Thursday, November 12, 2020

Memory of the Perfect Storm

Winter had arrived, covering the ground in white. The snowstorm hung on the trees, forcing the branches down. They dipped down like waterfalls, leaving the just enough space around the trunk of the trees which opened like wide yawns, dangerous holes ready to suck in unwary skiers and boarders. 

 At the top of the ski lift we disembarked, our helmeted heads topped with frost, our goggles glossy with ice, our gators covering our noses and lips. My hands, wrapped in thick black waterproof mittens, my fingers palming hand warmers that helped keep in the warmth. I stepped onto my board, glided to a stop, and attached my right foot to its harness, having mastered this trick without having to sit on the snow-laden ground. 

I ran with two skiers, and this day belonged to me and my board, that could carve through the as of yet untracked snow easier than my friends with not one, but two sticks attached to their feet. My brother looked at me and nodded, and my friend Monique pointed—we would go straight down headwall, one of my son’s favorite runs, dipping through the trees and cutting through the untarnished snow. 

The snow was thick, not too heavy, and half-way down, in unspoken agreement, we stopped at jumping rock, where once upon a time, my son Niko wowed us with his snowboard tricks, catching the sky in ecstasy and then, landing the jump and carving with a grace that astounded us all down the mountain. 

I had to take off one of my gloves, reached into my pocket for a handful of his ashes, and flung them off the rock. They caught the air as surely as Niko once had, flying as light as snow, the gray sand carried, carving down the mountain with a grace that defied gravity. 

I put my glove back on, and we turned, maneuvered around the rock, slow and steady, dipping back down to the ski lift, which lifted us once again up to the sky. 

I sit in my warm livingroom now, looking at the windows at the snow, the cat cuddled beside me purring. I can no longer snowboard--my knees can no longer take the abuse. But still, I remember those days of yore, snowboarding with my children, my son Niko always in the front, gracefully flying down a mountain of white. I miss you Niko.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart

Make room for me, the weeds demand.
Their roots, tangled, deep, like thoughts
That darken the horizon, like the clouds and the wind
A murder of crows commands,
and the red winged general sits
On the scarecrow’s hat, grinning.

He loved rocks, and his garden
Has rock walkways and rock beds to honor his memory.
The weeds conspire, twist in between gaps,
Claiming the black gold as their right.

In the morning, after the first cup of coffee,
After the walking of the dog,
After the gratitude list,
Shovel and hoe in hand,
I battle the weeds, pulling out layers
Inside and out.

Remembering his smile,
And the year we all made green tomato marmalade,
And the chutney he stirred, adding secret ingredients,
Pouring the mix into hot jars,
So we could savor the scent, the love,
The work done together, come winter.

The weeds demand my attention,
Force me into the garden,
Where the daffodils have
Trumpeted in the spring,
Where the strawberries get ready
To deliver the sweet tastes of summer,
And the flowers, lilacs, lilies, lavender,
Irises, peonies, a bleeding heart,
Fill my heart with joy.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Dear Lord

Dear Lord,

Someone told me there are no mistakes
That everything is part of your plan
I said that I couldn’t get behind that
On account of a child gone too soon
And wars and racism
And of course, the orange menace
Elected to the office of president.

What shall I do?
Should I hide under my covers
Shiver with despair?
Wonder at your supposed all knowing
All seeing eye.

I said I think the god, or the gods,
Or my personal preference, the goddess,
Gave us free choice.
That gravity and alcohol, not you, killed my son.
Because I could never forgive you for that.
Because he deserved a second change.

I remember that song, freedom is just
Another word for nothing left to lose,
And that’s what I felt when my son—
The car flipped ejecting him through the windshield—
Died. Like I had nothing left to lose.

But that’s when you came in
You became my shelter
My pillow, a soft cushion stuffed
With memory foam so I could
Sleep and dream of the before
The beginning of his end

At first I woke up screaming
A howl of rage, of pain, a wild thing
That scared my daughter
So I stuffed a rag drenched
With my tears in my mouth
An effort to save her ears

Dear Lord, the blessing, I suppose
Is that I can feel your presence
In my heart in the stillness of the morning
When I walk the dog to Herrmann pond
When I hear the geese honking their song
When the Blue Heron lifts his wings
In harmony to take flight
A graceful dance.
A forgiveness
A gift.

Dear lord,
Thank-you for that.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Space Between

In a two dimensional image
Time stops as we jump into the river,
Walking on water,
As if we can’t quite commit to the chill
Our fingers laced forever
The sky frozen blue

I float between the dock
And the stream, center stage
My daughter hovers on my right
As close as a shadow
Our wide-open gibbous grins
make our dimples ebb and flow

My son, suspended on my left,
Extends beyond the gap
That grows between us
Like the distance that connects stars
While donning an eclipsed smile

In another family photo  
we stand beside the lake, dripping
My daughter, her hair highlighted in faded purple,
this time on my left
So close we look like a hug,
with no room for shadows
Our crescent lips reveal teeth

My son leans away on my right
He has stretched into thinness,
grown into his baby fat,
So proud to stand, at long last, taller than me
A far-reaching space separates us
Even as I attempt to pull him closer
His waning lips a thin line, a smirk

he lives in photographs
The space between us, big enough to swallow me whole
Like a full moon.

The car flipped ejecting him through the windshield.
A seatbelt would have saved him.

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.