Here it is, Folks. The official last week of 2006. Can you believe it?
So many big, life changing events have happened this year that it feels like 10 years have been shoved into 1. I don't wish to repeat it. But I've learned from it.
What have I learned?
I am stronger then I imagined. I am more vulnerable then I imagined. I have learned that while I can make it through life independently... it's much nicer and easier to share my independence with close friends. I used to cling to my past, marking my years with journals and photos. I have discovered that all it has done is weigh me down and prevent me from living my life as I wish, baggage free.
What have I done?
I have begun to teach myself the art of speaking kindly to myself. I have begun to teach myself to share burdens. I have weeded through old journals and old photo's and burned the one's that have been weighing me down. I have begun to teach myself how to enjoy life just for today's happiness and close my mind to future events. Good or bad.
This is my New Years list I have begun several months ago to work upon.
I feel stronger. I feel more content. I feel...optimistic.
Here's to the year 2007, Folks.
May it bring you all you need. All the things you didn't know you wanted. And the strength and good friends to work through and share whatever life brings you.
I'm taking a bit of a break from blogging. I'm sure I will return. After a year and a half of blogging I feel the need to read and play and...step away from the computer for a bit. I'll be checking in on all my favorite blog people.
Yesterday, during lunchtime at work, I walked to the red brick MAX platform to await the train. As I approached the platform, I noticed something lying on the ground. Upon closer observation I realized it was an abandoned pair of men's shoes in black loafer style. They lay on the wet brick in the haphazard way of someone who carelessly tosses off their shoes to relax on a sofa. They resided in front of a bench. On the bench a newspaper lay splayed out; its rain sodden pages pressed against the wood slat seat. Strangers, who awaited the next train beside me, glanced casually down at the scene then turned and ignored it like it was nothing out of the normal one would see in the middle of a rainy day in the City. I however, could not look away. My mind sifted through the puzzle. Why would the shoes be left behind? The winter wind whipped around me and tugged at the edges of the newspaper pinned to the bench. Pools of rain water beaded on the wood of the bench giving no hint of anyone having momentarily abandoned their reading. A bum approached the shoes and bench. I watched him closely. Surely, here was the owner of the shoes! I felt a piece of puzzle slide into place then bump up against an obstruction as the bum leaned down, picked up a cigarette butt, then moved on past the shoes as if they were invisible. Were they invisible? I blinked the rain from my eyes and peered again. The shoes remained. The newspaper fluttered in the wind. The Train rumbled up to the platform and I stepped inside the open doors. The door closed and I watched the shoes until a turn on the tracks removed them from my sight. I leaned my head back against the train wall and closed my eyes. Imagination drifting, I saw a business man harried from a hard day at the office. He sat reading his paper, during his lunch hour, in an attempt to temporarily close out the world around him. His eyes fixed on something in the paper. His spine stiffened. With a nod and a jerk he sprang from bench. He tipped back his head and a rusty laugh spilled from his throat. "Screw this!" He shouted to the worker lemmings huddled miserably beside him. Kicking the shoes from his feet, he strode barefoot and free down the sidewalk to begin the life he always dreamed he would live. I smiled as my imaginations eye watched him stride away; then sobered as I felt the weight of my shoes pressing down on my feet. Perhaps I should...
I had a strange dream last night about Kay Goman, my Freshman roommate in college. She was getting married on November 30th and was expecting me to be her Maid of Honor. I panicked in my dream as I had no clue what dress she wished me to wear and had one week to find it. Turns out it was to be Orange (pumpkin orange) and to have the Sleeping Beauty Disney sleeves. You know, the little poofy capped ones? Gads.
I haven't heard from Kay in years. She was my Maid of Honor long long ago. She wore a beautiful tea length white dress with a satin pink ribbon sash and carried a single pink long stemmed rose. Why she would torture me in my dream by expecting me to wear an ORANGE Disney sleeved dress--I dunno.
Why after all these years would I dream of her? And the specific date of November 30th?
I am a bit haunted this morning. I've found her name in People Search online. I might just pay the 9 dollars and get her phone number. If this was just a crazy dream with no reason behind it, at least I will have caught up with an old and dear friend from my past.
Tidbits of internet news I read this morning while waiting for my coffee to finish brewing.
1. David Gest, (Liza Minelli's ex)is going to be on a reality show in Australia and refused to bungee-jump into the jungle camp for the show’s opening episode like everyone else did because he worried that the sudden change in altitude might ruin the anti-aging injections in his face.
2. Michael Jackson is being stalked by an Australian drag queen...
MiniWarrior got to investigate the inside of a Fire Engine Truck this weekend.
He got to grill the hapless FireFighter with 3 billion questions.
"How hot is fire?" "How hot are coals?" "How hot is a candle?" "Is it hotter than Mars?" "What's your favorite color?" "Are you a soldier?" "Do you want to be a soldier?" "Killing Fire is pretty cool. Do you like killing fires?" "Where do you like to sit (in the fire truck)?" "In the back or the front?" "Why do you like to sit in the front?" "Do you like the front or the back better?" "How tall are you?" "Are you as tall as a soldier?" "Do you like fire drills?" "Do you like lock down drills?" "How much do you like fire drills?" "Did you have fire drills when you were a kid?"
After the billionth question, I took pity on the Fireman (who's eyes had glazed over and mouth had the brain stroke slack look that occurs when one has just been grilled by MiniWarrior) and dragged a still interrogating MiniWarrior away to my truck.
"But Mommmmmm! I still have questions!"
The fireman, who has no doubt run into the full force of a roaring fire without a drip of fear, flinched and ducked behind the fire truck out of MiniWarrior's sight.
It started with an advertisement in my email box. One innocent click later and I spied them. There they were in luscious bone colored suede. The boots of my dreams! It was love at first click. It was now my life's quest to obtain them. A quest that only a woman could truly understand. I zoomed over and picked up No Name and we swooped over to the Mall. We trotted over to the shoe store and YES! There they were, in my size! I think I might have squealed a high pitch girlie squeal. I'm pleading the 5th and blaming the noise on rabid Mall squirrels.
Several purchases and multiple stores later, No Name and I wrapped up our shopping spree at the land of book goodness, Barnes & Noble. Nora Roberts 3rd book of the Circle Trilogy was in and Robert B. Parker's new book was in. Could this day be any better?!
Exhausted, I slumped into an easy chair in a corner while No Name continued his pursuit of a book. I shared my corner with a spry looking white haired lady who was quietly sipping on a Starbucks coffee.
She pointed out to me that I must be a "true" Northwestener as it was pouring rain outside and I was in shorts and a sweatshirt. I laughed and told her I was in shorts because I had a knee doctor's appointment earlier and wore the shorts in a vain attempt to avoid wearing one of those horrid patient paper gowns.
She nodded approvingly at my wisdom. I didn't divulge to her that while my plan was a most excellent one, I ended up having to wear the &$#! paper gown because in my attempt to compromise wearing shorts in the pouring rain with a warm sweatshirt...I forgot about the injury to my arm that I needed the doctor to look at.
To divert my thoughts from the paper gown humiliating memory still too &%#! fresh in my mind, I politely asked her where she was from.
"Southern California." She said with a smile. Then she hunched over her coffee and muttered bitterly, "But I've lived here for the past 41 years and I hate...HATE the rain!"
She chattered on how she had plans to move back to Southern California when she retired but then her son of 41 years decided he wanted a child so his wife got pregnant and now she had a grandson. Her face warmed when she spoke of her grandson.
"I have him most weekends and would take him more if his parents let me. I just love him and could never think of leaving him to move back to California." The glow slipped from her face and she once again hunkered over her coffee sliding a baleful look out the window at the cursed Northwest rain.
"Well, maybe you can move to California when your grandson is grown." I offered in a small attempt to cheer her.
"If I live that long." She said with a sigh. "I'm 71 now."
I spoke to her of my adopted Mom who is now 80 and spry as ever. How she biked and swam every day. How she had raised me to believe that the number game of age is mostly a mental thing.
She brightened a bit at that. Apparently she came from a genetic line of long lifers. But, then her face clouded again as she explained how her husband was currently laid up with a hip injury.
"He had a fall, you see. He was mowing our son's lawn. Something he loves to do. When he slipped and fell 10 feet down a hill and hurt his hip. He used to be so active but now except to attend physical therapy, he just wants to lay in bed."
We sat quietly for a few minutes looking down and avoiding eye contact from the truth that she most likely would never move back to her home town in Southern California.
"He comes from a family that are active until they get hurt, then once they are down, they stay down." She added quietly. "Nothing I say to him will get him up. He cries that he's hurting and refuses to get up and live life again."
I saw the pain flicker across her face as she slid her eyes from mine and looked down into her cup of coffee. It wasn't the rain she was railing at. It was the helplessness of watching the man she had been married to for 50+ years lay down and quit on life.
I thought about it that evening when I lay in bed, staring into the grey of the night while Guido purred softly beside me. I thought about it in the morning while my mind was busy trying to shake the dark shadows of a dream that has been haunting me.
I thought about it yesterday as I walked the trail at the local park in the misting rain. And I thought about it again this morning while once again trying to shrug off another depressing dream.
Then, sitting at work, halfway through my first cup of coffee, it hit me.
When wounded in this life, you can choose to lay down and cease living because to continue to live, hurts.
Or you can work through that hurt and keep moving. Keep living, no matter the pain, because eventually the pain will fade with continual movement. The key to recovery is movement.
You have to keep moving.
I'm trudging on, folks. And I've got a hot pair of boots to do it in.
41 and some odd months ago, there was a discussion between medical staff on whether or not I should live. Apparently I was stuck inside my mother and her life was at risk. She intervened and demanded that I be saved. A pair of prying forceps later and I was dragged out to breath my first breath in this world.
A few years later I was licking an ice cream and riding my bike along Main street. My wheel hit the curb and I was thrown into the street. In the few stunned seconds as I lay there I watched the wheel of a car slide towards my face and abruptly stop as it touched the tip of my nose. An old lady staggered from inside the car and screamed over and over how "She shouldn't be driving. She had just come back from a Doctor's visit and he had said her reflexes were so impaired she must give up driving." Strangers plucked me from the street and brushed me off while the old lady continued her rant. After concluding that I was unhurt, the crowd dispersed and I clambered back onto my bike and shakily headed home.
Fast forward to my 20th year. Swimming in the Ocean in St. Croix with a friend. We scoured the ocean floor for Conch shells. I swam out to a grassy line in the sand thinking this would be a good hiding place for shells. I tried to swim past the line in the sand to search the sea grass. Try as I might, I could not break past the line of grass in the sand to move further out. It was like hitting a glass wall. I turned my head to see my friends eyes showing wide and scared through her goggles as she watched me swim frantically in place. She motioned for us to swim back to shore. As we lay gasping on the beach she told me how she watched me swim furiously but how my body didn't move one inch forward. I panted and told her that it had felt like I was hitting against a glass wall. We lay there for awhile and pondered this puzzling phenomenon then headed back to the house of the people we were staying with. Later that night over spaghetti, I told my tale of the line in the sand and watched Ivan's (the Man of the house) face grow pale. He explained to me of the many natives that had died swimming innocently past that line in the sand. Apparently, this was the division of passive ocean and the beginning of a deadly riptide. If I had crossed that line, I would have been dead.
A few years later, back in my home town, I was driving my car down a hill in the moody light of dusk. I accelerated as at the end of the hill the light was green. Just as my car was crossing into the intersection a car came barrelling from my left, blowing through his red light. There was no time for evasive maneuvering, I could see the shadowed shape of the driver as he plunged towards me. I closed my eyes and braced for impact. I opened them a few seconds later to see the car now miraculously on the other side of the intersection continuing on in his wild ride.
To this day I cannot explain how he missed me. There was no screech of tires. There was no sound. He was moving too quickly to have swerved around me. He was heading directly for my drivers side door.
It's a mystery. But the real mystery to me is the question of "Why" that has followed all the near misses in my life. These few that I've listed are the bigger, obvious misses of Deaths knock on my door. There are many other simpler times that can be easily explained with a shrug of the shoulder and the wink of "Phew! I was sure lucky!"
I haven't done any remarkable action that would explain the reason for my being saved. If there is indeed a reason and not just blind luck. If I were to fade away there wouldn't be great mourning and an obvious rift in the Universe.
I've been thinking of late, perhaps I should change that. It seems ungrateful of me to continue on without paying back somehow the gift of life that's been handed back to me so many miraculous times.
It was a beautiful Fall evening when I pulled up to my house. Guido, the cat, greeted me at the door with a hungry meow.
Tossing my work bag down, I gave him a friendly scritch then lumbered to the kitchen to fill his bowl with his nightly scoop of soft food. He hunkered down over his dinner with a pleased purr. The house was quiet with the empty feel it gets when it's just Guido and I and MiniWarrior is at his Dad's house. The air had a slight Northwest damp feel to it. I shivered lightly in the shadows of the kitchen then wandered into the living room to set the trappings for a fire in the fireplace.
A couple of trips back and forth to the garage wood bin later, I crouched by the fireplace and watched the flames of the new fire begin to envelop the logs. The crackling sounds filled the emptiness of the house and Guido butted up against me in approval. Feline belly full, he stretched and lay down on the fireplace rug beside me.
I stood after a bit and stared out the tall living room window watching the Swan and his faithful duck companion swim along the banks of my backyard creek; the Swans long white neck stretching out from time to time to nibble at the young ferns that grow along the creek bed.
The blue of the sky was turning a sleepy evening grey. The hot tub beckoned me. I nodded to myself, checked the stability of the crackling fire, and headed out for an evening soak.
Lifting the cover off, the heat from the hot tub fought with the crisp fall air and created an other worldly steam battle. I stepped into the cloud and slid into the hot bubbling water with a contented sigh.
I let my mind float free for awhile. Letting the days build up of tiny stresses drift away. I smiled to myself. This was a nice time in my life. The brief period of calm that restores your insides and prepares you for future events. I felt a trickle of worry slide down my mental spine at the thought of future events to come. The unknown hovered around inside me like the cloud that followed the Pigpen character from Charley Brown.
"This happiness comes with a future cost." My battered soul whispered to me. I closed my eyes and tried to shake the thought away.
"Don't borrow trouble from tomorrow." I muttered back at the pessimistic finger shaking inside me.
The wounds from this past year were still too fresh to quell the fear snaking inside me. I peeled myself from the warmth of the hot tub and headed back inside to drown the voices warring inside me with the crackling sound of the fire.
I went to a rockin' Halloween party Saturday night. ( I dressed up as Wednesday Adams) Good Food. Good Friends. Good Times!
I don't think I'll ever outgrow the fun of Halloween. There's just something magical about going on an excursion of pumpkin picking and Halloween Costumes. MiniWarrior is so excited. It was a little too early to carve our pumpkins but he just couldn't wait. So, two orange spooky faced pumpkins sit out on our front porch. Every day their carefully carved faces droop a little more as the pumpkins shrivel and begin the glorious rotting phase.
Nothing says Halloween like moldy pumpkins oozing their death juices onto the cement of one's porch stairs.
I picked MiniWarrior up early from school yesterday for a Doctor appointment. While shuffling my truck through the afternoon traffic gusts of Fall wind blew speratic rain drops onto the windshield. MiniWarrior piped up from the backseat.
Mom? Yes, Son? I'm sorry I got a little dirty today at Recess. That's OK. I don't care if you get dirty playing. Well...I wasn't playing... You weren't? No. I was laying in the grass trying to get a Cloud Tan.
Worldwide, people celebrate January 1st as the beginning of a New Year.
For me, the New Year begins when Fall arrives.
I love Fall. The time when Earth shakes itself from a lazy Summers nap and fills the air with crackling energy.
Fall, in all it's glorious colors and blustery winds, fills me with it's promises of things to come.
Shiny faced kids in fresh haircuts and crisp new clothes stepping onto polished yellow school bus's to begin a new school year.
Children bedecked in goulish Halloween outfits, running wild with sugar crazed eyes. The aroma of Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie. The tinkling of Christmas bells whispering of festivities to come.
It is in these three months of Fall that I feel the most impact of the twelve months that make up a year.
I wish for you all, a wonderful New Year filled with the goodness of family, the sounds of children laughing, the gentle purr of a cat dozing in front of a crackling fire, the crunch of fallen leaves beneath the paws of a tail wagging dog, the warmth of a loved ones hand in yours as you walk through the dancing winds of Fall.
A single act of compassion is like tipping the first Domino in the intricately constructed maze of life. The Amish community’s compassionate response to the murderer's family set the Domino play in motion with a CLICK that has resounded around the world. Strangers have been touched and echoed the compassionate act with gifts amounting to over 700,000 dollars. Today I read the murderer's wife's response to the Amish acts of compassion: "The wife of a gunman who killed five girls and injured five others at an Amish school released a statement thanking the Amish and others in the Lancaster County community for their "forgiveness, grace and mercy."... Marie Roberts says she and her three young children have been overwhelmed by the community support since the Oct. 2 shootings. "Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need," she wrote. "Gifts you've given have touched our hearts in a way no words can describe. ... Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world, and for this we sincerely thank you." http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15266663/ In my previous blog "Grace In The Face Of Evil" I wrote of how this event, and the Amish response to it, touched my life. I imagine holding a Domino piece in the pocket of my soul. Somewhere, sometime, I will be presented with the choice of tipping that piece and putting it into play in the compassionate maze the Amish have put in motion. When I close my eyes I imagine setting my piece into play and watching it softly tip against the next Domino with a "CLICK". I imagine millions of Domino pieces toppling and snaking around in an intricate maze across the world. Swirling, tipping, falling...moving. Can you hear it?
Reading about the Grandfather standing by the dead body of his grandchild, murdered in cold blood in her schoolhouse, I found myself deeply moved. He wasn't raging against the awful unfairness of the murder of his granddaughter. He wasn't spewing hate and raising his fist to the heavens in anguish demanding to know, "Why?" He was admonishing his community to embrace the wife and children of the man who held a gun to little girl's heads and executed them. He stood quietly and solemnly said, "This family has lost their husband and father. Show them compassion." The Amish community embraced his words and while busy laying their children in newly dug graves, they took time to walk over and bring food and supplies and comfort to the murderers’ family. While medical bills were still piling up from their children who were struggling to survive from bullet wounds, the Amish community scraped together money to start a fund to help the family of the man who brutalized their children. This, people, is the very definition of grace. Of compassion. Of forgiveness. Of human goodness. And I am touched. Deeply. This past year has been filled with human ugliness that has greatly affected MiniWarrior and I. Ugliness so vile to me that I have been struggling with anger and depression trying to come to grips with it all in my mind. I hadn't been able to get a grasp on it to start really healing until I read about the Amish response to their tragedy. These people lost their children. Lost them through a murderous act. They had to bury their children while rumors of intended sexual abuse of their children whispered around them. Two most heinous acts that parents world over fear happening to their children. A fear so ingrained, so deep that it wakes us from sleep and has us standing over our sleeping children whispering to the gods to keep them safe. Seeing their act of incredible Grace in the face of the darkest Evil...I felt something loosen inside me. I felt a slight shift where anger had been digging in its roots. A loosening. A soft warmth trickling into a hollow place. Their strength has encouraged me. Healed me in a way I didn't know how to. Grace. The proverbial middle finger in the face of evil. You can touch me...but you cannot break me. This people, is true power.
Listening to my Mother's stories brought back to me a memory of a time in High School. I had been given the assignment of writing a report from a significant event in History. I discussed the assignment with my Mom and she said she knew just the report to give. She disappeared then came back to the living room clutching a well worn sheet of paper. She explained to me that this was a letter written to her older sister from her Fiancé who had been arrested by the Germans and was sitting in a cell, condemned to die. My Mother's family had hidden Jews in their house. They had been hiding a husband and wife and their little 6 year old daughter for a couple of days. The Germans raided the house. They found the man and lady but did not find the child. They dragged the couple out of the house and arrested my Grandfather, my Uncle Piet and my Aunt Marieke's Fiancé. My Mother's family searched the house for 2 days for the little girl. They eventually found her. She was curled into a little ball in a crawl space under a cupboard that was the size of a bread box. She was hungry, thirsty and terrified, but alive. My Grandfather owned a Potato Factory Business that the Germans took over and kept going to help feed the German Army. This saved my Grandfather and Uncle as they were needed to keep the business running so the Germans released them from Jail. My Aunt Marieke's Fiancé was not so fortunate. The night before he was to be shot to death, he sat on the floor of his cell and wrote a final letter to his loved ones from a sheet tore out of the back of his Bible. In it he stated that he was not sorry for hiding Jews. That he despised the Germans for their cruelty to these innocent people. He admonished those still fighting the fight against the Germans to keep strong; to keep fighting. That the War would end someday and once again the Jewish people would live in peace to begin their lives again. When it came time in class for me to give my report, I brought along my Mom to interpret the letter that this man had written. In her soft Dutch accented voice she read the letter while I translated it in English for the class. "To my Mother I leave my Bible. To my Father I leave my bookmark. To my loving Fiancé I leave my comb...Do not cry for me. I would not change what I have done..." When the early morning sun speared through the bars of his cell, the soldiers came in and walked him to the wall outside the prison and shot him to death. They handed the letter and Bible to his Fiancée and let his family come take his body for burial. When my Mom and I finished reading the letter there was not a dry eye in the classroom. The last words of a simple man, who in the end could only leave his family with the most basic of his possessions, had left a mark on this world worth more then the richest of combined treasure. I continue to honor him this day by passing on his story to you. His name was Folkert. He was 21 years old.
My (adopted) Mom has been staying with me these past couple of weeks. She turns 80 at the end of this week. I've spent a lot of time listening to her stories of growing up. 80 years of life experiences.
She was 14 when World War ll happened and Germany occupied Holland, the country of her birth. I grew up listening to her stories of the atrocities of war she witnessed but somehow, hearing the stories again with an adult ear, the impact of them is different.
She told me of a tragic event she witnessed one day when she was riding her bike to town. A group of German soldiers forced her to stop and join a crowd that had been forced into a circle. Inside the circle was a beautiful young woman with long dark hair who was on her knees beside a young dark haired man. The Soldiers surrounding them grabbed their hair and forced their heads back. Up top a three story row home a window opened. A young German soldier (whom my mom described as being no older then 18-19 yrs old) stuck his arm out the window. In his hand was a dark haired baby (around 1 1/2 yrs of age).
The couple kneeling on the ground began to cry, pleading. The soldiers ignored their pleas and laughed as the young soldier threw the baby to the ground.
My Mom and I sat quietly after she told me that story. I tried to wrap my mind around the reasoning for such cruelty. I tried to imagine how someone could become that twisted that they could laugh while ending an innocents life as their parents watched.
Even though I have witnessed the darker side of humanity in my 41 years of life, I have no understanding of such depravity.
Not all the stories were as terrible as the death of that child. She told me of heroic deeds performed by simple people who's ties to the people they saved were nothing but the shared value of a life.
We in America have seen such acts in the terrible day of 9/11. Ordinary people reaching out and helping strangers through a dark time caused by depraved men.
I have no answers. I find myself only capable of being a spectator during this event in my lifetime as my Mother was so many years ago in the tiny country of Holland.
Someday I'll pass my stories on to my son. And he will in turn have stories to pass on to his children.
It is the Ying and Yang of what makes up this crazy thing we call, Life.
It's been asked of me to continue on with the story of what happened after I found and met my Birth Mother. The biggest question seems to be, "Did it turn out, well?"
Breath deeply the sigh of relief. It's been 14 years since I first hugged my Birth Mother. 14 years where whenever I receive an email, chat with her online, hear her voice over my telephone or watch the way she moves when she speaks to me face to face, my heart does that strange little twist of happiness. You know the one where you peek in and look upon your child sleeping at night? It's still so magical to me. I love her dearly.
When we first met she gave to me a picture she had carried of my Birth Father and told me his name. She thought she heard that his family had moved back to Oklahoma but she knew no other details.
I looked up directory assistance in Oklahoma for his last name. There were two listed. One of the numbers listed was the same name as the boss I was currently working for. My friend and I laughed at that and decided to call this number. I had my friend do it as I was too chicken. It was terrifying to me to think of suddenly talking to my Birth Father.
She laughingly dialed the number and when the woman came on the line, my friend asked to speak to, Nathan. My Birth Fathers name. I watched her face go pale as she shoved the phone at me. "It's HIM!" She squeaked and I immediately began to hyperventilate. I held the receiver out to her shaking and panting and chanting over and over to her to "please PLEASE talk to him for me as I was too freaked out!"
She saw the panic on my face and took the receiver. I slumped to the floor as she talked to him. I heard her ask him if he knew my Birth Mother. My head was making a loud buzzing noise and my heart felt like it was going to pound right out of my chest. Yes. He knew her.
She talked for a tiny bit then gently handed the phone to me whispering that Nathan was asking to speak to me. I got on the phone and was greeted by a smokey southern influenced voice. He told me how amazed he was as he had just been talking to his wife about me. How he wondered what had become of me, if I was OK. If I was healthy, happy. I wanted to ask him a million different things but I couldn't make my mouth work correctly. He was a very warm and sweet man. So different then I had ever imagined.
I met his oldest sister and her family on Thanksgiving that year. She was a very classy, sweet lady. Her family took me in and treated me warmly. She gave me an album of my Birth Father growing up. I so treasure that. She still writes me Christmas cards every year and catches me up with annual family things.
My Grandmother and Aunt flew out to see me shortly after Thanksgiving. My Aunt poked me and laughingly remarked how I'm built "just like their side of the family." My Grandmother was quiet but very sweet. She kept patting me in the way Grandmothers do.
My Birth Father wrote often how he was going to fly out and meet me. He never did. I suspect his wife had some influence there. It was his second wife and he was raising her kids. I think I caused some intimidation feelings there. She wrote me once politely but craftily asking me to back off from him. I did so immediately. It was never in my heart to interfere with my Birth Families life. I always went into my search with the defining lines of "no interference, no disruption." His letters to me slowly trickled to a stop.
Would I like to meet my Birth Father some day? Yes. It's not mandatory, but yes. It would be nice to once look into the eyes of the person I carry my genetic coding from. To look into those eyes and capture the essence of the man who helped create me.
Aafrica wrote a comment to me about growing up in China and one day coming to America and eating McDonald’s morning, noon and night. She wrote of her realizing her dream had happened when she was in graduate school (I assume munching the dream burger) It was what she wrote next that got me thinking. She wrote, "Then I needed a new dream."
She pinpointed what I have been feeling these past few weeks. So much of my life was dedicated to the dream of finding my Birth Mother. Now that I have...I've been wandering through life without any real dreams.
I have two. Two dreams that I hold inside myself. I guess I've just been putting them on hold. I guess I never realized that I could take them out and pursue them now that my main dream has been achieved.
I won't tell you what they are. I never spoke to anyone of my dream to find my Birth Mother. I always felt speaking of the dream made you lose a piece of its energy, its magic.
Wish me well, people. I am moving forth to conquering the next dream on my list.
There has been some interesting comments regarding my last blog "Changes". Should dreams remain just "dreams?" Are they landmarks that we nod at as we pass them by on our life's journey?
I believe in dreams. I believe in their power to change your life if you pursue them.
The first 26 years of my life I spent dreaming of one day finding and meeting my Birth Mother. Legal blocks, personal information blocks, family blocks--all said my dream was impossible.
Every book I read on the subject warned me against my dream. They warned of rejection. They warned of the impossible odds that lay before me.
The only personal information I had was the name of my birth town and the state. Armed with that I took a week off of work and drove the hundreds of miles to my birthplace. With driving time included, I had three days to collect as much data as I could once I arrived at my birth place.
Driving on the Freeway approaching my birthtown's city limits I felt electricity skitter through me. The first check mark on my list to acheiving my dream.
I pulled into a Mini Mart and purchased a map of the town. I smiled as I sat in my car opening the map. My first physical piece of information. It was small, but it was another check mark on the list.
I located the hospital that was listed on my "changed" birth certificate. I got out and took pictures of this place. This place where I last touched my Birth Mother as they pulled me from where I lived inside her.
I checked myself into a Hotel then drove to the local library. I spent the next two days searching through Fiche film for a legal adoption notice. My hands shook as I leafed through the images of the old papers. I imagined my Birth Mother reading these newspapers as she carried me. It made me smile even when my newspaper search ended with no sign of an adoption notice.
I drove over to the Welfare office. I walked past the security guard and rode up a private elevator to the Child Welfare office. I spoke with the receptionist who's desk resided behind bullet proof glass. I told her of my desire to find my birth mother. She sent a social worker out to meet with me.
He and I sat in a room and I spilled out my request to find my Birth Mother. He was bound by the laws of non-information. It didn't deter me. I talked, he listened, it was another check mark on my list.
I drove home the next day. The only information I had was the map of my birth town and the pictures I had taken of the hospital. But I had more. Much more. I had the dream that lay firmly planted in that secret place we store inside ourselves.
Back at home, one month later, I popped home for a quick bite of lunch before I had to return back to work. A large manila envelope was sticking out of my mailbox. My hands shook as I pulled it from the box. My body was humming with electricity.
I walked into my house then sat and breathed for a few minutes to calm myself before opening the envelope. I saw everything on that 8 1/2 x 11 typed letter in a blink. The words "Your Birth Mother walked into my office today" pounded over and over in my head.
I had done it. I had found my Birth Mother.
The feelings I had watching her walk up the airport ramp towards me, the feel of her as I hugged her to me, was indescribable.
Should dreams just remain "dreams?" Should they just be regarded as landmarks we nod at as move past them on our life's journey?
For me, the answer is a resounding no. There is nothing more powerful then the magic of dreams. Believe in them people. Believe and pursue them, passionately.
Change. We love it. We hate it. We crave it. We fear it. It's ever persistent in its onward movement. We can either roll with it or get wedged in a crack as it pounds over the top of us.
I had a chance encounter with a blast from my past last night while digging through an old briefcase of mine. I've had the thing for years. I use it to store wrapping paper, cards, glue, tape, scissors...anything I would need to use that involves gift giving.
Rooting through it I came across some zany cartoons that my best friend (back then) and I had drawn back and forth to each other. I sat on the edge of my bed and laughed leafing through the pages of our drawings. The year was 1993. I was 27 years old. It seems a life time ago.
Searching through a folder of the briefcase I found an old journal of mine entitled "Fall of 1993". It was a veritable time capsule. I lay back on my bed and read the words of my 27 year old self.
I discovered two things.
1. I've changed so much from that young 27 year old person.
2. I haven't changed at all.
It's a conflicting discovery, to be sure.
I still have the same dreams. Only 13 years later it seems a bit sad that not one of them has come true. I do, however, see progress during those years. Maybe that's what I need to focus on instead of the lack of end result. I do know it has set inside me a new resolve.
13 years from now when I happen across another journal from my 40th year of life I do not wish to read that not one dream of mine is still unfulfilled. I could not and will not tolerate that.
Having spent Wednesday, Thursday and Friday crashed on my sofa trying to rid my body of post surgery pangs and the flu scourge...I decided to take MiniWarrior out Saturday Morning and let him run around at his school playground for a bit.
We stopped at Burger King for lunch. They have the new Star War toys in the kids meals. MiniWarrior had seen the commercial for Burger King toys and had assured me that the world would certainly end if he didn't get his hands on one.
30 minutes, two cheeseburgers, onion rings, fries some orange soda a Burger King Crown and a Anikan Skywalker toy later, we headed out to the school playground.
MiniWarrior peppered me with questions on the drive to the playground. It was hard conversing with him as my throat was sore and the sounds coming out of my mouth resembled more of a hiss then actual words...but that didn't seem to deter MiniWarrior.
I got the usual:
Look at the dark clouds, do you think its going to thunder? I wish it would thunder, do you like thunder? Did you have thunder when you were a kid? How loud was the thunder? I wish it would thunder and lightening I love lightening. Do you like lightening? How much do you like lightning? Do you like thunder or lightening more? How come you like lightening? What is lightening? I wish there was a tornado. How far is a tornado? Can we drive to a tornado? How many miles is a tornado? Like 30 billion 200 zillion miles?
My head throbbed and I hissed at MiniWarrior to STOP with the questions because my throat hurt trying to answer them all. He sat back in his seat with a little sulk, mad at me for ending his favorite game of 3 billion questions. Silence reigned for all of 20 seconds while he sulked and stared out the car window.
Mom? Yesss, Son. I have one more question. Can I ask one more question? *sigh* OK . One more. OK. Um... How much do Jedi's weigh?
We (finally) arrived at his school. MiniWarrior sprung out of the car running for the playground equipment. I trailed behind him and plunked down wearily on a metal bench. My head was spinning with dizziness. My throat hurt and I was questioning my sanity of why I had left my sofa nest. I idly watched MiniWarrior run around his breath making little clouds in the cool Fall air. I tugged my coat closer to me and resigned myself to an hour of Mom playground duty.
Two little girls came to the playground and MiniWarrior skipped over to chat with them. Such a social bug he is. I heard smatterings of their conversation. They asked MiniWarrior what grade he was in. If he lived around there. Then I saw one girl point to me and ask him if I was his Mom.
"Yes" He said looking over at me. "She has gold hair. Isn't she pretty?"
I'm convinced it's moments just like this that keep us from eating our young.
I could feel it come on yesterday. The scratchy throat, the slight throb in the sinus'...the building cough. I wasn't surprised. Everyone around me has been sick.
So...I headed to the local pharmacy to purchase some ammo against the oncoming storm of sickness.
I'm perusing the sickie aisle. Thera-flu? hmm..no...good stuff but I'm not that sick. Vicks Cough and Cold? Nah...ain't coughin' much...yet.
A helpful lady came over and recommended Air-borne after I discussed my symptoms. "Lots of people are taking this at the first sign of sickness."
Eureka! Just what I needed. Except...there was a cheaper pharmacy version of it called Wal-borne. Hmmm...3 dollars cheaper! I snapped it off the shelf and slid it next to the Hello Kitty I had found in the toy section.
Hey! Stop your snickering!! She's sickie ammo!! Hmmph.
So, I get home and crack open the package of Wal-borne.
They were 10 large pills in a tube. They looked like those huge Vitamin C tablets you can chomp like candy.
I read the back of the box:
Great tasting dietary supplement. Effervescent technology offers 100% immediate absorption. Take at the first sign of cold symptom or in crowded places. Effervescent Health Formula. Antioxidants! Amino Acids! Electrolytes! 1000 mg of Vitamin C! Seven Herbal Extracts! Great Taste! Sounds good! I shook one out of the tube and popped it into my mouth. ... You know how they say "Whatever you do in life comes back to you?" --as in Karma payback??
The second that tablet hit my mouth, I was instantly transported back to my moment of karmetic (is that a word?) act. It was the Fall of my 11th year. My friend, Nina and I were sitting beside our friend, Tim, in the front pew of his fathers church. Times were strict back then. Children were not allowed to sit alone in church without an adult guardian beside them. We were allowed to sit alone because Tim's father was preaching and could keep a Reverend eyeball on us.
Remember Fizzies? Tablets that came in different flavors that you could plunk into a jug of water and create a sort of Kool-aid?
I had two Wild Cherry lifesavers and a Lime flavored Fizzy in my little pink church clutch. When Tim's father began the "boring" sermon...I reached inside my bag and handed Nina a lifesaver, popped the other one in my mouth..and handed Tim the Fizzy.
Seeing us slurping on our candy, he didn't think twice and with a grin of "thanks" he slid that Fizzy into his mouth and chomped down with gusto.
I stared straight ahead at the podium where his father was preaching, with a (much practiced) innocent look on my face while Tim began to make muffled gagging noises and squirm beside me.
Tim's father looked sternly down at his squirming son.
I slid a peripheral look at Tim and could see green foam oozing from the sides of his mouth. There was an awkward few seconds of silence while the Preacher stared at Tim in puzzlement. I could feel hysterical laughter build inside me--I bit hard on the inside of my cheeks to keep from blowing my innocent look. The Preacher speared Tim with a parental look of "you are so going to get it when you're home" lifted his hand and pointed to the back of the Church. With green foam dripping off his chin, Tim lunged off the pew and ran.
The Preacher looked sternly down at Nina and I. I blinked innocently back up at him. He continued his sermon.
For 29 years that Green Fizzy Karma had laid waiting. Biding its evil time. As I hunched over my kitchen sink gagging and spewing orange flavored foam...I thought of Tim...and wondered if he was somewhere out there in this crazy Karma revenge world--spontaneously laughing--and wondering why.
P.s. Moral of the story? Put the &%#! tablets in a glass of water!!
I was sniffing around the Hello Kitty Shop on my lunch break yesterday. The clerks there know me as a regular so they were busy pointing out a new shipment of Hello Kitty paraphanelia to add to my collection. I told them that I was just "looking" today because Thursday was my 40th birthday and I didn't want to buy a Kitty that someone may have already bought for me as a gift.
**Gives the HINT stare out from my blog to those whom would be responsible for Hello Kitty gift givage to me**
So...one of the girl clerks pipes up and says, " Oh! My Mom just turned 50!"
" And she said her 40's were the BEST ever!"
"She was really ugly in her 30's and then when she turned 40 "POOF" she got pretty and cool!"
"Um well I mean look at you!" "Yer already pretty so um...think...um...of how great you'll look in your 40's!"
I was living in Urk, Holland. There was a gorgeous blue eyed, black haired, 18 year old boy ( named Riekelt) who had expressed an interest in going out with me. He was beautiful to look at, but I was in one of those odd periods of time. I had been dating a boy during my Senior year in High School. He was older and had left for college before I graduated. We still wrote and talked on the phone from time to time, but distance and the inevitable growing up and apart was creeping on our relationship slowly choking the life from it.
It was a warm evening. Riekelt came by and asked me to go for a walk with him. I agreed. We walked through the village side by side, the last rays of that days sun bathing things around us in sleepy orange. Sometime between walking the cobblestone streets and sitting on the wood of the Urk fishing docks he had taken my hand into his. I sat beside this beautiful boy and watched fishing boats bob in the North Sea spread out before us. I listened to him speak of growing up on this Island and of his dreams for his future. The sun melted into the horizon and we headed back to the house of the people I was staying with.
He walked me to the back door of the house, then paused. I remember the intense blue of his eyes as he leaned down and gently placed his lips on mine. There was a hum like a purr of electricity. He leaned in closer and I stepped forward and into him. He ran the tip of his tongue along mine in a soft caress then stepped back and broke the kiss.
He smiled a man's smile and traced his finger along the frame of my cheek. I stood completely still and watched him walk away until his frame melded in with the shadows of the evening.
His shiny new backpack is filled with fresh school supplies. His "first day of school" clothes are laid out beside his new shoes. We did the "meet the teacher see the new classroom" BBQ last Thursday. His bus schedule has been confirmed... All preparation has been completed...and I find myself filled with grade school memories.
Kindergarten: The feel of my teachers hand on mine as she pressed my 5 year old hand into white plaster. Playing house in the play kitchen in the "imagination section of the room". Sitting with strange children reciting my ABC's. My mother handing me an umbrella to take with me to school and warning me to "keep its pointed end down when carrying it so I wouldn't poke someones eye out. The feeling of disgust at her admonishment. I was "5". I KNEW how to hold an umbrella. The feeling of embarassment that EVERY day the bus driver would close the door on me-pinning me to the side of the bus-when I attempted to climb up onto the stairs to enter the bus. I was the only child ENTERING the bus. You'd think she would see me?!
First Grade: The teacher drilling us on our ABC's while holding a witch puppet on her hand. The intense boredom...and making up millions of creative excuses to be able to escape and hang out alone in the sick room. The teachers way of controlling us by leaving the room and sitting out in the hall. She would only return once a class envoy was chosen to apologize to her and ask her to return to our room. The question she asked us once, "If you could do anything you wanted what would you do?". Listening to the kids responses of "draw on the walls, eat all the candy they wanted..." while dreaming of running along the trail in the forbidden far track of the school yard that was reserved for 6th graders. Watching the strange look flicker over her face when I shyly spoke of my wish to her. Puzzling as to what that look meant.
Second Grade: Intense dislike of the short squat teacher. Watching her smugly while she slammed a big black paddle onto her desk and screamed at us to try to get us to behave. Sitting inside day after day during recess writing spelling words over and over. Plotting ways to get back at her... Standing in line for a bathroom break...wrestling with the boys who stole my hair ribbons while waiting in line. Pee'ing on the TWISTER game because I had to "rrrrrrreally go" but I was winning and refused to quit.
Third Grade: Winning the times table contest. Hounding the teacher day after day so she would hear my times table recitation so I could get my star. The feeling of deflation when the prize was a plastic smiley bag. The satisfied smirks of the other kids that I won a crappy prize. The intense happiness that filled me when my teacher informed me that she was going to send away for an advanced reading/writing course for me that I could work on once my schoolwork was done. Plotting to be finished with ALL school work by recess so the rest of the day was MINE to dream and read and write. The look on my Mother's face when I came home with straight A report cards.
Fourth Grade: The teacher who's mentality matched her name--Ms. Fern. The horrible boredom. Screaming inside myself during Math class. WHY ARE YOU STILL TEACHING US LONG DIVISION??? WE'VE GOT IT ALREADY!! Freaking out when she told us to open our math books to "long division" and (after grabbing the hand of my best friend) running screaming around the room. We made it around 3 times before she snapped out of her shock and grabbed us. Standing outside the Teachers Room in the Gym and listening to my best friend getting swatted for the screaming fest. Feeling angry because I was the one who got in trouble and she was the one being hit. Snarling at my best friend to "STOP CRYING cuz then the TEACHER wins!" when she exited the Teachers room sniffling back tears.
Fifth Grade: Listening to the Teacher read "Where the Red Fern Grows" Sobbing at the death of Dan and Little Anne. Listening to her read us "The Hobbit" and "Trumpet of the Swans". Studying at night with my Mom to remember how to spell government for the next day spelling contest. Actually receiving that word during the contest...and misspelling it. *dammit!* Learning the capitols of the United States. Escaping to the woods outside our class. Hiding from the horrible boredom of school.
Sixth Grade: Smirking at the big brown eyed clog wearing teacher who cried whenever we acted up. Doing everything in my power to make her cry. Inciting the class to rebel--go on strike--refuse her commands--skipping classes. Her bravery at trying to swat me one day (which she was NOT allowed to do to me) over an infraction she thought I had done. My arguing calmly with her telling her, " I didn't do it and she had better not hit me or I'd hit her back". Realizing I was never going to leave that Punishment Room until she hit me with the paddle. Feeling resigned and letting her after repeatedly warning her I would hit her back. Turning and slapping her after she hit me with the paddle. Being dragged to the Principles office to be expelled. Smirking the next day as I sat in class--with my (then guardian) having talked the principle into keeping me in school.
Aah the memories of a "lifetime ago". And now my son begins the filling of his memory book. I wish him happiness and good times with good friends. These are the years that will define him.
I think we forget that under all the bravado, hormone craze, frantic fad following and rebellion they are really just kids who are trying hard to grow into adults. That they are trying desperately to find their own place in this world just like we all did in what seems (at times) to be eons ago.
One of weekly things I do with my son, MiniWarrior, is to take him to the Mall. It helps him learn socialization and sensory control. We've been making an outing of it every Saturday for a couple of years now.
Now there are 3 current loves in MiniWarrior's life:
1. Swords 2. Anything gruesome related to Halloween 3. Teenagers
There are 3 stores that MiniWarrior loves in the Mall:
1. Spencers 2. Hot Topic 3. The Sword/Knife shop
I was excited to bring MiniWarrior to the Mall this Saturday because I had seen that Spencers had started to decorate for Halloween. We arrived and MiniWarrior "Ooh'd" and "Aah'd" at the freaky monsters standing in the windows of Spencers and stepped inside the store with a huge grin on his face.
There was a particular gruesome creature on the floor which was just a torso and a head. I knew MiniWarrior would love it as it sort of looks like Smegal on (MiniWarrior's favorite movie--The Hobbit). I pointed it out to MiniWarrior and said, "Me Precious! Me Precious!"
He was standing there giggling when all of a sudden this friggen Smegal creature started crawling across the floor towards him moaning! I jumped back in surprise and looked over at MiniWarrior. His eyes were the size of 50 cent pieces and he scrambled over to me bellowing, " MOM! MOM!"
We heard a muffled chuckle and then a teenage store clerk came from around one of the Halloween displays wielding a remote control. He showed it to MiniWarrior and moved the Smegal creature back and forth a bit. MiniWarrior laughed and chatted with the guy. The kid then walked around and pushed all sorts of buttons on the various Halloween displays grinning as MiniWarrior exclaimed excitedly over everything.
He did the "cool dude" hand slide-fist bump handshake with MiniWarrior as we left Spencers. Grinned and waved and wished us a "Great Day!".
Next it was on to the Toy Shop for the new toy sword of the week. We found an entire Knight set for 7 dollars. Chest plate, Shield and Sword. The teenage store clerk at the Toy Store patiently snipped each plastic band holding the set into the packaging and grinned as she handed MiniWarrior each piece. MiniWarrior left the store whirling and stabbing make believe enemies.
Next it was on to the Sword/Knife Shop. MiniWarrior did battle a bit with the armored Knight that stood guard outside the Sword shop then stepped in to gaze longingly at the REAL swords on display. The young guy working there called MiniWarrior over and admired MiniWarrior's new Knight outfit. Then...he let MiniWarrior hold a REAL sword patterned after the Lord Of The Rings King Sword! The sword was as tall as MiniWarrior. He could barely hold it...honestly I don't know who's smile was bigger, MiniWarrior's, mine or the young store clerks.
A couple of teenagers were perusing the store and walked over to chat with MiniWarrior a while he held the sword. They admonished him about trying to hold it by the blade and helped him get a better grip on the handle.
There was happy laughter behind us as we exited the store and MiniWarrior turned to me saying, "MOM! How AWESOME of a day am I having?!"
Off to Hot Topic Store and more perusing. Teenagers were milling around looking surly--all wild hair colored and dressed in tough looking black clothes adorned with silver zippers and dangles.
MiniWarrior grinned and talked to each one. He admired the young store clerks red colored hair. He asked her if she was a "rock star". She laughed and said, "she wished". She listened as he expressed his wish to have colored hair then gently pointed out that "halloween" was the best time for boys to have "colored hair".
He stopped and admired another teens eyebrow piercings. She leaned down so he could get a closer look and let him "touch" one. He beamed and declared her "cool". She smiled a shy smile and said, "your pretty cool yourself." MiniWarrior nodded and moved on to the next Teen. A few more "hand slide-bump knuckle" handshakes later and we were off. I turned my head as we walked out of the store and every teen there had a smile on their faces as they watched MiniWarrior strut out in his full Knight regalia.
Those of you that have followed my Blog know that my 7 year old son (MiniWarrior) is Autistic.
When you first meet him you wouldn't guess that he was anything other then a very sweet, friendly, talk-ative little boy. He's bright, he's curious and he will pepper any unsuspecting victim with as many questions as he can possibly fit in between the time it takes you to realize the questions "aren't going to end" and the 'survival flight syndrome' kicks in.
You would not guess the turmoil that he lives with every day inside his head. Every sound, every smell, every tiny detail around him, his brain picks up and stores. There are no filters. That's the hard part. No filters. It's also the wonderful part. No filters. He sees everything in absolute clarity. He embraces every person he meets with the warmth us "filtered" people reserve for family and close friends.
When he was 4, I took him to a Park to go swimming and play in the sand for a bit. It was a scorching hot, peel the flesh from your bones day. The parking lot was crowded with cars. By the time we shuffled our way to the park entrance I was sweating, irritated and questioning the sanity of spending the day par-broiling pressed in between the mass of strangers. However, MiniWarrior was skipping along beside me, excited about spending the day at the lake, so I paid our entrance fee and resigned myself to staking out a spot among the masses and sweating through the mandatory beach blanket guard detail.
We jostled our way through the park entrance line and paused at the creek bridge to survey the terrain for our family blanket nesting spot. It was going to be a challenge. Every square foot of grass and sand was covered with the white flesh of humanity.
"God, look at all the people!" I groaned to myself.
MiniWarrior hopped up and down beside me tugging on my arm.
I blinked sweat from my eyes and looked down at him wiggling happily beside me.
"Look at all the friends!" He exclaimed in happy awe.
I paused and looked into his eyes glowing with happiness and felt something old and rusty shift inside me.
What a treasure he is. Every day of the 7 years I have spent with this child has opened my filtered world to the stark beauty surrounding us.
Experts call Autism a handicap. Sometimes I wonder who the "handicapped" people really are.
Lost and Found 13 years ago I found my birth Mother. She's been over at my house this weekend working and spending time with me and her grandson. I never grow tired of watching her. Listening to her. Enjoying having her in my life. When you grow up without blood relatives, you are fascinated when you come in contact with people who share your DNA. I remember the first thing I thought when I saw my (birth) Mother for the first time. She has my eyes. My adopted mother had told me that my birth mother had blue eyes. I grew up staring into my eyes in the mirror's reflection thinking I was looking at my father's eyes. Chocolate brown. I wished so often they were blue. 13 years ago she stepped off a plane, walked up an airport ramp and into my life. A tiny framed woman with soft blond hair and chocolate brown eyes. With the exception of my son, I have not loved anyone as deeply as I do her. This delicate person who gave me life. They say the eyes are the window of the soul. I agree. For if you look in mine you'll see the reflection of my mother, in the window of my soul.
When We Were Short and Stupid: A Blogger's Collection of Childish Tales
The year was 1971. It was the Summer of my 6th year. My sister (who is 2 years older then me) and I had been dropped off to be babysat for the weekend by some old friends of our Mother. To grant privacy to these people I shall from here on refer to them as Mr and Mrs Smith. Mr. Smith was a tall, slender, silver haired man with piercing blue eyes. His hobbies were carving (disturbing) wall hangings of flying birds and Evergreen trees out of wood, reading the newspaper and his religion of choice, Christianity. Mrs. Smith was a quiet woman. She garbed herself in nondescript brown dresses that she topped with an equally nondescript brown knit shawl. She wore her grey streaked hair in a bun and had some kind of head shaking problem. Like Katheryn Hepburn had. I remember staring in morbid fascination at the bun on top of her head, watching it wobble back and forth with each shake of her head. The only time I had ever seen her head stop shaking was the day she visited our home and was startled by the popping sound of a dying light-bulb from the hanging lamp above her perch on our sofa. That was good for 8 seconds of non-head shaking time. I know. I counted the seconds in my head when I saw her head go still. One one thousand...two one thousand...three one thousand...four one thousand (It's a miracle! She's been cured by the light bulb explosion!)...five one thousand...six one thousand...seven one thousand (look at that! Her heads completely still!)...eight one thousand...nine..(oops! Nope. Houston, we have head wobble). Mr. and Mrs. Smith were a deeply religious couple. And very poor as they lived by the motto "God will provide" instead of the sin of a regular paycheck. They owned one tiny black and white television set which was turned on only for the local news so Mr. Smith could see how the world was going to hell and give him fodder for his weekly Bible Study sermon notes. The only reading materiel was religious in nature and the local newspaper. I tried to sneak the comic page out of his paper one day out of desperation for some kind of entertainment, and was lectured for a full hour on the evils of "worldly" entertainment created to corrupt my young mind. The only snacks my sister and I were allowed were apples plucked from Mr. and Mrs. Smiths apple trees. Even that was strictly monitored. One apple between meals. The Devil might lead us into temptation if we consumed more than one. Devil temptation sounded like something I might enjoy so I snarfed down three of those forbidden apples while hunkered down behind Mr. Smiths wood shop. It was Sunday and the last day of my sister's and my stay at the Smiths house. We were currently holed up in Mr. Smiths study perched on a hard leather love seat that was pressed in between the bookshelves. There were no toys, no books other for us to read other then "The Origins of God". We had been told to sit quietly as it was "God's Day" and reflect on His wonderfulness. While sitting there quietly "reflecting" I suddenly became aware of a pressing consequence from my "dare the Devil to tempt me" multiple apple consumption. I crept quietly out of the study and slunk undetected into the bathroom and happily laid my "burden" to rest in a single porcelaine deposit. All was going well until I tried to flush my deposited burden away. Three flushes later I stood staring down at the damning evidence of my temporary lapse of multi apple consumption temptation. It lay there bobbing, mocking me. I started to sweat. What was I going to do? I couldn't just leave it laying there! I looked around the tiny bathroom frantically trying to find some solution. My eyes lit upon the tiny window above the bathtub. Eureka! Swathing my hand in Charmin, I reached in and snatched my sin evidence out of the bowl. Scampering over I reached up with my free hand to open the window and fling the monstrosity outside only the window wouldn't budge. It was frozen shut from years of paint layers. Now what?! I did the only thing a desperate 6 year old could do when faced with this crisis. I buried it in the bathroom waste basket. Multiple hand washings later, I slunk out of the bathroom and back into the Study. "What took you so long?" My sister asked shooting me a puzzled look. I answered her with a shrug and climbed back up beside her to resume my "religious reflection" on the sofa. 10 minutes later, I was pulled from my reflections by the opening of the Study door. Mr. Smith walked in, walked directly over to me and poked out his hand. "Is this yours?!" He bellowed. I looked down into his out thrust hand and there clutched in his gnarled age spotted hand was my previously hidden deposit. The horror of the discovery has wiped all memory of what happened after that from my memory.
There was an old man who lived in our motel in room #6. He walked with a sideways slouch, one arm clenched in a permanent fist that swung useless by his side and a sturdy wooden cane clutched in his good hand that helped his bad leg to keep tempo with his good leg. My Mom explained to me that he had suffered from a stroke and that is why his body didn’t work right. He had silver hair that he kept neatly trimmed and greased back with VO5 styling gel, and he smelled like the pink colored wintergreen candies that he kept by his bed in a clear plastic ten pound bag. I called him Grandpa Terrio. Everyday after kindergarten, Grandpa Terrio would sit in our kitchen and stamp his cane impatiently while I performed my daily chore of putting away the clean dishes that had dried in the counter dish rack. Once done, he and I would head off to the local restaurant called “Joyce’s Cafe”. There he would order a butterhorn with coffee and french fries and a coke for me. We would sit at the end of the counter by the till and Grandpa Terrio would converse with the “regulars” who sat so often at the counter that they seemed a permanent fixture of the Cafe. I would munch happily on my french fries, dipping them delicately into the ketchup that Grandpa Terrio had squirted onto my plate and watch the menagerie of faces as they played out a symphony of slurping coffee, sucking down cigarettes and jawing about local gossip and little injustices that they faced in their small worlds. One day a man came in with a big camera. It looked like the kind of camera you saw reporters on T.V. scurrying around with snapping pictures and blinding their hapless victims into blank eyed surrender with the huge cylinder flash case that housed a 3 inch flashbulb. I have a dim memory of the camera man’s face. He was young with dark hair that was slicked down and flipped to one side. I vividly remember him staring at me from the other end of the counter and gently teasing me trying to get me to look up and into the direction of his camera. The “regulars” at the counter added their gentle ribbing along with the camera man. I was painfully shy and despised their attention but managed to break out of my shell for a moment to grin at their good natured antics. The camera flashed a few times and the camera man murmured his approval. The “regulars” nodded their heads in similar approval than returned to their consumption of coffee, cigarettes and gossip, and happily, I to my french fries and coke. Grandpa Terrio had a hobby of collecting pebble size rocks and polishing them. He and I would go for walks always looking downward for a pretty new stone to add to his collection. I would walk along side him holding his twisted lame hand and pick up any pebble that Grandpa Terrio would jab at in approval with his cane. He made cute little wooden rocking chairs and cemented the polished stones to the back and sides. The rocking chair had dowels on the sides that held spools of thread and and a drawer under the seat to hold sewing gadgets. The seat of the rocking chair was stuffed so one could use it as a pin cushion. I still use one of his rocking chair creations to this day.. Rainy days we spent together in my parent’s kitchen piecing together various puzzles. We never worked on children’s puzzles. Only the 5,000 piece ones that were made for adults to labor over. He taught me how to find all the straight edged pieces first to make the outline and then how to separate the pieces by color. I was proud that he respected me enough to include me in something labeled “adult” when I was only 5. Sometimes, when the season was right Grandpa Terrio and I would go blackberry picking. Grandpa Terrio seemed to pride himself in knowing all the keen places where only the ripest berries grew. Only the biggest and juiciest would do. That pride was one day his downfall. It was a beautiful summer day when Grandpa Terrio and I headed out to pick some Blackberries. He knew about a patch of particularly juicy berries about a mile down Highway 99 that ran along side my parent’s motel. We armed ourselves with buckets and headed down the Highway. Grandpa Terrio was right. The berry patch was full of the ebony colored berries and we had a grand time of filling our buckets and ourselves with their plumb juiciness. It was getting late and our buckets were brimming over with our berry booty, when Grandpa Terrio spied the “Mother lode”. The berry patch we had been plucking our delicious loot from lay on top of a grassy ravine. It sprawled all the way down the ravine, but the only access was on top of the ravine. Grandpa Terrio had picked his way to the edge of the ravine and had spied the “Mother lode” hanging on a vine just over the edge. Using his cane he snared the “golden” vine and gently pulled it towards him. Just when the prize was almost in his grasp the allusive vine slipped off of the cane. I watched in horror as Grandpa Terrio lost his footing and teetered over the edge of the ravine. I grabbed hold of his shirt and tugged him backwards toward me. All ready off balance his feet flew out from beneath him and he landed with a crash, flat on his back beside me! I was glad that he hadn’t fallen down the ravine, but I was scared because he had hit his head pretty hard when he fell backwards. I sank to my knees beside him and patted him on his chest staring earnestly into his face to see if he was alright. He seemed a little stunned but reassurred me that he was o.k. He said that he needed my help to stand up because of his bad arm and leg. I tugged with all my 5 year old strength on his frail, age spotted hand, but I was too small and weak to pull him up. I tried pushing down on the toe of his shoes but that didn’t work either. My heart was pounding frantically and I felt like crying when I saw a trickle of blood run down the side of his head and onto one of his ears. Grandpa Terrio looked me in the eye and told me quietly that I needed to run home and get help. I nodded my head. I would do it. He didn’t ask me if he thought I could do it. I saw the calm assurance in his eyes that he knew I could. Even in need he never patronized me. He respected me. I would rather have died than let him down. I ran as fast as I could down the side street that the berry patch grew along than stopped when I came to Highway 99. There were 4 lanes. 2 going northbound and 2 going southbound. Cars whipped by me traveling in both directions. I remembered my Mom teaching me how to cross. She had taken me by the hand and showed me how to look both ways up and down the highway before crossing. She had practised with me crossing back and forth and then had stood on one side while she watched me cross on my own. She wasn’t there to watch me this time. It was up to me. Grandpa Terrio counted on me. I looked left than right. Too many cars. I looked left than right again, still too many cars. My heart was racing and I could hear my ragged breathing mixed in with the sound of the cars zooming by me. Left, than right. Too many cars! I would never be able to cross! Suddenly a Semi-truck pulled up along side me. The driver looked down at me and then forward at the speeding traffic. “When I tell you to, you run as fast as you can and cross the road, ya hear?” He bellowed down at me. I nodded my head and waited for my cue. “Run!” He yelled. I took off running the sound of my sneakers slapping the pavement in sync with the frantic pounding beat of my heart. I flew across Highway 99 than sped onward towards home. The run to my home was uphill. My parents motel was named after that hill. “Hilltop Motel”. I kept my eye on the top of the hill knowing once I reached it I would be home. I reached the top in record time. As I rounded the corner of our driveway I saw my Mom standing by a lady who was climbing into a car. They both froze when they saw me running towards them. I gasped out the Grandpa Terrio had fallen in the blackberry bushes. I told them where and they took off in the lady’s car. I stood there gasping for air watching the car disappear down the road. I found out later that day that the lady who drove my Mom to where Grandpa Terrio had fallen was Grandpa Terrio’s daughter. She visited him once a month. Mom said it was so she could borrow money when Grandpa Terrio got his Social Security check. I don’t know if that’s true but if so, I guess we were lucky that day that it was the first of the month. Grandpa Terrio was fine. He had a big bump on the back of his head and a small gash by his ear. I went to see him in his room that evening. He was standing in his kitchen holding a wet towel to the bump on his head. He seemed embarrassed to see me. I think it hurt him to let me see him when he was weak. He mumbled that he was alright and that I should go on home. I was a little hurt that he wanted me to leave, but I understood his need to save face. I turned around and left giving him the respect that he had so often given to me. One day, not long after, when I was standing on top of the stool in the kitchen putting the clean dishes away, my Mom walked into the kitchen and told me quietly that Grandpa Terrio had died. I stood frozen with a plate in one hand and and towel in the other. I watched my Mom turn and walk into the living room and then out the front door. I calmly opened the kitchen cupboard and put the plate inside. Numbly I finished putting the rest of the dishes away, all the while I kept wondering why I wasn’t crying. I blinked my eyes in disbelief, but they felt oddly dry and scratchy. The next day my family went to the funeral home to “view the body”. My brothers and sister were freaked out at the sight of Grandpa Terrio in the casket. My sister shoved me forward and pressed me against the casket. My brothers teased me and said that Grandpa Terrio was going to jump out of the casket at me. My sister kept trying to get me to poke the body. My oldest brother got brave enough to pick up the maroon tie that Grandpa Terrio was wearing. I didn’t touch him. I didn’t say a word. I thought he looked nice in his grey suit white shirt and maroon tie. His hair was trimmed and combed back nicely as I knew he would have liked it. The funeral person had placed Grandpa Terrio’s lame hand to rest across his stomach. It made him look dignified. I stared at that hand remembering it as the one I had held so many times on our walks. I desperately wanted to reach out and touch it one more time, but I was afraid that my brothers and sister would poke fun at me. Later we attended Grandpa Terrios funeral in a little wooden chapel. My Mom kept the booklet that we received at the front door. I guess it was a bulletin like the one you got at church that told you what was going to happen during the service. I don’t remember the service, only that I sat on a wooden pew and stared at my shoes. I watched as I swung first my right leg and then my left. I remember that I didn’t cry. Years later my Mom asked me if I remembered Grandpa Terrio. She said she remembered that I had cried for a week solid after the funeral. To this day I don’t remember shedding one tear.
Reflections 57 days until the big 40 occurs. It seems strange to see that number next to my name. I don't feel 40? Does one ever "feel" their age? I really don't mind turning 40. It's just a number, really. However I'm finding that it's not how I feel inside that's bothering me. It's the actual number. 40. With 40 comes the realization that you can actually look into your future and see how things are going to end up. After 40 years of living with yourself you become familiar with your own pattern of doing things. How you analyze decisions. If you make good decisions or bad ones. Your habits, weaknesses, strengths. Its haunting to suddenly reach an age where you can actually see (barring unforeseen upsets) where you are going to end up when you get old. Where you will be when you retire from the regular work life. When I was younger, the future always seemed so mysterious. So open for exciting things. Wonderful things. Now the future is not so mysterious anymore. With that knowledge the innocence of "maybe someday I will do this or that or be this person or that person" (insert your personal title of wishes) gets tainted. One can still make changes in their life. You can still redirect the path you are currently taking and end up in places you didn't expect. New places. New and exciting things can still occur. I think this is where "mid-life"crisis steps in. People realizing that they suddenly can see where they are going to end up, panic and seemingly make crazy impulsive decisions to drastically alter the present course of their lives. Scary that I now understand that. I've peered into my future. If I stay on present course, I will be alone living in a modest ranch house with my adult autistic son for company. I'll retire from a job that was nice and enabled me to buy the modest ranch house for my son and I to live in. I'll help my son with yard work when my knees aren't complaining too loudly. Maybe I'll have that little garden I've always dreamed about. I'll continue to putter away on my "cute" writings. Filling folders with amusing tidbits of my zany insights on things. Gads. Time for a fork in that dismal path.