Tuesday, September 06, 2016

A Liminal Moment


Yesterday (September 5) was exactly 6 months since Mom passed. After Saturday's events, however, I must say that I have felt much more peace about things. 

Yesterday, Dad, a friend of his, and I went  to some area orchards to buy apples. It was an enjoyable trip into the mountains for the afternoon. I kept my earphones in most of the time, to keep my ears open to stop the possibility of motion sickness or another migraine attack. But it also cut out some of the chatter. I don't mind conversation but I don't always need to be involved. Another area where Mom and I differed. She loved chatting; I endure it unless it's with a small group of trusted people in my life.

Anyway, we got back and I had to run a quick errand before dinner. When I pulled the car back in, it happened.

A butterfly landed on my car. 

I had to stop. I knew in my marrow that this was an important moment. I heard Fr. Sandy's voice saying something about a liminal moment. He'd use that phrase sometimes in his homilies and I had a pretty good idea of its meaning. But I reminded myself to look up the word, just in case I was on the wrong track.

I watched the butterfly move its wings as if it were stretching. I mean, one of those awesome, full upper-body stretches out through the arms and through the chest and everything feels opened up. It was as if the wings themselves were fluttering from the stretch. I sat there, afraid to even open the car door because I knew this was important.

But I had to go in. As soon as I got out and closed the door, the butterfly flew away. I said aloud, "oh no, come back!" But it had gone.

I smiled. Time for it to fly. No cages. No restraints. I kept smiling. I got inside, put down my gear, and looked up "liminal." The definition above is exactly what popped up.

A moment at a threshold. I don't know that any other word would have fit so perfectly. I'm forging a brave new world for myself. Mistress of my own high seas and navigator of my own soul's depths. Wings ready to soar to new adventures greater than I ever guessed.

Because of one who gave me roots and wings.


Saturday, September 03, 2016

Birdcage Wisdom

I was dreaming. 

Odd that I actually recalled what I was dreaming about.... I rarely do. Not in ages have I recalled more than a snippet of a dream, if anything at all. But yes, I was remembering the dream.

It was a vocal audition. I had to do three songs: one of the judges' panel choosing, one that was more traditional of my choice, and then a more modern piece. I don't remember the judges' choice, I think Paula or Mary helped me choose a more traditional piece but I DEFINITELY remember my modern selection. I began to sing it and had gotten part of the way through it.

And then I heard the clock chime quarter till..... My eyes flew open and I had to get up to see exactly quarter till when. I saw the time and that was that. I was up. I then knew why I had chosen my modern piece and awakened when I did.

It was 5:45 am. The song was "Release" by Pearl Jam. I had been awakened in time to sit vigil today that I didn't get to do 26 weeks ago. 

I went out to the back room/man cave-ish area, sitting on the steps and silently weeping. Trying to sing the lyrics and feeling tears absolutely dripping off my face. I waited in the dark for her to speak to me.....

And she did. I did not expect to feel what I thought she was saying to me. I thought I had to be mistaken. 

Let me go, Annette.

Let you go? LET YOU GO? The hell? Mama, I appear to be the only one who gives a single solitary damn about you and your memory right now. Me, your daughter. The one with whom you battled and fought, the one who proved to be a pretty damn worthy adversary. ME. The one who hasn't just seemingly decided that well, six months is fine. Dammitall Mama, how can you say that to me? I don't get it.....

So later on, befuddled and bewildered, I got in the shower to get ready for my day of errands. I don't know why but the shower seems to be my conduit to the cosmos. I get amazing ideas and insights there that I can't get other places. I'd put on a different playlist this morning and on came "Black Days III" (aka "Fell On Black Days (Demo)") from the Echo of Miles box set.

It's a very different setting of a familiar song. So as I'm doing a little head-banging and body cleaning, my favorite lyric from the well-known version came into my mind: 


Lyrics which mean so much to me in an entirely different manner suddenly gave me the perspective I needed for mama's message to me this morning. When she was leaving this life, all I wanted for her was to soar higher and farther than she ever could as an earthbound. And she's been giving me wings my whole life -- including since her passing.

It is time for me to return the favor. I am giving Mama her wings too. I am freeing her from a life caught between my need to remember and keep her close -- and my desire to have her soar.

Earlier this week, I'd gotten a tweet response that read (in part): "The world is not the same without the one who loves you unconditionally." Indeed. My world is not the same. It goes on as ever, but differently. And so must I, figuring it out as I go along somehow -- never forgetting my mother but not keeping her hostage to my own grief.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Mama, You Are....

Never far from my thoughts .... Especially in moments like this. I am in the middle of an awesome show, during a break between Night Ranger and Rick Springfield. Now, honestly, I think of you far more often.... every day, in fact, and usually accompanied by eye leaks. But I'm thinking of you right now because of music. How much music was a part of my life and how much of a role you played in that. I know I told you this, as you lay there at Hospice House, but I don't know if you had any clue just how much the gift of music has meant to me in life ...... and how you encouraged it in me. Whether through singing or radio or piano or whatever you never once said, "Honey, this music thing is out of hand." You just let me. That was such a gift.

I was painfully aware in my teen years that our money was tight. When all my friends were going to the concerts I so desperately wanted to see -- Rick Springfield, Hall & Oates, John Mellencamp -- we didn't have the money, I had to live vicariously through friends who somehow understood and didn't shame me further.

My first live show was college.... Two of them. Then I didn't see another one for several years. Is this why you are pulling divine strings for me this year? Because keep pulling them. I am loving every minute of it. Every live show has been an absolute priceless treasure. I'm honored to share the moments with my friends in snippets of videos and pictures. 

Two more after this -- at least two planned ones. I'm looking forward to the Avett Brothers in Greenville but OMG I absolutely am freaking out over Temple of the Dog at Madison Square Garden in New York. Oh my gosh mom .... Do you have any idea? Do you? I know in the afterlife you have to know more than I do but oh my gosh, really, can you POSSIBLY know how utterly psyched I am for that one? 

Have you run into Bowie, Prince, Haggard? Have you met Andrew Wood, Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley? Please oh God please tell me you've seen a heavenly Rat Pack engagement. That IS heaven..... 

Okay so Rick Springfield is about to take the stage. I love you. Thank you. Thank you for EVERYTHING.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Already Dreading The Holidays

So it occurred to me today that it will be 20 years on October 4 since my paternal grandmother died. The following March will mark one year since Mom's passing and 35 years since her mother's death.

I pondered these events mostly because if I don't plan for the holidays now, we'll find ourselves at loose ends. For Thanksgiving, we're looking at buffets and restaurants in the area. If nothing else, Waffle House will be open. Thanksgiving was always a small affair, usually just the four of us. When the rest of the Norman Rockwell version of America is stacked 20 deep at Grandma's farmhouse, we always kept it simple. A few times we had family over or joined some friends but I loved our quiet Thanksgiving. This year, I don't know that I want to be here. We are thinking practically. A turkey for three people seems ludicrous. I will so miss Daddy and Mama's dressing but no need to make a huge pan of it for us. So.... What to do? I'm considering some options. Maybe rent a cabin in the mountains that weekend? Head to the beach? Not sure yet. 

Christmas, on the other hand, has never been the same in 20 years. And for nearly that long, I've hated the holiday season. I thought last year was my absolute worst, as I wrestled with anxiety and depression unlike any I'd experienced in a number of years. And at this point in time.... well, honestly, outside Midnight Mass, I'd really rather not take part in any holiday festivities. I didn't feel like celebrating last year. I really don't feel like it right now for this year. I don't care if we ever put up a tree, decorate the house, or anything. I don't care.

I haven't cared for Christmas in years. Some of it is the loss I felt after Granny's death -- Christmas was always the time to get with the family and enjoy the day. We did one big gathering the Sunday after Christmas 1996 -- in fact, it's the first time I ever met my cousins Heather, Brandon, Krystle, and Danielle. But after that, a few hurt feelings and who knows what else ..... And we've never met at Christmas since. To be fair, everyone has families of their own and getting as many together as possible is difficult. So I get it -- it isn't an easy task. 

And this is not what my mother would want. She adored Christmas and was forever baffled by our lack of enthusiasm. "Your granddad loved Christmas," she'd tell us. I'm glad, Mom, I'd think, but he isn't here so.... And this year, she isn't either. It is going to be so weird. No one telling us "Come open presents, come on, get up and get going. I'll never understand why y'all don't love Christmas."

I can't explain it either. I just don't. And this year, even less so.

Friday, August 05, 2016

5 Months

5 months today
21 weeks, 6 days ..... 22 weeks tomorrow
153 days
3 days from what would have been your 79th birthday.

Someday, I'll stop counting. Today is not that day. 

Mama, I've thought of you so very much this past week. You're my divine hotline to awesome concert tickets (only teasing, mom, but don't stop!!). Birds and dragonflies everywhere. I haven't stopped crying each morning for the last week. 

I have a pretty late summer / fall arrangement that I'm bringing you this weekend. I hope you like it. I thought of you with sunflowers and mums, things you might like. Hopefully it will usher in some cooler weather too! Can you work a little magic with God on that particular area?

I suppose I'm the last of the three of us to dive headlong into grief. Dad and Richard seem to be in a different place with theirs. I was so strong at first and I'm still strong. I have softened so much, and in the best way. One of my favorite U2 lyrics that came to mind: "a heart that is broken is a heart that is open." I hope that I've grown more compassionate, more eager to try new things.

I have you to thank for some of the peak experiences I've had this year. Only fair, since you're also responsible for the most heartwrenching one too. Well, it's true. And you were right.... You told me years ago that one day I'd understand (whenever you'd cry about Granny). And I do. I'm slogging my way through it, eyes filled with tears and heart filled with an ache that does not go away.

I miss you but I know you're around. Happy birthday Mama!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Thank you again, Mama


Mama, you are still looking out for your baby girl, aren't you? Thank you. Thank Saint Cecilia. Thank the six-pound eight-ounce Baby Jesus. 

First I got Pearl Jam tickets while you were still here. Then you snagged that AH-MAZING Chris Cornell ticket for me. Fifth row, center stage? If I had not been on Cloud 9, I'd have wept ...... Mavericks? Done. Rick Springfield? Oh mama!!! Avett Brothers? Nice. 

But Temple of the Dog, at Madison Square Garden in New York City? 

You have outdone yourself, Mama. Oh sure, I had some help from your love, affectionately known as #BestDadEver.  But to make it happen, a little divine intervention was needed. That is all on you.

I love you, Mama. We had strange ways of expressing it, and usually so poorly. But it was there. I'm certain of that whenever I think of you. I feel it as surely as I feel that lump in my throat. 

Your birthday is coming up soon. That will be as tough a day as Mother's Day was. But I promise I will bring you a pretty arrangement that you will love. I'm thinking sunflowers ....... 

#MyAngelMama

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Year of The Concert

So far, 2016 has been a year filled with things I never imagined. I've spoken enough about the awful ones. Right now, I'd like to speak about the good things that took place.

In January, I got tickets for my brother and I to see Pearl Jam in our hometown (well, for these purposes anyway, I'd call Greenville a hometown...... like a band of that level would ever come to La Libertad). They did not disappoint, not in the least. The two of us, and upwards of 18,000 others, were part of history as they played their sophomore album Vs. in its entirety for the first time ever. When they played "Given To Fly" I was in heaven, beaming while thinking of Mom. And closing with "Yellow Ledbetter"? Over the moon!

Then in May, I got to see a band I've loved for nearly 25 years! I've been a fan of The Mavericks since their What A Crying Shame in 1992. They did not disappoint either, but man the crowd did. It was a beautiful Friday night, there by the river, but you'd have sworn they were playing in a cemetery. I actually felt horrible for the band -- they were giving everything they had and not getting as much back. They played slightly under two hours and honestly, I wouldn't have blamed them if they had cut it even shorter. I was a bit surprised that the demographic was way older than I expected. I mean, at 46, I should have been toward the low end of average, not the low end altogether. Lots of 60+ folks. Hey, I'm glad they like the band but c'mon act like it.

Then just last weekend, I got another experience I never thought I'd get: ticket to Chris Cornell in Charleston. It's an odd story but I bought the ticket the Monday after Mom passed, while sitting in the mortuary lobby. Hey, priorities. So I got a REALLY great seat -- I thought it was fifth row, then second but it ended up as fifth. It didn't matter. It was an absolutely phenomenal show. He had an opening act from a blues/roots artist, Fantastic Negrito. And you need to check him out. Seriously. He's that good. Then out came the main act and I was mesmerized. If you have a chance to see Chris Cornell live, DO NOT miss out on the chance. It was two and a half hours (maybe 2:45?  It was 26 songs) that could have stretched into four as far as I was concerned. Did he play every song I would have wanted to hear? No, but then again some of the ones I love don't lend themselves to an acoustic treatment. The ones he did were outstanding, including a few I wasn't expecting to hear......... if you have a chance to catch one of the remaining shows over this tour, then GO!!!!! Seriously.

I have two more to see that are planned: Rick Springfield in August in Charlotte and The Avett Brothers in Greenville in October. There may be another show, if Ticketmaster lets me cash in a voucher from the class-action settlement. Most of the ones on the list, I really didn't care to see.

It's been a good year for music. Music continues to be my sanity saver, my life raft in these changing seas........