Friday, October 24, 2014

THE YEAR WITHOUT A FATHER


My mother had left me a voicemail at work.  Even before I retrieved it, I
had a feeling that I knew what it was. “Hello?”

“Ms. Marie, you rang?”

“Yes.”

“Is something wrong?”

“I think we have a problem.”

“Which is?”

“It’s your father.  I think he stopped breathing.”

I could feel my mind shutting down and automatic pilot kick in.  “Are you sure he’s not breathing?”

She hesitated.  “Yes.”

“Did you call 9-1-1?”

“No.”

“Do you want me to call 9-1-1?”

“Yes.”

“Is anyone else home?”

“Yes.  Keith and Robin are here.”

“Have one of them call 9-1-1.  You need me?”

“Yes.”

“I’m on my way.”

As I hung up the telephone, it felt like someone was sticking thousands of needles into my face and chest.  I remember thinking God; I hope I’m not having a heart attack. I guess I was in shock.

I walked to my supervisor’s cubicle.  She took one look at my face and stood up.  “Rita, what is it?”

“My father just died,” I replied faintly, and felt tears run down my face.

She immediately put her arms around me.  “I’m so sorry, sit down.”   She took my hands.

“I have to leave.”

“I know.  Who can I get to drive you home?”

I wiped my face.  “I can drive.”

But she wouldn’t hear of it.  “You may think you’re okay but I’ll feel better if someone else drives you.”

I thought for a second and regained my composure.  “Leena in HR.  I’m sure she’d be able to.”

“You stay right here and I’ll get her.”

I stayed seated in Terry’s cube as I tried to fathom the fact that my father was dead and no one had called the ambulance.  Then I saw Leena race by on her way to my cube.  I stood up as she came back and saw me; then she ran over and enveloped me in a hug, murmuring words of comfort.  Sure enough, that started me crying again but only for few seconds.

“Where’s your stuff?  Are you ready to go?”

“I have to turn off my computer and get my purse.”

“I can take care of that,” Terry said.

“I have to fill out a form for leaving early.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Terry said as the three of us made it over to my cube.  “Leena, can you pull your car up?  Rita and I will meet you there so we can avoid any questions.”

“Sure thing.”  She gave me another squeeze.  “I’ll meet you in a couple of minutes.”

At my cube I quickly put an ‘out of office’ message on my email, told Terry that I’d do the phone voicemail later and collected my purse and little work bag.  She thought we should go out the back way to avoid any questions, and I agreed.  However, when we got to the back entrance, there was no Leena.  After a couple of minutes we realized that she probably went to the front lobby entrance, so we went there and luckily didn’t encounter anyone on the way. 

Sure enough, after a minute Leena drove up and I got into her car.  “Don’t worry, I’ll get you home real quick,” she said in her Louisiana drawl.

That proved to be prophetic.  I had no idea her little Honda could go that fast; but thankfully there were no state troopers on the highway that afternoon.  Even though I know we talked, it’s difficult to remember much of what was said.  I told her about what my mother had said, and she asked, “Do you think anyone did call 9-1-1?”

“I’m sure someone did.” I had my hands tightly clasped together.  I was subconsciously willing the car to go faster because I knew I needed to get to my parents’ house.

When we finally hit that block I could see there was already an ambulance in attendance, and a police car was there as well.  “This doesn’t look good,” I said.

Leena pulled up at the service station right next door and I jumped out of the car after quickly grabbing my things.  She followed me into the house…


Tomorrow marks 10 years since I lost my father.   This is an excerpt from a book I wanted to write about his last year with us. But as you can see: I wasn’t able to do it.

I loved my father and I still miss him. And that year was one that had a major impact on my life, and changed me in ways I didn’t anticipate.

Hmm, maybe this will be the year I finish the book. Within the next 12 months, conceivably. With that being said: I’ll keep you posted…

Miss you Daddy Clank.

 

Monday, September 1, 2014

What's That Like?

I took Kitty to the store this afternoon. When we came home, I pulled into our parking spot and I just happened to look at my rear-view mirror and out the back window. I saw my neighbors from across the way getting out of their vehicle and going into their townhouse. That got me thinking: what's that like?  What's it like to actually live with someone you love, that loves you back just as much?


I left my husband a lifetime ago, with 2 babies I have raised myself. In all of these years I have never lived with anyone other than my daughters. I felt that I needed to set a good example especially since I had girls to raise, and raise properly.


So I set my "good example" but now I wonder: did I miss out on something special?


Sure I dated on occasion, and I've even been engaged a couple of times. But none of that panned out into the type of relationship that I'm missing now.


I am looking for forever. I am looking for the relationship where I am the woman: not the one where I have to be the man too. Where are the real men: the ones who don't play games. The ones with their own vehicles, jobs, and abodes? The emotionally mature ones who know how to court and how to treat a woman with respect? The ones who are there for the good times and bad, and who love unconditionally? I'm looking for the ones who accept me for who I am and don't try to change me. And how about that man who realizes I don't have the body of a 20-year-old because I'm not 20?? And loves all of this chocolaty goodness because he realizes how special I am, and how this body can still turn it out? I'm looking for that man.


So who knows? Maybe, before I know it, this will happen. So instead of me watching my neighbor go into her house with her boyfriend, I'll be greeted at the door by my man: the one whom God finds worthy of me, After all: as the child of the King, that makes me a Princess. And that's what I deserve.



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Visit From An Old Friend

Last night my good friend Dave Thomas (not to be confused with the Wendy's guy) was IM'ing me about a project he is embarking on. Dave and I met when we were both working at WCKM and I just adore him. Afterwards, I fell asleep. Since he and I had been talking about radio, I had a dream about a guy I used to know...




JK and I met in the radio program at Adirondack Community College more years ago than I'd like to mention. We couldn't have been more different: I was a girl of color, he was white. I was citified and he was country, I liked R&B and he liked classic rock. I was 17 and he was 30 and had served in Vietnam. But that didn't stop us from becoming friends and developing feelings for each other. It was a rather innocent relationship since I intended to remain a virgin until marriage. But we still went to mixers and parties, danced and made out, and all was relatively well.




But of course it couldn't last; and the last time I saw him was my second year of college. The last time I heard from him was a year after that. He had moved to California and sent me a letter. I responded but then didn't hear back from him.




So getting back to the dream: I saw him and went up to give him a big hug. He had always had the best hair: long, luxurious dark chocolate brown and I always loved to run my fingers through it. So of course in the dream I did this and he was smiling. Then I started noticing things. He was wearing a plaid shirt and jeans, and I noticed that they were very faded. I then noticed that he smelled differently: something I didn't recognize. And then I noticed that he looked kind of faded. But he was still my JK.




I went to work today and told my co-worker Amy about the dream. She said, "Why don't you Google him and see if he's around somewhere?" I said he had a really common name; but I went to Google and put in "John Kelley Whitehall". Imagine my shock when his obituary was the first thing that popped up! I gasped and Amy said, "Is that him?" I answered yes. She said, "I'm so sorry" and went back to her desk while I quietly shed a couple of tears for him. He died July 15, 2013...




Apparently, talking to Dave T. about radio got my subconscious thinking about when I studied radio, so JK came to mind. I believe that he was faded in my "dream" because it was his spirit paying me a visit. I had wondered what had become of him after all these years. I just wish I had looked for him sooner. My daughter says that I have a kind spirit, which is why I get these periodic "visits" from those who have passed. I am glad I got to "see" him.




So in honor of JK, here is the poem I wrote for him when I was 17:




Nature’s Son, Freedom’s Child.


Wind-kissed, sun blessed,


Yet his soul is not at rest.


 


Elusive as a passing thought.


Out of reach, like a star;


With you yet his thoughts are far.


 


Alighting for a too-brief moment


Only to be off again:


Afraid of too much time to spend.


 


Moody as an Autumn sky,


Sometimes brooding, tempest-laden,


Other times: a sun drenched haven.


 


A gentleness like summer rain.


The pacifying quality


Of calming, sweet serenity.


 


Indian Summer in the flesh.


Radiating warmth and peace.


Unfortunate:  it soon will cease.


 


A kindred spirit with the sea.


A tranquil surface, only under


Untamed passions much like thunder.


 


Spending time within himself.


Solitary as the night


Before the rays of morning light.


 


The only master of himself.


Forever planning to run wild:


Nature’s Son, Freedom’s Child."

R.I.P. my friend...


 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Power of Treats




Even though I am an adult, I still have a child-like fascination with some things that I know are more kid oriented. And sometimes that can get you into trouble.

For instance, just last week I had to go to the drug store to pick up a prescription. I was going to go to the drive-thru, but for some reason there was a man sitting on the ground IN the way of driving up to the window. So…instead of running him over I had to park and go in.

At my local Rite Aid as soon as you walk in, there are the registers on your right. Of course, on the shelves beneath the register counter are rows of gum and candy. Being a big kid at heart, I was immediately drawn to the colorful rows and was looking to see what was on sale. Not because I was necessarily going to stock up on dark chocolate Kit Kats and Midnight Milky Ways, but because I just like looking at candy. It makes me happy.

Anyhoo, as I was slowly walking with my eyes riveted to the candy like an eager child, I never saw the large display of discounted wind chimes on my left. And yes: I walked right into the display, setting off a cacophony of chimes and bongs and tinkles that could have awakened the dead: especially since the main one I hit was the biggest one of all!  Embarrassed, I quickly skulked away before anyone could come up and see what or who was making that racket!

This was bad enough, but doesn’t begin to compare to what happened to my brother Carl when we were kids.  I was maybe four, Keith was six and Carl was seven. Back then, there was no Mr. Ding-A-Ling: we had the Mr. Softee ice cream truck. He would come down our street every day in the summer, and my mother would give us money to get a treat. He not only had frozen treats: he also had: SOFT ICE CREAM! The best chocolate ice cream EVER, until I discovered Dairy Queen. But I digress…

So one summer day in the early afternoon, we were playing around the house when we heard the music of the ice cream truck heading down the street. As usual, we stopped what we were doing and clamored around my mother for money. She complied but told us to wait until the truck came to our side of the street.

But Carl didn’t listen.  He heard that music and ran out of the house and across the street. Luckily there wasn’t any traffic. Keith and I were still on the porch, waiting for Mr. Softee to come to our side of the street because we were obedient children.

Carl got his ice cream and was so happy and blinded by the treat that he walked right out into the street licking his cone. He never saw the car coming, never heard the horn honking, never heard the brakes squealing and never heard my mother screaming.  That car, by the grace of God and the power of those brakes, bumped Carl and shoved him a few feet.  Carl stumbled but never broke stride or stopped licking that ice cream cone!

The driver got out of his car, shaking, and said to my mother, “He walked right out into the street!”  My mother wasn’t mad at the driver because she’d seen the whole incident. But she was LIVID at Carl! She yelled at him about how he could have been killed, took his ice cream and then banned ALL OF US from having any more Mr. Softee for the rest of the summer. I didn’t know why Keith and I had to be punished too, but my mother’s word was law.

Even the pets aren’t immune. When the cats hear the treat bag open, they immediately go to their designated “treatie” spots so they don’t miss out. I just give the treats to the cats, but I make Pumpkin work for hers. So she has learned to do all of her tricks at once, without me even telling her which trick I want, so all of her bases are covered. She’s a little smarty!


Just goes to show what the power of treats can do to you J

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Long Gone But Not Forgotten

When I was a freshman in Junior High, my older brother approached me one Saturday afternoon and asked me if I'd babysit for a friend of his that night. "Sure," I answered, because who didn't like earning a little extra money. "Who is it?"
He told me who the friend was, that it was his little brother.


Now as a little sister, I had a HUGE crush on this particular friend so I was happy to babysit for the family. "How old is the kid?"  Keith answered, "He's 13."


This didn't sound right because I was 13! "Um...why does a 13-year-old need a babysitter? And how come I don't know him? Shouldn't we be in the same class?"


Keith explained to me that Mark had a heart condition and had gone through several surgeries, and had missed a lot of school. And because of the heart condition they didn't like to leave him alone. So I wasn't there to "babysit", per se, but more for company. And when Keith mentioned what they'd pay, I was all in.


So my father took me over at the appropriate time and I met Mark for the first time. Yes he was a little small for his age, but he was cheerful and friendly and a real good kid. He was only in 7th grade because of the surgeries. Anyway, we hit it off and he told me a bit about what it was like living with his particular condition; and he showed me the long scar that ran down the middle of his chest. We watched TV and had a snack, until it was time for him to go to bed. I felt kind of weird telling a kid my own age to go to bed, but rules were rules and he knew them.


That left me to my own devices so I remember I turned the TV to the Miss America pageant and curled up on the couch. Then after about an hour, my crush, Johnny, came walking through the door. It was the 70's so of course he had the flowing Peter Frampton hair, requisite t-shirt and tight hip hugger bell bottoms. What wasn't to love, ha-ha?  I jumped up and told him I'd call my dad to pick me up but he said not to worry: I could finish watching the show and then call my father. And for the next 45 minutes I was in heaven: pretending I was on a date with him and sharing some Freihofer's chocolate chip cookies. Afterwards, I called my father after being paid a handsome sum, and went home.


I kept Mark company several more times that year, I didn't get another magical night with Johnny but that was okay. It was nice to also see Mark in school and say hi so he got the thrill of an "upperclassman" having him in their radar. But we never let anyone know I wads his babysitter.


I haven't thought about Mark in longer than I can remember. But I was driving home from church today and he crossed my mind. He died a little over a year after I first babysat him. He was a good kid who definitely was gone too soon, but I'm so glad I had the chance to meet him. He was courageous and bright and the glass was always half-full. If more of us could have even half of the optimism he had about life: then how much brighter our lives would be. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Best Gift Of All

This year I told the girls that under no circumstances are they to give me a list of what they want for Christmas. “But why not?” they whined. “Because you’re grownups with jobs and can buy anything you want for yourselves!” I replied. “Plus, I think I know you well enough to be able to pick out something appropriate.” Sheesh!

So without a list Kitty became very nervous, thinking that I wouldn’t get it right. She resorted to dropping ideas in casual conversation. “Oh mom, remember how much I enjoyed Fat Albert as a kid? I bet the entire collection would be nice for someone to have.”  Or calling me from the mall before work: “Hey mom, I’m sending you a picture of these really neat hoods they have here in the mall. My hood is getting kind of old.  Just saying!”  Yep: she’s a subtle as a Mack truck.

Brie isn’t as bad. She said, “You know me well enough to get me something I’ll like. And I know you don’t have much money, so whatever you find for me is fine.”

I tested this theory. I went around the kitchen, picking up random items. “Okay then, how about I wrap up this can of dog food, this grapefruit, this Harlequin romance, my CD, the Yankee candle in the middle of the table and this roll of paper towels? Is that okay? I can wrap them right up!” Brie said, “Kitty! Mom is going to wrap up all of this stuff for Christmas presents!” Kitty got an alarmed look on her face and said, “But those are your gifts, right?” Brie and I had to laugh at that!

With Christmas speeding towards us due to our late Thanksgiving, and roundabout talk of presents, I started thinking of what my favorite present was. And you’ll be very surprised…

When I was a child, we always went to North Carolina for Christmas because that’s where my parents were originally from. We had lots of relatives down there, and it was always fun to get together with the southern cousins for a few days.  My family always stayed with my maternal grandparents and I adored them. They didn’t have much: Granddaddy was a tobacco farmer and Grandma was a housewife. But what they didn’t have in material possessions they more than made up for in love. They had a cozy house with a woodstove for heat. Grandma was an AWESOME cook, and those were the days when no one worried about cholesterol, or sugar or fried foods.
  
But getting to the best present ever: my Grandma had a sewing machine and she would always make me an outfit, like a jumper with a blouse to go with it. As much as I loved her homemade clothes, there was something that was even better…

Each Christmas, for all of the kids, she would take a small paper lunch bag and fill it with nuts like Brazils, pecans and walnuts; one orange, one apple and some of that old-fashioned hard mixed candy that usually ended up sticking to everything.  But that was the present that I always looked forward to the most! I can’t explain it: but that bag of treats from a woman I loved so much always meant the world to me, even if I didn’t eat all of the candy (couldn’t stand the raspberry filled and would give them to my brother, haha).  That little paper bag represented love, warmth, wonderful food and a cozy wood fire. It represented Grandma rocking the youngest kids in her rocking chair. And mostly it represented family and love.

Now I can’t imagine what my girls would do if they opened their stockings on Christmas and discovered something like that in it. But to me: if I found that, it would be a very Merry Christmas…love you Cleo <3

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Yanni Jr.

I had a dream last night about an old "friend". In the dream his sister had found me and told me that he wanted to see me because he was dying. His brother was there too. I had never met either before, but they were very nice in my dream.

So in honor of my friend, here's a poem.


Standing in front of the closet,

Deciding what to wear.

Should I put on black or red?

And what’s up with my hair?
 

I was going on a date

With someone who seemed nice.

We had spoken on the phone

Not once, not twice, but thrice.
 

It  was a blind date, after all

So I should choose with care.

Long skirt, short skirt or a dress?

Stockings or legs bare?
 

Satisfied, I grabbed my keys

And headed out the door.

Entering the restaurant

My jaw dropped to the floor.


Every woman has a man

That is her fantasy.

Here was mine, his hand outstretched:

My date looked just like Yanni!
 

Long dark hair, mustache in place,

Eyes long-lashed and green.

As far as a blind date he was

The best I’d ever seen!
 

We had dinner; well, he did.

I lost my appetite.

I was in such awe of him

I couldn’t eat a bite.
 

However, conversation flowed:

He was so damned smart!

As we talked I swear I felt that

Cupid shoot his dart.
 

As time went on I found it hard

To truly understand,

How I had been lucky enough

To find this Yanni-man.
 

His looks not only fit the bill

His wallet fit it too.

He said, “Take care of your kids,

“And I’ll take care of you.”
 

I had no complaints with that

And thought I’d found my man.

Turned out I was wrong again

Fate dealt a rotten hand.
 

Although we were the best of friends

I wanted so much more.

He couldn’t give his all to me

So I walked out the door.
 

I wanted husband, lover, friend

I thought he’d want the same.

It didn’t quite work out that way,

I’ve just myself to blame.
 

Yanni Jr. couldn’t quite

Commit himself to me.

The culprit to our happiness?

His homosexuality.
 

He tried denying what was true

To me right from the start.

But still I couldn’t stop myself

From giving him my heart.
 

Don’t think that I went blindly in,

The signals were sure there.

Underneath the big green eyes

And flowing, Yanni hair.
 

Foolishly I thought my love could

Get us past this glitch.

And it did for two great years

But then went in the ditch.
 

Thankfully we never made it

To sharing the same bed.

Otherwise this stage of life

I’d be facing with dread.
 

Trying to deny yourself

Is wrong right from the start.

Especially when what you do

Affects another’s heart.
 

Get all your information first

And please don’t be like me.

An important question does concern

His sexuality.
 

Even if he loves you it is

Doubtful that he’ll change,

Just forget the picket fence and

Big home on the range.
 

Do he and I still keep in touch?

Our paths sometimes do cross.

Of course I wish him all the best

I know he feels the loss.
 

The moral of the story is

Don’t enter love blindly.

Even if your dream comes true

And he looks just like Yanni.

 

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