Carry you in my heart

  1. I carry you in my heart

Memories, once bright and vivid, now dimmed,

Remote as you are from me.
Wisps of emotions delicate as dried flowers housed in a book.
Churning, swirling tumbling regrets, rushing over sedimentary stones of what cannot be changed.
Icy bridge overhangs crevasses of longing into which a careless footstep may plunge me.

Tiny child, clasped close, I marveling at the perfection of you.
Watching the young adult stride away, determined to carpe diem!
Uniform pride on graduation day with emotions as pointed as your 90 degree turns.
Static words exchanged, 
no bridge to span the crevasse between us,

You stride away. 

Today I think of you and you and you and wonder what your day may bring
Life of studies and childrens’ laughter and fairy tale costumes
Rush, shush, whirl, to meet the next challenge.
Do you ever think of what you left buried behind?

Or remember even for a moment, i carry you in my heart?

— Mary Lou Van Dyke (C) 2016 All Rights Reserved


Rich family Inheritance

A few days ago I was challenged to think of inheritances — and what mine will be.

Money? Not a concern. The few dollars left after settling the estate may pay for a lunch out for my siblings and I.

No, my inheritance will be the fragile photos currently stashed in boxes, and jealously guarded by mom. A few are originals, fragile, and one-of-a-kind. Others in black and white, or in color of most recent family members, events.

Dozens of folders, categorized by family names and filled with the results of her paper trail, stored away in a chest-of-drawers and in a dresser.

My mother is a hoarder and this penchant for having it all spilled into her genealogy. Years and hours spent at the local genealogy centers, mailing requests for the information she cannot sleuth for, census forms, family trees in triplicate and quadriplicate.

Overwhelming. Confusing. Intriguing.

So what is my inheritance? The more time I spend with my mom, the more I see what a rich inheritance I will gain from her — in appreciation of family and the past.   She has collected so much information, it bewilders even me, the historian.

So many familial branches, so many people, and things to keep figured out. But I love the challenge –even as she does. The searching for the small details that not only tell the birth and death dates such as the great great great grandfather who lost his wife and their youngest daughter to tuberculosis. The documents don’t tell of his broken heart, but a letter to his brother spells out his desperate decision to snatch what money he could from their family inheritance and bring some of his remaining children and a new wife to America. Where he hoped they would not die of tuberculosis.

The detailed family line that spells out our connection to the throne-seeking launcher of the Battle of Hastings and to a descendant who was born on the wrong side of the blanket. Illegitimate, in other words, and that fact got him kicked out of the royal family line up.

Pictures of a cheeky 14 year old, my great grandmother whisper of our Native American inheritance. Censuses that spell out where families lived and what their occupations such as “farmer” and ‘homemaker/at home” were in a given year.

Another record that shows a Quakeress ancestor jailed for her faith before being allowed to emigrate to the United States.

So many rich, telling details. Mom’s passion for possessing”it all” has created a rich inheritance indeed, Some day I will serve as its curator, and as a writer/historian wrestle the thousands of details into a book for future generations to keep.

(C) 2016 Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.

Releasing the guilt

A short time ago the basketball-sized lump of guilt I’ve carried for years broke free. I watched it roll away, feeling as if the space it
had occupied was suddenly replaced with helium buoying me up to the stratosphere.

Higher and higher.

Free after decades of guilt.

Good bye to guilt left behind from my years at Gonzaga University and watching the ‘Zags demonstrate their basketball prowess. I was with my then boyfriend, watching the team dribbling, passing the ball, excited cheers as swish it flew through the net. But the fast-paced play faltered when the referee stumbled and slumped down.

Players paused. All eyes turned onto the figure lying on the floorboards. “Is there a doctor in the house,” someone shouted.

I wasn’t a doctor. However, I’d worked as a nursing assistant in a nursing home. Trained to respond to emergencies, I fumbled past others seated in the row, hurrying to the sidelines where the referee now sat, a hand pressed against his chest.

Was he having a heart attack? “Can I help?” I asked, looking at his white face. “Has someone called for an ambulance?”

“I’ll be all right,” he said and got to his feet.

“Really. Please! You need to get this checked out! Just to be sure you’re not – “

“Aww, he’ll be fine,” interrupted a man who sat next to the referee.

I protested again but the whistle blew and play resumed as he jogged back onto the court. I went back to my seat, upset. He should be going to the hospital. A few minutes later, I watched as he fell again. This time the ambulance was summoned and emergency medical crews lugged him off by stretcher. That might have been the end of the incident – but I heard the next day he died of a heart attack while on the way to the hospital.

The news scorched me. He’d died. God, why hadn’t I tried harder to make him listen to me? I couldn’t come to grips with the fact that he was dead and that realization marked the beginning of carrying the basketball sized lump of guilt. If only he had listened to me. If only.

Never again, I resolved. Never again would anyone die on my shift. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t a nursing assistant any more. What mattered was making my voice heard when emergencies happened.
That lump spurred me to take action when friends on separate occasions overdosed on medications. Each time I insisted the ambulance be called and stayed close as charcoal was applied by hospital staff. 

Later I could understand somewhat why the referee and his friend hadn’t taken me seriously. When I was 24 I was mistaken for being an eighth grade student at a private school. I looked like a kid, evidently too young to be taken seriously.

What I didn’t realize until today was how deep my guilt was. Sure, I understood I looked young, too young to know what I was talking about – however, I still blamed myself for his death.

As of today, I stop shouldering that burden. I am NOT responsible for him going back out onto the court. Sadly, for his family, he rejected my help. His friend, evidently wrapped in the excitement of the game, thought it wasn’t serious enough to warrant taking the referee out of the game.

His decision.

Not mine.

How difficult it is to give advice and have it unheeded. It is infinitely worse when that refusal to listen results in death. But carrying the guilt for so long is energy-sapping. Draining.  Useless. 

And I forgive myself.


© 2016 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.

Mary Louise Van Dyke is finding the peanut peanut buttr  butter years of her life both sweet and challenging as she divides her time between working and spending time with her family and elderly parent.