Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: the next year (Page 2 of 3)

Knitterventions and the Blue Christmas…..

We have a young designer here at the agency who has only knit scarves. She came to me because she wanted to knit her husband a hat for Christmas (in 9 days), and she was struggling with the yarn she had. I asked her what sort of yarn it was.


“Ok, but is it thick? Thin?”

“I don’t know. I got it from my grandma, and it’s really tangled. I’ve spent four hours trying to untangle it.”

“Oh, dear. What are you doing for lunch tomorrow?”

So yesterday, I took her up to the Studio (just a few blocks from work) and encouraged her to look at some bulky-weight yarns, since this was her first time knitting something other than a scarf, she’d be working in the round, and, well, Christmas is next week. Always aim for success when you’re beginning, I say. Before we left, I asked her if she had a budget.  “Five dollars?” She said, hopefully. I looked at her and I said, “Well, that’s gonna be tough.” She moved it up to ten. They’d agreed not to buy each other anything for Christmas. I said we’d do our best to get her something she’d like but wouldn’t break the bank.

Now, you don’t know her, but imagine a wee wisp of a thing, with black wavy hair, wide eyes, and pale perfect skin. She dressed up in a toga for our Halloween party, and she looked like some sort of mythical wood nymph, straight out of a Homer classic. A veritable doll, quiet and keeps to herself.  I feel quite lumbering, loud and mule-like around her delicateness.  At one point, while she was looking at some Manos, I felt like I’d thrown her into a frat party of yarn. She responded that she’d just never seen so much yarn before in her life. Wow. It took me back to when I first went to Depth of Field in Minneapolis, uh, 20 years ago, and I couldn’t believe how much it all cost.  In the end, we set her up with a $13 skein of a mellow rusty orange Manos, and I volunteered to loan her the needles.

Before we headed back to work, I zipped over to Wendy’s for a little potato-and-chili to go, and as we were driving there, we talked. It started out with geography of Kansas City – they live far to the North, and she would like to live closer in, and I was telling her how the river and bridges definitely separate worlds, and how a situation of mine had unfolded when a friend had moved. That veered into post-dead-dad stuff, and the angry email I’d gotten, about having changed (“and not for the better!”), and I was talking about grief, and I realized I was talking like a forty-year-old woman. Which, of course, I am.  But I turned to her as I said, “I realize I’m talking to you as though you’ve never lost someone close to you, and that’s a misguided assumption on my part, I don’t mean to speak that way.” With the tiniest glitter in her eyes, she solemnly looked back at me, and said, “I lost my mom when I was 16. Right after Christmas.”

And our words spilled back and forth – she also graduated at 16, has a strained and difficult relationship with her father, and the similarities and differences sorted themselves into tidy little piles. I hate that it’s a “club”. I hate that no matter how vividly I articulate the pain I’ve felt, and will feel for the rest of my life, still can not fully bring comprehension to those who have not gone through it. So inevitable, so dreadful, so so hard.  The holidays are bittersweet, because they bring memories, and even the good ones have the rind of melancholy. You just get through, you fake it a little bit, withdraw a little bit, and try to be aware if the sand is sinking under your feet. But in odd ways, the Dead Loved One club does prove to be a strange forger of friendships and understanding. Like those shops at an outlet mall, they stand lined up yet alone, facing outward – but they are all interconnected by a passageway a few steps beyond the stockroom.

Last weekend, I found myself crying a little bit, just sad, just missing my father, and one of my inner voices railed at the sky, crying out “WHY”, why do I have to feel this pain for the rest of my life? And for the first time I heard a response. “Because the pain you feel is in direct proportion to the love you had for him.”  I would never give up that love, and I know that love will stay with me until I die, which is a comfort. So I have to accept this piece that wails and cries and sometimes feels as raw as June 10th, 2006.  Balance. The depths parallel the heights.  Despite my tears, I know I’m not going to be as depressed this year as I was last year, and cognitively, I can see that the next year will most likely be better.

Ah. Death. What strange and twisted growth you encourage when you prune from our hearts.

The ol’ Pushme-Pullme.

I’m enclosing today’s Hazelden email below. Sometimes, I get these and they’re – meh. Too much God, too much 12-step, too much addiction, and yet I still stay subscribed, because there are days when they resonate like a clear bell above still water. I’ve grappled off and on internally with some things I don’t feel I can write about so publicly, partly because some people will think it’s about them, others won’t realize it IS about them – ha – and who needs that pressure when you’re already grappling?!  I started subscribing to these about 8 years ago, when my mother nearly died from alcohol poisoning (0.48 is a rather high number, eh?) and my efforts to get her into treatment at Hazelden failed. Wow, just typing that I saw the parallels to when I got my father into Mayo before he died. Sometimes I’m astonished by how much I grew up when I wasn’t paying attention.

Anyway, her birthday was Friday, and a co-worker was puzzled when I was getting advice on a birthday gift – “You haven’t seen her, you don’t talk, but you still send her gifts for Mother’s Day and her birthday? I don’t get it.”

I do it for me. There will always be part of me that loves her and wishes things were different. Instead of trying to change it, I’m letting it be. I take the actions that I want to take, send gifts because it’s what I want to do. Cutting someone out of your life is much easier in its definitive-ness; it’s a black & white world, much like rehab. You drink or you don’t, you have a relationship or you don’t. For me, that choice doesn’t work. Unfortunately, that gray area bears a lot of parallels to other friendships – things have changed enormously in two years. People I fought for and defended have turned their backs on me. Others who feel they gave me everything think I turned my back on them.  Because whenever there’s another person involved? Your ability to influence, work on or control things still only equals half.  And when the proportion of effort is out of whack, resentment builds. It gets easier to retreat, draw the line, say fuck-off, go away.  As someone who chooses not to live in a black & white world, I still do love labels and resolution.  But I’ve learned, unlike a moth to the flame, that seeking it doesn’t always work. So I am letting it all just be. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, yet I’m finding there’s peace in letting go. Not seeking.  Not tugging. In standing still, we can actually find and create direction. Peace.

Today’s thought from Hazelden is:

Stop playing tug-of-war.

Letting go can be like a tug-of-war with God.

Have you ever played tug-of-war with a puppy and an old sock or a toy? He pulls. You pull it out of his mouth. He grabs hold again and shakes and shakes and says grrrrrr. The harder you tug, the harder the puppy tugs. Finally, you just let go. Then he comes right back again, for more.

I have never successfully treated or solved one problem in my life by obsessing or controlling. I’ve yet to accomplish anything by worrying. And manipulation has not wrought one successful outcome. But I forget that from time to time.

The best possible outcomes happen when I let go. That doesn’t mean I always get my way. But things work out and, ultimately, the lesson becomes clear. If we want to play tug-of-war, we can, but it’s not an efficient problem-solving skill.

The Door Between

I’ve had occasion, a couple of times in the past month, to hear someone talking about a parent’s death, or a grave illness & their actions as they cope and brace themselves and prepare for the unknown. I hear my voice and my words and feel my …. whatever it is we all radiate that is intangible to see or often describe, but we feel it, and it couches what we say. “Vibe” is just too… trendy. “Aura” is just too….hippy-dippy.

But I’ve heard my words and the sounds surrounding them, and I know. I know that I know it now. I know what it is to go through it. To live it, to feel it like a fire raging through your conscious, to wish it would leave your bloodstream in a reverse-junkie rage, to know there are a thousand pitfalls, days on end lost, the emptiness, the pain, the mind fucks, the everything that goes with death. I had a salesperson who came in, her father in the hospital, things don’t look good, and I heard myself as I expressed my sympathies – no – my empathies. But not in an overwhelming way. (I still can crack myself, and am learning this language, no matter how much I didn’t want to.)

I remember how those who know/knew used their wisdom and experience with me. I remember reading Becky’s post, the post that came when I stood on the other side of the door, where I believed I KNEW, that I was wise in the ways of death, because we can only comprehend that what we have lived, and nobody wants to believe they suck at being there for someone else, for simply the sole reason of not having gone through the experience. And in the end, it’s not that you suck? It’s that you just don’t know. You can’t have that quiet acceptance inside that says, “Yeah,” and doesn’t need to say anything else, because it all does come down to time. Time, and love, and patience, and understanding, and lots more time. In re-reading her post, this jumped out at me: “understand that the person may not be the greatest friend for a while afterward” for indeed, I have lost friends in this process. I’ve even been accused of being a horrible friend, and it felt like being stabbed with a machete. But everything does heal. And I’m struck by how much I didn’t know, the first time I read her words. The passage through the door certainly changes you – for better, for worse, for a lifetime.

I miss him terribly still. It’s more private, it’s quieter. I think of him every day when I get in my car, the car I bought with the trade-in from his truck. I think of him when I look at the grass garden we planted in his memory, freshly mulched and looking lovely as the spikes of grasses rise up through their clumps for another season. I am always comforted when he appears in my dreams, and I see the ways we overlap and I can hear his voice if I listen. For everyone who stuck it out, who listened & nodded & tried to understand – thank you.

File Under: "Queasy Odd Moments"

My doctor’s office had apparently not updated much of my records over the past few years – they had my old employer & phone number, and so I was leaning over the counter talking to the front desk lady (who’s been there forever, too, and knows me by name), answering questions as she went through her screen. It all seemed kind of funny, like all these things from three years ago – or ten – that I hadn’t thought about in so long. Then, “Emergency contact still Rick?” as she looked up at me from her keyboard, and I found myself gaping like a fish suddenly removed from its aqueous environment. Uh, Rick? That’s my dad. He’d always been my emergency contact, my whole life, until I married James, and even then, we’ve always joked that he’d totally be pulling the plug on me within five minutes. (I still trust him with my life, but I have stressed the need to MAKE SURE heroic measures had at least been attempted first!) In any event, my mind raced because part of me didn’t want to change it, to cling to another corner of my life somehow untouched or sullied by his death, but then the practical side of me woke up and stepped in and had her change it to James. But I’m putting it in writing right here, right now, that there is no plug-pulling unless a team of doctors give me no chance at all. (And I’m also going to point out I’ve had this running joke long before Will Ferrell did it in Talladega Nights!)

Cellular Re-Education

I’ve had dreams about my father, probably once a week, for the past month or so. He’s always alive, and it’s as though nothing ever happened. Last night was another one, and it was a bizarre scenario – he was loading up an old station wagon to leave. The thing was packed full. He was also absconding with the neighbor’s cat, because he felt it was our cat, since we cared for it, fed it, and it lived in our house. (This has no rooting in reality, but it made for some anxious moments in the dream, as the neighbor got really, really pissed.) I remember that he was planning to leave for ten years, and I went over to him, and leaned my head on his, and felt “our” connection, and I asked him if he’d consider coming back in a year, instead of ten.

I didn’t get my answer, just the memory and sensation and feeling of the love and bond we always had together. Those moments in my dreams are so pure and true, that in the waking hours, their memory becomes another part of the melancholy, the bittersweet, the dichotomy between reality and desire. It’s as if I still have cells within me that haven’t been educated or informed that he’s dead. They gather and weave a story so simple and touching and emotionally connected and it gives me such an enormous sense of peace in my dreams. The next day, that peace slowly becomes stained with the knowledge that it was, in fact, only a dream, and those cells must go through the education and acceptance process.

As hard as it is the next day, I love those fleeting moments of connection….

Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me….

…When I’m 64?

Dad would have been 64 today. Some times, very rarely, but still, some days I let myself pretend for just a second that it all never happened. That it was a bad dream, a mistake, a dastardly soap opera plot in which he was forced to fake his demise and a storyline that will see him returned to his rightful place in our lives. It’s like taking a smoke break, stepping into a bubble outside of the Dead Parent Club meeting room. I’ll never spend more than a second there, but oddly enough it’s quite ethereal.

I did pretty well until our family friend sent a second email (the first was about taxes, I’m utterly confused) telling me he was thinking about my dad today. Yeah, me too, but having it acknowledged by someone who feels it on some level, too, just cut too close to the quick.

I’ve spoken to a couple of friends, both of whom are 15-20+ years older than me, and both said that they :still: wish they could talk to their mom or dad. That they are the person they want to call on the phone and just tell things to. I trust that these feelings do get easier, and their experiences help illustrate it. When I hear people’s birthdays announced on NPR, I feel resentment when they say anyone who’s outlived my father. That’ll go, too, I assume. Eventually. My progress? A co-worker who didn’t work here when my dad died asked about him, and I said he had died, and he asked when, and how. I was stunned I could answer without falling apart or even tearing up.

Small steps are still steps. But this is one day when I wish it were all different and I was calling him and laughing and to apologize again that my card was late and saying I love you and finding out what he was going to have for dinner.

The Reflex

What I’m going to write about isn’t :that: serious. It isn’t like Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, where a soldier comes home from war. Or even being in a serious accident. But I opened up one of my numerous marketing emails today (having deleted all the ones that arrived over the holidays, because seriously, I would not be able to get anything done if I just read the daily news.) And there, the first article in the summary email, was a little write up about how a former client of mine (at an old job) was relaunching their brand and their new spokesperson and blah blah blah blah, and ordinarily I read that stuff with some interest, maybe click through, whatevs, jobs and clients do ebb and flow, come and go, and while I try my darndest to come up with a revolutionary idea on all my accounts, sometimes you just part ways. Like people you dated in college. But this client? This client scarred me.

This was a piece of business that seemed fantastic and exciting and wonderful and it was quickly discovered to be a shiny thin veneer of 24k gold that belied an evil below the surface, a tar baby of a project, that required vast amounts of atypical work and unreasonable deadlines. This would be when I worked under the person who habitually disappeared for hours (or the rest of the day) and basically did as little work as possible while making life hell for everyone under her. So as I describe this, know that I was out there at the edge of the plank already, unsupported and alone.

The project involved trading trips for advertising. With very little cash, mostly trade. If you’ve ever worked on trade, you have already flinched a little yourself. But we’re talking certificates beyond just “you can stay here for 4 nights”. This involved airfare (they had their own airline service), and then free nights at one of several hotels/resorts. The value of each resort was different. The value of the airfare was different from each departing city. There were – oh god, I’ve blanked so much out – maybe 17 markets? And we entered into trade agreements with every cable system in each market, parsing out packages and flights and oh, did I mention they had expiration dates, too? and it was all in exchange for advertising time. And the client changed their needs, expectations, and mind every other day.

This project required multiple daily conversations with my national cable sales rep, Joe. Joe and I were the lone paddlers in this boat, because at this point, not only did nobody else want to touch it, nobody else could even do it, what with the elaborate spreadsheets and our Rain-Man-esque ability to calculate various configurations of resort stays and flights from all the different cities. Our friendship was seared and sealed in the blood, sweat and tears we shed working on this project. We found our own strange coping mechanisms – singing, using funny voices (he does a Gay Cuban like nobody’s business). One of the markets was Miami, and when he would call about issues in that market, he was always starting out with the MY JAMMIES, We have to figure out MY JAMMIES, Chennifer. Oh god. It was just brutal. I altered a poster of the movie Waterboy to have his face on it and renamed the movie “BarterBoy” and it hung on his door for the rest of his tenure with that company.

So of course, when I found myself seeing my client’s name in print, and caught myself reflexively wincing and moving my head sideways away from the screen?

I sent him the article immediately.

I wish we’d never had to go through that hell, but I know one thing for certain. He will be my friend until death. We were In Country together and we got out alive. I’m still blinking a little bit, just traveling down memory lane. But smiling, too, because we at least found a way to survive, together, and get some laughs in – because there was no other choice except to cry, and it all kind of fits with where I’m trying to put my head in 2008. To be happier. To be less sad. To manage the Very Large Pain that has stayed with me, to laugh more than cry. I’m not exactly sure how to do it yet? But I’m going to start with a phone call to my buddy Joe and schedule lunch.

Knitting & Stuffs

Seems like most of my vacation has spent either coughing (yes, it’s still with me), sleeping, knitting or playing Guitar Hero. I am what we like to call “cosmopolitan”, but using the fourth, and little-known definition, which means “couch potato consuming large volumes of liquids.”

At least with the knitting, I have something to show for myself, eh? So buckle up, because I’m going to release a machine-gun burst of finished objects, along with the current WIPs.

Duet Socks in Army Girl
Army Girl Socks

I used Wendy’s Generic Toe-Up pattern for these, and I really like them. One thing I’ve learned about sock knitting this year is that because I am a loose knitter, I have to knit these socks on the smallest needles bearable, and I don’t need to have a ton of stitches. The whole concept of negative ease finally went off in my head. I wanted a firm, solid fabric, while still having drape, and I’m really, really pleased with these. The yarn was absolutely scrumptious, too. (Middy Duet Sock Yarn in “Army Girl” colorway.)

I had a goodly bit of yarn leftover and I thought to myself, self? That baby Kara might need a hat. So I grabbed each end, and winged it, resulting in this delightful swoosh of a hat:

Baby hat in Duet Sock Yarn

Because I happened to grab the ends where I did, the pink on each side matched up, and creeped along and around the hat in a blaze of glory. I love it!

I’m also working on a couple of gift scarves, in the lovely Colinette Giotto ribbon I snagged at The Studio this fall, when they put all their ribbon yarns on sale. (it was a heckuva deal!) I think this colorway is “Pharaoh”, and it’s a nice rich jewel-tone medley. I’m improvising a bit, just doing a basic drop-stitch pattern, and am probably going to switch over to straight needles for the next one, because the whole wrap/drop part is a PITA with circulars.
Drop Stitch Scarf
(this picture gets blurry when bigger, so apologies. I’m whacking out this update & adding photos without editing.)

I used the same yarn for a Christmas scarf for Momma Linda, but for obvious reasons, couldn’t post it. This one adapted Wendy B’s Dream Swatch head scarf pattern to a bigger neck-scarf-sized version.

Dream Swatch Scarf - close up

Christmas? Well, it just pretty well sucked this year, what with the Cough from Hell, and Being Depressed About Parents: Living, Dead, and Stepped. Usually I just focus on one of the versions, but I got the triple-whammy this year. James was so understanding, and hugged me hard while I cried like a little kid. And then he made us apple cider with Hot Damn 100, which is most definitely NOT something to give the kids. Warmed, I went off to bed and woke up the next morning to get a fantastic call from the Studio, telling me the Noro Sock Yarn was in. WOOT! I hackingly tried to squeal, but my vocal chords weren’t cooperating.

I got two skeins, and have one pair underway. I picked Lucy Neatby’s Mermaid Socks, because they’re a great pattern, and I figured with the long repeats of color, they’ll have added interest with the fishtail lace. Now. This is Noro yarn, so it has the stellar, stunning colors. Breathtaking, really. But the yarn itself does present some challenges. It’s sticky, twisty, and lacks that “sproing” that we sock knitters like to feel running through our fingers. I’ll sometimes get really wiggy about making colors line up, and skein off half a ball of yarn so I can start my socks at the same point. But I was being lazy. And I really didn’t care, and thought it could be kind of fun to knit from either end of the ball, to watch the different colors line up & then reverse themselves on the other sock. Given that I was knitting a Lucy Neatby pattern, it was actually fitting – she doesn’t really believe in wearing matching socks, and I figured her eclectic spirit would approve. (Color #095)

Noro Mermaid Socks

As you can see, I’m definitely not gonna have matching socks. And the yarn LOVES to stick to itself, so knitting from the outside & inside of the skein requires being careful, and not just pulling on the yarn willy-nilly. It tangles on itself with little effort, and I expect for the second pair, I will wind off a second ball, just to spare myself the headache. And I am definitely counting on the yarn to bloom – most Noro yarns do, once washed, and I can already guess it will bloom, from how it feels. But it’s no luxury for knitting – and because it feels so skinny, I’m using Double Zeros, (00)! But it’s so fun to watch the colors shift and meld and change.

Now, I’m behind on my daily dose of Guitar Hero, and at some point, I have to switch over to get some sewing done. Busy hands, happy heart, as my great-grandma Hattie used to say!

‘Tis The Season….Hack Hack Hack

Well, in a preemptive strike maneuver, I went to my doctor today & am now on a 10-day antibiotic regimen, to knock whatever thinks it might be taking up residency in my lungs. It’s a delightful, wheezy hacking cough, one that caused such levels of consternation from James’ grandfather that I finally asked him if he was preparing to perform last rites on me, I only had been sick less than two days at that point! The big comedy moment came when he emerged with a bottle of generic mucinex, which happened to be exactly the same formula as the generic mucinex I was taking. I sprung for the uber-pricey, name-brand stuff yesterday, because they make it in an extended-relief that spans 12 hours, vs. the 4 hours of relief from the generics. So far, it’s living up to its promise – I still cough and whatnot, but not as violently. Sadly, I’m waking myself up coughing, which has been a nice flashback to the beginning of the year, when the ace-inhibitor allergy lasted 3 months. In any event, my goal is to avoid bronchitis/walking pneumonia, and to salvage as much of my vacation as I can – after all, I want to enjoy the time off, not spend it hacking up a lung.

Well! Doesn’t this just make me an old gal, talking for an entire paragraph about health issues. Might just need to rename this blog The Bursitis Times. But I’ve been in such a stupor, not much else is going on right now. We’re going to have Christmas, Part II, tomorrow, and then it’s Boxing Day (Yay! It’s so much easier to call it that!) and all the fun shopping that goes along with it. I did finish my Army Girl Duet Yarn toe-up socks, and I’ll get pictures tomorrow. I also picked up the Chevron Scarf (half done) and got a few rows worked there – I’m all about getting some of these WIP’s finished, so I also need to haul out the Rambling Rows afghan & pop a couple movies into the DVR. We watched the latest Harry Potter tonight, the Simpsons Movie a few nights ago, and SuperBad awaits us tomorrow. I’ve got Capote on the DVR, too. So far, nothing’s blowing me away – HP and Simpsons were enjoyable, but not enough to leave me raving about ’em.

I was reflecting on the Christmas Eves of my youth (see, old lady chat again…) and recalling the excitement and anticipation, the unknowns and surprises – seeing what my parents got each other in addition to what I got from them. I remembered a last-minute shopping trip with my dad (which was every year), but this one in particular stands out. We went into a bookstore. He had already selected a stack of books, and wide-eyed, I asked him if he was going to buy ALL those books. He replied he was, and at that point, we were in the cartoon section – he started pulling books off the shelf onto the floor. He told me if I picked them up, he’d buy those, too. I remember being caught up in the excitement, it felt sort of crazy-reckless, my father was just going willy-nilly with shopping. Years later, when I looked back on it, I always felt kind of weird, like somehow it was strange, the only word I could find was demeaning, to have me scramble behind him, picking up books. (I didn’t feel weird at the time, I was ecstatic to be getting all these books!) Now, I sort of see it differently. He would fall into a dark, deep depression before Christmas, because his mother’s death was around the holidays. We alternated years for decorating the house, and I remember the days leading up to Christmas Eve as taught, wary, even fearful, and mostly seeing my father’s back as he buried himself in work to get through the days.

What I picked up on in that bookstore was the pain. The pain of missing someone so much that no amount of presents, or books, or even the family in front of you can erase. The sort of pain that makes you callous to the smaller things when it’s looming in your heart. The bitter, tinny voice in your head that says, “Sure, fucking buy every book in the store and it still won’t silence me.” This has been a rough December for me, much harder than last year, and I miss him enormously. In some ways my memories of him at this time have become mirrors, and I see myself reflected in them. In some ways I am closer to him now, understanding him, because it is an experience we now share. I don’t want to be him, I surely surely don’t, angry and sarcastic and bristling at every edge and corner, ready to explode. Of course I read those words and know every one of them describe me at points in all of this. Perhaps it is in the total consuming, the way pain and grief swallowed him up and took him from us for weeks, that we can be different. I’m having a blue Christmas, I’m sick on top of it all, and I’m ready to feel better and to smile. So, lest you think I’m not counting my blessings in all of this: I have family and friends who love me, and I love them. I have a wonderful husband, three awesome dogs, a warm, safe place to live, and more yarn than I can knit. I will have laughter and fun during this vacation. But I miss him. And I always will. It’s a challenge sometimes to figure out where to put that, in my heart, so it’s not always knocking me in the forehead or tripping my feet. I just miss him.


The older you get, the more you forget things. Not that they ever completely leave you, but they get buried, they blend in, you don’t see the sharp outline. Something that was huge (HUGE!) when you were 16 feels like a small divot of earth at 39. You run your finger along the groove of mortar between the bricks so many times, you no longer notice the small stone that is embedded there, it is simply part of the fabric of the wall, your history, your life.

And then, someone says something. Or you smell it. Or it comes up in casual conversation. For me, hearing just two words strung together – eleven small letters – was the emotional equivalent of grasping a live power line. At first I didn’t even understand what was happening. (I’m not going to tell you what the words were, yet. I want to explain their effect, and I feel if I tell you? It cheapens the moment. You will focus on the lines and curves of those letters, predetermining the amount of emotion you think you should absorb. Into the pool, I say, all the way to the bottom.) I felt as though a closet door had been opened, and a thousand Revere Copper-Bottom Saucepan Lids had fallen around me. Bright glints, a rapid slide show from my childhood. Reduced to tears, but out of a place of winsome joy. A thin slice of wistful sadness, knowing I would never hear them again from the person who said it to me the most. Where I had been when I heard those words, many times in my life. What it meant then. How I know what it meant now. How I know now, with my father dead and my mother living her separate life, what they wanted for me as my parents, regardless of their own weaknesses and baggage. Two words, the essence of love. A wish for peace. Simply the best. Simply to be safe. Simply to be happy. So many other points in life they pushed, they set my goals, they pushed me into the mold they thought would break them free of their own chains. But each night, after we said our goodnights, my father would pause, and say ‘sweet dreams’.

James said the very same thing to me the other night just before falling asleep, and I made him repeat it – I felt bewildered and confused. Like someone finally said the password to my soul, and even if he’d said it before, it could only be said in the dark of a chilly December night, on that night, and that night alone, and one of my deeply forgotten pieces would unlock and reveal that it had been there all along, waiting to be rediscovered. The small pebble in the mortar became a button that opened a brick, a secret passageway, a hideaway to a memory that had gotten lost, under all the other things. A little cubbyhole that will help soften the harshness of the past, a footnote to some of the other memories that curse and drive me still today. Today, as I write this, tears fall, the tears I’ve held at bay all week through my frustration and anger. I have been bitter and angry and out of sorts, disgusted with the past, desirous of controlling the future. But that night, I felt bathed in love, old and new, and I knew that I was loved.

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