The Heart Forgets

I’m in my apartment on a late Friday afternoon, the sun is low on the horizon and it streams through my dusty blinds sending shards of sunlight across my industrial beige carpet. As I am washing the few dishes that ever pile up these days I hear someone wrap their knuckles on the outside of my apartment wall from the hallway and my heart starts beating faster, that would be my daughter. When she opens the door I look at her and something is different, she seems older, wiser. It all conflicts with what’s in my head, I see her blue eyes and suddenly picture her picking rocks along the river, her tender little hands covered in dirt, her long hair draped over her rosy, soft cheeks. She’s eighteen now, she’s working, the hair still drapes over her cheeks, but she’s much taller now and her eyes are a little more narrowed, sharper, exposed.

As a father you know this time is coming, but somehow it escapes you when you’re at the park with them, or running errands or dropping them back off at their mother’s house for the week. Time slips away like the warmth from the day on a late fall afternoon, the chill creeps in before you know it and the light of the day wanes and falls out of sight. Suddenly they are adults, and they are busy all the time, they have a boyfriend and your love and support is not the only product in town. It’s a hard thing to contend with and it takes your breath away.

My little girl is packing her things, she is moving out and off to college in a few days, where did all those years go, her snuggling up in your arms late at night, holding your hand, her little fingers enveloped in yours. Soon she will move away, she will not be in the room down the hall, she won’t sit across from you at breakfast and her bed won’t be a mess when she leaves. Dinner becomes a little smaller and there’s an empty place on the sofa at the end of the day. I know this happening, its real time, I will support her in whatever she does and I know that once she moves away my world will forever be different, if not just a little more lonely. I forget it’s what we do as parents, it’s what we train these kids for, it’s why they go to school and it ought to be expected, but somehow the heart forgets and it breaks unexpectedly when it happens, you find yourself looking at her, hoping she will be safe, hoping she won’t forget about you, hoping she will thrive. You are proud but you are scared.

It’s amazing what our minds and our bodies do to protect us, how time flies by and your little children are now grown ups and they are saying goodbye, your heart stops, you find it hard to catch your breath and you can’t believe they are actually walking away. Life is hard and no matter how much we prepare, it always catches us off guard somehow. Take every moment you can with your kids, before you know it that look of excitement you used to see in their eyes when they saw you turns away to the future and what’s out there for them, cherish every hug and every kiss and know that the time is coming, be prideful for them, support them and always keep an open spot for them. The painful feeling, the hurt and loss you feel will fade, no matter how much you relish the realness of it and don’t want to let it go.

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Between Heaven and Earth

I sat in awe as the ground fell away and I watched as the horizon expanded once again.

The warm August sun shone brightly behind me across Lake Superior, dancing like millions of stars on the surface of the cool dark water as if they’d fallen from space.

The dull hum of the Cessna engine once again sang to me as we ascended towards the clouds.

As I listened to faint chatter in my headphones from other aircraft, and gazed out over countless miles of untouched wilderness, Leonardo Da Vinci and his prose about man exploring the skies came to mind. And to that I’d say indeed Leo I shall not forget and most likely will often yearn to revisit the awesome solitude and serene place between Heaven and Earth.

As I ponder the wondrous fortune I have enjoyed this day I already have a need to hold back sadness as it attempts to creep in, this one has been a gem indeed, splashing around on a Duluth beach with my girl and our very special friend and pilot, it’s a day I shall not soon forget.

I’ll pine not but rather celebrate those I spend these days with and look forward to more, as I shall not sit still and only wish to explore but instead wander out and experience as much of this world as I can reach, for when I am old it is these memories I will so fondly cherish.

The Pain I can’t Turn Away

The look in her eyes turns foggy, faded, as if she were pulling away.

Her lips pursed and her complexion sallow.

I am honest with her, I tell her what I think, and I think she is an alcoholic.

The air turns thick and rancid, I take a step back and she bites, and she bites hard.

Her sharp tongue lashing out like rogue flames from a roaring fire, her tone dark and mean.

I love who she is when the waters are calm, she is kind, and she is funny, but I hate her when

she is called to defend her behavior.

Like all of us she has her days and nights, her ups and down, her peaks and valleys.

And I accept her for who she is through-out all of it, in spite of her inaccurate accusations,

her scars, her shadows and her fears.

She is my little sister, she is my niece’s mother, she is my only full blood sibling, and she is the bane of my frustration.

It hurts when I am honest and she disappears, when she claims I don’t care and turns away, returning to the shadows again.

I know how it feels to melt away, to sink back into the dark pool of shame and fear.

I know what it means to want to simply vanish, from the pain, from what hurts and from the love

you can’t allow yourself to deserve.

I wish I could show her the way, but her map is different, it has places I have crossed off on mine,

scary places and hard places, and places I have succumb to and survived, and I hope that one day she may too.

In the meanwhile it hurts, to watch and to see, to hear and to feel.

There will be days again when she wanders by a little too closely, just enough to feel a little warmth, just to know it’s still there and I will respond in kind and absorb what I can of her then, knowing it won’t last, knowing soon after she will disappear again.

The bitter Taste of Struggle

Why is it that a certain segment of society, and I am not pigeon holing a certain group, sex, race or religion, in fact this segment of society seems to emanate from all aspects of our community, and that said, why do these people insist on transposing their beliefs and ideas onto me? It seems there is always someone whom apparently knows better than I what is appropriate for…well me, what I ought to enjoy more and what I should do with my life. These people exist at my place of employment, at the coffee house I stop at and even within my own family.

The choices I make for myself are based on what I enjoy, what I like or appreciate and what I want out of my life. How can anyone else but me judge whether or not my choices are right for me. If those choices hurt no one, and directly engage no one but those involved in my choices voluntarily, how can those choices not be supported, celebrated or appreciated by the one I love?

But it happens, I make a choice based on my interests and my search for love, I am supported by the one I choose to be with, I am cared for by that person, I am free to express myself freely and openly without judgment, I fear not exposing my ugly sides and my scars and my skeletons for I am celebrated because of exactly who I am, and accepted without boundary for all that makes me, me. And even that said, judgment rears its vile, contemptuous head to go out of its way in order to lecture me, to share with me its disapproval and then go on to punish me when they struggle to understand the decisions and choices I have made, they don’t reach out and ask, inquire as to the motivations that drive my decisions, they don’t seek out insight, but rather seem to have an innate need to project their intolerances upon me. And for those not brave enough to do so, they hide; they disappear, fading away into the shade of the thorny bramble.

So I struggle, with great effort to comprehend the loss, I have gained so much, so much beauty and unrestrained love, freedom to be all of me and spend my days going on great adventures. And I want to share that with those who’ve always seemed to grapple with who I am, to show them how elated I have become but it falls on deaf ears and guarded hearts, why is it so difficult to accept the loss of things that make me sad, to turn away and face the sun and walk from the darkness that tries so hard to envelope me and hold me down under the weight of its condemnatory shadow?

 

 

A Morning in Jasper

The tall, scrawny pines sheltered me from the cool morning breeze as I fired up my small camp stove and made some coffee, the smell of the instant grounds aroused my sleepy senses.

The tops of the snow covered mountains were hidden, obscured by clouds and as I scanned above the tree line across the rocky, glacier carved crags the mist turned into a light, fine rain.

It was seven thirty in the morning and already the sun was up somewhere outside of the valley where we’d camped. I love the early mornings afield, the smell of the fresh grasses and pine needles covered in dew, crispness in the air that awakens the mind and a humbling feeling that explorers who’d come this way long before me must have felt as though they had stumbled into a strange, wonderful sort of paradise.

As I try and sip from my favorite camp mug without burning my lips I notice the rain fading, and suddenly a female and a juvenile elk step out from the trees and into the clearing whose edge I am standing at. They are gorgeous, their coats wet and tawny. They both graze for a bit and finally lay down among the grass just fifty yards from where I stand.

At that moment, as the clouds began to lift exposing the snow capped mountain tops I am stunned by the arrival of a bull elk, his shoulders black, his antlers fat with velvet, he steps out onto the plain and bugles as he postures himself. He is regal, majestic and he is bold and I am in awe of his beauty.

There are no pictures that can relay the splendor of this land, no words that by themselves illuminate the imagery that paints one’s soul by experiencing it, but simply being here, standing among the spiritual essence of this place is purely magnificent.

Dreams come at a Premium

He could see their lips moving but their words were obscured by the emotional fog that filled the auditorium. It was warm, hot even, under those robes. One after another someone else stepped to the podium to say their piece, to motivate and congratulate the graduates. He sat quietly, pretending to hang onto every word they expelled, in reality he was far away.

He was watching himself sitting at the kitchen table, again at two in the morning cranking out another paper, his face pale, his mind awash in facts and rules and equations and fear.

He peered over his shoulder as he sat in Caribou, tired, hungry, and desperate to complete an analysis of his business evaluation for his corporate ethics class, a third cup of coffee barely keeping him in the black.

He even saw the beads of sweat once again roll down his temples as he stood in Microcenter, while the tech explained to him that the virus erased everything, all of his files gone. He could see the terror in his own eyes as the color left his face and his stomach churned and made him feel sick.

He always appreciated education and saw the value of it, or maybe it was sheer fascination with knowing why things are the way they are and his need to inquire and investigate that led him to seek out first a certification in mechanical drafting, then an associates in science degree in architectural and mechanical design.

He took college classes even while he served his country, when he was stationed state side and was on patrol as an MP late at night he would park at the firing ranges and study, nothing in particular just subjects that peeked his interest. He even sought out other programs to attend like foreign weapons class and Arabic studies. And when he decided to leave the military service he enrolled and completed the police program at the Georgia State Law Enforcement Academy.

When he came home from Georgia with his first child he realized that he wanted to be there for her, he’d worked most of the first twelve months of her life thus far and that’s no way to be a dad he thought, so upon his return to Minnesota he decided to seek out another avenue, law enforcement wouldn’t jive with his priorities as a father he figured.

No one else in his family has a degree, college was never really talked about, his older brothers didn’t attend college, nor did his father for that matter…any of them. He got a full time job in order to support his new family and as the kids were born and they got a little older he returned to college, finally after working at the same place for seventeen years he found himself sitting in a chair in the middle of an auditorium, wearing a black, square cap, holding a diploma that says he has achieved the distinguished bachelors of science degree from St Mary’s University and he’s not certain how to feel.

There were times he wasn’t sure forgoing so much sleep was worth it, the late nights, the costs in books alone, going to work and then right to school, he missed his kids so much at times. It took a toll on his marriage; it took a toll on him.

Now he’s 48, but he’s also educated, he never really considered he would attain a BA degree, dreams always came at a premium for him, and often times the price didn’t match the payout, but today, sitting in that chair, his children and his girlfriend somewhere behind him, the feelings that well up behind his ragged ‘ol mask and blur his vision like rain on a dirty window are hard to swallow. He worked hard; he paid his dues and earned the pride that he wears on his face as he walks out of school and into the sunlight and into the welcoming, loving, supportive arms of his family and friends.

Dusty Cleats

Dusty cleats shifting back and forth in the dirt, her hands wrapped tightly around the shaft of her bat held high over her shoulder and the sun baking down upon her neck.

She peers out through her helmet into the eyes of the pitcher attempting to stare her down. Like some old western movie the moments pass slowly as they take measure of each other.

Suddenly the pitcher’s arm twitches and she winds up, her throwing hand comes out of her glove with haste and in a flash that bright yellow ball comes barreling towards home plate.

Georgia holds her breath, she counts in her head and the crowd gasps, it looks like a nice pitch and her teammates on second and third hunker down against the bags getting ready to charge home.

All of a sudden the muscles in her back shoulder tense up Georgia cranks her hips round and her bat swings low and connects with the ball.

Crack!

She turns and plants her sights on first base, she drops the bat and her cleats tear away the gravel as she digs in and runs. Her heart beats fast and her focus is undeterred.

The last she saw of that ball was the reflection in the eyes of the pitcher as it passed over her head and then second base.

When she’s running round that diamond the screaming of the fans disappears, its quiet, except for the beating of her own heart and the rush of blood in her ears and when she slides into second base, gravel spewing from underneath her she knows she’s half way home.

She stands up atop that bag, proud, heart racing, mind swimming as her teammate’s rally cry echoes in her head and plants her dusty cleats back in the dirt again, the race is on and she’s hungry for home.

Replenishing His Roots

He falls to his knees and he peers at the ground, as the sun bakes down upon the back of his neck, he looks out over his garden like it’s a rock in the middle of a stream in which he has been thrashed around in without control for some time, he needs that rock, he needs to grab hold and hang onto it. It’s his safety, his respite in troubled waters.

He reaches out and thrusts his hands into the cool, dark dirt, splays his fingers outward under the top soil, turns them over and scoops up handfuls of earth. It lies like a friend in his hand; it feels good, familiar, and substantially real.

He crawls around the various plants; the Sedums, Iris and Lilies’, pulling weeds and decaying material from under them.

He pauses now and again to relish at the site of the healthy Big Blue Hosta and the Dwarf Solomon, and takes a moment to fondle the shiny, dark, thick leaves of the English Ivy.

He spends the afternoon dividing and replanting, shoveling and raking and finally watering. As he stands there at the beginning of the evening in the late setting sun he looks down at his clothes, they are covered in dirt, his tanned arms filthy, his hands scraped and tired and he smiles. This is his reward, his therapy, his healing. From the ache in his back to the startlingly cold but refreshing water straight from the hose, this seems to be where he belongs, a place where all the pain and the troubles disappear, where his mind is free and his soul can rest.

Morning Ride

I opened my eyes and found myself floating down the road this morning

as the horizon eviscerated in an explosive light,

Wind swept past my ears like cold water in a fast moving creek,

My body absorbing the vibrations of the engine between my legs

And my face greeted and warmed by the rising sun.

I inhaled a deep, cleansing breath, taking in the sweet, cool smells of early summer

And my soul danced and sang as the world flew by.