Friday the Thirteenth


            A strange day.

            I’d been having a string of lovely days—sunlight, warmth, spring, flowers—a truly splendid time.  Then yesterday I picked up my latest test results from the laboratory.  My pancreas and kidneys are worse than they’ve ever been, and if the trend continues then soon—very soon—I’m going to be in seriously deep doo-doo.  That’s the medical term for one-way-out-don’t-let-the-door-smack-you-in-the-butt.

            Went to bed last night with an Agatha Christie that I’m trying to finish.  It’s the only really truly awful Agatha Christie that I’ve ever read.  It seems to be a series of international meetings to stamp out world domination.  It’s people making speeches at committee meetings, for Pete’s sake.  The United Nations in print.  How can it get worse?

            Woke up this morning too tired to get out of bed.  Hate that.  Numb with fatigue.  Well, hey, kidney failure will do that to you.  Muddled around on the computer (hospital bed, tray table, laptop computer) then wrote a letter to a friend.  Did you ever notice that the burden that’s weighing down your friend is one that you can carry lightly?  What an easy world it would be if we all carried each other’s burdens.

            Amelia the Intelligent arrived in a sundress with a lilac printed across the breast.  We did my shower.  I told her about the really neat-o nifty cool meeting I had scheduled this afternoon regarding “The Institute, the Wall, and My Home (parts I and II) [https://annecwoodlen.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/the-institute-the-wall-and-my-home-part-i/ ].  It occurred to me that the final piece we needed was a short bus so I called a Centro vice president and he said he’d send one.

            Then I told Amelia about the test results.  “Hmm,” she said.  “Hmm” is what she says when she means, “Oh dear me.  That’s not good.  I’ve got to think about that.”

            Then we went outside and planted stuff.  We planted basil and purple pansies in the front garden and a lilac bush in the back garden.  The lilac bush looked really fine after we planted it.  It was the same size as Amelia.  We talked about how she could come back in ten years and it would be big and she could talk to it about how she gave the lilac bush its start.  Amelia talks to trees.  I like that in a person.

            When my grandparents were in their forties, they bought the family farm from the estate of my great-grandfather.  They bought it at auction and Grandma was scared because it was such a very big responsibility.  That night when they were going to bed Grandma said to Grandpa, “Do you think we did the right thing?”

            Grandpa replied, “We won’t know for twenty-five years—if then.”

            Some risks can’t be weighed on the basis of today.  You gotta go l-o-o-o-n-g.  You gotta see the big picture, understand where you fit, figure out what’s important.  Lilac bushes are important.  After I’m dead and gone, the lilacs will still be blooming in a big aromatic bush next to the door.  Everybody coming in and going out will see and smell the lilacs.  Amelia and I made the world a better place today.

            My mom got cremated then planted under a new tree at her retirement complex.  Caskets, cement boxes, marble headstones—heck no.  Plant something.  You know what I’d really like?  To be planted in the university quad in a yellow and white garden—snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, maybe a forsythia bush.  After the long hard winter, the first signs of spring would pop up over my grave.  And in the middle of all that there should be a plaque for the students to read the most essential thing I’ve learned:  “It’s more important to be kind than to be right.”  Anne C Woodlen, 1946-2011.

            It was getting very hot so Amelia and I came in and ate lunch.  Then she washed the dishes and we folded two loads of laundry.  She smiled and went dancing off to make the world a more peaceful place, then I put on the purple dress my mother bought in Greece and went to the meeting.  Centro’s bus never showed up.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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