Today, my youngest stepson would have turned 26. We lost him to suicide almost two years ago, another date that we mark with grief as we pass through the years. He was a complex and magnificent soul, with so much to offer. But as we all do, he found it hard to get out of his own way. The hopelessness and futility that feeling can engender became too much for him to bear.
M marks his birthday by dining at our son’s favorite restaurant, accompanied by his picture. He buys our son a glass of wine, and leaves it untouched. To date, M does not want me to accompany him on this modest pilgrimage.
I feel somewhat detached from my own grief about his loss. I think that’s defense mechanism that I have built, particularly around losing him. I have seen my hopeless, raging grief spill out at sunset by the side of a mountain river. I know it’s there. I just don’t know how to manage it, particularly in the face of M’s deeply painful, life-changing sorrow. My grief lives tucked away on a shelf so that I can be strong with him, for him, in the face of his.
Losing a child, at any age and regardless of the relationship you have with them, means losing so much more than just their being, their day-to-day existence, your interaction with them. It means losing the future. Your hopes, prayers, and dreams for your child vanish in an instant. You grieve that loss as well. I chastise myself for the opportunities I missed with our son, the promises I didn’t get around to keeping, the unintentional hurts I may have caused him. It’s impossible not to ask myself if I contributed to his choice. Or if there was something I might have done that could have prevented it.
His joy in his life was as real as his struggle. I hope with all my heart that where he is now, he can freely feel all the joy, and that the struggle is gone. As my belief supports, I trust that he and I will have a chance to get it right in some other life. In the meantime, M and I honor the day of his birth in our own ways, and honor him daily with remembrance, and prayers that his spirit has found some peace.
Daily gratitudes: Jasper the Great Pyrenees Two horses playing “I’m gonna eat your face” Wind chimes Having Ice Melt on hand for our upcoming snowstorm Sending presents
Quote of the day: “May the stars carry your sadness away, May the flowers fill your heart with beauty, May hope forever wipe away your tears, And, above all, may silence make you strong.” — Chief Dan George
I am dogless and have been so for over a decade. But I love them passionately, all of them, regardless of age or breed. I (like most dog owners) had the absolute BEST DOG IN THE WORLD a number of years ago — Tug. He passed away as a consequence of cancer and I miss him every day. There have been others – J.T., Champ, and Roscoe, with Roscoe being the only remaining pup. He lives with his Alpha Dog ex-Pat, and he’s getting on in years. I’ve never been home enough since I’ve lived alone to feel like I’d be able to give a dog the care he or she would deserve, though I’d be overflowing with love.
When I lived in the Cottage, we had the pleasure of the Big House’s pug, Poppie, for company. He would wander in whenever he wanted and explore the delights of the garbage. Since I’ve lived in the Bungalow, I’ve co-habitated with cats, so no dogs were allowed. As we move to the Retreat, we expect that our travels will take us away from home too much for a dog. We should also learn how to live together (and get our cats to live together) before we introduce another living being into the mix.
In a perfect world, I’d win the lottery, buy a huge tract of land, and make it a home for senior dogs, giving them all the comfort and adoration they deserve in their golden years. That’s the dream. Living in reality, however, I find that I need that my spirit needs the company of dogs and since I don’t have my own, I must seek them out. They have the best souls, so pure-hearted. The dog park is within walking distance, but I feel like a real creeper when I go to the dog park without a dog to interact with other people’s dogs (not the people, just the dogs). So that’s out.
There are often dogs at the wonderful coffee shop two blocks over, but without fine weather, sitting on the patio, where I can interact with the dogs is not an option. Besides, people keep their dogs close by when they’re there. There’s Home Depot about 10 miles away and I can sometimes get a dog fix there, but again, people are there with a purpose and usually don’t want to dally about with a woman who just wants to pet their dog.
Fortunately, we are blessed with a Dog Bar at the far end of our Main Street, run by a lovely couple who are alumni of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. The place has opened up some as COVID-19 restrictions are eased, although it still has a lot of rules that apply to people, but not to dogs. I was lucky enough to score a seat at a barrel in the outside dog yard the other day, when I realized that one of the reasons I was out of sorts was because I had not pet a dog in at least two weeks. Unacceptable.
Entering the dog yard, I was immediately greeted joyfully by no fewer than six dogs. They acted as if I was an old friend that they hadn’t seen in years – it was lovely. (I’m going to believe that they saved that greeting just for me, not for any other patrons.) I do think they instantly know that I, being an animal shaman (in training), understand them. I smiled more broadly beneath my mask than I could remember doing for weeks. Dogs just have that effect, don’t they?
It was impossible to get all of their names. Cooper, the beagle mix, did not leave my knee for most of the time I was there. There was a lovely black and white fellow who nestled between my thighs. Two corgis (brothers), one with a tail (which I had never seen on a corgi before), who could walk under the picnic bench seats without being aware of their lack of height. A shy greyhound rescue who was quick to get a little panicked when overwhelmed, but who had made great strides in socialization. Domino, an imp with a harlequin face. A small rat terrier. A Bassett mix. I could go on and on. Everyone raced about playing, occasionally marking territory or pooping. Owners were quick to hand with their little green bags before any other dog could snack on such deposits.
Bliss. I sat nursing a glass of wine and petting dogs until the sun went down and it was too cold to be outside. My faith in the ways of the world according to dogs had been restored. We’re expecting somewhere between 10 to 40 inches of snow between tomorrow and Monday, so I doubt I’ll be venturing out there again for a while. Oh, but I do so look forward to my next visit, with all the best dogs.
Daily gratitudes: Blue skies The five-second rule My truck The return of the birds Saving veggie scraps to feed the bunnies in the snow
Quote of the day: “Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.” — Orhan Pamuk
Today is the 16th anniversary of my Father’s death. It feels strange to call it an anniversary, because I associate that term with happy events, despite the fact that I’ve lost an inordinate number of people I’ve cared for in my life, disproportionate to my age. My body is aware of today. I have felt ill for a week. This is not new to me. My body has a physical memory of events, moreso than my conscious mind. There comes a point, usually before the anniversary of the event, when my body and mind catch up with each other and I figure out why I’m feeling like a cow turd in a remote Highland field.
I remember most of this day as it happened 16 years ago. I knew Daddy (yes, I’m a Southern girl) wasn’t well. I had talked to him the day before, and the last thing we said to each other was “I love you”. That’s as it should be. I was still in bed when ex-Pat came in with the phone, and said it was Larry, my parents’ best friend. I knew then. My Mother couldn’t talk to me. I don’t even know if she called my brother or if Larry did. K was going to up to see ice sculptures in the mountains with her aunt and uncle that day, and to a classmate’s birthday party. I was supposed to go with her, but we decided we didn’t want to spoil her much-anticipated day. So I stayed home and her dad went with her.
What I don’t remember is what I did after they left. Did I cry? Did I call my brother? Did I talk to my Mother? I don’t know. In the afternoon, I called my friend Denise. She is one of those friends who you know will always be there for you, even though now we’re quite distant. (But my phone Facetimed her about a year ago, all on its own when she was trying to talk to Comcast, and we caught up after a decade. It was lovely.) When my Father died, she dropped everything, and came and drank martinis with me in the lobby of the Renaissance Hotel. She helped. I wish I could have been within a thousand miles of her when she suffered a similar loss, but that’s life. Or death.
I was a Daddy’s girl, for sure. I still miss him every day. I wish he could see who I am, what I’m doing, what I’ve become. Who I’ve become. I’d like to think he’d be proud of me. Neither of my parents was ever effusive with pride over me, to me. In the course of the last year, I’ve thought about that a lot. Been angry about it sometimes. And recognized that there are things that just are, that I can’t come to terms with, not without a dialogue with them about it. That’s how it is, and I think that’s part of how I grow as a person as I continue to age and look through the glass darkly at my past, my relationships, my perceptions. I also think that’s an important step to take as I move through the years towards the next place. Acceptance. Of my parents. Of relationships. Of myself. We can’t always have answers or fix things. Sometimes we just have to settle for an unfinished peace.
The sense of loss of Daddy never leaves me. It’s not at the forefront of my days as it was for a long time after he died, but it’s always there. When I make a huge change in my life, he (and my Mother) are the first people I want to tell. I think it’s important that I’ve had to make changes without their guidance and input. I think that’s a sign of strength, of growing up, which is a journey not limited to our childhood or teen years — it is a lasting adventure in our lives, if we’re lucky.
My life looks nothing like what it did when Daddy was alive. But I know he’d support me in the changes I’ve made. I know he’d have so much to talk about with M. I think M would be one of those guys he’d actually have approved of. And he’d be so proud of K.
He didn’t want to go, and he made that clear to me after he died. It took some time for us to work through that. I may write about that later. We talked a lot in our lives. We had a unique relationship. Ex-Pat always thought that we were too close. He didn’t understand how a father could tell his daughter that he loved her so often, that he would always look out for her. That’s a refection of the relationship he had with his own father.
I try hard not to catch the grief train when it pauses at the station these days, but I still step aboard, look around, feel. It’s how and who I am. It is woven into my curious relationship with death and the afterlife, a thing which I am still holding close, trying to feel how it nestles into my daily existence. I don’t wallow as I did a decade ago. But while years according to the calendar have passed, my partnership with my Father, and what today signifies, are still as fresh as they were 16 years ago. My heart, today, around this, his death, is like a statue that has stayed in place outdoors through seasons and weather for all these years. It has changed in appearance, grown mossy and tender and tougher all at once, but with its core solid and intact.
How did I celebrate my Father today? I worked. As he always did. I had a couple of glasses of wine that he would have liked. He was not a drinker, but he enjoyed trying wine with me. I went to my local library’s book sale and bought 11 books in honor of his lifelong career as a librarian. I picked up some yellow roses at the grocery store, which were my Mother’s favorite, but he would have approved. I wrote this post, which he also would have appreciated, because he always loved my writing, and he was the first person to introduce me to the blogosphere, when he asked me, “What is a blog?” and I didn’t know, so I looked it up. And while he so very seldom visits me in my dreams, I will fall asleep tonight thinking of him, and having recited the prayer that he always said with me at my bedside when I was a child.
Love you, Daddy, and I hope you’re having a marvelous time.
Daily gratitudes: Birds in the out-of-place tree, a sure sign of Spring The squirrel that made it across the road Cooper the Beagle mix at the Dog Bar A clean oven My red shoes
Quote of the day: “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” — Jorge Luis Borges
While I am accustomed to charring things accidentally in the kitchen, I’ve never actually killed an appliance. I did accidentally destroy a china monkey hanging from the ceiling in the Cottage during the Great Smoke Detector Debacle of 2010. And when I moved out of the Cottage, my landlady inquired as to whether there had ever been a fire in the oven — I had to hesitate because there had been a fire or two ON the stove, just not exactly IN the oven. Yesterday, though, the microwave died.
In my defense, the microwave was old. At least 11 years old. So I’d prefer to think that I was its Death Doula (part of my future career plan), and not a murderer responsible for its demise. I thought it was having a glitch three days ago, when I put a cup of coffee in it and after a minute and a half, it came out cold. Later in the day, I tried heating soup, and it came out warm, but not hot. In the Bungalow, there are a myriad of eccentric electrical systems. For example, when I plug in the television in the living room, the ceiling fan comes on, but the television doesn’t. So I just assumed it was another transient house quirk. Those happen all the time.
Yesterday, when I put some soup in the microwave for lunch, there was a startling POP as it started running, but it ran for its required three minutes. And then it died. The soup was lukewarm. I checked that the breaker it was still on (that’s been an issue before). Walking into the bathroom, which shares a wall with the location of the microwave outlet, it smelled like an electrical short. I made sure the wall wasn’t hot, hoping there was no fire smoldering in said wall, and the scent of burning wires dissipated. The microwave was finally gone. It was a good appliance and served me, and Niece 1 before me, well.
I was raised in an era when microwaves did not exist. When you wanted to reheat something, you put it in a pot on the stove, or a dish in the oven. I didn’t have one through college either. But now (decades later), we are a society that can’t wait for things to heat on stoves. It has to be hot in minutes, when we want it, without delay. Shifting back from that mentality is a challenge, and one I’m fully prepared to admit that I didn’t want to face, partly because I don’t have a dishwasher and hate doing dishes. Who wants more dirty dishes?
Fortunately, I had been banging around in the garage just before lunch, in search of M’s and my Blue Willow china to take up to the Retreat, and had come across the microwave that I had when I lived in the Cottage over a decade ago. What perfect timing! Digging it out from behind the bicycles, over the ottoman, and off the shelf from underneath empty moving boxes, between the heavy bag and the BMW, I had hope. It was tucked up in newspapers, with its little round tray intact (the whole unit is a tiny thing, especially compared to its predecessor) and when I plugged it in, it was perfect. Not as strong as my old workhorse but completely serviceable.
The nicest thing about this experience, aside from the fact that my need for immediate food gratification can continue to be fulfilled, is the newspapers Li’l Wave was wrapped in. At first, I crumpled them up to put in the recycle bin, but then a headline caught my eye. A near drowning at a public pool that no longer exists in a nearby town. No victim named, and the three-year old girl was already well on the road to recovery when the paramedics arrived, but this was still the small town newspaper headline. Next to it, was a large, lovely color picture of a mare and her new foal, with, essentially, a birth announcement from a local farm. All ten years ago. I wonder what those horses look like today? That little girl is in middle school now. Does she remember?
I am unfolding the packing newspapers to look through them to see how things have changed, for a glimpse back to what was a simpler time, even though it was only a decade ago — not that long. It was a time when I was trying to rebuild my life and I had a lot of hope. And Spring was coming. The world doesn’t look at all the same now. My life looks very different, and it’s a happy different. The snow is blowing outside the picture window tonight, and I’m cuddled up and warm. It’s all good.
Daily gratitudes: The older gentleman’s shock and joy at the price of asparagus Beating the snow home Talks with K A good night’s sleep Wind chimes
Quote of the Day: “A trip ends. A journey doesn’t.” — Mr. Boehmer
I seldom find myself at a loss for words. Truly. I’m nearly always ready with a sassy, salty comeback or quip. I can remember only one time when words failed me, at the Buena Vista in San Francisco, on a dreadfully rainy day, after quite a few of the Irish Coffees for which they are famous, when the bartender blatantly propositioned me. (Once I found my words, I declined.)
Throughout the duration of this virus, which K and I call The Rona, and its in-and-out quarantines, I’ve been inside, with the exception of walks when the weather was nice, seeing M on weekends, going to the grocery store, four dining out experiences, catering at three or four weddings, a little thrift store shopping, and appearing at my second job once a month. We did travel three times over the last 12 months, twice by plane and once by car. Looking at that list, maybe it’s more than some folks and less than others. It sounds like more than I thought. But it doesn’t feel like a lot for 12 months. It doesn’t feel like “normal”. I don’t feel like “normal”.
I was not the most social person to start with, but being told I can’t do a thing is the surest way to make me want to do that thing, and make me grump about not being able to do that thing. I may have mentioned my mulishness before, as putting my ears back is a well-known trait of mine. At this point, as we’re entering Year Two in Life with a Virus, I am over it. I’ll repeat for those of you in the back. I. AM. OVER. IT. Because I’m caring and responsible, I still wear a mask everywhere I go. I’m not seeing friends because I don’t want anyone to get sick because of me. I didn’t think I went that many places, but apparently I’m missing the places I didn’t go. Because that’s a thing. M wonders if we’ll ever get back to normal, and I tell him that, as with any loss, we will find a new “normal” but I doubt we will be quite the same as before for a long time.
My Rona fatigue is showing up as more anxiety, more tension, more frustration, and less motivation to do things that I was doing, like eating well and exercising and learning a new language, all the things that I did so well at the beginning of quarantine. I also feel like, as I said at the start of this piece, I’m at somewhat of a loss for words. Uninspired. Though not free of thought. Just a lot of rambling thoughts that aren’t organized or interesting enough to share. This could also be some of the “brain fog” that is a long-term side effect of having had the Rona, which M and I both had last March. At least I had enough words handy to write this.
I’m currently reading John Berry’s “The Great Influenza”, which provides perspective on the political and social situations of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which actually originated in Kansas. It has been an eye opener. I had no idea about the severity of that pandemic — much more severe than ours — nor did I know anything about virology or Woodrow Wilson. It’s been quite an education and I recommend it. The parallels between the public messaging about the Spanish flu and the messaging about the Rona are remarkable. But one point the author makes is that it took a long time from the first victim fell ill to the time when the country settled into its new normal. I think that’s how it’s going to be for all of us now, 100 years later.
Astrology: yes or no? Believer or scoffer? I honestly am not sure. I’m a Cancer (I hate saying that, because it sounds like I’m a disease). And I could be the poster child for Cancerians: a sensitive, ocean-loving, moonbeaming, moody, wanderer — well, not the wanderer part, because Cancers are supposed to be homebodies. Other than that, I suppose there’s some validity to it. I studied up on it quite a bit, along with herbology and palmistry, during my esoteric semi-hippie early days in Colorado.
It was also terribly in vogue when I was in high school. There seems to be a resurgent interest among K and her friends, which makes me wonder if it’s something that captivates us at that cusp of adulthood, that perhaps we hope to gain understanding of and direction for ourselves as we gaze into a future shrouded in fog. Because of her, I’ve developed a renewed interest in the subject.
Back in the days of yore, the go-to astrology text was Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs. I gave K a copy for Christmas a couple of years ago so she could see how things have evolved since the 1980s. You wouldn’t think astrology would change, but it seemingly has — becoming more detailed and specific. I did have the pleasure of staying in Linda Goodman’s former home in — who’d have thunk it — Cripple Creek, Colorado, which had become a Bed and Breakfast. And a haunted Bed and Breakfast, no less. I was in town for a ghost adventure at the former jail (and an adventure it was, may I say) and made the mistake of telling my hostess at the B&B about it, which led to her having me go into the basement to see what I could pick up from a ghost perspective (also an adventure). The next time I went to town, this particular B&B was closed; the ghosts may have been too much for her.
I’m a fan of Rob Brezsny’s astrological divinations and musings in his Free Will Astrology column/email. Having just googled him, he doesn’t look like what I’d expected, but he looks exactly like what an astrologer should look like. Who really knows how sound any of it is, but I’ve found his insights and predictions to be pretty on track over the last ten years or so. He also seems to tap into a certain esoteric level of rational thought that I very much appreciate. I’ve enjoyed his book Pronoia, which also amused a crew of market researchers who visited my house some years back to interview me on my love of Toyotas.
K has introduced me to Co — Star, which is an app instead of a column, but I guess that’s what all the cool kids are doing these days. It’s very specific, based on one’s date/time of birth. I (of course) know my birth date, but am not so sure of my birth time. My birth certificate doesn’t list it and my folks are somewhere in the stars themselves now, so I can’t ask them. But I’ve made my best guess in the hope that, whatever this app produces based on birth time, close enough is close enough. The little astrological messages are somewhat cryptic, which is both good and bad, but intriguing and make me ponder. For example, today’s central message: “A tongue that lacks self-control is a fire.” That one is pretty self-explanatory. But the “Dos” and “Don’ts”, I’m not so sure of: Dos: Ice cream, Sunshine, Venting. I don’t have ice cream and there has been very little sunshine today, but yes, I have vented to K. Don’ts: Clutch pearls, Pathos, Narratives. Not a huge pearl-clutcher, but it could have happened during the venting; not really expressing Pathos (took care of that last weekend); and Narratives….? Well, I guess this is one, so that really should have been part of the “Do” list.
On the purely pragmatic side, I love the stars themselves. M and I have a wonderful memory of driving to Santa Fe one dark night before Christmas when we first started dating, and we’d never seen so many stars. That memory still stands, even after seeing nothing but stars during a power outage in Costa Rica. And on the anniversary of our first date, we drove up to a meadow in Gilpin County and froze ourselves sitting in the bed of the truck watching a meteor shower. But anyplace under the stars with him is perfect. My horoscope said nothing about being sappy.
Daily gratitudes: Fingerless gloves The woman who crossed herself before driving away from the Emergency Room My marvelous niece who has a birthday today The new way Mr. Man snuggled in last night
This should be a poem. I feel a poem brewing in me, but it hasn’t steeped enough yet to be birthed. So I’m putting fingers to keyboard for a half-version — a “po”, if you will. Something that expresses the sentiments without the lyricism.
Depression has been a constant companion for me in this lifetime. I’ve done all the right things — therapy, anti-depressants, herbs, diet, exercise — and 90 percent of the time these days, I keep it at bay. But when it comes on me, it comes like an avalanche, and I don’t have an avalanche beacon and I’m buried under tons and tons of weight. I always dig myself out. Always. Because of promises I’ve made. Usually, it’s bad for a day or a night, a short, yet tolerable length of time. This bout has been particularly vicious.
I haven’t slept well in four days, plagued by nightmares (a rarity for me), hot flashes (also something that hasn’t happened in years) and thirst. I mourn for everything — people, opportunities, choices — and cannot find solace in the many blessings and joys in my life. I yearn for sea breezes, for a future without a set date, when we are settled in the Retreat for summer and living on a beach during the bleak, cold, grey-brown of winter. This darkness has been my companion for two days now, which is not long in the grand scheme of things, but feels like an eternity while I’m in its midst. Digging oneself out from under an avalanche is slow-going at best.
Tears come easily and of their own accord, triggered by nothing, something, everything, Not in a deluge, but in a welling, a prickling in my eyes, half-formed (like this po), and unwilling to spill. I find myself inconsolably lonely, grieving the past and the people I’ve lost.
I say a prayer each night, that tomorrow will be better, but so far my prayers are failing me, falling not on deaf ears, because that’s not how prayers work. Which means there’s something I am supposed to learn from this. There’s always a lesson, isn’t there? Some are just harder to puzzle out. So I force myself to eat. I have some sweet warm tea. I take a shower. I do a load of laundry. I sort through some clothes, setting some aside for charity. I do 100 sit-ups. I change the sheets. I look for words of comfort in random places. And I find the merest crumb of peace. I scan the darkening skies for a metaphorical dove with an olive branch. And I hope for a better morning.
I echo Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s feeling on the month of February, so well expressed in his poem “Afternoon in February”. The first stanza reads as follows:
“The day is ending, The night is descending; The marsh is frozen, The river dead.”
Trust me, it just goes downhill from there, ending with the line “Like a funeral bell.” You can imagine.
This February, in particular, is rough. I have finally reached a point of being fed up with not being able to go out to dinner, shoot pool, have a drink at a bar, cater a wedding. Colorado, too, seems to have changed its tune wind-wise. We’re having chinooks in February now, instead of January, and as stated in yesterday’s poem, I’m just not a fan of the wind. M told me when we met that he just thinks February is an asshole. I always thought that was January; he’s now converted me.
But to be peppy and upbeat (which really is not me all the time), here is Seasweetie’s Positive February Thought List:
The days are getting longer. It may not seem like it, but I can judge this well, because we usually drive back from the Retreat right around the same time. A few weeks ago, it was full dark by 5:30. Now, we can enjoy a longer twilight, which also means more deer spotting and cautionary driving, but it’s gently beautiful.
There are fewer days in the month. That’s nothing new, but thank the heavens for it.
Valentine’s Day. Yes, I know it’s sappy and trite, but I love it anyway. I like giving presents and while I don’t need an excuse to do so, I enjoy having a little celebratory reason for it. Besides, the origins of Valentine’s Day are fascinating, with not one, but TWO Saint Valentines being beheaded by Claudius II, and the christianization of the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, a fertility festival. (I suspect they dropped the goat sacrifices, the whippings, and the drawing of eligible young townswomen’s names from a giant urn to find mates for the men.)
The occasional sense of spring can be felt if you pay REALLY close attention to the feel of the air.
My twee-woo bird is back. I don’t know what kind of bird it is, and I’ve actually never seen it, but it always comes back as a harbinger of spring, like the swallows returning to Capistrano (which supposedly happens on March 19). It has a very distinctive call (hence why I call it the twee-woo bird) and I like to think it’s singing just for me.
I’m anticipating that I might see a few green shoots of something (snowdrops, grape hyacinths, crocuses) on a walk this month.
We’re one month closer to getting into the Retreat full-time than we were one month ago.
Of course, usually by this time, I have a plane ticket in hand and am making packing lists for somewhere warm and tropical with turquoise water and white sand beaches. But everybody knows that when you buy a house and start to move, you become house-poor and that lasts for at least a year. Such is the case with us. We’re having to do things like figure out fire mitigation and snowplows, and home improvements for the Bungalow and M’s house, so I am facing the reality that I won’t see an ocean until July. I’ve been blessed by being able to travel as I have, and it will happen again. Just not this spring. This spring, I will have beautiful hikes and slight sunburns and deep snowfalls and good music and a few perfect days. Let’s just get through February.
Daily gratitudes: My stir-fry Leggings with pockets Dancing My neighbor’s chickens Carrie, the wonderful lady on the phone at the insurance company, who didn’t mind that I cried, and started to cry with me.
I’m a writer. And I love that I’m a writer. However, this was not my chosen path. I’m a living example of “life’s what happens when you’re making other plans”. While I have always been a writer, there was only one point in my life (before the last decade) that I really wanted to commit myself to being a writer. It was spring of my sophomore year in college, and I remember it well.
I knew I didn’t want to stay in Boston. I was just too naive for the big city life that I thought I wanted. After escaping a sexual assault literally by the grace of God, and watching the building across the street from my house be engulfed in flames by an arsonist who was striking all over the neighborhood, along with some other distressing events, I knew I didn’t want to stay there. I went home to surprise my parents for a long weekend, and I told them I needed to move. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to stay in school. So I floated the idea of moving to Ocracoke Island, getting a restaurant job, and writing for a year. Surprisingly, they supported this notion. That may have been all I needed to hear — that they would support my stepping off the college track and trying something different — because I moved to Colorado and kept going to college.
I forgot what I had always wanted to be when I grew up.
Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a nurse.
How this could have completely slipped my mind when I decided to go to college, I do not know. My brother made this same observation a few years back. I was a candy striper from the time I was allowed to be. I volunteered in the old hospital until the new County hospital was built, and then I volunteered there. I logged more hours than anyone ever had in the program. I only stopped when I got a job to help pay for college. And then I just….forgot.
Maybe it was because I wasn’t very good at science. At my high school graduation, my chemistry teacher gave me a vase that he had hand-carved and told me I tried harder and did worse than any student he had ever had. Perhaps that threw me off my plan. I did avoid any science class I could throughout college, until in senior year, I realized I needed freshman biology to graduate (the only time I was ever grateful for a C minus).
Later in life, I remembered this goal. I thought about going back to school for nursing. But Ex-Pat had been a respiratory therapist at one time and was not encouraging. He said nurses were treated like the crap they had to clean up. So I let the goal go again, and just fell into a career path that took me to health care marketing for private companies. It was a pretty satisfying career. The goal came up again with Dr. Narcissist, who also discouraged me, so I let it go again. I don’t even feel like exploring the reasons he didn’t think it was a good idea. And I got a job writing.
But now, M encourages me to do anything. I’ve thought about going back to school, but when I think about how old I’d be when I finished and got my first job, it’s just daunting. I’ve seen my niece completely change careers from engineering to nursing and she couldn’t be happier. She’s found her tribe. I wonder if I’ve missed finding mine (with the exception of catering friends, because we definitely are a tribe unto ourselves).
I’ve told this story about falling off my path to K, and it’s been one of the things she fears most about her own goals. I suspect it’s one of those cautionary tales that will help her keep her focus. Not a bad thing. And as I continue to write, and get back to writing for myself, I am also trying to find the right path to providing care to others. There are a lot of forks in the road to explore once the world settles down a bit.
Have you followed your childhood dreams? Have you found your path? Your tribe? I wonder how many of us wanderers are out there.
Daily gratitudes: Flights of geese in the morning K’s new job Imam Bayildi Plants that grow despite me
When do couples usually get “their” song? Is it the song that might be playing during some particularly memorable moment? Something that seems like it’s speaking just to the two of you, that puts words to feelings you have, but couldn’t find words for? Do couples still even have songs? Gone are the days of making cassettes or burning CDs for partners as a sign of love. Do people just share playlists on Spotify now?
I know that at many of the weddings that I’ve worked, the first dance isn’t really the couples’ song, but just whatever the DJ recommends. There are hundreds of suggested “first dance” songs on the interwebs, and I’ve heard hundreds over the years. The memorable ones — which are often songs I haven’t heard before — are the ones that I can tell are that couples’ “song”. One of my favorites wasn’t a bride/groom first dance at all. The groom had the first dance with his little girl, who was about six, to her favorite song from Frozen, and his bride joined them towards the end. I thought that was pure lovely.
Looking back on my past relationships, I wonder why some, which were “meeting the parents” serious, did not result in a song, while others did. I believe it reflects the strength of the relationship. In those where we’ve had a song, we still think of each other fondly, even decades after the romantic relationship ended (with one exception — there’s always one exception). So, let’s travel down memory lane and take a peek at my relationship song playlist, starting with the first and ending with the finest.
The college boyfriend from Boston: “Genesis” by Jorma Kaukonen. The boyfriend was kind of a Deadhead, but also artsy. Our relationship was a bit stormy (my fault – I was young and stupid) but he still kept me company on my last night in town and saw me off at the Greyhound bus station the next morning. On that night, we sat on the floor in his apartment, on the carpet we’d carried home from Sears about half a mile away (a building which is now the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts offices, and in which I had a work meeting once about a dozen years ago, which was weird) and looked into each other’s eyes silently as this played. It’s a sweet memory.
The Ex-Husband (heretofore known as Ex-Pat): “Last Kiss” by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers. K thinks this is a terribly morbid song to be her parents “song”, and I can’t recollect why it was our song. Ex-Pat had a wonderful singing voice; I have a vague memory of him singing it to me, driving down Highway 93 in his old white Ford Falcon station wagon very early on in our relationship. He also serenaded me with it from a stage in a bar while I was playing pool one night. Another sweet memory.
One Dear Friend: “The Girl from Ipanema” and “I Thought About You”, both by Frank Sinatra. We were as close as a couple could be without ever being a couple. We danced to both of these songs, the former on a balcony in New Orleans in the afternoon light, and the latter in an Italian restaurant in Las Vegas. And we both loved Frank.
The Captain: “Roam” by the B-52s (a song he shared with others that he sailed with) and “My Romance” by Carly Simon. We were in a cab in San Francisco one time, talking about music, and Carly Simon’s name came up, and he made the cab stop and wait while he ran into a music store we just happened to be passing, coming out with a double Carly Simon CD, from which we gravitated to this song. When I knew of the Captain’s death, I was in the car in a traffic jam in Washington, D.C., and was listening to Rod Stewart’s “Sailing”. I cannot listen to that song now.
Ex-fiance Dr. Narcissist: “Come Away with Me” by Norah Jones. This relationship was just what you’d expect from a narcissist, so needless to say, it ended terribly and has taken a decade of recovery and ongoing recognition of how much gaslighting I experienced. In this relationship, I loved like never before, which makes it that much sadder. This song is never to be played in my presence, which is a shame because it’s a beautiful song.
And saving the best for last, my husband M: We have two pieces of music that we think of as our song. “Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis” by Ralph Vaughan Williams, which obviously isn’t a song, but we discovered early on that we both liked classical music and that this was a favorite of each of us. You don’t find a lot of classical music lovers out there these days, so I got lucky. The other, which is an actual song, is “True Companion” by Marc Cohn. We’d both wanted a true partner to be in love with, which is what this songs speaks to, and we were blessed to find each other.
I’ve had two weddings (although M says we actually got married three times), and neither was large enough to merit music or dancing. They were both outside, so in the first, the music was the wind in the pines and strangers singing acapella to us from the next rocky promontory over. In the second, the music was the sound of the waves. That sea song was sweet enough — no other accompaniment needed. On our next trip to the Retreat, I think I’ll ask Alexa to play both of our songs. It will be a nice housewarming.
Do you have a song with your partner? If so, tell me what it is in the Comments. I’d love to hear it. One day, I’ll write about having a soundtrack to my life, something I think we all have.
Daily gratitudes: Hawks on light posts Housecleaning room by room Halo Top ice cream Snuggly Cat
P.S. Mr. Man and I also have a song: “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” by Ava Gardner from the musical Showboat. I have loved this song for decades and only realized this weekend that it actually references “Mr. Man”. It was just meant to be.