February 12, 2013 — The wind rattled the windows all night and kept me awake. My head rested on my pillow while inside a corps of Valentine’s blog posts whirled in the corners of my mind like dust devils. The choreography wasn’t right, the arrangement and rearrangement of words; I dozed, the windows rattled, I awakened: the syncopated music of the wind. All I composed tripped short of truth; my mind kept dancing around it. The ball was over, the gown rested on the chair, the cavalier had left the rose. It lay in the dim lamplight inside my mind, wilting, the deep blood-red edges of the petals crisping. I listened to the two striking clocks in the house toll the hour, and the next and the next hour.
Setting back the clocks to standard time last fall, I had turned the hands of Emma’s grandfather clock back rather than taking the time to wind it forward eleven hours. Now it strikes an hour short. I don’t know how to fix that. Is there some lesson here about wishing to go back in time to correct the past or to that one hour of life that was perfection?
So the two clocks are not synchronized. The only way to achieve clock synchronicity – resolving their striking the same correct hour simultaneously is through much thought, effort, and yes, a willingness to give time.
Synchronicity – my definition: a simultaneous occurrence of events, although with no discernable cause, logically previous thoughts and actions are the cause matured simultaneously to produce the effect.
With or without the presence of clocks, time passed this night. If you want to make time pass faster, bundle it, writes Nobel laureate author Orhan Pamuk, a writer of deep thought and density. Daylight came bundled in woolly gray clouds spilling rain down my bedroom bay windowpanes like profuse tears.
I arose, padded down to the kitchen and made coffee. I poured my coffee, added half and half, cinnamon and nutmeg, placed a homemade scone on a little plate and headed upstairs. Yes, I, not a baker because I never measure ingredients exactly, have learned how to make scones. Although not the perfection of my friend Bettielou’s scones, I make them with Bisquick, toss in some dried cranberries and black walnuts, stick them in the oven for ten minutes, et ici sur la plat – a scone.
Carrying my Delaware Wild Lands coffee mug, that I was given when I wrote a magazine story on that nonprofit, and my little plate holding its marvelous scone, I climbed the narrow winding staircase out of the kitchen up to my studio.
I sat at my computer and took refuge in my music. What to write for my Valentine’s blog, I mused. I sipped my coffee and bit into the scone.
Last year on Valentine’s Day I had received a furry Valentine, the traveling visitor cat I named Keats. He arrived on that blustery, snowy yet tender night just before Valentine’s Day, and stayed, until a few weeks after Emma’s death, just as long as I needed him. Then he returned to his family, I guess, for, still wearing his sage green collar with which he arrived, he went out one evening after dinner and I saw him no more. This year I have no Valentine; that is, no cat, no man, not even a man who owns a cat.
My Valentine gift this year, though, came through many persons – my author profile in our local newspaper: Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times. It is quite a nice story and through that and my related book signing at our downtown First Friday event February 1 – for my Begins the Night Music: A Dementia Caregiver’s Journal, Volume I – I sold a number of books. Not bad for a small town. Moreover, I received encouraging comments from fellow writers around the world. Presently I am working on Volume II, To What Green Altar, and expect to publish it in a few weeks.
At the same time (one might term it synchronicity), someone, without reading past the fold in my email, dressed me down one morning, prematurely emitting a razor-edged response slashing writing, and for that matter, reading, as worthless, self-serving stimulation, as no more than a constant rearrangement of words, like alphabet soup, meaningless to help others, climaxing as sleep inducing; and saying in effect, who cares? This wounded me deeply and will take a long time to heal, if ever completely. I trusted this person as one whom I perceived interested in what I thought and said. My mistake. That’ll keep this cat out of the kitchen.
My friend R sutured and dressed my wound. The next day the wound opened like a fissure during an earthquake and R re-sutured it. The Phantom of My Blog, Moriarty, passed by the open door at that juncture, glanced in and turned whiter than his normal shade of pale. He grasped the doorframe, leaned his forehead against it a moment, and then went on. He could not bear to face the mincemeat heart and the trampled spirit. Moriarty may have nudged me over the edge once, but he doesn’t get off on abuse.
Writing, the thoughtful expression of experiences or imagination in words, helps and comforts others. What if we all just stood around mute as if to say, “Hey. That’s your problem. Deal.”
Later, a member of our LinkedIn writers group wrote that she couldn’t understand why Hospice let a close relative in the final stage of cancer suffer, starved him and why he couldn’t be euthanized to end his suffering. From my experience with Emma and with my stepfather, who died of stomach cancer, both under Hospice care, I replied that Hospice’s mission is to make the patient comfortable, increasing morphine dosage as needed. When you are dying, I wrote, your body shuts down; all the organs shut down gradually. Hospice and doctors do not starve the patient. In that state, too much food would overwhelm the patient’s body. Near to death, one can survive on a very small bit of food every two or three days. Emma’s Hospice doctor and nurses reiterated this.
Next, I welcomed a woman writer to our LinkedIn group who had been caregiver to three people. This woman had questions of frustration and guilt, as many caregivers do. I address this subject when presenting my book to caregivers’ organizations. I told her these feelings are a normal part of the caregiving experience. In turn other writers in our group expressed their compassion and shared the wisdom gained from their caregiving experiences. Our discussion group that I started a year ago now has 5,400 postings from around the world. So, through our writing, we’re helping someone. Caregivers need someone to tell, someone to write it to; no one else will listen; they find it tiresome. We listen unconditionally and give support.
I can only write from the level of wisdom and craft I have achieved. From that station I hope my thoughts and words help, through knowledge, compassion or just plain entertainment. As I experience, practice and become more enlightened, I will write from that higher station. All I ask is that you read below the fold before prematurely emitting a response and then falling asleep.
Sometimes through journalism a chance to physically help arises. I have encountered such situations and have taken action as I could, mostly through writing a newspaper or magazine story. I truly hope my actions and words help others. That is my sole mission. I act spontaneously, without thought of return.
Anderson Cooper, in the midst of reporting on the Haitian earthquake, dropped his camera and ran to pull a bleeding child out of danger during a shooting. I witnessed this event on TV. The child had been hit on the head by a concrete slab thrown from a roof. Cooper saw it happen.
Cooper said, “Some journalists like to be strictly observers, they don’t intervene, they don’t participate, they just document what they see, even if what they see is terrible. But the way I see it, journalists don’t exist in a vacuum. They are human beings, living and working in a very human environment. And that humanity is essential in relating to their stories. When you lose your humanity, you lose any kind of journalistic integrity you have left.”
My point. When you lose your humanity, you are a voyeur to the suffering of others. I consider that selfish.
Leo Tolstoy said, if you help one other person, you are helping the world. Maybe words provide for you simply an escape into a good novel, or a great television series, such as “Downton Abbey,” superbly written by Julian Fellowes. Writers will tell you that you can put more truth in fiction than you can in nonfiction. Storytelling is as old as humankind. Any writer will tell you that if he or she is prevented from writing he or she will explode. You do not want to be around a writer who is prevented from writing, trust me on this one.
Who cares what you read and write as long as your heart is in the right place.
Happy Valentine’s Day, R.