Ode to the Washing Machine

I’m sad to let you go…

We’ve seen hours of work together, you and I
I count you among my closest friends

You came into my life when I was expecting my first child
Since then, we’ve worked together, preparing and cleaning clothing for
Many who followed.

You’ve seen me through infant twins
(and all their laundry).

You’ve been strong through it all
Stalwart, faithful

(Except for the time you broke, and then broke again)
YouTube was our lifesaver, yours and
Mine

I couldn’t count the loads we’ve carried
Together.

Now, as we part ways, I feel sadness
Mixing with gratitude

Your replacement is new and shiny, with fancy
Lights and buttons, innovative settings and a computer chip

But I will miss you.

Thank you.

What’ll I Do?

I stare at my phone again, pressing into the home button with my finger for at least the eighty-seventh time today. I don’t know what I’m hoping to see…some magic message app, like one of those black and white eight-ball fortune tellers we used to ask questions of when we were teenagers, trusting that the answer was the gospel truth.

Yes, I think that’s what I’m wanting tonight.

But my apps all look the same.

Earlier today, the clip-clop of my clogs against the pavement and the dripping sound off the roof reminded me in a fierce way that I had several cups of water earlier that needed to leave my body. I wanted relief.

That relief was only temporary.

The ache I feel is still here.

I’m sure it will eventually fade, or I will just become used to it…my new normal. But I fear that, at some point, my capacity for accepting another new normal will deteriorate so much that I can no longer find it.

I’m hoping the tears will come soon.

“Water cleanses you know, washes away dirt, makes new.” –STP

My mother used to sing this song by Irving Berlin:

“What’ll I do when you are far away
And I am blue, what’ll I do?”

I’m feeling this way now, like a piece of me is far away, out of touch, out of reach…and I have a million or more things on my “to-do list.”

But I just want to sit here and swipe my phone…waiting for some message or answer about what I’m to do.

Tonight I will go to bed and wake again tomorrow and move on…and thankfully the tears have started to fall. Yes, maybe I’ll be new tomorrow.

But tonight, I will just sit here and wait. Wait for the void to fill somehow. And wait for the memories to spread into my heart, to fill the empty place.

And someday I know I will feel whole again.

Mourning

I walked down the stairs to find an empty kitchen sink, quite unusual at our house full of five people on varied schedules. He must’ve rinsed his bowl and loaded it into the dishwasher before his early flight, I thought as I filled the Brita pitcher with water and replaced it in the fridge.  The only negative thing I can say about this place is the water tastes gross.  Thank heavens for Brita.

I mentally checked off my personal list for the day…get kids off to school, drop off stuff at Goodwill, pick up dry cleaning, milk, and fresh veggies…and somehow squeeze in a run before the heat of the day settled onto the sidewalk, sending up its waves of steam from the recently running sprinklers.

A little person’s footsteps interrupted my quiet thoughts.  Dilly tumbled down the stairs, blanket in hand, and nestled her head into my left shoulder.  “Mommy, you are beautiful,” she said as she reached up to pull a loose strand of one of my shorter layers out of my eyes.

“Thank you, Dilly.  Are you ready for breakfast?”

“Mmmhmmm,” she lifted her head and nodded for emphasis.

“Mommy is making oatmeal.  Would you like to help me?”

She slid down my body and out of my arms, reached for the stool, and propped herself up by the island, near but not too close to the cooktop.  I filled a pan with water from the sink, rationalizing that we wouldn’t taste it through the fruit, cream, and sugar we would put in the oatmeal, and turned the flame on high.

Shelly and Jack headed down the stairs with the noises in the kitchen.  Shelly turned on the television to find news, check the weather, and jot down a current event for social studies class.  It was her morning routine.  Jack headed to the study to practice his viola before school.

Over the noise and chatter of Dilly singing her new favorite song from kindergarten, I noticed small bubbles emerging, growing larger from the base of the pan up to the surface, searching for a way to release the heat energy that was bursting inside the molecules.  I could hear faint strokes of the bow against the C string of Jack’s viola, and Dilly started humming the piece Jack had been working on for weeks…his solo in the upcoming fall orchestra concert.  I couldn’t recall the name of the music.  He was getting better, though.

Dilly helped me measure the oatmeal, and she asked to pour it into the boiling water.  Together we stirred it as I lowered the heat and waited for the grains to absorb the hot water and soften in the pan.  We sang together Dilly’s song from last year’s preschool Halloween musical, “Stirring and stirring and stirring my brew…ooooooooo…ooooooooo” in unison as we took turns scraping the bottom of the pan.  None of us cared to eat charred oatmeal.

“Mom!” I heard Shelly call from the family room.

“What, Hon?” I called back from the kitchen, removing the pot from the flame and placing it on a trivet on the table.  “Want to get the bowls, Dil?”

“Yes, Mom.”  She crawled down from the stool and headed to the cabinet as I met Shelly in the family room.  I looked at her, at the rubble on the television screen, and the words that were superimposed over the pictures, trying to make out what the newscaster was saying over the sinking feeling in my heart.

“Flight #1082 from Dallas to Tampa….”

No.  It couldn’t be his flight.  I ran back into the kitchen, pulled my phone off the charger, and went immediately to the notes section where I saved his itinerary.  I took in my breath, looking for the flight number.  1082.  1082.  Nope, no 1082 for him. His flight number was 2044.  I breathed a sigh of relief, but my heart wouldn’t leave my throat.

I couldn’t shake the fear away through oatmeal and raisins, through walking Dilly to her bus stop. I kissed her goodbye and headed back to our front door, wondering in what order to accomplish my to-do list.

I climbed the stairs to dress for my run and decided to check email before I put my playlist on my iPod.  I skimmed through ads for Children’s Place and Gap Kids sales, through notifications that lunch accounts were getting low (already?) and an invitation to attend a PTA breakfast.

Then I saw his name.

I selected the email, and began to read his words:

Hey, Lover.  Didn’t want to wake you with a text.  Took an earlier flight so I could be more prepared for my meeting in Tampa today.  Hitting lunch with Dave, dinner with the team, and I’ll be back on the red-eye early in the a.m. to kiss you good morning.
Love you always,
Shaun

Below his email, he pasted his new itinerary.

No.

I couldn’t bring myself to read any farther.  A flight change?  Why?  I knew he was nervous about his meetings and presentation, but what was another half hour on the ground, really?  Or even not on the ground?

No.

I shook my head as the number appeared below…black and white…I tried to make my eyes focus to see it, read it, make it real…but my vision was clouded and my eyes were filling and moving and beginning to overflow.  Still, I had to see, to confirm, to know.

My eyes jumped around the page looking for the numbers, any numbers but what I feared.

Then, I saw them.

1

0

8

2

No.

Not Shaun.  Not the man I met on a weekend in the Keys a decade and a half ago.  Not the man I corresponded with over email and text and international calling plans while I finished a semester abroad before graduation.  Not the man I had given my heart and soul to, who had just this morning rinsed his bowl and placed it in the dishwasher to make my day easier.

He couldn’t be….

I couldn’t say the word out loud.  I went back downstairs to the television, found breaking news on the same channel Shelly had watched only moments ago when I had assured her that Dad was on another flight.  Of course, he was on another flight.

“…little chance of survivors…143 passengers…12 crew…mechanical failure…”

NO!

I felt my hands around my knees, my arms pulling in tightly, and my body rocking back and forth, back and forth, back and forth as I once rocked our three little ones in turn. The three little ones with his eyes or his nose or his smile.

I closed my eyes over the glare of the television screen.

And I wept.

A Valentine…for you

I wrote this earlier this week for a dear friend who lost her father recently.  She posted that he remembered her on each Valentine’s Day and recorded her sadness that he would not be able to send her anything this year.  As I thought of what I could do for her, these words came.  Forgive the lateness of the post, but I hope it finds its way to her.

For you, who lost someone recently who always remembered you on Valentine’s Day.

For you, across the veil of forgetfulness, are still remembered, loved, and treasured.

For you, even without physical arms around you, are still enveloped in love.

For you, because love is stronger than the bands of death.

For you, a Valentine wish that you feel love surrounding you on this day.

The Ring

As he slid the metallic, hollow circle over my knuckle, I was surprised how comfortable it felt on a finger which had been naked for so long.  Thin band of white gold with a solitaire in the center.  Had time passed so quickly since David died, or was I just really ready to take this step?  Four years is an eternity to sleep alone after being together for what felt like a lifetime…but maybe seventeen years is just a drop in the bucket of lifetimes…?

“How does it feel?”

I looked up from watching the light catch the facets of the diamond and into his eyes, realizing I was probably lost in thought again.  I really didn’t mean to be so distracted.  He was so gentle, so caring.  So different from David in stature and mannerisms, but so similar in personality.  Perhaps that was the attraction.  That, and the children seemed amenable to him.

After David’s death, I invested the insurance money, bought a house, and worked on web designing and social media marketing to make ends meet.  I resisted the desire to date, the desire for touch, the desire for noise in the quiet of my bedroom without the snoring sound David once made while lost in dreams.

Sometimes, in that same quiet of night, I would scream silently into a pillow…David’s pillow.

On the year anniversary of his death, I threw it out with the trash.  Not that I didn’t want to remember him…but I always said that a year was long enough to mourn.

My body felt it, too.  I would watch sappy rom-coms to feel connected to love, to life, to relationships.  But I wanted touch.  I wanted my bed to be warm during the cold Wisconsin winters.  I wanted someone to take my hand as we walked into a store together.

And, he had done those things…except for the bed.  My bed is still cold.  We agreed, because of the children, to wait.  I wanted them to continue their moral education, and no matter how much I longed for him, we set boundaries.  And I knew I would never forgive myself if I crossed them.

“Babe?”

I had done it again…wandered in and out of thoughts, of memories.  I wondered, if I am creating a new reality with him, here, now, why can’t I get my mind out of the past?  The feelings flooded more freely lately, like a deluge of emotion I never saw swimming in a sea of obligatory, perfunctory actions.

But this was right.  I knew it.

And as I looked up at him again, I said, “Right.  It feels right.”

Flags

I walked into the almost empty room, noting the somber expressions on once-familiar faces, and moved toward Joan, who had already taken her place by our son.

I took my steps carefully through the aisle, shaking a few hands along the way, until I reached for Joan’s freshly-lotioned hand and felt her squeeze mine back gently.  I wondered if she took strength from me or gave it back.

Then I saw him.  I would like to say that our eyes met, but his were, of course, closed.  I placed my hand gently on his chest, ran my fingers down his tie as if to straighten it like I did when he was about twelve years old.

I could see us then, in front of the mirror at the old house by the lake, getting ready for Easter Sunday service.  Joan and I had taken him to purchase his first real suit and tie, and I stood behind him and helped him learn the way to cross one end over the other and secure a Double Windsor knot.  I taught him how to tuck the tail into his shirt as it was a little longer than needed.  “Our secret,” I smiled as I put my finger to my lips and shared a laugh with him.

I wondered who had tied his tie today.

Joan looked over to me and dabbed my eye with a small, white handkerchief.

The caretaker…or whatever he was called…walked over toward us and quietly whispered, “Are you ready?”

Joan nodded for both of us, and I pulled my hand away from his tie, letting my fingers brush his cool hands.  She stood by and held me around my waist, and I again wondered if her actions were for her benefit or my own.  We took a step back together to make space for the man, and he carefully closed the top of the casket.  Joan turned her face into my shoulder to muffle the sobbing sound coming from inside her.

The man placed familiar fabric over the top, a perfect stitching of white, blue, and the color of my son’s blood, spilt in the name of freedom.

Nineteen really is too young to die.

Why is it so hard to hit “Publish” today?

(First, I have to say that the spacing of writing poetry on WordPress is too spaced for my taste; I prefer my lines more compact.  I have no other complaints with the format of the blog, though (other than I sometimes have trouble embedding media).  Maybe someone out there knows a solution to my spacing and media formatting issues they could share? 🙂  Second, I am stalling because I haven’t shared poetry publicly for years. Literally. I barely even write it anymore unless an image or mood strikes.  (I did try my hand at a little spoken word poetry after listening to Sarah Kay’s TED Talk, but that’s for another day.)  Anyway, here is a little piece I wrote the other morning about 2 a.m.)

Darkness to Light

 

Sometimes our toes mingle

At the appropriately named foot

Of the bed we’ve shared for almost a decade

They brush together,

Like timid fingers on a first date

Intertwining over cuticles, around layers of polish, and rough spots which were once smooth.

I love this choreography we perform each night between sheets which push down our feet, when toes sometimes join to fight the oppressive force of the mighty panel of white fabric (tucked in a hospital corner, of course).

When light streams through the window, the dance of eventide ends, and

Toes once bound by proximity are released to their own ends of socks, clogs, flip-flops, boots, running shoes.  (Most of the time I prefer mine bare.)

Still, when the darkness returns, they find each other again, like lovers after a long separation

Where they again intertwine as if on the first night oh-so-long-ago….

 

Someone once asked, “When your lover dies, what will you miss most?”

Myriad answers filled the air: his smile, her hair, his hands everywhere.

I shrugged to speak my answer, but I find it every night when he is gone.

I would miss his toes intertwining with mine, dancing this dance between panels of white.

Who will help me greet the morning if he is no longer here?