Thursday, May 31, 2012

Remembrances & A Poem

Today is the one-year anniversary of my Grandad's suicide. It's a hard day for my family- especially for my Dad. The loss of a parent is something I do NOT look forward to experiencing.

November. My family does our level best to always make it to the farm in Heber Springs, Arkansas for Thanksgiving. In previous years, we would stay with my Dad's parents. We'd sleep in and watch some of the Macy's Day Parade before driving 10 minutes out to the farm for the annual family reunion with my Mom's side of the family. This year was different. My Dad's parents were gone. And while we had resigned ourselves, in recent years, to staying in a hotel- we had still always stopped by their house for a hug in the morning and knew we'd be coming back when darkness and the cold chased us from the farm. It was a terrible prospect to have no Grandparents left in that tiny little house.

The drive from our house to Heber was a long one. I was packed into the backseat next to the baby of the family. She had dozed off and I had lost myself in a book. Suddenly, she jerked awake. "You ok?" I asked. Sleepily she pushed her hair out of her face and blinked a few times. "Yeah" she answered. And then, "What day is it?" she asked me. "What do you mean?" "I mean, what day of the month is it?" she said. "Um," I thought for a minute, and then answered. "Oh" she sighed. "Bad dream?" I asked.

"Yes. I always have it about this time of the month." (within a week of the time Grandad had shot himself) She went on, "I'm running and I see Grandad and I'm trying to get to him and stop him, but I never make it!" She was on the verge of tears and my own eyes filled as I grabbed her hand and squeezed it. "It's ok." I said. And she leaned her head on my shoulder and I rested mine on top of hers and we rode in silence for a while. I remembered scenes a few months earlier from the funeral- staying with people from my Grandparents' church that I barely knew, all the pity and embarrassment in peoples' faces because this funeral was a suicide- so different from dying of 'natural causes' or an 'accident'.

My baby sister's dreams and her precious memories of our beloved Grandad, cut me deeply. It hurt to know that she was still hurting- but I knew how she felt. We all were having "what if's" and "why didn't I just's" floating through our minds.

I wanted to share a poem that my sister wrote that was published recently in her college magazine (of which she is an editor). I am so proud of her!

Tale Spinner
by Sally Beard

Tissue box parade
Dead flowers, some for me
Some for the grave.
Chairs that have rocked their last
Endless visitors, empty glasses
The funeral is done
But the march goes on.
Even without you
The procession never stops.
People I've never met walk past me
Some stop and shake my hand,
Say "He was full of life"
But most won't even look me in the eye.
Are they embarrassed for me?
I don't bite.
Or maybe they're afraid of catching germs
From the tear-stained tissue I so desperately clutch.
I miss you so much.

In the cemetery, I wait
Until the last visitor has left
Then I pause beside the grave
In which lies
One who would have acknowledged my presence.
Why do funerals often turn out this way?
And now that prying eyes have gone
The tears come.
A letter. A tarp. A gun.
A hospital too, but by then
You were gone.
Four days later, here I am
Standing over you, instead of beside you.
You always told me, "Don't you change,"
But this place has changed for me.
I remember how I'd climb your knee
And you would begin to weave stories.
Some were funny, and tickled
Like a fuzzy blanket.
Some were thoughtful and comforting
Like an afghan.
Some were stories
Hard to understand
And the thread of my concentration would snap.
After all, I was only a kid.
But the best were your hugs,
Far better than a blanket
Were the arms that wrapped around me
And the husky voice that said "I love you."

You were fraying long before I noticed
And took up a rifle.
Shot a hole in the tapestry
That you spent your whole life weaving.
Tattered blankets, shattered hearts,
My world is spinning, ripping apart.
This is one story that I hate to tell,
I wish it wasn't true.
Though I continue your pattern
I'll never be as talented as you.
The blanket now has a knot
That I cannot undo;
Your death is a mystery, a mistake
That I cannot unravel.
Yes, this place- for me- has changed a lot
But the thread runs true;
You're never fully dead
Until you're forgot,
And I'll always remember you.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Babies and the Gun

I have found myself talking about guns this year. Especially in the last two weeks.

In fact, there is a recording on our lovely ladies event video from today* of my voice in the background commenting about guns. We were discussing shooting at a bee hive in a coworkers yard and I claimed it was a silly thing to do..."You should shoot at criminal's knee caps instead." Of course, my coworkers laughed loudly and I'm soft-spoken so hopefully you can't REALLY hear the comment...and normally they put video clips like that to music so I'm desperately hoping it won't be heard! Of course, I just told y'all about it...but so few people read this I think my reputation is safe...

Clarification: I do not own a gun...but I might get one someday. I would do my best NEVER to shoot at a person, but if you break into my house and I have someone to protect (i.e. a kid) plan on surgery for bullet removal in the near future. I'm all for people being allowed to own guns and carry them (after going through proper classes on handling, cleaning, etc.) Guns aren't the problem- it's the people who make the bad decisions. There- disagree me if you wish, but please don't flood this post with comments about how horrible you think I am for this belief.

I've had 3 experiences with guns. Two of them were spent skeet shooting, but this is a story about the only time I've come in close contact with a handgun. (Meaning- I almost used it.)

Once upon a time, my family moved to Texas. I was pleased to get an all-day baby-sitting job for two little 18-month-old girls. Let me describe this for you: giant Texas mansion with two sets of stairs to two separate parts of the house. The babies slept up either set of stairs. One was the granddaughter and the other was a friend's child. They obviously weren't thinking when they left a 16-yr-old in that kind of situation. A couple of my sisters were allowed to come and help out during the day (so they'd get some of the cash) and I was grateful...18-month-olds that can walk are quite a handful...

"Now, if anything happens," the man told me as they were leaving that morning, "my handgun's in the drawer by the bed." -He said this as if I would know what to do with it...and so seriously that I suddenly wondered if I needed to worry. Was there something they weren't telling me??

Well, night was falling. I created a pin out of furniture for baby number one and took the granddaughter up to her crib first. Settling her in (quickly...can't leave unsupervised babies...) I hurried back down the stairs, past the bedroom with the gun, past the front door, through the first living room, into the second living room where I had left baby number two. She was a bit distraught and I had to comfort her as I carried her up the second set of stairs to her crib. When she finally settled down I had to go back down the stairs, through the two living rooms, past the front door, past the room with the gun, and up the original set of stairs to check on baby number one- the granddaughter. She had settled down and content, I made my way past the room with the gun to living room number one where I settled into a huge sofa with a book.

The room had floor to ceiling windows that were about 20 feet tall (it was the reason the whole upstairs had to be split into two) and these windows did NOT have curtains. I was deep into my book when I suddenly heard a loud noise- as if someone had thrown a pebble at the glass window. It being perfectly dark outside, I couldn't see a thing. I froze and tried to act normal as I pretended to keep reading. The noise happened again- twice this time.

Ok. It was time to start thinking about my options.

A) No cell phone- would have to get to the kitchen for the home phone...where'd they put that paper with their number? Did one of the babies eat it??
B) I don't remember the new home phone so I can't call Dad.
C) Ok...which baby would I save first? The granddaughter, I guess. Plus she's closer to the room with the gun.
D) The gun! It can't be that hard to use a gun, right? Just point and shoot. But I don't want to shoot anybody!!
E) Was this why he sounded so serious...they left me to deal with the problem??**

(And here I was interrupted by more of the clanking noise against the window.)

Ok it was time for action. I acted as casual as a frightened teen can and slipped out of the living room to the front door (out of sight of the window). Peering through the peephole I saw nothing and no one. Creeping into the room with the gun I opened the drawer and looked at it. Praying I decided against the gun and shut the drawer again- physically shaking at this point. I couldn't find the phone.

And here I did something stupid. I opened the front door and stuck my head outside and found myself confronting a pair of yellow eyes.

The creature switched it's tail at me before pushing past me into the house. I felt my heart re-start and actually found myself grateful for the cat's company. Somehow it had gotten shut outside during the day. But it wasn't the cause of the noise against the window. Looking again I spotted the culprit. A large grasshopper, hypnotized by the landscaping light on the window was jumping into the glass window...over and over again.

So happy I could have cried, I laughed and shut and bolted the door turning to look at the cat. It's purr was the most welcome sound on earth.

I am not afraid of guns now, but I used to be. It was a shock to be told I had access to a gun and to use it if necessary. I've never come across that type of situation again. Anyone else have a similar experience?

*I had no idea my coworker was taking a video- we thought he was just taking pictures! I've been teasingly warned that it might make the next video for the seminary...I really hope not.

**Hey...sometimes my imagination can get carried away, ok?? This is why I DON'T watch scary movies...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

It Started with One...

In March, shortly before we put Bonnie (my dog) down, I bought a turtle. A tiny Mississippi Map turtle. He had to be shipped from Florida & I anxiously watched the UPS tracker hoping that he would arrive alive!

The moment I looked into his tiny silver eyes, I melted. I dubbed him Parker. He was 3/4 of an inch big. I took him to work with me where I had a tank ready and waiting (with fish too). He looked so little and lost that I couldn't bear to leave him in the tank overnight so I took him back home with me and set up a bowl for the night. This went on for a few days...then I slowed down and only brought him home on weekends- because that tiny tummy couldn't go all weekend without eating, right?

Parker was absolutely charming. He'd stretch out his legs and sun on his little island. He'd yawn and rest his head on his foot- just like my dog used to do...didn't know turtles did that...etc. I was captivated.

A couple weeks later, I decided that Parker was lonely. How could he not be? So I went to the pet store in the mall and bought a generic Red Ear Slider (common green turtle). Problem solved! Or was it?
Watson was a pig. And a bully. He bit off part of Parker's tail and I saw him grab Parker by the tiny foot and drag him under the water- TWICE! Naturally, I renamed Watson "Jaws" and gave him to my sister as a class pet for her elementary kids. My sister's class had a difficult time naming him- he was almost "Mr. FuFu"...but thankfully the kids voted on "Jack" instead. Jack hates being a class pet, but I could care less...the little monster.

Three days later I was back on the internet and decided to order another turtle buddy for Parker. This time I thought I'd try a different breed: a Musk turtle. Within a few days I had Sebastian- the tiniest turtle I have ever seen- less than 1/2 inch big! He looked like a little beetle as he bumbled around in the tank. He had a huge appetite and was very curious about all the fish. He was like a little shadow to Parker. I loved him. When he didn't eat one day, I got very worried. Checking his paperwork I read that sometimes turtles lose their appetites for a few days so I relaxed. But by day 4 I was on the phone with the company talking to one of their experts. "Shrimp pellets!" the lady told me.

So the very next morning I went to the first pet store, but they were out of shrimp pellets. So I went to a second pet store and grabbed 4 different varieties of treats that promised they tempted turtles...
However, by the time I got to my office, Sebastian had died. I was in shock- I'd had him for a month with no problems! He'd been so cute.

Having loved Sebastian but worried that a Musk turtle might die on me again, I decided to look for something new. I consulted 3 different websites about turtles and their sizes, habitats, and personalities. Using my coupon, I got online with my Florida company again and ordered TWO new baby turtles- because everything is better in threes...(that's what I learned in floral design).

I waited two days in excitement for my Red Belly and Yellow Belly baby turtles! "This will be it," I told myself, "no more turtles after this! It'll be perfect!" However, imagine my shock when I opened the package to find two very large baby turtles- both of them over twice the size of Parker. The site had said 0.5 - 1 inch babies...but these were 2.5 and 3 inches! Dubiously, I put them in my lovely giant tank with Parker. They ignored food the first day so there were no problems, but I couldn't help being disappointed that they were so large.

A day later I watched in terror as the Red Belly almost bit Parker's head in his quest for the piece of food Parker already was eating. I stuck my hand in that tank and using a finger pushed him down and away from Parker so fast he didn't know what hit him. Then when the Yellow Belly did the same thing I reached in grabbed him and put him upside down in the little island in the tank. I had to do it twice before he learned his lesson.

The next day, our sweet cleaning lady came with her 4-yr-old daughter on her weekly cleaning day. Having discussed animals with her in detail and her daughter always loving to watch my fish and help feed them, I had a sudden thought. "Do you want a turtle?" I asked the mother. "Really?!" she asked excitedly. "Yes!" I said and without further ado, reached in and grabbed the 3 inch Red Belly and put him back into the packing box he'd arrived in. The little girl cradled him in her lap while her mama cleaned and they left with smiles.

That afternoon, I casually asked a co-worker, "Would you be interested in a turtle?" "Oh, actually yes! The kids would love it!" "Perfect!" I said- already planning my LAST turtle purchase as I left her office. The Yellow Belly has been named Colonel Brandon by the 11-yr-old girl who just discovered the movie "Sense & Sensibility"- he should be proud of his name...

"NOCCI" & ?
Deciding that really the only way to give Parker company without it being a danger to him or a bully was to get the exact same kind of turtle. So I opened my trusty old Florida site determined to put some comments on my order form about sizing issues and let that be it.

But when I opened the site, wouldn't you know? They were having a sale on the very kind of turtle I've been dreaming of since I was 12. Soft Shell turtles- what I like to call 'Pancake Turtles' are my favorite turtle of all time. I discovered them when we moved to Hawaii & the hotel had them in this huge outdoor exhibit with little blue penguins. Normally those turtles sell for $60 and I had felt that was price-y, but they had new hatchlings and were selling them all for $20- with my $10 off coupon, he'd be $10!! Thrilled I added one to my basket. Then I went ahead and added a Mississippi Map turtle so that I'd have my "perfect 3".

I practically danced for two days waiting for them to come and when they arrived yesterday I gasped! My little pancake turtle was the cutest thing I'd ever cute as Parker anyway. The other little turtle, Parker's sibling, is a tiny bit bigger than he is, but she doesn't bite him or steal his food or bully him. He is content. I am content. My turtles are spoiled.

I have named my pancake turtle: Pinocchio (Nocci for short) because of his long pointy nose. 

Anybody have suggestions for the little girl turtle?