Distant Memories

It’s one of those days where you look out the window as the rain falls down drowning out the view across the city.  Your iTunes hits the perfectly somber song to flow with the tone of the darkened sky and your mind starts to fade into distant memories.

Part of why I don’t sleep very well is that I hate remembering a lot of my past.  For the past two years it’s been pretty impossible to sleep a solid night without some sort of chemical assistance (I’m only referring to completely legal over-the-counter aids or prescriptions that were written specifically for me by my medical provider).  Today, listening to Please Remember Me by Tim McGraw while watching the rain dance outside my window I can’t help but be taken back to my childhood, but I’m not having one of the bad memories.

When I was young my parents took me and my sister K on a road trip through Europe.  I was enthralled by the trip from beginning to end.  We began in Germany where we rented an Audi to drive through multiple countries including Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland.

This trip was a once in a life time trip for a lot of people.  I was very fortunate to have parents that wanted to give me this experience.  Yet, what I remember most and the memories I cherish from the trip the most are beyond the obvious.  Yes I loved and remember touring the salt mines of Austria, eating cheese on a mountain side in Switzerland, taking pictures from the top of the Eifel Tower and laying on the beaches of Italy, but what I cherish is what I refer to as the Tim McGraw moments.

My family, like most, has varying taste in music, but one thing we could all agree on was Tim McGraw.  Cruising through the countryside from country to country I still remember my dad (technically my step-dad) singing along to Tim McGraw.  Then there would be songs that just grabbed everyone’s attention and the entire family would belt out to the heavens to the sappy country lyrics of Tim McGraw’s greatest hits.

I don’t have much to say about memories like this one because they are more photographic, but sitting here with the rain falling outside the window transports me to sitting in the back seat of that dark blue Audi singing to Tim McGraw.  I just remember looking in the front seat as my dad threw his head back and bellowed out the words full of joy in his voice.

During the instrumental sections he would turn and look at my mother.  It was never forced, but his natural instincts.  He would smile at her and grab her hand then look back at the road and sway.  You could feel his love, devotion and passion in the subtly of his actions.  Those simple moments are the moments that defined me (and why I feel that taking my step-dads last name was the right thing to do).

My parents have always had this love for each other that I’ve always wanted to have for me.  I’ve always wanted a relationship full of that intimacy and happiness like they share. They constantly showed and taught me that showing you love someone isn’t just about saying I love you, but it can be about a simple look or action.

The memories are distant now but still inspiring to me.  When I have a family one day I want myself and my husband to be the type of parents that shower love on our children and each other setting the same examples for my children that my parents set for me.

The little moments and memories from childhood are the ones you should want to hang on to.  It’s taken me a long time to realize that.  My therapist wanted me to tell her a story unrelated with negative events in my life so she could get a glimpse into my childhood when things were great.  I always mention that I had a great childhood to her, but can never tell stories of it.  This is a story from it that can shed some light into what has developed my passion for love and my belief that love is a great thing even if you have to experience horrid things on the road to finding the one for you.

Flying to Virginia

Flying to Virginia

I apologize at the beginning for this dear diary moment, but I am totally out of my writing mode lately.  I some how have hit a case of writers block, so I figured I’d just write about my weekend and hope that it will get my mind moving for future topics.

This past weekend I rushed down to my parents home in Port Haywood, Virginia, a little town that’s an hour from civilization.  Okay, maybe that’s a bit mean, but it is pretty far removed from any real cities.  The post office is a box like one room building.  The closets grocery store is in the next town over of Mathews, VA.  If you want to go to a gym or pool you have to drive for what seems like an eternity to Gloucester, VA.  There is seriously nothing you can do in Port Haywood, VA itself.

My mom and I in her front yard

Well, nothing the town can offer, but my parents home is a different story.  When I visit my parents I feel my youth shining through in the best of ways.  On my most recent trip, a weekend run to Virginia, I thought I was going to be stressed to the fullest.  Having just taken two weeks off from work at the beginning of July, followed shortly afterwards with a long weekend that required more vacation time to be taken off I knew I couldn’t really take the Friday off that weekend.  I had no choice but to make the trip and to leave the city after work on Friday.  I arrived at my parents in the dark of night at 1:30 am after everyone had gone to bed.  So I followed that plan and tiptoed my way through the house, up the stairs and into the only guest bedroom that was empty.  I curled up with one thought in my head, “how am I going to make it through Saturday, my only full day in VA this trip with no sleep.”

Morning came and I popped out of bed right at 8:30 am.  I had the energy of a teenager.  I took a refreshing shower and emerged from the bedroom and made my first appearance to my family.  I have no clue where all the energy came from, but I knew I wanted to seize the day.  My first thought was to follow my sister, sister-in-law and mother in whatever they wanted to do to entertain themselves and my niece and nephews.  The first event was shopping in Mathews, Virginia.  It’s always a fun thing to do.  The town is full of consignment stores and antique shops.

Just like when I was a teen I could feel my energy bubbling at the surface around 11 am.  The sun was beaming and I was going in and out of stores.  It may have been comfortably air-conditioned, but I wanted to be sweating my brains out under the delicious rays of the Virginia sun.

After grabbing a bite to eat in town we hopped in the cars and traveled back to the house.  This is when everyone said they wanted to go for a swim.  I am pretty

My brother, me and my sister on our parents dock

sure I was the first person in swimwear.  Before my older nephew Paul and my niece Bonnie even had a chance to go into the guest house to change I was already in the water.  I was only in the shallows trying to find the dogs tug of war toy they accidentally tossed in, but I couldn’t wait to splash around, get a tan and play like a child.

Mom and dad blew up the monstrously large inner tubes for us and every single person in the family sooner or later decided they had to join us in the water.  My nephew Paul, who is in the fifth grade, showed us his best cannon ball jumps off the dock.  My niece Bonnie put on her goggles and showed us how long she could swim under water.  My 18 month old nephew Luke screamed bloody murder as we all tried to get him to enjoy the water.  My brother, sister and sister-in-law floated on the inner tubes.  My mom and I, per usual, decided to swim laps across the water to the far side of the inlet they live on and then back to the dock.

Everyone got a bit of what they wanted.  I got what I didn’t know I wanted, but in actuality learned I needed it.  I got my family.  After a few years of being a bit disconnected from my family and/or completely estranged form a couple of family members, I realized just how badly I needed that connectivity only family can give you.  I tried to remember the last Thanksgiving I spent with family or the last Christmas and I couldn’t place a single year.  That means it’s been too long.  Yes I like my independence, but there needs to be a balance.

My family (2 nephews, niece, sister-in-law, brother, sister and myself)

My family gave me something I don’t think I’ve had in a long time, undying support.  At one point we sat around the table.  The night sky flooded us with darkness as the citronella candles flickered around the sun-room.  Mojitos in our hands and music playing around us.  We talked.  We talked about the good, the bad and the ugly in the way only your family can.  They let me know that all’s that is important is living life in the way that makes you the happiest.  They hope I dance (and ironically I do mean that pretty literally since I gave up dance years ago, something that made me incredibly happy and free).

What I got was my family and a lesson that family loves you, they are forgiving for whatever issues may arise and will always be there on the other side of a phone, flight, or car ride.

Following this happy endeavor I had to travel home to New York leaving my family behind.  I was dropped at the airport and once again heading into the world with my head held high.  So I thought anyways!  I made it to the gate to learn that all flights to the northeast had been canceled that Sunday due to storms.  After having a partial mental breakdown realizing I’d have to fly out Monday mornings (waking up at 3:00 am) my mom came back to the airport and we did what we do best.  We grabbed dinner, downed a martini and headed back to the house.

I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack

Pictures from my short weekend trip:

My Grandparents

                                   My grandparents on the beach – photo taken by Bobby Hall

I thought I would take a break from posting about Provincetown and the amazing trip I just took there to post something a little more personal that is on my mind. I want to talk about my Grandmother.

It’s been a few years since she passed away, but to me it still feels like yesterday. She was such a big and regular part of my life I don’t think her memory will ever distance itself from my daily life. Additionally, the unexpected and tragic way that she passed has engrained this level of grief I still haven’t fully dealt with.

She didn’t die from old age. It wasn’t something like cancer that took her from us. It was a sandwich. That’s right! She choked to death on her lunch. She was sitting alone in the kitchen eating when she started to choke. No one came to help her as she struggled to call for help. Sadly help was in the house, they just didn’t get to her in time.

Whenever I think of her passing I picture her face looking horrified, scared and shaken. Once those wretched images part from my mind I think of how I learned of her passing.

It was late October and I happened to be off from work on a personal day. I took off to submit an application to rent an apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. I got home from the rental office around 10 am. I jumped in the shower and took a long hot steaming shower to allow myself to relax and kick off the rest of my day. When I got out I walked into the living room wrapped in my big blue towel and flipped the TV on. The View was on, a show I use to never miss if I could catch it.

I looked at my iPhone to see if there were any missed calls or text messages and I noticed something a bit odd considering it was the middle of a work day and no one knew I was taking off. I had 3 missed calls and 4 or 5 text messages.

I assumed one call must be from my Grandmother. She had called me the day before and the day before that and I didn’t answer either call. She typically called me once a day everyday. On some occasions she would call twice a day. I did my best to answer every call, but on some weeks I would wait a couple days so that we could save up topics and have a long conversation. Our typical daily call only lasted 5 to 10 minutes. She rarely had anything to say, she just was lonely.

Anyways, I figured one of the calls was my Grandmother, but that didn’t explain the other 2 calls and the text messages.When I opened the phone I quickly learned that not a single call was from my grandmother.

I only had to read the text messages to know that I should sit down. “Call me as soon as possible!” “Emergency!” “Where are you?” “Give me a call!”

The messages were from my mother as were all the calls. I muted the television as the ladies of the View laughed on the screen and called my mother. My mom immediately asked, “where are you? If you are at your office is there a place you can go to talk privately?” I told her that I was at home and she was relieved.

What was to follow was one of the saddest moments of my life. Between having to hear my mother’s voice crack as she tried to tell me what had happened and having to hear the story and learn that my Grandmother had died I felt my world dissolving around me. Grief, pain and sorrow swelled over my body. I barely remember the call ending. I just remember bending forward and crying with the ladies of the view moving on the screen in front of me.

Then the guilt swept over me. I ignored her last two calls. I didn’t answer my Grandmothers last two calls. I missed the last chance I would ever have to speak to her again. Having not taken those calls didn’t kill her, but to this day I remain heart broken about that.

The point of this story is to discuss a conversation I had with my mother last night. She called to tell me that my Grandfather isn’t doing well. He has an amazing amount of health issues smacking him in the face. To top off the fact that his health is deteriorating at an insane pace, he has begun saying some very odd things to my mother. He is imagining that I am calling him. He is imagining that he is missing my calls. Or he will just say that I called again. The issue is that my Grandfather and I haven’t spoken in over two years.

He lives with a relative of mine that I am estranged from due to her homophobic, conservative, prejudice and ignorant lifestyle and opinions. I hadn’t called him because I can’t speak to her. No one informed me that he got a cell phone until yesterday. Anyways, I have been told that it would be a good idea to call him and soon. I want to speak to him very badly. I don’t want to miss my chance, that is for sure. I also don’t want to relive the pain I have been living with my Grandmother. I just fear calling him and then by a complete freak act of nature, he dying shortly after.

My grandparents are two of the people I have always loved, trusted and known was there for me. Conservative to the core and not supportive of the LGBT community, they never let that stand between us. They always loved me regardless. I have always been very lucky to have them in my life. I can’t imagine losing both of them.