Letting go a little bit of my Youth
By Sally Rhoades
For my daughters, Alev and Sara
I am madcap. I have always been. I’m
the one that does daring things. Like
Scuba diving, heading off to India for four
Months, heading to Miami to be a nurse
Down there. I climb mountains others
don’t see or can’t see. I am a privileged
White woman, as the sari-clad woman
On a train in India, expressed to me,
“How lucky You are.” I felt a twinge of sadness
And gratefulness at the time. And wonder!
How was it that we, certainly, had two different
Realities. I was traveling the world; She was
Living in her world with restraint. I never forgot
Her. I remembered her eyes looking at
Me, as if I was a creature from a foreign land
And not just a different continent. Now, I am
Pressed with two daughters, a husband and
A twelve/week-old grandson. My desire to
Fall in line as a nurse during this Covid-19 time
And give relief to my fellow brethren-the hard-
Working RN’s- as they confront this nightmare
Of a reality. A pandemic with life’s lost In the
thousands and working endless shifts to try
To save as many as they can. I signed up.
I sent my work history that yes was thirty-two
Years ago. Yes. I was sixty-three. My daughter
Reminds me I have asthma. “Mom, you have
two strikes against you. You are over sixty and
You have asthma,” my daughter says. I tell her
I will be okay. I look for the rhythm in my body
When I was young and a full-time RN in the ICU
and CCU. How I zipped and zagged and did many
Things all at once. I think of my lost nursing pin
That said, “To improve the world, we must first improve
Ourselves.” I took those words always to heart. I
Made sure I acted in a way that improved myself
And the world all at the same time. I thought of
The name pin, Sally A. Rhoades, R.N., my mother
Gave me for my graduation from nursing school.
My name was engraved on a pretty white stone
Wrapped in gold. She was so proud of me when
I graduated. She came to the pinning ceremony.
In my twenties when I felt the stirring need to be
A writer, place words just so, find in the world
Injustice and help unravel its cause through
Journalism. For two years, I was a reporter in
The morning and a nurse at night. Full of energy
And spunk, I went after the world on all cylinders.
Not much phased me. I was singular and on a
Mission. To improv the world, we must first improve
Ourselves. It was my mantra. Now at a time when
Other RNS are suffering, I fuel up to do my part.
I was half-way out the door when reason set in,
Responsibility, questions, my daughters’ worries,
And a grandson. I stopped. I came back in. I settled
With myself that this was no time to be madcap.
No School Buses
By Sally Rhoades
It is quiet this morning. No traffic,
No school bus, no children’s voices.
I hear the woodpecker and the
There is a sense of peace as I
make my morning stroll around
the pond. I feel light with
life. It’s pleasures so
apparent on this new quiet
that the novel corona virus
has arranged in the world as
we arrange ourselves.
The lilacs are in bloom now. The
virtual graduation ceremonies
abound. It’s been two months
of isolation that seems to be
cleaning up our environment. We
are not using fossil fuels quite
as much and Mother Nature
has responded. There are pictures
of the Himalayas from India. There
are space pictures of China’s
bright daylight instead of the
fog of fossil fuels. New York
got hammered with cases from
Europe coming in at JFK, La -
Guardia & Newark airports.
The Governor was loud and clear
what New Yorkers needed to do.
We heeded his advise and
wear our masks to the grocers,
to the pharmacy and keep our
distance of a six-feet radius.
I have an elder Aunt Polly who
I can’t go see. I have a new grandson
who is growing before my eyes
who I can’t hold & kiss & gurgle
with as his eyes, his face,
his body limbs light up my
world in pictures, Face time
and even Zoom meeting of our
two daughters, son-in-laws and
baby. There is yearning for
closeness. I take care
with our half-acre that I call
my 200-acre farm in jest
as I let the blackberry
brambles come where
they will as nature devines.
I like stillness and quiet.
I never seem to have enough.
Is two months, four months
enough? I find the sun in early
morning and late afternoon
to guide my days, but I
look at the calendar with
quiet resolution to keep track
of time that is running off the
rails. I want to have a beer
with my brothers, drink wine
over dinner with friends.
How is this quiet holding up?
I have written every day & produced
poems and essays as I do most
other days, but it is quieter now
and I hear myself deep in the bone
of who I am and what I choose
to be. We can’t always feel
our decisions made among the
hustle of a busy, active life.
I woke this morning feeling
my bed when I was a teenager.
I felt the contours of it. I felt
myself of many years on the
mattress still lying on my
belly to sleep. It was transforming.
All of my selves parade back
through me, through my
silence, my calm. I watch
the news and see the suffering
from this corona virus that I only
hope our government will
attend as we all fight
our lonely battle all together.
Born in Malone, NY, Sally Rhoades received her MA in creative writing from the University of Albany and works as a writer and a performer splitting her time between New York City and Albany. She is married to Hasan Atalay, has two daughters, Alev and Sara, and a grandson, Cole.