A Call For Help (Or Something Like That)

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**I need your help!**

Yes, you — person who is literate and also possesses the ability to click a blue button.

(I’m assuming.) Continue reading

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Inheritance

It’s 2013, and I’m at a gas station in Nevada, having the best phone conversation I’ve had with my father in a long, long while.

The details behind the conversation are long and complicated and best left for another time and another storyline.  I am on the phone, early morning in Nevada, closing in on noontime in Boston.  I had braced myself for whatever the call would bring, but instead of what I had anticipated, I have an effortless and connected talk about road trips.

I’m in the middle of my road trip to San Francisco, just a day’s drive away from California.  My father is hours away from being discharged from the hospital, brought in for what would turn out to be simple dehydration.  And from his hospital bed, he tells me about driving to Mt. Rushmore, about trekking across Wyoming with nothing but his camper trailer and his two buddies by his side.

There is a camaraderie in how we talk, as if this has always been our relationship.  I eventually hang up, carrying the thought, “So this is what it’s supposed to feel like,” with me as I return to the car, as we set off for the Pacific Ocean.  It is our best conversation in years — decades, potentially — and it will be the last good conversation we ever have.  And I don’t know what tires my bones more: the fact that it would be our last good, meaningful conversation before he’d pass, or the fact that it would be two more years before he’d pass.

*

There was a man I never met, a man I wish I had met. Continue reading

Dashed Upon the Rocks

Part 1.

My favorite thing about flying out of Boston is the aerial view of the islands.

Almost every flight does some type of turn above the Boston Harbor Islands, and I watch them until they go out of sight.  The islands hold something familiar and mystical for me.  They hold teenaged and early college memories.  They hold a source of pride as I’d point out Peddocks and tell anyone who’ll listen, “They shot Shutter Island there!”  They hold a reverie and solace as I remember the ocean waves rolling in, the view of the islands from the mainland, the feeling as the harbor island boats gently bumped against the docks.

But they also hold something heavy.  They hold a memory of my best friend calling me up one night, telling me that she’s heard there’s been an accident on one of the islands — an island another friend was currently on — and that she couldn’t get ahold of him.  A memory of me and my blind optimism, saying that it was all alright, that she’ll get in contact with him soon, that there is nothing to worry about.  A memory of me learning how naïve I had been, learning in the light of day the next morning that he was the one in the accident — that he didn’t survive, and that absolutely nobody, directly and indirectly involved, would ever be the same again.

To this day, it makes me think of all the mistakes we are granted clemency on in life.  All mistakes that could’ve — or should’ve — killed us, and the fact that some of us don’t get that grace sometimes.  Sometimes dumb mistakes cost you your life and you don’t get a chance to look back and say, “Whew. That was a close one.”  Some are not given that opportunity to dodge a bullet and feel grateful that they’re alive. Continue reading

Burdens, Strains, and Fruit

“It’s like the tree doesn’t want to survive.”

We’re stringing up our peach tree in essentially reverse-bonsai fashion.  The branches have gone horizontal and dipped down, semi-ripe peaches inches from the ground.  It looks like all it would take is one strong wind and every major limb would snap.

We’ve done this before — peach trees bear fruit once every three years, and, when we first got the house four years back, we were stringing up what was essentially a sapling, clearly too young for the task at hand.

Three years later and it feels like little has changed.  Every week, the peaches grow bigger, and the branches sag a little more.  I check the fruit daily, seeing when I can finally pick the fruit — relieve the strain before a branch breaks off.

After a major rainstorm, one of the major branches does snap in half. Continue reading

Returning to Pain

It continues to be a time of deep reflection and soul searching.  The moments can get so overwhelming that I can only hope that I’ve hit an era of purging, of watching the wrecking ball go at old outdated structures, and clearing the way for something new.

One of the biggest pitfalls for Type 4 people on the Enneagram chart is dwelling.  But I don’t necessarily need a personality analysis to tell me that.  One of my biggest pitfalls has always been dwelling, of coming back to bad experiences and over-identifying with the pain & hurt — of over-identifying with getting hurt — and finding myself in a world of sad songs & tears & unresolved issues.

Sometimes things come on their own volition.  They’ll show up like uninvited guests, under the guise of giving me a clearer view on things — things I glossed over as they were happening only to now reveal themselves in full.  Moments that hit me all at once with how terrible, how unfair, how manipulative they really were — moments where I am furious with others for what they did and furious with myself for allowing it to happen.  I harness that — or try to, at least — and say, “See how this makes you feel now? Use that as fuel to make sure you never get into something like that ever again.”

But sometimes I call them over like a vulnerable lover in the middle of the night.  I invite them back in and relive moments and feel the heartache and grief and anger and pain.  Relive, and then perversely proclaim, “I never want to feel that way again for as long as I live!”

…But how can I proclaim I never want to feel that way again and yet revisit the feeling like an old friend?

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Continue reading

An Ode to Hiking (pt 2)


I’ve been trying to up my hiking game this summer.

My teaching schedule — once a scattered mess that had me teaching in smattering amounts every single day — has consolidated, leaving me my Thursday mornings and weekends free.  I’ve been dedicating that free time to solo hikes and group hikes, quick jaunts around local trails and longer expeditions further north.

I hiked avidly as a kid, I barely hiked at all when I lived in Boston, and I only hiked sporadically during my first few years in New Hampshire.  With each passing year, I try to become a little more deliberate, a little more focused.

My parents are/were members of the 4,000 Footer Club — a designation for those who’ve climbed all the major mountains in New Hampshire.  If I’m doing the math right, I’m now the age that my mother was when she finishing scaling the last of the 4,000-foot summits.  I don’t think that’s influenced my uptick in hiking, but given the connection between hiking and that untainted purity from my past, I won’t strike it out. Continue reading

Meek, Strong, Big, Small – A Story of Strength in 7 Snippets

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I.

Scene: It’s 2006.  19-year-old me behind the register at a local pharmacy.  My summer job until I return to school for my sophomore year.  A woman comes into the store and starts perusing the aisles in a peculiar, suspicious manner.  My supervisor — a petite, blonde girl, who is maybe a year older than me, at best — has me follow her.  Standard retail procedure: pretend to clean the aisle, to put things away, yet all the while a presence around a potential shoplifter.

The woman doesn’t purchase anything, but she also doesn’t steal anything.  She just leaves.

“Thank you so much for doing that,” my supervisor said. “I would’ve done it myself, but you’re so much more intimidating.  I’m too tiny — I wouldn’t scare anything.”

I smirk self-consciously.  Me?  Intimidating?  I’m 5’11”, but the idea of me holding any weight or space is foreign to me. Continue reading