Tales From The Heart: Dad

Nova Scotia, July 2017

Of great character
Lovely men earn the prizes
Strong and gentle wins

Cowards wilt in their presence
Fight or flight; laugh while they run

Haiku / Tanka

 

I’ve written a few times about the days of my childhood, when my mother was alone or alone within the presence of an abusive man who tormented her and her children. I’ve even written a bit about that broken man. Yet, I’ve never been able to really put down a word of meaning about the man who would ultimately become my beacon of manly decency, the barometer for all who’d follow and be measured against.

No matter how hard I tried to write a nod of love for Father’s Day or his birthday, whatever event, I would draw a blank or the words I put down felt far too much like a eulogy. Even when I wanted to relay one of his famous tales of hilarity, I’d cringe at how much it felt like I was standing at a funeral lectern; the same feelings washed over me as did when I delivered a eulogy for one of his grandchildren.

Then, this summer holiday, during our annual events of hugs and dinner talk, huge laughter, day trips, familial eye-rolling impatience, and intense political arguments that look like someone’s about to get offed, I entered epiphany territory. If I didn’t say these things now, for him, to him, ultimately my words really would simply become the very thing I feared.

So here it is, not a “Happy Something Day” anything. Just a summer hug to my dad, who as a step-father, stepped in it and all over it in his own inimitable way, to become the embodiment of what a man of decency and character should be. Whose heart was far bigger than he needed to shelter us. Whose protective and respectful love is genuine and unreserved.

He’s shown how it’s done after screw ups. Oh yes, he’s definitely a pro at screwing up, BUT he’s equally adept at employing his best to undo his infractions. His apologies are quick and he fills the holes of his failings with triple the ratio of acts of kindness. I’ve never met a man who wants to make up for his failings as badly as he. It’s one of his most admirable aspects which has repaid him with enormous, widespread respect.

Outside of that, he’s your basic straight shooter, what you see is what you get, and certainly honesty is a key attribute. Well, unless he’s got a story to tell. There’s no doubt he’s got a blarney bone floating in there, but that’s just one more lovable trait, right? I’ve not met anyone yet, who can tell a tale with his level of wit and witty circuitous routes. That’s bonus material right there.

Tin man 7.jpg

Oz never needed to give this Tin Man a heart

And so, if all this isn’t the embodiment of good character, what is? His shoes will always be a bit of a loose fit for someone to fill, but that ain’t no complaint by me. Damned certain neither of us will ever make apology for that. I hope when he sees this note, he’ll feel my respect too. Maybe he’ll even have seen something that surprises. Whatever his feelings, I do know I’ll get a hug not long after.

Thanks, Dad.

RL

Tempered

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Narcissus banished
Comforting reality
New sweet nothings real

Overwhelmingly cherished
All storms tempered by love’s grace

languid

And, I win.

Fabulicious street art, thanks to the wonderful walking & eye spying work of Randall Willis of CreatedByRCW and So, What’s Your Story  Randall’s photo posts are amazing views of art, wildlife and human wildlife… He has gifted me another batch of creativity challenge and for that, I’m thrilled to have the privilege of immersing in poetic thought for most of the summer. Hopefully.

RL

Haiku/Tanka

 

YEAH, TAKING A PERSONAL DAY

So, another major milestone crossed in this life story. As of this very day, I survived and even thrived in another year where the current scenery doesn’t match up to what the old dreams were…

I don’t know if that’s good or bad anymore. I’ve weaved around enough moments to know a story may only look like it’s ended. There are so many corners we can never expect. The best things ever, turn out to be the biggest nightmares, or some of our biggest un-packaged fears are really the sweetest blessings.

If we’re lucky enough, in every year we’ll have people to hold us up while we endure and to share the biggest laughs when we’re soaring.

I am grateful beyond these pitiful words to know I have an amazing child who already takes a stand for what’s right – a sage soul in his beautiful, young mind and body. My parents – my rock, my comfort. (Happy Labour Day, Mom). Auntie Maureen & my friends, well really my sisters and brothers, are my holders and laugh with-ers. I thank them all for their love, wisdom and presence. And presents.

For circumstances that are normally unusual (hopefully), other people may stand out for us. And so it was for me again this year and for that, I am more than grateful to some special souls. I can’t reveal the private details in this missive, but they do deserve public acknowledgement. While they aren’t a part of my nearest circles, their impact was as big as any, and in some ways, pretty likely to have been bigger. So, to –

Kim, Rebekah, Rachel, Bruce, Sandy, Louise – Thank you for sharing your amazing level of knowledge and strengths that have emboldened my courage to speak out in truths. I deeply, deeply appreciate your friendship.

Ned and Beth T. – Thanks for your sheer decency. That’s my personal 5-star rating. Thank you for helping me to understand and accept what I could change or not; especially in seeing what wasn’t within my control, and would never be.

To J, N, C & G – I respect your wishes for anonymity and I thank you, most of all, for listening to me, believing me and in me, for the vindication and trusting me with your own stories along with the parts of ‘our story’. You turned unimaginable madness into dawning awareness that got me through so much. If only more people were as strong, as kick-ass fierce and generous as you in covering another woman’s back.

To the eyes in the sky – thank you for taking me into your hearts too. Thank you for playing such a critical role in righting my sight and spirit… I would never know how to repay you, but then again, I know you don’t need me to. You are serious hero material. I hope someday the people in your world get to see why they should be so proud of you.

And then, there’s you… who, without any payoff or coercion whatsoever, stop by anyway to read what’s going on in my world. Thank you, so much for your time, for your kindnesses, for your likes/comments/emails, for your own tales and your humor. You’ve added so much to my world. … … …

…<cue the music>…

…and thus she trails off singing to herself… happy birthday to me, happy birthday tooOOoo me….

RL

 

With Lois, For The Win

I determined I’d open  2017 with a gratitude post, but to be honest, and this is no complaint, there were so many avenues I could go, I wasn’t sure where to start. I’m privileged enough to have most of my needs met and most importantly, I have pretty amazing family and supportive community.  It was in this, that I felt inspired to say how writing has played a role in winning me some of that love and support.

Years ago I reported for newspapers, later side-lined for an opportunity to make a bigger splash by managing the start-up of a non-profit foundation.  After that, a similar turn in the private sector, and then onto the biggest job ever, motherhood.

Throughout those years, I continued to write – scads of your basic business letters and mountains of personal journals. Then Facebook came along.  Once in awhile I’d wax on, and on…. and on and fill my status box with a full-page of opinion. I’d get pretty good feedback, but more likely, I’d hear from Lois.

loisWe’d met at a performing arts studio where our kids attended.  Lois was smart, an English major and she was a writer. A real one; which she practiced with a business blog.  I enjoyed her replies to my status comments – witty and smart. Sometimes, she intimidated me. Not in a bad way, she made me want to try harder.  Then she brought up the idea of starting a blog. She’d simply suggest it now and then, until one day after yet another of my Facebook essays, her inner- warrior firmly tapped out the order, “Blog, woman”!!!

And thus a new blog was born.

Lois continued the encouragement through my spotty and rough start. I do know I’m not above some clunky writing here and there. Anyway, she was always very kind about it all and this was just an extension of her amazing generosity and wonderful, thoughtful presence.  Our shared connections always gave her the highest marks for decency.

Yes, it’s a cliche’ when I say it feels like only yesterday, when I got that Lois smack-down to work up to something. it’s especially so now, because we lost Lois last October.  A brain tumour discovered a couple of years ago overcame her.  I was out of town when she passed and I wasn’t able to attend her service.  Not unusually, I struggled about what to say to her family, especially from a distance.

I wrote her daughter, Kathryn, a friend also and within that note, I ended up explaining how her mother’s influence affected my life in ways that I’d never told Lois. I asked for permission to print parts of that note here.  I thought my 2017 gratitude for writing couldn’t begin without my 2013 re-start from Lois.  What writing has done for me over the last nearly four years is inextricably tied to her…

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Kathryn… I’ve tried so many times to write something to you about your mother.  It’s hard to admit a loss for words, but it’s especially frustrating when you want to tell someone how sorry you are for their losses of such significance…

I want to tell you what a wonderful person your mother was… is.  But you know that – and I am so glad about that for you and your family.

I want to tell you how much your mother influenced my life.  I want you to know how she actually changed it.  I want you to know that her insistence, with that boot to the butt,  that I write for real, introduced me to a world I had no idea existed and yet there it was, waiting for me to meet dozens of amazing people who would then move me along into opportunities I never could have dreamed were waiting for me.

Even love was there in that new world.  I found all sort of love and that too changed me and grew me up some more.

I would never have found new work that challenged me to use every creative thought I could muster. I would never have found friends that stand like sentries whenever I need.  My whole world would not have been so beautifully enforced.

Initially, I think I found it hard to believe that a writer really thought I was a ‘writer’.  I was once a reporter, but somewhere along the way, I’d lost the idea that what I’d write in my journals could possibly be readable, or understandable, or maybe even helpful to someone else.

Your mother gave that gift back to me. She made me take a chance by offering a glimmer of confidence that I could claim for myself.

So, I want to say, I am so glad and I am so enriched in so many ways to have met Lois Wasstrom.

I thank God for, Lois.

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I’d also mentioned to Kathryn I was certain her mother would always be a guiding force for her family. I can only hope that maybe now and then, she’ll continue to lend a hand to this very grateful writer.

RL

The Love You Make is Equal To…Frickin’ Awesome If You Can Match the Joy This Inspires

Steven tyler 2

When life knocks you onto your buttocks and it feels like you may never catch your breath or a break again, sometimes something really, really wonderful shows up.

Maybe it’s not the lotto win or the love of your life, but it gives you at least a few minutes of awesome respite. Real awe.  Awe, as in the original intention of the term, reverential respect, astonishment, extra special wonder…

I know inspirations can be anything for anyone, but for me, a little gem I came across  a couple of years ago was positively heavenly in its level of power and I have returned to bow at it’s rainbow-hued unicorn hooves as much as needed since.

It is the  2010 Kennedy Center’s honoring of Sir Paul McCartney. It is a masterpiece of musical powerhouses, but within that group of exceptional talent, Steven Tyler, heartbeat of Aerosmith, brought me to my feet especially.

Steven’s initial magnificent mix is in this first link:  Steven Tyler 2010 Kennedy Center Honoring Paul McCartney

But…

But…

If you really, really want to treat yourself to a show that brought the President of the United States, the First Lady, Oprah,  the Sir Paul McCartney and even Sir Stoic, Colin Powell to their feet in joyous glee, watch the whole portion of that tribute: 13 Minutes and 50 Seconds of Sublime 

If this doesn’t have you up in mind, body or spirit, somebody better call the coroner. You have to be dead.

RL

On another note: My 2016 posts were mostly written weeks ago and pre-scheduled for publishing while I’ve been taking care of some things. (see Weird Normal – February 19). I’d hoped by now I’d be back in the saddle fully, but that hasn’t quite worked out. So until I get there, maybe you’ll bear with me & some sporadic posts, maybe you’ll scan some of my older stuff and enjoy the occasional guest post from fabulous people. 
 Cheers for now.   ❤

Weird Normal & Cancer Envy; Part One of Bear With Me

Friends, Ed & E called. They were concerned, curious mostly about the intensity and/or emotional topics on my recent posts, and because I’ve been missing in action.

Bear With Me 4I have been quieter in general, but to address some of their concern, I explained that I usually write about my or other’s experiences in the way they felt at the time of the occurrences. It gives the impression they all happened recently, but really they could have happened yesterday or thirty years ago.

I do mix them up because while they make the point that I want, it also protects people who may need shielding.  I also just like to indulge in a little mystery for fun.

Admittedly, the events of late are not all related to that fun; they have been more unusually taxing. So yes, I’ve been more reserved in my activities and have expressed more personal poignancy in my posts.

I manage a rare disease within my daily routine. For the most part everything about me seems pretty normal, except for when this disease bounces my world into chaos.

To explain the beast in 10 words or less – it’s an inflammation-based disease of all kinds of irritation, but mainly it unpredictably interferes with organ function and defies prognosis.  It’s a pick an organ, any organ to screw with when it’s bored or cranky, kind of bastard. I call these visits by it, the ‘big ones’.

Friends may observe it has pounced by my newly inhibited movement, or noticeable weight loss, or I might be hospitalized for months engaged in hand to hand combat with the Grim Reaper. Sometimes he’s content to just gnaw on a limb for a few weeks.

The moments in between these time-outs are the same as most – work, growing kids, growing me, up days, down days, and once in a while even surviving catastrophic days unrelated to my health.

This fall, previously written about on the loss of someone I loved, and the pain of a betrayal, played into that old myth that these sort of events come in threes.

So, in the midst of the hell, number three showed up, in the form of another scary, frustrating flare-up. It would take another post to detail it and I’d rather leave it at saying I acquired a painful syndrome that they say will take a couple of years to unwind. It also triggered a former crisis. Let the good times roll.

Of course, I’m scared. Yes it troubles me, and yes, I’ve cried. Navigating pain is tricky business & each of these events makes me feel just a little bit or a lot bit, lost at times. There is a real aura of alone because I am in some ways, the least of which is that I have never met anyone who has my disease.

Not that I wish for someone else to have it for company.  It can stir up a weird head space though.  I’ve actually envied cancer patients.  They have so much support, myriad services and immediate sympathy.  And ready understanding.

Once I walked out of a private ‘washroom for disabled’ and a woman waved her cane and loudly castigated me, “You should know this room is for the disabled!”

I’d used the privacy to deal with a temporary drainage bag attached into my belly. I only stared at her, feeling indignant embarrassment as I brushed past her. I wish I would have said something to puncture her presumptions and I still can’t believe I didn’t…

That experience was too new for me to think fast enough.  Maybe.  Probably, I was drugged. I’d later considered wearing a scarf to cover my hair – chemo hair-loss style – whenever I was struck by the big ones. I eventually got over that and earned another level of psyche strength; I definitely don’t feel obligated to always explain myself anymore.

Which leads me toward the point of this post. Well, it will somewhere down the line.

Hindsight is 20/20 when measuring growth through adversity, but when awesome reader/friends, Rebekah Ingram & Randall Willis, zinged me with some gorgeous insight, there was an intriguing moment of ‘aha’!

Their views pointed me to observing the growth & changes in me as they are occurring. Maybe we call it 10/10 forevision. This means I’m paying attention to what’s going on in my feelings, body & spirit now, during these trials, rather than surviving and processing later.

Along with mom & dad flying across the country to hug & assist me, I believe applying this new aspect could, in some ways, help me heal a little faster.

It’s another work in progress, but I look forward to seeing what’s being brought to me and through me with this new process. I’ll start in gratitude to these friends for sharing their caring hearts at just the right time.

 

Pick a Hero, Any Hero, Even if it Turns Out To Be You

I thought I’d speak to another level of resolutions, as the idea of new beginnings for a new year gels for many. I’d originally posted this last spring, but I can’t help thinking the winds of change in progress means looking at the world and our place in it a little more – and that maybe helping people is in itself a full enough belief system…

It would be crushing to write another Dejah story.  Despite the privilege of being able to write about it, I wish there’d never been a Dejah Milne story in the first place.  At least not the way it had to be written because otherwise the right story would say that his mother, father, and sister are still able to hold him and hug him whenever they want.

They’d be able to laugh with him, instead of at videos of his silly fun from days not so long gone by.  They would be able to hear his ‘I love you too’s with his voice.  They’d get to be angry with him for messing up the house, or coming home too late, or maybe denting the car’s bumper.   I know they’d rather that kind of everyday eye-rolling frustration instead of coping with the anguish of his absence now, because at age 13 years, he wasn’t able to overcome the tumour that he’d carried for 10 years.

I don’t want to write those stories if it can be helped at all. I don’t know anyone who does. The problem is, that the problems that end with those stories aren’t finished yet.  There are so many issues that need someone to stand up for them and in support of the cavalcade of teams who work tirelessly to end them once, and honestly for all.

These are the teams of people who have been called, or sometimes brutally and harshly forced, at a spirit level, to take charge in the parts of life that are painful, agonizing, hideous, and terrifying.  That’s heroics.

They are thrown toward the front lines to take on the darkness for us.  They stand and push as far as they can to get answers to the challenges that debilitate or outright steal loved ones from us.  They strive to make our world better, easier, more livable.

They need little from anyone else when it’s all put into perspective.  They’ve already taken on the heavy end of the fight.  They’re slogging, sweating, bleeding, and crying so that the rest of us get to hang back and throw out what we are able, when we can even as, just like us, they still have to navigate the trials of everyday life.

They ask for our help, but not for things like go earn a science degree or a doctorate, or to put our lives on the line, or to organize any kind of effort beyond our ability.

Those calls are usually only pleas to be heard, for us to see what is happening, and they ask us to spend the least of what we wish to.  Then they call us ‘their heroes’ for giving that bit.

Let’s get real please; they aren’t really asking for our heroics.  They are asking us to share only a little of our resources to sustain their herculean efforts for our sake.

Charity Capture distorted 3It doesn’t matter how we acknowledge that they’ve been heard.  Spend your hour of time.  Send your $2, $20, or your $20,000,000 if you can. Send your willingness to walk, run, dance, fast, drive, stand, or create, but whatever you do, please do not ignore these direct calls to your own soul. This is the least we can do, literally.

Look, whatever we choose to support today is directly connected to whatever is to be resolved tomorrow and in the issues in the days after that.  Start by choosing one, any one cause that made you turn your face toward it for even a minute.   We can all help another mother, father, son, brother, daughter and sister not have to spend another day in fear and grief.  That’s kind of heroic, right?

RL