by a thread

IMG_7422Last night dreams just seemed to tumble through my head one after the other, rich and crazy and busy and wild.  I didn’t get up and start writing any of it down, but I wish I had, because it seems clear that my unconscious has something it wants me to hear.

I know one thing. I was about to take flight in a fighter jet. I was cool with it, too. The invitation came out of the blue, so to speak, and I didn’t hesitate. I knew I wanted to go up in the fighter jet, and I would.

Then there was the strange group of people, an unlikely mixture of fundamentalists and progressives, all sitting at a group of big tables. One of the fundamentalists was holding forth, everyone else keeping politely quiet, until finally one progressive guy just burst out laughing. And the fundamentalist turned, full of offense, toward him. But the progressive guy just somehow managed to de-fuse the moment while simultaneously giving himself and the others time to speak.

How about the scene where this huge machine was going to be moved from wherever-it-was-we-were to, I think, Washington D.C. It was some sort of mammoth machine, an innovation created locally by an individual, at their house. It was discovered, however, and certain people realized how important it was, so it had to be moved so it could be used. (Ah ha!) And then ensued this amazing scene of a gigantic train operation, as preparations were made to oh-so-carefully move the machine and all that. People scurrying about everywhere, and various pieces of equipment and cranes. Everything busy and purposeful. It seemed as if it was all in disarray, but in fact it was just the commotion of things gelling toward the objective. And over there was Midgley, leaning against the big fender of an industrial-sized truck, just smiling at me, wordless.

IMG_7421These are just the bits and pieces I can recall. A very hopeful set of clips, though, I would say. And as always, there’s so much value in trying to capture these things, writing them down. Even as I was writing the preceding paragraph, I suddenly knew what/who the machine was. And the progressive guy, I’m guessing that’s the old right brain finally piping up, scoffing at all the left brain nay-saying. (Thank you, Mike!) The fighter jet, well, that’s pretty transparent.

I stay perched on this precipice, though, don’t I? Still not quite willing yet to let myself fall and see my wings unfold, as Ray Bradbury suggested. I’m held back by mere threads at this point, but so far, they’re still holding. Need to find my little scissors, my snips. I could probably just bite them with my teeth. That’s all it will take, just a step.

“There’s something you haven’t said, something you haven’t done, some light that needs to be switched on and it needs to be taken care of. Now.” Hugh MacLeod.

writing, and not

And then I wonder why I can’t write. I mean, it’s what I do. I can’t really help it. I write. And write.  In all this sorting through of things, it’s just astonishing the myriad and disparate wanderings of my mind inked on to this page and that page consistently if sporadically over all the years. The pages were hidden here and there, so I stumble across them, each time a surprise. I documented so much, it’s both wonderful and awful. I write in my sleep. I wake in the middle of the night to hear myself crafting a sentence.

And then today, and yesterday, and well, yes, I guess, the day before, I actually want to write, and simply cannot. What stands between me and the words I so dearly love and hate to log?

Writing is a an act of vulnerability, but this, this is vulnerable. It’s not just the writing, it’s the doing, just living, just being.

It’s this old, too familiar chaos. It’s a way of life. I suddenly walk back into it, and I don’t know any other way to respond. I am panicked, I am unequal to it. I am ashamed. I am afraid. I am frozen, unable to make a move. I am wary. I am about to be discovered. I am waiting it out. Again. And then I feel selfish and guilty for this introspection, this hunt for a fix, that won’t seem to turn itself off.  I guess that makes me both fearful and unworthy to open that gift, my gift.

But look. Even now, when I cannot write, I am writing about it.

no crime in dreaming, a valentine

skyWhat with all the on-going sorting (yes, I am still sorting), I came across this little item, a poem I penned for Valentine’s Day in what was obviously another life. Despite knowing what I know now, and despite everything that transpired since those early, deluded days, it still made me smile. No crime in dreaming.


The sun-blue ocean washing over white warmed sand
A soft breeze that fills the sail
Fresh cut daisies in a happy hand
A purring cat encircled by its tail
… you are these to me.

A free fluffy cloud in a bright sky
A pair of eyes behind blades of grass
A joyful heart breathing a contented sigh
The sound of skates on moonlit glass
… you are these to me.

The star in the sky that I wish on at night
The airplane I watch ‘til it goes out of sight
The soft grey dove that coos to its mate
Your soul in your eyes on our wedding day
… you are these to me.

The love that you show
The ways you make me know
Smiles, laughter, kisses, hugs
A dream I can hold in my arms
… you are these, and so much more to me.

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends.

on the road

IMG_7279I nervously but happily wend my way down I-75, south, heading into Ohio. I have a couple of ramps and a box of straps stowed in the back of the pickup, lent to me by my buddy just before I left town. I’m on a mission, and it gives me a sense of confidence where I have often had little.

I stop for gas in a place strange to me. Hopping out of the truck, I realize I don’t need a jacket and there is no snow anywhere.

I negotiate the winding multi-lane pathway that is Dayton, and then just south of there, roll off on the exit and head for the truck stop.

Sure enough, there he is. My son stands larger than life, clad neck to foot in a yellow jumpsuit near his motorcycle. He has ridden it up from south Florida. It was one cold trip, and I can easily see the cold is not out of him. He has the Florida tan, but his young face is grizzled with the ride.

His numerous bags and various pieces of equipment are spread out in a long line next to the bike. He  arrived about 15 minutes ahead of me, and used the time to unload the bike while he tried to warm up. There is his tent, his camp stove, bags of tools, helmet, gloves. An umbrella. I guess you just never know when you’re going to need an umbrella.

I pull up with the truck and jump out to get him inside my arms. This whole cross country motorcycle thing is hard on a mom, you know. And here it is winter, and no one sees motorcycles on a good day, much less when no one really expects to see one at all.

People are looking at the small spectacle of his journey. One gnarly aging man hovers close, drawn into the experience as if by a magnet. He sports a smile, a work jacket that lets me know his name is John, and a black cap that announces that his boss is Jesus.

We set the ramps up, and between my son and John, the big bike is easily rolled up into the back of my pickup and set at an angle to fit. The box of straps is broken open, and the bike is tied down. I go in to the truck stop to fuel up with coffee, and then we head north to Michigan where we are expecting rain and freezing rain after the heavy snows we have lately received. Our new friend John gives us a happy nod as we pull out.

And then there’s about 5 hours of unadulterated one-on-one time, learning again who this amazing person is, who he is becoming. It’s both honest and brash, and gentle and tentative as we tread into each other’s lives again.

He puts his favorite CD’s in, and points out his favorite songs. He revels in the warmth of the truck after the many hours of frigid riding he’s been doing. He’s excited about where the road’s going. And so am I.

What a gift. I am startled when I look at him, to see the adult in his face at the same time I can still see the child. What a gift to have this opportunity to discover him again where he’s at on life’s road – to see him and share in this very moment. I am continually astounded and privileged to be witness to the unfolding of my children – to glimpse the soul inside of them. Simply amazing.

around the clock

It’s one of those kind of calls no one likes to get. Where something’s wrong. Where it’s wrong enough that you know maybe the day will end with someone else not in it. Someone important to you, perhaps dear to you.

So I listen carefully to all the information I’m hearing. I make notes. Wheezing. Not eating. Chest x-ray ordered stat. Fluid on the lungs. Congestive heart failure. This is my dad we’re talking about.

Almost without thinking, I pack my little bag. A notebook. A pen. A book. My beloved cryptograms. Hand sanitizer. Phone charger. The list of issues, the list of warnings about which meds not to use, and why. Almost as if I expected to be spending endless hours in a hospital waiting room.

It’s a constant battle with the medical system, fighting to keep an aged loved one alive with respect and honor and quality of life. I’m sure each individual tries to do their part, but the fact is, once the system gets a hold of a very old person, it’s as if it does its best to kill them, and they are, in fact, pretty successful at it. Been down this road too much, a road I never wanted to go down at all. Went down the road first with my mom. They finally succeeded in her case, despite our best efforts.

Yeah. It’s true. I don’t have a lot of faith in the system. Not for a very aged person, at any rate. It’s as if they become inanimate, a guinea pig at best, forgotten or even targeted at worst. It’s not just advocacy, it’s a damned around-the-clock fight.

Everyone knows it. So right now, the fight is to keep him from falling into the clutches of the hospital. Right now, he’s in loving arms – skilled, loving arms that noticed right away something was not right. That jumped right away to see what was going on. That will work to do everything they can to right things. Once he crosses the line, however, they have to let go and relinquish him to that system. Essentially, that means saying goodbye.

Yeah, ultimately, we will have to say goodbye. But what a world of difference, to be plugged in, prodded, poked, and simultaneously pestered and ignored to death – around the clock – by an indifferent, monolithic, profit-driven medical system. Or. To be held, to be loved, to have comfort rendered, to be cherished, respected, honored, to have your pains and worries diminished – to death, around the clock.

free to leave

printsThe snow stole in overnight and neatly laid down about a half a foot of snow all over everything. The wind followed, shaping drifts and rearranging the landscape. It carried on through the morning.

I looked out my window, and I could see my neighbor out in his unplowed driveway. He had his red pickup truck with the camper on it. For weeks now, that camper has been sitting by itself in the driveway.

Henry bought both the truck and the camper not all that long ago so that he could execute his plan to get out of here. The dream was to get to Florida, and to set up there and just live simply in his little camper, go fishing, that sort of thing. He figured he could make a living diving, because he had training in some kind of diving work.

It was an angry dream. He’s been hell bent on it for at least a few years.

Divorced I don’t know when, Henry moved in some years ago with his daughter and his motorcycle. He always laughed, and always smiled, and always swaggered. He worked hard, and commuted long to make things go. When someone hit a deer in front of my place and left it in the ditch, he was all over the fresh kill. He threw parties in the summer, where he did all the cooking, laughing all the while his motorcycle buddies drank beer and ate up.

When Henry’s daughter was about 16, she started hanging out with boys. Then, she started telling lies, and spending overnights somewhere else. When she turned 18, she up and moved out to live with her boyfriend. And Henry was just finally done.

That’s when he started trying to escape. First, he moved into a rented trailer inside a pole barn near his work during the winter, so he didn’t have to commute all the time. The commute was like an hour and a half.

Then, he got a boat. It was a power boat with a name like Happy Hooker, and the plan was to live on it. Which he did for one summer, again at a place closer to work.

But underneath it, he was still just angry. He told me there was nothing here and why would you stay. There are no jobs. And you can’t sell a house around here, so maybe he’d just board it up and leave, don’t you know. And women, well, he was just done with them. Still, it took him a few years, a lot of disappointment, and a relentless childlike hope, to get him out in that driveway yesterday.

He didn’t say goodbye. I knew when I saw him out there in all that snow, checking and doublechecking, making trips inside the house and back to the camper. He was finally Florida-bound.

He must have quit his job and his long commute, and finally said what the hell. And I don’t know who it was, but a woman hopped into the passenger seat. Maybe in the end it wasn’t desperation in the driver’s seat after all.

The red truck backed out through all the swirling snow, and left. Could be all the anger’s just sitting in the driveway, left for the wind to do its work on it. I hope so.

Happy trails, Henry.

keySomeplace safe.
Where I’m the only one who has the key.
I can sit up late with the light on, because I don’t have to keep watch in the dark.
There’s no to do list here.
I sleep at night. No surprises.
I don’t wonder when your anger will boil over into my life again.
Because I’m someplace safe.
I draw all the lines here. No one gets to cross without my say-so.
And no one thinks of trying.
I don’t wonder where you are or what you’re doing
or when you’re coming back.
I don’t care how you feel, I’m not gauging your mood.
This is my space. It’s safe.
I don’t stand silent on watch.
My eyes don’t follow the passing car lights.
I don’t wonder what that sound means.
I’m not prepared.

Everything is just where I left it.
My book is open.
I don’t have to get dressed.
There’s nothing to defend.
There’s no rationalizing, justifying, explaining.
No self-soothing.
No recovery time.
Nothing to be done.
Someplace safe.