Browsing Tag

father

Family, Guest Posts

The Difference Between a Father and a Dad

October 20, 2016

By Alisa Schindler

I call multiple times in the hope that when I arrive he will be outside waiting. There’s the wakeup call. The check in an hour later to make sure the wakeup call actually prompted some movement. The, ‘I’m getting in my car’ call, the, I’m ‘five minutes away’ call, and of course, the ‘I’m outside waiting’ call.

Depending on his coherency and agitation, I judge whether it seems sane to actually wait for him to come out. In about 1 in every 10 or so visits, I actually pretend that he might just walk out without my assistance, so I sit and play on my phone or read a few pages in my book letting the minutes disappear along with my hope, before eventually giving up and heading in.

Walking into his apartment my face immediately falls, but I am quick to pick it up because the floor is disgusting. Even with a home health aide there six days a week, he spends much of his alone time upsetting any attempts at cleanliness or organization she may have accomplished.

It is Sunday, the aide’s day off, and already the apartment looks ransacked. Pills everywhere – purple ones, pink ones, yellow and white ones dotting the floor like dropped M&M’s. Multiple red Solo cups darkened with colas, crusty mixes of yogurt and cereal and more pills stand up and out in the clutter of papers piled all around. Cabinet doors suspend open, cereal boxes ejected to the counter, Kashi and Cheerios strewn onto the floor. Clothes covered in food stains and old cigarette holes hang on the backs of chairs while a pizza box that was apparently used as a plate for what may have been his middle of the night snack of eggplant parmesan, remains discarded on the couch. Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts

Missing Someone Before They’re Gone

September 9, 2015

By Marissa Dubecky

For as long as I can remember, my dad was sick. It started when I was in kindergarten, and he had several heart attacks that our family physician misdiagnosed as heartburn. When he went to him the third time, after collapsing in the grocery store parking lot and crawling the rest of the way to his car, the doctor took his complaints more seriously. After doing some tests, he wasted no time life-starring him to the hospital in the nearest city, where he had a quadruple heart bypass. Bypasses were less common twenty years ago, and the doctors were honest about the fact that it was a risky procedure. But all went smoothly, and the blockages around his heart were soon circumnavigated by clear vessels grafted from other parts of his body. The blood could flow to his heart again.

After a few months of recovery, my dad returned to the bookstore where he worked, but he was never the same. He’d always been a worrier, painfully aware of his mortality since he hit puberty, and now death felt all too real. My brother and I were only nine and five respectively, and he became obsessed with the idea that he wouldn’t live long enough to watch us grow up. Though fixed for the time-being by surgery, his health issues weren’t gone for good. The physical ills morphed into morbid, troubled thoughts that made themselves comfortable in his brain.

My dad worked at a bookstore an hour and a half away from where my mom, brother, and I lived in the country. They’d moved to get me and my brother into a better school system, but hadn’t found work to support us, so my dad kept his job in the city and the apartment we’d inherited from his mother. It wasn’t a bad situation; my dad loved his job. He worked next to the Yale School of Drama and Art, so he was constantly connecting with artists, actors, and writers. He was a jack-of-all trades kind of artist himself, so he could easily converse with the customers, forming bonds with movie stars and screenwriters.

My mom carted me around to her freelance graphic design gigs, and I joined her most days as she volunteered as the librarian at my brother’s elementary school. On Friday nights, my dad would come home with a VHS tape and stories to tell us over a big dinner. Saturdays were spent grocery shopping and scouring thrift stores for books, clothes, and antiques. Sundays we relaxed, and Monday mornings he headed back to the city for work.

After the surgery, his lifestyle there changed. He started drinking when he got home from his shifts, and when we would visit the apartment during the summers, my mom would find the porch littered with beer cans. Among other anxieties, he felt that his death was impending, and alcohol was the best way he could erase that thought from his mind.

My mom eventually got certified as a teacher, and my dad was able to move up to the country with us the year I turned nine. We hoped he’d find work there and his drinking would stop, but it didn’t end until a court-ordered trip to rehab when I was sixteen. He didn’t get a job, but he built a studio on the side of our house and spent hours filling its walls with paintings.

Throughout this, I worried about my dad’s physical and mental health. He had a temper, and his sadness was palpable. You could feel the stress emanating from him when he was angry. He looked healthy and handsome, with smooth, glowing brown skin and a thick head of bright white hair, but he drank and smoked a pack a day. He joked constantly, always making me laugh, but it was obvious from what he talked about that death was never fully out of his mind.

He was also one of the most loving people I’ve ever known. He was complicated, but he wore his heart on his sleeve. I lived in constant fear that I’d get off the school bus and find him dead from a heart attack, but I never worried that his love and adoration for me would die.

When I was fourteen, my dad went to the hospital for an angiogram, a test that examines arteries for blockages. He refused to go to the doctor unless his pain was unbearable, and this time it was. We all breathed a sigh of relief when the angiogram revealed clear vessels. It was summer, which meant we were all free of obligations. It was our time for adventures. We hit the road, driving up to Maine to see the ocean.

Somehow, no matter the frequency of arguments or tension, we all thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. Long drives were spent in constant conversation, and none of us ever ran out of things to say to one another. We cared about the same issues, shared the same sense of humor, and were curious about the same topics. The trip was as memorable and magical as all our others.

The day after we got home, my brother, mom, and I were eating pancakes in the kitchen when we heard a crash come from my parents’ room. We ran down the hall to find my dad has knocked over a lamp to get our attention. He was gasping for breath. My brother ran and called 911. To this day, I’m not sure what I did. Eventually, the paramedics made it out to our rural home. They loaded my dad into the ambulance and took him to the local hospital, where he was again life-starred to Hartford.

The angiogram had punctured his lung, allowing fluid into it that he was literally drowning in. The moments while I heard him suffocating and waited helplessly to see if he would somehow make it were familiar. I’d felt that worry when I was five, begging a God I didn’t really know much about to give me more time, because I had no idea what else to do. I’d felt it dully over the years as I watched him neglect his health.

After a couple of weeks in the hospital, my dad was able to come home, but he was too weak to really get out of bed. The timing was especially hard because my brother was about to start his freshman year of college in upstate New York, a six hour car ride away. Our only option was for my mom to drive him, so I was left home caring for my dad. It was stressful the moment they left, but took a serious turn the day she was heading back. The previous night, his temperature had been rising and he’d been very confused. The next morning, it was dangerously high, and he was near-delirious.

I was scared and helpless at only fourteen. I paced the house, passing time taking care of him the only ways I knew how, which were mostly by getting him water and turning on fans or adding blankets. My mom got home around dusk. She took his temperature, and then as calmly as possible began to get him dressed and into the car. Then she drove him straight to the emergency room. Continue Reading…

Binders, Forgiveness, Guest Posts

A Shot at Forgiveness

August 20, 2015

By Lea Page

I click on the YouTube link that my stepsister Sally just sent me—she hasn’t labeled it— ready to see another video of her playing her banjo on yet another stage. I click on the YouTube link, ready to feel the same jealousy that I always feel every time I see my stepsister acting the part of middle daughter, acting MY part as middle daughter. Forty years ago, when I was eleven, my father traded my mother and my two sisters and me for another woman with three daughters our age. A clean swap. Ever since, I’ve always hated to see Sally doing what I should have done: being creative, being successful, being happy.

In the video, my father is lying on his sofa in jeans, turtleneck and flannel shirt, one arm crooked under his head. He looks a little green around the gills and shrunken, shockingly shrunken. Last week, in the middle of a perfect storm of procedures and surgeries, infections and dueling medications, my father was sent home from the hospital. Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Triggers

July 21, 2015

By Heather Regula

My dad died on April 17 2014. It was totally unexpected – he was getting ready to get his hair cut and boom –  just dropped dead.  My mom opted not to do an autopsy as there was little good that could come from it. The doctor told us it was likely a stroke or massive heart attack and that he was probably dead before he hit the ground. My dad’s death has been brutal on me and there have been a few times over the past year when I’ve felt that reminders of my dad’s death were going to crush me. There are physical symptoms associated with where I’m at mentally and emotionally – inability to sleep, restless sleep, grouchiness, extreme sensitivity and being overly emotional, etc… Mainly I feel like fifty bricks are sitting on my chest – every day for the past two weeks.

My dad’s birthday was on September 1st and in a typical overly dramatic fashion I’d like to announce that September damn near killed me. My annual “Dad’s birthday” alert popped up on my iPhone. That visual reminder hit me harder than I ever imagined and it took me months to seemingly bounce back. My dad’s birthday was definitely a sorrowful trigger and I’m cognizant of the fact that September 1st will probably hit me hard every year. I left the birthday alert on my phone – sure I could’ve easily deleted the reminder but I chose not to. Not because I want to feel heartache when it pops up, but because I want the forever reminder – kind of like how my dad is still listed in contacts on my phone. Perhaps if I don’t delete his contact or the birthday reminder, then his death won’t be so permanent. Childish? Perhaps. Unrealistic? Definitely. Avoiding? Likely so. Continue Reading…

Fatherhood, Guest Posts, healing

Letter To My Homeless Father

July 16, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Toni White

Dear Dad,

I knew from an early age that our story would never end well but it was a July Saturday that you changed our lives forever.

That was the day you died. 
 At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

You’re supposed to be in your teenage years when you get your heart broken for the first time.  You’re supposed to run home from school in tears that your relationship is over and your dad is supposed to be the one that threatens to ‘hurt him’ because he’s upset his daughter.  You are not supposed to be 10 years old when your heart breaks for the first time and your father is not the one that’s supposed to break it for you; and yet you were.  You agreed to come to Disneyworld with mum and I despite the fact that you were no longer married and I was over the moon to think I would have my first family holiday.  Five days later, however, you changed your mind and you broke my heart; I remember that conversation like it was yesterday.  You called me the following Tuesday, like you always did, but I was still too upset to speak to you; mum told you I didn’t want to talk and you hung up; you never rang back.  It was 6 weeks later when I had to call you and apologise for my behaviour and listen to your mother tell me what I had put you through.  I never got over it.  That was the day I truly began to see you for what you were.  Even writing this brings tears to my eyes and anger to my heart to think you could treat your daughter so callously.  I wish I hadn’t missed you as much as I did and called you; I doubt you would have ever had the courage to call me back and I would have been free from you for all these years.  Hindsight is a cruel mistress.

You are my shameful secret.  If I don’t have to speak about you to anyone, I won’t.  If you were anyone but my father, I would have walked out of your life when I started to see you for the manipulative and controlling monster you really were.  Instead, you pushed everyone away and left me being the only person you had in the world despite the fact I wanted nothing to do with you.  We, as a society, are told to look after our parents no matter what; ‘love unconditionally’ as they say but why?  You have done nothing to deserve my respect, help or love and so I’m going against everything I’ve ever been taught and I’m walking away because I can’t carry you as my shameful secret any longer; I have no desire or energy to keep something so big, so quiet.

Continue Reading…

Fatherhood, Guest Posts, healing, Race/Racism

A Black Remembrance of My White Father.

June 21, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Erika Robinson

I have not shared this photo before. I have wanted to keep my father to myself, perhaps because, when he was alive, I had to share him with so many.

But it’s Father’s Day, and it is both nationally and personally a sober time. So I am giving all of us a gift by sharing my father once again.

My father left for college when he was only 16. He left for the big city from a farm in Nebraska, where he had no exposure to Black people.

There was no one whiter than my father, with his light eyes and hair, his aquiline nose, his Midwestern twang, and the way he said words like egg and roof. Tweed jackets with leather elbow patches and Oxford shirts were his uniform. He lent them a white guy cool by finishing his look with khakis and topsiders that he wore with no socks. He smoked a pipe. He loved Latin and classical music and German food. He was completely and unapologetically white.

My father was also the greatest man I have ever known. I described him to a friend recently: the way my father was committed to social justice and the cause of civil rights; the way he gave his voice, his body, his life force to the struggle for equality for Black people to the degree that he received letters of thanks during his lifetime from Martin Luther King, and to the degree that he was eulogized in Congress upon his death.

My friend said “Your father sounds as though he was very…optimistic.”

This friend of mine is a very polite young white man. I could tell from the pause between the words “very” and “optimistic” that what he’d wanted to call my father was “naive.”

Here is what my father was: he was grounded in his identity as a white man, aware of the privilege this status conferred upon him, and acutely conscious of the mantle of responsibility laid upon him to live a life of service to those upon whom society had conferred a different status entirely. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings

Lying to Ourselves.

June 11, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Jen Pastiloff.

Hi, from Aruba. Whoa! I am in Aruba.

I.

Am.

In.

Aruba.

I’m trying to blog more in an effort to remember details. So hi. Here I am.

I have this chalkboard in my room at home where I have written YOU ARE A WRITER: SO WRITE! because I don’t carry a notebook, thinking (naively) that I will remember that man with a speedo, a selfie-stick and a beer precariously taking a photo on the edge of a cliff in Aruba, and how I thought about my mom’s second husband Carl because the speedo man had his beer in one of those cooler things which I just had to google “What are those foamy things you put a beer in to keep it cold?” because I couldn’t think of the name of them (apparently they are called Koozies) and Carl used to drink his beer out of said Koozies. I have been thinking about Carl a lot because there are cacti everywhere here on the island and he collected them- had hundreds in his yard at home. He only drank Coors and I keep seeing Coors ads here so I think maybe, in some way, his spirit is here, and I wonder if he had ever been to Aruba but I can’t ask him because he is dead a long time now and that man in the speedos looks like he may fall into the ocean because of his dumb fucking selfie, so I want to write this stuff down but because I don’t carry a notebook or jot things down. I memorize it until I sit down here, at the table by the window, the wind blowing on my back, and I think if only I had a table at home where the wind blew on my back like this, I would really write, I would really get shit done.

Right.

Isn’t it amazing how easy it is to lie to ourselves?

Unknown

Carl, if you were here, dude, you’d go crazy for the Bringa Mosa Bush and the Yatu Cactus. Also, we hardly wear shoes here and you’d love that. You hated shoes. Especially when you ran on the beach, which to me is just about the worst thing in the world. I tried to do yoga on the beach yesterday and I felt like I ran a marathon, it was that exhausting. My hands kept sinking deeper and deeper into the sand and I had nothing solid to balance on so I kept falling over. You used to run with Monet on the beach at sunset. I miss Monet. Every West Highland Terrier I see is him. We used to call him MoMo. You didn’t, but my sister and I did, especially after you and my mom got divorced and we moved back to New Jersey. MoMo and the cats, Runt and Tiger. And when I drank beer I high school, I thought of you because you were the only person I knew that had drank beer. I don’t recall my father every drinking so lord knows where I got my affinity for it. His thing was speed. Anyway, you’d love it here. So would Monet. There’s so many dogs everywhere. And cactus plants.

And Koozies. (I wonder why they are called that?)

I think sometimes I am afraid of remembering.

I should start writing things down more though because details, they’re everything. I think my mind can store it all, the way that boy with the braces from Houston was collecting rafts in the pool to build a bridge and run across, how proud he was of his achievement, and the way the woman who worked at the hotel bent down by the edge of the pool, a You are making my job more difficult pair of eyes, the way she stooped to collect the glass candles so we wouldn’t break them, her mouth a line of blame. Meanwhile I can’t even remember what I did last week so I should totally start taking notes.

Maybe I am afraid of remembering.

I remember sitting on the floor of the airport in Dallas a few days ago and how there was a little girl in a chair next to me with a sweatshirt on that said Birthday Diva. I asked her if it was her birthday. She had just turned 13 and had these huge stuffed animals on her lap. Her mom snapped photos of her as I sat on the ground and charged my phone. A man talked to me but I have no idea what he said. I wonder how often I lie to myself.

My sister is not feeling well back in the States, in Georgia. I don’t know how to not experience it in my own body. With her, or my mother. I do not know how to separate them from myself. I do not know how to not feel guilty.

I have moments- sitting here, the wind, the perfect Aruban wind and my God, is it ever fucking perfect, I would marry the goddamned wind if I could- sitting here with my coffee and the wind on my back, the sun burning the little patch of skin that is exposed, I do not feel guilty. I feel settled in my body, my ears are ringing as usual, but I am writing and the tinnitus can’t stop me, not when I am truly in it.

I so rarely get truly in it, not lately anyway. This past year I have hardly written a word. Right now though, I don’t feel guilty or like an appendage of anyone else- I am not aware of my hearing loss, or my family, or how dare I be happy because I am in it, waist-high, swimming in the bluest water you have ever seen. I am writing. I hate that hashtag (maybe because I so rarely write) but here I am #Iamwriting and so I am spared the responsibility of my guilt and how it weights me to the bottom of the sea where not only am I deaf, but I can’t breathe. So, there’s moments, brief ones, where I float and I sit on airport floors and watch Birthday Divas, everything still ahead of me, a possibility, not yet a disappointment. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing, parenting

How My Father Taught Me I Was Not Beautiful

June 7, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Heidi Paulson

My parents split up when I was nine. A tender age where everything is up in the air anyway, from your laugh, to your smile to the way you walk in the world. A very pliable age.

It wasn’t long before my Dad starting looking around for women to date. All kids want is for their parents to be happy. My brother and I watched as Dad would ogle women in the grocery store, say certain things and join social groups to be around more possibilities. Before the divorce, I hadn’t thought much about attraction, dating and how people actually got together. You have your Mom and you have your Dad, and they walk around the house and feed you.

It was back in the 80’s. The internet was just a figment of Al Gore’s imagination. The only way to meet people was at work, church, through friends or by writing a personal ad in the Willamette Week newspaper. We did not attend church, so Dad wrote an ad. I remember when the letters came pouring in. Dad sat with me on the couch and showed them to me. All interested women responding to his classified.

It is here where the damage began. He would shuffle through the letters; the ones with the photos were kept the others thrown away. Then the next tier of decision making began. I am sure he did read the letters as a stroke of his ego; however the next cut would be made by looks. “She’s pretty, we will keep her.” It went on and on. He started to date, and meet these women. Sometimes, if he liked them very much they would come and meet us.

A pattern soon emerged. Blondes. Tall blondes, that were thin. It was his preference. Mom had been blonde when they got together, bleached hair like straw, but blonde. In good shape from tennis.

I came along after a number of years. Dark, dark brunette hair, blue eyes that turned to hazel. Actually I have the coloring of my Dad. My Mom thought I was beautiful, she loved the contrast of my pale skin and dark hair, “My Snow White,” she said. Your Mom is supposed to tell you that you hung the moon, so I put it aside as just another reference point.

Dad’s years of chasing blondes wore on me to where I could not even look at blonde women without feeling inferior. Ugly. I had no blonde friends, as I instantly felt like the ugly stepsister of the group. I was also petite, so the vision of the tall blonde, blue eyed women was the polar opposite of what I was. And in his eyes that was beauty. No room for someone like me to be “Beautiful.” Continue Reading…

Binders, death, Guest Posts

Gone To Feed The Roses

May 31, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Katherine Vaz

The home I share with Christopher Cerf, on Gerard Drive in Springs, was not spared Hurricane Sandy.  We were residing in our main residence in New York City when the water rose over the spindly, mile-and-a-half long cape bounded by Gardiners Bay and Accabonac Harbor.  Police cars blocked the entrance to Gerard, we read in the Times.  It was not safe to enter.

Aerial views made the spit of land look like the Loch Ness Monster surfacing—humps of spine, the creature mostly submerged.  A friend reported that our yard and patio were ravaged, but our house was unharmed.  After a spell came the news that my eighty-seven-year-old father had collapsed in northern California.  A day later, for the first time, I entered my childhood home without him greeting me with a blessing and kiss.  Content with his history books, his painting and gardening, he was a homebody; I sensed the vacancy as a prelude to loss.  At Eden Hospital, he cried out my name when he saw me, the daughter from far away. Continue Reading…

cancer, Grief, Guest Posts

Scared

May 25, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Trish Cook

“Scared,” my dad croaks, pointing painstakingly at me, then my brother, then my mom.

It’s an understatement.

We’ve summoned his personal physician to our home today to hopefully deny, but probably confirm, our suspicions: The cancer has gone to his brain.

We hold our collective breath as the doctor asks my father, “Who is the President of the United States?”

An underwater, foggy pause. Finally, Dad replies, “Reagan.”

The three healthy people in the room exhale a sigh of relief. He got it right! This must count for something, we think. A small shred of hope still inhabits the homey little den we’re all crowded into. Our prayers, crossed fingers, and wishes on stars and eyelashes might yet magically release him from cancer’s insidious clutches.

My dad is only fifty-two on this day. I am twenty-four, though, so both he and the non-descript middle-aged male doctor seem something close to old to me. Not old old, sitting in a rocking chair waiting to die old, but old enough to have really lived, to have really made it count. I hold on to this thought, stroke it for comfort inside my head like a beloved baby blanket. Even if Dad doesn’t beat this thing in the end, at least he made it far enough to look back and know he lived a long and satisfying life.

Today, at fifty, this notion seems ridiculous. My father was not old then, just as I am not old now. Not nearly old enough to die willingly, anyway, or to feel as though everything that needed accomplishing had been accomplished. Continue Reading…

Family, Guest Posts

Pocketknife

May 16, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Carla Mundwiler

This afternoon I accidentally grabbed my great-grandfather’s pocketknife from a bowl of tchotchkes that we keep in the kitchen. I was reaching for my engagement ring and this is the spot I use every time I do the dishes or workout to youtube videos.

The knife is small, nothing special. It certainly wouldn’t have been anything to brag about when he bought it. The handle is yellowing bone and the blades inside are rusty and dull. They no longer fold neatly into the frame. I held it for a little while and I contemplated its journey, from somewhere Indiana on a little farm, into the palm of my hand. I thought about where he might have imagined it ending up and I smiled because he never would have seen me coming. I’m the last in my line, the last Mundwiler, the last Unicorn in my family. I have tried, in my way, to keep the name alive. I gave it to my son, but it is only one of three family names that he bears the brunt of, and it will likely fall away if he ever chooses to have a family of his own.

Of the three original Mundwiler children, two were women: one a lesbian and the other a religious fanatic who would never have imposed her own legacy over the legacy of her husband. Besides, women are awful at the legacy business. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, Relationships

Twenty Years of Solitude

April 20, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Melissa Banigan

Barrel-chested and bull-necked, Will had cerulean blue eyes that offset the safe, sturdy gravity of his body and made me feel as though I were drowning. They were the kind of eyes described in novels as being washed out, like the sky. If I had grown up in the middle of the rainforest, and Will’s eyes had been the first blue eyes I ever saw, I would’ve thought he was either a god or on his death bed.

I was 20 years old and despite it being only our first date, Will was already my favorite person. We sat at a candlelit table in a restaurant in the basement of the Italian Workman’s Club in Madison, Wisconsin. Two bottles of wine in, I stared into his eyes and recalled a short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

“It’s about a man and woman who meet every night in a dream and recognize each other by repeating the phrase, ‘Eyes of a Blue Dog.’ But upon waking, the woman can’t remember what the man looks like. She writes their phrase throughout her town, but the man can’t remember anything from his dreams, and they walk by each other like two ships passing. I can’t imagine anything sadder.”

I don’t recall if Will responded. My eyes misted, and, drunk, we left. He took me to his small walkup apartment and we sat in his living room and talked about our dreams. I was still figuring mine out, which meant I had no real idea yet what I was doing with my life, but Will was in college and had already set course. Surrounded by books about Latin American politics and discussing his need to gain a higher level of fluency in Spanish, he grew animated when talking about a future that would take him far away from Wisconsin.

“I’m going to work in Central and South America.”

I waited for him to tell me more, but instead, he kissed me, and we soon fell into his bed. He was everything I wanted: adventurous, hilarious, and intense. In the dark, with only the light from a streetlamp shining across his broad chest, he stared at me through his wide, azure eyes.

When eventually I turned to sleep, I felt a gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had grown up having daddy issues because of an absent, alcoholic, gambling father, struggled with my own drug addiction, and just generally had difficulty with men. In the back of my mind, I grappled with the idea that I was unworthy of love.

As Will curled up against me, I thought: Come morning, he’ll be like the man in the Garcia Marquez story – he will have forgotten all about me.

At the first signs of daybreak, I unwrapped myself from Will, quietly collected my things, and slipped out the door, vowing to cut off our communications to prevent the pain of him leaving me.

Yet I couldn’t quit Will. Not entirely.

Over the years, he moved to Indonesia, to England, to Colombia, to Minnesota. But he always came home, and occasionally, I’d run into him at some bar or another. We’d make small talk, have a drink or two, and inevitably end up in bed together. Each time, I felt that what we had would last forever. We spoke of getting a cabin in the middle of Oregon. He invited me to visit him wherever he was living. Yes, I said, yes to all of it. But then dawn would break, and I’d disappear like a forest creature into the crepuscular fog.

One day, I received a letter sent from Colombia. “You would love the rainforest,” Will wrote. “Pink dolphins swim alongside my boat in the river. They are like nothing I’ve ever seen. I miss you.”

I kept that letter in a drawer for years, pulling it out occasionally to stare at his words and examine every curve of his handwriting for hidden meaning. Pink dolphins…He missed me… What did it all mean?

The years moved along. I had a series of relationships, bore a child with an abusive man, and then, just like that, decided I had had enough and finally started to pull my life together. Will moved to New York, and I ended up there too, to finish a degree in art history. He helped me move into my apartment in Greenpoint, and that evening, after I had tucked my daughter into her new bed, we sat on my front stoop drinking beers in the rain. It was that night, while listening to Will laugh, that I realized how hopelessly in love I was with him. And as sure as I knew anything, I knew that he loved me, too. My heart cracked wide open as we kissed.

The next morning I woke in a panic. My old fear filled me. He’d leave me. He always did. I heard my dad’s voice in my head: “Good things never last.” And another voice rumbled even deeper: “Leave. Run. Don’t look back.”

Life became more complicated. Will and I lived in two parts of the city about an hour apart, but my university was only a few blocks away from his apartment. We should’ve created many New York memories together, but even when he had a bad injury to his Achilles heel that left him largely immobile, I visited him only once. My dad had recently had his first heart attack, and my daughter’s father was giving me grief. I felt depleted, shaken, and alone. Every night I’d sit surrounded by books on the couch in my apartment and just cry, rocking myself to sleep. Despite wanting to be there for Will, I felt incapable of opening myself to him even as I watched him hobble around on his crutches. Something was wrong with me for not being able to be a good friend – I knew that much – but my heart, like a stagnant pond, stood still.

I dated other men. Men who risked less, who stayed put more. I moved in with a boyfriend, a man who – although a little wild – wouldn’t rush off to nearly die of snakebite or dengue or whatever other horrors I imagined Will might encounter in the rainforest. Unlike Will, my boyfriend was a man who didn’t believe in anything fantastic.

“Do you know that there are such things as pink dolphins?” I asked.

“Sure,” he quipped, barely looking up from his computer. “And unicorns, too.”

Of course, when a person goes against what her heart desires, life has a way of teaching lessons the hard way.

Armed with a degree from an Ivy League in an area of study I didn’t ultimately want, and a job in finance I only took to pay back student loans, my grandmother grew very ill, my father had another heart attack, and my stable, safe boyfriend left me. In the midst of it all, I realized I wanted – more than anything – a life filled with adventures and purpose. I become a freelance writer and started to travel the world. I took my daughter out of public school and together we climbed mountains in Switzerland and Iceland, ran out of money in the Algarve, and went deep into the Peruvian Amazon to some of the same areas Will had visited.

Throughout the years, Will and I continued to satellite around each other, always in tidal lockdown despite the distance between us.

“You know how I feel about you,” he said. “You know how I’ve always felt.” Continue Reading…

Binders, Forgiveness, Guest Posts

The Ghost of You

March 24, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Piper Selden

“Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that’s what.”  ― Salman Rushdie

Serenity House, Room 114. Hidden on a hillside among Santa Barbara’s majestic coastal oaks. The slick ad reads like a vacation destination. It is not. Serenity House is a hospice facility, a place people go when they can no longer live at home. It’s a place people go to die.

 

In my mind’s eye, the door to Room 114 is closed because I wasn’t there when you died, when they blessed your body and anointed it with oils. When the ghost of you didn’t haunt me.

In my deepest dream-space, you are still alive in that room. Heart pounding, I know my biggest fear is beyond the heavy oak door, and I must enter alone. I press the cold metal handle and walk inside.

You are there, propped in bed and shirtless, not dressed in a jewel-toned silk shirt, like the ones you used to wear. I place blessed salt on your chest. You, for purifying, salt of the earth, my father. And me, for salting the dark field of my childhood. I don’t want to go back. I can’t.

Enough salt, enough tears. We’re free to love and forgive now in new spirit bodies. Continue Reading…

death, Forgiveness, Guest Posts

Steele Grey, Part II

March 21, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Julia Cassels.

Read Part I here.

My brother and I retreat through the vestibule of the funeral home. I pick my way through four inches of uncleared snow in the parking lot, navigating in my oh-so-appropriate black stiletto knee-high boots, and climb back into the cab of his pick-up.  I slam the door as he starts the engine, and reach for the pack of cigarettes we had bought for the occasion on the dash. “Where’s the fucking lighter?” Jeff fishes through his coat pocket, pulls out an AC/DC lighter, and passes it over as the heater in the truck comes to life.

“Where to?”

“Lager’s.  Now.” A divey bar with peanut shells on the floor, orange vinyl booths, and wagon-wheel light fixtures. A decor mode not uncommon in that part of the world. Perfectly appropriate to a day such as this.

Rap, rap, rap.

There is a man at the window of the pick up. He is wedged between the window and the side mirrors which extend far out in this monster of a truck.

I look to Jeff. “Oh shit. Are you kidding me?” I hit the automatic button to roll down the window, against my better judgment, although ignoring him and leaving the parking lot would have resulted in taking this poor guy out with the side mirrors.

“You must be Julie. We didn’t get a chance to speak. I’m Pastor Dave.” He is breathless, partially from the four degree weather and his lack of a coat, and partially from the chase he just gave us out of my father’s viewing.

“Yes?”

“Are you coming to the memorial service?”

“Um. I don’t think so, no.”

“Can we talk for a moment?”

“I don’t believe there is anything to talk about.”

“And you are?” He leans further into my window. I move the cigarette to my left hand, trying to keep the smoke out of his face, and let it burn.

“I’m Jeff. That asshole in there was my step-father.” Continue Reading…