After seven years of on-again, off-again writing, my novel BREAKING FREE was published in late December. I am available through Revrita23@gmail.com to explore attending your book club for a discussionof this novel. An intimate audience is best to discuss this novel. This novel was written to motivate others to have hope and encouragement in moving through the process of breaking free from abuse.
Here is the blurb from the back cover summarizing the theme:
“Woven into the fabric of ordinary life, which family, friends, and the outside world rarely see or hear, is a demon called domestic violence or abuse. It is the solitary confinement of our society because it is suffered in silence and alone. It is more pervasive in homes than ever imagined and maims or kills those abused. This violence takes the forms of verbal, physical, emotional, or even financial abuse. This novel, based loosely on real events, is a story not focused on the abuse itself but on the journey of one woman breaking free from her prison of abuse into a life of love and peace. It is a story of hope fulfilled.”
If you read it, I would appreciate it if you would leave a review. Thanks in advance.
My spouse died over three years ago and I was pitched headfirst into the grief mill. His death was sudden, he entered the hospital on a Monday and, filled with cancer, was dead the following Monday. I was in shock, and while I had the time to say goodbye, I don’t remember if I did or didn’t. I know he was so drugged up it was ludicrous to even suggest we plan his funeral. So I sat by his bedside and sang to him, talked to him, held his hand, touched his hair and face, asked if he was in pain (he wasn’t), and told him I loved him as many times as there are stars in the sky. And then it was over.
My first grieving thoughts were like most people, all of the great things about him. Obituaries make saints out of even the worst human being. So I thought about his fabulous smile, twinkling blue eyes, infectious laugh, his adoration of me, his caring for me almost to worshiping me. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for me. I had to be careful not to say I liked something because he would get it for me, even if I was only admiring it for its beauty, but not wanting to own it. In the last four years of our 40-year marriage, he spent as much waking time with me as possible. Even if it was just a quick trip to the ATM or a short walk to get the mail. He kept saying, “We have more time behind us than ahead of us, and I want to spend as much of it with you.” What a fabulous guy. My heart physically ached for months and Niagara Falls swept down my face on a regular basis.
In order to tamp my grief, I decided to recall the time he hurt me by having a year-long affair. I didn’t divorce him. See the second paragraph above. We worked through it and over it. Thinking that would help. It didn’t. It just brought back the pain of hurt on top of the pain of grief.
Then I decided to recall all the things he did to annoy me. Things I can no longer remember in any detail. Stupid little things like he didn’t clean the electric toothbrush as well as I did. Or, he was a paper “stacker,” on his desk and not in any order. His desk was a mess, mine was neat and orderly. Or, he would hang his pants from the top dresser drawer of his tallboy if he was going to wear them the next day. Little, niggling, stuff. That didn’t work either because it only brought back those annoying feelings and who wants that.
Then I found the other side of grief. It wasn’t about all the good stuff, bad stuff or annoying stuff individually. Not in huge chunks at a time of any one quality. It was about all of it collectively. Just as a life lived. In any given day a trigger will bring to any one of those places. And what is gratifying about those places is that I never have to sit and dwell in them for hours or days on end. They are fleeting. They are rich in their depth and comedic in their silliness. Some linger if I want them to but fade away like a wisp of smoke from a cigarette if I don’t.
The other side of grief is living with the soul of the departed. Pure essence. In puffs and breaths of time. To cover one like a crazy quilt of his life in the wholeness of the natural life they shared. None to overwhelm, but each to enrich and savor the essence of the one lost to the spiritual realm. To give warmth and comfort when life becomes cold and one has trouble finding the other side of grief.
My true love isn’t both of my husbands or my two children. It was Rip Van Winkle. Yes, the one in Washington Irving’s story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Rip’s the guy who slept for 20 years in the Catskill Mountains. My Rip, the one I love, is a nineteen-inch bronze statue I found in 1968 in an overlooked attic of an estate. Rip sat in that attic for eighteen years before I rescued him. With great enthusiasm, I brought him home to show my first husband, Bob. He wasn’t impressed and hid my beloved Rip in a dark corner of our family room.
When I divorced Bob, I got custody of my true love, Rip. But my second husband, Ralph, wasn’t fond of Rip, either. When we moved to a townhouse, poor, rejected Rip was relegated to an obscure niche on the third floor. At least he had more light than his previous dark corners. Overlooked, my adored Rip sat languishing and humiliated in our obscure corners for years.
Rip’s sculptor was discovered to be Daniel Chester French. You don’t know him? You know his work, I’m sure. He sculpted the statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial. An appraiser gave Rip an unexpected high appraisal. After Ralph found out how valuable and unique Rip was, well, that was another story. The day Ralph learned of Rip’s provenance, he moved him from the third floor to the first floor and put him in a prominent place on a pedestal. Today, my love, Rip, sits on a windowsill by my desk. No longer overlooked.
I told this story to a friend after Ralph died, and she asked me, “Do you know the moral of this story?” “No,” I replied. She said “The moral is husbands come, and husbands go, but Rip stays!”
We’re putting the tree and decorations up today (Dec. 5th). I used to wait until closer to Christmas to do this, but no more. Now, I put things up closer to Thanksgiving, so I have more time to enjoy their beauty and remember the meaning of Christmas. I’ve long forgotten why we put up a tree, but I know I give gifts to others to honor Jesus, who isn’t here to get them in person.
So, If I were true to how we celebrate other people’s birthdays, first, I wouldn’t have a tree, then I would buy all the presents, wrap them, and put them in the closet until the day marking the birth. Then, I would sneak out of bed at midnight and put the gifts on the dining room table to surprise the birthday person. Or, in this case, persons. But alas, people would think I was crazy if I did that and put me in the home.
Thus, at this time of year, I now put up a tree, put my wrapped presents under the tree, and wait for December twenty-fifth. While waiting, I hung a handmade Advent calendar I bought at a long past Christmas fair when we lived in Connecticut circa 1989. I also hang up three stockings off the bottom of one of my “frog” shelves, one for me, my daughter, and the dog. And I have three lovely creches that I put up on the mission table opposite my dining table. Just last year, I bought a set of Advent candles for my table that I copied from my friend, Elizabeth.
The sad part of all this effort is that my daughter and I are the only ones who will enjoy them. I used to invite a multitude of friends over at this time of year, but many of them have moved or gone off to join others in the spiritual realm. And, since I no longer cook, lunch or dinner guests for those meals are not an option. I might, however, have a few friends over for tea and/or dessert. My spouse used to say getting old was not for sissies. Well, since I don’t consider myself a sissy, I think I can handle this. Merry Christmas All. Until next time…
It is Sunday. It has been over two years since I attended church in person. My church has very limited parking, being in the center of a historical town. I appreciate the beauty of that setting, but it is also why I rarely go to church except for very special occasions. You see, I have mobility issues and must use a walker if I am going to walk more than 50 feet. Often, people have to walk blocks to park and walk to the church.
For special events, my daughter drives me and drops me off in front of the church. And while she has offered to do that, she also has her own disabilities that make that difficult, so I don’t like to stress her out either.
All of this doesn’t mean I don’t go to church. As a matter of fact, I go to church more now than when I was the Rector (Pastor) of the churches I served. Why? Because of the miracle of modern technology. I attend via YouTube every Sunday from the convenience of my home, as do some 40-50 others. And when YouTube acts up, I am fortunate enough to be able to go to Facebook and tune into the service there.
There are things I love about this arrangement and things I don’t. I don’t like the isolation. There is something visceral about being in the presence of a worshiping community. One doesn’t get this from a computer screen. Or even from my large screen TV when I “Cast” the service there.
When my spouse was alive, we would cast the service to our East Wing TV (we have a long townhouse with two “wings). Then I would set up a TV table with a linen, a chalice filled with a bit of wine, and a paten with two pieces of bread. There would also be two candles and a small cross. Like being in church. At the appropriate time in the service, I would consecrate our bread and wine, and we felt like we were truly a part of the service. Sometimes now, I still cast the service to a TV, but usually not. There is no one here to share it with, and I rarely consecrate the hosts just for me.
But what I do like about this arrangement is the convenience. I don’t have to drive and walk blocks to get to my pew. I don’t have to depend on my daughter, and I can have a cup of coffee during the service. I can also get up and go to the bathroom without a hundred eyes on me as I walk from my usual second-row pew. I can also say “Good Morning” to my daughter as she goes into the kitchen for her coffee. I can stay through the Prelude, or I can leave anytime earlier without anyone knowing. And yet, I still miss the presence of the community. Always will.
I have had several “Best Friends,” in my life, but two came to the forefront of my life recently. When I lived in Connecticut, I had one best friend, Carolyn. We were soul-sisters (SS). However, when I remarried, we grew apart because I believe she thought she didn’t fit in with our lifestyle, which was rather “Preppy.” Some forty years later when her sister was visiting us last June, she suggested I call her. I did, and when I told her it was I, her first words were, “My best friend.” Yes, even after all these years of separation she felt that way. I hoped we could reconnect. But we didn’t have a chance to reconnect. She died last December.
Soul-Sisters (n.) connected eternally, praying and cheering for each other, laughing till stomach hurt, and somehow makes everything all right.
I also had a best friend in high school. Her name was Veronica and we too were sister-soul mates. She was supposed to be my maid of honor when I married and me, hers. It didn’t turn out that way because when I married she was out of state at college. And, when she married we were estranged due to a complicated situation that involved her family and I wasn’t asked to be her maid of honor. We tried to reconnect after she married, but there was still too much hurt bubbling beneath the skin, and it didn’t work. Then I moved to Connecticut and our connection was broken.
Last month, I was visiting my ex-husband (yes we are now friends) and his wife in Florida and he mentioned that he had connected with Veronica who now also lived in Florida. They had a lively conversation he reported. Just before I left, he handed me a small piece of paper that had her name, telephone number, and email address on it. He simply said, “Please call her, she’d love to hear from you.”
This is not her real information
Yesterday, I called her and we chatted for over an hour. Later, I texted her a picture from my yearbook where it said, “This page reserved for Ronnie (her nickname).” It was blank. This morning we were texting back and forth over that since she thought it was 48 years ago and I reminded her it was 65 years ago. She texted back that her math was never good. And so it went that here it is that I have now reconnected with my high school best friend and SS while losing another.
Life is beautiful, amazing, magical, and mystical in an unexpected way.
I remember when my stepfather died, my mother kept saying how lonely she was. She was living in a nice home in California and was active in the community and her church. I couldn’t understand how she could be lonely when she was so busy all the time. About a year after my stepfather died, she married her best friend’s brother. It was a big mistake, but it solved her loneliness. However, after three years of marriage to him, when he tried to kill her, she divorced him. She spent the next five years before she died alone, but she never complained of being lonely again.
Now I get it. My spouse died one and a half years ago of cancer. There was much to be done in the months after he died notifying all those agencies, changing his name to mine, sorting through his clothing, his things, his life, and deciding what went to where. It was exhausting but it kept me busy and not lonely.
I was fortunate that my adult daughter lived with me and shared things like doing the Sunday crossword puzzle, cooking, food shopping, and getting me to doctor’s appointments when I couldn’t drive for one reason or another. We try to always have dinner together, but lately, that hasn’t worked out so well.
Her best friend who used to live one block away has now moved seven miles away. She now spends a lot of time there and also with several other of his family members. I am happy that she is so involved and busy. But it leaves me alone for days at a time when she leaves early in the morning and comes home after I have gone to bed. I don’t think she is avoiding me, I just think she is living her life and that is a good thing.
The problem for me is that I am now finding myself lonely, Like my mother. My mother was sixty-six when she was widowed and she lived for another ten years. I was eighty-one when I was widowed and hope I will have that much time. What I do know is that I am not looking to get married again to solve my loneliness. And, I have plenty to keep me busy. I have a novel to complete, I am active in a bridge club, and my writer’s guild. I have plenty of doctor’s appointments, and I have lunch with friends on a regular basis.
So, why am I lonely. Who knows? I just pray that it is a fleeting feeling that will drift away with the wind and I’ll wake up one day with joy in my heart. Lonely no more.
I wish I could clean someone’s clock for inventing grandfather clocks. My Ralph’s parents bought a gorgeous grandfather clock as a wedding gift in 1931. In 1981, we inherited the clock because no one wanted it. I only wish they had. For years, it had been chiming away to its heart’s content and my discontent. Every fifteen minutes, it plays the Westminster tune that sounds like our doorbell. Sometimes I even get up and run to the door.
It is particularly annoying when trying to hear the TV or sleep. And God forbid I should turn the chimes off as Ralph loved those chimes. I would turn them off; he would turn them on. We wound it up every Sunday, just like his parents had done, and sealed it with a kiss. And so it went for 40 looong years. After Ralph died, I turned the chimes off – ah blessed silence.
I tried to give it away. I asked my stepson if he wanted it. He already had his mother’s grandfather clock. My eldest daughter, who once lusted after that clock, didn’t have room for it. When I offered it to my niece, it didn’t fit her décor. My brother-in-law hated chimes. My nephew in California discovered how much it cost to ship it out there and suddenly had no interest.
Then I decided to sell it. Surely an antique clock in excellent condition must be worth thousands. Right? Until my clock repairer said it wasn’t worth more than a couple of hundred dollars. Sigh. It seems selling a grandfather clock is like selling an empty church – not much of a market for either.
In my despair, I decided it was mine until death us do part. So, I wound it up, turned on the chimes, gave it a big hug, and named it Ralph!
I have never felt old, like in old, old. I know that my body is not as firm or strong or flexible as it was in my 20’s, 30’s or even in my 50’s. I did, however, lose 50 pounds when I was 54 and I pumped iron so my body was probably as good as it would ever get again. I know for sure that my boobs will never be as firm and bouncy as they once were, as they now nestle somewhere between my waist and my belly button. Even my eyelids now droop and my skin is beginning to look like crepe paper. But, who cares. I’ve earned all those signs of aging and I claim them as badges of wisdom and accumulated knowledge.
But back to old. I have always felt young in heart and mind and soul. When I was in my 40’s I felt like I was 18 years old. When I was in my 60’s I felt like I was in my early 30’s. And now that I am 82, I still feel as if my soul and spirit were somewhere in my mid 50’s. I am at that age where I have learned a coal-truck ton about life and suffered more than I bargained for when I was 20.
I won’t talk about the fat that secretely crawls in under your skin at night while you sleep. Or the clothes hanging in your closet or dresser drawers that shrink a size or two at night. Anyone my age knows all about those things unless, of course, they are those skinny, perfectly proportioned, robots that are manufactured on a faraway planet and shipped into our world when we aren’t looking.
My eyesight is hanging in there with the help of glasses, and while my hearing isn’t too bad, my understanding of words (clarity) are in the pits. I can cover it pretty well if I look at people, but my least favorite phrase is, “What did you say?” And, with the aid of an army of medications my cholesterol, blood pressure, and A1C is all good. If you don’t know what A1C is, just wait until you’re older and your doctor will explain it to you.
So for an 82 year-old crone, I think I’m doing pretty good. I get plenty of sleep, watch my sugar and carb intake, have about one glass of wine a week, don’t smoke, and try to find joy in everything I can. And, I try to be kind and gentle to everyone. My goal is to reach 100 years-old. But if I don’t make it, it won’t be because I didn’t try. Onward.
Normally I like rain. I view rain as nourishing the earth and bringing forth new life, particularly in the spring. When I was a little girl our street would flood when it rained long and hard. My mother would let me and my sister outside when the rain ended so we could splash around in the “lake” in front of the house. It was such fun. Not so much anymore, but that is more a consequence of not wanting to have a grown adult look ridiculous jumping up and down in a big puddle, laughing and giggling at the fun of it all.
And I often wonder what happened to umbrellas. I have three golf-sized ones that never get used, and two small collapsible ones that rarely get used. It seems so much easier to make a dash for the door even in a downpour rather than struggle to get the “brelly” open outside of the half-open door to my van. And getting it back inside the van is even more of a challenge and much wetter.
Today it has been raining steadily here all day and our rain gauge shows we have about three inches so far. I’ll not go out in it, I’ll just watch the trees leaf out and the bulbs blossom as they suck in the nourishment. I am, however, grateful that it is not snow. That would be about three feet of the white stuff which I and the flora can do without, thank you very much.