Friday, October 17, 2014


My baby is a poet.  This made me happy, sad and wistful for deep summer evenings.

The sky is black and the air is dark
I can hardly see the hand in front of my face
looking up to see pieces of light scattered through the sky
like the freckles on your face
I close my eyes and breathe in the freshness of the wheat
and the pungent onions
mixed with the sound of sprinklers
I open my eyes and no longer recognize the smell of the earth
I hear the rain on my window
But it’s not the same
I close my eyes again
So I can breathe in my crisp air and your scent

Kaitlyn Meyer
14 October 2014
Professor Conner
            Sometimes, when it rains at night here, it reminds me of summer in my hometown. I can close my eyes and almost feel myself sitting on my back deck with my closest friends in the pitch black, the only light being the stars. We listen to the sprinklers, which on some nights, sound just like the rain here. I can remember the smell of the wheat fields, fresh and a little earthy. And when it's harvest time, the wheat mixes with the onions, which add a little bit of a pungent, sour almost, smell to the scent.
            I open my eyes again and see I’m not in the place full of wheat and onions and love, but am somewhere entirely new. Somewhere I’m not used to. Somewhere I still have to learn about, and create my own love and life at. And that inspires a sense of longing in myself, longing for the feelings and smells that I know.

            When it rains here, it makes me want to go back to summer in my hometown, and be with the people I miss most. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Change your hair, change your life

Kaitlyn and Missy have a private joke.
"Change your hair, change your life."  
The lesson is:  if you want something to change, take action.  It's simple.

Except when it's not.

Sometimes change is something we yearn for and pursue.  We pull on our boots and face it head on, welcoming a move to something, some place different.  We embrace the edge of anxiety, relish the sense of disequilibrium that comes with growth.

Sometimes we fight it, kicking and screaming, digging in our heels in futile resistance.

And sometimes, like this summer, we take it all in, and just try to keep breathing, praying a lot.

This has been the summer of letting go.

Zach finished at Oregon State and came home.  For a week.  He got a job at Walla Walla Juvenile Justice Center.  He got married.  He moved into a cute little apartment with his beautiful wife.

There are a lot of changes in that last paragraph.  Changes that he worked for, dreamed about and deserved.  His life is forever different, in the very best way.

My life is different, too.  Our house is not the same without Zach here.  We miss the funny things he says, the way he dances a little, the way he always knows what to say.  But we release him to his own future, where he belongs.  He is strong, mindful and passionate.  He makes everything around him better.  He is Batman.  He is Simba.  And although my heart does twinge a little when Koda brings me a tennis ball with that sad look, I am filled with joy.

You have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.J. R. R. Tolkien

I know that Dave is proud.  Of him.  Of me.  I sacrificed much to make sure that our children would be okay.  I promised him to protect them.  And I did.  And it cost me a lot, in more ways than anyone knows.  Nothing about the journey without him has been easy.  In fact, it's been the hardest thing I've ever done and required strength that I did not have.  I had much help and love, but in the end, the responsibility rested on me and I shouldered as best I could.  In the last nine years, I have lived "if you can't change it, you gotta stand it."  And I kept breathing. There are a few who understand what that means.  Very, very few.

And then...there is Kaitlyn.  My Kate, his baby cakes.  Yesterday, I drove away from Tacoma, leaving her at the University of Puget Sound.  You guessed it.  Another huge change.

 This was another change that was eagerly anticipated, worked for, and deserved.  Kaitlyn studied hard, worked two jobs and financed a $54,000 year of education almost entirely on grants and scholarships.  You might say she's driven.  And smart.  And am I ever going to miss her.  That sunny smile, "fight me," "say it back," snuggles and pedicures, silly and serious.  Jim Wilson called her a force of nature, and I tend to agree.  She's something to behold.  Sometimes all you can do it sit back and watch.

"The maiden with the flaming hair, is as fierce as she is fair."

She's ready.  She was ready last Christmas.  Ready to learn, grow, challenge herself, meet new people, be in a new place. Ready to work, stretch herself, and discover who she is, what her calling might be.  She's in the perfect place to do that.  And if the texts, snapchats and instagram photos are any indication, she's off to a flying start.

Of course it wasn't easy to release my baby to the great unknown.  Even having survived this "circle of life" moment with Zach four years ago, it was hard.  I know she's ready and more than capable.  I know she will accomplish much and surprise even herself.  I also know that she'll have moments of doubt and loneliness.  I know that she'll be faced with excruciating choices.  She'll make mistakes.  She'll learn.  She'll change her hair, change her life.  And I can no longer fully protect her.  I fight to let go.

At Zach and Kailee's wedding, Erik Haroldson sang the song Dave wrote and sang for me at our wedding.  "Growing Older With You."   "Letting go, it's not that easy, don't you know."  "The laughter and tears, as we conquer our fears through the years...bringing new meaning to love, new meaning to life."

Mark Nelson was supposed to be singing, too.  He called to say there'd been an emergency and he couldn't be there.  Over the next few days, I talked with him and he told me that he'd been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  I can't describe the feeling I the world was tilting, spinning crazily out of control.  Everything in me screamed, "NOOOO!"  Friends and family were still here, it was good to have Rufus, Shelley and Erik here.  But I had to talk to Peter Bain.  And cry with him.  And then drive to Seattle.  To see Mark.  

The hospital bed.  The bandage on his head.  The pink pillow Kate brought. Kenny's anguish.   It was a flashback that didn't end.

And Mark's smile.  Radiant.  Strong.  His laugh.  The same as it ever was.  My heart broke a little more.

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.Khalil Gibran
And I cling to hope.  I pray.  I hold on.  Another storm, another change.  And others.  Tracy, Bob.  And D.  Closest, D.  

Sometimes I scream in my head.  Sometimes I cry.  Always I pray.  Sometimes those prayers are hollow.  Sometimes they are brimming with fear, hope and love.  I understand less than I ever have.

This week, summer is waning.  The nip of autumn is in the air.  It's early this year.  Nine years ago, when Dave died, August 23rd was full summer.  Sweltering hot.  You could see the waves of heat in the air.  Days later, on the day of his funeral, autumn began to show.

It's been nine years.  Nine years I have been KOKO.  Alone.  With indispensable, generous help, but still alone.

Kenny has finished high school and community college and is working full-time.  He has a life full of friends and activity.  Zach is working, married to the love of his life and happier than he's ever been.  Kate is at her dream school, achieving her every goal.  I'm content and happy.  I think Dave must be pleased.  I hope he is.  I did my best, and although it's not perfect, it's good.  Damn good.

As we go into fall, embrace the change.  Jump in some leaves.  Celebrate something.