for your birthday we poured martinis - threw fresh dough on a pizza stone and marveled at the magic of heat and cheese. just a few of us, this several pieces of one family you had made for yourself. good lord we all miss you.
in the evenings, when even the bones are tired and every bit of energy that could be conjured has been - there is still a young rapper in his room - discovering the magic of words - and another boy, taking a vacation from the wonders of the cosmos and finance to play a video game with a friend. the noises are absolute. my dog curls up like a pinto bean - his big ears on alert. something inside me hungers. so much of a day spent doing remains undone until the heart has had her chance to rumble. the fingers their chance to skip across the black pavers - at last awake.
your dying is a lazy mountain waterfall without an end. i am looking under rocks - in between the manzanita and madrone - under moss and lichen - hands deep in a hollowed oak trying to find the empty. but there is still too much. an overwhelming overflowing of your aliveness - a certain surely still at home i am here about it. a lie. or not. you left me a ruby rimmed with diamonds - a crimson and aqua rug - some china and a desk. ee cummins,david sedaris,the best loved poems of jacki o. a life of scripture, "everything that is yes" love. we pretended to bury you yesterday. but you were there at lunch running the show. and now i am thinking about what is lovely and there you are again and me and we.
we have always liked to organize things differently. you file beautiful next to exquisite and lush and tradition - your systems become tasteful displays of abundance - while i like to purge and name the spaciousness something pretty. you bring the color while i remove the things that filter it. you have big soft hands and a warm heart and room to hold every little thing that is sacred close. my hands are dry from all the scrubbing and i try my best not to hold on to things. still, i will leave your home every time with my arms full of certain special gifts i could not have lived without. a poem clipped from an old magazine - an ancient alligator suitcase - the rusted locks and tired lining proof that you can stop time. and i would. stop time. i wonder how many times i have taken the fake poinsettias down - tripping over my own feet and the heavy curtains that line the closet - the ladder leaning against the wall like an old friend i have used twice a year forever. the string of christmas lights in a round hat box that i will not test this year breaks me. but i do not cry. only some of them would have lighted. and i would have wrestled them around the tree like i do every year, finding out a little too late that one string needs to be replaced, again. you would point out the holes where the light is not enough. where it is dark. we will fill the tree with color again - every year with your box of color - we will fill the tree to overflowing - all the sparkling glass balls and crystal boxes, the shiny bundles of red berries and intricate ornamentation - the precious hold-it-in-your-hand beauty - the loveliness of things made meaningful by your keeping. this time you say go ahead and give the poinsettias away and we act like it is no big deal. someday when we have grown weary of the attic i will ask you for the ladder. this is how she taught me i will say to make beauty worth giving away and memories worth keeping. i will have tiny clippings of poems and articles cut - things you saved and stored and finally delivered as if it were no trouble at all that you cared enough to save it. this year we'll get the tree early and maybe spill red wine on the sofa or not use coasters. we will have known better and that will be what counts. that because of you we will have known better.
i wanted to bring you flowers - lift the scent of jasmine out of the air or carry the wind with me - to where you were hiding, under the sleep-strained sheets and the empty bottles - to before pills and drink and men could destroy you. but you won't answer the phone or the door or the possibility of things being different - because, you say, there is no hope - inside these dark hours - these endless moments of grief - this constant feeling of loss. i say i have been there - have run full bore into the darkness myself - trying to get there before it could come get me. how i have buried myself also - under the impenetrable longing and the shame - and the elusive promise of forgetting. you still think i couldn't possibly understand, that no one can possibly understand. but we do. So many of us truly do. i once held the hand of a beautiful woman while she pushed a baby out of her body into the world. Two years later, I held that baby while we buried her beautiful mother into the earth. She'd been found dead - kicked to death in a crack house just outside of town. She was one of us - someone with dreams and fears and love and concern - a lifetime of new beginnings and loss. And it started with just one little pill. When i call you - which i will do - again and again and again until you answer, because i recognize that you are ill and not just a pain in the ass - i will say come outside and smell the wind, watch the morning unfurl with me - see how it just opens up quietly into the darkness instead of against it - until all signs of night are simply gone. and look how we are standing here alone - just you and me - and also a million other people inside their houses and their cars under their bridges and in alleys and parks. All of us watching the light open up - wondering how we will do it. what we will choose - while there is still a choice to be made.
i am sorry for dying - the way the orchid petal limps and clings - refusing to drop. i found all the merchandise a heartbreak - the way i said i love you with a boxful and ribbon - as if even a portion of my reverence could be contained. when time steals you away from me - because you are growing and learning to love things outside of Us - i wonder at having had once my own dreams - before i cared more about an elusive collective and following your youth into the night.
it seems like every night i am chasing the minutes left wondering what happened and how it is i missed so much. at one time they were so little and every single day seemed to last forever - i was just so tired. now i am wide awake and they are big and 2 became 12 and 4 is 14 and i keeping asking them to stop. stop growing. stop leaving. stop breaking my momma heart at the very same time you fill it up. i think it is awful that if love its a verb, it's easy to be too busy to love. i'm signing up for do-overs.
i am trying to find a way to say i love you that sounds like i am saying something different. because you are my special forever friends and there should have been some words reserved from before you were even born. i love you because sunlight and acorns and messy green trees and the call of the wild and dangerous men and sugar and heartache and pink. i love you because old old memories and new beginnings and broken dreams and hope. i love you because you read and laugh and argue and worship and regret and cry and demand so much from life that even life gets tired - drops a leaf or two, trembles when you roar. i love you because you are kind and silly, ridiculous and mad, compassionate, cuddly, and soft. you make me soup and vegetables and cake. you bring flowers and worry and trust. you peel back decades of things that hurt to let the sunshine back in day after day and you weep beside me when i am hurt as if there were no other place on the earth to be. and you let me do the same for you. i love you because there so many things happening all the time, everywhere - but when we are together we stop to be together for real and forever even if it only lasts a minute. i love you because you care about people who have less than you and people who have more and you share your beautiful inside hearts of hearts with people who do not always deserve it. i love you because when we met we did not have to court each other like lovers who would date - but instead we were married the moment we first laid eyes... like the best of friends... because you can because it is possible because it is okay even to love someone the moment you meet. i love you because you have made me full of so much beauty and depth and good that i am having to teach myself to bow - so i look less crazy bent over - dragging around this bulging heart entirely filled with you.
my child is poet though he hates to be called one. says every mom thinks their kid is a genius. meanwhile, he's writing lines that strip flesh from bone - about his 92 year old grandfather - about honor about home. i see that words are just a tool for him like a baseball mitt or a pencil or food. maybe he is on to something - this ambivalence towards words. skips magic pebbles across the pond while i dig around in the dark looking for the perfect stone.
there was a time when all i could think of was how to be more in love with you. then all that loving made others things to love - so many in fact, that all i could think of was how to be more of myself somehow. now i am just thinking about how to be enough - and kind. and also how it is possible to want something so bad, with everything that you are, and not get it. and still know that somehow it is enough to just be enough and kind.
sometimes i am afraid that my children will die or i will leave them motherless or the wrong person will become President. i worry that if any of these things happen someone or everyone will be unsafe. Armageddon will happen or maybe god will break forever. when i am struggling with the entire universe and trying to control outcomes way outside my league the space inside me filled with love starts to sink until a bottom falls out and there is only worry going down and down and down. if i am lucky i will love my children today and take good care of my own little self and i will pray for my country and even for god.
my children are growing away. it is not so much an "up". and i want to run after the leaving - though they are right here beside me - to ask them to stay please stay don't go. but they are curious in their growing away - this becoming of gentlemen - so that sometimes i must step aside also to catch a glimpse of their newness from a distance. i witness them then - these young people in my children's bodies - carving out legacies they didn't ask for help on - calculating equations, cracking jokes, making men.
Sometimes it seems legit. Like having a robust career, 2 kids, a husband, volunteer work, spiritual practice, exercise commitments, life. But mostly it’s the “I just never quite get around to sitting down at pen and paper (or the computer) where I can really write; you know, something worthwhile. So here is a choppy crumby morsel of a blog from a cell phone and two big thumbs, poolside in Maui, where it’d be easy not to. My skin is turning pink but nothing hurts as badly as an unrealized dream. All I ever really wanted to be was a writer. An under the radar badass chronicler of what it is to feel. Being on vacation is double sided. The sea, the blue, the soft sand beneath aimless feet… All of this is its own reward. But to truly vacate ones “post” so to speak, one must have truly occupied it in the first place. In my case, I’ve parceled out a poem or short story here and there, reaching into my hungry heart to try to touch what urgency is left there – attempting to coax out that gun-shy story teller that absolutely needs to speak, before she just finally shuts her mouth forever from so much waiting. But I’ve never fully occupied the post of writer. I have not worked rigorously enough at the job of writing, of really truly being a writer, to have earned a vacation from it. So, the double edge. The sword. My mind on grand alert while my body tries to kiss the sun. I did this for you then. One thumb at a time, tiny letters, tiny words…refusing to consider the big excuse for even one more hour.
Somehow you managed to make me believe
that I was loved –
but all of the time –
as if it were a simple truth
to be taken for granted.
Somehow you managed to make me believe
that this love was my birthright –
as if I had it
even before I was born to you –
so that it was something you merely reminded me of,
rather than something you had to grow within yourself,
that could be lost or broken or withheld.
Somehow you managed to make me believe
that I deserved this love
that I was worthy of this love
and that it was mine.
And somehow you managed to show me
that I could share this
with other people
by merely witnessing what was inside them already too –
so that I wasn’t giving anything away
or taking anything from
and we were all just sharing
like it was natural to do so
because it was all of ours, all of the time.
Somehow, now that I am older,
I have managed to realize the significance
of the gift
of having received something
that has no giver.
Of having been loved
Maybe a year is just a drop in the bucket, but the rate at which the years are passing (like little faces on a roller coaster zooming by while your trying to turn on the camera app), it’s gonna be a pretty small bucket. I’d like to kick it. Knock it over and spill out all the days that made up the years that are gone – let the hours and moments drench the carpet, imagining that they could be soaked up there, possibly even stain the matted wool. I would lay in them, stare at the marks all day long, scrub at them with heat meant to set the stain and fists full of longing. I want the stolen kisses and tiny hands to come back to me; to pool here and there where I can see them all, floating about in the perfect clarity of what was once the uncontainable present. See tears and first words and the impeccable, astounding discoveries they made when they were doing nothing.
They grow up so fast – everyone warned me. The hours then felt like an eternity – how every need was laboriously fulfilled when no amount of coffee could keep up with the demands. Of course, the ineffable gifts of parenting were measured wholeheartedly, making every hardship worth it, but they were difficult to revel in – the immediacy of the next skinned knee or unexpected turn in events driving you up and out of the reverie. Big brother, so grown up at 21 months, leans in to kiss his newborn bro just home from the hospital – has every intention of kissing him – but bites the unsuspecting cheek instead. So the bite steals time from the kiss and the scolding steals time from the praise and suddenly there is just a blur of happenings past and no way to truly re-collect all the precious intricacies of these little lives, as they forge forward, dragging you behind them on the frayed string of dashed intentions and over-zealous plans.
But the loving is easy. There is that. How it cannot be measured, at last, by the clock. No calender owns it. Only an amorphous, inexhaustible heap lodged unceremoniously between your rib cages and eternity.
because I am such a die-hard “Tiger Mom”, I tossed out the 20 minute a day reading rule this week and spent the last few days with my son watching about 20 hours of complete brain cell-killing television shows. We even watched WWE – or whatever you call those bizarre nearly embarrassing “wrestling” performances with the big guys in small shorts who talk like they are
hold ing pallets of steel dung
in their arms and are trying to gather the
strength to form
big words like “the” and “belt”.
Then I offered lots of pancakes and pizza and other fortifying food so he would have the energy to go pick out a 7 pound Chihuahua from the local rescue, because he hadn’t done anything to deserve it. After that we had salmon because it is good and not because it makes you smart and I served him non-organic cherries in a bowl with a lil’ pitt dish I re-purposed from a broken measuring cup. I let him sleep through the little chihuahua’s night-time crate training while I took on the job, even though I had said in no uncertain terms that he’d be the one waking up in the middle of the night. When my son finally did wake up, I made him more pancakes and put a band-aid on the hole in his face he got from a box of ridiculous firecrackers I bought him for the fourth of July. It’s tough being such a strict, bad-ass Tiger mom.