Thursday, December 02, 2010
(This is my second blog on a person who made a difference in my life.)
My brother Robert is six feet and three inches of pure intimidation. All he has to do is walk through the door and you automatically feel like you should mind your manners and say your prayers. At 5'3", my neck has been strained to look up at him during a conversation. In fact, there have been times to this day he has picked me up and sat me on the kitchen counter just so he doesn't have to look down at ME so much. By the way, he is 22 years older than me, protective of his family and smart as a freakin' whip.
Once people get to know him, however, they realize that he is just a big bear. Quiet in nature, he will let you talk his socks off. He's never been much for telephone conversations either. He would rather make the trip up from Alabama to talk to you face-to-face rather than use one of those.
The only time I have seen him angry is when someone says something detrimental about his family. Then he'll curse like a sailor.
When my father passed away when I was three, he stayed home from the funeral to be with me. Mom thought it was best that I did not go and Robert said he would watch after me. He threw me up on his shoulders, ran like a mad man to my room and played "Barbie" with me. A man, distinguished in the U.S. Army, playing dolls with his baby sister; I've never really thought about that until now. But that's just the kind of guy he was and still is today.
I can remember him coming home on leave. It was during the time of the Vietnam War and he had served there for two years. I remember him walking through the door, looking gaunt, walking gingerly with every step. I ran to him, arms up in the air, waiting for him to pick me up. Mom said, "NO, NO, he CAN'T!" and ran furiously to pick me up and set me on the edge of the dining room table. Robert sat down on the chair in front of me and smiled softly, kissing my forehead. I started crying because I sensed that something was wrong. I took my hand and patted his cheek and he took it in his giant palm. I asked him, "What's wrong??" then I noticed the sutures in his chest from the opening at the top of his shirt. Pulling away, I was confused. Scared. He saw my fear. "I'm okay, little Chelle. Really! I kinda fell apart out there but I've got a great friend who cared enough to put me back together again." I began unbuttoning his shirt and saw that the sutures ran all the way down to his stomach. I became intrigued that such a thing was possible. I counted each stitch. Felt each bump between them. I asked him if it hurt and he said "Just for a few minutes." I can remember being five-years-old, jumping from the table and running to get my mother's medical books and devouring each of the pictures over and over again. Thus began my love of the human body and how it worked. And Robert didn't have to go back to Vietnam after that, either.
It's an odd thing. After my father passed away, he became a father to me of sorts. He was certainly old enough to be. I can remember him taking me for rides in his hot rod truck, braiding my hair, playing hide-and-seek with me. He even tanned my hide a few times when I did something ridiculous. Like the time during one of our hide-and-seek games and I hid in the old refrigerator in the barn. I had climbed in and shut the door behind me. After he found me and I was gasping for air, he raised cain and let me have it. But then he softly held me to him and cried. I didn't know what the heck was going on. All I knew at the time was that I was very sorry I made him mad. But even sorrier that I made him cry.
He is in his sixties now, but still very much absorbed with life. He owns his own heavy equipment business and travels the U.S. But he is never too busy to make a pit stop here. I've noticed, however, that he calls me from time-to-time now. He doesn't say much but let's me do all the talking. At the end of every conversation he says, "I love you, little sis. I will talk to you soon." Well, he may not talk, but he likes to think he does.
He changed my heart. He gave me the vision that I have today. If it weren't for my big brother, I don't know where I would be now. So thank you, Robert. You've given me more than you'll ever know.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
(This is the first in a series of blogs that places emphasis on the people who have shaped my life. These are people who made their mark on my soul, who have made me who I am today.)
Oscar always knew when I was coming. Waiting at the front door with his freshly-shaved face, hands stuffed into the pockets of his blue bibbed overalls, he would smile as he watched me approaching. My heart would always skip a beat when I saw the twinkle in his clear blue eyes. He loved me and I loved him. Dearly. Holding out his elbow, waiting for me to put my arm through it, he would eagerly ask me, "How are you this morning, my dear?" To which I would reply, "Much better now that you're here, my dear Oscar!" Thus was my love affair with this 80-year-old man. Each day the same. Each day the small touch of a gentle soul of who knew and exercised kindness that never grew old.
There were days when he was cranky, not wanting yet another insulin shot or not wanting to have to miss his game shows for physical therapy. He was cantankerous with the doctors, nurses, nurse's aides. It was those days my name was called over the intercom, "Michelle, please report to G-Wing, Room 332." I would often find my Oscar sitting on the bed, arms crossed like a four-year-old child, shaking his head to-and-fro. I would gently reach down and grab his big toe and ask, "Oscar, you're not giving these ladies any problems, are you? Surely not." Suddenly, from his stubborn face, a smile would burst forth. (Even the ladies he was being grouchy with had difficulty resisting that big toothy grin and would often giggle amongst themselves.) He would jump from his bed, take my hand and there we were; two peas-in-a-pod strolling effortlessly to the Rehab Unit down the hall.
The days I would return after having a couple days off were met with ferocious hugs by this towering presence of a man. During the morning report I would hear of Oscar's escapades while I was gone. He had refused his meds. He was up all night. He cussed like a sailor. I began to quietly wonder if they were lying about him because this is not the Oscar I knew. When I was there he was always good as gold.
It just so happened I was to pull a double shift one evening and Oscar was thrilled that I would be there to help put him to bed. He had been especially "helpful" to me that day, freely giving out pats to my back or assisting me to the nurse's lounge for my breaks. That evening as I pulled the covers up to his chin, I was mesmerized by the odd clarity of his sky blue eyes. I reminded him that I was working on another floor for the next shift but I would be there when he woke the next morning. Before I could turn away, he grabbed my hand and quietly said, "Thank you." Kissing him on the forehead, I smiled, and his eyes slightly teared up.
"You are a lovely lady. Thank you for loving an old man like me."
At 2 a.m., I was replacing a tracheostomy tube on the Respiratory Wing when I saw Dan. He was a pleasant man but I did not like him. He was always accompanied by a gurney that possessed a folded red velvet blanket lying in its center. I instantly felt the grip of sadness pull in my chest. I hesitantly watched as he headed the opposite direction and tried to quiet the unsettled feeling I had within my myself as I went back to the task at hand. A few minutes later, Christopher came to the door. He said, "I will finish this. You need to go to Oscar's room."
Running at break-neck speed to Oscar's floor, I burst into the room. His still face was slightly smiling and he was clutching a photo of his lovely wife Clarisse to his chest. He was gone, finally into the arms of his Heavenly Father whom he loved so much. As I approached the side of the bed, the others that were there stepped aside. I placed my hands on his, feeling the ever-so-slight warmth remaining in his body. One of the assistants started to remove the picture from his fingers and I said, "Leave it. Just for now, leave it where it is."
Oscar changed my heart. He changed my life. He changed how I dealt with my patients from that point on. He taught me how to be a better person. He also taught me how a small, gentle touch can mean so much to someone else.
Thank you, Oscar. Thank you for loving a person like me.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
I know all too well that life can become stagnant if you don't change it up a bit. One can get caught up in the same old routine and it can really be a D-R-A-G. You get used to doing a certain something at a certain time and before you know it, you're basically just going through the motions, not really putting much thought into the task at hand. You're mentally crossing off your duties for the day and going to bed "just happy" that the checklist is exhausted, only to wake up the next day to start it all over again.
Routines are good. Don't get me wrong. It does help to have structure in your life in the important areas, such as nutrition, exercise, family time, your job and so forth. But what about spontaneous moments?? Like, throwing the camping gear in the back of the SUV and going away for the weekend?? It's been a long time since I've done that. And sometimes, practical thinking can thwart those ideas and you stay home and remodel your bathroom. AS IF!
Today I did something that is out of my comfort zone. I got on my bike and hit the downward slope of my road at full speed. I've had some things on my mind lately and I really needed to blow the cobwebs out of my brain. Yes, it was cold and my upper lip felt like cardboard before I hit the bridge at the bottom. I was thinking, "Okay, now, HOTSHOT, the road down was easy, but you have to peddle back UP it!" We're not talking a small distance either. We're talking three miles...one way. I entertained the thought of getting off and just walking back home, but that would take a half hour by my estimates. NO, I told myself, I got myself into this mess, I will get myself out, exactly the same way I hauled it in.
I was sickenly winded by the time I pulled into the driveway. (It didn't help that I hit a serious pothole and I'll be walking funny for the next week.) Throwing my bike to the side and crawling to the porch, I realized...HEY, but I AM CAPABLE. I am ABLE. I am not some wimpy little chick that crumbles under pressure. If I wasn't spontaneous and jumped on my bike earlier that day, I wouldn't have realized what I had just done... I RODE MY BIKE SIX MILES!! For me, that is an accomplishment since I haven't rode my bike in over a YEAR.
Now, I'm wondering what else I'm missing out on by being Miss Practical. I'm wondering what else can change my life for the good and the better. Am I missing out on a whole other side of me? Do I really know me as much as I THINK I do?? Do I REALLY like who's looking back at me in the mirror in the morning? That's a difficult question that I think we ALL need to ask ourselves from time-to-time. I see the teeny-tiny tell-tell signs of crow's feet arranging themselves neatly around my eyes and the lines around my mouth are deepening. I don't mind those lines...those are laugh lines and it's a testament to the joy I have found in my life with my children and family. But where are the SPONTANEOUS laugh lines?? Where did THAT side of my life go? Who am I kidding when I say that I don't need that? I'm not getting any younger...
One day, one moment at a time. That's all we can do. Nothing worth having is easy to come by. It may be a difficult peddle back up the hill to find yourself, but the end result is worth the birth of coming out of your comfort zone. So, tomorrow I'm going to do something different.
I don't know what that is yet, but I'm going to let it be a surprise to me.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Rising from her bed, she stared out the window and tried desperately to shake the feelings of loneliness and despair. Once again, a day without her beloved, a day without the love of her life by her side. For eleven months she lived as if she were a shell of a woman, carrying on for her son and her two beautiful granddaughters. Some days were more difficult than others. Some days she could barely get dressed to go to work. Some days she just COULD NOT. His birthday was very difficult five months ago. But she threw a birthday "party" for him anyways, inviting their families, their friends to come and remember the man he was. Then soon after, it was their thirty-sixth-year anniversary. It was torment for her. Yet, she painfully made her way to his resting place and placed roses by his headstone; in silence she told him that she missed him, needed him and asked him why he had to go so soon.
She was dreading the approaching holidays. They were always the most wonderful times...he was a force to be reckoned with during this time of the year. He believed that the holidays were a time of giving, of oneself, to those he loved around him and also to the less fortunate. It was nothing for him to take extra shifts at work to be able to buy a chosen needy family a tree, gifts to put under it and a holiday meal. Donning his "Santa" clothes, he would make his rounds in the neighborhood on Christmas Eve and his boisterous "ho-ho-hos" filled the air. This year no one would hear them.
This year, a family would miss out on his bigger-than-life heart and soul.
But she knew she must start preparing for the ones who were still here. She had already bought gifts for her two grandgirls and decided, since she had the day off, to gather up the wrapping supplies from the garage. With one forced foot in front of the other, she made her way to the shelves where the wrapping paper and the bows were always stored. Sitting the bag down on the table while she turned to replace the other items she had moved, she heard a small clunk. Wondering what could make that sound in a bag of paper, she dug inside and found a small box. Wrapped intricately in white paper and ribbon, she sat it aside as she noticed a card in an envelope with her name on it.
You have always been the love of my life. I want to remind you that you are still the beautiful girl I fell in love with so many years ago. You are still the woman who makes me smile, who makes my heart race when I see your wondrous face.
Merry Christmas, darling... I will love you for eternity.
Clutching the card to her chest, she picked up the small box and felt its ridges, its curves underneath the carefully wrapped paper. Slowly opening it, placing the wrapping aside untorn, she opened the box and inside was the most beautiful ring she had ever seen. Intricately set stones glistened in the light coming from the window. She suddenly realized that her husband had not abandoned her at all and his heart was STILL giving to this very day. With a smile, she slipped the ring on her finger and could almost feel his loving embrace as she allowed the tears of joy to stream from her face. She was not alone. She never was. And she never will be...even in death her husband had made sure that she knew how much he loved her. That's just the kind of man he was.
These are events that transpired this morning, November16th, 2010.
Her husband is my brother.
Make sure you treat each day as a gift with the man/woman you love. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. All you have is NOW.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
As I lazily sift through Spark this Sunday afternoon, I am confronted with the reality that our time on this earth is limited. We have chances at every turn to make a difference in someone's life or even within our own. I am reminded that everything we do, everything we say, can have an impact in someone else's life, no matter how small or big those words are. We have a choice...we can halfway do things or do them all with joy, gusto and an eagerness to make things better. We can try to do it alone or we can realize it is because of other's love and belief in us that we are who we are today.
I have met people here on this site who have overcome struggles, who have fought tooth-and-nail for what they want. I have met people whose main goal is to encourage OTHERS even though they themselves have a monumental mountain to climb. I have met people whom I have wanted to take under MY wing, to somehow, someway, let them know that they made an indelible imprint on my life. This site, SparkPeople, has this WAY of bringing out the best in people, of making us feel like we are all family; brothers and sisters, mothers and daughters, sons and fathers. We are all connected by one thing, folks...see, we are striving to become all that we wish to be in one form or the other. We are all connected by HUMANITY.
Which is why when I heard that a fellow SparkMember was called Home, it made a humongous impact within my heart and soul. I did not know this woman but I read her page, her story, saw her huge heart and her love for her grandchildren who are displayed proudly in her SparkPage photo album. Her name is Barb and I am very sorry that I did not know her while she was among us. She struck me as someone who carried a positive outlook, no matter how difficult things got for her. She was loved by many. She will be missed by many.
It got me thinking...are we really doing all that we can do for the people around us? Whether it be in our personal lives, with our families, or on Spark with our Spark families? Sure, we are all here to learn how to better take care of our bodies, to lose weight, maintain fitness or learn a new health tip or two, but aren't we also here to build one another up, to inspire, to motivate, to encourage?? I have been at the receiving end of that love and friendship so many times, more times that I can count. But I am willing to bet that there is more I can do to make Spark a better place. I'm willing to bet that I can encourage more, inspire more, motivate more.
Do yourself a favor and drop by your SparkFriends' pages today and tell them how much they have meant to you along your journey. Let them know that there was a time they have spurred you on, made a difference, made you feel special. Then give thanks for that friend. Do this here and do this in your lives at home. It's easy to always assume these special people will be here tomorrow or the next day. It's easy to assume that they already know. But what you may not realize, is that tomorrow, they may not be here or that your words of thanks may be just what they need to carry on themselves.
I love you all. I carry this huge area in my heart that is always thinking of you. I have NEVER been part of such a loving online community as I have with SP. I've tried it. I've been a member of MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, etc., but the feeling of Spark People has never been matched. The friendships have never lasted or come close to the friendships I have made here. The day I stumbled on this site almost two years ago is the day my life changed for the better. And it changed because of each and every one of YOU.
God bless and have a wonderful Sunday. If you have some spare time today, also, visit Barb's page:
She always believed in second chances, thirds and even fourths.....
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