Strength is a hard word to define. Picture me as a young girl, with boundless energy, sitting on a plank looking at the scene in the picture. Yup, that is where I spent a lot of my “Extra time”. I was a dreamer. I know that now, but knew no word to describe it at that age. I loved everything in nature from the fish circling over her bed, tail fanning in the sunlight to feeling the bark on a tree. How smooth the white birch as compared to the darker rough trees. One must never peel the white birch bark from the tree and how lucky we felt to find a piece on the ground on which to write or sketch!
But this Sunday morning I was going to write about strength. What is it to a young girl? I thought and walked miles back in the caverns of my mind and could barely come out with anything that matched that word. Strength was not screaming when my mother forced boiled poplar bark down my throat to ward off “worms” and when she found I lacked bravery in that department, bought some huge purple pills only a Clydesdale could swallow….and the purple dripped down both corners of my mouth on to my clothes . She yelled; I sniffed and sobbed and eventually the pills ended up in the old back iron sink. No worms surfaced that year..in me or the sink.
No strength there. Fast forward . Married at 17; new mother at 19. Was it strength that had me walking in snow to my hips from Johnny’s Crossing to the farm at the top of the mountain. I worked at Penley’s in West Paris during the day and should there be a storm, well as Dad said, “you gotta use Shank’s mare to get home.” I can’t tell you how many wading sessions I had, but I didn’t consider it strength; it was necessity. I didn’t relish spending the night in a snowbank.
Then there was 18 years later; another upheaval in my life. The little girl from Greenwood Center had long gone and a much more mature women had taken over her place. Oh, there were times when that little girl wanted to go into a corner and wrap herself into a blanket and not come out for a few days but it was okay; a divorce was necessary; this in her mind was not strength ,but survival. Let me add a sentence of advice which I try never to do and don’t think I have.From pure experience, never judge a situation unless you have every fact you can possibly have and then, even, it is better to let someone higher than you do the judging.
We will take a big leap now. The little girl from Greenwood has been married again and this time for 41 years. She has worked and loved every job she has had . Her four children are scattered like leaves on a windy October day. Her husband, not feeling well for some time, sees a doctor and after months, the news is not good. There will be no recovery. Her youngest son will share the duties of caregivers and they will make him as comfortable as possible. Her mind argues with itself every night; how can she do this? She cannot watch him waste away; this man with whom she has shared so much. Is there a choice? The doctors say no.
Every day, climb out of bed, take a deep breath and reach as far back into your body and soul as you can…she kept telling herself, knowing her son was doing the same. They shared the 24 hour duty, day in and day out.
It was becoming harder; she kept reaching and sometimes would walk into an empty room, shed a few tears, turn around and get back to business. That is what her mother and father would do, she kept telling herself. And then one day late August it happened. Her young son finished a nine mile run , smiled, waved and fell flat on his back with a massive heart attack. The husband, unable to do anything but watch , was distraught. The young girl screamed his name and with no response, called his friend next door and then 911. What a beautiful sound…those sirens were like angels’ harps on the winds. The girl’s son died three times and was brought back three times as he was rushed to the hospital.
The girl sat down in a chair next to her husband. She had no one. Her daughter was in another state ( who came within two days) and her other two sons had lives of their own. This was so far away from the hot roads of summer in Greenwood Center with her Gram, her aunts, her family. For the first time in her life, she had no one…absolutely no one. It is a feeling so empty and raw you feel as though you are floating and having no idea where you are going.She spent the next 24 hours taking word from the hospital and taking care of her husband’s needs. Neighbors come in with food and anything else she might need; she thanks them and hopes it is adequate. Two men volunteer to sit with my husband so she can get a few hours sleep. She is not alone; yet the feeling is there.
I can look back now. My husband is gone. He left us on October 25th. My son is recovering nicely. I have no idea where I got the strength to keep going all those many months. I like to believe we all have a reserve of strength and when it is needed we have our own special Angel to turn the tap and God regulates the flow. I don’t know. It was there when I needed it.
Now there is another hurdle,b ut I am ready. As I lay having an echocardiogram last week, my mind went to Rowe’s ledge, the hawks screeching, the blue waves with white diamonds bouncing from them. I felt the tar under my August feet as we raced up and down the road. So my heart has a few problems..hmm..it is operating at about half what it should but I have an excellent cardiologist who is working wonders. I know there is more strength in that reservoir.
There will always come the time when each of us is tested…early in life; late in life. Remember you, too, have a reservoir. Time for my angel to turn the tap! Let’s go!