“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

Another Visit to Hannah’s Kitchen

I love how poetry is subject to interpretation. All writing is, to a certain degree, but poetry often means different things to different people and can stretch far beyond what the writer imagined. Take last year’s poem Thanksgiving in Hannah’s Kitchen, for instance. It met with mixed reviews: some liked it, some did not. Some saw it as funny and some found it sensual. Here’s how I see Hannah. She is the oldest, probably lonely, and least hospitable member of her family. She has prepared more Thanksgiving dinners than she cares to remember. She has the timing of every dish down to a science and prefers to do it herself over the drama and chaos that comes with “help”. Time alone finds her reminiscing, but there comes a point during her familiar routine when she grows impatient with the turkey… and maybe with herself. Here again is Thanksgiving in Hannah’s Kitchen:

hannahkitchen

Aromas, spicy and strong,

emit themselves from the depths of Hannah’s kitchen

where she busies herself with tasks no one will notice:

potatoes peeled, cranberries washed

and flour swept from the floor after making pies.

Many in her family have offered to help

but Hannah finds them useless

like the cold, dead turkey she pats dry.

She fills the bird with stuffing and rubs him with oil,

massaging the skin as if it were a former lover.

She reflects on by-gone days and early escapades

into the promises and promiscuity of youth.

She glances around the kitchen,

embarrassed by the direction her mind has gone;

just one more reason she is glad to be alone.

She tends to the turkey once again,

preening him like a groom before his wedding.

It startles her when his legs become untucked,

as if wanting to stand up, one last time, in the shallow pan.

Meticulously she binds them—tighter this time

then shoves the whole damn turkey into the oven.

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate it!

We Are Branches

DSC03213 (4)On the tree of life

rooted by my ancestors

I am but a branch

The word “branch” always means family to me because of my husband’s fondness for genealogy. As he spends hours and hours researching our family history, he continually strives to learn more, to go back farther and farther, and to correct inaccuracies in existing records. When you are aware of the generations that have come before you, you realize what a small twig you are in the grand scheme of things.

My response to today’s one-word prompt: Branch

Photo taken at the city park in Auckland, New Zealand