Monthly Archives: June 2014

Writing 101- Day 7- Moving Day, Here and There

Scratching his head as he sums up the situation, “Wow, you have a lot of stuff”.

“It’s actually not that bad” I say as I piled the last bag of clothes on the mountain of bursting hefty bags. “We can throw these bags over the rail and then it’s just the last of the boxes that need to be carried down”. “All of the furniture I’m taking is already loaded, the rest is staying here for Merry who’s renting my apartment”.

“What time you leaving?” he says with raised eyebrow.

“Noon sharp”, I say adding “There’s a few more people coming to help and say goodbye too”.

“OK, then we better get to it”.

“Let’s just sit and drink a cup of coffee first, we have time. I told people to be here at 10”.

“I’m going to miss seeing you guys around here” he says as he takes the recycled gas station cup of steaming brew I offer.

“I’ll miss you too” I say my eyes filling with emotion, “This community really embraced us after Jim died and I will always be thankful that James was able to grow up living here”. Little James wanders out of his bedroom carrying an armful of stuffed toys.

“Hey little guy, you all packed?”

Ignoring the question little James grabs a tennis ball from the Rubbermaid tote by the door “Mom, can I go out front and play?”

“Just stay in the yard” I call as he bounds out the door.

“How’s he handling it”?

“He loves it here. His friends, the elementary school, the church, it’s all he’s ever known”. “I think he’ll be ok once we get there.”

“Well you guys better stay in touch.”

“We’ll call you when we get there and there’s always Facebook.”

“I hate Facebook.” he says

“Well you better start liking it. We’ll be posting our adventures on the way out. We’re taking our time and stopping at the Cedar Point Amusement Park and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” “I told James to think of this as our vacation, just me and him.”

A little while later as I head to the truck arms full of memories little James appears.

“I remember when I got this ball!” James grabs excitedly at the milk crate full of sporting goods on the back of the truck. “Will I get to play baseball there?” James asks

“Yes James, Grampy and Uncle Matt tell me there’s a little league team at your new school and a baseball camp this summer that they got you all signed up for. I know you’ll make lots of new friends”.

“Where are you going put it all?” As he yanks on the handle and the back of the U-haul slams shut.

“We’re renting a storage unit until we get our own place”.

“So you’re staying with your folks?”

“Right now they need me. Dad is having a hard time keeping up with the house, and Mom needs supervision when he’s not home. Her memory is getting worse and she forgets to take care of her diabetes. She even forgets to eat sometimes.”

“Geez, that’s tough. At least James will get to know them better.”

“Yea and I’m hoping I can help Dad set up some services for her. In my heart I know that this is what we need to do.”

“How long does it take to get there?”

“It’s a solid 24 hrs of driving bet we’re stopping to stay in hotels a couple of nights.”

“With a pool, right Mom!” James pipes up.

“You bet buddy!” I say.

As I hop up into the truck I call to James “Co-Pilot?”

“CHECK!”

“Snacks?”

“Check!”

“Rudolf”

“CHECK!” A little Mew comes from the cat carrier between the seats.

In the rear view mirror as we pull out a crowd has gathered to wish us off.

“Drive safe!”, “Safe travels!” “Good luck” …. “Love You!”
I beep the horn and James hangs out the window waving until we turn the corner.

You can “Get there from here” I think. And we are going.

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Day Six- Writing 101- Character study

The Piano Man
It was easy to imagine how he had been in his previous life. The life of the party, eternally youthful, quick witted, self -effacing, and popular with drinking acquaintances. He was a great debater and social commentator who never took a stand on, or gave a true opinion about, anything. He was more interested in being liked than being real.
He is a talented musician and has accompanied many well known artists over the years. He avoided the spotlight, gave his talent away freely in support of his band mates, and he was not one to brag, or even take credit for his own accomplishments. Natural musical ability allowed him to play almost any instrument including banjo, guitar, drums and piano in any style. An agreeable, low-key demeanor with a desire to please others made him malleable and easy to work with. His preference was always Jazz because of the room it gave him for interpretation. The only time he could every feel at peace and be himself, for himself, was when he was in his zone, playing his feelings out. Writing songs still comes easy and he has his own personal style of storytelling reminiscent of Garrison Keillor. He was a relentless worker whose original ideas were adapted to become original hits for rising stars. The epitome of “nice guys finish last” he often felt used and unappreciated for his efforts although he insisted that he never wanted recognition. Like many talented and artistic people he suffered for the sake of his art, for the sole purpose of creating something. A little bit too sensitive and vulnerable for this world, he often felt abused, taken advantage of, and tortured by inner demons.
Handsome, classy, and somewhere just beyond middle-aged he had managed to keep a spark of boyish glimmer in his eyes. Distinguished silver sideburns framed his clean shaven face, anchored by a strong square jaw, and flanked with symmetrical laugh lines that disguised pubescent dimples. His big sincere smile was almost a little too perfect like the feathery mop of longish hair that bounced when he moved like it was dancing to a Peter Frampton tune. A little thicker around the neck and middle, a little thinner and drier his sun damaged skin, he had the air of an almost has-been lady killer. Still sexy, but quickly fading into the realm of inappropriately hot.
Like the two sides of a coin, he had one shiny heads-up face that he showed the world, and on the other side his tails-down patina of a bad penny stuck in the muck too long. Only his closest companions sensed this darkness hidden within him. Nobody knew that while he was jovially making plans by evening, he would never follow through with any of them by day. He was sinking deeper into addiction, drinking to ease the pain of his woefully empty existence. When he wasn’t making merriment and living the high life, he was hung over, paralyzed with guilt, crippled with self disgust, and wallowing in self-pity. One day the penny flipped over and he ended up on the fourth floor, the locked off mental unit of the county hospital. The dark depression that he had been fleeing for years finally overtook him.

Writing 101- Day 5-letter with a twist

Todays Challenge-You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.

Nailed to a tree, my old familiar path, predatory ink, my family letterhead, arrogant words, extort my soul, “I have your daughter”, RUNNING HOME.

Day 4 Writing 101-Losing the Lonely Perfection-Serial

Just to clarify this is NOT a personal story but just what came to me today.

Part 1- Losing The Lonely Perfection
She opened the cabinets to give them one last check. Yes, tall items to the left, canned goods stacked neatly labels facing forward. Oh wait, small adjustment was needed, Mashed Potatoes before Minute Rice. Satisfied she said “There,” out loud to no one, “everything is perfect now”. Checking the casserole in the oven she set the timer, another fifteen minutes and it would be ready. She decided to grab a sprinkle of cheese to melt over the top as she delivered the crisp garden salad back to the ice box to chill. As she swung the fridge door open it banged against the wall and out flew a poorly placed cereal bowl of sloppy leftovers shattering to pieces on the pristine linoleum floor. For a moment time stopped. A slow motion spattering of brown goop speckled the light oak cabinets. Reaching out instinctively she bobbled the salad bowl in her hand spilling its freshly chopped contents and slicing the pad of her ring finger with a sliver of penetrating Corelle. A bloody trail of drips to the sink later, she turned while applying pressure to her wound with a wad of damp paper towels to assess the damage. The clock on the stove flashed and beeped as the timer for the casserole sounded jolting her from a stunned state. Ten minutes to six, panic and fear set in. As she ran to the hall closet for the broom and dustpan she fought back the tears. This was going to be a rough night.

Day Three Writing 101 -Songs

Free write-Nicknames
Calling people by a nickname was commonplace while I was growing up. In fact I really have to think about it sometimes when trying to recall the legal names of people in my small hometown. Some I never even knew but can guess that Sully’s last name was probably Sullivan. Nicknames were usually related to last name or family heritage (What’s up “Irish”), reputation (junk yard), vocation (Cap), initials (KIP), relation (Cuz), or physical attribute (No ladder Jack). Nicknames were usually affectionate and never meant to bully or berate but could be tongue in cheek (“Stretch” assigned to a shorter person or “Shrimp” to a giant). Nicknames were meant to say “I know you and what you’re about.” Or “We have history”. In my small hometown nicknames meant “We are all family”. This brings me to my first song:
“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother” by the Hollies
I grew up in a town that was, and continues to be, riddled with substance abuse, heroin in particular.
My brother and the brothers and sisters of many people I know succumbed to their addictions in one way or another. This song makes me think of a close friend that lost several brothers from her family of 10. I am sure that it was played during at least one of their funerals, a little Morbid right? But this song is also about Brotherhood in the best way. Brotherhood is term that can be associated with groups, family members and deep friendships but is also a broad term for humanity. It can be personal and literal or general and abstract. Brotherhood is a powerful word that can evoke feelings in me of loyalty, sacrifice, love, and deep connection. This song is appropriate to any definition. For me when I hear “It’s a long, long road, with many a winding turn…” I feel the deep sadness of loss and the powerlessness of codependency. While I usually go there first while listening, I can pull myself back and see the greater message of hope and goodness buried within. Sometimes I hear “The road is long” but “He ain’t Heavy” and “ I am strong enough to carry on” without him. This song is also about supporting each other through the trials of life, the burdens of disease and suffering, and never giving up but learning to let go. Although saving others is sometimes out of our control we can always do our best to be there for each other.

My favorite line, “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse”. “The River” by Bruce Springsteen. Not just another depressing Ballad but a soundtrack to my teen angst. It’s funny that this song about broken dreams and unrequited potential brings me back to a time in life where my destiny was a blank sheet and I had no idea what it really meant to give up your life’s passion to live in survival mode at crappy dead end jobs. It was easy to say “That will never be me” but we all have to grow up and have responsibilities someday. This song to me now is about my father who worked hard every day of his life to support a family of six kids until he died too young at 55. He loved the ocean, sailing was his dream, and I think if he could have left us and sailed off into the sunset, he would have. He couldn’t do that because he was a good man who always did the right thing and he loved us. Although he never said It, he was unhappy. I think we all felt his longing for the life he didn’t have and felt his regret. This song for me is also about letting go and the power in nature for healing our souls. I think of when my father was truly happy in his little turnabout sailboat coasting on the water every summer weekend he could get. For those moments he was living his dream and free of life’s burdens. The river has the power to wash everything away and leave just the essence of you. You are back to the beginning and the endless potential, right about where I was when I found this song. Writing is a kind of river for me now. For some people it is meditation, reading a good book, walking the dog, or running. Literal and metaphorical rivers help us live in the moment free of worries, regrets, and responsibilities. You can be who you really are. In this way the River can make your dreams for yourself come true if only for a little while. Jump in.
“Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd. Providence, RI Civic Center 1986 ish? My best friend got me the ticket to go with her and her family. She had moved to another small town north a year or so earlier and going to a real concert in a big city was still a big deal, especially with someone I missed seeing every day. “We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year”. We met in pre-school but she was a year older and we didn’t become close friends until our early teens. Until then I was lonely. I had many friends but few people really “got me” the way she did or made me feel so cherished and loved. We know each other’s faults but accept each other for who we are unconditionally. We are both really good at forgiveness and know that support goes both ways as does the phone line. Letter writing was a big thing for us when we were younger, (yes, before e-mail). We kept in touch through the years of high school, college, and first jobs this way while never living in the same state. Much to the dismay of our parents and delight of our parent’s long distance carriers we would also talk on the phone for hours, sometimes watching whole TV shows with running commentary. Visits were always special and we are that type of friends that can go a long time without talking but pick right back up where we left off. We also could not be more different from each other. She is impulsive, sometimes reckless, and outgoing while I am reserved, usually pretty quiet, and like to think things through. She is a free spirit and I am all about responsibility. She came back into my life in a big way 20 years ago when she visited me. Eventually she moved across the country to live near me about 15 years ago and has lived across the street from me for the past several years. We have fallen in love, had children, been back to school, started new jobs, bought and sold houses, and dealt with illness, success, failure and loss in this time. She has been my sounding board, my life coach, my councilor, and my greatest advocate. She moves in less than a week for the east coast again to take care of her ailing parents. I will always hear this song and wish she were here with me while knowing that she always is.

For Walter-A Place he would want to go

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Tall reedy grasses conceal tufted treasures of downy fur and molting feathers
Dragonflies hum and soar through the remaining sky
Damp cool blades frolicking bare-webbed feet
Eyes focus on dwindling light
Warm breezes dance on shiny threads of silken web
Lush boggy waters
Croaking frogs and singing cicadas’ harmonize
Drowning out loneliness
Billowing tendrils of sturdy ferns whisper “HUSH”
Invoking peace, rest, comfort, and home.