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Posts Tagged ‘my kids’

my wish for my children is that they live their lives out loud…

when ever i think about that, i always remember an essay i read years ago by Robert James Waller.   he is most known for writing “The Bridges of Madison County”.  the essay is called “Excavating Rachael’s Room” and is in a book of essays he wrote called “Old Songs in a New Cafe”.   it moves me every time i read it.

Excavating Rachael’s Room by Robert James Waller

“Like some rumpled alien army awaiting marching orders, the brown trash bags hunker down on the patio in a column of twos. A hard little caravan are they, resting in sunlight and shadow and caring not for their cargos, the sweepings of childhood and beyond.

With her eighteenth birthday near, Rachael has moved to Boston, leaving her room and the cleaning of it to us.

After conducting a one-family attempt at turning United Parcel Service into something resembling North American Van Lines, we gather by the front door early on a Sunday morning.

Besides the suitcases are stacked six boxes, taped and tied. In my innocence, I tap the topmost box and ask, “What are these?”

“That’s stuff I couldn’t get in my suitcases last night; you guys can send it to me,” she replies, rummaging through her purse. Out of habit, I begin a droning lecture on planning ahead, realize the futility of it, and am quiet.

She has a deep caring for the animals and purposely, we know, avoids saying good-bye to them, particularly the small female cat acquired during her stay at camp one summer, years ago.

The cat has shared her bed, has been her confidant and has greeted her in the afternoons when she returned from school. Good-bye would be too much, would bring overpowering tears, would destroy the blithe air of getting on with it she is trying hard to preserve.

We watch her walk across the apron of the Waterloo airport, clutching her ticket, and she disappears into the funny little Air Wisconsin plane.

Turning, just as she left the departure lounge, she grinned and flashed the peace sign. I was all right until then, but with that last insouciant gesture, so typical of her, the poignancy of the moment is driven home and tears come.

We hurry outside and stand in hot sunlight to see the plane leave. I note that we have never done this before, for anyone.

Clinging to the heavy fence wire along the airport boundary, I watch the plan take off to the west and make a last allegoric circle over Cedar Falls. East she travels and is gone, disappearing in the haze of an Iowa summer.

Back home, beer in hand, we sit on the porch, listening to the hickory nuts fall, recounting the failures and remembering the triumphs.

For the 500th time in the last eighteen years, we describe to each other the night of her birth, how she looked coming down the hall in Bloomington, Indiana, hospital gurney in her mother’s arms. How we felt, how we feel, what we did and didn’t do.

We take a few days off, just to get used to the idea of there being only two of us again. Then, tentatively, we push open the door to her room.

The dogs peer into the darkness from around our legs and look up at us. The room—well—undulates. It stands as a shrine to questionable taste, a paean to the worst of American consumerism. The last few echoes of Def Leppard and Twisted Sister are barely audible. Georgia sighs.

I suggest flame throwers coupled with a front-end loader and caution the cleanup crew, which now includes the two cats, about a presence over in one of the corners. Faintly, I can hear it rustle and snarl. It is, I propose, some furry guardian of teenage values, and it senses, correctly, that we are enemies.

Trash bags in hand, we start at the door and work inward, tough-minded.

“My god, look at this stuff; let’s toss it all.”

The first few hours are easy. Half-empty shampoo bottles go into the bags, along with three dozen hair curlers, four dozen dried-up ball-point pens and uncountable pictures of bare-chested young men with contorted faces clawing at strange-looking guitars.

Farther into the room salvage appears: the hammer that disappeared years ago; about six bucks in change; fifty percent of the family’s towel and drinking-glass stock; five sets of keys to the Toyota. More. Good stuff. We work with avengeance.

Moving down through the layers, though, we begin to undergo a transformation.

Slowly, we change from rough-and-tumble scavengers to gentle archaeologists. Perhaps it started when we reached the level of the dolls and stuffed animals. Maybe it was when I found “The Man Who Never Washed His Dishes,” a morality play in a dozen or so pages, with her childhood scribblings in it. In any case, tough-mindedness has turned to drippy sentimentality by the time we find the tack and one shoe from Bill, her horse.

I had demanded that Bill be sold when he was left unridden after the five years of an intense love affair with him were over. That was hard on her, I know. I begin to understand just how hard when Georgia discovers a bottle of horsefly repellent that [Rachael] kept for her memories.

We hold up treasures and call to each other. “Look at this, do you remember…?”

And there’s Barbie. And Barbie’s clothes. And Barbie’s camper in which the young female cat was given grand tours of the house, even though she would have preferred not to travel at all, thank you.

My ravings about the sexist glorification of middle-class values personified by Barbie seem stupid and hollow in retrospect, as I devilishly look at the cat and wonder if she still fits in the camper. “Here kitty, kitty….” Ken is not in sight. Off working out on the Nautilus equipment, I suppose. Or studying tax shelters.

Ah, the long-handled net with which Iowa nearly was cleared of fireflies for a time. “I know they look pretty in the bottle, Sweetheart, but they will die if you keep them there all night.”

Twister—The Game That Ties You Up in Knots. The ball glove. She was pretty decent at first base. And the violin. Jim Welch’s school orchestra was one of the best parts of her growing years.

She smiles out at us from a homecoming picture, the night of her first real date. Thousands of rocks and seashells. The little weaving loom on which she fashioned pot holders for entire neighborhoods. My resolve is completely gone as I rescue Snoopy’s pennant from the flapping jaws of a trash bag and set it to one side for keeping.

We are down to small keepsakes and jewelry. Georgia takes over, not trusting my eye for value, and sorts the precious from the junk, while I shuffle through old algebra papers.

Night after night, for a year, I sat with her at the kitchen table, failing to convince her of the beauty to be found in quadratic equations and other abstractions.  I goaded her with Waller’s Conjecture: “Life is a word problem.”  Blank stare.

Finally, trying to wave hope in the face of defeat, I paraphrased Fran Lebowitz: “In the real world, there is no algebra.”

She nodded, smiling, and laughed when I admitted that not once, in all my travels, had I ever calculated how long Smith would need to overtake Brown if Brown left three hours before Smith on a slower train. I told her I’d sit in the bar and wait for Smith’s faster train.

That confirmed what she had heretofore only suspected—algebra is not needed for the abundant life, only fast trains and good whiskey. And, she was right, of course.

The job is nearly finished. All that remains is a bit of archiving. I have strange feelings, though. Have we sorted carefully enough? Probably.

Georgia is thorough about that kind of thing. Still, I walk to the road again and look at the pile. The tailings of one quarter of a life stacked up in three dozen bags. It seems like there ought to be more.

When I hear the garbage truck, I peer out of an upstairs window in her room. The garbage guys have seen lives strung out along road edges before and are not moved. The cruncher on the truck grinds hair curlers and Twister and junk jewelry and broken stuffed animals—and some small part of me.

She calls from Boston. A job. Clerking in a store, and she loves it. We are pleased and proud of her. She’s under way.

The weeks go by. Letters. “I am learning to budget my money. I hate it. I want to be rich.”

She starts her search for the Dream in a rooming house downtown and finds a Portuguese boyfriend, Tommy, who drums in a rock band and cooks Chinese for her. Ella Fitzgerald sings a free concert in the park. The cop on the beat knows her, and the store is crowded with returning college kids late in a Boston summer. Here in the woods, it’s quieter now.

Her room has been turned into a den. A computer replaces curling irons and other clutter on her desk. My pinstripes look cheerless in her closet where pink fish-net tops and leather pants once hung.

Order has replaced life. I sit quietly there and hear the laughter, the crying, the reverberation of a million phone calls. The angst of her early-teen existential crisis lingers, drifting in a small cloud near the high ceiling.

And you know what I miss? Coming home and hearing her say, “Looking pretty good, Bob! Got your suspenders on?” She could make a whirring sound just like the motor drive on a fine camera. Those few moments of irreverent hassle every day are what I miss most of all.

Regrets? A few. I wish I had walked in the woods more with her. I wish I had gotten mad less and laughed longer. Maybe we could have kept the horse another year.

Victories? A few. She loves the music and the animals. She understands romance and knows how to live a romantic life. She also has the rudimentary skills of a great blackjack dealer.  I sent her off with that instead of luggage….

She has her own agenda. She’s had it for years. It’s not my agenda, not what I would choose, but then she has a lot more courage then I do. She’s out there on her own, cooking on a hot plate in a Boston rooming house, pushing and shoving and working and discovering. My respect for her escalates. She’s going to be all right.

And I know I’ll sit on the porch as autumn comes this year and other years, in some old sweater with some old dreams, and wonder where she goes and how she goes.

I hope she goes where there’s laughter and romance, and walks the streets of Bombay and leans out of Paris windows to touch falling January snow and swims in the seas off Bora Bora and makes love in Bangkok in the Montien Hotel.

I hope she plays blackjack all night in the Barbary Coast and, money ahead, watches the sun come up in Vegas. I hope she rides the big planes out of Africa and Jakarta and feels what it’s like to turn for home just ahead of winter.

Go well, Rachael Elizabeth, my daughter. And, go knowing that your ball glove hangs on the wall beside mine, that Snoopy’s pennant flies bravely in the old airs of your room, that the violin is safe, and that the little cat now sleeps with us at night but still sits on the porch railing in the late afternoon and looks for you.”

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well, i did it.  i saw paul mccartney.  better then i could have ever imagined…ever.  aside from the emotional stuff, fulfilling my dream, how meaningful the songs were, it was just the best fucking concert i have ever seen in my life…and i’ve seen some concerts.

here are setlists for both nights if you want to see what songs he played.

people have been asking me all day what my favorite part was.  i would have to say “helter skelter”.  this is surprising to me.  i mean i have always liked it, it’s a great song, but considering all the amazing songs he played, all the super meaningful ones he played, i would have thought afterwards i would have said “let it be”, “hey jude”, “yesterday”, “golden slumbers”…those were favorite parts for sure.  mind blowing.  but if i had to pick just one part…”helter skelter” for sure.  they fucking killed it…just killed it.  see for yourself:

sunday night when he played this i went nuts…not just dancing…leaping and yelling like i never had in my life…and i’ve yelled in my life.  i had already been dancing for most of the show…but when he played this i just lost it…it blew my mind.

and also surprising to me is my second favorite part, which was “band on the run”.  another great song that i have always liked, but not one of my favorites of his.  i don’t know why i went so crazy when he played it, but i did and i’m trying to control myself right now…my body is feeling like it’s going to get up and start dancing again…maybe when i get done with post.

i already wrote about the sunday night show…my first time seeing him ever…but last night i went with my husband and kids.  a much different experience, but equally wonderful.

my son is 10.  he didn’t want to go.  this was not a surprise to me.  he didn’t enjoy it one bit…also not a surprise to me.  i’m still really glad i took him.  my daughter on the other hand, who is 4, LOVED it.  she shares my love of music and i was very excited to be able to share the concert with her.  her first concert ever.  her and i listen to music every day, we dance, we sing.  she often pretends she’s a drummer, taking two pencils and hitting them together above her head and yelling out “a one, a one, a one, two, three, four” before going into a drum solo on the table or whatever else is around.  she loves to dance and play her little guitar.  she’s a rock star.  she wants to have a “rock and roll band”,  as she calls it, when she gets older..and she wants to be the drummer.  i can’t wait to go see her perform.

both my kids have been listening to the beatles all their lives on and off.  we tell them about how important the music was and is to so many people.  so i think she might have had some teeny tiny inkling, as much as a four year can, about just how special it was to see paul mccartney in concert.  besides that, she was just very excited to be seeing her first concert.

he opened the show monday with “magical mystery tour”.  he hadn’t played that the night before so i thought i’d tape it for my friend diana, so she could see it too.  then i looked over at my sweet baby girl’s face and i had to tape her…the first moments of her seeing a concert…the look on her face…i’m getting teary eyed just writing this…well you can see for yourself here:

that’s my girl…right there…worth a million bucks to me that i got to share that with her.  i tried not to dance and yell while i was taping, but i couldn’t control myself the whole time.  you can also see my sweet baby boy and how he is not enjoying it all…what a trooper he was.  i wish i would have videotaped for just a few more seconds because as soon as i turned it off maggie turned to me and said “is he going to play another song????”  all excited and full of hope.  yes maggie, he is going to play another song…just you wait and see.

here’s another short clip of her watching him.  he started to sing “all my loving”…one of her favorites.  she was singing along so i started to tape her…but she had already stopped.  then when she realized what i was doing…she yells…well you can see it here:

she stayed up for the whole concert.  by the end of it, she looked like a sweaty limp little flower…her eyes all sunken in.  i tried to get her to put her head on my shoulder and close her eyes, but she kept looking at the concert (my girl).  when he came back for the first encore she looked at me and said “is he going to do it again?”  she thought he was starting the concert over again.  what a muffin.  my husband carried her the whole way back to the car.  she had her chin resting on his shoulder looking back at me and my son who were walking behind them.  at one point she lifted her head up and yelled “it’s the middle of the night and i’m awake!” all proud of herself.  it was indeed the middle of the night…about 12:30 or so.  the first thing she said to me this morning was “mommy!  can we go see paul mccartney in concert again?”  yes my sweet baby girl, yes we can…and i can’t wait either.

as i said, my son didn’t enjoy one moment of it.  but during “the long and winding road”, as i sat down and sobbed, he put his arm around me and kept wiping my tears away.  he leaned his head on my shoulder and kept his arm around me…rubbing me a bit when i cried.  so we had that moment.  i had told him all about my concert experience on sunday.  we had all been joking for a while how i would sob the whole concert through.  i told him that i had only cried during “the long and winding road” and when he played “golden slumbers”.  i also told him that when i did cry, i really cried.  that i sat down and sobbed with my face in my hand so hard that my body kept moving up and down.  after “the long and winding road” was over on monday he looked at me and said “i see what you mean about the sobbing.”  with a great big smile on his sweet face.  he’s adorable.  he was very very happy and in great spirits after we were out of the stadium.  i promised him i’d never make him go to another concert again.  they couldn’t be more different…both equally precious and amazing…just in completely different ways.  i’m a very lucky person to get to be their mother.

here is the last video i took last night.  i wanted to make sure to record him doing “live and let die” because i knew my kids would enjoy it and remember it.  so here it is…enjoy.  oh, and remember, if you ever get the chance to see paul mccartney in concert, go…don’t let anything stop you…you won’t be disappointed.  or if you don’t enjoy him (babbs i might be talking to you) make sure to not let anything stop you from living your dream…whatever it maybe…whenever you get the chance to…however long it may take…rock on.

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i put on my paul mccartney concert dvd today while we were cleaning up the house.  as i mentioned before, i’m going to see him in concert tomorrow night with my friend, and then me, my husband and kids are going to see him monday night…so we’ve been listening to a lot of his music…which has added to the joy and excitement around here.  maggie has really been enjoying it, which doesn’t surprise me.  she LOVES music.

when i came back into the living room after being in the kitchen cleaning for a while, this is what i saw:

maggie playing the guitar with paul mccartney…that’s my girl.

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i have wanted to see paul mccartney in concert since i was 4 or 5 years old. i am going to see him for the first time this sunday night at wrigley field with my friend diana…then on monday i’m going to go again with my husband and our two kids.  their first concert ever, paul mccartney…not bad.   i’m so happy we are able to take them.  i am over the moon excited about seeing him.   i am sure i will try to write a post about it afterwards, what it means to me…i’m not sure if i’ll be able to put it into words…but for now, i wanted to share some of paul mccartney’s words with you.

this is from the book “the right words at the right time”.   marlo thomas asked various people to “reach back into your life and search for that moment when words made all the difference”…then she put the responses in a book.   here is what paul mccartney wrote in answer to her request.

“I was going through a really difficult time around the autumn of 1968.  It was late in the Beatles’ career and we had begun making a new album, a follow-up to the white album.  As a group we were starting to have problems.   I think I was sensing that the Beatles were breaking up, so I was staying up too late at night, drinking, doing drugs, clubbing, the way a lot of people were at the time.   I was really living hard and playing hard.

The other guys were all living out in the country with their partners, but I was still a bachelor in london with my own house in St. John’s Wood.   And that was kind of at the back of my mind also, that maybe it was about time I found someone, because it was before I got together with Linda.

So, I was exhausted!   Some nights I’d go to bed and my head would just flop on the pillow; and when I’d wake up I’d have difficulty pulling it off, thinking, “good job I woke up just then or I might have suffocated.”

Then one night, somewhere between deep sleep and insomnia, I had the most comforting dream about my mother, who had died when I was only fourteen.   She had been a nurse, my mum, and very hardworking, because she wanted the best for us.   We weren’t a well-off family-we didn’t have a car, we just about had a television-so both of my parents went out to work, and Mum contributed a good half to the family income.   At night when she came home, she would cook, so we didn’t have a lot of time with each other.   But she was just a very comforting presence in my life.   And when she died, one of the difficulties I had, as the years went by, was that I couldn’t recall her face so easily.   That’s how it is for everyone, I think.   As each day goes by, you just can’t bring their faces into your mind; you have to use photographs and reminders like that.

So in this dream twelve years later, my mother appeared, and there was her face, completely clear, particularly her eyes; and she said to me very gently, very reassuringly, “Let it be.”

It was lovely.   I woke up with a great feeling.   It was really like she had visited me at this very difficult point in my life and gave me this message: be gentle, don’t fight things, just try and go with the flow and it will all work out.

So, being a musician, I went right over to the piano and started writing a song: “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me”….Mary was my mother’s name…”Speaking words of wisdom, let it be. There will be an answer, let it be.”   It didn’t take long.  I wrote the main body of it in one go, then the subsequent verses developed from there: “When all the broken-hearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer, let it be.”

I thought it was special, so I played it to the guys and ’round a lot of people, and later it also became the title of the album, because it had so much value to me, and because it just seemed definitive, those three little syllables.   Plus, when something happens like that, as if by magic, I think it has a resonance that other people notice too.

Not very long after the dream, I got together with Linda, which was the saving of me.   And it was if my mum had sent her, you could almost say.   The song is also one of the first things Linda and I ever did together musically.   We went over to Abbey Road Studios one day, where the recording sessions were in place.   I lived nearby and often used to just drop in when I knew an engineer would be there and do little bits on my own.   And I just thought, “Oh, it would be good to try harmony on this.”   But I had a high harmony in mind, too high for me, and although Linda wasn’t a professional singer, I’d heard her sing around the house and knew she could hold a note and sing that high.   So she tried it, and it worked and it stayed on the record.   You can hear it to this day.

These days, the song has became almost like a hymn.    We sang it at Linda’s memorial service. and after September 11, the radio played it a lot, which made it the obvious choice for me to sing when I did the benefit concert in New York City.   Even before September 11, people used to lean out of cars and trucks and say, “Yo, Paul, let it be.”

So those words are really very special to me, because not only did my mum come to me in a dream and reassure me with them at a very difficult time in my life-and sure enough, things did get better after that-but also, in putting them into a song and recording it with the Beatles, it became a reassuring, healing statement for other people too.”

-Paul McCartney

“And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light, that shines on me, shine until tomorrow, let it be.”

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maggie loves the tilt-a-whirl.  she isn’t tall enough to go on alone, so when we go the amusement park, I go on it with her.

for most of the ride, she is happy, smiling…squealing little 4 year old cheers of joy.  not much scares her, except that one part.  you know, the part on the tilt-a-whirl where the g-forces get the better of you and you feel like you are being pinned against the back of the seat and your stomach is being pushed up into your throat?  and you spin and spin. the car whips around for what feels like forever and i feel like i can’t take it anymore.

when that part comes maggie puts her head into my chest and closes her eyes.  i keep my arm around her and my face near hers.  i want more then anything to stop the ride right there…get her off.  i don’t want her to be afraid.  but i know i can’t, it’s all part of this ride she loves and keeps wanting to go on.  the only thing i can do is make sure she knows that she will get through it.  i keep telling her “this part will be over soon…this part will be over soon.”  and then it is.   every time it happens like that…just when i feel i can’t take that part anymore, the ride slows down.

i thought of that part of the tilt-a-whirl the other night.  i inadvertently read something on the computer that really brought up some deep pain for me…grief.  it was kind of surprising to me.   i haven’t felt that way in a while, and i’m really grateful about that.

i think one of the things that makes pain hard to handle is that on some level we think we’ll never feel better.  i have a pretty high pain threshold, but in the midst of deep pain, if i’m really honest with myself, a part of me fears i will feel this way forever.  that fear makes it all worse for me.

yet every time i have felt pain, it has left me.  i have learned that if i fight it, it stays longer.  i have learned if i suppress it, it comes back later in ways i might not even recognize.  i have learned to let it flow.  when i feel it without judgement, it flows through me, it doesn’t get stuck in all my thoughts and beliefs. this whole process happens pretty quickly now…quicker then it ever has.  it just flows…and i know, with all my heart, that no matter how bad i feel, to just hold on because this part will be over soon.

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my daughter maggie loves birds, among many things.  we have a few bird feeders near our window in the living room and even though she sees birds all day, everyday, she still gets so excited when she sees one.  she looks at me and does that surprised gasp…like a child seeing the gifts under the christmas tree for the first time…wide eyes, face filled with joy, hands over her mouth.  then she’ll whisper “mommy look!” and point at the window.  i find it so endearing and sweet.  she’s my muffin.

another thing she loves is taking our dog gracie for a walk…so last night we did just that.  maggies always wants to hold the leash and walk her, and she’s getting very good at it.  at one point, while walking gracie, maggie saw a bird.  she got very excited and gasped, yelling, “mommy!  a robin!” and she took off running with gracie.  after about two steps, she tripped over her little four year old feet and feel down, skinning her shin pretty badly.  as i ran to her i could see the pain in her face…the look of terror…as she started to sob.  i’ve seen this look on my kids faces before.  it looks like they are shocked…shocked something could hurt so much…like they are realizing something about life they didn’t know before.  she was crying so hard that she wasn’t making much noise.  i scooped her up and held her, making my “shhhh, shhhhh, shhhh” sound and holding her close.  there was nothing else i could do.  all i could do was be there with her and love her.  i couldn’t make the pain go away for her.

this has been my least favorite part of being a parent…realizing my kids will feel pain that i can do nothing about…pain that i can’t prevent.  at times that idea fills me with desperation…desperate to protect them, to keep them safe, to keep them from ever being hurt.  my son quincy is 10 now and i have watched as he has learned the things about life i would rather he doesn’t…pain, death, war, cruelty.   i have not enjoyed this one bit.

i remember the first time it dawned on me that he would soon learn things i didn’t want him to know.  we had just exited the highway and were at the end of the exit ramp…the place some people mindlessly throw garbage…garbage we all get to look at.  he was so little…and as we stopped he said “look mommy.  a man must have lost his cup.”  he was noticing the cups on the side of the road.  he had no idea what liter was.  it never dawned on him that someone might throw their garbage there…so it must have been a mistake.  my heart ached in that moment for all the things he would learn…things i didn’t want him to know.  things i didn’t want to exist.  i wanted the world to always look to him as it did that day.  the man must have lost his cup.  my eyes filled with tears as i said to him “maybe he did sweetheart.”

i have learned a lot since that day.  i have accepted a lot.  i can’t keep things from them forever.  i can’t take their pain away.  they have their own lives to life…things to learn.  i can be a protective parent, let them have their childhood.  i keep the news off in our house.  we speak kindly to each other.  but over the years i have slowly shifted the way i think about all this, the way i handle it with my kids.  i think this shift has come from me being able to deal with the pain in my life better.  i have learned for myself to try not to put big judgements on these things…the pain of life.  it is just part of life.  and i have found in doing so, the pain is much more tolerable and temporary.

in his book “breathe, you are alive”, thich nhat hanh writes:

There is a crack in everything.  Life is broken, and it is its brokenness that makes it livable.  But we are somehow of the mind-set that cracks have to be patched.  patching the cracks is trying to control life, rather than engage it.  To engage life we have to find the cracks and enter them, rather than deny or patch them. 

 it’s the holding on to the pain that really hurts…that really creates suffering in our lives.  if we feel the pain without judging it, it will pass.  if we accept it as just another part of life, it seems less menacing.   life isn’t supposed to be painless.  holding this belief, trying desperately to avoid the pain, robs us of our life.

i want more than anything for my children to live their lives…i want them to live their lives out loud.   is that easy for me?  no.  i cringed when i bought maggie a bike, thinking of ingrid’s death, but i bought it anyways…i actually suggested it.  it’s still so hard for me to think of them riding bikes, being out in the world with so many uncontrollable variables…but that’s where life is.  so i can worry and feel anxious about it, and i do, but i don’t show them that.  i do my best to just love them and be here for them.  i have realized that is all i can ever do.  in doing that, hopefully they will feel they have a safe “nest” to launch from.  i want them to spend their time thinking about all the things they want to do in life, not how i will feel about it.  i want them to fly.

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i have had some significant losses in my life, as many of us do.  one of the most significant losses i experienced was when my best friend ingrid died.  we were both 12 years old.  she was hit by a car riding her bike to my house.  there is nothing that feels like that…when someone you love is here…with you, then gone…just gone.  completely disappears.  just writing about it here makes me feel like i was just punched in the gut…you can’t get enough air.  the shock, the panic, the searching.  some part of my brain kept looking for her…unable to get my mind around the fact that she was just gone.  period.  gone.

i read a short story a while ago written by an older man.  this man had been married to his wife for many years.  he loved her deeply.  they were, in so many ways, one.  then she died.  he writes of the grief…the indescribable pain.  he writes how one day, after her death, he found himself crawling around the living room floor, searching for strands of her hair that she might have left behind in the carpet…as if he found one of her hairs, he could have her back.  i’ll never forget that image.  this elderly man, desperately searching…crawling on the floor, trying to hold on to something that was gone…her physical presence.

i tell my kids that when someone dies, they are with us forever.  that what we shared with them, the love we shared, is real and always with us.  we are always connected to that and to them.  that they are in our hearts forever.  i think i started to tell my kids this because i wanted them to feel safe.  i can’t explain to them the bigger picture things i believe, so i simplified it to give them a sense of security.  but i think i have come to realize lately that this is really actually true.

i realized these last couple of years that i never really grieved over ingrid.  i feel i have done that..and in doing so have made room for the good memories.  i have been talking to people i went to high school about her…asking what they remember.  i have been emailing her mother and her brother.  it has been very healing for me, and i hope for them too.  there was always a space in my heart for her…it was just full of pain and hurt, so i didn’t look at it.  this past year i have looked at it and felt the pain,  and in doing so was able to let it go…and now that space is full of her…us…our connection.  memories of the times we shared…memories of what an amazing person she was, how she helped me so much.  she is with me always and i feel it now.  and that feels very good.

when we love someone, when we share something with someone that is real and meaningful, that creates something of it’s own…the energy of what you shared.  that energy will always be with us.  this is true in all cases of loss, whether the person died or they are alive but no longer part of your life.  feel the pain and it will create space to honor the “good” memories…the real and true things you shared.

i am not trying to negate the physical loss.  the person not being in your life anymore is real.  that is a real loss…the things you’ll never do with them again…the things you’ll never share with them again…the things you’ll never be able to tell them.  that is so very real, and so painful…but what is also real is what you shared…and that will be with you forever.

warren zevon wrote this song when he found out he was dying of lung cancer.  it’s the last song he ever recorded.  he was very ill at the time.  sing it for us warren you beautiful soul…

edit:here is a different video of warren zevon singing the same song.  this is from the documentary that was made while he recorded his last album, the wind.  he started writing and recording it after he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.  in the video you can see a number of the musicians who came to play on his album and say goodbye to him (jackson browne and bruce springsteen are two of them).  his daughter ariel and his son jordan are also in it.  he completed the album before he died.  after he died, his last album got him five grammy nominations.  he won two…the only grammies he ever won.   i have the dvd if anyone wants to watch it.  i think it’s brilliant. 

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