Not in the Job Description

It seems this week the plan for the Friday Fictioneers is to take a road trip somewhere, courtesy of Ted’s photo prompt. This picture has been chosen for us by our encouraging host, Rochelle Wiseoff-Fields. Please note: all photos are property of the photographer, donated for use in Friday Fictioneers only.

Sad to say, last Thursday my cell phone fried its inner workings instead of properly charging. Since my cell phone has been my only connection to Friday Fictioneers — my computer refuses to visit Inlinkz — I was in offline mode and missed reading a lot of the responses. To make matters worse, in the process it cracked its Blue tooth so no data could be transferred, which means my icon was lost along with everything else. 😦

The good news is: on Tuesday I got this neat little Samsung phone with all the bells and whistles. 🙂
The bad news is: I still have to figure out how to use it.
The even better news is: along with my new phone I got a tablet! I’ve been wanting one for awhile now.
The bad news is: I still have to figure out how to use it. 😦

But I trust with one or the other I’ll be able to post my FF response, so here’s my tale. (I’m going to assume this photo setting as the on-ramp to a bridge.)

Photo prompt © Ted Strutz

The young husband frantically waves to the guard and indicates his wife, who’s obviously in serious distress.

The guard signals him to follow and dashes to his emergency vehicle. “Another one,” he calls to his partner as he jumps in and flips on the flasher.

His partner hops in beside him. “What’s with this bridge anyway that so many babies want to be born on it?”

“An easy landing for storks?” The guard glances in his mirror to be sure the couple is keeping up.

His partner’s looking pale. “Sure wish they’d pick a hospital roof. I don’t deliver well.”

Book Review: Blue Hydrangeas

BLUE HYDRANGEAS: An Alzheimer’s Love Story

Novel written by Marianne Sciucco
Published by Bunky Press (April 2013)

It’s apparent to Jack that his wife has gone beyond “a little forgetful.” Their doctor is talking about Alzheimer’s and suggesting 24/7 care is needed, but Jack’s convinced he can care for her in their home. He has a negative image of nursing homes and dreads the idea of putting the love of his life in one of them.

This is an awesome tale of love, devotion — and stubbornness — as Jack grapples with the Alzheimer’s disease that is slowly stealing his wife’s mind. We can relate to his efforts to help her remember, his fear and panic when he turns his back for a moment and she’s gone. The story draws the reader into the thoughts, emotions, and desperation that many people feel who have loved ones affected by dementia.

All through the book I sensed the darker undercurrent of truth here: Alzheimer’s can hit anyone. In an informative, encouraging way, Blue Hydrangeas introduces the reader to the possibility of dealing with this disease, should it strike someone near and dear to us. And the take away point is powerful: a couple should enjoy each day they have together.

This isn’t the newest book on the shelf but well worth reading. I received an advanced reader copy of Blue Hydrangeas from the Story Cartel in exchange for an unbiased review. If you’d like to help an author and are willing to do book reviews, do check out the Story Cartel.

Since Jessie Died

by Edgar A. Guest

We understand a lot of things we never did before
and it seems that to each other Ma and I are meaning more.
I don’t know how to say it, but since little Jessie died
we have learned that to be happy we must travel side by side.
You can share your joys and pleasures, but you never come to know
the depth there is in loving ‘til you’ve got a common woe.

We’re past the hurt of fretting — we can talk about it now:
she slipped away so gently and the fever left her brow
so softly that we didn’t know we’d lost her, but instead
we thought her only sleeping as we watched beside her bed.
Then the doctor, I remember, raised his head as if to say
what his eyes had told already, and Ma fainted dead away.

Up to then I thought that money was the thing I ought to get
and I fancied, once I had it, I should never have to fret.
But I saw that I had wasted precious hours in seeking wealth;
I had made a tidy fortune, but I couldn’t buy her health.
And I saw this truth much clearer than I’d ever seen before:
that the rich man and the poor man have to let death through the door.

We’re not half so keen for money as one time we used to be;
I am thinking more of mother and she’s thinking more of me.
Now we spend more time together and I know we’re meaning more
to each other on life’s journey than we ever meant before.
It was hard to understand it! Oh the dreary nights we’ve cried!
But we’ve found the depth of loving since the day that Jessie died.

From his book, Just Folks
©1917 by the Reilly & Britton Co.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’m doing something unusual today: publishing two posts back to back. I read an excellent post by fellow blogger Kathleen Duncan about what to say to someone who has lost a child, be it through a miscarriage, stillbirth, accident, disease, suicide, or crime. She’s given me permission to Reblog her post so I’ll do that next. I think it goes together well with this poem. one of my favorites from Edgar Guest.

The Poet in the Park

I posted this story when the Daily Post writing challenge was to write about any topic, but your post must include a cat, a bowl of soup, and a beach towel. And today’s prompt word is pursue, so here’s the tale of a poet pursuing the perfect verse.

I wander through the park on this beautiful morning, making my way to one of my favorite places in the whole world. Oh, good! My favorite bench is free. I like this one where I’m sheltered by the maples overhead. After all, the sun’s rays aren’t good for a person, so we’re told, and at my age I have to be careful.

I set my sunhat on the bench beside me and rummage through my handbag for my pen and notebook. I’m a poet, so I always carry a notebook. I relax and breathe in the inspiration around me. This agreeable spot, surrounded by the plush lawn, is so conducive to the task at hand. I need to write a poem for my blog — so why not do one about this beautiful day.

At the top of the first blank page I write, Ode to a Summer’s Day.

Scratch that. Sounds too cliché. Maybe I should rather start with something like, “I wandered lonely through the park…” I’m not really lonely, though. In fact I’m quite happy to be alone, pursuing my muse.

I hear a rustle, glance down and see a mouse poke its nose out from under a bush. “Wee tim’rous beastie,” I quote. “Your best-laid plans will go sadly awry if you don’t beat it.” The mouse trembles a bit and retreats back into the shrubbery. I return to pursuing a line of thought suitable for this perfect day.

“What is so rare as a day in July?” Hmm… Rings a bell. Has it already been done — or something like it? Anyway, what rhymes with “July”? (I insist my poems rhyme; I find free verse so undisciplined.) Birds fly; awry; my eye. “A day in July gone awry…a bird just dropped in my eye….”  Nope. Scratch that.

I gaze at the treetops above me. Oh, to be a tree top, caressing the sky, I write, then ponder the phrase. Now that has potential! And I may be able to work July in here after all.

I look down and see a cat nosing around by the bush. See there, mouse. Aren’t you glad I saved your bacon? If I hadn’t scared you, you’d have ventured out and been toast.

“SCAT!” I say to the cat, stamping my foot. It appears well enough fed already and besides, I detest the sights and sounds of slaughter. Unaesthetic—not conducive to producing pleasant poems.

I hear a “throb, throb, throb” coming down the path toward me and look up. Ah, some ‘band in a box’ escorted by two teenage girls. I frown, hoping they are only passing by and will do so promptly.

No such luck! They leave the path and stroll out on the lawn not far from me. One of them shouts at the other, “Here’s a neat spot. Let’s stretch out here.”

Oh, brother! It would be neat if you’d shut off that radio. I feel my bench vibrate from the deep bass throbs and I write in my book, “Thunder rolls across the sky; the earth trembles. The powers that be are shaken.”

They unroll two beach towels and, baring as much as legally can be, they stretch out. Exposing their bodies to the harmful effects of the sun’s rays, not to mention the leers and comments of males passing by. And loving every minute of it.

Well, since I can no longer meditate on the stillness of this beautiful day, perhaps I could go get some lunch while they and their boom-box occupy this spot. There’s a neat little Bistro on LaMontagne Avenue that serves an excellent bowl of Vichyssoise, my favorite soup, together with herbed croutons. Perfect for a hot day, together with thé glacé. Which is iced tea, but I prefer the French ambience.

Perhaps I’ll stop by the Library after to brush up on Emily Dickinson. She might have something inspiring to say about a summer day. Hopefully when I get back the girls will have fried and gone.

As I walk away a picture flashes in my mind. I smile as I think back to the sunny summer days of my teens, when my friends and I spent hours browning ourselves in the warm sun. Neither we nor our mothers had ever heard of dangerous ultraviolet rays back then.

Forget the ode to a summer day. Over lunch I’m going to compose a poem about the joys of youth.

My thoughts go back to those two teenage girls and I wonder what their names are and where they live? Do they have a concerned mother like I had? Has anyone told them about ultraviolet rays and skin cancer? Has someone explained to them that there are sharks in the pool of Life, that you need to protect yourself in more ways than one? Do they know where they’re going in life and how to get there?

Really, I’m sure they didn’t mean to disturb my musings. Will they just think me a nosy old busy-body if I try visiting with them?

I turn around and make my way back to my favorite bench, pausing to nod and say “Hello” to them as I pass. Lunch can wait; the Vichyssoise won’t get any colder

Christine G — Reposted from July 2014

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My Little World

Well, I made a very quick trip through the Cancer Clinic yesterday, getting there about 10:20 and leaving at 10:40am. I’ve never had an appointment go that fast before; I was barely into the building before I was called into the examining room and the doctor was in a few moments later.

My oncologist had great news for me: my blood cell counts are all normal. Now I can get on with life again for the next six months. 🙂

The more difficult diagnosis: she doesn’t think bouncing ideas around in my brain and running my fingers across a keyboard is adequate exercise for someone my age. If I want to build up my energy, she says, I really need to be more active. So I’ve resolved to get out and walk more. And this is the season to start.

We live in a mobile home on what was once part of a pasture. The farmer’s son fenced off these few acres from the main pasture when he got engaged and wanted a place to set up his trailer. He later moved away and we bought the place ten years ago. So on our west and north side there was a narrow strip of pasture; it has since been converted into a grain field in which the farmer has been growing canola these past few years.

On the other side of the pasture there’s a train track, so we sometimes watch and count the cars as they rattle past on their way to country grain terminals and oil fields. Some are potash cars.

To the east of us there’s a narrow strip of mostly poplar and willow woods between us and the farmer’s yard. To the south is a gravel road with minimum traffic; south of that is a strip of cultivated land, a hedge row of chokecherries, then more pasture. We often hear from this hedgerow and the pasture beyond, the conversations of coyotes in the twilight.

We are avid bird watchers; we delight in this little woods that abounds with a number of local bird species for most of the year and various migrating birds during spring & fall. We are right on the flight lane of the sandhill cranes; spring and fall they stop over for several weeks at a slough just north of us, or in the pasture across the road to the south. Many fall evenings are filled with their funny “throbbing” or hoarse honking as they settle in for the night. And what a racket if the coyotes pester them!

We’re also on the flyway of the snow geese: at times flocks of a thousand or more passed over our heads. Coming home yesterday we saw a flock of easily a thousand birds milling around and settling in a field right beside the highway. At times we’ve seen 10-20 acres white with “snow” in the early mornings.

We see killdeer, meadow larks, the odd nighthawk, tree swallows, a dozen different native sparrows, robins, brown thrashers, catbirds, wrens, warblers, orioles, hummingbirds — even golden and bald eagles, and the Grand Duke (great-horned owl) who lives in the woods beside us. Great place to live!

To the west of us, across the train tracks, there are large sloughs north and south of the highway, with their waters lapping away at both road edges. To the east of us, past the farmyard, there are a couple of other smaller sloughs. Ducks and Canada geese paddle around these bodies of water until they dry up in summer, if they do. We often see a snipe on a fence post beside the road and redwing blackbirds clinging to the bull rushes. One day several ducks came waddling down our driveway as if on inspection, checking up on what the tenants are doing.

I should mention the muskrat homes dotting the sloughs. Sometimes I surprise one paddling in the water or sitting on the bank as I approach. Sometimes all I see is a ripple of water if the animal spots me first. And there are a zillion frogs that fill our evenings with their songs. These are the “wetlands” our Canadian prairies are noted for, sloughs of all sizes teeming with wildlife.

Yes, it’s a great place to get out for a walk. And my oncologist says none of us — even she in her busy practice — has a just excuse not to get enough exercise. So I’d best follow doctor’s orders. It’s a great time of year to be alive. 🙂

Six Drops of Sinister Sauce

Those of you who were children, or had children, around 1973, may remember Count Kook chanting his tried-and-true Monster recipe:
“Five drops of the essence of terror
six drops of sinister sauce…”

For some reason that little snippet popped into my head this morning, probably because I was searching for words to describe the tsunami rolling through my emotions. Too bad “opaque” wasn’t today’s Word Press prompt, because it fits so well.

As I awoke this morning, this wave threatened to submerge me. I detected a tinge of terror, certainly some sinister sauce — it goes so well with cancer scares! I’m getting a whiff of foreboding dissolved in a cup of anticipation, a handful of hope, a chunk of resignation. All in this boggling batter of suspended animation.

So what brought this on? I had a blood test yesterday in preparation for my check-up at the Cancer Clinic tomorrow. Up until now I haven’t given this visit too much anxious thought but the blood test somehow brought it all to the forefront again. What will the results be? Will I still be stabilized, or will my leukemic white cells be multiplying with gay abandon? How bad, how fast? Will I need more chemo before long, or will I be okay for a few more years?

Another cancer survivor, Stacey LePage, wrote in her blog about these same feelings, wanting to avoid the checkup-visit, not wanting to hear a verdict. Not wanting bad news to flood her plans for a happy summer. Read her article here.

Even though I’m not really fearing the visit or anticipating bad news, the impending arrival does something to my body chemistry. I saw this funny, numbing emotional wave of blue coming at me and I felt like crawling under the covers until I’ve heard the score. Then to top it all off I have a bothersome tooth, starting yesterday, and woke up from a nightmare this morning.

Thankfully the sun has come out, the birds are filling our morning with their songs, I’ve painted the swallow houses a friend built for me. Spring is my favorite time of year, especially when my swallow friends return to greet me — something I’ll write about more in another post. I’m happy to get their homes ready for them.

I have some blanket squares to sew together today, too. While I’m eager to put tomorrow’s visit behind me, come what may, I do have lots of cheerful things with which I can dispel this opaque feeling. And Stacey tells us in her recent post that she’s writing a memoir about her experiences as she battles stage-four ovarian cancer. She’s giving it the neat and very apt title: Overcoming Stage Fright.

Yes, something good really can come from life’s hardest, most painful lessons. That faith is what keeps us plodding on.