Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving of Thanks

So American Thanksgiving is tomorrow. Regardless of the somewhat sordid history of how this holiday came to be in our great U S of A, it is a wonderful day to reflect on those things to be grateful for.

I am thankful. For my life. Each and every day I wake up. For seeing the sun rise and set. For each new experience. For my health, even when I have a cold or stomach ache--it could be worse. To live in a country that sees me as a full fledged citizen who can achieve all that I want if I'm willing to try.

I am thankful. For the roof over my head and the food I am able to put in my belly. I am grateful for a job that pays, while not very well, well enough to pay my bills and keep me feeling secure. Though the job is often stressful and exhausting, I still get a pay check twice a month. I realize there are so many people not as lucky as I am. I know.

I am thankful. For my incredible friends. Especially my closest. Whether they live close or far (too many live far...E, A, M, S...I'm looking at you). They hold me up. Steady my feet. Ground me. Keep me moving forward each and every day. Shoulders, ears, hearts, souls. I love them.

I am thankful. For my family. My parents are wonderful people, it took me far too long to realize that in adolescence. We do not always agree but we always love. They support me, even when I don't recognize the need. They are there, just in case I fall, while hoping I don't. They created me, encouraged me. They have faith in me. I can never repay them for their generosity. For my extended family, those related by blood or otherwise. A village raises a child. I've always loved having that village around me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I am thankful. For my husband. My other half. My best friend. Together for going on 6 years and married for over one. I have a hard time remembering life without him. Finishing each other's sentences. Thinking the same thoughts. Sometimes I forget we are two different people. He holds me when I need it and can tell how I'm feeling just by looking at my face. He is my constant rock. I take him for granted too often. I am grateful for him.

I am thankful. For my son. My beautiful little boy. Five months old and his first Thanksgiving. I'm thankful he came into the world healthy and has remained so. For each milestone he crosses. For the person he is steadily becoming. I am blessed far more than I can say to have this little soul in my life. To watch him grow and change. He has brought true purpose to my life.

Take a moment, tomorrow and always, to step back. Look around. What do you have to be thankful for?

Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ana Michelle

I feel the need, this month, to discuss someone immensely important in my life. She left me more than eleven years ago, but I believe she is one of the most influential forces in who I have become.

I was only 13 when we met, she 15. I was in awe of my older friend. She and her two brothers moved into the house across from mine. Just another family in the string of military families who would inhabit that home while the owners were stationed in Africa. I didn't know. Had no way of knowing, what it would mean to have her as a friend.

I rode the bus to the high school in the mornings, even though I was still a lowly middle schooler. Ana showed me the ropes, let me hang out with her friends. Made me feel part of them. Special. I loved it. We talked about movies, music, television, friends, boys. Had sleep overs. I went to church a few times with her family. She gave me my first alcoholic drink, nevermind that I was only 14 at the time. She told funny stories and loved her brothers. She did everything passionately.

The day she died is still so vivid for me. A game of street hockey. A bicycle. A boy telling me once, my brother telling me again, my mother telling me a third time. Collapsing to the floor. My father telling my mother to take me into another room for fear of watching the emotional wreck I had become. Ana's father hugging me and telling me to never let it get that far, never that bad. Seeing her brothers cry. Not knowing what to say. Tears coming. The funeral a few days later. A skirt with a missing scarf. Screaming on the inside. So many kids missing a friend. My mother holding my hand. My parents afraid to leave me alone. Sitting on the staircase talking to the only person who understood how I felt. Only wanting to talk to Ana again. See her smile, laugh one more time.

I wrote to her. For two years. I put my thoughts and emotions on paper. It was my catharsis, my way of healing. I wrote her letters, poems. Copied song lyrics. Whatever it took. In the last entry, I realized I was officially older than she was when she died. More mature than she would ever have the chance to be. With each milestone I cross, I do so with the knowledge she never did. No driver's license, no senior prom, no high school graduation. No college memories. Adult friendships. College diploma. Marriage. Buying a home. Having children. She never did.

Close to a decade after her death, I found out she overdosed on muscle relaxers. Too many for her heart to handle. I still want to know what was going through her head. What she was thinking. What could have been that bad? Suicide never makes sense. It's sharper, it stings more to the people left behind. Why did she go? I forgave her many years ago, but it was not easy. I forgave her for myself, but not for her family. I see them from time to time. Talk to her brothers. The pain is still visible in her parents' faces. I remind them of her. The good and the bad.

For years, just the thought of Ana would send me into a sobbing puddle. Never knowing when or why it would hit, but there she was. Or wasn't. The pain grew duller with time. Less sharp, more like a missed friend visiting when it comes. I miss her, still. I think I always will. The life she should have led, the person she should have grown to be. I don't know that we would be good friends today, lives have a way of changing us and pulling us apart. I hope we would. She'll always be with me and live on through me.

I dreamt of her often after her death and still do on occasion. It helps. Getting those last conversations. The "I love yous" and "I miss yous," even if it only a dream. It helps. Even if I always wake up in tears.

Happy Birthday, Ana. You would have been 28 today. In my heart, in my mind, you'll always be 16. Forever young, they say. I hope God is treating you well. I still imagine you dancing in the wildflowers and waving hello. Maybe there is a bunny rabbit running along side you.

Monday, November 3, 2008

November Cometh

So fall is upon us. Daylight savings time made sure of that. I'm always sad to see the sun setting at 6pm but I still love this time of year. The air getting crisp. The smell of wood burning. A holiday season rapidly approaching. It's Wiggly's first fall. He won't remember it, but I hope I do for him. Chronicling these moments as they pass.

Halloween came and went. Wiggly was a monkey. He is afterall our little monkey boy (reminder to self to post a picture or two when I get the chance). Fussy for most of the evening, he didn't seem to relish in the holiday. We dressed him up, took him to my mom's, visited with two neighbors and my aunt. Then he fell asleep. He's only 4 months old. He'll have fun next year, hopefully.

November is going to be a tough month for my family. Jason and M should have been married on the 1st, but they're not. Thanksgiving dinner will be a little more empty without his presence at the table. We've lost a family member one by one these past few years. First great-grandma, then great-grandaddy and now Jason. Before that, years before I was born, my maternal grandparents perished. A mentally ill uncle whose whereabouts are rarely known and seldom seen. A baby nephew far away and a first Thanksgiving missed by us. My mother's family seems to get smaller as the years go by. Now two tiny members join our ranks, hopefully bringing some joy in through the veil of sadness. Belle and Wiggly, you are our bright stars.

Did I mention Ana should have been 28 this month? I'll have to devote a post to her. A few sentences will never suffice.

November. You're here. We were just beginning to heal.