Gayatri had a basement in her house. It was basically a store room for all the old discarded things. If Gayatri ever needed to replace anything in her house then first she would look for its replacement in the store room below and if found something useful then she would use it. One day, she realized that a bulb in her kitchen wasn't turning on. "Well it seems I am going to need a bulb", she said to herself, "Let's see if the basement has one." and she went to the basement. In the short time of her reaching the basement, all the sleeping old things woke up after hearing what she said. These things would always get excited when Gayatri needed something and they would get anxious to see who will finally leave the dirty store room. In fact, all of those things used to pray for such a circumstance to come when Gayatri will need something and finally they will be put to some good use rather than living there , because some of those things were living in that pile of garbage since a very long time. And among those very old things was an old dirty glass bowl. Aside from the fact that it was dusty, the bowl was actually beautiful. It was small and had designs of the flowers fantastically crafted on it! After knowing that Gayatri was coming down in the basement to look for something she needs, the bowl woke up from a long sleep and said to himself with deep hope, "At last! Gayatri is coming here after a long time! I wish at least today she will notice me in this pile and who knows? She might pick me !" Upon hearing these words, a lamp hung above the lying bowl, opened and rolled his 'flashing' eyes on the bowl, he laughed at the bowl's unrealistic hope and said, "Stupid! Did you not hear Gayatri's words? She needs a lamp at this moment and that's what she is coming to look for here, so obviously she is going to find out that I am a what she requires more than any of you. I will finally be free from this pile of garbage and live in Gayatri's kitchen to brighten up the surrounding! So tell me, bowl, how can you hope so foolishly for her to pick you? What would Gayatri do with you?" A smile appeared on the bowl's face by the lamp's question but the smile had a bit of sorrow in it. He answered, "My friend, Gayatri was just nine years old when her aaji (grandmother) bought me for her. She used to make Gayatri's favourite rice kheer and feed it from me to her. Gayatri loved eating by her aaji's hand and I loved watching them being so happy together. Some time went by and our beloved aaji passed away, both me and Gayatri were sunken in sadness. As the days passed by, Gayatri stopped eating kheer as her aaji was not there to make it and feed it to her which eventually made her ignore me. A few more months passed and while rearranging some of the things in the house, Gayatri's parents accidently put me in this store room, since then I have been living here. I still remember the laughter, the joy Gayatri had with her aaji and those memories are the only thing giving me hope that someday Gayatri will notice me and I will share those precious memories with her again.", the weeping bowl looked at the lamp and said, "You asked me what would Gayatri use me for? But my friend, sometimes the memories of the past attached to a thing are worth more than its use for the present." The lamp, after hearing this, regretted acting rudely with the bowl and in an instant he decided to make up for it! He flashed his light so brightly on the bowl that the light was getting reflected off its glass! At the same moment, Gayatri entered the store room. With light shining so bright on the bowl, she noticed the bowl first, not the lamp! She came forward and picked up the bowl. After staring at it for just few moments, her eyes filled up with tears... As if the bowl was radiating the rays of memories, she recalled all the happiness of the childhood and more importantly, she remembered the smile of her aaji, as sweet as the kheer she used to make. For her memories' sake, Gayatri decided to clean the bowl and take it with her. Before leaving, she also took the lamp but suddenly, the lamp went out! "It was working just fine when I entered!", she was confused and even tried turning the switch on and off but nothing happened, the lamp wasn't turning on. "Ah! It must have gone off just at this moment. Never mind, maybe I should just buy a new one.", Gayatri thought and left the store room with the bowl, but before leaving with Gayatri, the bowl expressed his gratitude to the lamp, "Thank you friend! I won't ever be able to repay your debt! But tell me, why did you turn off yourself on purpose when you could've also left this place today with me?" The lamp smiled and answered, "Because my friend, I realized my true purpose today! Instead of living upstairs, I would like to stay here and enlighten the priceless memories hidden under this dusty precious garbage!" And Gayatri shut the door of the store room. THE END.
When I was a kid, my father had to work hard to make ends meet. He loved to travel, and he looked for opportunities without spending a lot of money, usually by working while traveling for the job. Sometimes we traveled for months, unlike other people who had maybe 15 days per year of vacation. Dad and I were close; he often took me with him, especially to the sea. We loved the sea and fishing. Each time I went with Dad, it was an adventure because he taught me a lot about life, and respect, especially towards animals. He taught me to observe and appreciate how animals and people share the space and how we should live together. The summer of 1974, I was six years old, and Dad took the whole family to Colmuyao, a small town on the central coast of Chile. It is a humble and beautiful town, with very affectionate people, most of whom are farmers and fishermen. The streets are stone and earth, and the houses are adobe. Surrounded by trees and a beautiful river that flows into the ocean, the area is dreamlike. The weather there is usually cold and windy; however, I found it very pleasant. The beach is huge, with coarse gray sand that feels like a foot massage. Colmuyao was our paradise and whenever we could, we went there to spend some time. However, this first adventure in Colmuyao was burned into my memory, for a very special reason. When we arrived at the beach that day, we saw birds lying on the sand. My dad said, "Look! Those are penguins!" It can't be, I thought; they live in Antarctica. We approached very carefully, and there they were, calm and close to each other. As we got closer, they noticed our presence and began to alert each other. Imagine a hundred penguins rhythmically singing a song that is a cross between a trill and a squawk. Dad asked us to sit in the sand and move forward very slowly without making a sound. We were so close that we could almost touch them. They were beautiful birds; their black and white feathers were bright and delicate, and they seemed dressed for an exceptional occasion in their “tuxedos.” I didn't hold back my desire and I tried to touch one of them, which caused a colossal stampede of well-dressed birds rushing into the sea. It was a lot of fun to watch them run with their wings spread and taking small leaps. They are very brave, I thought; the sea was raging and very cold, yet they jumped in with energy and decisiveness. I impulsively wanted to go after them, but my dad stopped my madness. I was astonished. It was like being in the middle of a dream or with my own Jacques Cousteu filming a documentary. I would never have dreamed of being so close to such beautiful and rare birds. My eyes were filled with their deep colors. Every detail was amazing, and watching them walk with difficulty and then, watching them ride the waves and fly in the water at an impressive speed, grabbed my attention completely. I felt like I could stay there forever without ceasing to marvel. Every day, we revisited the penguin colony. My family and I learned to tiptoe among them, and we often sat very close to them. We never touched or hugged them; although we really wanted to, we didn't want to scare them and make them flee again. On another day, my dad and some of my brothers fished from the shore of the beach while my youngest brother and I played with the penguins. I can't remember exactly how it happened, but we found one with a wound on one of his wings. Dad took it carefully to the house where we were staying. The poor penguin was very scared. My dad cleaned his wound and bandaged his wing. For many days, the penguin was with us; my dad fed him fish while his wound healed. I spent a lot of time staying with him and many times my dad allowed me to feed him fish or other seafood. The first time that I fed him, he approached me very carefully, and with a quick big peck he snatched the fish out of my hand. That was amazing. After more attempts, he trusted me, and received the food with more confidence. Finally, after a few weeks, the penguin recovered his health, and my dad returned him to the colony. For a few days, we saw him walking among the other penguins, completely healthy. My dad had named him “Muñeco,” which means “doll,” in Spanish. I learned a lot about the penguins; actually, they've been one of my favorite birds since then. Seeing my father walk through the colony made me feel so proud of him and the time we spent that summer with Muñeco is one of my family's most treasured memories. Each time that I feel bad or wounded, for any reason, I close my eyes and take a trip in my mind to that beautiful beach. Surrounded by penguins, with my parents and brothers walking around that marvelous scenario under the cold summer sun, I always feel better. Colmuyao is my inner paradise, a place in my mind where I can run away when I need to find peace and gain balance again in my life.
Today is Father's day and apart from my own father, there is this person who is much more than a fatherly figure in my life. The memories with whom will forever be cherished by me no matter what. It was one fine day of April 2010. I was along with my dadajaan (grandfather) at our village house. He was teaching me in the guestroom when a relative arrived to meet him. My uncle brought snacks for the guest. They all sat together and then had the tea. After this, my grandfather and our relative had a conversation on various topics. I was also eating the savouries from that plate and had nothing to do with their talks. My seven year old self was busy drawing something on the notebook. Meanwhile, the guest asked my grandfather, "Master Sahab, Do you perform Puja? What's that?" On this, my attention diverted and went to the direction of his hands. He was referring to the calendar hanging on the wall. I looked at it carefully. I think I had never observed it like that ever before. The upper part of the calendar had Lord Krishna playing a flute and Radha standing beside him. Their pose was very pretty. It was a colourful image. Beneath the calendar, there were four pages which contained the dates and days. Overall the entire calendar was very beautiful. Dadajaan replied, "It is the current year's calendar. It has all the gazetted and restricted holidays written on it and contains all other related information." On this the relative said, "I am not talking about the dates and days written on this calendar. I am talking about the picture. You are a Muslim and there is this Hindu calendar in your house. Are you a devotee of Lord Krishna?" My grandfather replied to him in a very different yet smart way. "First of all, I don't know how to worship and since I do not know the method I obviously cannot perform the Puja. Second thing is that this calendar is just an inanimate object. And I honestly don't have any idea how a material like this can be assigned a religion? It cannot be called either a Hindu or a Muslim. It just looked very beautiful so I took it. Moreover, it was already having all the important days and events so why should I look for any other 'Muslim' calendar in another shop. And until this year gets over and a new calendar comes, we will be using this very calendar. I don't think there is anything bad in that." Although the relative was speechless and in deep thoughts for a moment but these things were not a part of any serious debate or discussion so they shifted to some other topic and the talk continued. Later on, for the entire 2010 that calendar beautified my house. But unfortunately the next year 2011 never got the opportunity to come into the life of my grandfather. I wish he was there for some more time. The father of my father. I could have learnt a lot from him.... Be it on life skills, secularism or anything under the Sun. I miss him so much!
Because I was eight years old and the only girl in the neighborhood at that time, my ten-year old brother always let me tag along with him and his friends. When the boys played baseball, my brother would say to me, “Hey Sis, you're so good in the field, go over to that spot and wait for a fly.” That spot was not just in “out” field, it was in “left-out” field. But, at the time, I was too young to realize what was happening and way too enthralled with the idea of being part of my brother's team. At the same time, my brother, Frank, although making sure I didn't get in harm's way or the way of the game, every now and then, asked his friends to hit a ball in my direction so I could “field” it. Naturally, that play never counted but it sure made me feel important and like I was someone incredibly special. Despite being only 27-months older than I was, Frank always found a way to do just that – make me feel special. However, there was one day in particular that, to this day, brings a warm feeling to my heart. It was the day we climbed the Iron Man. In a section of the park near our house, sits a statue. I didn't know it at the time, but the statue was and still is a memorial commemorating the battle between the U.S.S. Monitor and the Merrimack, which was fought in 1862. The Monitor was only six months old at the time of its sinking and the street on which we lived was named after the massive and historic ship. The statue is huge and made of iron. It depicts a man in a semi-sitting position holding desperately onto a rope that stiffly hangs just below the ship's deck on which he sits. This was a favorite place for the boys as they would climb the statue and sit for hours looking at everyone who walked through the park. From that height, a child felt you could see for miles. On one of my “tag along” days, Frank and the other boys decided to climb the statue. I stood at base looking up helplessly. I, too, wanted to climb the big iron man, but was too small to reach. Finally, my brother stretched his hand down. “Come on, Sis, grab hold. I'll help you up.” As I took his hand, he explained where I should place my little feet and what part of the statue I should grab to hoist myself while he pulled me up. Within seconds I was sitting in the lap of this great iron man. I was on top of the world. I looked around and as my heart fluttered with excitement, saw the wonders around me that the others had seen from such a great height for so much longer than I had. As the boys laughed and joked among themselves, I was quite content to sit in silent awe. Eventually, it was time for dinner. One by one, the boys climbed down. I was the last to begin the descent, trying carefully to place my feet around the iron man's wide arm. My legs were just a bit too short. I couldn't get down. My brother realized my plight and ran to help. “Hey, Sis, turn around and kneel on the spool. Wrap yours legs around the rope. Then hold on to his arm and let yourself slide down. Once you get low enough, let your feet drop and then let go. I'll catch you,” he said. While I trusted my brother with my life, I didn't trust my life with my little hands and legs. Frank assured me I'd be okay. He stood directly beneath the stiff iron arm. I knelt at the edge and did what my brother suggested, but with one added thing. I closed my eyes. If I was going to fall and kill myself, I didn't want to watch. Suddenly, I felt Frank's gentle hands grab me. “You're down, Sis. Safe and sound. Let's go home.” I opened my eyes, gratefully and happily, as Frank gently put me on the ground. He grabbed my hand to walk the short distance from the center of the park, across the street to home. It didn't matter to him that his friends stayed and watched. After all, he was the big brother taking care of his little sister. As we approached the parks exit, I turned to give the big iron man one last look for the night. As I did, I realized I'd learned some particularly important things from my experience. Although for a while I felt like I was on top of the world, I didn't need a statue to keep me there. My brother's love and protection did that better than artificial things could ever do. I didn't need to climb a statue to see the beauty and the wonders of the world. They were right before me – at my own eye level, in my mind and heart. As we grew, I married and moved away, my brother enlisted in the Army and was sent to Viet Nam. Although he returned after his Tour of Duty, he did not return whole. There was something lacking in his spirit. Years later, we would find out that he contracted the cancer that would consume him before his 51st birthday. Several decades have passed since then, and although Frank is no longer a physical part of my life, I think of him daily. When I recall that day when I sat atop a statue, I smile and realize: my brother was my Iron Man.
I didn't cry when she got sick, or at the funeral, or at the graveyard. I didn't even cry when my mother brushed the hair out of my still dry eyes and held me as the undertakers wheeled away her coffin. Mom never said it, but she hadn't approved of our relationship from the first moment I brought Elise home. It wasn't that she didn't like Elise. What was there not to like in smart sweet Elise? Mom had tried to understand us, I knew that. I guess it doesn't matter anymore. The next morning, I awoke alone. The sun moved shadows across our bedroom while I just stared off the edge of my side of the bed. I was waiting for something, the smell of her coffee I think, but nothing came to snap me out of this fog. Was I supposed to be doing something? Breakfast, I guessed, though I didn't feel hungry; I didn't feel much of anything to be honest. I went into our pantry anyways and saw row upon row of canned sauces, fruits, and preserves she had prepared for the long winter ahead. The shelves were filled with Elise's preserves and her light curled handwriting. I picked up a Mason jar and stared through it without seeing the diamond shapes etched into the glass or feeling the paper label as my fingertips absently traced the word ‘strawberries' over and over. I didn't see the bags of flour and sugar or the boxes of her favorite cereal crowded together on the mint green shelves in the cramped little pantry. I was back in July, sweating as I hauled in another tray of fresh picked strawberries. She would have picked them herself like every other year if she had still had the strength. I smiled and laughed when I thought she was looking and stole glances at the scarf wrapped around her head when I thought she didn't see. I opened my mouth to ask her again why she was doing all of this and wouldn't she rather fly away somewhere to lounge on a beach? I closed my mouth without a word, we'd fought about it enough and her answer was always the same. “I don't want some crazy trip. That's not me. I just want every day I can have with you,” she would say. I knew she just wanted her life- a normal long life- and it was the only thing I couldn't give her. I hefted the jar turning it over and over in my hand, puzzled by the weight and feel of it like some alien artifact. The jar ate away the cold numbness wrapped around me and I couldn't push away the itching burning feeling rising from the pit of my stomach. I clenched my fist around the jar as if it and it alone had taken my wife from me. I couldn't stand the sight of the wretched thing, it brought anger to a boil suddenly spilling over onto my carefully sealed up resignation. I flung the jar with all my might at the pantry wall, red exploding over a bag of chocolate chips, syrup and glass and strawberries falling to the floor. A low guttural animal yell erupted as red as the strawberries and I hardly noticed it was me spewing anguish and rage at the rows of silent glass jars until my throat grew sore. I slid to the floor completely boneless without anger to hold me up, rocking back and forth holding my head with both hands as if it might come loose without a firm grip. My whole being shook, tears making cold splotches on my pajamas as I sobbed there on the floor of our pantry. I felt like my insides had all been scooped out leaving me hollow and empty, blankly staring at a bag of dried beans as if they could anchor me to the world again. The smell of strawberries touched me tugging me gently back, not to the world around me but further back to a moment with her. The bright sweet fruit conjured up that birthday cake she had made filled with our first strawberry harvest, and how we sang and kissed that night joyfully celebrating life. I looked up at all her jars: the tomato sauce recipe we'd spent years perfecting, the peaches from her mother's tree, the BlackBerry jam she hated but still labored over knowing it was my favorite. I saw her there, all her work and planning and love, every moment of our lives together laid aside here giving me a million tiny roads back to my life with her, if only for a moment- a taste. My vision blurred again as tears flowed, gently now, onto my cheeks. I nodded my head imagining her beside me, gazing at me with that secretive smile. I whispered to her, and to myself, “I see what you did, my clever wife. Thank you.”
It seems like only yesterday when my granddaughter, Stephanie was seven years old. At the time, my son and his family lived in New York making visits infrequent but enjoyable. Seeing them was always a treat. One day in 2005, almost became a disaster. My son, and his family arrived on a Saturday afternoon. While the house was in order and the bedrooms cleaned and ready for them, what I wasn't prepared for was Stephanie's loose tooth. My daughter-in-law wasn't too concerned thinking it would stay put for another two or three weeks, since it didn't seem loose enough to fall out. The plan was a week-long visit with me, then they would be heading to central Florida for a week with Joanne's mom, then back to New York. We did whatever could to make that week fun, interesting, and memorable. One day, we decided to make a trip to a local nature park where we would have the opportunity to see live animals: boars, cows, steer, birds, and alligators. We were all excited since we never had the good fortune to see these animals close enough to take a picture or two. We arrived at the park early and ate the picnic lunch we packed. Not long after we finished eating, it was time to turn in our admission tickets and board the sight-seeing bus for the tour. Anticipation grew. We were eager. But that turned out not to be the highlight of our week. We arrived home late in the afternoon and decided to make a cookout of burgers and hot dogs for dinner with a side dish of homemade macaroni salad. As my husband grilled the food, my daughter-in-law and I set the table. My son and his children were in the pool. Before I knew it, the day was done, and the kids were heading to bed. We four adults stayed up watching TV and taking about the shows we watched. We laughed and had a few great moments, then we headed to our respective bedrooms. Early the next morning, we were awakened by a loud scream. It was my granddaughter. Thinking the worse, all of us raced into her bedroom, expecting to see blood – or - or, we had no idea or what. What we saw was Stephanie standing by the bed, hysterically crying, hold something in one clenched fist. My daughter-in-law quickly wrapped her arms around her daughter and said, “Steph, what's wrong? Please tell me.” Steph pulled away slightly, unfolded her tightly closed fingers, and exposed a tooth! Her tooth! In between sobs, she said, “Mom, the tooth fairy won't know where I am. She'll never find me!” Joanne looked at me a rolled her eyes. That is what had my granddaughter so upset! We tried to console Steph, but it wasn't easy. Then, as if a lightbulb went off in my head, I had an idea. But it had to wait a day. The next day, thinking she'd never get her dollar from the tooth fairy, Steph tried to enjoy our trip to the wharf where we hoped to see dolphins in the harbor. We ate lunch at a local restaurant, walked around a seaside village and then headed home. It was obvious that Steph was trying hard not to spoil the vacation for her family but just as obvious that her heart was longer enjoying it. I pulled my daughter-in-law aside. “Let her stay up a bit later. You'll see why when she falls asleep.” Once Stephanie was asleep, I drove to the supermarket and bought a small bouquet of flowers. Arriving home, I wrote a note, “Dear Stephanie, I apologize that your reward for giving me another tooth was delayed. I went to your house only to find you weren't there. I went to your grandmother in central Florida. You weren't there either. Then, Bingo! Here you are in southwest Florida. I hope these flowers and your extra reward will put a smile on your beautiful face. Love, The Tooth Fairy.” My daughter-in-law laughed and said it was a great idea. My husband and son thought I was crazy. It was worth a shot. I tucked a $5.00 bill in an envelope (a bit larger than normal since the tooth fairy made Steph wait so long), put the flowers in a pretty blue vase, tied a ribbon around the vase, then leaned the envelope with her name printed on the front against the glass vessel with the flowers. Then I quietly exited the bedroom with my fingers crossed. The following morning, we heard, “MOM, MOM! Come look!” Again, we raced in the direction of her bedroom. She was holding her envelope and said, “The tooth fairy found me! She left me money and flowers! My tooth that I put under my pillow is gone! Mom, she found me! I don't know how she did it, but she found me.” My daughter-in-law looked at me and we shared a secret smile. My son and husband, looked at each other and I heard my son say, “Well, I'll be damned!” What might have been a sad week for my granddaughter's vacation, turned out to be a happy surprise and a moment to remember! Yes, what a moment and what a memory! Thanks to the tooth fairy and a supermarket that didn't close early.
Mom was only fifteen when she met my dad – to be more specific, when she first saw him. He was doubled over gasping for air, lying in the street when she saw a crowd huddled over something. She walked over to see what the fuss was about and saw what she described as the handsomest boy she'd ever seen. Dad's hair was dark-blond, and his eyes were milk chocolate brown. Her heart melted as she watched him struggle to catch his breath. He had been playing hockey with his friends and his stick hit a slightly raised manhole cover, got stuck, and as he tried to skate by, jammed him in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him causing him to curl into a ball and lie on the ground. Mom cried out, “Don't let him lie in the street. He'll get hit by a car. Carry him to the sidewalk.” Dad's friends first looked at mom like she'd lost her mind but then realized she made her point. The carried dad the few feet to safety. She wouldn't leave his side as his breath began to normalize. Mom held his hand and talked almost non-stop to help him relax. It worked. His breath steadied and soon, he asked, “What's your name and where do you live?” Mom smiled. “Mary and actually, just around the corner.” Dad walked her home and asked if she'd like to hang out with him and his friends later that night. “We're only going to the candy store for some soda; it's nothing special.” To mom, it was more than special. He didn't have to ask her twice. As I said, mom was 15. Dad was 14 but neither cared. They were inseparable as the years passed. Dad eventually joined the Navy and when home on leave, married mom. To say they were happy is a mild statement. Dad was mom's world and dad idolized mom. Their love was obvious to anyone who saw them look at each other. One day, tragedy struck. A few days before dad's 65th birthday, he had a stroke which paralyzed his left side. With therapy, he gained the use of his legs, but his left arm remained useless. That didn't stop them from enjoying their lives together. With a modified steering wheel, he was once again able to drive and took mom on many vacations which included Montauk NY, Virginia Beach VA, and Baltimore MD. When dad turned 71, he stumbled and fell. It was determined that he experienced a TIA – mini stroke. While dad lay in the hospital, an astute nurse noticed something with dad that wasn't quite right. She prompted the doctor to order a few tests. The diagnosis was stage 4 colon cancer. The doctor told mom that dad had about 8 months to live. We were horrified. Trying to extend dad's life, we agreed to an ileostomy but when it was performed, it proved fruitless. Dad died six weeks after that procedure. Mom was devastated. Not too many years later, I noticed mom began forgetting things. It was subtle but the signs were there. She repeated herself a little too often; she'd forget where she put her purse; she'd call me two or three times a day but never remembered why, etc. Eventually, mom moved in with me. Her dementia was much worse but still tolerable. She could hold small conversations and create full sentences. One day as mom and I reminisced, I asked her to tell me something about dad. She looked horrified as she asked, “I was married?” How could she have forgotten dad? Did she know me? I asked her who I was and answered correctly. That was a relief, so I backtracked to help her remember dad. “Mom, do you remember that handsome young sailor from years ago?” Within seconds, her eyes glowed with love and remembrance. “Oh, yes, my Frankie!” “Mom, he was your husband.” She sat there for a few silent minutes then in a soft voice said, “That's right. I married my Frankie. My sailor. How I cried when he got sick and died.” That was the last full sentence mom said. The dementia took hold in a big way. Mom died not long after. I was reminded of an old Buck Owens song, “Together Again”. Thank you, Buck Owens for writing and performing a song that has become so very dear to me as I think of my parents holding hands and walking forever side by side. For my mom's funeral, I printed a photo of my parents the last time they were together and modified Owens' song to read: Together again her tears have stopped falling; Her long lonely nights are now at an end. The key to her heart he held in his hands And nothing else matters they're together again Together again her gray skies are gone; She's back in his arms now where she belongs. The love that they knew is living again, And nothing else matters they're together again.
You never know how things will turn out or how they might affect your life when they do. My husband was one of nine children. While growing up, they were a very close-knit group of siblings. Once marriage and children began taking each away from the group, the relationships became somewhat distant. Several moved to other states, some were too busy raising their own children. Others, like my husband, were not telephone people. If someone called him, that would be fine, but he was not the kind to make the call. He still is not. All too often, one sibling would call the rest and relay any news but often, just to keep us all in touch. Through the years, as life demands, we all aged and, the siblings began to succumb to illness: one was by heart attack, another by complication of rheumatoid arthritis, still there was that dreaded cancer. Jerry left us a few years ago leaving behind two sisters and two brothers, one of which is my husband, Richard. When I married into the family, I was never treated as an in-law. I was treated with the same love, warmth, and respect as they treated each other but then, none of the in-laws were treated as outsiders. The family was always that close, even as the miles pushed us apart. As I said, Jerry left us a few years ago. When I met him, he was tall, husky (not fat just, well, husky), jovial, and loving. He lived in New York; we were and still are in Florida. While we did not see each other often, there were the monthly phone calls. Then the calls began to change. Jerry was diagnosed with cancer and it did not look good. His doctor said he might live six years, six months, six days. His cancer was aggressive. Jerry lived fourteen months. His son called a few days before he died, and I advised my husband to fly to New York. I was taking care of my invalid mom who lived with us and could not make the trip with him. Jerry died while my husband was there. It was almost as if he waited for his brother for a final goodbye. A few days later, my husband called and said he was on his way home and gave me his flight information. When I picked him up at the airport, he was toting a very, large box – one he did not have when he left. Jerry's urn? It was one of Jerry's requests that he be buried in the Gulf of Mexico, a place he dearly loved to visit, which he did as often as possible. The following day, Rich called his friend who had a gulf-worthy boat; ours was only for shallow water. John was eager to volunteer his assistance in this sad undertaking and said he would be honored to take my husband to bury his brother. The sea-burial was set for the following day. When Rich arrived at John's house with Jerry's ashes, John handed Rich a dozen long-stemmed, white roses. “You can't send him off with nothing. Hope these'll do,” John said. They were better than, “they'll do”. About two weeks later, we received a large package, delivered by UPS. It was a beautiful painting of a small row of houses set on the water. With it was a note from Jerry's children (all five adults) saying, “Dad never told anyone that his hobby was painting. He was always afraid of criticism. Going through his paintings, we found this one and we knew, since you live on the water and love to fish, he would want you to have it. Please accept this from dad and all of us in gratitude for everything you did for him and us while you were here. We all love you.” Each of his children signed the card. They could have kept the painting to remember their dad but chose, what, to others might have seemed a simple gesture of thanks, was, to my husband, a world of love. The painting hangs prominently on the wall in our dining room for everyone to see. It is just a simple reminder of the love between two brothers and the closeness they, with their other siblings shared throughout the years. While I was not able to attend the sea-burial, John was kind and compassionate enough to take a photograph for me. I did at the beginning of my marriage and probably will always feel, even after all this time, that being part of the Brennan family is something to be cherished, never taken for granted. We still have my husband, one brother, Bill, two sisters, Pat, and Joan. Phone calls are now more frequent and finally, finally after all this time, my husband (after slight encouragement from me) will pick up the phone and make those calls. We only live once and should vow to remain close to our siblings. You just never know how things might turn out and those we love will be taken from us affecting us in ways we cannot even at time imagine. So, my dear friend and brother, Jerry, until we meet again, even after these passing years, we still have your painting, the photograph, and loving memories of the wonderful person you were, a loving and caring man. Not a day passes that we do not think of you with love and affection.
The Conventions were friendly competitions that Accelerated Christian Education (A.C.E.) students from all over the world took part in. By attending these conventions, I got to travel outside my home country, Tanzania, and go to countries like Kenya (regional), South Africa (national) and even the United States (international). I got exposed to different cultures both inside and outside Africa and made lasting friendships with people halfway across the world from where I call home. The Conventions are places, like their motto goes: "where one week can last a lifetime." Come October 2016, I knew that this would be my final chance to make a mark at the AASC. How would I pass up such an opportunity? I had been practicing. I had been memorizing. And it all came down to this: will I bring home the gold, or will I be a mere spectator to surrounding victories? I was content to do whatever it takes. That year I did: Singing (mixed duet and small ensemble), Group Bible Speaking, Golden Harp (memorization of the book of Psalms), Preaching, and Expressive Reading. When I wasn't at singing practice, I was practicing my Expressive Reading, and if I wasn't practicing for that, I was at Group Bible Speaking practice (a Biblical theater form of sorts), and if I wasn't at either of those, I was memorizing yet another of the 150 chapters of the book of Psalms. The victory was mine; I could almost taste it. When our trip commenced, I was nervous, excited, and terrified all at the same time. I obviously could not wait to perform and put all of my hard work on display, but I was not ready for the rejection. “What if I don't place?” became a constant visitor in my subconscious. I knew I worked hard, but doubt has a way of creeping in when you least expect it. I was sure of one thing, however, because I had memorized the book of Psalms, there was one medal and ISC nomination out there for me regardless. This thought held me together throughout all my performances. And as Lorri Faye said, “even a single thread of hope, is still a very powerful thing.” Furthermore, by nightfall of every day, we all gathered for what we called “evening rallies.” I looked forward to these. The auditorium became filled with 1000+ students: chanting, shouting and just being themselves. I felt at home. I was surrounded by people who understood my joys and struggles both academically and spiritually. It was idyllic. As the Convention progressed and performances drew to a close, judges would welcome to the stage, students who did exceptionally well in different categories. These were called "command performances," and although it did not mean that these students placed, it was still a great honor. On a particular night, as we made our way to the auditorium, word got to my friends and I that our small ensemble group had gotten a command performance, and we were due on stage soon. “This is it,” I thought, even if they said we don't necessarily place when we got command performances, I hoped that we would (spoiler alert: we did). The thrill of being up on that stage with my friends, all eyes on us as we belted lyrics that we had worked long and hard to memorize was exhilarating. I felt like I was on top of the world, however old and typical that phrase is, I felt it that night. And it felt good. Soon enough, we had two days left and the Convention would be over. When Friday arrived, the air seemed to buzz in harmony with the excitement of the students. Piled to the rafters in the auditorium each one held their breath as the winners and runner ups for each category were announced. The memorization categories went first. I leaped from my seat as soon as I saw my name and by the time it was called out, I reached for my trophy with trembling hands and bowed my head as the medal was placed around my neck. Animated, I ran up to where my school was seated, everyone beaming and clapping me on the back, wishing me a hearty congratulations. I was happy. Moments later, the singing categories were displayed and I saw my name. Doing a double take, I almost tripped as I rushed down the stairs and into the waiting room. My friend Victor and I had placed second in the mixed duets category. Soon after our small ensemble group was called out, I went on stage to collect my third medal. It felt too good to be true. However, since it was my first time doing Expressive Reading, I wasn't as wounded when I didn't place. To conclude, they called out the names for the female preachers (a more recent development in the Convention) and imagine my shock to see my name on display. I got first place. I placed first. And I was in every sense of the word: elated. Shortly thereafter, the Convention ended and it was in every bit fun and nerve wracking. It really did last a lifetime. And even though that chapter in my life is closed, I now have “memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead.”
I remember like it was yesterday. It was a peaceful snowy evening. I've always liked snow. It makes everything more beautiful. It's like a natural make up, makes the city more beautiful ,simple and elegant. I was enjoying my coffee and the view. Everything was in a white dress. The sound of fireplace ,the slowly burning woods.. Everything was peacefull. It was nothing special but enjoyable. I'm a medical doctor, an ob/gyn resident. So my work day is always full of action and adrenaline. When i come home, i just need some peace and quiet to recharge and be ready for the next day. That evening after enjoying my coffee, i checked the internet like everyone else. Then i saw the videos from China, people were literally lying on the hospital floors. It was horrible. I rushed to show it to my parents. The country i live in, the culture is different. Single women are expected to live with their parents. If we don't do this, our parents feel strongly offended. My dad is 73 years old and my mom is 65; so i was helping them and i liked staying close to them as they age. I know i may sound like Howard from The Big Bang Theory. But i live in Turkey and it isn't like Europe or US. It's like Matrix. Staying with parents until the marriage is the normal in my country. My parents ,like me and like many were shocked seeing the videos. But we didn't think it would change our lives this much.Nobody did, right? I wouldn't imagine the world would shutdown soon. One disease, out of nowhere, a little tiny virus changed us all. I thought the virus would stay in China and felt sad for them. Well it didn't. It travelled to Europe. We saw what happened in Italy as well. At that point we knew it would come to us too. At first as an obstetrics resident, i thought i wouldn't see many covid patients. Our patients were mainly pregnant ladies and newborns ;so society and our hospital tried to protect them. Then of course as the disease spread no speciality left. Every resident from the hospital were taken to covid units. My new workplace was covid unit in the emergency room. When i learned this, i was super worried about my parents. Especially my father who was 73 years old and had hypertension. I was terrified i would carry the disease from hospital to home. There was no way i could stay at home. All of a sudden i was homeless. Of course government arranged places to stay for people like me but my lovely friends offered their house to me. So i moved to my friends' house. All of us were working in the hospital so it was like a covid house. I will be forever grateful to them. My parents were worried about me. Because i had cancer in the past. But i didn't tell this to my hospital because i wanted to work. I wanted to help the other healthcare professionals when they need every doctor's help. I had cancer and chemotherapy 6 years ago. It's not like i was newly diagnosed. After 5 years some consider i beat the the disease completely. Nevertheless i'm used to the idea of not living too long. I'm trying to work for people and try to do my best while i'm still around. When i work for people, i feel like my life isn't wasted. Also after 6 years , i dare to hope that i may live longer as well. After moving to my friends' house , i was no longer worried about my parents. It was such a huge relief. I would blame myself forever if i carried the disease to my loved ones and they were in the risk group. In the hospital we were protected with equipment. After going to few shift we got used to it. I was working in the ER covid-19 area. So people would come to us first. Everyone was confused and worried. We were doing what infectious disease told us to do. We learned some chest tomography at least the covid images. We did everything we could do. It was really motivating for us to hear all the cheer people make from homes to the healthcare workers. In the end we were only doing our jobs but being appreciated was touching. Maybe i'm overly dramatic about it but i was really happy to hear that cheers. Maybe being in my country has its cultural differences but i know every healthcare worker worried for their loved ones at home, more than they worried for themselves, like me. I know every healthcare worker felt happy when they heard the cheers in the thank hour. These feelings were beyond cultures. Time passed and now we're slowly normalizing, we turned back to our ob/gyn patients already. But i will never forget that my dear friends opened their house for me. and i will never forget people cheered for us. I will never forget how a little tiny virus could change so many lives. The life we know could change completely in a heartbeat. But we can adapt to new normal fast and we will always receive support from other when we need so i don't afraid of these changes. I hope humanity would never have to live something like that again and we can turn back to our lives when the only thing upset us was the ending of GOT.
When there are so many problems in the world, let us not make things worse. And there are no preconditions for self-development here, to be honest, sometimes one wants to fall into a lethargic dream or constantly yawn (which is indecent in a civilized society) from these strange speeches, where people are trying to find motivation. What can be funnier and sadder at the same time, where a healthy person full of strength and energy, afraid of taking risks, making mistakes and winning, is trying to find non-existent instructions for his life? That's absurd. Do not search for what you already know in your heart. Slowing down and laziness are almost the most useless things in the world. At least, boring so precisely. Well, when we have figured out the nuances that will be discussed in this letter, or rather, these is not here — let's begins. P.S. You have to read out loud to put a point. How little time is given to us to think about it after all? Stop with your eyes covered, breathe fresh air and just think. Preferably about the past, because it's the only thing that defines you now. I think the connection between us was formed the first time we met. This woman, descended from the pages of her favorite Victorian novels, was exactly like the heroines at the English court. Intelligent enough, mysterious enough, known her own value. She wasn't a great beauty, but she didn't need it. She had much more — a bright, blinding light — the fire to life, which made me, young, reach out to him. “You have to reread what you've written out loud three times, and only then you have to put a dot.” “There must be a mystery in a woman that will give a man a field for imagination.” She was not just my teacher of literature, no, rather a spiritual mentor, brought up in me something that I thought I could not possess.I was always fascinated by her her dazzling love of language and literature. The way she could forget the time, telling a poem of her favorite poet in 3 languages or with rapture read an excerpt from “The Master and Margarita”. She wanted to bring her world to us and, unfortunately, not many of us were ready to accept it. It was the highest point of professionalism that everyone dreamed of achieving — to dissolve in what you do without fear of being misunderstood. If only you could attend one of her lessons, you would understand me. There is no better teacher in the whole world — that's my axiom. We didn't just read interesting stories about some characters, we lived a whole world woven from incredible crossroads, we immersed ourselves in the culture of that era and the country where the events took place, and we learned to think like those people, to understand their actions and to empathize with them. Everything that was going on in that office was like the entrance to Narnia: crazy magic.It was this woman who made me not just open up to something new and unknown, she made me believe that I could do it, she taught me to see things right and not be afraid to express my thoughts on paper, and I dare to think that what I was doing and writing, she liked it. The last time I saw her was at an event of some kind. She sat in the front rows, as always dressed up and beautiful. My best schoolteacher. How long has it been since... We didn't talk, but for 10 minutes I couldn't take my eyes off her, admitting and understanding that woman meant so much to me, so much that sometimes it got scary. The night I got my work, which was in her possession until she was fired from school, I was so terribly confused. I didn't know what to think. I was overcome by sadness at the thought that she didn't want to remember me or that I had unwittingly become a sad reminder of a job that was her whole life. I cried for an hour over those works, remembering in every detail the path I had taken. All those years trying to be her best student, imitating this woman, the greatest teacher, in a crazy race with time, I never understood what she had done for me. She saved me with these works for long-forgotten competitions. Even years later, reminding me who I am and what I really must do. Someone says that history should touch the reader, causing slight nausea and suffocation. It seems to be the same with people. At least that's what happened to me. Other people make us human. So look back and say “thank you” to that very person whenever you can. “How many words in the world and nonsense can't find the right 'thank you'. I am grateful for your faith and the crazy work you have done to show me the way to myself. Without knowing it, it was you who showed me what a determined look and an ever-burning heart means. I learned to fall in love with simple plots, reading the riddle between the lines, and to see the genius in a completely, at first glance, delusional phrases. As Heathcliff would say- “He's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” With love, warm regards, forever your student”.
When the Covid-19 Coronavirus started in Nigeria, I was leaving Kano State with my dad. We had gone for his eye treatment at ECWA Hospital, and spent more than two weeks there. Few days after we left, Kano State experienced an unprecedented increase in the number of Covid-19 cases across the State. The hospital we left had to shut their doors, so as not to risk the well-being of patients that came for their eye checkup. In fact, States across Nigeria closed down their borders few days after we made it back home. It was a mayhem. Most times, when I think about our " lucky escape", and the turnout of events, I just know that we were really lucky and fortunate. Back home, we had to engage in all the precautionary measures as directed by the health authorities. Dad was recovering, and so it was a very sensitive time for everyone. All hands were on deck. Yes, we were keeping safe for ourselves. But more importantly, we were doing it for my father. And the reason was quite obvious. His health wasn't a hundred percent, and that means that any contact with the Coronavirus will have a devastating effect on him. On my part, I had to reduce my outdoor activities and work from home. It was quite challenging for me, because as a journalist, most of my work was done outside the house. But just like everyone else, I had to improvise. Thank goodness for the internet, I had to leverage the online space to conduct interviews, research, have meetings and even publish my articles. I even got to meet more people and engaging leads to work on after the stay at home experience. The whole stay at home experience gave me the ample opportunity to appreciate the little things of life and also to read more and watch what I eat. I had to look at my vision board and projections for the year, and even had to work on my podcast more. It just seems as if I was given a grand opportunity to get my house in order. Meanwhile, the virus was still ravaging different States across Nigeria, and people were dying in numbers. Most of us had to stay indoors because people were not following the precautionary measures by health authorities, and also, most States across the country lacked the equipment to test residents. So, it was far better to be safe than sorry. Many people refused to follow the figures by the national health authorities because for some of them, they are yet to see anyone killed by the Coronavirus. I lost an uncle to the virus. He was buried on June 26, 2020. He was a spectacular person, and I miss the way he genuinely listens to you when you're speaking to him. In fact, I miss his positive outlook on life. When he took ill, everyone thought it was the usual Malaria or typhoid. It was not until he started showing symptoms of the virus that everyone became genuinely concerned. Before his death, his lungs collapsed, and he was practically gasping for his last breath. These days, when I think about him, all I can remember is his warm smile and his positive energy towards life, living and spreading happiness. He once told me to live very intentionally and make an impact, even if it's just in the life of one person. I guess he was indirectly talking to himself, because his life is an inspiration to me, and I got to learn a lot from him. These days, when I look at how fast the year is running, I also remember that I have lit up the path for others to find their way. The Virus may have made all of us stay in doors at some point, but then again, it didn't stop media professionals from doing the needful. One of the proud moments I had during the lockdown was when I worked with a lady who is into digital literacy in her community. Due to the pandemic, her work became very important because people began to depend on the online space to get gigs, have meetings and even make sales. It was a humbling experience for me to share her stories, experiences and knowledge. In fact, my work with her renewed my faith in humanity and our ability to keep pushing, even in the midst of challenges. I may not know when this pandemic will come to an end. But just like everything else humans have faced over the years, we shall overcome. Impossible is nothing.
" I am a writer." I awakened to this thought floating through my mind. I laid there thinking about the revelation of that statement and how it has transformed my life... I remember that just two years ago "being a writer" was just a strong desire that I had. I remember sitting each morning and writing a statement affirming that I would become a world-renowned author. I had a strong desire to be able to sit and write for hours as words flowed from my mind to the paper with ease and continuity. Now I awaken with ideas and can sit so long that my hips and knees lock in the seated position. This strong desire has been with me since I was a ten years-old... I remember escaping the fear of my father's presence on the tear-stained pages of many notebooks... I wrote of how the sound of his footsteps coming down the hall towards my room terrorized my soul. Tears fill my eyes as I think of those dreadful encounters.... I wrote of how I I wanted to die - to literally cease to exist. I found peace in the mere thought of it! I wrote about what it would be like to be away from that deceptive life of abuse...to be freed from my the bondage of the dysfunctionalism in my home that made loneliness my brother and despair my sister. Yes, I prayed for death to come for me- to just tip-toe through the night and deliver me from that plight- and, I prayed, that my mother be spared from the pain it would cause. She was so fragile - a sincere woman whose devotion to an abusive, narcissistic womanizer siphoned her essence and swallowed her within his shadow... I wrote of the times I had to pick her up from the floor after she'd fallen during the episodes of mini seizures she'd have each evening while she drank. I wrote to keep myself awake so I could help her when the next ones would hit... I wrote about the bullies - the mean girls who cornered me and cussed me out because my mother failed them in P.E. class and my father pissed off their mothers... I wrote about when I plunged into depression. My father's response was to hide the gun he kept in the top drawer of his nightstand. My mother bought me packs of slightly scented pink writing paper with purple (my favorite color) lines because she knew... Yes, she knew that writing was my safe place... She knew that it was the pen and paper that allowed me to escape the hell they'd created... What she didn't know was that a simple hug and a bit of her attention should have been my safe place that would have allowed writing to be the blissful place for the creative musings of a child! Alas, I digress and consider the fact that I now write with the strength of an eagle mounting up and the grace of its' glide through the sky. ****** The sun has just broken the skyline and is shining over my shoulder. With its' rising there is the powerful dawning of the recognition within my soul: I AM A WRITER! In my minds' eye, I see myself stepping out of the darkness and embracing that little girl still clutching the packs of pink paper. I gently kiss her forehead and whisper, "We no longer write to be free. Now we write because we are free!"
On sunny days, the light would peek through the gaps of the blinds which covered the glass sliding door. The rays of sunlight would block the iCarly episode I was watching, but the sound would still spill out of the small speakers on the sides of the viewing box. A rainbow would form on the crimson, vine-patterned carpet, and, later in the day, the rainbow would move to the milky walls, and my brothers and I would look at it with marvel. Mom and dad just watched and laughed at us as they wished to paint the white. But that was something we couldn't do in a place we didn't own. Some days, when the sun decided to leave and in its place would sit crying clouds, raindrops would slap the cars in the parking lot, and shadows would begin to cover the small space. When Mom and Dad were at home, they would speak in a language foreign to our ears. My brothers and I could not understand, but that was what they wanted, as they sat on the couch and made plans to move. Sometimes, my ears would pick up bits of their conversation, and I'd fantasize about a bigger house. But fantasies would fall from my ears as I raced my brother from their room to the front door through the long hallway in the middle of the apartment. How would we run in a bigger house without a carpeted hallway in the middle? My mind couldn't fathom the idea. Once in a while, on rainy spring days, the clouds and the sun would get along, signing their peace treaty with a rainbow. My siblings and I, along with neighborhood kids, would rush out of our home, exclaiming, "Rainbow!" as if we'd never seen such a bewitching display of color. We would all come together in the middle of the parking lot, or newly wet grass, discussing how to get to the end of the rainbow, and arguing the existence of leprechauns. Sometimes, we didn't have enough kids to argue as some of them would leave the neighborhood weeks prior. Their apartment doors a forgotten number among forgotten numbers. Their parents most likely found a pot of gold and used it to move. It's incredible how fast things change. When I was little, I promised myself that I would never curse. My friends and I promised we would all go to the same middle school. When the future is a blank slate, you can say whatever you want. It's like an artist describing a painting she hasn't yet painted. I would never have guessed that I would be the one to break those promises. One time, my older brother stood on the wrong side of the railing on the second floor. He was a pirate standing on a plane; the only thing that kept him from falling was the edge of the wood on which he stood. He looked down to the ground below him, and all he faced was blue concrete and the different colored faces of neighborhood kids. Then he let go and jumped. He fell past the second floor until the red rubber soles of his shoes touched the cold blue concrete of the first floor. The small group of pre-pubescent kids cheered, and some said they could do the same thing; what was once impossible was now the opposite. I wonder what I would've done if I knew I would never get the chance to attempt the same feat. I remember first moving to our apartment. I was less than half the size I am now, and my brain was too. Things are so much bigger when you're so much smaller! Our couch was a deep rich brown, and the TV was on the left wall. Above it hung forgotten gifts, cards, and posters, handcrafted by my parents' children. The dining room didn't have a large green mat yet. The kitchen wasn't even as big as the dining room, but it had more cupboards than I could count - cabinets that hid all sorts of roaches and crawly things that shouldn't be in houses. The place always smelled like tomatoes, spices, and oils. My mom always made stew, and the scent would cling to the walls, the furniture, and the fabric of our clothes. My mother would always wear a flowery perfume when going to church, and I would always ask why smelling like food was such a dreadful thing. Maybe I could've used that as an excuse to keep us from moving. "Mom, Dad, the apartment holds not only scents but memories too! What if it forgets about us?" I could never forget. The sun looked at us through the glass sliding door in our living room, and my brothers and I looked at my parents as they entered a small car with an unfamiliar blonde woman in a grey business suit. As soon as they left, we all sat together on the soft, vine-patterned carpet that we still have, and pondered where they were going.
I was the perfect child. Even as a baby I rarely cried or fussed. I stayed asleep during the nights and rarely threw tantrums. I always followed directions and was never the type to jump and run around. In public I would sit by my mother's side, dressed up in white and pink with my hands in my lap. Many of my family members would compliment my parents about how well behaved and quiet I was. Of how lucky they were to have such an easygoing child. But even with my mellow personality, my childhood was not without near death experiences. I almost choked on a penny once. Another time my mom found me sticking my dad's razor into my mouth like a lollipop. Somehow I had managed to climb up the cupboards and was attempting to mimic seeing my dad shave. I still have the scar on my lower lip from that incident. A reminder of one of my many instances of mischievousness. My parents tried their best to make a childproof home. But I had the knack for bypassing their safeguards. One of my favorite spots to play in was the cupboard under the sink. I liked to used the cleaning product containers as dolls. My dad installed two locks on that door in order to prevent me from going inside but I eventually figured out how to unlock them. Apparently I had a knack for undoing locks as well. My parents would scold me of course, but I would just giggle and smile at them in response. Even after more than two decades my parents still talk about how they remembered those days. I have two younger siblings and we constantly prank each other. And while they were much more energetic and impulsive in their younger years, my own sense of mischievousness never lessened. And while I was the perfect child, I was still a child nonetheless.
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