Even when you ain’t writing, you’re writing.
Kinda like the Rockies’ bats lately, my words have ground to a crawl. When this happens, you churn on. There are no timeouts in soccer or life. Your life GPS won’t direct you around it. No, the only way is through.
So when the calendar ambles along for an intersection for your kid to move to college and it’s also the 19th anniversary of the day your dad died, well, there are stories.
Even if you don’t have time right away to write them. Or maybe you try and get seven graphs in and realize you’re so not doing the feelings justice. It’s like getting Frosted Flakes but pouring them into skim milk. WHO DOES THAT?
I’m not sure if it’s a story of happiness or sadness.
It’s both, quite purple, and not red for happiness or blue for sadness as Pablo Picasso might have opined. So the best is to sort the details in your mind so you don’t get long-winded like a city council meeting. And of course, you must remember to tell about the praying mantis.
That August date
Things just happen on Aug. 14.
Mostly it’s the day in 2000 when my dad died at 12:30 in the afternoon in Duke Hospital. I’d switched my prayers from please wake him, God to Please do your will already. I just wanted him not to suffer. I’d kiss him goodbye on his forehead after visiting hours.
For Me, for Madison, and for the baby to be named later, I’d say.
Hayden entered the world almost three months after my dad left it. She came on a bright November morning. I missed my assignment to cover the Soup Bowl that day (SOUP Bowl – the in-town clash between Greensboro and Guilford colleges, not the Super Bowl.)
(At the risk of turning this post into the guide to Greensboro collegiate athletics: Fans bring cans of soup to the stadium in that game to stuff the shelves of local food banks.)
At the darkest time of my life, Hayden sprang into this world, not breathing. Blue as a Smurf. Should I call The Team? The nurse asked the doctor, and my distilled blood ran cold. No, he said and placed an oxygen tube into Hayden’s mouth.
She turned instantly pink and wailed, and my worn and worried heart felt like it’d been through the sugar glaze machine at Krispy Kreme – I was in love.
Season of miracles
We moved Madison, three years ago, into a dorm, too – on Aug. 14. Of all the days. The Aug. 14 that capped my first year without dad contained miracles, too, and I’ve written of them before. The days leading to it also hold potential for the unexplainable.
Such as the praying mantis hitchhiker I found last week.
I spotted him on the trunk lid of my hearty Hyundai Elantra as I pumped gas. I’d just dropped Hayden off at work, a week before we’d take her to college. This meatloaf brown bug walked toward me and turned his head. He definitely checked me out.
Did he stay on my car through a 30-minute drive at 70 (okay, 75) mph, could he?
I thought of moving him to a bush – if there were any. We were stuck on a concrete slab, an unfitting spot for a valiant insect. So I let go and let God. I left him on the car and hoped that whatever happened to him was what the universe wanted to happen.
Guess who was still there when I got there?
Forty-five minutes later. Highway driving. Alistair held his ground and made it all the way to Concord. I went into work and found myself anxiously wondering if he’d still be there at lunch. He was. Ambling across the back window, stopping to look at me again.
Finding greener grass
Alistair held on for a run for the Arches and back to the office.
After work, he was gone. I imagined he’d found the grass field ahead too great to pass on. I wasn’t sure when he got on and when he got off or if he was safe. I just knew I felt invested in his very livelihood. And he’s just a mantis. No offense, manti.
Hayden chose her school and picked the soccer program and decided she wanted to redshirt coming off ACL reconstruction.
All I had done was give her a ride. She’d hitched one on the way, maybe carefree as Alistair. Of course, I know where she is – and it’s like 43 minutes from my office to her school. Parents grow ill and children grow up and bugs grow on you. Or at least your car.
You care for them and worry if they’ll hang on or just where they’re going. But if you do that too much you miss out.
See, the night before Hayden moved out, I finally cried. I’d passed on her request to go to the store because of all the work I had to do. Work. So I cried, letting the gravity of all that convergence out in one fell swoop. Every chance is numbered, isn’t it?
We had a happy ending. We met with her and friends and family in the parking lot of a Cookout, killing shakes and smiling and hugging, two of her classmates prepping for their own moves to college. And I thought these stories are just starting to be written.
Even when they ain’t.