April 2018

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Strength of Spirit

"Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune." Max Erhmann, "Desiderata"

Little Brother Matt asked me yesterday how my spirit has stayed so strong through these brain tumors. I do not know.

If I did know, I would bottle it and sell it for a very low price so that anyone could afford it. I would call it "Strength of Spirit." I don't know what would be in it: maybe banana, orange juice, plain non-fat yogurt, faith, and magic.

I asked Ann last night why she thinks I have had such a strong spirit. "I don't know," she said, "but I've been surprised. You've been stronger dealing with these brain tumors than you used to be when you had the flu."

Before my tumors, when I got sick, I channeled my Dad. When he gets sick, he lies in bed and moans. He used to have a bell by the bed to summon Mom when he wanted something.

Once, when he was lying in bed moaning, he wanted some Sprite with some ice in it, so he rang the bell and asked Mom for his Sprite with ice. She nodded and delivered it to him. A minute after she left, he rang the bell again. "Could you bring me a cold wet washcloth to put on my forehead?"

She delivered the washcloth and placed it gently on his feveish forehead. Then she ripped the clapper from the bell.

Yep, I used to channel Dad. Now, I channel my Grandmother Matthews.

My maternal grandmother grew up in a poor Southern farming family during the depression. Her mother died when grandmother was five years old. Her aunt hanged herself from the rafters in the family barn when grandmother was a child. Her beloved "Papa," who sold the family cow so that grandmother could have a winter coat, died when grandmother was a teenager. Grandmother was the second of four children and put her siblings through college, though she wasn't able to attend college herself.

Grandmom was tough, and she had no patience for softness. Whenever my granddad was doing one of his favorite things, like watching Westerns, playing horseshoes, or eatin' a good t'mater, she would holler at him, "Robert!" She did not drawl. She yelled quickly, the way you might yell to a frog, "Ribbit!"

Perhaps with these tumors, I have channeled my Grandmother Matthews. Like her, I am a survivor, but I don't yell so much.

Maybe I would call that solution, "Grandmother Matthews." Like me, Matt carries her name, though I am named for her first name and he for her last. He named his oldest son for her maiden name, Hayden.

Her name and her spirit run deep and wide in our family. We have her to draw on. She's a guardian angel for us.

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