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Red Letter Day

“I’m crying in the doctor’s office.”  There is emotion inflating her voice.  “ I saw your email just as they were calling my name to go in and I thought, I’ll wait and read it after, but then, I thought ‘fuck it’ and I read it right away, and I started crying and then I had to go straight in for my checkup, there’s nothing wrong with me, except my grey hair, but my doctor thinks I’m nuts.”  She has a beautiful way with the run-on sentences. 

“I’m crying too.”  It’s more of a blurt because a sob-laugh combo is chiselling at my words.  Through the window in front of my big black desk I can see the rock garden I made for Holden last summer with the delicate white ceramic Buddha perched on granite stones.  It’s where I leave him little presents of rocks and flowers and prayers.

“I am so happy for you.  This is your turning point!  Oh, Dolly, this is just what you need.”  She calls me Dolly when she’s bubbling over.

“But I’m so scared, I feel nauseous.  It’s just… it’s just…  I don’t know, it’s going to be so hard.”  Scanning around to find the words as though I had dropped them on the floor and they scattered like marbles.  “All the emotional mining I’ll have to do, you know?  It’s just so much.”  Of course she knows, she’s been there.  “The other day when I had to edit a piece for an anthology it threw me down the well for hours.  I don’t want to be like that for a whole year.”   

“Oh but, this is very different from writing by yourself.  You will never be alone or unsupported and you won’t have time to be sad, you’ll be too busy getting the sentences just right.  Remember, everyone in the non-fiction cohort has a tricky story too. It’s all going to be just great. Believe me.”  I do.

“Okay, you’re right.” I say softly into the phone.  “Ughhhh, It’s time.”

“It’s a Red Letter Day!  As my Dad used to say.  You should celebrate.  Do you have any idea how many people apply for that program?”

“Nope.”

“Lots.  Many many many people.  Talented people.  And you have been accepted solely on the merits of your writing.  So just for today, please don’t say that phrase ‘it’s just…” any more.  This is really good.  It’s so great and I am so proud of you.  It’s the change you need and what an endorsement.  Holy Cow!”  Enthusiasm may possibly be one of her strongest characteristics.  After precise grammar and the effective use of swear words. 

“It’s a red letter day.” I whisper with the up inflection that makes it sound like a question.

“Yes, it is!”  She is very likely happier than I am.  “Oh Dolly, I’ve gotta run.  Love youuuuu!”

*****

red-let·ter day
noun:  a day that is pleasantly noteworthy or memorable.
Origin:  early 18th century: from the practice of highlighting a festival in red on a calendar.

*****

November 17/2016

Dear Ms. McGuire,

I am very pleased to inform you that you have been accepted into the Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University Continuing Studies for 2017. Welcome!

There was a large and talented pool of applicants this year, and our four mentors each selected their respective group of students from this long list.  Each mentor read all the applications and chose who they would most like to work with for the year. You were accepted in the first round.

Congratulations on submitting a successful application.

My very best,

 Wayde Compton | Associate Director, Creative Writing

The Writer’s Studio, Simon Fraser University

*****

Holy.  Fuck. 

** note – I have never felt unsupported in my writing.  Quite the opposite in fact.  **

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Tribute to a Friend

For about a year now I have been spending time each week with a family friend, Andrew.  He suffered from Frontal Temporal Dementia  which is a fancy scientific  way of saying his brain quit working properly and began to slowly shut him down.   I wrote about Andrew’s grace regarding his illness last Fall.

I don’t even really know why I started walking with and visiting  Andrew.  Maybe I just needed something to do that didn’t involve staring out the window and crying.  Or maybe it was that I suddenly had a different understanding of loss and I felt like we had something in common.   Something big.   We ‘got’ each other now.  Whether it’s fast or slow, gentle or cruel, loss is loss and it surrounds us.  It takes us apart and puts us back together in a different way.  We may look the same on the outside but deep in the guts of us, we are forever altered. Continue Reading →

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An Unexpected Light

My friend Andrew can no longer speak.  So how is it that he is able to tell me so many things? Twice a week or so we go out for a walk together and not a word passes from his lips.  Still, he has taught me an enormous amount about acceptance and grace.  Andrew is the perfect companion at the moment.  Silent and steadfast.  We stroll and often, as happens most days lately, a wave of anguish rises and I cry.   Some days we just walk quietly and some days I tell him my sorrows.  Once in a while I ask him the questions that gerbil around obsessively in my head.  Mostly the ‘why?’ and ‘what if?’ questions.   You know the ones.  He listens intently and never comments.  He can’t, but that is not the point.  This is exactly what I need.  There is no awkwardness, no advice or sympathy.  There is no answer.  Just that firm, solid grip of his big hand around mine and the steady cadence of one foot being laboriously placed in front of the other.  We carry on.  We have no choice the two of us. Continue Reading →

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I Don’t Want to Talk to You

i don’t want to talk to you
if i talk to you it hurts too much
stings and punches
makes all of this real
but oh, it must be real
or you wouldn’t be here
at my door
with flowers
and that look in your eyes
mournful and scared
awkward yet brave in your very arrival
you wouldn’t wear that expression
of twisted confusion
and wretched anguish

all the gushing feelings you can’t possibly articulate
right now
maybe ever
are there in your quivering chin
pressed lips
eyes damp with crimson

you don’t know what to say
and i don’t either
but you try
bless you
you try

with cards and letters
needed nourishment for body and soul
feeding the troops who arrive embattled

grappling offers of  anything i can do
you try
to poke holes in the thick blackness
cultivate a glimmer of light
with calls not answered
messages not returned
you try
with love
to plaster the shattering cracks invisible
bless you for it
and forever thank you

thank you
because there is nothing else to do
when the only thing i really want

is impossible.