With the snow comes a blanket of sadness.
Corn on the cob, husked by my not-yet-husband as I tend to the tomatoes.
Accidental vegetarians, farmers.
Fresh cut watermelon made the air taste sweet.
Followed by the smell of blueberry peach muffins, the essence of summer.
Hand-folded batter, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and love.
Windows open, crickets singing over your voice,
“Mmm those muffins are smelling real good, Babe.”
Tonight, I will sleep with a full belly, full heart.
We have hereditary green thumbs on my father’s side of the family.
My grandmother bloomed roses straight from her finger tips.
My father nurtured his vegetables with gloved hands and a wooden stool.
Even my mother’s side of the family knew something of agriculture.
Aunt Terri was the color of leather from her days in the sun.
My grandfather’s onions sprung up every year, even after he was gone.
My horticulturist brothers have seemed to carry on the tradition.
Succulents, Tomatoes, Apple Trees, and Herbs.
But not my mother.
No, my mother has a black thumb and a forgetful mind.
She was much better at growing children.
And as I try to grow these greens as well,
I feel like I’m trying to prove that I belong in this family.
My hands covered in dirt from the Earth where I buried another failure.
It’s as if I don’t deserve even hose water to wash clean.
So I keep my hands dirty to disguise these black thumbs of mine.
And I think,
Maybe I would be better off growing children.
Rereading the words I had written, I whisper them into my coffee cup.
The recap is soft, intimate.
Like hearing someone else’s secret that’s been folded up in a note and forgotten in a box on the highest shelf of your closet.
I remember the pain, but somehow it doesn’t feel like my own.
I pause for a moment, wondering if this is even my story to tell.
Who wants to run until the sun goes out?
Well, I’d like to too, but for now we’ll have to settle for the campfire.
We’ll run around like lost boys and pretend we’ll never grow up.
Meanwhile, the flames will turn to embers and the only thing left to hope for will be a golden brown marshmallow for the perfect s’more.
Oblivious to the setting sun, we will laugh with the crickets.
But at the end of the night it will be dark and we will be alone.
So I ask you, when we are left with only the ashes, how do we decide where to put them?
I wrote that a month after my father died.
I was 17 and I had no idea how deep that really was.
When we woke the next morning, the whole room smelled of the beach. Your skin was still soaked from the sun and my lips felt cool against the heat of your shoulder. My tongue could taste every wave you didn’t catch because your arms were too busy holding me instead. Sleepy smiles and closed eyes, sun drunk from the day before. Swimming in these sheets as if we were still weightless in the water, high on happiness and fresh air. Remembering yesterday, when the sand in your beard and sun screen on your nose matched my knotted hair and bee sting perfectly. We got lost on the ride home, but the detour was beautiful. From the passenger seat, I watched as you found the right roads and I remember thinking: You make it so goddamn easy to love this much. To want to give this much. To want to pour myself into you until I’m soaked into your skin as well.
“She believed she could, so she did.”
– R.S. Grey
I ran through a thunderstorm just to prove that I could.
I ran through months of gyms, tracks, and trails.
I ran through knee pain, exhaustion, and fear of failure.
I ran through broken hearts,
for broken hearts.
But today, I ran for me.
DXA2 – 2016
Too confident in my pace.
As if I were only running a mile.
Instincts took over as I raced ahead of the crowd, away from the people.
When it finally thinned, I was alone and struggling.
My heart rate was too high.
My morale was too low.
Overcast, overgrown, only pavement to run on.
What the hell did I get myself into?
More hills than anticipated,
less space than expected.
We barely just made it to 3 miles.
But at least I had the trees:
“If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees.”
My heart may be patient and my legs may be strong,
but my head was not in this race.
So I ran for the trees.
For the trees that my Dad chopped down at our cottage.
For the trees that Lexi used to climb as a kid.
For the trees that gave us shade when he told me goodbye that day in the park.
By mile 6, my legs had passed the baton to my mind and let it run instead.
It raced from the past to the future and back to the present.
Forgetting my body and remembering why I chose to run again in the first place.
Forgetting the runners beside me, ahead, and behind.
Forgetting who wasn’t waiting at the finish line.
Around mile 9, I remembered as my legs began to shake.
Burning toes, aching feet.
Air so thick I could taste every breeze.
It was then that the thunder cracked.
It was then that the downpour washed cheers of relief over all of us.
Shoes instantly soaked as the heat and humidity lifted.
I welcomed the cold water on my face with open arms and a smile.
Four miles to go and I could finally breathe.
Four miles to go and I finally believed –
I got this.
I motherfucking got this.
The last stretch was a blur.
Mostly puddles and deep breaths.
One mile to go and my rally girl cheered.
Driving me on to finish with a smile.
With time to spare and no one to hold.
It didn’t matter.
Because today, I ran for me and I made it.
Home and held.
Happy and dry.
But there was still water on my face.
Yes, I was proud beyond belief that I not only finished, but I surpassed my goal.
I was proud that I didn’t give up. No, I didn’t quit this time.
But mostly, I was proud to finally have something to be proud of that wasn’t just surviving a tragedy.
I had tears in my eyes because I know he would have loved this.
He was at every track meet, every cross country race.
He picked me up from every practice with a Gatorade and granola bar
and we drove home with my feet airing out the car window.
I stopped running a year before I lost my dad.
He never told me, but his disappointment was palpable.
I was his pride. I was his joy. Just ask my brothers.
I didn’t run again until after he died.
I’m always trying to make up for lost time.
It breaks my heart to know how proud he would have been.
So proud that I could still hear his voice as I crossed the finish line.
You will never be a Grandpa
Even though you would have loved it.
They would laugh at every joke
That makes the rest of us roll our eyes.
Your bald head would seem natural
Because grandpas are supposed to be old.
They are supposed to have bad knees and poor eyesight.
No, you will never be a Grandpa
Even though your lap made the best airplane.
Your cracked hands the controllers.
They would embrace and admire
The same goofiness that embarrassed us as teenagers.
You would teach them how to play Pinochle, Euchre, Canasta
And in turn they would teach you how to use an iPhone.
No, you will never hold my children like footballs
Or tell them stories of when I was young.
You will never be a Grandpa
You would have loved it.
When applying to my first big girl job six months ago, I was asked in an interview to describe myself using three words. Of course I supplied a scripted answer of hard-working, organized, and punctual. While I believe all three of those accurately describe me, when I got home, the question was still stuck with me. I began to think about what three words would describe me with a more brutal honesty. After much pondering, I realized all three chosen were gifted to me from my father.
First, I am loyal. I will do what needs to be done simply because it needs to be done and I am able to do it. But I can also be loyal to a fault. I will love you with my whole damn being and I will have no idea how to stop when you walk away. The worst part about being that loyal in the world that we live in is that the majority of the people you will love will not be loyal at all. I should tell you that I love that I am loyal. People can depend on me. People can trust me. But I also fucking hate that I am loyal. The truth is, I don’t love often, but when I do love it is 100%. Sadly, I have found that there are very few men who can handle being loved 100%. And my love, when you comes across those men (or women) – the ones who take your loyalty for granted, who take your affection to be mundane – run. Because they do not deserve even 1% of your love and they cannot handle the fire in your soul. You are better off shutting the door in their face, even if your hand gets caught in the process. The pain will go away as time goes on. And I know you’ve heard that a thousand times over, but I promise you it is true. Letting those people into your life is toxic. They will love you, but when they have sucked you dry, they will leave because you have changed. You may try everything to keep them around, stifling your heart and pretending that you do not love 100% when you both know it’s a lie. That is what will kill you. Your hand will heal, but your heart may not.
Secondly, I am service-oriented. I was raised to put others’ needs above my own, so that is what I do. Every job I’ve ever been successful in has involved taking care of someone else in one way or another. I adjust my actions based on the feelings of those around me. I will stop myself from doing what I truly want to do if I know someone else will get hurt in the process. More often than not, that comes back to bite me in the ass. While I am worrying, stressing about how they will respond in a negative way, they are pursuing what they truly want with no regard for other people’s feelings. I met a man who once told me that the perfect relationship is one in which you never have to advocate for yourself because you know your partner has your back. The perfect, symbiotic relationship is one of “let me take care of you, and I’ll let you take care of me as well.” I think this also goes back to being loyal. I will love you 100%, if you also do the same.
But last, and most important indeed, I am a survivor. As much as I have wanted to crawl into a hole and die, as much as I have wanted to give up and disappear, it is not in my nature to do so. When you lose someone, it absolutely does feel like the end of the world. I remember laying in bed for days. I stayed home from school because the weight of the emptiness was so overwhelming, it took all of my energy to simply get dressed. My appetite vanished right along with any fucks about my appearance. None of that fucking mattered anymore. It felt like everyone and everything was spinning around me a million miles a second, but I was running in slow motion. I remember praying for a car crash, a plane crash, anything that would make the world stop along with me. I remember seeing flames and blades as welcoming friends, offering peace of mind, silence. I remember thinking really morbid, fucked up things, because at the time, all of it sounded better than living my life without him.
But eventually, getting out of bed didn’t seem so daunting. I followed the routine laid out before me and by making myself start each day, I was able to safely end it as well. No, surviving is not easy. But you have to learn to survive before you can truly be alive.
Reflecting back on this now, I need to not only survive for my own well-being, but also to be a more loyal, service-oriented human being. I care so much about the people I love that I forget to be loyal to myself. I forget to serve myself. While these qualities are usually seen as praise-worthy, they can often be a curse. You need to take care of yourself before you can take care of any one else.