🏆2nd Blogging Award🏆Announced!

I am proud to share with the blogging community that the Connecticut Press Club (CPC) has announced that my blog post, In the Heights of Father’s Day, has won FIRST place for best blog post of 2021. The entry now moves on to compete at the affiliate level of the National Federation of Press Women (NFPW).

If you recall, the press club awarded, Am I in the Right Room? a second prize in the blogging category for CPC’s 2020 contest.

As a side note, one of my travel stories also won an honorable mention in the 2021 travel writing category.

The awards will be presented in June, and I will keep you updated.

I am humbled and, at the same time, honored to be recognized. It has been a bittersweet, 40-something year writing journey. When my children were growing up, and I spent every weekend and holiday “working” on a project, I never doubted for one minute that my earnest efforts would pay off and, in the future, I would have ample family quality time. One day, I thought, I would be able financially to “retire” or, at least, have weekends off. Of course, living in my writer’s fantasy, my dreams were simply illusions, pipedreams dribbled down on paper. I am left with thinking about the years of Sunday movies at the theater that I did not have the opportunity to watch with my young and growing family.

When it comes to writing this blog, sometimes I fear that I shouldn’t be transparent and, instead, keep my vulnerabilities to myself. At this point in my life, though, I work hard at steering clear of judging others and keeping my opinions about others to myself and, as such, the only opinion about moi that matters is my own. This mindset has proven to be of great therapeutic value to me and allows me to express myself during the times I need to. In turn, I am grateful to you, my blogging community, for providing me with a judgment-free zone that is my safe sanctuary and certainly my faith muscle and a “winner’s circle” all around.

Faith Muscle

Turnip Trust

 

 

 

 

It was a big step for me last weekend to open and warm up a can of Kroger Chopped Turnip Greens With Diced White Turnips. You see, my daughter and I gave away most of my deceased son’s belongings last December when we sorted through them in the state where he lived when he was alive. However, one thing I couldn’t part with was his cans of food. Looking back, our 600-mile return “food drive” home likely symbolized my desire to continue to sustain him. After all, aren’t moms the first to sustain their babies?

Needless to say, I have stored some 12 cans in my garage since that time. Last weekend, I baked chicken and didn’t have a fresh side vegetable. I made a can run. Staring at the can, you’d think pieces of my red heart were chopped in with the green and white turnips. I realized that if I prolonged the task, I’d pass the expiration date. Everything has an expiration date. A limited shelf life, my ex-husband called it.

I beelined it for the kitchen and click! The can opener sliced through the lid quickly. No time to overthink it! I did not spoil our festive dinner feast and mention the turnip green story and what it symbolized. In a purely secular sense, it tasted good.

Later that night while I was on the internet, I discovered an aerial photo of sand inscribed with the following statement: “I decided to stay behind.”

I’ve learned through this grieving process that when a mom loses a son or daughter it is common for her to yearn to follow their child. I will attest to the fact that survivor’s guilt feels like a four-season sunburn under your skin that is painful whether you touch it or not. To top this excruciating state off, I have also discovered that being torn between two worlds, limbo is torture too.

Not to mention, Who abandoned who? That agonizing question impinges on every piece of fabric on my body, mind and soul that, against all odds, escapes from anguish. The kind of anguish that turns you into a state of pulp as you grin and bear life in your new detached normal life, mastering fake smiles like tying your sneakers.

sand-heart

As much as I wanted to hold onto that can of turnip greens, I chose to relinquish control of the chopped greens as well as my shredded heart.

Nourishment along with other things, though, helped me survive another weekend. Maybe in the coming days, weeks I can open the can of corn next and in my mind have the faith that my son is okay with the idea that “I decided to stay behind.” At least for now. And that’s what faith does, strings you along and sustains you, so you can open a can and have the next meal and simply pause, stay. Trail behind just a little longer.

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Faith Muscle

 

Alien Bird

phoenix-1301889_1920Nearly 20 years ago, when we first moved into the house I live in now, I was awakened at the crack of dawn by a succession of mysterious flat-line whistles. I realized it was a bird.

From that day, whenever I heard the visitor outside my window, I exclaimed, “Alien Bird!” to my two young children.

We never thought of the bird until it appeared in the spring and summertime. The bird’s call signaled us to freeze, stop and listen. I associated the strange hum-like sound with joy and bit into it like a bittersweet fruit that marked each season’s passage as I witnessed my two young children grow into adolescents and, finally, young adults.

Interestingly, about five years ago, when each of my children relocated to start their own adult lives,  Alien Bird disappeared, and I did not notice.

This past spring, “Alien Bird!”

For the first time at 11:30 a.m. on a Monday morning, I heard each note clear and distinct.

“Mar-shall-llll! Mar-shall-llll!”

I heard it cry out my 26-year-old son’s name who passed last fall.

The call pulled at the fragments left of my heart. I pushed the grief down, but like a buoy, the painful memory resurfaced to salt my wounds. For weeks, I padded my ears with the palms of my hands and fought not to hear the triggers that amounted to a series of terrifying electrical currents, probably something akin to what death row prisoners experienced while being executed on the electric chair.

Then one day, Alien Bird made me recall, how, when my son was young, he would never respond when I first called him, “Marshall!”

It wasn’t until the second, third or fourth time, and he would finally stop what he was doing to respond. “Yea-hhhhh.”

I would feel so frustrated. “You never answer when I call you!”

In hindsight, he did answer when I called — with delay.

Now, he does not answer.

“Mar-shall-llll! Mar-shall-llll!”

When he was alive, my son was a painfully quiet young man, who internalized everything. He had no voice. In adolescence, he was bullied and took cover best he could.

One day he said to me very intensely, “I will never be famous.”

From that moment on, he knew his life did not matter. He did not receive the worldly acceptance and accolades that I suppose on some level we all seek. He sought desperately for society’s conditional love without avail. Defeated, he fell further and further inward.

In a way, Marshall was born an alien bird who had arrived in a world where he did not belong. Today, I am building my faith stairway to reach the belief that my son has earned a custom-made seat reserved with his name inscribed on it. He has all the attention and fame possible, wrapped in a blanket of unconditional love. His toil to achieve and excel and perform has taken a final bow.

In life, he was faceless. Now, in death that dang Alien Bird shouts his name everywhere.

Lately, I eagerly await Alien Bird’s 11:30 a.m. showtime.

“Mar-shall-llll! Mar-shall-llll!”

And, when I hear it, I say in my mind, “Sing it loud! Sing it clear! Belt out your unique song to the world without changing anything. Let everyone, far and wide, hear you. Don’t hold back. And, maybe, just may, it will wake up this tainted world with all it’s judgments, restrictions, constrictions, exclusions and lack of thought and imagination, to hear, listen and accept a voice so very unlike any voice — untrained, only natural and beautiful on it own accord. Sing it high to the heavens.

One-two. One-two.

“Mar-shall-llll! Mar-shall-llll!”

Sing it loud! Sing it free!

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Faith Muscle

Champagne Tea

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Image by Bububácsi from Pixabay

I’ve reached the idea that my 26-year-old son won’t be returning after ordering a glass of champagne tea. Marking nearly 7 months since my son took his own life, the dream I had last night was the wet mortar that cemented the permanence of his out-of-order death inside my brain cells.

It was a bizarre dream and I’ll spare readers the unnecessary details. The gist of it is, my 25-year-old daughter and I waited over an hour at a fast food joint for my son’s return after he went to pick up his champagne tea. I grew angrier with each passing moment. It was the kind of anger that I would occasionally feel toward him in real life, and my response was typical. My ego was ready to plow into him, but my soul beat down my zealous ego and re-sized and minimized it down one hundred percent.

Gentle words it spoke: “Don’t blow your top. There’s a good explanation. He’s sensitive as it is, and you don’t want to hurt him needlessly.”

Powerless, my daughter and I stood frozen. Finally, my daughter gently whispered, “He’s not coming back.”

Only then did my brain unleash the absolute truth, a reminder of what had transpired nearly seven months ago after he had recently relocated to Auburn, Kentucky.

This is what I came to realize in my dream. This is what I know in my life. He won’t be back in an hour. He won’t be back tomorrow. The summer will pass without him. My first summer without him.

Earlier in the week, I pulled out a t-shirt inscribed with “Kentucky.” I quickly stuffed it back out of sight. Not so much because I had bought it with him while I was in Kentucky in 2018, but because of the fact that the last time I wore it was last summer when he was alive. The shirt magnifies the void. It’s like waking up to find you’re missing a foot, but more painful, because you have to hobble your way through life with the rest of your body out of balance. NOTE: You never “get over it”—not even for one single day, hour or minute.

That’s what out-of-order death does. It kicks you mercilessly out of the saddle of life as dust particles sting your eyes like bees. The only vision left is all the other riders in front of you galloping effortlessly forward in their high polished saddles.

Out-of-order death makes you think thoughts that would come to you if you accidentally banged your head on the car’s dashboard. The dang kid left to get his champagne tea and won’t be back. He stood us up.

In life, my son was a hell of a puzzle that I couldn’t figure out, and so it is in death. Now, I have to take his dark immovable brick of fate and cement the joints firm and unbroken into my brain. Acceptance is not an easy task when you are broken to smithereens, and faith seems far away and faded along with last year’s sunburn.

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Faith Muscle