The dancers

The officer comes in, straight face
the focus, he knows, is de-escalation
despite the mother’s bruises and her children’s tears
what happened here
is simple in the way nothing is, ever
It’s 1977 or 8 or 9
the time, it runs together when you see the same faces day by day
He, the husband has been drinking, again
shouting slurred words, imagined offenses
And the wife, with her children behind her just asks that he please leave
So the children can sleep
So that they can have peace, though the oldest one knows it’s just temporary
The officer can see it in her eyes, the kid, no more than 6 who dialed 911 because her mother was taking blows and couldn’t get to the phone…
He says, “come on sir, let’s go”
takes the husband by the arm and guides him outside, where the blue and white lights of his cruiser cast eerie dancing shadows on the homes facade.
They are visitors, these shadows.
Reminders to the officer that all is not well here,
And he thinks of his wife and his child, at home.

So many memories

There is courage in living the life you don’t want to live and in facing the death you don’t want to die. That is what my grandpa had: courage. A gritty resignation to face his life every day, even though it was not the life he dreamed. He suffered physical and psychological ailments that bound him, body and mind. And yet, he could laugh as heartily as he could cuss, and his laughter somehow reminded me that the struggle doesn’t have to steal your smile, even if it takes your strength. Every morning, he would wake up with legs as heavy as concrete blocks, and mustering all his strength, swing them one at a time to the edge of his bed while working to pull himself into an upright position. With sweat forming on his brow, he’d grab a metal pole that had been installed from the floor to the ceiling of his room right next to his bed, to help steady himself. Then, with a series of heaves and self-motivating talk (or sometimes curses, or sometimes prayers) he would propel himself into his wheelchair and roll from his room into his day. He lived alone and insisted on independence for as long as he could. Parkinson’s was not kind to him, but he accepted it; sometimes grudgingly, sometimes with a calm and quiet resolve. He had a keen sense of justice, even if the world was not always just to him (and believe, it was not). His childhood, a time filled with laughter and lighthearted days for most, was punctuated with sadness and egregious wrongs. He was misunderstood, judged. And yet he grasped on to life and to the moments that mattered. Holidays especially seemed to be a time my grandpa would come alive and reach out to share just a small amount of joy, to bring out a smile.

His lifetime spanned 86 years. I was lucky to get to know just a few encapsulated moments; life stories he’d share when I’d come by to tidy his house. I feel so lucky to have had that chance, to see my grandfather as more than just a grumpy old man. He died in a Hospice nearby, after lingering awhile. Again, he met death in the same head-on fashion he met life with…acceptance of his fate and a resolve to do what needed to be done, even if deep down he was afraid. I am honored to say that in those final days, when his hands were too unsteady to hold a razor, my grandpa trusted me to shave his face. I’d gather the necessary supplies; a dishpan of warm water, a razor, shaving cream, and a towel, while making small talk about the weather or the state of the world. I’d wet the towel and place it gently over the shadowy stubble that covered his chin and neck, and after applying a layer of shaving cream I’d begin the task, always gingerly. I wonder if he was as worried as I was that my most careful would not be careful enough. So many memories. He was humorous and philosophical; religious and agnostic; powerful and fragile; elderly, but young at heart. He was not perfect by any means, but he tried. He was, in the end, the human-est of humans. One of the bravest, showing me that courage is facing the known unknown…the moment you are in and the moments to come with dogged determination and tenacity of heart and with hope, by God with hope that something better awaits.

Random, because I miss you

I see you in the strangest places
A parking lot
A crowded mall
A child’s smile

And I realize…I miss you
And I realize it doesn’t matter

Fall wind still blows the leaves
And Winter ushers in the silence
That lives until put to rest by Spring
Who surrenders to the heat of Summer

And the sun still rises and sets
On an expectant and anticipating world
Even if it never rises in my heart

Because the fact is…
You went away and left me with a ghost that haunts
And calls to me in the dark
Reminding me with every sigh
All you were to me.

When the tears fall…ask yourself why

Schools are closed and the office is closed in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I’m home with my kids, and when I woke up with them this morning, the first thing I did was ask them “Do you know why you are home from school today?” Of course they gave the right answer. They’ve been learning as much as a 3, 6 and 12 year old can over the last week about Martin Luther King and his legacy at school. I wanted to start the day with a lesson on the truly backbreaking and often dehumanizing work Dr. King and all who struggled and fought for Civil Rights in this country endured. I began by telling them a little bit about how not so long ago, people were separated in this country because of the color of their skin; that they could only live in certain places, go to certain schools, eat at certain restaurants. I was pleasantly surprised to see them all really listening. It was quite a moment for me.

I talked to them about standing up for what is right, about Dr. King’s stance on non-violence, and about the ugly reality of racism, hatred and segregation. How people faced dogs, fire hoses, being spit on, beaten, battered, all because they believed that everyone, no matter what the color of their skin, deserved to be treated equally. As I was speaking about the bravery of the people who had endured so much, I could feel my throat tightening, my chest hurting…and I began to cry. I struggled through, talking more about Dr. King’s legacy and how it lives on today through us, and about how we should always feel gratitude to those people who fought and died for what is, by it’s very essence, truth. We are different, that is true. But we are all human and no one, no matter how many letters they have behind their name has ever been able to define race in a way that denies that fact.

When the lesson was over, I began to reflect. Why was I crying? I cried because I want to be that brave. I want to be that strong…to sit in the face of hatred and anger and know that I am on the side of justice. I am humbled at the bravery of all those men and women. I am humbled by their grit, their honor, and their knowledge deep in their hearts and minds that they were struggling for something bigger than themselves…

I am humbled by the knowledge that they weren’t afraid to die.

I will end this with one of my favorite quotes from Dr. King. It’s a reminder to me to always speak. I do, for the most part. It’s time to make my voice louder. Time to do more. Remember:

Image

The birth of a blog

This blog was born in the wake of loss. This summer, I lost my grandfather, and just this past week, I lost a friend. These were two men who walked different, yet similar paths. Family, tradition, love, strength and courage are just a few of the traits they shared. I won’t go into the details of their individual struggles…suffice it to say that my grandfather died after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease. My friend died after a 3 year battle with cancer. Where their paths diverged can be seen in the families they left behind. One family, my grandfather’s, is broken…a break that is more than likely irreparable. My friend’s family is bonded forever by a tremendous amount of love.

What these two men taught me, very simply, is to LIVE. I have been alive for 40 years now. But I can’t say that I ever truly lived. I’ve spent the vast majority of my time feeling stuck, feeling trapped and unable. The borders I constructed for myself included the belief that what other people thought of me mattered…that I wasn’t good enough, smart enough…worthy enough. Fear of judgment and failure dictated the constructs of my life. After the death of my grandfather, who I was very close to in the end, I began to realize that maybe, just maybe, all these 40 years of “living” I had under my belt wasn’t really living at all. And when my friend died, I UNDERSTOOD that I haven’t lived.

Living means very different things to different people. These two people, in a short span of a few months, have sparked a fire in me to define, for myself, what it means to truly LIVE. They have inspired me, for once in my life, to step out without fear of anything. To be ME with the understanding that I am here to push limits. I am here to leave a legacy. I am here to LOVE.

With this in mind, I am setting out on a journey to appreciate the time I have left, to become the person I was meant to be, and to leave a permanent mark on all the people I am gifted to have in my life. One small step at a time…so here goes.