Monday, October 31, 2011

The Meanest Mom In The World

An absence of video-games is like have an appendage removed without anesthetic.  He is crying on the way to school because never has there been a meaner mother.  I watch him in the rearview.  He's trying so hard to fight it - to show up with puffy eyes is to show up weak.

"Why can't you just take away the video-games for tomorrow?" He's hiccupping and leaking.

This is the result of yesterdays backseat fight between boys who were grouchy and tired and bored.  A consequence that hurts is one that works - I refuse to bend to tears.

"You were warned.  Maybe next time you'll listen."

"But - it's - game - day!"  Students who aren't attending the Halloween dance may go to a 'Game Room' - to which everyone is bring their DS - to which it would be lame to come empty-handed - to which it would be lamer to bring Molopoly.

"Do you still love me?"


"Will you forgive me?"


"Maybe later?"


I hug him in the school parking lot.  He resists but I grab his arms and wrap them around me and he tries not to smile.  "Don't fight with your brother."

"I know."

"I love you."

"Love you, too."  It's gruff but it's almost like he means it.

I go in to kiss his cheek and he lets me.

"Have a really good day!"


And he's gone to tell his friends how mean I am so they'll feel sorry for him and he'll feel better.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Letters For GiGi

"How do you wite pum-kin?"

Liam has found me folding funeral clothes into the suitcase.  His fingers are tattooed blue.


"Tause I dwew a pum-kin on Gwampa's card and I want to wite pum-kin so he knows it's awmost Hawoween."

I snap the price tag from his new pin-stripped vest and use his blue marker to spell out pumpkin on the back side of the tag.

"Thanks, mom!" And he runs back to where they are all bent over their secrets, spelling out their love for Grandpa in shapes and colour.

"I drawd a wainbow, mommy, look it!" Noa waves her page like a flag - mad dashed splashes of her vibrant spirit across a page spilled with her gift.

"Well, I dwew Batman and Wobin and the Joker."  Which, in Liam language, means you are eternally special to me.

Zander doesn't want to show me his letter.  I tell him that's okay.  He's not saying much but there is a sadness that hangs on the edge of his smile as he praises Noa for her passionate scribbles.

When they see him - the him that doesn't look like him - the him that is left behind - cold and stern and stiff in a black suit - they aren't sure what to do because we all know this isn't really Grandpa GiGi lying so still and unbeing.  We settle the sunshine of their offering in the seam of his resting - this grandpa goodbye - their final embrace enveloped in their farewell creation - and it's like dressing darkness with hope.

Liam peers over the edge - not afraid to touch the wood that touches death.  "Did they cut off Gwandpa's wegs?"

"No, honey, they're just covered by the bottom half of the lid."

"Oh.  It wooks wike they cut them off."  And he rides his finger skate-board along the rails of the coffin because he's five years old and what else could amazing rails like that be for?  And's not like Grandpa would mind.

Zander's tears are shinny.  They settle there at the rim of his eyes, pools of grief, until one blink spills them among his freckles.  This is the last time he will see his Grandpa.  But he's not looking at the stillness - he's looking across at the living - at the Grandma who is weeping for the husband she has lost - at the Grandma he never knew could cry - and this breaks something inside him.  He squeezes my hand and wipes his nose on his brand new blue shirt.  He doesn't let go of me until he settles beside his cousins after the family parade up the aisle.  His softness moves me.

They get lost on the way to the cemetery.  The pastor has said her piece and ashes to ashes and dust to dust and the funeral director spills a cross of sand upon the casket.  The crowd moves away slowly and we are whispering thanks that God stilled the rain for this one day.  My sister, flustered and all apology (that I wave away - it doesn't matter), wields curious children through the iron gate.  We have this moment as our own.  Leaves crunch as we guide them to the grave where he hangs suspended on green cables.  Dirt mounds to the left, hidden beneath fake sod and I find it offensive and crass.  A bearded man in brown coveralls stands beside the hearse, arms loosely crossed and waiting, face of practiced patience.  We don't have to hurry.

"We'll be able to come any time we want," I tell them.  "There will be a stone with Grandpa's name on it."

They peer over the lip, at the darkness at the bottom, at the box that holds a piece of their heart.

"Does Gwampa still have our letters?" Liam asks.

"They'll always be with him."


And he's found his peace, safe with Batman and Jesus.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Very Merry Un-Birthday

It is devastating to stand before his glowing and shatter him with the words he knows are coming.  "Grandpa GiGi's funeral is on your birthday."  An apology is only words to a boy so set on sticking a candle in his decade here.  Big plans and two digits reduced to shadow in this living that has only been about dying for so long now.

There are miracles floating about.  I call them sister.  He calls them aunt.  They gave him the celebration that circumstance almost stole away and I will be always and forever grateful for their selfless offering when I had nothing left to give.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Putting it Back Together Again

When it all crashes down, when it falls and pushes, when we are broken - that is where the truth lies - that is where we find the ones who love us - down there at the bottom of the pit - taking on the burden of our tears.  Because we're already dried out.  Because we've already cried an ocean and burned our eyes raw and have nothing left to give.

To be loved is to be carried.  It is to be met in the darkness.  It is to be given permission to feel what we feel without apology.  Permission to laugh or cry or sleep or eat chocolate caramel cake at 2 am just because it makes us feel a little bit better.

And I feel like we'll make it through.  Peace will replace sadness in this beautiful mélange of family and friends that make it possible to carry on.

Sometimes just being together is enough to mend the brokenness.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I traced the map of your life - these roads of yesterday - these tracks of wisdom that tell your story.  My hands, dripping in youth, against your face - so soft, dripping in history.  Eyes that wouldn't see me - only reflecting myself back, fighting the closing, captured on something beyond our own reality.  No sign of your knowing but the calming of your gasping when my fingers fell in a hushing rhythm upon your brow.  One tear, set upon the side of your face, so beautiful that I let it linger there, a prism shinning heaven.  And when it spilled, running down the landscape of your life-well-lived, I traced it's path like a bridge over troubled waters - this worn tear road - and silently screamed my prayer, "Let go, Let Go, LET GO."  But, no matter our desperation to see your peace, each time your laboured breathing broke, each pause that felt like ending, we would squeeze your hand or brush your hair - anything to bring you back because we were just as desperate to keep you here.

We cocooned you in love, this heart out-pouring, this memory pot-luck.  Minutes became hours and hours become days and we forgot if it was morning or afternoon and still you clung to a life that had reduced you to a shadowed corner of the man we will never really let go of.

All you needed was a moment.  Did you think it would hurt us too much?  You, waiting until your love laid her head down to bed, until we were distracted and laughing over a Canasta table, only then - with the sound of her dream breathing and our silly game giggles, did you finally let our prayers be answered.

We were there within a blink.  Saw the closing of your eyes.  Woke your love and watched as she caught your final heartbeat - cradled against her palm like a gift that she will forever carry tucked into a pocket of her heart.

The instant peace.  The relief.  All that struggle wiped clean from your face.  And we can breath again.

"Is Gwanpa GiGi in heaven?"  Liam's still too young to really understand.
"He's with Jesus," I tell him.
"Weelly?" Noa quips.  "Wit De-sus?"
"Yep.  What do you think he's doing right now?"
"Eatin' ice cream!" Liam says, grinning and turning back to play like it's the most natural thing in the world.

Sleep well.  You will be missed beyond a capacity I have to even understand.  Every breath of your goodness has sweetened this world and you leave behind a beautiful legacy of strength and integrity.  Thank you for loving me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Until We Meet Again

Darkness leaks around the edges of the windows.  Midnight creaks within our bones.  We are vigil-weary. You are the strongest man I know.

It's strange.  Watching the unfolding.  This ending.  Here, where your world has been reduced to these four walls.

This is your happily ever after - her leaning over you, singing Jesus lullabies, wiping tears that shine like love.  You grip her hand like forever and I have to move back because there's no reason it should be me to catch that final breath - that last piece of you that floats out into this dry air and paints us with your spirit.

Where does it come from?  This will to fight?  So hard that you won't even close your eyes.  They shine glassy and sore and unseeing even in their openness.    Don't you know that by closing them they will open on a new that lays far beyond the reaches of these pale, uncompromising walls.

The weight of the love here is close to smothering.  Has any man ever been given more?  You're practically drowning in it, aren't you?

You're withered and white but I remember the sound of your laugh - so easy.  A heart chuckle.

Half of my life has been lived with a Fred-space carved into my heart because you forced your way in there even before I decided that I would let myself love that boy of yours.  And that me-space in yours...I know it's take that with you...hang onto it...keep it safe...until we meet again.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's What I Have To Give

I have nothing to say.  But my words could fill the sky - a cloud of sentiment and tribute too blue and heavy for this ceiling of the world.  Will it crash?  How could I know?  I've never been here before.

I can hear your living.  I hear it rasp and catch and sigh.  I think your living sounds like dying and I think yesterday was the last time I will ever see your eyes.  Such spark they used to have - flirtatious grin and joy-streaked future.  Spark!  You're really going to burn it up, up there, aren't you?  Tear up those clouds like a carnival child.

Last night we spilled the table to overflowing with you - patina of beginnings and middles and ends...these time machine stamps of your imprint on a world unaware of what it's loosing.  The forever that danced in your face, no thought of here today - that is what we must catch and hold onto.  The forever beyond the closing.

Should we count your breaths?  Should we count out each second?  Count it blessing even in the wounding?  Should we capture the last?  Bottle it up as a beacon of your spirit and settle it on the window still, a playmate for a peek-a-boo sun?

I don't know how to stand beside you and small talk like you're listening.  It's not in me to pour myself out for you in any way but this black and white moulding of words.  If you'll take it, it is yours.  This word.  This goodbye.  This heart that has for you enough love to fill the world.

I have nothing to say.  But my words could fill the sky.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Place To Rest Your Head

We are stained in all this blue, falling from a sky insistent on bending our thoughts to the lingering farewell, practically here now - catching us in a whisper of heaven as rays leak through gnarled branches - old and scarred.  Feet upon the fallen.  We walk upon these lives well lived.  We walk upon the dead -  history beneath our feet, sod fed by all the yesterdays.  Laughter trickles like memory and song over stones bent and weary, all those tears caught in fissures of time, the crunch of sneaker and autumn as the children run - cousins exploring, kins of this nature.

Does he know?  Can he hear us tread upon where he soon may lay?  Can he sense our purpose in the searching from that white sanctuary, in all it's stiffness and finality?

We find the place.  Just here, near the ancient web of wood and leaf, weeping the pages of it's story onto tended lawn - so green among the coffins.  Yes.  This will do just fine.  See, there?  We could pack a picnic and remember him there.  It's small and quiet and if we listen really hard we'll surely hear him singing all the way from heaven.

I could feel the ending, there, as I kissed his whiskers and he squeezed my fingers so gently - so hard..."You're missing something," he said - cracking.
"What am I missing?" I asked.  But he was already focusing beyond me...
"You're missing something..." Again, but he doesn't know what.

But I think I know.  I think it's all the rest.  All the laughs we won't laugh.  All the jokes we won't tell.  All the wishes we won't wish.  All the days without...

We will let you go.  And there is freedom in the letting.  We have chosen a place for you to lay your head.  Lay it down, sweet man.  Lay it down, and we will lay down a foundation of memory so thick that you will live forever in the hearts of those who carry your legacy - in the hearts of those who love you.

There is no weakness in the end.  In you, I see nothing but strength.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Alfresco Gratitude

The wise man built his house upon the rock.  He cleared the land, moulded logs into a sanctuary, took this pilgrim stance upon Muskoka foundation, built this beauty with blood and chainsaw and native trees - painting history and future hidden from the road and the neighbours.

We have no right here, no claim to this legacy, no branch to contribute from our own family tree.  We are not family.  But it feels like home.

We eat as moon begins it's sedated climb and sun slow-burns the edges of autumn.  The air dances with the smells of summer and we say so many times, "I can't believe it's October!"  Horseshoes soar, unlucky but cheered.  Wine bottles flash pictures of the wise man and his forever love, a freeze frame capture of so long ago, before they knew their own story - the loosing and the finding.  Children explore, wield sticks, break rocks, eat pie.  The dog eats the butter.  Fire smoke burns eyes but not spirits.

It is impossible not to be thankful.

Monday, October 3, 2011

This Is Not Goodbye

It wasn't a decision I made boldly.  It has hung in the back of my mind, a lingering erosion of dedication, of  guilt, of hanging on because I worried that to leave would be to loose part of myself.  Because it's where I found myself - the me that wasn't wife or mother - the me that was free and liked and sought after.

Here, on the eve of a decade given to a church basement full of teenage angst and chaos, I am slipping quietly from the room, hushing the tug of heart that begs me to stay.  I've spread too thin.  Something has been lost.  I need to reclaim it.

It's not you, it's me.  I need to take this time and wrap it around my family and catch them and hold them so that they know they are my priority.  I fought tears while I let him down gently, almost caved when he told me how much I would be missed, how when I'm there everything just seems right.  But shouldn't that be my creed to my family?

You have changed me.  You have shaped me.  You have annoyed me.  You have loved me.

This is not forever.  But it is for now.

Don't forget me.

It is for this...
and this...

and this...

and this!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Jigsaw Lessons

Such sweetness, dripping from face so pure and sin-stained, this ocean wash of apology and born this way.  Her bare feet against vintage linoleum, toes curled against reprimand - not understanding - not grasping - what is this wave of rebuke?  She knows no other, can't catch the way it breaks me, would heal it with a kiss but doesn't see that in this moment a kiss would be truth.

And it doesn't even matter - the crime that brought us here - the dumping of the pieces so carefully separate upon the blue mat, chaos brought to my order.

"I didn't do dat."

And she wears the lie like an easy language and I don't understand the learning - the nature of it.  She does it with no concept of truth.  I walk her through the gathering - the gleaning of jigsaw spoils.  

She counts pink pieces..."One, two, fwee, fowo, fieve..."

"It's not about the mess, baby, I don't care about the mess.  I care that you lied."

"O-tay...six, sefen..."

There is a rending of tape and cardboard - not ten minutes from kitchen teaching - seams weakened from multiple buildings, now rent separate and Toronto skyline half-formed upon the floor made homeless.  Tape evidence upon Saturday morning pajamas.

"Did you rip my box, Noa?"

"I didn't do dat."

I gather her.  Carry her up to her bed and perch her on it's edge.  "I don't care that you broke the box."

"O-tay." But she can barely speak for heaving chest and spilling tears.

"We need to always tell the truth."


"Do you know what truth is?"

She squeezes against my neck.  I feel her sadness in it's wetness upon my shoulder.

"Truth is saying what is real, no matter what."


And I leave her to catch the meaning, there beside her pillow dressed in Dora and the baby dolls in the little white cradle.  "When you can say what's real and tell me you're sorry, you may come downstairs."

Her feet upon the stairs, whispers of regret.  One step.  Two step.  I meet her at the base.  Her head capped with plastic tiara - a halo of the goodness she found within herself as she cried off my reproach.

I bend to her height, to where the world is huge, and her eyes are shinny. "Do you have something to say to me?"

Arms curl around my neck, breath of Froot Loops, embrace of contrition.  "I sowy, Mommy."

"Why are you sorry?"

"I sowy I bwoke da box."

"I love you."

"I luv you too, Mommy.  So much!"

"How much?"

She takes back her hug, spreads it out to hold the world.  "Dat much."

"To the moon and back?"

"Yeah!  To da moon and back!"