This and That

Musings on Being a Writer and My Life
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I Think I’ll Write a Book

  • March 11, 2017 12:28 am

books

 

“I think I’ll write a book someday,” said the young woman. “It will be poetry, verses about love and longing and the angst of being twenty.” That Christmas she received a suede-covered volume from her beau inscribed ‘Kate’s Scribbles.’  After he left her, she filled the parchment pages with poems and stories of love and heartbreak which were splattered with her tears. When she graduated from college, she clutched her teaching degree to her heart. Her mother’s advice echoed in her ears.

“Teaching is a good profession for a woman. You’ll be home when your children are—and you can always write in the summers when you’re off,” her mother advised.

The suede -covered book stayed on a shelf and the parchment pages remained blank.                                                                                               ***

 

“I think I’ll write a book,” said the woman.

Her husband laughed. “When will you have time for that?” he asked archly. “We have a child to raise. We can’t take chances like that, not with a mortgage and bills and obligations. Maybe someday—but not now.”

The woman nodded.

Yes, maybe someday she would take a pen in hand and write. She’d tell the story of a young couple, only in their thirties, with a child, finding their way in a sometimes hostile world.

The suede-covered book stayed on a shelf and the parchment pages remained blank.

                                                                           ***

“I think I’ll write a book someday,” said the forty–something matron. Life’s lessons had etched fine lines around her mouth and eyes, and added streaks of gray to her dark hair. Children were her main concern—her own child who was struggling to find her way and the ones she taught every day. Her marriage was in tatters from the battering of life’s realities: finances, personal problems and dreams that might never be realized. The woman could not remember the last time she had written anything other than a grocery list or a note to a parent. Sometimes, she would pick up a pen and hold it in her hand, hoping that words would flow onto paper. Once in a while they did, but the words spoke of anger and frustration and mostly of lost opportunity. So she hid those words from herself.

Her mother, now dead, had advised her well. Teaching was, after all, a steady, predictable job with an income she could rely on.

The suede -covered book stayed on a shelf and the parchment pages remained blank.

 

                                                                                      ***

“I think I’ll write a book someday,” the woman said to her friends as they toasted her fiftieth birthday. She thought back to the earlier years, when the desire to write flamed in her heart. Searching everywhere, she finally found the suede bound book with poems so full of young love and loss and promise. Taking it reverently from its shelf, she blew the dust away. That night, she sat and read until her eyes grew heavy and a single tear traced its way down her cheek. And she felt like a part of her was dead.

***

“I think I’ll write a book,” said the widow, now in her sixties with hair that was more silver than black.  Sadness was her daily companion. “I’ll write about loss and loneliness, and trying to make my life new.”

Her career as a teacher was a memory—one that over time had become more distant.

The woman’s child, now grown, lived in the great northwest forest with her beloved. Days were empty and the woman wanted—no—needed to tell her stories.

So, she picked up a pen, and began to write. Words flowed like water breeching a dam. And the woman wrote a book, and another book and another book. The pages were filled with the story of her life: of the things she had put aside, the sacrifices she had made, and the joys and dreams that had been realized. She wrote of the sorrow and the searing pain of loss. As she wrote tears and sometimes even laughter were her companions.

Surveying the shelf crowded now with the suede-covered volume and many others like it, she smiled.

With words as soft as a prayer, she whispered, “Finally, I wrote my book.”

 

The Future and the Past

  • April 9, 2016 3:06 am

key west 14 7

 

After my recent shoulder surgery , I went to a rehabilitation facility to hasten my recovery. It was an unusually pleasant place—attractive, clean, with attentive staff.

During the ten days I stayed there, I experienced something that shook me to the core of my being.

I was much younger and healthier than the typical resident at the facility. It was like being a teenager at your grandparent’s fiftieth anniversary party.

Like most facilities of this nature, the staff provided stimulating experiences: entertainment by local people, bingo games, and movies. I attended several of these functions because the days often felt incredibly long. I soon realized that most of the people who attended these functions were “long-term residents”—a euphemism for people whose memories and personalities had been ravaged by aging.

I went to a community birthday party one afternoon. (The draw for me was the cake and ice cream!) I chose to sit at a table with a man and his wife—people I saw every day. They appeared to be in my age range so I thought that we might be able to visit with one another.  The woman resembled me somewhat—she was obviously of Irish descent, with dark, wavy hair, dark eyes and fair skin.

But when I attempted to chat with the couple, it soon became obvious that the woman had dementia. I watched as the husband tenderly attended to her, spooning ice cream into her mouth, and wiping her lips and encouraging her to take sips from a cup of punch.

At one point, I looked at him and smiled.  A tear trickle down his cheek. I wondered if I reminded him of his wife in better days; and that my presence was a reminder of all that had been swallowed up by his wife’s illness. It felt like entering into his private hell.

Looking around, I realized that the staff who took care of the long-term residents could have been me at the height of my teaching career.  And the long term-residents could be my future.

It was chilling to see my past and (possibly) my future.

 

 

 

     Real Estate

  • August 23, 2015 11:43 pm

boat ride

Some friends and I had a wonderful day out today. We went to nearby Winter Park, a chi-chi destination in the Orlando area. We took the iconic Winter Park Boat Ride—an attraction (for want of a better word) that has been around for decades.

An open boat powered by an outboard motor cruises through three of the Winter Park-Maitland chain of lakes. It’s a pleasant ride featuring views of beautiful homes, scenery, and parts of Rollins College.

The tour guide was a man who probably helped launch the business 40+ years ago. He pointed out all of the historic sights, and commented on the beautiful homes that ringed the lakes. I don’t need to tell you that the homes were enormous—some as large as 20,000 square feet! He also entertained us by telling us that purchasing a lot on the lake would cost at least a million dollars.

When I lived in Western New York, my husband and his brother co-owned an outboard motor boat. We loved to go out on Lake Erie and ogle the mansions that lined the lake shore.

We’ve also been to Ft. Lauderdale where there is a boat ride that travels through the canals that crisscross that city. And, needless to say, part of the cruise takes you past big, expensive mansions, and yachts that have their own swimming pools and helicopter pads!

It occurred to me at one time that these cruises had one odd thing in common—taking middle class folks past homes they could never afford to own. It’s almost like a tease—“See what rich folks have—that you will NEVER have!”  It reminds me of a song from Camelot, “What Do the Simple Folk Do?,” only in reverse.

There I was again today, ogling the unattainable real estate—and loving every minute of it!

 

Picture courtesy of Pixabay

 

 

April Tenth

  • April 11, 2015 1:39 am
Joanne Poth Joyce

Joanne Poth Joyce

There are certain dates that are more meaningful than others. One of those dates is April 10,1983. That was the date my Mom passed away after almost two years of coping with lung cancer.

I remember that day with crystal clarity.

It was a Sunday—a week after Easter. The weather was perfect: warm and sunny. I had attended noon Mass and then rushed to my parents’ home to see my Mom.  It was around 1 o’clock in the afternoon. When I got there, it was obvious that Mom was dying. I helped my Dad change her nightgown and then kept vigil with him as she left this world.

The priest came and gave her the Last Rites.  At one point, shortly after she died, I was aware of her soul—her anima—leaving the room.

My brother Michael was there with his wife and boys and I remember my sister Susan being there, too.

Eventually, the rest of my brothers and sisters (except for my youngest sister who was in Honduras doing research for her doctorate) assembled at the house.

As the daylight waned, we sat on our parents’ bed and talked about our Mom and our loss.  It was both sacred and comforting to be able to be together in that way.

Now, all these years later, all that’s left is memories. I wish I could hear Mom’s voice one more time, or sit and talk with her again.

So much has happened since then. Our Dad died only a year and half later, babies were born, my sister and another brother got married, one of my mother’s children died too soon, my husband died, the grandchildren grew up and great-grandchildren were born. The family faced many crises and survived.

While time has tempered the grief, I still mourn for my Mom. She was only 60 years old when she died. We never got to see either of our parents grow to be old. They are preserved at a certain age and time in our memories.

Yet, I still yearn to spend one more minute, hour or day with my mother.

 

It’s Okay to Cry

  • March 21, 2015 1:50 am

 

 

Tears. Crying. Sobbing.

Some people can’t stand the sight of tears. They feel uncomfortable when someone in their midst starts to cry. They furnish the tearful one with tissues. They tell you that you don’t need to cry. And some even demand that you stop.  Then they’ll offer platitudes to “comfort” you.

“He’s in a better place.”

“She doesn’t want you to be sad.”

“Crying won’t change things.”

Sometimes, guilt is used.

“Everyone’s looking at you.”

“Stop acting like a baby.”

“Real men don’t cry.”

“C’mon, it’s been months.”

To me, tears are cathartic. I’ve had a lot to cry about the past several years: the death of my husband and brother and several friends.

I’ve hidden my tears, and shown a seemingly competent, albeit subdued front.

Time does, indeed, mute the pain. Notice I said mute, not erase. Nothing erases the pain. It’s there and it will be there for the rest of my life, I am sure. As I start to move on, and to participate more fully in my life, behind the smiles and the laughter is a deep well of loss and grief.

So, if tears should flow, I will let them. I will let them cleanse me and help me to cope. And then, once again, I will be ready to face a new day—alone.

 

 

A Taste of Home

  • August 1, 2014 3:25 pm

I think everyone who moves away from home nostalgically remembers foods they loved and can’t get anymore.

New Yorkers wax poetically about bagels, pizza and well, just about everything else. Those of us from Buffalo have a soft place in our hearts for chicken wings (notice I did not say Buffalo wings), beef on weck, Ted’s hot dogs  and the Friday Fish Fry , to say nothing about Anderson’s ice cream.

When I go back to Buffalo, I look forward to these delicacies. This last trip was no exception, of course. On my way to the hotel after I arrived in Buffalo, I stopped at Danny’s, a landmark restaurant, and indulged in the “Taste of Buffalo Platter” which included a small beef on weck with horseradish, and four delectable chicken wings. Weck, by the way, is a crusty roll with rye seeds and kosher salt on top.  Delicious!

The next night, I had dinner with some family members—and I ordered a traditional Buffalo fish fry. If you’re from the Midwest or many places in New York State, you know what a fish fry is: a huge piece of fried fish served with macaroni salad (notice it’s not pasta salad—that’s for you fancy types), potato salad and Cole slaw. It’s not Weight Watcher’s food—but it’s yummy.

These local delicacies are not found in chain restaurants or upscale restaurants. This is comfort food and is found in bars, which usually have a back room which serves as a restaurant.

Is there anything better than the taste of home?

It’s Okay to Cry

  • June 14, 2014 6:08 am

 

 

Tears. Crying. Sobbing.

Some people can’t stand the sight of tears. They feel uncomfortable when someone in their midst starts to cry.

They’ll hand you tissues and tell you that you don’t need to cry. Even demand that you stop.  Then they’ll offer platitudes to “comfort” you.

“He’s in a better place.”

“She doesn’t want you to be sad.”

“Crying won’t change things.”

Sometimes, guilt is used.

“Everyone’s looking at you.”

“Stop acting like a baby.”

“Real men don’t cry.”

“C’mon, it’s been months.”

To me, tears are cathartic. I’ve had a lot to cry about the past two years: the death of my husband and brother and several friends.

I’ve hidden my tears, and shown a seemingly competent, albeit subdued front.

Time does, indeed, mute the pain. Notice I said mute, not erase. Nothing erases the pain. It’s there and it will be there for the rest of my life, I am sure. As I start to move on, and to participate more fully in my life, behind the smiles and the laughter is a deep well of loss and grief.

So, if tears should flow, I will let them cleanse me and help me to cope. And then, once again, I will be ready to face a new day—alone.

Because, the truth is, it’s okay to cry.

 

 

Not Just Another Day

  • February 26, 2014 7:29 am

Today was a difficult day for me because  it was the year and a half anniversary of my husband’s death.

I think of him every day and miss him all the time.

I miss holding his hand when we would drive somewhere. I miss watching TV with him, enjoying our dog, planning trips and days out, going to the movies, playing cards with friends,kissing him and hugging him, and all of the hundreds of little things that make up a relationship.

I wish I could see him just one more time. I wish I could tell him once again that I love him, and that I am happy that we had so many years together.

But that is not to be…his life here on earth ended too soon.

 

We spent over 40 years together. It wasn’t always easy. In fact, there were many times when I wondered if we would make it. But I am glad that we did. We built a life together, helped one another through the roiling waters of change and dissension, raised a lovely and successful daughter,  and grieved together.

Dan and I were quite compatible. We enjoyed similar activities–going to the beach, the aforementioned movies, and visiting with family and friends. He was my chief cheerleader–the guy who was always on my side and encouraged me. We had an equal relationship–no one was in “charge” of the other person–we both had breathing room.

 

I shed some tears todaydan and kjg. Tears of loss, regret, and anger.

 

There will be many more days like this, I know.

And as I was told in the Grief Support Group I attended, “You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you can’t go around it. You must go through grief.”

 

And that is the journey that lies ahead.

 

Picture Credit: Kathy Joyce Glascott’s private collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Being a Widow

  • November 12, 2012 6:59 am

I am a widow now that my husband passed away. I don’t like the word widow. It conjures up images of old ladies in rolled black stockings shrouded in “widow’s weeds”—black clothes hanging off their backs. Women who no longer exist, who are mere shadows of who they used to be. Women, who unlike the rest of us, know that their best days have ended.

I don’t feel that way.

Yes, I grieve. For how much Dan loved me. For my husband’s company. For his humor. For his very presence. For the joy he took in our daughter. For how much he loved his dog. I even grieve for how much he could annoy me.

It is very hard to get used to living in my house—not our house, driving my car—not our car, talking about my daughter—not our daughter. The very language of being alone takes getting used to.

I know that I present a brave face to the world. For the most part, my emotions seem under control. At times, I am sure that I seem almost clinical. I tell people that he died because there was no other option; that his health had deteriorated to such a degree that it was the only thing that could happen. His last few months were so drawn out that Dan’s life had become a living death. There was little to hope for—certainly not recovery.

When I look in the mirror, I see an intense sadness in my eyes. My days are spent listlessly doing things I have to do—taking care of all the errands that accompany a death. And there are many: the lawyer, Social Security, the bank, the retirement system, credit card companies, the DMV. Everyone needs something from me and I have no energy to do any of it.

Sometimes I would like to lie in bed, or sit in a chair and sleep until it feels better—whenever that will be.

I have to reinvent myself. Find ways to fill in the lonely evenings. Find friends to have dinner with—because the prospect of eating my evening meal alone is too painful. Come to terms with the fact that certain of my couples’ friends will no longer see me as “fitting in.”

My family and friends tell me that I am “strong.” I can show this so-called “brave” face to the world—while inside I’m an emotional mess.

Sometimes I’d like  to completely fall apart. Am I foolish to soldier on? I don’t know.

All I do know is that I feel like an enormous scoop of my soul is missing. Someone asked me recently how I was doing. I told her that it felt like I had lost my arm. She nodded and said, “Oh.” What else could she say? What else could I say?

I hope that, in time, the rawness of this pain will be dulled and I can enjoy the new life that has been thrust upon me.

Musings on a Writer’s Workshop

  • July 30, 2012 4:50 am

 

People surround me. Perched on uncomfortable folding chairs, we are jammed into a small space squeezed between the shelves in a book store.

Voices make a hub-bub, and I look around to see the other fledgling writers. Some are young. But most are older, like me. A lifetime of experience lines our faces.

Some people sport long shapeless tee shirts and shorts several sizes too big to define a body underneath. Others wear long skirts and tie dyed shirts. I even see someone wearing a fringed vest. Gray hair is pulled carelessly into unruly pony tails which are held in place by leather barrettes. And few people have long braids that trail down backs. A woman climbs over me to find a chair. Her hair is too long and uncombed and she is wearing a gypsy skirt.

Aging hippies, I think.

The ladies with money sit nearby, their perfectly coiffed hair a sharp contrast.

What unites this strange band of fellows is one shared belief: that the words we write should be read. No, our words must be read!

 

I wait for the speaker, a successful author, to begin to fill me with her wisdom. Like a school girl with a homework assignment, I begin to page through her book, a how–to for writers.

She fiddles with the projector, exasperated because it won’t do what she wants it to do.

Finally a man arrives, his baseball cap firmly placed on his head, with a bulky bundle of keys on his hip. He adjusts the projector and it throws pictures of rich and beautiful authors on the screen.

My desire is to be a member of their club.

I want to rise above the rabble around me, the young and the old, the experienced and the apprentice and write something that is compelling and uniquely mine—a real book, with a glossy cover placed prominently on a bookstore shelf.

I’ve seen web sites featuring books with covers designed to entice a reader to open the pages of the book. The authors of these books were once hopefuls like me.

I worry that no one will get to know the characters that have lived in my imagination for so long. I want someone other than me to care about them with all their human frailties and strengths.

I am humbled to realize that even if my work sees the light of day, nothing will change. Turmoil and war and discord will still reign—and people will still pray for peace.

My reverie is broken when the author starts to talk about the business of publishing, warning us of the overwhelming amount of work involved, of the sacrifices we will have to make. And of the almost non-existent chance we have. She causes me to think about my choice.

And then I go home, boot up my computer and begin to work my current novel. Because every time I write the best sentence I can, a thrill runs through me.

And so, I continue to write.