In my previous posting God’s Creation-Minnesota, I mentioned that through the trees on Greg and Sherry’s property you could barely make out two other houses – their neighbors. Connie and Joe live in the closest house, while Deb and Crystal live in the other house along with Deb’s Mom, Mary, and Deb’s younger sister Paula. Deb and Crystal live in the main part of the house while Mary and Paula share a delightful apartment on the lower level which, because the whole structure is built on a slope, is also on a ground level of its own.
We got to meet all the neighbors because on one of the evenings that we were there we participated in a “travelling dinner”. I’ll share details of that event in another posting. Here I want to talk about Paula who is somewhat mentally challenged and is quite a delightful character. She is actually forty-five years old, I believe, but looks like a teenager.
When we entered the kitchen at Deb and Crystal’s, Paula was seated at a table on the far side of the room of the room next to her Mom, Mary. Paula is not very tall, maybe not even five foot. She has rich auburn, curly hair that she wore pulled back from her face that day. Her face is very round and when she smiles her eyes crinkle up, Chinese-style, and she looks like a mischievous pixie!
Richard had stopped at the kitchen island to pick at some appetizers, while I walked around it and went over to be introduced to Paula. She did not look up at me immediately, but then Deb said, “Look at this Paula”, and pointed to my hair. At that, Paula looked up at me and her face lit up in pure delight. She clapped her hands together like a little child and exclaimed, “It’s purple, it’s purple, my favorite color!” Looking into that innocent, beaming face, I felt as though someone had given me an exquisite gift. My heart lurched and I fell in love with Paula right then and there.
She continued to smile up at me and I pointed over to Richard and said, “And that’s my husband, Richard.” Without skipping a beat, Paula looked in Richard’s direction and once again clapped her hands together. Her smile widened and, in such genuine innocence, she exclaimed, “Oh, he’s so cute!” And she chuckled. The whole room seemed to light up and people laughed, not at her, but right along with her, joining in her delight at the situation. And I fell in love all over again with Paula.
Later on in the evening, Paula brought me a piece of cake. I thanked her and kissed her cheek. A dazed look came over her and she slowly put her hand up to her cheek in wonder. As she returned into the kitchen, I heard her say to someone, “I’ll never wash my face again.” The person asked her why and she responded, “Because Margo kissed me.” I felt my throat constrict and my heart welled up with love.
There are moments that I recognize as pure God moments. I know I experienced the love of God in that sweet pixie of a person, Paula. I have often heard people question “why” about many things that happen on this earthly journey, including the “why” of people like Paula. My answer: they help us to experience a special kind of love – if we are open to it. I will remember Paula with great affection and I hope I get the opportunity to see her again.
On May 30th I wrote a posting titled Vignette- The Young Fan. There was another story to write about another young fan which I almost included in that previous posting. But then I realized that it needed its own space.
So as well as the young boy who sat beside my husband, there was a young girl in the seat in front of him. I don’t know whether Rich noticed her or not and I haven’t spoken to him about her since. She was a little older than the boy in our row, perhaps in her mid to late teens – fifteen to seventeen years old.
She was dressed very ordinarily – jeans and a t-shirt. She had just-below-shoulder length dark hair in a non descript style. She was neither “pretty” or “ugly” – whatever those labels mean. Just a very ordinary girl at a concert getting ready to enjoy herself. But within a few minutes of noticing her I realized that she was far from ordinary.
She sat next to an older woman who I initially guessed to be her mother or perhaps an aunt, and they were with two other women who sat on the other side of the girl. As I said, I noticed she was different and after watching her for a while I realized that she was probably somewhat mentally challenged. I have volunteered with the mentally and physically challenged in the past so I have a soft spot in my heart for them.
Her jaw hung a little slack which left her mouth always slightly open and the corners of her mouth were always wet as though she were about to dribble. When she turned to speak to or listen to the woman next to her she didn’t just turn her head, she purposely choreographed her whole upper body in a complete physical turn toward the woman. Her eyes seemed extra bright, as though they were on the verge of tears, and they were more wide open than the average person’s.
There was a moment, just before the concert began, when one of the women said something and the girl obviously found it very comical. She began laughing and shaking her body up and down, almost in a jumping motion, as she brought her hands together, as though to clap, but then just rubbed them together very quickly. She was very excited and her eyes became even more brilliant than before.
Once the first act started and the audience began to warm up, people began to clap to the music. The girl’s mother (she may also have been a caregiver), began to clap and the girl first scrutinized her to check out exactly what she was doing, and then began to clap also. It was a very careful and purposeful putting the hands together movement, as though she had studied how to do it and was now practicing.
Not long after that the audience began to really warm up and many chose to stand up and raise their hands to God. The mother/aunt/caregiver rose to her feet, continuing to clap, and began swaying to the music. Again, the young girl studied her movements and only once she was sure of the sequence did she then get to her feet and, keeping an eye on the older woman, began to clap and sway side to side.
Throughout the whole concert this scene played out in front of me. The older woman would laugh, so the girl would laugh. The older woman would make a specific movement, so the girl would do the same. Just as a toddler learns his or her behaviors from watching and imitating, so this young girl was learning how to function in the big wide world.
It made me think how vulnerable these special people are. They are filled with such an innocence and trust totally on the adults in their lives to show them the way, to show them how to behave and act around others and in specific situations. I prayed that the people who took care of her were good people who loved her and would protect her. I also said a prayer of gratitude for my own children and asked God to keep a special eye out for all the more vulnerable people in our world today.
As I slowly emerged from my “dark ages”, poetry was a medium that I used to express much of what was happening in my life. The free-flowing poem below represents a kind of summary of my downward spiral, followed by my first attempt to “come back to life”. It reminds me of how I desperately gasped for air during my near drowning experience at age nine.
In search of life and love I boldly ventured forth,
Or so I thought; I wanted all and wanting took in greed,
Each sensation grasping with both hands
To then remain dissatisfied for wanting more.
This world to me must yield its very soul
Its every palpitating breath,
That I might live each passion to the core
And drink the cup of happiness that I deserved.
Come vaporous vine!
Take me into your sun-drenched arms,
Enfold me in your warm embrace.
What ethereal Utopia is your gift
Of deep oblivion.
No pain can touch me, nor bitterness
Taint my chalice of perfection,
With you beside me as my constant friend.
But what is this that you demand?
You crave attention more than I.
Indeed, not mere attention – this is total slavery!
Where are your magic powers and promised reverie
For those who sip your nectar so divine?
I asked not for this mad confusion
Nor this tormented soul!
Dear God, I feel abandoned and alone.
This kaleidoscope of colors many hued
By children of innocence is perhaps enjoyed,
But my tired eyes and heavy head
Crave not such gaudiness.
Where are my jewels, my crown and scepter gold?
Where is the kingdom that I rule
With all prostrate beneath my very feet?
Why does my head pound to the rhythm
Of a thousand dervish drums from hell?
To me was promised heaven - paradise!
Merciful night comes down upon this nightmare,
But I find not solace in my sleep
As bitter yellow bile rebels within my guts.
Cool hand of death that you were near
To relieve my tortured and tormented soul.
No! No! I do not want to die,
To pass unnoticed into the spirit world.
And yet this is not living –
This agonized confusion in my heart.
Can this be the grandiose person that I was,
Who craved so much for life and living?
Who now grovels at the feet of Bacchus,
Leering god of ultimate rejection.
Dear God where are you in my hour of need?
Dare I call upon you whom I have long ignored?
Your once proud child in new humility
Beseeches your assistance, your support.
I am not strength personified as I believed,
But rather like a motherless new-born babe.
Be my Mother, be my Father too
For this death wish is just another fallacy,
Another road to take, to run, to hide, to flee
From life that I so truly long for.
Lift this veil of visions from my eyes,
And let love flood my soul,
For I would drink no more of Bacchus’ opiate,
But of the cup of life.
And if to gain my freedom I must burn,
Then I am ready to accept the flame
Of your immense and deeply cleansing love.
Knowing that you hold the healing balm
Will give me strength to suffer what I must.
For now I see your hand stretched out toward me
That for so long has waited patiently,
You never did abandon my lost soul,
I chose to wander losing sight of thee.
My life till now has been an emptiness
Of barren spaces void of any truth,
Honest feelings always have escaped me;
Yet no, if truth is what I search, let truth prevail,
‘Twas I escaping everything.
Now I must learn to take my steps again,
To fall, then rise to fall once more
And ever rise again –
But not lose heart.
For you my Father, Mother, and my Friend
Will walk with me if I but meekly ask.
And in your love so infinite and wise
Will I find strength to seek reality.
© 20 September 1980