The Final Race

August 23rd, 2018

On Death and Dying.

This is unedited

Is dying the gateway to death, or death first and then dying the afterthought..sort of the sadness that is the residual dregs for those left behind to swallow by accident or leave at the bottom of the glass that is now quite half empty. I suppose that the answer is just as allusive as trying to answer what love is, since each case is a beautiful dance of it’s own orchestration, much like the intricate detail in a snowflake’s design…each so similar from a distance yet so unique and impossible to replicate in every measure.

Today was a day in a day, just like any other but so special and unique.
My son returned from a long stay in California to visit my grandma and be with my family. The reunion was joyous of course. While he was gone I came to the solid realization that my heart was not breaking that I was not there, rather, I was there through him, he was living moments for me in a way that I could truly taking in all the precious memories that I took in as a child in my grandma’s house in which so many things have remain unchanged. I know the smells of and serene feeling of sitting out on her deck as the fog rolls in off the bay and all the little details to be experienced in no other home than hers. Through Deed’s, my sweet son, I felt the joy of seeing (though his eyes) my cousin who I hardly know marry. I didn’t miss a thing, because Diederick was there. This is something that I needn’t tell anyone of, it’s mine just to wonder over. It’s a special power that I previously really didn’t realize. It’s a selfishness that truly is beautiful and mighty.

As I die one day, I will not fear that I will miss out. The reason for this is as clear as anything unexperienced could possibly be. As true as any promise that could come from a faultless friend. I live because I have had the opportunity to embrace the most powerful and meaningful essence that ever there was or ever there could be. It’s love. Life is in death. The clarity of this that life is a race, a race not for perfection, but one lived so true and so without opportunity to take back that it is a thrill even in the still moments. It’s an honor, and a privilege, but then too…

The final race is that unto death, because it was for that where there is final quiet.

I know where I want to be buried. Perhaps I’ve always known.

In the cemetery by the small church where I was married. I don’t care that my love might leave me before my life does. I want to be buried there because of the happiness that brought me there. True, pure and simple. What a beautiful day it was. The breeze was perfect, the sun was not blinding, nor the shadows too deep as often they can be. My inexpensive vail, my over sprayed too spirally hair looked lovely and felt incredibly timeless. We were a bubble of bliss: me and my dress, my flowers against the smile that motivates and radiates my world. His smile was of pride, in the best of ways, he admired me and I could see desired me in the beautiful way that two people can want each other when they are yet unfamiliar and have not yet knit the fabric that will either pull them apart or draw then together in the way that everyone wants but so few really obtain. I confess now, as I did then, that I picked that church for a handful of reasons, one of those was that I knew that I would not have many guests. Another was that it was a place that I had enjoyed as a child. Another that the simplicity of it was quite to my liking. It was a place that you would only find if lost or looking for it.

My metaphorical race in life is reaching an important benchmark: 13 years of marriage. The joys, the sarcasms, the comments that cut like little tiny slivers, the itty lies that don’t matter: it’s the love that makes the coffee in the morning, the bonds that make the days long and the years fleeting as we watch our children grow. It’s the lines in our faces, the jokes that we share. It’s the together forever, as long as forever lasts.

Every couple’s forever is it’s own length. At that I do, wherever it is said, is the beginning that covers up some other ending.

I want my death to be like my wedding. Something you’d miss if you weren’t looking for it. Meaningful to me, deep and true just like the day that I said I do.

For me it is is a divide, in perspective, the desire I mean…

As to whether I should like to be there for them, through every hardship and happiness in the flesh or if I’d like to go first so that I couldn’t feel the fear of losing this. While I write these lines though, I feel a peace, seeing through my words that either way I need not fear because they are an extension of me. I will feel through them, anything and everything that I am meant to feel.

We are born to die. Each his or her separate and special way designed my the master and maker. It is for Him to decide when and where each of us no longer will be in the game, where our race folds for the next journey to bloom and unfold. As it was he would formed and designed, it is for him to be present for the last breath.

1Co 9:26
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
unchecked, But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

Melancholy

July 5th, 2018

Last night we just arrived home from a long stay in North Dakota. The train ride there was somewhere around 24 hours long, and the time there was three different hotels and hours in the pool. All of this OK, a blessing in fact, because outside the confines of our hotels the air was heavily humid which could quickly translate into grumpy annoyed kids which entirely would not bring out the best in me.

In the end, none of my kids or adults died. No one was lost for more than 15 minutes, yes…there was a close call, and a child who crossed the street before I said so, but it’s OK, because no one died.

We’re home now. I spent four hours vacuming the van, spraying and wipping down the interior and then washing the dust off the outside of it. There’s still sand flecks and dog hair throughout. I’ve done the laundry, and put most of it away. Still I feel scattered and unorganized.

My heart is heavy with an unexplainable sadness. Perhaps it’s the way my book ended. I’m hungry for another one. Audrey Niffenegger’s book “Her Fearful Symmetry” is one of my favorites, and was a perfect companion for the long train ride. I also just finished a Jenny Lawson and Torey Hayden.

It was one of the best North Dakota best trips yet, different than others. This visit had little victories that to me are quite large. The most gleaming of which is that I finally have more pictures from Darren’s youth. I have so many emotions looking at them. Pride and happiness, but that mixed sadness over what seems accidental. The big questions of why we were born in a different time from one another. Should I have started my journey through life ten years before I did, or should he have begun his later than what he did. The truth, as far as I can imagine is that when we came together we created our own time. It’s a special time that has no place in time. A place where we’ve gotten the opportunity to create a life of our own, by our own time frame. We’re not lucky, we’re blessed and brought together in an incredible way that really makes no sense unless you believe in God.

The picture I’ve picked to go for this post is me, not recent, since my phone is being an ass and not transferring photos as I ask it to. Why not a baby picture?! Yes, I’ll put in a picture of me as a baby.

Today I put on an old shirt from when I was like 19. With my favorite pair of shorts. I sweated through cleaning my van and getting through the most obviously needed lawn care. I’ll shower before bed and give organizing my life another hurtle tomorrow, early.

We’ve entered the warm part of summer–where the day starts off at like 65F and reaches up into the 80s by late afternoon.

Tomorrow I’ll transfer a large portion of my photos from the trip to the computer. There are a lot of blog entries to make from those pictures, enough to fill a couple weeks at least.

I hope my sadness lifts soon.
I am missing my cat, I know that. No amount of moping about will bring Tony back, I realize that.

What I need to do is find a book to read. The kind that I can lose myself in. I need to get out early and go for a run in the morning. Yes…that’s what I’ll do.

The hour is now midnight. Goodnight.

Lost In Translation

June 21st, 2018

I’ve sat down so many times over the past six months to try and write a called Lost in Translation. This is the picture that I start with. Sweet Yana. Perhaps it’s the wrong picture though. Because as soon as I change her beautiful face into a file link I just sit here. Perhaps the best thing to do is to just trust my hands.

Over the past few months I’ve been working on learning another language.
In college I read a wonderful book called Train Go Sorry about a woman who lives her life on the border between the hearing and deaf world, fitting in to neither one 100%. She’s fascinated by the deaf community but is not welcome because she is hearing. It did not matter that she has family members who were deaf, that she had grown up playing with children at the deaf school where her father worked. It didn’t matter that she knew sign language extensively; their world is one of silence unpenetrable and carefully caged in self imposed solace.

I think language is like that. It holds us apart. But the fantastic things that can happen when barriers break down and connects are made. When words make sense. When the strangeness of the letters becomes familiarity. The wonder of the letters and formations of sounds come together, it’s like a dance where you see the general sway and hear the tune. You can enjoy the music, even though you know that your ears are not quite tuned yet to hear the voice inflections, so it is with language.

It takes a lot of bravery to pick up a book that’s written in a foreigners tongue and promise yourself that someday you’ll read it.

почему ты здесь?

Because of a little girl named Yana. She captured my spirit and held on tight without knowing it. When I saw her picture it was like I really believed she was to be my daughter. What’s life if you can’t feel something crazy like that? I hope everyone does, at some point in there life. She something or someone and say, that person will mean a lot to me one day. Even if it never happens, you’re different. Yana’s photo came into my life in 2012. In 2013 Russia closed it’s doors to Russian to American adoption.
I really did think that this was like an over night thing. Like it was a halt on adoptions to US families. Not so. It’s 2018 now, and Russia holds a solid ban on adoption to the USA.

My knowledge of Yana did not die there. March 2014 a friend of mine who spend time in Yana’s orphanage and had sent me numerous baby photos sent me more that she was able to receive from the director of the Baby House were Yana had lived. The photos were of Yana now a toddler walking hand in hand with two other children. A nothing photo pictured her with a smiling young woman near a climbing structure. My sweet girl had been adopted by a Russian family!! What a tremendous blessing to see that she was among the lucky few to see the outside of institution walls.

God never gave me a child through adoption, as I’d hoped he would. I have felt sad over that, absolutely. But it’s not about me. The story of Yana is a wonderful one. God had a plan for her. He saw her and knew what she needed and brought the perfect family. I’m sure that she’s doing well, and being cared for by loving people. How pleased I was to hear that she’d been adopted by a family who already had children so that she could have siblings to grow up with!

And that’s it, the beginning of my interest in the Russian language and culture.

We moved into this neighborhood in 2009, only months after coming home from our two years living on the East Coast. The neighbor who lived directly behind us asked if I’d like her to teach me some Russian, just for fun. Of course I said yes!! We dove right in to learning as we drank tea and watched our little kids play on the floor.

Time has a way of folding together. Memories close and the pages that make up the chapters of our lives become sticky and torn with the experiences in life, and that’s just how it is, true as much with language as with anything else.

My first words in Привет(hi), Спасибо(thankyou), пожалуйста(please), пока(bye), and хорошо(good, or ok)

So, I guess while my initial interest in Russian came from an orphan in a beautiful foreign slavic nation, I’m now at a point in my life when my kids are grown up a little and I have a sliver of time to try and learn this intriguing language. I’ll never truly be a part of it, as the girl in Train Go Sorry, I can admire and learn everything I wish, if only from behind the space of true immersion of living inside the culture.

One of my favorite words in вы and Ты. Both words make the sound, and mean “You” but one indicates familiarity, and a status in a relation from acquaintance to friend.

I think that to learn another language is to open a window into another world. It requires intention, and can be a struggle but the view may be pretty amazing if you take the time to apply a bit of tenacity and determination the reward can be tremendous. Even if the reward is just to be able to pick up a children’s book in a foreign language and read a story written for small children. Doesn’t это look so similar to “it is”? это всего лишь небольшая часть …It is just a small part, but I smile that I’m understanding the sounds a bit more.

I’m so often lost in translation, aren’t I? In my daily life making notes of what I need to do. Orange chicken and rice for dinner, or ham and mashed potatoes?

Interpreting what’s really behind what my children are asking for or sad about requires translation, as nothing is quite as it seems. Why not mix in with that wanting to learn an actual foreign language. I’m game.

I choose русский. If you ask me why, you’ll get a really long answer like this. My answer changes based on who I’m talking to perhaps, but this is the reason and story that I’m putting forward today. What’s here is Life According to Laura, my story.

Tony Chestnut

June 16th, 2018

I’m sorry to tell you this, buddy…

Today’s the day that you died. Thank you for being my boy. I really appreciate it, I do.

Just writing this my throat is tightening and my eyes are beginning to water. If you were here you’d be jumping up on my lap, purring and trying to nudge my hands off the keyboard so that I’d rub behind your ears. If I didn’t, you’d hop up on the desk and block the whole monitor because that’s how big and selfish you were.

I’m sorry that I didn’t know you were sick. You kitties do a damn good job hiding illness.

AJ found you laying in the lawn and called to me say that you were sunbathing really flat in the grass and that I had to come look right now.

When I came I could clearly see you weren’t feeling your usual mischievous self. You’re the kind of boy who likes to crouch low in the grass and jump out at peoples feet only to sit back and smile like you’d just tried to slap a pesky insect off their foot rather than nearly tear open their flesh.

Your body was floppy when I rubbed your shoulders in the way that you like. I hear a weak, “C’mon buddy, wake up” come out of my mouth in a pitiful way that did not sound familiar at all. Your eyes looked glassy and your paws a faint purple which I didn’t think was even a thing. As I leaned closer I saw that your precious sweet nose that you’d so often pressed against my face to wake me up in the morning was bloody.

My sweet baby! What could I do?!

I called for the kids to bring me a towel and when it arrived I picked you up gingerly. I believe you knew I was there.

We hoped you just needed a drink of water.
In retrospect that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Nothing does though, when my boy isn’t responding.

You looked so helpless and I had no idea how to help you so I just held you on my lap and stroked your fur. You seemed to cough but I felt no attempt on your part to draw air in at all. I felt the air leaving me too as I could see your lips turn purple.

I wasn’t ready to let you go yet.

Today’s the day you died, baby.

You went to the vet and they were so nice. I’m told that on the way over you tried to struggle out of the box that I’d set you in. That’s so like you, silly boy. I paid them to cremate you and tonight you’re gone. The children are all talk about what they’ll name the next kitten.

Tony, you did good, buddy. You showed the kids how wonderful a cat can be, it was you who taught them that a human should not exist without a cat.

I never realized it at the time, but by always insisting on being on our laps you were doing all of cats for years to come a big favor–you pushed your way into so many family memories just by being so determined to be the center of attention. So many pictures over the space of your five year life are here forever. Thanks for being you. I was super lucky!

I want to be…

June 10th, 2018

I grow tired of talking about myself.

Yesterday’s writing left me feeling sad, and that’s not what I like. That being said, it’s not coming down. Quite often a blank page such as this is the best place to get out rusty old feelings in a way that allows them a certain ambiguity.

Today was a treasure. I want to write a little about it this evening. Thank goodness I have pictures! Enough of the vintage stuff!!

We spent Sunday afternoon at the Hovander Park walking trails. I think it was supposed to be an all family venture, but somehow Darren and the boys broke off and it was just the AJ, Carly and I. Our conversation drifted from how their school year is going, to what everyone is most looking forward to about our summer vacation. As we moved along the trails we often saw dogs and their owners strolling or going for a run. This got us talking about how much cooler these were than our dog. Poor Daisy. She really does give effort towards being a good dog, it’s just she gets bored and wants to have the liberty to run around and do her business in neighbor’s yards!

That aside, we took up the subject of what the girls want to be when they grow up.

As a child, and a teenager too, all I knew is that I wanted to be someone helpful who would be missed if I died. Beyond that, I really couldn’t stick to any idea.

Carly seems to have a similar thought pattern at the present time, which is only as a ten year old, so we do have a bit of time.

She surmises that she’ll move out when she’s 18 and get two dogs when she gets an apartment of her own. One will be small and the other will be good for taking on runs. She went on to describe what her apartment will look like. Good luck finding an apartment in this city that allows dogs She’ll have a job at a store so that she can afford to have a car and live in her apartment. Then she’ll start college. In response to my asking what she’ll study she said, “An artist, but one who makes money” While I was nodding and smiling about the idea of my sweet girl growing up to be a happy person, independent and pursuing dreams she went on in the story of her imagined future. “After a few years I’ll get married to my boyfriend. While I’m in college I’ll have a boyfriend.” A boyfriend? What kind of boy? What does he do for work? I hope you two aren’t planning on living together!

Life is like this pond consumed in lily pads. It can become so consumed in plants that the clear shimmery water that casts a perfect mirror of the sky above can become overwhelmed. The formerly non existent vegetation creates a home to many life forms that before would not be thriving or even present without the pads. Such is the case in life. We get so busy that our daily choices can draw us away from original plans. Details are what make up our journey.

Presently my girls have the flexibility to dream, and I love that. They have such a clear canvas. Their choices are open and I really do think they could be anything they dream of. What’s my role? It’s to support and encourage them. I have to confess that I’m nervous. What if I’m letting opportunities pass them by already?

She’s getting so tall. May I continue to remark on that each time we take a picture together?! She’s still so sassy and spirited. I love the sound of her laughter and hope she’ll always have something to be delighted over. I hope the life she imagines for herself will be full of people and places that will keep her heart happy and continue to give her a reason to smile.

There is of course much to be said of AJ. She always has something witty to add to conversation. We cannot imagine life without her.

For now, however, I must sleep. You know, so that I can wake up and do all my mama stuff again. One week of school remaining. :)

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.