Monday, October 22, 2018

The Early Christmas Present


Just when I need it most, I feel like I am touched by angel wings that flutter about me like a soft caress. Yesterday, a young women I didn’t recognize approached me at an event, gave me a hug, and said, “Do you remember me? I came to your house after Niko died.”

She had matured, and her flaming hair flowed around her head like a halo. “Yes,” I said, tears in my eyes. “You came with two other girls, and helped my daughter and I select songs for Niko’s memorial CD.”

We talked about Niko, his generous nature, his magical laugh, his ability to draw friends together in a warm embrace, his untimely death. She smiled, bittersweet, when I asked her how she was doing. She was doing well, and coming to terms with the disease that killed my son, alcoholism. “I’m three months sober,” she said. “And this time, I’m going to make it.”

Our meeting felt like an early Christmas present, and we exchanged numbers and plan to keep in touch. For me, hearing my son’s name, and talking about what a gift he was in our lives, was the greatest gift for me, one I can re-open on those dark days when nothing makes sense, one I will hold in my heart and cherish.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Happy 2018


The new year comes in waves of white--fresh snow falls, covering the ground where you once walked in a million cold crystals. The holidays, the harborers of memories, fades beneath the white, as I dismantle the Christmas tree and wrap your ornaments and stow them safely in a box, breathing a sigh of relief, as I have once again survived the celebrations and the missing of You. Of course, I miss You everyday, but the holidays seem to hold more poignant memories, and everyone else goes along with the ho ho ho and the hallelujahs without a whisper of your name. Niko, I say out loud in my room, sitting at my desk, a picture of us as a family on summer holiday, our arms wrapped around each other, staring at me. I love You, I miss You, I hold You in my heart. Happy New Year.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Grief Can Be Sneaky


Grief can be sneaky. Just when I think I have it licked, I wake up with a tear streaked pillow, and the tape of my son’s death day looping through my brain. The first year the tape played more often, and I’d find myself clinging to the hope that it was all just a horrible nightmare. Now I know the hard truth, force myself out of bed, give myself permission to cry, and maybe add a little extra sugar and cream to my coffee, to sweeten the day.

Of course, the holidays tend to bring out the tape, as my brain travels back in time. Now, at least, I focus on positive memories, tactile and poignant, like the apron I gave my son one year for Christmas. He loved to cook, and we used to make the pumpkin pies together. So, every year I grow pumpkins in his memorial garden, and every Thanksgiving I wear his apron and turn the pumpkins into golden pies. 

The pies, made with love, touched with healing tears (just the right amount of salt), always taste delicious. They remind me of the time I had with my son, the laughter we shared, the joy he brought to my world. I hope your holidays are filled with joyful memories, that your pies are tasty with love, and that you allow yourself to shed salty tears that will help heal your heart.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Setting an Extra Plate for Thanksgiving


A friend of mine sets an extra plate at the Thanksgiving table to honor members of her family that have died. At first, I thought this was strange, but I try to stay open to new ideas. In fact, the more I thought about setting a plate for my son, Niko, the more I liked the idea.
The first Thanksgiving without Niko was a silent affair, as the family gathered, unsure what to discuss, afraid to mention his name, worried about spilling salty tears on the stuffing. Every Thanksgiving has become a bit easier, as time has a way of smoothing over the rough edges of grief.

This Thanksgiving, I’ll wear Niko’s Thanksgiving apron (he loved to cook) as I make the pumpkin pies from pumpkins grown in Niko’s memorial garden. I will set an extra plate at the table, in memory of the boy that died on the cusp of manhood. We will tell Niko stories, and raise our glasses high, remembering his laughter, his sharp wit, and his impish smile. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Autumn Falls


October arrives with a hint of snow to cover the golden leaves that have fallen, graceful, to the ground. You, Nikolas Jesus, my son, flew out of your car, spinning, falling, dying on the ground like a lost leaf. A seat belt would have saved you.

I imagine you, golden wings held high, flying above the clouds, spinning and whirling, performing jumps as if you had a snowboard attached to your feet. Your spirit lives on. I think of you every time I get on stage to perform my music. I think of you whenever someone makes a sharp and witty remark. I thought of you when your sister walked down the aisle to marry her fiancée, Ryan Black, on Friday, October 13.

I thought she would ask me to walk her down the aisle, since her dad, brother, and uncle were dead. But she had other plans. She said, “I always thought Nik would take me down the aisle. So I’m taking the walk alone.”

“No,” I replied. “When you walk down that aisle, you will be covered by three sets of angel wings.”

When she took her walk, the rain stopped, and through the patches of blue sky, I saw three sets of angel wings, covering her in a halo of love.

I miss you, Nik. Every day.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Shadows Cast a Different Light


Fall barks, as the leaves fade, and shadows cast a different light, softer, with a hint of yellow tinged with gold. Reluctant students and fretful parents check school supply lists, betweeen outings to the lake, the park, the beach. I sit on the banks of Herrmann Pond, watching the ducks dive, float, and frolic, as the geese practice their aerial arts, readying themselves for the long southern flight toward warmer waters. The hummingbirds sip the last of their nectar, as they too, stretch their wings for the long sojourn south.

My son has already flown the coup, toward a distant shore I have, for now, no access too. I think of the things he missed; no college graduation, no wedding, no children. Sometimes, I pretend that he simply headed south, that he is in Peru, a place he always wanted to visit, and I am simply waiting for a letter, an email, a text regarding his adventure. I look for signs, angel wings disguised as soft white feathers, a Monarch butterfly landing in his memorial garden, a flower that smiles with love.

I greet each day with a sad smile; I watch the children and parents ready for a new school year. I thank my higher power for the time, albeit too short, I had with my son.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer Sestina


Dogs bark,
calling out the first day of summer,
and children dive into calm waters,
while mothers watch
on their patch of sand,
thinking of walks in the rain.

Clouds and thunder that threaten rain
prepare to bark
with sermons to send summers’
passion into the sand
in a deluge of water
that runs like a watch.

I watch,
unobserved, behind the bark
of a willow tree, protected from rain,
but not recollections that flow like water
with the persistence of wet sand—
Hauntings of past summers. 

A breeze scented with summer 
grass and pink peonies rains,
staining the grains of sand
the color of bark
as time dissolves like a Dali watch.
My eyes fill with water.

Memories, like a glass slipper, sanded
smooth as azure water
on a hot summer
day, with no barking
breeze, divide the rain
into tears that leak like the seconds on a watch.

My Minnie Mouse watch,
wrapped around a wrist textured like sand,
continues to bark
out time in spite of rain
and years passing, swift as water,
distancing me from this summer.

The first day of summer, a dancing diva, 
barks, filling my head with lethal memories as heavy as sand.
I set them free, as if they were glad birds flying.
They cascade down my cheeks like raindrops.