Wednesday, August 24, 2011

August 24, 2011

Hey You

Crickets try to hypnotize me as I sit here, a cool breeze coming from the patio door. 

I am getting better at sitting with myself.  Alone.  Absorbing the moment.  Slowing down.  It is hard for me.  My muscles are tired, running from my feelings.  I need to catch up with myself.

And what better place than in this space I have created myself.  My woman cave.  You would love it here. 

A remnant of a dream.   “Mom, you will love it here.  The colors are amazing when the winds blow.”

I haven’t seen you in awhile.

Last night I dreamed you.

At 6 a.m., not ready to leave thatworld where dreams take place, I reached over hitting the alarm button.  Off.

To be with you again. 

I cried out. 

I was lost.  I was alone.  I was panic stricken.  On a tour in a foreign county I got left behind.  With no luggage, no purse, no i.d., no money.  Nothing to define me.  To prove to anyone who I was.  I could not go anywhere.  I had nowhere to go.  The harder I fought it, the more panicked I became.  I was shouting at everyone, and no one.  I was screaming fiercely from a primal place.

My voice was getting hoarse.  Nobody understood me.  So they got angry.  The angrier they became, the more I screamed back at them.  I only wanted them to hear me.  Finally, I understood.  I was defeated.  In that moment, I felt you. 

The warmth of you around me. 

I dissolved.  Every nerve released.  You touched my shoulders, pulled me around so I could see that it was you. 

“I will take care of you,” you said, “ I am with you.”

And you were.  Everywhere.

How could I wake up from that?

I did not want to. 

I settled for just another hour with you. 

Then just like every morning, I got up with echoes of you inside of me. 

There are so instructions for this.  No self help books.  Nothing to describe the private hell of this. 

I was going to conquer my grief like I have conquered every other shit hole deal that came my way.  But I have been humbled, conquered by your absolute absence. 

There are no stages to my grief.  It has been a constant not wanting to accept this--because I cannot absorb it.

I whisper as I type these words, “Andrea.  I wish you were here with me.”

I stop and wait for the next sentence to form.  An answer.  The curser blinks, blinks, blinks.  Like a foot tap tapping impatiently.  I tell it wait.    

You have  passed through me. 

You have passed away from me.

Now.  You are with me.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Yard Sale

August 21, 2011

Finally, a weekend of summer.  This has been the coldest since  1910.

The blueberries are fat and full of sugar from this long cool summer.  I bought a flat today from a farm stand, and peaches warm sitting in the sun.  I ate a bowl of those peaches, blueberries, yogurt and almonds for dinner while I wrote this letter to you.

The storage unit is almost empty.  All day Friday I pulled boxes out into the sun.  Sorted, spread their contents into  piles on the grass.  In the boxes were the final remaining tangible memories of your childhood I had yet to unpack.

These boxes have been haunting me.  Weighing me down.  In these past few days, after cleaning out, organizing the garage, I have felt that it was time.  Time to let the boxes, and whatever was inside of them, go. 

Pencils, pens, calculators, the lamp that sat on your desk.  Bedding, the throw pillows you had on your bed.  A set of fairy pictures for your bedroom.  The rubber ducky shower curtain, soap dish, toothbrush holder.  Towels with rubber duckies embroidered on them.  And rubber duckies.  Kitchen stuff we shopped together for, when you found your first apartment.  A note from Ingrid that your rent check bounced and you needed to get ahold of her.  Beanie Babies and stuffed animals, include a talking Rosie  O’Donnell doll (you had quite the collection of magazines with Rosie stories). Photography equipment, negatives and pictures that you took.  Christmas decorations.  A Monopoly game, a slumber party game and Outburst Jr.  Sports equipment.  Papers, cards.  A note from Megan she was having a party.  Please come.  Your resume.   

Yesterday, Steve’s daughter had a yard sale.  She texted me earlier in the week, inviting me to bring whatever I wanted to sell.  I took her up on her invitation.  In front of her house, Steve built tables with saw horses, an old door and some lumber we scavenged from the construction site near my house.   The tables spanned the width of her lot. 

I unpacked all the stuff I sorted and had repacked the night before, laid it out on the tables.  All day long the cars came.  A young woman furnishing her first apartment showed up as soon as we unpacked.  She bought the two metal chairs you and I purchased at Pier One for your first dining room.  She is using your old black trunk for a coffee table. 

I told her “These were my daughter’s for her first apartment,” as I helped her fit the chairs and trunk into her SUV. 

“Oh yeah?” She showed me a little cart she bought at a yard sale earlier in the morning. 

“Enjoy.”  I told her as I turned away and walked back to the tables.

A little girl came with her mother.  She grabbed the black velveteen sombrero with the silver cords. 

“Look Mommy.  Can I have it?”  She asked.

“No.  Not today.”  Her mom answered.

The little girl hung her head. 

“If it is ok with you, I will give it to her.  She can have it.”  I told the mother. 

I saw you at the little carnival in Juarez two-years-old.  Your dad put that hat on you and decided you needed to have it.  When we got home, you walked around naked in our apartment with nothing but that hat on. Brown curls, like this little girls, springing out in every direction.  Your little round belly pooched out. 

The little girl looked up at her mother expectantly. 

“Are you sure?” the mother asked. 

“Absolutely.” I answered smiling at the little girl.

The mother continued shopping while the little girl trailed behind her playing with the chin strap, reaching up to touch the braiding. 

When the mother came up to bargain over your pillows, a set of sheets, the little girl grabbed me around the waist and squeezed. 

“Thank you.”  She said.

“You are welcome.”  I told her as I put my arm on her back.  “You take care of that.  It was my daughter’s when she was a little girl.”

All day long, as strangers came to dicker over the prices on golf balls, kitchen ware, your baseball glove, Steve watched over me.   I’d feel him come up behind me , lean in and ask me quietly, “How you doin’ Sugar?” 

I would answer, “I’m ok.”  And I wasn’t lying.  I was accepting this.  Saying goodbye, a set of measuring cups, a toaster, an empty frame at a time.

All the stuff in boxes is mostly gone now.   Alot went in the yard sale.  The rest I took to the Goodwill.  All of it becoming someone else’s--imbued with their memories.  Freed from mine.

There are a few things I have kept to look at later.  Or put out somewhere that I can see .  When I am ready.

This morning, Steve brought me coffee at 7 a.m. 

“Good morning.”  He greeted me as he opened the blinds, drew back the white sheer curtains to show me sunshine.  “Let’s get going before it gets too hot.”

We had decided to finish cleaning out the recycling, the garbage and bring home the furniture so the storage unit could be closed out. 

All morning long, as the sun tracked the southeastern sky traveling west, we finished looking through boxes of papers.   Finished sorting and piling—Goodwill, recycle, garbage.  There are two banker boxes of papers, a dresser, a nightstand, and a shelving unit to bring home still.  Steve’s truck is full.  He will take care of its contents tomorrow morning.

When we finished, we were both covered in dirt and sweat. 

He had a gallon jug of water.  “Are you hot?”  He asked me.

“Totally.”  I answered.  I picked up my supersize Jack in the Box plastic cup of iced tea. 

He splashed my chest with water from the gallon jug.

“EEEEEEE!”  I screamed, first in shock at the cold splashed down the front of my shirt.  Then because it was refreshing.  Steve looked at me, gauging my response. 

“Game on.”  I laughed as I splashed him with cold tea.  By the time we were finished, our chests were soaked. 

As I sit here, typing tonight, Sadie is laying by my chair chewing on a bone.  Stella is asleep under the lamp next to me on the desk.  Steve is sleeping soundly in my bed. 

I need to go up to him now.  To quietly rest my back against the curve of his stomach.  He will wrap an arm around me, pull me closer.  

"Mmmm.  Where you been?"

"Writing." I will answer.

"You o.k.?"  He will ask.

"Mmmm."  I will answer.

My breath will synch with his as he falls back asleep.   

He is here for me.  

And I am here for him.


Sunday, August 7, 2011


August 7, 2011

Good Morning Andrea,

Steve is in his kitchen making breakfast. 

“Are you hungry?”  he asks me.  He sees that I am writing.

“Not really.”  I answer.  He has broken my train of thought.  The only thing I am hungry for is words.  Answers.  A good cry.  But I am afraid to cry in front of him.  I take a sip of my coffee.  Now the cup is empty. 

“Are you hungry?”  I ask.

“I am.  But I’ll have a bowl of oatmeal.”

“Sounds yummy.”  I tell him.  Trying to convey in my voice I am concentrating on something else.  I need to retreat into myself, find silence, and let these vibrations settle. 

The sun is trying to find its way around the clouds this morning.  I watched a leaf  break free from the maple tree and float lazily, swaying back and forth as invisible hands caught it, rocked it, let it glide down to the next set of hands below, until finally it landed in the grass. 

I sit here , the curser blinking, demanding that I string together letters to  form the words that will become the sentence, then the paragraph . 



Even the computer demands something of me.

I am a mother.  One daughter dead.  One daughter I am estranged from.

Erin is angry.  She needs her anger.  It sustains her.

I had to “un-friend" her from my Facebook page.  I read what she writes and I immediately want to defend myself.  But there is no defense, there is only the fight.  She has her story, I have mine.  I have no energy to engage. 

My friend Ami asked me, “Have you thought about inviting your daughter to counseling?” 

“I’ve suggested she get some counseling, join a group on her own.”  I have thought about joint counseling.  I have discussed the thought with Steve, Karen, Lisa, myself. 

My sister says she doesn’t think counseling would accomplish anything.  Erin is too entrenched in her anger and resentments.  She resents the fact you died and that I grieve for you.  She resents the fact my relationship with you was different than the relationship I have with her.   The angrier she becomes with me, the further I retreat.

I have no energy to fight with her about any of it.  I have no energy to defend myself. 

Paralyzed I do nothing now.  I sit in the clouds, let them envelope me. 

I think of the maple leaf. 

I will be the maple leaf, gliding from one set of hands rocking me to the next. 

Love is not enough. 

Unless I let it be. 

Lying in the grass, next to the newly fallen maple leaf, I wait patiently for the sun to warm me.  In the meantime, these vibrations, I give them a name.  I turn them into energy I can release.  I block out everything but a nuclear core of love . 

It will create its own reactions.

                                                          Love you,

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Power Tools

Hi Again,

You know, when I grew up, girls did not have power tools.  We had EZ Bake Ovens, Singer sewing machines, and Hoover vacuum cleaners. 
Boys built things.  It was my job, as a female, to learn to take care of them.  I went to Home Ec Class and baked.  The boys went to Shop Class and made shelves and benches.
            I am still cleaning out the garage.  Still sifting though all the stuff that survived you.  Sometimes, I lift the lid of one of the banker’s boxes, find a picture you drew, a story you wrote.  The other night I found one you must have written when you were at Lake Doloff Elementary in the fifth grade.  It is called The Peterson Paper.  You wrote:

           Hunter’s Education.  My greatest accomplishment this summer would
           have happened the tenth of September.  That was when I received my
           green card.  This green card is what hunters under the age of eighteen
           need to be able to hunt.  To get my green card I had to complete a written
           test and go to range day.  Range day was when we shot at targets and
           went through field training.  Field training was when we went through a
           long trail with fakegame tags and unloaded firearms.  The trail had many
           obstacles like barbwire fences, streams, gates, trees and other hunters. 
           After passing the field training you had to get your card if you were
           qualified. Now I can go hunting with my mom.

            I sank to the bare gray concrete floor and sat with The Peterson Paper in my hand.  I am certain I saw this with the rest of your school papers when you brought it home with a perfect 25 out of 25.  But did I read it?  I cannot remember.  And now I hold it in my hand, an indictment against my mothering.  “Now I can go hunting with my mom.” 
I never took you hunting.
I am not sure, sitting here writing on this warm Wednesday evening, that anything I did do with you, made up for that.  The expectation I would take you, the fact I did not.
The Peterson Paper is back in the banker’s box, on top, where I found it.  Under it are pictures, newspaper clippings, more stories ready to make paper cuts across my heart.
Along with golf clubs that hang from a screw in the wall, your snowboard leaning against the garage shelves, I inherited your boxes of tools.  As a result I have 5 small levels, 4 hammers, assorted wrenches, some socket thingies, a bunch of screw drivers and lo and behold, power tools.  Other than putting hangers in the walls and making sure the pictures are level, I am not sure what do with all this stuff you were so adept at using.
It is time to learn to use those power tools.  To learn to build and make things.   Steve, as you might guess, turns out to be a patient and excellent mentor.  Lesson one was how to build shelves.  Turns out it is pretty easy.  Though I am a little afraid of that circular saw, I am pretty good with the drill.  That Black and Decker Firestorm with the removable chuck is pretty awesome.  You can drill a hole, remove the chuck and there is a Phillips head to set the screw.  Steve cut pieces of wood and I put them together.  In an afternoon we managed to build me a workbench out of a funky table and some wooden crates I found at a garage sale. 
My very own workbench I designed and found the pieces for.  Steve taught me how to put them all together.  Together, he and I created the wonderful new space where I love to sit and meditate.  It all started with a box of assorted hand tools and power tools inherited from you.
My very own woman cave.
            The power of tools.

                                                I love you Andie,