It started with a phone call…


I’m pulling an old one from the archives here guys… originally posted on May 19, 2010… I don’t know why this time of year reminds me of him so much… I guess because he loved when spring finally arrived because it meant we could be back on the water. I hope you enjoy reading!

My Dad and Me, 1968

My third birthday, it was kind of special. This was 1968, and in Florida a miracle had occurred. We were connected finally, to Interstate I-75, and this was our “rest area”. We had my birthday party here, and it was a fun day. Mom and Dad and I all dressed up and celebrating my third birthday.

I can only imagine how my mother felt when the phone rang that morning in 1978, just 10 years later. All of her hopes, dreams, and plans changed in a single ring of the telephone. For years to come my mother will have issues answering the phone, and the duty will shift to me when I am old enough.

I cannot fathom the depth of fear, heartache, and loneliness that phone call must have delivered to my mother. On the other end of the phone? My fathers boss… his news, an accident. A really bad accident. One which necessitated my father being airlifted to the hospital. In a time when that was reserved for only the most severe injuries. This phone call never should have been made, he should have gotten in his car and gone to my mother. He could have sent the sheriff, or called my uncle, or anything else… but he called her to tell that her husband might die before she could get to the hospital.

She went, straight to the hospital they told her he went to, but he wasn’t there. He was too severe, they said, transferred to the trauma center down the road. My uncle met her on the steps leading out, together they went to the other hospital.

Together they received the news. My father’s brother and wife stood in the emergency room and heard the news nobody should ever have to hear… Nothing they could do, brain injury too severe, blood loss too great, chances of survival were nothing to begin with, husbands brains were scrambled eggs… The last statement from the attending ER doctor, broke my mother.

My father, the intelligent, hardworking, fun-loving, heavy equipment mechanic with 20 years of experience, a wife and young child was gone. His brain function totally destroyed in an accident that didn’t have to happen.

I arrived home from school on the bus, my pastor and my mother’s best-friend met me at the stop. I knew before I ever got in the car something was terribly wrong. Nobody every picked me up by my grandmother or neighbor. Where was my grandmother, my mom, my dad? What had happened to my family??? I was terrified as I climbed into the backseat of that car… and heard the words that would break my heart and change my entire life.

Your daddy was in an accident at work today, and even though the doctors tried very, very hard, your daddy was just hurt too bad. He didn’t make it honey, your daddy has gone to be with Jesus.

I couldn’t, wouldn’t, believe the words coming out of their mouths. They were lying. I wanted my mother, what had they done with my mother… take me home, now…

I walked into my grandmother’s house moments later in a state of disbelief. My uncle was the first person I saw, he was crying… something is wrong. Mom is there next to him, she’s crying too – so is my cousin. Grandma is in grandpa’s lap, and she’s crying too… tell me this is not happening… tell me this is not the truth. Why is everyone crying? Where is my father?

I don’t know when she arrived, but soon I felt my best friend at my side. Her hand gently slipping into mine and leading me out the door, to the woods, through the brush, over the rocks – safe! Safe in our fort in the woods, safe to slip a cigarette out of the carefully hidden stash… safe to sort out the lies with a comfortable friend.

Why would they tell me this, what possible reason would they have for wanting to hurt me this way? Maybe daddy was just mad and left – and they want to forget about him. But I’m not going to forget – no matter how much they might want me to… I will not let him go, he can’t leave me… I just turned twelve three days ago, he can’t leave me now.

Quiet sobs in the twilight, voices calling us… come and eat something, the bugs are out come inside… Honey we need to see you are okay, please come on in and talk to us…

Slowly, making my way out of the bushes, best friend holding my hand. Surrounded by love and family, crying and asking why… taking each breath as it may be my last… pain so deep my heart hurts.

Days go by… people come and go, they hug, cry, speak softly and don’t ask questions. Food comes in huge quantities… I don’t know where it all comes from, or why… I don’t want it, see it, or taste it when forced to eat. My fathers sister comes and takes my mother home, we sleep in the same bed for weeks.

I cannot return to school, to all the friends who have fathers – who do not know death, who have not lost what I have. I cannot handle their stares, their sympathy, or their happiness… my world has been destroyed, while theirs is still complete.  I founder and fail at everything I try – school is a mystery to me – a separation from those I love, if I am here, how can I be at home protecting my family? If I am not there someone could die.

Summer finally here, and the houses are sold belongings packed. My fathers things I did not keep have been given away or sold… my mother and I walk through our house a final time and say goodbye. One last look at the corner where he and I sat watching Star Trek and M.A.S.H. each week… One last tour through the horse pasture where he taught me to ride a wild man-hating pony… one last look at the woods, hills, and valleys I knew as home. A final good-bye and a tearful look at the last place I felt whole and complete – the last place I felt undamaged.

Florida, summer all the time, sunshine and water. Beaches, palm trees, sand, surf, and sun. A mountain girl on the beach…

Fresh start, new school, new home, new neighbors with kids my age. Family surrounding me, people who knew and loved my father as much as I.

Learning to live again, learning to laugh and enjoy again… living without him. laughing without him. dancing, smiling, singing, growing, loving… without him

Aging now and living each day as if it could be the last, dancing like no one is watching, singing like no one is listening, loving like I’ve never been hurt… lessons learned at a tender age carry through and shape a being.

I am who I am because he died like he did – it all started with a phone call.

A-Z Blogging Challenge – April 25


a-to-z-letters-v

 

V is for Victory

Sweet, sweet victory. Victory over my depression, anxiety, and the  majority of my pain. Victory over feeling as if nothing I did mattered. Victory over being unhappy.

Victory.

Just as in war, life’s victories are bittersweet. In this quest for a happier more satisfying life for myself, I’ve lost dear friends. However, as I’ve always tried to do, I have to follow my grandpa’s advice and keep my sunny side up. I have to take the victory as it is, pure and unblemished and love it. I cannot look back upon the battlefield of “what was” and regret my choices.

I can, and indeed do, feel bad about the loss of these people from my life. However, it is a choice they made, not I. I have remained, and will remain available to any and all of them.

I must look at the victory of finding a new, and very dear friend… that I can honestly say, with knowledge and conviction, that she has my back no matter what… and I’ve got hers… to the end. Thelma and Louise, Maverick and Goose….

I must look at the victory of having a job that I enjoy. I make money to talk to elderly people all day… uh… sure – pay me… where’s the overtime boss?

I must look at the victory of reclaiming a lost love, and learning a lot about myself in the process. My life has come full circle… and I look forward to each new day with renewed joy in my heart… life doesn’t get any better than this.

I have so many victories over my own self and the stuff I got stuck in; it would take days to write them all down.

Celebrate victory. Reach for victory.

What little victories do you see in your life?

A note from the Author:

Hey guys! Wow, I guess you noticed the mass of posting I’ve done this morning! Sorry about that – somehow my auto publish didn’t go off as scheduled… and I was left with several days of no posts. It’s all fixed now, so “on with the regularly scheduled programming”; or something like that!

I also want to take a moment to say thank you to all of you who have stopped and commented. I have had such a warm and loving response from you all, and for that I am very grateful. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! Especially those of you who have come back time and again, and never seem to tire of reading the words I post. Y’all are too kind. 🙂

Misty


Today is the second day of the Norman Rockwell series. The inspiration for this series is courtesy of Bert’s blog, where he tells amazing stories of “men and women doing the right thing”. If you haven’t yet, please head over to his site and give him some bloggy love. All of the art for this series is from Art.com.

Today’s image inspiration:

At the Vets - March 29, 1952

At the Vets – March 29, 1952

I will never forget Misty. She was my first dog, and my very best friend for almost 10 years. We were constant companions until the day she slipped quietly over the Rainbow Bridge. She came into my life via a cruel and heartless owner who threw her away like a bouncing ball. Coincidentally, that’s how the crass bastard threw her from his car – he tossed her little ball out the door and out she went after it. He then slammed his car door and off he went leaving that sweet little baby in his wake.

It just so happened that my neighbor Mark and I went outside not long after and heard her rustling around under the trailer. We looked and there she was, all cute and cuddly and white… and muddy. Cowering in the chill of November and holding her ball in her mouth. I quickly went back inside and slipped back out with a bunch of turkey from our feast that afternoon (something I did in fact in in major trouble for). After what seemed like hours, she finally got close enough for me to grab her. When I did she dropped her ball, and it rolled into the yard – she dashed after it and brought it back to me… dropping it at my feet – and I was hooked y’all.

I named her Misty after the weather outside that day, it was hazy, overcast, and cold with a light rain drizzling down on us. In that single ball dropping moment, she became my best friend forever. We spent hours with that silly ball. She preferred the bright yellow tennis balls that I substituted after a week of not being able to find the little blue racquet ball she came to me with.

She was a Cockapoo or so said the veterinarian we visited with her not long after her arrival – shots and a check up were the order of the day. She became a part of our little family, and my dad’s dog dutch fell in love with her.

The first time she went into heat they bred, and after she miscarried after only two weeks of pregnancy, she was immediately taken to the vet and spayed – she almost died, as did I.

When my dad passed away a few years later she was there to lay on my bed as I cried for hours on end. She was there to play ball for hours and hours when I needed a distraction from all the grief and pain. She was there to watch over me as I slept a fitful and nightmarish sleep for those first few months.

She moved with my mom and I when we went to Florida – the only one of the dogs we had to make the “moving cut”. The others, two German Shepherds and a Great Dane were donated to loving families prior to our departure. She was there as I learned the ropes of a new neighborhood and was the catalyst for me to make new friends.

She had a real passion for my grandmothers chocolate chip cookies – at one point enlisting the cat in her fiendish addiction; coercing him to knock the sealed container from the top of the refrigerator in order to chew a hole through my grandmothers Tupperware pie keeper to get to the rich chocolaty goodness inside.

She had a run in with a bunch of saran wrap at one point, prompting another trip to the vet and an unfortunate surgery to remove three feet of the stuff from her stomach. A surgery I was allowed to “scrub in” for at the ripe old age of 14. The next time she went under the knife was because of a bunch of tinfoil she consumed. And another for a round with our fiberglass garage door as she had inadvertently been left out there instead of in the house.

When I was 16 and she was 9 she was diagnosed with cataracts. The vet said they were not yet bad enough to remove yet so we just kept an eye on them. Six months later she was totally blind. Then she lost her hearing. She got lost not long after the hearing loss and I was devastated! She had somehow gotten out of the back yard and wandered away. For three weeks I put up posters and searched the neighborhood for her. Finally, I found her living with another family who had taken her in when they found her wandering around their back yard with a tennis ball in her mouth. Old habits die hard.

One afternoon I came home and found her cowering in a corner, despondent. She had an accident on the floor and was totally mortified by her actions. It happened again that night. She was unable to find the door to ask to go out. We decided to have the vet take a look and see if she was suffering. That’s when they found the cancer. It was eating its way through her liver. Her internal organs were shutting down… she was dying.

A week before my 18th birthday I took her in my arms for the last time, and carried her into the exam room and lifted her onto the table. I stood quietly by while her lifelong vet inserted the needle into her leg and promised me she would feel no more pain. I held her in my arms as the medicine flowed into her little body and she sighed her last breath, dropping the tennis ball to the floor. She was buried in the pet cemetery at the vet’s office with a tombstone that read “Misty – faithful friend, constant companion, tennis pro”.

I miss her every day of my life.

Thank’s for reading to the end – I know this one was long, but it was a story asking to be told.

Happy Wednesday! Come back tomorrow for the next Norman Rockwell inspired post entitled Dolly.

 

The First Date


Norman Rockwell, the iconic painter spent his career capturing real life on canvas. I have always been a super fan of his from the time I was little, when my Aunt purchased a book containing all of his Saturday Evening Post covers for my Grandfather. I would sit for hours perusing the images in that book imagining a simpler time. He is my favorite painter by far, and his images provoke so many memories that I would like to share with you all. So, over the next 14 days or so, you will journey with me back in time to a sometimes misspent youth.

I was inspired to start this series by a fellow blogger Bert Carson.  Please go show Bert some blog love – he is an amazing writer telling amazing stories. In his bio he states “I am a Vietnam Vet. I write about men and women who do the right thing” . His stories are thought provoking and inspiring and you will be deeply touched – I promise!

All of the art for these posts is from Art.com. Their bio of  Norman Rockwell reads: (1894 – 1978) is celebrated as “the Dickens of the paintbrush”. His warm and often humorous images captured a unique vision of Americana. In addition to story illustrations, advertising campaigns, posters, calendars and books, Rockwell’s paintings were showcased on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post for more than forty years. In 1957 the United States Chamber of Commerce cited Rockwell as a Great Living American, saying: “Through the magic of your talent, the folks next door – their gentle sorrows, their modest joys – have enriched our own lives and given us new insight into our countrymen.”

Without further ado – let’s get going on Day 1 of this Norman Rockwell inspired series, shall we?

The image that inspired this post:

After the Prom - May 25, 1957

After the Prom – May 25, 1957

Aren’t they so cute? Sitting there all stiff backed and nervous… this image takes me back to my very first “car date”. I was twelve  years old and Trey (the cute boy in question) was my date – along with his parents… Honestly, you don’t think that my parents would have been irresponsible enough to send their twelve-year-old on a car date with another twelve-year-old without supervision do you? We would have been breaking all kinds of laws – especially since neither of us was old enough to drive a car in the first place! HA

Anyway, we went to see Star Wars in the theater and afterwards we stopped by a Shakey’s Pizza. Shakey’s was famous for its stone fired

Shakey's of West Allis

Shakey’s of West Allis (Photo credit: purpleslog)

ovens and some of the best anchovies this planet has ever produced. We could watch our pizza being made by hand from the crust up, watch as it went in the oven, and take our seats with a frosted mug of root beer and watch countless shorts featuring the Three Stooges. It was just the place for a couple of twelve-year olds out on the town!

But I digress. This isn’t about the pizza parlor – this is about the date itself.

I remember very vividly sitting in the backseat of Trey’s parents car, holding hands – sweaty with nerves, with a boy for the very first time. I was nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, let me tell you!

I didn’t know dating etiquette then. I didn’t know much of anything at that age. When we arrived at the theater, Trey’s dad slipped him $5 to get our tickets and he bought them himself. Then we stepped inside the lobby and got in line for popcorn and soda – another $5 assured us a large bucket of popcorn (extra butter and salt of course) and two large sodas – and as a very special “first date” treat a box of Raisinettes (essential movie viewing fare, don’t cha’ know).

Inside the darkened theater we took our seats near the front (not the front row, but probably the fourth) and settled in, with his parents firmly ensconced right behind us (to ensure that wandering hands were not part of the date). The lights went down and we were treated to two hours of the most fun I think I’ve ever had – at least that’s what I thought then… I hadn’t had kids yet for obvious reasons. (Ummm… I was twelve for goodness sake). We held hands and at one point (when Darth Vader was at his peak of evil) I buried my head in his shoulder to hide and he put his arm around me. Y’all – remember how uncomfortable movie seats were before the days of stadium seating? I can only imagine how horribly uncomfortable he must have been, yet he soldiered on.

Once the movie was over and pizza had been partaken of, we returned to the car and I fell asleep on the way home with my head on his shoulder. When we got to my house, his dad allowed him to walk me to my door and he kissed me innocently on the cheek and gave me a big hug. And my first date was over.

I don’t know what ever happened to Trey, I think his dad took a better job in Birmingham, Alabama and they moved away that summer. I never heard from him after that, haven’t seen him in over 30 years. I wonder if he remembers as fondly that first date? The thrill of holding hands in the back seat, hoping his parents didn’t notice – jerking them apart any time his mom looked like she was turning around… blushing when we were too late and she smiled that knowing smile as she communicated just how cute she thought we were with her eyes to his dad. That first kiss on the cheek by a boy I was not related to, and the swell of my heart as he wrapped his arms around me in that big hug.

I wish that love could be that simple now. That we could take things at face value like we did at twelve, before the innocence is washed away by pain, heartache, and grief. For me it was only a few weeks after this wonderful first date that my dad died, and with him my innocence and for a while, my faith in  humanity and God.

I will never forget Trey, and the lesson on love I learned that night in the backseat of his parents car – how innocent and sweet it can be.  Wherever you are, Trey – I never got to say goodbye, or thank you for the fun – so I’m saying it now!

What about you? What was your memorable first date experience? I would love to know, leave a comment and share!

Tomorrow will be another of these Norman Rockwell inspired posts entitled Misty.

And don’t forget to stop by Bert’s page and show him some bloggy love, you won’t be disappointed, I promise.

Until tomorrow – Happy Tuesday, Happy New Year!

Writers Workshop – December 20, 2012


So yeah, I’m back on the bandwagon and participating in  MamaKat’s pretty much world famous writers workshop. If you want to join in head on over there and grab a prompt!

 

 

Mama’s Losin’ It 

This week I chose the prompt Share a favorite Christmas Memory. 

 

 

 

When I was young, we always had huge Christmases.  My Aunt and Uncle would always come to our house in Tennessee from North Carolina bringing my cousins with them. They usually arrived a couple of days before the big day in order to spend plenty of time with the family. Of course there were plenty of cookies, cakes, candies, and other treats to be had as my grandmother (who lived right next door to us, conveniently) loved to make sure her grandchildren were thoroughly spoiled during the holidays.

 

One year in particular, I believe I was six or seven, the adults all gathered in our living room to put together the “Santa” gifts. Of course, there was alcohol involved – rum spiked eggnog and some Budweiser for the guys… I remember laying in my bed and being awakened by the sound of laughter from the living room. As any young child would do I assumed that my parents were partying with Santa and I was missing out… so I crept from my bed and hurried to the door, determined to catch the big guy in the act of depositing gifts under the tree with my delighted parents offering up the carefully placed cookies and milk and laughing gleefully at his carefully chosen gifts. I quietly opened my door just a crack and peeked out to see… my wonderful Aunt peeking back at me! Apparently the stealth with which I had crept from my bed and to the door was somehow not so stealthy… they had heard me! Foiled again! I told my Aunt that I had to go to the bathroom in a valiant effort to see if the jolly Claus had left anything behind. Desperately hoping for a preview of the delicious loot left behind I was unceremoniously picked up into my Aunts arms and my eyes covered (oh the indignity) as we trekked across the house to the bathroom, where I was deposited and informed I should go ahead and go… because she wasn’t going anywhere till I was done. I tried in vain to peek through her carefully placed fingers to see what was under that tree…

 

Alas, my Aunt, the apparent victim of one too many eggnog’s was not as careful on our trek back to my room from the bathroom and I was able to steal a peek on my way past the tree – and what to my wondering eyes did appear, but my father, wrench in hand putting together what looked to be the most beautiful bicycle I’d ever seen – exactly the one I had asked Santa for just days before.

 

Not wanting to spoil the fun the adults were having, I returned to my bed and somehow managed to get myself back to sleep. In the morning when I woke – sure enough that bike was sitting beautifully under the tree with a tag that read “From Santa” in big bold lettering. Now, just how did that happen? I wondered… and then I realized – Dad was really Santa! Far from being disappointed, I was elated! Imagine the jealous look from the other kids at school when I went back and informed them that I knew  the big guy personally; in fact I lived with him… He tucked me in, and read me stories EVERY NIGHT!! What a lucky kid I was!

 

I cherished that thought for several hours on Christmas day, until I could hold onto it no longer and had to share my new found knowledge with my cousins. Cousins who were ten years older than me, and in fact knew  the true identity of Santa… and they informed me that yes, indeed, my dad was Santa! Just like every other kid in the world’s dad or mom was Santa! I was astounded! How could this be?? Surely they were not telling me the truth! I had to be the only kid Santa had! Not wanting to believe these hideously mean boy cousins of mine – I chose to ignore them. I also chose to keep my mouth shut to the adults – no sense getting the boys in trouble, after all they were family.

 

So, I quietly kept the secret… for at least two more Christmases I kept silent about being the daughter of the one and only Santa. The memory of that year is one of my favorites… I will never forget my Daddy working on that bike – the last one he ever gave me. Little did I know then that in just a few short years, my dad would no longer be with me. I will treasure this memory of Christmas for as long as I live. I have shared it with my kids, and will share it with my grand kids when they’re old enough. The year I discovered that I was Santa’s daughter!

 

Merry Christmas!!!

 

Santa Claus

Santa Claus (Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh Captain, My Captain


A few years ago when Discovery channel started advertising their newest show “Deadliest Catch”, my hubs was enamored. Of course… what man wouldn’t be? Really, you’ve got it all, excitement, danger, extreme environment… then you have the personalities of the men who do this deadly job.

I must admit, I wasn’t hooked on the first episode, or even the first season. However, each “DC” night I graciously turned my television over to the hubs and I did my thing while it played in the background. Each week, something would draw my attention to the screen for a while…  It also became a pattern that what ever it was that sucked me in, invariably happened aboard the Cornelia Marie.

By the time Deadliest Catch was in it’s third season I was hooked. I watched every week faithfully. This year, the hubs purchased every season up to five, we spent four nights catching up on every single episode. Did I mention earlier, I was hooked?

I watched as Phil Harris, Captain of the Cornelia Marie, trained his two sons to continue on after he was gone. I remember laughing at memorable moments, like his infamous “This is why lions eat their young” comment over the younger son Jakes indiscriminate spending… on Phil’s dime. I watched as Josh and Jake both wrestle with the demons of fishing, putting their families aside and heading to the Bering Sea, for what logically could be their very last trip.

For the first time since ER I felt myself becoming emotionally invested in the show. More so, I think, because these guys are real, they do this job every day… They can’t say “I’m not a crab fisherman, I just play one on TV”. The danger to their lives that we see unfold each and every week is a danger that unfolds on the screens of their lives each and every minute. Three generations of the Harris family fished those waters for years. They were a close knit “band of brothers” including long time crew in the list of family.

I admit, when Captain Phil had his medical issues on the show two seasons ago, I was genuinely worried for him and his boys. Then when the cause, a blood clot passing through the lung, was made public I was scared for the family.

I have watched this season with trepidation… I don’t want to watch these two boys go through the pain of losing their father… especially not when the wounds are still so fresh and raw. He’s only been gone a few months… He passed away from a massive stroke in February.

I cried as I watched Phil walk down the stairs to his stateroom for the last time. I sobbed as his son Jake climbed in the ambulance for the trip to the clinic, and again the following week, when they put Phil on the helicopter for the flight to the mainland hospital.

It was hard to watch… Knowing what was coming – knowing that they didn’t.

When the admission by Jake came earlier in the show, that he was a drug addict came… I worried. Then later thought, like many others I’m sure, How is Jake not going to blame himself for this?

This week, Discovery channel is airing a 2 hour special Deadliest Catch. It’s Captain Phil’s final episode. I have to watch… but I don’t want to. It will bring to the surface raw and unspeakable emotion. I will watch two young men, just starting their lives, lose their  most important driving force. I will watch, and I will cry, and I may even talk to the television… I know, I do that sometimes.

I know that reality television for some is an addiction; frankly I despise reality television… Stuff like Big Brother, Kate + 8… that stuff just makes me ill… but Deadliest Catch is as real as it gets. These men just let us take a small glimpse at the lives they lead, and they’re raw, gritty, cold, and very, very dangerous. They smoke too much, drink too much, fish too much, and work too hard. They’re real people, just like you and I. They have families at home, children to love, wives to grow old with.

These are real men, doing an impossibly dangerous job. And sometimes, sometimes they never go home again.

I hope that from this experience Josh and Jake Harris take away the lessons their father wanted them to have. I look forward to the coming seasons on the Cornelia Marie, to see just how the boys shape into men. They have a sterling example of  the kind of man they should be in their late father, Phil. Driven, devoted, demanding, and loving.

I for one will be watching Tuesday night at 8.

Good-bye Captain Phil Harris – you will be missed!