Regrets

I regret not writing more.

Not writing more letters to friends and family.

Not writing more love notes to my daughter, tucking them in her lunch box, leaving them on her pillow.

Not writing the stories that grow in my brain and bring tears to my eyes as the characters try, fail, succeed, connect.

Waiting.

I am a much-published writer of to do lists.

But I cannot write “Write” on a to do list and then check it off.

Ever.

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Saving Mr. Brady

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“I’ve been a terrible father.”

My father sat on his hospital bed in his thin gown, tears filling his eyes.  I sat there on a pleather chair frozen in place.  This is where I’m supposed to warmly rush to him and wrap my grown-daughter arms around him and deny all of that and uphold all the many good memories…

But our family and relationships were not like that. Instead, I stated the facts that he had been generous and always supported us so well. That we had had wonderful vacations and that he had supported us so very well…

And this is my memory of a moment I wish I could rush back and change.

How I wish I could travel back and tell him what I know now.

That what he pulled off, being a working class Irish kid from Somerville with big, grandiose dreams, what he worked for, what he tried to be, was just amazing. That although I annoyed the hell out of him with my talking back, arguing with him, thinking I stood eye to eye with him (and I still do, because I am Mark Brady’s daughter), and that he hurt me with his rolled eyes and scornful disgust, that now I know he loved me. That he was exactly the best father he could be given he was still on his own journey when all of us 4 kids showed up.  I wish I could Save Mr. Brady.

I would never have dreamed that I could find ANY connection with a movie about an out of control alcoholic father who lovingly and magically engaged his quiet and fiercely-loyal and protective daughter. Saving Mr. Banks is not my story at all.  My father was not playful and childlike; I was not silent and loyal.

I recall trying to convince him of my various points of view, and of his taking it as argument and disrespect. I recall spankings and banishments, and my brothers and sister wishing I would Just. Shut. Up. I recall being my mother’s confidante and shoulder when he descended into alcoholism and emotionally left the family for some years. Painful rejections when I would reach out to him. The stain on my own heart of being a failure as a go-between for two parents angry and hurt with each other. How I felt compelled to take each one’s side when they complained about the other. And that I felt guilty for doing that and wondered if they knew I was a double agent. How at the end of it all, it really just felt like Mom loved me, and Dad kind of hated my guts.

But also he waved to me each and every time I came around the bend on each and every carousel he ever put me on. And he put me on every carousel I ever wanted to ride.  How his eyes filled when he dropped me off at my first college dorm room. How he thanked me profusely for taking him down to the hospital one of the many times in the last year of his life.

How he reached out to me to say,

“I’ve been a terrible father.”

He might have thought I had it in me to say something better than, “Oh, you were so generous. We had a great childhood.”

I would listen and ask him to tell me why he thinks this. Now. I would finally try to hear what his heart’s wish was for who he really wanted to be. And as I listened, I would hear his real song, and I would sing it with him in my heart. I think I would stop trying to prove myself to him, and it would give him rest, and he would maybe stop trying to prove himself to all of the universe.

And just rest.

Dread of the Endless Frozen Void

I wrote this almost three years ago. I’m grateful to SparkPeople for hosting it in its original place despite my lack of activity there.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I’ve ended a romance that wasn’t bound anywhere special, and I’ll take my chances with the unknown. But I’m dreading it. I went for a run the day he cancelled a date because he was feeling “sulky” and “stressed out” that he’d just realized he had made no time for me over the holidays–no time for 5 weeks over December and January. I ended it politely, nicely. I went for a 5.5 mile run right away, feeling very empowered that I had a healthful way to deal with my sadness. I stopped and cried for only 30 seconds in a short stretch of woods after the thought “You’re nothing special” had tracked across my mind like a bit of news on the ticker tape. I remembered that it was just a thought, a habit of bad thinking, and to not attach myself to it. I took a breath and continued on. I finished the run, which put me in such better spirits. In the weeks since the end of that romance, I’ve thought about why I, and others in my boat, are filled with the dread of a lonely future when a relationship ends. Rationally, we know we’ll meet others, and maybe feel hopeful enthusiasm. But I think there’s a sense of dread at the idea of one ultimately meaningless connection after another. A collage of borrowed trouble images of nights spent in Barnes and Noble staring at book racks, noticing that one is not being noticed by anyone. Of night after night doing sudoku in bed in ugly pajamas.

I had an insight, though, during a run last week during a bitter cold day. I had dreaded the run. I pictured the wind biting my face, cold pressing through my clothes into my ribcage, the awkward steps over the ridgy, icy snowpack, the smells of the auto exhaust and salt on the roads, with no other smells to compete and suppress them.

What I hadn’t anticipated was the beautiful quiet except for my breathing once I got into the woods. The flash of a cardinal, the startlement of a plump little junco. The warm smile and nod of a lady walking through the woods all bundled up in a bright blue coat. The recognition and wave of another runner I see on the trail each day. And the wonderful warmth that suffused my own body as I made my way through the run. The warmth from the living itself, and from the happy and mostly-kind thoughts that just seem to come so easily to me when I get into my runs.

I realized that facing the unknown in our lives when we’ve had a loss can be so much like facing a run in bad weather. I thought it would be cold, lonely, painful, unpleasant. But as you move through it, as you move through life, the fact is that it will warm you and carry you along. The love of life, and the love of being alive will warm us as we go. Just keep moving through life. The endless frozen void is just a made-up Neverland–it is not out there before you. Truly. I’m strapping on my shoes and going out to meet the unexpected pleasures of living among my fellow human beings.