Archives for category: Twins

EstherandElizabeth, 6 years old birthdayliz near end 1
Full of Days

I am old and full of days, and I know this because I get gift certificates in the mail, small bordered, blue; staccato messages to me approaching a distinctly marked age, as not like my twin’s age of 68 when her soul pierced the body’s shell and flew onward and upward, and when I had a feeling or wrote something like, “We will see each other once again -against the dark space and within the illumined lands of God, and we will remember our days as three year olds, sitting on tricycles of resplendent fire engine red and sturdy wheels, not yet aware of the rivets and tunnels we would face in our growth as twins and as souls, an intertwining of hate and love.

Fraternal twins. She from my father’s stock, the ones that produced fine men and maybe a sister or two who vaulted into business, and he, our father who was very much on earth, despaired at his life, the alcoholic wife, the kids like cartoon blocked figures with hair all over them, reminiscent of cave days, as witnessed by their teenage grunts from, “Where are you going?” and their toned and chanted response, emitting from their closed lips, “Out.” And indeed they went out.

The older girl, older in months; neighbors say they are all Irish twins, born within so many months of the other, tskk, tskkk. The older sister, yeah, you know the one who won the Margaret O’Brien Look Alike contest in Boston? Oh yeah her, she went out, out indeed.

She conceived a child as she melted into the arms of her teenage lover, the one who laughed and came from a poverty so cruel, and she was sent away to a home for pregnant girls, and all I can say is, “Thank God, she didn’t live in Ireland,” the Ireland of the Magdalene Sisters, in whose convent, young girls of impure type were housed in terror. For it was a time of sheer cement walls and slaves blending in, Irish girl slaves, those who might have had an impure thought or wrested themselves away from a pushy boy, or better yet, did the dirty deed and used the portion of her body referred to as “down there.”

Out also went the twins who by this time had finished throwing pitchforks and ice choppers at one another, but who had graduated to nasty, slime-ridden comments, of “I’m not sitting in the car, next to Esther,” or she, of the famous Hebrew Queen’s name, ran away from the Randall G. Morris Elementary black tarred school yard before Liz could cream her, she ran blocks and darted through the back door of the twelve- room house on Fernwood Road, in West Roxbury, and double locked the old brass locks against an avenging twin.

Not quite like the caves and battles of Beowulf and Grendel, but darn, didn’t Liz thrust her fist through a small paned window and reach down and unlock both locks and burst in and pin the curled up Esther into the coat rack of old winter coats and jackets?

And then that twin and her queen-named counterpart would, miraculously at twenty-one, be kind to one another. The catalyst for such kindness was a brain stem injury on behalf of our sports figure, Liz, of the mighty fist, which rendered her, well let’s just say, “Rendered her.” From those days of miraculous recovery, a mother had died, the father remarried, the sister gone and married; the brother disappearing and last heard was a used car salesman. We proceeded to fill the pages of our lives and we would always help each other out in a crisis. One day of cumulus clouds in Caldwell, Idaho, she passed on, at age 68 of cancer. The first bracket of the hyphenated, “tell-the-twins,” passed, piercing the body’s shell, her soul going on, leaving husks of giant blades of a sad, sad life, but at peace and loving her boys, one who would marry a pure soul and produce golden children, but that is another story.

The story is now 7-8 years later, I, Esther, who was born twelve minutes later, am approaching that demarcation known as “Full of pages of life,” of skin like parchment paper, but also of still ever sturdy hips.

And so this has turned out to be a prose poem, for what does the poet do? They pierce the state of the mundane and rise to astonishment as words from an unseen ocean spill and spill out onto the earth of one’s mind.

imagesCA9U2AM5Dancing the Tunes

I am a woman of rich inner means, of hips which widen, and of feet which grow clumpier as the years go by.  The word “dance” does not call to me as it did in my younger years.

At twelve, my twin Liz climbed out of a tree, swung into the back door of our twelve- room house, and ran up stairs to our bedroom.  We shared.  She drew a line down the middle of the room.  No crossing.  Twins are like that.  But on Friday nights at 7.30, all the twelve year olds in our town dressed in either suits for the boys or dresses, stockings and shiny patent leather shoes for the girls.

Harry Raymond’s Dancing School, Friday night sessions ,were held weekly in a sagging huge yellow house with white trim on Centre Street in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, near the Shawmut Bank.  My father or mother drove us, and we sat in the back seat feeling like victims in a Black Mariah, wheels silently thwopping towards Harry’s.

Dressing for Harry’s was weekly penance.  Red silky type dresses; made by my mother, with tiny cloth buttons and Peter Pan Collars.  Under the dresses, the dreaded undershirt, and down further the garter belts which were like magnets to the seamed beige stockings we reluctantly hauled over our young girl thighs.

This was a mournful time for us; a time we didn’t fight, too locked into the mutual tragedy of garter belts – long floppy rubberized stretchy thin bands with hooks on the end.  The clips at the end were like a snake’s mouth – open, slide over nylon stocking, close, and clip, a metal slider of small proportions would pull the length of the strips tight.  Ugh.  A beginning rite of passage where I would learn women’s looks are for pleasing, pleasing men.  Am I okay?  All right, as in are my seams straight?  Liz and I were poised on the edge of some type of womanhood, reluctantly brought into the fold of How Do I Look, Does This Please?  Will He Like Me?

Once left off on the curb, we clumped up beat up wide stairs next to a rickety white banister and head towards the powder room.  Jannie Cleary with her curly red hair seemed unfazed.  I wondered if she wore a bra, maybe that’s why she seemed to carry an aura of confidence. “She likes boys,” Liz whispered to me with a downward twist of her mouth.

We filed out and sat on chairs in a huge circle around the edges of the ballroom.  We sat like cows watching Harry Raymond, a thin double for Liberace, glide across the floor, moving by each young girl saying, “Girls’ legs are meant to be closed.”  Then, each week he’d tap Liz’s ankles with his slim black and gold cane, and say, “Ladies do not sit with their legs apart,” because Liz always sat as if ready to spring upon a horse and ride off into some elusive West.

First we learned the Fox Trot, l clump, 2 clump, 3 clump, sway together 4.  During the week at Ruthie Anderson’s house, we danced the fox trot with each other.  Ruthie was Protestant, and we were Roman Catholic.  Our mothers were best friends – daring in a world of people who kept to their own.

Then we learned the waltz – l, 2, 3 – l, 2, 3, feet stomped instead of slid  on the old wooden floor as we stood like fledgling dancers auditioning for a musical.  Eventually we sweated through the waltz.

imagesCAXX4KJA

 

 

 

 

 

Girls had to sit and wait to be asked to dance. The boys liked Liz; she was cute and sporty.  I sat there like a female Prince Valiant, a large red square of silk, my hair a dark clump of blunt and my bangs sort of straight, but not really.  My throat filled with doubt, as one by one, the seats around me emptied.  Finally after thinking I’ll just put my throat on a hook, tall, small-headed, round-chinned Holland Morgan stood silently before me.  His brown eyes questioned me, and his right eyebrow went up as in a “why not,” and we wordlessly cobbled our dancing feet together..  A fox trot.  Step, Step, Step and Step; learning to hoof in a measured square to a musical beat.

Then, as if Zeus threw a thunderbolt into my mouth, I heard myself motor mouthing about dogs, our once poodle who died.  Holland knew of this sad event.  I spoke droolingly of our beige non-altruistic pug and our copper-toned farting boxer.  Words poured out of my mouth like an overfill of chicklets spilling out..  I don’t remember his response.

Years later, when I was twenty, I met Holland again.  He was a friend of my step-brother.  I fell in love with him because of his writing.  He called me Cynthia one winter night as we walked over to Howard Johnson’s for coffee in Kenmore Square, and I was shattered.  He was at Dartmouth, and I worked down on State Street for attorneys.  I lived with roommates near the back of Fenway Park, near Kenmore Square.

I still dream of Kenmore Square because my mother died one icy day in our apartment on Bay State Road. Old issues maybe, or deep wounds, not all caught up by the therapist’s dustbuster.   Liz and I were seventeen.  We had a pug and a boxer, and Liz and I would walk them across Storrow Drive, and walk by the river, the wind whipping through us in the winter.  It was a good day when I realized, after Holland, after Bob, after blah, blah, I wanted what they had:  words, empowerment, not to be lost.  I was a dance in progress, and it’s taken a long time to become myself.  I no longer wear stockings with seams, although they are coming back, and I’m glad that time period is over.  Some people want to go back when times were good.  Good for whom, I might ask.  Then I think it’s all some sort of a dance – this life – a dance indeed.

imagesCA2GPRGH

I sit here on the anniversary of my marriage to my husband who is now 78, and I say to my 74-year-old self, “Self, did you think 27 years ago you’d be sitting here contemplating verbs and old age and giving out sage advice, sage being not only a spice?

I vividly remember our wedding, my dusty pink Laise Adser dress with pastel green nubby cloak with hood, like Meryl Streep wore in the French Lieutenant’s Woman. Bill and I fit like Bogie & Bacall, like bookends of similar but different backgrounds. We remember radio. We were Catholic. We were from the right-hand side of the United States, and we both love pug dogs. Is this the basis of a spiritual relationship? It is.

There’s more this story – how I met him after he had been a Baha’i for two weeks; how I had to go back to being a legal secretary, having left my cubicle four years earlier to return to college; how we had income which was good in the beginning, and how I just before I met him I made the insane decision to buy a radio for my car. We met, we laughed, we matched, and in a dream one night our DNA code swirled around us in figure 8’s. That’s what I call, “It’s a sign.” Yeah, we did a lot of that too.
I made a list of qualities wanted in my unseen mate, and this list fell out of a book a year after we were married. Everything on this long narrow list, “Sensitive, spiritual, humor,” was there – I turned to him waiving the list of scribbled hopes, and said, “I forgot to put tall,” but if so, I wouldn’t have married my husband who is about an inch shorter than I.
It’s been an action packed life. We moved seventeen different times. I had health issues which I’ll speak of at 80 or so. We traveled across Russia, visited Siberia, and lived in Ukraine and Belarus, before, during and after the breakup of the Soviet Union. We also lived with my second mother-in-law who told me one day, “You carry the heavy stuff for him,” and now it is the day of our 27th anniversary.

I sit here with a hiatal hernia, and a suspiciously ingrown toe. I am in my red and black PJs – contemplating words used for aging. Baby Boomers take note. “Use strong verbs – might I suggest “lurch” and “cope.”

My marriage, and a plethora of other happenings, healed me, and now we both face the final frontier. I finally have self-acceptance and self-appreciation, except for an occasional Thursday of black condemning thoughts. It is a time of great inner wisdom and also a time when my body becomes like an old truck spending more time in repair. An ashtray falls out, gets fixed and doors fall off. The unknown is with us every night when our sliding door shuts. Allergies descend upon my husband at every weather change, and it feels like the English Channel roars through my ears, until I turn and rub his back to his snuff, snuff, cough, cough away. I am like someone spraying the end of the contents of the Raid Can.

Again it is also surviving a twin’s passing first if you want to know, and it’s being grateful for skin that looks young thanks to a friend’s gift of Clarins. It’s having a pool house with very low rent and landlord kindness. It was having heart and gall bladder surgery within days of each other and surgeons writing off their fees, but not telling me. It’s standing up to my last breath for the oneness of humankind, and always helping someone every day. It’s living beyond the fringe and not having 401K’s and not giving a rat’s ass, but rather living in a quirky world where status is a blind removed from my mind knowing wealth follows poverty and poverty follows wealth , and I think of the quote, “ O Children of Dust – Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor …” and even when my cash flow is minimal, I listen.

It’s having lingering fears in a dark hour at night, when I get up to pee and hope when I am very old, I will not be a burden, and I don’t want my family to take care of me, because I’ve lived with two mother-in-laws. It doesn’t work very well.

It’s every day having something slow me down, feeling crappola, but then again getting up, like a Russian Matroishka doll who bops up repeatedly after falling, and like a Russian Woman who is strong, and other women also, it’s seeing the beauty in so many faces, and loving the nobility among the anonymous. It’s having two themes fascinate me – man’s humanity to man and man’s inhumanity to man. I don’t mind dying, it’s the getting there, and I want to have integrity and nobility. So far I’ve managed to have dignity in the extreme times of my life, but one never knows his or her ending. It’s also having great kids, family, grandchildren and friends.

It’s living with more soul than body, and not ganging up on myself for having a peanut butter sandwich every morning for breakfast, and drinking lemonade, a good kidney stone prevention. It’s always turned towards something greater, a Divine Presence, and yet being willing to throw my whole being over a cliff for the wellbeing of the world.. It’s always learning, always seeing the wisdom in all things, no longer have shoulders tense up about every issue on earth.

Moderation to some degree has come to me. Trust, like surfing the opaque waves, is there also, but I have to guard this feeling until my last breath, and maybe one silent no breath. It is a life of purpose and humility with a whispered hope that I’ve left the world a little brighter.

Life at Fosselmans

oink, oink

Reader, are you there?  I haven’t been posting, because I’m so busy clicking and clacking everyone else’s wonderful blogs, and teaching writing, and laying down on the floor in a faint because of  the workshop’s wondrous voices, and other stuff too.  Did I tell you it’s been hot, ugh, hot?  The older you get, the more you feel it.

Generalized statement.  Once, when the earth was young, I was born in the Village of West Roxbury, Massachusetts, and I had a twin, normal weight, and we were born in the Boston Lying-In Hospital –part of Peter Bent Brigham (not the ice cream place) or something like that.  I was 4 pounds so I stayed, and Liz, my twin, Elizabeth Deegan Bradley, went home at scheduled time.  I was a 4 pounder named Esther Graham Bradley.  We completed the phrase “4 children within 3 years.”  My sister Mary Ellen Bradley (Meb) was above us and John Williams Bradley a little older –they were Irish twins.

Six months in our career beginning in Dirt City we had whooping-cough, so bad, that Children’s Hospital took us for free.  My father was an economics major from Harvard, but was out of work.  In September, before whooping-cough, the Hurricane of 1938 swash buckled and swash bent houses and boats, and the lights went out in West Roxbury.

Somehow we survived, and we grew up, fraternal twins.  Long story short, Liz, (everyone else called her Elizabeth) died at 68, in Idaho, her family near her.  I have written about this in my book You Carry the Heavy Stuff (a series of essays, poetry, range of depth, and range of writing voices) (Lulu.Com and Amazon.com and Author’s Garage (smile).  Liz was born 12 minutes before me.  Today, as I was brushing my teeth, I thought, what if 12 minutes could be viewed as a day a minute.

I decided I have at least 12 years to hustle and get my gritty, well I’ll be a yellow-bellied chuck wagon prose out on the page.  I may last longer, but I do have aortic valve replacement, blah, blah, and blah, blah, blah – get the full story when I’m 92.

Friday, I went to Nordstrom’s with a good friend who uses Clarens Products on her skin.

She had 2 free facials, and gifted me with one.  It was heavenly, an adventure, and we had lots of catch-up and laughter and old friends’ perceptions to toss at each other over a divine green as green could be, and red as red strawberries could be, and blackberries, and coated sugared pecans, and, and, and we started out as she went for the first facial at 11.30.

Reader, I think I made it home by 6.30 or 7.00 p.m. to my waiting Bill. It was glorious, and the next day my skin, my face, was as soft as a baby’s butt.  I have good skin; don’t know why, and Pam, the skin care specialist, asked what kind of self-care I did, and what I used for my face, because it was great.  Reader, I said, “I throw on water, rub it with a towel, and hit the road.”  It’s worked so far.  But September 29, Janet and I are going back to an adventure at Nordstroms – she’s picking me up at 6.3o a.m. at the end of my driveway – I’ll blog about it.

Sunday, my wondrous daughter-in-law Laura wasn’t feeling well, so Nico, Nicholas, Nick, my 6.5 son came up; Janet of the famed skin care story met us at the restaurant, and Bill and I rode with Nick to a Greens Restaurant on Colorado, near Vromans.  Excellent and not overly pricey.

Then, the plot thickens, as my waist would in a parallel universe.  I have never gone to Fosselman’s Ice Cream, open since 1919, http://www.fosselmans.com/ and I decided to try it.  Nick had a map drawn by Laura, and Bill, myself and Nick headed towards Alhambra, via Los Robles, long, some winds, and took a right on Main, got a little lost, took a U-turn, and there is was on the right hand side.  I must tell my friend and encourager, our friend and encourager, Steve Pulley, who originally told me about Fosselmans being the best ice cream ever.  I grew up going to Bailey’s in Boston, downtown Boston, once a year, and Brighams on the side, and used to be so skinny I could eat all the ice cream sundaes I wanted.

I had 2 scoops of heavenly vanilla ice cream, lots of fudge sauce, delicate, strong, and marshmallow – something I called in my high school years, a “vanilla, fudge, marsh,” and because I had a good lunch, good slices of beef, nor normally eaten, I felt okay.

Today I awakened and cooked stir fry, Tofu and Veggies, as the days of ice cream and splendor are coming to an end.  I then took my hefty gift certificate to Vromans in Pasadena, the best independent bookstore around, and bought 2 more writing books, and 3 memoirs I probably won’t see in the library.

Reader, tomorrow I will be 74, and for the most part I thrive.  I thrive I think because of my Faith, Mr. Bill my husband, my pal, may laughing buddy and snuggler, my kids, his kids, our grandkids, my Faith Community (Baha’i Faith) and all those incredible people in my workshops and in my expanded blog life.  How lucky can an old gal get?

So I just thought I’d share this.  I am very happy at the moment, and indeed, grateful for all I have.

Monday Discovery: Esther Bradley-DeTally.

from You Carry the Heavy Stuff, Lulu.com/Amazon, the author’s garage….. ISBN 978-0-557-20933-0-essays, poetry, observations from a twin’s dying to cubicle despair in a corporate world with voices of buoyant pathos, mystical reverence – you catch my drift

Why do I write?  Like now, when the dishes sit orphaned in the kitchen sink because I, the washer, am typing, sharing, breathing, living, putting off the inevitable, because once a long time ago, I was so hurt, I couldn’t breathe.  I carried that hurt with me forever, until I found out that sensitivity is the price and the prize for being able to write, for being able to read people, to Braille the unsaid.  I write to a lady in prison, who said “I liked a phrase you wrote, “The language of God is a tear running down someone’s cheek.”

I write because I read, insatiably, gobbling, inhaling, filling myself with the human condition; splat on the floor some days, like a big old squishy bug, flattened, dead, its body swept up by old straws on a broom; and then I write to show the magic of St. Theresa’s Snow Queen Altar when I was young, and how everything looked like a wedding cake, and I write to tell how when I was younger, and so needy I could have impaled myself on a stake wide and big, sort of like a meta-letter holder, except the stake would run through my insatiably needy heart, and a note on my back would read “loves too much,” and that was before the book Women Who Love Too Much.

I write because I have gone beyond Medieval Posts puncturing my despair and loneliness and have decided Men Who Love too Much is here too.  Maybe we all love too much, and I write because maybe none of us love too much, for we are told by images in advertising, that we should be thin, jaded in the eyes, like the look of models for Vogue or whatever, who probably could shoot up heroin on their lunch hours, and because despair is trendy and nihilism and materialism and not giving a damn might be the language of the hour.  But then there is the lonely, little, big, young, old, trembling, brassy, you-catch-my-drift-writer who writes because he or she must, and words have a visceral effect upon her, him, the dog, the surrounding room.  I write of hopes for the world, and a good ham sandwich or description thereof on a sour dough roll, with slabs of mayo, and a bed of lettuce, and curled pink ham,  ready to go into someone’s mouth which is opened to the size of half a ladder, is  a good thing, a good description.

What this nation needs is a good ham sandwich and a Pepsi without the aspartame and some down to honest to goodness honesty that is the natural condition to communicate, to be real, to be afraid of bugs in knotty pine walls when the walls come alive at night; to watch an elderly blind woman, clutch the corners of her walker, take a breath and remain a sweet sweet spirit, knowing that her condition, her tests are the divinely calibrated kind, even though trucks have run over her emotionally, and I write to tell of the anonymous amongst us, the bravery, the small acts of courage, kindness in this nation where the world is narcissistically checking its derriere in the mirror, and no one or precious few are listening to the “midnight sighing of the poor,” and where we must have immense courage and speak up; talk, yeah, walk the talk, be it; speak up; tell future generations who we were, wanted to be, became anyhow and our hopes for the future; because someday we will all be sensitive, spiritually inclined, aware of our oneness,  and otherness will go on a back shelf like Twinkies, no longer approved of by the American Heart Association, and writing will be celebrated by hoots and hollers and a piping or two from a medieval horn or Siberian throat, and the arts will have a way of grabbing our soul’s innards and carrying us through the day.  These are some of the reasons I write, but there are others, but today is Wednesday and those are my Wednesday’s writing reasons.

This isn’t to say I don’t have regrets or I don’t remember them. Some regrets sweep away easily when manicured estates employ gardeners impeccably blow lawns, long stretching driveways and sidewalks to reveal nary a curved or crisp autumn leaf. I’m not sure regret can be swept away like autumn leaves.. Then again, I loved autumn leaves on the sidewalk, particularly walking back from the library, the West Roxbury Library on Centre Street, my fingertips feeling the rough concrete images of a stone wall along the upper part of Billings Field. I loved walking under chestnut tree branches and kicking thick piles of yellows, burnt orange, tinged red of maple leaves, everything: leaves just thick enough to walk into piles, scuffing. Ever scuffed? It was hard on my brown tie Oxford shoes, the ones my mother insisted were so good for my feet, but still I walked and scuffed and kicked and felt full of warmth and protection as I hugged my books and stopped to smell burnt leaves in the air nearby.

The smell is wonderful, not a good word for a writer to use, but it’s Sunday afternoon, and I haven’t remembered scuffing leaves for eons. Easier to remember the leaves, the scuffs, than the regrets. I regret I never sang for my father, and that I didn’t kiss my mom goodbye, the day she died, and I left that morning in a hurry because I had to take 2 trolleys to high school because were moved to the city, Back Bay if you want to know, by the Charles River near the Harvard and MIT crews, where we walked the Pug and the Boxer even when the wind tore through us.

I certainly wish I had done better with my teeth. That’s a universal regret. Somehow I know this. I wish I had been able to continue piano lessons. I wish I had studied computing, and maybe taken auto mechanics in first grade. But I don’t regret Miss Higgins, my first grade teacher, or my Uncle Bill Johnson, who brought us molasses candy in long oblong boxes, a box for each kid, and the sticky time of it after Sunday roast beef dinner. I don’t regret his cartoons of my mother following our kitty whose tail stuck up to the ceiling, and a string from her rear parts moved along the floor, under the shadow of my mother with scissors. He called this cartoon “The Lost Cord.” I don’t regret the bookcases filled with books, and the absolute privilege I took as a human right, to sit in a huge chair and read, and not be interrupted, because that was normal in my house. “I’m reading,” gave each reader a sacred space.

I regret not knowing my parents, or the other adults for that matter, knowing them as people. I tried with my father, but my mother died early. I regret moments of being a bully, and that’s private and a long ago. I regret being so afraid of things, but don’t want to sweep it away like errant leaves which escape a rake. I regret most that my twin and I were such opposites and lived most of the time in the tension of the opposites. (Reader this phrase is right up there with “grist for the mill” which I use too frequently, but I have dropped, “my dendrites are hanging out.”) We were opposites: when young, she sturdy and athletic to my frail, roller skating, but bookish self. She kept her emotions tucked in like a North Easter, a person from Maine, and yup and nup and her not speaking of emotional revelations fell over her like a yellow slicker preventing rain. I was the emotive, get-into-trouble twin, funny, daring, but underneath probably equally unsettled or frightened. I regret in our later years her wall regarding my beliefs, but I don’t regret going beyond this wall and caring for her 2 years in a row, and in her final days, her reaching out to me, lifting arms from a body ravaged by cancer, and wanting to be held. And hold her I did. Nope, I won’t sweep that away.

My friend Pili Pili Saka who is on my blog roll is prolific. There’s a sort of cool breeze to his thoughts, his prose, and I find myself admiring his mind a great deal. He wrote about Salvation, and I had been at a discussion regarding that same term last night; not the literal, cause hackles on the neck arise, type of discussion, and then he discussed north and south, and in this case Africa, calling to my mind the different young authors of incredible talent I have written, one of whom wrote about Biafra – north and south, and then finally the tennis balls Pili Pili speaks of call to mind a piece I wrote after my twin’s passing. So I offer it here:

Lobbing
wimbledon plays, bop, pop, british accents
i sorrow for a twinging tooth
wimbledon plays, bop, pop, british accents
a back tooth like an old couch waiting for Goodwill

sorrow was two weeks ago standing in front of
my twin’s coffin, she in her blue bridal dress of old
me, alive, sorrowing for the little girl on a tricycle
sorrowing for her life of dripping Rorschach ink

wimbledon plays, bop, pop, british accents
sorrow has gone up like a balloon on a helium sortie
wimbledon plays, bop, pop, british accents
thwatting away epic events tumbling through and around
the people on the earth’s stage

order, thwats, pops, bops, all metronome-like
in their reassurance, the steadied beat of routine
comfort, sorrow, joy, laughter, anger, all runs together
wimbledon plays, bop, pop, british accents

From some writing prompts i wrote

My sister’s hand was pale, her forearms moist and the writing from
her body invisible. What’s it like for a twin to be witness to a
birth, the birth at the end of time here in dirt city, earth school,
not a gallery, but a workshop?

She had ceased breathing in and breathing out, as I sat at my
computer in her kitchen, exhausted from a month’s witnessing her
agitation, lucid thoughts, holding her in my arms, doing student
nurse type of things like learning to hammer out crushed ice, with
the ice in any kind of clean towel we could grab from the kitchen
and hurry back to her. Her body in the end was luminous, but she
had stopped breathing in and out, and a body no matter how
beautiful, simply does not tell you reliable truth about the soul
who had just left.

I had a few months before, been witness to the doors of Weimar, with
pictures of my dear young friends, pictures of doors of Bach’s
hometown, cobblestone streets, and a restaurant with beefy beef and
potatoes which split apart from a quivery touch of a fork or spoon,
ready to abandon all to the love of someone’s, in particular my,
mouth.

I had seen the doors and the trim of Haifa dwellings, a blue only I
could call Acca blue and think of march toward oneness in this
trembling age. But then I got to see the doors of Caldwell, Idaho,
where I had written a few odes to the Caldwell cows. These doors
were open, spilling out casseroles with a bit of creamed this or
creamed that over hunks of veggies and chicken. Their owners kept
up a steady supply of feeding our little group of four, assistants,
trainees to the hospice team.

We had an unbroken line as twins, that line tested so much over the
years. Fraternal is different, opposite the myth or the unreliable
truth that twins think the same thoughts, feel the same feelings,
utter the same cries.

But, the fact is the line wasn’t broken and while she stayed in
Caldwell, and I twitted about the world a wider piece, the line did
its job, staying firm or loose or taught but still a line. The line
has dissolved into space unknown, a silver blue thing of mystical
origins. And now I a traveler in the fractal worlds of God think of
her in random moments of my day in wonder of the doors that lie
ahead of her.

My twin, Elizabeth and myself, and then Elizabeth on her tricycle!

This was an exercise I tried after sending a friend who is teaching kids some examples of lessons; it was nice to try it; I want to say it was fun; but would that shock those who knew my twin just passed. But heck yes, lightness of being, the unbearable lightness of being; it’s grand.

If death were a color it would be
a rainbow, with the black starting first
just as so not to surprise the writer
who is in for a notice of change

Death ain’t what you thought it would be baby.
And it would be varied and graded like
all us creatures in the world; shades of grey
in thinking; no geometric black and white

What’s wrong, this is the only way
Nope, it wouldn’t have an only one way color; and
it would taste like medicine at first, but
tIt would be like riding the Ferris Wheel
higher than ever before

And if death were a feeling, it would be
like my tummy going on a big bump, jumping
up high inside, but skipping down in delight
and finding out, not all bumps are meant to hurt
and give new meaning to bumped up.

Yep, bumped up to the higher ways of intricate oneness
Death would feel light and like bouncy, bouncy bally
A verse uttered by nine year olds in schoolyards past,
and it would be as sturdy as a red rubber ball
needed to be in the school yard
and smell sort of rubbery, familiar like
with maybe a touch of vanilla, cuz you know
Vanilla soothes the senses, don’t you know

And inside, the smell would make me feel just
Oh so safe
And if death were a sound, it would be echoes of
Kids in ages past shouting out beyond the sky,
The stars and the moon
Ollie Ollie Infrey, Ready or Not
Here I come

Elizabeth Leslie BY Esther Bradley-DeTally

It makes sense, Elizabeth, my twin, would have come down the pike first. I bet when she hit earth, she did so with a determined plop of a baby bottom. In fact, I think she had printed instructions for her life, balled up in a chubby fist. I think these instructions read: “This baby has spunk, courage, and a capacity to endure.” I also think she had some capital letter instructions which might have read “Increase Capacity for Endurance.” And you know, just to go further out on a limb with “I betcha,” I betcha some random angel threw in Determination and Service but also added Loves Sports.” Life is indeed not all work and no play.

But, what do I know, because I was on the Welcome to Earth conveyor belt, 12 minutes behind her. Me, Elizabeth Bradley’s twin. Elizabeth Deagan Bradley, born August 28, 1938, in Boston. She went home first, and I stayed to put weight on a four pound body, and clutching my own fistful of instructions and a note “Dear Baby, As you go through life, you will experience the phenomena of skin stretching. Do not be alarmed.”

We went home to parents Don and Mary, a sister a year older, Mary Ellen, whom we called “Meb,” a brother John a year older than that,” and a housekeeper Rita who had the talent of keeping the household together, all the while with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth.

We preceded: the Great Hurricane of 1938 a month later, sweeping into the New England Landscape like Attila the Hun on a bad day. We preceded whooping cough in the next few months, which Children’s Hospital of Boston took care of, because my father was out of work with 4 kids, all 3 and under.

Margarine hadn’t been invented, and our jumping on tin cans to save them for the War Effort and our saving lard, and tobacco shortages were just around the corner as was War with Germany and Japan and blackout curtains at night.

Descriptions followed: One became blonde and curly haired with big blue eyes. The other looked wizened, wrinkled, a baby squirrel kicked out her nest with a solid hind foot of Mother Squirrel.” “The Twins didn’t sit up until 7 months because they had each other.” “In the winter, we’d dress you girls up in snow suits which took a good half hour a piece, and put you outside. You stood motionless, not moving; until we gave up and hauled you back inside.”

After kindergarten they separated us because one twin was more dependent than the other. Only last week did I find out the cause. Liz said, “I copied your yellow wooden shoe drawing.”

I read and Elizabeth hated reading. But one day in third grade, a miracle happened in the form of Eddie and His Fire Engine, a short story which Liz read at school. Guess what, you couldn’t stop her from reading then. She also threw herself into Red Rover games, jump rope, sledding, ice skating at the local field, a form of squash which you hit with a tightened fist. Liz was the best. She’d sit right close to our dad and listen to the Baseball Game with him. She wanted to be a boy, and she was the next best thing for our dad.

Radio programs were a big item. We passed on over Baby Snooks and Jack Benny. By the time Elizabeth was 10, my mom would come out to the back porch, look due east and up into a thickly leaved maple tree, and say, “Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Bobby Benson and the B-Bar B is on.” A rustle would be heard, and Liz would slide down that tree and disappear into the worlds of Bobby Benson, Sergeant Preston and His Dog King (of the Yukon), Red Rider, and the Lone Ranger.

Harry Raymond’s Ballroom Dancing School beckoned us at age twelve, and Liz would climb down her tree and we’d put on identical red satin dresses with Peter Pan Color dresses that my mom mad. We’d be driven to Harry Raymond’s Ballroom Dancing School. We had to wear stockings and garter belts. I felt like a cat on the way to the public bath. Liz was more popular with the boys and had no trouble being asked to dance. When we sat on the sidelines on long benches, she sat with her legs wide apart as if ready to spring on a horse, sat that way, that is, until Old Harry who was like an Opaque Crow, tapped her ankles with a long black walking stick and said, “Ladies always sit with their legs closed.”

There’s a dark side, like big splashes of thick red and black paint, assaulting a Pollack canvass. Alcoholism, a mom taken away for shock treatments, a dad besides himself with anguish, 4 kids in disarray. Elizabeth also told me last year, “When I was 10, I stood in the graveled driveway and thought, “I have to take care of myself now.”

My father didn’t leave us, and my mother eventually died when we were 17. We had moved to downtown Boston along the Charles River, and Liz went home from school first and found her. Our mom died that night of a massive stroke.

Did I mention we fought a lot, and that she’d wait until I’d left the house and then fill my shoes with Kleenex and wear them for the evening? Did I mention all those Saturday night dances, and lots of guys thinking she was the cutest thing that side of the Mississippi, and dances where ushers went around tapping couples locked in Siamese embrace, saying “6 inches from the Holy Ghost”?

She also faked playing the clarinet with Janet Cleary and myself in the St. Theresa’s Marching Band, and we marched on the floor of Fenway Park and in the St. Patty’s Day Parade in New York.

She was the good student. She published a short story in the Tattler, a High School newsletter. We both thought we were stupid (my father was in Harvard at age 16), and we felt like Prince Valiant trolls. We loved dogs, independent ways and a 12 room house with 8 bedrooms and lots of fireplaces. Still, we shared a bedroom, and I was sloppy beyond measure. My father used to say “No man will ever marry you with a room like that.” Liz drew a line down the middle of our room, and I couldn’t cross over to her side.

Neatness aside, she went on to nursing school, but came home one night in hysterics, determined to quit, quit that is, until the next day Dad said, “Get up, you’re going to look for a job”. That night Liz was back in school. She finished, graduated to a standing ovation because an accident bruised her brain badly, left her with a slight limp, and her brain stem was injured. She came away from this sharp as a tack and it made her the most compassionate nurse in ICU and CCU units around!

She married a man whose chapter could be called “Psychotic and Dangerous,” and fortunately he died. I had my son Nicholas at 31, and felt badly she had no children. So we did what twins do, like Parcheesi Games and gifts for birthdays, we shared. I included her in many of Baby Nick’s adventures, and we were always there for each other.

Another chapter began meeting James Leslie. They were a match. Her wedding was the happiest of days, and then she became pregnant at around 42. Surprise! The day Matthew was born, blue eyed, blonde hair (where have we heard that), was a huge, huge day of joy. Jim and Liz then took care of foster children, and animals began to gather in their house looking for a potential Arc. Another incredible day happened when Joey arrived over the threshold, dark, puddle-warm brown eyes, a half-smile that would twist and melt your heart, and then Liz and Jim adopted him. After a few foster children came and went, shored up, readier to face the world, Matt said to his Mom, “When do I get a new mom and dad?” But that wasn’t the case.

Other than Her Lord, Jesus, these two fine sons were and are the cause of Elizabeth’s Greatest Happiness. Jim died, of agonizing bone cancer, and it was a blow. But somehow a spoon was in their pudding, which means, the Hand of God was gently guiding this little family. They moved to Idaho, and the rest is Matt’s story.

One final comment, she was always grateful: for every leaf on a tree, for a roof over her head, for every blessing and trial that came her way, and she tread the path of service and selflessness with her patients and her family with fortitude, endurance, empathy, courage, and tads of laughter, well throw in “How about them Red Sox” too!
We were both happy to be twins!

My twin, Elizabeth Leslie, died June 18, 2007. She won the long hard fight, and many events and happenings swirled around us, too numerous to comment at the moment. She died peacefully, family nearby. She was surrounded by loved ones, and Hospice, Hospice was incredible, and educative and loving. Lindsey, Matt’s wife (my nephew) and I were student nurses. We learned to crush ice chips with a hammer (ice folded up in tea-towel), we learned how a sheet placed under the patient’s torso, is called a draw sheet, and how two figures get on each side and lift the patient up. we learned how to lift someone from bed to chair, and i learned all manner of getting meds into my sister whom I call Liz. Matt, Lindsey, Bill and I were like a concerto, and since Lindsey is a trumpet player, I thought musical reference good. I have pictures or will put pics up later, but Matt did a montage of pics including some of Liz and I as kids on trycicles and the like, causing a lump in my throat at random moments. A lot was said; she was held, loved, prayed for, with, over, and tucked in the best way we all knew how. It’s a privilege to help a soul over the threshhold, and i’m glad Bill and i were there.

we were to go to seattle, but too tired. Instead, we are down with Ralph and Sue in Chico, and will get back to Pasadena in mid-July. Friends all over sent prayers and love, and how lucky can you get. So that’s it for now, a breaking of my blog silence. Wishing you all well, love esther