Friday, March 21, 2014


            A long week.
            And I’m not whining or complaining about the events of the last five days, but just observing that my life has smoothed so much over the last few months that even the smallest pebble thrown into the pond’s silky surface now sends rings and ripples. And because my days flow effortlessly one into the other, these small disturbances remind me of just how wonderful life is right now.
            Monday morning started with a phone call from David. The local police had pulled him over because we’d forgotten to have the hybrid inspected! Now, it wasn’t just a little overdue. It had expired the end of January. David backtracked to our local dealership and was waiting for them to take the care in for inspection. He’d received a ticket and a court date, and I could tell he felt irritated because we’d remembered to get the car’s plates during the same month. Usually, I’m on top of things like this. Although I rarely drive this car, I’d taken it all the way to Bay City and back without noticing the expired sticker. We’d driven all around San Antonio and taken several day trips, so we’ve decided to count ourselves lucky that the ticket happened close to home where showing a receipt for the inspection will mean a small fine.
            Also on Monday, I had my annual mammogram. As I filled out the questionnaire, I checked “NO” responses down the entire page. This was only a check-up, and I felt gratitude that nothing was wrong. While I sat in the interior waiting room in my “open-to-the-front” smock, I talked to another woman. There was a suspicious spot that they wanted to take a closer look at. She sat, at taut wire, vibrating anxiety. I’ve used the same imaging center for twenty years, and I told her the technicians and doctors were extremely cautious. That one time I had a shadowy spot that they wanted to examine closer. This woman, probably in her sixties, revealed that this was only the second time in her life that she’d had a mammogram because the first one hurt so much. She commented that the technician today was extra gentle and had taken time to relax her before preforming the scan. I wished the woman luck as I headed into the imaging room. And when I started chatting with the specialist, I told her of the other woman’s compliment on the kindness she’d shown. I reminded her that she’d done my annual screening for years and had never once hurt me—so I have absolutely no negative association with getting this test done. Just a small compliment, but I could tell it made this woman feel confident in the importance of her attitude and personality for her job.
            On Wednesday, I trekked over to have my eye exam. Where I can have the daylights squeezed out of my breasts without being flustered, having my eyes checked makes me nervous. I’ve had difficulty finding a doctor I like, but last year I finally found someone close by, on my insurance, and likeable. I hate the ever present question, “Which is better—1 or 2?” when both choices suck. This doctor will preface that acknowledgement, “Both of these are bad, but which one do you like better?” And he doesn’t mind my “show me again” routine and my mumbled “they are both blurred” gets met with “pick the one that you like better.” This young doctor oozes patience and acts like he has all the time in the world to let me flip back-and-forth between the slides. I know that some of my anxiety stems from years of going in for check-ups to find that my vision has changed dramatically, but this year I didn’t even need a new prescription. With Huntington’s disease, the eyes sometimes are where uncontrolled movement begins. So when this doctor tells me everything’s fine, I feel overwhelming relief.
            Thursday, my “No Chore” day, began with Koi barfing over the bed—hitting the bedspread, sheets, mattress cover and floor. So everything had to be stripped and washed. Then my son needed to run a few errands and I went along to a circuit that included Best Buy, Target and Walmart. Eventually, he decided on the best purchase, but we needed to swap out the RX8 for the station wagon. As we crossed the front lawn, he commented, “You’ll probably need to stop for gas,” and I agreed. But once I started the old car, the gas gauge read a quarter of a tank—plenty of fuel to make the short roundtrip we planned. The entire ride to the shopping center showed the same reading for my fuel. We bought the item and I pulled the car to the front of the store so the clerk could help us load it into the back of the wagon.
            And nothing happened.
            The car wouldn’t start. In all of the years I’ve driven, I’ve never run out of gas, but I knew that claim had met its end. It didn’t take long before some snippy customer sat behind me, honking with irritation before creeping by and giving me the funk-eye. The second car was a nicer woman who stopped to see if we needed anything.  I didn’t want to sit in front of the store, so we pushed the car into a parking slot far enough away to keep any other customers out of my hair. I tried starting the car again, and this time the gauge didn’t even budge. So it was my turn to call my husband with car news. He didn’t pick up his cell phone right away and he didn’t pick up his desk phone, so it took a while before I let him know I needed gas. The good thing about having car troubles in a strip mall is that there’s plenty of places to walk to, so I ran over to Subway to purchase giant sodas since the cool Texas morning began to heat up.
            “Maybe I should try one more time,” I suggested after waiting about ten minutes. I figured it the car was sitting level now (not at an angle like the earlier spot). And that little difference was enough for the engine to start and keep running. I eased across the parking lot and headed to the roads that encircled the strip mall, coasting through stop signs to keep us going, and eventually cutting across parking lots in case the engine died again. We hooted in triumph when I swung into the gas station on fumes.
            And so this morning I find myself thankful that it’s Friday. I think back on previous years when our weekly adventures included going forty-eight hours without sleep or making mad dashes to the emergency room. I remember every day back then being so difficult. I can’t forget what it felt to live in survival mode. All of this week’s events and mishaps remind me of how much our lives have simplified. And it’s all good.
Copyright 2014 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Monday, March 17, 2014

Missing Ireland

Christ Church Cathedral
Dublin, Ireland


           When the day’s troubles weigh me down, Ireland calls to me. I hear the lilt of her voice over the drudgery of my days. In a second, I time travel back to Dublin’s streets where we dodge cars and raindrops in pursuit of museums and castles, where I hear the wild tales of Viking conquerors. I’m stretched out on cool sheets, with windows thrown open to the soft laughter of children in a park, dreaming of a magical past. I’m sleeping in the castle where Bram Stoker once lived. And I’m writing a novel in my head.
In Trim, we experience the arms-wide-open hospitality of our hosts, and the loveliness of long idle walks through the ancient cemetery. We skirt around the River Boyne’s treasures. The ancient burial mounds gentled by time, pique my creativity. Another poem, another story, another world to create. Newgrange and Tara, passages into my own imagination. From the parapets of ancient Trim Castle, I view rolling hills dressed in a patchwork of green. Clamoring down the steep circular stairs, I become the servant or the soldier. On another day, from the mist, steps a Frenchman with the key to another adventure. And we enter Ireland’s womb, hear her heartbeat, embrace her warmth as she shelters us from autumn’s cold tears. Over hot tea, we chat with locals before walking through gardens filled with ageless yews. The rain pats softly, now, against our umbrellas.
Our travels take us on, toward the coast and the music of Doolin. Mingled with voices, fiddles, and guitars comes the murmur of the Atlantic. Her song blends with bird and man in perfect harmony. On the Burren, we scramble across rock, zigzag along the coast, and stand on the edge of the world. With ocean spray slapping our faces, we cross over to Aran Island, spending our day in a buggy, our horse on his last trip before retirement, our driver born to this island of rock wall and small pastures. With pride, he introduces us to his dog, and takes us by his cottage before leaving us at the pub. Our “ride” home takes us to the Cliffs of Moher, where my heart aches over the beauty. Our nights fill with food, drink, and song from the local pubs. Our mornings with bright breakfast talk from others who want Ireland as their mistress, too.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Trim Castle on the River Boyne at Trim, Ireland

Aran Island, Ireland

View from the top of Knowth, Ireland

Approaching the Cliffs of Moher