Posts Tagged ‘friend’

Little Things

May 21, 2008

It’s those little things people remember about you, you know.

 

It’s not all the work you did, your big accomplishments, awards you achieved, contests or contracts you won.  It’s the little off-the-record comments that make people miss you.  After you’re gone, I mean.

 

One of my co-workers died a couple years ago.  A very nice guy named Denny.  He did good work, knew his IT, served his country, but I remember the little things.  I found some salt water taffy in the community candy dish…it reminded me that Denny used to bring the freshest, softest taffy back every time he returned from visiting his mother out East.  He also would bake bread a couple times a week and bring it in to the office to share…

 

It wasn’t just the food – it was Denny’s thoughtfulness.  He brought an ice scoop and a cup to rest it in so we didn’t have to use our hands to get ice…and a plastic pitcher with a line marked so we’d make never-fail coffee… he brought his spare drill into the office, just in case…it’s come in handy a number of times… 

 

Denny was genuinely cheerful – not in a fake perky sort of way – when he said, “Happy Tuesday!” – he meant it.  His joy de vivre was contagious – I felt better when he was around. 

 

So even though I didn’t know Denny well, I remember him, and I miss him.  For his practicality, his thoughtfulness, his smile, the way he always said, “Thank you, thank you!” – all the little things that made him Denny.

 

…Makes me wonder what people will remember about me…

 

© Kerry Vincent

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Make a Wish!

May 21, 2008

Make a Wish!

 

We have a cake, candles, and gathered guests. We sing “Happy Birthday to

 

Bryan!”, but the birthday boy is nowhere in sight. It is St. Patrick’s Day. While others

 

are drinking green beer, we are having a birthday party for her little boy.

 

I look at Gloria, Bryan’s mother, my best friend. Her hands and her dreadlocks

 

are shaking, her eyes wet, but she is smiling. 1 am thankful that she is holding up.

 

Gloria and I met twenty years ago, when we worked for a power-hungry

 

television evangelist who fleeced his flock and mistreated his staff. We quit, but we kept

 

in touch with occasional calls and Christmas cards. A few years ago, we discover we are

 

both in therapy to deal with our childhood sexual abuse. We decide to start getting

 

together once a week as an informal support group. Who knew she will help me through

 

coming out as a late-blooming lesbian, leaving my unhappy eighteen-year marriage, or

 

that I will soon be helping her?

 

When Gloria becomes pregnant, I worry. She will be a single mom, barely able to make it financially, even though she works two jobs. How will she raise a child? But she is determined to find a way.

 

I offer to be her labor coach. When I get the call to meet Gloria at the hospital, I leave a

 

meeting with a vice-president that it has taken me two weeks to arrange. But when I arrive, Gloria

 

tells me that her sonogram says something is wrong with the baby. The doctor comes in and asks if they can induce labor and if she will agree to an emergency cesarean section if needed. “Anything to

 

help my son,” she says.

 

But all the procedures in the world cannot help. Bryan has Chromosome 18 damage,

 

A condition insurance adjusters call “Trainwreck.” Nearly every one of his vital systems has

 

something seriously wrong with it. I call a nurse friend. She informs me the baby does not have a

 

chance. How can I tell Gloria?

 

I stay with her through labor, scrub, enter the delivery room, but am asked to

 

leave while they do the C-section. I pray the baby will at least have a face. God is

 

merciful: Bryan is a pretty little boy with soft, curly hair and all his fingers and toes. His

 

big dark eyes, so full of pain, are the only clue that his insides are hopelessly scrambled.

 

I have never seen a newborn who looks so exhausted. They rush him to the neo-natal

 

nursery.

 

Next I pray that Bryan will at least live through the night, till Gloria’s anesthetic

 

wears off, so she can hold him and name him. That wish also granted, I pray that somehow the

 

doctors can cure Bryan’s life-threatening conditions.

 

But I run out of miracles. God is not a genie who grants three wishes. Even

 

though Gloria will be a loving, deserving mother, even though she has given her heart

 

and body, Bryan will not survive. Her only baby’s breath never rises above God’s softest

 

whisper.

 


I know Bryan will not live much longer, so I overcome my shyness, lie my way

 

into the neo-natal nursery, bringing my partner, who is a photographer, to take pictures

 

for Gloria.

 

The next morning, when Gloria awakens, the nurses bring Bryan to her. He is

 

hooked up to life support devices, barely alive. She cradles him in her arms long enough

 

to name him, read one story, sing one song, give one good-night kiss.

 

Sometimes, even a mother’s love is not enough.

 

The medical staff call me and Gloria’s therapists she has no family to be with

 

her when they withdraw life support. Gloria hugs Bryan and sings, in a splintering voice,

 

a last lullaby, “Jesus loves me, this I know…” She kisses him and whispers good-bye.

 

Bryan dies quietly, in his mother’s arms, in a roomful of love and prayers.

 

Gloria cannot let go of Bryan, despite the nurse’s coaxing. She clings to him for

 

half hour, then tearfully passes him to me so I can say good-bye, too. I hold my friend’s child and tell

 

him, “Your mama loves you and wants you so much. We’re going to miss taking you to the zoo and

 

out on walks.” Bryan does not mind the tears that fall on his face. I touch his tiny starfish hand, feel

 

his nubby baby toes through the cotton gown, kiss his fine hair. It is too late for my usual incantation

 

for newborns, “Don’t let anyone abuse this baby!”

 

When the nurse takes her son to the morgue, Gloria rocks, wailing, keening: “My

 

baby! My poor little baby is gone!” I have never heard such raw grief or felt so

 

inadequate. Gloria shakes and weeps and finally has to be sedated.

 

 

Bryan’s casket is no bigger than a shoebox, set adrift in the backseat of a big blue

 

Oldsmobile. I witness his burial because Gloria is still in the hospital. Someone has to

 

see where the grave is dug. The plain wooden box is lowered down. I say a prayer, drop

 

a white rose tied with a blue ribbon and a letter telling him how much he is loved and

 

missed.

 

Gloria grieves Bryan’s death for weeks. I want to help, but I cannot bring her

 

baby back. I call every day to make sure she is all right. I loan her some money when

 

she quits her job she cannot face working in a daycare again. I want to fix things for my

 

friend, but it is impossible. Gloria tells me that just being there for her, and listening, is

 

enough.

 

Bryan lived just twenty-two hours. He changed our lives forever. He taught us

 

that you don’t have to be perfect to be loved. You don’t have to live a long life to make a

 

difference. You don’t have to do great feats just be yourself. You can be angry at God

 

and not be struck down.

 

Years have passed. We have tried to let go and move on. Gloria took a

 

break from childcare but is working in her field again. Nowadays when Gloria sees a

 

child Bryan’s age, she can smile without trembling or tearing up. We still get together to talk about

 

our jobs, significant others, storytelling, and the play about child abuse we performed in last spring.

 

Holidays are painful – we guess what presents we would have bought Bryan this Christmas, what he

 

might have wanted this birthday.

 

 

           Of course, we still wonder why. Gloria wants to know why God took her little  

boy. I want to know why God gives healthy children to careless mothers and takes them  

from loving ones. We are learning to live without the answers. We are slowly healing,

 

but we are learning that healing is a lifelong process.

 

God does not outline lessons on some celestial chalkboard.

 

Bryan taught us that love hurts, but is worth the pain. That friendship is being

 

there, giving each other support, like a loom woven with joys and the sorrows. Like his

 

mother, Bryan was a soft-spoken teacher, who taught us that life, even just twenty-two

 

hours, is too precious to take for granted.

 

For most children, birthday parties are a ritual of growing up. For us, Bryan’s

 

birthday party is a celebration to remember a baby boy who touches our hearts still. We

 

blow out the candles and make a wish.

 

(based on a real life experience in 1995) (c) Kerry Vincent

i remember…

May 7, 2008

* * * * * * *

      Only a name.  Only a name and a piece of cloth.  Only a name and a piece of cloth to remember someone who lived and loved, someone who died of HIV-AIDS.

            This is the second time I will view a Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt exhibit.  I take a deep breath and begin the slow walk around the huge gymnasium.  Bright panels of leather and lame’, denim and sequins, hand-blocked letters remind me that persons with AIDS are more than Center for Disease Control statistics:  each one has a name and a personality and someone who will miss them.

            I recognize Ryan White’s name, but the panel that strikes me most displays simple yellow letters on black felt.  It says, “My name is Duane.  I was born in 1964.  I was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987.  By the time you read this, I will be dead.”

            A square of canvas and markers are provided so viewers can sign a quilt panel.  I see the name of someone I knew, Helena Henry Hatch, a fellow volunteer.  I went to her funeral.  Always dedicated to education and prevention, Helena requested that condoms be distributed for free after her funeral service. 

I write, “You teach me to honor the present.”

          Someone else has written, “Love is never wrong,” and “Love is not in vain.”

            My friend Jerry says hello and shows me the panel he sewed for his buddy Larry.  I give Jerry a hug and tell him I love him.  Jerry is caring, creative, talented, intelligent, he knew Janis Joplin during the original Summer of Love, and he is HIV +.  I don’t want to lose Jerry, too.  Ever the caregiver, he hands me a tissue.

            I tell Jerry, “You will always be more than just a number, just a name on a piece of cloth.”

            He kisses my forehead and thanks me for coming to honor his friends.

 

* * * * * * * *

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

I wrote this piece about 15 years ago.  Jerry died in 1999.  I made his panel for the Names memorial quilt.

Kerry

When I Am An Old Cat…

May 5, 2008

When I am an old cat…

I shall eat only salmon mousse

And cough up hairballs in front of guests.

I shall bathe before the company

And lick between my toes while they watch.

I shall run when they try to pet me

And miss the litter box on purpose

When my human comes home late.

I shall refuse to eat dry kibbles

And hold out for canned fish

So I can whisker-kiss with tuna breath.

I shall look offended when pushed off

Of paperwork or my favorite chair,

And I will ignore being scolded

For leaving tongue grooves in the butter.

 

But for now I must not dig in house plants

And knock down knick-knacks too often.

I must not nip the children too hard

Or growl too much at the vet.

I must be purr-fect and pretty

And always adorable.

 

Still every now and then

I must hiss at the dog

And hide when I am called

And spit out my medicine

And act bored with my kitty toys

So my human will not be too surprised

When I become an old and finicky cat.

 

By Kerry Vincent © 2003