Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: love (Page 2 of 4)

1,676 Days

I’ve never been a smoker, but I’ve witnessed how difficult it is to quit. For all of my friends out there who are struggling with it, you have my sympathies.

My dad would have been 67 today. He died at the age of 62, ravaged with cancer they believe started in his lungs. He smoked 2-3 or more packs of unfiltered Camels a day, for over 20 years. He finally quit, but the damage remained. I miss him every day.  It’s been 1,676 days, in fact.   The cancer swept through him like a forest fire, and it took a long time to restore my memories of the vibrant, sarcastic, bushy-haired, bearded father I’d known for 30+ years, from the last weeks where his body became a fragile hollow shell. Mostly I miss being able to laugh with him about things, but the hardest moments are when I want advice, from someone who’s known me for a lifetime.   So if you can, if you can find the strength to quit, or cut back, so you can be there for your own kids, believe me, they’ll appreciate it.

My December

My december

While Thanksgiving was easier….. December has been harder.

I will get through it,
and it will be different,
Each season will leave a different blueprint image behind,
Like a monoprint
On the same piece of glass
All in shades of blue.


Or, as the lady who strolled up with her kids while we were waiting called it, “Story Corpse.” The Wo and I both laughed about that one later.
StoryCorps 2010
This was parked in Brookside for the past few weeks – part of a journey two Airstream trailers make on each side of the Mississippi, gathering stories and memories shared between two people. On Wednesday evening, we got to be part of that really cool, special opportunity: to record ourselves and be a permanent part of the collection in the Library of Congress. One person is the interviewer (me) and the other person tells their story (the Wo.) When reservations were first open, I logged on about 10 minutes after they’d begun, only to find nothing was open. That’s how fast it filled up. I added myself to the waiting list, not thinking it would actually happen. Then, I happened to be on the computer when the email came out to all of us wait listers, and there was only one time slot that could work – I crossed my fingers and replied. Thirty minutes later, I got confirmation that we had the 5:30 slot!

Because I’ve been listening to NPR for so long (I answered, “My entire life,” which is pretty much true, apart from some breaks here and there), I knew what we were doing, but the Wo got a bit panicked the night before as he read some of the sample questions. As he put it, “Nobody expects the Jenquisition!” Of course I wasn’t going to ask him unnerving, awkward questions, and I knew how he’d answer most of the questions, anyway. Eleven years and change of togetherness combined with a pretty good memory (sometimes too good) and I figured it would go pretty smoothly.

It did, there were lots of laughs, some tears/watering eyes, as we touched on the highs and lows of our combined lives. We exited with our own CD of the 40-minute conversation, and we’ll have a certificate and our own little place in the gigantic library someday. Who knows, maybe we’ll be one of those Friday morning voices I hear on Morning Edition. (I’m not counting on that.) I did fall completely in love with the microphone and noticed I totally dropped my voice when I asked the questions. Made me think, hmmm, maybe podcasting isn’t such a goofy idea after all. Heh. But what I really took away was a reminder of how much I love this man, how much he loves me, and how much I cherish our life together.

StoryCorps 2010

Hope Floats

Sorrow drips into your heart through a pinhole
Just like a faucet that leaks and there is comfort in the sound
But while you debate half empty or half full
It slowly rises, your love is gonna drown

– from the song “Marching Bands of Manhattan” by Death Cab for Cutie

Last Thursday, June 10th, I hit the four-year mark. I anticipated it, I eyeballed the date for days leading up to it. I felt the fluttering fingers of dread rise up in my stomach. Four years since I watched my father take his last breaths, four years that have seen changes and sorrow and laughter and joy and struggles and anger. Oh the mighty anger. In the beginning of those four years, it felt like being in a blender. Nothing would ever return to how it was, the very essence of who I was had been forever changed, and even intellectually you grasp that, of course not, there is a dividing line between Before and After. But you want Before like never before. And you fear After and that it will erase Before and you also find out who your true friends are. People will tell you you’ve changed (and not for the better) and they won’t understand that the faucet of grief doesn’t shut off in three months. That priorities shift and change. In fact, it seems to just be getting started, the grief, because everyone else has moved on and you are rooted in the new reality, confused. And you feel your love and your life will all drown. Your head goes under. Sometimes you think about staying under, too. Nights in the bathroom, on the back steps, crying. Sobbing in the shower, weeping in the car, how can so much sorrow live and thrive in one human’s space?
I miss my dad. Now, though, when I dream about him, it is a comfort. A friendly visit, even if the dream is crazy. His face, his voice, his laugh and the memory of his hugs are etched into my soul. That, I must say, is the thing for which I am most grateful. As I’ve aged, details and names and memories get muddied, blurred, fall away. I feared so badly my father’s memory would follow suit. My grief was my hair shirt, one coping mechanism of keeping him alive, assuaging any guilt I felt about having a laugh or a moment that resembled normal. Eventually I realized my grief became less paralyzing. And in the middle of the afternoon on June 10, last week, I was busy working, as I had been all day. I looked at my calendar on my desktop and frowned. I said the date out loud and then it hit me. It was June 10th. Here and Now. That Day. I felt an instant stab of guilt that I had spent half my day without realizing That Day Was Here Again. Then I thought, wow. All of you people who have walked this road before me were right.
It really does get better.

Sweet Orts

I just had lunch with a sales rep I’d never met before, and had already rescheduled the lunch date once. I even contemplated rescheduling again, because I’ve got a bunch to do in a short amount of time. But I decided to just relax, go have lunch, and meet her. We had a great time, and in a really odd, roundabout way, discovered we both had lost our fathers and shared similar mom relationships, the same values, politics. It was a good reminder to me that in putting oneself out there, even if it’s not your first choice of action for the day, good things often flow back.

After that lunch, I realized Mimi Murano was running, literally, on fumes. So I got to spend extra to buy my gas in Kansas, but opted to minimize the blow by filling up at CostCo. Right after I started fueling, a minivan pulled in behind me, and I realized, as I was staring into space, tiny hands were waving from the back seat at me. I waved back. The hands moved faster. I waved again. I said something to the mom, as she headed back to the driver’s seat – about how her kids were really friendly and we were waving at each other. She laughed and said they will talk to anyone, they love to talk. I told her it was pretty cute.  She got in the van for a few minutes, and then got out and told me her three-year-old daughter was begging to be let out so she could talk to me. Of course that was an unrealistic request, but it was so utterly charming. And another reminder that when you think you’re invisible, someone else might think you look like a really great person to talk to!

Last, but not least, my husband has begun ‘pre-missing’ me. He already lamented last night how much he will miss me this weekend, as I head East to St. Louis for the Spring Fling and spend four days immersed in yarn, knitting, friends and fun.  He’ll be busy, I know – selling tomato plants, continuing to churn through yard stuffs and working on the gardens, but it’s always nice to feel needed, and appreciated, and yes, when you’re gone, missed. I, in turn, have been making meals that produce plenty of leftovers so he’ll have dinner options. Though I just KNOW he’s gonna eat one of those KFC Double Down things in my absence….

Old Light, Love Eternal

Whenever I get an email or message on Facebook about a friend’s father dying, I have a millisecond moment where the air leaves my lungs and I feel that moment all over again, so visceral, so tangible, I can see the color of the sky and feel my husband’s hand on my shoulder in that moment, a moment I now share with another person. Fortunately, it’s immediately followed by a rush of sadness and empathy for my friend, and the knowledge and vision of what time can do, what time does. How I wish I could impart that knowledge as comfort, while knowing it must simply be lived and endured, marched through, sat within, processed. So I just say what wiser people told me, that it does get better, but not in that chirpingly “time heals!” sort of way, just that from the vantage point of another human being with a shared experience, yes, it does, it does get better. You don’t cry as often or as long, and eventually, you don’t cry every day. It’s not magic nor does it disappear – I realized this week I’ve been weepy at odd points in time, and I remembered that this is the time of year when we found out about my father’s cancer.  How life itself changed in that springtime evening, as you turn a corner and you don’t even know what direction you’re going, because once again, only time gives you that vision. How four years ago, I still had hope, I railed against the very notion of death, and put every ounce of my determination into seeing my father live.  While I would prefer to have him alive, surviving, ranting on the phone with me about politics or giving me advice, I must say, the greatest relief is that he never left my heart, it was my biggest fear that somehow he would fade or pieces would disappear, but I am so grateful that I can see him as vividly as if we’d just visited, I can hear his voice, his laugh, see his smirk.

I looked into the nighttime sky last week, noting that Orion was barely visible, just a glimpse of his belt over the treeline to the West. Disappearing as the seasons change, off to hunt in another hemisphere. I thought of all the nights, in the first winter months after Dad died, after the rest of the world was done grieving him and wanted me to return to my old self, a person I could never reclaim. I would stand outside and weep, remembering all the nights I’d spent staring at the stars in Iowa, these same stars  pointed out to me by my dad, how Regina Spektor sings about the stars as ‘just old light’, how the bowl above marks the same trek across the expanse, no matter what our pain or hardships.  As Orion slips away, Scorpius claims the summer sky, the scorpion that felled the great hunter, put into the sky for time eternal, and the same battles and journeys begin anew for someone here on earth.

The Road

I finished Cormac McCarthy’s book “The Road” last night.

I’m still sorting out how I feel. It was incredibly …….oh so many adjectives. Moving. Depressing. Illustrative. Gorgeously written. Imaginative. Solid. Thinking book.

This quote – I read it over and over when I arrived at it in the book.

“He thought each memory recalled must do some violence to its origins. As in a party game. Say the words and pass it on. So be sparing. What you alter in the remembering has yet a reality, known or not.”
Cormac McCarthy (The Road)

It gives you an idea of the thought-provoking prose that gracefully flows from nearly every page;  my little book-reading gnomes in my brain are still sitting by the fireplace, feet up, pondering and ruminating on all the facets in this book. What I suppose I find so haunting is that the whole book, in my memory of reading it, feels so parallel to my over-arching grief process. There is sadness. There is inevitability. But through all of the darkness, there is an unbreakable strand of pure shining silvery light, the love between a parent and a child, and it isn’t the darkness that makes me cry, but the joy of still being able to see the light.

Shout Out

Today is NOT my friend Beth’s birthday. However, she did just return from a vacation. Yay! Beth! I am so glad you are home. It IS my dear friend friend Staci’s birthday, however, so keeses to her.

Beth is my bestest friend in the world. She shares a space in my inner circle with some wonderful people, and I must say, she is the most constant presence among these people, and we email and chat so regularly that I began to flounder when she took a vacation last week.


Me: “I miss Beeeeeeeth.”
James: “When does she come back?”

Me: “This weekend but not ’til Sundaaaaaaay, oh my god she’s been gone so lonnnng.”

James: silence

Me:”NNnnnNNNNNYYEErrrrrrrrRRRR!” with dramatic flailing.

Me:”I mean, she doesn’t have internet so there are all these THINGS! She is not caught up! Like, like, does she even KNOW about the iPad? We would have talked about that. The world is moving along and THINGS are happening and we discuss those THINGS.”

James: laughs at me

I will say this, though, I had one giant rant-er-iffic meltdown with my husband over the week and he handled it fantastically.  He’s my best friend of all, of course, but we also know that girlfriends listen differently than husbands do. Bless his heart, he didn’t try to fix anything or tell me what he thought I should do, he just agreed that it was crazy, and (as always) offered to slash their tires. And he bought me some dinner and made me hot cocoa with Kahlua in it.

I’d take James and Beth into a knife fight any day.

(don’t worry, there are quite a few of you I’d bring to the party. Beth, however, would remember the tourniquets.)


Today, my dad would have been 66 years old. By some measures, still young. I’ve dreamed of him a lot lately, but then last night’s dream also included my mother and Katie Horner, so I’m not spending a lot of time interpreting things…

I miss him. I think of him every day, and now, with this gift of time, I have more perspective, a better understanding of how you do continue to live when you lose someone you love. The first months, I was convinced that without grief, he would be gone. Somehow,  losing the daily sobbing would make him fade, disappear. Then in the next wave of months, it felt like I’d been sentenced to a lifetime of wearing fractured glasses. Impossible to see anything the way it used to be, frustrated that others were blithely continuing their own existences, angry that nobody understood and everyone wanted me to be Over It. Guess what? You don’t ever get Over It. You get Through It. And it ain’t easy.

Last night, as I waited for sleep to come (and bring me both my parents plus a local meteorologist), I thought of how the gaping chasm of grief has become a fissure of melancholy. Bittersweet and deep, but it is something to be acknowledged, even appreciated, not fallen into. Today, even now, as I give voice to these things, I will weep, because the sorrow never goes. But those days are not everyday anymore.  Instead, on the ‘regular’ days, I’ll smile, a melancholy or secret smile to myself, when I say something he would have said, or laughed at, or been angry about, or railed at the idiocy of, and we share this. Inside me. When he was alive, he was outside of me, and now in death, he is in my head and my heart. Instead of always mourning, I get to celebrate what we shared, what he taught me, the gifts he gave me.  I’m grateful for those who’ve walked this path before me, who shared their perspective and wisdom, because even though I didn’t necessarily absorb it at the time, I put it in my pockets, tucked it away, because I’m a gatherer and a collector, and I knew it would be good to have down the road. Time. How greatly we want it to stand still, to not have anything change, to stave off death, loss, sadness. Yet time is what gives us relief, peace, perspective and appreciation.

Instead of just mourning his memory today, I celebrate the man who gave me so much, and even in death, still laughs when I do.

It Will All Be OK

..Ok, Go.

PensiveGirl tweeted this earlier today. I’ve watched it several times, and it is just one of those fantastic visual-audio combos that makes your brain hum, your toes tap, and your soul soar. They took embedding down, so you can see the video on YouTube here.

The song is called “This Too Shall Pass.” When the words were sung – “Let it go… this too shall pass,” I felt tears in my eyes, because it’s so simple. We burrow and fret and worry and panic and stress and rail at the day and the day..passes. And it felt like advice I got a few years ago, advice I couldn’t believe or accept at the time, from my dying father trying to reassure me that in the end, it would all be ok. I love him every bit today as I did when he was alive. I marvel at that in part because I didn’t think it possible.

And I still marvel at the power in sound and words that can evoke such feeling. With a marching band to boot.

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