A Decade of Change

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Last Sunday was September 11th, a decade since THE September 11th, but that’s not what this post is about.  In no way do I want to minimize that horrible day, but this post is not about that horror.  Instead, this post is about the passage of time.

Each year, I feel a sense of dread as September 11th approaches.  There was an incredible loss of life and a loss of innocence, trust, and safety.  I didn’t know anyone who died on that tragic day, but still I mourn.  All of our lives changed, and most of us have grown accustomed to the impact of  increased security, awareness, and caution.  Now we take the changes in stride.  A decade later, we don’t give the changes in our lives much thought.

Last Sunday, I didn’t plan on watching the footage that I knew would be playing over and over again on many channels.  It was a beautiful fall day.  For the first time in weeks, I had nothing planned.  It was the first weekend in over a month that I could spend any way I chose.  The boys were moved back to school.  It was one of those perfect Sunday mornings that was filled with relaxation and possibility.

T was in the kitchen frying bacon.  He was making french toast for the girls.  When I walked into the living room, Emily had a news channel on, and I was drawn in to what she was watching.  I couldn’t look away.  Em was on the couch, and I sat down in the red chair.  We sat and watched, remembering  that day a decade ago.  I worked at the grade school back then, and  Emily was in first grade.  I went to work before school started, and she and Luke sat in my office with me until the bell rang.  Luke was in third grade.  Andy was across the street at the middle school in sixth grade.  Lola?  There was no Lola.  There were no plans to even have  Lola!  Emily and I laughed about that, and then we once again turned back to the TV.

Lola came wandering into the room in her jammies.  She snuggled up to me, sat down,  and watched for a little while.  She asked, “Is this real?”  When I said that it was, she asked, “Is it happening right now?”  She was drawn in, too.   She sat still and quiet next to me.

Before long, I had to walk away.  I went upstairs to hide my tears.  I stood in the bathroom shaking and remembering.  Eventually, I calmed down and went back down to the living room.  T was had finished cooking the bacon and was trying to entice the girls to come to the kitchen and eat, but they didn’t want to stop watching TV.  I sat back down with Lola.  T stood by my chair and watched for a little while, too.

T said, “Think of how your life has changed since then, Pam.”  Yes, I agreed.  Things are different now, and he said, “No, think of how YOUR life has changed.  Your whole life is different.”  I sat and thought about what he said.  It was profound, at least to me.  It has been unbelievable and unexpected, this journey of the past decade.  Of all the decades of my life, these past ten years have held more changes than I would have ever imagined possible.  Some of them were wonderful.  Many of them were incredible, impossible.  Others, I would choose to erase if I could.

The boys are gone now.  They’re grown up and pursuing their own dreams.  My little first-grader has become a beautiful young woman and my best friend, full of love and compassion.  These past ten years have flown by, and without even noticing, my three little children have become wonderful adults.  And Lola….  Where did she come from?  She was not even a thought back then, yet here she is, this old-soul full of wisdom.  While so much has changed, the blessings of having these wonderful children in my life has never faltered.

And me?  Not much about my life, or ME, is the same.  I no longer work part-time at the local grade school.  Back then, I had no desire for a “career,” yet life lead me down a different path and to a career that I love.  I knew what T meant when he said that my life has changed.  In the past decade, our family has changed.  Our marriage has changed.  The dust still hasn’t settled from all of the changes.  The direction is still not clear.  We are still in the midst of a journey, not knowing where it will eventually lead us.

People have come in and out of my life.  Some have remained and are now a part of the daily fabric of my life.  Others have chosen not to remain in my life.  Dad is gone.  Mom is now my responsibility.  I am in the process of emptying out my childhood home and preparing it for sale.  Many of the things I had hoped, dreamed, envisioned for my life are not to be.  My focus has changed.  In some cases, I have fought that change, kicking and screaming.   The clear lens that once held my view of life is often cloudy now.  I stretch and strain to see through the lens that is my life, but it is impossible to get a clear view.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. ~ I Corinthians

Reading Other Blogs

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Yet again, tonight I wrote a blog that is not being posted here.  It was frivolous.  It was a good blog post, and I might post it at some point in the future, but it was a cover-up.  It was cheerful, and I don’t feel cheerful.  It was lighthearted, and my heart is not light.  If I would have posted that entry tonight, it would have been a lie.

I wonder why I was prompted to write the lighthearted post tonight?  I think it was to prove that I was OK when I am NOT doing OK.  I wrote it, and it sat there like something disagreeable in my stomach.  It was heavy.  The lighthearted blog post felt heavy like a shroud.  It was a lie.  No, there were no lies written in the post, but it was still a lie.  It was not ME.

As I sat here looking at the words I had written, my phone buzzed.  An email had come through, so I stopped staring at my blog post to switch over to look at my email.  It was a blog post notification from a fellow blogger.  She had not made an entry for a very long time, but tonight something had prompted her to write once again.  I clicked through to her entry, and I grew cold as I read.  She wrote about an experience she had this evening.  It was an experience that I have had in my dreams many times, over and over.

She had attended a function in public and someone she cared about very much ignored her presence.  She was invisible in the loudest, most obnoxious way.  She was monstrously invisible.  She was so horribly invisible that this person who was ignoring her felt the need to shield others from her.  Do you understand what I mean?  Backs were turned.  People positioned themselves in a way to shut her out.  She was monstrously invisible.  How this made her feel was not important to this person who was once her best friend.  Her humanness was not important.  She was to be ignored at all costs.  Kindness or acknowledgement was not allowed.  No, the monstrously invisible are not subject to the same hospitality or kindnesses that may be shown to strangers.  Smile at a stranger.  Hold the door.  Wish them a good morning.  But the monstrously invisible are treated as if they are the living dead, a ghost, a horrible specter.  Avert your eyes.  Shield your loved ones.  Go about your business as quickly as possible.  Act with determination, be preoccupied.  Maybe the monstrously invisible will think you didn’t notice them.  Maybe they will slink back into their place of blackness.

I have had this dream over and over.  She experienced tonight what I have only lived in nightmares:  the gesture of greeting that is ignored, the smile that fades on the lips.  As she wrote, her pain was palpable.  She was real, right?  She isn’t a monster, right?  She has feelings, right?  She matters, right?  Of course she does, but there is no way that I can tell her.  I don’t know her.  I don’t know where she lives.  I don’t even know her real name.

All around people are hurting, and they’re hurting deeply.  Last night, I saw a website about (and I may not remember right) a national “Are You OK?” Day.  It was an Australian group whose idea in creating the day was to aid in suicide prevention.  The premise was to reach out.  Ask some one that looks troubled if they are OK.  Reach out to someone you may not know well, but who is going through a challenging time.  The day was about the power of kindness.  A kind word, a kind gesture, a hug, a pat on the back, showing someone that they are valued, that they DO matter, can mean the difference between life and death.  Imagine how little effort it takes to make someone’s day.  Reach out.  Be kind.  Please.

Tomorrow that will be my goal.  I will reach out where I see a need.  I will be kind in her honor.  In the honor of the monstrously invisible, I will try my best to make those around me feel valued.

Bird Number Two

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Our mud room is full of stuff once again.  Almost as soon as we loaded all of Luke’s belonging into the car for the trip to Milwaukee, Andrew started hauling his boxes down for the trip to Chicago.  Tomorrow is his last day home.  Of course, he will be back to visit and for holidays, but I wonder if he will ever call this house home again.  No, this won’t be easy, but it is time.  I am excited for him.  I envy him the experience and promise that lies before him.  What a lucky kid!  He is following his dream, and I hope he hangs on tightly to that dream.

I have always known that Andy had a solid purpose on this earth.  I’ve never known what that purpose is.  I still don’t, but that’s not what is important.  Of course, we ALL have a purpose here.  We are all meant to be, but as Andrew’s mother, I have always known that Andrew was meant to be born.  Hard to explain…

Grace Elizabeth was born 12 weeks early.  She was beautiful and perfect, but she was so tiny.  She fought for her life for 17 days until pneumonia entered the picture, and the fight was over.  She was born quickly.  I gave birth to her suddenly and at home.  We weren’t expecting her for weeks.  We weren’t ready, and she wasn’t ready.  None of it made any sense.  What purpose did this fulfill?

A month or so after Grace’s death, I found out that I was pregnant again.  It was Andy.  It was a miracle.  After trying for two years to get pregnant, I was suddenly and unexpectedly going to have another baby.  So soon.  Maybe too soon the doctors said.  It wasn’t an easy pregnancy.  I was grieving.  At the same time, I was excited.  As the difficult milestone of Grace’s due date approached, I was already pregnant.  It was a mind-twisting mix of emotions.  Nine months after Grace’s death, my healthy baby boy was born.

Many times I have wondered if Andrew and Grace passed beside each other on their way from one place to another.  He floated in as she was floating out.  Anyone who has ever held a newborn baby has seen the sweet “involuntary” smiles they make in their sleep.  I have always thought that it was the voice of angels whispering in their ears that are responsible for those smiles.  As my sweet baby Andrew grew, there were times when I wondered at his existence.  If Grace had not been born early, Andrew would never have been conceived.  It would not have been possible if I had carried Grace to term.

Twelve years later, he was almost taken from me.  One of the most powerful moments I ever experienced in my life was on the day of his accident.  Andrew had been wheeled out of surgery.  The doctor had come into the “Special Horrified Family Room” to talk to us.  Andrew was in a coma.  The doctor said things I didn’t understand.  Frontal Lobe Injury/personality changes.  Profuse bleeding.  Orbital fractures.  External Fixator.  Respirator.  Echo cardiogram.  The doctor said that Andrew would probably not live.  If he did live, then he would most likely be profoundly handicapped.

No, I didn’t think I was going to let that happen.  I walked away from it all, my husband, the doctor, the crying grandparents, the friends who had gathered for the death vigil.  I walked away.  I went into the bathroom and stood in a stall behind a closed door.  I was furious.  No-Fucking-Way was my son going to die.  No way was my son going to be damaged.  No-Fucking-Way.  It was unthinkable.  I had lost Grace.  Andrew wasn’t even supposed to be here.  His birth and conception should not have happened….but they did.  No one was going to tell me that at 12 years old it was all over.  No.  For once, thankfully, I was right.  If it was the only time my hard-headed belief was ever right, then that’s OK.

I could write volumes on what came next.  Yes, Andrew’s recovery was a challenge.  It was a struggle and a fight.  Andrew and I fought together.  I pushed.  I advocated.  I demanded.  I made him mad.  I made other people mad.  It was all worth it.  ALL OF IT.

Ten years later, the accident and the fight and work of his recovery is in the distant past.  If you met Andrew, you would see nothing unusual.  If you didn’t know, and no one chose to tell you, you would never know that he was injured so badly that the doctors were ready to give him up for dead.  What would you see if you met Andrew?  You would see a young man who is excited about moving out of his parents’ home to attend his “dream school,” as he calls it.  He is well-spoken and well-read.  He’s a fantastic musician.  He talks a lot.  He has a wonderful sense of humor…just like my Dad.  He is so much like my dad.

I love all of my children with all of my heart.  They are my joy and my life.  But Andrew is something else, too.  I’m not sure if I can explain it sufficiently.  He was born out of my loss.  He brought happiness into my time of grieving.  He saved my life more than once, but that is another story.  Would he be here if not for my determination not to allow him to die?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  That isn’t what is important.

In two days, I will let go.  This time, I will allow him to leave to find his way on his own.  He will find his purpose, and I will be left behind with a smile on my face and a heart full of joy.  I have been honored to have this young man in my life.  I have learned so much in life by being his mother.  Even before his birth, when he was nestled beneath my heart, he brought me joy and a strength that I never knew I could possess.

I am excited to watch as the next chapter of my son’s life unfolds.  This time I am not holding him or holding his hand, but the bond of our hearts remains.

Things I Love…

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OK, I will admit it.  Yesterday I was wallowing in self-pity.  I’ve done a pretty good job of wallowing today, too, but I have tried my damnedest to remember that THIS, this self-pity phase, while it is really horrible to live through, is not all there is to life.  I have been down before, but I have never given up.  Ever.  It’s not in me to give up.  There is way too much beauty in life for me to ever forget what a privilege it is to be alive.

As I drove back to the office from lunch today, I tried to refocus.  I mentally listed one thing after another that make me happy.  Yes, many of them are worthless, superficial things.  Some of them are big…HUGE.  That isn’t what matters.  These are all things that remind of the joy in life.  These things, little and big, are what make it worth getting up in the morning and continuing to put one foot in front of the other.

Nail Polish.  I have a new obsession, and both of my daughters are right on board.  We buy nail polish, and more nail polish.  It’s not unusual to change shades each day.  I only paint my toenails, but they have been colorful this summer.  Our new favorite brand is Essie.  They have the most fantastic shades.  The girls have even gotten me to try shades of green and blue.  

 

8-year-olds.  I love 8-year-olds, and I am lucky enough to get to live with one this year.  8-year-olds are wise and innocent all at the same time.  They really have life figured out, and they aren’t messed up by the sexual urges and matters of the heart that lie ahead.  8-year-olds are perfect, little human beings.

Coffee.  Few things give me as much pure pleasure as coffee.  Thankfully, I work in a coffee-fueled environment.  There is always a fresh pot of coffee brewed in the conference room at our office.  We make a pot before meetings.  We make more after lunch.  We send out departmental emails to let everyone know when a fresh pot has been put on to brew.  In the event that there isn’t a fresh pot of coffee, there is a back-up plan.  There’s a Keurig brewer in an office upstairs.  We all keep Keurig pods in reserve.  I have a lovely tray with my supply of Caribou Obsidian Keurig pods.  Ah…  Delicious!

Caribou Coffee.  I love Caribou!  Hands down, it is the BEST coffee.  If you have never been to Caribou, GO!  Try the dark chocolate mint mocha or the raspberry dark chocolate mocha. Ahhhh…..  I was a happy camper today, because I finally bought a car magnet.  “I Love Coffee.”
 
Pepper the Wondercat.  I love my cat, .  He runs through the house calling “maaaaa maaaaaa maaaa,” until he finds me.  He makes a funny noise when he runs up and down stairs.  He “tells” me when he needs more food in his bowl.  Mostly, I love how he sleeps on my shoulder all night long.  He waits until I settle in, then he climbs up from my toes.  He walks up the length of my body, and settles in when he reaches my shoulders.  He curls up, and there he stays all night long.  He seems to know that I need him, that I need to be comforted.

My kids.  I love having the opportunity to raise my four children.  Highs and lows, ups and downs, dirty diapers, dirty words, achievements, laughter, hugs, and smiles.  There has never been one moment of regret.  They are all so very unique.  Such a surprise being a parent has been.  I am not necessarily a woman who has always loved being around kids, but my own?  Nothing in life could compare to the experience and privilege of raising these children.

Hugs.  There was a time long ago, when I was not a “hugger.”  Now, I have come to value hugs.  When you’re getting enough hugs, life is good, very good.  Other times, sad times, there is nothing I crave more than a simple hug.  I try to remember that.  I try to be generous in liberal with my hugs.  Each of my children are hugged each and every day.  The girls and I hug constantly.  Nothing feels better, nothing conveys love and safety like a hug.  I love the warmth, comfort, and scent of someone I love.

Pepsi.  Pepsi is perfect. After my first cup of coffee, I pour a Pepsi.  Perfectly bubbly.  Perfectly refreshing.  It tickles my nose.  It’s not too smooth or syrupy.  It cut through the morning feeling in my mouth.  Pepsi is perfect.  I really wish I could someday experience Pepsi in a tall bottle once again.  I remember from my childhood the old Pepsi machine on the Main Street of our little town.  Plug in a quarter, reach in,  the machine would release a bottle.  I can remember being scared that I wouldn’t be able to pull it out fast enough before the machine would once again maintain its grip.  That never happened, though.  Each time I was rewarded with the long glass bottle of pop that I would open on the front of the machine.
It’s not a long list, and it’s certainly not complete.  Life is full of wonders, large and small.  I’m sure I will be back again with my moments of self-pity, self-doubt, and self-loathing.  Today, though, it has felt good to take a short break from all of that.  It has felt good to remember a few of the things that make me happy.

Resisting Closure

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For the past year and a half, I have fought closure; kicking and screaming, heals dug in, eyes squinched shut.  I have seen closure, and I have looked at what lies on the other side.  I could see it as if I were looking through a big picture window.  I wasn’t sure I liked what I saw on the other side.

Closure:  1.  bringing to an end; a conclusion.  2.  A feeling of finality or resolution, especially after a traumatic experience.

Finality after a traumatic experience.  Yes.  But why wouldn’t I want that?  Why wouldn’t I want “finality after a traumatic experience?”  That seems like something I should want and desire; to finally bring a traumatic experience to an end.  So what was stopping me?

To be able to walk away from a situation, whether that means to physically walk away, or to simply disallow a situation to take up real estate in your head, you have to be able to have acceptance.

Acceptance – the mental attitude that something is believable and should be accepted as true.

I resisted acceptance, too.  Actively and blindly, I resisted seeing the things right in front of me that were “believable and true.”  I clung to a fantasy that was my perception of reality.  I now know why.  If I let go of that illusion, delusion, fantasy, I was going to be forever changed.

Closure has been right in front of me for a very long time now.  Closure was a gate, and all I had to do was enter.  Instead, I circled around and around.  I pretended to ignore it.  I refused to look in that direction.  I shuffled my feet and whistled a tune, all in an attempt to avoid acceptance.  Acceptance meant letting go.  Letting go meant that I had been WRONG.  Letting go meant that I would be forever changed.

Letting go meant that my illusions turned into disillusionment.  Letting go meant that my optimism and belief had been unfounded.  My trust turned to distrust.  My happiness turned to anger and resentment.  The truth had been turned into lies.  What once sparkled and glowed was now a crappy blob of dryer lint.  Of course, I didn’t want to accept all of these things!  I knew what acceptance meant for me, too.  Acceptance meant that something essential about myself was going to be forever changed and not in any good way.

I’m not sure if I am making myself clear.  I liked who I was “before.”  I imagined who I would become on the other side of all of this, and it scared me.  I liked trusting people.  I liked believing in the good side of life.  I wanted to be an optimist.  I didn’t want to be wary.  I didn’t want to distrust.  I didn’t want to be cautious.  I wanted GOOD to prevail over EVIL.  I wanted a fairy tale.  Mostly, I didn’t want to be forever changed.

I have taken that step, and walked through the gates of acceptance and closure.  Yes, I have changed.  No, it doesn’t feel good.  It feels empty and sad.  I do distrust in the simplest moments of happiness or kindness, but there is something else.  This is important.  Who I was inside has not changed.  The essential ME has not changed.  I do still want to believe in good.  I still see good all around me, but there is a new dimension beginning to emerge.  Maybe it is a new depth of empathy, but I’m not really sure.  I am recently equipped with something, as of yet undefinable, that feels gentle and sympathetic.   I look at the people around me and I wonder.  We all have a story inside.  We all need kindness and love.  Some of us deserve it.

This past weekend, I took steps back into my life.  I reconnected with old friends.  I listened to great music.  I spent time with people I love and who love me in return.  No, acceptance and closure are not easy things, but they are so very much better than the gray, stark landscape of denial.

Oxford and Faulkner

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The next stop on our trip was Oxford, Mississippi.  Oxford is/was home to so many literary greats.  William Faulkner and Larry Brown both called Oxford home.  The world’s best bookstore is located in Oxford.  If you are a lover of Southern fiction, then Square Books is a little slice of heaven on earth.  Not only is it an independent bookstore, which I love, but it is so well respected and recognized in the literary world.  The weekly book signings in this little bookstore are an amazing who’s who of literary talent.

Square Books ~ Oxford, Mississippi

This isn’t the first time my family has humored me as I made my pilgrimage to Oxford and Square Books.  I have been enamored by Oxford for well over a decade now.  I have been a member of their Signed First Editions Book Club for years.  Each month, a new selection arrives at my home.  Years ago, I couldn’t wait for each new delivery.  I practically devoured each new arrival.  For the past couple of years, though, I have unwrapped the books and placed them on the shelf.  I couldn’t even tell you the title of last month’s selection.  I was ashamed as I walked through the doors of Square Books.  I felt ashamed and dishonorable.

All morning, I had been reading Sketches of New Orleans as we drove to Oxford.   I could feel something old begin to stir in me again, and I was ashamed that I had somehow lost sight of that (whatever it is!)  Ah, Square Books, the smells, so many covers to look at, so many things to pick up, so much possibility.  I wandered from shelf to shelf, table to table.  I knew I wouldn’t be leaving empty handed.

I saw my Dad in Oxford.  Last time I visited Oxford, he was with me.  He didn’t understand my love for the place.  Like T, he simply humored me and tolerated the time spent in this place.  My thoughts are jumbled, and I am finding it difficult to explain the budding feelings of myself that I felt as I revisited this place.  It is simply a bookstore, but to me, it signified so much more on this particular visit.  I suppose the best way to explain it is to say that it was deeply evident to me all that I have lost of myself over the course of these past few years.  These places I have visited, these memories that have been stirred, have reminded me that I once was a different, happier woman.  Perhaps, I have seen possibility and potential.

Thankfully, the girls loved Oxford.  This was not Em’s first visit.  As an avid reader, she was thrilled to be back among her own Southern favorites.

Lola and Emily petting a friendly cat in Oxford

After our time at Square Books, we headed over to the local favorite, Ajax Diner.  Larry Brown wrote often of Ajax in his stories.  Legend has it that it you toss a toothpick up and it sticks in the ceiling tiles, then your dinner is free.  I’m not sure if it’s true, but there are plenty of toothpicks in the ceiling.  Oh, and they serve fabulous southern soul food.

Ceiling tiles full of toothpicks at the Ajax

One last stop in Oxford, and we were on the road for home.  We headed over to the courthouse square.  Like any good southern town, Oxford has a Confederate soldier standing proudly as a memorial.  Oxford has something else. too.  Sitting quietly on a bench smoking his pipe, Mr. Faulkner observes the world around him.  Faulkner’s Oxford.  Faulkner’s world continues on and on.  What words would he use to describe the slightly troubled Midwestern woman who visits from time to time to kiss him on the cheek?

Faulkner's Kiss

In The Sky Around Me

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Something good happened today.  It was something REALLY good….but only to me.  There wasn’t anyone else on this earth who would care or understand how much this good thing meant to me.  It was a work-related victory.  Years of hard work, struggle, stress, wishing, hoping, jumping through hoops, and today the powers that be granted my wish.  I received the official phone call this morning.  I was still at home.  After a long workday yesterday, I was enjoying a relaxing morning at home.  I was getting ready to head to the office when the call came in on my cell phone.  I was standing in my bedroom, and I could see myself in the dresser mirror as I took the call.  I looked so damn happy!  Oh, I was.  Even though it was work-related, to me, it was very personal.  My job isn’t just my job.  It is a passion.  This program is my baby.  It’s in my heart.  I have worked for this for a long time.  There were times when I didn’t think it would happen, but today….it did!

When I finished up my phone call, I stood there for a moment.  Who could I tell? Who would share the joy and satisfaction that I was feeling.  I called the office.  “Oh, so what does that mean?”  OK, obviously not a big deal to them.  I called my boss, “Well, congratulations….and hey, by the way….” and on to another subject.  I called T.  “That’s great, hun.”   Of course, he cared, but he was busy at work.  As happy as this news had made me, I was beginning to feel dejected.  Is happiness still happiness if  no one is cares about it?  Is it happiness if there is no one there to share the joy?

I stood there alone in my happiness, and felt loss begin the creep in.  I wanted to tell my dad.  I have no sister, no brother.  My mom would have no clue what I was talking about.  My friends?  Oh, the friendships are still there, but I have sequestered myself.  I have been living cloistered within my depression, pain, and loss for so long, too long.  No, they haven’t given up on me.  They are good, caring people, but they would be shocked to receive a call from me out of the blue telling them about my job.  Well, that would only add fuel to the “Pam Has Gone Crazy” fire.

Thank you (and happy birthday!) to my dear blogging friend, Seasweetie, who responded immediately to my text.  “Please call me when you have a moment to listen to me ramble.”  She listened, and she cared.  A million blessings to her for indulging me.

Sharing moments, both good and bad, has become more significant to me now.   Throughout my life, I have taken it for granted that someone would always be there when I reached out.  Most times, I didn’t even have to reach.  I trusted that part of my life.  Sure,  many tragic things have happened over the years, but I had a support system.   My Dad.  There wasn’t a day that went by when he didn’t call me with a smile in his voice.  He is who carried me through the rough patches in my life.  I didn’t even realize it at the time, but it wasn’t my strength that got me through the bad times. It was the love and support of those around me.   My support system has malfunctioned.  It is broken.  Some of the parts are now missing.  I feel like I am stumbling around blindly through my life sometimes.  I am beginning to value the moments in my life when people are good and kind, and I try to pass those moments on to others.

Once again, as I drove to the office, I was touched by the beauty of the nature around me.  I am blessed to enjoy a beautiful, peaceful drive each morning and afternoon.  I opened the sunroof, and let the heat pour down on me.  I thought about the word love as I drove.  What does it mean?  What does the word love mean?  Is there a beginning, middle, and end to love?  I thought of my dad.  I don’t feel that he is really gone.  Yes, I know that he is gone from this earth, but I feel his presence around me.  I feel his love.  It is his love for me and mine for him that keep him alive.  Is that what love is?  Is love that unnamed thing that reaches beyond the human experience?

I looked up the dictionary definition of love.  I had planned on posting it here, but found it too lacking and unsatisfying.  Anyone who is interested in Merriam-Webster’s version of love can do a Google search on their own.  Love is a word that is bandied around too much in my opinion.  It’s a word that is too often used as a means to please people in the moment.  “Oh, I love you.”  or “Oh, I love the beautiful scarf you’re wearing.”  Yes, someone may delight you, amuse you, even turn you on, but that is not love.  A scarf may be beautiful, or warm, or expensive, but can you really love an inanimate object?  Gosh, I hope not!

Love is a verb.  Love is an “action word.”  Love is a very weighty action word that carries with it a sense of honor, respect, and responsibility.  My dad loved me through action.  Yes, through words, too, but mostly through action.  I was his daughter and he loved me.   Showing his love to me through his actions was never a burden to him.  It was a first thought, not a second or third.  My happiness was his happiness.  My sorrow was a sorrow that we shared.

As these thoughts of love, life, my dad, sorrow, joy, and pain all ran through my mind this morning, I thought of this phrase:  “It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”  No.  I don’t believe that.  Real love is not something that is ever possible to lose.  Real and true love once given, cannot be lost.  Love is like the sky.  It goes on endlessly.

 

Unable are the loved to die, for love is immortality.

Emily Dickinson

Dad? Is That You?

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As I mentioned over the weekend, our little town has “Garage Sale Day” each year in June.  As if that’s not fun enough, the following week is Village Clean-Up.  Seriously, I love Village Clean-Up.   For the past three years or so, my head has so far far up my ass that I didn’t savor this wonderful week as fully as I could/should have.  This year, I have plenty to set out in my trash….literally and figuratively (which gives me even more great ideas!)

Last night was Cheeseburger Sunday, so we had a houseful of strapping young people to help us haul our junk to the curb.  We fairly emptied out the back shed of its accumulation of years and years worth of kids’ toys.  The crib went out to the curb, too, along with the kiddie pool, and a variety of bikes.  After we had a significant pile in front of our house, we decided to head over to my parents’ vacant house to haul a few of the heavier, non-auction items to the curb.

Those of you who stuck it out with me on my other blog are familiar with how difficult I have found it to let go of my childhood home.  This time last year, T and I were considering a massive addition/renovation to the house.  Once we realized that we would have been putting more money into the house than we would have ever be able to get out of it if we ever sold, we nixed the project altogether.  The house has continued to sit in limbo.  Its a bit forlorn, and except for the occasional “Mom and Dad need a place to be alone,” no one spends any time there at all.

Well, Mom and Dad have been needing to “be alone” quite often recently, and with the summer lawn care, T and I have been spending more time over there lately.  The conversations have begun again.  “Should we move here?”  We have been batting around a new plan.  If we sold our house first, then we would be debt-free.  We would also have a significant profit to work with for a less-major remodeling project.  We would be downsizing, but that makes sense at this point.  Hey, maybe one (or two) of the kids will eventually move out, and then we wouldn’t need so much space!  As we have discussed, the possibilities for a more modest renovation, we have both been getting kind of excited about a change.  The neighborhood and yard are wonderful.  It’s a cute brick bungalow.  As much history as we have in our current house, there is so much more in my parents’ home.  We both remember my great-grandparents and grandparents visiting there.  Our babies grew into young adults while their own grandparents lived in that home.  I grew up there.  Our wedding reception was in the backyard.  T and my dad built the brick patio especially for that event.  T and I have a huge shared history in that house.  It’s so hard to imagine letting that repository of our memories go.

There’s a downside, though.  Finding my father dead in the living room that horrible December night is memory that none of us have been able to get past.  We are wary each time we open the door of that house.  Lola won’t let go of my hand for at least ten minutes each time we go over there.  None of us can walk into the living room without our eyes darting to that spot on the floor where grandpa left us.  We are trying to forget.  All of us are trying.  It’s beginning to lift.  I feel it.  The old house is beginning to feel more normal.  We are going to take it a step further by removing the carpets soon and refinishing the hardwood floors.  A fresh coat of paint will help lift the house’s spirits, too.

Last night, we were took things to the curb (which was very difficult!) at my parents’ home, and we searched from room to room to see what else could go.  The old couch from the TV room, ah…lots of memories there!  My parents must have had that couch for over 30 years, and the two ugly velvet chairs.  We had a nice pile, which by the way, the “Pickers” were there like vultures waiting for each load we hauled outside.  That’s my favorite thing about Village Clean-Up.  I love the scruffy guys in beat up pickup trucks driving slowly around town looking for their treasures.

Lola and I headed into the living room to look out the window at the pile.  I purposely took her through to the sun room.  She told me that she felt like she was stepping on Grandpa.  I agreed with her.  I always feel the same thing.  She and I stood there for a moment looking at an old floor lamp.  As ugly as it was, I always loved that lamp when I was a little girl.  Andrew came in and asked me if I wanted to get rid of it.  I flipped on one of the three lights on the lamp.  It worked.  I said I wasn’t so sure that I wanted to get rid of it.  It was so retro.  Maybe I’ll keep it.  He agreed.  He said he had always loved that lamp, too.  Then he said, “What in the hell is this?  Is this a bird?”

Lola and I saw the dark shape through the amber glass.  It looked like the shape of a bird!  I immediately thought of the fake birds I remembered from flower arrangements and wreaths as a child.  That’s probably what it was!  I told Andrew to lift up the amber globe, and we all took a step back.  My God!  It WAS a DEAD BIRD!  It was in the skinny clear glass around the bulb.  Head first, the bird was shoved down the tube.  Its claws were curved into grotesque fists and a streak of bird shit was smeared on one side of the glass.  We were stunned and speechless.  We yelled for T to come see.  Yeah, and we all grabbed our phones and started taking pictures.  Any thoughts of keeping the lamp were GONE.  Andrew carried it out to the curb.

Today I had lunch with T.  I asked him if he thought the bird was a sign?  “Jesus….” he said.  Well, that’s the extent of that conversation.  T takes no stock in such things, but I have thought about it frequently today.  One thing I do know for sure is that my dad would have absolutely loved it!  It was just the kind of random, weird happening that would have kept him entertained and in conversation for days.  He would have loved telling that story.  He would have loved seeing our faces.  I hope he did see it all, because I know he would still be laughing.

Tonight as I was hoeing the garden, Emily came out to help me.  As we worked, she asked me if I though the bird was an omen.  “AH……I KNOW!!”  I practically yelled at her.  I told her that I had told Dad.  Her reaction was “phffft…..  Why did you do that?”  She knows that he wouldn’t see anything as an omen, even a black bird shoved down into a lamp in the same room where a man died.  Uh huh.

I have mulled it over.  I’ve tried to gather the message or the meaning.  As creepy and strange as it all seems, I am not afraid of the dead bird.  It doesn’t feel bad or evil, but it does feel important.  I feel like I am supposed to dig and search for a deeper meaning, or a sign, from this experience.  That’s what I have been exploring in my head all evening.  What does it mean?

Why doesn’t it seem like a gloomy or a dooming omen?  I am surprised that I don’t feel a sense of foreboding.  I should, but I don’t.  Instead, a thought is beginning to take shape.  “Let it go.  Let it die.  It’s simple and easy.”  Now, that also seems gloomy and foreboding, but once again, that isn’t the feeling I have as I think those thoughts.  Instead, I am thinking that the sadness needs to die.  Holding onto negative, self-defeating thoughts have to die.  I have to let go of the BAD.  I have to let the BAD die, and like that lamp (which I loved)  and the dead bird (which was gross!) I have to take MY OWN BAD out to the curb.  I have to let go of the bad and kick it to the curb.