My Last Thanksgiving at Mom’s

“The weak fall, but the strong will remain and never go under!” ~ Anne Frank

Even though I was in my own home, sitting in my own bedroom, I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t like the atmosphere that was in the air, the tone that was suddenly being set. It was dirty and I could hear it and it made me feel uneasy.

My bedroom didn’t have a door. It seemed like every bedroom I had in all the apartments growing up on Magnolia Avenue, it was always my bedroom that never had the door. The only privacy I ever had came from a makeshift sheet that was usually tacked up with a bunch of nails. This was always my bedroom door. There was never any way to block out the noise from the other rooms. There was never any knocking to announce that someone wanted to come in. Instead of twisting a doorknob to enter, it was always a sweep of the arm to push the curtain aside. There was never any privacy. My bedroom appeared to have been built as an afterthought, as drywall was slapped up into the main living room to try and create another room – my bedroom. However, the wall was never completed. At the end of the wall there was a small area of approximately four feet tall by one foot wide that wasn’t drywalled, as if they had plans to tuck something within the space. Not wanting to have a gaping hole looking into my room, I took a very large board and placed it up against the hole. I drew the “Love Is” characters on it so that it didn’t look unfinished. The board didn’t cover the hole completely, but it worked enough. Once again, my privacy as a young teenager was sacrificed.

Thanksgiving was upon us and my mother was at the grocery store buying food for Thanksgiving Day dinner. Mom had received her welfare check and she was buying groceries to fill the cabinets and fridge for the holiday. This usually meant we would have a treat of chocolate chip cookies or Neapolitan ice cream. We would also have a fat turkey for Thanksgiving, with all the trimmings, canned cranberry sauce, breaded stuffing that would be made from scratch and, eventually, shoved up the turkey’s tush to cook all day. Mom would make real mashed potatoes and not instant like we normally ate. Corn from the can that tasted more like tin than corn, salad, which consisted of only lettuce, drenched in Miracle Whip salad dressing. Dinner would end with a store-bought pumpkin pie with a dollop of cool whip. This menu was a yearly traditional meal that we all looked forward to having. Mom took her grocery list and food stamps and was off to the store to buy all the holiday fixings.

Mom asked me to stay home. She asked me to wash the dishes that were in the kitchen sink while she was at the store. I hated washing the dishes, mostly, because mom never bought normal dish washing soap. Trying to save her pennies, we washed our dishes with laundry detergent. The soap would never dissolve properly and I felt as if I was washing the dishes with pellets of sand. My brothers weren’t at home. Most likely, they were with their friends playing a game of tag football at Truman College, which we lived almost directly behind. I was left at home with Melvin and a man named Butch. Butch was a family friend, who we met and knew while living in another building years before on Sheridan Avenue. I remember Butch having two daughters, Maria and Sonia, both which seemed to have been slightly off not only in the looks department, but in the personality department as well. Maria and Sonia were mentally challenged to a degree and both lived in a home that offered assistance to their kind. On occasion, they would come to visit their father, spending the weekend with him. They were larger women and they always sat outside on the building’s front stoop. Maria, the redhead, was mean and feisty, while Sonia, the brunette, was more easy-going. Her personality was much softer. She would sit there and play barbies with me. Once, Maria picked me up and literally tossed me into the air and across the sidewalk. I fell into the dirt and landed on my knees. She said I was in her way, therefore, she decided to toss me like a ragdoll so she can get down the front steps. Their father, Butch was short and chubby himself, looked like he had no teeth when he talked and always wore his hair short, like a crew cut. He seemed to have a stuttering problem, where his words took forever to say. His wardrobe consisted of only white T-shirts and Dago T’s. I always found Butch to be on the feminine side, especially by the way he talked and presented himself. He was very flamboyant and liked to dance around the room to his radio. It was hard for me to picture him as a father. I would listen in on conversations between mom and Melvin, where they would comment that Butch was a queer and would suck a dick a mile long. I was old enough to understand what that meant. He liked men. However, it was obvious that he had a relationship with a woman at one point in time because he had two daughters. Butch also had a brother named John. He seemed to be the normal one of the family, that is until I woke up one morning when I was younger and saw him boinkin’ my mother on the side of the bed. Waking up from sleeping on the floor in our one-room apartment, I asked her what was she doing. She told me to lie down and go back to sleep, which is exactly what I did and I never mentioned it again. It seemed like this family, John, the girls and, in particular, Butch, had followed us from neighborhood to neighborhood and somehow was always in our lives from the time we lived on Sheridan throughout the time we lived on Magnolia. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I do now. Now that I was older, I knew exactly what was going on, especially between Butch and Melvin.

I had finished up washing the dishes. I wanted to get back to my room and not be around Melvin whatsoever. The utter sight of him made my skin crawl. Him sitting there in his recliner chair, smoking, polluting the air that I breathe, wearing his creepy little shorts. I even noticed that they were hiked up more than usual that day. Melvin and Butch were watching TV. They were eerily quiet and said little to me. Leaving the kitchen, I crossed their path, walking back into my room. Even though I had no bedroom door to shut me out of their existence, I felt relieved to know I was in my own space. Standing in my room, I was in front of my own TV, flipping channels and trying to pass the time until mom got home. She had just left for the store and I wished that she were back home already. Melvin and Butch were in the living room. The living room consisted of two twin beds, which was sort of set up as a bedroom, with the beds up against the walls. It seems like we never had a formal living room either. Most likely, because mom and Melvin could only afford a one-bedroom apartment and my brothers always got the bedroom… and the door! As Melvin sat in his recliner chair, Butch was sitting on the edge of one of the beds, the one closest to Melvin. I could hear both of them starting to talk, their voices low, almost whispering, as if they were trying to hide what they were saying. I started to get that uncomfortable feeling again, that same feeling as when I knew Melvin was about to touch me, my breasts and, eventually, my vagina. I felt like I was in the middle of something that was wrong, something that shouldn’t be happening. As I stood in front of my TV, I turned down the volume slightly so I could hear what was going on in the other room. I was hesitant with my thoughts. I was hoping I didn’t hear what I thought I did. In between the whispers, there were noises coming from their room. They were sexual. I started to make noise of my own in my room, moving things around my dresser, banging books, trying to remind them both that I was still in the house and only a few steps away. I was hoping that they would stop whatever they had started. Did it work, I thought? Unfortunately not. They both ignored me, as if I was the Wizard of Oz himself… “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

Moments later, they continued with their groping one another. By this time, I was so uneasy with them being there that I yelled from my bedroom, “You two better stop because I can hear everything that you’re doing!” Silence filled the living room once again. When is mom getting home, I thought. For some reason I knew that they would stop once she got home, as I knew what they were doing was behind her back. They probably couldn’t wait for her to leave. On the other hand, did mom know what they were doing and, most likely have been doing, for years? Is this why she asked me to stay home with them, in hopes that they wouldn’t do anything with each other while I was in the apartment? I had a strong feeling that mom knew many of the inappropriate and crude things Melvin was doing, but just kept them all to herself.

I heard them start-up again. I could hear the wet noises coming from their privates, the slapping of skin back and forth. I could hear their whispers. By their conversation, I was under the impression that Butch couldn’t get it up, as Melvin kept asking him, “Are you sure you don’t have to go to the bathroom? Well, let me try again.” With that comment, I had heard enough. Swinging open my curtain, I stepped out into the living room. Melvin and Butch did some shuffling with a jacket that lay over Butch’s lap. I told them that they were both sick fucks and didn’t they realize that I was just in the other room? I also told them that I was going to find mom and tell her what was going on and what they were doing. With that, I stormed out of the apartment and headed to the grocery store up on Sheridan and Montrose, where I knew mom was shopping. Was Melvin nervous that his dirty little secret would be exposed? Did he even care?

As I ran to the grocery store in late November, I realized that I should have worn a jacket, as it was quite chilly outside. However, I left the apartment so quickly that I didn’t even think. I just knew that I needed to get out of there. As I was racing to reach the grocery store, my mind was having a race all its own, thinking of what I had just witnessed back at the apartment. Why can’t I have a normal life? Why do I have to live the way I do? Why do I have to run looking for my mother and report to her what I had just witnessed? Would she believe me? I never ever shared with mom the sexual abuse that Melvin did to me. Not only did Melvin like little girls, he also liked older men. Would this open up something that I knew was going to be just awful? I didn’t want her to know what Melvin had done to me. I didn’t want to disrupt our already dysfunctional life any more than it was. I didn’t want to be in trouble. I rehearsed in my mind how I was going to tell mom once I found her in the store, that Melvin was having sex with another man and while I was only in the other room.

I felt like I was running a marathon, as I ran down Montrose Avenue, past Racine, Clifton, then underneath the El tracks and then finally past Kenmore. Just up ahead there was the Jewel grocery store on Sheridan Avenue where mom was picking out a turkey for a family dinner. A dinner where we were all to sit down and be thankful that we were together, a family that doesn’t harm or fault one another, a family that doesn’t allow sexual abuse in their lives, even though I knew it was all lies.

As I walked around the store, I took a look down each of the aisles looking for mom. One after another, I knew she had to still be in the store somewhere. Finally, I found her. By the look on her face, I could tell that she was surprised to see me there, especially since she left me at home. She could tell from my own face that I was upset. I began to get angry, which made me start to cry. All my emotions were trying to spill out all at once. I tried to keep my voice down and explain to her what was happening back at home. The more I talked, the more upset I got. I told her that Melvin and Butch were doing things to each other in the living room and that they knew I was in the bedroom. She told me to stay with her, as we went to check out and buy the cart of groceries.

Mom hailed a yellow taxi, where we put all the groceries into his trunk. I remember sitting inside the cab, with its huge bench seat from window to window, looking out the window, trying to anticipate what was going to happen once we got home. Instructing the driver where to go, mom and I didn’t say a word all the way home. The palm of my hands were sweaty, as I rubbed them against my pants. My heart began to pound faster, as we pulled up in front of our building. We unloaded the groceries from the trunk and made our way up the stairs and into the apartment. Once inside, we both realized that Butch was gone. He left, leaving Melvin sleeping in one of the beds in the living room. Mom instructed me to put the groceries away, while she sat on the other bed, lighting up a cigarette. I could see her sitting there, puffing away madly, as she watched Melvin sleep and half-undressed, her head sagging low. I went into my room shortly after I was done putting all the groceries away. The silence was nerving, so I turned on my TV. I never heard another word again about the incident that happened that one holiday afternoon. I don’t know if mom ever confronted Melvin about the situation or if she kept everything to herself. Most likely, if she had brought it up to him, he would have denied it, calling me a lying whore. However, if I knew my mother, she didn’t open her mouth whatsoever. She didn’t like to confront Melvin, as he was abusive and violent. Surely, this was one of her own secret tortures within. Oh, how that asshole controlled her.

That year, Thanksgiving had come and gone, without a word being said of what had happened just days before. We continued on with our holiday meal as if we were the perfect family, smiling, laughing and joking. As we sat at the table pretending as if nothing was wrong, I would try to make my brothers giggle during grace. Grace consisted of just a few generic words. We never said grace at any other meal except for Thanksgiving. “God is good, God is great, let us thank Him for our food. Amen.” Done. As my brothers would recite the grace, I would extend my legs underneath the table, so my naked toes would reach their side of the table. As their heads were bowed low and praying, my toes would creep up from underneath the table, where they would be just inches away from their faces. Their eyes closed, my toes danced directly under their noses, wiggling them back and forth, slightly skimming the tip of their noses. We tried not to laugh out loud because the atheist in the room would have gotten pissed off because we were giggling during grace.

Melvin had sexually abused me when I was younger and it was a dirty little secret that only he and I knew. However, that day with Butch, I learned of Melvin’s other dirty little secret; that he liked to fuck men, too. Sadly, it appeared that mom had her own secrets of Melvin already scared deep within her mind that she kept there until one afternoon where she no longer could.

I found mom sitting on the back porch one summer afternoon. I came home and, as I always did, I asked my usual question… “Where is Melvin?” It was a pleasure when he wasn’t around. The atmosphere was more at ease, my brothers and I were more at ease, comfortable, as we didn’t have to whisper or walk on eggshells, tiptoe around an abusive drunk. We didn’t have to watch what we said, especially in front of Melvin, where it would trigger an argument or an ass beating. “Where is Melvin?” I asked again. “He’s sleeping in the garage.” My mother responded. I could tell mom was hiding more information than Melvin just sleeping in the garage. I questioned why he was in the garage sleeping when he had a bed in the house. “He’s in the garage sleeping and has locked the side door. I couldn’t get in, but I looked through the window. Melvin is sleeping with his pants half down, next to another man.” She quietly confessed. I thought to myself, was it Butch? But, it wasn’t. Then, she proceeded to half-ass show me a set of pictures that she found of Melvin, where he had taken at one of those photo booths in Woolworth’s. Melvin had pulled his pants down and took pictures of his genitals. I could tell that she was upset, but I wasn’t sure if it was more over the found photos or of Melvin being in the garage sexually with another man… again. Surely, it had to be both.

I wonder what mom would have thought if she knew I was on Melvin’s long list of weird sexual antics. Would that put her over the edge? Would she have cared? Did she already know? Did mom just accept Melvin’s sexual preferences? Would she finally kick him out, I thought? Being sexually abused was my own little secret and I had no intention of releasing it from my frightened mind. I was so afraid that the family we did have together, my brothers and I, would disappear, just like the little girl, Judith, who we knew growing up in our apartment building. The Department of Child Protective Services came and took her because her parents were unfit, or so they said. This had always been in the back of my mind that they would come and take my brothers and me away, never to see each other again. We were young enough to be tossed into the system, but not old enough to be on our own. Therefore, I always kept my mouth shut. My brothers and I lived at home until we were old enough to make our own decisions and move on.

It was years later when I finally had my own studio apartment, I announced that I would cook my first Thanksgiving Day dinner for everyone. I invited my brother, Jeff and my mother over to spend the day with me. Mom knew enough not to ask about Melvin’s invite. My brother, Steve, was living in Michigan at the time and unable to attend. I wanted to have all the trimmings to my dinner just like mom always made. I lived in a one-room studio apartment that consisted of a small kitchenette, bathroom and walk in closet. The appliances were small, particularly the stove. It was one of those small apartment stoves and was half the size of a normal one. It was difficult to cook a regular meal on, let alone a ten pound turkey in the oven! However, I still tried.

“On Thanksgiving Day we acknowledge our dependence.” ~William Jennings Bryan

Following my mother’s tradition, I set my alarm for 4:30 in the morning to prepare the turkey so that it can be popped into the oven by 5:00. Mom shared with me on how to make the stuffing and prepare the turkey, step-by-pain-in-the-ass-step! Getting up this early in the morning to prepare a turkey wasn’t exactly my ideal way of starting my day. I was so tired that I prepared the stuffing between yawns. The onions weren’t diced to perfection, they were more like chopped into chunks. The bread looked as if it was hacked by a hatchet than torn into bite size pieces. As for the celery… let’s just say that they would have looked better in a tall glass of Bloody Mary’s!

The stuffing was finally prepared, with its seasoning of sage that seemed to permeate my hands, along with the onions. Shoving the stuffing into the turkey’s cavity between slitted eyes, I packed it as much as I could. As I tied the legs up with twine, as to make sure the stuffing didn’t’ have a chance to escape, I maneuvered the pan into the small oven at 350 degrees. The turkey was in the oven to roast by 5:00 a.m. It was shortly thereafter, that I popped myself back into bed to continue my dreams!

Hours later, I woke to the smell of turkey wafting in the air. It seemed more pungent than ever, most likely due to my small apartment. Cracking open a window, I began to prepare the rest of the meal; potatoes, corn and, of course, that overly drench Miracle Whip salad. Jeff and Mom arrived a few hours later, where we sat, chatted and waited for the turkey to be done. I checked the turkey and basted several times throughout the morning. By 1:00 p.m., we were all getting hungry. Mom commented that the bird was in that oven for almost eight hours now and surely it would have to be done. She was the expert, I thought. Turning off the stove, I pulled the turkey out and oven to make its grand debut.

What an entertaining disaster, I thought! The turkey that had been bathing in its own juices for almost eight hours wasn’t even near done! It was so rubbery that it could have bounced its way back to the farmland from where it came! Mom and I came to the conclusion that it was due to my “Easy Bake Oven” of a stove. Because it was so small, the oven must have not been able to accommodate the size of the turkey. My first Thanksgiving dinner was a flippin’ flop! Laughing our way through the rest of the meal that we could eat, I had to make the best of the moment, so I took pictures of my first attempt at cooking Thanksgiving.

My attempt at cooking a turkey!

My first attempt at cooking a turkey! Circa – Early 80’s

It may not have been the traditional meal that we were use to having, but we made the best of what we had. In the end, it’s not about the meal and what you cooked or how much effort you put into it, nor is it about what went right or even what went wrong. It’s all about being thankful. My last Thanksgiving at my mom’s house with Melvin’s behavior is a memory that will always be in my mind, but I believe it’s an experience that made me stronger, not only in values, but in beliefs. My life growing up was full of challenges, but it showed me how important family is and to let nothing stand in the way of relationships. Family doesn’t hurt family, family is love and, when you have love, hurt should never exist. Simple.

Thanksgiving and the holidays are all about being together, together with family and friends and the ones you truly love. Sharing time with one another, laughing, joking and experiencing a joyful moment that will all too soon be a part of the past. We need to seize all the memories we can, holding each one of them close to our heart because as our years move on into the past, the making of memories become less and less.

Although my first turkey was a failure, I would like to think the moment of being together was a memorable success.

“As we pause to thank Him for the blessings of the past year, we must not forget to thank Him for the lessons we have learned through our difficult times. We are not to be thankful for just the pleasant, easy things, but ALL things.” ~ Millie Stamm

Advertisements

My Spiritual Angels

My Spiritual Angels

My prayers begin with my Spiritual Angels who are Grandma, Grandpa, Mom, Uncle Bub, Father Charles, Geno and Dedac, asking them to look over me and my family, keeping us happy, healthy and safe.

The English word “angel” is derived from the Greek word “angelos,” which means “messenger.” The faithful from the world’s major religions believe that angels are messengers from God, who carry out tasks that God assigns them to perform here on Earth.  I believe in angels, as well as their messages and am comforted to know that guardian angels are looking over me, as well as my family.

For me, messages have come to me in all forms, such as butterflies, the smell of roofing tar, perfume, body smells, flickering lights and even to the loud cracking of thunder and lightning. I remember when I was young living on my grandparents’ farm, I would lie down for the evening and study the darkness within the room. It was dark, still and the only thing I could hear was the ticking of my grandfather’s windup clock in the other room, with the “tick” always sounding slightly different from the “tock.”  I would gaze above me, staring out into the darkness toward the ceiling, Shortly later, I would begin to see stars within the darkness, red ones, blue ones and they would swirl around in front of me, all in uniform, almost as if they were dancing for me. At times, I felt like I could manipulate their movement. Although, I was not afraid of them, I never reached out to touch them, even though they were close enough for me to do so. I learned that these could have been Sparkle Angels.1   I wasn’t sure why I was seeing these stars, but they were comforting. This happened on many occasions and I would watch them perform before me until I fell off to sleep.

Sparkle Angel Stars

The Woman in Church…

“I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I sat there quietly in St. Pricilla’s Church, waiting for the services to begin. It was a special day, as it was the day that Arlaraye was accepting her sacrament of Holy Communion, in the very same church that I had received mine just several years before. Sitting by my side, Arlaraye was nervous, but excited, too. She looked beautiful in her white dress and veil, along with her white petite gloves to match.

The church is quiet. There was a sense of comfortableness, a serenity. I looked up onto the altar at the more than life-size statue of Jesus, as his palms and feet were pierced with nails that attached him to his wooden cross. As I have done so many times before, I began to get emotional, as I watched him suspend above me.  I began to thank him silently for all that he has done for me, his protection and loving grace. “Thank you… I am here because of you…”

My eyes began to scan the church.  Pew by pew. I see parents and family members come to rest in their seats, as they, too, wait for the ceremony to begin. Having occasional eye contact with another parishioner, I politely nod and extend a smile.  My eyes continued to drift a couple of rows ahead, to the front pew, where I see a woman sitting in front of me. Her back was to me, but I recognized her immediately.  She was a larger woman, who sat there wearing a weathered windbreaker. Her shoulders slumped forward toward the floor as she sat, as if her troubles weighed her down. Her hair was thin, gray and dressed in a ponytail that sat high on the back of her head. I immediately turned to Arlaraye and secretively announced, “The woman in the front pew looks just like Granny Lambert!” Arlaraye spotted her immediately and turned to me and said, “Oh my, you’re right, she does!”  Almost instinctively, as if this woman knew that we were watching her, she slowly turned her head toward us, glancing over her right shoulder at Arlaraye and me.  Staring at us both, it felt as if she was validating our suspicions that, yes, she was the person who we thought she was… my mother, who just happened to have passed away years earlier in 2001, just days after the 911 attacks. Her stare felt as if it lasted forever, but it was only for a couple of seconds, when she quietly turned her head back around to face the front of the church. This woman was somber and showed no emotion, carrying not one smile on her face whatsoever, almost robotic.  It was then that I shared with Arlaraye that Grandma Lambert didn’t want to miss her special day, and that she made a physical appearance to be there that day.  The church services began and the day’s events were soon underway.  Two hours later, everyone was filing their way out of the church to continue on with their Communion celebrations.  By now, I had totally forgotten about the women in the front pew. It wasn’t until we got home to continue on with our own celebration that I had asked Frank if he happened to have seen the woman himself.  He did and thought the same thing as I had, that it was the mirror image of my mother, who was coming to share in our day of blessings.

“There is no death. Only a change of worlds.” ~ Chief Seattle

Name that Tune…Music Notes - Peace Train

“When you wake up with a song stuck in your head, it means an angel sang you to sleep.” ~ Denise Baer

Frank and I were having a time in our marriage where arguing was a part of daily life.   The daily stresses in our lives, with our jobs, finances, as well as everyday frustrations, were taking a toll on our relationship, more so with Frank.  I have positivity that flows through my veins… Frank simply doesn’t.  Life can serve you a huge bowl of hot steamy turd soup sometimes, but it’s all up to you if you want to accept it. The littlest things were making him angry, which he usually expressed toward me. I hated living in this poisonous atmosphere and knew that it needed to change. Life, with its many challenges was definitely playing a hand in our lives.

I believe our loved ones, who have passed, are with us at all times, especially, if we welcome the idea and invite them into our lives to do so.  I am always asking for signs, anything that I can relate to, to know that it is really them and that they are trying to communicate with me. Laying my head down for the evening, it wasn’t long before I drifted off to sleep and started to dream…

… I am now in Stoughton, Wisconsin, the city in which I lived with my grandparents. I was standing outside the Woolworth’s store that we frequented whenever we went into town. There I stood by the doors and granny was standing with me. She looked wonderful, with her hair combed neatly, pushing it back from her face with one of her elastic headbands that, no doubt, she picked up from Woolworth’s on one of our many shopping trips. She looked exactly as how I remembered her when growing up. There was a song playing in the background, as if it was being pumped directly into the air from speakers that were connected to the Woolworth’s store. It was familiar to me, it sounded pleasant and I knew I heard the song before, but I was having trouble in my dream as I was trying to name that tune.

“Peace begins with a smile.” ~ Mother Teresa

Granny is now standing before me. She wears a genuine smile on her face, but her eyes were serious. Granny speaks to me mentally; I didn’t see her lips move at all.  She was letting me know that the arguing between Frank and me needed to stop. It wasn’t good and not healthy for our relationship. As I stood there in front of her, taking in all her thoughts, I acknowledged her words of wisdom, while at the same time, listening to the song that continued to play behind me.

“Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.” ~Ludwig van Beethoven

It wasn’t long after seeing granny in my dream that I had woken up.  I could still hear the beat of the song from my dream in my ears, along with the message that granny was trying to extend. Lying in my bed, I repeated the melody, playing the sound over and over in my head.  It was moments later when I finally remembered the name of the song and was able to name the tune that was playing in my dream.  The song was by Cat Stevens titled, “Peace Train.”  It was now I who wore a smile across my face, just like granny had done in my dream. I believed that there was a purpose to granny’s visit, there was a message that she needed to share and it was a message of Peace. I took granny’s message to heart and found it very symbolic that not only was granny trying to send me a message through her own words, but through one of my favorite Cat Steven’s songs as well. I needed to find peace, whether it was with Frank or just through myself.

“While we are sleeping, angels have conversations with our souls”. ~Author Unknown

A Call From Katie…

Phone

I have been assisting and working with some of the doctors in my office for over 23 years now. One develops a rapport after so many years of working together, where you learn about their personalities, lives, and even their families. When we had our own practice, it truly was a “work family” and it was an enjoyable time being with my co-workers on a daily basis. It was a rarity where I’d say, “I don’t want to go to work today.” I enjoyed going to work because they weren’t only my co-workers; they were my very good friends.

Several years ago, while at work, we received devastating news. It was a sad time in the office for everyone. We had found out that one of the physicians, who we worked closely with for so many years, lost his daughter, Katie. (For privacy issues, I will just call him Doctor, Sadly, Kathie passed away very unexpectedly and at a young age where death should be inconceivable.  My husband, Frank knew Katie, as he also worked with the same physician practice for many years himself.  Over the years, both Frank and I would see Katie around the office visiting.  We watched her mature from a little girl into a  beautiful young woman. I spoke with Katie many times over the years, as she called the office asking to speak with her father.  Either Doctor was in his office or in clinic seeing patients and we knew to connect her to him directly when she called.  Upon hearing the news of her passing, everyone’s heart was saddened, not only for Katie, but also for the Doctor, who we notably saw him carry his own sorrow deep within his broken heart.

A couple of years had passed on and it was such a busy time for the office, as our medical practice in which we worked was moving to another hospital. We were on a deadline and everyone was busy cleaning and packing up physicians’ offices, as well as their own cubicle and space. Items were being purged and furniture was being moved. Needless to say, busy was an understatement. Items were being wrapped and packed and desks were being moved directly under all our noses.  You sat at a desk and five minutes later, it was gone, packed, stacked on a dolly and headed for the truck ready to be moved.

You could see the nails and holes in the walls, where a scenic picture hung and was once displayed or nametags on doors that were ripped from their holders, leaving many marred and naked walls behind. I felt as if I was leaving a home that I had lived in for fifty years.

With every office key that was turned in, there was another avalanche of tears being shed for the friends and co-workers that you would no longer be working with. One after another, they were being escorted out of the building, with their own personal box of belongings underneath their arm, hitting the elevator button for the ground floor, as they left their work place forever behind.

There is one particular day that I will never forget. It was my turn to cover the front reception desk for breaks and lunches. I came up to relieve Anne so that she could go to lunch. It was a very busy day and movers were being escorted from office to office, elevator doors were on a constant open and close cycle and the phones were ringing non-stop, and all of this while still trying to conduct a normal day of business and meetings.  As I pointed where one visitor needed to go and while telling a mover what office needed to be moved next, I picked up the endless ringing phone to an incoming call that I will always remember, but at the time, I wouldn’t realize how important that phone call would be.   “Good afternoon, this is CINN, how can I help you?” The caller on the other end said, “Hi, this is Katie, I heard my father is looking for me.”  With that, I placed her on hold and told her that I’d look for him. I knew Katie as the Doctor’s daughter and, as I have always done in the past, I do my best to locate him and connect the call.  Calling into the Doctor’s office, there was no answer. I was going to call down to the clinic, but I was so busy with the front desk that I decided to call the Doctor’s assistant, Patty, instead, letting her know that I have Katie holding on the line for him and if she knew where he was at and, perhaps, she would be able to direct the call herself. Upon delivering my question, I found that Patty was stumbling for words. Patty shared with me that Doctor was in clinic and suddenly said that she would have to call me back. As I was about to forward Katie directly to clinic, so she could speak with her father, I picked up the line to let her know what I was doing.  “Katie, I was told that your father was in clinic, I can transfer you there…”  It was only a few seconds later that I realized that Katie was no longer on the line and all I heard was a dial tone.  I felt terrible that I had left her hold on for so long and that she was no longer there.

When Anne got back from her lunch break, I decided to go see Patty, to let her know that I was unsuccessful in trying to transfer Katie to the Doctor in case she decided to call back again.  Standing in front of Patty, it was at that point that Patty asked me, not once, but twice, “Who did you say was calling for the Doctor?”   I relayed… “It was Katie.”  It was only seconds later, after I said Katie’s name that I had realized what had just occurred.  My hands immediately reached for my mouth, covering, as to not allow another word to escape from my lips, in particular, the name Katie. I immediately realized what I had said and what I almost had done. I was so busy at the front desk, trying to take care of everyone and everything, that I didn’t make the connection that there was no way that the Doctor’s Katie could have called.  I was in such a hectic and robotic frame of mind that I didn’t even think twice about who was on the other end. I heard a young voice that I knew to be Katie’s and I responded accordingly.  I only heard the words, “I heard my father was looking for me” and, with that, I responded in the only manner I knew how, the only way that I have done for over fifteen years; I tried to find her father, the Doctor.  With my hands still over my mouth, I mumbled the words, “Oh my God, Patty! I almost transferred that call directly to the Doctor!” My mind started spinning at the insensitive thoughts of what could have happened if I had done so, if I had accomplished the connection.  What would have the Doctor thought if I had reached him, letting him know his daughter, Katie, was on the phone? I would have been mortified. I was so grateful for the fact that Katie, or whoever she was, had hung up the phone and the call went no further. I stood in Patty’s office completely shaken. Explaining the call to Patty, I was convinced that I heard the name Katie and that’s how the caller introduced herself to me. Also, like so many times before, for so many years, I knew it was the Doctor’s Katie who was calling. This young woman left the impression that she called the office routinely and that we knew who she was and what to do when she called.  There was a confidence about her and I didn’t think twice about the call.

It was then that I looked at Patty and asked… “Who else has a daughter named Katie in the office or the other hospital departments?” Could this Katie have been asking for another father?  I shared my call experience with Anne who took it upon herself to ask throughout the other floors if there was another person who had a daughter named Katie, but the results came back negative. The only Katie that all of us ever knew was the Doctor’s Katie. Could this young woman have had the wrong number?  Possibly.

“He took his time looking around for anything interesting to salvage, but found only broken bits of what once was.” ~ A.B. Shepherd

Patty shared with me that the morning of my mysterious phone call, the Doctor was in his office having a quiet moment before he went to clinic, looking at all the years of memories on his bookshelves. He was smiling at all the pictures, knickknacks and mementos, she said, as he reminisced, almost as if he was stealing one last glimpse of all the special memories that lie upon the shelves, before they were to be packed away into boxes. Surely, his heart and mind brought him to think about his sweet Katie and his mind was lost deep within a moment, a private moment of remembrances. Could these strong feelings conjure up a loved one’s spirits so much to the point that they had to make “contact” regardless of what form it’s in?  Possibly. I believe so.

Messages come to us in all forms. Our eyes and hearts have to be open, along with our minds, in order to see them before us. Whether or not this was to be a message for myself or for Katie’s father, I’m not sure. Perhaps, Katie knew that I am a believer in signs and she sent this one through me.

There are people who are receptive when it comes to spirits, the afterlife, or after death communication (ADC) 3 and then there are some that don’t believe in it at all. My fear was that I would come across as some sort of ghost whisperer or that I can talk to the dead, and the last thing I wanted to do was to offend.  I wanted to respect his mourning; is privacy, therefore, I kept quiet and said nothing at all. However, perhaps, I should have…

… “If you know someone who has lost a child, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died–you’re not reminding them. They didn’t forget they died. What you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift.” ~ Elizabeth Edwards

I can’t believe that it’s been years since this phone call. I feel as if we all experienced the loss of Katie just yesterday.  Losing someone you love tremendously can do that, as the pain and memories paint the walls of your heart with permanency. This is why we are blessed with memories, so that we may never forget.

Recently, Frank and I were talking about prayers. How we pray. How we say them. Who we pray to.  Frank demonstrated and began his prayers.  I listened with care, as he listed off those who he prayed for. Among his list, he mentions the name Katie. I knew who the others were, but wasn’t sure who he meant by Katie. It was a heartwarming surprise to learn that Frank prays for Katie and her soul, not only after her passing, but until this very day. Katie’s in his prayers every morning, as Frank has his own private moment with God.

“The angels are always near to those who are grieving, to whisper to them that their loved ones are safe in the hand of God.” ~Quoted in The Angels’ Little Instruction Book by Eileen Elias Freeman

Keep on Rolling… Please!…

I was having problems with my truck last summer.  I find it amazing that the moment you make that final payment to the bank, problems begin to set in.  I have a 2004 Dodge Durango and truly love it, but at one point, it kept dying on me. My poor truck is getting old and, like most things that get old, it was starting to shut down, things breaking down here and there.  If it wasn’t the breaks, it was the power steering. This time, my truck kept stalling in traffic whenever I came to a stop. One of my fears while driving is that I would stall in traffic, stuck directly in the middle of an intersection, where everyone is honking at me and giving me their official hand sign of our state bird!

That particular morning, I decided to pray to my grandfather, asking him to get me to where I needed to go and that my truck would keep moving and not die out in traffic; “keep my wheels a rollin’ grandpa… PLEASE!” This was my chant until I met my destination, as well as asking him to watch over me and keep me safe.  With every stop sign and stop light that I came upon, I worried.  As I got closer to home, I started to feel more confident that I was going to make it.  My prayers were answered because I did make it home safely that afternoon, without any extra unpleasant events added to my day. I was so relieved to be home, thankful that I was able to drive my truck one more day. Frank had an appointment to bring my truck into the mechanic, but not until that weekend.  Until then, my truck was being powered not only by gas, but by prayers, too. I needed my truck to get me to work and back home again.

I was feeling as if things were starting to pile up around me. I was worried how much my truck would cost me to repair. I was worried on whether or not it would get me to work the next day. It was just added worry that I didn’t need to have in my life at the moment.

After settling in at home with a glass of wine, I decided to hop onto Facebook, where I began to post my frustrations of the day regarding my truck.  Upon receiving a few responses, I received a message from my dear friend, Patty.  Patty told me about a news feed that she received on her Facebook home page after she had already commented on my post. She wanted to share it with me, as she knew that I would appreciate it as much as her. You see, Patty believes in a higher spirit as much as I do and we have shared some beautiful conversations together on this very same subject.

“There are many ways our spirit guides can give us signals. Our job is to quiet our minds, open our hearts, and listen.” ~ James VanPraagh

I opened up my message from Patty and she sent me a link to a Facebook page called, “The Things you Would Have Said.” 2  In part, the post read, “ Take Care Jackie and just keep on smiling.  Much Love, Grandpa.” 

I shared with Patty that I had been praying to my grandfather that afternoon, after having truck problems, asking him for his help and protection; to get me where I needed to go and to be safe. I took this message that Patty sent as a sign that he heard my prayers to him and that he was right by my side the whole time and this is the way he decided to let me know.

I truly believe that this message was meant for me and it’s exactly what I needed to read and see at that particular moment. Patty’s absolutely correct.  One never knows how your angels will send you messages.  However, that evening, Patty was my messenger.  Thank you for delivering it my sweet angel!

I shared with Patty that I had been praying to my grandfather that afternoon, after having truck problems, asking him for his help and protection; to get me where I needed to go and to be safe. I took this message that Patty sent as a sign that he heard my prayers to him and that he was right by my side the whole time and this is the way he decided to let me know.

I truly believe that this message was meant for me and it’s exactly what I needed to read and see at that particular moment. Patty’s absolutely correct.  One never knows how your angels will send you messages.  However, that evening, Patty was my messenger.  Thank you for delivering it my sweet angel!

FB Message 2

Love is such a strong bond that travels with us through life and, I believe, even extending through death. What a beautiful gift we have been given to experience the feeling of love for someone so deep that one can literally feel it beating in their hearts. Love doesn’t stop just because our loved ones have stepped from one world into another. I believe our family members are with us always and I find comfort in knowing that. We may not see them physically, but I know that spiritually, they are with us, our protectors, our guardian angels, our messengers and, I personally, cherish every message that I’m sent, just as if they were with us here, in the now.  My spiritual messengers remind me to hold onto my beliefs, faith, my love, as well as reminding me that they are always near.

“I know for certain that we never lose the people we love, even to death. They continue to participate in every act, thought and decision we make. Their love leaves an indelible imprint in our memories. We find comfort in knowing that our lives have been enriched by having shared their love.” ~ Leo Buscaglia

 

References:

  1. http://thegobetween.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/the-truth-about-seeing-spirited-sparkles/
  2. https://www.facebook.com/wouldhavesaid
  3. http://www.after-death.com/

Memories of Christmas Pasts

Christmas Sleigh“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”  ~Norman Vincent Peale

Sleigh Bells in the Night…

Sleigh BellsWhen I was a young girl, Christmas was an exciting, but somewhat bittersweet time. As it is with all children, Christmas meant presents! However, at times, for my brothers and me, it was sometimes a reminder of what we weren’t going to receive. I remember only a handful of Christmas memories; some good and some not. The youngest memory that I can recall was when I lived with my grandparents in Madison, Wisconsin on Ridgewood Street. I was about six years old. We were all in the basement, where I noticed Christmas stockings on the wall, which hung carefully over the faux cardboard fireplace that surely grandpa put together so that we kids knew how Santa got all the gifts under the tree.  Of course, we were told he arrived early just for our special gathering. The Christmas tree seemed to reach and touch the ceiling, with globs of tinsel on every branch and the lights shined oh so bright just like all the colors within a rainbow. Music was being piped out of the jukebox, one Christmas carol after another. Excitement was definitely in the air.  Christmas was being celebrated with my cousins that year, where we all waited patiently to see what Santa Claus had brought us.

Jack with Grandparents Christmas

The gifts that Santa brought were being passed out to all us kids… one for Stevey, as grandpa use to call him; one for Sissy, one for Randy… Gifts were being handed out one after another, so I waited patiently until the last gift was passed, hoping just one of them were or me. When the last gift was handed to Shawn, I began to wonder if I was on the “naughty or nice” list that year. Granny saw that I had started to cry to myself, as I had no gifts to open. Extending a hug, granny and grandpa asked me to go upstairs to the living room to get a tissue from the box that was on the Hi Fi so that I could wipe away the tears from my face.  They also asked me to look out for Santa, to see if I could see him flying around in his sleigh.

Christmas TreeAs I stood there wiping away my tears, I glanced outside the big picture window that faced the front yard. Grandpa had decorated the outside tree with beautiful rainbow lights, too.  The snowfall had covered each bulb with perfection and just enough snow to make each bulb illuminate, making the colors glow intensely within the tree. It was beautiful, peaceful. As I stood there alone in the living room darkness, staring at the vibrant tree that glowed back at me, I suddenly heard a familiar sound ringing out… bells, Christmas bells, Santa Claus’ bells! My eyes shot above me, trying to find a glimpse of Santa in the skies. I looked everywhere above, but couldn’t see him anywhere. Before I left, I stole another look outside and immediately ran back downstairs to my grandparents, where I shared with them that I heard Santa’s sleigh bells!  They saw the excitement in my eyes and heard it in my voice. I was absolutely convinced that I heard Santa’s bells ringing outside that living room window. It was then that grandpa told me that there were extra gifts under the Christmas tree and they were for me. Taking a picture with Santa Claus that evening, I remember being so happy, excited that he didn’t forget about me after all.

Jack with SantaIt was many years later that I had learned that granny forgot to bring my gifts out of her bedroom closet and put them under the tree with everyone else’s.  I often think of this time when I went to the living room looking for Santa in the skies, especially when I view my own Christmas tree today, as it sits there in the darkness, where each and every colorful light burns with such brightness as if they are all smiling back at me.

Did I really hear Santa’s sleigh bells ringing through the air that evening when I was a little girl or was it my beloved grandfather standing outside the picture window, with perfect timing, shaking sleigh bells as I looked out the window toward the skies waiting for Santa to fly by?

“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.”  ~Author Unknown

Oh Christmas Branch, Oh Christmas Branch…

Christmas BranchChildren look forward to seeing the Christmas tree go up, with its many lights and decorations. It’s a sure sign that Christmas day will soon arrive. I remember when my family and I didn’t have a Christmas tree… real or fake. We just couldn’t afford to have one. My brothers and I were aching for some sort of holiday spirit and decorations; something to make our home look festive, to be a part of, as if we did hold Christmas in the Lambert home.  We lived in an apartment building on Sheffield and us kids were trying to come up with an idea on how we could decorate for Christmas.  Looking out the back porch window, we saw in the back alley that one of the tenants from the above apartments trimmed their Christmas tree, as a huge branch was lying in the trash. My brother, Steve, went outside and retrieved the branch from the garbage can and brought it in with such enthusiasm that one would have thought he hiked all the way into the forest to chop it down himself!  We found an old peanut butter jar in the cupboard, which my mom always used for drinking glasses. We filled the jar to the top rim with water and placed our perfectly trimmed Christmas tree branch inside and placed it on the dresser in the living room, right next to the television set.  Looking a tad bare, my brothers and I decided to make some paper decorations to place on our tree. Coloring and making decorations, along with some green garland we had, we now had a Christmas tree to call our own.  In our eyes, the tree that sat in the peanut butter jar was just as beautiful as the one at Rockefeller Center.  Unfortunately, we had many Christmas’ like this, either no tree or no gifts from Santa.

We moved to Magnolia Avenue in the mid seventies.  Being on welfare and not having many luxuries, we were excited to see chocolate chip cookies on the counter or an occasional carton of ice cream in the freezer.  We never had expensive clothes or shoes and some winters barely a warm coat.  We would get our clothes at second hand stores or from the free goodwill that use to be on Broadway. We kids would dream of wearing Converse All-Stars, just like the other kids in the neighborhood. But, instead, we would get the shoes that slip and slide that came from Goldblatt’s.  As the old saying goes, “Don’t get the shoes that slip and slide, get the shoes with the star on the side!”  One Christmas, my mother must have come across some extra money, as she gave my brothers and me money to run up on Broadway to the Army Navy Surplus store so that we could each buy a pair of our own Converse.  We were ecstatic and run we did!  I bought a pair of red high tops and I thought I was the luckiest kid on the block! Of course, we were only allowed to wear them on school days, while going to school.  On occasion, I would sneak them on and go play ball with my brothers, only to have my mother yell from the window to come in and take them off and change into my slip and slides.

The years went on and we kids had gotten older. Christmas gifts felt more of like a necessity than wishing you had the hottest toy under the tree.  One Christmas in particular my brothers had no winter coats to wear.  They would always double up on their sweatshirts to keep themselves warm. They had nothing to protect their heads or keep their hands warm.  Mom couldn’t afford to buy them new coats either, but I was still working at Jupiter, which was a five and dime store, and made enough money, along with my employee discount, that I could buy both of my brothers an inexpensive coat for Christmas.

Knowing that my brothers needed to stay warm, I bought each of them new winter coats, gloves, hats and scarves to match, with Steve in blue tones and Jeff in the color green.  I wanted to make sure that that winter they wouldn’t be cold while walking to school or playing outside.

Christmas morning came and we all gathered into the living room, where the tree was still lit and left on from the night before.  We were always told that if you leave the Christmas tree lights on during Christmas Eve, then Santa Claus would be able to see where he was going.

I couldn’t wait for my brothers to open up their gifts.  It was a tradition that one person opened their gifts at a time, with Steve usually being first, then Jeff, me and then mom to follow last. Steve tears opens his gifts first and soon Jeff was to follow. I could see the smiles on their faces that showed such gratitude and appreciation. However because Steve was so tall and his arms were so long, the sleeves on his coat were a tad short, but he said that he didn’t mind and he was excited about receiving a new winter coat.  I was very happy to help my brothers and it made me feel so good to know that they were able to open up a few Christmas gifts but, most importantly, they were going to be warm.

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.”  ~Bob Hope

Gifts from the Heart…

Christmas GiftOne particular Christmas will stand out in my mind forever and that my heart will never forget. My brothers and I were very young and we found ourselves once again without a Christmas tree.  We had just moved to a new building on Kenmore, just off Montrose Avenue and, surely, we wouldn’t have the luxury of finding a Christmas tree branch in the garbage, as we did once before. We decided to make our Christmas tree that year. Searching through some boxes in the closet, we did find some Christmas tree garland that was from the year before.  Although it wasn’t much, it was enough for my brothers and me to make a small Christmas tree.  Looking for the perfect wall in the living room, we began taping the garland to the wall. We created a triangle to symbolize a Christmas tree.  As Steve, Jeff and I took a step back, we took pride in our newly displayed Christmas tree, which had a hint of glimmer from the light of the lamp that was resting on the end table.

Christmas tree with bow“The perfect Christmas tree?  All Christmas trees are perfect!”  ~Charles N. Barnard

Reality had set in and it was at that moment that we realized that we had a tree, but no Christmas gifts to place beneath it. Our mother hardly had enough money to buy us food to eat, let alone money to buy us Christmas gifts.

Wanting to continue on with our Christmas spirit, my brothers and I wanted to have Christmas gifts under our tree.  We each had agreed to take one of our own personal and special toys that were our own and give it to the other for Christmas.  I decided that my gift was for Steve, Steve’s gift was for Jeff and Jeff’s gift was to me. While each of us looked through our toy boxes to see what the other would like to have, the three of us made our final decisions.  My special gift for Steve was a miniature toy egg beater that you would cook make believe pancake breakfast and play in a dollhouse with.  Of course, not having any wrapping paper to make my gift look beautiful, the only thing I could think of at the time to wrap my gift was the bathroom toilet paper. Pulling it off from the roll, sheet after sheet, I gently wrapped the egg beater in the toilet paper and tying it up with the only ribbon I could find, which was one of my laces from my shoes.  Once done, I then carried and placed Steve’s gift underneath our beautiful makeshift Christmas tree that was hanging on the wall in the living room. In turn, my brothers did the same thing.  Slowly unraveling the toilet paper from the roll, they, too, wrapped up their special gifts and placed them underneath the Christmas tree. Once again, we all stood staring at our tree that now housed three small gifts underneath.

The next morning had arrived and it was Christmas Day!  My brothers and I woke up and rushed to the Christmas tree with anticipation. Lying there before us were three perfectly wrapped gifts. I couldn’t wait to see what I had receive and what my brother, Jeff, had picked out especially for me. Sitting on the floor in front of the tree, I picked up the perfectly wrapped toilet papered gift and slowly unwrapped it.  I received a Corvette Matchbox car and it was the coolest car that I had ever seen! It was royal blue; my favorite color!

hot wheels redline blue corvetteIt was Jeff’s turn next. Slowly peeling away the toilet paper, Jeff finds a Matchbox truck that thrilled him as much as mind did.  Spinning the wheels, Jeff had a smile on his face that seemed to last forever.

Matchbox TruckLastly, it was Steve’s turn to open his gift.  Steve picked up his gift and placed it in his hands. He carefully unties the shoestring that I had taken from my tennie shoe the night before and begins to unwrap the many layers of toilet paper.  Steve sees the eggbeater sliding out of the wrap and his eyes light up with excitement. He begins to twirl the handles with vigor, as he watches with anticipation as the beaters simultaneously mesh together as one, rotating over and over and over.

eggbeaterSteve enjoyed his special gift, as well and Jeff and I did.

My brothers and I may not have received a shiny new bike for Christmas, or a pair of roller skates or even a talking dolly, but what we did receive was a sense of closeness that we were only able to share with one another.  Selfishness was set aside that day and we were shared with others what we had. We took from little and created a special moment that only the three of us were able to share and experience.

“Love only grows by sharing. You can only have more for yourself by giving it away to others.” ~ Brian Tracy

We may not have had much during these Christmas’ back in the 1970’s, but that seemed to be just fine with us. Because that Christmas, my brothers and I didn’t think of ourselves. Instead, we thought of each other. We experienced a more precious gift that Christmas day and that was no matter what you have in your life, whether riches or coal, you can always find that one special something to make the person next to you happy. Gifts from your heart make the most precious gift of all.

“Christmas is a bridge. We need bridges. We need bridges as the river of time flows past. Today’s Christmas should mean creating happy hours for tomorrow and reliving those of yesterday.” ~ Gladys Tabor 

Christmas Sign

Sign

Spirits that Surround Me

“Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives.” ~ Brené Brown

I have always believed in spirits, ghosts, the afterlife, whatever you would like to call them, especially since I got older and had the opportunity to learn more about the subject. I believe in After Death Communication (ADC).  I have had many encounters, on what I like to believe, were the spirits of my deceased loved ones.   Whether it was a white mist, a talking doll or softly spoken words… these are just a few of the signs that I have experienced within the last twenty years and, most of them, within my own home, where I live today.

I have found myself to be a spiritual person, more so than a religious one, although I do believe in both wholeheartedly – the afterlife with God in his kingdom, as well as my own personal spiritual one that surround me and fills my world today. I believe it was important for me to accept the rights of baptism and confirmation. These two sacraments not only opened my eyes to how much I love God and how much He loves me, but it has also made me aware of what His world truly has to offer and all the spiritual beauty that He has created. Religiously, as a Catholic, I believe that there are certain rules and restrictions that are expected of me, requests that are asked of me, requirements that are set before me that I should live by and I hope that in every sense of the word I do.   Although, I respect the church and what my religion has to give, I believe that my spiritual side is stronger; it is more of personal one. My feelings as a spiritualist go deeper within my heart and soul and the connection that I have with my God. It is a strong one, a relationship that I truly respect and am blessed to have in my life. As I have expressed in the past, this relationship with God was not one that was taught through the education of a parent but, instead, one that was self taught and through personal discovery. Not only do I find a spiritual connection with God, Himself, but I also find a spiritual connection in the things he has created that surround me, such as the deepest magenta flower that blooms to perfection with beauty and grace. A tree that soars its branches toward the sky as it sways gently with the breeze as if it is waving hello. Or the swollen clouds that dance before me in the sky that embraces and reflects the perfect shades of crimson and payne’s gray, as the sun rests for the evening. These are just a few things that I connect with spiritually and, I do believe, that they were all at the expense of God’s hands.

Because of these spiritual feelings, I don’t believe in the thought that once we die our lives just end, hushing us into a complete darkness and a forever silence, where the life we once knew, the life we once lived and was so familiar with, is simply no more. No more thinking, communicating, no more touching, loving, feeling, no more existing, completely lights out.  There just has to be more once we pass on and I believe that there is, whether it is in God’s kingdom in the Heavens or spiritually through the wings of a butterfly.

As I lay in bed at the end of my day, I have a ritual where I go over my day’s events, things that went right… things that, perhaps, didn’t. As I lay there, I tick off in my head the tasks that I had completed and tick off what yet still needs to be done, trying to create a “pocket list” for the following day. This is my time to reflect on life in general and to assess everything. I then begin to think about who I have in my life, as well as those who I have lost and how much I am missing them.

My mind starts to wander to a dubious thought that I have had so many times before. I, once again, question how can we talk and walk, think and breathe without needing the aid of being plugged into an electrical current or connected to some sort of machine, where wires and cords give us the energy to work and perform, like when a television set is plugged in or a stove, computer, or even an electrical car!  All of these need some sort of energy source to perform.

I lay there and wonder in amazement… how am I capable of breathing on my own using a set of lungs that simply ask for clean, fresh air, but yet no requirement of wires?  How amazing it is to do my own thinking with an organ that does not need any “plug ins” to dream, to remember, to hold special thoughts and memories in my mind. My heart will beat a thousand times a day without the assistance of any electrical power. My heart loves and forgives, as well as learns about compassion. My heart is not only able to beat on its own, but is actually able to love and feel without an energy source spewing high voltage power directly into me, making all these vital organs work. I vision we should be like marionettes, where strings are connected to every part of our bodies, where a Master is now our energy source, instructing and pulling at our mind, heart and body strings, giving us the power, like electricity, to move, dance, talk and make our body’s operate.

electric

How can a heart, mind and soul function without the aid of cords zapping us with an electrical force, which seems to make everything work and function? How is it that we’re free to get up and move whenever we want, without unplugging ourselves from a pod of electrical current first?  I know that a person has to feed their body with traditional air, water and food in order to obtain that “power” of energy to keep moving forward, giving their body strength to do so, however, I still find it to be a miracle in itself. Think about it… my mind is thinking and writing its own thoughts and my heart is beating to every keystroke that my fingers type out and, all of this for “free of charge,”  no pun intended, of course.  I find it such a phenomenon that I’m able to accomplish all of this “wire free.” We are our own “energy.”  My body is one circuit of energy within itself. Each circuit of  energy within my body helps the other. These are just some of my odd thoughts that I have as I lay in my bed examining my day.

It’s these thoughts that now take me to a higher plane. Although I believe that our bodies need valued nutrition in order to be energized and function properly, I also believe that there’s a higher power that allows us to walk, talk, and move around so freely.  This power, I believe, is no other than God.  I believe that God is the one who supplies our “power” and that it’s a miracle in which my brain thinks, my lungs breathe and my heart beats and loves unconditionally all on their own. If God can do all of this while I’m alive here in my physical world, then I believe that he can create the same miracle of power, keeping our spirit and soul alive after we die.

 “I am confident that there truly is such a thing as living again, that the living sprint from the dead, that the souls of the dead are in existence.” ~ Socrates

I don’t believe that once our physical bodies die that our spirits and souls die as well and that all of these miracles abruptly come to an end. I believe that our spirits and souls are set free, to continue on with our journey but now only in another measurement of time. Just because my loved ones have moved on to a different dimension, or because their physical body is no more, it doesn’t mean that their spirits don’t exist or that they don’t surround me. Their energy and wisdom will move forward to continue on with their path, where they will now share their life lessons that they have learned here on earth, with others in the next dimension so that they may teach others what they have learned and possibly what we have not. As I believe in the same power that God gives us in our physical lives, I believe that He continues to give us this same power for our spiritual world as well.  Our spirits, souls and knowledge, I believe, will continue on, whether it’s to be shared spiritually here on earth or high within the heavens.

As I often do, I extend an invitation to my deceased loved ones, letting them know they can come to me in my dreams to visit and to talk. I have only one rule with all my spiritual family and that is NOT to appear to me in their physical form. They are more than welcome to leave me a sign, move things, send me special memories or communicate with me through my dreams. Although I believe that they can appear to me, I simply request them not to. Seeing them in this form will surely scare the living turds right out of me! They know the rules, therefore, they communicate with me in the ways I have mentioned above. Reading many books on ADC, I have learned that there are twelve forms of after death communication from a deceased loved one and I have received about nine of these:

Sensing A Presence: This is the most common form of contact. But many people discount these experiences, thinking, “Oh, I’m just imagining this.” It’s a distinct feeling that your loved one is nearby, even though he or she can’t be seen or heard. Though most often felt during the days and weeks immediately after the death, you may sense his or her presence months and even years later.

Hearing A Voice: Some people state they hear an external voice, the same as when a living person is speaking to them. However, the majority of communications are by telepathy – you hear the voice of your relative or friend in your mind. When you have two-way communication, it is usually by telepathy. In fact, it’s possible to have an entire conversation this way.

Feeling A Touch: You may feel your loved one touch you with his or her hand, or place an arm around your shoulders or back, for comfort and reassurance. You may feel a tap, a pat, a caress, a stroke, a kiss, or even a hug. These are all forms of affection, nurturing, and love.

Smelling A Fragrance: You may smell your relative’s or friend’s favorite cologne, after-shave lotion, or perfume. Other common aromas are: flowers (especially roses), bath powders, tobacco products, favorite foods, and his or her personal scent.

Visual Experiences: There are a wide variety of visual experiences, which we have divided into two broad categories: partial visual and full visual ADCs. Appearances range from “a transparent mist” to “absolutely solid” with many gradations in between. You may see only the head and shoulders of your relative or friend, or someone you love may make a full appearance to you, and you will see the entire body as well, which will appear completely solid. Some visual ADCs occur in the bedroom, next to or at the foot of the bed. Others may happen anywhere – indoors or outdoors – even in a car or aboard a plane. Typically he or she will be expressing love and well-being with a radiant smile. Loved ones virtually always appear healed and whole regardless of their cause of death. Verbal communication may take place, but not always.

Visions: You may see an image of a deceased loved one in a “picture” that is either two-dimensional and flat or three-dimensional like a hologram. It’s like seeing a 35 mm slide or a movie suspended in the air. Visions are usually in radiant colors and may be seen externally with your eyes open or internally in your mind. Communication may occur, especially during meditation.

Twilight Experiences: These occur in the alpha state – as you’re falling asleep, waking up, meditating, or praying. You may have any or all of the above types of experiences while you are in this state of consciousness.

ADC Experiences While Asleep: Sleep-state ADCs are much more vivid, intense, colorful, and real than dreams. They are very common. Both one-way and two-way communications are typical. You usually feel your loved one is with you in person – that you’re having an actual visit together. These experiences are not jumbled, filled with symbols, or fragmented the way dreams are.  Sleep-state ADCs are similar to those that occur when you are wide awake. Your relative or friend can come to you more easily, however, when you are relaxed, open, and receptive, such as while you are in the alpha state or asleep.

Out-Of-Body ADCs: These may occur while you are asleep or in a meditative state. They are dramatic experiences during which you leave your body and often visit your loved one at the place or level where he or she exists. These are extremely vivid, intense, and real – some say, “more real than physical life.” The environments usually contain beautiful flowers and butterflies, colorful bushes and trees, radiant lighting, and other lovely aspects of nature – and are filled with happiness, love, and joy.

Telephone Calls: These ADCs may occur during sleep or when you are wide awake. You will hear a phone ringing, and if you answer it, your loved one will give you a short message. Two-way conversations are possible. His or her voice will usually be clear but may seem far away. If you are awake, you will probably not hear a disconnect sound or a dial tone when the call is completed.

Physical Phenomena: People who are bereaved often report receiving a wide variety of physical signs from their deceased relative or friend, such as: lights or lamps blinking on and off; lights, radios, televisions, stereos, and mechanical objects being turned on; photographs, pictures, and various other items being turned over or moved; and a long list of “things that go bump in the night.”

Symbolic ADCs: People frequently ask a Higher Power, the universe, or their deceased loved one for a sign that he or she still exists. Many receive such a sign, though it may take some time to arrive. Occasionally these signs are so subtle they may be missed, or they may be discounted as mere “coincidences.” Common signs include: butterflies, rainbows, many species of birds and animals, flowers, and a variety of inanimate objects such as coins and pictures. (1)

Just as I believe spiritually, I strongly believe in the spirit world as well. I believe that my loved one’s spirits come to visit me, surrounding me with their guidance, protection and love. I’ve had deceased loved ones offer me advice through a dream, thank me or just extending a hug.  I don’t call what has happened to me as coincidences, I believe that they all happened for a reason and that there’s a meaning and message behind each and every one of them.  I have always welcomed my family to communicate with me, via ADC, and with the stories I mention below, I believe, they have.

The Sweet Smell of Tar

One of my first encounters of spirits was by smell.  My grandfather, Raymond, was a roofer and he often would bring home his big red roofing truck, which smelled like tar and, of course, himself, too. It was one of those pleasant memories that when I smell tar today, I think fondly of my grandfather.  However, what’s strange is that whenever I smell tar, there would be no tar truck around nor were any buildings being worked on.

The smell literally appeared out of nowhere. Such as, when I was planning to go into the hospital to have Arla by cesarean, I smelled tar inside the car on the way to the hospital.  This same smell repeated itself when I was on my way to the hospital the second time to give birth by cesarean to Tanner. Again, there were no tar trucks or buildings around me that indicated work was being done.  When having Tanner, the anesthesiologist was having trouble inserting the needle into my back for my epidural. I was told that if they couldn’t get it by the third attempt, they would have to put me under. I have a fear of going under anesthesia, so I had prayed to my grandfather, “Grandpa, please guide the physician’s hands to help her insert the needle into my back so that I don’t have to go under. You know how much I fear going under…” No sooner when my prayer ended, the anesthesiologist, Dr. Childers, was able to complete the procedure and the needle slid directly into my spine with ease. “Thank you grandpa!”  Frank commented that when I was in the hospital to have Arla, that there was an elderly man working on the sink just outside the operating room.  Of course, Frank didn’t give it a second thought… until the next time when I went to the hospital to have Tanner.  Once again, I was the same operating room as the first time and there Frank said was the same elderly man, underneath the sink, working on it.  I personally didn’t recall this man, but Frank insisted that he was there both times of delivery, working on the same sink. I do know that I smelled roofing tar for no apparent reason on both of these occasions and, along with this elderly man, I believe that this could have been grandpa stopping by to make sure that I was okay and it was his way of saying that he was there with me, protecting and watching over me.  To this day, I still continue to smell roofing tar and, when I do, I peacefully say, “Hello grandpa, how are you?”

Coming to Say Hello

As I have shared in the past, my grandfather and I were very close, especially in the latter years when he was battling his final fight with cancer.

While visiting with him and my grandmother in Madison in the early 1980’s, I realized that his condition was deteriorating, making me realize that he may not be with us too much longer.  As I sat on the couch with grandpa, we started talking about this and that, catching up on lost time. It was moments later that grandpa stood up and, with the help of his cane, he walked slowly to his bedroom to collect something from his drawer.

Sitting back down beside me, he handed me a man’s gold diamond ring, sharing with me that he had found it in a car wash decades ago.  He asked me if I would like to keep it, so that when I held it, I would think of him.  Knowing that it was a part of him, I said, “Yes, I would love to have it as a keepsake.”  Grandpa commented that he had the ring for many years and that I should never give it away and to keep it always.  I distinctly remember the moment when sitting close beside him on the couch that warm summer afternoon, playing with the ring that he gave me, twirling it around my finger. There was reminiscence in the air, along with our conversation, as we started to talk about the farm in Stoughton and all the fun time we had while living there. I could tell that this was a fond memory in grandpa’s heart. It wasn’t long when he shared with me that he wished my mother would have named me Arlaraye, like he asked her to. But, he told me that she absolutely refused. I told him that I was sorry, as I knew how important this was to him. It was then that I made a vow to him and said, “Grandpa, if I ever have a daughter in the future, I promise that I will name her after you, for you, and call her Arlaraye.”  With that, he put his arms around me and gave me the strongest hug. The strength in his arms told me that I had just made him a very happy grandfather.

Grandpa’s death came just a couple years later and it saddened me to know that he would never be around to see my promise to him become a reality, naming my first daughter for him. Almost ten years later, when I realized that I was pregnant, I was ecstatic!   I was expecting to have my first child in April 1992.  From the moment that I found out I was going to have a baby, all I wished for that it was going to be a girl.  One evening during the night, I prayed my wishes to God, expressing how much I wanted to have a daughter so that I could honor my grandfather in the way that my mother would not.  After pleading my reasons, I felt something in my belly, twisting and turning, almost as if the baby did a complete 360 flip inside me.  The feeling that I experienced that night was different, almost bizarre, as if God was answering my prayers the moment they left my lips.

My daughter, Arlaraye Niccole, was born on Monday, April 6, 1992.

It wasn’t long before Frank and I got in the routine of nightly feedings, changing poopy diapers, with a side order of not enough sleep!  At the time, we always lived in the back room.  It was our main family room, where we watched TV and entertained guests and simply hung out.  Today, this room is considered the art room. But, when Arla was a baby, this was the room we utilized the most when first moving into the house.  This family room was an addition that was built onto the house decades prior to us moving in. It’s a nice size room and it overlooks the backyard, with many windows wrapping around. The main bedrooms were on the first floor, with Arla’s room being directly across from ours.  Because the back room was an add on, Arla’s bedroom had two doors; one that originally would have led outside to the backyard if the addition wasn’t there and the main bedroom door, which leads into the hallway by the bathroom and our bedroom.

One evening, Frank and I were sitting in the back family room, enjoying some quite time, as we had just laid Arla down in her crib for the night. As young parents often do, we made sure that the noise level was at a minimum so as to not wake up our new baby girl. We made sure that both doors were tightly closed so that our cats wouldn’t disturb Arla while she slept.  Settling in for an evening of TV, it wasn’t long before we heard the unexpected. I was sitting right outside Arla’s door and Frank was lounging on the couch. It was moments later that Arla’s main door to her room, the one that faced the hallway, opened and within a few seconds it closed again, slamming shut. Suddenly, Frank and I both looked at each other simultaneously, as we spun our heads toward Arla’s bedroom.  We both knew that we were the only ones in the house. As if on cue, both Frank and I said in harmony, “Grandpa Johnson!”  Frank went to Arla’s room and, there as it was, just the way we left it, her door was completely shut. We knew that Arla didn’t open the door, as she was just a newborn, not even able to roll over yet, let open a bedroom door.  Frank and I absolutely believed that grandpa had stopped by for a visit to say hello to his new great granddaughter, his namesake, the one I promised to name for him, in honor of him.

It was a couple years later, once we had our Golden Retriever, Kassy, that this room attracted additional attention. One evening, as Kassy laid quietly on the floor next to my feet in the family room, she suddenly poked her head up, looked toward Arla’s room, and started a low toned growl. She immediately got my attention as I, too, looked toward Arla’s room.  The lights were off and Arla’s back door was slightly opened. At the time, Arla was not in her room, but in her basinet beside me. Kassy is now standing on all fours and is directing her complete attention to the open door of Arla’s room, growling making her presence known. I began to ask Kassy what was the matter and asked her to go and investigate, with a quick “who’s there girl, watch ‘em!” command. Kassy slowly walked to the open door, as if she was on a cautious hunt, but she moved no further nor did she walk inside the room.  It was if she got spooked.  Immediately turning around, she shared a small whimper and came back to my side, hugging close to my legs, which is where she remained for the remainder of the evening.  It was apparent that there was something going on in Arla’s room and that Kassy was scared.  Animals can be such intuitive animals and I believe that there was something in the room that grabbed her attention.  Although I never did learn what stirred Kassy into such a frenzy, I can only believe that it was simply another visit from grandpa, looking to say hello to his Arlaraye.

The Light in the Window

One evening, I was home by myself and Frank was out with the Arla, who was a toddler at the time. It was a rarity that I was alone, not to mention with my own thoughts. I decided to call my friend Donatta to catch up on life. I was in our back family room at the time. Doing things between both rooms, running back and forth from the kitchen and family room, and instead of resting within the chair, I decided to sit and prop myself on the arm of the recliner chair. I faced the windows toward the backyard, with my back resting toward the kitchen. It was evening out and I could see the room’s reflection in the darken window. Midway through my conversation with Donatta, while starring toward the window, I saw a large white light that suddenly took over my attention. Like a mirror, this light was being reflected in the darkened window. My reaction was somewhat puzzling, but yet uneasy, as I couldn’t grasp at the moment where the light was coming from.   The light was noticeable and prominent for at least a good ten seconds. It appeared as if something was being opened and closed, as I saw the light slowly disappear.

I immediately went to the window to investigate, thinking it was the weather, perhaps lightening, but I soon realized it wasn’t. Turning back toward the kitchen, I stood there thinking maybe Frank and the kids were home, but they weren’t. The house was quiet. There were no other lights on in the kitchen except for the accent light underneath the stove, which wasn’t in the path of the window.  Still standing in the back room, my eyes then drifted through the kitchen to the fridge. As I expected it to be, the fridge door was closed. Walking only a few feet into the kitchen from where I was standing, I went directly to the fridge. Holding the phone in my left hand, I was still on the phone talking with Donatta, explaining to her what was happening. Placing my right hand onto the fridge door handle, I turn my head to the left, where I look directly toward the back family room, to the same window where I was just at moments before. The distance between the fridge and the back room window is approximately twenty feet.  Studying the layout and the path between both rooms, the fridge was in direct alignment with the darkened window. Clutching the handle, I slowly open the fridge door, as I watched what played out in the window.  Moments later, I gradually brought the fridge door to a close.

Opening and closing the fridge door several more times, it was then that I had the evidence I needed. I was convinced that this was the exact same light that I had witnessed just minutes before while sitting on the arm of the chair starring at the back room window.  This is when Donatta asked me if I was sure I was alone. Walking through the house, I made sure that nobody else was there with me. I was completely alone… or so I thought. The only explanation that came to mind was that, perhaps, it was my grandfather’s sprit, who was coming to visit me once again, just like the time when he came to visit Arla in her bedroom. But, this time, looking into the fridge for a cold Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

Everywhere a Sign

My grandfather’s favorite beer was Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) and whenever I see a PBR beer sign, I think of him. On the way home from the hospital, after taking my mother off of life support that one September afternoon, we parked on a side street so that Frank could run an errand into the corner convenient store. I decided to stay in the car with the kids. Looking out the window, my mind started drifting off and I was back in the hospital, where I was at only moments before.  Looking up to the sky, there I saw high above my head on the top side of the building was a PBR advertisement sign. It was then that I felt my grandfather was with me at the time of my mother’s death and going through the emotions with me.

Not only do I receive signs like the above, I also receive signs by smell, such as the tar smell I spoke of earlier.  One afternoon, while walking into my bedroom, I immediately smelled my grandfather’s aftershave, as if it was just freshly slapped onto his face. I knew it was him right away and I spent the next few minutes taking in the smell of his aftershave. Moments later, it dissipated.

A Word of Comfort

As my grandfather’s scent had permeated my bedroom, believing that he was there for a visit, there was another time recently that he stopped by again. I was upset and crying very hard to myself. Someone I knew hurt me very deeply. As I walked into the bedroom, I closed the door behind me. I wanted to be alone. Sitting on the edge of the bed on my side of the room with my back to the bedroom door, I sat there sobbing, where my emotions were simply uncontrollable. My deepest emotions were coming out and I was practically drowning in my own emotions. Through my tears, I heard a soft voice behind me, a voice that uttered a reassuring “Ssssshhhhh…” My eyes looked up and I hushed myself from crying. I quickly turned around toward the door and to the other side of the room. The door was still closed. I felt like I was no longer alone.  It was then that I knew my grandfather was there with me, asking me to shush my tears, consoling me.  I will never forget this spiritual contact. I heard this Ssssshhhhh as clear as could be. My spiritual family is with me always and hearing grandpa hush me to silence made me stop crying and wipe my tears. There is no doubt in my mind that my grandfather was there helping me get through this rough time.

I have received other signs, as well, such as when doing an online search or needing to complete an online form. On several occasions, there was already a name populated within the search field or the name field before I even began typing.  The name Johnson would automatically be within these fields prior to be starting the form.  Coincidently enough, Johnson was my grandparents’ last name.

I have also encountered flickering lights while sitting next to a lamp or the light bulb would suddenly blow out while touching to turn on a light switch or turn the knob of a lamp. There was a time when the bulbs were constantly being changed because every time I reached for them, they would blow out.   These times were during when I lost a loved one, where my feelings and emotions were at their highest level. Was it my own energy source that tapped these lights dry or was it someone else, my spiritual family, letting me know that they were with me?

When I began to write my memoirs, I knew that I wanted to share and express not only the hardships I have had in my life, but also the tremendous amount of love I have experienced as well.  The day that I finished writing about my Uncle Bob and expressing how much he meant to me in my life, that evening, he came to me in a dream. Uncle Bob stood there before me, just as I remembered him, with his face full of beard wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt. He had a look that seemed to come right out of the 1970’s. Standing before me he said to me, “Thank you for individually thinking of me.”  I remember telling him that he was welcome and that I loved him. Uncle Bob started to cry and I started to cry even hard. Shortly after, I woke up and knew that Uncle Bob came to visit me.

I continue to ask for signs and welcome my spiritual family to visit me at any time during my dreams. I enjoy when they visit, except for the time when granny took her hug a bit too far or the time when she offered me words of “Peace” that she shared with me in my dream. I will share these moments with you next time, as well as when my mother who made an appearance but this time it wasn’t in my dreams, it was a physical manifestation right there in front of me while I was sitting in church…

 “Perhaps they are not stars but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pour through and shine down upon us to let us know they are happy.” ~ Eskimo Proverb

029

023

Today, as I sat in my yard writing my blog, I had the company of two yellow butterflies playing with each other throughout the day. Bouncing from one flower to the next, they did so in unison, not once parting from each other’s side. I can’t help but to wonder… Could these two butterflies be my grandparents as they glided from one pollen pod to the other? Was it my mother and Uncle Bob, chasing each another around as they once did when they were little kids? Perhaps, it was Geno and his father, as they journeyed together catching up on life’s distant past.  Regardless of who these two butterflies may have been as they shared my whole day, I was happy to know that I was able to have this spiritual connection. I watched them both dance to the fragrance that my garden had to offer, as I listened to the birds sing in the breeze, the beautiful clouds that painted the sky and the air that carried a calmness. These are the moments that make me aware of how my body is energized; not through electrical energy, but by the power of God and my spiritual connections…

… Yes, I truly enjoyed my Spiritual Sunday.

References:

1. http://www.after-death.com/

http://www.adcrf.org/

Feelings of the Heart

“There’s no love like the first.” ~ Nicholas Sparks

If we are lucky enough, we all may experience the feeling of falling in love at least once during our lifetime. Do you remember your first love? I remember my first love; that special someone who made my heart skip a few beats whenever he was near. Being young as I was, some may call it puppy love, but I would like to believe that it was more than that.  I believe that I have had the opportunity to fall in love three times in my life, with each of them being very special in their own way.

Remembering my “first love” whose name was Harald, he was a Norwegian boy who lived across the road from my grandparents’ farm. He and I grew up together, seeing each other every summer for many years and, eventually, we started liking one another. Sitting on the front lawn, looking across the road at his farm, I wished and waited for him to ride over on one of those put together bikes that he and his brothers were always building.  Sometimes, once his farm chores were done, my heart would begin to flutter as I saw him riding down his long driveway to come over for a visit. Sometimes, his brother would come along with him and we would play cowboys and Indians around the house or we would race our bikes down the old gravel road.  Harald was a very nice person and always extended politeness and respect, not only to me, but to my grandparents as well. He liked talking with my grandmother, who he fondly called Tiny, as he caught up on all the latest gossip about the neighbors and farmers around.  “Now, Tiny, don’t be spreading any rumors about any of your neighbors now.” Nevertheless, granny insisted that it wasn’t gossip at all, only the truth. I enjoyed watching Harald, as he continued to tease granny, making her snicker to herself.  Harald’s smile was wide and inviting and his eyes always seemed to be smiling as well. He wore his hair long, long enough to peek out from underneath his cowboy hat.  I could smell the day’s work on him, but it wasn’t offensive, just enough to know that he put in a hard day’s work. Harald and I would sit and talk for the longest time or listen to country songs on the jukebox in the breezeway. We would go into town to share an ice cream cone or watch the fireworks on the fourth of July. One of my favorite times was when he came with my grandfather, Steve and I to pilfer sweet corn from the neighbor’s farm. Making our way deep within the field, Harald helped me fill up my gunnysack, watching me carefully as I walked through the corn rows. Secretly, Harald and I would hold hands and, on occasion, steal an innocent kiss when nobody was looking.

“Like an old photograph, time can make a feeling fade, but the memory of a first love never fades away.” ~Tim McGraw

Once, Harald teasingly tossed a rock at me, winking and smiling as he watched it roll toward me. I kept that rock for many years, displaying it on my dresser, along with an empty can of Mountain Dew that we had once shared together while sitting outside under the oak tree. We never openly expressed our feelings to one other, but I don’t believe we had to. We both knew that we shared a special kind of friendship and fondness that was made up of innocence and our unspoken words between us were enough.  This was the summer that grandpa was diagnosed with colon cancer, making my summer vacation with my first love suddenly cut short. Waiting to be taken home, we secretly held hands from the back window of Melvin’s car.  As the car slowly pulled away, so did the tight clutch of our hands. This was our final goodbye to one another.  The memory of Harald will always hold a special place in my heart. Everyone should have the experience where their heart falls for someone the very first time, making your heart beat faster while the butterflies twirl within your belly… Do you remember your first love?

As time went on, so did the distance between Harald and myself.  As I concentrated on my schooling back home in Chicago this is where I made new friends. I met my very close friend, Donatta, as well as meeting the second love of my life, Bill.  Sharing the same classroom together, we were both awkward teenagers, teasing and picking on one another every day. Surely, it was our way of saying we liked one another. He was considered one of the popular kids in school and I really liked Bill. He was tall, had brown wavy hair and had a gorgeous set of lips on him. One day, while in school, he wore a small pink toy, which was tightly wrapped around the earpiece of his glasses. Bill had given it to me for a keepsake and, almost forty years later, I still have it, where it rests on a shelf in my art room.

Toy

Our teasing with each other eventually grew into a long-term relationship that consisted of passion and love.  My relationship with Bill is where I learned to share my feelings on a deeper level, allowing my love for Bill to grow.  As Harald was my first love, Bill was my first lover, experiencing with each other sexually and emotionally.  However, over the years and, as relationships often do, we both went our separate ways after college.

Do you remember the moment when you believe you were falling in love with your mate, wondering if they, too, had the same feelings as you, hoping, and praying that they did? Do you remember how wonderful it made you feel inside?

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go.  Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.”  ~Flavia Weedn

Taking my love lessons from previous dating and past love experiences, I moved forward with my life, taking away from each relationship some good and some bad, teaching me to have patience, confidence, not only in a relationship, but with myself as well.  As time passed, I had met the third love of my life, Frank, who I share my life with today.  Initially, when meeting Frank for the first time on a blind date, I admit I was skeptical, especially when he continued to ask me to marry him throughout our first date.  However, after that Sunday afternoon, when he asked to come over to my apartment to watch the Bears football game, I was starting to realize that Frank was beginning to uncover a hidden spark within me, one that he was actually lighting on fire, a fire that I was hoping would burn for a long time.

 “Love is like a friendship caught on fire.  In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering.  As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable.”  ~Bruce Lee

I never had dated anyone like him before, who was a biker, rugged, wearing cut off t-shirts and leather, with biker boots that always seem to make his feet drag. Either his boots were terribly heavy or he was just that cool as he shuffled along.  I felt very comfortable being with Frank. Perhaps, it was because he was just as comfortable being with me, being himself, and being very expressive with his emotions. Frank was the first man that I ever had a farting contest with or even farted in front of for that matter. That in itself speaks volumes of comfort. I had always considered myself to be somewhat of a shy person, passive, someone who would never demonstrate any openness or able to approach others. However, I seemed to be a very different person when I was with Frank. There was a sense of safety and comfort when I was with him and it gave me the opportunity to break out of my shyness, to emerge from within myself, allowing me to be carefree, open and be the person that I never knew was inside me. I discovered that I liked her. I have always credited Frank for bringing me out of my shell. I found myself daydreaming about him, sighing with contentment, waiting with anticipation until I saw him again.  My heart would skip a beat when Frank would take my hand, holding it tightly within his or when his lips would reach for mine. There was a tenderness about Frank, where he made me feel as if I was the only one of importance, the only one who mattered.

Bikers

Frank and Geno

It was Frank who confessed his love for me first, sharing that he was falling in love with me after knowing me for only a week. I, too, was beginning to have the same feelings, for him, where my heart was slowly opening, allowing my heart to feel again.  This was the third time in my life that I was experiencing falling in love and, this time, I was hoping that it was for keeps.

Do you remember when you and your love made the commitment to spend the rest of your life together, to marry, to have and to hold, until death do you part? Do you ever notice that when you’re in love, everything seems to be so right in the world, that you can endure any tribulations?  When you’re in love, don’t you feel you have everything?

 “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”  ~Lao Tzu

There are so many facets of love where this one simple four letter word can easily make your heart experience so many emotions, whether they are positive or by the means of aimed destruction.

Love, sadly, can make your heart hurt, screaming to the point as if it’s going to burst right out of your chest, making you aware of your pain with every beat your heart takes.

Love can make you feel as if your world is drowning, being submerged so deep with abuse and heartlessness that you’re unable to breathe.

Love can make your heart fill with disappointment and sadness because you can’t seem to touch the heart of your loved one who needs love the most.

Love can leave your mind so mentally exhausted from all the heartaches to the point where you question yourself if it’s all worth it.

Love can be with you and in your heart always or in the end it can just walk out the door never to return…

… or is love worth fighting for, the love that once was, the love you know is still there, praying is there, but is hidden by the day’s anger and frustrating tribulations?

Have you ever fought so hard for something that you wanted, for something that you never had before, something that you deserved, a family, a home, the love and respect of someone special?

LOVE

[luhv] noun

1. A profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.

2. A feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.

3. Sexual passion or desire.

4. A person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.

If allowed, love can make your heart sing as loud as a cardinal who’s calling for its mate on a beautiful Sunday morning.

Love can give you such a natural high that’s so intense you have to ground yourself so you don’t float away.

Love can have your mind drift off into a daydream world, where it only consists of you and your lover, perhaps, sharing an intimate moment.

Love can fill your belly with butterflies when you know your loved one is near.

Love can fill your heart with passion and desire that is so strong you can even feel it in your dreams.

Love should be open, with no obstacles between you and the one you love.

Love is having hope and optimism, sharing it with your everyday world, making it apart of your everyday life.

Love is knowing that you will never have to endure anything alone; that your loved one will always be by your side, through good times and through bad.

Love should be your strength, your ammunition to keep fighting, to move forward and to be strong enough to conquer all ills and troubles, regardless of what is placed before you.  Love your life.  This is the love that I believe…

 “Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness.”  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

 Throughout my life, I have certainly learned that life is not a Utopia, but with dedicated love, devotion and togetherness, we can conquer, overcoming any obstacles set before us. Remember, we aren’t doing it alone; we’re doing it with the help of the person who loves us, our soul mate.  The one who promised before God to love, to have, and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish ’till death do us part.

These are my feelings of the heart. I believe it was meant for me to meet, court, and marry my third love, the man who was meant to be in my life and, because of a higher power involved; I will soon be celebrating my 23rd wedding anniversary. Yes, I believe in the saying, “Third time’s the charm.”

Do you believe in fate? Do you believe in love at first sight? Do you believe things are meant to happen in our life to test us, so that it makes us stronger, better, so that we can see what blessing we have in our life? Do you believe in commitment and unconditional love. Do you believe that everything happens for a reason?

I do.

May 5, 1990

Good Things Come In Three’s

“Waiting and hoping is a hard thing to do when you’ve already been waiting and hoping for almost as long as you can bear it.” ~ Jenny Nimmo

I had sent my email off to Pastor Rusty Couch, where I was watching my email daily with eagerness, hoping that I would receive a response from him.  I had already spoken to two individuals who admired my father, who gave me insight into the person he really was. Surely, Pastor Couch saw my father on a continual basis every week at church, if not more. I was really hoping that he would be able to share additional information that would tell me more about my father on a personal level.

It was several days later when there it was, the email that I was hoping to receive.

May 30, 2011

Mrs. Jackie (if I may be so bold as to refer to you in that manner):

First of all, please feel free to refer to me as Rusty.

It is an honor for me to talk to you about Mr. Charles. I must admit that I am surprised to hear about you or from you. Mr. Charles never spoke much about his family, and in thinking about, I never really asked him much about it. That does not mean I was not concerned for him, but for one reason or another, I just never chose to pursue such a conversation with him. I thought it may be a sensitive subject with him, but not because of anything he said or did. I guess I just assumed he was a 70-something year old man who was all alone in this world (from a blood-relative standpoint) and I didn’t want to broach the subject with him.

Mr. Charles was far from devoid of family, however. He often referred to our church as his family. He loved our church immensely. He served as a Deacon, and I never ONE TIME remember him missing a service in the 26 months I served as Pastor during his life…except his last two Sundays on this earth. He was hospitalized on both occasions. As a matter of fact, the last words out of his mouth to me were, “Brother Rusty, if I don’t get back to church are you going to fire me?”

He was faithful as an usher each Sunday. And he NEVER ONE TIME spoke to me when he didn’t offer me a word of encouragement. He was a witty fellow, a man of few words. He used to joke about “being blind in one eye, and not able to see out of the other.” In the last few months of his life, he had a surgical procedure on one of his eyes, and reported that his vision was much improved. I believe he was awaiting another surgery on his other eye when he died.

I have never met anyone that didn’t love and respect Mr. Charles. His funeral was a very sweet service at our church, and he was laid to rest by his departed sweetheart, which was his final wish. The church donated the plot where his remains rest this very day.

Mr. Charles loved to eat. I would see him so often walking up and down Moreland Avenue, near the church, and in various eating venues…mainly McDonalds! He also frequently carried a cigarette in his hands, although NEVER at church. I am not sure that he ever even knew that I knew he smoked. Perhaps it was just a guilty little pleasure for him. Whatever the case, it did not seem to be something that dominated his life.

The hour is late and I need to go at this point. I would love to share more with you at another time, if you’d like that. We are in the process of making a church directory, and he is pictured with a memorial tribute. He was a sweet man that I feel very honored to have known and been his pastor.

I look forward to potentially talking (or writing) to you more.

Sincerely,
Rusty Couch Senior Pastor
Woodland Hills Baptist Church

I was simply elated to hear back from Pastor Rusty, where he shared stories with me that I never knew. It was almost like discovering a hidden treasure… the more you look, the more you find.

Once I got back on my feet from being sick, I was eager to respond to Pastor Rusty.  What he shared with me was truly inspirational and I wanted him to know more about myself and why I had such a passion to learn more about the man that he was so fond of.  I wrote Pastor with these words…

June 3, 2011

Dear Rusty,

I’m so sorry for my delayed response. I have been a tad under the weather.  Thank you so much for your reply. It warmed my heart to read about my father from your perspective and with such kind words, too. I hope my email didn’t offend, came as an intrusion or surprise, as you mentioned that you didn’t know that side of my father.  You hold such a high regard for my father and it truly touches me by the way you speak of him.  I hope what I share with you doesn’t deter that.

As I mentioned in my letter, I had the pleasure of speaking with Trenna Robinson, as well as with Pastor Larry Camp.  They, along with yourself, has shed so much light on the father than I never knew. I can’t express enough how much gratitude I have and how much all this means to me.

I have been trying to get to know more about my father for quite a few years now. I had even written him a couple of letters, which I wasn’t sure if he received, as they were never returned to me.  I know I could have made a simple phone call, but I was in fear of instant rejection and, with a letter, he had the chance to ponder things over for a while.

The story that my mother had always told me was that she would always find my father standing at the Greyhound bus stop in Wisconsin, waiting to go back home to Georgia, to be with his mother.  She said that he was always a “mama’s boy.”  My mother said that she would always bring him back home but, after catching him on the bus stop numerous times with his bags packed, she finally told him to just leave and go home.  This was always the story I heard. I’m not sure if my father had tried to contact my mother or myself growing up.  If he did, my mother never shared this with me. My mother, as well as other family members, portrayed my father in such an unpleasant light, basically telling me that he always needed assistance and he had “challenges” in life. Perhaps, this was her way of deterring me from trying to find him.

If I can explain, you may better understand why I followed this quest for so long in trying to learn about the man I never had a chance to know. I had a very rough upbringing that was not only mental, but physical as well.  I feel my mother tried the best that she could but, unfortunately, her choices in life left our relationship distant.  I feel she had a hard time to express love and compassion. No doubt due to her own abusive relationship that she was having herself. She was a recovering alcoholic and living with a man that literally drank 24/7. We never had the mother-daughter relationship that we should have had. I do have two younger brothers and their relationships were basically the same. I have survived everything from living in poverty, to living in burnt out buildings to being sexual abused throughout my younger life by the same man that we grew up with and lived in our home, who was also my younger brother’s father.

The only time I found solace and safety in my life was when I lived with my grandparents in Wisconsin on their farm, with animals, open spaces and safety.  Their home was my safe haven. My grandparents are the ones who taught and showed me family structure, how to live life as if it’s your last day on earth, and how to love deeply and unconditionally.  My heart misses them so very much.

I would not want to repeat the abusive side of my life growing up but, as strange as it may sound, it made me the person that I am today… determined, strong-willed, compassionate and a loving person.  I AM a Survivor!  I believe that everything in life happens for a reason and I believe there’s a reason that I’m here. I not only see with my eyes, but also with my heart and I feel it was all meant to be; a learning experience, so that I can be the person who I am today. Because I knew that I didn’t want to make the same mistakes as I saw repetitively while growing up. 

So, this is why I always wanted to know what kind of man my real father truly was. Did he have a “normal” life, unlike the one I was living?  Was he a kind man, compassionate, caring? I always wanted to believe that my father were all these things, something like a fairytale story.  I have to confess that what I have learned so far has made my heart beam with happiness.  He sounds as if he was all of these things and much, much more.

I love and respect the thought that my father had God in his heart.  I wasn’t brought up with religion.  As a matter of fact, I lived in an atheist house. I knew nothing about God, but after I was married and had my children, I knew that I wanted to be a part of this wonderful worship. I would look around and see all the beauty around me and knew that it was due to God’s hand and I wanted to be a part of it. Therefore, in the year 2000, I attended RCIA classes and I was baptized and confirmed by my brother-in-law, Joe Morin, who is a Catholic Priest here in Chicago at St. Michael’s Church. He spared no expense to make sure that I was blessed with a FULL pitcher of Holy Water, too.  A little joke unbeknownst to me, as they were on their way over to the church! Sopping wet and hair a mess, I knew that I had just made one of the most important decisions of my life.  I cannot walk into a church or think of God and his beautiful blessings without getting emotional.  It pleases me to know that that my father and I shared this same passion. 

To share something about myself today, I am an artist. I enjoy water coloring, drawing, mosaics, creating jewelry.  I have an art room that always offers inspiration. I am an administrative assistant for a neurosurgical group and have been working with my physicians for over twenty years now. 

 I’ve been married for twenty one years to a wonderful man, Frank. He is a truck driver, who delivers glass for existing and new building construction. He comes from a family of seventeen children! We are blessed to have his mother, “Bubby” still with us.  God willing, we have started making plans to celebrate her ninety fourth birthday in September!  To say the least, I have a very large family and when the Morin’s get together, it’s definitely a party!

I have two children, Arlaraye and Tanner.  Arlaraye is in her second year of college, majoring in teaching music and art. Her passion is piano and guitar. Tanner will be entering his second year of high school and plays guitar as well.  I have been blessed to have two beautiful children, where I wasn’t sure if I would be able to have after a critical motorcycle accident. They are such wonderful kids and I am very proud of them. 

When chatting with Pastor Camp, he shared with me that you were with my father when he passed.  One of my concerns when I found out that he had passed was that he had passed alone, as I assumed that he had nobody in his life. I remember sitting quietly, saying a prayer for him, hoping he had someone with him as entered his new journey. I’m so thankful that he did and that you were with him.  It’s also nice to hear that he is resting next to his sweetheart. I’m sure he’s very happy and at peace.

I would love to hear any other stories that you may have that you would like to share with me.  It’s been a real treat to hear such wonderful stories. If you happen to have any photos that you would be able to share or send, I would just LOVE to see them.  For giggles, I am attaching a picture of my father so that you can see how he looked back in 1960.  I don’t have many photos, but the ones I do have are from my parents’ wedding. I always felt I had his eyes… except that mine are blue. Sorry for the long email.  I have always been known as the “communicator” in the family.

Father on his wedding day.

Father on his wedding day.

I always considered this part of my life a chapter that I never thought would ever be written.   But, thanks to three wonderful people who have entered my life, this will be the final chapter in my Memoirs that I am writing for publication one day.  My journey is complete! 

Looking forward to hearing from you,
Warm Regards,
Ms. Jack

I could picture my father walking down the street, selecting where to eat his lunch.   It would have been nice to sit across from him in a restaurant, sharing a meal together, perhaps, talking about something as simple as the weather or where he finds this world of ours to be within the next hundred years. I would have enjoyed speaking to him about things such as what his favorite colors were or did he enjoy a favorite food. I would have loved to have spoken to him on topics of life, love and, in particular, God, our spirituality and our beliefs. Did he believe in the afterlife, did he believe in Heaven, did he believe in intuition? I believe in intuition. I believe that my father brought me in contact with my new friends from Georgia, in particular, Trenna. I feel there are too many coincidences not to believe that all of this was meant to happen. With similarities such as Trenna’s Aunt Bea passing away on my grandfather’s birthday, Trenna and my daughter, Arlaraye, sharing the same birthday and not to mention that Trenna works for a medical facility called, Tanner Medical, the same name as my son.  I can’t help but to believe that there was a higher power at work, guiding me, escorting me directly into the hands of these angels.

Reading Pastor Rusty’s words that he was with my father to the end, as he left this earth to be with God, warmed my heart. As an earlier concern, when learning that he passed away in hospice, I was praying that he didn’t die alone and that he had someone by his side. I was pleased to know that Pastor Rusty was there, surely making him feel comfortable, praying as my father prepared for his own final journey.

“Watching a peaceful death of a human being reminds us of a falling star; one of a million lights in a vast sky that flares up for a brief moment only to disappear into the endless night forever.”  ~Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Sadly, my family really made my father to look like someone who wasn’t worth getting to know, as if he was trash and not worth the effort.  If I knew years ago what I know today, perhaps, I would have made more of an effort to find him, to get to know him, to ask him to be a part of my life. But, as Garth Brooks once said, “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”  I do believe that there’s a reason for everything and timing is a part of that.  I feel that if it was meant for me to meet my father years ago, then it probably would have happened. Perhaps, my unanswered prayers were meant to be answered after my father had passed away. I have accepted this fate. I’m so very thankful that I had decided to move forward and learn more about my father when I did. Hope is such a powerful feeling. We all need to have hope in our life, leaving no doubt behind or unanswered. My hope of “wanting to know” is what kept my journey alive. I am so happy to learn that he is resting peacefully next to the love of his life and that he was an astonishing man.  Saying my prayers, they now include one more person to whom I pray to, my father, asking for happiness, health and safety, asking him to be my guardian angel. In return, I ask God to bless him as well.

God our Father,
Your power brings us to birth,
Your providence guides our lives,
and by Your command we return to dust.

Lord, those who die still live in Your presence,
their lives change but do not end.
I pray in hope for my family,
relatives and friends,
and for all the dead known to You alone.

In company with Christ,
Who died and now lives,
may they rejoice in Your kingdom,
where all our tears are wiped away.
Unite us together again in one family,
to sing Your praise forever and ever.

Amen.

Just like the three wise men who came from the East, bearing gifts to the baby Jesus, I believe my gifts, the gift of contentment, peace, and knowledge, had been brought to me. All good things come in threes.  Every one of my three Southern angels from the East, who I spoke with during my journey, who came into my life regarding my father, couldn’t have been more gracious, accepting, and willing to share what they could with me. I was a complete stranger who they didn’t even know or realized even existed… a stranger who also brought surprises along with her.  These angels made my journey of learning who my father was come to fruition.  Because of them, I no longer have a void in my life, where I feel that there is something missing, unfinished or the thought of the unknown.

My heart, mind and soul are at peace and, I believe that my travels and the journey that I have been on regarding my father’s existence,  has ended, leaving my life at long last… complete.

“Wonder rather than doubt is the root of knowledge.” ~ Abraham Joshua Heschel

Never Give Up Hope

… Winding down my day at work, I had decided to do another internet search for my father’s name.  Every so often, I’d have the impulse in seeing if there was any new information listed, if there was a message for me.  Or, perhaps, it was just my way of keeping the thought of him real.  With granny gone, I was feeling melancholy.  I started thinking about the family members that I had lost.  One after another, they were all finally gone, including granny. She had been gone for over seven years and my heart missed her so much.

As I type my father’s name… C-h-a-r-l-e-s  R-a-y  L-a-m-b-e-r-t… I hit the search button, waiting for the usual results to appear on my screen, which time after time they were always the same. However, this time, they were different. This time, my search revealed news that would make this my last internet search for my father.  Because there, directly on the screen, was my fate staring right back at me. This was the day that I had learned my father had died, passing away on October 30, 2010.

Obituary - Charles Ray Lambert

Obituary – Charles Ray Lambert

Mr. Lambert was born on January 13, 1934 and passed away on Saturday, October 30, 2010. Mr. Lambert was a resident of Atlanta, Georgia at the time of his passing. Funeral services will be held November 2, 2010 at 11:00 AM from Woodland Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta with Rev. Rusty Couch officiating. Interment will follow in Rest Haven Garden of Memory in Decatur, GA.

Letting out a gasp that filled the office, my co-worker, Sheri, asked if I was okay.  I remember taking several moments to answer her, as I said, yes, I was fine, but I knew that I wasn’t. I felt as if I just had the wind knocked out of me. I sat there, watching the name on the screen before me, just knowing that it was him. I began to get emotional. I had never met my father and it was now apparent that I never would.  I started to tear up, as I knew that I would never ever have the opportunity to meet the man who was known as my birth father. I was actually saddened to learn of his passing. A rush of loneliness came over me, a sense of desertion. I always had in the back of my mind that even though I lost my grandparents, my uncle, my mother and, to some extent, even my brothers, I always felt that I still had a parent figure still alive. Even though I never met him, I had a bizarre comfort knowing that he was  always out there in the world, that I still had one elder family member left in my life. However, reading his obituary, made my feelings of comfort turn into a sense of emptiness. I know that I had Frank and his family, as well as my children in my life, but somehow it’s different.  I was longing for a connection with my side of the family, my own blood relatives.  Losing my father made everything that much more final, there was nobody left.

“I don’t care how poor a man is; if he has family, he’s rich.” ~ M.A.S.H.

Studying the date of my father’s death, October 30, 2010, it dawned on me that he had died on the evening of my annual Halloween party just months before. Believing in the spiritual world, I was trying to think back to see if I had noticed anything different that night, something odd, a sign of his presence, his soul perhaps. I wondered if his spirits stopped by to say good-bye. If so, did he leave this earth feeling comforted, content knowing that he had left his one and only descendant behind? He was only 76 years old.

I had made the decision that I was going to request his death certificate. I wanted to know… I needed to know more about his death and what he had died from.  It was not only for medical reasons, but for the curiosity of what secrets that I may find written within the words that lie on his death certificate.  I was actually hoping it would offer me some sort of additional information, clues, and answers.  Did he have other family members? Did he remarry? Did he have other children? Even something simple as what his race was, as my mother told me she never knew if he was German, Irish, Norwegian, which seemed rather odd to me. How can you be married to a man and not know what nationality he was?  Although I was sad about my father’s demise, it gave me new hope. Instead of searching for the man himself, I was now searching for the man he was, the man he use to be.

Going home that evening, with credit card in hand, I went onto the Georgia government website and requested Charles’ certificate of death. Going through the application process, I was asked every question imaginable.  It appeared that the Georgia government wanted to make sure that I said who I said I was. Showing me the questions, with multiple answers to chose from, they asked me questions, verifying old street address of places where I used to live back in my twenties, addresses that I long forgot about. They confirmed who we bought our current house from, how long have we lived there, etc.  I must have passed because within the next 10 days, I received my official certified copy of my father’s death certificate.

If I smoked, I would have had a cigarette, but I opted for a glass of wine instead. I sat down, holding the envelope from the Department of Health & Wellness in Atlanta, Georgia in my hand.  My family was all around me, as I held in front of me what could change my life. I told myself that this could be another beginning.  I was eager, with a hint of apprehension as to what information was inside, what I would learn.

I slowly sliced the envelope open with a butter knife as to not tear the paper inside. Sliding it out of the envelope, I unfold the death certificate and begin to read the words that are before me. Seeing his name on top of the report, I confirm that it’s my father by the date of his birth.

My eyes move down where the report stated that he had an 8th grade education or less, confirming what my family had always told me.  His occupation showed that he was an engineer in the automotive business, far more prestigious than a “spotter” at a laundry mat I thought.

My father had Leukemia Chronic Myelogenous, which is a cancer of the white blood cells, a cancer that I immediately looked up and, thankfully, family history is not a risk factor, meaning it isn’t hereditary. However, his immediate cause of death  was emphysema, one of the same diseases my mother had listed on her death certificate. Question number 35 on his death certificate: Tobacco use contributed to death? YES. It was now apparent that my father smoked and very heavily, too.  My father died at a hospice facility due to his lungs deteriorating from smoking for over 15 years. Time of death 11:30 p.m. My heart suddenly fell knowing that my father died in hospice. I was starting to hurt for a man that I never even knew. Did he have loved ones around him? Did he die alone? It was then that I began to pray to the Heavens above that he didn’t die alone, that someone was there with him, holding his hand as he went home to God.

“I say to people who care for people who are dying, if you really love that person and want to help them, be with them when their end comes close. Sit with them – you don’t even have to talk. You don’t have to do anything but really be there with them.” ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Question number nine – Marital Status. Never Married. A statement that I knew was absolutely and completely false.  I thought, was he portraying himself as a single man? If so, surely a secret of his own.

The report held a social security number. Ironically, the same exact number that I had submitted to the online search center 13 years earlier. The same number that I was told was inactive, due to incarceration or death. Obviously, my father worked, collecting a paycheck, having his social security number within the system.  Why was it that they couldn’t find any information on him?  Did they try hard enough, were they just taking my money? What would have happened if the search center did locate my father? Would it have been the most opportune time to reach him in my life? Was there a higher power intervening?

Looking to see what race was mentioned on the certificate, it stated that my father was white, not Hispanic, Spanish, or Latino. I surely thought, perhaps, because of my deep love for hot sauces, foods and peppers that he may have had some sort of Spanish bloodline in him. I guess I must have acquired my hot palate all on my own.

As I finished scrolling through the remainder of my father’s death certificate, trying to find some sort of relevant information that would open my father’s life to me, giving me some sort of answers, there, in box 14a, was a “friend” listed on his certificate. Scrolling my eyes over, I discover that this friend had a name. As I read her name, Trenna Robinson, residing in Waco, Georgia, I started to feel my heart pickup a few beats, wondering whom she was.  My heart pumped even faster when I realized that there was also an address listed for Trenna, offering me a rejuvenation of hope and, possibly, a new avenue to pursue to learn about my father and the man he once was.

Sharing this information with Frank, we had a million and one thoughts running through our minds. Playing every scenario, we tried to figure out how my father new this Trenna… Could this be a family member? Could she be  his daughter, even though she was listed as a friend? Could she be listed as a friend due to legal reasons? Was Trenna a girlfriend, a common law wife to my father? Farfetched, but I even thought she could be my sister. I decided to do a search for Trenna, wondering if I would be able to find out additional information. Searching online, I learned that she lived in a small town, population under 500 people. The town actually sounded quaint. According to searches, Trenna was approximately 42 years old. I also learned that she seemed to be married, ruling out that she could be my father’s significant other.  It also appeared that they had a roofing company. I rolled all this information around in my head. What was I going to do now? I knew in my heart that I had to move forward with this new information. I had to see if there was anything further I could learn. I was curious. I had to know who this Trenna Robinson aka “Friend” was. I made the decision to write Trenna a letter.

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell

I started to place my thoughts onto paper, carefully selecting each word appropriately as to not shock or even offend. This would be one of the hardest things I would ever do is to write and mail this letter.  My thoughts were that I’m treading on ground that I have no right to tread, as I don’t know who these people are or what they are all about. I was in such fear that I would be disrupting their lives, which weren’t my intentions whatsoever.   All I knew, this was another opportunity, a second chance at discovering new information about Charles Ray Lambert. Besides, what do I have to lose, I thought… absolutely nothing!  It took me several weeks to prepare and mail my letter to Trenna and, once I did, it was all a waiting game…

 “Never forget that anticipation is an important part of life. Work’s important, family’s important, but without excitement, you have nothing. You’re cheating yourself if you refuse to enjoy what’s coming.” ~ Nicholas Sparks

May 17, 2011

Dear Ms. Robinson,

I know this letter may come as a surprise to you.  For that, I want to apologize for any intrusion, disruption or insensitivity that I may cause.  Sincerely, this is not my intention.  I’m not sure if you know about me or have even heard about me.  Please allow me to introduce myself and explain.  My name is Jackie Rae Morin (Lambert) and my father was Charles Ray Lambert.  It was recently that I had learned about my father’s passing.

My mother, Elvera Lee Lambert, and my father were married in 1960, and my mom was expected to give birth to me in 1962. Shortly before I was born, my parents decided to part ways, with my father moving from Wisconsin back home to live in Georgia. My mother shared with me that my father did know of me; that I was a girl, my name and where I lived, even him sending me a pair of baby pajamas when I was born. 

In the past, I have written my father a couple of times, in hopes to learn more about the man who shared my mother’s life. But, I’m not sure if my letters were ever received, as they were never returned to me. 

Recently, within the last month, I learned about my father’s passing via an internet search online.  On occasion, I would do internet searches with his name, hoping to find any information on the internet about him.  I’m not sure what I was always expecting to find, but the usual search would come up, which was his name and where he lived in Georgia. Regrettably, my last search left me somewhat saddened and shocked when I learned of his passing last October, 2010.  I tried doing additional searches for other family members, but did not have any success.  Therefore, not knowing how he had passed and, for medical reasons, I requested a copy of his death certificate from the state of Georgia and this is where I came across your name and address.  

Please, let me express again that my intention with this letter is not to upset anyone, but merely a means of wanting to know more about the man who gave me life; what type of man he was, whether good or bad.   Did he have a sense of humor, was he a happy person, was he artistic, did he have a happy life, etc.  I no longer have any elder family members left; everyone has passed on.  Learning about my father’s passing finalized that.

To share something about myself, I’ve been married for 21 years to my husband, Frank, and we have two beautiful children, Arlaraye and Tanner. I lived mostly in Illinois, but did live with my grandparents in Wisconsin when I was young.  I feel very fortunate to have what I have in my life today, although parts of my childhood life were quite challenging.  When living with my mother, it wasn’t a very pleasant upbringing but I have learned to find the positive out of every situation.  What I went through growing up has only made me stronger today. Knowing this, I realize how important family really is.  When my family was alive, I tried in every way to learn about my father, but rarely received any information.

One of the hardest things I’m going to do now is mail this letter and, if you are willing, I would love to hear from you and, possibly, learn about the man I never knew, whether pleasant or not.   I have listed my correspondence information below, in hopes that you will write or email me.  Also, I will be more than willing to answer any questions that you may have, as I’m sure my correspondence to you may have been somewhat of a surprise.  

I want to thank you very much for your time and reading my letter and pray that it has not been a disruption to you or your family.

Yours Sincerely,

Jackie Morin

 

 

In Search of…

… My Father

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever. . . it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” ~ Aaron Sussman

Do I look like him? Do I act like him? Is he a nice man? Does he have a sense of humor?  Is he artistic? Is he a smart man? Is he short? Is he tall? Does he love me?

Typical questions for someone who never knew their father, never met him, someone who had never even seen their father, someone who wanted to learn more about the man who gave me life.

When growing up, and even into my young adulthood, I was always led to believe my family members that my “real” father, Charles Ray Lambert, wasn’t, let’s say… the brightest bulb in the box, telling me that he pretty much was slow-minded and having disability issues. I was told that he had an eighth grade education, if that, and he always needed assistance in life. This was the description that I was always given when asking about my father.

My mother and father met one day while heading to their individual places of employment while taking the public bus into Madison, with my mom going to her aunt’s house to baby-sit and Charles, my father, going to the drycleaners, where he worked in the back of the plant. Daily small talk turned into dating and, over time, eventually love, commitment and marriage. My parents were married on April 9, 1960, at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Madison, Wisconsin, two years before I was born.  Mom was 21 years old when they wed and my father was 24, just a few days shy of turning 25. On their wedding day, the bride’s side of the church was complete with family members, waiting to help celebrate their union. As for the groom’s side of the church, the guests were scarce in appearance. It was apparent that certain relatives on my father’s side of the family didn’t approve of this marriage, completely making a statement by not attending the wedding.

My parents were married for over a year and a half when they decided to become pregnant. Mom told me that my father really wanted to have a child and that’s all he talked about, wanting to be a father, and he was extremely happy to learn when my mom shared she was going to have a baby.

Mom and Dad on their Wedding Day.

Mom and Dad on their Wedding Day.

004

It wasn’t long after celebrating their second wedding anniversary, while mom was approximately 6 months pregnant with me, that she started finding my father at the local Greyhound bus station, suitcase in hand, waiting for the bus to take him to Georgia, back home to his mother.  Mom said she would drag him back home every time, only to find him at the bus station once again, weeks later.  Finally, after numerous times of him trying to “run away,” she said she finally gave him her approval and told him to just leave; go back home to his mother, back to Georgia and never come back. At a time when my parents should have been celebrating the arrival of their daughter’s birth, they were separating their lives from one another.  Mom was six months pregnant with me, her first child, and this was the last time that she will ever speak to her husband, the last time that she will ever see her husband, as he had a one-way bus ticket to Atlanta.

When I was younger, I couldn’t understand why my father would have abandoned his wife and the baby that I was told he truly wanted to have. Mom told that me that my father really wanted to have a child and that he was very happy to learn that mom was going to have a baby.  Perhaps, with the reality of becoming a parent, a father, along with all the responsibilities that come with a child, not to mention the financial and emotional responsibility of a child; a wife, a family, that it was just too much for him to deal with. According to mom, my father didn’t have the stability of being a father. She would always tell me that he was a mousy kind of man, always quite and timid, always reminding me that he was stupid, barely having an eighth grade education. Mom said that he went from living with his older sister to directly living with her when they were married, commenting, once again, that he always had to live with someone, never on his own. Mom would always tell me that he didn’t seem to have too many brains.  Not only was my mother always reminding me of this, but other family members did as well. My grandmother would say that he seemed dumb and always just sat there, never contributing to the conversation very much. Granny felt that he was never able to look directly at you when speaking with you, as if not paying attention and always gazing off into the distance.  Viewing pictures of my father, I don’t think it was very apparent to granny that it wasn’t my father’s mind that was drifting off into space, but rather his eye. My father actually had a lazy eye, with a vision disorder, causing him always to appear as if he was looking past you, something that I found I had slightly inherited.

I always said that I met my father only once in my life… and that was at the time of conception.  I knew of him, he knew of me. He knew when I was born, that I was a girl and he knew my mother named me Jacquline Rae. Mom sent my father’s sister a picture of me when I was two months old. Not sure if my father actually saw it. In return, I was told that she sent me a pretty nighty, pink in color. Other than this, my father knew nothing about me and, unfortunately, never knew me at all while growing up, what I had to endure in my life, the hardships, or most importantly, what I conquered, what I had become. I always wondered if he thought of me on those special holidays or on my birthday, acknowledging that I was one year older and another year without him in my life.

Asking mom what my father did for a living, she told me that his job was a “spotter” at the drycleaners. Not knowing what a spotter was, I asked mom what that meant. She told me that he would stand there and when he saw a piece of clothing come down the line with a stain on it, he would point and yell out, “There’s a spot… there’s a spot!”  Mom said that because of his lack of education and his mental status, this was the only position that he was capable of doing, basically, leaving me to think that my father, to a certain degree, had disability challenges in life.  I was always left with the impression that my real father was a very uneducated man, with no emotional or social skills whatsoever. This is what I was taught to believe while growing up.

As I got older though, I became more and more curious about the man who was labeled as my real father. I would probe my mother for more information about my father, asking as many questions as I possibly could. But, mom was always reserved, never opening up as much as I wanted her to, unless it was to tell me how much of an asshole he was. It was obvious that there was major animosity and the love that they once shared was no more.

I never even knew what my father looked like until I was around the age of thirteen years old. I was staying with my grandparents on the farm one summer when granny was going through a box of pictures. Slowly thumbing her way through, granny slides out a picture and hands me a black and white photograph, telling me that this was a picture of my “real” father. I felt as if I was suddenly given something that was top secret, where nobody should know what I had in my possession.  There was an euphoria rising inside of me, as if I was told the biggest secret in the world! I didn’t even know that granny had pictures of my father. Finally, I was now allowed to see the mystery man, the man that I had wondered about for so many years, the man who helped give me life.  Asking mom if I ever looked like my father, I was always told that I had his forehead, which was very high.  Little did I learn years later, that they actually meant he had a receding hairline.

Taking the picture in both hands, I bring it close to my face, where his identity would soon be revealed. Looking closer, I study the face that was set before me. It was a picture of him along with my mother sitting at a picnic table in a park. The picture saw its days of being handled many times, with corners bent and a hint of creasing. Granny told me that I could keep the picture, but don’t tell my mother that she had given it to me. Just as I suspected, it was top secret, as I was probably never meant to see it.

The first glimpse of seeing my father.

The first glimpse of seeing my father.

“A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.”

~ Diane Arbus

Years have gone by and it was now 1997. Having children of my own, the obsession of knowing about my father became stronger. In my heart, I couldn’t understand why he left my mother, left me, especially, if he knew he was going to become a father. I wanted to know his side of the story, why did he leave. At the time, I decided not to tell my mother what I was doing, that I was looking to find my father. Throughout my young years, she had never once said anything positive about the man and I didn’t want any of her negative feedback, which I know she would have contributed.  Therefore, I shared nothing with her whatsoever.

I had just entered the World Wide Web! Buying a computer for home and obtaining internet service, I was astonished by what the internet had to offer. Everything I ever wanted to know I felt could be found within the gray square box that sat upon my desk, known as the internet highway. It was at this point that I decided to do further research about my father, his existence, and where he could possibly be living. Knowing he came from Atlanta, Georgia, this is where I began my search.  I found an address online in Atlanta, showing the name Charles R. Lambert, as well as finding other pertinent information confirming that this just may be the person I’ve been looking for. I had decided to write my first letter to my father…

December 11, 1997

Mr. Charles Ray Lambert

756 Brownwood Avenue, S.E.

Atlanta, Georgia 30316

I am looking for a Charles Ray Lambert that was married to my mother, Elvera Lambert on April 9, 1960, had a daughter by the name of Jackie Rae, born on September 28, 1962 in Madison, Wisconsin…

I shared in my letter that I wasn’t suddenly looking to have a father figure in my life, just curious to learn about him. I briefly explained my upbringing and that life was very challenging. I also shared with him about my personality and what kind of person who I felt I become.  Sealing the letter in the envelope, I held onto it for several days, contemplating to mail it. One day, while at work, I was discussing my situation with a friend. It was on their advice that I made the decision to mail my letter. Taking it out of my purse, I toss it into the mail bin and off it went.  Sending that letter was all I thought about. Almost a week later, my thoughts were… “My letter should have been delivered by now. Did he read it? Is he thinking about writing back? Was he shocked to hear from me?”

Months had passed and, unfortunately, I never heard a response to my letter. Several things went through my mind… Did he receive my letter? Perhaps, I had the wrong address, but my letter was never returned to me, so someone must have received it.  If he did receive it, was he even capable of reading it himself?  Well, according to my mother, he wasn’t.

Since my first letter, over six months had passed and I still had the interest in perusing my father’s search. I wasn’t going to give up. While doing another search online, trying to find out any information about him, I found where an agency, for a fee, would do all the searching.  Being new to the internet world, I decided to let them do all the work for me.  But, I needed to have new information, something to go on, a new lead. This time, I decided to tell my mom what I was doing, hoping that she would be able to share something, anything with me that may help me with my search.

After 36 years of wondering and trying to learn more about my father, mom had sent me several forms of personal identification that she had kept all those years, unknown to me, that belonged to my father.  I couldn’t believe that she was holding such vital information. Mom sent me everything she had.  There, in my hands, I held their original certificate of marriage, which technically, was still valid. They were still legally married after all those years, as they never officially obtained a divorce from one another. Holding it in my hands, I thought it was quite ironic.  I also had his original draft card, showing that he registered for the draft on March 28, 1952.  However, the most important piece of information of all that mom sent me, was my father’s original social security card. Why she had his original social security card, I’ll never know. Leaving before I was born, he surely would have taken such an important piece of information with him. Not questioning, I felt as if it could be a huge piece of the puzzle of finally learning where he was at, where he was living, and, if possible, who he was living with, if anyone at all.

I submitted the online agency that I hired my father’s social security number, surely to make a hit with some concrete information in return.  I was filled with anticipation, waiting for a response to come knocking at my email door.  Days had passed and I finally received an email, sharing the results of their search.  Regrettably, it was not the information that I was hoping to receive. I was told that the social security number that I submitted was not a valid social security number and there was no information whatsoever in connection with this card. I was told that the social security number that I had provided appeared to either not had been issued or a SSN which had been issued to someone who has long been deceased or if the card wasn’t used in 7 – 10 years, the person could possibly be incarcerated. I was devastated. A SSN is like your own personal identity. One just can’t go out and change it or get a new one because they didn’t like the numbers that were presented on the card.  Now, I was wondering if my father could be dead or even in jail. Was he a troublemaker? Did he, too, find himself down the wrong path in life? If so, what was he in jail for? My mind was spinning, as well as questioning if I was making the right decision in trying to locate him.

Sharing this information with my mother, she reminded me that Charles always needed to have assistance, someone to help him on a daily basis, with everyday situations, as this is why he was always living with someone because he wasn’t capable of living on his own. Mom shared that he had once lived with his mother and, after she passed, he went to live with one of his sister and, as far as she knew, this is where he had lived ever since he made the decision to leave my mother.

At the time of my search, I was 36 years old and I was starting to question if my father was, indeed, dysfunctional, incapable of making decisions on his own. Was I more intellectual than my father, was he really mentally challenged? I was taught to believe that my father was all of this and more, basically worthless. If my father needed such dependency on others, then why did my mother marry him in the first place? I thought, perhaps, was my mom using him as a tool, to get out from underneath her parents’ home?  That didn’t make any sense though, as they lived with my grandparents after they were married, never to share a home of their own.

After much soul searching, I decided to continue my search on my own, researching online myself. Continuing further with my search, I learned that there was another name connected with the address that I had originally listed for my father. This name was also listed within the report that I originally obtained.  The name was Dorothy Strange. I thought, perhaps, was she a caregiver, assisting my father?  Regardless, I felt I had another opportunity at trying to reach him. This was the moment that I had decided to write my father a second letter.  This time, adding Dorothy’s name, addressing the letter directly to her, in hopes that, if received, she would be able to help share the letter with my father.  I carefully wrote my 7-page letter, along with sending a picture of myself and my two children, his grandchildren, hoping to create a spark of emotion.  Rereading my letter more than once, I made sure that I wasn’t blaming him for anything or made it sound like I was looking for something from him suddenly after all these years.  I introduced myself to him, to Dorothy, telling them briefly about my life, basically, the same letter that I had type just months before.  With a nervous hand, I placed my letter into the corner mailbox, hoping that, once again, I was doing the right thing.

July 1, 1998

 Dorothy L. Strange

Charles Ray Lambert

756 Brownwood Avenue, S.E.

Atlanta, Georgia 30316

My name is Jackie Rae. My mom’s name is Elvera Lee Lambert. I have a father named, Charles Ray Lambert. After some thorough investigation, I have a very strong belief that the Charles Ray Lambert that lives at this address could be my father. I’m hoping that you can help me. I’m writing to you today, to express my sincere and heartfelt concern and interest in knowing what type of person my father is and what he has become.  I would like to be very honest with you from the beginning and tell you that I do not want anything from you nor my father’s life, but possibly a reply. I feel as I’m getting older myself, and have a loving family of my own, my desire to know about the person that helped create me, and to know exactly who my father is, has become stronger and stronger as the years of my life pass on…

Months had passed and, as before, I never heard a response from my letter. Rather disappointed, I went on with my life, but always having the thought of my father not far behind. I accepted the outcome that, perhaps, he didn’t want anything to do with me,

It was during a conversation with mom that she shared with me that my father’s side of the family never cared for my mother.  But, she never elaborated why. Also, the Lambert side of the family did not approve of their wedding and this is why the groom’s side of the church was almost empty.  Hardly any family members on my father’s side came to rejoice in their wedding day.  It had me thinking… wondering if Dorothy or he ever received my letter.  Did she read it and throw it away?  Did she even receive it at all?

It was several years later that I found myself, once more, thinking about my father and the search for him was still very strong in my heart. I still had the passion of wanting to know more about him, to learn, that feeling had never left me.  Deciding to perform another search on my father and his family, this is when I came across an obituary that seemed related to my search. I slowly started reading the obituary and the name of the deceased was Dorothy Strange, passing away on May 3, 2003.  This appeared to be the same Dorothy that I had written my last letter to just years before.  Sitting back in my chair, I started thinking about where I had seen this name before, other than online.  Sounding familiar, I felt as if there was more of a connection with the name than I originally thought. Leaving the computer, I ran upstairs to my bedroom and pulled out my box of saved memories; a box that consisted of special birthday cards that my grandparents sent me, letters and poems my grandfather wrote, as well as items from when I was a baby. In particular, I was looking for my baby book that my mother made me when I was born, documenting all my “firsts.”  Finding it at the bottom of the box, I pull it out from underneath all the other keepsakes. As I sat there, sifting through my own baby book, with all the special moments of my first tooth, my first steps and my first birthday, with anticipation, I slowly look through the book, flipping one page at a time, wondering if my hunches were correct. As fate would have it, there in black and white and, in my mother’s own hand, was the name, Dorothy Strange. I now had my connection.  The woman that I had written to years earlier and the women in the obit was actually my aunt, my family. With this newly obtained information, I, once again, had decided to write my father a third letter. After hearing what mom had told me about my father’s side of the family not approving of their marriage, it was my impression that Dorothy actually intercepted both of my letters years earlier and never shared either one with my father.

I felt because Dorothy was no longer around to intercept any correspondence that I would write my father again and may actually have a chance of him receiving it.  I felt that this was a new opportunity to make a connection with the man that I had been trying to locate for so many years.  During further research, since my aunt’s death, I discovered that my father had moved to an assisted living apartment building in Atlanta, Georgia. This time, addressing my letter to my father, sending it to a new address that I found on the internet, I again sent a letter in hopes that my voice would not only be heard, but answered.

 

March 15, 2004

 

Mr. Charles Ray Lambert

Branan Towers

1200 Glenwood Avenue SE

Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Mr. Lambert,

I have tried several times to send this letter to you. I’m not sure if I’m reaching the correct individual or not, but I thought I’d send my letter out one last and final time, hoping to reach my real father. My name is Jackie Rae. My mother’s name is Elvera Lee Lambert. I have a father named, Charles Ray Lambert. After some thorough investigation, I have a very strong belief that the Charles Ray Lambert that lives at this address could be my father. I’m hoping that you can help me. I’m writing to you today to express my sincere and heartfelt concerns and interest in knowing what type of person my father is and what he has become. I would like to be very honest with you from the beginning and tell you that I don’t want anything from you, but possibly a response. I feel as I’m getting older myself, and have a loving family of my own, my desire to know about the person that helped create me, to know exactly who my father is, has become stronger and stronger as the years of my life pass on.

If you need to have confirmation, let me tell you something about myself. My birth name is Jackie (Jacquline) Rae. I was born on September 28, 1962 in Madison, Wisconsin. My mom’s name is Elvera Lee Lambert and her and my father, Charles Ray Lambert, was married on April 9, 1960.  My father’s birthday is January 13, 1964 and he originated in Atlanta, Georgia. My father had a sister, Dorothy Strange, whom also originated in Georgia.  I hope this is enough information to suffice and confirm to you that I am the person who I say I am.  

I’m hoping that you don’t disregard my letter. I hope you will take my request into consideration. I’ve been told some information that is very sensitive and I’d like to share it with you. I was told that my father wanted to go back to live in George after my parents were married, but my mom did not want to go.  Therefore, my father and mother parted and left the life they had with one another, with my father going back home to George and my mom stayed in Wisconsin. My mom was approximately six months pregnant with me at the time my mother and father decided to go their separate ways. I’ve never met my father, never knew who he was, or what type of person or man he has become or what he has done with his life. I think I was bound to write this letter sometime in my life. Again, I want you to know that there isn’t anything materialistic that I want nor need from you, but maybe to receive words of solace. I just feel that at this point and time in my life, I’m being curious and just have the need to know. I’ve always had this interest to know about my father. I wish I had answers as to why that after all these years, I’m deciding to write now. But, maybe it’s just normal for a person to want and to know who and where they came from. I always wondered throughout my life how my life would have been different “if” my real father was a part of my life.

If I may share with you… I didn’t have it so easy growing up. If I had the chance, I would have changed a few things that happened to me in my life. I wouldn’t wish what happened to me as I was growing up to any child, but still they did. However, in some strange way of believing, I feel my childhood molded me into the person that I am today, strong-willed, appreciative, caring and, for this, I’m thankful.

I feel that one of the reasons why I’m writing today is because I have two beautiful and loving children of my own, a boy and a girl and, I know the special and individual bond that I have with them both. My children don’t and never did have a grandfather and it tears my heart apart knowing that they will never have the experience of a single grandpa to have hold them, hug them or whisper sweet, “I love you’s “ in their ears. I was honored and privileges to know the most precious, gracious and loving grandfather that anyone could ever have in their life and, unfortunately, he had passed away long before he ever got to know my children, his great-grandchildren. It hurts me to know that my children will never experience the love of a grandfather.  I just realizing all of this has me thinking that I have a father out in the world somewhere, and I always wondered what you were like… what you were thinking about on special days, such as my birthday or on Father’s day.

Please don’t think that I want an instant “father figure” in my life. The person who tried to fill this position when I was growing up wasn’t exactly very good at this job. Actually, he was lousy and, as a matter of fact, he ruined my perception of what a father should be like. When I was younger, I would have the desire to look my father up, especially at the hard times in my life. I always wondered if you were interested in finding me.   I guess it would have been a nice childhood fantasy to know that the long lost father was trying to find his long lost daughter, too, especially when the daughter was going through an unhappy childhood.  I would dream about being rescued by you from the pain and abuse. However, as I said, I am who I am today because of what I had to go through in my life while growing up.  It made me a very positive, determined person who is enthusiastic and full of life. I know that I am a good person and feel that I can accomplish anything I set my heart and mind to. Growing up the way I did, I believe that I had been prepared to handle anything in my life, any difficulties that came my way and I don’t feel there’s anything I can’t accomplish or handle.

I don’t mind if my father remarried or not, nor do I mind if he has any other children in his life.  I’m interested in what my father has become, who is he is, and what he’s done with his life. I always wondered what I would have been like to have a “normal” life, a life without the abuse, a home, a father who loved me in a normal way. Besides, who is to say that if my father was around in my life that things would have been considered normal or different?  Nobody can say that for sure. However, as optimistic as I am, I feel if my life was different for me for a reason.  I would not have met my husband or have the two most precious children in my life. Therefore, I thank God for the gift of my family and the love that we share between one another. My children and my husband are all worth what I had to endure in order to have them in my life, as well as the sequence my life had to take in order for them to be with me today.  I don’t know what your feelings are on all of this is. I hope that this is not too much of a surprise for you. Again, I can’t stress enough that I just want to get to know my father and, possibly, maybe receive an answer back from him.  It would be nice to hear a response and I truly hope that you consider answering me back.  I don’t mean to interrupt the life you have now or with whom you might have it with. I’m sorry if I upset anyone in anyway. This is not my intention. I’m just being honest. I hope everyone can be very understanding and can eventually understand my interest and concerns. 

I have pictures of my father and from what I can tell; I have his eyes, big and round. My eyes are blue. My mother told me that my father’s eyes are brown. I always receive compliments on my eyes. I like to think that I have a good sense of humor. I feel I’m a very sensitive person and understanding when it comes to a person’s needs. I believe that good ultimately prevails over evil and I consider myself very optimistic, “where there’s a will there’s a way” type of person. I like to see and hear both sides of a situation before I judge someone and I consider myself a good listener. I feel all individuals are created equal, regardless of their ace, religion or education. I’ve come to the conclusion that life is too short and love is love, no matter what or who it comes from. I’ve seen too much hatred and unpleasant things in my life to pass judgment. It doesn’t bother me if someone is dating outside their own relation or race or even if someone is having relations with the same sex. I’ve learned to accept people for who and what they are and this is my believe. There is too much animosity in this world to not accept people and love them for themselves. Simply, love is love regardless of what fashion it comes in. If there were more love in this world between people, it would probably be a better place to live.

In case you may be interested, my mother is okay. I think health wise, she could be doing a little bit better. She lives by herself. I believe because of my life a s a child and young adult, being this way it was, my mom and I didn’t  and still don’t to this day, have a close “mother and daughter “ relationship, not like a mother and daughter should be. That’s why when I had my daughter, I swore that our relationship would be different, better, that there would be closeness, sharing, confiding, being friends. Both my children are extremely sacred to me. 

I know there are times in a person’s life when one needs to make certain decisions, which they feel are the right decisions for them at that time. I don’t know the whole story of why you and my mother  went their separate ways, but I have learned that there are always two sides to every story. As my life gets older, I come to understand that life’s too short to be trivial because, before you know it, time is creeping up on you and it’s soon over with, making everything too late.

This is the point behind my letter. I hope you understand as to why I’m writing to you. I welcome your thoughts and I really  hope to hear from you.  Thank you for listening to my feelings and concerns. I appreciate it.

Fondly,

Jackie Lambert.

One side of me was hoping to hear from Charles, the other side was scared, anxious, knowing that I may be opening up something that I might be regretting but I knew in my heart that it was a chance I had to take.  Otherwise, I will live regretting for the rest of my life that I never followed through. I rather have taken a chance than always wonder “what if?”

“Do not plant your dreams in the field of indecision, where nothing ever grows but the weeds of “what ifs.” ~ Dodinsky

Sadly, weeks, months and even years had passed, never hearing a response from my father nor was my letter ever returned. I had assumed that he received his own mail in this assisted living home, with nobody intercepting it, perhaps, like his sister may have done years before. I did have his phone number and I could have easily called him. However, the reserved side of me just couldn’t do it. I didn’t have the courage and it was the fear of the unknown or possibly even instant rejection, an immediate hang up if he knew who I was, that deterred me. My thoughts were that, perhaps, if I wrote to him, a letter that he would have a chance to review over and over, at his own discretion, at his own measure.  It would give him a chance to ponder his thoughts. I was in such fear that I would be disrupting his life or that I’d offend him if trying to reach him directly.  I didn’t want my directness to be an immediate response for rejection.  To be completely honest, I was scared as shit!  Therefore, the approach that I felt most comfortable with is that I’d rather sit back, take the extended steps around a situation and wait for a response.  Perhaps, it prolonged the fact that things may not turn out as positive as I’d hoped or, even worse, the fear of another unanswered letter.

After not hearing from him after my third attempt, I had decided to put away all my research information that I have collected throughout the years, filing it away, telling myself that it just wasn’t meant to be. I felt my journey had finally come to an end.

Over the years, I had managed to collect a few more photographs of my mother and father. Some of them from their wedding day and others from what seemed to be personal moments that were captured on film. These photographs show a man and women who were once deeply in love. They show their passion toward one another, their playfulness, even though others were watching, photographing, documenting. Having these photographs was the closest I’d ever come to being with my father. Perhaps, these picture were meant for me to view one day, to show me that in spite of everything that has happened since my father left us that, I too, was created expressing the same love and passion.

Stealing a Kiss!

Stealing a Kiss!

006

Success!

009

Spoonin!

“Photography is the art of frozen time… the ability to store emotion and feelings within a frame.” ~ Meshack Otieno

With the loss of my grandmother, I found myself longing for some sort of family bond and connection of my own. Granny was my last and only parent figure that I had left in my life and now she was gone, too. I lost my grandfather, my mother and now my grandmother.  I had no immediate family members to connect with. My brother, Jeff, was out of my life after my mother’s passing. My brother, Steve, was out of my life, too, as it seemed hard for him to keep the communication and relationship between us going. I always felt that I reminded him too much of our past, therefore, just making it easier to forget.  I was starting to feel alone in my life and, with granny’s passing, it made my feelings all that much more validated.

Even though I wasn’t actively perusing my father’s search, I would on occasion, over the years, do an internet search on my father, hoping to find something new, but the same old typical search results would pop up… his name, address, phone, etc.  I don’t know what I was always hoping to find by doing these searches, viewing multiple pages of notes, performing search after search, always coming up with the same outcome, which was nothing… Wait, yes, I do.  I was hoping to find right there in front of me, within one of the search results listed, was a comment, a blog intended only for me, a message from my father himself that he was looking for me, and has been searching for me for so many years and that he wanted to connect with me.  This was always my hope. I would fantasize how I would make that initial contact, what would I say, how it would be meeting my father for the first time, but it was never meant to be.

One day while at work, I sat back in my chair, ready to do another internet search. Typing inside the search box the name Charles Ray Lambert, Atlanta, George, I hit the Google search button waiting for the usual results to appear on my screen. It was always the same info that came up, time after time… until this time.

As I began to read the first hit from my search, I literally gasped aloud, where even my co-workers had asked if I was okay.  In the end, this search would be my very last and final search for my father’s name…

 

Surviving… It Made Me Stronger

Jack Growing Up Circa 1972

Jack Growing Up
Circa 1972

Not only was I being sexually abused by Melvin, but both my mother and Melvin had decided to place me in the hands of another child molester.  Whether they knew that at the time, I couldn’t say.  It’s my hope that they didn’t. His name was Leroy and that’s all I knew about him.   He was somewhat tall, his hair was buzzed short, and he had a drifting eye. Thinking about it now, he looked like the lead singer from the band, Men at Work, Colin Hay.  I had never seen this man at our home before. The day that I was sent to Leroy’s apartment was the first time that I had seen or even met the man.

We lived in an apartment building on Sheridan Avenue, just off Irving Park Road in the early 1970’s, where I was around the age of 10 years old. I remember it being a warm summer afternoon and me, along with Steve, who was around 9 at the time, were outside behind our apartment building, playing.  We were suddenly called into the house to get ready, as it was decided that my brother, Steve, and I would spend the night at Leroy’s home, a strange man’s home that we had never seen before.  Steve and I were told that his wife would love to have two young children in the house for the weekend to help her cook and spend time with. I never understood why we were going over to this strange man’s apartment. Why was my mother sending us there? Not questioning my mother, we threw some clothes into a suitcase and off we went to Leroy’s apartment.

Leroy lived in a corner apartment building that was located in Uptown, an area that one day would be very familiar to my brother and me.  The same corner that Steve and I would, years later, drag two shopping carts of dirty clothes to, which was by the laundry mat that was located directly on the corner of Leland and Racine. However, it was also the same neighborhood where Leroy lived, the stranger, the man who would eventually try to rape me.

Leland & RacineChicago

Leland & Racine
Chicago

Arriving at Leroy’s apartment, which was located on the second floor, Steve and I hauled our suitcase that we were sharing up the back porch stairs and into his apartment. I immediately realized upon entering the kitchen that the apartment was not only small, but quite, empty.  Immediately, I questioned Leroy, asking where his wife was, as I didn’t see her in the apartment once we arrived.  He had told Steve and me that she was still at work and that she would be home very soon.  Feeling somewhat at ease by his words, I continued walking through the kitchen and into the living room, where Steve placed our suitcase.

Making small talk and getting us to settle in, it wasn’t long after we arrived at Leroy’s apartment that Leroy asked Steve to go to the store to get some ice cream, for later that evening, he said, for after dinner.  I knew then that I didn’t want Steve to leave the apartment.  I didn’t want to be left alone with a man that I didn’t know. I even said that I would go with Steve, but Leroy was reassuring that he would be right back. It was then that I tried another approach, saying that we didn’t need to have dessert; that it was okay, that Steve didn’t need to go to the store. However, Leroy was being adamant about Steve leaving to go and get ice cream, convincing me that the store was down the block and that Steve would be right back.  All I thought was… I lost; I had no more excuses to give Leroy. Handing Steve some money for the ice cream, Steve walked out the back door, heading to the store. As Steve leaves the apartment, Leroy immediately locked the door behind him and, with a twist of his hand, bolted the lock shut on the door.   Feeling uneasy, I made a comment that there was no reason to lock the door, as Steve would be right back, but Leroy said that he would unlock the door once Steve’s back from the store, letting him in. Instinctively, it was then that I started to feel uncomfortable, as I started to feel that something bad was going to happen. I still didn’t understand why we were there, with Leroy.

“Intuition is a spiritual faculty and does not explain, but simply points the way.” ~Florence Scovel Shinn

Making my way back to the living room, I pulled out paper and pencil from the suitcase we brought and sat in the armchair and started to draw. Anxiously, I sat there listening for Steve to knock on the back door, waiting for him to come back from the store.  Leroy was now sitting on the couch across from me. Scribbling on my paper, Leroy asked if he could see what I was drawing. Holding up my pad of paper to show him, he wasn’t satisfied, and asked me to come to him so he could see it closer. Now standing before him, I showed him once again what I was drawing. Looking at it, he tells me that he would show me how to draw better.  Picking me up, he places me on his lap. I knew I didn’t like what he was having me do. It reminded me of Melvin. But, I was taught not to question adults, so I kept myself quiet. Taking the pencil from my hand, he begins to draw on my paper, creating little hearts.  Leroy settled me more into a cradle position across his legs and, it wasn’t long after that, that he placed his lips on mine, kissing me. I told him that I didn’t like that and asked him to stop and said that I wanted to go sit back in the chair. I didn’t want to be there! C’mon Steve, where are you?  I immediately left his lap and walked back over to the chair where I was previously sitting.  I felt safer there, as the arms of the chair protected me. I sat there with my legs crossed, tightly closed, a position that I knew all too well.  I continued sitting, waiting for Steve to come home from the store, wondering why it was taking him so long. I sat there, quiet and continued to draw. Something inside me told me that Leroy had other intensions. I was scared. Once more, I asked when his wife was coming home, knowing I would feel much better, safer if a woman was in the apartment with us, with me.  Leroy kept telling me, soon… soon.

Leroy noticed that the suitcase we brought was lying on the living room floor, just outside the bedroom door.  He asked me to pick it up and take it inside the bedroom so that it was out of the way.  Knowing that I didn’t want to step foot into that bedroom, let alone get out of my safety chair, I gave him an excuse. “Oh, Steve will probably want to get something out of it once he gets back from the store. I’ll move it to the bedroom then.”  Leroy was pressing though, as he kept insisting that I take the suitcase and place it inside the bedroom. Again, I was taught to listen to adults, so my mind started thinking fast. Something inside me told me that I should NOT go into that bedroom. Again, this time more demanding, Leroy tells me to move the suitcase.  I told myself that if I quickly pick up the suitcase, I can toss it inside the bedroom and I will be out of there in no time.  Hesitant, I said, “Okay.” Tucking my paper and pencil within the folds of the chair, I got up from the chair and walked directly to the suitcase.  Picking it up, I walked as swiftly as I could, taking the suitcase directly toward the bedroom, which was only a few feet from my chair.  Standing in the doorway of the bedroom, lights were off, it was dark, but I was able to see enough to know where I could place the suitcase.   I stepped a few feet inside and literally tossed the suitcase onto the floor. I was trying to make it a quick trip, within seconds, to put the suitcase down and get out, unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough because as I was about to turn around, Leroy had his right hand over my mouth, making sure that I couldn’t scream, along with his left hand around my waist.

“Trust instinct to the end, even though you can give no reason.”  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Leroy pushed me further into his bedroom. My hands are now trying to pry his away from my face, my mouth. I definitely knew what his intentions were now and that was to rape me. I was struggling with him, as he tried to gain control of my body.  I stood at the foot of his bed, which had a vintage rod iron footboard, the kind that if you hit your head would surely leave a lasting impression.  Leroy managed to grab me tighter around the waist, lifting me, he throws me onto the bed, where I bounced a couple times, landing on my back.  The back of my calves hit hard against the iron frame, stinging with pain.  I use the same iron footboard to slide myself away from Leroy but, within seconds, he was making his way on top of me.  I felt like I was in a one of those dreams where you try to scream, but nothing comes out of your mouth, no noise whatsoever, just silence. I tried to catch my breath, so that I could let out a scream, a cry for help.  With my legs above me, I started kicking Leroy as hard as I could in his chest.  I wore shoes that looked like Oxfords, where the heal was thick; something that looked like a nun would wear. I kept kicking him to keep him off me.  It was at that moment that I felt something warm, something wet.  I had lost control of my bladder. I urinated all over myself, as well as his bed.  I was crying hysterically, screaming very loudly, still kicking his chest, fighting for my life.  In my mind, it appeared as if everything was happening in slow motion, but knew it was all taking place within seconds.  As I continued to scream at him, yelling, “No! Leave me alone!” it was at this point that I heard Steve at the backdoor, knocking, banging on the kitchen door to be let in.

Steve had heard my screams all the way from the bedroom.  He was home from the grocery store.  As Steve banging harder on the backdoor, the glass in the door was rattling, making his pounding sound louder.  Leroy stopped what he was doing to listen to the banging at the back door.  With one last kick into the chest, he rolled off me. I scooted as fast as I could to the end of the bed, where I made my way over the hard iron footboard, the same footboard where just moments before I was being flung onto the bed to be raped.   I made my way to the kitchen, running to the back door, trying to get the door open.  Crying hysterically, I can see Steve through the door window, holding a container of ice cream, watching me.  Steve’s frantically turning the doorknob, screaming back at me to unlock the door, to let him, but I wasn’t able to unlock the door. I see Steve’s eyes drifting away from mine, only to stare at what’s above me, behind me, which was Leroy.  He was now standing behind me. I take a step back and through numerous tears and sobs, I scream at him, demanding him to unlock the door.  Thinking back, this is why Leroy locked the door behind Steve as he left to go buy ice cream.  He wanted to make sure that Steve was locked out, incapable of entering the apartment while he raped me.  Leroy had it all planned.

“As we grew up, my brothers acted like they didn’t care,
but I always knew they looked out for me and were there!” ~Catherine Pulsifer

 Steve, who is still on the other side of the door looking in, is now as hysterical as I am. I scream again at Leroy to open the door.  Reaching past me, Leroy makes a few turns of the deadbolt, unlocking the door.  Steve taking only a few steps into the kitchen and asked me what had happened. As Leroy stood before us, I shared through my sobs that Leroy was trying to have sex with me in the bedroom and that he wouldn’t let me go.  All of a sudden, Leroy asked me what was the matter with me and why was I screaming like I was.  I told him that he knew what was going on and why I was screaming, reminding him that he had asked me to put the suitcase into the bedroom and, when I did, he was behind me, placing his hands over my mouth so that I couldn’t scream for help. As if protecting himself, Leroy commented that he was in the bedroom because he wanted to grab the radio from the shelf.  I asked him, “Why did you put your hands over my mouth then?” He said, “so that you wouldn’t scream.”  At this point, Steve instructed me to head toward the door so we can leave the apartment, so that we can find our way home.  As I was walking to the kitchen door to leave, the radio that Leroy was claiming to grab off the shelf in his bedroom was actually sitting underneath a utility shelf in the kitchen the whole time.  It never was in the bedroom.  Leroy lied.  His intention was to try to get me into the bedroom and he succeeded.  Steve and I left our suitcase behind and we literally ran all the way home from Leland and Racine all the way to Sheridan, where we lived. We rushed home, running for blocks as fast as we could.  My clothes were soaked from urine, from when I got so scared and peed all over myself.  I was hoping that nobody noticed the stain on the back of my dress.

Finally making it back to our building, we run up the front steps. As my mom stood in the doorway to our apartment, she was surprised to see us. I felt such a relief to see her, I now felt safe. Although, upon seeing mom standing there, I started to cry uncontrollably, where she couldn’t understand a word I was trying to say. It was one of those deep cries where you had trouble controlling your breath, as your lungs try to suck in as much air as possible between every frantic sob you let escape.  I tried to get closer to my mother, where I was hoping she would take me into her arms to console me, to make me feel safe, to reassure me that all will be well. However, instead, she got very angry with me, shaking me and then slapping me across my face, hard, where I felt the sting against my wet tears that rolled down my face.  It was then that I was commanded to be silent. Perhaps, the slap was mom’s way of getting me under control.  It worked. I stood there before her feeling as if I was the one who had done something wrong. Mom asked me why I was home and not with Leroy and his wife.  I told her the whole story, where Leroy’s wife was never there and that he tried to have sex with me in the bedroom.  Steve shared his side of the story, too, where Leroy made him go to the store to buy ice cream, leaving me alone with Leroy. Now standing inside my own living room, I explained everything in detail to now both mom and Melvin. I was still half hoping that mom was going to scoop me up into her arms, to embrace me, telling me that everything would be all right, but mom being herself, she never did. I was instructed to go wash up and change my clothes.

The next morning, I was told by Melvin that we were taking a ride, heading back over to Leroy’s apartment, where he could confront him about what had happened, as well as to pick up the suitcase that Steve and I had left behind. I told mom that I didn’t want to go back there, that I was afraid and to please don’t make me go.  I didn’t want to see the man again, face-to-face, who tried so hard to rape me. I asked, “Why do I have to go back there?”  Mom simply said, “Because Melvin said so.” What about what she thought? Did she not have any protective instincts for her children? Did Melvin want to prove my word over Leroy’s?

Driving back over to Leroy’s apartment, I felt myself getting nervous sitting in the backseat of Melvin’s car, as the images of just the day before were forcefully being replayed in my head.

As Melvin knocked on the kitchen door, we stood there waiting for Leroy to answer the door.  Peeking through the window, Leroy sees Melvin standing there, only to realize that I was falling directly behind. Leroy let us both in, where we walked into the living room. It was here that Melvin asked Leroy what had happened just the day before. Leroy tried to tell Melvin that when I went to put the suitcase in the bedroom I got scared when I realized that Leroy was standing behind me, therefore, he put his hands over my mouth so that I wouldn’t scream. Melvin turned to me, asking me if that’s what had happened, as if to suggest that I could be lying. I said no! I told Melvin that Leroy made me put the suitcase in the bedroom and when I did, he was behind me, covering up my mouth and then throwing me onto the bed. He said that he was looking for a radio, which I pointed out, that was actually in the kitchen, sitting underneath a cart. If the radio was in the kitchen, then why was he looking for it in the bedroom?  Melvin confronted Leroy and asked what he was trying to do with “his daughter,” which left me somewhat confused. It was as if Melvin was protecting me, like an animal guarding their young.  However, why was Melvin getting so angry and interrogating a man for almost raping me when he was doing the same thing himself, molesting a young and innocent child?  Perhaps, Melvin thought that someone was going to steal his prey away.  I felt as if Melvin was scolding Leroy more than threatening him. Needless to say, conversation was short, no yelling, no fist throwing, no authorities being called, no police to file a report, absolutely nothing was done to protect me, the victim. Sadly, they let another child abuser escape, only leaving him to hurt and abuse others. We walked out the door never to see Leroy again. We went back home and, as history always repeated itself in the Lambert-Acker home, not another word was ever said about this unpleasant experience.

I never did find out what my mother’s intentions were by having my brother and I stay overnight at Leroy’s apartment, placing us both in the hands of a complete stranger.

It was later that I found out that Leroy’s wife had left him. There were never any expectations of a wife coming home that night after work, while Steve and I were to stay over that fateful night.  My thoughts stem back to what could have happened if we stayed the whole night… what I know would have happened. Instinctively, I knew enough to fight off my attacker. I didn’t want this man to hurt me, rape me. But, why couldn’t I fight off my primary attacker, share with my mother that Melvin was doing the same? What Leroy aimed to do, Melvin was already doing. Was it different; was it the same? Was I afraid of losing the only home life I knew, afraid of being taken away from my mother, my grandparents, never to see any of them again? Is this why authorities were never called so that our own dirty family secrets wouldn’t come seeping out of the cracks, out of me, if I was talked to enough? Perhaps, my mother was just as fearful as I was, of something like this happening, therefore, both of us keeping our mouths shut.

I have learned from my horrible past. I have become stronger through my weaknesses.

I have learned to speak up when something isn’t right. I have learned to voice my issues and concerns. I have learned that I will never allow anyone else to physically or mentally hurt me again. I have instilled this same belief in my children.

“If you always watch the demons behind you, then you will never see the angels ahead.” ~ Author Unknown

Being a parent today, it’s my own responsibility, my deepest inner instinct to protect the ones that I love, my family, especially the lives of my innocent children. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to protect my children from the hands of another person or a complete stranger. We instill in our children that nobody, under any circumstances should ever touch them and if so, to tell, to divulge, to share with us that that they are being violated. Teach them how to protect themselves. We are their teachers and if we don’t teach by example, then how can we expect our children to carry on the tradition of being strong, courageous and open individuals? We need to educate our children that it’s okay to speak up, to question, to scream. It’s more important for our children to question an adult and to tell someone than to have our children end up being another victim on a crime list, another statistic.

Was this potential rape to be one of my “learning lessons” in life? Was it meant for me to experience in order to learn to become stronger, to fight, to protect what was mine, what I loved and cherished close to my heart so that I could be the best person, the best parent there is?  Did I suffer so that I was taught to pay attention to my intuitiveness, to believe in my inner instincts when they speak to me?  Yes, I do believe so. I believe this experience taught me all the latter and then some. I am proud to say that I broke the mold. I broke the mold of sexual abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse. I broke the mold that was shaping me as I grew up in the unhealthy environment that I lived.

For those individuals who have also encountered such a tragic experience, the same as I, I’m sorry that you had to endure such violence, to go through such suffering.  My heart feels your pain.  But, please, know that it wasn’t at the fault of yourself, but from the fault of your attacker. We are never to blame ourselves for something that another was responsible for creating. We did not ask for it. As it can be devastating to our inner self, there must be something within you, me, all of us to learn to rise above, to conquer, to be stronger than our attacker. We must choose to be a survivor, to continue to exist in life and never succumb to defeat. Otherwise, our attackers, our abusers, are the ones that claim defeat and we can never allow that to happen, never giving them the satisfaction.  We must prove that we are capable of moving on, that we are stronger, that we are, indeed, survivors.  Because it’s up to us to teach and to share with others that they, too, will make it, that they, too, will get through it all, that they can and will survive, just as we have.

“Though I can’t change what happened, I can choose how to react. And I don’t want to spend the rest of my life being bitter and locked up.” ~Tori Amos

Bubby… Our Life, Our World

Bub·by: (n) \’bə-bē\  בובי  Yiddish – is a German-based Jewish dialect.  Bubby is an endearing Yiddish term for grandmother. A sweet name for the one you love, the one you adore, your Bubster, your Bubinator… your Boo! Hair worn short … Continue reading