A Poem for Heidi

Nearly six months after the loss of our beloved dog, Heidi, I can finally string together a few coherent words about her.

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A Poem for Heidi

Lonely the yard where she once played

Cold the bed in which she laid

Silent the squeak of her favorite toy

Gone the source of our constant joy

Mournful the heart which continually weeps

 Our faithful companion now gently sleeps

We got our white schnauzer puppy 16 ½ years ago. She was supposed to be “my” dog – and she was – for about two weeks! Then a work conference required that I leave town for a few days, at which time she completely bonded with my husband, and he with her. They were the best of friends until the day she died. Don’t get me wrong, she loved me too, but I was clearly her second choice… except during a storm when she was all over me!

When Heidi was young, she would obsessively sit on her perch at the front window and guard the house while we were at work. She took her job very seriously, barking nonstop at the neighborhood children as they went to and from school or played outside during the summer.

Her favorite thing to do was play ball. She liked tennis balls with a squeaker inside because it was always such fun to be noisy. In the house she liked to stand at the top of the stairs and catch the ball we tossed up to her; then she would nod her head, release the ball and throw it back down. It’s a game she was very good at! Outside, she would fetch the ball from anywhere you threw it, then run like the wind to return it precisely at your feet.

By the time we retired, she began to slow down. I think she was happy to hand over the responsibility of protecting the house to us now that we were home more often. She got used to the routine of two walks a day. My husband would take her in the morning, and I would take her in the afternoon. She could get very demanding if she thought her walk might be delayed. Sometimes while running errands, I’d realize it was nearing 2:00. “I’ve got to get home”, I’d tell myself, “It’s almost time for Heidi’s walk!”

She began to have trouble keeping her footing on the hardwood floors inside our house, so we put down extra rugs here and there to help her walk. Eventually, nearly every square inch of slippery floor was covered with a rug. We carried her up and down the stairs for several years.

Arthritis and kidney problems plagued Heidi in her old age. She became intolerant of anyone touching her, so grooming was an issue. She looked like a homeless mutt at times, but you know what? If I was in pain, I wouldn’t want someone messing with me either!

We removed most of the rugs from the hardwood floors after Heidi was gone. I find the floors a little boring now; just like life is sometimes without her.

The Quiet Battle

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We left home several years ago in the wee hours of a January morning to attend a 10:00 funeral that was 3 1/2 hours away. On the drive we passed a beautiful farm where the morning fog was just beginning to lift. Last week we made the same trip for yet another funeral and we passed the farm again, but this time it was a bright summer’s day. I took both photos through the car window with my cell phone. Same farm, different season, years apart!

The following is a re-post of a story I wrote the first time I saw the farm:

THE QUIET BATTLE

Morning fog invades a lovely Kansas farm in the pre-dawn hours of a clear winter day. The fog will lie low for a spell, transforming rest into stubborn courage for the fight that looms ahead: an inevitable skirmish between Fog and Sun.

As Fog hunkers down, it blankets winter wheat and hugs the stubble of last year’s corn which lay dying in the field. It settles itself along the fence that separates the farm in stately fashion and it laces haunting fingers through the trees. It covertly surrounds the silo, the barn, the shed; and forms a luminous halo around the single light left burning to ward off possible dangers tempted to lurk in shadowed corners.

At sunrise, the battle begins. Fog is brave and refuses to yield, but the fight does not rage for long. Sun is a strong and formidable enemy. Flanked on all sides with no place to hide, Fog is swiftly defeated. Forced to surrender, a virtual white flag is waved as it retreats.

When the farm is fully bathed in golden rays, you would never suspect that a quiet battle had ever taken place here.

The Web

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On my walk this mid-summer morning, the sun was shining just right through the trees, illuminating the silver threads of an enormous spider web and revealing the intricate artistry of the spider who built it. The web was an extravaganza of activity! On the outer edges, the spider himself was working tirelessly to expand his domain, while near the center, a small moth was attempting to free himself from the clutches of the sticky strands. The frantic flapping of wings disclosed his desperation, and it tempted me to reach in and save him. I resisted the urge to interfere with nature’s balance and kept walking. On my return, I passed the web again and noticed the moth was gone. In an effort to convince myself he was not lunch for the spider, I now imagine the moth is free and on his way to my house in search of fabric to snuggle into after his ordeal! Maybe I should buy some moth balls!

For RDP/daily word prompt: Extravaganza

Image from web search and daily.jstor.org

“It Just Took a While,” she said . . .

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My latest hospice patient was full of stories. Millie started telling me stories the minute I sat down beside her. She grew up on a farm with three sisters, so there were numerous tales of chores, animals, strict parents, and of course boyfriends. The boys would come calling on her sisters, not her. She watched as her sisters dated and eventually married, but she was always more comfortable on her own. “I was sure I’d be an old maid”, she admitted, “It’s what I thought I wanted”… and then she met him.

Andy had returned from a two-year enlistment in the Navy. Back home with his parents in Pennsylvania, he felt lost and didn’t know what to do with his life. His uncle was a farmer in Kansas who needed help with the harvest, so he moved west. Andy and Millie met when they each drove truck-loads of wheat to the grain elevators in the middle of a long, hot summer.

Millie is proof that there’s always space inside us reserved for someone else and a new way of thinking. She had to adjust her heart and her mind to make room for Andy and for the family they might have someday. “It just took a while”, she said, but once she figured out love had finally come calling on HER, she changed her thinking from “me” to “us”. The life journal I wrote for Millie will be shared with 3 children, 6 great-grandchildren and 14 great-great grandchildren.

A Poem for Millie

Once

she lived inside herself

closed off to the world of affection.

Then

there was a tug at her heart

and a sense of approaching vulnerability.

She felt herself being opened somehow

and she

never found her way back to being closed.

Photo Credit:  Pinterest

Note: Names have been changed

See my other Hospice Stories Here

“I Was More Than That,” she said . . .

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I have the unique privilege of meeting hospice patients for the purpose of writing their life story, so I’ve heard some pretty amazing tales!  I’ve learned about lives well lived, about accomplishments and regrets, and about the way certain events can shape a person’s life forever. It’s been awhile since I last shared a hospice story, so here’s one about a woman who grew up in London during the bombing blitz of WWII. At 18, she became a war bride, but when I met her at the age of 90, she was quick to point out that’s not all she was!

She was born in London in 1928. Her father was a letterpress operator for a London newspaper, the Daily Herald, and her mother was a teacher at a school for girls. She was 12 years old when German warplanes began bombing the city every night for 57 consecutive nights in attacks that continued until May 1941. During the bombings her family took shelter in the basement of a nearby warehouse. She recalls how very loud it was, even underground, and how they tried to drown out the noise by singing and dancing to Glen Miller while bombs were being dropped above them. She remembers the strange color of the sky and the smell of smoke as they walked home each morning through the war-torn city. When the Blitz ended, much of London was destroyed or damaged and 375,000 citizens were left homeless.

She had two sisters and one brother. They, along with her parents, survived the bombings but their home did not. She was 15 before they found a permanent home, having moved from place to place for several years. The best part about having their own home again was being able to take a bath, but she remembers the day her mother drew a 5-inch line around the inside of the bath tub because that’s all the water they were allowed to use due to government restrictions. There were also rations on food, clothing and shoes. She, her sisters and her mother all shared the only five dresses they owned.

When she was 17, dancing was still a favorite pastime just as it had been in that warehouse basement, so one night her sisters snuck her into a dance hall where American GI’s often spent their free time and money. She met her future husband there, dancing the Jitterbug and drinking “bitters”. She soon found out that marrying her young soldier was not going to be easy. American servicemen were met with numerous obstacles if they wanted to marry while overseas. After finally being granted permission from his Commanding Officer (and her parents), they were married in 1946. They enjoyed a two-week honeymoon before he was sent to Paris. Once he knew when he could return to the States, he applied for her to be sent to America as a War Bride. She was summoned to the American Embassy in London for an interview, then put on a waiting list with thousands of other English brides.

Eleven months later, it was finally time to say goodbye to her family and her home. Until then, life in London was all she had ever known. It took over two weeks to sail from Southampton to New York. She remembers being impressed by the skyscrapers, never having seen such tall buildings before.  She also remembers when she got off the ship there was no one to greet her. She was to have been met by her husband’s parents, but her ship, The S.S. Argentina, was several days late. She lived in Boston with her new in-laws, who were strangers to her, for three months while she waited for her husband to come home.

The American GI and his War Bride were married for 32 years and had three sons. He became a car salesman after his discharge from the Army and she was a cook in an elementary school for 14 years. They moved to the Mid-West and opened their own restaurant in 1968. Ten years later, he passed away. She sold the restaurant and opened a pastry shop in a small suburb where her pies and cakes were in high demand. The boys were busy and popular. Her two oldest sons graduated from college and the youngest one joined the Army, like his father.

She was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2015 and was placed on hospice services in 2017. I met her because her family wanted me to document her life story in a journal. They provided me with decades of photos, and I collected memories from her to include in the book. The first time she and I talked, I told her I heard she was a War Bride. “Well, I was more than that!” she said, so I decided not to talk about it further unless she brought it up. I let her tell me she was a wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She was an avid reader, a school board member, a devout Christian, and a bird watcher. She loved to travel, to cook and to watch old movies. She and her husband danced together for nearly 30 years. It didn’t take long, however, before she was telling me about the air-raids in London and what it was like to leave home all by herself. Was she brought to America as a War Bride? Yes, she was! But she was SO much more than that!

Here are more of my hospice stories, if you care to read them:

“I Don’t Know You,” she said . . .

“It’s Who I Was,” he said . . .

Write a Positive Page

When Illness Comes (Poem)

Photo credit: Bing search

Foto Friday #15

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I’m taking a break from travel writing to talk about the weather!

Several weeks ago, it rained for six days in a row where I live. The ground was completely saturated and squished in minor protest beneath my feet. Temporary puddles thought they had found a permanent home. After a week, there was a pause for a day of sunshine… then it rained again. It even briefly snowed! I feared we were going from summer straight into winter with only a short-lived Fall.

More than rain fell during that period of time. Autumn leaves came down too, some prematurely forced from the trees while they were still green. Others were dead and ready to fall anyway, the progression of life returning to the ground from which it came.

We’ve had no new moisture for a couple of days, but a distinct chill lingers in the air. I’ve noticed colorful leaves now float in the puddles that remain, replacing the dull, monotonous leaves from a few weeks ago. Today I caught them swimming in a reflection of beautiful blue sky. Maybe there will be a Fall after all!

A Quiet Morning

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The faucet at the kitchen sink is dripping again. Hmm, I thought we fixed that! It’s amazing how loud it sounds as I lounge in my favorite chair with my morning coffee. Just as I take a sip, the automatic ice-maker deposits its latest round of fresh ice into the freezer’s dispenser. The sudden racket startles me and coffee dribbles down the front of my pretty pink shirt. Now I’m perturbed… even the clocks annoy me! We have two pendulum clocks; a grandfather clock in the dining room and a mantle clock over the fireplace. Usually the pendulums swing at the same pace, but this morning one is out of sync, so the normal “tick-tock” in unison now resonates “tick-tick-tock-tock” instead. How can that be, I ask you? They both show exactly the same time! I take a deep breath – and another sip of coffee. Tap-tap-tappity-tap-tap! Are you kidding me? The obnoxious woodpecker is causing commotion again today. He thinks it’s funny – I know he does – to drill like a jackhammer on the gutters of our house rather than one of the dozen trees in our backyard. I march out onto the deck, flinging my arms like a mad woman to shoo him away. I settle back into my chair, slip my shoes off, put my feet up and grab my cup of coffee; which unfortunately has gotten cold, but I drink it anyway. A faint clank and a whoosh of air tells me the air conditioner has kicked on and there will be a bit of white noise until the temperature inside the house has met its goal. I reach down and pull a light-weight blanket over my bare feet (they get cold when the air is on). A contented sigh escapes me as I begin to relax. Beep, beep, beep! The dryer down the hall indicates the clothes that have long been tumbling are finally dry. If it wasn’t so quiet in here, I might have missed the signal. Wait, what? It’s not quiet in here! It’s chaos! I might as well get up and fold the laundry… and change my shirt!

Playing with words this morning, this is my response to RDP #68 Word Prompt – Play