Friday, June 27, 2014

Breaking the Silence

I could tell you where I've been, but I don't know. I don't even know where I am. I'm on the couch, but I'm not. Everywhere I've been, I haven't. (Been.) I'm in hot pursuit of myself.

Someone has stolen my words. It seems possible that I'm the someone: that I've swallowed my own words, that they've coated my belly with dust. I feel a little sick.

Yesterday was my mother-in-law's birthday. I'd forgotten, but Jim reminded me. I don't feel like we've talked much since her funeral. We've argued some. We've kept busy.

I'm forcing myself, just now, to stay still while awake, and if I'm honest, so much of what I've done, lately, has been part of a great effort to ward off depression. At least three times in the last couple weeks, I've done each of the things I do when I'm trying to avoid the pit. Some of them more.

I'm not in the pit. Still, I feel the heat rising from its yawning mouth. I look through the heat, and like gasoline fumes it distorts everything. You know what I mean. You've stood, haven't you?, at the pump in your flip-flops, the sun beating down, the go-go juice evaporating even as it pours into your tank. Maybe you haven't. I'm an expert in such matters. My tank is bottomless, the hot, black road the best lover I've ever had.

The sadness: it's not about my mother-in-law. It is, however, about change and the passage of time. My niece Brandi had a baby on Wednesday. She's perfect. I love her, already. But where has the time gone? Because it seems like just yesterday that Andrea, Brandi, Cade, and I were living together: that the kids were twelve and four, that I was reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to them. But it wasn't yesterday. It was ten years ago. Cade will start high school in the fall. I don't know if I'm ready.

Clementine's old enough, now, for kindergarten, and I don't know if I'm ready. It's time to submit a notice of intent, and I don't know if I'm ready. Baby Chip isn't a baby, anymore; I'm prone to bursting into tears about it.

I can't say for sure that I've loved anyone well enough, ever; yet, I'm so tired from the trying.

Cade and Baby Haven

No one wants his or her own sadness, let alone someone else's. You don't want mine. I know this, so I stop writing. I don't want your sadness, either, but I'll take it. I'll do my best to drown it in the lake. I'll carry it with me in the minivan, burning up the road, the brakes, tanks full of gas; driving toward I-don't-know-what; driving away from so much more. Or not. (It doesn't work, most times.)

In case you're like me and don't know what to do with sadness, I'll take it. Send me an e-mail. Talk to me.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

For Father's Day: A Repost

I am, 100%, my daddy's girl.

Mom has accused me, many times, of being just like my dad, but we all know my extroversion and sensitivity had to come from somewhere, and--if I were guessing--I'd credit her.  (My *cough* parachuting-hypnotist parent.) 

Still, I've definitely got some Carl Shafer going on, and I've got the sense that I'm exactly what happens when my parents collide (and raise up, with care), and I'm glad for it.  I can tell you, honestly: I've never wished to be anyone else.  I've wished to be better, but never other.

I've thought for days what I might write to pay tribute to my dad on Father's Day and find it impossible to pour so much love into a blog post. 

But I can share with you this: my dad permitted my first-grade teacher to give me a bunny, and he bought me a real pony and, later, a real horse.  He rode big chunks of the C&O Canal with me, on horseback.  He took me swimming in the Conococheague and rose up from the water of that tributary looking like a pirate, one eye closed.  He took me crabbing in the Chesapeake Bay; raccoon hunting in northern Pennsylvania and east Tennessee; fishing in various waters; camping in various parks.  There was an entire, father-daughter weekend camp, once, when I was a Brownie. 

My dad made the characters in the blue Bible Story book come to life and "elves" move the train around the Christmas tree backwards at my command.  He rug-burnt his nose, once, when his "all fours" got tangled up, playing bear (or horse) with me on his back.  He helped make many pinatas (including, once, a pink, Christmas pig) and a rocket ship for my raw-egg "astronaut."  Also homemade potato candy and chips, homemade ice cream, scrambled eggs red with tomato juice.

He removed, painlessly, my splinters.  He played games of all sorts with me: Pick Up Sticks, Stratego, Spades, Clue, Monopoly, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit.  He made my mom's baby-blue Volkswagen Beetle hop hills on the way to Hollowell Brethren.  He drove the youth bus for Millbranch Missionary Baptist. 

He drove over an hour, once, just to change my truck battery; eight hours, once, to retrieve my friends and me after I flipped a car and landed upside-down in a swamp near Hattiesburg, Mississippi; and another eight hours, once, just to get in the car and accompany me to Wolf Trap, where we watched The Wizard of Oz, to the National Symphony and Orchestra's playing the score.

I could write each thing as its own story.  Maybe, over time, I will, and all the other things, too.

But no matter what or when, the point is this:
my dad loves me, and--even in the bad times--I've always known.
Happy Father's Day, Dad.
I'm glad God picked you for mine.

Dad and Clementine

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Unblogged Happiness: May Edition

Early Mother's Day Dinner (just the 6 of us) at Cheeburger Cheeburger

Followed by Frozen Yogurt at Sweet Frog

A few hours (more dinner and frozen yogurt) on Mother's Day with the family into which I was born.

Big Dragon of Caryville, TN

Homemade Banana Pudding

Jellystone Luray (just a quick stop to check it out)

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

You'll be wanting that banana-pudding recipe. You can find it here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Saying Goodbye to My Mother-in-law

My mother-in-law left this world on May 30th, and I don't know that I have words, yet. There's at least one story brewing (that of the estate sale), but I doubt it will show up here. Elsewhere, maybe.

I've never met anyone else like her. My mother is nothing like her. I loved her and love her still, but I never figured her out completely. I continue to puzzle over certain things in my mind but know I'll never least until I've left this world, myself, because she's gone from here. I've written that already. I'm still reminding myself. The reminders don't skip light as stones across my heart but, instead, land heavy and rudely as rocks: the kind one picks up with both hands, the kind one grunts in throwing.

She lived for Jesus, yes, but she also lived for us to come home, and she made a home from nothing. It was a very real thing how she could sleep eleven of us, no problem, in her (single wide) trailer. No one on the floor. Just everything we needed. It hurt to empty out her home: to stand outside and know I'll never look up and see her waving from that door or porch again.

In the seven years I knew her, Jim and I never once arrived as early or lingered as long as she'd expected. It used to aggravate the snot out of me how we could communicate a time, nail it, and disappoint her, still. Already, I'm thinking I will miss this most, as it seems likely that no one else will ever be so excited to fold us in and keep us there. Maybe she knew there wouldn't be enough (that there's never enough) time. I don't know; I can't ask her.

She'd grown up hard and told me, once: she'd promised herself that, if she ever had children, she'd do everything in her power to make sure they felt loved. I came on the scene as her grown sons were getting married and understood right away that I had much to learn from her. Her sons' devotion toward her was one thing; their friends' devotion toward her was another. I wish you could have seen, last week, how these friends sent flowers and brought food, how they showed up over and over. How they wept with us. How they carried her casket.

I'm exhausted by emotion, but I've decided all over again to live out what she taught me. I've found out (or rediscovered) who my friends are. I've trust-fallen into the arms of my family and been caught. I've prayed new prayers (like: Father, please make me the friend to him that his mother was) and believed they'll be answered.

Clementine and Charleigh asked to see her one last time. Jim and I hadn't planned on this but didn't want to deny them the opportunity to say goodbye. We explained: all that's left is her body. Everything that makes her Mamaw is gone. The parts of her, we told them, that hug and talk and love and laugh are in heaven with Jesus. We believe this. We believe in new bodies over there, in many mansions over there.

I overhear Jim singing old hymns in the kitchen, and my heart swells. He could pull away, but instead, he draws closer. He draws closer to his Heavenly Father, and in so doing, he follows his mama right on out of this place. We're taking our time, but we're following her right on out. We're people of faith.