“Without Her: Sacred Dust”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ripley’s on 42nd Street

Until next time…

“Beloved”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        click on it:   You are beloved  

Until next time….

“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….

“Widower”

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

IMAG0293_1_1

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

Island-1

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….