N. A. Vincent
I woke up this morning as I have for a little over two decades --or more--of my life: in pain. It was as when I went to bed, wanting a blessed, pain-free sleep, hoping that when I awoke in the morning I would be free of pain. Thinking, maybe I'll wake up in Heaven, being a Christian, where there is no pain: But, instead....another day in pain: I resolved, as always: Do what you have to do--live with it.
Looking through another window, a small frame of black and white, Back in Time in the 1940's, to a housing project in Tacoma, Washington . A small girl doesn't know much --except about the neighborhood: what happened in it, who comes to it, and her life while she was in it. Pain as an acknowledgeable part of young life was not in the picture. Not even the pain of the fist fight with a neighbor girl named Sandra.
I don't even remember who won. Just the little crowd of little neighborhood kids excitedly standing around watching.
Remembering around age four, growing up with a brother I adored . A father who was not there, someone not remembered because he did not come around. Ignorant of war and what it did or who caused it, but seeing in this window frame Mom and parties and uniforms of soldiers coming to the house to having fun. The old wind-up Victrola, the records, the heavy arm you lifted to reset the needle; laughing, and fun for the adults.
Remembering being led by the hand up the stairs by a soldier who, to this day, remains headless and faceless. There is a bed, and I am lying on it. He is doing something to himself, but I have no idea what, anymore than I know if he did anything to me or not. I'm only 4 or 5, after all. I do not even remember the trip back down the stairs, just the vivid black and white memory, a clear Kodak shot of a headless soldier in khakis holding the hand of a little girl going up the stairs.
No feeling is in this shot, no knowledge that a war was heavily being fought, that soldiers were having a last fling by a kind-hearted but party-loving gal before they left for duty and country, maybe to die in a foreign land or on a ruthless sea.
No feeling much, until one morning my brother and I were taken to a busy place, all kinds of people, and they took my brother away and would not let me be with him because he was in "the boys' section" and I in the "girls section". But later Mom came for us and we went home.
My recollections of feeling anything were not deep in those days: little things, my first boy friend Dale Faulk, who rang the bell, dropped the bouquet of wild flowers, and ran for home before I had a chance to open the door. The little blonde-haired girl named Karen who was kidnapped on her way to school, and we had been walking behind her a short distance away, but luckily, they got him before any damage was done.
I don't remember pain in those days, but as I was growing older, just the adventures I had in that housing project in Salishan, then, moving out in the country and a new school near the State's madhouse, being kissed on the school swing by a little Negro boy, Sammy, but to my bewilderment, being chastised by the teacher, that a little white girl did not let a little Negro boy kiss her: I was 5! I had no idea such a thing caused pain in anyone. Indeed, I didn't know much about pain at all--just the mixed-up emotions of dislike and confusion in some areas of my life.
It was just starting.
Eventually, we moved to Shelton, Washington, to a grand old house out on the bay in Agate. It was called the old O'Neil place, and was wonderfully enchanting, a roomy old house with lots of rooms and plenty of woods and beach to explore. I think it was then that pain began making inroads into my life and my body, though I can't say exactly what age I began to hurt physically. As a preteen, it was then called "rheumatism', but whenever it started in, as a child, it was a vague nuisance. It didn't deter my adventurous life any. These years I'm skipping, to be told later in "Little Ones", the story of my life.
I think my first emotional pain was when the old collie dog died. I got off the schoolbus at Agate, picked up the old collie I had been given, and walked him home. I loved collies, and he was my first. My second traumatic pain in life came later, after my Mom had married again, and my brother was murdered, but deemed "a suicide". It was made to look like a suicide, but most of us knew it wasn't. The trauma in the years between these events is for telling at a later time.
This was pain, losing a brother I loved, in spite of all that happened. In my teen years, I began to get violent headaches as well as the rheumatism. What we called "sick headaches"----the migraines that ruin people's lives.
There were times I had to baby myself, but I'd get through it: I wasn't one to cry over spilt milk. My life had become one emotional and physical roller-coaster which never seemed to end as I slowly matured in all ways. We weren't a family who took pills as a cure-all for everything.
If you hurt, you lived with it.
But Migraines required medicine, which didn't always help. I learned, much later in life, how to combat them before they erupted full-fury. You would find one coming on. You would grab a bowl of cold water, a wash cloth, go lie down in a dark room with the bowl of water on the floor: reach down, dip the cloth, wring it out, place on the heat of the migraine. When the cloth got warm, you turned it over, then dipped into the cold again, placing the cold over the eye or the temple, and gradually, that rush of blood and nerves would subside, and you'd be woozy but not helpless for 3 days.
Plus I got to thinking, I think it's stress or worry plus the bright lights, not just the lights, so I tried to begin the 'Don't Worry' thinking part of my life that Mom had been trying to teach me. I had learned, from the early life, that the Lord was able to handle everything, and I was always grabbing my daily life away from him and trying to do it all on my own.
It doesn't work.
Over the years, as the migraines lessened, Arthur moved in. The high energy, misadventurous life I lived took its toll: being knocked about in sibling fights, thrown from automobiles, thrown and dragged by horses, falling down from higher places, twisting about in wrong pretzel-like gyroscopic moves to rock music, wrenching a knee already damaged, plus a zillion other things resulted in pain, operations, free for awhile, then attacked again in some other spot.
Meanwhile, the emotional side of me took a beating as Good against Evil started all the fights in my mind. I made a lot of wrong choices, hurt a lot of people along my road to life: My conscience wouldn't let me rest. Sometimes I don't know which hurts most, the physical pain or the emotional pain, the trauma of not forgiving yourself for what you have done to others, for something that could have been different had you been wiser, made better choices, not did what you did, not hurt who you hurt. I 'forgave and was forgiven' so many times, only to have the memory of it come crawling back when I least expected. God forgave me much. How can I then keep tossing coals on old ashes?
Because Memory has a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it.
When you're young and learning these things, and have the energy to overcome the nuisance physical pain causes, you cope, shrug it off, and keep on keepin' on.
Sometimes, though, the emotional pain is much more difficult to live with, because the stuff that caused your emotion to run wild in the first place
keeps on keepin' on, as well.
Again, you leave God out and try to go it alone. So you are constantly in both physical and emotional pain----the one, you can't do much about: the other, you can, but don't: stubborn refusal to take it to the Master, the only One who can relieve any pain, both physical and emotional.
Even when you know better.
Then, before you know it, you are old and crippled and damaged, both in body, soul, and spirit. Every day you wake up hoping you have awoken in Heaven by the Lord's grace, if you are saved. (If you are not, I don't know what you hope for, because you have nothing to look forward to).
But 'no such luck'.
You are still alive, functioning to go on another day, and knowing you will have pain all day long, old, crippled, but still able to see, to feel, to hear, to do. Still able to move, to walk, even though it's a shuffle and you have to wear a boot brace to lesson the pain. Thank God for physicians and scientists who make gadgets to help us live with less pain, at least.
That is grace.
That is blessing.
Whatever else pain is, it is a Teacher of life, to learn how to do with less than you had, and live how you are, to do the best you can with what you've now got.
And count your blessings.