Only One More Mile

old man.black hat

As the tale goes, a wrinkled old peasant was sitting in front of his wayside cottage one summer afternoon when a traveller stopped at his gate. Dusty, weary, and very thirsty, the wayfarer asked the peasant for a drink and the kind peasant allowed the traveller to sit in the shade awhile and quench his thirst from the well.

After this bit of refreshing the traveller rose and gazed down the long road ahead. Before he left he turned to the peasant and asked, “How far is it to the nearest inn?”

The peasant assured him, “It’s only a mile down the road. You’ll make it for sure.”

The traveller thanked him and set off, feeling much encouraged. But he walked on for over a mile and still didn’t come to either a town or a wayside inn. He trudged on another mile, then another. Finally he glimpsed a village in the distance. Cheered up by the sight, he pressed on and reached he inn by dusk.

The next day the traveller happened to catch sight of the peasant at the village market. He marched up to the old man and said crossly, “Hey! You told me yesterday that the inn was only a mile farther — but I had to walk almost five miles to reach it.”

The peasant smiled and gave him a wink. “Full well I knew it, sir. But if I’d told you how far it really was, you’d never have made it.”

The traveller thought this over, then grinned and shook the peasant’s hand. “Thanks, old friend.”

First posted July 2016 at Christine’s Reflections

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Who Needs School

Luanna was finding her first year of school quite a problem. She didn’t like getting up so early to get ready and then sitting for twenty minutes on the school bus every day. In class she struggled to remember all those sticks and balls and which one said which sound, all the shapes of the numbers and how many circles to draw for each.

So much work! Why did she have to know all that when her Mom already did and was so good at reading stories to them? She liked colouring and recess, but really she’d far rather stay at home and play with her little brother.

One day she was at Grandma’s for a cookie-bake and tea party; as they sipped their tea she told Grandma all about it. “So you see, Grandma, school is too hard. I wish I didn’t have to go.”

Grandma tried to encourage her. “Try your best, Sweetie, ’cause someday you’ll be big and you’ll want to get a job and earn some money for yourself. Then you’ll need to know all these things.”

Luanna puzzled over that for a minute, then her little face lit up. “I know! I can just stay at home and get a pension like you and Grandpa.”

smile-421163_640

Found the perfect solution, Grandma.

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

Originally posted on my poetry blog, Swallow in the Wind.

An Ode to Arthritis

Oh, Arthur, You’re Such A Pain

How can everything hurt
first thing in the morning?
When I should feel vim and vigor
my back dreads holding me up,
my knees seem inflexibly sore.

Shoulder muscles, tight, aching.
The curve in my neck reminds me
of too many younger days
spent curled up in a chair
with good books, terrible posture.

On mornings like this I lift up
my eyes, and think of Heaven,
with a special longing.

.

Another poem from my book, Silver Morning Song

Old Grandma Shoes

OLD GRANDMA SHOES
Author Unknown

When I was very little
All the Grandmas that I knew
Were wearing the same kind
Of ugly grandma shoes.
You know the kind I mean. . .
Clunky heeled, black, lace-up kind,

They just looked so very awful
That it weighed upon my mind,
For I knew, when I grew old,
I’d have to wear those shoes.
I’d think of that, from time to time
It seemed like such bad news.

I never was a rebel,
I wore saddle shoes to school,
And next came ballerinas
Then the sandals, pretty cool.
And then came spikes with pointed toes
Then platforms, very tall,

As each new fashion came along
I wore them, one and all.
But always, in the distance,
Looming in my future, there,
Was that awful pair of ugly shoes,
The kind that Grandmas wear.

I eventually got married
And then I became a Mom.
Our kids grew up and left,
And when their children came along,
I knew I was a Grandma
And the time was drawing near

When those clunky, black, old lace up shoes
Was what I’d have to wear.
How would I do my gardening
Or take my morning hike?
I couldn’t even think about
How I would ride my bike!
But fashions kept evolving
And one day I realized
That the shape of things to come
Was changing, right before my eyes.

And now, when I go shopping
What I see fills me with glee.
For, in my jeans and Reeboks
I’m as comfy as can be.
And I look at all these little girls
And there, upon their feet
Are clunky, black, old Grandma shoes,
And I really think that’s neat.

Winnie Plays Monopoly

Another tale of Winnie, our blog’s crotchety, opinionated senior. These days she hopes to alter her widow status by altar-ing Ernie Harris.

Casserole

When Ernie opened the door, Winnie gave him her most cheerful smile. “Brought you a casserole for lunch, Ernie. Thought you might like a little bit of good home cooking once in awhile.”

“Why, that’s right nice of you, Winnie. And your good food just hits the spot. I can’t cook to save my life, but at least I’ve learned how to heat things up in the mike. I haven’t mastered boiling water yet, though.”

“You just need someone to teach you these things.” Winnie paused, arranging her next thought. “Ernie, we’ve known each other a long time, so I’m not going to beat around the bush. Have you ever thought of getting married again?”

“Oh, yeah. I started thinking about it a couple of weeks after Barb passed and I’ve been thinking about it every day since. A fellow gets lonely, you know.”

Winnie’s cheeks turned a bit pink. “Well, maybe we…you and I…”

Ernie deftly derailed her train of thought. “But I know it’ll never happen. No woman would be fool enough to marry me. Not with all my bad habits. In fact, Barb often threatened to get an apartment downtown where she couldn’t hear me snoring every night. Nope. No one with any sense’d have me.”

Winnie shut her mouth and stared at him a moment. “Well, I’d better be getting along. Hope you enjoy the casserole.” She shoved the dish into his hands and hurried back down the sidewalk.

cooking-1363061_640Ernie took a deep breath. That was close one. He chuckled and carried the dish to the fridge, setting it beside the ones Agnes Jones and Phoebe Folden brought around last night. He chuckled as he took out the beef stew and lemon pie Francine Miller dropped off this morning. Sometimes it paid not to know how to cook.

“Still, Ernie,” he advised himself, “You’d better keep on your toes when these old chicks start bringing casseroles or you might end up being hen-pecked for the rest of your days.”

He was still chuckling about his quick wits half an hour later as he passed the gas bar and saw Abner Stilsbie getting his tank filled.

“What are you looking so happy about, Ernie?” Ab called. Ernie joined him by the pumps and the two men chatted awhile. He wasn’t going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, so he didn’t tell Ab exactly what transpired. But…

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

“Hey, Winnie.” Abner Stilsbie tapped her on the shoulder in the grocery store later that day. “How’s life?”

“Oh, hi, Ab. Well, I can’t complain. My arthritis isn’t so bad today and I’m getting used to them new blood pressure pills the doctor gave me. I’ll sure be glad when the weather cools off a bit, though. I haven’t been able to take the heat so well since I hit fifty, but I take it easy on days like this.”

“I hear you’ve taken to playing games with Ernie Harris and you almost won.” He winked. “Did you buy Park Place and Boardwalk. Or maybe you bought up all the railroads?”

Winnie stared at him. “Abner Stilsbie, whatever are you talking about?”

“I saw Ernie just before dinner and he was looking like that cat that got the cream. I asked him what he was so happy about and he said he’d been playing Monopoly with you. He said for a moment it looked like he was headed for jail and bankruptcy, but at the last moment he pulled out a “Get out of jail free” card.”

Winnie gasped and her brows formed a deep frown.

“I supposed you must ‘a bought up some of them pricey digs and were charging high rents. Though honestly, I’d ‘a never took you for one to play Monopoly, Winnie.”

Winnie’s eyes narrowed. “So he was playing games, was he? Well from now on he can
live on baloney sandwiches.”

Ab’s eyes widened. “What’s Monopoly got to do with baloney sandwiches?”

“Ernie Harris can go boil in his own hot water.” Winnie grabbed a tin of coffee from the shelf. “And I hope it’s pickle brine.” She marched away in a fury.

Ab’s eyebrows shot up and he shook his head. “Talk about a sore loser. I’ll never understand women. Never!”

Monopoly

The Two Sisters: A Tale of Perspectives

“Thank you so much, Carl.” Pearl took the box from her cousin’s arms and set it on the table in her hallway. “I feel so privileged to be entrusted with these heirlooms! You can be sure I’ll take good care of them.”

“Sure. Whatever.” Carl shrugged. “I still think we should just burn them. Why dredge up old bones? As I recall,  Mom had a lot of “old bones” she worked over.”

“Maybe.” Pearl smiled sympathetically. His mother, her Aunt Matilda, seemed too focused on bones of contention.

“But you’re young yet,” she said. “When I was your age the past was ancient history; I was out to remake the world. Since I’m retired I think more about our past and what we’ve inherited. I’ll try to be discreet, though, when I compile the Family History. If the Aunties wrote anything nasty about someone I certainly won’t record it. Maybe I should even tear those pages out of the journals?”

“Who cares? I’m sure most of the folks they wrote about are dead now. Anyway, suit yourself, I’d best be off.”

“Chip off the old block,” Pearl murmured after the door was shut. She looked at the stacks of books in the box and thought of the two sisters, Mabel and Matilda. Each of them had her own way of looking at life; each recorded her perspective in these journals.

The years had been good to Mabel and Matilda, both of them lived into their nineties before they passed away. Both women had kept journals most of their lives and after their deaths Pearl heard that all their journals were going to be destroyed. Hoping to write a family history book someday she begged permission to look through them before the grim sentence was carried out. Then her cousins decided since Pearl was the only one in the family with enough patience to pore through them, and prudent enough not to blab the contents, she could have the lot.

Pearl had breathed a sigh of relief; so much information would have been lost! Now the precious books were in her hands. She carried the box to the coffee table, set it down and started sorting the collection into years.

Skimming through Aunt Mabel’s slapdash version of the late 20’s, Pearl could picture her so clearly, a teenager eager for life. She smiled. Aunt Mabel would have been a flapper! It will be interesting to see how she coped during the Depression years, Pearl thought. Good thing she couldn’t see the future right then.

She set 1928 down and slowly leafed through the years to 1985. At this point Mabel was widowed and lonely at times, yet enjoyed outings with her children and grandchildren. Then Pearl picked up her journal from 2000 and noted that she still found interesting little news items to report every day. Perhaps a caller popped in or she took a walk. If Mabel couldn’t get out she wrote about the weather and other things she observed from her window.

Spring blossoms excited her; birds in nearby branches were noted in her books; she described in detail the trees turning color in fall. She mentioned the activities of her neighbors. She wrote with humor about the Y2K panic. Thinking back, Pearl could see again how Mabel’s eyes had twinkled when she talked about the disaster that was “going to put us all back in the stone age” and how it fizzled.

Yes, that was Aunt Mabel. Always interested in life and the people around her, always ready to visit and relate humorous little stories that gave everyone a chuckle. She stayed as active as she could for as long as possible and when she was too frail to get out family members stopped in to share her good cheer.

Then Pearl picked up one of Aunt Matilda’s 1990s diaries to read, but soon found herself fighting sleep. “Nothing much happened today” was the most frequent entry, coupled with complaints about the rheumatism which kept her from getting out or the fact that no one had called.

Pearl remembered Aunt Matilda telling her once, “I never phone anyone. They might be busy when the phone rings and I know how I hate that! I don’t want to be a bother. Anyway, if they want to talk to me, they know my number.”

Another time she complained, “Seems like whenever I do phone someone they’re quick to say they have something pressing and have to run. Folks these days are just too busy to talk.” Though Pearl was sympathetic and never contradicted, she got the feeling folks were eager to get away from Matilda’s rehash of all her woes.

As elderly widows these two sisters had lived together for over fifteen years, looked out the same windows at the same changing scenes, but one had seen beauty and one had seen monotony.

Pearl could remember Aunt Mabel grabbing her raincoat and umbrella, off for a walk in the rain while her sister sat by the fire with her sore joints and wouldn’t do handwork or read for fear she’d ruin her eyes. Mabel went out to search for life while Aunt Matilda expected life to come in and tickle her. Which seldom happened, sad to say.

Such a shame, she thought as she closed the bleak diary. She stood up and walked over to the window, savoring the bright morning. She watched a robin dashing in and out of the sprinkler spray.

“Now,” she said, “I know some people I should be calling.”