Thursday, August 30, 2007
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
A fluffy gray kitty rests in my lap as I settle on the couch to drink my first cup of coffee. She looks up at me with half-closed eyes and begins to purr. "Oh, Sophie...this is the last morning like this for awhile." She continues to gaze at me lovingly, oblivious to the fact that I just dropped a bombshell. "Grandma Joan", as Nick calls her to Sophie, will stop by daily to offer her a little company and feed her the Fancy Feast she so dearly loves.
Tomorrow, I will begin my first real vacation in God knows how long. Around about April, we were out eating when Nick said, "I did something this week, and I've tried to keep it a secret, but I just can't." I waited for him to continue, wondering which direction that statement would go. "I bought airline tickets. I'm taking you to The Keys for your birthday."
We couldn't take a good picture to save our lives!
My suitcase is mostly packed, but knowing myself as I do, I will most likely empty it tonight and then pack it all over again. My aunts gave me early birthday presents at work yesterday, and today is my last day at work. The last week has been a blur, and I have been stressed out with the [overwhelming] bevy of details...but as that fluffy gray kitty pounced on my belly early this morning, I woke up and looked to Nick (who had just stirred), whispering, "I'm excited."
Drinking coffee while looking at a Southern sunrise, running with the shoreline in view, a week sightseeing and exploring, celebrating number twenty-six in a most unforgettable way..."I'm excited," doesn't really do it justice.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
"We are not human beings, but human becomings," I can still hear my eight grade English teacher reciting. The emotion has lodged in my throat the past several days, and today came my catharsis, when I released something, some sort of bitterness I've clung to for so long that I didn't know where it ended and I began. It didn't consume me, but it was there, a very unchristian hoarding that I had convinced myself that I didn't have.
My Dad. He really is a great man. His eyes are the blue of glaciers, and they glisten with tears when you least expect it, sending to to the same wonderful fate. My adult relationship with this man has been strained to say the least. I don't mean to say that it has been poor, only that I was spoiled by how easy it was for me to know my mother and to love the stuffing out of her. My father and I didn't really know one another by the time I graduated high school.
I remember the proud father who often came to be the parent-helper at my preschool over the two years I was there, I remember the man who kept every gaudy key chain that I ever made for him during craft time, and I remember the beefy sandpaper paws of his that held my little-girl-hands so gently. Then, my brother started having severe behavioral problems, and my memories of him grow fewer and farther in between. Mom and I were often left to live with the chemical imbalance that was dropped into our laps, and I believe that this alliance was the root to our incredible closeness. Dad had his own business. He could find places to be when he didn't want to be home. Mom and I had to hold the fort.
I guess I've always kind of held it against him without meaning to do so—I am the biggest proponent of forgive and forget, yet I held on to this hurt. I constructed it into a shield that I used to keep myself from being truly close to my father. It is unfair to blame someone for their frailty. I have been wrong.
I went to visit with him one night this week. I've taken to doing this on a somewhat regular basis...which started because it made him feel good...and has continued because it sort of makes me feel good too. While there, Charlie called, and upon hearing that I was at the house, wished Dad to send his love to me. I said something to the effect of how prideful I am of my brother, how fiercely devoted I am to the person he has become...and how I never imagined such a day would come while self-locked in my bedroom while he beat against the barrier. No good could come from him getting through, I knew this to be true. These days, I leave the figurative door open, and give him a key just in case it should close without my notice. People change.
Coming out of my reverie, I heard a sniffle and turned sharply toward my father who sat kitty-corner from me in the living room. "I'm sorry, Laura," he said and I was caught off guard. "I'm sorry that I wasn't there." That was all he said. I was never certain that he understood my distance. I had never voiced my reasons, had never alluded to them...as already stated, I barely understood my distance.
The statement has been reverberating in my mind for days, and I've had the most wonderful sensation of warmth, reward...peace. It has a name: forgiveness.
We went to Dad's church this morning, Burke Lutheran held their special outdoor service at 10:00, and I promised I would go. The gospel was from Luke 13, about the woman who had suffered with disease eighteen years before Jesus picked her from a crowd and made her well. The sermon instructed us to be patient for our cure. The prayer at the end of the children's sermon summed it best, "Lord, help us wait. Help us trust you."
I brought the message back to Dad, who had been unable to hear the sermon (having volunteered his services to the cookout to take place immediately following). He has been struggling with his empty house. Today he was limping quite badly, having injured his ankle the night before. Had he gone to the doctor? No, there was no one at home to force him there while he convinced himself he could walk it off. Then I understood his emptiness, and I was humbled by how little I have let him into my life.
And my phone rings. Hours later, after Nick and I have returned from a last bit of shopping before our vacation which begins at the end of this week. "Hello?" It is him, letting me know that he has his ankle elevated and iced as he promised he would do as soon as his duties with the cookout were satisfied. I smiled, happy he called to tell me so. "Good. Thank you. You'll get in to see the doctor tomorrow?"
"Yeah. Hey, listen, I wanted to thank you for coming today. It meant a lot to me. I..." he hesitated and I heard his voice grow thick, "...also wanted to let you know that I am really impressed with where you are in life. I am really proud of who you are. I thought maybe you should know that."
I am smiling right now, too busy thinking of him to figure out how to wrap up this rambling mess of a post. I have my daddy back again, the one who patiently baited my hook AND took off the fish time after time, and gave us rides on his back while he crawled around on all four limbs...the one to whom I no longer feel like a disappointment.
Dear Lord, it was worth the wait.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
We knew we wanted to go biking in Minocqua this year. We were all set to do the trip last year, and then that pesky tumor of mine reared its ugly head. I've wanted to do the B.A.T.S. Trail for quite some time...Minocqua was a little place that I grew up visiting once a year, and it is very close to my heart. I wanted to rent bikes and do the trails the last time I was in the area, in September of 2005. When Miles couldn't find the time to go with me during the entire week we were there, my mother, whose liver was failing at the hands of Cancer, and my aunt, whose arthritic knee caused her daily grief, offered to do it with me. I kindly declined, thinking I would feel guilty afterwards...but can only think now what a fun day that would have been.
But, as I am so fond of doing, I am going back and crossing another item off of my list of "Someday" things to do. This time, I won't even have to rent a bike, being quite fond of my own, one that Brenda helped me to acquire early last Summer, before I knew that all of my months of not feeling "quite right" would be coming to a head shortly. It's the best, honestly. I love it. Anyway, I've made hard-won reservations now. Immediately, I looked at the local calendar to see what was going on, why lodging was so scarce—I found this.
I was hoping that we would be up there for the Colorama festival, and this was to blame. No, it is the other big festival that we will be present for: Beef-A-Rama. Jokingly, I emailed Nick a link for the event's Rump Roast Run, seeing as this is a dead period for fun runs now until our Thanksgiving morning 5K. And, well, what started as a joke, ended with me logging into my Active.com account and registering for the race. I talked to Brenda over drinks, appalled, that I was entering a race wherein the first place prize was a rump roast. She licked her chops and asked that I give mine to her once I've won it. I had to refrain from snorting.
"No way I'll win," I finally got out, tapping the side of my beer. "I've discovered this."
Sunday, August 19, 2007
It's been a rocky path to where I am today, fraught with poor choices and matronly zeal—Aunt Brenda was the first to show me that lace can go there. And that was in my teens. And to my mother's chagrin, I liked lace there. I am sure she didn't appreciate my aunt's assistance that her nighttime commando regime should be the reason she's never suffered from the perils of yeast, but I was a teenager ready to question everything I ever did just because my parents did it, and so I found myself ready to shun my collection of white cotton briefs (and maybe try a pair in pink instead).
Fast forward many years, many uncomfortable experiments, irritating needs to tug at oneself in public, and my first pair of low-rise jeans, and I know...I know...that God had his hand in producing that first pair of hipsters. There can be nothing better.
It was a rough week for me due to multiple reasons, and I found myself distracted the majority of the time. Sophie did not think much of not being the center of my world, and I found her quite pushy, often slamming her body into me and lolling onto her back to look up at me and purr, "I'm irresistible, you know I am." The other morning, Nick was jauntier exiting the bed than myself, and I heard Sophie's collar bell as she walked around the bed to my side in curiosity.
"Morning, Sophie!" I crooned and she jumped to snuggle her little bunny's butt (all it's missing is the cotton ball tail!) into me, purring wildly and making sure I didn't ignore her this time. I stroked the downy fur on the crown of her head and smiled to myself. Was it so long ago that she would run at the sound of us, and hiss if we accidentally looked her in the eye? Was it so very long ago that I confessed my fears to my aunts that she had too much wild in her, that we had adopted a feral kitten that was too old and too unsocialized to human beings from the rescue shelter? It must have been, although we've only had this darling fluff ball a scant 4 months.
I hate to break it to you, Puss...but I think you're tame.
(And, if your love of potato chips, pretzels, melted butter, and microwave popcorn are any indication, you like it that way.)
Thursday, August 16, 2007
When graphics artists share a computer...
Emotionally spent, I took a call from my father the next morning after what would have been Mom's 50th. I was weary with crying, weary with longing, and weary with doing it all behind closed doors because this is now her second birthday that I've celebrated without her, and I wouldn't want to be accused of being overly dramatic. I am okay with her death most of the time (well, as "okay" as a person can be with choices that weren't theirs to make), but Mother's day and her birthday just hit me...the two days a year that I dedicated always to her.
"Hello, doing better today?" He had called the day before and knew I was having a tough time. He had told me that, just like last year, he was going to buy a birthday balloon and tie it to the iron planter at her grave.
"I think so," I replied. "Did you ever make it out to Mom's grave yesterday? I don't think you had been there yet when I stopped by." I had left work early to to buy flowers and place them there.
"I was there first thing in the morning! The balloon wasn't there!? I did stop, Laura, I did!" He had started to cry. I felt like crap for saying anything.
"Well...who knows...maybe Charlie stopped by and wanted it..." I tried to give a soothing explanation.
"No, Charlie didn't think he could go. Said it was too hard."
And then I stopped feeling like a loser for my 20 minute cry at her final resting place, which was really more of a whispered mantra of, "I miss you—oh, God, do I miss you..." because with my father crying in my ear and my brother momentarily dropping off of the face of the planet, it was obvious that I wasn't the only one that finds August the 14th incredibly painful.
Dad later went back to the cemetery and found the balloon ribbon still tied, but the balloon gone. He called again to say, "Maybe your Mom just liked the balloon and snatched it up." I do rather like that idea.
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