It’s Almost Time

clock-334117_1280
It’s almost time.

Mom just woke us up so we could bring in the new year. It’s 11:50 pm.

We come downstairs and she places pot lids in our young hands, along with wooden spoons.

“Just a few minutes to go. Get ready, get ready!”

Mom shows us the box of noisemakers we can choose. Brightly colored and made of tin, they have little handles you hold onto. Spinning them around they make the best sound, only allowed on this day.

Still, we’d rather have the pots, they are louder.

In a matter of a minutes we will move through time. From one year into the next, out with the old, in with the new.

Our hearts start beating faster with each tick of the clock. It’s thrilling being up around midnight.

And before long, we’ll be tasting the greek tradition of Loukoumades. Pastries mom just made by dropping batter into hot oil. The honey she drizzled over the puffed balls is sticky, but we don’t mind. This memory is one that will last forever.

And finally she yells, “It’s time. Go ahead, go ahead!”

“Happy New Year!” we yell, banging our little hearts out.

We hear the sound of fireworks by those who brave this cold Chicago night. We stand outside yelling and screaming for a whopping five minutes.

And now we walk in with our coats buttoned over our pajamas, wearing big smiles. We did it.

Tomorrow we will have a special meal. Uncle Steve and Pattie will be over. They always celebrate special times with us.

The day has come. We watch as mom cuts the round loaf of greek bread she made. It smelled so good in the oven.

All of us hope our piece has the quarter in it. The one she took down from the chandelier and placed in the dough.

Whoever gets the quarter is supposed to have good fortune for the year. But first, she cuts a piece for “the house,” and if that piece has the quarter the good fortune is for the whole family.

I quickly search my slice to find no quarter. I glance at my siblings. This year my brother gets it. A smile covers his young face.

Quietly I wonder if I’ll ever be the one to get that special piece.

It’s decades later.

I look around. There is no handing out of pots and pans.  There are no Loukoumades glazed with honey. And I’m not sure if there will be fireworks since I rarely stay up that late.

But it’s still New Year’s Eve and there will still be the passage of time.

Each year we sit and reflect on the year gone by. If it’s been a bad year we welcome the new year with open arms. And if the year has been good to us, we hope for the same.

It’s quiet, but that’s okay. The memories of other years gone by still parade through my mind.

And if I pause for just a moment, I can still see a little girl hitting a pot with a wooden spoon. A girl with a big smile on her face.

Happy New Year everyone.

The Dad I Never Had

Dad and me

 Father’s Day is almost here. Sons and daughters will stand in line with cards and gifts in their hands. Cards that tell their dads how much they mean to them.

Others will barely make it through the day, thinking about how they no longer can give their dads a Father’s Day card. Just wanting the day to end as well as their grief.

There will be some people who never had a dad they could remember. Year after year they endure the day and basically wish it never existed.

And there’s yet another group. A group that had a dad, but didn’t. He was there. but not in the way a dad should be.

Our Dad was absent though present. I have memories of him sleeping in his chair in front of the television set.  My more vivid ones are of him whipping out his belt and taking off after us. I’d him yelling things no person should ever hear. My siblings would be crying in their bedrooms and I cried knowing I was next. It never occurred to me that he had a problem. He was a rage-aholic. I honestly thought we were bad.

Then our mom died when I was sixteen years old. That’s when our family fell apart. She was the glue.

One month after mom was gone my brother Gus sat having lunch with my dad.

“Dad, did you know the night Mom was sick she called Anne and Anne didn’t go?”

I froze as my father’s eyes narrowed. With his finger extended he said, “It’s your fault your mother’s dead.”

And at sixteen, I believed him.

It’s hard living with someone who blames you for your mother’s death. Impossible really. Eventually my guilt was too much to bear. I left home and lived with an aunt.

Then months later, maybe even a year, my sister called.

“Anne, you need to come and see Dad. He’s got cancer.”

I managed to get the words out,” I can’t come.”

“Anne, you already regret not going to Mom. Don’t do it again.”

As impossible as it was to imagine seeing my dad, she was right.

So the next day I walked the long hall at Veteran’s hospital. What would I find when I got there?

The years had not been kind to him. He looked a lot older than fifty-two.

“Annie” he said with a smile when I walked in his room.  ” You came. But why do you look so mad?”

“It was not my fault she died,” I stammered.

“I know,” he said quietly.

He knew? He knew but didn’t bother to tell me?

I let him talk and was surprised when the words came, “I’m sorry I wasn’t a good father to you.”

The images of him chasing us with his belt, his eyes wild with rage flooded my mind. But instead I pushed those images out and instead saw the man before me.

There was no belt in his hand now. And he was beaten himself, by this cancer.

At that moment, God softened my heart.

I looked at my dad and responded, “You did the best you could.”

Words I had not planned on saying. But words that nonetheless needed to be said.

Reaching down I kissed the cheek of my dad. The one who said to my sister and me when we were little girls, “Make your legs stiff,” as he lifted us high into the air. With our dresses tucked in out underpants we felt like we were beautiful ballerinas that owned the world. With arms out to the side we smiled so big.

I wish things had been different. I wish I felt loved and nurtured by this ballerina lifter, but I didn’t. And yet, God gave me an opportunity for reconciliation.

My dad apologized for the first time ever. Our last conversation was our best.

The next day my father died.

So on Father’s day I hold onto the memory of me lifted high in the air. And like others I miss my dad. The dad I never had.

What if They’re not Missing Anything?

Image

Photo Jyrki Kymäläinen via Creative Commons

Wow, look at that!

Whenever we witness something amazing, the first thing we want to do is share it.

Love wants to share

Maybe you’ve seen a sunset that takes your breath away. Immediately you think of someone you want to share it with.

Tuck it in your pocket. Save it for when you get to heaven.

And maybe when slipping our memories out to share we’ll be surprised to hear,

“You should have seen it from here!”

My sister Peggy and I used to talk on the phone for hours.

We never ran out of things to say no matter how often we talked. Never.
And when she died, I began thinking about her in a different way. Long distance.

We think they’re missing out

As I traveled through life sister-less I thought about all the things she didn’t know about. She never met my daughter, my grandsons, Jude and Charlie, and now my little granddaughter, Ruthie.

And when I’ve thought about how she didn’t share my life, it stung.

But what if she hasn’t missed them. She saw them all, we just didn’t see them together.

Like when I learned how to drive in my 30‘s or when I graduated college in my 40‘s.

Maybe at our reunions with loved ones, as we settle in to share.

Maybe we won’t be the only ones talking.

A different perspective

I’ve thought my sister missed out on seeing my precious daughter.

But what if God gave her a sneak peek before he handed Jessica to me?

It’s something to think about.

I believe we’ll have unfathomable joy at our reunions. Whenever Jesus rose someone from the dead people rejoiced.

We know those in heaven are in a better place. One day we’ll be joining them.

God understands

God knows our hearts broke when our loved ones died. He gathered up our tears, slipping them in a special bottle he keeps with him.

But one day, the time we spent missing them will be like a vapor, a mist. Like nothing.

So when I experience life after a loved one dies, I’ll stick a post-it note on it with the words,

“For Later.”

We’re a culture who doesn’t like to wait. From microwave popcorn, to drive-throughs, our attitudes scream, “I want it now.”

But we have to wait for some things.

It builds our anticipation, our character.

Even God waits

God had to wait for 33 years after he placed His Son in a manger. God waits for us to turn to Him.

This Christmas I’ll once again be thinking of lost loved ones. But maybe I can change how I think about them.

We’ll spend Christmas pondering the birth of a baby king. Those in heaven will hear the angels rejoicing, up close and personal.

We have no idea what is in store for us.

We’ll get there, greeted by our loved ones. And after unbelievable hugs they’ll say,

“I’m so glad to hold you again, but I never stopped watching you.”

And maybe we’ll smile, realizing it’s true.

We’re seeing the same stars those in heaven see. They’re just a little closer to them.

For now.

Note: This post was inspired by a post by my friend, Pamela Hodges
entitled, My father’s last Christmas.

Why I used to Sneak into my Mother’s Dresser.

treasure

She knew I did it.
I just couldn’t help myself.

Her Treasure

her heart quickened as did her steps
with little time left she scurried to the bedroom,
with a slide of the gold button the jewelry box opened
with warm reception
dazzling bracelets hoping to be held were overlooked
there in a satin pouch lay her treasure
a gold compact case
blue rhinestones stood in a ‘ring around a rosy’
holding her captive
with a press of a tiny button the lid popped open
revealing powdered make-up
the face in the mirror was too young to wear it
and old enough to know
mother’s footsteps shortened fun
sliding her prize back among the jewelry
she made her exit
when questioned if she touched the box
she simply answered, “no”
but everyone knew otherwise

And after all these years the compact case still seems magical to me. To know she looked into this mirror that I now look into is a connection.

I have a kinship with the reflection in the mirror. She has aged through the years, as I have. Yet there is something familiar about her eyes.

No longer can I smell the powder in the compact case, but I remember it just the same. It was a faint sweetness like the fragrance of a honeysuckle flower.

I’d watch her face transform right before my eyes. The bright red lipstick would be the final touch. She looked beautiful with her raven hair and her milky white skin. I wanted to be like her.

I wish I had a mirror to show me her reflection again, instead of relying on the dusty ones in my mind. I wish I had more memories stored away.

One moment in time spans years. It makes you wonder which of your moments will be recalled in the minds of others.

Will it be a word you spoke to a broken heart? A hug you hoped would hold someone together?

Perhaps just the touch of a hand on a shoulder.

Mom didn’t know her life with us would be cut short. If so, she would have played with us and worked less. The memories of having fun with her are so few.

One New Years Day we played a board game. I stared at her as she sat with us.

The few the memories, the more valuable they are.

Watching a movie in black and white on a summer night while eating a sundae she brought home from the Snack Shop.

Riding downtown Chicago on the El after stopping at Goldblatt’s for some block chocolate.

Standing at a bus stop on a winter day and having her put my cold hand in her pocket.

Small memories can affect you in a big way.

Like a compact case, a pink high chair, or even “I love you,” etched on a piece of paper. They are valuable.

Moments make memories we keep forever.

We need to make our moments count.

What’s one memory you’ll never forget?

Today I read an inspiring post by Pamela Hodges. You can read her post HERE. Thanks, Pamela.

When Buttons get Pressed

  • Have you ever gotten overly upset about something not knowing why?
  • Have you witnessed someone losing it over something small?
  • Do you sometimes get scared as if you’re a child?

Maybe someone pressed a button. The problem is we never know when it will happen 

I’m a little girl in school when a teacher raises an eyebrow. Like a piece of paper, I crumple up inside. I’m not even conscious I file away the experience. Years later someone raises an eyebrow and I overreact. We never know when our buttons will be pressed. We don’t even know each others buttons, unless of course we share that information with one another. All we can do is navigate through our lives as best we can.    

Last month driving down Main Street I noticed flashing lights in my rearview mirror. Instinctively, I tightened my grip on the steering wheel, hoping the police car would pass me by. But he didn’t.   

I had been speeding after leaving my house too late. The day came for me to pay my ticket. As I waited in the courtroom, I focused on those called before me, watching their behavior for clues as to what I should do. 

Buttons get pressed at the most inopportune times 

When my name is called I practically run to the attorney. I see his mouth moving but am unable to understand what his words are. My ability to think has slowed down. I hear myself gasp when he tells me the amount of my fine. I write out the check, holding back tears. 

Confused I walk to my car. I thought I was going to see a judge. I didn’t get to ask any questions, I just went through motions. I had been terrified.

Once inside my car, I sob as if I lost a loved one. Each time I think of the ticket another wave of shame washes over me. I cannot reason right then. I don’t care that a lot of people get tickets or that everyone gets nervous when they see flashing lights. I am merely a scared child who is in big trouble.   

A couple of days later I leave for traffic class. I opted for this over court supervision. I didn’t even know what court supervision was. I just want this all to go away. Part of me dreads the four hours the class will take. 

Getting more red lights than I counted on I am running late. Arriving at the college I discover more than one building and I start tensing up. I try one door, finding no one in any of the rooms. 

Though I try to focus on the task at hand, a button gets pressed and instead of an adult looking for a room I am once again a child arriving at school after the final bell.  

I panic not knowing where traffic class is. I get turned around and can’t recall where I parked my car. Driving to another building, I find a man who I ask for help. With one call he finds out my class is in the next building. I thank him and leave.  

Walking in, I tell the woman behind the counter the room number I need. “I’m sorry, but you won’t be able to go in, you’re late.”

“Can I just explain to him that I didn’t know the room, didn’t know …”

She repeats she’s sorry, though I don’t believe her. “You can register again if you like.”

“No,” I hear myself say, “I’ll call to register.”

Back in my car, a Tsunami of tears overwhelms me. My back starts hurting as it seizes up. I just want to get home. I am exhausted. So how can we learn how to deal with the buttons in our lives? 

Think of what is true

I remind myself God is bigger than any button. He is the God of the past, present and future who knows our history. Patiently he tells me to take care of myself when those buttons go off. I listen carefully, fully aware he is teaching me how to reparent myself, how to grow myself up. 

When I am uncertain as to what I should tell myself, I think about what I need to hear.  

Say what’s true

My dialog is to the point:

  • You’re going to be okay. 
  • You’re not alone. 
  • You can do this.

I start to breathe a little easier as my fears shrink and I regain control. Maybe I will be okay. A calmness blankets me. And when I have witnessed someone else who is upset I can help reassure them things will be okay. It never helps to react to someone whose button has just been pressed.   

Buttons will go off 

I used to wonder if I could just short-circuit these buttons, rendering them ineffective. I was told it’s not likely. Instead, I will learn how to respond when they go off, much like we learned what to do with fire drills. To avoid panic we need to  go through steps when the alarm goes off.  Panic shuts down our ability to think clearly.  

Buttons will be pressed, and we won’t know when. But if we prepare, little by little we will find that the duration of our difficulty will shorten. Then we can breathe and move on to the next thing. And for me that was registering for traffic class again. I can do this. I know I can. God told me so.

What I miss

I have read about how technology is somehow mimicking our earlier years in school. That getting tweets with twitter is like having your yearbook signed. The more, the better. Some didn’t seem to care about who signed their book, as long as there remained little white space.

Well, maybe that applied to some kids, but not me. Instead I reserved a whole page here and there for those people in my life who mattered most. And they had no trouble filling the page with memories we had made for those years.

Yeah, I hoped this guy I had a crush on would write something magical, and maybe I did ask someone to sign my book just because he/she sat a row from me and was one of the so called cool kids, but, I didn’t ask everyone. I cared more about content. 

Our world now seems to celebrate numbers more than people. People become numbers. I’m not a fan of that.

I hate running to the phone to find out I am listening to a computerized call. I resent that they use a phony hello, pretending to care I’m even on the phone. They are not calling to talk to me, they are talking at me.

Used to be you’d go to the phone, surprised to hear from a friend. You’d catch up, uninterrupted, and then replay the conversation in your mind for days afterwards.

Now instead, someone texts you, with a few minutes to kill and their fingers are itching for something to do. And just as quick as they text into your day, they text out. 

Guess I’m missing things the way they used to be, and the people who would give you our most precious commodity, time. I’m thinking especially of one person. When I went by her house. Once she filled her cup of coffee and sat down she was all yours.

There were no calls she had to take. In fact, sometimes she would make sure someone else answered her ringing telephone. 

But maybe I’m funny. I also miss going to the mailbox and seeing familiar writing. I don’t think many people write notes by hand any more.  

Perhaps I’m not the only person who is missing the way we used to communicate.

What do you miss most about the past?