She kicked off her worn-in flip flops and shifted her skirt straight, walked until the shoreline was in view then turned up the dial on her headphones. Zeppelin, its rhythm guiding her steps, she hummed to Stairway to Heaven on a perfectly breezy, warm evening on the river.
I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like classic rock and roll. What we know as the greats of yesterday whose influence and genius still inspire the imitators of today. Theirs a weapon of art, masterfully crafted with precision, poignant lyrics, and powerful guitar riffs. Theirs, rightfully so, unduplicated by anything modern music attempts; I grew up with it in my veins and practiced beats upon my steering wheel and I know not its equal.
Walking beside the water, Johanna keeps her eyes on the horizon in the distance as the song changes to Tiny Dancer, she smiles with each word from her lips, singing along with Sir Elton John. The crowds have already begun to part with the setting sun, urged on by the cooling wind upon sunburnt shoulders. Soon, she will sit alone at the bank of the Columbia River, bidding goodnight to the sun.
Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters. Southern Cross and Helplessly Hoping. Ramona. Sympathy for the Devil. These Eyes. Long Cool Woman. Does Anybody Really Know What Time it is? A Little Help from my Friends and Night Moves. American Pie. Free Bird. Brown Eyed Girl. Fill your playlist with songs like these and, tell me friend, won’t it make you smile? What do you feel as you listen? Feel the soul. The meaning. The purpose in the music.
The sand became colder between her toes and her phone beeped. Low battery. The sun had been on the other side of the world for about an hour and her arms were chilly. Rock’n Me began to play as the phone sounded again. Silence. She pulled the headphones from her ears and began the walk back to her car, still singing the words in her mind and tapping a finger against her phone for the drum beats. She knew it by heart.
Perhaps we are merely a product of what we were listening to when we grew up. As true as this may be for some, or most of us, I knew I fall into a strange category wherein we were exposed to all kind of music from conservative Christian like Carmen, Brian Duncan, and Amy Grant to Garth Brooks twang and soulful stylings of Roberta Flack. My parents played Classic Rock but also danced to Earth, Wind, and Fire and Steely Dan (or Donald Fagan), one right after the other. So, for me, personally, it wasn’t that my exposure was limited. In fact, I’d argue adamantly that we were exposed to more musical genres than most of the people I know – but, suppose I just paid more attention?
The ignition turned and the car rumbled to life. Her phone switched on full brightness with the charge of the battery from the outlet formerly known as a cigarette lighter, she pushed play on Spotify and let the sounds fill the speakers at full volume. “Keep on rocken me, baby…” Loudly she belted out every word, flipped on the lights and put the car in reverse. Into the night she drove, back to her father’s house. Back to the quiet of another evening back home for just a few more days.
This music is home to me. It’s traveled with me from Washington to California, from California to Texas, and from every home I’ve made along the way. Of all the ways I’ve strayed from my roots, this music has always had my undying loyalty and affection, and I honestly think I could make anyone love Ten Years Gone if merely just the way I soulfully defend the melody, the lyrics, and the heart of it so well, like a child would be able to explain to you all the reasons why she loves ice cream so much – you’d listen and want to eat it. That’s how I feel about music, and how excited I get to share it when it’s something I love.
Music today just mostly makes me sad. I’m a child of the days when it was magical and the stars aligned for a rare group of men and women, and they shaped a culture and pushed their cause on a platform of rock and roll. It inspires me, and if you allowed it its due, I am sure it could inspire you, too.
I’ve always given too much heart to what other people think. Born as sensitive as a suffering succulent in shallow sand – wary of the slightest tide. As cautious as a fledgling bird on a flailing tree-limb – aware how easily the wind will knock her to flight before she is able to spread her wings. I am more breakable than I’ve let on. Enduring by virtue of a stubborn will, not a capable heart; one may be surprised to hear that I will cut to my knees from the blow of a strong word faster than the blade of a swift sword. I take everything to heart and do not easily forget.
Of these things God made no mistake. He formed within me a special kind of observation to this world and a glorious fragility that is wind-worn and tested, and though indeed I am sensitive and regard others more than is healthy, I am sure the purpose is a noble aim: I will use it to create something timeless and beautiful that shall remain long after my feeble skin has turned back to dust.
The thorn in my chest is from the very beginning of my story because it took my sensitive heart and pulled it apart, and it knew the best way in. Not from birth, though this too speaks to a design that found me fighting for my place from the start, but instead from the first taste of love… Love that pushed me into crashing waves, boldly, and onto the wind, my wings open wide. Love that found me unafraid, for the first time in my life. When I trusted, wholeheartedly.
My thorn IS love. Great love. Lost love. Lost… Trust.
… You see, I’ve been told by everyone I know whom professes to love me now that I should have let it go a long, long time ago. That, by now, I should be over that day, that night, that moment. That love. The shame, as one may imagine then that I had not succeeded in putting it behind me, is a weight I’ve carried atop my shoulders for years.
‘They must be right, I am just not strong enough for this’, I thought too often. I allowed their insecurity, their uncomfortable position to tell me… what? What do you say? Except advise to get over it, move on, let – it – go. . . When I profess and process my history aloud – particular something this painful – it often serves just to make others close up further (perhaps I am stronger than I believed. . . . . . . . because at least, I face it?)
What is worse than actually living the experience is then being told for ten years that it shouldn’t matter to me as much as it does. That I am too sensitive, obviously. Worse still, that I was too young, and it probably wasn’t as good as I remember, anyway, so why hold on so long?
I have allowed the opinions of others hold me back from accepting one important truth – that time with my first love, it is my muse. My great story. Timeless, tragic, truthful. We writers dream for such a tale, salivating over the slightest tickle from one of Zeus’ daughters; Clio – weaving for me an enchanted fable of young lovers to endow me with a beautiful history, before Melpomene shatters it to pieces with one fatal blow. They worked together to create for me exactly what I would need to write with purpose. To find my voice amongst all the world, and to stand firm in my resolve that the sum of such lost love is not despair, but everlasting beauty. Such a love, lost, deserves nothing less. I could not have known it, nor would I have believed it held such promise then, for then, it only brought pain.
To write it is the point, I see that now. To use it. . . The brokenness. The loss. The exquisiteness. The innocence. The easiness. The simplicity. The sorrow. The carefree nights of which I will never know the same again as long as I live. The safety of knowing how my life would go, and believing love would persist even if I doubted myself occasionally.
Weaving the love was the easy part – the pain, and the opinions, come when enters the tragedy. I did not lose one love but more than this, the deepest trust of a mother to her child. For a decade, I mourned this loss. For ten years, I have suffered it, reminded by a song or a familiar face in the crowd. I not only lost his hand in mine, his eyes upon my heart, but the tender embrace of my goddess mother and her earthly charge to protect me at all cost. In an instant, the security I had placed in their hands was washed away by cold ocean water and a swift gust of salty air. I had trusted, God knew I would. I opened my guarded heart at the mention of his name and the insistence of her words…
“He is the one”.
“Move on”, they insisted, with nothing else to offer so many years later when I still cry the same damn tears.
Helpless, their perspective, that I am better off this way. Sentencing me to a lesser fate, after all what was my choice? The voices over these past ten years have only tried to help me, and rarely were they meaning maliciousness, but why say anything at all unless they’ve walked in my shoes? Would you say to a man wandering the darkened cold street, who lost his home, that it was meant to be this way or it would not have happened? What purpose does this serve but that it made you feel you tried to offer some semblance of help, but you would have done better just to sit and listen! His tale, to such a conclusion as homelessness, ought to be a good one, and believe me, he knows where he went wrong and it helps nobody to remind him. He just wants someone to listen. I know this, because so have I wanted not advice or pity, but simply someone to say nothing at all. Just listen.
As sure as I can be, I was gifted this tragedy.
My mother almost lost her life and mine at my birth. I came into this world feet-first only a small fraction of healthy birth weight. She always told me this tale. . .
“I was in the hospital at 5 months so they could stop my labor. We didn’t really know what we were going to name you. As I laid there one day in that bed, I heard an angel tell me, ‘You will name her Christina Marie’, and I knew you would be okay.”
Divine, those muses. Spinning from before my birth a special story unique to my soul. My sensitive heart would blossom with a great love but before it would realize its potential it would be trampled by tragedy.
I’ve tried to make sense of it for ten years, but I see now – with great peace inside – that the sense is entirely what work I do now. It is the beauty from the pain.
The thorn is inside my chest forever. I cannot remove it. I cannot entirely relieve the pain, and I know it will be with me forever. He gave me a heart that remembers. But the beauty from my sensitive heart is only just now realized, that I’ve loved and lost, but then loved again. . . A bold testament to the strength that is not my own, but lives through me. The roots in the wet grains of sand, clutching to the earth when the waves rush forth. The growing confidence in the darting bird amongst the trees.
I can take this timid heart, afraid of what others will think, and create something beautiful against the odds. Stick up my middle finger at the “let it go’s” of the world and use it for what it is: Great material. Against my own doubt and fear. Against their voices that tell me I cannot write this because I should have let it go years ago. Is that not the point, though? That it is a new kind of tale, one only I can tell, and I have not let it go because maybe I was not supposed to? One whose beginning, middle, and end I know intimately and truthfully, and I alone can rise above what it was – to me alone – to breathe it new life, and create with it something to make the muses glean with pride. Through me, this work be done. Through me, of me, but not for me. For more than myself, but anyone who has ever felt themselves silenced by what this world would make them believe: Their story doesn’t matter, isn’t worth telling, and should not hurt the way it does. . . That you should be over that by now.
I have exhausted my give-a-shit, and instead, I am just going to trust the muse and fucking write it. Because I must. Because the muse implores me to do so. The evidence, for me, is undeniable that this is the time and space where I create. My dreams have painted him directly in front of me, so close I can almost smell his skin. He is psychically calling out to me, from the shadows of so long ago, and I believe it is Clio’s way, my sweet persistent muse, of pushing me now. I feel him in the strangest places, at the strangest times – I am sure this is beyond mortal perimeters, but that I am channeling something stronger than myself and mere memories.
I am writing from love. Remembering from love.
From something so painful, to be here with love, speaks for itself. It writes for itself. All I have to do, then, is sit back and do the work. The words will come through me, and I will nevermore be just the timid young woman who gives too much credence to the will of her counterparts, but instead, the brave writer using the heart of love and life to paint a vivid tale. A fitting tribute, the final proof that fate had not the upper hand and did not defeat me, but I loved as I looked back, and I made from the ashes something beautiful. More, that I have loved again years later, and deeply – despair did not break me, as feeble as I seem; my strength from love is mounting…
Unafraid, and unhindered. I step aside now… Clio, parchment unfurled, dip your quill. I am ready.
My dad is currently experiencing something I went through ten years ago. He’s dealing with the death of a parent. This brings up many feelings for me, but mostly that I am saddened for my dad because I know what it feels like.
It brings up the finality of death for me. I was surprised that I felt rather choked up when I heard him say it. We were never close, my grandfather and me, but it isn’t because I didn’t want us to be. I made the effort as an adult. Probably to my dad’s insistence goes the credit, but when I went home over the past few years, I went and visited with the man who’s half responsible for my dad’s life. I went and introduced him to two of his great-grandchildren. I went and I hugged him, and enjoyed visiting. It was always small talk, because I didn’t know how much he knew of me and my life, but I yearned for the connection. Since I was a child – that’s one thing that comes to mind now…
I wanted him to want me. More than this, I wanted him to want my dad.
I cannot imagine my life without my father. He was not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. My dad was young and immature and hot-headed, but he was… THERE. He was THERE when I needed him. He was THERE when I messed up, and though I feared his wrath as my father, I knew no matter what I did or what I was going through, he would STILL be THERE for me.
He was there for me when I got divorced from Layla’s father. Though the divorce was mostly my fault because of some irreparable choices I made, he was THERE. He was there when AJ left Jemma, Layla, and me – though he never approved of the marriage from the start and saw the end before it began – he was THERE. And he was there when I married the man I would argue is my favorite. The man that “took in” my children and me, against the better advice that this life would be difficult – my dad was there to give me away, finally… It was the first marriage he was there for, and the first time I knew – beyond any doubt because he told me he was proud, that I was making the right decision.
My dad didn’t have the same father. His dad wasn’t “there”. For that, I have spent my entire life mad. On his behalf. Because a father is crucial.
My dad wasn’t perfect, I’ve mentioned this already, but he was and still is my favorite man on this earth. My husband is a close second, and a first in a lot of ways – obviously, but still… When I think of what it means to stick around and to put in the work, my dad comes to mind – first and always.
The finality of this, for him, must be hard. That’s what I keep thinking about, and I only got the news a few minutes ago. . .
I wish for my dad, then, a peace that comes from believing his father is some place better than here. Where redemption heals a broken and worn-out soul. Where we no longer question what is good and what is right, but where good and right are the just norm. I want this for my dad, the peace… Because the finality is difficult.
He will never again hear his dad’s voice. Never see his face. Never pick up the phone to call him and tell him that his son has once again done something to, hopefully, make his father proud. He’s lost that to this earthly realm, and that makes me sad.
Life is swift. It is swift and it is challenging. But we all have a day. A day wherein we find ourselves breathing our last breath.
I hope when that moment comes for my dad I am by his side. I hate to think of it. Really. It makes me sick inside. Not only because he’s my only parent left, but because I cannot envision a world where he isn’t there to talk to. To make me laugh and share our funny stories. To tell me when I’ve fucked up and to put me right again… I cannot imagine it. And although I should be able to, it doesn’t compute. Because that’s how much I need him. He’s a thousand miles away, but I still need my father. I wonder if he is feeling anything similar now, and if he is, I pray to the God we both believe in that his heart can find peace in this sad time. I pray that he knows, when it is his time, that he won’t leave us wanting more, but leave us knowing how much he loved his children, and how good he was to us.
I told John a story just recently of my dad building sparkler bombs. We did this a lot when we were kids. We’d get packs of sparklers, strap them tightly together with electrical tape, and blow up toilets in our back yard. These moments, undoubtedly, were some of the best of my childhood. Our dad was cool. He was young and “with it”, and he found ways to make our childhood memorable though we didn’t have much money and it was a hectic, tumultuous childhood. At least, at the VERY least, he was THERE. Doing the things that I remember now as some of the best times of my life.
I looked back on that, as I told John, and felt laughter well up from my gut. What kind of father blows up porcelain toilets in a residential neighborhood during the day with a freaking sparkler bomb?! I think, if John were to do that to entertain our children, I’d probably kill him and be really mad for a long time. . .
But that was my childhood. That was my dad.
I would not change a single moment. Not for all the money and glory this world has to offer. Those days were beautifully ours, and they were solely because my dad was there. Thinking constantly of ways to make his children happy.
As I think about my grandpa, I am upset that he didn’t give my dad the same gift. It’s private and I won’t go into more detail, but the point is, as he goes through this painful process of letting his dad go, he will look back on their time together and miss the things that never were. For that, I am angry, and I wish I had time to make my grandpa see that the important things were not his bank account or a golf game, or even the woman he chose to leave his family for – the important things were watching his son play baseball, or helping him through a surgery when he was just a boy. It was the reprimanding and the discipline, the teaching moments and the heart-to-hearts. He sold out and vanished, and left my dad without those crucial memories and now, all these years later, my dad is the one that has to reconcile these truths.
It speaks to character. It speaks to integrity and honesty and gumption. All the traits my dad has, and he got them on his own. Without his dad. For that, my dad is a better man than most, because he found those traits of character on his own, and he did it while being a very young man, raising five children of his own.
I got choked up, yes, but it was more for my dad than the grandfather I barely knew. He missed out on knowing us, and I guess I’ll never know why he chose that life – time and again – because I showed up, I drove to his house, I introduced him to children that bore his blood, but it wasn’t enough.
It just makes me more appreciative and grateful for my dad. For his dedication and loyalty. For his sense of humor that he gave me. For his honor to stick with my mom when she went off the rails… He was there, and he never intended, no matter how difficult life became, to have it any other way. There is no better trait in a man than this. Dedication.
Death is funny. It’s an inescapable truth for every single living person. We shall all meet death and her final hand swiftly grasps us – we have no say in the matter. When she comes knocking, we cannot refuse to answer the door. My grandpa met her today. I shall miss him in the sense that I miss the opportunity to win him over. To make him fall in love with his premature granddaughter and, as it happened, her children – his great-grandchildren. We tried, and at least I can rest with that knowledge. We tried. Why he didn’t – our whole life, and most of my dad’s life, we shall never know. I pray as my dad tries to reconcile this, he finds peace in his heart that HE tried, and what he didn’t get in return is not the measure of his worthiness as a son and a father. His measure, his worth, is that he never gave up trying. I got that from him.
My dad is one of my favorite people on this planet. It’s taken me nearly 32 years to fully appreciate the life he built for his children. To see the sacrifices he made to give us as much of a chance as he knew we could take. He didn’t have an example. He didn’t have someone to call and get help from. . . But he managed to raise five incredibly smart, happy children, and we all – from the deepest part of our heart – can say that he was one of the biggest reasons why we have good lives now.
I wish I could hug my dad right now. Just sit with him and let him talk. Hear all the things he has to say, feel the feelings pouring from his eyes… Just comfort him. The way he comforted us when my mom died. I wish I could tell him how much he truly means to me, and that I thank him for every single time he sacrificed his own dreams to work hard so we could have food on the table. For each moment he was frustrated with raising five kids as a young man, wondering where his life and dreams went, but instead of chase those things, he kept at it so that we had a roof over our heads.
Rest in peace, Grandpa Geddes. May you know now, in your heavenly vision, that your son did well even when you didn’t show him how. Know that HE is the father his children adore, and HE was there… Know that he forgives you for not teaching him these things, he learned them on his own, but he loved you through those mistakes. He has character, integrity, and devotion to his family. In the face of every mistake you made, he turned out better than fine. He turned out amazing. As we say goodbye to you in spirit, we will celebrate the child you left behind. He is my dad. He is your son. He gave us a great life, and he probably worked so hard at this because of the fact that you weren’t there. He was there. For that, I guess I can only be grateful to you… Your mistakes gave me a great father. The best dad. As I remember what I knew of you, and the loss of this to my dad, I will be grateful that he was everything you were not. The best dad a child could ask for.