Saturday, April 7, 2012

“Visits With My Brother”

         Once a month, my brother toils through the after work Houston traffic to make the drive to San Antonio. His little red car pulls into the front of our house a little before 9 PM, and he lopes into the front door with a broad smile. He ignores Koi’s yapping as he heads straight for the spare bedroom to deposit his bag. My mother, in anticipation of a visit from Charles, usually fights to stay awake on the nights of his arrival. They’ll exchange a few words, a hug and kiss, and then she’ll ask one of us to take her to bed.
         Mom musters extra energy for Charles’s weekend visits. She’ll pick a favorite restaurant for an early lunch and offer to pick up the tab for all of us! She’ll sit on the couch with my brother, watching the movies or shows he prefers. She’ll haltingly chat about her health and ask him about his life. A huge part of the time, though, they sit in comfortable silence.         
         Happiness oozes from my brother. He lives a simple life. He enjoys the little things that come his way and never wastes time bemoaning life’s travails. He hates asking others for help, yet he is the first one to offer assistance if he can.
For now, I treasure the weekend visits with my brother. His presence means we get time. Today, after my mother treats everyone to lunch, David and I will head out to trim hedges and clear out the front garden bed, chores we could do individually during the weekends when my brother doesn’t visit, but which we enjoy doing together when we can.    

         With Huntington’s Disease, each of us have a 50% chance of inheriting the disease. My mother’s late onset means that although we may be symptom free at this time, we could begin expressing the early symptoms soon. I try to prepare myself for the fact that all three of us could end up dealing with HD again, but I dread the thought of Charles being affected. I guess because he’s my “little brother” I long to protect him from this hardship. He’s single and doesn’t have a high income. If HD impacts his life within the next few years, it will wreck the balance of his world.

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, April 6, 2012

"A Field of Flowers"

The seed    
planted deep into the warm womb     
protected by shell and earth     
softens under ground     
as skies weep and weep     
it feeds upon itself     
drawing upon stored energy     
until a fragile spout forms     
roots, like fairy hair, seek purchase     
they hold tightly to the nurturing mother     
confident of her care    
the shoot breaks into sunshine     
unfolds tender leaves     
trusting in the gentleness of spring     
when killing frosts    
sheltered from whips of wind    
buds bloom    
into the glorious promise of life     
sprinkled with morning dew     
blossoming with hope     
for a field of flowers     

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Thursday, April 5, 2012

"The Ride" The World's Steepest Roller Coaster   

We stand together, our eyes fixated on the ride ahead     
The interminable line snakes before us, but we enter anyway     
Attracted by the lure of excitement and risk     
Waiting with false patience for our future,     
we sing, tell stories, people watch—       
Pushing aside insecurities and fears with jokes         

One step forward, one step forward, one step forward     
until we stand at the gateway     
We feel the ground tremor, hear the hiss of breaks     
Too late to turn back now, too late for second thoughts     
The harness clamps us into space     
bare feet dangle, trying to find purchase in the sky     
We trust technology,     
shove aside panic; focus upon anticipation and thrill     

Velocity throws us headlong     
We twist, turn—upside down, sideways, backwards     
Screams and laughter bend with the momentum     
Our muscles constrict in tension     
Our stomachs slide into our throats     
Our heads explode with pressure        
But there’s no getting off this ride     
We have to see it through     

Eyes clenched tightly closed while fingers grip the bars     
we survive the first onslaught and prepare for the second     
Uncontrollable laughter bubbles out—      
floats on the manufactured winds of speed     
Peaking eyes open, we see the end is near     
Triumph whoops     
Fists punch air     

Teasing each other over our doubts,     
we regain footing on the platform       
where we dance with victory,     
we celebrate our survival     
Overlooking headaches and nausea,     
we look for the entrance of the next ride     

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

“Stay in Today”

         In the past, I loved my ability to plan ahead. Every week at work, I’d prepare a list of goals:  Grade essays (two class sets per day), file student work, call dj for dance, reorganize closet. My list making continued at home. I memorized the grocery store, making my list in order so I could swing through the aisles at warp speed. I jotted down goals for paying off debts and objectives for dropping weight. I projected into the future with a six month, one year, and five year plan. Sometimes, with my vision so focused upon tomorrow, I think I missed some of the delights of the present.
         The turn my life has taken this last fifteen months means I’ve faced the challenge of changing my mindset. Each morning I write down the date in my journal, and then my major goal:  STAY IN TODAY.
         On the surface, this seems a simple target, but for me it’s horrendously difficult. On the days I do well, I find I have infinite patience. I don’t pressure myself under the weight of all of the unknowns of tomorrow. Instead, I focus on stripping the beds, flipping Mom’s pancakes, brushing the dogs’ teeth, and planning dinner. I look at the bills and pay whatever’s in the stack and avoid the worry about what may destroy our budget six months down the road. I doggedly place one foot in front of the other and give myself a mental shake whenever I start to slip beyond today
         When I successfully STAY IN TODAY, I relax. I take a moment to listen to bird call or appreciate the sun as it dapples the back yard. I linger over words when I write. I laugh aloud at Everybody Loves Raymond even if I’ve seen the episode one-hundred times because my mother giggles the antics of Ray. I remember to say, “I love you” and “Thank you” and to cherish the unending support I get from my husband.
         Old habits, though, break down slowly. Last night my mind flitted into tomorrow’s possibilities, and insomnia hit. I’d forgotten that when I delve into “what ifs” I find sleep difficult. My imagination created scenarios of events unfolding over which I’ve limited control. It wove tension into my stomach and pounded uncertainty into my head. I found myself wondering why my inventiveness at night turns to the darkest paths of pessimism. Eventually, I envisioned all of the troubles that may loom ahead, and one-by-one I placed them into a bright yellow box. I sealed the lid tightly and tucked it up on a shelf. Sleep embraced me almost immediately
         And so I find myself feeling sluggish this morning. I’m a little peeved with myself at falling back into my old pattern because trying to project into tomorrow holds too many unknowns and wastes energy that I need now. When I picked up my journal, I neatly placed in the date and bold block letters: STAY IN TODAY!  

I'm learning to "Stop and smell the roses!"
First blossom this year in our back yard
Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"Mother's Clone"

cradled gently in her arms     
Mother bends her head close to Child     
her finger feathers the pure smooth cheek     
her hair becomes a sheltering shield     
protecting them from prying eyes     
in syncopation Mother and Child breathe     
one without the womb     

Mother’s eyes mist as Child’s hair darkens     
her mouth becomes a rigid line    
when bluish eyes turn brown     
her voice takes on ice     
when others note differences   
in syncopation Mother and Child breathe     
one without the womb     

Mother’s heart hardens     
her Child wields her wayward will     
with terrible temper tantrums      
fists and teeth and legs fighting     
struggling against Mother’s programming     
in syncopation Mother and Child breathe     
one without the womb     

desperation drives Mother’s dissatisfaction     
she tethers Child with demands     
her fears feed phobias and fictional afflictions     
her disappointment distorts her love     
her rejection rips through Child     
in syncopation Mother and Child breathe     
one without the womb   
Mother and Child stab and wound     
pushing and pulling in tangled bindings     
never severing the umbilical cord     
they dance in macabre madness     
enmeshed and ensnared within their love-hate trap     
in syncopation Mother and Child breathe     
one without the womb   

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Monday, April 2, 2012

"Golden Son"

Told from the moment of your birth, you’re the Golden Son   
Praised for petty acts and deeds, you’re mother’s Special One   
Worshipped within your family, you learn bold conceit   
Playing games you can’t win, you begin to cheat   
Your skill in charming others often leads to sly lies   
Forcing others to view you through your mama’s eyes   
Cocky and self-centered, you use people in your life   
    Manipulating others helps you avoid strife
Adultery entices you, it’s part of your game   
Interchangeable parts—all women are the same  
Unhappiness follows your steps, even when you run     
You can’t help the hearts you break, you’re the Golden Son   

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

All of us know a "Golden Son" either through personal or professional relationships.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

“Sunshine at Leakey”

         Every time we pack up for a cabin trip, the dogs watch with great anticipation. They eagerly await the command to get into the back seat of the car. Once on our way, they sit at attention through most of the ride. For Bridget and Koi, the cabin means twenty-six acres of personal territory where they can roam and explore.
         Yesterday, the noon sun gleamed against rock and scrub, bleaching out the wildflowers while casting shadows with harsh, sharp lines. While David and Mom visited inside, the dogs and I hiked up the back hill, meandering along the deer trail. I paused only long enough to snap a picture, slowed down only when descending along the rocky path.

         Later in the afternoon, Mom ventured out for her own hike. Zigzagging between rocks embedded in the driveway and road, David maneuvered Mom’s wheelchair down the steep hill. He took her over to the new poles. A few months ago, one of our “neighbors” asked for Mom to sign release forms to tap into the electricity on our property. Our pole wasn’t the closest tap-in point, but another landowner had refused this man’s request. Remembering how nice the owners to the ranch abutting our property had been years ago in giving right-of-way, Mom agreed to help out the next electricity link. Eventually, this man hopes to build a home and live permanently on his acreage.
         We keep a journal at the cabin, and I took a moment to jot down the details of our visit when we came back from our walk. The previous entry, dated six months before, made me realize once again that we need to make this trek more often.
         Within four hours, Mom decided she didn’t want to spend the night. Although I longed for an evening of star watching and a morning of soft light for photography, I knew that Mom’s request to return home needed to be honored. Every time we make it to Leakey with Mom, I fear it may be her final visit. I want to keep these trips positive and pleasant. We quickly cleaned, organized, and reloaded the car.
         Bridget and Koi, tuckered from their sunny hikes, settled immediately into sleep once the car rolled down the drive. I know, though, that they’ll be on the watch for signs of another trip to the cabin.


 Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman