“With and Without Her: My Year Alone”

          Sitting on this bench in Battery Park today, in the stifling heat; my mind flashed back to a year ago. Sharol and I trying to get some time together before her operation. Before she wouldn’t able to walk long distances and dance or sit for long periods of time. Before, months of physical therapy and Recovery. Before, internet grocery shopping. Before, waiting for me to come home and cook and clean. Before boredom creeped up on her…

   I texted her the menu from the cafeteria next door. She texted when she got there, I met her at the front desk… even though I thought the dress she had on was an ugly print, I wholeheartedly appropriated her in a dress. And it fit her form well and she looked good too. I left the house before her so I didn’t see what she was wearing. Wouldn’t you know it, we matched! That’s not the first time we did. In 19 years, it happened quite often. I sat on the very same bench today. That was a beautiful but hot day and a great night. That was on Monday, 8 days later, she was gone….

     It’s almost midnight up here at Rodgers Rock Campground , on Memorial day weekend. The kid is snoring, reminding of her mother. There’s a tiny bug crawling on my lantern casting a giant shadow along the tent wall. I forgot the blankets so we’re  a little cold. I left my book; a collection of Sherlock Holmes novels, at home so there’s nothing to do and the fire has gone out. So I decided I’ll write this…

What I’ve learned over the past year is this. Like love, you can’t hide from pain or more to the point. You can’t hide from grief nor the losing of someone. It’s something you must feel, you must go through, you must experience. If you fight it or better yet, try to fight it you will exhaust a lot of energy and eventually you’ll lose. Running away from the feeling of losing a spouse (or love one) is as futile as a hamster running in a wheel. Trust me, I’ve spent most of this time fighting one pain in particular;loneliness.  It is a hell I have never liked. We’ll talk about that later…

       My daughter and I went to visit my other daughter and her husband. They happened to be camping at the same camp ground. They, like I, were booking sites for the long weekends of the camping season.  I’d planned to be closer to home but my equipment had taken nearly 2 months to arrive (warehouse issues) so I stopped looking. When the company contacted me and worked out a deal, I begin my search again. But the season had already started. The only available campground was 5 hours away. A day before leaving my daughter texted me that they had found a place for the weekend too. It was the same place. Their site wasn’t too far from us. But it was a good walk, over steep hills!

    After our visit we went back to our homestead and found our fire buring nicely. This, after several failed attempts.  The kid went inside and I set in front of the fire. The warm glow of yellow and orange flames were beautiful. I looked over at the empty chair next to me and whispered. “You would have loved this…” my heart smiled, because I imagined Sharol sitting next to me. We had gone away once and had the opportunity to sit in front of a fireplace. It was awesome! We were eating Chinese take-out, Mongolian beef. That was the night we planned to write our autobiography. We actually started thinking and writing out themes on a legal pad. Whether it’s a fireplace or camp fire,warm dancing flames are a magical thing.

In the daylight our little homestead over looked the river surrounded by lush green mountains with nothing but open sky above us. Indeed, Sharol would have loved it. Much like Chris Stapleton’s song, “Whiskey And You” I allowed myself to feel. To feel the absence of my bride. 

“I’ve got a problem but it ain’t like what you think. I drink because I’m lonesome and I’m lonesome ’cause I drink. But if I don’t break down and bring it on myself it’ll hit out of the blue” – Whiskey And You.

     It felt good to just let it happen. Sad but good. I was able to enjoy the moment. And in that it felt as if Sharol was enjoying it with me, not because she was there but because I didn’t fight the pain that she wasn’t.  Fighting it would only serve to make me more lonely without her. The guy in Stapleton’s song,  drinks to feel… to avoid the sadness creeping up on him.  That, dear reader, is where I’m at right now. Creating the atmosphere, space or time where I can feel rather than not feel. I work all day, come home, cook and care for our youngest. Juggle appointments, bills, school events, daddy daughter date night and so on. There’s little time to mourn or reflect. So quiet moments away from the city or lunch time walks give me the time to feel. Different times bring different feelings. For example, a week ago the kid went on her school trip. It was an overnight trip… I  woke up at 5am made her breakfast and lunch then drove her to school at 6:30am. It wasn’t a particular good morning. When I got home, the stress of working at an unfulfilling job where I feel trapped, being without Sharol’s input… And! I’d be alone, hit me. I laid down and couldn’t get back up. I looked up at Sharol’s picture and “it‘s you and me…” 

     Frequency

 I grabbed a ton of snacks turned on the Xbox and TV.  I finished the series Turn and looked for something new. I couldn’t concentrate, so I mopped the kitchen floor and made some  calendar reminders… then started watching Frequency. Halfway through the first episode the tears started to flow. By the end, I begin to ask God, out loud, “Why can’t life be like life this show?” Seriously, it would awesome if I could pick up my cell, send a text and the message crosses time and eternity. Then in an instant see My Wife Sharol flash across the screen. “Where are you hon? She says. “I’m sitting in your chair, where are you?” I ask. “Umon the boardwalk waiting for you” and it hits me! “Wait. Who is this!?” I text back. “Its Sharolyour wife, silly man. Hurry up“… after some back and forth. I realize It’s  2012, she’s in Atlanta  City. We were going for a walk but I told her to go ahead downstairs. It’s 4 years before her death. After some time… I’d reveal the truth. She’d be heartbroken that I was alone and in such a state without her. Then the questions would begin. The kids…? Oh my goodness, Tyrone, Hannah..?! 
     Dear reader, it would a simpler life, if life were like a TV show. I’d be able to get advice on what to do about my job and other important decisions. But life isn’t like that, we tend to drown real life things out with whatever we can. For as long as we can… then when tragedy comes, we’re unprepared for it. We are all guilty of it on some level. I guess; the best way to look at  and live life, is as if it’s your last day every day. In real life, no matter how far you run away it will catch up. If life were like Frequency, I’d tell Sharol “You weren’t alone. You weren’t violently attacked like you always feared. I held you, breathed into you…Hannah was there…” And that, dear reader, would have started a paradox. It would have effected the future. It would have explained the last few years of married life. Where we lived each day like we wouldn’t see the other again. It would explain “always kiss good night”. It would explain my alarm, that was set at 10pm… to Kiss Sharol. And I did so, even when we were mad at each other. It would most definitely explain, her holding my face and saying “I love you, Tyrone”…

   Running…

Okay… I said I’d get back to my particular issue I’ve been fighting, this past year. If you’ve kept up, you’d see I have been on a very public, emotional roller coaster. I did so purposely because as I have stated before, as an author I am both a public and a private figure. My writing buddies urge me to write because it would have helped me deal with the loss of my wife. I didn’t believe them but being a creative type person, I know that if we do not engage in our creative abilities we go bananas. So I use that as my process over the past year… though it has seemed to be a rollercoaster ride. There has been one running theme, loneliness. I have tried everything I could think of to escape the inescapable. I continued our date night, it’s morphed into a date night with our youngest. It is now our own thing. For our weekly time, marriage Mondays, I’d  often tried watching something we watched… it didn’t work well. Our Friday night ritual Remains the Same. A movie and wine… after work,it’s  all I can do. But I still missed the companionship of a woman. It took me some months but I couldn’t take the silence of my wife’s daily text, lunchtime text, photos of her at lunch or walking… or our usual banter(*my children will be modified by the following picture I will spare you all her response).

 I joined some online dating sites just to talk to someone. Boy, was that a mistake! Just when I thought I met a pen pal… poof they were gone or nuts. Dude, one said she love Jesus, told me the church she went to then ask for my astrological sign. I’m like, what…?!  Well, apparently it wasn’t going to work out when I told her I was born in May. Lol. I wasn’t looking for it to work out. I was looking for a conversation. That was during a phone call, the first day, the first time! Nothing I did changed the empty silence. There were nights when, I skipped pass the two glasses of wine, finish the bottle, had a great night’s sleep and woke up to the void. Because you can’t hide. It took me 11 months to learn to stop running. To embrace the feeling… I  was a lone wolf most of my life. Never thinking I’d be happy much less find love. I did. It’s gone. It hurts… I didn’t think I would make it through the night a year ago. I didn’t want to either… by God’s grace, I made it through a year. Most of the sting is gone. Most of the sting. I was reminded two day ago that everything isn’t over. The kid was making salad for dinner and sliced through her thumb. The walked into the kitchen and saw blood everywhere. Why? Because she panicked. Sharol always prided me for my calmness in the midst of a disaster. It really was just on the outside, inside I was always a nervous wreck. I talked my daughter through it, “okay, run some water on it. How deep is it..? Put the paper towel on it and squeeze tight to stop the bleeding…” while she was calming down. I had to think fast! This was going to a hospital trip… “okay, pick up the pepper and whipe off the table. Good she was something to occupy her mind. I quickly changed clothes and got to the hospital. I was fine until… the realization. I was in the same ER with her mother a year ago. My daughter laid her head on. When the doctor called us in, I started to have a small panic attack, my trouble breathing turned into me crawling up the walls. I can’t do this again. This can only be seen by me. So I thought. “Dad your doing fine“… She ended up getting 5 stitches. When we were done and about to leave, the kid said “You did goodand Im alive” then stuck out her hand for a high five…

      She fell asleep on the couch. Like her mom, I couldn’t help but watch her sleep, keep watch.  Monday reminded me, dear reader, you can’t, I can’t, we can’t, run away. Things are going to happen to us… for me, the adjustment of loss and living life, like many of you, it is a process. Though tedious at times, nevertheless it is a process that must happen. 

       I leave you with(click) these encouraging words from Sharol that she spoke to our daughter who was turning 13 at he time. I won’t be writing about this again, unless perhaps it ends up in one of my books. I thank you, my dear readers, for following and reading along with this season of my life. Thank you for your encouraging comments. I pray that at the very least, one of you were encouraged, felt normal. Being the surviving spouse is no easy task but we can get to the other side of grief.

Until next time…

“Without Her: The Fate of The Furious…”

 

     What is the Fate of the Furious?  11 months later and 2 years after our last ride together…

      I recently saw the latest thrill ride from the Fast and Furious sequels. Because I’m like my dad and like cars that go zoom! I was not disappointed. Before going, as usual I ran through the series at home. Most of which I’ve seen at the very least, 4 to 5 times each. Some I’ve seen in the theatre 3 times. What can I say, I like muscle cars and the thunder roaring engines. Pops was the mechanic, I just love to fly… I mean, drive. My wife loved thrillers, a well told drama and… action films! Uncommon to most women, she like things that go boom! Films where the anti-hero and hero went through hell and and high water and still survived. Films where butts were kicked and names were taken. Films where you could feel the rush of blood. Often tears followed the triumphant hero. It didn’t matter if it were male or female, just that they were a fighter, much like herself. But don’t get it wrong, she was a Flight Plan kind of a woman but all feminine to. Think of it like this… her locs let down, long drape earrings hanging down the length of her neck, a beautiful but comfortable dress, and mc boots! The older girls would tease her about going out with me wearing Crocs with a dress. Neither of us cared. She needed comfort and functionality. Heck, have you watched Last Man Standing? She loved the wife’s clothes, but she also loved Lindsey from Chicago PD.  She even bought a pair of Lindsey-like boots. Lindsey is a butt kicking detective in the Intelligence Squad.  So, you can see the appeal and identification with the likes of Letty, Lindsey and  Trinity.  And the affinity for the love stories that came with those women.

 She was also the kind of women that didn’t mind to be rescued by a man. A big, beard wearing muscle bound, manly man. Or just a manly man. Boy oh boy was she excited to see Gerard Butler shoot his way through every bad guy, to save the president in Olympus has Fallen. Also proud when Aaron Eckhard who played the president, stood up to the terrorist. We both cried when the helicopter crashed and Angela Bassett died in London has Fallen. Never in my wildest nightmares did I think that, that scene would play out in real life…our life, three months later. 

March 16, 2016 We went to see “London Has Fallen” another awesome date. I loved being out with her.

      Our emotions are raw and on the surface during movies and TV shows when we are invested in the characters. When they become real to us because of our experience or just great acting and directing. Fast and Furious had that effect on us.

     I was a Paul Walker fan long before the films. Sharol found him later (just like Liam Neeson), and when the on scene friendship developed between Brian and Dom so did her affinity for the relationship of Dom and Letty.  We continued through the films and they all became family to us. Paul Walker ‘s death shocked her and rocked me. Now as a fan, I wondered what the fate of the Fast and Furious was. As a writer, I was scared because the film was halfway done. But they pulled it off. But not before killing off Giselle and leaving Han like me, broken hearted. Then later killing off  Han. So, now Revenge was the driving force of 7… It ends with a farewell to Paul Walker.  Now, the series was without it’s principal character, and an uncertain future for the rest the of films… and the two of us in tears, sitting in the theatre long after the credits rolled by. We left out and Sharol wanted to take a picture with cast cut out. Standing like them, being part of them. One of those, is up above… 

      Friday April 14th, marked the 10th month without her, the opening day of Fast and the first time my ride or die partner wasn’t with me…. we wondered what would happen without PaulHan and Giselle. I found out alone. More on that later. Firstly, dear reader, I want you to understand why this film is the backdrop this month’s reflection and why it’s important to me. If you follow one of the storylines, Letty and Dom to be exact. You find that they were  teenage lovers, they grew up together and had a deep love for one another. They fought for each and for their love. They went from poverty to wealth together, from committing crimes to fighting crimes together. And of course, they raced together too… Thick and thin, ride or die, side by side. You still don’t get it? It’s classic, It’s us, partnered up against world protecting one another and family. When Letty died, we felt it. When they found her alive, we couldn’t wait for Dom to go get her. And he did! He literally few through the air, propelled by love, to save her. When he shot over the bridge, slammed together Letty, embraced her and crashed onto the hood of the car, Sharol tearfully  said “that’s love”.  In one film, Letty says “Where you go, I go”, it’s what’s Sharol said to me when we got married…

   The Fate of the Furious…

       We wondered and I found out. I also wondered what would happen to me without her. The cast as well as my family have changed. There’s less of us. And the series went dark… Dom without his family is a more than a formidable, dark, opponent. Everything he is and was, when use for evil instead of good, is not someone you want to screw around with. Likewise, I find that without her voice, touch, hand in mine… without Sharol’s love, I am no longer, Chase. I’m the darker man, the lone wolf, Maverick. The one I was before her, before Jesus, the drifter. Coming and going when it pleased me. The man in the dimly lit ally, although grey haired, you don’t wish to cross. I frighten myself at times when I think of how far I can go. How long before I’m raging in anger? How long before I quit my job and live by my old motto, FTW (!@$ the world)? At what point will I snap and tell that annoying loud co-worker, to “shut the *^$ up!!!? Not only did Christ change me, brought me Sharol. I strived to be the best human possible with her. Her presence calmed me, her touch relaxed me, her voice made me aware that I was loved and all of these things made me “a better version of me” I feel myself slipping away… seriously, like, I’m 5 minutes away from telling my agency to kiss my butt and walk away until I can’t walk anymore…

 At one point in The Fate  Letty catches up with the Dom. She looks him in the eyes while they’re in the ally…”I don’t know why you’re doing this. But I know that you love me…” trying to reach him and pull him back to them, back to the family. I immediately remembered and felt Sharol’s hands cupping my face, her eyes shifting behind her glasses, searching my face “I love you Tyrone. You know that, right? I love you” I kind of felt myself being pulled back from the edge. The ebb and flow of the past 11 months have changed me. I feel it. Not sure how much or what I’m becoming or what I might be returning to, neither do I know what my future looks like. How long can I go… how long can I remain sane without the daily presence? A famous study was done years ago. It studied new born babies and the effects of the babies that were held vs those left to themselves. Well, it didn’t go so well for the babies that weren’t held.  Will I become Jesse Stone and live and drink by myself on some lonely island. Or like Walt Longmire whose daughter visit periodically to check on him. Enjoying an occasional uncomfortable date and no more, because he can’t bear it, so he’s married to his job…? I’m becoming increasingly frustrated and Furious with the world around me, with no one to talk to about it or anything else. The 14 year is a cool road buddy… but our world’s are vastly different. She is steep in this pop culture, I am before the PC culture told me what to think and say. There are days when I feel like Tim Allen like I’m the Last Man Standing. I’m surrounded by tattooed eye brows and all things fake including our daily conversations. So what will become of this Furious dark man…? 

Camille Tea in Sharol’s cup. A gift I give her last year, she’d dropped the her old one.

        I’m now sitting at my desk during lunch finishing what I started a week ago. Chris Stapleton playing in my ears. Mother’s day just past and last week I couldn’t remember what we did last year or what I  got her. It wasn’t until I pick up, the tea cup off my desk Friday afternoon, when I remembered. I bought her a beautiful maxi dress and sandals, she wanted to wear it but was disappointed that it was too big. So it went back and the new size didn’t come in time for mother’s day. She brag about it on fb…. never got to wear it. Before mother’s day, my birthday was a week earlier and this month will end with memorial day. The weekend we spent around town, ending with shopping for new books… 

   New characters have been added to the Fast and Furious family. Dom found the power and drive to fight back against his tormentor, Cypher, who forced him to turn on his crew/family. When he fought back he was unstoppable! There will be many new characters in my life as well. Son in laws, grandchildren and so on. 

      When I sit and reflect, dear reader, on the past 11 months, I see that I’ve made it thus far, I have been granted the ability to enjoy some of life. I’m very slowly creating new memories and I don’t have to erase my life with Sharol to do it. In fact, every time I put the gear in drive I feel her with me. I’m doing what we always wanted to do, travel. I remember our talks on the road alone without the kids. The nights, we’d leave the kids in the hotel room and take the rental for a drive. I was in Lancaster Pa not too long ago to see Michael W Smith. As I drove down Lincoln Highway with my 14 yr old, I couldn’t stop smiling thinking about our last time in town. It was our anniversary and we took a drive. I looked over at the dashboard and like a movie, I saw Sharol’s big ol’  bare feet on it. Her skirt blowing in night air and her hand on my head rest massaging my neck, with a smile. Then I giggled because I remembered it as if it were happening at that moment. Seeing her laughing in the car while we sat in a parking lot next to the Waffle House. My mind jumped to many other car adventures we’ve  had. No matter what direction the hood points, the tires move, I feel her more on the road than I do at home… 

      In the end, dear reader, Dom is changed by Brian’s life. In real life Vin Diesel has been changed by Paul‘s life. I have been changed by my wife’s life and death. I’m getting used to her not being around. Used to not happy or comfortable with. You have to through the Jordan to get to the promise land. I’m sure this somewhat hellish existence, will turn out find. But like many of you I don’t like getting through this. As far as the furious dark side is concerned. Maverick went away the day a married Sharol. For now, I’ll stay the course that Abby and Chase laid out even if I ride alone for a while…

        .“Things are gonna be different…”

            Click above.   Until next time…


“Just A Thought”

    If you are easily offended by common sense analysis Or “triggered” when you hear something you don’t like. If racism or racist is the first thing that comes out your mouth for everything. Then you might want to stop reading. I am not responsible for your melt down. For the rest of you, let’s continue…
      Stop blaming outside forces for your situation. Clear your mind and think on this… you are poor and or living where you live because of your parents. For example, you grew up the Pj’s, 

trailer park,

  the wrong side of town

, you inherited that. Your parents moved there, possibly because it was all they could afford as a young couple Or a single parent. Perhaps they had little to no education. I mean, not enough education to pull them out of their situation. Raising you would make it even harder for them to save and move out. Did they give you siblings to play with while still living “there”… well, there’s no way they were getting out…

      Did they raise you to believe other ethnicities are smarter and better than you? That the deck is stacked so don’t even try? That school is okay but you need a real job? Did you have an educational opportunity but were held back, because your parents said there was no one there that look like you? Then this, is the continuation of the cycle of poverty…

     I told my kids “you don’t have to be what you are today, you can always change” We taught our children that a better education and a good career choice is their key to moving 2 or 3 maybe even 5 steps further than we did. We stressed reading at an early age, we filled our house and surrounded them with books, opening up worlds of possibilities to tbem. We set them at tables with folks in wheelchairs and with speech impediments. Japanese, Iowans, Canadiens, Ugandans, Kenyons, pastors, missionaries, prayer warriors. Our vacations were under the open sky with trees, sands of Jamaica, quiet mountains, the Amish Country and fresh air….but we live in the south Bronx. Surrounded by trucks, buses, smog, rats, roaches, gunshots, drug dealers and only two supermarkets and one fresh vegetable stand. This is where they were raised. Following blood trails into their building on the way home from school and church. Startled awake at night because we lived above the O.K Corral. Cars screeching, Sirens blaring, helicopters circling, cops swarming… Our children inherited this world because of their parent’s and grandparent’s choices.  We chose to move there but we never lived there. One of my Mantra was “there are bars on the windows not on your mine” basically telling the children, there’s no cause to act like prisoners or fools. We didn’t have, they didn’t have everything we wanted but our needs were met… and when from time to time, our needs weren’t met, we lived. There was never a thought of doing anything criminal for a loaf of bread. At one point I took my oldest son with me to stand of a long line at a local church food pantry. We brought home a massive can of beans, rice and such. We lived! With no shame! We made it through a slim year. We trained our children to be grateful for what they had but to always strive to do better…

      So how did we get here…? Mom’s and Pop’s. Mother in law, was an immigrant to the United States her daughter was a first-generation American. She assimilated well, excelled in education and was indeed a critical thinker. But she also made poor relationship choices as did I. My mother and father were born and raised in these united states. They dealt with and lived through Northern bigotry. My mother, was on her way to become a seamstress. She went to Fashion Needle trade High School which became Fashion Industry. My father, with an engineering mind, was a U.S Air force  mechanic and a Machinist. He went to Aviation High School. I inherited their mechanical and creative skills. But I also inherited poverty. The old man move to a house in lower Westchester. Mom’s raised two kids as a single mother  in the projects of the Northeast Bronx. The 60’s didn’t allow them to move too far ahead in life. As for my mother, public housing was a necessary choice on the budget she had. She was a factory worker at one point before she landed a city job. This was my starting point in life.

     I, on the other hand,

 wasted my talent and brains on drugs and alcohol during the 80’s. It took years to erase most of the damage I’d done to myself. After being homeless for about 3 years, I landed in the south Bronx and it’s where I met my wife. Both single parents raising two children. We married and had two more. She’d just finished law school, I was makimg due on public assistance. We made a plan, gained our Independence from public assistance in about 6 years. Then lived off what we made. We agreed on me finishing my own education. So, I worked hard to get my GED, BA and MS in a straight 6 year run. The plan was to move from where we were, to somewhere less noisy and congested perhaps another state. That always proved difficult because we had 6 kids. Their needs came before our savings. We didn’t have cable or anything like that because we chose to save what little we had for a yearly vacation…

    We taught the children  the value of money and the value of saving and the value in working hard. Never did we point to race, complexion or anything else for our position in life. True, had our parents known a little more, or had it a little easier or had the foresight, things may have been better. But their generation kicked down doors. Ours just had to walk through them. The excuses were over, it was/is our job to continue forward. My children would face bigotry on their own. But we refused to raise them with that sword over their heads. They saw the examples before them, parents that did not let anything stop them from succeeding in their goals. What they do with that as adults, is up to them.  But we gave them enough tools to Forge ahead… 

     Now, if any one of them want to use today’s pop culture lies and say its the government’s faults, minimum wage fault, it’s the color of their skin fault or anything else as a reason for not succeeding I would wholeheartedly slap them in the back of the head.  We are born where we are because of our parents. We live where we are because of our parents, we get out or gets stuck because of our parents. Their inability to move forward becomes our inability to live much less move forward. In the case of our parents and how we raised our children, it wasn’t about our inability to move forward but our ability to train and propel our children to move forward as did the generations of parents and our families did before us. It makes no sense at all and you shoot yourselves in the foot for generations to come, when you fail to push children to move forward. If you’re living in poverty, within at least one to two generations that could be done away with. You may not become filthy rich but that also depends on the educational level and the job choice of whatever family member that rises to become the first millionaire in the family. My bloodline is filled with creative types as well as Academia, so we may never be billionaires. But we’ll be professionals and small business owners and in the service industry. I have yet to see someone demonstrate my dad’s engineering skills but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist…

       All of the above can be said for the wealthy as well. Many had great ideas and created an empire. Some large enough to employ hundreds and thousands of people. Some inherited wealth because their parents bequeath them money through insurance or investments. That’s foresight by the way. What ever way the children received their wealth it was their parents that got them there. Unfortunately we have become an angry nation hating what we don’t understand and blaming others for our misfortune…. when the reasons are much closer than we think.

      I set across from my 14 year daughter  last Thursday when I thought to make this a fb post. I knew it was far too much. I started at home and finished in a hotel room. What sparked this thought???  We were sitting in IHOP when she said she wants to sell candy in school. 

Yes! I thought, I’ve been trying to get her older siblings to do it for years. Anyway, I agreed. We discussed profits and overhead cost and how to be competitive. One school mate only sells to his Mexican brethren. The other, a girl, sells a variety of candy for a buck. I said he cornered the niche market and told her how she can steal the other girls clients. “If you sell yours for 75 cents, not only would you build your business but you’ll gain her customers as well” Hey, what dad wouldn’t teach his kid that? So, since she’s not overly competitive at the moment( just give it time) we agreed on the $1 pricing. But I added that she should add something to her box that her competitor doesn’t have. We shook hands on a deal between us. I would front the cost of 2 to 3 boxes of candy, she’d pay me back at the end of the school. Plus I get a small share of the profits, 10 cents off of each bar sold…
     These principles that we teach or lack thereof, are for the future but the decisions are made now. Not everything is about somebody else doing something to us but about us making choices.

      Until next time….

“Without Her: Sacred Dust”

The infamous Box. Next to a can of chicken, she was hiding from our eating machine son; for my lunch.

       I have picked up my pen several times, placed the pad in front of me and yet, I haven’t been able to finish anything. Is it because my muse is missing? Is it laziness? Is it grief? Or perhaps a combination of all of the above…

      Last time, dear reader; I spoke briefly about “the past two months” when I was done I thought, you know; I have another topic I wanted to touch on. So, here we go… put your feet up and relax. 

      There is a show my 14 year old daughter and I like to watch called This Is Us. About two or three months ago we watch an episode where the doctor; that delivered the babies had to deal with loneliness  and his inability to move on/ more forward, after losing his wife. His adult children were concerned about his lack of joy with life and how the house remained the same since his wife died. Kind of like my 14 year old, “daddy, you need to have fun. You should go out” I did. I went to two birthday parties… I think I told you about one of them. The first was with coworkers, I was out of place and uncomfortable. Clubs, are just not my thing. I don’t like crowds, I’m more a an intimate small gathering guy. The second party was just that, small is something I can deal with. Yet, of course I was uncomfortable. My oldest son is a master of working the room, something he inherited from my dad. In these situations, I tend to slip in and out unnoticed. My coworker calls it an Irish wake. More on the party later, I’m going off road…

     Anyway, there’s a scene where the doctor is talking to his wife but she’s not at the table. He fills her in on the latest happenings with the grand kids. To the ordinary viewer or anyone else, he probably looks like he’s losing his mind. But the truth is and many of you reading may have experienced this; that he was continuing the routine in his life. It was keeping him sane. Her medicine was still in the bathroom cabinet and on the dresser. Her things were all in the places where she left them…

      I shook my head in agreement because Sharol’s t-shirt, yoga pants and bra are still on the hook behind our bedroom door. Her towel is on the hook next to it and my towel on the left hook beside it. Her shoes spread across the bedroom floor. I stop tripping over them though, I’ve learn to navigate around them now(it’s okay you can laugh). Her clothes still on hangers, bleeding over to my side of the closet. Yep, still taking over the closet. Mostly everything the way it was. Even the silly empty cough medicine box… well,actually I put that on her bookshelf months ago and laughed at her when I did it.

    Okay, let me explain, for years we have been pulling simple pranks on one another. Every so often we get a good run,the box happened to be one of them. Once while she was asleep I wrote my name on her arm. She returned the favor. I don’t remember who started the nail polish thing, it was probably me. Painting her nail an odd color. Well, I woke up one morning with my big toe chocolate brown. After the initial freakout, because obviously I thought something was wrong; I laughed and we went about our day. So, there was no time for payback. I forgot about the toe nail until  I had a podiatry appointment a few days later. The doctor looked at my feet then up at me. Yes, go ahead; dear reader and laugh. We would put notes in each other’s bags from time to time or leave it where it would be discovered later. Not all can be discussed with you. There was this one time I wrote in a book that she would read to the baby… it didn’t get discovered until the baby was a preteen. Lol. 

     So, the box started with throwing something at each other, playfully  of course. Our bedtime could turn into a kindergarten class at times. I can’t recall if it was a piece of paper or a sock. Anyway, Sharol was falling asleep and I retaliated. I slipped the box under the blanket. She opened her eyes… I walked around the bed and a flash of green and white whipped by me and bounced off the wall. This meant war! I busted(don’t be a grammar nazi) out laughing. We laughed and went to sleep. The box eventually ended up; tucked into her underwear she was planning to wear that was out on the bed, in my shoe which I didn’t find until 2 days later, in her bag where her keys goes, the hood of a coat, on my pillow one night and so on. Lastly, after packing clothes to bring her home from the hospital, I slipped it in with the clothes. When she saw it in the hospital, she sucked her teeth. If you’ve been around people from the Caribbean you know the sound. She gave me that I got you look. It was in the bag when she came home, no doubt planning her next attack. Not sure if she got me back but I had the last laugh. I put it on the her bookshelf…

        Out of habit, like the doctor I sometimes look over at her picture and say goodnight. Last summer  I bought a wall decal that reads Always kiss me good night.  Something we’d do most nights. Many years ago; because you realize you’re getting older, we purposed do that just in case. So, you know what happens after being married for a billion years, right? You start by kissing lips, then it’s the forehead, the hands, the shoulders, elbows; hey sometimes you’re just too tired to turn and reach the lips. Lol. Some of you know what I mean. There were nights when the only thing we could do was reach out in the middle of the bed and hold hands. That was followed by snoring. 

    Sacred dust…      Not only is that silly box there but there are other things still in its place. Perfumes, pennies and the hospital basin that came home. All collecting sacred dust. You know, I didn’t even think about it until my grandson came for a visit. Where’s Nana? He often ask me. Then he runs off before he gets an answer. So, he picked up a plastic container that has an accordion plastic tube connected to it. If know someone with asthma you’ll recognize the device. Sharol had blow into it. He touched it and my brow furled. My first instinct was to grab it but I didn’t. He asked what it was and like usual the ants in his pants, had him dancing around the room. 

    I didn’t know it then but that plastic piece of nothing had become a Sacred Relic …something we should be very careful not to let happen. When the revelation slapped me, I was reminded of a conversation we had about Facebook. About not leaving messages to one another when the other dies. Because neither could read it. She and I were adamant about not doing it. We’ve seen others do it but thought we should focus on other things. It was always a strange thing to us. For me personally, it’s like lighting a candle for the dead. Dear reader, you may do this as a practice, that’s cool for you and most likely is part of your faith. It’s not part of mine so please don’t be terribly offended. Do your thing. I was told a long time ago that I didn’t have to get rid of her things right away. Take as long as you want. Take years if you need to. He said. The latter is is bit impractical… 

     I had gotten to the point when it was time but didn’t have time to do so. My reaction to my grandson, signaled to me that day, that I was in a dangerous place. I had made sacred that which was not. Not a good head space, like those in a time bubble or an endless loop. I’ve seen and heard many people over the past few months stuck in a loop. This came about as well meaning folks wished to comfort me…by trading death stories.  The lord knows and Sharol few that, that’s not a head space I need to be in. The horror some folks live with. They replay the endless loop of an argument or telling someone they wished they would die, some disappointment. It is hard enough living with regrets when the people is alive. But when they’re gone some people are stuck with their  finger on replay. I have no idea how to advise or help them. Except as I have said before, seek out grief counseling.

    Anyway, back to what I was saying. Like the doctor on the show. We are men a little out of step from another time. There was a neighbor and friend that didn’t live to far from him. She’d seen the doctor in the store and greeted with a smile. She even invited him over and offered to make him lunch. He said “Hi” then carried on. Well, his children mentioned her to him and he waved it off. Basically saying the woman wasn’t interested in him. Even though she did offer to cook for him. The doctor got frustrated with his children. Telling them not to tell him what to feel. They had been married for over 20 years… He was right but so were they. He later started clearing out the cabinets and had that lunch.

        *(I’d written most of this a month ago. Which is why I  thought I told about the party. I hadn’t typed it) 

The party… so I got invited and the kid says “So…are you going?” I eventually answered the nagging child, with “I don’t know. It’s not my thing, I haven’t been to a club in nearly 30 years” I went. Like any single parent I texted a thousand times. “I’m here” “Are you okay?, what are you doing?”  Her text, “So how is it?” At about 9pm I text her “I’m  ready to go to sleep” Lol. I didn’t even know any of the music either. See, a man of step and time. As mentioned earlier, the second party was more intimate. Oh, and with music I knew! Lol. But like the first one I was oddly out of step. I eventually warmed up and talked to people I knew. Then… someone I didn’t know came in. I found myself wanting to talk, but was way out of practice on how to strike up a conversation. Well, it started somehow and I was intrigued. She had a great sense of humor and timing. When I got home of course that child of mine grilled me. When did I become the child? Shh… don’t tell her, but I’ve wondered if there would another time when I’d run into that lady again. 

     Like the doctor, dear reader; I know the things I need to do and they’re  getting done. Again, I don’t sit around moping and crying for days. But there are things that trigger memories and this episode was one of them. I thought you’d find it interesting. Some of you are like me, you have businesses to run and children to raise. So, like in Nehemiah, building a wall with and sword on their side and a tool in their hands. So, we mourn and work. Laugh and remember fondly while continuing to live life. Hey, by the way, before we go. I did get to those clothes, some big girl in a shelter or in need will be blessed. As always, our life as a living witness of God’s love. However, we were ready to leave the house and all of the sudden out of nowhere, I couldn’t breath. A mad rush of emotions flooded me. It lasted about 10 minutes. I reached out in prayer to the lord and found him there as always. For a moment I envied my coworker who’d just lost her husband a few weeks ago and others who donated clothes and things immediately. But, that wasn’t how it was meant to be for me…

     Back to my opening statement, which I know you forgot and I don’t want to leave sitting there in tears. It is a combination of all of the above.  The joy of writing has returned but my muse is missing. I often wrote for an audience of one, Sharol. Now, I’m learning to do it alone without my in-house cheering squad and it started with you. The only thing I could write for a long time was this blog about this strange new season of my life. Good news, I’ve been  writing a New short story for the past month.  Thank you, dear reader and my author buddies for convincing me to continue writing. 

Ripley’s on 42nd Street

Until next time…

“Beloved”

    On the road again. Sitting in the hotel room with Michael W Smith playing in the background;I looked over the pile of pillows to see my daughter reading a book. A deep engulfed trance. She’s reading a novel written by a Mennonite author, it’s my book actually but I let her check it out while I sat quietly and started  writing. We were waiting for dinner, our reservation was for 6pm;this would be followed by seeing Michael W Smith in concert…
     I watched her unplugged from the world, there was a peace in her countenance. Oh how I hoped she could see the value in just turning off the noise of this loud world we live in. There aren’t many teenage girls willing to put down their phones and put social media in it’s place…in the background of real life. 

   As I watched her I replayed  a few of her many questions. “Can I dye my hair blue?”, “Can I put on my makeup when we get there?” the words echoed in my brain. I smiled a little, this kid is crazy I thought. On the other hand, at least it’s not a tattoo at 14. I don’t know how some of you deal with that. She’s been after me about makeup for a few months now. A couple of months ago she said “I asked mommy but she said I had to ask you”… We ended with, not until you’re 16. But you can practice at home. No posted photos! But, I also gave/give her opportunity to wear makeup when we’re out on a date or special occasions.

   The concert opened with Nathan Tasker, I’ve heard of him but he music and humor warmed the soul. Next up was Jordan Feliz, now I’ve never heard of him either, but there was a song I’ve heard on the radio. His music and performance was filled with energy. Jordan, said he had recently become a father of a little girl and he thought of the world she would grow up in, he wanted her to know how loved she was and have the strength to stand. He wrote a song her and all of us, dear reader:

       “… you are essential, not accidental and you should realize, you are beloved. I wanted you to know, you are beloved. Let it soak into your soul. Forget the lies you heard, rise above the hurt and listen to these words. You are beloved…” –Beloved by Jordan Feliz from the album, The River. 

     As a junior high school girl about to enter high school as a freshman; who just lost her mother  suddenly and in front of her. A creative mind with a wicked dry sense of humor and decent human being, if there is one message I want to convey to her before God calls me home, it is; know the God of your mother and father and know how much he loves you. Jordan is right, his little girl as mine has already experienced, will be told some really stupid messages from the world around her. “Too fat”, “Too black…”, “not black enough”, “you’re not cool enough”, “your hair is fake…”. Now, there are some things that my daughter will hear, that are unique to her culture and ethnicity. The point still reminds, to herself, ourselves, is to see as God sees us. Worthy and worth his love…

     After the concert we stop for some pie, we took it back to the room. She was tired, in fact I saw her dosing off in her seat; but she wanted to finish her drawing when we returned to the room. She did. I started the beginning of this post… I thought back to when I first became a Christian over 24 years ago and how things; including the world, has changed. Not all for the good. I came to faith years ago as a relationship ended and I was a newly minted single father of two small children, ages 2 and 4 going 3 and 5. I immediately took them to church with me. On Tuesday night’s the 3 of us would pray for the world, missionaries, family and friends. We’d read(I read) letters from missionaries around world. We supported them and other ministries on a non existent budget. I was on public assistance at the time but thought I still had more than most of the world. Churches in those days knew who they were… 

    Fast forward to today. The exposure my older children had to Christian living in all of its various forms. As well as teaching them to be generous, caring human beings, is pretty much extinct. The guiding principles were part of everyday life. Not so anymore. We as a country as well as pop culture, have accepted and created  a world of hate. Not from any one source but from all sources. So, the advent of social media; not to mention the agenda to push it on younger and younger children, is making it harder and harder to help children both girls and boys, grow up well adjusted. It really doesn’t matter whether you raise them in your faith or in a secular home. Gay sexual themes are in their faces far before you can explain to them how their own bodies work. Political agendas are pushed in younger grades, where they were never taught in school at all…

Lancaster Pa. Stopping for ice cream on the road, heading home. 4/9/2017

  So, when the opportunity arises to take my kid to her first rock concert comes or to expose her to something new, I do it. Not because we’re friends but because she’s far too precious to allow pop culture to dictate to her what a good time is. Mind you, it is a small window but as we taught our older children. The Feds study the real bills in order to spot a counterfeit. As she gets old enough to make her own decisions she’ll be able to spot the pop culture lies.

     The blue hair thing isn’t off the table…but… I’m not totally convinced its the best idea. We’re researching how it could be a less permanent thing. For the moment, it’s nail salons and occasional make-up. That’s all this dad can stomach. A few months ago I took her to see her first horror movie followed by a rated R film. I let her chose but it was a guided choice. So we saw, Split and Get Out.   Honestly they were far more funnier than serious. We laughed until we had a headache. It also opened up a discussion about her teacher’s statement. Read and listen carefully, dear reader. One of her teachers said she wanted  to see “Get Out” but didn’t think she could because she “..is a white person”. How ridiculous have we became, that folks think that there’s a qualification to see a film? Like, really?! After we both laughed at the stupidity  I shared with her how the other day; while working on a short story I’m in the middle of, I changed I line then thought what the heck am I doing.  How did I let Pop and PC culture dictate my art?  This is what wrote: “I loved the juke around the fat guy and the dog lady” I immediately said to myself, you can’t say that, I was about to strike it out then said “screw that!”. I ended up writing that mental conflict into the scene with the characters. Heads up, it doesn’t end well. As it doesn’t in real life anymore either.  We’ve painted ourselves into a corner where honest conversation has been replaced with careful words and beating around bushes. That’s the reason why the teacher felt disqualified to see a movie and fools tell women of a certain ethnicity, that they can’t wear hoop earrings….

    See, dear reader, Jordan’s song is great and necessary message for his daughter, my daughter, our sons and ourselves. To view ourselves as a Beloved creation from a creator that views us as being worthy of his love. If you/we can understand that, then the media would be put in its place and young lives would be less tortured by pop culture’s dictates. 

4/9/2017 taking a picture while the kid took one.

     By the way, dear readers; I told my daughter she would be part of my subject this time. She’s okay with it. Usually on long rides the kids would put in their ear buds. This time we enjoyed the same music, whatever I played. At one point, as a treat for her and torture for (Lol) I through on Spotify and let her choose the music(psst I also get to hear what she’s listening to)….oh, dear lawd! First, I gotta admit, Adele has agreat voice it’s something I could listen to…I probably won’t. Simply because I find that today’s pop music all sounds the same and I’m not a pop guy. Which brings me to, “Adele radio”, again oh lawd! My great frustration with internet radio, the lineup of “similar artist”. We eventually, ended up with just Adele, thankfully. Oh…and better that than Radio Disney! God bless you, poor reader, who’s children use that form of torture. 

    So, did it work? Did the message of God’s love for her get through? Does she know how beautiful she is, especially in God’s eyes? Will it be enough to  strengthen her character and combat PC and pop culture’s bs? I don’t know, dear reader; only time will tell. In the meantime, I’ll keep training her to spot the counterfeit. We have a task before us, fellow parents but don’t give in and don’t give up the fight… 

        click on it:   You are beloved  

Until next time….

“I Love You”

I Love You… 

Three big, little words. Big in it’s meaning or meanings but small in a sense; in the amount of words and effort it takes to write or say the sentence. It is the sentence that every woman as well as every man in love wants to hear. Every child wants to hear their parents tell them these three words, even though they may not know why. There is, some sort of comfort in these words, some strange sense of …a warm blanket or blankie on a cold night. Words uttered on a death bed or last dying breath, give us a sense of comfort knowing that the person leaving truly loved us. But do we really know what love is?

love These three words make many of us uncomfortable to hear and say. I am at the top of that list. Yet, like others I love just as deeply as the next person. My wife wouldn’t have been with me if I didn’t. But she knew how I felt and I also told her. I thought about writing this for some time now but hadn’t had time nor was I making the time to do it. But I found myself forced to write on this subject. Why? Because a dear friend of mine went away for a while… it’s not the first time we have been separated. But twice I went through the same thing, this time more pronounced though. I couldn’t figure it out and then it hit me about 4 days later…

happy-married-couple

The dictionary defines love as a feeling of strong affection or an attraction based on sexual desire. The latter definition is where most people’s understanding of Love exist. Rarely, does a person see love without a sexual desire attached to it. It is that thinking, that causes a heap of trouble. We often jump straight to sex in a relationship and when it sours, so goes the relationship. Now, the dictionary did attempt to give more than just one meaning for love. But the Greeks did it much better , in fact, they have 4 to 6 different meanings for the word love. 05-secrets-of-happily-married-couples-kids        storgē  that familiar feeling, for instance the love  parents have for children and children towards their parents. That “I know you, you belong to me” kind of love. Agápe is one of the highest forms of expressive love. The greatest example is God’s love towards us, God’s love for mankind/humans. It is a verb, it is the command to do, is it the unconditional, it is the charity, it is the love that compels us to stop and buy a sandwich for that hungry person. When Jesus said to love one another it was not only a command but it was this kind of love he meant.

Senior man giving woman piggyback ride

Dear reader, are you starting to see that there is more to these 3 little words? Is it becoming clearer that perhaps the entertainment industry is just absolutely wrong in what they purport is love. Anyway, let’s move on.

Philía …ah.. though we have Heard it translated as the brotherly love, it means friend.  marriedPhilia is a deep love for a friend, friendship love. That deep connection to the one that makes you laugh, maybe gives good advice. They are probably the first shoulder you cry on. The friend you can rely on, someone you feel an affinity for but never thought of your closeness as love. This isn’t a sexual thing, this is not a same sex attraction thing. When I was in my teens I had a homeboy/friend whom I would have done any for and likewise. We were inseparable, if you saw me, Larry was not far behind. He also had some fine older sisters to (that’s a different kind of love). His mother loved me as her own, always offered food and kindness. I’d help her upstairs with her groceries when she came into the building. Once I was so high (don’t tell my mother she doesn’t know this story) I couldn’t move or go anywhere. I think it was my first time…before that I didn’t smoke weed or did drugs and my friend always protected me from it. When someone tried to pass me the joint Larry would say “Ty doesn’t smoke” then I’d be passed a beer instead. As far as I knew he didn’t smoke either, so the day I saw him, my ace, my best friend smoking a joint I was heartbroken. The next time someone offered it to me I took it and it didn’t end well for me. In it’s truest form Larry’s philia love kicked up a notch. He protected me from further harm. He took me home, well his to house and I slept in his brother’s bed. His brother was a bouncer at a local club, so he wouldn’t be home that night. Larry checked on me to see if I was cool ,the next thing I remember was him waking me up so that we could get to school. After our friend, who was the youngest of the crew, died tragically; we all split into different directions. I plunged into work and walked away from school…

asian-couple Now, philia can lead to other kinds on love, we’ll get to that later. But for now let’s move on because you are probably wondering what happened to me “4 days later…

As I stated earlier, a friend went away and all of a sudden I felt this strange feeling. Now I couldn’t put my finger on it but when I did it was like an elevator had a sudden dropped. If you’ve been in one when that happens, you get the analogy. Your heart skips, you reach for the sides, your eyes widen, you’re thrust into a panic “this can’t be happening!!”…but it is. I have known of this person for at least 3 years but didn’t get to know them until about 4 or 5 months ago. Over those months I discovered the enjoyment of life again. A month or so ago, we grabbed some dinner before going home to our families. While we were talking, somehow Sharol (my late wife) came up, I didn’t realize I had never told her the story. I went into the full details, something I hadn’t done since talking to the doctors at the hospital, when I saw the shocked look I knew that we hadn’t talked about it before. But I enjoyed the time, it was casual, no pressure to perform. We’ve talked many times about the world we both work in and other things, like my very short trip into the world of online dating. Never again!  But isn’t that what friends are for? Sharing time together. So, what was my issue? I had gotten into a funk, a blue mood if you will. Then a thought came to me I didn’t get a text today. It took a couple of days but while I was sitting next to my 13 year old daughter eating dinner, the elevator dropped. I told her what it was that had been troubling me and in true Bland sarcastic fashion, without skipping a beat, this kid said “Aww… you miss your best friend..?” We laughed. But she was right! I missed my friend! the proof, dear reader, was when I got a text later that night and my mood lightened. Now, I honestly don’t know if this friend feels as close to me as I do her. I have always been a loyal friend to my friends that doesn’t always mean our friends view us in the same light…6-fabulous-dating-tips-for-married-couples

Eros. The 4th and final of the Greek meanings I will deal with. Eros, is the intimate expression of love. The sexual expression of that close bond, the intense attraction of love that causes your mind, your body and your soul to explode with passion for the one that has you heart. It is this love that the entertainment industry parades in front of us and our children, as LOVE. They skip all the other expressions and meanings of love and head straight for the bed. So do most of us and we all lose out on a deeper relationship, friendship, companionship, something that lasts forever. Something, that every married couple knows. Charm and beauty won’t last, neither does sex! You will get old, you will get sick, the kids will leave your home, you will not always have money, someone will lose a job… one of you will die. If you base a relationship on sex as your expression of love or it is the only meaning of love you have, you are in grave danger. If you skip these, dear I say, stages of love, then you will not have a lasting relationship.

Listen, before I was Sharol’s husband and lover, I was just a choir mate. A friend who would talk about children’s TV shows , because we had young kids at home. We called each other at night and talked, many of those nights she fell asleep on the phone. Then came the feelings of wanting to do anything for her and with her. What followed was a different expression of love. I knew then that I wanted to marry her, but it all started slowly drawing our hearts together, moving through the multiple expressions of love. the-pearl-africa-story-teller-app One last thing, dear reader, before I go. Yes, love is a scary thing sometimes. Even scarier to admit that you feel love. Pop culture has all but destroyed love, it’s meaning, it’s purpose and it’s passion. It’s over use of the word and the twisted value of it, has made it meaningless. Yet, God has created in us this thing that draws us to seek after it. First from him and then from others. How ever which order you put it in, you are still drawn to it. Do I love my kids and family? Absolutely. Do I love my coworkers? Yes, and pray for them as well. Agape will do that to you. Do I you my friend? I absolutely do. Is it Eros?  No… It’s something much more, something that surpasses sexual attraction and only the grown-ups in the room understand that companionship is the greater love. It is the closeness that leads to marriage and Eros. So, sorry youngins’ it’s not the other way around. There were days when I walked down the streets or even sat at my desk in despair and out of nowhere, I’d get a text are you okay?  That was the Lord sending me a life raft. I’m sure she had no clue she was being used to brighten my day. Or on another day when I was feeling like the only person on planet I’d  get something like this, Hey, did you eat yet?  It is bread crumbs like these that opened a door and lead to a friendship that I have come to value. So much so, that when my friend went away I missed her terribly. This, dear reader, is the effects of love in all of it’s glorious Greek meanings. We can’t escape it because love in all of it’s forms surround us. If we have a better understanding of it, which I hope you have just gotten, then we can stop translating it into that despairing image of love that we see on screens… and enjoy a life of loving and being loved by others.

Until next time…love1

 

“Without Her: 7 Months Later”

Walking home across the Willis Avenue bridge. We went to dinner at a local restaurant (Perkins)and decided to walk home. 2015

  Hello, dear readers, a lot has happened since I last wrote to you. I started a “6 Months Later” but never posted it, I didn’t feel it and thought it’s better to write honest feelings, rather than write  something I forced out. Hey, if I’m gonna write about this stuff, that I really don’t want to do publicly, it should be truthful…

  6 months later…  I was sitting at my desk at work , checking my bank statement when I noticed a deposit. I Looked at the date and suddenly felt sick, it was the 14th.! The reason for the deposit was for a the loss of another’s life. And if you have loss your spouse to death, then you know  the feeling I’m talking about. It’s NOT a happy one. Some spiral into depression. I, slipped into deep blue mood. I immediately text my youngest child and told her we would be ordering the mattress she needed…it didn’t matter what we did with that little bit of change, it still came with a sickening feeling. It’s like coming late to work and your boss says  “I understand you’re going through a lot right now”. All I (or you too) could think of is, I got a pass because my wife died. People excuse you and give you an excuse. For some, they’ll milk it forever. Me? I’m not built like that. I was raised to stand on my own feet. Sure, today I’ll take the pass but I’m smart enough to know it won’t last forever. I reached for my blue pen and started filling out the withdrawal slip…I heard my coworker talking. The tears started. I was running late and stopped for breakfast, so I was eating and fighting the tears that wanted to fall at the same time. I walked in, and my boss said we were having a meeting. She was going away for the holidays and would be gone for 2 weeks…

So, my coworker turned to me and said we’re going back to the Bronx office. “Oh,@$%#$ no!!!” I thought. That place was horrible! Sharol had to literally lift me from the bed to get me to work. I was so depressed working there. I think I was more upset about going back there than anything else. I’d just spent 3 weeks there!!! I was so downcasted and didn’t have my counterbalance to help me through it. Dear reader, it was not a good morning. Uncharacteristic, I took to Facebook to complain! Many came to my aid with words of encouragement. My co worker said there was “nothing we could do” I said “I could and would quit!”…I meant it. I think he knew it too. We’d been working 9 to 9 for 7 days a week since November 9th. I had enough and hadn’t seen my daughter. I begin to plan our escape from the city…

 I went to the bathroom and cried, then begged God not to send me back there. When I returned to my desk , I was told that I was staying in my office. But many of my other coworkers were deployed elsewhere. Some I hadn’t seen in two months, more on that later. 

Escape from NY! Our first Christmas without Sharol.

I kept to myself for the rest of the day and It was an emotional lunch! 

Dec 14, 2016

Lunchtime at the Freedom Tower. Dec 14th 2016

Dec. 14th 2016 lunch at gound zero reflective footprint.

   I took a walk down to where the World Trade Towers used to stand. It was cold!!! But I wasn’t the only one dealing with loss that day… After my Facebook post, I learned some of my kids were having the same sort of day. I called Amtrak, our travel plans were set…

   The first Christmas without my wife was odd. My older children made plans to be away with their own family. I totally understood that and didn’t force the issue of us being together for the holidays. Thanksgiving was quiet, we met for brunch then parted ways. For Christmas we basically just went our own way. Guess what,its not uncommon for families to so after such a loss. This gives everyone and the family as a whole the opportunity to create  new traditions for the holidays. As for me, I took the two youngest to Washington D.C for the long weekend. It was odd without Sharol, but not too strange because the 4 of us had been traveling together for the past 4 or 5 years. So, we were just down one. I didn’t have Sharol by my side but… I had my two running bodies. We didn’t do much but it was a good time to be away from home and relax. 

Just Because… it’s what we do now. Amtrak bathroom, Selfie. Dec. 23, 2016

 7 months later:

       One day, when I was home alone, shortly before we left for the Christmas break. I signed up for Internet dating, no I didn’t tell my kids…but they know now. In short, this is not for me, I’m far too old school to find this form of meeting people useful or endearing. Within 48 hours I ran into 3 crazies! And blocked them all! One asked me for money to get her back to the U.S., she was in Ghana taking care of her 😉sick mother. That first experience set the stage for me. I don’t trust people to begin with, so this was NOT good. The second person to contact me 24 hrs later, had the same air about her… why would a beautiful 36 year old white woman  be interested in me I thought. Yeah…about that. Next! The third was the same. One week later, I gave up!. I miss talking to and dining with a woman and hearing laughter, after talking to a coworker he told me about another website, he was right it was better. I met someone…everything was fine for a week. She was kind, at times she reminded me of my wife.She laughed easily, had a brilliant smile, easy on the eyes too. She was totally compatible! But by the second week something broke. I left the city again for New year’s. I discovered something, a coworker told me once, that “you don’t want to either ” she was right. The subject was about me being a writer and needing the time to do it… what I’ve learned, is that I live a crazy, hectic life right now. I work for the state but I’m employed by the ciry. My job at times comes with a high level of stress. My world is communications , politics to be exact. And  as much as I want to be normal or live a normal life. The truth is, I don’t want to. My wife is with Jesus and I have nothing to (pleasantly) distract me from writing. Something I really want to do and I’m also fascinated by the world I work in. I don’t have the time, nor do I wish to give the time it takes to build a relationship from the ground up. Something that requires me to spend hours on a phone or video chat. I will be far too consumed by words over the coming months. Sharol understood this,but we were also married for 19 years. It took time for us to become what we were. That means starting all over again… It would be incredibly hard for a woman to deal with my lifestyle and artist moods. 

    Yes, I long to hold hands but… there’s so much I want to do. I once wrote that I didn’t know who I was without Sharol.I know now. I am a single dad, a single man…free to do whatever my God has for me. Free to enjoy life. I enjoy hanging out with and having lunch with my coworkers. One such lunch buddy I hadn’t seen for nearly 2 months, we were deployed to different locations. On New Year’s eve morning we had breakfast together. I said “hey, you wanna have  breakfast with me to say goodbye to 2016” the answer was “yes“, we had a nice time talking and eating. Then we parted. Would I like more? Absolutely!, but it’s  all I have to give  right now. This discovery, was hard to swallow. I don’t want to be alone, but I didn’t pick Sharol, God did, I can’t trust my heart. So, for now I’m going to trust Jesus to once again open my eyes to the one he has for me. If, like her, it’s someone I already know, someone right under my nose… Someone willing to come along side of me, love me, go where I go and eventually  send me home to the Father, Sharol and all those who went before me. Then that would be awesome. 

Dec. 26, 2016 teaching the kids how to play pool. In D.C.

D.C. Metro station. 2016

Show off our rings. Dec 24, 2016 dinner at a China Town, Washington DC.

Christmas dinner at Legal Seafood. Washington DC Dec. 25, 2016

  At the moment dear reader, I’m enjoying time with my two youngest children, looking for a new place to live  and still opened to whomever the lord my have for me. But I am also going to focus on my book right now. Who knows…maybe next week I’ll change my mind. But for now, my relationship plane is a holding pattern. This widower’s  life is an odd one. Wait. I failed to mention that we who have lost our spouse, not only feel guilty for living but often feel as though we’re cheating on our spouse. It’s crazy, right? Yep. But like I said, it’s an odd life for us.

Until next time…

“Without Her: Friday Night Booze and Bluez”

Atlanta, Ga in my Sandy Springs apartment. With friend and neighbor, Cat; I was 23 years old.

   It started with one glass then another then another and another…

    Like a fisherman I casted out my text to see who would bite. I was in the mood to talk. There was a lot on my mind and I needed someone. It was a long  day. I just wanted to go home and  commence with the Friday night ritual…two glasses of wine and a movie. The text from the therapist earlier to confirm our appointment, set the blue mood I was now in. The thought of finally talking about Sharol and the loss, unfortunately just depressed me. I wasn’t nervous, just unsure about opening up a can of worms. I told my daughter I didn’t feel like sitting outside, I wanted to be alone for a bit. Maybe I’d come out and watch a movie later. Perhaps I should have just watched a movie. What followed was nowhere near anything good, at least for me anyway.

    I waited, but no one texted me back. I finished the first glass and laid down on the bed and started watching Chicago PD  on my phone. I poured the second glass…now my mind was calm. My usual eradicate thoughts were in a single focus…

    The first text ring in…then the next and then another. I was watching PD and having three conversations at once. Then a fourth! The therapist cancelled our appointment! First, I find out that the church that Sharol and I started to attend just closed its doors. Some other silliness happened earlier and now, a cancelled appointment, after opening up a crappy can of “feelings” worms. Are you kidding me!?!! The second glass was done…the texting continued. Unfortunately, the more relaxed I became, the more I felt. Lost…alone… missing the woman whose picture I was staring at. The bedroom door was closed and my pajamas on…the text went on. One conversation was encouraging, the other made me laugh and I needed that, the other was familiar…it took me back to a place I hadn’t been in a while. I liked that feeling. I waited to hear from the other two. But the last one, that was nice. I was compromising myself, my integrity, my faith and my heart. It felt great. Doesn’t sin always feel good?  

Text one, was about business, well the business I’m in. Text two, continued to make laugh and smile…as hard as its been, I enjoyed laughing. Text three, continued to take me down a dark path… 

   Sharol used to jokingly say”I’m glad I didn’t know you when you were younger”… she was right and I don’t think we would have attracted one another. I was a little free spirited, lack massive confidence, filled with pain and constantly battling depression and had many ambitious plans. Oh…I forgot to mention, always drinking, all day and many times high on something…

   I have survived many things this year, but the cancelled appointment was the proverbial straw. I poured another glass of wine exceeding, me and Sharol’s agreedupon two glass limit. I drink with malice. There was nothing I cared about at that moment. I wasn’t trying to wash away my pain, in fact I wanted to feel; feel the lost, feel the abandonment, feel the shock of that Tuesday night when she slipped into eternity in my hands. I’m not a person that can easily relax. My mind runs millions of miles a second. So I’m always in a constant forward motion. Years ago when I suffered from severe anxiety attacks, the medication that I was given help me to relax and for the first time in my life, my mind was quiet with a single Focus. Well I discovered, by accident, a glass of wine with my wife has the same effect. But relaxation was not what I was going for. I wanted complete and utter abandonment of my barriers.

    As the text conversation went on, my mind drifted away. I could smell the Old Spice and other cheap cologne in the air.

I was taking back and saw a guy I hadn’t seen in over 30 years. All the years it took to bury him. The mountains I climbed, to distance myself from him. The man I’d become, under God’s love and Sharol’s care, was gone. I was that guy posing for a picture with a 40 once bottle of Old English 800 malt liquor under my foot. One next to me and me drinking the other. I called it “King of Beers” today I might call him prince of fools. As I continued to slip backwards in time. So did my thought process, I’d forgotten who I had become; the man so full of faith and strength that Sharol wanted to marry. I became the dead man of the past, that texter  knew and wanted.  The first two conversations ended but the third continued…the pit was deep.

   I had always seen the devil’s attacks miles away. It would start with me and fail. Then my kids…then my wife…then back to me. Attacking my wife and kids would just piss me off and make me pray more, fight harder. But his victory that Friday was the result of a thousand tiny cuts. My tendons, that I needed to stand and fight with were slashed. Kind of like shooting Achilles in his heel.  A slow weakening of my defense. I kinda saw it coming, but hadn’t the strength or will to fight…

 Saturday morning…

My mouth felt like an aspirin bottle cotton ball. I felt dehydrated. The guilt from the night before didn’t come…but anger and disappointment did! “You’re a really nice man” one person said. “You know, you’re a stand up guy” another said. One person, over heard me calling home to check in on my daughter’s homework. “You’re a good dad” she said. “You’re a good guy…people are responding to that, they want to help” still another said. “I love you Ty…” Sharol would say, especially when I was going through something. All of the words folks had been saying to me started flooding my mind. How could I have let them down. I thought. How could I let my troubles get to me, get me to the point that I was so weak.  I’d determined that I couldn’t do anything about the night before or my past. But I had full control of the present and the future. This was not the hill in which I was going to die on!  Sunday morning, I was at my computer watching a church service online. I was reminded of who I was, of whose I was. I was reminded that years ago a good work was started in me. I was reminded of Sharol’s words, that God had her with me so that I would be the man he wanted me to become… clearly, that old dead guy wasn’t it! I determined, at that moment; however arduous this journey to the end of my life is, I will continue to beat down and bury the old man. This is not The Walking Dead.  That which is of the past and from the past will remain in the past. What has been risen like the Phoenix from the ashes of my old life is something entirely new…

    It is the thing, that encouraged the maintenance man in a hotel room, listening to me talk to my 13 year old daughter. It is the thing, that blessed my boss when he came Sharol’s funeral! It is the thing, that encourages and blesses my Co workers and bosses, when they see me working diligently! It is the thing, that, shapes generations to come simply because I gained new wisdom! It is the thing, that makes me stand and fight… and tell that hellish old man from the 20th century, he has no place in the 21St century!

     I don’t know, dear reader, how I’m going to continue to navigate through this strange time I’m in. I assure you I didn’t intend on writing about it. Heck, I thought I’d be in the forth chapter of my book by now. But life has taken me along the scenic route. Crazy, people keep telling me to continue to write. Really? Are you all crazy? Have you any idea what this subject is like for me…? But, apparently, there are some reading this and being blessed by it. That, my dear reader, was the reason I started writing in the first place. Now, I’m going do as The Afters said and have the time of my life.

Until next time….

“Without Her: 4 Months Later”

   

       October 14th marks the fourth month… and to quote Chris Stapleton,”My life has become a country song”  How fitting too, since I’ve been listening to country music for the past month. Yes, the chocolate colored man likes a little country too…

   The last two months, dear reader,has been filled with contacting agencies, changing contact information and putting nearly everything in my name. I’ve learned that we made some pretty good choices concerning the death of one another. Now, my concerns are what happens when I die. All of my beneficiary information has to be changed. All of my password information has to be in a place for my kids to find. What happens if I get sick?! I’ve been worried about who will take care of me. But it’s greater than that, I’m the only income… if I’m out of work, this damaged ship will sank. I have lost about 30lbs now. About 15 before my wife died and more afterwards. I ordered a full week’s worth work pants and jeans( I’ll get shirts eventually), so that I can stop walking into the office with my pants hanging off my backside. What’s worse is tightening the belt. I look like I’m wearing clown clothes…

    I’m a bit grateful for weight loss, lord knows I need to get and stay fit. The kids couldn’t take loosing both of us in the same year. Will the weight loss prevent that? No, not if you believe that God ordains life and death. But it does make this old car run a bit more smoothly. And less trips in the doctor’s office. Hopefully less, to, no more diabetic medication. Basically, it’s about the quality of life. God, will extend or shorten it, himself. 

     What else has happened in the last two months? Medical insurance! Sharol’s employer was quick to drop us…but, it took forever for it to register with the rest of the city. We both work for city government, so one agency couldn’t turn on the insurance without the other shutting off. An absolute pain! However, I can finish what I started two months ago…grief counseling. I’ve survived this far without it and don’t believe I need it. But, I will go and sit and talk. See how it goes from there.

  

October 9, 2016 Wyndham Skyline in Atlantic City, NJ

     We had a mommy and daddy  weekend getaway planned, we booked it back in April. I never cancelled it…So, the 13 year old said she wanted to go. So we went. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be…I kept the same schedule Sharol and I would have. Do nothing on day one! Sunday night we went out to dinner at Kelsey and Kim’s a soul food restaurant. We ordered takeout once and spotted the restaurant last summer, when we were there on vacation.

Waiting for dinner and listening to live jazz. October 9, 2016

Imagine that, at 13,you to get to experience live jazz in it’s natural environment, with great food and lots of people enjoying themselves with pleasant conversation. My daughter said it was “loud but a good loud. People are having fun” I couldn’t agree more. A couple of weeks ago I took her to her first Rock concert. We saw the Newsboys  at the PlayStation theater

Newsboys at the PlayStation theater September 24, 2016

    Although it was a relaxing and enjoyable weekend getaway, I still found myself tearing up from time to time. Once when I was talking about the kindness of my Co workers. And when I laid in bed by myself. Out of nowhere the tears and sudden sadness… it’s all good though. I feel, because I was loved and I loved. But, dear lord! I wish there was a warning shot!

View from the balcony. Watching the rain fall. October 8, 2016

     My youngest son is away at college…freshman, so missed out. But I hear he is adjusting well and having his own fun. Which is good. I wouldn’t want the needle of his life to get stuck playing the same thing over and over again. 

    My dear reader, though I am trying to put life back together and trying to sure up holes and deal with the missing piece. Yes, that includes having a little fun. I am beginning to feel a different stage in my grieving process…guilt!! Four months later and whatever scent was left on Sharol’s clothes are gone. I spray her perfume once in awhile before bed, just so I can remember . But the memories, like a vapor, are fading quickly. In walks the new feeling, guilt. Guilt that I can’t recall her voice, guilt that I can’t remember what her hair feels like on my face or in my hands or smells like. Guilt, that I went out to eat and it wasn’t with her. Guilt, like a returning soldier, that I lived and she didn’t. Guilt, that I’m doing better than I thought I would… guilty because.. 

    Wouldn’t a husband who loves his wife, mourn her death with sackcloth and ashes!?!!  Shouldn’t I be depressed and drinking my troubles away??? Oh sure you miss her, why aren’t rolling in floor!   One thought pressed me. Why didn’t fall apart when the Trade towers fell?… I don’t know. Maybe God understands that most of my life was spent fighting depression. Maybe, he thinks that, this is my “too much to bear” moment. Survivor’s guilt, SUCKS! I struggled with purchasing the clothes I needed. A constant second guessing of myself and everything I do. I haven’t been this way since before we were married. Oh, there were times during our marriage when I did but Sharol always said “Ty, don’t worry about it, you need it just get it”  depending on the situation, but the sentiment was always still the same.

Walk on the beach. Atlantic City, NJ August 2015

If we need it then get it…and yet, you still feel the guilt. There’s nothing anyone outside of you can do. I’m certain that what soldiers go through is far worse.

    The next time we meet, dear reader, I’ll let you know if the counselor had any answers. If they gave me any tools for coping with this new stage in life…my new normal.

Until next time…

“Trumped!”

The following are not my words. I found this on facebook and thought it was quite a different look at Mr Trump’s impact on the presidential campaign…enjoy OR not.
“Last night a friend claimed that Donald Trump wouldn’t make a good president; he is brash, he is racist, he is a loudmouth; you know the normal things people learn to recite after being programmed by television news. The one I loved was that, “Trump is arrogant.” My friend questioned if one man could make “that much difference in the world today.” To my friend’s credit, she was respectful enough to let me respond when she asked, “Really, what has Trump done?”

I said, “In June of last year, Trump entered the race for president. In just a little over a year, Trump has single handedly defeated the Republican party. He did so thoroughly. In fact, he did so in such a resounding way that the Republican Party now suffers from an identity crisis. He literally dismantled the party. Trump even dismantled and dismissed the brand and value of the Bush family.

Trump has Obama petrified that Trump will dismiss programs that weren’t properly installed using proper law.

Trump has single handedly debunked and disemboweled any value of news media as we knew it—news now suffering from an all-time level of distrust and disrespect.

Trump has leaders from all over the world talking about him, whether good or bad. Trust me, powerful men who have been president before weren’t liked by the global community. I doubt Mikhail Gorbachev liked Reagan when Reagan said, “Tear down that wall.”

Trump has expressly disclosed the fraud perpetrated on the American public by Hillary Clinton. He has, quite literally, brought Hillary to her knees—if you believe that nervous tension and disorders offer physical side effects and damage.

Trump has unified the silent majority in a way that should be patently frightening to “liberals.”

As the press accuses Trump of being a house of cards, Trump has proven the press is the real house of cards. He has whipped up the entire establishment into pure panic. Trump has exposed them for who they are and worse, what they are. George Clooney was right when he said Trump draws live news coverage of his podium that he’s not yet approached. Thanks, George, you were perfectly correct.

What we see as headline news today are actually the last bubbles from the ship that is now sunk—meaning the standard news media, as a propaganda machine, has been exposed. They have no more value.

In the same way Trump asked the African-American community this question, I asked my friend, ”At this point, what do you have to lose?” We have mass cop shootings, riots in our streets, ambushed cops, double digit inflation, bombs blowing up in our cities, targeted police, #BLM, a skyrocketing jobless rate, no economic growth, privately owned land being seized by the federal government, the worst racial tension in my lifetime, no God in schools, more abortions than ever, illegal aliens pouring into our country, sick veterans receiving no care, and a debt that doubled in seven years to $19 trillion. Are you really happy with the condition of the current system?

One man has done all of this in one year—one guy, and on his own dime. And with everything I’ve written above, you believe Trump hasn’t done anything? You claim that you are afraid of Donald Trump? No wonder we’re in trouble. You can say that Trump is a lousy presidential candidate. That’s your right. Just don’t ever say he’s not effective.

That Megan Kelly, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, Washington Post, Rachel Maddow, the Huffington Post, the New York Times, Raleigh’s News and Observer, the AP, Don Lemon, Jake Tapper, and many more, failed to implement their collectively orchestrated lie on the American people against Trump, is actually a massive testament to Trump. The press colluded pure propaganda to accomplish his demise … and they have collectively failed and miserably.

Here’s just one example of how badly America is injured right now. There are high school football players on their knees during the national anthem simply because the press used as propaganda to program those kids to do that very thing. But, these kids are mimicking NFL stars the same way the same kids chooses which brand of football shoe to purchase—they’re overtly brain-washed to do that very thing.

Now, we have a generation of children who hate America.

America’s problem isn’t that little children are on their knee in collective disrespect of America. Our problem is that America is on her knee from collective disrespect by Americans.

You can disrespect America all you want. But, it’s high-time you respect the silent majority. Because they’re not simply the “silent majority” as you’ve been trained to believe when Hillary calls them “deplorables.” The fact is, they are simply the majority. And now they’re no longer silent either. Donald Trump changed all of that, single-handedly and within one year.” From Be Forbes.”

Bebe Coe Bertino

9/29/2016 , this is a copy and paste, and needs to be read and spread!!