Saturday, February 18, 2017


For years, I prepared a Valentine's feast for the family. Once we had a few kids and an injured mother in law to care for, it seemed torturous to consider going out for dinner date, facing the masses on a greeting card manufactured holiday created to feed the consumer machine. We love French bistro food, so I decorated the table with tablecloth, candles, the fancy china and silver, cut out red and pink hearts, and lovingly prepared steak, true pommes frites, a salad and queen of sheba cake, a divine, ground almonds and dark chocolate confection.

Philip and I would share champagne and red wine, and it felt like true love, offering the gift of myself to the kids and my husband and the addition of a mother in law occasionally. Nothing contrived, or artificial, just sweet tradition.

The frites were a pain to make, the precision slicing, the twice frying, the mess of the stove afterword! But seeing the faces of my dear ones, my true loves, sitting around a beautiful table, made it worth all the work.

Then he died, ten days after Valentine's day.

I tried to keep up the tradition, but it felt like blackness, as the grief would swirl and none of us would know how to be, without his presence there anymore. We kept trying, but after moving here, we tried to change it up a few years. A couple of times we went to a dance in Valentine, TX on Valentine's day. That was kind of fun, but the kids were miserable, because their orbit felt thrown off by the change. They did something with friends one year, and I went camping to Big Bend by myself for a couple of nights, books of poetry and a cooler of good food, hungry for the romance of the solitude in the desert. That was pretty awesome, and felt good.

This year, my parents are with us.

I felt a real desire to bless my family, different flavor, same love, with our old tradition, a few twists. I decorated the table, set out lovely dishes, the real silver, lots of candles. Rose and Nora are vegetarians. Hmmm. Suddenly the steak frites seems like the wrong feast for this family. I made a pasta spinach alfredo, braised broccoli with lots of garlic the way Nora likes, sauteed green beans the way Rose likes, Rosemary slow roasted chicken legs, the way Thomas and I like.

Mom and Dad came over, the six of us, grateful around the table, love and beauty and Beethoven on the record player. Champagne for me and Dad. Pomegranate juice for mom and the kids.

As a gift, I did the cleanup, Frank crooning on vinyl, peace, hope, joy filled my heart. Very lovely memories of days of yore, all the different flavored ones. Philip memories, memories with the good man I dated here, and ways we tried to navigate the old and new, oh, so complicated, but also rich. And now new ways of making memories with my kids, who are quickly growing up and flying away, and my parents, this tender and vulnerable season in their life, joined up with ours, oh, how good!

Sometimes I want to be cynical about romance. Especially in conjunction with manufactured holidays that leave many of us feeling lonely and alone.

But then I change my mind! I want to embrace the opportunity to show love to my loved ones! Why not? Life is short. It is sweet to give my dear family a moment of romance, even if it isn't the kind of romance based on the pure definition involving eros. I just want to offer them a sensuous meal, rich in the senses, have them feel lavishly offered the gift of beauty and good food, a nice scattering of chocolate.

It feels really good to be where I am in life right now.

Perhaps that sounds crazy, when I occasionally offer up cries of lament. A mixed bag.

I grieve the world of politics and the strife. I grieve the pain of many of my friends in their life situations. I grieve our own losses. Perhaps that is why I felt extra thankful this year as we sat around our dining room table and offered our prayer of gratitude. I can't imagine anything else I could have wanted on that day and moment in time.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Get Me Through February

Winds came in last night. Clear sunny days with temperatures in the high 80s abruptly shifted to weather much more suited to my mood. Gray. Mountains shrouded by dusty cold pall. Howling in the trees, leaving me to grab a sweater.

Seems like most of the entire year is one memory, one season, one painful tradition that is no more, leading up to February 25th.

The day that caused such a rent in the fabric of our life, I still don't know who I am.

We find our moments of joy. I have meaning. Purpose. Love of my children, love of my parents. Work that is intentional. Spiritual riches. And a pain that stays under the surface part of the time, welling during those moments when there seems to be a thinness between this world and the next.

I find myself a bit short with people this time of year. Tears held inside by a stiff, harsh face. Work requires double the effort. I feel hungry. Empty. Don't wish to see people. It just wells up, like a trickling spring, the source buried deep down under all the layers.

So. Seven years. Why the hell did we have to have so many family rituals? So many happy moments all together? Such a confidence in the middle of the hard that we would always be there for each other? Even the bad moments turning into times of redemption.

I comfort myself in the belief that the deeper the ability to feel the pain, the deeper the ability to feel joy. I have hope. It grows dim, especially in February, but stays alive, with little breaths of grace that fan the little ember growing pale.

The pain is raw. Visceral. I guess if you have been there, you know what I am talking about. If you haven't, that seems rather melodramatic and you have no patience for me.

I let myself feel love again after he died. Twice. Am proud for making myself vulnerable and open. Now my love is offered to my family. The constant and true. Working to keep my heart soft, even though it is quite tempting to harden off, protecting myself from the inevitable. Every once in awhile a song come on that helps keep me tender. I am thankful for others sharing their tenderness with me. If you get a chance, take a listen to Allison Kraus's song, Get Me Through December. It is lovely.

And never fear, worry not. We have found that when the pain rolls in, if we give it a name, honor it, it doesn't wreck near the havoc as when we try to ignore it and pretend he isn't in the room. Speaking it out seems to lessen my pain several degrees.

How pale is the sky that brings forth the rain
As the changing of seasons prepares me again
For the long bitter nights and the wild winter's day
My heart has grown cold, my love stored away
My heart has grown cold my love stored away.

I've been to the mountain, left my tracks in the snow
where souls have been lost and the walking wounded go
I've taken the pain no girl should endure
But faith can move mountains, of that I am sure
Faith can move mountains, of that I am sure

Just get me through december
A promise I'll remember
Get me through December
So I can start again.

No Divine purpose brings freedom from sin
And peace is a gift that must come from within.
I've looked for the love that will bring me to rest
Feeding this hunger beating strong in my chest
Feeding this hunger beating strong in my chest.

Just get me through December
A promise I'll remember
Get me through December
So I can start again.

I've been to the mountain, left my tracks in the snow
where souls have been lost and the walking wounded go
I've taken the pain no girl should endure
But faith can move mountains, of that I am sure.
But faith can move mountains, of that I am sure.

Get me through December...

Sung by Allison Kraus, written by Fred Lavery and Gordy Sampson