My Dream, Our Blessing

We were walking across a bridge in a city I was unfamiliar with.  The structure was dove gray and made of granite, low to the water, and had several graceful arches spanning between the supports that plunged into the water below.  The series of arches were just beneath the roadway they supported, as if the roadway were supported by a series of rainbows anchored by water.  A rail in the same material and color of sturdy, neatly lined balusters marched along the top.  Ornate, black vintage lampposts stood at equal distance apart on the sidewalk lined street and led in each direction to the most distinguishing characteristic of the bridge; the four enormous statues that marked each corner to the entrance.  The boldly elevated statues were of powerful depictions of godlike warriors on horseback, the strength and authority they invoked only punctuated by their rich gold color.

On the grassy banks of the river below, weeping limbs of pink flower studded trees dipped their branches into a peaceful river like the fingers of a curious child.  The reflection of the spring sun shone upon the water like a mirror.  A powdery blue sky with strands of silky clouds hung overhead.

Despite the serene surroundings, up on the bridge, the street was teeming with traffic.  Cars traveling at high speed were weaving in and out of slower moving vehicles with hardly enough space to spare the paint on their bumpers.   Honking horns, revving engines, the vibrations of speed were all around me.  It was frightening and thrilling at the same time.

In the distance I see them behind me, a dark haired younger man, dressed casually in light colored khaki pants and a white shirt, with an older, silver haired man in a dark, stately business suit and black overcoat.  Their features and mannerisms were so similar it was instantly clear to me, even from afar, that they were father and son.   Coming closer to me, I could see their identities; it was Randy walking with his father.   They were deep in conversation and I could tell by their matching furrowed brows that there was deep concern and grief between them.

I waved to greet them and as I turned away from them waved again, motioning for Randy to come and join me on the sidewalk.  He did not come.

He stayed behind with his father and I could feel his hesitation to join me.  I continued to walk forward unconcerned.  The men who in appearance seemed to be the characterization of spring and winter, continued to labor in their conversation, it became clear Randy was looking for the blessing of his father.  They were now close enough that I could hear them talking if I listened through the street noise.

“You should go with her.”  His father said to him.  There was authority in his voice, but Randy continued to hold back.

“Are you sure?”  Randy said.  Was he contemplating the timing?  Was he concerned about remaining available to his widowed mother?  Only one year after 9/11, his father’s death was still so raw and the family was still understandably wrought with grief.

As I contemplated these things, his father spoke again.

“Go on!” he said with a full deep billowing voice, “She’s a handful!  But, you can handle it!”  He was almost chuckling and with a big smile he motioned for his son to run toward me, and this time Randy did just that.

When Randy reached my side he took my hand and together we ran headlong toward the other side of the street.  Without worry of any danger or harm we ran through busy hectic lanes of traffic as if we were untouchable by any of the unruly motorists that threatened our safety and safely made it to the other side of the street.  Adrenaline pumping and out of breath, we threw our arms around each other and kissed and laughed.  Stealing a backward glance to where he and his father had been, Randy noticed he was no longer with us on the bridge.

Somewhere around then, I woke up and rolled over grasping for the phone on the nightstand so that I could call my beloved before the dream faded in my sleepy memory.   “I have to tell you about this dream I just had…” I said with sheepish excitement, and I knew everything would be ok.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

After telling Randy about my dream he reminded me about how his father was born and raised in Arlington and the bridges I described in my dream sounded like the bridges in Washington DC, a place I had only been to once on a short trip with my High School marching band at least 15 years prior.  Later when I visited Washington DC, I was amazed to see a bridge that was nearly identical to the one in my dream.   The Memorial Bridge (in the photos below) spans the Potomac River and links Arlington, Virginia to Washington DC and is within minutes of the Pentagon where Randy’s dad was killed as a passenger on board American Airlines flight 77 in the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001.

A view of Memorial Bridge in Washington DC

Memorial Bridge view from the banks of the Potomac River

I also thought it was very cute that when Randy relayed this story to his mother, her remark was, “She must be honest, if she’d tell you he said that!” 🙂

Rock On Hubby!

So- last night my husband did a really sweet thing… He knows that I’ve been trying to publicize my blog a little bit more, so he linked it with his website.  Under the links tab, listed with musicians, composers, thinkers and writers who are true legitimate contributors to their respective crafts and individuals that I respect very much there now resides a link to little ole’ me.   And, I should also point out, that he did this without my ever mentioning he should do it!  Pretty impressive, huh?  Him, not me… Yes, I did marry the best man I have ever met, and I am extremely proud to be his wife!

So, I thought now would be a good time to repay the sweet favor with some shameless publicity and repost an old, but not terribly outdated, entry from my Facebook notes along with some other information on his recent recordings and a link to his website- because after all, MY HUSBAND ROCKS!  I love you, Randy!

The following is a review of my husband’s latest CD release. It was reviewed by Julian Cowley of, “The Wire,” a British music publication. I am BURSTING WITH PRIDE!!! Rock on Hubby!!!

The Wire- Julian Cowley

The passage between

One of the most significant classical saxophone discs for years.

Despite his training, this composer-player is free of that tight assed “French Classical sax” sound that still hampers new writing for the instrument. This music could also convincingly appear under an Improv rubric. It has fire and teeth. The latter gnash on Carnivore, a roaring thing for sax and electronics. Christian Lauba’s Neuf Etudes for various saxophones has become a contemporary test piece, negotiated with utter confidence. Three Reflections on Eternity is for bari sax and interactive computer, made with collaborator Jonathon Kirk, It’s similar in profile to the opening piece, but Hall’s huge sound on the big horn eddies about impressively in the playback. The mood softens with the title piece, inspired by two paintings of doors and punctuated by Hall’s son’s pre-natal heartbeat and early vocalizations. And then, there’s the unexpectedly tough beauty of Quelue chose que mon pere a tunu a ses mains, inspired by a rough note found several years after his father’s death. The music is neither defensive, pretentious, its quiet progress full of unexpected hard edges. One of the most significant classical saxophone discs for years.

Chris Campbell

Operations Manager

innova recordings

innova.mu

651.251.2820

ccampbell@composersforum.org

Recordings by Randall Hall:

neither proud nor ashamed

The passage between

pendulum

Check his music out at http://www.randallhall.net/, and on youtube and itunes!

Saying Goodbye

As I made my way past the crowded waiting room, I hoped that I was first to catch the door when the privacy curtain receded.  I had enlisted my husband in my plan.  He would guard the door while I was inside, so that I could steal time alone with her.  Getting time alone with everybody’s favorite patient was challenging, there were always people visiting!  As much as I was thankful for their tangible support, I was growing weary of their constant presence.  I wanted some of those precious and few moments for myself and I didn’t want to have to shoo someone away so that I could get it.

Precious and few.  Those words rang in my head with the urgency of the obnoxious beep a 4 am alarm clock, all too early, and imploring my immediate attention, even in my disoriented state.  There was no way of knowing how long we had with her, but we all must have sensed the critical timing because the visitors were always there.  They came to her bedside in steady stream, like the flow unconscious thought, one blending seamlessly into the next.  Unaware of when they arrived, where they would be on their way to, how long they planned to stay, many with the stunned blank faces of grief.   Friends from church and from her neighborhood, friends who shared her hobbies, friends from work, friends who were like family and friends who were also family.  On the way home from work, after church, before heading to the store, just because they were in the neighborhood… each one stopping for “just a minute.”

I understood why they came.  They were drawn to her light.  They were drawn to her strength and peace.  They were drawn to her hopeful anticipation of heaven.

So many visitors came to see her while she was sick that she was rarely alone.  I was happy that so many people were expressing their love and support of her and the rest of our family, but I would be lying if said I loved having them around all the time.  The truth is, I needed some time alone with her, some time to say our goodbyes, because when all of this was over, all of the visitors would go home to their mother, daughter, son, husband or wife and I would not.  Even though I had my own family, as a daughter, I would be going it alone.  As the clock marched on at merciless pace, I grew anxious. These were my precious and few.

The door opened and as I stepped into her room my husband assumed his post on the other side.  I drew a deep breath.  My mind was full of questions that I had come to attempt to answer.  How do I tell my mother I love her in a way that will satisfy my soul when she is gone?  How do I thank her “from the bottom of my heart?”  How do I say goodbye?

Inside her room it was finally quiet, nothing to distract us, nothing to intrude.

“Hi Mama,” I said, “Hope you don’t mind, I’m stealin’ some alone time.”  She smiled at me with tired eyes, and looking so small and fragile in her hospital bed, as she raised it to a sitting position.  It somehow seemed inappropriate when she spoke with such care for me.

“Sure, honey.  How are you getting along with all of this?” she asked.  “Are you doing all right?  Randy? The kids?  I know this has got to be such a hard time for you…”  Her voice softened with emotion.

With a plan, I pulled a chair away from the side of the bed.

I asked, “Mama, do you think you’d be able to sit up for a little bit, or if you need to you can lie down?”

“I’m fine sitting just like this,” she replied.  “What are we doin’?”

As she patiently waited for my reply, I took the pink basin from her bedside table and walked to the sink in silence.  Standing at the sink, I filled the little pink basin with warm water and I looked at her reflection in the mirror as she lay in the bed behind me.  The woman in the bed, though battle damaged with IV’s, catheters, and bags, was still my beautiful mother.  Her head on the pillow, still capped with wonderfully thick short brown hair, her eyes still blue as sapphires.  A smile was wide on her face and brimming with hope, and I wondered how she sustained it.  Even in her weary body, she sat with poise, straight, with the same beautiful broad shoulders of a swimmer and her hands folded in her lap.   A plush pale blue robe draped over her shoulders and one delicately shaped ankle and stockinged foot extended from under the crisp hospital bed sheet providing her famous “vent” to keep her from getting “bed hot.”  A trait I have also inherited.  With my now full basin of water and a towel, I rejoined her sitting next to her on the bed.  The spicy sweet fragrance that came from her, the mother of my childhood, was the smell of her perfume Youth Dew.  All the essential elements of “her” were still there.

“Vicki,” she said, “are you going to wash my feet?”  How did she know?  It seemed the only fitting way to express the love and gratitude I felt for her presence in my life.

“Yes, if that’s all right with you.” I said in a near whisper, and she bowed her head to say yes.  She moved both of her feet from under the sheet and I slid off her socks.

On my knees before her I began.   The litany of praise for her as my mother, mentor and friend poured from my heart and out my mouth.

The litany of thankfulness for the sacrifices she made to be a stay at home mom instead of putting a career first, to go without a something for her self so that I could have anything from braces to a prom dress.  For all the times she would have liked to spend a week away with my Dad and instead sent me on a school or youth group trip.  I thanked her for sending me to college and seeing to it that I lived in the dorms even though I could have lived at home.  The water and the cloth were now a channel of respect and admiration.

The litany of humility and gratitude for her forgiveness even when I was too stubborn to ask for it, for the times I didn’t respect her as my mother or even as someone who had traveled the road before me, when I was insensitive and selfish.  Even for the time that an 18 year old me I told her I wasn’t going to waste my life staying home with my kids like she did, the cleansing and warm restorative water carried the pain between us away and was replaced with a river of peace.

The litany of praise for the wonderful example she was to me as a mother and grandmother, the beautiful example of what a good marriage can be like, the way she strove to live with Christ as her example.  All gifts that cannot be given without intention and vision, and I wanted her to know, with my basin beside me, that I was aware of that.  I wanted her to know that I admired her authentic faith and her extravagant love.  With my water I wanted to honor her and I knew she understood.

It was a gift to be able to, in my own way, get to say goodbye to her in that sacred moment  that day, even though she was still with us for more than a month.   Watching Cancer scavenge the life out of her physical body was excruciating, but more bearable knowing that nothing between us was left undone.  When the night came for us to sing to her heaven’s lullaby, as she stepped to the other side, I knew that there was nothing left incomplete, nothing that had not been washed clean.

With Hope

I’ll say more about this day later.  For now, I’m taking the little guy out for some spoiling!  But I wanted to share this song called ‘With Hope’ by Steven Curtis Chapman that we played at my mom’s memorial service.   There’s a place, by God’s grace, where we’ll see her face again, and today, she’d want me to remember that!   Here are the lyrics and a youtube link if you’d like to hear it…

With Hope
This is not at all how
We thought it was supposed to be
We had so many plans for you
We had so many dreams
And now you’ve gone away
And left us with the memories of your smile
And nothing we can say
And nothing we can do
Can take away the pain
The pain of losing you, but …

We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope
‘Cause we know our goodbye is not the end, oh no
And we can grieve with hope
‘Cause we believe with hope
(There’s a place by God’s grace)
There’s a place where we’ll see your face again
We’ll see your face again

And never have I known
Anything so hard to understand
And never have I questioned more
The wisdom of God’s plan
But through the cloud of tears
I see the Father smile and say well done
And I imagine you
Where you wanted most to be
Seeing all your dreams come true
‘Cause now you’re home
And now you’re free, and …

We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope
‘Cause we know our goodbye is not the end, oh no
And we can grieve with hope
‘Cause we believe with hope
(There’s a place by God’s grace)
There’s a place where we’ll see your face again
We’ll see your face again

We have this hope as an anchor
‘Cause we believe that everything
God promised us is true, so …

We wait with hope
And we ache with hope
We hold on with hope
We let go with hope

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcYRr1dk7wA

Damn-it-Danny

It’s Retro Week on Facebook this week, so time for me to scan a few baby pictures for the cause.  For those of you who haven’t caved to the masses and are not on Facebook, here’s a little explanation.  On my profile page, I have a small thumbnail photo, usually of yours truly, and mostly recent.  For Retro Week the unofficial mandate asked Facebookers to post a profile picture from the old days.  I had a cute one posted of my husband and I from our earliest days as a couple (and can you believe that picture is almost 20 years old !?),  but everyone had seen that one, so for the fun of joining in the Retro Week hula-hoop-la,  I found myself this morning with photo album in lap, sitting in front of the scanner.

I have very few photos of myself from before 1980.  All of the photos that encompass my first 7 years line just 35 magnetic photo album pages.  I know… Another project!  Hey, started scanning it today!   But anyway… Maybe today with the 5 year anniversary looming just 2 days away, I should have skipped looking and scanning which eventually led to crying.

It’s not that I look back at those years as particularly painful.  Truthfully, I don’t really remember most of them.  It’s not that I resent the life after those days either.  For the most part I had a very happy childhood, surrounded by so many people who loved and cared for me.  I had siblings, friends, family vacations, Easter Egg hunts and over flowing Christmas Stockings.  My memories are that it was as happy if not happier than the life depicted in those 35 pages.  Each picture that flashed up on my computer screen brought back some kind of memory, some from way back and some much newer.

An innocent picture of my brother and I standing in front of Medical Lake in Spokane, WA reminded me of a particularly funny story.  My little brother, whom I called Danny in the old days, was an exuberant and rascally kind of boy.  He had tons of energy, was very curious and never really could leave well enough alone.   I often thought his round blond head was cartoonish.  He reminded me of Dennis the Menace and his antics certainly lived up to that stereotype!

Vicki and Danny, circa 1977

Our family owned a small Chrysler sailboat and most of our family time in those days was spent sailing on the lakes around Spokane.  I loved that little pale yellow boat.  At 6 years old I was becoming quite a little sailor and could navigate all 15 feet of it through calm water with little help from my father.  I was learning the proper sailing terminology and I could see my father straighten with pride when I referred to the tiller and dagger board or called out, “Jib!”   He was thrilled when the boat would heel to one side and I wasn’t afraid, but instead peals of laughter poured out of me.  Looking at that picture I also remembered how annoyed my father would get with my younger brother Danny.  I don’t really remember any specific incident that Danny did, just that he was always into everything!

I remember one particular day my brother and I sat in the boat as my dad was cranking the boat back onto the trailer at the boat launch.   It was a warm sunny day, and we were leaving early.  Another boater, a woman, was standing waist deep in the water next to us as her boat was easing into the lake.  She was young and beautiful.  To me, with her Farrah Fawcett hair and orange macramé bikini top, she looked like she belonged in the movies.  Maybe it was my stare that prompted her to turn and talk to us.

“Well aren’t you cute!” she said as she turned toward our boat.  She looked at me with the smile of a Charlie’s Angel and asked, “What’s your name, honey?”

“Vicki,” I said as I studied every move she made.  She may as well have been life size Malibu Suntan Barbie and I wanted to be just like her.

“Vicki,” my name rolled over her Lip Smacker-glossed lips as she repeated it and somehow it sounded prettier.  She turned to my brother, who had become slightly bashful and said, “And how ‘bout you, what’s your name?”

This was my brother’s spirited reply: “It’s Damn-it-Danny!”

Laughter sparkled from her like it had just bubbled out of a can of TAB, and with that she turned back to her boat.

Damn-it-Danny…

Lately that nic-name he earned so many years ago seems so fitting.  He just can’t seem to come to terms with the relationship I now have with our father.  He means well, I think.  He and our father appear to have a thriving relationship, while the one I had drown years ago.  He sees that as my fault.  He protects him.  He blames me.  He can’t leave it alone.   He won’t leave it alone.

Damn-it-Danny, leave it alone.