Posted in Markers, Lanscape of Loss

Benign

This year we all 3 went to the dermatologist for a full body-scan. and I mean full. wow. i’m so glad she was a she.

“You kind of remind me of Harrison Ford from Indiana Jones,” I joked, feeling like South America, as she adventured around my body with headlamps & magnifying lenses.

The other not so funny thing was that my 2 guys–with the lighter, more susceptible skin, whose bodies I’ve long protected–got an easy pass a month earlier; while I, with the olive hue (thank you Mom), naturally drawn to the shade & to wearing a hat as I age–left with something “to watch” on both my nose & temple. though to be fair, my youth was spent in full, sun-drenched, seaside abandon. baby oil. tinfoil. hours & hours under the mid-day sun. like a job.

Before I removed the gown and redressed myself in jeans and my purple Lucky Brand top, there was something else. a small innocent freckle, on the inside of my thigh, of all places, and just because it had the audacity to be a shade too dark.

She pointed out two nearby comps, one and two shades lighter. I squinted but barely noticed a difference.

I’d like to take that off, she said, if that’s ok. Now.

I tried to be grateful.

2 needles & a tiny chunk of flesh later, I left the examining room with a bandage and an interior hobble, but even so, stopped at the front desk to courageously ask how soon to expect the results (despite the reminder that it was “probably nothing.” )

I spent the next week in a meditation on the word, Melanoma.

I know someone from the shore who died from something on his leg, and worse than that, I watched a made for television docudrama–this week, in 1973–that never left me. I was 10. She was 20. And dead. Leaving behind a baby. Because she chose not to give up her leg. I remember balling. I lived in Colorado at the time and John Denver’s music was the soundtrack, and my favorite song was the title of the film.

I tried not to take it as a sign.

I’ve worried about it ever since.

Growing up a doctor’s daughter (and granddaughter and great-granddaughter), it’s easy to be preoccupied with health threats before your time. They arrive on the phone and at your front door and at your kitchen table and intrude upon holidays and graduations and birthday parties.

I recall early attempts to remember the difference between words like “malignant” & “benign.” They both sounded bad to me.

After the “procedure,” we left town for a college visit with our younger son and then continued north to see our older son in his “home” in Burlington. This provided just the right alchemy to ponder, despairingly, how all things end, and so I took the opportunity to mention to my family, something I’ve long held inside.

Just so you know, if I ever do get cancer, I said, I’ll probably want to just die like that mom in Sunshine (on my Shoulders) rather than subject myself to all kinds of disabling treatment.

This pronouncement was not met favorably, and my youngest assured me that he’d have something to say about that if the time came, and I had to laugh at all of us, in our presumptive authority over life and death.

The call came in sometime yesterday. 2 days later than expected. No one was there to receive it. My husband and I were in bed when our youngest arrived home late from work and pushed play on the answering machine.

We could barely make out the messages from upstairs:

A personal call from his dentist.

A robo call from someone trying to scare us into calling them back about something related to our finances.

And the final message, which I couldn’t quite make out, particularly over my son’s exclamation of joy and relief.

Benign.

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Posted in Uncategorized

I should be suspicious…

Orphaned

Two Owls Calling

Who makes these changes?
I shoot an arrow right,
It lands left.
I ride after a deer and find myself chased by a hog.
I plot to get what I want and end up in prison.
I dig pits to trap others and fall in.
I should be suspicious of what I want.

~Jalaluddin Rumi

Photo: Guillaume Roche. Luxor, Egypt. (Photo: Guillaume Roche. Luxor, Egypt.)

Recently Ive grown suspicious.

God appears to be acting in my life.

Even worse, others seem to be conspiring on his behalf.

I resent this.

I don’t want God,

showing up now,

like a birth mother

after all these years.

What’s done is done.

I am my own child.

(Aren’t I?)

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Posted in Lanscape of Loss, Markers, My Bonnie

37

“There are 37 days until Thanksgiving,” Alexa tells me. Which means there are 37 days remaining between me & the Motherhood archetype.

I turned 37 in the year I lost my mother.
I moved to Marlboro and opened a new post office box that year: #37!
There is something else too.
Just beyond recollection.
Hovering there outside my right brain.
Oh, right! I
became a writer at 37!

Alas, I’d been writing in a journal, making art out of pain, for almost two decades by then; while I’d begun publishing pieces–interviews–about others just as I became a mother myself.

But it wasn’t until the darkness of motherless-ness at 37, accompanied by the birth of my second son, that a new generativity awakened in me–which led me to begin sharing my personal journey–first in safer little bits–an essay here, an article there–until I discovered blogging and Facebook–and let loose a flood of presence to what was stirring in me–past, present, future–in the divine play of art and connection and humanity.

So YES, 37, I bow to you on this journey to Menopause.

(October 17, 2017)

Posted in Pure Love

Love never ends

Friday the 13th was the birthday of my first love.

It was a very imperfect love–one that hurt us both deeply–and spit us out, 7 years later, but also one that saved me when I was young and so needing love.

A decade ago, twenty years after we went our separate ways, I wrote him a thank you of sorts. I recently came across it. (Now edited for privacy & punctuation.) I wrote it to him on Valentines Day, aided by what someone said to me after the death of a beloved:

Love Never Ends.

Good Morning xxxxx, Happy Valentines Day!

…The kids are still asleep. It’s still dark out, and we’re having our
first ‘real’ snow of the season (maybe even a couple feet.)

Casey has moved the cars off the driveway and up against the woodshed so that Jimmy can have a clear plow when he comes.

His out of town trip was called off so he’s gone back to bed with the boys; while I wake with a greater understanding of love.

I dreamt of you.

Whenever I do, I’m filled with a warm enveloping feeling-
which my spirit “gets,”but my mind always puzzles over.

Today I’m clearer.

I understand that “Whenever two of you are gathered in my name, there is Love.”

I understand that as such young ones, of good heart, and pure love, we were tapping right into Spirit.

It’s the same current that runs deeply beneath my day to day life with Casey, and one which we access to renew our love again and again.

It’s the same current that runs through all of life and supports
all relationships–though “form” often gets in the way of accessing it.

The love itself is never polluted, only our ability to tap it. Sometimes we need to move away and dig a new well. I’m sure we both know lots of friends who have done that; marriages ending.

Funny, that when you appear to me in my dreams, like other lovers, but perhaps stronger with you–that feeling of bliss–the dream gets more and more complicated as it goes on. Just like we did.

Perhaps the chemistry between two people, between you and me, is a portal–to the Divine, and perhaps certain twosomes create a larger portal.

That might explain why despite our different lives, despite our happy marriages, despite time and loss of connection, whenever I see you—at my mother’s funeral and at xxx brother’s, I feel such a strong hit, a pull.

Perhaps that’s what pulled my eyes to you on the stage at {our highschool} where you made me laugh with your
curtain trick.

Perhaps that’s what pulled you across the cafeteria to
my table to ask me out.

Perhaps that’s what pulls all of us–connection
to the Divine.

I know there are other attractions, in form, but I’ve
heard it said that the romantic paradigm is an archetype for the ecstasy of knowing God.

For this I must thank you.

You gave such good love, that I knew what to look for…

In a husband,
in life.

I knew how I wanted to feel.

Not all that messy stuff between us in form, but that pure love you gave, or that we gave rise to together.

And I now know what God is even more.

Happy Valentines xxxx xxxx xxxx xxx.
With deep appreciation of the love you shared with me,
and prayers for that love (the Divine stuff) to flood your life as it
does mine with Casey and my boys .

xxx and xxx and xxx and xxx are lucky!

You mother is on my heart right now. She gave good love too.

Actually your whole family was a wellspring of love in my life.

I’m forever grateful.

Kelly

Posted in Back to the Castle, Lanscape of Loss, My Bonnie

36 Hours at the Beach

On a later August morning, I woke before dawn, and took out my laptop to squeeze out a bit of deadline, while everyone else slept in the home that now only belonged to my husband’s mother, but moments later I closed my computer, and walked out the front door, and kept on walking, east, across the island, until my feet were in the sand, and the spray of sea against my face, and the sun streaming through the clouds in regal light.

I turned south then to trail the surf and passed under the fishing pier and kept on walking until I arrived at the beach of my childhood–set between the Pan Am & the Crusader hotels–and I noticed how the lifeguard stands bore the name of roads–all flowers and birds and plants (instead of numbers or men or cities) which is something I long dismissed as fluffy, and now receive, as grace.

At Cardinal, I turned away from the surf and trudged through the deep, soft sand, and into the dunes past the place where the prickers always found our ankles or shins, and past the beach hotels, across Atlantic Avenue, and down alongside the Little League field, with the dugout and the concession stand where Mrs. DelConte sold Reeses Cups; and then across Seaview, beside what remained of the beach cottages not yet turned into condos, until I came to a rose bush, on the corner of Pacific, just across the road from what had been my grandparents house, and then ours.

Only I didn’t pretend that I lived there, not this time, I just kept on walking. Past the Way’s house, which was the older sister house to ours (and the better-looking of the two elegant brick homes, having aged with love and continuity, instead of loss and abandonment), and paused a moment to nod on the diagonal toward the church across the avenue where I went to Sunday School and married my husband and buried my mother, and nodded too to the huge white house beside it, the mother house of these 3, all built by Philip Baker, who first settled the island in the late 1800s, and whose mansion became the home of my Aunt Sue, but was now a summer rental, for wealthy strangers.

I turned west past the Johnson’s and the DelConte’s and what had once been the Parsonage, until I came to the other end of the block which had been my entire world, my solo adventure, from the age of 4, a large cement rectangle, traversed barefoot, big toe bloodied by sidewalks shifting on sand, “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back,” pennies in my pocket.

Which must be why, after a summertime at the shore, I was bold enough to abandon the first-grade, at the mid-day, crossing the streets of Center City Philadelphia, arriving home to our crowded high rise, unannounced, “Hi Mom, I’m home for lunch.”

Nothing left but memory.

Anderson’s Corner Shop, my penny-candy Mecca, now a Realty Office; the bakery with the jelly donuts, a parking lot; and the Polish Shoe guy’s repair shop where he still charged only a dollar to fix the pumps I wore as a first-year teacher, a Driving School. Sticky Fingers, across Cardinal, a surf shop, and Snuffy’s Hoagies, across Aster, where my grandfather opened a lunch account for me the summer I was 7, now the Jellyfish Cafe. (Jellyfish?)

I continued west, across New Jersey Avenue, past Phillip Baker School which is no longer there, where my mother enrolled me in the second grade for two weeks at the end of June, in between our move from Virginia to Colorado, because I begged and squealed with delight to have a desk beside Debbie DelConte, my very best friend of every summer, and then I continued up the road toward the bay, even though I told myself that there was no need to see the house that had last been my mother’s, especially with the sun rising higher in the sky, and the day growing warm, and only 36 hours in town, some of them sleeping, and yet my feet brought me there, and I stood still for just a moment and asked myself to feel into her presence.

And there she was.
On the porch.
In her wicker chair.
And wasn’t it the memory of her tomato plants beside the stairs
that brought my tears.

And here was her steady, contemplative presence, and those deep chestnut eyes (that live on in my first born) and her dark lustrous hair that she dyed lighter and lighter and lighter until it was lighter than mine which she had always admired/envied? like my light eyes.

“Hi, Kel,” she’d said, as she always did, having named me after her people, who lived only a few blocks away, on the Wildwood side of the street (the “other” side of town), instead of Wildwood Crest, home to her well to do husband’s family.

And then it was the morning of my wedding, just after Jackie fixed my curls and put on my veil, and so I stopped by before I left the island to be sure that she was okay, and awake, and I was relieved to find her sitting on her front stoop, almost sober, still in her night dress, hair matted with neglect (why hadn’t I thought to bring her with me to Jackie’s) and careful of my veil (married twice but never in a gown herself) she kissed me on the cheek, almost somberly, and stood to wave as I got in my car, leaving, beneath her, a puddle of blood, not knowing that it was that time of the month or that she hadn’t eaten for weeks.

And so, I turned and walked away, two blocks north back toward my sleeping family, and at the end of that day, I continued north, 300 miles, into the mountains, that have for 25 years, been my home.

Posted in Lanscape of Loss, My Bonnie

Wishbone

I straddle September the 8th, like a wishbone, fearing I will break in two, holding both the celebration of life–my husband’s–and loss of life–my mother’s–inside.

I chide her for it.
All these years.
17 since she left on his 35th birthday.

With the sunrise came her last breaths, and by sunset, I was sitting at a table, eating cake.

Every year since I’m forced to celebrate.

Seriously Mom, what were you thinking!

And then, it occurs to me–perhaps she was protecting me. Still. Tempering loss with love, in the same way that her passing intertwined with the coming of my second son.

And if my husband dies first, think of how tidy it will be. “You can mourn us both on one day,” she says, “Rather than ruin two.”

Christmas is the same. I curse her because it’s her birthday, and it’s so hard to be all Christmas-happy when your belly is full of grief. But then again, Christmas always invites thoughts of lost loved ones, increasingly as we age, and so once again, she was economical on our behalf.

So perhaps it is my thinking that it is most at fault–seeing loss and love as opposites instead of one.

What if I softened my pelvis to hold both.

Or am I meant to break apart
and if so,
what might I birth
in two?