Chapter 14 - My Past…..My Future
“I could sense those that I had done wrong coming forward. As the two figures approached their hands and arms remained by their sides, a soft warmth was circling them.”
“I held my heart in my hands and shared it with the people I loved and those in need of love. As I held my heart out, I could feel and see its energy being emitted to those around me. I could see the thankfulness in their eyes. I could sense those that I had done wrong coming forward. As the two figures approached their hands and arms remained by their sides, a soft warmth was circling them. They stopped in front of me and asked for me to love and forgive myself. I felt weak”
Today during the second session of the day we did a deep Loving-Kindness Meditation in my out-patient program. The week will be focused on Mindfulness. During the meditation I went far into my inner mind and felt I was away from my body and in an open field sharing my love. I have gotten lost in some serious daydreams in my life, but this was significantly different. It felt real, the thoughts, the people, and the setting were all familiar. My experience during that brief ten minute meditation kind of freaked me out. Not so much I took off running and looking to hide, but more in a sense that I felt sad and scared about facing my past. There were tears in my eyes once the meditation was over and I felt a little unsure, unsure of what just took place, was it real? Was my mind simply playing with my mind?
I believe in science and I believe there is a higher power, both of which are not my forte. But, I do have an understanding of each, enough to be dangerous to myself and hold a decent conversation. Were the neuron clusters holding my past memories and experiences being primed and therefore some of my past made itself present in my mediation? Or, was it the Universe saying it was time for me to forgive myself and love myself, just as I would a loved one? Perhaps it was a bit of both.
There is a lot I am working through and each day can feel like a marathon of thought trampling through my head. It wears my body down at times, as I use so much energy to sometimes fight my thoughts. This I must stop, stop fighting the thoughts and simply let them pass. I say this quite often and knowing myself I most likely will say it a few more times, with each repeat though I do get better at handling those thoughts.
I shared my experience with my wife on a walk that night. She too is dealing with a lot, most of which is dealing with me and all the cramp I have brought on. She is strong and I am double-dog thankful for her. She listened to my descriptive tale of the meditation. Even repeating it gave me chills. She understood, she felt it was a positive moment, a significant moment, and it felt good the share it with her. It is time to forgive myself and make friends with my past, as best as I can. After the walk I did some sock therapy, which means I went and bought some more cool socks. More socks I do not need, but it is like a fetish I have. Then once we came home and I painted. I painted the picture that begins this chapter. I let go of my perfectionistic ways and simply painted what came to mind. No brushes at first, just my hands in the different colors and then onto the canvas. The paint felt good on my hands, cool and a bit mucky feeling. Then once I had enough hands on the canvas a thought came to mind. I had no intention of this becoming part of my painting, but it felt right.
I finished the painting off with that thought and what will be an important reminder for me as I learn to deal with me. “My past will not dictate my future.” It won’t, I can’t let it. Who I was is not who I am now. What I’ve done does not make me who I am now. I never wanted to take another life or lives for that matter. War doesn’t leave you many options however. You or them, it’s that simple, nothing else to ponder.
The next day during our check-in session the same counselor that led us in the Loving-Kindness Meditation yesterday asked if I wouldn’t mind taking about my experience from yesterday. She does a good job at getting us to speak and share what is taking place mentally and physically. I won’t lie, it was challenging to talk about the event. Partly is due to feeling a bit foolish and part of me wasn’t sure about reliving the moment. I took a moment before speak to relax and unclench my fist, controlling my breathing, and quietly reminding myself that I am in a safe place, no judgement, only caring people present and going through similar situations.
Intently everyone listened and in their eyes and demeanor’s I could tell they were appreciate the significant event I had. As I spoke about the figures coming forward and asking me to love and forgive myself I got a little choked up and tears slowly rolled over my cheeks. I paused to take a deep breath, “It’s OK, were here for you” said one of my peers, unsure who, except for it was a female voice. “The two figures that came forward were the lives I took in Iraq. They didn’t judge me. The simply wanted me to be at peace with myself.” It was tough saying that out loud. Up until recently, much due to this group, I haven’t been able to talk about the shitty side of military experience. This group has given me the strength and the courage to face my demons. “What we create to harm mankind isn’t pretty. Fucking Hollywood glorifies this crap and fails to mention the catastrophic impact it has on the men and women serving!” I could feel my body clinching up as the words came out, the anger was taking over and I desperately wanted the break something. Tear were again flowing as I cussed out loud and hit the arms of my chair with my fist. Then I fell quiet. The room was quiet.
What felt like forever was only a few seconds, as I closed my eyes and attempted to regain my composure. “It’s a beginning Brendan. Your ability to share this traumatic experience is important in the road to your personal recovery. Thank you for sharing with all of us.” The counselor says. I nod my head and then the group is put on a five minute break. My fellow group members show their love and support. Some hug me, some pat me on the back and say and say I’m proud of you, others simply look at me and nod with a smile. I can see in their eyes they too have their demons and understand what I just went through.
I love being here; the group is a secure place for me and for all of us. When I was in the inpatient program across the hall I felt good in there too, once I came out of my dark mood. It was tough to leave there, but I knew I had to. Otherwise I’d never get better or least learn how to deal with me and the life I have. One day I’ll have to leave this group too. I’ll have to deal with the world and me being in it. I’m scared of the future at times. I’m scared of me at times. I hope I have the strength to stay positive and not go dark. I hope one day the thoughts do simply pass like a breeze. I have a lot of hope.
Chapter 15 - One Place Exists….
“The rodeo grounds were a sanctuary for me. A place I could be free, run wild, get dirty, and simply have some twelve-year-old boy fun.”
February 18, 2017
One place exists that holds my dearest and funniest memories. One place exists that holds my saddest days and some of the worst times of my life. There is one place I wish to forget and there is one place I cannot let go of, one place that allows me to smile as I cry.
February 19, 2011
Winter had not yet fully hit the Panhandle of Texas. The day was clear and you could see forever across the plowed fields. The sun was making its way up and turning the earth into a gold spectrum of light and life. With my windows down the sweet morning air kept me awake, along with the earthly scent of dirt tantalizing my nose, even though sleep was not on my mind. It was a good day for a funeral, if there is such a thing. Cool breeze, the cotton fields stretching out to the left and right, and me operating this car without much thought.
On this drive into Wellington down highway 83 I felt alone, not excited like so many previous trips. Once upon a time, I couldn’t wait to get into town to show my girls all the places I played and where I grew up. Today those joyful memories and the excitement I had, simply are not there. I not only obey the speed limit, but gradually slow down just because; I guess you could say I was attempting to prolong the inevitable. Before I knew it here I am looking at a mound of fresh golden brown turned over earth. Thoughts rush through my head, almost overwhelming my mind, as if my head is about explode with years of thoughts.
This is the last time I shall come to a place where I was a kid and the place where some of my fondest and most valuable memories took place, at least that’s what I tell myself. In the past few months I have watched the two most influential women in my life slowly die and have buried them just as they both wished in the same cemetery. One gave birth and taught me without really knowing it. The other sculpted me into a man. Both mean the world to me and I am not sure I ever really told each of them just how much I loved them and how much they meant to me. During times such as this I wonder why God lets the sick suffer longer than need be, who or whatever you are please share with me your rhyme and reason. Because, if it is just so those left behind can say good-bye I’m not buying it. Neither my mother nor my grandma were even coherent enough to know who the hell I was in their final days! Cancer had taken over my grandma’s body. In her final months she was almost unrecognizable. She battled it in the 80’s and won that fight but little did any of us know, including my grandma, that it lay dormant in her body waiting for the right time to strike out again. Once the doctors detected it, it was too late. Slowly she got thinner and I could see the pain on her face. I could hear it in her voice when we’d talk on the phone. Until one day I got the call. Makes me wish I’d never had answered the damn phone, and then maybe, just maybe it wouldn’t be true.
I once thought I was unafraid of death, let it come, for I have lived. As I stand here today amongst family and well-wishers, I am afraid, for I fear what it will do to my family, my girls, and my soul mate. Whether it is in spirit form or of mind and body I cannot bear to see this kind of grief afflict them.
Standing here, I can see the rodeo grounds where I played as a kid, so many amazing days of joyful memories, just yards away from this painful and hollow ground. On the south side of the grounds is where my best friend at the time, Doug, and his grandmother lived. I can see fire damage and where some of the windows have been partially boarded up, it is no longer a home, and I wonder what Doug is doing these days. His old house is slowly becoming one with nature, just as much of this town has over the years. The streets that are paved won’t be seeing repairs anytime soon and buildings in the town square are vacant, not even for sale or retail space available signs present. People here have accepted the cold, hard facts about being part of a small town, when it’s over, it is really over.
Is it or was it a dream, a fantasy, my mind-playing tricks on me, maybe the subconscious hiding the dark times? I think back and remember good times here. Hell, not good times, great times.
Wellington, Texas Summer 1982
In Wellington, Texas, as with so many other small towns, everyone knew everyone or knew something about everyone, or heard something from someone they knew that someone had heard something about someone. About 99.9% of the time it was gossip, or the truth stretch far beyond its capacity, from little old ladies and young ladies learning how to become little old ladies. The funny thing is the ranchers and farmers are just as bad, if not worse. When they gossip they simply included quality adjectives to build upon and embellish the tale. Those sweet little old ladies and the young ones in training simply adjusted their tone to peek a deeper interest from the fellow gossipers. These fine church going citizens would be ready and willing to start a tale at the drop of a hat, it was funny to watch and even funnier to hear, as a kid that is.
I imagine the beginnings of a quality piece of gossip starts something like this: One lady makes the drive to the Dairy Queen to meet her friends in waiting (no rush due to the fact she had no new information to initiate some rumors and to get the gossip train rolling). As she drives down the road she sees two young boys playing in the dirt and grime at the rodeo grounds. She briefly remembers back when she was a little girl and how she loved it when the rodeo came into town, all those cowboys from near and far, looking so lean and fit.
She thinks about one tall and handsome cowboy she had a deep heart breaking crush on, she never worked up the courage to speak to him, plus that just wasn’t lady like back then. As time passed and season after season changed the cowboy’s came and went like a spring thunderstorm until one day there were no more cowboys. The chutes were empty and the stands stood vacant, free from the noise and free from the thousands upon thousands of popcorn remnants resting under the stands.
A bit of sadness fills her eyes, time has weathered her though, no need for tears. “Damn those kids for messing up the rodeo grounds” she cries out. “Just wait till I get to the coffee shop and tell the ladies”, and off she goes speeding at twenty-three miles an hour down a dirt road on the outskirts of a shrinking town.
Once at the coffee shop she is primed and ready to build upon the horrific sights she saw only a few minutes ago. The other ladies would sit in anticipation, each waiting and secretly hoping that they knew more about what was about to be said then the person saying it. “Girls, you’ll never guess what I saw……………………………..” and so the gossip begins.
The rodeo grounds were a sanctuary for me. A place I could be free, run wild, get dirty, and simply have some twelve-year-old boy fun. My best friend Doug and I spent the majority of our summer days there. Residing in Wellington, Texas as a kid limits your opportunities for fun. There was no movie theater at the time, no arcade rooms loaded with the newest games, and during the summer, we had no school sporting activities to participate in, but thank goodness, we had the rodeo grounds. During the summer months, the ranchers would bring their cattle into town and use the rodeo grounds to pin them up and run them through the chutes to check on each one, tag them, and give them shots, or I’m guessing most of the time to just act busy and be away from the house. For whatever their reasoning it was the perfect relationship. The ranchers do their business and we keep them steers busy until needed.
If it was a crime I’m pretty sure one of the many ranchers would have had us hauled off to the police station, I mean police room. They watched us run down a steer and guide them into the chute of our choice. Grab our rope and wrap it around the front belly area of the steer. Then Doug and I would take turns holding on to this rather pissed off animal as it ran and kicked its way out of the chute. One or two things would generally take place at this point; we’d either get rammed into the chute and fall into a pile of shit or go for a ride around the arena. The ranchers would laugh and occasionally applaud. I do believe it took them back to their youthful days and a brief feeling of that childish freedom would fall upon them.
I find it rather impressive how neither Doug nor I ever got our teeth kicked out, no broken bones, heads left semi in tack, and no worse for wear day after day, just a bit dirtier than the day before. As the day began to show signs of turning to night, Doug and I would part ways.
Simple words as we parted ways “Good riding today” and then a “Back at ya” after those deep sentimental words we’d go on our way without so much of a simple plan of when we’d meet again. We had an unspoken plan and after all it was Wellington, Texas, what else were we going to do?
As I walked the three country blocks home, I thought about the day and how I managed to stay out of trouble and do no harm to anything or anyone. Hell, I didn’t think so that is, but in the world of small town U.S.A. anything is and can be a source of news. So the tale began and just like a snowball rolling down the mountainside it got bigger and bigger.
Her voice became angrily enthused as she spoke “………………I saw Treva’s grandson all dirty and loitering with some colored boy by the cemetery”, “Them little vagrants were completely desecrating that holy ground.” “You know why that boy is with his Grandma anyways don’t you?” And so it goes, each one adding to the tale and stoking the flames of one another. Now the men sitting only a couple booths away heard all this and began to discuss that matter in their own way. “Hell, I remember them boys. I had some cattle up at the grounds last week. They helped me and my hands out quite a bit,” one would say. “Boys you can’t listen to them old hens. Especially Rachael, you know she’s cheating on Luke with that old cowboy from Childress don’t you?” Just like that, the gossip turns and the men at the coffee shop build upon this delectable piece of news. However, there is something about the gossip from little old ladies and how it has a tendency to travel and make its rounds much faster than that of men.
I would like to clarify their version with my version. Notice how two boys were loitering around the cemetery? I won’t say they’re fibbing, but they are surely stretching the facts a bit. Yes, I was by the cemetery, after all its right next door to the rodeo grounds. Hell, I can spit and hit a tombstone, not that I would. I really like how playing turned into loitering. I cannot remember a time when my grandma ever told me to run a long and go loiter in the yard. As for the colored boy, that’s my best friend Doug. I guess even in 1982 time has yet to fully catch up with some. I don’t think they mean any harm by it. It’s Wellington, Texas and everyone seems to be accepting of who and what he or she is. Perhaps someday time will catch up to this place.
Needless to say, when I had a fun filled day at the rodeo grounds playing in the dirt and mud, along with the fresh aroma of cow manure coming off of me, word had already made its way back to my Grandma and around town. During the walk home, I felt like the king of the cowboys, on top of the world. A world champion at the age of twelve, how impressive, must be a record for sure! Unfortunately, having to come on back down to reality and face my Grandma was only a few yards away. No story needed, she knew what I had been up to without me telling her. She simply had not heard my version yet.
Before I could even tell her how my day was, I had to get clean. The process of getting clean from spending a day at the rodeo grounds meant one thing, an outside rinsing. Can anyone tell me why water from the garden hose has to be so damn cold? I mean ice cold. Is there some sort of long distance pipe running from the North Pole that feeds straight into our hose?
“Strip on down son, you ain’t bringing that dirt and smell into the house.” That’s all grandma had to say. Boy oh boy I was quite thankful that she lived on the edge of town. Because when she said strip on down, she meant down to your birthday suit. A bar of lava soap and her spraying me with the hose was how I got clean after being crowned king of the cowboys. Is that any way to treat a champion? No, I think not. I swear I saw her grin a bit each time and I know I heard a laugh being held back a time or two.
Once I was clean and dressed, we’d have dinner. Nothing like grandma’s cooking, nothing I tell you, nothing. Making biscuits with my Grandma was a treat. Homemade pieces of edible art straight from the garden and the best chicken fried steak you could ever imagine. Damn, it was like heaven on a plate. She would always let me help her cook and did not mind if I added something new to the mix. “A man’s got to know how to cook, son. You can’t be thinking all women know how to cook,” she’d say as we made dinner. Sitting in the kitchen listening to music and the scanner at the same time was a nightly event. Grandma always ensured I had enough to eat and then some. Once we were full, it was time to clean up and get ready for the night and watch our shows.
There was something about the sunsets here in the Panhandle. Gold, red, orange, yellow, and shades of blue disappearing as the night took over. I liked seeing forever and knowing what’s out there. I could add to its mystery as need be and imagine all I wanted to. Believing tomorrow will bring new joys and perhaps another world championship. As we took up our usual positions in the living room, I laid out on the floor in front of the television and Grandma in her chair back up against the wall. Maybe we’d watch Dallas or Texas League Wrestling, depending on the night. Grandma would be in her recliner crocheting away as we watched television. I swear she could make a blanket overnight, every time I’d ask her who that is for she’d simply say a friend. My Grandma had many friends.
After a couple hours of TV and talking about day-to-day life with my Grandma, it was time for me to stroll on off to bed. My room was on the Northwest side of the house I could open my window and smell the sweet plowed fields and that oh so lovely yet subtle smell of cow manure. Lying there, I found myself thinking as many do here in Wellington, what’s beyond the horizon. What is the city life like? These thoughts come and they go as my eyes get heavier and heavier. A soft breeze dances through the night air and finds its way in through my window. I lay there, eyes feeling thick, and I pray to the Lord. Asking him to watch over my family, give my mom strength to battle her demons and keep my Grandma with me forever.
February 19, 2011
I find it strange that a place filled with joy during one time in a person’s life can turn to a place of sorrow at another time in the same life. Decades in between and I have changed so much it seems almost like I am remembering someone else’s life as a kid. So many paths I could have taken during my life and I wonder if any other one would have led me to where I am today. Does God provide you a certain path and you are unaware of it, but subconsciously you take it on your journey from childhood to old age or anywhere in between? That leads me to another question. Do we have a level of sub consciousness that we really do not know about and it is on that level in which God speaks to us, guides us, and educates us? It would be like a highly top-secret radio channel that only your unknown sub conscious could get.
“Brendan, Brendan, Brendan Thomas Kelly are you there? This is God and I need to let you know some things.”
“Yes, good afternoon God, how are things up there?”
“Things are amazing up here my child. I just wanted you to know that this year I will be challenging you with some hard and painful events.”
“May I ask what they are?”
“My child you are going to be dealing with death, not your own, but the death of some loved ones.”
“Dear God why? Who? When? What I am to do?”
“Brendan, I would not challenge you with anything that I am not sure you could handle and grow from. I will not provide any additional information. Simply, when the time comes be strong for those in need around you and for yourself.”
“I understand. If I may God, you said loved ones, do you mean more than one?” “Hello, God, are you still there?” “Hello……….is anybody there?”
Just like that, the path has been set for you and your conscious is unaware and unable to communicate with your unknown subconscious. Standing here looking at this mound of red dirt, a picture of my mother sits in a small frame in front of her body’s final resting spot and less than twenty yards behind me rests my grandma, her passing only a few months earlier. She battled cancer for far too long, just as my mother battled her pain for far too long. Makes no damn sense, none whatsoever! I understand old age and it being your time to go. What I can’t comprehend is the dragging out of the pain, for those in it and those watching it.
I have a bucket list, just as many people have a list of things to do during their life. Speaking at my mother’s funeral was not on that list. I am sure if you had asked her, prior to a few days ago, she would have said the same thing. That she has no desire to speak at any of her kids’ funeral. I guess I’m thankful she didn’t have to. As I have heard so many times, a parent should never watch their children die before them. Not sure if that is some rule somewhere, but I am sure God has his plans and when it’s your time, it’s just your time and those of us left behind deal with it in our own unique way.
Stepping forward toward my mom’s casket seemed strange, not sure how to explain it, just one of those things that doesn’t feel right no matter the situation, time of day, or location. I spoke about a few verses out of Revelation 4, particularly The Throne in Heaven. It truly made me feel better to know how amazing of a place Heaven is and that my mother was there.
Revelation 4, The Throne of Heaven, verse 1-6
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this. "At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
Needless to say I did not say it verbatim as written above, but close enough to emphasize the glory and wonderful place that is waiting for us all, I hope, or something at least very cool. Regardless of your faith level, your beliefs, if your God is this or your God is that, IT DOES NOT MATTER, do right and we will end up in one awesome place for sure when our spirits depart this earth.
A conversation between God and his son
“Jesus, come here please. Look at our children. Do you see how they grieve? Do you see...
“Yes my father. It is sad and joyful. He has pain and holds it in.”
“My son, it is my desire that all mankind knows of this beauty and strives to understand that we will bring them home.”
“As it is mine as well father. You created a wonderful world for our people. They have a hard time letting go.”
“Yes, I know.”
Once I had spoken, my sister said a few words. To be honest I haven’t a clue what she said. I was numb and filled with thoughts of everything else but the moment. We all handle death differently. I believe it also depends on the nature of the death and the person that died. I have known death in different ways; family, acquaintances, and enemy. I felt significantly different about each passing. However, today and the past few months of death have arrived closest to home as it ever has. It is hard to say good-bye to my mother and it is still hard to imagine my grandmother being gone. Not sure how long it will take to accept their passing. I am happy each are in heaven and enjoying the sights, meeting back up with family and friends, getting the questions answered that had been plaguing them for years.
Hearing, but not actually listening to the others speak, I think of my mom’s life. I only know what she told me, what I’ve learned from other family members, and from the pictures I have of her. The images go all the way back to her baby years and on up to her years as a young mother of three kids. I am here to tell you that my mom was a beautiful woman. I have her high school graduation picture on the mantel in the dining room and she could have been a model. I can see why my dad fell in love with her, if only he had the common sense and integrity to be the husband she needed, not to mention a father to my brother, sister, and myself.
My mother battled far too many demons during her life. The memories of an abusive mother, dealing with and overcoming polio as a young teenager resulting in severe scoliosis, loving a man that chose art and other women over her, and raising three babies on a thin-thin shoestring budget is not the way one should have to start their life. I understand how and why she dealt with it as she did; the prescription drugs took away the pain, if only for a little while. Once the pain returns, you deal with it again and again. She did just that for the better part of her adult life. Then almost ten years ago my uncles and aunt forced her into a hardcore rehabilitation and treatment facility. I was scared for her. But, looking back I ask myself why I didn’t have the courage to get her into such a program. It saved her life.
The years after that my mom was alive and I could see the glow in her eyes again, it had been a long time. Now she had three granddaughters and a grandson to ooh and awe over, and boy did she. Unfortunately, the damage was done and time was catching up to her body. The spinal fuse they did when she was a young girl was slipping more and more. She had seen numerous doctors over the years and all of them agreed that she simply could not go through any kind of a surgery to repair or assist her. I believe she had accepted the facts and understood the eventual outcome. She remained upbeat and enjoyed her time.
Less than a week ago my uncle called me in the middle of the night to tell me about my mom. She had a massive stroke and was rushed to the hospital. My wife and I loaded up the girls and things we needed and made our way out to Big Spring, Texas, which was about a four-hour drive. The drive there is barren; it allows one to think as you see forever. I thought she would recover and go through some physical therapy. I thought we would all have a few more years with her. Upon my arrival to the hospital and going into her room in the ICU my thoughts didn’t seem so right. She lay there hooked up to a couple of machines, tubes going here and there, and I could see that her spirit was gone, only a body remained.
For two and half days I watched her, I prayed, I wished, and learned how to make one hell of a tough decision. Neither my sister nor my brother was out here yet. My sister would arrive in the morning and my brother wouldn’t be coming, he couldn’t handle it. For hours I visited the body of my mother. I stood there looking at her, wishing, praying, wanting her to wake. The only reason she was technically alive was due to the tubes and devices attached to her and going in her. Before me lay an empty vessel. On this visit I stand at the foot of her bed and look and remember my mother as she once was, not for what I am seeing with my eyes, but what my mind is seeing. She is beautiful.
Rooms like this, in many hospitals around the world, aren’t warm and cozy, not meant for the temporary visits we’d prefer. But for the visits that are meant for good byes. No pictures on the wall, no phone in the room, nor a television hanging from the wall to fall asleep to. You get a bed, the needed life support equipment, a chair or two, and medical staff politely coming and going. At times I swear I can see a gentle movement from my mom, an eye twitch, a muscle spasm, it teases your mind. You briefly think here she comes, she’s going to pull through, like she did so many times before. This is not the end, THANK GOD! But, it is the end, or at least a step away from it.
I hear a soft and slightly raspy “Help me” “Help me” and I freeze. My wife and uncle are behind me quietly talking. I look at them and say nothing. I know neither of them said it, couldn’t have come from anywhere else. I felt the words. I felt them run through me. I look back at my mother and I see what lies before me. My mind does not change the scene. I am the power of attorney, I am the executive of her will, and I am the decision maker. My eyes are watery and I turn back to my wife and uncle. “It’s time to let her go. I go get the Doc.” I walk out the door and turn left towards the nurse’s station. I can see in their eyes they know why I am coming to them. I wonder how many times they’ve lived this exact same scene, only with different characters.
So, the baby of the family made the decision to have my mother removed from life support. I felt numb and borderline heartless. However, I knew it was time to move on and let her soul be free from this body. I was mad at my sister and brother for not being there, at my dad for being a crummy husband to my mom, and at my mom’s mom for being abusive. I was mad at myself for not being a better son.
As the final person spoke, dirt began to be transferred from here to there, covering up the casket my mother’s body occupied. I lay yellow roses near her grave. They were her favorite. Then slowly all those in attendance step away from the gravesite, some remove stickers that have become part of their clothing, while others dry their eyes. Me, well, I look at the rodeo grounds and see a little boy playing, running through the dirt, free from all the worries of life. I miss that little dude and I’d trade places with him in a heartbeat right about now, but what good would that do. I am the last to step away from my mom’s gravesite. I spoke briefly to her about a variety of things. Things the two of us went through and how proud I am of her.
Fascinating how we manage to sum up a person’s life in a few brief speeches given by loved ones. From yesterday’s ceremony up in Big Spring, Texas to today’s ceremony of laying her to rest here in Wellington, Texas, a few yards away from her dad, just as she wished. Family and friends all spoke of memories. Before heading out we stop for a bit to have some coffee with family and friends before leaving Wellington. The conversation was joyful, as we each took turns catching everybody up on our lives and the happenings of each child, grandchild, and those that couldn’t make it here today. Our waitress seemed borderline clueless about being a waitress. Then again, as long as you know someone here in Wellington and can make that connection you’ll get a job, regardless of experience and/or talent level, not a bad thing for a small town.
No one stays long; most have a bit of trek to get back home and are ready to get to it. My family and I have about four hours until we walk through the door at home. We all hug, wish each other well, and saying falsities such as “Let’s stay in touch”, “I call you next week”, “Let’s plan on a visit”. I know I may never hear from any of them again, perhaps not until we meet again for one of our own funeral and those in attendance will share memories and make some wishful thinking plans.
My family is in the car waiting along with my sister, she is flying out of Dallas tomorrow morning to head home. In the car I go. It is quite, perhaps too quite.
I turn out back onto highway 83. This is the last time I will come to town and spend any quality time here. The rodeo grounds where I played have been torn down and replaced with metal chutes and stalls. I wish I had known about that. I would have loved a piece of that old rodeo wood or even a whole chute door, man that would have been amazingly awesome. The town has simply lost its shine for me. I guess from time to time I’ll visit the gravesites of my mother and grandmother.
As I pass the one light in town, I am amused that it’s even still here. Once upon a time, the town was close to six thousand people, no large city, but a nice sized town. Today the sign says 2,104 and I wonder if that is even true.
In my rearview mirror, I see a water tower, white with red lettering; even at this angle I can see the faded chipping paint. “Home of The Rockets” is what I remember it said as a kid. Now, it is simply taking up space, holding on to the piece of land it was built on. Like so much of Wellington, it too is becoming part of the landscape a little more each day.
Looking straight ahead, I see the road disappearing into the horizon, to the left brush land rolls on and on, to the right cotton fields lay barren. Visually this land speaks volumes. I’m tired of hearing it though. I speed up in the hopes of getting home faster, if nothing else getting this place out of my sight.
A conversation between God and his son
“Father, I know and you know, but when will he know, when will they know?”
“My son, it takes time. I created humankind to learn as they go. He will realize, they will all realize the wonderful world that is around them.”
“Father, I must admit it, I at times miss the world. I miss speaking to the people and helping them see through the fog around them.”
“I know my son. I know.”
Chapter 25 - Everyone Can Moonwalk
“My inner critic likes to think of the negative and that he is some kind of special mental health case. Little does he know, he’s an asshole just like everyone else’s inner critic.”
Imagine if you will a room, a room with flat cream colored paint covering the walls. A room no bigger than ten feet by fifteen feet with one window and a door, each on opposite sides of the space. A group of chairs and one love seat fill a space to the left of the door as you are looking at it, forming a rather poorly constructed circle. With the same view a table stands to the right, occupied by folders and handouts talking about various mental health topics. The lighting is mellow and a bookcase leans against a wall, only a few books call it home. A water tank randomly gurgles and bubbles appear from the bottom and make their way up until they are no more. One lonely pillar stands tall and holds the weight of layers upon layers of tar paper, gravel, and nature’s deposits. Picture that space. Envision yourself standing amongst the irregular circle of hospital furniture. Now moonwalk.
“Everyone can moonwalk. Just do this with your feet”, Rob says as he presents a worthy attempt at moonwalking on carpet. Soon seven other dysfunctional bodies are doing their best to moonwalk. The session’s therapist and I watch. She is smiling and I am thinking about Neil Armstrong. I don’t recall his moonwalk looking quite like this. I wonder how the name “Moonwalk” got assigned to gracefully sliding your feet backwards and is there a requirement for mandatory arm movement? Five of the seven moonwalkers have the arms doing the wave. The other two have decided to just focus on the foot action, perhaps arm movement would be too overwhelming. I am asked to try and regardless of how much I would love to gracefully slide backwards, I decline and briefly explain in two words “bad knees”, as I point to them.
For a few minutes all of us have zero anxiety, no depression, PTSD is absent, and if any bipolar problems are in the house they are both moonwalking. It is refreshing. We are briefly normal and carefree. Too soon we find ourselves back in our seats beginning our after lunch check-in. Reality is back. Anxiety, depression, PTSD, and bipolar troubles sneak through the door and/or window and gently take a seat along with their representing parties. The therapist says “Good afternoon, this is our afternoon check-in. Are there any topics or major concerns that need addressed?” The room is quite. Some look around. Some look down. Some just look. “So who’d like to begin?” is heard, to me it is almost a far off echo. I am present but zoning off in thought.
For the remaining couple hours that exist in today’s mental health out-patient program we all talk and provide feedback to each other. Some seem to be on a never ending Ferris Wheel, a constant circle of ups and downs, simply missing the uncomfortable over excited looking ponies. I feel bad for them and at the same time I get annoyed at them. I get tired of hearing the same sob story from the same people. Then I remind myself that I am no different, the only difference is that my ponies are painted in a variety of camouflage. My inner critic likes to think of the negative and that he is some kind of special mental health case. Little does he know, he’s an asshole just like everyone else’s inner critic. My rational mind battles him daily and often throughout.
So we all speaking on the challenges we face. That double-dog cunning mind of ours and the silly tricks it plays on us comes up often in discussion. We are all really really good at providing advice and clarity to one another. At the same time we truly suck at taking it, not realizing our own advice is just what we need. Our current group therapist is good sharing this with us, she is knowledgeable and compassionate, but guides us to understanding, and leads us to answers we may or may not listen to. Some will need to hear those words numerous times before a connection is made. Some will fall back into that devilish darkness and start from the bottom again. Lessons will be learned.
Tough times will scar us all. In the past week, two of our regular peers have ended up back in the hospital. We all know why. We all briefly pause in silence as the news is told to us. The silence speaks volumes. I feel we are all thinking the same things, “What if that were me?” and “That fucking sucks ass for them”. We are understanding and happy to know they are at least alive.
As the day ends we smile and wish one another a wonderful evening. Rob mentions “Remember to practice your moonwalking” and just like that we are swept away back to a moment of peaceful joy. I smile in and outside. Bodies move towards the door and I am last in line to depart this ten by fifteen foot room. I stop by the trash can that keeps the bookcase company, depositing a cup that once held my coffee fix. My right leg moves back over the carpet as my left attempts to follow suit. My adventures with moonwalking end at that. Yup, everyone can moonwalk. At least here they can.
My book "Battling Myself" is about one person’s struggles, the highs and lows, and a life time of refusing to accept he had some serious issues. I am that one person and I never wanted to deal with the demons I had inside me. The PTSD, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideations. I let the critic within control me for many years. I even let that critic convince me that I should die. Our minds are some powerful S.O.B.s when they want to be, for better and worse. I was Atlas until the word crushed me. The story covers a year of recovery; from wanting to die, to finally loving myself.