Still Here, Only Older

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.

Another summer break comes to an end all too soon – and with projects left to finish (or to even begin).

Where does the time go?

When the summer began, as they all do, I had my list of things that I needed to accomplish before I had to get ready for the next year of school. Then come the surprises that beckon me off course. The best laid plans…, right?

You know what I’m doing now? I’m writing, even though my thoughts are scattered, and I’m afraid that my words won’t say what my heart feels very accurately. I’m writing, however, because today is an important day that I want to mark. My first blog post was published on this day, eight years ago, as a result of the prodding of people who believed in me, when I didn’t have enough belief in myself. If I fail to write at any other time, I try to at least post on this anniversary date, as a tribute to someone who breathed new life into me. I haven’t always made my mark, but I have always tried. Each year that passes is a not-too-gentle reminder that time is precious, and we can’t keep saving up for tomorrow.

Last weekend (I believe) I went to see the new M. Night Shyamalan movie, Old, because I am a fan of his storytelling, and because I had movie credits from before the pandemic that needed to be used. I went to the last showing of the evening, so there weren’t more than a dozen other people in the theater.

Warning: Spoiler Alert

I won’t ruin the movie completely for you, as you can get the gist of what I’ll say here from the trailer, but consider that I might spoil the way the story unfolds. This was not my favorite M. Night movie, but it had some poignancy. A family of four (Husband, wife, young girl and boy) traveled to an island that the wife had found via the internet. They had planned the vacation as a last hoorah before letting the kids know that they were planning to separate. After the first day on the island, they were told by the host that there was a special secluded beach that they don’t tell everyone about, but thought that their family would enjoy the peaceful surroundings with fewer people. The next morning, they, and two other families, are driven into a fenced off area, and dropped off on a walking path to the beach. After they arrive on the beach, and take in the beauty there, it isn’t long before they notice some strange happenings. Their young children run off to play for a short time, and come back looking a few years older. What they discover over the course of a few hours is that they are all aging rapidly, but it is much more obvious with the children. They also find that they are unable to leave the beach by the way they came. The reason that I bring up this movie, is because the characters in this story go through the process of aging a lifetime within a day. One especially poignant scene had the family of four sitting on the beach at dusk, resigned to their situation, sharing memories and marveling at the beauty before them, as the final seconds of their lives tic away. If there’s one thing that I know very well, it’s that time seems to speed up every year that we live – and more, when you are putting things off, or living for tomorrow.

We observed my mother’s 82nd birthday in a nursing home last month. She was there as a result of a fall back in April, where she sustained a traumatic brain injury. I confess that it’s been hard visiting her in the nursing home, because she has not been able to communicate very well. Sometimes I would spend most of my time watching her sleep, And breathe. As I would watch her, I quietly reflected on the loneliness that she must feel. For a short stint there, she had a room mate that would talk to her. Since then, she’s had two that don’t. It makes me sad because I understand. She is back in an ICU this week with pneumonia. They are keeping her sedated while they fight the infection. They have her on a ventilator now. She opened her eyes a little when I told her I was there today. It’s hard to see her that way. But it’s harder to think of all the time that she’s spent alone over the last almost four months.

Eventually, the sand runs out for each of us. Loneliness ends one way or another.

Enjoy those people that occupy space in your life while they do. Cherish them, and let them know that you do.

(I’m sorry for the melancholy in this post, but life is much too short not to share love lavishly today. Tomorrow is not promised.)

Dear Mom, on this Mother’s Day

I will not begin to pretend to know what it’s like to grow another human within my own body, but I can wonder at the majesty of such. What an incredible responsibility to provide protection and nourishment, to sacrifice one’s own comfort day and night for months, then, continuing to protect and nurture these tiny humans till they can adequately care for themselves – and then for some of those to repeat the process. Mothers are indeed the real super heroes of the world, and you are mine.

I imagine that you spent many a moment standing over our cribs when we were young, just watching our chests rise and fall, and listening to us breathe, wondering what we were thinking, wondering what our first words would be, and what kind of people we would become. Now we watch you and wonder the same. What was it like for you to speak to us without knowing how much we understood?

As I sit with you today on Mother’s Day, and listen to the sweet sound of your breathing, I recall that most of what is good in me, I got from you. You taught, not only with words, but with actions. You demonstrated selfless service throughout your life. You passed on to me a love of reading by reading to me. You taught me patience through your own long-suffering. You taught me the importance of quality time. You always showed an interest in my life, and took the time to listen. If I grew into a good human, it is because I had a great example to follow.

When I speak to you now, you turn your head and look me in the eyes. I cannot know if you understand my words, but I would swear that you tried to smile at me today – and I do miss that smile.

For now we will watch you breathe, and wonder what you are thinking – and we wonder what your first words will be, and why the world doesn’t have enough people like you.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Holding On

I wonder how many of us keep saved voice mails that we can’t bring ourselves to delete. Maybe they are messages that carry some special weight for us, or are from someone now gone from this world, or just inaccessible to us now – a message we play on occasion to remember, or to find comfort in a voice that we can’t otherwise hear.
 
My dad is not much for technology. In fact, he told me just the other day that he didn’t want to learn to do anything new. He’s 81, so I guess it’s okay. Anyway, he carries a simple flip phone that I got for him years ago. Occasionally he gets a text message that he doesn’t know how to pull up, or a voice mail that he can’t get to. On those times that I’ve helped him clear out old, irrelevant voicemails, we always come across one from his older brother that passed away nearly five years ago now. I can see that uncomfortable look in my dad’s eyes when he hears his brother’s voice from beyond, as he tries to smile. My dad has never been a crier. (Sometimes the apple does fall a little distance from the tree.) We keep choosing to save that one.
Technology can be a wonderful thing.
 
I have phone numbers in my contact list of people that have died (some, several years ago). I’m sure that many (if not all) of the numbers have been recycled by now. I don’t try to call them, I just don’t delete them. I suppose that if anyone with one of the recycled numbers were to call me, it would freak me out a bit. But sometimes we just want to hold onto whatever ties we have with someone.
I keep a voice mail message from my son from almost ten years ago, of an apology for something that had happened; and another more recent message from a friend whose voice I hadn’t heard in years. A couple months ago my phone repeatedly dialed about four people in my contacts list several times each while it was in my pocket. I didn’t know that this was happening until it had gone on for a while and my phone battery was nearly dead. I had a couple of texts from people either checking to see what was wrong, or simply telling me that I was butt-dialing them. I also had a voice mail that simply said, “You keep calling me, please stop.” I still find comfort in playing it back just to hear that voice.

Scale the Wall: Overcoming Adversity

My life is a paradox.

I am a true introvert, but I love people. And I love being with people – with certain limits and controls. I like to be alone, just not by myself. I like company in my quiet. I like shared solitude. Coupled contemplation.

And I dislike conflict, though I never seem to be without it.

I say I dislike conflict. But it’s really unresolved conflict that I dislike. And conflict that seems unresolvable drives me mad, because it’s my nature to solve, to mend, to heal, to redeem, to find peace and harmony. And I find it hard to understand people who don’t seem to mind the discordant strains.

However, I could argue that I have thrived in conflict, after all. Because it’s all I’ve really ever known. Even all those times that I thought I was just surviving, I was growing in endurance. I was building metaphorical muscle to handle a strongman competition.

When adversity comes to you (whether by your own hand, or by forces outside of your control) you can either lie down and give up, or rise up and fight. The first choice leaves no room for success, but the second is a gamble. However, if your desires reside on the other side of the struggle, only one option is conceivable.

Looking back, I can see how the struggles that have come have created a stubborn resilience in me that has allowed me to handle some tremendous difficulties.

Though I believe I have family and friends who probably wouldn’t let me become homeless and destitute, I have had an independent streak since I was a teenager. Therefore, I have always found a way to re-mediate any crisis I found myself in without leaning on anyone (as much as possible). Therefore I have worked a variety of jobs, and picked up some diverse skills and knowledge throughout my years. I’ve learned that I can do almost anything if I need to. And now, if I don’t know how, someone has put up a YouTube video that will show me how.

The secret is in the why. If your why is greater than the obstacles, you will find a way to overcome them. And if it isn’t, then why put forth the effort at all?

I just happened to find a great why. And it is my HOPE. And I will never give up my pursuit.

My World

I may never be able to give you the world, but I can offer you mine.

I may never be able to show you any of the seven wonders. But I can take you out to the country beyond the streetlights, and throw a blanket on the ground where we can lay on our backs and wonder at the greatness of creation, and our part in it all.

I may never be able to buy you diamonds. But I can remind you that the contours of your face and limbs were chiseled by one who makes any master diamond cutter look like a novice in comparison; and that you are of far more value to me than any jewel, no matter how rare or exquisite.

I may not be able to take you to as many concerts as I’d like, but I’ll sing you karaoke love songs with abandon, as you blush.

I may not be able to buy the biggest house on the lake, but I’ll fill each room that I can afford with love and presence.

I may not be able to take you to dance in a grand ballroom where others can fawn over your beauty and grace on the dance floor. But I can dance with you in the kitchen at 3 AM, and tell you how grateful I am to be able to hold you so close.

We may not be able to visit an exclusive spa, where you can be pampered as you so richly deserve. But I can put on some soft music, pour you a glass of wine, and rub your feet while you relax and let go of the day’s worries.

I’m not likely to ever take you to a Nascar race, but I’ll race go carts with you. Then I’ll take you for a celebration/consolation dinner for the winner and runner-up.

I may not take you to a casino, but I’ll stay home and play cards or board games with you, and fix you snacks.

If we don’t get to see all the latest movies that come to the theater, or ever get to go to a Broadway musical, I’ll share a blanket with you as we stream a movie on the TV, or as I read to you from a book that you would enjoy.

The decisions I make do not usually lead me down a path to worldly riches, but they make my life rich in relationships – because that’s where I choose to put most of my investments.

I may never be able to give you the world, but I’ve already made you mine.

Reservation

There’s a room in my heart with a perpetual reservation in your name.

An open invitation. Always.

It has been stocked with all the amenities to make your stay comfortable no matter how long.

There you’ll find an assortment of music to listen to, and movies and T.V. shows to watch – all of which were picked for your liking. There are books to read – both for pleasure and for growth. I add to them as I find others I think you would like, or find challenging. Or there’s even a deck with a clear view of the moon in the late night. Come by any time. Kick off your shoes. Adjust the thermostat. Poor yourself a glass. And make yourself at home.

I check in every day. In fact, I check in often throughout the day every day, making sure everything is just right, and looking for signs that you may have stopped by. Most often it is just as I last left it just moments before. But sometimes…sometimes I feel your energy…I smell your fragrant scent lingering as if I’d just missed seeing you. I look quickly to see if anything is out of place, proof that you were here. I touch everything you might have touched, to absorb any residual traces of your aura. Then I sit back in a familiar comfortable chair, close my eyes, and breathe you in.

In my mind I see you clearly. I can look into those deep eyes, and see the dimple in your smile. I tell you how I feel, and that I’ve missed you. I ask questions, and you answer. I reach out and touch you. I hold your hand. I ask you about your day – what has frustrated you, and what has made you smile. I hear your passion and your laughter. I invite you to dance with me, and you take my hand and rise to your feet. I hold you closely and smell your hair as we gently sway to the strains of our own soundtrack. I feel the warmth of your body as you relax into mine.

I am lost in an embrace that as far as I know only I am able to feel.

Then I wonder…do you ever hear my voice when I speak to you? Do you feel my prayers going up for you? Do you feel my love radiate across the expanse between us? Do you feel the strength and comfort that I send to you?

I spend so much of my time in this room that others may think me a recluse. But this is my favorite place in all the world – even though the vast majority of the time spent here I spend alone. It is after all, the only place I see you.

I spend my time trying to make this room more appealing to you so that you might want to spend more time here as well. I clean and dust. I add music to the playlist, and movies to the queue. I even hang a new picture from time to time. I pay attention to what I know you like, as well as what I suspect you do. In the process of making the atmosphere better for you, I make it better for me too. Which is good, because I spend so much of my time here.

I often don’t realize how much time has passed. But I am always eventually jarred from my thoughts by some pressing responsibility. My phone rings. An alarm goes off. As I open my eyes to attend to the present, I realize that my eyes burn and my face is wet. I collect my thoughts – savoring those from which I was awakened. I rub my eyes with the palms of my hands and dry them on my jeans. Then I rise, put on the smile that makes others more comfortable, and leave this warm abode to take care of whatever requires my presence.

But I’ll check in again very soon. As always, I HOPE to see you then.

 

 

Altered Courses

There are events that change the course of our lives forever. Once experienced, there is no going back. A new course must be assumed, and all future decisions are necessarily affected. Those events become marking posts that identify new beginnings, as well as burial plots containing the decayed remains of beliefs once thought immutable, traditions no longer meaningful, and relationships found to hold us back rather than hold us up.

Today is the third anniversary of my first blog post, “Why Disturb the Cat?“. And, though I’ve let the cat get a little comfortable as of late, I’d be remiss not to mark this important date in my life. I am grateful that my words get your attention at all. If you are reading these words, I thank you. And know that I am not finished. There is more to come.

Finding Solace in Solitude

With warm coffee keeping company, and morning sun hidden,

A single lamp chases shadows of desolation,

Momentarily holding darkness at bay.

Sounds of wind-driven rain fill an otherwise silent morning,

Displacing discordant drivel with white noise.

Unending thoughts reduced to whispers, not to disrupt the notes of melodious harmony.

Loneliness becomes respite, and alienation, a time of solitude.

Travel Delay

I attended a workshop for my writers’ group this past Saturday. Our first exercise was to write a poem. We had just about 15 minutes to come up with something and write. One of the things the author taught us was to follow the rules of the type of poem we were writing. I had two problems: I don’t know the rules; and I don’t always follow the rules that I do know – especially in writing. I thought I would share what I wrote. Critiques are welcome.

 

12.3 miles,

57 steps,

4 digit code,

8 by 8 cubicle,

10 oz styrofoam cup,

contents at 180 degrees.

Routine

He sits and stares past a pile of papers on his desk, to a yellowing map of the U.S. Interstate system. Points of interest marked with Post-It Notes.

That Reminds me

On this second anniversary of my first blog post…

This date reminds me.

The electronics aisle in Target reminds me.

The sign at Luther’s Barbecue reminds me.

The birds in the trees at Kroger remind me.

The loud intercom at Office Depot reminds me.

The parking lots at Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, and Applebee’s remind me.

Books and movies remind me.

Past writings remind me.

I am reminded in my waking and in my lying down to sleep, and in my dreams as well.

Signs on my drive to work remind me.

Songs on the radio and on my iPod remind me.

I am reminded by sights, sounds, smells, and tastes.

Reminders bring both joy and tears.

But can I truly say that I am reminded?

Does a thought have to be absent first, before remembrance can occur?

If so, I’m not sure that I am reminded at all, because you are always there – not just in the back of my mind, but as the constant companion and participant in all my thoughts.

And I imagine that for which I have no memory. So even in new situations you are present.

I cannot forget. And I have no desire to.