And A House Is Not A Home…

“But a chair is not a house, and a house is not a home…”
– Burt Bacharach and Hal David

Also with a respectful nod to both Dionne Warwick and Luther Vandross of course, I have to say – yes.

Until the age of twenty-three when I moved-out for good, I lived with my parents, more or less – that’s a very long story that can be summed up in a poem I wrote here.  It was my parents’ home yes, but not mine. I lived there as a child as all children do because, I had no choice.  Until I could afford to be on my own, I had no choice.  Most parents, at some point, will explain the finer points of home ownership. It almost always comes first in some form of My house. My Rules.  I had my bedroom, yes, but I never felt at home in my parents’ house. A stanza from the  above referenced poem…

Where do I go
This was my shelter
It was all I’ve ever known
I’m taught never to be where I’m not wanted
But what do I do when I’m a child
And where I’m not wanted is home

It was an intangible difference, but one I innately, if not completely, understood even as a young child.

“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.”
― Sarah Dessen, What Happened to Goodbye

When I moved out of my parent’s house, I moved into Bill’s parent’s house. They were both retired and aging, still for the first couple of years very much with us. Yes, it was technically the parents’ house and there was definite clashing of heads twixt all four of us adults from time-to-time, but there was a mutual respect companionship and love throughout those walls.  As his step-father’s health rapidly declining and his mother was showing the very first hints of Alzheimer’s I found myself in the role of partial caretaker of the elderly parents. Living with them taught me that home and family is are relative terms less defined by blood, more defined by relationships. Bill has cousins, the family of his mother’s best friend. People he was not related to by blood, but were very much his family. That was the first place I felt at home.

“When I think of home I think of a place where there’s love overflowing…”
Home – The Wiz Soundtrack

Whether in an apartment, but especially when we actually owned our own house I learned home was more than my four walls and the roof over my head. Home is an environment. It was my dog I could hear happily barking and doing what we dubbed the happy-happy-joy-joy dance as soon she sensed my approach to the door. It was the feeling that greeted me when I walked through the door. It was my sons and husband who waited for me to get home. It extended out of the walls and windows of my actual abode to those we welcomed within. My sons’ friends who knew they better “greet an adult first when coming through my door” before going to play video games in their bedroom. Our friends and family coming over for barbecue and the annual Superbowl party.   At long last I had found home.

And then I lost it.

“Home is where somebody notices when you are no longer there.”
― Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project

Through a series of events I’m not going into here, when my husband died I was no longer able to keep living in our home and long story-short I wound up moving in with the one person who always had my back, and opened her home to me when I needed one, my best friend. Coming from a life of being an only child, living with Bill who was estranged from his living sibling and myself having the two boys, I had lived in relatively quiet homes. The realities of living with a large family was foreign to me. It was one thing to know, or rather know of, a string of siblings and nieces and nephews of her family, but I had very little interaction with them over the years. I understood them in the Hallmark card concept of everyone was around for Thanksgiving dinner in which we showed up for an hour or so and then left to visit elsewhere. Still very much walking the Path of Grieving at the time, plus a series of other mayhem that befell, I was grateful, to have a roof over my head. I was grateful it was with my best friend, whom I love dearly. After a twenty years of finally having a true feeling of home in my life, being in a home not my own again was especially stinging. The day-to-day of always having people who were not my family, always around, and as I felt in my business, was something to which I had much trouble adjusting. I quickly understood that none of them would ever really understand how I could be in my room, reading a book not wanting any interaction just as I would never understand the sound and fury and a constant stream of people coming and going that was their norm. Over time I was definitely more at home there. A couple of her siblings have claimed me as I have claimed her as my sister on all legal forms. Still, for all of that, I could never really make the apartment we shared feel like my home. Because I knew from the onset, no matter how long I stayed there, it was always a temporary thing and she would likely be the only person to miss my presence when I finally left.

“Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there anymore.” – Robin Hobb, Fool’s Fate

Twice times I rode the train and went back to my old block, to “casually” pass by my old home. The first time was maybe a year or so after the boys and I left. The house was empty of tenants, the fence needed repair, the yard was overrun with weeds.  The second time was perhaps around the third year mark when I saw it in passing from a train.  The yard was cut, a car was in the driveway, the house was occupied by a family not my own. Both times I was still in grief, so all I saw in my heart were how the Christmas decorations would hang from the awning. The football shaped balloons we attached to the fence for Superbowl, where the grill stood in the yard. I saw it while passing by in a car a couple of summers ago. The building was almost out of my sight before I even realized where we were. I understood I would have been immediately in tune with it before, it did not register because it was no longer home to me anymore.

If there is one thing we humans all have in common, it is that we all want a place to call home.

After several years of living with my best friend I am under my own roof again. I am on totally on my own, no children, no romantic partners, just me, but I feel it. I still have some furniture I need to purchase, some décor I need to work out, deal with a host of other changes, big and small, in my life because of it, but I feel it. The views are very different than before, how I move around is very different than before, it is a very different feeling than before, but I feel it nonetheless.  And oh when I climb the stair and turn the key in the front door at the end of the day, yeah I feel it…

“Home is where the heart is.”
Gaius Plinius Secundus

HOME.

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Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 challenge – Week 3
52essays2017
A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.

And let’s see how others are slicing this week:
sol
Slice of Life Writing Challenge|Two Writing Teachers

 

You Must Remember This

I find myself the owner of treasures of value to no one, but history and as the unofficial family historian – me.

My late-husband was a semi-hoarder, a trait well earned from his mother as I came to learn over the years. In a series of happenings in the two years after his passing that I will not go into here, things were put into storage for what I hoped would be for a few short years. Eight years later I in turn have inherited all of these things and have finally begun the arduous process of sorting through them.

Some things were easy to decide what to do with, such as the receipt from Sears & Roebuck. Think about it, I said Sears & Roebuck. The receipt is so faded, I could barely make out the date (06/01/68) and the cost ($27.00), but not the purchase item itself. I’m reasonably sure -were she alive now- Laura, my late mother-in-law, would not be too put out that I tossed it. Reasonably sure – I think. $27 was a hefty amount for a S&R purchase back then. A part of me sincerely feels that she could likely recall what the purchase was for – with the steel trap that was her mind before Alzheimer’s took its toll.

The birth certificate of a brother-in-law, deceased long before I met my husband, is another story. From the 1940s, I can still feel the raised seal of its stamp, letting me know it is official if not the true original. Marriage certificates, note the plural on that. My erstwhile mother-in-law was quite the dish, let me tell you! Old dog tags, family photos, more documents, family letters etc. were also unearthed. Two letters showing some serious animosity between sisters-in-law, shed a light on tensions I had sensed, but could never put name to back then. Letters from my late-husband to his mother while he was in the army nearly made me cry.  I am the only living person who can be the bearer of these captures in time for these specific people.  At least for the moment.

Bill was estranged from nearly every single person he was related to by blood. I know he has, (or knew he had?) a brother in San Diego. A falling out over twenty-five years ago has sealed the deal on my wanting to find him now. Some physical wounds heal, but the emotional scars can still fester. Somewhere out there is a niece with whom I did get along. Regrettably, as life has a way of doing, in with Bill’s passing I am ashamed to say we are no longer in contact. Her father’s birth certificate, among other items are things are rightfully hers and I would love to give them to her. Thus, I simply cannot let them go for I have hopes of finding her and being able to do such someday. But what do I do with this treasure trove now? Had I a private home with the ever useful basement or attic, there would be no question as where to put these in the meantime. However, the reality of living in an apartment where storage space is at a premium I find myself at a personal cross road.  For I also have my own treasures to add to the mix.

In a bin from storage I found the tops Bill and I wore for at our wedding. My best friend presented Bill and I with an heirloom clock. It has the traditional marriage vows printed on it, with our names and wedding date on a plaque attached to it. It is too obvious what it is, and after ten years of being a widow, now living in an apartment he is not a part of, I could not hang it on the wall. So it, the tops and a few other things I’ve deemed a part of “that time” yet feel should not be thrown away, has been stored up on a shelf in a closet. Out of sight, if not entirely out of mind.

As I am still sorting through the cache, currently all are boxed, taking up space on in front of a bookshelf in my living room. I fight the cleaning urge to just toss them and be done with it. It is treasures like these, mementos held onto and passed down are how people trace family. Not just the who someone was on the family tree, but who someone was as a person. The family tree can tell me Dorothy and Laura were sisters-in-law. Only finding those letters tells me that they were not fond of each other and how long that animosity ran between them. The letters tell me how much Bill loved his dogs. The family tree will tell you that Bill and I were married and when. Only the photos will give testament to the not exactly traditional aspects of the wedding itself.

In the interim, my not-so-immediate goal after the sort, is to scan and document everything I can. And perhaps laminate some of the older, more delicate paper items that are in danger of being lost forever. That is fine in and of itself, but while I can scan a photo of my three-year-old child wearing it, I cannot scan the “child-abuse” shirt itself.  Or scan the wedding clock, or the dog tags, or… or…

Most people can easily trace to their grandparents and perhaps back to at least one set of great-grandparents, but not much further.  One of the reasons sites like Ancestry.com and the television series “Who Do You Think You Are?” exist is because there are many who understand the importance of documenting these things, at least the paper things, while you can. In this throwaway society of new or nothing, it becomes harder and harder as people cannot or just don’t hold on to these pieces of the everyday anymore.

The thought that many years from now another family member will come across these previous timelines and enjoy these revelations as I have, fills me with joy. For while the photos and letters can be documented electronically, it is not the same feeling that raised seal or the texture of an old shirt under your fingertips. It is my wish that long after I’m gone, hopefully future great-grandchildren, will come across the old photos, the clock, the “child abuse t-shirt” and other treasures saved and smile just as fondly on them then as I am smiling now thinking of their stories.

That alone tells me I will be holding on to these treasures for a little while longer – throwaway society be damned.

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Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 Challenge – Week 2

52essays2017

A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.

And let’s see how others are slicing it up this week:

sol

Slice of Life Writing Challenge|Two Writing Teachers

Minus One

Two children – a boy and a girl are born seven  months apart. Their respective mothers  were good friends and neighbors a few houses apart. The kids grew up through grade school together, racking each other up, ratting each other out in turns, as kids are wont to do. Forced together due to their parents, a friendship that was sometimes rebelled, sometimes rejoiced, slowly forged as times  goes by.  If they were not in each other’s company, the running joke throughout growing up was they were invariably asked “Aren’t you minus one?”

Daughter: Mama, how did Daddy propose?

Mother: I had started dating Robbie Matthews and when it looked like it might be getting serious it pissed your daddy right off.  How dare I start to fall in love with someone else because he was taking too long? So few days before he is set off to war he shows up for dinner. And as we always went back and forth between his mama’s house and ours we thought nothing of it. He says almost nothing to me the whole meal, a dozen people in the house, it was normal – thought nothing of it. When he, your grandfather and your uncles go off as Mama, Sissy and I clean up – again thought nothing of it. A spell later he walks into the kitchen as I’m drying dishes and tosses something shiny at me. While I scramble to catch it he says “Listen you, so you know I’m heading out on Tuesday. I just done asked your daddy, so put this dang ring on ’cause you know I’m minus one without you and if I ain’t coming back to you, I ain’t coming back. I’m not having it.”  He then turns on his heel and starts walking out the door.  

Daughter: Daddy!

Father: Please! She threw a spoon so hard at the back of my head I nearly tripped. The whole time yelling “And you better come back to me ’cause I’m not gonna be minus one either – you hear me you bastard? Come back to me – I’m not having it!”  In front of her own mama nonetheless! So I picked up the spoon and brought it back to her, got down on one knee, put the ring on her finger, got my kiss and walked out.

He heard her.

It took a few decades, but that same boy and girl build, and live, a long life through a war, a marriage, a house, children, a move from rural to city life, more children and then grand children together.  It wasn’t always easy as they tried and survived each vow, comfort – honor – richer –  poorer – sickness – health. Yet other than the years he served the navy, they were rarely more than a week apart from each other.

Then one morning the boy woke up.

And the girl didn’t.

They had known each other since babies. Nine decades in this world together and for the first time in his life he walked on an earth without her in it.

Two mornings later he joined her.

I was within earshot when his youngest daughter rhetorically asked how he could pass in his sleep two days after his wife. I had the answer:

“He was minus one without her. He wasn’t having it.”

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At the next to the last funeral this week, this was the story I told, more or less, before reading the official obituary.

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It’s Friday – it’s Good Friday – let’s see what’s slicing for this holy weekend…

sol

On Her Own

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Coffin covered with newly upturned earth

Contains that last of all she’s ever loved
She starts to pull rose petals from their stems
She’s aiming them to land within a shape 
Patterning pictures only she can see
Patching a tribute for lives cut away
Eyes blur with each crimson petal that falls
Upon the sodden ashes of her youth

Her life, based on the scope of others, bound 
Daughter-wife-mother; thus have been her days
Her own deep needs followed for the first time 
She finds the sudden freedom much too bold 
She watches the last petal land with grace
Then heads out to live a life on her own

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National Poetry Month – Day 12

When Never Happened

Sunlight streaming through my window
May as well be a cloudy day
Heartache and desire chill my spine
When thoughts of never come into play

Waking next to you that morning
The epitome of everything I once dreamed
The dread of reality crashing down immediately
Making me want to cry and scream

Moving my head forward was easy,
why does my heart keep stepping back?

Ignorance is bliss it is true
What could never happen would not be so
But the morning after never – happened
And I cannot undo what I now know

The feel of you beneath me, yielding
The dance of your fingers along my spine
The wanting with every fiber of my being
All the while knowing you will never be mine

Moving my head forward was easy,
why does my heart keep stepping back?
Stepping back to never

And if I could, I’d give this all away
But a song I never thought to sing
Was given voice for some reason
Now forever a reminder of this thing

It’s a bitch knowing the gods played us
It’s too cruel of both joy and regret
And the thing is most days I’m just fine
But today I’m an unstrung marionette

Moving my head forward was easy,
why does my heart keep stepping back?
Stepping back to never,
to when never happened.

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Drifting on a memory

Theme Thursdays | Never

Still Breathing

.
.
It’s been two hours,
I’m trying not to let the sadness bombard
Wondering how to heal this heart so scarred
My body gasps for air, but it’s too hard

It’s been two hours, and I want to stop breathing

It’s been two days,
I’m worn out from the sleep denied me
From the fullness of the pain inside me
When I’m as empty as the bottle of Jack beside me

It’s been two days, wondering why I bother breathing

It’s been two weeks,
I said I wouldn’t write another word
About you and all that has occurred
Yet fresh tears making new lines blurred

It’s been two weeks, the hurt tells me I’m barely breathing

It’s been two months,
No longer needing Mister Daniels to cope
For the first time not wanting to wallow and mope
Resolving to end this broken heart trope

It’s been two months, and yet I’m still breathing

Hell yes, I’m still breathing…

What Is Proper? (For Kay Cee)

I have a Facebook friend who recently loss her husband.  Like I did then, she feels all alone on her path of grieving. I wrote the below a few months after the loss of my husband. As others who walked the path before me reached out to me,  I share this now so she knows she’s not alone on her path either.

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What Is Proper? 
I look over these years of my life from childhood until now.

Intellectually, I know I’m just a brief dash of eternity. But in my heart, half of that “dash” was my entire life with him.

What is the proper form of grief? I’m being told how well I am doing, how strong I am. If I don’t look as though I’m going to huddle in a corner and sob my eyes out any second, is that sufficient token to gauge my passion? I sometimes feel as though, I was expected to immediately fall apart and because I have not, it’s as though all these years with him have been a farce. For every few sets of real flowers he gave me, he also gave at least one artificial one “because like me, they will still be here when everything else is gone.” But since no one is there at night when I’m falling asleep exhausted clutching those same flowers on the bed, is that form of sorrow any less worthy? So who was pulling the masquerade? Bill? I honestly thought the artificial flowers would be gone first.

What is the proper time of grief? My mother passed away years ago and I still deeply feel her loss, but there is no expectation of a potential replacement for her. I’m expected to carry on and someday find a replacement for the irreplaceable. But when is ‘someday’?

If a year from now some new form of happiness enters my life, am I in too much of a rush to dismiss what was by pursuing it? What if a year from now I find I still cannot take off my wedding ring, am I flat out holding on far too long?

Oh God, a year from now – another dash of eternity I can not comprehend when I’m trapped in pseudo time warps.

I hear a song on the radio and for a moment we’re dancing so close together. But then it’s over and I’m forced back into the reality that he’ll never dance with me again. Then I’m feeling even more the fool for once again letting myself get sucked into a happy memory when I know the end result of such reminiscence is pain. I know it won’t always be like that, but right now I feel like I am wading and wading along a shore of my own tears, trying to find an answer in the tide, but it’s on a crest just out of my reach. I’m so close, yet so far from the solace there.

“One day at a time” I’m told. Right now, I’m just trying to get through one minute at a time.

I’ll work on getting through a whole day later.

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I also offer this:

In Smiling Silence

And this:

What’s Yours?

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No I cannot forgive you yet
No I cannot forgive you yet
You leave us all in debt
I should have known…

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When the Foo Fighter’s song “I Should Have Known” came out, group lead Dave Grohl stated -and he does have a point- that anything he writes relating to loss or death, the public will generally read into it that it is in some fashion related to the suicide of his Nirvana band mate, Kurt Cobain. However, the song becomes especially more haunting and Cobain related for those of us that knew that Dave was joined by two other members of the now defunct Nirvana as guests musicians on this song.  And while Grohl certainly understands why the public instantly makes the connection to Cobain here, he has stated repeatedly that yes Kurt is in there, the song was not specifically about him.

And that I can understand…

For  just as much as I feel the impact of the loss Cobain in this song, as I also feel the loss of my late-husband…

I was home  -thank goodness- when I first heard the song. On that very first listen, by the end of the first stanza, I remember I stopped everything I was doing at the moment, sat down and just listened to the song on repeat. “I Should Have Known” immediately reminded me of some of the stages of grieving, I went through…

The guilt: I’m still standing here, You leave my heart in debt, caught me unawares

But especially the crescendo as Grohl refrains No I cannot forgive you yet.

It’s raw, it’s pounding, you can all but see the fury and anguish pouring out. For those of us who have walked the grieving path, especially for the loss of someone who left us unexpectedly, we know this. We know it too well.

When my husband passed away, I recall being in that anger stage for a very long time.

A. Very. Long. Time…

And this song took me right back there to that very first year of grieving.  It hit me so hard, that when I was finally able to turn the song off an hour later, I was hurt and wanted to scream all over again.  This song is  such a brilliant mood changer for me, even now.  Here I am -some seven years after my husband’s passing and two years after the song’s debut- that the moment I heard those first opening chords of the strings through my iPod, it still gave me a moment’s pause, that I stopped reading my book and just listened.

Enough of a pause that, hours later, I still had to acknowledge it and write this blog.

Everyone has a song that gives them pause… what’s yours?

Contented

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.
Sun
Dappled
Shimmering
Full of promise
With daylight dawning

Tears
Are done
I know this
Down to my core
As I stretch yawning

So
I rise
Contented
Feel my soul smile
In this new morning

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Welcome to the Arun.

A nonce poem created by friend and fellow blogger, GirlGriot. An Arun is a fifteen-line poem in three sets of five lines. Each set of five lines follows the same syllable structure: starting with one syllable and increasing by one syllable with each line. 1/2/3/4/5 — 3x. There are no other rhyme or structural requirements.  Though all of hers, so far, were left aligned and not rhymed, I took a little poetic license here.

dVerse  Poets Pub | OpenLinkNight Week 113

And Yet I Know…

 

 
I smile as flowers start to grow
But yet I know
The season holds bittersweet sting
Every spring
The air hints warm, yet brings scant bliss
It’s you I miss
These moments when I go through this
This woe is never long to last
And joy of longer days come fast
But yet I know, every spring, it’s you I miss

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Welcome to the Oviellejo

The Oviellejo is an Old Spanish verse form (derived from ovillo, a ball of yarn). A stanza consists of 10 lines, with a rhyme scheme of AABBCCCDDC. The second line of each rhyme scheme, Line 2,4,6, is short line of up to 5 syllables. The last line is a “redondilla,” a “little round” that collects all three of the short lines.

Open Link Night ~ 91