I May Never Know Why

I knew Elaine all my life. Like the sister I never had. Yet I could not make it to her funeral. I couldn’t. Perhaps I simply wouldn’t. She had died long ago…

Growing up on the east side, we knew we had it made. Life was good. Part-time jobs were easy to come by, school was never a serious challenge, and there was always tennis, soccer, or long walks by the lake.

I first started to notice a change when we were playing a game of tennis. She was always competitive, but this time a missed shot didn’t just spark irritation, it sparked rage. A repair guy on the roof nearby chuckled when she threw her racket. He sounded like the voice of God coming from a blue sky, “Shouldn’t lose your temper like that, girl.” Elaine looked like she’d heard a ghost, and I pretended not to know what she was talking about when she asked if I heard the voice. I just laughed.

But she didn’t. She looked scared.

Throwing a racket was a little out of her normal emotional range, but fear, real fear took her to a new universe.

I ignored the symptoms. I didn’t think they were symptoms. I thought she was just being silly.

Before I knew what was happening she was off to France to study for a semester. No big deal. I had plenty of studying at home to do. College and work-study kept me out of trouble. Well, for the most part.

But when she came home…something had changed. Her confidence had been shaken. It reminded me of another trip she’d taken the year before on some island or another. She had tried to explain about the people, their lifestyles…how different everything was… But I couldn’t imagine. I didn’t want to. Sounded pagan and vaguely selfish. Not a world I wanted to explore.

By the time she entered graduate school, she seemed bent on exploring extremes. If someone was having a wild time, she wanted to in on it. No matter what that entailed. The wilder the better.

I plodded through my courses and kept an eye on her. But I could not follow where she was going.

One day we walked along the lakeshore, and she explained ever so seriously that she was seeking help for depression. I shook my head. She had not the slightest reason to be depressed. She had a good family, an excellent education, she had traveled far and wide, and she had a wonderful future…if only she would see it.

But she couldn’t see it. She couldn’t feel it. A friend of hers had committed suicide the month before and it weighed on her mind. She was afraid it would spread like cancer. She’d be next.

I told her to shut up and quit thinking like that.

Elaine pleaded with me, stomping along like a little girl. “I need help. I’m sick…on the inside. Medication might help.”

I remember feeling so old. Worldly wise in my vast years of watching family members destroy themselves with drug and alcohol cure-alls. I grabbed her arm and glared into her eyes. “Medication can’t help you. Tough this out. Once you’re on that stuff…you’ll never get off it.”

She pulled away, dragging her fingers through her short hair the way she always did. “You can’t understand. I’m mentally ill. I’m crazy.”

I laughed. “By the very fact that you know you’re crazy, means that you’re not really crazy. In pain. Yes. Upset. Of course. But you can work this out…give yourself time. Not drugs.”

I might as well have been talking to the trees.

Before I knew what was happening, she was on an anti-depressant regime that would have knocked a rhino off its feet. It seemed to work. She finished graduate school without major problems…except for that map-laminating incident.

Then she went to look for work and torpedoed nearly every offer she got.

I took a job in another city and shut my eyes to her issues, hoping they’d just go away. Hoping she’d grow strong again.

She called me one day from a state out west. She was visiting family and thought she had accidentally taken her medication twice…enough to kill her. I told her to go see a doctor. She hung up.

By the time she called again, I was married, had three kids, and she was engaged. We agreed to meet up in our old hometown first chance we got. When we did run into each other months later, she looked very much like the girl who threw her racket across the court. But she smiled when she hugged my kids.

I sighed in relief. Time can heal even the most wounded souls. Even souls that should not be wounded at all. Even souls that appear to wound themselves.

Or so I thought.

The next call I got was from her brother. She had been killed crossing a street. She had stepped in front of a truck.

He wanted to know if I would fly out for the funeral. I was nursing my infant and it was the middle of winter…I had a lot of reasons not to go.

But I doubt I would’ve have gone even if her casket was next door and springtime flowers fluttered in the breeze.

Little by little Elaine had died. Not from childhood trauma, or teen rebellion, or even cultural clashes. Somewhere along the line her sanity, her identity, and her will to live a healthy life had eroded until there was only a thread left. And one day that thread snapped.

I may never know why.

A lot of years have passed…and I’ve never stopped praying for her. For the truth of it is, I now realize, she never really died.

Elaine will always live in spirit…and in me.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

And Everything In Between

“Being rejected isn’t exactly the end of the world…just feels like it.” Gertrude heaved a long sigh. “Silly of me…to think that…but, you know, it’s…life. Beginnings…and endings.”

She launched herself from her partitioned, tan and grey workstation, pulled on her heavy winter coat, and plodded to the check out counter.

Dressed in a blindingly white parka with a fake fur fringe around the hood, her friend, Kamila, smiled as they punched in their work numbers and timed out. “Got plans for the weekend, Gerty?”

Gertrude closed her eyes, sighed, and then straightened her shoulders. Focusing, she met Kamila’s teasing gaze. “Nope. But I’ll make some. And you?”

Kamila grinned. “Timmy is coming over for the weekend. We’re going out on the town and have some fun!” She did a little arm shake with a hip wiggle and laughed.

A stab of pain made Gertrude wince. Her stomach clenched. “You be careful, Kammy. People get hurt…driving around and partying…you know.”

“You’re such a worrier!” Sauntering out the main exit, Kamila shivered in the cold blast of winter air and linked arms with Gertrude. “You need to have more fun. Besides, people get killed sitting at home too. Heart attacks, cancer, random acts of violence—no one’s safe.” She tugged at her zipper. “Might as well live while you got the chance. Can’t stay at home all the time.”

Her plaid coat buttoned to the top, Gertrude pulled her keys from her purse and punched the unlock button as she neared her Cruise. “No safe place in this world, I agree. But it’s just plain dumb to beard the lion.”

“I don’t even want to know what that means.” Kammy waved as she scrunched into her tiny sports car. “Get a life, girl, not a proverb.” The engine roared and the tires squealed out of the parking lot so fast passersby had to scurry aside.

Gertrude shook her head and murmured under her breath.

When she got into her apartment, Gertrude tugged herself free from her coat and peeled off her work clothes. She stood under a hot shower for a full five full minutes and then dressed in her comfortable well-worn jeans, fluffy socks, and a long shirt. It had a tear at the neck when she had caught it on the latticework reaching for a hard-to-reach cluster of grapes last summer, but she figured that no one would see her and who would really care anyway?

Just as she settled down on the couch wrapped in a knitted blanket, a hot cup of tea near at hand, and a mystery novel on her lap, the buzzer rang long and loud. She glanced up, a thrill of fear racing through her. It’s just someone looking for a donation…or some lady looking for a friend…or—

The buzzer insisted.

Frowning, she set the book next to her teacup, tossed the blanket aside, and jogged forward. The buzzer raged for the third time. Irritated, she swung open the door. “Hey, unless someone’s about to be murdered, you can lay off the buzzer.”

Short and stocky, Ben stood before her in a crumpled EMT uniform, his brown hair disheveled, and a wild look in his eyes. “You’re okay?”

Gertrude scrunched her face like she was looking at a pink armadillo. “Yeah. You care?”

Passing through the doorway, Ben tromped to the couch and flung himself down with a long sigh. He ran his fingers through his hair, standing it up in a scattered array. “Good Lord. You know what you’ve put me through?”

Gertrude blinked. “I. Put. You. Through?”

“When they reported the accident, I recognized the vanity license plate. I called your office, and they said you’d just left. I thought you were with her!”

Gertrude slapped her cheek, all warmth draining from her body. “Kamilla?”

“Burned beyond recognition. At least her car is…it’ll take time to sort through the mess…”

Swaying on her feet, a roar swelled into Gertrude’s ears. Strong arms grabbed her and led her to the couch. Ben crouched at her side and stroked her hand. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to shock you like that. I was just so worried. There’s been one emergency after another… Crazy days. I’ve been working overtime…” He shook his head. “But when that call came in…I didn’t even ask. I just ran out the door.”

Before she knew what she was doing, Gertrude was sobbing on Ben’s shoulder.

By the time she had a fresh cup of tea, the blanket wrapped over her legs, and Ben’s arm around her shoulder, she had wiped the last of her tears off her cheek. “I must look awful.”

“Not to me. You look just fine. Alive. The way I like you.”

Gertrude dropped her gaze and tugged a loose yarn string. “I got the impression that…you know. You were tired of me. Too busy all the time. Working.”

“You do realize that I save lives, right? That I work hard to earn a good living…so that maybe one day we can…”

“So you’re not avoiding me?”

Ben grinned. “You know, it’d make things a lot simpler if you just ask me next time.”

“You didn’t return my messages…”

“Yeah. There is that. My fault. Sorry. Just so blasted busy. You know…I see it all the time. Misunderstandings. Couples going at each other. Kids wanting to kill themselves.”

Gertrude felt her throat tighten. “It wasn’t a misunderstanding today. Kamillia is dead. I tried to warn her…but…”

Ben harrumphed and clapped his hands together as he sat forward. “Kamilla drove like a speed demon. She was on the track to self-destruction long before you met her.” He dragged his hands over his face. “I can’t save everyone. And neither can you.” He pulled Gertrude into a tight embrace. “But I’m here now and…you know…we might make a life together. Despite this crazy world. Despite misunderstandings…”

Gertrude snuggled into Ben’s arms, her heart aching yet comforted. “Kamilla was going out on the town today…and I thought something in me had died. Guess it shows…we don’t really know. Life. Beginnings…and endings…and everything in between.”

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

Who Are you?

When I start up my phone—little track phone thingamajig—it says “Life’s Good.” Nice to know.

Darting between family sickness, political upheavals, religious tribulations, and online drama, I occasionally wonder what the heck I am doing on this planet. So when my phone tells me that life is good, it’s a comforting thought.

The weekly installments of sickness, upheavals, and tribulations are old news. Plagues, revolts, and scandals are a part of the human journey. They may upset our momentary equilibrium, but we usually stumble forward eventually.

What has currently left me flummoxed is the online personalities that swirl in and out of my life. In an ordinary day, I give and receive a lot of “friend” and “follow” requests. I do my best to check out the people I connect with. I also try to give each person the benefit of the doubt.

As it turns out, I’ve developed some great friendships, which have moved beyond social media into the “real” world with writers, readers, Catholics, Christians, moms, dads, fellow human beings of all kinds.

But I’ve also attracted a number of people (could be sophisticated bots, I suppose) who say they want to be friends…but it turns out that they have an underlying agenda. At some point, they ask for something I can’t give. Or won’t give. Or they won’t answer a fairly legitimate question crouched in obscure terms like “Who are you?”

When this happens several times in a row, I begin to wonder if I’m on the speed dial of some nefarious ring of thieves and dementors. So I should be angry? Go through and detox my connections? If that’s even possible… Fix this so it doesn’t happen again?

All very noteworthy ideas. But since that feels like a hopeless fantasy, instead, I pray for humanity. Why? Because it sets me free in a way isolation never can. Okay, if I am dealing with bots…I’m praying for advanced technology. So am I actually praying for the bot or the inventors? Hmmm… Theologians at the ready!

Social Media is constantly dealing with break-ins. Not surprising. I doubt anyone knows how we’re connected and interconnected in this world today. It’s beyond our human synapsis to map. We really are in a “brave new world,” which we haven’t a clue how to control or contain. Or protect.

But evil exists. Treacherous plans are made. Scams are hatched. And innocent people get hurt. Part of me wants to disconnect from it all. Live in my simple world. Stay out of trouble. But another part of me knows that even in isolated small towns trouble brews. Evil schemes are concocted in the hearts and minds of individuals—from everywhere across the globe.

It isn’t my goal to completely disengage from the Internet madness but rather to engage on a human level with the people around me. I don’t think I can stop evil. That’s never been my job. I can disconnect from toxic people. Never a bad idea. But the best solution of all—being honest and decent to my fellow human beings both on and offline. Now that I can do.

What do you know? The phone is right.

Life’s Good.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

This Side of the Divide

I’m sitting in a parking lot waiting for my daughter to come out of her Catechism class and my sons to finish their Altar Boy training session. It’s only Wednesday, but it’s already been a long week. World-weariness troubles my soul.

You too?

I can almost hear your sigh.

It seems that fresh scandals break every week: religious, political, and culture wars lash out at every level of society.

With the disheartening reality of broken humanity and the faithful losing their faith, it seems odd to be joining more church-related activities these days. According to current trends, I should be pulling away disgusted. Isolated. Disillusioned.

But I have the ridiculous habit of reading history books. And if you pay attention to the past, certain things stand out as trends throughout the ever-lengthening ages. Broken humanity is one of them. Apparently, it’s not a new trend at all.

I don’t teach my children religion to save them from grief or to give them all the right answers. I teach them the Catholic faith because it is a healing hope in a world full of grieving hearts.

Jesus certainly knew a thing or two about sin-laden people, confused mindsets, weak wills, and pierced hearts. His mom must have known it too. After the religious authorities of her day murdered her innocent son using the laws of the established church to do so, she still followed the traditions of her faith and waited until after the Sabbath to anoint his body. The body that wasn’t there. The body that rose beyond all reason and grief.

Faith is a lot like hope. It isn’t reasonable. It doesn’t protect itself at all costs. Love embraces both the faithful and the despairing, strengthens the will, holds up exhausted arms, and heals even the most mortally pierced heart.

The evening bells are ringing…a haunting sound on a late autumn evening. The bells toll for us all. Time passes and each of us is called. Every day. To the voice of grief and desperation. To the clarion call of change. To the herald of a new day. To the whisper of a spirit that has been—is now—and always will be.

I can’t define or even defend God. That’s His job.

I just love Him. Passionately. Faithfully. And with a renewed soul.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

No Guts No Glory

So there I was, getting into my car on the wrong side. The passenger side. One of my sons slid behind the wheel, put the key in the ignition, and pulled onto our country road. To say that I was nervous would be an understatement. Try settling inside a two-ton metal box and give a teen the controls and see how you feel. Speed praying becomes second nature. Trust me.

At the time, I was a recent widow and facing more unknowns than Captain Kirk in one of Star Trek’s newest uncharted galaxies. Teaching my two sons to drive was just one more in a long, snaky line of impossible tasks.

It wasn’t until the end of their driving classes, around about early spring, that one of my boys informed me of my late husband’s pronouncement every time he got in the car with them. He’d say, “No guts, no glory.” Then he’d promptly fall asleep and let the boys handle the driving.

I nearly choked. If John had been alive, I might have choked him.

But as the season rotated on their usual sublime schedule and the boys passed their drivers’ tests and became excellent drivers, I learned how to fix mechanical thingamajigs without the use of duck tape, and life rolled on into full summer glory full of birdsong, I realized something rather important.

John was right.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

Getting Educated

I took a pot of tea and a plate of banana bread to my ninety-year-old neighbor this week. Her eyes sight is not what it used to be, so I figured she was feeling a little lonesome without the comfortable companionship of her daily allotment of newspaper stories and books. Her farmer sons are as attentive as busy farmers sons can be during harvest season. So, when she called to chat, I suggested a cup of English Tea and a “little something” to go along with our chat.

She was amiable to the idea.

Not that our little town keeps us in gossip, but there’s always someone who has gone to the hospital and could use a prayer, or a highlight on recent coupon finds, a memory to peruse, grandkids’ news to catch up on, new pictures to check out, and possible remedies for what ails you to try.

God has always blessed me with elderly ladies. There’s always been a neighbor—somewhere—to spend an hour or two with. I love sitting by and listening to stories that no one else wants to hear, laughing about how the world has changed, and remarking at how, in fact, the world really hasn’t changed all that much.

Disease, accident, or a quick death will find me sooner or later. I’m not under the illusion that I’ll live in peace and prosperity forever. Not on this side of the Great Divide. So getting to know my elderly friends is like a life lesson in how to handle the inevitable challenges—weakness, failing eyesight, loss of hearing, loneliness, bittersweet memories, and so much more.

My friend says she wants to educate me because I’m dreadfully deficient in coupon savvy. I don’t seem to know the four cardinal directions or how to properly clean a window. I waste money on needless supplies when—with a little time and effort—I could make something like the store-bought kind from scratch. I also don’t save used envelopes. When it comes to molding me into a proper country housewife, she certainly has her work cut out. And nothing could please her more. Or me for that matter.

We have a cacophony of authoritative voices shrieking at us all day long from newscasts to blog posts (Hopefully, not this one!) informing us of how to live right. How to make the world a better place. How to become strong, beautiful, holy, and helpful.

Yep. The world offers lots of great advice.

But not one of them makes me snort my English tea in laughter like my friend.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

Auld Lang Syne

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon…

It’s hard to look back and remember. Two dates in October stand out for me, the birthdates of two people I loved who have passed on: my mother and my husband.

It should be uncomplicated. I loved them. They died. Be grateful. Accept. Move on.

But when is life uncomplicated? There are a host of reasons why memories of loved ones haunt us. Mistakes they made. Mistakes we made. The whole death process. Our own impending death. Our existence here. Their existence…where?

I’ve been studying up on my Irish heritage. Of course, that can’t be simple either. My DNA reflects Irish, English, Scottish, Scandinavian, Iberian Peninsula… Lord, my ancestors were passionate travelers. History references all sorts of lost longings…the people and communities we once belonged to. The families we had…or wished we had.

So when I write the date on the chalkboard for the kids each day, do I include a reminder…this was grandma’s birthday? Your dad’s birthday? Of course. Right? We should remember. Selectively.

Relationships are hard even when we aren’t together anymore. That’s the irony of it all. We can’t really forget. Sometimes we’d like to. There’s a lot we’d like to purge from our psyche. After all, we only have so much brain space, and we can only carry so much emotional baggage. Right?

So why is it that the tune to the words—words we don’t even remember half the time—brings tears to our eyes? Why do we make resolutions on New Year’s Day? Why do we try so hard to start over?

Not being a cultural engineer with all the right answers or human rights activist with all the right causes or even a particularly good mirror…I struggle with these questions.

Why am I here?

And where do I go from here?

Though I may not have the answers, I believe they are worthy questions to ponder. That’s why the song brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes.

It’s a good question.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00