After all it wasn’t a heinous crime, nobody died from the lack of truth, but nobody lived either…Face of the Hidden

Face of the Hidden

By

Diana Creel Elarde

 

I didn’t try to change her words, her rationalization. When she spoke them I nodded, like I was agreeing with her. I was, in principle, in the abstract world where silent words are used without feeling. But the truth was, her words were hollow, not true.

It began to be easier and easier every day to engage in her lie, the truth we never spoke about. I had let the opportunity for truth go by without a word of protest. My agreement became our reality. My lack of denial became the words we then lived by.

It was years before I tried to deny to her the words we had agreed on. The shock, the residue of months upon months of living with the lie had built too many walls, built a new way of life. She looked at me blankly when I tried to tear down the lie. Refusing to acknowledge, the look, her look, stared through me, around me and then moved her on to another task. She hummed when she turned her face, her eyes, from me, perhaps pretending I wasn’t even there. Her hands hurried, stumbling to get all the items in her hand straight and in a line.

I felt foolish standing there unacknowledged, watching her retreat into the web of the lie. Too late for truth rang in my head and I moved out of the room, leaving her to be.

I stand at her grave now, truths and lies buried below my feet. The clouds above me break up and clear to blue skies. Are they an indication of what I should be doing as well? Clear it away, forget it. After all, it wasn’t a heinous crime, nobody died from the lack of truth, but nobody lived either.

I shuffle my feet along the old grass which is still undisturbed from the burial. It is still damp with dew, drops of it cling to my black shoes, causing sparkles of color to appear. They mesmerize me, making me look to examine their color, their form. People walk quietly by me, by the sparkles on my shoes, leaving me in what they perceive as my grief, my loss. I let them leave; relieved to avoid further conversation. How many times can you express grief, sympathy, sorrow? When do the words run out? When are they enough? I wait until I hear the collection of car doors close, one after the other, before I look up.

He’s the only one left. But he will stay silent. He will know by my look, by my walk to his car, not the time for words, no matter what he wants to say. My car door sounds like the others, hard and metal, closing away this time, this grief. And, closing away the lie.

I look back to her site, imagining the stone which will soon mark her place, mark the few words of her life. Born here, died now, lived in-between. Time will cast doubt on what she said, what she believed. Will the day come when I will doubt it too? When time and space will alter my reality and I will accept her words as what was, as what is.

I watch through the car window as we drive away. My face, my eyes reflecting back to me as the sun, the clouds combine for me to see my image in the window. I angle my eyes upward, moving away from my reflection. Not wanting to see either tears or traces of grief in my eyes. I move my sun glasses to my face, becoming now the face of the hidden. The sun, in its wisdom, moves from my window leaving me with only a clear view of her grave.

 

copyrightDElarde,2015

Play like a girl – GO TEAM USA~

LESSONS FROM THE SOCCER FIELD

For nearly twenty years I experienced life from the sidelines of a soccer field. My son was four when he first played. His first kick off resulted in a goal which unfortunately didn’t count because two players had to touch the ball before it could be considered a goal. (Follow that?)  From that moment, game on!  And still today his first love in sports and perhaps in life is soccer.

My daughter too, had her love of soccer and played during her teenage years. It was a great thrill for her to experience so much success through her competitive years.  Later, as a young adult she taught soccer to small children around the Seattle area.

My actual playing of soccer involved one brief 5 week period when the moms and dads of my son’s team decided, wouldn’t it be fun to play indoors.  And after being reassured we would be in a forty and over league, what the heck, let’s try it.  After all how hard could it be? Unfortunately for us the only team over forty was our team!  We could have easily called ourselves the Groan Team, because during and after that’s all one would hear from us. Clearly, my kids didn’t inherit a soccer gene from me.

After all those years of being around soccer I couldn’t help to hear common comments from the array of coaches.  With the World Cup playing center stages, I tried to recap a few of these

  1. Go to the ball – if you won’t others will

How many times do we stand to the side, either in soccer or in life, afraid to move forward when someone with a tad more courage  out plays us, or suggests the idea we had also thought of or speaks to the girl or guy we were thinking of approaching. Sometime we have to move ourselves forward before our opportunities passes.

  1. Play fair, but send a message when you need to –  

This can be a tricky one – when you have someone continually after you (or biting you!?) there does come a time to take a stand.

  1. It may not be a fair call – deal with it 

I think this one might be repeated over and over again, not only to players but to fans and especially parents. The refs call them as they see them and with all the action on the field, sometimes calls from the best refs aren’t good calls.  Well, sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug.  Move on!

  1. Ignore the score – play with your heart 

Don’t you just love those players that continue to play their hardest when the score says their team is losing?  Soccer changing in seconds, as demonstrated many times in the World Cup. Play your heart out until the end!

  1. It’s a running game – run 

It’s the expectation of the game. If you only want to meet the expectations, try another game. 

  1. Your team mates are just that

They are the people you play with, some you are friends with, but many years down the line, they will be people and names.  In other words don’t take their criticisms to heart.  In two years, five years and even twenty years will be matter what they thought?

  1. Keep your eye on the ball 

Watch your intention. If your intention is to win, make sure you keep your attention on what will get you there. 

  1. Don’t get sucked in 

Team success (and perhaps your success) involves keeping in touch with your job and what you need to do.  Getting off course or paying attention to those things which may cause you to play “off sides” doesn’t help the cause.

  1. Sometimes you have to take one for the team 

You may be asked to play a different position or even sit along the sidelines.  And yes, it is hard to understand or even accept those requests, but grace goes a long ways

  1. It’s a game – have fun! 

It is a game and a fun game!  Enjoy every minute that you can, because some day the sidelines will be your only view.

                                                                            GO TEAM USA!

First father’s day without dad

Father_and_daughter_1

Father’s Day

By Diana Elarde

I check my watch, weighing the time.  Just enough minutes to get my morning walk in before I have to shower and leave to get my mother.  The clock in my mind ticks as I try to locate shoes, my music and the keys to the condo.   Finally ready, I confirm my allotted time, the music starts as I walk down the steps from the condo on to the sidewalk.

Once outside I see the crowd gathering in the town park down the street.  Parked cars are lined up and down, and the end, the corner is blocked off.  As I approach the park I see people in their running outfits, preparing for a morning run through the streets.  Some runners are on the ground stretching to loosen morning muscles.  Others use their car as leverage; placing legs and arms in odd positions on fenders and open doors to achieve the same goal. Stretched and warm, they jog to the park.

Somehow I missed the announcement about this event.  My morning walk is now interrupted, requiring me to skirt around those who have the priority today.

It is not that I mind the presence of the others, it is that I have gotten used to the quiet walks, with the morning sounds or my music. I usually don’t have to dodge and avoid packs of runners, blocked off roads or policemen serious about protecting the runners as they cross streets.

I find a flyer on a pole. “Support our Father’s Day Run, our fathers are important!”

Ah, Father’s Day.  I had tried all week to erase it from my mind.  I went out of my way to ignore the cards in the stores, the ads on TV, and mostly the dull ache in my heart.  It is my first Father’s Day without my father and I struggle to find where this celebration now exists within me.

Later today I will take my mother to the cemetery.  The last place we honored his life.  We will stand at his graveside, still waiting for the marker to be finished.   We will say our hellos, our goodbyes, not knowing now how to celebrate him. Still confused and saddened by the roles we are forced to play now that he has passed.

I look at the pack of runners all anxious to start their run.  Fathers hold hands with smaller children, getting them excited to start.  The new baby strollers are all revving up with their slick aerodynamic design, carefully crafted for today’s active families.

I tried to explain to my husband this week about the fathers that meet at shops and the farmers’ market with their kids in tow.   Early Saturday morning I see children leaving coffee shops with hot chocolate mustaches, sipping their way down the street, steps behind dad and the stroller. The fathers stuff the strollers with their purchases from the farmers’ market, arranging a head of lettuce next to a small child. They stand in groups, watching their kids throw pennies into the park fountain.  What do the dads talk about when they meet on the streets? Do they ask, “Hey is your kid rolling over yet?”   “How many teeth does he have?”   Or do they talk sports. “How about those Tigers?”  “Did you catch the last World Cup game?”   Or even, did “Venus win her match yesterday?”

I marvel at their level of involvement, their overall enjoyment of spending the time with their children. I like to see the fathers interacting with their children.  Somehow in this world it gives me hope.  For if more fathers feel connected with their kids, maybe conflict would quiet.  Maybe negotiation will be the first choice, not second or third, when differences break out. Maybe we can build a world where children are cherished and do not go to bed hungry or alone.  Perhaps by understanding the simple world of a child, the adult world won’t seem so complex. It’s a funny hope.  One that doesn’t probably doesn’t make much sense, but I can’t help to feel it is significant for our future.

My dad was very involved with us, but back when I was a child that was rare.  Most of my friends didn’t see much of their fathers, gone to do business, or golfing or to events far from appropriate for a small companion.

I remember a day when I must have been about seven years old my father took me to a building on the campus of the University of Michiganin Ann Arbor.  He held my hand as we walked and I felt so important, happy that my father had decided to take me with him for the day.  Surprisingly I still know where that building is, its street, it location.  To this day, that building still evokes a special bond of how impactful that moment was to me.

My father was an elementary teacher for thirty years, at a time when very few men taught those grades.  He influenced and connected with many children during his tenure.  Teaching – his love, his passion.  At the time of his passing I was amazed by the number of his past students who wrote notes to us through FaceBook telling us how grateful they were to have known him, how he influenced their lives so long ago.  I became a teacher one wrote. From another, the military is where I made my home after his WWII stories; I became a writer, he encouraged me to write.   Different lives forming and transforming, influenced by a man who for many was like a second father during that year in his classroom.

And what of my time with my father?  I struggle to know how to define it, to understand it now.  Confused by what was between us.  The times when I was his young daughter, the days when he was ’Dad’. And then, the dark days – the hardness, the anger his illness created in his last few years. So many difficult sick days, marked in sadness, in stress. Long nights in the ER and such exhaustion. Helpless times when his breathe was short, shallow, scary.   Days of before his illness merge with his sick days, hard to separate, to accommodate.  All too fresh, too painful to think of or sort out.  “Time,” I tell myself like a silent prayer to be heard, “just time, the good memories will win over.” But on this day, this first Father’s Day without my dad, I just do what I can to get by.

copyright2012 Elarde

I didn’t need bricks to build my wall, I only needed fear and hate. How those two loved and needed each other…The Feral Wall

The Feral Wall

By

Diana Creel Elarde

 

When he died I was ten. I can’t say I understood it. After all, when you are that age time, life, death they have no true relationship with you. I mostly thought he would return, someday I would see him walking up the street straight to our house. So that summer I hung around our porch more than anything else. Even my mother’s constant nagging to go find someone to play with couldn’t detour my vigilant watch.

It was months before I began to see there was no hope of his return. That life, my life would go on without him. After a while I felt like there was a big hole in my heart and if I got too close I’d fall right into it. Getting around the hole became more of my purpose. Healing the large hole never occurred to me.

How do you avoid a big hole? I mean you have to plan your entire life around it. What even causes a hole to come into your life? I figured if I had never loved him I would have never felt that hole in my heart. Love for me became what to avoid, what to run away from.

Men build walls with bricks, carefully laying them on top of each other, one after the other. I didn’t need bricks to build my wall, I only needed fear and hate. How those two loved and needed each other. It’s true. I think fear and hate were overjoyed when I united them. They clasped arms like brothers and they built my secure wall. And I let them. I certainly didn’t need another hole in my heart and if the wall stopped the pain, all the better.

I could tell my mother, she didn’t like the wall I built. She recognized where it came from, how it got built. Try as she could, I was more than determined not to listen to any words she had to say. Rebel I told myself and so rebellion with her became my life. I added her to my list of those who the wall in my life was for.

And fear and hate, they became stronger.

The feral kittens came to our house late in the fall, right before the calendar deemed it winter. The cold came early that year and it made the earth that crusty hard. The leaves hadn’t quite left the trees then, and the sky, it was always gray.

The kittens were little, with no mom cat in sight. They were as afraid of me as I was of life. Their constant mews and cries were too much for me and I begged my mother do something, don’t let them die. She looked hard at them, but softer on me so I knew she was considering it.

“Get the small dog house out of the garage,” she instructed me, “and I’ll give you some blankets.”

Feeling the lift in my heart I ran to the garage finding dog house for the dog we never got after he died. I placed it on the far edge of the back porch, lining it with the blankets my mother gave me. When my work was done she came out to inspect it.

“Don’t expect too much here,” she warned. “These are wild cats they don’t like humans. And if you start to care for them they will always depend on you.”

I didn’t want to hear those words, convinced I would change their minds. Even the wall around my heart quivered the warnings telling me not to get close, not to care.

“Ok,” I agreed, but secretly hoped it be different.

And so, the kittens thrived. Ate the food I gave them. Slept in the safely of the house I created but, still hissed and ran whenever I tried to greet them. Even when I sat so very quietly out on the porch, it never stopped the fear they had for me.

 

“Don’t resent them for who they are,” came my mother’s voice from the screen door after one of my failed attempts to once again make friends with my wards. It was troubling to me that no matter my efforts, the cats just wouldn’t come close.

One day, so dark for me with the memories of him, the hissing of the cats was just too much. I couldn’t take it anymore, I broke. The wall started shaking and with it came the flood of my hurt. Hate and fear they tried hard to keep the wall up, to keep away the pain, but it was no use. It all came down.

At first, I hid behind the garage not wanting her, or even the world to hear or see me. It was like a violent force was trying to escape my body and it was tearing at my inner being. I held onto the side of the garage as my sobs jerked my body. Slowly I made my way up the yard finally yelling out for my mother in a great wail before the steps of the porch.

She came running, sure that I had been hurt or injured. Checking my body over she found nothing and then her arms just held me. She held me, while that hard, hard wall came down within me.

 

Later she brought me tea and wrapped me in a big blanket. I sat on her lap being the child I was. Her words were smoothing, the tea was warm and it wasn’t long before my eyes closed, my head resting on her chest.

I don’t know how long I was out or how long she held me. The dream came as soon as my eyes closed taking me directly to him. He looked different than I remembered, happier and younger.

“Don’t you miss me?” I cried out to him seeing his smile.

“Well I’m with you every day,” he replied back. “There isn’t a moment I have missed since I crossed to heaven’s way.”

Then he told me how proud he was of how well I took care of those cats. How I gave them life, even though they couldn’t get over their fear of me.

“But,” he said, “Remember their fear stopped them from being held, stopped them from getting any more pleasure in their lives then just food and shelter. As tricky as it is to bring people close, we miss so much when we don’t let ourselves love. Think about it,” were his final words.

When I awoke I was snugged up in his favorite chair in the living room. The house was quiet and the shadows of late afternoon were in the room. I heard my mother’s voice in the yard, thanking someone before she shut the back door.

I got up to see what was happening and found her carrying in the smallest sweetest kitten I ever saw. Gently, she handed it over to me.

“I made a trade,” she told me. “I hope you don’t mind. There was a friend of mine looking for cats to live in his barn and help keep mice away. His house cat had three kittens she couldn’t take care of. This is the one that survived. I figured she needed someone to love, since all of her family was gone.”

I held that kitten so close, looking down into her face. If there was anything left of that wall I built, it disappeared the moment her small paw gently reached out to touch my face.

 

copyright DElarde2015

A Wayward Moment

By

Diana Creel Elarde

 

It is in the morning hours when I slip inside the door. The entrance is empty, but looking up the aisle I can see people kneeling, being led by a priest or whatever they refer to their holy man as. I creep forward not wanting to disturb or be noticed. I hear his voice echoing like an ancient call to spirit, perhaps my spirit.

This place is not of your people, my mother would say. I can hear her disapproving voice as I move into the back pew. No church is of my people, or perhaps not of me.

I fight the temptation to look at my watch. I know I should be at work soon. Yet here I sit. Some days I wonder how I would be without the shoulds in my life. How does life look and feel in free fall? I can’t imagine a day without the list of what to do or who to be. Yes, the shoulds rule in my life.

I strain my ears to hear the words the holy man is sharing with the front aisles. His voice is relatively quiet in such a big space. Not used to people in the back, I conclude, and debate if I could quietly move forward without being heard.

“If we use our light to shine…” I hear a few words and the rest fade into the tall sanctuary walls.

Checking my watch I discover it is now 8:05. If I leave now I could come up with a plausible excuse as to why I am late, avoiding the disappointment in my supervisor’s eyes as she gives me the necessary speech. I do hate to disappoint those eyes. They are so kind and generous.

Our light..? I question, still thinking of my supervisor. Yeah, maybe she has that light. I have to admit there are days when her happiness irritates me. But it’s nice compared to some of the people I work with who have no joy in their job.

“Our light changes the world, and through our light we do great work.” The words echo on the wall behind me and then melt away. I look up to see where the words travel, what wall they bounce off of before finding my ears. Craning my neck I stop at the faces of long-robed men gazing down on me through the colored light of the windows. Each holds a word: Faith, Love, Hope. Their solemn faces offering me the peace of such words.

I repeat the three together, slowly feeling the power of their link. They do add each other, I decide. Mentally I write them, absorbing them deep within me, vowing to carry the strength of their union.

The front pews are now standing, their leader raising his palms up, as if giving freedom and flight to the spirits of all within the sanctuary.

Quickly I move to the aisle, bowing towards the front of the church, like I saw my father do years before he left. I glance up before my exit, catching my three-worded mantra one last time before I slip out.

The sun is bright, blinding me for a few moments. I stumble a bit as I walk down the couple of steps leading to the street. Making my way to the office I send a small prayer, floating it skyward, weaving it through the tall city buildings: May the light within my supervisor today be shining enough for me to keep my job.

What Matters by Diana Elarde

It is the mornings I love most, when I can feel hopeful. My best days start when I slip from the shelter early, walking to one of the many ethnic parts of the city, waiting for the shop owners to start their day. It is a practice I started while I was stationed in Europe. Loving the moment the shops would spring to life; owners turning on light after light, and the sound of the broom on the concrete as the doorways were spruced up for the advent of customers.

Today I watch the German bakery start to stir, but I am careful before I approach. When it is the woman who manages the morning, I know I will be greeted. She may not say anything to me, but she won’t shoo me away like the man does. Perhaps they are married, but I hope not. I can’t imagine her happy spirit being met every day by the anger of that man.

She is moving trays now, making room for the fresh items baked this morning. As I cross the quiet street, she sees me approaching and starts selecting some baked goods. Today, as always, she hands me the bag, a muttered thank you from me, and her body turns back into the store. The ring of the small bell and the turn of the lock are all I hear.

She never gives me eye contact or speaks. Never! I wish I could look into her eyes, woman to woman, and have her feel how much I appreciate her gesture. How do you explain how an early morning treat brings such deep gratitude?

I walk the block over to the park, scanning the area before I choose my seat, wanting to make sure it is clear of the night people who prey on someone like me. This is a special time to me, early in the morning, when the park is abandoned by all leaving me in peace.

Dropping my small pack by the side of the bench, I try to contain my excitement, while looking into the bag. There it is! My favorite; an éclair, with thick chocolate across the top and the richest cream within the middle. I force myself to eat slowly, if nothing more than to relish each bite, each taste.

It reminds me of my Germany days, days when the army gave my life structure and purpose. Times before I was sent to Afghanistan, the dark days of my spirit. What now is my purpose? I struggle to find it, not knowing any more what is best for me.

I grow angry with myself, for allowing dark thoughts to interrupt my morning. Standing, I start pacing back and forth. Not wanting to eat while my aggravation lasts, I place the éclair down. I take deep breaths trying to slow myself down, just like they taught me at the VA.

I stop pacing, coming face to face with my angel of the morning, the giver of my beloved bakery treat. On her face I see fear, her not sure if I’m safe to approach. She extends out to me a small bottle of milk.

“I forgot this,” she says, placing the milk on the bench.

No words come from me. After months of hoping, of wanting her to speak, I say nothing. I nod at her, drifting my eyes downward towards the bottle. She turns, quickly walking out of the park.

I listen to her steps until the distance quiets them. Picking up the bottle a smile spreads across my face. And in the light of the early morning, I sit, pick up my éclair and eat peacefully knowing today I mattered.