Chalk Drawings in the Rain

Standing there alone, at the precipice of nightfall, the air turns cooler, daylight appearing a little dimmer and the shadows begin to fade away slowly. One moment his silhouette is beside him, it draws longer before simply dissipating in the pale, late afternoon ambient light, along with all the other shadows. It used to be so clear; his relationship with his kids, the expectations’, the experiences. But now they seem to be dissolving like a child’s chalk drawings in the rain.

It’s strange when you get older and your children do too, it’s not the same for you both. For one the days run by like a fast moving bus leaving one to yearn for what they may have missed and for the other they seem to draw on forever, full of opportunity, excitement for what may come, adventure and anticipation. For the parent there is a sense of loss, for the child freedom.

You knew it was coming, all the older folks say it’s so, that the time you have with them passes by so quickly and we take it for granted. That time passes by like a mid-winters day, and soon you’re wondering what happened, where did it all go, why do you feel as though they’ve forgotten you. You forget what it is like to be a teenager, cruising around with your pal’s, the freedom, no one looking over your shoulder.

Your daughter has a boyfriend, he gets more time than you now, she looks at him with that same lost essence in her eyes that she once had for you…when she was like five. It hurts, you feel betrayed, left behind, alone. They all grow older; your son leaps out the front door in his letterman jacket and the keys to his future, and his little tender hands not in yours, tugging you along. Finally the youngest glances back at you as she runs off to join her team mates on the field, it’s not fair you think, you used to throw her in the air and now her fellow ball players celebrate with her, they chant and cheer her on and they are louder than you and the sound of your voice diminishes as it gets carried away in the fall air.

Breakfast is lonely now; it feels unnecessary, like an old outdated custom. Like an old book you once loved to read over and over but it just seems like the words aren’t quite as bright as they used to be, the pages are more fragile and worn and the cover has seen its day in the sun, it eventually finds its way onto a shelf higher than the rest, it may be pulled out now and again but the air between its pages will grow stale and it’s binding dusty. Like all great books, once celebrated its now simply remembered.

You taught them, aimed them in the right direction, and gave them the tools they’ll rely on when they are all on their own. You are happy for them, and are yourself excited to see them flourish, grow and become adults. But somewhere along the way you forgot to prepare yourself, I suppose that’s what happens though, you love them, cherish them, teach them and watch them step away.

Miss Betty

She was beautiful, her white hair appropriately cut, her large, round, gold framed sunglasses reflecting the few clouds hovering above Parker’s Lake in the otherwise clear blue sky. Her thin, pale hand pulling on the pretty little leash attached to her small Bichon mix. She walked in her comfortable shoes towards me along the asphalt path. I had stopped to photograph a turtle sunning itself on a rock just off shore, and when I turned and saw her she smiled a crooked smile and wished me a sunny day. I responded with “me and the turtle wish you the same miss”.

She paused, she didn’t know me; I wore a blue t-shirt exposing my tattoos and faded jeans and cheap, dark sunglasses. Then she turned full round and stepped back towards me only a single step and threw her tired arms in the air and said “who couldn’t enjoy a day like this”. I introduced myself and said “indeed it’s a beautiful day, almost as much as you miss.” She stepped closer this time and stuck her hand out, I grasped her hand gently and gave her my name, she told me I seemed like a nice guy to which I replied…”my fiancée seems to think so” and she slapped her knee and whipped around and said “oh darn it’s always the nice one aint it!” I laughed and she asked about my fiancée.

Leaning against a rock wall along Parker’s Lake under a strong and warm spring sun we chatted about love and politics and travelling, OCD, addiction and recovery. I was already late getting back to work after lunch but I didn’t care, she was sweet and funny and we quickly became friends. She had spoken about a book she was reading called Switching on Your Brain by Caroline Leaf and how it had transformed how she saw things. She said it showed her how to be happier…by choosing to be happy, she has OCD she said and her husband is a recovering alcoholic and she spoke about how sometimes we just need to decide to be happy and that it doesn’t matter what others believe or whether or not they accept us as we are, it’s up to us whether or not we choose to be happy on our own terms.

She patted me on the arm and said that we were meant to meet today, we saw eye to eye on some things and not so on others but we both enjoyed each other’s company for a little while on what had already been a beautiful day, but now had become much more than that for me. When we allow ourselves to remain open to what’s around us we invite opportunities to be rewarded, sure that means we can be hurt too, there’s always an innate risk there when we make ourselves vulnerable, but I’ll take that risk any day! Thank you Miss Betty.

Can’t See the Happiness through the Pain

It rained today as I walked along the shoreline of a pond; I stopped to watch the drops sink below the surface of the water strewn with dark red leaves, and studied the shallow ripples as they rolled together, slowly dying out.

The air was quiet, dull, thick and moist and as I walked the fallen leaves made no sound below my feet.

I didn’t mind the rain, it was light and the drops seemed to float to the ground in no big hurry.

I wasn’t really cold nor was I warm, and the rain on my neck didn’t bother me much.

I didn’t care that I had to go back to work soon and I didn’t care that the trees were bare and the sun was away.

In fact the only thing that seemed to matter was the lack of everything; I felt no connection to the Earth, the trees or the sky.

But pain is always there to welcome me, there is a sense of sadness, a feeling hidden somewhere beyond the colors of the fall and the reflections of me in the raindrops.

It’s there always, rising from the ground like humidity in the desert brilliantly reflecting everything back at me, making everything appear real, but I know it’s just a vision, a transparent image that hides the hurt until I need it again.

Sometimes though, the reflection hides even the good, the happiness, and then I can’t see it through the pain.

An Open Letter to another Father

From one father to another, shame on you Sir. You have abandoned your daughter during a time when she has made what may be one her greatest decisions, one based on love, unencumbered, selfless and undeterred love.

Don’t you know she dreams of you; she thinks of you and wishes she could be held by you.

Her days are spent sharing a life with someone she has fallen deeply in love with, someone whom offers her irrefutable devotion.

She loves this man because he works hard, seeks to be a better person each day than he was the day before and not because he has been bad but because she deserves the best he can offer.

Don’t you know she sought this man out as all little girls do, seeking someone she can trust, someone she respects, someone whom treats her to a world she dreamt of, one where she is greeted each morning with kisses, each night with satisfaction that she has found the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with?

Are you so wrapped up in your own sense of sadness that your little girl has not followed the path you thought she ought to but instead, has taken her path in her own hands and has become a healthy, successful, woman whose got her sights set on a man whom you have much in common with Sir?

Don’t you know, that some days when he looks into her eyes, that he sees the yearning of a daughter to be called upon by her father to witness her happiness, to celebrate with her what makes her most happy and he sees her heart breaking, everyday that her father refuses to speak to her.

I say again, Sir, shame on you. Is it not our jobs as fathers to see that our little girls grow up happy, that when the day comes she meets that guy, that you are there to hear that she loves him, that he adores her and that she knows, we as their fathers shall always be there for them, that we will always have a spot not just in our hearts but in our homes as well where they can come back to. That we must not abandon them because they didn’t fulfill some ideal we had set in our minds for them, that as women, they have stood up for themselves and taken charge of their lives to become grown, successful, healthy and loved?

Do not let her pass by without reaching out, she needs your love too, she also has fears, questions and apprehensions as we all do. And it’s your job as her father, as her daddy, to send her out with confidence that you will be ok, that you will stand behind her and support her, that you will not close your eyes and punish her for what makes her happy, or shun her because her heart has chosen a different path, but instead celebrate with her before she is gone for good.

The Pain I can’t Turn Away

The look in her eyes turns foggy, faded, as if she were pulling away.

Her lips pursed and her complexion sallow.

I am honest with her, I tell her what I think, and I think she is an alcoholic.

The air turns thick and rancid, I take a step back and she bites, and she bites hard.

Her sharp tongue lashing out like rogue flames from a roaring fire, her tone dark and mean.

I love who she is when the waters are calm, she is kind, and she is funny, but I hate her when

she is called to defend her behavior.

Like all of us she has her days and nights, her ups and down, her peaks and valleys.

And I accept her for who she is through-out all of it, in spite of her inaccurate accusations,

her scars, her shadows and her fears.

She is my little sister, she is my niece’s mother, she is my only full blood sibling, and she is the bane of my frustration.

It hurts when I am honest and she disappears, when she claims I don’t care and turns away, returning to the shadows again.

I know how it feels to melt away, to sink back into the dark pool of shame and fear.

I know what it means to want to simply vanish, from the pain, from what hurts and from the love

you can’t allow yourself to deserve.

I wish I could show her the way, but her map is different, it has places I have crossed off on mine,

scary places and hard places, and places I have succumb to and survived, and I hope that one day she may too.

In the meanwhile it hurts, to watch and to see, to hear and to feel.

There will be days again when she wanders by a little too closely, just enough to feel a little warmth, just to know it’s still there and I will respond in kind and absorb what I can of her then, knowing it won’t last, knowing soon after she will disappear again.

A Wretched Tone

The morning started out wrong right from the beginning; I had no coffee, and it seemed as though everyone on the road had it out for me, a narcissistic notion I know. But I was determined to turn it around. And I did.

The power of the musical note is amazing to me and it always has been, I knew early on as a young child that music did something to me; it got under my skin and made me feel things. I have never really had a particular distaste of a certain style, if the notes that rung out and the beat and the harmony struck my soul and made me feel good I accepted it, I absorbed it and let it wash over me like a cool spring rain.

My mother loved listening to Helen Reddy and Buffalo Springfield and all those bands from the 60’s and 70’s like Iron Butterfly and Led Zeppelin. Later when I was in high school she and I would share some smoke, the kind that whirls around inside your head and takes you to another place, a far off place and then we would crank the old wood box speakers up and lay vinyl on the Panasonic record player and jump around the room to Joe Walsh’s Life’s Been Good and Funk #49 until we collapsed on the beige pit couch in the late afternoon sun.

When I was out of school for the summer I would climb up into the cab of my dad’s rumbling Mack truck and watch him manhandle that old manual transmission as we lurched forward down the road with Kenny Rogers’ smooth raspy voice spilling out of the cab’s speakers.

I loved music, I awoke for school to it and even had one of those giant portable tape cassettes attached to my belt and enjoyed that sharp plastic snapping sound when I changed out the tape for another. As I grew older my affection for music grew larger and more eccentric. It comforted me when I was alone and scared, and it pumped me up when I would crawl out and lie on the roof of the old house and bask in the sun and smoke a joint. The sounds of steel guitars and pulsating drums and the rich, heartfelt stories of pained artists crying out from somewhere deep inside themselves turned me on.

Sometimes I felt like the singer was telling my story and sometimes I fantasized I was the character they crooned about. When my father was killed I listened to music to quell the pain and celebrate him at the same time. When I started working I found a way to listen to music every chance I could, even now I play it all day at my desk, all kinds, Hank Williams, Hank Jr and his kid too, Heart, Green Day, Pure Prairie League and Wheezer. My kids have grown up with me singing to my favorite songs every time we climb into my car, and they have learned the words and enjoy hollering them out along with me on the way to the dentist.

I have a deep appreciation for music, it has a place in my heart and my life, always has, always will. We all have certain songs that mean something to each of us, the words are echoes of our own pains or celebrations or feelings we didn’t even know we had. Who knew “When the words are said, baby, I lose my head” from Andy Gibb’s Shadow Dancing would be my first love song to a girl in sixth grade.

But as much as I yearn every day to hear songs of old and discover new ones along the way that capture my changing spirit, I detest the times a treasured song strikes me deep where it hurts and continues to wrap it’s sharp claws around my bleeding heart. There are songs I couldn’t wait to hear that now I struggle to breathe to when it plays and flows like a strange icy breeze around my ears in the middle of an August heat. I hear the very first notes, and feel the rhythm and know my heart will break, but I can’t stop it, I need to hear it again and again even though it feels as though all of the blood has been drained from my body already, and I drift away once more with its wretched tone, because it holds a specific and intense paralyzing affect on me.

Music has its place in my world and it always will, it has become an enveloping, organic being that both comforts and destroys me repeatedly.

a Lie and a Wry Smile

He smiled a wry smile at her, his eyes were focused on hers, he seemed sincere and she bought it. He told her he appreciated her being honest but he didn’t quite believe her, not that there was any real good reason to doubt her, in fact things were pretty squared away between them and neither have ever lied to the other, honesty had always been the hook they’d hung their keys on. But sometimes Brett wasn’t quite certain and he didn’t know why, there just seemed to be this quaint, shallow voice near the back of his mind that whispered things to him that would suggest doubt.

He is just being careful, cautious he thought to himself, too many times in his past relationships he has been disappointed, even lied to and taken advantage of. He never wanted that to happen to him again, it doesn’t feel good; it’s gross and makes him feel sick as though he’d eaten something awful and it sat heavy in his stomach and festered there. He was just protecting himself he’d claim.

So she would say that she just needed a few minutes after work to decompress before coming home to him, she would tell him while she had her hands on his shoulders and looking straight into his eyes, that she just didn’t want to come home in a foul mood and have that affect their relationship. She would kiss his lips and pull back while she confessed her love and respect for him. And he would look deep within her bright blue eyes and smile a wry smile. And he say something like “thanks hon, I love our honesty”.

He would feel good about them then and they would prepare dinner together, talk about their day and laugh. They would talk about his mother and her job and about the coming weekend and how maybe going to watch the fireworks from the Stone Arch Bridge might be fun. And after dinner he would collect their plates, and as he did so she would grab her phone and appear to text somebody. She would sit back in her chair and hold her phone close and slightly tilted away. Then she would put it in her pocket while they washed the dishes. Maybe it was because he didn’t want to know or that he didn’t want to seem petty by coming off over curious about whom she’d been texting. But he wouldn’t ask and she wouldn’t share.

Suddenly that little intonation began to chatter near the back of his head like the far way voices on the old party lines over the phones we had as kids. He’d ask himself why she didn’t leave her phone on the table. Why she quickly shut it down whenever he came near. He began to preoccupy himself with ideas and theories. He couldn’t share them with her and certainly couldn’t ask her because he’d come off paranoid and that’s not good. He began watching her, and when she did leave her phone out he wanted to look at the text log. What if she’d met someone at work, what if she had a secret crush on someone else, what if she was seeing someone. The thoughts grew more intense and the voice in his conscience grew louder.

He nurtured that voice and the suspicion like it was a new kitten, he cultivated its suggestions, its fears. He fed it with obviously plausible scenarios and at the end of the day when they both lied in bed in the dark, he wondered if she knew he was on to her. He kept that kitten from her and fed it when she wasn’t looking. The trouble with kittens is, they grow bigger and become less controlled, they start to get sneaky and look around for things to get into they ought not. And when they get cornered, when you try and reel them in they have a tendency to bite, and most times they hurt those around us and then she wants to know where this cat came from and Brett isn’t completely sure but he’s not giving it up.

She tries to take it from him, she tries to relieve him of the burden, of its tenacious grip but he snaps back because its his, he raised it, and it’s always been there for him when he was scared or felt alone, it never asked for anything, just his trust and support.

But she doesn’t like cats and decides that she can’t live with it, and Brett suddenly believes her but its too late and now as he holds his cat, as he strokes Suspicion she walks out the door, when she turns and tells him that she loves him and honestly only hopes the best for him, she smiles a wry smile and says she always trusted him