Happy Father’s Day, Daddy

Okay, daddy. Since we never went on a coffee date before or even shared an intimate moment anywhere together for that matter, I’m taking you out. Just in my mind of course; you’d never come any other way.

So where’s it going to be, Starbuck’s? I forgot. Instant Nescafe’. Hot water straight from the spigot with creamer and sugar in that coffee-stained cup you yelled at me for washing one day. Okay then, let’s just have coffee in the kitchen in the old house where we used to live a long time ago. Doesn’t matter to me, I just want to talk to you.

I’m sorry for rebelling against you in those troublesome, adolescent years. I was just a kid and didn’t understand your cryptic silence. And on those rare occasions when you arose from the tomb, I didn’t understand your dry wit. I thought you were laughing at me because I was stupid or because you didn’t love me.

That hurt me.

A lot.

And I wanted to hurt you back.

I just wish that one time you had held me in your arms and said you were sorry for making me cry; that you had poked your head into my shattered world and seen how much I needed your love and protection. Instead, you crawled into a tomb of apathy; dead to my fears and tender emotions.

There’s so many things you didn’t know about me, daddy. Like how I wanted to be your daddy’s girl; for you to hold me on your lap and tell me that I was beautiful and smart and funny; for you to meet my first date at the front door with a Smith and Wesson, and took a ball bat to my X-husband the first time he hit me. When my tiny baby was born too early and I thought he would die, I wanted you to hold me and tell me everything would be okay.

But, you never did.

But, that’s okay daddy, I didn’t invite you here to condemn you; I’ve done enough of that throughout my life. I just want you to know that in spite of your lack of concern, I learned to stand on my own two feet. I faced the demons of anger and rage. I’ve survived the tormenting feelings of rejection and worthlessness; the stabbing pain of loneliness and grief.

So thank you for meeting with me today and allowing me one fragmented moment of the rest of your time in eternity. And before you fade into the shadows of my mind, I want you to know that I’m glad you were my dad. Without realizing it you taught me to be a mother and to love my son the way I wanted you to love me. Now, I am reaping a bountiful harvest of love and joy and happiness through him and his growing, loving family.

So thanks, daddy,

Happy Father’s Day

Laugh at Yourself! It Takes the Sting out of Stupid

I needed air in my tire so I searched all over High Point looking for an air pump. You know, the one with a handle on it that gave the pounds and free air. There wasn’t one.

Frustrated, I parked beside a weird-looking air pump and crammed two quarters in the slot. The stupid thing didn’t have a “pound” selection. Now what?! Okay, so I guess it’ll cut off when it reaches 50 cents.

Feeling like a martian, I connected the air hose to the tire and waited for the machine to cut off.

My tire was getting really fat!  Hurriedly, I stooped down to removed the air hose, then, POW!

So much for 50 cents worth of air! And my hubcap? It’s still zooming and clanging somewhere in the next county!

Golden Years, Where are you?

Nope! I haven’t been writing. Haven’t been walking. Haven’t been sipping champagne and loving the golden years. To be honest, the golden years is a highly over-rated, over-used, big fat lie!

Take a giant step into my world and you’ll see what I mean . . .

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Hubby and I decided to take up our nasty, thirtysomething carpet and install vinyl plank flooring. Just the two of us. Throughout the entire house. Piece of cake!

But first, we had to move furniture . . .

Then take up the carpet and the padding and staples and nails and carpet strips. Those carpet strips were almost as stubborn as me (I know it’s “I” but “me” sounds better).

Then we saw the horror Bella and Pepper caused. I still get angry thinking about it. Owning pets is not the easiest job in the world. Along with their cuteness comes a truckload of bad-mannered behavior and destruction. Rascal never behaved like these two wannabe queens of the house!

Thankfully, Kilz came to the rescue. Of course, it didn’t jump out of the can and spread itself all over the floor. And hubby got wore out watching me do it. Poor baby. I think he needs a nap.

We’re on day five. Am I frustrated? Have I cried a river of tears? Am I ready to leave the country? Oh, yeah! But, wait! There’s more . . .

Two days into this Mt. Everest project, hubby had an oncology appointment at the VA.  Things are looking good. So far, he is still cancer-free for the second time around.

But . . .

On the way to picking up hubby’s uncle and aunt for a day of fun, a woman ran the red light and plowed into us. No one was hurt, thankfully. The surveillance video and police report were on our side confirming that she ran the light in spite of what she told her insurance agent. Seeing is believing, except for those wearing blindfolds of denial.

So. How did you enjoy your little visit to my world? Would you like to come back and help us install the rest of the flooring?

No?

I don’t blame you!

 

 

If You Can’t Run . . . Walk

It was unusually quiet and peaceful during my walk this morning. No lawnmowers. No traffic. Not even a barking dog. Either my neighbors were still in bed, already at work, or the rapture took place and left me behind.

As I always do when I’m outdoors I looked for critters. They must have been raptured, too, except for two fuzzy caterpillars and birds chattering back and forth from the trees. Maybe they were having church or gossiping or both.

Shuffling along, I’m not even halfway into my walk and my body is already whimpering, especially my back. It’s been out of whack ever since Bella, our greyhound mix jerked me off the deck. Several weeks later I was in the emergency room begging to be put me out of my misery.

Not many years ago I jogged the city streets, rain or shine; pounding the pavement, dodging cars, yapping dogs and guys trying to pick me up. Twenty years, twenty miles every single week.

Walking was too easy. I had to run. It was in my blood. I swore I’d never stop.

Then, I did.

I got stupid. I got bored. I lost my drive. I dove into the sea of wimpy excuses and drowned there.

Ten years and thirty pounds later, I tried to pick up where I left off.

Ha!

I walk, now. At my pace, whatever that pace may be. I do what I can when I can without feeling the world depends on me to keep it spinning. No guilt. No shame . . . well, maybe just a little.

On the home stretch, I stopped and talked to the neighbor that lives across the road from us. She was walking her little Russel Terrier, the neighborhood-yapper.

She’s quiet-spoken with a shy little-girl personality and lots of southern charm. I admired her white hair peeking beneath her pink floppy hat and told her I was so happy that her cancer is in remission. We both said we’re ready to leave this earth but not right now because we don’t want to make our families sad. Cancer makes one think like that. Just getting old makes one think like that.

Though I enjoyed my thirty-minute walk I was relieved to get back home, pour a cup of coffee and plop into my favorite chair by the window.

That’s what old people do when they’re too tired to do anything else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Still and Listen

I raised the windows in the living room, poured a cup of coffee and snuggled in my favorite chair. The one that glides and swivels so I can keep busy while I’m sitting and doing nothing. The one that Pepper loves when she curls on my lap and I rock her to sleep. The one where I sit and think and dream and talk to God.

So, as I sat gazing out the window, feeling the breeze, listening to the wind chimes, and watching the salamander skittering across the porch rail, God whispered,

“Stop pushing so hard and trying to fix everything. Stop fretting about getting old. Stop worrying about your husband’s diabetes. Stop complaining because you can’t do things you did ten years ago. Just keep trusting me. I have everything under control. I will never let you down.”

Yeah. God whispered that to me this morning through the gentle breeze, the tinkling wind chimes, and the salamander skittering across the porch rail.

Just Do It!

I went for a walk this morning. A big deal since I barely remember the last time I laced up my walking shoes. But, this morning I decided to stop making stupid excuses and just get out there and do it.

I usually walk Pepper, our little black dachshund lab mix. Unlike our greyhound mix, Bella, jerking and pulling me around like a team of wild horses, Pepper’s a joy to walk. But, this morning I just wanted to walk doggie-free.

After feeding the dogs and putting on a pot of coffee I scrambled out the door and down the steps before changing my mind. For a split second, I was tempted to take the car instead. But since my eye surgery eight years ago, I don’t have a license. I don’t have a watch either. Pepper chewed it up. Along with some pens and pencils and probably other stuff I have yet to discover. But I know what twenty minutes looks and feels like, so I don’t need a watch today.

The last time I got serious about walking I was knocked out of commission for weeks. Ruptured disc. Pain that only a sledgehammer to the head would have relieved. Fearing I might end up like that again, I kept it at a turtle’s pace.

It was cooler than I expected; almost too cool for my favorite yellow jersey capris and faded short-sleeved shirt. But, the clean fresh air felt good washing over me, so I continued down the long, tree-lined driveway and across the road.

When we first moved here from the city, I didn’t like living in the country. I thought we had made the biggest mistake of our lives. I cried for weeks. Since we aren’t rich we couldn’t sell and move again. So I was stuck here to tough it out. Eventually, I did stop crying, but it would be years before I surrendered my heart and soul to country living.

Maybe that’s why the grass seemed so much greener today, and the sun beamed down so much brighter from the cloudless Carolina blue sky. I even smiled at the cows grazing on the hillside thinking what lovely, bawling neighbors they’ve become.

Looking down I saw a pulverized frog on the road. Poor thing. I hate when that happens. I wanted to scrape him up and give him a decent burial.

My girlfriend and I held a funeral for a dead bug once. Of course, we were only ten. We even put mercurochrome and a band-aid on a frog’s belly. I had accidentally run over him with the push reel lawnmower. I thought a rock had gotten stuck between the blades. To my horror, it was a frog instead.  After gently doctoring him up we laid him belly up on a clean white napkin in the cool grass praying for his recovery. Sadly, he didn’t make it.

Walking does that to me; takes me to places I haven’t been in a long time. Happy places that only a child can relate to and understand. It clears my head. It helps me to get in touch with my feelings and to see things from a different perspective.

It was a short but invigorating walk. The wind threatened to yank off my orange, smiley face cap a few times, but I didn’t freeze to death. I even came across a critter in the road that wasn’t dead. A black bug the size of an elephant. I hate bugs. But I hate killing them even worse, so I made a wide circle around him and headed home.

The dogs met me at the front door, barking and jumping up and down like a pair of frenzied kangaroos, their tails waving frantically as if I’d been gone a week.

And where was hubby?

Still in bed. Hadn’t even moved. Snoring louder than a locomotive.

Silly man.

 

 

 

 

Voice of a Strong-willed Child

I was born this way. I don’t come with instructions. So, listen very carefully.

I will fight you. I will run from you. I will scream and yell at you. I will make the neighbors think you’re killing me. I will drive you utterly insane.

Love me anyway.

Don’t try to change me, break me, tame me; I will not be ridden. I am wild. I am strong. I am a free spirit. I will do things my way, in my time no matter how hard you push and tug and pull me.

Love me anyway.

I know I’m difficult. I know I don’t fit in. I know I will never be that prized child you hoped for. But don’t compare me. Don’t judge and criticize me. Don’t shut me out. That only enrages the beast within.

I will say and do things; mean things that neither of us understands. I will hate myself, hurt myself, hurt others if you’re not strong enough or love me enough to guide me down this troublesome path. Ignite your fuse of exasperation and I will blow up in your face. I won’t trust you. I won’t talk to you. I will move completely away from you and you may never get me back.

Love me. Respect me. Praise me . . . again and again. Talk to me. Protect me. Make me feel safe. Beneath this rock-hard fortress of stubbornness, I am a shattered mess of fears and emotions I don’t understand.

Value my honesty. Listen to my concerns. Laugh at my silly antics. Don’t get so worked up over everything I do and say that you think is so ghastly wrong. I’m just a kid with a different view of the world; searching for truth, honor, and strength. So, when you feel like knocking my brains out, hug me instead. If I resist, hug me tighter. Make me believe that you mean it. Make me feel your tender strength. Make me feel I’m not alone in this crazy, mixed up place.

If you don’t, my life will be a living hell of guilt and shame, forever feeling I should never have been born. Forever kicking and screaming against the world. Forever ravaged by the roaring beast within.

So, don’t make raising me more difficult than it already is. If I’m too much for you to handle, get help . . . PLEASE! And when you do, I will show you that I was worth it.

 

 

Deadly Addictions

I loved him. He was my brother. But there were times I wanted to kill him. Like when he was fourteen and burned down the vacant house up the street. When he broke into schools to steal pencils and erasers. When the cops came knocking on our door. When he made my mother cry. When he cussed me on the phone at three in the morning. When he stole from my husband. When he’d abandon his wife and kids for days. When his promises went up in smoke. When he shook his fist in my dad’s face and called him an old man; the same old man who bailed him out of trouble a million times over; the same old man that he never saw again after that. Didn’t even go to the funeral.

Drugs were his food. Alcohol was his water. Prison was his home.

Addicted to a life of thrills and chills, he was a living, breathing hurricane of total destruction in the lives he touched. Truth was a foreign language. Denial was a constant companion. Honesty was as fake as a two-headed dragon.

Why? Why was he so bent on self-destruction? What was so enthralling about running from the cops or living in the woods or spinning tails that even the devil couldn’t believe? Why did he think he was so entitled to do whatever he pleased regardless of the cost to society, to his family, to himself?

Why didn’t he do something constructive with his art, his poetry, and writing? He was brilliant. He could have flown as high as an eagle but chose to wallow in the mud like a pig. Why?

I don’t know. I just know that while he was high on drugs and living a life of crime I was wishing I had a brother I could depend on. A brother I could talk to. A brother I could trust. I was wishing he would straighten up before it was too late. I was wishing he would remove the blindfolds and see how much I loved him.

A few days before Thanksgiving 2014 we had a screaming match over the phone. I hung up on him, wishing he was in front of me so I could smack him upside the head. A few days later he called back. As always, I accepted his apology. The day after Thanksgiving, he was found dead in his apartment.

He was sixty-three.

It still hurts. I still miss him. I still wish he had chosen a sensible life. And regardless of the things he had done, the people he had hurt, the destruction he caused, I loved him. I loved him then. I love him now. I’ll love him till I die. He was my little brother and now he’s gone.

So I sit here, barely able to see the screen through my tears, wishing I could hear his voice once more. Wishing I could tell him I’m praying for him once more. Wishing I could convince him to change his ways before it’s too late . . . once more. Now, I can only hope that he did.

 

 

 

I Want More of This and Less of That

I got a makeover today. I asked the makeup artist to make my eyes look bigger, my nose to look smaller, and my lips to look fuller.

Yeah, I’m just clowning around. But how many of us are never satisfied with our looks? As a kid, I used to sit for hours drawing before and after pictures of myself because I never liked what I saw in the mirror: freckles splattered all over my face, eyebrows and eyelashes you couldn’t see with the naked eye, and straight, stubborn red hair. And I was skinny. Like, Olive Oyl skinny. My clothes looked better on the coat hanger than they looked on me.

But, I wasn’t alone in my self-loathing world. My best friend was so self-conscious of her weight that it was like coaxing a mule to get her to poke her head out the door. Another friend hated her feet and nose and said they were the two ugliest body parts ever. And then there was the boob thing. They were either too big, too little, or non-existent. Guess where I fit in.

It’s a shame that many of us go through life feeling “less than” for whatever reason. Why do we do that? What is so awful about that body part we don’t like? So awful that we feel we belong in a zoo; or even worse, a freak show. So awful that many have spent thousands of dollars to fix only to end up broke and just as dissatisfied as ever.

Ken and Barbie didn’t help much. And neither did models and movie stars with their dazzling eyes, flawless skin, and perfect bodies. The unspoken message was and still is, what you see is what you should look like. And if you don’t, you might as well wear a bag over your head.

And we believe it!

I fell into that deep dark hole of believing that people didn’t like me because I was ugly. The truth is, I didn’t like myself because I believed I was ugly. I believed that from head to toe something was really wrong with me. I mean, really! Other girls my age had boobs. Why couldn’t I?

According to guys, boobs were way better than brains. I grew up with brothers, I know. They would laugh and tell me I was a pirates dream because I had a sunken chest. And they hid Playboy books under their mattresses and google-eyed every girl who bounced like a pair of basketballs when she walked.

So yeah. I got the message loud and clear. If you don’t have boobs you might as well be dead.

While laying in the sun one day, my bathing suit stuffed with toilet paper, I felt completely hopeless of ever looking like a real girl. But I believed in prayer. I even believed in miracles. So I prayed, “Lord. Please give me some boobs!”

Today, I’m so thankful God didn’t give me what I asked for. And I’m thankful that I learned to love myself as I am. If we can’t love and accept ourselves, how can we possibly love and accept others? If all we see when we look at someone is their physical appearance then we’re not seeing that person at all. There’s so much more to a book than its cover. You have to open it. You have to read it. Only then can you know and appreciate what it’s all about.

So I don’t care what you look like. I don’t care what color your skin is. I don’t care if you walk with a limp, stutter when you talk if you’re gay or straight or have tattoos and piercings from head to toe. I care about your heart. And I judge whether I want you as my friend by what’s in your heart.

It’s been a long, hard journey, this self-discovery thing. A journey that most of us have traveled. And until we can realize that there is no “perfect” in this world we’ll never end that torturous journey. We’ll never be happy with ourselves. We’ll never dig deep inside ourselves to see what really makes us tick. We’ll die wishing we could be like someone else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, What a Tangled Mess We’ve Made

I’ve been many things throughout my life, but I’ve never been old. I don’t know how to do old. It’s like learning to ride a bike, or even worse, driving a car. It’s scary. I want to clean my house like I used to, work in my yard like I used to, jump out of bed like I used to. But I can’t. And I get mad at myself. I get depressed. I whine and complain like it’s my husband’s fault, and he’s no young bull, either.

So forgetting (a major drawback to getting old) that old age crept in somewhere between holding down jobs, raising a kid and retirement we, I mean I decided to paint the inside of our house. Yep! Every room. Every door. Every window and baseboard.

Piece of cake.

Well, that piece of cake turned into a cement block the moment we sank our teeth (a few things I still have left) into such an overwhelming undertaking. We forgot, that before we could begin painting we had to take down pictures and shelves and clocks and curtains and window blinds. We had to pull out nails and screws, putty and sand, and sweep the cobwebs. Then I actually had to clean!

By now we’re ready for a nap. But, wait! We still have furniture to move. So finishing our third cup of coffee, we drag our butts off the couch and take out dresser drawers, remove a ton of books from bookshelves, and pile everything in another room.

How wonderful! Now we’ve made a big fat mess in every room of the house, the dogs are confused and we want to wrap our scrawny, withered fingers around each other’s throat.

I wish I could say I acted my age during the ordeal. I wish I could say I was kind and understanding when my husband wasn’t moving fast enough to suit me. And I sure wish I could say that if anyone came to the door they wouldn’t hear me yelling like a blooming idiot. But I can’t.

Oh, how I wanted to leave everything behind, move to a brand new house and start over. Even the nursing home was beginning to look good.

And as if painting the rooms weren’t a big enough job, I decided to paint furniture, too! Who told me I could do all that without going mouth-foaming mad?

My house is like walking through a maze of stuff I forgot I even had, forget where it came from and don’t know where to begin to put it all back. I’m thinking of calling the Salvation Army to come and haul it all away.

Ten weeks. Fifty million coffee breaks. Two and a half-dead bodies. That’s how long it’s been. Only God knows how much longer it’s going to be before we’re finally done.

Have I learned anything through this craziness? Well, let me think. I’ve learned that life doesn’t make sense sometimes, especially getting old. I learned that old age has me by the throat and ain’t gonna let go no matter how hard I kick and scream. I learned that I push myself and others too hard; especially my husband. I learned that what matters to me doesn’t always matter to hubby, especially having everything in its place . . . all the time. I learned that I’m geared to jump in and do whatever it takes to get the job done. I learned that I’m still trying to live up to someone else’s expectations and not my own. I learned that I need to pull back the reigns hitched to my brain and allow my body to catch up . . . if it ever does. I learned that no matter how hard I try to be normal it’s impossible for me to be less than perfect.

Now I just need to learn how to grow old gracefully, if there is such a thing.

No, we’re not done. I finally realize that I can’t do it all in one day anymore and I need a break. A very long break. Hubby strained his arm and I feel like a wrung out dish rag. So much to my husband’s delight, we’re quitting till after Christmas. I didn’t say which Christmas but, hopefully, this Christmas. And maybe this time next year, this gut-wrenching nightmare will be as faded as a worn out pair of blue jeans. We’ll curl up on the couch with our lovely dogs and a hot cup of brew, gaze at our freshly painted walls and try to remember who was so kind to paint them for us . . .