Sunday, May 27, 2012

My Trumpet Fanfare

Contrary to the sought after relaxation of a weekend without schedules, there is one time every weekend that I’m fixated on, Sunday morning at 9 AM (EST).  I set my alarm, plan my morning around it, and if my husband is working, he generally sends me a text reminder around 8:55 that reads “5 minutes to trumpets!”
I stop what I’m doing, turn on the television and wait.  More often than not, I close my eyes and listen as the beauty of the Sunday Morning theme plays.  The theme is the trumpet fanfare “Abblasen”, with the current version being played by Wynton Marsalis. 
The short play time of 27 seconds, belies its staying power with me.  It sounds overly dramatic to say it touches my heart and fills my soul with its simplicity and clarity, but it does just that.  Something in the flow of the notes, the crescendos and holds, speaks to me like nothing else.  Every time I hear it, it connects to and mirrors the emotion I feel at that moment.  It has shared the simplest elation of a fresh spring morning to the intense joy of the birth of our son; it’s provided solace during the many stages of grief when I lost my parents; and echoed the melancholy times when I have felt unsettled.  It’s provided a light in the darkness during times of depression.    
I’ve listened to it for too many years to count and when a few Sundays pass and for one reason or another I’ve missed it, I am thankful for the wonder of the internet and the ability to listen to it at will.  I’m very careful not to abuse that avenue, because I recognize there’s something inherent in the process of setting aside the time, in the planned ritual of listening to it each week that is part of the connection. 
Things that have that type of connection in my life are often those that I seek out, make time for and value the moment of above everything else I could be doing.  The striking difference in this connection above any other in my life is that is so completely one-sided. There is no give and take.  I have nothing to give in return.  It expects nothing from me.  And still it provides, every time, what I need, whether I know what that need is or not.

And it’s just enough to last for seven days, until it does it all over again.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Losing It

This week’s GBE 2 writing prompt is, “Pick a line from a book and write from there.” I chose the book, the perks of being a wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. 
Then, I turned around and walked to my room and closed my door and put my head under my pillow and let the quiet put things where they are supposed to be.
There was no thought of my husband or children.  I blocked the shock and bewilderment on their faces and concentrated instead on the cool linen against my cheek; my breath warm and moist in contrast, escaping under the pillow with me.  In, out, in, out, as I tried to empty my head of the day.  I raised and lowered my eyelids in the dim light, fixating on the singular sensation as one small portion of my lash brushed the pillow edge. 
In seeped the quiet, pushing out the echoing shatter of the dirty dinner plates, the half full gravy boat and the serving platter that still held a few remaining pieces of meatloaf.  What pieces hadn’t broken against the wall, fractured on impact with the ceramic tile. 
I’d just “lost it” as the kids would say, right in the middle of the daily dinner banter.  The last thing I remembered was Jessica mentioning that the French class was planning a trip to Paris during spring break.
Slowly, steadily the heavy pounding of my heart eased with each measured breath and then a sob, deep from my gut, bringing with it an equal amount of uncontrollable laughter and tears.  I pulled the pillow tighter over my face, rocking on the bed, muffling the noise. 
Oh God, it felt good to let go.  To be angry and scream and throw things and walk away. 
Finally, spent, I lay there as it got dark outside, sounds of our daily life slowly filtering into my thoughts.   The low, short groan of the dishwasher as it made its final rinse, the hum of the television in the family room, Jason on the phone in his room. 
Sweet Jesus, how to tell them it’s back.  That there are no more treatment options.   How to fit a lifetime into the next few months when we all felt sure I'd made it through?  I LOOKED fine.    
Graduations, weddings and unborn grandchildren fly through my mind.  Anniversaries, birthdays and holidays, all missed.  Dammit, it wasn’t fair.  I’d done it all. Stayed the steady course and kept a positive attitude through the rounds of surgery and chemotherapy. 
They’d all done their part as well, paid their dues so we’d come out the other side with a future.  Now our “family squared” as we call ourselves would become the “family trio”.
I’d believed in the good prognosis Dr. Lawrence talked about.  Entered the aggressive treatment with all I had in me.  Today was supposed to be my “all clear” visit. I hadn’t told anyone about the appointment, choosing to surprise them instead.  I knew the moment he walked into the exam room I wouldn’t need the double chocolate layer cake I’d made that morning.   
A soft knock on the door announced Bob as he peeked his head in.    
“Hey darlin’”, he says quietly.  “Want some company”?
He lies on the bed next to me, pulling me gently across his chest as he wraps his arms around me.  I feel it radiating off him.  He knows.
“Love you,” he whispers and I feel his hard swallow.  I look up and in his eyes, find my answer.  We fit what we can into the lifetime that is left. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Breathings of Your Heart

Her pencil stroked across the journal paper, slow and deliberate, each word chosen with care.  It was a eulogy after all, and none the less important because it was her own.  Odd to have been inspired to do so by her father, a man reluctant for many years to make a will superstitiously believing that when he did, he would pass.  A man, more often heard to say IF I die, than WHEN I die.

In his later years, he took to calling her at work to mention that he and Mom had been to a wake that day and they liked this feature or that about the wake, and would she mind making note of it for theirs?  She humored him and faithfully took the yellow sticky notes or scraps of paper home and put them in a manila folder labeled “funerals”.  When the days unexpectedly came to make arrangements, she was never so glad to have the knowledge of their wishes to draw upon.
She wrote both their eulogies, just ten short months apart – each a testament to the good life they lived and what they meant to family, friends and each other.  And she wrote them with honesty, like she was doing with hers now.  Not all selfless devotion, faith and goodness – but including a smattering of their human flaws as well.  For surely everyone carries some degree of ballast to balance their life.  And everyone is loved because of, and even sometimes in spite of, their load.
Reading about her parents to the crowd gathered at the church wasn’t easy to do.  But she was their daughter and a writer after all and the courtesy of her craft, exemplifying their lives, was her final gift.
She’d never envisioned herself as being the “last one standing”, yet here she was, alone, with no family left to write hers.  The arrangements had been made a while ago with her lawyer.  There would be no visiting hours or service.  Hence, no opportunity for it to be read.  Was it necessary then after all?
What mattered, the love she gave, the family she nurtured or the self she struggled with?   The accomplishments achieved, the depression overcome or the passion for writing?  Was it significant that she avoided committees like the plague but carried within, her own version of belief in a higher good?  That her taste in poetry was eclectic, that she had a mean controlling streak or that she indulged in a piece of chocolate every day?

Necessary? No.  She underlined the quote by William Wordsworth she’d started with in the beginning… 
Yes, the written word validates a life lived – even if it’s never read out loud.  And so, her pencil strokes continued on, slow and deliberate, in the fading light of the autumn afternoon.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Inner Reflections

I don’t care for looking in mirrors.  Not only the literal ones, where a reflection of your outer self looks back, but the inner one as well.  You know that one where you see inside yourself.  The one only YOU can view?
The A-Z blog was not an easy time for me.  It unsettled the plan that I had put into place at the end of last fall.  The one where I was going to get back to my writing.  It took months to prepare.  I chronicled the time in my very first blog post.  And things began well.  I was writing 1 – 2 blogs a week, following the writers websites that I had searched out and decided on and was developing a working balance of writing and reading back into my daily life. 
Then I decided to plunge in and do the A-Z challenge.  And I challenged myself to the theme of connecting my childhood to my present life with one word from the alphabet as we traveled A-Z.  By that time, I knew the time commitment to preparing and posting a blog and felt I could manage the 26 posts.  I was not prepared however for the “collateral” time.  Unbelievably, I didn’t think about the time involved in reading other’s blogs, in becoming followers of writers that I really enjoyed.  In the time it would take to post comments that reflected the writer’s time and energy they’d invested back to them.  In the amount of time I would spend thinking about what they wrote, comparing their writing to mine and others.  In a word, it was overwhelming.    
I stopped reading.  I stopped following the posts of the writing blogs that I had so carefully researched.  And I lost my focus.  But I wrote.  A lot.  I shared. A lot.  And I learned.  A lot. 
It’s taken a good week into May just to draw a deep breath.  And of course, take a long look into that inner mirror.  It reflected my posts that hit some familiarly fond memories, highlighted a few surprising ones, dusted off a few sad times and exposed a few skeletons.  One reflected the deepest nerve I have.
And there, amidst all the reflections, shone the prism of my mother.  In a word, it was overwhelming.  To see, after the month of posts how much influence she had in forming me, in shaping the wife, the lover, the mother, the daughter, the friend and the person I am…well, it’s unsettling. 
Make no mistake; I loved my mother, sometimes to distraction.  I am quite proud and grateful to carry many of her traits and qualities.  She was a fine, loving, grace-filled woman.  She was also human with human failings.  And there are parts of me, both good and bad, that up to the month of April of my 49th year, I thought were my own doing that I feel her hand in now as well.  No big revelation there, we are all shaped by our parents, our upbringing, teachers, mentors and friends.  I’m just surprised by how much “real estate” I feel of me is her doing at this point.
So I have a plan.  May is my time to step back and regroup.  I’ll revisit and catch up on the three primary blogs I followed before the challenge.  Then I’ll sort through the blogs I found in April.  I can’t read and post on all of them on a regular basis and still write.  I need to relocate the fragile balance I’d begun to develop in the New Year between reading, blogging, writing, working and living my day to day life.
And, there’s the little matter of going back to the mirror to explore this new facet of my relationship with my mother.  Three years gone now, and I’m still learning from her.  I know she wasn’t big on analyzing relationships like I am.  That is one facet of me that I know I own outright.  It’s a good place to start.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Stranger's Love

Here's a little short story I wrote a few years back. 

A Stranger’s Love
             His face is serene. From the bottom of the large window that looks out onto the runway, the sunrise peeks in.  Its rays; broken by the branches of large leafed plant, lay across him at odd angles.  Sunlight settles on his face like a soft blanket and I make out long lashes that rest at the top of his cheeks.  I shift in my seat, clasp my hands in my lap, and swallow against my dry mouth.
I glance beyond him to the newsstand.  Papers and magazines fill racks next to shelves stocked with gum and toiletries and overpriced, dusty souvenirs.  In the quiet morning hour, the clerk applies her mascara as she looks into a small pocket mirror. 
My attention returns to the man.  Faded jeans mold legs that stretch out long and cross at the ankles.  A dark gray flannel shirt, tucked in, lay open at the collar, exposing a stark white undershirt beneath.  An airport identification tag is clipped to a breast pocket and the shirtsleeves are rolled back from his wrists.  His arms, folded across his chest, rise and fall in rhythm to the long, deep breaths he takes.     
           My body softens into the vinyl-cushioned chair beneath me in response to the passive invitation he offers.  In my chest, a small hollow ache forms.  I close my eyes for a moment to indulge in harmless fantasy.  The ache turns to delicate warmth that spreads out from my chest to my arms and legs.  My fingers tingle and I draw my arms tight around me.  To draw something closer or to protect myself I don’t know.   
            The speaker above announces the arriving flight and I open my eyes.  His eyes, blue as a summer sky, look directly into mine.  Surprise and confusion flicker there. I can offer no explanation.  I cannot not look away. 
My face warms as his gaze travels down the bridge of my nose, across my cheeks, resting for a moment on my lips.  It rises to my hair and I find my hand moving the hair back from my face as it follows the path of his gaze. 
            A slow smile is mirrored in his eyes.  He cocks his head to the side and raises his eyebrows slightly in both silent acknowledgment and question.  I cannot help a small nod in reply. 
            I could love this man. Maybe I already do.  Without a spoken word, I know I will not tire of his voice.  I know his touch, firm and gentle.  With a steady stare his eyes reach my soul and I feel the promise of forever. 
            Unexpected and unsought emotions that mirror my own cross his face.  Love, desire, chance, and commitment collide and duel around and between us.  He leans forward in his seat, stares across at me, elbows on his knees and hands clasped under his chin.  Impulsively I strike the same pose and our smiles deepen.  Minutes pass.  A lifetime. 
Around us, life continues.  People filter into the waiting area.  Conversations and laughter mingle in the air. 
"Daddy!"  A loud cry pierces the air from a little girl as she runs from the gateway door.  Abruptly his expression changes and he opens his arms to catch the little girl as she flings herself into the air.  A young woman follows, drops her carry-on luggage, and circles her arms around them both in a warm embrace. 
His eyes close, then open and meet mine over her shoulders.  Silently we speak.  Good-bye.  Please understand.  Good-bye.   I do.
We could have talked; could have progressed past harmless fantasy and explored an unexpected love.  But we didn't.  He has a family; a wife and daughter. 
When my flight is called I board the plane.  I smile as I settle into my seat and my thoughts travel to the end of my flight.  To a man who waits there for me.  I love this man.  I never tire of his voice.  His touch is firm and gentle.  His look reaches my soul and promises me forever.  Just as I promise him.
I lean back into the seat and wait to go home.  I know I can love more than once in my life, I just choose to live it one gift at a time.