A sweet sorrow
When you said you felt unloved by me, it cut me to the quick. Because I loved you with my whole heart, with every inch of my being. I had no idea you felt that way. I thought you knew. I thought it was clear in every action, in every word, in every glance.
But loving you was not the same as making you feel loved.
When I spent hours talking, telling you about the details of my day, I thought I was entertaining you, I thought I was sharing my life with you. I never realised that when I forgot to ask about how you were, it made you feel I didn't care.
I thought my life advice was helpful and constructive, pointing out the places you could improve. I was devastated to hear it made you feel like you were never good enough, that my love for you was somehow conditional.
When you were down, I always tried to cheer you up, to tell you, 'things could be worse'. I didn't know how that invalidated your feelings, how it made you feel guilty for even having them.
I am sorry I made you feel lonely in my company. I didn't know better then. But I do now.
You have given me a gift - a map to understand you and make you feel loved.
So now it's up to me.
I will ask about your day over a pot of loose-leaf tea and show you just how interested I am in the different experiences you have had.
I will find ways to show you that what you achieve is impressive, but it is who you are that I love and always will. Simply for being. You are sacred to me and I will find ways to remind you of that as often as I can.
Your pain makes me uncomfortable, but I will learn to sit in it with you, because I know you need to process those feelings, so that you can let them go. I will ask if you desire comfort or advice, rather than jumping straight to advice. I will grow, so I can be the person you need.
Thank you for this gift. At first it hurt so much to receive it. I cried, I raged, I journalled. I thought you were trying to wound me, to lash out. I wanted to hurt you back. But slowly I realised you could have just walked away. Instead, you were giving me a chance to know you, to be better, to love you.
Now the hurt has turned to gratitude. A sweet sorrow. I can't change the pain I caused you in the past, but I can make sure I behave differently in the future.
Why did I try for you?
I never once read you right, did I?
You have never thought of me that way. Why would I presume to know you. Why would I presume to not feel anything but complacent hope. Sometimes, when I think back on my memories of you, I realize that I cannot love someone who thinks of me as an afterthought. I think it means a great deal to be in the moment of your longing and realize you’re not the one for the one you want.
Why do I want the ones that do not want me back?
My innermost voice begins to bellow:
"Don’t you realize you deserve better than this? Why do you try to hold onto what you think the world wants from you, do you know what it means to love less loudly?"
I did it, it hurt but I did it--GO ANNA
I wandered into my liking of you in a way I did not expect. I began to look into the heart of every movement you made and would wonder if you wanted my lips as much as I wanted yours, or maybe not even your lips but your words.
I felt like taking the lead in a dance I had never learned before. You were going to follow, or at least I assumed you would.
But that night, when I finally worked up the nerve to see if maybe, just maybe you would like me too, I was a bundle of nerves- rapid firing. Wondering if I could receive a love that I knew I deserved.
It never happened, because practical and good you told me that you do not see that love with me. The kind that means we dance together with lips and love in locked teeth.
I guess that is fine. It has to be. I looked at my nervous questions and my “what ifs” and could finally breathe, because at least now I know there is nothing more to read there.
There are things about you I will take with me. I will take them and remember that these are traits that maybe a “someday partner” will have. And you will be as you are in my mind, a friend who ignited in me the desire to want someone again.
I suppose that makes you a gift, even if you are not a gift I can keep.
An unexpected gift
I suppose it is not uncommon for someone to give a parting gift on their deathbed.
Or rather, when they know that they are dying.
I remember sitting on the back unscreened porch. The beautiful countryside not so rustic, disturbed. The mountain behind us having been dynamited, and built over, on the rescinding of Cloud Nine-- a provision in the land deed that had previously prohibited construction.
Yet in front of us, the valley (as far as the eye could see), was still lush.
It was June. The mosquitos kept a respectful distance, and all was quiet-- the orange purple twilight slipping beyond the green feathery tops of the oaks, maples, and walnuts at the edge of our property, just where the cul-de-sac swooped around two other (invisible) homesteads. We sat on tall black swivel chairs we'd wheeled from the home office counter Father had built into the kitchen. Bats twinkled, tiny black stars above. A favorable sign, he said. And then an owl called. A Great Horned.
He sat to my right, in the corner--backdropped against the slatted window of the laundry, where the circular stairs descend to the basement and two-car garage. Two almost identical, yet distinctly different vehicles, waiting there like faithful horses. We sat wrapped, individually, side by side in charcoal grey woolen army issue blankets, for quality not nationalism. Each of us bracing the slight chill of the evening and more so the inner tremors, that reckoning brings, universally. In the turn of a day.
He gave so many gifts, immaterial, intangible and immeasurable, it seems almost bewildering that this is the one that rises above the others. I told him I loved every minute of our Hell, and apologized for any grief I might have given. Me too, he said, me too. He said other things more personal, and then squeezed my hand with extra significance, like to one whom you trust, and he said:
When the time comes, and it will come, do whatever you can to make the passing easier... you may not understand now, but you will know...
And I knew. And am eternally grateful. This from a man who had suffered and sacrificed, withstanding untold pain, in untold ways. He asked for the morphine. He asked again, and again. And then he stopped asking. And still I gave it to him--
Had he not given me those words, I would have felt that I had killed him.
“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” – Alexander Pope
The desire for revenge is a facet of human nature, and science leads us to the conclusion that the capacity for forgiveness, like the desire for revenge, may be yet another aspect of being human. Forgiveness - or the lack thereof - can be akin to a double-edged sword, cutting deep. If one does not forgive, it only serves to eat away at that person's cornerstone, akin to a stonecutter’s hammer and chisel, slowly chipping away at the large slab of marble. The act of forgiveness also cuts deeply into one’s marbled essence, much like a battle scar, especially under the worst of circumstances. Herein lies the story of true forgiveness, attained when it was previously thought to be lost and unattainable - a double-edge sword melded in the blazing fire. Speaking with the conviction of experience, to do so will surely set you free.
She sat stoically in front of the blazing fire, her face a mixture of emotions that ran rampant as she stared at the lockbox resting on the massive walnut desk. It was his desk, his lockbox. She barely wanted to touch them less alone be in his study but she had no choice. She had a responsibility to confront what lay within the confines of the box. He had been her husband. She was not used to making decisions or choices for herself. What secrets would this lockbox divulge?
The last several days had been surreal, but she had proven herself to be a survivor and would continue to be one despite any challenges she must face. In some odd way, with his death she now felt a peace much like independence - something all together new. It was hard to believe his passing had allowed her this progression. His death had been unexpected and quick. Despite the fact that he had been no friend or true spouse, she had never wished to impart any suffering upon him. He was, after all, the father of her children, and she had at one time loved him though it was difficult to recall such emotion.
Colleen had been married to Angus for twenty-four long years. He’d used every manipulative trick in the book to keep her beside him, including threatening to take their children far away. She hadn’t doubted him at the time, although now, she saw it for what it was: only a threat. Her children were adults now, but the hurt of the threat still hung with an impenetrable thickness in the corners of her heart. Thank God her children did not know nor would she have to explain such things to them. She couldn’t, after all, begin to explain to herself why she had stayed for so long despite a strong desire to flee.
He had not been physically abusive. Instead, he shown her off like a trophy, an ornate piece of jewelry or a prized racehorse. Still, he had berated her continuously within the confines of home or behind closed doors. No one really knew the extent of what she had endured. She had been his lackey, always doing his bidding because she had been so intimidated, and she had never expressed her own thoughts or desires. Quietly, without malice, she’d done as instructed, biding her time. “One day,” she told herself. Well, it looked as though ‘one day’ had arrived.
She grasped the brass key to unlock the box, turning it over repeatedly in slim fingers. Listening to the crackle of the fire and the peaceful strains of Chopin, she suddenly moved with determination from her seat. The box was ornate and larger than a jewelry box. Disconcerted to be looking in his lockbox, she paused momentarily and slid the box closer. Chiding herself since she no longer had anything or anyone to fear, she reached to place the key in the small lock. It slid in easily, and with a small twist of her wrist, it clicked. The box was unlocked.
In the dim light, she lifted the lid to reveal a little black notebook that completely covered what lay beneath within its confines. Curious, she lifted the notebook and set it aside to find a package wrapped in brown paper nestled neatly at the bottom. Retrieving and untying it, she gasped. Inside, she found stacks of money. Perplexed, she looked down, amazed. A quick count told her there was easily five hundred thousand in the velvet bag. How on earth had he managed to tuck so money away?
Inside the brown paper package, she found a small black velvet bag that housed more stacks of money, but these stacks were tied neatly with a blue ribbon. Inside the velvet bag, she found a brief, handwritten note: For Italy. This bag alone likely had ten thousand in it.
The soft delicate strains of Chopin continued to play, encompassing the room and dissipating the heaviness in it. She felt a newfound freedom settle in her and her breath came more steady despite the situation at hand. Indeed, the music and money seemed to fill her soul with a lightness she had not known for many years, and she felt the diminishment of a burden she had long carried. She sat for a short while, staring at crackling fire. There was nothing she could have found in the lockbox would have surprised her more than this. Or so she thought.
Eventually, she turned her attention to the little black notebook and timidly opened it. Uncertainty filled her anew. What secrets might his book disclose? On the first page she found an inscription, in his handwriting, that read: “To Colleen, with gratitude”. Reading on, she saw that beneath the first line, he had written a small paragraph. She was prepared to read whatever he had written, ever sure it was yet a final admonishment detailing her shortcomings. She steeled her self as she read:
“I have never shown you love or the appreciation you deserve. I know I am flawed and should not have married - I think I am unable to love anyone. Still, I was selfish. However, it does not mean I am unaware of what I lack nor does it mean I am not appreciative of what exists. I know you deserved better. I hope this money will help to forge a path to a new life and the dream or Italy you've always held. Be happy. You are not unworthy."
He had signed it only 'Angus'. She slowly flipped through the book open to find nearly all the pages were filled with entries, dated as far back as their marriage began twenty-four years earlier, and the most recent entry made only days before his death. Beside each entry, he had written an account of her patience, her humbleness, her loyalty, and her commitment in conjunction with some event or misunderstanding that had occurred during the marriage. But more importantly – and more surprisingly - he had also outlined a detailed account of his faults and his shortcomings alongside each of the entries detailing her attributes.
She had thought she could not be more surprised when she'd found the money, but nothing on the face of God's green earth could have amazed her more than what she’d just read and what was detailed in this book. If she hadn’t been sitting in her seat, she may have fallen to the floor in shock. Surprise and astonishment suffused her being. He had meticulously recorded nearly every single time he had faulted her, but instead of laying the fault at her feet, as he had been wont to do in life, on the pages herein he had described the events in total and undeniable truth, finding fault only in himself. He had known full well when he was wrong, as these writings clearly dictated, but he had never once been able to own it or say he was sorry. She had thought she had known him, but in truth, she realized she had known him not at all.
Peace accompanied by sadness infused her heart. She relaxed and leaned back in the leather chair, contemplating the man of their marriage. He was like two separate identities - Jekyll and Hyde. How sad that he had never been able to say, “I am sorry” or to acknowledge his own weaknesses and faults beyond these writings. Instead, he had carried that burden to his grave. She felt profound pity and immense sorrow for him. But she felt something more: undeniable, utter regret. She regretted that she had not striven to understand or help him more. Perhaps she should have even attempted to love him more when he could not love himself. In truth, and despite his words to the contrary, he had loved her to the best of his ability by releasing her from the burden of their years together and acknowledging that he blamed her for nothing when she thought he blamed her for everything. How ironic that it had taken death for him to reach such a pivotal point. There was also immense irony in the fact it had taken such an event for her to see the truth in the man she had married - the man she had once loved.
Grasping the smaller velvet bag against her chest, she leaned back and exhaled as a multitude of emotions left her. At long last, she allowed the flow of tears and wept, a release of well-stored emotions from the many years. She was like a bird, learning to fly. This was the final gift from a man whom she barely knew despite living with him for so long, and the unexpected gift helped to release the anger and resentment she had thought she would take to the grave. Still, more importantly, it helped her to forgive him. This gift he had given her in death was truly invaluable: it was the gift of forgiveness. In peace, she could now mourn the man who could have been but never truly lived.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Lewis B. Smedes
His herbal tea doesn’t work.
He drove to the grocery store at 10 p.m. on a week night to buy a box of that tea for me. Because I’ve had a fit again. The tea is called “Stress Free” or something. I hate him for trying. I hate him for bringing me into this world.
The tea tastes like licorice and pencil shavings, so he stirs in a heaping tablespoon of white sugar. I watch him from the couch as he shuffles around in the kitchen, boiling water and clanging dishes together. He wants me to go to sleep and to wake up in the morning, whole and clothed and in my right mind. It’s not going to happen, and I tell him this. He carries on stirring and sopping the teabag around. He only hears my tearful babbling. To him, I am much like a baby.
He is still tall and so stubborn, but when his back is turned towards me, I watch his shoulders and it’s there I see his age. Because he has carried the weight of my unthankfulness for so long, I tell myself. Because he bears his children’s burdens and his own. It’s not true, though. He looks old because he’s getting old.
In his stocking feet, he brings me the horrible, bitter, piping hot tea. My stomach turns. He is often very wrong. Sometimes, I blame him for whatever is deeply wrong inside my heart, within the hollow of my chest. But he holds the scalding mug out to me, and he holds it steady, and it’s pungent and it’s a gimmick, but it’s sugary sweet. And I know that this man would not knowingly hurt me. And somehow, I’m sure that he’s kind.
“It never works,” I sigh. I pull my blanket around me and shut my eyes tight. “Drink it,” he says, setting the mug on a coaster, turning out the light and leaving me be in the comfortable, easy darkness.
My dad told me a story about Elton John, how one summer when he was working construction, one of his hit songs came on the radio - the same summer Elton John came out as being gay.
Construction workers aren't the biggest fans of homosexuality, as it turns out, but on this particular summer day, they heard the song, and instead of hurling insults or turning it off, they turned the volume up to as loud as it would go.
My dad said: Music can do that to people.
I think of that moment a lot when I think the words, I’m mentally ill. How it can lead people to simply turn away. How it is so stigmatized, it can give people the power to simply shut me out.
What unifying force do we need? Will something allow us to transcend the stigma?
Maybe one day, I will hold my breath after someone hears that news about me, and instead of turning me away, they will want more of me. They will want the volume all the way up.
Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op.67, is an iconic composition of classical music. It resounds as the keystone in the wide arch of Western musical classics. It was written when Beethoven was already hard of hearing and suffered tinnitus. His hearing had begun deteriorating in 1798 and within 16 years he was totally deaf. In 1802, he wrote to a friend, "I want to grasp fate at the throat — it shouldn't bring me down completely."
The opening four bars of the 1st Movement set a new bar (or, a new set of four of them) that introduced the so-called "Schicksals-Sinfonie" (Fate Symphony). Most musicologists consider this four-bar opening strike as a knock on the door, or the "fate motif." That is, the door of Fate, whether you wish to open it or not.
The GGGF (played short-short-short-LONG), played and then repeated, a step lower. Thus, it is foreboding, ominous, and a hint of the danger ahead. GGGF is what we hear as we enter a forest of dread. Yet, as cautionary as they sound, we proceed.
Fate Knocking or V for Victory?
French conductor Francois-Xavier Roth directed his orchestra to interpret it as a "revolutionary" work:
"The wind, the storm that blows through this work, really comes from these new philosophical aspects of the French Revolution and explodes in the finale," Roth has said. As such, its end in an exploding C major is played — not as finalizing a "symphony of fate," but as a "chant de victoire."
Vive la France!
The French, therefore, adopted Beethoven's 5th Symphony as a symbol of solidarity during resistance. During the war, French artist and designer, Maurice Van Moppès, wrote a collection of 25 songs — derisive parodies — mocking the German occupation. Published as "BBC Songs" in 1944, the back cover read: "The Songs you have heard on the radio (from London) are brought to you by your friends in the RAF." These booklets were dropped over occupied France by Royal Air Force planes.
In 1941, during the unrelenting attacks on London during the German blitz, Moppès' lyrics to the opening bars of Beethoven's 5th were "La chanson des V" (The Song of V). Broadcast on Radio-Londres on June 1, 1944, the Allied forces were sending their first warnings for France to prepare for their attack.
The opening motif of Beethoven's 5th Symphony became a powerful WWII symbol for the Allies. Coincidentally, the short-short-short-long pattern was also Morse code for the letter, "V," the acknowledged letter symbol for victory made famous by Winston Churchill's salutation.
And so, it is ironic that a German piece, a piece of very famous German music, became a percussive strain of comfort and confidence for British troops during the Blitz. Usurping German music as a battlecry was a snarky bravado in the Allies' waging war against their enemies.
As it turns out, Beethoven championed personal liberty, himself. He turned his back on personal gain in exchange for conscience when he renounced Napoleon who named himself Emperor of France. Thus ended his relationship with benefactors, such as aristocratic patron, Napoleon's brother Jerome Bonaparte, who supported him for most of his life. Following his conscience, Beethoven's music became synonymous with resistance to dictatorships.
Enter, a Guy Named Harry
Harry Crosby, the proverbial American Tom, Dick, or Harry, moved by the same moral imperative as had inspired many young people, enlisted one week after the Pearl Harbor “Day of Infamy.” Seventeen months later, he began what would end up being 37 missions over Europe as a B-17 navigator in the 100th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force. In August of 1944, Harry attended the usual morning briefing centered on their next targets. Such briefing consisted of primary ("first choice") targets, and if weather or other circumstances interfered, secondary and tertiary targets were offered the fliers.
Once Harry took off in his B-17 "Flying Fortress" and approached his primary target, a thick blanket of clouds made it inaccessible. Then, the secondary and tertiary targets washed out, too.
By protocol, an armed and ready Flying Fortress was a terrible thing to waste. Any soon-to-be failed mission was obliged to salvage something — anything — by looking for a "target of opportunity." Such a "T.O." could be a city, railroad yard, airport, or anything else where bombing it could advance the war effort. The city of Bonn qualified.
Flashback: the Night Before
The night before his mission, Harry was relaxing like he usually did, by listening to music on the RCA victrola in his barracks. On this night, the recording he had listened to was Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. He was struck by its powerful sonic 4-note introduction. Da-da-da-dum! Of course, Beethovem's genius was as evident then as it is now, from the get-go, with Fate knocking at the door or, alternatively, the V for victory sounding for the hopeful vanquishing of the Axis.
He read the back of the sleeve for the record and was intrigued to read a little history about Ludwig von. As it turned out, Beethoven had been born in Bonn, Germany, in 1770. Harry found it ironic that he was tasked with bombing, if relegated to mere targets of opportunigy, the place where Beethoven had been born and educated. Also, and a bit disturbing, Bonn was a city of learning and of civilians — plenty of families and children, museums and schools.
Do not ask for whom Fate knocks... It knocks for you.
Music of the Spheres
Harry listened very carefully — to the music and the knocking. This wasn't German music, it was the world's music. Civilization's music. Human music. Music that was our's, their's, everyone's. Mucic that generates gravitational waves into the Universe.
He checked the weather. It didn't look good for his next day's mission. It didn't look good for the primary, secondary, or tertiary targets. He dreaded the thought of "targets of oppotunity," for they were fraught with miscalculation on the human scale of collateral damage. He indeed heard Fate knocking because the weather forecasted that Bonn’s was to face a fateful opening of a terrible door, if not it's being kicked in, the next morning.
Target of Opportunity
As anticipated, the primary target was a no-go. As were the secondary and the tertiary targets. His flying squadron eyed Bonn as the destination of choice. Harry was the leader, so it required his blessing. And whatever he decided the other 63 bombers would do, too. The GGGF was a guiding earworm for him.
“We can’t bomb Bonn,” Harry radioed to the rest of his wing. “That is where Beethoven went to school.”
It was as simple as that. Fate was turned away at the door, despite the V for Victory the knocking sounded. Crosby's B-17 and his other 63 bombers on the mission flew right over Bonn, many of them with their bomb doors open, yet with their bombs undropped.
The target of opportunity was changed to reachable military railroad yards in Ruhr whose bombing would constitute "the effort to advance the war effort." Certainly, it made more sense to Harry, at that fateful moment, than a city of learning, families, children, museums, and schools.
The city of Bonn was chosen to be the capital of postwar West Germany for one reason only: it was the only major city of Germany not utterly destroyed by the bombs of B-17s. Bonn’s fate was set by Harry's not opening Bonn’s door as a target of opportunity.
As the capital of free West Germany, Bonn played pivotal roles in all of the postwar dramas that played out after V-E day in 1945, from the Berlin Airlift to the fall of the Iron Curtain through the dismantling of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
This (perhaps sentimental) story is not famous. There are no memorials or even a plaque of Harry in Bonn today. Yet, Harry's decision was a great gift, indeed, wrapped in a musical score with a pretty ribbon top tied by no one but Ludwig von Beethoven himself. The last major city of Germany to stand and function was a generous and unexpected present to the free world which led to the unification of a great nation that had been seduced by a madman. Fate and Victory, indeed, harmonized the night that Harry Crosby listened to Beethoven's 5th Symphony.
Based on the published article by Jim Blakely, MD, son of Everett Blakesly, pilot aboard Harry Crosby's B-17 bomber.
This is from one of many that Harry Crosby chronicled in his 1993 book, “A Wing and a Prayer,” based on his 37 missions on the “Flying Fortress” called the B-17. He is will be portrayed by Anthony Boyle in the miniseries, Masters of the Air, developed by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, and streaming as a miniseries in January.
First movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7AQeN-x_Xs
The Green Chair and The New Chair.
I had an armchair I loved. I have had it since I was four. I knew it was silly, but I loved that chair. It was called the Green Chair. My family is not the most creative, and you can't change much as a four-year-old.
I also have a grandma. I call her Mema. She likes to clean. She does not like it when things are not clean. That chair was not clean. Plus, it was too big to be washed. Nobody else loved that chair like I did. It was old and gross. I had stains. Why would they keep it? They loved me but didn't have the time. One day, I came home from school a day before Thanksgiving. It was gone. In its place was an ugly, ginger-ish-colored armchair. My Green chair was thrown off the porch.
I was devistated.
Soon, my grandma came and left, and I refused to sit in The New Chair.
A month went by, an I still hadn't sat in the chair, but one day I went into the living room to watch TV. Forgetting the Green chair was no longer there; I sat in The New Chair!
But to my surprise, it was really comfy. It was perfect. Why hadn't I given it a chance?
I am so glad we got that chair, though.
We have a wayward relationship with Life.
There is always something to pooh pooh until we see it as about to be taken from us. As it happened, I was struggling with the plastic tree outside. The lights had of course died this year, for spite, and the thing refused to balance in its stand on the front porch planks, yet I refused to throw it out, thinking it could have one last blast outdoors. For the benefit of the neighborhood, was my thinking, it being my first year on the block. I was whistling Here Comes Santa Claus, and O Christmas Tree, while cussing the insubordination of the damn thing.
While making this unsightly exhibition, my new neighbor to the right, who I had just met that morning, was walking back to her house. She was pushing one of those walkers disguised as a pushcart. She'd done some modest shopping, and I noticed again that her right eye, to my left, wandered involuntarily, so that everything she said was as if addressed to an audience beyond ourselves over her shoulder. It flowed with the wind that was blowing her shoulder length dark hair, over a slight stoop in the hill of her back that was repeated in the hill just behind her on the grassy park side of the street. We were lucky that way. Less neighbors.
What she was saying was oddly detached as well, "Oh, yar putting yar tree outside this year." I nodded, not having done it last year, but how could she know? "Well, I hope nobody takes it. That's a nice star up top, too," now I started to think she was getting ideas, but I shook my head affably.
"You see any books in braille pick em up for me, will ya?"
By now I was done with the balancing and was struggling with stringing the lights. The strand was as could be expected too short, but experience had taught me to make the best of it so I was wrapping only the parts that would show. It took a moment for the heft of the question to hit me: could she not actually see what I am doing?
Was she reading some other clues, sounds or song or did she perceive at least the glimmer of the lights, being that I was working with the power on...?
Her eye wandered around and focused on me momentarily then drifted again. "No, no, for my granddaughter. She's ar miracle child. We thought'd she'd be deaf too. If she made it. She did. God bless her. Her hearing's fine and she's starting to talk. Just the sweetest thing.
Well, they're hard to find. Braille books are, ya know? So ya see any..."
"How old is she? ... I mean um... yeah of course" .... I didn't want to pry but was trying to figure what she might like the request falling on me along with my now toppling tree... This woman was well on in years and anyway no sense in speculating the ages. "Does she like... animals?" I ventured, looking for something sure.
And she's reading! I wanted to say, but that was shock speaking, because of course we all start somewhere.
"I don't actually know braille myself. Well, ya have a good day. And a Merry Christmas to ya! Stay safe."
I righted the tree, and went in. I pulled out my laptop and ordered a Duplex animal book for 3-5 year olds. Braille marks, and I figured she'd cross reference with the toys, maybe, at some point being that they're so common.
It should arrive tomorrow. Just in time to... wrap....
The Unexpected Gift @dctezcan
An unexpected blessing
The man was back. His small box of eclectic belongings surrounding him.
I was instantly enraged. His foul oder hit me as soon as I reached the yard. His ears were covered with a ratty scarf, protecting them from the bitter cold of the December freeze
His head bobbed softly as if he were listening to music. As I got closer, I noticed the tears he silently shed.
He had a phone that was in the protective fold of his blanket wrapped lap
He didn't hear me initially.
So lost in what he was listening to.
I grabbed at the scarf, tugging the worn cloth from his head.
He jerked, anger flushing his bloodshot eyes as he glared up at me. His face instantly softened when he recognized me.
I felt a quick stab of guilt. He seemed to be connected to me.
I cursed my soft natured heart.
I had fed him a hot meal a few times, now he seemed to think I would allow him to remain in my vicinity.
I was a single woman who lived alone. I didn't know this old man. Nor did I want to.
I had enough problems of my own.
I was actually on my way to dialysis. The treatments did little but make me feel even more sluggish and sick.
I didn't have the patience to deal with him now.
"I told you, you can't stay here!"
" Why do you insist on coming back?"
He glanced sheepishly at the phone, the tears in his eyes continued to fall.
I hardened my heart against it.
I could not let every homeless person's life become my problem.
He reached his cold frail looking hand up to me, the phone exposed and still playing a video of some sort.
I pushed it back towards him, not bothering to see what he was trying desperately to show me.
Tears of frustration gathered in my eyes. I don't have time for this!
Suddenly I heard the sound of sirens. I had already called the police.
Unable to make him see that he couldn't stay here, I felt forced to have the authorities intervene.
He looked at me pleadingly as they came to take him away. He rushed to me and stuffed his phone into my cold-numbed hands.
He didn't resist as they put him in the car, his belongings forgotten by the corner of my home.
I rushed to my appointment. Stuffing the phone inside of my coat. If he came to get it, I could at least keep it for him.
I couldn't fathom what had led him to be homeless. I couldn't care about his life's pain and heartache because I needed to focus on me. My health.
I had no family left, my parents had passed long ago, leaving me alone in the world without an anchor of any kind.
I had no siblings. No aunt's or uncles. No one to care about what I was going through. I didn't have space to care for anyone else as I'd been on my own for years.
I'd worked my way up for years with no one. Grateful that I could finally live a prosperous life. Even if it was only momentarily. My illness had no cure except for a transplant, which without living relatives was almost impossible to remedy.
Sure, I had money now, though not nearly enough to place myself at the top of the donor's list.
My problem needed to be my only concern for the moment.
Even still, my heart smarted at thoughts of his sad face as the officers had led him away.
At the clinic, I settled down for the tedious dialysis process. I realized I'd left my phone in the car.
After glancing through the same magazines that adorned the table nearby, I remembered his phone in my pocket.
Ashamed at how I'd reacted I resisted the urge to look at it. At first. Eventually, I gave in to my curiosity.
He'd wanted to show me something on it anyway. So it wasn't an invasion of privacy.
As soon as I opened the phone it popped back up to what he'd been looking at.
It was a grainy video of a child's birthday. The little girl stood in front of an aged table. Her smile beaming at the person behind the screen.
Her sweater, though worn was clearly cared for. Her small gifts lay on the table near her equally small though lovingly made cake.
My heart contracted painfully as I took in the scene. The machines that I was hooked to blared alarmingly.
Attendants rushed to my aid
But I was now lost in memories.
The little girl...was me.
I remembered that day very well.
It was the last time I'd seen my biological family. Before I'd been adopted by my mom and dad.
They had been older and had no family of their own so I grew up with just them.
The memory of my actual family had just slipped from my mind as I grew.
Later that day, I called the station. Hoping they still had the guy in custody. Unfortunately they had released him. I felt a pain unknown to me prior to seeing that video.
I thought I was content with my new life. That all I'd needed had been my adopted parents.
But now, my heart yearned to reconnect with the family that had sacrificed so much just to make ends meet.
I remembered I had a brother. Much older than me, but very much an important part of my past.
The other videos and pictures on the phone led to more unlocked memories.
Memories of a life I'd completely blocked out. At the time, I thought the worst thing that could happen to a family was to be poor.
My family had been so. Very poor in terms of wealth. But immensely wealthy in love. They'd tearfully given me away so that I could have a better life.
And I had completely forgotten about them. I tried for days to find him. Hoping and praying that he was okay. That he would come back.
My health had taken a turn for the worst. I was in the hospital. No one would come to see me. I'd never kept in touch with friends and coworkers.
My days were long and drawn out.
Eventually, five days before Christmas I was finally able to go home.
He sat on the cold steps in front of my home. Blowing on his hands to warm them against the frigid weather.
With a lump in my throat and tears streaming from my eyes, I raced to him as fast as my ill body could muster.
He stood, his smile knowing and welcoming. We hugged tightly.
All the pain and loneliness vanishing as he held me in a soothing embrace.
We both spoke, unable to talk fast enough to get clarity of the situation. I had a family!
He wasn't even actually homeless. He had found out where I was and left everything and everyone behind to come get me.
He'd run into some bad luck and ended up without shelter. He could have just returned home, but he'd been determined to find and reconnect with me.
That Christmas I rejoined my family. And for the first time, in quite a while; I felt what having a family was like.
I thank God every day for unexpected blessings.