Sunday, November 8, 2015

Ten Years Ago

The roosters woke me early. I brushed the blinds to the left and peaked out to see the birds strutting across our patio, the Pacific crashing just beyond. Kauai is so beautiful you don’t mind the dawn wake-up calls: They’re a reminder that everything is lovely and your time there is finite.

Sunrise in Hawaii is late morning on the East Coast, so I called home, and by “home” I mean the place where I grew up, not the place where I slept. I don’t remember who answered the phone; it might’ve been my mom, maybe my brother—but I do remember hearing something in the voice.

Dad was dying. His time was finite.

The roosters crowed again.

Dad was no longer talking, no longer eating, and unable to drink. How long can someone continue like that? Long enough for his daughter to get from Kauai to Los Angeles to Chicago to New York—to the home where she slept, the home where she had a black dress already chosen for this occasion—to North Carolina?

I sat with the roosters while Clay called the airlines. Someone made me coffee. The waves broke, and a child laughed.  When the world seems to be nothing but white noise, it’s odd what sounds break through and leave an imprint on your heart.

Our flight was leaving in a few hours. We packed everything but the clothes we’d wear on the plane and our swimsuits. I wanted one last snorkel.

My in-laws made margaritas. We toasted my father. We laughed because tequila at 10 a.m. doesn’t sound like a healthy response to learning your father is near death. But it felt like the healthiest thing I’d ever done. My father is dying, and I’m celebrating his life, my life, this trip, this place where I may never visit again. Because my time is finite.

Our flight left early that Tuesday afternoon, and we arrived in Greensboro late Wednesday. My brother Jim picked us up from the airport; his wife, Jennifer, was arriving from Brussels. The family was gathering.

We stood around his bed, his frame withered, and his voice silent. In a family of loud people, Dad was the most boisterous. His silence spoke louder than anything he’d ever voiced. Dad never let anyone have the last word, and yet…

Most of my brothers and sisters were there by now. We stood in the room, telling stories, telling him it was okay to stop fighting. He spoke. Not yet.

The night passed. I’m not sure how I slept, but I know I did because Mom woke my sister and me just past 7 to say she thought it was time.

It wasn’t. Dad was not one to be hurried.

I spent every moment I could with him. I wore his old L.L. Bean flannel pajamas and told him everything I knew about what hadn’t aired yet on As the World Turns—especially with Henry. He loved Henry.

I told him that I’d let him know how Harry Potter ended. Dumbledore’s death had devastated him. That summer I’d explained that Dumbledore had to die so that Harry could reach his destiny, but that pained him more. These weren’t characters to my dad. He was Dumbledore, and my peace with Dumbledore’s death sparked insecurities about how I’d feel about his death.

We listened to the Chicago soundtrack. Dad loved big Broadway musicals, and he loved me singing along. So I sang.

And when the CD ended, I continued to sing—a small portion of Les Miserables, where Cosette and Fantine come for Jean Valjean.

Take my hand and lead me to salvation.
Take my love, for love is everlasting.
And remember, the truth that once was spoken,
To love another person is to see the face of God.

Oh God.

Those were Dad’s last words. Oh God. He died two hours later, at 10 past 5 on a Thursday afternoon. He waited until my brother Andrew and his family arrived from Texas. He waited until we were all laughing, until we’d stopped paying attention. He waited for us. And then he slipped away.

And while I have found peace with his passing, I continue to hit pockets of turbulence ten years later—days where I’m struck all over again by his loss, by my children’s loss.

I tell them about Grandpa Martineau: how he created reasons to celebrate, how he loved peanuts and M&Ms during football games, how he encouraged me to always try.

And as we read Harry Potter, I tell them he was our Dumbledore.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Time to Change

Growing up, I learned lots of things from The Brady Bunch.

The sadness of pet allergies. Caution in the face of flying footballs. How – no matter the convenience – AstroTurf just doesn’t make an aesthetically pleasing yard.

But most importantly, I learned the value of letting go, of just relaxing your grip and shifting when the road before you changes. 

When it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange who you are and what you’re going to be.

A year ago, I posted my first blog – a fluffy little piece about leaving New York and heading for some literally greener pastures (with, hopefully, some figuratively greener pastures thrown in there, too.)

I wrote for fun… to keep my unemployed brain busy and productive. But mainly I wrote because I was in the frustrating position of seeing myself as a writer when no one else did.

My daily writing led to meetings, an unrealized magazine column, more meetings, and an eventual job. Which, of course, begat more writing. Which begat less blog-writing. Which, in turn, begat a written list of things I want to write when I have more time (and no, a list was not on the list). 

It seems I need to rearrange not just who I am but what I can commit to. I cannot do everything… because as much as I love what I do, I hate the feeling of not doing something well.

And right now, I’m not a very good blogger. I lack consistency. I no longer have time to read other blogs and comment and reach out to the community.

But mostly, I’m tired of looking back.

I miss New York. Some days I miss it with what I can only imagine is the pain of a brassy, bumptious and quite large Met diva sitting on my chest.

And the constant comparison of what life is now as opposed to what it used to be or what it could’ve been makes the moving-on a bit too plodding.

So, I want to refocus on who it is that I’m going to be. A writer, definitely. A novelist, hopefully.

This blog has been incredibly rewarding – it's kind of like theater for an actor. Instant feedback. You know immediately when you've touched a nerve or a heart or even been completely passed by.

But it's time to tell a different story.

I need to rearrange my life to embrace a new challenge, a new cast of characters, and a still unfamiliar landscape.

And no matter where I go, I know New York will still be there.

A girl never forgets her first love.

Thanks so much for having traveled with me this far. xoxo