“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…


“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…

“Without Her: 9 Months Later, I’m Not Okay”

    I was sitting down watching Nashville the TV show the other week. I was so happy that it returned. Since ABC cancelled it, Country Music Television picked it up. I can’t say I’m anywhere close to liking the writing this season. First off, they are screwing up every relationship on the show, everyone is breaking up or going through drama that doesn’t make since. Well, at least to me. See when you change too much too fast you lose the audience. I’m a die hard fan so, I would stick it out. I learned that  the show runners are from ThirtySomething. Do you remember the show? The characters spent most of the time wining. So understandably I’m concerned about the writing and direction of one of  my favorite shows…
     Out of nowhere, they killed  Rayna Jaymes

 I’m like “what the heck!?” What made things worse was that the hospital scene mirrored my conversation with Sharol. I knew Deacon Claybourne’s pain. Like Deacon, my loss was sudden and unexpected. Like Deacon, my life has been a series of twists and turns down dark roads. Conquering addiction depression, assaults, bigotry and fear. We both found a confidence and strength that came from the relationship with the women in our lives. Who also happened to be the absolute love of our lives. 

Deacon and Rayna we’re working on an album of duets together. It was the story of their life together. It was a pretty adventurous task which brought up old feelings and anxieties as they tried to write together. So at one point they decided to write separately and meet to put the songs together. Coincidentally, it was the same formula I came up with when we decided to write our own  autobiography about lives before we met and then our life together as a couple, the struggles of parenting and becoming One. That was about 5 years ago. We were up in Albany for a weekend because Sharol had to take a class. It started on a vacation, then when that weekend trip came we decided to spend some more time writing…. we never finished it. We didn’t get pass the outline of the chapters. Only God knows where Sharol’s notes are. Like me they were scattered all over the place, a notebook here a piece of paper there…

    I fell apart when Deacon did. I couldn’t imagine him living life without Rayna. Raising the two girls alone, the unfinished album, the business up in the air, a custody battle, a music career that was halted, teenage daughter dating an older guy that’s bipolar… and the only way Highway 65 was going to survive, is for him to finish the album that everybody’s waiting for…

      I once told someone “how am I supposed to be Papa without Nana?” They responded with “Aww”. Someone hit the buzzer please. “Aww…” is the wrong response! “I don’t know”, would have been better. I think what followed was something like “you’ll be okay” …in the words of President Trump “Wrong!” I won’t be okay, heck I’m not okay. My life was and in some small ways, but less with each day; intertwined with Sharol’s. Thankfully, I did not die with her emotionally; as so many surviving spouses do. Things would have been far worse for our two youngest that I still have to raise. So, how am I supposed to be Papa without Nana? How can I  finish the book we were working on, much less consider an autobiography without her? How will I lead this nation(6 children  and 4 grand) of ours forward without her by my side?.. a month ago I woke up to a runny nose. I thought it was a runny nose, it was blood. It took me a bit to figure it out until I saw the bright red on the pillow. I tried not to panic, but this is the thing I was most concerned about over the months. What happens if I get sick? Ill be alone. Usually, we’d wake up, one would  stay with the other just to make sure everything was fine. One would pray with and for the other. But my prayer partner is gone. Who will take care of me…? I thought, thinking of the future. I didn’t want to go back to sleep. The kids can’t loose both of us within the same 12 months I thought as I laid back down…

      So, you see, dear reader. When the car ran into Rayna, when she laid in the bed promising Deacon that she’d come back to him and when he said “don’t you die on me” as they ushered him out of the room…it was all too familiar with me. Some years ago, probably within our first two years of marriage. We looked at each other and I said “Dag, why didn’t you wait for me?”  I was referring to all the stuff we had gone through in our past relationships. If we had just waited for the one God had for us. We agreed it would have been fun to have had more time together. Like Deacon and Rayna we struggled but the love was real and genuine. They were arguably one of our favorite characters/couples  of the show. Now, Sharol  wasn’t a great big country music fan but she did like a good drama and watched the show with me from time to time. It’s one of the few shows that I can stomach watching without her, probably because I started watching it before she did. 

   Okay, back to Decon; facing finishing a work they started together with everyone pushing and pulling on him. But of the crowd came a voice of reason, Avery Barkley, who reminded them that the man just lost his wife. Avery later came up with a brilliant idea of how to finish the record. I have been fine for months moving forward, getting done what needed to be done. Until I woke in the middle of the night. Followed by the past few episodes of Nashville…

     But don’t you worry none, dear reader, became my hope and trust is in God and I have seen him move mountains for me these past few months. Friends have come and gone but Jesus has remain. Like that poem Foot Prints, I have only seen one set of boot prints in the snow of NYC. But I know he was with me before, so why not be with me now? If the Lord said he would be closer than a brother, as close as the mention of his name, if he gives birds food and I am more valuable to him than them, then why not take care of my needs in this dark hour? 

    Of course, that does not change our human feelings and the need for human to human contact. That need to be held. Isn’t that the reason for Eve? After seeing Adam alone, with no one like him; God decided that it was not good for him to be alone. Then by God’s grace he gave Adam someone to walk through life with. So, in this too I must trust him. I don’t just say this to encourage you but also to encourage myself. As Fred Hammond  once said sometimes we just have to encourage ourselves. By the way, Decon and the girls are doing much better. I suspect the rest of the season will focus on the continuing life, after Rayna Jaymes. I know that feeling too.

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….

“Chasing The Elusive Pink Unicorn”

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       The other day my wife and I were helping our oldest daughter home after giving birth to another grandchild. Bags and baby in tow, we slipped into a cab and headed home towards the Bronx. The driver politely ask if the air conditioning was okay. I answered “yes” then he asked about the music…again I replied “yes”. I then started asking questions, which I normally do. Since I know Uber is a hot topic and because I’m naturally curious, I asked about the difference and if he considered driving for them.
    He’d been driving for 6 years and was somewhat happy with it. He has friends who drive under Uber’s umbrella… The big thing though, was just being happy living in America!

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As we continued to talk I as asked what country was he original from. Yes, I do that a lot. I am always curious as to how people view “my” country, it’s one thing to read about it in a paper or have some activist parade about or a non-profit organization tell you. It’s quite another thing to just sit and talk to people and find out for yourself.

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  Well, he’s from Nepal…a farming family. He’s lived in the States for 9 years and driving for 6 of those years. Don’t let someone tell you that we are not an exceptional country, because we are and everyone coming here knows it. Unfortunately, what they don’t realize is how costly things are. We offer great opportunities to ALL Americans, sadly, natural born citizen don’t often take advantage of that fact. Far too many want free handouts and easy answers to success or The American Dream… You know, that Pink Unicorn. However, fresh face, hard working immigrants/migrants are quick to grab the opportunity. Because their American Dream is to come to this country and find a job, save a little money, help their families and own a home if possible. The biggest emphasis on getting a job.

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     I’ll get back to the driver in a moment. For now, let’s think about the pink unicorn.  The early settlers came in search of the New world dream. They wanted to be free to live, own property, have a family, create business and wealth for themselves. They didn’t want to be taxed to death! But wish to enjoy the fruit of their Labour… They were fleeing a corrupt church controlled by a corrupt government and a corrupt government controlled by a corrupt church. The Monarch had many working hard but few had riches, because it was given to the governing bodies. So they ended up poor and in poor health. Heck, I’d run too!
   Freedom and liberty. That was and is, the American Dream. The freedom and ability to work for yourself or someone else and earn a profit from it to live off of. To buy what you need, with a little extra for special occasions and events.

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It’s still the reason why people flock to our country. But many are disillusioned when they get here. You see, their image of America is skewed by celebrities and TV news, that all westerners are well off! But you and I know the truth. That’s just a small segment of our population. Most of us, work darn hard with little but debt to show for it. This is where the pink unicorn comes in. We, believe the Hype ourselves and drive the debt  through the roof! We fawn over celebrities, We seek the latest of everything, even if we can’t afford it, believing we’re entitled to it. Not that we have to earn it and this dear reader, is the wrong message to send to the world. But, whatever, right..?

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Back to my cab driver…
He was from a from a small village in the country, of Nepal. His parents were farmers. With a visa he found a job and started to learn English. His boss sponsored him…he met a woman, the bosses daughter, and romance sparked. About a year later they married. Boom. Instant citizen! They moved from the Midwest to NYC…she’s a nurse and he’s a cabbie. He went back to Nepal recently, though not to frequently, because of the cost to travel.
   In Nepal he’s somewhat of a celebrity. Where as before he was treated as a nobody. But because he lives in America he is now a “big shot”. The U.S. dollar is nearly triple the value it is here, so, with a few thousand dollars saved, he bought his parents a home in the capital city. He’s retired them too. He said, $3,000 would keep them for about 3 years… Going for a visit meant, very nearly going broke too. As friends and family expect a gift from the “rich American”. Can you see the pink unicorn theory at work here?
   His response to me was pretty much like “What can I do, it’s what they expect..”
  Expectations: are ours as great as Dickens novel? Do we expect and now feel entitled to something great or even greater than we can afford? If so, how does this affect the rest of the world?…dare I say, you already know the answer?
   The early settlers just wanted a chance to survive. As time moved on, others came seeking the fortune the new world had to offer the venture capitalist… Businessman. Staking their claims in fur trade, farming and even the slave trade. Nevertheless it was about the freedom and liberty, to be.
  Today, new immigrants coming here, whether legal or illegal are seeking the same basic freedoms. Let’s be honest, if things were so great back in the old country why bother coming to American. Growing up, in my teens years, many of my friends were from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Some here legally, some illegally, some involved in criminal activities, some were good citizens. But without fail, from to time someone would complain about the U.S. “in Kingston…” This. “On the island…” That. Of course I thought..well go back!! Wouldn’t you?! But they wouldn’t do that because they know what they were running from. Irregardless of America’s warts and problems it still offers greater opportunities and liberties. Again, today’s newcomers come saddled with the the western television version of the American Dream. The Pink Unicorn.
   Some are reporting that the dream is dead. No, it’s been replaced with the mythical unicorn… One way it’s been done is with the near cult like worship of celebrities. Everything they have, young and old alike want. We’ve allowed them to dictate fashion, beauty, faith and fitness to us. When they work for us. If you don’t see their movies they don’t get paid. When they fall out of the limelight…they panic then reinvent themselves. Ugly cycle,right?
  Companies tell us what we need…no! Must have…and so on. The end result is that Americans will be happier with all of the things. But…it’s a vapor, mist…a myth! 
  You can sell drugs but for so long, a gang can replace a family but for so far. You’ll end up dead or in prison. You pay for fake hair and nails but for so long. Eventually the money will run out. How many talent shows, record deals and movie contracts can there be?! And add to it, the runway PC culture and you have your usurped American dream, replaced by the elusive pink unicorn. Where no one is happy.
   

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That unhappy discontentment spreads across the globe. Those needing the basic necessities of life, swap out the dream for getting those needs, for getting the pink unicorn they see on TV shows and celebrity news.
   But you and I know that it is only a small percentage that are professional athlete, movie stars etc. There are far more middle income and poor families than there are super rich and celebrities…
   Perhaps, if we Americans clear our vision, we would have less disgruntled Americans and far less disillusioned immigrants.  The Native nations and early settlers had it right…the Nations took, grew and ate what was needed. The settlers wanted to be free of corrupt control. Work for themselves…earn and earn the right to keep what they worked hard for. Yes. Of course they partied like rock stars. When the crops were in! When the days work was completed! When their children married! When the baby was born!   You get the idea, right?
   So now the dream is to get what…?  Famous? A million Hits or Likes? The Patriots would leap from their graves, Board their ships and serve the King, if they could see what their spilled blood has produced. I could see their zombified corpse standing in Constitution Hall ready to put flame to parchment…
   So, is the American Dream dead?  No, I don’t think so but we do have a skewed view of that dream. For me, personally, it’s about doing the job I love. Saving money for my retirement years, getting out of debt before I retire. Hey, that educational debt doesn’t disappear on its own and I highly doubt, social security and Medicare will cover the cost. The dream, is also about enjoying time with our families, enjoying vacations from our daily lives. Sharing stories, life lessons, an occasional visit from neighbors and friends. Talking to strangers and making them new friends. Meeting someone interesting…perhaps, marrying them. Extend that circle with a child…
   Well, I guess that’s just me. Yet, it seems that when we focus on the things that matter most, the essentials of life, we tend to be happy people. Content. But when we Americans allow ourselves to drift from the essentials, the American Dream. We fall for the elusive pink unicorn. A cancerous myth, that spreads worldwide…
   What do you think?  Until next time, dear reader…

It’s #IndiePrideDay

Today Independent Authors, Writers and Publishers from around the world celebrate. Saying “Hello world we’re here and there’s lots to discover. Come find your New favorite author!”

This massive undertaking was created by author Mark Shaw, under the #IndieBooksBeSeen banner last summer at this very same time. But it’s not about Shaw, it’s about the Indie Writing community. It’s about being heard above the “chatter” and allowing the reader the opportunity to discover an author they can grow with.
  Often times, independent authors or even small publishers I drowned out by the “big machine”, large publishing companies. But this is the time of year where, readers get to say “Hey, I just read this great book” in a Big way! Book tubers have joined in on the thunderous clap, now you can to, search for the hash tag #IndieBooksBeSeen or visit the website IndieBooksBeSeen.com
Come join the party, bake a cake if you like but by all means show some love to the Indie community.