Monthly Archives: February 2009

Another bedtime conversation

Scout: I think Tommy (the cat) is going to jump off the bed.

Me: That’s fine. He’ll come back in a few minutes.

Scout: How do you know?

Me: I know everything.

Scout: What girl am I going to marry?

Me: I don’t know.

Scout: What if there isn’t a girl for me to marry? What if I never have a child?

Me: Are these seriously questions you’re concerned about?

Scout: No. I just want to know when Tommy’s coming back.

Me: Go to sleep, Scout.

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Princess Anne

I moved to Gulf Shores the weekend before my senior year. To me, at age seven-teen, this was very traumatic. I found myself having to take typing to graduate. I was in a class taught by “Miss K.” She was a prissy old southern gal who strolled around the room saying, “Busy your fingers! Busy your fingers!” and would then retire to her desk in the back of the class to touch up her makeup. I was nervous as could be my first day of school. I was doing a pretty good job at blending into the furniture when Miss K jumped up and ran over to me. She exclaimed, “Oh, Honey, you’re in the wrong class! This is Typing I!” I just looked at her. She went on, “There has been a mistake. We will just have to get this straight right now!”

The problem apparently was that I was typing too fast. She assumed I had taken the class before and should have been in Typing II. I explained I had indeed never taken typing and promised I would slow down if it would make her happy. She began a barrage of questions that I answered as best I could and after a few minutes, she told me that people who play the piano can often type fabulously and that I was obviously gifted. She then said there was no need to waste my time with the busy exercises, so why didn’t I find some way to amuse myself until test day. As we were talking, a girl with the curliest blond hair I had ever seen was also finished with her assignment and sat there staring at Miss K and myself. The teacher noticed she was not typing and told her to busy her fingers! Miss K noticed that she too had completed her assignment. I looked up at Miss K with my most convincing face and said, “She’s with me. We’re both amazingly gifted.” Miss K responded, “What shade of lipstick are you wearing? It’s absolutely divine! Well, you two run along, but don’t get caught on campus because I’ll sell you out faster than I would my mother!” So my friendship with Anne began.

Anne had lived in Gulf Shores a few days. It seems that it is just as devastating to move the week before your tenth grade year as it is your senior year. Anne named me The Queen since I was truly in charge of everything around me. I named her my Princess and promised her that one-day a young Prince would come and take her away from it all. Our relationship grew from there. She made what I predicted to be a terrible year a blast. I went off to college at the end of the year, but we remained as close as could be. When she graduated, she joined me at Auburn University. This is when our friendship deepened.

We were both independent and wanted our own space, but we often would stay over at the other’s house. Shortly after school started, Anne hit me with some news. She had colon cancer. She had been diagnosed as a child and was not expected to live as long as she had. She had not told many people and wanted to keep it quiet. She didn’t like the way people changed toward her when they found out about her illness. She told me, however, because she needed me. She had come out of remission. The next year was the longest of my life. Anne was the only person I knew that slept less than I did. And we had many a sleepless night. I still attended classes and would take care of her the best I could between them. We got her a puppy so that she wouldn’t be alone when I was gone. Lady was a black lab. She really perked Anne up. But there were many things Lady couldn’t do. That’s where I came in.

Although we still kept separate living arrangements, there were times when I wouldn’t leave her house for a month. Anne was the strongest person I had known. I watched her beautiful blond curls get limp and fade. I remember the night she brought me the scissors and asked me to cut her hair short. I swear I could hear that first strand of hair as it hit the floor. Anne could read faster than anything. She would go through ten to twelve books a day. I think I bought every book the used bookstore had in stock.

Chemotherapy was cruel to Anne. I watched her weight drop and her smile fade. I held her through the night while she cried until she couldn’t find anymore tears. I would cook her favorite meals and feed her only to have it thrown up all over us. I bathed her and carried her outside so she could watch Lady run. But through it all she had dignity and grace and pride. Anne is amazing. My most vivid memory of her is the two of us sitting on the bathroom floor at five in the morning; both of us covered in blood and vomit. She looked at me and smiled with her eyes. “I’m a Princess!” she said; then drifted into sleep with the corners of her mouth turned up.

She is back in remission now. She was even well enough to spend a week in Charleston with our friend, Denise, and me for my birthday the year after graduation. Having Anne back to her old vibrant self was quite the birthday gift. That Prince I promised her hasn’t arrived yet. But whoever he is, he’s the luckiest man alive.

***Anne is alive and well. She did find her Prince. She does really read like a house-a-fire. And we did get to skip every Typing I class that wasn’t a test day.

Anne and Denise and me on our Charleston trip.

Move it along, please. There’s nothing to see here.

It’s funny sometimes how life is. There are days that you can feel completely alone. You feel like there is no one on the planet that could possibly ever understand who you are or how you feel. Then there are the times that you connect with a person on a level that you couldn’t have imagined possible. It is as if for a moment there is this hope of being understood and appreciated and even maybe loved. These people make you think about things in a whole new light. And in return you challenge them to see themselves for who they are. Things become clear in a way that they never have before. And then they slam the door in your face. It is so hurtful when this happens. It is so easy to think that this perfect partner has changed their mind about you. Perhaps you even think that there is something wrong with you. But upon closer reflection, you realize that it has nothing to do with you at all. Just because you have accepted the person that you are and are willing to share yourself, flaws and all, doesn’t mean that others; even the ones that totally get you, are ready to be so open with themselves. As much as I find it comforting to have someone understand and accept me, for some people this may be a little too close for comfort. Often our facades are more interesting and acceptable than the true people we are. And as great as it is to have someone love the real inner you, it can be difficult to let go of the exterior view of ourselves and allow someone to fully see the inferior beings that we are. And when someone sees the real us without us even vulnerably allowing it, it is even scarier. We realize just how thin our shell really is. We realize that although we are fooling ourselves, we are not fooling many others. And so we find ourselves at a crossroads. We can take the path of utter and complete acceptance and love or we can go the route of illusions and friendships built on false foundations. Although that perfectly imperfect person has totally understood us and chosen to love us anyway, we are not ready to love ourselves. And so we walk away. We walk away from all the things that we have deeply hoped for but slowly given up on. We walk away from our shot at happiness and pull our persona around us like a warm blanket hoping that it will keep the chill away instead of just letting someone else in.

I’m sitting on the balcony typing away as these thought come to mind. John Mayer is singing Wheel through the ear buds of my iPod. “People have the right to fly and will when it gets compromised. Their hearts say move along, their minds say guard your heart, let’s move it along.” Although I have the music turned up way too loud, it still doesn’t drown out the sound of the waves crashing on the shore below me. I glance beyond the screen of my lap top just as the sun sinks into the ocean amid a blurry pool of orange and pink and blue. I hear each individual wave as it beats the sands of the shore with a thump. Just as you can feel your heart beat in your ears at times, I can feel your words hitting me in the chest with a velocity that rivals the white caps below; each word knocking the wind out of me. As cavalier as it would be to chalk it up to your loss, the truth of the matter is that the loss is shared. And John Mayer sings on, “I believe that my life’s gonna see the love I give return to me.”

My Grandfather’s Grave

Winter and death and cold and sadness do tend to go hand in hand. I feel energized when I hear the crunching of leaves beneath my feet and smell wood fires and know that fall is near. I even enjoy the winter. At some point, I will hit a wall and feel cold and not be able to get warm. I will begin to think of death and sadness. I will mentally prepare myself for the next day. I will tell myself that this is the year that I am going to cry and let it all go. And then, more than likely, on Saturday, February 7, I will go sit on the cold earth and get a chill in my toes that will stay all day. I will feel my cheeks go numb in the wind and my nose will start to run from the cold. I will talk to my love, my soul mate and friend, and will tell him how I wish I was with him, or he with me and how nothing could ever be the same. I will tell him I still long for someone to love me the way that he did. I will tell him that I desire nothing more than the simple acceptance and adoration that he had for me. And then I will sit in silence. I will sit for as long as my bones can stand the cold. And when the tears still do not come, I will rise and drop the flowers from my hand, tell my grandfather I love him and walk away as I mutter, “Maybe next year.”

Scars of the Soul

I think over time each of our individual heartaches and disappointments become one collective bundle of pain. As we forgive and move on and get over them the pain lessens and becomes much like a scar on our skin; it blends with the rest of us but is always just a little numb. We even tend to forget about them until something hits them at just the right angle and make us remember exactly how it felt when the wound was fresh. A word, a gesture, a song, a face – so many things can conjure up the feelings of old, yet the single sting of the situation is muddled with the remnants of so many other moments of disenchantment. It doesn’t seem to be quite the same with happiness. I can remember each singular moment of bliss as a separate entity in my mind. For some reason those happy times stand alone. Perhaps that is why it is said that misery loves company, for it appears that my past sadness is lumped in a heap and is as difficult to separate as a pot of overcooked grits. Maybe that is why when we feel let down by other people; it seems to echo a despondency that initiates an urgency for self reflection and even accountability. Hurt me twice, shame on me syndrome. Possibly we just take things a little harder the older we get. Knowing the value of a friendship as an adult makes loosing faith in those friends harder to accept, more wretched than when we were children who promised our loyalty as a bribe and threatened to retract it on a whim. It would seem impossible for me to become more sensitive as I also become more cynical, but at times that is how I feel. I can’t decide if I care more now than I ever did or if I just don’t care at all.