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.  

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mixed Blessings


Nik and his friend, Jackson, trekked to the back ten at the Samuels house, to Aguirre Island, in search of adventure. “Don’t go along the back fence,” I yelled, “it’s mired in muck.” No surprise, 30 minutes later, Jackson found me in the garden pulling weeds. The lower half of his body, coated in mud, made him look like some type of mutant cannibal.

“Nik’s stuck in the mud,” he shouted. “You have to come help.” “Sounds like I’ll need my camera,” I said, getting up from my knees, my hands as dirty as Jackson. My brother Rex, he lived on the property with us, pulled Nik out of the mud before I got my photo. I still have the after photo of Jackson and Nik, mud buddies, grinning; Nik with only one shoe, the mud having consumed the other.

May, the month of mixed blessings, coated in muddy memories, passed with no standing ovation. The snow, gone, the weeds, tall, and the daffodils, having reached out toward the sun, lost their sunshine, their pedals curling, browning, and disappearing into the soil. Nik’s memorial garden, glad of yellow light tinged in blue, erupts with color, the first iris bursting in purple, followed closely by the chocolates, the snow iris coming in a close third.

The garden at the Samuel’s house has passed into obscurity. Every new renter exclaimed that they loved to garden, and of course, would buy the house, eventually. By the time the fourth set of renters had moved in, the garden, once rich with raspberries, strawberries, an apple tree, mint, oregano, thyme, and of course, irises, was long gone, and I no longer believed that they would eventually buy the house. My hope was that they would pay the rent on time, and not destroy the carpet or paint the walls the color of baby poo.

Nik, he enjoyed working in the garden. The tomatoes were his favorite, because he wanted to use them to make salsa. Of course, he proclaimed that whatever he cooked was the very best. Like his father, he didn’t depend on recipes, but rather on his taste buds and his creativity. His cooking palette improved with age, like a fine wine. And although the tomatoes did not always ripen on time, we would put them in pager bags and let them color in the dark.

My kids, DaNae and Niko, and I canned back then—pickles, relish, and chutney. We experimented with fried green tomatoes, turned whole pumpkins into pies, made applesauce for Christmas presents, turned berries into sweet jam.

Nik’s memorial garden is mainly flowers that color my sometimes-dark horizon in a rainbow to remind me to smile. The Samuel’s house has finally passed to the final set of renters. We closed yesterday. A mixed blessing. A letting go of the home where my kids grew up. Joy that I am now debt free. May, the month of mixed blessings…