The Day He Wore My Crown

And I’m the one to blame
I caused all the pain
He gave Himself
The day He wore my crown

The last time I went to church with my dad was Easter Sunday.

A soloist sang, “The Day He Wore My Crown,” which I’d never heard before, and as I understood the words, I cried.

Because that song illuminated for me the idea that I was a sinner. I mean, I knew that, but that song fillustrated my faith journey like no other.

Growing up in a Christian home with a great father was in some respects a handicap when it came to faith and seeing myself as a sinner in need of forgiveness and salvation.

I was just always immersed in that belief system so it was hard for me to see a dividing point of when I believed, and when I didn’t.

I knew I believed, I just couldn’t pinpoint when I did. And it bothered me.

When I was about seven I walked down an aisle at a Christmas candlelight service when the pastor invited anyone who wanted to receive Jesus. He assured us by doing so we would avoid Hell.

That sounded like a deal to me, because I fully believed in Hell and did not want to go there.

But to be perfectly honest, if the pastor had said, “You can avoid Hell by asking Bambi into your heart,” I probably would have done the same thing.

I tripped through life, making normal high school and college mistakes. I didn’t think I was so bad, but deep down, I knew I wasn’t so good.

Then I met Kevin. He was different from any guy I’d ever known before and had such a vibrant faith and love of God. (He still does.)

I told him once, early in our friendship, (all the years later and I still can’t say if we were in a relationship or not), that I didn’t regret anything I’d done before because I felt like everything that had ever happened made me who I was.

He challenged me on that and said, “If you don’t regret the sinful things you’ve done, you need to pray and ask God if you are really saved.”

So I did.

The very next Wednesday night I went to church and the youth pastor preached, which was unusual.

He walked out and simply pointed at all three sections of the church and said, “Repent. Repent. Repent.”

I remember thinking, “what does that even mean?”

I was soon to find out. And before that sermon was over I saw myself as I was, a sinner in dire need of a Savior.

Luke 13:5

 

“I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

As I understood, I prayed and asked Jesus to please forgive me and save me.

I didn’t struggle one bit with belief in Jesus Christ being who he said He was.

John 8:58

“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”

John 6:35 King James Version (KJV)

35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

Or who John the Baptist said He was.

John 1:29  “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

I realized my problem had been believing who God said I was.

Isaiah 64:6

“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”

Now, years later, I still believe. And I’m like Paul:

Acts 26:27

“King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.

28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

29 And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.

That’s my testimony. What’s yours?

What Must I Do to Be Saved?: The Plan of Salvation Made Plain to Sinners from the Word of God

The city was Jerusalem
The time was long ago
The people called him Jesus
The crime was the love He showed

And I’m the one to blame
I caused all the pain
He gave Himself the day He wore my crown

He brought me love that only He could give
I brought Him cause to cry
And though He taught me how to live
I taught Him how to die

And I’m the one to blame
I caused all the pain
He gave Himself the day He wore my crown

He could have called His holy Father and said
“Take Me away! Please, take Me away!”
He could have said “I’m not guilty
And I’m not going to stay
I’m not gonna pay”

But He walked right through the gate
And then on up the hill
And as He fell beneath the weight
He cried, He cried “Father, not My will”

And I’m the one to blame
I caused all His pain
He gave Himself the day He wore my crown

And I’m the one to blame
I caused all His pain
He gave Himself
The day He wore my crown

Songwriters: Phil Johnson

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Doug’s Canadian mistress is coming back to my Southern town this weekend

The Book Groupie, aka Doug’s mistress, is coming back to my town this weekend.

Her travel is paid for as part of a grant she won, when he was still alive.

The first stage of the grant brought her here from 2700 miles away and I certainly could have lived without that stress!

The facility I now direct houses a historical archive of the publishing event person that was Doug’s friend. The mistress was a huge fan of publishing event subject, which is how she met Doug.

She and Doug planned to use our mutual friend’s home as a place to be together under the nose of his unsuspecting wife, but his condition worsened and he was lifeflighted to another larger city while she was forced to remain in classes at a nearby university to fulfill the requirements of the grant.

Our mutual friend lives near my office and the mistress stayed with Mutual Friend for a few days.

I prayed and fasted over that situation and begged God, “Lord, please, I absolutely can’t deal with this. Please protect me and make it so that I never have to see the mistress.”

At the time, I didn’t think that was even possible. I thought I was foolish for even asking God for that favor.

But she never came to my facility.

Yes, I had three days of hell and panic every time the door opened. But she never once darkened the door.

And now she’s coming back.

I feel different this time.

Doug repaired our friendship and did so many things to ensure that we reconciled before he died.

I was with him once twice a week in the two months before he died, and spent Wednesday evening with him and his wife Julie, before he died Friday morning.

I was the one who delivered Doug’s last message to her. I was the one who called her when he died.

And now?

Now I’m the one who is aching to see her face to face.

I can’t even explain it and I don’t understand stand it, but I want to see her.

I want to comfort her. And I want her to comfort me. I want to cry with her, about Doug.

She is the only person in this world who could ever understand my grief over Doug’s death.

She is also the only person in this world who can understand the depth of my guilt.

And I want to see her. I just don’t know how to ask.

I went to Adam’s town Saturday!

Well, not in person, but vicariously I guess you could say.

Saturday morning, Adam messaged me his 13 point to-do list and I instantly texted him back, “14. Be sweet to Angel.”

Right as I hit send, the next message popped up.

He made my day by telling me I was a source of power for him, so I felt bad for adding number 14.

I told him a few weeks ago that I was like that puppy with the wet nose that always nudges your hand for a pat on the head.

He laughed and said, “Yes, you are. But at least you know it.”

But I also know that gets on his nerves at times. So I don’t know why I do it.

Maybe it’s because I’m subconsciously always looking for a reason for him to have an out?

I don’t know. I don’t like thinking about it. I don’t even know why I’m writing about it.

I really receive nothing but joy in my friendship with Adam. Maybe I think I don’t deserve it?

That guy though, he is great about putting up with me. He gives me so much of his time and puts a lot of effort into nurturing our friendship.

When I felt worthless, he reached for me. To help me. He was a friend to me.

Sometimes however, I do forget his steadfastness and I hold myself to a worryingly and weirdly high standard that no one could meet in reality.

~

Our Saturday conversation continues with a phone call and he says, “I did want to video chat but I know you won’t. You hate that.”

I have been selfish about those type of calls. Adam loves them and I really do to. But I’m always afraid.

I face my fear of them in that instant and I know full well it’s only because I’m vain.

I think to myself, “It’s Saturday morning! I don’t think I’ve brushed my hair since 8:00 a.m. and I know I don’t have on lipstick!”

That pricked my heart. I’m so self-centered.

I know him well enough to know that he never asks for anything.

And I know he’s grown. I know he served 4 years in one of the best armies in the world. I know he’s a brilliant man who recently graduated with honors from college and landed a great job in a highly competitive field.

I also know that he’s some mother’s son, that he’s 7000 miles from his family and he hasn’t been home in four years.

“No, I want to, I do!!! Adam, send the video chat request, I’ll accept it. But give me a second to at least brush my hair.”

So he did.

(And these videos calls really are different, they make you seem more “there.”)

But wait.

It sounds like I’m patting myself on the back. I’m not. I love talking to him and he’s always a huge blessing to me, every time we talk.

But a really happy thing happened during this hour long video call: I visually saw our friendship all over his apartment!

Just little things I’d sent him over the past year. The butterfly on the window that I’d sent months ago, because it reminded me of one of our first conversations about God’s creation.

A red kitchen towel that I’d already forgotten about.

The off-brand Tupperware with the red lids.

A little foldable basket.

The teddy bear I sent for his firstborn. (I’m older than Asa. I might not be around then.)

Seeing everything made me feel like a part of him, like family. Like I am equal part of this friendship and I can stop worrying about being good enough, or witty enough, or smart enough, to earn it.

It felt like I was there.

When you’re down and troubled
and you need a helping hand,
and nothing, whoa nothing is going right.
Close your eyes and think of me
and soon I will be there
to brighten up even your darkest nights.

You just call out my name,
and you know wherever I am
I’ll come running, oh yeah baby
to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall,
all you got to do is call
and I’ll be there, yeah, yeah, yeah.
You’ve got a friend.

If the sky above you
should turn dark and full of clouds
and that old north wind should begin to blow
Keep your head together and call my name out loud now
and soon I’ll be knocking upon your door.

You just call out my name and you know where ever I am
I’ll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer or fall
all you got to do is call
and I’ll be there, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Hey, ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend?
People can be so cold.
They’ll hurt you and desert you.
Well they’ll take your soul if you let them.
Oh yeah, but don’t you let them.

You just call out my name and you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you again.
Oh babe, don’t you know that,
Winter spring summer or fall,
Hey now, all you’ve got to do is call.
Lord, I’ll be there, yes I will.
You’ve got a friend.
You’ve got a friend.

Songwriters: Carole King

He still misses her

I know that he still misses her, because he called me by her name yesterday.

When he walked in, (for the first time since December,) he said, “Hi mom, uh, uh, I mean, ‘hey Miss Angel!'”

Tears instantly sprang to my eyes while at the same time I was exclaiming with overwhelming joy, “Josh, you’re back!”

(His school schedule keeps him very busy.)

Josh flushed red so I knew he realized he’d called me mom. I pretend not to notice and flew around my desk to gather him into my arms.

It was a funny sight, me needing to stand on top-toes, even in heels, just to hug his neck, and him burying his head on my shoulder for a moment.

He was already tall, and as teen boys are want to do, he’d just kept growing.

When Josh and I first met, in May of 2018, he called me mom frequently. It was most often just a slip of the tongue, like when you have several kids whose first names start with the same letter.

(His mother was killed in a car accident near the end of 2017 and he’d come to our town to live with his grandmother.)

Some days, he’d call me mom and be completely spaced out, reliving a moment from the past.

There was one really hard day he tried to call her over and over again. That was the day I learned the true meaning of “tears falling like rain.”

Both of us.

Josh became my summer volunteer in 2018. I was very new to the career and the small town and I made a lot of mistakes, some I’m still paying for.

Josh was not one of those mistakes.

From the vantage point of almost a year, I can see that the summer I spent mothering him was not wasted time. Not because I did anything great, I didn’t. Josh just needed a place to be for a while.

Josh spent the day with me Wednesday. He had lots of new drawings for me to copy into his portfolio and lots of life updates to share.

Later in the day the facility traffic picked up and the noise made him nervous. (He’s high-functioning autistic.)

“Let’s walk outside buddy, I need to stretch my legs.”

We circled the building while Josh talked. My heart was so full, hearing about everything in his life, seeing how he’s growing up and becoming more sure-footed, less afraid.

“I have to tell you something Miss Angel, and don’t tell Grandmother.”

I sighed.

“Josh, if it’s illegal or about suicide talk, don’t tell me, because you know I’ll have to tell her.”

He laughed.

“Miss Angel, I never ever think about that anymore! No, this is a good thing. My dad got a good job and him and his wife got custody of Patrick.”

Patrick is his twelve year old stepbrother.

“When school’s out I’m going to move back with Dad and Megan so I can help Patrick get used to being back in North Carolina.”

(The stepmother lost custody of Patrick when he was about 8 because of a drug conviction.)

“Miss Angel, I want to give my dad another chance. And I just love that little fella, Patrick. He’s in my heart. I know he needs me.”

At that moment, God gave me a glimpse of the young man that Josh was growing into. I was as proud of him as I would have been my own child.

“And Miss Angel, I miss being in a family.”

I took of my sunglasses as we headed back in the building.

“She’s going to be proud of you buddy.”

His grandmother Katherine was waiting in my office, her face beaming.

“Josh, your dad called. He says y’all talked about it and you’re moving back back home. I’m so proud of you both!”

I quietly closed my office door and left the two of them in a tearful embrace.

Happy tears, but I could see the memory of pain on both their faces.

Because Josh still misses her.

He always will.

It was his 83rd birthday, but he gave me the gift

I don’t deserve the life I have, I’ll tell you that upfront.

My beloved Mr. Conrad Acorn celebrated his 83rd birthday with me Tuesday. He’s the volunteer art teacher at the facility I direct and he is truly one of my life’s most interesting and endearing characters.

I went all out for him, for this birthday.

I can often be oblivious to the needs of others but somehow I knew in my heart that recognizing his special day would mean the world to him.

And it did.

I’d managed to keep the party a secret and find the most elaborate chocolate cake you can imagine.

I came in early to decorate and everything looked so festive.

So he of course cried. Then I did too, because I just love him so much.

After the party wound down he asked me to grab a bag he’d stored in his locker.

I noticed him walking in with with a Chico’s bag but I didn’t pay too much attention. He’s always shuffling supplies back and forth.

My intern Destiny grabbed the bag and handed it to me.

“To Angel: Thank you for everything.”

Inside was a beautiful leather purse to which he’d attached three charms.

I was shocked.

1. I adore leather purses but I never purchase them because I always think the money could be better spent on someone else.

2. I love charms. I just do. Of course, I never buy any and in fact don’t own a single one. Until now.

He took one look at the expression on my face and rolled his eyes. I started to protest and he gave me his fiercest stare.

“Don’t even start. I had no ideal you were throwing me a party. This isn’t because of that. You need a good leather purse for your trip.”

(I’m speaking at a conference in a neighboring city in April.)

He continued, “If you’re going to represent us, I want you to look nice.”

I thanked him over and over again. Until he gave me “that look” and said, “If you don’t stop I’m going to take it back.”

I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek and whispered one last thank you.

“You’re welcome my dear.”

It’s very hard for me to accept gifts. I’ve hardened everyone in my life to this and it’s been that way for years. I very rarely ever receive a gift.

That’s one thing my late friend Doug always fussed at me about. I have a hard time ever thinking I deserve anything at all, especially gifts.

I don’t think I deserve the gift I received from Mr. Acorn.

But for some reason this is different. It made me happy instead of guilty.

It wasn’t because it’s an expensive leather purse.

It’s because I know he is saying, “I care.”

And THAT means the world to me.

Punch me down

Punch me down
I’m your pillow
Reaching, softly changing
Myself to the shape of you

Fall on me
My care the bed
You trust and collapse to
Believing I’m there, never doubting

Ignore me
The soft and faded blanket
Waiting in silence to cover you
Unseen upon the chair

Take from me
That which I loved
So bittersweetly I return
The thing you never really gave

Forget me
As one does useless items
Taking them for granted
Only to discard

Leave me
Because I’m the one
Of no worth here
Never mattered, it’s so clear

See me
The first time, in goodbye
For I was more
Than you ever really knew

Feel me
Soft for you, always pleasing
Then hurt, but  strong
Now only leaving, now only gone

Doug is fading fast, so I reached out to his mistress

Oh. You thought I was Doug’s mistress?

I’m the one who said no. I did care about him though.

Part of that care found me leaving his house Wednesday and stopping at the Walgreens on the corner to try and contact the other woman.

Yes he is married. I’m not defending what they did. I didn’t like her one bit and she was truly (mostly) bad for him.

But he asked me to “tell her.”

I knew what he meant.

I also knew (but hated to admit) that she brought him joy in those weeks between his cancer treatments.

He buried his reality and traveled through several states and into Canada with her. They stopped at every river they crossed and took selfies, lighting up their individual Instagrams like the 4th of July.

She was young and alive with love for him. He was staring down both barrels of death.

It was probably easy to rationalize their affair by believing that what the wife didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her.

I’m not excusing what they did. But a part of me understands it.

~~~

I was also motivated to contact the mistress in order to protect Julie, Doug’s wife.

Monday was the last day Doug was able to use his phone and I’d noticed that Julie had it charging next to her chair Wednesday.

I didn’t think she deserved to inadvertently receive any frantic messages from women she has no idea Doug even knew.

~~~

It was still hard though. I sat a few minutes biting my lip and taking deep breaths.

Then I hear Asa’s voice, like a little Jewish conscience in my heart.

And from somewhere in me came compassion for the mistress.

She has no way of knowing what’s going on, if Doug is alive or dead.

Whatever I thought about the situation, (I hated it) and whatever I thought about her personally, (jealousy mixed with disgust), I knew I had to reach out to her for all of the above reasons.

So I contacted the mistress.

Since she had followed me on Twitter several months ago I followed her back and sent a DM.

“Nancy, it’s Angel. I just left Doug’s house. My number is 867-5309 if you want to call.”

My phone rang before I could even put my car in reverse.

“Is he dead?” she blurted out. Then she burst into tears.

To be continued…

[I’m not a hero here…I was tempted to do what she did. I just didn’t do it.]

Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack
I went out for a ride and I never went back

Like a river that don’t know where it’s flowing
I took a wrong turn and I just kept going

Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody’s got a hungry heart

I met her in a Kingstown bar
We fell in love I knew it had to end
We took what we had and we ripped it apart
Now here I am down in Kingstown again

Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody’s got a hungry heart

Everybody needs a place to rest
Everybody wants to have a home
Don’t make no difference what nobody says
Ain’t nobody like to be alone

Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody’s got a hungry heart

“Goodbye sweetheart”

When I left Doug’s house Wednesday, I wondered if this would be the last time I’d see him.

It surprised me to realize I carried peace either way.

~~~

He was asleep most of the visit, but I asked his wife Julie if I could wake him up to say goodbye.

“Please do. He might wake up and know you, he might not,” she warned me.

I stopped at his hospital bed that was delivered a few days ago from hospice and touched his shoulder.

“Doug, buddy, it’s me…”

His eyes flew open and he grabbed my hand.

“Angel, Angel.”

I was so elated. I turned around to look at Julie and said, “He knows me!”

He started talking right away, rushing through the words.

“Albert’s grave. Teach Justin.”

Albert is his friend that the major publishing event revolved around. Doug always took care of his grave but his stepchildren are not interested in continuing this.

Justin is my 12 year old son.

“I will Doug, I promise. We’ve already been twice this year.”

Doug’s nose was bleeding, I’m assuming from the cancer? I grabbed a tissue and cleaned his face.

He started crying and said, “I’m afraid Angel.”

“You’re doing good buddy, you’re strong, you’re hands are strong!”

But he was afraid, and very sorrowful. I could see this in his eyes and it broke my heart.

“Doug, let’s pray.”

I put my other hand on his chest and bowed my head. (Details omitted because, well, it’s too private.)

When I finished he didn’t let go of my hands, so I was still bent over somewhat.

“Tell her, please tell her,” he whispered. “Tell them all.”

I knew that he meant his mistress in Vermont and all of the friends he’s made in the town I work for.

“I will Doug, I’ll tell everyone. We all love you and we’re praying for you.”

He kept holding my hands but stopped talking. I thought maybe he was falling back asleep so I gently tried to pull away.

“No, don’t go.”

So I stood there, just looking at his face, so sweet to me now, and again, after so much anger, bitterness, and anguish between us.

I realized then that our reconciliation was possible and accomplished because of him. Because he reached out to me, and came to my work to ask me to forgive him.

Gratitude filled my heart. God was so good to me to allow this peace at our end.

~~~

I could tell Doug was going in and out from the Fentanyl but he stirred and opened his eyes again.

He brought my right hand to his lips and kissed it.

“Goodbye sweetheart.”

I leaned over and hugged him.

“Goodbye buddy.”

Boulder to Birmingham

Well you really got me this time
And the hardest part is knowing I’ll survive

I’ve come to listen for the sound
Of the trucks as they move down
Out on 95
And pretend that it’s the ocean


Coming down to wash me clean, to wash me clean
Baby, do you know what I mean?

I would rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham
I would hold my life in his saving grace
I would walk all the way from Boulder to Birmingham
If I thought I could see, I could see your face
If I thought I could see, I could see your face

Boulder to Birmingham is a track from the 1975 album Pieces of the Sky by Emmylou Harris. The song was written by Harris and Bill Danoff. It has served as something of a signature tune for the artist and recounts her feelings of grief in the years following the death of country rock star and mentor Gram Parsons.

Wiki

“The Old Man and the Boy.” Books in the key of my life

I thought for years that I loved this book because my father read it out loud to me when I was a child, and I adored him.

After he died and we moved his library to my house, I re-read “The Old Man and the Boy.”

I picked it up one afternoon when the grief was drowning me, just for the memories.

I quickly fell in love with the book on its own merits.

It took me away from everything and transported me to a hilly beach in North Carolina, to the sounds of birds and buoys knocking against a wooden boat.

The next day I found myself in a cold pine forest waiting for a covey of gently cooing quail.

As my son slept that night I went back to North Carolina and the smell of a good fire, a wet dog and gun oil.

Grief began to be replaced with memories of the outdoors with my dad. I started healing in the pages of “The Old Man and the Boy.”

I’ve re-read it several times since then and I still love it.

Each chapter stands alone and brilliantly tells of the Southern outdoor life while being woven around the relationship between a boy and his grandfather, and the Boy growing to manhood.

Mistakes are made, lessons are learned, and character is forged in the crucible of love, and eventually, a death.

~~~

It strikes me that what the world calls “toxic” is actually something this day and age could use more of, men teaching boys how to be men.

“The Old Man and the Boy” is a book in the key of my life.

In my mind I’m gone to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine?
Can’t you just feel the moonshine?
Ain’t it just like a friend of mine
To hit me from behind?
Yes, I’m gone to Carolina in my mind

Karin, she’s a silver sun
You best walk her way and watch it shine
And watch her watch the morning come
A silver tear appearing now
I’m cryin’, ain’t I?
Gone to Carolina in my mind

There ain’t no doubt in no ones mind
That love’s the finest thing around
Whisper something soft and kind
And hey babe, the sky’s on fire
I’m dying, ain’t I?
Gone to Carolina in my mind

In my mind I’m gone to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine?
Can’t you just feel the moonshine?
And, ain’t it just like a friend of mine
To hit me from behind?
Yes, I’m gone to Carolina in my mind

Dark and silent, late last night,
I think I might have heard the highway call
And geese in flight and dogs that bite
The signs that might be omens say
I’m goin’, I’m goin’
I’m gone to Carolina in my mind

With a holy host of others standin’ around me
Still I’m on the dark side of the moon
And it seems like it goes on like this forever
You must forgive me, if I’m up and gone to
Carolina in my mind

In my mind I’m goin’ to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine?
Can’t you just feel the moonshine?
Ain’t is just like a friend of mine
To hit me from behind
Yes, I’m gone to Carolina in my mind

Gone to Carolina in my mind
And I’m goin’ to Carolina in my mind
Goin’ to Carolina in my mind
Gone, I’m gone, I’m gone
Say nice things about me ’cause I’m gone south now
Got to carry on without me, I’m gone

~James Taylor

“Have you written about me having a girlfriend now?”

Adam called tonight. Of course I’m happy about that.

I’ve never yet had a conversation with him that didn’t bless me in some way, or drive me to think. (Usually both.)

I also love talking to him in general because he has this lyrical way of describing people and events in his life.

He observes deeply, then paints a vivid picture with words. I close my eyes while he speaks and I’m where he is, if only for a moment.

We talk on his drive home across his frozen city, so I’m still on the phone when he checks his mail.

I’d sent him a can-opener and the package arrived today.

I didn’t have time to write a note but instead printed a post from the blog that was about him.

He opened the package and started to read the blog post to me, as if it were a letter.

‘Oh, you don’t have to do that, it’s just a blog post.’

He teases me.

“Beloved Adam.”

‘I don’t say that! I’ve never said that!’

“Adam Darling.”

‘I give. I do say that.’

He laughs and continues to make up endearing salutations.

“Angel, have you written about me having a girlfriend yet?”

I stumble in answering.

‘I think I’ve mentioned it, but I might have put the post in draft form when I unpublished every thing.’

Adam has a girlfriend now, which seems so beautiful, yet somehow very private and I’m not sure how to write about it.

I quickly try and excuse myself by reminding him of my policy of not prying.

‘You know I never question you and only wait for you to tell me things. Since the trip to see her, you’ve only mentioned her a few times.’

I don’t mention the heated phone conversation when I agreed with his mom and my tone of voice makes it sound like I deserve an award for not prying.

But I don’t.

Because I have written about Adam having a girlfriend. I’ve just not published those posts.

I do not tell him this. Because the posts are mostly about me.

How I’m adjusting to him not needing me anymore.

How sometimes it hurts when I miss him.

How long the days seem when several pass without hearing from him.

How I worry about him driving on the ice and how would I know if something happened to him?

But also…

How I’m reminding myself that I’ve always prayed for someone to love him.

And how much he blessed my life by being kind to me, and extending the hand of friendship. Over and over again.

How he looked past the situation I was in and saw who I could be.

And how he walked with me, out of the darkness, into the light.

But most of all, how I’m so thankful that God crossed our paths, for such a time as this, for however long it shall be.

It is well, with my soul.

Oh Lord, you’re beautiful,
Your face is all I see,
For when your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me

I want to take your word and shine it all around
But first help me to just, live it Lord

And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown
For my reward is giving glory to you

Oh Lord, please light the fire
That once burned bright and clean
Replace the lamp of my first love
That burns with holy fear

Oh Lord, you’re beautiful
Your face is all I see
For when your eyes are on this child

Your grace is all I see

Will the circle be unbroken?

Adam called me tonight and his voice seemed heavier, older.

As if now he is the father and I am the child.

He has grown up so much this past year, and indeed he’s taken this role more often than not.

(When he takes a role at all that is.)

Angel, It seems as if the circle is closing.

Which circle? You and I?

Yes.”

Closing as in ending?

Yes.”

Don’t say that.

“I know you are crying. Don’t have those tears in your eyes.”

I don’t.

You do, I know you do.”

Yes. Ok, I do.

It’s just that I feel like a different person from a year ago. I don’t even recognize me, as her.

That’s because you are different, you’re not her anymore.”

Thank you for helping me, for all that you did. But I don’t want our friendship to be over.

Stop crying. I meant that the circle of the year, and the events that caused our paths to cross, that circle is closing.”

He says this I realize, because I messaged him that Doug called and asked me to come see him this afternoon.

I told him that Doug can no longer stand. He just wanted me to sit by his bed and tell him funny work stories.

I took food, cake, fudge, just treats I knew they’d love, including Starbucks.

Dinner, so Doug’s wife could have a break.

She asked me to help with Doug’s birthday party. Of course I will. I’m good at being a background utility player.

Adam, I say, I’m so thankful to God that nothing happened between Doug and I. That I can walk in his house without shame. That I can sincerely love his wife.

Adam, I’ll call you back in a few minutes, I need to pay for this can-opener.

That’s fine.

Except I don’t call him right back. I go into another store to buy him some Band-Aids to drop in the mail. Adam cut his finger on a can and I’m worried that he doesn’t have bandages.

I gather myself and stop crying as well.

I made it to the car and reached for my phone. I stare at the number. But I can’t make myself call him.

In the past eleven months, I’ve never called Adam.

I’ve always thought that I should be there for him if he needs me, (and I am), but I should never call him.

So I never have.

I closed the phone option and message instead.

Adam, call me if you want. I’m finished at the store.

Angel, I want to take a little break. We might need to push it to tomorrow.

Okay buddy, no problem. TTYL.

The circle indeed closes.

Angel

So I close my eyes softly,
’till I become that part of the wind
That we all long for sometime.

And to those that I love, like a ghost through a fog
Like a charmed hour and a haunted song
And the angel, angel of my dreams

Angel of my dreams

I still look up
I try hard not to look up, yeah
That girl was me, yeah

No great pretender…

I met a lady who is going to Steve Jobs herself

“I have pancreatic cancer. But I’m not letting them cut me open. I’m fighting this naturally.”

When she said that I teared up and reached for her yellowed hand.

Not because she has cancer, although that’s sad.

But because I know she’ll be dead soon.

She has insurance, and money, but she doesn’t want a colostomy.

I wanted to say, “But Steve Jobs…”

I didn’t though. Because sometimes you just have to think things, instead of saying them.

She asked me to pray for her and I will.

“Mrs. Douglas, stop back by when you see my car out there by itself, so we can spend sometime together and pray.”

She promised she would.

In anticipation of that day, I went ahead and put Steve Jobs biography and my office Bible on the small table between the two leather chairs.

God opens a door, I stick a Steve Jobs biography in it faster than a Jehovah’s Witness can hand you a Watch Tower magazine!

~~~~

Goodbye Michael

Dear Michael,

The situation being what it was, when the adoption was severed, I was not able to say goodbye to you, or tell you that I love you.

Do I still?

I wasn’t sure at first, when everything happened. But I think I do love you, now.

I’m still afraid of you though.

~~~~

You were five when we met, my brother’s long awaited foster son.

The adoption was finalized when you were six and Patrick was four.

Your brown eyes had more hurt in them than I have ever seen, before or since.

We loved you buddy, we did.

Remember how much you loved Brownie, when we came to visit in Myrtle Beach?

After all these years, the love you showed to her still stands out to me.

That sweet little boy, begging to sleep in the garage with the puppy, so she wouldn’t be lonely and afraid.

I finally took you out to check on her. You knelt down on her blanket and whispered, “Shh girl, shhh, don’t be afraid. Mikey’s right here.”

You cuddled right up to her while she licked your face, and you both fell asleep.

I wish that Michael could have been preserved and saved, before all the bad things happened.

~~~~

I know it was hard for a little boy to come into a family that never understood why you missed your mom.

Being infertile had practically driven his wife into a place of thinking another woman’s child could become her’s and fill the emptiness both husband and wife felt.

That was wrong of them.

But in case you ever wonder, they did love you.

Your birth mom loved you also.

But you know what Michael? Even at age five, you loved and protected her more than she ever did you.

I don’t know if anyone ever told you, but your birth mother was raised in foster homes herself.

I know she caused you and Patrick a lot of pain and trauma. But when you grow up, I hope you will forgive her.

Mostly for your own sake, but also because she just had never been given a fair shot at life herself.

~~~~~

And so we met, and there I was, charged with babysitting two traumatized foster kids for ten days while the foster mom and dad you hardly knew went to Venezuela for ten days.

Supposedly it was a work trip that my brother couldn’t get out of, but his wife could have stayed home with you.

I thought then, “I’m not sure they are prepared for the sacrifices parenting entails.”

And they weren’t.

But is anyone?

~~~

My nephew *Michael’s adoption was severed six weeks ago. He is 15.

I don’t know if I have the right to have an opinion about it or even tell his story.

But I feel that his memory, the memory and story of him, and even Michael himself deserves to be un-amputated.

*Not his real name.

Thanks for the memories, it means more than you will ever know

He once tried to seduce me, but as a friend, he had no equal when it came to celebrating my birthday.

Sitting in my car in the Publix parking lot on a rainy Friday night, the last before Christmas.

It’s around my birthday and I’m overwhelmed with memories.

Doug always celebrated my birthday and insisted that I did.

I don’t though, and haven’t in years.

Since my parents died no one in my family knows or remembers except one sister sometimes.

But Doug did.

I don’t know why it meant so much that he went out of his way to celebrate me, but it always blew me away.

My father was the same way, maybe that’s why?

~~~~

Doug would fuss at me almost all of December, trying to make me remind my children and husband of the date.

I never would, and it always made him angry.

“You think less of yourself than anyone I’ve ever met.”

What could I say to that? He was right.

~~~~~~

He started sending birthday cards with gift cards inside, addressed to the entire family on the outside, as if were a Christmas card.

His sweet ploy never worked. No one else ever opened the cards.

~~~~

This year’s birthday card from Doug was addressed to “Angel.” No first name, no last name, just my nickname.

As if I exist only in that form.

~~~~

I know it’s the last card I’ll ever receive from him.

He’s dying.

But he remembered my birthday.

~~~~

I always want to remember the good Doug.

I hope he remembers the good me.

She’s a rounder I can tell you that
She can sing ’em all night, too
She’ll raise hell
about the sleep she lost
But even cowgirls get the blues

Especially cowgirls, they’re the gypsy kind
And need their laid on ’em loose
She’s lived to see the world turned upside down
Hitchin’ rides out of the blues

But even cowgirls get the blues sometimes
Bound to don’t know what to do sometimes
Get this feelin’ like she’s too far gone

The only way she’s ever been

My Favorite Boy

He’s still little, Aidan is. Six years old and only started kindergarten in September.

We bonded over the summer when I introduced butcher paper and bright markers into his world.

He drew towns and cities and worlds for hours on end. Cars, ships and houses.

“Draw your house here Midth Angel.”

He didn’t talk much then, and still has a hard time with words. But he can draw, and tells complex stories with his drawings.

Dith is me and MidulAngelo. He prodects me at home. We met on de Ditantic and daved people.

[Met on the Titanic.]

Aidan loves me. I know that he does and I don’t know why. I love him right back.

When his family of five arrives at my facility he he’s always the first in the door. I see him before he sees me and I don’t deserve the look on his face as he scans the room to find me.

He runs to me like a whirling dervish, yelling “Hey, Hey!”

Heads turn at the noise of him, but I don’t shush him. Not this golden child.

Hands out for a happy high-five, I say, “hey buddy, how are you?”

As is with most kids, the niceties are lost on him and he launches right into what he wants to talk about.

Something something, we saw it! Indiscernible and dis is Baby Groot.”

Brushing dark hair out of his big brown eyes, he looks up at me with complete trust. Plastic Baby Groot is offered with outstretched hands.

“Tee him!”

Oh sweet little one. Did you know that I can’t always understand what you say? Is that why you started bringing the Target ads, to show me your favorite super heroes?

Dis is de Iwon Man Wego but Twny Start is not weally in dere-a-uh.

(In Aidan’s vocabulary, some words at the end of a sentence have two and often three sing-song syllables.)

You funny little fella. You roll your eyes at me when I tell you I’ve never seen the movies you bring and place in my lap.

The Avengers. Guardians of the Galaxy. Captain America. Thor.

“My sons have seen them though,” I say.

“Ou can’t have doose boys. I’m woure boy,” he proclaims, pointing at his chest.

Wake the deal-uh,” Aidan insists, holding out his hand to shake on it.

“Ok buddy, you can be my boy while you’re here today.”

Then for the briefest of moments I allow myself to remember another boy who was mine for a day. The newborn son who lies in a cold grave near his grandparents, his birth and death dates the same.

It seems forever ago, but it wasn’t. It’s just that the girl I used to be was also buried that day.

“Would my son have been like Aidan? Overjoyed with the smallest of attentions? Elated with a big empty piece of paper onto which he could draw his own universe?”

“Is he mad at me that he died? Does he think it was my fault? Does he love me?”

“Does he know that I was so young and afraid? That I thought the doctors knew best when they sent me home that night?”

“Who would he be now?”

I still ask those things, the questions without answers. This side of Heaven, I’ll never know.

I do know this though, grief paralyzed me after he died. Then shame strangled me.

“Her baby died. I’m not sure what happened. But she’s not even taking care of her two-year old. Her younger sister comes every day and stays there most nights.”

The gossip was right. I didn’t take care of anyone then, not even myself.

All I did was lay in bed and relive over and over not fighting back when the doctor said, “Oh you aren’t in labor. It’s too early. Go home and rest.”

I relived giving birth with just my husband in the room, him screaming for help when I told him what was happening.

Relived how peaceful it felt when the baby moved against my legs and I thought for a few seconds that he might not die.

The flashbacks of holding him never stopped. He struggled to breathe, before they took him to “see if there was anything that could be done for him.”

“He’s little though. Don’t expect a miracle.”

But the worst thing was constantly reliving my sister entering the room 45 minutes later, holding the baby.

“I found him next to the sink, on the counter. They said he died and nothing could be done. They were waiting for the doctor to finish stitching you up before they brought him back. But he’s moving. He’s not dead.”

I relived reaching out for the baby. His chest slowly rising and falling. Then faster frantic breaths, his tiny fingers jerkily grasping, his head moving from side to side as he fought for air.

My husband screaming again at the call button speaker.

Then, the baby just didn’t take another breath. I relived the deathly silence. Over and over again.

For months afterward I stayed in my dark bedroom clutching the blanket he was wrapped in, my wet tears mingling with tiny drops of dried blood. (My blood, not his. He was perfect.)

One day my two-year old son came in and patted me on the cheek. Silently, he touched my face. Sweet little fingers tried to gently pry open my eyes.

“Mommy get up. Mommy come back. Mommy come play.”

So I did.

The empty shell of me tried to live a semblance of a life. I mostly failed. But I was up walking around and to everyone in my life, that seemed to be a huge improvement.

I prayed for months after my son died, that God would give me a dream of the baby.

I so desperately needed to see him somewhere besides that tiny casket. Somewhere besides being lowered into the hard red dirt.

Over a year later God answered that prayer.

I dreamed I was in church when a laughing toddler with wavy dark hair and big brown eyes peaked over the pew in front of me. His chubby little arms stretched towards me, smiles wreathing his face.

I reached for him but before I could hold him, the dream ended. I awoke with full knowledge and memory of my baby as I saw him, his soul alive.

I started the long journey of healing at that moment in time. Bitterness of soul lingered, but my wavering faith was completely replaced with sure knowledge that I will hold my son again one day.

I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”
~2 Samuel 12:23

As I settle in to draw with Aidan and his brother Cody, the journey of healing continues.

One tear slides down my cheek onto the three feet of butcher paper.

I’m surprised by this. I don’t often cry for my baby anymore.

Aidan notices. “Don’t cry Midth Angel. Whass wong-uh?

“I think it’s just dust in my eye. I’m ok. Tell me what you want our zoo to look like. Where shall we put the tigers?”

Aidan roars at me, curling his fingers like claws. “Draw them here, in front of me,” he says with a pretend tiger-ish growl.”

So I do.

In the end I decide, “maybe I’m just crying for all the boys.”

The ones taken, and the ones given.

“The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Dear son, we’ve been waiting for you
Thrilled beside ourselves that you’ve arrived
White coats came in, heads held low
Talked for a bit, shuffled outside

We closed the curtains
And held each other
And cried
We said hello
At the same time
That we said goodbye

And smallest and wingless
Leaving as soon as you’d arrived
But sadness is just love wasted
With no little heart to place it inside

We closed the curtains
And held each other
And cried
We said hello
At the same time
That we said goodbye

Dancing to Clarence

Snuck in the VFW
Danced to Clarence, slow
Pressed completely together
When we had a leg to stand on

They hated us, hissed
Wished they could throw stones
“You can’t do that!”
Patches isn’t to dance

We did though
Kept Dancing, swaying
Its a cover band
We do what we want

Ramrod straight, the grey haired man
Black sandals, white socks, tapped me
“Sister don’t”
Patches kills me

Daddy died. Me and Mama tried.
Billy’s In-country then
We called him Patches
Snipers got him, 18

Sister please
Old man’s tears moved me
So we sat down
Drank another round

Then you
Gave the guy with the horn
A hundred bucks to play Taps
Damn, why?

Patches

I was born and raised down in Alabama
On a farm way back up in the woods
I was so ragged the folks used to call me “Patches”
Continue reading “Dancing to Clarence”

I’m worried about my posts here

I’m worried about my posts here, some of them anyway. So I unpublished them.

My life was in flux on the pages of this blog. I was devastated emotionally when I started it. Then Asa befriended me, I started getting over Doug, I was invited to apply for a new career very unexpectedly (and got the job) and then had so much more to write about, so I did. Probably without thinking it through.

Part of me was so grateful my depression started to lift and I found out I could still write so I just wrote and wrote and wrote. (I have over 1000 posts in draft.)

But now I’m reconsidering: do I have the right to convey the stories of others?

The volunteers I’m training, I love them all, they bless me so much.

Even when the girls get on my last nerve, I’m still learning and growing through my interactions with them.

But telling the stories, even though I change details for privacy, do I have the right to do that?

I’m not sure anymore.

Some of them are over 18, three of them are not.

Josh for example. He’s only 14. He lost his mom last year, and now, he wants to spend every day with me.

I get that. I lost my mom when she was 38 years old. It’s a despairing loneliness when you are a motherless child.

I want to write about him because he is so fantastic, such a blessing, so gifted and yet so very heartbroken.

But should I?

I don’t think I should.

It hit me last night, this thought: what if my son’s teacher started a blog and wrote about the kids in her class? She sees them at their best, and their worst.

Would I appreciate my child being the subject of a blog? Even if she had good intentions and changed the names?

I’m don’t think I would.

I’m also unsure of this blog now, because of the publicity it could bring if it was discovered.

“Woman involved with XYZ writes scathing blog posts about clients!”

You can’t just write about the population you serve and expect them to like it, especially if it isn’t flattering, right?

The post I wrote about Corinna, it was every word true, except for her name and my interns name.

(I still want to know why she is obsessed with Sling Blade….)

I realize the post about her was a little catty, but she ticked me off by being rude to Destiny.

She also ticked me off by saying that Jake has a boring personality and that he reminds her of a wet paper bag.

When Corinna said that about Jake, I thought to myself, “any guy that has a 45 minute conversation with me about the poetry of Rudyard Kipling is not one bit boring!”

So see? I’m realizing my tendency to write about people when 1. They make me angry and 2. When they amaze me.

I’ve got no middle ground.

Asa knows I write about him sometimes and besides Josh, he is my easiest subject to write about.

He is disguised via name change and physical location, so I feel it’s ok to continue to write about him, unless he tells me differently. He doesn’t mind so far and I doubt he ever has time to read here, so I’m leaving most of the Asa posts.

Doug has no idea that I write here. He’d hate me if he knew. But he seems to already hate me, most of the time anyway. So many of the posts about him are staying put.

He’s an adult and the things I wrote were things I went through with him. So it’s my story too. I feel I can write that. [Doug died in Feb. 2019.]

I took great pains to disguise geography and names with Doug, so I’m probably ok there. If he ever found this blog and read it, he would know it was about him, but no one else would.

I guess that’s it. It feels like goodbye to something I loved, but all things considered, I think it’s for the best.

It takes a greater love to walk away, right?

It is everything, it is nothing

How was I
Ever to know
That missing you
Would hurt me so?

I was going
But Then, redeemed
You reached out
In kindness to me

That night you saved me?
The next day in the park?
We played a game
Our wounds, the same

This could never be
We laughed and said and knew
But in my desert season
I drank from you

I was needy
You were too
Though you gave me more
Than I ever gave you

Now, we walk on
The Bridge of Pain not crossed alone
You grow, away you go
I whisper… leave slow