It’s all fun and games until you run into the Minister

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Lately, I’ve been happily ensconced in a world of avoidance.  The less I think about Christmas, the fewer the number of tears that threaten to roll down my cheeks.  I have only managed to put up one Christmas decoration in my house so far.   It didn’t come with shiny lights or reminders of Christmases gone by.  It stands alone,  in a spot that has never adorned a decoration and really looks as sad as I had been feeling.  But it gives me hope that I can find some of the joy the holidays are meant to bring.  If Charlie Brown can do it, so can I.

CB the tree

But recently I’ve felt much more like Peter Pan than a forlorn Charlie Brown.  My mind has been filled with happy thoughts.  Although none of them have been about the holidays, they have been happy nonetheless.  I have been blissfully distracted by work, by the return of my writing muse and by reacquainting with a dear old friend.  The big phantom red X’s on the calendar to indicate the counting down to the big day have gone unnoticed.  Until today.

It was during an innocent trip to the Post Office when I saw him.  Stealthily, he crossed the street like an apparition.  His white hair and white beard made me recognize him immediately.  Had he been wearing red suit, I would have thought he was Santa Claus but the all-black ensemble with a hint of white on the collar to match his beard was a glowing reminder of his true identity.  He was the minister at my mom and dad’s church, a dear friend of my mom and dad’s and a good friend to our family.  I knew as soon as I saw him that I would end up in tears before getting back into my car.

It’s always tough putting on a brave face when the person you are facing knows that you are struggling.  I like to think I walk around in a suit of armor but on the bad days that suit is filled with nothing but a puddle.  Today, seeing the sorrow and understanding in Steven’s eyes converted me from brave face to wet face in mere seconds.  I knew the happy bubble could only float for so long but I certainly have been enjoying the ride.

I know my mom is around.  She is the positive force making the good things pop out of nowhere when the sadness comes calling again.  I can feel her energy and that makes me happy.  And though this Christmas is going to be filled with some sadness and many changes, it will still be filled with a family who loves each other and cherishes the memories of the people they will be missing, especially during the coming holidays.

 

 

Is an omission of truth really like telling a lie to your parents?

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It’s interesting to see how life has evolved over the last twenty-five years.  I’m certainly not going to tout that I walked uphill to school both ways in the snow in bare feet but there are some long-forgotten truths about things that happened when we were surviving our impressionable years, some that our parents were oblivious to…..and for good reason.  Back in the days when having no seat-belts and driving under the influence were acceptable, there were some essential unwritten rules shared by siblings and friends.  The most important being – “Things that happen in your teenage years, stay in your teenage years”.

But, after the Earth had orbited the sun a sufficient number of times, I felt a little more comfortable regaling my parents with a few of the stories that happened in the good ol’ days since I had a nice cushion of “time gone by” and didn’t think I was eligible to be grounded anymore.  The sealed records had been expunged, the statute of limitations had expired and I was ready to open the locked vault that contained evidence of our teenage shenanigans.

Running with scissors would have been a much more acceptable behavior and a much easier tale to share over a cocktail or two but my folks took everything in stride, just like I knew they would.  All things considered, after leaving a 19 and 15-year-old home alone while they went to Florida, they were not as shocked as I thought they would be to find out why the kitchen linoleum had tiny burn holes directly in front of the stove (it wasn’t the bacon) and why the giant satellite dish was perched at a precarious angle at the top of the steep hill behind our house.

My brother and I, for all intents and purposes, were respectful human beings and responsible kids.  My parents knew our friends well and we were trusted to roam about town in our pimpin’ ride – the Pontiac Acadian.  If I had to guess, I would say my brother had a Rum and Coke held firmly between his legs (maybe not so responsible) when the little blue car crested the hill.  It was winter and the steep decline was more than treacherous.  All of the defensive driving techniques my dad taught us could not have prevented the outcome of this evening.  The momentum carried them down the hill and my brother strategically maneuvered the tiny car as it tipped on its side and wedged itself between a tree and a telephone pole at the bottom of the hill.  My brother “stuck the landing”.  All of the occupants were completely unharmed and the car, that only weighed about 100 pounds, was pushed out, righted and driven away with minimal damage.

acadian

(ours was a 4-door, but you get the idea)

After spilling the goods to my parents, a little bit at a time, they seemed unnerved.  I always wondered if they had known these things all along and were just waiting for us to come clean.  Was the omission of truth a lie?  Were we terrible children for wanting to shield our parents from the world?  Was it wrong to want to keep them in their safe little bubble?  Only time will tell.

Now that they have both passed and have access to all of the details of our lives, my brother and I may eventually be in for a long overdue time-out when we are all together again!

Why goodbyes are always so hard

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Today I had to say goodbye to, not only an office mate but, a sweet soul and a dear friend.  Ellie May was an 11-year old Landseer.  Her breed is considered to be a black and white version of a Newfoundlander.  She had the disposition of a wallflower and the radar of an airplane.  It took three months for Ellie to warm up to me.  Until then, when that radar detected my presence in her force field, she would alter her course to avoid a collision.  She wanted nothing to do with me.  I didn’t take offence because she was like that with most people.  She was a gentle giant and a very private dog.

Ellie may

Months later, my tenacity seemed to wear her down and, after a long period of the silent treatment, she finally tolerated my presence.  She wouldn’t run the other way but she didn’t seem enthusiastic to see me.  After many months that, too, would change.

This may read like a eulogy, and perhaps in a way it is.   Perhaps it’s easier for me to write my emotion and deal with my loss in cyberspace than it is to confront the empty space in the office where Ellie would to lie and demand her treats.

Although she wasn’t my dog, she was my friend and it is never easy to say goodbye to a friend.  It will take me a while to not hear her footsteps running to the office door and see her silhouette through the glass, looking at me and barking to let her in.  I will miss seeing her “smile” as she and her flapping gums ran down the road to greet me after seeing my car pull into the parking lot.  And perhaps the thing I will miss he most is the whispered bark that she saved just for me and the small circle her lips would leave open for me to “put the cookie in the hole”.

She and I had a connection, a language that we spoke to each other.  And although she was unsure of me in the beginning, she quickly came to realize I spoke dog.  I got her and she got me and we really did become friends.  She left many footprints on my heart and that is why saying goodbye was so hard.

I can only hope that Ellie is now comfortably enjoying her new life beyond the Rainbow Bridge, that her body is as young and spry as her spirit and that she knows how much we will miss her.

 

Redefining traditions and stocking up on tissues

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With Christmas rapidly approaching, my resolve to not spend the entire holiday season in tears is very strong.  It is going to be tough this holiday season without my mom but we have been doing our best to redefine some of the traditions we have known for so long and create some new ones.  I had carefully delineated a plan of not leaving the house, but that seems to be going off the rails so I’ll have to do my best to keep a brave face.  I’m sure a few tears will leak from the corners of my eyes and stain my cheeks but that is to be expected and will certainly be understood by all who see those tears fall.

Holidays are about tradition – whether adhering to old ones or beginning new ones.  This year will be a bit of both.  My mom’s famous Grasshopper Pie will surreptitiously make its way to the table after our feast of turkey and our best attempt at her stuffing.  But because of work schedules, our Christmas food bonanza and subsequent turkey coma will be on the 23rd so that will be the first of the changes for this year.

grasshopper pie

My brother and his family will attend the church service on Christmas Eve (I don’t think I can get through that step this year) and we will meet afterwards to show the newly purchased or creatively engineered ornaments to adorn the Charlie Brown Christmas tree my mom loved so much.  We will tell stories of why the ornament reminds us of her and take turns sharing our memories.  I may even sneak into town and hide in a quiet driveway somewhere to watch Santa Claus go by on the fire truck.  I don’t think I can let that tradition go and I know a few tears will find themselves frozen to my face before the truck has passed.

The most important thing to focus on, especially this year, is that Christmas is about family.  My brother, sister-in-law, my nephews and the family and friends scattered around the globe will always be the presence and the only presents I want during the holidays.  And somewhere during the festivities, I know that my mom and dad’s eyes will be looking at us through those twinkling lights and sharing those moments with us.  That is a tradition that will never end.

 

 

 

Knock, knock. Who’s there? It’s your past.

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knocking

When people think of their past knocking on their door, occasionally there is a nagging worry of something coming back to haunt you and uncovering long-buried skeletons.  This was not the case for me.

I was sitting at my desk yesterday when a short email popped up in the work inbox from a name I have not seen in twenty-five years.  “Hey, it’s Marty from the 80’s…..write me back if this is you.”  The most astonishing thing about getting this email is that I had been searching for Marty online for the past two months, to no avail.  He seemed to be off the grid.

My brother and I spent much of our younger lives hanging out with the same group of people.  It was a great way to grow up and it made us very good friends as well.   Marty was one of those guys that was very tight in our circle of friends.  My parents had welcomed him as one of their own and we created many great memories back in the good old days.

I stared at the email and read it over and over again.  We exchanged a few brief messages and I knew I had to hear his voice.  As soon as we started chatting, it was like I had stepped into a time machine.  I could picture the feathered black hair and was immediately reminded of the song he loved to roller skate to (it was the 80’s after all) and that song now finds itself among the collection of tunes in my iPhone.

It was a truly serendipitous moment.  After a very long hiatus, we have Marty back in our circle of friends and many years ahead to catch up on all of the ones we missed.

(image credit)

 

The spirits of Christmas

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I want to write.

I was waiting for the fog to clear,

for my thoughts to be happier.

But sadness weighs more than I thought.

Joy is hiding under a shroud.

I know it is in there,

capable of being,

willing to sporadically show itself.

But the pain of loss is heavy,

 oppressive.

I try to tease my joy out of hiding,

keeping only happy memories in my head,

and yet, the sadness skulks.

It has an agenda.

But my resolve is stronger.

My happiness hides in memories.

It lurks in my past,

but seeps into my present.

The holidays loom, like a dark cloud

but we will find joy in new traditions.

Memories will be kept alive,

emotions will bubble under the surface.

new-46

She will be there in spirit,

as Angels are during the holidays.

Together again with him,

reunited forever.

Finding the courage to find myself

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This is really a post for myself, perhaps to hold myself accountable for all the things I wish I had been doing differently lately but have not been doing.  It is a kick in my ass, a wake-up call, a reminder that I shouldn’t feel guilty about putting myself first.

I have been feeling lost lately.  It could easily be the November blahs, the thought of our first Christmas without my mom or the fact that I have been ignoring my health and putting on the pounds that I worked so hard to lose.  Whatever the reason, I am not myself.

Up until now, I have spent a great deal of my life trying to “fix” other people – it’s just the way I am, the way I survived my youth and part of my failed marriage.  But it’s time for me to realize that I am the one who is broken.  It’s time for me to learn from my past and realize the only person I can fix is myself because I don’t like this feeling of being broken.

The nagging feeling in the back of my mind is not depression but the lethargy I am feeling is a warning sign.  I need to start participating in my life.  I need to sum up all of those lessons I learned from my past and use them to forge ahead into my future, a future where I am the driver and not the passenger.  A future where I make my own map and am not tagging along on someone else’s journey.

dear past

With a little bit of effort on my part, I can harness that energy that is lying dormant and forge boldly into my future.  The slate is blank and I can make of it whatever I want it to be.

Dear Future, I AM ready.