The Other Side of Tuscany
The Other Side of Tuscany

Dedications

Fred Flintstone: Stoked the Flames

Dr. Fred McBagonluri

Dr. Fred McBagonluri

 

My meeting with Fred McBagonluri was the flint that started the pile of mildewing mayhem and the fire within me to dust off my writing.Burning can be the catalyst of change or the destruction of all. From where I stood, I could see once the fire started a plagued city was burning. This fire would purify and make me whole again. This dedication is my gratitude for our chance meeting.

 

I was stuck in Limbo and while there is no danger to a situation of limbo, the suspended menagerie of unclaimed infants in an area of not pleasure nor punishment has an effect on one. Life in Limbo is merely survival. There is no joy. There are no plans. Still, I was going to play it safe. I had written my children. My sisters had survived the storm, my brother with an understanding only we shared, was still. It was almost as if he too was hanging with the babies of purgatory. I had the pleasure of reading and re-reading the passages of conversations never spoken- wasn’t that enough?

 

Not for Fred.

 

Fred had been in Dulles that evening when after hours of waiting for a flight to NYC, I realized my weekend with Kimberly was not going to happen. The lounge was full of sleeping, hungry passengers and crying children. There was a stillness that comes from being in a place beyond its hours of operation. I love those moments- but from the looks I was getting as I strolled from gate to gate trying to figure out what I would do-I must be the only one to look at moments like that.

 

Then our eyes met, in that familiar “ I know you from somewhere look” and I approached him and asked,” Are you on the flight to Newark at 1:50 AM?"

 

“Yes.” He replied.

 

“Do you know what kind of equipment you’ll be on?”

 

“I hope a plane…” We both chuckled and I realized I never would have asked that question a year ago.

 

“We were on the flight last week together, remember? We were going to NYC from Char

lotte.”

 

I stopped and for a moment felt a sliding door open from a moment not mine. There was familiarity but there was no meeting last week between Fred and me. This is just one of the small miracles that happen in life when we see things with our hearts and not our eyes. We exchanged some small talk and I discovered that he had been on the plane from Charlotte, North Carolina the week before. I realized later it was my daughter who had met Fred.

 

We exchanged cards and chatted more. With each sentence came a connection to a linage that connected the man from Ghana and me. He got his Doctorate at the University of Dayton my home town. He offered me a piece of gum at the stroke of midnight in a celebratory gesture as I told him of my birthday plans now interrupted. As I slowly discovered this man before me in the chance meeting in an airport I was buoyed with possibility and hope. Have faith in your dreams and never give up.

 

I decided I would get on that plane even though my flight to Laguardia was for the next morning. In that way I would be able to spend at least 24 hours with my daughter. Oddly, though I was not on the standby list I was granted passage. Later the words of the wise man from Ghana would encourage and push me to write:

 

I knew it the moment I saw you at the airport that we had met before. It is really an amazing life. Each time I travel I make it a point to meet someone who will touch and enhance my view about life. I have met and corresponded with octogenarians, who were unique and were part of my schedule through life. To have sat on the same planes a week apart with daughter and mother is not an accident. We are a part of each others schedule and it is a great schedule that will lead all of us to a unique sunrise of our lives.

You know you have the power with words! You should revisit your work. Write a page a day. I write in the traffic, at the airport, etc. I want to leave an inspiration behind long after this body has yielded to the inevitability of death. We’ll chat soon. You have positive energy that attract people to you and so you can touch the world with the power of your words and perhaps make it a little kinder, a little tolerant and a little gentle especially for all those who want a better life but can’t . Wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing? You are appreciated!

 

Coincidences are blessings reminding us to believe in the wonder of life…

 

Thank you Dr. Fred McBagonluri you are my humble hero, my inspiration and the blessing of that amazing encounter that made this book and many more to come, possible.

A Book Is Born: Anora McGaha

 

 

The Doula sees past the pains of labor to take the young mother and guide her to the sudden opening of a window. Through this you look out upon a stupendous prospect: a miracle. This memoir, mini miracle of mind and memories, would have stayed under silk scarves and on angry paper had it not been for its doula: Anora McGaha.

Anora McGaha, poet, writer, coach and confidante came into my life and the window opened. What started per chance - reconciled pain into promise as our labor began. And just as Renata had come to deliver Kimberly despite what doctors said, so too did Anora deliver what most said was impossible. In exchange for nothing, both women gave me the possibility of everything with a single truth: they believed in wonder and what I was creating.

 

The legendary mid-wife who had delivered most of the Chiantigiana in the 60s and 70s had told me, “Never mind what others have done or continue to do, never mind what is “normal” and what is not. The baby will take what it needs and if you don’t gain weight it does not mean the baby is not healthy.” Her confidence, her touch and her words helped me make the hard decision to continue my pregnancy and fight the daily interrogations of “normalcy”.

 

I reminded the pundits, “Exactly what is normal?” To which they never had a good response.

 

In writing this book, Anora dug deep into the pockets of my life and pulled the lint off the forgotten details needed to make it work. Tirelessly she poked, pulled, encouraged and most importantly, reminded me to breathe. Which I did, sometimes with tears streaming down my face and sometimes, a paper bag cupped over my mouth- but I did breathe. When we approached the “crowning” she recognized that I was shutting down but never left my side. When I expressed my fears she told me she understood: no judgment, no pressure, just encouragement. Her smile knitting a sweater to warm what we had created together.

 

In this, I learned the value of trust. I learned the generosity of strangers that God puts in our path at just the right time. I learned what “normal” is all about.

 

I will tell you what “normal” is –that which we believe- that which we hope into existence- that which we will protect. Protect that which you dare to contribute to this life.

 

Never mind what the little voice says or the nose that scrunches up when you read or write or live. Never mind what people will say or make you want to do. Open your mind and a doula will appear. Invite her in and let her open the window to the possibilities that are unique to you alone and very much “normal.”

 

Thank you Anora, I breathe so much better with the window open.

When God Winks He Leaves off the "K": James Godwin

When Godwinks without a K

To James Godwin, your grace was a life lesson.

 

The expression, “When one door closes, God opens a window” has been edited in the animation cloud above my head. If you could read it, it would say, “When God winks he leaves off the ‘K’” inspired by my meeting with James Godwin and destiny.

 

I had always wanted to write a book.

 

When I had the time, I did not have the resources, when I had the resources, I did not have time. As the economy spiraled out of control and I squeaked by the holidays with the gift of family and nothing more, I knew I had to do something to lift my spirits and make a deposit in my karma bank.

 

I was depressed both financially and emotionally. Every corner of my life in limbo: my book a mass of confusion in a drawer, my motherboard connecting me, sputtered one last breath then died, and while I still had my job, there were no paychecks.

 

This book, it just was not going to happen, not this year, not ever.

 

I had almost wanted to take the drawer that contained my notes, dump it on the floor and light the pile. In doing so, I would have solved a few problems- maybe even burn the house down- the house that had been on the market for over two years. My house, the wooden structure my husband mentioned not fit for horses, was a cold reminder of another dream gone dead and another “limbo”.

 

In the last few months of his life, James Godwin went from a grumpy old man angry at Barack Obama and a misguided election to a dear friend that loved life and Lucille. As a caregiver, I went from dreading sitting through Fox News to listening to Rush Limbaugh if it meant I could spend one more hour with Mr. Godwin.

 

Together we conspired to cheat death and the few weeks he was promised, turned into a few months.

 

The wobbly first transfer to the wheelchair turned into five trips to the fireplace and later equated to dinner by candlelight with Lucille. James Godwin worked hard: stretching arm bands and lifting his legs in repetition to build his strength. His persistence encouraged me to look at my own lack of commitment with my projects.

 

An activist for the beautification program of North Carolina, he could no longer see the wild flowered highways that lured me away from Tuscany. A once active man that loved the outdoors was now confined to just a few rooms of his home.

 

 I was “his eyes” in his meticulous garden, snapping pictures with my cell phone and to “bring in” the progress of the Azaleas and Cherry trees. I fed the birds and sprinkled seeds on his window sill hoping they would pay him visit. When they did not, I tore the bird feeder from its slate landing and planted it directly in front of his window. When he could no longer move from his bed, the joy on his face seeing the birds and of him telling the story of how I moved the bird feeder that day, would buy some forgiveness for me one day.

 

“You see that Bird Feeder? One day, I said ‘I wish I could see my bird feeder…’ and before I knew it she put on her raincoat and in the pouring rain moved it in front of my window.”

 

As his body writhed in pain those last few weeks, he always made sure those around him were comfortable. He was a gentleman and wanted to make sure everyone knew how much he appreciated them.

 

He had no children, so that Easter I shared mine with him. A little worried, how they would feel spending an afternoon with a perfect stranger so close to his passing, I prepared myself for one of the “mom is such an odd ball lectures.” Instead, James Godwin told my children how much he appreciated their mother. Seeing their uneasiness with sideway glances at his many tubes and bags that contained his dignity, he made them laugh with the stories of my first few days with him. Later my children would each call to tell me how happy they were that someone appreciated me as much as James Godwin. They would tell me they felt their lives were safer because of the karma bank I kept.

 

In the twilight of his twenty-four hour care, it was the bedtime stories that tied his heart to mine. He would invite me in to watch TV. When I mentioned I did not have a TV, he was incredulous. I explained that it was a personal choice and that I preferred to read or write.

 

“Would you like to hear a story?” I offered one evening.

 

His insistence on hearing what I wrote each day finished, The Other Side of Tuscany, it was the first week of April 2009. I wanted James Godwin to see another November birthday, so I never told him the book was done, instead I started another,“Above the Bakery”.

 

“Promise me I get to buy the first copy.” He would say. And I would counter,

“Promise me I can cook for your birthday party”

 

I would finish my reading and with a laugh and sometimes a tear he would say,

“That’s incredible! I love it! I wish I had more time…” I would close my laptop and tell him he had all the time in the world, when he would shake his head sadly.

 

That was my cue.

 

I would start singing off key so loud that property values plummeted in Cameron village with my tune:

 

“You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille, five hungry children and a crop in the field…”

 

He would start to laugh and triumphantly, I had confirmed his life-line one more day.

 

The first week of May, I came to show him the progress of my own garden, bringing a cotton candy-like bloom from my Hydrangeas. I had taken a few days off to prepare for my twins’ graduation. He asked in a whisper, when the book would be done. Trying to hold back tears, I snuggled up in his bed and buried my face in his pillow near his face to hide the tears and emotion that strangled my answer.

 

“Almost.” I choked out not wanting to lie but not able to continue our ritual.

That would be the last time I saw my dear friend, James Godwin.

 

On May 10, 2009 the sky darkened and clouds erupted on what was to be a garden party for my children’s graduation. My husband and I hurriedly moved to our “rain plan”. I made a mental note to call Lucille and see if the boys could go and pick up Mr. Godwin. She had said that even if it killed him it would have made him happy to be outside one last time, now I was sad knowing that would not be an option.

 

An hour before the party was to start, I was overcome with sadness. Though I had a restaurant and could do a party at a drop of hat, I was lost. I felt like I had never seen my kitchen and had my friends not come over early to take command; no one would have eaten that day.

 

Then the sun like a hero on a white horse corralled the party once again outside in the garden. The flowers seemed more brilliant. The grass lush and inviting screamed Corn Hole and Bocce.  The sky was a perfect Carolina sky.

 

“Look mom it’s a God wink.” Benji said beaming moving the tables and chairs back outside again with his father.

 

When Lucille called to tell me James had died a few moments before, I corrected him.

 

James was with us in our garden that day, in the flowers, in the children’s laughter and in the bird’s song but mostly in that Godwink without the K.

 

 

 

 

"Many marriages would be better if the husband and the wife clearly understood that they are on the same side." -Zig Ziglar "Many marriages would be better if the husband and the wife clearly understood that they are on the same side." -Zig Ziglar

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