memory of an aunt

She kept a tidy, minimalist apartment with only the necessities: a simple two person settee, wingback reading chair, side table for library books and her readers, dining table and four chairs, and two extra chairs on either side of a small roll-top desk. In her bedroom, there was a full-size bed and simple chest of drawers, upon which sat a jewelry box lined in purple to house her well-organized adornments- the only pizzazz she allowed herself. In the kitchen, there was a basic set of pots and pans, along with a beautiful four-cup china teapot set she’d acquired on travel group trip to China many years before. For dining, she had she never added to her wedding glassware or china and, like her deceased husband, never did she need replace it.

As she sipped from a delicate etched glass, I would gaze at the scene with awe. In our home there was nothing that perfectly simple. It called to me. How could a drinking glass be art? But there it was, art in the simplest action of one’s day. During lunch, she sipped from the glass and the afternoon sun would glance against the etchings and toss newborn stars across her wall. The Children- my sister and I- were only allowed to drink from the two jam jars she had long ago put aside for our use. It never occurred to me I would one day, in her home, drink from anything besides a jam jar. So on the day she presented me with 12 ounces of icy, orange spiced tea in a glass that birthed stars I was speechless.

She made no comment about the change, simply presented me the glass and gave my shoulder a squeeze. When I was done, I carried my rite of passage to the kitchen without word- washed, rinsed, towel dried and returned the glass to its assigned cabinet. I knew I had done well by this unspoken leveling up, when the next morning I was given juice from a short, delicate green milk glass that she kept well out of reach. My younger sister began to object to not being included in this passage and I stuck my tongue out at her. She took a deep breath that would have turned into a blustery argument at home, but Charlotte simply said, “That’s enough out of the two of you,” and the fight was over. She loved us both so completely and evenly that we never felt the need to compete in her presence. Besides, she wouldn’t have it. Grown folks didn’t behave that way and neither would her nieces.

sharing

It’s a big space, shower heads on either wall allow the option for two to comfortably bathe together- though with less water pressure for either.
I hear the water running- muffling the conversation between my housemate and her boyfriend.
They’ve been in there a long time.
It’s likely the hot water will soon be gone.
Somehow, I’m not annoyed, but if they’d been fucking I’d somehow be even better with no hot water left for me.

connection

you are on the road
so I will not ask
when will you be home –
for the road is your heart
and that heart
is what I love.

our love
is not to be
explained,
is not to be
consummated,
it is, simply,
an understanding.

there is a low flame
that draws us back together-
creators of worlds
sayers of truths.

you have a darkness brushed
by light.
I have a lightness
shadowed by demons.

we are two wholes.
you free on the road
me rooted with child.

our love, an understood respect.
creation is our connection.

01/07/2020

to be loved

to be loved and to love,
simply as you are.

honored
for the inherent validity
of your humanity.

to be desired,
admired,
supported and safe.

to dare a bigger life.

to share a love
modeled on God’s
love for us,
is all that should be asked,
it is really quite simple.

slowly

Slowly moves the ground
beneath the fallen acorn.
Times tells stories not in days, but years.
Roots appear
spread and hold to rise.
We see the tall tree-
branches splayed
to shade
and protect.

It is a masterpiece
not to be known
in a day,
its power in the time
we did not witness.

Power in the patience
of its roots reaching deep
to build the base
from which it spreads
great strength.

01/02/2020

holiday blues

My 7th Christmas was greeted by the death of the man I knew as my Dad. He had gone into to see the doctor for a flight physical, had a major heart attack and never came home. There was no goodbye, just an open casket and a mortician who forgot to sew Dad’s eyes into sleeping position. I saw his bright blue eyes and decided he wasn’t really gone. So long as I didn’t say goodbye, he would come home. As long as you don’t say goodbye, everything will be okay.

After that, each year, the holidays washed over me with a renewed sense of loss and sadness. I have lots of snapshot memories of moments during the holiday season, but no set memory until I was 19. I walked into my shop, joking around with my shipmates, carrying a letter from the woman I had begun to call my stepmom- my blood father, Ken’s, wife. As we laughed, I opened her letter and pulled out an obituary. My grandfather had died two weeks before and now I learned Ken was also dead. I was just getting to know him without my mother’s jealousy overshadowing our relationship. In fact, I had cancelled a visit, while I was home on leave to see my dying grandfather, because she was being overbearing. Ken had told me he understood- family is complicated- and we talked of plans to spend a week together during the next summer. He failed to mention his terminal diagnosis of throat cancer- thanks in no small part to a 2-pack a day habit.

I leaned against the lockers, everything was spinning as I slid to the floor in tears. The annual holiday blues had already hit that year and now another was gone without a goodbye. I was so far from anything that felt like me.

My boss said, “What the hell happened?,” and I handed him the envelope. He read it, handed it back, “Go clean yourself up. You can’t get home, so you best get to work.” I did as he said and the next hours were spent methodically ratcheting bolts off a tailpipe- there were 96 and I was small enough to do the job with the engine still in the plane. It was a job I hated, but a godsend because tears could silently stream down my face and no one would know.

Many years passed before the next holiday death. My marriage of  9 years ended on December 19, 2013 and three years later my grandmother would die on the morning of December 19, 2016. We weren’t close and were often at odds. I accepted I did not have a “grandmotherly” grandma. Stories from my mother and her siblings, made me grateful I never had to live under her roof. That being said, I sat with her that Saturday and spent a couple hours doing what I could to make her more comfortable. I rubbed her once strong legs that resembled the bark of a dying tree, and combed her hair because I knew she liked to be pampered. I dampened a cloth with her favorite root beer and placed it to her dry, cracked lips. I told her I knew we were never close, but she is why I was here. She birthed my mom and for that I would always appreciate her life. Both the passing of my marriage and my grandmother were truly more of a relief than deep sadness. Those losses were filled with a grief for the hope of the worlds they represented more than the the actual relationships.

For so many years, I used a big emotional shovel to push through each day of December and it didn’t get much easier. Over the last decade, my daughter’s uninhibited joy has helped, but the days can still drag. All that said, we are in another December and this year is finally a bit better. I am in a place that is the end of an incredibly purifying couple of years. The whole mythology of being burnt down so a phoenix can rise- yeah, that shit is painful. I can’t describe it in only a few words, but suffice it to say it might be an emotional grease burn that has been lanced, come close to healing, then reinfected, finally scarred over, and the scar is finally nearing a healed state. Yeah. That pretty much sums it up.

At the beginning of the month, my daughter caught me crying. She put her hand on my shoulder and asked, “Mama, why are the holidays so bad for grown-ups? Everything is so beautiful, but grown-ups are sad and mad.” I told her that lots of things happen in life and, at least or me, some really big, emotional things have all happened during the holidays so when the lights go up my heart gets heavy. She sighed, “But that all happened then. Now we have each other and the holidays are magic.” With that, I promised her I would find the magic again.

This month has been spectacular. The first Christmas I can recall being truly happy. We put up a big tree, I hosted a Solstice dinner, will go to Christmas Eve midnight mass with friends and spend Christmas with family I love. I’ve said a lot of prayers and a few final goodbyes. I opened my heart to greater forgiveness and the true possibility of new love. I have no idea what is in store for the next year, for we are only promised today. There may be more loss or there may be only good things, but I do know I’ve done the work and I have the support and tools to hold the course, whatever that course might be.

can love begin in an instant?

can two know and fearlessly dive in?

is the story of meeting

trusting

and committing to forever

possible?

Is that bravery left in the world?

Love letter

I like that my smile lights up a room and my eyes tell stories. My breasts sustained a life for six months without hesitation. I honor them and am in awe of their perkiness and power. My shoulders are strong and have a beautiful line, but I love my hands.

I love my hands the best because they tell stories and hold memory in ways I can’t explain. My hands give pleasure and have caught babies. These ten digits have launched aircraft and made the most delicate gnocchi. With my hands I’ve soothed sick children and held the face of lovers. My hands clasp in prayer and splay in ecstasy. My hands rub my feet and hold a warm cup of tea after hours of exploring on cold winter days. And on those nights that I feel too tired, if I haven’t held a pen to paper, my hands ache for the need to tell my story and I cannot sleep until I comply with their need to remember the day. Yes, I love my hands- they are the tellers, guides, and creators of a well-lived life.

updates

That aunt of yours, you know she just rushes through all the time … never having time to talk. She just brought me flowers … wearing little white shorts, showing off her legs. She just wants to show me how skinny she is.

A pause falls as she takes a drag off her morning cigarette.

Mom, I am sure she didn’t pick her shorts out thinking of you.

I hear her sip her coffee.

She probably did! You know how women are … always trying to compete. Trying to prove they are better than you.

Okay mom, it was nice to talk to you … glad you are feeling better. I’ll talk to you later.

perfect imperfections

She is not the girl who will cause a scene. You can take her anywhere.

She pulls off Dior as easily as she changes the oil in her car.

She’ll eat funnel cake and thinks Jesus is a badass, but understands why atheists disavow religion. No topic is off limits and if she doesn’t know, she’ll listen and learn.

She is the girl who will give you space, because she needs hers, and understands some seasons are all about hockey.

She’s not jealous and more fun than you’ve ever had. Spontaneous, but measured. Beautiful and kind. If the world is on fire, she’s the one who will not let you burn.

Her fearlessness and self-confidence are a stunning combination and in exchange for being by her side, she only asks one thing …

Who are you?

She doesn’t need the answer today and she may never ask it directly, but in everything she does her heart pushes her to be better and her soul fears she will never know she’s enough.

So as her lover, who are you? What are your edges? Can you try to love people simply as they are? Can you live in joy, but savor the cruel morbidity of life? Can you make things awkward and laugh at yourself? And when she wakes screaming in the middle of the night, can you hold her and not ask why?