I don’t need 79 words to tell you what I think of you.
79 words is far too many.
79 words would use too much breath.
Breath I’m keeping for myself.
Breath I’m giving to someone else.
Breath I will simply let escape my lungs because I am alive.
And you — chained to the bottom of the ocean,
grasping at distant memories,
wishing I had 79 words to spare,
a life raft to throw to you,
… but, I don’t.
Archive for the ‘Endings’ Category
“Because this business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately about asking yourself, how alive am I willing to be?”
Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)
I’ve come here many times this month. I’ve come here upset. I’ve come here happy. I’ve come here frustrated. I’ve come here sad. I’ve come here full of the angst that has driven me to the brink of implosion.
I came here too often this month to delete this whole blog — it’s quite easy, just a click of a button and it all disappears. I thought, maybe, I would start over. I thought, maybe, I would pretend it never was. But… being deleted seems a little sad. So, on my trips here to contemplate the deletion of my words, I would read an old post but more importantly I would read your comments and I would laugh and smile and think, “… not today, I’m not going to delete this today.”
Soon, my visits here were less about deleting and more about writing and processing and evolving — I started to write. Deep within the bowels of the rough draft section there are many very rough drafts… but I was writing. I wrote out my thoughts on post-it notes and laid them out at the end of the day to see if I could piece it all together. I wrote out my thoughts on the backs of some bills and on some half used napkins and on a spiral notebook I dug out of the bottom of a drawer. I wrote out my thoughts and let them go, many of them any way. Lit them on fire in a ceremonial pit and watched them disappear… burn down to nothing more than weightless ashes that had no hold over me — my inner musings… not quite blog worthy.
My visits here were no longer about deleting this place but more about taking it back. I felt myself perpetually revolving less and less and doing more of the evolving that I mistakenly thought I was doing but in reality, I was trapped in a revolving door like Buddy the Elf… fun for a while but dizzying.
The lessons I have to learn on my own are usually the ones I don’t want to look at, usually the ones that piss me off the most, usually the ones that have the greatest impact on me — maybe that’s the way it is for all of us. We search for people to teach us — that’s the easy way out I guess. When we learn things on our own we remember them better. I love to learn, don’t get me wrong — I’m an ageless student. It’s possible I’ll drive you mad with my wonderings — I want to know, I want to learn, I want to evolve. I’m not a fast learner, I’m not through by any means. Some days I feel like I’m on an accelerated program though — I want to shout my epiphanies from the rooftops and basements and every silent closed off space that I think needs to be filled.
I’ve been thinking about this concept of writing from the heart — I thought I knew what that meant. I thought that writing from the heart meant opening yourself up, letting yourself be seen, spilling everything out on the pages. It is … actually. But, I discovered something recently. Writing from your heart and writing from your fragmented heart are far different. One yields evolution and conversation and light while the other generates apocalyptic amounts of atomic energy.
It’s similar to living from your heart, I suppose. We live and learn and love and we do those things guided by our hearts. Our heads step in periodically to keep us in check, that’s good I think… a balance. Our hearts sometimes get fragmented. Sometimes a piece gets misplaced so when we try to listen to our hearts, its beating is a little off kilter — so our lives get a little out of rhythm. That’s when we need to rest, regroup, gather ourselves — live from our hearts, our whole hearts.
I’m here, on my accelerated learning program, writing from my heart… it feels good. My heart has taken a beating, but… I’ll tell you, it feels very whole and alive and filled with the anticipation of a new day. My heart is finally evolving. I stopped the revolving door that was making me ever so dizzy and took a deep breath. Sometimes I’ve felt as though I was on a never-ending roller coaster ride that maintains a tight gravitational pull on you as you round the corners and then pushes you into the loopty loops and finally you hit that last turn and you can breath — that’s what my evolving heart feels like. There might be a revolving door trying to get me to jump back on and do some more spinning, but I think I’ll know when to jump off this time. I think I’ll try writing from my heart and not writing to spite my heart.
I’ve learned many lessons lately, lessons I really didn’t want to learn… I learned how to say I was wrong, I learned how to say I was right, I learned how to pause, I learned how to seek out assistance, I learned how to stay strong, I learned how to cave, I learned how to beg, I learned I have a spine, I learned how to forgive, I learned how to be forgiven, I learned how to open my heart and listen and hope and love. I learned that the readers and commenters here at First Pages have taught me how to be human and whole and alive — even when it hurts. I learned that the places my heart takes me are exactly where I’m supposed to be… and I learned that I am willing to be very alive.
The day I stopped writing last month was a long day, and then I read this…
Also, todays reverb10 writing prompt was “let go”. I wrote a post recently on letting go and it actually led me to walk away from this blog. So, when I read the prompt, I realized that I already started really letting go… that’s why I was able to push publish again.
First Pages is going on vacation.
Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read and be a part of this thing I call a blog.
I’ll let you know if I can get it to come back from the beach!
In the meantime… a parting video (admit it… you’re gonna miss this stuff!)
I was reminiscing with a friend the other day about our childhoods… about how different those days were for us when we were kids, about how it seems so different from the childhood our own kids are living.
When I was young… we played in the streets, we ran around Westwood woods, we walked to Bel-Aire school, we rode our bikes to the Cedar Creek market for candy, we sat in the yard. We played and talked… only stopping long enough to make our way back to our own homes for a quick bite to eat — then we were right back out…changing the games to the nighttime versions.
I imagine that our parents didn’t really give our freedom much thought back then. They nodded uneventfully each time we came in or left the house. We were young and happy and didn’t care about anything that took place outside of our neighborhood.
In late February in Tennessee, the weather is usually beginning to warm up. The kids are beginning to venture back outside and the ritual of hanging out on the streets and playing Ghosts in the Graveyard starts again. I remember the February of 1975 — the neighborhood was beginning to fill back up with all the kids and all the games and all the uneventful nods from our parents as we came and went without notice. I was only seven years old at the time, the youngest of the neighborhood kids — everyone’s kid sister. But, despite my age, the circumstances surrounding that time will forever be burned into my memory.
As a child, the last thing that I ever wanted to see on the television was the news. I didn’t care about anything that was happening in a world that I couldn’t see, that I didn’t know, that I didn’t care to understand — I was seven. My physical world only stretched as far as my legs would carry me. But, at the end of February in 1975, I watched the news — my world stretched to places I didn’t know existed.
A little girl was missing. She was our age — she could have been hanging out in the street with us, running, playing, gossiping. I watched intently to the evening news each night with my sisters and my parents. Each night the little girl never came home. Each night the hope faded. Each night our parents started taking notice of where we were going — I remember them watching us through the windows.
A month went by and still no sign of the little girl. A month of watching the evening news each night. A month of kids staying closer to home. Then they found her — just a few houses away from her own home. It was Easter Sunday.
Our isolated neighborhood world changed during that month — we stayed together more. Our parents asked more questions. Sometimes they would follow us in the car as we walked to school. My father would whistle loudly from the front porch and at least one of us had to respond — just so he knew. When night came our parents wanted us to come inside — and there we sat…with the news of that little girl.
Her death changed the mindset of an entire state, of an entire city, of our parents, of us. Her death changed the way parents in our neighborhood felt about the independence they had so carefree given to us. It changed the way we played and laughed and gossiped. It changed the way we treated each other — we became cautious, we became inquisitive, we became grown-ups — even me, at seven.
The carefree days of going and coming without notice ended during that time. I believe it changed how we would later parent our own children. I believe it changed the innocence of many kids and parents.
That little girl is still in the thoughts of the neighborhood kids — kids who never knew her except for what we saw on TV. We reminisce about our childhoods… we reminisce about our neighborhood… we reminisce about that February when our worlds stretched farther than we ever wanted.
Here is a brief overview of the case and it’s impact on Nashville. The person who committed this horrific crime was only recently brought to justice — we were already changed.
It’s been a year, exactly …5:38am, as I sit here, since my mother passed away. I think the anticipation of such an anniversary has been burdensome. I phoned friends and emailed friends to remind them of this date and to be prepared in case I “needed” them. I’m not really one who likes to “need” people — I’ve always thought it showed a bit more weakness than I wanted. So, I’m not sure what this day will hold, really. But I remember, at 5:38am, when my sister called from the Alive Hospice facility downtown.
Both my sisters had spent the night there with my mother — I was too tired at that point. Too tired to sleep, too tired to be there, too tired to watch my mother drift away one last night. I knew why the phone was ringing (I also know that the sun is going to set everyday, but that doesn’t keep me from longing for it to warm my face just a little longer). Nothing good ever comes out of a 5:38am phone call, but, I answered it just the same. I collapsed on a bean bag on the floor when I heard the words spoken — overcome, confused… my body and my mind had parted ways briefly. I was already dressed, in anticipation, so I gathered myself and went to be with her, one last time…
My mother was a magazine person. She had books too, lots of books. But, typically, the magazines were so plentiful that she kept a large portion of them teetering in two stacks on a coffee table in her house. If you nudged the coffee table ever so slightly, the stacks would fall — I picked up those damn magazines more than once.
When she moved in with me, the magazines came too — they were a set. I had resisted the need to ever subscribe to magazines as an adult — the occasional kids mag and a cooking mag were all I cared to have. But, with the addition of my mother also came the addition of those magazines. I enjoyed reading them (as a side note, I read magazines from back to front — I don’t know why, always have… if you can enlighten me on this quirk, please do), she picked good magazines — there was always just so many of them. I have no idea how long of a subscription she paid for in advance — a year now, and they haven’t stopped arriving in the mail. Some every week, some once a month — all with her name on the label.
I don’t know what the day will bring. I’m sitting here in the same bean bag that held my collapsed body a year ago. I’ll push the publish button on this story and I’ll wake my kids for school. I’ll prepare their breakfast and help them organize their bags. I’ll go to work and I’ll talk to people and I’ll laugh with people and I’ll move on. Because no matter how much I want time to stand still or to even just slow down for a second so I can catch my breath — it won’t. My journey didn’t end a year ago. My journey continues — and hopefully, my “North Star“ will allow me to see it. Maybe I’ll use those “lifelines” to phone a friend and just say “hi”. And they’ll know the real reason is because I needed them — just needed them – and that will be ok, because sometimes we just need a little distraction to remind us to move on.
But for now, for right now this morning…my journey is going to start with reading an interesting article in one of these damn magazines.
And now, enjoy this clip from one of my mother’s favorite movies and one of her favorite songs… Edelweiss (sung by one of the all-time sexy men!)
Next Wednesday, March 31st, will mark the one year anniversary of my mother’s death. I’ve thought about it a lot these past couple of weeks. I’ve thought about the mourning process and how long it lasts and what exactly it is — really. I think mourning is different from grieving — I have my own thoughts on grieving. But mourning, it’s different… I think mourning might, at some point, settle in to relief.
I had a great-aunt, Aunt Dot. I loved her, we all did. She was crude and funny and bossy and rough around the edges and caring and nosey — she was wonderful. Long before I was born, she was badly injured in a car wreck. It left her paralyzed from the hips down. Her husband worshipped her — worshipped her. He lifted her in and out of her wheelchair and in and out of the bed. He drove her everywhere. He put her leg braces on her and propped her at the sink so she could do dishes or cook. He cleaned. He cooked. He did everything for her – he worshipped her. When she passed away, I remember my uncle and the lost look in his eyes. I remember seeing him get into the car at the funeral home as we all were leaving to go to the cemetary — he collapsed in the back seat. He was inconsolable. He had lived his life for her — and now she was gone.
A few months later, he took a trip. It was the first time he had been away from his home in about 30 years. I would never have asked him if the feeling he had was relief — but I’m sure that’s what he was experiencing.
I think when you go through a health struggle with a loved one — cancer, injury, prolonged illness — and then they pass away, the mourning period looks different. I think at some point you have to admit that the feeling you have is relief. It’s a little scary — relief. It’s hard to get a handle on it.
We battled cancer with my father for 2 years from diagnosis until he died. Six weeks later my mother was diagnosed with cancer — in between my father’s death and my mothers diagnosis, my oldest sister’s husband died from colon cancer. Cancer sucks. That month and a half was so not a good time in my world. We battled cancer for 14 months with my mother from diagnosis until she died. Thirty-eight months straight of a long hard battle for my father and my mother – that I lost. It took its toll.
I wrote some things for my mother’s funeral that I had her minister read (I was, of course, unable to speak). One of the things I mentioned was how I felt like I hadn’t had a chance to mourn my father’s death because the battle never ceased long enough to breathe — 38 months.
So, I mourned — for both of them — when my mother died. But then the mourning gave way to relief. And the relief gave way to guilt. The guilt is leaving — slowly.
So, next week will be the one year anniversary of my mother’s passing. I’ll wait to see what the day will bring. I’ll let you know.
And now, enjoy this song by Anthony Skinner. We were fortunate to have Anthony and his wife sing this song at my father’s funeral.
Shortly after my father passed away, I was eating lunch with some friends. This was actually the first time I had been out with friends since he passed. His illness was long and hard and messy and unexpected and sad — it was sad.
He had been a smoker for a long time but had actually quit several years earlier, or so we thought — he was a sneaker. His illness started out with a diagnosis that we didn’t expect. It quickly went to a surgery that we didn’t expect with an outcome that we didn’t expect. But, this isn’t about the perils of smoking — I guess it’s your choice if you wish to die a most painful death.
My father loved to google. He loved to research everything on his “more powerful than NASA” computer. My youngest daughter has a nut allergy — fairly severe. I don’t think I can explain the number of links that my father sent me on a daily basis, the number of articles and websites that he bookmarked all about nut allergy’s. He had the same fervor when it came to finding out about lung cancer. When someone said that we had two lungs, he corrected them to say the lung was divided into 5 lobes — 3 on the right and 2 on the left. The surgery to remove his cancerous tumor required the removal of all 3 lobes on the right side. But this story isn’t about lobes, or smoking, or peanut allergies. This story is about pennies and dimes and quarters.
So, back to that restaurant on my first outing after my father passed away. When we sat down at our table, I noticed a lone dime on the table at my place. I didn’t touch it, assuming the waitress must have dropped it (I realize it was only a dime, but still). The waitress approached the table and focused on the dime. She looked at me and asked if I had put it there. I replied no. She was startled and immediately began to tell our table a story of death and reoccurring dimes. She said she began finding dimes everywhere after a dear friend of hers passed away. Her story stuck with me because my father’s death was still so fresh on my heart and because she was so determined that a group of strangers who sat at her table understood her story.
I began to notice dimes everywhere after that — in the laundry, on the floor, on my desk at work, in my car. I know this isn’t unusual. You hear a story — you hope it’s true… you imagine it’s true. I found enough dimes though to spark a google search on the subject. Turns out many people have stories of finding dimes shortly after a loved one passes away. I don’t think believing in Heaven is a pre-requisite for believing a force more powerful than you could be sending you a message in the dimes.
So, my dimes.
I believe my father was letting me know he was ok and that we should move on — I’m a big believer in moving on. In case you’re wondering, when my mother passed away, I didn’t find an unusual amount of dimes… I found quarters — she always was a big spender.
I had trouble sleeping last night. Not all together unusual. Many things crossing my thoughts that I need to get done — sometimes lists can burden you. Then, in the middle of trying to sleep and contemplating things, my youngest daughter slipped quietly into my room with her pillow and blankie. I’ve never been one to resist the company of my kids so in she plopped. We began an exhausting journey from bathroom to bed to bathroom to bed — her tummy hurt and she knew she needed to throw-up. (I wasn’t really convinced, especially by the sixth unsuccessful trip from bed to bathroom.)
She finally proved me wrong (yes, thankfully on a trip to the bathroom and not to the bed). Her face immediately was restored to the right color, her smile came back, she relaxed on her pillow and she drifted off — peacefully (still now, beside me with the glow of the keyboard on her cherub-like face). I settled in as well, it’s always a relief when your kids are finally content. My thoughts drifted off to my youth and my dad and how I loved to go fishing with him.
The town I grew up in was surrounded by three beautiful lakes. Two were close enough to my house that I could actually ride my bike to them with friends, and did on many hot summer days. My dad always had fishing poles and fishing lures and fishing stories — although, I don’t think he was actually good at it. It’s hard to tell with fishing. I liked to gage my fishing experience by how often I got to re-load my hook with a minnow or a worm and cast it out (that was the funnest part, not the waiting for a fish). We would stand on the shore for hours, drinking coke from glass bottles (you know, the small ones that stayed ice-cold until the last sip) and eating bar-b-que fritos.
Like most good fishermen, my dad bought a boat. Even when he first bought it, the boat was already old and worn. But it was his — his boat. He put it up on some cinder blocks in our back yard and started the maintenance of it that would last over 30 years. The motor would break — up on the cinder blocks it would go. It leaked — up on the cinder blocks it would go. The windshield was cracked — up on the cinder blocks it would go. At one point, he removed the motor all together and affixed it to a wood frame then submerged it in a ginormous trash can filled with water (I need to google to see if this is actually a recommended way to fix a boat motor or not — my dad was an engineer, sometimes they get off track).
The trips to the lake to go fishing became fewer and fewer as he spent more and more time “fixing” the boat. I think he must have forgotten somewhere along the way, that we didn’t need a boat to fish. We just needed some shore and some bar-b-que fritos. Eventually, I stopped asking to go fishing and the running joke in the family became that boat (at one point, there was a tree growing up from the drivers seat — a tree). He couldn’t let go of the boat.
“It might work one day”, he would say, “and then our fishing trips could resume.”
He eventually gave the boat away to someone he thought would finally fix it up. That was only a few months before he passed away from lung cancer. He had a hard time letting go of the boat. For him, the boat was a project — not a catalyst for fishing.
I don’t need a boat to go fishing with my dad — I went last night, as my daughter slept beside me.
And if you’re wondering, apparently my father wasn’t the only one who used their engineering skills for things other than rockets!
It’s March, finally. March is a weird month — it’s like the bridge between the harsh cold winter and the fresh breath of spring.
I never really understood the saying — in like a lion, out like a lamb — I mean, I understood that it was about the weather of March. But, was that all?
Last March came in like a lion for me. I was the lion actually. I paced. I stalked. I roared.
I was busy with doctor appointments and chemo schedules and follow-up visits and home care visits for my mother. I approached it all like a lion protecting the pride during the droughts on the savanna — I had a plan, I stalked, I kept a vigil. Cancer is a formidable opponent. It’s sneaky. It has many hidden weapons. It lies low until it catches you off guard. I called the doctor many times –frustrated, angry, tired, questioning his credentials, questioning his policy on older cancer patients.
By mid-March, my mother was unable to walk for long distances and once again, needed a wheelchair. She was unable to eat. She was unable to venture outside the house. I placed a baby monitor in her room so I could hear her at all times — she needed help to the bathroom, she needed water, she needed medicine.
Life is a full circle.
The doctor turned her care over to Alive Hospice by the third week in March. They came here to explain to us — explain death. Nurses came, and a minister, and others that I don’t remember what their purpose was. There were medications, lots of medications — and paperwork. My mother was still coherent at that point with brief bouts of confusion — she and I signed her DNR order. That was on a Tuesday.
By Friday, she was increasingly less coherent. The family came over to spend time. That night, the kids filed into her bedroom one by one to say goodnight and goodbye. She was restless that night and began to lose consciousness. Her eyes were glazed — as if either I was dreaming and couldn’t focus on her well or she was dreaming — I don’t know which. But, I stayed on the couch closer to her — with the baby monitor under my head.
On Saturday, she was mostly sleeping. I tried to get her to eat and drink but she couldn’t. I wondered if it was time to make the call to Hospice. That night she was restless and incoherent. I remember someone I worked with taught me a saying — “there’s no there there”. That saying was all I could think of as I watched her that night.
By three that morning, I knew I had to make the call — but I waited, still.
By seven that morning, I called the nurse to come help me make the decision.
By eight that morning, the nurse made the call for the ambulance.
And we marched, out of the house — it was Sunday — a few days from the end of the month. My roar was gone. I was weak. I was tired.
I understand the saying now. Last year, I witnessed March coming in like a lion. I witnessed me, roaring back for a while. This March, I feel more like the lamb…waiting. You can be led around more easily when you’re the lamb, no one expects you to roar when you’re the lamb, you’re more receiving when you’re the lamb — being the lamb is far less tiring.