On nights like this

On nights like this

Daily Prompt: Moon

 

It’s a hot night.  Nights like these remind me of late night football games.  Packing Pixie Sticks and Gatorade for you to have during the game, grabbing some folding chairs and heading to the school.  We would show up so early, but always had the best seats.  I would rather be an hour early than five minutes late.  We would haul our things down to the field and set up as close to the field as we could.  The purple and yellow flag banners barring us from getting too close.  We would sit and wait…my ears straining for the sound of cleats on gravel.  The gym door would open and a sea of purple, gold, and white would spill through the door.  Helmets, pads, and excitement would roll out.  Freshman year…you were so excited to be playing.  All arms and legs, you looked so scrawny compared to the older boys.  That didn’t stop you, though.  You played your heart out.  Sophomore year…you were so happy to no longer be a freshman.  You were then a “seasoned” player and I remember you coming home and talking about those “freshies” who needed to learn this and that.  Junior year…finally you were officially an “upperclassmen” and you were starting to really come into your own.  You worked out all summer before your Senior year and by the time football finally rolled around again you were ready.

 

It’s nights like this that remind me of those late summer football nights…  The game starts before the sun sets.  The most beautiful sunsets would be the backdrop to a great night.  Watching my boy play the sport he loved, with the friends he loved.  I would take as many pictures as I could while walking up and down the field with the other Moms cheering you and your team on.  I didn’t spend much time in the folding chairs we brought down, but Oh Man, what great nights those were…  You were so proud to be a part of that team and I was so proud to be your Mom.

 

It was a small team; 1A football plays with 8 man teams.  You played a lot, you liked defense the best… After each game the team would circle on the field and the parents and friends in the crowd would meet you all out on the field.  Your coaches would talk about the game and plans for next practice.  I loved seeing you there with your friends, surrounded by the small community who loved every person on the team.  By the time the coaches were done your eyes had found mine in the crowd.  Every time you would come over and give me a big sweaty hug with your lopsided grin covered in grass stains and dirt…every time.  I would hug you back and tell you how well you did and recount a great tackle or two.  Then you would talk to Rin and your girlfriend…

 

By the time the game had ended the sun had set and the moon had begun its dance across the sky.  You would shower and change, we would pack up our chairs and head to the car.  We would wait in the parking lot, watching boys come out one by one.  We would make dinner plans and head for home.  You would come home tired and hungry.  Eat and head for bed.  Some nights you would sheepishly ask for a back rub.  I loved it when you would ask me.  I would grab some Icy Hot and rub your back.  You would tell me about your day, the game, your girlfriend, what you were planning on doing for the weekend.  We would talk about whatever, music, trucks, video games…it didn’t matter.  What mattered is we were together and chatting, laughing, planning and hoping together.  You were so tall your feet would hang off the end of the bed…the room smelled of Icy Hot and you.  You have a birthmark in the shape of a truck on your back and small freckles on your shoulders…a tan line from your sleeveless shirt…your hair is still slightly wet from your shower…sometimes your shower was so long your fingers would be all pruney…

 

On nights like these with the NFL playing preseason games on T.V., warm nights and the crickets chirping in chorus that I think of you playing football and being so happy.  Football season last year was so hard.  We watched, but it wasn’t the same.  We rooted for the Broncos because that’s your team.  Everything reminds me of you.  Warm days and nights, cold days and nights, rainy days and nights…every day and every night.

Red bags

Red bags

Daily Prompt:Ghost

 

Those damned red bags

Sitting in my closet

On the shelf

The maroon

Red screams

Each bag holding secrets

The sadness haunts them

Quietly

Waiting

To be visited

Waiting to be released

 

Those damned red bags

Imprinted with

The Mortuary address

I can never forget

That place

I’ve been there

Too many

Times

 

A brick building

On the outskirts of

Town

The quiet chime after

Crossing the threshold into

Tears

Pain

Finality

 

The fake plants

Squatting on the counter

Pretending to be

Growing

They too are

A façade of

Life

 

The muted greys

And browns of color

So as not to disturb the

Eyes

Trying not to be too

Bright

 

Those damned red bags

Those ghostly red bags

Sit in my closet

The echoes of

Yesterday

Screaming into

Today

Carry

Carry

Daily Prompt: Carry

I carry a piece of Jim’s soapstone in my pocket on days when important decisions are to be made.  This last year I have added one of Roo’s pop can tops.  My brother’s ring is carried on my left hand, my mother’s ring on my right.  I carry Roo’s thumbprint around my neck, always.  I carry the names of my loved one’s tattooed under my skin.    My stomach bears stretch marks – evidence that I loved them before the rest of the world met them.  These are tangible things that others can see of the things that are important to me.

In my head, circling day after day, are the important lived experiences of those who are most important to me.  In my head are memories so vivid I can almost reach out and touch them – memories revolving around what made you smile, made you angry, and made you laugh…  I can smell Roo all sweaty after a football game… the smell of Jim’s mechanic shop on a hot summer day – the tang of grease mixed with orange citrus hand soap before lunch… the smell of Gem after a bath – lavender and milk baby lotion.

I carry things that are most important to me even when it is painful to carry.  To put them down would be denying that these things happened, denying that these things have shaped me, somehow denying their existence.  It’s as if not carrying them is forgetting them.  My arms carried them when they couldn’t yet walk.  My arms carried them when they were tired.  My arms carried them when they wanted to play.  My arms need them as much as they need me.  Even when they aren’t here to need me I still need them and my arms ache with emptiness.  My ears ache with the absence of their voices.  Sometimes I will indulge my ears with listening to old voicemail’s from Roo.  They are voicemails asking if he can go to a friend’s house or letting me know he has made plans to go somewhere.  I will indulge my senses by watching and re-watching videos from football games, graduation, and times with his friends…  The memories replay in my mind so often I don’t have to watch the videos, but my ears and eyes ache from the absence so I will submerge as many senses I can in him.  It is all for naught.  I cannot touch him, I cannot make new memories…no matter what I do…I cannot will him here.  Pictures, videos, voicemails, clothes, pop tabs…I gather as many pieces as I can, but they aren’t enough.

I fear that this will happen again, so I take so many pictures of Rin that she gets frustrated.  She indulges me as much as she can, but it is often too much.  I take the pictures under some made-up excuse because I don’t even want to tell myself the truth – that I’m scared.  I take mental note of Rin’s outfit every day before she leaves the house because what if today is the day something bad will happen – what if I need to file some kind of missing person’s report – what if?  I fill up flash drives of memories that were lucky enough to be caught on camera and there they sit – waiting for when they will be needed.  It’s gruesome in a way, but it satisfies something within me.

The smallest, most trivial, most “normal” things have come to hold the most value in my life.  Watching and witnessing how someone takes their coffee, drinks their milk, puts on their shoes, and constantly misplaces their keys.  These small things hold so much value when they suddenly become a memory and can no longer be witnessed.  When a new reality that doesn’t include the ability to witness these things is forced upon me then these things become priceless.

I carry the memories, the fears, the tentative flickers of hope…the names, the scars, the love…  I carry them on and within myself so they will be with me always…

“i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)”

~ e.e. cummings

Can’t Focus

Can’t Focus

I headed for the library with the intention of working on overdue papers.

The intention was to see if holing up in a study room would help me focus.  This thinking is based past experience.  I have sat at home for days, sitting at my computer and my mind jumps from topic to topic unable to land on anything but my Roo for long periods of time.  So I will go to the library, thinking different surroundings will help me focus and I sit there for hours on end – my mind jumping from topic to topic and landing on Roo.  Maybe if I get a study room this time, my mind will focus and I will be able to get things done…to no avail.

I can’t even bring myself to go into the library… I instead pick up a small salad from the college deli, sit at a table, finish listening to my podcast…  I get in my car with the intention of again, going to the library… I make it to the library parking lot… I don’t go in…

I drive to a local park outside of town.  This is the park I used to bring the kids to when they were young and it was hot outside.  This is the park we used to be happy at – splashing in the slow moving creek… finding pretty rocks and declaring them “treasures”… Roo once found a stick here that he deemed his “walking stick” when he was about three years old or so.  This “walking stick” doubled as a hot wheel road maker and digging stick… we kept that stick all summer long…he wouldn’t leave home without it.  He would put it in the car when we went grocery shopping even…silly Roo.

This is the park where Rin celebrated her first birthday.  Balloons and streamers adorned a picnic table…we had carrot cake and she got one of her favorite dollies that year…

This park was my turn-around when I would drive Roo up and down the road when he was a baby when he had colic.  The road here is an old concrete road so it has nice rhythmic ruts in between the concrete slabs…perfect to lull a baby to sleep.  I would put him in his car seat at night, plug in some Beethoven and spend a good thirty minutes driving up and down the road…just him and I driving an old country road on early fall nights…

Some summer nights the air at this park was filled with the smell of mint.  A field across the road was planted in mint and the air would be pungent with the smell…with the windows down it would waft throughout the car…there was nothing like the feeling of being enveloped in the smell of mint and the sound of music…

Those are the places my mind settles on when I should be focusing on my homework.  I should be focusing on the Military Industrial Complex, power structures, rural elder issues, sociological theories, inequities and injustices that are inherently systemic in our society.  I want to focus on those things – they are issues that I deeply care about…but my mind won’t settle on them.  It almost seems as if I do dwell on them I am somehow not focusing on the right things.

I feel guilty not doing the work I need to.  I feel guilty when I sit at the computer at home and am not working on my papers – Joe is being so caring and patient, but I feel guilty because I don’t feel like I am pulling my weight.  I was supposed to be done with school by now…I was supposed to be on my way to getting my career on track…I am supposed to be contributing financially to the family budget instead of being a drain on it…

Instead…my mind wanders from memory to memory, indulging in fantasies and times when my Roo was here and my family was full and happy… when the future was filled with promise, dreams realized, and hope in things to come.  Instead, I feel like there is something looming on the horizon, something else is going to happen, some dread looms…a catastrophe on the horizon that keeps me from looking too far into the future…something that keeps me from turning my focus outward to the outside world too long.  It seems that if I try to hope too much, that thing looming on the horizon will become a realization.  Call it superstition, call it crazy, call it whatever you will…that’s what I feel…

Daily Prompt: Obsessed

Daily Prompt: Obsessed

Obsessed
via Daily Prompt: Obsessed

 

Obsession has been an ongoing learning process. In the days, months and now years following different losses, I have seen and learned about different types of obsession.

Finding, keeping, and holding dear any and everything that has ever been touched by them. I continue to find the tops of soda cans that Roo would take off of every can. I find them when vacuuming and doing laundry. They are shiny little tokens of his life that show up so unexpectedly. I keep them in two places – one in the closet and another by my bed. No one knows they are there, but me. Just knowing that both he and I have touched them and they will forever be near me brings me some level of togetherness.

The thought of parting with anything that he touched or wore is tinged with an obsession of having, holding, and keeping. His scent lingers there, fingerprints are stored there – therefore, a part of him is there. His DNA is left there, skin cells reside there so he is also there.

There is a pain associated in altering or cleaning these things… it sometimes feels like an erasure of him that I cannot bear to do. There is still dirty laundry in the hamper in his room. Sweaty, dirty, and thoroughly lived in clothes sitting in his room that I cannot bear to move. Graduation cards and gifts sitting where he left them; walls adorned with things he cared about. All these are proof of him. I gather and hold these things fiercely. It is as if I have spent the last year hoarding every piece of him that ever existed…

Is it obsession? Maybe… maybe obsession is a part of grief. Spending 18 years teaching Roo to stand on his own two feet have reverted back to holding every bit tight to never relinquish my hold on him. Reading his school work, devouring every letter and word regardless of subject because he held these words in his mind before putting pencil to paper. The words and subjects typical for a senior in high school are priceless to me. I hoard them – hold them secretly, not wanting to share, because they are only my pieces of him. It is this selfish obsession to have every part of him I can get my hands on.

Artwork he made when two, three, and four are shared with a certain few. They are parts of him that few knew – a bounty of treasure. At times like these I am glad I saved so much of him – dragging these things from storage unit to storage unit and house to house. Keeping the small pieces of paper where he left his physical mark on the world. Vocabulary lists from kindergarten when he was learning to write are covered in memories of the six year old so happy to don his backpack and John Deere hat and ride the school bus for the first time. He was so excited to be a “big guy” and go to school. His sister and I waited for him to get home and tell us all about his teacher and friends. The smile he had getting off the bus beaming from his little face – pictures and papers he proudly withdrew from his backpack of all he learned. Pictures and papers that would hang on the refrigerator for weeks slowly removed and replaced by others. These are the pictures and papers that would be tucked away because I couldn’t bear to throw away something that made him so proud.

Gems baby bag is tucked away filled with the few things I have of her. A small jacket, a nearly empty can of baby formula, socks, a pair of pants, onesie, and a binky fill a small black bag.

A lunchbox is filled with Jim. Gloves, hankies, small hand tools, pieces of soap stone, and a pencil – small things of him that I hold dear. I keep thinking I should put them in a shadowbox, but then they aren’t able to be held and touched.

Obsession related to grief is inherent for me. Obsessing over every pencil stroke, everything he touched, is loving him – is missing him – is searching for the priceless parts of him that are left. Pieces of him that are obsessively searched for. Pieces my hands search for so I can see the parts of him that are tucked away in my memories. Parts of him are manifested in pop can tops and mismatched socks – his “lost” t-shirts that somehow made into my clean laundry. I delight in these small findings that lead to hours of obsession to find one more. Spending hours going through paper work that has been stored in the garage for months looking for some small piece of him that has been sitting in a box forgotten.

This obsessive behavior is stronger for Roo – maybe because the grief is still so fresh – maybe because I don’t have any physical pieces of him. I have Gem’s urn, I have part of Jim… no part of Roo. The reason behind this is a story for another day… Maybe I search for pieces of him more fiercely because of this. I look and clamor for ways to extract DNA from hair. I have some of Roo’s hair. This is shorn hair with no follicles and I search for ways and means that his DNA can be extracted and transferred to an image or sequence for me to have. There must be some cost effective way for this to be done. It feels like that is the ultimate piece of him. I know that mothers carry their children’s cells in them and I wonder if there is some way to extract that part of him from me. I guess it is the obsession of his immortality.

These are a few of my obsessions… These are moments of my fierce love that show themselves in obsession. Is obsession just a part of love?

Daily Prompt: Surface

Daily Prompt: Surface

Surface
via Daily Prompt: Surface

Surface

 

The surface is a threshold.  It can be cracked and searched for.  It is a marker, a place holder of serenity, normality, and calm.

The surface can be scratched and broken in search of what is underneath, above, or out of sight.

When drowning hands claw at the water, fight against gravity and reach for the surface.  Reaching for a place where air can be gulped and drawn into the lungs in order to keep moving.

Surface conversations are used to skirt and dart around the chasm of real life experiences in order to keep emotions at arm’s length.  Social decorum dictates that real emotions are to be avoided in public.  Real emotions are too private to be shared for everyone to see.

When a surface is cracked and broken the raw underbelly of life is exposed.  Some recoil in horror and fear of seeing the rawness of life in another.  The ugliness of life is sometimes too much for others to handle.  They wish for the safety of the surface.

Those who have seen the rawness exposed before and have experienced the ugliness of reality may not retreat too far away.  Even then, the rawness is greeted by a sharp intake of breath – a brief wincing of the eyes at the sight.  Words stumble out without thought; platitudes are spoken because society deems that words are supposed to be said.  If enough words are said quickly enough maybe the situation will be covered.  Maybe then the situation will drift back to the safety of the surface.  Maybe the sweet scent of the surface will be reached and the underbelly will return to the underneath.  Maybe breath will come easier – at the surface.

Painting 6895

Painting 6895

Paint

via Daily Prompt: Paint

6895

Painting pictures of you

Eighteen years, ten months, and eighteen days

A picture a day

6895 daily pictures

Each picture uniquely different, but uniquely you

Picture 1 – just me and you

Two colors entwined in a sonrise

The world celebrates as you have arrived

 

Picture 680 – we add Rin to the family

A new color added that will be included in every picture

The world celebrates as she has arrived

 

Primary colors of red, blue, green, and yellow

Are mixed with the brown of earth

Hot wheels, blocks, and sticks making

Race tracks in the dirt

The bright yellow sun shining on pure life

Making memories, growing happiness

 

So many pictures of life, love, and happiness

Hard times, too

Pictures colored with fear and sadness

Divorce, families changing, moving

The three colors – you, me, and Rin

Present in every picture

Sometimes in the background shining light and love

Taking joy in happiness of your adventure

Sometimes off to the side

Bearing witness to the beauty of you

 

Picture – 2954 Gem arrives bringing a new color

Picture – 3046 a dark day and Gem’s color becomes

A color that is woven into every day

 

Each night before sleep arrives the picture of the day

Is painted with the shades of browns and golds of your eyes

The brown mud tracked through the house

The shiny black grease that stains my good towels

The grass stains of football that colors your jeans

Carhart brown, John Deere Green, Papé yellow

The purple and gold of your school colors

The pink in the blush of your cheeks

The pale brown of your birth marks

The teal green of your tooth brush

The brown ring of dirt left in the bathtub

All the colors of your world covering every picture

Proof of your life, the passionate way you lived

6895 pictures with a myriad of colors

Moving and mixing

Colors appearing and disappearing

Flashes of brilliance and disappointments

Painting pictures of life

 

Your 6895 pictures have been part of every one of mine.

Your 6895th picture is burnt into my 14, 473rd picture and

Every picture since then.

The color of Roo is woven through every day.