Size of Sorrow

My sister and I have noticed some changes in our father.
Whenever we talk to him about ‘old times’ (instead of just sitting there staring vacantly out the window) his eyes fill with tears. He’s not totally crying but something is definitely going on.
We wonder what’s really going through his mind?
It was this thought and some help from the band “Tears for Fears” that are responsible for the inspiration behind this post.
I didn’t plan on posting tonight but sometimes you just have to let some of your writing go.


the Size of Sorrow

Carbon-copy days
Stain my mimeographed life
Wondering if today is some strange and future tomorrow

Time meanders away
some perpetual 36-hour day
But what is the size of sorrow?

a Fool on the hill
a sad silhouette of your absence
what remains breaks the heart of the borrow

Tomorrow is near
like an invisible tear
I’m wondering what is the size of your sorrow?

~m

Walking Distance

When I was 9 years old I had a favorite paperback book called “Stories from the Twilight Zone”, a book of short stories based on the skin and bones for sketches produced on the TV program of the same name.
I had a favorite called “Walking Distance”, the story of a tired middle aged business man that leaves the big city one weekend and simply drives in an effort to get away from his job and the Rat Race in general.
His car breaks down and he gets towed to a local garage for repairs when he sees a road sign for the town he grew up in years ago.
He asks how far it is to the town and is told, “It’s walking distance.”
He enters the Twilight Zone and walks into his hometown of 40 years ago where his mother and father are still alive.

It’s funny that I was falling for these kinds of tender stories when I was ten.
Yeah, I was a weird kid, huh?
Much of my writing loosely falls into the same sentimental category. Go figure.
I started thinking about the last good day I had with my mother and father, sadly the memory has vanished deep into the recesses of my own scattered mind.
The ‘moment’ did happen though when I came to a realization that I could never get those moments back; accepting the idea was painfully difficult but I knew it had to be done.
It occurred to me that I began saying goodbye to the individual pieces of both of them, various facets of their personalities, phrases they often used and the stories they loved to tell.

I remember fruitlessly trying to pull my mother back into my world with my “remember when” queries that all too quickly lost their magical powers.
If I’ve learned anything at all from their tragic situation it’s that life is about seizing moments, grabbing them by whatever means possible and never ever letting them go.
I only wish I’d realized that fifteen years ago, wish I’d accepted their fates sooner, if that makes sense.
But I’m only human and I desperately wanted to believe otherwise.
If I could have several more hours with both of them it would be spent on the back deck of the Goodbye House’.
It would be a warm but comfortable summer night with nothing but a cricket soundtrack and a deep, orange creamsicle sunset off to the West.
My father would be standing by the grill wearing his signature wrinkled Bermuda shorts (or were they seersucker? God forbid), sans shirt with his pot belly exposed to the world with a can of Busch beer in his hand as he flipped burgers and hot dogs.
My mother would be flitting around the kitchen like some culinary Tasmanian devil putting the finishing touches on one of her ‘signature’ desserts.
We wouldn’t be talking about anything in particular; it would just be like it once was.
But it would be different to me because I would mentally file away and lock every smile, every laugh, and every taste and smell living inside that one bittersweet summer evening.
And I would remember all of it again, if I had one more chance.
Maybe the truth of the matter is that those memories are never very far away; in fact they’re easily accessible because wherever I am, ‘home’ is always close by.
Actually, it’s walking distance . . .

~m

One Happy Mick

Our sense of smell is acute and amazingly discerning allowing us to associate aromas and smells with our seemingly unlimited banks of memory.
How about the smell of a box of crayons?
Yeah, that’s a good one.
How many wonderful memories can you come up with there?
I thought so.

I think the holidays tend to elicit the strongest evoking power for obvious reasons.

  • Christmas = peppermint, balsam, sweet baked goods and . . .
  • Thanksgiving = roasted turkey, cranberries, cinnamon,
    clove and . . .
  • Easter = floral scent (Easter lily), marshmallow peeps (yes, they have a scent), hard-boiled eggs (alright, not so good)
  • Saint Patrick’s Day = corned beef and cabbage

When my mother was alive and well no Paddy’s Day went by without her making the Irish dish.
I’ve missed riding out to the house knowing full well my mother would have a pot full of it on the stove and delight in stuffing me silly.
Her corned beef would be cooking all day long and truth be told it must have taken weeks to get the cabbage stink out of the place.
It’s remembering days like those when I really start to miss her.

I worked the entire weekend and had no time to stink the fill the house up with those sacred aromas (you’re welcome, sweet Irish daughters ‘o mine).
It looked like I might go without this year and I must say it thoroughly depressed me.
Murphy + Saint Patrick’s Day = Irish Turkey and a freshly poured Guinness Stout
There’s a restaurant in Boston called Jacob Wirth’s and it’s said to be one of the oldest in the city. Someone mentioned that they may possibly be serving the traditional dish. (Check their link and read the menu. Yeah, huh?)
I called and sure enough, it was on the menu.
Knowing how popular this restaurant is, I had my doubts as to whether I’d actually get a seat.
I opened the old creaky doors and spied an open spot at the bar and immediately sat down.
Perfect, I thought. (And ironically it was right in front of that beautiful Guinness spigot)
The bartender promptly brought me a menu which I politely pushed away, “No need for that; Corned Beef and Cabbage, please.”
I asked for a large ice water but changed my mind when I saw him pour a Guinness with a 2″ frothy head.
He served me my dear Stout and I raised it slightly to the heavens and toasted my Madre for the many years of awesome corned beef and cabbage dinners.

My meal came minutes later and I dug in.

If you’re wondering how my lunch was, it wasn’t like my mother’s but the last place I wanted to go was back to work.
I wanted to stay at Wirth’s forever.

As they say, all good things must come to an end.

I left Jake’s with a stomach full of Irish Turkey and one heavenly Guinness under my belt.
And I was one happy Mick . . .

~m

A Beautiful Goodbye

It was in this post that I mentioned a moment of clarity that I’d experienced with my mother when she was in the later stages of Alzheimer’s.
I like to think that there are times in our lives when, for whatever the reason, we are deserving of a small gift of the soul; something that catches us off guard and lifts the spirit; an experience that simply says, ‘carry on’.
If you’ve visited Smoke and Mirrors before and have read any of my writing, you could conceivably finish this post for me.
I think.

Lately, I have been keeping close tabs on my father (my sister, as well) for reasons I have chosen to keep private.
That said, I visited him last Sunday around noontime to feed him lunch.
He tends to eat well whenever my sister and I feed him simply because we’re able to be patient. It’s a wonderful feeling to know he’ll nap the afternoon away with a belly full of food and that we had a small part in it.

He ate well for me on Sunday: pot roast, mashed potatoes w/gravy, vegetables and the softest dinner roll I’ve ever held in my hand.
I wasn’t sure if he would even finish his dessert but the bastard ate all the Banana Cream Pie and didn’t even ask if I wanted any.
(I tried it and yes, it was very good)

I cleaned him up and we sat by the window in his room.
A slice of winter sunshine found him and I think he enjoyed the warmth of it.
I spoke with a few of the nurses on the floor who told me that he’d had a very good night.

“Walter? Oh, no problems with him. Sweet man.”

With my questions answered and my father fed, I went back to his room and bent down so we were face-to-face, and kissed his forehead.

“I love you, Dad.”

He just stared at me.

“I know, I know,” I said, “You love me too, right?”

He lifted his tired hand, smiled and gently stroked my cheek.
No words were exchanged but no words were really necessary.
For a brief second, my father was really ‘there‘.

When moments like this happen you have to soak them in because they’re oh, so rare.
It’s the stuff of the soul.
Small gifts, my sister said.
Maybe they’re not quite as small as I’d originally thought.
I walked out of the nursing home and felt the winter sun on my face and I smiled because it felt a bit warmer than it usually does.
Maybe that was a gift as well . . .

~m

12 things my daughters have taught me

Having three girls, there are things that as a man you just know, or don’t know.
I’ve been thinking about this for sometime and have come up with a list of things they’ve taught me.
Sometimes it’s just observing their bizarre womanly ways and sometimes I get a hands-on lesson.

  • I can spot a Vera Bradley handbag from 100 paces. (yeah, I know. Scary)
  • Orlando Bloom is hot, but Jensen Ackles (Supernatural) is way hotter.
  • Folding laundry is quite natural now except when it comes to folding a bra.
  • “I love you, Daddy,” loosely translated means, “I need something and you will get it for me.”
  • Girls can be downright nasty to each other.
  • Nothing dries tears quicker than a trip to Hollister.
  • They know the ins and outs of Itunes way better than I do.
  • They can use the T9 word when texting on their cell enabling them to send me the “Gettysburg Address” in less time than it takes me to text the word, “Ok” and hit send.
  • There are countless stars in the sky, but every one has its place.
  • Never honestly comment on a new hairstyle. Just say, “It looks very nice.”
  • Not all facial moisturizers are created equal.
  • Patience. (4 women getting ready to go out for a Saturday evening is excruciating)

Look for a future post and update.
Learning about women is an ongoing process and I’m still a beginning student, apt but beginning.

~m

Not a chance . . .

“I think I may be beginning to disappear.” – Fiona (Away from Her)

Last night was a deeply emotional night for me.
For the longest time I’ve put off watching a movie called Away from Her
based on the Alice Munro short story called, “The Bear Came Over the Mountain”, a tragic but uplifting tale of a husband and wife of 50 years coming to grips with Alzheimer’s Disease.
It was all too familiar territory for me and I knew instinctively why I hadn’t seen it in the theater.
Sometimes I hate when I’m right.

The internal walls I’d previously built for emotional protection were deteriorating rapidly, waiting patiently to be torn down.
New and stronger walls were waiting in the wings.
Seeing yourself in virtually every scene of a movie is a powerful (and devastating) experience and something has to give.
My already shaky walls began crumbling before my very eyes.
Seemingly insignificant scenes were like storms in the night, moments of illumination exposing moments of denial, the mind’s premeditated closing of the eyes.
I was watching my mother and father on the screen as years of pent up heartbreak gently poured out of me.
And truth be told, it felt like prayer, a long forgotten Hail Mary . . .
I’ve written much about my mother’s many moments of clarity, the small gifts I believe are given to us from up above.
The last minute of the movie contains such a moment, an incredibly beautiful moment.
I could only sit and watch the credits roll by,
letting this “thing” happen, if that makes any sense.
I apologized to my wife for being so weepy.
She hugged me as I knew she would and said, “I understand. It’s okay.”
All the ancient walls inside me came crashing down and as of this morning I’ve already begun new construction, my Extreme Internal Makeover, if you will.
This post isn’t so much about my tears or my outward showing of intense emotion.
It’s about the willingness to ultimately set some of my shadows free.
And so far, it’s all good.
You’ll have to watch the movie to understand the significance of the post title.
I’m not giving anything away . . .
~m

So Much

Like me, so much like me
you are oceans deep, my silent little girl

A face that’s like a saving grace; it’s a prayer I will always pray
I know you as well as I know my overly complex self,
and I am forever in love with you
as I was 18 years ago

@8:11am . . .

If these words turn you crimson, then so be it, that makes you real
You are my hurricane on the water, my own personal blizzard of ’90
And you’re like me, sometimes so much like me
And just maybe
that’s a small, good thing

Happy 18th birthday, Jenna
You are a true diamond in the rough
Gráim thú . . .

~Dad

And she likes John Mayer . . .

the heart remembers

I received a letter today from my sister dated January 21st (one day before my last post).
In it was a poem she’d found many years ago when our mother was entering the late stages of Alzheimer’s.
As twins, we’ve always had an uncanny ability to surprise each other in ways unimaginable.
In light of my recent post, the Frozen Man, I could only smile when I read this poem.
My sister’s timing was perfect. Go figure. 😉
If you have a family member suffering from this disease, print out the following poem and read it often.
My sister said reading it always makes her feel better and she hoped the same for me.
Thanks, m~
Yeah, it works for me, too . . .

~m

 

Heart Memories
by Louise M Eder

I remember you with my heart
My mind won’t say your name
I can’t recall where I knew you
Who you were
Or who I was.

Maybe I grew up with you
Or maybe we worked together
Or did we bowl together yesterday?
There’s something wrong with my memory
But I do know you
I know I knew you
And I do love you
I know how you make me feel
I remember the feelings we had together.
My heart remembers
It cries out in loneliness for you
For the feelings you give me now.

Today I’m happy that you have come.
When you leave
My mind will not remember that you were here
But my heart remembers
The feeling of friendship
And love returned.
Remembers
That I am less lonely
And happier today
Because of the feeling
Because you have come.

Please, please don’t forget me
And please don’t stay away
Because of the way my mind acts.
I can still feel you
I can remember with my heart
And a heart memory is maybe
The most important memory of all.

the Frozen Man

His soul sleeps,
buried far beneath a long forgotten vertical landscape,
yearning for home . . .
it dreams of places remembered; warm places, complete and innocently raw

The perpetual journey through a cobwebbed labyrinth remains a stygian quest at best,
an unanswered prayer, a dimly lit votive, a quiet cry in the dark
the clouds thicken, the earth cools and a winter of the mind settles in

Rolling waves of emotion yield snowflakes of blue
that fall like sleet, slicing the spirit into oh, so many unrecognizable pieces of what used to be a life; where nothing fits or belongs but must somehow remain

still . . .

Who knows when, this sadly shattered thing will end
Only God knows when it started,
But it’s wearing pretty thin, as the winter settles in, covering the frozen man . . .

~m