True Companion(s)

A piece written for my honey many years ago.  Found it cleaning up my computer.  🙂

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Ralph Waldo Emerson writes on friendship:

“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him.”

My best friend? That’s a toss up. One candidate — my husband. Standing 6’4” and over 200 pounds, David is a gentle giant. I always said that in the nine years that I have lived life with him he never made me cry. Well, now to date, one might say that he has brought on two of the worst crying episodes of my entire life.

In the middle of my Christmas break, he pulls me into him and whispers, “I have some bad news.” David, always so calm, happy and full of jokes now holds me very tight, not letting me go. “There was a fire in Chester,” he pauses … only slightly … “Lewis didn’t make it.”

I try to push away from him, looking up at him strangely. “That’s not funny, David,” still attempting to move away from this terribly morose sense of humor he has suddenly developed.

He only pulls me into him again, “Lewis didn’t make it.” My sixth grader who needed the most in every way imaginable had died in a fire after returning into his tiny, dilapidated house in a vain attempt to save his grandmother. I had known this child since he was four; the town’s trouble maker. He had attached himself to me long ago, calling me at home two or three times a week. His mother no longer really around, he had made me his surrogate mother. I gave all that I could to him with all that I had. I cried. I sobbed. For days. For weeks.

My grief turned private. Life had to continue. The grief counselors had long disappeared. The students moved on. They had their tests and assignments, their reading and writing, their relationships and responsibilities. I had to move on as well. And although I feared I would never again want to love so deeply for fear of feeling such hurt again, their smiling faces and hearts that greeted me every morning never allowed me to retreat into such a protective world. I wondered briefly if I would regret that.

I got on with life. Through it all I turned to whom I loved the most, the other candidates for my best friends, the ones who greeted me at my car door every day with smiles on their faces, smiles throughout their whole bodies, just waiting for me to come home — my dogs. My two beautiful Samoyeds, Maggie and Chez, with their upturned mouths creating that classic Sammy smile, balls of happy white fluff, just dancing to see me. Much to the chagrin of David, my dogs always received the first hello from me. My response to his protests remained a constant over the years, “Well, maybe if you came running to the driveway at the distant sound of my approaching car, bouncing, whining, dancing, I just might greet you first.” David’s not quite the dog person that I am. He never accepted this as an adequate response, nor did he ever demand a change.

After one particularly busy “end of the year” kind of week, I rushed home after our field trip to New York City at 9:30 in the evening, looking forward to walking the dogs, a favorite activity that I had not done in a couple of days. As I rounded the corner I saw David sitting on the deck with my father, my mother, my sister, and my friend, Cindy. Not always the closest of families, I became slightly apprehensive, especially when David came off the deck to greet me, the dogs’ activity that he never did. Either bad news loomed or I was addicted to something!

He hugged me, pulling me in closely, tightly and whispered, “I have some bad news.”  Again? “Maggie died today.” Why does he keep doing this to me? I pulled away from him, looking for her. I find only Chez looking quiet and dismayed under the deck. The tears come as the reality of his words hit like a deadly blow. I cry. I weep.  I sob. I shake — over a dog.

A dog that pushed the behavioral limits in every moment of the day. A dog that heard after every exasperated repeated command, a huge sigh and, “You’re lucky I love you, Maggie,” as she would lick my face in happy disobedience. A dog that baffled every Invisible Fence employee as to how she could have escaped with such a high voltage battery. A dog. I missed a day of school, a very rare occurrence…for a dog. What was wrong with me? I never considered myself one of those Beverly Hills, obsessive dog lovers. I never bought bows or ribbons, special foods, expensive treats, brought them to groomers. I only loved and cared for them. Loved and cared so deeply that without the support of my husband and father would have fallen to the sidewalk, the sidewalk where Maggie would dance and shake at the mere sight of me. I was distraught. I was heartbroken. I was sorrow. All over a dog. I did not want to be this grown woman weeping for her dog’s life cut so short, missing a day of work over an obstinate mule disguised in white fur and a smile, losing sleep due to a void left by a dog who demanded love and attention and who returned in unconditionally. I felt like a fool. Until I received a gift. As if from the woman herself, Dog Heaven, by Cynthia Rylant.

She writes:

“…so sometimes an angel will walk a dog back to Earth for a little visit and quietly, invisibly, the dog will sniff about his old backyard, will investigate the cat next door, will follow the child to school, will sit on the front porch and wait for the mail. When he is satisfied that all is well, the dog will return to Heaven with the angel. It is where dogs belong, near God who made them. Angel dogs.”

Maggie was no angel, but I did love that dog. And if Cynthia Rylant understood then I was not a fool. So I thought.

In reviewing the course of my life, I realized that my dogs and my students always received the best of me, 100% of me. My stepson, whom I have raised since birth, has received a mother’s love from me, the most that I have to offer. Wilson Rawls wrote in his incredible book for dog lovers, Where the Red Fern Grows:

“Men, people have been trying to understand dogs ever since the beginning of time. One never knows what they’ll do. You can read every day where a dog saved the life of a drowning child, or lay down his life for his master. Some people call this loyalty. I don’t. I may be wrong, but I call it love—the deepest kind of love.”

God reminds us of this commandment to love one another in John 15:13.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  Maggie certainly didn’t lay down her life for me and I doubt that she ever would have, but I do know of someone who loves me as God commands it. Someone who despite his many and varied complaints about Maggie over the years forfeited his coveted morning cup of coffee to put his lips to Maggie’s muzzle, (who as a Samoyed never smelled but who had breath that could kill a small elephant), in futile and vain attempt at CPR to save her life — save her for the woman that he loves. My best friend. David. My true companion for now and for years to come. David who deserves to receive the most I can give, even more than to my dogs and to my students. David who knows that even though I will say I won’t love my students that much this year, won’t be mad when I do.

Ekatarina Gordyeva wrote in her book My Serge that you can’t wait to tell the people in your life that you love them. Don’t think that you’ll have tomorrow because you may not. And although I regret all the walks I didn’t have time for with Maggie, and all that I couldn’t do to save Lewis while he was alive, their deaths have taught me that time is short. Life is short. You can love many people and beings all at the same time. As Anne Shirley states, “Kindred spirits aren’t as rare as I once imagined.” I have learned to find and appreciate my kindred spirits along the way. However, what I have learned above all else is … Dogs may be man’s best friend, but true companions are human, and I am so thankful that I learned who mine is.

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basKing

A planned, somewhat last-minute, get together on the town green to make snowmen, kits of snowmen accessories optional. Snowball fights, snow angels, black-buttoned-snowmen, laughs and giggles spread across the square, as if staged and choreographed by Hollywood’s best directors.

In the background, underneath it all, lay one death of a 5-year-old to cancer and one father at the onset of a diagnosis and treatment.

Can corn-cob pipes and buttoned-noses fill the holes of broken hearts? The shaping and molding of snow torsos heal the broken bodies? The squeals and giggles from running friends, in newlY fallen snow evoke enough happiness to cure the unimaginable pain?

Or is every happy scene like this…just one moment away from the unbearable pain that life brings? One person in the crowd emerging from the depths of suffering loss, but the rest too ignorant to know? Are we selfish to bask in our ignorance, relishing the innocence that surrounds us…protects us? Knowing that at any moment life will lacerate through the happy scene, leveling the playing field of snow?

Bask, my friends. Lie fully exposed to all of life’s warmth and love. These fleeting things deserve more than the cursory view. STOP ~ throw snowballs with children and friends. Build a village of snow people, adorned with accessory kits of pipes, buttons, scarves, and hats, to stand guard on the town green; to stand guard against anguish; to protect the innocence of childhood for us all.

Wendy Fiore, 2013

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Little Dippers

You fight and it tears my soul.

Shared blood

Shared cells

Yet you hate the commonality.

You feel trapped in those cells

Tearing at the walls that encase you to each other.

Where will it end?

When will it end?

How does the hate begin?

It will end in separation

Division that will never unify.

If it doesn’t end now

It never will.

We show love

We show kindness

We show compassion

We show understanding

We show acceptance

How does the hate begin?

You dip into each others bucket

Bucket dippers trying to fill your own buckets

From wells that will run dry with severance.

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Wendy Fiore – 4/2011

Heartbeat

The rhythm of my heart beats only for you.
Until you came I had never known love.
Until you arrived I had never felt the desire —
Never even knew the hole existed.
The rhythm measured only time
Kept pace
A steady, meaningless cadence.

How women have ached for such completion,
Manic about fulfilling the desire.
Yearning
Craving
Longing
for the flesh of their insides to make them whole.

I never had that hunger
Self-sufficient to a fault.
Keep a distance, build the walls
Need no one.
Don’t be like the weaker sex.
How weak they became
The blubbering fools over the plea to feel
Satisfied
Contented
Fulfilled
Happiness hanging in the balance of such a tiny human being.

But, oh, who had the shallow life?
Who lived only on the periphery,
A marginal, insignificant existence?

What did they think of my ignorance?

You are the beat of my heart ~
The best of my life.
You are the breath of my lungs ~
The breadth of my life.
You are the depth of my soul ~
The wisdom of my life.

You are the pulse of my life…the purpose…
In its entirety.
Flesh of my flesh —
Our flesh —
Brought to life
To bring life to me.

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Wendy Fiore – 2011

Where Are You?

Where are you?in life ~
Are you in it?
Living it
Aware of it
Appreciating it
Soaking it up…

Or

Drowning in it?

Where are you?in love ~
Are you in it?
Welcoming it
Thanking it
Valuing it
Pleased with it…

Or

Disregarding it?

Where are you?in relationship(s) ~
Are you in it?
Understanding it
Loving it
Giving it
Cherishing it…

Or

Underrating it?

❤ ❤ ❤ <3<3 ❤ ❤ <3<3 ❤ ❤ <3<3 ❤ ❤ <3<3

Your life lives NOW ~
Live it – with open eyes – aware of all its beauty and offerings. Appreciate every moment, soaking up every small gift. Emerge from the demands ~ demand time to appreciate all that your life offers.

Your love needs NOW ~
Love him – with open heart – aware of the fragility of beautiful love. Show him the worth of it…of him…of the union. Treasure the bond. Relish in the warmth of adoration.

Your family requires NOW ~
Connect – with open soul – aware of the speed it travels. Grab hold of those blissful moments and those taxing ones, saturating your core with kindred spirits that complete you.

Where are you?
Get HERE ~

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Wendy Fiore – 2011

A Gift…again

Twenty-one, now at last
It’s taken so long it seems.
The years have gone oh so slowly
So quickly through my fears.

It was just a season ago,
Or maybe it was two,
That I held you
Read and warm and new.

You were my life
You brought to me
A spirit
Through the strife.

I look upon all those years
And wonder where they’ve gone.
Hoping I didn’t miss too much
Knowing it wasn’t long.

Now that you
Have come of age,
I hope
You’ll understand
How your father
Has loved you so
At times
Not easy to see.

But I hope
In time you’ll see
Exactly what
You mean to me.

~Written by Anthony Giglio — a poem for his daughters a hundred years ago — found recently.
I miss you, old man! 

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My Life in Status – 2010

I’m sorry, but I LOVE the movie Up!  I can’t stand how much I love it  * cannot believe that her first-born is 8 today.  Not sure how it happened, but it was a blink of an eye. * How can I have such lovely dogs that misbehave so??  Sigh…  *  MUST STOP EATING CAKE!  Good grief!  Take it away!  *  is tired.  *  Oh, to just be able to ski for a few days a week all season.  This working for a living (and working a few jobs) is really interfering with my living! ☺  *  Why do the sick children still get up SO early?  It makes for a very long and tiring day, and we can’t even leave the house!  ☺  *  so…it’s 8:30 on a Saturday night…is it too early to go to bed?  (Let’s rate that question’s lameness, shall we???)  *  is bored.  *  “You came from Heaven to earth to show the way.  From the earth to the cross my debt to pay.  From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky.  Lord, I lift Your name on high.”  Happy Easter, everyone!  *  Note found on the counter: “Dear Self, I need to remember to put my homework in a safe spot so my dad won’t throw it out.  From, Madison.”  Come on now!  That is some funny stuff right there!  *  is…considering…  *  Emerson’s first front (top) tooth came out (LOVE that look!!)…and when I say “came out” I mean finally convinced Grandma to yank it out as she held back tears because it hurt so much.  BUT…it came out (pictures to follow) and now I have to go make sure the Tooth Fairy will come!  *  is going riding.  Wish me luck and watch out for all those bike riders out there.  *  another tooth out of Emer’s mouth!  The girl’s going to have to eat pudding for months!  *  “No, you can’t play in the Slip ‘n Slide when you’ve been up all night coughing”…(as Daddy sets it up and says, “Sure!)  I’ve lost the battle, I think.  *  SCHOOL’S…OUT…FOR……….SUMMER!!!!!!!!!!  *  okay…there HAS to be a better way to “prep” for a colonoscopy!  That was the worst 36 hours of my life!  *  Wimbledon into Tour de France…I love summer!  *  taco dip and lemon pie made…yum.  *  Note to self: Next time the 6-year-old asks, “Mommy, can I paint your toenails?” say NO!  hehehe… ☺  *  “God didn’t promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun without rain.  But He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way.”  *  My girl…my alarm clock…my jump out of bed and conquer the world daughter…slept until 7:50 this morning for the first time in her life!  *  saw the sunrise this morning and thought nothing could top it, but just came from the sunset…hmmmm…  *  night swimming with the girls, hearing the belly laughs…so worth the late bed time and the crankies tomorrow.  *  I am tired of cancer.  Tired of grandbabies never knowing their grandparents.  Tired of children losing their parents.  Tired of parents losing their children.  Tired of friends losing friends.  I am tired of this hideous thief.  *  Did I really just give Julia Louis Dreyfus directions to CVS??   *  Ran 4 miles in the dark.  NOT recommended!  *  okay…I know I’m a book person and I hate movies made from books…(that’s my disclaimer) …but I LOVED How to Train a Dragon!  I won’t say that I liked it better than the book because, you know, let’s not get crazy.  But what a great choice (thank you, Madison) for a cuddling family movie night!  *  is grateful, gratified, thankful, blessed.

Grief

She fades, withers, struggles in HIS absence.
Surviving without her SUN — impossible.
Agony with every memory ~
Every breath painful.

Her body staggers with its light source gone.
How did people endure this?
Women throughout the centuries?
She wouldn’t live, she knew.

No brave countenance seeps inward. Only the deep, raw, gaping wound oozes and exposes itself, revealing the anguish of the gash, as it slowly encompasses the last shreds of strength.

Images blurred ~ tunneled and dark as she withdraws from the presence of consciousness.

Voices garbled ~ small and echoing in the distance as she spins down within the deep recesses of her mind.

No comfort offered by anyone has any affect on the mounting lesion.

Overcome.

She will not overcome.

She despairs,
Reaches up for her soul ~
Some vestige of what once was.

HE was here, just moments ago, just days ago, just years ago.

Grasps at the air

Void
Lost
Gone

Wendy Fiore – 2010

There is no one

There is no one real story of our lives.
Made up from thousands of

Elements

Thousands of

Moments

Thousands of

InteractionsReactionsRelations…

we

BecomeEvolveGrowRegressDevelop.

We
move on—through—throughout—over.

Who can say which one story is real?

We are many stories
We have many tales
We offer many perspectives
We hold many details.

Details of

LoveandLaughterandAnguishandHurtandKindnessand
CaringandQuietandLoudandHarshandGentleandLove

Which one holds more truth?

But would you trade any of it? Helen Keller writes, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

To alter one’s journey
may change the destination.

I loved my journey.

And I love my destination.

Wendy Fiore – 2010

Lewis

11 years have passed since I wrote this…a dedication to a scrap book made in memory of a student who died in a horrible house fire. I now have Lewis’ niece at school and her face is his face. I often wonder what life would have held for this troubled boy that touched my heart for so many years.

>>> How do I reflect on the past years? I have written much about Lewis Walden over the last several months, most of it private, personal thoughts. Now, to sit and write more, something for others to read seems an insurmountable task. Then again, not so long ago I had thought that going on with life as I once knew it seemed impossible as well. Everyone had so much to say after the tragic death our young lad – the boy knew everyone in town and all knew him. He made himself known to each new person who moved into town, showing up on his bike to welcome and introduce himself. But out of all those people who had met him, how many really knew him? Many warned, “Watch out. That kid’s trouble.” How many knew that underneath that tough-boy facade lay the heart of a cream puff; the soul of a knight in shining armor; or the love and devotion of a fairy tale prince? Many know it now, or perhaps assume it after his gallant and foolish last act of returning into a house engulfed in flames. However, I feel privileged to have known all this about my Lewis before he disappeared from my life.

Never a day went by over the last few years that I did not have Lewis in my life in one manner or another. I had the good fortune to have experienced first hand this scamp and his acrimonious scowl melt into the giggling cream puff that my class and I loved so well. No better place existed than on the receiving end of his knighthood, even for so little a thing as fixing my pencil sharpener or tending to my plants. And certainly no place could compete with the love and devotion that I received from this child who thought he had nothing to his name to give to anyone. Oh, but he did give. Once someone got into this boy’s heart, he gave of it with all that he knew. Lewis knew that he demanded a lot of a person and those willing to give to him; he let into his heart and would bestow on him or her all that he could.

I have too many memories to share; memories that seem minute. Many are the same as everyone else’s. Lewis riding his bike well after school let out; Lewis helping with anything that needed to be done even after school; Lewis saying a friendly hello to everyone and knowing everyone’s name. One that I hold in my head is his voice when he would call me at night. His soft-spoken tone exuded gentleness, and somehow he became more eloquent on the phone, something I wished he would share during school hours. I wish I could share all my memories. I wish for all the gold in the world that I saved all the messages that he left me on my answering machine in the evenings as I would come from work at the YMCA, hit the play button as I settled in and heard the whispering voice of my dedicated child, “Hi, Mrs. Fiore, it’s me, Lewis…” How precious the sound of those words would be to me right now.

It is no secret that I loved this child; that having to refer to him in the past tense hurts beyond description. It is no secret that I love all my students with perhaps too immense a commitment. I do admit that the temptation to no longer love these little souls that pass through my life in such a manner reared its ugly head. But the needs, hearts, and smiling faces of my students soon abolished all of those temptations.

We have discovered very few treasures over the last few months: a neat and orderly desk, some pieces of art, some schoolwork. But they are not enough to heal the wound that his absence has left. We hope that some of what we offer in this scrapbook can help to fill in the immense loss that we all feel, but especially for those who lived with him and lost so much of what would have been left behind had not everything vanished.

Wendy Fiore – 1999

Outwitted

He drew a circle that shut me out~
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had wit to win;
We drew a circle that took him in.

Edwin Markham

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