Guest in Your Heart / Writing

Open NOT Broken

Month: February, 2013

Translucent Love – 2/27

Love should be as generous as the crescent moon which s never jealous of her harvest twin. She loses herself routinely but always refills her form. I envy how she stands out in darkness. Her partner can command the sky yet will fade into the background as shooting stars and constellations share the stage.

I want my love to be as expansive as a soft magenta sunrise highlighting all that is beneath in a holy pink glow. And at dusk, I want to be a distinct as the hard black outline of bare oak limbs against a blue skyline.

I want to be as deliberate and sturdy as the porcelain tub where I have held my daughter before she was strong enough to balance the full weight of her head. Ceramic tile walls have soothed middle-aged limbs and tiny plastic basins have cleansed swollen feet and babies. I have reached into bubbly water, lathered up soap and down rose petals, have rubbed peppermint scrub to exfoliate what is dead and let coconut oil hold in the warmth and moisture.

I want a love as reliable as spearmint Double mint gum which plucks my tongue each time it makes contact. It never tries to be sweet or to blow bubbles. It knows its own flavor and texture and when gum is what I want it never disappoints.

It could be as holy as the showers, which have held me naked and asked for nothing in return. Endlessly poured on by heat that never requests a thank you.  Forty-six years later and I am giddy as I undress, anticipating the water, which I have come to count on and know even before I am wet. This is the only beating on bare back I welcome, where pressure wipes tense shoulders. As ordinary as routine and as sacred as sanctuary, my gratitude transformed to worship, by the constant renewal. That’s the sacred sort of steamy that will keep me gasping to breathe in.

Love could be as fresh as my coffee, which never gets tired or old or boring. I have yet to outgrow the flavor or practice of preparing. I am rewarded with a tireless craving which keeps me committed and returning my same mouth to edge of cups where my longing is savored.

I want to float in a bubble, not protected  or removed, but translucent and roomy. In it, from this perspective, we can be hand-holding adults, held in utero, by a pregnant world offering her gifts wrapped in a rainbow glistening shimmer.

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Inheritance

 

In college, a boy with curly hair said, “Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” I said as I slurped my breakfast yogurt. He was doing a study on paternal occupation and offspring height.

“What does your father do for a living?”

“Nothing,” I said.

“No really,” he said.

“No really,” I said. “He’s a homeless alcoholic veteran.”

“Oh,” he said and stared at me. Neither one of us could find a word. This was not the information he was seeking.

“I’m taller than he was if that helps your study,” I said almost whispering to his back.

 

My father was a ghost of childhood, like God or Santa Claus. He was a being I knew of but didn’t know – a main character in my life story but not my daily life.

He was the name printed in the “W” section of the obituaries which I used to search for, running my index finger over letters where I might find him but never did. He was an overcast day, a headache stirring in the temples, the nameless throb of a rarely used muscle.

He was the slope of my nose, angled and long, the steady bones of my cheeky face. He was the answer that never came. He was the itch too far down the back to scratch. He is the insect swallowed, wings flapping at the throat, intact and struggling for breath. He was the question I never got to ask.

Once you were a teenager, dog tagged and in uniform. Christ, you were a soldier. You were even brave. You were fresh and clean when writing letters from Vietnam where you lived, folded, scared and interesting. That was the only time you knew how to reach us. When you were serving we got to be on your receiving end. You asked about us in your letters to my Nana which I still have. Your ink, on that paper, is the only proof I have that you ever knew who I was to you.

How far did that letter travel more than four decades ago?

I used to dream him sober.

He was a deadbeat Dad with a tab he never settled with my mother. Some debts are never paid or forgiven.

“Oh Honey,” my Nana said, “He doesn’t have two dimes to rub together,” when I was college age and complaining about filling out financial aid forms. I was irritated that there was no room on one-inch lines to explain his contribution to my college education.

His absence is my inheritance. There is no way to soothe the phantom limb of grief. We have no relationship outside the science of biology that makes me a daughter belonging to a Daddy. He is the spray of my genetic graffiti.

I envisioned him at funerals where I would kneel beside his casket and keep him company. Even in my imagination silence is what we shared.

I was a girl on a dock once who didn’t know how to swim. I was shivering as it got dark. I peered into dark waters and had to decide if it was riskier to dive into the water or wait for rescue.

Now I am a woman of middle age. I’ve dreamed he is dead. If living, he is shredded, drifting, dirty newspaper humping curbs and corners of empty streets.

Dead or alive, he is grieved.  Dead or alive is little matter to me. Either way, I pray the wind is kind and he is lifted, lifted.

I hope he had days when he was soothed, warm and fed.

I did. I do. I swim.

*This is a revised piece of poetry started years ago and turned to prose.

This Present?

I was worn down by the minutia of mothering. The days were consumed with relentless chores that keep the machine of a home life humming: changing the kitty litter, filling the gas tank, sweeping the floors, folding the towels and vacuuming the same carpet over and over. No amount of effort seemed to brighten the dullness of endless routine.

Meals were adequate but not nutritious. The produce was wilting; the fruit bowl empty and finances lean. Time with my daughter was squeezed between rides and homework and play-dates. There were too few giggles and crafts and afternoons on the couch. My mother love seemed an anemic pink rather than a pulsing purplish red.

I dreamed of ease and rescue. I wanted someone to help clean my house, go to the dentist, get my daughter her poster board and pay the bills. I wished I had a father who could snake the kitchen pumps and a retired and well-to-do mother who lived close by and had endless time to spend with her granddaughter. I never planned on parenting alone.

It was like shoveling the snow in the tenth storm of a dreary season where there is no place to empty the shovel when the white snow stops looking breathtaking and promise iced-over windshields, delayed school openings and long rides to work. I was muscling through, managing and doing the minimum and feeling stretched and inadequate in my delivery and approach.

Then, like last week’s ripping at the base of the house threatening to tear the roof off or uproot a tree, it shifted and the heaviness evaporated. It wasn’t an insight that freed the mind, a cyclical release of hormones that elevated mood, a sweaty run or an unexpected windfall. It was my daughter, at the foot of the stairs asking, “Do you need anything?”

The words climbed up as I was getting dressed and I realized she was talking to me. She is ten and has never asked this. “You can have the other half of my bagel,” she said, “But I’ll make yours with peanut butter.”

It reminded me of the shock I felt when she was an infant crying in the middle of the night and I went to her exhausted and sleepy. The need to tend, to ease my baby’s discomfort came so naturally and often. It satiated a longing I had not known I had. How come no one warns of this rapture? I asked. Why aren’t there songs and poems about this primal devotion that seems to come from the core of the universe? Now my daughter is ten and is a fresh to the world person made anew each day in a form I have never experienced.

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Wasn’t it a minute ago that she couldn’t reach the bowls she now pulls down for herself? Wasn’t she too young to get her hair brushed before school and her shoes on without instruction? Didn’t she accidentally drop a hand-held weight on my head at three and not realize it caused hurt?

This once infant is in the kitchen and considering my needs for a moment. Our dance steps have shifted and she sometimes leads. She plays song for me from her favorite band, dances moves she makes up and asks me to watch.

It is Kai who taught me how to knit, who had beginner wooden needles and three choices of yarn for me to choose from. It is my daughter who said, “See, you are doing it” when I completed my first row. I could see the teacher-to-be as she guided and instructed. I am not only a provider, guider, feeder and driver, hugger, laundress and the one she cries to.

Let me not dwell on the toddler years, the big head that filled frame after frame, when my heart focused on height, weight and development. Let me remember but not long for the wobbly first steps. Help me stop telling myself stories of the angry teenager who is not here.

As I write, Olivia Rose has arrived in the world. She is the newest member of our extended family and is held in arms long anticipating her arrival. At only days old she is exquisite, precious and already perfect. She need not do, prove or accomplish for this to be true. Enthusiasm is the water and the joy is the sun that flowers the seeds of unconditional love.

On days when I am tired or lazy, cavalier or distracted, I have to remember the moments I have with my child are not endless. The times when she seeks my company are limited. It is a privilege to help ease her burdens because I will not always be able to meet her needs.

Each day, she is a brand new version of herself in the act of becoming. Aren’t you? Aren’t I? I want to make this awareness an unshakable knowing so I greet Kai and each new day with an open heart and mind.

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