The Temporary Assignment

He had gone through a bitter divorce and custody battle.  His wife had their two daughters.  He didn’t hear from them not even on Father’s Day, his birthday or Christmas.  To them, it seemed as if he didn’t exist.  At first, it hurt but then he learned to cope and he had one more year to pay child support.

His marriage had left a very bitter taste in his mouth and as a result he had sworn off relationships.  He buried himself in his work.  He had friends and a church family who cared about him.  Life was pleasant for him.  Some might say his life was mundane but for him it was how he wanted it–relationship free.  And then she walked into his life and wham!

Amelia Johnson was hired to fill Susanna’s position.  Susanna was on maternity leave.  Amelia came from Alpha North Group Ltd with excellent qualifications and references from previous assignments. He remembered the first time he saw her as if it were yesterday.   When they were introduced, he tried not to stare but her fresh beauty took his breath away.  The unruly curls cascaded past her shoulders, some of the tendrils managed to escape the clasp that was holding it together and brushed against her face.  She wore a white top and black skirt.  She was petite and slender.  He towered over her.  When she looked up at him with those big brown eyes and smiled at him, he felt his heart melt.  He knew he was in trouble then.  Their handshake was brief but long after he had released her hand, he could still feel its warmth and softness.

During the 18 months she was with them he tried to keep his growing attraction hidden under the veneer of professionalism.  No one had a clue that every morning he would look out of his office window overlooking the street below to watch her walking up the sidewalk.  He was tied up in knots.  He didn’t want to become emotionally attached again because of the pain he had experienced with his ex but the more he fought against his feelings for Amelia, the stronger they seemed to grow.  It was a battle that he was losing.  He had no idea of how she felt about him.  She was as pleasant to him as she was with the rest of the staff.  He could tell nothing from her interaction with him if there was something there on her part.  And for all he knew, she might already be in a relationship.  The thought stung but he had to be prepared for that possibility.  How was he going to find out whether or not that she had a boyfriend?

He sat at his desk now in deep thought, wondering what to do.  This was Amelia’s last week with the company.  Susanna was back on Monday.  He had to do something before Amelia went out of his life forever.  The mere thought of never seeing her again agitated him so much that he jumped to his feet and paced about the room restlessly.  He had prayed about the situation and he knew that the answer was to talk to Amelia.  He swallowed hard and tried to suppress the rising fear that threatened to overwhelm him and deter him from doing what he knew he must do.

He went back to his desk and his hand trembled as he reached for the receiver.  He hesitated for a brief moment before he dialled her extension.  His heart was thudding heavily against his ribs.  When she answered, he kept it short, “I need to see you.”  He sank heavily into the chair after hanging up the phone and waited.  His tortured gaze was on the door which will open any minute now and Amelia will walk in.  There was no turning back now.

After she hung up the phone, Amelia stared at it for a moment.  Mark wanted to see her.  Why?  She was nervous about being alone with him.  What if she couldn’t hide her feelings for him?  It was one thing to act professional around him when others were around but quite another when they were alone.  Slowly, she pushed her chair back and got up, her legs feeling like jelly.  She smoothed her trembling and sweaty palms over her skirt and headed for his office.

She knocked on the door and hear him say, “Come in.”  Her heart was beating so fast and she couldn’t seem to control her breathing.  I must remain calm, she told herself as she opened the door and went inside.  He was standing behind his desk.  Her eyes travelled over his tall figure as she closed the door behind her.   She walked over to him and stopped in front of the desk.   She clasped her hands tightly in front of her so that he wouldn’t notice that they were trembling.  “You needed to see me,” she said.

He cleared his throat.  “Yes.  This is your last week with us.”

She lowered her eyes so that he wouldn’t see the sadness in them.  “Yes, it is.”  She had dreaded this moment.  She liked working here and the people but most of all, she hated the thought of leaving him.  He was the reason why she enjoyed coming in to work.

“I hope you have been happy here, Amelia. We were very fortunate to have you.”

She looked up.  “Yes, I have been very happy here.  Everyone has been so great.”

“We are sorry to lose you.  You will be missed.”

“I am going to miss all of you.”

There was a pregnant pause during which they stared at each other, each not knowing what to say next or how to act.  “Do you have a boyfriend?” He asked suddenly.

She blinked in surprise.  She hadn’t expected that.  She shook her head at once.  “No.”

He looked relieved.  “Good to hear,” he said, coming around the desk to stand close to her.  “Amelia, I’m divorced and have two daughters.  I had sworn off relationships until I met you.  You walked into my life and turned it upside down.  For the longest time I tried to fight my feelings for you but it was no use.”

Her eyes grew wide.  “Your feelings?”

“Yes.  I love you, Amelia and I wanted to tell you that before you walk out of my life for good.  Do you have any feelings for me?”  He braced himself for her answer, his face pale.

She nodded, her heart was in her eyes.  “Yes, Mark,” she cried.  “I love you too.  I tried so hard not to show it because it never dawned on me that you felt the same way.”

Mark took her in his arms and kissed her.  “You and I did a really good job of hiding our feelings from each other ,” he said when he raised his head, his eyes tender as he gazed  into her upturned face.  “I’m just very thankful that your assignment here is ending this week.  It was the possibility of never seeing your beautiful face again and encouragement from God that pushed me to declare mine.”

She smiled.  “When I took this assignment, I never imagined that I would find love too.”

two professional people in an office2

 

Memories

She sat on the beach, watching

the sun set over the sea.  This

was her favorite spot.  She came

here every Father’s Day since her

Dad died six years ago.

 

She missed him terribly.

A heart attack had claimed

his life and robbed her of

the joy of having him give

her away at her wedding.

And it robbed his grandson

of knowing the most

amazing man in the world.

 

She smiled as she remembered

the times when she was a little

girl and he used to bring her

to the beach.  They would sit

facing the sea and he would

tell her all sorts of exciting

stories about pirates and their

adventures at sea.  Her

imagination would run

wild and she wished she

could be out at sea on those

ships with him.

 

For her twelfth birthday

he bought her a ship in a

bottle.  Every night before

she went to bed, she held it

in her hands as if it were the

most precious thing she had

ever seen.  It was because

it was from her Dad.

 

She still had that bottle

and whenever she saw it

she remembered her Dad

and his stories of the sea.

One day she would tell

her son about his grandfather

and bring him to this beach

which held so many wonderful

memories for her.

 

sunset (1)

Joey’s Blanket

She saw him huddled in the corner
He was covered in newspapers
Trying to keep warm
He had old, worn cap on his head.
She glanced at the box of donations
She was carrying to the homeless shelter
She set the box on the bonnet of her car and opened it
She searched for the winter hat with the flaps
And pulled it out, setting it beside the box.
Then she looked for the blanket
As her fingers closed over the thick fabric, the emotions came
Like a flood, washing over her
She could still remember the day when she had
Knitted it for her son for his tenth birthday
She could still remember the delight on his face when he saw it
What a happy day it had been when he and his friends had celebrated his birthday at LegoLand
And then six weeks later—the accident which claimed his life…
She ran her fingers over the soft wool
A part of her wanted to keep the blanket to remember…and
Another part wanted to give it away…because of the pain
It seemed silly to be giving a homeless man a blanket that once belonged to a ten year old but it was all she had to give him.
Fighting back the tears, she took up the hat and the blanket
And gingerly made her way over to the man
He looked up as she approached him
Without saying a word, she moved the newspapers aside
And spread the blanket over his legs.
She took off the tattered hat and placed the winter hat on his head
“These should keep you warm,” she said softly, looking fully into his face
He didn’t say a word but his eyes seemed to glisten
She touched his arm gently and slowly walked away
Through the tears, she smiled, her heart felt light
She believed that Joey would have approved
His blanket was going to bring warmth and happiness to someone else.
Wool blanket

 

Ingrid Bergman

I just read in the Stabroek News that the 68th Cannes Film Festival unveiled its official poster featuring legendary actress Ingrid Bergman in a tribute to what would have been her 100th birthday this year.  I think that’s wonderful.  She was an actress I truly admired and appreciated.  She had gentle beauty and an air of quiet refinement.  She was very classy.  I remember her in films like Casablanca, Gaslight, Anastasia and For Whom the Bells Toll.  She acted with some of Hollywood’s A list male stars–Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper.  It would have been interesting to see her star opposite Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart and Burt Lancaster.

Acting was something Ingrid always knew she wanted to become.  Her father, a Swedish artist and photographer wanted her to become an opera star and had her take voice lessons for three years.  She wore her mother’s clothes and staged plays in her father’s empty studio.  He documented all of her birthdays with a borrowed camera.  He died when she was thirteen.  Her German mother had died when she was two years old.

After her father’s death, Ingrid was sent to live with an aunt who died just six months later from a heart disease.  She moved in with another aunt and uncle who had five children.  Her aunt Elsa was the first one who told Ingrid when she was 11 years old that her mother may have “some Jewish blood”, and that her father was aware of this long before they got married.  Her aunt cautioned her about telling others about her possible ancestry as “there might be some difficult times coming.”  This reminds me of Queen Esther who was intially cautioned by her uncle not to let anyone know that she was a Jew.

In 1932 when she was 17, Ingrid had only one opportunity to become an actress by entering an acting competition with the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm.  For Ingrid it was a terrible moment.  She recalled:  As I walked off the stage, I was in mourning.  I was at a funeral.  My own.  It was the death of my creative self.  My heart had truly broken…they didn’t think I was even worth listening to, or watching.”

This couldn’t have be further from the truth as she soon learned after meeting one of the judges who told her, “We loved your security and your impertinance.  We loved you and told each other that there was no reason to waste time as there were dozens of other entrants still to come.  We didn’t need to waste any time with you.  We knew you were a natural and great.  Your future as an actress was settled.”  What a thrill and relief that must have been for the aspiring actress.  She received a scholarship to the state-sponsored Royal Dramatic Theatre School where Greta Garbo had earned a similar scholarship just years earlier.

Ingrid’s dream was now a reality.  She was given a part in a new play and over the summer break, she was hired by a Swedish film studio which led to her departure from the Royal Dramatic Theatre a year later to work full-time in films.  She starred in a dozen films in Sweden, including En kvinnas ansikte which was later remade as A Woman’s Face, starring Joan Crawford.  Ingrid made one film in Germany in 1938.

Then it was off to Hollywood…Thanks to David O. Selznick, she starred in Intermezzo:  A Love Story, her first acting role in the United States.  It was a remake of her 1935 Swedish film, Intermezzo.  Ingrid didn’t plan to stay in Hollywood.  She thought she would complete this film and return home to Sweden to be with her husband, Dr. Peter Lindstrom and their daughter, Pia.

Selznick had concerns about Ingrid.  “She didn’t speak English, she was too tall, her name sounded too German, and her eyebrows were too thick.”  However, Ingrid was accepted without having to modify her looks.  Selznick let her have her way because he understood her fear of Hollywood makeup artists who might turn her into someone she wouldn’t recognize.  He told them to back off.  Besides, he believe that her natural good looks would compete successfully with Hollywood’s “synthetic razzle-dazzle.”

Selznick, who was filming Gone With the Wind at the same time, shared his early impressions of Ingrid in a letter to William Hebert, his publicity director :

Miss Bergman is the most completely conscientious actress with whom I have ever worked, in that she thinks of absolutely nothing but her work before and during the time she is doing a picture … She practically never leaves the studio, and even suggested that her dressing room be equipped so that she could live here during the picture. She never for a minute suggests quitting at six o’clock or anything of the kind … Because of having four stars acting in Gone with the Wind, our star dressing-room suites were all occupied and we had to assign her a smaller suite. She went into ecstasies over it and said she had never had such a suite in her life … All of this is completely unaffected and completely unique and I should think would make a grand angle of approach to her publicity … so that her natural sweetness and consideration and conscientiousness become something of a legend … and is completely in keeping with the fresh and pure personality and appearance which caused me to sign her.

Not surprisingly, Intermezzo was a huge success and resulted in Ingrid becoming a star.  She left quite an impression on Hollywood.  And Selznick’s appreciation of her uniqueness made he and his wife Irene remain important friends to Ingrid throughout her career.

Before making Casablanca, Ingrid made one last film in Sweden and appearing in three moderately successful films, Adam Had Four Sons, Rage in Heaven and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  According to her biographer, she felt guilty that she had misjudged the situation in Germany.  She had dismissed the Nazis as a “temporary aberration, ‘too foolish to be taken seriously.’ She didn’t believe that Germany start a war because the good people of the country would not allow it.  Sadly, she was wrong.  She felt guilty for the rest of her life and when she was in Germany at the end of the war, she had been afraid to go with the others to witness the atrocitites of the Nazi extermination camps.

In 1942, she starred opposite Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, a movie famous for its wonderul lines and the famous song, “As Time Goes By”.  I was surprised to read that Ingrid did not consider it to be one of her favorite performances.  She said, “I made so many films which were more important, but the only one people ever want to talk about is that one with Bogart.”  I thought she and Bogart were great together.

I think I only saw For Whom the Bell Tolls once but really liked it.  My sister and I liked how she looked with her short, blond, curly hair and a “sun-kissed complexion”.  I read that Ernest Hemmingway wanted her to play the part of Maria.  When he met her, after studying her, he exclaimed, “You are Maria!”  When Ernest told Ingrid that she would have to cut her hair to play the part, she was quick to respond, “To get that part, I’d cut my head off!”

For Whom the Bell Tolls, was the film that saved the song, “As Time Goes By” from being removed from Casablanca.  Warner Brothers wanted to substitute the song and planned to re-shoot some scenes with Ingrid but thanks to her hair-cut, they had to drop the idea as there would be a problem with continuity even if she wore a wig.

A year later, Ingrid won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Gaslight.  It was a gripping and suspenseful movie of a wife being driven to madness by her husband, masterfully played by Charles Boyer.  She next starred as a nun in The Bells of St. Mary opposite Bing Cosby, garnering her third consecutive nomination for Best Actress.   She came in a succession of Alfred Hitchock movies, Spellbound, Notorious and Under Capricorn (I never heard of this one).

During her marriage to Lindstrom, Ingrid had a brief affair with Gregory Peck.  This affair was kept private until five years after Ingrid’s death, when Gregory revealed in an interview with Brad Darrach of People, “All I can say is that I had a real love for her (Bergman), and I think that’s where I ought to stop…. I was young. She was young. We were involved for weeks in close and intense work.”

Unlike her affair with Gregory Peck, the one with the Italian film director, Roberto Rossellini was a very public one.   Although Ingrid received another Best Actress nomination for Joan of Arc in 1948, the film was not a hit, partly because news of her affair with Rossellini broke while the movie was still in theatres.  It was her admiration for Rossellini which had led Ingrid to write him a letter, expressing her admiration and suggesting that she make a film with him.  She was cast in his film, Stromboli and during production, she fell in love with him and they began an affair.  She became pregnant with their son, Bergman became pregnant with their son, Renato Roberto Ranaldo Giusto Giuseppe (“Robin”) Rossellini and this affair caused a huge scandal in the United States.  She was denounced on the floor of the United States senate and Ed Sullivan chose not to have her appear on his show despite a poll showing that the public wanted her there.  However, Steve Allen had her on his equally popular show, noting, “the danger of trying to judge artistic activity through the prism of one’s personal life.” 

The scandal drove Ingrid back to Italy, leaving her husband and daughter.  She went through a very public divorce and custody battle for their daughter.  She and Lindstrom divorced a week after her son was born and she married Rossellini in Mexico.  In 1952, Ingrid gave birth to twin daughters Isotta Ingrid Rossellini and Isabella Rossellini.  Five years later she divorced their father and the following year she married Lars Schmidt, a theatrical entrepreneur from a wealthy Swedish shipping family.  That marriage lasted until 1975 when they divorced.

In 1956, Ingrid starred in the movie, Anatasia. It was her return to the American screen and her second Academy Award for Best Actress which her best friend Cary Grant accepted for her.  She made her first appearance in Hollywood since the scandal when she was the presenter of the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 1956 Academy Awards.  She received a standing ovation after being introduced by Cary Grant.  In 1969, she starred opposite Walter Matthau and Goldie Hawn in the hilarious and delightful movie, Cactus Flower.  It was nice seeing Ingrid take a turn in a light romantic comedy.

In 1972, US Senator Charles H. Percy entered an apology in to the Congressional Record for Edwin C. Johnson’s attack on Ingrid 22 years ago.  In 1974 she won her third Oscar for Murder on the Orient Express, earning her the distinction of being one of the few actresses ever to receive three Oscars.  Her final role was as Golda Meir in A Woman Called Golda.   She was offered the part because, “People believe you and trust you, and this is what I want, because Golda Meir had the trust of the people.”  This interested Ingrid and the role was greatly significant for her because she still carried the guilt of misjudging the situation in Germany during World War II.  Ingrid was frequently ill during the film although she hardly showed it or complained.  She was a real trooper.  Four months after the film was completed, on her 67th birthday in London, Ingrid died of breast cancer.  Her daughter, Pia accepted her Emmy.

Ingrid was a  woman of grace, natural beauty who brought realism and dignity to her roles.  She was a star with no temperament, making her a delight to work with, unpretentious, unique, hard-working, “a great star” who “always strove to be a ‘true’ woman.”  She was not a saint but a woman with real emotions.   She was not afraid to speak out against racism.  During a press conference in Washington, D.C. where she was promoting, Joan of Lorraine, she protested against the racial segregation she witnessed firsthand at the theatre where she was performing.  This drew a lot of publicity and some hate mail.  In a news column in the Herald-Journal, she is reported as saying, “I deplore racial discrimination in any form.  To think it would be permitted in the nation’s capital of all places!  I really had not known that there were places in the United States–entertainment places which are for all the people–where everybody could not go.”

Notes to Women salute this remarkable woman and actress who won our hearts and deepest admiration with her grace and courage.  We celebrate one of the greatest leading ladies that ever graced the silver screen.  She once said, “I am an actress and I am interested in acting, not in making money.”  Dear Ingrid, we are so very thankful that you chose acting over opera.

I have no regrets. I wouldn’t have lived my life the way I did if I was going to worry about what people were going to say.

I can do everything with ease on the stage, whereas in real life I feel too big and clumsy. So I didn’t choose acting. It chose me.

I don’t think anyone has the right to intrude in your life, but they do. I would like people to separate the actress and the woman.

Time is shortening. But every day that I challenge this cancer and survive is a victory for me.

If you took acting away from me, I’d stop breathing.

ingrid-bergman

Sources:  Stabroek News ; Wikipedia; IMDB; Brainy Quotes; Herald-Journal

Pregnancy At 40 and Older – The Risks

I got pregnant when I was forty and had our son when I was forty-one.  It was a textbook pregnancy.  There were no complications.  I didn’t have to have an epidural and the actual delivery took under fifteen minutes.  The contractions although they were bad, they didn’t last long.  I have heard some horror stories of women being in labor for more than 24 hours.  I couldn’t imagine going through that.

In a couple of months our son will be celebrating his third birthday.  Wow.  Where did the time go?  It seemed like only the other day I was holding him in my arms for the first time.  The pregnancy was an experience I feel truly blessed to have had.  At the time, though, I didn’t want to go through another one.  I didn’t feel mentally or physically or even emotionally up to it.  Before I had my son, I had always planned that when I got married, I would love to have twins–a boy and a girl.  That of course didn’t happen.  God blessed us with a son.  And we have decided that we wouldn’t have more children because of my age.  I am heading toward my mid-forties.  We worry about the risks and are not willing to take them.

I have been adamant about not having a second child but I would have a couple women push me to consider it.  There is one in particular who works in the office cafeteria.  Every time I see her, she manages to bring the conversation around to me having another baby.  I try to change the topic but she is persistent.  I try to tell her that at my age I should not even be considering this but she brushes that excuse aside.  She seems to believe that age is not a factor.  Once when she broached the subject, I had a moment of insanity when I actually wanted to get pregnant again.  Of course when I spoke to my fiance, he snapped me right back to reality.

There are times when I entertain the thought and imagine what the baby would look like.  I like the idea of having a little girl who will look like her Daddy.  But then, I think about the risks.

What are the risks?  Are they worth taking?  I decided to find out via the Internet. 

With today’s medical technology, prenatal care, and well educated doctors women have the best chances ever to become pregnant and have successful pregnancies after age 40. However, the risks are there and women in this age range should be aware of them.

One risk many women over the age of 40 are most concerned with is genetic disorders. As a woman ages her entire body does as well, including her eggs. Many times Down Syndrome results from an older woman’s egg simply not dividing like it might have when the woman was younger. Of course, if you are age 40 or more and you want to have a child you should not let the slightly higher risk of genetic disorders or birth defects scare you. A woman who becomes pregnant at age 35 has a risk of 1 in 365 of having a baby with Down’s Syndrome. That risk increases to 1 in 100 with a woman 40 years of age and approximately to 1 in 40 for women 45 years of age. Any woman who becomes pregnant has a risk of about 3% to have a child with a birth defect. This percentage more than doubles for women over 40, but still the 6-8% risk is still relatively low.

These statistics seem pretty scary to women who are 40 years old or older but want to have a baby. However, the statistics are just that and while one out of ever 100 babies has Down’s Syndrome there are 99 other babies that are perfect. The best thing to do is visit your doctor before you become pregnant. Your doctor will advise you of your risks and give you a plan to help reduce risks. This includes eating healthy, exercising, treating any current diseases or disorders, and simply being as healthy as possible before pregnancy begins. At that point you will be better prepared to have a baby, your pregnancy will go smoother, and you will more than likely have a perfectly healthy baby.

There are tests that can be performed early in the pregnancy to see if your baby has a higher chance of having a genetic disorder or birth defect as well. As long as you work with your doctor and have prenatal care you will more than likely have a healthy baby at age 40 or older (http://www.amazingpregnancy.com/pregnancy-articles/543.html). 

I had these tests done and everything was perfect.  There were no concerns.  For the first five months of my pregnancy I was mindful of having a miscarriage.  I learned that not only is it more difficult to conceive after 40, but that the miscarriage rate increases with both maternal and paternal age, says Michelle Collins, a certified nurse midwife and an assistant professor of nursing at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, Nashville. One woman said that she had her first child at 39 but at 43 she was having problems conceiving and had three miscarriages in one year.   (http://www.pregnancytoday.com/articles/healthy-safe-pregnancy/pregnancy-after-40-6175/). 

If you are forty or older and are considering having a baby, talk to your doctor first.  Learn what your risks are and if you are willing to take them.  If after talking to your doctor, you decide you want to go through with it, then start taking the prenatal vitamins, Folic Acid supplements and doing the necessary things.  One person commented, if it is God’s will for you to have a child, it will happen.  He let it happen with two women who were pushing way past 40–Sarah and Elizabeth and they both had healthy baby boys and back  then they didn’t have the medical technology we have today.  If I believed that God wanted to bless us with another child, I would go through with another pregnancy, trusting that everything will turn out just fine. 

If you are a 40 or 40+ year old woman and are serious about getting pregnant again, don’t wait any longer.  Consult your doctor and do what you need to do.  I wish that all goes well for you and your baby.