Gone

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Her mother once called her home a “museum” because it was immaculate and timely ornamented with her expensive fascinations. Even her bedroom’s crown molding was painted to match her designer duvet.

She lived alone. And she loved it. She had a great neighbor who checked on her constantly. Such attention wasn’t annoying, it was comforting and very helpful. He brought coolers when the power went out, tarped her roof in the driving rain, and best of all, helped her exercise the patio.

Outside, they shared stories, delightful bottles of wine, always from the same vineyard, and he unceasingly arrived with his adorable black lab by his side. Never on a leash, this dog wasn’t leaving her neighbor’s side. In the cold, she provided blankets to keep him warm.

On her patio, they would talk for hours – sometimes gunshots would come from the nearby city, but they were always safe. Safe in her museum with a curator she couldn’t imagine losing.

Then he left. In one night, he was gone. His house remained the same but he and his precious puppy were nowhere to be found. She figured they must have gone on one of their hunting trips, but days and weeks went by and he never returned.

Missing her companion’s late-night talks and his amazing taste in wine, she rambled around her museum, lost. Nights usually spent relaxing turned into nights spent working, something she probably should have done before, but now, she felt no other option.

Knowing the local liquor store owner knew the man by name, she sought a bottle from the vineyard they always shared. Oddly, the store owner didn’t know the winery and offered her what he guaranteed was the man’s favorite. Knowing it was not, she purchased it anyway.

It was October, getting harsh enough when red wine in insulated glasses was necessary to keep it from getting cold. It was odd, she thought, that she had never been in the man’s house. He had been in hers a great deal, to offer help on this or that, or tell her the color of a newly painted wall was, “interesting and certainly reflected her personality.”

But they never shared wine inside, only on the patio and only on the weekday evenings. She assumed he had a social life or family obligations like she, but apparently, she was wrong. After he left, never did a person come to the door, other than the police after she filed a missing person’s report. She never saw anyone enter or exit the house before he left and after, it was only the bank representatives and the auctioneer’s team that went to his door.

Driving home, she saw the usual panhandlers holding signs reading “will work for food” or “disabled and homeless”, but this time, when the light turned red, she noticed one of the regulars held a sign that read, “need wine.” The panhandler quickly approached her car as she smiled and held out the bottle she purchased only minutes before.

Seeing the man on the street corner smacked her back into reality forcing her to remember that trying to recreate the past will always waste the present.

Passed By

Risen Above Street Corner

She stood at the corner clutching her infant and begging. She wasn’t homeless or poor like the man on the corner across from her, she was begging for the kind of help that one needed to stay alive.

Snakes were common in the area so she thought nothing of the one that was slithering towards her, certain it would be deterred by the sidewalk. Looking back up, she continued to beg and excitedly leaned forward when a driver stopped and promised her the help she needed. She glanced at the snake. When she looked back up, the driver was gone.

Feeling her ankles cramping, assuming it was from standing so long, she was unaware the snake was beginning to stifle her. Soon her legs felt the same, she looked down and watched silently as the snake continued upward.

The cars repeatedly passed. Soon, her crying infant’s legs were suctioned to her hips, the snake maintained its speed until it reached her neck.

Certain she would be strangled, she yelled, but still, none of the cars stopped. The drivers only looked with empathetic eyes and continued their commute.

The snake stopped suddenly, just under the chin of the screaming infant. It could have silenced her child and left her to struggle free, but it didn’t.

Uncertain of her immediate future, she stopped yelling for help and as impossible as it was, held her infant tighter and met the snake’s eyes.

Suddenly she moved. Upward. She was already standing and unsure of how she could rise without power, but it was the snake. As if losing a staring contest, it looked away and began to retreat. Amazingly so, as the snake’s body met the sidewalk, her feet left it.

Soon, she was higher than the drivers that didn’t stop. She rose even higher than the church’s cross and then stopped. She wasn’t floating, she was strongly standing on absolutely nothing. She watched the snake finally drop from her ankles to the ground and slither to the homeless man across the street.

Levitated? It seemed as such. Scared to move, but refusing to stay where she was, she took a step. She fell to the ground, hard. Very hard. On her back, protecting her crying infant. Scraped and sore, she got up and walked away from the corner, still watching the drivers smile and nod as they passed by.

Just the way you are

pexels-photo-144428At 5’ 9” his arm fell easily around my neck as the chords of “Only the Good Die Young” started. I was in awe, first by his physical touch, then, at the realization that my teenage son and I were standing at the top of Target Field, on a beautiful night, in a crowd of thousands, singing at the top of our lungs, “…you Catholic girls start way too late!”

Oblivious to others, I was enjoying one of my life’s most wonderful nights.

I have always wanted to see Billy Joel live but, agitated by the nosebleed seat price, I put off the purchase – until I thought of my son. By clicking “buy now” I would give him his first outdoor concert experience and we’d be able to see a guy we’ve jammed to since before his cell phone became smart. So, the choice was easy and Ticketmaster got its price.

During long commutes for various appointments, some emotionally draining, we’d return to the car and recover to Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits album. I always hoped it would be Jackson Browne, but I think Billy was a little less intense, he did cut a few songs just for the sake of entertainment.

Without knowing it, Billy offered great positive parenting opportunities and established music as a connection with my son. Nowadays, my son will offer me an earbud to listen to a portion of his favorite song. He doesn’t say much, just calls me over, offers an earbud and I know what to do. Listen, jam, and appreciate the connection.

By the way, nothing has changed in music since rock and roll brought forth forbidden topics such as sex, drugs and being rebellious. Thankfully.

I have faith that my kid will make the right decisions in life no matter what music he listens to.  And being able to listen to his choice is the first way to reinforce my confidence in his growing independence.

We’ve had the whole “drug talk” already. He actually initiated it. During Billy Joel’s “Captain Jack”, he asked, “Who is Captain Jack and why is he going to make you fly?” in response to the song lyric, “Captain Jack will make you high tonight.” And for those of you who know the song by heart, the answer is “no,” at ten years-old did we not tackle the masturbation topic, but I wish I would have.

Oh, and he really gets a kick out of singing “Only the Good Die Young” – he does, after all, go to a Catholic school.

Pulling from the 80s, Billy Joel did not disappoint. I had no idea my kid knew the words to “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and was willing to shout the lyrics along with the rest of my generation. I felt amazed and almost serene at the connection created at that moment. There we were, together, dancing to songs I used to play while using flammable amounts of hairspray and driving girlfriends around in my Chevy Vega – at nearly the age he is today.

I am thankful for music. But I am most thankful for the connection it creates with my fun and amazing son.

Take Care…

step on bannanaMy cousin, an acclaimed author, recently went on assignment resulting in a friendship reignited after ten years of dormancy. He and his childhood friend simply connected as if the ten years they were apart, were only ten minutes.

I am jealous of my cousin, in so many ways, but his arsenal of down-earth-true friends is amazing to me. How could one person have so many genuine best friends? I’ve only had two best friends. And they both dumped me.

From after high school through my first divorce I had a really genuine friendship with a woman who knew all of my rough spots, yet fought on my side when I needed her. Then, her life went one way and mine another. A common occurrence, I’ve been told. And now, this woman with whom I grew up is only a friend because we both have Facebook accounts.

I was lucky to find a second genuine friendship, one that impacted not only my life but the life of my family. We treated her like family. My son actually has a picture of them on his wall, taken after one of his on-stage performances. Now, I wish I would have never framed that picture.

We used to text at least 15 to 20 times a day. I walked with her through several life-changing moments that left her torn to pieces, and together we fit them back together again. She dove into muddy waters with me and we both came out dirty, but better for the experiences. She was my everything, outside of my family. That is probably where I went wrong.

She asked me to go with her to Denver for some “personal growth” conference led by a famous motivational speaker. I declined due to cost. Then I received what would be our last text. She said she landed in Denver.

After ignored texts and unanswered calls, I tried an email. She replied! I was elated to see her name in my inbox. But annihilated by its content. She wished me a good life and closed with, “take care”.

Take care? Are you kidding me? She knew my worst nightmares and all of my vulnerabilities! She used to call me her “sister from another mister”, corny but sweet, especially to one without siblings.

I was confused as hell. My husband begged me to process through the “break-up” and move forward.

But, I needed closure. And, eventually, I got it. Turns out she dumped me because I was a negative person.

Horrified and hurt I searched my brain for the last few topics we discussed. Yep, they were negative all right, but they were life’s events. Events such as the suicide of my son’s schoolmate and fearfully awaiting a test result that could change the course of my life.

That last week of our friendship she asked for only positive conversation topics, but disingenuous dialogue with a woman who knew me so authentically was impossible. Selfishly ignoring her request, I continued to share my emotions triggered by that week’s harsh reality. Early on we promised to process emotions together, always in the safety of our friendship. It never occurred to me the promise had an expiration date.

The end of that week she went to Denver. On Saturday she walked on hot coals and by Sunday her end of the friendship went silent, until that final email telling me to “take care”.

She does sneak in my mind here and there. But then I realize how well I am actually doing at “taking care.”

The White Sheep

In all my childish capacity, I wished to wake the next morning different. But my impossible wish never came to fruition, because it was in fact, impossible. Impossible for one to change her skin color.

I am the “white sheep” of my family. My brown eyes are the only visible trait I share with my dad, and that makes me sad. If you are Japanese-American then you have brown eyes and brown skin, right? Not in my case. I remember kids at school calling me a liar when I told them I was Japanese. Teachers, employers, and restaurant hostesses constantly added an apostrophe to my last name, making me even further from whom I wanted to be.

Being a Japanese-American, with white skin, makes me feel incomplete. I know Japanese-American culture, I grew up in it and am raising my son in it. I learned the appropriate way to make onigiri, cut kamaboko, and save the best two mochi and leafed orange for the Kagami Mochi.

Obviously, there is more to our culture than food, but the kitchen is where I grew up and did most of my learning. Garnishing each dish so it presented as “too pretty to eat” was simply expected. I remember washing, cutting, and placing individual parsley leaves until they perfectly surrounded a large platter of amazing tasting meat. Nothing left the kitchen without proper presentation because the external impression is a powerful one.

I am physically unable to make the external impression of my culture. So, I held tight to the only thing that identifies me as Japanese-American, my last name. I kept it through two marriages and passed it on to my son. I hope he is as proud of it as I am.

Frustration

writer-s-block-1239338-1598x836b-2.jpgMy father will tell you I never stop talking and have an opinion about everything. That is mostly true, mostly. However, I have struggled lately with topics to expand this blog. I’ve started several pieces and easily bored with all them faster than I could end them.

The walk on the autism spectrum was a topic from the heart, but my son is my friend on social media so I was concerned he would anger publicizing our difficult stumbles.

Then it was a question, a real cry for understanding on why upon meeting, do people ask other people what they do for a living? It is intrusive. Lots of people define themselves by how they fit into the employment circle, and since most of us want to win the lottery so we don’t have to work, it seems crazy to start a conversation with a stranger about something that the odds are they either don’t care about, are embarrassed by, or really hate. How about finding out what they do when their time is free? I suspect the first question, which is usually answered in the way that most impresses the listener, has become a standard conversation-starter because our society values the perception of success over what drives our fellow humans to exist. Maybe the calamity in the White House will help reinforce those with “impressive” jobs are not always so impressive.

Then it was the annoyance of being controlled. Not by the government, don’t get me started, but by our pets. I will sit in my office, refusing to get up to pee until I finish a task, but when my cat meows for chicken, I am at the refrigerator door immediately. How can beings who are illiterate, potty outside, and lick their privates smack dab in the middle of the living room, so easily control humans? Humans are intelligent. And we have opposable thumbs for God’s sake!

And yet there was today’s subject, success and how we measure it. By the number on our paychecks or how we treat others, or yet by another measure I couldn’t think of. I had the whole blog written, in my head. But without a computer or pen nearby, it will never come to fruition. Maybe I should write about the fact that I can’t remember anything unless I write it down, but I think that has been done before.

So, I sit and remember what I have been taught over the years. If it sucks, don’t write about it. If it’s boring don’t write about it. If it is about religion, sex, or politics, don’t write about it. But, most of all, I remember that my son will see what I write. I forced him to friend/follow me on social media, making him my biggest checks and balances. So, I hope I haven’t embarrassed my kid by finding substance in being frustrated and thinking it doesn’t suck to admit it.