The Dishrag

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Swirling your hand around in the murky kitchen sink

You pulled out the dishrag

You wrung it out, as if you were strangling it

And used the toxic cloth to wipe up your mess

Once you tired of cleaning

You threw the dishrag on the counter

Where it dried into a stiff misshapen grotesquery

And you just left it there, abandoned

You never finished cleaning the mess you made

You just forgot all about the dishrag

But the dishrag still exists, grotesque and toxic

Wondering what happens next?

I Wish For You a Better Me

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My flaws are many

My good ideas are few

But one thing I am not

Is accountable to you

 

I make a lot of mistakes

I sometimes act inappropriately

But that doesn’t give you the right

To treat me disdainfully

 

You seem to hate me

I never say or do the right thing

But I hate myself even more

And to you I would never cling

 

How will we get through this?

How much longer will we try?

It seems no matter what,

We always have an ugly goodbye

 

The bridge was built long and solid

But it’s burning every day

And I’m too old and tired

To be able to swim away

 

I know, because you tell me

That it’s all my fault

I ruin everything

And I need to bring it to a halt

 

But even that’s not good enough for long

For soon I will err again

And your forgiveness is over

Even before it began

 

I would ask you to give me a chance

To redeem myself in your eyes

But like I said, I’m old and tired

And I’ve been through too many tries

 

Maybe it’s all just karma

You disliking me so

Because I, too,

Deeply dislike my foe

 

So we’ll continue our days

Walking on eggshells

Knowing that at any moment

It can all go to hell.

 

Yes I ruin everything

And probably always will

But that’s not what I set out to do

I am justly defined as ruinous because I am ill

 

You deserved better

You and I both know it

But this is all I’ve got for you

And my heart is breaking bit by bit

 

I wish there was a better me out there for you

I wish I could be flawless and perfect enough

But alas, this is what you’re stuck with

And for you I know it’s unfair and tough

 

I feel the eggshells beginning to crack

So I better end this missive

Although I suspect you’ll never read it

Because of me you’re so dismissive.

 

I wish I could end this on a hopeful note

And if I could, I would

Perhaps someday, from that burning bridge

Maybe you’ll send me a boat

But the fact that I’m even writing this

Makes me think there is no hope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reflections on Our Patriarch

 

Charles Marvin Clapp.

Born, lived and died on Clapp Farms Rd.

Eighty-eight years old.

Lived an exemplary life as a successful farmer.

Married to the love of his life, Sylvia Fryar, for nigh on 40 years

Until her untimely death 20 years ago.

Raised two very fine sons, Alan and Andy, both of whom were close to him especially in these later years as they spent more time together.

 

Marvin never remarried, although all the widow ladies of the church were lined up and down the road bearing casseroles and maybe an offer he couldn’t refuse.

But refuse he did and he spent those remaining 20 years working the farm with his brother, nephew, son and grandsons.

 

Marvin lived to see all five of his grandchildren through college and they were his pride and joy. He adored each of them equally, including the girls even though they couldn’t farm.

 

In addition to his family, Marvin loved his Ford trucks, his John Deere equipment, Old Timer pocket knives and chewing tobacco. His favorite sports teams were any team that his children and grandchildren participated in and of course, the Atlanta Braves.

 

He loved cats and dogs equally; but he was particularly partial to his last dog, Trixie.

 

Marvin was an incredibly smart but very uncomplicated man. He was a man of very few words but when he did speak, it was always profound.

Words such as “Hey”.

Or “Thank You”.

Or “Fine, you?”

Or “Bring me a Pepsi and a pack of Nabs.”

And my personal favorite, “I love you too.”

 

After Sylvia’s passing, no one was sure how Marvin would eat. Once the casseroles dried up, he was fortunate enough to get a home-cooked meal for dinner every night from daughter-in-law Lisa, and a yummy breakfast every morning of pineapple coconut cake, lovingly made weekly by daughter-in-law Amy. And if he was running low, he would absolutely let Amy know.

 

Marvin was fair and generous to all his loved ones and he suffered a number of losses in his later years including his wife, two sisters, a brother-in-law, several cousins and a host of longtime true friends.

 

It’s very difficult to think of Clapp Farms Rd. without Marvin residing and working there. This is a tremendous loss to the family but all are grateful that his aching body has been renewed and that he is reunited with his beloved Sylvia.

 

We all come into this world in the same way, and clutching a round trip ticket. We don’t get to know when God will see fit to redeem that ticket but Marvin loved his God, our Father, and he was ready to go. That does bring some degree of comfort to the family and we are eternally  grateful for having known and loved him.

 

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Unmoored, Untethered, Undone

I awaken, finding myself splayed out

In the bottom of a small, rickety dinghy.

Unmoored, untethered, without anchor.

I am in the middle of the ocean

In the middle of nowhere.

I see nothing but swells

All around me

Rocking me to and fro.

I feel the pain; it’s palpable,

But intangible.

No broken bones, no bleeding cuts.

Just the very essence of my broken heart

Oozing its way throughout my body.

Palpable yet intangible.

Words not yet invented to describe the pain.

I sit up, take inventory of my predicament.

Doesn’t matter how I got here.

Does it?

I can’t think about that; it’s more than I can comprehend.

Why must I feel so intensely?

Why does heartache feel so unmanageable?

Why can’t I be dense, unthinking, unfeeling?

Why can’t this pain roll off of me like the very ocean of water I find myself in?

No, my body absorbs the pain.

It takes unexplainable, circuitous routes

Throughout my being, inside and out

Like a pinball game.

Bouncing around all my organs

Including my skin

With nowhere to go

So it hits nerves, everywhere

And I shudder with the pain, not knowing where it’s going to hit next.

 

I awaken again, this time in a fetal position,

Ocean waves still all around me

A bit more aggressive this time

Should I be worried?

I can’t decide whether I care.

I’m pretty sure I don’t.

I just want the pain to stop.

 

I lean over the side of the dinghy

In order to let my tears fall into the ocean

So as not to flood my little boat.

It would have surely sunk by now.

 

As I look up, I see something

Something far away but moving closer.

It’s a ship!

And ever closer, I see people lined up on the deck

People I know

People I love

People who love me.

There seem to be so many!

And they are calling out to me,

Begging me to grab the float they’ve tossed.

Asking me to come back

To myself

And them.

They can save me.

But can they?

 

I look again

And see nothing.

It was all a mirage.

There’s no one who loves me

There’s no one I love.

There’s no life saving float.

 

I remain unmoored, untethered.

Then I completely come undone.

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How Can I ‘Give Back’ If I Never Received Anything?

Call me cantankerous and curmudgeonly and Scrooge-like but I just have a difficult time each year during the holidays when we are tasked with “giving back” and “paying it forward”. What if you never received anything to begin with? What if you have nothing left to give? What if you’ve given and given and given and tried to buy love your whole life to no avail?

I have had a history of being given nothing but heartache. My parents had one job, and that was to keep me safe. But I spent my entire childhood feeling unsafe, unsure, unwanted and unloved. I never knew what was around the corner. Another move? Another new school? Another divorce? Another suicide attempt? Another set of parents to live with? None of this kept me safe and none of this train wreck of a childhood ever gave me anything to “give back”.

I, however, broke that cycle and taught my children differently. We spent years giving back and paying it forward by in ways such as helping underprivileged youth; children of prisoners; paying for, preparing and serving meals prepared at homeless shelters; adopting families for Christmas. My kids understand about giving back and about paying it forward because I taught them. But I was self taught. I wanted to be loved. I wanted to be wanted. I wanted to be needed. So I fought for that by trying to give those who were raising me reasons to love me. I gave and gave and gave. God, I worked so hard to be worth receiving but it never really worked out.

So it is hard for me to constantly be bombarded by this giving season and requests for sharing our gifts, giving back, paying it forward. I’ve been sharing my gifts my whole life. I earned my gifts my own way and I certainly didn’t learn any of them from anyone else. I hope that I’ve taught my children that it’s kind and thoughtful to give back and pay it forward, but it’s not a requirement in order to be observed as a decent human being in this world. Again, call me Scrooge but I have already given back and paid it forward my entire life. And I continue to do so in order to role model for my children. But I don’t want anyone telling me what I should do and what I need to do. I did what I did to get through my own life. And I would never consider “giving back” or “paying forward” any aspect of my childhood. That would just be cruel.

 

 

An Astonishing Number of Deaths

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My dear friend and neighbor died the day after Thanksgiving and while it was not unexpected, I’m still deeply saddened by the loss. Her death started me thinking about the astonishing and random number of deaths that have occurred this year, directly, or peripherally, but all acknowledged nonetheless.

None of these deaths were Covid related. Several were of natural causes which, in each case, I’m reminded that we all come into this world in the exact same way, and we are all clutching a round trip ticket. But we don’t get to know when that ticket will be redeemed do we? We just know that it is final, and a new chapter of our own life begins without this person in it, again rather it be a person who was firmly a part of our life, or someone else, who was close to someone we care about, thereby affecting us by virtue of the fact that we feel sadness for those left behind.

A short summary, in chronological order:

A longtime friend’s husband, by terminal illness;

A former boss and longtime friend whom I admired and shared many memories with, of cancer and a stroke;

A twenty year old young man, the son of friends from church, of cancer;

A man with Downs Syndrome who lived double his life expectancy and died at age 65;

A friend’s husband who died of chronic illness but still unexpectedly;

Two elderly cousins who lived full lives and took all of their as yet not shared knowledge of life experiences with them;

My Sunday school teacher, who died from complications of surgery;

A friend’s grandfather who lives in another country of natural causes, but my friend was not able to travel to his service and pay her final respects;

And finally, my beloved friend and neighbor, of natural causes, and perhaps even a bit of a broken heart since it was her son with Downs Syndrome who died earlier in the year.

Ten relatively random deaths within a span of a little over one year. Here, then gone. How do we process this? Does it make any difference as to whether it was natural causes? I would think not for the family and close friends. Death is a huge and permanent loss. It is guaranteed, that is not in question. It is a completely natural event that happens every minute of every day. For me personally, I don’t fear death for myself (although I hope I don’t die a painful death), but I do fear for my loved ones left in my wake. I feel worthy enough in life to believe that I will be missed when my time comes.

All ten of these deaths I’ve observed this year have left behind loved ones who mourn. So not only do we know that death is imminent and permanent, so must we accept that we have to grieve along the way. Do we appreciate life more? Do we make promises to be a better person? Do we reach out to those who are particularly hurting? I don’t know the answers. I suspect it’s a different experience for everyone. But I do believe we that are left behind are blindsided by our reaction to a death. I do believe there’s no way to express the feelings unless and until you’ve experienced it.

I’ve got many more yesterdays than tomorrows left in my life and I know I will experience the loss through death many more times. I hope that I can deal with this gracefully and always remain thankful for having known that person. I miss my friend and neighbor an awful lot right now, it being a recent occurrence, and I’m profoundly sad.

Ten deaths. Ten random but guaranteed deaths. This is the life we are born into. And we can only do the best we can until the end. At that point, we are set free.

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Front Row Seat To A Descent Into Madness.

This is the saddest story that I will ever have to write.

I first met my friend Mark, in Ohio, where we were both from, when we were teenagers. We were each other’s first young love. We only parted because my family moved several states away. However, we stayed in touch sporadically, some 47 years now, and he went on to live a successful life as a husband and father of four children and a career as a minister of the Free Will Baptist Church. I moved to the south and I married and had three children of my own and worked in a career in accounting.

We saw each other at a 20th high school class reunion and it was very emotional for both of us. We knew that we still had a connection between us but we of course could not voice it or act upon it. About 20 years later, in 2019, I found out through the grapevine that Mark had developed late in life bipolar disorder and it was pretty severe. His family could not and would not understand or help him. He lost his marriage and his kids and this disease sent him into a spiral of despair. Sadly, he ended up in prison for three years for stalking and violating a restraining order from his ex-wife.  Several months of that prison time was spent in the mental ward where he was finally regulated properly with his medications so he finished his prison term in fairly good shape, all things considered.

Upon his release from prison, he had to start over completely. He had no wife, no children, no career. He had nothing, but he was taking his medication. And he was healthy, if not a bit over medicated. He was determined to starting his new life on solid mental ground. I was very proud of him, as I too, suffer from mental illness, in my case, major depressive disorder, and I understand all too well how important it is to stay on your medication and stay vigilant.

He’d suffered terrible losses. But he never lost his faith in God and he lived a life that he was proud of. He continued to progress forward in his new life and became involved in his church and got an apartment and was doing well. I reached out to him in late 2019 and he was just kind of living his life as a loner, spending most of his time in worship and service to God, having put his past successes and failures behind him.

We were in regular touch for about two years. We visited each other and we supported each other through our lives, and our trials. It was a good and very comforting friendship that I cherished.

Unfortunately, Mark was arrested for violating parole because he contacted his ex-wife in order to obtain permission to see his children on Father’s Day in 2021. This resulted in a six month prison sentence for parole violation which began in June of 2021. As I write this, Mark will be released in seven days, on Monday, November 29. And up until last week, I was scheduled to go pick him up from prison and take him back home and stay up there for several days to help him get back on his feet. He has absolutely no family support whatsoever. It’s quite sad and speaks to the ongoing stigma of mental illness. But I am his champion and advocate by choice and have been grateful for the opportunity to be the one person he can count on. We’ve stayed in touch daily during his prison sentence, and I have been devoted and diligent in writing him letters, talking to him by phone, scheduling video chats and just being available. I have covered his costs of commissary, telephone, etc. Since his own family has given up on him, he would agree that I was all that he had in this world besides God and his church.

Unfortunately, upon his arrest in late May, he was denied medication and had to go off his medications cold turkey which was extremely dangerous as anyone who suffers from mental illness knows. He, however, was not disappointed because he was feeling so much better being off the medication. Apparently, it was obvious that he was very over medicated during the past two years as he was often depressed and slept 16 plus hours a day and had trouble making decisions. He was looking forward to seeing his doctor to regulate his medications as he knew that his quality of life could be better but then the arrest happened and all of the medications ended. I was really impressed and proud of how he was handling his time in prison. I really expected him to freefall into mania or depression and I was quite concerned. But he was socializing, making friends, spreading the Word of God, from whom his faith has never wavered, and he was feeling very positive about his future.

He saw the prison mental health professionals a couple of times during his incarceration and he told them that he was fine and that he was cured from this disease. However, this was absolutely not the case. I didn’t really begin to recognize the effects of the lack of medication until about September. He was only sleeping three to four hours during a 24 hour period, if even that much. When we would talk on the phone, he would talk quite rapidly and just tell me every bit of detailed minutiae of what he’d been doing, what music he was listening to, what movies he was watching, et cetera. It became so overwhelming that I just couldn’t get a word in edgewise. He was just frankly talking gibberish and the letters that he sent me were unreadable. They were just pages and pages of drawings and numbers and calculations and meaningless paragraphs that made no sense.

Around the beginning of October I called him out on this. I said I really think he needed to get back on some proper medication and he vehemently said absolutely not. He felt like a million bucks! And he had grand plans for when he was released. He was in the arrogant, grandiose phase of his mania. Meanwhile, at least six bunkmates he’d shared a cell with over the time he’d been in prison requested that he be moved because he never slept, talked all the time and generally drove them crazy. And he just was driving everyone crazy, including prison authorities. In the six months that he spent in prison to this day, he has been sent to solitary confinement seven times for minor infractions.

As I’ve observed this massive and unchecked deterioration, my heart has been breaking because I knew him to be a humble, kind, loving, faithful, compassionate person and that person has completely disappeared, absorbed by this monster disease. He’s been transformed into this manic, grandiose, angry, obnoxious, crazy talking, non-sleeping person that I’ve never known and certainly do not recognize. At this point I don’t even see a flicker of the Mark I knew and loved. But he doesn’t in any way accept that anything is wrong with him, that anything had changed. He is convinced that he’s been cured by the Grace of God of his mental illness.

A few days ago, which would have been two weeks before his release, I once again called him out on his behavior, saying that he had to own his part in what he’s been doing and that he can’t blame everyone else for all of his problems. And he completely lost control and cussed at me and berated me and was horribly hateful and belligerent. I simply couldn’t have a rational conversation with him. It was impossible. I had to hang up on him. He called back the next day because he had been sent to solitary again, presumably after throwing a fit following our phone call. He told me that prisoners were trying to kill him. He’d become delusional. By this point, I was so angry and so disappointed and so frustrated that I told him that he was on his own. I told him that I canceled him. And I did cancel him. I canceled my trip. I canceled everything that I had done for him. I canceled my financial support. I told him to never speak to me again unless and/or until he saw a doctor and got back on medication. And he went on to cuss me out again, and tell me how horrible I was. He called me names such as baby killer because I am pro-choice. He was spouting homophobic and racist tirades. He was just delusional and completely off the wall with his anger towards me, something I’ve never ever heard from this formerly peaceful God loving and forgiving soul that I knew.

It’s now seven days until his release and my understanding is that he will take a Greyhound bus from the prison back to his hometown and he has no one to pick him up and get him settled. But he is not worried about it. He has got it all under control. He is going to go out and preach The Word of God to the world as he has been personally instructed by God to do, so he believes. He insists that I will see him on TV someday soon. I can’t even imagine what additional utter nonsense he would say to me at this point.

I’m absolutely devastated by this. I feel like I have watched a man that I have loved my whole life spiral into someone completely unrecognizable, whom I do not know, and I watched it happen day by day, hour by hour in real time. It has been one of the most brutal experiences that I have ever had. I genuinely fear for his life. I fear for the damage that he will do to himself and to others especially once he is released from prison. I suspect that he will be back in prison fairly soon. And it is heartbreaking to me because we were so close and I was such a great supporter of him while he was incarcerated. And now I feel that I have failed him. even though I know intellectually that is not true. I don’t know who to blame. Although I do think he needs to take ownership of what has happened to him. And he is in no way going to do that. As far as he’s concerned, he’s fine, and everyone else is doing him wrong. This is indeed the saddest story that I have ever written. And my heart is broken, irrevocably.


Piece Of My Mind, Peace of Mind

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The nightmares come at their own whim.

Just as I settle into a good frame of mind, 

A positive outlook, 

A place of clarity, 

The nightmares come in.

Some call it PTSD. 

That I’m doomed to relive the pain of my past. 

I awaken, 

Shaken. 

Minutes, sometimes longer, 

Go by 

Before I realize 

I am not where my dreams have wandered. 

I’m no longer Me Too-ing my way through the day, 

Year after year with the same tormentor. 

I’m no longer spending time with my parents, 

Trying to get some attention, any acknowledgment, any say.

I’m awake now 

Quivering, 

Shivering, 

Quaking, 

Shaking,

Aching.

Wondering,  must I endure this? 

Why? And how?

In my conscious state, I’m fine. 

I’m upbeat, 

I’m hopeful, 

I’m relevant. 

I’m helpful, 

But in these nightmares of mine, 

I go back.

To the scary days,

The bad days, 

The lonely days, 

The painful days

Keeping my secrets at bay. 

And in those first waking moments, 

I’m still alone 

I’m scared

I’m in pain 

And I don’t know to whom to turn.

What to say.

Gradually I come to, 

And realize that those things aren’t happening anymore. 

So why does my unconscious mind refuse to let go? 

What happens during my waking hours to trigger these nightmares? 

Even though I’m filled with relief that it’s just a dream,

My day remains dark. 

I ponder and fret. 

It all comes back to me. 

I desperately want my mind to get

To the place I deserve.

Peace.

I want peace. 

Please?

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I Missed Out

I Missed Out…..

I missed out on so much.

I missed out on a loving father-daughter relationship.

I missed out on a loving mother-daughter relationship.

I missed out on healthy sibling relationships.

I missed out on seeing my first love relationship to its fruition.

I missed out on going to college.

I missed out on celebrating a number of birthdays and holidays.

I missed out on being able to maintain lifelong friendships.

I missed out on a life not filled with anxiety and depression.

I missed out on healthy relationships with boyfriends.

I missed out on understanding and appreciating intimacy.

I missed out on acceptance.

I missed out on joy and celebrations.

I missed out on healthy working relationships with colleagues and bosses.

I missed out on being needed.

I missed out on being wanted.

I missed out on being respected.

I missed out on being appreciated.

And I missed out on being missed.

 

No, I was not an orphan.

I had a mother and a few stepmothers.

I had a father and an adopted father and a stepfather.

I had four siblings, none of whom I grew up with.

I had a life of being removed and replaced.

A life of being dismissed and disrespected.

A life of pain and loneliness.

A life without boundaries.

A life of confusion.

A life of misunderstanding.

A life of being misunderstood.

A life of conditional love.

A life of unhealthy relationships.

 

I missed out on so much.

And I don’t have a lot of life left to live; 

I have many more yesterdays than tomorrows.  

I learned too late to remove myself from the toxicity of the past.

 

But my life isn’t over yet.

I now have a life filled with unconditional love.

A life filled with unconditional love that I feel for others.

A life of being self taught through books and research and experience.

A life of experiencing current, healthy and ongoing relationships.

And I’m learning how to set boundaries.

I’m still learning how to appreciate all that I have now.

I’m still learning how to appreciate being me.

I’m still learning how to love being me.

I’m still learning…….

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This Daughter Of Mine

This daughter of mine

She was a gift from the heavens

Almost twenty-one years ago

I wasn’t aware she was coming

As she was number three of my fold

And honestly, I thought at the time

That I was too tired, too old.

She melded herself into us

Once a family of four, now five

And made herself known

With her serene beauty and vibe

She was no trouble at all

And if she was

I wouldn’t have known

As the seeds of my family

Were swiftly being sown

And soon, too soon, two of them were grown

But still this daughter of mine

Who was not yet fully bloomed

I had her all to myself now

And she had me, happily, I assumed

We grew together over three more years

Until she too, was grown and gone.

But gone she never was in truth

Because she’d captured my essence

Captured my soul

Became what we playfully called

Amy 2.0

She is the best, most amazing version of me

Through all my life existed I didn’t know

As my own troubled childhood

of abandonment and neglect

Caused my synapses to disconnect

But this daughter of mine

Sewed me back together

Taught me how to grow

And I wouldn’t change any part of my past

Now that I know

That this daughter of mine

Forever resides at the end of my rainbow.