Category: Stories from Lois

Declutter – What I Find

As I continue decluttering, I found an old poem in a file. The file was not about poems, but there it was. 

When the writing of This Path We Share: Reflecting on 60 Years of Marriage sort of came to a standstill because I could not figure out what it was about, someone suggested that I write a poem. Good idea, because writing poetry has always helped me clarify my thoughts and feelings. The poem is not in the book, of course, but I thought perhaps you might enjoy reading it. 

What I Really Meant to Say

I thought to write a lovely book
about the paths our marriage took

I wanted all the world to know
that love can grow and grow and grow

that magic doesn't disappear
as long as we just persevere

I wrote of babies and of kids
of accidents and minor skids

with cancer added to the mix
of things we know that we can't fix

I've told of sadness and of joy
events that threatened to destroy

the fabric of our lives thus far
or snuff out our bright, blazing star

Misfortunes came, misfortunes went
I can't believe they're heaven-sent

so faith's been tested on the way
yet is not solved up to this day

I meant to write a lovely book
and simply try to overlook

the times our marriage fell from grace
when we could find no meeting place

but all I found to say to you–
somehow our love has brought us through

© March 20, 2007 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad

I wonder what else is hidden in the stacks and stacks of paper that surround me?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Lifeguard on Duty

I started the second morning of January with a talk for the Littleton United Methodist Church Optimist Club. It was my 595th speech.

As we left home at 8:30, I said to Les, "There won't be anyone there. It's too cold. The year is too new."

And he said, "Who is there is who is there."

When we entered the room, almost two dozen faces smiled at us and we were immediately pulled into the warmth of this lively group. 

As I began reading "No Lifeguard on Duty," one woman interrupted, "Oh, I know who you are. I have that poem on my desk! And to think I almost didn't come this morning!"   

Later she told me about the many sadnesses she has had in her life. Somewhere she had heard of that particular poem, but could only remember one line. A friend of hers Googled it and found the poem. My new friend printed it out and kept it on her desk. I felt humbled and honored when she told me that it had given her comfort and courage when she needed it. 

So, just in case you need a helping hand this morning, here it is once more:

No Lifeguard on Duty

It is difficult
when one is drowning
to wave to the people
on shore

One wants to be
friendly, of course,

but perhaps it is
more important
to keep

swimming

(Excerpted from Fine Black Lines, © 1993, 2003, Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad) 

Happy New Year!

 

 

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Horror at the Airport

On November 27, Les and I arrived at Denver International Airport after a Thanksgiving visit to our son in Michigan. We deplaned at Gate B 95 – miles from where we needed to be. Les walked on the people-carrier and I walked briskly beside it. It was my walk for the day. Les began walking slower and slower. I suggested that he quit walking and just ride. I shouldered one of his bags to add to the two I already commandeered. Finally he said, “I can’t walk anymore. I have to sit down.”

Les looked so haggard and pale that I checked for his pulse. Where is it? I must have a bad spot. An airport cart waited nearby, but the driver said that he was unable to leave that area to take us to the train. “However, your husband can sit on the cart and rest. And there is a wheelchair station right over there,” he pointed.

We waited a while until a young attendant came to settle Les into a wheelchair. She took us down an elevator, then got us onto the train at Station B.

As we sped toward Station A, I suddenly noticed that Les was staring into space. Eyes wide open—nobody home. I called to him, “Les. Les, honey, wake up. Please wake up.” I shook him, and called again. No response. I could get no heartbeat anywhere. One of his arms dropped. The other dropped. I begged him not to leave me and screamed, “My husband is dying. My husband is dying.” I couldn’t grasp that our sixty-four plus years of marriage was ending on a stupid train at DIA.

Someone—another employee?—swooped in and whisked our attendant and Les' wheelchair off the train. I jammed one of my suitcases into the door to keep it from closing with me still in the train, departing for God knows where.

Where are we? I didn’t know. Our young attendant flailed her arms in the air and moaned, “Oh, God, I don’t know what to do.” She didn’t know where we were, either.

I kept calling for help into this huge empty space where I could see only three other people. I grabbed one passerby and begged him to please help me lift Les off the wheel chair so I could do CPR. But I couldn’t even budge Les’ right leg. I doubt if five men could have lifted him.

Then Les moved ever so slightly and the man said, “See, he’s OK. He doesn’t need CPR,” and hurried on his way.

Les was alive. But had he had a stroke or heart attack? Could he stay alive? At some point someone called the paramedics. When the eight burly men arrived, the lead guy said, “Your husband is very ill. An ambulance is coming.” They started IVs and oxygen, working feverishly.

And there we were somewhere in the bowels of a huge airport. Somehow the ambulance men found us and transported us (and our baggage) to a hospital.

When we arrived, Les was more lucid and began to stabilize. I stayed in his room overnight. I couldn’t have thought of leaving him. By the next afternoon, he had returned to his normal health. Diagnosis: dehydration and atrial fibrillation. 

The following Sunday, our pastor spoke of Advent as a time of waiting and preparation. He offered the thought that things we have done in the past can help us in the present and will assist us in the future. He told how, when his wife’s mother died recently, they read Scripture and sang hymns as she lay on her deathbed. The fact they had sung these hymns hundreds of times in the past made it possible for them to sing them at this sad time. The many previous readings of Scripture had girded their souls for such a time. We prepare, sometimes unknowingly.

Did past events help me during this crisis? Will this episode provide any help in the future? Was it a dress rehearsal, a preparation, what?

All I know is that I want never again to feel as I did for those harrowing, however-many minutes.

But I also know that I probably will.

Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad
©12/12/12

How Did I Miss November?

My last post was October 31, "A Final Poem for October."

Okay. Appropriate enough from someone who is a breast cancer survivor, who wrote the book in which that poem first appeared, who wants to comfort others. With any luck, perhaps the poem did comfort someone. 

But this is December 20. What happened to November? What happened to the first three weeks of December?

Well, in November a couple of trips happened. First to Arizona to visit one son and his family, then a Thanksgiving trip to Traverse City, Michigan, with another son and his family. In Arizona I got too warm and relaxed to try to blog and in Michigan I got too full.

Sorry. More tomorrow.

 

A Sudden Mist of Tears

Today is my dear Mary Jo's birthday. She was eleven days younger than I. Four years ago I turned 78, but she died two days before she turned 78. 

I saved this story for her birthday.

Last week I walked up to buy some cosmetics at the Clinique counter in Macy's. A woman stood at the counter – she had short, dark auburn-dyed hair and the same rust-tone blush and lipstick as Mary Jo wore. She had gold rimmed glasses. She had the very same wrinkles in the very same places as Mary Jo. She turned to ask me a question. 

My eyes filled and my throat ached. If only Mary Jo could ask me a question.

It would be more likely that she would answer one of mine. She was my go-to girl: Which wallpaper goes best with my flooring? Should I get the green chair or the brown one? I need a good recipe for lasagna. Would you help me solve this issue with the kids?  

She married Les' brother when I was twenty and became my best friend. We raised our children together. We celebrated anniversaries together. We went to Norway together. When I became ill with CFS in 1989, she was the one who tried to understand my loss of energy and stamina. She was the one who made accommodations for me. She always had my back.

So, happy birthday, Mary Jo. I will love you and miss you always.