Today is the day my Daddy died. It's been years now but when I woke up, got my coffee, looked out the window - those were my thoughts and that's when I began to cry. Just like I do every year. July 5th - I can count on it.
There's no getting over some things. As a woman told me who had lost her husband six months ago, "I'm still not over it,"
Of course your not, I said. You aren't meant to be.
She nodded. Seemed relieved and said, "That's right. That's right."
She left our meeting in a better mood.
We aren't meant to stay stuck in grief to the point we aren't enjoying life but the getting over it. I'll leave that to the other people.
He was a life-long Army man. Loved Holmes creek where he grew up. Knew it better than the back of his hand. After his death I have replayed moments where I wish I had made a different choice. Conversations where I wish I had communicated better. Times he had put out an olive branch to a stubborn teenager or young woman with a wild streak - and I just didn't take it the right way. Those times echoed to long and loud after his death. I wanted to take them back. Over and over again. Fix them. Perfect them. Don't we all. Always.
I pulled in the driveway a few days ago from a family vacation. One of those family get togethers where I flashed all my disfunction obsessions. We must be together. We must all sit next to Nana. We all must pay attention to each other every moment and tell stories. And, and, and - - - this vacation time together must be . . . perfect. Again. That word. My determined expectations. I am precious in my passions. As well as a pain the butt. I'll save that little blog I call Dysfunction Junction what's your function (being mine) for next week but the thread here is the same.
I'm a family girl. One that wants to run and roam. But I'm also the girl that packed her bags when I lived out in New Mexico after Daddy's health took a bad turn. Me and the boys moved back home. My sister packed up her stuff where she was in Georgia and did the same. No matter how crazy our times together may get when we are trying to take a break from life, it's real life we get great. It's real life where we tag-teamed when daddy was in the hospital. She took one shift, I took the other. We rode up and down that elevator so much that people thought we were twins, clones, time warping. We confused them in our coming and going but that weren't at all confused about the fact that we didn't miss a beat. Daddy wasn't there alone.
Daddy died today. One day after the 4th of July. Fireworks now, the sound of them from inside a house brings to mind that night. That last night. I think it was his stubborn that kept him alive that night. A soldier that didn't want to die on Independence Day. He passed the next morning.
My stubborn streak. I come by it honest. I got a double dose. His kind - quiet final, conclusive and my Mama's kind - determined, hard-edged, tenacious.
When I pulled up in the driveway after all those days of family togetherness, after July 4th crazy traffic and traffic jams, heat and more heat, a broken air conditioner. Too many hours on the road. There was Daddy's memorial stone right there in the circle as I turned in. The flag I put up for Mama on the porch blowing in the breeze on the hill. Daddy's old boat sittin' on that broken trailer. Me and sister begging Mama when she moved to please not leave that boat. We couldn't leave that boat. We had to have that boat. No matter how long it had sat up. No matter if we couldn't use it, float it. We had to keep Daddy's boat. It was his lifeblood. It's a freshwater creek boat, the kind you'd use with a cane pole and a red bobber. It's worth nothing but everything.
They fished from that boat just like me and sister did. He took em up in the creek in it when their heads couldn't clear the edge. Showed up how to fish and where the clear springs bubbled up in the swamps. Where you could scoop a cup of water up right there and drink it down. Him grinning to beat the band. Those Cyprus trees rising to the sky, him skulling that boat with one hand, whistling through his teeth.
That man survived Korea. Survived Vietnam. But still --- time and time and time.
Today instead of those missed opportunities, those imperfect moments that stuck out in my mind for years where I didn't say what I wish I had said, I thought of all the times we laughed. Together. Of the way I'd say, Daddy that would light up his smile and no doubt his heart. I saw this wild, long tapestry that was us, our relationship, and I saw how very, very much of it was good. How most of it was really, really good.
And I think about those boys of mine. (Yeah, I call them mine whether they want me to or not.) And how I gave him the greatest gift I could ever have given him by making him a PawPaw. About how my boys became his boys. And as much as this gypsy heart of mine wanted to roam the earth and exotic places, this Southern girl stayed close to home so that they had each other. So we all had each other. While there was still time.
In Daddy's memory I went to chapel and lit a candle. Whispered a prayer. Then bought a watermelon to eat with my baby boy's baby boys. I'll tell them creek stories of their Daddy's Pawpaw and help them remember a man I won't forget.
I think I hear him whistling.
Remember when I said I would introduce a new blog called Go Ask My Mama for Friday'. Well, I did. So pretend it is Friday.
You can send your questions for MY Mama who is full of wit, wisdom, sugar, spice, experience - and stories your questions by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org but put Your MAMA in the subject line so I can catch those easily.
First question to Mama was from me because I said so. I thought I'd get the ball rolling. My question to Mama was
Question: Mama, who is the bravest person you have ever known?
Mama: Bravest? Of all time?
Question: No, bravest you have personally ever known. (Mama is 80 something years young so she has known a lot of people)
Mama: You have asked me something that I've never thought about. Ask it a different way.
Question: Who have you known in your life who is fearless?
Mama: Nobody. Everyone is afraid. But I can tell you who was the most afraid of anybody I ever knew and that was your Uncle Billy.
Question: How did you know?
Mama: Everybody knew but nobody better than he did.
(Now the storytelling will begin in earnest.)
Mama: One night Billy was sittin outside drinking a beer. Just sittin there when he saw something white moving around in the air that spooked him. He kept calling out - If you are somethin, say somethin - but he didn't get an answer so he took his gun and fired all bullets in the air. Next morning his wife found their white sheets, or what was left of them, hanging on the clothes line full of holes.
"If you are somethin, say somethin." (Mama says this again and laughs. I make a note to steal this real, true line to use in a story sometime. If it shows up in your story I will know you stole it from me.)
Then one night he was riding his old horse home when he heard a rustling up ahead of him in the dark. The bushes were moving and a sound coming from him. In a little while the bushes were rustling on the other side of the road ahead of him and it scared him bout to death so he kept trying to get the horse to gallop to his house but the old horse wouldn't pick up speed. (Mama is rocking as she tells this and as she is talking her rocking gets faster and faster) Cause it wasn't nothing but his dog that had heard him coming and come down to meet him walking along thought the bushes. But he didn't know that. (Now Mama starts laughing again and she is laughing so hard she is having a hard time telling me the rest of the story) He thought it was something come to get him. Finally, he was so scared he slid down off the horse and took off running full out. He got home before the horse did. He was always like that. Jumpy and scared of everything.
Thanks Mama for a great story.
PS - My Mama is the bravest, most fearless person I have ever known.
A little fast and furious news from the Hill.
Three wonderful things happened yesterday. Ok, more than three. But these particular three I want to jot down for you.
Our very own Parnassus Peter Taylor returned from South American from his gap year abroad. I don't have time to do the before and after pics here but he left very clean cut and clean. He returned with a big grin and wild hair looking like a man of the world. AND because I screamed OH MY God and basically went running to him he gave me one the best hugs ever. Like a real hug. Like a I JUST GOT BACK FROM SOUTH AMERICA hug not one of those weak fish tiny pats on the back that says geez I wish you wouldn't hug me. Way to go Peter on all good and wonderful things. I can't WAIT to hear about his stories, his writing, his reading, and all about this totally life changing experience. So much so I want to invite him to come on Clearstory Radio and share them with all of us.
A three year old little girl yesterday that was cuter than pie approached me on the sidewalk in front of whole foods to explain she was looking for a blue car and had I seen it. I got a real kick out of this because I was wearing shades and cowgirl boots and don't know why out of all the people she smiled and waved to me and decided I was the person to ask. But I'm glad she did. Her mother was right there with her so she wasn't lost. But obviously was hot and a little over the lines and crowds and ready to find the car and get the heck out of there. I felt Charmed. Chosen.
Friend Silas House had an exquisite reading with musical guests last night at Parnassus to a standing room only crowd. His words were pure honey. They always are.
I'm entering into final edits for Confessions. Excited to be at this stage of the game where we get to wrap up this odd, quirky little book about faith and fiction and fast rides through the lightning storms of nights in the high desert of New Mexico. My deep thanks to awesome Ms. A. and the mighty Grace for bearing with me through my process. Can't wait to get on the road to visit readers, see old friends and make new ones when the book finally arrives in March. Before that you can find me in a few places and I'll be back for more on that later.
TODAY - I'll be live with Clearstory Radio, a literary show with soul - at 1:00 Central on 107.1 and 103.7 in Nashville or streaming through radiofreenashville.org So excited that author Joy Jordan-Lake will be joining me in the studio today to talk about her most recent novel and all things writing, reading, and living in a creative space. Please Join us!
Hope you are living this day with arms wide open and celebrating the light wherever you find it.
I said I was gonna do this and that. Start Mama's Blog called Go Ask My Mama and publish my new Patreon page. I have not. For a few reasons. One being the shutters. I have been painting the shutters and the porch because Mama said -
It just looks so depressing.
To which I said -
It's not depressed. You're just depressed so you see it through depressed eyes.
(Me and Mama have conversations this way. So don't worry. We have been at this relationship for years. Not much has changed except I would say I think we laugh more. And that's a very good thing. We need it.)
So, Mama wanted me to paint the house. I can't afford to paint the house but I did want to please Mama so I stumbled across a house on Pinterest that looked liked mine but it had painted shutters and window-boxes. I sent that picture to cousin Deb and she said - WOW! What a difference. I had to write back that's not my house. But we did get paint for the shutters. It is called FIRECRACKER. We tried little tiny samples of red this and that and the only one that would POP is the FIRECRACKER. I never knew I wanted to have firecracker shutters but I have always known that I wanted to make Mama happy except for a few times that I was too mad to want to make her happy. One was when I was nineteen and the other might have been fifteen. OH, and two other times but outside of that Mama being happy has always been like a goal of mine. My Daddy was just happy. And he was easy to make happier. It didn't take much. A good day fishing whether we caught anything or not was a great day with Daddy. More on Daddy for fathers day.
Mama. Well making her happy was a good thing cause turns out she is right. An old brown house with brown shutters with a side of brown brick is a lot of brown. I would not survive on Survival Island. I've always thought I would but after painting yesterday for four hours in the middle of the day I realize I would be the first to go. The short straw. The weak link. People tell me you are supposed to drink water and not coffee to undertake these types of challenges. That and maybe not painting when it is 454 degrees in the shade. But I am determined. I do have that going for me. And then I have the tiniest little big of that thing where once you get into something like counting toothpicks you can't stop. So now it's all about MUST FINISH PAINTING THE SHUTTERS. Because the fact is it has picked up Mama's spirits considerably and I count that a great thing. Depression hurts at any age. And if happiness and a little relief from that can be had for the price of a gallon of paint and some muscle work on my part - I'm all in.
Now to the news at hand that has saddened my heart.
I'm not going to write much about Anthony Bourdain except for this because the news is full of it. But It's truly why I didn't post that blog yesterday. I didn't see that one coming. Just like Robin Williams who was someone else I admired immensely. One of my sons had been on the security detail for Robin Williams when he went to entertain the troops and I treasured a photo of them together. Like Robin I have been a true fan of Anthony Bourdain since the beginning of No Reservations. I have his shows recorded. I've loved his books which I own. The most important thing to me was his compassion and understanding of people from all walks of life and all cultures. Someone referred to him as a global ambassador and I thought that fit him perfectly.
Years ago I had a dream where I was hanging out with Anthony (or Tony as his friends called him.) We were eating and talking and laughing like old friends. Having the best time and the best conversation. And I think in the dream I actually called him Tony and told him I hated to go but that I had to be in New York the next day to speak so I had to catch a plane. To which he replied, Well, I'll just come with you. So that we could continue our conversation. It was something I always looked forward to as if I would actually meet him in person and we would just pick up that conversation and laughter where we left off.
My heart goes out to all who loved him, to all of his fans, and to those who are experiencing the darkness that drove him to such despair. I am posting a link here for an article written by my good friend author Kerry Madden which just ran in the L.A. Times about how Anthony's death resurrected her painful past with family members who died too young by their own hand.
Maybe, someday in the wide, strange world of the hereafter I could still pick up that conversation like we had never missed a beat. In the meantime, I'll take a deep breath, and rewatch his shows and keep painting those shutters for Mama while she's in this world.
Be ye kind to one another. And, be kind to yourself. This world so desperately needs a gentle touch if any of us are to carry on. And for those who struggle with the dark edges of a depression that leads you down the path of imaging your death here is the link to the National Suicide Hotline. It's NEVER too early to reach out and get help. And it's never something to be ashamed of. 1-800-273-8255
Peace to you and all you love from The Hill,
Wow! It has been way too long since I took time to write and share with you a little news from the hill. In my mind I'm always talking to you, sharing stories and the odd, quirky little things that fill my days. If only you could read my mind. And, I believe some of you can. :)
The green has come in so thick it's wrapped it's arms around the house. Near bout. Almost. The grass is so high out front and going down the hill that the rabbits have moved in. And they have to practically STAND UP to see them. Yes, the grass is that high but did I mention that now the rabbits have moved in and there isn't much more peaceful in the morning than seeing the rabbits nibbling out front while the rooster crows. Not my rooster and I don't have to feed him but I sure would miss him if the folks down there somewhere got rid of him.
My mother missed the sound of a rooster crowing in the morning at the house where I grew up in Panama City. So my uncle got a little rooster and put him in the backyard for her. You just can't take the country out of people who grew up in the country. The rooster would sit up on the chainlink fence every morning and get his crow on. Which is steady and starts when the dawn cracks the edge of light. Mom could hear him bright and early from her bed and it sounded like good old home days. Until the morning that she also heard some neighbors feet running fast and furious past her bedroom window. Then the rooster went missing. No more crowing. Some people just can't appreciate when country comes to town.
I can see Nashville from my porch. Kinda. Well, at night I can see the lights of Nashville as a glow in the eastern sky. That's how close I am but also with all these big trees and birds and raccoons and rabbits and owls and roosters you would think I was a hundred miles away. I have put up bird feeders for Mom and there is a chance that the birds around here have gotten lazy. If the seed runs low they bang on the window and go, Whazup? The hummingbird wars begin right after the rooster sounds off so we have lots of wildlife activity. Some nights the coyotes take up a howl and it stirs me with a wildness. They are in sync and they know something. I think they sing the lament of their people. Of the woods going away little by paved little. And, like that rooster, it's hard to bring a coyote home.
Recently, I took up walking down by the river. There the breeze if there is one will find it's way and the water always brings me back to where I began. It's not salty and it's not the gulf but it's more like my Daddy's creek. It smells some the same. Last afternoon I was there about three or four people stood at the edge with their poles in the water and lines stretched out. Just their profiles, that scene, at once so familiar and a tug on my heart made me smile. I was raised with that simple refrain, What'chu catch? Usually preceded by my Daddy's whistle as he wandered down to meet a boat pulling in at the landing. You can while away a day looking at what people caught and what they used for bait and be the better for it.
Father's Day approaches. I saw a card that read - Still Daddy's little girl. If I could only give it to him. But I have to settle for whispering - Still your girl Daddy. Always will be. And then go on about my business.
That business has been a whole lot of Make Momma Happy Mode. Now, I know what you might say. You can't make anyone happy they have to be happy on their own right. BUT - surely you know some things that people have done for you that has brought love to your door and brought a smile to your face. Mama's soft spot is her plants! OF which she gave away and left many behind when she moved to the hill. So, I have spent some days helping her pot new ones and fixing up the porch for her and she has rocked some and smiled some and so I look at Daddy's picture and since he always loved my Mama something fierce I feel like he is smiling at me just cause I stepped out of my laptop box and did the dirt thing.
Ok, to tell the truth I lost my laptop. That is, I hid it from myself. No, I hid it from any laptop crooks that might break in and steal all my hard work. But then I could not remember where I hit the thing. Hide nor hair. So, I was forced to be constructive in some other way. It never would have happened if I had been able to put my fingers on the keys.
Alright, much more news afoot but I know you have things to do. I'm back on the radio live on Wednesday's at 1:00 on WRFN 107.1 and 103.7 in Nashville. Check out the link for the show to stream live under the ON AIR in menu. I'm working on the final edits for CONFESSIONS which will be out March 2019. The Undercover Reader Posse is such a good time it should be illegal. I'm loving our Secret Saturday calls and you can learn more about that in the link under Reader Posse. The Phonebook Writer Series is about to kick off a great Summer Session so for anyone interested in writing fiction or creative non-fiction stay tuned and check it out. PLUS I have promised to finish my Patreon page and intend to do so by Saturday morning. Mark my words.
Blogging - I am so proud of my students that kicked off their blogs with a bang. More on them and their links soonest! And I am introducing a new Friday Blog series titled - GO ASK MY MAMA! So that you guys can get some of that winning wisdom that anoints my life everyday. :) Get your questions ready. Move over Dear Abby and Lucy in her Psychiatrist box. No one breaks it down like my Mama so you have problems? Issues? Life little balls of string that you can't unwind - Don't worry - You can now GO ASK MY MAMA!
In the meantime - till tomorrow! Love and blessings Ya'll.