Recovering

Dear Dad,

I wish I had thanked you for the butterscotch candies on the desk;

the dance parties (the ones where my feet on top of yours made indentations in the living room carpet);

the long car rides ending with ice cream in a baseball cap;

for the nights spent in the garage checking tire pressure and oil levels;

for conversations over cups of coffee and

for that time when we fought and you apologized by returning home from Kmart with a pair of black boots that made me feel like Debbie Gibson.

I wish I had thanked you for your belief in the beauty of that permed and pimpley faced eleven year old.

I know there were hard years.

Times in the blue chair when you wondered why your opinion once important now meant so little. Days when you wished a few laps around the high school track, your girl keeping pace, could bridge the divide.

Thank you for never waivering.

Your confidence would bring you through the dry spell until once again your words held weight.

I found you in the birth of my daughters.

Your smile in Audrey. Your hard-headedness in Sid.

I wish I could thank you for helping me to navigate those first sleepless night,

for the phone calls,

the long runs,

the days at the beach while I rested tired eyes and you wrangled little girls.

If you were here now I’d thank you for Ellery Jane. Her tough exterior, booming voice and tender heart is the physical reminder of your presence.

The places I found solace after you left us; your library and it’s books with your handwritten notations in the margins, they provided great comfort. I wish I could thank you for guiding me back to God.

Recovering from your loss is what brought me here.

Your death informed.

I want to thank you for Matt and Sydney and Molly and Zoey, for this life that longs to live in service to others.

Thank you for those thirty years of loving me on earth and the twelve spent guiding from above.

I hope I make you proud.

Forever your girl,

Heather Ann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Father

Long hours worked.

Days spent at the hospital, weekends on drill and the pager that went off at ungodly hours. The pinging sounding a soldier with wings.

Last rites administered, returning home, he would make the sign of the cross on our heads, we knew nought; unaware he had sat besides deaths door.

The journey of those 60 years summed up in that example.

What is a life well lived if you have not served your fellow man?

What mark have your left if the imprint of Christ’s cross cannot be seen by those who walk with your offspring?

I can only imagine what he would tell me today, eleven years after his passing.

Most likely it would be to vaccum out my car, change it’s oil and call my mom.

He would also, like Tolkein, tell me “not to let grief harden my heart”.

So today I sit with a grateful heart for the man that walked with me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question

The question asked.

“Are they all yours?”

We were in line waiting to use the restroom.

My smile and head nod, not enough of an answer for her.

“Were you trying for a boy?”

Thankful the stall door opened and my no” could end the conversation.

The truth is the story of our family cannot be shared in three second sound bites.

The girls know that. They don’t discuss details with curious strangers.

If asked they tell of their five sisters.

Yes there are six of them, no twins.

They often throw in a line about how the dog is a girl too.

It doesn’t matter they didn’t all come from one womb. They are woven together.

In those brief interactions with others, I struggle with the desire to summerize all that is our family.

Yet, these fierce, loyal, loving young ladies have come to understand what is taking their Momma year’s to accept -nothing needs explained.

Next time maybe I need not wish the inquiry away.

Joy in the knowledge that my daughters know what family is.

Trust Fall

A year ago I sat in the sterile office of a specialist.

He told me tests I had taken revealed 80% of the hearing in my right ear was lost.

A silent virus had infiltrated.

A mistake at the urgent care meant weeks wasted on medication that never could have cured me. Time had been of the essence.

I was faced with the looming possibility of a lifetime of asking others to repeat their words.

In the midst of the tears I chuckled at God’s timing. No sooner had he given me six girls then he had rid me of my ability to hear them clearly!

I left with a high dose of steroids and a reality check.

Ten days later I returned and was told what I had already known to be true. The medication had worked and my hearing was “mostly” restored.

Leaving giddy, tucking away the specialists final warning- I would forever be prone to these types of inner ear infections. If left untreated the ear would go deaf.

Too many times to count during the previous months have I grown anxious.

When the ringing begins, when the world feels like it exists in a tunnel, I ponder the purpose of two ears.

I immediately feel selfish for fearing the possibility of such an insignificant inconvenience.

Such is the story of my life.

There is safety in the fear. Who am I without the worry?

Yet he calls me closer to the edge. He provides the possibility of the unexpected.

So I shall learn to trust in the timing of those things small and those things big.

And when he takes the moments to teach me, to lift me from my comfortable existence, it is then I will learn to fall completely into his arms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rachel

The laughing hadn’t occurred that long and that hard for some time. Both on the threshold of 42, nearly peeing our pants while giggling in her kitchen posing for pictures.

The journey here, years in the making.

It began at a midwestern college campus when overalls were cool before they were cool again.

Spring breaks in Ft. Myers, summers corresponding with letters written by pen, and daydreams over espresso and fondue.

She was the first to show me how to live life less seriously.

Her crazy antics- the DQ runs, the pranks on boys and all the baby oil and Sun In one could lather on to tan skin and lighten hair. We lived in the moment when Rachel was present.

Years and years went on and when Sid was a bump in my belly, I thought of her and the laughter and knew instantly no other could be godmother to the first little lady to join our tribe.

She showed up on the day of her birth. Having driven more than five hours to simply sit with me and bask in the beauty of this baby.

And over the years that’s what she has continued to do. Time and time again she showed up.

When my father died she journeyed far to simply sit in my presence while we grieved.

She showed up again one week after my 14 year marriage ended. She held my hand, stroked my hair, feed my three precious babies and made me believe that the laughter would return.

And when it did return, when I found myself at 40 marrying a man who brought me more joy then I deserved, she listened to me gush and reminded me of the journey.

No one has lived friendship more beautifully than this woman.

She gives and gives and gives and she teaches me to love without boundaries.

When grief overwhelmed her this past weekend and the agony of the moment set in, she gave again. She let me return the favor.

I got to hold her hand and rub her back.

She let me spew words of insignificance.

When we were done being 41 she let me feel 22 again.

I wish for everyone to find a Rachel.

And for my Rachel I wish for millions of moments filled with laughter like she has given me.

Hundreds of miles away as I type I can still feel the breath catch in my throat from the giggles.

Thank you beautiful friend.

Know that this too shall pass.

 

 

 

 

 

One

An engagement, a wedding, two homes sold and one purchased, a year come and gone since that evening.

A good Friday service, then to a local bar for dinner and music, and twelve months later we sleep with our six girls under one roof,

nearly six months into our marriage.

On that night if you were to have told me where we would be today, I would have believed you.

My heart knew.

It wasn’t just that evening of laughter and good conversation that led me to know he was the one.

Four years of work lead up to that date.

Relationships with others that helped me to learn.

Nights of prayer.

Lord, I give up. I place this in your hands.

When it was time, Matthew arrived.

Finally unencumbered by the “stuff” that weighs one down, we only needed the minutes alone together to know this was the start of the grandest adventure.

Many a night now I fall asleep mid prayer.  He and I whispering words while children sleep in rooms above.

Matthew says I take a deep breath and he knows then he has lost me to slumber. On those nights he finishes the prayers for both of us.

A broken women’s prayers all those years ago, answered now in the form of a man who speaks her prayers when she cannot.

Grateful.

 

 

 

Breckenridge

At first the thought of leaving seemed selfish.

Money had been spent on a wedding and a Disney vacation with our girls was around the corner.

But, if we didn’t carve out time alone now, then when?

After sifting through options it became clear that 4 nights and 5 days in Breckenridge, CO was where we were meant to land.

Twenty- four hours into our married life, we boarded a plan and found ourselves in the middle of those mountains.

And with nothing preplanned we made our way to daily mass where beautiful people prayed for our marriage then gave us some tips on good food and hiking.

Up to 12,500 feet elevation we climbed one day. My stubbornness almost got the best of us but this man, this partner, he’s my balance and his steadiness gave us direction.

We spent hours talking about our goals for the future, for ourselves and our family.

And when it was time to go, more gratefulness flooded my heart.

Happy to see our girls and ready for the real journey to begin.

 

Imperfect

Here’s the deal, this woman,

this one here,

in the white dress and big smile-

I’ll let you in on a secret.

She’s broken.

She fails daily.

She at times finds it hard to breathe.

She’s been a less than perfect ex-wife.

She’s struggled with forgiveness.

She is an impatient mom.

She willingly admits these faults now because she is a recovering perfectionist.

In the recovery she has learned that the only way to slay the dragon is to acknowledge it and to name it.

You see the chase to perfect has eaten her soul at times.

It’s driven her body to revolt with shingles and kept her awake at night struggling to make her home look just as perfect as she hoped her heart would feel.

But perfect is an illusion.

It always leaves you wanting more.

What she craves is the joy that is born from the brokenness, from the failing.

So today, when she fails at work, at mothering, at being a wife, she will pause and remind herself that this life is much sweeter when she loves herself as her father loves her.

With or without that white dress and the big smile, full of imperfections, she will rest in his arms.

 

 

 

 

 

To Float

It was in this moment I knew, what she meant when she told me to float.

Here, in this church, pews lined with those who had been cheering us on, I felt myself float.

And as we vowed to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, a rush of our heavenly father’s love enveloped us.

A love I thought I needed to earn; one that couldn’t possibly be meant for this broken, sometimes bitter, woman.

But, yet I stood with this man, too impossibly good for words to describe, in front of six ecstatic girls pledging to walk with him forever. The father’s love for us palpable.

It happened because I said yes.

When feelings lay heavy on my heart to become Catholic, I said yes.

When he whispered in my ear that if a relationship was of his design, it demanded more, I let the old fall away and said yes to the new.

When my daughters said it was time for Momma to fall in love, I said yes to the trying which lead to those three new precious souls running into my arms and the subsequent yes to all that loving.

And when he called me to float down that aisle to the man in the gray suit who was pledging to become one with me, I listened.

I said yes.

And I floated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairytale

It is a fairytale.

Not the kind of hallmark movies or a Nicholas Sparks novels.

It’s our heavenly father’s version of happily ever after.

A fairytale born out of stretching and growing, missteps and heartache. Building blocks on a journey that brought us to this day.

No glass slippers, just a belief that a desire born of the heart was God’s whisper; his calling that marriage was a part of his plan for us.