childhood

Poem – A Childhood in Retrospect

Shifting through photos
I feel no connection, no recognition
to the person with time and years
ahead of them, looking to the future.

Pausing at one in particular in the midst of summer,
oak leaves burning with white light,
the sun slowly fading into the horizon
behind the hill at the street’s end.

What was etched into the mind
when the image became a permanent
moment tossed into a shoe box?
What was the last thought defining that moment?

Years will pass and that young face
will undergo an outward expression
of the strife, agony, depression, and final transformation
built upon the experiences, cast from the struggle.

In time what we are in this life
circles back to the foundation,
the hands pushing up from the earth,
the roots feeding a child’s growth and imagination.

Words and Actions – Revisited for 04/18/17

Rugged facial features and expressions, like that of mountain men in history books and legends standing atop the highest peaks and planting a flag for their country, shaped by the endless sun and arctic winds. He handled life and the people around him with the ease and care of a seasoned glass maker. It was extremely difficult for me to believe that was my grandfather lying before me, thin, frail, a skeleton of his former self.

As a child four or five years old, my mother divorced and we moved into my grandparent’s home, where she grew up on main street. Now after a few years, looking back on how life brought me to today, I believe this was fate. The moment afforded a chance for my mother and me to develop a bond, not only as parent and child, but with my grandparents. These bonds would stand time and distance, coming to fruition upon my grandfather’s passing. Time has not softened the heart which still yearns to hear his voice and the raw, unpolished words.

On April 17th, I stood at the foot of grandfather’s bed with him resting comfortably back home in St. Anthony. I did not know at the time that these were my last few remaining moments with him to talk, listen, and learn more of his life. For a man who would pass away the next day, he was his old and inquisitive self. His dark chocolate round eyes piercing through me were soft, but looking for something. Perhaps they were trying to find closure in the last hours. His face still had the character and unique features from years back when I helped him paint a brown wooden fence. I remember the backyard that always had the smell of baked breads, waffling from the kitchen where grandma was busy. A tall apple tree stood in the middle year after year, providing fruit and color. The tree reminds me of him: rigid, set in his ways, stubborn and able to withstand and overcome any challenge. Like the tree surviving a harsh winter, he had gone through many hardships and trials, with dignity and courage that stayed with him to the very end. Through his years, he did so many things, large and small, that have contributed to who I am as a person today.

While living on main street and adjusting to a new life with my grandparents and mother, I was obsessed with au gratin potatoes. They were the only food I ever wanted; breakfast, lunch or dinner, whenever hunger pangs took over. If there was none to be found in the cupboards, grandfather would take my hand and with no questions asked, lead me out the front door, into the car and off to the local Snyder’s on Central Ave. This kind of gesture was etched into my memory as his way of showing he loved me, without having to say the words.

I often built things with Lego, Constructs and Electra sets – typical toys of the early 1980s. These real-world things became reality as my imagination oozed into my fingers and assembled them, piece by piece: race cars with huge, spongy rubber tires and fast engines; cities of tall buildings and skyscrapers that reached for miles. Building these structures gave me a tremendous sense of accomplishment. Standing in awe and knowing that the images became something concrete and useful. The expression on my face conveyed these feelings: my eyes were bulging with excitement and I would be smiling from ear to ear.

When I would finish a project, I would take it to my grandfather and he would look it over. His words “This is really good, you should be an engineer” pushed me to keep building and make the next one even better than the last. Encouraging words from this man became my motivation and heightened my desire to build more and seek his approval.

Christmas is a time for family and the chance to see the loved ones from near and far. I cannot remember the gift I received from grandma and grandpa that year as there were more important memories to take away and energies to focus upon. I cherished this last time to see him as he always was: the man of pride, character and dignity. Christmas also brought with it a lot of questions I needed answers to: reasons why, the purpose, that as a 17-year-old losing a part of me, could not comprehend and answer myself. How could this man of such strength and dignity be brought down by an illness, a life turned upside and spiraling so quickly?

In November of 1990, grandpa was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He had limited time left and we had limited time with him. Was I just losing a grandfather? It was much deeper and more profound than that. I was losing a friend, security, and someone deeply loved; who helped me to grow and become who I am today; a person close to my heart and soul, who loved with no questions asked and nothing expected in return. This man, who raised me while mom worked, was the essence of the early stages of my life, planting seeds and giving advice that burned into my consciousness. He showed me how to care for others and love my family and work hard for what I desired out of life. I guess that is why his death hit me so hard and impacted the way I think and go from day to day. My thoughts are always in motion and his presence always alive and guiding. I must strive in the present with the few chances that I have and utilize all opportunities that I am given.

It has been 26-years since grandpa’s passing, and not a day is without thoughts of him, or I come across a subtle reminder. I cannot forget the day when I last saw him and he looked into my eyes and tried to smile. I could see his pain and suffering coming to an end and finally becoming free. Some of the days when I am weakest and in need of help, I look towards the sky and thank the universe he is looking down and listening.

Poem – Dreams

Children in the summer
Chasing dogs through
Fields open to the big sun.

Thoughts free of burden
Free of time they explore
Worlds beyond this one.

Always a step ahead
And pushing forward
They become the stars we see.

So what happened?
Where did our dreams go?

The older we become
The more experiences we obtain

It seems our dreams become fantasies
And we become rooted in reality.

Yet we will continue reaching
Back to reach out to those stars

Through reminiscing and visiting
The places of childhood.

We know something is missing
We always know the child was right.

The child was free of outward voices
And able to reach deep within and

Hold close the energy the fuels and
Drives who we truly are.

Never let go of dreams
Never let go of your true being.

Words and Actions – Revisited for 04/18/15

Back in 2009, I had a short story published at Whispering Angel Books about my grandfather.  It was titled “Grandpa’s Words and Actions”.  As 04/18/15 was an important anniversary, I am re-posting, along with updates from reviewing each year,  and including it below.


Rugged facial features and expressions, like that of mountain men in history books and legends standing atop the highest peaks and planting a flag for their country, shaped by the endless sun and arctic winds. He handled life and the people around him with the ease and care of a seasoned glass maker. It was extremely difficult for me to believe that was my grandfather lying before me, thin, frail, a skeleton of his former self.

As a child four or five years old, my mother divorced and we moved into my grandparent’s home, where she grew up on main street. Now after a few years, looking back on how life brought me to today, I believe this was fate. The moment afforded a chance for my mother and me to develop a bond, not only as parent and child, but with my grandparents. These bonds would stand time and distance, coming to fruition upon my grandfather’s passing. Time has not softened the heart which still yearns to hear his voice and the raw, unpolished words.

On April 17th, I stood at the foot of grandfather’s bed with him resting comfortably back home in St. Anthony. I did not know at the time that these were my last few remaining moments with him to talk, listen, and learn more of his life. For a man who would pass away the next day, he was his old and inquisitive self. His dark chocolate round eyes piercing through me were soft, but looking for something. Perhaps they were trying to find closure in the last hours. His face still had the character and unique features from years back when I helped him paint a brown wooden fence. I remember the backyard that always had the smell of baked breads, waffling from the kitchen where grandma was busy. A tall apple tree stood in the middle year after year, providing fruit and color. The tree reminds me of him: rigid, set in his ways, stubborn and able to withstand and overcome any challenge. Like the tree surviving a harsh winter, he had gone through many hardships and trials, with dignity and courage that stayed with him to the very end. Through his years, he did so many things, large and small, that have contributed to who I am as a person today.

While living on main street and adjusting to a new life with my grandparents and mother, I had an obsession with au gratin potatoes. They were the only food I ever wanted; breakfast, lunch or dinner, whenever hunger pangs took over. If there was none to be found in the cupboards, grandfather would take my hand and with no questions asked, lead me out the front door, into the car and off to the local Snyder’s on Central Ave. This kind of gesture was etched into my memory as his way of showing he loved me, without having to say the words.

Many children grew up with a blanket, providing security and comfort at the most stressful times and I was no different. Wrapping my arms firmly around the vivid colors of Winnie the Pooh and his friends, I clung to the blanket all the time. My fingers deeply entrenched, cotton and thread entwined with skin. When it was lost and torn from me, I was crushed and devastated.

It was seven or eight in the evening while standing on the front porch, frightened, yet curious and fascinated by the flashing and noise. The night was alive with thunder clapping in the shrinking distance, flashes of light, the wind blowing hard through the trees, branches swaying. Caught off guard for a moment, a gust of wind ripped the blanket from my grasp. My security was torn from me, my heart beating faster and faster, as though it would fly through my chest and into the wind. Looking into the direction I thought it went, in between raindrops becoming more fierce and heavy, I kept the thought alive that it would come back and return to my open arms. It never did. Leaving me screaming and crying, my eyes welling up at the slightest thought or mention of the blanket, I was vulnerable and searching for anything to deal with this moment. Fortunately, there was comfort to be found: grandfather’s kind and soothing words calmed me down, further cementing this man as a father figure. Although the loss could not be fixed or changed, he was there for me. His kind words and encouragement also helped in many other ways.

I often built things with Lego, Constructs and Electra sets – typical toys of the early 1980s. These real-world things became reality as my imagination oozed into my fingers and assembled them, piece by piece: race cars with huge, spongy rubber tires and fast engines; cities of tall buildings and skyscrapers that reached for miles. Building these structures gave me a tremendous sense of accomplishment. Standing in awe and knowing that the images became something concrete and useful. The expression on my face conveyed these feelings: my eyes were bulging with excitement and I would be smiling from ear to ear.

When I would finish a project, I would take it to my grandfather and he would look it over. His words “This is really good, you should be an engineer” pushed me to keep building and make the next one even better than the last. Encouraging words from this man became my motivation and heightened my desire to build more and seek his approval.

Christmas is a time for family and the chance to see the loved ones from near and far. I cannot remember the gift I received from grandma and grandpa that year as there were more important memories to take away and energies to focus upon. I cherished this last time to see him as he always was: the man of pride, character and dignity. Christmas also brought with it a lot of questions I needed answers to: reasons why, the purpose, that as a 17 year-old losing a part of me, could not comprehend and answer myself. How could this man of such strength and dignity be brought down by an illness, a life turned upside and spiraling so quickly?

In November of 1990, grandpa was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He had limited time left and we had limited time with him. Was I just losing a grandfather? It was much deeper and more profound than that. I was losing a friend, security, and someone deeply loved; who helped me to grow and become who I am today; a person close to my heart and soul, who loved with no questions asked and nothing expected in return. This man, who raised me while mom worked, was the essence of the early stages of my life, planting seeds and giving advice that burned into my consciousness. He showed me how to care for others and love my family and work hard for what I desired out of life. I guess that is why his death hit me so hard and impacted the way I think and go from day to day. My thoughts are always in motion and his presence always alive and guiding. I must strive in the present with the few chances that I have and utilize all opportunities that I am given.

It has been 24-years since grandpa’s passing, and not a day is without thoughts of him, or I come across a subtle reminder. I cannot forget the day when I last saw him and he looked into my eyes and tried to smile. I could see his pain and suffering coming to an end and finally becoming free. Some of the days when I am weakest and in need of help, I look towards the sky and thank the universe he is looking down upon me.

A guardian angel is that spirit of consciousness that makes an agonizing decision a bit easier, or a hand that turns you away from death. I received min on April 18th, 1991. My life, outlook, and place in humanity has only improved since that devastating day that has become a blessing. In this regard, a death can be a blessing, another chance to grow, that knock on the door that takes an effort to answer, and seize the gift staring back at you.

Poem – The First Flake

The child’s nose leaves prints on the glass
kitchen window overlooking the apple tree.

Wide-eyed, determined, safe –
was that a snowflake?

Did one land in the grass?
A frantic search for the

first snowflake signaling
winter, snow forts, and snow days.

There, that has to be one!
And the phone call to grandma

to let her know, that it is snowing,
that I will remember this forever.

Signs, Direction, and Another Room

The lead-up to decisions, where the result impacts many people and is one of those moments where life changes direction, and the person years from now may not recognize the person now, is the most gut-wrenching moment swirling in self-doubt, a search for reasons, and a forced self-reflection. So much responsibility that borders on a burden that can turn into anxiety if we let the outcome consume our being. Will time allow the mind and heart to return to a normal and balanced state? Or is this something that will be carried for the rest of this life?

The burden weighs heavily, and after so many years in this position, the mind is tired and the frequent headaches now become signs that a change is needed. That it is time to seek out and find a new direction, a new path, and push ahead through new challenges, furthering the distance and time from previous chapters.

Is it too much to ask for a new field to live this life upon? May I start over with the experiences but lose the burden?

I stand on the corner beneath the summer sun and there are cars passing slowly by. Windows are rolled down and music plays from a large truck and like the lyrics of country music, I wallow in despair at the state I find myself in. This is not what I wanted, but in one sense I allowed this to happen, but I have come so far that I have lost some of the drive and push from the earlier version of myself. So I continue to stand here on the corner and watch others pass by on their way to appointments, home, loved ones, or the bar down the road. Any of these destinations or purposes is better than just standing here as time is not kind to those who waste precious minutes, but I am afraid, scared, very comfortable in this position and when I look over the cliff, I no longer feel the excitement of childhood, but instead an intense fear and with some thought I do not have faith in myself.

Where did I go wrong? What moment in this life changed direction to such an extreme that in many ways I do not recognize that person, but that version has become the light I look up to, the person on the pedestal in the middle of grand and empty room with many doors and windows, that I find myself unable to open. No matter what other color I dream for the room, it returns to white, to the same state as when I awoke here. The subconscious knows the comfort state and will override the mind when it begins to see glimpses of a new direction.

How can I break this cycle? How can I awake in another room?

WOBSP-20061029 021

Thoughts on the Empty Field

I have written a bit about the concept of an empty field and what this means spiritually, mentally, and physically to myself as a wandering soul, a student of this life struggling to relate and come to terms with previous lives.  The empty field is the essence of the mind and energy transferred to a physical state, represented by a field, landscape, or a similar feature of nature.  This field is like a chessboard, and there are pieces representing parts of the person such as memories, roadblocks, behaviors, and habits that prevent a more peaceful and happier existence.  We do not have to struggle and suffer. We can choose and recast ourself and re-enter the world.


Romanticism of the Empty Field

(1)

From two perspectives –
the field gives, and
the field takes.

I see mountains and other
landscapes miles away, yet
here they have no influence.

Yet I cannot help wonder
what was here before me?
Before emptiness?
Does this field hold the
mountains higher, or offer
clear water to the gods?

On this particular day
cloudless and bright
there was no wind,
there was no sound.

I stopped on a single boulder
with eyes closed and filled the
emptiness with childhood memories –
moments we bring into the present
and view with a diffused and
soft light – the romanticism
of our past.

What happens to the real
memories, the emotions – where
are these upon the empty field?

Have I already incorporated
what I needed, taken the experience
and lessons, and discarded what
does not work, what only
weighs me down?

(2)

When I stand before the
entrance to the valley
and the immense gates
ask questions of me

how do I answer truthfully
when I left part of me
scattered and broken
fractured and fragmented
across millions of miles
of empty field?

Does the gate see the
same light or hear
the same vibrations as I?

(3)

I step down from the boulder
and vow to recast the person
I am into the person I should be
and begin to reassemble the being
from the pieces.

From a Puppy

We brought Leroy home in early 2011, shortly after I returned from Alaska.  I was apprehensive of bringing this tiny life home and the responsibility that came with her.  Would we be good pet owners, provide the right nutrition, walks, exercise, training, keep her safe?  What do we do when traveling, or simply running errands?  Was I willing to make adjustments and some sacrifice for this fur ball?  Since I decided to not have children, these are things I never had to worry about and was fearful to say the least.

The first year was probably the most stressful with the most amount of change as this puppy was like a squirrel drinking Monster energy, which is probably why she responds when I say “Monster, come here”.  But, as she grew and her personality solidified, so did I. Stress became easier to handle or let go as the monster brought a frisbee and only wanted to play.  Patience became easier to muster as walks into the woods became more about living, smelling each flower, and chasing dragonflies.

Now she has become my shadow and enjoys, with a smile, terrorizing me.

 

2-Weeks Old

Un-named Puppy

Un-named Puppy

Thirsty

Home at Last

Home at Last

Pictures Again?

Sleepy Leroy

Sleepy Leroy

Going on 4

Leroy Photobomb

Leroy Photobomb

A Boy and His Dog

Childhood memories of running through the yard, of dirt being kicked up, of throwing a ball and a flash of red whizzing by – there is nothing like a boy and his dog. Growing up with at least two dogs (along with cats, birds, fish, gerbils) at any time, there was no boredom to be be found. A dog always needed to go outside, wanted to play, or at least lay on your lap and snore for a couple of hours. When nap time was over, time to play in the backyard and chase a ball or catch a frisbee.

I have always cherished this part of my childhood. Being around and caring for animals, especially those so affectionate and close to humans (dogs and cats) instills a level of patience, gratitude, and empathy. They really are part of the family and when they are happy, we are happy (and vice-versa) and when they are sick, we hurt, we feel, and we cry. I cannot imagine not having a four-legged monster running through the hallways, bark echoing, and another ball gone missing.

Leroy Photobomb

Leroy Photobomb

Essay – Influence

An entire lifetime spanning so many years, is divided into smaller lifetimes, or books. These books of our life are further divided into chapters. I think the books are finished and started with major events or changes and these can be happy, joyous, sad, perhaps a death or tragedy. The chapters within each are related with a thread tying them together that defines the person we are at the moment in time. All of these books collect the experiences we have endured, the people we have met, what we have learned and ignored, and the view we have taken of the world.

The second book of my life started when I was 6-years old.

Many years have passed. 33 to be exact. If I stop for a moment and think about everything that has happened, both personally, and in the world, I am overwhelmed, almost in a state of panic. Like the changing sea, it is endless and never stops, never takes a break. Yet, without us noticing, we are constantly being affected, and our actions are influenced directly and indirectly by the things we do not see.

Who we are as a whole, our outside appearance, may not noticeably change, but the core of ourself, the thoughts and actions, how we process information, and how we think about the world and in turn react to events, does. I believe it is in a constant state of change that turns our being over and over, the same as a stone within the currents.

How we grow from this depends on more immediate influences and our roots, our upbringing, a sense of humility, and awareness.

33 years ago I was fortunate to gain a real father after mom remarried. This greatly changed the direction of my life. I look back now and cannot imagine the other person. I doubt I would recognize or have anything in common with them if we sat down for a cup of coffee.

Like any family, there was tension, fights, raised voices, and doors slamming. There was the frustration of algebra and geometry homework, the chores of lawn mowing and picking up after the dogs.  But there was also the endless hours of playing catch in the backyard and the continuous encouragement.

As I struggled to find independence and define the person I wanted to be, I fought against rules, what I thought others were defining for me, and forged any path that was different.

When I look back on these 33 years, I realize the great influence pops had, and in his silent way, I have followed in his footsteps, and for that I am grateful.  Mom will tease and say “you are just like your father” and I genuinely say “thank you”.  That is probably the best complement I could get.

I understand to get anywhere requires hard work, long hours of dedication, and some personal sacrifice. And when you achieve something, appreciate it and never take anything for granted. Each day should be cherished, along with the people in your life, and family. At the end of the day, work is just work and you should take time to enjoy what you have over a traditional Sunday dinner or watching a football game.

Every time I mow the grass or take care of the dog, I think back to those long summer days and how I complained and put up a fuss. Now, I actually enjoy these tasks beneath the summer and fall sky.

I hope that I have become the person pops wanted, as I know I have become a man because of him.