Saturday, January 7, 2012

“The Missing Sock”

When I take dirty clothes into the laundry room, I try to make certain every item makes it from the bathroom to the hamper. When I sort the clothes into their designated piles, sometimes I pair the socks as a double check that each duo goes into the wash together. My laundry room, a petite rectangular four by eleven, cannot provide hiding places for anything. Yet . . . at least once a month a sock vanishes. I’ll shift the hamper out of its tight nook, slide a hanger between the washer and the wall, remove the vacuum and the mops, and scour the tiny room with vigilance in search of a missing sock. I’ll retrace my steps from laundry room through the kitchen, retreating to the master bathroom with eagle eyes peering into corners and under the bed. I’ll check the dogs’ toy basket in case Koi kidnapped a sock from the pile. Nothing. I keep the unmatched sock in the clean clothes basket in the belief that its partner will miraculously reappear during the darkness of night. After another week, the lonely sock gets placed in my drawer, sitting in neglected isolation.
             The hide-n-seek game with the missing sock may continue for several weeks. Yesterday, I stripped my mother’s bedding and shook out the fitted sheet of the clean set. A black sock soared through the air and landed on her dresser, knocking over her Chantilly in playful abandon. I immediately scooped up the wayward footwear and placed it in my pocket with a victorious grin. I felt satisfaction as I reunited the lonely sock tucked in my drawer with its partner. A quick inspection revealed that only one more sock sat segregated from the other sets. Prior experience made me pragmatically predict that days may pass before the wayward companion surfaced. However, yesterday turned out lucky for me. The last missing sock nestled in the arm of one of my mother’s nightgowns. Imagine her surprise when she pushed her hand through the sleeve and captured a sock in her hand!
            I feel smug satisfaction in knowing that when I go to bed tonight, every sock in every drawer nestles closely with its mate.

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, January 6, 2012

“Close Enough”

         Writing sometimes surprises me. I’ll stumble upon a topic one day, mull it over for a few hours or a few days; and when I finally get the words out onto the page, delight fills me. I celebrate when the right phrase paints the picture that’s in my mind. I mentally pat myself on my back and do a victory lap whenever the spirit of a poem holds true from beginning to ending. Occasionally, I’ll revisit an older piece of prose, or a poem written long ago, and feel satisfaction that this creation grew from within me.
         Then comes a block. The curser keeps its metronome beat. It pulses in recrimination because I’ve summoned it to the page and left it hanging. The swirling, whirling words within me can’t find form or substance. An emotion vaporizes before I can make it solid. A thought teases me in a seductive lap dance then leaves me wanting. (That would work better  if I were a man!)
         Frustration, hesitation and perspiration often accompany the writer into the creative process. So when the sunlight contrasting with shadow plays across my vision, I long to create just the right description. I hunger for perfection as I grope for each phrase. My goal, however, to produce writing almost daily means I accept the concept of “close enough.” I embrace that as I learn my craft and fine tune my abilities; discrepancies will abound between that unflawed poem and my final draft.
         The art of writing teaches important lessons. I’ve learned to welcome imperfections in other aspects of my life. Each day, in essence, is a rough draft. As I fill the pages of my life, I don’t mind false starts, revisions or rewrites. I’m even happy when sometimes I don’t—quite—get—it—right. Close enough, but not perfect.  

 Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Thursday, January 5, 2012

“Light and Shadow”

Pastel smudges draw my eyes to morning’s rise   
aligning the innocence and the essence   
of day’s promise with ease. Light dusts the trees   
with the purity of youth. Beams illume Truth   
in a precise reality that cannot be   
denied. Into the sunshine I dance sublime   
and naked in the summer’s heat. When I retreat   
to the coolness of shadows, a soft breeze blows   
across my glistening skin. I let Hope in   
wrapped in shadow and light—and all is right   

 Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

“The Dentist”

         This morning, I find myself trying to rev up my energy. Mom has a dental appointment at 10:45. During the last few months, we’ve learned not to tell Mom in advance about doctor or dental visits because her anxiety spirals out of control. She sleeps soundly some nights, but other nights she spins all night long, finally getting up in the early morning hours. An appointment insures a sleepless night for all of us. Mom woke up this morning at 4:30. By 5:30 she’d had her medication and by 6 o’clock she asked to return to bed and the warmth of her pile of quilts. She sleeps while I write and David prepares for work, but she’ll awake up again within the next hour. After she’s eaten breakfast and dressed for the day, I’ll break the news of her appointment. She’ll insist on getting her dentures in place, shoes on her feet, and purse positioned within easy reach. She’ll want her eyebrows penciled in, blush on her cheeks, and lipstick on her lips. Since it is cooler outside, she’ll want to wear one of her hats.
         We will struggle to get her into the car. I believe that her source of anxiety now comes from the ordeal of getting from her wheelchair to the car. I know it causes me tension just thinking about it! I will situate her chair closely to the open car door where we’ll manage to maneuver her into place. I have to remind her, “Butt first, Mom. Butt first.” If I don’t she’ll try to climb into the car feet first and end up rolling onto the seat sideways. At that point, we either start laughing so hard that we can’t reposition her, or the tears start. Either way, getting into the car challenges both of us. Once I have her rump in the seat, she’s able to position her feet on her own. Then we have her grab the back of the front seat and hug herself forward enough to reposition her body. When she releases her grip, her body’s situated in just the right place. I can snap the seatbelt snugly and head of our destination. And then we have to repeat the entire process after the appointment.
         We have a hospital in our neighborhood that offers a van service for people going to doctors within the area. Mom’s neurologist gave me the information on our last visit. Fortunately, her internist and neurologist have offices in buildings covered by this service. All I have to do is schedule a pickup forty-eight hours in advance. I haven’t used this option yet, but I know that this year I will. Every time I adjust for the newest change in Mom’s ability to do something, I feel loss. With my mother, Huntington’s disease hasn’t chipped away at her abilities with huge chunks of changes. Instead, it’s a slow, steady melting process. The differences, too subtle to notice on a day-to-day basis, accumulate. I guess I fear that one day I’ll turn around and realize she’s dissolved down to just her core.  

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

“Daddy’s Girl”

Man in a Box   

Tears welled in his eyes   
a confident smirk masked his disappointment   
A girl—a girl   
His finger slid down the curve of her soft cheek   
then he stepped back   
building physical distance   
No clone    
No son to show off at company parties and family reunions   
“Do you want to hold her?”   
His eyes darted to his wife, his mother   
relief settled his shoulders as he realized his screamed denial was in his head   
“I think she has my hair,” his young wife crooned   
“I think she has my eyes.”  
His hand rubbed the stubble on his chin   
fatigue punched his gut   
Pretending sapped his energy   
made him dry and brittle   
A fox outwitted by the trap, he stood motionless   
fought the instinct to chew off his leg   
Instead, he boxed his panic   
nailed down the lid   
let days blend into months and years   
He encouraged his daughter’s adoration   
while he ignored her needs   
avoided her love   
silenced her angry tears by walking away   
He minimized her   
made her peripheral   
on the edges of his consciousness   
an orbiting object not worthy of his attention   
A girl—a girl   

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Monday, January 2, 2012

“Mom’s Meals”

“The Incredible, Edible Egg!” sang through my head this morning as I poached some eggs for Mom’s breakfast. Every morning, I ask her what she’d like to eat: scrambled eggs, fried eggs, hard boiled eggs, poached eggs, French toast, or pancakes. Nine time out of ten, she’ll request eggs in one of its variations.
         Today, as I prepared her meal, I realized we rely upon eggs so much because I can fix them so quickly. When Mom’s hungry, she wants food immediately. Pancakes yesterday turned into a farce as she continually asked, “Where’s my breakfast? David said he was fixing me pancakes. Where are my pancakes?” I explained he was beating the batter and teased that I didn’t think she’d want to soup out her pancakes with a spoon. She laughed, but her impatience bubbles to the surface more frequently now than in the past. When she queried once again on the status of her pancakes, David stepped into the family room, bowl and mixing spoon in hand, to show her the state of her meal. She laughed.
         With Huntington’s disease, chewing and swallowing become compromised, so finding the “right” foods sometimes proves difficult.  Most of the time, we don’t rely upon pureeing dishes because I cook meals that I know Mom can eat—right now. Things could change quickly. When she moved in last year, she could eat anything I cooked. Within a few months, we began cutting meats into smaller and smaller pieces. I’ve shifted her meals to ground beef, ground sausages, or ground turkey as an easier alternative to running meats through the food processor. Often, I’ll bake a roast until the meat falls apart in moist splendor. We’ve discovered the dark meat of chicken (leg and thigh meat) is easier for Mom to chew and swallow than the white selections. I never thought food would become such a focus in our home. In order to accommodate her changing needs, I rely upon making huge batches of the foods she can easily eat, freezing portions for her so I can pull them out and zap them in the microwave when hunger hits her.  
Last night, I prepared a can of chunky beef and vegetable soup. It’s been a while since I’ve opened a can of Campbell’s since I’ve been making most of our soups lately. It never occurred to me that the chunks in the soup would prove too big for Mom to eat! I ended up pulling the vegetables and meat out, chopping all of it into fine pieces, and mushing it with a fork to blend back into the broth. I will change my stash of “emergency” canned soups from the chunky choices to ones like split pea. These little adjustments occur all the time with Mom’s diet. We’ll discover something she ate effortlessly a few months ago now gives her a little trouble.
         I try to keep Mom’s calorie count high, but that’s getting harder. She spends an entire afternoon sipping one soda where last year she’d drink both juice and soda during the same time frame. She starts her day with a chocolate supplement that she drinks along with breakfast, but often she leaves some behind. She loves milkshakes and ice cream, so I offer one or the other each day. Fatigue factors into her calorie count. Mom can still feed herself, but anything not eaten within fifteen minutes won’t get eaten. She’ll shove aside the bowl and say she’s finished. It doesn’t mean she’s full. It means she’s eaten all she has the energy to eat. Her leftovers get scooped into a small tub for her to finish later in the day. Within two hours, she’ll ask for something else to eat. Sometimes she’ll crave something sweet. She can eat the soft cookies many companies market, or she’ll ask for a piece of chocolate, or the small bite sized brownies our HEB bakes. And she never refuses the offer of a banana.

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abramas Chapman


Sunday, January 1, 2012

"Play the Melody Again"

Play the melody again,
softly hum the harmony
Reach out to catch the notes
of the song you sang for me.
          Catch the flight of youth
          gently within your warm hands
          Hold together the memory
          of our magic Wonderland.
                     We belong to yesterday’s dreams
                     of endless flights on moonbeams.
                     Where love is meant to always be
                      and life is as it seems.
Try, when the overture ends,
to capture the last refrain.
Tenderly recreate for us
that fragile lover’s strain.
          Stroke the strings of sound
          and whisper into the wind.
          Take us back to that day
          when the love did first begin.
                     We belong to yesterday’s dreams
                     of endless flights on moonbeams.
                     Where love is meant to always be
                      and life is as it seems.
Touch again the quiet fire
that rages within our grasp.
With lyrical wisps of rhythm
feed the embers of our past.
          Play the melody again,
          sing out the harmony.
          Carelessly laugh and smile,
          and sing our song for me.

Copyright 1977 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Many of my poems reside within the pages of my old journals. I'm slowly going through the volumes and creating a compilation of all my poetry. "Play the Melody Again" was set to music by David Chapman and is one of my favorites.