ago. Perhaps I just needed to crave its existence to push me to formulate the words into the feelings that I felt then and which linger with me still.

The theme is similar to other essays that I have written……synchronicity

“Synchronicity is a concept, first explained by psychiatrist Carl Jung, which holds that events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship, yet seem to be meaningfully related.”  Wikipedia

If the reader, is a doubting person and also happens to be the unfortunate recipient of my past writings, I predict a deep sigh right about now. I beg your forgiveness at this point and I also excuse you from reading any further.

For those of you still with me in this current paragraph, I will take you to the starting place…………the beginning of November of 2015.

My husband Ron waited until his birthday passed. On the following day, I spotted him in the front yard through the bay window of our living room with what appeared to be a mallet. The air was still that day and so I had actually heard the thumping sound he was making before I spied what he was doing. It was inevitable and I had asked for this to happen but still, the tears welled up in my eyes when I realized that our lives were about to change with that sign installed in our front yard.

On November 6, we put our house up for sale. Prior to this day, I had begun the process of readying the house for sale and for our eventual inevitable move. Quite a few years of a slow economy, a few strokes of bad luck, a common sense need to downsize and some health issues forced us to make the decision to sell our home. I don’t claim to be alone in needing to make difficult decisions in life. We all have our rocky paths to travel…but this was my path and the rocks were cutting into my feet at the moment.

By November 7, I ended my pity party and began work anew. There was still doubt within me, but I did not allow it to slow down the process. The doubt did, however, weigh heavy upon me in my quiet moments. Those moments often came to me as I prepared dinner each night. There in front of the kitchen window next to the sink, I would look out to try to catch the activity of the squirrels and birds as the last remaining light of the day lingered a bit. Within the rhythmic chop, chop, chop, of the vegetables, I would find such peace.

Towards the later part of the day the crows’ squawks were more subdued than their morning squabbles. During the late fall months, mostly all the birds had migrated so the crows were my only feathered companions. The pesky squirrels and their acrobatic stunts were equally enjoyable to watch.

Deep in thought, I asked my mother in heaven if I was doing the right thing by selling the house, our home for thirty years. The place where my children were raised would not be easy to leave. Obviously, I did not expect an answer and of course with a knife in hand very near to my other hand, it was a good thing not to hear voices from the angels.

With a cutting board piled high with the potatoes that were about to be dumped into the pan, I hesitated a moment to look directly outside my window on the now bare branches of the lilac bush. There within only a few feet of my cutting frenzy was a stunningly beautiful bright red cardinal. It hesitated a moment, cocked its head back and forth and then flew away.I was joyful of course but dismissed the appearance by the end of the day along with the memory of the tedious tasks of sorting, purging and cleaning.

The next morning I awoke with a crystal clear recall of a dream. To this day, it remains with me in precise detail.

I was sitting in the front seat of a car. My arm was resting on the top of the seat and my hand was perched at the very crest of the seat. My mother was in the back seat. I could see her in my peripheral line of vision. We communicated without speaking but our conversation was very clear. She touched my rough hand with sympathy and said to me……it is ok but you still have a lot of work to do. Don’t stop, don’t give up. And with that, I felt the comfort of her counsel and the warmth of her love that I had craved since her death some years ago.

The next several weeks were uneventful. There was more sorting, purging, and cleaning……bookkeeping for the business and the usual myriad of chores, commitments, and responsibilities.

During that time of difficult decisions and mundane work, the one joy besides spending time with my girls was my volunteer work at Saint Joseph school.

Each week, I volunteered at the school one day a week to teach the students french. It was and continues to this day to be one of the loves of my life.

And so now dear reader we come to the point of the story. One week before Christmas I went to school as usual. At the end of the last class, I was presented with a Christmas present. It was a lovely tin basket filled with jams and treats and fruit.

You will have to look at the picture of the tin basket I have enclosed. Synchronicity? I think so for more than one reason.

The girl who gave me the gift…….her birthday is July, 3.

My birthday is July 3. We lovingly call each other birthday cousins.

The cardinal at my window, the question to my mother. Was I doing the right thing? Perhaps the school is the right thing for me……and yes there was still more work to do.

We sold the house that spring to a lovely young couple with hopes of making their own endearing memories. We felt the home was now in good hands and we could move forward.

Well there are still things to do and more memories to make in our new home by the sea. I won’t give up. I won’t stop.

…………..and I will teach as long as I am able.

Perhaps seeking advice and comfort from above was a wise decision after all.

Thank you for reading my story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Discovery

by Deborah L. Auclair

Like spring or fall cleaning, there comes a time about every six months when I must clean out the story fragments that collect in my brain.

Today happens to be that day…..

I call this story…..The Discovery.

On occasion, when work does not tie one of us to Haverhill, Ron or I might go to the beach for a few hours. Sometimes, I meet for a French lesson. Then there is always housework, organizing or outdoor planting or weeding.

Ron has his chores too…..you know, guy things. There are screen door adjustments, water valve checks, overall maintenance and let’s not forget casting out a fishing line accompanied by a glass of wine and a little babe watching of course.

Spring of this year was about to turn the corner when Ron found a rather peculiar situation on one of his solo visits. The details of where he was and what he was doing when he saw her remain unknown to me. Being not pertinent to the story, I never sought the particulars.

He said he wasn’t sure, at first, if dialing 911 would be necessary. He opted to take a closer look and then determine his course of action.

She appeared lifeless lying on the crest of the sand dune. Usually monitoring the movements of a beached person is not on most people’s agenda……aside from the babe watching that is. Well, this woman was no babe but Ron did indeed take notice. She was lying on the sand with no blanket, towel or chair…..odd.

Lying flat on her back with her hair meshing with the sand didn’t seem like a normal position for a sane or healthy person. Alas curiosity and concern motivated Ron to go to her.

He stood at her feet. Not wanting to scare her, but feeling the need to see her open her eyes to prove she was alive, he gently tapped her foot with his own foot while softly saying “Excuse me, mam.”
Apparently she had fallen asleep. A conversation between the two ensued. Knowing Ron, it was a rather lengthy one if she was, in fact, reciprocal.

As the story goes……she was a widow living at the beach and trying to mend her heart by the way of the ocean. Several years a widow and she was continuing to search for an end to her sadness.

On our next beach visit together, Ron pointed her out to me as she walked by. From that day forward until well into the summer and early fall, I continued to see her each time.

Back and forth she would walk along the beach. Deep compassion I had for her, but something else tugged at me. It was an odd feeling. Eventually, I came to recognize the feeling as aggravation. Gosh, this poor woman had lost her husband and I was feeling aggravated? So now I felt guilty about that.

I felt pity also because the assumption could be made that she was up against the odds of finding a replacement for her husband. She was rather large and unkempt. I wondered was she grieving but also anticipating the obvious.

Then I scolded myself for even entering that private territory even if it was only within my own thoughts.

As the summer passed, I could not shake the feelings that I had for this woman. Now being a little chunky myself, I should have been more accepting.

Each visit to the beach I witnessed her walk or should I say waddle? With time, I am ashamed to say that my agitation started to feel like anger. This of course, only caused me to be more ashamed of myself. It seemed as though the feelings of compassion, guilt and anger were having a tough-of-war within me……..and so I said a few prayers, asked for forgiveness but clarity as well.

……..and so my own DISCOVERY occurred. The bizarre struggle had nothing to do with her and everything to do with me.

She was my possible reflection in my mirror’s future. She was what I feared would one day become of me…..old, alone, overweight and seeking a cure at the water’s edge.

How often do we dislike someone…..how they look, what they say, or for some unknown reason? In actuality, it is merely a reflection of something we loath within us. Or perhaps it is something we fear we may become.

Towards the end of the summer, I approached the woman and had a pleasant conversation. We did indeed have something in common……beach glass. We talked about our discoveries…..the rare blue glass, the pretty green and the common brown glass.

That is the magic of the beach. It is a place where friendships blossom easily and reflections become discoveries.

Thanks again for reading my story…….deb

 

The Road

by Deborah L. Auclair

You may recall a poem by Robert Frost. It was this title “the road not taken” that seemed to ring in my head after an encounter that I had. Then after looking up the poem, I found that the last line….”And that has made all the difference.” to be perhaps the purpose of said ringing in my head.
There is a road that I have traveled often these past few years. Most landmarks, signs and structures along the way have remained the same…..so much so that I saw them no more. Circumstance brought me to take notice of a particular sign not too long ago. I was in need to purchase a few lobsters for a recipe that was to be made for company that was due at the beach house. Being summer and all, I did not relish the idea of fighting traffic to the Seabrook Market Basket or any other establishment that was too far that could accommodate my need. Under the advice of someone, I followed the home-made stenciled sign that read “Lobsters $3.99 a pound” which was placed at the corner of a residential road and the main road.

Staying well under the speed limit of 35 miles an hour, I crept along the road looking for some clue to show me the way. About a mile off to the left I noticed a matching sign.

There was a long white trailer with an attached screened porch set a bit off the road. Most likely this was his home. Directly to the right was a large cement block garage type structure with an additional sign which posted more possibilities for purchase……1 1/4 pd, 1 1/2 pd etc.

Assuming that a road side establishment might not be operating with a full capacity of store paraphernalia, I brought along a small cooler with an ice pack inside.

Upon entering the garage, I found myself to be quite surprised. This was no weekend fling. Several salt-water tanks were filled with lobsters. Each tank appeared to hold a different size lobster. Above the tanks was a hand-written sign “we catch our own lobsters”. There was a long bench covered with a floral vinyl felt-backed table cloth. On the bench was a scale to weigh the lobsters. About a half dozen grocery size bags with plastic bag interiors stood waiting.

The very first sign that this place would hold a special place in my heart was the pile of index cards adjacent to the pad of paper. Hand-written simply and clearly on each card, which numbered about a dozen, was the instructions on how to cook a lobster. Who on earth these days does not have access to a copy machine I thought? Why would someone take the time to write over and over on each card? Then I noticed the pad of paper. In one column there were single digit numbers which must have represented the number of lobsters sold. Next to it in another column was the addition needed to obtain the price.

The lobster man looked about 70 years old. Perhaps he was younger and the occupation might have weathered him. He was tall, white-haired and had a matching well-trimmed mustache. I don’t know the color of his eyes. We never made eye contact. I believe he was very shy and I almost had the feeling I would be entering a private space if I looked him in the eye. I treaded lightly.

He was a man of very few words…..but when he spoke I could envision him pulling the traps onto his boat…..a real down Maine type accent or was the dialect just old Seabrook. His hands were weathered, his voice was coarse but quiet and calm. When the amount was figured he rounded DOWN to the nearest dollar. I rounded up with my payment. He thanked me with a nod….no words just a nod.

I went there again on another day to purchase a few lobsters as a special treat for a friend. I asked for two lobsters and paid in all ones. I said I thought you might want ones. He nodded and smiled. I asked him about his small white dog that lay quietly on the cement floor. He nodded and said that he was a good dog. He said he warned him when people were coming. My lobster man was so quiet and calm in his demeanor but the silence was not uncomfortable. I was attracted to this man not as a female is attracted to a male…..but I was pulled into the serenity that I felt.

I wish I was a better writer like Robert Frost so that I could make you feel as I felt that second day.

It was such a simple feeling but oh so peaceful.  For some strange feeling I feel blessed to have taken that road……and perhaps a difference was made.

A room with a view

by Deborah L. Auclair

It was an exceptionally large room filled with soft hues of blue and beige upholstered chairs. The limits of the walls stopped at the point where one did not feel lost within a space too large. The ceiling, not too low, allowed for that airy feel, yet it was not so high as to make one feel they had entered a cold, unwelcoming space.

Along one complete side there were large window panes of glass from the floor to the ceiling separated by mere two inch vertical supports that seemed nonexistent as the view pulled the eyes outward.

Several recent snowstorms had deposited more than two feet of snow. Even though a good portion of the view was of parked cars amongst the mini mountains of snow, it was lovely. Still pure white, unsoiled by anything as of yet, it was pretty. The temperature, a frigid five degrees, seemed to be preserving and crystallizing the scene.

We had arrived at this destination at 8:30 am after fumbling a bit with the directions. I chose a corner seat as it provided a small table for which I could put my beverage, phone and multitude of books I had brought in anticipation of a very long wait.

I could not keep my eyes from looking outward. Off in the distance, I could see one of those stand-alone extra large Barnes & Noble. My imagination had an envious moment as I envisioned the customers perusing the many shelves of new and deliciously fragrant books. A walk along the beach or a full day in a bookstore……I could think of no other paradise more appealing.

After our arrival and fifteen minutes of filling out forms and the staking out of my corner spot, they called his name. As he followed the woman in the blue scrubs, I watched him walk through the double doors. My heart sank as worry and fear tugged at my heart like an anchor recently tossed overboard. Courage….I whispered to myself.

French homework, I thought would keep me busy and distracted. The pull of the view had other plans for me though. My eyes scanned the snow again. To the right of “my” book store there were several stores linked together. Nordstrom was one of them. If my memory served me well, it is a rather high-end quality store. So I let my playful thoughts go shopping for awhile. Within the mind, all things are possible, so I shopped without limits. I was alone in the store…..no salesperson to keep asking “can I help you?” and no companion to ask “are you done yet?”. Best of all I had a gift card with no limit.

When all the shopping was complete, I took my choice of vehicle from the parking lot……chosen of course from the vantage point of this room with a view. The Mercedes, Audi, Lexus and Cadillac were all tempting (it must have been the doctor’s parking lot) but I decided upon the bright yellow jeep-looking vehicle. I believe it was a toyota……big enough to hold all my packages from Nordstrom and Barnes and Noble yet feisty and sporty enough to transport me to the summer months ahead.

Transported I was…….but back to my corner in the room with a view…..the waiting room at the hospital/clinic.

My imagination found its way back to the possibilities of what loomed ahead. Given the choice, I would gladly choose his medical success over a million books and all the Nordstorm inventory…..and all the material things in this world for that matter.

Sitting there in “my” corner, the view on what mattered seemed so absolutely clear.

Post note to this story…….several hours later. He is sleeping now……..free from his Basal Cell Carcinoma. BCC as it is called, almost never metastasizes beyond the original site. It was not melanoma which can be fatal. There was no need to panic but not knowing the full scope of possibilities at first, I was worried. We both were worried.

We are often given the opportunity to view life and see what really matters. The past few months and today was one of those days.

Thanks again for reading my story. I write to organize my thoughts and it helps to know that good friends are at the other end.