“Nowhere Man”

Posted: May 5, 2013 in Life
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dad2

“He’s a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land, making all his nowhere plans for nobody”

When I was a teenager my parents split up. My Dad had a girlfriend but continued to stay with my mother as well. His life with his girlfriend was a secret to everyone. He spent time between both places, so I always referred to him as the “Nowhere Man”. He was with his family but usually when he was there he was drinking and abusive. When he left we “knew” but didn’t really “know” where he was, what his other life consisted of, so he was really “nowhere” to me.
On March 10, 2013, my father, Kenneth Ellis Arnold, Sr. passed away from prostate cancer. He was 65 years old.
The last week of his life I couldn’t go visit him. I could make all kinds of excuses as to why I didn’t visit him, but I won’t. The bottom line is, I didn’t want to watch him die. I knew it was close, I could see it in his eyes, I could see his fear. I’m a nurse, death is a familiar thing for me, but not when it’s your own, someone you love, your family.
I think about my Dad all of the time. He has so much potential in his life. So many things he could have accomplished. He was an alcoholic and never admitted it or sought treatment. He had a few health scares over the years and he would quit for awhile but always went back to drinking. He was much mellower in the last few years though. He became cranky rather than explosive. I attribute the alcoholism to his death. Perhaps he would have gotten more aggressive treatment for his prostate cancer if he wasn’t drinking.
I don’t want to remember my father as a destitute alcoholic. He had alot of attributes that I admired. He was handsome. All of my girlfriends from grammar and high school have told me recently that he was the “hot” Dad. He was smart. As a kid, I used to look through his old notebooks and drawings from when he went to school to be a steamfitter. His mechanical drawings were impressive. Meticulous and neat. His grades for these drawings were almost always “A’s”. That made me proud of him. Once, in junior high, I had a science project to make a kite out of household materials that would actually fly. My Dad built me a kite out of sticks from the yard, newspaper, string, and old torn up yellow curtains for the tail. I took it to school, so PROUD of that kite. It not only flew, I got an “A”. My Dad made me that kite! MY DAD! I’ll never forget that as long as I live.
He was my protector. Although at times he could be abusive, he would never allow anyone to hurt his kids. When I had boyfriends that were unsavory characters and were not taking “no” for an answer when we broke up, all Dad had to do was answer the front door and they never bothered me again.
He had a sense of humor. I remember many times at family functions when he had everyone laughing their asses off. Even in the hospital when he was in excruciating pain and dying, he was cracking jokes and being funny, telling funny stories. When I would visit him, usually on Sundays, we would have a beer together, just the two of us, and we would laugh. I cherish those memories.
And when he used to play softball. He was a power hitter. He knocked it over the fence often. He wasn’t the fastest runner, I inherited that from him, but he was good. His team always went to the championship. He taught my brother baseball and my brother ended up playing professional baseball for almost 10 years. Dad deserves some credit for that!
My father’s death has caused a small ripple in our family dynamic. Because of the “secret life” he had been living, after he passed away alot of old feelings resurfaced, for my brother and I mostly because we knew Dad differently than my sister, who is much younger than we are and doesn’t have the same experiences and memories that we do. I’m not going into detail about this “ripple” because it’s fixable and will heal itself in time. We are family and should love and support one another before it’s too late to make things right.
I have some regrets where my father is concerned. I wish I had spent more time with him these last few years. I enjoyed his company. The last time I saw him before he passed away he was actually bragging to his nurses about me. He told them I was a nurse too and that I was really good at art and writing. Finally, he acknowleged me after years of struggling for his approval. I will NEVER forget that day. The last thing we said to each other as I walked out of his hospital room was, “I love you.” And that’s what I want to remember most about my Dad.

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The Vampires

Posted: January 17, 2013 in Life
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The vampires got her. They lured her in when she was weak and vulnerable. They fed on her until she was turned, until they drained her heart and it became empty. She is one of them now. Lost to the world of the living. She has become the walking dead. Her body is a shell. They’ve filled her with false promises and lies when her mind was too confused NOT to believe them. She is now living in darkness. I tried to fight to save her but somehow I became the enemy. My love alone was not strong enough. I kept her safe for as long as I could until my strength dwindled to almost nothing. My weapons were useless.I was smart enough not to believe the doctrine of their cult but could not convince her that it was all lies to entrap her in their world. Since she’s been gone, she has fallen deeper under their spell. She has been chosen by one of them to be used for whatever is left of her soul. My pain has turned to anger and I cannot get through to her. She doesn’t hear me. She is deaf to my voice now. All I can do is be afraid for her. That she’ll never walk in the sun again. Her once radiant beauty is encrusted with the dirt from the grave to which she must retreat now. It has seeped into her being, made her tainted and replaced the living part of her existance. I have no choice but to let them have her. I have to let her go. Their numbers are too great for me to fight alone. She’s too far gone to turn back to the world of the living. I had hoped at one time she would break away and heal herself but that hope escaped me when I knew one of them had singled her out and completely possessed her with more lies, preying on her sympathies, regailing her with stories of desperation and heartache. She unwittingly fell into the trap and now sees or hears nothing to make her understand that whatever is left of her has been consumed by evil in disguise. I have to let her go before I lose MY soul to this fight. It’s not easy to understand why a person once so good and caring can be turned into a monster like them. Why she would choose to become one of the living dead rather than a human with a heart and soul, I’ll never understand. My hatred for these vampires grows every time I see the emptiness in her eyes. I have to walk away. My heart hurts when I am witness to what they’ve done to her. Her path was chosen by their coersion, their lies, and the twisted wisdom of false prophets. It is not my path. Never was. I choose to remain in the world of the living. I cherish my heart and soul. I choose to walk in the sun.

Whatever. Not these days, it seems. My mother tells me I’m too old to be ‘lovesick’. Well, if you want to define ‘lovesick’ by today’s standards, I guess I’m feeling a sense of abandonment, I’m not really ‘in love’, just co-dependent. I’ll never understand why people in this world today don’t believe in love anymore. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, maybe it’s the artist and poet in me, but love used to mean something. Now it’s all clouded, corrupted and over-analyzed by society. Society’s sick need to define everything as dysfunctional, diseased, and imperfect. People used to do tremendous things for love. King Edward VIII of England fell in love with Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee, and was not permitted to marry her unless he abdicated the throne of England and lived in exile. Well, guess what, in 1936, he did just that, abdicated the throne and moved to Paris in exile, just to marry the woman he loved. I wish  someone would love me like that. Not to exclude same-sex relationships, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas met in 1907. They were together at a time when homosexuality was very taboo, but they remained together for 39 years until Stein’s death in 1946. They’re even buried together in Pere La Chaise Cemetery in Paris, France. I wish someone would love me for that long. I think another great love story that society kind of laughed at was John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Despite the controversy surrounding the Beatles break-up, I think John’s love for Yoko and the distraction of that deep love contributed greatly to the Beatles separation. He gave up the greatest rock and roll band of all time to be with Yoko, for love. I wish someone would make that kind of sacrifice for me. Call me a hopeless romantic…I guess all I can do is keep believing and hoping someday love will find me again…

‘Tis The Season…

Posted: October 12, 2012 in Life
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It’s that time of year again. Halloween. Time to tell ghost stories and go ghost hunting. Here’s a little story I wrote in 2005 about a haunting I experienced years ago. The names have been changes to protect the “innocent”…

Saturday, November 19, 2005 Cedar Brook Road

Recently, an old boyfriend of mine, who I hadn’t seen in 20 years, resurfaced when his “father” (step-father…I’ll explain later) became one of my patients in the nursing and rehabilitation facility where I work. That sure did dig up some old memories, especially about the haunted house that his family lived in on Cedar Brook Road. He and I dated when I was 18 years old…1984. We weren’t together for very long for reasons that aren’t relevant to this story, but i did spend some time at his house and I actually witnessed some strange occurances myself. In order to get the entire story about the “haunting”, I conducted casual “interviews” with my old boyfriend’s sister on my cigarette breaks. She requested that I don’t use anyone in her family’s names, so I have changed them to tell the story.

As I said, it was 1984. I used to hang out at Joe’s house and watch tv, have dinner, or a few beers. Mostly we sat at the kitchen table playing cards or just talking with his family or friends. There was a big picture window behind the kitchen table. Late at night, I could see the top of a tall man’s head walk past the window to come to the back door. Everyone came in the back door, the front porch was someone’s bedroom and the front door was kept locked. They had 3 or 4 small dogs that ran to the door whenever someone was coming in, so they all ran to the door barking, but there was no one there. I indicated to Joe that there was a man walking past the window to the door to come in but he’s not at the door. Joe just laughed and said, “That’s my Dad coming home from work.” But, Joe’s Dad had been dead for 20 years!

Joe’s sister, on her visits to the the facility where I work, explained, in detail, what happened to her father in 1964. At that time, Joe was in the hospital, he was about 3 years old, and his mother was pregnant with Joe’s sister, Dee. Their father, Joe Sr., was a foreman at Mrs. Paul’s Seafood in Braddock, NJ. He was out of work sick for the week but decided one night to go to work and check on things. His wife told him not to go, but he insisted.  He pulled up to the plant and got out of his car. A former employee, a Hispanic man, was waiting in the parking lot, not particularly waiting for Joe Sr., but someone of authority at the plant because he had been fired earlier that week. He asked Joe Sr., “Why was I fired?” Joe Sr. answered, “I don’t know. I was out sick all week.” Another shift supervisor emerged into the parking lot and the Hispanic man asked him the same question. The other man replied, “Because you don’t do your job!” It was then that the Hispanic man pulled a gun from his pocket and shot Joe Sr. in the chest. Joe Sr. turned around and started walking away and the Hispanic man shot him again, this time in the back. Joe Sr. kept walking! I’m not sure what happened to the other supervisor, but as Joe Sr. walked toward the entrance door of the plant, the Hispanic man shot him again, this time only grazing his thigh, however, Joe Sr. kept walking! Finally, he opened the door to the plant and said, “I’ve been shot…” Then, he fell to the floor and he was dead.

Now remember, Dee was still inutero when all this happened. She told me she hear this from her aunts. But a good, detailed acccount of the murder. Anyway, in the tradtion of old Italian families, it’s the “responsibility” of the unmarried brother to care for his dead brother’s wife and children, so I’ve heard. Joe Sr.’s brother, the man in the facility where I work, Mel, married his brother’s wife and took care of the family from 1964 until the present. Needless to say, Joe Sr. left this earth with obvious unfinished business. A pregnant wife and a very ill 3 year old. Aside from the fact that he died so young, unexpectedly, and violently. Seems to me like good enough reasons to be a “restless spirit”.

According to Dee, there was more than one ghost in the house on Cedar Brook Road. Not just Joe Sr.’s ghost, but “others”. Specifically, Dee doesn’t know. The source of the haunting, or “portal” was Joe’s closet in his bedroom. It had a trap door that led to the crawl space/attic. Most of the activity happened in that particular bedroom. Over the years, the family became so disturbed by the haunting, that they actually conducted a seance with a medium. Mel and Dee both told me the same account of that particular event.

The family and medium were all downstairs at the kitchen table doing whatever people do at a seance, holding hands by candle light and summoning spirits. Then suddenly, the entire upstairs became illuminated. The house had been dark except for the candles that were lit for the seance. Then, down the stairs came individual balls of light, one by one, as if in a line, waiting to be seen. Needless to say, everyone at the table was scared out of their minds, so the gathering hastily concluded. Dee couldn’t tell me how many balls of light she witnessed, but apparently enough to make the family move out of that house not long after the seance. The family thinks that there may be an old cemetery under where the house was built or somewhere in the yard. No one bothered to research the history of the area, they just couldn’t take it anymore and moved out.

Like I said, I had my own experiences at that place when I hung-out there, aside from seeing Joe Sr. coming home from work every night. This one night, Joe, another friend, Sue, and I were sitting in the front seat of Sue’s car (bench seats back then), Sue in the driver’s seat, me in the middle, and Joe in the passenger’s seat. We were in the driveway of THAT house. Suddenly, from the back seat, I felt someone pull on my hair. (I had long hair then, a mullet, to be exact, it was the 80’s). Sue’s hands were on the steering wheel, Joe’s hands were on his lap, and I certainly wasn’t pulling my own hair. I questioned both of them and it was obvious, neither one of them had done it. Well, Joe got out of the car, and Sue and I sped out of there quickly, at my insistance. I was a little scared, I think. That was only a “minor” incident. I saw a few more unexplainable things in that house. Dressers shaking for no reason, a globe from a lamp floating across the room and bowling over wine bottles, and invisible footsteps in the plush carpet as if someone was walking there when there was actually no one there. Just plain old freaky, unexplainable occurances.

After speaking to Dee about her experiences, some friends and I, who just so happened to be on a ghost hunting kick, decided to drive by the house on Cedar Brook Road and snap a few pictures of the place. It was inhabited and looked peaceful enough, but when I snapped pictures of the house, there was quite a large number of orbs. Once I got the photos uploaded into my computer and magnified them, the weird thing was, the window of the bedroom where the alleged “portal” was located, had misty faces in it, quite a few of them. So at that point, to me, the accounts of the seance became validated. I believe that my experiences in that house WERE of a paranormal nature. I’d sure like to find out if the current occupants have had any experiences. Maybe someday I could interview them, if my ghost hunting becomes something more than amateur…

 

 

Night Shift

Posted: October 11, 2012 in Life
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As we all know already, I am a nurse. Right now, I’m working the night shift…eleven at night until seven in the morning. There is actual work to be done on the night shift and since I work in a nursing home, people aren’t always sleeping. The more confused patients don’t know the difference between night and day. There is also alot of paperwork, but there is “down time”. Time to read, play games on your phone, and in my case, time to think. I am the only smoker on the night shift so I spend my cigarette breaks alone in the courtyard in the dark. There, my imagination runs wild.

I am a big fan of horror movies and books. (Thanks Grandmom! Still at 92 years old she will stay up until two or three in the morning eating baloney sandwiches to watch a good horror movie. She introduced me to classic horror movies as a kid.) Lately, I’ve been on a zombie kick. Zombie books, zombie movies, zombie video games…so as I sit alone in the dark on the night shift, of course I come up with a “what if…” zombie scenario. What if there was a zombie outbreak in the nursing home while I was at work…

I think it would start like this…It’s not uncommom for patients to die on the night shift, most of them do anyway. The issue is this, waiting for the funeral home to come and pick up the body. Sometimes they come right away and sometimes the families take awhile to decide what they should do if arrangements haven’t already been made. Therefore, the body can sit in a room for hours, since nursing homes generally don’t have morgues. If it’s winter we just open a window to keep it cold in the room. If it’s summer, we put the air conditioner on. We don’t wrap or shroud bodies anymore, we clean them up and make them look like they are just laying in bed sleeping. So what if, during this waiting period, the body reanimates and is infected with a zombie virus? It rises from it’s bed and comes down the hallway. Staff members would be confused. But not me, I would know, I’ve been mentally preparing for this. The other nurses would think they wrongfully pronounced this patient dead. I could tell by the waxen skin color and fogged-over eyes that this person is dead and is looking for human flesh to consume…I would tell everyone to run. They won’t believe me, I know it.

The moral question arises…what about the other patients? I know it sounds heartless, but I think it would be best to leave them behind. Two reasons, it will slow you down and your chance of survival becomes very slim, and secondly, they would be a good distraction. Hate to say it, but while your ground zero patient is feeding on them, that’s your chance to collect supplies, save your co-workers, and get to a place where you can hole-up and protect yourself.

In real-life, thinking in the courtyard, I devised a plan. The kitchen would be the safest place. The windows are high, zombies allegedly can’t climb, there are only two doors, both with small windows made of heavy wood, and of course, plenty of food. So you’ve finally convinced your co-workers that this is actually a zombie outbreak not a clinical error. Tell them to grab oxygen tanks, a medication cart, a treatment cart, tubing, and head for the kitchen. As soon as patient zero starts feasting, more zombies will be created.

Once in the kitchen, barracade the doors with the meal carts. They are huge metal carts and would be great for barracading. Weapons…oxygen tanks would make great high pressure air guns. Rig the tubing, put something sharp and heavy into it, turn it on at high pressure, aim for the zombie’s head and you can take that ugly sucker out! Medicine cart and treatment cart…plenty of medical supplies in case you need them. My friends Ralph and Cee-Jay, also zombie officiandos, told me I would only trap myself in the kitchen and be over-run by a horde of zombies eventually. If that’s the case, I would at least buy myself enough time to devise an escape plan. If over-run, I can try to climb out the high windows jump down to the parking lot and try to get to my car without breaking a leg. I would at least try to get to the loading dock and rescue anyone I could, but something tells me I should just go if I make it as far as my car. Another plan would be to open an oxygen tank, throw it at the hoarde of zombies, then throw a match or lighter at it, then run like hell…zombies keep walking when they’re on fire. So much to remember! Last, but not least, if all else fails, and you know you’re going to die anyway, you have an entire medicine cart at your disposal. Take a lethal combination of drugs and die of an overdose. That, to me, is much better than being eaten alive…

So this is what I think about when I’m on the nightshift on my cigarette break, alone in the courtyard, in the dark…

“Blue Meanies” written January, 1981

Posted: September 26, 2012 in Poetry

“Blue Meanies”

Aspects of the mind

Confusion as a barrier

The disillusion one man can create

Something in the way he thinks

Decides a question unknown

But the answer is an act of violence

 

Aspects of the heart

Emotions as a sign

The disillusion one man can create

Something in the way she thinks

Acts as a bond of love

Holding on desperately to reality

 

Aspects of the soul

Heaven as a destination

The disillusion one man can create

Something in the way he thought

Helped bring peace and love to a generation

And lets him live eternally

In the hearts and the eyes of the world.

 

Betty, Age 14, January, 1981

The Constant

Posted: September 26, 2012 in Music
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There has been one constant in my life.  An entity that has always been. They have been there through all of my trials and tribulations, my heartaches and disappointments, and my triumphs. They are four regular guys, “working class heroes” if you will. Their names are John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Even their depressing songs bring me great joy like “Eleanor Rigby”, for example. It’s about ‘all the lonely people’, and Eleanor dies alone in the end. I don’t hear all that, I hear those beautiful harmonies and violins. Pure genius. On that horrible night in December, 1980, when John Lennon was murdered, was when I decided to become a writer. I was fourteen years old and the first poem I ever wrote was called, “Blue Meanies”. It was about that horrible night, that horrible no one, and I guess, the ills of the world. I remember that night vividly. I was in my room, my sanctuary from the pains of adolescence, when my brother, who was watching Monday night football when Howard Cossell announced it, came to tell me John Lennon was dead. Immediately I went to the radio and every station, regardless of genre, was playing his music and flashing news reports. What a tragic ending to the life of a brilliant, yet humble man. The next day, I went to school, I was in 8th grade, wearing all black and cradling my small, at the time, collection of Beatles albums. My classmates thought I was weird, but the teachers, the adults, understood. Afterall, it was part of their generation that died that night.

I got into the Beatles quite by accident. I was 10 years old and crazy about the Bay City Rollers, you know, “S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night!”. My mother even made me the plaid outfit with suspenders…I was the Bay City Rollers’ number one fan. I was at my Grandmother’s house and she told me my mother had a Bay City Rollers’ album in the big stereo, you know the one that looks like a piece of furniture with the lid on top, everyone had one in the 70’s. She got it for me and Lo and behold, it’s an original copy of “Meet the Beatles”. I was disappointed in a way that it wasn’t the Bay City Rollers. What did my Grandmom know, English/Scottish, all the same to her, she likes Eddy Arnold anyway. I took it home and listened to it and was captivated. In the 70’s there was a big run on Beatles compilation albums, ie: the red and the blue albums complete with red and blue vinyl. My Granny gave me the money to buy them, and that’s how it all started. After John Lennon was killed, they re-released alot of the Beatles albums and John’s solo work, so I bought that, too. Today, my garage is filled with Beatles music and memorabilia. I think half of my wardrobe consists of Beatles and John Lennon t-shirts.  They have always been there for me, my heroes. No matter what was happening in my sometimes tumultuous life, they were there, bringing me comfort with their words and music. In the words of John Lennon, “We all shine on…”