Friday, 3 March 2017

Muslim and Non-Muslim....An Encounter

I was tired and wanted to go home, but had one last chore. I couldn't let Bubba our cat starve, so I went to Walmart to buy him some food.

As usual, it was hard to find a spot to park the car, so I ended up near the back of the lot, far away from the entrance.  "Oh, well, the extra steps will be good for me," I reasoned.

I got out of the car and started towards the store.  As I did, I passed an elderly, covered Muslim woman who was walking very slowly, her arm linked with a younger woman. I assumed she was her daughter.  I smiled and greeted them both and continued. 

When I was about twenty metres ahead of them, I felt something in my spirit telling me to stop, turn around, go back to that old lady and give her a hug.  I stopped, but started second guessing myself. I dismissed the feeling, thinking it had to be my imagination. If I did that, I reasoned, it would be so uncomfortable.  The old woman and her daughter would think I was crazy.  It was just my imagination!  I shook off the impulse to turn around and continued walking.  I'd gone another ten metres when the feeling came upon me again, but this time it was much stronger.  This time it was a command. "STOP! TURN AROUND, GO BACK TO THAT OLD WOMAN AND GIVE HER A HUG!" I stopped again. I knew it was the Lord.  I know from experience that when I get a command like that, there is always a reason.  I know that if I don't obey, I will miss a great blessing.  So, I said, "Okay, Father. They will think I'm completely nuts, but I'll do it."  

By then, the women were about ten metres behind me.  I turned around and approached the two nervously, but determined.  

I stopped in front of them, looked the younger woman in the eye and said, "I'm supposed to hug her.  I don't know why, but I'm supposed to."  I looked at the elder and went in for the embrace.  She was of course shocked, and therefore a bit stiff, but patted me kindly on the back as I held her tightly for several seconds. "I don't know why I was supposed to do that," I reiterated, looking once again at the younger woman.  "Well," she said, looking at me in a strange way, "We've just come from the hospital where my mother had an MRI. She really needed that hug."


  




Friday, 10 February 2017

El Orgullo Precede La CaĆ­da

Hace anos estuve en Grecia.  Tuve algunos amigos griegos que me ensenaron algunas palabras y frases griegas.

Una noche mi hermana y yo fuimos a un restaurante. En Grecia es normal ir a la cocina en algunos restaurantes de la familia.  Fuimos a la cocina y miremos dentro de cada olla. Decidimos lo que queriamos comer.  Fuimos a nuestra mesa.  

El camarero vino a tomar nuestro orden.  Yo, estaba muy orgullosa de mi griego (sabia aproximadamente 100 palabras) y de mi misma.  Era tan inteligente.  Estaba impaciente de mostrar a mi hermana lo inteligente que era.

"Ti thelate?" ("Que te gustaria?") pregunto el camarero.

Era mi momento para brillar.  Lo mire y dije con orgullo, despacio y con claridad, "Thea copella parakalo."

La gente en las mesas alrededor de nosotros empezaron a reir y el camarero tenia una gran sonrisa.  Yo sabia que habia cometido un error y estaba tan avergonzada.  Pero que dije?  Pense en lo que habia dicho.

De repente, me di cuenta de mi error.  Queria pedir pollo. La palabra para pollo en Griego es kotoupolo.  Debia decir 'thea kotoupelo' pero dije 'thea copella'.  

Habia hecho un gran error.  En vez de pedir dos pollos, pedi dos chicas.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Just A Love-Bump

The sea battered the rocks far below, spewing a spray of water that reached Claire high up on the cliff face.  She’d been standing there, staring at the rocks and spume-covered water for half an hour, unaware that her clothes were growing progressively damper. 

Voices from the past flooded her mind.   She was a happy child but when she was eleven she'd overheard one of her parents’ late-night conversations.  “I guess Claire might eventually get a job as a secretary, maybe a stewardess or teacher’s assistant.  What else will she do? She’s not nearly as smart or talented as her sisters or brother.” 

That was the year things had taken a downward turn.  On her report card, her teacher had so aptly put it, “It’s as though Claire has given up.  She doesn’t seem happy and she doesn’t try anymore.” 

Why should she have tried?  No one seemed to think she could succeed.  Better to get by.  Better to accept her lot in life.  She scraped through high-school and when she graduated she took a secretarial job.  She’d settled.  She’d always settled.

Claire went over and over it as she stood there on that cliff. She’d gone over and over it for the past three months with her psychiatrist and she finally understood why she’d been overlooked all her life---until now.  

Until now!  No longer would she sit back passively, smiling and congratulating others. Passivity: her nemesis.  Looking back at the countless opportunities she’d let slip by because she didn’t believe she was good enough, attractive enough, intelligent enough, she resolved that things were going to change. 

She had some innovative ideas that she was going to present to her boss; ideas that would make the company much more productive.  She’d talked to her councillor about them.  He thought they were brilliant and pressed her to talk to upper management.  Because of his help and his belief in her abilities, her confidence had increased.  To that end, she’d made the appointment and today at 5:00 o’clock, after work, she would take a chance for the first time in her life!  She was determined to show what she had, what she could do.  For the first time in many, many years, she felt truly happy.


She greeted the handsome, young couple with a warm smile as they approached her with their two rambunctious dogs.  Her heart overflowing with hope, optimistic and joyful, she reached down to pet the dogs.  The larger one bumped his nose into her midsection- just a love bump, really.  

Her terrified scream echoed across the water as she stumbled backward and fell to her death, on the rocks below.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Lesson Learned

"No, Doctor, her face isn't green."

These were the first words I heard as I struggled to force my eyes open.  The room was a spinning grey haze through the two millimeter slits that were my eyes. I perceived the shadowy outline of my mother across the room, holding the black, rotary-dial phone against her ear. She was evidently gauging the shade of my complexion.


"Fine.  Thank you, Doctor.  Yes, tea.  Right. Yes, okay.  I'll get her up now."


I heard the sound of the receiver being replaced none too gently in its cradle and then her approaching footsteps.


"Are you awake?"


Awake?  Was I awake?  I was awake in a groggy sense of the word, but why would I have been asleep?  I could now see the light shining through the window.  It was daytime.  I didn't take naps anymore. What was going on?  Why was I having such a hard time with my eyes and why did my tummy feel so funny?


"Come on. Get up."


She took me by my shoulders and sat me up.  Mistake.  The room whirled and lurched and my stomach roiled in acidic sympathy.  My mother recognized the extreme pallor that bleached my face. Letting go, she raced to grab the waste basket beside the t.v. and just in time held it under my chin as I retched and emptied the burning contents of my stomach.  I felt worse than I had felt in all of my seven years.  But why?  Why did I feel this way?


A memory hovered on the periphery, waiting to be recovered. Something about my cousin Marsha. What was it? Marsha came to visit from Detroit. I remembered that.  I was so happy she was here at my house in Stratford.  I loved my cousin Marsha very much.  She and her mother were going to stay with us for a few days. So happy. Now, what happened? Something happened with Marsha. Ohhhh, I remembered. We were in my mother's bedroom playing.  I opened a drawer and saw a small box with my name on it. I shook it. The contents rattled inside.  I lifted the top and discovered small white pills.


"These are mine," I advised her importantly.  "See, my name is right here on the box.  They're mine."


"So?"


"Do  you want some?  You can have some. I take them everyday!"


"No, thank you."


"Dare me to take some!"


"No."


"Dare me."


"No!"


"Okay, I'll take some anyway."


I retrieved a cup of water from the bathroom and downed three of the little pellets. There!  That'll show her!  They were mine and I could do whatever I wanted with them! Such power, such importance!


The next thing I remembered, was waking up on the sofa.  It seems I had swallowed sleeping pills.


My mother was, unfortunately, not at all sympathetic to my plight.  In fact, one might say that she was quite put out by my actions.  Compassion was in very short supply in the Gerofsky home that day.


"The doctor said that you have to get up and get some fresh air.  Go outside."


She helped me to my feet.


"Your brother and Marsha are outside.  Go."


The spinning had lessened by then, but the floor was still undulating slowly.  I lifted one heavy foot and stepping a bit too far to the right, stumbled.  Annoyed, my mother took my arm to steady me. With her grudging help, I gradually made it to the front door where she gave me an impatient nudge.


"Go."


The banister seemed very far away and the three stairs from the veranda to the sidewalk very steep indeed.  Hands outstretched, like a sleepwalker, I managed with mincing steps to reach the rail and seized it shakily. I could see my brother Barry and my cousin playing catch with my India rubber ball in the middle of the street.  I loved that India rubber ball and wanted to play!  It was mine!  
The rolling of the stairs could not overcome my desire to get my hands on it.  I continued with difficulty but made it to the sidewalk without incident.  Small, careful steps took me to the curb where I sat down heavily waiting for the shaking to stop.  I watched for a while as the ball was tossed back and forth and then stood up, determined to be part of the action.

"Throw the ball to me."  My whiny voice shook.  "It's mine!  Throw it to ME now."


My brother threw the ball a bit too aggressively.  It flew low and smacked me hard in my mid-section.  Down I went, gasping for breath. 


"Mom.  Arlene fell down!  Come and get her.  MOM!"


"Bring her inside," my exasperated mother yelled through the screen-door.


Barry and Marsha somehow managed to half drag, half carry me back up the stairs and into the house.


"Bring her into the kitchen."


There on the kitchen table was a cup of tea.


"Drink that." she ordered, pointing to the large cup.  "The doctor told me to give you something hot to drink." 


I did as commanded and picked it up, small hands trembling violently.  I brought the edge of the cup to my lips and took a mouthful of the just-boiled liquid. Fire! My mouth was on fire! The pain was shocking. My hands convulsed, the cup flew out of my hands and the scalding liquid drenched my shirt.  I screamed in agony. A whopping blister erupted almost immediately and covered my tiny seven-year-old body from neck to belly. 

Looking back, I wonder why a seven year old would be prescribed sleeping pills to begin with. Apparently, I'd often wake up at night and climb into my parents' bed for comfort. Perhaps they tired of this and resorted to drugging me.

My sweet sister Shelley thinks it was because they were contemplating killing me. I became a very whiny child after her birth.  She thinks they had no further use for me once she came along. In her words, "They had a replacement they liked better." 




* I have to give credit to Shelley for the title...and the punch line.

* Justin also deserves credit for helping me rewrite the last two paragraphs.

* In fact, there is a valid reason that I might have had sleeping pills.  I had major ear infections as a child. Perhaps I needed help sleeping through the pain.


Monday, 26 September 2016

What Could It Be?

J.P. was out of town, so several girlfriends and I decided to have a pot luck dinner and game night at my house. The food was wonderful and laughter warmed the room.  The games were fun and as usual the most raucous laughter was saved for Rita's irreverent and silly responses. It was easy to hear her 'voice' among the list of definitions we would each create for the dictionary game (aka Balderdash). "That was Rita's, for sure," one of us would yell. She never won the game, but then again, she never really expected to with those answers.

My son, Justin came in midway through the evening, said goodnight to the ladies and went upstairs to his room. 

As with all things good, the evening of giggles, snorts and all around merriment finally came to a close and the last guest and I bid each other adieu. I sighed.  It had been such a happy time, but it was late. I battened down all the hatches and dragged my weary body up the stairs. Yawning, I switched on the bathroom light, performed my bedtime ablutions, then stumbled to the bedroom where my jammies awaited. Removing my pants, I was horrified to see that my legs from above the knees to the top of the thighs, were black.  I glanced at my hands and was filled with dread.  My fingertips were also black.  My heart pounded, my mouth was dry; I couldn't breathe.  I was dying.  I was sure of it.  I was dying. A cold sweat covered my body and I became even more light-headed than is my usual state. But, what could be the cause of this horrific malady?  What causes legs and fingertips to turn black?  Justin might know.  He had taken Red Cross and First Aid courses to become a lifeguard.  I hated to wake him, but I was desperate for help.  

"Justin?"  

"Yeah?"  His voice was thick with sleep.  

"Wake up.  Can you look at this and tell me what it might be?"

The bright light flooded the room.  He squinted.  He looked at my limbs and the black fingers I held in front of his face. 

"What is that?"

"I don't know, but I'm really scared.  Do you have any idea?"

"No, I've never seen anything like that before."

"Okay, I'm going to the hospital."

"Should I go with you?"

"No, you stay here.  I'll call you when I find out what it is."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'll be fine.  Stay here."

I walked quickly back to my bedroom, threw my clothes back on, ran down the stairs, grabbed my purse and my keys and dove into the car. Heart racing, I drove out of our subdivision and sped toward the hospital.  

I got about a kilometer from home, when it struck me.  I pulled over to the side of the road and doubled over laughing.  I laughed until the tears streamed down my face. How could I be so stupid!  Oh, my! Howling in merriment, I flashed back to the event that had lead up to this fiasco.  I saw myself at the clothing store, trying on the pants. They fit so well and were so soft.  I loved the material and rubbed my fingers over it.  I bought them of course and wore them home.  The velvet was so soft and downy, I couldn't stop rubbing it.  I rubbed that deep, black velvet all day and all evening.  I rubbed it so much that the dye had stained both my legs and the fingers that had caressed them all day long!





Sunday, 19 June 2016

Lou

Lou was my father.  He wasn’t a huggy father, not what you’d call a loving or lovable man.  The business world was his milieu; in that world, he was a good schmoozer and thus a good salesman.  He was a man of little education, having dropped out of school in grade 10.   Keeping abreast of world happenings via newspapers and television gave him the ability to converse intelligently about current events.  He had many acquaintances and quite a few friends who respected his work ethic and his outside-of-the-family-home sense of humour.  Unfortunately, we didn’t often get to see that side of Lou…most often we saw the tired, impatient, quick-to-anger side.  Long hours and hard work left him with little patience for his two youngest children…his daughters.  We were not, as is sometimes the case in families, daddy’s little princesses.  Surprisingly, he would sometimes refer to me as his princess and my sister as his baby, but in truth we were it seemed, more of an annoyance, small people who made too much noise and were too silly.
 
There were the days when he tried to be a good father.   When I was eight or nine, my sister and I and our father had a game we played from time to time, until he got fed up with it.  When we heard him pull up in the driveway, we would run and hide (always in the same place) behind the pillows in the cupboard.  He would pretend to search for us and ultimately ‘find’ us.  I remember being so excited that he was playing with us.  Some weekends would find us at Port Stanley.  My father loved the water and again, I was thrilled when he’d spend time with me.  He’d allow me to stand on his shoulders and dive into the water and encourage me to swim.  It happened very rarely, but it was wonderful to experience the playful father.  My love of swimming comes from those experiences.
 
Lou loved to sing and when we travelled to Detroit, our family indulged in two or three part harmony.  How I loved those times!  Of course, those were also the days when we were unaware of the dangers of smoking. Lou was a two-packet a day man and smoked in the car.  I was prone to motion sickness and when tobacco was added to the mix, the motion sickness often forced a very angry father to pull over to the side of the road, so his annoying daughter could vomit.

  
I never knew which father I would get when I was young.  I always hoped for the indulgent one, but most often the critical, short-tempered one showed up.  I know from family anecdotes that I was not the easiest child to endure….very whiney (especially after my sister was born) and too needy for someone who tended towards impatience. 

As I write this, I find there is so much to say.  I could talk about the many weekends and summer days when we worked with my father at ‘the store’.  Our drives back and forth to Woodstock heralded a different dynamic in our relationship… his many attempts to ‘educate’ us politically, our conversations about life, his unfavourable attitude about the ‘hippy-generation’, his love of radio talk-shows’ and the news.  We hated those especially, preferring the latest 70’s music.  It was always a battle of the radio dial.  He’d put up with a song or two and then switch back to his favourite channel.  All of this is especially interesting to me now because of my love for the CBC. 

Many years later when my family had all but given up on me ever having a child, along came my son.  When I was in hospital, my father sent me the most beautiful bouquet I’d ever seen.  I was absolutely shocked that he did.  This is one of several memories of him that I cherish.
 
When my son was two years old, I decided, with the help of a psychiatrist, that it was time to tell my father that I loved him.  I called his number in Florida and both my parents picked up.
“Hi, Lou. I just called to tell you I love you,” I blurted it out quickly.
There was no response….a very uncomfortable seven or eight seconds dragged by.
“We love you, too,” said my mother.
“Did you hear me, Lou?  I said I love you.”
Two beats…”Well, Arlene, I don’t know how I feel about you.”
My heart.  I struggled to hold back the tears and said, “Okay, well I’ll talk to you next week.”
When I hung up, the tears came.

Several weeks later my parents returned to Canada.  My father came for a visit and did something he had never done before.  He rested his arm on the back of the sofa where I was sitting and stroked my shoulder with his hand.  He never did tell me he loved me, but he tried to bridge the gap many times by making some kind of physical contact….a hug, a pat, his arm around me on the rare occasion.  This was huge for him…and for me.  He really tried and I so appreciated it.  It made me so happy.

He once confided in me.  “I watch you and J.P. and your sister and George and see how good you are with your children and I wish I’d been a better father to you.” 

He also loved to tell people that I taught at Fanshawe.  It was because of my father (who forced me to become a teacher) that I had the most wonderful job for thirty-two years.  He was proud of that fact and that I could speak several languages (albeit badly….he never knew how badly).

Forward to 1991.  My father suffered a major heart attack in Florida and was medevacked back to Canada.  We were all at the hospital to say our goodbyes.  They were going to take him off life-support..he was on a respirator.  He was conscious and knew it was his time.  Shelley and I went in together.  He couldn’t speak, but he obviously wanted to say something.  I asked the nurse for a pencil so he could write, but she told us it would be too stressful for him.  In retrospect, I so wish I’d been assertive enough to demand a pencil, but I was sickeningly passive in those days.  He beckoned to me with his index finger…”Come here.”  I went to him, but he, of course, couldn’t speak to me.  What did he want to tell me?  I’m almost sure he wanted to tell me to take care of my sister, so I told him I would.  But, maybe, just maybe he wanted to tell me he loved me?

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Cake Anyone?

The following is not the most pleasant story.  I'm sorry....

I learned a lot of new things at my mechanic's garage a few days ago.  While I was waiting to have a new compressor installed, I went across the street to a well-known bakery and bought a cake for the guys who work at the shop.  I took it back to the waiting room and invited them to partake.  One in particular was very taken with the treat and came back for seconds.  This time, he sat at a stool and began to pontificate.  As a pleasant way to break the ice, he asked me if I ate meat and when I replied that I did, he told me I was a murderer and that the first commandment is, "Thou shalt not kill."  He asked, "If you were starving, would you kill a cow?"  "Yes, I would.  I wouldn't like to, but I would." Then, I said that the first commandment is not, "Thou shalt not kill," but is, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength."  The man informed me that he didn't believe in the Bible anyway (so why quote it to me?) because it was written by the Roman Catholics.  He strengthened his position and further added a great deal of credibility to his argument (not) by stating that his father was a pastor and his mother went to church all the time.  I replied, as gently as I could, "Uh, the Bible was written in Hebrew and Aramaic and then translated into Greek. The Roman Catholics had nothing to do with it. It was written mostly, by Jews."  
"Oh, the Jews," said he.  They don't do anything!  They kneel at the wall for 23 hours a day and don't work."
"I don't think they kneel at the wall and if they do, it wouldn't be for such a long time."
"Jews don't work," said he. 
"I think most Jews work.  I think you're painting them all with the same brush." 
(I'm sensing just a bit of antisemitism here.)  
"They all hated Jesus and killed him," he continued, maybe to prove to me that he wasn't painting them all with the same brush (LOL!)?
"Sorry, that isn't true at all.  All of His followers in the beginning were Jewish...and so was He.  The Jews that wanted Him condemned were the Sanhedrin (the high priests) because He called them hypocrites and pointed out (on several occasions) their many failures.  He had thousands and thousands of followers who were Jews. His Jewish followers didn't want him to be killed."
Again he 'quoted' the Bible telling me about a story in which many scrolls were thrown into a fire and people were running and saving them and flapping their arms around from the heat.
"I'm not totally sure, but I don't believe that's a story from the Bible, at least one I've never heard," I said.
"Well, you must be stupid!" By now, he was shouting and waving his arms erratically over his head.
One part of my brain was saying, "Please Father, get him out of here.  Send him back to work." Another part was saying, "He's completely gone...forgive him (which of course, I did).  Alas, I could feel my blood pressure rising!
He finally left when I turned my back to him and looked out of the window.  I should have done that much earlier, obviously.
Why am I telling you this story?  I guess, just to relieve that 'pressure' by sharing it with all of you, to demonstrate that a little knowledge is, as they say, a dangerous thing (as if we didn't already know) and to remind us all that antisemitism (in fact, anti anyone that is different from ourselves) is very much alive and well on planet Earth.