Flynn Resigns (Not the Flynn you’re thinking of)

(An example of how a headline can open your mind to old memories and help you write toward surprising connections.)

I don’t want to talk about the General Flynn who just resigned because he might have lied about what he said to the Russians.

I want to write about Jim Flynn, my father’s friend.

My father taught delinquent boys history during a time when we used the word delinquent to describe young men incarcerated for a crime(s). Delicate language as though they were simply late returning their library books. A time when we invested in the hope of rehabilitation. In this place where my father taught history to delinquent boys he met Jim Flynn, the man who supervised my father.

Jim Flynn was an Irish-American like my mother and her family. I was too young to notice, but my father told me that when Jim Flynn slipped into an Irish brogue, there was always a wee bit of Irish whiskey in his belly because, you see, Jim Flynn had never lived in Ireland.

We lived in a rented apartment, sort of a duplex in a maze of identical rented duplexes, when my father first took me to Jim Flynn’s house, an old Victorian he had fixed up. Now that I have grown up words at my disposal, I can say “the house he renovated”. Or, better yet, rehabilitated. Just like the delinquent boys under his and my father’s care.

And in this gangly relic of a house with its narrow hallways and half-lit stairs leading to impossible rooms, a ten-year old girl might imagine stumbling upon an imprisoned princess or the castle’s resident dragon or monster of whatever type.

This rambling and a little bit creepy house with its velvet chairs and lace curtains, contained Jim Flynn’s collection of things from the past. Things my grandparents sometimes talked about but I had never actually seen.

We sat in Jim Flynn’s parlor, the kind of room that my grandparents as children would have wandered into and would have been shooed out of, being too precious for the swish bam boom of a child’s love.

Jim Flynn eyed me and said “Do you know what this is?” pointing toward the center of the room. “A Victrola?” I said as a question.

Yes. A Victrola. The word filled, no – drowned my mouth, with the long “ohhhhh” of it. Delicious. Full. Round. Yet, the sounds hissing from the morning glory shaped horn of this odd grandfather of a machine bristled and scratched their way through songs I had never heard.

When I grew up and went away from my parents’ home, I asked about Jim Flynn from time to time. At some level, I worried if there would come a point when they no longer kept in touch – maybe a fight or just plain old forgetting.

Then, one day, when I asked about Jim Flynn, my father replied, “Oh, he died a few years back.”

Unknowingly, I had been living in a world without Jim Flynn in it.

Jim Flynn Resigned.

Last year, my father died but in his case, I knew exactly when he was in my world until the minute he wasn’t (except I am doomed to remember that at the moment of his death, I stood in line at Walgreen’s buying lip balm for my mother and wine for me.)

I miss Jim Flynn. I miss my father. I miss the me who lived in their world.

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Tattoo on My Forehead

This is not going to be a political post although to news junkies, it might seem like it at first.

Last week, a well-known political commentator talked about how some people will never be employed because they “have tattoos on their foreheads.”

I thought about it. Then looked in the mirror.

Do I have a tattoo on my forehead?

Yes. Yes, I do.

It is invisible and it probably changes every day. But it still stops people from seeing the real me.

The tattoo distracts to the extent that I can’t even see the real me.

I’m going to generalize and guess that maybe we all have tattoos on our foreheads.

Mine says I’m a bad daughter, bad mother, overweight and aging wannabe writer who is misunderstood by everyone and never invited to the party. Ahh, poor baby.

Yet, some people do love me, even my children occasionally say nice things about me, and I am surviving cancer. Those things don’t seem to show up in my tattoo.

Where is the doctor? I’m going to get that damn tattoo removed as soon as possible.

Then when thinking about the tattoos marking me, I wander over to the sticky web of love and traps.

Love traps. Loving someone but knowing that she is caught in a trap that prevents you from being able to help her without getting caught in the trap yourself. I realize the trap of my own making is the one of feeling helpless and out of control. (Hence all of the bad things screaming out to me from my invisible tattoo.) I don’t want to sweep the people I love into that trap. I will have to get out of it myself. How?

By letting go and accepting what is, I suppose.

This trap theme is something I need to keep front and center in my writing. Making my memoir and other stories look back to this tragedy of not being able to change the fate of the people you love.

Now, back to the ink. Is there a tattoo on your forehead keeping you from getting what it is you think you need? A tattoo that tells us something about the trap that has caught you?

Looking Glass

In an open air market, somewhere in central Mexico, renown author, Gail Sheehy stood a few feet away. With her back to me, she didn’t see me gazing at her reflection in the mirror she held. It looked like she was deciding whether or not she would buy the earrings dangling from her lobes.

Sheehy had been a keynote speaker at the annual writer’s conference held in San Miguel de Allende, a town in Mexico that has kept it’s colonial drama while being a distinct retirement destination for thousands of citizens from north and even way north of the Mexican border. There is enough of an English speaking base in San Miguel that a writer’s conference focused on American and Canadian authors can attract hundreds of attendees, mostly Americans, to this outpost a few hours north of Mexico City.

To someone like me, Sheehy has been everywhere and spoken to everyone. Her book, Passages, is cited as one of the most influential of recent times. Though Petite, she seems like a giant to me.

I had a chance to glimpse this giant simply as a woman wondering if something looked good on her. This is a woman who has interviewed Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev, Bill and Hillary Clinton and so many others that it seems silly to single any out.

There are deeper questions hidden in this moment. When we are looking at ourselves, what does our reflection reveal to the unnoticed observer? Would we be surprised? Or, what if no one sees our reflection except for ourselves. Worse yet, what if we don’t take a minute to look closely at what is in that mirror. Ignoring what is before our eyes when the truth tries to reveal itself.

I turned away. It isn’t polite to stare. A few minutes later, we passed each other going in opposite directions. I blurted out, “Did you like them?” She didn’t hear me or she had no idea what I was talking about. She didn’t respond. I wondered why I opened my mouth at all, slapping an imaginary hand to my forehead. And what a weird thing to say. Maybe that is why I have not made a career for myself sitting down and chatting with world figures.

Two days later, I listened to Joyce Carol Oates give her own keynote at this same conference. Gail Sheehy was in the front row and asked Oates a question when the microphone was opened up to the audience. I don’t remember what she asked, but I realized that Sheehy looked up to Oates. In that moment, Sheehy was a fan. Just like me.

As I’m working on my memoir, I spend most of my time reflecting, but without a mirror. I try to sense when I’m avoiding deep excavation of the truth, instead focusing on the good story resting on the surface. I guess it is a balance. I do want to make sure the story is good. But, it also has to penetrate some greater truth.

When I am in the company of titans of modern writing like Sheehy and Oates, I’m tempted to look at them instead of myself. I think this is common for writers who are finding their way. Letting fear of never shining as brightly as the great ones get in the way of ever shining at all.

Mommy Issues

As much as I hate to admit it, much of the spirit that has moved me in my life, informed my choices was the searing desire to not end up like my mother and father. Mostly to not end up like my mother.

Did she do anything wrong? No, not really. Well, yes she did. She had me.

By that statement I mean that she got pregnant just out of high school and did what she needed to make sure I had a roof over my head and all the other things parents want for their child. Food. Love. Safety. Toys. Common sense when playing with those toys or crossing the street. She gave up herself for me.

Why would I not want to be like her?

Because she told me not to. To not be like her. Not in so many words. But, she and my father did say these things to me: Wait a few years before getting married. Don’t skip college. Don’t have children before you are ready. Oh yes, that was the big one. Don’t have babies while you are young. That one played in an endless loop. I was four when I remember hearing it for the first time. But, she didn’t mean it because she was sorry she had me young. She just looked ahead for her daughter and wanted things to be different for me.

She will tell you that she and my dad were happy to be 17 and 19 year olds with a baby on the way. They both said that recently.

Their words made me feel a little less guilty. Guilty for thwarting the kinds of dreams a lot of kids have today about what they want for their lives. But, maybe my annoying and insistent presence kept them together. Forced them to grow up. Even their pictures at that age didn’t show two teenagers. The snapshots show two parents. Serious. Steady. Anything but silly. Except, when they posed with me. I added a little of the silly back.

Telling me that I was wanted means a lot because now my father is gone. I’m still here so I guess that means he is too, in a way. Besides making babies, my mother and father made a life. But, it was a life that they both kept telling me to avoid. Not because they were sorry about their lives. But because when you finally get a road map, you want to tell other people which road is easiest. They started life without that map. All they had was a compass made of heart and wit.

My mother has some problems. I may have some of those same problems. They aren’t easy challenges and these problems can suck the soul out of you and those who love you. But, still it is fine by me if I end up with the kind of strength and courage my mother so often showed over the decades. She never ran when things got tough. She hid sometimes and still hides when it hurts. But, she never left.

Since this blog is about grief and writing, and using writing to make sense of loss and grief, as I write my story, I have to make sure who my mother is lives in the story even though it isn’t about her. Writing a memoir seems the same as weaving a tapestry, the aim is to create a tableau that makes sense to even the casual observer. Though the story I’m writing isn’t about my mother or any perceived childhood traumas, there would be no “me” in the story without there first having been a her. A her who smiled when I first peered into her eyes and gave me all she had.

It Happens

I don’t know what to say. My father died. Just before Christmas.

My last post was about whether or not to let the reader know at the beginning of a story that one of the main characters has already died.

Dad was a main character. Not in the book I am writing, but in my life.

I wrote his obituary. I wrote his eulogy. I used all of the writing devices at my disposal to bring him back to life. Scenes. Dialog. Active verbs. All of the tricks. Like a hologram, we could see him for a moment. But, if you had tried to touch him, your hand would have sliced through air and he would have slipped through your fingers.

Still, after all of the words I have written, I don’t know what to say. That punched in the gut feeling; the one that makes me catch my breath. You all must have experienced it when there is something that you suddenly remember. Something you don’t want to admit has happened. Something that you keep forgetting.

I keep forgetting that Dad died.

Like pressing “snooze” on the alarm clock, the truth comes back with regularity. Every ten minutes? Something like that.

He asked me to write his obituary less than two years ago. He was in the hospital for something else. A fall that mushroomed into a life threatening situation having nothing to do with broken bones. He pulled through after two months of touch and go.

This time, all he did was break his ankle. He was 74. But, like a set of dominoes, his system finally fell, one piece at a time until all were knocked down.

But back to the obituary. I didn’t write it when he asked me to. How could I have? What would that have meant?

But as I finally put words to paper the day after his death, I wished he could have read it.

My daddy. A main character is gone.

I walked through all of the exclamations of “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year” with a blank gaze. Occasionally, I ambushed unsuspecting well wishers with “My father just died.” Responding to my flat voice, all they could say was “I’m so sorry.” I didn’t mean to make them feel bad or embarrassed. Or, maybe I did. Maybe I was mad.

Sure, he lives inside of me and my memories. Yes, I get it. But, he’s gone in the way that hurts. There are no more chances to tell him I love him. To hope that he gets better. To see him have his wishes come true. To love him in the way he deserved.

When to Know the End

In the writing of my current project, my instinct for a long time has been to let the reader in on the end (or the end of one character) at the beginning of my own story. I mean, if you are reading this blog, you already know what happens to one of my main characters. So, I’ve already blown any suspense. But everyone advises me against it.

I have read two books in the last month in which we learn from the very beginning that one of our main characters is dead. The books are A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion and A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.

And looking at these two books, it now seems evident that I might need to include the word “prayer” in my title.

The first sentence of A Book of Common Prayer, “I WILL BE HER WITNESS,” sets up the story with a declaration of purpose. Our narrator is the only one this other main character can count on. Our narrator is a person we will get to know because she uses first person. But, the story is primarily about someone else.

John Irving starts his work out with, “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice-not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God….” It is a complicated sentence structurally that tells us a lot about the end and nothing at all.

And there is immortality at work in that sentence. In both sentences actually, including Didion’s. Our memories are immortal as long as we are alive to remember them, even if they get locked away in a vault of numberless boxes and the keys are nowhere to be found. Our memories live.

Replay “I am doomed to remember” and fill it in with your own slices of your life that will never die in your memory until you do (die). Starting a few sentences off today with “I am doomed to remember,” will make your day an interesting one I would imagine.

So, I am still left with the nagging feeling, that I need to start my story by letting the reader know that this is a book where we will lose someone that we get to know and like and sometimes dislike. We will watch her grow up before our eyes on the page and then poof, she will be gone.

Now that I am working on draft two, I am about to delete (remove to a file I won’t use again) about 80% of draft one. It is painful, but I have a better sense of the voice for my story. There are still many chapters to write, but now I know what needs to be in those missing chapters. If I am a writer, as I say I am, then it should be no problem to start from scratch. I can’t be in love with my words. They are just words.

It has to be the meaning. I can’t stop until I am in love with the meaning of the words. That’s when I will know I have been the witness that I am called to be.

****

Here is a poem I wrote at a workshop taught by Judyth Hill. I took one line from a piece by Mira Bai, a Hindu mystic poet from the 16th century. I also call out with my own name at the end, the way Mira Bai does in her work. This poem tries to capture some of Mira Bai’s ecstatic energy but this is based on me, my life. Yet, if you have ever been confused by someone you will love until the end of the world, maybe you can find pieces of you in here too.

“They live century after century,
and the test I set for them they have passed.” Mira Bai (with pronoun edits)

Were you alone when I met you?

Or, was she with you then?
All along.
The whole time.
Does she dance around you now like a honey bee returning to the hive?
For your eyes only?
Is she there in the mirror even as we speak?
I tell you I can’t see her.
You blush as she whispers in your ear, tickling your fleshy lobe.

So, are you alone or not?

You slip in and out.
Disguised. Robed. Walking
in the moonlight.
Your back to the world.
Your face unseen.
And she is a mystery too.
Except to you.
Lovers coupled in the shadow,
charmed by the cactus in silhouette.
Stiff sentries fending me off.

I follow. Searching for you
in the low lying mountains.
And there you are.
Pleading with her at the end of the unlit path.

I shout to you.
“There is no one at your side.”
Your face falls, but then you smile.
I reach for you, begging.
You recede into the spines of the saguaro.
Protected. Removed.

You beckon me to join you
in the house of god-cut crystals
where the horizon glows.
“Look at how she glistens” you tell me.
I stumble. I bleed.
“Yes,” I say.
and then, “Anything.”

Kelly says: Lead me under the stalking moon. Veil me like a bride, blind to what you see.

No More Scandal

I’m going to give up Scandal.
The TV show.
I’m going to give up The Blacklist.
Another TV show.

Really, I am going to stop watching those two TV shows. The ability alone to say that gives me freedom from myself. Freedom from the self that finds connection from watching something rather than doing something.

Both shows have lost me. They are just moving from week to week with threads that are silly. I didn’t feel that way when they first grabbed me.

In fact, Scandal was the show I started watching right after my spouse and the parent of my children – Allison, died suddenly one early morning in March. I started to binge watch it on Hulu with my mother at my side.

My mother came to be with us after Allison’s death, to help keep us tethered to the ground and to sanity. To be there so my son and I would not attack each other. We hurt each other in the deepest ways in order to distract ourselves from the savage wound left by Allison’s fresh death. With my mother at our side, we didn’t let insanity and rage and grief find a lasting bed inside of our house, our meager fortress.

One way to keep the infiltrator at bay was to watch Scandal. It had politics. (I was a political science major.) It had beautiful actors. The story centered around forbidden love and power. Here was a place where I could safely lose myself. My mother left me for her own home, knowing that I had found one small way to stay calm and not spin off outside of gravity’s pull.

I kept watching as the seasons progressed. I added the Blacklist. There was a time when being blacklisted meant you were shunned; not that you were hunted, according to the definition implied by the TV show. The mystery of the Blacklist and the antics of the lead actor James Spader made me feel like my brain was at work.

Scandal engaged my heart (and my political heart). The Blacklist made me feel like I was solving a problem.

But now I know, I am not thinking when I watch these shows. There is no creative composting occurring during my mind numbing sessions in front of my “smart” TV.

NO WRITING happens. Not even in my head.

And now: I am done.

But, not with this piece of writing. In the following paragraph, sh*t gets real.

You see, fear of real life scandal and being blacklisted dominated my life for years. And exactly twelve hours after telling my youngest son that one small positive change I was making was that I was going to stop following Scandal and the Blacklist; exactly 12 hours after telling him, my sons made me realize that scandal and being blacklisted were more than TV shows. More than entertaining fiction. It happened yesterday when both of my sons were with me in the car, driving to visit their grandparents – Allison’s parents.

They both said that they now regret that we weren’t more open about Allison. About how the person everyone knew in our small town as their father was living openly as a woman in a city just down the Interstate. Allison’s journey of shedding the life of Scott began its final stage seven years ago. Long before Transparent, Orange is the New Black and Caitlyn Jenner. It was a lot lonelier back then.

My children said they had been following my lead in keeping it quiet.

Ironically, I thought I was the one following their lead.

At which point they said they were just barely teenagers at the time and that they didn’t know anything. So, why did I listen to them, they asked. My shoulders slumped, curving away from the driver’s seat and my knuckles whitened as I tightened my grip on the steering wheel. There was truth in what they said. And some revision. But, mostly truth. Now I know I could have done better. Back then, I didn’t.

Yes. We weren’t open about Allison. Especially at first. But, little by little the boys introduced her to their closest friends. Allison even took them and their friends out on occasion. In our small town. Of course, when they were in Seattle, they did lots of things in public. There was no hiding.

Our boys bravely entered a new family reality and were in the process of coming to terms with the changes that confronted them. They were learning the real meaning of pride.

Yes, sometimes I made mistakes. And sometimes I did the right thing.

Add together all of the sometimes, and you end up with gray. Not black and white. Not silver and gold. Just tin.

And if we had known she would die so soon, we all would have done many things differently. Even Allison.

But what had stopped us? Stopped me? Scandal. Being blacklisted. Fear of isolation. Fear of ridicule. Fear of no longer being who we thought we were. We slipped into a closet of our own making and endured a self-imposed isolation. No one did it to us except ourselves. Except me. I am the parent so I have to take the responsibility. Buck stops here and all of that stuff.

As I neared our offramp, all I could tell our children is that Allison probably wouldn’t have chosen to live in our small town even if she had lived openly as Allison instead of as Scott. Allison loved us but she needed a bigger palette from which to paint her life. And that little by little, we had been shedding the secret. Doing the work. Standing up to scandal and blacklisting. Finding that as we grew stronger, there was a lot less to fear.

We just thought we had more time.

We always think we have more time.

Set in Stone

Two years ago we set a stone to mark the grave of the person who had been my spouse. The one who I wedded and then divorced. The one who made our children with me. Allison.

Death caught me by surprise. Death pushed me to write. Death reminded me of how much I had loved my husband. Of how much I loved Allison though she confused me. Death scared me. I’m still scared, but now I understand it all a little bit better.

Being ready for death doesn’t mean worrying about it. Being ready for death brings new life to my heart and my thoughts.

I’m sure I’m not saying this right.

I don’t want to die. But being ready for it to end and always saying thank you just in case your last breath is your next, that is peace. After being diagnosed and then treated for ovarian cancer, I glimpse it from time to time.

But when Allison died, cancer wasn’t a known entity in my life. I thought I had known grief. I thought divorce and Allison’s transition from living life on the outside as man to living fully and openly as a woman was like experiencing a death. I didn’t know what I was talking about.

At Allison’s funeral, I said nothing. I let my children, Allison’s siblings and parents and nephew and uncle and her fiancé do the talking. I made myself small and quiet. This was Allison’s moment. Not mine.

But, when we left the chapel and walked to her gravesite, my knees buckled. I tossed a rose atop her lowered coffin. My sister’s hand gripped my forearm. I brushed against her. She kept me standing. All I wanted to do was sink into the grass.

Still, this wasn’t my moment. My tears couldn’t be the loudest. She hadn’t belonged to me at the end. She wasn’t mine. I was just someone who had loved her once.

Her headstone was ready seven months later. When we dedicated her grave under a gray and leaderless sky, this time I was ready. There would be no more waiting. She would never understand if I just stood silent.

During her life, she always had something to say. I didn’t want to let her down now that she couldn’t speak for herself. I couldn’t be the coward who thought she (meaning me) didn’t have a right to speak. I couldn’t be the one who stood in my way.

I wrote the following while flying from Houston to Mexico City. My hand grazed my cheeks in a futile attempt to hide my tears from the man sitting next to me. Finally, he asked me, “Is everything all right?”

“I’m writing something sad. I’ll be OK,” is all I could say.

I didn’t tell him that it felt like my dead spouse was sitting next to me instead of him, the concerned passenger, and that she was helping me write her own tribute. She disappeared an hour later as I arrived into the arms of my own fiance waiting for me in Mexico City. Into the arms of someone who was alive.

A week later, I stood in front of the carved granite with Allison’s chosen name.

Here is what I said at Allison’s graveside two years ago. I wrote from my heart. Is it too much as a piece of writing? Is it too emotional? Too private? Writing that could not win an award because it is just too sentimental? I hope so.

Ode to You

I never see you in my dreams. But, you visit me every day.
You sit with me as I think of you, as I cry because I miss you and as I scream and thrash and pull because you’re gone.

You tell me that all you feel now is love.
Your two selves are together in a healing union.
You are at peace. This is what I hear – when I listen.

We had a catch phrase. A code.
“Maru means submarine in Japanese.”
It was something you said to me within 10 minutes of our first meeting.
A secret knowing we shared through the next 27 years
reminding us of how a random encounter and a chance comment could connect two people for decades.

Remembering our days together on the water, we would wake in the morning to see the shoreline at a safe distance, relieved that our anchor held for the night. You would leave our berth to return with a cup of coffee. The steam rose from our cups and the children slept as we plotted our course for the day.

You were our captain. Together we navigated the waters at our bow.

We will share the passages of our boys lives. Please guide us as they steer through their own rough patches. Stay with me for those moments when their happiness swallows them whole.

You now rest upon the calmest waters. I watch you from the shore – knowing that we will meet again.

Maru means submarine in Japanese.

School for Mourners

This title phrase started out as a misunderstanding in a poetry class. One participant read his work and we all said we loved his line “the school for mourners.” Turns out that wasn’t what he said. I don’t remember the correction because “school for mourners” said enough for me.

I have never been to Lebanon which means I have never been to Beirut. One of my spouse’s colleagues had fled Lebanon with her family a while back when she was a teenager. She speaks French. She has been to Paris.

I never wanted to go to Beirut. I always wanted to go to Paris.

I devoured my French classes in college even though Spanish was the language in which I was most proficient. I studied German starting in the seventh grade. I don’t know why I didn’t choose French back then. I never really wanted to go to Germany in the first place. Maybe it was the only language class that fit my schedule?

My grandfather yelled at me for the first time when he found out about the German class. A German soldier had shot him through his abdomen somewhere in Belgium during the first World War. The Great War. He was suppose to die, but he didn’t. I had never heard that story, or at least I had never heard that story with almost adult ears. The fact that he hated Germans was new to me. I didn’t like it that he hated Germans. He had walked me to school every day until I moved away during the fourth grade. He loved me fiercely, but all the while he was hating Germans.

I continued to study German all through high school until we moved again and I was forced to study Spanish. I studied and studied that language for years when it was all that was offered and then one thing lead to another and I went to Mexico decades before I ever made it to France.

Then I met a young man in Mexico and began to think my life would end up being lived in Mexico. He remembers that I always talked about going to Paris. I had studied French after all. He says that I was so obsessed that a few years after we broke up and when he himself finally made it to Paris, he took a picture of the Eiffel Tower while thinking of me. He was there with a new love, but for a brief moment we were in Paris together.

I did finally make it in body to Paris. On the first night of my second visit to Paris, my former spouse delivered news painful enough that I couldn’t look at the Eiffel Tower as my bus passed by during my third trip to France. For that third trip to France, I went alone and made sure that Paris was not on the itinerary except to pass through it on my way to somewhere else. Paris was officially ruined for me.

There are so many places I have never thought of going. There are many places I never want to go. These are then probably the places I will land instead of the ones I dream of. That is what we learn at the School of Mourners. Well, that’s what I think anyway.

I never thought my first spouse would die suddenly. That we wouldn’t have a chance to say good-bye after months of misunderstandings and harsh words. My mother is failing yet I only have more harsh words for her because she is succumbing to a disease that I wish she could will herself out of. But, she can’t. I must not let her go with my accusations and angry pleadings still stinging. My father fades as I write this. He just broke his ankle and his heart is saying a long and painful farewell.

Those people out for a night in Paris. Those people near the market in Beirut. It is hard to shut out their calls for mercy and shouts of love for the ones they would leave behind to grieve. We are learning to mourn for lives ended in a war they were not fighting. The only war they were fighting was the battle to live. My parents are fighting for that. I am. You are. My spouse was.

Lighting up things in red, white and blue to show that we feel a collective pain is nice. But, if I were to light up my world with the flag of Life (because life is the only country we can really call our own), what colors would I use?

To end, two Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) songs come to mind. “Peace Train” and “Hard-headed Woman.” I can’t really explain the last selection, but it seems right to me. (I don’t know if I should link to the songs. I’m so new to this. Please listen to them.)

Not Really Alone

Today I sit in a reasonably nice hotel room in Guadalajara, Mexico. “Oh, Guadalajara,” you say! “How nice!”

Yes, it is nice. Well, I don’t know about Guadalajara being nice because my hotel room is not in any tourist section of town. The name of it is Ejecutivo Express. (Executive Express). I’m spending my days waiting for my own Ejecutivo to return for the day’s main meal. The Comida. Usually a few hours earlier than we in the US would have our dinner.

If I had a game, I am off of it. I didn’t plan on going to Guadalajara. It happened quickly. My Ejecutivo has a new job. I cancelled all of the events in Mexico City that I had this week so that I could join him as he started this new chapter. I even read a book for a book club meeting that I will now miss. But oh well, so much for trying to make friends in Mexico City. Maybe that won’t be where I will be living anyway. So what is the point? Maybe sitting in this hotel room is enough for me right now.

You see, my Ejecutivo left his job for me last October. He came to live with me in Washington State while I underwent treatment for ovarian cancer. It was a difficult time for both of us. I became his job.

I had never meant everything to someone before. Not in this way. My life was on the line. So my Ejecutivo stepped out on it with me.

Now, it is my turn to support him. Lift him with a smile or a hand on his back while he drives.

But, you see, there is something about Guadalajara. Something that is keeping me in my room.

I was here on my own for a few days back in 1983, just after graduating college. I was living with my Ejecutivo in Mexico City, but back then he was a young engineer just getting started. I didn’t have plans for a job. I simply decided to move to Mexico City for several months and live with my young engineer just getting started. My parents smiled, held their tongues and helped me move. They knew better I guess. They knew that young love, or any love, motors us along like a driverless car. We just hope we know where we are when we get off.

Back in 1983, he didn’t join me when I went to Guadalajara. He had to work. Just like he has to work now. But it makes me sad to be in Guadalajara because it reminds me of a time we didn’t share together and then of the next 25 years we didn’t share together because we eventually broke up.

Since this blog is about remembering and writing, and, oh yes, remembering to write, the following is a poem I wrote while traveling on a train in Norway down into the fjords.

This is for anyone who has lost someone in the arena of love at least once. And though I was in Norway when I wrote it, lost battles of love pop up everywhere, even when you are with the one you love. Even in Guadalajara.

Note: The poem came into my head after I overheard in the elevator a conversation between a mother and her son about the weather.  After that, I boarded the train.

Did it rain last night?
Yes.
Did it rain in London?
I don’t know.

Drums of steel
fill me with a hollow hum
that doesn’t sound like you
when I’m inside.

Gray over here
is the same as gray over there.
Sometimes darker.
Half-built bridges, lives stranded.
Never fully lived.
Just paces from the unfinished brink.

The air is the same over here as over there.

Your gaze spans the space between us.
Then I look away.
Eyes locked on a passing ship, strangers pointing at me, taking pictures, waving, gasping, telling me I will fall.

You’re gone.
Did you head back to the road?
Or did a lost Lorelei hide you?
Seducing you with her twisted and glistening stream
trailing down from above.
Did she cover your calls to me with her chatter?
Did you step into the glassy void,
dreaming that I would save the best of you?

I see mist rising from the surface.
Is that you?
Or, just drowning fragments of a life we didn’t finish?

In water, there is nothing
to erase.

Did it rain last night?
Yes.
Did it rain in London?
I don’t know.