Trying To See The Light Through The Flames

I have to admit I am still searching for the light that is missing in this box into which I have crawled. Sadness seems to be the one emotion that I still feel. I am weary of being with a man who no longer loves me. The weariness lives in the marrow of my bones sucking them dry the richness of life squeezed out of them.

This weekend I was suppose to have a girls get together at my house on the coast. Everyone bailed. There was one reason or another and with this; I realized that there was not one person I could depend on. Not my husband, not my kids, not my friends…and I vagely thought about how I had better start depending on myself alone. So I headed up to the house. Me, myself and I.

As I got closer to San Francisco the air became thicker, filled with the smoke of the fires burning in Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Rosa. Some of my favorite places in the world up in flames. You could smell charred houses, burnt grapes and the bodies of those who were unaccounted for. Lives once vibrant and hopeful now trying to figure out what they will do without their homes,without their jobs and all their earthly possessions gone. Ninety six thousand displaced people all living in survival mode.

I took the back way on Hwy 1 instead of my usual route through Santa Rosa knowing that the I did not want to witness all the devastation. Nor did I want to get trapped on a highway that could become an inferno. So I drove along the blue waters of the coast, skipping all the unpleasantness except those kinds of thoughts rattling around in my head.

I arrived here in time to watch the sun set on the ocean with bats dancing to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in the nighttime sky and the waves of the ocean beating like drums as they broke against the rocky shore. I grabbed a bottle of vodka and drank to 30 years of marriage that is in the same predicament as  Thelma and Louise hitting the gas and driving off a cliff into uncertainty.

The next morning was beautiful and as I walked the cliffs I started to feel like myself again as the mist in the air washed over me, cleansing my soul. As I ambled on, the winds began to pick up and I thought about all those firefighters 50 miles away who would soon be battling them along with the intense heat of the ash as it rained down from the sky.

Soon an old lady came into view. I judged her to be about 80 and she was carrying a jet-black cane over her head. We passed one another with a smile and a nod; each continuing our own way with our own thoughts. A mile later we met again as we retraced or steps but this time I asked her “Why are you carrying your cane over your head?”

“To remind me how strong I am,” was the answer.

“Why do you need reminding of that?” I asked “you look strong enough to me that I wouldn’t want to take you on in a back alley somewhere.”

She chuckled as she began to explain that she was a fire evacuee staying with a friend. On Sunday, in the dead of night, she was awakened by the fire fighters from the station two doors down who were banging on her door.

“You have got to get out. You have got to leave now,” they ordered.

She wrapped a house coat around herself, grabbed a pair of pants, a shirt and her shoes,  went into the bathroom and grabbed her toothbrush. Then she picked up her purse, called the dog and left her house.

“It’s all gone now,” she tells me with not an ounce of pity in her voice.

“Why did I get my toothbrush?” she looks at me and asks the question as if I might provide an answer that would satisfy her.

“I needed my medicines but left those behind. Yet, I took time to get my toothbrush. A $1.50 toothbrush,” she says with a shake of her head and a laugh. “Crazy isn’t it!”

She tells me that her Grandmother’s china is gone along with her deceased husband’s favorite books, her wedding dress, and everything else she owned in the world. Pictures of her children on their first day of school, her collection of salt and pepper shakers, all her clothes and her piano at which she sang to start every morning.

“But I will sing again,” she assures me with a smile. “For I am strong and I am happy and I am ALIVE!!!!” she says with a great belief in herself  and sense of joy that literally takes my breath away.

“I will begin again and who knows what I will become? Opportunity is banging at my door just like those firemen did,” she says with determination and grace as she heads off down the trail.

“It’s never too late to re-create yourself,” she yells back at me with a smile.

Later that day I offer my house up to any family who might need it. I talk on the telephone to a man who skirted the police blockades just to return to his house and sift through the ashes that now contain the contents of his entire life.

“I found my son’s bronzed baby shoes,” he informs me along with a few other trinkets of a life that felt meaningful and alive to him.

“We will just have to start over,” he tells me a sob stiffelled in his throat.

And although he cannot see me I find myself nodding my head at his words. For many times in our lives we are forced to start over, not of our own choosing, but because of forces that intrude unexpectantly. We can choose to see sorrow as an opportunity or we can wallow in our own misery until the end of time ultimately robbing ourselves of our accomplishments and the ability to morph into something we might not have expected… Someone better. Someone Kinder. Someone Wiser. And Someone who depends on themselves for their own happiness and to create a satisfying life no matter what is thrown in our way.

Today I met so many amazing people…. survivors and volunteers alike. And in these meetings I came away blessed. I hope they will be too.

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P.S. Thank you to all the fire fighters, healthcare workers, inmates, sheriff departments and all the volunteers who have saved lives while risking theirs.

 

 

 

 

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A Knight’s Myth

 

You are no longer mine

Even though you are still here

In this castle you don’t want to be in

With a woman you don’t want to be with

With children who, well,…. who knows what they realize

But soon their lives will change

Their innocence forever gone

Wiped away by male menopause

That dreams of lusty new love

Perpetual hard-ons

And fireworks that light the night sky

With love’s first kiss

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You insist you are not angry

“Look how quite I am”

“Look how composed”

Head down, eyes masked

Yet the words you CHOOSE sting

The heat charring them before they leave your mouth

I know that you will not admit the anger

Because it would make you appear

Flawed to yourself

And you cannot have anyone think you are

Anything less than

Perfect

Gallant

Charming

Noble

A Hard working

Self-Sacrificing

Christian Man

With all the Qualities

That a knight is supposed to possess

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And you have to see yourself in this way

To like who you are

Because if you really looked deep inside

You would be devastated

By the little boy inside of you

Who cries out from pain of

An abusive mother

And an absent father

And a self that has been lost for so many years

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You think you have found yourself

Now that you have found your voice

But you have only skimmed the surface

Of your deep lake of hurt and anger

That drives you to change

EVERYTHING

But your deepest self

Because you are afraid if you really had to examine

The truth of who you are

And where you came from

Your tears would flood this earth

And there would be

No one there to dry your tears

And stop the carnage that you are creating

Maybe someday you will become like

That Knight you so desperately try to emulate

By being brave, true, and loyal to yourself alone

And by slaying that ancient dragon

That lives within your soul

But you will have to cross deep rivers

High Mountains

And Low Valleys

To get to the place

Which brings you peace

But by then

The castle will be empty

The princess gone

And you will have fought the battle

But lost the war

Everything you once loved

And everyone who loved you

GONE

And you will be

But a mere man seated at

The Roundtable all alone

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One Of THOSE Posts

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This weekend our cousin died in an automobile accident. She was 29 years-old, newly married, and had a three year-old daughter. For her family it is a tragedy that defies understanding or words. For her husband and daughter it is incomprehensible loss in which parts of their lives will never be able to be restored. For the rest of us it has shaken us to the marrow of our being because we have lost such a wonderful woman which just reinforces how fleeting life can be. How random things are. How we really never know when our number is up and how scary that can be.

Sometimes I wonder that if you knew you had 24 hours to live whether it would be a good thing or a bad one?  Would it be wonderful to have the time to say your goodbyes, express your love, and to impart your wisdom? Would death be a tad scary if it all boiled down to 1440 minutes? Would being surrounded by loved ones make that fear disappear?

Obviously, V didn’t know she would die on Saturday. She woke up happy and carefree after having a date night with her husband. Life was looking good as she was going to pick up her daughter from her mother’s house.  And then, just like that, she rounded a curve and she was gone.

Did she leave the house planting a kiss on her husbands check? Does her husband wish he had if he didn’t? And how often have I left my house irritated instead of in a loving mood? What would my family’s last impression of me be the majority of the times that I have stepped outside of my front door? Would they have the good to remember or the bad? Would they feel guilty for the rest of their lives because our last words were not the words we would have said if we had known that they were the last words we would ever say to one another? It gives me pause to think about the ending of life in this way.

And so, yes, this is one of THOSE posts. A gentle reminder that we never really know when our time is up. A “go hug your kids” kind of post. Have sex with your spouse kind of post. A wake-up call to phone your mother. A take out the trash because you love your dad post. It is a post that calls attention to the fact that what we do today really does matter because it may be the last thing we are remembered by the people that mean the most to us.

Amen (so be it)

 

Love Knows No Bounds

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Last night my sweet aunt Nan died. She was almost 90. Nan was the one I could call and discuss family politics with. She always had an answer to ponder and at times I think she knew her brother, my Dad, almost better than he knew himself. She was the one who nurtured my interest in genealogy and the records I am going through now are a result of her holding onto those pieces of family history that she believed could improve our future if we had access to the past. Yes, Aunt Nan was the family historian and was well suited for the job.

Aunt Nan was also a go-getter. She was practical, forthright, always willing to take your call, and smart as a whip.  She was someone I admired immensely. And while the majority of her life was happy and enjoyable, the end was not, as she suffered from severe dementia for the past seven years or so.

Dementia is cruel. It is disheartening and robs its victims of their personalities. It steals away their memories and drops a steal-clad veil over what makes a person uniquely themselves. For years, Aunt Nan no longer knew her husband, her children, her life-long friends, and was unable to celebrate the births of her great-grandchildren in any sort of meaningful way. While she held a baby she had no idea who the baby belonged to. Even worse, she lost a child and never knew it. Aunt Nan became a shell of her former self. Her brain  locked away while her body lingered on.

Unfortunately, a few years after Nan’s mind started shutting down, her husband, Uncle J, also began developing dementia. It was heartbreaking to see this former surgeon slowly begin to fade away into himself.My cousins now had two parents who needed round-the-clock care. I grieved for them understanding the difficulties of having two parents who were both incapacitated. To make matters worse, a doctor recently told the family that Aunt Nan could live another 10 years because she was as healthy as a horse.

Then three weeks ago my Uncle J died. It was expected for he was fading and rebounding for the past several weeks. He and Aunt Nan had been married 64 years. Thankfully, Nan didn’t know that J was gone…or did she?

It seems strange that a woman who just a few weeks ago was as healthy as a horse just up and dies. Rapidly. With only a few days notice. And it makes me wonder if love truly does transcend all. Is there some sort or life current that flows silently between long time lovers? Do we somehow “know” what we don’t? Can deep-seated love never be pulled out of you? It seems plausible. After all, I have many instances in my life where I knew something bad had happened to someone though I could not pick up on the particulars of what it was.

I think we all have invisible connections to those we love. Some of these “currents” are stronger than others but often, if we try, I think we can tap into them. Sometimes we get glimpses of  our loved ones state of mind. We can “know” without “knowing.” I think that is what happened to Aunt Nan. Although her mind was locked up somehow love held the key which let her know that J was gone and she had to go too. She really had no other reason to “live” for her one true love was gone.

So to Aunt Nan and Uncle J… I send you my love. I thank you for your kind words and advice. I appreciate the things you taught me and I thank you, Uncle J, for saving my sister’s life. My greatest hope for the two of you is that there is a swimming pool you can frolic in throughout eternity and that your undying love for one another and your family remain strong.

 

The Shooting At The Regional Center Touches Too Close To Home

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As I listen to the news about yet another mass shooting I wonder where did we go wrong? As individuals, as a society, as a nation and as citizens of the world? So much hate. So much misunderstanding. Too much religious influence. Too much disregard for others and ourselves. Too much interference in other nations foreign policy with its resulting unintended consequences.

My sons are served by the local Regional Center (RC) where we live. The RC serves individuals with autism, cerebral palsy, seizure disorders and mental retardation. They have allocated ABA services to my boys for several years and help with planning for their future. The people who work there are kind, loving and passionate people who work within the system to get their clients what they need so that they can live meaningful lives and reach their full potential. They are social workers, humanitarians and people trying to make a difference in this world. These are the kind of individuals who work at the RC…underpaid, overworked and empathetic in recognizing that disabled persons are often beat down by a society that ridicules those who are different. Most of all they try to give their clients and their families hope for their themselves and their loved ones with uncertain futures.

In the many years we have been served by the RC many of these case workers have become my friends as we spend time together trying to navigate a system in which the disabled have an unequal playing field where unemployment is rampant and the disabled are not seen nor heard. These RC workers often become of the voices for those who have little resources to take their concerns to the forefront of the political system.

Yesterday, I first became aware that something was not right with the RC when I received a phone call in the early afternoon. I picked up the phone to hear, “This is an emergency phone call. This is an emergency phone call. The Regional Centers will be open tomorrow.” Odd, I thought. Later I turned on the news and witnessed the carnage. I was horrified moreso than ever before, meaning ALL the unending shootings that have become a way of life for a country that in of itself is not suppose to be in a war zone.

So why did this particular act of violence have such an impact on me? Because I knew of these people. No, not the people who were murdered but I do know their co-workers in a different center and I shudder to think if it had been this RC instead. How, I wondered, would I explain this to my children had it happened here? How would I make them feel like the world was a safe place after walking through RC doors for so many years? How will the clients served by the Inland RC ever feel safe again in a world that already feels unsafe by many people who are autistic? How do you explain to a child that some people just view others as pawns in a game that is played with unwilling participants? How do you teach children to trust in a world in which just anyone can randomly shoot you in a restaurant, at work, on the soccer field, or at a concert; especially a child with autism who has already been bullied one time too often in his short life? How do you make them feel safe again?

The true answer is that you can’t because the shooters have taken away something that cannot be replaced with platitudes and pundit ideology…trust and the feeling of being safe. Yet, my kids have also learned that when bad happens that the response in the face of tragedy is the opposite. So while they saw sadness on the tv screen they also saw hugs, embraces, tears and people standing together to face adversity. But most of all they saw the love that fellow human beings can show one another and that defeats everything the terrorists stand for every single time.

 

 

 

Hollow Victory…311 Days to Fix This

We talk all day

We talk all night

Maybe that’s good

Maybe not right

Seems I am trying to force

An outcome

Instead of sitting in the silence of what isimages

And letting what happens…happen

On its own

Without my input

Or any artificial colors, preservatives or (l)dyes

But there is a major problem…

I don’t do limbo well

THEN

In the morning you come to me

Phone held tightly in your right hand

You show me your password

I turn my head

I don’t want to see

A hollow victory

For the sadness that lives in the lines around your eyes

The numbers mean nothing to me anymore

Why I ask? Why are you doing this?

It really doesn’t mean anything to me, he replies

But it means the world to you

It’s a small thing to do

When it is such a big hurt to you

And when he smiles

Some of the sorrow leaves the lines around his eyes

And I feel guilty for putting it there

For fighting for our marriage

Causing lines, scars, tears, misery

Refusing to give in to our marriage’s premature death

Refusing to pick out a casket

For today I see life and love

And I know we are okay for this moment

And that’s enough for me

Right now