With And Without Her: “Abandoned”

A few days away

Hello dear reader, it’s been a while since I’ve spoken to you. I tend to wait until I have something to say. And when it comes to this subject, grief that is, I thought I was done writing about it. Though it is the backdrop today it isn’t the main subject…

I spent the past few days away on a self imposed retreat. I needed time away to pray and hear what God had to say. I’ve been out of work since January 4th, it wasn’t stunning. But it has left me with quite a dilemma… loss of income, health insurance and so on. So there has been a lot on my mind. So much so, that the stress has caused me to have somewhat of a scatter brain. Lack of focus and forgetfulness, the lack of a daily routine hasn’t helped much either. So… I escaped New York in search of quietness. I found it and an answer to a question I didn’t ask. Sometimes the Lord drives me crazy with that. I pray about something, don’t get an answer and he answers something I wasn’t thinking about. Or at least I don’t think I was.

I threw on some quiet piano worship music, I set for a while, then laid back on the loveseat. Fully immersed in the melody flowing throughout the house, I suddenly drifted away. A sobering worship, I felt tears of joy forming but then stopped. One word came to mind, Abandoned. It went from my mind to my heart. So I started to pray “lord… speak, I’m listening” then I read a few verses, pray some more and continued to wait. Once more abandoned can to mind. Mind you, dear reader, I was asking for direction in the many things I need to do. So now I had to ask why “abandoned”. There was no audible voice, no hand writing on the wall, no scroll from heaven. Nope, just a flood of emotions, images and instances of feeling and being abandoned.

The beginning

Now, believe it or not, I’m not talking about me waning “Why is everyone leaving me”. It’s something far deeper. I suspect some of you know what I mean.

I was about 7 when my grandmother died. It was an odd time, she died around the age of 55 or so. Pretty young. I strangely believed, because little kids believe a lot of things, that my family was plagued to die early. A few other family members died in succession after she did, naturally the clan splintered. We moved to the Bronx after that. I was raised by a single mother and a dad that visited on the weekends. It was a really rough time,I didn’t know we were poor (because schools didn’t tell us like they do now) but I knew something was odd and my embarrassment while shopping with plastic money proved it. Yes! In those days public assistance “welfare”, didn’t come in the form of bank like, debit card. It was plastic coins and monopoly like, paper money. But food was always on the table and in our bellies. Clothes on our backs… even if it was borrowed. If there was no more toilet paper and no money, we sometimes used my mother’s Pattern paper,it was made of tissuepaper. She made clothes.

Most mornings she was there when I left for school but not there when got home because she worked. So there was no checking or helping me with my homework. Fast forward… I was about 11 or 12 when my sister left home. Meaning I was now an only child. It also meant there was no buffer when the stress of single motherhood, came home to roost. In my mind my sister left me behind. The flip side was, I stayed. I took it! She was off living the adventure(not true it was hard for her too) and I was stuck dealing with my mother, project and school bullies, massive failing grades, no one to talk to and what I would later come to realize, were panic attacks during my high school years.

Later years

Many things happened to me between child and adulthood, including a failed marriage. I believed marriage was forever and no matter how hard it was, I would stick it out. In other words, I stayed. The other party came and went and I gave chase to work it out. Eventually, like my retreat, I was in the house alone and heard a still voice…”leave this place” just like that. Just like Abraham! It came with a price, shortly before I was seeing a therapist because I suddenly developed Anxiety Attacks. Apparently the stress of the relationship was too much for me or should I say, my body to handle. And my body was fighting back to survive the blows I was unaware I was taking. I would later learn the seriousness of not taking care of yourself…

Dear reader, I developed a very bad habit, of holding things in, fighting back anger. And when I did push back I’d explode with frustration. Kind of like, I needed to be a “good boy” and not start trouble.

Sharol

When Sharol and I got married there was a lot of love, that was evident to all who knew us. But there was also marital stressors. We would battle like two proud and stubborn Klingon Warriors. Our biggest augments were over the kids, see we had a blended family, though we raised them as Christians we made the mistake of not choosing one system of discipline early on. The tension between us in the early years took a toll on me mentally and emotionally. Apparently. I thought it was normal… just like the high stress job I had. What wasn’t normal was my aforementioned way of handling things. Not only did I suffer from severe anxiety attacks I became an agoraphobic. Eventually I couldn’t go out, get to work or ride the train. Nothing! My wife couldn’t hug me, simple tasks like brushing my teeth were agonizing, sitting at the table with all the kids was unbearable. I would have panic attacks a few times a day, sometimes multiples in an hour. As I’ve written before, I lost a year and a half of my life to them.

So what does this have to do with abandoned? Well, it’s not as simple as I thought. But as set on the loveseat I had an urge to kneel so I did. That’s when all this came to mind. The feeling that I have always “stayed” while others found freedom to leave or let their emotions go or take over. I’ve never felt such freedom. I was left to “hold the bag”. That’s when anger crept in during prayer… “when do I get to say ef you?!” When do I have the chance or freedom to say this or that pisses me off, without feeling guilty or the need to apologize for my actions… this sort of abandonment Is more like betrayal or dissertion. When Sharol died I didn’t want to get angry at God. How could I? Death is part of life, right?. But there was a day…I was on a street corner talking on the phone. I started crying then got really mad. I was mad that my wife left me alone. Alone to bury her… it was a strange feeling. I forgot I was on the phone. I can’t remember what I told the person but I hung up then went upstairs. I wanted to run as far and fast as I could after her passing. I never did I stayed to picked up the pieces as best I could. Immediately going back to work to keep my sanity. Wouldn’t know…? As deaths does… the family split down the middle. The kids are older with families. Each moved on and away. But I stayed, at the same job, in the same apartment, looking at her clothes and so on. Never angry… but apparently my heart had been speaking to God, what my mind and mouth failed to realize. Or was willing to say. Like the panic attacks were my body’s way of recognizing what I didn’t. Weird huh…?

A few months short of the one year anniversary of my wife’s passing, I purchased a Nissan Murano. It was intended for more than just two people but as I mentioned earlier, life does it’s thing. My youngest daughter and I have taking to the road. Camping, short east coast roadtrip and last year we add hiking to our adventures. Yes, it’s time spent together before she starts her own life…but more than that, it’s my chance and time to leave. To go anywhere and everywhere. It’s a bit late in life and I don’t expect anyone to understand. But I feel alive and free out there, unrestricted. No sir, I’m not dragging the kid along she’s the one that suggested we drive across country. “Let’s go to the states no one else goes to… all the places no one else heard of”. It is entirely possible that, wanderers and outdoor enthusiast are running from death, pain, life changing events, but we are all running towards something too. Life! We are enjoying life as much as possible, with as little strings attached to us like puppets. Healing is also part of the process and adventure. I know many who have become healthier because of the great outdoors. If I didn’t subconsciously feel abandoned I would have never left, nor saw the beauty of God’s hand in nature. The beauty that draws me closer to him and what I needed to help in my process of grief. If Sharol didn’t live, I would have never written a book. If she didn’t die… let’s just say, her death changed me as much as her life with me did.

You see, dear reader, God didn’t answer my pray about a job or at least not at that moment. He answered the cry of my heart. I was left with, “I haven’t abandoned you” the other thought…”come to me and I will give you rest” Still in need of a job, but I’ll take a God answer in any form any day. What about you, dear reader, anything you haven’t realized about yourself?

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

 

“Holding hands”

Video

28 days ago my life and my world changed. It’s another Tuesday…I’m wearing my usual Tuesday work clothes, bright orange and blue plaid shirt with a burnt orange sweater,(AC in the office) tan pants and brown shoes. It’s what I was wearing on Tuesday June 14th…I came home and changed shortly before Sharol went to walk/exercise…

The other day one of our neighbors caught me in the elevator, she was with her husband. She asked how I was doing and expressed once again how heart broken she was that my wife died. “You guys were always together..” she remarked, when I said I was much better but was still having trouble sleeping. “If you need anything…” she continued. “I loved your wife”…

She’s absolutely right, we were always found together. Most times, arm around arm or holding hands. We never gave it much thought…but holding hands is beyond “old fashion” it’s ancient! Very few couples do it today, especially the younger ones, much less do it for 19 years strong. Even when we were mad we’d walk close to each other…then eventually grab each others hand.

Nineteen years ago Sharol invited me to her swearing in ceremony, she’d just become a fresh face NY lawyer. I didn’t go with her, we were courting at the time, I had taken the kids to school first. When I walked into, what is now “The National Museum of the American Indian” I was swallowed up by the vastness of the space. It was wall to wall attorneys all waiting to be sworn in. The noise from all the talking was so loud I could barely hear my own thoughts. A sea of mostly white males, all in suits. The ladies were wearing business dresses. Above the noise was a whisper, in a soft deep alto voice…”Ty…” I looked in the direction of the voice, but I didn’t see anything. Then “Ty…over here..” a pond of suits moved slightly.

Out of the corner, seated in an arm chair was Sharol. But all I could see was a pair of thick round calf’s sticking out from between a group of lawyers. Her feet shifted and her skirt rose above her knee as she leaned forward to see me. She was in a brown skirt suit…and looked good to!! I couldn’t help but stared at those gams “Ty…” she said and our eyes connected. Of course I had a goofy look on my face. Who wouldn’t?! We kissed then soon moved to “The Room”I have no clue now what was said, I did feel a bit lonely when she went in. The crowd closed in on her and separated us.

When it was all done we pushed through the heavy crowd to get to one another. She had a big smile on her face. We said something, I don’t remember what it was, all I have is the image of us looking into each others eyes… I know we hugged! But what can’t forget and have never forgotten is the rush I got when she held my hand. My heart felt something it hadn’t and my body responded in kind. The smiles were fixed on our faces. We held hands out the building…down the street…on the train, to the place we ate at, on the train again and ALL the way to St. Jerome school where she walked with me to pick up the kids. We were holding hands when they came out the door…

This Memory is implanted in my mind forever…why? Because of the incredible, painful cramp I had from holding hands, for hours!! We continued to hold hands and walk down the streets of NY, New Orleans, Rhode Island, Lancaster PA, the beach in Jamaica, the camp in Putnam County, Maryland…and everywhere else we went. And to the marvel of others who would say “wow, you don’t see that often” or other things similar.

We’ve talked about that day a lot over the years. But it was just the beginning of something that left a lasting impression on the world around us. And I’m so glad that out of all the things our kids saw us doing together…cooking, arguing, dancing, laughing, kissing, sitting etc. They had the chance to see romance in action.

Until next time…