All posts by bginbama

Ballad of Suicide

Cheryl A. Bates

I saved a self-destructive friend, escaped from a predatory friend and regretfully,

had to leave a truly kindred “friend” behind.

Bruised, battered, and in need of repair, I escaped from the burdens my kindred friend continuously bared.

Selfishly, I isolate my wounds from those I think don’t care.

While she gives her spirit so generous and loving; masking a secret so deep with despair.

With nothing left for anyone or myself, somehow she always showed me she cared.

I promised her I would return. Just hang on my dear, that day draws near.

She taught me to love and laugh at the simple treasures we shared.

A memory, an escapade, a trip to into the lake.

Dripping and squishing we’d dance on the bank.

A loud crack of the ice, a wide eyed stare, she’d giggle at my inexperienced scare.

Grab the net, a fish to snare; rip goes my pants, she’d fall into fits of hysteria.

Her laughter and care taught me to not take myself so serious.

Polar Bear Plunge, Oshkosh, WI 2012

(Photo credit: Author/ Polar Bear Plunge, Oshkosh, WI 2011)

My car, packed and ready for the trip, slightly earlier than our long ago plan.

One last phone call, I finished grading early, we can share more time and make more fond memories.

She hesitated and said “No, I have it all arranged, you should come as we’d planned.”

So, I agreed, and waited.

 The day before I was to leave,

a ring of a telephone shattered my heart and buckled my knees.

“She gone” I remember the speaker said to me, “She’s really gone.”

The words were like a foggy dream, never did I realize, she’d hidden from me,

a plan of her own.

My heart bleeding; my mind searching for meaning, I drove two days without seeing.

Country western played on the radio, a moment of clarity, that’s one of her favorites.

A moment of relief quickly replaced with disbelief, she’s gone, she’s really gone?

Relief didn’t come until I saw her, body cold and lifeless,

yet, so peaceful.

Gone to what is beyond; her love, her laughter, her mischief, her joyous heart.

Seven-eleven, death is freedom, obtained with one sure fired bullet.

Her despair ended, her spirit freed

to know what peace there can be for a tortured soul.

Horse Creek, Cherokee National Forest, TN

(Photo Credit: Author/ Horse Creek, Cherokee National Forest)

Though I am still broken and my heart still aches,

the darkness around me, slowly lifts toward the dawn.

When I am unsure, her gentle nudges remind me of my strength.

Her presence is around me, whispering to me through the wind in the trees.

I hear her laughter in the bubbling creek, and  I feel happy.

I feel her smiles, imagine her deep blue eyes – I don’t feel so alone.

She knows now what we all seek to know, that which is eternal and free.

So, just hang on, my dear,

I promise I will join you again someday.

Copyright Notice: © Cheryl A. Bates and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cheryl A. Bates and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

No Toys Under the Couch

No Toys Under the Couch

By Cheryl A. Bates

I sat on the floor for a moment to scratch behind the dog’s ear

and happened to notice there were no toys under the couch anymore.

No singing coming from the bathtub after dinner or

water on the floor to soak my socks.

No lingering smells of baby lotion and bubble bath

no more stories about dinosaurs, ballerinas, or

living room camp outs before bedtime.

No hair clips and tiny toys left forgotten on the floor

to pierce the arches of my feet at midnight after work

when headed across the room to bed, in the dark.

I lay on the floor now but something is wrong,

no sudden full body attacks from a two and a half foot munchkin.

No giggles of delight from when I toss her into the air

No more, do it again Mommie. Do it again!

Gone are the dainty ribbons and bows for her hair

and the sophisticated nail polish of grape purple and cherry red.

Blue jeans with holes in the knees – “no mommie, I want leotards, please.”

“I am a girl,” she proclaims emphatically, all the while gently stroking her newly found backyard toad.

No more crickets in the jar – where she added a little grass and oh, better yet some dirt.

Her eyes twinkle with an idea – she disappears momentarily to return proud,

having added some water.

“But where’s the cricket,” I say. She points to him caringly.

“There he is mommie!” Poor little cricket covered with mud, I’ll let you go after bedtime.

“Here mommie,” she’d say, “hold this while I go play.”

Off she goes to discover more treasures for the day.

I lay on my floor now – I glance over and see

no complacent toads in a cup, no bewildered crickets in a jar, and

no toys under my couch anymore.

How empty life can be.

Copyright Notice: © Cheryl A. Bates and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cheryl A. Bates and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Stories from my Father — Pilots, Pitchers, and Pigs

Stories from my Father — Pilots, Pitchers, and Pigs

By Cheryl A. Bates

Several years ago, my father threatened to buy a computer and teach himself how to use it. This was an incredibly ambitious effort for someone who grew up before color and cable TV, cell phones, and computer games. At 80 years old, finally retired from decades of the physical demands of logging in the Pacific Northwest, he has learned to connect with people from all over the world using his computer. Now with more time on his hands, he has begun writing down his memoirs and stories. He has been busy this past winter. After promising me for years that he would share his stories, he sent me his old computer’s hard drive with a collection of stories and memories he had written.

Every now and then during our online chats, he’ll ask about the stories or he’ll say “maybe you can do something with those stories.” I always give an upbeat answer that I will do something, someday. Today, it occurred to me that with this being Father’s Day, I could show how much his sharing means to me by writing about the sharing of his stories with me.

During one of our weekly online chats, my dad was talking about something he read in an AARP magazine that inspired him to write a story about a random act of kindness he experienced as a boy. He shared his story with me by typing it into an email. A few days later, I received a regular mail letter from my dad with a copy of the inspirational story and the following note.

I thought I might

When I was a small boy, 4th or 5th grade, my folks moved to Roswell, New Mexico. During WWII, my step-father was in the Air Force stationed at the B-29 base. He was a line mechanic and could change those engines on the big planes. My mom was working also, usually as a telephone switchboard operator. They never seemed to worry about my brother and me. We amused ourselves pretty much.

I can remember wandering around and exploring many places and things. There was a municipal airport not far from where we lived at the time. One day I happened to be there when the Air Force was using the runways for touch and go landing practice for the military planes. The pilots were so young. Usually just out of college as Second Lieutenants. This day, a tall good looking military man looked at me and said, “You wanna go for ride?” “Wow – of course I would,” I replied. “Okay, wait right here and I will be right back.” Well, needless to say, I was not leaving that spot until he came back. He came back and said, “Let’s go.” Evidently he must have rented this little Piper Club airplane. We took off and circled the town and county. Oh my, I was so excited.

I have often wondered whatever happened to this young man. Sincerely, I hope he made it through the war. I never saw him again but what a nice thing he did for me just out of the blue.

Dad Douglas AZ

My dad, William Thomas Bates, Sr.

Our weekend telephone calls have been replaced by more frequent yahoo chats throughout the week and an occasional email. Throughout the many years of graduate school, my dad was my number one supporter. There was never a time after a phone call or chat when I didn’t hang up feeling uplifted, inspired, or supported. Even now, he continues to be supportive. He was the first person to comment on  my bio for the blog, “Wow…way to go sweetheart, very good. Loving you, Dad.”

In 2008, I finally finished school. Even though my dad had had a rough year with his health and wasn’t particularly comfortable traveling on airplanes, he made it to my graduation.

Graduation 2008

So proud, tears came to his eyes.

A few years ago while attending a conference in Portland, OR, I slipped out and visited my father for a couple of days. On this visit, in addition to bags of old photos and stuff, he sent me home with an old silver set. He explained that it wasn’t an expensive set but it was special because his mother, wanting to have heirlooms to pass down, managed to purchase it during the depression by making payments, 10 cents a week, until it was bought.

Creamer Pitcher

Then, a few months later, I received a small package from my father. Inside was this silver cream pitcher and a note from my dad.

Dear Doctor Cheryl,

This little cup or pitcher probably has no value except that it is filled brim full of my love for you and for its little story. When WW2 ended, we were in Roswell, New Mexico. I think I was 10 or 11 yrs. old. My step-father brought us to Oregon where we settled in Twin  Rocks, OR. His brother was in the hog raising business supplying pork for the military and other markets. In those days they fed discarded restaurant waste and had regular slop routes around Salem, OR and other places. Whenever we visited them I got to get up real early and go with cousins, nicknamed Bean and Babe, on the slop routes and they picked up barrels of this waste.

Well, in the slop there were some different items evidently tossed in either intentionally or just negligence. In those days they used a lot of real silverware and heavy duty dishes. My uncle’s wife gave all the relations some of these items after they were cleaned up of course. We had several different things from her. They all got one of these pitchers. Somehow this one found its way back to me. I used it for tooth picks. It might be an heirloom someday. Now you know “The Rest of the Story”…Loving you dearly, Dad.  (December, 2009)

pig picture

I had to substitute this picture for the one I wanted to use here. I have been looking all morning for an old picture my dad sent me of some pigs he was raising. He had written the names of the pigs on the photograph with a ball-point pen.

On this Father’s Day, I am living up to my promise to share his stories to let him know how important he is to me and how much I value his presence in my life.

Copyright Notice: © Cheryl A. Bates and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

In Remberance of a Dear Friend

Cardinal

Photo Credit: Clip Art

Cheryl A. Bates

The beauty of your spirit will always be in my heart.

Like the joy a rose brings to a sullen mind,

your love and friendship brought out the joy in mine.

No longer are you bound by earthly toils.

Thus, I pray you soar now upon lofty wings

resolving your quest towards the freedom you so desired.

Sing to me of your happiness through the cardinal’s song

and I will sing you mine as you left me behind.

Although I know nothing about writing poetry, I wrote this poem about a dear friend I lost to suicide.

A few years ago I was very excited to accept my first social work faculty appointment at a mid-west university where they claimed to embrace and welcome diversity. It didn’t take long for me to realize that what the university and department said about diversity and how they behaved were two very different things. Although the university had just opened up an LGBT resource center and had active faculty and student support groups, the sexual minority community on campus suffered from competing loyalties, conflicts, and cliquishness, which I did not find particularly welcoming or supportive. My department, like the university and community still held strong anti-gay prejudices. Although I was assured during the interview that my openness about being gay was an important contribution to the diversity of the department, my colleagues were not particularly welcoming and remained distant.

They never reached out to include me in events, never stopped by to visit me in my office, and were always too busy to talk when I asked for assistance. Some were rather blatant. One Saturday I dropped by my office to do some tasks and ran into another colleague who had her daughter there with her. It was apparent that the child was familiar with the office setting and curiously said, “Who is the new professor?” This prompted me to introduce myself and engage in age-appropriate conversation with the child. However, when my colleague discovered who her child was talking to she immediately cut off the interaction and gently but forcefully moved the child towards the door and out of the office despite the child’s reluctance to abruptly end her conversation.

Unable to connect within the university setting, I looked to the local community for support and socialization. Through word of mouth, I found a “gay-friendly” bar where I could meet and socialize with other gay people. It wasn’t a particularly friendly place but I thought as time went on I might connect and begin to build a social life.

It was there that I met my friend. When she walked through the door and saw a new face, she came over and sat down, introduced herself, and began to share stories about herself, her husband, her family, growing up in the area, hunting, fishing, and on and on. Over the next four years, she shared her world with me in such a generous, genuine, and loving way.

As I endured increasingly isolating and hostile conditions at my job, my friend and her family provided a sanctuary for me. They made me feel welcomed and through their kindness and acceptance I experienced the best of the mid-west and learned how to have fun even during the long cold winters. Together we generated a lifetime of joyful memories — from funny camping escapades, fishing, four-wheeling, and even a polar bear plunge!

For her, I was a non-judgmental and supportive friend. Often she would drop in for coffee and seek refuge from the ever increasing challenges of attending to the demands of her family, a drinking husband, and delinquent son. She had been laid off from work she loved due to the company downsizing during a failing economy. Instead of doing a job she performed with pride and a sense of accomplishment, her days were now filled with countless errands, providing transportation for someone, providing care for someone, and always finishing up with dinner on the table.

She was unique in that she pushed against the boundaries of gender and sexuality. She was close to her father and learned to love the outdoors and hunting from him. For her, a visit from a cardinal was her father checking on her and sending his love. She played softball and was in three different leagues at the same time for most of her adult life. She struggled for both personal and public acceptance of her sexual identity. After a deeply romantic relationship with a woman she desperately longed for a connection within the gay community but was shunned because financially she was unable to break free from an unfulfilled, abusive marriage.

She loved country music and the words from a Rascall Flatts song expresses her situation more clearly: “I’ve lived in this place and I know all the faces. Each one is different but they’re always the same. They mean me no harm but it’s time that I face it, they’ll never allow me to change.”

Although I continually process my grief over her untimely death, I find consolation knowing that she has finally found freedom and escaped the bonds of her psychic pain. I grieve that the world lost someone who was truly giving to others even though she didn’t have much herself.  And although she only had a high school education and perhaps some learning challenges, she was gifted with people. She understood people and knew how to engage them with kindness, courtesy, and respect. She was creative with the words known to her and would often speak at funerals for friends when their voices were silenced by grief. Her pain was so deep and yet she was viewed by others in the community as refreshing, funny, and engaging. No one was a stranger to her.

I would like to think that in that last moment when she walked from the garage to the basement where she ended her life, that she was making a conscious decision. That thought fills me with pain and anger only because it is a selfish thought centered how the emotions I feel over her death cause me deep hurt and sadness. But when I think about it from her point of view, I am exhilarated knowing that she no longer suffers as she did for such a very long time. She ended her life in the best way she knew how at that moment in time.

Who’s to say that someone who takes his/her own life is a coward, weak, or selfish? I have heard it said that suicide is a selfish act and in some ignorant way I bought into this way of thinking until my friend’s suicide. This July will be the second anniversary of her death and although I still struggle daily with the loss, I am a better person because of having known her.

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When you talk about poverty, you’re talking about people.

Another Hope Entirely

Why is it that when politicians start talking about poverty, they stop talking about people?  Even the good guys, the progressives who want to end poverty, are prone to this. 

When you talk about poverty, you’re talking about people, even if you’re more comfortable hiding behind statistics oversimplified moral proclamations and judgments.  You’re talking about me, so let me tell you about me.

I’m 27 years old, and I’m disabled due to severe, chronic mental and physical illness.  I’m not stupid or lazy or morally lacking.  I would love to get a job.  I’d love to finish my undergraduate degree and go to law school.  Ever since I was a kid and realized I could get paid to fight with people, I’ve wanted to be a lawyer–but I’m not above working less professional jobs to get there.  I’ve worked in a fast food restaurant, a hotel, and a hands-on…

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Join us and live in Peace?

Cheryl A. Bates

In light of escalating tension between the U.S. and Russia, I wanted to share a thought I had after stumbling upon the 1951 movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still. First, let me say that as a child of the sixties living in a very rural area of the Pacific Northwest, the availability of information concerning the world was limited to weekly newspapers and access to only two major television networks (in black and white); consequently, I didn’t develop a passion for science fiction until recently. Yes, I literally became a Trekie in my fifties. With assistance from media streaming and unprecedented access to movies, documentaries, and other genres of entertainment, I have discovered a world of thinking in science fiction that transcends my rural country roots. How did I ever make it to the age of 51 without having discovered the film The Day the Earth Stood Still, a prophetic story about a humanoid alien visitor (Klaatu) and his omnipotent robot companion (Gort/Gnut) who land on earth to deliver a message that Earth must learn to live peacefully or be destroyed?

We come in peace and goodwill

Photo Credit: Klaatu, The Day the Earth Stood Still

“It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder” (Klaatu)

As a representative from a federation of other planets, Klaatu is sent to Earth to warn humankind that their experiments with atomic weapons are threatening the safety of other peaceful civilizations (www.britannica.com). The message is simple, Klaatu requests to meet with all the leaders of Earth in which to deliver the message that unless humankind gives up violence, other planets will destroy Earth in their own defense.  He was told that a meeting of such magnitude was impossible. Thus, as a peaceful demonstration of his power, Klaatu arranges for a 30 minute black out of power except where such a loss would be life-threatening. Even in the face of omnipotent power, humans are disbelieving in that something more powerful than they can live in peace.

surrounding ukraine infantry

Photo Credit: Surrounded: Unidentified armed men prepare their camp in font of Ukraine’s infantry base in Privolnoye.

Are we there now with sides aligning and taking on allies to brace against the fight over which one ultimately dominates the other? Each side is equipped with bombs aimed at the other that can destroy the world as we know it. Why do we insist on such lopsided accumulations of wealth and power? How can either “side” justify wealth and power that is used to secure more wealth and power, limit access to resources, and continued enforcement of hegemonic dictates instead of soothing the hunger of swollen bellies, healing the perils of disease, and perhaps building a world that is united, compassionate, cooperative, and beautiful? Where is that omnipotent presence now that will convince humankind that life is a beautiful gift and one meant to be shared?

peace

Photo Credit: Peace

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