Beautiful Thing

A Sunday Without Them

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

One Sunday, I found him standing there in the stacks. His worn denim jeans met the back of his green and black winter coat. I knew it was him because of the cap. Wool, with ear flaps, soft brown, and a tuft of grey curls sticking out of the bottom. I walked across sticky linoleum towards him and tapped a shoulder. He turned, with arms full of books and a smile grew on his face once he realized it was me.

How unsurprising that we would both be drawn to the library on a sunny Saturday afternoon. He checked out his books, and I checked out mine, and we went out to meet the winter blue skies, saying our see-you laters. He turned right and I turned left – back to our separate houses and evening routines.

Dad believed Sunday afternoons were for libraries. Safe places full of words and comfortable couches, and shelves to get lost in. Quiet rooms filled with stories are solace for an always-thinking mind. Even as I became a self-sufficient adult, somehow, we continued to find each other there.

Libraries have re-opened now, but fear of germs has tampered my courage to peruse the stacks. Instead, I search using keywords behind screens and use recommendations from blogs and other reader friends to pick my next read. I call when I’m turning the corner into the parking lot, knowing a brave essential worker is pulling my titles from the shelves. Curb-side pick up extends to the library, too.

This Sunday afternoon, I gathered last week’s titles and sat in the car as Dylan drove me to our first errand. I wasn’t thinking of Dad. Instead, I was feeling the sun on my face and moving my toes in tight shoes I haven’t worn for days. As he pulled to the curb, I placed my mask behind my ears, ready to approach the familiar brick building. Fifty yards to the drop box feels safe.

As I walked up to the door, I watched a man and his daughter exit into the winter sun. He wore worn denim jeans, and a puffy winter coat, and the girl trailed behind him. There were curls of hair sticking out of a hat, but the cap was all wrong. The girl too young, the coat blue, not forest green like before. The scene not quite right. I was just witness.

Anchoring myself to the earth, I opened the metal handle, and let my books drop down, the metal basket clanking as I released. Grief clanked down in my chest, lodging like those books, in cold plastic bins, waiting to be seen by a caretaker. How I crave other souls willing to read my words and re-shelve my grief story that looks different every single Sunday afternoon.

Turning on a heel, I walked back to the car, opened the door, and removed my mask. We moved on to other items on our to-do list.

The U.S. is approaching a horrible milestone of 500,000 lives taken by COVID. I hurt and wonder about all of those people and their loved ones, having a Sunday without them. The New York Times is doing interviews and publishing quotes, capturing stories, and doing expose’s about what could have been different. Politicians are flying to Mexico and trying to escape cold nipping at our systems. Very few want to carry the weight of frozen pipes and the crash of broken hearts. Most are unsure how to be witness to the healing.

There is no solution. No action to take. Instead, an invitation to be one who sees.

I’m not broken, tonight, but I am sad. I wish, with much of my heart, that libraries would be open and I’d find my dad standing, once again in the stacks. Instead, I place books back to be discovered by others. I feel the sun on my face. And I raise my hand to an aching heart, noticing again and again, all the places he’s missing. I’m learning, the noticing, is a beautiful thing.

Come Now, Let’s Begin

I just realized it’s National Poetry Month.

After Dylan’s cousin started posting his haiku’s on Facebook, I was inspired and frankly, copied his idea. For the next 30 days I’ll be posting a haiku on my Instagram.

I think 30 days of haikus will be easier than 30 days of yoga, or 30 days of no coffee, or Whole 30. I admire those Whole 30 people.

But for me, I’ll be a 30 days of poems person. I missed the start of April, but as wise folks say, “Better late than never!”

I’m extending an invitation for you to play along.

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Here are the rules. 

Compile the following and email me at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com between now and May 11th.

  1. Email me your haiku. I’d love it if you can write it in your handwriting and snap a photo, but if you need to type it that’s fine too. Bonus points if you write about something beautiful in your life right now.
  2. Include your name and if you’d like, links for how you can be contacted – ie. email, Instagram, or Twitter feed.
  3. Be willing to share the post I create with your content with your network – share on your Facebook, send an email blast, work with others to promote poetry, creativity and writing.
  4. Your entry will then be shared in May in a haiku roundup of sorts on this very blog.

By submitting your materials you will be entered into a drawing to win a few of my favorite things. You also agree that it is ok for me to repost your content on Instagram, this blog, and Twitter. On May 11, I will put all the names in a hat, and draw one winner who will later be contacted.

Please note: no violent, hateful, or derogatory poems will be reposted. Swearing’s ok. Making fun of others, not so much. Keep it clean people, keep it clean.

Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

 

 

 

A Tequila Toast

I stood at the edge of the stone pit, toes warming as flames licked the burning wood as it spat and sputtered to a start. I stuffed my hands in my pockets, the sounds of laughter rolling around behind me in the cold mountain air.

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Belly digesting rehearsal dinner food, I was having one of those moments where I felt full. Not just my stomach, my heart too. We had gathered for a wedding weekend for one of my oldest friends. All around me acquaintances chatted, laughter bubbling on the waves of pre-marital promise and bliss. I felt reminded of my roots, where I came from, and how these people shaped me at age thirteen, eighteen, twenty-two, twenty-five. Love for people with whom you have history.

I received a friendly slap on my back and I was invited into a loud conversation with my girlfriend’s dad. I used to spend weekends at his house, stealing Cokes and bobbing in the pool in his backyard. Summer afternoons on his ricksha, and movie nights in his basement. Time passed. I haven’t seen him in at least ten years.

With a big smile and a tip of his cowboy hat, he asked a perfectly normal question.

“How is your family?”

Oh…. shit… he doesn’t know. That question isn’t normal for me any more.

The warmth in my toes disappeared, and I shrank a bit into my puffy North Face jacket.

“Well,” I started, ” my mom is great. She’s working at a pre-school and my brother is still in town.”

Pause. How far do I go? Does he know? Gulp.

And then I jumped right in because I realize the burden of my grief often oozes out when I have to tell people who don’t know, over and over again, that we lost him.

“Not sure if your daughter told you,” I said, “but we lost my dad a year ago.”

Damnit.

I hadn’t had to say that stupid euphemism since I got a new job. I have exited the insurance agency, and the phone calls from his old clients stopped haunting me. I don’t remember how many of his clients had to hear the horrible news from me. Not many, but enough to make it no fun. A strength I didn’t even know I could possess, handling those calls.

The dad’s eyes softened. Chin dropped. Smile faded. He didn’t ask questions, and instead offered sympathy, jumping into his own story about the loss of his sister.

“Oh good,” my little, squeezing heart whispered to itself, “he kinda gets it.”

After mumbling a bit, said dad quickly bent over, grabbed a fancy glass bottle, and offered to toast to my dad. He poured the golden liquid. A couple fingers worth.

Strong, expensive tequila on ice in a styrofoam cup. Raised to you my papa, with other dads who wish they could still know you.

I drank it all down.

This is the space I’m living in now. A mix of integration, acceptance and painful memories. In being present in really happy moments, taking deep mountain breaths, and reconnecting with old friends. In telling people who don’t know and telling myself (who really ought to know by now) the damn truth. We lost him.

Yet, I haven’t lost these things:

  • I haven’t lost my friends. The ones who knew me when I was chubby and awkward with braces, who went to Prom with me, who stood by me when I got married, who I have had the privilege of watching walk down the aisle. They know me and they knew my dad and will continue to walk with me forward, out of this hell of sudden loss. Life long friends, a beautiful, beautiful gift.
  • The importance of laughter. Belly laughs. Make fun of yourself, dance, put on the cowboy boots. Show up. You will feel better when you get there.
  • The symbolism of toasts and celebration. Honoring memories with tequila makes sense. Standing and raising a glass to a friend of fifteen years as they make the biggest commitment of their life. A privilege.
  • Peace. It comes in waves and whispers and mountain breezes. A long hug. Fog rolling in, lapping your arms in cold, wet, kisses, the universe wants to bring me peace. If I am willing to accept help, people are there making me hot cocoa and offering an extra pair of socks.

Humans are funny, friendly, cheerful, present, and unsure. Death is inevitable and soul sucking for those left behind. Living in these real intersections of the choices to be in relationships and the quivering vulnerability that it can all go away – a beautiful thing.