Who Was My Dad?

I was seventeen years old when my mom met the man I call, Dad. They married in 1999. He was a bachelor and had always lived alone. He had one dog and no children. He married my mom knowing four kids ranging in age from 17-9 years would be under the same roof. I always wondered why people who marry others with children are labeled ‘step’ parents but it makes sense. They step in. They step right up to fulfill a missing role by choice. He chose us.

He guarded us like his own. He didn’t try too hard he was just there..present, willing…he wanted a family. He paid for braces, music and sport lessons. We went to Beaufort and Dataw Island in the summer. He taught my brothers about motorcycles. He took walks with us when we were mad at mom. He was a genuinely kind person but most importantly he loved our mother. We’d joke about how he’d be out of the car before the engine stopped just to open the door for her (He really did. Every time.) No matter our difficulties he reminded us to respect her and of how much she loved us.

My parents started a company together not long after they married. They built it from the ground up and it excelled. I went to work for them assisting him in the office. He was Poppy to my children and my sisters children. We had big holiday dinners and picnics by the lake. He designed a pool in their backyard for the grandkids and so we all had a center point to gather. He played baseball in the driveway and signed birthday cards with love. He went to school programs and hung pictures of everyone in his office. He was loved dearly and his love was returned ten fold to each and every one of us.

I miss him. I miss how he was with my mom. I miss him for her. I miss him for my kids. I miss how we all used to be and how settled and safe things were. Everything is changed and we are all struggling to accept our new life without him. It’s so very hard. But we will slowly step up and choose to honor him with beautiful memories and be grateful for the time we had with him.

Our Frames

The changes in my brother were slow and gradual. They were like the cracks in the frame of a house as it settles. Even though they were there, we didn’t scrutinize them. We were used to them because they were just part of our life. It’s not like an earthquake that’s sudden and leaves obvious damage. People are like houses with structures that shift. We may notice a crack or fissure in walls but we can’t possibly know the extent of damage within someone until it’s too late. This is the only way I can begin to explain the mental unraveling of my brother. How could we have understood his struggles when the outside and any glimpses inside did not reveal anything dangerous?

What do you think? Do you have any experience with mental illness within your family? I’ll be the first to admit my ignorance. I was the one scoffing at people on trial and shrugging off any of their defensive mentally ill claims. This stereotype is not a one size fits all by any means but it points to something that is there. People can have mental illnesses. It is a real struggle. I believe there is a direct connection between the health of our minds, the spiritual being of our souls, the physicality of our bodies and our emotional life.

Birthday In The Clouds

It was imperative to make ‘A’s 40th birthday memorable. When all I really wanted was to hide in bed and let the day slip quietly by cowering behind overwhelming emotions.

He would have understood.
He wouldn’t have complained.
We could have celebrated later…

But once you feel the intense need to revere life, energies and motions propel you toward a truth that– life is for the living.

‘A’ has always wanted to fly. What could be better than to learn on your birthday? He got home from work. I had a change of clothes for him and a to-go breakfast ready. Our sitter agreed to spend the night so we could leave early. I drove us to our local airport. He had no idea what was going on until we met the pilot I had been talking with all week. (You don’t even know how difficult it is to surprise Adrien with gifts)

It ALL depended on the weather…which held out just long enough for us to soar above Table Rock as the sun rose. It was magical maybe even celestial. To swoop and sway above the earth like a bird is the most freeing feeling. It was exciting and peaceful. We had an excellent instructor and it just worked out.

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There Is Beauty In The Ashes

Why are we afraid of death? It happens all around us and finally to us. Disease. Accidents. Murder. Capital Punishment. Old age. Death becomes the focal point of all that’s wrong with our human race. It’s inescapable.

The idea that we hope and pray is our unconscious admission that death should not happen to us, that something within us is supposed to go on eternally. God didn’t create us to die, that began with original sin. Now we’re all fugitives running from the penalty of necrophobia.

I don’t want to be engulfed in fear but sudden death and suicide tears a hole so quickly the edges are left ragged and raw.

Our entire family was in church counseling together for weeks. Now we’ve branched off and found our own grief support groups and individual therapy. We’re all doing the “right” things, taking the “correct” steps but there’s no visible measurable progress. No one can feel any internal softening or see tissue healing and closing over ugly deep gashes.

It seems the weight of loss may shift around or take a shape that can be carried or hauled but it will never be light enough to throw off entirely.

I’m waiting. Praying. Trusting. My faith tumbles back and forth between strength and weakness. There is no way around or over. There is no possibility of pushing grief and mourning away into a corner or down into a drawer and slamming it shut.

You have to go through it.

Even though grief is universal. The process is unique to each person with the only common link being it hurts.

…Though the Earth Give Way And The Mountains Fall Into The Heart Of The Sea…

I. Have.Tried.
To speak.
To write.
To explain.
To apologize.
To make sense of what has happened.

Only now I talk without weeping. Only now has the internal tremor ceased. My body shook from the inside out for an entire month.

Through counsel and medication I can take care of my family and now my mother. I am her keeper and it is my honor. As much suffering and loss that I feel she is bearing a thousand times more.

My brother, at age 23, committed suicide. Before that he committed multiple horrific and senseless homicides. He killed my mother’s husband and the best father figure I have ever been privileged to love. This evil violence is so sudden, so wicked and leaves only a wake of confusing chaos, rippling far into all of our futures. No matter what the media said my parents did everything in their power to help him. Our entire family exhausted resources and favors. The story leading up to this would take 23 years to tell and you still wouldn’t believe me. I barely can.

Please pray for our family.
Please pray for all the families involved.

And if you don’t pray. Start.

Psalm 46

WordPress Hiatus. Hiatus WordPress

I did the math. I write approximately 4,000 words a day: texts, e-mails, blogging so why not put them into a format and finish one of the many stories that are looping in my brain?  I hereby announce an aperture..An interim..An interval.. A breach.. A chasm..A gap..A lapse.. A lacuna..A rift..A space..A break..from blogging — Tout à l’heure!

When I think of Isaac

When I think of Isaac, I smile. It’s easy for me to smile in memory. I’m not his mother who gave birth to him. I’m not the woman he married. I’m not a branch of family tree that wishes they could shade and reroot him into their soil. I was a friend. Today I want to share my memories that reveal him as I knew him.

I see Isaac in his white button down chef coat. He’s walking toward our table with bowls of ice cream. His hands make the dessert bowls look small because he has two in each palm. I took the babies to see ‘A’ at work after the lunch rush. He was still busy so Isaac brought ice cream. He sat and talked with us. Our youngest who was the babiest of the babies offered him a bite..from the spoon.. she’d baby-slobbered all over. He looked at me as if to ask, Ok? And then graciously shared a bite of ice cream with her.

‘A’ and I drove to a college bar and played darts with Isaac and Summer. There wasn’t anything special about that night except the memory now of time spent and that they were happy and laughing.

I can look back to see him sitting with his arm around Summer, the wind rustling their hair on an open air trolley vineyard tour at a culinary food show.

My favorite memory is dinner, at our house, in the fall. They heard the next day was our daughter’s birthday and stopped to get a present. When a friend does something thoughtful and generous for your child it leaves a deeper impression on your heart than when they give a gift to you.

I can’t claim a close friendship with Isaac. I can only share moments from being around him for a few years. It’s an unnerving, scary feeling of loss knowing that someone who was just sitting beside you sharing ice cream can be gone the next.

There is no promise of tomorrow. No second chance on earth. “Be happy for this moment, for this moment is your life.” We have hope and faith. Summer, find and keep hold of peace. Isaac, rest in peace..and I believe we will see you again.

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An After Dinner Walk

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Even though my kids have burned hard calories all day long they still have an astonishing amount of energy by dinner time. We take a few apples and a handful of oats and ‘leisurely’ stroll down the street to see the horses.

I Spy With My Dominant Eye

Want to know which eye your brain claimed as dominant? It’s not the one you think.

Find an object on a wall..a light switch or a picture..and stand about ten feet back. Stretch out both arms in front of you and frame the light switch by making a triangle with both hands centering the object.

Now look at it with both eyes open.

Is it centered like this?

(cute hands of my daughter)

(cute hands of my daughter)

– Ok..close your left eye and try to find the switch framed in your hands –

– Now close your right eye and try to find the switch –

Your dominant eye keeps the object in the center of your frame. You won’t be able to see it through the other eye or you will only see the corner. My optometrist taught me this while going through vision screenings for lasik. I assumed my right eye was dominant because I’m right handed but my brain chose my left eye at birth. They said the brain just picks one and it may or may not be the stronger eye or the one with best vision.

Which eye did your brain pick?

The Good Hood

One summer, my dad built a wooden lemonade stand for me and my sister. We christened it, “C & S Cool Stand” The lemonade wasn’t a big seller but popsicles were. We sold box after box of Mr. Freeze pops. We had the neighbor kids knocking on our door after hours to buy them out of our freezer.

When we weren’t selling addictive liquid sugar, we played kickball and freeze tag in the yard across the street. A family of six lived there. They had kids similar in age to our family ranging from grade school to college. We walked to the same school near by and some of us were in classes together.

The youngest was a boy my age. If we stood facing one another we could have visually defined an opposite. He was tall. I was not. He had dark brown almost black eyes and I had blue. His hair was shiny and dark. Mine was reddish gold. His skin was olive as if toasted to perfection. My skin was fair. We were dark to light shades in a scale of contrast in culture and family life. His family went to church every Sunday morning like a unified front, gatekeepers of their flock. They seemed to have a calm and organized life.

Across the street… my dad parked a company doughnut van in front of the house (how embarrassing when you’re 10!) and kids spilled and tumbled out of our huge brown and blue oldsmobile station wagon. My older sister and brother had cool high school friends who could drive and always stayed for dinner. They all had paper routes and we’d help fold the papers into throwable tubes snapping rubber bands on before tossing them into the car. The view from across the street had to be interesting. Our house was chaotic, noisy and wild with an unruly yard and so many different people coming and going. That was the last house my parents lived in together. Their relationship crumbled like the side of a mountain sliding into inevitable separation. (Both of my parents have remarried, happily).

Back in the day this boy and I had so much fun together. We skated and rode bikes. We kicked the soccer ball at the stone wall in my yard for hours. We climbed the ‘laughy-taffy’ tree and played roller hockey on the street pausing every ten minutes to let cars pass. My sister and I would try to make him mad by calling him by his entire name -first-middle-last- We played King of the Castle and jumped over the ferocious snapping alligator in the water drainage ditch. We played pogs and made tent hammocks. I remember his dog and the whistle melody his parents used to call him home. They were a good family..genuinely kind, nice and interesting people..some of my best memories were hurrying through dinner so I could go back outside and play with him.

I drove down that street on my way home from an appointment last week. I hear things every now and then about who got married or where they might live now and talked with my sweet friend on facebook for a while. He had finished school, married a beauty and had gorgeous babies with dark hair and happy faces. That makes me smile to know all of that goodness was waiting for him just around the corner while we ate popsicles and played kickball.

I like thinking goodness is always just around the corner.

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