One More Chill Pill. (Affection)

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hug

“Love, love, love!” As the song goes, well it would be nice if we could all be in love (and that can sure lift depression pretty fast!) but since that is rarely in our control it’s humble cousin affection is a lot more easily available.

Here in the land of the “stiff upper lip” etc. we tend to be less affectionate than our southern European cousins. Perhaps that’s why we are such avid animal lovers. If no one human is on hand when you need that affection boost pets are always happy to stand in and stroking and petting a dog or cat is hugely therapeutic!

Again science has produced studies on the mood enhancing benefits of hugs and affection. I had my own unique experience many years ago while working as a teacher and counselor in a summer camp for teenagers. I was under intense pressure at the time due to a personnel shortage, when a sweet lady, new to the post, came to ask if I could switch roles and stand in for a difficult class as someone had come down sick. She was startled to see my facade (which I could already barely hold together) crack. (As I recall I mumbled something about “feeling more like jumping off the balcony”. lol!)

She looked totally confused (being a complete newbie to counseling etc.) In desperation she just grabbed me into an enormous bear hug and just held me mumbling some platitude that it would “be alright”. The platitude did nothing but somehow that long, long, hug (must have been about 10 minutes) did the trick. When the coordinator got time to ask with a concerned face what was wrong I was able to answer with a sunny smile that it was all fine now (He gave me a much needed day off anyway.)

I learned from that incident and found when “talking someone through something” it helped enormously to lightly touch their arm or shoulder. Since then I’ve tried hard to overcome my post war British upbringing and be more affectionate. I’m happy my children and grand children all grew up that way. I’m concerned that there are so many laws and regulations about teachers and policemen etc. not touching people. I know it’s supposedly to avoid sexual harassment, but we all know what crosses the line and sometimes kids or folks going through trauma could benefit greatly from a simple arm around the shoulder to show we care. I think we should  all dish out lots and lots of affection it might help mental health!

Spring Comes! (Flash fiction)

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spring

Crocuses flaunted bright petaled heads in the early breeze, in the hospital garden and daffodils graced the glass vase adorning her sterile environment. Jane loved spring, but this year she couldn’t enjoy these divine bursts of colour. Her world had faded to charcoal, dust and ashes.

Rabid cells had vandalised her garden, the radiation only added to the havoc. She was dying. They didn’t tell her that, but she knew. Only her eyes were free to walk among the flowers. Her aging body no longer obeyed her commands. Death waited brooding in the shadows. It had already laid claim to Frank, her husband of forty years and long ago it had claimed a tiny life, almost claimed hers. She’d escaped that time, escaped but with a barren womb and tortured mind. Frank had so wonted a son, he’d striven hard to hide his disappointment, but she knew, always felt guilty. He would have made such a good father, had been a good father to so many boys, but never his own.

Frank had been a teacher as had she. They’d met long ago when she’d transferred into a new school and he’d taken her under his wing. Now he was gone, it was all gone… all but the daffodils and the cards surrounding them, a kind gesture from old colleges that remembered. Where were they all now she wondered, all the little faces she’d taught, laboured over. They’d flapped those little wings and flown off to new horizons leaving her alone, alone in a hospital bed…

Pain surged through her body; the meds. were wearing off again. Not to worry the nurse would be here soon. A pleasant girl, but busy, always too busy to sit and talk, to hold her hand as Frank would have done…

The pain killers kicked in bringing with them a feeling of overwhelming drowsiness and confusion. Was there was a boy sitting by her bed? She glimpsed him before falling asleep. Who could he be? Which of her pupils would care enough to come all this way? When she awoke he was still there. He reached to take her hand saying nothing. It was so comforting to lay there touching another human being, oh the comfort of that hand. God bless that boy.

“Who are you?” she whispered, surprised that it took so much strength to mouth the words. He held a finger to his lips, silencing her efforts.

“Don’t talk. It’s OK. I’m here for you. I won’t go away.” And he didn’t. As early morning turned to shades of purple and green, as her exhausted body found refuge in troubled dreams, he was always there, holding her hand, stroking her hair in his silent vigil.

Just before dawn when shadows spring back before the rising sun she summoned the strength to ask one more time.

“Who … are … you?”

He smiled, “you don’t know my name, but dad sent me.” Then she knew. Taking his hand she rose from her bed and stepped into springtime.

When Words Aren’t Enough.

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sad woman

Drowning in words she headed toward the cafeteria.
“Kate, I heard what happened, I…” Kate waved the comment away. She couldn’t handle any more. Changing course she stormed through the fire exit.

Fingers fumbling she lit a cigarette glaring defiantly at the office windows. They meant well but…
A chill wind stirred the leaves amid the vacant cars, a comforting emptiness surrounded her. Trapped in her brain words kept pounding, trying to get out, a surging tide they engulfed her entwined together by the statement “It’s malignant.”

“It’s not fair…” she muttered to the leaves. The tiny words, finding a crack, forced outward like water breaching a dam.
“It’s not fair! I don’t want to die!” she yelled, the wind scattering words like leaves about the plot. She glimpsed anxious faces pressed at the windows. Sinking to her knees she covered her face as shameful, angry tears enveloped her.

She felt someone beside her, a warm arm slid across her shoulders. She looked up into the boss’ eyes.
“It’s not fair…” she muttered pleadingly.
Eyes looked back in compassion as he drew her into his arms slowly raising her to her feet.
“No it’s not.” He responded. He held her silently as she stained his shirt with tears. Somehow it helped that fatherly contact, the understanding smile.
“It’s cold out here and neither of us are dressed for it, let’s go in my office where it’s warm and you can tell me about it.”
“No, it’s OK now. I just needed to let it out… no one understood what I needed…You must think me an ass.”
“No, we all need a shoulder to cry on from time to time – me too.” He gave that schoolboy grin so odd in a man of his years gently leading her inside.