REMEMBER ME IN BLOOM

 

 

Magnolia bloomI am now at the age where I attend more funerals than weddings; a time more defined by loss than achievement. And while the years have crept slowly they seem to have passed overnight. One moment I was running barefoot for miles along the beach and now? Climbing a simple flight of stairs is agony for my knees.

 A friend of mine recently passed away. As I entered the church for her visitation, she was lying in an open casket at the far end of the room. Her face was translucently whiter than it had ever been in real life and her lips were pressed together as if just about to smile. They had dressed her in a blue suit and wrapped rosary beads delicately around her hands. She seemed so lifelike that I stared at her chest thinking any moment she might possibly take a breath. The longer that I looked, though, the more it bothered me. I did not want to remember her like this.

 As my friends and I waited to speak with her family, I asked them what their own plans were for their services someday. What surprised me was that all of them had plans. One gave a detailed description of every song and Bible verse that would be played and read at her service. Another said she wanted a simple funeral but no cremation. The last not only described her memorial but also asked if I would sing her favorite hymn when the time came!

 I excused myself and returned again to my friend’s body. Instinctively, I reached into the casket and took hold of her hand. It was something that I had often done when she was alive. We often squeezed hands when greeting one another. This time, however, her hand was cold, so cold, that even when I let it go, my own remained distinctly chilled for several minutes afterwards.

 As I drove away from the church, I realized this: I want no memorial, no funeral, or even casket. Do not stitch my lips shut or lay me stiffly like a mannequin. Cremate me and scatter me to the wayward wind. Then, I will become a part of the good earth again and perhaps even bloom in someone’s garden. Remember me with a flush of color in my face, a big smile on my lips and a hand warm to the touch.

 

 

 

  

GET ON MY LAWN!!!

torn up lawn

 

Okay, so I called the cops—but hey it was late and dark and I was alone in the house when I spotted an old, beat up van with tinted windows parked well into the grass at the edge of my lawn. At first I thought it might be the girl who had contacted me on Craig’s list to buy my fire pit. Surely, though, she would have come into the driveway and knocked on the door?

So, I leashed the dog and boldly walked out onto the lawn under a lone pool of light. I stared hard at the van but all was dark and quiet. I figured the car had run out of gas and been abandoned. As I turned back towards the house, though, there was the sudden rev of a motor. The van began to move forward, stalled, then stopped again. Quickly, I headed into the house and called the police. Four minutes later, a patrol car pulled up behind the van. He talked to the driver then headed towards me.

“This guy says he’s supposed to pick up a fire pit at your house. He was afraid to come in your driveway until his friend arrived. Unfortunately, he’s now stuck in your lawn and can’t get out.”

I felt like a dope. Turns out he was a doctoral student in biomedical engineering working in gene therapy. Just then his friend swung into my driveway.  She is studying pharmacology which treats mental illness.  They called AAA and were told there was ‘at least an hour and a half wait.’ Well, I couldn’t leave them outside in the cold that long, so I invited them in for dinner.  There was laughter and intelligent conversation at my table and I loved every minute.

By the time AAA arrived and hauled his van off our lawn, there was a 15-foot trench of mud where grass used to be. It did not bother me one bit. What’s a little grass loss compared to the company of two spectacular, young people? As they left, the young man said again, “I am so, so sorry about your lawn.” I replied: “And I am so, so thankful you happened by.” He looked surprised. “You see, what you are sorry for at your age is something that I am grateful for at mine.” Someday, he will know exactly what I meant.

 

 

DON’T SIT THIS ONE OUT!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

No, he’s not my husband.  Five minutes before this photo was shot, I had never laid eyes on the man.  But let me explain.  It all began in 1968, as I was leaving for my first high school dance.  As I headed for the door, Granny called out:  “Now remember, Dear, dance with EVERY boy who asks you.”  Her feeling was that to ever say, “No, thank you,” would be crushing to a fellow who had worked his courage up to ask in the first place.  So, I did and in the years since, not only have I never ‘sat one out,’ I have even taken to doing the asking myself. 

 Such was the case last week as I shopped for produce at Whole Foods.  Somewhere between the flowers and the blueberries, music began to play; lovely, danceable music.  As I turned towards the musicians, I noticed an older gentleman standing off to the side keeping time with his foot.  I walked up and asked him to dance.  He said, “No, thank you.  I’m just here to listen to the band.” 

 Frankly, he took a bit of coaxing but within minutes we were moving to a song whose name I can’t remember.  By then, I had dropped my coat and shopping bag to the floor.  His shy smile began to beam as others stopped to watch us.  Emboldened, we began to widen our circle and grasped hands.  Neither of us had a clue as to what we were doing, nor did we follow any kind of actual step like the waltz or foxtrot.  We just danced, this complete stranger and I.  From the corner of my eye, shoppers stopped to smile, a grinning cashier paused at his register, and a little girl pointed us out to her mother in wonder. 

 Why does she ‘wonder’?  I ask myself.  Our brief lives should be filled with moments like these; times we simply drop what we are doing and move to the music.  Moments don’t just happen.  We make them come alive by risking and yes, dancing.  These moments become our memories.  If we don’t make them joyful, we are doomed to a bitter old age.  Besides, the music doesn’t play forever.  So, to Granny, ‘Thank you for that advice.’  And to Vernon, ‘Thank you for the dance!’

 Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” a memoir of the 13 years her ‘advice-giving’ Granny descended into Alzheimer’s.

http://www.amazon.com/Kissing-Tomatoes-ebook/dp/B007CMNJKW

 

DON’T WORRY

Do you know that they’ve done studies which PROVE over 90% of what we worry about NEVER happens!  I’ve even READ the studies, so I ask you, why did I wake up at 5 AM this morning worried about my teenagers?  Because I figure, MY worries are in that 10%.  Go figure.

Now, I admit, I have a rather uncanny ability to find everyone else’s flaws and weak points.  Seriously, my head is like a magnifying glass. It can fix on the most minute crack in someone’s façade and enlarge it to earthquakian proportions.  Give me ten minutes with anyone and I assure you that I could tell you where they’re going wrong, what they’re doing right and if so inspired, even offer my advice to let them know both of the above. 

Plus, it does not take a GPS to find my mouth.  Just walk by and it locates.  If only that inner guide steered me as well raising kids, I might have a whole lot less worry and a heck of a lot more sleep.  In hindsight, I spent the first 10 years loving, nurturing, teaching, and helping them find their way.  Frankly, they have spent the last 10 undoing all my good work.  

Children learn by example.  (At least they used to before the computer opened it’s top and swallowed them whole).  In prehistoric times, kids had no choice.  When Mom said, “Run!” they ran.  Otherwise, they’d have been flattened by a buffalo.  But they’re extinct like “Thank You” notes, long distance phone calls and helping little, old ladies across the street.  When’s the last time you laid eyes on a Boy Scout?  Or held the door for someone older? 

Fortunately, my oldest, has had a part-time job the last two years.  She knows what’s it’s like to do something that involves mindless repetition, receives no praise and garners little money.  It has prepared her for parenting.  Of course, by the time she has kids, you can probably just download an App.  It’ll save you the hassle AND the worry. On that note, I think I’ll hit the sack.

HELEN HUDSON HERE: MAKE MY DAY

 Here’s what makes my blood boil:  callous jerks running roughshod over old folks with an air of insouciance that unhinges me .  Whether it’s shoving past them in lines, defrauding them by phone, neglecting their care or outright ignoring their presence, their constant victimization makes me furious.  I defy one, single reader to go one, single day without witnessing this crime.  And it is, a crime.

A few hours ago, a frail, old man was backing out of the “Handicapped” space next to my car.  He moved slowly and looked behind carefully as he reversed.  However, when he was three-quarters of the way out, some girl flew around the corner in a large pickup, SAW him and actually SPED UP to pass him.  He slammed on his brakes.  After she passed, I looked through the window at his face.  It was grim and shaken.  I waved.  He looked up nervously.  I smiled and motioned him to roll down his window.  He did but only one inch.  “Not your fault,” I said.  “She was a jerk.  You were in the right of way.”  He gave me a tight-lipped, half-smile.      

 I kicked a cab in New York City once.  I was helping my 90 year-old grandmother across 5th avenue when a taxi ran a red light.  He came so fast that I had to pull her out of his path.  As he passed, within mere inches of us, I kicked his bumper as hard as I could.  THAT made him slam on his brakes.  He jumped out of his taxi yelling in a foreign language.  I was too mad to be intimidated.  “You almost hit my grandmother, you maniac,” I yelled.  “You could have killed her!”  As I continued to maneuver her safely across the street, cars all around him began honking.  He just stood there, yelling, as all of 5th avenue angrily swarmed around him.

Frankly, I don’t know to this day if I actually made a dent in that cab because I never looked.  However, I hope I made one in the driver.  Part of me wonders that if that girl today in the pickup had been closer, would I have kicked her bumper too?  Maybe I’ve turned into the Clint Eastwood of the elder set.  Maybe I’ll start carrying a cane at each hip.  If someone gets unruly with one of my elderly, I’ll whack ‘em.  First I’ll look ‘em right in the eye, though, and say, “Make my day.” 

Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” now on Amazon/Kindle.

HELEN HUDSON HERE: MAKE MY DAY

 Here’s what makes my blood boil:  callous jerks running roughshod over old folks with an air of insouciance that unhinges me .  Whether it’s shoving past them in lines, defrauding them by phone, neglecting their care or outright ignoring their presence, their constant victimization makes me furious.  I defy one, single reader to go one, single day without witnessing this crime.  And it is, a crime.

A few hours ago, a frail, old man was backing out of the “Handicapped” space next to my car.  He moved slowly and looked behind carefully as he reversed.  However, when he was three-quarters of the way out, some girl flew around the corner in a large pickup, SAW him and actually SPED UP to pass him.  He slammed on his brakes.  After she passed, I looked through the window at his face.  It was grim and shaken.  I waved.  He looked up nervously.  I smiled and motioned him to roll down his window.  He did but only one inch.  “Not your fault,” I said.  “She was a jerk.  You were in the right of way.”  He gave me a tight-lipped, half-smile.      

 I kicked a cab in New York City once.  I was helping my 90 year-old grandmother across 5th avenue when a taxi ran a red light.  He came so fast that I had to pull her out of his path.  As he passed, within mere inches of us, I kicked his bumper as hard as I could.  THAT made him slam on his brakes.  He jumped out of his taxi yelling in a foreign language.  I was too mad to be intimidated.  “You almost hit my grandmother, you maniac,” I yelled.  “You could have killed her!”  As I continued to maneuver her safely across the street, cars all around him began honking.  He just stood there, yelling, as all of 5th avenue angrily swarmed around him.

Frankly, I don’t know to this day if I actually made a dent in that cab because I never looked.  However, I hope I made one in the driver.  Part of me wonders that if that girl today in the pickup had been closer, would I have kicked her bumper too?  Maybe I’ve turned into the Clint Eastwood of the elder set.  Maybe I’ll start carrying a cane at each hip.  If someone gets unruly with one of my elderly, I’ll whack ‘em.  First I’ll look ‘em right in the eye, though, and say, “Make my day.” 

Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” now on Amazon/Kindle.

HELEN HUDSON HERE: CAN YOU HELP ME?

“Dear, could you help me?”  squeaked a wavery voice.  She was so short that I could hardly see her head above the basket which was piled high with Saltine crackers, canned vegetables, cleaning mops and charcoal briquettes.  Finally, I saw her; a very, very, old, wrinkled lady with sparse, white, curly hair that looked as if it had been drawn on her head instead of actually growing there.

“I can’t find the Gain fabric softener,” she pleaded.  She didn’t know what it looked like because she had never used it before.  Actually, she said she didn’t use softener but, “had a coupon.”  Suddenly, I understood the strange juxtaposition of things in her cart, which I now observed also included panty hose, a large bottle of hair conditioner, both dog AND cat food, and a squirt gun.

 I looked.  No sight of the Gain.  Just then a young man drew near with his cart.  “Could you help me, Dear?” she asked him, probably sensing that I was useless.  He took one glance at the dozens of similar, colored bottles in view and said, “Just a minute.”  Seconds later the grocery clerk arrived.  With a big grin he pointed to the Gain.  Problem was, there were four, different varieties.  I suggested the lavender.  She turned up her nose.  The clerk said he thought the orange one was neat.  “And have my clothes smell like oranges?” she scolded.   This was gonna take awhile.

When I checked out, she was still patrolling the aisles in search of coupon items.  There was now a large, plastic pitcher on the pile.  I wondered what she would do with all of those things when she got home.  I also wondered if she knew herself.  As I left, I heard her ask a young woman at the next register, “Excuse me dear, could you help me?” 

There is something beautiful about that question.  Funny thing is, it seems to me that only the very young and the very old ever ask for help.  The rest of us in between figure we can do it ourselves—even when we can’t.

On that note, here is a question for you, dear readers, now in 23 countries:  Would you send me a topic of specific interest to you and challenge me to share it here?  I will take your idea, like a coupon, search the aisles of my imagination and see what ‘we’ can find.   

THUMBS UP!!!

When I first started driving, Granny cautioned me NOT to pick up hitchhikers.  “You just never know,” she warned.  I disobeyed her, but only once.  That day, I was feeling pretty independent behind the wheel of my stick-shift, Chevy Nova, clunker when I saw a guy with his thumb out on the highway. 

No dummy me:  I checked him out top to bottom first, before I stopped.  He was clean, handsome in a rough sort of way and looked very fit.  Seemed harmless.  So, I pulled over.  He gave me a big, wide grin, and said, “Hey, Thanks for stopping.  I’m just going about two miles straight down.  I sure appreciate this.  It’s hot out here.”  Had manners, too. 

As he squeezed himself into the front seat I realized that he was MUCH bigger up close.  He was also staring at me, hard.  So, I did what I normally do when I’m nervous:  made conversation.  “Your boots are really cool,” I enthused.  “Thanks,” he smiled.  “Where’d you get them?” I continued.  “Um.  I made ’em actually,” he said.  “No way!” I blathered.  “Yeah.  It took me a long time to do this part,” he indicated, raising his jeans to show even more detailing higher up.  “I worked on ’em while I was in prison.  Actually, I just got out a few hours ago.” 

The oxygen suddenly went from the car.  ‘No wonder he’s so strong,’ I thought to myself, ‘It’s all those sit-ups in his cell.’  Fortunately, his stop was just ahead.   “Well, here you are,” I said in a breezy,  extra-loud voice, pulling over about five times faster to let him out than I had to pick him up.

That incident crossed my mind today when I picked up another hitchhiker; an elderly redhead.  She was standing umbrella-less in the pouring rain.  “Where are you going?” I yelled through the downpour.  But she didn’t pause to answer because she was already arranging her five foot self into my front seat.  As she snapped on the seat belt she turned to me and said, “Do you have any idea where Verizon is?” 

During our ride, I learned that she was 85, had a daughter,  moved here recently from New York and loved to read.   “I was just too impatient to wait for the bus today,” she confided as I pulled up to Verizon, “so thanks for picking me up!”   You’re welcome, Alma.  Anytime.

Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” now available on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Kissing-Tomatoes-ebook/dp/B007CMNJKW

IT TAKES A LOT OF NERVE

It takes a lot of nerve to steal from someone but it takes even more to give what you’ve stolen back. Both scenarios occurred to an 83 year-old friend of mine yesterday.  She arrived at the pool as she has, “for the last 40 years,” with her purse stuffed inside of her gym bag.   She put them in her locker and headed out to swim. When she returned her purse was gone.

Inside, besides $60 in cash, were two gift cards from her grandchildren totaling $200, along with her ID and all of her credit cards.  Bereft, she drove straight home to cancel everything. When she finished, she walked out to her mailbox and found her purse sitting inside. The cash and gift cards were gone, but everything else was just as she had left it.

I thought about the girl who returned it in broad daylight. Someone could have seen her, including my friend. It took nerve but it also meant that she had a conscience. Nowadays you don’t see much of that. Just read the news. Not much conscience around.  Some of our politicians and PEOPLE idols could have used a grandmother like mine.

When I was five, I stole a piece of Bazooka bubblegum from the open jar at the checkout stand as Grandmother paid for our groceries. I unwrapped it, stuffed the pink sweetness into my mouth and began to chew. However, as we approached the car, Granny looked hard at me and asked, “What are you chewing?” “Gum,” I answered guiltily. “Did you pay for it?” she asked. “Um. No,” I replied, “but it only cost three cents.” “That is stealing,” she said. “The amount doesn’t matter.”

She reached into her handbag, took out a Kleenex and had me put my gum inside of it. “Now take this back and tell the clerk that you are sorry for stealing it.” Then she took three pennies from her purse and pressed them into my hand. “And here is the money to pay for it.” “But Grandma,” I protested, “You mean I have to give the gum back AND I have to pay for it, too?” “Yes,” she replied. “But why?” “Because you won’t enjoy it anymore. Your conscience won’t let you.” I’m kind of hoping that girl has that same feeling with the stuff she buys on my friend’s cards.

Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” an Alzheimer’s memoir.

CLEAN YOUR ROOM!

A friend came by to see our new house last week  Nothing really ‘new’ about this 50’s ranch but I welcomed the chance to show it off.  She marveled at the view from all the windows of the grand trees which surround us and we giggled at the constant creaking of the floors.

As she opened the door to my daughter’s room, my heart sank.  Clothes were heaped everywhere, dresses flung on the floor, dirty Kleenex, candy wrappers, a half-eaten apple, and an unmade bed.  Her bathroom, however, made the bedroom look like the Sistine chapel.   

Her room has looked like this for so long that I didn’t even cringe when my friend said, ‘Gosh, she’s as messy as my son!’  And while I have asked her to clean it hundreds of times, it still looks as if the person who lives there is careless and uncaring.

Now experts on the subject say that kids’ rooms are messy because they, “have too much” or because they are “exerting their independence.”  And while both points of view have value, my take is this:  Your room reflects who you are. 

As a teenager, my own room had a posters of Led Zepplin and the Doors on the walls.  An incense burner sat on my dresser, love beads hung from my desk lamp and my stuffed animals snuggled on the paisley bedspread.  Granny even let me tape peace symbols across the windows.  Those were my statements of independence. 

So truth is, I don’t really want my daughter to just ‘clean her room’.  I want her to value her clothes like her friends and not just dump them on the floor when she is through with them.  I want her to realize that not capping the toothpaste or nail polish is like hanging up on someone without saying, “Good-bye.”  I want her to understand that leaving gooey trash on a strand of pearls or a white, silk blouse, is like cussing in the middle of a Keats poem. 

When my daughter walks into this room of her own, I want her to own it as the full expression of who she IS.  So that anyone who crosses her threshold in the future will see her best self not the one on view at present.  Before I post this, though, better be sure that I made my bed this morning.  I have to lie in it.