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  • Helms Jarrell

Open My Eyes that I May See

Is there anything wrong with having your own point of view? What if your point of view limits your vision? Which lens should you use? Which way should you turn your own telescope? Thoughtfully respond to these questions.

Then share your thoughts in essay, creative fiction or nonfiction, or verse,


Joyce waved at Syd as she walked back to her apartment. She spoke to Bonnie in the lobby and asked about the weather while picking up her newspaper. Bonnie complained about the cold, but Joyce liked the brisk weather. The jar on the greeting desk was empty, but Joyce knew that the Brookdale receptionist would fill it when she came in for her shift at noon. Joyce would come back later this afternoon to get her daily piece of butterscotch candy.


Most mornings, Joyce didn’t have breakfast in the dining hall. She preferred getting up a little later and having her coffee and english muffin on the back patio. On Sundays, though, Joyce set her alarm clock early enough to have time to get dressed and eat an omelette with toast and coffee at the dining hall. Every Sunday morning, she sat with Barney and Syd. Barney didn’t talk much, but he would always offer his extra pat of butter to Joyce. Syd did all the talking, he mostly told the same three stories every time, but Joyce didn’t mind.


Joyce was relieved to have graduated from her walker with the tennis ball feet to the new red walker that had breaks and a seat. Ever since she fell last December, her son begged her to use a walker. She refused to use the tennis ball one anywhere inside the independent living area of Brookdale. She’d only use it in her apartment and when her son took her to run errands. This new red one, though, she liked it a lot better. She told all her friends that the seat made a perfect perch for her to go cup of coffee and her pocket book.


Back at her apartment, Joyce had just enough time to brush her teeth and look over her music folder before walking to the portico to catch the van to church. She grinned big into the mirror to check her teeth for lipstick and buttoned the third button on her shirt that she’d seemed to have missed earlier. On the kitchen table was her music folder right where she’d left it.


Joyce had been an organist for more than sixty years. When she moved to Brookdale Independent Living, she was the interim organist at Providence Presbyterian Church. After her fall, her son made her agree to start going to the church that provides transportation from Brookdale. It wasn’t long before Pastor Elmwood from Beverly Woods United Methodist Church asked Joyce to accompany the congregation on Sunday mornings.


Sunday service usually consisted of three hymns that the Pastor picked out. He’d call Joyce on Tuesdays to let her know what they were. Joyce loved picking out the offertory, prelude, and postlude music. She delighted in choosing the perfect songs to go along with his message for the week. Before leaving on Sunday mornings, Joyce liked to double check her music folder to make sure she had everything. Just before heading to the portico to catch the van to church, she’d take a few minutes to play air piano on the kitchen table, to practice any tricky chords.


Joyce opened her music folder and counted the pieces. Six pieces, she had what she needed. A special bowl her granddaughter made in fifth grade sat in the middle of the table. Inside of the bowl, she kept her reading glasses, keys, and cell phone. Joyce placed the music down and reached for her glasses. She squinted and put her hands on her hips when she realized her glasses weren’t there.


Breathing deeply, Joyce scuffled to her pocketbook and looked inside. No glasses. She checked all the places that made sense: the top of the chest of drawers, her desk, the bathroom counter. She even checked some spots that didn’t make sense: the freezer and the kitchen sink. She must have left her glasses at the dining hall, she told herself. Joyce grabbed her music folder, her keys, her cellphone, jacket, pocketbook, and walker and padded toward the dining hall. Syd and Barney were gone, their table was cleared. Joyce checked the lost and found basket in the social room. No glasses.


The clock over the doorway told her she had eight minutes before the van would arrive in the portico. She wouldn’t be able to play for church if she didn’t have her glasses. If she moved quickly, she might be able to borrow a pair from Bonnie. Joyce and Bonnie plaid bridge on the first Thursday of every month. Their team nickname was “Blind Trick”. They often swapped glasses while playing cards. The other bridge ladies kidded that the glasses swap was a cheat signal along with Joyce’s habit of twirling her hair. “Blind Trick” always bid just right. The bridge ladies were convinced they must have some tricks up their sleeves.


Bonnie attended Brookdale Baptist Church, which met in the dance hall downstairs in the clubhouse. If Joyce moved quickly, she could catch Bonnie before time to leave. Brookdale Baptist Church met an hour before Joyce’s church and it always seemed to get out thirty minutes after Joyce’s return. Joyce was glad she didn’t have to go so early and stay as long as Bonnie did.


When Joyce got to the dance hall, Pastor Robinson’s voice was booming the Invocation. Pastor Robinson often stayed after church and ate lunch at the ladies’ table in the dining hall. Joyce always ordered her dessert to go on Sundays so she didn’t have to participate in the long prayer Pastor Robinson liked to give at the end of lunch. The beginning chords to “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” began to play on the upright piano in the dance hall. Joyce wished Brookdale would replace it with a baby grand.


Bonnie’s church service had already begun, but Joyce had a plan. She would simply borrow Bonnie’s glasses and return them before Bonnie even noticed anything was missing. Joyce scuffled over to the coat rack that stood just outside of the dancehall and found three black coats, two beige ones, a pink one, and two blue ones. She reached into the pocket of one of the blue coats and found one peppermint and a pack of tissues. This couldn’t be Bonnie’s coat because Bonnie hated mint. Joyce reached into the other blue coat, only to find a pocket knife and a pack of double mint gum. She pushed the blue coats aside and reached for the black. Joyce skipped the coat with the fur trim. Bonnie would never wear a fir trim, she was too simple and sleek for that. “It must be the one with the purple lining,” Joyce said to herself.


Just as Joyce reached into the purple lined coat, a white glove landed on her shoulder. “Blessed Day, Sister! What a joy to have you with us this morning. I knew one day you’d return to the fold.” Clarisse Jenkins was known by all of Brookdale as the retired missionary and self appointed outreach director for Brookdale Baptist. Clarisse was always first to arrive and last to leave the church. She stood by the door every Sunday and passed out bulletins until the offertory when she walked the basket up the aisle. “Hello Clarisse, good to see you. I’m sorry to say I continue to be a heathen Methodist and I’m in quite a hurry, so I’ll have to talk to you later,” Joyce said as she gripped Bonnie’s glasses and turned toward the elevator.


When she got to the portico, the van was waiting for her. “Ms. Joyce, I knew you’d be coming. I told everybody we’d wait a few minutes,” Phil, the van driver exclaimed. Embarrassed and also relieved, Joyce climbed into the van. Reading while riding made her dizzy, but Joyce tried to practice her chords on the ride over anyway. When they arrived, Joyce scurried to the choir room. If she hurried, she’d have time to tinker on the piano before putting on her choir robe and going to the sanctuary.


Pastor Elmwood preached about Paul’s conversion. Joyce played “Open My Eyes that I May See” for the offertory. At the end of the service, Joyce read the church newsletter while she waited with the others for the van. She and the pastor had a little game they played each week where he’d try to guess the theme she had chosen for her songs. “Let’s see,” he said, “I heard ‘His Eye Is On The Sparrow,’ ‘Be Thou My Vision,’ and “Eyes on the Prize” this morning, so I’m gonna say your theme was about vision. Am I right?” Joyce nodded her head and smiled. Pastor Elmwood grinned, proud of himself for getting it right. “And you even wore two pairs of glasses today to bring the point home!” Joyce tried to hide her confusion with a grin. The pastor stepped toward the next person to bid them farewell. When he wasn’t looking, she reached for Bonnie’s glasses on the tip of her nose and removed them. “What did he mean by two pairs of glasses?” she asked herself. Puzzled, she nervously reached her hand up to twirl her hair.


Joyce laughed so loud that all the others turned to look her way. Just then, Phil announced that the van was ready and folks started moving toward the exit. Joyce tucked both pairs of glasses into her pocketbook. She rode in the front seat on the way back to Brookdale. This way, she could get out of the van first. She couldn’t wait to tell Bonnie what had happened over lunch.




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