Saturday, July 23, 2011

“Drought”

This summer’s unrelenting heat means our yards dry a little more each day. I noticed today that several of the bushes out back have dead branches. Nature protects the core, and the peripheral appendages begin to wither. My heart breaks to see this loss.
Loss goes deeper this summer than wilting gardens. I’ve several friends struggling with serious health issues like cancer. I admire the strength they exhibit as they face each day with unbelievable optimism. They face the new challenges life’s handed them with the unshakable conviction that every thought and effort will bring health back into their lives. For other friends, this summer’s trials come from aging parents needing live-in help, assisted living or nursing home care. Some friends will decide to move in with parents while others will move parents in with them.
            For the generation of our children, we see job opportunities drying up overnight. Imagine spending four years in college, taking out loans to finance this education, and not landing a job up to five or six months later. These adult children find themselves moving back in with their parents as they regroup. Some hold tenaciously to their college part-time jobs because “something is better than nothing.” Those still in school wonder and worry about next year’s opportunities. How long will this economic drought last? Onto this brittle landscape, I watch in frustration as our petty politicians play with matches.
            I know that we need rain. Not a flooding deluge that obliterates everything in its path, but a soft and steady rain—one that brings the sunrise in its wake, one that soaks deeply into the cracked ground, one that cleanses away the dust and cobwebs, one that heals our land.   


Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, July 22, 2011

“I Hate Harry Potter”

            There. I said it. Well, I put it in print! I know, I know. I’ve heard over and over again that something must be wrong with my taste because I don’t like the Harry Potter series. It’s not like I haven’t tried, either.
Printable Book Mark!
            When the first book came out, my students sang the praises of the manuscript. Seeing that most of them didn’t choose to read for pleasure, their enthusiasm lured me into the fantasy realm of J. K. Rowling. My personal rule about reading is simple: If I start a book, I finish the book. I’d set this goal when I was twelve, and never broke my record until Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I gave it my best effort, but found the author’s style too redundant and trite. I know! Blaspheme! My peers loved the first and then second novel so much that they formed a club at our high school where students met after school to discuss the books; yet, I couldn’t make it through the first volume. I’d pick it up, read as much as I could in a sitting, and then set it aside. The more everyone raved about the books, the more I tried to find something to like. It was like eating okra. I know okra is good for me, but it makes me gag.
            When the first movie came out, my husband and son convinced me that I’d love it. I remember coming out of the theatre feeling disappointed. I couldn’t figure it out. I love fantasy pieces. I love donning my own garb to attend Renaissance fairs. I love dipping into pretend.  When the second movie in the series hit the movie theatres, I decided to stay home and watch television instead. I helped my son hunt down or make pieces of his costume for opening night, but I had no desire to find out the next installment of these characters.  Later, when I viewed the DVD release of the second film, I fell asleep!
            Over the years, I stopped telling people that I don’t like Harry Potter because it upset them so much. You’d think I’d attacked their political parties or religious beliefs! However, with the release of the final episode in the series, I’ve decided it’s time to come out of the closet. I know many of you will never view me the same after this revelation. I hope, though, that you won’t sever contact with me, and overlook this short-coming.

            And remember, I am a Trekkie.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Thursday, July 21, 2011

“The Foot Long Generation”

Our children live at home— 
dreaming, planning, reaching, and working 
within a reality of Pink Slips and Red Ink 
meeting Maslow’s levels by 
staying, sharing, settling, and waiting 

Our children leave our homes— 
dreaming, planning, reaching, and working 
but return with Divorce and Failure 
postponing their destinies by 
bleeding, retreating, suffering, then healing 

Our parents live at home— 
yearning, coping, striving, craving 
becoming our children by 
needing, depending, trusting, and relenting 

Our parents live in homes— 
yearning, coping, striving, craving 
relinquishing their destinies by 
falling, breaking, suffering, dying 

Copyright 2010 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

I believe we honor our parents by supporting their needs. I believe we honor our futures by nurturing the possibilities of our children.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

“Grammy Sitting”


Edna Abrams May 2011
            Caregiving quickly becomes a shared family responsibility. It didn’t take me long to realize I’d rely upon my husband, David, to survive each day. As Mom’s Huntington’s Disease progresses, she can do less and less for herself. Imagine sitting on your living room couch, unable to even move yourself into a wheelchair. The limited mobility Mom had at Christmas time, to transfer on her own from couch to wheelchair, wheelchair to another room, and from there to the bed, ebbed away by this spring. As her weakness increases, so does her anxiety at being left alone in a room. Her body’s refusal to move at command means she needs assistance in almost everything. She can still feed herself, but her food must be pureed because the muscles she uses for chewing and swallowing are compromised. She can still lift her lidded cup up and sip out of a straw, she can still brush her teeth, and she can still enjoy her nightly bowls of ice cream. Huntington’s Disease robs Mom of her ability to communicate. We try to phrase our questions with “yes” or “no” responses, or we offer short phrases to her that she can repeat with her choice. “Would you like music or quiet?” Repeating the key words again, “Music? Quiet?” We learn to give long enough wait time for her to form the answer she wants. Mom’s very lucid. She recalled effortlessly that I’d left a bottle of Visine in a drawer in her sitting room coffee table back in November. She knows and remembers people, places and events. However, to function within her limitations, she obsessively maintains structure and routine to her day. The clock doesn’t guide this routine, but the sequence must be obsessively maintained.


Edna and Charles Abrams 
            Mom’s day begins as early as four in the morning. Some days I get up with her, many days David takes her to the restroom, wheels her in to watch television in her sitting room or our family room. She’ll stay up for only a little while, anywhere from ten minutes to half-an-hour. Then she’ll ring her bell and ask to go back to bed. Once there, (if we’re lucky) she’ll snooze for another hour. If she’s restless, we’ll hear her spinning in her bed until she rings her bell again. By 5:30, she’s up for the day. Over the last month, David’s takes over in the mornings. He’ll give Mom her medications, fix her breakfast, bathe and dress her all before he leaves for work at eight. Then my ten hour shift begins. During the first months, I had more freedom to do things like water the yard or read a book, but now Mom wants me pretty much in the same room with her most of the day. I write in fits and spurts—a sentence here, a paragraph there, scribbled lines or ideas in a spiral notebook. It’s a good thing I type at lightning speed! Mom’s day starts to unwind around 5 o’clock. She’ll do a similar pattern as she does in the morning where she’ll rest for half an hour, get up for an hour, go back down until finally she’s settled for the evening. David often takes over with this up and down round to give me a break.
Edna Abrams and Paula Browning
Jan. 2011

            Our other break comes from my son, Paul. When he rented a house in the neighborhood, I thought I’d only call on him in emergencies. However, by midweek I’m often short tempered and needing to escape the house, even if it’s just to do errands like grocery shopping. Paul takes over on those days. We’ve gotten into the habit of calling it “Grammy sitting.” Paul’s high energy and ability to entertain my mother mean she looks forward to his visits. He brings her news and commentary. His humor and patience provide Mom with the break she needs from me, too. Paul’s weekly relief service is supplemented by monthly visits from my brother and sister. They’ve alternated weekends, so that provides two weekends each month that we get to sleep a little late! I cannot predict how long our lives will revolve around caregiving, but I do know that it would be impossible to face without our family pulling together. 


Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

“Her Fall”

I held your tiny hand, tugged you away from danger    
            carried you safely to the other side    
I protected you from water’s edge and ocean’s undertow—      
            the drowning tears of your uncertainties   
I watched from the sidelines as you changed—  
dwindling into someone I no longer recognized  
Now, dismay burdens me,    
cements me in place as you scale the precipice  
I call out, “Don’t! Turn back! Wait for me!”  
            as your compulsion drives you higher, higher  
I perceive the cracks in your mask  
            even as you disillusion those who still believe in you     
I reach futilely skyward, my feet anchored in place,  
            unable to halt your ascent over crumbling rock  
I try, and try again, to guide you to sure footing      
            but you ignore my words, indulging in illusions of independence  
I weep, a witness to your self-destruction,      
as your frailties and obsessions force your fall 


Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman 



  

Monday, July 18, 2011

“Anxiety”

calls in greeting with the bright full moon  
dances in my blood with the flux of hormones  
recognizes my fears and delights in them  

throws back her head and laughs with glee   
dashes from neuron to neuron in abandon  
stops my heart with an iron grasp  

catches my breath and won’t let it go  
haunts every night with racing thoughts  
creates possibilities out of mist  

ebbs and flows throughout the months  
curls in the pit of my stomach like a knotted rope  
holds me prisoner within my mind  

Copyright 1999 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Sunday, July 17, 2011

“I Do—Over”

      I found myself riveted the other night to one of those bridal gown shows. During the first episode, my shock never wore off at the costs of the gowns these women would wear for only a few hours of one day. During the second episode, I watched in dismay as a young woman’s mother and friends almost bull-dozed her into buying a dress she didn’t like. By the third episode, I felt the triumph of a bride-to-be as she modeled her gown for her father for the first time. The entire evening, I kept remembering all the things about my own wedding and reception that I never liked.

Exchanging rings!

      I’ve joked with David for years that I wish I could have a wedding “ I do-over.” Maybe we’ll renew our vows one year and have the type of ceremony and reception we really wanted! Both of us wanted a ceremony held outdoors, perhaps in the grounds of a museum. Instead, we ended up getting married in the church David’s parents attended. My parents hadn’t lived that long in League City, Texas. Most of their friends lived in San Antonio, as did a large number of David’s family and almost all of my friends from high school. David and I lived in College Station since I was still attending Texas A&M. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into—my parents living in one location, David and I in a second location, and the wedding in a third location!
      I tried to streamline our wedding wherever I could. My parents planned on continuing to pay for my college degree (I had a summer session and a full fall semester to complete after marriage). They also sent extra money every month to help David after he moved up to College Station because he didn’t find a job for four months. My father took us out to look for wedding bands and paid for the simple gold rings because David had no income until a couple of weeks before our ceremony. My parents also paid for the hotel, dinner, champagne, and breakfast of our one night “honeymoon.”
      With all of these additional expenses in mind, I picked out a simple street dress for my wedding dress. I did my own hair, nails, and make-up.  My sister, a new mother, also wore a very plain dress as my matron of honor. David didn’t even own a suit, so his parents let him get one for the wedding. I made certain I carried our traditional yellow roses; and that my father’s cousin, a pastry chef, made our wedding cake. David’s grandfather volunteered to photograph the wedding and reception, but the film in his camera started slipping. We ended up with a handful of pictures and practically a full roll of double exposures. To this day, I only have a few pictures that we could salvage. One of my best friends missed the ceremony because David’s brother, an usher, told her our wedding wasn’t the Abrams wedding. She and her mother stood outside the door, thinking they had somehow gone to the wrong church. Imagine their dismay when David and I finally exited the church at the end!
Cutting the cake
       My parents wanted to have the reception at the same VFW hall they used for my sister’s wedding reception, but David’s parents insisted we have it at their home and that we prepare the food ourselves instead of hiring caterers. Obviously, I regret that decision. Instead of a nice wedding reception, we ended up with a pool party. We didn’t get a toast. We didn’t have a first dance as a married couple. I didn’t get to throw my bouquet. I cried when we left.
      Even all these years later, I feel sadness when I think of our wedding day. Perhaps that’s why I found myself glued to the television watching young brides search for the perfect dress. I know that’s why I felt satisfaction when one timid bride stood her ground on the type of dress she wanted for herself and her bridesmaids because I identified with her overpowering need to please others.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman