Bessie, Crazy Like a Fox

September 13, 2017

Summer is almost gone. It’s true. There are already aisles of Christmas decorations in one of my favorite haunts. It doesn’t seem possible. I have been distracted all summer, so much so my legs are still as white as a ghost. Don’t judge. It’s not like I need another reason for the dermatologist to start burning and cutting on me.

 

I did get something accomplished. The Ember Months is complete and off to the editor. It was inspired by a woman I met in the ‘70’s during my early social work career. The community didn’t understand her, but few took the time to get to know what she was dealing with. She was the caretaker of three family members diagnosed with Huntington’s Chorea, a rare genetic disease. She knew it was fatal. I have no way of knowing what happened to the family, but I tried to make some sense of it in this novel.

 

This summer has been spent trying to make sense of many things. My husband and I felt it was time to downsize to one piece of real estate. It has taken almost nine months, but that’s been accomplished. We bought a house on Galveston Island that needed to be gutted and remodeled. We moved in early August and are still tweaking landscaping and unpacking. We were here in time for Harvey, the hurricane. It was good to know this place is above the flood area and not prone to other leaking. However the experiences of friends and neighbors bring flashbacks of Ike, the hurricane, and scraping flood damaged belongings to the curb in gigantic heaps to be collected along with everyone else’s heaps.

 

The eye of Harvey came on land right over the beaches I used to visit as a child, the setting for And the Day Came, Lamar and Rockport, and passed right over my hometown and the ranch we just sold. I received pictures of the ranch house. It was devastated, but the owners have a special bond with the house and I know it will be renovated to be even better than before.

 

I had a conversation with my daughter about a woman from the mainland shopping in her store on the Strand. The woman had been flooded out of her home and lost all of her possessions. It brought back memories for my daughter about what that had been like. “It’s a cleansing experience,” my daughter told the woman. “Those things weren’t necessary and very few of them had any sentimental meaning for me. The one’s that did, I can remember without the actual thing.”

 

The irony of this conversation is that the woman was moved by it, thanked my daughter for the counseling, and decided to buy something—something she probably didn’t need. People have short memories about these things. Maybe that’s why we keep getting reminders from the elements.

 

The morning following this conversation with my daughter, I checked my Facebook feed. One of my writers’ groups had a meme asking the question, “What’s the one thing you can’t live without?” Many people posted their computer, their Kindle, coffee, etc. I couldn’t think of one thing I could lose that would kill me. I might get a headache, say some curse words, and whine about it, but there was nothing that could make me cease to live. We tend to be over dramatic about our stuff. Loosing stuff is not the end of the world. It’s painful, messy, inconvenient, and sad, but when it happens to a bunch of people at the same time, it can be cathartic, team building and cleansing.

 

All of this storm chaos came at the same time I was in rewrites for The Ember Months, and I was reliving my experience with Bessie. Bessie knew what life was about because she lived with the fragility of it every day. She was a strong woman, but she didn’t judge the people around her who tried to tell her how to care for her family. Bessie knew the doctors wanting to follow the rare disease and insisting she travel miles at her own expense so they could probe and study her daughters, had no hope for saving them or improving their lives. She put her Christmas tree up in September, made her daughters comfortable, and smiled at people who looked at her like she was crazy. Bessie was crazy like a fox.

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