With a Little Help from My Friends

Fear not the vast emptiness of the universe for

Right beside you, surrounding you with understanding,

Identifying your needs and wants and supplying

Endless support as you laugh and cry, and even when

Nothing seems focused or centered in your world,

Damn if your friends don’t suddenly

Smile, and your world becomes sunshine.

friendship, shorebirds, sun rises

Yesterday

Yesterday, Beatles, handicapped, cerebral palsyMy friend admits he’s “mildly disabled.”

He’s a quadriplegic, born with cerebral palsy, unable to steady his eyes enough to read, his arms and chest strapped into an electric wheelchair to help him sit up.

Did I mention he’s smarter than a Harvard grad, more intuitive than a psychic, as loyal as your best friend, and wears a smile brighter than a 100-watt bulb?

On a recent visit, I sit on his porch, feeling a fall breeze lightly surround us along with the Beatles music playing in the background.

“Yesterday,” C says in a fond tone, and I burst out laughing.

C and I discovered each other when I was hired to be his special ed tutor at the local high school. I was scared to death of teaching such a physically disabled teenager: his speech was affected by his cerebral palsy, so he sounded like a deep Southerner with a dozen marbles in his mouth; he tended to jostle his wheelchair joystick like a teenager’s foot on a snappy roadster (watch out for your ankles, I was warned when I signed on); and his body moved spasmodically if he got too excited or aggravated.Help, Beatles, tutor, high school

Help!

But I had not been told that he could retain information faster than a lightning bolt, and that his hearing put a dog’s to shame.

We’d roll down the high school hallway, passing Room 15 on our way to Room 17 for math. Suddenly C would state: “What a shame that Mrs. Johnson’s husband is in the hospital. At least her daughter is flying home from Ohio to visit.”

I’d stop mid-stride in the empty hallway (watching out for my ankles) and ask, “How do you know that?”

“Oh, back in Room 15 just now, Mrs. Johnson is talking about her troubles to Ms.Wanda.”

Perhaps C was nosy, but he also felt great empathy for those secrets he heard on his hallway forays.

During our three years of working together as tutor/student, we shared a love of Beatles music. So over lunchtime, when I fed him his turkey sandwich and lemonade (did I mention that C is unable to feed himself?) we’d listen to Twist & Shout and Here Comes the Sun while talking about the Red Sox and the weather, Lord of the Flies and why algebra was (not) important.

Here Comes the Sun, Beatles, high school tutor, cerebral palsy

But then during one lunch, C asked me to sing to him. “You know all the words,” he said. “Please please sing Yesterday (our favorite Beatles tune).”

If a 17-year-old brown-haired, brown-eyed earnest teenager pleaded with you to sing a Beatles tune, could you refuse?

I began as C chewed on his turkey and cheese.

Um, did I mention I can’t carry a tune?

In C’s blessed, blasted teenage fashion, he began to chuckle as I sang. I ignored him and continued, “All my troubles seem so far  away…”

C’s chuckles turned to guffaws.

“Now I need a place to hide away, oh I believe, in…”  

I learned that day that one should never make a wheel-chaired, disabled young man laugh while he’s eating. His giggles became burps which became hiccups which became acute stomach distress.

As I raced for the nurse, I could hear C still laughing uproariously in the distance.

He was rushed to the nurse’s station.

His mother was called.

His doctor, too.

But you know what?

He never told anyone that his stomach distress was caused by the horrendous singing of his high school tutor.

We’ve been fast friends ever since.

C is now 28 years old, still “mildly disabled,” and yes, he still asks me to sing Yesterday every time I come to visit.

I won’t even hum the song.

cerebral palsy, tutor, student, high school

My “Yesterday” friend with one of my grandbabies.

Worth the Wait

pride of medeira, san francisco bay, walk, dog, friendship  We walk together, in harmony, almost as if we’re holding hands, but we’re not. However, he looks at me often, his deep brown eyes saying so much without his mouth releasing a word. Could anyone ask for a better companion? For a better friend?

But of course, there’s so much more to the relationship than that.

As we walk, he looks over his territory with pride. His name, I tease him, should be Heathcliff or Darcy. He just moves on, pointing at the Pride of horse, nature, walking, friendship, dogsMadeira in the meadow, strutting over to say hello to the horses in the pasture, urging me to run instead of walk along the paved path around the nearby farm. I sigh, then allow my thigh muscles to tighten as I follow him.

His gait is so strong and sure-footed. I run like a girl, he runs like a …. Well, he doesn’t seem to mind and, in fact, even though he can run hundreds of yards in front of me, he stops and looks behind his shoulder to make sure I’m coming along. I think that’s what endears me the most to him. He could make it on his own. He could be perfectly happy and free without me, yet he chooses to slow down, to wait, to watch me with a gleam in his eye, so I can catch up.

dog, golden, eyes, friendshipIt’s that look in his eye that makes me feel so valued, so necessary in his life. As he stands there, still and strong, waiting for me, there is sure certainty in his expression that I am worth the wait.

I reach him, and he opens his mouth with a big wide grin. Somehow, I know I have passed a test. I stroke him, and he dashes on ahead again, ears bent back, eyes slanted from the breeze, mouth turned up into such joy my heart leaps, and I run faster.

Suddenly, I am ahead of him. He stops as quickly as he began, tail wagging, nose tilted down into the ripe lime green grass. I call, he ignores me. The smell must be from nirvana, like chocolate to a woman, diesel oil to a man. I call him, his tail wags faster, but he still focuses on the meadow grass.

I stand still. He’s worth the wait.

dog, golden retriever, friendship, woman and dog

A (wo)man’s best friend.

Friendship (in pantoum)

(Check out the tab above,”The Wighting Life, ” to read about a pantoum poem.)

When we walk along the shoreline

Best friends since the dawn of our time

Seagulls laugh at our giggles

As we remember the times gone by.

 

Best friends since the dawn of time

Speak truths never left unsaid

As we remember the times gone by

Pelicans soar above.

 

Speak truths never left unsaid

As the sand brushes our toes

Pelicans soar above

Sorrow creases our furrowed brow.

 

As the sand brushes our toes

Conversation turns to the past

Sorrow creases our furrowed brows

Silence surrounds our words like a hug.

 

Conversation turns to the past

Ex-husbands, sick children reappear

Silence surrounds our words like a hug

The past is undone as we speak.

 

Ex-husbands, sick children reappear

Words send them away with the waves

The past is undone as we speak

The present reveals the sun’s light.

 

Words send them away with the waves

Friendship sooths the rough edge of life

The present reveals the sun’s light

The future is ours at sunset.

 

Friendship sooths the rough edge of life

Best friends since the dawn of our time

The future is ours at sunset

When we walk along the shoreline.