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Evelyn C. Fortson

African American Author of Women's Fiction


It was the last night of our family vacation in the mountains, and we decided to eat outdoors next to the bay. My ten-year-old grandson said grace. He thanked God for the food and the trip, but the part of his giving thanks that pierced my heart the most was his asking God to not let us forget this time we spent together.

My father had dementia before he died, and it broke my heart that he didn’t know who I was. The last time I saw him, he called me by my youngest sister’s nickname, and my mother, who sat beside him quietly, provided him with my name.

Looking into my father’s eyes during that visit, which was the last time I saw him alive; I could see his confusion and fear. My mother sitting by his bed seemed to give him comfort, as his children and grandkids, who were now strangers to him, took turns visiting him in his hospital room.

When my grandson asked God to not let us forget our time together, I thought of my father and all the camping trips, Christmases, Thanksgivings, road trips to Louisiana, birthday parties, and the times we sat on the floor in the living room and read snippets of the Los Angeles Times out loud to each other. Since my parent’s death, I’ve asked God not to let me forget my time with them. The feel of my father’s skin when I kissed him on his cheek, and the warmth of my mother’s embrace is fading, but for now, I still remember.

That night sitting under the stars having dinner with my son and his family I prayed that we would all remember the lives that we had lived and each other.

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The desert at first glance is a dry lonely desolate place. It appears to lack the beauty you associate with the lush greenery of a forest or the calm serenity of sandy seaside beaches. But when you look long enough and close enough the desert isn’t the lonely desolate place that it appears to be. It has birds and plants that you won’t see in the city. The sky is so vast that your breath slows down, and the feeling that there are too many people in the world falls away. The tans, creams, rusts, and browns create delicate shading and textures that are the desert’s floor. The muted green foliage and bold yellow and orange flowers complement purple blooms.

Subtlety best describes the desert landscape. It changes right before your eyes, but the change occurs so slowly that you may not register it. The wind carries particles of sand that continually shift the scenery just as beautiful moments seep through our lives, while we desperately try to hold on to the feelings we had when we experienced them. But our lives like the desert are constantly changing, memories fade from vibrant images to muted vague occurrences that we no longer feel. Occasionally the wind blows, and a memory of a moment or season comes back with the same emotion that we experienced when it happened. We are transported back to that time until the landscape shifts yet again.

The different stages of our lives can be challenging and sometimes you may feel your life has been drained of everything that is wonderful. But like the desert, take a close look at your life, you will find something beautiful there. It may be as subtle as a tiny delicate bloom, or as majestic as a soaring eagle. Whatever it is, remember that life is always changing, and you get to decide how you want to live it.

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I took an expository writing course that covered research methods, analytical, critical thinking, and rhetorical strategies this summer. The course is usually sixteen weeks, but during the summer it is condensed into six weeks. For two and a half hours Monday-Thursday I went to class at the junior college with a room full of young people. Some of them knew what they wanted to do while others, like myself at their age, were doing what they needed to do to get their degree. What they wanted to do or be in life was still a mystery.

The next few weeks in class exposed how differently I viewed the reading material than my young peers. My life experiences played a large role in the conclusions I drew from the reading material, whereas their experiences were limited. I could see how insulated they were from the world and how the school system had failed them. They knew how to use technology but the “why” of something was not explored. I must admit that asking myself why I believed something and backing it up was not as easy as one would think. Getting information from the news on television, radio, or the internet can slant one’s point of view. That’s why getting information from more than one source is important, something that most of us don’t do. The class reminded me to question whether or not what I believed was me or what I have been fed. I needed to back up my beliefs or point of view with facts not feelings.

I enjoyed the class although it was a struggle to keep up with the reading and writing assignments. In the end, I dropped out of the class. I was overwhelmed and frustrated with the pace, so I dropped the class. Quitting the class was not an easy decision, I felt like I had failed until I realized that I had learned what I needed to learn from the class. Maybe I’ll take the sixteen-week course, maybe I won’t. Life for me is about staying active, learning, and enjoying every moment of every day. I’m proud of myself for trying something new and not allowing my age to stop me.

Quitting is not necessarily declaring defeat, sometimes it’s acknowledging that now is not the right time.

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