Archives for posts with tag: Twin’s passing

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.

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Baseball, voices of male announcers speak of spots, and of the Dodgers and Braves – playing in Atlanta. The stage is set, and ennui of memory washes over me, my twelve-year old, wide red sash waisted, self in a red dress with white stars as a skirt, and white with red stars for the top, and a Prince Valiant haircut gone amuck.

I am in that flat land where baseball which brings joy and solace to Bill, my aging pal of a husband, and I am tolerant of his current absorption in the world of sports. On the other hand, this landscape, this flatland, exacerbates my struggle to breathe, to garner energy, to see light on a horizon, and to see beyond dust in the house. It’s not that bad, but I don’t have the physical strength I used to, that is when I didn’t have immune system illness. It seems to me I’ve felt 80 years old more times in my life than I’d like to count, which fact will fill me with laughter later as I remember thinking, where is that post-menopausal zest Margaret Mead talks about?

I teeter on the edge of 75. A twin gone at 68. I’m the last of the – whatevers. I am a woman of intense vibrancy, who sees magenta when others see drab red, who gets high on crusty French rolls slathered with butter, who looks into the eyes of a Pug dog and sees God as Humorist, and finally I am an older woman who has survived a great deal, as we all have.

Eight days of bronchitis find me acknowledging ever so readily that I am inside, under a roof safe, and that the breeze is gentle, but somehow, I feel as if I’ve placed myself on automatic life review, like an old Studebaker repeatedly returning to the carwash to get scrubbed up by those thick foamy brushes again.

Life is not for the faint hearted. My Faith is not for the faint hearted. Repeated rendezvous with brushes in Life’s Car Wash doesn’t strike me as an appropriate ending for any day, any life. But, Reader, at 75 and feeling like edges of dog meat gone bad, I think of endings.

What happens to all those childhood patterns, phobias and fears that one conquers? The bursting out of old patterns, like someone hurtling through the paper star in the circus, which burns small orange flames around its edges if you want to know, and that someone’s an old girl, and that old girl’s been shot out of a canon, yeah that one.

Somehow as I get older I am more aware of the gravel, the small stones in my life, and my too much obsession with minutia of picking them up and wondering, should I have unturned this earlier? At all? Fear of Abandonment.

OMG, seventies phrases guaranteed to enter kachunkas in a Therapist’s cash register, and appear in my Robitussin DM filled brain, competing with titles like keep those Run With Wolves, Cavorts with Angels, but Does the Laundry on Monday, even with a Virus Cold, titles which no longer enchant.

It’s the unknown. There I go again, worrying into the future, nettling, rearranging its furniture in the storehouse of my mind. Will I have a bed, a place to live, and some lentils to suck on? I am not a sole voice, lonely giving wolf calls into the hills. My voice is legion.

Should I write to AARP, and say “Hey what does an old gal do?” None of us want our kids to be burdened with our care, and yet again, I don’t want to end up on a broken-springed bed in a dark corner of a Convalescent Home, breathing through my mouth because of the You Know What smells and smiling at someone, while trembling within – will they be kind?

Vulnerability; I feel skin-inside-out vulnerable. And I also feel an abstract level of myself rising up from a rock, shedding identity after identity: the spunky one, the I’m building my career at 74 one, the sure I can drive you there, the be there for 700 cronies around the world type of thing, the blogger whose too pooped to platform, and who wouldn’t dare try on platform shoes in fear of falling.

You catch my drift dear reader. This is a glimpse of an old gal who normally wants to throw her head back and laugh, who believes in our essential oneness, and who is acutely aware of the swords of greed on this training ground of a planet, our training ground, my training ground.

So I’ll end with that’s it. Close the Word Barn for the day. It helps to be able to voice vulnerability. Thought I didn’t have to do that anymore, but this here aging is going to take courage, and I’m going for it. Shoot the Moon type of thing.

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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.

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