Category Archives: Life’s honest moments

Homecoming

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I just watched a “soldiers coming home” meme on Facebook, meant to draw a few tears, a sad smile, a thank goodness. I cried, not over those soldiers and their families, but because I felt what they felt, once. In a dream. I was sitting at my kitchen counter, and I felt him walk in. I turned, and there he was, standing in the doorway. There he smiled. There he held out his arms for me to launch myself into. Watching that stupid meme, I remembered the mindbending joy of those people in it. And I remembered how empty my arms remained as I launched.

**

It’s been hard to post in here, lately, ever since my weighted house and bear dream. My days are full of so much happiness, so much happening. It’s not all fucking rays of sunshine, but who can let the heaviness devour when your son and his lovely girlfriend come home to visit, when you see your family more than usual, when your grandkids are adorable, and your oldest daughter makes you tea, and your youngest one has a new puppy and a one-eyed cat? When all your literary aspirations are, daily, happening and happening and happening? And so I don’t leave any of myself here, because there’s just too much to contain, or set loose.

***

The weight of this house still presses on my shoulders, but I’m better at bearing it now. Deciding I’m okay leaving has built up some sort of muscle, or muscle memory, that keeps me from going down on my knees. Bear is gone north, without even a glance over his shoulder. He can’t. I know he couldn’t. But still it skewers me, a kebab on the fire roasting low and slow and inexorable. Maybe he’ll be back. Maybe he won’t. I never did like kebabs all that much.

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I want to be done here, to be in the new, to leave behind (only a safe distance) this dream of life I’ve led all these years. Turn the corner, the page, the bend in the road, the wheel of the year. I’ll be patient, faithful that things will work out in a way I’ll be able to work with. It’s what Tiggers do best, after all–roll with the punches, make lemonade out of lemons, always look on the bright side of life.

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The Weight of This House

I first stepped foot onto this property a little more than fifteen years ago. It was dusk. There was no driveway. Just an undeveloped two acres of wildflowers, forest, and the river. Thrills ran up the back of my neck, prickled my brain. “This is where I’m going to die.”

Beside me, Chris said, “So am I.”

He was eleven. All that was to come was still years away, not even a momentary consideration of a path on our horizon. I laughed. “I sure hope you’re not still living with us by then!”

I don’t remember exactly his response, but he said something about it being his house by then. We were moving into this new adventure, into this dream come true–a log home on the river, in the woodsy mountains, in this town we love–with every expectation of those in the prime of life with nothing but more good stuff coming our way.

Things don’t always turn out the way we anticipate. The weight of this house and all its echoes rests so heavily on me now.

ambivalent: n. in psychology, ambivalence is defined as the mental disharmony or disconnect a person feels when having both positive and negative reactions regarding the same individual, situation, or object.

This is what I am. I want to leave here so badly, leave behind this shattered dream, this too big house, the expense, the echoes of all the good and bad that happened here. But the thought of leaving rips me apart. How can I leave this beautiful piece of land, this house I dreamed of all my life? How can I leave Chris’ tree, the roof he built, the splatters on the wall from the chemical explosion that stunk up my house for days? How can I stay with those things, and not feel the weight of them forever? I want to go. I want to stay.

We need to go.

This house is too big. The property, too much. With Frank possibly retiring, our expenses need to narrow down to what we need, while still having some semblance of the life we’ve worked so hard to live. I WANT small. Cozy. A place just mine and his. No echoes of kids’ laughter in the rafters, or bangs in the night that meant catastrophe had fallen…again. I know this is right. And yet…

Ambivalence at its most visceral. It hurts. And it’s heavy. And I need to let it go. I know that underneath all the churning in my gut, my heart, my brain. In writing this, all that churning makes the computer screen blur and my flying fingers skip keys.

I know it’s right.

I know it’s right.

It’s time for a new adventure. We just have to take that leap.

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Deifying the Dead

Saint Anthony. That’s what I call my late-father-in-law whenever my husband waxes poetic about his wonderful dad. He was a good man, he had a good heart. He could also be an ass of epic proportions. He didn’t believe in sparing the rod, or spoiling the child. “Love them while their sleeping” was one of his catch phrases, whenever I hugged my children in his presence. He was also a raging misogynist.

But he visited every Sunday, and brought the kids donuts or lollipops. Jamie and Scottie were his grandchildren from day one. I loved him. We all did.

Just like I don’t downplay my brilliance or deny my less than stellar traits, neither will I do so for my beloved dead. Loving a person means doing so because of and despite their many quirks.

But today? I’m going to deify my beloved dead just a little bit, because it’s so very easy to remember the turmoil, and the sorrow they caused.

I see Brian every time I look at our GrandWilliam. The swing of his hair. The dimple in his chin. I know Will looks just like his daddy at that age, but I see what I see. I imagine the child Brian was, because I raised his son and now watch our grandson sometimes wander sometimes rage through his days. Sensitive. Sweet. Prone to indecision. Affectionate. I remember this Brian so well, and lovingly.

And Chris.

I know Chris’ facets, better than most. Today, I’m not dwelling on the chaos, but the calm. He was just so brilliant. A chemistry savant (not my words, but I agree.) He could discuss complex medications and how they work, why and why not, without ever having studied. Just show him the compounds, and in his head they created themselves the way composers see music.

He had a spark, that something that made him stand out in a crowd, and not just because he was 6’1″, built like a god, and gorgeous. It was in his smile, his charm, his great big heart. There was one time, during his bouncer days, an extremely drunk patron causing a ruckus had to be escorted out. Somehow, he wiggled lose and chomped down on Chris’ thigh so hard he ripped through his jeans and drew blood. The other bouncers called out for him to punch him in the face to get him off, but Chris didn’t. He didn’t want to hurt him.

He. Didn’t. Want. To. Hurt. Him.

It reminds me of when he played soccer, as a little, little boy. If the ball came to him but someone on the opposing team wanted it, he stepped aside and let him have it. His coach thought it was the sweetest thing. Like when he walked his little sister to her classroom every day, and gave her a kiss before she went in. All four teachers in that hall would stand outside their rooms just to watch.

He befriended every misfit, defended the picked on, patiently and competently taught others when they just didn’t understand. He shared his brilliance, not to show off, but because he loved to share what he knew, and see that spark when someone else understood, too.

Chris was insatiable. (Grace’s word, and the perfect one for him.) No  matter what he did, he did it completely. Obsessively. Until he’d mastered whatever it was he did. If he loved you, he loved you entirely and without boundary. When he took up hunting, bowyering, chemistry, growing marijuana, beading, bodybuilding–he had to have all the right tools down to the smallest chisel or brush. All or nothing. That was Chris.

There is a negative side to everything. Both of these beloved dead ended up just that–dead, and way too young. I always thought Brian was too wild for this world, and Chris was too brilliant. Both of them were extremely sensitive souls who hurt as big as they lived.

I don’t deify the dead, as a rule, but once in a while, it feels nice. Necessary. And right.

Peace.

(Feel free to deify your beloved dead. I’d love to know them.)

 

 

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One Hundred Eighteen Beaches

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I have sand from many islands–St. Tomas and St. Maarten; Aruba and Antigua; Jamaica, and Bahamas; so many more. There’s pebbley sand from Villefranche, the fine sand of Anguilla, and sand from the bottom of the Mediterranean off the coast of Capri. Sand from Walden Pond in Massachusetts, and Muskegon on Lake Michigan.  I have sea-washed pebbles from Africa, Italy, France and Spain; Precambrian quartz from North Carolina. Sand from Ireland and Maine that you can’t tell apart without the labels on their glass containers. I have volcanic sand from Guatemala, and Hawaii. Red sand from Prince Edward Island. White sand from Fort Meyers Beach in Florida. Pink sand from Bermuda. Black sand from Maine and Washington.

And seashells. So many seashells. And prehistoric shark teeth, some the size of a baby tooth, others as big as my thumb. I have ocean-going pods called Sea Hearts, in a jar there on my shelf.

In my loft, in my log house, on the river, in the woods, I have 118 beaches, some sent or brought home to me by friends and family. They’re memories of days spent waterside. Mine. Someone else’s. Someone who sat on a beach and thought of me, who gathered a handful up in a ziploc bag or empty water bottle, and carried it home.

These little glass tubes and jars make me happier than one might imagine such things could. I look up from my computer, and there they are. Memories and love and sand.

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Modesty really is for suckers

I’ve decided it’s time for me to re-commit myself to my motto, because it recently slipped a little bit.

Modesty. Is. For. Suckers.

I won’t hide my light. Ever. I won’t concern myself with others seeing my confidence as conceit. I absolutely will not downplay the positives just in case it all goes awry.

Many of us were raised in a world where girls not only didn’t boast, they were taught to be “modest.” (Thus my choice of that particular word.) Cross your legs. Don’t speak out. Don’t make waves. If you share how good you are at something, others will think you’re conceited. Being a child of the 60’s and 70’s also made me a child of constant conflicting messages. All the old mores were being rebelled against. Hindsight shows me my own parents struggling with tradition vs. how they actually felt.

I’ve always been an optimist. The notion of not getting my hopes up in case something doesn’t pan out never seemed logical to me. If all goes well, you’ve spent time needlessly worrying. If it goes south, you spent extra time in that worry when you could have been daydreaming of better outcomes. Whether I plan for the worst or hope for the best doesn’t alter the outcome, so, for the most part, I choose to spend my energy in a more positive mindset.

But once in a while…

Last weekend, I shared a worry that strikes me now and again, but–truly–doesn’t linger. Because it’s writing related, I have uttered this worry more than once among the same people. After saying it the other day, I said to myself, “They’re going to think this is really eating at me!” And when I mentioned this connected thought to a friend just yesterday, her response was, “We’re just not used to seeing you as anything but confident.”

Well…me either! On the way home from lunch, I pondered why I keep speaking this worry aloud when I rarely even think it. Honestly? Even if the worst case scenario does become reality, it’s not going to change the way I look at myself, my writing, my anything. You know what I realized? It’s because I’m downplaying my talent, my accomplishments, so others don’t think I’m arrogant about it.

How ridiculous is that? Seriously. I am a talented writer. I’ve accomplished a lot in my years in this publishing world. Anyone who knows me, who loves me, will celebrate along with me. Having confidence doesn’t mean I never make mistakes, that I never fail. It just means I won’t wallow in doubt and despair if I do. I’m not going to ever preemptively doubt myself, because I know there is nothing I can’t do when I set my mind to it. Successfully? Maybe not, but doubt is never going to be the reason I fail.

I accept my faults, my failures, my less-than-stellar moments–whether personally or professionally–with an open heart and open eyes. I accept my confidence and all-around brilliance the same way.

It took me a long time to adopt my motto and embrace it with everything I am. I’m never going to downplay my own fabulous self because “people” might look at me askance. As the saying goes, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” It says more about them than it does me. There’s two adages for the price of one.

Modesty is for suckers, baby.

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The years, they fly by

In 1982, I turned eighteen, graduated from high school, got married, and had my first baby, all between March and December.

In 1985, I turned twenty-one, lost my husband in a motorcycle accident, and had my second child, all between March and December.

In 1988, I went on my first date after my husband’s death, fell in love, got married, and lost a baby, all between June and November.

Life comes at me in rather large and speedy chunks, hurled like snowballs I can’t always dodge. I’ve had precious few completely smooth years in my life. There have been. The first five of our Country Farm years. It was like a dream I still take out and relive now and again. Moving to the house on the river, until Christofer’s accident (2003-2006.) After Chris’ accident, life revolved around his recovery, or lack thereof, but they were also good years–just not smooth and carefree. Jamie and Joshua got married in 2007, ah, the joy! Outside of the regular stuff like graduations and high school musicals, I can’t remember anything especially momentous or dire. 2008-2010, aside from ongoing procedures for Chris, were very good years. He was at his best, and that allowed all of us to breathe easier. To hope. To heal along with him.

In 2010, I sold my first book, and found out my son was using heroin. It’s been a fair bit of chaos shot through with absolute joy ever since. The births of my grandchildren. Christofer’s ongoing struggle with pain, addiction, and anxiety. Gracie’s deepening sense of invisibility. The more horrendous my family life, the more momentous became my writing career. And then in 2015, we lost our son. The tailspin experienced by my family took a good couple of years to pull out of, but here in 2017, we’re all breathing a little easier. Hoping. Healing.

This year, I sold A Thousand Different Ways to William Morrow, as well as to Bastei Lubbe (German translation,) and my husband lost his job of eighteen years. Phased out. At sixty-seven years old. The up. The down. It’s a bit dizzying. Maybe it’s true for everyone. I could wish for a little boredom now and then.

Twenty-nine years ago today, Frankie D and I got engaged. We already knew we were getting married, but weren’t doing the engagement ring thing. In an impetuous moment while stuck in traffic, Frankie D saw a jewelry store in a strip mall on the highway. He pulled in. “I’m buying you a ring!”

If my future self came to me, back when I was eighteen, or even twenty-four, and told me, “This is the path of your life; do you want to change it?” Wipe away all the bad? Does that mean I also wipe away my kids? My grandkids? Brian and Frank? My career? Of course, future self could never answer those questions. That’s why I’d probably have to punch her in the face, because who does that to a person?

The years fly so fast. Another summer is coming to a close. August begins my favorite time of year–crickets and cooler weather; Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas; Scottie coming home for a visit. There’s no way to know what joys and sorrows I’ll find on my path. I just know they’re there, waiting.

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Beach Philosophy

On the beach with my brother, talking in social debate as we do, he posed a series of questions concerning how much of a person has to remain for love to continue. A debilitating accident–do you still love him? Of course. No arms, no legs? Don’t be silly. More debilitating events–being mauled by a bear and such, and now he’s just a head, kept talking and feeling and thinking by science–do you still? Yes, absolutely. More misfortune; he’s just a brain, hooked up to a computer that lets him communicate and think and love. My answer is the same–yes, yes, yes.

Okay, my brother says, now the brain has deteriorated, and the entire essence of the man I love is put onto a flash-drive. He can still communicate with me. I can carry him around, plug him into this device or that, and we can talk, reminisce, experience, love. Do I still love him? Yes! But, he asks, do you love the flash drive?

I pause. Good question. I answer with a hesitant but definite, yes. He poses his final question–The flash drive is corrupted. You can no longer communicate. The essence is still in there, but no longer accessible to you. Now do you love the flash drive?

No, I had to admit. I don’t love the flash drive. I said it better on the beach, and wish I could remember my words, but the essence was: Once the vessel no longer services the being, the vessel becomes obsolete. I don’t love the flash drive that no longer houses my love.

This is what I love about conversations with my little brother; we rarely agree, but we always find some common ground (though he’s stubborn and doesn’t think I see his point of view. I always do. Seeing his point and agreeing with it are entirely different things.) Because we don’t agree, I think about the things we discuss long after we’ve parted ways. I pondered this conversation, on and off, the rest of the day. While still on the beach, my brother sleeping in the sun about ten feet to my left, I texted him the above words about the vessel and the being. “Thoughts are forming. I’m going to write something about this.”

After losing arms and legs and body, in bear attacks and horrendous events, the basic question, for me, was this–do I love the physical vessel once it is no longer servicing the person I love. Husband, parent, child, sibling, friend? No. I don’t. How could I bury a husband? Cremate a son? If I still held attachment to the vessel that once housed them. But do I love them still? Every minute of every day.

I’m pretty sure this wasn’t what my brother was getting at. It was more rhetorical, about how much of a person can one lose and still remain “in love” with that person. But, like I said, conversations with him always make me think, and this conversation was like a firecracker under my chair.

As all things do, these days, it comes back to Chris. His vessel was no longer serving him. It became obsolete. It was never the physical son I loved, but the being he is. The essence he will always be, no matter what form that essence takes. I will forever mourn the loss of his smile, his hugs, all the things he never got to do, that life was so hard for him. So painful. These are the physical things that matter for such a short time in the span of forever. I know that. I’ve always known. But this conversation with my brother brought it into sharper focus. It made me cry in every way there is to cry, right there on the beach.

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The things you learn

Reading through my feed on Facebook, I’m always struck by how angry people get over EVERYTHING. Yesterday, I had this thought (because I think in Buddah-esque quotes.)

The surest way to close a mind is to assume it can’t be open.

downloadHappy Thursday, all.

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Two Years

I have no words for this. I tried to find them, to set them down, to find some meaning, some emotion, some anything. And I can’t. Not about this. I live it every day. It’s not like there’s anything new this day of days. The significance is surprisingly small, in the scheme of things.

Two years. Only two. So many more to come, just like these.

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Weezer, of all things…

I had an earworm last week, a song that kept playing through my head, but not the actual lyrics, just the dah-dah-dah, dah-dot-dah-da-da-da bit from what turns out to be Weezer’s, Feels Like SummerOver and over, the dah-dah-dah… For days. And why the hell was it making my heart all twingy? I waited for it to come on the radio during our driving about, but it didn’t, so I took the chance and googled the dah-dah-dah and found it.

(Pertinent bits italicized.)

“Feels Like Summer”
Climbing up the tower
Just a boy and his computer
I’m still in my bathrobe
Hiding in the shadows
I’m not used to losing
Bye, bye, sugar blue eyes
Go home with the angels
Thank you for being so kind

I’m holding on and I don’t want to let you go

Yeah it feels like summer
Yeah it feels like summer to me
Yeah it feels like summer
Yeah it feels like summer to me
And she was a lover to me, to me, to me, to me

Which way is the graveyard?
I’m an iceberg with a warm heart
I’m spiritual, not religious
I’m a Libra, if it matters
Shattered by an email
Your words will fade away
Castle built in the sand
Will only last one day

I’m holding on and I don’t want to let you go

Yeah it feels like summer
Yeah it feels like summer to me
Yeah it feels like summer
Yeah it feels like summer
Yeah it feels like summer to me
Yeah it feels like summer
And she was a lover to me

June bride, shine so bright
Flowers in her hair, but it just ain’t right
June bride, shine so bright
Flowers in her hair, we look good together, oh yeah
We look good together, oh yeah

Yeah it feels like summer
Yeah it feels like summer to me
Yeah it feels like summer
And she was a lover to me
Let me see the smile, stay with me awhile
I cried for you, you were the song in my life
Let me see the smile, stay with me awhile
I cry for you, you were the song in my life.

Obviously, this is a song of loss, but of a lover. Still, those other bits and pieces apparently stuck with my subconscious. Once I looked it up and read the lyrics, I got it. Earworm went away, but I’ll never hear this song again that I don’t consciously KNOW why it got stuck in my head and made me all emotional, despite the song being Weezer’s.

It’s June. That month of months. The countdown to the end. Thanks for listening.

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