* All photos on Blog are taken by Pat Burdette and protected by copyright.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Greatest Hamburger

I find my thoughts on Mom a lot lately.  Maybe it’s because it was about this time of year – the spring of 2001 – that she died.  She began sharing she was feeling sick just before Thanksgiving, just a few months prior, and her family doc began to think there was something really wrong.   That’s when we began that terrible, but all too short road to her death in that spring.  She was so weak that autumn, too weak to rake the leaves in her huge yard that bordered a woods and a forested park, so we kids came down to do it for her.  I remember her watching from the window as  my sister Kathy and her husband, Jay, my brother, Terry, and I, and some of my young nephews, too, raked a ton of leaves.  We were all laughing and joking, and she was smiling, with tears, to see us all together.  I felt if we all stayed together, we could face anything, so strong was the feeling of love and bonding.

                Later, I remember sitting with her in the pulmonologist’s office, after being dragged hither and yon through the hospital, getting x-rays, blood tests, this scan and that.   Because I am a nurse, Mom always looked to me to make things better, easier, and I never could.  I felt the weight of that, even if it might of been self-imposed.  I felt the hospital staff always treated her poorly,  never did the little things to make it easier for her, and nothing I could do really helped. Still she always looked to me to make some difference.  It was always some sort of crappy rule or bureaucracy that made things difficult, or some small tenderness that was withheld that could have made things so much easier, and it was the withholding what upset me the most.  I hoped I never practiced my job like that for people in need, I was sure I usually didn't, and it drove me nuts when I thought they treated her like she was just some job, just one more patient to finish before they could go home for the day. Couldn’t they see that my mother was IMPORTANT? Anyway, they kept talking about this “spot” on her lung, blah, blah, blah, and I could see she didn’t understand.  We were finally in the pulmonologist's office (lung doctor) when I couldn't take it any more.  I felt, for goodness sake, TALK TO HER!  Yet I managed to politely interrupt and said, “Excuse me, I don’t think this has been made clear to my mother.  By ‘spot’, we are saying ‘malignancy’, aren't we?”

The man looked at us over his glasses and says “Oh, yes, of course.”  Mom looks at me with a questioning, almost panicked look, and I say gently, “Mom, ‘malignancy’ means ‘cancer’.”  “Oh,” she says, and while the doctor is shuffling papers in embarrassment, or annoyance, I don’t know which, she begins to cry, and he stands up and leaves.  I move next to her and rub her shoulders, hold her hand, and typically, in her fashion, she gathers herself together, wipes her eyes, and she says, “Well, I beat it once, maybe I can again.”  I, myself, am feeling a bit shaky, but agree. “You bet,” softly, hoarsely.  Fifteen years before she'd had a melanoma. Turned out later this was a new cancer, not related to that one.  Talk about the luck of the Irish, she sure had it!  Or didn't.

                In truth, she really only ever was well enough to get one chemo treatment.  I don’t want to talk about the complications, what I feel was the doctors' mistreatment of her, time after time, their blindness to her mental state, their refusal to hear me, and her oncologist’s boorish behavior right up to the end.

                No.  What I was crying about in the car this morning was my regret about our relationship.  I so wanted to be close to her.  Once, before she was staying with me, I drove down after work one night to visit.  She was sitting on the couch watching TV.  Her back used to hurt quite a bit, then, and sometimes I’d rub it a little as she sat there.  That night she said, “Feel this,” and there was a mass on her lower back about the size of a large softball, protruding from under the subcutaneous tissue.  We both knew this was not good, but we said little.  It was painful, so I gently massaged there for a long time.  She said – “OK, that’s enough, it’s a little better, and that must be exhausting.”  I said that if more massaging would help, I was not tired, and she let me continue.

                I kept at it until my arm was nearly dead, because it was a rare time she would ever let me be that close to her.  All I wanted was for the two of us to sit and hold each other, be close, and talk in the little time we had left together before she was gone.  Is that abnormal?  She’s my Mom, and I wanted to be held like her child again, even though, at the time, I was nearly 50.  It would be all I would have for so many years.  I just wanted to be close to her. 

                The Bible records that God wanted to draw the Israelites to Himself like a hen draws in her chicks, “but they would not”, and my mother also “would not”.  She never wanted to be held, or to hold me, never wanted to be close.  She would, when my sister or I were leaving to go home, take a brief, loose hug and a quick, “I love you,” but nothing like what I was needing, wanting from her.  What was it that was so hard to give?  And she never let me in to talk about what was inside her, her thoughts, though I tried to let everything that was in me ‘hang out,’ full disclosure, so that she would know it was safe to do the same.

                Once, she spoke to me with some of her guard down, but it took delirium from medication.  She rang me once in the middle of the night, when she was living with me, using a call bell system I arranged with a wireless doorbell.  Medication had made her disoriented and confused.  She sing-songed about ‘little angels’ she’d seen in the air, and said there’d been dead animals in her bed (a farm pattern on her sheets).  As we talked she became aware of who I was.  She said she ‘didn’t know how God could ever love her.  She’d been so desperately wicked. ‘   As she rambled on, she stayed fixated on her wickedness, confessing to me her sins, none of which were very surprising to me, as I’d lived with her for years!  But I was so moved with compassion and love for her.  We all shared her wickedness, I told her, but as I cried with her, no deep theological wisdom came to mind, nor was wanted.  I just tried to tell her how we had all done things we regretted, were ashamed of, how much God loved her, how great His mercy, how much Jesus loved her to die for her, to pay for her sin on the cross.  I prayed and prayed, and unknown to me, Christine in the living room could hear our conversation, and was praying as well.  Before long, she calmed, crawled over the bed to the top of the sheets on all fours like a child, and got into bed.  I covered her, but the moment was over.  She wanted no tenderness from me.  But she did say, “Good night, honey.”  We take what we can get!

                Whenever she would catch me looking at her with any sort of tenderness, she’d give me a cross ‘What are you looking at?’  After a couple of those, I was careful to avoid a tender look, or to think too much of my love for her, or my impending loss, lest any thought should show in my face.  Maybe that’s why I still grieve, I don’t know. 

Once, in the hospital, we were dealing with one of those annoying radiographic experiences.  She needed a CT scan, and for the contrast drink they gave her banana-flavored drink.  Now, I know they try to palm that off all the time, because no one likes it – but Mom DETESTS banana-flavored stuff.  I asked for something different.  “Oh,” the young ditz-brain said, “This is already mixed up, and I’m not sure we have another flavor…”  I’m thinking, bull!! but Mom, of course, does not want to make trouble and will not allow me to push the issue.  She actually gags as she finally gets it down.  The test takes hours and hours.  Mom is sitting in a hard and uncomfortable wheelchair.  They say she can eat whatever she wants now, but all they have is some dry saltines.  Mom is hungry, she eats them.  Wonderful! Dry saltines and banana contrast dye!  I go to the cafeteria and get her a GREAT hamburger.  God is good.  I have had hamburgers before and since at that hospital, but none have EVER been as good as that day, and though Mom has not been eating well in weeks, she eats the whole thing and LOVES it.  Her back hurts, and I have her stand with her arms around my neck (we are in the back hall of x-ray), which she actually does, as she can’t stand unassisted, and I rub her back.  The x-ray tech straightens the blankets on her wheelchair while she’s standing, and when she sits down she looks happy and relaxed.  I feel happier, too. 

                My mom had a good hamburger.  She got her back rubbed.  And I got to hold her close for just a little while.  And I will remember it the rest of my life. 

Friday, March 14, 2014


    There are miracles, and there are miracles. I've heard of unseen miracles.   I just haven't witnessed any because, you know... I can't see them.  But then you have your "unheralded" miracles.  Now, Jesus birth, that was unseen to a lot of people, but to a field of shepherds and to some star-watching smart guys, it wasn't unheralded!

     You wouldn't believe it, but I myself have seen, and heard, and witnessed a miracle...and I didn't herald it.  I have this blog right here, and I've been silent.  No time, I guess, or no words. So here's heralding:

     My last post was over a year ago, and pretty bleak for Anne Marie. (See post below) And so it was, and kind of still is.  Eventually her bleeding stopped. They placed a tube in her skull to drain the blood and pressure, and to measure the pressure in her skull. (Sorry, you who are squeamish!)  We sat by her bedside as she drifted in and out of consciousness, and she slowly improved.  Day upon day, setbacks here and there -- but Anne has always been so good at covering for her disabilities, we didn't guess the truth for quite some time.  The doctors were amazed she survived!  They did make it clear to us, and it's still true today, that at any time, any moment, another bleed could come, one that could take her life, or make her a vegetable. Grim.

     Eventually, Anne recovered sufficiently to start Physical Therapy.  Something seemed off, though, even though Anne was covering to spare us and to try to cope emotionally herself before we found out.  

     The bleed had taken her sight.  

     How we mourned, with her and alone!  The injustice!  Had she not been through enough!  Personally, I felt like God was a big Cat, toying with His creations, playing with us like we are mice, until the final kill.  Big, not even intentionally mean, no feeling for us at all -- just the pain until the final kill.  I struggled, even as I know Anne struggled and sometimes still struggles, as we all do, and with one wish: if only she could see!

     I knew that God is big enough for my rage, that He could handle it, that I had to be honest with Him.  So I raged.  I told Him every single way He let Anne Marie down.  I told Him that I loved cats, but He was not supposed to be a cat, and I hated that in Him.  I wanted to know WHY.  Why.  Why?

     In the end, it wasn't enough to say that our pain and suffering make us better people, more like Christ.  It wasn't enough to say that in our pain we learn to understand others in pain better, and learn to comfort and understand them, even as we find comfort. I think the breakthrough for me was just understanding that God is not the Cat. The cat enjoys his play -- God weeps with us.  God is not toying with us -- instead He holds and helps us through it, though not always by carrying us.  Sometimes we have to walk. God is not the cat, but He truly loves us.  He loves me. He loves Anne Marie so very much.
                                     "The Lord your God in your midst,
                                      The Mighty One, will save;
                                      He will rejoice over you with gladness,
                                      He will quiet you with His love,
                                      He will rejoice over you with singing.”          
                                                                                (Zephaniah 3:17)

      Anne in rehab was something else.  Though she naturally still expressed a desire to see, she would sing little songs and hymns with her nurses and physical therapists, and would say to them, always, "How can I pray for you?"  Sometimes they'd stop right then and Anne would pray for them.  Was she loved or what?

     In the meantime, Anne went to an ophthalmologist who confirmed that the optic nerves were dead due to pressure in her head.    Ann was home now, getting from room to room like Mid-westerners travel through blizzards -- by rope!  Also, her sister, Christine, put a radio to play loudly in the bathroom, and Anne could then always find it.  Anne visited another neuro-opthamologist and had her first gleam of hope.  He recommended they do exercises for vision.  One was to get a penlight and have her try to follow the light.  She had a very dim perception of dark and light.  After months and months, she began to improve, and her sight IS slowly returning.  It will never return 100%, and it's best in the morning when she is fresh, but she can see 2 inch letters if they are near.  What joy she had, and amazement, when she, for the first time in months, saw her reflection in a mirror.  "Why -- I think that's me there!"

     She can't be alone, so during the day a neighbor comes and sits with her, Trey, a lovely older black woman.  Her contact with Anne Marie has brought her back to a sadly neglected faith in God.  She reads to Anne, makes lunch, they do things together, and love each other dearly.  Another blessing from above, as Anne's husband, Bob, can go to work knowing Anne is well-cared for and safe, and Anne is never lonely.

     And so, these are my heralded miracles of love I witnessed with my friend and "adopted sister" Anne Marie.  Her birthday is next week, and I'm glad she's here for it!  I thank God for it, the God who loves us, and actually rejoices over us with singing.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Anne Marie

     She is first-born, and the sister of my best friend in all the world.  She grew up in a pastor's home, and a home filled with music.  Both of her parents were musical -- especially her dad, the Reverend, and her two sisters.  She herself played the violin and the organ, and sang, as do her siblings, and I've heard that trio sing some of the most beautiful little songs, as she and the sisters still sing when they get together.  All three women are beautifully gifted, in their own way, in music.

     Then, as now, she loved the Lord her God with heart, soul and mind -- not because she just inherited the habit from her parents or upbringing, or with osmosis from the church walls.  No, but because she had, and has, relationship with Him, made God her own God, decided to follow Him because she knew God to be good and true and right.

     In 1967, 18 year old Anne Marie set off to college.  She was good at mathematics, which I find interesting in light of all her right-brained talents.  She was two weeks into her first semester when she had a blinding, blazing headache.  Fortunately, the Health Office showed the good sense to get her to a hospital to get checked.  Inside her head they found a hidden evil that had been crouching, waiting to harm Annie, lying in wait, it seemed, her whole life.  It was an Arterial-Venous Malformation (AVM) in her brain, a tangled mass of arteries and veins that don't belong there, and it was bleeding.  This was causing pressure on her brain, giving her headache, destroying brain tissue, endangering her life.

  Neurosurgeons opened her head and began to clip off vessels to try to stop the bleeding.  They could not take out the AVM, it was too large, too complicated.  Even clipping some of the vessels to try to stop the bleeding was dangerous, for who could be sure what, in the brain, the vessels were feeding?  Would the act of stopping the bleeding in itself cause more harm?  When it was all done, young Anne Marie could not speak.  She could not walk.  There was no more violin, no organ, and school, for the present, was done for her.  But not all was lost!  She had family that loved her, a faith in God that they all shared, and the spunk and hopes of youth!

     Eventually, with long days, months, years, of speech and physical therapy, coupled with the devotion of her family, Anne walked again.  She retained some weakness in her right side, and a limp, but she walked.  Her right arm also was affected with weakness, but it was usable.  She learned to talk again, though she had aphasia.  You had to speak slowly for her to fully understand, it took some time and patience to communicate, but Anne persevered.

     For Anne, perseverance meant that instead of the four year college she had first planned, enrolling in an online college and getting volunteer readers and tutors to help her take one course at a time.  Year after year, one course at a time, until she finally won the goal of an Associates Degree in Early Child Development. This accomplishment led to a job in a daycare in Pittsburgh giving loving care to a group of preschoolers, a job she loved.  This was a job she held until 2002.

     I wouldn't be able to tell you the exact date, but a certain number of years ago, sometime between those fateful first weeks in college and 2002, Anne Marie met a young man named Bob.  They dated, went to church together, and Bob fell in love with her, her sweetness.  Anne .was afraid of the burden he would have caring for her for a lifetime, and broke off the relationship.  Bob's heart was truly broken, he missed her terribly.  He wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, disability or no -- he was  devoted to her.  During their time apart, Anne realized she returned his love -- and they were married.  Many years later, Anne Marie will tell you with certainty in her childlike voice, "Yes, Bob loves me!"  And the depth of her love for him is so refreshing as the cold wind of divorce blows through our culture!

       Anne was married and working in that preschool when I met her in 1999.  The children loved her at her job.  When there was an armed intruder in the building housing the preschool -- and the targeted office -- all offices and the preschool were evacuated.  We have a picture from the newspaper of Annie leading a group of children out of the building, limping along calmly in a little sea of toddlers faithfully holding her hands and arms. 
     In 2002 Anne Marie was walking to the dentist through what has been known as a rather dangerous part of Pittsburgh, when she fell to the ground.  The AVM started to bleed again.  There, in that 'infamous and dangerous' part of town, as she was lying helpless on the sidewalk, an African-American woman cradled her head on her lap and comforted her.  Another man called Bob on his cell phone, then called 911.  The stayed with her until the ambulance came.  And, of course, nothing was missing from Anne's belongings when she got to the hospital!  Of course, God had sent His angels to watch over our beautiful Annie!

     This bleed of 2002, however, left its mark on our girl.  Now she wears a brace on her right leg, and uses a quad cane or motorized wheelchair to move about.  Her whole right side is paralyzed, her right arm is useless and contracted, though it moves at the shoulder and some at the elbow to hold things down.  The fingers, rigid and tightly curled into her palm, can't be used.  Her aphasia became worse, and her work at the daycare was over.

     But her spirit is the same.  When I talk to her on the phone, she is full of joy at any small triumph of mine, rejoicing with me.  She is ready to share Scripture with me, and talk of God's goodness to her.  She has had her questions, times when she has wondered at the justice of what God has allowed in her life.  But she determines in her sweet voice, "I don't question it, [God's love for me, His wisdom]."  She believes the truth of Romans 8:28 "All things work together for good for those who love God, and who are called according to His purpose,"  even if life's final chapter is not entirely visible.  We see through a glass "darkly".   Anne Marie is still singing with her sisters, harmonizing just the same, though sometimes a bit of hesitation here and there on some of the words, but still singing so earnestly about the Lord she loves so deeply!  She closes every conversation with nearly every person she meets the same way :  "Now, how can I pray for you?  For what can I be praying for you?"  Oh, and she prays for you, it's no empty promise!

     I took her to a flea market at a local farmers' market once over a holiday weekend.  We walked up and down the aisles, and she charmed every vendor with her childlike fascination, her joy in the simplest things, completely without guile.  I'm buying things, but the vendors are  GIVING Anne Marie little gifts of their wares.  These vendors are world-wise, but Anne has captured their hearts.

And that is Anne Marie.

     This weekend Bob found Anne on the bathroom floor, covered with vomit, but conscious.  At the hospital they found that she was bleeding again at the same spot as our old 'friend', that old cursed AVM.  Due to the initial surgery, no further surgeries can be done.  We were told that the next time Anne would bleed, the only intervention is prayer that the bleeding stops before it gets too advanced and does further damage.  Because of the metal clips in her head, they can't do MRI tests, but only serial CT scans to try to keep track of the bleeding, to know when it stops.  It bled Friday night.  All day Saturday.  At least part of Saturday night.  Early Sunday morning my best friend drove out to Pittsburgh to be with Anne.  When she got there and walked on to ICU, Anne's face just lit up to see her sister!  And the CT scan revealed GOOD news for a change: the bleeding appeared to have stopped and seemed to be absorbing into the body.  Hallelujahs rang!  Initially it looks like Annie doesn't have any new paralysis or anything, but time will tell.

     Anne seems to live under this 'Sword of Damocles' with a peace and faith that truly amazes and inspires me.  I pray that this is the last time that ugly old AVM makes itself known, with its pain, fear, and dread.

Annie, we all love you so much!

          Last night I talked with Anne on the phone and had opportunity to pray with her just before we hung up.  When I asked if she wanted me to pray, it was "Oh, yes, let's pray..." and after, "Thanks, Pat, I love you..."

          This morning we got a call that she was unresponsive.  More bleeding during the night, and they rushed her to ICU, then put drains in her head to try to relieve the pressure.  She's a bit responsive now, walking a tightrope.  I and another of her sisters are driving out there.  And, so...we continue in prayer to a merciful God for grace for Anne Marie.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Monose's 'Pocket Full of Miracles'

My sister has asked me to tell you of my dear Haitian friend and sister in Christ, whose name is Monose.  There's much to tell, and I'll try to do my best to tell it here.

Monose is a Haitian "nurse" on the island of La Gonave. I say "nurse" in quotations because where they lack some of the training of stateside nurses, and could never practice nursing here, they excel in other areas by being able to deliver babies, suture, diagnose and prescribe for simple diseases, unlike our stateside RN's --  and most all trained by the missionary staff.

Now, I couldn't say for sure when I first met her, I can only say when I first became aware of her.  It was my second short term trip to Haiti in 1988, and I didn't know any of the Haitian staff by name or very well at all.  Not knowing the language makes it so difficult to learn those little facts that set people apart in your memory  when you're meeting 100+  people in the space of a month's time.  I didn't know her name, I didn't know who she was, really nothing about her.  Then, my second visit to the country, I was walking across the hospital compound when I heard a small yell and was suddenly nearly knocked over by a woman throwing herself in my arms in a tight embrace, and saying something in Creole in my ear.  The missionary said, "She is so sweet.  This is Monose, one of our nurses.  She's saying how happy she is to see you again, that you didn't forget them," and my throat choked up, closed with tears.  Though I did love the times I spent in Haiti, and enjoyed the Haitian people so much, most of the time I DID forget them, didn't pray for them, couldn't even remember this woman who was so grateful for my return.  I returned her embrace warmly, but had no words.  The other missionary said some words to Monose, and with a sweet smile, she went on her way.

Years later, I went on the mission field for what I hoped would be a lifetime, and Monose became a dear friend.  We would have long talks, and she was one person of a couple Haitians that I could trust to really "tell me like it is" if I was having trouble in my cross-cultural relationships with the Haitians. Met Rousevel Michel was another, though Monose was always biased to my side. Met Rous, on the other hand, never hesitated to tell me what a hot-head I could be!  Bless them both!!  I really needed her support and his gentle and wise words of reproach!

Over the years, as I knew Monose, she got married to Met Harold (Met = teacher and is a title) and so, formally, became Madame Harold. Haitians would traditionally, and for formality's sake, take not only their husband's last name, as we usually do, but their first as well.  But Madame Harold was still Monose to me.  She had a son, and later, a daughter -- but by the time she had her daughter, health reasons had called me off the mission field.  I still miss her terribly.

Now where I served as a missionary, and where Monose lives, is a large island in the bay of Haiti off the coast of Port-au-Prince.  It is called La Gonave.  When I was there it was especially primitive. Our water ran by gravity by pipes from high in the mountains to our homes and to the village wells, but had to be boiled or treated before used.  Our only electricity was by our own generators, and our stoves and fridges ran on propane.  No phones.  No internet.  No TV.  It was, in many ways, idyllic, in that sense, if it wasn't so hot!  No fans, you see, never any AC. Mail came by plane to Port-Au-Prince and then to us by boat about once a month.

Our small 34 bed hospital served the island of 100,000.  We had the hospital, lab (microscope, a centrifuge, limited lab tests, no chemistries), clinic, one operating room, an x-ray machine that looked to me from WWII until Samaritan's Purse got us a new one and built a building to store it!  Complicated cases had to go by boat across 12 miles of sea, then by bus 2 hours to get to Port-au-Prince if they had really serious problems, or across the sea to St. Marc and another small hospital that had a surgeon sometimes.  But we would have surgical teams from the States come and do non-urgent surgeries we'd saved up for them, and our pediatrician, Marilyn, learned how to do C-Sections because so many women died trying to get to a hospital from La Gonave when they needed one.  Monose was one of our staff trained in the operating room to assist in these surgeries.  She's a good woman.

After I left the mission field, in 1998 I believe it was, a surgical team from Indiana was visiting our hospital in on La Gonave.  As I understand it, the day the team was leaving for home in the US, Monose woke that morning to find a lump on her breast. With fear and trembling, she went to the surgical team.  Prayerfully, the team removed the lump that very day, as transportation waited for them, to take them from the island to return them to home.  The tissue was placed in a proper medium for transport and the team went home with their precious cargo and Monose's hopes for good news.

The pathology report came back:  breast cancer.  Monose, in Haiti, limited resources, seemingly no options, faced what in that country is usually a death sentence.  To those of us who loved her, it was a terrible shock.  But God was at work in the hearts of those in the surgical team, who loved Haiti, and still do, who are still active in that country, in that hospital, on La Gonave.

First, Steve and Diane F. opened their home to Monose for as long as she would need to be there.  They are both physicians, and through their work, and the workings of their friends and friends of Haiti, a hospital in Indianapolis donated the operating room time and her room;  the anesthesiologist donated his time, the surgeon donated HIS time -- everyone wanted to be a part of helping Monose live!  I contacted the mission headquarters and found out they needed a translator, as Monose speaks no English, and they accepted me as a volunteer to go and be translator. I would stay with Steve and Diane and their family with Monose, to help care for her.  Of course, I had just started a job, had no vacation time -- but my employer decided to pay me for the time anyway -- more answers to prayer! Dear and loving friends of mine gave me their precious frequent flyer miles to make the trip, and money to give to Monose for whatever need she might have.

Now -- Monose would be flying by way of  Florida, CONNECTING IN O'HARE, of all places, then to Indianapolis.  Alone.  She had never been out of Haiti. Never been on a plane.  Never in a big city.  Not speaking English.  I thought and thought.  Then remembered Christine's sister in Chicago!  Sure enough, when Monose landed in Chicago, there was Katherine, supplied with Haitian pharases, to meet her and get her on the next plane!  Kathy even found a guy who spoke the language to help, if I remember right, to explain a flight delay.  What are the odds??  Pretty good, if God is in control!  I asked Monose, later, about that flight.  One, she was too frightened to eat, and people kept trying to feed her!  Second, she felt flying in a plane was OK as long as she kept her eyes inside the "little house" of the plane.  If she looked out the window at the clouds and distant sea -- well, it was better to just keep looking inside the "little house"!

At last Monose and I met in Indianapolis, and I stayed with her through her surgery and her initial recovery.  It was wonderful to see her, and her surgery went so well.  We had a great time later, too, once she started feeling better, as we watched two movies together on TV, and I translated simultaneously as we watched.  The first, "The Fantastic Voyage" where they travel through the human body in a mini space ship, she thought ridiculous, but I thought she might like because of her knowledge of medicine.  But then we saw "Cool Runnings", about the Jamaican Olympic Bobsled team, with John Candy, and she thoroughly enjoyed that one. We did some shopping, with money people in my church had sent her, so she could buy gifts to take to her family, and she bought herself some clothing so she would feel as if she fit in more.

I took her to her follow up doctor appointments, and, oh, all the good reports! We talked and talked, and were sad when it was time to say good by.  We both knew we might not see each other again, because I didn't know if I'd ever get back to Haiti again.  We prayed together and I cried on the plane.  Found out later she cried all the way home from the airport after dropping me off.

She's not much for writing letters, even when I do write.  Just not something she ever learned to do, so we don't really write.  But I know that at any time we could get together and it would be as if no time passed.

I saw her again, in 2008, 10 years after her surgery, and she looked great.  She got her miracle, thanks to God and all those who helped make it happen.  The cancer has never come back!  When I saw her, it was like 1988 all over again, me in the hospital yard and suddenly nearly being knocked off my feet by a woman throwing herself into my arms.  Monose.

Of course, this time I understood the words.

Monday, August 27, 2012

"Summer Should Get a Speeding Ticket"

          "Summer should get a speeding ticket" was the comment on Facebook that I read, I wish I'd thought of it.  Very clever.  There certainly is some truth in it.  Time has gone by so quickly, this summer, I'm certain it has truly MELTED away from the amount of heat that we've had.  I don't remember ever having such unbearably hot days, and I grew up without air conditioners, or even a fan in my bedroom.  We knew some hot nights, but, man, I don't remember people literally dying from the heat or my tapered candles literally melting and bowing down in subjection to it.  Crazy days.

          I was thinking today of some of the fun summers I've had in the past, because, frankly, this summer was not my best. I took my vacation really early in the season, and the heat, for me, put a damper on all 3 months.  I didn't go to any picnics, didn't see any fireworks, didn't even go out to canoe or kayak, not even ONCE.  But now that the weather is cooler, I hope to start acting like I do more in life than sit at a desk and work.

Lunatic Thrill-seeker
          Once I'm out on the lake, I enjoy canoeing, but especially kayaking, because it's so maneuverable, I suppose, so fast.  Because kayaks are so light, they're much less work, and you can talk to the person your kayaking with because you're side by side, not in front and back.  And if you're in an area where there are speedboats, it's fun to jump their wash.  But I didn't always admire kayaking, let me tell you.  I'd always associated kayaking with those lunatic thrill-seekers on Wide World of Sports riding rapids and spinning around under water in what looked to me like giant pickles.  Not fun, to me, but a death wish.  Anyway, to proceed: 

          It was probably about 10 years ago that my friend, Christine, and I took a trip to Long Beach Island, NJ, and decided to take an "Eco-tour" through wetlands by kayak there.  They were ocean kayaks, where you sit on top, you're not inside, and they were long, flat, and we each had one.  I had a wonderful time paddling around in it, I fell in love with the thing!  Afterward, driving back to our hotel, I told Christine that I'd been a fool to think my canoe was the only way to go -- we NEEDED kayaks.

          "GREAT!!"  She exclaimed, "Because right now, end of season, a lot of places have used ones for a good price!"  With that, we came upon a souvenir shop on the bay side that, besides the usual junk, also had used kayaks for sale. Christine whipped the car into the parking lot..  She went off to look at kayaks to her heart's content while I got to look at T-shirts, etc, all the usual junk you feel you can't live without while you're at the beach, but can never understand why you bought once you get home.  (My apartment used to be FULL of little sand castles, carved men in yellow slickers smoking pipes, a miniature wooden pier with a plastic gull perched on top, etc, like I was somehow nautical, but actually get quite seasick and live hundreds of miles from the ocean.  These things usually end up in our bathrooms, which is puzzling to me, but the subject of another blog:  Why do we think bathrooms have anything to do with the ocean?)

          I'd only been shopping for a short time, when I felt Christine excitedly tap my shoulder.  She'd found a kayak she wanted me to check out.  I obediently followed, thinking we were going to be heading toward the bay.  To my surprise, she led me to a bright yellow single kayak with a "keyhole" sitting arrangement.  In other words, though you wouldn't flip all around upside down in it, you sat INSIDE it, not on top.  More puzzling, it wasn't on water, it was in front of the shop, in the parking lot, about 5 feet from the major 4 lane Long Beach Island road.  "Try this and see what you think!"  Chris said, indicating the bright yellow kayak, that if not a pickle, looked like a banana, anyway. Skeptically, I began to get in the thing, while Christine and the owner, a woman about 65, watched.

          Now, Christine, a trim athlete, teaches fitness and such things at a nearby university.  I am the polar opposite.  I was kinda round, (now I'm decidedly round) and have an Olympic Gold in Sedentary.  As I slid into the Monster Banana, Christine remarked she thought perhaps the hole was a little tight on her, what did I think?  I looked at her in amazement as my humonga-butt settled in.  "WHAT???  It was tight on YOU and you just let ME get in???"

          I couldn't bend my knees because I was in a long, skinny 'banana' and I had really bad arthritic knees. I hadn't had my knee replacements yet, see.  Uh oh.  "Uh, Christine, I can't get out!"  The owner's eyebrows shot up in alarm.  "I'm serious, I can't get out!"  I tried to push on the kayak, but it was plastic, and I was afraid it would buckle.  I couldn't help myself, I started to giggle, which got Christine going.  Soon, she and the owner each had an arm and were pulling.  I began to wonder how it would look when the old lady dropped from the heart attack she was brewing by lifting me AND the kayak 3 inches off the ground, as it was firmly wedged around my posterior.

          Then I noticed we had an audience, 4 lanes of it, plus souvenir shoppers in the parking lot.  Thank goodness I didn't have a bathing suit on, though if I did I might be easier to grease up with Vaseline or KY Jelly...

          FINALLY, I managed to turn on my side, have Christine and the owner hold on to the kayak, and with effort, wiggled like a snake onto the parking lot, where I lay for awhile, breathless with laughing.  (I don't THINK there was a pop, like cork out of a bottle.)  Christine sat next to me, laughing, while the owner examined the kayak.  We waved a good bye to the onlookers and scurried to the car, where I proceeded to sit on the floor, unseen, but giggling, still.  We didn't buy any kayaks on that day, but when I did, I assure you, it was a sit on top.  I've since used kayaks where you've sat inside, but I've mentally measured them up pretty carefully first, knowing that if I'd had so much as a dime in my pocket that day, I'd have been learning how to accessorize a kayak for high fashion!