Easy

I remember bringing you home like it was yesterday,
then I blinked,
and you were a toddler,
running us ragged, questioning everything

I blinked again,
and you were a teenager,
spending too much time in your room,
stuck inside your feelings,
treading deep in the soft side of strong

then, I blinked again,
and now you are grown,
about to get your own place,
feeling your way around adulthood

I often find myself looking at you,
and when I do,
I see all of you,
all the versions of you that you’ve been;
I see glimpses of who you’ll be

and I need you to know –
it may not always have been easy,
but you need never apologize –
you’ve always been easy to love

Grace

I open the door,
but she’s not there;
her everyday chair
is empty

in her room,
the quilt is ruffled and twisted on the bed,
the fan has been knocked backward and the footstool pushed to the side of her easy chair,
traumatic evidence,
an eerie, almost-quiet filling the room,
except for the lonely snore-breathing of the dog,
snuggled into her favorite fleece blanket at the bottom of the bed,
waiting for whom she wants most

it’s so strange to be here when she’s not,
when she won’t ever be again,
won’t ever be resting back on the fluff of all her pillows,
reading on her Kindle,
sucking on Good & Plenty’s or chewing on Chick-O-Sticks,
no more belly-laughing at silly meme’s to be heard from the other room

those last few days while she held on,
I spent as many hours as I could sitting next to her;
I told myself even if she wasn’t conscious,
she knew I was there

what I really meant, though,
was that when I looked back on those days,
I would know that I had been there,
that I’d held her hand,
that I’d kissed her forehead and said my goodbye

because it still happens suddenly, even when you’ve been told it’s terminal,
even when your hope and your reason and your reality have collided,
especially when it doesn’t happen in any of the countless scenarios you’ve played out in your mind,
even when she’s begun to fade away more and more,
until you swear you can only see her outline against the sheets,
even when you’ve had the chance to say goodbye

when life leaves,
it’s always sudden

and just as sudden,
sadness moves in and sits with me,
another passenger,
distorting every view,
just like the way the world looks from the bottom of a swimming pool,
when you try like hell to right yourself and find the sun

something in you changes when your mother dies;
you go about the rest of your days just like you have before,
pretending you are fine,
knowing it is all a lie –
for a while,
you become an actor in the play of your own life

because grief is an entity unto itself;
for a time, it makes a tunnel of our lives,
and it is all too easy to lose sight of other people in the darkness with us,
to wish they weren’t there,
so their loss might stop rubbing up against our own

but if I’ve learned anything from watching my mother become fragile,
witnessing her fight like hell to come to terms with the finality of life,
it’s that it’s ok to be sad with someone who is dying,
and it’s ok to sit in the sadness with others;
it is a gift to be invited in close during tender times,
moments of grace we can share with one another

because, in between the question and the answer,
the beginning and the end,
there is always grace

Before

life was Dorothy Hamill haircuts and bright white roller skates with colorful wheels,
dimples and batted eyelashes and 25c ginger ale in returnable bottles

before it became grocery store boxes of hair color and the embarrassment of paper food stamps,
30 pounds of extra weight and fingernails bit to the quick and too many crushed cans of Milwaukee’s Best Lite littering the shitty apartment

life was bruises no one could see and tear-soaked pillow cases,
reduced priced school lunches and ketchup sandwiches at home and too many unasked questions by too many people who were supposed to be doing the asking

before it became her own hands swinging and her mouth repeating and too many more tears on another generation of pillow cases,
expired milk and bare cupboards and needle tracks up arms that have hugged all the wrong people

Ashes


my hands smell like cigars
and the cigar box smells like you
your fake Rolex has some tarnish
it’s charred hands no longer move
my lungs are full of tar
and white smoke fills the room

my hands smell like cigars
and the cigar box smells like you
your silver zippo lost its polish
as your fingers searched for truth
the photos all wear fake smiles
and the eyes are empty rooms

my hands smell like cigars
and the cigar box smells like you
my letter sits in folds
words unspoken split in two
my lungs are full of tar
and white smoke fills the room 

you slipped through my fingers
like the smoke that filled the room
my hands smell like cigars
and the cigar box smells like you
these memories are ashes 
and this cigar box is a tomb

-image via Pinterest

I Am From

I am from Vick and Mussdog, Angela and Michael,
where kindness is valued and everyone is equal.
From coffee breath to trucker burps,
and ear rubs to fire farts,
my family is close-knit.

I am from a distant neighborhood,
where dogs are barking and trees are flowing.
From floral-smelling streets to haunted houses,
and motorcycles roaring to flower petals flying,
my neighborhood is lively.

I am from a traveling family,
where the sounds and sights of nature are like gold.
From birds chirping to waves crashing,
and flowers blooming to gravel crunching,
my visits are breathtaking.

I am from a food loving family,
where we make many inherited recipes.
From the smell of sauce to the taste of meatballs,
and the family bonding to the crackling of grease,
my meals are mouthwatering.

I am from a fortunate home,
where I am happy and healthy.
From family to friends,
and traveling to meals,
my life is a blessing.

-A poem written by my 13 year old daughter and shared with her permission.

Mirror Image

Tucked tightly beneath her chin, her favorite blanket created a cocoon around her as she lay quietly on the couch, everyone else going about their business around her. Sitting on the floor in front of the tv, her two younger half-sisters bickered over who should have control of the remote. Her mother worked in the kitchen, cleaning up from a dinner she hadn’t been able to eat.

More than anything, she wished she was invisible right now, and yet, she couldn’t make herself be alone with her thoughts. 

No matter how hard she tried to divert her attention from the hurt, she could not. It bubbled and boiled beneath her skin. It was sludge, heavy through her veins and a pulsing pressure behind her eyes, threatening release. It sat like a boulder on her chest, making it impossible to breathe deeply. She was afraid if she tried, she might burst.

She didn’t know what to do. How to feel. How to move. Her feelings were so huge and twisted, it seemed as if she’d never escape them. She had no idea how to go about a day without the weight of it pulling every thought to the pit of her stomach, into the darkness.

I wish I didn’t feel anything at all.

She’d hurt her boyfriend, Doug, and she felt terrible. Worse than terrible. It was revolting. But it was even bigger than the immediate hurt; it was much deeper than that.

She’d done something really stupid, sleeping with that other guy, and the guilt had forced her to tell Doug the truth. Well, mostly. The ugliness and shame had kept her from telling him the whole story. And the fear.

She tried really hard not to think about the whole story, because when she did, the loathing was so intense she could taste it’s metallic tang and smell it’s charred blackness. The fear would burn and churn in her stomach until she could feel the sting of bile in the back of her throat. The worst part was, it wasn’t even the first time. She’d done it before and let the guilt liquefy her insides all this time.

I’m just like her. 

It was her biggest fear. She could not let herself be just like her mother.

Her mother had been married five times already, and the sixth would no doubt be soon. They’d moved in and out, and in and out. All of them were men who were not worthy of her mother’s love, none who treated her mother with respect. Men who took. Who hurt. And it seemed as if her mother searched for carbon copies, over and over, leaving the good ones in her wake. She cheated on every one, and always seemed to be looking for a plan B. And it often felt like she and her sisters were just along for the ride, and the ride had no breaks.

How on earth will I ever be able to outrun that? Look what I’ve already done, and I’m only 17.

It took her by complete surprise when her mother knelt down next to the couch and stroked her hair. It was uncharacteristic; she was not cold, but she was also not really a huggy-touchy type. Vulnerability wasn’t in her wheelhouse.

“Are you going to be okay,” her mother asked, making eye contact.

“I don’t want to end up like you,” she replied, through quivering lips and involuntary tears while maintaining eye contact, the hurt ans fear vibrating softly in each word. She couldn’t believe she’d said it aloud, but it had been sitting right there, on the tip of her tongue, for so very long. And maybe, just maybe, her mother might understand. Maybe she could help. Maybe it would help.

But, no other words passed between them. No words were needed; her mother’s eyes had replied.

Hiding tears of her own, her mother stood and walked away.

-image credit studiojoslizen, found via Pinterest; edited older post

My Child

my child,
here you are

some will tell you your whole life is ahead of you,
they’ll draw you a map and tell you how to best reach that life,
and that may very well help lead you to some kind of fulfillment

but I won’t say those things to you –
your whole life is right now,
it’s in every moment you grasp with both hands and hold close,
it’s in every interaction,
every thought, both light and dark,
in every turbulent feeling

I won’t say those things to you,
because I’ve been gifted with all the best moments,
with witnessing you grow,
and watching you blossom,
while I grasped those moments to forever hold them close

I won’t say those things to you,
my child –
I see you grasping moments,
and I trust in YOU

I know you’ll find your own way

-image via Pixabay

Take It or Leave It

don’t be angry;
I haven’t become someone else
in front of your eyes

the problem is,
you don’t want this to be me –
you have always had some idea of me
that doesn’t exist,
some set of expectations I can’t possibly
live up to

you have constructed some ideal based
on something inside you,
and you have seen what you have
wanted to see –
you have refused to see my truth

but it’s been so very exhausting,
and not very fair to have to pretend
all the time

you don’t know me,
but I’ve been right here,
all along

here I am –
take it or leave it

-image via Pinterest, original source unknown