Monday, August 31, 2020

 Your Opinion? Is Anyone Listening Anyway?



This age - “Hey, what about my opinion?” - is a bit overwhelming at times, especially when points of view are splattered all over social media at breakneck speed. I am exhausted by it all – thus this piece.        


It took a long time, but Marjorie finally became mute. For years she had blabbered on about what she thought. The topic at hand didn’t matter, the subject matter really was unimportant, and the person to whom she was speaking was the least of her worries. No matter what, she always had something superfluous to add to any conversation, even when she wasn’t invited into the verbal exchange. If a dialogue caught her ear, even when she didn’t know one iota about the subject at hand, even when she made things up, even when she flat-out lied, she would butt in just to hear the sound of her own voice and to bask in momentary glory that her words counted for something. Marjorie spoke up, interrupted, and disrupted, posing views that often had no basis in fact or experience, but rather were conjured notions she spouted out for one simple reason - she loved the resonance of her own pronouncements filling the air. And she puffed with importance when she thought her ideas garnered a bit of attention – positive or negative. 


            Actually, an individual’s agreement was all right, but disagreements were better; they stoked Marjorie’s enthusiasm for confrontation, her lust for altercations (frivolous or otherwise), and her inbred need for conflict. Disagreements of any kind fueled the very essence of who she was - and verbal clashes became an outlet for anger and hostility that had lain solid as a stone in her gut her whole life. The latter - rage and resentment - combined with a dismaying, amorphous sense of insecurity and self-doubt that she could never acknowledge existed, took its toll both on Marjorie and the poor souls who became entangled in her web of harsh, hateful ranting; her ridiculous need to instigate discord through a war of words was her weaponry of choice.


            That was all true until, at the age of seventy-six everything changed . . . slowly at first, in the forgetting of simple words, in the inability to follow directions, in the desire to stay home, and in the silent truth that other people frightened her. The interactions that, in the past, had energized her by stimulating her brain and challenging her logic, and the verbal exchanges that had breathed life into her very being, in short, painful, incremental passages of time became foreign to her. Distant memories remained, but when they appeared in her mind when she least expected it, she was, more often than not, horrified. Who was that woman? Who is she? Red-faced and snarling, with a mouth contorted in an ugly sneer, the woman shook her finger in the face of another, the exchange of spittle their only connection. Who is she? But Marjorie knew, and she was embarrassed; she was distraught; she was undone. And so, she became mute. It was a fateful choice, one that would see her through her final, tormented days when words hovered like shiny crystals in a brain that could not latch on to even one. Not one. 



Saturday, February 22, 2020

Going Down Memory Lane – An Avoidance Technique

Do you remember being ten? What were your hopes and dreams? What made your day? For me it was getting an A on the spelling quiz, not being left out of the friends’ circle at school, and being dared to walk barefoot through a Texas field filled with sticker plants without getting stuck. (To do so was a badge of honor.) It was petting the heads of horny toad lizards and avoiding my brother’s box of snakes; his joy was to catch them . . . and then simply admire. “Look at them. Aren’t the colors pretty?” he’d say, fawning over blue racers, ribbon snakes, and God only knows what others. I kept my distance, instead escaping the one hundred degree heat to sit on a shady porch with a girlfriend or two playing jacks or weaving potholders on small metal looms; my mother oohedand aahedwhen I presented her with my little creations. I won’t forget those moments; her love was deep, absolute, expressed in her eyes, in her smile, in a sticky bear hug.
            A few years later, when our family moved to Kentucky, I recall walking home alone from school on a broken, lopsided sidewalk being sure never to step on a crack – Step on a crack and break your mother’s back.Who, the hell, thought that oneup? But I remember as if it were yesterday. I can almost see the puffy, cumulus clouds overhead and feel the warm, spring breeze as I tripped carefully for several blocks toward our yellow house on Peachtree Street. Inside the kitchen, the one with the peanut butter-colored cabinets and pale, pink walls, my mother would greet me and ask about my day. We’d share a snack and peruse the wall where a map of the world (or, alternatively, the United States) hung - a lesson for the taking. My brother and I knew our geography well, I can assure, thanks to those huge, paper maps and to parents who provided us a key.
It was during this time that I happily became acquainted with the public library. I adored it – the smell, the crowded confines, the patrons (old and young), and the library ladies whose quiet energy had me in awe. I workedtherecovering old books with homespun jackets made from wallpaper scraps. Learning to crease the corners just rightbecame an art form, a rare talent all to itself. When my job was done, I wandered the rooms and aisles at the library - looking, touching, picking, and finally stepping up to the checkout desk with three, four, five books in hand. I was a voracious, young reader, anxious to go places and meet people who lived in worlds far different from mine. Reading - creating visual images in my mind, as real as life - was contentment for me. I suppose that is why I write today. Creating a scene or character using a random - or more likely, deliberate - combination of words on a blank page gives me a sense of satisfaction . . . and hope, too. Maybe someone else will envisage what I saw.
I could fill a volume with tidbits about my youth but I’m afraid I might be the only one interested in reviewing it all. A few presents stand out though, and I’ll mention those here. When I turned sweet sixteen, my present was a small, violet-colored, leather Bible - all my own. While I was not as attentive to the book as my mother might have wanted, I appreciated it anyway . . . and I still have it today. When I was seventeen my parents gifted me with enrollment in The Famous Writers’ School because I had atalentsomeonetold them. The school rep made his pitch, my folks paid the money, and I mailed in piece after piece, most returned corrected with red ink - rebuffs to my “gift”, but, oh well, I kept writing anyway. Most important to me was that someone believed I was worth it. (Oh, how I wish my parents could read my books now. Daddy saw only the first one before he died; he was so proud.) Lastly, when I graduated from high school, the present I received was a portable, Underwood, electric typewriter. Of course, a writer needed a typewriter, and I was thrilled. I pounded on that thing for years. And here I am now, on my computer doing much the same.
So why? I’m not likely to be discovered. No one knows who I am. But I love to write. Now that another novel is complete, I am making an effort to blog a bit more but even that has been difficult of late - resulting, I’m afraid, in this somewhat inane trip down memory lane. 
I’ve always insisted that a writer must write every day, but I’ve fallen into a hideous trap. Yep! I have had writer’s block. In my mind, I have quite a bit to say, but if I write what I’m thinking, it will result in a rant of words against a world that is angry, corrupt, divided, melancholy, and too often, simply mean. I’ve been in a state of mourning, really, because the life I have always cherished seems to be disappearing. It’s difficult to stay optimistic in a world, in a country, that faces a daunting, unpredictable future. So, I’ve avoided voicing my opinion. It’s safer somehow simply to recall easier times. Remembering is an escape and actually can be very enjoyable. And isn’t it odd what one remembers from childhood? My youth was not perfect; I suppose no one’s is, but it was relatively carefree - a much different time.
So today, rather than stomp my feet and curse at the world, I decided to look back and appreciate . . . and, yes I look forward, too, with tempered optimism. I have to believe the past is a catalyst for understanding where we have been and who we are, both the bad and the good. Surely, if we all can do that, humanity will find the right, the just, way to move forward. I dont want to give up hope.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

It’s All The Rage   

            I am compelled this morning to write about something that has been troubling me; it’s a phenomenon that I see as having crept into our society like a stray cat - and that’s not to infer a negative on felines of any kind. I love cats, but they can be unpredictable, their behavior at times impulsive and a bit fickle. And so is life, it seems.
         I don’t have a cat right now, though I have had many over the years. At this time, I have dogs - two, stunning German shepherds that I walk every day with my husband. We walk three miles a day, rain or shine; we see dogs, dogs, and more dogs, and we also observe many people, and a great deal of traffic . . . and that brings me to the issue that is troubling me. Let me explain.
         Not too long ago, I was on my own with the dogs - one a 105-pound male, the other a 66-pound female. They are a handful - or a “leash-full”. Yet, we manage, because they are smart; they obey. On this particular morning, I was crossing a busy street at the crosswalk with my six-foot, leather-leashed pups. I made it across with no problem before stepping into the crosswalk perpendicular to the one I had exited. It was early and the day was bright with the sun shining brightly. It felt good to be out and about . . . and our little trio was difficult to miss. However, after only five feet into the crosswalk, I was startled by a black SUV, the driver slamming on its brakes, the vehicle screeching to a halt, barely missing us. I stared, but said nothing. The driver, a young woman, rolled down her window and screamed at me, “You’re doing it the wrong way. You’re supposed to stop.” The female’s voice was harsh, her face scrunched in anger . . . at me, at my dogs, for crossing the street in a designated crosswalk. 
I shook my head, pulled my dogs closer, and retorted, “Oh for God’s sake.” I was so astonished I could articulate nothing more. I am sure the woman was shooting invisible daggers at me as I walked on, but so be it. My dogs and I fortunately were safe, and she, the poor gal, had had to stop. She was apt to have been five seconds behind schedule . . . but at least she didn’t have dead bodies to circumnavigate; furthermore, the shiny SUV was dent-free! 
But there’s more.
Just yesterday, my husband and I observed another near miss. We were half a block away from the same intersection where I had almost been stuck; a gentleman was ahead of us with a large, longhaired Collie and a smaller dog, perhaps an Australian shepherd or another dog of that ilk. We watched him enter the crosswalk and when he was more than halfway across the street, a black sedan screeched around the corner nearly hitting him and his dogs. The man staggered backwards with the dogs, and uttered a gasp, but he quickly moved along. He and his pets were safe, the car having missed them by only a foot or so.
The car angled around him and drove much too quickly down the road, passing us. I couldn’t resist mouthing, “Slow down,” as the car passed. My husband muttered something similar and we were “rewarded” with a young woman’s vile tirade. “F#!* you. Mind your own f#@*ing business.”
Just wow.
And here’s one more incident - I had arrived at my favorite, local market, grabbed a cart, and was almost through the entrance when I heard a commotion. Several,  “twenty-something”- year-old, young men had raised their voices at a vehicle driven by an older, grey-bearded fellow. The man’s car was squealing around the lot in pursuit of the younger men; he was aiming right toward them and they had to scamper away in order not to be hit. And, of course, the profanities flew. I am unsure of the details as to what precipitated this event, but apparently the old guy had thrown a paper cup filled with coke or coffee at the young men’s car as they exited. I assume there is more to the story, but the fact is that everyone involved was absolutely enraged, and bystanders were shocked, afraid there might really be bloodshed. 
So what is my point? Rage is rampant. Anger, for too many individuals, is only skin-deep, and it’s everywhere. One need only watch the nightly news, or, as in my case, step out the door, to discover how out of control some folks have become in recent months. People are acting and reacting in myriad random and unpredictable ways that make me think the world has gone bonkers. And maybe it has. 
Those among us, who appear to have a grasp of their emotions, tell us to “Be Kind”. Yes, we should. Be ye kind; do unto others as you would have done unto to you; if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.We could fill a page with such trite (though honorable) notions. Possibly those involved in the incidents I mentioned above would be first up with a fat, felt-tipped pen to offer the first “say”, or perhaps the last. For, if one thinks about their behavior, it appears every one of them proposed absolutely to have the last, enraged word when they lashed out at those they left in their wakes. 
Anger is not an unhealthy emotion, kept in check. Everyone gets ticked off now and then. It’s normal. Venting irrational venom, however, is toxic and I’m afraid, at some level, is poisoning us all. It’s pitiful pickle to brine in, isn’t it? It’s that reality - the fact that we cope in an angry world - that has been bothering me though. Thus this blog - for whatever it’s worth . . .  because this is the best way I know to vent.

Friday, January 24, 2020

The Blog Is Back In Action

I have neglected my blog for a good, long time. The reason for such a hiatus is simple: I have been wrapped up in completing my new novel that should be available on Amazon and Kindle soon.
The novel is about old folks. Really?While that subject matter may not sound super exciting, I believe the book offers more than an insight into wrinkles, sour smells, pain pills, grouchiness, incontinence, forgetfulness, misery, memories, and apprehension; it provides much more, and for good reason: history, a chronicled past counts.
Isn’t it so, that most people don’t give a second thought about their grandparents, the old fart in the house on the corner, the elderly woman huffing behind a walker, or the ancient who sits in the park eying whatever his weepy pupils can see? Don’t those who are in the throes of careers, college, love connections, and children wear blinders toward anyone over sixty-five? Oh, I am sure some will disagree: I love my nana; my grandpa is the best; the greeter at Wal-Mart makes me laugh, and what about old Doc Turner at the clinic downtown? He’s still kicking ass. We see them; we may even know them, but truly - be honest now - how much do we care?
In general, our society tends to put old people in their place(s) – convalescent homes, hospital rooms, back bedrooms, kitchen tables, residential communities, or simply the old, soft corner of the living room sofa. We provide chilled, old bodies with blanket throws, diapers, tattered paperbacks, a spot of tea, or a dram of whiskey. That shit will keep them content, won’t it?We leave the elderly alone to read the big print, to doze between memories, to watch television shows that shock or bore, or, when all else fails, to stare at nothing until rheumy eyes blur. To stop and check in, to manage a word, to touch a hand, to offer a hug takes too damned much energy. Doesn’t it?
I’ve been considering the notion of aging for some time . . . and thus the novel about seventy, eighty, and ninety-year-olds, all of whom are as alive, whether one wants to accept it or not, as the curly-haired kid down the block, the slick-haired, city, investment banker, or the harried, young mother of three. The old fellow may not move as quickly, but the old heart ticks away. He, like so many others like him, have lived lives, have had experiences many youngsters cannot imagine, have made mistakes, have cried real tears, and have relished sheer joy. The elderly - cherished or otherwise - have stories to tell, lessons to impart, and histories that must not be ignored. 
My book, then, entitled For The Love Of Grace, attempts to acknowledge just that. Here’s how the story begins:

If it had been up to Grace she might have thrown in the proverbial, damned towel years before, but she evidentially had not been afforded rights to final jurisdiction as to when the end might come, even though she possessed a very heady mind of her own; as a result, here she was, carrying on as if, indeed, there was a tomorrow. It’s not that she hadn’t considered the notion that the prerogative of ending it all, right then and there, was hers for the taking, but she had thought better of it. It would leave a mess. And, besides, she had never lusted for dubious attention. As a matter of fact, if the truth were known, the mere thought of such an impulse sent her mind reeling. For lost in a sea of memories, was a rather sordid chapter that she just as soon would have forgotten entirely if she could have. Unfortunately, with untimely, aggravating regularity recollection of the incident weaseled its way into her consciousness. That annoyance never had sat well, but what could she do? She could only visualize what had happened and then pack the memory away with all the others - and there was a litany of them - until next time. 
And now, here she was, eighty-eight and counting; eighty-eight and reminiscing; eighty-eight and regretting, grieving, and often enough, rejoicing or savoring the many morsels of her life. A non-stop scramble of thoughts, reflections, and considerations swirled like a dervish around in her weary mind. And though at times she grew tired of remembering, it gave her something to do. She had to wonder though. How in the devil did I come this far? And furthermore, for God’s sake, what’s apt to happen next?

My hope is, that when For The Love Of Graceis available, readers will check it out . . . and enjoy. What do you think?