reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the back seat on the porch.

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monticello is a small town. there is a main road and a few arteries – small businesses dot these arteries a block or two off the main street. we’ve driven through there a time or two before, to see the place columbus talked about, but mostly to try and buy him a t-shirt. somehow, we managed to always get there after the shops closed, which is a little earlier than we were used to. so, no t-shirts.

this time, though, we were there to stay a few days. we picked up columbus and jeanne from the airport and brought them to an airbnb farmhouse we had pre-arranged. i knew that was the place to stay when i saw the porch.IMG_0020 i could picture columbus sitting on that porch, with the surrounding land to which his soul was ever-connected. i booked it, despite my mother-in-law’s wishes to stay at a motel in the area. now, it is dangerous to not listen and, even with my certainty about that being the right place for this pilgrimage, i was a little nervous about how they (read: she) would feel about it. they are dear to me and i don’t want to – well, let’s just say – tick them off.

IMG_0013the first time we sat on the porch columbus had a lite beer and stared out at the corn and soybeans (at least we think they were soybeans.). he talked about his days working in fields, traveling the roads he wondered if he could now remember, his friends, his growing-up house.

i sat in the back row on the porch and listened and watched. although we all asked questions, no other voices were really necessary…just his. the back row is a good place to listen from and to watch from. IMG_0019 i could watch my husband listening to his dad, absorbing the details, sometimes patiently listening to repeated stories. i could watch my mother-in-law help with some of the details, talking about the history columbus had and their shared decades of life, some of it spent in this panther-highschool-football-team-land. i spent a good bit of time staring at the corn and soybeans too. and a good bit of time silently taking pictures of a sojourn that my father-in-law had talked about for years.

he had wanted to “go back home” for quite some time. he wanted to visit the cemetery where he “knew a lot of people”.  IMG_0009he wanted to go see and touch the home that his grandpa built, proud to have been raised in a house where he saw the toil that made it possible. he wanted to visit with his aunt joanne, a feisty woman just a couple years older than him. his list wasn’t long. not much else. he just wanted to BE there. and so we were. we followed his heart around his home town.

we sat on the porch the second day to greet the morning and later in the day to process the day. we seemed to have assigned seats, mine, once again, in the back row, a place i lingered in, petting the farm cat i had fallen in love with, listening, sipping coffee or wine. i watched the satisfied look on columbus’ face take hold, the longing of wanting-to-go-back sated by the being-there. he was surrounded by memories-he-remembered and by memories-that-were-slipping-away. he navigated trying moments of confusion in his talk-talk. he spoke of glorious times. he spoke of hard times. he talked -like we all talk about the place that was home- with deep love and a root that is unbreakable.

the next day we visited with his aunt, a couple other relatives, a few old friends.  we went and found a pork tenderloin sandwich for him. we drove away from town for the last time and back to the farmhouse.IMG_0010 it was a little chilly that evening. early the next morning we would be taking them back to the airport. we didn’t sit on the porch.

i went out to see sweetie (the name i gave the cat) and to look at the sky, to remember. i, momentarily, took my back seat on the porch and quietly gave thanks for this time. i know why columbus didn’t want to porch-sit that night. sometimes, it’s a little too much. sometimes, a porch can make you feel more emotion than you can handle. i think, for columbus, that last night on the porch was one of those times.IMG_0017

so this time we were there -in that little town- when it was open. and this time we got him a t-shirt.  he was planning to wear it the day he got back home.  and who doesn’t get that?

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don’t get losted.

img_2688he said it to me every time i left the house or hung up the phone…”don’t get losted, brat.” i smile every time i think of this and i talk to him. i know he can hear me. i’m not sure if he is saying anything back, but i’m sure he’s there. my poppo taught me so much…i find myself quoting him often, using the knowledge that he somehow conveyed to me, even when i didn’t know that i was absorbing it (ie:  listening.)   he was a real rube goldberg kind of fixer….he could fix anything. i find myself trying to follow his lead. every time i fix something or devise some sort of daddy-o kind of method i say, “my daddy would be proud!” he’d be 96 today. he would be an awesome 96. and i wish that he and david could hang out together, because david would have loved him. no doubt.

momma-daddy-and-metoday is also my mom and dad’s anniversary. (momma married daddy on his birthday “so he wouldn’t forget”.) they would have been married 73 years today. “wow-ee,” she would have said. i celebrate their love, their joy with each other, their tenacity, their patience, their steadfastness, their being-my-parents.

last week was our anniversary. the first. kind of odd when you consider our ages. it’s been a fast year. it’s been forever since that day. what is it about Time?

with early morning steaming mugs of strong coffee, we walked to the rocks to watch the sunrise over the lake. there is nothing like a sunrise to make you feel alive in the morning. we had wanted to watch it the day of our wedding, but we were both exhausted from five days of great fun with family and friends who had gathered around us and we missed it in lieu of warm blankets and a few more minutes sleep.

sitting there, we decided that we wanted to catch the sunrise every anniversary from now on…to welcome in a new year of adventures, a new year striated with sun and clouds and blue sky and grey days, warm air and freezing toes…new years to come and past years to celebrate.photo-3

later that anniversary morning, we sat on the deck and read our wedding aloud to each other. the readings, the poems, our roadtrip email entries, our vows. we are both, as it turns out, pretty ritualistic so this was powerful stuff. if you ever want to really remember why you got married, i’d recommend doing this. there is nothing like threading together.

this morning we talked over coffee. we talked about the last few years and the stuff of them. the ups and downs that we rode together, the joys and sorrows we felt together, the easy stuff and the hard stuff. we celebrated dogdog and babycat laying on the bed together with us. we talked about our anniversary. about what is actually important to us in this world. and what’s not.  and today….about my momma and my daddy.

and about one sure thing…that we both know…

together…hanging on tight…just like momma and poppo…we won’t get losted.

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ungrounded.

me&poppofour years ago today my daddy died. while in some ways this feels like yesterday, there are so many ways that this feels like eons ago. my sweet momma pined for him for the next three years. their marriage had been a lifetime of almost 69 years together. it’s hard for me to imagine that amount of time; i’m not even that age yet.

and now there are times i pine for both of them, her gentle but insistently positive and kind spirit, her chatty stories, her “hi, my sweet potato” or “good morning, sunshine”, his quiet pondering, quick norwegian temper, the tears in his eyes when it was time for leave from a visit, his “goodnight, brat” or “i love you, kook.” i wish they weren’t gone.

i find that today is not the hard day. it’s the days preceding today. it was like that for my momma too. it was the days preceding the anniversary of her dying that i was off-balance, out-of-sorts, crabby, ungrounded. anticipatory grief strikes hard, even after ‘real’ grief. anticipation of all the remembering. anticipation of The Day. anticipation of how it will feel…this time. anticipatory grief. ‘real’ grief. what’s the difference anyway…

he said, ‘we need to love more on these days.’ instead, we tangle some. this kind of ungroundedness is hard to explain. it’s raw. painful. one day in a note from lori, she wrote that she just wanted me to know that there is a different kind of grief that happens when both of your parents are gone and, having that experience, she would be happy to talk about it. i should probably take her up on that. sharing experiences with someone who can totally empathize –not sympathize- is a good thing.

we were walking yesterday, arm in arm, dogdog at our side. someone came out of her house, water bottle in hand, sneakers on, ready to take a walk. she said, “i have been trying to get my husband to take a walk with me. i tell him that we should walk together sometime before we croak. i don’t know how much more pressure i can put on him. i tell him all the time about the husband and wife who walk. i tell him they look so peaceful. i love seeing you two walk….”

i felt anything but peaceful yesterday. but there must be something. something that makes ‘loving more’ obvious. even if we can’t see it at the moment. even if we can’t feel it at the moment. even if i am ungrounded.

take a walk. hold hands. love more. every day.

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and i wondered

growing up on long island, my mom and dad always were bird-watchers in our woodsy back yard. their favorite bird was the cardinal, its brilliant red and beautiful voice. they would identify other birds for me but i knew that this was a special bird to them.

this morning i sat on the deck, sipping coffee in the sun, feeling disoriented and raw. today is one of those anniversary days that you mark in your heart, whether or not you want to remember the details. my sweet poppo died three years ago today. and tomorrow it will be a whole month i have missed my sweet momma. it is hard to believe how much it changes things, even for a “grown-up”, when both parents are no longer in the same plane of existence. it takes you off your axis, uproots your root, slams into you when you least expect it.

then the cardinals showed up. there were two of them…a couple. they flew across my path over and over, landing on the fence, landing on the roof, flying into the trees, landing again on the fence. i watched and wondered. and cried.

we were out and about at lunchtime, doing errands. we hadn’t eaten before we left and we were hungry, but we usually don’t eat lunch out. there is an olive garden in our town; we have only been there once. but in florida it was one of my parents’ favorites, especially my mom’s. she, ever-practical and thrifty, loved the soup-salad-and-breadsticks lunch. so we decided today was a good day to maybe slow down and sit with some soup, salad, breadsticks and memories.

we weren’t there very long, sipping our soup, idly passing the time, chatting, half-listening to the soundtrack playing. we were talking about noticing things that change moments, change the direction of a day, change your balance, maybe tilt your axis a little bit back to center.

my sweet momma & poppo. always.

my sweet momma & poppo.
always.

and then frank sinatra started singing “always”. this was my mom and dad’s song. it has huge significance. great meaning. i listened and wondered. and cried.