Posted in #Confessions, Aging

Smooth Sailing

Recently, because I’m of a certain age, it was time for that dreaded medical test, the colonoscopy.  Everyone fifty and older has a reaction when the word is even spoken, and everyone has their own story surrounding the event and process.  It’s a rite of passage.

“It’s the prep that’s the worst part!”

“Hope you have smooth sailing and that everything comes out ok!”

Oh, the jokes can go on and on and while potty humor does help during this most humbling time, we all know the importance of making sure we are up to date on our tests.  We know it is necessary.

Importance notwithstanding, it is one of the most dreaded, talked about, and joked about medical procedures we older folks have.

Ten years ago, I had the joy of prepping for an upcoming colonoscopy.  I had Boo arrange to get off work so he could take me and bring me home.  I drank all the liquid concoctions, took the pills, and showed up at 7:30 a.m. clean as a whistle, and ready to go. (pardon my pun)

“Good morning!” the cheery desk clerk sang.

“Nancy Malcolm.  I’m here for my colonoscopy.”

“Hi, Ms. Malcolm.  Let me get you checked in.”

Pages began to shuffle and ruffle.  She glanced back up at me, “Did you say, Malcolm?”

“Yes,”  M  A  L  C  O  L  M

The calendar came out.  More shuffling of papers.

Then she grabbed the calendar and said, “I’ll be right back.”  And she was.

“Uh, Ms. Malcolm?  Your appointment is tomorrow.  We have you down tomorrow, the 7th with a 6:30 a.m. check-in.”

I’m pretty sure my heart stopped as I asked, “Are you certain? Oh, my goodness, are you sure?  I had it down for the 6th at 7:30 a.m.”

“No, I’m sure. See?”  And she turned the calendar to show me. “You’re the doctor’s first patient tomorrow.  The 7th with a 6:30 a.m. check-in.”

I felt a flip and gurgle in my stomach, and I thought I would either pass out or take off running to the bathroom, instead, tears welled up and my face got hot.  My lip began to quiver and as it did, a salty tear ran down from the corner of my eye.

“I don’t think I can do this again or go without eating for another day.”  I turned to look at Boo who was all comfy in his chair with a fresh coffee and reading the news on his phone.

“Why don’t you take a seat, and I’ll talk with the nurse.”

“Ok,” I slobbered and dejectedly turned toward the row of chairs near Boo.

I sat down and before he even glanced up from his news, he said, “Ready for action?”

“It’s tomorrow,”  I whispered through my tears.  “I’m on the wrong day.”

His face didn’t move, but his eyes peered up at me in shock, “Are you sure?” he asked.

“Yes, I’m sure!!” I said a little too loud and as I looked around, I saw people staring at me sideways with pity and horror.  My saga had played out as their worst nightmare, and they were checking their own paperwork and sighing with relief. 

Silently, I sat while Boo debated on whether to question me further or just sit quietly in solidarity.  He patted my knee.

“I’m waiting for the nurse to tell me what to do,” I offered, and he patted me again.

“I’m so hungry,” I said to no one in particular.  “And water.  I need a drink of water.”

I went to the restroom.  Walked around the waiting room.  Tried to read the news over Boo’s shoulder and then just sat and stared into space. Finally, I walked up to the window again.

“Did you find the nurse?” I asked the desk clerk.

“Yes, she’s in the OR.  She’ll come out when she can. We have to wait.”

“Ok,”  I whispered.

 Twenty minutes later, a nurse came out and called me over to the side of the room. As I walked over to the door where she stood, I felt all eyes on me.  The collective waiting room leaned one ear toward us, trying to be nonchalant.

“Ms. Malcolm?”

“Yes.”

“The doctor said he will fit you in this morning, but you’ll have to wait an hour and a half.”

“Yes, yes, Ok.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.” I said.

She wasn’t smiling, although I wanted to hug her anyway.  “Don’t go anywhere,” she said. “And don’t eat or drink anything.  Not even water.”

“Of course.  I won’t.”  And she turned to leave.

Sure enough, an hour later, she came back to get me.  Most of the gawkers from the waiting room had already been called to their appointments, so I kissed Boo’s cheek and said, “See you soon.” 

“Good luck, Babe,” he said, and I began my walk of shame to the room where I put on my gown and waited for my IV.

“Did they tell you what happened?” I asked the nurse as she finished sticking me with the needle.

“I heard,” she said.  “You got lucky this time.”

“I know,” I said, and they wheeled me off to the OR.

“When do I get the happy juice?” I kept asking, and finally, the doctor said, “We might be able to find you a little bit, even though you’re here on the wrong day,” and then he laughed.  That’s all I remember till later that day.

I was still groggy on the drive home, but that evening as I was more awake, I went to the pantry for a snack.

“Cheetos!  Boo!  How did these Cheetos get here?”

He came into the kitchen and just stared at me.  “Are you serious right now?”

“You know I can’t control myself with Cheetos and now I’m going to have to eat some.  But I’m throwing them out after that.  You shouldn’t tempt me.  You know I forbid Cheetos in the house,”  I said.

“Boo,” he said.  “You threw a fit driving home after your procedure and made me stop at 7-11 for a big bag of Cheetos.  I tried to suggest something else, but you said you deserved them after all you’ve been through today.  You insisted.”

“Really?”

“Super really.”

“Sorry, babe,” I said as I crammed a handful of Cheetos into my mouth.

That was definitely one colonoscopy for the books.  So, this past week when I was scheduled again, ten years later, for my colonoscopy, I had already checked and rechecked my dates and times.

When I met with the doctor three weeks ago, he said, “If all goes well, and you do the prep perfectly so that I get a clear picture, and everything looks good, this could be your last colonoscopy.  You’re almost seventy, so in ten years you’d be eighty.  If this doesn’t kill you it will most likely be something else.  Consider it a perk of getting older.”

And then he went on; “Make sure you follow the prep instructions perfectly.  This morning I had to tell a lady she has to come back next week.  I saw corn.”

“Corn?”

“Corn.  She said she didn’t eat anything and followed the instructions, but I didn’t get a clear look.  I know corn when I see it.  No food and no corn.”

“No corn,”  I promised.  “You can count on me.”

Friends, getting older is not for the faint-hearted.  Literally.  I followed the prep instructions, starved myself for two days, and showed up on the right day at the right time and sure enough, everything went according to plan.  There was absolutely no way I was going to have to come back next week.  No corn for me.   It was all smooth sailing.

Posted in Family, Fathers, Grandmother, Mothers, Relationships

Stained by Ginger Keller Gannaway   

I met my new favorite person in this world two weeks ago – Winslow McClain Gannaway! He weighed eight pounds, ten ounces and made funny faces while he slept. His mother Catherine said he looked just like his dad, Casey, my middle son. I saw Catherine in his chubby cheeks and soulful eyes as well as Casey in his long limbs and perfect nose.

We begin life with people wanting us to resemble our parents. “He has his dad’s big feet” or “his mom’s smile.” And as kids, we imitate our parents – combing our hair like Momma’s, pretending to shave like Dad. We often adopt their interests. Chefs have children who love to cook. The lawyer hopes his/her offspring will one day take over the family practice. A tennis player starts lessons for the kids as soon as they can hold a racket. For eleven years or so many children follow their parents’ lead. 

As a kid I went to church every Sunday and learned to love our family’s traditions – from Good Friday crawfish boils to getting up before dawn for long vacations. Then my teenage brain veered into other directions, and I pushed back. 

I went from loving to dance with my kid feet atop my dad’s size fourteen shoes to hating my size eight feet when I entered eighth grade. Would I, like him, need to drive to Lafayette to find oversized shoes? Would I even find women size twelves for when I became a senior? 

I rebelled, rejected, and criticized my parents. I resented their help and worked hard not to become them. I felt proud of our differences and later believed my own kids would be closer to me than I was to my parents. I gave my kids more choices as I also hovered over their lives.

However, after all my pushing back on my parents’ influences, I realize I am stained with personality traits and habits that are just like theirs. My dad ate breakfast in white v-neck t-shirts and slacks. His undershirts had stains from previous meals, rushed shaving jobs, or paint from work. I remember Momma exclaiming,“Reginald!” at the table when Dad’s sloppy manners created round grease stains that Momma’s aggressive cleaning could not erase. So I judged Dad for his messy eating.

Just yesterday I noticed a circular stain on the right thigh of my favorite jeans. I can’t remember if I spilled the contents of a pork taco or the filling from a blackberry cobbler on that leg. When did I become stained with the flaws of my parent? Like Dad, I’m a messy eater. I also have big feet and hate asking others for directions. I love every kind of fruit and I salt my watermelon. I enjoy gatherings with relatives and friends where good food, strong drinks, and well-told jokes connect us. My siblings and I got his short-fused temper as well as his love of movies. He taught us and his grandkids how to pull our rackets back and to get our first serves in when playing tennis. I embrace Dad’s love of travel and adventure, especially the times that are unplanned and serendipitous.

When I was young relatives said I looked like my dad (which did not make me happy); I’d rather look like my momma with her petite stature and tiny waist. I still do have plenty of Mom connections.  She loved her breakfast food well done. My husband often warns me: “You’re burning your toast!” and I say the obvious, “That’s the way I like it.” Over the years with practice I have learned to make good gumbo and crawfish etouffee, but I still dream of her pork roast with rice and gravy that I cannot copy. I also failed at mastering her portion-control ways; she never weighed over 110 pounds. She stayed a poulette (a small chicken) – dusting, picking-up, putting-away, ironing, cooking, and wiping clean every counter she passed. I did not inherit her need for a spotless kitchen and an organized living room.

I don’t think Momma nor Dad understood my love of reading and writing or my desire to live in a large city. They were small town born and bred, never leaving the south central Louisiana parish they raised their family in. Religion remained a major part of their lives, and they did their best to look the other way when their three grown daughters moved away from the Catholic Church.

I don’t attend weekly mass and I’ve not been in a confessional in more years than I want to confess to, but I often pray to the Virgin Mary and have rosaries in my desk, my car’s glovebox, and by my bedside. 

The saying “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” fits my food tastes, entertainment tendencies, love of New Orleans and New York City, and interest in major tennis tournaments. I’ve learned to value my parents’ respect for close family ties and shared vacations. However, I have lived longer in Austin, Texas than I lived in Cajun Country. I believe in recycling, breakfast tacos, greenbelt hikes, tattoos, and lots of live music.

I have the Kellers’ obsession with movies and card playing and the LaTours’ love of music and laughter. The stains of my parents’ parents were pressed into their hearts and minds from those before them, so I claim the traits I’ve inherited, and now that Momma and Daddy have died, I do not want those stains to disappear. Like the thrift store robe that once belonged to my sister Kelly, I treasure old things, especially when they have imprints from my past.

I will hopefully leave my marks on my own three sons and their offspring. And one chilly day Winslow McClain Gannaway may ask me to make him some gumbo, and we will watch Cat Ballou together before I tuck him in at night and read him “Clovis Crawfish and His Friends.” 

Posted in Friendship

2023:  The Year of the Un-resolution

            I’m getting too old to make New Year’s resolutions.  I can’t take the shame anymore when I don’t do what I announced to the world was so important and life-changing.

            Drop ten pounds; Dry January; Clean house and organize the clutter; Exercise more; Call family every week; and start a yoga practice.  I might as well add inspire world peace and write a New York Times bestseller.

            Lately, I’ve been mesmerized by the people on Tik Tok videos.  My children are chagrined that I have watched these and think they are cute and funny. (mostly ridiculous) 

            There are actually people who have pre-made a delicious no-carb salad and are eating it on the fly while they carpool or run errands.  One lady bragged that if you didn’t have a fork, just take a bite out of the whole cucumber you packed and make a scoop to eat with.  Who packs a pre-made salad for running errands?  We’re all in the Chick Fil A line fighting for nuggets and talking ourselves out of French fries.

            I’ve made resolutions to organize my house and even asked one of my daughters to help.  Not that I was embarrassed, but I did feel ‘some kind of way’ the third time she held up a plastic bag and asked, “Why is this in here?”  or gift bags and totes… “Mother, why are you saving these?  Do you need all of these tote bags?  You should just pick three you like and donate the rest.” 

Really?  Have I taught her nothing??  You never know when you will need the perfect size, shape, and appropriate holiday gift bag or need to schlep something from here to there.  In my book, you can never have too many. 

            Is that reason for a resolution or an intervention?  It’s a close call either way.

            “This year I’m only going to eat whole foods.”  I can’t even say that without laughing.  I’ve professed that one too many years to even count.   Are Sugar-free Hazelnut creamer and Nature Valley Protein bars whole foods?  Of course not!  Therefore, I rarely make it past breakfast the next day.

            “This year I’m going to do sit-ups/crunches every day for 365 days.”  Except when I don’t feel like it or I ate too much the night before or I’m too busy watching Tik Tok videos.  I have to admit, this one gets me every year and every year I start out strong, hoping to make it past that dreaded two-week mark.  Something always gets in my way, like procrastination or apathy. 

            “This year I’m going to write one heart-felt letter to each person I love and appreciate.” Just one letter a week for fifty-two weeks.  My dear friend Ginger inspired me, but as I rounded week five I stopped remembering what I loved and appreciated about certain people and came to a stall.  I was having to force myself to find enough redeeming qualities to complete the letter, and wasn’t that like missing the point?

            Years ago, when Boo and I first got our Fitbits, we made a resolution to walk twenty-one miles a week.  Then Boo got carried away and vowed to walk four miles a day, twenty-eight miles a week or the equivalent of walking to Baltimore, Maryland (1560 miles) in one year.   Because I didn’t want to be outdone, I agreed to his revised resolution, too.  Every day we trekked along, at first happy and positive, until I finally had a meltdown.  I started to feel angry at Boo and dreaded our daily outings, cursing under my breath. 

            “You never talk. You won’t hold my hand and you’re just not sweet when we walk,” I announced.  “I thought this was our thing!”

            Clearly, what we had was a failure to communicate.  I envisioned our walks as time to connect emotionally.  Our special time together getting to know each other on a deeper level.

            Boo envisioned our walks as time to log four miles a day, twenty-eight miles a week. 

            “I’m trying to strengthen our marriage and make connections on a deeper level,” I cried.

            “I’m trying to walk fifteen hundred miles in a year.  That’s as deep as I can get.”

            I finally let go of my walking to connect dream and eventually I went to the gym, and he kept walking.  Yet another of my resolutions that bit the dust.

            One year I vowed to become a weightlifter.  I began a woman’s weightlifting class at the YMCA and went diligently for six months.  I loved it and felt so strong.  I would come home and flex my muscles and bought sleeveless tops to accentuate my biceps.  The problem was my age.  I was the oldest woman in the group.  I tried to keep up as best I could.  I never moaned or complained unless I had to, and I tried to stay positive even though some days it hurt to breathe. I was among young mothers who had recently given birth, and forty-something divorcees trying to get their mojo back.  The comments started to get to me.

            “I wish my mother would exercise like you do.”

            “I hope I look as good as you when I’m your age.”

            “Wow, you’re really doing good for being a grandma.”

            As the class got more difficult, I started to slow down.  Arthritic hands and knees can only do so much.  Eventually, even Jack LaLanne had to tone it down, or did he just up and die?  Either way, I did complete this resolution and although it was not always pretty, I still refer to it as my glory days.

            So, here it is, two weeks into 2023 and I really don’t have a resolution for the new year.   Whatever I do, I know I want to be creative, like maybe making a TikTok video.  If Lisa Rinna can just dance around her house in sweatpants and have billions of followers, surely I can find a geriatric niche that draws in the same size of viewers.  My 2023 resolution could be to post something we older folks would like to see on TikTok or Instagram.  A video about incorporating pre and probiotics into your healthy diet, brewing the perfect cup of Matcha tea, or dancing to the oldies remix.

Even though it’s not January 1, I think there’s still time to make my resolution proclamation.

 I will ‘dance like no one is watching,’ and make my TikTok video.   And I will remember the quintessential words of wisdom and inspiration: ‘today is the first day of the rest of my life.’  I think that’s a good start!

Happy 2023!

Posted in Friendship

Grandmothering  

Grandma and me

When I was young, my Grandma was already old.  She was sixty-something when I was born, and I thought she was the oldest grandma I ever knew.  She had gray hair, walked with a cane, and had veiny, arthritic hands that had worked hard all of her life.

Our youngest grandchild was born in 2017 when I was sixty-four years old.  The irony of thinking about my ‘old’ grandma is not lost on me because I obviously color my hair, and during my knee replacements, I used Grandma’s cane to get around.  I often look down at my hands and wonder who they belong to, but I recognize these faithful ten.  They are my grandma’s hands.

Sundays after church at the First United Methodist Church in downtown Amarillo, my dad, brother, and I would go to Grandma’s for lunch.  She would cook a pork roast or fried chicken, mashed potatoes, two vegetables, and have a plate with white and wheat bread on it, with a mound of margarine, not butter.  For dessert,  there was always a pie.  Apple, peach, pecan, coconut cream, or lemon meringue, she could make them all, and each one was delicious.  Grandma would perk a fresh pot of coffee for her and my dad to enjoy with their meal and pie.  The coffee was perked on the stove and would last her a good two days or more.

“Pass the cream and sugar, please,” she’d say once we sat down at the table, and then she would pour a little splash of Pet Evaporated Milk, and a heaping spoonful of sugar into the dark, rich coffee to lighten it up.

 After our meal, we would each pass our plates to Grandma, who would scrape our scraps into a pile to be thrown into the compost.  Then my dad would take a nap and we would entertain ourselves until he woke up.  Woe to the one who caused him to wake up before he was ready.

While Daddy was napping after our Sunday lunch, Grandma would make us play Canasta.  Grandma was serious about her Canasta and used little round, plastic cardholders that eased her arthritic hands while she held her cards so no one could see.  She could play for hours, while my brother and I often lost interest after the first round or two.  But, at Grandma’s, we did what Grandma said.  We could sit out on the front porch and watch the cars drive by and see the coming and going of neighbors, or we could water her zinnia’s out back or pick up pecans from under the tree. And that was the long list of activities at Grandma’s.

Martha, my grandma, was also a wonderful seamstress.  She taught me to sew, and we spent hours in her bedroom with the black, push-pedal Singer sewing machine making dresses for me and my dolls.   Her quilts were all made by hand, so we sat by the window and with needle in hand, took small, tight, methodical stitches which one by one created a beautiful scene. Grandma only allowed me to stitch on my own small squares of fabric, while she tended to the quilt. My favorite quilt that Grandma made was out of scraps of corduroy.  The corduroy had been used to make me winter pants, and a house coat for herself, and one for my doll.

“You have to take your time, darling,” she would say to me when I got in a hurry.  “Let’s rip it out and do it again.” And because it was Grandma, I did.

When my girls were young and I was teaching school,  I made them special dresses and even corduroy pants with my new and improved electric sewing machine.  I sewed my wardrobe each summer for the teaching year ahead, but I’ve never made a quilt.  I don’t have the patience Grandma did for quilting and other things like her perfect pies.

Anyone who really knows me, knows I’m not a dessert person.  I can bake the perfect Grandma pie for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but as Boo always likes to say, “You’re a good cook, but you just don’t cook with love.” 

And that is true.

My grandkids have grown up with my slice-and-bake chocolate chip cookies, while my brother and I had homemade oatmeal raisin and sugar cookies with half of a pecan baked on top.   My grandchildren have Sister Schubert cinnamon rolls for breakfast, while Jimmy and I had Grandma’s famous homemade cinnamon rolls, the size of a salad plate, slathered with homemade icing.

When our grandkids come for a visit we say things like, “What would you like to do?  We’ll do whatever you want.”  I guarantee that sentence never came out of Grandma’s mouth.

We know what movies are on at the theaters.  We have cards for Dave and Buster’s, and we have fish sticks, tater tots, pizza, and chicken nuggets in the freezer.

            “I’ll take care of the desserts,” Boo will volunteer because he knows I’m not good at sweets and also I’m likely to suggest fruit.

We have car seats, booster seats and toys galore.  We record all the movies and shows they like so they don’t have to watch commercials.  We take them on trips and support their scout cookie sales, and we plan our holiday decorations around what we think they would like.

My grandma had neither the means nor inclination to do any of those things, but she did what she could and quite possibly, that was more than enough.  Grandma gave herself, her time, and her experience.  She wasn’t gushy or overly lovey dovey, but she was dependable and kind.  She was affectionate and Godly.  She was simple in her ways but extravagant in her love. And I hope my grandchildren feel the kind of steady love from me as I felt from my grandma because that means more than any toy or trip.

Two weeks ago, our little granddaughter was spending the night and as I lay in bed with her, having read a unicorn storybook, she asked, “Will you scratch my back?”

            “Of course,” I said, “But just until you fall asleep.”

She turned her little back to me and snuggled her soft blanket to her face, and my heart melted a little bit more.  I felt her relax, and I realized the trust she has in me.  I immediately thought of Grandma and how I would snuggle on her lap and ask that very same thing. “Will you scratch my back?”   She always said yes, which means she has another star in her crown, for the selfless time and comfort she gave to my brother and me.

As grandmothers go, I’d like to think of myself as a good one.  Nannie, they call me, and when they do, it’s like a blessing to my heart.  Someday they might reflect on how ‘old’ Nannie was and the way her knees creaked when she got down on the floor, but hopefully, they’ll remember the back scratches and hours of crafting or nature walks and the abundance of love.

Posted in Pets, Relationships

Pee-Mail by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Years ago I met the kindest octogenarian in a park near my home. While I was walking my dog Jambo, this man stopped to say howdy and give Jambo plentiful ear rubs and head pats. His voice was soft and his smiles quick. He shared wisdom without judgement. (I later found out he was a retired judge). He and I met often and enjoyed quick chats about the weather and local news, but he seemed to most enjoy time with Jambo. He’d take a knee to get nose to nose with my dog and rub his ears and tell him what a good boy he was.

Jambo – our first Gannaway family dog

One morning I complained about Jambo getting out of the back yard AGAIN. Our mixed breed was an escape artist – squeezing between the fence and its gate, digging beneath the gate after a rain, and even twisting the gate’s chain link with his mouth to make a hole and head for open spaces. We were lucky that we always got Jambo home – even once going to the animal shelter to pick him up after the 4th of July fireworks.

Judge told me, “Oh Jambo must have needed a walkabout, that’s all.” And then my dog got a second helping of ear rubs.

Another time I said, “Jambo would be perfect if he didn’t need to sniff every tree, bush, and fallen branch we pass.”

“Oh, he just has a lot of pee-mail some days,” said Judge.

I laughed and said, “I hadn’t thought of that.”

Now that I’ve downsized to a smaller home and a larger dog, I believe the judge’s explanation was right-on! Our dog Millie smells tree trunks and fallen leaves with serious concentration before squatting to leave her own pee-mail. And she sniffs all angles of a fire hydrant, utility pole, or on-street mailbox. These manmade objects hold as much information as as a clump of dead grass does. Pee-mail comes in various lengths.

Millie – big dog in small place

After I read Sigrid Nunez’s  wonderful novel The Friend, which featured a remarkable Great Dane as a main character, I saw how dogs’ noses are their favorite way to interact with the world. Millie not only recognizes my scent from many yards away, but up close she smells what I had for breakfast AND what I had for supper three days before. A dog’s nose is at least 10,000 times more sensitive than a human’s, and it has about 225 million scent receptors compared to a human’s mere five million.

So Millie’s walks must include frequent stops so she can read all of her pee-mail. While she will stick her nose deep into a pile of leaves or sometimes a drain ditch, she does not always answer every pee-mail. After several seconds of aggressive sniffing, Millie may just walk on. Every third or forth “no response” is followed by a squat and release of her own pee-mail. I wonder if she smells something interesting (or perhaps confrontational) that requires leaving a reply. Is she “marking her territory” or telling a canine friend, “What’s up, dawg?! Long time no smell.” I’ve gotten used to the stop-and-sniff rhythm of dog-walking. I give Millie time to read all her pee-mail and to reply when necessary. I get concerned only when her sniffs become frantic as if  she’s searching for a small bit of very old cheese or a broken piece of a chicken bone. Then I must pull her nose up and hurry away from something she considers delectable but I know is dangerous.

Millie and I on a walk

I could take lessons from Millie. She reads all her pee-mail but only answers the important correspondences. And none of her responses are too long. She says just enough before she’s on to the next piece of pee-mail. Also, if we approach a dog walking towards us, she ignores the smells on the ground and greets her potential friend with good eye contact and a quick bark. Then the two dogs can give each other the ultimate compliment – some serious butt sniffing.

As interesting as an electronic piece of mail may be, it’s no comparison to face-to-face conversation. I strengthen my human bonds when I share ideas, stories, and even worries with others in person. We may offer one another advice or laugh about life’s crazy twists and silly slip-ups that remind us that comedy connects us, especially when we share our embarrassing moments or weird observations. We don’t need to smell each other’s britches to understand the crazy all around us. I suppose we humans rely on our ears and eyes more than our noses. E-mail is ok, phone calls are better, and face-to-face/in-person is the best kind of connection. 

Posted in #Confessions

I’m Not Afraid To Be A Scaredy Cat

            Recently I called my brother to ask, “Did we go trick-or-treating when we were little?”

            “Surely we did.  Didn’t we?”

            “The only thing I remember is one time Daddy drove us to the ‘rich’ neighborhood so we could get good candy.”

            “Oh yeah, but our paper sacks were a dead giveaway that we weren’t from their hood.”

            I’ve never been one for spooky stories or movies.  I don’t like spiders, ghosts, or demons.  I don’t listen to scary sounds or scary music, and I like the lights on.  No pitch black for me. 

I’m not afraid to be a scaredy cat.

            Right before the sixth grade, we moved across town, in Amarillo, to a newer neighborhood and a new school.  That year I was eleven years old, and sixth grade was a conundrum of emotions and hormones.  I was already 5’6” and filling out, shall we say, so there was no hiding the fact that I was the ‘new girl.’  I was the tallest kid in my class and had just gotten braces on my teeth.

            In spite of my newness, I was invited to a Halloween party at Tim Parker’s house, one of the cutest boys in 6th grade.  I may not have known everyone invited, but I knew they were the IN crowd and that I should be happy I was included.  The invitation was a little loose on details:  Meet at Tim’s house at 7:00 p.m. to play games and go Trick or Treating!   Conveniently, Tim Parker lived right down the street, so I planned to walk over at 7:00 p.m. and join the fun.  There was just one catch.  I knew my daddy, J.C. Claughton, Jr., would not let me go to a boy/girl party IF he knew about it.  So, I told him I was going trick or treating with my best friend and her brothers.  He would never understand that this party was a matter of life and death as far as my popularity was concerned. 

            For some unknown reason, my daddy didn’t check out my story, and at 7:00 p.m. that Halloween night, I walked over to Tim’s house ready to bob for apples, eat candy and laugh with my new friends.  I pushed down the guilt over not telling the truth and promised myself that next time I would do better. 

            I rang the doorbell and could already hear laughter coming from inside Tim Parker’s house, then everything got quiet.  The front door opened slowly but no one was there, and after waiting a couple of minutes, I took two steps inside calling, “Hello?  Hello?  Tim?”

            “BOO!” screamed voices from inside, and I jumped three feet off the floor.

            Everyone was laughing and after I gathered myself, I pretended to laugh, too.

            “Come on, we’re all in the basement,” Tim said.

            In Amarillo, as other West Texas towns, a lot of homes have basements in case of tornadoes or excessive hail.  Most basements are finished out with carpet, ping pong tables, and other activities for the kids, as well as blankets, flashlights, and safety equipment.  As I followed the others back down the stairs to the basement, I was already starting to feel that I might have made a poor decision.  The room was dark, except for a candle lit in the middle of a circle of kids, and the stereo was playing House of the Rising Sun, by the Animals.

            Two couples were slow dancing in the corner and everyone else was sitting in a circle with a candle and an empty bottle of Coke.

            I walked over to the circle and Lisa Claythorn patted the floor, “Sit by me,” she said, and just as I did, the music switched to The Beatles, She Loves You. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!

            “Let’s start the game,” I heard one boy say.  “Spin it!”

            As unworldly and immature as I was, I still knew what Spin the Bottle meant.  A bottle is placed on the floor in the center of the circle.  A player spins the bottle and must kiss the person to whom the bottle points when it stops spinning. The problem was I had never kissed anyone before.

            A girl with long, red hair took the bottle and twirled it so hard, the bottle literally slid across the floor.  It landed pointing at a boy named Steve, who was in my class.  They both laughed and the circle of kids howled.  “Oooooo! Kiss!  Kiss!  Kiss!”  This red-headed girl, whose name I did not know, shook her head, flicking her red, glistening hair away from her face, and rose up on her knees.  She leaned forward and as she did, Steve leaned in for the kiss.  Oh, my goodness, how I wished I was dressed in a silly costume yelling “trick or treat!”

After the first spin, I was relieved yet nervous that I might be next.  I started to sweat and tried to calculate the odds of not having to spin versus who I would have to kiss. 

            “If you don’t kiss, you have to go through the spider webs in the closet and stick your hand in a bowl full of brains,” Tim said.

            As I sat calm on the outside, heart pounding on the inside, I thought about the whole kissing thing.  Lick my lips or stay dry?  Did the red-headed girl lick her lips?  Mouth open or closed?  Quick or slow?  Eyes closed or open?  What about my braces?

            “Where’s the restroom?”  I whispered to Lisa.

            “Upstairs,” she said, and I jumped up saying, “I’ll be right back.”

            I lingered as long as I could without seeming strange and made my way back to the circle.  In a haze of slow motion and fearful dread, I sat down in the first empty place.  Pat Fite, the absolutely cutest boy in the world, spun the bottle looking right at me.  As soon as my eyes locked with his, I diverted my gaze to the bottle which was beginning to slow down. What am I going to do if it lands on me?  Why did I even come here?  My throat is dry and probably my lips.  What if the bottle doesn’t land on me?

            My mind was racing, my heart was pounding, and my stomach felt as if it was ready to regurgitate everything I had ever eaten. The bottle was creeping to a standstill. I could see it pointing directly at the girl next to me, yet it continued to move in half-inch increments. It stopped right in front of me and when it did, the lights started to flicker, and we heard loud steps bounding down the stairway.

Tim’s big brother and two of his friends landed in the basement yelling, “Come on you guys!  It’s time to do some tricks!”  Everyone jumped up and our kiss was quickly forgotten.

            “Let’s go, come on!”  Tim’s brother said.  “Everyone has to steal a pumpkin and smash it!”

            Still sweating, but trying to play it cool, I said I had to be home by 8:15, and started moving toward the door.  Pat Fite touched my hand and said, “Maybe next time,” and the turntable played Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying by Gerry and The Pacemakers.

Once outside, the group went one way, and I went the other. Pat Fite called, “See you in Homeroom!” And I waved goodbye.  Waiting until the group was at the corner,  I ran the rest of the way home and as I breathlessly closed the front door, I heard Daddy call, “Did you get any good candy?”

Posted in Contemplations, Relationships

OWT’s (One Way Talkers) by Ginger Keller Gannaway

The Princess of our family

“Did I tell you about Lucky getting to ride the ferry with us?”

I nod and smile before I let my dog Millie pull me toward our apartment. I did not need a second telling of my neighbor’s trip to Galveston with her dog. When I move beyond the “Looks like another scorcher” level of talk with acquaintances, I learn about their pets, their family, and their personal tastes. While casual conversations may connect me with good neighbors, they are not all equal. Some people lead interesting lives and know the importance of clever wording and good timing. They also realize that a chat is better when both parties contribute to the conversation.

Then there are those who share endless ho-hum info. about their pets, family, friends, and hobbies. They have not an iota of curiosity about my pets, family, friends, or interests. They are One-Way Talkers and they’d be at home in a Seinfeld episode. They are clueless to the apathy of their audiences. I do not need to know a short cut to the cheapest La Quinta in El Paso or a pet’s favorite place to take a poo, and I don’t have time for someone’s else’s grandparent’s weekly activity schedule at the nursing home.

OWT’s follow their own rules of engagement:

  1. Give listeners a slew of details like what you had for lunch, what your cousin had, and what your great-uncle took home in a “doggy bag.” 
  2. Do not respond to fellow talkers’ own experiences about a similar experience. (If you explain your partner’s unfortunate bowel mishaps, ignore what the listener says about their cousin’s bad colonoscopy).
  3. Never give listeners an opening for conversational feedback. Listeners need only nod their heads or throw out “Huh-uh.” They should keep ears open and mouths shut.
  4. If a listener attempts a suggestion on how to deal with a dog’s allergy to polyester for example, interrupt him with a list of experts you have already consulted and describe your pet’s projectile vomiting tendencies.

My apartment complex has at least three OWTs and only one is worth listening to. Let’s call him Scheherazade. He’s in his 80’s and has been in the military, worked at our state’s biggest university, traveled all over our nation, and not always followed the rules. He went to New Orleans once to deliver a race horse and got involved in some Mardi Gras madness. His younger days involved bootlegging and sharecropping. He may repeat his tales, but he’ll add a twist or insert a new detail. And his stories include valuable life lessons. If one goes to New Orleans to carry out an illegal transaction, one should avoid going during Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest. This type of OWT is as unique as a laid-back two-year-old who missed her nap.

So don’t think I’m cruel when I look out my window before I go to our mailboxes, and I don’t venture out if a certain OWT is nearby. And if I do get caught with this OWT, it’s ok to fib about having to hurry home because I have a Zoom meeting in two minutes. An OWT has followed me out to the parking lot when I said I had no time to talk and can continue telling me about Lucky’s upcoming grooming appointment even after I’ve gotten a half-block down the sidewalk. I may be mostly retired, but these days I don’t have the patience for OWTs  ever since Scheherazade moved away to live nearer his grandkids.

Posted in Boo, Contemplations

Boo #27

            We were standing in the kitchen, deciding which chips to have with lunch, when I noticed Boo was looking in his pill organizer.  You know, the Monday through Sunday plastic medicine container that has A.M. and P.M.?

            “Dang, I took my day pills at night again,” he said.

            “You’re kidding, right?”

            “No, I’ve done it before.”

            “I don’t know how it could get any clearer, Boo.  Monday A.M.”

            “I wondered why I couldn’t get to sleep last night, and besides, I’m worried about the car battery. I think it’s on the blitz.”

            Sometimes when it rains, it pours.  Sometimes the car battery lasts four-and-one-half years and other times, twelve months.  Sometimes the air conditioner unit goes out, and sometimes the day pills get taken at night.  No matter what happens in life, there is always something out there to steal your peace.

            Exactly two months ago I was recuperating from knee surgery, going to physical therapy, and trying to stay positive.  Day after day, by mid-afternoon, our house would be a balmy 78- 85 degrees and then it would partially cool off at night.  Until it didn’t. 

            “Babe, I think something is wrong with the air-conditioner.” ( spoken in a stage whisper, because to say it aloud would make it true.)

            “Can’t be.  It’s not that old,” he said.

            “Let’s just call anyway.  Maybe it’s something easy.”

At first, it had taken Boo a few days of constant cussing and fuming, sweating, and pacing until he gave in and accepted the fact that we had to get a new AC unit. But, one week and ten thousand dollars later we were shocked at how quietly the air-conditioner purred, as the positively artic air filled the house.   We also got a new thermostat to replace the old one Boo had just recently learned to adjust.  Sometimes I wonder how Boo was able to graduate college and receive a master’s degree, but maybe that’s the way it is with the highly intelligent.

            A few days ago, I woke up and the house was 85 degrees again.  I went in to start the coffee and there was a note from Boo: “This house is sooo hot.  Something is wrong with new AC;  I pushed a bunch of buttons, but nothing helped.”

            I padded into the hallway and moved the thermostat to 74 degrees.  Then pushed the hold button.  ‘Permanent hold’ not ‘temporary hold.’  The house was all cooled down by the time he got up.

            “Why do you insist on pushing buttons willy-nilly and then complain something doesn’t work?”  I said.

            “There’s a 50% chance it might help.”

            “Speaking of 50%, what makes you think your car battery is going out?”

            As we all know, car batteries have a life expectancy.  The likelihood of having to replace the car battery is extremely high during the time you’re in possession of a car.

            The battery issue will sometimes begin subtly with a slow, gurgly engine start.  Or perhaps the little battery sign lights up with the sputtery start, but generally, there is a small window of warning before your battery just conks out. 

             “It took a while to start, but the battery light didn’t come on.  It’s been happening for a few days now,  but the battery light should come on,” said Boo.

            “Battery light or not, I think you should take it in any way and ask someone about it.”

            “Maybe tomorrow.”

            Tomorrow came.  The car would not start, and Boo had to jump off his car using the cables on our old truck.  Boo made it to an auto parts store that advertised free installation and was home by 1:00 with his lunch, Jersey Mike’s #2, Mike’s Way.

            “How did it go?”  I asked.

            “Ok, I guess.”

            “I’m glad.  How much was the battery?”

            “I got the best battery they had, that’s what Darryl said.  It was $212, not like the old days when you could get a new battery for $50.  The world is really changing.  That’s what Darryl always says.”

            “Who’s Darryl?”

            “Darryl works at the auto parts store.  He worked for twenty-five years at the local newspaper and then when he retired he went to the auto parts store.  He’s worked there for three years now. He lives close to us in a four-bedroom house off Brodie Lane, but I think he’s divorced.  He never mentioned a wife.  Darryl loves to cook and grills out three nights a week.  He’s quite a guy.”

            If I know Boo, and I do, he loves to ask people about their lives.  He can ask twenty-one questions in ten minutes flat, and people love to tell him their stories.  Boo should have stopped asking questions much sooner than he did because he proceeded to tell me more about Darryl.

            “Get this.. Darryl is Mexican American, but he said he might not stay at the auto store because they’re hiring too many Mexicans.  And they even hired two lesbians.  Darryl said he was just a regular guy and that he’d never met a lesbian before.”

            “Babe, what did you say?” 

            “I didn’t know what to say.  I mean part of me wanted to say, ‘I like lesbians, Darryl.’

But I wasn’t sure how that would sound either.  What could I say?  I couldn’t leave until he finished the battery.”

            “So?” I asked.

            “So, I just mumbled uh huh, and hmmmm.”

            “Oh my.”

            “Why do people tell me these things?”

            “Maybe you ask too many questions?”

“Maybe, but you have to admit, Darryl is a complex individual.”

“Darryl is some kind of guy, that’s for sure.”

In life, and especially with Boo, there are always people, places, and things that disrupt the steady, peaceful flow of living.  We try to stay Zen, yet there is a car battery, air-conditioner, or pill box just waiting to take us out.  There are many people in this world who have differing opinions and values and as long as Boo is on the planet, he’ll continue to ask questions and love hearing the answers.

Zen
Posted in Confessions, Fears and Worries, Growing up

Crossing my Fingers as I Pray by Ginger Keller Gannaway

I like to make the sign of the cross with my middle finger atop the nail of my pointer finger. Just in case. You never know. Can’t hurt. My spirituality mixes Catholicism with superstitious tendencies.

Including kindergarten, I attended thirteen – knock on wood- years of Catholic school. After our First Communion, my classmates and I went to mass once a week and confession once a month. Our church was down a covered sidewalk next to the elementary school that was a football field length from the high school and its wooden gym which almost touched the convent where the nuns who taught us lived. Except for our eighth grade teacher Sister Mary Margaret Mary, who focused on English and math all day, everyday, the nuns squeezed in regular religion lessons, especially during Advent (before Christmas) and Lent (before Easter). We said “grace” before our cafeteria lunches where all of us had to clean our trays or the Sister on duty would send us back to finish our peas (or spinach or tuna casserole).

Catholicism was all I knew. My family said the rosary every time we drove farther than thirty miles from home. No meat-eating on Fridays and no breakfast before Sunday masses. My scores of cousins were Catholic, as were my Camp Fire Girls troop and my classmates. I still have a 2X4 inch prayer book with the Order of the Mass, the epistles, and the gospels. I remember wearing a lace chapel veil (or a Kleenex bobby-pinned to my head) and kneeling near the front of the church to follow the priest’s lead. I recited the Act of Contrition from memory while turning my book’s tiny gilded pages.


Devout as I was, I still sometimes lied during my monthly confessions. I strove for specificity over believability because I thought Father got bored hearing all the typical kid sins: “I disobeyed my parents” “fought with my brothers and sisters” or “lied to my teacher.” Wouldn’t he prefer, “I broke Momma’s no-animals-in-the-house-rule when I convinced my sisters to bring Red, our pony, into the kitchen. She seemed so hot! We just wanted to let her drink from the kitchen sink. We were rescuing Red from heat stroke!”  Isn’t there a blurry line between truth and almost the truth? Besides, Fr. Forgette always gave us the same penance after each confession: “Say five Hail Marys and go with God.”

I stayed mostly holy until I hit puberty. I smoked my first cigarette at a Catholic Girls Retreat in Grand Coteau when I was fourteen. Later cousin Gina and I stole Grandma’s cigarettes, and I sometimes skipped Sunday masses after my friend Janie started driving. In high school I adored a lovely, hip nun who played all of the Jesus Christ Superstar album during our ninth grade religion class. She made me consider the attraction of a religious life. Then the next year she left the convent to marry our parish’s young and handsome priest. My school friends and I had never heard a more romantic tale of true love, and life as a nun lost all of its appeal.

I thought I had true faith. I knelt by my bed most nights and prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I may have been clueless about my town’s racial prejudices, but Mary seemed like the most accepting and understanding statue in our Catholic church.

To the left of the altar stood a life-sized calm, blue-robed Mary behind tiny candles in red glass cups and a cushioned kneeler next to a small metal receptacle for coins that paid for the candles worshippers lit. I believed my memorized words: “Our Lady, our Queen, and our Mother, in the name of Jesus and for the love of Jesus, take this cause in hand and grant it good success.”  I’d pray for help passing a test, to stop fighting with my sisters, for patience, for confidence, or for better hair. I had the faith of a naive thirteen-year-old who had not yet become a “cafeteria Catholic.” (Someone who picks and chooses which church rules to follow)

My junior year of high school tested my belief in the power of prayer and my faith in the Blessed Virgin Mary. At St. Ed’s the juniors helped plan the junior/senior prom. In the spring of 1973 the prom committee had narrowed down the entertainment choices to two Louisiana bands, one from our local parish or a Baton Rouge group called Cocodris (French for alligator). The latter featured two of my first cousins from Donaldsonville: George and his sister Boco! Closer to my age, Boco was my grooviest relative and the coolest person I had ever known. She first performed with The Fifth Autumn, her family band that toured Louisiana and beyond. Boco, her brothers George and Joe, her sister Sue, and a neighbor drummer had made up The Fifth Autumn. Once they even performed at my hometown’s only night club – the Purple Peacock.
 
Boco’s long straight brown hair, her honest connection with a song, and her smoky voice could hypnotize a room. George was (and still is) a talented guitarist and songwriter. If Cocodris could be our prom band, my quiet girl-who-never-dated wallflower persona might change to groovy-girl status.

I did not know how the prom leaders made their decisions, but I felt my tight connection with the Mother of God could pull some heavenly strings. In the church’s holy silence on weekday afternoons, I knelt in front of my favorite religious figure (after lighting a small candle) and prayed Hail Marys and original prayers that named my rock-and-roll cousins and promised that if they could wow the teens in our decorated gym with their musical talents, I’d hold off begging for anything until I turned eighteen. I had never prayed longer or harder for anything in my life. Here was a doable miracle! Mary could make this happen, and I had the hope and faith of someone who had yet to experience a major life tragedy.

George LaTour is in center, Boco LaTour is on the right

I don’t remember the day I heard the news that Cocodris would preform at our prom. I don’t remember how I asked Victor, the usher at the picture show I worked with who attended public school, to be my prom date. I’ve forgotten most of the songs they sang except “U.S.S.R.,” which George dedicated to me, my parents, and my sister Gayle (who was serving punch). However, I do remember Boco telling me at that year’s LaTour family reunion, “Ginger! You were floating off the gym floor when you walked in! Off the floor!” Dance details are forgotten, but I saved the obligatory prom pic and a 45 of Boco singing “Running the Mardi Gras.” Still, the joy of that night made me believe in the power of prayer. Mary had heard my words and granted my wish!

Does it matter that I cross my fingers when I pray? That one of my favorite lines in literature is from Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory”? It’s a story about a boy’s friendship with an elderly relative and their fruitcake-making Christmas tradition. The woman was so superstitious that when they were counting the money they had saved for cake ingredients and ended up with thirteen dollars, she said, “‘We can’t mess around with thirteen. The cakes will fall…Why I wouldn’t dream of getting out of bed on the thirteenth.’” So to be on the safe side, they subtracted a penny and tossed it out the window. I understood that level of superstition.

Nowadays I avoid getting out of bed at the thirteenth minute of any hour. I close my eyes for a kind of snooze button effect and say a few Hail Marys if the clock reads 6:13. During my thirty-four years of teaching in public schools, when I stayed after the last bell to prepare my room for the next day’s kids, I’d straightened my class sets of To Kill a Mockingbird on the book shelves; I’d rearrange desks and pick up stray notebooks; I’d stack the next day’s handouts on my desk and write tomorrow’s agenda on the blackboard. But I never included the following day’s date. No “tempting fate” by writing a date before it arrived.

Faith can be an unbelievable force, yet it’s no guarantee. Despite innumerable rosaries and novenas, people I loved still died from cancer or car accidents or bad decisions. I handle life’s uncertainties like a daydream I had as a teenager: I’m walking down a narrow, uneven trail through a dense wood where the sun flickers through the branches. The ground is covered in leaves, and up ahead is an unusual patch – a mixture of soft, mud-colored nettles and sand and shallow water. Quick sand or sink hole? Who knows? The path holds danger like gray hurricane clouds. But I make the sign of the cross and keep walking. I take measured steps though the cool squishiness as brown water covers my bare feet, and I keep going because at the end of the trail might be cousins Boco and George performing an acoustic arrangement of Irma Thomas’ “It’s Raining.” Life’s uncertainties may curdle my stomach, but believing in miracles keeps my head full of dragon flies instead of mosquitos

Posted in #Confessions, Fears and Worries

Vulnerable

           

Story and Photography by Nancy Malcolm

Walking to the car, I was afraid I would not make it safely locked inside before the tears came.  The car was stifling, and as the engine came alive, I sat with my face in my hands crying big, hot tears of shame, and then something else. 

            I had just come from one of my last sessions of physical therapy.  Last November I had my first total knee replacement and this July I had the second knee done.  It has been an arduous year of pain, healing, and regaining strength and balance.  And after all of that, here I am reduced to tears in the parking lot of my physical therapist, right next to a Bed Bath and Beyond and a Party Pig. 

            If I am to tell the truth, which, by the way is a very vulnerable place to be, this is my first bout of tears since I started this transformational journey.  I have not cried since I made my resolve to complete the surgeries.  I could not waiver,  I had to stay the course and commit to the nineteen-month-long process.  There would be no turning back.

            In my mid-thirties I began to feel pain in my knees that was unexplained.  I was told to do strengthening exercises, and possibly have arthroscopic knee surgery to remove cartilage fragments.  But, as my thirties gave way to my fifties and sixties the x-rays showed osteoarthritis in the kneecap.  One doctor said, “You have the knees of a thirty-year-old and the kneecaps of an eighty-year-old.  Someday you’ll have to get your knees totally replaced.”  I have taken Rooster Comb (Hyaluronic acid) shots in my knees, cortisone shots, Celebrex and Aleve in large doses, and I’ve rubbed on every kind of ointment, even purchasing ‘Blue Emu’ cream, heralded as a miracle cure by my little Auntie Sue. 

            But, finally what made me ready for surgery was the excruciating pain and the even more excruciating embarrassment of not being able to walk down a flight of stairs, or go on hikes, or play on the floor with my grandkids. I felt like an imposter as I waited in line for the elevator with those who obviously needed it more than me.  I was ashamed of my disability.

            I want to be able to climb the bleachers of my grandson’s ballgames and dance with Boo at our 50th wedding anniversary.  I want to play chase with my grandkids and ride bikes until our heart’s content.  I want to enjoy what’s left of my time here on earth and if possible, if I am granted the blessings I may not deserve,  to do all of that without pain.  So, when my orthopedic doctor said, “I think you’re ready.”  I mentally prepared myself for the road ahead.

            Arthritis is a cruel disease that affects your joints causing inflammation or degeneration of your joints, creating great pain.  Sometimes, Osteoarthritis of the fingers, knees, or hips follows an injury.  I badly injured my knee while in college, by falling down a flight of stairs, but who can know for sure if that was the beginning culprit, only that it happened. 

            All of these things were not in my thoughts as I sat in my car after physical therapy.  Only minutes before I had been standing on a 3-inch-high wooden block, shaking like a leaf.  It had been two and a half months since my surgery, but it was time to tackle the stairs.  “I’m scared to bend my knee, I’m afraid it won’t hold me,”  I said.

            The fresh-faced, twenty-something-year-old physical therapist stood in front of me saying, “I’m right here, I won’t let you fall.”  And as silly as this might sound to you, I knew I had a choice.  I could try and keep trying or I could cower away in fear and settle for less. After all, I am a grown woman and if I say I’m not ready, I’m not ready.  If I don’t want to put myself through the pain and soreness, I don’t have to.

            My choice, though, was not to waste my pain.  I’d come this far and the thing I wanted most was right in front of me.  But, I was afraid, and I was ashamed that this young girl was having to help me when I should have been able to do it myself. I felt like a whiney baby, a scaredy-cat afraid of a 3-inch step when there are so many people who would be happy to be in my place.  My journey of pain and rehabilitation was finally coming towards a pivotal point, and I knew I had to find a way to push through.

            Sitting in my car, I was feeling months of hard work, pain, and the shame I have carried for a long time.  The shame surrounding what I should be able to do, shame at something that was not even my fault.  I am not a crier by nature, but I am tenderhearted, and sometimes that can serve me well. At that exact moment, I needed a little compassion.  I wanted to say, “It’s ok to be afraid, you can do it.  Give yourself some time.”  But all I heard in my head was negative. “You’ll never be able to do this.  Just give up.”

            The walk to the car was like a walk of shame until I sat down, and the tears fell. My tears cleansed a part of my heart that had been overgrown with fear and anxiety.  My tears were a release of the gratitude I feel towards my God and my surgeon, my family, and my friends.  My heart overflows with thankfulness that I am healing well, getting stronger, and relearning to climb stairs.  I am grateful to have less pain.  I am grateful for insurance and Medicare.  I am grateful for all of the kind, compassionate people who have been put in my path during this medical odyssey.

            It is not easy to let yourself be vulnerable.  You must first accept your truth, without judgment, and without comparing yourself to how you think others would behave.  Brene’ Brown, a famous professor, lecturer, and author actually wrote a book about vulnerability, Daring Greatly.  In that book, she says that “Vulnerability sounds like truth but feels like courage.”  And that is exactly how I felt.

            After the tears slowed, I drove home debating whether to tell Boo about my ‘meltdown.’  I was already trying to make light of my feelings by using that derogatory term.  But, right before bed, I told him everything and to my surprise, I cried all over again.  He listened, almost like he has never done before, and held me tight like a little child.  It seems Brene’ Brown was absolutely right.  My vulnerability to share my truth felt so courageous and Boo could feel the truth and openness as it went from my heart to his.  My willingness to be open transformed everything. The gratitude I feel for health and healing allows me to be afraid and do it anyway. The willingness to be vulnerable gave way to gratitude and that has made all of the difference.

“What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful.”  Brene’ Brown