MAKE YOURSELF HEARD
Selected Essays 100-1500 words featured here.
It was like this:
October: 21, 2012
Sally and I came in late that Sunday. Pam, one of the three daughters picked us up at the airport in Rochester and drove us to the Methodist Hospital, a part of the Mayo Clinic complex. When we entered the room Kay was comatose. Wayne, her husband of 53 years was beside her. Sisters Judy and Mickey were on the other side. Bob, one of her brothers was sitting across the room quietly talking with Mickey’s husband, Gene. The other children, Jason, Debbie and Deanna had gone home following a 24 hour vigil that had been kept for several days previous. All hopes of recovery were now gone…
Tears were shed as warm hugs were exchanged all around. Wayne had decided to have her transported to a hospice near their home in Wisconsin Rapids the next day. As we gathered and talked we learned that the cancer had spread to her brain and was inoperable. She was breathing deep and steady with eyes closed and peace on her face like having a pleasant dream. Wayne told us she could hear what was said causing everyone to speak as if she was awake. Later that night Mickey and Gene left and drove home to Iowa, they had taken a lot of time off work and needed to be there on Monday. We said our goodbyes. After a few hours the rest of us left, leaving Kay alone in the care of nurses. Sally and I checked into the hotel where they were staying and then we all went to a restaurant across the street and sat around nibbling on food and talking…none of us fully mindful that Kay would soon be gone for good.
The next day after talking it over with the doctors, Wayne was persuaded to abandon his plan to transport Kay to the hospice two hundred miles away. We would keep her where she was until the end. She was still resting peacefully, breathing deep and steady. A small blanket had been knitted by one of the nurses and was covering her lower legs on top of a light blanket covering her from feet to shoulders. All IV’s and monitoring equipment had now been removed. She was receiving no fluids or nutrients except medication given under the tongue to prevent seizures. The six of us: Wayne, Pam, Judy, Bob, Sally and I kept watch over her giving hugs and kisses, and whispers of love in her ear. We were in touch by phone with family and friends who along with us gave hope and prayers for Kay and for one another. Wayne was also in pain from his back that had suddenly gone out after hours of sitting and getting up from the chairs. All that day she remained the same, breathing deep and steady with nurses coming now and then to turn her. Sally and I were on Colorado time and came in a couple of hours later than the others and stayed a couple of hours after they left. That night we left shortly after midnight. On the way out I routinely checked her pulse by holding her wrist and noted to Sally that it was over 90 which I thought was high for someone laying at rest, yet she continued with the same slow and steady breathing.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
When Sally and I arrived that morning, a nurse who knew about death and dying was talking with the others. She gave several examples of how death often comes in the absence of a husband or wife who has faithfully remained beside their spouse, but is gone for a short time only to return and find the loved one dead. Feeling they have abandoned their loved one at the time of death they are overcome by guilt. However as she talked a different scenario slowly surfaced. It was like the loved one dying purposely waited until their spouse was gone, wanting to spare them the anguish of seeing the final breath. As it turned out this is exactly what happened…
That night Judy, Bob, Sally and I took a late dinner leaving Wayne and Pam at bedside where they had been for days. Following dinner Bob was not feeling well and went to his room. Judy, Sally and I returned to Kay’s room finding that Wayne and Pam were gone. We assumed they went to the hotel to give Wayne some relief from his painful back. We noticed that the small knitted blanket had been folded into the shape of an animal and placed in her arms. Right away we knew it was Ginger, her dog that she loved so much and had faithfully stayed beside her until she was taken to the hospital. She was still breathing steadily with peace on her face. We sat beside her for a while then Judy said she was going to her room and went to the restroom before leaving. Sally had never taken her eyes off Kay and while Judy was gone she looked at me and said, “Her breathing has changed…it’s getting slower!” I leaned closer and right away noticed a pause between breaths. When Judy returned on her way out, Sally called to her. As the three of us leaned close it was clear that her breaths were coming farther and farther apart. This continued for about three minutes until with peace on her face she took one final breath. I looked at the clock. It was ten minutes after ten. We called the nurses who came in with a doctor who examined her. She was pronounced dead at ten-fifteen. Meanwhile we had called Wayne and Pam who arrived a few minutes later. The many days of knowing we were losing her had failed to prepare all of us for the finality of Kay’s last breath…
Every parent of a baby girl dreams she will grow into a beautiful and confident
woman. We dream she will be full of self-confidence, independent and able to achieve
any dream she sets for herself. As parents of our baby girl, we hope to plant these seeds
and watch her grow and flourish. I believe this dream is not a difficult one to achieve
when parents allow and encourage their daughter to do sports.
I am not talking about making a girl into some kind of tomboy who is more
interested in boy things. I am talking about helping a girl realize her full potential of
being strong and independent in body and mind. Many people feel girls are made less
feminine if they are athletic because they will be more muscular and aggressive. I,
however, do not believe this. I believe they are even more feminine because they
have more confidence in who they are and what they want to achieve. And able to
embrace life with all of its struggles and challenges and come out on the other side of
adversity less afraid and stronger for it. This is what we expect for our sons, why not our
daughters as well? That is by far the most satisfying result.
In order for girls to do well in every area of their lives they need activity that
challenges the limits of what they think they can do and what they actually can do.
The ability to make goals and achieve them is incredibly empowering and pushes them to
set even bigger goals in life.
When girls start sports early in their lives they are learning healthy habits for life.
They will not look at exercise and activity as boring or torture. The rate of obesity is
lower for girls who play sports than those who do not. As they get older those healthy
habits carry over into adulthood. They eat and sleep better, making them more likely to
handle stress better. They have their outlet for stress relief and are so focused on their
bodies they do not even consider abusing them. The rate of teen alcohol use/abuse,
smoking and teen pregnancy is low. Depression is also lower in kids who are active.
Chemicals in the brain that are released during exercise help a person feel better.
Healthy habits started early in life may also lessen their chance to develop breast cancer
and osteoporosis later in life.
Some people may argue that sports are causing kids to be too busy and taking
away time from schoolwork and studying. However, the opposite is actually true.
Statistics show that girls do better in school when involved in a sport. The ability to set
goals and achieve them carries over into their schoolwork, causing them to be better
students. They graduate and go to college more than their less active counterparts.
Girls who play team sports learn the value of teamwork. They develop
relationships with others who value the same goals and work ethic. Working with
coaches and teammates helps them to set and achieve goals and win games. These are all
life skills that are necessary for success not only for the sport but for work and family in
The number one reason sports are important for young girls is the self-esteem
they acquire. When a girl learns to make her body do what she wants it to do. When she
becomes comfortable with her body in her environment and spatial aptitude is achieved.
When she pushes herself to go harder, farther and her body listens. That is when the
worries that she is awkward and does not fit into her surroundings go away. No one can
tell her that she does not measure up. She is able to stand up straight and tall and hold her
head high. No walking and looking at the ground. She can look you in the eye and speak
to you because she is not afraid or intimidated. This is the number one essential reason
that being involved in a sport is so important in a young girl’s life. Gone today are the
social barriers that say a girl cannot achieve what a boy can: strength of mind and body.
It is also important to note that there is no benefit in making your child (son or
daughter) participate in a sport they dislike. A child should only participate in a sport they
truly like. Try different sports so she is able to learn exactly where her niche is. It is
counter-productive to push a child into doing something they absolutely hate. Injuries and
resentment are the only result. Listening to them and being open-minded are important.
Not all kids are made to be media superstars but the benefits for lifelong abilities and
skills are priceless. Sports are not the answer for everyone but activity and involvement is
and that is the key component.
I am the parent of two boys and a girl. My husband and I have worked hard to
ensure they were challenged both physically and academically, striving for balance
so they would be well-rounded individuals full of self-confidence in their abilities. I
was never encouraged to push myself in a sport beyond recreation growing up but I now
see why it is an essential part of growing up. I have made sure that my daughter was
involved in an activity since she was four years old, not including the years prior that she
cheer, competitive diving, softball, and swimming. She has finally settled on swimming
as her sport. A lot of time and effort is involved on our part as parents helping her get to
these activities. I have put in my share of time at practices with her and at meets
volunteering and cheering her on. The smiles, milestones, heartbreaks along the way, the
lessons learned, goals challenged and met, the pushing through pain, and personal bests
are what it is all about. The lessons she has learned inside the pool have helped her be
successful outside of the pool. There is no monetary value that can be placed on the
worth of this. I would do it all over again.
It’s Never The Same If You Try To Go Back
It’s never the same if you try to go back. Such an old cliché but it’s so true. We all have
memories of our childhood. Some are fuzzy and some are vivid. I have both good and bad ones,
but my most vivid are so wonderful that I have always wanted to share them. My husband and
three children had never experienced the Midwest where I had lived for a good part of my
childhood and I wanted to share with them the same treasures I once knew. So in the summer of
2001, I took them to the town that held so many of these wonderful memories in my heart.
Unfortunately, it had changed so much and I was disappointed. However, seeing things through
adult eyes, I was able to see things as my parents saw them. It gave me a greater appreciation
of what their lives were like and helped to put mine into sharper focus. Wait, what? Isn’t that
cliché supposed to mean that life can never be as good as it was? Perhaps yes, but not always. It
definitely helped me appreciate my experiences.
Let me take you back. I was born in California and when I was five years old my mom and
my step-dad, Jim, moved me and my sister to southern Missouri to live closer to his family. I
couldn’t imagine any place as pretty as this that we had moved to. There were so many
green trees and water everywhere. Rivers, creeks, streams. The leaves on trees and the grass
were so vivid green. When I was eight years old, we moved in with Jim’s mom, Grandma Nellie.
She lived in Oxly, Missouri. It was a very small town on the edge of a highway. If you blinked
while driving by you would miss it. There was a population of less than one hundred people in
2.64 square miles with four churches and a general store. Her house had two-stories with a
bedroom, living area, kitchen and a bathroom downstairs and a one room loft upstairs. The house
also had a large front porch with a brick flowerbed around it. I used to love to sit out there and
look at the beautiful flowers. There were so many different species and colors.
I shared the loft with my parents, my sister and cousins when they came to visit. And
cousins we had. My step-dad was one of fourteen children, ten boys and four girls. Most of his
family lived in northern Arkansas and would come to visit our Grandma Nellie so we would
have to share our sleeping quarters. When it was time for bed, I would lie in the big bed I shared
with my sister. We’d be lulled to sleep in the stifling heat listening to the whir of the fan, the one
with steel blades that could take a finger off if you were careless enough to try to put your finger
in it. Listening to the cicadas in the huge walnut tree outside my window buzzing away, I
would never know exactly when I fell asleep but would wake up with the sun shining in my face.
There was a black and white television set that had big rabbit ears and only got four channels.
I remember watching shows like Carol Burnett, The Andy Griffith Show, The Beverly
Hillbillies, and Gilligan’s Island on it. The kitchen had a chrome and formica-topped table with
matching chairs. We would all sit around it at every meal and have our breakfasts and dinners. I
can still taste the fried bologna that Grandma Nellie would cook up in the frying pan after
sending me to the general store to buy it for her. A pound of thick sliced bologna with the rind
still on. While she would be cooking it up, I’d go and pick some tomatoes that had ripened
on the vine in the little garden she grew in the backyard. I especially liked when she fried up
fresh okra for us. I would watch her as she cut it up in a bowl on her lap. It would be slimy
looking but tasted so heavenly after she fried it up.
In this small town of less than one hundred people, there was one girl that looked just like me.
Susan Elliott. She became my best friend. We did everything together. She was my escape
from my crowded family life and we lived for summer. We’d get up early and stay out until after
dark most nights. Her house at the end of the road had an old station wagon that was up on
blocks and full of old clothes. We pretended to travel behind the wheel of that old wagon and
we “played house” in the cellar of her house. We had clubs that were exclusive and only boys
we approved of could be a part of them.
When we weren’t at her house we were down at the creek. Everyone always congregated at
the swimming hole. We had to be careful of snakes and not to dive head first off of the bridge.
Rumors were always circulating of some drunken teenagers who went down there at night and
how they would forget the rule and dive in only to smash into a huge concrete slab at the bottom.
The creek was always so high we never saw it but we never wanted to test it either. We
would walk along the railroad track and if we were feeling lucky would stick pennies on the
track to have the train flatten them. As we got braver, we would follow the tracks across the
highway past the big fancy house that was owned by the general store owners. They had a large
estate with a private park area for their family. I used to dream of having a large house like that
with a special place just for my family that I didn’t have to share with anyone else. It was so
beautiful and green and lush and quiet. We would continue on the tracks past the house to the
creek where there was a trestle. Back then, that trestle looked a mile long and I am very afraid of
heights but after much coaxing from my friend I would crawl across. I just knew a train was
going to come along and I was going to have to jump off of the tracks and into the creek with all
of the lily pads and watercress. It never happened, thank goodness. We would survive our
adventures for another day. Those were carefree days that I never wanted to end.
My parents eventually moved us to Doniphan, the slightly larger town west of Oxly. I missed
my friend terribly, but I still had the memories we had made together. When I was twelve, we
moved back to California. Never before had I seen such a concrete jungle. The city we lived in
was pretty with green in the winter but would turn so hot and ugly in the summer. No longer
were there carefree days of exploring and enjoying the green and wet environment that I had
grown accustomed to in Missouri. I found it very hard to forgive my parents for moving us back
there. I missed my friend terribly. I dreamed of going back the day we arrived in California.
So here we were, my husband, children and I. I was terribly disappointed. Grandma Nellie’s
house had been sold and the new owners had cut down the old walnut tree and enclosed
the front porch taking away the flower beds. The general store had had a fire and the whole
building was condemned. The creek had dried up and you could see the big concrete slab that
the teenagers had dared to go up against. Many families had moved away. It was no longer
the little town of my memories. I went back and things had changed, but I realized that I had
also changed and that life continues to move forward day by day. I was able to see why my
parents had moved. I was able to forgive them now because I had a beautiful life with a family of
my own to make more wonderful memories with.