Monday, May 30, 2011

'hap'py memorial day

it’s memorial day.
memorial day sucks.
maybe that’s a little harsh.
the idea of memorial day sucks. how about that?
i am not opposed to the remembrance of soliders who died defending their country. i am opposed to soldiers dying. i am opposed, apalled, that little girls will grow up without knowing their fathers. knowing only the idea of them.
my dad’s name was stanley frederick patterson, but everyone called him ‘hap;’ because, as a friend of his wrote, ‘he was so goddamn happy all the time.’
he was a born leader, i’m told. had a beautiful voice – sang tenor in his acapella group. he studied philosophy.  he was a good writer. he loved music. and hunting. he loved his little town. he loved his dad. and his wife. and his baby girl.

i don't know how much of me comes from him, aside from my nose and the way my eyes crinkle in the corners when i smile.  there aren't many people around to tell me his stories.  it's hard to lose someone you love like that.  suddenly.  violently.  and far, far away.  it must be harder, still, to call him up and relive all that you've lost.  

i know this, not only from my own experience, but also from reading the facebook tributes to an old high school friend who died in iraq.  he, too, left behind a young love and a baby girl.  as she gets older, though, she'll have these great stories, passed on by his best friends, by the people he loved and even those who only passed him in the hallways.  

what i remember about randy, aside from a smile that lit up a room, was his hair.  blonde and lush and perfectly feathered.  i also remember his wrestling shoes and how, in our senior year, he ran into me almost every day in a rush to class.  he must have knocked my books out of my hands a hundred times, but he stopped to apologize and pick them up nearly every single time.  he was kind in that way.  (or maybe he was just looking down my sweater.  he was a boy in that way, too.) 

i like to think that as we move through life, the people we meet and the events that shape us come together to form the place we'll go when we die.  and the loved ones who've gone before us wander through those rooms meeting one another and making space for our eventual 'welcome home' soiree.  

and on a day, like today, when i'm thinking of the two of them, i can imagine my dad and my friend having a beer together on the steps leading to the pit of lockers from my old high school - laughing and lamenting and celebrating how much their girls have grown.  whether it's been eight years or 44, time moves way too fast, wouldn't you say?

memorial day is nearly over now, and if the truth me told, i don't celebrate it; to me, it's just a monday - and i celebrated this particular monday by holding bella's hair back as she barfed into a metal bowl in the middle of the living room...and i taught grace how to blow dry her new haircut...and then we all rode our bikes to the market for groceries and ice cream cones.  now, i'm celebrating by doing a two of the things i do best: writing and finishing a cocktail. 

no.  i don't celebrate memorial day on the last monday in may.  i celebrate it every time christopher sings the girls to sleep or helps them with their homework and rides beside them on their bikes.
so...veteran or not. near or far. call your dad. don’t wait until father’s day. ask him to tell you a joke or sing you a song. tell him you love him. just because you can.

that would make a happy memorial day.  

Sunday, May 29, 2011


he infuriates her.

she exhausts him.

she cannot get out of her head and he cannot get out of his own way ...

... sometimes ...

and we all laugh at the tales they tell ... of these disagreements, of these non-fights, of the tests and twists and the effort they put into avoiding what is so obvious to us all ...

they love one another. simply. and without guile. they keep their own lives. they still have their own friends, have their own activities. they are kind. they are generous. they enjoy just the nearness of one another.

... and it hurts to look at them ...

... when he comes up behind her, touches the small of her back and she melts into his hand ... when he folds her into him and kisses her on the top of her head ... when she leans into him, ever so slightly, looks up into his face and says ... anything ... a simple and generous consideration, something as small as 'how are you?' in the middle of everyone vying for their attention.

and i wonder how they are the last to know ... why they are the last to acknowledge what has long been a given for us all.

but then i remember, they came to it slowly - found one another when each least expected to.

he'd been hurt and she'd been lost and they were catching their breath ...resting in places between those of convention ... crafting their views of the world ... striving to discover all the things they ever wanted and those they did not yet know they longed for.

they were willing to be without (in fact, preferred to be without) a relationship than to be in the wrong relationship. they were finally standing firmly (well, standing, anyway) on their own standards and valuing themselves. they didn't need another 'better half.' they were complete. and alone.

and when they met, she thought he had a warm smile and a kind face - strong and a little sad; he noticed the way her eyes sparkled and he appreciated her bravery and her willingness to embrace her mistakes. his first words to her were, 'thank you.'

he told her once he wished she could see the person he used to be. that earliest version of himself, when the whole wide world was open to him and all he had to do was choose a direction, pick his path. potential and possibility in their purest forms. before heartbreak. or doubt. or envy. or vanity. before responsibility. and obligation. and compromise. before.

and she asked, 'why?'

it would be better, she told him, if he could see the person he'd become. exciting, smart, searching, thrilling, preoccupied, real.

he told her he didn't believe in butterflies or valentine's day or girlfriends. he said she freaked him out.

and she told him she meant it when she said she could wait - even if she did, sometimes, get impatient and want to rush to where he was so he could whisper into her mouth as he kissed her or make fun of her tiny feet and make her laugh until she couldn't breathe ... or maybe just learn how to walk together.

she made it easy for him to open up, to wade in the deep end. she made him smile in spite of himself.

and suddenly, she couldn't catch her breath. she stopped fearing the things that might come to pass and began to fear the things that might not. it was a strange sensation, this unraveling at someone else's hand.

he felt her need. she admitted her fear.

and so they made a deal ... to take responsibility for their choices ... to open themselves up ... to be honest and fair and kind.

they were unprepared for this, for each other ... but they are grateful for the surprise.

if you ask her about him, she won't speak, but you'll see the images take shape as she smiles a small smile and brings a hand to her lips - hope coloring her face.

if you ask him about her, he'll say he feels seen, he feels heard, he feels met in a way that not every woman can do, in a way not any other woman can do. 

now, what they used to measure in days, they measure in bottles of bourbon and loads of laundry and scrabble words and sick kids and who's driving carpool today.  it's matter.of.fact and magic all at once.

knowing this and knowing them is to know now that love can’t be planned.  it won't arrive when it's 'supposed to' or look the way we think it will.  when it shows itself, we should let go and fall into its arms and, for once, let belief undo our disbelief.

Monday, May 17, 2010

memory loss

i forget to write when i'm happy.  it's nice being too busy living to write about my life.

Monday, December 28, 2009


this week i empty and turbulent and small.

my heart aches for the mess that she's made. i want to feel the edges of things and today, i do. sharp and cold and skeptical. the butterflies have left for greener girls.

would you mind if i rest with you awhile? nuzzle my head into your chest. feel your fingers tangled up in my hair. until, finally, i can fall asleep and this ache in my jaw and fog in my head falls away for a moment of clean breathing and peaceful dreams.

my schedule is upside down this week. days off in odd places, early mornings at the store ... making it hard to find time and space in which to think and feel my way through my melancholy. so, as i leave for work, i'll keep my hands in my pockets, hide my heart in a bag and wait for the turbulence to dwindle down.

and somewhere in the middle of this week, my happiness will start slowly creeping back. that much i know. (will it ever start sinking in?)

i hope this first monday after the holiday finds you on your way towards 'rested' and happy. don't rush too much. ease into your stream as best you can ... the water is bound to be cold. and if you can, take care of me a little.

Friday, December 25, 2009

en route

tonight, i am like a child awaiting the arrival of santa claus, and awake much later than i ought to be. and so i've logged on in the dark to see if you're here somewhere, too; hoping there's a message from you and knowing there won't be. you aren't the boy who leaves messages.

still, i'm sentimental this evening and not the least bit sorry about it. maybe it's the holidays.

or maybe it's that driving home tonight, the sky a smoky veil and a moon in the shape of a smile, a christmas song i've heard ten thousand times before intersected with the chill in the air and suddenly, there was a smile and a flush and there you were.

it doesn't matter, now, what the memory was, or if it was even a memory at all - when it comes to thoughts of you, there's a certain joy imprinted there. indelible, you. on that same drive home, it should be noted, the sun took an unusually long time to leave the party (flirting with the moon again, i guess - she was all aglow.). and, seeing as he was en route to your half of the globe, i called in a favor ... so, this christmas, as you roll over in bed and wake to the new day and when you step outside and first feel the sun on your skin - consider yourself kissed. and think of me.

happy christmas.

Monday, July 13, 2009

jet lag

standing in the kitchen this evening, there are things to say ... but when the time came, i found my words imprecise and my command of them ... faulty.

i don't know if it was my asthma, or your home purchase or if i'm just having - what jenni calls - a 'charlotte moment,' but it hit me this morning, in a way i hadn't quite grasped before, how important and how fragile this is.

it takes me by surprise, sometimes - when i least expect it - how comfortable and easy and lovely it feels to be with you. it isn't at all what i expected ... but then, it's the expected that keeps us steady. standing. still. the expected is just the beginning; it's the unexpected that changes our lives. right?

'it's nice to be appreciated,' you said (in that sleepy little voice i love so much). and i can't believe anyone ever made you feel as if you weren't. i can't believe anyone could find fault with those things i find so dear - how could anyone not see how perfect you are in your imperfection? and it's not because we're 'new' or because i'm lost in the sex haze ... my opinion is not clouded by hormones or pheromones or cinnamon toast. i've just come to see that you suit me.

you do.

and it makes me happy in ways i can't even describe. i've also come to see how important this little family is and how much you must miss seeing the girls everyday and how hard it must be to vist the life you had before ... every day. it's a difficult thing to watch.

let's face it, no one believes that their life will turn out just kind of okay. we all think it's going to be great. and from the day we enter into any kind of relationship, we are filled with expectation ... great expectations of who we will be, where we will go. sometimes it takes a long, long time. but we get there. it just doesn't always look the way we think it will. and sometimes it's a million miles from where we thought we'd be - and it leaves us feeling jet lagged. i think that's my problem today. jet lag.

still, i'm right where i want to be. and i hope you are, too.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

happy day

it's early, early, early in the morning and i've slipped out of bed to write you this letter.

everyone else is asleep. well, almost everyone ... the cat in my lap is gently 'bathing' the dog's nose as he rests it on my leg ... providing a gentle reminder that we are capable of looking after each other in a kind and careful way.

(wouldn't it be lovely if the world were a place where everybody got his or her needs met and received plenty of acknowledgment? everything is sweeter when we begin to appreciate each other and mutual admiration prevails. )

in a little while, isabella and grace will awaken and pad into the room that serves as bedroom and living room in the loft - the sound of their bare little feet slapping against the concrete will herald their arrival. they will stand next to the bed, watching me for signs of movement and when there are none, they will touch my face and whisper close, 'it's time.'

together, we will raid the refrigerator and i'll help them make breakfast for the man pretending to sleep in the bed nearby. it will be loud. it will be messy. there will be arguing. someone will cry. gone are the days when i could pour myself a cup of coffee and wake up slowly with the world. and i wouldn't have it any other way.

would any of us?

today is father's day. and i miss you.

i wish you could be here to see the sun shining, taste the pancakes - sweet and hot. (gracie and bella can cook pretty well, already. their dad has taught them how. ) and i wish you could meet them.

they are lovely. in every way. and it's because of their dad that they are becoming these amazing little creatures. he treats them as little adults (which, frankly, they don't always appreciate, but they'll be grateful for later). he recognizes them as individuals, not as an extension or reflection of himself. and he always treats them as people he likes (and reminds them to treat themselves and each other that same way).

and if i'm honest, i know it will be mostly due to his example that they have the tools they need to navigate the world ... they will know how to be reasonable and fair and strong and careful and responsible. he will be the reason they prefer convertibles, make a perfect biscuit and find humor in everything ... why they'll make everything from scratch, why they'll set the table with all the silverware, even if they know they won't use it ... why they'll set the table at all.

he is why they will read more than watch tv, laugh more than cry and pay attention when they drive. he is why they'll never make fun of kids who run funny, why they'll try, even when they don't feel like it, yell at political shows on television and why they will sing 'mack the knife' and 'big yellow taxi' to their own kids at bedtime. thanks to him, they know the joy of cats and blind dogs; they won't fear moving to new places where they don't know anyone and they'll know there isn't anything a hug from dad, james taylor or homemade pasta can't fix.

he and his existence in the world flavor everything for them - just as your absence does for me. i so hope they know how lucky they are. i'm pretty sure they do.

through them, i'm celebrating this day for the first time. from now on, i get to see it through their eyes and it's finally something i look forward to.

don't worry ... father's day only makes me a little sad, the way you might expect ... but it doesn't make me long for things that never were. instead, it reminds me of how grateful i am for mom's efforts and her sacrifice and it reminds me, too, that if you had lived, laurie wouldn't exist and i wouldn't know these girls or this man ... and that, i couldn't bear. i wouldn't trade my situation for anything. not anything.

and it might sound silly or slightly insane ... but i know you're present. not right now. or every day, even. but you are. i can tell. and where some folks thank god for the wonderful things that happen in their lives, i thank you. it's an unusual idea, i know. one not often spoken aloud - if ever. the good, the great - and even the unspeakably awful - things that happen in my life, if i haven't created them myself, then i'm pretty sure they come from you - or others who've left this life and moved beyond. tiny joys, valuable lessons, the jolts, the hairpin turns ... someone reminding me to wake up to the wonder of my life.

and this year, that 'someone' comes in tandem, padding across the concrete floor, touching my face and whispering close, 'it's time.'

isn't it funny how life - and death - work out?

happy father's day, dad, wherever you are. and if you're close today, enjoy the pancakes. i made 'em for you.

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