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

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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

For here, or to go?

Alright, a guy comes into the store several months ago and asks,
“Hey, can I try some pipe tobacco?”
I say, “Yeah, help yourself.”

He proceeds to eat, yes, eat small handfuls of 4-5 of our blends.
I shit you not. Yeah, I’m dying and no one knows but me because it’s a Sunday and I’m working alone.
“Which blend has more latakia?” He asks, while munching away.
I show him and he asks for 2oz of said blend.
I ask (and I can’t help myself), “You want that for here or to go?”
God, he looks confused.
“To go,” he says.
I’m still laughing about it . . .

~m

49

It’s always around my birthday that I get somewhat nostalgic and wax philosophic about my younger years. I’m not old by any stretch of the imagination but at a soon-to-be 49, I’m no longer a little boy either.

I have to smile thinking about several lines from an old James Taylor song called,
I was a fool to care” – (if you know the album title right now, you’re my age)

I wish I was an old man

And love was through with me

I wish I was a baby on my mama’s knee

I wish I was a freight train

Moving down the line

Just a’ keeping track of time

Without all these memories . . .

I have so many sweet memories from long ago: the phone call from my mother asking me what kind of cake I wanted for my birthday (she made many), the apple pie my father would bring home from Ware Pratt (a men’s clothing store, long gone) where he signed me up in their Birthday Club entitling me to a pie every January 10th until I turned 13.

(and yeah, I’d give my twin sister m~ a slice)

So, so damn sweet.

Sometimes I have to wonder if I wasn’t a fool to care about such things; caring turns into sentimentality turns into heartache and ends with something sad and bittersweet.

Looking back, I realize I did care about those things. Dearly.

These are just words connecting my thoughts tonight, folks, and nothing real deep.

Whenever there’s a pause in my writing routine, I get back to square one by house cleaning and moving furniture; it’s my own personal literary feng shui if you will.
The warmest of wishes I send out to my twin sister, my own flesh and blood.
The rivers we’ve traveled run deep.
Happy Birthday, Moe.
I pray our 49th year finds us healthy, full of happiness and covered with more love than we both know what to do with.
I guess this post has turned out to be something of a prayer.
And I welcome that . . .

~m

ps. my sister now signs her emails m~ . . . 😆

pps. thanks to my dear friends, Laho & Liho for the cholesterol-inducing breakfast.
It was awesome.

ppps. Happy Birthday, Guinness!!!!!

Leader of the Band

Dan Fogelberg ~ (1951 – 2007)

In my early years of playing music, Fogelberg was a definite musical influence on me.
I saw him perform in 1976 at the Orpheum in Boston (the first night I ever smoked a joint, now you have some serious dirt on me).
I wooed my wife way back when performing many of his tunes.
Whether you liked the guy or not, he was a peaceful man and a very talented songwriter.
I saw this news clip on Yahoo this afternoon.
God, I have another reason to hate Mondays.
I am very sad tonight.
I’ll stop there.
Should you ever get a chance, listen to “Souvenirs”.
Click on the photo above for Fogelberg’s website.

And here is a sunrise
To set on your sill.
The ghosts of the dawn
Moving near.
They pass through your sorrow
And leave you quite still…
Sitting among souvenirs . . . 

Sleep in heavenly peace, Dan . . .

~m

Nine Eleven

I remember the day vividly; there were crystal blue skies, warm and ample sunshine, comfortable temperatures, a picture perfect fall day in New England.

The date was September 11, 2001 and I was just getting into work (selling pianos at the time) when the phone rang.
It was my friend Colin, a piano technician from the store where I worked calling to tell me he’d heard on the radio that a plane had just flew into the World Trade Center in NYC.
It must have been a terrible accident we both agreed, a freakish malfunction of an old turbine perhaps, a minor incident but nevertheless a tragic loss of life of strangers neither of us would probably ever know.
At the time, it seemed safer thinking of it that way.
It was a small plane, Colin said and that made me feel better.
Fewer people meant fewer casualties in a city the size of New York.

 

After I hung up the phone, it occurred to me that something didn’t seem quite right about the conversation. Couldn’t put my finger on it but something was wrong.
I knew it and Colin knew it, we just didn’t want to say it.

I mean, planes just don’t fly into buildings, do they?

My question was promptly answered when the phone rang 15 minutes later.
It was Colin again sounding a bit nervous.

Another plane? Jesus Christ, what the hell is going on? I asked.

He went on to tell me that both of the towers were hit and that it looked like we were at war.

War? I thought, With who?

I went outside and looked up into the sky for a sign that the world was still alright and all I saw was the endless crystal blue of the atmosphere but I noticed something else; there was an eerie stillness and silence hanging in the balance.

Word got around quickly that the US had been attacked as we began adding words to our daily lexicon: WTC, 9-11, Atta, Al Qaida, Al-Jazeera . . .

The dark truths would begin to bleed through the seemingly impenetrable fabric of our lives virtually changing all of us, forever.

The phones started ringing at the store . . . but not from customers.
The calls were from wives to husbands, sons to mothers, sisters to brothers – with one simple question; are you okay?
By noontime the phones stopped ringing and business ceased as the United States was brought to its very knees.

I can’t help but think of the same three words I thought on that horrible day: God Help Us

 

I still pray for all that we lost that day; the brilliant lives, our {unjustifiable} innocence and our shattered sense of {false} security.
We were too blind for far too long.

My words describing that day are still woefully inadequate but my thoughts and feelings of incomprehensibility are still so incredibly tender and raw.

I want badly to forgive but I still can’t.

God Bless all those we lost.

As Annie said, turn those headlights on . . .

~m

The alchemy of tears

They were the best of friends during the best of times and it was the same for the worst times.
Wally, Ginny, Ray and Joanie were so close I always thought of them as “The Inseparables”; and how inseparable they were.

Ray and Joanie were our neighbors across the street from where my sister and I grew up as children; they were a second mother and father we never realized we had until several years ago.
And they really were the best friends my mother and father ever had.
Right up until the very end . . . thick and thin.

But Ray and Joanie are moving next month to the Midwest to be closer to family and my sister and I couldn’t let them leave without saying a very special goodbye.

This story is about their love, their patience, the passage of time and all the little things we as human beings hold so dear.

This story is for Mr. & Mrs. P . . .

Last Sunday night, we had two longtime friends over the house for supper.
It was a happy gathering overall while on another more subconscious level it smacked of something sad, albeit bittersweet because we were ultimately gathered to say our goodbyes.
Ray and Joanie lived across the street from us for what seems like forever and I feel we’ve known them our entire life.

I always considered them to be something of a second mother and father to my sister and me even though they had two daughters of their own who are now married and off raising their own families.

At every significant event in our lives they’ve both been there.
They were also the very best friends to my mother and father refusing to let Alzheimer’s come between them regardless of how difficult their visits to them would someday become.

Believe me; I understand the difficulty and frustration involved in sitting with a person that no longer knows you.
There would come a day when it seemed that no one really cared about my mom and dad and the bewildering fog they were both passing through.

But Ray and Joanie did; day by day, week by week, month by month, year by painful year with their seemingly endless reserve of love and compassion.

Yes, these two were special. And still are.

My sister and I decided we needed to get together and give them something unique and deeply personal not only to remember my mother and father but us as well. After a brilliant suggestion from my wife, I think we had the bases covered.

We ate Chicken Shish-kabob from the grill, Caesar Salad and Rice Pilaf and sat reminiscing on the deck and laughing about the many better days long since past.

With the evening winding down, I gathered everyone on the deck and presented Joanie with a pretty decorated box.
I looked at my sister and could already see the storms brewing in her eyes.
Funny thing was this felt good and so right.

Joanie opened the box and reached in, pulling out something small and wrapped in emerald green tissue paper.

That’s for you, Joanie, I said, from my mother.

Inside the tissue paper were two of my mother’s Hummel’s, a young girl holding a butterfly and another of a little boy smoking a cigar.
Judging from her expression, she knew these two figurines well.
(*as we hoped she would)

She reached back into the box and pulled out something wrapped in royal blue tissue the size of a roll of paper towels.

That’s for Ray
, I said.

Here, Ramie, this is for
you, she said.

Ray tore the royal blue paper off to reveal a German beer stein, something from my father’s collection that I know Ray had seen gracing their hutch for years.
When you lift it to drink, it plays music; kind of cool and totally Ray.

All of us (9) were a bit teary at this point but it seemed so utterly natural.

The tears we cried were the alchemy of many wondrous things: sweetness and sentimentality, happiness and sorrow, loss and regret for the people, places and things of our countless yesterdays past; but most of all they were tears of hope for ourselves, our families and the future of our precious lives and possibly of a world we seldom understood.

Maybe crying was what we were supposed to do at a time like this.
Granted, it was a tender, almost “Walton Family-like” moment but it was sweet nonetheless.
And my God, it was real; real people, real tears.

We said goodbye that night accepting of the fact that for as much as we feel rooted in the mundane routine of our daily lives, we must move on to new journeys and adventures. . . like the one Ray and Joanie are currently undertaking.
I wish them both peace, health, laughter, good times and endless games and conversations with their grandkids.
That’s the very least I can do.

~m

Paradox Found

Ten years ago, the world as I’d previously known it began crumbling before my very eyes. With Alzheimer’s disease slowly sinking its insidious teeth into the flesh of two of the most important people in my life, I could barely hang on.

My interpretation of the world surrounding me was one of suffocation and predicated horror as I watched two innocent lives wither away; their “golden” years sucked into an invisible vortex of utter blackness.
There would be no vacations for them; no candlelight dinners, anniversaries, holidays, spontaneous I-love-you’s and oddly enough no tears for what ultimately should have been.

The blackboards of their lives had been virtually erased, their accumulated memories falling away like the New England autumn leaves my mother so loved.

Back then, I was filled with bitterness like I’d never known.

I was mad at everyone: God, the mailman, the guy that pumped my gas, the moon and the stars, my girls, my wife and a life that was spiraling out of control.
I was mad at the incomprehensibility and odds of the total clusterfuck I was in.
Close friends knew I was not doing well.
Advice was offered and thrown away, unused and scattered like junk mail.

One day, someone close to me said, “He’s trying to teach you something. Maybe you should listen.”
They were pointing upwards towards the heavens when they said it.

After a particularly heart-shattering day I found myself once again mentally “on the ropes”. I recall having a pen in my hand. I looked at it, scratched my head and began writing. There was no planning on my part, it just kind of happened.

Thousands of words and feelings later I looked up.
Over two hours of my soul were permanently on paper and I felt good.
The inner voices were gone and the world was quiet.
I was given a way out of this thing.

I think of all the people I’ve been blessed to know because of my writing; Annie, Moe, Kel, Fuzz, Evyl, Matty, Lolly, Bella, Spaz, Carnealian, Snot, Lass, Deb, Kelsey, Kim, Melanie, and Red . . .
{I love everyone on my blogroll, I really do}

But, how do you spell “sacred moment”?

Maybe He was trying to teach me something after all; I just had to discover it on my own.

Through my writing I was doing something that my mom and dad could no longer do; I was learning how to remember them.
Paradox is occasionally a bittersweet thing.
At least I like to think of it in that way.

~m