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Shattered Plates

by | Dec 4, 2012

By Karen Cortell Reisman


You know that magic trick where there’s a beautiful dining room table set for a bunch of people – with a tablecloth and all the china, crystal goblets, and lit candles? Then the magician somehow rips out the tablecloth and all the tableware stays put?

That’s just a show.

When Mom says, “Your Dad has 3 months to live”, my 15-year-old brain has a hard time processing. Four days later the doctor tells me, “Your mom has cancer and we aren’t sure about the outcome.” I nodded but I could not see. Two days after that my sister reveals, “Freckles isn’t at the vet. He had to be put to sleep. His dragging around had more to do with stomach cancer than his floppy basset hound ears.”

The tablecloth had been pulled out from under my life.

I turned 16 around this time and my father asked, “What do you want for your birthday?”

“Daddy, now that you and Mom are out of the hospital I’d love for you to make me dinner.”

The steak, broccoli and croissant are delicious.

My father dies 10 days later.

Thankfully, my mom survives and lives another 20 blessed years.

Even though these events happened in 1971, my parents continue to be a reminder of resilience. I’m a recent survivor of breast cancer. Friends say, “Karen, I don’t know how you’ve kept going. You’re still speaking, exercising, and laughing. You are an inspiration.”

“I’ve had strong role models,” I smile and respond. “That’s what my parents did. I wouldn’t know how to do it any other way.”

Life’s turning points thrust plates, glasses, and silverware onto the floor, the ceiling, or even a sidewalk. It’s really messy.

The magic is in resetting the dining room table with each fork, glass, and plate. It’s about picking up the shattered pieces.

That’s the show.

Thank you to Dave Lieber, columnist at the Ft. Worth Star Telegram, for your expertise and editing of this piece. Dave teaches a group from the North Texas Chapter of the National Speakers Association about how to write. Dave says easy writing makes hard reading. Hard writing makes easy reading. He’s right.



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