Finding Our Footing

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I walked beside my father along the shoreline of the beach.  His cane discarded on my old childhood blanket, I steadied my dad as he navigated around pebbles, broken shells, and children wielding brightly colored buckets full of ocean treasures.  Sweat beaded up along his upper lip in spite of the breeze that blew in off the water.  3 weeks prior my father had lain in a hospital bed unable to stand without the assistance of at least two nurses, forced to endure the indignity of a bed pan.  That day we walked along the shoreline arm in arm, looking to any passerby like a typical father daughter duo enjoying the final days of summer.

My earliest memory of my father is of us dancing.  Music would fill my house on the weekends – show tunes, calypso, salsa and Harry Belafonte.  My parents loved Harry Belafonte.  In between vacuuming, mowing the lawn, raking leaves, or shoveling snow, my dad would lift me up and place me on top of his feet.  His steps were sure and rhythmic – a heartbeat that punctuated the melodies of the songs.  A guide for me to follow.  Even after I knew the steps I would pretend I didn’t, just so he would whirl me around the living room; my feet pressed firmly on top of his.  It felt like I was flying while somehow being anchored to the ground.

My father was always quick on his feet.  On the soccer field he was a streak of black lightning. He could dribble a ball between an opponent’s legs before they even knew what was happening.  I pretended not to notice – preferring to roll my eyes over the pages of my book whenever he asked me to play with him and my siblings. Eventually I would saunter over, huffing and puffing, complaining about how running around after a ball was stupid and boring – all the while secretly glad that he wanted me to play.

When I was 11, I fell at school while playing tag.  Unfortunately a girl named Phyllis also fell while playing tag – right on top of my right leg, tearing the ligament in my knee.  At least that’s what my dad said she did – a doctor never confirmed his expert diagnosis.  We couldn’t afford a trip to the hospital but my dad had seen many injuries like mine on the soccer field.  All I had to do was trust him.  He would wrap my leg up, give me a cane and in a few weeks…well hopefully I’d make a full recovery.  Bright pinpoints of light exploded behind my eyes as he wrapped my leg tight with ace bandages.  I tried not to scream – I wanted to be as brave as he was in the stories he told me about his soccer playing glory days. The first week he allowed me to lay around on the couch being catered to by my mother like a little Cleopatra and indulged me by carrying up and down the stairs when I needed a change of scenery.  Then he told me that I needed to exercise my leg – I needed to move around; not too much but a little every day – enough to hurt, enough to regain my strength. I bit down, gritted my teeth and endured the pain, tears gathering in the corners of my eyes to bear witness to the cruelty being forced upon me.  After about a month I was able to stand without the support of the cane.  Soon I was dancing around the house again – my favorite interlude between weekend chores.  “You see,” my dad gloated, “You didn’t need a doctor! Your leg is as good as new.”  And it was – just like MacGyver, my dad had fixed me with a roll of tape, a safety pin and sheer determination.

 

In the hospital my dad’s feet lay helpless on the bed.  He could move them but they wouldn’t support his weight.  Soft and slightly swollen, encased in hospital slipper socks, the stroke had reduced him to a child in footie pajamas.  My quick footed confident father who had never been hospitalized in his life, looked up at me with fear in his eyes.  Every time a nurse had to bathroom him I saw his light dim a little – I watched him shrink further inside himself.  “I don’t like this,” he told me, “it’s embarrassing.”  “Lean on me,” I whispered. “I’ll be your feet. We’ll get to the bathroom together.”  It took what seemed like an eternity to walk the 10 feet to the bathroom, but we did it, looking somewhat like an uncoordinated three legged race team.  We smiled at each other conspiratorially inside that little bathroom and I felt my dad return to me a little.  It was the beginning of many small victories against hard fought battles.  I was often frustrated as my dad would refuse to use the walker that the doctors provided.  He would insist that he could walk just fine as he lurched down the hospital corridors at a dangerously acute angle.  I would follow him with the same anxious energy I used to follow my son around with when he first started walking.  Our roles had reversed – he was now the headstrong risk taking child and I was the nagging worried gray haired adult.

I watched the joy wash over my dad’s face as his toes sunk into the wet sand and the waves caressed his heels.  We almost hadn’t come to the beach.  He hadn’t wanted to.  He had million excuses.  “What’s the point?” he said sounding like the petulant teen I had once been.  My childhood was spent dancing around the house and playing soccer on the beach with my dad.  Physically he was always in motion. A sharp contrast to his calm and easygoing nature.

“I didn’t want to come,” he admitted looking out over the water,” because I didn’t want to be here unable to do the things I used to do.  But I’m glad I came.”  Looking down at our feet, I nodded, “Me too.”

His hand heavy on my shoulder, we moved slowly and confidently back towards the blanket and the abandoned cane.

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My dad and I at the beach. Our family spent every summer hanging out at Sherwood Island in Connecticut.

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My dad and I on our daily walk at the Rehab Center.

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Finding our footing…at the beach again (Sherwood Island, of course!) 2 months after his stroke.

 

 

The Request

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I ask you

To dance naked

With me

In fields of fragrant flowers.

To bite that forbidden fruit

And feel it’s sweet ripe juice

Dibble down your chin.

Glistening

For a split second

Before it drops

Splattering

Against your bare feet.

You ask me

To shut-up

As you

Politely sip your coffee

(Steamed milk, 2 sugars, fresh brewed, French pressed)

And read the Sunday Times.

Calvin Klein Jeans

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I look down at the scale

Which continues to rise

130…132…134…135

Shit…140!

“Yo Yo Yo Shorty!

Shorty with the fat ass thighs!”

I wipe the tears from my eyes

As I ignore those guys

And focus on my KFC

Fried extra hard and greasy

Suddenly feeling queasy

Remembering

A moment on the lips

A lifetime on the hips

My mother always quips

Thinking it’s funny

Reaching over and pinching my tummy

While serving me bacon, sweet biscuits, eggs

Mmmmmm… soft, yellow and runny.

Yet she never seems to quite

Understand my loss of appetite

Or how at night

I fight

The urge to stand in the light

Of our refrigerator

And instead read magazines

Where every woman seems

To be a perfect size five

And every article urges me to

Flatten that tummy

And tone those thighs

Which is exactly what I

Need to do to be

As happy and free

As that model on page 53

With the shiny hair and perfect teeth

And those really cute tiny Calvin Klein jeans!

I bet she doesn’t eat an extra serving of rice and beans.

So now neither do I.

Instead I try

That new diet they advertise

On TV

And food becomes my worst enemy

And after two weeks I’m just 133

So instead of one diet pill – I take three

Thus increasing my chance to be happy.

I feel the pounds melt away

With my one shake a day

Bringing me closer to perfection

Giving me a better chance for love and affection.

I step on the scale and can’t believe my eyes

Only 125!

At 5’7 ½” it seems the perfect size

But when I look in the mirror

I know the scale lies

Cause I still see fat jiggling on my thighs

So I do an extra hour of exercise

Instead of my usual three

And I realize

That Slim Fast has calories

That are probably unnecessary

Especially for me

And I vow to drink only water

Which. Has. Zero. Grams. Of. Fat.

And that

I could’ve burned more calories if

I had stood all those times I sat.

120…115…110

My mom thinks I’m too thin.

Will I ever win?

I’m just too tired to argue

And I need all my strength to chew

My fingernails

While trying to make it through the day

Until I can get home and weigh

My success

On a scale that determines my worth

Each pound lost is a rebirth.

100…96…90

I stare at my role model on page 53

So pretty and so carefree.

Bitch!

I bet she doesn’t have to count calories

Unlike me

Some people are born lucky.

And she still doesn’t look like me

She looks perfectly happy.

My friends think I’m out of control

But in truth,

I’ve never felt more…well…in control

As I eat only 1/8 of a dinner roll.

Cut into really small pieces.

No butter.

Displaying an act of discipline

That can only be achieved by the desperate to be thin.

88…87…85

Guys no longer say that I’ve got fat ass thighs

But I know the mirror doesn’t lie

And I still despise what I see

When I look at my body.

All day long I count calories

Quietly

In my head

While secretly doing exercise in my hospital bed

And yanking out the IV through which I’m forcibly fed.

People no longer laugh

When I say I’d rather be

Dead

Than fat.

They think there’s truth in that.

But I don’t want to pass away.

I’m just feeling fat today

And usually I feel that way

Every second of everyday.

So no matter how hard it seems

I’ll do whatever it takes

To achieve my dreams

Of perfection packaged in Calvin Klein jeans.

Under Construction

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You built your entire existence

On lies.

One on top of each other

Until it was sky high

An impenetrable tower

Or so you thought.

We decided to play Jenga one day.

Little by Little

Piece by Piece

We removed

Each lie

Every deceit.

Holes shone through

The man we thought you were

The one you present to the world.

Light poured through the gaps

Filling them with hope and possibility.

We finally saw the truth.

Hand in hand

We slid the last piece from it’s place

Reaching for the freedom on the other side

And your tower of lies crumbled

Into a sad pile on our coffee table.

With it went

The hold you had over us.

Smiling we nodded at each other

Picked up the scattered tiles

And began to build our own tower

Little by Little

Piece by Piece

Together.

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The Scarecrow

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In the cold snowy days
Of Winter
I long to see the
Summer.
To kiss the warm air
To embrace the soft grass
To love
The Scarecrow.
So tall and proud
In tattered clothes
His arms
Against the sky
Like wings.
I long to fly with him
And yet I cannot.
I can only dream
And so I trudge, bundled up
Out into the snow
And I make the
Best
Of a bad situation.
I build the snowman.
He smiles at me
And I am happy
All thought of
The Scarecrow
Seems to disappear…at least
For the moment.
My beautiful snowman
So regal, so jolly
In his top hat
And knitted scarf.
His feet firmly planted
On the ground.
And I dance with him
In the snow
I love him with
Desperation
While the cold air
And wet snow
Bring tears to my eyes.
At night I dream of
The Scarecrow
But during the day
I laugh with my snowman.
But Alas! Time passes
Summer is arriving!
The days become warmer!
The sky becomes brighter!
My snowman begins to melt.
And with him
So does
My love.
Now that the warm air
Kisses Me!
And the green grass
Embraces Me!
I don’t know why
I ever made the snowman.
He is forgotten.
A cold and snowy memory.
The Scarecrow
My Scarecrow!
Is here and I
Sing! Dance! Laugh!
Love.
As I have always loved
The Scarecrow.

Packing Paralysis

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I love traveling.  I love going to new places, seeing new things and meeting new people.  I love traveling by train, plane and automobile.  I enjoy watching the hustle and bustle of people – the controlled chaos of bus depots, train platforms and airports. I love clean hotel rooms with their turned down crisp sheets and perfect catalog pristineness.

But I hate…No I DREAD, packing for any trip.  Even packing an overnight bag fills me with extreme anxiety.  There is something about having to anticipate and plan for all my needs and desires for a set amount of time that causes me to become paralyzed by fear.  How will I know what I want to wear in 3 days? What will the weather be like? What if I somehow gain or lose 10 pounds overnight and nothing fits me?  As a result I procrastinate packing and thus prolong the agony.  Actually right now I should be packing for the road trip I am leaving on in less than 24 hours but instead here I am blogging about packing and not actually packing.  It’s a sick, sick cycle of dysfunction that I can’t seem to break.

I know all the tricks.  Make lists.  Pack outfits that can multitask.  Pack clothes in colors that all compliment each other.  Actually put these things in your bag/carry-on/suitcase.  It’s just that I am not very organized.  Nor am I good at planning ahead.  I tend to float through my days.  What am I doing tomorrow? Oh I don’t know…whatever comes my way.  I like having options.  I like having all of my stuff available at my fingertips so that I can change my mind on a whim or when opportunity arises.  It is extremely difficult for me to anticipate what I will want to wear, do or eat in the future.

And so packing usually goes one of two ways for me.  I either:

A) Procrastinate until the very last minute and then pack every last thing I own in a frenzy because hey, you never know… I might need that winter coat in Miami in July!  I am then stuck lugging around a bag that weighs more than me and is filled with clothes and products and gadgets that I don’t even use when I’m home.

OR….

B) Procrastinate until the very last minute and then stressed out and exhausted say FUCK IT and pack a total of 10 items rationalizing that many people pack light…only to get to my destination with a hodgepodge of completely unrelated crap in my suitcase.  Like one sock, a pair of heels, a t-shirt with a huge stain across the front that I meant to throw out, a jeweled cashmere sweater, biking shorts, toothpaste no toothbrush, goggles, camera charger sans camera, and hair gel.

Does anyone else suffer from packing paralysis? If so, what do you do to make sure you get to your destination with a reasonably sized bag full of things you will actually need/want?

Intoxication

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Your soft lips

Sweet wine

Intoxicating.

I am drunk with longing

And dizzy with desire.

The sparkling champagne

Of your words

Bubble up and

BURST

In my heart.

Tonight I am high

On you.

Soaring with every

Kiss.

Flying with every

Caress.

Yet tomorrow

I will have a

Hangover

That will last

Longer than

The love you gave.

The Process of Domestication

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A vet tech friend of mine once told me that a domesticated dog released in the wild would most likely die pretty quickly.

“Don’t their natural survival skills kick in?” I asked.”I mean they are dogs after all!”

He proceeded to tell me that the process of domestication throughout the years is in actuality a slow dumbing down of a dog’s natural instincts.  Therefore dogs are able to love us unconditionally -to be man’s best friend- because they in essence suffer from a form of retardation.

Interesting, I thought.  When I am in love I make some pretty dumb decisions myself.  I have been known to go against my natural instincts all for the sake of some guy. So unconditional love can make you appear retarded (or for the PC crowd – mentally challenged).  And then I thought how throughout history, women have been conditioned to submit to men, keep house and become DOMESTIC partners.   Hmmmmmmm….

I remember as a young, boy-crazy teenage girl, watching older women (on tv, in the streets, in my family) to see how they attracted men.  I studied how they moved, what they wore and what they said. I paid attention to who the boys paid attention to.  I learned quickly to not reveal the depth of my intelligence around boys. Giggle, toss hair, bat eyelashes, pretend you can’t figure out how to do simple things without their help. Guys love that.  Don’t ever appear smarter.  Don’t ever do things better.  Don’t ever make them feel anything less than the superior beings they believe themselves to be.  They hate that.  In fact more than one male friend of mine has commented that they like a woman to let them take charge, feel smart and be the provider.  They would even prefer that she pretend she doesn’t know something just so they can feel like The Man.

Smile, Nod, Be Pretty.  Speak, Sit Down, Roll Over…Good Doggie.

Strong independent women (The kind who would survive if released in the wild and may even thrive on it howling at the moon while building a 5 star lodging) are not these mythical domesticated goddesses that some men crave.  They do not prance around on the arm of their owner wearing teeny tiny clothes emblazoned with rhinestones.  They do not play endless games of fetch and catch.  They know better than to be a showpiece or to run around in mindless circles for anyone.  And so like the undomesticated wolf, they wander around alone.  Not man’s best friend.  But rather a beast both feared and revered.  Wild and untamed.  A force to be reckoned with.  A real bitch if you get right down to it.

So what’s a She-Wolf to do? How does she hold on to her independence and spirit and enjoy a loving companionship with a man? Can domestication ever not end in the dumbing down or taming of one’s soul? Or is that just the price we all eventually pay for love?