Mother’s Day and Birthdays Always Get Me Down.

It’s funny how holidays fall off your radar when your direct connection ends, or you never had one to begin with. I’m adopted, the mother who adopted me died when I was three. Somewhat down the road my dad took a fancy to my kindergarten teacher. I had a fancy for her as well, I liked her very much; as Miss Smith. Then she started to bogart my father, I didn’t care for that. Over time a muted civil war broke out in my house. My father tried to reach out and comfort both of us. It must have been exhausting.

She died in 2004. Before she went though, my father had some health issues and we spent quite a bit of time together in a hospital waiting room. Through a mutual fear of loss we began to heal.  A few years later when she died, I mourned her. Honestly I never expected to. She was my enemy. It was a shame really, she always wanted a son, I always wanted a mother. Only at the end did we reach towards that possibility. In my mourning I also mourned the chances we missed. So much wasted time. I never got the chance to give her a Mother’s Day.

To celebrate this holiday is to acknowledge all mothers, and they deserve it. They are all heroines. I mean let’s start with the birth. be honest guys, we couldn’t do that! This fact alone makes the mistaken myth that men are stronger and tougher complete bullshit. 

 Yesterday and every now and then, Mother’s day also falls on two birthdays. My cousin’s and my ex-wife’s. I was a horrible husband. Her last birthday during our marriage was forgotten by me. Birthdays…That should be a gimme. No matter how dense we can be that is the one day we should easily remember, unless your an idiot. I was an idiot. Once again I told myself that I would nail it the next year. Again I never got the chance. She came to her senses about a month before and asked for a divorce. I never would have the chance to fix the unfixable. Something like that cannot be fixed, it can only be forgiven, and by that time, there was too much to forgive.

 

We made contact a few years back on Facebook. I was able to tell her how sorry I was about everything, and I got it. This shocked her, I can’t say I blame her. Considering the level of my blindness there was no reason for her to believe one day I would gain sight, let alone insight. We exchange messages for a little while. Her family thought it weird. I suppose it was. Eventually things dropped off, as I suppose as they should. But every year I remember her birthday, and send her a birthday wish. She has rebuilt her life with a loving husband. She has studied martial arts, clearly meant to beat the crap out of me if she ever saw me again. She’s also a mother now, I suspect a very good one. 

Yesterday I sent my annual birthday message. Right after I sent it, I remembered it was also Mother’s Day. I immediately sent her that greeting as well. 

 I really must get a handle on this holiday!

Published in: on May 13, 2013 at 4:45 PM  Comments (2)  
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9/11/09 My Time At Ground Zero

**This is a true story, I have only told it to a handful. It seems an appropriate day to share it.

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We all shared in September 11, 2001, This is about one I shared with family of four, at ground zero on 9/11/09.

As far as I know I did not lose anyone on that day. But it has had a hold on me that frankly I cannot explain or shake. I had been traveling through New England and planned on visiting a friend in New York on the way back to Austin. As I planned my way back I noticed the day I would arrive in NY was 9/11.

I parked my truck and rode the train into the city from Stamford CT.

I would arrive at Grand Central Station

I saw some policeman, approached them, nervous about asking the question “How do I get to the World Trade Center site?” They kindly told me and I was on my way. I got to my stop. It was raining, raining hard. I looked to my right and I saw a view I had seen on TV a thousand times. It was the fence surrounding the WTC site. I walked towards it. I reached the fence but couldn’t see in. I wondered if the memorial was over yet.

t was. When I looked to my left dozens of black clad people were walking towards me. I looked into every pair of eyes that I could as I passed through them. Some met my eyes, other strained downward. The ones I crossed eyes with each had their stories and you could instantly tell how far each had walked towards their personal healing. Many still had tears to shed. There were those with wide open eyes with nothing behind them. Their eyes looked like abandoned homes, ransacked by vandals. Then there were the kind eyes with a nod and reluctant smile,

I made my way into an office building, then up, I passed through a glass door and found myself on a bridge that went between buildings, and to my right I looked down and saw this enormous crater and a scaffolding going down the middle. I spent some moments there. Before leaving a took a picture with my iPhone. It’s the only picture I would take. I went down to the lobby, then outside. I wanted to see more of Ground Zero, but I wasn’t sure what was possible or how to gain access. I just felt driven to try.

I was standing on the curb when I saw a family of four walking down the street, towards me. They seem to walk with purpose and confidence of direction. I dropped in behind them. We crossed the street and walked along the orange fencing towards a group of police men. The older man went first, never slowing down. The police man nodded and left he eyes about chest level for just a second. We each walked though the fence .Upon entering the depth of my awareness grew, If it is possible for your soul to vibrate, then mine did. I realized I was on Ground Zero. My legs got wobbly as I walked across the giant wooden platform that went between what used to be the two towers. Now they were these perfectly square deep caverns. I was overwhelmed at what I was feeling and imagining. I looked around and with each minute there, I knew more and more that my ability to ever describe it, would be less and less.

I found conviction in my legs again and I was able to move forward. I saw that memorial pool that survivors would place photographs, and roses into, I had seen it on TV so often. The workers were there with wheelbarrows gently removing the items. I wanted to take one, but felt it was not mine to have. I then saw the family I followed in standing across the pool from me. They were speaking together, softly, heavily. Then I saw an orange lanyard with a large id badge on it. I looked to the other members, they too had the same badges. My eyes went up from their badges to their crying eyes, then back down to the pool and the workers.They were family members, I wasn’t supposed to be there. But still, for whatever reason I was allowed to be there. They had dark skin and I believe African accents. They were beautiful, and broken. We forget how many other countries lost loved ones that day. My eyes connected with who I had imagined to be the father. I put both hands over my heart and then lowered my head into a slight bow. How I do not know, but he returned a smile that I will see the rest of my life. I then left, my eyes full of tears that would not fall.

Published in: on September 11, 2012 at 4:01 AM  Comments (1)  
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Finding Meaning In Tragedy

Tragedy struck last night at a movie theatre in Colorado. The search for answers has begun. The police will seek theirs, and as a society we will seek ours. But no answer will take away the tragedy, it is our nature to look for meaning though. I will tell you at the start that I have no answers. Only questions. But as I watched the news coverage I was concerned with how many people thought they did have the answers.

Guns, video games, not enough God. These are simple answers to complex questions. Often spoken by people who tend the have the same answer no matter what the question is. I watched people on the news trying to solve, and salve this situation before the next commercial. As I said, I have no answers, but I’m pretty sure that the answer is going to look a whole lot more like an epic novel than a Twitter post.

I live in Texas, it has a heavy gun culture. I am not a gun guy, though my father was a gun collector and I have family who collects as well. I love them, but I never understood the appeal. I never understood my father’s interest either, but then I never asked. So in an irony when he passed I inherited a gun collection.

My cousin Kevin is among the best people I know. You would not find anyone more willing to help if you were in a bind. That is true of a lot of people who love guns. One such person was a very good friend of Kevin’s. He was interested in buying some of my father’s guns. So one day I enjoyed an afternoon of shooting, and talking about guns. Kevin’s friend told me how he felt about them, and why. My cousin did the same. I learned a lot that day. I learned the complexity of the heart and the uniqueness of the individual. It didn’t really change my mind on much, except it changed my mind on everything. I’m still not a gun person. I think we are better off without them. Assault weapons in particular. But that experience taught me the power of a question and the value of an open mind to hear the answers.

My deepest thoughts (you could call them prayers) are with the family, friends and community of that small town in Colorado. That includes the shooter and his family as well. As I said, I don’t have the answers, but I don’t think it’s all one thing. I don’t think the answers will be easy. I only know that to find answers you must first ask questions. I think it helps if you ask the right ones; and then listen.

Published in: on July 20, 2012 at 7:02 PM  Comments (4)  
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Am I Nuts Or Is It Me? – The Break up

Friends, I am not one to be overly personal in this new blog venture of mine. But sanity is best proven in the open, aired opinions of others. So I must tell you that I am having relationship trouble. Worse yet, It is not merely a matter of not getting along, but rather the infliction of intentional, emotional cruelty and conspiracy.

…I think my Spell Checker is the ringleader in a masterful plot to drive me insane.

For some time now I have suspected a spell checker/predictive text conspiracy. It started in my Facebook posts. I think it is not too farfetched to imagine a scenario with the spellchecker as a geek in high school and I, the jock who tortured him (I was in band, but I call myself a jock due to my extreme calves.) Then the Spell Checker grows up and makes a deal with Mark Zuckerberg “ok, I’ll do your spell checking across all of Facebook. I’ll even do it for free. But you have to give me this one guy.” “But why?” asks Zuckerberg. “That’s my business.” Answers Spell Checker in a deep throated Batman voice.

At first things were fine, it made suggestions, and I took them. But soon it was making false suggestions. I would be typing the right word, and it would suggest a wrong word. I relied on our trust and took the suggestion, then I would see the ugly, emotionally scaring red squiggly. Mocking me. Then there were the times I feel certain that it changed my words after I posted. Making me look like an idiot! There comes a time when a person must speak truth to power and recognize what’s not working in his life. There is a relationship between a writer and his spell checker. It is built on trust. It is built on understanding. So I have decided that I am disabling my Spell Checker. I can no longer be in a relationship where the other party finds such jolly in my folly.

I find this decision empowering. I must admit that I came close to doubting myself. Thinking ever so briefly, that maybe it was me. I see now, how absurd that was.

Now to meke planes for diner and a knight at the theatir

Published in: on July 19, 2012 at 1:43 AM  Comments (2)  
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Roger Federer and Ernest Borgnine, Lessons in Belief

This past Sunday marked a footnote in history for two very different, but extraordinary lives. Roger Federer won his 7th Wimbledon Championship, And Ernest Borgnine died. How are these men connected? In brief, belief.

For years I never saw the appeal of tennis. It was like human Pong. But not as exciting. But one day I came across a Wimbledon match and found myself getting drawn in. It wasn’t Pong. It was Chess. That was a long time ago, and I’ve been a fan ever since. There are few sports, if any that call on the combination of mental focus and physical endurance. These matches can last 5 hours! A few years ago one lasted three days! Roger Federer is considered by many who know the sport much better than I, the greatest to ever play the game. But he is 30 years old, almost 31. In tennis years that is your twilight, if not outright retirement.The last time Roger won Wimbledon was in 2009. I was in Maine on kind of a pilgrimage. I had been camping and really had no idea what day it was, or what was happening in the world. But I was starting to talk to the trees again so I thought I should go into town and find human interaction. I went into a bar at the dock for a lobster roll and a cup of chowder. On a TV behind the bar, I saw it was the Wimbledon Men’s Final. It was in the 5th set, featuring the familiar Roger Federer, playing Andy Roddick the Austin hometown hero.I watched as they headed to a 5th set tiebreak, and then deeply into it. The gist of a 5th set tiebreak is that whoever blinks first, wins. And neither was blinking. My lobster roll and chowder were long gone. I switched from coffee to beer to justify my seat. But everybody blinks, and in this case It was Andy. I never wanted to hug a man I didn’t know more than I did Andy that day. But, yet, again there was Roger in that familiar place of champion.That was the last time Roger won it. That is before he won it again on Sunday. In doing so he also reclaimed the rank of #1. All the experts said neither could be done. Roger could never reach the top again. His best days were behind him. -They were wrong. 

Ernest Borgnine achieved a similar and arguably even more amazing feat, he was a working actor for over 60 years. And he did it with a mug like a pug. Along the way Borgnine was in some of the all-time  classics in film history. He won an Oscar for Marty, a role he was born to play. I do not mean to be unkind when I say he had an unforgiving face for film. But it was the heart that glowed so brightly behind it that captured us.  He found something within himself, a belief. Something brighter, louder than the obstacles he faced. We are richer for it. Both for the career, and for the lessons. The world needs believers, the ones who defy the odds. Some would say that it’s cruel to give belief to those most certainly doomed to fail. But there will always be the ones who cannot hear doubt, who cannot see anything other than their singular dreams coming true. We all have teachers. The question is what are you being taught? And by who? Are you being taught by the people who say it can’t be done? Or are you being taught by those who do it anyway? Because it matters. Just ask Roger Federer.  

 

 

Published in: on July 11, 2012 at 8:15 AM  Comments (8)  
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Passing Dirty Notes-I Don’t Think Hemingway Started This Way.

You will be happy to know that no one dies in this blog post. My first posts had to do with Father’s day and the 5th anniversary of my fathers passng. Then there was the death of Nora Ephron.   A good friend asked that my next post be about kittens and pudding. So naturally this made me think of sex and writers block.

 My purpose for this blog was to get me writing again. We have all heard of “Writers Block.” It takes many forms, for many reasons. For me I think, at least in some small way, It has to do with a girl named “Ivana.” She was my high school sweetheart.  Her name wasn’t really Ivana, but I always wanted to date an Ivana and figured this was my chance. “Ivana” was a nice girl. A VERY nice girl. So nice that most boys knew she wouldn’t do what most high school boys hoped most high school girls would do.  Her parents seemed thrilled with my interest in their daughter, since no one else had shown much. Let me be clear. I was no steal. My last girl friend was in elementary school. She ate her boogers like they were gummy bears on a conveyor belt whizzing by. As for me, I had glasses so thick that I could never walk with the sun behind me because I became a fire hazard. But I liked her. She was sweet. 

One day she approached me at my locker, with a look in her eyes that made me search her hands for an apple. She leaned in and whispered, “I want you to write me a dirty note that I can read in study hall! *giggle*” I looked at her. She still looked like Ca…Ivana. “But we haven’t even…You know.” I said looking down at my feet creating imaginary half moons with the tip of my hush puppies. “Do it for me!” she chanted.  I was VERY uncomfortable with this.  I liked boobs as much as the next guy. But I called them boobs. “I can’t do this!” I thought to myself. She pressed. Letting me know that this could lead to my first “payment” as a writer. “If you can write it, maybe we can do it.” she teased. This both excited and scared the crap out of me. I did it. But because I wanted to make her happy.  I used a bunch of words that I heard when I snuck into Saturday Night Fever. It is the most uncomfortable, unnatural writing I have ever done. I gave it to her as she went into Study Hall, with the singular instruction of destroying it after she read it.  But the little minx kept it. Then minx’s Mom found it. There is a story here, but the short of it is my life got a little ruined for a time. 

I have wondered recently if it’s effects were more lasting than I thought. As a writer does it affect what I am willing to put out there? Am I afraid that the voice I write in will be seen as mine, not a characters? Finding the courage to write is part of my process right now. But I should also write with faith in the reader. But above all I must write in a true voice. Even if it is fiction. Like making pudding out of kittens.  

Published in: on July 6, 2012 at 6:29 AM  Comments (1)  
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My Unabashed Love For Nora Ephron Movies.

Let me start by saying I am a film geek. I studied it. I wanted to be a filmmaker, right up until I decided I couldn’t deal with actors. As such I attended many a darkened room with subtitles. I know, and I love Art Films. From Kurosawa to Kubrick, and Godard to Truffaut. I only mention this because I’m not some chubby guy hanging out in the ice cream aisle. Ok I am, but I also know movies too. I will give you my top 3 favorite movies.
1.) Casablanca
2.) Amelie
3.) You’ve Got Mail

It’s really number 3 that brings us here today. Last night Nora Ephron died. This was heartbreaking to me. She was the writer and director of You’ve Got Mail, as well as another favorite, Michael. She was the writer of Sleepless in Seattle, and When Harry Met Sally. She has offered comfort to women (and some men) around the world, and drew a quiet hatred from some of their husbands forced to go see these movies with their wives.

For me though, You’ve Got Mail was my movie “meatloaf.” It was comfort food. And yes, I became a bit of a girl I suppose. But only if you can’t think beyond stereotypes. So what if before watching the movie for the ?? time, I WOULD be that guy in the Ice Cream aisle getting a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie? I’ve killed a man with my bare hands. Not really. But I have squished a fair amount of bugs in my time. But YGM was just comforting to me for some reason. You notice that I wrote “Favorite” movies, not “Best” movies. Truth is that both When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle were better films, and I loved them.

It’s actually been a bit of a mystery what the hold of this movie is on me. It is not associated with any one person, or any one memory. In fact, as far as I can remember I might have just been having a sad day. It might have been a very sad day. I probably watched it. Probably with ice cream, and a tradition was born. I don’t know. I also love Tom Hank’s, New York, Book Stores. A part of it takes place at Christmas, and I am a well known Chistmas Junkie. I had and still have a mad crush on Meg Ryan! It is also such a visually bright film. I think it’s impossible to be dark in such a bright movie. And lets not forget Brinkley the beautiful dog. For whatever reason, it along with so many of Nora Ephron’s movies offered me comfort. They offer hope. That even though it might not make any sense, that you might not see the road. You are on it. And you will find your way to your happy ending. It is true that we will not always have a happy ending in life, but it is essential that we continue to believe in them. I feel such sadness for her sister Delia, and the rest of of Nora’s family. But I feel sadness for us as well. The world can be a cruel and dark place. We need those who can bring the light. And with all due respect to Michelle Obama, sometimes we just need candy.

Published in: on June 27, 2012 at 5:47 AM  Comments (4)  
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The Letting Go

 

The other day I wrote of Father’s day.  I mentioned that it will be 5 years since my fathers death. It is 5 years today. This has shocked me. It feels like yesterday. It feels like a thousand yesterdays.

We all handle loss differently. But if we do not process loss organically, If we do not move through it, then the grief can become stuck. For the most part I haven’t written in these 5 years, and when I have it has been about him in one way or another. Trying to find a way to tell him I loved him in a way I never could when he was alive.

Like so many of our time, we did not communicate well. He was a loner who taught his son to be a loner, and because of this we never really learned how to be together. Or with anyone else.

He spent the last week and a half of his life in the hospital on a ventilator. He would become conscious on occasion and try and talk to me. It seemed urgent. He would become very agitated, to the point of undoing all the wires he was attached to in an effort to speak. Eventually I would come to leave the room when I saw him begin to stir to avoid this. So whenever he would awaken he never knew I was there. The guilt of this weighed heavily on me. In the end, it was another conversation we would never have. I would never know what it was he was trying to tell me. It was a symbolic ending.

But there comes a time when you must kick your own self in the ass and say enough!  To hope that perhaps you did a better job as a son than you thought. That either way it is time to start living again. To find my own breath again. To find my voice. To write.

This is not to say the subject will not be revisited and told one day. In fiction. In memoir. But sometimes it’s better to come back to something. To walk away and bring the fuel back, rather than push the car to the gas station. Stories that need telling get told. But they have their own way of letting you know when they are ready.

In the meantime, regrets serve little purpose other than hopefully avoiding them in the future. The best way to avoid regret is to do. Tell those who you love, that you love them. Take that trip, get that degree, climb that mountain. And write. If you are a writer. Write. It’s time for new stories.

And it is time to write them.

Published in: on June 21, 2012 at 12:27 AM  Comments (5)  

Fathers and Sons; A Story Told In Extra Innings

Welcome to the first entry of my first blog. I’ve thought about this for a long time. It was something I was supposed to do as a writer living in the digital age. It took me a while to want to do it. But I did. Then came the terrifying thought of what my first post would be. It would have to be brilliant. Right? It would launch my career and gain me a 1000 new Twitter followers. Right? As I was crushing myself under my own bloated expectations I noticed something today. The Boston Red Sox play the Chicago Cubs this Sunday. Father’s Day. I imagined my father walking over to me and taking the bat out of my hand and telling me, “let’s just play catch.”

You see the Cubs were my dad’s team. And the Red Sox became mine. I say became because I HATED baseball. My father loved the game as much as I hated it. I had little aptitude for it, but father tried to help by playing with me. He would pitch, but while he had love for the game he had no talent for pitching and I was chubby and slow. As a result I got hit in the head. A lot.

What changed? My father died. It will be 5 years ago this coming Wednesday June 20th. We were not a traveling family, and his death was unexpected and I needed to clear my head. So I decided to fulfill a life long dream and visit New England. I was to attend a writers conference outside of Boston. I had made the drive from Austin, so I arrived in Boston a couple of days early. I decided to go see a Red Sox game. If nothing else I would enjoy the historical aspect of going to Fenway Park. Somehow I thought it would mean a lot to my dad too. When the time came and I entered the gates to Fenway something magical happened to me. All of a sudden I got it. I saw the beauty where I only saw slow and boring as a child. I saw the art in those moments of breath. I became a fan. Before I would leave New England 6 months later, I would become a nut. I would attend two more games. My Texas truck proudly displays a Red Sox license plate frame in the front, and two fading Red Sox decals on the back window.

There is rareness and regret in this moment. You see the Red Sox and Cubs are in different leagues, it’s very rare for them to meet. The fact that this meeting takes place on Fathers Day both dulls and spikes the sting of this day and the anniversary ahead. When he passed I didn’t have a favorite team. but I do now. It’s a moment that I wish we could have shared. And we will. I have no doubt that my father will be watching the game Sunday. And with a much better view. I’ll see you at the game Dad.

Go Sox! And Happy Father’s Day.

I would love to read stories about your fathers today. Cherished moments. Missed moments. Feel free to share yours if you like.

Welcome to my blog. Lets play ball.

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Published in: on June 16, 2012 at 5:36 AM  Comments (9)  
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