The One That Got Away
I’m moving back to my hometown. It has been almost 20 years. I saw her last night. She was visiting my mother. Her strawberry-blond hair is exactly as I remember it. Probably a bottle dye job, now, but it looked authentic. So did her smile.
She asked about my family. They are moving up from Chicago as soon as I find a house. She asked about my new job. It is going well.
Then there was a moment. She had no more questions, she was standing in mother’s kitchen wearing her coat, keys in hand. She paused. I paused. Our eyes connected. I saw an alternate universe. We never drifted apart. We married. We had children, a boy and a girl with strawberry-blond hair. We traveled. We laughed. We made love in a home near the beach where she grew up. We were drunk with love, fulfilled, assured, and living without regret.
Another moment, and the fantasy was replaced with reality. I know she saw in my eyes the same pain I saw in her’s. The year’s have not been kind. Mistakes. Hurt. Regret.
An hour later there was a new Facebook message. She said it was nice to see me. Her words were full of tension, longing, and loneliness. The same washed over me. I remembered the feel of her strawberry-blond hair running through my fingers and the low moan of contentment she would make when I did that. I reflected on the timing of it all. It was me, really, who drifted. She always made me smile.
I replied, returning the sentiment. I waxed eloquent. She always liked my writing.
She asked about the past. What happened, anyway? I didn’t really know. I fumbled out a reply, then deleted it and took a moment. What did happen?
Life happened. And it hasn’t been easy. We went our separate ways.
I scrolled through her Facebook profile. She married a man. They have four children. One she named Whitney. I knew she would, she wanted a Whitney since we were kids. Whitney has strawberry-blond hair; beautiful.
I married three years after we split. My wife is kind. We have two children. I adore them. Being a husband and a father has been incredible. I treasure my family.
I replied. I wished her well. I explained that though I was moving back to Michigan, we wouldn’t be seeing each other much. I told her I was happy, which is mostly true. I told her I want her to be happy, too. I used the word ‘boundaries’.
She thanked me. She explained she would be “unfriending” me on Facebook. She wished me well, too.
I lay in my bed for a while thinking of strawberry-blond hair and love. I pictured my wife’s face, dwelled on it. I love her. I don’t know what happens in alternate realities, but I live in this one. And I am thankful.
hearts that are still beating
moments of hearty laughter
with folks~ kith & kin
spending time to show care
for one another ever lovingly
so grateful for strong family bonds
A Daily Luxury, Considered
My Irish forbears indentured themselves for land in newly-free America and then farmed for several generations. It was not an easy life. I cannot imagine they filled a warm basin frequently: too much water, too much heating over fire for a full-body soak. Even when they did, if they did, quickly using a cloth in a cooling tub cannot compare.
Hot water streams down onto me in near perpetuity, limited only by the capacity of a tank that rapidly reheats. Its design still follows the basic principles Edwin Ruud developed in 1889, after he left Norway to settle in Pittsburgh: the automatic, storage tank water heater. My great-great grandfather lived within 50 miles of the prototype. He probably died before using one.
Morning or night, 50 gallons await, a servant sitting beside a bell he hears when my hand turns the faucet, and then it streams down onto me. Weighted hair flips about as I scrub in shampoo. The nozzle’s pressure offers a light massage for my back, shoulders, chest. I focus on the droplets’ caresses as they trail through my hair and across my skin, finally dripping to the ceramic below me to swirl around my feet, carrying with them grime, dead skin, and cares. I am warm.
As a male, I have been conditioned to consider my body in terms of actions performed: this throws, this grips, this runs, this lifts. Females, I understand, have been conditioned to consider their bodies in terms of appearance. Showers encourage us all to consider how our bodies feel, to inhabit ourselves and connect to the physical instead of the mental for at least a few minutes. If, that is, we consider them.
Never overlook the miracle of hot, running water.
I am greatful to the person who taught me; that it’s ok to remove toxic people from my life, no matter who they are.
Sun and moon.
Sky and Earth.
Water and Fire.
Life and Death.
Keep our life balanced
Thanks for the Sun
Driving all life
Thanks for the Moon
Thanks for the Sky
Keeping us here and breathing
Thanks for the Earth
Fostering all life
Thanks for Water
Support for living things
Thanks for Fire
Forcing us to start over
Thanks for Life
Allowing us to exist
Thanks for Death
Providing a deadline
Thanks for all
Keeping us in balance
A grateful heart
“A thankful person is thankful under all circumstances. A complaining soul complains even if he lives in paradise.” Baha’u’llah
This was the grace of choice that I recited before dinner as my son was growing up. It is still one of my favorite quotes. It’s not always easy, practicing gratitude, but practice makes better. In a society built on consumerism, it’s so easy to get caught up in never-ending cycles of acquisition; it’s almost inevitable to develop the mindset that believes we actually need all the things we want. All the things we buy. And if we cannot get them now, we sink into despair: Life is not beautiful and good and happy. We will be happy when we get X. We get X and then need Y. And then Z. But they have ABC! We need them, too!
But do we really need all the things we want or buy? Is the unhappiness that pulls us down when we cannot get everything our hearts desire unavoidable?
I am reminded of a trip to Ecuador I made many years ago.
I took a four-day trip to the Amazon with some classmates and we ran into a series of unexpected situations. The bus to our first destination was more like a tin of sardines and smelled as bad; worse still, the other passengers would not let me open a window. Seven hours of shoulder to shoulder, sweaty smelly bodies on a bus driven by a maniac. So many times I thought we were going to tip over into the abyss of stars that I could see out the window as we sped by other cars and buses on a narrow mountain road. The stars were more numerous than I had ever seen and quite lovely…except that the sky looked like it was within reach of my hand and too often I thought we would be touching it as we fell to our deaths. This scenic terror-filled drive was followed by discovering that the train we expected to take back to Quito on Sunday– which had been mentioned in my travel book – was no longer in service because of an earthquake that had taken place a few weeks before. And the next bus wouldn’t be for a week…a week we couldn’t wait since we needed to be back at school on Monday. (It was now Friday.) So, we hired a canoe to take us deeper into the rainforest to a town where we might be able to catch a plane. After the canoe ride, another bus ride and riding in the back of a pick-up truck, we finally got a seat on the floor of an Army cargo plane back to Quito on Sunday afternoon.
But the lesson.
We spent five hours in off-and-on-again rain with about 10 other people in a piranha-infested river. We dropped off a family of three on a beach where we saw NOTHING and they smiled happily as they waved goodbye and headed for the trees. We saw children playing and dancing on a river bank in front of a hut on stilts, laughing and having a great time. One of my classmates wondered how on earth they could be laughing happily while living in such circumstances. After considering the smiling faces, I said, “Why not? I suspect they don’t have a television telling them they should want something other than what they have. They apparently have enough food to keep their bellies from aching, and shelter from the elements. They have companionship. What else do they really need?”
I have retold that story many times over the years, to myself and to others. Here in the United States, we have so many reasons to be grateful, beginning with, if you are reading this, you woke up this morning. If we are fortunate, we have a place to sleep that protects us from the elements; we have heat when it’s cold outside, air conditioning or fans when it’s warm; comfortable beds with sheets and blankets; food; and clothing appropriate to the seasons. If we are really lucky, we have at least one person who we love and who loves us – a parent, a child, a teacher, a mentor, a friend.
Find your reason to be grateful every day: It makes life infinitely more beautiful.
Some people who help others,
expect only in return the gratitude.
If they don't get that also,
he or she may get depressed,
They keep blaming destiny, if
continuously such things happen.
Most valuable gem is gratitude,
which everybody should be
aware of always in the world.
If human beings don't know
about this, one should see a dog.
As nights grow colder
And days become shorter
We scramble towards
The annual tree slaughter
Black Friday kicks off
Shipping swarms of people
In holy communion
To our modern Cathedrals
The year looming ahead
Fills us with ambition
The New You is waiting
What’s your resolution?
In this Caucus race
A pause for reflection
A moment to ponder
For what am I grateful?
For cosying up
In the warmth of a home
For sharing a meal
Sheltered from the cold
For raising a glass
In jovial cheers
For friends to accompany
Through laughter and tears
For early train rides
When it’s still dark
Cramming a chapter
Before reaching work
For the carpet of leaves
Gleaming under the sun
Padding the streets
Of bustling London
For a family to join
In celebration of Yule
This winter solstice
I truly thank you.
They say to ignore them. I try. Draw a line, like in the sand searching for a wave to wash any evidence away. This one wasn’t skinny and she had white teeth, which I found odd. Most of them have baggy clothes and mustard teeth, somewhere between the color of American yellow and stone ground.
“Darlin’.” She called to me, smiling, all sweet, as if we were beau’s, only she doesn’t know I don’t take kindly to that sort of sugaring. I’d rather she had said point blank; level, “Look, I’m in a bind and I hate to ask. Could you spot me five dollars for the bus?” Then it could be true or it could be a lie, but I’d feel much better about my five dollars leaving my pocket if she could keep it cold, simple, like at the bank. “How can I help you today; fives, tens or twenties?”
So this morning I kept on walking on my island, pretending the same way she pretended, unable to see the shipwreck but tonight I feel her warmth as if she is in the bed with me, twisting up my covers and the cause of my sweat. Since she is close, I decide it might be right to offer her my pillow. It’s in the shape of a boomerang and doesn’t know if it is coming or going, like her, I suppose. It cradles me, the back of my head, my neck and shoulders and as I drift, allows me to forget the execrable and remember the exemplary, waking with me in reward. And I wish she would take it, but she doesn’t because she is gone. I don’t think of her as is advised, but rather look around the room one last time just before falling asleep on my boomerang with no thought other than the solid ceiling above me, the cold floor beneath me and the walls that defend me from the indefensible.
she smiles, she laughs,
shakes her little legs,
moves her little fingers,
playing with my chubby ones.
I'm grateful for that.
she likes to watch,
as I play piano,
or wash the dishes,
she likes to watch other people doing stuff,
the future manager,
i'm grateful for that.
I'm grateful that life seems meaningful,
Grateful that we can give things to her,
Grateful for the diapers , and washing cloths,
grateful for that she is there.
it sounds so sweet, and in another life I would gag.
but right now, I can't get enough of this sweetness.