Saturday, April 27, 2013

My Rainy Day Cometh

The good news is we've started the purging of things for our move.

The bad news is there are about seventeen more stacks filled up the rim just like this one here.

What's inside, you ask?

The boxes are labeled "Poems, writings, and such"

Looks like I must've been saving all these papers to sort through for a rainy day.

I've only peeked but so far I've found: teacher's books, manuals, xerox copies of every grammar lesson known to man (do they even use a xerox machines in schools anymore?), mugs, plaques, gifts, my own stories, college poems, mindless doodles, procrastinating sketches, student papers still uncorrected, student papers I can't part with, graduate school study notes that still smell like Twizzlers and hot cocoa, and such.  Oh, there is so much such I can hardly see straight.

The horrible thing is I can barely throw any of them away, even now, thirteen years later.

I drive around in a beat up minivan that hasn't had a working radio in it since 2009.  My clothes are either thrift store finds or things I've been hanging onto since the cicadas were last here.  Jewelry remains something for "the future" when I finally shop for that wardrobe from Athleta.  One would think I do not become attached to things.

But hell if I can part with any of this paper.

Or the egg separator that belonged to Boompa.  Or her glass measuring cup with the nearly invisible red lines where 1/2 c. once was.  Or her two-tone wooden chopping board.  Or my grandfather's hearing aid and a Kodak tube filled with his gray hair I stole from his hairbrush.  Or the ring he once made from melted tooth fillings (I know).  Or Jimmy's blue island T shirt I sleep with every night;  it still kind of smells like him after a run.  Or his poetry and stories that let me hear his voice in my head just like he is sitting right next to me.

No, I won't be throwing the papers away.

I'm gonna need a bigger truck to tow it along, is all.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Street Music

Face toward the sun

Your light gives us all roots

In the song you sing with him.

With Him.

The golden horn he plays gives

Way to your voice


"Hush little baby, don't you cry."

We feast our eyes on purple.

Shoppers stop

Put down their phones

As gossamer light from above feeds

Those beneath.

But mostly you.

I have only two dollars

To give

So I give

And buy myself minutes

That feel unlocked.

A white cat with salmon nose

curls to sleep

In a window that reads

Fine Art.

It's the song you sing with him.

With Him.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


"Faith comes alive when the Word read from the page becomes the Word heard in your heart."- Rex Rouis

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Irreverent, How You Like It

Dear Jimmy,

Three things: 

1)  So I'm texting your Brendan when Mom tries to call.  I call her back.  Busy signal.  Call back, busy again.  Third try I get her; I am laughing because who gets two busy signals in 2013?  Her voice is weird.  I think she's laughing too:  You know.        Mom.Know what?Mom, what's wrong.         You don't know?            Mom, tell me, what is it?                                 Oh Honey.......Oh....Uncle Jimmy died today.

I hyperventilate into the phone.

"Oh God, you're in the car?  Oh God, Erin, pull over.  Pull over.  Have Andy come pick you up."

More hyperventilating.

"Oh my God, HONEY, pull OVER!"


I know you appreciate the fact I almost took out an entire street worth of people while denying myself any hope of joining you in heaven by telling God to F off upon hearing you died today.

You died today.

You died today.

You. died. today.

I have said it out loud a million times so it will stop floating above my grasp like that ghostly strand of hair you feel but can't yank out.  Those words grow echoes for three days straight.  On the fourth day, they stop.


2)  At your viewing, Mary asks if I want a few minutes in the room to say goodbye privately.  I say yes, plod down the hall and peek into the room with your casket.


My chest caves.  Andy holds me up until I can control the heaving.  "It doesn't even look like him," I finally whisper.  Andy takes the bull by the horns and walks straight in with his shoulders Marine strong.

I am standing outside the door of a stranger's viewing wondering how death could change our handsome Jimmy into George Burns. 

Andy comes out shaking his head.

"It's not him, is it?" I'm laughing a little now.

It doesn't look like you because it isn't you.  It's some poor dear little old Rip Van Winkle looking soul with a cap on his head.  Mr. Winkle is resting peacefully but he is definitely not you.

Good one.  Still the life of the party even though the party is a funeral...for you. 


3)  I know you can't visit Mom yet in her dreams or in her mind or on her computer screen because she is not in a good place yet but first chance you get?  Go in.  She needs to know you're there and ok about the whole thing.   Well, maybe not the whole thing but the last part where you see Boompa, she takes your hand and leads you to the land of love, beauty, and peace.

Thank you for bringing me peace today.  It has lasted all day but now is gone, leaving me to pace inside my own skin .  Grief feels so very loud at night. 

I love you to the bone.  And no, I'm not smiling now.

But I will.  Someday in Subway or Target or IHOP when I hear the elevator version of Wild World.  Or maybe it will be more obvious than that.  Like tonight during dinner with just me and the kids.  Grayson turns to me out of the blue and says, "Mom, I'm sorry Jimmy died.  You know?  He is where everything is good.  No headaches, no bad people, only good things.  But it's ok to miss him." 

Holy on all things holy do I miss him.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Work of Art

I might as well rename my blog, "Dear Jimmy."

If this is depressing you guys, forgive me.  Writing is the only way I know how to back away from the hurt exploding through my veins.  Jimmy deserves movies, novel, poems, screenplays, Oscar-winning performances played by the most talented and handsomest of leading men and please not Tatum Channing, no offense Mr. Channing.  But for now all I have is this little blog.  I think he understands. 

Work of Art

That Buddha love from within
His distinct voice throughout
A charm like no other,
A father, devout.

My Uncle Jimmy
Builds castles with air.
My Uncle Jimmy
His salt-peppery hair.

All dogs know his scent,
All cats love his skin,
They know he is just
pretty much one of them.

A man with a story,
A story of a man,
He shows up for us
However he can.

An artist through every
pore of his soul,
His music rings now
And I won't let it go.

Desperate to have him
In front of our face,
We must hold on to him
In our secret place:
In our kindness,
Our rawness,
Our plenty,
Our few,
Our hearts for each other
And every stranger too.

Jimmy- ingrained in each one of us,
Germany, Pentenville, an Arubian bus
Brookside Gardens, Atlanta,
and Ft. Meade,
Jimmy is you, Jimmy is me.

There isn't a balm to soften this blow
The peace will come when we see, when we know
He is here, in his children, his sister, his me.
We can hold on to each other,
His legacy.

Our Jimmy, a treasure from the very start
Our Jimmy, our own beloved work of art.

Friday, April 12, 2013

My Uncle, an Artist

I found it in a three-ring binder.  A penciled sketch of two hands with a short cluster of words to the right.

The title was simple:  Hands.

I was only ten but taking in those words opened up a new world for me.  Jimmy had written a poem of the relationship between his father's aging hands and his own journey of becoming a man.  Every line held a decade, every word meant the moon, every syllable flowed like wine.

My uncle, an artist.  

For years, I would sneak downstairs to his bachelor pad of crumpled bedsheets and crates of old magazines to snoop for more binders of his words.  I wanted to drink them up.  His words sometimes scrawled up the side of the page, like a boy daydreaming in geometry class.  Each page held pictures: sketches of faces, profiles of beautiful women, caricatures of children, sometimes a cat napping in the sun.

My uncle, an artist.

My trespassing went on for many years and crossed boundaries.  Sometimes I'd even sneak into his closet to wear one of his sweaters as a dress.  His scarves weren't even safe.  I wanted to wear what he wore because...

My uncle, an artist. 

The day I graduated from high school, he took off work early, got lost in DC and wound up spending two hours circling the exact building I was graduating in, not realizing he was in the right spot all along.  I met him in the parking lot outside afterward.  He was crushed to have missed the whole thing.  I was thrilled he showed up at all.

My uncle, an artist.

When Jimmy brought his entire family to meet my first born, he told me Grayson has been here before.

My uncle, an artist.

When we chatted on the phone about Pentenville, dogs, and heaven, he said animals are the only ones who can cut through the b.s. of being human and imprint their souls to ours with pure and flawless love.

My uncle, an artist.

When I hear Brendan playing his guitar, learn of Haley's gift with words, and witness Leah's nurturing soul, I am in the presence of his legacy, his gifts.

Jimmy is an irreplaceable spirit, an undeniable force of generous emotion, and a person we all fell in love with a lifetime ago, 23 years ago or last week.

His voice we can't forget, his "voices" compel us to cry laughing or now...just cry, and the love he gave each of us is living inside all who had the great fortune of sharing space with him.

My uncle, the artist.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


When I was an awkward pre-teen with buck teeth and stringy hair, I had a few "Why me?" tearful moments with my Strawberry Shortcake pillow.

Then came the soft rapping on my bedroom door.

"Sisseroo, it's your Uncle Jimmy.  Can I come in?"

My face buried in the pillow, I'd look up to see his strong runner's legs walking toward me.  Then those hairy tan arms brought me to his chest to let me cry.

There we sat, two Geminis, brooding over the injustice of crooked teeth and cowlicks.  I was so blissfully happy to have him on my team.

We grew up in a house of mixed generations:  grandparents, their children, and the offspring of one - Eric and me.  The six of us were a motley crew as we lived under the same roof, cheated at the same Monopoly, and licked the same dinner plates.  Eric and I had it so good that we now refer to those years as our golden years.  A magical time when our home was filled with laughter, Cheers, and someone to love us always within reach.  In a nest like that, nothing could go wrong.

Jimmy was our constant in a sea of variables.  Even though he was a young great-looking bachelor, he spent much of his free time with us at home.  He took Eric and me to Brookside Gardens just for fun, ate pizza on the couch with us, and video taped us doing bike tricks in our driveway.  He never pretended to be our dad, he was always the fun uncle, and in our hearts there was no need for distinction.  Jimmy was ours and we were so lucky to have him.

Years later, my Uncle Jimmy married a beautiful lady and started his own family.  I missed him so.  We all did but we adored Mary and were so excited to share a life with her too.  Besides, many Sundays Jimmy could be found back at our house to watch at least the first half of a Redskins game with our grandma.  Two of the biggest Skins fans to ever walk the earth.

Handsome Brendan was born first.  Then exquisite Haley.  And finally beautiful Leah.  I visited them when I was home from college, caught up over birthday parties, and hugged him tightly when it was time to go.  We never seemed to have enough time;  I missed him so.  We all did.  It's what you do when Jimmy's not around.  You just miss him.

Then, when it was time for me to find my own forever man to love me, none of them measured up.  How could they when compared to my Uncle Jimmy.  How could anyone else be:
  • handsome and rugged but not a woos.
  • silly but have impeccable comedic timing.
  • lover of the outdoors but not mind a lazy afternoon nap in the sun.
  • a movie buff, lover of books, and writer of poetry like Pablo Neruda.
  • tan in the summer, handsome in a suit, and still cute in workout shorts.
  • there when you need him most.
  • an animal lover, music lover, and lover of all things cheese.
  • with the heart of a lamb but the convictions of a lion.
  • so very devoted to his family.
  • peace and calm to my soul.
It took me 28 years to even get close.  (I got pretty darn close.)

My Uncle Jimmy taught me so much.  He taught me to stand up for what I believe in:  animal rights and comfortable clothes.  Make waves but don't be afraid to surf them, too.  Trust my gut.  Listen to live music.  Love Cat Stevens and The Police.  Follow my dreams.  Make new ones.  Remember my past but dive into my future.  Write with my heart on my sleeve.  Edit that sh*t later.  Love all creatures, great and small.  But especially the furry.  Hug without abandon.  Say I love you, every single time.  Show off my talents but only to those who will appreciate seeing them.  Treasure my friends but adore my family.  Exercise.  Make the perfect Moose eggs and take time to iron collars and sleeves really well.  By simply watching him for years, I learned to be kind as a rule and interesting to a fault.

There just isn't anyone in the world like Jimmy.

How does a person with that much love, spirit, soul, and life in him just not be here anymore?  I cannot yet process his passing;  how we will go on without him.  Because we miss him so.  It's just what you do when he's not here.  You. Miss. Him.

In my most recent Facebook exchanges with Jimmy, he signed off (every time) with, "I love you to the bone."

My Beloved Uncle Jimmy.  I love you to the bone, beyond, and back again forever. We all do.  I see it really was possible to die of a broken heart.

Now we all just have to figure out how to live with one.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Place of Zen

A week ago, one of the dogs would step on my abdomen at 5:15 or 5:27 or 6:02 so we'd all have to pee.

I'd find my socks, fumble for chocolate in the pantry, and tear at any obliques left in me as I slid the stuck sliding glass door across some invisible tar.

Doing an about face, I'd bump into two morning-hair kids using dolphin trills to communicate their desperate plea for Waffles: heated up, one plain, the other with butter, syrup, cut-up please.

Ohmyhell.  Where is my bed.  Where is my brain.  Where is my husband?

Gone.  All three of them.  Rooster early, gone, gone, gone.  They gawn.

Since the morning starts off in such a reactive haze, the day has no choice but to follow suit.  It's maybe 6:30am before I am typically shoving balls of tissues in my ears and texting my husband - Hi Honey Good Day? When is ETA? - like it is 4:30 in the afternoon.  Dude probably just barely got to the front gate at Quantico himself.

Something had to change.

I knew I needed to take control of my mind and the morning before the day had me pinging off the sides of the house like a rejected skeeball.

That's when I started excusing myself from the dogs, the children, the coffee mug first thing in the morning.  For twenty minutes I park myself in my son's room, in front of his window.  If I'm early enough there is a warm circle of sunrise coming through his (dog nose print-y) window.  I sit in front of it breathing out slowly.  Only sometimes - when I'm lucky - does Sadie join me.  It reminds me of our quiet time at the parks together before children.

For a few days, I concentrated on single words:  strong, alert, good, patient, kind, and steady.  I'd repeat them over and over again in my mind while exhaling loudly and slowly.  At first, my thoughts drifted and caught every noise in the house:  TV (Cartoon Network?), kid feet in the kitchen (No, not the Peeps again.), water bowl (Needs refilling?), heater blowing (Isn't it April?), second hand ticking (Are my twenty minutes up yet?). 

By day four, however, I am able to exhale loudly for only three minutes before reaching the calm place.  Once in that sweet spot of not being stuck on any one thought, I focus on the soft orange glow coming through the window.  Like a High Priestess, those golden rays stretch outward like a blessing to those hungry for light and vitamin D.  I stay in a thoughtless float as long as possible.

Abby is crying.  Grayson has awakened her from a sound sleep.  She almost missed Tom & Jerry. Sparrow is lapping up all the water remaining in her bowl.  My cell phone is ringing.  We need toilet paper and tissues.  Maybe I'll do tacos tonight for dinner. 

The sun is high, my face feels full from warmth, and I stand up, only one foot asleep this time.

Smiling, Sadie and I get up from our Place of Zen and I kiss the top of her soft blonde head.  We are ready for this day and all the beautiful chaos it will bring to us. 


And when it gets out of hand, I will join her on the couch for a breather.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Life is Hard, Check

We all heard it growing up, "Enjoy it now, Kid.  Life only gets harder."

None of us believed it.  We thought the adult behind such cynicism needed to eat a bagel or go to a Madonna concert. 

My teenage years were spent pining for the day I could be married to that dad on 30 Something.  I remember looking down at my nearly flat stomach while breathing through crunches, doing the math.  "I'm 18 now, in 10 more years I will have a great job in the city (try Germantown), wear power suits and clickity heels (oh no Honey, Target cardigans and square toed flats for you), and be lifting my cherubs up over my head like a Pampers commercial (more like hyper-extending a knee while playing backyard soccer at 7:45 in the morning.).

Since getting married didn't happen until 28, the rest came a little later than my 18 year old self expected.

My twenties were spent living on a farm, back home for grad school, then in a shoebox sized house with the greatest roommates ever.  Holy IHOP were those the best days. Working as a teacher by day, scuttling down to a DC studio by night, I busted my tail off but was rewarded with immediate results.  Hey, I was an adult and lookie here, life was not that hard.  Ha.  I did it.  I arrived in AdultWorld, bought a one-way ticket and still sang my heart out for 14 people who called me Dove.  Yes, I had a stage name and it was Dove.  Life was rich, sweaty, and delicious.

Then my thirties rocked me in the face:  honeymoon over, military spouseness, moves, babies, hyperemesis, colic, solo parenting, more military moves, deployment (more solo parenting), hyper-sensitive children (ie: few play dates), misunderstandings, depression, sensory processing disorder pre-diagnosis (migraines, anxieties, roller coaster behavior), and feeling like my skin was the only thing holding me back from disappearing into desperate fatigue at night.

Aha. Here it is.  I recognize you.  The hard part.

But I stand before it, unafraid. Unbroken. Still playful.

Because when I was very little and when life was hard, playing worked. 

I remember where to go in my gut to pull me through.  I remember how far to dig to scrape for strength.  I remember that I can keep going even when every ounce of my heavy chest wants to lie down and go to sleep forever.

Life is hard, check.

Life is hard for all of us.

 Every single one of us.

Nobody over the age of birth has it easy.

The trick is to keep at it, throw on a good catwalk in your backyard in your worst yoga pants ever, and remember to keep playing.

 A double chin only evens out the playing field.


So yes, while most of the time I'm overwhelmed, underdressed, over-anxious, understimulated, overworked, under-appreciated....

I still got my silly.

And I'm passing that sh*t on.

It comes in handy when you grow up.