On This Day: 2 April 2016. {journal entry}

It has been several months – including the winter holiday season – since my house has given me any remote sense of joy. I really (really) like this house. It’s quirky enough to satisfy my disdain of cookie-cuttery and “normal” enough to reassure my faint desire to conform.

Inanimate – how could it give anything let alone joy?

But this evening, a weird coldsnappping on the wind and the dog impatiently yanking me down the driveway for a night walk I am beginning to enjoy, I turn to look back at our house, from the corner.

 

66Mill4.2.16

Fuzzy image of our house, dog walk. 4.2.2016

 

Two paper star lanterns hang side by side, glowing in concert with a single strand of un-twinkling twinkle/fairy lights.

She is in there, with six then seven then six of her girlfriends. Playing games and laughing wildly, howling at each other’s uncensored teenage humors and running commentary.

Junk food, juice, real soda, pizza and eventual ice cream cake hopefully burned off before bed so no middle-night stomach issues result. They sang to her, and she commented with genuine thrill, “I haven’t had an ice cream cake since I was like seven or eight!!” and blew out the 19 candles – an extra for luck – in one noiseless whistle. She was happy, IS happy, and that is something I have not witnessed in a long time.  She moved out abruptly, in January, after I drew my final line in the sand about her disrespectful behavior and backtalk.  I was done and that time, unlike previous others, there was to be no discussion, no bargaining.  She moved out the very next day, her father ‘rescuing’ her from me, her awful mother, her personal target, and blame-source.  He showed up, hours after he first promised, and hauled most of her things away, leaving a mess in her room and a giant, painful hole in our home.

Down to the final four, the sleepover will be sweet and sacred, as most of these things are. In the morning, I will prepare crepes and bacon and tea or juice, and cinnamon buns. They’ll be gone before 10:30 AM. And, then, so will she, until the next visit.  She does not come around often at all; I am ignored or shunned or too embarrassing.  It would be the same if she still lived here.  However, it was her behavior – not my lack of love or mothering – that led to the ultimatum:  change how you treat me or take your show on the road and play a few acts at your father’s.  She could not change for us – she needs to “individuate”, my friends all tell me.  “She’ll come back, better than before”, they all say.  But that is not now; the future remains a blank canvas.  We can only love what is right now.  So, tonight, I love this and the following moments of her being home.

Tomorrow night the house will be darker, less full, less lively and certainly less noisy. I wish it were like this more often: alive, glowing and sighing with joy.  Unbridled and happy. But, for now, it is really quite perfect. ❤

cake 4.2.16

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Horoscope of an Inappropriate Partnering.

January, 2010. We meet online — not that we were going to admit this to anyone, or that we have any mutual friends to tell (we do not) but there it is:  Truth #1.
After some writing and one phone call, he asks me out. I am surprised to hear a 53-year old man nervous over the phone; maybe because I am 46, a single mother and very little scares me. It is a predictably awkward but not horrific first date. We wander around a small, local museum, alternately checking each other out. While he stares at drawings by Frank Lloyd Wright, I study his shape. I like his height, 6’6″ and the broad expanse of his shoulders.  Top to bottom, side to side.  He takes up space, being that tall.  Where other manfriends and lovers have been lanky and slim, silos, this potential man is a dairy barn.  A sturdy, familiar, chipped-paint barn. I like his large hands, his goatee, the tousled salt and pepper hair.  He is handsome and rusting a bit, not brand new. His inky leather coat says something contradictory but not insulting to his loden corduroys, and after the museum is wrung, he suggests we might take in some wine.
Seven hours and his six-to-my-two wines later, we part company with a rain handshake and parking lot hug.  He smells good.  “Well, that didn’t kill me,” I think on my way home to a too-big empty house.
 
A week later he asks what I am doing for the rest of my life, and asks that I not run away. We are on our second date, riding the train to Manhattan to see Bobby Caldwell at BB King’s. Partly flattered and something marrow-uncomfortable at how willing he is to reveal himself, his loneliness.  The train ride begins at getting-to-know-you and arrives at watch-for-more-red-flags as we pull into Penn Station. I also feel sad for him–that he has no quest, no adventure, other than this. Every man needs a quest to keep him interesting; a quest cannot be another person. As sad as I suspect his story, and as much as instinct tells me ‘this is not your man’, our goodnight kiss in my driveway is one for the books and my concerns are shoved to the back of the closet.  I am that lonely, myself.
 
Valentine’s Day. We return to the museum for Spanish music and cocktails, a date of significance I fail to recognize; to me, this is just another date.  Later, we prepare dinner at my house; a shoeless, casual supper in formal attire at the Formica kitchen table. On too much free wine, he places a call to his son, asking him to be his best man, saying he has met the last love of his life, that he’d better marry me soon before I disappear. Again, I am surprised how he reveals his hand but say nothing.  Later in the month, we attend an 80th birthday party for my father. He is a nice date until I overhear him plumbing my parent’s friends for possible employment. This is off-putting and I resolve to be less available.
 
March. He attends church with me a couple times. I had not yet met his local family members, and he rarely spoke of them despite their close proximity. It becomes a concern, how he started two different families with two different women, only one of whom he married. He has three now-adult children. I repeat this to myself until it sinks in:  he started two different families with two different women…right alongside the realization of me possibly becoming number three. When he brings up “the future” it makes me balk because it is way too soon. He uses my discomfort and accuses me of wanting to break up.
 
April. Easter. A brief resurrection. We cook an afternoon supper for my family, moving a table into the sunspot in the backyard and have a feast for spring. It is “normal” and it feels right…except that he never heard from his family. Our invitation goes unanswered. He never hears from them, ever. [NOTE:  The entire time we knew each other he did very little, if anything, with his family, which I found sad – not in a pity way but in a way that made me want to be his family. Just before the end, I suddenly understood how he wanted to be saved, adopted, absorbed into someone else’s life. I could never be all those people for him, “my favorite people all wrapped into one,” as he often called me. It eventually ruined us both.]
 
May.  I went away with married girlfriends overnight, a well-deserved and needed break at the end of a stressful project. ONE night. He threw us under a bus and broke up with me, preaching it “the beginning of the end.” I’d never dealt with a grown-up who has severe abandonment [like mine]. This frightened me; that he could so easily end things because I was not available for one evening. He stopped answering my calls. I took the next day off from work to find him and talk us back together. (I should have walked away. But since I am familiar with being afraid of being left behind, I didn’t.)
 
How stupid of me. Really. I took us to lunch. He barely ate. Anytime I paid for us (he never had cash), he barely ate. When we cooked at my home with food I purchased, and drank wine from my wine rack, he ate and drank, heartily. I never said a word but kept watching and waiting for him to stop thinking I was either cheating or not caring, or that I was going to leave.
 
By June, things were weird and rocky. He became moody, and blamed his behavior on Parkinson’s. My intuition told me there was more going on; more he was never going to say. He asked when I might be ready to be his wife. I joke a reply, he pouts.
 
July. He wondered aloud if I would let him move in so he could “save some money.” I said no; I have boundaries, and I am raising a girl. His pay would not support any shared co-habitation. Mid-month: I gave $300 to an exterminator who came twice to eradicate the massive flea infestation his two dogs brought to my home. He wondered why I wasn’t inviting him over.
 
I broke up on a day he was shopping for $200 Red Wing boots and I was vacuuming up dead fleas. Not cool. Later that night, he asked if he can take me out to dinner. This is a first. I declined.
 
In August, he called, acting as if I’d been out of the country rather than out of his life. He offered me flea money – which he didn’t have; it was an empty gesture.
 
September. He called, wondering why I was “so busy” with my child, school, my work, friends, as he walked out on his only job and into unemployment — with no unemployment benefits. We did not argue but I asked him to stop calling.
 
October, I asked him to stop calling, again. He said once he was gone, back to Ohio, he would not call or hover or beg to come back. Yet, he left a stack of thrift and junkshop birthday gifts on the tractor in my garage. Every one something important or relevant to him.  Not me, not us.  Each gift had a relationship with his past, they had nothing to do with me.  It was a guilt maneuver which I saw, immediately.  A week later, in the town newspaper, he proposed marriage through a poem published across the center pages. The part of me longing for a good partner wished “yes!” could be an appropriate reply. The meaningless, used items-as-birthday-gifts went to the curb with an ad on Craig’s List, “free for the taking”.  They were gone within the hour.
 
We never spent a Thanksgiving nor Christmas together.  I ended things the following New Year’s Day.
 
He was not a bad person nor a particularly mean man. He was what most people would call “a loser.”  53, no ties to his children nor the rest of his family; talked a decent game about the future but had no idea how to make any plans for himself or with someone he loved. I choose not live with mediocrity; I am honest, vulnerable, I volunteer my time, and my child is the most important person in my life. Those were our biggest differences.
 
And yet despite all the on/off, the back and forth, I had a hard time letting him go…because I had a harder time seeing how I deserved, and was worthy of, someone better. I wanted to be so deeply in love with the man I met that January: the low-country dreamer, the romantic, who could fix anything – and did. The dog owning down-to-earth art and music-loving cook who loved me strong and close…to a point. But those are not the qualities I seek now…anyone can love dogs or paint a wall, change a tire or take you dancing in the kitchen. I know what was missing: a desire for the other person; confidence; companionship, honesty, trust, loyalty, friendship; like-mindedness; kindness; a flawed but loving, caring spirit, and actions that back those traits.
 
The last time he appeared, he and his wounded ego showed up in my driveway the morning I was leaving for vacation, alone. He accused me of going with someone. His constant accusations I was seeing someone behind his back made me weary and pained; there was never anyone but him. I knew it was not love. It was control and lack.  Maybe it was love when we were very briefly on an even keel, but he never trusted me to stay; he fulfilled his own prophecy, all those times he said I would leave.
And, I did.
 
DJD 2015

Starbucks: Fireside Eavesdropping.

Dear loud nasal-voiced woman sitting over my left shoulder,

Stop talking. Please.

We three writers sitting quietly by the fireplace are cringing and wincing, shooting each other rolling-eyes about your “how annoying boss, Bob” and how late meeting invites were ignored. The rapid-fire banality of your workplace drama and gossip–Diana is a slut, AND she sounds lazy, yes, you’re right – has meaning only to you. Have you checked if your friend across the table is still breathing? Peter and Ross and Justine should not attack each other, and blame is a byproduct of working with folks who believe “it’s not their job”, whatever it is. Georgia needs a plumber and Henry will not be a good presenter if he can’t come to work sober. That’s a lot of other people’s business you’ve got your snout wedged into. And, now, because you were never taught to properly modulate your voice, everyone is involved.

Even invisible strangers like me.

But, you caffeinated siren of gossip and shrill shrewing, thank you for reminding me why I love a non-office workplace.

Thank you from the bottom of my coffee cup.

DJD

Neil.  09.08.2015

What a strange place to be

Sending intermittent thoughts

Small prayers to ‘wasband’
he who was my husband

On the untimely but not altogether unexpected death of his brother,

Cornelius “Neal”

 

Named for their father

 

late last week, diseased liver and rattled core

gave up and ghosted him to the other side

younger at heart than most of us and most of our offspring,

 

with a profound lack of grounded responsibilities or any sense of sobriety

textbook wild spirit

genuine freebird *ignited lighter into the air*

Galahad and gadfly of bar rails and car-lifts

Vodka & Vicodon

Skynrd, Allmann

less refined but just as earthy

mortared with talent and deep soul

 

lost cause

failure to launch

rugged, salt & peppered smug grin who

never failed to glean a bosomy date or black eye from her husband, mate

or (in a few cases) a wits-end father

 

Swinging fists and spittle swearing from

the womb to the pine box

helluva ride

all before 58 or 59, definitely before 60

 

I am glad I met the other, younger, brother first.

I am learn’ed from both men, in the hardscrabble ways of wheeling and dealing for affection and second chances

though the lessons go unpracticed by my hand

 

He would have sold snake oil just for the sake of making a sale, and been all the more happy to white-knight-drive you to the doctor when it made you ill. With remorse, with a large battered heart, with loud rasping voice as if shout-talking over a taproom crowd, even when it was dusk alone or a baby’s christening in church.

 

He, best man to my then groom, arriving early that damp October afternoon. Half past the hour, an hour earlier than printed. He made sure to have the groom early, too, as it was his reputation to be late everywhere and always.

 

He cried through the entire service. Blubbering huge mantears down the front of his tux. His unspoken yet precious wedding gift to me — no one else – he made that very clear — was his sobriety

(for the service)

 

I was moved to tears.

 

He was present and fine past the picture-taking but stalled hard before we cut the cake. He took up with one of the photographers (both women) and they enjoyed each other’s “company” (to be polite) several times, apparently at great auditory exhibition, in her car in the front parking lot of the Garden City Hotel. I admired both his libido and his lack of decorum as I slept in my own hotel bed alone that night, the newly minted Mrs. No-body staring into the future

 

He cried again the day my child arrived and came, timid gusto, to sit and hold her.  Bundled bean curled against the mechanic’s arms. He held her for almost an hour in near-silent awe, and softly cried and told her the world would be kind…to her.

 

His baby gift was to arrive sober — just to be able to hold her. I’d anticipated him not showing or showing up three-sheeted or with yet another nameless dingbat on his arm. But, he arrived smoke-free, smacking of nothing more than Old Spice and a leather jacket.

 

Rest in peace, my once-brother-outlaw.

They’ve saved a pick, a stool, and a fine bottle of something just for you.

The music will be incredible, as you knew.

With respect, always,

Red

 djdawson Sept 8, 2015

Tongue Tithed.

Is there a word that just plain annoys you?

My friend and I had a discussion the other day and they confessed (a bit too enthusiastically) that “moist”, “gleaming” and “awesome” are their peeve words. To each their own.

Mine are the overuse and lack of respect from “guys”.  “Hey, guys!” is used by everyone under a certain age for, what once was, ‘ladies and gentlemen’ or ‘folks.’  For me, the all-too-casual ‘guys’ is the language equivalent of nails on a chalkboard.  Another, fast approaching irksome, is the candy-coated “y’all”, especially when used by an otherwise educated person and/or former northerners who have transplanted themselves anywhere south of the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

Call me jaded but “Really??” flares through my self-talk. “You’re a native New Yorker/New Jersian/Brooklynite. That “y’all” is fake and you know it. Cut the crap, buster.” No mercy, I know.  

Having attended college in the very center of the country, cinched in the heart of the Bible Belt, “y’all” is not unfamiliar to my ear; the span of then-to-now is 30-something years, so it has been a while since that smooshed together vernacular of familiarity and address was commonplace in language I heard daily. Heard daily, not spoke. Now living in Virginia, I would not slur “y’all” the same way I would not volley “youze guys” when I lived in the metro-tri-state north.

My mother in law, RIP, referred to two or more together as “you people.”  This never failed to remind me of angry, annoyed casting directors at cattle calls and group dance auditions. “You people: step ball-change stage right – triple time!!” and the herd would count off ‘5678’ and tap in over-zealous, leotarded herd unison.

Despite a grandfather from Iowa and a grandmother from Little Rock, both of whom attended college, neither said “y’all” – as far as I can reckon.

Welcome Mat. May 26, 2015.

Someone to come home to.  What a novel idea.  

Why didn’t I think of this sooner?

Singlehood and I have been a haphazard pair going on 13 years next month.  Twice I seriously tried to cut bait and try a new, real, partner but neither of us were ready.  So, we have rabbleroused and raised my child, and found distractions like writing and helping when extra hands are needed, and insomnia, and maybe a few dark nights – home alone – of too much wine and not enough folly–only moderation of both are considered healthy distractions.
As my final train approaches my ‘home’ station on Long Island, I know the house will be quiet.  Empty…and for all the other times I wished for a moment of peace between agendas, I wish it were going to be boisterous or even just small “Hi there.”
Someone to come home to.

They should write a song.

DJD

Destination. May 26, 2015

Heading north this morning. I try not to say “heading home”; leaving here is leaving home, and so is leaving there.  

I come home to both places. 


A life not divided but widened by space and time, and the exciting horizon of possibilities for all of us.  

#charlottesville #amtrak #alwaysheadinghome