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

Cardinal’s song.

 

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.

Trolley c/o NYS Writers Institute

Science Library 320

University at Albany

Albany NY 12222   

nyswritersinstitute.org 

© 2020 All rights reserved.​

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