Forrest Gump and Helen (by Pat Simmons)

Here are four short pieces written  by Pat Simmons.  I know Pat as a friend, writing buddy and the Executive Director of “Friends in Time” who transformed our non-profit into a unique, supportive presence in the greater Albuquerque area.

One fine day, in the mid ‘90’s—after devoting herself to in-home care and loving support for her  friend, Helen Rennick, during the final year of Helen’s life–Pat walked into the “Friends in Time” office and announced that she was ready to work with other people who were grappling with ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease).   The rest of us at “Friends in Time” watched in amazement at the transformation she spearheaded over  the following years in the services we were able to offer the  MS and ALS population.    She accomplished this by recruiting a host of volunteers, securing financial resources, expanding our scope of services, and forging lasting relationships with other agencies and resources in the Greater Albuquerque community.



My friend Helen who’s terminally ill with Lou Gehrig’s Disease is intrigued with the film, Forrest Gump. She sits and says, “My name is Forrest, Forrest Gump.”

I think it might be because Forrest sees life in a simple way in a world that seems to delight in excess and complexity. Helen’s life is simple now: stay safe, get clean and dressed and fed, cope with the pain of it all one-day-at-a-time. But Helen doesn’t take her problems personally and like Forrest is doing the best she can with what God gave her. After all as Forrest’s mama said, “Life is a box of ‘choc-co-lats’ and you never know what you’re going to get.”

Lt. Dan’s dilemma was that he thought he knew his destiny and it was not a disability. Yet Forrest’s caring gives Dan back his life. Late in the film, Lt. Dan, minus his legs, bitterness and addictions, jumps into the sea and swims away on his back as Forrest offers, “He never said it but I think Lt. Dan made his peace with God.” Helen’s modeling has led many to make peace. Both Forrest and Helen often seem to see past the rough edges of people and love them anyway.

Forrest and Helen become afraid, sad, joyful and dumbfounded but the feelings seem to just pass through them a little like air in and out of the lungs – no grasping.

When faced with impasse in the film, Forrest leaves his comfortable home and runs to the Pacific Ocean and then back to the Atlantic, making several round-trips. He gathers followers and lots of media attention and people press him repeatedly to say why he is running. Later an older woman sitting on the bench with Forrest, “gets it.” She brightens up and says, “I know, you just ran!”

“I know, Helen, you just sit.”

Forrest’s mama says we all have a destiny and Lt. Dan says we’re all “floating around accidental on a breeze” and Forrest says maybe both are happening at the same time. He doesn’t really need answers to the mystery of suffering. Neither does Helen. My guess is that Helen and Forrest just want to be with it and that’s probably all she has to say.

Oct 1994, Pat Flatley Simmons


This is the day you become history, old friend. You’ve given me 65 years of chomping a virtual mountain of vittles. And as I am a member of the pre-fluoride generation, we’ve had cavities filled and filled AND filled until you are more filling than tooth. You can take no more!

My brother’s now going on 70 and lives with a similar dental future and together we’ve noticed some attitudinal trends. When the teeth of our children ages 30 – 45 face dental damage control, the input from the dentist focuses on salvation procedures, crowns or implants, often times presented with the goal of keeping good looks. But we watch viva la difference with us and can see the dentist’s brain churning, calculating on how long we’ll be around and what degree of obstruction is worth the dentist’s time and our money. Youthful, good looks took the stagecoach many years ago!

To finish this saga, good buddy, my practicality, budget and common sense must prevail. So brace yourself. You are about to be yanked! But before you go, I need to acknowledge that while you don’t look like a Colgate commercial right now, you deserve a service medal for all the biting and chewing you’ve provided for these many decades. Maybe I can arrange an Irish wake.

2011, Pat Flatley Simmons



Mind like water
Rushing, gushing
Trickling, falling
At different speeds and rhythms
Frantically renewing content
Varying minds and mermaids kiss
And eventually go to sea
Thoughts like water never cease
Packed with driftwood, leaves and litter
Tsunamis threaten
So meditate
Breathe deeply
Play water sports
And mind games
H2O and brain matter
Sloshing in sync
Turn it on and off
Fickle and mystifying

5/23/2013, Pat Flatley Simmons


Elder on the fringe
Drooping like the willow tree
Who knows which way’s left?

To age is to shrink
So turn left at a willow
Universal droop

Pain pervades my view
Who waits when I walk slowly?
Left near a willow

I do not trust him
Air reeks of dying willow
Why can’t she smell it?

Sharp turn to the left
Weaving leaves into baskets
Slipper-shaped bud scales

Reward a left turn
Grown to be ornamental
Delicate branches

Left turn to the East
Chinese made willow baskets
Gifting an exchange

May 2013, Pat Flatley Simmons

One comment to “Forrest Gump and Helen (by Pat Simmons)”
  1. I enjoyed Pat’s writings and am happy to know she is still active and creative, even if one tooth short of her former self.

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