Friday, December 30, 2011
As I walked outside the store, I could still see him unloading the groceries. It was taking a little longer as he didn't have my help. I made my way to the truck with my bag of hog howls and finished helping him unload. Finally, we're done, climbing back into the truck for the ride home.
I'm driving, because we're in my truck. The back seat is broader and it holds more of anything than his truck does. So mine is always the grocery store truck. Anyway, I'm backing up and pulling out and as I round the corner to the exit I see her.
There is a little, white headed old lady, in a white Ford Sable car and she has driven herself and the car off of the curb and into a deep hole. Her right front tire was lodged down into the hole and spinning on the concrete as she was trying to back-up. I looked at Mims and told him I was pulling over, we couldn't leave her there.
I pulled into a parking space, we got out of the truck, walked over to her car, and bless her soul, she looked like she was in a pure state of panic. She got of the car and we told her we were going to try and see what we could do to help.
We were at the corner of the Plaza where the Cafe Internet was located, and a very nice black gentlemen walked over to us about the same time and asked could he help. Now, I make note of the color of his skin because in just a few minutes it will matter. He walked with a slight limp so I wasn't sure how much help he would be but we told him we sure would appreciate it.
Within about 10 minutes it was obvious it was going to take more than two men to get the car out of that hole. The tire itself was lodged into thick, slick, red mud and was just spinning. We would have to have a few more men to pick up on the front end while someone sat in the car and tried to back it out.
I walked to Cafe Internet, stepped inside and asked could I get a couple of guys to come help us out. Plenty of people in there, playing those games, all nationalities. Three black gentlemen stopped what they were doing, stood up and came out. One of the guys, Barron Thompson, a friend and fellow employee, was one of the gentlemen.
Now they are all looking at the situation, accessing what needs to be done. And I'm standing on the sidelines talking to the little old lady. We introduce ourselves, talk about where we live, and she is fretting. She's really not supposed to be driving she says. I see the handicap tag on her visor. She says her children don't like her driving very far anymore and that she hopes we can get her out and they won't have to know what has happened because they will surely blame it on her lack of driving abilities. I promised her whatever happened, we wouldn't leave her there, and that I was pretty sure, somehow they would figure something out.
Her cell phone began to ring, she answered it, and it was her son in law. I listened as she told him she was fine, just moving a little slower than usual, but she would be on to the house in a few minutes. She hung up the phone and looked at me and said, 'I'm going to have to pray a little harder in church this Sunday for telling that lie". I said no ma'm, you didn't lie, you didn't tell him anything wrong either way. She hugged my neck and told me the good Lord must have been looking after her when we stopped.
Someone finally remembered they had a rope in the trunk of their car. We hooked it to her car in the back, and my truck in the back, someone got in each vehicle, and started the revving motion. Both vehicles put the gas to it, and slowly but surely, out she came.
She was so thankful, asking everybody who had helped what she owed them. Not one single man would take anything from her, hugged her neck and told her Happy New Year.
Now I have to tell you, when the whole deal first started, and there was only me, Mims and the one black gentlemen, I watched as car after car of grown white men rode right past us. Looking hard for sure, but not asking could they help and not stopping. Just rolled right on out of that Winn Dixie parking lot, away from us and that little old lady. And when I walked into that Cafe Internet, plenty of all colors were sitting in there, but only three black gentlemen stood up and answered my request for help.
Riding home with Mims after I had mouthed off for a few minutes about people and how disappointed I was, I said, "Man, we sure could have used Kornbread Jr and Tater today". This summer, during their trip/vacation to St George Island, those boys pulled quite a few stranded people out of the sand. When they got home, and Zach was telling the stories of their rescues, he said they would strap down to each vehicle, he would get in his truck and every time before he would start pulling he would holler out "How's it looking back there Tater?" and Tater would holler back "Giv'er Hell Zach" with a country twang you can only imagine if you've ever heard it before. I was thinking of Tater and that line today as Mims started to roll my truck forward. It took all I could do not to put on my best Tater voice and holler out "Giv'er Hell Mims!"
Thursday, December 29, 2011
I went to high school in the late 1970's early 1980's. Weed was rampant and alcohol parties were frequent. Smart kids were not cool and pot heads were trouble. So where did a normal, alright looking girl like me fit in? I wasn't the girl the Quarterback dated. And I didn't feel comfortable with the smart boys. I inevitably ended up dating what we called the bad boy 'pot heads' back then. I was the 'different/good girl" if that makes any sense. I didn't drink, I didn't do drugs, and I wasn't promiscuous. Because that group of guys seemed to be able to find that kind of girl anywhere. Girls like me, good girls that liked them, were hard to find. They looked up to me. Because I didn't look down on them. Maybe that was the attraction.
All that being said, I stayed at home a lot of my high school life. My parents would have never let me date the boys I liked, so I stayed at home and watched a LOT of television. If there were kids hunting deer, camping out, and fishing, I didn't know any of them. I went to a school where the graduating class was a population of almost 400 children. And we all lived in the city. All of the ones I knew anyway. In houses or apartments on concrete and little plots of grass. There were no backyard bonfires or marsh-mellow toasting over open flames. No burning in the city limits. The only bonfires I ever heard about involved keg parties and I wasn't cool enough to be invited. And if I had been, I couldn't have gone or really wanted to.
I was thirty five years old before I saw a cow at close up range, multiple deer in my yard, raccoons, or wild-eyed possums. Trash piles in your yard you let get high as the sky before you threw a party to burn it down. Roast hot dogs and sit around in lawn chairs on warm summer nights or cold winter days, laughing and talking about anything, everything, and everybody.
Zach learned how to ride a bike on grass and dirt, no concrete where we lived. Josh had a go kart and plenty of property to ride it on. Sitting on the front porch swinging way into the night talking, laughing and sometimes singing. The smell of Mims cigar wafting through the country night air and Zach's little feet nowhere near touching the ground.
And now, he's driving. And doing. Everything. Going everywhere, doing everything. Swimming in mine holes, swinging from ropes and hollering like Tarzan. Fishing and swimming with the alligators. Tires thick with red mud from struggles getting in the hole. Burning through 500 bullets a day shooting squirrels. Playing drums and electric guitars on hot summer nights and me sitting on the back porch steps listening. Standing up for his rights in Police Stations refusing to be intimidated or mistreated.
I hope they always believe in clean, good times. For now, Zach is insistent nothing but clean will enter his body. Clean, good foods and liquids. Milk and water. I don't remember the last time I saw him drink a soda. He's up by 7am every single day, working, school or not. And most nights in bed by 9pm. He never stops going, stops doing, or stops working.
Maybe it's the country living. Maybe once you leave the concrete and city behind, you can only see good clean living. All I know is they are all having the time of their lives. I love listening to their funny stories and watching them get the most out of what life has to offer.
I wish I had known this group of kids when I was in school. But then, I know, you are where you are, by the steps it took to get from where you were. And I'd rather be right here, right now, more than anything else in this world. So I'll take what I get to see now. From the sidelines. From the back porch steps. From afar. For as long as I get to see it. Good times. Wonderful memories. For us all.
Monday, December 26, 2011
So as I was reminiscing on the year we are about to leave behind, I began to think about all the things I learned in 2011. And although I don't consider myself a person hard of learning, I have to admit, I came to some pretty eye opening realizations about myself.
1. I cannot stop my children's hearts from being broken, no matter how hard I try.
2. The success you have with the struggles you face in life, all depend on your attitude and heart being in the right place. I learned that from Patti Duffy and Penny Riley. Two of the most positive and strong women I know.
3. Tragedy doesn't always happen to other people. Sometimes it destroys each and every side of the apartment your son lives in, five hours away, and never touches a hair on his body.
4. My parents hit 70 and 71 years old this year. More and more I know I need to cherish every moment I am blessed to experience.
5. My sixteen year old son reasons and thinks things through like a wise old man. And all jokes aside, he really has been here before.
6. Family is the most important part of your life, but even family can become a disease that you must learn you cannot fix, treat, or cure. Just love.
7. You only have one body. Turn a blind eye to your health if you want to, it will catch up with you, and sometimes, take you over.
8. If you work really hard, and fight the big, bad monster as long as you can, you will survive and be able to enjoy the last half of the career that you love.
9. The older you get, the more people there are who will need your prayers.
10. Everybody has dysfunction. A drunk uncle, a mean aunt, a crazy mother in law, and a low life brother. You are never alone in your troubles, yours may just be the only ones you know about.
11. People may never change their personal views about gay/heterosexuals, but step by step , slowly but surely, I have shown you they should not be prejudged by your beliefs, but by your personal knowledge.
12. I will base my own judgement and choices for a Hero, much more carefully and reservedly in the future. Joe Paterno and his team of non-fit associates taught me that lesson. No man is too big to fall.
13. All good things do not come to those who wait. But good people will always be better for the effort.
14. Never turn a deaf ear or a blind eye to what your children will or will not do. I have personally watched family's crumble from the realization that their children, really are, like most children. They are curious, they are growing, and they can succumb to pressure. All we can do is continue to pay attention and praise their strength and individuality and pray, they believe in themselves enough to listen. And be prepared to be there for them if they are not.
15. As my youngest child has hit his prime teenage years, I have watched and relived the angst of being a teenage girl or boy who is not part of the status quot. They are not a size 6 cheerleader, or a muscled football quarterback, but they are none less worthy and I try and tell one and all that I come in contact with, that they DO matter, and they ARE beautiful, and they ARE just as important.
16. I've had to call on God and our relationship a lot more than I ever have before. Thank goodness he understands me better than anyone else in the world so even my shorthand prayers are never hard to hear.
17. And finally, that if I shut my mouth and close my eyes, I can listen with unbiased thoughts. And I will cherish the day, when I have learned to completely stop judging by what I see so that I make better decisions based on facts, not prejudice. With my eyes wide open.
I'm sure I've learned a lot more than all of that, but those are the high points. And quite frankly, more than I should still have to be learning at 48 years old. But I would rather my mind and my heart be open to change for the good, rather than stuck in the ways of my past. I'm looking forward to year 2012, to meeting new people who can teach me new things. With every new person I am fortunate enough to meet, there is opportunity within myself for improvement. All for the greater good.
Happy New Year to one and all. May you be happy with what you have, find whatever it is you're still looking for, and be satisfied either way it turns out. Love everybody you can as much as you know how, in as many ways as you can demonstrate. Apologize when the words out of your mouth are colder and harder than you meant, and back it up with a hug. Instead of writing a list of ten things you want to change, pick one, and make it happen. Work on number two next year. The goal is accomplished completion, not predestined disappointment. Good luck to you all. See you on the other side..the new side....the fresh side...of 2012.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Part of us wants to say, wants you to know, that one day, you will be us. You will be the one left standing. Alone. Watching the fun and laughter from afar. Because someone else will be too busy for you. Life will move on and you will be left to watch the film clips and look at leftover memory pictures. But we won't say that to you, because we know how bad it hurts. And we want to believe you're not doing it on purpose or intentionally. We want to believe you're having so much fun, you don't even realize what you're doing when you hurt us. So we would never intentionally hurt you back.
Empty nest is hard. It's horrible. It is relentlessly sorrowful. Half of an empty nest really doesn't feel much different. All children are different. Rarely are any two the same. It is no different in my house. My hugger, my confidant, my homebody, my friend, and my oldest son is gone. He's grown, living on his own and he's gone. My fist pump for goodnight, my rarely likes to talk seriously, my "it's implied" youngest son is still here, but not so you would notice some days. He stays in the road and with friends.
I talk to other mothers who are feeling the same things. I talk to them about it, because I can see it in them. They're having a hard time adjusting to the change. I've had a few years to adjust to my Joshua being gone. So I recognize it very quickly when I see it in others. The first year was horrendous. I don't mind telling you I can't count high enough to tell you how many tears I may have cried. How many days my family would sit here and look at me like I had three heads on my shoulders instead of just one. How many times their short, and dismissive words would cut me to the bone. Was I the only one hurting and lonely? Surely not.
I know now, looking back, that I drove Zach crazy that first year. Drove him further away. I was grasping and latching onto him so hard, trying to survive the struggle, I think maybe I was smothering him. He already was not up for all that closeness, and he has always lacked in the condolence department. Well, I will say with everyone but me, he seems able to see the pain. And I guess I can say good graces for that. And Mims, he's not much different. That, and I just don't think most men react the same way to the empty nest. Some, maybe. But not most. Not by a long shot. Or maybe, they just carry it differently. I'm just not sure.
But I'm alright now. I've adjusted to it pretty well most days. I still have my moments. When my needs for what I had are not filled and I sink back into that well of darkness. But most days, I can find something to pull myself back out. I found something I can use. It works most every time.
My parents are a very young seventy and seventy one years old. But in the last couple of years their mind sets have changed. They are often exceptionally emotional. Worried and fretting about the things they won't get to see, won't be able to experience instead of enjoying what is happening right here, right now. So whenever I feel myself sinking into that pit of darkness, I insist that that mind go there, to them, and I try and snap out if it.
If any of you teenagers are reading this, please think about your parents. What you say, how you say it. Give them a little more of your time. Take the time to act like you're listening. Take the time to notice when someone besides yourself is having a bad day. Needs a pick up. Needs a hug. Take the time to notice the Mama who is ALWAYS there for you. Making sure your every want and need is taken care of, many times, before you even realize you have a want or need. Pay attention to her expression, and notice the change on her face when your words are too sharp or impatiently said.
Invite her to the movies. You're so busy looking at her as a Mom, try looking at her as a teenager. Go back and look at some of her pictures from high school. Surprise. She was YOU! She laughed and giggled uncontrollably, she cried tears over boys, she had a first love in the sixth grade, and she had best friends. Some of whom she is still friends with and some, she has no idea where they are today. She would love to go to the movies with you. Or you and your pals. You'd be surprised what she still finds funny.
Invite her into your bedroom. Ask her opinion about an outfit. Tell her about your day. About something funny that happened in class. About someone that made you mad. About ANYTHING. Make her feel included. It matters.
Ask her about HER day. How was work? And if she drones on and on about something that happened, and you have no idea what she's talking about, just listen. Patiently. Heck, here's a novel idea, ASK HER! Ask questions. Why should she be the only one interested in you? After all, the job she does every single day has paid for your whole life. Has made your whole life and everything in it, so much easier than it could have been. So much more fun and enjoyable. Ask her. Take an interest in what and who makes your life as great as it is. She knows what your favorite meal is and somehow, always knows when you'd like to eat it. Do you know what hers is? What in the world would happen if you thought about that, and cooked for her?
She has given you everything on this earth that you ever wanted or needed, can't you give her a little of yourself back? That's all she wants. Just some of you. Share some of you. Boyfriends and girlfriends will come and go. And unfortunately, so will many of the girls/boys who you think will be there no matter what. Your Mama and Daddy will always be there no matter what, THAT I can guarantee.
These are the years that will transform your relationship again. And, believe it or not, it won't be the last time. But these are important times. Important years. You can still be her daughter/son, but you can also work towards being her friend. Because I promise you, you're going to need her as your friend. For many more days to come. You're going to wish you had tried harder, listened closer, and loved harder.
A few weeks ago, I had a spend the night party with my own Mother. First time I had shared a bed with her since I was in my teens. As we laid there in the dark, and talked about whatever came to pass, I couldn't tell whose voice sounded younger. Hers or mine. In the dark, for that brief period between awake and asleep, we were the same. I woke up the next day loving my Mama even more than I thought I had more room for...and wishing times like that had happened more often.
I probably repeated myself a little today. I tried not to do that. But when I see in others, what I knew happened within myself, I just have to say something. I'm a fixer from way back. And while I can't fix everything and everybody, I can help. I can talk. And I can listen. And, I only wrote this from a Mother's point of view, because that's all I know. So, love your Mama, she's the only one you have and you can't bring back time. No matter how hard you try. We know, we've already been in your shoes, did all that you're doing, and we couldn't get it back. Be smarter than us, and try now.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
It has been a grueling start to his 3rd year. He's tired and worn out. He's in year two of being a teacher and a student and some days, it's more than he bargained for. He spends half of his day hoping to ignite interest and ideas in young people that are just beginning their college career, and most of them not really sure of anything. And the other half, he spends trying to ignite himself. Keep his own mind fires burning.
He's not a student of Math where the answers are already known, and all he has to do is put pencil to paper and figure it out. He's not a student of History where you simply memorize the dates and the names that have already been created. He's a student of English. A student of Creative Writing. English of course teaches him the words and their uses. But writing, no one can really teach you how to write. They can teach you how to write a business letter. They can teach you punctuation. But no one can teach you the art of words. You either have that gift or you don't. You can either capture people's attention or you cannot.
Writing is a gift. And every day, he has to call upon himself to recreate his gift. To make it new and fresh and readable. Profitable. His ultimate goal is to sell himself. His words. His heart. And his soul. His goal has been to learn how to put his inner most thoughts and creative achievements on paper, and make someone want to read them. Entice someone to listen to what he has to say. And to stay with him, until his story has been told. You can't teach that. You can't spend eight hours a day, five days a week, for three years and teach that. No more than you can teach a painter brushstrokes that will create the Mona Lisa.
This morning when I was driving to work I was just two streets over from my final destination when I saw the school bus coming down the road. With it's red stop flags already out, picking up students. I groaned, knowing that this was surely going to slow me down, because I could already see children lined up, all down the street at their own "bus stops".
As the bus got closer I knew it was my turn to stop and wait for the load up. As I sat there, I watched two little boys, neither more than five or six years old, climbing up on the bus. But what caught my eye, was the mother who was still standing and a little bitty fella, maybe three years old, waving goodbye for all he was worth. He waved at his brother/cousin from the time he stepped on that bus, and kept on waving as the bus was already rolling forward, headed to his next stop.
I was frozen in place, just watching that little guy waving his arms off. My mind went back to earlier days of my own, and watching my little Zach waving goodbye for one reason or another to his big brother Josh. My eyes teared up, and the only thing that made me remember to move, was the guy behind me beeping for me to step it up.
All I've ever wanted for either of my boys was for them to be happy. I want them to become who they think they should become. Be happy and satisfied doing it, and hopefully financially profitable so that their lives are comfortable. Zach, Mims and I are still waving goodbye. Three of four times a year, we line up, watch as Joshua drives off, and wave goodbye until our arms fall off.
Later this afternoon, I received another text which captured every word I've said much better than I could have said it :
Joshua..."My second class wasn't so appreciative, but mostly because they jacked around in my class".
Ma: "One day, they will realize who they had for a teacher once upon a time, and hopefully regret they wasted the opportunity".
"Indeed, their loss. Oh well. Thank little baby Jesus it's over."
Good to know, no matter what, his humor and wit, is always intact. Cause that's how we roll. That's what we're made of...strength, heart and humor.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
I'm going to tell you a few of them today. Give you the time sequence, which indicates nothing, except how very long and how very well I can still remember some of my dreams. And off we go.
Back in late 1997, early 1998, Josh and I went to see the movie Titanic. The newer version with Leo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet. From a cinema point of view, it was beautifully done. From the real story point of view it was awful. It was depressing. It was all too human. And I will never get past the scene of grown people, grown men, pushing women and children aside to save themselves. Or just as haunting, the last scene where dead bodies are floating aimlessly in the ocean.
To this day, I can remember coming out of that movie theater with Joshua and never in my life, being so glad to see the sun shining and the real world still in motion. For days, that movie haunted my thoughts and consumed my mind and my heart.
July of 98', now divorced since early 97', I moved to Quincy with my children. Not too many weeks later, I would dream my own Titanic story that would stick with me, even today. My dream had one main scene. Unforgettably a soul searching experience.
I am overboard. As I struggle to stay above water, I am staring back at the huge ship that has just released itself from the bottom up, and toppled every one on it, out into the black, dark sea. My daddy is with me. Somehow we managed to wind up together. I'm dog paddling as hard as I can to keep my head above water. And my Daddy is doing the same. Suddenly, he says he just can't do it anymore. And he begins to go under.
Every time he dips down, I'm pulling and tugging on that green sweater with all my might. And oh my God, it is making him so much heavier. It's wet, and the weight of the sweater has doubled. I'm begging my daddy, to please, please try. I need your help. We can do this. And he just looks at me and says, please, just let me go, I'm tired. It's alright Chell Bell, just let me go.
I begin to look around, for someone, anyone who can help me. And as I turn my head to the left, I see my ex husband holding my two year old Zachary, Joshua, and my mother. They were all standing. Not struggling. Not fighting to stay above water, much less alive. Just standing there, watching me and my Daddy as we struggled.
Now, in my mind in the dream, and in my mind today when I am awake, I say to you the reader, that they were only standing in water that came to their knees. All of them. And I knew the reason why, when my eyes were shut tight, as well as I know it now, when they are wide open. They were the "good people". They weren't struggling to live and keep the black nasty water out of their lungs, because they were all that is good. And me and my daddy, well, we have always been the against the grain people in our family. Not always following the rules, but in the end, always paying for our sins. As it should be. As it was, in my mind, in this dream.
Now to this day, I cannot tell you why in the heck my ex was standing there. While he is not an awful human being, he did his share of wrong doing while we were married. But Zachary, Joshua, and my Mama..yes sir, for me, they represented the ultimate goodness in this world.
Dreams. Strange things these dreams that won't go away. How they play on your mind. Three months ago we were watching some show about alligators and crocodiles. Not Swamp People, more like a documentary. Anyway, one of these people has their arm bitten off by a gator. OFF. I have no idea why I was watching it. I knew better.
That night, I'm lying down to sleep, and of course, that show comes back into my mind. I'm trying to think of anything BUT that. I finally rid my head of those crazy images and I drift into sleep. It was not to be a peaceful sleep however. But instead of dreaming about gators, I dream about bears.
The only people in the dream that I can remember are me, Zach and Mims. Zach is a little boy. About two or three years old maybe. We're running, like running for our lives. And I turn back because I can no longer feel his hand in mine. He has let go. I can see him sitting on the ground. I run back to get him, and before I can get to him this huge bear scoops him up. And right before my eyes, begins to flip and flop and shake my precious baby like a rag doll. He won't stop. He won't let go. He's ripping off his arms and I am screaming beyond the decimal sounds imaginable. Then suddenly the bear stops. He lays Zach down on the ground. Blood is everywhere and I run to him. But the arm I saw being ripped off is still there. He's looking at me. He's alive. And I wake up.
I have a lot of crazy dreams. But I am hear to tell you, that dream shook me up pretty bad. It was one of those reoccurring dreams too. Like for several nights after. I was scared to close my eyes. I told my oldest son Joshua and Mims about the dream. Sometimes, I think I feel like if I say it out loud, it won't be real anymore, and it will go away.
Zach and his buds had been talking and planning this camping trip for two months. Clearing land, chopping fire wood, you name it, they've been doing it, to get prepped. Two or three nights ago, Mims is telling Zach this that or another about what to do if this, or what to do if that, and he starts talking about the food. That if they have any food left over, they need to make sure it's in their vehicles locked up where animals can't smell it. He makes a joke about raccoons all up in their tents. Then he makes a joke about bears.
Now, I don't have to tell you where this is going. For days after, this camping trip made me sick at my stomach. Worrying. About dreams ~vs~ reality. So scared, so paranoid, I wanted to make him cancel the trip. Or tell him he couldn't go. Crazy, irrational thoughts continued to crowd out my common sense. I confided my fears to Joshua, and he assured me everything was going to be alright. I did not say a word to Zachary.
The camping trip was a success, No one got hurt, no one did anything stupid. They're all just tired and worn out from no sleep and freezing to death. No grizzly bears. No dangers. No reality from horrible dreams.
I'm not sure what makes the dreaming process such a mysterious deal. Or why, some dreams really do become reality. Because they have. You know, I guess the same way your mind, when you're awake, does that de ja vu thing it can do. Well, at least mine can. And sometimes, my stomach warns me about something before it really happens. I just try and respect the signs I receive, and separate the drama from the situation.
I have a couple of more dreams, that turned into real situations. But that's enough for one reading. I don't want to give out too much information at once. I don't want anybody planning an intervention. Especially one that involves a lobotomy or a straight jacket (wink wink).