In Like A Lion . . .

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Once upon a time, March was one of my favorite months. Now, it’s when I seriously consider getting out of Dodge except wherever I’d go, my weathered emotional baggage would still be with me. Swell.

Before I met my husband, March memories were the stuff of angry lions. The windy grayness paired neatly with the feelings I had assigned to it. March was the month my brother celebrated his birthday, except for the year he would have turned 21. It seems a lifetime later but memories of those weeks before and after he died 40 years ago never disappear completely. His birth and death dates will forever bookend the month. They remind me that even when you think that particular kind of pain is one of a kind, life has a way of proving you a liar.

When my guy came along years later, he arrived like an impulsive March wind with a brand of love that set the month on its ear. It was a chilly March 5th that year that we had our first ‘real’ date in a cozy restaurant that became ‘ours’ from that night on. Just one year later, we spent the 3rd of March in the courthouse – getting married. It was a bit off script but the cancer monster had raised its ugly head and my health insurance offered the coverage we needed to fight the beast. No big deal; we just postponed the cool church wedding until a few weeks later. It was all good.

March 25th dawned cold and brilliantly sunny that year.  The day was as bright as our moods as we prepared to celebrate our wedding day with the excited loving family and friends. They all knew well both our challenges as well as the fierce love that defined us.  Like most everyone on their wedding day, we were two little kids at a birthday party — and boy, was it a party! Cupcakes piled high on a handmade tower topped with bobble-headed figures with a remarkable resemblance to the kooky wedded pair. Rubber ducks swam in a fountain of margaritas while Hors d’oeuvres disappeared faster than they could be passed. A cool Pantone (Dun, I’m a graphic designer.) spring green bloomed in all the decor, painting both March and our wedding with hopeful new life. It was all just perfect.

Almost. Trying to pack all we could into the month, we snuck a dream honeymoon to Italy into March’s last days. Unfortunately, the trip turned out to be one week before my husband’s first cancer surgery. Looking back, that might not have been the brightest strategy but hey, it was Italy!

Through the years, we celebrated plenty of anniversaries of times when things were simpler. We toasted moments that had been brand new and those after cancer colored the months and years. When that guy of mine died suddenly, it was more than easy to sweep all of those times into the grayness of grief. When memories seem broken, who wants to remember them? Yet, those happy times were no less happy and they are no less part of us. They are just more painful to remember. When the person who helped make those memories is no longer here, our memories become both lion and lamb. But then the flip side of joy is pain – and vice versa. That’s just life’s dichotomy and who complains when the pendulum swings the other way? Life is perfect — said no one ever.  It hands us things we have no control over and sometimes they suck big-time. Like a temperature inversion, the fog eventually lifts, however, and suddenly choices are in our hands.

The year my husband-to-be rode his white horse into town, he  redecorated the month of March with some pretty good feng shui. When the lion caught up with him, he left behind  a hell of a lot of memories and I have all I can do to remember them without bawling. When you’re left without a right, it’s hard to find your center- but I’m giving it my best shot.  What I tell myself (and it’s a handy public service announcement) is that just because the moments are over — doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. Boy, did they happen.

I hate to admit it, but sometimes I barely remember celebrating my brother’s birthday. So many years have gone by since he blew out candles on my mom’s homemade cakes but I have to believe he was happy then. And no matter how much time elapses, nothing can change that any more than I can or would erase the memories of our wedding celebration. The ultimate end to our grand romance does not erase the life of the miracle couple who dared cancer to divide them. The fact that death eventually did does nothing to deny the years my guy defied the odds.

One day I hope to travel again to the home of my ancestors across the pond. I’ll make new new memories in Italy but the singular memories of a goofy couple on their honeymoon will always remain. Just picturing that warm March afternoon in Rome, scarfing snacks on the hotel rooftop we climbed up to by accident, makes me smile and always will.

Everything that happens, even one moment after it does, is a memory. Some are better than others but all are part of the fabric of your being, ready to prop you up, give you hope and make you smile when you need them most. That doesn’t mean you won’t cry in the process, but that’s part of life, too. It’s the part that weathers months and storms, and still ushers in spring each year. We can learn a lot from this tempestuous month that comes in a like a lion and eventually becomes a docile lamb. Our crazy quilt of memories is stuffed with months, days, years of both pain and joy. Depending on the season of our life, one side or the other has us covered. Only we know when we are able to flip that quilt to the other side.

The last two weeks I’ve noticed that, in spite of itself, March’s frigid ground is giving way to nature’s Powerball ticket. Even if they are watered at times with tears, stubborn but hopeful green shoots still show up ever year. That’s the thing about spring and about us resilient humans.

Hello, March — my new friend.

Shall We Dance?

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I’m pretty sure when I was born there was a rock beat in the delivery room. A typical tutu-craving little kid, I started ballet at 4 years old, and made toe shoe status by 10. Today I might be pirouette-challenged but the need to move to a beat is still instinctive, a fact that eternally (and gleefully) embarrasses my once-upon-a-time teenage kids.

Though I may now groove a little differently, one dance rule will always be carved in stone. When you trip the light fantastic – don’t step on anyone’s toes. From the nervous 13 year-old partners of my youth to men keeping up with my spontaneous footwork, I’ve always tried not to plant my size 7 ½’s on theirs. It’s just well, awkward.

Speaking of awkward, there’s no place more critical for well-placed steps than today’s political landscape. Walking into that minefield, it’s a good idea to tread carefully. The more I read Facebook posts or talk with friends and family, I realize stepping carefully is more than just a decent social tip. No matter how correct your dance moves are, smashing someone’s toe in the process is never the best idea.

Shot through with quicksand and sudden storms, today’s politics have spawned very contentious differences in thought, belief, need and fear. You have to be really quick on your feet to avoid falling into a sink hole. Skillful choreography can help circumvent any spiraling tornado of words though it might not change the deeper divide. The growing chasm will take real thought to maneuver. I’m not talking about having rational,honest answers, standing up for rights, and even fighting for them. You go! I’m talking about remembering what we valued, cherished before we stepped onto this new dance floor, which can be a really slippery place. Continue reading

The Day Cable Died

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Stuff happens every day. Some really big things can knock us off our feet in an instant. A mere cable meltdown should be a blip on the radar, right? While it might certainly be true most days, being snowbound in a blizzard without tv, phone and internet qualifies as solitary confinement.

Having no other sound in the house but yours is awkward enough most days but come on, no cable in a blizzard? Really? That pushes the envelope . . . off the table.

I was actually kind of looking forward to a nice, February snow day. I penciled in phone calls and emails I badly needed to return, as well as tv shows that begged a bit of binge watching. My lazy day schedule was taking shape nicely, thank you. That is of course until I realized, well before even one flake fell, that my internet disappeared. Probably just a brownout, I thought. No worries, I said to myself. I’ll just check to see if my neighbor’s cable was down as well but no sooner had I opened my door when I spied a cable truck already parked in our shared driveway. Huh? That was quick. Before I could process the speedy response, I saw said repairman already leaving my neighbor’s door. Hmm, I thought, fast fix! But no, things are NEVER that easy. Oh, he did repair my neighbor’s faulty phone alright, but he detonated my entire system in the process! Brilliant.

As I made my first call to the cable company, I was agitated, especially when they advised me that, yes, there was an outage in my neighborhood. Newsflash: Of course, there’s an outage – MINE! They assured me that they were repairing it on their end which was mystifying since the outage happened on MY end. “Ma’am” they said “we’ll be there first thing in the morning to get you up and running.” I reminded them, of course,  that 10″ of snow was expected ‘in the morning’. “We’ll be there”, they promised. Their 6am call the next morning advising me that we were having a snow storm (duh) and couldn’t make it, was no surprise. (By now, you are catching the ‘drift’ of this story, right?) They asked IF I would like to reschedule for the following day. (Seriously, they really asked that question) I mentally counted to ten and told them “Sure, it would be lovely if their trusty ‘cable guy’ in his bright colored truck could finally make an appearance”! (or something to that effect.) Continue reading

Truly. Madly. Deeply.

 

valentines-day-heart-facebook-timeline-coverMr. Hearts and Flowers – boy, was that guy smooth. I was reminded of just how cool he was as I opened my Valentine storage box last week. Stuffed with silly stuffed animals and sparkly ‘I Love You’s”, the box was chock full of never-again memories. Last year was the first Valentine’s Day without my funny, sweet husband. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that even the idea of popping the lid to that box was more than I could handle.

This year I thought maybe the house could use some Valentine décor. Why you ask? I have no idea. I don’t feel one bit romantic, and I’m not wired for a Valentine’s Day pity party so being a touch masochistic is the only reason I can think of. Why else would I decorate for a holiday that’s clearly missing the one person who gave it true meaning for me? The grandkids – of course! Hey, who loves freaky but super cute stuffed monkeys, bobbleheads and a candy-heart carrying Minnie Mouse more? Continue reading

Walking the Talk

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Words. Lots and lots of words — and I write tons of them, especially in these last few months. It seemed like the only way I knew to unravel the grief web that had me tied in knots. Did any of my words change anything? Not really. But words are currency. Sometimes they are the only things that carry us on journeys we don’t understand and never planned on. They are what we use to connect to others on those same journeys.

Reading through my first posts, when the pain of loss was so raw, I noticed that some words were dark, the only ones I could muster in grief’s early days. As weeks went on, light began to creep in, allowing space for my trademark humor, a companion I’ve been thankful for all of my life. Even when that humor is ‘noir’, levity will always be a handy commodity. No matter what words I use, one thread underlies them all – keeping it real.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that the old ‘fake it until you make it’ can’t still be a good plan. In fact, the whistling in the dark flavor of storytelling can jumpstart you for the often steep uphill climb. Forging ahead on a wing and prayer, words can carry you along this uncharted ‘after’. That’s the only way I could chart my course without getting stuck in a sinkhole. Continue reading