Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Home is a strange concept. It appears to have a different meaning to everyone.  For most of us, it's something we take for granted.  For myself, home is the place I can relax. The place I feel I belong. A soft place to land. I've spent what seems like forever, but it's actually closer to five years, looking for home. Many times I have said that I feel like a guest in my own life since it quite literally imploded. I could be in a crowd of 500 people and feel alone. I could be in a bedroom that I paid rent to be inside, still I am a guest. In my own bed, in the hotel of my own head, I did not feel at home. I could not be small enough, in my mind, to not be in someones way. To say I am, or have been, misplaced is a terrible understatement.  For lack of a better term I felt like a refugee from some war torn county that only I and Richard inhabited. My home was gone.  

Home in Tennessee no longer exists. The huge family of my memories has passed into the dust of history. They  live in my mind’s eye. My aunts are in their kitchens making something tasty and my uncles are sitting on their porches chewing the fat.  But the death of my father in August closed the book on that place for me forever. I have no urge to revisit an empty land that would only remind me that the home I knew is gone. The love and laughter. My roots are sunk deep in the bedrock of that land. It is as much a part of me as the DNA that ties me to my family. Somewhere within me is the girl who climbed trees and chased the cattle with my Daddy. Yet I am far from the girl who sat barefoot underneath that big oak tree atop the hill and traveled the world in a book. But who I am does not erode in the sands of time or the flood of tears. We on the widows walk know, not everyone who is with you when the storm begins, will be there when the sun comes out again. Most of my remaining family have fallen into this category. There was a manufactured distance put into place to remove themselves from my palatable pain. I chose not to beat my grief into a manageable form to stick into some kind of iron box and make those around me comfortable. I could not straitjacket my emotions to make myself less painful to come into contact with at any given time. I faced it head on, regardless if I was on my knees or my feet, in private or in public. You must understand that it is unseemly in the south for one to not have on her "everything is okay face."  Like the song says, "Go and hide your crazy. Start acting like a lady." I was incapable of doing so when the storm began to swirl around me. I tried to grieve with grace but I did not always succeed. I bear no ill will nor bitterness, but the need for them has lessened over time as well. The blood and bone do not call to me anymore. I can love you in the distance. I am comfortable there. I have discovered that my family are the people I choose, not necessarily the ones who share my biology. I grieved those relationships long ago. I grieved my past life and the home of my yesterdays. Most people assume that family is forever and that it always stands. I am not a proponent of the blood and bone family. Loyalty and love makes family.

I needed away from the ghost town of Charlotte. Everywhere I turned shards of my old life were there to wound me. All the years and memories flooded about me because everywhere I went there we were. Thousands of adventures and laughter haunted my mind. Traumatic memories of eleven years of a chronic illness ripped at the fabric of my belief in forever. It was as if I could smell his cologne on the wind. The embers of my life still threw off smoke that permeated everything around me. I was existing in the cemetery of the hopes and dreams of my former self. Grief swallowed me whole as I sank into depression. Once one’s eyes adjust to the darkness, even things in the shadows become clear. I spent years in the half light betwixt and between. I saw the demons faces even while I confronted my own. I moved though my journey, sometimes crawling, sometimes staggering to my feet and once in a great while I was in a dead run. But I was moving. I had an almost maniacal need to survive. I wanted to heal. But I was breathless to the pain. I needed to disappear and that is exactly what I did. I ran. I cannot say what I did was for a healthy purpose. I had to escape it all. I was not of this mindset at the time but, I understand now that things don't heal without oxygen. I ran for my sanity. I embraced becoming a refugee, faced my fears, and moved 7 hours from Charlotte.

In the Metro, I learned more about myself than anyone surrounding me. I reentered life on my own terms where no one knew my name or my history. There were no whispers or questions. There were no explanations. I had to learn to live again. Making the smallest decisions was a project that kept me awake at night. Paying my bills, buying my groceries, being to work on time, even entertaining myself became lessons that no one but me could grade. It was as if I had entered a foreign country where I did not speak the language. I could blame this one or that one for situations I found myself within, but the choices and mistakes were mine alone. That being said, I was in a very dangerous city and for all intensive purposes, I was alone. I could depend on no one. A couple of good illnesses and a hurricane bearing my very own name showed me just how alone in the world I was at that point. Could I survive it? Was I worth the effort to myself? The lioness inside me reared her head. The fight within me returned and took up the cause of not just my sanity, but my happiness. She will walk on when she is too tired and injured to move. She will not show her soft underbelly and make herself vulnerable. She will give you a steady gaze and discern if you are prey or predator.  I found my roar. My laughter and my love of life. One good friend, neigh a sister, was what I gained. If the price to have her in my life was that sojourn in hell, then cash my check. But, the sheer passive aggressive nature of the human race at large, keep that to yourself. I see no reason for such behavior, but that could be due to the fact that I have lost enough to know to conserve hate speech. Regret is a high dollar debt to the dead. I will chew my tongue off rather than to engage in something that has no positive outcome on the horizon. That is not to say that I am perfect. But as my Daddy always taught me, "Measure twice and cut once." 

I have done a lot of forgiving.  I have forgiven thoughtless people who thought they were my friends. I have forgiven heartless people who thought they were my enemies. I have forgiven hurting people who thought they were my family. I have forgiven Richard for leaving me. I have forgiven myself for surviving. I released everything that was poisoning my heart. I did not do this for anyone else. This I did to free me. A life filled with bitterness served nothing and no one. Choking the light from my life with vines of hatred only took me deeper into the dark. It was a hard fought battle. I wanted to hold a grudge. I wanted to stand up and scream about how they hurt me. I wanted to slug it out and be right, because I thought I deserved validation. I wanted to be their victim and a victim of life. But pride is a terrible thing. Smugness is a flaw. To be someone’s victim is to be a slave. To bow to their will. To submit. My arrogance would not allow me to let someone else control me. I am no one’s victim. It is better to live one day as a lion than a hundred years as a sheep. I stand or fall on my say so alone.

I came to Minnesota to live in June. Yes Minnesota. I found a big viking man with dancing blue eyes and a smile that sets my heart a flutter. A hand that holds mine completely.  A common goal and an uncommon life. I would never say I will ever be completely healed. No one who survives what we have will ever be healed. Our souls are scared. But there are no ghosts in our home. Our children, mine and his, are intimately connected to our pasts. Our lives were interwoven with both of our lost spouses for many, many years. They will remain so forever. We discuss and remember. There is no insecurity or jealousy. We apply what we have learned in the long winter months of our grief. We were whole before we tried to be half of anything. Truly we are greater than the sum of our parts. We work every day to build and grow. We are considerate because we remember what is it to be taken for granted. We are humble because we know that tomorrow is promised to no one. We are gloriously in love. 

I would never say my life is perfect. Perfection is a hellish illusion we project upon the world. I will say that I am happy and I am healthy. I am healed. I have thrown off my widow's weeds and have embraced life. The stench of death and loss have left my spirit. I do not believe that to grieve is to leave your loss behind. I believe that to grieve is to leave the old you behind. To shed the person you once were and embrace whom you are at this point is the largest part of the grief process. You will carry it with you the rest of your days but only you can determine if it is a blessing or a curse. Life is change. The hardest changes to make and adjust to are the ones that are forced upon you. We always rebel when we have no choices. It is not fair to judge anyone else’s journey nor should one advise they have the only way to traverse this terrain. Whatever it takes to walk out the other side is what it takes. As for me, magnolias grow in many climates. When I got off the plane at the airport in Minneapolis, I saw one and I smiled. She is different than what I have known, but she is here. I survived what was ripped away from me and the loss of my footing. I survived the subzero temperatures of grief and the fiery temperatures of judgement, the worst of which was mine toward myself. I am blooming here in the great white north. I am home.  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Well it's Christmas again. The Hellidays have come and I am still standing. I am not medicated and I am sober. I would hazard to say that I am clearer headed than I have been in years. Are you frightened yet?

This time of year I generally take stock of my life and look at the checklist I made for myself in my head to see how I have progressed. This year has been a stiff learning curve but for the most part I have made great strides toward sanity. Well not necessarily sanity, but some semblance of normalcy that I haven't had in almost four years. I am working. I get up every morning and walk out of the house into the public spectrum. I leave my sadness and grief on the floor of the bedroom like my discarded pajamas. I smile. I laugh. I don't feel guilty. Not everyone understands me or the way I choose to live my life and that is fine. I make no excuses. I make no explanations. I am unafraid to say "This is well and truly none of your business." I am who I am.

All of that being said, there is a sadness to me that will probably never leave. I have lost much. I have grieved hard. The other side of that coin is that I love hard. If one has never known true sadness how do you recognize true joy? I feel deeply. I love boundlessly. This will necessarily leave me open to deep pain. I have come to acknowledge that my tears will never completely dry. But they are not always tears of sadness. I cry in joy almost as easily. I am blessed to be in touch with my emotions. This however comes with a temper and a sometimes harsh, unapologetic tongue if I am defending someone I care about these days. I have no urge to defend myself. I have no need. I know who I am and what you think of me has little to no bearing as to what I will or will not accept. I do not require your approval or permission to be happy.

This year has taught me to open my eyes. I see selfishness in people. I see childishness and pettiness. I see lies and alibis. I see people who will only love me if I meet there expectations of whom they have painted me to be in their mind. I see people who would try to exploit my weaknesses or my shortcomings. I choose to turn and walk away. I will not arm you to hurt me. I am polite and courteous. But their time in my life is coming short. Unless you can support my dreams and love me where I am, I have no need of your companionship. I am done with the drama.

I am blessed with a few really good friends. Those truly close to me are a small handful of extraordinary people in my eyes. They hold my hands when they are shaking either in brokenness or in fury. They know me to be a faithful friend. They know me to be an unwavering advocate for those I love. They know I will stand with them whether it be behind, beside or between them when they need me. More than that, they support me and they support my dreams. They believe in me. They wrap their arms around me when I am in the floor of my heart to pick me up and start again. They cheer for me when I am on the ceiling. I have come to know that they believe in my heart to fight another day. They believe in my wisdom to do what is right regardless of the cost to me personally. If I can face myself in the daylight with the decisions I made the day before, I'm good. I'm real good.

The apple of my eye is Drew. He is my heart in another body. But I have relinquished my Mommy role. I am his Mom. He makes my heart soar. I am so proud of the man I raised. He is funny. He is tenacious. He is heartfelt. He is wise. He is a good man. He is a lot of his father. He is a lot of my brother. But he is all himself. I cannot take credit for who he is. I am honored to have him in my life. He allows me to be a confidant. He allows me to be his friend. I see his strength. I see his struggle. I see his heart. He is not jaded. He is not bitter. He is my true north.

I am looking forward to 2013. I see some doors closing and more swinging open wide. I have thrown open the windows of my heart. I can need people again. I can surgically remove you from my life without regret as well. My feet are firmly planted and I am reaching. I am accomplishing many things that for me are monumental. Others might see them as nothing special but if you had walked a mile in my platforms, you could see the extraordinary steps I am making everyday. This is what I want. I want a life less ordinary. I want to love with great passion. It can be for 2 weeks or for 20 more years. But I deserve it. To hold some of my heart in reserve is to be less than I should be in my eyes. I will leave it all on the table every day. I will live with abandon. To do less is to do a disservice to the people who are not here to see me fly. They loved my strong spirit. They loved my fighters heart. They loved my willingness to jump off the cliff and soar or sink. I will live my life on my terms. The Belle is back and she is fearless.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Martyrs and Saints.

Well here comes his birthday again. If one more person says something stupid about their advice or experiences regarding what I should do about it, I'm going to jail. I have heard everything from "You should release balloons in his honor!" (Doesn't that kill something innocent somewhere when they drop? You do know they don't really make it to heaven right?) to "Why not buy him a cake and celebrate?" (Well you know he was a diabetic and couldn't have a piece of cake if he were here right?) How about I do whatever in the hell it takes for me to see the sun rise the next morning? I might cry. I might work. I might drink. I might sleep. I very well might do everything I said and more. But as long as I get out of the bed the next morning, then I did what I should have to celebrate his birthday. We generally spent his birthday quietly. A card. A waffle. A present. Last year I walked outside at midnight and whispered to the sky. I cried. Because I well and truly miss him.

Strangely I find that people also tend to forget who Richard was in real life. They forget a hot temper and at times a foul mouth. They don't remember the man. They remember the myth. He was perfect and good and true. Just like a saint. Saint Richard. Never forget I loved this man. I loved him because of his faults not in-spite of them. I loved his clumsiness.I loved his silliness. I loved the fire in his belly when things were wrong or unfair. But I argued with him incessantly. We fought like we loved each other: Hard and without mercy. He laughed when I practiced my "flying phone technique" on a customer service representative and when I picked it up to continue yelling. I laughed when he was offended and lost his mind on doctors, lawyers and police officers. The man I loved had to go sit in his truck when our son had a car accident because the man who hit him was uninjured in the wreck. The man I loved was the most feared of his brothers and the smallest. The man I loved was a hard man and he loved me hard. He was mischievous. He could be malicious. Richard was many things in this life, but never, was he ever, a Saint.

The same people who have canonized my husband have determined that I am to be a Martyr.  I am a poor victim of life and I should lie down. Lie down to die. I have been through many things in this life. The key word here is through. I have survived things that could chill your blood. Sometimes they have chilled mine. But I am no ones victim. The same woman who beat the phone over the granite counter-top until it was in fifty pieces whilst on the phone with the customer service representative is the same one beating on this keyboard. (That was the same phone call by the way.) I am the same woman who made my son's teachers cry and the principal called Saint Richard to say "Don't you ever let her come here alone again." To which he replied, "I can't do a thing with her. I would advise you don't make her mad again." I was the deacon's wife that they never asked a question for fear I would give them an answer. Richard and I shared many an adventure in our marriage from dust in his eyes that got us escorted out of the grocery store by police to a near fight in Wal-Mart with a woman who kept hitting him in the foot with her cart at Thanksgiving. We also shared thousands of waffles and millions of tears. But he loved me as I am and not some fictionalized version that some would paint of me. I will not lay my life down for the cause. Well, not this one. I am no ones Martyr.

However one of those people used to tell me she had a perfect marriage. Then I got closer and listened to the love story. He was 20 years older than her. He was a gentleman and her mother was in a conniption fit because she was seeing him. He had a good job. He was good to her boys. What she forgot to tell me was that he was married at the time. She also neglected to tell me he had a gambling issue. Or that she had a drug problem. When he passed away, she was cold. Cold to the fact that her perfect marriage was over. Cold to the fact that he was gone and she was alone. Their love had grown cold. If you have a perfect marriage, please stay away from me. You are either in denial or you are an accomplished liar. Neither are welcomed in my life. My marriage was messy. It was never cold. But my sainted grandmother used to say, things don't grow without heat and rain. He loved me the same the day he closed his eyes as he did the day I met him. There was a kinetic energy between us. I was empty when he left. Real things are not perfect. Real people are not perfect.

Let me explain something ladies and gentlemen. Real love is fire. Fire that is in your bones as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow. Love is commitment that holds fast when the world would tear you apart. Because in love you will work to the others weakness. Love makes you better. Not necessarily better humans, but a better version of you. To pull together in adversity. To turn on a dime to defend what you believe in and whom you love. Love does not need encouragement from outside parties. It should drive you to run faster, to work harder, to strive and to achieve. Love should be a place where you are there regardless of circumstances. Richard and I had that illusive thing. The thing that held us together. Love is not perfect. Flawed people make the best lovers. So when you think of my husband and I, I would ask that you temper you memories with some truth. With some laughter. With some anger. For just as God in heaven welcomed my beloved Richard home, he knew he was no Saint. Just as I am sure he looks at me sometimes with laughter in those beautiful green eyes and says that I am no Martyr.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Three Years and Some Change

Well here I am. Another year is gone. I am now 45. As I remarked to my friends the other day, my 45 is much different than my mother's. She was older than I when she crossed this year. She had a son who was 24 and a daughter who was 20. She was tired and unwilling to learn anything else. She was done with pursuing life. I am not her. I am hungry for life. I have an insatiable desire to grow and learn. I am far from done. But when asked if this was the 45 I saw in my mind's eye when I was 20, I had to answer truthfully. That answer is no.

At 20 I believed in happily ever after. I believed in forever. At 45, neither is even in my vocabulary anymore. It's simply a language I no longer speak. Talking to a friend the other night, I was remarking about my failures and regrets. How I wish things were different. I was then informed that I do not see what he sees. He sees a great strength inside me. To have survived both the suicide of my brother and the loss of my husband, to still be standing is nothing short of miraculous if you knew me before it all began. Those were the pillars of my life. The two of them and I were the trinity that could hold the world together. Now I stand alone to do the same work. And I am making it work.

I no longer believe in forever and certainly not the happy part. I believe that happiness is where you find it. One cannot "make me happy." That is something I must find within myself. I have more flashes of happiness than sadness these days. I smile more easily. It actually reaches my eyes now and again. But I am told my eyes still have a haunted look behind them. The hurt of the past nine years cannot be erased by time or tears. For if tears could have washed it away it would have been gone long ago. My life is as it is and I cannot change the past. I have lost much around me, and I even lost myself for a while. But the bones of me are still here. The core of me is alive and well.

Emotionally I am a bit fragile. I am horribly homesick for the south. I am looking at my sojourn in the north as if I have been deployed on a secret mission and I am counting the days until I set my feet in the warm soil of the south. Half of what I want to eat is exotic to this place and the other half tastes like mud. If I don't cook it, I probably won't eat it. The same goes for what I feed my emotional health from this situation. Most everything I hear is toxic. I don't understand self pity nor lack of ambition. I don't understand a victim mentality. Nothing was done to you. You participated in your demise. If you don't like where you are in life, do what is necessary to change it. Put some starch in your backbone. If I am not crying, don't even think of starting in front of me.

 So as I take inventory this year, this is what I can say regarding the state of the magnolia. I am stronger than I look. I am wiser than I thought. I am smarter than I guessed.When I love, I love hard, but when it is betrayed it goes cold quickly. I long for peace. I don't know where that peace might be nor how to obtain such a thing. But I need it. I need a home that is not on fire constantly. I need to rest. I am a guest in my own life. The hotel changes but I am never at home. It is up to me to find a way to make room for me. I am never comfortable. I always feel out of place. But I like me. I will give myself credit for raising an amazing child. I will give myself credit for standing up and having enough courage to literally begin again. I am functioning. No one is taking care of me. No one is feeding the fire of my ambitions. There is no sunshine of  love towards me that I might feel warm and wish to reach toward the sky. What grows in me now is mine. I need neither permission nor approval and that feels good. I have extricated myself from the bad people and the bad things. I will not dwell there ever again.

When spring comes to the magnolia, there can be snow on the ground and the sap will still start to flow. The wounds made from the pruning of the winter can ache but soon a tough skin will cover the injury and the inner strength of the tree will heal it. Just because you perceive that it is still winter does not mean that it is cold in the heart of the matter. I may look like I am still without my branches and that my blooms are long forgotten. You may believe that I may never bloom again. Rest assured I have reserved my strength. Rest assured I have planned for this day.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Misplaced Magnolia

Well where do I begin? First I have relocated. I am now in what I believe to be called "The DC Metro Area." I will not swear to that as it is as foreign as any Eastern European Country that I can imagine. Life is strange at the moment, but you know what they say, "the more things change the more they stay the same."

Lets get this part out of the way, No I do not like this place. I am a southern female. Yelling at people in the streets and in the grocery is simply unseemly. I do not like to be called "Hun" by anyone as it is a familiarity that unless I have granted, it quite unwelcome in my eyes. Do not touch me if I do not know you personally. I am not a hugger and I do not like to be the huggee. A handshake should be quite sufficient to fulfill a greeting requirement. That being said, I am reserved but friendly. However, just because I measure my words and speak slowly does not mean that I am slow. It means that I can read. Another phrase I would ask not be used when referring to me is "country." I am southern, I am not a redneck. "Country" people are all well, fine and good. I however, am not one of those people. You can be entertained by my accent, it is advisable not to mock me. You can ask me what I said or even what it meant. But trying to imitate me is simply rude and I do tolerate rudeness well.

I have returned to work. I have gone back into the industry that is my first love. I weave fairy-tales of happily ever after. I help her pick out her most important ensemble and tell her she is the most beautiful girl in the world. I remember those dreams. I remember that hope. I remember believing in love and forever. Inevitably, the question is asked "Are you married?" At first it was difficult. I questioned myself. "Do I say the words?" "Do I say no?" "Do I ignore the question and hope she is distracted by something else shiny?" Generally I answer the question and say the words. "I am a widow." This brings a hush to the platform. A dark cloud hovers over this joyous occasion and I take her hand. I say "It's okay darlin'." I then turn to her family and make a remark to turn the conversation back to their beautiful dreams for her wondrous day.

I am quiet here. I do not care to extend myself as I am not looking for approval. I am invited to church or to holiday cookouts with a friends family. I am content with who I am and where I am in life. I am holding tight to my manners and my sanity. Mostly I hate the questions. What others consider "getting to know you" inquiry I find to be invasive. I don't want to explain anything to anyone. I answer what I want, when I want, but I won't be bullied into telling my life story. I simply want to live and let live. I just want to be me and be okay with all that requires from inside myself. Yes I sit in the bathtub and cry. I can count the days on one hand I haven't cried since I set my foot on the ground here. But showing it to the outside world is not something I will do today nor ever probably. I am homesick. But the home I remember no longer exists. I haven't been home in three and a half years. Either I live in the past or I look for home in the present.

I have good friends who do not live here. Friends who call me just to say "Hello" if they are on vacation. Friends who text me at 3am asking "Are you up?" I laugh with them. Yes sometimes I even cry with them. I sit on the stoop and talk to another good friend. They didn't know me before and they love me in the after as well as in the aftermath. They worry about me. They share with me. They include me. I am alone. I am not lonley.

Although I am far from home, I am okay. I am healing. I am learning. I cannot run from who I am nor where I have been in my life. I am not reinventing myself.  My spring has come and I am reaching for the sky. I promised you two years and some change ago that I would see spring. The cuts were deep and the winter was harsh. Beaten and battered but still I reach, still I grow, still I rise. Magnolia's grow everywhere. Even this misplaced one.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My True North

I remember the first time I saw you. I had just come back from surgery and was in my hospital room. This bundle was being passed around that I hadn't seen. Only a face over a curtain who was so mad at entering this world. They took you away as they closed me up and I yelled at the top of my lungs "I told you it was a boy!! Is he okay?" The bundle was quiet and wiggly. Then it was finally my turn. They handed you to me and I was so scared. You see, I'd never held a baby before. I looked into those eyes the first time and I was gone. This was my heart in someone else. This was my love.

Later that night they brought me you with a bottle and a paper towel. You and I did a lot of firsts together. I fed you and laid you on my chest. It was there I noticed that bead of sweat that breaks out across your nose when you are truly sleeping. About 3 am you woke me up. Pounding on my chest with your tiny fists. Trying to raise your head. You've always been in a hurry. The nurse came in and took you from me and I felt so empty without you knocking around inside me. You didn't cry but I did. When I brought you home I slept with my hand on your back in the bassinet beside the bed because I was paranoid you might die. When you went to the crib I made sure you were breathing about 100 times a night. To this day I still do it from time to time.

Your first couple of years were a whirlwind. I didn't know that sitting up at 5 months was quick. I truly didn't know that walking at 7 months was unusual. I didn't know I shouldn't wean you at a year nor potty train you by 18 months. But we were doing what came natural to us. If you could do it, you did and I stood behind you cheering. You gave me chicken pox the second time. You gave me flu that turned to pneumonia. You gave me stomach viruses that should have put me to bed when you were a wild man running through the house giggling. You gave me laughter that I could not suppress even in church. You gave your grandparents a joy you can not even today yet conceive. The first grandchild and great grandchild. You should have been spoiled rotten yet you gave things away that you shouldn't. You came home in your undershirt from daycare because a little boy liked yours. You gave toys to less fortunate kids who lived in our complex. "Mama he didn't have one" was what you said.

I remember us playing rummy on the sofa without keeping score. I remember the video games I didn't understand. I remember the laughter of you and your Uncle John when you killed him over and over again with the golden gun he couldn't find. The Halloween costumes we slaved over. The muscle suit I made and your dad spray painting your new white tennis shoes so they would match. The werewolf who looked so good because you got make up on the sleeve of the shirt and I put it all over to make it match. The science projects that your dad and you made at midnight before they were due. Finding you on the sofa on Sunday morning asleep with the remote in your hands because you had gotten up during the night.

I remember when you shaved the first time and I cried. Your laughter ringing in my ears at 15 because I could hear your Uncle John and see his hands on you. Wrestling matches that I couldn't watch so your dad did play by play. I remember you taking my breath in your tux for prom. I can see the smile on your face when you first held your drivers license and the terror in my heart when you drove away in the dark. I can see the tears in your eyes from your first broken heart. I can see your eyes when I walked into the waiting room at the hospital when your dad collapsed. I can see the heartbreak when we stood together beside his bed. I feel your hand in the small of my back when they opened those doors to the sanctuary on that day and how you held my hand during the service. How you gave me your arm when we walked that isle behind him and the world as we knew it ended and all we had was each other.

These past three years have been so hard for us. But you have been my tower. My refuge. When I could see nothing else I could see you. I see so much of your dad in you now. I see his grit. His determination. I see the boy I fell so deeply in love with that I would face hell to stand beside him. I was married to your dad when he was your age. Strangely, I see my strength. I see my quiet reserve. I still see my heart beating in your chest. I see a man before me who is doing his damnedest to do what is right when it would be so easy to do what is wrong. I see your struggle to be whom you are destined to be. I love your joy and your laughter. Your stories and your jokes. Your keen mind and sharp wit. Your wisdom and your street-smarts. I love your arms when they hold me when I cry. I love you heart that sees others first. Your sense of right and wrong. You firm beliefs even when they don't match mine. Your desire and ability to stand by your convictions. Without a doubt I can say, that the greatest accomplishment of my life, the greatest joy and my greatest honor is that you call me Mom. Thank you for being my true north.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Walking Dead

I read something the other day that was sent to me regarding being the love of someones life. I commented on the blog and then I began to think about what was written and what I said regarding this particular situation. Basically what this blogger was expounding on was that she was married to a widower and that she would never be the love of his life because of his first wife. I sent it to my significant other (heretofore he is to be known as Wolfe and my significant other as I find the word boyfriend to be trite at my age) for him to read it. His take on the situation was the same as mine. You may not be the first but you can be the last. For my money, the last is a better seat on the ride anyway. However, what she said has very little bearing on what I am about to say.

I am not the woman that the first love of my life loved. I have walked through the hell that is widowhood and as a result I am forever changed. I am not now who I was when that fateful day dawned and I ran out the door to work like my ass was on fire. Although I inhabit the same body, my heart, my soul, my very being, the love of his life, died. It was a slow death. The woman that walked those floors. The woman who held his head when he was sick. The woman who smiled those particular smiles and laughed at those particular jokes. She no longer exists. She died as the time moved forward. Piece by piece, bit by bit, tear by tear. That's what no one gets. That is why to move forward is so slow on this widows walk. That's why it hurts so badly. Until we shed who we were, we are the walking dead. I was much a zombie as anything that George Romero ever put on a screen. I may not have been a rotting corpse on the outside, but the part of me, that was of the we, was decomposing inside me. I was feasting on the past and the memories and the "what ifs" and the "if  I'd just" that comprised my life. You can patch it up. You can gloss it over. But if you're trying to hold on to that relationship, that life, you are dragging a dead body along behind you.

I notice things about me that are different. With him, we ate Chinese. I love sushi. With him we watched a lot of television. I watch selected things. With him we spent Saturday out and about. I generally prefer to stay at home. With him we watched stupid comedies. I prefer English comedy but I like suspense and drama most of all. With him we were surrounded by family and drama. I prefer the company of my son and very little interaction with the drama filled people that inhabit my past. But those are physical things. Likes and dislikes. It goes deeper.

I was always a firebrand. I raised hell like it was my job. People feared my temper. No one was safe. I spoke without thinking often. I hated the taste of I'm sorry. If I thought you were wrong or made a mistake I would bully you into righting the wrong. I can say that now. I was a bully. But to my credit I lived in a world with the house on fire for 21 years. I got tired of always having to put out some sort of fire. First it was the struggle of a young marriage with no money and a baby. Two kids learning to coexist in a world that wanted them to fail. I had to fight. A family that thought I wasn't good enough made me strive for perfection. To beat and bang myself into a box that I could never quite fit into correctly. I was never who they needed or wanted me to be. I was never enough. Not in my eyes. Then was an illness that attacked my life like a rabid Hydra. Every time I cut off one head three more grew back. Yet I fought. I lived as a deacon's wife. I showed them my heart and they crucified me. I worked in the community. Give me your poor, your weak, your hungry kinda stuff. Still not enough.

Now I am more reserved. Ask me what I think and I will tell you but for the most part, I seldom have anything to say regarding what ever nonsense someone else is making noise about at any given time. I love people right where they are at any given time. Although my heart is not always on display, it is big and soft and cushy. I don't care if you're gay, straight, bi sexual, try sexual or asexual. Black, white, green, yellow, purple or polka-dotted. Lawyer, doctor, criminal, or Indian chief. I understand that we are all trying to do the best we can and what you're doing is well and truly none of my business. I don't have a lot of friends around me by my choice. I'm a good mom. I'm a good friend. I'm a good love. I am a bit acid tongued at times. I am opinionated. I am grown and believe it or not I am matured. I let very little anger me. I no longer have a box. I no longer have anything to prove. I am enough. I have cut the people out of my life that would not talk behind a polite smile. I learned that charity is best quiet. It's all enough.

So this version of me deserves a love of my life as well. Wolfe is very different than my late husband. He understands that there is no way to replace him and he has no urge to do so. He earned his place with patience and kindness. He was my friend first. He is still my best friend. He told me the other night that I am the woman he has looked all his life to find. Had he met me before the winter of my widowhood would he have loved me? I think not. Because I was not then who I am now. So if your question is if there is a chance for another love of your life I think the answer is yes. But the more important question is if there is life after death. I am living proof.