…courted me for years.

…first knocked on my door when I became paralyzed.  It was an accident, the paralysis.  I was five years old.  My brother and I had been pushing each other all day, but the game ended abruptly.  The push sent me flailing off the porch backward.  I struggled futilely.  My arms frantically trying to grasp something to stop the fall, coming back with nothing but air.

…stood at the foot of my bed and waited patiently for me to give up, to give out.

…tapped his foot in time with the second hand on the clock in my room.  If you listened, you could hear.  No!  That wasn’t the clock; not really.  It was Death tapping his shoe on the floor.  Hear it?  tick, tick, tick, tick…

…and I communicated on a different level than I communicated with other people.  I was often confused as to whether this level was higher or lower.  Maybe it was neither.  Rather it was simply other-worldly.

…was quite frightening to me when I was younger.  When I used to question “Why Me?”  On nights when I would cry out to him to go ahead and get it over with, he would tell me calmly, eerily, quietly that I was not ready yet.  I think he meant he was not ready yet.

…made it quite clear that he was patient enough to wait.  And wait.  And wait.

…made me wait.  And wait.  And wait.

…and I had some rather interesting conversations as I was growing up, wheel-chair bound.  He was very well-traveled, very experienced, very patient, very present, and very permanent.  This, he told me, was why he would not, or rather could not, whisk me away from my life until it was time.

…and I became very close.  You could almost say we were friends.  I did.  In my final hour, he was there.

…waited for me, over the years, at the foot of the stagnant bed, in the stale room, in the overly-crowded nursing home.

…would be there waiting for me when I returned, right where I left him.

…would never ask me about my trips to the hospital.  I could tell by his eyes that he had heard that story many times before.

…watched me leave that room many times as I stayed in the home.  Each time came sooner than the time before.  And each time I took longer returning.

…was, as usual, right there at the foot of the bed the morning I awoke from my last temporary night of sleep.

…communicated with me, I believe, in my sleep that night.

…prepared me for the morning.

…assured me, that should no one else be available, he would be there.

…knew I would be alone.  All these years, he knew.  He told me in my dreams last night.  That’s why he had been with me all these years.

…knew that I needed these years to get to know him.  He knew he needed to court me.  He knew the separation from the life I knew would be difficult, so he courted me.  Wooed me.  So that, on that final night, I wouldn’t be alone, wouldn’t feel abandoned.

…and I strolled hand-in-hand, together, out of my life, my world and into his.  Finally, after all the years of begging and pleading, praying, and crying; we were one.

Written July 5, 1999, for my Aunt Tee, upon her passing.


You May Think You Know Who I Am #5

You may think you know who I am.  You see me around campus.  In that clique.  You call me the jock!

I see the way you look at me; wishing you were part of this group.  Thinking some guys have all the luck.  Sure, I really got it made.

Everyday I go to practice I know that this is my one shot to make something of myself because I know I’m not that smart.

Everyday I go home from a game I know I’m gonna catch hell from my dad if I wasn’t the star of that game.  And dropping the ball is met with a beating when I get home.  Failure is simply not an option.  Perfection is the ticket.

Everyday I wish I’d just blow out my knee so I couldn’t play.  So then we’d see all his precious dreams of living his life through me go down the toilet.  The last thing I want to be known as is a big dumb jock who can’t do anything but play sports.  Who’ll never amount to anything more than a washed-up high school jock who never stood a chance at getting a job where I was required to do anything mental.

But for now, everyone thinks I walk on water because I’m a great jock.

Yeah, you think you know who I am.  But what do you know?  You’ve never walked a mile in my shoes; you’ve never lived a day in my life.  You don’t have a clue.

You may think you know who I am.  The truth is:  You only know my name.

You May Think You Know Who I Am #4

You may think you know who I am.

I know you talk about me behind my back, making snide comments about my clothes, my shoes, whatever.  I ride the same bus as you.  You see where I get on and I hear you snicker as I get on the bus & then stop suddenly when I make eye contact.

It’s no real news to me that I am poor.  I know that I don’t have a lot of nice things.  My parents can’t afford to buy me everything I want.  There are times when we can barely afford what we need.

And as if that’s not bad enough, I have to live with knowing that as soon as I’m out of earshot, you and your friends take turns making cracks about me and my family’s financial status.

You think because I’m poor, I’m less; that less money means less of a person.  For once it would be nice to know that the amount of money my parents have or the brand of clothing I wear didn’t determine whether you thought I was worthy of your friendship.  Why does it matter to you if I live in a trailer park?  Is it really that important that I wore the same pair of pants twice in one week?  Do you base your friend criteria on how much money my parents have?

Does it mean anything to you that I’m nice?  I would be a very good friend to you if you’d just give me a chance.

You only know me as the poor kid.  But that doesn’t mean I am less.  Only that I have less!

You may think you know who I am, but you don’t even know my name.

You May Think You Know Who I Am #3

You may think you know who I am. You pass me on the corner on your way into work. I have the same clothes on my body, the same sign in my hands every day.

Homeless Vet. Please Help. God Bless.

You look at the sidewalk when you hurry past. Eye contact is forbidden. Eye contact might stimulate feelings of misplaced pity for a guy who should quit hunting for hand-outs and start hunting for a job. You say things like “Worthless Bum.” “Lazy Beggar.” “Vagrant.”

But what you don’t know is that I can’t get a job because I don’t have an address. I don’t have an address because I don’t have a home. And I don’t have a home because I can’t get a job. You don’t realize that welfare help is no help at all, that it’s aimed to keep people poor. And you don’t realize that I hear what you mutter under your breath when you pass by.

You think you’ve got me pretty nailed down. But let me just say this;
You may think you know who I am, but you don’t even know my name.

You May Think You Know Who I Am #2

You may think you know who I am. You see me every day at the shelter. The one for the mentally challenged. You pick up the pace when you pass me, afraid that I might try to speak to you, afraid of being made uncomfortable. I hear what you say about me. “Look at the freak!? Or…What a retard! And…He’s such an imbecile!”

I know why you say these things. I understand. You’re afraid. You’re afraid I might try to touch you, that maybe whatever I’ve got is contagious. You’re afraid of not being able to understand, thereby exposing my ignorance. You think I must be a good-for-nothing. A waste of space.

But you don’t know that through the computer, we’ve had a conversation. You were treating me just like a person and didn’t even know it.

You look at me and see my disabilities. You don’t know what I’m capable of.
You may think you know who I am, but you don’t even know my name.

You May Think You Know Who I Am #1

You may think you know who I am.

I’m the kid in your 3rd-period class. The one who sits in the back of the class. You walk past me every day. I hear you snicker to your friends about me. “Can you believe it? I bet he got that shirt from the thrift store.” “Look at those shoes. They’re so ratty! I bet he can’t afford to go out and get new ones.” “Oh my god! What is that smell? I bet he hasn’t had a bath in 2 days.”

Well, you’re right. My shirt did come from the thrift store and I haven’t had a bath in 2 days. And as for my shoes, they aren’t the only things I can’t afford.

What you don’t know about me is that I don’t have a nice home to go home to. You don’t know that some nights I don’t even have a meal to go home to. You don’t know anything about me at all.

You may think you know who I am, but you don’t even know my name.

The Counselor

One foot in the dark, one foot in the light. Lord, keep me tightly moored to you so I don’t get lost in the night.

Drowning & desperate, grasping for hope. Lord, you hold me and I’ll hold the rope.

Death comes for all but beckons some. Life is so hard & hope never comes.

Bound in sin and weakness, they never catch a break. It’s scary just to try to think how much a body can take.

Trouble’s pile up, day after day. Days grow shorter, the nights longer. You’re actually getting weaker though you think you’re getting stronger.

One day, someone comes up beside you, sets down, and says, “Let’s talk.” Though you don’t want to, you can’t help yourself even though you’re certain they’ll walk.

But the more you talk, the more they listen; so you dare a little more. Eventually you find yourself thinking, “Where were you before?”

Before when I needed a shoulder. Before when I needed to cry. Before when nobody would hear me. Before when I wanted to die.

You find yourself opening up to this person, even though you know they’re gonna leave. But with every word you utter, every sentence you speak, they sit there & they stay & receive.

Receive all the ugly you throw at them, all the hate, all the truth, all the lies. All the wrong, all the hurt, all the pain, and all the broken-hearted goodbyes.

And yet…there they sit. There they sit and there they stay. And they stay. And they stay.

Then you start to get uneasy. And maybe you start to squirm. What is it about this person that makes them sit so firm?

After every grenade, you threw at them. After every bomb and blast. is there anything you can you say that will make this person leave at last?

Fine, you think, I’ll stop talking. There’s nothing you can make me say. But the person is fine to sit in your silence, letting you have your way.

They see your wall, and you know it. They see your door and your lock. But instead of turning and going away, they blow your mind and they knock.

What else can you do but open the door? After all, no one’s ever just asked to be let in before. And before you know it, they’re in, and you’re both sitting on your floor. And you find yourself telling them things you’ve never said to anyone before.

And you know that it’s safe to tell them. You know that they aren’t gonna run because you gave them every opportunity, and they didn’t take a one.

Mid-Life Crisis

Mid-Life Crisis?

            “Is this a mid-life crisis?” She wondered to the blank wall behind the T.V. – the one that she left blank intentionally, not even a nail hole to hang a picture because even so much as a nail would be a commitment, a commitment to a life she was no longer certain she wanted.

Fifteen years with the same man.  Eating the same food.  Sleeping in the same bed.  Having the same sex.  Many years, many towns, and many houses had passed through their lives as a couple.  Was she really ready for yet another one?

Sure she still loved her husband.  But it’s the kind of love familiarity brings.  The passion and lust of the honeymoon are gone. They worked past the growing pains of underwear on the floor in front of the hamper and the toothpaste tube being squished in the middle instead of squeezed from the end.  They had been friends at first, then lovers, and then friends again, but most of Emma’s childhood friends were gone.  Now Jack was her life.

But now…she wondered…….

Almost without thinking, she rubbed the soft micro-suede fabric they had picked for the couch.  She liked the couch.  She remembered that Jack thought the store was asking too much for it.  $2000 was too much for them to pay.  Emma  had insisted it would last a lifetime if they took care of it properly.  It’d be an investment, she insisted.  Like their marriage, the sofa had been through many incarnations, but it had withstood the test of time. She smoothed the afghan draped over the cushion with the back of her hand as she stood to go do the dishes. She could stay for the couch.

The wide plank floor was smooth under her bare feet.  She had always wanted a floor like this.  Big, wide, slats of wood aged and weathered over time, looking like her daddy’s old barn.  She fell in love with it the first time she saw it.  She couldn’t leave this floor.

Entering the kitchen through the arched doorway, she was nearly blinded by the sunlight flooding the room.  Of course, that had been planned too.  She had always loved the idea of working in the kitchen in the morning, bathed in sunlight, getting the family’s meals ready for the day.  There wasn’t anything about this kitchen she didn’t love, from the hanging pendant lights above the bar down to the terra cotta tile floors, warmed from underneath so she could go barefooted comfortably all year long.

They had worked so hard on this house.  Getting it to just the place they wanted it.  Really…how could she leave now? This house was the house of her dreams! Could she really stay for the house????

The Magical Age of 12

The magical age seems to be 12.

Girls teetering dangerously close to the edge, Others dangling from the precipice

Of puberty

Out bodies are already beginning to give a hint of things to come.

That’s when it all starts!  People begin to notice.  (Guys mostly).  We are beginning to flower, to blossom, to bloom.

A strangely wonderful and uncomfortable change comes over us.  We understand – somewhat – we are no longer girls, not quite women.

We bear the hallmarks of a woman!  Breasts (still perky and pointy).  Hips (fuller now to match our breasts).  And, as yet, uncharted Virgin territory (for some of us, but not for all).

What has been happening…slowly, but surely…in our bodies, this whole time, we are now very aware of.

So is every male around us.

Overnight, it seems, they have stopped viewing us as:  sisters, daughters, friends, children.

We are now sexual beings.  Our bodies showing promises of womanhood.

How do they treat us?  How should they respond to us?  What are they supposed to do?

The same changes are taking place in their bodies too.  They are no longer our:  brothers, sons, friends, children.

We have been merely pretending this whole time.  Flirting with each other.  Passing notes back and forth.

Will you be my boyfriend?  Yes or No.  Circle one.

Writing Janie Loves Johnny.  True Love Forever.

It seems suddenly we also understand “Forever” better too.   A sense of permanence.  Stability.  In a time when nothing in our lives makes sense.  And out bodies have betrayed us.

We’ve had “The Talk” already!  Thank God!  Because now, at least, we know what we’re doing.

Sex-ed only feeds our curiosity.

We sit through class:  Embarrassed; Pretending to be; or Thinking we SHOULD be.  Secretly wishing they’d turn back to the page where they showed “it” and praising God the boys weren’t in the same room with us.  Half afraid of what they were saying about us in the next room.

Sitting there segregated in our individual classrooms, how could we know that there were other people out there…

Males with thoughts about our bodies.  Older men.  Thinking about doing things to our bodies we hadn’t even dreamed of.  Things “The Talk” never touched.  Things whose surface the talk never even skimmed.

The worst of it:  Some of the men having those thoughts were in our families.

Little 12-year-old girls wondering…(of the boys next door):  Why not?  If it’s supposed to be fun, what’s the harm?

Full grown men wondering the same thing…about us.

We sit clueless, in our room, ignorant of what’s being said to our male counterparts, all the while thinking, assuming, guessing…they’re getting the same talk we are.

But are they?  Were they?  Did they?  Have the talk at all?

What about those other men?  Did they have “The Talk” ever?

Or was their talk different?

Perhaps their talk was entitled:

101 Ways to Overpower, Manipulate, & Intimidate a Female so She’ll Let You into Her Pants.

Maybe it was more subtle:

Top 10 Things to Say to a Young Girl that You’d Like to Get to “Know” a Little Better.

Surely their metamorphosis from loving uncle, cousin, brother, father, grandfather into sex-crazed pedophile didn’t just happen overnight.

And yet, God forbid, these thoughts had been there the whole time, the men fighting them off like lion tamers with their whips and chairs.

Down boy!  Now’s not the time!  Get back!  Wait!  Not yet!

Then, suddenly, the lions get so hungry they grow weary of playing the lion tamer’s game and demand their reward for being so patient, so good, all this time.

Just one little piece.  Just one little look.  Just one touch.

What could it hurt?

After all, they’ve been so good this whole time!

Is it really so explainable as that?  Or is it simply male, animal instinct.  The urge to: procreate, dominate, populate, that drives them over the brink?  The voice of some primal Neanderthal inside, grunting out commands to the subconscious!

Do we, as pubescent little, naïve girls, play along unknowingly?  Or knowingly, but not realizing?

These men watch us playing our games of cat-n-mouse with the boys in our classes.  Boyfriend talk.  We kissed on the lips.  We held hands.  He walked me to class.

All our little courtship rituals we play until we are married.

Does that merely whet their appetite?  For just one taste.  Just one piece.  Of our forbidden fruit.

Nobody bothered to tell us about the men!  Why didn’t anyone tell us about them?  We’re told lots of things; given lots of warnings.

Just say no!  Don’t talk to strangers!  No sex until you’re married!

Nobody bothered to let us know that we needed to be suspicious of everyone!

There are certain people we are supposed to feel safe with, and certain people we are supposed to watch out for.

But nobody told us what to do when the people we are supposed to feel safe with suddenly become the people we have to watch out for.

Why do we have to find these things out in such a cruel way, at so awkward an age.

Everything’s screwed up, inside and out.  Breasts and bras.  Hair in places it never was before.  And like the woman in the New Testament, there’s this issue with blood (Yuck!).

And now the people we’ve spent our lives around are looking at us in ways we don’t understand or appreciate.

And some of them are even touching us!  (Even more yuck!)

The age we couldn’t wait for.  12.  Almost officially a teenager.  Supposedly the best time of our lives (despite the confusion)

And then this!

Men unable or unwilling to control themselves any longer.  Men we are supposed to trust, suddenly take on the sinister look of the stranger in the alley, the one offering us candy or a ride home.

Men we were supposed to trust are now men we USED to trust.

What now?  Who do we tell?  How do we tell?

How are we supposed to explain that Grandpa, Uncle, Daddy has touched us?                  Down there!  Or worse!?

What if they don’t, won’t, can’t believe us?

What if, somehow, this was our fault?  Good God…is it possible?

NO!  Absolutely not!

BUT…what if…maybe?!

So, we walk around…days…weeks…months…years…Never telling!

Nobody would ever believe it.  No way!  Not a chance!

Maybe they told us this.  Maybe they didn’t.  We believe it either way.

And we know that surely there must be something wrong with us!

There’s no way this has happened to anyone else.  How could anyone possibly understand if it hasn’t happened to them?!!!

So many people to hide from, to lie to, to keep secrets from…

…but if we don’t tell, we’ll burst, or die, or rot away from so much poison coursing through out systems.

Little bits and pieces of our souls, decaying, decomposing, from hate, alienation, and bitterness growing in our hearts…

…affecting everything.

Our dress.

Our attitudes.

Our self-esteem.

Beating us down from the inside out – till there’s nothing left – but a battered, bruised, and hemorrhaging.


and sadly, we are still only 12.