The Art of You Part 10

The battle rages on.

The battle rages on.

 

 

Two days after Jack had left, I decided I had better get some photos ready for printing and mounting. I put the card in my computer and uploaded the ones I had. I was excited to see some of the photos I knew would be amazing. I gulped in panic when only six photos popped up and they were all of the carpet in the hotel room, like someone didn’t know how to use the thing. But the last one was a picture of a note.

“Don’t be mad. I’m sorry.

But I hope a few dollars in the bank will help out. ~Jack”

My ears were pounding with my pulse. I found it hard to gulp at the air. He had taken my pictures. While I had been sleeping, he stole my property. The anger I felt at the thought that he had messed with my livelihood did anger me more than his gracious rejection. I decided it was a good thing he had left or I would have told him what I really thought. Oh, who was I kidding? I wouldn’t have said anything more than I already had to him.

Curiously, I opened the internet browser and looked up my online banking. My hand flew to my mouth and I stifled a cry. I had three figures sitting in my at one time, overdrawn bank account. There was $100,000 sitting there. He told me everything was taken care of, that I didn’t need to worry. I believed him and I had felt safe with him.

Angry that he stole my pictures, I decided I wouldn’t use his money unless I absolutely had to. But I began to spiral into a depression, not unlike the one I’d had a few years earlier. It was a natural response to the lot I had been dealt in life.

But that depression continued and I sat on that couch just watching television and eating ice cream for months. Pathetic, I know. But I could barely get myself up to go to the bathroom.

Daniel turned 18 on me and that was hard because he was my baby. He was doing well in school and worked at a local pizza joint, applying for colleges to major in theater. But he was wise beyond his years and talked to me about how I had been acting.

“I miss my mom,” he said at last. “I don’t like this person who sits here and cries all day long. This isn’t the mom that raised me.”

How could I explain?

“I’m sorry, Daniel. I never planned for this to happen, I don’t like it either,” I said with obvious tears in my eyes.

“I know,” he said pulling me into an embrace. “But you need to get out. You need to take a shower. I think he’s around and not happy that you are just throwing your life away. I can’t seem to bring myself to move out on my own and leave you here like this.”

I cried, okay? I bawled like a little baby in my son’s arms. He helped me to the bathroom and started my shower water, laying my towel out on the counter beside my bathrobe. Then, he left me alone.

Stripping off my clothes, I didn’t even recognize myself. Where I was once a size 5, I was now in a size 14. That fun little rockabilly girl had flown the coop and left behind and old fat woman.

The shower felt so good and I just stood there a while feeling each stream of water hit my skin. I really had wasted so much of my life and now my baby was a man ready to leave the nest in search his own dreams.

Daniel cooked dinner that night and we all sat together at the table for the first time in several months. His fish was just the best. We made small talk with each other and it was then that they asked to hear the whole story. So I told them.

Neither one had much to say. It wasn’t their heart that had been broken or their pride that had been shattered. But I told them I would never trust another man as long as I lived. They just smiled.

“Well not from the couch, you won’t,” Daniel said shoving fish in his mouth.

I had to give him that one. I wasn’t doing anything from the couch.

Sleeping in my own bed that night made me feel strange. It was a combination of missing my husband being there and those nights sleeping at Shore Lodge with Jack on the couch. I didn’t quite know what to feel. But I uttered a prayer and fell into a deep and restful sleep for the first time since I had been back home.

I woke to snowflakes outside my window. It was late and the boys were gone to school so the house was quiet. I contemplated just staying in bed and remembered the conversation with my son the night before. It was time to get back to normal.

“Ruby, you have to do something with yourself. This isn’t you!” I scolded myself.

I slid out of bed and threw on my robe to make me a smoothie instead of having my usual bowl of sugared cereal. It was the first step.

I flipped on the television and changed the channel until it fell on the news. There was Jack, walking out of some fancy building with some young model hanging on his arm dripping in diamonds. He was all smiles, a little older but still handsome as ever. The headline at the bottom of the screen said this woman was his fiancé. I snorted out loud and shut off the television.

I felt steam build within me and a fury like none other fueled my soul.

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The Art of You Part 7

Inspiration for "Jack Harrington" Borrowed from Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/HughJackman

Inspiration for “Jack Harrington” Borrowed from Facebook.
https://www.facebook.com/HughJackman

Another couple of days passed before I dared leave the bed again. I was bombarded with terrible headaches that made me feel sick to my stomach and more sensitive to light. Jack kept the lights low and the drapes drawn against the beauty that waited for them outside. I told him to get out of the hotel and enjoy himself, but he refused. I often wondered if caring for me was replacing being able to care for his wife. A ridiculous notion, I know. But he never left and was always there to bring me water and little bits of food.

Painkillers were given out like candy for the headaches and while nothing really took the pain away, it made it manageable. The effects of the sleeping meds stopped working so well and I began to have strange dreams and insomnia often. I felt strange sensations like bugs were crawling over my body making me itch and need to walk around and even shower several times a day. It was miserable, to say the least.

It was Thursday morning. I woke up and Jack was there smiling at me telling me to get up and about. We were going to the Pancake House for breakfast. I tried to object, but he halted me, not taking ‘no’ for an answer.

I took the time to look presentable, kind of halfway doing my makeup in the beloved 50s look. Jeans and a white tank top won out and I slipped my feet into my little white tennis shoes. I decided to tie a red bandana in my hair that covered the back of my head and tied at my crown.

Making my appearance in the front room of the suite, I saw a wheelchair waiting for me, sitting empty and lonesome, the foot rests down and ready. Slowly, I back away.

“No way,” I said shaking my head slightly. “I’m not going in that!”

Jack laughed. “Come on, Ruby. It’s the only way to make sure you stay upright!”

“No. Not going to do it. I will do it on my own, or not at all,” I argued.

“For the love! You are so stubborn! Fine. Have it your way then,” he said throwing up his hands in the air and moving the wheelchair into a corner.

“Thank you,” I breathed.

Grabbing my backpack with my camera in it, I started out the door. The dizziness was trying to grab at me and I kept talking to myself and telling it to knock it off already. I was about four slow paces out the door and Jack swooped me up in his arms.

Shocked, I squealed and struggled to get back down on my own feet.

“Nope, I can be just as stubborn. So if you aren’t going to sit in the chair, I am responsible for making sure you don’t fall down. That means I carry you everywhere you need to go today,” he chuckled.

“I will break your back! I’m too heavy!” I countered.

“I think my superhero arms will do fine. You are not heavy in the slightest so be quiet.”

People on our way out to the car stared, their heads rotating as we walked by.

“Everyone is staring,” I whispered.

“I know. Get used to it,” he smiled in response. “Guess you should have taken the chair then, huh?”

I groaned in embarrassment, but inside I was cheering. Who could say that the very handsome Jack Harrington carried them in his delightfully strong arms? Very few, I was sure.

This fantastical world that had spun around me began to feel comfortable. I cared for Jack, not because he was my angel in all this, but because he was a good person inside. He genuinely cared. He had seen me at my worst and he never relented.

The Pancake House was busy for a Thursday morning. We got seated promptly, but waited a while for our waitress to be free enough to make it over. We sat in our booth, the kids on one side of the table and Jack seated beside me on the other. It felt strange and natural at the same time. It was like a fairy tale that had come in and taken over my pathetic life and it made me feel whole again. He made me feel whole.

Finally we ordered and sat there joking around with each other and deciding what we would brave next. The food arrived in fairly good time and we dug in to the pancakes with butter and syrup, the crispy bacon and golden hash browns. It was the first real food in a week and I realized how I had missed the taste of all of it.

Jack’s phone rang. He stared at it a moment before answering.

“Jack,” he said in greeting.

I could hear the tone of the voice coming out of the speaker and into Jack’s ear. It sounded monotone and hushed a little.

“I see. What time?”

More hushed talking and I could hear him swallow and sniff.

“Thank you,” he replied and hung up the phone. “Excuse me, please.”

We all sat quiet as he headed for the restrooms. My heart sat high in my throat and my stomach turned. I wondered if it was the moment I had been dreading all this time.

Jack’s son excused himself and went to find his dad. I thought that both kids probably already understood.

When they returned to the table some time later, I could tell they had both shed tears. Their eyes were glossy and puffy with red rings defining their sorrow.

“She’s gone,” he said low. “She slipped away peacefully about an hour ago.”

I sat there numb. We had been seated about an hour before. Had she felt his happiness and let go when she knew he would be okay?

“I’m so sorry,” I said and patted his hand, fighting the tears of my own.

He sniffed again and ran his hand beneath his nose. “We all knew it was coming. We all said our goodbyes and we all knew she would be gone when we got back. That was the deal,” he rationalized.

The daughter folded her arms on the table and her head sunk down onto them where her shoulders shook with the force of her sorrow.

“We will be fine, guys. This was how she wanted it to go, remember?” Jack said with emotion thick in his voice.

Silent tears weaved their way down the boy’s face and I had to wipe a few of my own away. The wound from burying my own spouse was reopened and I knew the turmoil they were all feeling.

“Consequently, we will head back home tomorrow for the funeral,” he announced and then he looked to me. “I will drive you back home so I know you aren’t driving on the roads in your condition. Davis will follow and we will catch our plane out of Boise.”

I shook my head. “That’s not necessary, Jack. I will be fine.” I knew it was a lie, but the last thing I wanted was to keep him from doing what he needed to. “It’s a long drive down to a not so glamorous place,” I laughed weakly.

I felt embarrassed just at the thought of him seeing where I lived, in a run down little cottage that was the better part of 100 years old. I’d had neither the money nor the ambition to restore it. I could feel a sense of panic rising in me.

“We can do this the easy way or the hard way, Ruby. You are not driving home. You can’t exactly leave your car here and have Davis get it home for you later. You can’t exactly stay here alone and unattended either. Just please lower your guard for one minute and realize that I will win. I will always win,” he said looking me in the eye.

I closed my eyes and sighed. Lovely.

The world I had started to love, the one that was most unexpected but comfortable, all crumbled down around me. It was all a charade. None of it was real. Things were so amazing that I had almost forgotten about the wife half the world away. Who was I kidding? These kinds of stories only happened in books and movies. In real life, they just tease you and then disintegrate back into the nothingness from where it came. I would not only mourn the loss of my husband for years to come, but I would also mourn the loss of the man who taught me that there was more to life than tears.

I was quiet the rest of the day in anticipation of going back home. I missed my boys terribly but I knew I would miss Jack just as much. Perhaps he would write or email. Perhaps he might call on occasion. Given his status in life, I doubted it. I might be on his mind for a few weeks and then life would take over and I would disappear into the archives of his mind.

The Art of You Part 5

Have the courage to be yourself.

Have the courage to be yourself.

 

 

I could hear noises, like voices muffled together as if I were swimming under water and people were talking above in the air. I had dreams that were bold and vividly colored. Some were frightening, some were not. I could hear myself try to speak out and I felt like I was screaming out loud. My body ached and my head was being squeezed tight. It felt like people were grabbing me, pulling me, and pinching me. Lines of fire ran through my skin like streams of hot electricity.

Fatigue came to me often and no matter how hard I tried, my eyes would not open.

And then it just happened one day. They opened. The light was excruciating, as if standing in the darkness and having fireworks explode like the sun in your face. I remember blinking to protect my eyes and slowly, the world began to materialize around me again. I felt stunned and unsure of where I was at. What had just happened?

“She’s coming around, Jack!” someone called out.

“Do you think she will be okay?” Jack’s accent bit into my ears.

The blood pressure rose and the memories of the night in The Narrows came flooding back in. What in the world was he doing here?

“She is healing well. Thank the Lord there were no broken bones or internal bleeding,” an unknown voice piped in.

I tried to speak and sounded gravelly and dry.

A cup was pressed to my lips and I sipped eagerly to wet my parched throat.

“What happened?” I managed in a whisper.

Closing my eyes against the pain of the light, I could hear his voice speaking to me. “Well, Davis here hit you with the car. I’m terribly sorry about that. I swear it was all an accident.”

The panic in his voice was evident. Perhaps he was afraid I would sue him or perhaps he was more afraid I would embarrass him.

“But you’re going to be just fine!” he added quickly.

“Oh,” was my soft reply.

I allowed my eyes to open a crack and the white light all around contrasted sharply with Jack’s dark hair and eyes, the black shirt on his body. It turned his skin pale and showed stubble where there hadn’t been any the last time I saw him. He looked like an angel sent to help me and since I was helpless it only made sense that I let him.

As I was drifting to the brink of sleep again, a thought popped into my mind. Where were the kids? And just as I thought it, a panic of my own thundered in my ears and I tried to get up, which resulted in the room spinning and the light splintering my brain. What about my kids?

I must have muttered something in my struggle because Jack put his arms over my shoulders and gently pushed me back onto the pillow, hushing me.

“I was able to let your kids know what happened,” he said with a slight grin holding up my cell phone.

I let out a groan and relaxed. I was sure they would think the stalker had killed me. And in all realities, that was what happened!

“How long have I been here?” I asked.

There was a pause and I thought I heard Jack suck in a deep breath before he answered. “Just about three days, in and out. The concussion knocked you out and a doctor here was available to keep you medicated so your head could heal.”

“I’ve missed three days of working?” I tried to sound angry and ended up sounding lazy and pathetic. So I shut my mouth and let out a long sigh.

“Look, Miss Kramer…” he began.

“Just call me Ruby. I’m sure formality is out the window by now,” I cringed at the thought of seeing me anywhere near naked.

“Ruby, don’t worry about anything. I have everything under control. You just need to focus on getting better,” he said and placed his hand on the crown of my head. The pressure of it felt safe and I drifted off to sleep again.

It wasn’t until the next evening that I felt more awake and less sore. Without the sunlight, I could open my eyes without my head killing me. Jack helped me walk to the bathroom to do my business even. He tried to come inside, but I refused. So he agreed to wait outside the bathroom door in case I fell. I thought about locking it anyway, but I suppose I didn’t want to tempt fate.

What was the strangest of all was that I wasn’t in the hospital. I was in a hotel room. I could tell because of the smell. There was no kitchen, but it was more of a suite. Jack had mentioned a doctor tending me, so perhaps I was moved here after they knew I would be alright.

I was never one for using a toilet where anyone could hear me. It was mortifying to say the least. And knowing he was right outside the door just made me blush with embarrassment. But the bladder wasn’t going to hold on any longer, so I sat and let go, my head falling into my hands in defeat.

Jack acted as though nothing had even happened. I slowly emerged from the bathroom and he smiled, helping me to the couch. I’d had enough lying around.

“Can I get you some tea?” he asked.

I shrugged. “Sure, that would be nice. Thank you.”

Minutes later, he sat beside me with a steaming cup of a sweet smelling tea for me.

“Where’s yours?” I asked taking the cup between my palms.

“Still steeping,” he replied and went to get it.

I sipped gently and the warm liquid flowed down my throat and warmed my belly like a blanket thrown over my shoulders.

He sat again and we both sipped quietly, an awkward silence building.

I cleared my throat. “So why here?”

He looked at me intently then, almost suspiciously. But he licked his lips and answered, “I wanted to escape my life.”

I reeled back as though he had slapped me just then. “You? Escape?” I asked incredulously.

He laughed and set his tea on the short table before us and sighed. “Sometimes life just gets to you and you need to get away from it all. Cameras, autographs, rehearsals…” his voice trailed off like he meant to finish the sentence and other thoughts grew to be in the way.

“I would never have thought someone like yourself would ever know about a tiny little place like this. It is paradise though.”

Jack has a wistful look to his face and he nodded.

“This is my paradise,” I whispered.

“I can see why,” he smiled and clapped his hand on my knee.

“Where are your kids?” I pressed.

A shadow seemed to fall over his features. “They are just- uh- in the next couple of rooms,” he replied with a shake of his head toward the rooms. “They are at an age where they want their privacy and nothing here had larger suites, just adjoining rooms.”

“Oh, I see. You should go take them out to do something tonight. I will be just fine and I think you are due.”

He shook his head to the negative. “We played hard a few days and they have been enjoying the beach out there. They recognized you, you know. From the rocks where they were jumping.”

“Why didn’t you jump too?” I asked him cocking my head to the side.

He laughed loudly and he sounded so free. “Well, someone had to stay with the boat to keep it from floating away.”

I figured there was more to it than that. Perhaps it unnerved him as much as it did me.

“I didn’t think anything could bother someone like you,” I laughed back with him.

“I’m just a person as you are, Ruby. There are things I like and things I don’t. If I cut myself, I bleed just as you do. Sometimes I wish I were still just a face in the crowd,” he replied sobering and I felt a cad.

“I’m sorry, of course you do. I just meant…” but I wasn’t sure what else to say. How did I really mean it?

“I see you and what a free spirit you are, unowned by contracts and money…free to look as you wish and dress in what you like. You have no pressures to fit in a certain stereotype and I love that about you. What I admire is your ability to step out and be who you are in your red lipstick and flowers in your hair, rocking the camera when you sit poised and ready to strike.”

His smile of sincerity made me take pause and my cup lowered to my lap.

“I just see art in everything. The camera helps me notice the magic that is always around. Most people just don’t see it that way. The camera helps me bring little things like drops of water to the forefront, I suppose. Sunsets are such a cliché thing to photograph, but the right one at the right time could take someone’s breath away,” I said still staring at him, barely breathing. I wanted to tell him that he took my breath away, but I wasn’t sure if it was his looks that attracted me or his public figure.

“That is a magnificent talent to have,” he said softly. “I think I have forgotten to notice little things like drops of water.”

I got up and found my backpack. I prayed the camera escaped without injury as I pulled it out. “I’ll show you,” I smiled. “What do you see?”

I pointed at a vase with dried sticks and branches in it. There was a heavy round rock that had been polished to shine and be a focus of the room.

“I see décor.”

“Okay…” I got down on my belly, a hard thing to do since I hurt so badly, but I did it nonetheless. Carefully, I aimed the lens at the rock, zoomed in to where I wanted it and snapped. Then I turned the camera on its side and rocked it backward toward me a bit. Focused, zoomed out, focused again, and snapped.

Gingerly, I picked myself up and made it back to the couch. I hit the review button and the photos showed up on the little screen.

“You see décor, but I see a planet sitting in your hotel room. See the stripes and striations of the rock under the polish? The shadow just right on the other side? And this one is just a testament of Mother Nature, with the clay vase of the earth and salvaged limbs from a tree that give a sense of peace just having them in the room. It is all magic. Life is art.”

He smiled then as the wheels of his mind started turning. He let out a small chuckle. “That is amazing,” he breathed.

I stood and walked a few paces from him and he looked at me in wonder. Suddenly, I spun as fast as my body would allow, pointed the lens at him and snapped. He looked relaxed and calm, with a lamp shining on one side of his face, leaving the other in shadow to be a mystery.

Showing him the photo, I pointed at the screen. “This is the art of you. No poses, no pretend. This is just you.”

The look on his face was pure shock. I had shown him a side of himself that he hadn’t seen before. In the fast paced life of fame, he had forgotten who he was.

Gently, he took the camera from my hands and pointed it at me. Immediately I shielded my face from his view. “Oh, no you don’t,” I laughed. “I take the pictures. They don’t take me.”

“Now Ruby, I let you take a photo of me…well, actually several of them. It’s my turn,” he said sternly.

“I have no makeup and I look awful!” I declared.

“Come on, hands down.”

Slowly I lowered my hands, a grin of unbelief on my lips. Here I was, in Jack Harrington’s hotel room where he wanted to take a photo of silly old me. I thought of the look on his face when I exposed him on camera and introduced him to the guy he was. My body softened and I was so happy to be there at that moment.

I heard the shutter snap closed and I dreaded to look at myself. He hit the button and my face, forties wrinkles and all, stared back at me. But the light was fully on my face from where I was sitting and washed me out a lot, erasing some of the age in my face. It took me back to a time where I had taken photos of myself for my husband. Photos that I was proud of in that they captured the beauty that came from me, inside out.

I glanced back up at Jack, tears glossing my eyes over. “I’m tired again. I think I will go back to bed. Thank you for the tea.”

I stood to go and he grabbed my wrist. My head snapped back to look at him.

“What did I do?” he begged an answer.

I pulled my arm back. “You did nothing, I promise. I just struggle sometimes.”

He followed me to the bed. “Tell me…”

I just wanted to get into bed, bury my face and cry a little bit. “I don’t want to.”

“You will feel better, that’s my promise,” he kept on.

I slid into bed. “I lost my husband some time ago. There are things that remind me of him sometimes and I can’t help but feel his loss. It is like an instant feeling of loneliness no matter how many people are around.”

“My picture showed you that?”

“The grief never stops, Jack.”

The Art of You Part1

Sunset on McCall

Sunset on McCall

So, I have refrained from writing anything for a while now. However, I had this crazy dream last night! So, I woke up and recorded some main ideas on my phone’s note pad. After work, I came home and decided to put some thoughts down or I would just go nuts. That’s what happens when you are a writer. The story chooses you, not the other way around. So without going into detail about my dream, I am posting this beginning part before I go work on my school work. Should be pretty interesting! (The places are real, the people are fiction. FYI.)

The Art of You Part 1

I’m Ruby.

I’m a girl from a small town in a small state but I love the big city and I love the ocean. I love looking at the world through a camera lens and showing people that magic does exist all around us everyday…you just haven’t seen it through my eyes yet. I love everything about the past and being a lady as my grandmothers were.

I love pin curls and fingerwaves, saddle shoes and crazy English hats. I march to the beat of my own drum, you might say. I cherish my Hollywood haircut and adore my tattoos.

More than anything, I love my kids. My sons have taught me to love and hurt, but they have brought me laughter and life’s lessons that I had hoped to spare them of. I’m the middle aged widow of a man that changed my life. He taught me one of the greatest lessons of all…to love myself as much as he did. I’m okay with being different now.

I’m a starving artist that makes my living with my camera, selling my perceptions of the world to those who fall in love with my eye and my flair. That’s right…I have flair. No, not little buttons pinned to my clothes, but a personality that is all mine and a way of thinking that defies modern ways. I’m a victim of days that have been gone for a long time and yet I crave the happiness that the images of yesterday bestow upon me.

I firmly believe I got in the wrong line in Heaven. I should have been born in the Middle Ages…or perhaps the roaring 20s…or even the hopping 50s! Here in the 21st century, I’m considered strange when I walk in the store with red lips, black and white hound’s tooth pants and a red sweater all topped with black pumps. I hear the snickers from young girls as I walk by and I snicker back at their baggy pajamas and slippers they wear to the grocery store. These girls aren’t maturing into women. They are simply a robotic by-product of our modern, lazy society.

There is a place on the map of the United States, a very small dot that is called Nampa, Idaho. My home is small, a bungalow style with three small bedrooms and a single bathroom. My youngest son, ready to turn 18 years old and my adopted son almost 15, are all that remain at home from our gigantic family of nine. I rarely see the others or the grandchildren. Family just doesn’t quite mean the same thing these days. People are so wrapped up in their own opinion so often that there leaves little room for things like love and loyalty. Respect is a thing of the past and the only time you hear “yes, sir” is in the military. Forgiveness is a long word that no one seems to know the definition of anymore. It has become such a give-it-to-me-now society that the only person in their view is themselves. How did we fail this generation so badly? Surely the extinction of the spanking didn’t do this. Maybe single parent households that rip through the world like an epidemic have helped?

I am to blame for my part in that. I asked for the divorce from my first husband. He begged me to stay more than once and I still turned my back. Now, I can feel the grudge my children hold whether they know it or not. Then I married into a large established family of five more kids over my four. I was the enemy there, perceived as trying to be a mother when there was already a mother in their life. I was given no credit for just holding it together since there were many times that I wished I would just fall completely apart. Perhaps then I wouldn’t care as much as I did.

Eventually, my smoldering, broken heart cooled and steeled against people. I stepped out onto the stage of life as me, having stripped off the layers that were false fronts and an effort to just fit in with others around me. When my husband died, I merely shut off. I mean powered down until I felt nothing. I wandered aimlessly through my life, always walking, always looking, always listening but never living or moving or seeing or hearing.

Photography melted out of the picture for a long while. I saw no beauty out there anymore. I didn’t care to stir up feelings with images for others. I detested posing families and watching them smile in unison while mine was shattered by death. It wasn’t until the collection notices started arriving and threats were made to levy my bank account that I finally blinked.

My fourth grandchild arrived in February. This was the first one I had any chance of knowing and having a relationship with. I loved my other three, but they weren’t exactly “mine”. In my heart, I was Grandma and I didn’t want it any other way. Once my husband passed, it seemed I became invisible. It was difficult at best to be a figure the children knew since they lived a state away from me. Money was tight for all parties so Facetime gatherings were the closest thing to giving those sweet babies kisses.

This new baby, a little girl with light eyes like her mother and red hair like her dad entered the world. She was the first child of my own blood to grace the world and I cried when I first held her and marveled at her beauty. She made my heart beat again. The world came at me fast and furiously…the magic returned. I wanted to see the things differently for that little baby.

That’s when I picked up my camera again. One day, I would be able to sit down with my photos and show her all the places I went and recorded so she would know them as I did.

So it came to be summer, hot in the valley but cool in the mountains. My favorite place to go for picture taking was a smaller dot on the map: McCall, Idaho. The weather blew in and blew out at such a pace that the same scenery never looked the same. Early in the summer, the tall grasses were deep green and sprinkled with tiny pink and purple flowers. The river was high, gushing and frothing in the beds, the spray creating little rainbows in the bright sunshine.

McCall is a mountain town that parents a ski resort and the Payette Lake that attract tourists year round. It’s a diamond in the world of Mother Nature with the vivid blue skies and tall creaking firs. The smell of warm dirt and pine needles makes me smile and the slight curling of a campfire makes me long for days when we would gather as a family in the state park.

The drive up from the valley is long and winding. If you venture up between Thursday and Saturday, the roads are littered with slow moving campers or people in convertibles enjoying the scenery. You can’t blame them for that. I had been up and down those roads enough that the scenery was noise. I wanted to get up the mountain and just be there. I didn’t care to follow at 20 miles under the speed limit and spend the whole day driving.

In light of knowing this, I decided I would leave the boys home and take a much needed road trip to my favorite place, renting a studio over the lake for a week. I packed my little car with my suitcase, threw on some shades and took off after hugging my sons. I set my camera bag on the passenger’s seat and gave it a pat and a smile. Without wanting to waste another moment, I made my way out of Nampa that Wednesday morning and on toward the highway that would take me up to paradise.

The invisible bands loosened from around my chest with every mile traveled away from home. Soon, I was singing to the radio…the local doo wop station. I was tapping my fingers against the steering wheel and bouncing on the brakes to the beat at the stop lights.

The highway was slightly congested and I had to step on the gas a few times to pass a car with the oncoming traffic lane. My heart thundered in my ears and my face grew warm every time I did it. It was more of a thrill than I had allowed myself to experience in three years. It made me laugh out loud a time or two.

Rolling into the small town of McCall, I took a deep breath of satisfaction. Too long had I stayed away living in the darkness of grief. I came right through the middle of town and made a left when I ran out of street. Just passed the tiny city center was a house that had the studio apartment above the garage. I pulled into the familiar driveway and slipped the keys into my pocket, humming as I walked to the front door of the house.

The master of the abode answered my ring and handed me the key to the empty residence, just waiting for me to fill some of the space. It was probably 78 degrees there at two o’clock in the afternoon. Quickly, I collected my bag from the back seat of the car and slipped up the steps where I unlocked the door and made myself at home.

I set my bag against the wall beside the door and threw open the drapes that covered the enormous picture window overlooking the blue waters of the lake below. Unlocking the sliding door, I stepped out onto the balcony. In the distance I could hear children’s laughter carrying on the summer air. I could hear dogs barking and waves slashing. There were the sounds of jet skis in the water revving the engine as it jumped haphazardly through the wake of a speed boat pulling a water skier behind. This was summer.

I couldn’t wait any longer. It had become a tradition of sorts to grab an ice cream at Ice Cream Alley when my husband was still alive. We would drop our bags and make our way down there, then sit on the rocks to people watch and bask in the sunshine. So, I shrugged into my backpack that contained my camera and took off down the street. It was only a few blocks away from where I was staying and I got there in no time at all.

Happy they were open, I asked for a cup of Rocky Road, paid the gal, and walked across the street to finish our ritual. I felt naked without him with me. A lump started to form in my throat and sadness tried to claim me. So I ate my ice cream.

“Wish you were here, my love,” I whispered low so no one would hear me. “I hope you are eating an ice cream wherever you are.”

A tear tried to gather in the corner of my eye and I stubbornly wiped it away before it could fall and shoved my sunglasses back on my face to hide the evidence of my weakness.

I watched the kids playing in the sand of the beach. There were babies that started bawling when their parents took them into the cool waters of the winter run off. A chuckle escaped me and I remembered a time when the boys jumped off a dock, made one pass between it and the one beside it and decided it was way too cold to enjoy. I could still see the photos I snapped of each of them when wrapped in their towel, the sun glinting off the drops running down their faces. I smiled a lost and far away smile. That felt so long ago.

To my right, there was a man playing catch with his lab and at my one o’clock there were toddlers playing in the fountain that would shoot out water when they would get close enough. They would shriek and run back, their diapers sagging with the weight of the water. One fell on his rear and I winced, imagining all kinds of issues from tears to explosions, but he just got back up and clapped his chubby little hands ready to go again. I just shook my head and gobbled another bite, random giggles escaping me.

Behind me, school aged kids were jumping from rock to rock and I could hear my husband saying one would slip and break their face open before long. I laughed and nodded my head in agreement. Silly kids…going parkour on the hillside.

Standing, I climbed the slight hill that led to a main sidewalk that stretched around part of the lake. I dumped my cup and spoon in the garbage then took out my beast of a camera. The long lens clicked into place and I aimed toward the sandy shore, depressing the button slightly to bring it all into focus.

A little girl, maybe three or four years old, came walking out of the shallow water, her face beet red as she screamed and screamed. Tears streaked her sun kissed face and her hair stuck to her skin in clumps sending trails of water down her cheeks. I could see her little pearly teeth and then her fingers went into her mouth and I snapped the shutter closed. Such a raw display of honest emotion from her. That little girl summed up how I felt inside and she had no idea. How I wished I could just lose it and cry that way and have it be socially acceptable to do so!

The sun was starting to dip to the horizon a bit and it seemed that more people were flocking to the convenient little strip of sand. A slight breeze was picking up and I could hear flag clips clanging against masts on the boats that still sat in the marina ahead creating a rhythm of song. The beams of light were growing weaker and bounced off the metals of the boats tied up. I pointed my camera and zoomed it in until I could see people walking on the docks. Lucky dogs, I grumbled. It was a man and two teens, a girl and a boy. The man turned his face just so as I was about to pull my lens from them and I gasped in surprise.

“That cannot be…” I said to myself and clicked the shot just to be sure.

I looked again. “Well, I’ll be. That looks just like Jack Harrington. What is he doing out here? This is a long way from Hollywood.”

 

 

 

 

Lessons from Death

My heart goes out to all those families in Connecticut. I know how it is to lose something very precious in your life, to mourn and grieve, to be angry. I have learned some very special lessons this week through my own personal tragedy that also happened on 12.12.12.

My daughter-in-law was 21 weeks pregnant when her water suddenly broke out of the blue. We were terrified for her and our son. They were able to stop her labor with medications and place her on bed rest in hopes she could carry this strong little boy for three more weeks.

She was 22 weeks and three days when her labor started again, unable to be stopped. This was on 12.12.12. Our little grandson was born at 5:17pm and tried desperately to take his first breaths, but to no avail. There was no way to save him.

Yesterday, we attended a service to lay his little body to rest, to give us closure and to tell him good-bye ourselves. Our son and daughter-in-law were so strong where I was so weak. I watched them from time to time, their expressions and their silent tears. They held hands, clinging to each other in this time of crisis. I tried my best to draw strength from them but I dried my own tears many times throughout the day. While I was in front of them, I swallowed my grief as I longed to hold that little boy in my arms, and lent them what support I possibly could.

My father-in-law said a very touching prayer, barely able to contain the tears that begged to spill forth. He choked his way through and I could feel such love from this man. He is a great example and father, not to mention an amazing grandfather. He taught me that it is okay to grieve, that everyone in that room felt the same as I did. It was okay.

A man spoke to us and told us what a strong spirit this little one had. He taught me to extend my faith and feel this young baby’s presence around me. Although I never “knew” him, I still feel a bond with him. 

Taking this baby to the cemetery made me think heavily upon my own family. Having a large one between my husband and I, reflected on what I would change if I had that opportunity. My family is the most important thing to me and yet, I found I have regrets. Many of them. Knowing I will never see this child in this lifetime, I thought of how incredibly lucky I am to have such a clan of healthy and happy people. To place any of them into the ground would devastate me, probably even more so than our grand baby did for I have a relationship with them all in some capacity.

I have taken so much for granted all of my life. Yesterday’s events made me all the more pressed to improve relations with those that have become strained, to spend more quality time with my children at home, and to appreciate them for every gift they present to me through life.

I can never let those feelings fade. This circumstance has left me feeling raw and vulnerable. I pray I never heal and forget, but that I take my wounds and cover them with the love and support of my family that is here with me. To use it as an amplifier, not a reason to cry. I know that little boy would not want me to be sad for him, although that doesn’t always help. But to take that severe sorrow and turn it to love and tolerance within our family would make him proud.