He Listens

I arrived home tonight in my semi-usual foul mood wondering what the hell I’m really here on earth for; an almost daily thought for me these days.
A crappy commute with overwhelming traffic, a job where customers never respond to email and never answer their phones, mounting bills with interest and a car that still isn’t fixed.
A garden that never seems to grow no matter how much I water it, a lawn that’s close to dead and another 20 things that I’ll just refuse to list. (okay, my crumbling front steps is first)
I’m bitchy a/f and think that I’ll be going to bed this way.
(Pamela channel surfs and starts watching the 2018 ESPY awards, really?)
Then I watch Jim Kelly accept the Jimmy V award for perseverance.
I watch and halfway through, I start to cry for the guy and then think about my chronic daily bitch fest.
And then I think: Jesus Krispies, Michael, you little whiny bitch.
Just.
Stop.
Honestly.
There are moments in life when we realize that ‘said’ higher powers are listening.
This was one of those moments.
Regardless of what you may personally think of Jim Kelly, his life and his story gave me some serious pause.
My Man was listening (and watching) from upstairs and didn’t like what he saw in me as of late. And He would be totally correct in His assumptions.
I was being a whiny little turdface in need of a proverbial celestial dope slap.
That slap was graciously granted courtesy of Jim Kelly. And the ESPY’s.
So thank you, Jim Kelly.
And the ESPY’s, I guess.
I seriously needed that slap.

M

 

Advertisements

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

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

Snow

I’m sitting here on Christmas night with not much of anything to blog about but I’ve had a wonderful Christmas and I can’t help but wonder why.
I’m thinking it’s because I am loved.
The girls and Pamela are watching “Hairspray” and laughing and all things considered, my life is good.
I am the richest man in town at this moment.
I thank all of you dearly for leaving such wonderful comments.
Tomorrow is a very special day.
21 years ago tonight, I was driving my lovely and very pregnant wife to the hospital for the birth of our first little girl.
Sarah is 21 tomorrow.
Good God, time flies . . .
Please leave a warm wish or some sage advice for her.
Merry Christmas everybody!
And yes, it’s snowing on my blog tonight.
How apropos is that?

peace,
~m

Happy Birthday, Sas!

Some Children See Him

It was many years ago on a Christmas night that I paused to look in on our girls before I went to bed. They were sleeping and hopefully dreaming of sweet things.
At the time, we’d put a radio in their room so they could drift off to dreamland to some soft music.
Though this Christmas night was very long ago, I remember it vividly.
As I turned to make my way to our bedroom, my ears soaked in whatever was playing on their radio.
It was a beautiful solo piano piece.
Standing there mesmerized, I realized I had goosebumps up and down my arms.
(a rarity for me, musically speaking)
This song, whatever it was, was something special.
When the song finished, I went back downstairs and called the radio station in Boston and actually spoke to the (obviously) lonely DJ.

“What was the last song you played? That solo piano thing?” I asked.

“Yeah, man . . . wasn’t that beautiful? It’s called, “Some Children See Him”, by Dave Grusin.
It’s off the first GRP Christmas Album. Nice stuff.”

I wished him a Merry Christmas and told him he’d just made my holiday.
I think he liked that.

Fast forward to tonight.
I’m sitting on the train listening to my Ipod when this song comes on.
It’s James Taylor singing Some Children See Him.
Goosebumps, folks.
The sad realization came to me that I never really ‘listened’ to the song.
Tonight was a very different story.
Hence, this post.
Here are the lyrics . . . (much nicer if you have the tune to listen to)

Some children see Him lily white,
The baby Jesus born this night.
Some children see Him lily white,
With tresses soft and fair.

Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
The Lord of heav’n to earth come down.
Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
With dark and heavy hair.

Some children see Him almond-eyed,
This Savior whom we kneel beside.
Some children see Him almond-eyed,
With skin of golden hue.

Some children see Him dark as they,
Sweet Mary’s Son to whom we pray.
Some children see him dark as they,
And, oh . . . they love Him, too

The children in each different place
Will see the baby Jesus’ face
Like theirs, but bright with heavenly grace,
And filled with holy light.
O lay aside each earthly thing
And with thy heart as offering,
Come worship now the infant King.
‘Tis love that’s born tonight!

For me, the holiday season can be summed up in the very last line of the song:
‘Tis love that’s born tonight’.
Christmas has very little to do with gifts, Mistletoe, jingle bells or EggNog;
there’s so much more that we may never see or feel simply because we’re all too busy Christmasing the way we “think” we’re supposed to, the quintessential celebrations we unknowingly try and mimic based on oh so many HDTV and jewelry commercials.
Yes, some children do see Him but it’s through eyes that understand the true nature of the Christmas holiday.
It’s never been about ‘the stuff’.
It’s about offering your soul, granting forgiveness and selfless acts of the heart.
I pray that my eyes will see Him for who He truly is.
I pray the same for the commercially blind living in this surreal marshmallow world.

~m

8-ball

When I was a little boy and needed an answer to the multitude of questions life threw in my path, I would ask my mother.
She was an all-knowing, mystical 8-ball in human form, I didn’t have to pick her up and shake her for a reply.
And I didn’t get “Signs point to yes,” or “Ask again later,” or “Outlook good,” as a response. I got advice on the inner machinations of the female mind, sticky social situations, manners, clothing – it didn’t really matter; my mother had an answer for virtually everything and I could never quite figure out how she got so damn smart.
But she was.
It’s evident now that she didn’t have some predictable icosahedron spinning around in that head of hers like the ubiquitous manufactured 8-ball.

It’s frightening how many questions have pig-piled their way into my brain since she got sick. They never stop coming in, a veritable hailstorm of unanswerable queries.
I get to a point these days where they get mentally filed for future processing.
There’s no other way, right now.

Last Sunday morning (the last day of my week off), Pamela and I took a ride to my mother’s grave.
It was a beautiful, crisp-as-a-new-fallen Macintosh fall day with abundant sunshine and a slight breeze, the aroma of burning leaves from someplace nearby oddly reminded me of frankincense.
We sat on the rose granite bench bearing my mother and father’s names and retreated to our own respective ‘quiet places’, both of us pondering some considerable ‘life thoughts’.
I’m thinking about the approaching winter and how I’m going to get the coal we need to stay warm. And I’m thinking about the fast approaching Christmas holiday and how we’re going to stand up to all its financial and emotional stresses.
I know Pamela is thinking the exact same thing; Christmas? . . . not again?!?
Something’s gotta give, and soon.
Pamela spotted a new gravestone off in the distance and got up to go and see it and I followed her.
It was a fairly elaborate jet black headstone with two smaller stones on each side.
This was the resting place of a 10 year-old little girl named, Victoria.

She died on December 21, 2005.

We stood there staring at the stone, both of us shedding tears for a little girl we didn’t even know, silently wondering how in God’s name her mother and father got through the holiday season and we began saying prayers . . . for all of them.
And here we were thinking we had it rough with our three beautiful, intelligent and loving daughters that we could go and hug anytime we wanted.
Damn, we were so incredibly fortunate.
We walked back to my mother’s bench and sat down taking in the endless miles of cerulean fall sky.
I couldn’t help but feel that my mother had found yet another way to give me an answer to a question I’d yet to ask.
We drove home in a very different mood. And our life was good.
We just needed to open our eyes to see it.
Thanks, Mom, for teaching me to remember to cherish all that I have . . .

~m

Yellow

Had to share this.
It’s from my good friend Yvonne . . .
Wish I could take credit for it

~m

The yellow shirt had long sleeves, four extra-large pockets trimmed in black thread and snaps up the front. It was faded from years of wear, but still in decent shape when I found it in 1963, home from college on Christmas break, rummaging through bags
of clothes Mom intended to give away.

“You’re not taking that old thing, are you?” Mom said when she saw me packing the yellow shirt.
“I wore that when I was pregnant with your brother in 1954!”

“It’s just the thing to wear over my clothes during art class, Mom. Thanks!”

I slipped it into my suitcase before she could object.
The yellow shirt be came a part of my college wardrobe. I loved it.
After graduation, I wore the shirt the day I moved into my new apartment
and on Saturday mornings when I cleaned.

The next year, I married.
When I became pregnant, I wore the yellow shirt during big-belly days.
I missed Mom and the rest of my family, since we were in Colorado and they were in Illinois.
But that shirt helped.
I smiled, remembering that Mother had worn it when she was pregnant, 15 years earlier.

That Christmas, mindful of the warm feelings the shirt had given me, I patched one elbow, wrapped it in holiday paper and sent it to Mom.
When Mom wrote to thank me for her “real” gifts, she said the yellow shirt was lovely. She never mentioned it again.

The next year, my husband, daughter and I stopped at Mom and Dad’s to pick up some
furniture.
Days later, when we uncrated the kitchen table, I noticed something yellow taped to its bottom. The shirt!

And so the pattern was set.

On our next visit home, I secretly placed the shirt under Mom and Dad’s mattress. I don’t know how long it took for her to find it, but almost two years passed before I discovered it under the base of our living-room floor lamp. The yellow shirt was just what I needed now while refinishing furniture. The walnut stains added character.

In 1975 my husband and I divorced.
With my three children, I prepared to move back to Illinois. As I packed, a deep depression overtook me. I wondered if I could make it on my own. I wondered if I would find a job. I paged through the Bible, looking for comfort.
In Ephesians, I read, “So use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will be standing up.”

I tried to picture myself wearing God’s armor, but all I saw was the stained yellow shirt. Slowly, it dawned on me.
Wasn’t my mother’s love a piece of God’s armor?
My courage was renewed.

Unpacking in our new home, I knew I had to get the shirt back to my mother the next time I visited her.
I tucked it in her bottom dresser drawer.

Meanwhile, I found a good job at a radio station. A year later I discovered the yellow shirt hidden in a rag bag in my cleaning closet. Something new had been added. Embroidered in bright green a cross the breast pocket were the words
“I BELONG TO PAT.”
Not to be outdone, I got out my own embroidery materials and added an apostrophe and seven more letters.
Now the shirt proudly proclaimed, “I BELONG TO PAT’S MOTHER.”
But I didn’t stop there.
I zigzagged all the frayed seams and then had a friend mail the shirt in a fancy box to Mom from Arlington, VA.
We enclosed an official looking letter from “The Institute for the
Destitute,” announcing that she was the recipient of an award for good deeds.
I would have given anything to see Mom’s face when she opened the box.
But, of course, she never mentioned it.!

Two years later, in 1978, I remarried. The day of our wedding, Harold and I put our car in a friend’s garage to avoid practical jokers. After the wedding, while my husband drove us to our honeymoon suite, I reached for a pillow in the car to rest my head.
It felt lumpy. I unzipped the case and found, wrapped in wedding paper, the yellow shirt. Inside a pocket was a note: “Read John 14:27-29. I love you both, Mother.”

That night I paged through the Bible in a hotel room and found the verses:
“I am leaving you with a gift: peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really love me, you will be very happy for me, for now I can go to the Father, who is greater than I am. I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do, you will believe in me.”

The shirt was Mother’s final gift. She had known for three months that she had terminal Lou Gehrig’s disease. Mother died the following year at age 57.

I was tempted to send the yellow shirt with her to her grave. But I’m glad I didn’t, because it is a vivid reminder of the love-filled game she and I played for 16 years.
Besides, my older daughter is in college now, majoring in art.
And every art student needs a baggy yellow shirt with big pockets . . .