Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Shoes I Couldn't Fill

In addition to turning 15, falling in love for the first time, and dealing with my grief and the grief that surrounded me, I was also responsible for taking care of my Auntie's older two children.  My uncle paid me, but the expectation was for me to be there for them for more than just day to day care. 

To this day I feel like I failed miserably.  I failed by my standards.  I couldn't comfort and care for and be everything they were missing.  We were confined to a house that had my Auntie around every corner.  It was a small, cozy, home, but the space felt impossible to fill.

The kids needed love, spontaneity, discipline, routine, fun, and activity, not to mention clean clothes and nutritious food.  The only thing I had to give completely was my love for them.  Even that fell short, because of the mother that was missing. I allowed them too much time in front of the TV and Spaghettio's were served more frequently then was healthy.  My grandmother was just a few houses away and provided back up when needed; she had other pillars to uphold; this one was mine.

I felt defeated every day.  I was grieving.  I had more responsibility than I could handle.  The shoes were too big and though I tried desperately to fill them.

The boy continued to be my refuge.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


I turned 15 that summer.  The boy was granted a rare day off from farm work, just to spend the day with me.  He surprised me by taking me to a large city a few hours away for dinner, a movie, and a little shopping (he had gotten the outing pre-approved by my parents).  I didn't want anything material from him, nor did I expect it, but I remember the boots.  (Children of the 90's will appreciate this gift more than others).  A pair of black, mid calf, lace up Dr. Martens.

I still have them.  They are in the closet at my parents house.

That evening we returned to our small town and spent the evening cruising on the motorcycle before grabbing a pint of Ben and Jerry's and heading home.

Thoughts of the one person who was missing from my 15th birthday were pushed to the back of my mind.

I felt safe.  I felt content.


The boy and I did go to prom that April.  It was perfect, everything a first prom should be.  I spent time with my mom finding the perfect dress, shoes, and jewelry; a forest green, crushed velvet, spaghetti strap, floor length number.  Simple, low-key, silver heels, "diamond studs", and a "diamond pendant" completed the look.  Simple.  No frills.  Perfect for me.

The boy picked me up in his shiny pickup, opened the door for me and took me to super at the best restaurant in town with all of our friends.  We slow danced every song and attended the after prom party until dawn.  I think we even won some good prizes!  He dropped me off just as the sun was coming up and my mother insisted he come in and stay for a nap rather than drive the 30 additional miles home.  We both napped and when we woke, had breakfast.

After breakfast, the boy gently picked out every last one of the bobby pins holding my thick, mid-back, auburn hair atop my head.  He told me he loved me and I knew I loved him too.

I felt safe.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A War Within

I am having a war within myself.

Today has been a painful day at school (work).  Too many needs, not enough time or people.  This isn't new and I know I'm not alone.  This is every teachers complaint.  As a special education teacher, the needs of students are magnified.

When I first started my Master's program in Special Education, my intent was never to be a special education teacher.  At the time, I was 22, newly married, and working at a depressed area school.  My intent was to serve the children in my classroom better because the resources were not available to provide this support outside of the classroom. 

Fast forward a few years, and my husband and I moved to be closer to family.  I was thankful at the time for the Special Education degree because it allowed me to get into a hard to get in to school district. 

I almost quit teaching all together after that first year. 

I put in for a classroom and was not granted the request.  Too new.  Too young.  Too needed in Special Education.  I seriously thought about quitting.  Then I was granted a transfer to a different special education position in a different building. 

I had a baby, I was gone for 1/3 of the year, and was too exhausted to realize I still didn't like being a special education teacher.  I was in survival mode. 

The next year, I realized again.  I applied for a transfer to a part time position...could not find part time daycare. 

The next year, I had baby number two, I was gone for 1/3 of the year, and once again was too tired and preoccupied to think about not being a special education teacher. 

The next year, no baby...I didn't like special education.  Again, I applied for a transfer, two actually, and despite nearly 10 years of stellar evaluations from five different principals, I was denied the transfers.  This time for only one reason.  Too needed in Special Education. 

The next year and the next, same stories. 

Now it is this year...our team of specialists has changed and I adore my team...I adore my students.  I continue to mourn the general education classroom.  I am passionate about my work.  I can't imagine being anything but an educator.  Still, I am being told it if not for sure they will grant a transfer.  I am looking into private education.  The pay is less.

What do I do?

Where is my heart?

What is best for me?  What is best for my family?

How will this affect my future?

God knows my heart, but what is HIS plan for me?

I am at war within myself. 

Monday, March 17, 2014


Life was good for a while.  Maybe even great!  I continued to find solace in the boy, in his family, in time spent with a family who was not over their head in grief.  Our grand plans to spend even more time together over Christmas break were ruined by a blizzard.  For Valentine's day I received flowers from not only the boy, but also from his brother (remember....the one I was betrothed to)...yellow carnations.  The card read, "Hey Sis, thank you for making my little brother so happy."

Those boys, who I had been warned to stay away from, had caught me and given me a wonderful gift of happiness.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Prom in November

I became more and more dependent on the boy. I spent all my free time with him and became a basketball stat so I could spend even more time with him.  He drove me home whenever he could and came to every grief filled family event from spaghetti suppers (an old tradition) to candle lightings (a new tradition).  I also spent a great deal of time with his family and become a part of their inner circle very rapidly.  They treated me as if I belonged with them. And I felt like I did.

During this time, my family members visited the cemetery frequently, but I couldn't bring myself to go because I knew I would lose hold of my fragile composure. The boy encouraged me to go, to grieve, and when I refused, he promised to be there when I was ready to go.

I spent the weekends traveling to see the baby, who remained in a pediatric care unit at a hospital several hours away.   The boy usually met me at the junction on my way home from these weekends because he knew I needed a break from the grief and my family...needed him.

By the end of November, the baby was finally home. Life took on a look of normalcy, but everyday continued to be tinged with grief.

One weekend, while watching a movie and sharing a pint of Ben and Jerry's, the boy asked if I would go to prom with him. It was November, prom was not until April. I had no question that he would still be there in five months time.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Gray Day

The day of the funeral was eerie and gray, or maybe it was sunny and bright, but in my memory, it was eerie and gray.

I couldn't stop sobbing, the wall I had put up broke and it was the ugly kind of crying.  The kind where you suck in air and gulp for breath as the act of crying overtakes your body.  I distinctly remember my uncle, the man who had just lost the love of his life, turning to look at me with that, "its ok, we'll all be ok look."

We weren't ok though, none of us were ok.  We were collective in our grief, but I felt like I was on an island.  I didn't have the right to grieve so openly when this wonderful women had left three children behind.  I was not a motherless child, but I felt as lost as though I was.  My own mother was focused entirely on the babies health, on my grandparents, and I don't blame her for one second.

The day was miserable and never-ending.  All I wanted was to get away from the pain and at the same time all I wanted to do was be with those who shared my pain.

When it was all over, the boy came and got me.  He drove; I cried.  He was there when I needed him and as it turns out he had been there in the basement of the church grieving secondhand for a women he had only known a month.  He was there when they laid her in the ground and I turned my back because that couldn't be the last place I would ever see her.  He was there on the grayest of my days.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Perfectionism and Jealousy

I haven't continued my story. In fact, I haven't written in three days. It isn't because I am suffering from writer's block. I am suffering from perfectionism. I feel like I can't publish on imperfect piece. I'm not so worried about the mechanics...that can be fixed later, but I want the meat to be perfect.

I'm am also suffering from jealousy. My jealousy is overshadowing what is...comparison is the thief of joy.

I am vowing to publish whatever comes out tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Re-introducing the Boy

The boy and my twitter-patted state were long forgotten in the 24 hour after math...even longer, now that I think about it, because what I now felt was different.  I was trying to be the rock my family needed and on the surface I was doing well.  Underneath, I was crumbling and desperately needed a rock of my own. 

The boy is re-introduced to the story...

Tragedy struck on a  Saturday.  I think the boy came over that Sunday evening, but I can't be sure.  He said, "I don't know what to say or do," and hugged me like I wasn't fragile and breakable, the way I felt inside, by fiercely as if he might not ever let go.

My cousins were staying with my dad and I.  I was operating on autopilot.  The baby was still in critical condition.  My mother was still gone.  My grandfather, the pillar of our family and retired minister, was questioning every ounce of faith he had within him.

The boy had a bag.

"I feel silly giving this to you now," he said, "but I thought of you when I saw it and now I know you need it."

It was a simple athletic logo sweatshirt.  The kind that gets softer with each wash and wear, in my favorite shade of purple with a touch of comforting heather gray. 

"It's like a hug all the time." he said, "and I brought movies for the kids.  Funny ones.  To distract them.  My little brother helped me pick."

That sweatshirt and those movies were my life line and I clung to that boy for dear life.

Saturday, March 8, 2014


Sometimes it hurts to feel,
Sometimes you feel because it hurts,
Sometimes hellos are hard,
Sometimes goodbyes are harder,
Sometimes you build walls to protect,
Sometimes the walls break,
Sometimes you can't forget,
Sometimes you don't want to remember,
Sometimes there is a tug of war in your heart,
Sometimes you know where you belong,
Sometimes all you need is home.

Rough sketch after a day at home and a week of memory slicing. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

The After Shocks

He said "No," but it wasn't a statement, it was a one word prayer, a plea.

The events that followed are a little hazy in my mind.  At some point I got dressed and tracked down my dad.  We dropped my friend off at her aunts house in town.  We arrived at the hospital at the same time as my younger cousin (who my Aunt had been going to pickup) and my Uncle dropped to his knees right there in the parking lot.  It seems like all of this took hours, but in reality I know it only took minutes.

The baby was with her, just two.  So was the dog.  The baby was brought to the emergency room in her car seat by two hunters, alive, but barely.  My mom was working (as a nurse) that day.  She didn't even recognize her.  The baby was immediately shipped to a bigger hospital with pediatric specialists.  My mom and uncle went with.

The rest of us were left to grieve and comfort my Auntie's other two children.  The rest of the day was a blur.  It was an earthquake of epic proportions and we would deal with the aftershocks for years to come.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Cold Water

So I said yes, against my better fourteen year old judgment and with that one word we belonged to each other (in a loose sense of the word).  I was his.  He was mine. 

Life continued on pretty much as usual.  Our best friends started dating each other to spend more time with us.  I had a high school sweetheart who was completely enamored with me.  He knew my family.  I knew his family.  His parents approved and both my mother, second mother (Auntie) and father approved.  Life was fun.  Life was easy.   Weekends involved movies, football games,  cruising, a big family dinners.  During the week, we walked to class together, ate lunch together, and worked on our homework together while watching Scooby-Doo.  We were just kids. 

One long weekend in early October, the boy was asked to tour a college with a friend who was several years older than he.  After encouragement from his friend, his mother, and myself, he agreed to go, though college and adult choices felt a long way off for him. My best friend and I decided to have a girls weekend complete with snacks, a sleepover, and movies.  The boy called, they arrived safely and I told him to let us have our girl time and to go have fun.  We stopped at my grandma's to chat with my Auntie (the baby on my mom's side of the family) and my grandparents, wait for my mom to give us a ride home, and eat candy corn (a family favorite). 

When my mom arrived, we stood on the sidewalk chatting before parting ways.  My Auntie told us to be good and have fun as she walked the short distance to her own home and family.

I awoke at what I thought was a very early hour, based on my late night movie watching, to the phone ringing repeatedly.  My mom was at work and my dad was out doing chores.  I figured it was my mom or the boy calling as I fumbled sleepily to the phone. 

When I answered, I knew it was not that kind of phone call, and was as brutally pulled from my sleepy state as I would have been had someone thrown a bucket of cold water at me.

It was not my mother. 

It was not the boy.

It was my uncle.

Go find Grandpa.  There's been an accident.  Auntie's dead. 

Just like that.  The water had been thrown.  I froze.

Go find Grandpa!  He's hunting near your house.  Go find Grandpa!

My friend was now awake, but somehow knew to just follow.  We jumped in the farm pick up and took off down the driveway.  I only made it a quarter of a mile, before I found him.  I flagged him down and said, "Uncle called, there's been an accident.  You need to call right away.  He said Auntie is dead.  That can't be right, can it!?!  That can't be right!?"

"No." was all he said, but I barely heard it because he was already gone.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


I am tired, stressed and emotionally drained today. Suffice it to say it was a tough day at school (work).  It pains me to be witness to the suffering of others.  I am so very thankful for the parents who raised me and the safe, happy, place I now call a home; with my own children and hubby is where I will be tonight. With that said, I will continue my story tomorrow.

Monday, March 3, 2014

I Said, Yes...?

Within a few short weeks, the boy and I were inseperable.  His motorcycle was cool, his red shoes were unique, and his hair color was temporary.  He walked me to class each morning and gave me rides to my grandparents afterschool.  We went to a movie and another football game or two.

On September 5th, sitting in the driveway  at my parents house, he asked me to be his girlfriend.  I could still swear that the phrase going through my head was, "not yet;" that I was thinking I'm having fun, but I'm not ready to be someone's girlfriend...I haven't even asked my date if I can date yet!  However, what I said was, yes.  I said, yes!?!

A month later, we shared our first kiss in the porchlight.  It was short, sweet, and innocent...everything a first kiss with your high school sweetheart should be.  He then whispered, "Do you know, I love you?...(silence)...well, I do."  To which I replied, "I know."

I was not ready to reciprocate, nor was I ready for the event that would shake my young life to the core.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Phone Calls and Falling

The rest of the summer found me fending off phone calls from the boy at every turn (ok not every turn, but frequently enough to know he was still interested...very interested) despite my attempts at aloofness.  I used many excuses not to go out with him, the most freqently used being, "My dad won't let me."  Now that I think about it, aside from his initial caution, I never did ask my dad for his permission!   The story may have been altered drastically if I had!  After one particularly tempting invitation (a movie date to the newest Julia Roberts flick), I told him I was busy re-decorating my room.  I actually was!  He took this to be on the same level as the old excuse, I'm washing my hair, and laid off the phone calls for longer than usual.

And then, school was back in session.  With that first Friday night came our small town's firsts home football game.  Everyone, who was anyone, was at that game.  I of course was no exception.  Neither was the boy.

At some point, he caught up with me and never went away.  I'm still slightly-but-not-really mad my obnoxious friend (at the time), begged for his jacket when he was so clearly not into her.  As the game came to a close, I headed for the gate and my ride, my Auntie.  The boy was clearly not done with this night and asked if I could come for a motorcycle ride with him.  (Of course, I could not without permission from mom!).

The boy had some guts...he came to my grandparents home, where he officially met my mother, Auntie, grandmother, and grandfather just to ask permission to take me on his motorcycle.   As if his healthy fear of my father wasn't enough!

I got permission.   I went. 

Standing in the porch-light, of my grandparent's iconic Victorian home, the boy gently placed a helmet on my head and adjusted it carefully under my chin, while my mother, grandmother, and Auntie spied on us from the window (my Auntie later gushed about the sweetness of the helmet adjusting).

Not only did he get permission to take me on his motorcycle , but he also received permission to take me home (in his car) that night.  I lived 20 miles from town and he lived 30 in the opposite direction.  It would be the first of many rides home in the weeks to come.

The phone calls were now something I waited for.  I was falling for this boy...but the story, our story, was still just beginning.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Begin at the Beginning

Traditional stories begin at the beginning and move forward in chronological order.   As a college graduate and teacher, I know that part of an author's craft is telling the story in non-traditional ways.  My true beginning includes a very hot July day, a very long labor, and a OB wing in the process of being remodeled...but that is a story for another day. 

The beginning I am going to start with, ironically begins with a very hot July day, however, that is where the similarities stop.

This story, starts with a boy, as many good stories do.  This boy had black and white hair, red shoes, and a motorcycle.  I was 14. He was 16. Little did I know the impact this two-toned, Ronald McDonald shoe wearing, motorcycle driving boy would have on my life.

He noticed me.  I noticed his hair...and his shoes...and his motorcycle.   It wasn't our first introduction, I had known him all my life and had (not seriously) been betrothed to his 12 month older brother since before I was even born.   They were the only boys my father had cautioned me against dating, that is when he gave me permission to date, preferably at age 40 or later.

He made friendly chit chat. I played it cool and aloof and answered only what was necessary for demonstrating the manners my mama taught me.

And so it began...