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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Third Place in an Important Writing Contest

Recently, I, Spaulding T. Bear, won third place in a writing contest. The prompt for the contest was to tell the story of a muse. Mommy oh-fish-early entered the contest, but I told my story to her. Here is my real story:

My Muse's Story

Most writers' muses are in their minds. Come and visit my writer and you can see me, talk to me, and get a loving bear hug from me. I came in a care package for a hurting woman, comforted her, made her laugh again, and changed her back to a writer. Most importantly, I changed her to Mommy. My name is Spaulding T. Bear. The T stands for "Teddy."

I didn't know her when the pain first came. I didn't know her when she went through that surgery to stop the pain. I wasn't around when she kept going back to her doctor's office and I didn't live through the months it took her to convince the doctor she was worse than before the surgery. She tells me he kept saying that she was recovering. Back then, doctors ignored patients when they complained of severe pain, but her nagging forced him to relent and send her to a specialist.

Some specialists like to prove how smart they are in front of student doctors. Her first specialist announced what was wrong without telling her what it meant. She asked one little question that annoyed him. "Shouldn't I get tested to see if that's the right diagnosis?"

He scheduled some tests, and told her to come back to see him afterwards. When she went home and researched the diagnosis, she discovered it couldn't be diagnosed until all other possibilities had been eliminated.

Mommy has told me all this as often as she needed to say it to me. That's what teddy bears do, listen and comfort.

She told me of the months of agonizing pain, before I came along. She told me why I came along. In those months of pain, when she wasn't lying down on her stomach crying, she would go to a chat room online and write to a friend, telling her what was going on and begging for prayers. I came from that friend with prayers.

That friend sent a whole big box, a care package, of goodies for Mommy – a doll, candy, cookies, brownies, a chocolate cake, nice smelling candles, a gold friendship bracelet, the most beautiful stuffed doggy in the whole wide world – my wife, Lady – and me, a lanky, golden-brown furred teddy bear. The trip through the mail was long, so Lady and I ate the cake...and a lot of the candy and cookies, too. Hey! We were hungry and I dare you to try to travel three days next to chocolate cake without eating it all. I've apologized to Mommy and she's forgiven us. Better yet, she's told us she would have eaten everything in the box, so we were nice to leave her some.

Now, I know what you are thinking, "Teddy bears are for children."

That's what Lady and I thought too. (The doll didn't talk to us. Dolls can be rather peculiar creatures.) Imagine our surprise when a 43-year-old woman opened the box and laughed. We even thought she'd give us to her child, but she put us on her lap as she emptied the rest of the box. She laughed a lot. Her husband, who would become our Daddy, laughed, too. They ate homemade cookies with Hershey's kisses in the middle, as she emptied the rest of the box. (I told you we were good. Would you have left any Hershey Kisses cookies, if you traveled next to them for three days?)

As we sat in her lap, watching her take one thing out after another, we sensed something was wrong with her. She seemed both happy and sad. The living room felt gloomy, like no one had laughed in years. And then we felt her pain. Stuffed animals can do that, you know. Mommy calls it "empathy," but we just feel whatever our parents feel, just not as much as they feel it. That's a good thing. If I ever felt all her pain, I don't know if I could do my job well.

What's my job? I thought I told you. I listen and comfort. I've learned to do more, but that was necessary to give her comfort. She was laughing when we first arrived, but even her laughter seemed sad. Well, laughter can't be sad, but something underneath – the pain – dampened the happiness she and Daddy were enjoying at that moment she emptied that box.

She tells me that all her doctors – she gave up on the one after he decided his diagnose was still right, despite it not fitting all her symptoms – had two things in common: they like sending patients for lots of tests and they don't give patients anything for pain, because it might mask the tests' results. They frown when patients ask for pain relief between tests. Frowning doesn't make pain go away.

Scheduling for the test and then scheduling an appointment to find out test results took about six weeks. For all that schooling doctors have to go through, proving they are smart, not a single one ever figured out relief from pain could be given while she waited. Sometimes she nagged enough that they would give her a dozen pills to last that six weeks, as long as she promised not to take them a week before the tests. They were gone long before the test.

But that first day we met, I was put to work the moment I left the box. Lady was kept downstairs to hug and I was taken upstairs to hug, while she laid in bed on her tummy. She had to do that all the time, when we first met. No pain pills back then.

After Mommy emptied the box, she needed to lie down again. I know I heard her coming down the steps, before she opened the box, so she must have been lying down before, too. She wasn't sleepy, so she turned on the radio and laid on her tummy, holding me tight next to her. She squeezed every time the pain got worse, but I'm strong, so hugged her the best I could. She noticed my foot. I was born with beans in my paws, and my right foot got wet before I met Mommy. It swelled up, making it stretched taut, and I used to walk around with a limp, before that terrible time she sent me to the teddy bear hospital and had the beans removed. Terrible experience, but that's another story. I mention it now, because she took to squeezing that particular foot whenever she was in great pain. She hoped to squeeze the beans enough to shrink them again, but it never worked. It was kind of her to think of me like that, though. The foot never hurt, it was just harder to walk on, because it was so round.

In those first few months, I listened and hugged constantly. She still thought I was just material with stuffing inside. Most grown-ups think that. Children know better. It was easy for Mommy to come up with Lady's name; after all, she looks like the cocker spaniel from "Lady and the Tramp." Since Mommy still considered me an inanimate object, she had trouble hearing me telling her what my name was.

That changed during one of those times she was lying on her tummy listening to the radio in dire pain. She was in such agony. She was near tears, but, by then, she had decided that crying made her sorer. The latest test results were negative again. Doctors couldn't figure out why she was so sore. I had to do something and a disco song came on the radio.

Did I mention I love to dance? I'm an excellent dancer, and better yet, I make Mommy laugh. I climbed out of her arms, when she wasn't squeezing too tight. I did one of my favorite dances – the King Tut, made famous by Steve Martin's version, but mine is better. Boy, was she surprised! I got my floppy going, flopping my arms and legs all over the place, during the stanzas, and did the King Tut during the chorus.

Mommy tells me she isn't laughing at my dancing. It's my serious face while I'm dancing. I can't help the serious face. I was sewn with a down curved mouth, so I just look serious. I'm a very happy bear. But it worked. Not only did she laugh at me, she finally stopped thinking I was material and stuffing. She saw me! And she laughed! It doesn't get any better than that when a fellow achieves his career objective so soon. And I've been working at my career ever since.

It wasn't long after that, when we all watched a movie called Castaway, with Tom Hanks. In it, Hank's character became best friends with the only inanimate object he connected with on his little island – a Wilson's volleyball that he named "Wilson." Finally, Mommy heard me tell her my name is Spaulding, after the other sport's equipment manufacturer, Spalding.
And, as doctors continued to try to find out what was wrong with her, Mommy and I got useful. We read books on how to deal with pain. There aren't too many ways to deal with pain, but all the books agreed on one thing that helps – do something, anything, to get your mind off of it. It lessens if you stop thinking about it.

Now Mommy and I are reasonable. She learned already a bunch of things she couldn't do anymore, because they made the pain worse. We weren't going to take her mind off of it through jogging or vigorous housework (you're missing that joke, because Mommy has never liked doing housework to begin with) or anything very physical, so what could she do?
I gave her that idea, too. As you might have noticed by now, I like talking about me. I like telling anyone who will listen that I am very real, not just cloth and stuffing. I'd tell people face-to-face, but grown-ups often don't hear stuffed animals, because…because…well, I don't know why, but they don't. So, how do I tell everybody about me? I wanted my own blog.

Now, we complain…oh, sorry. It's "we" now. Lady and I had two kids. Daddy became sick afterwards, and he needed a teddy bear, so my first brother was born. Well, let's just say the family has grown to twelve of us now, so it is "we." So, anyway, we complain that keyboards aren't made for paws, but that's a good thing. We tell Mommy what to type, and she types for us. That takes her mind off the pain.

Once the doctors figured out what was wrong with Mommy, they told her it couldn't be fixed. She needed a lot of comfort then, but not as much as you would expect. It took them nine months to figure that one out, and by that time, we sort of knew that she might be disabled for the rest of her life. The good news though is, once they figured out they couldn't fix her, they got gung-ho about making her as comfortable as possible. (Okay, maybe they weren't too gung-ho, but three weeks after I was adopted, a new law came into affect forcing doctors and hospitals to treat pain. That helped a lot.)

She tried acupuncture. It made it worse. She tried an epidural. It felt like someone bashed her in the back with a two by four. She tried self-hypnosis. It doesn't do any better than taking her mind off the pain by writing. She tried many things along the way, before settling for the one thing she and her doctors didn't want to settle for – drugs. She even tried 24 different kinds of drugs, before finding one that cut down the pain. I know, I helped her keep a list of what she tried, so she didn't have to try the same thing twice.

But, now knowing it can't be fixed, I've taught her other things to do that keep her mind off the pain. She takes photos of my family and me doing stuff to put up on our blog. Lots of the pictures are from our other hobby – gardening. Matter of fact, April 15th is the first official day we can plant, so we're hoping to finish this before then, because we'll be busy afterwards.

And, yes, we've been blogging for about ten years now. And, she writes stories about my family. We're working on a series of books about me…and my family. We have two stories written already, and another one in the works, but we need to make the blog famous to prove to publishers that teddy bears aren't only for kids.

And, I really got Mommy writing now. Not only does she write stories about us, she writes grown-up stories, funny stories, and strange stuff. She's joined this site to meet with other writers. I'm here in her right arm helping her to write. I'm always with her in the house, unless she's doing boring ole housework or paying bills. And all of this, because she remembered – teddy bears are very real!

So, sometimes muses are heard and seen, like me, Spaulding T. Bear.


Marlowe said...

That is a very nice story, Spaudling!

Buttons the Bear said...

Marlowe is right, a beary nice story.
Congratulations on placing in the writing contest.

It's nice to know another bear of comfort.