It Happened that Thursday

Thursday, October 19, 2017.  3:22 PM.

The cheery jingle of an arriving text message caused no alarm. Just another afternoon heading home from campus. Youngest sister checking in. I glance at the phone while the car cools down. Falling below 80 degrees in October is always the hope by Floridians, but jack-o-lanterns turning mushy in Florida heat and humidity is the reality.

Text Message You need to call me now.Ready to head home, I begin steering the car out of its space  and head toward the main road. Her words stop me:  “Mom just called. You guys need to call me now.”

I dial the phone. Her shaky voice does not hide her concern. I can feel it: Life was changing in the instant. An ordinary instant, indeed.

Looking back, rereading the messages, I see the irony now:  The text message arrived at 3:22 from a sister born on 3/22. What were the chances?

Little did I know what was about to happen. But it did that Thursday afternoon. I waited patiently for my husband to arrive home. A rare business day in Jacksonville had him on the road, now rushing while phoning my mother for details.

6:20 PM:  a text to my sisters – We’re on the way.

The hour+ drive felt like eternity. Heading east, darkness engulfs the remaining orange slivers of the setting sun as we drive toward the coast. Heavy rain threatens to slow us down. I think about Mother Nature feeling the loss as Bob slips quietly away in the sterile bed that will comfort him in his final sleep.

Heavy traffic shows no mercy as tired commuters, oblivious to our pain and determination, push toward home. Our wish to arrive quickly to the place protecting him as he dies slowly matters not to fellow drivers.

7:36 PM:  A smiling security guard welcomes us and asks that we empty pockets, open bags, and obtain badges. He is here – business as usual. We are here – anything but business as usual.  We are here because life is happening on this Thursday. We offer weak smiles and a pleasant thank you for his service.

A short elevator ride delivers us to the third floor. Doors open. We are greeted by locked doors protecting patients in the most critical moments of life, and their families who wait anxiously, hoping for the best, uncertain of what comes next. Beyond those doors we will see Bob, detached from life support, waiting for his body to quietly succumb to his failing heart for the last time.

His sister and cousin are there when we enter the room. His chest rises and falls. I want to close his gaping mouth. He looks like he’s napping and could catch flies. I smile. He looks peaceful, probably for the first time in a long time. Living with his wife, my mother, has been his hell for the past few years. We had no idea how badly until recent months. He is ready to go to the place where his wife of 43 years waits for him. Later that evening I learn that she died on October 20, 2011 after a battle with cancer. Bob is waiting until the hour he can join her. We are sure of it.

people sitting in hospital roomFor the next several hours, as shifts change and families go home for rest, we sit in chilly ICU room 305, as machines hum and beep. Nurses stop in frequently to check on us. Bob breathes softly as my two sisters, husband and I share stories about our times with him. We laugh at how much he loved to check in to this boutique hospital, just down the street from his home. In recent months, he would arrive with a book and his order for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He raved about their soups. Have you tried the soup? he’d ask with a big grin. It’s delicious! Come on! Order a bowl.. it’s on me! 

He’s been a part of our family for only four years, but his gruff Queens disposition juxtaposed with his unending kindness for others has left an indelible mark on our hearts. A grandpa to my nephews and niece, a step-father to my sisters and me, a father-in-law to our husbands, and a volunteer and philanthropist to many, Bob was kind, tolerant, patient, and generous beyond words. Now, as our hearts hold him close, his heart is ready to go. We reminisce, sharing things we know would make him laugh.  We suspect he can hear us. We hope that he can. We hope that he is feeling how much we love him, appreciate him, and will miss him. He and Laura never had children. We became his family in our short time together.

By 1:00 AM, knowing it’s the date he’s been holding out for, we are torn:  Do we stay or do we go and return in the morning? Vital signs indicate slow progression as his body moves closer to death.  We struggle with what to do. Finally, we decide to head home and return early in the morning.

Man lies in hospital bedAs my sisters step out and my husband comforts them at the door, I reach over and place my hand on Bob’s hand. I tell him I will miss him. I sob. I know this is the last time I will see him in life. His hand flinches. I gasp. And smile. I squeeze his arm in return. I’m certain I felt his hand flinch. He was letting me know things will be okay, that he knew we were there, that we loved him and would miss him. I felt sure at that moment that he really knew how much he meant to us, to me.

Friday, October 20, 2017.  11:16 AM.

As the elevator doors open, we are once again greeted by the now-familiar ICU locked doors, keeping death and sadness inside as the world passes by.  We are buzzed in to the solemn space. We learn that Bob took his final breath a little before 10:00 AM, near the time his long-time wife did just six years before. Now it is he who rests in peace, leaving us to figure things out. Little do we know how life altering that will be….

Joan Didion wrote in her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, “Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.” She reflects on the loss of her husband who suffered a heart attack as the two ate together.

Sitting by a windowShe is right. Life changes in the instant. Pain and sadness not withstanding, life continues on, though. Bills must be paid. Houses cleaned. Widows looked after. Roofs repaired because hurricanes don’t care that homeowners are sick and dying. In the weeks that followed Bob’s death, I feel like I grew up, in spite of already being 50. It was a life altering time for me, for us. As the country celebrated Thanksgiving, we sought respite as we tried to figure things out…

Fast-forward one year.

Man sits at dinner tableIn the months following Bob’s passing, I’ve heard him in my ear so many times, telling me to remember this, do that…  and I smile. It was he who told me in the sweltering July of 2015 to make a decision: Business or hobby? You decide! And so I did. I’ve often said in his absence how much I’ve continued to learn from him, as though he’s guiding me.

Thank you, Bob. I miss you greatly. I appreciate all that you brought to our family in the short time you were with us.

It happened that Thursday in October. Life changed in the instant. Indeed.

Of All the Places….

a handwritten poem in a journal

 

of all the

places,

i remember it

best.

 

 

 

our house

on the corner –

suburban Miami

circa 1970s:

3 bedrooms.

long hallway.

“florida” room.

tall

heater

on

the

living room

wall.

a front porch

for making

mud pies.

sunday dinners

on

the

homemade table.

jumping fish.

spilled spaghetti….

slid

right

off

the

plate!

boy, was mom

mad!

nail polish

in

the

carpet.

a bunny

(and his poo!)

in.the.house.

a dog

playing

in

our

yard.

pulling weeds

every

weekend.

cleaning

the

bathroom.

my bedroom

with

corner windows.

always

rearranging

my

books.

lots of books.

writing.

lisa t

lived across

the street

and one house

over.

cute mark,

her older brother.

his lisp

made him cuter!

terriann and

her little sister

lived

across and behind.

not so cute.

indeed.

riding

our

bikes.

teaching

gran

to ride.

a dark,

rainy

night

that

brought

thieves.

lawnmower

stolen

right out

of

the

neighbor’s

shed!

a normal life

then….

a real neighborhood:

neighbors.

playing

outside

‘til dark.

friends.

a safe backyard

complete with

playhouse —

adorned with

windows and

flowers.

a mom.

a dad.

a little sister.

{before there were two}

pets.

chores.

laughing.

fighting.

celebrations.

arguments.

getting

in

trouble.

on

restriction. . . .

a

wooden

paddle!

summer

camp.

.

.

.

of all the

places,

i remember it. . . . .

best.

 

~ Robin Le Roy-Kyle

January 15, 2017

 

The Poetry We Live

magnetic words on a fridge
Daily Inspiration….

I often stand at our fridge, looking at the dozens of words, all magnetized and waiting to be noticed, moved, and meshed into a poem or story. I wait to see what jumps out at me – combinations of words that take on a life of their own. A few months ago, four words stood out – each in its own place on the fridge, but each needing to be moved closer to the others. Here’s what they said:

The

poetry

we

live.

I moved them close together. Gave them their own space. Those four words have been there every day since, each time catching my eye when I walk by… and every time, I think, “What will the art look like that gets these words?” 

Truth is – I can’t limit those four words to one piece of art. Every day something happens, and I think, The poetry we live….

Recently, a dear friend texted to tell me her Dad was just diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. She knew our family had been through the cancer fight two short years ago and that I’d understand. I do. Sort of. I cried when I read her message. Stage 4 is devastating. She told me a few days later that they are fighting ’til the end. Fight the Good Fight, my friend. Fight the Good Fight. I thought to myself… The poetry we live.  And then I prayed.

Then last Sunday, I met up with a friend for coffee. While we chatted, I began to think, The poetry we live…. I could feel it in the words we spoke and see it in the people around us – rushing in, waiting for their coffee, checking their phones, hugging friends, and heading out into the gray Sunday weather…. It was kind of surreal, actually.

Fast-forward to today….  I was working on a piece of art for my mom. She sent me a picture of my youngest sister (grown woman with 3 kiddos) and her pig. Yes, pig! In the picture, my sister has recently returned home from shopping and flung her bags down in an adjacent chair. She leans over to pet her beloved pig. And I swear, the pig is smiling….  

You see, she (my sister, not the pig), after fighting cancer, decided to work on her Bucket List, which apparently included living on a farm/property with lots of animals, along with her husband and children. They are crazy-happy. As I neared completion of the first draft of the watercolor rendering, I thought to myself, The poetry we live….. And I smiled… 🙂

magnetic words on a fridge - the poetry we live
Daily thoughtfulness…

And so it goes – our lives are filled with poetry we write each day – those moments we live …. aware or not…. happy or not … all contributing to our story.

Have a great evening, friends… and — go live your poetry.

r.

 

Sunday Funnies… {Happy Mother’s Day 2016}

iphone text message about mom
credit: quotesgram.com

Happy Mother’s Day! Have an awesome Sunday! 

🙂

People and Boundaries…

a line drawn in the sand
credit: flickr.com

My early morning writing time was consumed today with this topic, rolling around in my head for a while now….

It’s a funny thing about people and boundaries.

Learning when to push in and when to step back is a necessary process, but a fragile balance, indeed.

Whether family, friends, coworkers, or others – respecting boundaries – the proverbial line in the sand – is critical to….. what?  Maintaining relationships? Maintaining your sanity? Both? Probably.

I’ve spent a lot of time this school year understanding this process better. As an Instructional Coach working with fellow teachers, both seasoned and new, I’ve had to learn my timeline is not others’ timeline and my expectations have to take a backseat to others’ expectations, if they’re working to figure things out. And even if they aren’t, it’s still not my place to determine when to push in (which used to be incredibly challenging for me!).

I’ve also learned that when people are ready, they will ask. It may not be me, it may not be a direct question that contains the words ‘help, support, or assist,’ but when people are ready, they seek out who and what they need. Most of us do, don’t we?

Professionally (and in most ways personally, I believe) I’m okay with asking for help. I like to think I’m fairly resourceful, so ‘help’ may be from people in my life, but often from people I don’t know – authors of books, blogs, magazine & newspaper articles, etc…. I count on their expertise, their experience, their objectivity – to help me make sense out of that which vexes me.

Then there are the people we love. Talk about vexing us! They may or may not be birth or blood family, but they are ours. And…. we love them in spite of all their stuff. To be clear, that doesn’t mean we condone their choices, but it does mean we understand they must live their life.

I’ve had to learn that this particular group of people is the group that requires my most vigilance. You see, I think when we love someone, we want the best for them so we’re willing to jump in – no matter what – to help them, support them, even fix them.

But guess what? They are just like us – only willing to get help, support, or fixing when they feel they need it. Frustrating, right? We see their actions as harmful, hurtful, painful, even dangerous in some instances.

Truth is, there have probably been times when they (or others) saw the same in us. And while it drove them crazy, they did not push in because they knew (either instinctively or we told them!), to stay the hell out of our stuff!

So here we are – faced with this dilemma: push in or step back. Painful as it is, pushing in doesn’t guarantee the outcome we hope for.

It’s a funny thing about people and boundaries…..

Mocking my Insomnia…{Six Word Wednesday}

credit: jelly.org.uk

His hearty snores mock my insomnia.

What’s your story in six today? 

Sunday Funnies… {Peeling the Perspectives}

My husband and I approach things very differently. (I’m pretty sure we’re not the only couple who’d say this.) But our end result is often the same – from the outcome of a task to a location we’re heading…

Case in point:  How to peel a Halo. Recently, we each had one, and when I scooped up the skins to throw away, I got distracted and set them down on my way through the kitchen. (Shocker, he’d tell you!)  Anyway… when I walked back through to grab the orange skins and toss them, I couldn’t help but chuckle. Take a look for yourself:

 Orange Skins on Kitchen Counter

 

He:   the neatnik

Me:  the proverbial 12-year-old boy… a little messy….  😉

Have an awesome Sunday! 

Come on Down!

The Price is Right Game Show Contestant Plays High/Low
credit: reminisce.com, circa 1978

Ever have one of those moments when a breeze, a song, or a smell reminds you of a time and place that’s faint in memory, but vivid in your heart?  Everything else around you falls away and in that moment, you’re transported back in time.

That happened to me this week. During an extraordinarily hectic day at work, I decided to step off campus and head around the corner to the little Chinese restaurant. A quiet lunch where no one knew my name was the respite I needed. While waiting for my food, decompressing, and fiddling with my phone (what did we do before mobile devices??), I realized I was hearing a familiar song…..

And just like that – I was taken back to Miami 40+ years ago. I remembered watching The Price is Right every day with my mom. Guests were welcomed to the front, “Sylvia, come on down! You’re the next contestant on The Price is Right!” boomed the voice from somewhere overhead. The crowd would clap excitedly for the guest as she ran toward the stage, arms usually flailing and a big grin announcing her excitement. Bob Barker would welcome the guest and start the next round….  Remember??

As I sat there, enchanted by this momentary mix of the cool breeze coming through the glass door propped open, the bright sunlight dancing on the tables, and the familiar music playing happily from the TV, the next guest ran toward the stage, and I wondered…. This show is still on?? How long has it been on the air? In an age where most things with lots of history are fading away, this show continues to air daily on a major network. “When did it begin?” I wondered. With a click on my phone, I learned the daytime version of The Price is Right began in 1972, hosted by Mr. Barker until 2007, when Drew Carey took the stage.

According to a quick Internet search, “The Price Is Right is the only game show franchise to be seen nationally in either first-run network or syndication airings in the U.S. in every decade from the 1950s onward. It first aired in 1956 in its original format.”

As I sat there thinking back to those days as a little girl watching The Price is Right with my mom, I couldn’t help but smile and of course, try to guess the closest dollar amount… like we did all those years ago in our Miami home, when life seemed so simple.