Through the Door: 6 Years Gone…

I know I just recently wrote this (a creative writing challenge) and posted it but…. its the date before THE date….  So much time, so VERY VERY missed – every day.  Especially this year, as his youngest granddaughter starts high school, and his oldest granddaughter gets married. You were here for dinner 6 years ago tonight, and I never saw you again.  I miss you and think of you so much,  Daddy! Today, and every day. …… So here it is again

 

I pull in the driveway just as the shadows are starting to lengthen and the afternoon is at its golden magical moment. Its been a long day and my feet are killing me. As I walk up the deck steps to the back door I don’t hear our two dogs barking – which is strange,  because they usually bark when a leaf blows by the window – never mind when they hear footsteps on the trex decking. But no matter – I’m tired. I open the door and take a step into the dim coolness of my kitchen – shedding my sweater as I walk in.

I’m greeted by Miss Nellie – our old greyhound, who lifts her head off the couch and grins at me, tail thumping. For a millisecond I accept this – then I freeze. Nellie’s been at the Rainbow Bridge for close to two years now.  Then I hear his voice behind me –  “What’s for supper, Donna Jean?”   Dad?  Oh, Daddy…. I spin around and RUN, fast as I can,  hugging him tightly. He’s real, and I’m not hallucinating.   “Take it easy kiddo”, he says, “I’m still recuperating. I just got the OK to drive again today.”  That’s when I know.  It’s June 6, 2007.  Its not the date I woke up to this morning – but when I stepped through my back door this afternoon it’s where I ended up.  And I’ve been given a rare gift.  One more last afternoon with my father.

I frantically try and think of any way to keep him at my house for as long as possible, as we chat about the girls and wait for them and my husband, to get home. Its surreal. My brain is telling me this isn’t possible, but oh, my heart…. my heart.  I don’t know how I manage to keep it together; as this great big lump of emotion in the center of my chest tries to work its way up my throat and explode out of me.  But I do keep it together, barely.  Dad doesn’t seem to notice. There’s so much I want to tell him, but can’t.    The crew gets home just as I think  I can’t stand any more and they prove a distraction.  I’m in for another shock – when I left them this morning they were 20 and 14.  Now, they’re 14 and 8. We decide on pizza for dinner and Grandpa is highly encouraged to stay. As usual, the girls have him wrapped around their fingers,  and so he does.  I content myself watching him with them, remembering how much they mean/t to him and how much he loves/loved being their grandfather.

Time slows, I start to almost feel like this is normal – and then it suddenly accelerates as Dad gets ready to leave – he’s heading for an AA meeting – just like he did before. My heart sinks because I know he’s leaving and this is the last time I’ll see him – again. Don’t go Dad. Stay awhile. But the time arrives. I know it, and I know I can’t stop him.  I tell him unequivocally to take it easy – reminding him (as I follow him out to the car this time) that he has to see the surgeon before he goes back to mowing lawns and landscaping. But I know it won’t make any difference.   There really are no do-overs. What was, was. What is, is. And what will be, will be. The timeline is locked in, and on June 7, 2007 he will have a massive heart attack while unloading his lawn mower at a clients house and he will pass away before I can get to the hospital to say goodbye.   “I know,” he says.  “Love you.  Sayonara, Kemosabe.  Keep the Faith.”  “Bye Dad, I love you too!” And with that, he leaves – just like before.

As I turn and walk back up the driveway the light shifts back to golden for an instant.  I hear the dogs barking inside the house. I go back through the door again, back to my future. I smile through the tears I can now let loose –  because I got my chance to say goodbye, after all.

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…And Whiskers on Kittens….

IMG_8391 watermarkedIMG_8383 watermarkedIMG_8403 watermarkedThese are a few of my Favorite Things….

I got absolutely drenched getting these shots, but what FUN!  I hope you all like the photographs as much as I liked the process of taking them.

The Head Table

Head Table Place Settings

Head Table Place Settings (Photo credit: VancityAllie)

Remember when you were a kid, and you couldn’t wait to sit at the grown up table on holidays?  No more mismatched chairs, paper plates and plastic cups at the rickety old card table. No sirree bub – you got the formal dining room and the good china at the adults table.  You were where it was happening. Definitely a mini rite-of-passage, at least for this chick.  As the oldest child and oldest grandchild I got to go first. Woo Hoo! Welcome to the Party, Pal!

But I want to talk about a different table.  The Head Table.  I don’t mean where Bride and Groom sit during their reception, or where the Silver and Gold Anniversary Couples get to sit. Those are cool places to be.   The happy place – center of attention and hub of the party wheel.  I want to talk about the table you get move up to – and sit at – when your parents pass away.  Its not an actual table, but its a real thing nonetheless.  And its emotional, and scary.  If all goes as hoped, you’re bound for the cemetery next. Not that anyone hopes to die, but if The Fates are kind, they take you before your children.

When you step up to take your seat at the table (if those Fates have once again smiled upon you) you’re usually middle aged – and usually with children and grandchildren by that point.  Sitting down, you get to take stock of your life to date.  You evaluate your goals, reevaluate them and maybe even change career direction. Or divorce. Or remarry. Have a full blown nuclear mid life crisis. Make a menopausally fueled Hit List. Or none of those things. But –  underlying whatever is going on is the stark reality that there’s no human buffer zone between you and the Great Beyond anymore. No safety net below you as you stand on the platform at the ceiling of the Center Ring.  Tag. You’re it.

I was chatting with my Aunt Jean the other day.  She lives near Chicago, but we try to connect with one another as much as possible. She was 17 when I was born, and she’s my Godmother.  We were discussing careers and work. She mentioned that at my age- I’m at the apex career wise.  If I’ve reached for the brass ring already – great. If not, I’d better do it soon. She didn’t say so, but I thought –  I’m approaching the Head Table, dammit.   I haven’t sat down yet because my Mom is still with us; but  I’m halfway up there as of 2007 when my Dad left us terribly, suddenly. Two of my best friends in the world – Cheryl and Martha – have a seat saved for me. Cheryl’s been sitting up there since 1999.  Martha, since last year.

I’ll be in great company, but I’m really not ready to move up to the Head Table yet. Those Fates though, they don’t deign to ask whether or not you’re ready to sit up there. And if I had to guess, I would say that NO ONE is ever ready for a seat at this particular table.  The view is probably lovely up there – friends, family etc. The love, palpable. But it seems a lonely place, regardless of the company you’re in. And, taking your seat up there acknowledges that you are, in point of fact, now an orphan.

So, as I meander towards my new assigned seating (which I FERVENTLY hope I will not have to sit in for a few years yet) I find myself asking the questions:  Am I happy? What makes me happy? Do I matter? Selfish questions, but at my age I’ve paid enough dues in life to ask such selfish questions. I also ask unselfish ones:  Have I made a difference to someone, helped someone, been a good parent?  (Don’t ask my girls that until I’ve had a chance to bribe them) Hahaha! ;). And finally: What do I want to do with the next 30+ years of my life?  I’ve certainly discovered a passion for writing and photography in the last year or so. I would like to build on that if I can.

What questions will you be asking yourself as you approach The Head Table? Or, what are you thinking about as you sit there?  Inquiring Minds…. etc.

Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree

IMG_8193 watermarkedIMG_8169 watermarkedIMG_8225 watermarkedIMG_8195 watermarkedIMG_8217 watermarked

Heres the song reference, a little before my time but good music NEVER goes out of style,  does it?

The air smells divine this evening.  Yes, I can actually smell the apple blossoms this year – albeit faintly.  Its FINALLY May in New England.  Wedding Season.   I should head up to Stanley Park soon as things should be in  full flower up there by now.  But my side yard beckoned this afternoon.  I like the play of light and shadow on the leaves and blossoms.  There was quite a breeze but the blossoms held on strong.  Its sure been a lovely day today.  We could use some rain – which I understand is finally in the forecast this week thankfully.  Not much else to say.  I’m gonna let the pictures do the talking.  I hope you all  like them!  HUGS!

Through the Door: Weekly Writing Challenge

I pull in the driveway just as the shadows are starting to lengthen and the afternoon is at its golden magical moment. Its been a long day and my feet are killing me. As I walk up the deck steps to the back door I don’t hear our two dogs barking – which is strange,  because they usually bark when a leaf blows by the window – never mind when they hear footsteps on the trex decking. But no matter – I’m tired. I open the door and take a step into the dim coolness of my kitchen – shedding my sweater as I walk in.

I’m greeted by Miss Nellie – our old greyhound, who lifts her head off the couch and grins at me, tail thumping. For a millisecond I accept this – then I freeze. Nellie’s been at the Rainbow Bridge for close to two years now.  Then I hear his voice behind me –  “What’s for supper, Donna Jean?”   Dad?  Oh, Daddy…. I spin around and RUN, fast as I can,  hugging him tightly. He’s real, and I’m not hallucinating.   “Take it easy kiddo”, he says, “I’m still recuperating. I just got the OK to drive again today.”  That’s when I know.  It’s June 6, 2007.  Its not the date I woke up to this morning – but when I stepped through my back door this afternoon it’s where I ended up.  And I’ve been given a rare gift.  One more last afternoon with my father.

I frantically try and think of any way to keep him at my house for as long as possible, as we chat about the girls and wait for them and my husband, to get home. Its surreal. My brain is telling me this isn’t possible, but oh, my heart…. my heart.  I don’t know how I manage to keep it together; as this great big lump of emotion in the center of my chest tries to work its way up my throat and explode out of me.  But I do keep it together, barely.  Dad doesn’t seem to notice. There’s so much I want to tell him, but can’t.    The crew gets home just as I think  I can’t stand any more and they prove a distraction.  I’m in for another shock – when I left them this morning they were 20 and 14.  Now, they’re 14 and 8. We decide on pizza for dinner and Grandpa is highly encouraged to stay. As usual, the girls have him wrapped around their fingers,  and so he does.  I content myself watching him with them, remembering how much they mean/t to him and how much he loves/loved being their grandfather.

Time slows, I start to almost feel like this is normal – and then it suddenly accelerates as Dad gets ready to leave – he’s heading for an AA meeting – just like he did before. My heart sinks because I know he’s leaving and this is the last time I’ll see him – again. Don’t go Dad. Stay awhile. But the time arrives. I know it, and I know I can’t stop him.  I tell him unequivocally to take it easy – reminding him (as I follow him out to the car this time) that he has to see the surgeon before he goes back to mowing lawns and landscaping. But I know it won’t make any difference.   There really are no do-overs. What was, was. What is, is. And what will be, will be. The timeline is locked in, and on June 7, 2007 he will have a massive heart attack while unloading his lawn mower at a clients house and he will pass away before I can get to the hospital to say goodbye.   “I know,” he says.  “Love you.  Sayonara, Kemosabe.  Keep the Faith.”  “Bye Dad, I love you too!” And with that, he leaves – just like before.

As I turn and walk back up the driveway the light shifts back to golden for an instant.  I hear the dogs barking inside the house. I go back through the door again, back to my future. I smile through the tears I can now let loose –  because I got my chance to say goodbye, after all.

“Bloody, but Unbowed”

“Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.”

I’m sure everyone can recall where they were and what they were doing when we heard about the bombings at the Boston Marathon.  I was at work – looking forward to a nice late afternoon sunning on my deck – with a glass of white wine – upon my return home from said work.  All that changed shortly after 2:50 pm last  Monday – when the evil that crept into the hearts of two handsome young men came to fruition in a matter of seconds. Seconds that I believe changed the world yet again.   Seconds that are etched in our minds as the smell of smoke, the metallic smell of all the blood, the screams of the wounded, and the cries of the bewildered and the bereaved drifted across Boston and the horrific sights and sounds filled our television screens across the planet.

My best friend, a paramedic,  has volunteered at the Marathon for many years – and was stationed a mere few miles from the finish line.  A high school friend, now an MBTA K-9 Police Officer – and whose brother was my first serious boyfriend, was shot at by the younger Tsarnaev before he was taken into custody. Not to mention that Boston is OUR city.  Oh, us folk from Western MA piss and moan about Boston – but Boston is quintessential Massachusetts and for all intents and purposes the start  -and HEART – of our Nation.  Boston is , after all,  where we began. An attack there hits close to home whether you live in the Berkshires or the Sierra Nevadas.

I’ve been running the gamut emotion-wise.  To say I’ve been struggling would be an understatement. Profound Sadness and Grief, Shock and Horror,  Indignation, Anger, Pride in our First Responders – who ran towards the danger and got everyone to hospitals and the best medical care in the world – within 20 minutes. I swing back to indignation and anger frequently, as news of the bombers’ lives becomes public. These young men come from a family who came to America as political refugees – seeking and being granted asylum. Receiving welfare benefits from the state as many immigrant families do when they first arrive.  They attended the best schools in the Boston Metro Area, and the younger son even received a scholarship to attend UMass Dartmouth from the city of Cambridge. We took them in, gave them shelter – got them on their feet, provided OPPORTUNITY.  I guess I feel much like George Washington must’ve felt after Benedict Arnold defected to the Brits during the Revolutionary War.  After all we did for you, all the opportunities you were given here – THIS is how we are repaid?  With death and carnage?  You absolute BASTARDS… HOW DARE YOU? And on a day meant to represent the best in us.  At the finish line of the oldest marathon in the world. The anniversary of the day Jackie Robinson took the field with the Brooklyn Dodgers for the first time and showed us all what can be achieved when we are inclusive and caring towards one another.

I think of the young family the older Tsarnaev son left behind. The toddler daughter, the wife who worked 70-80 hours a week while her unemployed husband made bombs and planned destruction. How will they live, being branded with their father/husband’s heinous actions?  I think of the unimaginable pain and suffering the other victims and their families are going through. Because Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s family are victims too. I cry.  Then I get angry again.

And the one place I can’t seem to get to is Forgiveness.  Perhaps it is still too raw, too soon,  to forgive.  Maybe someday, when the stories of triumph, rebuilding, and success have come to be. When the blackness has been replaced by the light, and the tender hands of time have begun to heal us. We’re still wiping off the blood, but… Maybe. Someday.  I almost feel like I am going through stages like the grieving process. Back and forth, up and down. Frankly I’m not all that interested in the “why” of all this.  Religious differences have probably been responsible for more death and destruction on this earth than just about anything else except maybe the Plague. That’s the way it was, and is – unfortunately.  Someone is always gonna be pissed off that we have it better than them, or we’re somehow taking something from them. It’s an ancient tune with a predictable melody. So I know what I need to know for now.  That forgiveness thing though, is still eluding me.  But, one thing I do know is that NO ONE is going to keep us down.  We are not going to let darkness and evil win – EVER. We are – and ever shall be…. UNCONQUERED.

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

~ William Ernest Henley, 1875.

#BOSTONSTRONG

 

The Baby and The Bathwater

I should be used to it by now. The knee jerk reactions that make it so difficult to really affect and effect change.  Somehow, we always end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater – despite our best intentions to do otherwise. And yet I find myself getting more and more irritated with stupidity.  Two great examples of this are the current hot button issues of gun control and dog ownership (particularly pit bull ownership).  Owning a gun and owning a dog carry many of the same responsibilities if you think about it.   You have to make sure your guns are well maintained (cleaned, oiled and stored properly), and you have to do the same for your dog (vet visits, shots, grooming etc) .  You have to make sure your dog is properly leashed or fenced in your yard, and you have to be sure your gun is stored safely and properly and the safety left on when not in use.

For some reason, we cannot seem to figure out a way to hold offenders accountable for their actions. For some reason, its easier to restrict the activities of the population at large than it is to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate criminal offenders.  I’ll use an example from the workplace.  Most workplaces have a dress code. Enforcing said code presents its own particular set of challenges that may or may not be quite humorous on occasion.  Like dealing with an employee who showed up to work in their jammies and couldn’t for the life of them figure out why they were being sent home – because they dress that way to go to the mall….. sigh.  Or, banning everyone from wearing sleeveless dresses, shirts or tops in the summertime because some of the men decided to cut off the sleeves of their t shirts and the gaping holes gave everyone a glimpse of nasty pit hair…. Instead of telling these guys they had to classy it up they just tell everyone – NO SLEEVELESS.  Baby. Bathwater…. and gone…..

So many people are negiligent when it comes to pet ownership and gun ownership.  Letting their dogs roam free to chase and bite people; leaving their guns out where children, toddlers, and flat out  crazy people can access them (with tragic results).  So what do we do?  Can I get a “Harrumph?” from you all? Because thats what we do. We get on our sanctimonious soapboxes and engage in inefficient hand-wringing – then we make ridiculous blanket laws that restrict and penalize mature,  RESPONSIBLE dog and firearm owners.  Look what just happened in Maryland with regard to pit bull ownership.  Look whats happening within the Gun Control Debate.  You only have to witness the political posturing to become really really annoyed. And I am. Annoyed. To the Max. I’m a centrist, basically. Common sense dictates we need reform -not blanket all or nothing restriction.  Nor do we need to jump into the Way Back Machine and head for the Wild Wild West.  Because we’re doing it again – throwing the baby out with the bathwater; instead of engaging in thoughtful dialogue and compromise to come up with solutions that work for the majority of responsible hard working Americans. Let me list a few ideas:

Brindle pit bull

Brindle pit bull (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dogs –

1. If you want to own a pit bull you must register them for obedience classes and give a copy of the certificate to City Hall in addition to the rabies tag number when you get the dog licensed.  You must demonstrate re-certification of obedience training every 3-5 years. You must be a homeowner to own a pit bull, or have sufficient assets to cover a lawsuit if the dog injures someone. This goes for other breeds like Rottweilers, Pinschers, German Shepherds, Chows, Dalmatians, and Akitas too – since all these breeds have aggressiveness bred into them. There may be a few breeds I missed here feel free to add…

2. Dog owners already pay increased  homeowners premiums, (depending on the breed, and they may not even cover you if you have a banned breed)  but all dog owners should be required to submit proof of vaccination and licensing to their policy carriers.

3. All dogs should be required to be on leash or in a fenced in yard  when outdoors- subject to fine and/or seizure of the dog if non-compliant. Not all communities have leash laws, and those that do may only sporadically enforce them – doing so only after there is a problem.

4. Dog owners should be required to notify the public that there is a dog on their premises.

There’s probably more but that’s all I can think of right now. It comes down to common sense , really – Which ain’t quite as common as it should be, sadly enough.

219px-Weapons1                                             (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Guns –

1. I’ve listed several things in other posts so I’ll just summarize here: Background checks for all sales.  Private sales should be illegal.  No actual possession of said  firearm by the buyer until a training course is completed and certification of the ability to use and store said firearm safely is on file with the gun seller, and the new gun owner’s insurance carrier. Yes I do think you should have to insure your guns. No sale to anyone with a history of mental illness ( improve those background checks) Your right to be bat-guano ga-ga does not supersede my right to keep breathing safely.  No sale to anyone who lives with a family member with mental illness. PERIOD. No sale to anyone under the age of 16.. Proof of age required to purchase. Possession of a firearm by anyone not carrying an FID card and proof of ownership should invite criminal charges for both the possessor and the registered owner. Magazine clip size should be limited. Modification kits – illegal.  If a tragedy does occur and the investigation reveals that the gun owner stored the firearm unsafely or improperly or knowingly allowed  someone other than themselves to use the firearm – then the gun owner should be held civilly and criminally responsible.

I understand this may not curb criminal activity or criminal’s access to firearms, but it will damn sure make it less likely that a toddler can pick up his fathers gun and kill a Tennessee Sherriff’s wife with it. And it will make it extremely difficult – if not impossible – for idiots like Nancy Lanza to provide their mentally ill child with access to firepower.  I am in no way saying people should not have guns if they want them. But they need to assure those of us that don’t  they can own and use them responsibly.  SAFETY SAFETY SAFETY SAFETY. And,  SAFETY.

It is a great privilege to own a firearm, and be a pet owner. Both carry great responsibility with them .  If we enforce the laws we already have on the books, that will help also. But if people start understanding that they are responsible for the safety of themselves and others and will be held ACCOUNTABLE by laws that make sense for the majority of people  – then perhaps that baby I’ve been talking about can go get toweled off, powdered, and re-diapered instead of floundering around in the mud. Rant concluded. Thank you, that is all  (for now)