And then there’s life. Then there’s the things we see and the things we think and feel. There’s the little things we pick up and the big things that we miss.
Life is eventual and inevitable. No one gets out, pain free, and no one goes without a scratch or without a trip to the hospital or a fever. No one goes without a stomach ache and nobody goes through life without the touch of a broken heart. I know this. I’ve seen this. And it’s true. Life happens to everyone.
Big wallets can go empty. Poor people can have the richest hearts. Success is a mindset and so is rejection. But before we go on from here, it is important to note that there are people who have built empires out of nothing and there are people who’ve been given the golden ticket and threw it all away.
I was moved by the lyrics of a song that went, “It’s been a long road, without you my friend. But I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.”
I think it is important to explain that I went through various phases in my life. I went through changes. I was not always “This” person. However, my stories and the lessons I’ve learned are the flavors which have seasoned my life. And while admittedly, some of my choices and some of the things I’ve done were less than tactful and often downright crazy; please note that when reading further, I have always had a big heart. I was only unsure how to use it properly.
Now, I’m going to share some things. And you may not agree with my behavior. However, I offer you the chance to look beneath my behaviors and see nothing else but the heart of who I was and what I was afraid to lose.
Life is not easy. People will hurt you. This will happen.
This is life. I had to learn that life is meant to be lived and not lived for you.
But I wasn’t sure what to do, where to go, how to live or how I’d get by.
Mom always told me, “No one ever promised you a rose garden.” She told me that life is going to hurt. It’s going to rain when you need the sun to come out but the rain can’t rain forever and the sun won’t always shine. She told me, “Life is going to happen.”
There will be bad days. There will be times when you want to quit. There are going to be things that happen, which aren’t fair, but guess what? This is life. And life isn’t always fair- but there’s only so much you can control.
There’s only so much you can do but be careful: it’s easy to lose yourself in small matters that somehow become way too big.
Life changed after The Old Man passed away. Mom changed. My brother Dave changed. I changed. And no, none of this seemed fair. There were plans made and promises shared. But no, life threw a curveball.
There are people who find themselves at the cusp of a change. And adversely, there are people who find themselves stuck in their own self or people who cannot move, who cannot seem to break free from their fixed mindset, who are trapped in their perpetual state of grief or mourning. There are also people who look at themselves in the mirror and they see their reflection with a rank of contempt. They wonder. They regret.
There are literally billions of people who move around this conveyor belt, which we call Earth. Yet; we wonder about our paths and our journey. This place is both built and destroyed by dreams and thoughts, opinions and ideas. Life is one hell of a trip.
That’s for sure.
I used to think that my life was destined for mediocrity. I’d see people who were my age or even younger, and I’d wonder about them or their success. I’d wonder why them and not me?
I thought about the times I’d plant seeds and only so much would grow and nothing ever seemed to bear real fruit.
I thought about people who plant gardens. I thought about the different seeds they’d plant because not everything grows the way we expect it to. So, to respond to this dilemma, they planted more seeds and learned ways to nurture their crops.
Not every plan will bear fruit. Not everything works out the way we want. But sometimes they do work out. And sometimes, even if the moment is quick and short, the blossoming of our ideas and the flowering of our plan is something to take note of. Otherwise, life can be drab or cheerless, and lack the spirit that will bring us joy.
Mom told me, “Sometimes, you have to make your own luck.”
This was hard to hear because years after The Old Man passed, Mom faced a financial loss. She lost her husband and the business that they built together. She lost her dream. She would often say that she lost the love of her life and so went the gleam from my Mother’s life.
Mom’s life was not fair.
I never saw her date much. And truth be told; I only met one person who she dated. And they only had one date, which did not go well. Truth be told, their date crashed all due to me, your humble narrator.
I suppose we were more than a year after The Old Man had passed. I knew that Mom was going to bereavement groups and different support groups. I knew that some of the women in her group were pushing her to date again. And, for the record; I did not like some of the women from her group. One of them in particular, whose name I can’t recall, was a person who was more pushy than others. She had a face that resembled a puppet I once saw from the Punch and Judy Show.
I did not like her.
She did not like me either.
She loved to share her opinion. She loved to tell Mom what to do and how. And, she loved to tell me what to do and how. But still, this person was helpful to Mom. So, I kept my mouth shut.
The date was set to go down somewhere around 3:30pm. I was at a moment in my life where I was making up for lost time. I was clean and sober but I was still young and still in need of a social life.
I spent plenty of nights out until sunrise. I laughed and I played and though I was literally petrified about so many things, I was still young enough to physically heal and be resilient.
I could eat whatever I wanted without the fear of gaining weight. In fact; I tried to gain weight. I was too thin but my metabolism was too quick for me.
(These days, I gain weight whenever I think about my old diet.)
I had come down the stairs after a long night out with the boys. It was 3:00 in the afternoon. And there he was, this schlub of a man with a slight comb-over hairstyle, cheap clothes and orthopedic shoes. I was told about him. I was told that Mom had a date. She let me know but of course, I’m sure the idea was to keep this man away from me. But hey, ideas are ideas and plans are plans and in this case Mom’s date was a bit nervous and perhaps overzealous. He came early and as Mom would say, “Boy howdy” was he in for a treat.
My hair was a mess. I had no shirt on. I was in a pair of shorts and walking into the kitchen and sitting at the island counter that split the kitchen from the dining room was this little feeble man. He was sitting at my Father’s countertop, which was a countertop that was created by MY FATHER and built with his own hands.
He was a teacher, I was told. Or, maybe he was a guidance counselor. He looked like the stereotypical nature of what I am trying to describe. His head was balding on top with the sides of his head still equipped to grow hair, but thinly and combed in oily strands across the top of his head.
He was pudgy, weak looking and sniveling. And yet, this so-called man had the balls to walk into the house built by my Father, sit at the countertop that I witnessed my Old Man build and tile, and sit in the kitchen while Mom was getting ready.
This was not a good day for this man.
He said hello when I walked into the kitchen.
I looked at him with my most sincere, “Not welcome” face on and returned with a hello that met with the same regard.
“Are you just waking up from a nap?” he asked.
“You’re just waking up?”
I looked at him with all the hate a young man could have.
My eyes turned to him in an angry sense to advise of evil caution.
I answered, “YES!”
I turned my attention to the cupboards in the kitchen to fetch some things to eat for breakfast.
“What are you doing,” asked Mom’s little date.
“I’m making breakfast.”
“But it’s 3:00 in the afternoon.”
“Nobody eats breakfast at 3:00 in the afternoon.”
I turned my attention to the man sitting at my Father’s countertop.
I looked at him again with the most sincere “Not welcome” expression and responded, “I do.”
He was jittery. Nervous. He was this little man, weak as could be; a push-over and yet, he thought he was going to come into my Father’s house and date my Mother?
I turned my back to him but I could feel him searching for something to say.
“What are you making for breakfast,” he asked.
Dear Lord, why was this man talking to me?
“Peanut butter and jelly,” I said.
I was somewhere around the age of 19. I was not so small anymore. I was certainly not as small as the man that was at my father’s counter. I was also built with fire and should this man tempt me, I would show him a side of aggression that he hadn’t accounted for.
“Nobody eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast.”
I turned to him.
“Well, nobody eats breakfast at 3:00 in the afternoon either.”
The little nerdish, pitiful man jumped up out of his seat with an eagerness to rewind and please me. He offered to make pancakes (or something like that,) but I swept over to him, pushed him back in the tall chair at the countertop in my kitchen. I assaulted him with a barrage of questions.
Who are you?
Why are you here?
What do you do for a living?
How much money do you make?
Where are you taking my Mother?
What time will she be home?
Each time he went to answer, I interrupted and moved closer, breathing down his neck with all the fuel and fire of the devil himself. I never let him answer a question. I just spoke over him.
Why are you sitting at my Father’s countertop?
I never knew that Mom was standing on the steps and she heard every word of the conversation. She told me about this a few years later. She said that they left the house, got in the car, drove for about 10-15 minutes and Mom told him, “I’m not feeling so well. Maybe it’s better that you take me back home.” The little man agreed but he didn’t dare to step inside of our home again.
Although this story became something Mom and I laughed about and for the record, Mom agreed this man wasn’t a good match for her. He was a “Set-up” date by her friend (You know, the ugly one that I hated who looked like a disturbing puppet) and yes, I ruined it. But Mom saw him and knew that this was not a person for her.
We laughed about this because to be clear, he was way too early for the date and he spoke way too much to a person (namely me) who clearly showed this man that he was not welcome at all.
Mom moved down to Florida. I stayed in New York. I lived at my Aunt Sondra’s house for a few years. I was only supposed to live there for two weeks. Oh, and for the record; Aunt Sondra had one date when I lived in her house. He met me.
This did not go well.
For some reason, this man thought it might be funny to tell me that he was going to take my Aunt out for a good time and get a little close with a few dance moves.
I shoved him through the sliding pantry door in the kitchen (What is it with people meeting me in kitchens, by the way?) and gripped his hand with all of my strength to inquire about his intentions with my Aunt.
I found this man to be quickly apologetic and understanding of the way we talk in my family; and perhaps, maybe, just maybe I overstated myself only slightly by allowing him to exit the pantry closet with a verbal but informative resolve that should he test me on this matter; I advised him with a calm voice and absent of emotion, expressionless face that “They will never find your body.”
Mom was tough. She lived with five diseases in her spine. Aunt Sondra was tougher. She shaped me into a young man. She helped me gain my high school education rather than live as a dropout; Aunt Sondra made sure that I began a trajectory to reach my potential.
These were the most influential people in my life.
And they’re gone now.
Tomorrow, I will tell you about my Cousin Robbie and the bus.
“It’s been a long road without you” but like the song goes, “I’ll tell you about it when I see you again.”