Still afraid of the dark

Growing up I was afraid of the dark.

It was bad.

If it was my turn to feed the cats after dark, I was a nervous wreck, certain that someONE or someTHING was out there waiting to “get” me.  Even the flashlight did not ease my worries.  As I got a little older I grew to appreciate the moon and stars and enjoyed gazing, but I still didn’t venture too far from the back stoop, within an easy dash to safety.  And my Daddy, whom I was sure could take care of anything that came along.

So it was ironic that I roomed with my sister who loved the dark.  We’re talking pitch black.  If I even tried reading with a flashlight under the covers, she was not happy.  I could not relax in the dark enough to go to sleep, so I would beg her to let me leave the hall light on and crack our door.  Mama and Daddy would turn off the lights when they went to bed anyway.  She usually put her foot down, but there were nights she’d be so tired, she’d acquiesce and I could fall asleep in peace.

Oh the nights when Mama and Daddy turned in early and they turned off all the lights in the house.  Those were hard.  The darkness held an unknown factor in it, and that is what I was afraid of.  What I didn’t know.  What could be out there. What might be.  My mind would crank up, and some nights it was hard to shut it down.

I don’t remember when things changed, but now I find it hard to sleep if there are any lights on in my room.  There can be an extraneous light from the kitchen or living room that might send a ray or two into the room and I will probably  be okay.  But if there is a lamp or booklight or phone lit up, I find it difficult to sleep.  Wouldn’t Sister find that poetic justice?  I haven’t had the nerve to tell her, after the hard time I gave her all those years.

So yes, I like to sleep in a dark room.  Winter or summer, air conditioning or heat, it seems to me  if a light is on in a room, it is hot.  I find comfort sleeping in the dark.

But I am still afraid of the dark.

This occurred to me early in the wee hours of this morning.  Miss Sophie had her “female” surgery yesterday, and I stayed up with her making sure she was comfortable and could sleep.  While we cuddled, I read a few stories on the internet, and it hit me as I settled down for the night about 2:00 a.m., I am still very much afraid of the darkness.

First I read the article about the shooting in the FedEx in Atlanta yesterday morning.  And I did what I do when faced with the Darkness.  It’s automatically what I do for comfort, like my nephew who rubs a corner of his shirt or my niece who sucks her thumb.

I immediately went through a checklist in my mind–how can I be sure not to be caught in this Darkness?  How can I keep this from happening to me?  How far removed am I from what happened?

I know.  Sad, right?

I mean, my heart goes out to those affected.  And I want to cry.  But then those old anxieties at the unknown and uncertainties kick in and I’m trying to make sure somehow that I won’t be caught out in the dark.

Then later I came across this article.

“After Two Weeks, 234 Nigerian Schoolgirls Are Still Missing: A terrorist group opposed to education is thought to be behind the kidnappings”

What?!  Two weeks?  How had I missed this story?  Was it not getting coverage?  Or was I just in my own little world?

Oh the tears.  Those poor young women.  Seeking an education.  A different way of life.

And it hit me–

How is it possible that we, these young women and I, are living on the same planet?  This past Saturday while I celebrated with other women who attended our all women’s college and honored our heritage–one that began in 1836–these young women were going through unknown terrors at the hands of their enemies in a land far away.

And yet not so far away really.

It makes me think again, wondering how I wound up here and they wound up there.  There are no words, no explanations.

And through my tears, I realized that I am still very much afraid of the Dark.  The Darkness in this world that is responsible for things like this happening.

As I went to my old soothing standby to calm my anxiety–my running through my checklist of–can this happen to me?  Or, am I safe from this?–I realized it has happened to me.  All of these things of the darkness, they are happening to me. To all of us.

I’ve shared this one before, but it came to my mind and heart again this morning.

Another version of the "Many leaves, one tree" line that's been running through my mind.  So true--we're all in this together, aren't we?

And the words of Tayari A. Jones, author of Silver Sparrow and other novels, also spoke to me:

This is very important.

I am not sure what we can do to help, but you have to at least care.

234 girls, stolen from their families, all because they went to school.

She is right.  We have to care.  I may be afraid of the dark, but I cannot continue separating myself from what is happening to cope, to soothe my anxieties.  The truth is that the shooting in Atlanta, the young women kidnapped and reportedly being married off to their captors, my friends who are sleeping on the dock to stay out of the terrible storms of the past two days, the children across town who are hungry, the college student who doesn’t have a stable family to go home to over summer break–they all matter and it all affects me.  Affects all of us.  In this world so filled with darkness, even if we are unsure of what to do, we can begin by caring.

I remember a book I read years ago.  I ordered it off my Scholastic book order form.  I was allowed to spend a dollar occasionally on those book forms, so when I found a 95 cent book, I was excited.  It was Light a Single Candle by Beverly Butler.  I remember how much I loved that book.  But tonight I’m remembering a quote from the beginning of the book–the first time I ever heard these words (which have been attributed to Adlai Stevenson, Eleanor Roosevelt, W. L. Watkinson and a Chinese proverb):

It is better to light a single candle

than to sit and curse the darkness. 

Words that have stayed with me all these years and came home to roost this afternoon.

I am still afraid of the Darkness.  After all the years.  Of that someTHING or someONE who might be out there full of evil intent.

But I can no longer sit and figure out my six or twelve or twenty degrees of separation to bring me comfort.  Life is too short and the world is too small.  What is happening right now affects us all, no matter how scary it is.

And so tonight, as I tuck Miss Sophie in for a good night’s rest and I crawl into my bed on clean sheets in my home where the sidewalks seem safe and the birds sing in the trees behind my house, I will cry over a part of me that is broken.  The part that is connected to those immediately in the line of the Darkness.  The river flows and touches all of us.  Their brokenness is a part of me and always will be.  I cannot live in peace until we are all at peace.

And for tonight, that’s where I’m at.  Tearful, broken, but caring and hopeful.

A veritable paradox.

Love and caring to all.  It’s a start.

After Two Weeks, 234 Abducted Nigerian Schoolgirls Are Still Missing

A terrorist group opposed to western education is thought to be behind the kidnappings

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/two-weeks-234-abducted-nigerian-schoolgirls-are-still-missing-180951236/#0dBcu2vogr1T2shs.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

After Two Weeks, 234 Abducted Nigerian Schoolgirls Are Still Missing

A terrorist group opposed to western education is thought to be behind the kidnappings

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/two-weeks-234-abducted-nigerian-schoolgirls-are-still-missing-180951236/#0dBcu2vogr1T2shs.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

From MGB to Minivan

Late this afternoon, I was taking our Princess to her gymnastics and dance classes, which she loves.  She was listening to music and I was in my own world as well when I saw it.  Up ahead.

An MGB.

Sure, it was on the back of a wrecker, but still.

An MGB.  You just don’t see those very often anymore.

I pointed it out to our Princess.  “I used to have one of those,” I said.  “I drove it to high school.”

She looked up, saw it, nodded, and went on with her life, nonplussed.

Well, sure, it wasn’t the Batmobile or Millennium Falcon, but show some respect, girl.

It took me back.  Way back.  After I turned sixteen, my Daddy and I went car shopping together. The first thing I’d check in each vehicle was the radio of course.  He would shake his head and turn it off.  Ahem.  The first car we looked at was a Dodge–maybe a Charger, but I’m not sure.  It was fairly old and had a cracked head.  I remember being assigned to write our own “Declaration of Independence” for English Composition my junior year.  I wrote mine on why it wasn’t a bad idea for me to get that car.  “A cracked head’s no big deal; folks walk around all the time with those.”  But Daddy voted no, since he’d be the one bringing it up to code, so to speak.  So…..next.

I don’t remember how many others we looked at before we found her.  My Grey Goose.  A 1970 silver/grey MGB.  Four in the floor.  Some rusted out spots in the floor too as I recall, but I didn’t care.  As I debated its merits in my mind, my Daddy said something that I have never forgotten, and it has affected many of my decisions since.

“Don’t settle.”

He went on to say, “If you want an MGB, a convertible, don’t settle.  Get it now.  The time is gonna come when you won’t have that choice.  One day when you have a family, you will need a vehicle with more room.  If you want something like this, now is the time.”

And so it was.

We brought her home, and I was thrilled.  She needed some work.  So the summer I was in Washington for a week with the Flint Electric Tour and Governor’s Honors Program in Valdosta for six weeks, Daddy tweaked the engine, made repairs, and did what needed doing.  Actually I’m making stuff up–I don’t know what all he did.  She needed a lot of work, but the only thing I remember is him taking plywood and putting tar on it and creating a new and improved, without holes floorboard for my new car.  It was brilliant.  Daddy was brilliant.

My whole summer away–the summer before my senior year, I kept a picture with me of my Grey Goose.  I hoped that I would be able to drive her when I first got back, but she wasn’t quite ready.  I had driven the family’s Fiat Station Wagon when I needed to drive anytime during my junior year.  I was thrilled, when the car was ready, to be driving Sister, who was a freshman, and myself to school and back during my senior year.  No more school buses for us.  We had arrived.

Daddy got her all ready, and Sister and I made the twenty-minute drive to and from the high school together.  One day in particular, we had discussed that morning that if we hurried out after school, we might have time to take down the soft top, and drive home convertible style.  It was a beautiful day.  But of course we didn’t want to be the last ones leaving the parking lot, and I had to drop Sister off and get to work–thus the need to hurry.

As we passed in the hall, each on our way in the crowd to our fifth period class–the day almost over, I called out to Sister, “Hey, you still able to get out there quickly?”

She nodded and waved as she moved along the current of students with her friends.  My friend walking along had heard us and asked, “What are y’all doing after school?”

Without thinking, I answered, “Taking the top off so we can drive home.”

Y’all.  Have you ever met a high school boy?

Yep.  Of course it went there.  The whole joke that my sister and I were driving home topless.  Which we were, I suppose.  It was only made funnier by the fact that I practically had NERD stamped across my forehead back then.  Ahem.  (We are not talking about now, people.)

And that was the joke for a while.  That Sister and I drove topless.

Ah, memories.  You have to laugh, don’t you?

We thought we were so cool, driving by the middle school with all the sixth through eighth graders hanging around outside waiting for their buses to come, with our radio blaring songs like Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” on one of the many songs I loved from my “Chicago 17” cassette tape.  And by blaring, I mean at a level that we could hear the music, but not so much that we couldn’t hear any emergency vehicles that might approach.  Safety first.  I mean, being cool has its boundaries.

Tonight I’m thankful for that lesson my Daddy taught me.  So many times I’ve heard his voice, “Don’t settle.” And it has saved me from making poor choices on more than one occasion.  I’m grateful for this unexpected trip down memory lane.  I loved my MGB that got me through my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college.  I can still see her parked in the same parking lot I parked my family-mobile in for Alumnae weekend four days ago–behind the first floor of Persons dorm.  Most of all I appreciate my Daddy having some sort of amazing vision of where life would take me, knowing that if I passed by the joy of having my “fun” car as a young person, I might not get another opportunity.  What a gift that was.  I sure loved that car, and even more I love my Daddy who made it possible.

After all, how often does a girl get a chance to drive topless?

Love to all.

 

 

 

Kicking Justin Out

Yes, that’s right.

My feeling the least bit hospitable is over.

I’m done.

With him and all his junk.

He has to go.

Justin has created chaos in my home, and I’m sick of it.

Have you ever had someone in your life like that?

Not for very long, I’m thinking.  You probably got more sense.

Me?  It took me a while, playing nice, being accommodating.  Giving him more and more room to stretch out.  “Oh you need another drawer?  Okay let me see.”  “Hmmm.  All that stuff too.  Okay, well let me run by and see what I can find in the way of storage containers, okay?”

If you don’t already know it y’all, storage containers are of that “ol’ debil.”  Buying more stuff to keep your stuff?

Facepalm.

And yet I’ve done it.  Justin talked me into it.  With his sweet words and promises that one day I’ll be glad I did let him and his stuff stick around.

Justin.  Forget it.  I’m tired of your lies.  It’s going to be hard, but I’m evicting you.  You have lived here long enough.

Y’all remember Justin, right?

Justin Case.

I have drawers and baskets and storage tubs with things belonging to him.

Keep this sock just in case you find the other one.  (Not going to happen.  EVER.  I think the dryer monster that never seemed to be at Mama’s came over to my house and started breeding with the one already here.  I can’t buy enough socks to clothe my people and feed the Sock Monster family.  I can’t keep up.)

Keep this broken piece of plastic thingy.  You might find whatever on earth it fell off of and maybe you might can possibly glue it back on and it might just work.  Maybe.  Probably not, but there’s always a chance, so…..

Keep this sweater belt to that sweater you gave away years ago even though you couldn’t find the belt.  Oh no, you’ll never get that sweater back nor will you find the person with it to give the belt too, but one day you might need this.  For someTHING.

See, how he talks fancy to me.  My head starts to spin and I nod and give him space for whatever he wants me to keep.  Justin Case.

But.  NO.  MORE.

There’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint in a lovely warm new color to make you want to straighten up and fly right.  I’m taking my time putting things back in place.  I’m telling Justin he’s out of here and I’m not taking no more of his suggestions and sweet talk and messing with my mind.  (Yes, it’s a double negative, which might negate the meaning normally, but where I come from it only reiterates the NOT and NO–doubly positive–I’m done with this.)

The lovely warm "Autumn Moon" walls that have inspired me to get my act together.  Ignore the foolishness on the table.  Working through that.  It's Justin's.  He's taking it with him.

The lovely warm “Autumn Moon” walls that have inspired me to get my act together. Ignore the foolishness on the table. Working through that. It’s Justin’s. He’s taking it with him.

Oh my.  Easier said than done.  He teams up with his best girl–Mem Ree Layne.  When I tell him no, he winks at her and pats her on her shoulder, and then I have to deal with her.   Mem Ree is a powerful girl, especially where I’m concerned.  I could be a hoarder of things that bring back stories and tears and laughter.  I might just be.  And Mem Ree knows this and reminds me of those times just when I’m ready to drop a piece of paper or a list or a trinket in the trash or giveaway pile.  Justin tells her to tell me I’d better keep something just in case I start to forget.  Good gravy she’s good. They’re a really good team.  But not good for me.

What I’m trying to tell Mem (she lets me call her that when I’m on her good side) and myself is that it’s okay.  My memory of that person I love, of that time we were together, of the laughter, the tears, the joy–my memories are not tied into that someTHING in my hand.  Not at all.  I have them in my heart.  Which doesn’t tend to get as cluttered.  Not very often.  So I can keep things there for quite a while without too much of an adverse affect.

I have a little over a week, y’all.  Before the paintbrush is back at it, transforming another room.  I need to get things cleared and moved around so it can happen.  It’s time.  Seven years of marks and handprints and dents and smudges and pencil marks–it’s past time.  And after years and years of cohabitating, it’s time I make an honest and well-kept woman out of myself.

Justin,  Justin Case, it’s not me, it’s you.  You.  Got. To. Go.

And honestly, I think Mem will be much sweeter and kinder and supportive if he’s not around. So she can stay.  For now.

Wishing you all freedom from Justin and his foolishness.

Love to all.

 

 

 

Pirates, Pearls, and Open Doors

Yesterday my Wesleyanne, my Pirate 2017–the one almost done with her first year of college–went in to work about an hour before I headed out for our Alumnae weekend festivities.  She told me the night before that she thought she might drive up after work to play in the Alumnae/Student Soccer game.  I was visiting with friends, new and old, when she came walking up on the loggia yesterday afternoon, ready to play.

I drove out to the new soccer field (not sure how long it has been out there, but it will always be the “new” one to me) to cheer a team on.  On the one side my girl and her friends, on the other side friends I’ve had for twenty-eight years.  What. On. Earth.  (And no, I’m not telling who I was cheering for.  There’s some things you get old enough to know better about.)

As the game wrapped up with laughter and hugs and pats on the backs, the Pirates of ’89 gathered on the steps of the covered deck.  With my dear friend Oenone’s camera, I took pictures of this group of women who were such great role models and even better friends for me.  With a lump in my throat, I introduced them to my Pirate, and asked if I could take a picture of her with them.  That moment right there.  And a tradition was passed along.  Oenone put her pearls around Aub’s neck, saying it is a tradition for Pirates to play in pearls.  Moments like this are when I look back at 1986 Tara and whisper in her ear, “That whole college decision thing?  You chose well.”

 

A Pirate in pearls.....perfection.

A Pirate in pearls…..perfection.

As we were all leaving the soccer fields and heading back towards front campus for other events, some of our friends needed rides, as they had walked out to the new field from the old one and it was H.O.T. hot.  I had the privilege of being accompanied by the scarf-maker who could.  In the five minutes it took us to get to front campus, we were deep in conversation.  We found a couple of rockers and commenced to visiting.  Aub joined us a few minutes later and the laughter and near tears that passed among us were the stuff that the best of memories are made of.   My scarf-maker friend, this woman who takes Chances and makes things happen, walked with us over to the loggia overlooking the fountain where we would be eating soon.  She looked down at all below us and then back at Aub.

She motioned for Auburn.  “Come with me.  Mom, you stay here.”

20140427-235134.jpg

I saw them go down the marble stairs I’d gone up and down so many times over the years, probably the most significant of which was when I was married by that fountain in 2002.  They seemed lost in conversation as they headed over to the door that opened up to the post office and bookstore.  As she opened the door for Aub, my friend waved up at me.  They smiled, and then they headed back.

The first in a long line of many, I hope.  Thankful for the legacy my friend has passed along.

The first in a long line of many, I hope. Thankful for the legacy my friend has passed along.

I stood and looked out at the preparations for our fiesta by the fountain while I waited.  When they came back up, both were beaming.
“I just passed along a new tradition. You want to hear the story?”

I nodded.  Traditions.  That’s my middle name.  Daddy used to say, Look out, if you do anything more than once, it becomes a tradition with Tara.  So of course I wanted to know this story.

“You remember Rita Delaney Harris?” she asked.  I nodded.  I had seen her name in the Annual Meeting program that morning.  She passed away this past year.  She was a non-traditional older student, who was a senior my freshman year.

“It was my freshman year.  I was walking over to go in that door, and Rita was heading that way too.  I started to open the door for her, but she stopped me, reaching out and opening the door for me.  And she said, ‘No, let me.  And may this be the first of many doors opened for you.'”

Is it okay to say that I was about to cry?

Okay or not, it’s the truth.

What a precious lady.  To think that something that may have seemed so simple and  that happened twenty-nine years ago still touches my friend.  That it made such a lasting impression on her heart.

And now.

Now she has opened a door for my girl, wishing for her many more open doors in her future.

Oh good gravy.

Is there anything more precious that having someone you love and respect sharing love and light with your young’un?

Tonight I am thankful for sisterhood.  But it’s more than that really.  Sisterhood at Wesleyan is like the beautiful handkerchief I got from my Great Aunt.  I always have it.  It’s an heirloom passed down from one generation to the next.  I tuck it in my pocket or my purse or the top drawer of my dresser.  I always feel the comfort of the memories it brings me, and I appreciate that I have it now, after all of these years.  It dries my tears from laughter and from the hard times.  A treasure that is beautiful yet still quite functional.  I don’t tuck it away and never use it again.  Keeping it close only adds to the memories, and that is where so much joy comes from.  Keeping my sisters close, and sharing the memories of yesterday, the joys and sorrows of today, and the dreams for tomorrow.

Thank you Pirates 1989 for showing my girl what being a Pirate is all about.  “Guidelines only, laughter, pearls, and loving your sisters fiercely.”  And sharing grace and love by opening doors for each other every Chance we get.

Go take a chance and do something great for someone, no matter how small it seems.  I bet you’ll be surprised how far it goes.

 

Love to all.  And pearls.  Always pearls.  😉

 

“…..a star in the dark is thy glorious past…..”

Today I went back home to my Alma Mater for our Alumnae weekend events.  As I headed north and got on I-475, I was faced with a choice.  Take the exit that I used to take when I was a student there, the same one Mama took when she was a Wesleyanne, or I could go further north, take the next exit, and use the main road to get there.  I deliberated on this longer than you might think.  I am a backroads kind of girl, but the “old” way would take me past many ghosts from the past, and I wasn’t sure if I could handle that today or not. 

But I decided why not.  And so I went in the back way. 

 

I drove along the road

the same one I had traveled many

many times before

The ponds that are harder to see now,

that’s how my little brother learned to count

one pond, two ponds…..five ponds

on his way with Mama to her classes

While she learned he stayed at the little school

that is still there

The same road I drove back and forth for four years

with a heart filled with angst and dreams of love

(it seems to go with that age, doesn’t it?)

and a glimpse of a future beyond the campus where I learned

and grew and laughed and found

sisters

Sisters whom only grow more dear

to me

as I grow older

Before,

back then

I worried over this and that,

a bit uncomfortable with letting

anyone close enough

to know all I carried inside,

what must be so different

that they wouldn’t want to see

So I lived and loved but that isn’t me anymore,

not all me anyway

Maybe that’s why I worried over

going back and squeezing back into

who I was

back then

The thing I learned today

and I keep learning

with life and years and time

is that we all felt that way

about something

but the older we get

the more beautiful we all are

because we let the light from within

shine brightly

not hidden under a bushel of insecurities

and worries over being different

The light shines

and the laughter is a beautiful melodious song

as we share stories on the porches,

in the rocking chairs

that hold those stories dear

The stories we share and those of our sisters before us

and we hold close the knowing

that we are more alike than different–

and it doesn’t even matter anymore

We love, we listen, we laugh over

children and spouses and times gone by

and in the whisper of the breeze there is a

promise that the ghosts are gone now

and it is time to start again,

a mid-life adventure of sorts

Giving the grace that we offer others

so freely

we give also to ourselves

And as all the voices were raised in song,

singing the words sung by many before

and many after me

“Hail Wesleyan, thy emblem of all that is grand…..”

I looked up and the ceiling faded away

and there was a dark night sky

filled with stars and the voices lifted in song

Echoing in the cool night air

at my last time around the fountain

with those sisters

and I cried then over saying goodbye

and the not knowing what would come

Today there were tears

But different

Tears from laughter

of joy

of saying hello to my sisters

and hello to this peace in me

It was dark when I set out on the road

for the home where I lay my head

The stars were the same ones who

have watched over us from the beginning

And their light was bright

Just like mine

 

 

Love to all–go and let your light shine brightly.

One pond two ponds.....

One pond two ponds…..

The little school where my brother went while Mama was in class.

The little school where my brother went while Mama was in class.

 

Pulling into back campus.....

Pulling into back campus…..

Where we gather--here.....

Where we gather–here…..

and here.

and here.

The fountain where we cheered loudly and sang sweetly, late in the evenings after the twinkling stars came out to watch.

The fountain where we cheered loudly and sang sweetly, late in the evenings after the twinkling stars came out to watch.

Big hugs and many thanks to my friend Ashley who had us sing "This Little Light of Mine" and told us to let our light shine bright.  She shares her light at www.baddestmotherever.com Go love her.

Big hugs and many thanks to my friend Ashley who had all of us at the Alumnae meeting sing “This Little Light of Mine” and told us to let our light shine bright. She shares her light at http://www.baddestmotherever.com
Go love her.

 

The Sadness in Grammar

We are smelling the barn around here.

I mean, it’s almost the end of the school year and we are feeling it.  We are working hard to get through our goals set (by me) and times tables.  And maybe a little better reading skills for Cooter.  Yes, I’m pleased he’s reading at all.  Yes, I feel better about his ability to learn.  But I think the boy doesn’t care if he ever gets out of first grade.  Maybe it won’t matter.  If folks don’t already think I’m his grandmother, they likely will in a few years, and when they ask me why he’s so old and still in grade one, I can shake my head, shrug, and say, “His parents.  What are you gonna do?”  That should work, right?

Today I sat with our Princess going over her grammar lessons.  Today we were discussing “am/is/are,” “was/were,” and “has/have/had.”

20140425-234001.jpg

I asked her to fill in the blanks.

“Sam and Will ______ in town yesterday.”  Were.  Yes.

“We ________ leaving in a few minutes.”  Are.  Check.

“We _______ a horse when I was growing up.”

Princess flopped back on Cap’s couch where we were sitting and lay there, staring up at the ceiling.

“What’s wrong? Don’t you know this one?”  I asked.

“Yes.  Had.  But I don’t like the word had.  It’s a sad, sad word.”  She huffed indignantly, still staring.

What?

“I don’t like it,” she repeated, as she folded her arms across her chest.  “Because it’s a word about the past.  You had something but now you don’t.  It’s just too sad.”

And then she teared up.

And so did I.

Some days we are coasting along doing our day to dailies, and while we miss those whom we love and have lost, we don’t talk about it much.  And then some days like today, it comes up when you least expect it–in a grammar lesson.

And when that happens, the best thing to do is close the book and hold each other close.

Yeah, I’m glad we are winding down this school year.  It’s been a long one.

Love to all and hope for joyful memories from the “hads” in your life.

 

 

 

Her Biggest Fan

I got this text message this morning from my oldest, my college girl, my Aub.

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Where did the time go?  It seems like just yesterday this girl was prancing around Blackberry Flats, such a cutie patootie.  Full of vim and vinegar that one.

My girl in one of my favorite outfits from the consignment sale.  She could always make me laugh--still can.

My girl in one of the favorite outfits from the consignment sale. She could always make me laugh–still can.

I think about how just a few years after this picture was taken, she was at Yokota East Elementary school, a DODDS school on base in Japan.  I walked her to school in the mornings.  After a few weeks she asked me to start picking her up in the van (we lived five minutes away) because, she said, the school days just “wear me out.”  And so I did.  Many afternoons we stayed and she and friends played on the playground until they were ready to lock the gates.  Such beautiful days, much like this one, days filled with classes and art projects and Japanese culture class and book sales in the library.  I helped with class parties and was the assistant in her art classes.  If she had something going on, I was there.

Aub on a field trip with her Yokota East Elementary classmates and friends in a shirt my Mama and Daddy decorated for her.

Aub on a field trip with her Yokota East Elementary classmates and friends in a shirt my Mama and Daddy decorated for her.

And now, somehow time has slipped by, and I’m not.  There.  Physically.  But yes, I was still cheering her on today.  Even if she didn’t see my face going all goofy with pride over a job well done.

Today as I was cleaning out some drawers, I found a note tucked away that I had written her.  “Keep smiling.  You did great.”  And on the other side, “What’s for supper?”  When?  Ah yes, the county spelling bee in elementary school.  We went through several of those in her time.  I had written the note before we left that morning.  Because I knew that her just being up there was “great,” even if she were to go out on the first word she tried to spell.  And no matter how she did, she got to pick out what to have for supper.  Precious memories.

Later on this afternoon Aub and I were texting again and I suggested she could run an errand she needed to take care of this afternoon.

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And she sent me this back.  Another moment in my girl’s life that I’m not there as I used to be–snapping pictures, giving a thumbs up, cheering her on.  I was teasing her with that “comment o’ guilt” and she knew it.  But still, it hit me full force today that she has definitely moved on from the “Mama in the audience” phase of life.

Wow.

Wasn’t it yesterday that she was graduating from kindergarten?

 

My girl in her cap and gown graduating from kindergarten.

My girl in her cap and gown graduating from kindergarten.

Okay, maybe not.  Well then surely it was yesterday she graduated from high school, right?  Maybe last week?

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Almost a year, you say?  Do what?  I cannot believe it.  But there it is.  The calendar doesn’t lie, I guess.

 

I am so proud of my “sophomore.”  (Well, that is hard to say.)  She has worked hard, played hard, and found a new life in a new place to call home.  And the fact that I have great memories of the same place as my home brings me a special kind of joy.  In fact, we’ve just about determined that next year she will be living in the same room I lived in my freshman year.  That is just downright cool.

Aub and her alma mater

Aub and her alma mater

My girl knows how to stick to it.  :)

My girl knows how to stick to it. 🙂

For my girl, who “stuck” to it this year and did a great job, even when things got just about as hard as they could get–a big wink and thumbs up and “Whoo hoo” and all of those other things I’ve done to embarrass you as I sat in the crowd.  I’m always in the crowd, baby girl, and I’ll always be your biggest fan.  I learned from my biggest fan, you know.  Maemae never let me forget how much she loved me, and I hope you will always know how much I love you.

Way to go, boo–keep it up like this and you’ll be graduating before I know it.  *sigh*

Love this girl.

Love this girl.

 

Y’all, if you’ve got littles, go hug them.  I’m off to hug mine.  Before we know it, they’ll be graduating and doing their own thing, just like this one.

 

Love to all.

 

The Day I Went To Prison

It occurred to me yesterday after my visit with Mac that it has been about two years since he took the first step on his journey to recovery.  Once again. It began with a long ride after being released from prison in Macon to a town about three hours away, to a beautiful rehabilitation facility where he made good choices and friends and dreamed dreams again.

Sigh.

But this story began a few months before.

He had turned himself in to an officer that had stopped by the gas station store that he frequented.  I think that had been in January.  He was tired of running, tired of that way of living, and he knew there were warrants out for him for probation violation.  Probation for things like panhandling, loitering, you know–the major crimes.  Anyway, turning himself in got him a bed and three meals a day.  And had me worried he wasn’t showing up on Sundays until I saw his name on the sheriff’s website.  We started writing letters back and forth.  I loved hearing his stories and dreams and the jokes he liked to tell.  In those letters we got to know each other pretty well.  He knew the way my littles preferred play over learning, that I loved to bake better than cook, and that the Fella loves old classic cars.  He sent notes and drawings to all of us, and we sent back pictures he could draw, stories to read, and letters sharing the ins and outs of our days.

And then, in one letter, he mentioned the visiting hours.  And asked if I could come.

Wow.

I had never been to prison before.  I wanted to see this man whom I grew to call my brother.  I wanted to give him all the support he needed to make wise choices once he took that first step out of his cell as a free man.  He needed a good network of folks to walk with him, and I intended to be one of those folks.  But prison?

At the risk of being redundant, Wow.

As it turns out, different folks are assigned different visiting hours.  His was 1 p.m. on Sunday, along with several others.  He had to put my name and anyone else who might come on a list.  If you weren’t on the list, you weren’t getting in.  We decided that I would visit on this one particular Sunday, barring anything unforeseen happening.  All of this was communicated by letters, so there was a lot of room for miscommunication or total lack of.  That Sunday morning I got up, took care of the tea and coffee for the park’s Sunday night supper, and got ready to go.  What does one wear to visit prison?  A strange question, I know, but I was second guessing EVERYTHING.  I chose regular, casual clothes and worried over the shoes.  I had heard something about not wearing open-toed shoes, but I wasn’t sure.  I wore my flip flops and carried Aub’s boat shoes with me just in case.  I drove to downtown and found the tree-lined street on the back side of the jail where I’d be entering.  I parked the car on the street, and checked my clock.  12:45.  I was early.  I sat and took it all in for a few minutes.  Normal looking brick building with the exception of the painful looking wires at the top of the fence. And across the street?  A convenience store with “Lottery, Beer, Cigarettes” painted on the side.  Oh y’all, I nearly cried.  If Mac were released with no one to pick him up, I could be fairly certain that’s where he’d head.  After all, there was a phone outside there, if it even worked.  And the nearly three months of detoxing and not drinking he’d done would all  be for naught.  My heart broke, and I knew something had to be done.  How many leave that facility with no one to go home to and find themselves over at that store?  Its location was no coincidence, I felt sure.

I took a sip of water, rallied my spirit, grabbed my license and my keys, and headed in.  I had no idea what to do.  Everyone else waiting seemed to know exactly what they were doing.  I realize in hindsight that may not have been true, but at the time, I felt like I had a huge sticker on my head that screamed, “First Timer.”

I approached an officer who, it was obvious, was bored and didn’t have any warm fuzzies about folks coming to visit folks they cared about.  She looked on the card–the one that had my name and Mac’s Mama’s name and one other on it.  I almost wanted his Mama to come, so I could meet her and maybe there wouldn’t be a lull in the conversation.

Because it occurred to me–this would be the first time we’d talk in person with him sober.

I gave her my keys and license and prayed I wouldn’t set off any alarms with my belt or any metal pins I’d forgotten I had.  (One time in an MRI, I had a moment of panic–had nothing to do with claustrophobia and everything to do with worrying whether or not I had a pin put in when I broke my ankle.  In that moment, I forgot.  And I did again at the jail. FYI–No pin.)

At 1 p.m. on the dot, I was told which window to go to.  There were stools of sorts in front of the windows, but someone had blocked the bottom half of the window so you couldn’t see your friend unless you were standing up.  There was a phone to pick up and speak into and that was how we were to communicate.  After a couple of minutes of standing there, I saw a group of men in orange jumpsuits heading towards us.  I scanned the group, and there he was.  He grinned that grin of his, and I grinned back.  It was good to see him.  He had showered and looked well fed and well rested.  I was thankful.  He picked up the phone, and said hello.  Ah.

Only I couldn’t hear him.

At all.

I spoke and looked at him questioningly.  He shrugged and shook his head.  He nodded at the window two spots down.  Someone had come in, said two words to their person and left from that window.  I looked around for someone, anyone, to ask if that was okay.

Because let me tell you this.  If there is a place where one does not want to do ANYTHING wrong or upset ANYONE or cross ANY lines, it would be in prison.  They wouldn’t have far to haul me if they decided they didn’t like what I was doing.  Seriously.  I was worried.

But Mac had already moved down.  Why wasn’t there an officer supervising this?  What was I going to say–He made me do it?

After a moment of hesitation, I moved down and picked up the phone.  We could hear each other.  Finally.

Eventually I relaxed a little, once it became apparent no one cared that we had changed windows.  We visited and caught up from our latest letters.  He told me about his attorney visiting the day before.  About how sometimes he didn’t want to go to the meals, just wanted to rest.  I asked about him working on his novel, a western, and he said, no not right now.  Maybe later on he would.  We passed the time with stories and jokes and I can say for sure, an hour is a long time, when you are speaking into a phone and trying to find a comfortable way to lean/stand and staring through “glass” that has something running through it that makes focusing on the person on the other side really hard.

I loved the visit but as we hit the forty-five and fifty minute mark, I could tell that Mac was getting tired.  He has never had good balance, even stone cold sober, so this was wearing him out too.  We talked for a few more minutes and then said our goodbyes, with promises of writing and wishes for safety and good health.

I gathered my license and keys and thanked the bored officer and headed out into the fresh air of that overcast Sunday.  As I walked down the street to my car, free to drink the water in my own cup waiting for me in the vehicle I owned, I felt like I had a fresh pair of glasses to see through.  I had only spent an hour inside the facility, but it was enough to make me see and appreciate things a little differently.

Little did I know that day where life was taking us. That in less than a month I’d be walking back in that building to speak at Mac’s hearing, a suitcase full of what he needed in my car, waiting to take him to a place where he could heal and be with folks who could put tools in his kit for his journey ahead.  That just over a year later, he’d be sitting at the graduation for my oldest, having gotten permission to come back home for it from his transitional program.  That just two years later, he’d be sitting in almost the exact same spot he was the week before he went to prison, and he’d be grieving over his friend who died after being hit by a car while crossing the street, mad over his tent that was stolen from his “camp,” and worrying over another friend who “drinks 24/7.”

As I left him yesterday, I felt a push to give him two numbers I had in my purse in the car.  Two numbers of possible rehabilitation or transitional places.  I sat in the driver’s seat and copied them down.  When I walked back around to the opening in the gate, he had left his seat outside.  I went in and looked around.  I hoped I could find him.  And there he was.  In the technology room.  He came out when he saw me.

“Here,” I said.  “I think I’m supposed to give you these numbers.  They might not be the right places, but maybe they can lead you to one that is.”

He took the folded paper and started to tuck it in his pocket.  “Thank you.”

I looked him in the eyes. “And it’s okay, you know.  It’s okay.  No pressure.  Just for whenever you want to, you know, take that step.  Your decision.”

He was quiet for a second.  “I’m almost there.”  He nodded and looked at the paper again. “I am.  I called Joe the other day.”  Joe, who had run the transitional home he’d been in until last July.

“Did you?  Was that good?”

He nodded.  And he reached to give me a hug.  “Thank you.  I’ll be calling you.”

Tonight I’m thankful for this life that takes me outside my comfort zones and into places where I have to step up and love someone else.  It’s not easy, and I’m not always a willing participant.  But when I go, the rewards are phenomenal.  I meet folks whom I would never have met otherwise–people who bring richness and laughter into my life and stories that touch my heart.  I am thankful for the folks who raised me to listen and love all–it’s not easy but they set a good example to follow.  And a tough one.

And tonight I ask for us all to keep Mac and all of our brothers and sisters like him in our thoughts, prayers, hearts, and minds.  The ones who need someone to see them and hear them and love them through choices, good and bad. And when it comes down to it, isn’t that what we all need?

 

Love to all.

 

What True Love Looks Like

I was standing in the yard, I think I was at Granny’s.  But the trees were ones Daddy had planted, so they were precious to me.  And as I stood staring at this one tree, it fell over.  Toppled right to the ground.  In that moment, my heart shattered.  I fell to the ground crying.  It was a link to him, and it was gone.  Another connection cut off.  As I wept, my tears falling into the grass beneath me, I wondered if it falling was a sign something bad had happened to Daddy.  I thought about Mama and worried how she was handling it if something had happened. 

Then I woke up and remembered.  Silence.

Oh.  That’s right.

It was just a dream.

Lunch for the little today.  Tortilla pizza.  They love it.

Lunch for the littles today. Tortilla pizza. They love it. Just like their Cap did.

Today for lunch I made two quick tortilla pizzas for my littles.  We hadn’t had them in a while until I whipped them up one last week.  They were so excited and ate every bite, so we’ve had them a couple of more times.  Today as I was using the pizza cutter to slice one up for our Princess, I remembered that Daddy was also fond of this version of pizza in his last couple of years.  After my dream last night, he and Mama were on my mind more than usual.

“Hey y’all, Cap loved this kind of pizza too.  He told me about it after Maemae made it for him the first time.”

They both thought that was pretty cool.

“Mama, let me ask you something.  Did you have to feed Maemae?”

*absolutely out of left field, that was*

I thought for a minute.  “No baby, I didn’t.  Maemae wasn’t really able to eat anything those last few weeks.  They had her using something to help her breathe.”  I held my own breath, fingers crossed there wouldn’t be any more detailed questions.

“Oh.”  She thought for a moment, carrying her plate to the counter. “Did you ever have to feed Cap?”

Oh my.  I did on occasion.  It was mostly helping him get the cup Mama had put a straw in up to his mouth.  Just at the end though.  The last couple of days he wanted nothing.

I remember noticing in those last months when Daddy lost some of his motor skills, that Mama was fixing him sandwiches and then wraps.  She’d put just about anything in a wrap–fried chicken, meatloaf, you name it–if Daddy liked it, it went in a wrap.  At first I thought they had joined the “wrap”apalooza that the restaurants all seemed to be going to at the time, but then Mama commented nonchalantly about how it seemed like it was easier for him to handle a wrap.

Bless her.

Mama’s love language was food.  We’ve laughed and joked about it over the years, and we even teased her unmercifully.  She used to lay out a spread and apologize that it might not be “fancy” or “enough.”  We’d shake our heads and dig in appreciatively.  After Daddy died, and she was so tired from the diseases challenging her own body, she’d put a Stouffer’s Macaroni and Cheese in the oven, roast some broccoli, fry up some okra, and put out carrots and hummus as a side–and she would APOLOGIZE.  Oh Mama.  Don’t you know all we tasted was love?

Because that’s how she showed her love the best, it was important to her to feed Daddy.  She couldn’t ease his pain, she couldn’t slow down the progression of the cancer, but she could by golly feed him.  And feed him well.  She’d cut up apple slices with at least one meal every day.  He always did love his apples, and if she placed them in a certain bowl, he could get them out and eat them all by himself fairly easily.  And the wraps.  I don’t know if she fed him meals when we weren’t there, but I do know she got very creative when it came to making him good food that he could eat himself.  She preserved his dignity through it all.

Bless her.  I was watching.  And paying attention.

I know that Walt Disney, bless his heart, has created an image of romance surrounded by singing forest animals, dancing and sewing mice, sea creatures, dancing until midnight, book-filled rooms with candlelight, and all kinds of happilyeveraftertheend’s, but for me, I know what true love looks like.

True love looks like hands held across a hospital bed.  True love looks like a smile and a wrinkled nose.  True love looks like tired eyes and vitamins served in a little cup every night.

True love looks like a wrap.  Made special.  For the one you love most.

Love to all.

some days

some days

it is incomprehensible

that life keeps going

that the world keeps turning

that laundry still piles up

family still needs to be fed

some days

it is beyond my ability

to do more than what absolutely has to be done

even now,

even still

after all this time

always

the missing and the hurting

it ebbs and flows

like joy and sorrow taking turns touching my toes

in the sand of this life

and neither will ever really go away

for without the one,

can there truly be knowledge of the other?

joy for the times that were

sorrow for the times that could never be

joy for the memories made

sorrow for the plans that never happened

in and out of my heart

the sights, sounds, and smell of you

yesterday I cried

when I smelled cinnamon baking

because it made me think of Christmas

when you were still here

and all was okay

contextually speaking, as we used to say

some days the laundry and the cooking

and the pots that need scrubbing

are why I rise and make the bed

and for the little ones of course

for the children they do not grieve as I do

they do not weep over lost moments

they sing songs and speak of you with a smile

and share what they have planned for when they see you again

as they are sure they will do

some days I give thanks for the things that need doing

they fill my mind and my hands

and my freezer and cake plates

some days when I am busy it is easier than

when I am not

but some days

some days

are not easy at all

you are loved and missed and given thanks for each day

love

 

 

Today a friend got the sad news surrounding the words “nothing else we can do” for her Daddy.  My heart aches for her.  Those words bring so much pain and worry and tears, and they require a paradigm shift.  I have friends who have stayed in the hospitals so much lately with those they love.  And I have heard of so many who are sick or grieving, here, right here in the midst of the beauty of the earth shaking off the slumber of winter, and as people call out to each other for the first time in weeks, “Alleluia!”  It is hard to fathom and wrap your brain around the idea that the whole world is not grieving with you.  That is where I have walked on more than one occasion.  It makes you want to cry out to everyone, “How are you still going and doing and functioning?”  Or it makes you want to crawl back in the bed and shut it all out.  I’ve been down both  of those paths.  This is for all of us who wonder why the earth doesn’t come to a screeching halt in its orbit when our worlds surely seem to be falling apart.  Love to all of you.