Ebony and mostly Ivory

Muse

There are a few chips from us being careless over the years.  Nothing that changes the sound but the keys that once where bright have faded over the years.  And for a few years no one touched it other than to sweep away the dust collected from the plant sitting on top.  Hours of my rear end sitting on that bench having a teacher actually swat my hand when I was wrong.  [She was a perfectionist, 9 year old me was not!]

When my parents sold their house during my senior year in high school, Kathy volunteered a place in her house for me to keep my piano.  By that point I was a better player and it kept us both remembering other things that were simpler.  Even after college the joke was I had to remember to make arrangements to move it to my own home.  26 years that has been a constant reminder of my place in her life.  [at least a visual, daily companion.]

Long ago I stopped playing for other people.  Trading synthesizers for an actual piano, headphones keeping the sounds to myself.  The emotions I was feeling remaining there are well.  So when Kathy got home from wherever it is she went, I didn’t bother stop playing this time.  I was caught in a loop of wanting to finish what I was doing and knowing that it was helpful for her to know I trust her enough to allow myself the release that comes from that piano.

I’ve played in bands during college and for a few years after.  Guys sitting in the basement of a frat house or in someone’s garage pretending we were Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin?  But that’s different, you blend in.

The technician at my latest poke and prod session was playing a version of Sound of Silence I hadn’t heard.  A little heavier than Simon and Garfunkel intended, but the use of strings and timpani caught my attention.  So when my ride dumped me off at home I sat down to try to mimic what I thought I heard.

It’s a very basic song for piano.  My issue is the muffled sounds in my right ear, damn seizures!  But after Kathy listened for a while, she did the one thing I have never understood, taped it.  From the backside you can’t tell I’m sick, you only see me leaned over.  Later she sent it to the family just so that they could see me the way they need to.  The only reason I even know is that I’m including in the list.  No one ever wrote me about it, they know better.

It was like seeing Bigfoot or the Lock Ness Monster, rare but seems to happen a few times in people’s lives.

What you can’t see on the screen is the picture of my daughter on the phone or how it is sitting next to the picture of Kathy’s daughter.  I’m trying to be open to the idea that somewhere in space and time they are looking out for each other.  They were the reason I felt the need to sit down.  I wanted to have an audience even if they were only in my mind’s eye.

Getting those emotions out for a little time was wonderful.  They remain locked up too often.  Those too girls made for great muses and in their own way always have.  Maybe the song was just what we all needed.

Goodbye, Blue Skies

Gather round me in a circle.  Just grab a chair and let’s see if I can get this right.  The story sounds familiar and everyone here has the same ending, just different details.  Let me tell you how it all ended and how it began again.

Last night I agreed to lead a small group of people.  Honestly there should have been one or two people, but the universe had a different plan.  For too many people.  You get caught up between hoping there are no new people and knowing that they are out there and hopefully getting the help they need.

The theme is death.  Specifically our children’s deaths.  That haunted look in their eyes that still looks back at you in the mirror on occasion.  And in my case, last night needing to remove myself from all emotions that could trap me in their narratives.  It’s my nature to absorb other’s sins, to try to take their guilt and emotion on myself so that someone else can continue.  So sitting in that room meant trying to remove everything about Abigail that keeps me smiling.

I always start talking about this by letting them know that crappy stuff happens on the nicest of days.  Blue skies and gentle breezes replace by the harsh wind coming from barely being able to contain the screams.  Letting them know that we all wished there had been some sign to let me know the day was going south.  Dark skies and pounding rain.

Telling people about how angry I was and how angry I still am takes control that I lack on this topic.  Leaving out details about my ex so that her privacy is respected in a way her family has not respected mine only gets raised hands.  I politely, and maybe forcefully decline those answers.  I’m not exposing that anger when it only means taking from their time and ability to talk about their children.

We talk about finding a way to honor their memory, and last night was just another balloon launched into the sky.  I don’t know where it lands or how its journey will end, but not doing something to make her proud isn’t an option.

I’m learning that while I’m not religious, I am finding a faith in the dreams.

People tell me I still have the ability to command a room, even while needing to sit in my chair.  That while my voice isn’t as loud anymore, it still carries a strength.  I don’t see it, I’m still a kid inside trying to not disappoint by doing the wrong thing.

As the meeting broke up, I made my way to my ride.  Sneaking out the door because I hate thinking if this might be the last time I make one of these meetings.

The skies had turned dark from time and lights were reflecting in every direction.  My heart was only in one place, and that’s where is should have been.

The Best

Generation

Never in my dreams did I deserve to ever see a vision quite like her.  Then unexpectedly, I’m taken by surprise, an Angel just appeared before my eyes.

Happy Birthday Abigail,

There’s cake!  I know you don’t have the same craving as your dad.  But the pink and yellow balloons are everything you would want.  A couple of roses around the edges that I couldn’t even begin to reproduce without it looking like a big mound of icing.

We’ve lowered the lights so the candles cast huge shadows against the walls.  Sure the flashes from the camera might blind us all, what can you expect from family!  One generation marveling at the next as another year is placed into the memory book.

Too many balloons float on the ceiling.  Disney characters from various movies you have stared at with wide open eyes.  Songs sung too many times that they still echo in my ears years later.

We went crazy with the gifts again.  Maybe next year we can be more practical, but we won’t.

I’m lucky beyond words.  And I will love you forever.

_____

I wish that was how the day tomorrow would go.  But something obvious will be missing, the guest of honor.

It’s not even that she is missing, maybe just missed?  She will always be just a few inches below where my shoulders begin.  Somewhere just to the left of center, where the muscle keeps pumping blood that gets faster and faster when I recall the first time I saw her.  More than words, more than feelings, just something that takes over and reminds me that the best thing I ever did will always be within my thoughts.  Just slightly out of reach at this time.

There’s no way to outrun these emotions.  They don’t stop me the way they did that first year.  But they do need to have their place.  Turning this negative into a positive is harder than you might think.  You can skip holidays like Christmas.  Ignore Father’s Day.  But since we celebrate the turning of a calendar of a specific person, you can’t just pretend.

That dishonors the person and it denies their place.

Abigail’s passing still makes my heavy heart bleed.  Her very existence changed me, it changed others, and in some very important ways it made me better.  A different purpose then has needed a different purpose today.  I still working on that.

Like this entry started, I waited a lifetime just to see her face.  And I would do just ab out anything to have just one more day.

Happy Birthday Abigail, the best ever….

Impact

Locked

Trying to turn a negative into something positive has been a challenge.  Finding the right activity, it was almost two years to the day before it jumped into my lap and screamed “This is what you should do!”  Someone had once tried to get me to work with small children, tutoring them in reading, but it hurt too much.  It wasn’t the right thing for me.  But now I have been able to dig into something that meets my requirements and also allows for a lasting tribute to many people.

The gift this group gave me was the foundation for learning to walk again.  To be able to get out of bed without immediately wishing I had just pulled the covers back over myself.  Running on what can generously be called a shoe-string budget, they make things work for far too many people who have sought them out.

Groups for helping people deal with the loss of children don’t advertise on television or a magazine.  It’s word of mouth delivered by some therapist or nurse who has seen that look before.  A parent who overhears about a loss and offers to listen, telling them about these others who have wandered in the darkness.

So I have been writing grant proposals for them.  A couple of thousand dollars would keep them going for years.  It’s that much of a self-help approach, helping themselves by talking to others.  Possibly picking up the registration fees for some conference held where people who have experienced the same gather to offer a light to follow.

The worst part has been getting people to write about the impact this group has had on their lives.  It means sitting down and exposing a very raw nerve.  Giving details that might not have been exposed in quite some time.  Having to relive a small portion of that pain in a narrative that others are going to judge.  In some ways it feels cruel, in others cathartic.

I keep being reminded of something from the Disney Channel, about how people change people.  This is supposed to be a good thing.  Their message is that helping others makes us better in small ways.  It’s also the voice that keeps me trying to build some lasting memorial to my daughter that will benefit the most people.  And since I do have all this training in economics, plowing through flowcharts and budget projections gives me a chance to do something towards my goal.

I’ve planted trees, paid for trees in other locations, sent up Japanese lanterns because we were celebrating a birthday.  All those cute things, but none will have the outreach that this potentially could.  If even one other person gains some help from this, all the time will be worth it.

It doesn’t even matter if anyone knows that I had anything to do with it.  Having written the grant and also an impact statement seems odd.  The first company that contacted me had lots of questions and it was good to talk about my daughter in a positive light.  It’s not easy allowing yourself to use the memory of someone to raise funds for others, but it also helps the people you are asking understand.  It’s not some faceless person who is taking a cut, rather you get someone like me who gets emotional and doesn’t try to hide it.

Locking away my daughter would deprive the world of what she could accomplish.  Her life changed me and maybe she will be able to help change someone else’s world so that they can do the same for another.  One person, making tiny steps, helping another.  It’s the best I can offer.

Plugged Up Ears

Fog

Leaving the show last night the cab driver asked if I was alright.  I knew I wasn’t, but for someone to wonder if we should be heading someplace other than home meant I really wasn’t as okay as I would tell people later.  It wasn’t pain, I felt physically fine.  But I was personalizing the lyrics to the point where there were truly effecting me.

No reason to get into a diatribe defending the word usage of a Progressive Rock band.  They are know for sweeping themes that are sometimes laughable.  Last nights lyrics talked about loss and trying to find a path towards some new world.  A place where things are not forgotten, just different and holding a changed meaning.  Otherwise known as living!

I’d stopped listening to this particular group because I reminded me of my daughter.  Much like Cat in the Cradle makes grown men think about picking up the phone and calling their fathers, a song entitled Along for the Ride makes me think about what life was like with a kid.  Some things could be controlled and other things were just for me to sit back and watch unfold.  But that applies to lots of events in life.

But it hurt knowing that I wouldn’t be around to hear their next album or be able to sit in my seat for 2 hours and listen to them live.  It made me wonder if those notions of a spirit meant that while I was in the room, my daughter was somewhere close by enjoying the music as well.

Part of dealing with the fog that comes and goes in my mind means accepting that dreams still exist for her.  That those hopes never will die and that sometimes they are going to sneak out and make some times more difficult.  I can prepare for some and just ride out others.  To ignore them or even worse pretend they don’t exist means forgetting about her.  That’s not an option, not ever!

My mother told me that she wished I had done something different with my life.  She’s happy about the education and that I have found ways to make my grandfather’s business survive.  But she wanted me to follow different dreams at times.  That the pressure of being something they didn’t expect was always going to be there.  Her dreams for me are still ones she voices and lately they have been more forceful.

It’s the difference between a longer ending that you can interject options into and walking out of the hospital one day without having had a clue that same morning of the outcome.  She wants to be a one woman Make A Wish Foundation, but her son has no desire to be treated special.  I don’t feel it and know I’m one of too many going through the same process.

But while sitting in that concert I had such hope.  For a little while I was again 18 and hearing them for the first time.  Sitting in a venue not far from my Frat House in Boston.  Trying to watch the keyboard player to an almost stalker level of interest.  His fingers moving effortlessly across his synthesizer.  Just a little escape from the world, my life.

Going home meant going back to normal.  That is what scared me.  Waking up this morning with a still ringing in my good ear and the emotions moving in different directions.

It will be some time before I can listen to any music.  I might not be able to again.  There is a value I place on it that means every time I’m going to wonder if the next track will hurt.  The album might not contain anything, might not even be something I’ve ever heard before.  But sitting in a chair trying to read through something, it needs to be silent so that the voices in my head can play their own tune.

I’m glad I went.  But I should have known what would happen later, life.

Hide and Seek

Fearless

The walk is going to feel good after sitting in the car for a little over two hours.  It will be slow and in order to keep my feet moving some silly verse will be silently sung in my head.  There have always been lots of walks to take, just this one repeats itself from time to time.  Almost the exact same footprints in both directions.

The florist thinks I’m crazy.  I keep ordering the same arrangement.  But my target is very vocal about what she wants and what she doesn’t like.  So my lap should be full of pedals and pollen by the time I emerge from the vehicle.

Reservations for lunch have been made.  Another traditional choice that is slowly becoming our favorite meeting place.

The weather is supposed to be clear in Maine tomorrow.  A little warm even for late March.  My time won’t be cut short by Mother Nature having another say in my day.  The overcoat will keep me warm from any breeze as I stand there trying to find the words to speak.

It might be a smart idea to have a few things in the back of my mind to say.  Easy ways to work towards the topics that are the reasons for my visit.  My tongue is going to stumble because there will come a point when emotions are going to take over.  And they should, there is no reason to hide them.  Not here and not for her.

This walk is different from the others I had planned.  School, to the park, standing there cheering like a loon at graduation, walking her down the isle to a new destiny.  Those I knew about from the minute I met her.  My next set of steps are the same one’s I hadn’t ever allowed myself to think about, and at times they now freeze me in place.

My heart is fearless about this journey, my brain is conflicted about how to feel.  Visiting a grave site always brings out mixed emotions.  The last visit I sat on a blanket and talked for a little while.

“I miss you Bug, I absolutely miss you…”  Those words are always present.  Along with a slew of others that only the wind has heard.

I don’t set a limit on my time.  This is my chance to say anything without the rest of the world worrying.  I’ve left with smiles and just about every other expression.  My feet move a little slower on the way out.

Is there anything I forgot to say?  I know you can hear me whisper “I love you”.

Tomorrow morning will be a rush to get somewhere I never expected.  A destination that holds my future while reminding me of my past.

She may be lost to the world, but I know exactly where she is.  Every time I put my hand on my chest, she’s right there.  Where she will always be.

 

The Void

Envy

I envy people with children.

As they walk down the street all I feel is a deep longing in my heart.

Sometimes my gaze is a little too long and I know people wonder why.

The same set of feet are next to me but you just can’t see them. Only I can.

That small voice asks me to buy some ice cream or toy. Sometimes I do and hide them away. Maybe give them away.

Sitting on a bench watching my daughter sliding right behind yours, laughing under tears come out.

At times the envy turns to angry when I see somebody yell at a child.

Sometimes the angry just helps fill the void. Waiting for the love to push it aside.

I need love to come back.