Build your nest near My altar, and I will be your children's source of security, protection, provision and blessing. Psalm 84

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Twenty years have passed (since we first met)

Today, this week really,  has been bittersweet . Although I've been aware of and preparing for it to happen, I was still a little blindsided when Ruby handed me the mail today and in it was my official divorce decree. There are MANY reasons (too many to list or even for some to understand) that I never pursued divorce. But my choices weren't without reason and very heavy consideration. 

Suffice it to say, it was never super relevant to me to fight a battle I had no intention of losing before I needed to. And it was never my battle to fight. Today officially marks 19 years and 18 days of being in limbo by choosing not to choose. And it has been a good /hard decision for me.  Albeit, odd to most people. I just felt like I should acknowledge that 19 years ago I said 'I do' with every intention of 'til death do us part'.  I celebrated with family and friends and a mariachi band. And even though along with those vows have come many days of uncertainty and heartache, I would do it all over again. Because in those moments I spoke my truth. I don't regret the days that followed.  They have made me who I always was meant to be. Among the best, Ruby's mom. A fierce mama and a friend to those walking a similar path. 

I will always wish things could have been different, that's the way of my heart. I wish better choices could have been made and different paths taken.  But if I've learned one thing it is that we have no control over other people's choices and actions. We can cry, get mad, carry heavy resentment but there comes a time when it's just too heavy and you must go your own way and wish them no ill. 

I will always grieve the loss of what I hoped it could've been. I will carry a remaining scar of an undeserved hurt for something that I will probably never completely understand. And I will allow myself to honor who I was, who we were in that moment in time.  Here's to all of us who hang on in spite of that uncertainty until new winds redirect our course. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Silver Swan

It's hard to believe nearly 20 years ago, this silver beauty took her maiden voyage. She had clocked 9 miles prior to driving her off the lot. The first (and probably last) new car I have ever owned.  Her story initially made a less than stellar effect on my life. I was indifferent at best. I'll start from the beginning though because I think she deserves her own shining moment. Even if it in fact comes at the end of her well purposed life.

In August of 2000, I was finishing my plans for my September wedding. Most everything was planned and coordinated. Flowers were picked, dresses ordered, veil waiting to be pressed. So, this makes the purchase of "Delilah" that much more vivid in my mind.  On my way into work, teaching at a job I loved, I was t-boned by another car that ran a red light at 17th and L street.  My car (my first Jeep) became airborne flipping upside down leaving me suspended for 30 minutes.  I should add that this jeep was my first car I had purchased on my own and in an effort to get it paid for quickly I was making triple payments each month. And as fate would have it, I had only one more payment left on it.

The first thing I asked my then boss, (who was behind me in her own car and witnessed the scene) wasn't if I was ok, but rather, "is it totaled?" She sadly said "yes, I think so" as she sweetly laid on the street with her hand pushed through a small crack opening on the driver side window to hold my hand. I didn't realize I was upside down. I actually wasn't really too panicked at the moment. I just replied to her "well, I think I'm going to be a little late to work today." Shock is a funny thing. I remember a motorcycle cop looking in on me and I heard him say "I'm not touching this." I waited
for the fire department to arrive and use the jaws of life to cut me out . My only casualty was a small bruise on my forearm from one of the firemen lifting me up and over the back seat and out the hatch.

I should add here that my parents had only recently moved back to town and I didn't know their phone number. And in my stupidity as a young 20 something I'd written in fake names for my emergency contacts in my work file (i.e.:Sean Penn was listed as my husband). Luckily, I'd had enough sense to list my sister who was then called. She was a then new mom with a 3 month old. The call went to her answering machine (yes I'm that old) but she heard it and picked up, rushing to the scene.  In her re-telling of the story she arrived to find my jeep turned upside down and a crowd with a police officer taking notes. But, she couldn't find me. She yelled "hey where is my sister?!" and someone finally told her I'd already left by ambulance.

Now here is the part of the story that makes me laugh the most and tear up at the same time. She immediately called my dad and said "Becky has been in an accident and she's at the hospital, but...she's okay!" My father in his own panic yells "You lead with that Melissa! You lead with that!" We still laugh about that today. Suffice to say, I was in fact fine. I also made the 5 and 6 o'clock news. It was literally my 5 minutes of fame. (Which incidentally if you live in a small town you better call and tell your immediate relatives and friends you're fine or they WILL HEAR this on the news and panic as well)!

But, I digress. This story isn't about the totaled Jeep. It's about how Delilah (a name Ruby fondly dubbed her)  would become my main mode of transportation for the next 20 years. I ended up having to quickly find a replacement car and went to what was then Chrysler Jeep. There were two Jeep Cherokees to choose from. Color options were red or silver. I am not a huge fan of red, so process of elimination I bought the last jeep of this body style that would ever be produced. I remember my dad and Edgar being so excited about me buying a new car. I was less than enthusiastic since I knew it meant having another car payment. I also loved the blue color of my previous Jeep.

I don't remember much haggling or paper work. Just signing a few things and leaving. I drove her home. In the next few weeks we would drive her to Arizona for our honeymoon.  She was a reliable work car when we lived out in Rio Bravo that first year. She took us to all of our trips to the beach, held all my crap when we moved 5 times in the next 2 years and she carried my new born baby in her carseat the fire department had installed for me.  She would continue to be a faithful friend through several jobs, a growing toddler and a single mom raising her baby all the way into her high-school years.

She had some common issues that come as cars age. A radiator or two needed replacing, a/c would become intermittent, brakes and tires would need replacing. But she carried on.  She took us camping and to the beach for our mother daughter trips to find our sea glass.  She made it to Ikea and the Chaffee Zoo, to Disneyland and Magic Mountain. But as all things do, she became worn. She had months of breaking down and months where we were home free. I taught myself to change radiator hoses, signal switches, lights and the lift gate strut. I took the steering column off to reach sensors. I wired things back into place to make her start. And I googled "Jeep Cherokee 2001" so often that Google would eventually auto fill it in before I finished typing.

Two years ago, before my dad passed away, Delilah's check engine light came on once again.  This time it was something called a neutral safety switch. I had it repaired, but the light returned within a few miles. I took it back,  but the scenario repeated itself. I was able to re set the codes and get it to pass smog the August my dad died. I truly felt it was him giving me a nod and helping me at a low
point in my life.  I drove it away with the smog certificate as the light reappeared. For two years I drove her with the engine light on. Not wanting to deal with it since it had no real affect on how she
drove. And this past June I began making many (failed) attempts to have it repaired enough to pass California state requirements. After 3 mechanics and days of my life I will never get back, I made a
final ditch effort at the suggestion of the last mechanic.  He said he could make it pass by cutting some wires, me driving it to re set the codes and then taking it quickly to a smog check station. In order to attempt this last bit, Delilah in her last hurrah, decided to crap out on the 58 needing a new alternator. I went back and forth for weeks deciding whether to scrap her or risk it. I rolled the die. And this time, I lost big.  The alternator works perfectly, the check engine light however will live on in infamy.

I've struggled with whether to keep up the good fight. I could take her to yet another smog mechanic and leave her for weeks on end while someone else attempts to revive her at a potentially high cost to me. Or, I can salvage her for the $1500 the state of California has deemed her worthy of. They obviously don't know her. They don't know how she carried me through the happiest times of my life as well as through the darkest  moments of despair. Driving around with an asthmatic child in the wee hours of the early morning and many visits to urgent care. They don't know how she drove Ruby to her first day of kindergarten, and her last day of junior year. Or how when things seemed to never go right she'd drive us up the mountain where we could spend the day breathing clean air and having our deepest conversations. How could they know she held most of our worldly possessions as we made new starts. Or that my teenage daughter would learn to drive for the first time in  her. (And how I had always promised Ruby that some day she could have her when she finally learned to drive.)

Perhaps, as I always do, I've thought way too much about all of this. I've written too many pros and cons lists. I've walked away from a dozen used cars and car lots, none measuring up to what Delilah has given to us. Maybe I've over thought so much and so often that I forgot that she leaks oil at a
rapid rate, the a/c isn't super cool and the headliner is staple gunned into place. No, I see her for what she was to us. I see her and I thank her ala Marie Kondo style. I look longingly at the 4 new tires I just finished paying off and the less than 1 week old alternator I just paid for.  And as I jokingly told my mom as we drove her home from the mechanic, she's lived a good life, it's time to take her home on hospice and let her finish out the rest of her days leaking oil on my driveway where she belongs.

Tomorrow, I will take her for her final voyage, her last journey and her final farewell. I will drive her to the salvage yard. I will hand over the keys. And she will live on in other cars that will take from her only the parts they need. And they will find a faithful friend. And a spirit of determination from a car that literally drove us 20 good long years into our future.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

20 Dadisms

 I can still hear my dad's voice in moments of personal joy, success, crisis and stress. He would meet me where I was with anecdotes and wisdom.  My dad was a worrier much like I am, so I always felt like he "got" me and my irrational fears. (Which was comforting).  In honor of my first Father's Day without him here earth side, here is a little tribute to him. Thanks for the lessons dad. I love you!

20 Dadisms
(In no particular order)

  1. "You can't get blood from a turnip" (you can't get something that doesn't exist)
2. "You will always have 3 slops and a flop as long as I'm around." (When I didn't have rent)
3. "I hope you never have any less. (When I was feeling especially sorry for myself)
4. " Illegitimi non carborundum--Don't let the bastards get you down." (On those particularly bad days, my dad would tell me this. It always made me laugh)
5.  "The Apple don't fall far from the tree!" (When he was most proud of me)
6. "Flattery will get you everywhere!" (How to get what you want in life)
7. "Always take the promotion!" (Seeking his advice on whether I should take a new job.)
8. "When someone shows you their true colors, believe them." Also known as "fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me."
9.  "You don't treat someone based on how they treat you, because that isn't who YOU are!" Those moments I would tell him how I wanted to pay someone back for hurting me.
10. "Kill them with kindness." Encouraging me to use my energy in a constructive way
11. "It'll cost you a Yankee dime!" Payment in the form of a kiss.
12. "Your actions speak louder than your words." Always do the right thing.
13.  "If you come to me with problems in your marriage, I will always send you back to work them out. If you come to me with marks on your body, I will work it out!"
14.  "Life gets tedious, don't it?" followed by his rendition of "Foolish Questions". On those days life seemed very unfair.
15. "You're my favorite, just don't tell your siblings." self explanatory. 😂
16. "There is not a debtors prison, Rebecca!" When I came to him scared because I couldn't make my credit card payment. I'd used it to buy food and diapers. I was convinced I was heading for jail time.
17. When someone totaled my car, my dad came down to the attorneys office with me.  Although it was not my fault and the person admitted at the scene they had run a red light, when we read the accident report they had recanted saying they were not at fault. I kept asking him why a person would not tell the truth? I just couldn't wrap my mind around it. I think that affected me so much. He said it was probably just insurance related but it was in that moment I understood my father had taught me integrity.
18. "I know people in the court system." When I was worried about something happening to me and Ruby would be on her own, my dad was always the first person to ease my fears and tell me he knew how to work the system and she would always be taken care of. I have always known my dad would go to bat for me.
19. "We will do whatever it takes and sell whatever we need to to get her the care she needs." When Ruby's cat scan on her brain showed an anomaly I went directly to my parents. I didn't have good insurance and my dad met us at the door with tears in his eyes. I will never forget his words.
20. "I'm proud of you." I'm proud of you too, Dad.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

My compass

These past few days, I've been sitting near my father watching him actively die.  The heaviness is indescribable.  All of the months of not being able to get him comfortable for more than 15 minute intervals has somehow eased into a calm, quiet rhythm that keeps me even more alert.  I walk into the room and anticipate his eyes searching for me.  I leave the room knowing I can only be gone a second or two before he is looking for me.  Only now, he isn't.  The strangeness of this new calm is both comforting and terrifying. I am grateful my dad is finally comfortable enough to rest.  And yet, I know that the dad who has stood by me through every major life decision is slowly leaving me.  The other day I was so overwhelmed and stressed, I called my mom and sought out her comfort.  I could hear my dad in the back ground asking who was on the phone.  I asked her to let me speak with my dad.  When I heard his voice I started to cry.  He immediately snapped into dad mode asking what was wrong.  I told him I was sad and worried about him.  And as he always, always does he told me not to worry and went on to comfort me.  And I think, how will I ever go on without him imparting his wisdom? How do we move forward when his physical presence is no longer sitting in the recliner holding court with one of his many stories of his childhood or days that he spent in the service?  When I'm lost and looking, my dad is my moral compass, my safe place, the one who always makes sure the doors are locked at night.  He has been a good provider, but he has been the best dad and grandpa.  He is truly the smartest person I've ever met.  And by far the best story teller and songsmith you would ever come across.  Even in his sleep yesterday I heard him hum a few lines of a song. I couldn't recognize the lyrics, but it made me feel better knowing even in this dream like state, he is still able to remember the tune.  Keep singing, Daddy. Because I'm still listening and learning from you.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

the process of grief

Since my dad's diagnosis and subsequent hospital and rehab stays, on the off chance I have a few moments to step back and actually think straight, I often find my eyes welling up with tears.  Maybe I'm walking down the aisle at the grocery store and I think "All these people around me...they don't know this, but my dad is dying."  My amazing, sweet, funny, loving dad, is slowly dying a horrific death.  I find myself wanting to do absurd things, like lay down on the cool tile in the middle of the produce section and bawl like a baby.  I want to scream out that yes there are so many horrific diseases...but this one is doubly cruel.  Because all the while my father is dying from an incurable disease,  I am experiencing the loss of the most incredible man I know to a death all its own.  I'm plagued by the fact that my mother is single-handedly caring for the man she has loved for more than 50 years.  That she will certainly shorten her own life expectancy by taking on a task too great for any one person.  I try to be there as often as possible.  Because to me, helping my parents is never a question of IF, it's a matter of HOW.  And it has been a gift (a hard and difficult one to accept) to be able to share a small part of this journey.  And it has been an eye opener to see how sickness can literally destroy a family and its ties.  I lived under a very false assumption that when someone got sick, everyone showed up.  That *showing up* was a given.  I have learned the hard way that this is not the case.  That my expectations are only my own.  I've been mad as hell about that part.  Still have sudden waves of anger, but I've learned to bide my time, let it pass, ebb and flow.  I think how things could be (should be) so much easier if we all could give of ourselves a little more.  It would be life changing.  I say that over and over  again in my head.  Life changing.  And I realize maybe letting go and giving in is the only way to keep moving forward.  That the images of my strong, brilliant dad can still reside in the part of my brain that now also carries the traumatic moments these months have shown me.  I can't forget my dad with tears in his eyes, not understanding what was happening to him.. I can't push away the memories of seeing him on the gurney or unresponsive until 6 bags of fluid were pushed into him.  I can't un-see his face, white as a ghost, his hands freezing and eyes full of fear looking at me with trust in his eyes.  Or the way the paramedics looked at me as if to say I'm sorry because we know how horrible this is.  I can't forget the searching and searching for a vein, until finally the nurse (at my mother's urgent request to stop poking him) moved to a last resort of a rarely used spot near the ankle.  And I will never forget my mother rising to every single occasion when no one should have been given this much to bear.  And she carries it with grace, no complaint, never resting.  She is his constant, his world.  They are my world.  Nothing could be more important.  I carry tremendous guilt for putting my own daughter off.  But this is crisis mode.  She understands.  But it kills me.  How do you balance?  It isn't black and white.  The anxiety eats you up alive.  If I'm not physically there, I'm researching.  I'm googling.  I'm checking out every book on the topic, looking for something we've missed.  I'm praying on my knees, begging (no longer for answers, we are past that) but for solutions and ideas to help us where we are now.  And those moments I'm staring into the great abyss of the fruit and vegetable aisle?  I'm only thinking how my mom is no longer allowed this freedom.  She tells me this is their new normal, that people do what people can do, that I shouldn't worry so much.  And she tells me that she is fine.  Because my mom still protects me at 44.  In the midst of her own suffering and loss, she finds time to mother me.  That's what parents do.  And in spite of my selfish tendencies, I hope I can in some small, tiny way be an anchor for them during this storm. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

running through my head

Oh the aching feeling I sometimes get when I think back to the past. The ache to change things, spend more time with friends I love, have fewer regrets. And closure. I don't have much of that. I have a very physical sense of heaviness at times. I mean, stop me in my tracks, heavy.  Missed opportunities to say the things I wish I'd said.  And sometimes the memories come so quickly, I lose my footing. I start realizing how quickly time is flying. How the minutes have added up to many years. And I want to revisit the places that became so significant to my present self.  I want to surround myself with the friends that were there and the music that was playing. And when I hear someone is moving or changing or leaving, I can almost not bear it.  I have to propel myself to the here and now and not focus on what lies ahead.  And that's hard. I don't like change and am most comfortable with predictability.  Maybe that is why my relationships sometimes end on a rough note. It's the only way I can part with them.  Sever ties, so heartache won't consume me.  But, it does anyway.  Life is forever moving on and my attempts at stopping it are futile. Worry sets in.  Did I do this all wrong? Does peace exist for even me? Is uneasiness just something that never leaves us? That wakes us from a deep sleep and leaves us piecing back the images? Precious. That is the word that doesn't leave me.  Moments so painful and joyful and lonely and overflowing. They give me that push forward into the unknown. I forgo reliving it all on a daily basis and often can't recall, vividly enough, how I ended up where I am now.  But those unannounced, uninvited moments that come at the most vulnerable times, right when I am waking...those are the hardest and most beautiful of all.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Being by the Sea

I am not brave. Let me start off with that. I wish I were. Brave in the spur of the moment kind of way. It's out of my comfort zone. To dive, head first, into the great unknown. But, sometimes, life presents itself in such a way that even I can throw caution to the wind.

Ruby LOVES the ocean. A lot. She prefers it over most any other destination. Disneyland included. So, when I was doing some research for our upcoming October trip to the Happiest Place on Earth, I decided to type a beach destination into the search engine.  And we ended up with a very spontaneous, last minute trip to San Simeon Lodge by the Sea.

 I grew up taking road trips with my family. The memories are so vivid and the times we shared are something I look back on with such fondness.  I want to let her experience these rites of passage as I once did.  Baby steps, right? 

We ended up staying in the cutest motel along the freeway, overlooking the ocean.  It felt safe, which is huge for this mama.  It was also close (walking distance) to the shore line where we spent a lot of our time searching for sea glass and shells. 

On the second day after we arrived, we took a drive up the coast line and ended up in a tourist-y souvenir shop.  It was full of over priced toys and t-shirts.  In one corner of the store however was a treasure chest holding brown paper sacks.  They were each sealed and labeled for a girl or boy and ranged from $1.50 up $3.00. The catch?  These treasures were grab bags and you had no clue what you were getting.  And the sign clearly stated, NO REFUNDS!

Oh how my girl weighed and measured and finally decided on the best choice of brown paper sack.  (Did you know there is something so very exciting about the unknown treasure?) She busted that bag open as soon as I'd laid down the $1.50 and was so happy to find a little plastic sea turtle she immediately called George. 

For the next few days, George went everywhere we did. He searched for shells, rode inside the sand bucket and had a shot gun view as we drove along our merry way.  He was a good sport really.  I loved that my 10 year old really connected with this little guy.  She is on the brink of  growing past that magical age of pretending. 

I took at least a hundred pictures, and looking at them now, I see this little girl, growing into this amazing young lady. Her sense of humor and timing had me laughing and realizing how much she *gets* this world around her.  She's so brave and smart and I find myself wanting to be like her.  I stood back and watched her interact with people. She did the talking, and I the observing.  She made friends and studied sea life under a microscope with a Marine Biology student. They talked about plankton and crustaceans. She helped rescue a star fish and offered her sand bucket full of water to carry him to safety. 

As we were sitting under the pier looking through the washed up pebbles, I wondered what her memory would be when she is older. Would she remember the sand in her toes, the smell of the ocean or the time we spent painstakingly looking for bits of glass that seemed to just appear out of nowhere. 

For now, I was happy to ride shot gun along with George, into this great adventure:)