The Fork in the Road

fork in the roadTypically, I am not given in to whimsy, but the other day I was walking to Starbuck’s to work and I saw a fork in the road.  Literally.  Well, it was off to the side, but it was actually a fork.  I smiled to myself as I thought about the meaning of seeing a fork in the road at this juncture of my life, a time when things are so chaotic and messy.

I am not one to snap endless pictures, probably another one of my “flat” features, so I walked by the fork that day; although I was still thinking about it the next day.

Seeing it still in the same place when I walked to get my daily chai tea, I decided to take a picture.

The forgotten fork sitting amongst the dirt and pebbles with little tufts of grass struggling to grow in the harsh Nevada weather, trying to figure out if it is winter or spring, has caused me to consider my path.

Do I go left, or do I go right?  Or is there another path somewhere down the middle?

I Have Been Ungrateful

The Box

The Box

Yesterday while I was unpacking, I found a box I had not seen in quite some time, in fact, I had all but forgotten about it.  Not quite, I had thought about it a while ago, but I did forget about the contents of the box.

The box is made of wood more than 100 years old, handcrafted with love and care, and it plays “I will Always Love You”.  I remember when it was made for me by the stepfather of my other; he made it was because he liked me instantly and had always had a strong disdain for the previous wife of my other.  The box was a symbolic welcome to the family.

I know it took him hours to construct; the hardware alone took him time to find exactly what he wanted.

While I was sorting through boxes I had not seen in almost 15 months (some years longer than that), I came across my little box; I recognized it instantly. I smiled when I remembered how much I had been thought of at the time when it was made for me.  However, as soon as I opened the box, my heart dropped; the contents of the box flooded my mind and my heart with a pain I was not prepared to endure.

There were only three things in the box: my other’s class ring, a diamond necklace he had given me, and a breast cancer pin.

It seems silly to be my age and to have a class ring hold so much significance; however, it means so much to him so it means so much to me.  The fact that he once loved me so much that he entrusted me to have a ring that he has had since the early 1980s, when the most important things in life were Lettermen’s jackets, class rings, cool cars, and prom dates… at least in his world.

The diamond necklace was one of so many gifts he gave me I do not even know where to begin, other than the fact that when it was given to me, I was ungrateful because I am certain I would have preferred more diamonds.  It was in the box because the chain was broken.  I was that way with every gift he gave me. Ungrateful.

As for the breast cancer pin, it is a complete conundrum; I do not know where it came from, or why it is in the box.  The strangest coincidence about the three items represented in the box is that, his mother has breast cancer.  I would have not known that when I put those items in there, as I have not seen that box for at least five years…

I spent the rest of my evening thinking about how ungrateful I had been with his generosity over the years: when he gave me a $300 portable DVD player for my birthday, I had wanted a new laptop; when I got a Fanch Ledan for my office, I wanted the Fabien Perez; when I got a new Tiffany necklace, I had wanted a $30,000 diamond engagement ring… it never ended.

As I continued unpacking, I threw away boxes of ruined Bath & Body Works lotion, body spray, and body wash because it went rancid from being in storage.  I thought about the monthly trips where we would spend no less than $150 a month so I could buy whatever I wanted to smell good and have soft skin.  I threw away bags of countless dollars of skin care products purchased at high-end makeup counters because they were outdated and sour.

There was no end to his generosity and my spoiled behavior.  I always said “Thank you”.  I felt it.

But I think it fell flat.

I look at that class ring now; I feel it in my fingers, imagine him wearing it, think of him giving it to me, imagine him loving me… and remember.

***

As an aside, I had not always been so bratty and spoiled; in fact, I had never been treated this way before, never had anybody buy me things, love me, or want to do anything for me.  I truly did not know how to behave.

Fanch Ledan "Interior With Max" hanging in my apartment

Fanch Ledan “Interior With Max” hanging in my apartment

Things “Right” or Good About Me

making-good-things-happen1This is one of the most challenging pieces I have ever had to write; but as I have been challenged by “CoastalMom”, (and it was “seconded” by others) I felt compelled to oblige…

Besides, I know it will be good for my psyche.

***

I am writing about all of the things I can think of that I have done right or good in my life; please note, these may not be in chronological order, simply in the order I can remember them.

***

When I was a sophomore in high school and rode the bus, there was a new kid in school riding who got on the bus the stop after mine.  He was tall, awkward, wore glasses, and was one of the shyest kids I had ever seen.  Well, to be fair, since I have no filter on my mouth and will talk to anybody, I have a challenging time distinguishing shy from quiet…

When he would get on the bus, the other kids would scoot over or put their book bags on the seat so he could not sit down.  He would walk down the center aisle of the bus with his head hanging low, eyes downcast, looking for an available seat.

I had been the “new kid” only a month before and had felt the same stinging humiliation he was feeling, but I handled it a bit differently.  I bounced down the aisle wearing my yellow mini skirt and Rick Springfield printed tee with the lettering stating, “I love Rick” on the back; I dared anybody not to notice me.  With confidence, I walked up to the cutest loser on the bus and demanded a seat next to him… it was never ending love for the next three weeks.

After a few days of watching the nerdy kid trying to get a seat I looked at the empty space beside me as he walked by, “You can sit here,” I loudly called out as he passed by.  I could see by the looked on his face he was stunned.

“Hey, thanks,” he said as he sat beside me listening to the taunts and jeers from my ex wanna be a professional skater boyfriend and his equally talented buddies.  We sat together every day after that and he said later he was always grateful for my simple gesture.

***

As challenging as my relationship with my mother has been, I have never lashed back at her.  Often, others have suggested I treat her in the same shabby way she treats me, but I have always understood she has had a difficult life and probably only treats me the way she does out of a lack of knowing any better.

***

I used to work at a large corporation where my position was accounting/payroll and backup human resources.  The majority of the employees had a challenging time with the woman who was the human resources manager, she was cold, indifferent, and did not embrace the company’s open door policy; as a result, many of the employees would come to me with their personal problems.

One particular man would come to me with issues such as an issue he was having with the IRS; he could not understand the paperwork.  He simply needed to fax some things, so I looked it over and faxed the information for him.  He would always say, “I’m just a dumb ole’ shop guy with an eighth grade education, I don’t know nothin’ bout office machines or anything.  Thank you so much for the help.”  I was more than happy to help him, and it really did not take much time.

The human resources manager would often comment how it was not part of my job and I did not have to do it; I imagine that was part of the reason nobody liked her and preferred to come to me.  I actually liked that employees felt they could come to me; I realized it was not my job, but I enjoyed helping them.

The same employee with the IRS issue was casually talking to me one day about his elderly mother; she lived in a trailer and had been duped by a dishonest contractor who promised a roof repair.  The man took $800 then had not performed the promised repairs.  His mother lived on a fixed income and could not afford any more money; to make matters worse; this man only made $9 an hour at our company and could do little to help his mother.

After listening to him, I could not ignore the situation; I called a friend of mine that I had not talked to for several years and sheepishly asked for help.  I knew he had many contacts in the area and had done a lot of this nature.  In a matter of a few days, he coordinated a roof repair, an air conditioning unit, and some much needed yard work.

I suppose I really did not do anything other than get them in contact with each other, my friend really did all of the work; I was simply a catalyst.  Perhaps this should not be on my list.

***

While working at a manufacturing company, I had the opportunity to hire an employee through a temporary agency.  I asked for some specific qualifications such as the ability the prolific use of Excel and other Microsoft Office products.  After screening several candidates, the organization sent over a young man they felt would fill our needs.

The first day, it was apparent he did not know any of the computer software programs I had required; however, he was brilliant.  He spoke several languages and held a degree in international business studies; I was confused about why this young man was looking for work through temporary means.

I soon came to learn he was working to get his passport and other documentation to become a teacher in Beijing, teaching English to elementary school children.  I was thrilled for him; he was such a wonderful young man.  Over a few short weeks he became like a son to me; he was a doppelganger of my daughter’s boyfriend, a smarter, taller version.  He had a few socially awkward moments, but he was witty, intelligent, and could be incredibly funny if you understood his humor.

Then, one day, he came into my office and confided in me; he was a felon.  Seven years earlier, he had been convicted of killing his brother when his brother had come at him in a drug-induced state while they were boarding together at college.  As I listened to him describe the scene, how he tried to resuscitate him after stabbing him, and was still giving him CPR when the police came, then how he was convicted, and how his dad could not forgive him, my heart broke for him.  He was so young, and so innocent; he may have been twenty-six, but he was just a boy.

I shared my story with him, about how my mother had killed my father; we bonded over trials, lawyers, and the court systems.  He was grateful I had listened and not judged.

I protected his secret for as long as I could; until somebody who went to school with his brother recognized him and printed everything he could find from the Internet.  Afterwards, people in the office started talking about him; I even had one close friend ask me about him and call him a murderer.  She asked me if I had been afraid the time I took him to lunch… all I could do was shake my head thinking about the time she met my mother wondering if she had been afraid of her.

It has been two years and we still keep in touch; he has often said I was the kindest person he had ever met.  I feel like all I did was to be compassionate to a kid who needed it at the time; the same thing anybody would do.

***

In 1997, my second husband (then boyfriend) broke his back snowboarding; he was in the trauma unit for five days.  I only left the hospital one time, to pack a bag.  Other than that, I slept on a cot next to his bed in ICU, then in a chair in his regular room until the day he left.

The hospital had a program called the VIP Program, Very Important Partner Program; they encouraged family members to stay with patients to help them recover.  The person could help the nurses perform simple tasks such as getting ice chips, blankets, or anything else the patient may need; it made for a more pleasant stay for the patient and freed up the time for the nurses.

He has Crohn’s Disease so was hospitalized two more times; I stayed each time, playing games, performing as a liaison between him and the nurses, and taking care of anything he wanted or needed.  I heard the nurses talking about him in the hallway, they were thankful I was there, to say the least; he was an extremely difficult patient.

***

My nephew was in the hospital for a burst appendix when he was sixteen; it had been ruptured for a few months before the doctor had discovered it, so he was extremely sick.  As my sister’s family lived about 45 miles out-of-town, she stayed with him while he was convalescing.

Every morning before I would go to work, I would stop by and bring her breakfast I had prepared for her at home; usually an egg on English muffin with cheese and ham wrapped in foil to keep it hot.  Then on my lunch hour I would go sit with him so she could go to my house and shower; for being sixteen, it was remarkable to me how needy he was and could not be left alone for an hour.  After work, I would go home and make dinner for my family, then take some down to my sister.

A month later, my husband was in the hospital for 5 days and I needed some help with my daughters; I asked for them to spend the weekend at my sister’s house because they had already spent 3 days at their grandparents, she declined.  My husband did not understand, and thought I should cut her out of my life; I could not do it, citing the tough life we had as children.

***

As a little girl in New Mexico, there was a girl who wore the same thing to school every day, she wore a long denim skirt to her ankles and a blue shirt.  Her hair was always a mess and she smelled like urine; her name was CB.  Nobody would play with her on the playground, and even the teacher seemed to treat her differently; she was smelly and dirty.

After school, as the bus drove by her place it was easy to see why CB was so unkempt; her home looked like Sanford and Son’s place.  There was litter strewn about and dilapidated outbuildings and cars all about the property.

We sat together on the bus and chatted, because I cannot help myself no matter where I go; we played together on the playground; because that’s what kids do; and I asked her to stay overnight, but she was never allowed.  I think I was her only friend.  However, I only went to school there for a year, so I don’t know whatever happened to CB… sometimes I imagine her leaving Thoreau and growing into a beautiful princess…

***

I used to work with a woman who everybody thought was highly unpleasant to put it nicely; and she was.  She was abrupt, challenging, and sometimes downright nasty; however, if you took the time to talk to her, you would find out that she had a nine-year-old daughter who lived with her ex-husband, she now had a lesbian life partner, and she could actually be quite pleasant at times.

When she found out she had cancer and was put on disability, most people in the office really did not seem to care; especially our human resources manager who was neither human nor resourceful.  So, when she came in to turn in get some help with her disability paperwork and was getting nowhere with the HR manager, I sat down with the daunting stack of redundant questions and powered through them one at a time with her until we finished the packet.

The next time she came in to complete her forms and collect signatures from her supervisor I gave her a basket of goodies I had been collecting for her and had shrink-wrapped.  I bought her some candy, a candle, some crosswords, magazines, and other stuff to while away the time while she was at her chemotherapy appointments hoping to bring a smile to her face.

She thanked me; that was the last time I ever saw her.  I hear she recovered well.

***

I suppose I can think of a few more, but I am starting to feel this post is getting quite long, and I have to fight the urge continuously to interject the negative…

Thank you, CoastalMom, for the inspiration.

Choosing What Was Behind Door Number One

Colorful Door

Colorful Door (Photo credit: brentdanley)

When I was 19 I got married for the first time to a 9th grade high school drop-out, pot smoker who’s biggest aspirations in life was to become a rock star.  By the time we were 26 years old, he left me on New Year’s Eve after a seemingly innocuous argument over a ceiling fan we had just received as a Christmas gift.  As he packed his things into a cardboard box and I stood in the doorway to the bedroom door of our trailer home and watched, he summed up our life together saying, “I don’t want to be a dad and a husband anymore.  You have been holding me back from becoming a rock star.”

Of course, one paragraph cannot sum up ten years of a life with somebody; it started out when we were 16 years old, when I was a junior in high school and he was working at McDonald’s, already living on his own with some friends in an apartment.  We had the typical relationship of a rebel teen and a straight A student.  My parents hated him and thought I could do better, but it mattered very little to me, he was my way out of the hell that was my home.  He cheated on me, I cheated on him, but we were drawn to each other in a dysfunctional way.

When we got married, it was on a whim, no big plan with a fancy wedding… I was hundreds of miles away at my sister’s house and had just come back into town.  He asked me on a Friday, we made the arrangements on a Saturday and were married on Monday.  My mother was not even certain if she was going to be able to attend.  The day of the ceremony, my father offered him $2000 if he would just walk away; to this day, I am not certain why he didn’t.

In the back of my mind, I always knew I would never grow old with him.  I am a person who dreams a great deal; every morning I wake up and can recall very vividly what I have dreamt about the previous night, and I daydream and fantasize… he was never there in my future, not even the next day.  So, when we broke up less than a year after our wedding, I was not surprised.

However, as is typical of these types of relationships, we got back together for the last time; but this time, I got pregnant immediately. That solidified the relationship a little more, made it a little more real, required us to grow up a bit, but it was no more loving or caring than it had ever been.  And, six months after our daughter was born, I was pregnant a second time.

We went through the motions of marriage for several years.  Or rather, I should say, we were parents, no real marriage.  I loved my children, hugged them, told them I loved them, did arts and crafts, took them places, did everything I thought I technically should to show them that I loved them.  But somehow I knew it was fleeting, that we did not have a family.

And, I was right, that New Year’s Eve when he packed his box and left all three of us.  I learned a few days after he left that he had a 17 year old girlfriend that was pregnant.

Was it then that I started to have no affect?

Or was the fact that I had no affect the reason for him cheating?

On Being Uninspired…

Inspiration Point (1326461099)

Inspiration Point (1326461099) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sitting in the darkness

Feeling uninspired.

The silence envelopes me like a fog,

Seeping deep into the very core of my being.

The loneliness reaching in and filling my cracked and broken soul,

Cementing the solitude in my veins.

Inspiration evades me,

As does peace and happiness.

My mind is chaotic,

My body in turmoil.

I wait…

for inspiration to return.