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Absence

 

Have you ever had those moments where you feel ALL alone in the world? It may not be reality, but you definitely feel it so strongly that you can hardly catch your breath. I wonder if this is part of grief.

I came home sick from work tonight. Since I woke up this morning I have felt horrid. It got worse as the day wore on and no medicine I took had any affect. I almost fell asleep while driving today (in daylight) and was only able to work for 3 hours before abandoning my fellow barista to a Saturday night shift all on her own.

I came home (to my roommate who has been bedridden all day with a cold) and collapsed. Over the last few hours I have tried to rest, but my mind has been racing and I have struggled and wrestled with myself to calm down.

I just spent an hour staring at my wall, unable to rest, and half in panic mode. Then I began to panic about panicking-that something must be really wrong with me…then I started to worry about that. Then I called about 4 friends (all of whom I could not get in touch with) and finally my friendly abandoned barista friend called  me back and we chatted for a sec,”you just need to take some deep breaths, say a little prayer, and get some good rest tonight.” She reassured me that I was not crazy and that yes, she too, (as we all do), have these moments where it feels as if our minds implode. So, then I felt better.

And then, upon hanging up, I stopped and listened to this song, wept, and regrouped…and now I compose this blog.

So, here’s the thing…tomorrow is the day. Dad died a year ago tomorrow. He slipped away. The cancer might have ravaged his body, but it was the calm, kind spirit of his Heavenly Father, that ushered him on. Dad had such peace. No one and nothing can touch that.

But, a year…the BIG anniversary. And I wonder, “Is that why my body felt as if it was dying today?” I seriously felt the flu coming on…it was that type of ache and pain and heaviness in my joints and bones and chest and eyes and neck that makes you think it’s the flu. Could it all have just been my body’s response to something my sweet little occupied mind and heart have been avoiding…the anniversary is here…the anniversary is here…it was a year ago tomorrow that the man who helped bring me into this world left mine forever.

I’ve said it before: Death is the most unnatural natural part of this experience we call life on earth.

The death of a parent is strange and unnerving. Solitary and soundless-quiet and alarming all at once. Like being underwater and watching things happen in a slow-motion haze. Gravity is changed, colors leak out, what is this strange place…this place without my Dad.

This place without his laughter and his Old Spice/cigar presence.

I wasn’t finished. I wasn’t finished telling him who I would be and how my life would unfold…I wasn’t done showing him who I was and who I was meant to be. He didn’t see me fully as a woman…the woman who would love her spouse and adore her children and hold her family out to greet him-Invite him in to taste the splendor of a legacy he helped create…he didn’t see it. I wasn’t finished showing him all of who I would become.

I wasn’t finished softening out his sharp edges-I wasn’t finished proving to him that LOVE was stronger than any failure on his part as a parent, as a father, as a man. I wanted to be a part of his reconciliation-his reconciliation with himself.

I wasn’t done singing to him. I had songs just for him that he had not heard.

I wasn’t finished writing to him. Pages and pages of thoughtfully crafted words and expressions all for him…celebrating the memories he made for me…the good ones, the sweet ones between a daughter and her Daddy.

I wasn’t finished telling him that all the ways in which he reached to be the father that I needed far outweighed his shortcomings. His heart was always willing to be the best he could be. That made him perfect.

Come back for a day, Dad. Come back and let me tell you about how I graduated with three different honors in December. I had to overcome so much to see that day…the day when I would receive my Bachelors…and Dad, I graduated with Honors. You wanted to be there so badly. I made it, Dad. I walked and received my diploma. It was a good day, Dad.

I wasn’t finished hugging you, holding your hand, laughing at your jokes. I wasn’t finished hearing you tell me how proud you were, how everything was going to be ok, how not to be discouraged when people were mean and dishonest. I wasn’t finished seeing you at Christmas. I wasn’t finished getting a call on my birthday.

I wasn’t finished having you here.

Maybe you were finished, but I wasn’t.

Won’t you come back and let’s build just one more sandcastle, Daddy. Just one more…

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Come back for just an hour even. Come watch your grandson grow. Come watch your daughters thrive. Come see the world change.

I miss you, Dad. Your absence is deafening. It rolls in with the tide and back out with those fickle waves-the waves that only stayed long enough to tickle my feet. Those waves were never friends of mine. They always washed our sandcastles away.

I miss you, Dad. The shore isn’t quite the same.

 

 

 

 

Beaches

We danced. We danced through so many phases of life together.

It wasn’t long ago that we climbed trees, you and I.

You were a wild thing- in love with nature and fresh air and adventure. I was happy to come along for the ride. I was happy to have you as a friend.

I remember when we met…8 year old girls. June, 1988. First Baptist Church- Vacation Bible School. My family had just moved to town for Dad’s new job and Mom got us involved in the church in an effort to make friends.

I remember the moment I met you…I loved you instantly. I invited myself over to your house-I think I went over the very next day. Your sweet parents welcomed me and I was overjoyed to find that you had a huge, lovely house with every toy up in your attic-turned-bedroom that a little girl could want.

That room became my childhood…that room housed this little girl’s heart and would see both you and I grow up together. I miss the bay window and that big, deep closet that we had so many sleepovers inside of. I miss the secret passageway that led to your parent’s bedroom and the stairs that we crept down to sneak goodies from the snack pantry.

I miss it all. The smells, the sounds, the feeling of growing up with you, my dear girl. I have lists of memories…of late, they seem so fresh and clear.

But now, I cannot get through to you. I call and call, but you don’t answer or acknowledge my texts. We haven’t spoken in years, but I still call. I feel foolish, but I still call. I hurt your heart the last time we were in touch, and I feel you never recovered, even though you said you did.

Looking back now- I was still angry at you for your “failure” to continue to know and love me-You had forgotten me…how could you have forgotten me after the lifetime that we had shared? We had known each other in childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood…we had shared so much…so, so much.

I realize the truth now…there was no failure on your part, you were only doing all that you knew how to hold my hand…you could not be all that I needed, I was asking too much, wasn’t I? I was so injured…so broken…I was trying to so hard to not be a bother. I always thought you would be a safe place for me. I am sorry that I held you up so high, that wasn’t fair. You were just a young woman, like me, grasping around trying to do it all right…can you ever forgive me for not being a better friend? I was so ill-equipped…I look back at both of us in those stages of our lives with such pity, mercy, and adoration. I am sorry I could not extend that to you when you needed it most. I know you would have dived head first to save me, if you could have. I know your heart. It is me who forgot who you were…you kind, faithful, beautiful, precious soul…I love you and miss you so much.

Are you hurting now? Has life crushed you somehow, and you don’t want me to know about it? Is it pride that keeps you away…or are you marvelously happy and have just simply moved on in your life, with no thought of me…it’s been so long, what sort of talk would we have now anyway, right?

And even now, even just last week…every time the damn movie comes on (the original of course) I cry and think of you, and the ache won’t go away. Do you remember that time I told you…I told you that you would be the Godmother to my daughter, son, children that I might have one day? Who better than you, my sister. You who knew the sparkle in my eyes when I was so young. You who knew all my secrets, hopes, fears…you knew me in the  most innocent and  most crushed part of my existence. Who better than you, to tell my children all about their Mama. I still trust you. I still choose you.

You are the only one who shared those days, minutes, hours, years with me…you are the only one who knew my life…only you…you were the only one there.

You were Hillary and I was CC Bloom…to a T. I was loud mouthed, and pushy, and selfish…passionate, emotionally charged, impulsive, and quick-tempered…but I loved you in my imperfect way…I still do.

You were my hero, my darling friend. Strong and beautiful and creative and capable…I wanted to know how to do that. I was glad to have someone like you near me…just to witness the curiously lovely way in which you led your life. What an honor it was that you allowed me to be in your world.

Thank you.

 

“It might have appeared to go unnoticed, but I’ve got it all here in my heart. I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it, I would be nothing without you…”

of being found

It has often been said that time heals all wounds. I beg to differ. What you do in that time, what happens in that time, might heal wounds, but not the time itself.

Time is merely distance from an event (s) and a person (s). Distance is merely the space between yourself and the event (s). Space is merely a “drugstore Jesus,” a masking over of the pain-an unreconciled end-a blanket of fluff, the bandage without the medication. You might not feel the wound anymore, but that does not mean that it is healed. Time/distance/space have simply silenced it for a while, with no triggers present to irritate that place of injury.

So, if I bump into that old wound…the one that never really healed…what will happen? And what if you accidentally graze mine?

We are tired. Tired of being chased away from our own lives. Take it back, take back ALL of it, take back your life.

People are so afraid. We are all so afraid-of ourselves, of each other, of things that happen, things that never happen, of not being loved, of being loved, of not being beautiful, of being the wrong kind of beautiful, of never knowing or of knowing too much, of being heroes, of being villains, of being wrong, of being right, of being hurt, of hurting others, of staying lost, of being found, of being failures, of tasting success, of dreaming, of having our dreams come true only to be disappointed…and on and on and on and on and on.

Can we meet in the middle? Will you meet me at 2 pm on Thursday next, for tea, in the middle? The middle of it all:  the fear, love, death, pain, extravagance, poverty, brutality, sensuality, innocence and darkness…just…meet me in the middle. We’ll find we have more in common than not. We will find out we are both scared and both not good enough. We will disappoint one another, constantly. We could be friends, you and i.

My Song

It is 3:30 am and I just got to my Grandmother’s house. I am spending the weekend with her, my Mom, my cousin, and my sweet nephew Anderson. I left after work tonight and what could have easily been a 2 hr drive turned into a 3 1/2 hr drive-literally sat in a standstill jam in Atlanta because of a horrific accident. It shut down the entire highway. Desperately hope those involved are ok.

I exhausted my top 10 Pandora playlists and finally chose one I haven’t heard in a while. I picked my “Nathan H. Taylor” station. It is piano music. I started to wonder, “what would I sound like if I was a melody,” then my mind flashed to that scene in “The Holiday” when Jack Black’s character creates a melody for Kate Winslet’s character…I would love if oneday someone knew me well enough to draw up a melody and say, “This is what you sound like,” like he did for her in the film.

Well, after skipping through several tunes, I found one that I think resonated with me. It is “Opus 37” by Dustin O’Halloran. I felt it understood me…like it knew my life secrets and was singing them back to me. It struck me as insightful and borderline intrusive because it sang to me a sadness that I did not know I still carried. It reflected back to me my spirit, and told me a story of my life…this little melody, this “Opus 37” did all that. No lyrics, no voices, just piano. Until tonight I had never even come across it.

It made me think on hidden sadness and grief and how beautiful these parts of life are still-but need to be released.

So, tonight I found my song. I think I’ll play it as I go to sleep.

 

The Slain Officer’s Mom

Precious customer interaction today. An elderly woman came in looking for the perfect thermos. When she got to the counter she became flustered and scared when she couldn’t find her credit card and driver’s license. As she frantically  emptied out her purse she placed a plastic bill fold on the counter. I asked her if maybe her cards were in there. She sighed and said, “No, that’s my son. He was murdered two years ago. I bring him everywhere with me.” I looked at the photo that was in the billfold and instantly recognized the handsome man as the beloved police officer who had been in all the news outlets following his tragic end. They even had a parade in his honor.

This sweet elderly Mother was from Chicago and explained to my co-worker and I that she had moved to GA to be closer to her grandson. He graduated from high school just after his father’s death. She told me how excited her baby boy had been about his baby boy’s success. “He missed the graduation,” she said in a tired, hushed tone.

“I wonder if I left it at the center where I had excersise class,” she broke in. “I have been trying to destress myself with excersise since the trial starts in two weeks…I want to be prepared.” She began to panic when she still could not find her cards.

“Ma’m, you will find them. It will be ok.” Seconds later she drew them out of her bag. “Oh, thank you Jesus,” she exclaimed. I was so relieved for her and also a bit for me since I assured they would turn up (I just had a gut feeling, ya know?).

I was so moved for her…this beautuful woman  who had lost the boy she had wrapped her life around. I cannot begin to imagine that kind of loss…the loss of a child.

It was no where near enough of a gesture, but I asked her to put her money away and allow me to buy her thermos. “It is the very least I can do, but may I bless you as a sign of support?” She began to cry. “The dear Lord caused our paths to cross today.” I began to cry too…I had goosebumps from head to toe…a force greater than both of us was there in our midst, overseeing our exchange.

I wrote down my name and number and slipped it to her with her receipt. “I would love to meet you for tea oneday.” I looked her in the eye and felt very moved to tell her, “We are sisters, you and I. Please don’t hesitate to call.” She cried some more and left looking lighter, and I felt so refreshed after what has been a hard week.

I hope she calls.

Love the ones nobody wants to love

It isn’t always easy, in fact it is anything but easy most of the time. Intrigued by indifference, I find myself seeking out the tough ones to reach. The goal: to stir up a response and see those soft under-bellies exposed just enough that the individual resembles a human being again, even if just resembles what is left of one.

Some people walk away quickly from the shut down ones. They don’t see much point…but they don’t have eyes to see-and without eyes there is truly no vision. They don’t see the promise, the seed of potential just about to bloom in that person. They miss it. Things will often seem dead and over right before they erupt into new life and soar.

Love always hopes. Love endures. Love sees.

So, like I said, it is often anything but easy, but there is great reward in reaching the ones who believe themselves lost forever. Usually we mistake simply existing on our journey, wandering and wondering as we wander, for being lost. We might not be quite sure yet where to land, but goodness sakes…Never Lost.

Only people with motives will tell you that you are lost because they want to be the great enlighteners who take credit for helping you get found. Beware those dishonest manipulators who flash answers and remedies, never taking an interest in who it is that YOU are. They only seek to serve themselves. “True love is this: that a man (or woman) would lay down his life for his friends.”

You aren’t lost, we aren’t lost.

If you are able, seek out someone hardened and difficult to love…and LOVE them. Find out what it takes to reach them…invest in their lives, take time to find out what moves them, and move them-stir those immobilized souls-they need a friend.

When you find yourself stagnant, someone will come. Ebb and Flow, Ebb and Flow…someone will come and stir you and welcome you back into the land of the living as well.

We all need one another.

EVERYONE is necessary.

 

To those who feel forgotten

Speak, scream, strain, mumble, strive, groan, wail, sing, screech, yell, stretch

exhale out

Dance, run, fumble, fall, skip, jump, leap, crawl

Whisper, sputter, hushed tones, loud bellows, breathless moans

Let us hear your being weep, we are glad to have you here. You bring such love and recompense, even with your tears.

Heard, loved, known, embraced, soul, spirit, heart, held, wanted, pleased, felt, desired, seen.

You bring to us such light and warmth with your company.

No one else can replace you or be to this world all that you were created to be.

 

Please Don’t Poop in the Lake

I will never forget the day my parents took my sister and I to Lake Tobesofkee. It was our first and last visit. I was 6 and my sister was 2 and my hardworking Mom and Dad were excited to be spending a Saturday to create a real “family day” out of the house for us. Upon arriving to the “beach” area of the lake, it seemed the rest of Macon, Ga had had the same idea. The water was swarming with kids, floaties, fussy parents, and so forth.

By the time we finally found a spot of our own, Dad had become cranky and Mom irrirated. She lathered us up with sunscreen and in we went. She put my sister in her toddler life raft/floaty thing (poor girl looked like a prisoner) and played with both of us, attempting to enjoy the nasty hot lake water which we shared with about 10,000 other humans. Dad was in and out of the water with us, fiercely annoyed with some bratty kids who kept screaming and splashing in our way.

Well, about that time, it came upon me that I needed to go to the bathroom. I tried to ignore the urge, but it was too much. I knew I should go to the porta-potties, but yeah right-I won’t even use those 31 years later. They were filthy, stinky, hot, grotesque, spider infested shit boxes that all little girls’nightmares were made of. Also, I didn’t want to walk past all the crowds in my bathing suit, afraid I would be made fun of for being a chunk.

So, I looked at my Mom who was splashing and swirling my little sister around and I looked at my Dad who looked like he might blow at any minute…and, I did it. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was a moment that a life lesson was learned-one that I have never forgotten:

SHITS DON’T SINK, THEY FLOAT.

Happy that I had successfully accomplished my task without having to place one toenail out of water I continued to play with my Mom and my sister. All was grand and the four of us were beginning to have a big, fun time until I heard my Dad screech,

“God dammit!!! Laura, get the kids, get the hell outta the water!!!”

I looked back and there it was-a log, a turd, fecal matter, a shit, a rosebud, a giant Tootsie Roll: my poop had floated up.

Once again I heard the bellowing voice of my Dad,”…one of these damn kids have shit in the water…by God, we are never coming back here. Get out! We are going the hell home.” It was quite unfortunate because we really were just beginning to have fun. Dad’s dream of making sweet memories with his kids came to a screeching hault that day-when the shit, my shit, floated by.

Mom  quickly swooped my little sister up out of the water, who started to cry hystericallly sensing the panic. I looked at everyone freaking out and knew damn well I wasn’t going to say a Damn word.

It was a long trek back to the car and the entire way I could hear Dad mumbling and cursing under his breath, “damned delinquint dirty kids, can’t do anything anymore…can’t even take your family out for a day at the lake…damn it all to hell…” Dad angrily marched ahead of us in a hurry to get as far away from that lake as possible.

Now, being a sweet child who always meant to do right (even after shitting in the water) I found myself wanting to confide in Mom. “Mom,” I sheepishly whispered, “…it was my poop that was in the water and made Daddy mad.” After sincerely explaining my fears and reasonings as to why I didn’t go to the bathroom somewhere else, Mom looked at me, glanced at Dad, then looked at me again through eyes tear-stained with laughter and said, “Olivia, we just won’t tell Daddy.”

And if she had, I am not sure I would be here to tell this tale…and that would be a true travesty.

 

The half-eaten yellow Starburst

It was a hot, unfriendly day on the stuffy school bus-the cranky, overwhelming long yellow school bus which was tainted with the mean kids’ lingo and sneers. I had not been at the new school long, but already had several strikes against me for being one of the kids from the “children’s home.”

Dad had anger problems and since I was the child he tended to hit my parents’ therapist suggested I be sent away for a few months while Dad worked on his problem, naturally. It was better that I, an 8 year old child, be put in a home for delinquint teenagers instead of Dad going off for a bit…this way the household would be less disrupted, you see. The therapist was a quack and my parents were 2 desperate, ignorant, ill-equipped young adults who thought the man with “Dr.” ahead of his name was trustworthy. I still do not completely understand their decision or their motivation during that time of their lives, but I have forgiven them both and I just pray that if I were in the same situation that I would always put my child first. I would rather not have children than to have them and not put them first. I think they thought they were putting me first, perhaps.

So, after a day of stares from other kids my age, piteous looks and sideways glances from teachers and faculty who were “in the know” of my situation, and being teased for being chubby by all of them, I was glad to be en route back to the place where I could sort of hide until the next morning.

I tried to make friends on the school bus since most of us were from the home. I was a charismatic, big-hearted, loud-mouthed, bright-eyed enthusiastic little girl. I was accustomed to being made fun of because of my weight, but I tried to make friends all the same. The kids on the bus were no different from the mean kids at school except that some if them were an extra special dose of mean because of where they were coming from. Little broken shells of babes on that school bus, away from our families and everything familiar and thrown together like bad eggs at the farm, misfits who were the result of their parents’, and their parents’, and their parents’ tragedies. Generations of broken things trinkling down into the existance that was us-us little darlings on that school bus on the way back to the home.

Well, you see, I was shown a rare, beautiful kindness that day. There was a skinny, scraggly, mismatched little boy who rode that bus with me. He had a pale face with dark auburn freckles and bright, bushy red hair that signalled his presence. He sat quietly most days and watched the other boys tease me. He watched as I struggled with misfired attempts at come-backs against these young enemies of mine. I had noticed him stare at me a lot and I remember thinking that he was just another boy who thought I was a fat bother.

But, today was different. Today, I had made a friend without ever speaking a word. The bus came to a full stop at the girls’ quarters. I grabbed my bookbag and prepared to exit the bus. It never failed that some last “fat girl” remark was hurdled my way as I walked down the aisle of the bus towards the disapproving busdriver who swung open the door.

Today though, something magical happened. Right as I was approaching my exit,the red-haired boy jumped out of his seat and ran to me. He looked as if there was something he wanted to say to me, but instead he reached out and hugged me then held out his hand and passed to me a piece of candy. I was a bit shocked and before I knew it we were standing there staring at each other, two small souls surviving the same cruelty. As a “thank you” I placed the candy in my mouth. The bus driver fussed at me to hurry along. I felt all of the other kids’eyes on me as I got off the bus. I looked back to watch the bus roll off and the boy was watching me leave…we gazed at each other. It was not until then that I realized the candy was a yellow lemon-flavored Starburst…that had already been half-eaten. It was his last piece and he had nothing else in his possession that day that he could have given to me except for a hug and half-eaten yellow Starburst…to this day 2 of the sweetest gifts I have ever received.

After that day, the kids on that bus seemed to forget about me enough to quit making fun of me. That act of love and kindness made me invisible to my enemies and bus rides were better after that. My new friend and I did not speak very much, but he occassionally sat with me and spoke up for me if anyone dared started calling me names again.

Over the last 29 years I have thought of that sweet boy often and said prayers for him along the way. I will never forget that day, the day when voices of hate were silenced by a single act of public affection-the gift of love.