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.

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