My Great Big Dream

I grew up in a house full of girls.  Lots of girls, lots of fingernails to paint, lots of toenails, lots of hair to plug up the drains.  I am the oldest of 4 girls and second born.  My mother experienced preeclampsia when pregnant with her first, my brother, whom she carried full term and delivered and lost after less than a day.  She said he had a widow’s peak of dark black hair.  She told me of the tiny casket.  I’ve been to his tiny grave where his tiny body lies in the special section full of other tiny graves holding tiny caskets and tiny bodies that were once held close in the arms of adoring parents with great big dreams.

As a child, I couldn’t quite conceive of the idea of having an older sibling, or a brother.  I remember looking down at the tiny name plate and looking around at the others.  Are they all friends somewhere now?  Do they chase butterflies and catch toads and make heavenly mud pies?  Do they climb trees and eat sweet, white fruit?  Do they shatter God’s windows with wayward baseballs?  Do they have someone to rock them and to sing them soft songs and smooth their feathery hair after an afternoon of teddy bears and tea parties?

As a young mother I looked down at the tiny name plate and prayed for my baby, my son.  All I could imagine as I looked around “ToyLand” was the devastation I’d feel if anything ever happened to my baby.  I watched him toddling around on the grass holding his daddy’s hand and tears moved over my cheeks and fell to the ground to nourish the earth tenderly cradling my “baby” brother for as long as there’s earth.

I don’t remember my dad ever talking to me about his son or the loss of his great big dream.  I will always remember the joy in his eyes at learning that his first grand child would be a boy.  I felt like I was giving him a gift he’d had snatched away to be replaced by the “bitchin’ and moanin,” destructive contention, and dawdling dilly-dally of four girls who somehow knew that though he loved us, he might have loved us more if we were boys.  Still, he did love us in his own way.  He played and he worked very hard to give us a good home.  He also became a boy scout master and enjoyed the bonds created by over 30 years with his many, many sons.

I knew from a very young, house playing age, that I was going to have two children.  I was going to have a little boy and then a little girl so she would have an older brother to watch out for her and to look up to and so he would have a little sister to adore and protect.  That was my great big dream.  And things generally worked out as I had planned.  I had my sweet son and then my sweet daughter who was never adored more by anyone in the world than my sweet son.  My little family was complete.  The greatest compliment I ever received from my dad, he gave me after an evening of babysitting for my sweet ones.  He smiled at me and said, “You’re a good mama.”

My great big dream never included my sweet daughter being taken from us.  My great big dream involved college graduations, weddings, grand children, happily ever afters all around.  Then I heard somewhere that if you want to make God laugh, tell him *your* plans.  I’m not so sure how I feel about God right now.  I feel punished for making plans or maybe just for making them so big and great.  Or maybe just for thinking they were mine to make in the first place.  But I don’t believe in a God who would punish me by taking my daughter away.  Maybe God had nothing to do with it.  Or maybe I’m wrong.

I have a loving husband, a precious son, and two step-sons all of whom I admire and love deeply for their presence and their quiet strength in the face of their own adversities as well as their kind and caring sensitivity in response to mine.  After having spent so much of my life surrounded by the fluidity of the feminine, I am now most often surrounded by the solidity of the masculine. I think of my brother. I think of my father who passed away following renal cancer in 2004 at the age of 63 while still embroiled in the aftermath of his own father’s death just 2 years prior.  I think of all the dreams that never came true.  And I think of a time, which will come sooner than any of us ever plan, when all of us will be there, wherever that is, together again.

I also imagine that Dannica is the one who cradles and rocks and smooths the feathery hair of the tiny ones while singing them soft songs.  I suspect she’s also making some heavenly mud pies and climbing the trees to be with the birds who loved her so much when she was here.  How I look forward to the time when I can sit beneath those trees with her and our teddy bears and our tea…to the next time I can rock her in my arms and sing her soft songs and smooth her feathery hair.  This is now my great big dream.

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Away & Back Again

I’ve been away. Where, I can’t say because I’m not sure. I’ve just been sitting in the observer’s seat; watching myself go from this to the next this to that and another thing… for weeks now… I think.

I was going to look at my previous post to see what was happening last time I sat here in my blogger’s seat and then try to fill in all the blanks. That’s the obsessive, compulsive me that needs to connect each dot, unfailingly, to the next. But my brain hasn’t been working that way and I’m finding it fascinating, the dots my brain is picking and choosing to pull out, dust off, and carefully place randomly to be connected in a new way. What will they look like, these dots, when I begin to connect them?  The image of a windmill with tulips all around?  A purple rose?  A secret message that needs to be held up to a mirror to decipher?  A monster that will eat me up and spit out my bones?  Connecting the first few dots I realize they don’t have numbers next to them the way my childhood dots did.  This is freeing and this is frightening.

I was having a pedicure a few weeks back.  The technician didn’t speak much English but I tried to make light conversation.  The previous visit, a young, very pregnant woman had done my toes, smiling sweetly, speaking little English, as well.  I asked whether she’d had her baby and big smiles and nods told me, “Yes!  A little boy.”  I didn’t see the next question coming, “Do you have children?”  This is a question I will have to answer for the rest of my earthly life and it is a question which dangled and then dropped me, and probably will again, into a deep dark hole.

“Yes,” I smiled weakly. “Two children, a son who is 21 and a daughter who is 18. (And who died in a terrible auto accident only 3 months ago but I’m not going to tell you that because you barely understand English and you don’t know me and if I say another word I will cry and you’ll feel terrible and so will I and I don’t want you to even try to know me that well even though I love you as deeply as possible as another human being with human challenges and triumphs because that is not only my nature but my life’s work… my mission… to care for, to help others heal and grow and blossom beyond life’s trauma, trial, and tribulation… despite my own.)

This is a question I will be asked again and again for the rest of my life.  How will I answer that question again and again for the rest of my life?  However I feel like it in that moment, for the rest of my life.  And I have no idea, whatsoever, how that will be.  And reading that back to myself makes me sob.

Before Dannica’s passing, I’d never had a professional pedicure before.  She did that for me and I did that for her.  We’d set up the foot bath next to the couch and decide what to watch on TV; Parenthood, Gilmore Girls, America’s Funniest, a movie.  Dannica gave the most *incredible* foot rubs.  Many times, I’d drift off, if felt *so* good, so nurturing, so loving, so precious… so sweet.  I loved returning that favor.  I so loved that she would let me love and nurture her, my baby girl, in this way.  We’d talk about the colors and the decals and we’d cuddle close on the couch to finish watching whatever was on while admiring our twinkle toes.

In so many ways my Danni Jade was my best friend.  I could confide nearly anything in her and she always gave me her honest thoughts and opinions.  There was a natural spring of wisdom balanced with love and humor within her that quenched my need to know ‘all is well’ on many, many occasions. Others saw it, too… she really is an old soul… with the wisdom to prove it.

I go out now sans the “loss of my sweetness” filter, at least to anyone really paying attention or those who know me.  People greet me, “Hi, how are you?”  and I reply that I am fine or that I am doing well, thanks, “How are you?”  All superficial, all superfluous… really, meaningless.  My heart feels that.  Probably, it always will.  My heart would like the honest expressions and genuine interactions to continue.  What filters are these others wearing or not wearing today?  That’s my new game… filter for filters while striving to remain real.

When the Masks Won’t Stick

Many times in my life I’ve wished I could be invisible. Now is another one of those times. Before Dannica’s passing, I held my head high and met people’s gaze with a smile. Especially during the holidays, I used to consider it a challenge to smile at as many people as I could and get them to smile back at me. The closer it got to Christmas, the more of a challenge that actually became. People became frantic and pissy and angry and downright hostile. Watch out for the ones who wear santa hats or reindeer antlers in public because in my experience they are the cream of the Christmas-Warrior crop.

One year, I did experience an exception; a Santa hat wearing love loony like me only in a wheelchair. We were both looking over bags of clementines when he asked me, “What do you think would happen if I said, ‘HoHoHo! and Merry Christmas’ to everyone in this store?” I looked at him and smiled thinking, You’re gonna get yourself shot. Sad.

Sometimes I’d work my way to the center of the store and I’d close my eyes, pretending to inspect something on one of the shelves. I’d stand there with my eyes closed and listen to the craziness all around me. Children crying, parents threatening without follow through, awful music playing too loud, frazzled employees dragging themselves through 24/7 shifts and trying to smile through the dark circles under their eyes, people pushing each other, cursing at each other, trampling each other… to death… for a DVD player. Why do we do this? Because we love each other? Because we love Jesus??

So I started working my way to the centers of stores, closing my eyes and trying to imagine a bright, white, light coming up through my feet from the depths of the Earth and illuminating me until all I could be perceived as by others was light. I moved myself out from my center and filled every space between every molecule of all that was. I emanated beyond the walls of the store and out into the parking lots all the way to the streets. I tried to breathe in all the hostility that was out there. I imagined the spaces being made where the hostility had been and I imagined them filling again with this light that I now was. I pulled all the sludge back in with me, down through the top of my head, through the bottoms of my feet, back down deep into the center of the earth where I hoped it would be composted and used to make this a better world… free from “the Season” of obligatory mental illness. Only 324 shopping days left.

It’s hard to smile right now. When I go to the store I can’t look people in the eye or even in the face. The weight of another’s glance in my direction still hurts too much for someone with a condition too tender to touch. The hardest question to answer is, “How are you?” when it comes from someone I don’t know. I don’t go out if I don’t feel up to it but even then, I never know what’s going to set me off because the wounds are so raw and emotions are flowing so close to the surface of these still waters that also run so deep.

I will probably never see her again, but I apologize to the woman in the grocery line I stepped into without realizing the cashier had put up his closed sign. I was busy patting myself on the back for managing to pick up a few things without looking at anyone or talking to anyone or crying and having to leave my cart and go home when she turned and abruptly told me, “He’s closed!! He has to be somewhere!” I looked at her and immediately started crying.

“Well, thank GOD he’s got YOU!” I squeaked and moved to another line. Instantly exhausted and feeling like I had almost made it so far I wondered if I should just leave. I took a deep breath and dropped my goldfish crackers onto the belt. My diet has consisted largely of schools of goldfish crackers since they’ve been on sale 4/$5.

The next cashier asked, “How are you?”

“Fine,” I choked back another sob.

“Paper or plastic?”

The masks I wore before won’t stay on now. The tears keep dissolving the stickum and then they fall off and I have to make a new one. I wonder where I can trade in many broken masks for an invisibility cloak made of Gore-Tex.