Catching Sight of Him

Cooter is enjoying his drama program.  Each week he heads through that door and doesn’t look back.

Well not much anyway.  When he is on stage delivering his lines (yes, he’s already memorized them! what a relief), he will glance over and smile with this “nailed it, did you see that?” look on his face.  I smile and sometimes offer a thumbs up.  He’s in his element, and that is a joy to see.

They’ve progressed to the point in rehearsals that all of the children wait backstage for their scenes.  Once they begin, I don’t see him except on stage until it’s time to leave.

This week there were a group of parents waiting for their children near the front door close to the end of rehearsals.  Since I stick around the whole time, I had already walked over and signed him out.  I stood off to the side, waiting.  As the crowd of children headed our way from the back, I finally saw Cooter.  He was moving with purpose towards our direction, but his eyes were steadily searching…..for me.  Oh my heart.  And then that moment when I moved into his line of sight and he saw me…..

bless.

His eyes lit up and he smiled that smile, and his stride was a little more relaxed.  It warmed my heart and soul and made my life to see the expression on his face.

And then just like that, I was his age–or maybe a year or two younger–again.  I was on the playground right after school was dismissed, and I was carrying something that Mama had sent treats to school in.  I was looking for my someone to find me and take me home.  I can still remember that exact moment the crowd parted, and there he was, that handsome, smiling fella I called Daddy.  In that moment, I was relieved, safe, and home.

So it was a very precious thing, this moment that Cooter and I had, where I got a small taste of what that day was like from Daddy’s perspective.  He found me just as I found him.

March 23 is my Daddy’s birthday.  The day to make a cake, light it up with candles, sing, and have him blow out the candles.  It’s the day I give him way more than one card because there were always several that made me laugh and think of him.  It’s the day that we all try our best to make him feel loved and bigger than life.  Because he was.

This will be the fifth year we celebrate his day without him here to give me a pickle or two off of his cheeseburger pizza.  The fifth year I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time in the card section and perusing ideas of what to give him on Amazon.  The fifth year we don’t hear his laugh or watch the children trying to help him blow out the candles.

But it will still be special.

Tonight I’m thankful for the man who first looked for me and never gave up finding me, no matter how far away I wandered off.  I give thanks for every single year of his life that I got to spend with him, listening to his wisdom, sharing my ups and downs, and swapping stories.  I am especially thankful for that day that I was feeling so lost and there he was.  And I know that’s how it has always been–when I was the most lost, Daddy has always been there to help me find my way back.  And in a way, he still is.

Most of all, I am thankful for my little guy whom my Daddy named Cooter because he loved cars just like that mechanic on that TV show years ago.  Because I was loved and looked for, I can do that now.  Now I get to see what being found looks like from the other side.

And it is beautiful.

May you all have someone to look for and who looks for you.

Love to all.

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My sweet Daddy, at age 26, and me at 9 months old. The man who has always looked for and after me.  Love you, Daddy.  Thanks for everything.

 

 

Asking for Directions

I found myself able to etch out an hour or so yesterday evening to make a serious grocery shopping haul.  It’s been a while since I’ve spent that long in a store stocking up.

I made a rookie mistake from the start.  Cart choice.

The cart I chose was too small for all I needed to get.  And the way the wheels rolled were wonky.  Ka-dump, ka-dump, ka-dump.  All the way through the store.

But I persevered nonetheless, and I was about a third of the way through the store when an elderly gentleman walked slowly past me, looking perplexed.  I couldn’t help it–it had probably been twenty minutes since I had talked to anyone, so the side of me that I get from my Mama took over, and I asked him if he was looking for something.

Turns out he was looking for the jelly.  My mind spun around and it took me a minute to get my bearings. And then I remembered.  “Over by the bread,” I told him and gave him the directions to find it.

He smiled and was on his way.

For whatever reason, I came across two others lost, looking for a particular something in the store I’ve come to know pretty well (of course now that I do, they are going to change it all up in the next couple of months)–one was looking for juice and the other for aluminum foil.  I was able to recall locations and give directions both times.   (No small feat–busy store, long list, I was a bit befuddled at best.)

This evening I saw something that never fails to take my breath away.

The river of birds

The river of birds

A river of birds.

When I see them, I always think of our friend Pastor Bill who shared about the river of birds at our cousin’s memorial service almost two years ago.

I was so thankful to see them.  It had been a long and tiring day, and when I lifted my eyes to see them, my spirits lifted a bit as well.  I realized I’d been feeling a little lost today myself.

The birds were all flying together, in one direction.  Sharing the journey.  So that not one got lost on its way.

You know what those soaring wonders, flowing along so gracefully, taught me?

Don’t go it alone.

Tonight I’m thankful for folks who are brave enough to ask for directions when they feel lost and are looking for something.  They remind me to have courage to do the same when I’m searching for something or someone and can’t find my way.  I’m also thankful for the beauty in the journey when it’s taken together–how it makes the work of living a little easier with folks all around you headed on the same path.

May we too learn from the birds, and find ourselves surrounded by folks who can take turns leading and following and guiding us on our way.  May we never be truly alone for long, and when we are, I hope we can all find someone to ask for directions who might be willing to travel alongside us for a bit.

Love to all.

 

 

 

 

The Bug or the Windshield?

This morning I was thinking of a line that I first heard in a Mary Chapin Carpenter song about twenty some odd years ago.  Some days you’re the windshield and some days you’re the bug.  As I was having a pretty good day at that point, I was thinking yeah–the windshield. All right.  And then it hit me–

wait, is that a good thing?

I mean I know the bug part is bad, but how good is it to have things flying in to you–splat, making a mess that is so hard to clean up?

Not so much, I’m thinking.

Kind of one of those caught between a rock and a hard place situations–bug or windshield.

Ironically enough, that’s kind of how the day turned out.  Started off with such promise and ended with me rubbing my head and wondering where the bus is that hit us as it passed on through.

And that’s when it occurred to me that there is some truth in those words.  Some days you’re just thankful that the worst that could happen didn’t.  That, even though it wasn’t a great day, everyone’s still here.  That’s all we’ve got and it’s enough.  It has to be.  That, even though there are tears, there are also folks around to pass a tissue or give a hug.  And listen.

For all these years, I was so sure it was a case of things being either good or bad–windshield or the bug.  Turns out, that as is the case with so many things in this life, it’s all varying shades of both and nothing at all ever is all one way or another.  Though this may not make sense, that actually gives me hope.  It’s okay if things are not happy happy joy joy in every single moment.  There are going to be moments that are bad and not quite so much.

That’s real life.  And that’s okay.

pic of not a bad life

In another ironic twist of events, a neat organization, sevenly, shared this today.  There’s a lot of grace in that.  Grace I need.

Love to all.

 

A Place to Turn Around

Being in a new place can be confusing.  The roads are all different.  It’s easy to get disoriented.  North.  South.  Left.  Right.  This road is a dead-end.  This one doesn’t lead to where you thought it did.  LOST.

It’s just hard.

When we were on our Adventure to the Mouse House (I refuse to call it a vacation, people–vacations are about naps and books and time on your hands), it was very easy to get off track.  Each morning we set out to visit a different park.  We’d think we knew which way to turn based on directions given at the place we were staying or by the phone GPS or mostly by what we remembered from the day before.  We were on a mission–cram in as much fun as we possibly could in the hours we were at the parks.  This required us to get to each park as quickly as we could.  So we could start having Much.  Fun.  We had no time for directions really.  Let’s just wing it.  And GO.

Ahem.

Every single time.  Not kidding.  Every single time it turned out we had turned the wrong way.  Magic Kingdom was in the opposite direction of Epcot and Animal Kingdom was not the same direction as Hollywood Studios (just giving an example here folks, still not sure which was where).  Sometimes we realized it as soon as we committed to the turn.  But it was too late.   And they don’t like U-turns down there either.  So each time we would have to find a spot to turn around in, get back to the light and correct our way.

The fire station that was our safe place to regroup and get turned in the right direction

The fire station that was our safe place to regroup and get turned in the right direction

And just about every single time–well every time that I can recall–this was our safe place.  Our place to regroup and get turned around.  The fire station.

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Such a cute place too.  Look at it all painted with its Dalmatian spots all over it.

It got to be laughable.  When my awesome sister-in-law talked about her family following us to Land o’ Legos, Aub’s clever friend said, “Okay, but we have to make a stop first.”

I looked at her, puzzled for a moment.  She continued. “You know.  The fire station.”

Y’all.  I nearly busted my seams laughing.  Out.  Loud.

That was a good one right there, I tell you what.  And true.

I was thinking about this as I drove home in the suffocating heat this afternoon.  We all get off on the wrong foot sometimes.  Headed in the wrong direction.  Sometimes that’s just what we need.  A place, a safe place, to collect ourselves, redirect, and set off again on the right path–in the right direction.  As I drove, I was thinking about where that place is for me, metaphorically speaking, where I go to regroup and redirect when I find myself headed down a dead-end road or feel like I’m lost.  For me it’s a person.  One whom I love and trust who will listen and help me find my way again–who will help me get better directions that I can follow this next time.

Any idea where or who that is for you?  I’d love to hear.

Wishing you all good directions and a place to go when you need to turn around.  Love to all.

For the Seniors, and those who will be

Sunday night when I sat and listened to conversations among those about to graduate from my Alma Mater, I heard the stress and excitement and anxiety in their voices, in their days, in their plans.  As I listen to so many who are about to graduate, so many who are wrapping up their school year, I hear the frenzy and the panic and the trying to figure out how to get it all done before the year is over.  As they talked, the memory came back to me of one particular evening and a sandwich I made and took with me.  And what followed. 

 

The day was in spring

many moons ago

and the cherry blossoms covered the trees in rich abundance

creating a sanctuary for one who might seek it

like me

The sun was setting

dusk

the dark was settling upon the earth

but it was already in my heart

Fear, worry, concern, anxiety

trepidation

and maybe excitement and anticipation

Only a month left of classes

and finals

and graduation

That spring night felt like the beginning of the end

saying goodbye to my home for four years

the place that had birthed in me

a new person

stronger, wiser, smaller, with eyes more open

and more questions than answers

and a heart that was breaking for the things

I’d learned

and seen

and heard

and wanted to change

Wesleyan

As I sat on the cold concrete bench, tucked away

from the world

hidden by my tent of blossoms

it felt as though about the time

I’d learned the way of the syllabus

there would be no more

Life

doesn’t come with directions or syllabi

or a professor to advise

If you’re lucky

you have family and friends

to listen and share wisdom

but in the end

It’s all You

and Only You

I sat and slowly ate my pb and j

on wheat

that I’d prepared for my trek across campus

looking for answers

and peace

When I had spied the bench peeking

I sat and thought and was filled with the angst of the moment

I was about halfway through with my sandwich

when I looked down and realized

the bread

was

moldy

Tears

In that moment

I felt more lost than ever before

Moldy bread

I was hidden in the blossoms

in the world

I didn’t know what path to take

back to peace

back to the place I was meant to go

away from the tears and angst and moldy bread

The thing is–

the moldy bread didn’t kill me

It wasn’t pleasant, more in the mind than in the stomach

but it didn’t give me more than a moment’s pause

really

In life, those moments when it’s all bearing down on you

When the tears are at the surface

and the bread is moldy

and there are no directions

Time will pass

Friends will come alongside you

and it will

be

okay

again

and

moldy bread

it won’t kill you

 

 

Why I Want to Wear Black

pic of gibran quote

Yesterday I spent most of the morning with my children cleaning my great aunt’s house.  It has sat empty for over three years now.  We have a new realtor and high hopes this time.  When I went in for the first time in quite a while on Friday, meeting with the realtor, I knew we would have to come back and clean.  It was not a requirement or even a request.  It was a gift to one of the strong women who helped raise me.  I couldn’t kiss her forehead when she left, nor could I wash her face and hands one last time.  But I can make sure that folks who come into her home know someone cares and that it doesn’t look thrown away.  So we vacuumed and dusted and polished and swept.  It was a sacred morning.

Last night I was filled with sorrow and joy all at the same time (I know, I’m the crazy one in our family), and the first thing I thought was, “I want to tell Mama.”  And it all came rushing back.  I’m afraid the emotional tidal wave had me pouring my heart out in a raw, broken way.  And I’m sorry about that.

But I feel raw.  And broken.  Even still.  I get invited to do lovely things with wonderful people, and I want to do these things.  But when I think about it, the panic sets in and I just can’t.  I am so sorry for that too.  The panic.  The not being able to do things.  Be with people.  I do apologize.  But there it is.  And I don’t know what to do about it.  But wait, maybe?

This morning I thought about something I wrote less than a month after Daddy left this world.  Considering the trip I took on the Grief Wheel last night, I offer this for whatever it can be.  An explanation.  An apology.  The map of where I am for the time being.  With love to all.

I originally wrote this the morning of 12/13/2011. It is just as true today, and even more so.

The journey is over
He, who fought so hard, and did so much to stay
Had to leave
He told me so
Not long after he left and we all said goodbye
I saw him, in my dream
We were all gathered to say goodbye, and he was there
I ran to him and hugged him
“What are you doing here?” I was ecstatic and a little confused.

“I’m sorry,” he said as he hugged me back
“I had to go. I’m sorry.”
He looked so good. Healthy. Strong. Ready to take on the world again.
To create with wood and words and make us all laugh and keep us all straight. He looked full of life.
I know he is healed. So many remind me, trying to bring comfort.
One said, “God needed your Daddy more than you did.” I don’t think so. I cannot breathe sometimes I need him so much. But thank you for taking time to speak to me.
Others choose not to say anything or ask anything. Grief is not a fashionable accessory. It can make a lot of folks uncomfortable. And that is okay too.
And those that ask, I wonder. How long can I be honest? How long can I tear up when they ask? How long before someone tells me enough is enough? How long before the world continues on, as though the sky did not fall, as though it can still breathe, as though he did not even exist? As though none of this matters anymore?

There are things to do, hustle and bustle, and appointments to keep, projects to produce, shows to watch and restaurants to visit, vacations to take, and trips to plan. How long before Life throws its hands up and says, “Really we must go on without you, because this whole grief thing…..well, it’s really getting old.”
Perhaps the tradition of wearing black for a year is not as unfounded as we may have thought. If one is mourning, and one is marked as a mourner, perhaps that is enough. There is grace in that, I think. So that when I start to cry in the candy aisle at the grocery store, because I just thought about buying that candy for him because he loves it, folks will know. Or when I feel drawn to the cancer center, to reach out and hug someone going through just what we have, maybe folks won’t think I’m strange, because they will know. Or when I am trying to remember the name of the person who worked with Daddy, and I think, I need to ask him…..and then it hits me, and I burst into sobs. Folks will know. I need for them to know.

I need for them to know, because one day, one day soon I fear, I will reach out and grab hold of the closest person around and I will beg them to hold me, to wipe out all of the brokenness in this—my Mama who is alone; my sister who shuts the door to her office and cries at work; the grandchild on the way who will never know what a special man he is and was; my children who miss him so, the oldest who misses the man who loved her and raised her and the youngest who doesn’t know what to make of all this but just misses his car playing buddy who let him drive his cars around the rails of the hospital bed…..over and over; and his sister, who cries quietly because she misses her brother. I will reach out and grab hold and I won’t let go. As I cry and sob and let it all out, I won’t let go. Because I’ve done that already, and it hurts so much I cannot breathe. I need for them to know. Because I cannot forget.

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Where is the Grownup?

Some days.....

Some days…..

Some days I feel like this.  Today has been one of them.

I am sitting at the Med Stop with my middle one. She has been running fever since Friday night. I guess this is Round 2 of what the littles had two weeks ago. Waiting on the results from the strep swab now.
It is moments like this one tonight, when I saw that her temp had gone into a very worrisome range, that I look around, wondering where the grownup is.  The One Who Makes the Decision.  So often I feel like I am just filling in until he or she shows up.  I wish they would hurry it up.

I know there were several times with my firstborn that I felt that way, ill-equipped to handle the situation. The one that sticks out the most is the time we were stationed in Japan and Aub came home from school with a high fever. She threw up her medication for the fever, and I was very worried. And very pregnant with this one I am with tonight.  So we went to the ER at the base hospital. A very overzealous first time ER doc came in and wanted to do a spinal tap. (I’m sorry, WHAT did you say?!  You want to do what, and the risks are what?!!)  I was scared senseless. I was far from Mama, it was the middle of the night where she was, and I didn’t have a way to call her from the hospital anyway. I felt helpless and lost. After a call to a local friend who was a nurse, I felt a little better. But it was Dr. Elnicky who came in when the shift changed and apologized for the previous doctor’s recommendation. “Overzealous” was her term. She brought Aub’s fever down and sent us home.  (I loved Dr. E.  She had such a quiet competence. When I went in with severe cramping about midway through my pregnancy with this girl, she was the one who calmly said, after many tests, “I think you have a case of bad” lowered to a whisper, “gas.” Oh my.)  Thank you Dr. E for being the adult at those times when I was very afraid.

When Daddy was diagnosed three and half years ago and things became dire, Mama was right there. And even when we were all frightened or sad, she was the grownup who loved us through it.

So last August when Mama went in for the first HospitalStay, it was very frightening. I drove my grownup to the ER as she shivered violently under several blankets. When we got there a half hour later, thanks to a detour, she could not walk on her own into the ER. I tried to hold it together as I went inside and asked for a wheelchair. A sweet nurse came out and helped me move Mama to the chair. They moved her through pretty quickly, thank goodness. When they checked her temperature and found it was 105.3, they rushed her back to a room and left me to give her information to the intake nurse. This was when the terrible fear kicked in. 105.3? That was a radio station. Not someone’s temperature. Not my Mama’s.

I anxiously gave the nurse Mama’s allergies and insurance and medical history. Finally they let me back. Mama was so pale and weak. And not able to be the grownup at all in that moment. It was a paradigm shift. One that never really returned to an even keel.
I called my Aunt to give her an update. I whispered from the corner of the tiny room on the wall phone in the room. Cell phone reception was next to nothing in there. I told her all I knew and then tearfully said, “I feel like I’m just waiting on the grownup to show up and take over.”
She chuckled softly, and then said sweetly and clearly, “Oh Tara, I hate to tell you this, but you ARE the grownup.”
Oh. No.

We were talking yesterday morning and I teased her, saying that she was lucky I spoke to her at all after she broke that little bit of bad news to me.

It’s nights like this one, when worry creeps in and my ineptitude becomes painfully obvious, that I find myself still looking. Really I’m just filling in until She gets here. You know, the grownup.  I am sure she’s quite lovely, but I do wish she’d hurry up. It gets tiresome playing grownup. Especially when one of mine gets sick or there is drama and heartbreak behind their tears. Incompetent doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel.

Tonight I am thankful for my family and friends who walk with me as I try my grownup feet out. For their patience and guidance I give thanks. I also appreciate those who fill in as the grownup from time to time. Like Miss D who, two weeks ago, when telling me what to do, pointed her finger at me and said, “Now I ain’t your Mama and I can’t take her place, but I reckon I can look after you and keep you straight since she can’t right now.” And my Aunt. Who answers my calls and listens, when she must have a hundred things to do instead. And Mama’s sweet neighbor. Who is always there to help with things.  And so many others. Bless ’em.

Because of the reprieves they give me, I am able to get through the times when it’s the hardest to be the grownup. Like tonight. We are home now, and the strep test was negative. The doctor said this just has to take its course. Kind of like life. We have to watch it and respond accordingly.

So I get it, I’m the grownup. *yawn* And as the grownup, I do believe it’s time to call it a night.  Being a grownup is exhausting sometimes.  So I’m off to Neverland and a good night’s sleep.  I hope.  Someone has to be rested to be the grownup again tomorrow…..

pic of peter pan quote