Pull of the Moon on the Tides

Moon

It’s a give and take.  Or maybe someone might think that it’s more like a push and pull.  The Sun and the Moon in a constant struggle.  The Chinese got it right with the yin-yang thing, two dolphins chasing each other’s tail for eternity.  Never quite catching up to the other, but never giving up either.

Calling relationships a simple give and take really undervalues what each person brings to it.  Economists would call it Asymmetric Information, one person usually having different knowledge than the other.  Experience, maybe education in a subject, possibly they just saw a news article and felt like sharing their new bit of the world.

My brother stopped playing basketball with me years ago because having a 6 inch height advantage limited his game.  I stopped playing tennis with him because I got tired of always losing to him.  So as adults, Madden Football on the XBox!  We adapted so we could keep a relationship, even one that most days is very strained because we are very different people.

The lawyer involved with helping me execute a series of plans wants to kill me before I get the chance.  Years of knowing each other has placed him in a strange position of caring about me as more than a client.  It’s a shift from when we were in college and might have gotten into a fist fight if either of us thought there would be no consequences.

And life is about consequences!

I went to him years ago when I needed someone who would protect my ex should something happen to me.  Being the one who brought the house and other things into the relationship, I didn’t want her to struggle.  That need became intensified when the kid came into the picture.  I didn’t like him, but I knew he would be the best thing for them.

After I was left to my own devices, he became more concerned with me.  Sometimes you learn more about people by the things they don’t say than by the words they chose to speak.  His wife accidentally mentioning a book he got from the library on my cancer was a big wake-up for us both.

For two guys who were never competitive about anything that crossed over, we butted heads far too often.  Never had a class together, didn’t chase the same girl, it never made sense!  But I have needed to rely on his abilities to help guide me through some of life.

He knows the cancer is terminal.  He doesn’t care for my exit strategy.  Giving a lawyer a stack of papers and asking them to put a plan in place rarely gets an argument.  The client is sometimes right?

After all that was done, we made a few changes in our relationship.  When we talk, it’s about his son or some news thing that we both know the other doesn’t care about.  I also know it’s because putting down the phone sometimes means silently hoping that a few days later they will answer.

By looking through my daughter’s eyes I saw things I needed to improve.  At the same time when I looked through other’s eyes I wondered about everything.  Was I right?  Were they?  Confidence is one thing, but my knowledge that absolute certainty is always a failure keeps me grounded.

During the day, the sun pulls the water in one direction.  Much like me trying to do the right thing for the right reasons.  Even when they fail, just hoping it works is sometimes enough.

At night when the moon is pulling the other way I’m alone with my thoughts.  The inner turmoil that doesn’t see the light bounces in my head like watching one of those tennis matches with my brother.  The ball going back and forth, but most times passing right by me.  I always reached out but sometimes my arms just weren’t long enough, my feet not quick enough.

I have doubts about how this all ends.  Picking a day sometimes means wondering if on the next something different will happen that I will miss.  Not a cure, but maybe something?  You can’t know that your doing this for the right reasons but can only hope you are.

Advertisements

Ghost in the Machine

Ghost

28 years ago her aunt sat in a very different Volvo and had to learn to drive a manual transmission in a matter of minutes.  Patre might have been 16, but I was only 15 and my parents were willing to loan the car if she could drive it.  Nothing motivates teenagers who long for some alone time someplace away from their parents like the freedom of a car!

Yesterday Susie was driving an updated version of that Volvo down a country road while we hunted for ice cream.  This time she is 15 and well I’m a much older 44!  She knows the car will be hers one day.  The summer job has been helping her save money for the day she turns 16 and has to pay for fuel and a bit of her insurance.  I’m not going to need to car, and since I’m anal retentive about maintaining this thing; she’ll not have to worry about those issue.  The dealer knows to eventually send the maintenance bill to the lawyer [yeah, that whole estate planning thing.  She couldn’t afford to pay if something big happened, teenagers!]

There no manual to worry about.  The car has every safety option they sell.  And like most people in Massachusetts, a grey Volvo won’t surprise anyone.  So I get to be a hero for one last time.

Amusingly I let her friends come along.  A few are 16 already and have their licenses, this one barely has her learner’s permit.  I even put one of those giant red “L”s on the back window for people to know they should be cautious.

The fun thing about a bunch of teenage girls in a car is the music choices.  I hate Justin Bieber!  Most modern pop music all sounds the same to me.  Oh, I did mention I dislike Justin Bieber, right?  As long Susie can hear me yell stop, we’re good.  [bonus, those seizures that still pop up from time to time?  The ones that make hearing things difficult? Right now I’m slightly thankful for them.]

Susie knows all of the stories about her aunt.  At least the ones she should know, I get a few to keep private.  So she also knows I’m the one who taught her to drive a manual transmission.  What she doesn’t know is that we drive some of the same streets today that we did 3 decades ago.

There are some ghosts that float around me and they scare me.  Memories of people and events that haunt my waking hours as well as those when my eyes are gently shut for the night.  This isn’t one of those times.

That night, my parents would have easily driven is to the movies or any other place we wanted to go.  They also could have given us the keys to the car with an automatic transmission, but my dad was not parting with his 2 door convertible for crazy teenagers!

Just like that day, I held Susie’s hand and told her that as long as she was sure of her actions everything would be great.  Back then I might have made a few dirty jokes, today it is about building a confident young lady.

As I looked over that ghost of her aunt was looking back with the same smile.  The same eyes but slightly darker hair.  I couldn’t have been more grateful for the time her parents have allowed me to have.  [I also taught her father to drive stick, just on a different Volvo!]

I know I don’t talk about the parts of life I’m grateful for having.  It’s a shame that I don’t look at the world quite the same anymore.  I see the rainbows and all the colors, they just don’t bring out those same emotions.

Yeah, I bought ice cream and sodas, a couple of sandwiches for later.  We ate the ice cream there and I have no idea what they did with the rest.

The sound of their laughter was everything.  It kept the bad away and brought back all that was good.

 

Funny Little Icon

I must have forgotten that it was even still on my phone.  A silly addition my mother had suggested and since it didn’t take any space and definitely wasn’t worth arguing about, I installed it.  Some chat program that would allow me to remain relatively anonymous and yet be able to reach out when the need arose.  Leave out the things and only talk about the present.  Here and now was all that mattered and if something slipped out, well I could take it from there.

Assuming anyone was on the other end of the line…

While retreating from the world, I had closed it down.  The program and me.  So it really was a surprise when this afternoon it dinged and let me know there was a message.  It had my username, so it wasn’t a fat-finger typed letter that accidentally ended up in my hands.

I can’t recall when it last notified me that someone was trying to reach me.  The profile I set up wasn’t great.  Truly, I didn’t want to follow through and hoped that if you leave enough “code words” for damaged or I’m here because someone forced me, the icon on my screen would never light up.

One time, in some fit of either loneliness or just longing I had talked to a few people.  It didn’t last long, silence on my end can push away anyone who even needed the same thing I was supposed to open myself up for.  Just another voice to sometimes drown out the other voices that made me feel lonely in the first place.

When I lived away from all my family, it had been a choice.  I needed time.  I certainly needed to find me again.  My parents told me later they hated the idea of the limits I placed, but they knew I had to do it.  Forcing me to act differently wouldn’t have solved anything.

But now this icon still flashes on my phone.  This person was brave enough to place a photo for their avatar.  Mine is just a sports icon.  There’s a way to look up other information without someone knowing.  But that feels like an invasion to me.  Hiding behind a screen is one thing, tricking someone is something completely different.

Why can’t I just read their message?  My profile is very clear about having a terminal illness and that I wasn’t going to make the best choice for someone looking for anything long-term.  No dating here, but it didn’t stop me from talking up my dog or like of baseball.  [There are details I left out because I didn’t need someone actually finding out who I was in the real world unless I chose that!]

Curiosity has the better of me.  I could ignore it.  But some part of me sees it like a tap on the shoulder asking a question.  I’m not the type of person to turn away.  I’m the guy who has no issue holding the door while the entire crowd ushers themselves in while nodding or thanking me.  [my parents did a good job with the manners aspect.]

Maybe just a quick look?  Could be just a simple hello?  A person in the same overall situation needing their voice heard?  Lots of good reasons I can think of for this flashing icon.

The only bad one is if I can be what they need or if I’ve tricked myself into thinking there’s nothing for me to offer anymore…

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.

My Crazy Uncle

Quote Me

For years the books sat on shelves in my parent’s house.  Later my collection grew as they became a portion on shelves in my own house, their dusty covers torn and aged from relatives who had kept them safe.  It took me until I was in college to really appreciate why they meant so much to people, but now I proudly am the guardian until they are eventually passed on to the next custodian.

When Faith is Lost, When Honor Dies, The Man is Dead.” – John Greenleaf Whittier 

At some point I should have asked my mother to embroider that on some throw pillow to remind me of something very simple.  When I stop being who I need to be, get wrapped up in the expectations of others, my life loses all value.  Maybe not to the world at large, but if in the course of trying for others I forget to stop and try for myself, I might as well not try at all.

Someone else’s narrative had become mine because I chose not to fight.  Well I was fighting the wrong person and for the wrong reason, so lots of things were eventually lost.  Sometimes there is no honor in falling on your sword and letting others think the worst of you.  Sometimes you just end up hurting because you can’t get that blade from your chest and carrying that anger and hurt seeps into everything else you do in life.

For a very long time I thought of my cancer as being some additional punishment for not being stronger.  I convinced myself that if I died as a result, it was earned for prior actions.  (additionally I cling to the hope that it might at some point allow me more time with my kid, unless I head for warmer climates?)  No one should think that way.  It sends you into a spiral that is very hard to pull yourself out of.  It takes the efforts of other people that they shouldn’t have to make.

Lately I have let someone help in ways I didn’t expect and still don’t know if I’ve grown enough to accept it.  It hurts thinking of letting another person into my world.  The simple act of someone offering to take me to the store or just to a movie requires me overthinking that destroys too many things.  Someone offering to just sit there, in complete silence confuses me.  I’ve lost the ability to just let another person try.

My faith in myself is the question, not them.

I was programmed from a young age to shoulder the weight of everyone’s actions.  Some people have used that knowledge for doing good and others have just used it.  But that also falls back on me.  I’m not a people pleaser but rather someone who will accept the blame even when not in the room.  The term I love is “Sin-Eater”, but I picked that up from watching The Blacklist.

There is something I heard in a song this morning-

I’m waking up, from a life left behind.  To see what lies ahead, I’m waking up.

Maybe there is a chance that this quote can become something of a new guideline.  If I can’t find a way to let hope inside, to open my eyes and let someone see whatever light is left inside of me; then my uncle is right.

I’m dead.

Worse Case/ Best Case

Worst Case Scenario

In a very dark corner of my mind lives this concern.  It jumps to the forefront on my mind on plenty of weekends because of the additional people surrounding me.  During the week, they are in school and have different lives.  But come Friday night a completely differing set of fears enter.

When the doctor’s gave me that lovely time frame of less than a year I sat down and asked how people felt about my being at home rather than in some hospital or hospice situation.  There will be time enough for that later, even now there are pop-up overnight stays!  We are all scared of those final moments and to a person want to delay these conversations.

They linger for longer than the words spoken.  The emotions that go with being friends or family, however we are describing ourselves that day, run very deep.  For years it was my spot to mow the lawn or fix some broken shelf.  The tables turned and now they do their best to stem the flow of time.

The worst thing that could happen is that at some point my niece walks in with a smile on her face and some great event in her life she wants to share.  Only she finds me not able to reply.  She’ll sit quietly wondering if I’m just in that deep a sleep, but something will make her try to wake me in some manner.  And it won’t work.

In my fears of not being able to protect people, which is my biggest problem no matter the situation, failing to protect that situation from happening worries me the most.  It isn’t the worst thing imaginable, I’ve already faced that with my daughter, truly horrible stuff.  But later, when we are going to sit down and watch The Martian, I’d like to just laugh with them rather than wonder if only my “spirit” will still be in the room.

At the same time the best thing that could happen to me happens every Saturday afternoon.  Five people sitting in a room, sometimes there is an additional teenager or two running around; but mainly this core five.  We’ll SKYPE my nephew so he can put on his weekly review of his 7 year old’s perspective.  Play a game or watch a movie, just simple stuff.  For a few hours life is about as normal as Mayberry.

By dinner time I’m usually needing some rest.  So while people cook, actually cook food, I’ll take a snooze and hope that the best part of my day doesn’t become the worst part of theirs.

Beam of Light

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/this-is-your-life/”>This Is Your Life</a>

Knowing too much about the future?  There are some things that we accept in life as being unavoidable, the classics death and taxes come to mind.  And obviously with each passing day our personal history has already been written so those pages would just be a reminder of what has been.  Dickens explored that theme with his three ghostly visions of Past, Present, and Future, allowing Scrooge to change his future.

His pages hadn’t been written in stone, on paper, or even the words of legend passed from adult to child in parable form.  That apparition of the Future only gave him a glimpse of what possibly could be if he continued on his path.  So having a book, where my life is pre-determined, I’m not sure that I like that idea.

How might it change my days knowing how the story ends, that last tick of the clock before it strikes the midnight hour on my life?

The past is the past, or so some have told me.  We study it in classes so as to understand how society has ebbed and flowed into becoming the people we are presently.  Hoping that we correct our mistakes moving forward and learn how to better communicate with others different ideas without the need for violence or anger.  The past can’t be undone, but the future should be as flexible as possible.

I need to live with the idea that hope exists in the universe.  And having a story, complete with the details of how it all ends, means that at some point I have to give up on hope.  That all that is to come, just like all that will have been, has someone’s guiding hand telling my tale for me.

Those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books of my childhood has limits, and you learned them as you read the story for the third or fourth time.  But you still had the ability to make the same mistakes or new ones, within a certain universe.  That’s the limit I want to place on the future.

Is there a part of me that would consider knowing when the cancer might win, maybe.  But that also means I have to accept that someone always knew my time with my daughter was going to be limited, that they could have warned me about the pain of that loss just by showing me a page already containing dried ink.

Rewatching a movie, knowing how everything is going to unfold, that is the limit I wish to place on experiencing some detail of another’s story.  There;s something satisfying about anticipating some scene that I enjoy while knowing that there might also be a scene worth fast-forwarding over.  The same with a music album, I know of few records that don’t ave a track or two I skip at times.  [Dark Side of the Moon and Scenes From a Memory are two albums I can’t do that to!]

The only thing in the universe that I can accept as having a definite starting point and moving in a straight line is a beam of light.  That only stops when it hits a body floating in the sky.  That warmth on our bodies ending it’s journey.  For me, I’m going to continue to chose free will.