WWK Blogger Paula Gail Benson has two short stories running in Kings River Life Magazine this weekend, "Pelican Spring" and "The Mama Factor." Both are Mother's Day short stories. You can read them by going to: http://kingsriverlife.com/category/kings-river-reviewers/terrific-tales/
Linda Rodriguez is a finalist in two categories for the International Latino Book Awards (given out at BEA the end of May)--one for Every Last Secret and one for editing Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriquena Poets Look at Their American Lives (with Gloria Vando, Anika Paris, and Anita Velez-Mitchell). Congratulations, Linda!
The second SinC Guppy anthology, Fish Nets, has been released by Wildside Press. WWK authors, Gloria Alden, Warren Bull, Kara Cerise and E. B. Davis have short stories in this volume, which can be bought at Wildside Press, the usual retailers and will be available at the Malice Domestic Conference. Look for "the story behind the stories" on May 1 here!
Upcoming Salad Bowl Saturdays include authors Sasscer Hill on 5/18 and Carolyn Mulford on 5/25. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, send a message to Jim Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
She leans on her cane,
a mountain of flaccid white flesh
sagging downward under a worn housecoat
her feet encased in old blue slippers.
She smiles and greets me by name.
I'm one of those who come
on different days for a few brief moments
most days we're her only visitors.
"Here's your meal," I say. "Nice and hot."
My cheerful voice tries to ease
the pain, the loneliness I see on her face today.
Above is the beginning of a poem I wrote about one of my first clients on Mobile Meals. It chronicles the last time I saw her. The picture is not of her. I don't take pictures of the people I serve.
I've been a volunteer in one way or another most of my adult life. While raising kids, I volunteered at Head Start, was a den mother for Cub Scouts, a Girl Scout leader and taught CCD at my church. My volunteering pretty much ceased when I started teaching. There was no time then, but I planned to get back to it in some way once I retired. When that day came, I considered what would be the best fit for me. I considered Habitat for Humanity as I'd worked hard on my old house when I bought it; whacking out walls with hammer and ax, pulling nails from the studs, helping finish the drywall my son installed and helping with floor sanding. But I knew that would involve working in hot weather. I hate hot weather. Mobile Meals was what I settled on. Because I have a lot of gardens and yard work, and spending much more time writing, I volunteered to only deliver meals every other Thursday. I usually have from nine to thirteen clients, and my rural route totals about 35 miles.
Some of my people I never meet. Either there's a care taker who takes their meal, or there's a cooler outside for their meals. But most I do meet, and although I can't spend as much time with them as I'd like, I've gotten quite fond of many of them.
Nelda, in the poem, had serious health issues and felt quite neglected by her family. She had few visitors so I always gave her a little extra time. She eventually went into a nursing home where she received better care and people to visit with in the short time she had left.
Nellie is the only client I still have from when I started more than six years ago. She's a tiny, little, white haired lady in her nineties now. We share a love of gardening, and she's given me seeds from the four o'clocks that grow next to her house. Until this year, she's planted a gorgeous vegetable garden behind her home, but this year she's turning it over to her son. She told me it's the first time in over 50 years she won't be gardening. "But," she added with a twinkle in her eye, "I'll be out there giving advice whether he likes it or not since he's never planted a garden before."
I always left Rose's meals in a box on the front steps. I'd knock and wait for her to appear at a window to make sure she was okay. Like Nelda, she was hooked up to oxygen. One day there was a postcard with a poem on it in the box. It was one she'd written, and her minister had printed. I started leaving a few of my poems for her. She'd watch for me and once had me in her house to share other poems she'd written and had published. She became my poet friend, and I felt a loss when she died.
Freda and her husband had been farmers. Now a widow for many years, she lives in a ranch house with her brother. I deliver meals to both of them. In her nineties, she's quite active and makes sure the snow is cleaned off the steps before I come. A few Novembers ago, I commented on the beautiful flowers beside her porch and how the frost hadn't damaged them. I knew they were fake plastic flowers, but I was teasing her. She looked startled for a moment and then burst into laughter. "Would you like a start from them?" she asked. We both shared laughter over that. She's always quick to laugh. It's why I look forward to visiting her.
Dennis and I were once in a lap dulcimer group I'd gone to briefly long ago. Now he's a recluse living in a dilapidated old house with sagging porch and windows missing glass upstairs and no close neighbors. Once in a while someone comes with a tractor to mow down the high weeds. It looks like a haunted house from a spooky movie. I always left his meal in a dirty cooler on the porch. I've only seen him twice in the years I delivered to him when he happened to be coming or going. Now he has home health care and doesn't get meals from me anymore.
Years and years ago when one of my sisters was taking a philosophy course, she postulated that there is no true altruism. When we do good deeds for others, it's for the positive boost to our own ego. I argued at the time with her, but maybe she was right. Not so much in the boost to my ego, I'm not out to impress others, but in the fact that I enjoy these people I meet. I'm pleased that however small my role is, I bring a smile to their faces - at least some of them. I do have one grumpy old man, but I still smile at him, and once he actually smiled back. That made my day.
Have you ever done volunteer work? If so, what did you do? If you don't, what kind would you like to do if you had the time?