Archive for grief

The good old summer time

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing with tags , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2010 by Trina

My short story The good old summer time is up in the April issue of  the Dead Mule.

I may not be a moonshine drinkin’, sweat-drippin’, pickup drivin’, yankee hatin’ redneck who eats greasy bacon, runny eggs fried in lard with grits, and sits on my neighbor’s sagging porch drinking beer and smoking cigars, but I like to write about them, and I do enjoy an occasional meal of shrimp and grits.

That’s only part of my southern legitimacy statement. Click on the Dead Mule link to read more. 

Harry has five poems in the April issue. The husband and wife team strikes again! The last time we were together was in Chiron Review in 2008. I saved the envelope our acceptance letters came in.

The good old summer time is set in spring, not summer. It’s about change: coping with loss, winter turning to spring. I wrote this story two years ago after my mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly. Her funeral was on the first day of spring–see my previous post: March

Because Harry’s mother had been sick for quite some time, I wondered how she could have hidden it from her family and friends. Connellsville, Pennsylvania is,  after all,  a small town. And then I realized, maybe she was aided in the deception. Perhaps the entire town played a part in the conspiracy. So the original title of The good old summer time was Conspiracy of Silence.

As stories often do, this one took a different course than I had planned. It veered from a town conspiracy to two men finding friendship through grief. Throw in a piano playing spirit and you’ve got The good old summer time.

Enjoy.

March: one year later

Posted in All posts, Life with tags , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2008 by Trina

Today is the one-year anniversary of my mother-in-law’s passing, so in her honor, I’m reposting March.

Sometimes, life has a way of reminding you that there’s nothing more important than being with the ones you love. I want to offer my sympathy to everyone who’s had a loved one pass away suddenly. And I want to thank friends and family who comforted my husband Harry and I. When your world is turned upside down in a minute, it is hard get beyond the emptiness to find a way even to grieve.

It’s been a long, hard week. I was too emotionally drained to work, even today, although I sat at my computer and pretended that I was able, while my mind drifted to the events of the past week. If I’m in a state of emotional overload that has left me exhausted, I can only imagine the grief that my husband is feeling.

Harry’s mother, Beulah M. “Snooks” Calhoun, passed away Monday morning, March 19, 2007, from a cerebral vascular accident, a stroke.

I met Harry’s father for the first time as we walked across the hospital parking lot late Saturday afternoon and then met Beulah Calhoun where she lay in a hospital bed, an oxygen tube in her nose. She opened her eyes and looked at my husband, made noises, but nothing that resembled words. She didn’t recognize her son. It is the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed, or ever hope to.

Days followed: funeral arrangements, the viewing, financial matters and family dinners. Each day ran into the next and ended with Harry and I falling into bed exhausted and numb. When we came home on Saturday, although we had been gone for not even a week, it felt like an eternity.

I noticed on the drive home from the airport that in our absence winter had departed. After the cold and rain in Connellsville, Pa, the sights and sounds of spring in North Carolina were a welcome sight. Tulips had broken ground, pushing through the hardy daffodils. Pink and red azaleas now dotted the hedges, seemingly overnight. The oaks hung heavy with seedpods and cottony dogwood flowers rained pink and white petals, joining maple seed airplanes on the recently cut grass. The sight of gold finches fighting for seed at the bird feeder made me cry. We were home.

Beulah’s loved ones describe her as being most happy out of doors, so I think it fitting to end this entry with “March,” written by Hal Borland. Although I never knew her in life, the narrative seems to fit the mother of my husband. So, in memory of Beulah Calhoun, whose funeral was held on the first day of spring, and for her son:

March is a tomboy with tousled hair, a mischievous smile, mud on her shoes and a laugh in her voice. She knows when the first shadbush will blow, where the first violet will bloom, and she isn’t afraid of a salamander. She has whims and winning ways. She’s exasperating, lovable, a terror-on-wheels, too young to be reasoned with, too old to be spanked.

March is rain drenching as June and cold as January. It is mud and slush and the first green grass down along the brook. March gave its name, and not without reason, to the mad hare. March is the vernal equinox when, by the calculations of the stargazers, Spring arrives. Sometimes the equinox is cold and impersonal as a mathematical table, and sometimes it is warm and lively and spangled with crocuses. The equinox is fixed and immutable, but Spring is a movable feast that is spread only when sun and wind and all the elements of weather contrive to smile at the same time.

March is pussy willows. March is hepatica in bloom, and often it is arbutus. Sometimes it is anemones and bloodroot blossoms and even brave daffodils. March is a sleet storm pelting out of the north the day after you find the first violet bud. March is boys playing marbles and girls playing jacks and hopscotch. March once was sulphur and molasses; it still is dandelion greens and rock cress.

March is the gardener impatient to garden; it is the winter-weary sun seeker impatient for a case of Spring fever. March is February with a smile and April with a sniffle. March is a problem child with a twinkle in its eye.

Hal Borland: Sundial of the Seasons, 1964

Wine News From Across the Hall

Posted in All posts, Life with tags , , , on November 17, 2007 by Trina

I am not yet writing effectively since my father’s passing. I aimlessly surf the Web and then try to concentrate on the novel, or even this blog, but the creativity just isn’t there. So, I thought this would be a good time to introduce a guest blogger. My husband Harry Calhoun writes a monthly wine column, Ten Dollar Tastings. I asked him to contribute to WORLDS THAT NEVER WERE with a note about his column. I hope that he will consider posting on a regular basis.

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Hello wine lovers!

The latest column (November) is now online. Fall has fallen on us, but at least here in temperate North Carolina, it hasn’t fallen too hard yet. And the terrible drought that has caused severe water restrictions has been slaked by at least a few good rainfalls, so we’re breathing a cautious sigh of relief.

Sadly, my wife Trina’s father passed away earlier this month, and we are still struggling with that loss. In an odd coincidence, in my department at work, all three marketing writers lost a parent this year, and now Trina has suffered the same fate. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that this month’s column starts out talking about ghosts and the ghostly.

In more positive news, Trina has cut back to a 91.5 percent schedule at her job, which gives her more time to write. Our black Labrador Alex is doing great, having been through obedience training and getting used to having two doting parents. I’m still plugging away at my day job and doing a little freelance work — writing wine labels for a well-known winery and doing brochures and other materials for a local dog trainer.

As far as this month’s column, you’ll find out all about ghost wineries and hear about some wines that are spookily good and (as always) affordable. So are the incredibly priced wines of Surazo winery and my pick for Charlie, a Shiraz that low in price but high in fruity satisfaction. And of course, there are plenty of links to The Wine Merchant so you can scope out and purchase from their incredible selection.

Remember that you can access back editions of the column from the archive on the right nav bar. And don’t forget to tell your friends about Ten Dollar Tastings.

As always, I hope you enjoy Ten Dollar Tastings. Comments are always welcome. If you have any suggestions, or especially if there are topics that you’d like me to explore, please drop a line. And thank you for reading!

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Harry Calhoun

E-mail: HarryC13@aol.com
Web site: http://wine.newsonly.org/news.php

Dadisms

Posted in All posts, Life with tags , , on November 9, 2007 by Trina

My father passed away Monday morning. Having suffered through chemo and radiation treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a very aggressive cancer, he died of heart failure. I am finally crying for the first time today. I feel relief for him, and hope that he has found peace.

He was my inspiration. A physicist with premature grey and then white hair, it was rather like being raised by Einstein. So, when my four sisters and I learned that our father had passed, we compiled this list of the odd, quirky and fun things he did. These are the things that we remember about our father.

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Dadisms:

I waited each night for Dad to come home, he’d always greet me at the driveway.

Dad modeled parenting skills that I use today – spend time with your kids –if it works, use it and have fun, who cares what it looks like.

Dad ran with me in his business clothes during one cross-country practice when I needed encouragement.

In his funny voice, he’d mimic Mary’s basketball coach “Pass the ball harder next time.” The next pass smacked into the wall and he would crack up echoing the coach “not that hard.” He was so proud of Mary.

He waited in rollercoaster lines for hours. He would talk about physics and I had no idea what he was talking about, but somehow it didn’t matter.

Dad did donuts in parking lots on snowy days when mom wasn’t in the car.

He took us fishing at midnight because that is when the fish were biting.

Dad cut the top off a tree in the front lawn for use as our Christmas tree. There in the front lawn was the stub of a pine tree. The neighbors immaculately trimmed lawns adjacent. He then stuffed the whole Christmas tree in the fireplace and Mom screamed “Louis” while flames engulfed the mantle.

He calculated the cost of heating fuel required to heat a bedroom closet that was left open.

Dad made an entire set of Lincoln Logs, in the basement. He made some lengths that couldn’t be purchased. I literally had the best set.

Dad made new wooden doll beds for us one Christmas on his lathe. He stayed up all night building them.

He played Nertz, spades and other card games with us for hours on the living room rug. He never seemed to get bored playing games.

Dad took me to chess club with him on Friday nights.

He made us bike helmets out of hockey helmets — I was so embarrassed by them as a child.
Dad calibrated the cadence of each of our bikes gears and glued cards with the numbers on our bikes, so that we knew which gear to shift in when he told us to shift.

He took us on 20-mile bike rides until we were exhausted and he had to bike home to get the car and haul our bikes and us home.

Dad ate my horrible cooking while I was learning how to cook. I believed for years that he liked burned food.

Dad said some things that brought me through tough times. 1) If you work as hard at getting a job as you would at the job, then you will get a job. 2) Keep 6 months of bill money in the bank. – that one saved my bacon a few times.

Dad prayed when it got tough.

In loving memory of my father. May his soul find peace and comfort.

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Please send your own Dadisms. I’d love to read them.

Developing characters through experience

Posted in All posts, On writing with tags , , , , on August 15, 2007 by Trina

Yesterday, after I went for a morning swim, I locked my keys in the car, followed by a comedy of events that made me an hour late for work. After getting grease and dirt on the front of my new white, wool pant suit while trying to find the magnetized set of keys that I keep under the car, I drove onto Interstate 440 going the wrong way. (The interstate is not known as the baffling beltline for nothing). Signs are labeled inner and outer beltline, north or south, which doesn’t help me to know which will take me east to Durham. So I pulled off 440 and got back on only to be funneled in the same wrong direction away from Durham. I took the next exit trying for an alternate route on 70, but instead got lost in Durham. But that’s not the reason that I added this category to my blog (Life Comes at me Hard).

Yesterday, life slammed me hard. Wham! Right into my past. I haven’t seen my father in ten years. During that time I’ve talked with him only twice on the phone, once two months ago and once yesterday. When people ask me if I’m close to my father, I say no. I never expand upon that unless someone asks. Usually they don’t, and when they do I almost never tell the whole truth. It has taken me years of therapy to reach the level of denial I thought I had achieved. See my essay: Yes I Have a Therapist–and I Believe Everyone Should.

I thought I had worked through my sadness and anger toward my father. I didn’t think I had any feelings for him left. Then I got the following e-mail from my aunt, my father’s sister.

I just talked with him (my father) on the phone. He does not have email because he is not able to use it. He has a walker with a seat on it and a wheel chair. He went to the doctor again. The doctor said the radiation killed 20% of his nerves. He is like a very old man. He has not been out of the house for 2 months. They simply cannot get him into the car. He is very helpless. He sleeps in his chair. He would like to hear from you girls. He says he can’t get well unless God heals him.

 

After reading the e-mail I found myself crying while driving to the swimming pool. Hence my confusion while driving around in circles after swimming. My father has recovered from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But after the tumors were removed from his spine and he endured the chemo and radiation that was necessary to treat the cancer, his muscles have atrophied from lack of use.

I pictured my father, the man who raised me, the man who abused me, now in a wheel chair unable to leave the house. Maybe he deserved it. Be he was also the man who took me on 30 mile bike rides as a little girl, who played endless card games with my sisters and me, never tiring of our games, who played softball with us in our backyard. That active, energetic, youthful man was sleeping in a wheelchair.

Wham!

That blast from the past could be the key to my writing success. As a writer I can use my bad relationship with my father to develop the new women characters that I create. Because girls model our male romantic ideal on our relationship with our father, he teaches us how we should expect to be treated by males when we get older. He teaches us by the way he speaks and acts toward us and the women in his life. It is from our fathers that girls learn lessons about the world of males. From her father a woman gains first-hand knowledge of how ordinary men think, act and speak.

Fiction writers must create imperfect, flawed characters because that is the way people are.

Most of the women characters I relate to in the books that I love to read are flawed, like myself, many due to their childhoods. In David Baldacci’s Simple Genius the lead female’s personality changed due to an event from her childhood. I can’t spoil the book to say what it was. In Kathy Reich’s series of books that the TV show Bones is based on, the lead character, Tempe, is a divorced recovering alcoholic who has trouble with relationships.

So, I can create a woman character who does not have a loving dependable father. This imaginary person may actually seek men who deny her needs or reject her. She may always be haunted by the thought that she is unlovable. To compensate, she may become sexually active prematurely or she may fear intimacy. She will be imperfect and readers will be able to empathize with her.

When she drives onto the baffling beltline going the wrong direction, or locks her keys in her car because her sick father is on her mind, readers will believe in her. When she looks in her rearview window, readers may see themselves.

March

Posted in All posts, Life with tags , , , on March 26, 2007 by Trina

Sometimes, life has a way of reminding you that there’s nothing more important than being with the ones you love. I want to offer my sympathy to everyone who’s had a loved one pass away suddenly. And I want to thank friends and family who comforted my husband Harry and I. When your world is turned upside down in a minute, it is hard get beyond the emptiness to find a way even to grieve.

It’s been a long, hard week. I was too emotionally drained to work, even today, although I sat at my computer and pretended that I was able, while my mind drifted to the events of the past week. If I’m in a state of emotional overload that has left me exhausted, I can only imagine the grief that my husband is feeling.

Harry’s mother, Beulah M. “Snooks” Calhoun, passed away Monday morning, March 19, 2007, from a cerebral vascular accident, a stroke.

I met Harry’s father for the first time as we walked across the hospital parking lot late Saturday afternoon and then met Beulah Calhoun where she lay in a hospital bed, an oxygen tube in her nose. She opened her eyes and looked at my husband, made noises, but nothing that resembled words. She didn’t recognize her son. It is the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed, or ever hope to.

Days followed: funeral arrangements, the viewing, financial matters and family dinners. Each day ran into the next and ended with Harry and I falling into bed exhausted and numb. When we came home on Saturday, although we had been gone for not even a week, it felt like an eternity.

I noticed on the drive home from the airport that in our absence winter had departed. After the cold and rain in Connellsville, Pa, the sights and sounds of spring in North Carolina were a welcome sight. Tulips had broken ground, pushing through the hardy daffodils. Pink and red azaleas now dotted the hedges, seemingly overnight. The oaks hung heavy with seedpods and cottony dogwood flowers rained pink and white petals, joining maple seed airplanes on the recently cut grass. The sight of gold finches fighting for seed at the bird feeder made me cry. We were home.

Beulah’s loved ones describe her as being most happy out of doors, so I think it fitting to end this entry with “March,” written by Hal Borland. Although I never knew her in life, the narrative seems to fit the mother of my husband. So, in memory of Beulah Calhoun, whose funeral was held on the first day of spring, and for her son:

March is a tomboy with tousled hair, a mischievous smile, mud on her shoes and a laugh in her voice. She knows when the first shadbush will blow, where the first violet will bloom, and she isn’t afraid of a salamander. She has whims and winning ways. She’s exasperating, lovable, a terror-on-wheels, too young to be reasoned with, too old to be spanked.

March is rain drenching as June and cold as January. It is mud and slush and the first green grass down along the brook. March gave its name, and not without reason, to the mad hare. March is the vernal equinox when, by the calculations of the stargazers, Spring arrives. Sometimes the equinox is cold and impersonal as a mathematical table, and sometimes it is warm and lively and spangled with crocuses. The equinox is fixed and immutable, but Spring is a movable feast that is spread only when sun and wind and all the elements of weather contrive to smile at the same time.

March is pussy willows. March is hepatica in bloom, and often it is arbutus. Sometimes it is anemones and bloodroot blossoms and even brave daffodils. March is a sleet storm pelting out of the north the day after you find the first violet bud. March is boys playing marbles and girls playing jacks and hopscotch. March once was sulphur and molasses; it still is dandelion greens and rock cress.

March is the gardener impatient to garden; it is the winter-weary sun seeker impatient for a case of Spring fever. March is February with a smile and April with a sniffle. March is a problem child with a twinkle in its eye.

Hal Borland: Sundial of the Seasons, 1964