Liebster Award

Liebster Award
I am excited to have received the Liebster Blog Award thanks to the support of a wonderful soul and excellent writer of Pullmyfunnybone Blog.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Two-Take Exchange: Take One

Hello to the readers of Jenn’s blog, and congrats on your willingness to Embrace Your Crazy!  I am interrupting this blog to inform you that Jenn and I have decided to - every so often – engage in a “Blog Swap.”  In case you are unfamiliar with the term, it goes like this: We will choose an image of interest and without exchanging any thoughts before or during the process, so as to avoid any accidental interloping on the other’s view-point or “take” (which is why we call it the "two-take exchange") - we will each write a little (or a lot) about what we see or feel, as provoked by the chosen imagery.  We will then trade our perspectives to be posted on the other's blog. This is our very first go at it, and as it happens, I seem to have written a mini-novel on this initial post (what can I say: I just write what falls into place). But I imagine that the tone, texture, and length will vary from imagine to image and post to post, as will the form and genre.  This, of course, is by design…to keep it interesting. Below is my "take" on the attached image.
You can find Jenn's "take" on my blog  <--- Click here and look for the post with the matching image.
So, without further ado, I introduce to you my “Take One…”

The eleventh hour barks a hasty order as false as its own existence.

The old woman's raspy breaths were shallow and growing more and more distant, so as to match the waning depths behind her eyes.  Her family surrounded her in silent reverie, letting the decades of memories they shared with this sweet and selfless woman slip quietly down their cheeks. The only sounds in the stark and indifferent hospital room where the beeps and blips of the machines that measured the short time she had left coupled with the sniffles and pacing feet of her family members that were a precious kind of measurement of a timelessness gone by.

For the last few days, the old woman's adult children and grandchildren had taken turns whispering to her that it was "okay to let go" and assuring her that “they would be all right” without her.

She knew they meant well, but she couldn't help but wonder at what point they had decided that anyone other than she would know when it was time for her to loosen her grasp on the last string that bound her to this world. In a way, it amused her as she thoughtfully wandered back on the time in which she had offered the same well-intended, but misguided "permission" to her own mother…twenty-five years earlier.

‘We can be so foolish in times of impending loss,’ she thought to herself.  Inwardly, though, she was grinning with compassion.

She heard the door to her room swing gently open, and without opening her eyes or having to hear a voice, she knew that the person on which she had been waiting had arrived.

Grief-stricken and tired from a geyser of emotion and a four hour flight from California, her twenty-two year old granddaughter, Maggie, had answered the old woman's unspoken call…across the miles.  She had come to say farewell, after all; she had mustered the strength to face the fading embers of the woman who had influenced her happy life more than anyone else ever had, or could.

The old woman smiled inwardly, again. The rest of the family had felt sure that this was more than Maggie could handle, and Maggie herself had thought the same. But the old woman had known better…truer. 

After the shuffling embraces and whispers of the rest of the family as they greeted Maggie at the door, the room became completely silent except for the old woman's over-burdened lungs and the noise of the machines that everyone thought had been keeping her alive these last few weeks, when all along it had been the promise of Maggie's presence that had filled her old heart and kept it beating.
As granddaughter made her way to grandmother, the two generations between them dissolved with every step, until time seemed an empty and meaningless notion.

Maggie stood over her grandmother and took her old, tired hand into her own tender and youthful grasp. The young woman jumped a little with surprise when she felt the frailty of the hand she held turn to a hard and firm grip. A surge flew through Maggie's body and caught in her throat. She could not speak. She could not breathe.  Her heartbeat was thunder in her own ears.

The rest of the family looked on, unaware.

The blast of energy pulsing through her very being brought with it a vision, a memory.  In a matter of seconds, the young woman relived every detail of her grandmother telling a tale of wonder to a raptly engaged five year old version of Maggie.  It was a story of two doors: one displaying a perfectly vertical sign that read "Dream," and the other was marked with a skewed sign that boasted, "Reality." A little girl - no older than Maggie's five years- stood before the two doors, at the instruction of an angel, trying to decide which to open...which to enter.

"Which one do you think she chose, Maggie-May?" her grandmother had asked.

After a long and focused deliberation, five year old Maggie answered, “I don’t know, Grammy.”  Her young and unencumbered eyes searched the gently lined face of her grandmother, looking for a hint or revelation.

"Well, when you think you know, you come tell me, okay?" And with that, Gram kissed Maggie’s forehead and sent her off to play.  How she loved to watch that child play…and dream.

As the years passed, Maggie would approach her grandmother with an alternated guess, and not just any guess; oh no, Ms. Maggie was a thinker.  She always had been.  She pondered each door with heartfelt reason and warrant, changing her mind from week to month to year, and each time she did and presented her newest guess (and accompanying explanation), the old woman would smile sweetly down at young Maggie, and would utter a thoughtful “hmmm” and nothing more.  The young one would search the old one for any gleam of a hint, but all she ever got was all that was ever offered: a loving smile and a kiss on the forehead.

As the years cartwheeled on, eventually Maggie forgot about the two doors, and her grandmother never mentioned them again. The tale of the doors had become a riddle lost in the folds of life...until now.

Without realizing she had moved at all, Maggie rediscovered her place - in a strange semblance of time - stationed on a chair beside her grandmother's bed, with her head bowed and resting on the back of the old woman's hand, onto which she still fiercely held. Even through the bedsore creams and other ointments, Maggie could smell that old familiar and heartwarming scent of age and wisdom that came with being close to her Grams.

"Look around you, Maggie-May. What do you see?"  It was her grandmother's voice. Maggie snapped her head up quick enough to give herself whiplash. Her grandmother laid there, eyes closed and taking quick breaths that made her chest move almost imperceivably. Looking back at the rest of the family, no one showed any sign of having heard Gram speak aloud.  Maggie turned quickly away from her loved ones: she could barely stand to see the pity that painted every one of their faces into a sad and emotionally wayward distortion.

The old hand tightened its grip on her young hand. And, again, she heard her beloved grandmother speak aloud, except…from within. "Tell me what you see. Look closely, Mags. It's easy to miss…but not for you, my girl. You've always been able to see what others cannot, because you see with your mind. Now, look."

Maggie looked around the room: stark, stale, medicinal. She looked back again at her family, all of whom had moved in closer, surrounding her from behind like a wall of broken hearts. It was almost more than she could stand. As her eyes were in route – with contemplative intent - back to her grandmother's face, she saw it.

Through the window, a beam of sunlight was pushing aside the gray clouds that had thickly veiled the sky since Maggie had arrived back in her home state a couple of hours prior. The ray shone through the window's glass with little effort, and as Maggie followed its trajectory, she smiled slightly to discover that it ended on the left side of her grandmother's chest, precisely underneath which lay her heart.

And then, she was thrown into a perpetual state of déjà vu. No…not déjà vu. Maggie was stumbling around in her own mind as extrasensory activity forced its way outward. She knew that the nurse was going to peek in to let them know that visiting hours were almost over two seconds before it happened. She heard her mother mumble under her breath, saying, "They will have to drag me out of here," moments before she said it. She felt her father's hand on her shoulder a full minute before he placed it there. And she knew the words her grandmother would "speak" just as they echoed in her mind.

"You've seen this before, Maggie." It wasn't a question.

"Yes." And after a moment, "So have you."  Also, not a question.

Maggie knew before he asked that her brother was going to question, "Who are you talking to, Mags?"

She hadn't realized that she had spoken aloud, but it didn't matter. She knew she could have continued this conversation with her grandmother in silent thought exchange, but she did not.  The importance of sound and silence seemed to be as mutually torn as the very fabric of time.
"We've been here together, Gram…haven't we?"

The family stood united in shocked mystery, and then, came her father's hand on her shoulder. Maggie put her own hand up to knock away the sympathetic words her father was about to send out on a breath of pity and misunderstanding. At her gesture, the room became completely still.

Gram's voice filled Maggie's head, "Which door did the little soul choose, Maggie-May?"

"I am the girl?" This time it was a question.

"Yes…you and I and every other soul whose travels have brought them to the same choice; the same...challenge."

"So, if you and I have both been here - seen this - before, then..."

"Yes?" Maggie could detect eagerness in her grandmother's question.

"We chose both doors, didn't we?" A question. "Expecting a difference. "Not a question.

Gram squeezed Maggie's hand, and after a brief moment of pondering, Maggie burst into a fit of laughter. She waved the approach of her concerned family away, but continued to laugh until tears ran free, like rain on a sunny day.

After she gathered herself, and ignoring the worried looks of her family (and a nurse that had entered to investigate the raucous), Maggie sat in silence for a while. Finally she spoke, this time without sound, "But if you knew the truth, why did you pick the other door, too?"

"Because I knew you would.  It was your second choosing, and we all need to walk through both doors to realize there is never a need to walk through both doors.  They are interchangeable.  Two doors: one destination.  It’s seldom that a soul figures it out on the first go ‘round.  So, I came along – a third time - to help you remember…just in case.  It was my choice of sacrifice, and I made it happily…for you.”

"You went through the same experience a third time, even after you had solved the ‘riddle?’"  She looked at her grandmother’s quiet face in disbelief, and then in offense, but she continued to communicate with thought. “What does that say about me, Gram, that you should have so little faith in me that you would endure the bore of a completely foreseeable lifetime?”  She was almost angry. “If others can figure it out on their own, why couldn’t I be expected to?”  Maggie was feeling a lot like a huffy child, yet somehow her inquiry seemed justified.

"Is that what you think?" Gram’s chuckle filled Maggie's head. "Well, there are still many years and lessons before you, Maggie-May, but I will give you a small hint on these matters:  First of all, nobody goes at this alone.  We all have help.  Never forget that.  Secondly, choice will always rise up and meet the ‘foreseeable’ head-on, my love. Always."
Before Maggie could respond, Gram cut her off by necessity, but also because she had a last silent favor to ask of her granddaughter. "Sing to me, Mags. Sing my favorite song as I untether from this world.  I have more doors to open, and I need my rest."

Maggie smiled even as a single tear escaped, and feeling joy and understanding, she said aloud, "I love you Grammy."  Then, she fell comfortably into the melody and verses of This Little Light of Mine.  By the time she sang the last note, Maggie-May had all but forgotten what she had just shared and "heard," and when the machines let the family know that Gram had passed, she joined her family as they embraced in love and mourning.

Thirty-five years, and two (or three?) shared existences later, Maggie sat her granddaughter upon her knee and told her a tale of an angel, a child, and two doors.


Ellen said...

That made me cry!!!! Loved it

happynik said...

This hit me deep, my friend. I will never forget sitting by my Grandmother's side in her last month, when the cancer invaded not just her body but her brain. She passed away on January 27th, 2011. It was the hardest month of my life, as I was also two months pregnant with Bodhi. I loved her so deeply and we were so close. My dad left me to take care of everything -I won't go into that. I was honored to help her in her last days. I almost stayed overnight, but was still nursing Z to sleep and he'd wake up if I was gone all night. I was only five minutes from her. I will never forget the night -I accidentally left my phone downstairs so no one could get ahold of me. I had some crazy dreams about death, I know it was her talking to me. My dad knocked on my door an hour after she passed to tell me what had happened. The very day before I had gone to see her, and she pointed, half lucid, at a photo of my Grandfather and her parents and told me, "They're with me everywhere I go." with the most peaceful smile I had seen in a long time. It just confirmed the fine line between here and there, the seen and unseen, we are all a part of.

I will also never forget the last night I visited my Grandfather (her husband). I was twelve, and we had been so very close my whole life. I remember walking into the room, as his kidneys were failing and everything was shutting down. He recognized no one but me. I walked into the room and he knew exactly who I was. I could see the distant look in his eyes, but he still held his beautiful smile. My mom wouldn't let me stay that night. They knew what I didn't want to know. It was his last night. I will never forget the call the next morning, right as the sun rose.

Two of the hardest moments of my life.

Thank you for sharing this.

Aubree said...

Nik, i am only just seeing your comment, and it touched me. thank YOU for sharing.