Sunday, May 25, 2014

I know

I know the taste of tears, after twenty seven years the salt of my pain too familiar. Most days I am happy, but there are some when my heart sighs and a hushed memory escapes and releases the genesis of my sorrow. For a time, because of others, I cloaked my heartache and restricted them to private pages. The last time we spoke, you made me promise to never hide what I was feeling, to always be honest, no matter how afraid I might be.  In honor of you, I share.

I know regret. Time wasted, the past that can never be changed. 1:11 a.m., the sweetest gift, an unexpected hello. Words hung in the air, left unspoken. A borrowed record, Billy Joel's She's Got a Way quietly played in the background, a promise when you returned I would hear the words I longed for. You wanted to hold me, look in my eyes; the first time they are said should always be special. You reminded me of the feeling, the kismet of the first time we gazed into each other's eyes. Until your reassurance, I was afraid of the depth of what I felt. We were young, we shared dreams, and we had forever. The fourth Monday in March 1987, my innocence ended, the future shattered. A helicopter crash on a riverbank in the Philippines is where you left this earth, left me.

I know one phone call can change the world, change my life. Your voice, shared laughter, a plan and a promise for the future made my heart sing. A few weeks later, your name and two words, Bobby's dead, dropped me to my knees. The pain swallowed me as my life rushed out.

I know how it feels to inhale but not be able to breathe. My first panic attack, the moment my denial ended and the reality you were never coming home dropped like a guillotine on my soul.  Fear flooded my body, suffocated my heart, the loneliness in the room spun me until I collapsed broken on my bed. It is a desolation I will never be able to describe.

I know the torment of a restless night.  The unanswered why that haunts me, denies me sleep. The solitude of the darkness magnifies the void you left. The emptiness next to me, a reminder of what might have been, should have been.

I know the sheaths of the seasons. In the fall the leaves gently cascade from the trees, dance where you rest, before they settle in the recesses between the grass and the bronze. Winter arrives, its storms blanket you in snow. The rains of spring wash away the coldness and give root to the soft green covers of summer. Your seasonal quilt is not the same as the one you wrapped around us in Pensacola. It does not matter, I will always lie next to you. It is the closest I can get until I hold you again in Heaven.

I know the sensation of forty one characters. My fingers run along your inscription while my heart retraces the memory of you. Remembrances of your touch awaken my soul. Pools of my heartache fall on your rank, embrace your name.

I know how fickle the weather can be on your birthday. The March sun can be warm or the winds can blow hard and cold. The ground can be covered in snow, soft and muddy from rain or covered in fresh grass. The climate will not stop me, I will always visit. The silence of the solemn garden broken as I sing Happy Birthday, make a wish, blow out your candle and then share a cupcake. This past year, the hardest of anniversaries; you have been gone longer than you were here.

I know what it is like to love another. I did as you would want, over time I let go. My heart was conflicted over the wonder and the guilt the first time I shared my bed. After, I cried in the shower, tears of admission, acceptance that your arms would never hold me again.

I know what it is to fear time. Seasons fade my memory. I can hear your voice in my heart, but some days I can no longer remember what it sounds like. I close my eyes and some nights you are vivid, wonderfully alive as we dance. Others, only fragments of you appear in my dreams. I am afraid age will steal the clarity, the wonder of you. Scared, memories will be eclipsed by the darkness of time.

I know the cost of freedom. My heart knows it all too well.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Happy Birthday John Steinbeck

"In utter loneliness, a writer ties to explain the inexplicable." - John Steinbeck

Great books are not meant to be read then discarded like bad memories to collect dust on the shelves of Good Will. They are essays of life. They cannot be graded, for an A would do them injustice. They are simply, immortality on paper.

A good writer leaves traces of himself within each word, between each paragraph and engraved on each page.  Steinbeck was a master at evoking empathy for people and places unknown. His life experiences, beliefs, and love live on between the covers of his masterpieces. His soul is a part of the American conscience.

"I wonder how many people I've looked at all my life and never seen." - The Winter of Our Discontent

His characters were honest, authentic; portraying them not as the images people believed they knew or saw every day but as they were. He gave his characters interactions and dialogue so raw many critics would claim his works were obscene, rather than admit they were the truth of the time.

He understood the three evils; isolation, loneliness and weakness. They destroy the soul and kill the American dream. People need, not only to be loved, but, a place to be. A home; whatever definition it holds within one's heart.

"There is more beauty in truth, even when its dreadful beauty." - East of Eden

Steinbeck often exposed what he believed to be America's shame and inequality. The naked, unabashed endeavor for much of America to survive. He documented the constant struggle between good and evil, the moral and amoral, the strong and weak, the weak and the weakest. He illustrated the clocked humanity verses the acknowledged society that was 'seen'. The consequence; many of his greatest works were burned then banned. Even today many still  challenge his writings in attempt to keep them from being read.

"To finish is a sadness to a writer - a little death. He puts the last word down and it is done. But it isn't really done. The story goes on and leaves the writer behind, for no story is ever done." - John Steinbeck

The power and imagery of Steinbeck's words are boundless. My first realization of his influence, the endurance of his characters, places and times was in 1988 while I strolled along Cannery Row.

The eighties Ocean Avenue, the version I saw,  a scenic peaceful post card. The personification of a California tourist attraction, nothing like the riotous, rowdy, dismal Depression era Steinbeck depicted. The voices of his characters and the by gone places came to life as I walked along the now charming little piece of Monterey.

The shops, restaurants, aquarium, a tribute to Steinbeck's underlying message, there is beauty in all things ugly. With time, the elegance will be exposed be it a place or a person's soul.

The dreams, the tin, the stink, the desperation, the flop house, the honky tonks, the grocery store, the nostalgia, the saints, the sinners, the doc, the boys, the artist and the whore were all vivid and alive. Their ghostly vignettes dotted the row as I spent my afternoon by the water.

The sea lions frantic honks echoed from the bay, through Cannery Row to the parking lot. They caused me to turn and look after I buckled my daughter into her car seat. I smiled.  The sun was lowering in the afternoon sky, the hints of the evening shades were beginning to paint the horizon. In the hues of orange and red I could hear Doc's opera, hear his voice recite the Sanskirt poem to his guests in the final chapter of Cannery Row.
"Even now
I know that I have savored the hot taste of life
Lifting green cups and gold at the great feast.
Just for a small and forgotten time
I have had full in my eyes from off my girl
The whitest pouring of eternal light- "  - Cannery Row

My life was vastly different than Steinbeck's characters. Yet that afternoon, as the sun shone on my face I was reminded even in our inequalities, I shared a lot with them. I too was sad and broken. I was a lost soul, resigned to my recent fate of loneliness.

Not many writers can bring a place so dead back to life so vibrantly, connect the souls of one era to another. Steinbeck had that gift.  He truly was/is one of the greatest American writers.

Happy Birthday Mr. Steinbeck!