Life Topics

Hard to Say Goodbye

You died on a Monday.  I saw you that morning struggling to breath.  I’m so thankful to have given you a kiss as you slept.  The last kiss I would ever give you.  Oh, how many times had we kissed and embraced?  You were so tired and working so hard to breath like your body couldn’t do it any longer. I hugged your wife not only because I care about her, but because I couldn’t hold you.  She understood as I whispered “I love you” to her.  She always showed strength and grace through your illness personifying love and hope.  Her pain will never go away.  But your pain is gone now and for that I am relieved.   I had hoped you would quietly slip away, and you did.  God Damn it!  I wanted you to stay forever.

The last visit before you left, I asked you if you remembered the time I was walking the dog, and you came out and offered me wine.  Of course, I said yes, so you grabbed a couple of glasses of red wine and we sat on the front stone wall and sipped and talked on a glorious sunny Spring day.  People slowed down to watch us “day drinkers” having a ball laughing and talking.  Pretty soon other neighbors came over and we all chatted.  I liked how you quietly laughed when you said you remembered. It filled my heart.  It was our moment in the sun.

One day, you called me when I was sitting on the beach and thanked me for what I wrote about you on my blog.  There were a few people on the beach, as it was early, and they just watched me sob into my cell phone.  We were both crying.  All of your time was borrowed, and we knew it.  You were so strong and positive while you took your time saying goodbye.  I would have been a mess.  But, not you!  As I hung up, I looked at the horizon meeting the ocean, and drank in the soothing woosh of the waves as they hit shore.  I wiped away the last of my tears and realized that you were one of a few people in the world who know me, who really know me and for that I am grateful and comforted.

Everyone will miss you, especially me.  We stole looks and gestures when we were in each other’s company.  Always connected in some small way.  I know you will continue to be there when I’m looking for you.  In a corner sipping some fancy Italian drink or standing next to your wife always to support her.  We will always watch over your wife.  I promise.  Your spirit will never leave our little community, our little lives that we are forced to carry on without your grace.  I toast to your generosity, love and joy that you gifted so many.  Cheers.

You are a once in a lifetime friend.  True friends that I can only count on one hand.  You were not just a friend though, you were a mother, a wife, a neighbor, a confidant and a caregiver.  My heart breaks with you gone now.  Please carry me with you wherever you are.  Let the others who have passed know that I think of them often too.  I can only hope to laugh at our memories some day when the thought of you will bring a smile, not a tear.  You will live on in my heart until I take my last breath, and we once again sip red wine in the sunshine.

Life Topics

Anything

 

How come you ask nothing of me?
I say, “let me know if you need anything?”
Do you think that is just polite?
Is that empty to you?  Am I not in some small way, a
part of your precious life?  Am I overvaluing what
we mean to each other?  I pray not.

Maybe you don’t believe in me, trust my
character.  My tears are not empty, they carry
sorrow, hope and a promise.  A promise to be
present for all of it.  But most of all they carry strength,
commitment and love.

I will miss you for all that you are.  Every little
piece of your complicated life and the wit you’ve
displayed that has made me laugh from deep inside
my soul.  Few have gone there.  Most never will.

But I’m here NOW, and so are you.  I’m trying to
come to terms with the inevitable, it is unimaginable.
God have mercy.  Please see that I am available,
and willing to help in any way possible.  My heart
was made to care and my hands were made to comfort.

Life Topics

Yesterday Today and Tomorrow

She was very knowledgeable about her business.  Holding the ring, she pointed out the uniqueness of the setting as she rotated it in her fingers.  The stones were exquisite as their brilliance would light up with each motion.  “Can you see how the diamonds are held in this circular setting?” she said.  It was a gold band with three diamonds in a row.  I knew nothing about settings, but she assured me it was both fashionable and stable.  I really liked the ring but did not love the ring.  She continued by saying, “the diamonds are E H quality”, or some such letters that was supposed to impress.  It was lost on me.  He stood next to me leaning over the case, focused on the ring and listening intently.  It was going to be a major purchase if we decided to go with it.

He asked me to wait outside while he had a private conversation with the shopkeeper.  I quietly turned to him and said, “I need to talk to you.”  He insisted I wait outside. I repeated myself again, hoping to curtail their conversation.  I could see he was set to negotiate.  I didn’t want him to work to get the price down on something I wasn’t really sure about.  However, I went outside as he asked and waited until he emerged from the store.  He told me he had talked her down by several hundred dollars.

“Hey, I wanted to let you know that I don’t love the ring” I said.  He was a little bit surprised, as we walked down the street.  I said, “Maybe we can go to Boston to look for the right thing.”  He agreed, although a bit disappointed. Turning toward the beach we walked onto the soft sand and stared out at the harbor in silence.  The beautiful summer day reflected the sun off the water as the boats bobbed on their moorings.  His plan was to propose and present me with a ring that night.  It was our weekend away to celebrate 25 years together and to start a new chapter in our life.

The town had been all but shut down that day while they worked on the repairs.  A sewer breakage had caused all food establishments to close, and half the town was left without plumbing.  We decided to go anyway and try to enjoy ourselves.  The quaint hotel we stayed at had flushing toilets and was in the center of town near beaches and shops. Port-o-Potties lined the main street, and a scattering of people walked around.  Our evening plans were ruined as our favorite restaurant, The Mews, was closed.  That was the memorable location he planned to make it official.

As we walked back toward the main drag, I saw another Jewelry shop.  I said, “Let’s go in here and take a look.”
I had every intention of just looking.  The owner of the shop was animated and friendly.  He didn’t have the smug air of the last shop owner.  We began leaning over the cases to look at his diamond rings.  There were several off the list right away.  He held up “our most popular” rings looking for my interest.  Nah, no interest.  I did find one that was way beyond our means.  I kept going back to it, but eventually snapped out of it.  We were not looking to spend a ton of cash.

My eyes were a bit off focus because my false eyelashes were starting to flap off my eyelid.  I must have looked crazy.  Every so often I’d put my finger on the lashes to secure them on the dry glue without success.   My soon to be fiancé was staring intently at all the sparkly choices, pointing out possibilities.  And then, there it was.  A 3-diamond band that was sweet and simple.  It resembled the ring we saw at the other shop, but was in white gold, which made it pop.  The owner told us that the 3 diamonds represented, “yesterday, today and tomorrow.”  That resonated with us since we have been together for so long.

My boyfriend asked the owner if we could take a walk and talk about it.  “Of course!” he said.  So, we left the store and stood off to the side of the front window.  With tears coming down his face, he quickly said, “I know we’re doing this backwards, we’re about to buy a ring, and I haven’t officially asked you to marry me.  Will you marry me?”  I took his face into my hands, looked directly in his eyes, and slowly said “Yes. Yes, I will marry you” as my tears (and eyelashes) blurred my eyes.  We tightly embraced and started kissing in the middle of a busy sidewalk like we were the only ones in the world.

 

Life Topics

Small Talk

Parties can cause me slight anxiety as I circulate about and “work the room.”  Mingling is essential to having a good time, an art if you do it right. Having a few drinks helps me to be more confident and relaxed: interested and interesting.  But how do you spark a great conversation? You start out with the unavoidable, discerning small talk.  What do you do for a living is a typical opening question, personal but not too personal.  It’s this kind of generic interaction that can lead to the next banal talking point.  Unless they say something like, “I’m a brain surgeon.”  Then I got nothing and am forced to reach deep into my mind to come up with something smart or witty.  When I get that same question, I always tell people, “I fetch rocks and put out fires,” which is true albeit non-specific.  I hate saying what I “do” because it’s not very impressive and tough to explain.

I do have one advantage in the small talk realm though, I am a naturally curious person.  This trait doesn’t guarantee a meaningful conversation, but it can be more compelling.  Why ask something mundane when you can really connect.  However, never mix up small talk for genuine interest.  There is nothing small about being inquisitive because I often pose more of a soft invitation to explain or describe.  Sort of like a casual interview.  It’s a great way to become familiar with someone on a real level.  My inquiries usually start with “Tell me about …”

Maybe my amiable interrogation stems from my love of stories.  I enjoy hearing about other lives.  I guess deep down I’m a voyeur seeking a fix.  So, after I determine the conversation is going well, I’ll inevitably look for more information to absorb.  I may ask, “Tell me about your first job.”  This question usually causes people to happily reminisce as they recount what it was like to have their first grownup job.  One guy told me that he buried dead cats.  What?  Another man said he managed a pizza shop at 16 years old.  Impressive.  You can imagine all the follow-up questions to those answers.  No matter what the job was, the discussion usually led to a lot of laughter.

When I become comfortable with someone, I like to ask my favorite “Tell me about…” inquiry.  The question always produces such a wide and varied range of answers.  Sometimes there is no response because they have no knowledge of it, or they are taken back by the personal nature of it.  Either way, I ask it because it involves the most profound of all stories:  Love.  “Tell me your parent’s love story” I say.  Some people stare at me with a blank look and confess that they have no idea.  I feel bad for them, because if they don’t know how their parents met, do they really know the very beginning of their own family story?  However, most of the time, people will gladly elaborate on their unique history.

A man from New Jersey told me that his parents met in Central Park NYC.  His mother was on an out-of-control runaway horse and his father jumped on another horse to save her.  He was delighted telling all the details and I was rapt.  Another guy said his parents had met a few times at the office, became pen pals when he was in the service during WWII and got engaged through letters.  They never had a date before they were married. He enjoyed telling their story, as he smiled and shook his head, “married until the day he died.”

Small talk serves an important purpose in many situations, especially parties.  I understand that, but I’ve never been very good at it.  I prefer to dig a little deeper when the time is right.  Believe me, my unusual questions are never the first thing I ask.  I have the obligatory chit chat that eventually evolves to a place of authenticity where stories emerge.  Life is built on stories.  So go to the party, have a drink, eat some cheese and crackers, mingle and introduce yourself.  Some big conversations start with small talk.

 

Author’s Note:

**** PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT ABOUT YOUR STORY.  LET’S SHARE.***

I’ll start:  My parents met on a playground when they were kids!

Life Topics

Big Love

I have finally reached a place of love and peace in my life.  I lack nothing, nor do I need to search for something I don’t have.  I have everything I need or want.  There is no drama to divert me from reaching my happy place.  I feel insanely content and at ease in my once fragile heart.  I laugh, I learn, I thrive, I converse, I support, and I love.  Being with my partner has brought me to a place of strength and commitment that helps define who I am.  But it’s not the whole story.

The story starts when I met “Mr. Big”.  Not Kerry’s “Mr. Big”, MY “Mr. Big.”  I was 22 years old and was just looking to have a good time. I had had a string of bad relationships and wasn’t looking for a new disappointment. He was charming and quietly interested in my free spirit versus his buttoned-up demeanor.  Yet, there we were in a bar curiously attracted to each other.  I was there with my work friends after hours wiping the slate clean with cocktails and contempt, a bit disoriented.  I finally approached him and said, “I didn’t vote for you” which was one way of breaking the ice.  I don’t remember how he responded, but it started an inevitable conversation.

He became my teacher, and I was a voraciously student.  As we learned about each other, I realized that the façade that accompanies dating didn’t exist with us.  I could be myself, my honest, expressive and messy self.  To him I was funny and interesting on a level that no one had ever cared to recognize or acknowledge. It was astonishing to me at the time, that two very different people land in the same place.  I was starting to believe in myself and in fate.  Sure, I had dated good men with kind hearts in the past, but the timing was always wrong.  I wasn’t ready to let them in.  Being with “Mr. Big” prepared me for every relationship I would ever have moving forward.  He taught me how to love. And for that, I will always be grateful.

Decades later I sit quietly scrolling through Facebook late one night, and someone mentions “Mr. Big.”.  Memories flood back; some good, some bad.  I remember how outrageous I was with the breakup, my lowest point ever.  It wasn’t really me.  I was so messed up between having severe depressed for years and losing a person who I truly loved.  I remember him telling me at the end that he’d always be there for me.  Maybe just a formality.   It was such a waste for him to say that, to lead me to believe that.  The reality was that we both needed to move on to remain sane. No cliches necessary.  A clean unadulterated break would have been best, but we were so attached even while splitting up.  Things were complicated, and we lingered for much too long.

So, without thinking it through, I looked him up on LinkedIn and sent a quick, light whimsical note.  I said that I hoped he was well and that life was good to him.  Provided a short anecdotal overview of my whereabouts and finished with an invitation to get in touch with me.  Why did I do that?!?  Do I really want him to contact me?  Absolutely not!  I am in a good space, in a solid long-term relationship.  I felt like this could be construed as a sad and pathetic communication.  Dear Lord! It was a just a simple gesture of friendship and appreciation, checking in after all these years.  I wonder what he must be thinking!

I realize that I’ve glued together pieces of my past with sticky messy fingers in an effort to append, support or confirm who I am today.  My 22 year old self learned valuable lessons in loving others and loving myself.  Did “Mr. Big” really do all that?  Well, he may never know, but he got the ball rolling.  In my heart, I hope my partner was someone else’s “Mr. Big.”  Because since I’ve known him, he lovingly and naturally brings out the best in people, all people. If she’s out there, thinking about their special memories, she should check in.  He would be grateful and humbled to know in some way he was important in making her life better.

Thank you “Mr. Big” for helping me to find “Mr. Right.”

Life Topics

I Sigh

I sigh when things are done.  No more to do.  It’s over.

I sigh when things go wrong.  What can I do now?  Let me think.

I sigh when I’m happy.  So many possibilities.  Can it get any better?

I sigh when I’m completely frustrated.  Where do I turn?

I sigh with delight.  My love brings me to happy tears.  Laughter soon follows.

I sigh with the weight of the world.  So tired at the end of the day.

I sigh to feel my own breath.  To feel that I’m alive.

I sigh.

Life Topics

What I Know

They say write about what you know.  I don’t know what I know.  I guess I can do laundry, fly an excel sheet, take care of a dog, raise two children, chew gum and walk, give up smoking, take up vaping, kill a bottle of wine, knit a sweater, take out the trash (if I have to), almost balance a check book, recite lines from a movie, walk like a chicken, sing badly, play solitaire, half read a book, edit video, send an email and attempt to “dress for success” (not usually done well).  Are any of these things worth writing about?

Instead, I sit at the keyboard trying to dream up an interesting topic.  Find one thing that makes you want to keep reading.  Are you still with me?  Good.  I’ll take baby steps to figure out where I’m going with this.  Kick around a few ideas.  Do you want to see me walk like a chicken?  Probably not.  Can I interest you in a spreadsheet demo?  No.  Maybe some dog tricks?  I’m at a loss, as I fidget and scratch my back with a pencil, wondering what to put on this blank screen.

Here I sit in the glow of the computer.  The 11 o’clock news is on in the background, with the dramatic music to make everything seem urgent.  The dog lies at my feet, breathing heavy, ready for bed.  My laundry basket sits in a dim corner of the bathroom, overflowing with a hint of yesterday’s odors.  I take deep drags from the vape blowing out stress and anxiety, thinking about what needs to be done tomorrow.  I know, I’ll make a list, YES a list!

Not like a “bucket list”, but much simpler.  You know, take notice of how I do things, and try not to do them anymore.  Live in the moment as they say.  Do all the usual stuff, but do it differently, better.  I will think of it as a “don’t” list.

Here goes:

  1. Wake up and don’t dread the morning.
  2. Take a shower and don’t curse your body in the mirror.
  3. Have breakfast, and don’t forget the medication.
  4. Go to mass and don’t fall asleep during the sermon.
  5. Say “I love you” and don’t just walk away, hold his eyes.
  6. Walk the dog and don’t forget the poop bag.
  7. Do the laundry and don’t leave a load in the dryer to pick thru all week.
  8. Call your parents and don’t cry when you hang up because they are so old.
  9. Text your sons just because and don’t forget the little hearts after you say ILY.
  10. Watch a documentary and don’t judge the hoarder, the family or the victim.
  11. Talk to the neighbor and don’t just give a small wave.
  12. Eat the ice cream and don’t feel guilty.
  13. Knit that sweater you’ve been working on for 2 years, and don’t get discouraged.
  14. Work on the computer and don’t lose track of precious time you could have with Jamie.
  15. Say your prayers and don’t leave anyone out.

My eyes are drooping so I have to go to bed now.  This life of mine, like most, is made up of small pieces that have made me the person I have become.  Sure, I can walk like a chicken and work a spreadsheet, but how can I be a better friend, daughter, Mom?  More important questions.  Will people think of me as negative if I feel guilty about the ice cream or too busy to talk to a neighbor, or have a bad body image?  Maybe they won’t even notice.

I finally know that I have to work my “list” in a positive, thoughtful way to make my journey one of love, generosity and faith.

“Time for bed McDermott.  Do you want a treat?”

Life Topics

Shelter in Place

I recommend that you get rescued.  That is, when looking for a dog, let them rescue you.  Sure, there are boutique and purebred dogs that need homes, no doubt.  But, no one abandoned them.  Shelter dogs are waiting for days, weeks, or months for the right person to save.  And if you’re in the market, there is plenty of supply for your demand.

We adopted McDermott (McD) from a shelter over two years ago after the loss of my “once in a lifetime dog” Scout.  I have to admit that I was too quick to get a new dog.  It just didn’t feel right being home without the jingling of dog tags, and a 60 lb. hound sitting in my lap.  I scoured the internet trying to fill a void, an ache, a loss that couldn’t be relieved.  But, I pushed forward looking and imagining what this new dog would be like.

He was a terror.  McD was putting on a hard sell when we met him.  Playing with the other dogs, and running over to lick us; how could we not fall in love?  I held back tears when asked if he was the right dog, because I couldn’t get Scout out of my mind.  That should have been a red flag.   I should have put the brakes on right there and then.  But I didn’t.

After bruises, bite marks, chewed up socks, torn pillows, ripped sweatshirts, mangled baseball hats, and half-eaten flip flops – we did fall in love.  McD has now matured enough so that his destruction has waned.  We did try training, but I was untrainable, so that failed.  However, now he has reached a maturity level, where there are less and less “surprises” when we get home.  We made a solid commitment to rescue this dog, and we weathered the storm.

Time and tolerance has made this adoption work.  I  love McD almost as much as I loved Scout. He needed a home, and we gave him one, where he could get into lots of trouble.  We had thoughts along the way of giving him back because of his unruly behavior.  But, it was up to us to teach him how to be a good dog.  Failure was not an option.

So, adopt a shelter dog.  Shelters are busting at the seams with amazing dogs, who just need
your love and patience.  They need you to teach them what it’s like to be in a loving home.  A place where they can get into a little trouble and not be sent away.  You may be pushed to your limit, but just dig deeper finding the strength to look forward to a new day.  I know I did, and it’s paid off.

I love McD to pieces, and he fits comfortably in my lap.

 

 

Life Topics

Wait, What?

FOR THE LOVE OF DOG

 

The love of a dog is nothing like the love of another Human.  Nothing. Wait, what?

 

There is an objective to find the companionship of another being; not a lover, not a friend.  No. Wait, what?

A decision is made by one or two, to find the creature to fill a void, to add to the family.  Family, Yes. FAMILY.

They are not a peripheral entity, no, they are part of the family.  They occupy a piece of the heart, wait, yes. The heart.

I wonder if I take you home, will you want to be here?  Am I a good Mommy?  Scratch, rub, hug, wait, what?
Trust me I do love you.  More scratches?

Eat, scratch, lick, love, hugs, and more hugs.

Adopt the baby puppy…they want to be loved.  They need YOU.

Wait, what?

Life Topics

Regret

grunge_backgroundLargeThe crime fits the punishment.
My bad behavior stabbed the
one I love.
It hurts my soul that I took so
little thought.

I may say I’ll change, while
pretending it didn’t happen.
Mistakes are a cry for help.
I have cried many times.

Fear of loss makes me wretch
with pain.
Don’t slam the door or the hinges
will break.
Open the door to hear
my voice of regret.

Show mercy because you
love me.
I don’t want to be a
prisoner.