Drives Fast to Smell the Roses?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Tagline.”

“Too many people miss the silver lining because they’re expecting gold”

Sometimes we forget to stop and enjoy the moment because we are always looking to capture the next one.  I remember this scene in a Star Trek movie where one of the characters was a long lived individual who showed our intrepid Captain Picard how to slow down time.  See the pollen coming off of the flowers, the individual beams of color being projected by the sun, even the single fluttering of a hummingbird.  We are always looking for the next best thing, forgetting that maybe it is sitting right in front of us.

Here’s something to consider, the same math behind dating websites is used to place kids in schools in large metropolitan areas.  So you can either find a mate while you date or enroll in a magnet school before it’s too late!  It’s called Deferred Acceptance and it means you most likely pass up on the first item simply because it was the first item.  You may even compare your final choice later to that first one, but you won’t go back unless things really don’t work out.  Think that is weird, that notion ended with two people being awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics!

I had considered my tagline as being “Contents Under Pressure”, but that seems like a cop-out.  We’re all under pressure from something.  You have a mortgage, maybe a child is chronically ill, maybe your mother-in-law continues calling to ask why her computer keeps making duplicates of photos she downloads from her camera.  [okay the ex’s mom used to copy thing into multiple folders and didn’t realize they became copies.  But then she also has her Mac saving every image and audio file from any site she visited!]  When it’s work, I thrive under the pressure.  If it is someone else’s issue, I can usually offer some advice or ask someone who might be better versed at a subject.  My life, well I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Over this past weekend I saw a small child pick a flower from a public garden.  An innocent act by a 3 year old that would have gotten an adult arrested for destruction of public property.  She just kept calling it a pretty flower as she placed it in her jacket pocket.  Meanwhile her mother was looking in all directions for her police escort to take her away.  The child saw one thing, the parent something completely different.  But what if she had just held the flower for a second and recalled her own childhood?

So stopping to smell the roses, finding that moment of perfection in a collection of moments is easy.  You just have to be willing to acknowledge it.  I remember a time when I was driving back from New Hampshire to Maryland in the pouring rain.  It’s been a long weekend spent with family, both hers and mine.  Whitney was exhausted, she slept most of the drive.  Silence filled the car, except for the rain pounding down on my car.  I couldn’t hold her hand while I was driving, but had moved the mirror just enough to be able to check on her at any moment.  We had talked the entire drive up, even stopping so I could buy cough drops for my sore throat.  It was great, but those stolen glances, even better.  I dreamed a lifetime in those precious seconds.

I’ve been cursed with a better than average recall of events.  An eidetic memory that allows me a catalog of my life, things I’ve read, experiences.  Remembering not just how something smelled, but I can describe it in full detail.  So for every time I go back into my mind and think about what Laura Glickman was wearing the first time I kissed her in 7th grade, I can also hear Whitney’s mother telling me I was to blame for everything that went wrong.  I can see the reflections on the windows, how the wind felt as I stood there just listening, the sound of birds in the background.  [words hurt more than had she just thrown something at me.  I promise I don’t remember the fight I had with some kid in junior high anywhere near as clearly.]

I love the idea of stopping time for the good things, but it also has to have a balance point.  An equilibrium that shows both sides of the coin simultaneously.

My Mask

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Show Must Go On.”

My mind has all these funny stories about those times in high school when I would dress up like some cartoon character and wander about a stage.  A giant kangaroo in a children’s play, a Coptic Priest makes funny faces while Fiddler on the Roof played out, maybe it was the time I just sat there and watched the product of months of my work unfold on Stage.  Acting had become second nature to me years before any of these events, masking my emotions in ways that have destroyed the person I might have been.

That game of lowering your hand as you change facial expressions no longer an option.  It only works for small children and annoying mimes!  I love my friends, so much so that I keep thinking the mask is helping.  But who?  Not them and certainly not me.  It’s taken me 2 hours just to get to this point in my posting.  Constantly erasing the words so that I don’t have to face my emotions.  Acting like if I don’t write them then they don’t exist.  Silly Boy!!!

I’m afraid to tell someone, anyone, possibly everyone that I am scared of this cancer.  Why let them know I cry for them daily, not for myself.  The reality of needing people a tough one after the year I have had.  I didn’t give them a choice when Whitney left, I said I could handle my world.  Please ignore me, stop talking to me if necessary so that she could have everyone’s support.  It wasn’t that I didn’t need them, didn’t want them around; but the mask just slid back into place.

There is someone’s whose words have always offered me counsel and I shut the door to them.  I don’t know how it would have played out, I don’t know if there was anything to be said.  But I took away their choice, maybe they wanted to help me?  How many other people have I done that to?

I hate this mask.  Painting on a set of emotions I don’t feel.

Those days when I can post something sweet, ethereal are times when I promise by the end of it I’m crying.  Parts of my friends in those passages, parts of dreams that I realize are never going to come true for myself leaving my heart and entering the world in the only way I can.

His Lovely Bride

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “What a Twist!.”

It had been a long day, part of an even longer week in the life of the old man as he sat down at the end of the bar.  His shirt is wrinkled and tattled a bit at the edges.  The suit a little thread bare in places, obvious signs that work wasn’t going as well as he had hoped.  Changing careers at a time when he thought he would just be sitting on the porch swing, holding his wife’s hand, gossiping about how the “new neightbor” was planting the wrong flowers for this area.  It was a simple dream, but the world was anything but simple.

Cutbacks, layoffs, and the downturn of yet another part of the Stock Market meant he was going to have to learn something new.  A lifetime spent molding young minds at a vocational school, preparing teenagers to head out and work with their hands.  Hard hours, followed by a tired drive home, but knowing that it was worth it as they pulled into the driveway of the small home they had just bought for their growing family.  Now he’s cold-calling offices asking if they have any need for equipment warranties.  Maybe 1 in every twenty phone conversations ending with an invitation to show up, maybe meet with the owner for ten minutes.

Thinking back, the old man could remember taking ten minutes just to chew the fat with someone about sports, the weather, the cute young thing out in the reception area.  Now if he didn’t spit out everything he could in the first minute, he had lost them.  Most barely looking up from the cellphone’s screen long enough to even notice if someone was actually in the room and not just a disconnected voice in the distance.  The world had changed so much in the 50 years since he had graduated high school, started working for his father’s garage, and finally for the local school district when the business shifted.

After pulling out the 5 dollars he had carried in his wallet for this one luxury he now allowed himself.  An overpriced, watery beer pulled from the tap.  Praying the Barkeep cared enough to wipe the head from the beer and offer a full 12 ounces and not two inches of foamy top.  People watching like he had for the past few months, maybe telling a joke to some other lone soul stopping in before heading home; it was a small thing to ask this hour each week.

How was he going to tell his wife he just didn’t have enough money to pay the bills this week?  Amazon, Staples, even people driving themselves to warehouse clubs to buy what once was wheeled in on a dolly by a smiling young man, he also doing his best to make his growing dreams a reality.  Looking down at his feet he realized that at some point in the day the lace he had patched up jut this morning had again frayed beyond repair.

“Your bus is going to be outside in a few.  Might want to finish that off.”  Again that barkeep knowing the look, trying to not ask, just hoping that someone would leave before the younger crowd shuffled in.  Grabbing his case and jacket, the door only steps away he lowers himself back down.  Oh just tell her you missed the bus, were working on something that might change their lives for the better.  It’s only 30 minutes util the next bus.

Stepping downward onto his street, making sure to have not left behind the phone the company is going to want back next week if we has another repeat of this; our old man trudges off to face his wife.  That face still as beautiful as when he met her shortly after returning from Korea.  The love who had given him three healthy kids, watched two of kid grandchildren after school to help out, the same woman whose face now haunts him knowing she’ll love him no matter if they have to give up their house.

The lights are out, guess she had to take the kids home herself.  Nothing new about that, his daughter worked hard, her husband in the army.  Hopefully his love had left something in the fridge for him to nibble on until her return.  Them never having eaten alone in many years.  Visions of that same bride wearing her apron, cooking the first dinner they ever had in this kitchen.  Those thoughts pushing aside the misty eyes, or maybe the cause of them.

On the table was an envelop.  The trembling in his hands praying that this wasn’t some note saying she could take anymore, left for her cousin’s house out on the Cape.  But it seemed too thick for that.  Oh God, divorce papers?  They hadn’t had a fight since last spring about him spending too much on the coat her bought her.  A gift that she didn’t realize actually cam from the thrift store, but was so well cared for he couldn’t pass it up.  She looked spectacular in it!

Easing the edges of the envelop back, revealing the letterhead of the bank that had held the mortgage, then the second mortgage.  Setting the pages down, expecting that not only did she leave but he might need to be out by the end of the weekend, fear shaking his entire body.  Grabbing his glasses to get a better glimpse at how he had failed, falling into his armchair, time to learn his fate.

It was pages of legal words, some he knew, others he was going to have to so that the lawyer thought he understood.  But at the end, signed by the president of the bank himself was a handwritten note saying he was glad to have been of service and if there was anything he could do in the future, it would be his pleasure.  The house had been paid in full, his wife had written the final check herself.

Edging around the corner, that brunette who kept him safe all these years, just like all those years ago across the globe.  Tears in her eyes, She showed him a statement.  Current balance $5,000, dated yesterday.  How?  When?  She just turned and said she took the money he gave her years ago and put it in the bank.  She didn’t touch it, just let it sit there.  Never knowing that 30 years later it would be so much.  She had hoped for maybe a trip to Niagara, maybe Florida when he finally put his shoes away and retired.  She just hoped that it would be something fun for them.

Falling at the feet of his loving bride, his arms wrapped around her waist, giving into the joy and wonder that she continued to offer.  Knowing he didn’t deserve her, but grateful she had chosen him.  She gently lifts his face towards hers.  “Let me take care of you like you have taken care of me all these years.  It’s not a lot of money, it’s not going to change everything.”

Her words a seriously understated collection, she had changed everything.  The gifts she gave him just continued to amaze him.

He walked her out onto the porch, sat her down on that same swing and looked her right in the eyes and asked her to marry him all over again.

Just Ask, I’ll Learn

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Food for the Soul (and the Stomach).”

Make me a pie!  It’s that simple, I’ll do anything for a simple apple pie.  But that’s not what I want to do for guests or even for some pot luck event at work.  Tell me what makes you giddy, brings back a memory of your childhood or some place you have visited, and I promise I will do my best to cook it for you.  It may not taste the same, but please know I’m going to put every ounce of ability I have in preparing it for you.

The first time I ever cooked for someone I was 15 years old.  It was lasagna and it was horrible.  I kept telling my mother that I could handle this on my own.  I wanted to be able to show off to someone what I had done just for them.  It was my first lesson in trying something multilayered that required me to follow the steps to some degree.  Well maybe if I had followed them to any degree it would have been better.

I layered the sauce, then some noodles.  More sauce, a little cheese, some meat [back when I still ate that kind of thing], and followed it with more noodles.  You’re thinking, that sounds about right, but I forgot to cook the noodles.  Wasn’t part of the recipe I was looking at.  they assumed you were smart enough to know that.  Crunchy Lasagna coming right up!

It was just the two of us sitting in the kitchen waiting for the timer to go off.  There was some excitement because I had been promising all week long to make this for her.  We were playing cards as the food finally was pulled from the oven.

As I cut into it, I could tell something wasn’t quite right.  The noodles were fighting the knife.  Maybe it needs some more time in the oven?  15 minutes goes by, pretty much the same result.  But by now the cheese on the top is starting to go from browned to blackened.  Cajun Lasagna?  10 more minutes won’t hurt…

Well, she chocked down the first bite and politely pushed the fork around the edges of the plate.  “Lary, did you follow the recipe?”  But of course!  “I think something didn’t turn out right.  Tell me what you did.”

My scheme was slowly unraveling.  Maybe I should have just resourced some frozen thing into a home provided dish?  No tell her what you did!

Shaking her head, knowing that the noodles needed to be cooked first, I still remember what she said “Do you eat any other type of pasta raw?”  Simple question, but the laughing that came after it was damn near deafening.  It was the first of many meals she and I ate together at that table.  I was really lucky to have that.

Come to my house at any time.  Tell me what you like, and I will do my very best to make it.  For me sitting in the kitchen and talking with people is the best stress-relieving, warmest time of the day.  I love watching someone cut something differently than I would, maybe reverse the process a bit when making some brownies.

I’m 43 and in my adult life have never had someone else cook for me [we can leave my mother out of this conversation, my ex’s mother as well, they don’t count in this scenario.  But I do love that they tried to cook for my veggie loving self!!]  It’s not that I don’t encourage it, I sometimes beg for it.  But I’ve not been lucky enough to have that.

So if you find yourself in my neck of the woods, give me a heads up and I would love to cook for you!

I Jumped the Line

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “I Walk the Line.”

This week I finally admitted to someone about the fear I finally admit to in dealing with my life.  It’s a line I never thought I would be able to cross.  Opening up to someone, not on the payroll, about what made me who I am.  What happened to me then that is affecting the way I handle people now.  Knowing that I am forced to walk away from something because it will hurt another person, just the knowledge of that past; it’s the line I can’t cross.  I won’t cross it.

When we found out Whitney was pregnant, it came with a added bonus, blood clots.  Not out of the ordinary with some pregnancies, but there were other medical concerns that added to the stress on her.  And on me.  Like most people we were keeping the news to ourselves for a while, let things settle down before springing everything on the family.  I was arguing with hers about money, so it wasn’t going to be an easy conversation under the best of conditions.

But fear is a powerful motivator.  Not wanting her to ever be alone and scared, I crossed the line the first time by informing one of her roommates from college while we were at a wedding.  Just her and I leaning against a table while I fumbled with my phone trying to pull up a copy of the ultrasound.  That feeling when Rachel jumped over and just started hugging me, it was fleeting because Whitney asked later what we were so happy about.  She was so angry, or at least as angry as she showed me; it would have been a long drive back if not for others in the car.

Later I crossed that same line with another friend.  For the same reasons, I didn’t want Whitney to get ill when she was out with the girls and them not know what to do.  How to handle the situation, because they needed to know the situation.  The entire time she was pregnant, she was never the person to inform anyone; it was always me.  And always at some point where I was busting at the seams, wanting to talk about the book I had just purchased on how to build a treasure chest.  [by this point we knew it was a girl, so full-on daddy mode!].

Fear kept me crossing the line.  Any fight was about how we were going to handle her family, every fight was about how to handle her family.  But the one thing we never talked about was why I kept crossing that line.  Trying to build her such a huge support system, that all she had to do was say “Hi”, and any number of people would have run over to sit with her.  Shop for toys, clothes, diapers, whatever.  There was a reason…

Every doctor’s visit with her over the course of ten years had me flashing back to a time when I watched a friend die.  Any time the phone call said, “Hey I’m over at the hospital, can you get me?”  The trauma of being 16 years old came right back.  That trauma was never greater than getting a phone call telling me my daughter was dead.  Back to the hospital, tears running down my cheeks, absolute panic taking over.

I never wanted to cross that line with her.  But I couldn’t stop my past from affecting my present and now my future.

Sitting in the hospital now, all I think about is not wanting my friends to suffer that same fate.  Not having the memory of watching me laying in a bed.  I can hide behind my laptop for only so long before I will need to see them.  But that’s a different line I’ll need to cross.

And We Danced, Like a Wave on the Ocean

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “But No Cigar.”

I know that the original phrase came about from a scene in the oh so classic Annie Oakley film from the mid 1930’s.  But I prefer to use the much more catchy “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades”.  That particular turn of phrase coming from a baseball pitcher in the mid 1960.  Yes, I looked up the quote!  I’m a bit of a baseball nerd, but not on that level!

There is a photo I keep squirreled away that anyone who would look at my phone would wonder why I bothered to scan it.  The only other photos on there are of my daughter, her mother [eventually I get around to archiving those, but I’m not ready] and two women from my younger days.  Both had great influence on who I became, charted a path for me when I was a kid.  One I wrote about just days ago [ https://509majesty.wordpress.com/2015/03/20/last-phone-call/ ], but the other deserves a little time as well.

Remember that member of the opposite sex you were friends with in high school?  The one who in quiet moments entered your mind while you dreamed of what she smelled like.  Her name was Kristin and for the better part of my junior year in high school she was a dream, a brief reality, and later a regret due to being a dumb 17 year old boy.  It’s easy to picture how you screw it up, so let’s stick with the dream/reality part!

It had been almost a full year since Patre had died and people were starting to tell me that maybe I should try being social with women.  Nothing big, it wasn’t “Hey Lary, go sow those wild oats.”  It was more along the route of why don’t you go to the movies with so-and-so.  It was made easier when she made the first move.  A simple phone call asking if I was alright after one of my idiot friends had wrapped his car around a tree with me in the backseat.  It led to more phone calls and eventually going to dinner.

I got the girl a cat for Christmas!  I don’t like the furry little things, I tend to step on them when walking around the house.  Not intentionally, just used to bigger dogs!  We had fun.  She reminded me that I could still have feelings for someone without diminishing what I felt about Patre.  It was a huge leap for me, in so many ways.  But then I did something stupid.

It was just a birthday party we were both at.  People sitting around their parent’s basement, drinking soda, eat pizza, nothing special.  But then I let someone sit on my lap.  My dumb boy brain thought, how could this look odd.  I’m not hiding in a corner, we only have so many chairs; go ahead.  WRONG!!!  Monday morning the ax fell.  Hadn’t even made it to home room before it took my head!

We didn’t talk for a week or so, but then there was this dance coming up.  Then there was a party we both went to, followed by yet another event.  The dance began.  Are the together?  Are they just hanging out until something else comes along?  That went on until I started seeing someone seriously and she admitted to the same.  OH well, I guess this will be the one photo from high school where my date was someone new.

Over the years we talked.  Visited each other at college.  When something was wrong in either family, she was the first person I spoke with, and she did the same.  There was the night she was scared when she learned her parents were getting divorced.  I drove hours to get to her, even leaving my date behind in the process.  When my brother had an issue in college, she drove even longer to get to me and then sit in the car while I drove to help him.

My family always liked her.  She was welcome at any point, even if I was on the other side of the country.  With the advent of Facebook I looked once, but knew that it was a situation I never wanted Whitney to wonder about.  Here was some woman she had never met, only had seen pictures of.  The present was most important to me, not the past.

Was there ever a chance, maybe years ago but something always was in the way.  And it probably was us, knowing better.  knowing that the dance was fun.  The knowledge that we would be there when the other needed it.

I moved to Florida and we talked a few times, but life again took its place.  My 25th high school reunion is this year and I hope to see her, maybe her husband won’t mind if we danced one last time.

Why I Stopped Talking

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Third From the Top.”

Last night I had the opportunity to sit and talk with someone about what was bothering me that day.  It’s like that many nights, some are questions she asks and other nights it could be a stream of conscience type arrangement.  When you spend any quality time in the hospital you get “assigned” a person to make sure you are handling everything.  The first person had to step away, she got emotionally involved with the narrative; bu that might be expected at a teaching hospital.  They haven’t yet completely mastered the stone face.

On this evening we broached the idea of why I don’t speak to many people in my social circle about how I am doing.  Basically, why not reach out to a friend?  The answer is simple, but the emotions behind it are so far more complex.  I joke about it being an existential crisis, but in my mind I see it as a yin/yang scenario.  One issue chasing the tail of the other issue in a ceaseless circle.

I told a friend that I still was in love with my ex, even after six months of absolutely zero contact.  The part I left out was that I wasn’t going to allow anyone to dictate how I was dealing with those feelings.  The fun part is that single statement shut down the email exchange we were having.  It’s not that I even talk about it very often, with some not at all; but I was trying to be honest with her about my feelings.

It leads me to wonder if there is something she is hiding from me, some piece of information that might hurt me; or it might just annoy me?  Dealing with cancer sometimes has emotional consequences.  You pull away from people so that they don’t get hurt, don’t worry about the daily routine.  They only see the bigger picture.  Admitting that I am hurting, in a lot of pain was a big step for me.  I’ve been taught over the years to just handle my business without whining about it.  Paint on the smile even though anyone looking at you can see the pain.

But why does a simple statement about my ex cause someone to just walk away?

Then I remember why I don’t talk to people.  I write this bog with whatever enters my mind that day.  People read it, some comment, others may even understand because it touches on their own experiences, their own fears.  I only once looked at the stats page and realized I didn’t care.  But in the end, the small level of anonymity allows me to be honest about my feelings.  Apparently more honest then my friends can handle.

In that same email trail is a comment about how I “want” two things.  That I knew neither of them were in my control.  In order for them to become reality it was in others hands.  That one was significantly more important than the other.  My friend must have thought I was referencing my wish that the ex would talk to me, but it in actuality was something different.

“But with the passing of today” I continue to hope that a different person will reach out and just ask how things are.  That one voice matters to me right now.  It won’t change anything, but it has the possibility of changing 10 minutes of my life.  In my darker hours I would trade ten years off my life for those 10 minutes. There are times when silence makes you already feel dead, but trust me it’s worse.  It’s not her fault for finding it hard to talk, but I wish she could.

The other thing is silly.  It’s work related and as you can tell by now, not the one I would call significant!  Just a stupid wish.

So I’m going to spend the rest of my afternoon bargaining with various people, doctors, and maybe a deity?  And I guess in some ways I need to either lie to my friend or stop talking again.  Great solution, so proud of myself right now…