Memories From a Little Girl in a Plymouth Duster

We traveled home late one night down Southbound US-23. I sat next to Mom in our mustard yellow Plymouth Duster, and did my best to try and sleep. The black sky was spitting snow at the headlights while the heat vents blew warm stale air onto my face and chest. It was warm enough in the car, but I used my long winter coat as a blanket. Sis was asleep in the backseat and I envied the ease in which she could sleep just about anywhere.

I could feel the thick, hard vinyl of the mustard yellow seat as I shifted my weight and tried to drift off. The seat was anything but comfortable, but I liked riding up front with Mom.  The radio was playing low and the AM dial glowed in the dark. Mom listened to the late night news on WJR which I have to admit even at an early age, scared the heck out of me. Maybe it was the staccato rhythm of the announcers voice or the sound of the teletype and the occasional beeping that signaled the end of one segment and the beginning of another. It seemed that the news was always bad.

There was a murderer on the loose in another state that I was convinced was going to show up at our front door. There was disaster somewhere in the world and my mind would race with thoughts of could it happen here in my state, or the city I lived in. The stories of missing children, of wars in other lands, of leaders that would kill their own people. Even at the young age of eight, I felt that the world would never be safe for me. Maybe it was because my parents were divorced and my daddy wasn’t there to protect all of us, I don’t know.

Mom’s family was located on the west side of the state. When she married my father she pulled up stakes and moved away, but our homes were always pretty close to the highway. She loved my dad, but not in a traditionally romantic way. Dad wasn’t her Prince Charming, he was her best friend. He offered security and unconditional love and the escape from the abuse she had experienced her entire life. I don’t ever remember living with my dad, which is kind of sad.

Maybe the anxiety that I experienced at such an early age wouldn’t have been so devastating if Dad had been there to fight the monsters in the closet, or under the bed. Maybe he could have quelled my fears from the horrible news stories I heard on the radio and t.v., but maybe not.

After all these years of dealing with a backwards fight/flight response, I’ve come to realize that it’s pretty much how I’m wired. Therapy and a good anti-depressant/anxiety medication have made my life better, but there’s the little girl in me that still wishes for my dad. My parents’ divorce wasn’t anyone’s fault, but I’m sad it happened all the same.

Sometimes, I wish I could take the knowledge I have now, and go back to being that little girl trying to sleep on that crappy colored vinyl front seat, and tell myself not to fear life. To not fear the unknown sounds in the walls, and not fear the darkness of my bedroom, to not fear whether or not I will be liked or loved, and to not fear being alone. There are so many things in the world to fear, but there is so much more to be experienced and enjoyed.

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A Letter of Forgiveness

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‘Let us be willing to release old hurts.’- Martha Smock

Dear Renee,

The last three years have been especially harrowing, yet you’ve persevered. I always knew you were  a strong woman.

I want you to forgive yourself for the last ten years of drinking. I want you to love and accept yourself and know that you are a beautiful spirit.

You are not your past, and it does not need to define you. Your future and your community are the sober people, the perfectly broken.

Your children love you. The longer you are sober, the more their trust will return.

Do not look for love until you can find it within yourself.

Go to meetings.Work with a sponsor. Keep busy. Dive into work and become a stellar employee again.

Be kind to yourself and know that you alone are enough.

Let go of your past. Let go of love that is not evenly returned and move forward.

Find peace.

Find joy.

Find love from within, and the brilliance of it will flow to everyone you encounter.

Forgive yourself, and put your trust in the future.

Love, Renee

(This is a letter I wrote to myself the last night of my stay at the Brighton Center for Recovery. My addiction counselor told me to save doing this section of my homework after everything else was done. I read it to my community the day I ventured out of the Brighton Bubble into the sunlight of new future. I’ll  share of my journey when the time is right. For now, I have another story brewing about a wheat farmer and his wife. I hope to post it soon. This girl is getting her sparkle back for sure. Thanks for following me on this journey.)

Slow Down, You Walk Too Fast

The judge looked at me, ‘It’s my understanding that you’ll be keeping your married name’. All I could say in reply was a simple yes, but I wanted to say so much more.

  • You see, I wanted to tell him that I was a Heath longer than I was a Homan so that’s why I wanted to keep my married name.
  • You see, I wanted to tell him that I had raised two children with that man and would continue to co-parent even after I wanted a divorce. And that’s why I wanted to keep my married name.
  • You see, that even though the marriage failed because of me, I felt a sense of pride in being married to such a good man for so long. 

As R and I were walking to the court house two weeks ago, I once again had to tell him to slow down so I could keep up. I’ve never been able to walk as fast as he can and with my new ankle and a substantial limp, it’s impossible for me to even attempt to do so now.

I asked him if he thought my new gait was funny, he chuckled and then replied, ‘you’ve always walked kind of stupid’; ‘flat footed and all’. I gave a raucous laugh in return and decided that I had to agree with him.

He did slow down so I could walk beside him. The late summer sun shined on our heads as a gentle wind whipped my blonde hair. A few strands caught in my mouth and I had to keep wiping my face to pull them out.

We crossed a busy Main Street and once we were at the courthouse doors, R held them open for me. I limped into the building with him behind me. We walked through security and took the elevator to the second floor.

R and I sat in the hallway outside the judge’s office and chatted. We laughed at the toddler that was yelling at her mama and running around her baby brother’s stroller.

The court attorney came to the door and called out, ‘The Heaths’. We walked into his office, and calmly and amicably dissolved our 24 year marriage.

Everyone was nice to us and we were nice to each other. I don’t think R cried when the judge asked if the marriage was beyond repair, but I did. It’s hard to admit that after 24 years it didn’t work anymore.

Afterward, R and I had a late lunch and then he took me back to my place. We said our goodbyes and I walked inside as he drove away.

Often, I try to pry into R’s life to find out how he’s doing. To see if his broken heart has mended and to find out if he’s happy. He gives me general answers to my questions, even when I try to dig deeper. I figure, it’s his right to do so, since it’s not up to me to make sure he’s happy anymore.

I hope he knows that all I want is for him to find someone to love him completely. And I hope that he wishes me no ill will, and that I’m happy too.

 

My Soul, Born in the South

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Tonight my favorite movie is on and though I’ve seen it a hundred times, I’m watching it again. I was one of those that watched the movie before I read the book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. I read it from cover to cover in one sitting, as my little kids played around my feet. While they ate their meals. While I changed their diapers. While I bathed them. And after I put the to bed.

The children grew older, and as they did, we bed shared. For comfort, yes, but also for closeness and for me the possibility that I might get a full nights sleep so I could function at work the next day. Often, the cats and a dog or two would crawl in there with us.

After the little ones settled and fell asleep, and before I’d drift off, I’d grab my dog eared copy of Fried Green Tomatoes and devour a chapter. I knew every word, yet the story continued to resonate within me. Was I born in the South in a previous life? Why did the story of Ruth and Idgie effect me so deeply?

I began to know every word of the story, yet I couldn’t put it down. The book fell apart, yet I continued to read it. I would jump from story to story without missing a beat. I felt the promise of new life when Buddy was born, and the sadness of love lost when Ruth died. I felt anger so intense when there was racism, and when Idgie was accused and tried for murder I cried.

As my children grew older and took to their own bedrooms, I continued to read the book. It was now in pieces and I had to tape most of the pages together. I swear to you some nights when I read the stories, I could feel the heat of the day on my skin, while tendrils of my hair blew in the humid Alabama air. Train whistles blew and sweat poured down my back. I was dressed in white cotton, sitting on my front porch, and drinking sweet tea. When I’d finally fall asleep, I’d dream I was as tough as Towanda, that brilliant woman unafraid to bait her own hook and love the woman that was meant to be hers forever.

The kids are grown now, and the copy of my book is long gone. I think about replacing it, but something always sidetracks me. Maybe it’s the fact that I can’t get that time back. Or maybe it’s the fact that I want to write like that, but can’t. Or maybe I can write like that, but I’m afraid to fail. All I know is I’ll watch Fried Green Tomatoes tonight and it will make me feel all the things I used to feel. Maybe I’ll finally start that book. Or maybe, I’ll just know that my soul, it was born in the South, and it will have to be enough.

The Little Prince and Chronic Pain

As I held my newborn grandson, I smelled the top of his head and mouth. My fingertip lazily traced the outline of his ears and chin. Then dipped into the velvety curve of his neck. I released him from his swaddling blanket and  listened to him coo while he stretched. I counted his fingers and touched his newborn hand to my aging face. I was a grandma and I was reveling in the excitement of it. I kept undressing him so I could look at his little toes. They were still bright red and I had to be gentle with them because of the needle sticks he was receiving to check on his blood sugar levels.

Meggie kept giving me grief for taking off his clothes. She even said he didn’t smell like anything, but I disagreed. I couldn’t put into words what I was feeling, or what I could smell. There was a freshness to the top of his head, and the faint smell of Enfamil formula on his cheeks. He smelled new and his little hand clutching my fingers gave me the promise of better times ahead.

I visited my new grandson and his parents while they were still in the hospital. I had just been released myself after having a third reconstructive surgery on my right ankle. I was kind of hoping that the baby would make his appearance before my discharge, but this being my daughter’s first birth, he decided to take his sweet time. I had just settled into my private room at a physical rehab center when my son and his girl picked me up to meet our new family member.

While I was holding him, I thought about the last year and what I’d been through. The accident, the surgeries that didn’t work, and the chronic pain that had been plaguing me. There was so much depression that I had experienced. I cried every single day, but on the days that Meg needed me, I stayed as focused as I could on her, and her needs. It helped me want to stick around. There were so many times I wanted to give up and die.

I can hear you asking why? It’s only some ankle pain, how can you not live with it?

I want you to understand something, everyone with chronic pain has their own experience to deal with.

If someone in your life is dealing with it and they say they’re okay, they are not telling you the complete truth. They don’t want you to know how badly it hurts. And how tired they are from dealing with it.

Every. Single. Damn. Day. Of. Their. Lives.

The depression I’ve felt in the last year has been suffocating. You can not even fathom what I’ve felt, nor do I want you to even try. I wouldn’t wish this pain on my worst enemy. I pray for normalcy every damn day that I wake up breathing. I’m not there yet, but I’m hoping this latest surgery brings me closer to it.

I wanted to go to sleep at night and not wake up wondering what my pain number would be when I stood up to walk to the bathroom. Most nights I wanted to go to sleep and not wake up at all. A crucial bone in my right ankle was dying, but I felt like the woman I was before the accident had already died. Unbeknownst to me, there was a little prince that was going to be born just after my third surgery that would totally change my mind.

I held him in my arms on May 15, and realized that yes, he was the reason I was still here. And he was the reason I couldn’t give up. I needed to be in his life, so I could smell the top of his head, and trace his perfect little ears with my fingertip. I also needed to be there for my daughter when she was struggling with sleep and new motherhood. I couldn’t have done any of those things had I given up.

The Little Prince is home with his parents now and they are all settling into their new normal. This Queen is back home in her second floor apartment and healing nicely. I’m so thankful that I didn’t give in to the sadness that came from the pain. Who knows, maybe my grandson and I will teach each other to walk.

Pain is Fear Leaving The Body

The therapist raised the table up so that she could slowly jerk my stiff ankle from side to side. It didn’t hurt, but the sensation was definitely uncomfortable. When she was done, she pushed her fingers into the outer ankle bone and lifted it up for a few seconds at a time. The pain I felt was on the inside ankle bone. It was excruciating and I cried out. Amelia asked if she should stop, but I told her no, that pain was needed to heal. She then palpated the inner ankle bone and I felt the tendons crack. When she was done, she shook my ankle from side to side again. It felt good, even though I knew it would ache a few hours later. Physical therapy is a special kind of torture that needs to be administered in order to heal. Now that the ache of it has finally settled in, I must remember that this pain is merely fear leaving my body……

Meggie called during her lunch break and asked me how I was doing. I explained that my ankle ached and I was bitchy because of the pain. Her comment was she didn’t feel sorry for me since all she’d been doing is throwing up for the last 3.5 months. Yes, my lovely daughter is going to make me a grandma in June. That gorgeous blonde haired, blue eyed wild fire that I gave birth to 24 years ago is going to grace us with another living soul to walk this planet. So how can I complain about learning to walk again, while she’s growing a new life within her body?

We hung up while she let her dogs out and hoped they’d come in quickly so she’d get a chance to take a good nap with all three of her Huskies. I latched the leash on Eddie the Rat and took him outside, and he lifted his legs on the bushes just outside my apartment entrance. Because of the pain, I couldn’t walk very far, so we headed back inside. My text alert went off and I entered my password into my phone. Meggie informed me that she’d thrown up before she could get the dogs outside. I replied that I was so sorry and wished there was something I could do to help her. Unfortunately I couldn’t but she knows if I could, I would. After all, I am her mother. And what mother doesn’t want to take care of their child, no matter what age they are.

Meg’s final text to me told me that she was going to take a nap. I told her I was going to wrap Christmas presents. I hate shopping, and I’m not very fond of Christmas, but I figured while I still had my gym shoes and brace on, I better get as much wrapping done as I could. I knew the pain from my therapy session would settle in before too long, and the tears would flow.

My friend Lori has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her battle is much more in depth than mine, because her’s is for her life. While mine is for the chance to be able to not walk with a limp. I watch Lori’s battle closely and I cheer her on every single damn day. I know she has watched my battle closely and though she’s got her own fight, she cheers me on. I’ll fight for my chance to walk without pain. But I’ll fight for Lori too. And I’ll also fight for Megan’s struggle too. We are in our own kind of pain. We can’t discount the hurt. We can only fight through it.

The Waves and George Clooney’s Twin

VWThe waves

I spoke to my sister for a few minutes this morning. She brought me a light bulb that she’d bought me months ago and wine corks that I’m going to do some kind of crafty thing with. We talked about being lonely vs. being alone, and I told her that I’ve finally learned the difference. I’m an extrovert but I’m happy with the quiet and the solitude. I’m happy with ruffling the scruff and scratching the ears of my dog, than spending time with people that talk to much. I’ve let go of toxic people and I’ve let go of the toxicity within myself.

2014 has royally sucked but as it draws to a close, I’m thankful for what I experienced during it. I mean, at least I’m alive to tell the tale. But now it’s time to write the final words and close this chapter.

My friend Bette said in 2015 we deserve to find George Clooney’s twin and have him whisk us away to the Caribbean. He could feed us grapes while we tanned our pale bodies on the deck of his yacht. I told her I wouldn’t care if I had to draw his bathwater and wash his dishes. Hell, I’d swab the poop deck if necessary!

So this morning I will enjoy the coffee cup, the knife, the spoon, things in themselves, and myself in myself.

Have a happy Sunday my lovelies.

You Are My Sunshine, My Only Sunshine

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine

You make me happy, when skies are gray

Mommy used to sing this song to me when I was a child. There were so many nights when I couldn’t sleep,because I was scared of the dark, and I was scared of the quiet. I was scared of the next day at school, and the struggles I would face there. Mom did her best to ease my fears with singing before we’d go to sleep. Of course I didn’t go to sleep. I sweated about sharks, and things that go bump in the night. I sweated over bullies and the fact that I couldn’t do math. Mom had no idea how scared I was because I was never able to tell her. So instead we sang to each other.

I hated that everything scared me and would continue to until I was in my late 20’s. I hated that I was afraid of the dark and used a nightlight until I was 30. I hate that now that I live alone, I’m afraid of the dark again, even though I live in an apartment building that is relatively safe. I hate being afraid and I hate who I am. But then I think about Mom and the way we sang to each other when I was a child. I remember the comfort I felt for those few moments in time, and how safe I was.

When I was young Mommy and I sang together, and even when we do now I continue to feel  safe. She did the best she could to help me and continues to do so to this day. She doesn’t understand me but that’s okay, I know now she does the best she can for me.

You make me happy when skies are gray

You’ll never know dear how much I love you

Please don’t take my sunshine away….

 

Blessings from my Sister

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Sometimes I feel like there’s a hole inside of me, an emptiness that at times seems to burn. I think if you lifted my heart to your ear, you could probably hear the ocean. The moon tonight, there’s a circle around it. Sign of trouble not far behind. I have this dream of being whole. Of not going to sleep each night, wanting. But still sometimes, when the wind is warm or the crickets sing… I dream of a love that even time will lie down and be still for. I just want someone to love me. I want to be seen. I don’t know. Maybe I had my happiness. I don’t want to believe it but, there is no man, Gilly. Only that moon. –Practical Magic

Sis and I were never close, but it wasn’t from my lack of trying. We were just too different, she and I. I was the Black Sheep, and she was the perfect one. Sure, I was smart, but she had the drive to get good grades. I was in school for the social aspect of it. Sis ran with the right crowd, but I ran with the wild crowd. I drank, smoked cigarettes and weed. Hell, she was even a cheerleader.

Our weddings were within three months of each other. They were over 25 years ago, so I don’t remember much. However, I do recall spilled champagne on my bridesmaids dress, dancing with my future husband and dirty dancing to the song, “Time of my Life”. I remember that Sis looked beautiful, like she always did. Where I was curvy, and what I perceived as ugly,  she was neither of those things. To me she was perfect; athletic, smart, popular, beautiful, driven, and the list goes on and on.

She and I raised our kids differently. I was the free spirited mom that gave my children room, but reigned them in when necessary. She was the stricter mom, that enforced rules and gave lectures. Our children turned out to be pretty damn great adults, so who’s to say which of our parenting skills was better.

Throughout the years, she divorced and remarried. She had a couple more kids while her older two were teenagers. Our oldest ones were all born within a few years of each other and it was fun to watch them all grow and change, and achieve. Sis and I were blood, but we never crossed over to being friends. Then I decided after 24 years of marriage to divorce Roger Darling, and she became my strongest supporter.

I finally let go of what I perceived were our differences, and let her in. Sis has been there for me when I’ve been at my lowest. She has gotten my groceries and run my errands while I was laid up from a major car accident last March. She has on more than one occasion yelled at me and told me to get my head on straight now that I’m walking again. We’ve learned we can lean on each other, no matter how different we are.

She’s my sister and now my friend. I don’t know if we’d ever be able to live together, but I’m proud to say she’s one of my loudest cheerleaders. Who knew those skills of hers would come in handy all these years later?

Can love really travel back in time and heal a broken heart? Was it our joined hands that finally lifted Maria’s curse? I’d like to think so. But there are some things I know for certain: always throw spilt salt over your left shoulder, keep rosemary by your garden gate, plant lavender for luck, and fall in love whenever you can.-Practical Magic


And…We Have Touch Down

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“When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.”-The Outsiders

The opening lines from The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, floated around my head while Meggie drove me to my follow up appointment with Dr. Perdue. The day wasn’t particularly sunny. In fact, the skies were threatening rain and the humidity slicked my skin with moisture. All I could think about was taking my first steps after a 95 day journey that changed my life.

Meg helped me with my last wheelchair ride, all the while calling me an ‘old lady’. We laughed together, me and my Chica. We checked in, had x-rays taken, and were guided to the surgeon’s cast room. I hopped up on the exam table like a pro, and removed my boot cast. I conversed with Meggie and the nurse while my vitals were taken.

“Is it hot in here?”, I inquired after the nurse left.

“No old lady, you’re anxious”, Meg chided. “Stop fidgeting.”

As we waited, I surfed through the pictures on my phone, until I landed on the ones I took at my two week check-up. There, in full color was my ankle, purple and swollen. The three incisions still angry and fiery red. Black sutures protruded from my skin looking like railroad tracks to hell. You would have thought I would be disgusted by the sight, but I was utterly fascinated. I grinned as I slid my finger across the smart phone screen and viewed the progress of my recuperation. I had come so far.

“Mom, you look weird.”

“I’m…Just…Happy.”

Dr. Perdue and Pete the PA joined us in the cast room. The surgeon smiled his teddy bear smile and shook my hand. We chatted about progress and recuperation. He said the Talus bone was turning white, meaning it was getting blood flow.

“I’ve never seen healing like this after such a traumatic injury,” Perdue said.

“Are you saying we are like Wolverine from X-Men?”, Meg asked.

I giggled anxiously, “I just did everything you told me to, I didn’t want to screw this up.”

“You’ve got good genetics.”

“And I had lots of people praying for me. I prayed a lot. I yelled at God too, but mostly I prayed.”

We talked about the future. That I wasn’t out of the woods yet, when it came to the Talus bone dying. For right now, we focused on walking. I got the go ahead to stop hopping on my left foot, and start walking on both feet. I laughed like a little kid and shook the doctor’s hand. After 95 days, I was going to learn to walk again. The busy doctor left the room and I secured my boot cast. I ruminated on the exam table.

“So…are you going to walk?”

“Gimme a minute, I’m trying to psyche myself up.”

Meggie aimed her smart phone at me and took video of me walking for seven seconds. Every tendon, ligament and muscle from my right knee to my foot screamed as I bore weight. Right foot first, then left foot. And so on. I…was…walking. Again…

We pushed the wheelchair out into the vestibule by the elevator. Meg carried my purse as I took my first walk outside in 95 days. Sure, I’d been outside, but it was not on my own. It was in a wheelchair or hopping with the support of a walker. No, this was different. I could walk on my own. In sunshine, moonlight, darkness or rain. I was free.

The rest of the afternoon was a blur. Lunch with Meggie and Adam Boy. My phone being blown up by friends and family asking if I was walking. A script filled and then home. For the first time in three months, I walked up the 13 steps to my apartment door. I unlocked the door and there in front of me was an old friend, my wheelchair. I burst into tears when I realized the magnitude of the change in my life. I had been reborn.

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Last night rain poured down, and I craved to walk in it. I wanted it to wash me clean while I drew in the scent of clean earth. To baptize me. Though exuberant, I was too sore and tired go outside. My right knee hurt more than anything.  I’m thankful for the pain, because it’s nothing like I’d felt three months ago. My body ached, but my spirit is soared. You know the next time it storms, this woman will be out in the middle of it. In a summer dress and barefoot, hopefully.