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


Hurrah for “Me” days

 I am learning to soar. To dance.

In a life crammed with care-giving responsibilities,  it is easy to forget about  snatching moments for myself. So I recently invented what  I call “Me” days. Times when I drop those heavy responsibilities that feel like a carrying a backpack crammed with college textbooks — and soar free for a few hours.

 Admittedly, the learning curve is jagged. My primary occupation at the moment is care giving. This  involves paying close attention to the details of other people’s lives. In this setting, I work with people who live with steep challenges. Individuals who move about, courtesy of wheeled mobility devices such as wheelchairs. Who struggle with learning to use I-phones and use one hand to lace up sneakers.

This job calls for vast amounts of energy, humor, empathy and patience. Fortunately, the agency I work for trains us on how to best assisting clients. My role is to support each person, to engage with them. Help them find ways to accomplish life goals they have set for themselves.

Recently, I realized although I was supporting my clients — and rightfully so —  I was failing to support me.  I felt like the residue that remains at the bottom of the cup after I’ve finished drinking tea. So what roadblock stood in the way of me advocating for myself.

Even caregivers need time to pursue the lighter side of life.

Re-setting one’s focus is difficult. For many years my time away from home was spent working, either on free-lance writing projects and as a customer service representative for companies. I got together with a friend for occasional walks but that was about it. I questioned the value of doing that after my (now ex) husband suffered a serious stroke, and I added being the only driver in the family and trying to look after his needs as well to my weighty list of “must do’s.” When I got too tired, I made myself repeat over and over, “I am strong. It’s my job to take care of everything. Mine.”

Well,  my must-do’s list has shifted. But it still exists.  My mother needs assistance to sort through the many (never-ending?) boxes of her life’s possessions. I continue to worry about my youngest 20-something son as he works to establish himself in a demanding job.

Can i really say this is my time?  My time to find joy, to do more of what I want to do?

The answer is yes. One reason is depression. I am prone to chronic depression and will live with knowing it can crop up — if I don’t take care of myself.

Only I can make myself seek out times for fun and growth and chill-axing, such as a few weeks ago when attending an outdoor concert with a friend. Flowing Celtic style music buoyed my spirits, the pizza and salad she shared with me was crisp, tangy, sweet. At evening’s end, music soared and I bounced up and danced. Like a butterfly. Dip and spreading my arms. Laughing as my friend recorded the moment with her camera.

A time to be me.

(C) 2016 by Mary Louise Van Dyke.  All rights reserved.



Forged on rocky ground

I found myself transported back into the not so distant past this morning while reading a novel written by Emilie Richards.
rocky ground

Featured in Richards’ Sister’s Choice novel is a marriage begun out a woman’s reluctant promise to a dying sister to care for two nephews. The promise also included wedding the sister’s husband, a marriage formed on the barren soil of duty and necessity.

Flashpoint to my past and to the crisis raised by my (now ex) husband’s accepting a job that allowed him to be home every evening. Until then he worked as a long haul semi-truck driver, gone for days at a time. We’d been married about 10 years by then, and our marriage had fallen on similar rocky ground. I was the primary parent for our two sons, the maker of dinner and the attender of school conferences, while trying to establish a writing career of my own. Dad was a weekend visitor, someone loved but not depended upon.

But my husband was home now. Life had to change.  My sons’ needed to know their dad better and realize he occupied a place in their daily lives.  I handed him the role of teaching the boys about our family faith – and stepped back to give them space.

Did I make the correct decision? In some ways, yes, as it gave the three of them time together and something that was uniquely their. In other ways, I wish I’d encouraged some other connection with their dad. My husband believed in serving religion up as a full meal deal where our sons got stuffed with more high level information than they could process or comprehend – and I see those results now in them.

Change the past – I can’t no matter how hard I try to hue out the stones of doubt. But in the end, both sons love their dad as he is – in a relationship forged on rocky ground – and that I would not change.

(C) 2016 by 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.