“With and Without Her: Twilight”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twilight.

Until next time…

“With and Without Her: My Year Alone”

          Sitting on this bench in Battery Park today, in the stifling heat; my mind flashed back to a year ago. Sharol and I trying to get some time together before her operation. Before she wouldn’t able to walk long distances and dance or sit for long periods of time. Before, months of physical therapy and Recovery. Before, internet grocery shopping. Before, waiting for me to come home and cook and clean. Before boredom creeped up on her…

   I texted her the menu from the cafeteria next door. She texted when she got there, I met her at the front desk… even though I thought the dress she had on was an ugly print, I wholeheartedly appropriated her in a dress. And it fit her form well and she looked good too. I left the house before her so I didn’t see what she was wearing. Wouldn’t you know it, we matched! That’s not the first time we did. In 19 years, it happened quite often. I sat on the very same bench today. That was a beautiful but hot day and a great night. That was on Monday, 8 days later, she was gone….

     It’s almost midnight up here at Rodgers Rock Campground , on Memorial day weekend. The kid is snoring, reminding of her mother. There’s a tiny bug crawling on my lantern casting a giant shadow along the tent wall. I forgot the blankets so we’re  a little cold. I left my book; a collection of Sherlock Holmes novels, at home so there’s nothing to do and the fire has gone out. So I decided I’ll write this…

What I’ve learned over the past year is this. Like love, you can’t hide from pain or more to the point. You can’t hide from grief nor the losing of someone. It’s something you must feel, you must go through, you must experience. If you fight it or better yet, try to fight it you will exhaust a lot of energy and eventually you’ll lose. Running away from the feeling of losing a spouse (or love one) is as futile as a hamster running in a wheel. Trust me, I’ve spent most of this time fighting one pain in particular;loneliness.  It is a hell I have never liked. We’ll talk about that later…

       My daughter and I went to visit my other daughter and her husband. They happened to be camping at the same camp ground. They, like I, were booking sites for the long weekends of the camping season.  I’d planned to be closer to home but my equipment had taken nearly 2 months to arrive (warehouse issues) so I stopped looking. When the company contacted me and worked out a deal, I begin my search again. But the season had already started. The only available campground was 5 hours away. A day before leaving my daughter texted me that they had found a place for the weekend too. It was the same place. Their site wasn’t too far from us. But it was a good walk, over steep hills!

    After our visit we went back to our homestead and found our fire buring nicely. This, after several failed attempts.  The kid went inside and I set in front of the fire. The warm glow of yellow and orange flames were beautiful. I looked over at the empty chair next to me and whispered. “You would have loved this…” my heart smiled, because I imagined Sharol sitting next to me. We had gone away once and had the opportunity to sit in front of a fireplace. It was awesome! We were eating Chinese take-out, Mongolian beef. That was the night we planned to write our autobiography. We actually started thinking and writing out themes on a legal pad. Whether it’s a fireplace or camp fire,warm dancing flames are a magical thing.

In the daylight our little homestead over looked the river surrounded by lush green mountains with nothing but open sky above us. Indeed, Sharol would have loved it. Much like Chris Stapleton’s song, “Whiskey And You” I allowed myself to feel. To feel the absence of my bride. 

“I’ve got a problem but it ain’t like what you think. I drink because I’m lonesome and I’m lonesome ’cause I drink. But if I don’t break down and bring it on myself it’ll hit out of the blue” – Whiskey And You.

     It felt good to just let it happen. Sad but good. I was able to enjoy the moment. And in that it felt as if Sharol was enjoying it with me, not because she was there but because I didn’t fight the pain that she wasn’t.  Fighting it would only serve to make me more lonely without her. The guy in Stapleton’s song,  drinks to feel… to avoid the sadness creeping up on him.  That, dear reader, is where I’m at right now. Creating the atmosphere, space or time where I can feel rather than not feel. I work all day, come home, cook and care for our youngest. Juggle appointments, bills, school events, daddy daughter date night and so on. There’s little time to mourn or reflect. So quiet moments away from the city or lunch time walks give me the time to feel. Different times bring different feelings. For example, a week ago the kid went on her school trip. It was an overnight trip… I  woke up at 5am made her breakfast and lunch then drove her to school at 6:30am. It wasn’t a particular good morning. When I got home, the stress of working at an unfulfilling job where I feel trapped, being without Sharol’s input… And! I’d be alone, hit me. I laid down and couldn’t get back up. I looked up at Sharol’s picture and “it‘s you and me…” 

     Frequency

 I grabbed a ton of snacks turned on the Xbox and TV.  I finished the series Turn and looked for something new. I couldn’t concentrate, so I mopped the kitchen floor and made some  calendar reminders… then started watching Frequency. Halfway through the first episode the tears started to flow. By the end, I begin to ask God, out loud, “Why can’t life be like life this show?” Seriously, it would awesome if I could pick up my cell, send a text and the message crosses time and eternity. Then in an instant see My Wife Sharol flash across the screen. “Where are you hon? She says. “I’m sitting in your chair, where are you?” I ask. “Umon the boardwalk waiting for you” and it hits me! “Wait. Who is this!?” I text back. “Its Sharolyour wife, silly man. Hurry up“… after some back and forth. I realize It’s  2012, she’s in Atlanta  City. We were going for a walk but I told her to go ahead downstairs. It’s 4 years before her death. After some time… I’d reveal the truth. She’d be heartbroken that I was alone and in such a state without her. Then the questions would begin. The kids…? Oh my goodness, Tyrone, Hannah..?! 
     Dear reader, it would a simpler life, if life were like a TV show. I’d be able to get advice on what to do about my job and other important decisions. But life isn’t like that, we tend to drown real life things out with whatever we can. For as long as we can… then when tragedy comes, we’re unprepared for it. We are all guilty of it on some level. I guess; the best way to look at  and live life, is as if it’s your last day every day. In real life, no matter how far you run away it will catch up. If life were like Frequency, I’d tell Sharol “You weren’t alone. You weren’t violently attacked like you always feared. I held you, breathed into you…Hannah was there…” And that, dear reader, would have started a paradox. It would have effected the future. It would have explained the last few years of married life. Where we lived each day like we wouldn’t see the other again. It would explain “always kiss good night”. It would explain my alarm, that was set at 10pm… to Kiss Sharol. And I did so, even when we were mad at each other. It would most definitely explain, her holding my face and saying “I love you, Tyrone”…

   Running…

Okay… I said I’d get back to my particular issue I’ve been fighting, this past year. If you’ve kept up, you’d see I have been on a very public, emotional roller coaster. I did so purposely because as I have stated before, as an author I am both a public and a private figure. My writing buddies urge me to write because it would have helped me deal with the loss of my wife. I didn’t believe them but being a creative type person, I know that if we do not engage in our creative abilities we go bananas. So I use that as my process over the past year… though it has seemed to be a rollercoaster ride. There has been one running theme, loneliness. I have tried everything I could think of to escape the inescapable. I continued our date night, it’s morphed into a date night with our youngest. It is now our own thing. For our weekly time, marriage Mondays, I’d  often tried watching something we watched… it didn’t work well. Our Friday night ritual Remains the Same. A movie and wine… after work,it’s  all I can do. But I still missed the companionship of a woman. It took me some months but I couldn’t take the silence of my wife’s daily text, lunchtime text, photos of her at lunch or walking… or our usual banter(*my children will be modified by the following picture I will spare you all her response).

 I joined some online dating sites just to talk to someone. Boy, was that a mistake! Just when I thought I met a pen pal… poof they were gone or nuts. Dude, one said she love Jesus, told me the church she went to then ask for my astrological sign. I’m like, what…?!  Well, apparently it wasn’t going to work out when I told her I was born in May. Lol. I wasn’t looking for it to work out. I was looking for a conversation. That was during a phone call, the first day, the first time! Nothing I did changed the empty silence. There were nights when, I skipped pass the two glasses of wine, finish the bottle, had a great night’s sleep and woke up to the void. Because you can’t hide. It took me 11 months to learn to stop running. To embrace the feeling… I  was a lone wolf most of my life. Never thinking I’d be happy much less find love. I did. It’s gone. It hurts… I didn’t think I would make it through the night a year ago. I didn’t want to either… by God’s grace, I made it through a year. Most of the sting is gone. Most of the sting. I was reminded two day ago that everything isn’t over. The kid was making salad for dinner and sliced through her thumb. The walked into the kitchen and saw blood everywhere. Why? Because she panicked. Sharol always prided me for my calmness in the midst of a disaster. It really was just on the outside, inside I was always a nervous wreck. I talked my daughter through it, “okay, run some water on it. How deep is it..? Put the paper towel on it and squeeze tight to stop the bleeding…” while she was calming down. I had to think fast! This was going to a hospital trip… “okay, pick up the pepper and whipe off the table. Good she was something to occupy her mind. I quickly changed clothes and got to the hospital. I was fine until… the realization. I was in the same ER with her mother a year ago. My daughter laid her head on. When the doctor called us in, I started to have a small panic attack, my trouble breathing turned into me crawling up the walls. I can’t do this again. This can only be seen by me. So I thought. “Dad your doing fine“… She ended up getting 5 stitches. When we were done and about to leave, the kid said “You did goodand Im alive” then stuck out her hand for a high five…

      She fell asleep on the couch. Like her mom, I couldn’t help but watch her sleep, keep watch.  Monday reminded me, dear reader, you can’t, I can’t, we can’t, run away. Things are going to happen to us… for me, the adjustment of loss and living life, like many of you, it is a process. Though tedious at times, nevertheless it is a process that must happen. 

       I leave you with(click) these encouraging words from Sharol that she spoke to our daughter who was turning 13 at he time. I won’t be writing about this again, unless perhaps it ends up in one of my books. I thank you, my dear readers, for following and reading along with this season of my life. Thank you for your encouraging comments. I pray that at the very least, one of you were encouraged, felt normal. Being the surviving spouse is no easy task but we can get to the other side of grief.

Until next time…

“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…