“Widower”

IMAG0282_1_1 “Life’s journey has brought me to you and we shall continue together” the pendant says on the front.

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“Here’s to you, Here’s to me, Here’s to us. Semper Fidelis Love, Abby” She inscribed on the back..

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Father’s Day 2013 Governor’s Island. One of our kids took this picture of me and Sharol

Sharol always said that she was not the romantic one…as she would tell the listeners “Tyrone is the romantic one”  For the most part she was right. But Sharol had her moments. Like this Christmas gift she give me a few years ago. I’ve always wanted a pendant/dogtag or something… I’d given her a heart pendant a few years earlier it reads: “My Abigail when I’m too old to remember you, Remember that I love you. SS 4:1-15 Ty”  Song of Songs 4:1-15  Of course I hoped I would never forget her but the way my brain works some times I surely did wonder.

I was reminded of this as I watched a cute romantic movie with my 18 year old son and 13 year old daughter Sunday night (8/21/2016) after dinner. While we watched “Old Fashioned” I knew my son, the 18 year old, was wondering why on earth did I forced them to watch such a corny movie. My daughter on the other hand was engulfed in the film and like a 13 yr old, the chatterbox was dismayed when things were looking like it wasn’t going to go the way she wanted it to go. But it was good for him to see the film it will linger in the back of his mind and one day it will return. They’ve heard the stories of their mom and dad, how we disliked the American idea of dating and preferred courting instead.

     Dating as a typical american idea, just leads to a horde of broken hearts and dreams. It’s so bad now, that grammar school kids are claiming  “boyfriends and girlfriends”. Who am I kidding, they don’t even use those polite words to describe the “relationship”…. We’ve already seen what TV has done to the pre-teens, oops I means Tweens, in the past 15 – 20 years. So it was refreshing to see this movie depicting a college age kid living a wild life that lead to a major decision in his life. One that change his own ideas on how to treat a lady… 

20130616_155608     One day, when I was particularly lonely and sitting at my desk at work, I started looking up dating sites…Good lord! was it depressing! Not to mention there are a lot of freaks out there. I was seriously tempted to try speed dating.  Hey, why not? It’s within my wheel house, I get bored pretty easy as Sharol knew all to well. Instead of me spending a ton of money on someone I don’t know for 2 hours and probably won’t see again, I’d spend a little money and the date last for 10 minutes then off to the next woman. There you go! I swipe my metro-card  then ride the train home alone, maybe listen to some music, but I wouldn’t have to carry on a conversation that I knew wasn’t going to lead to anything. I also checked out rent a friend. Now this is fascinating, You sign up, for a small fee of course, then you get to rent someone for a date or a wedding, an evening at the movies or a play. Or simply because you have an extra ticket…Or lonely and just want to talk face to face. The renter, gets to choose from a wide range of ages and interest. The rentee, list lots of things that one might want to do…Like, ride bikes, see a play etc. But! they also list other things that might be appealing (or appalling) Like… one woman said the usual things…then added…she was into gay men, straight men and women! Uh..NOPE!… Next! I changed the age category, lord knows; me and a 25 year old ain’t gonna work. Please, I have daughters that age and I don’t think they’re looking for play-dates… anyway, I scrolled through the pictures. I don’t think they realize that someone would actually be looking at the photos and picking them for a rent-able night out. Go grief! have you seen those really bad, dare I say, ghetto “selfies” people have up on LinkedIn?!? It’s like, folks; you are trying to get the job, right? Yeah… well, some the photos were worse then the jobless people on LinkedIn.

20130608_165308_26753   Tattoos everywhere, names like Cinnamon...and yes, one spelled with an “S!” would you believe…Tree!?  These are not the names of 21 year old girls but 40+ year old full grown women! I closed the page then thumbed through my phone’s photo gallery…

20130616_142048 I leaned back in my chair frustrated and stared at pictures of Sharol and watched videos that I have of her…

20130616_143220Dag gone it, why did you leave me! I thought. There’s no one to sit across the table anymore…who am I going to kiss? will I even kiss another women? Dude, this really sucks!!! and even the women our age, are loony birds!… 

20130616_143214       Widower.  The reality hit me, the New normal. What now…? What do I do with my life? My life was built to journey through it with my bride… I have spent 19 years in a constant routine. After work, meals together; I’d wait for Sharol to eat my food. Fridays, it was coffee,pastry and Blue Bloods. Then popcorn with a movie, then Chinese food. Later as the kids left and our youngest; Hannah, spent time with her friends it to turned into, Wine time! our feet up, a movie on and 2 glasses of wine…and one really good night’s rest. Saturdays, we tried to sleep late, but that didn’t work for two early risers. Sunday, church then time alone before dinner. Mondays were marriage building nights. Sometimes we talked, take a walk, sometimes we read a book together, sometimes we augured, sometime we played a game or did nothing…unless, there was a TV show like The Following on. Tuesday nights, were prayer meeting night…or I’d watched Sharol sleep and snore… Once a month on Mondays, was DateNight. It was the only day she didn’t have to work late, until she did then we moved it back to Saturdays then back again. Because of busy schedules and allowing our lives to become hectic we did what many couples do…schedule time to love(nothing more needs to be said).  So, as you can see, dear reader; that empty space in my life where my wife use to occupy, is really a massive void! A vacuum! I have been living a joined life then all of a sudden, a tectonic shift! It’s not just an empty bed, no more kisses and hugs, no one to talk to, no more dates, no one to appreciate  my cooking, it’s ALL of that and more. An earthquake changes everything…the landscape, the ocean level, the geography, etc.

So before you question my sanity as to why I would be looking at dating sites, think about the many routines in my life that have been yanked from under my feet and tossed to the other side of the world.

Surf & Turf

Coney Island July 30, 2014

I haven’t thought about remarrying, I mean really, it would be the 3rd time…I’m honestly thinking my luck really sucks.  I haven’t had casual sex in nearly 30 years. I’ve been a husband twice…It’s highly doubtful I can change and go back to living that kind of life. but… a 3rd time? At this point I just want to have an adult conversation with someone who understands. Understands the music, political and TV references. Understands, that when a Prince song comes on, everything stops! and we must sing it together. Oh, dear reader, there is so much more…

Recently I wrote about going without my wedding rings on…well, a couple a times a week. Now, I go the whole work week then (psst don’t tell anybody) I put them on at night to sleep. Weird right? Nope, not at all. I found this woman’s article today while riding home  on the train . It appears there is no right or wrong way to greive/move forward. It’s all about what you are comfortable with. I choose to wear Sharol’s rings and for the moment put mine’s on at home. I guess it makes me feel close to her, just last week I started sleeping with 2 pillows behind me so that there’s something there when I turn. Which is where my wife would be all the time. Tuesday night I tripped over Sharol’s sandal, why your shoes always in the way?!  I thought then I laughed. It’s what I’d usually say followed by something like this ‘You trying to kill me? I’m too old to be falling”. 

Last month in one of my blue periods I was looking up something, I can’t remember what, but I stumbled onto this Marvin Sapp talking about embracing his singleness. The freedom to do his ministry with nothing between him and God. And bringing someone into his chaotic world. That person would have to fit in it comfortably. I started thinking about my own ministry, my writing. He’s absolutely right!  Paul said he wished everybody could be single BUT if you couldn’t, get married. it was better to do that than burn with passion… and here’s the rub, a husband’s first love is Christ but he will always be divided. Because he must care for his…wait for it…Wife. Yep, I get Marvin Sapp’s idea about freedom. Though I must admit, I ain’t exactly “embracing singleness”….but the ministry focus part, without hindrance. Yeah, I could see me spending a little focus time on my craft.

Sharol may not have always been the romantic part of this duel. One thing is for sure, she’s gonna be one heck of a tough act to follow.    Until next time…

 

“With Her: 19 Years, A Great Run”

Father’s Day on Governor’s Island 2013 or 2014

Today August 8th, is our 19th wedding anniversary…

     Last time, my dear reader, I told you about the anger that I was feeling. This time… I’m overjoyed with the blessing given to me, of 19 years of marriage. Sure I feel a bit cheated out of not being in Greece or New Orleans next year for our 20th Anniversary. But! God was gracious enough to give me 19 years and 2 kids in our older years. 

Vacation in Lancaster PA. Outside the Sight and Sound theater. Judah, Sharol, Me and Hannah.

19! Go ahead, say it. Today, generations and scores of couples are fine living together. Many are opting out of marriage all together, calling it out dated and unnecessary. Even an affront to womanhood and the advancement of women’s Lib. Well…Sharol, as did I, viewed it as an honor, a privilege…a gift from God, that we had someone to walk through life with. Someone committed to Christ and the relationship enough to want to care for and make the other better. That, my dear reader, means you daily put to death selfishness and think of the other’s needs before your own. If you have trust, in that relationship, then you will find that you never have to worry that your spouse is taking advantage of you. Because you both are doing the same thing…putting the other first. It also put a smile on her face when she was called “Mrs.Bland..” “Mrs.Bland? Your husband is….”  one of my favorites “Mr. and Mrs.Bland..?”  To hear it made it official  we were a team, a married couple; we belong to an exclusive Club. We were partners…for a lifetime! Another favorite of mines was “Um…excuse me, where’s my husband?”  Or “My husband will be here in a moment”  it meant I had someone who loved me. Someone proud to be fastened to my hip. Someone willing to watch my hair turn grey then white. Someone who would nurse my cut and bleeding foot, without flinching even though she was afraid watching the blood pour. Someone who would bring the bathroom  to me because I was bedridden. Someone who would say “Ty…why is there blood in there..?”  Both of knowing full well that blood coming from your body where there hasn’t been a cut, means something is wrong.

And likewise, she could confidently walk in this relationship knowing that, I had no problem picking up her feminine products. Bathing her when she was ill or in pain. Like her personal doctor, I would examine her when she had concerns about things but wasn’t able to see the issues…I was her eyes and hands. We once heard a story from a pastor. He was talking about a relative who swallowed a bone and the man’s wife went above and beyond to search for that bone. While we may have said that, that was yucky, we knew that was love and devotion. As we were getting older and got older we found ourselves in some of those very same situations. Caring for someone like that… it’s beyond intimacy and you would have to have more than a strong stomach ; it has to be love, the love of and for Christ. It had been the key to our caring for one another in such a way. Not looking for anything in return but loving that person enough to care for them, I mean really care for them; even if they could never speak again and lay motionless in the bed. That’s the kind of love and devotion we had for one another. Even our kids don’t know half the things we did, in caring for the other. There have been so many nights when I stop breathing in my sleep or choked and Sharol was startled from her sleep. Yet she’d watched over me until I was alright. I too, would get up when her stomach was bothering her and she suddenly disappeared from the bed or needed me to pray.We spent a lot of nights rubbing each other down in Tiger Balm…. So yes, she wore Mrs.Bland  with honor and distinction. And was very honored to be my wife (she said so herself). I even gave her a Purple Heart once, because like many soldiers, she endured a great deal in life… sexual assault, ridicule for being smart, the ups and downs of marriage, parenting and Christian life. So, though she was a living warrior, I wanted to do something to let her know that I loved and appreciated her.

Valentine’s Day, weekend getaway with Sharol, Judah and Hannah. February 14, 2015

She was so happy and proud when I gave her that charm. She was also extremely broken hearted when it broke off a bracelet and she lost it. Luckily, I found the company and bought her a new not too long before her surgery. It’s sitting in her drawer now, because she wanted to have the piece welded to her bracelet so it wouldn’t fall off again. Further proof  that, that tiny little trinket meant  a lot to her. But it wasn’t really all about the gift but about the gesture…

The Bride. My rib. August 8, 1997

Daily beloved we are gathered here today… Tyrone and Sharol

It was a hot and sweaty August night in 1997. I spent the morning preparing the apartment. I bought a new bed(hadn’t slept in one since a previous failed relationship) laid it down and spread rose petals all over it. Then lined the hallway leading to the bedroom with the remaining flower petals. Then, I was in the care of my Best Man and his son. We later made our way to the church. Which was filled with choir members, a few friends, my immediate family members and Sharol’s dad. Most of her family opting out of attending.

I waited for what seem like 5 hours for Sharol to arrive…she was late. My nerves were shot! She’s not coming   I thought.  My confidence and trust was lacking after I failed the first time at marriage and the disagreement we had a few days before the wedding didn’t help me at that moment. My active imagination was doing somersaults… she changed her mind. I went on.  The tuxedo felt like an oven. I nervously shifted my weight, my heart was sinking…

“Sharol place your left hand in his, Tyrone repeat after me…”

Then the music started to play, the kids came down the aisle…the flowers sprinkled and the ring arrived on a pillow… my heart galloped.

My best man praying for God’s blessing on us and our household.

Then, she appeared! Music started and the guest were confused. They were waiting for the standard here comes the comes the bride song.  But chose “Praise You”  by The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.  

There she was! My rib! Coming down the aisle to take her place by my side. I met her and walked her up to the altar. The pastor said something, “blah blah blah”… I have no clue what was said. We have evidence to support that, a recording…where we both, as we listened, repeated all sorts incorrect words. We were prayed for and announced to the world for the first time, ever! as “Mr. and Mrs. Bland”.  By the way, I was praying too, I had asked God to use us as missionaries…to use our family to reach the world for Christ…

2007 our first Spirit of New York cruise

The result of that day was a wild ride. Four out the six kids went on missions trip, two to foreign countries. I served as a summer missionary to adults and children with special needs. Sharol and I for those 3 summers counselled young adults and ran prayer meetings in our summer home for them. What came out of that day was, a plunge into extreme poverty and a rise out of it. Combative and rebellious teens turn into self sufficient young adults. Two formed a band and lent their talents to others, to speak to their generation. What came out of that day, was three grandchildren. What came out of that day, were two children born in our older years. Sharol said her “Jesus babies” meaning they came after we were Christians…

Thanksgiving 2007

Thanksgiving 2007 photos by Imani

In the past or last 7 years or so, we decided to focus our attention on the last two kids. Because we a lot older, I’m 40 older than the last child. We wanted them to have the benefits the first 4 had. The problem was, life changed. There was now two full-time working parents. I was in college from 2006-20012,then returned to the work world. But we pushed to spend time with them as well as spend more with each other.

In Jamaica. Our first trip out of the country. Beaches Resort 2010

As a couple, we also wanted to do things we’ve never done before together or as single people. Anything, but skydiving!

Breakfast with Sesame Street. Jamaica 2010

On the beach. Yes, we were standing in the water. Jamaica 2010

Private dinner on the beach. Our 13th wedding anniversary. Jamaica 2010

In 2010, after my undergrad graduation we had the chance to use our passports for the first time. Unfortunately, it was the only time. My youngest has been bugging for the past two weeks to go the London. Jamaica, dear reader, was more than a trip. It was an adventure!! I hate flying, but my fearless partner was with me. And held my hand tight. I couldn’t sleep or relax. Then….even with the promise of all that. The trip was plagued with issues. First we missed our flight, not our fault. The airport had some construction going on and the gate was waaaaaaaay on the other side. We got to gate and was directed to somewhere else… it’s a 5 hour flight to Jamaica…it took us…well, let’s see. From NY to PA 1 hour, laaaaaaaaaayover until about 11pm! Then flew to South Carolina…where we spent the night! Then boarded a plane to Jamaica.  We arrived to a sea of brown people. I’ve never seen that many black folks in one place in my life. We passed through customs without a problem. Went for our bags…they weren’t there! Noooooooooooo. Yep.

Private dinner on the beach

Sharol with Hannah after her morning water aerobic class. Jamaica 2010

It was hot, humid and we were tired. The agents assured us the bags would turn up. They did, later that day. Sooooooooo we hopped into a van and headed towards the resort. We got there, 2 hours later!!!

Preparing for our anniversary dinner. Photo by Hannah.

But! The week’s stay was well worth the trouble.

Spirit of New York boat ride. 2007

Celebrating love. Spirit of New York cruise. 2010

13 years of marriage, looks good!

In 2013 we went to Virginia Beach, Va. For a College tour with Judah. We’d hoped he could get into Regent University. While we were there we visited CBN, Regent University and The 700 Club.  We  also went to Busch Gardens and Virginia Beach.

The 700 Club. 2013

The Aquarium in Virginia. I had the camera, Sharol the video camera. The fish were swimming above our heads. 2013

Sharol “Dancing it out” with the local Regent University & YouTube celebrity Nathan Stump. Nathan often ended his videos with a silly dance. We saw him in the cafeteria this is the end result.

Wyndham Governors Green Resort Virginia 2013 on our way to play mini golf

19 years is a long time but it wasn’t long enough with my wife. We continued to do things we hadn’t, like go dancing. I know it’s unheard of for Christians but  we were grown adults who had never known each other when we were young and hadn’t had the opportunity to dance together. Nope, I ain’t justifying a thing! We had good clean, fun dancing with one another, for 6hrs! Celebrating life!

Crazy faces, before I beat them! Wyndham Governors green 2013

Resting our feet in the hallway of BB Kings on 42nd Street. At the Rhythm Revue dance party summer of 2015

What made things work so well for us, is we thought of our marriage as a partnership. No one goes into business with someone calling them their partner to lose money. You partner with someone because you see their skill and their strength and you know together you can meet the challenges and be successful at whatever your endeavor is. She was also my sister in Christ and I her brother.    We protected each other. She was my lover, enough said. She was my friend, my business and writing partner

Working on on a autobiography. 2015

My bride, my wife, my girl…my…

I’ve been spoiled for the past 19 years, I’ve only dated one woman in all those years. I remained faithful to her and she to me.

“This, man!” She yelled, because I kept taking pictures of her. Busch Gardens 2013

Sharol was not only the matriarch of the family. But she was also the standard-bearer, where could I find such a woman today..? Intelligent, funny, easy to look at, prayer warrior, confidence Builder and the list goes on and on.

Dear, reader, I know this was very long. I have much more to say, but understand my point of the title, 19 years. You can’t possibly explain or tell that story in two paragraph.

Beaches Resort 2010 Jamaica

On June 14,2016 I lost one of the greatest gifts God has given to me and from this brief tale that I’ve told, you can see why, that on my anniversary, I’m not sitting around depressed or writing a suicide note. But I am grateful for the time I had with my wife. Now, maybe when I approach the 20th anniversary next year, God willing I’m alive. Maybe I’ll feel different I don’t know but today I’m so filled with joy because I was loved and I had the opportunity to love. that, is, awesome! Listen, take care of yourself. Enjoy the love of your life, build those memories…

Until next time….

 

“In The Apartments Next To Mine” Book Excerpt 4

In_The_Apartments_Ne_Cover_for_Kindle

“Oh goodness, yes!” Her eyes lit up. “I have been since I was a little thing. My first…” Her sentence interrupted by the conductor. “Castle Hill Avenue next” He announced. Disappointment washed over her face as she watched him gather his bags in his hand. The talk was a delight and it just began. He pursed his lips with a sigh. “Sorry. This is my stop…” He said, sadly.

“I enjoyed our talk; you have a wonderful evening…” She stopped. She realized they never introduced themselves. “Owen…I enjoyed meeting you..?”

“Agnes…”

“Well. Agnes, I guess we’ll have to finish this some other time…bye” He waved and walked out the door. Agnes, lifted her glasses above her head, smiled and followed him down the platform with her eyes. Once the train left in station, she opened her book and continued reading.

Owen nearly ran into a pole looking back at the car where Agnes was sitting. With each step down the stairs, he smiled a little more…

Exhausted from standing on the long lines and shopping, Owen rushed down the stairs to the platform only to be met by hordes of hot, sweaty bodies.

“6 train arriving in one minute,” the automated voice rang out.  No chance of sitting today, he thought.  The train rushed into the station with a gush of steaming heat ahead of it.  A few strands of blond hair streamed across Owen’s face, like microscopic ribbons, from the woman in front of him.  When the doors opened, the herd of humans poured out of the doors stampeding all who stood in their way.  Though he stepped to the side, he couldn’t avoid the smearing of lotions, perfume, sweat and dirt he received.  Owen looked down at his shirt, took a deep breath, clutched his bag handles tight, then pressed on his pocket to crank up his music and stepped into the car, then assumed his position as the next sardine in the can.

He tried his best to ignore the tourist with their camera phones, maps, backpacks and bewildered looks…but he couldn’t.  Especially since a group of  acrobats were standing on his feet, crushing his bags, had their map in his face and elbows extended, taking pictures and all without missing a beat.  Lord, I’m about to lose my religion! he thought.

       At that very moment he looked through the window of the next car and saw…What’s her name again? Agnes!  That’s it!”  The thought calmed his heart and made him smile.  The train passed through Manhattan and entered the Bronx, he finally got a seat but when he looked through the window, the woman was gone.  Did I imagine it? he thought.

Three weeks later, while seated in the corner seat, he noticed her sitting next to him in the next car in the same seat; she was reading a book.  She ran he fingers through her hair then turned the page.  Agnes looked up briefly to see Owen in the car beside her.  She was puzzled for a moment as to why a man was staring at her.  Then she remembered…she smiled at him, and then continued reading but the warm smile remained with her for a few more stops.

Two weeks later, juggling 2 bags full of melons, pineapples and peaches, Owen shot down the subway stairs and crashed into a wave of straphangers coming up.  “Excuse me…excuse me!” he announced.  But the current was too strong.  He was struck mid-way, being pushed to and fro.  He reached the bottom just as the train left the station.  “@#@!,” he slumped back against the column and dropped his bags.

       “Uptown 6 train arriving in 1 minute,” the machine voice called.  He inhaled deeply and stepped dangerously close to the edge of the platform.  His t-shirt waved across his chest as the hot breeze entered the station before the train.  Owen closed his eyes and imagined himself standing on a beach.  When the train stopped, he opened his eyes to see Agnes sitting inside.  Stepping into the train, he immediately chuckled.  “It’s you again.”  She blushed and raised her hand to her mouth, covering her delight at his remark.  “So, are you on a lunch break?  It was noon.

“No, silly thing,” she giggled.  “I’ve long since retired.  Maybe I’m looking for you.”

A serious look fell on his face.  “Really…?”  There was a long pause.

 

Taken from “The Pelham Affair”

In_The_Apartments_Ne_Cover_for_Kindle

“In The Apartments Next to Mine” Book Excerpt 1

 

2015 book trailer (5)The doors closed…

 

We sat across from each other. She’s tired from the journey through the years, me from the day’s travel…She looked down staring in her hands as if in deep thought.  I stared at the thick hunter green veins spreading up her arms from her hands like cob webs. Her weathered skin covered in brown spots; hair like fur all over her forearms.

My eyes traveled south to her legs; arthritis had moved in, bags, furniture and all. Her scrawny ostrich legs were capped by knees nearly bigger than her whole body.  She was wearing beautiful, sensible black shoes. The kind you would take to a craftsman to repair; a cobbler, whose skills the young women have no need of – they tend to throw out worn shoes. She was from a different era, she knows the value of a well-made shoe and her generation, poor as they were, kept things and repaired them often.

My eyes floated back up to her hands they trembled a little; her decrepit joints mimicked falcon claws as she scratched through her hand bag. In search of what – her youth, some gum, a thought she could not remember…? I continued to scale up her person…The classy knee length, carbon colored skirt was complemented by a cherry red cashmere cardigan sweater. Her head was still down but I could see her timeworn face. Fuzz blanketed her sad, shar pei expression.  Her frail shoulders stiffly moved as she continued to claw through the bag. The stubborn gray fought against the boxed blond and won the fight. It didn’t seem to matter to her,  She still pinned it up like a 1940’s movie starlet. She had the class and charm to go with it. Curiosity filled my marrow as her trembling head lifted…I wondered what she looked like in her youth…

Our eyes latched.  My head tilted like the old RCA victor dog and suddenly through her cataracts blue eyes, I was whisked back to the 1940’s. I heard a swing band playing in my head; it slowly grew louder in my ears. I looked up…I was no longer on the 6 train.  I was listening to the A Train and Ella was singing it. “Look,” I thought. “There she is.”  She was standing against the wall wearing the same clothes, tapping her foot and gently applying bright red lipstick. She was 70 years younger, with clear blue eyes like the Caribbean ocean. I walked toward her to ask for her dance card but McCullin’s arms were already around her waist.

They would have danced all night but a husky voice burst through the air and ordered the men back to their base…they were shipping out. I stood motionless as their hands, like time, slipped away. She never saw corporal McCullin again but like many girls waiting for their guy to come home, she took his name, Mrs. McCullin.  Her ruby red lips parted to a half smile with warm tears dripping on her cardigan as she turned and waved to me…I heard the faint voice of the conductor in the background.  As the subway doors closed, she stood on the platform searching in her bag…for her dance card.

2015 book trailer (6)

 

 

 

 

 

   “The Widow McCullin” and more can be found inside…