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

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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

The Phone Call

The month of May finally arrived and I was enjoying a beautiful warm late afternoon sitting outside. I decided to sit on the bench that overlooked my main yard and between two flower gardens, taking advantage of the remainder of the day’s sun that was soon to set. I always enjoyed sitting there, listening to the bees that travel from one side of me to the other, flying in front of my face, buzzing as they hit every flower in their path and, without doubt, working on a pollen high. Sometimes, people would ask me how I could sit there in the direct path of the bees’ flight pattern and not be nervous about the bees stinging me. My motto is…If they mind their own business and don’t bother me, then I’ll do the same and won’t bother them.  Now, I wish I had the same fearlessness when it came to butterflies. As I know butterflies are beautiful and graceful, they make me go running every single time they come near me. I feel with bees, I know where they are heading. If it’s not a straight shot, directly aimed at my forehead, then I know they will be landing on a flower close by.  However, as for butterflies, they are so sporadic, twisting, flying around as if they have been on a three-day drunk after attending a lollapalooza concert. They try to fly to the left and then to the right, as if trying to find their way back into the bar.   They are very indecisive.  I know it sounds like an oddity, something that represents change, transitioning from one point in your life to another, something anew, but I can’t help being completely petrified of butterflies.

 “Change always comes bearing gifts.”  ~Price Pritchett

Sitting there with my eyes closed, listening to the bees in flight, I felt the sun’s heat on my face and it felt so wonderful. I was enjoying having the warm weather back.  I started to think about the letter that I wrote Trenna just a week before. Deep inside, I was wondering, hoping that she would contact me.  My eyes concentrated on the sun behind my eyes, as I sat there starting to relax the day away.  I suddenly had a premonition that the phone would ring while I was sitting outside.  Then, one of the kids would excitedly yell from the window that someone left a message and her name was Trenna. I no sooner let this thought escape my mind when the phone rang. I could hear it from outside, as the windows were open, but I wasn’t able to make out who was calling. Moments later, Frank came to the window to let me know that someone by the name of Trenna called, leaving me a message on voicemail. I couldn’t believe it! Wow! I sat there wondering how did I know that?  I went into the house to listen to her message. It was so exciting to hear her voice! Frank kept saying, “Oh my God, she called… she called! Jack, she called you!” Frank was excited, too. I couldn’t get over how quickly she replied to my letter. I thought I wouldn’t hear from her for months, if not at all.

Trenna introduced herself, letting me know that she received my letter. I noticed that she had a southern accent and the demeanor in her voice that was calm and soothing. Trenna said that she would be more than happy to speak to me about my father, answering any questions that I may have, as well as offering me her phone number. It was the nicest most sincere message that anyone could ever leave for someone who they didn’t know, almost as if she was calling me just to see how my day was.

I couldn’t believe that I was so close to actually speaking with someone who knew my father, possibly to give me some answers. It was unbelievable!

After a quick glass(s) of wine to steady my nerves, I called Trenna, but was only able to leave a message, hopefully, in the same pleasant tone as she had left for me.  Monday evening rolled around and the phone rang. Frank sees on caller I.D. that it was Trenna Robinson. Frank answered, introducing himself, chatting with her first.  Frank has a way with people. He can talk with anyone, at anytime, anywhere, about anything. I’ve seen Frank walk up to complete strangers in a grocery store, spark up a conversation and 15 minutes later, they were talking as if they had been friends for life.

I wait my turn to speak with Trenna with extreme anticipation.  I have my paper with the questions I wanted to ask. I finally hear Frank’s conversation winding down. It was my turn! I finally get on the phone with Trenna and it felt as if we had known each other for years.  She was so easy to speak with. The first 10 minutes of our conversation was talking about tacos and how we each liked to serve them, surely breaking the ice. She was so cute with her Southern accent and she immediately made me feel comfortable. After some small talk, we each shared what we knew about my father.

I shared with Trenna how I learned of my father’s death. I told her that I never knew or met him before and that he had left my mother moving back home to Georgia before I was born. I also told her that I grew up thinking that my father was mentally challenged and not being able to take care of himself, always leading me to believe that he needed assistance from others in life. I was told that he was a loser and no good. These were the ideas that were drummed into my head as far back as I could remember.

I can tell that Trenna was shocked by my words because the description that I shared did not portray the man that she had known for many years. Trenna couldn’t believe that was my interpretation of the man who was known as my real father. Trenna told me that Charles was a man of few words, very quiet and reserved. He was kind-hearted and didn’t have a mean bone in his body.  He was down to earth and just truly a wonderful person.  Hearing Trenna’s words left me in my own daze of amazement, as these weren’t the words I was use to hearing all my life.  Nor did I think these were the words that I was going to hear from Trenna. I actually thought that I was going to be told that she didn’t really know him and that she couldn’t offer me any information whatsoever.  However, on the contrary, I was pleasantly surprised when Trenna described Charles with such respect and admiration that my heart was aching with happiness.  The way she portrayed him filled me with such contentment that I started to shed several silent tears, wiping them away as I continued listening to her kind words.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I learned that my father was in a relationship with Trenna’s Aunt Bea. This is how Trenna knew my father.  Aunt Bea had lived in the same assisted living apartment building that my father did, where they both met, becoming quite close. They were each other’s personal companions for many years, loving each other very deeply and were sweethearts to the end. Sadly, Aunt Bea had passed away on October 5, 2006, (ironically on my grandfather’s birthday), leaving my father with a broken heart. Trenna said ever since her aunt had passed, my father simply existed.  He wasn’t the same person he was when he was with his love and his heart was simply broken in two. He lost his one and only true sweetheart. They loved each other very deeply Trenna said.  I can sense the love and compassion that my father had for Aunt Bea just by the way Trenna was expressing herself.

“God is closest to those with broken hearts.”  ~Jewish Saying

My Father, Charles, with his love, Aunt Bea.

My Father, Charles, with his love, Aunt Bea.

Not only was my father a man of the heart, but he was also a man of God. I was told that he was a devoted Christian man, spiritual, attending church and was always reading his bible.

With every word that Trenna spoke, I felt my heart open up with acceptance more and more. I was so pleased to hear what she was telling me about him. I tried taking as many notes as I could without sounding like a news reporter.

I asked if he worked. He worked and retired from National Engine and Tire Company.  He also worked for a bread company in Atlanta years earlier. Without sounding offensive, I asked Trenna if he needed much assistance in life.  I always used the words “mentally challenged,” as this is what my immediate family basically told me he was.  But, I didn’t want to say these words to Trenna in fear of insulting her.  So, I just asked her if he needed any assistance.  This is when she said to me… “Do you mean if he was mentally challenged?”  I said, “Well, yes, because this is the interpretation that my family always gave me.”  I could tell that she was rather taken back by my question and then proceeded to tell me ABSOLUTELY NOT!  She went onto say that she can’t believe that anybody would say something like that about him. I told her that I was very happy to hear that he had lived a productive life.

Trenna went on to tell me that my father really loved the Lord, so much in fact that he was the Deacon at his church where he attended, the Woodland Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. I just couldn’t believe that the man my mother portrayed, a man she claimed as basic stupidity, was a Deacon, a person who is ranking just underneath a Catholic priest or pastor. My father became a Deacon the same month and year that I became a Catholic, being baptized and confirmed, which was in February 2000. It was apparent that my heart was overwhelmed, as this is the true man who he was, the true man who he had become, the man that I absolutely missed out on having in my life.

Deacon Charles R. Lambert

Deacon Charles R. Lambert

I then asked if he had any hobbies or if he was artistic at all. I was curious to know if this is where, perhaps, I got my artistic talent. But, she said he just really loved reading his bible. This was his hobby; reading about our Lord.

When my father realized that his own health was deteriorating, he asked Trenna if she would be kind enough to handle all the funeral arrangements for when he passed.  She kindly accepted his request and this is how she became the “friend” on his death certificate. Trenna told me that she knew my father for about fifteen years before he passed, elaborating to me on how much of a kind and nice man he actually was and that she was very happy to have known him.

Not knowing how or if my letter made an impact, I asked Trenna if my letter came as a surprise to her. Her response was, “OH YES!”  Because she never knew anything about this part of my father’s life, nor did he share it. However, she told me that she was so excited to receive my letter that, in fact, she immediately called the old Pastor of the church and shared my letter with him.  His name is Pastor Larry Camp. Trenna and I shared what we did for a living and I told her that I worked for a neurosurgical group and she told me that she was also in the medical field and worked in a lab. I found it very ironic that the name of her employer was “Tanner” Medical Center in Covington, Georgia! Talk about a coincidence, as my son’s name is Tanner. I noticed that we had a lot of similarities while talking that were almost uncanny, almost as if they were all meant to be. Trenna told me that there are many reasons why life is the way it is and why we are expected to do certain things at certain times and that everything is for a reason in life.  I told her that I couldn’t have agreed with her more.

Asking Trenna if she had any pictures of my father, she said she had one that was taken with her Aunt Bea. She was going to, and did, send them to me. She described him as short and having the biggest brown eyes. I must have really touched her heart, because she then went onto tell me that she wishes she had something of my father’s that she could give me, which I thought was so touching.  But, I said that talking with her and listening to what type of man he turned out to be was gift enough. I shared a few experiences with Trenna about my life, letting her know that I wasn’t brought up with any religion in my life whatsoever, but decided that in the year 2000 that I wanted to be baptized, confirmed, to have God in my life.  I think this pleased her to know that I went through this; something I have in common with my father.  She told me that he did leave his beneficiary to a blood niece, but she couldn’t remember her name.  Trenna had buried him in his brown suit and silver wristwatch. Trenna gave me the hours that she worked and told me that I could call her any time if I have any questions whatsoever.  We really made a wonderful connection. It was almost as if we were meant to speak with one another.

After ending my conversation with Trenna, it was then that I felt as if my heart and soul had been cleansed. The emptiness that I had inside had escaped, it has moved on, leaving me to see my father in a whole new light.  Although my father may no longer be walking upon this earth, I knew he left a lasting impression on those whom he had a connection with and, although I never met the man, I felt as if I had known him all my life.

“Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”  ~Garth Brooks

It was soon that I received an envelope in the mail from Trenna. I remember I was at work when it came. My family couldn’t wait for me to come home so it could be opened. It was almost as if it was Christmas morning and I was about to unwrap the gift that I was wishing for the most.  As I slid the contents out of the envelope, there in front of me was an 8×10 picture of my father with his love, Aunt Bea, staring at each other with smiles on their faces as if they just shared something amusing between themselves. I immediately noticed that I had his nose and his smile. Trenna also sent me a couple smaller pictures of him when he was older. But, it was the bigger picture that I liked the most and I immediately fell in love with it. A good friend shared that he looked like the actor, Robert Duvall. I could surely see the resemblance. I also received his Mass card and announcement from his funeral, which I have proudly displayed with my other family members. I received a copy of his death certificate and his last social security check, which was never cashed. Accompanying all these treasured items was a beautiful card from Trenna, expressing how much her Aunt Bea loved Charles so very much and that he loved her, too, enjoying one another’s company, and attending every church function together.  Trenna felt that Charles was a wonderful man and that she was sorry that I had missed out on such an experience of getting to know him.  Once again, Trenna extended the offer of me calling her day or night, leaving me the impression that I had made the absolute right decision in contacting her. I not only gained information about my father, but I truly felt that I also gained a dear friend.

I was on such a natural high after talking with Trenna that I could hardly go to sleep that night.  My mind replayed every word, every comment, and every remark that was said. I was so much anticipating that I would get the worse news ever if not even hearing from her at all.  All my life, I heard negativity on this subject and would get nowhere when I questioned.  I just assumed it was going to continue.  I was simply elated! I am at such peace now knowing that my father was a pleasant and compassionate man. I don’t know what his reasoning was for not trying to contact me. Perhaps, he felt that he didn’t have the permission or authority to do so after all these years, recognizing that he had lost the right to have me in his life.  Nevertheless, whatever his feelings and thoughts were, I have learned to accept them.

When Trenna made her phone call and chatted with the previous Pastor of my father’s church, Pastor Camp, he went onto to give her his cell phone number and address, asking her please to pass it along to me and that he would be more than happy to talk with me about my father at any time.

Days had passed. Taking Trenna’s proposal, I decided to call Pastor Camp that coming weekend. I was finally able to connect with him one Saturday afternoon via a phone call.

As I begin to dial the Pastor’s cell phone number, I realized how ironic this call was. I went my whole life without knowing who my father was and here I am now about to chat with the second person within a week who was actively in my father’s life.  I was nervous but, once the conversation got going, I felt the calmness in the Pastor’s voice, which made me feel comfortable. There’s something that needs to be said about southerners … they are truly humble and gracious people.  I could feel the immediate fondness that Pastor Camp had for my father.  He, too, could not express enough how kind-hearted, loving and respectable my father was. I noticed that the word kind-hearted was used a lot to describe my father. Pastor Camp was telling me that Charles would always come up to him, asking if there was anything he could do for him or the church, always following up by saying, “Now, Pastor, if you don’t tell me what you need done, I won’t be able to do it for you.”  What a wonderful thing to do for the Pastor and his church. As I did with Trenna, I shared with Pastor Camp about how my family members would always tell me that my father was “challenged” and always needed assistance in life.  Chuckling to himself, Pastor commented by saying, “If Charles was mentally challenged and needed assistance; he would then have to get himself checked out!”  I was told that the church was putting together a memorial and my father was to be a part of it.  Pastor even invited me and my family down to Georgia, where he said that he would be happy to escort me to the cemetery where my father was laid to rest.  It appears that the church had purchased several burial plots years ago. The church gave one plot to Aunt Bea and this is where she is buried. Another, I found out, went to my father. Their wishes were to be buried next to each other so that they can rest in peace eternally, to be with each other always, forever.

Not sure if I should have, but I went ahead and shared with Pastor that my parents were legally married and that I wasn’t an “oopsy” in life. I was actually planned and that they were married almost two years prior to me being born.  It was at this point that I could tell what I just said to the Pastor came to be a big surprise.  He then made a comment that that must have been the reason why my father never married his sweetheart, his love, Aunt Bea.  It was because my father knew deep down inside that he was already married and if he married another woman, it would be a sin. It was almost as if the Pastor had an “Aha” moment. I had learned from Trenna when we spoke that the Pastor did know about me. My father had once confessed to the Pastor that he was a father and that he had a daughter. Whether this conversation went any further, I’ll never know, something that I would like to learn one day, what words were exactly exchanged. By the manner in which Pastor Camp spoke of my father, he was an absolute beautiful human being and that he was honored to have had him in his life and to share worship with.

I found the Pastor to be a very funny man and easy to chat with. He had a wonderful sense of humor, even offering his wife to cook us all up some biscuits and gravy, providing we ever came to visit. I thanked Pastor Camp for the enlightenment about my father, his friend, and this ended our conversation.

I now know two individuals who couldn’t speak highly enough about my father, leading me to believe that my family said such horrible things to ruin my perception of him, to destroy any hope that I may ever have of wanting to know him, to keep me as far away from him as possible. Perhaps, it was my own family, my mother, who was “disabled,” being unable to let go, hindering her heart so much that she wouldn’t allow others, me, to see the good side of my father.

When looking up my father’s obituary, I noted that a Pastor Couch had officiated over my father’s funeral.  Doing my research, I knew this was the new pastor of the church where my father had attended.  Working up my courage once again, I decided to write Pastor Couch, in hopes that he would be able to share information with me about my father as well.  As I write my email to Pastor Couch, I couldn’t help but to reflect on how fortunate that I have been to learn so much and positive things, too, about the man who I was proud to call my father.

May 26, 2011

Dear Pastor Couch,

My name is Jackie Morin (Lambert), daughter of the late Charles Ray Lambert.  It was within the last few weeks that I had learned about my father’s passing in October, 2010.  According to the obituary that I found online, you had officiated over his funeral.  I hope you don’t mind that I email you and briefly explain why I am writing to you today.

Recently, I had the extreme pleasure and opportunity to speak with Ms. Trenna Robinson with whom my father knew. Trenna and I shared the most delightful conversation about my father. Not knowing much about him and his life, I was very happy to learn that he was a very kind-hearted and pleasant man.  Trenna also shared with me that you knew my father, as well as Pastor Larry Camp, and that my father was a member of the Woodland Hills Baptist Church.   

I always wanted to know more about the man who gave me life for over forty years now.  I was always given a particular impression of my father by family members and it has warmed my heart to know that they were wrong.  What I have learned so far has healed my heart immensely.

I am not sure if you knew my father very well on a personal level or if he was more of an acquaintance, but if there is anything that you would be able to share with me, in hopes to get to know my father better and the man he was, it would be graciously appreciated.

I have attached a copy of the letter that I sent to Trenna so that you may better understand my journey.

I hope this email finds you well and I look forward to hearing from you at your convenience.

Sincerely,

Jackie Morin

As does a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly, I, too, experienced a metamorphosis, a transformation that has changed my life forever, an awakening, learning that my father was a very special man.

I watched my email everyday in hopes to receive a response from Pastor Couch. Several days later, I did.  It was during a time when I was so sick with a gallbladder attack.  However, reading the Pastor’s compassionate email was exactly the medicine that I needed to make me feel better…

 

 

 

 

References:

http://www.whcatl.com/Home_Page.html

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…

 

The Birth of Raynedrop Kysses

Granny, Grandpa & Jack Early 1980's

Granny, Grandpa & Jack
Early 1980’s

 

“Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.”  ~ From the television show The Wonder Years

Was there a particular song that was always sung to you when you were a child or a fond memory from your childhood that had always been a part of your heart since you were young?

I have such a song like that, a song that was sung to me all the time by my grandfather called, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” which was a song by a gentleman named BJ Thomas for the hit Movie, “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.”   Grandpa sang this song when it was cloudy, when it was raining but I remember him singing it the most when it was a beautiful day, with the blue sky and sun making their daily debut, beaming directly down upon us.

It didn’t have to be raining in order for grandpa to sing this song to my brother Steve and me.  Grandpa always managed to sing it when we were ready to throw some food on the grill. Perhaps, it was his grilling song.

 “He who sings frightens away his ills.”  ~Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

Grandpa was a carpenter by trade.  He had built himself an outdoor barbeque pit with his own two hands, stone by stone, which rested nicely underneath the large oak tree by the picnic table, overlooking his vegetable garden.

Grandpa would make his way outside with his whole chickens that were ready to be placed on the rotisseries. As he began to sing the song, Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head, he would skip and twirl around, as if was doing a slow waltz with the hens that lay upon the plate in front of him. Of course, he only sang the first line, which he repeated several times, as he didn’t know the rest of the lyrics of the song.  With his construction boots that were always loose and untied, I can see grandpa now, as he would kick up the dust and gravel that lay silent beneath his boots in the driveway, dancing his way over to the grill.

While grandpa prepared the chickens for the grill, he would send Steve and me off down the road, to an adjacent farm that housed a tall hickory tree.  There, we would snap a few branches off as well as collect them from the ground, always bringing grandpa back more than what he had asked for. Grandpa tossed the hickory branches into the pit to help flavor the chickens.  The smell that came from the grill when the hickory hit the hot coals, as grandpa sang his one-liner song, was something truly memorable.

 “Dancing with the feet is one thing, but dancing with the heart is another.”  ~Author Unknown

After spending the evening outside, eating and catching a cool after dinner breeze in the yard, it would be time to get ready for bed. Heading into the house, Steve and I would wash our faces, brush our teeth and race to get our pajamas to see who would be the first to kiss our grandparents goodnight.

By now, grandma and grandpa were sitting in the living room, relaxing for the remainder of the evening while watching the nightly news.  I kiss each of them goodnight, only to feel the imprint of their kisses on my lips. Both unique in their own way, with granny’s wet, plump and strong, while grandpas are light, with just enough pucker.

cropped-business-card-raynedrop-kysses.jpg

Remembering the song that grandpa use to sing to me all the time, their precious kisses, as well as honoring grandpa’s name, Ray, along with a side order of artistic twists, this is how I created the name Raynedrop Kysses.  Each kiss displayed reflects one for each of us… grandpa’s, granny’s and myself.

Just as we hold our loved one’s hand or admire the sweet smile of a child, we never forget the sensation of how their hand feels resting within your own or how the smile of a baby brightens our hearts.  I feel the same when I remember my grandparents’ good night kisses, loving and caring, both kisses leaving a lasting impression.

“Twas not my lips you kissed but my soul.” ~Judy Garland

 

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

One Last Hug Before I Go

CaileyAnne Lydia, sitting on her shelf, wearing my grandmother's necklaces.

CaileyAnne Lydia, sitting on her shelf, wearing my grandmother’s necklaces.

“Never wait until tomorrow to hug someone you could hug today.” ~ Author Unknown

In the early 1990’s, when my grandmother was still alive, Frank, Arlaraye and I would always go and visit her. She lived in Madison, Wisconsin in an assisted living type home and she always enjoyed having company and looking forward to our visits. My grandfather lived there, too, until the time he passed in 1984. One day while almost there, we saw a yard sale, so we decided to stop and took a look around. A woman was selling a baby doll that when you squeezed its hands, feet and belly, it would say different sayings. The woman told us that it wasn’t in the stores, as it was a prototype of sorts. Arla was about 3 years old at the time and, as you can imagine, she fell in love with the doll instantly, so we bought it for her. We had named the doll CaileyAnne Lydia. If I ever had another baby daughter, I had plans to name her CaileyAnne Lydia. I thought the name was beautiful. Arla played with her new doll all the time, pretending it was her own baby, and she brought it everywhere we went.

Over the years, as Arla grew older, interest in playing with the doll became less and less. As you can imagine, CaileyAnne Lydia ended up at the bottom of the toy box, or under her bed, even our dog, Kassy, played with her for a while, tossing her around and playing fetch with her. CaileyAnne Lydia’s hair had become all ratty, resembling dreadlocks that lay on the top of her head and her clothes were worn and dirtied. It was apparent that CaileyAnne Lydia had surely seen better days. Arla eventually outgrew playing with baby dolls; therefore, it was time to make a toy donation to Goodwill. Sitting in Arla’s room, I started picking through her many toys, figuring out what should stay and what should be donated. Tossing CaileyAnne Lydia into the box to give to Goodwill, I contemplated on actually giving the doll away. Looking at the doll as she lay helplessly in the bottom of the box amongst other dolls, stuffed animals and old McDonald Happy Meal toys, I didn’t have the heart to donate the doll to Good Will. She was such a unique baby doll that held a special place in my heart, mostly because we bought her on one of our many trips while visiting granny. Snatching her quickly out of the box, I decided to keep CaileyAnne Lydia as a memento, reminding me of the great times in Wisconsin. My intentions were to pack her away safely in Arla’s keepsake baby box, which held other special items from the day Arla was born. However, instead, I placed the doll up on the shelf in my bedroom, where she sat, for many years, collecting dust.

In 2001, my mother had a blood clot that traveled from her leg to her heart, where she was admitted to the hospital, placed on life support, where a machine was breathing life for her. At 62 years old, she was brain-dead. On September 14, three days after the 9/11 attacks, my brothers and I had made the decision to take mom off life support, ending her life. The hospital chaplain gave mom her last rights, blessings her and saying the Lord’s Prayer over her. It was an emotional time, as I wasn’t sure how to take my feelings… was I sad, did I not care? It didn’t help matters that the 9/11 events were taking place in the background of our lives. My heart and mind were so confused at the time. We didn’t have a wake or funeral for mom; her wishes were simply to be cremated.

A couple of days after my mom had passed away, my thoughts were still with mom. I had such mixed emotions about my grieving. There were times that I was angry, disappointed and even relieved, but then there were times that I was completely heartbroken. The day that mom had passed, while leaving the hospital with mixed emotions, I remember asking for a sign. I believed in signs and welcomed anything. A sign that everything would be okay, that mom would be okay, that I would be okay. As Frank parked the truck to run into a store, I noticed that there was a huge Pabst Blue Ribbon beer sign above my head. PBR was my grandfather’s beer of choice and I took it as a sign that grandpa was there, greeting, accepting mom as she passed over, giving me the sign I asked for.

I had received many sympathy cards from friends and family, even a couple of cards from mom’s friends at the assisted living home where she stayed called, The Lawrence House. After viewing the cards, I tucked them all into a folder, where I filed them away in my desk drawer. I had decided to go to bed, as the evening had gotten late. The day had been another long one and I was ready to get a good night’s sleep. The kids were already in bed and Frank had gone up to bed about an hour before me. Making sure the doors were locked and all was safe, I ascended the stairs to my bedroom. The only sounds I heard were coming from the fan, as it hummed in the background, along with Frank’s customary snoring keeping in tune with every breath he took. I was still emotional over all the events that had happened in those past couple of days; our country being attacked, seeing my brother, Jeff, for the first time in years and, of course, mom’s death. I didn’t know if I should continue crying or if I should be relieved that it was all over with. I noticed that my strongest thoughts were when I was alone, having time to think, deciphering every detail of the events that took place.

Making my way to the top of the stairs, I entered my bedroom to get ready for bed, peeling off my clothes as I walked further and further into my bedroom… blouse here, bra there, tossing them onto the floor. As I walked by my sitting area, taking off the remainder of my clothes, it was at that moment that I was forced to stop. Standing there and not being able to move, like a deer caught in headlights, I heard something that I will never forget. I immediately turned to my left, as I looked up at where the voice was coming from. There, sitting high on the shelf in my bedroom, sat CaileyAnne Lydia, the doll that I rescued from the Goodwill box. As if on cue, she called out aloud, “Please pick me up and hold me tight.” The voice was prominent, demanding and definitely pierced my body with a fearfulness that left me petrified. Standing there unable to move, I turned my head to the right, where I saw Frank sleeping in bed. Calling Frank’s name, with a slight whisper to my voice, almost as if I didn’t want the doll to hear me, I tried summoning Frank awake. Calling Frank’s name a second time, I realized that he was completely in Sandman Land. I walked away from my sitting area and quickly put my nightgown on. Walking over to the bed, I shook Frank’s foot, trying to rustle him out of his deep sleep, but it was no use, he was completely out. All of a sudden, I was afraid to be alone. I hopped into bed quite quickly and snuggled up very closely to Frank, almost as if I was seeking protection. I lay there in the darkness, studying the silence of the air, almost contemplating if I actually heard what I thought I did. That doll had been sitting on my bedroom shelf for years and, not once, did that doll ever talk. Someone has to physically squeeze her arm, her foot or even pressing down on her belly in order to make her talk. Why now? Why did she speak those words just at that moment as I entered the room? I continue to lie there, listening, waiting for the doll to repeat herself, to say something else, but she never did.

Upon waking the next morning, I couldn’t wait to share my chilling story with Frank and how it scared me so much that I burrowed myself so close to him as if I was tick in a dog’s backside. I shared with him every detail that took place, every word that was spoken and, without hesitation, he said to me, “That was your mother talking to you!” Considerng the thought, I told him that I didn’t even think of that. However, the more I thought about it, the more I had convinced myself that, perhaps, my mom did make it to the other side, telling me that she made it to her final destination, heaven. I had a sense of comfort wash over me and was thankful for another “sign.”

Several days had passed since I heard that fateful plea from the baby doll that sat calmly on my shelf. Immediately upon entering my bedroom, my eyes would always settle on CaileyAnne Lydia, as she stared back at me, smiling, almost as if she was happy to see me. I was still in wonder how the doll was able to talk by herself that evening when there was nobody around initiating her to. Could it have been the spirits of my mother talking?

“There is a light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometimes lose sight of this force when there is suffering, too much pain. Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways.” ~Mother Teresa

It was the weekend and I was looking forward to enjoying the last warm days of summer. Mom always hated the warmer weather; I thrived on it and, personally, the warmer the better. There’s something about sitting out on a late summer evening and knowing there’s no commitments that lie ahead of me. A sense of calmness took over, as I sat watching the stars above me, as they winked hello. Thinking about my mother, I wondered if she was up there looking down on me, her grandchildren, and her family. I began talking to her, asking if she had settled in, asking if she was happy. As I pictured mom with grandpa, laughing, dancing, being completely happy and content, I suddenly felt tears sliding down my cheek. Sitting back, I could feel the slight breeze brushing against my skin, drying my tears, relaxing me even more. I could smell the evening’s dampness in the air as it laid a blanket of wetness over the grass. I closed my eyes and listened to the cicada’s buzzing in the trees, dancing themselves and singing for their mates. Enjoying my last glass of wine for the evening, I took a deep breath, taking it all in.

Meditating on the sky, I soon realized that the evening had since turned into early morning hours and I felt I had better get myself to bed. Bringing Kassy in with me, we both began our nightly ritual. Hopping on the couch and twirling twice around, Kassy lands, finding her comfort spot in the corner, where she soon passed out. I was hoping to do the same in a few short moments, as the night air had made me very sleepy. Climbing the stairs to my bedroom, the tradition began, as I heard Frank snoring, practically humming right along with the cicadas that I just left moments before. As I was about to turn off the overhead light, I heard the same request as I did just days before, “Please pick me up and hold me tight.” Once more, my eyes drifted up to the doll on the shelf. I stood there waiting for it to go off a second time, almost challenging it to speak again, but the doll remained silent. With my fingers resting upon the light switch, I flipped off the light, only to say a few words of my own, “Good night mom, I love you.”

“What is soul? It’s like electricity – we don’t really know what it is, but it’s a force that can light a room.” ~Ray Charles

Even though granny was moved to a nursing home in Portage, Wisconsin, Frank, the kids and I still made our trips up to see her. She loved it when we would come up and visit with her, one time even bringing Kassy with us. It was almost as if Kassy sensed something, as Kassy lay contently at granny’s side, never leaving her, resting her head upon granny’s feet the whole time we were there. Sadly, this was the last time we were ever to visit granny. On July 17, 2003, I received a call from the nursing home, letting me know that my grandmother had suddenly passed away. Hanging up the phone with the nursing home, I was completely devastated. Granny was my world. She was the mother that I never had and she was the last family member to leave me. Suddenly, I felt so alone. As it once did for my grandfather, my heart now ached for the passing of my grandmother. Granny passed away from cardiac arrhythmia while eating dinner. I was told that fried chicken was on the menu that evening and we all knew how much granny loved her chicken. Cardiac arrhythmia is when your heart beats irregularly. That evening, granny’s heart decided to stop. Her heart was tired, as it was beating for over 83 years. I found myself once again, making a phone call to my brother, Steve, informing him that another family member had died.

Arriving back home from granny’s funeral services, I felt as if my heart was going to completely break in half from heartache. No more weekly phone calls to granny, no more visits, and no more letters and cards. When Arla was a little baby, I use to write granny letters, pretending they came from Arla. Granny would get a laugh from the letters as “Arla” would talk about her day, having to eat the nasty baby peas that I made her eat or Arla sharing with granny about taking long naps, playing with her toys or pulling the cat’s tail as he walked by. After a while, I believed granny actually thought these letters were written by Arla. Thankfully, I kept a copy of every one of them. These were the memories that I was going to miss so dearly. I was tired of having death around me, always coming to me. I was tired of always being the communicator, the deliverer of bad news, informing others of someone’s death… my grandfather’s, my uncle’s, my mother’s and now my grandmother’s. I was tired of being the messenger. Nevertheless, as I sat there crying, I realized that there were no more deaths to report. I had lost the last blood relative that was so very important to me.

I had an emptiness in my heart; a sunken hole that became deeper and deeper with every family member that I lost. I found my list of people who I prayed to in heaven getting longer and longer as each one passed away becoming angels. Instead of asking God to protect them in my world, I was now asking these angles to protect me in mine.

One afternoon, almost a week after granny had passed, I had the whole house to myself. Frank took Arla and Tanner out for the day, which left me some time to do a few things around the house. I welcomed the quietness that surrounded me, being therapeutic; it was almost as if my mind needed the serenity. Finishing laundry, I brought my clothes upstairs to my bedroom. As I had done in the past, my eyes drifted toward CaileyAnne Lydia, making contact with the doll that sat motionless on the shelf. I sat the laundry basket down to put my clothes away and, as tradition continued, I heard nothing other than a familiar voice. It was at that moment that I heard, once again, “Please pick me up and hold me tight.” All I thought was… here we go again! Looking around, I recognized that I was the only one in the room, as there was no sleeping Frank snoring away in bed, no humming of the fan. I now stood a few feet away from the doll, smiling up at her as I looked directly at her face. Why is she only talking when I enter the room, why not Frank? Walking up to her, taking a closer look at the shelf that she rested upon, I started hitting the shelf and the wall, trying to make her talk to me. I thought, perhaps, the vibration of me entering the room every time was what was setting her off.

I continued as I banged away at the shelf, kicking the wall, making every effort to get her to ask me to pick her up and hold her tight, but no matter how hard I hit, she just wouldn’t talk, she wasn’t saying a word. I sat down, wondering what else I could do to make this doll talk. I slowly walked up to the shelf and, standing before CaileyAnne Lydia, I shook her ever so gently… nothing. I took a long look into her eyes, studying her. At that moment, it became apparent what I needed to do. Sliding her off the shelf, I took her, embracing her, bringing her close to my heart. It was then that I continued to pick her up and held her tight. I finally did what the doll asked. As I held the doll tightly in my arms, I thought, perhaps, it was my mother, who needed that one last hug before saying good-bye before she had to go. I continued to cradle her and, with one last hug, I gently placed her back on the shelf.

“Sometimes it’s better to put love into hugs than to put it into words”. ~ Author Unknown

The last time I heard from the doll was a few years ago. I was in my bedroom getting ready for work, ironing my clothes for the day. There was a horrible summer storm that morning, with pouring rain that pelted against the windows, loud thunder and vicious lightning that struck dangerously against the skies above me. I always hated lightning and have always been deathly afraid of it. Arla and Tanner walked to school and, even though their school was only a few houses away, I was getting concerned about them walking to school in such horrible weather. As this thought came to mind… should I drive the kids to school, the doll went off… “Please pick me up and hold me tight.” All I thought was… you decide to talk to me now?! It’s not the right time! Not giving it a second thought, I continued ironing my clothes for work. All of a sudden, a lightning bolt slapped against the sky with such force, that it lit up my entire bedroom. It rattled me to the point where I lost my breath. Again, my thoughts brought me back to Arla and Tanner, asking quietly to myself if I should put them in the truck and drive them the short distance, delivering them safely to the school’s front door. As if on cue, I heard the doll chime in a second time, “Please pick me up and hold me tight.” Listening to my inner voice and accepting the sign that was set before me, I paid attention to the doll, who was resting upon the shelf. That morning, I drove Arla and Tanner to school.

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

Regrettably, I haven’t heard from CaileyAnne Lydia since. She no longer resides on my bedroom shelf and she has since retired to a room that we call the “Antique Room” adjacent to my bedroom. She rests comfortably with a ragdoll, whose name is Trudy, that was handmade by my grandmother’s sister, Gertrude back in the early 1970’s. There, they both sit together keeping each other company, sitting directly underneath the framed 1930’s wedding dress that once belonged and worn by Frank’s mom, Bubby, whose real name by the way happens to be Anne Lydia.

The Spiral Notebook…

Messages

Messages

 “Death is a debt we all must pay.”  ~Euripides

Death. Death has no discrimination; there’s no escaping it and each and every one of us will have the opportunity to experience it. Whether you are a person, an animal or a living flower, we will all at one point find death and, to be completely honest; it scares me. This was another reason why I decided to be baptized.  I wanted to make sure that I secured my place in heaven, right next to God and my family who are there now. I do believe with all my heart that there is a place for me in God’s Kingdom, but I am still afraid of the dying process and how I might get there. Surely, a common thought to most. In my dreams, I always die by electrocution; to the point where I feel my body vibrating, pulsating to every electrifying current, only to wake up before death finds me. Nobody ever wants to think of their own mortality. This is something that I have been trying to work within myself for many years.  I meditate, focusing on the heavens above me, the people and serenity that surround me. I watch God’s beauty, feeling comforted, safe and an indisputable believer of what waits for me. I believe in after death communication (ADC) and near death experiences (NDE) and have read many books on the subject. I believe that our loved ones can communicate with us after they have passed on. These are the beliefs that comfort me.  Still, there are times that I can’t help but to have some unpredicted fear about dying.

It was a Sunday evening on September 9, 2001, when I had received a phone call from the Chaplain at Weiss Memorial Hospital.  Hearing her introduce herself as the Chaplain brought immediate concern. The Chaplain was informing me that my mother was brought to the emergency room and placed in intensive care and was on a ventilator.  She shared with me that my mother wasn’t doing very well.  Not knowing exactly what she meant by “not doing very well,” I had asked her if this was a situation where I needed to contact other family members and the Chaplain said, yes, it was.

I was actually surprised that I received such a call from the hospital, as I knew my brother, Jeff, was listed as the next of kin in my mother’s medical chart. The second name listed in mom’s chart was my own. But, Jeff didn’t have my phone number to call me directly and, because of HIPAA laws, where a patient’s medical and private information is protected, the Chaplain legally could not give out any information that was detailed in my mother’s chart, my telephone number included. Therefore, the hospital had to call and tell me my mother was in the hospital.  Jeff didn’t have my phone number because we hadn’t spoken to one another since 1993, almost 8 years.

Upon hearing that mom was in ICU, I made a phone call to my brother, Steve.  As I was dialing, I remembered the last time I had informed him of a death; his own precious grandfather’s years before. Now, here I am again, notifying him that his mother isn’t doing well and that her chances for survival were basically hopeless. We chatted for a while about the seriousness of the situation and I told him that he may want to consider a trip to Chicago. We both came to the realization that this may be the time for our mother’s passing.  Steve and his family were making arrangements to drive to Chicago from Bay City, Michigan, and that we would see them most likely in the early morning hours, as it was approximately a six hour drive.

Frank and I also shared the news with our children.  At the time, Arlaraye was nine years old and Tanner was five.  Both old enough to realize what death was and what saying good-bye was all about, they were both sad to learn about their grandmother’s condition but, at the same time, they were vague with their emotions.  Mom never had a close relationship with either of my children for the fact that she never made an effort to bond or connect with them; a pattern that she had once shared with me.

Throughout the years, mom had been in and out of the hospital quite often; mostly brought on by her own health habits.  My mother wasn’t in the best physical condition. She didn’t eat properly and was overweight, needed the aid of an oxygen tank on a daily basis and was a chronic smoker. She was diabetic, had high cholesterol and also had high blood pressure.  In the past, mom was always being admitted to the hospital, as her immune system would be low, causing her to get lung infections.  She would stay a couple of days, get cleared up and then was released home.  This routine went on for many years.  Mom admitted that she would even feel better promising to work on her health, but always went back to her unhealthy behavior.

I had learned from the Chaplain that my mom wasn’t feeling well, so mom called my brother, Jeff, letting him know that she wasn’t feeling right and asked him to come over. It was apparent in her voice that she wasn’t herself, therefore, Jeff instructed mom to call an ambulance to take her to the hospital.  Once the ambulance arrived at her building, they found mom almost unresponsive.  This was when mom was rushed to the emergency room, where she laid in a sedated coma.

On Monday, September 10, while Steve and his family were on their way to Chicago, Frank and I went to the hospital that afternoon to see what information we could find out about mom’s condition.  I called into work that day, informing them of my situation and that I would not be into work.

Once at the hospital, Mom’s doctor met with Frank and me.  The doctor confirmed that while at home, mom had developed a blood clot in her leg. The doctors ran a battery of tests and it appeared that mom had a DVT, a Deep Vein Thrombosis.  A DVT is the formation of a blood clot in the deep vein and is a dangerous condition because the clot can travel up to the heart or lungs and block a vessel feeding those organs, causing cardiac or pulmonary ischemia, cardiac arrest and even death. Mom had one in her leg, which traveled directly to her heart; most likely caused by her sitting and inactivity for a prolonged period of time, her extreme weight and excessive smoking. Over the next couple of days, the doctors were going to perform additional tests on mom to find out the extent of her medical condition.

We met with the hospital Chaplain, who had originally informed me that mom was in the hospital.  She asked me if I had any other siblings and I told her yes, my brother, Steve, who was on his way from Michigan with his family. I also relayed that I had a brother, Jeff, but we weren’t on speaking terms. The Champlain shared with us that because of my mother’s serious condition, there was a possibility that a life or death decision may need to be made; the possible decision of taking her off of life support. I told the Chaplain that I didn’t want to make that decision on my own and that I would need to discuss this with my brothers and, if needed, obtain their consent.  I remember asking her for Jeff’s phone number so that I could speak with him regarding my mother.  But, she told me that she couldn’t give me his phone number, due to the HIPAA laws, the same reason she couldn’t give my number out to Jeff.  But, she was happy to make a call on my behalf.  I said thank you and asked her to have Jeff call me.

Frank and I arrived back home that Monday evening and we were mentally exhausted. The realization of my mother’s pending demise was weighing heavily on my mind, not to mention the fact that I would soon be in contact with Jeff, who I haven’t spoken to in over eight years. We left our relationship not on the best of terms and I couldn’t help but to wonder what it’s going to be like when we do speak again.  Not only did Jeff and I go our separate ways, but Jeff also severed all ties with Steve. It was almost as if Jeff fell off the face of the earth. I can understand where he and I had differences, but Jeff made the same effort in distancing himself from Steve, as well.

The last time that I had communication with Jeff was the evening when Jeff hung up on me during that one revealing evening back in 1993. It was a couple days after Jeff’s father, Melvin, died and mom called me, letting me know that Jeff would be contacting me, as he was going to ask me for two hundred dollars to help cremate his father.  I informed mom that I wasn’t about to give Jeff any money toward a cremation of a man who treated me like shit all my life and whose last words to me were calling me a whore. I believed my reasoning’s were justified. I could tell that mom didn’t want to discuss it, making her feel uncomfortable. My words and anger left my mother silent.  Mom knew how I felt about Melvin and just bringing up his name to me was a touchy subject.  I asked mom to have Jeff call me and I would be happy to explain to him why I wasn’t going to give him any money. It was at that moment that I made the decision to tell Jeff the true reason why I wasn’t going to hand him over any money. There was no way that I was going to give money to help lay to rest a fucking child molester.  Jeff could have cremated him in a garbage can with a can of lighter fluid and a book of matches for all I cared!

About an hour later, Jeff called me and the demeanor in his voice sounded as if he didn’t want to make any small talk whatsoever; he wanted to get down to business… money business.  As far as I knew, Jeff did not know that Melvin had sexually abused me as a child.  Nor, did I think he realized that Steve was also one of his victims.  If Jeff ever had any concept of us being abused, he never made it apparent to either Steve or me.  My thoughts were once I explain everything to Jeff, he would truly understand, if not respect, why I wouldn’t give him the money to help cremate his father.  Jeff immediately asked me for the two hundred dollars.  I told him that I wasn’t going to give him any money to help bury his father. Jeff couldn’t understand why I was being so adamant about the situation and he started debating with me.  It was at that point that I said to him, “Jeff, this is the reason why I’m not going to give you the money for Melvin.”  Just as I was about to spit out the words, “It’s because your father is a filthy child molester,” Jeff hung up on me, ending our conversation with an abrupt dial tone in my ear.  It was at that point that I became very livid, thinking, how Jeff dare hang up on me.  Frank was standing by my side and I told Frank that Jeff just hung up on me and he wouldn’t even let me explain to him why I’m not going to just hand over all that money. I started crying and, the more I cried, the more upset and pissed off I became.  I was outraged at the fact that he wouldn’t even give me the opportunity to let me explain why.  I dialed Jeff back and I was going to scream as loud as I could in his ear that his father liked to fuck little children and that he doesn’t need to be cremated because his ass is going directly to hell and the devil would do it for him!  But, my mother answered the phone instead. I shared with mom that Jeff hung up on me and I asked to speak with him.  He refused to come to the phone and talk to me, only making me angrier.  This is when I lost it and said to my mom, “You can tell your prick of a son that the reason that I won’t give him any money for his father is because Melvin was nothing but a child molester.  And if he doesn’t believe me, then he can call his brother in Michigan and ask him, too!”  It was then my turn to hang up the phone.  I immediately hung up on my mother and started crying all over again. It was done, finished, my horrible secret that I had been carrying around inside me for over thirty years had finally been revealed, not only to my brother, but to my mother as well. It wasn’t my intentions to blurt out to my mother that Melvin sexually abused me and my brother, Steve, ever since we were young children.  I had plans to never share that with my mother or any other family member. It was my own horrible little secret. I was so upset over the fact that Jeff didn’t give me enough respect to even try and listen to me. Everything was always about Jeff and his own world.

As one would imagine, my phone started ringing immediately, relentlessly, but I wouldn’t answer it.  It was my mother calling, surely trying to figure out what the hell just happened.  I was so upset that I just couldn’t even talk with her.  She tried calling all night, so much in fact, that I had to take the phone off of the hook.  Eventually, I knew that I would have to speak with her.  I did my best to avoid her phone calls all evening.  I went to work the next morning and this is where mom caught me.  She dialed the main number and asked to speak with me. I knew that it was something that I had to do.  I went behind a closed door in one of the offices and spoke with her privately.  Mom had asked me why I never told her what was going on between Melvin and me.  I shared with her that young children just don’t tell… they just don’t say anything to anyone, they are afraid to, it hides deep within them, never to be mentioned or revealed. During our whole conversation, not once did mom tell me that she was sorry; that she was sorry for what Melvin had done to two of her beautiful and innocent children and everything that we had went through. Not once did mom curse Melvin to hell. Not once did mom make an attempt to defend me or Steve. Not once did mom say she would have killed him if she knew. Not once did mom share one word of remorse with me.  Our conversation was as if she called to tell me that she had burnt dinner. As always, mom showed no emotion whatsoever.  I was hoping that at least now she would show some anger, some hatred toward Melvin, knowing that he had sexually abused her children throughout their young life. I would be screaming every obscenity there was; telling my child that I was so sorry for what they had to go through, shedding tears right along with them, but my mom not once shed a tear.  Instinctively, it was at that precise moment that I was absolutely convinced mom knew all along about the sexual abuse and what had happened to me and my brother so many years before, even knowing when it happened and where it happened.  Mom never worked, rarely left the house, and basically was always home.  Surely, she had to have her suspicions about Melvin always wanting to take us with him everywhere. All that my mind could think about is how could she not know? Her lack of response and her quietness about the situation truly led me to believe that she knew about all the abuse that Melvin forced on her two children. She had finally been relieved of her own torture that she had kept deep within her heart and soul. The guilt of not protecting her child, not one, but two children, from a sexual predator must have been an unspeakable torment in her own mind.  To spare us both further discomfort, I told mom that I don’t want to talk about it, it was all in the past, done and over with and there was absolutely no reason to relive it. We both never talked about Melvin sexually abusing me ever again.

Needless to say, Jeff never did get the money that he wanted to help cremate his father. I don’t even know if mom ever shared with him exactly why I wouldn’t give him any money. Knowing Jeff, he probably thought Steve and I made it all up. It didn’t matter because I didn’t want anything to do with Jeff from that moment on. He wasn’t a brother to me at that time, the time I needed him most.  We both stopped talking with one another. He led his life, I led mine and we both went our own separate ways.  I stopped acknowledging him as a brother, as a family member. Over the years, I learned from my mother that Jeff got his girlfriend pregnant, moved to Wisconsin with her and years later, after having more children, they eventually married.  Unfortunately, because of Jeff’s actions that evening, our relationship was never the same and this was the reason why that I did not see or talk with Jeff in over eight years.

It was shortly after Frank and I arrived home from the hospital that evening that I finally received that phone call from Jeff.  Hearing the phone ring, I was anxious, nervous, as I wasn’t sure how Jeff’s demeanor was going to be. To my surprise, Jeff was very compassionate and sensible. Our conversation between us was short, but very at ease.  I relayed to Jeff that Steve was on his way to Chicago.  I asked if we could all meet at the hospital the next morning to find out what else the doctors had found regarding mom’s condition. Jeff agreed and we left the conversation on a mutual and sensible tone.  Hanging up the phone, I shared with Frank that the conversation went a lot smoother than anticipated.  Even though Jeff was disrespectable to me eight years prior, I wasn’t going to demonstrate any anger or bitterness.  There wasn’t time for that.

I poured myself a well deserved glass of wine and worked up my courage as I realized that I now had the heartbreaking responsibility of contacting my grandmother who lived in Wisconsin.  Granny was now in an assisted nursing home in Portage. Granny had no idea that her second born, who is now on life support and fighting for her life, will most likely pass before her. The thought of telling granny that she may lose another child just broke my heart.  Her son, my uncle Bob, passed away in 1997, where he was having a heart attack, drove himself to the emergency room, only to pass days later. He was only 59 years old. I decided to contact the social worker at the nursing home instead of speaking with granny directly.  I was in fear that such news would jeopardize granny’s own health. I shared with the social worker what was happening and that I would contact them once I find out further information from the doctors and mom’s additional testing.

Waiting for Steve and his family’s arrival, Frank and I set up the basement where they could rest comfortably until the next day when we all headed to the hospital. I finally had a moment to myself, to reflect on what was going on and what could possibly happen.  I couldn’t believe what was put before me.  As a child, one never thinks about the time when a parent will pass away, how it will happen, or even when.  Sitting there, it all seemed so unreal to me, as if I was on the outside looking in, watching someone else’s family tragedy, but realizing that it was actually my own.

It was 1:00 in the morning when Steve arrived with his wife, Mary, and their three children, all exhausted from their long ride in.  We set the children up for bed in the basement and they fell quickly back asleep.  The adults headed to the living room, where we started to express our thoughts and feelings.  Like me, Steve couldn’t believe that this moment had finally arrived, where we would be making a life or death decision.  I told Steve that I spoke with Jeff and that we would all meet at the hospital the next morning around 11:00 a.m. After another hour of chat, we all headed to bed, as we knew that the morning would be fast approaching.

As suspected, the morning rolled in a lot faster than I wanted it to.  It was Tuesday, September 11, 2001 and in a bittersweet way, it was the most beautiful day outside.  I could see the sun shining through the bedroom windows and I couldn’t help but to think how I was admiring the summer morning when I suddenly remembered that mom was lying in the ICU hooked up to machines and tubes. It was around 8:30 a.m. and Frank was still sleeping so I decided to get out of bed and start my day.  I went to the kitchen and started a pot of coffee for everyone, thinking that we were surely going to need it.  I laid out coffee cups, sugar and creamer, along with the breakfast goodies I bought the day before.  Knowing that I had to make a phone call, I headed to the living room to call work, letting them know that I would not be in again that day, as my family and I had plans to meet with my mother’s doctors.  I heard Nikki, our receptionist, pick up my call, greeting me as she always did.  I told her it was me and that I wouldn’t be in to work.  This is when Nikki asked me if I knew what was going on in New York.  I told her I didn’t and wasn’t sure what she was referring to.  Nikki advised me to turn on the television.   Turning it on, I suddenly became aware that the news station was showing live footage of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York. Smoke billowing out from the top floors of the building, along with flames that seemed to be licking the building on every floor.  I could see people hanging out of the windows, screaming for help, as they waved cloths to show their existence against the massive silver building. I could also hear the panic and distress in the reporter’s voice.  I knew that whatever was happening, it wasn’t good.  I was starting to become concerned and frightened and asked Nikki literally, “What the fuck was going on?!”  This is when she shared with me that an airplane had crashed directly into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  I could see the destruction that the airplane had left behind and knew that many lives were already lost.  I hung up the phone with Nikki and immediately went to wake up Frank.  I told him that something was happening in New York and that I felt it was best that he get up to watch, as something serious was going on.  It wasn’t shortly after Frank came into the living room that Steve and Mary followed behind.  All four of us stared helplessly, watching the TV with horrible blank stares on our faces.  It was only moments later that we saw on live TV another airplane flying into the World Trade Center, this time making a direct hit into the South Tower. All of us gasped at the same time, with all of us pretty much making the same comment, “OH SHIT!”  It was becoming apparent that this was not an accident.  We were later being informed that the planes that flew into the towers were hijacked and this was just the beginning.  Not knowing what other targets the hijackers had in mind, my concerns grew more and more through the morning, wondering if the kids were safe in school and if we should go and pick them up.  Frank made a phone call to the kids’ school and we were reassured that all was safe and that we didn’t need to be alarmed.

Like robots, we all huddled around the TV, as if we were watching a Bears-Packers football game.  With every update that we heard, we all shook our heads with disbelief.  As much as we wanted to stay home and watch the tragedy that was unfolding directly in front of our eyes, the tragedy of all these peoples’ lives, we were quickly reminded that we had a tragedy of our own; mom and her own life. We left for the hospital, where we met with the physicians, as well as Jeff for the first time in eight years.

Once at the hospital, we met with mom’s physicians. The news didn’t look good for mom.  The doctors performed multiple tests and we were informed that she had no brain activity whatsoever. There was no clinical evidence of brain function upon physical examination. She had no response to pain stimulation and no cranial nerve reflexes, including no eye movement or blinking and she had fixed pupils. Mom was completely brain dead and her condition was irreversible. Mom was at the total mercy of life support.  Machines were breathing for her, pumping air into her lungs, one breath at a time.  Not only did she look dead on the outside, sadly, you can see that there was nothing living on the inside either.

It was apparent that my brothers and I had to make one of the most important decisions of our lives, of our mother’s life.  It was evident that mom was not going to get any better.  It was then that we found out that mom had a DNR request in her chart – Do not Resuscitate. It was apparent that the decision has already been made for us.  My brothers and I, along with our significant others went back to my house and talked for the longest time, for hours, discussing mom’s fate.  I was actually surprised how well Jeff and I were getting along.  It was as if nothing happened between us eight years prior and we just picked up our relationship where it left off.  Perhaps, it was the moment, surely having a great deal to do with mom.  Everyone was being cordial and respectable toward each other and their feelings, regardless of how the person was feeling from the past.  It made me think that this is how we should have gotten along years ago. In the end, after discussing mom’s destiny, we all knew that this was the best decision that we could have made for her. Let mom’s mind, body and soul be at peace, let her be lifted up into God’s arms. It was now her turn to go home.

It was later learned that hijackers flew planes into the Twin Towers that were no longer standing. Flight 77 was flown directly into the Pentagon building in Washington and Flight 93 went down into a field in Pennsylvania. Thousands of lives were taken that morning. I remember leaving to go and pick up Arla from school that afternoon and all the parents were around talking about what happened to our country that morning.  As I sat in the truck, waiting for the kids to get out of school, I noticed that the skies above me were an eerie quiet, where stillness filled the air. No planes whatsoever were being permitted to fly in the airspace.

During the last two days, the 9/11 tragedy was all over the television with news, special reports, and interviews. It was almost as if every American ate, slept and breathed 9/11. We couldn’t get enough of it. But, this day, my focus was now on my mother.  We all made our way back to the hospital, where it was time to take mom off of life support and say our final good-byes.  I never did like hospitals, even though I worked in one.  They have always represented bad news for me; making me feel uncomfortable, as if death is waiting around every single corner, sensing sickness on every floor and in every patient’s face.  It was rare that I walked into a hospital that I didn’t feel grief or sorrow. I felt it all around me.

Frank being in the medical field and working in a hospital for over twenty years, took initiative and helped us prepare for what was about to happen. Frank worked at Columbus Hospital, where he worked in the Emergency Room department and then eventually working with brain tumor patients on the neurosurgical floor.  Frank saw people die from their brain tumors, as well as seeing people survive, walking directly out of the hospital to continue their lives. Frank was wonderful talking with the physicians and even the hospital Chaplain.

Everyone met within the waiting room in ICU at Weiss Memorial. The Chaplain arrived just moments after we did, asking how we were all doing, letting us know that she was there for support and will guide us through this ordeal.  The kids were coloring in their coloring books, which kept them busy.  The TV was on in the waiting room, which was practically screaming 9/11 at you.  There was a lot of apprehension in the air, not only with what our country was going through, but what mom’s three children were going through and what they would have to do in only a few short moments.

The nurses were in mom’s room, preparing her for her final moments of life. The thought of knowing that you had control of someone’s life in the palm of your hand made my mind sick with regret.  Was there any turning back at that point? Not according to the physicians. Mom was entirely brain dead. She had no thoughts, feelings or acknowledgement that we were there, unless she felt us spiritually.  The nurses call us into mom’s room to say our final good-byes.  Steve, Jeff, Frank and I follow the Chaplain into mom’s room, all wrapping our way around her bed. We were quiet, as we listened to the machines in the room pumping, watching them breathe air into mom’s body.  Mom lay there, motionless, with tubes down her throat, completely oblivious that we were all there around her, for her. The nurse in the room was twisting cords and readjusting tubes, working with the machines that were obviously keeping her alive. My heart was racing as I stood at the end of mom’s bed. My palms were sweaty and my bottom lip started to quiver.  Nobody should be placed in the position that I was in, that my brothers were in, but, yet, death finds us all and there was no escaping it for mom.

Feeling it was important, I asked the hospital Chaplain to say a prayer for mom before they ended life support.  My two brothers, Frank and I, along with the Chaplain stood over mom while each of us held hands. With the Chaplain’s hand resting on mom’s shoulder, we recited the Lord’s Prayer.

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,

The power, and the glory,

For ever and ever.

Amen.

Through broken words I managed to say good-bye to mom, asking her to say hello to grandpa for me and that I missed him.  It started to get emotional for me; especially when I knew mom was going to meet grandpa on the other side at any moment. For some reason, I didn’t feel comfortable crying openly in front of everyone, so I held back my tears as much as I could. Saying the Lord’s Prayer over my mother though was comforting to me. It felt like a completion; almost like a cleansing; a purification of her soul for all her torments in her life, for all her secrets that she held in her heart and mind for so many years.  Frank, I and the Chaplain were the only ones reciting the Lord’s Prayer, while Steve and Jeff remained silent.  I got the impression that they were lost in what to say, just as I had been so many years before, as I once stood not knowing how to pray or what it all meant. I held my rosary in the palm of my hand while praying, the same rosary that I was baptized with just the year before. I didn’t realize it, but I must have held onto Jeff’s hand so intensely that the rosary left indentation marks in the palm  of his hand. Perhaps, subconsciously, I was trying to send a message that he should be a better brother, a better listener and that family is worth holding onto.

I cannot say the Lord’s Prayer today without being touched, remembering this faithful memory; bringing me back to this one particular moment every single time, the day that we prayed over mom .  The Chaplain shared a few personal words, along with giving mom her last rites.  Chaplain asked God to prepare my mother’s soul for death, asking for forgiveness of all her sins and anointing her, preparing her for a safe journey, asking God to accept my mother into His loving kingdom.

After prayers and rituals were done, we were asked to leave the room while they prepared for my mother’s death.  They didn’t want us to watch them disconnecting mom from all the various machines; the heart monitor and breathing machine, eventually taking her final breath away.  We walked back to the waiting room. The television was on and was showing the latest news and updates with the 911 attack. They replayed the same scenes over and over like a bad sitcom, as we continuously watched the planes hit the World Trade Centers, exploding into huge fireballs or as we watched so many innocent and terrified people making the decision to jump to their own demise, where death waited for them once they made it to their final destination, the ground below. It was my only hope and prayer that God greeted them at the end of their journey with open arms, embracing each and every one of them with His tremendous love and light. It was only a few moments later that the Chaplain and nurse came to me and my family letting us know that mom, too, had passed, completing her own final journey. I didn’t realize how emotional I would get.  I never considered myself close to my mom, but I actually broke down when the nurse told us “she was gone.” As I had asked for the 9/11 victims, I was now praying for God to extend the same invitation to my mother.

“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

My brothers and I had made the difficult decision taking mom off of life support on September 14, 2001, where she passed at 10:53 a.m., just three days after the 9/11 attacks.  Mom was only 62 years old. I watched the people on the television and even made a comment that it didn’t help that I was not only grieving for all the lives lost on 9/11, but for my mother as well.  I had such mixed emotions about exactly what I was grieving for.  I didn’t know if I was more upset at the fact that my only mother had passed or if I was more upset and grieving for the mother that I never had, for the mother-daughter relationship that I should have had in my life, but never did. I felt in my heart that it was the latter. Sadly, my mother and I didn’t have a close relationship, something that she just wasn’t receptive to having in her life. But, now, death made everything so final.

After mom’s death that morning I, once again, went home to call my grandmother to let her know that her daughter had passed away. The hospital staff made sure that there was a priest there with her when I delivered the news.  “Granny, I’m calling to let you know that mom had passed away today.”  Speaking with granny, I can tell she was in shock, but the priest was making sure that she understood what was going on. Granny’s response was what any mother would say after losing a child, “Oh no, I lost another one.”  The priest sat with granny and they prayed together. I hung up the phone with tears in my eyes and an uncontrollable pain in my heart for my grandmother, as this was now the second child she had lost.  Framing a picture of mom when she was young, I sent it to granny so that she would have something to look at, possibly to talk to. The picture was taken in a sepia tone, which made mom’s face glow with radiance. Looking into her eyes, I could once see a happy, lively, vibrant young woman, who exuberated love and kindness.  This was the mother that I should have known, should have been best friends with, who I should have been able to tell my deepest darkest secrets to. This is the mom that my heart ached for, not the one who I had known during my life.

My mother, Elvera Lee - Circa Late 1950's.

My mother, Elvera Lee – Circa Late 1950’s.

Mom looked so happy in this picture and I couldn’t help but to think that this was a different time in her life, where she loved life, as there was nobody there to take it away from her, to beat her, nobody there to verbally humiliate her. It was a time before self inflicting alcohol abuse.  I don’t know the event in her life that inspired such a beautiful picture, but I knew that this is how granny would remember her.

My brothers and I decided to have mom cremated, which was done on September 16. These were mom’s final wishes.  Shortly after mom was cremated, we went through some of her things.  Jeff went to her apartment and grabbed whatever looked important, stuffed it in paper bags and took everything to his house in Wisconsin.  Steve and his family had since gone back home to Michigan, therefore, Jeff inviting my family to his home, Jeff and I went through everything to see what was important and what wasn’t. I truly felt that Jeff and I were making amends with our relationship. I know there were issues in the past between us, but we were both grown adults, with each of us having children of our own now.  I had looked deep within myself and decided to forgive and forget.  What had happened, I left it exactly where it should be… in the past.  It appeared that Jeff and I were moving forward… or so I thought.  Mom did have some important papers; papers that showed that she had a small life insurance policy, which if it was split evenly, between her three children, wouldn’t make us rich, but it could have help with a bill or two or something else we may have needed.  Jeff took it upon himself to initiate the process of the funds and getting the paperwork started. It was agreed between the three of us, my brothers and I, that we would split the insurance money, equally, between the three of us.  Unfortunately, it did not happen that way.  With Jeff being in total control of the assets, Jeff gave Steve and myself only a very small portion of the insurance money up front and told us that he would send more at a later date.  In the end, Jeff decided to keep the rest of the funds for himself. He went onto explain in an email to me that he lost money as he was not able to work at his construction job one weekend, due to all the running around he had to do because of our mother’s passing, therefore justifying to himself why he was going to keep the rest of the money.  Perhaps, Jeff didn’t take into consideration that I, too, ran errands, made numerous phone calls to funeral homes, meeting with the funeral home, as well as making arrangements to have my mother’s body transferred to a funeral home for cremation.  I also made arrangements for her obituary to be placed in the local newspaper, also paying for the services. Not once, did I bring that to anyone’s attention. But, once again, Jeff was thinking only of himself.  Jeff’s email was the last time I heard from my brother, as he never again contacted me or my brother, Steve.  Steve and I were completely astonished by Jeff’s actions. We both couldn’t believe that Jeff had cheated his own siblings out of thousands of dollars, only to gratify himself.  Jeff did not reflect on our feelings, as he only looked out for his own gain.  Not once did Jeff take into consideration how others may feel.  I found it quite sad actually. Jeff had every opportunity to make amends with his siblings, especially with me, but he had made the decision instead to leave and end our relationship, once again, over money.  He not only lost his sister for the second time in his life, but also his brother.  We were so close at one point in our early lives. Growing up, we all went through hardship together; we all had nothing to eat together, we didn’t have any money, we didn’t have lots of clothes, we were all deprived… together. When we had nothing, we knew we always had each other. Is money that important to someone where you would jeopardize a relationship?  Can greed be that strong? Money should, under no circumstances whatsoever, interfere with the price of a relationship, family, a loved one.  It only led me to believe that if a person could do something like this to their family then there’s a reason why; a reason they needed the money more and I just hoped that whatever Jeff needed it for, it helped him out tremendously. Having the extra money wouldn’t break me or make me rich in either way. Money is not worth destroying family relationships but, sadly, Jeff didn’t value these same opinions. Once again, Jeff was out of my life and I haven’t seen or spoken to him in twelve years, the same amount of time that my mother has been gone.

During the time I was with Jeff looking through my mom’s belongings, I found and kept a small picture of her from when she was approximately three or four years old. Blue eyed and curly blond hair, I saw my own resemblance within her.  I also found a notebook, which I immediately slipped into my bag, thinking that I would look at it closer, later, when I was alone. Completely forgetting about the notebook for a couple of weeks, I remembered and pulled it out of my bag. Flipping through the notebook, I felt my heart sink with every page I turned, completely astonished at what I was looking at. Mom had torn out articles that she found in newspapers and magazines. Some of the pieces were even in mom’s own handwriting.  I found articles on happiness and being respected and loved. I found one article she clipped from the newspaper titled, “Recipe for a Better Life.” I found clippings about togetherness, where it talked about death is nothing at all, as they have only slipped away into another room… I saw articles on hugging and a note titled, “What is a Friend.” Continuing on through the pages, I found Dear Abby articles that mom felt was important enough, clipping and saving them within her notebook. However, the articles that I found so significant were the ones titled, “Loneliness” and “A Parent’s Prayer.”  Reading these two pieces made me come to the realization that mom was hurting so much inside, aching to have any form of this contact with another human being. Every article that she taped neatly into her notebook was how she must have felt in her heart, mind and soul. Unfortunately, mom could not express these words openly to her children, therefore, she did it the only way she knew how and that was by taping her thoughts and feelings into a spiral notebook.

Mom's Messages

Mom’s Messages

Mom 2

Mom 5

Mom 8

Mom 7

Mom 8

As time went on and weeks went by, my mind started thinking about the mother I wished I could have had in my life while growing up, while getting married, while having children of my own, the mother who was taped within those pages of her notebook.  A part of me felt resentful and cheated; knowing that all mom had to do was open her heart, showing me that she cared. But, I knew that she was incapable of doing so.  Her life with Melvin throughout those many years had deteriorated her emotions, her happiness, and her passion for life, as well as for everything else that surrounded her. Melvin stripped her emotions away, just like he stripped away the sweet innocence of her two children.  Surely, she loved her children in her own unique way; she just had a very hard time expressing it to us. My heart ached for the mom that I could have had, should have had. I wished for my children to have the special grandma relationship that I was blessed with, with my own grandmother. What a special and amazing relationship that they were cheated out of; what my mother was cheated out of.  Although, do you miss something that you never had in your life to begin with?

I continue to believe that there’s a purpose, a reason why we are here on this earth.  We are here to receive learning lessons.  The values we learn on a daily basis, within our lives, we will take back home with us to share with others in God’s world, where we will then be the teacher. I have often wondered, questioning what my learning lessons are as I travel through my life. Is it through the sexual abuse by Melvin, learning how to be strong and overcome any obstacles that are set before me? Is it through the relationship with my mother, where I have learned to be open, expressive, to be the best parent I could be, or through my relationship with my grandparents, where I was shown that life is the most beautiful and precious gift that God has given us, therefore, living it with compassion and love? I have been through so much in my life and I have tried to make every effort to find the positive side of each and every situation… my learning lessons. I have learned to love with all my heart, unconditionally, always letting others know that I love them, sharing what I have gained and cherish life to the best of my ability, as I never know when it will all be taken away from me, when life will end, when death will find me…

If there’s ever a time where I questioned my mother’s love for me, I always know that I can return and read through her many messages that lie deep within the pages of her spiral notebook.

 

“Well, right now… I’m not dead.  But when I am, it’s like… I don’t know, I guess it’s like being inside a book that nobody’s reading…. An old one. It’s up on a library shelf, so you’re safe and everything, but the book hasn’t been checked out for a long, long time. All you can do is wait. Just hope somebody’ll pick it up and start reading.” 

~Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

Hours after mom’s death, she, herself, sat waiting on a shelf, but she wasn’t a book, she was a doll; a ghost, a spirit.  Mom had one last thing she needed to say to me before leaving, therefore, she sat quietly, patiently, waiting for the right moment, until I picked her up and held her tight…

References:

http://www.adcrf.org/

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

http://www.nderf.org/

http://www.near-death.com/