Thursday, October 20, 2016

You Did It Again

Mom, you continue to amaze me.

When I wasn't sure how I was going to make NYC work, you found a way. I have a feeling you and another mother ONCE AGAIN are working behind the scenes. And so yesterday's pleasant surprise was a gift.

But today, you outdid yourself yet again... Bon Jovi tickets. Kicking off their tour right here at The Well. And you helped me once more.

I am in awe. I am so humbled and grateful and awestruck. I have no words. I don't know what to think, how to feel. What I feel is a sense of amazing love that transcends the barriers of time and space.

I know that in life, we often had our tense moments. We had lots of times we really may not have liked each other. Yet flawed as it was and limited by our own biases and issues, love was always present. I feel that now, I know this as truth.

This is your message to me: spread my wings and soar now. I hope you understand why I held you and your memory so tightly for so long. I understand now why you had to get my attention as you did that Saturday, in telling me to let you go and soar too.

Flying high together, Mom!

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Twenty Years Ago Today

I woke on October 5, 1996 with the knowledge that I was now grandparent-less. My lone remaining grandparent had died in the late hours of October 4.

I never knew either grandfather -- one passed before my mom ever married, the other when I was 5 months old. My mother's mother died when I was 12 -- and nearly 35 years later, I still miss her terribly. But my paternal grandmother and I didn't exactly see eye-to-eye on many things and so I felt a little conflicted.

Was I sad? Yes, of course, but more for my dad and his siblings. This was it for them. And I felt very sad for myself, because for me, Christmas would never be the same. Christmas was her holiday. Command performance at her place and if you weren't there, then you got the cold shoulder.

But I didn't necessarily feel personal sadness, not the deep bereavement I'd felt for years over Granny P's death. As I said, we didn't often agree and my feelings for and about her had led to years of visiting her when I had to. I didn't make it a point to just go visit because it was something I wanted to do. I went when I was dragged. I'd reflected a lot in my early adult years on her role and influence on certain areas of my life -- and gotten very angry. I couldn't figure out the inconsistencies and match them to the person who I knew her to be.

Nevertheless, at the end of the funeral, I made a sound I have yet to make again -- not even at my own mother's death or funeral. I came close to the same sound at Padre's wake but still nothing like this. It was primal, raw, deep -- a strangled wail that commenced in my toes and in my brain, met in my abdomen, and projected forth from my lungs in one big deep-voiced scream. It was one big squall, and then......

That was it.

In twenty years, I have not grieved, at least not in the same way that I have for Granny P and especially for my mother. As time has gone on and I've gleaned more nuggets of information about my grandmother, there will be no more grief. One gigantic wave and done. Sometimes I wonder if that is any better than those waves that seem to never stop, the ones that lessen over time in frequency and intensity but which never go away.

I still feel for my father who now has lost one sibling and a few in-laws in the ensuing years, along with his wife. But I don't think he's ever unpacked things about his childhood, not the way my generation has, or even to the extent that others in his family have. Dad and Mom both, in their own ways, love the warm fuzzy blanket of denial. I've been there too -- and while it comforts, it also strangles. I am choosing to breathe and daily strive to be authentic. Denial is an okay place to visit but not to live. Once you're out of the tomb, you sort of refuse to go back in, ya know?

So on Friday, I'll pause a few and remember that day and that strange wail. I may try to analyze yet again the place from where that sound came. Twenty years of pondering hasn't helped so far but I'd love to know, for my own sanity.

And when I get to the afterlife, don't worry. I'll find her and Ol' Roy. I got a crapton of questions for them. An interrogation that would make Lennie Briscoe proud.

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!