My Dad Played Soccer?

 

I went to a birthday party for a dear friend’s father.  She came to the hospital when I could not speak or remember who anyone was, or why it mattered that I didn’t.  She came in and approached the side of my bed. I knew her teeth meant something, but no clue why or who she was.

She came again the next night with five photographs.  She handed them to me and I recognized myself.  I recognized her smile and our friends.   I went from not speaking to jabbering the stories of those photographs.  The ICU staff was floored as I had not spoken to them except for babbling for three entire weeks and touching a laminated photo board to say I was cold.  A switch turned and, although I struggled with everything else, I was talking and telling stories about these photographs.

The woman was a friend of mine in high school and older than me.  She went away to the city after graduation to work and be a grown up.  I was still in high school and, as there was no internet or texting we lost touch over the years, two decades to be exact.

I still could not tell you what day it was or what the word “day” meant, but these pictures brought me back, those memories were solid.  It is my opinion that those memories are stored in another part of the brain and out they came.  I was back and those around me could see it, finally.  I had been in there the entire time and could not find a way to show them.

These five pictures were a connection and became a rope out of a very dark and lonely place.  She saved me from a nursing home.  When my fiancé arrived the party was in full swing and we were loud and having sherbet she brought.  My fiancé let her come back to the hospital even after I explained to him that I had no clue who she was, except for her teeth.

She came to see me after I was out of the hospital.  We played Yahtzi as a family and had fun telling stories.   She brought her mother and I looked at her and my friend and said, “Your dad is…?”  Her mother said,”Yes, he’s alive.”  I was afraid I had missed something.  We all burst out laughing.

A few months later she invited me to her father’s birthday barbecue at their home.  My son went with me looking forward to the stories that would come out.  The first thing her father said when I saw him is, “I’m not dead, still alive.” We all laughed.

We sat around in lawn chairs reminiscing her father was standing by me at one point.  My son sitting next to me. Her father said to me, “I was in the same grade as your father, I didn’t finish” and I said, “neither did my dad he went in the service.” He said, “yes, air force.  I played soccer with your dad.”  I said, “What, my dad played soccer?” He replied shaking his head up and down “yes and baseball too.”  Baseball made sense, soccer did not.  I had never heard this in my life.  My nephews, his grandsons, that he never met, won the state title in soccer their senior and junior year respectively. This never came up, I am sure.  I was blown away.

I said, “tell my son some other things. He never got a chance to meet him.”  He said “He always smoked a pipe and others chimed in “he was funny, he worked at the paper mill, he was the Chief of Police in town.”   He was alive, right there in the driveway around that circle of lawn chairs laughing and telling stories.  He was a real person to his grandson sitting right there beside me.  He met his other grandfather for the first time.   His name was Phil and he played soccer.

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Places to Write

Thinking about where I write is as important to me as why.  I have not made it through one of Lyn’s books without having to stop after a few pages as an idea comes together.  I do consider her a muse and her notes speak to me as they did this afternoon.

My mind has been drawn to places I love to write. It is a chilly and cloudy day on the lake.  Today starts a vacation week for my son and we usually travel.  This year we stayed home on the lake which to us is heaven.

I looked at our Sanibel pictures and thought about posting them.  I decided not to.  I contemplated for a while what book to pick up.  I scanned my office from my chair with my feet up looking out at the lake.

Writing from the Center by Scott Russell Sanders was Lyn’s choice for today.  I’ve been through it several times and did not have a plan.  I thought, “I’ll let Lyn guide me.”   She did.

The book talks about the lore of the land you are on and how connecting with it is what matters to all of us and I embrace that line of thinking.  It was why we live in the mountains, on a lake in the country away from a village or town.  I always wanted my son to connect with the land and he has.  We have spent many hours skipping rocks and fishing on this very spot.

We drive by the road where my father grew up and I always point it out, along with anything else I come up with.  It is important to me that when I am not here that these places mean something to him and that he carries on our stories to his children.

We have a half an hour ride to school on a quiet two lane road.  Our rides along the lake provide time to talk, usually me at him.  He chimes in or takes the lead on occasion.  My favorite one was as we approached the house one day.  He said, “If I had all the money in the world, I’d buy the lot next store and build my dream house there.”  I could not believe what he said.  He loves this particular place as much as I do.  We have traveled and this is the place he would choose.  As Romona said in Hope Floats, “My cup runneth over.”

Mornings that Roll

The morning battle I did not expect.

We have a morning family tradition that falls on snow days, CBS Sunday Morning Sunday’s and other mornings when we know we’ll be together and I remember to buy them.

We use the can kind, which I regret each time I attempt to open them.  I love the can, seeing it in the fridge makes me feel proud of my motherhood, that I am prepared.  The family will awake to the aroma of love and togetherness.  We eat them on beautiful light green summer paisley plates that I love, purchased for a girls day on the lake.

I head out to the kitchen,  look for signs up in my son’s room for rustling. He has feet that hang off the edge of his bed in sight as I enter the kitchen. I want to see how much time I have.  I decide to get the oven going, get the glazed pottery round dish ready with cooking spray.  A stoneware piece of divorce property. I am feeling very accomplished as I open the shades to view the lake this morning.  It’s a little chilly so I get the furnace on.

I grab a Slimfast and go to work.  Step one, peel the outside layer without ripping the directions (yes I still need the directions).  Step two, stare at the can and prepare for battle.  Step three, go at it pushing along the seam.  This one today is a fighter as it is not the name brand.  I pull out a knife.  I went at it now making it ooze, that can’t be good.  It takes several punctures and finally I get it to pop.  My hands hurt and I am chugging my protein drink for reinforcement.

I can do this.  I have done it a million times.  I am ready to give up and I think of my son and keep going.  Finally, the tube of dough is free.  Step four, try to pull them apart while they proceed to fall to pieces and stick cinnamon to my hands as chunks are now falling to the kitchen floor.  “Stayed focused.” I tell myself, “keep going they will not win.”  Finally in the stoneware, in the oven, timer set.

My son wakes up with four minutes left of bake time.  I have landed the triple sow cow.

He says “It’s hot in here” and I say “Good morning I made cinnamon rolls”.  He says, “Can I have the last of the milk” To drink,” I say?  “No, for cereal,” he says.  I grab a bowl, dishwasher clean, pour the last of the milk into the last of the cereal and bring it to him.

Does he not understand my struggle?   I go back to writing and the timer goes off on the oven.  I take them out, put them on the beautiful light green summer paisley plates , glaze them with icing and bring him two.  Back to writing in my office.

I hear “Mom these are good,” as I take my first bite, I say “yah I had to battle the can they are a knockoff brand.”  “They’re good,” he says. “Right, they have more cinnamon than the other ones.  They came out good; then it was worth the struggle,” I say.

“Do you want another round,” I ask as I pick up his plate.  He says, “yes.”  my soul fills up with giggles and the battle with the can fades out of my memory once again.  The idea that in our family a can of rolls, a stone dish and pretty plates bring such heartfelt memories is one of my proudest accomplishments.  Everyone in our home, when they see the can, gets excited.  They forget their busy schedules knowing it’s going to be a good day, in our lives, when it starts with warm iced cinnamon rolls.

Post Card from Newport

I was in search of two things on this lakeside afternoon.  The sun is bright and the breeze still has a Spring chill to it.  We declared it to be Taco Night as my son has a down day (no sports activities).  We watched a movie, the one with the man attacked by a bear surviving in the woods to avenge his son’s murder.  Like all mother’s I tried to cook, watch an Academy Award winning film while checking my phone and thinking about Lyn’s box of books for my blog after traveling the morning away through some mountains myself.

What one would I choose tonight as that is not usually how it goes, it just happens.  I give her all the credit she somehow leads me there.  It could have been the four-day stretch of flow we were in wearing off now that the fear of doing it has found validation which has led to a block of sorts.

My mind is going in many directions and ideas are flowing, but not appearing like they have been these past few days when we decided to take our relationship public.  It’s a social media leap and the feedback has been outstanding, more than I imagined, in a way I never, ever planned to be a part of.  The realm of social media.

My goal would be to write on a lake in the mountains and appear now and then to go on a book tour, just like the trapper in the movie.  Go big and then go home, (no guarantee there either way).  I have mentioned to you before; I am a salesperson at heart. From the time I began to talk, however like most of us who talk for a living it can be the last thing you want to do sometimes.  I guess it is strange in a way; I got to experience that as it was the last thing I could do for a while.

As we are watching this man survive a bear attack crawling for days to be then pushed off a cliff and have to start over again.  I realize tacos might not have been the best choice.  You sort of lose your appetite and it hits a little close to home when he can’t talk.  I look over at my son eating his taco, on his phone and feel content.  We are together the ideas can wait.  We have to see this movie through and neither of us want to do our homework.

The battle of revenge in the woods ends along with the tacos.  He has math and I am now in search of two books, the humanities one still in my car and The Lure of the Local (no clue where it is).  I begin the search and spy my Newport Mansions book which I adore.  It has returned a few times with me there.  It isn’t one of Lyn’s so why is it sticking in my mind.  I keep going and on my father’s desk I see a postcard from Newport.

I have not been at my father’s desk in my office, now my desk in months (October) with being sick and staying with my fiance at his home an hour away over two mountains (not on water, suburbia).  I have not wanted to tackle it yet.  The postcard was on top and I picked it up and looked on the back. A smile swept over my face, Another Aunt Christine hoarders move.  It was to my nephew to send to him at Johns Hopkins #GoHop his freshman year (2012).

“Headed to Newport to celebrate my successful thesis defense.  Today at Chateau-sur-Mer they showed us a painting of George Peabody who built many university libraries, including John Hopkins.  We saw rooms and furniture by Fellini, Google it!  Love you. Miss you.  So proud of you!”  Aunt Christine

A postcard never sent until now. I will publish it and Italy will receive it, as the country did my nephew. No postage required and just in time for his graduation.

newport

2012 Trip to Newport, RI

Lyn led me right to it and as I went back to grab the Newport Mansions book there it was The Lure of the Local looking up at me.

Finding our Claude

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It took cars, trains and a taxi to meet Claude for our date, but Lyn had waited long enough for lunch at The Met.  Claude made reservations at the Members Only dining room which he knows holds a special place in my heart.  He also knows it has to be a seat by the window.  He forgot that it was February and fog covered the window on the day we chose to meet.  I did not care as the view from inside was bubbling with life.

I felt very tired as we sat down to lunch and got settled with my journal and pen in place with my ears wide open to take in all the conversations happening.  The idea of voices living their lives as opposed to the beeping of monitors heard as you lay in a hospital bed for weeks at at time was soulful.  I felt a layer revealing itself as a sketch waits for paint to further bring out the work in progress.

A work in progress was what I was.  I could not drive us to meet Claude due to my health, but a train made it possible.  My family would not have allowed me to go with just a book to meet Claude, but a friend was headed that way on business.  I immediately asked if we could tag along and she graciously accepted.  She had met Lyn before and had sat with me in the hospital on some of the worst nights I had.  One night she finally had to say, “I don’t know what you mean.”  I grabbed her hand so tight and motioned her to move her chair so I could see her.  I could not see out of my right eye and was not making any verbal sense.  I wanted her to move the chair to make sure she was still there.  I grabbed her hand tight to tell her not to leave.  She assured me she was not leaving and now she agreed months later to get Lyn and I to Claude.

When the train got to New York, we parted ways after the taxi line.  I was on my own for the first time in months.  My new friend, the driver, and I got into a conversation right away.  I told him I was going to see my paintings at The Met.  He was happy for me after seeing my pacemaker scar and hearing my story.  He then told his.  He has been a cabby for twenty years and has an eight year old daughter.  We talked about staying positive and he left me with this as I exited the cab.  He said, “I just want my daughter to know how much I love her.”  I thought that was interesting and I said, “She does.”

I am tired now after car and train rides.  It is a rainy February day as I wait the few minutes for The Met to open.  I look around.  I am alone.  I am alive and I made it to my paintings.  They are in there.  I am here.  I spent many nights waiting for them to end in the hospital waiting for the noises to stop as my head spun.  Mail was brought to me later on and mail from The Met would come, the magazine, membership renewal and mailers.  I would look at them knowing they meant nothing to those around me, but they did to me.  I wondered if I would ever see my paintings again.  I made a mental note “Lynn I will get us there to have lunch with Claude” and honestly did not even believe myself.  The thought of not ever seeing him again became my reality with my father.

I left for a semester in Europe and kissed him goodbye at the Myrtle Beach airport and that was the last time I said goodbye to him in person.  I was living in a castle in Holland with Emerson College traveling through Rome in February, 1990. I arrived back at the castle a day early to receive the news.  I flew back after his funeral knowing that opportunity was not to be given up and too expensive to walk away from.  I knew then I had my whole life to grieve, but many days were spent looking out at that moat and the grounds trying to heal.

As I worked to find my way through The Met, I did not allow myself a map.  I felt guided by my dad after my conversation with the cab driver.  He loved his daughter so much and I felt that message as I wandered through Egypt and China.  It was exhilarating and exhausting, but reservations for lunch were at noon, no time to waste.  I had already wasted months of my life; Lynn and I pushed on.

There it was the room with the impressionists and I searched for Claude no time for Van Gogh.  I stood there at the entrance to his room.  I melted into the floor and just knew I was meant to be there at that moment 11:11, to be exact.  It is a thing with me and my dad, now my son.  I did not want to take one more step. I did not want to be one step closer to this experience being a memory.  I have memories of this place and of my dad who never made it here.  My son has memories of me, but I want them to stay like these paintings have, which is why I write.  I want him to have on paper a place to go to know that I am there.  I am in those pages as I was in there when I could not tell him.

I would have jumped into the painting if I could. I got as close as I could with the rope between us to see each brush stroke.  The pain, the solace, the passion to make it right and everlasting.  I had not seen these particular paintings or noticed them the way I did today and they drew me in.  The Path, funny right, that is what I am all about helping people find their path and there it was his painting about a path hardly visible until you really look.

Almost time for lunch, I am writing feverishly and decide to sit on the bench and take it in.  I need to go up to the dining room.  I want to stay right here forever.  I get up and go look at my new favorite, closer and I see it.  A parent holding a child’s hand.  I felt it in my soul he was there and holding my hand.  I was not alone.

I tell my son all the time, let go of the pain when I am gone and find me there around you.  I do not know what happens over there, but he knows I will find a way.  He just has to be open to it.  Ok, time to take Lyn to lunch.  Claude got us a seat by the window.

 

Graduation Day

I dug this selection of Lyn’s out of my car and for those who know me realize that is no easy task.  I am not proud of it, but let’s just say I could survive a while.  The fact that I live in the woods this is a possibility.  It started from being an on the road sales rep and sad to say has not changed.  It is helpful on occasion and this was one.

It occurred to me that two of the books, at least, are buried in my hatchback.  I vowed to rescue them as this mission has taken a life of its own once again.  There they were two of her books, a little banged up and in need of daylight.

Today’s choice a book on college writing, which although I need to read it from cover to cover I was curious how it applied and BAM!  An email came to my phone with a notice of our flight to Baltimore next month.  It is for my nephew’s college graduation from Johns Hopkins University, hence the Hope photos on my blog.  The Hope photo was taken on a parents weekend visit his freshman year and here we are preparing for his college graduation.

He is in Italy finishing up a year there.  I would have liked to spent time with him there, but dying got in the way.  He understood, “It’s ok, Aunt Christine, when you feel better” which at the time I could not talk or walk due to a brain bleed from blood thinner medicine.  I was pretty much nursing home bound unable to communicate to those right in front of me, yet he believed I could get to Italy.

Isn’t that something, his idea of me was I am that resilient and that helped me to be that Aunt Christine of his who always finds a way to be there for him.  I remember seeing the text and thinking, “How do I get out of here and get to Italy?  First, I would need to renew my passport, second learn to speak and walk- ok, I have a plan.”  It really seemed simple to me in my head connected to wires to monitor my brain or maybe it came after I pulled them out one by one when no one was looking.

So when my nephew graduated from high school I gave him the college success book his mother gave to me upon my high school graduation (she was already dating my brother).  I am the hording Aunt Christine who keeps these things.  I loved having all of our family write underneath what she had written to me two decades ago.

It’s funny I never made the connection until this moment, Lyn has paid it forward writing to me on those inside covers and margins, guiding me to write to you.  The tradition carries on and inspiration comes from unexpected places when you need it the most.  Lyn is here guiding me  today as those text messages were when no one could understand me.  I was in there unable to express it, but my nephew was not there to see what others were seeing with their eyes.  He was speaking to his Aunt Christine from his heart.

The cool part is my blog has readers in Italy, thanks to my nephew.  I made it there after all, no passport needed, just a good book.

 

Sunday’s Book

It is her highlighting work that cracks me up as it is exactly what I am thinking about as I make the choice to go public with my work.  Her research would have not been noticed and, although I doubt that mattered to her, it is a pleasure to have her guidance.  She is this soft push I need each time the questions take over, yet the passion for this project has never left me as each time I pick it up she is there with encouragement.
It is amazing to me that she can be on point as I am drawn to a certain book on a certain day to a certain paragraph she has already wrote a note in the margin or highlighted.  I save all of her post it’s and add my own in a different color to always know what was hers and what are my notes.  It makes me smile from ear to ear as our work comes to life.  She did not get or I do not even know if she wanted it, well of course I assume she did from her book choice or the classes she chose to take.  Remember she was a newlywed and a student in her seventies.  I love that.
I am an adjunct instructor and always express that to my students that learning is a process and a gift not a chore.  It is a gift to think about your future and a gift to be given one.  It is what you choose to do with it that shapes your life and your heart.

 

Today’s book

Travel Logs

I take a book of Lyn’s with me where ever I go.

I’ve been writing a book for a while to my son and then Lyn came into our lives to accompany us on our adventures.  She is part of our travels and saw things that would transpire in my life to come that I never saw coming.

I started to want to be a writer and her books were there. She taught me what the humanities were – I had no clue.  She inspired me to write and record country music in Los Angeles.  I do not sing or play an instrument, but I did it with my son there to watch.  She had books on painting and I have it on my list to take a painting class with her by my side.  She had books about writing locally and led me to a great writer Roger Aden to discuss my idea of writing about her box of books.

So once again she has led me to jump out of my comfort place after dying myself for five full minutes this past year.  She died of heart failure which I have almost done now four times as well.  The book in progress from years ago is to my son and then Lynn came aboard and inspired me when I was ready to be a 9 to 5er to make my mother happy.  When her new husband (she got married in her seventies) of one year brought her death certificate and her box of books to our college bookstore handing them to me  changed the direction of my life once again.

I was taken by her story and shared with him my heart issues as well.  He said to take care of myself and I was at that time not knowing what a few years ahead would bring.  He meant what he said and I told him I would get back to him on what the books were worth.  I was told days later, nothing.

Nothing, a woman going back to school in her seventies, getting married again in her seventies wanting to study writing, painting and the humanities was worth nothing.  To me this box meant everything. I know it did to her as well with her handwritten notes that are in every book and her name written in cursive on each inside cover page.  I would not let them just be broken up and given to a wholesaler or thrown away.

I asked if I could have them and it took a few days and they were mine.  I put the box under my desk and every spare moment I had I read them.  It was like my birthday each time I went in the box and better each time I hit a paragraph that suited the day or thought I was having.

This woman I never met got me.  I saw myself as her in the future having been divorced, just recently  not engaged at the moment the box appeared.  I was working on my health walking three times a day on the two breaks and half hour lunch routine of my almost a year boring grownup job.  She wanted more in her seventies why was I settling for this in my forties when death had already come for me twice at that point.  “Ok, Lyn I hear you” and it’s time to take action, so I did.  I left the comfort zone and we started our traveling adventures again with Lyn by my side to encourage me when I started to question it.

The book is over three hundred pages and eighty thousand words it is time to be seen.  Once again Lyn saw more ahead of me.  I died for five minutes, did not see a light.  I talk too much and was thrown back over the fence.  Thanks Lyn