“With and Without Her: Twilight”

Hike 14/52 Sachuest Rhode Island. Oct. 20, 2018

I was sitting on a bench up the hill from the rocky shoreline… the sun setting, the chilly sea breeze whispering across my face and a heavy scent of sea water in the air. My daughter, the youngest, sat on my right side…

I don’t know what she was thinking about. The last time we went hiking, she was about 12 feet behind me, walking slow in deep thought. She said she was thinking about life. I half smiled, because I was thinking; like all parents of teenagers, what life?. It’s funny how the reach a certain age and suddenly “life” becomes serious. But we know better, teenage issues are no match for adult problems. Yep, and that’s why we try to prolong the process of them dealing with such things and force them to enjoy living. Anyway, dear reader, I was in deep thought that day. My daughter wanted to go back to the Rhode Island trail since the Spring. I had planned to hike up in Hudson County but hurt my knee, which was swollen and in pain, during a staff meeting. Can you believe that?! I moved my chair to let someone pass by and banged my knee into the corner of the desk. Yes, OUCH! and these 55 year old arthritic knees don’t bounce back from injuries like they use to. So, I was hesitant about putting stress on them. It was a good choice to do a lower Impact and low grade hike. It was also a chance to just relax although I wasn’t, because we there rather late. The office was closed, so no bathroom run before hitting the trail. This time I wasn’t the one that needed to go. So we kind of rushed through as we were fighting against the loss of day light. The sun was now setting. Like my life….

Hike 14/52 Sachuest Rhode Island. Oct. 20, 2018

So… we set on the beach staring out at the wavy sea water. My daughter sitting where her mother often sat. It was then that my mind drifted out like the waves underneath the yellow glow of the setting sun…

It’s like the sun, a quick thought wiz by. Our life together, our marriage…the sun of my marriage has set. As I have written many times, my wife and I loved being by or on the water. This was a fitting spot to experience both her presence in mind and her loss in heart. Even an augment… I thought as I stared at the picture preparing to write this. No, no one wants the pounding heart beat or echoing loud angry words that fly through the air during an augment. No one wants to come humbly to the other and ask for forgiveness. Though we all love making up afterwards. No, no one wants the stress of “What did I say…?” But we, I, wanted her presence in the room, on the bench, in that moment. Feeling her head resting heavily on my shoulder(why do woman do that?). Feeling her locs, scratchy, against my face. Her arm wrapped around mine… making me uncomfortable, because Sharol was tall. We were nearly the same height, her shoulders slightly higher than mine. It was always an odd struggle to fit together. I was used to short girls growing up. So we always held hands or standing together, my arms around her full waist and her head on my chest. That meant her scrunching down,Lol. Hey, we made it work for 19 years! So you see, she was sorely missed during that sunset. She wrote to me once, concerning her operation: “I feel confident that God will awaken me to you and if He doesn’t I will see you one day again. But I am sure that no matter what you’ll always feel my love with you” Unfortunately this was proven to be true.

The child that now sat next to me, who once was a tiny baby I held and whose eyes first saw me, is a constant reminder of her love. I didn’t want more children I already had two. But shortly before we were married, I dreamed of a son. Soon after God warmed my heart to the idea. After the baby’s birth and a few years later we thought of another child. We tried for over a year and after being discouraged, we were blessed with a baby girl. But I’ve told that story before…

Hike 14/52 Sachuest Rhode Island. Oct. 20, 2018(rocky shoreline)

We left the sunset bench behind us and continued on the trail. The temperature was dropping, my daughter needed a rest room and I was anxious to get back to the spot where I stacked a small pile of memorial stones for my late wife; on the coastline. We walk and walk and every so often I’d look over the hill at the shore to see if we were there. The entire 3+ hour’s ride up, I was frustrated that I couldn’t find a Sharpie anywhere. When I started the 52 Hike Challenge in April, I planned to place a stone at each summit with her name on it as though she hiked with me. Sadly the marker I had dried up. The last time I was able to do it was on my solo hike.

Hunters Island. Solo hike 10/52 Aug. 26, 2018

I chose a spot at the opening of the woods, just a few yards away from the river’s edge because I couldn’t get close enough. There wasn’t a high peak and I thought it was a beautiful place for the stone. I started to write her name and I only got out Sha before the marker started to die. I rubbed and rubbed until I got the name out. It was done when I wrote the date…

Finally! We found the right spot! I creeped down the side of the cliff, trying not to trip on the giant rocks. I made it down to the stone beach and started my search. I found my pile or what was left of it. At least the base stone was still there. I turned to my daughter not realizing she never came down. So I looked for another stone that resembled my original top stone. Woo hoo, I found one! Set it up on a bolder, then snapped a photo! I bent down to set my angle… Oh snap! I thought. The moon was out… and in my shot! The next thought was Twilight.

Hike 14/52 Sachuest Rhode Island. Oct. 20, 2018

It was a sad feeling, a bewildered feeling, a feeling of loss and love, staring up at the stone. The moon marked the ending of the day. And for me personally, a reminder of the ending of part of life. The beginning of another. Over the past two years since my wife passed almost every TV show we watched together or I alone, has experienced death. The death of the wives! I started watching CBS’s Seal Team last year. This year, three episodes in, Jason’s wife/ex-wife died unexpectedly. And it shocked the crudd out of me! I wasn’t expecting it, there was nothing leading up to it. No tip off by the writers of the show. No sad music. Nothing! I set in my chair with my mouth hanging open… tears creeping up.. in total shock. Jason as expected, fell apart. I knew what he felt all too well. One minute you’re talking to your wife and the next, she gone. No “I love you” like in the movies. No, last look in the eyes… nothing. One scene, Jason was found by his friend and teammate; at the scene where the car crash happened. He’d been sitting for hours counting the cars going by. Even the hardest of men would not have watched with a dry eye. I did something similar. For weeks when I went out or took out the trash I’d look back before entering my apartment. I’d stare at the place where my wife laid. Sometimes for a second sometimes longer. I’d even walk down the hallway and look down the other end… as if in a movie, I could see her walking toward me again. My eyes would trace her steps, flashes of her face and the tubing and gloves the Paramedics left behind. It took a while for it to stop. Every once in a while when I see two ambulances parked I remember that night…

All of these men from Nashville, Longmire, Blue Bloods and now Seal Team(and others), now mirror my own life. I’ve watched these characters go through the twilight of their lives. After 10,15, 24 years of marriage now navigating, like myself, through a new world. One they were not prepared to walk through alone. Dealing with suddenly becoming single parents, single, widowers. Having the gteat debate about seeing another woman. The weird guilt some feel. Some ready or at least think so but have a hard time. It’s not so much about letting go as it is in some cases, it’s about how. How do you begin a relationship. For many like me, it was a less complicated time when we met our wives. Men and women were less confused about who and what they were. The awkwardness of starting a conversation. And then there’s the one I feel myself in these days. I’ve gotten pass the silence, I keep busy. I’m functioning in my loneliness. I constantly struggle with the absence of a physical touch. I’ve gotten used to the empty bed. But I’m staving for long intellectual conversation. Talking about any and everything! Talking over one another, interrupting, laughing, all of it. But things like that take a lifetime. That’s what many of the characters are dealing with. And I don’t think I have another lifetime to know someone. It’s funny but not funny, the older I get, the older women get. Many my age are jaded, some bitter and broken. The younger ones are just that, younger. They’re post internet, steeped in the segregated mindset of the political correctness dogma and so many find offence in a casted shadow. It’s not just them it’s everywhere. So, these old fashioned guys have a dilemma. So do I…

Hike 14/52 Sachuest Rhode Island. Oct. 20, 2018

The deer were moving around in the shadows like ghost. It was like children quietly talking, every so often you’d hear a twig snap or the bush move. If you turned your head fast enough you would see one dead in its tracks, staring at you. The birds of prey vanished and now the bats were circling above and the rabbits were hopping arcoss the path…

The sun had finally left the sky and It was completely pitch in the space of time it took to get from across the parking lot and start the engine. As we walked to the car I kept thinking of the moon and how I’m moving into that strange twilight of life. I’m at a good point in my life though, all but one of my kids are out of the house. Grown and with their own families. The house is quiet, no children arguing or fighting. No diapers to change, no more waking up at to a cry. No need to plan a vacation around an amusement park. Now I can do things I enjoy doing. Go where I want to go and when I want to. And if we had to buy takeout or wanted to go out for dinner, it’s less expensive and easier to buy for two people.

Like the men I mentioned, we’re in a place in life (depending on age) where we can do what we love. For those characters, it’s their job. They love what they do for a living. I, do not! So, I’m not only balancing life after loss but feeling stuck in a meaningless job. I’m enjoying my time on the road. I love hiking and camping, heck, I’m even beginning to love going to the gym. If I could make a living writing books, blog, and traveling, I’d quit my job today. But… here I’m, in this place. For some, too old for a young man’s job and too old to hire because retirement is close at hand. So, I find my solace out here in the open, with nothing but God and the sky above me, with woodland creatures running around spying on me. I find peace on the road meeting new people exchanging smiles and laughter and getting tips on equipment to use and take with us. I sit frustrated at my desk, waiting for lunch time to get out of the office and go to the gym and work out for a few minutes. I get impatient sitting at my desk everyday staring at the calendar and the clock waiting for the weekend so that I can escape. Escape the chatter from 20 different conversations, escape the noise of the city, escape the stench of my neighbor who insist on smoking in the hallway and it seeps to my apartment. Escape from the thing I call… my fake life, because out there, that’s where my real life is. Writing…being a writer, that’s who I really am. It is whom, I will strive to be for the remainder of my life. It’s not an alter ego, it’s who I’ve always been, but life happens and sometimes the core of your personality or maybe even your dreams get caught up in what you need to do to live life. My oldest child it’s similar to me, but he was born to a different generation. I grew up understanding that my life must be sacrificed, my dreams must be put aside because once you begin your family they come first. The following Generations want to start out doing what they want to do and do it regardless of anything else. Not saying my child has a deficiency, I was raised by those who would be called The Silent generation they were raised by, the Greatest Generation, that meant working hard and at the end of the day you get to relax and enjoy yourself. We late Boomers and Xers have that same ethnic. Without my wife by my side and raising the last child I can now go back to those things that I enjoy doing. I long to have someone to enjoy this part of life with but if God chooses to leave me as I am, then I must accept that. It’s no easy thing hiking solo at my age, I say that because many things can go wrong and you’ll be on the side of a mountain by yourself. It could take hours it can take days before you get help. But if that’s the way my life ends, then I rather do that; I’d rather die doing what I truly love than the alternative. Chained to my desk.

The first thing my wife said to me when I showed my secret I’d been hiding… “you have to write”. She had always been the cutman in my corner. Patch me up and send me back out. She was one of only two people that said I should continue writing. My sister as I have mentioned many times was the other person. My college professors were the other group of people to encourage me to do so. The rest of the people in my world and in my life, not so much. The same can be said about hiking and anything in the outdoors. There’s no real encouragement in it some don’t understand the commitment and why one would put their life at risk to do such a thing. honestly I think mountain climbers are crazy but then again, they are and I admire them and wish I had the upper body strength to do what they do…

You see, dear reader, I’m down to one child now, I’ve asked her to join me on this adventurous 52 hike challenge. most likely I’ll end up just finishing this by myself. But again I’m down to raisng just one child, I’m no longer young man with a young wife and a young family depending upon me to be around forever. The very last Great Adventure, the unknown Galaxy that has yet to be explored is death. But before I get there I want to enjoy what God has created and for me, that means spending time in His creation. The wilderness, the wild Outdoors. During a hiking trip this summer an idea for a story popped into my head, so you see it’s all connected. The ideas for my stories come from the life I live. If I don’t live then what’s the point? And what would I write about…?

That moon and stone…? It was a reminder that “she’s not here” to enjoy this time with me. That was our plan. But what about you, dear reader, where are you in life today? I’ve long since, passed the sunrise days. Sunset is here… and now before me is…

Twilight.

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….