This is a piece that I recently wrote as an assignment for my Personal Essay class. On the surface I know some might wonder what I am doing working toward a degree at 54. I do this because I want it. I want to open up the long closed corners of my life and set this stuff free. If for no other reason, working toward this degree has allowed me the creative freedom to let go. It has given me the confidence to write and yes, the confidence to live. I don’t know if I have shared this, I might have. Years ago, I was in an English 101 class at junior college. A wide-eyed, girl who frankly, didn’t know her butt from a hole-in-the-ground. I handed in what i thought was a stunning paper,to be told it was a piece of garbage. I, yes that is the important word here, I allowed that to take hold and hold me back. I held me back for a very long time. I take responsibility for that and I am moving forward.
There have been two things I have always loved to do. Write and Paint. Since I was a little girl I have been hard pressed to separate the two. I think with that in mind, the one thing I have been blessed with in my life is the ability to create! Even the word to me gives me energy-C-R-E-A-T-E! When you boil the salt down to the bottom of the pot, that is what is left for me. It is what I have been put here to do-Create. For me writing and art go hand in hand. When I create my storybooks, or picture books, I am creating a character, giving it life. When I take those characters and give them form and features, adding colors and texture, I am giving a dimensional quality to this work only I can do. Someone reminded me of that yesterday. Thank you James Ray. I am listening. I needed to pass that on. So this is one form of my creative ability. My personal essays. What follows is outlined in the reflection letter. Thank you for taking this journey with me.
Reflection Letter for Essay
I was inspired to write about this topic because my mother has always been my best friend. I have always tried to be there for her and my Daddy. So in February of 2000, when my Mother asked me to move home and help her care for Daddy, I didn’t have to think twice about my answer. I packed my apartment up and moved the 25 miles home. The hardest part of writing this essay is opening the emotional dam hidden in my heart for so many years. It is hard to watch your parent’s age. It is hard to experience the flip-flop in roles: first being daughter, then being caretaker. The stress of trying to be all to everyone is overwhelming. Sometimes, even the caregiver gets sick. Those are the most challenging moments- when your mind and soul are weary. When it is hard to muster hope. I never anticipated that nearly 17 years later I would still be in this position in life. For all intents and purposes, my life, my dreams, my goals all ended. I had to keep those feelings at bay and let the love and most importantly, the respect for my parents take command. My Daddy passed away in 2009. It was a cold winter day in February. That is when my Mother began to show signs of more than just an overwhelming grief, but a loss of a part of herself. Suddenly I had my Mother and fifteen acres of land in my care. This girl, who felt more accustom to a coffee shop in the city was now having to learn to use a tractor and fix a porch. So, those are the strengths and weaknesses of this essay- the emotional underpinnings. I can only improve on my writing by writing and facing the emotional moments. Not sugar coating emotions and feelings.
I Watch Her as She Stares
I watch her as she stares at the controls on the stove. Hesitantly and lightly she touches the buttons. These buttons make no sense to her garbled mind. A mind that whirls with whispers of confusion. The voices of the past speak to her in a language she no longer understands. And so I watch. I am caught between the need to swoop in and take care of the matter and allowing her the independence to continue trying. After all its only turning on an oven. Such an everyday affair for a woman who lovingly prepared meals for her family for a vast majority of her 83 years. And yet she stares. She is locked in battle with a need for self-reliance against the void of oblivion. I sense her intense frustration and move to push the button. She rebukes me. “I can do it myself.” I let her continue with the fight. I allow her the patient individuality she allowed me when I was a child. I still recall her watchful eye upon me as I baked my first cake at six years old. It’s was a beautiful, delicate shade of pink, filled with pops of strawberry flavoring. The room was warm from the glow of the oven coils. I was so proud of that cake. It had the same delicate glow Mother carried in her continence every day. A beautiful, yet proud spirit. A woman with great love for her family.
She musters her courage. She is so afraid of what lies ahead. She pushes the button. Then it comes over her, that same smile that graced her face for so many years. She won a battle, albeit a small one. She feels a moment of personal satisfaction. I relish the moment with her knowing that one day she will acquiesce to the abyss in her mind. The torrid horror shows of convoluted thoughts and wild imaginings. We put the biscuits in the oven. I leave her with our little dog, Maxie and her television show.
As I sit composing thoughts on my computer I hear the shrill blaring of the smoke alarm. I return to the kitchen to find Mother staring more intently than before. A panic comes over her. I assure her everything is okay, anything to calm her down. I pull the now black biscuits out, turn off the oven. After silencing the smoke alarm, I look to see my Mother languishing over the remains of the biscuits. I can tell her spirit was charred forever. An everyday task she performed ten thousand times has become an echelon of angst. I try to reassure her, “It will be okay Momma. I will make some more biscuits. It will be okay.” She turns and starts back to the sofa, “No”, she says, “it will never be okay again.”