You Are Not Alone

Friday, December 2, 2011

Auntie, “T”

Auntie, “T”,

I always liked opening up your cards because, they weren’t just cards, they were mini-letters written in your cursive hand, sweet, pretty, sincere.

You always put, “T” quotation marks when you signed cards and letters. I always loved that because, your quotation marks said to me, “this is a nickname but, it is not all that I am”.

You were one, in our large family, who welcomed my presence in this world with excitement and joy. I don’t think that you or, any one of our family members, know how much you each mean to me. You all made me feel welcome, loved, cherished and wanted and, even though each and every one of you made me feel so loved, I found a kindred spirit in you, Auntie “T”.

I remember one day, you came to pick me up from Grandpa Bob’s house. I remember that I was going to spend an entire day and night with you and, I was so excited.

You took me to your apartment, near the Seattle Center. Your apartment smelled so nice and the sunlight was streaming in bright, through all the windows in your apartment. You had a white couch, in fact, most of your apartment was white. Everything seemed bathed in some sort of magic fairy light. I can remember you opening the door with your key and feeling like I stepped into a fairyland, feeling like a creature, sniffing the air, afraid to touch anything but wanting to touch everything so much, I tingled. I was on my very best behavior for you, Auntie “T”.

You put on Strawberry Shortcake and , you watched it with me. I loved you for that.

You gave me a bath in your shiny, clean bathroom, full of treasures and trinkets and perfumes and I loved you for that.

As you got me ready for bed, you presented me with a diaper to wear. I was five. You confused me with that…(LOL) but, because I love you, because you gave me this wonderful day, because you told me why and I understood, I put on that diaper and snuggled into your clean bed, crisp and soft and smelling of sunshine and my heart felt glad and content when you slipped into bed next to me and I could feel your warmth, radiating in the space between us and I was so grateful for your love and closeness.

In the morning, the sunlight of the day streaming in through the drawn blinds of your windows, I found your vanity and your jewelry box. My fingers itched to open up the boxes, to see the treasures inside and, you came over and began to pull out the drawers and show me what was within. You drew out a long string of pearls and showed me how to tie a knot in them. I thought it was so elegant, grownup. I loved you for that.

I remember being your flower girl, at your wedding. I wore a pink dress, with pale pink polka dots and, I stood by you and your Husband on the deck of a country club. I remember being disappointed by your dress, it wasn’t poofy enough for me but, I DO remember how beautiful you looked. I remember you glowing, your cheeks pink, elegant in your form fitting lace gown that lovingly hugged your body and the darling baby in your womb, my sweet Cousin, your longed for, cherished baby and Daughter. You weren’t afraid, you were proud and happy and, even though I didn’t understand many things yet, I understood what I saw and I was proud to stand next to you.

I remember being invited to your home, to visit you and your Husband and Daughter, when she was only a year or two old. I adored you, loved you and if you asked me to do anything, I would do it. I spent time with my Cousin, we went out together, I watched you and learned from you, as I always did since I could remember because, I loved you.

Auntie, we lost touch, for such a long time. After Grandpa Bob died, our family was in turmoil. I don’t think that our family knew and appreciated how much Grandpa brought and kept us all together until he left us but, he did.

(I think you have done the same but, instead of tearing us apart, you have brought us together.)

Everyone was so angry with each other and, I couldn’t understand it. It made ME angry because, I just wanted love and comfort between us all but, it didn’t happen.

Two years ago, after the birth of my Son and, after Facebook, I got in touch with you again, Auntie “T” on our own, without family squabbles in the way. I never wanted the squabbles, anyway. I love you and, all of our family, in spite and despite of that terrible scar. I always wished it was gone and, during one of our conversations by phone, I heard in your voice, your heart and you wanted it to be gone, too.

You sent my boy a vintage outfit. You sent me a hand crocheted hat, perfume samples, sweet scented soap for my birthday. You sent me salted caramels and, I didn’t have the heart to tell you that I didn’t like them because, you loved them so. You sent me salted chocolate, I liked those much better and, even more so, my Son did. You sent me shoes you weren’t wearing any longer, (and since you have gone, I have picked up those shoes, stared at the creases your feet have made and find comfort in those creases. I find it…poetic that, me, the person who wanted to be most like you, has a pair of shoes you gave….). You sent me things because of love and, I loved you for that, not for them.

You would comment on my Facebook statuses. You claimed Don Draper for your own and you were smart, funny, sincere. You earned the respect and love of my friends, who never met you in person, only read your comments and, because you were yourself, they wanted to know you, meet you, looked forward to your comments.

You wanted to visit me and, I was so ashamed that I felt I couldn’t financially provide a visit I thought worthy of you, that I didn’t encourage your visit. You wanted to see my Son. You wanted to spend time with him. I can only think that as your soul flew away, you passed by and saw my Son, the sunlight in his hair, the smile on his face, my heart as a Mother, no secrets kept.

On the day I found out about your choice to leave us, I imagined you, leaving the vessel of your body, traveling that short distance from earthly life to after life and I saw Grandpa, meeting you with a smile on his face, his arms outstretched, welcoming you to the next life with such love and comfort…it makes my heart ache, in a good way.

As I put the pieces together, after asking myself, “Why?” I am not angry with you, at you. I am gravely disappointed with myself and, angry at myself because of the disappointment. I know, rationally, that there may not have been anything that I could have done, to prevent your departure from this world, your life as it was but, even though I’m told, over and over again by people who love me, I can’t stop myself from thinking about how I didn’t let you know I love you, how much you meant to me.

I sent you an email, telling you how much you meant to me and why and, that’s between just you and me. I thanked you for your love and kindness but…

I can’t help myself from thinking that I could have done more and, that’s a dangerous road to travel down and, I know that, from wherever you are, you wouldn’t want me or, anyone you love, (yes, LOVE, in the present tense) to allow ourselves to be swept away by such self-pitying thoughts but, dammit, the way you left…

I’m not angry at you. I’m angry with myself. I’m full of a sequences of, “Maybe” and, “IF”.

You were one of the most important people in my life and, even though you made the choice you did, I still don’t regret and, never will, my choice to want to be like you.

I know that my vision of wanting to be like you is a romantic notion but, I Loved and Love You.

I Loved and Love you for who you were, the strength, hope and determination with which you led your life.

I ACHE thinking that you chose to leave this life, by your own hand, mired in so much hurt and loneliness, not seeing the truth of how many people loved, cherished and enjoyed you. I ACHE knowing that you were in such a place that you couldn’t hear us, that it couldn’t penetrate the walls you built around yourself.

It haunts me because…I have felt that way, too, sometimes.

Auntie “T”? You woke me up.

Your passing, kissed me awake.

The day after I found out you had left us, I began to really look at the world, for the first time in a long time.

It’s not been some magical, romantic transformation but, it’s come in bits and pieces.

The way the sunlight glows around the edges of a cloud.

The sharp tang of cold air in my nose, on my cheeks.

The smile and love, in the eyes of my Son.

The love of people around me, that I always took for granted, that I never heard or saw in truth, before. I’m finding solace in the arms of people who have always had their arms open and, I’m finding that I have some hills to climb, in order to become closer, with some people who have known me, my entire life.

I am thinking of you and learning from you, even now.

Your exit from this life, shocking, abrupt, painful and cold has dawned a new day in my soul and, the best way I can think of to honor you is, to remember you, remember your goodness and love, to think of you being able to see my Son without worrying about buying a plane ticket and knowing that, one day, we’ll be able to visit as family in Heaven.

Your choice has left a gaping wound in mine and, many hearts but, I see you, embraced by Grandpa in paradise, far away from the stupid, meaningless troubles of bills and jobs and missed connections in this life. To me, where you’re at, you can visit upon each one of us, your family, friends, loved ones and see us as we are, know our hearts, visit with us and your light, filled with love and peace, there to look upon us in a way that you may not have been able to in physical life.

Your choice has shown me that nothing, in this life, is so bad that I would leave it by choice. Your choice has sharpened my ears, heart and mind to listen with all that I am, to those who are in pain. I am listening to myself first, I am appreciating life. I am grateful for what I have. I am finding that nothing in my life is as bad as I thought it was, before.

You have humbled me, lifted my heart, left me your strength and memories of your kindness, love, honesty, humor, strength and weakness.

You have left us, in your abruptness, to pick up the pieces, to patch together, ourselves. Your life and death has shone a light on us and, it’s hard to see in the blinding light but, I hear you and I think you’re saying, “Please, understand. Please, Forgive me. Please, Love one another.”

That is all I need.

When it’s My time, Auntie T? I hope you’ll meet me but, if not, I’ll find you because, I want to see your face and tell you, with my eyes, how much I love you and visit with you and be happy in your presence.

Teresa Ann Hines Norton


Auntie, “T”.

Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Wife, Mother, Friend, Woman, Human Being, Soul.

I will not forget you.

I will wait to be near you, again and, I know, it will be a joyful meeting and we will have much to catch up on.

You are always loved and, we are missing you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

America Has Very Little Talent

I haven't watched a Reality Television show for at least a year and, have not watched a talent based television show for longer than that, with the exception of the audition stages of, "American Idol". I am ashamed that I watch even the audition stages of, "American Idol" because, I would say that 95% of it's purpose is to showcase people whose integrity and pride are reduced to gimmicks or displays of emotional outbursts and, I lap it up with a hearty side of self-loathing and shame for enjoying it, so much.

What it if it were Colin, up there, singing his heart out, badly but, bravely? I would hope that my parenting would stop him short of showcasing his belief in his talent in a chicken suit?

I mean, I believe in my child but I have a hard time supporting the thought of him beating his head against a wall that will never be broken, while further humiliating himself in a costume or, with a gimmick.

Which brings me back to, "America's Got Talent".

Guess what, "America's Got Talent"? I'm on to you.

My New Standard of, "Clean".

My Son, pictured above, in a strategic placing that should express that He is the reason for the total disarray behind him, was a little over twelve months old in the picture, (my Son is now 25 months old). I captured this moment on my camera phone, to send to his Father, because I wanted my Husband to know that there was a rather valid reason he came home to a cluttered, untidy, "dirty" house that night. Actually, the scene captured above is what my Husband came home to every other night, from the moment Colin could walk to now.

My Husband isn't the kind of individual that rails at me because the house is not tidy or, because a hot supper is not on the table for him when he comes home, (thank god). My Husband has learned to pick a path through the wreckage of toddler Hurricane, avoiding the sharp edges of blocks and books deftly as the Solider, who was taught to sense and avoid danger, he used to be. My Husband has seen true chaos and disorder, in the Middle East so, I suppose that coming home to a house littered with toys, books, DVD cases and a dirty kitchen is..."small":, but welcome, potatoes to him. From the perspective of my Husband, I can agree and, in this moment, I am not only grateful for my Husband's nature and experience but, I can almost see what he does but, that clarity does not come often.

I am not a, "Neat Freak" by any means but, I do enjoy a tidy home. My own Mother cleaned our home on a daily basis, I grew up on the scent of Lysol and spent a lot of time outdoors so my Mom could clean. At some point during my teenage years, living with my Mormon Dad and Step mom, I was taught that the, "Spirit" or, "Holy Ghost" resides more readily and easily in a home that is clean.

When I lived with my Dad and my Step mom, I was given chores and relied upon to help keep the three bedroom apartment we lived in clean. At one point, my Dad set a rule that I was to have my room clean by mid-day on Saturday's, when I was a teenager. I remember being angry about it, thinking that he didn't trust me to keep my room clean on my own, chaffing at having an expectation for my own space and conditions that I didn't feel were fair but, I was a teenager and well...isn't that what teenagers feel?

I think for my Mom, cleaning house was a way for her to work out her feelings and to get some, "peace" from her children, a kind of meditation of sorts. I think my Mom wanted us, her children, to be considerate and tidy but, my Mom took cleaning the home in her hands and I felt more often a bother about helping than anything else.

Now that I'm a Mother myself, I relate to my Mother more at this time. My 25 month old Son loves to help me clean and, I'm grateful that he wants to help but, sometimes, it's less of a pleasure to work with him than it is to clean on my own. I, "meditate" when I clean. I work out a lot of deep thoughts and worries, when I clean. I scrub, sweep, vacuum and wipe away frustrations and angers. When things in my home are orderly, gleaming, clean and sweet smelling, I feel peace, gratitude and love for my life, family and friends. I survey the work I have done cleaning with a shrewd eye, looking for anything I missed and my eyes rove in satisfaction, finding nothing more that is dusty, grimy or disorganized to my specifications.

My clean house is a reward to me, in so many ways. A clean house means my Husband will walk in and feel peace and welcome. My clean house means that my Son can find his toys. My clean house means I have worked hard and well for the day. My clean house became a Home.

My standard of clean has changed in the past couple of years. It is no longer easy for me to keep it as neat, organized and spotless as it once was. Up until today, I experienced turn-overs of frustration because I wasn't able to clean my house and, keep it clean for as long, as I used to be able to.

I no longer have the luxury, (, LOL) of having uninterrupted bouts of emotional, meditative cleaning that I once had. My Son likes to help and I want to foster that as much as I can. My Son likes to help with every chore he can and, I try to include him as much as possible but, even if I clean up on a twice daily basis, I am not able to keep my house as clean as I had been able to before my Son was born.

Today, I realized that I have a new standard of clean. Today, as I looked around my ground floor in the aftermath of a double Toddler Tsunami, I realized that my previous definition of clean has become obsolete.

As long as the dirty dishes in the kitchen aren't piled to the ceiling, there aren't too many stains on my carpet, as long as I don't have to wade through scattered DVD cases and books, as long as the dust isn't so thick on my bookcases I could make a sweater out of it, as long as the fish gets fed thrice a week, as long as there aren't huge chunks of food strewn around the house, well's not THAT dirty.

My "New" standard of clean:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

There were days, when I was at my limit with my Son, when I entertained the idea of bundling him up and sneaking him over to my next door neighbor's house, placing him on the doorstep after ringing the bell and running away, retreating to silence, sanity and the solitude of my home.
I know where I was, what I was thinking, what I was doing and feeling at the time and, I understand and forgive myself for feeling that way, once upon a time. After all, my Son isn't living with my next door neighbor, or anyone else, he's still with me and...
I'm more in love with my child than I have ever been in love before. I am, in fact, more in love with my Son, in a way that I had only once dreamt of loving and hoped to love.
It's complicated, this love I have for my Son. I'm FAR from perfect. I say, "NO!" and I swear, occasionally and I get irritated with him plenty but, for the first time in my life, I know what it means to unconditionally love.
Of course, I'm always worried about how I'm inadequate to provide my Son with the wisdom that I wish I had as a child, the wisdom, compassion, understanding, courage, bravery and intelligence I dearly wish for him to possess but, there is this love and the message that it gives me is, "'s okay. You love, he loves. Love. Love. Love" and I am agitated because I want more explanation but, I am also soothed.
I put down the baby books, long ago. The baby books were only aggravating me. I distanced myself from Mom's who made me feel anxious, inadequate by means of never being on top of the dangers of the world, of never making my baby safe enough, of saying, feeling, being the wrong thing.
I put all of the books and Mom's away and, I was lost for a little while but, I found myself, my voice, my heart, again and I realized that my Son is unique and precious. I realized that, if I was not capable of caring for and loving my Son, he would not have been given to me. There were times when it was so hard, lonely, scary and frustrating but, I know that despite the challenges we have been through, I am capable.
My Son is going to be Two, this Friday.
At once it seems like yesterday that I carried my Son in my body, bore his weight, feared his labor, rejoiced with laughter and tears at the first sight of his face but, it also seems so long ago because, that tiny, determined soul is now...
A sweet, loving, thoughtful, determined, dexterous, ambitious, inventive, adventurous, compassionate, curious, voracious soul living in the body of a two year old with a head full of bronze hair, sweet golden brown eyes fringed with thick lashes that curl at the very tips, breastfed cheeks tinged with pink, milky skin, artful eyebrows, an expressive mouth and a body that seems to almost tremble with the desire to move and live more than it is capable of doing at this moment.
My Son also scares the crap out of me, tests the limits of my Patience and, my temper flares like I never thought it would but, I love him, so much.
Colin, My Son, is now a boy.
Colin speaks in sentences. Colin understands. Colin follows direction. Colin has a thirst for life, (like his Mom, God help him) but he is tempered by the empathy, desire for understanding and compassion that his Father and I share. Colin loves to snuggle. Colin loves to learn and read. Colin loves to be himself and, no matter what I or, his Daddy feel about what we aren't doing or could do better for him, we haven't touched the core of Colin's self, we've only encouraged, loved and challenged ourselves to embrace, understand and foster Colin's self.
He's going to be two, my Baby, not a baby anymore.
Does it ever get any easier to put away clothes that are too small?
The answer is no.
Sometimes, it's so hard to put the small clothes away, the happiness that your child has grown is but a shadow but, it's still there, isn't it?
All I know, about my boy who is turning two is, I am more in love with him now than I ever have been before and, if the trend continues...who knows? My heart might burst but, I hope it doesn't. I want to be around for a long time to see this beautiful boy grow into a glorious man.
Happy Birthday my Darling Boy.
I See you and, I love you for it.
I hope you remember that, always.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Calling On Souls

Think Of Me
There's always a lot that's left to be done,
and many a battle still to be won.
Many a goal that's never been reached.
Many the lessons and no time to teach.
I hope when I leave my Loved Ones will see
The future unborn that's wanting to be.
When I watch Mad Men, I think of times gone by, I think of how I wish people still dressed like they dressed in the fifties and sixties, with hats and gloves, dresses and suits. I think of how the people portrayed in Mad Men were the age of my Grandparents.

There were people, there ARE people, alive today, who lived in that era and can tell us what it was like.

I think of my Grandfather and, my Paternal Great-grandparents.

I think of my childhood and, I remember and then I become sad because, I feel like I’m the only person who remembers how we lived, in my Grandpa's house, in a crumbling museum, before my Grandpa died when I was ten.

No one else seems to remember the way I remember.

All I know is that my Mom was one of six living children, (seven, except for Anthony who died of Pneumonia when he was not even one, a tragedy and, I don't mean that glibly) in a pink shingled, two story house in the sixties.

My Grandfather had a purple heart. My Grandfather drank a lot and, my Grandma left him with six children, running to California and leaving my Grandfather to care for their six children, on his own. My Mother's Grandmother came to stay and help my Grandfather with the children, (her husband had committed suicide) and hated my Mom because, out of all the children that were born, my Mother looked most like HER Mother.

I didn't know about that till I was older.

I just knew that we lived with my Grandpa until I was about five. Before my parents divorced, my Dad took my Mom, me and my Brothers in a vintage Thunderbird that was pink with white trim, from Green lake, WA to Spokane, WA to visit His Great-grandparents.

I remember the sun being out, the dew was absent but, it wasn't too hot and, admiring the concord grape arbor in my Great-grandparent’s yard and, how my Great Grandma allowed me to pull carrots from her garden. I thought pulling carrots was great fun. The carrot leaves sprayed out of the ground, like a X on a treasure map. I wanted to know what was underneath and, Great Granny Elsie told me I could pull and, I pulled and pulled and, out came this small carrot, orange flecked with black-brown dirt and I was proud that I used my own strength to pull that carrot out of the ground, (it was hard for me)  that I found the treasure, that I wasn't yelled at for being curious but, praised for my hard work and curiosity.

The next thing I remember, from that first trip to my Great-Grandparent’s house was waking up in the car, disoriented, disgruntled, stiff and grumpy and, my parents telling me it was OK. I fell back asleep until we got home and I woke up when the car stopped and I felt my Dad heft me into his arms as he lifted me out of the car and carried me into my Grandpa's house in the moonlight.

No one remembers this and, my parents seem amazed that I do but, I do.

I remember visiting my Great-grandparents in Renton, WA, on a house on a slope. I remember the last drive to that house, it had been raining, (of course, ) but the rain stopped and the sun came out but, only in a measely swipe that somehow blessed the clearing that was a part of undeveloped Renton, at the time. Renton used to be a beautiful place, I remember that. God, that makes me feel old and, I’m only thirty-one.

I remember Aunt Delores and, Uncle Carl. I remember Aunt Delores' deft kindness and Uncle Carl's milky, sightless eyes but, I remember Uncle Carl being more of anyone than I ever met. Somehow, I knew that Uncle Carl was more than anyone else and, that Aunt Delores was even more beautiful because of her love for Uncle Carl.

The house in Renton had shiny wood floors and, to a child, a maze of hallways and rooms and a backyard that sloped and a bunch of male cousins that I was bored with and didn't know and cared even less for.

Great grandma Elsie gave me a doll that she knitted and, I was fascinated by it. It wasn't a Cabbage Patch Doll, what I really wanted but, somehow, I could tell that a lot of skill and love went into it and, Great grandma Elsie's eyes were soft and dewy when she gave the doll to me and, I was kind of scared and awed and didn't know exactly what to make of it all, except that it was really important and that I really loved her.

The next time I met my Great-grandparents, I went with my Dad, Step mom and my Sisters. Instead of being a cute little girl, I was on the verge of puberty, feeling awkward and sullen about a long car ride.

I walked into their home, a vintage bungalow, (before it was vintage) with a front stoop. They still had the side yard garden except, the grape arbor was dead and the yield was scaled back. I received a different reception. I drank in my Great-grandparents home as I walked in.

I would LOVE to have my Great grandma Elsie's dining room table, a gorgeous oval shaped wood affair that gleamed with that dull shine that only real wood and years can provide. I think it was red herringbone, topped with an equally, exquisitely made froth of a crocheted table cloth. Matching chairs, padded with well kept upholstery and a side board that matched.

Two windows, framed by fine curtains let in just enough light to frame it all in some story book glory that was far from what I was used to seeing, through my childhood.

Our dinner was too fancy for my undeveloped palate but, my Dad loved his Great-grandparents and knew enough to tell me how to behave so, I ate all that I was offered, even if it was just a bite, without complaint.

I am not much different from that unkempt girl that met her Great-grandparents as a child on the cusp of womanhood but, I knew enough to know better than to be anything but ladylike. I did not complain, I ate what was offered, I did not speak unless spoken to and, I had been taught manners that were respected and expected and, I was relieved to have been mildly instructed, to have the wit and intelligence to use them and to have used my manners enough that my behavior and conduct was acceptable enough to not be reprimanded by my Great Grandparents or, my Dad. I must have passed muster because, I didn't hear one whit about my behavior from my Dad and, knowing my Dad and my Geat Grandparents, if there was anything to be upset about, I would have heard it with my ears and my butt but, I didn't hear or feel anything so, I must have been acceptable.

My reward was Zucchini bread, (I thought I hated Zucchini until I tasted my Great grandma’s bread) and, despite my initial dismay at having to share sleeping arrangements with my Stepsister, in a basement, (no less) a stack of newspapers, one dating to the week that Mount Saint Helen's erupted, the week after I was born made up for the "banishment". I think I stayed up an hour or two past my bed time, rifling through dusty old stacks of newspapers to find little treasures of information before I became afraid that my Dad or, My Great grandma, would check in on me and my Stepsister.

We didn't stay long, to my relief. I was disappointed and dismayed but, I was getting older and the mystique and joy of visiting my Great-Grandparents had worn off, especially since my childhood clemency had been revoked.

I saw my Great-grandparents alive, twice more. Once again, in Renton and, another time at an Anniversary party.

They were white haired and I felt that they were hardly interested in me anymore. I was lost in the sea of male cousins and loud party goings-on and wanted to curl up in a corner and be left alone, eat cake and dream.

One day, I was fifteen or sixteen and, my Dad got a call about Cancer and how my Great grandma had it and it was too far gone to do anything about and, for the first time I could remember, I saw my Dad have feelings that showed in his eyes, that was true and, I grieved and didn't bat an eyelash when he said we were going to the hospital.

We waited to see Elsie and then, all of us, Dad and me and my Sisters walked in and we stood at the bedside of this woman who I loved and who terrified me and she was sick and drugged and she didn't even know who I was, she didn't know who my Dad was and I saw that it hurt him so bad and I waited, I waited until we were out of the room, until we got back to the couch, until five minutes later and I started to cry.

I cried because I was afraid. I cried for my Dad. I cried for the woman that I loved and who terrified me and I cried because it was a shitty deal that her last days were in some sterile hospital and she didn't even know that there was a window and there was outside and trees and life and love and death and hope.

She was cremated and her ashes were buried underneath a rose bush. I hardly knew her, Elsie but, I thought it was perfect and regal, romantic and poetic and she would have loved and and loved everyone who thought of it, would have been grateful.

Her Husband, Grandpa Clyde, (His eyes were grey blue and kind and, he was quiet but, he had steel and strength and I didn't think of him much but, I knew he was there) died when I was eighteen, faraway in Arizona and, my Dad got to be with him and I am so glad for that.

I spoke of them, my Great-grandparents, tonight, to my Husband.

I have a secret.

My Great-grandparents wrote a book and, I have a copy.

I treasure it.

People ask that question, "if your building was burning, what would you save?"

Well, I would save as much as I could but, on my top five, if not number one, it would be the Memory Book my Great-grandparents wrote.

I love looking at the pictures of people who are part of my DNA, my Family. There are pictures of the living and there are pictures of babies who had died.

There are pictures of Men who worked in a mine, there are pictures of My Family who lived during the Great Depression.

There are pictures of People, who are My Family, who lived, lived full and with all that we feel and had hope and troubles and joy.

My favorite, in the book, is the story of how my Great-grandparent’s met.

My Great-grandparents went to a party, in the winter and my Great-grandparent’s were with dates but, my Great grandpa saw my Great grandma, (who I look an awful lot like and, my Husband looks an awful lot like my Great grandpa but, my Great grandma was far more beautiful and my Great grandpa far more handsome or, so I like to think) and my Great grandpa pulled my Great grandma outside, in the cold, during a party and showed her the stars and, they began to fall in love with each other.

Favorite story, hands down.

Oh, I hope they are there to meet me when I leave this life, this body, with my soul. I hope they know this and they are there because of it, I hope I am worthy of it

I love them, so much, even though I hardly knew them. They are a link, a strain, a root of goodness, integrity, that is just not found often today. I'd be honored to be on their afterlife radar...maybe I am.

Like my Grandpa.

None of the kids, my Brother's or Cousin's remember my Grandpa but, I do. I remember living in his house, it being a place where all of the happiest, sepia toned memories of Childhood lay.

I hear the past, the pain from my Aunts and Uncle and, it makes me so very sad and guilty for being happy about Grandpa sometimes but, only a little because, most of the time, Grandpa's house was the only time when I felt free and safe and tasted the nectar of childhood.

Grandpa Bob had a huge, glass jar with coins and he would give me and my Brother's change to go to the store on the other corner from the house, for candy.

Grandpa's house was a relic.

The stairs were gummy wood that gave splinters but, in the era of his Daughter Debbie's Children, there were cardboard races down them.

I sat at the bottom of those stairs, over a wrought iron grate, (that I fell through once, straight to the bottom that was beyond scary and painful) while my Mom sprayed Johnson and Johnson Detangler in my unruly hair so it could be combed and plaited into braids tied up by plastic Goody barrettes in baby blue and pink and yellow, shaped like bows and birds. I wore scratchy wool jumpers for half day Kindergarten at St. Joe's.

I still have a scar over my right eye from falling down on the pavement, during, "Duck, Duck, Goose" because I fought to wear my black, patent leather Mary Jane's to school.

There were spaghetti dinners and a carnival with a round house that made me dizzy and feel a little sick.

One Friday, a Friday when we could wear our regular clothes, (important to me because, out of all the uniforms, I had to wear the jumper WITHOUT the Pleats that all the other girls wore) I forgot and came to school in uniform and, Ms. Lisbon, (sweet Ms. Lisbon) saw me crying and let me sit in her lap, after she called my Mom and until my Mom came with my "regular" clothes in a wrinkled brown paper sack. I was never so glad to see my Mom in my Five year old life as I was then, despite the fact that I was sitting on the heavenly Ms. Lisbon's lap while she was singing in her angel voice, (I thought I was pretty darn special and, to dear Ms. Lisbon, I was, god bless her). I followed my Mom into the girl's bathroom and put on my "regular" clothes like there was a fire drill, behind a stall door and then I rushed out, five years and all, hugged her and sent her on her way with my eyes bright and a smile on my face.

I got to go to Ms. Lisbon's Catholic Wedding and, I made a big fuss, (with another girl) about kissing at the end of the service and, to my dismay, there was no kissing. A big slice of wedding cake only took the bite out of it.

No one knows this about me.

My Grandpa was in the Korean war and, he received a Purple Heart.

He gave a Thunderbird, that was pink with white trim, to my Dad and, my Dad wrecked it.

My Grandpa saved me and my Brothers.

I was terrified of my Grandpa, because nothing that I did, no batting of eyelashes or sweet talk could get me out of trouble but...

There was this one time I was watching, "Unsolved Mysteries" with my Mom in her room and, she fell asleep before the end, like always and, she had a television that had knob you had to get up to turn off and so, after one particular Unsolved Mysteries, I got up and turned off the television and walked from my Mom's room to my room in the dark, (the Museum didn't have lights on the second story) and I forced myself not to run but, I walked fast and hopped into bed and pulled the covers up over my face and thought about how there was a revolutionary era ghost that was sitting at the foot of my bed in the chair that was there and I was so scared, I didn't dare pull the blankets down.

I woke up, a couple of hours later and, I swear that it felt like it took FORRREEEEVVVVEEERRRR to gather the courage to pull the blanket down from my face and look at the foot of my bed. The sweat and heat finally drove me to get cool air and, WOOSH!

Off the blankets came AND, there was no ghost at the foot of my bed and, I realized that it was near midnight and Grandpa would be listening to Midnight Mass on his radio, in his room on the first floor so, feeling cocky and invigorated by the night air, I walked downstairs and to my Grandpa Bob's room.

I saw his light on, it cut a pathway in the dark from his room to the living room and, I could hear the strains of Mass crackling over the radio and I felt that if there was ever a time for me to pray, (not say, PRAY) Hail Mary's and transport myself to Mass over the radio waves, (especially since I prayed and prayed and prayed to God to save me from the Ghost at the foot of my bed) THIS was IT.

My naked feet padded across the linoleum floor of The Museum and, at the edge of the pool of light that came from the lamp in my Grandpa's room that smelled of a Urinal and cigarettes and beer, the fading blue eyes, encased in smile and sad lines, paper thin and more fragile than anyone who wasn't my age or his or older knew, they widened slightly in surprise for less than a second before becoming gentle with understanding...

Somehow, he knew I had been afraid and needed succor.

I think he asked me, gruffly, what I was doing up and I told him that I was scared and, that was the end of the conversation because the Priest on the radio started the Hail Mary's and we were only two people who had a need, who cared and who desired the comfort and love of Mary and Jesus and whatever the Catholic Religion provides.

I took my First Communion but, in a Brooklyn accent, "I'm Not a Good Catholic Girl" and, I don't even mean, "dirty" with the uniform and all. Disappointing for those who care the other way, I know.

I sat in the chair in my Grandpa's room, my feet tucked under my legs, beneath my nightgown, head cocked to the side, ear to the radio and, my child's voice mingled with the voice of my Grandfather's and we were both praying with our hearts, with all that we were.

In that midnight hour, that is mine and his and ours and no one else's and I loved him and I miss him for it and nobody seems to care but I grieved for him so much and I know he knows that.

He was carried away on a stretcher six days before Christmas and, I watched the blue and red of the ambulance lights in the snow and ice and I waited until my Mom got the call and he was gone and everything that I knew had died with him.

He brought home Fish and Chips from Spuds and Burgers, Fries and Shakes from Dick's after Mass on Sunday's.

He wanted me to remember this, he didn't tell me but, I know he did, me and my Brother Nicky came to him one day, just before the winter really came in because the sun was pale but bright through the one window in his room and, me and Nicky, we wanted candy money and Grandpa, he leaned over with his big belly and grabbed his change jar and he pulled out a whole dollar and gave it to me, for me and Nicky and my eyes went wide and I looked at Grandpa, to make sure he meant it because Grandpa only ever gave us a quarter and sometimes fifty cents a piece but he looked at me, with those blue eyes that were crinkled by life and we had a moment and I broke the gaze and turned away and I was sick about it the entire time. Something was wrong.

I don't have many stories about Grandpa Bob, I wish I had more but, I have my own.

I never realized how much I love history and anthropology but, I do. I love knowing about my Kin. I love remembering them. I love knowing that I might get to spend the rest of forever with them, someday.

I love knowing that I have family who lived through it all.

I know stories of the Great Depression, of Still Born deaths, of wealth and ruin. I know stories of a beautiful woman, born in adversity, who fell in love with an Inuit man and gave him a healthy Son before he drank himself to death.

I know stories but, they're not just stories, they're the life of people that are My People, My Family, a link to the DNA that I have. They were strong enough for me to be here, for my Son to be here.

They were who they were to pass all that they were along.

I thought about titling this, "Calling On Ghosts" but, Ghosts are Marley and scary but, souls?

Well, the souls of the people I’ve written about and, by extension, all of those they've written about, they live on and I love them and am fascinated and am grateful to them.

They're souls, not ghosts.

This is for you, Clyde, Elise, Robert and Virginia, (who is NOT a ghost and my love is in your life and how you are still here.) I love you all and I love Sandra, Dorothy, Lucille, J.W. and Frank too. Especially you, Frank. You've stuck around to keep an eye on your Grandson. I'm glad I can let him know. We're glad to have you, Frank. ;) You can look over our shoulder, any time. =)

Saturday, July 30, 2011


A friend of mine recently posted this video on her facebook page regarding the crisis in Somalia:
I was touched, profoundly, by the story of the Mother who has seven children of her own yet, she picked a strange child up, abandoned on the side of the road, and adopted it. In the face of hunger and hopelessness, this woman saw an infant and could not bear to leave the tiny infant to the elements to die, despite the grave situation in her country, for her family.
I do not blame the abandoned infant's Mother. I can only imagine what the faceless Mother of the abandoned child was feeling but, I imagine that she had already died inside and, in the absence of much hope, she emptied her arms of the weight of her newly born child, willing herself not to allow her arms to feel the aching emptiness that most Mother's feel without the weight of their children in them and, terribly, the gnawing hunger in the pit of her stomach and the gaunt bodies and faces of the people around drowned the sorrow and sickening emptiness of the choice that she made.
As her feet shuffled on, dragging and barely stirring the dusty dirt beneath her feet as she trod further away from the life she had grown in her womb, the life that she birthed in the baptism of pain that is Motherhood, her hunger and hopelessness sounded louder than the cries of the child she left among the dirty, dusty side of the road. Too tired, too helpless, too hungry to listen to the sounds of a piece of her heart wailing for his Mother's warmth, love and safety.
Oh, God! Oh...god....
I don't think that what I imagine is far from the truth. This unknown Mother...
I sob for her. To live in a place where leaving a piece of your heart to die along the side of the road... I cry for her because, she cannot cry for herself, she doesn't have the energy or the moisture, if she is even still alive.
Wherever this woman is, this unknown Mother, I hope her soul is in a place where she can know that her child was rescued by another Woman, a Mother, that her child will live and, perhaps thrive and grow to help that her choice will never have to be made by another Mother, in that country, ever again. Perhaps this Mother is somewhere that she can see that there are people, Mother's who grieve for her, understand her choice, wish they could have saved her from having to make it, have the tears to shed and the hope to help.
In America, the, "Mother Country" we have our own people who hunger, who need yet, we do not have civil warfare, preventing aid. In America, the, "Land of Opportunity" we have the ability to make choices for ourselves, to better ourselves, to reach through hard work. I know there is plenty to say about the state of our government and, most of us would not be wrong to say it or, to feel it but, we STILL have it better than the people of Somalia.
We are not facing warfare on our home front. Our country has a system to provide for the needy masses, even if that system is long overdue for improvement. In America, we have access to credit, to live beyond our means and, I am one of those people who has debt that I struggle to pay and, I will speak out and say that I am ashamed of my desire for things that I cannot pay for, my desire to have things I do not need because those desires have placed my family in a debt that I swore I would never accumulate, having seen my parents do it themselves. I do not blame them, I knew better.
Here's the thing, Americans no matter how much we protest and complain, we know better. We rail against our government because we feel that we expect our government to keep us from behaving badly, like children who need and desire discipline yet, when the Mother country passes laws to curtail and prevent us from making mistakes, we rally and cry out against our Mother for telling us what we can and cannot do.
Fellow Americans, we have the privilege and responsibility to make our own choices, to bear arms, to speak out against Mother but, in Somalia, they don't have that. Somalia is oppressed and suffering.
I used to be one of those people who would watch and listen to plea's for foreign aid with a sneer. I would think, "Why can't that country just get it together?" Well, maybe they can and, I'm sure that the people who are starving wish they could but, in the meantime, there are parents of children who are having to choose between leaving their children to die of hunger or, go on and start over, begin again and, if you think that is harsh, remember that in the grand scheme of human history on this planet, it wasn't long ago at all when that choice was common and not at all as shocking and heartbreaking as it is now, even my Great Grandparents, who lived through the Great Depression, who lived long enough to write of it, even they suffered this hunger, these choices, though not even as close to the scale that the Somalians do.
I walk into my two story town home, the one I decry and sneer at, thankful for the rush of the air conditioning that meets my face as I leave the ninety degree weather outside of my door. I press a button on the PlayStation remote to play another episode of a cartoon for my twenty-three month old Son who has never known hunger or, a full day without me, his Mother. I picked up a box of food, for forty-eight dollars today, enough food to feed my family of three for three weeks. I can leave my home, in a vehicle, without wondering if there is going to be warfare in my city today. I can go up the street, to an air-conditioned grocery store and feed my family with the income my Husband earns. I go to sleep at night, with a full belly, worrying about how to pay bills but never how I'm going to feed myself so that I have enough breast milk for my Son. My dreams are not haunted by dreams of food, carried by hunger pains from my belly or, the bellies of my Husband or Son.
In terms of America, I am on the poverty level but, the World Food Programme can provide FOUR CUPS OF FOOD for ONE DOLLAR. I can go up the street to the fast food restaurant and buy a cheeseburger for ONE DOLLAR. A tasteless piece of cardboard meat for ONE DOLLAR. Can you imagine what FOUR CUPS of REAL food means to someone who doesn't have even ONE dollar to feed themselves or, their family?
As an American, I have choices. I KNOW I can change my life. I KNOW I have a voice. As an American, I'm choosing to exert my privilege to use my voice to speak out for a country that has a need that is FAR more dire than the needs of the people in OUR country. Somalians WANT help, as opposed to some other countries that we currently occupy and, the thing is, as an American, I can say that we don't have to occupy Somalia, (as if the US even wants to...Somalia doesn't have Oil or anything we can gain from) but, we CAN help.
I took five dollars from the limited income for my family and donated it to the WFP. Five dollars is paltry, when I think of the nameless Mother who left her child by the side of the road and, as an American, I am going to say that I am ashamed of my greed and living beyond my means in the face of a Mother who has had to make the choice to leave her newborn by the side of the road in order to go on with life.
What am I doing with my life? Not much. My hangups are not your problem, they're my own but, I will say that as a Mother, I cannot bear for another child, another Mother, no matter the nationality, to have to make a choice that means death of heart, soul and life.
I know I can't save everyone or anyone but, I CAN help, even if it is only a little help. A little help is better than NO help.
I urge you to deeply consider donating even just ONE dollar to a program that will help feed the people of Somalia. Please think of a Mother who has the choice of leaving a newly born soul, a piece of her heart, on the side of the road or risk watching the rest of her family suffer. Please help these people from having to make choices such as these.
You can donate to the World Food Programme, for the Horn Of Africa at
Please, PLEASE help.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Too Much For A Facebook Post

I left my house at 7:30 pm tonight, a quick jaunt to a grocery store 5 minutes away from my house and, I didn't get home until 8:30. I walked into my home to the strains of the closing music for, "Ren and Stimpy". It was dim and, as my eyes scanned to the left, they rested on the form of my sleeping Husband holding our sleeping Son.

Sleeping Son + Sleeping Husband + Ren and Stimpy + Loot from the Grocery store + quiet blogging time for Me = NIRVANA.

So, now, I can explain why my, "quick jaunt" to the grocery store took me an hour.

It began with one decision, to go to the grocery store down the road instead of the one that I normally go to. After that, it was one decision after the other that led me to the individual who made my "quick jaunt" longer than I had intended.

I cannot speak for my Husband or, our Son but, I am glad that my choices led me to where I went this evening because, I feel like it's one of those rare moments when something greater than yourself, the people in a five mile radius and, all of the rest of the world hardly matter.

As I pulled into the lane, in the grocery store parking lot, to search for a spot, at a distance I saw a man who walked with a limp and, I slowed my car down to show him that I respected his pace and his desire for safety.

The man stopped, waiting for me.

I drove on, slowly. I guided the car into a spot and parked. As I made my way toward the grocery store doors, the man I had waited on called out.

"Would you like my cart?"

I have silently spoken this question the last couple of times I went to the grocery store, left empty by the solitary posture of fellow patrons, never daring to interrupt their thoughts to divert them from something as simple as what to do with their grocery cart, that I could take it. We all work in a daze, except for this man and, because my heart secretly, silently hopes that someone, somewhere, sometime wakes from their daze of worry and stress to smile, I responded to his query with delighted surprise and, yes, joy.

I thanked the man for his offer and, he thanked me for my acceptance. The only condition to accepting his cart was to wait for him to unload his groceries from the cart and, I was happy to oblige. I didn't expect anything other than this pleasant exchange but, I received more.

For the next half hour, I was captivated by the presence of this man who offered me his cart. This man stood a couple of inches taller than I, at 5 feet, two and a half inches. This man wore a light grey polo shirt, a black hat with blue embroidery. This man wore jeans and tennis shoes. This man had a gold class ring on his right hand, on his ring finger, with a blue gemstone imbedded in it. This man held his left arm, slightly bent and crooked, next to his chest. This man had a friendly stubble on his chin and cheeks, thickly lashed eyes that were blue and twinkled, (yes, twinkled). This man's smile was gentle and easy, warm and inviting, respectful and understanding but, I’m sure that he had no aim for his visage to be the way I saw it. In fact, what impressed me most about this man is that he is one of the few true examples of pure virtue that I have encountered in my life.

I have encountered pure virtue several times, from my vantage point, probably more so than most people care to or desire to meet but, fewer than a handful of our population who truly treasure pure virtue. I am in a place where, when I find true virtue, it is a surprise and pleasant at that.

I am no more special than you or, anyone else, because I encounter people who give me hope. I meet them, less often than I desire because, my heart hungers for hope and light. I believe that hope and light are found in people and, even if I walk in a daze most of the time, I am always on the lookout for people who I believe are full of joy, light, love and hope. Most of the time, those people that my soul hungers to meet are silent, off the radar and, for me, it's a series of choices that lead me toward finding these people.

Is it God, in every religious sense and, every theory? Maybe.

More likely it is my desire to know that I’m not an Island, to know that all hope and goodness are not lost.

This Man, after offering his cart, told me of his work, teaching children how to play darts. So great was his joy, in having a purpose that HE found and loves, so great is his understanding and respect for Children that he takes absolute joy in teaching them skill that, to everyone else seems dangerous and useless but, he knows to trust our children, to know that our Children can learn so much if we can but have the strength to let them learn.

In the half an hour that I was in the presence of this man, I felt so much positivity and hope that, to not share it with you, would be a crime.

This man told me, "I get along really well with people, can't you tell?"

I told this man, "I don't get along with people very well but, I really like you."

This man said, "I like you too".

I don't walk around with my heart on my sleeve, (anymore, it's been awhile since i've done THAT) my eyes open, ready to receive and learn like I used to when I was younger but, I'm still on the lookout and I have nothing but deeply felt gratitude for the opportunity to meet and converse with this man.

Greg? Thank you. My hope has been rejuvenated. Your work is precious and unique and I am grateful that your purpose has led you to teaching future generations confidence, hand/eye coordination and allowing parents to learn to step back and trust. Thank you, Greg, for being in the Winn-Dixie parking lot today, to speak with me, (though I feel as a Social Leper at times) to allow me to speak with you and share myself with you.

If you are interested in the classes that Greg teaches, you can find more information at:
You can also reach Greg directly through email but, I will only release Greg's email if you send me a message asking for it.

Last but, not least, I want to thank my Grandma Virgina for teaching me that differently-abled people are not to be feared or pitied but, to be loved, understood and cared for like we would for anyone else, with respect for individuality and requests for assistance. Granny V taught me that, while the body may be limited, most of the time, the mind, soul and heart are not and, the three of them are who you are, body be forsaken.

Whether you have given a piece of yourself to war or, disease, gestation, birth, violence, science or accident...

There are of those of us who SEE you, FEEL you, RESPECT you, LOVE you and extend a hand for you to take or, to just know is there.

To our Service Men and Women: The depth of my feelings for who you are and what you have gone through are beyond words. One day, I hope to be able to make sense of them to serve all of you because, it is one of the things my heart most wants to do.

"...Lovingkindness. (I like that word.) Dreams. Humans are very good at dreaming, although you'd never know it from your television..."
~Carl Sagan

I may not wear my Heart on my sleeve but, it's not very far from it.