Sunday, December 28, 2014

Seven Around the Dinner Table

Benjamin reminded me of this old, loved saying of mine, “seven around the dinner table” on Wednesday night when we sat down for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner of chips and dip and cookies. It has been nearly a year since we all sat down at the table together, and Rebecca brought up that everybody might not be home for Christmas next year.

All the kids are adults now; Benjamin turned 18 a little over a week ago. So, even though it was pretty crazy here with everybody home, I cherished it.

Rebecca was home from Iowa for almost a week. She made homemade guacamole as part of our Christmas Eve dinner, and she said she might have put a little too much lemon juice. Sarah, who is not crazy about lemon, said, “How did this happen?” Rebecca took back the guacamole she’d given Sarah. Murray gave Sarah his share, and she laughed. “Rebecca just took that away too.”

I said we should sing for the prayer, like we did sometimes when the kids were little. Murray started, “Oh, the Lord’s been good to me, and so I thank the Lord.” After we’d sung it once, Benjamin said, “Let’s sing it ten times.” Rebecca and I sang it a second time, but it fizzled after that.

Caleb lives at home, but with work and everything else he’s involved in, we don’t see him as much as we’d like. He was able to get off work Christmas Eve and Christmas day. When he’s in the house, someone besides me whistles a lot, and he whistles better than I do. He also got several different kinds of coffee as gifts from friends, and he shared them with us, which was a lovely Christmas happening.

After dinner on Christmas day, we all sat around the table opening our gifts. Our tradition is to draw names among the seven of us, then make gifts. That is always fun, and was often amazing when the kids were little.

Rebecca asked if we remembered the year she wrote her name on every slip of paper for us to draw names from, and I got mad at her. I do remember that. I drew her name, and then when she said, “Oh, I drew my own name,” I bristled. “Well, you couldn’t have, Rebecca, and I think you know how I know.” Then fortunately, before I could say more that I would regret, Sarah said, “We all drew Rebecca!”

This year, Benjamin gave Murray a CD with sound effects, including motor cycles, thunder, car races, and horse races. Murray made Ping-Hwei a wall hanging with his initials made with pennies. Ping-Hwei gave Sarah two VCR tapes of a couple of her favorite movies. She still loves to watch VCR movies. Ping-Hwei also gave all of us a huge box of chocolates, and he doesn’t even like chocolate.

Sarah made brownies for Caleb, and also wrote a poem, starting each line with a letter from his name. Caleb made a wall hanging for me with verses from Isaiah 9 written in Braille, listing the names of Jesus. I knitted a purse for Rebecca, and a sash for her bath robe. Also in the package I put two stone cookie cutters which have lain never-used around the house for years. One is a teddy bear and the other a barn with farm animals, “Because I live in Iowa,” Rebecca said.

Rebecca made cookies for Benjamin, but also, because she knows he loves sound effects, she recorded a bunch on a file for him. She made them on her cell phone, using her own voice. There were about seventy, including a bee, loud nose blowing, a car starting, our old talking microwave, a donkey, a lamb, a crow, and much, much more.

The kids are all moving on to their own lives, so we may not all be here next Christmas. As loud and crazy and sometimes argumentative as we all were, I thank God for the gift of seven around the dinner table this year. James 1: 16-17: “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Did I write These?

These poems were accepted by magazines in the ’70s. “It’s Up to You and Me” seems pretty straightforward, but as I look at “I Can I Will,” I wonder if that was really me.


There are so many things God wants us to do.
There are so many things He expects from me and you—
To give to the poor, to open someone’s door,
So they can live eternally in a land that’s trouble free.

It’s up to you and me to lend a helping hand;
To spread God’s word all over this land.
To tell all about Him and teach His ways
So everyone can know Him enough to say,
“I give my heart and soul to Thee,
Who died for me
On Calvary.”


People say I can’t do it, just because I can’t see.
They think since I’ve lost the use of my eyes, I’ve lost the use of me.
But I can do the undone and know the unknown.
I’ll walk up and down this world, and I’ll do it alone.
I’ll walk across the deep wild sea,
And I’ll do it with me for company.
If there’s something no one’s done, I’ll do it.
If there’s something no one’s been through, I’ll put myself through it.
So as you can see, there’s nothing I won’t try
To show this world before it dies.
Because I can do the same, and maybe even more.
So listen to me people, and don’t close the door.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

After The Fall: Learning To Laugh Again

The following article appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of DIALOGUE, a magazine that deals with issues for people who are visually impaired — my first published work in thirty-four years!

Losses and Gifts

I have no memory of June 28, 2012. The calendar tells me it was a Thursday. Family members tell me that after I came home from work, my husband, my son, my daughter and I went to our friend Laura’s house to deliver “happy birthday” treats. We entered her house by the side door, and I don’t remember if I knew that. What I definitely did not know was that the stairs to the basement were right there.

I don’t recall what I was doing with my cane at that moment. What I do know is that when I catch my 17-year-old son—who is also blind—under-using his cane, I tell him, “The last time I didn’t use my cane properly, I ended up in the hospital for six weeks.”

I know that in some ways, it’s a blessing that I have no memory of the next several weeks. However, my youngest daughter, Sarah, gave me a treasure by keeping and sharing a journal which filled in many of the details of that night and the weeks that followed.

The ambulance arrived in four minutes. My husband, Murray, sat beside me on the basement floor, holding up my head to help me breathe more comfortably. Then he went with me in the ambulance to the hospital.

Laura, Sarah, and our oldest son, Ping-Hwei, dashed to the high school to get our youngest son, Benjamin, who was at band practice at the time. Afterward, a neighbor drove Laura and the kids to the hospital. Murray called our other son and daughter, Caleb and Rebecca, who were not at home that night, and told them they should probably come to the hospital, too.

Sarah says that the doctor told them that night that things could go either way for me. He asked for permission to drill a hole in my skull to put in a monitor for my brain pressure.

Murray says they became close to a lot of the other people in the ICU waiting room. Sarah says she spent much of that first night crying, and one of the other girls in the waiting room sat with her and Caleb and talked with them as they waited. I am told that I first spoke three days after I went into the hospital, saying that if they didn’t take the gloves off my hands, I would cry.

I understand that the kids, friends from work and friends from church paid me a lot of visits. Murray says that Caleb sat with him in my room many days. Murray remembers telling me once that he came early every morning, stayed until I fell asleep, then went home and came again the next morning. Apparently, my response was, “That seems like a raw deal for you.” Rebecca continued to work at her out of town internship during the week, but she took the bus home to see me every weekend.

The first thing I remember about being in the hospital was when Caleb brought his dog guide, Esther, to visit me. I remember hanging out of the bed, reaching for Esther. She kept coming to me, frantically licking, and Rebecca, laughing, kept pulling her back a little.

Moving Forward

Of course, I wish it had never happened. But I thank God for many things, mainly that I survived and that I recovered as well as I did. Mostly, I thank God for what has happened to the relationships in my family. Between my husband and me, my husband and the kids, the kids and me—they are all so much stronger. No, not perfect, but so much better.

What’s the fall-out? I lost a great deal of hearing. I have many problems with memory and much difficulty finding the correct word.

For several months after I came home from the hospital, I still had occasional falls — scary for me, and my family. Even now, I have trouble with balance, but I haven’t fallen in quite some time.

I never had expert orientation and mobility skills, but I used to take the city bus to work for many years, travel easily around my work building, and got around at home with no trouble. Now, I seem to frequently lose my place in my own house.

It often feels strange to find myself at home during the day instead of being at work, but it’s growing on me. My goals have changed. When I was a rehab teacher, my favorite part of the job was teaching Braille. Several years ago, I started a course to become certified in Braille Transcribing through the Library of Congress and received my certification last spring. I am now working on a course to become certified as a Braille Proofreader. It comforts me to still have Braille as part of my professional life.

And, I cranked up my writing career again. When I was a teenager, I had some short stories and poems published in several magazines. Then for more than 30 years, with college, work and raising a family, I found little time to write. I always said I would take it up again when I retired. After my accident, when I could not go back to work, I decided that it would be silly if I didn’t use this time for writing. Over the last year and a half, I’ve written four novellas, which I am still adding to and editing.

I’ve also joined a writing group, which provides monthly online writing classes, webinars and—my favorite—a critique group. We share our writing and offer each other suggestions, resources and encouragement. I am having a lovely time.

I have told my husband that unfortunately, he didn’t get the benefit of my personality changing a great deal. That often does happen to people who have brain injuries, but seemingly not to me, though I often feel I enjoy life more. A friend at work used to tell me that he loved stopping by my office, because I always made him laugh. These days, I’m doing a great deal of laughing again myself.