Chapter 7 ~ Doing it our Way

Chapter 7 ~ You Know He’s A Jerk, Mom. Don’t You?

It was seven p. m. and Grace and Matt were on their way home. Grace stayed much longer than she expected. Grace had driven nearly two of the four miles to their home and not a word was spoken between she and Matt. Every once in a while, Grace turned to look at Matt. Each time, Matt was staring out the window.
Grace came to a stop at a red light. She turned slightly toward Matt and said, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” said Matt. He kept staring out the window.
“Matthew, don’t give me nothing. I know when something is wrong, are you going to tell me?” said Grace.
Matt kept this body tilted toward the window, but turned his head toward Grace, “Mom, nothing is wrong, okay. I’m just quiet, that’s all.”
The light turned green, a driver blasted a horn behind them. Grace felt like making an obscene gesture, but Matt was in the car with her. Instead, she waved and drove off. Grace knew the problem. She wanted to hear it from Matt so they could talk about it. It was unlike him to clam up. She wasn’t sure how to handle it.
Grace said, “Want to go to Brenton’s for an ice cream? You love their waffle cones.”
“No thanks, Mom. I’m not hungry. I ate a lot at the barbecue,” said Matt, his face staring out the window.
Grace’s heart was somewhere in her stomach. She replayed the barbecue in her mind. She knew Matt did not like James the moment they met. As soon as he gave James the snarky remark about how he liked to be called Matt instead of Matthew, she knew. Matt was like Mike, once they made their minds up about someone, the door closed and the key was tossed away. There was no way of reopening the door.
Grace thought she didn’t like James at first. He came across as stuck up. But, then she warmed up to him. He listened to her. She laughed for the first time in the longest time. They clinked bottles a couple of times when they said the same thing at the same time. It was as if they were in each other’s head at the moment.
Jane came by a couple of times to see how it was going and she remembered Jane leaving and turning and winking, and Grace remembered that she gave Jane a wide smile. A sure signal that this meet up was better, much better than the previous ones Jane had put together. She didn’t pay attention to Matt. She saw him tossing a football with someone she didn’t know. He looked like he was enjoying himself.
Grace was pulling into the driveway, when Matt turned to her and said, “Are you going to go out with him?”
Grace didn’t speak for a moment, she pushed the garage door opener and watch the garage door slowly make its way up. She drove in, put the car in park, and turned off the engine.
“Well?” Said Matt.
“Well, what?” Asked Grace as if she didn’t know.
“Are you going to go out with him?”
“With who? I don’t know what you’re talking about?” Grace regretted saying what she said, the moment the words came out of her mouth.
“You know he’s a jerk, Mom, don’t you? He didn’t know who the starting quarterback is for the Cowboys. Everybody knows that one, even you.”
“That doesn’t make James a jerk. He’s different, that’s all,” said Grace defensively.
Matt rolled his eyes. Then he said, “You never answered me, are you going out with him.”
“He has a name, Matthew. His name is not him. It’s James,” said Grace.
“Whatever,” said Matt.
“I don’t want to argue, Matt. I don’t know if I’m going out with him. We didn’t make any plans. Yes, I gave him my number and he gave me his number. That’s all that happened.”
“I bet he doesn’t know a curve ball from a fast ball. Anyways, I’m tired. I’m going to bed early,” Matt got out of the car and headed into the house.
Grace sat in the car, her hands gripping the steering wheel as if she was hanging on for life. Matt had never gone to bed without saying goodnight. He had never gone to bed without kissing her goodnight. Oh God, she prayed, what am I going to do? Please help me. She laid her forehead on the top of the steering wheel and felt the tears filling her eyes and overflowing and flowing down her cheeks until they dripped off her chin, and landed on her jeans.

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Chapter 2 – Doing It Our Way

Chapter 2

Grace stood on the front porch of her brick, ranch style home with her right hand across the top of her eyes blocking out the sun’s rays. She looked toward Ellen and Dan’s home. Matt was ten minutes late. Grace held her iPhone in her hand. Five more minutes, she thought. That’s all the time she’d give Matt. She had to give him some leeway, but still, she gave him a deadline.
Grace’s grip tightened on her iPhone. She typed in her passcode and went to her speed dial. She looked at Ellen’s number. She looked toward their house and smiled. She saw Matt turn out of Ellen’s driveway on his skateboard. He turned up the street toward home and waved.
Ellen waved back. She felt a huge sense of relief through her body. Will I ever stop worrying about him, she thought. No, she answered herself. She tracked Matt and his skateboard the same way an air traffic controller tracks air traffic in and out of a high volume airport.
Sixty seconds later, Matt coasted his skateboard into the driveway, kicked the backend of it, causing it to flip up. Matt caught it his hand. He carried his skateboard with his right hand, cut across the lawn, and climbed the steps.
“Hi, mom. Sorry, I’m late,” said Matt walking past Grace.
“Wait a minute, Matt. Don’t I get a hug or a kiss?” Said Grace.
“I have to run to the bathroom, Mom. I’ll see you in a couple of minutes,” said Matt, opening the door.
“Matthew Zinkowitz come back here, right now,” said Grace. She knew when Matt was telling the truth and when he was hiding something.
Matt called from the hallway, “Do I have to?”
“Yes,” said Grace adding a firmness to her tone.
Grace stood arms akimbo watching Matt walk toward her. Her heart started racing, “Matt, what happened to you? Come here, right now. Let me see your eye.”
Matt walked up to his mother, “Mom it’s nothing. Don’t make a big deal about it.”
“Who hit you? How did this happen?” Said Grace sounding like cop interrogating a suspect.
Matt looked down at his Nike’s, “It happened, that’s all. I don’t want to talk about it. I’m okay.”
Grace put her hands on Matt’s shoulders and began to slowly inspect Matt’s face, his shirt, his arms, and hands. “Turn your hands over, I want to see your knuckles.
Matt turned his hands over. “Your hands are bruised. You were in a fight. Who were you fighting with, Matthew.”
Matt didn’t like it when he heard Matthew. It meant only one thing to him and it wasn’t good. He said, “I don’t want to talk about it, Mom.”
“Oh, you are going to talk about it. I want to know who you were fighting with. Why you were fighting. And, why you broke my rule and didn’t walk away when trouble is starting?”
Matt kept staring at his Nike’s.
Grace’s iPhone rang. “Don’t you leave. You stay right here.” Grace reached into the back pocket on her jeans and looked at caller ID. It was Ellen.
“Hello, Ellen,” said Grace.
Grace listened. She nodded her head. Occasionally turned her head toward Matt and shook her head disapprovingly. She ended the conversation, “Thank you, Ellen. Matt and will talk about this tonight.”
Grace slipped her iPhone into her rear jean’s pocket and turned and faced Matt, “You fought with Tommy?”
“Mom, please let it go. It will all work out. Everything will be okay,” said Matt, kicking at a non existing rock on the floor.
“How can I forget about the bruise under your eye? How can Ellen forget about Tim getting a tooth knocked out of his mouth and his bloody nose? She’s rushing him to the dentist to try to save the tooth.”
Matt looked up and gave his mom a sheepish smile, “I caught him a couple of good ones.”
“Matthew! Matthew what have I told you about fighting?”
“I know, Mom. Can I get cleaned up. I promise to tell you the whole story at lunch. Okay?”
Grace shook her head, she thought, he’s not yet in his teens. What will I do then? Then she said, “Okay, get cleaned up. We’ll talk about it at lunch. No texting or talking to anyone between now and then, do I have your word?”
Matt shrugged, “Yes, Mom. What if someone texts or calls me?”
“Matthew!”
“I was only kidding, Mom. Thanks for waiting,” said Matt. He turned and headed toward his room.
Grace’s iPhone rang. She pulled it out of her rear jean’s pocket. She was relieved to see it wasn’t Ellen. It was her friend Jane.
“Hi, Jane,” said Grace.
“Ellen and Dan are not going? Are you going to cancel? It’s okay with me,” said Grace.
Grace bit on her lower lip as she listened, occasionally nodding. She said, “I know I promised. Okay, but this is the last time. I have your word. See you next Saturday.”

 

What is Life Asking of You?

My life changed when I read Dr. Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning for the first time. Dr. Frankl’s work inspired my dissertation and changed how I viewed life. When my wife died, I turned to Frankl’s work and sought to find meaning in my personal tragedy. I found a path when I reread his book and focused on his words, “What is life asking of you?” I knew I had to answer the question if i was to move on. It is a question I pose to you, “What is life asking of you?”

Getting Over Life’s Problems

Interviewer: “Dr. Frankl, what is the difference between people who can pick themselves up and get over life’s problems and those cannot?”

Dr. Viktor Frankl, “The decisive factor is the freedom to make a decision I want to become this way or that in spite of my conditions. … The freedom and responsibility for making something out of themselves.”

Dr. Viktor Frankl’s work, Man’s Search for Meaning guided my doctoral dissertation and played an important role in my life from the moment I read it. I’ve reread it several times. Each time I read it, I gain new insights.

His work sheds light on my path through the grieving process. In his book, he talks about discovering the meaning in one’s life that one can dedicate himself or herself to in spite of the conditions he or she finds himself or herself in.

Yes, grieving hurts like hell. I can’t do anything about it. But I discovered my meaning or some might say it is a call, and I pursue it with focus and vigor. I wrote a book about grieving and share my insights in how grieving affected me and how I am working through it. I intend to work with grieving groups to help those who share a similar experience find their way through their grieving process.

What meaning drives your life? Are you a better person because of the path you have chosen? Are others better because of you? These are questions I ask myself each day.

mountains and valleys high

Music Touches The Soul

Without music life would be a mistake. ~Friedrich Nietzsche

I have always enjoyed music. Music touches the deepest part of my soul. It rouses memories, stirs emotions, and connects me to the deeply spiritual source within me. Music can make me cry and shout for joy. When Babe went into the hospital, I stopped playing music. Making the decision to being to listen to music was difficult for me. It was nearly two months after Babe’s passing before I let music reenter my life. It was a good decision to start to listen to music again.

Yes, some songs still flood my eyes with tears and my soul with emotions. That’s okay. Music is therapeutic for me. It is good medicine. I sing along with the performer (glad no one hears me). I even feel the beat down into my feet again. It is a good feeling.

If, you, like me, are grieving and music stirs your deepest emotions, don’t fear to listen to music. The joys it brings far outweigh anything else. Now, when songs play and remind me of Babe, I am filled with good memories and heartfelt gratitude.

I feel like singing. I think I’ll play some of my favorite tunes.

Couple Walking on Beach

It’s All Good

“You sanctify whatever you are grateful for.” Anthony DeMello

It’s easy to be grateful when the sun is shining, I’m feeling good, everything is going my way, and each card I turn up is a winner. Why shouldn’t I feel grateful, I deserve it? Or, so I think.

Then life happens. I’m walking across a personal desert. The sun, which I once praised, is now threatening me with its scorching heat. My strength ebbs. I can’t turn a winning card. Grateful? Grateful for what? Or, so I think.

Sorrow and suffering taught me important lessons. I learned to be grateful for all that was. I am grateful for all that is. I will be grateful for all that comes my way. Each morning and evening I recall events with a grateful heart.

A good cup of coffee. Safe shelter. Friends. Neighbors. Daughters. A beautiful sunrise or sunset. A good workout. A chance to pray. The birds that visit the feeder. The ripe cherry tomatoes. The red roses, rosemary, and basil that grow in my garden. The warm sun, or rain. A text, email, or call from family or friends. The list goes on.

It’s all gift. When I receive a gift from someone, I send a thank you note. In like manner, I give thanks to my loving God for all. It’s all good.

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Wrestling With 2 A.M. Thoughts

“Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.” ~ Mark Twain

Have you ever gone to bed, fallen quickly to sleep, only to awaken a few hours later with your mind running a hundred miles an hour? I have and it’s not fun. I have gremlins running on the treadmills of my mind. I’ll turn this way and that way. When that doesn’t work, I go for a sure-fire solution, I’ll flip my pillow over to get the cold side. Twenty minutes later, there is no cold side. I’m tempted to stick my pillow in the freezer for ten minutes. If the gremlins could eat, I’d get up and make them an omelet. I’d serve it with toast and coffee. I know it’s only wishful thinking. The gremlins must think they’re at a firing range because they’re shooting one thought after another at me in rapid succession. I wish I could follow Mark Twain’s advice. I’d toss a rope around the gremlins and drag them out and leave them homeless at the curb.

It’s not that easy. I wish it were. Here’s a mind trick I use and it often works. Perhaps it will work for you. It’s worth a try when the gremlins decide to fiesta at two a.m. Here’s what I do, I no longer wrestle with the gremlins. They didn’t RSVP. They didn’t reserve a room. They came uninvited. I have no idea when they’ll leave. I literally tell them (please don’t think I’m losing it), “I see you’re back. There’s food in the fridge. Use Netflix or Amazon, keep it down, please. And, oh, by the way, don’t let the door hit you in the butt when you leave.” I turn on my side (I’m a side sleeper) and let the gremlins have at it. I let the thoughts go where they want to go, I don’t engage with them. Then sleep happens. I usually go into a deep sleep. During my sleep, my visitors quietly leave and didn’t let the door hit them in the butt.

 

Thoughts are thoughts are thoughts. We all have them. I’ll give them a break, perhaps my subconscious is dumping them out of my mind and I’ll be in a healthier space in morning.

Sometimes it doesn’t work for me. In those nights I quietly say and visualize Psalm 23. I’m not one to memorize lots of things, but this Psalm is worth the effort.

Here’s hoping you have a great night’s sleep.

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd;

there is nothing I lack.

2 In green pastures he makes me lie down;

to still waters he leads me;

3 He restores my soul.

He guides me along right paths

for the sake of his name.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,c

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff comfort me.

5 You set a table before me

in front of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

6 Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me

all the days of my life;

I will dwell in the house of the LORD

 

 

for endless days.

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Drenched in Love

Where is the door to God?

In the sound of a barking dog,

In the ring of a hammer,

In a drop of rain,

In the face of

Everyone

I see. ~ Hafiz

Those who grieve know grieving is not easy. It’s more like drowning and knowing you have to learn to breathe underwater if you are to survive.

It’s been nine months since Babe died. I am blessed. Each day God’s love drenches me, soaks me through and through. I receive it from the people I exercise with at the Y. I receive it from the checkout clerks at the market. I receive it from the barista at the coffee shops.I receive it from the people I worship with.I receive it from the people I follow on Twitter. I see it in the mockingbirds who sing to me each morning, and the cardinals who sing to me in the evening. It is everywhere, I can’t escape it, nor do I want to escape it. I am no longer sad. Gratitude fills my heart for the life Babe and I shared. It was all grace and gift at the same time. God’s love has taught me how to breathe underwater and I am happy.

I walk into today with arms wide open to receive and share the love heading my way.

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Life Grabs Hold Of Me

“Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise.” ~ Lin Yutang

Life has a way of grabbing hold of me, tossing me in the air, and daring me to land on my feet. I get out of bed, filled with great intentions and goals for the day, then boom, life literally knocks at the door. A neighbor stops by and asks to borrow lawn chairs. I didn’t have time to save my work on the computer, I silently pray there will be no power surge or my Mac decides to freeze. I help my neighbor carry the chairs to his garage. I get back on task, the cell rings.  I see by the caller ID I need to take the call. I hit command s, save my work. I take the call. A friend says, “Can we have coffee in an hour, I need some advice? I push my morning workout to the afternoon. Coffee with my friend takes an hour and a half. I get home in time to make a light lunch. I want my workout. I offer a silent prayer, “Please God, no more interruptions.” Sometimes, I think the angels must laugh and laugh at me. A daughter calls and wants to FaceTime. What’s a dad to do? I happily FaceTime. After our call, I check the time, I can squeeze in a workout. I hurry to Y. Do I hear the angels laughing again? I hit three school zones with the orange lights flashing. I get to the Y.  I hit it hard. On the way out, Jerry, an eighty-something-year-old man calls me over and starts talking. I’ve heard these stories before. I see he needs to talk. I listen as if they are the first time I’ve heard them. This is becoming my typical day.

In the early evening, I sit on the patio and gaze into the sacred space Babe and I created. It is time to pray. I quiet my mind. In a moment of grace, I realize I accomplished none of what I wanted to accomplish, but everything I had to accomplish. Sometimes, you have to let the wind fill your sails and take you where it wants to take you.

I helped a neighbor.

I had coffee with and listened to a friend.

I FaceTimed with my daughters.

I drove safely through the school zones.

I thank God for the grace of letting my business go and embracing His business.

Designed to Love

“Don’t brood. Get on with living and loving. You don’t have forever.” – Leo Buscaglia

Babe loved Dr. Leo Buscaglia. She watched his specials on PBS and read his books. She called him Dr. Love. He was a man of deep wisdom, common sense, and compassion who understood enjoying life and loving all you meet are at the center of it all.

Brooding and hosting a pity party for one is bad for the disposition and health. There is no benefit to it. I declare today a national no brooding day. Pity parties are relegated to February 30th. That’s right, there is no February 30th. You and I have today – let’s enjoy every moment, each person, each breath of air.

Think of all the wonderful, marvelous things life gives us to enjoy. I speak for myself. I have five daughters who would help me at the drop of a hat. I have grandchildren who enjoy having me toss a football, play basketball, or tell stories. The birds sing to me every morning, noon, and evening. The sun warms me. Music soothes my spirit and makes me smile.

We are designed to love and be loved. We are given the gift of life and love to enjoy and help others to enjoy. I think I’ll go dancing. I may jump on the stage and sing. I am filled with joy.