Volume 2, Issue 2
VOLUME 2 / ISSUE 2
Joy Marie has written poetry since she was eleven years old. She writes “I am now a grandmother. My writing has changed… but it remains a vital part of who I am. I am blessed to be able to share it with others.”
It was a warm summer afternoon, and the sun was slowly sinking behind the enormous old pine trees across the street. On the front porch of a small white ranch style house sat an older woman enjoying the warmth of the dying day. She was slowly rocking on a creaky wicker chair with a blanket gently draped over her legs. She was gazing off into the distant mountains lost in her own thoughts. Today the mountains looked the same as they did on the day she first moved to this small sleepy town. There were no leaves on the trees as it had been a particularly long cold winter and late spring. The mountains had the same purplish tint to them as they do now in the setting sun. She could still remember the year that her father moved her family to this country town in upstate New York, away from the memories of their accustomed Queens lifestyle. It was a culture shock for her family, and it was at a time when they should have been sticking together. Her father stayed in the city during the week as he had a renewed obsession for his work at the New Yorker. There was a time when her father worked hard but always managed to be with his family every night. Oh, how she loved that time and longed for those days again.
Pulled from her memories, the woman had slowly become aware of a shiny black car gradually pulling up to the sidewalk in front of her house. She wasn’t expecting any company, and she detested the insurance salesmen who would stop by from time to time, but this did not look like a salesman’s car. Before she could decide to get up, a young man stood up and towering over the car from the driver’s side said, “Please don’t get up!” and before she knew it the man was on her front porch.
“Hello Miss Annie,” he said with a smile. His smile was warm and inviting and his manner gentle and gracious. He touched the woman’s fragile and time-worn hand as tender as a little boy would hold the hand of his mother. The tall stranger seemed familiar but only in the way that the memory of an elusive dream might be triggered, and then just as quickly, fade from recollection, and you’re left straining, trying to hold onto the memory. The woman, whose name was indeed Annie, felt as if she could physically grab onto the thought, look at it in her hands, and say “Oh, Yeh. Now I remember.”
Unfortunately, this had been happening a lot lately. Annie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last year, and it was progressively getting worse. The reoccurring embarrassment in everyday situations relegated Annie to her home. She began to withdraw from the community and deal with her anxiety in the privacy of her home which was fortified like a fortress behind a white picket fence. The only upside to the situation was that she spent more time with her husband who was currently out fishing. He, of course, tried to stay home more often, but strong willed Annie would have none of it. She insisted he go out on his regular Saturday afternoon fishing jaunts. But now she was regretting pushing him out the door on this particular afternoon.
The man standing before Annie looked familiar to her. His chestnut hair arched like a dark wave crashing upon the shore fell over his forehead slightly. She stared into his dark brown eyes and felt such a familiarity in them that she became more at ease. Annie invited the man to sit down across from her, and he obliged.
“My name is Thomas, ma’am. We have never met, but I do believe we may be related.” From his own research and talking to Annie’s other relatives, Thomas knew of Annie’s dementia and wanted to quickly assure her, in his own way, that she did not forget him.
Feeling relieved that they had never met before Annie became more congenial. “Can I get you a drink? A cup of teas maybe?”
“Oh, no thank you, ma’am. I just came from having dinner at the local diner down the street.” Thomas said as he patted his full stomach. “It was quite good.” Thomas’ hand went from his stomach to his head as he pushed the wave of hair from his forehead. That action triggered a memory in Annie which allowed her to connect Thomas with her very own brother, Patrick.
All at once Annie was overwhelmed with memories of her brother Patrick who was called Paddy for short. Paddy was what people referred to as “black Irish” with his dark hair, dark eyes, and even darker skin than the rest of the family. He looked to be more of Italian descent than the typical Irishman. He stuck out in the predominantly Irish neighborhood in Queens, NY. He didn’t stick out like a sore thumb as the saying might go, but rather like a rose among a thousand of blades of grass. This was confirmed by how much the neighborhood girls loved him, but Paddy only had eyes for one girl, Katie O’Brien. They were so much in love all through high school, but at the end of their senior year in 1961 her family abruptly packed up and moved away. A week later she sent Paddy a short goodbye letter with the I.D. bracelet that he bought her enclosed. Paddy was devastated and threw himself into his work at the newspaper.
Paddy was the oldest of eight and back then his Father worked late a lot. There was much more to write about with the war in Vietnam, so Paddy was saddled with much of the responsibility of running around for the family. This was all on top of his new job at the newspaper. Paddy was saving up to go to journalism school because he wanted nothing more than to be a reporter like his Father. Even though Paddy was still heartbroken over Katie, he was always nice to his little sister Annie who was ten years younger. He never once referred to her as his bratty sister but only as his “Annie-bell.” Even when he was around his buddies or with Katie he was always kind to Annie and Annie adored her big brother in return.
Sitting on her porch looking at Thomas and the uncanny resemblance he shared with her brother Paddy, the warm sun became hot on her cheek, and Annie remembered one specific hot July day back in 1961. She didn’t want to remember because that was just before everything changed and they moved to the country. She could still feel the sticky, uncomfortable humidity of that July day. Annie and her siblings were waiting for Paddy to return home from his job at the newspaper so he could take them swimming.
“Pull those shades down.” Annie’s mother said to her while gliding the paper fan over herself and the baby.
“Yes, Mama.” Annie obliged, and pulled the shade down so it blocked out the burning sun.
Everyone was sitting in the living room trying to get some respite from the sweltering heat outside, but the heat from all of the bodies inside was becoming too much. If Annie had to spend another moment inside that roasting house she was sure she would scream. Just then the familiar rumble of the family truck could be heard over the fussing baby. Everyone ran to the door in excitement and earnest and begged Paddy to take them to the local pool. When little Annie was finally able to squeeze through her many siblings, she caught a glimpse of Paddy and could immediately see that there was something wrong. His usually dark skin was just as pale as the rest of the Irish family, and there was no bright toothy smile on his face. In fact, his countenance was an odd mixture of confused, sad, and almost scared. Annie immediately mirrored his emotions, backed away, and watched the events unfold.
Struggling to push through the crazed mini-crowd of kids, Paddy let out a warning of irritation, “Leave me alone for a while!”
He pushed into the Livingroom closing the door behind him leaving just himself and his Mother alone inside. After just a minute or two, his Mother came flying out of the Livingroom and ran to the telephone to call up father at work. The only other time Annie could remember her Mother calling her Father at work was when her sister Elaine fell and cut her head. It only ended up being a little cut, but there was so much blood that one would have thought she had been decapitated.
At the age of nine, Annie did not understand the desperate one-sided conversation that her mother was having on the phone. Dinner that night was equally somber, and Annie noticed that both her Mother and Paddy did not eat much. Paddy was feeling nauseous and was at even lower depths then when Katie had left. Why had she left he thought. If there was any time he needed her most, it was now. After the meal was over, their Father explained to the family that Paddy had gotten a draft card in the mail which meant that he would be going over to Vietnam to fight in the war. The older children knew what this meant, but to Annie and the younger children, they only had a vague idea. Being so young and selfish, as kids at this age could understandably be, they did not give it much thought after that night.
Before Paddy left, he took hie dear Annie-bell aside and gave her his most prized possession, the I.D. bracelet that Katie had sent back to him in the mail. Paddy ran his fingers through his dark hair and said, “Annie-bell, I have to go away for a while, and while I’m gone I want you to help out Mama around the house like I do. I know you are smart and kind and can take on a lot of my responsibilities while I’m gone. Can I count on you?”
“Yes,” was Annie’s eager response. Annie was thrilled about the idea of being thought of as more mature and helpful. As if this somehow made her older than she was.
“Great. I knew I could count on you Annie-bell” and with tears in his eyes Paddy took off the ID bracelet that he has given to Katie earlier that year.
He put it on Annie’s tiny wrist and said, “It’s a little big right now, but you’ll grow into it. This is to remind you that when things get tough to be strong and to carry on just like I would. Ok?”
“Yes, thank you!” Annie exclaimed as she ran her finger over the smooth, shiny silver inscription that spelled Paddy and Katie on the outside and had a date 1/1/61 on the inside. Annie never did ask what the date was for and to this day she still does not know.
Within that same week, Paddy was gone. The typical atmosphere of a chaotic house filled with laughing children had changed and became muted. Annie’s heart was now aching from the void that Paddy’s absence left, and by this time Annie had a better understanding of where he went. During the next year, Paddy sent letters but Annie was not allowed to read them as she was still so young and they held graphic information about the war. She was told that Paddy asked about her in every letter, and she sent him letters in return. Almost an entire year went by since Paddy had left. Annie had just finished the fourth grade and was looking forward to enjoying another summer.
The worst day of Annie’s life started out as just another day. Annie was clearing the dinner table, one of her many responsibilities she took on when Paddy had left. Her mother and father were in their usual late afternoon seats as watching the evening news had become a ritual for the both of them. Then came the knock on the door. Annie was the first one to the door and had the, now dubious, honor of opening it. In the doorway stood a very tall man in a neat looking uniform alongside the Murphy’s parish priest, Fr. Kelly. Just as Annie greeted him, “Hey, Fr. Kelly!” she noticed that his eyes were red and swollen as he looked above her into the living room. As if in slow motion Annie turned and saw her Mother sink to the floor as her Father simultaneously rose to his feet, unaware and uncaring that his cherished nightly newspaper had just fallen to the ground. That was the first time Annie had seen her Father cry; the only other time was at Paddy’s funeral.
Back on the porch, a tear fell down Annie’s now aged face as she looked into the same eyes as her long dead brother. Just as she always did when she thought of him, her finger instinctively ran over the inscription on the dull silver bracelet which fit snugly on her wrist. Annie struggled to remember the man’s name who sat in front of her with the now concerned look on his face. She could feel the red hot embarrassment creeping up her neck yet again. “Damn this disease.” she thought.
“Miss. Annie” Thomas said with apprehension in his voice, “Are you all right?”
“Oh, yes. It’s just … you remind me of my late brother Patrick.”
“Well, that’s actually why I am here,” Thomas said with a warm smile. “Just as I said, my name is Thomas, and I believe I am related to you by way of your brother Patrick Murphy. You see, I was told my biological Grandmother used to date, Patrick Murphy. Her name was Katie O’Brien.”
Thomas recounted the details as he understood them. “It seems Katie had become pregnant with your brother’s child and her parents found out. Katie’s strict Irish Catholic parents made her go to a convent and give her baby up for adoption and never told a soul.”
Annie remembered how Katie’s abrupt move had broken Paddy’s heart and she remembered the date on the I.D. bracelet. Annie asked Thomas for his father’s birthdate, and it was indeed nine months from the date scribed on the inside of the bracelet.
Thomas continued, “My father told me about his adoption, and I wanted to explore our biological family history. When I found out who my grandmother was, I went to see her. She has lived a solitary life with no children, and she never married. She told me that when she later found out about Patrick dying in the war, she was heartbroken.”
Annie sat in her rocking chair taking all of the information in, and she was sad. Sad for Paddy, sad for Katie, sad for the family they never go to have. Thomas could see that the conversation was weighing on Annie and asked if he could come back at another time with his father, Paddy’s son. Annie was more than happy to oblige; they exchanged numbers and Thomas left. As Annie sat in her rocking chair, the sun had finally set, and she pulled the blanket up to her shoulders. Still gazing out onto the darkening mountains she closed her eyes and fell asleep.
“Hey, Annie. Wake up. It’s too cold to be out here this late.”
Annie opened her eyes to see the fuzzy yet familiar outline of her husband standing before her. As her vision cleared, she noticed that it was now fully night and she was shivering. As they walked inside a strange feeling washed over Annie, but she could not place it. When she reached for the door handle, the reflection of the moon in her bracelet caught her eye. She suddenly remembered the fantastical dream she had about her dear brother Paddy and his descendants, and then just as quickly, the memory faded away.
Patricia Gross is a thirty-six-year-old mother of five. She is a double major in Education Studies and English.
SPIRITS, SOULS, AND AURAS
Spirits, Souls, and Auras are around us all of the time, with freedom of time, substance, light, and dark of the world. We choose to see, sense, feel, hear, and acknowledge these entities or we do not. I have learned that it is easier by far to acknowledge them. The Spirits, Souls, and Auras come from the entire spectrum of light and dark. When you see only darkness to the areas of life and death that you do not understand, it is like looking at the Death Card in a Tarot Deck. The Death Card is often feared; the card means change, yet it causes fear and resistance. Since it is perceived as a gateway to a devastating or painful new life, though, it is just as possible that it shall be as the light of the Phoenix; renewal (Fox, 2012). Death, Spirits, Souls, and Auras, every aspect, come from an inherent sense. Fey is part of my heritage and believing in the unknown is natural, freeing, sensitive, taking every idea, thought, whether mystical, set in stone, spiritual, or the blackest of all. Life, Death, Spirits, Souls, and Auras go hand in hand, steps in the next turn of chance. Open yourself up to spirits and you will know that spirits can be peaceful and not just dark. Release people to Death so time and thy system has the will of the ages. Spirits, Souls, and Auras have taught me that opening myself up to the unknown brings the freedom of time and substance, also the light and dark of the world.
Living with spirits is just commonplace. When you are living with Spirits, Souls, and Auras feeling, seeing, sensing the determination, power, control of spirits to let their desires be known is natural. It is enlightening to know that I have a bit of the Fey as my grandmother did; I am ecstatic to be like that special woman I knew as a very young child. It took quite a while for me to feel, see, and sense Spirits, Souls, and Auras, I became comfortable as an adult when I was twenty-two years old. I only started to sense the spirits instead of ignoring them since I was with my significant other, Don. My significant other, Don, was visiting his family and left me home alone. Don was renting a house owned by Bob Mylie, who was deceased, via his sister, until his son came of legal age to take over the house. Bob did not like that I ignored him. Bob suspected that I would try not to allow his son to have the house. He appeared to me in, Don’s dog, Niko’s bed. Naturally, I acknowledged him and said I know the house belongs to his son, no problem, and I went to sleep. I described Bob to a friend of his who felt that I would have had to see a picture of him for the description. I had seen no pictures of the man. The night Bob showed himself completely to me was still peaceful. Bob was making sure that his wishes were upheld.
I have been around Spirits, Souls, and Auras that have been from both sides of the spectrum, just like people are when they are alive. Don and I went on our first trip as a couple to Big Lake, B.C, Canada to a cabin by the lake. Even though the cabin was breathtakingly sensual with the lake just a hundred feet, I could not relax. The cabin was surrounded by beautiful, strong, majestic trees and with a dock and some boats to go on the lake or to fish with not a person on the lake. The cabin was a beautiful wood clapboard building. It had an upstairs which was for a larger group of people visiting our friends and the lake. I stayed out of the upstairs as it was where I saw the spirits that were full of hate, vengeful, rage, distrust, unloved, and just plain dangerous. I saw the spirits in the cabin yet they were just dark energy, not recognizable. I did not see them fully formed as I saw Bob Mylie or even the spirits that I see at the graveyard in Likely, B.C., Canada. All I sensed in the cabin, the air, the walls, the space, the very essence, was the rage, terror, exasperation, and contempt spilling off the spirits. I really could not handle the place. I just have to open myself up to the energy that enables me to feel, sense the spirits, souls, and auras around me. This in turn, lets me know what is around me whether safe and peaceful or dangerous. I need to be open to the unknown. The lake and cabin were beautiful yet it would have been nice if I was not as sensitive to the spirits. We went to the town, of Likely, B.C., Canada and saw the graveyard by the Fraser River. It was beautiful, the spirits full of peace and tranquility. In Likely, they have an old settlement with the old jail and homes and different structures. I believe the graveyard spirits came from this settlement. The graveyard spirits freed me from the tension that the cabin’s spirits caused.
I believe to have peaceful Spirits, Souls, and Auras around, you have to learn like I did to release people before the time comes for peace, natural, and freeing. Releasing loved ones and following through on a person’s wishes is extremely helpful in receiving a peaceful Spirit, Soul, and Aura if they decide to hang around to make sure that you are ok and that you are fulfilling their wishes. When my significant other, Don and I discussed Spirits, Souls, and Auras we also discussed the releasing of people when it was their time without thinking of missing the person or keeping them when they were only suffering for us to see them on the physical plane. When Don became sick with cancer throughout most of his body, I angered him by putting him into the VAMC against his will. I had his power of attorney (health care) which I used after having him sign his release papers from Highline Hospital. I was able to use both to have the Fire Department order an ambulance to take him to the VAMC to take care of him. He was too far along for me to help at home. He went in with anger, rage, distrust, and abandonment feelings, but he slowly started to release some of these feelings. I stayed with him at the hospital and later down in the hospice most of the time while he was in the hospital. I could not stay all the time because there were times he did not have a single room. I informed the doctors that we were just keeping him as free from pain as possible. When he passed, I was with him, and I was happy that he no longer suffered. I, of course, released him the day I found out that he had cancer throughout his body and brain. He was already unable to do anything that he enjoyed or even knew what was going on. After he had passed, he came back to me, and I felt the love, trust, peace, sweet kind, and forgiving of any slight. It felt perfect, and it still does when I choose to talk to him. It is sometimes difficult to feel the loss since seeing him can cause the loss to be lacking.
Never underestimate how Spirits, Souls, and Auras react, what they can do, why, when,
where, and who they were in life and death. When the Spirits, Souls, and Auras are still alive in
their bodies, and I feel the rage, hate, distrust, and unloved. When they pass into the afterlife and
I feel their love, trust, and angelic peace equal to the most sensuous feeling you could ever have,
without mating of course. Spirits, Souls, and Auras range the entire spectrum of light and dark.
Enraged in life can also mean being enraged in death. Which at times you can help them to
release the rage, it, of course, does not always work. A sense of warmth, love, peace, tranquility,
and acceptance was inspiring with Don. The loss was lacking a bit since I could still feel and
sense him. It gave me the world as long as I allowed myself to feel, accept their auras, love,
forgiveness of any slights, and his souls with their infinity of possibilities. Spirits, Souls, Auras
feel sensuous, tranquil, warm, loving, forgiving, and accept an infinity of possibilities. When in
the dark side of the spectrum, it is like being in the eye of the storm, with thunder and lighting.
Watching Puget Sound rage in on itself, is like looking into a fire ready to burn you alive. This
depends on how they were released or held too tight against their wishes. Do not just be afraid,
for there may be a way to give them peace, and would you not want it if it was you? Spirits,
Souls, and Auras the entire spectrum of light and dark, they are around us all the time.
Fox, R. S., (2012), Tarot Deck of Heroes
Fey: Supernatural, unreal, enchanted, whimsical, strange, and otherworldly.
Release/Releasing: To free from confinement, the bondage of life. To free from restraints, set free.
Allow them release, freedom of the chains that bind.
VAMC: Veteran Affairs Medical Center
Lise Dunham just completed a creative writing course at Ashford University.
A FLOOD OF CHANGE
Gazing through the rain-speckled window on that gloomy June day, I wondered when the incessant rain would let up. I thought longingly about the kids and I being able to play with the new swing set and trampoline that we had purchased just a few days prior. They sat out in the front yard alone and unused dripping raindrops slowly and methodically from the perfectly painted hollow tubes that held them together. I could almost hear the ting, ting, ting sounds that the raindrops were making. I had always wanted a trampoline growing up, but with eight children my parents were never able to afford one. Nor did we have a swing set, but we did have an old tire tied to a tree. It is amazing how much enjoyment kids can get out of an old tire swing; that is, until the rope snaps and it sends the child flying across the lawn.
When my husband and I did decide to have a child, we agreed on only one so we could provide, what we thought was a happy childhood full of the material things we did not have. Back then I didn’t see that it wasn’t the toys that made my childhood happy, it was my siblings, my family. Now, while I was yearning to jump on the trampoline, I was listening to the sounds of my once only child laughing and playing with his cousin who had come to live with us. Toys were not the cause of this laughter, but love and imagination were. In the years that followed this tumultuous day, my son’s cousin would become his sister, and his best friend.
In my childhood I also had a best friend, a rather unconventional friend; it was the stream by my house. The creek, which paralleled the quiet country road I grew up on was where I spent most of my childhood days, playing in its round rocky bed, catching the occasional fish or just sitting in silence after I had an explosive argument with my parents. As I grew older, I would spend hot summer days in the creek with a good book letting the smooth cold water glide over my bare feet as I basked in the sunlight while quietly turning the pages.
As it does, life goes on, and I spent less and less soul refreshing time with my old friend the creek. I moved away and ended up living on the dark and cold river that my beautiful creek emptied itself into. There was a steep mountain behind the house which cast, what seemed like, an eternal shadow that I could not escape. Winters were always so frigid. Off in the distance, I could achingly see the golden sunlight shining down on where I grew up and what was accurately nicknamed “Sunshine Valley.” It was not long before I was able to move back, but because my husband and I were just starting out we couldn’t afford much, and my beloved creek was not only across the street but behind a small grove of trees as well. But for me, that sufficed and allowed me to leave behind the soul-sucking darkness of that house on the river.
Our new home was located almost at the very end of the road which did not feel very much like the heart of Sunshine Valley where I grew up. There was just one more property that saved us from feeling like complete outsiders, and that was the Romano Estate. Back in its heyday, when my father was a child, our road was like a little town which boasted a small brick school and a one-room grocery store. Well, the Romano Estate which was a large white house, had this small pathetic looking one room building right next to it. This was the old grocery store. Possibly charming to look at in the right context, the white paint was peeling in long curly shavings, and the large front window always had a layer of dust on it so thick it often looked like brown glass. That little old store was stronger than it looked and it played a big part in helping my family on that gloomy June afternoon when my best friend would turn on me.
As I had mentioned before, my niece had come to live with us, but what I did not mention was that for a little while so did her baby brother. In order to take them in, my husband and I had to become certified as foster parents, which we gladly did. We spent the first few months of 2006 in a dizzying whirl of abnormality which eventually changed into a calm routine by Spring. Working full time with two children and a baby took some getting used to, especially in a small three bedroom home, but we managed, and it was full of love. That year was particularly rainy, and my old friend the creek was restless. Twice that soggy Spring I got a phone call from the fire department warning me to be watchful of the creek and evacuate the area for fear of flooding. Twice I did not listen and stayed right where I was. It was difficult packing up a baby and two children and spending the day somewhere else, especially when I thought I knew better. After all, I grew up there. I knew that creek was not going to flood, and definitely not all the way to my house. I was right. “Over-eagerness” I arrogantly thought. Even when my creek was raging during the spring thaws every year its color reminded me of delicious chocolate milk, nothing to be afraid of. As Spring turned into Summer, our lives changed once more, and my nephew left to live with his father. My niece stayed with us as she was no relation to the boy’s father. The rainy springtime weather had halted, and a hot drought had settled in. The drought was finally broken the day after I bought the trampoline and swing set, which is what brought me to gaze out through the rain-speckled window.
The deluge of rain was so intense and long lasting that it was dubbed the “rain train,” and it kept coming. I’m told that because the ground was dry for so long that it couldn’t absorb all that rain, and thus created the perfect condition for massive floods. The rain water just ran off the ground and down the mountains and into my creek in Sunshine Valley. We inevitably got our third evacuation phone call that year, third times the charm, right? This time, since it was just the three of us, and no baby to pack up, I decided to visit my sister and let the kids play together in the air conditioning on this awfully humid day.
The kids were playing upstairs, and my sister and I were just finishing up an intense game of Phase 10 when we go a phone call that a few beaver dams above my house had broken and there was serious flooding on my road. My sister Laura’s house was high on a hill and looked down at both my house and the creek, so I decided I would take a walk out on her road to check things out. The downpour has slowed to a drizzle, so I decided it was safe to grab my camera. Peering down through the jungle of trees which separated her road and the creek, I could see that water was in my front yard. I was not too concerned; it was a large yard, and my house sat higher than the lawn. Although the water had never been up that high, I was certain this was as high as it was going to get. There’s that arrogance again.
I walked down to where I could see the large white house and the one room store. By this time everyone had been evacuated, so the store looked extra lonely and small. As I was contemplating the store’s size, I watched a bright orange basketball float around the back of the tiny white building and get sucked into the current headed for the wild creek. I took a picture. My first thought was how the vivid orange of the ball contrasted with the brown muddy waters. Almost instantaneously my thinking changed, and I exclaimed out loud to no one in particular since I was alone, “That’s my basketball!”
Before I could get my feet to move back up the road to look at my house, I saw my blue Rubbermaid bin full of my wedding memories float down what was once the road. I had to stop my first impulse of running down to the creek to save it. The bin gradually picked up speed and bobbed its way into the frenzied creek. I felt a wave of hurt rush over me as I realized what was happening. My skin became hot, and I realized that I would never be able to replace those important memories as easily as I could that orange basketball. Down floated more of my storage boxes and then my garbage cans. With some relief, I recognized that these were the contents of my shed, not my house. Trying to look at the bright side I thought, “At least I won’t have to go to the dump this weekend.” With a bit of sick in my stomach, I trekked back up to where I could see my house through the trees. The water had markedly risen and easily opened the doors of my shed that had been damaged by a bear earlier that summer. Everything was floating out. There was nothing I could do. I was astonished to see that the water was now two-thirds the way up my deck. I stood there for a few moments in the silent pitter patter of the light rain, watching like an irritated mother ready to reprimand a disobedient child. The creek was stronger and more independent than I had thought it could ever be. I took a picture.
Tearing me from my admonishing stare, I heard a car horn wailing from the vicinity of the large white house and my heart started racing with concern. Rushing back down, I was relieved to see the neighbor’s abandon Jeep in the water with the lights on and horn sounding. There was no one in it; everyone had been evacuated, but the flood waters were doing their damage and the Jeep was starting to float, back end up. The creek was so strong. Just then a bunch of debris came rushing down the swift moving part of the dirty chocolate milk creek. It was obvious that it was fragments of someone’s home. They had lived closer to the creek than I, and now all of their belongings were gone. Just like that. The thought of the devastation the owners of the destroyed house must be feeling prompted me to check on mine again. Before I started up the road, a group of brown ducks caught my eye. It was queer the way they were swimming against the swift moving currents. These currents that were moving a jeep, the same tides that just demolished a home, and these ducks were able to swim against this torrent of water! I was in disbelief. These little brown ducks so strong against the rough current, sticking together. It was so strange. I took a picture.
While trudging up that quarter mile of road, straining to see through the trees with the abundant late June foliage, I saw the peculiar sight of my grill floating by. I knew what was happening, but it still felt so bizarre. One expects to see a canoe or a person on a tube lazily floating down a creek, not household items being whisked away. So I ran. Reaching the clearing in the trees where I could see my house, the water was just starting to take everything off of my deck. It had already taken the grill, and now it was sweeping away the chairs and the kid’s toys. In short time everything was gone, and my deck was stark. I took a picture. I hadn’t even noticed that the new trampoline and swing set were already gone as I wasn’t used to seeing them there anyway. In a few days, I would find them in their final resting place, wrapped around a tree at the end of the yard never to be used, never to share in the magical laughter of children.
Looking at the empty deck covered in a thin layer of brown water, I realized that this meant the water was now flush with my front door. “Oh, my carpet and floors!” I watched for a while with irritation wondering how much it was going to cost to replace floors and if it was something my husband and I could tackle together. “Oh yeah.” I thought. “I better call him.”
Catching my husband up on what was going on, I walked back down to where I could see the large white house. While I was talking and walking the water had risen significantly. I know now that about a mile up the creek, the beaver dams that had broken had gotten stuck on a bridge adding significant strain. Eventually, the water level had risen so much that it took an entire deck with a hot tub off of a house just above the bridge. When this debris came crashing into the already strained bridge, the entire thing collapsed, and the water came rushing down towards my house.
The call with my husband ended, and the empty and alone feelings inside me were growing. I was standing alone watching my sweet Sunshine Valley wash away piece by piece. The soft sprinkling rain seemed to physically comfort the yucky feelings in the pit of my stomach. Slowly, I realized that the water was much, much higher. For the last time that day I sprinted back up to where I thought I could see my house. I saw nothing but the miserable brown water. I walked up a bit further thinking I was in the wrong spot. No, too far. Maybe I had gone too far. Panic was setting in; I did not want to believe what was staring me right in the face. Straining to see through the trees I finally came to realize that the vacant spot that I had been looking at was indeed where my house used to be. Where the hell is it!? I ran down to the large white house in search of debris or anything that resembled my home. Nothing. I became more confused by the minute. “Was it all gone?” I feared, “Dissolved like my unfortunate neighbor?” No, maybe I really was in the wrong spot, maybe some of the trees were swept away.
As I slowly and methodically walked up the road straining to see something through those damned trees, I saw it. My house. It was torn off of its foundation, spun around, and crashed into the sturdy little one-room store. The big deck on the front was firmly implanted in my living room wall. The water was nearing the roof, and half of the deck was in my house, but otherwise it was mostly intact. Not like my poor neighbor’s house which was ripped apart, piece by piece, earlier. The feelings inside me were mixed. I know I should have been feeling sad but I was shocked, and a little amused, that this little old store was still standing and stopped my house from rushing away down the creek. That forsaken store which before today sat vacant with no other purpose. I stood there for a while just staring while a million thoughts ran through my head and not a one registering. I took a picture.
Booming in my ears was the constant stupid rush of the water in and out of the creek. The creek that I grew up with playing in on hot summer days. That babbling brook which comforted me when I had a bad day. My precious stream that I loved so much. It had betrayed me. It took away my physical memories, my pictures, my children’s drawings, my wedding albums, daughter’s first communion dress, and son’s heirloom baptism gown. I was not angry but hurt and defeated. I just stood there. I did not take another picture.
My sister came out and stood by me. “Wow, that’s high. I bet some water got in your house.”
Continuing to stare straight ahead at nothing, I squinted a bit in the light drizzle and said, “It’s gone.”
“What?” was her incredulous response.
“Yeh, look.” I replied in an ‘isn’t that crazy’ tone and pointed through the trees.
She told me we could stay with her for as long as we needed but again, nothing was really registering at the time. The only thing I wanted at that moment was my husband, but I couldn’t even have him as the water had washed out and closed the roads. The group, or family of ducks as I now refer to them, burst into my thoughts and I wondered where they went and again questioned why they were there in the first place. The next couple of days were filled with sadness and hard work. We went through what was left of our house and were only able to salvage very few items. However, if not for that little old store we would not even have them. The anxiety about the future felt like a quicksand that we would never survive.
Then time started to fly by, and we saw the best and worst that our small town had to offer. There were some who generously gave what they could, whether it was time, money, or a place to stay for a bit. We were all thankful. Then there were those, few, who took advantage of the situation and that was sad, but we could not dwell on that sadness. We had a bright future to look towards.
I can’t help but sometimes think that if life before the flood had been different, and I still had little Billy at that time, I do not think the situation would have turned out so well. I might have stayed home that day. In total, we only lost physical memories, things, four walls, and a roof, but what was truly important was safe, and that is what mattered. Our family got by together, and we were stronger because of it. I would like to think that my family and I weathered that bad situation like the ducks in the stream, we stuck together. No one was hurt. So many blessings and good fortune came from something so terrible, tighter bonds and eventually a bigger house on a hill, and away from water.
After adopting my niece, we were asked if we could take in other foster children as there were no more beds in the County. Because we had a bigger house and abundant blessings, we wanted to share those blessings, and we decided it was the right thing to do. Children have come and gone; heartbreak is always inevitable, but we’ve learned it’s what you do with the heartbreak that counts most. Do we grow from it or do we let it change us for the worse? We choose to grow. Because of fostering, we now have five wonderful children, and I found a new passion that guided me away from my previous hectic business life and toward the giving world of teaching and working with children. If not for the flood drastically changing our lives and our outlook on life I do not think we would be where we are today.
Patricia Gross is a thirty-six-year-old mother of five. She is a double major in Education Studies and English.
Walking up a wall today,
It moves from east to west,
Now it moves so I must crawl,
It’s bringing me no peace.
Now it’s moving very far,
I hardly hold grip,
If I hold on any longer,
My back and legs will rip.
The rock is cold and wet,
It’s not easy holding on,
If I close my eyes to tight,
The decision will be gone.
If I stopped I could relax,
And find that I could sleep,
But my will is to stay on,
The fighting I must keep.
See moving back and forth,
Is nothing to concrete,
I’m imaging this,
It’s something incomplete.
Everyday I do this thing,
And do this so do you,
Decision is not an easy way,
It’s something we must do.
Confusion is a way in life,
As I can’t keep up too long,
Is east the way to go,
Or am I choosing wrong.
Yes, back and forth I move,
So that I can hardly think,
It’s moving quicker now,
Susan Cane is an Ashford student.