The Lost American Porch

I once lived in a small town
in a small house with a front porch
a sheltered space protecting the entry door
a spot where I would hang out
sitting on a chair, sometimes the steps
drink a beer or lemonade
and simply enjoy the world passing by

a horn would honk, a friendly wave
kids would call out as they passed on their bicycles
neighbors walking dogs, hurrying home from work
“Hello!” 
“Good evening!”
“Nice to feel summer again.”
“Yes, aren’t the roses beautiful?”
“How’s your garden?”
“Beans and peas are up.”
“Going fishing Saturday?”
“Yup.”

these words and waves were the gold threads 
that wove a sense of connectedness , a feeling of belonging
through my life, a fabric seen and felt but not recognized in the moment

I’ve since moved, to bigger places, more complicated worlds
houses that now greet the street with cavernous carports
yawning doorways for cars beside small openings seldom used by people
and these places lack porches, no commitment to connect to the outside world
no attempt to simply sit and watch, to hear, to feel the pulse of community

I do miss the lost American porch

I miss the Americans who used to wave and talk as they passed by

tio stib
2018, 2020
 

You might also enjoy: Finding Home, Let’s Voyage Into the New American House

River of Words

River of Words

my life floats down a river of words
on paragraphs, syllables, tales once heard
they call out as I drift by
love and pain, both truth and lies

emphatic “yes!”
a stolid “no.”
the overused, unhelpful “so”
“goodbye”
“forever”
“I’ll be there”
“why not?”
“you said”
“I don’t care”
“quiet, please”
“how can I think?”
“have you ever seen the sky so pink?”

the words speed up
the rapids roar
fearful sounds from times before
then I’m lost and swept away
chaos and cacophony
gulping right and spitting wrong
gasping as I’m thrown along
shouting voices, “me! me! me!”
screaming insecurity
then bashed on conflict’s argument
my heart gives out
my soul is spent

in drowning plight
I see a dove
one final thought
remember

love

the verbal roar falls far behind
consciousness comes back to mind
as grace, sweet heaven, sets me free
and quiet waters welcome me

my life floats down a river of words
heading towards a voice unheard
yet whispers on the waves call me
“you can, dear one, you can be free”

love

love

love

tio stib

2017, 2019

You might also enjoy: Floating, A Mirrored Smile

Insomnia

there are moments when
I dream in peace
a mind released to roam
then others when
the clock grinds on
and night becomes a tomb

I lay now in eternal night
awaiting mindless deep
a craving need to somehow get
a decent hour’s sleep

tio stib
2015, 2018, 2019

You might also enjoy: Veiled Vision, Life Journey Poems & Prose

Hawaii You Here?

It was well past midnight in the architecture studio when a fellow student stuck a video camera in my face and said,

“Hawaii you here?”

We were in the middle of an all-nighter sweating a 10 a.m. deadline for final presentations. The bright Hawaiian shirt I was wearing in hopes of keeping my mind awake in the wee hours likely spawned his question, which translated was,

“Why you here?”

That was many, many years ago. years after a lengthy life journey in search of a meaningful pursuit that ultimately led me to architecture, which is why, in answer to his question, I smiled inches from his camera and said,

“Because I love architecture!”

At this point, my mouthful of “Pop Rocks” exploded. 

Okay, for those who’ve never heard of or treated themselves to this candy sensation, it’s a hard tart sweet candy you toss into your mouth and when it melts, tiny bubbles of pressurized carbon dioxide are released resulting in a sizzling sound and a taste explosion.

When this surprising spectacle is presented open mouthed to a close up video camera lens, it’s absolutely gross.

But, in our defense, it was well past midnight, and anything that jolted us back to consciousness outside of drinking and drugs was fair play. The drinking and drugs came later.

So much for the leap back in time, let us resume our conversation in the present,

“Hawaii you here”

Just what are you doing here on my blog? Rest assured, I lay awake at night puzzling over why so many people from so many places with so many different backgrounds visit “Travels with Tio.” Is it the catchy title? The image of a stunning sunset over the Teton Mountains in Wyoming, the witty and humorous posts, the poetry? Or, are you intrigued by how a blind guy stays sane while caring for his demented wife?

As I get about 1 actual comment for every 50 visitors to my site and this is not a statistically relevant sample, I’d really like to hear from you. Rest assured that I will sleep better at night and will certainly answer you back. Heck, I might even send you a package of “Pop Rocks.” (Send your mailing address to tiostib@gmail.com, and I will introduce you to this unique candy experience).

“Hawaii you here?”

tio stib

You might also enjoy: Jumping Off, Life Journey Poems & Prose

My Dementia Diary 26 – Over the Rainbow

Some years ago, I was listening to the radio and the announcer said he’d just heard the most amazing voice and he had to share it. The voice was that of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, an Hawaiian giant known as “Iz” to his many fans. I listened to his rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “It’s a Beautiful World” and cried. I felt like I was hearing Heaven singing to me. 

I often turn to music for solace and inspiration and count among my many blessings my collection of musical artist friends.

Here’s Iz singing as he plays the ukulele, which nearly disappears in his huge hands.

Yes, I do believe each of us has a special gift to share with the world.

tio stib

You might also enjoy: My Dementia Diary 25 – Life in Reverse, My Dementia Diary

Do It Anyway – Mother Teresa

I offer the following words from Mother Teresa as a source of inspiration in difficult moments-

for children in Calcutta:

              People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.

            If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

            If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.

           If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.

            What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.

            If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.

            The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.

         Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.

         In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

-this version is credited to Mother Teresa. It is thought to have been based on The Paradoxical Commandments by Dr. Kent Keith.

 

You might also enjoy: A Child’s Smile , If

Jumping Off

leaning out the open door
time roars by
it’s gone
no more
I wonder what my life might be
had I the courage to jump free

behind me in the train’s cocoon
dreams fly off to distant moons
faces glued to heartless screens
joyless stares and silent screams

and so we travel every day
secure and safe or so we say
the child no longer comes to play
the status quo will have its way

will I stay an untold story
remain in hopeless purgatory
pretending that I care no more
soul crying for its need to soar

then I jumped off into space
the unknown flying in my face
It’s not clear where I will land
no matter
I am free again

tio stib

2016, 2017, 2019

You might also enjoy: Life is Like a Broken Egg, Paddling a Submarine vs. Living an Authentic Life.

My Dementia Diary 46 – Caring for the Caregiver

I used to pride myself on my independence, my self-reliance. I’d been brought up believing that real men dealt with their own problems, asking for help was a sign of weakness. Yes, I’ve learned that such prideful small mindedness is foolish. Blindness humbled me.

Still, it’s hard to let go of old habits, such as the notion that I can be the sole caregiver for a wife whose dementia continues to deteriorate. Being blind has certainly lowered my resistance to ask for assistance. I have no qualms about asking a passerby in the grocery store if we’ve grabbed the right kind of cheese or tea. But, when we’re home alone and help is not readily available, I push myself to either find a solution to the problem at hand or just let it pass by as something that doesn’t really matter anymore. Who cares if my wife has matching socks as long as she has one on each foot?

But the daily challenges are increasing. A few weeks ago, I could count on my wife sitting at her desk and coloring happily away for an hour or more. Something has changed inside her brain and now such activity might last only fifteen minutes. The hour I used to have to let my mind get lost in creative writing has disappeared. Now, just when I’m beginning to get into a clear thought, I’m interrupted by my wife hovering over me. She wants attention. She wants to hear that her drawings are beautiful.

Of course they are.

I knew this was coming. I knew when she stopped painting and doing her own abstract designs and moved on to coloring books that her mind was slipping away. I knew that, in time, even the coloring books would be too complicated.

I knew the time would come when the demands of caring for her would overwhelm me.

That time is near.

I’ve begun seeking someone who will visit us for a few hours and help care for my wife, give her the attention she needs so that I can take a break. Someone with a big heart who  connects with my wife’s inner joy and who will free me to seek the quiet peace needed to renew my own spirit. There are no adult day care programs in our town, so I’ll need to build our own.

It is time to take care of the caregiver.

tio stib

You might also enjoy: This Child Who Once Was Woman, My Dementia Diary

My Dementia Diary 44 – Yours to Count On

Over the years, I’ve made hundreds of acquaintances, but precious few friends. The difference between one group and the other is four words.

Yours to count on.

Those are the words inscribed in a book given to me by a man I’d spent an intimate and intense week with during a workshop in Alabama. He gave me the gift as a tribute to what we’d gone through together, including a fire walk.

I remember opening the book and seeing the words, saying them out loud,

“Yours to count on.”

I looked at him. He smiled, and shook my hand. 

I’ve never seen him since, haven’t communicated in any way. But, if I reached out to him today and asked for his help, I know he’d be there.

He was that kind of guy. he was a real friend.

Some time back, faced with a seemingly impossible situation where I was caring for a dying family member while needing to complete a construction project before a bank loan was due, I reached out to three guys who were friends.

They didn’t ask why, but jumped in a car and drove for hours to show up at my front door. they spent several days completing the project for me, shook my hand, and returned to their lives.

They were mine to count on.

There have been others. The kind souls who spent hours comforting my dying relative, giving me a break to renew my soul. 

Good human beings. 

As I stop and pause to consider the blessings of true friendship, I’m reminded that I, too, want to be someone who can say,

“Yours to count on.”

tio stib

You might also enjoy: Flavors of Friends, My Dementia Diary

My Dementia Diary 43 – The Last Christmas

I’ve struggled with this post, started and stopped it many times, unable to create any sort of writing momentum. I sense this is the result of a month in Mexico, spending the Christmas holidays with my wife’s family in a world that is quite foreign to me.

I took my wife to her home town because I felt it might be the last Christmas she would be able to remember who her family was. It was a trip that had to be made. It was a trip I’ve avoided since I lost my sight as the world there is a blind person’s nightmare. It is not only a never ending physical obstacle course for the disabled, but it is also noisy, dirty, and unsafe. I spend the entire time there in survival mode, just trying to stay sane.

Needless to say, any urge I might have had for creative writing quickly disappeared. 

And so it went for a very long month. yes, the family was glad to reconnect with my wife, especially our two oldest kids. It was interesting to note how different family members interacted with her. I was impressed that her mother, normally quite loud and outspoken, simply listened as her daughter babbled on and on, repeating questions, often making no sense. Mom was simply happy to have her daughter with her. Our daughter, though, kept telling her mom to speak Spanish instead of gibberish. That wasn’t going to happen. She couldn’t accept her mom’s dementia. 

After days of dragging us around doing errands and my wife getting upset with the continuing chaos, our son realized he was going to have to change his attitude and behavior with her. He’d finally grasped that his mom was no longer a rational, intelligent adult but a loving, open hearted four year old. Instead of trying to make his mom fit into his world, he would need to fit into hers.

And so, he just played with her.

That was the high point of our visit.

It has been several days since our return to the States. I didn’t realize how exhausting the journey had been until we returned home. I now have an even deeper appreciation of our simple, ordered life here.

I’m hoping the urge to write will reawaken again.

tio stib

You might also enjoy: My Dementia Diary 10 – Where’s the Spatula?, My Dementia Diary