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Begin Again

I hope you never know
What it’s like to feel like ‘the walking dead’
I hope you never fully understand what I need to tell you, my son. My Tyson. My Tysie bear.
Before there was a pregnancy, before there was a glimmer of hope, before there was belief in tomorrow…
For 12 long months there was fear.
There was surgery.
There was radiation.
There was cancer.
I would capitalize it, but I like to pretend it is unimportant and stupid.
I like to pretend it doesn’t deserve a capital letter, but for anyone who has ever lived it, it deserves all caps and asterisks and probably wingdings to disguise the terror, hide the actual word and somehow take away it’s power.
Make no mistake – it is powerful.
October 2011. The journey began.
The scariest part was knowing it was a long journey and I wouldn’t feel ‘okay’ for a long while.
What I didn’t know is that, you, my son would make it all okay again.
For 12 months I did two things – worried about my life expectancy and planned my wedding – never fully believing that I would live to experience the ‘big day.’ For something like thyroid cancer it probably shouldn’t be so dramatic – the survival rates are extremely high- and it’s kindof considered a ‘good kind of cancer to have’ if you have to get one, but tell that to the 32 year old mommy that was just told she has the ‘c word’ of any kind. My brain chewed on this word, spit it out, picked it back up, put it in her purse and carried it around with her everywhere she went – worrying about it, obsessing over it, wondering if this could be the end, if life for her might be yelling ‘last call.’ It seemed unfair, crazy, impossible, but it does happen. Some people don’t live to see 40 or even 35. Could that be my life, my future, my path, ‘the plan?’
Why does my throat hurt all the time, what’s with this cough that won’t go away, why do I always have this dryness in my throat, this lump in my throat, I can barely swallow, my breathing feels shallow, I can no longer run without fearing that I’m choking, I have insomnia and heart palpitations, panic attacks at work, my throat is constantly tight. I probably have some other form of cancer. Another doctor’s appointment, another test, another ‘no answer’ result. LONGEST YEAR OF MY LIFE!
There is your Dad. The bright spot. He holds my hand, he listens, he rubs my back, calms me, tells me it will all be okay.
There is your sister. She makes it harder – I love her so much and she is so fun and learning new things everyday and she needs me. I am her Mom after all. I don’t want to leave her without a Mommy. Some days I think I create distance between us ‘just in case.’ I don’t want her to ‘feel the shock’ if I should die before I wake…
The year comes and goes.
October, 2012. I made it to my wedding day to the most amazing man I’ve ever known. Ever loved. Your Dad. He is beyond what I had ever hoped for out of a husband. Patient and kind. Quiet and giving. Stubborn and headstrong and sometimes his ‘goodness’ convinces him he knows everything (which he does not) – yes. But he loves me and I know it. And he loves his family and he shows it. He is not perfect, but I love him for that too! He changed my life. You should know that. I am a better person because of him being in my life and he makes me better and stronger every day.
I cried when we arrived to our honeymoon destination in Half Moon Bay, California. Bawled actually. Deep down I didn’t believe I would ever actually be there to celebrate that day, that moment. Didn’t fully believe I would be there for our honeymoon. And from then on, I began to accept that life was moving forward and not just standing still. It was a small step, but an important one.
Two weeks later, I confirmed what I already knew – I was pregnant. Again. My second child. After cancer, after thyroid removal. There is nothing more ‘life affirming’ than to grow another human being inside of your body – nothing to make you feel more ‘alive.’ I complained and groaned about the ails of pregnancy just like any pregnant lady – and in truth being pregnant is kindof awful- but, BUT, because of this pregnancy, because of you, life moved into a new chapter and a new direction. One of hope, one of a future, one of life. You helped me to live again. I will always be grateful for the gift of you. You have changed my life and changed our lives onto another path, onto a more positive path and as we near the day of meeting you and you joining our family officially, I am already amazed by you Tyson Christopher Gass. You are already such a blessing to me and to our family. You are the second born, but make no mistake, my life as I know it began the day I knew you were growing inside of me. Began the day I knew I would have a son. And it begins again everyday because you are here teaching me to affirm life, count my blessings and to always look to the future and the truth of life – while we are worrying about it leaving us, it is always happening right there in front of us. Enjoy it – even when it’s scary – even when it’s not perfect – even when it’s down right miserable. It’s always worth it.

Urban Sprawl

I drive East
It doesn’t matter if I take the main roads
Or if I take the back streets
34 years of memories wash over me
Like rain
Laughter and Pain
Hit me at alternating stops along the way
I turn the radio every 5 blocks to a song that fits the mood
For the times brought to mind
Replaying as if my life is on rewind
As I drive East.
Faces, memories, smells, songs, albums, cars, kisses, lovers,
Houses I’ve lived in
Friends and Family I’ve buried
Burdens I’ve carried
Things I’ve tried to forget
Places I’ve forgotten I’d been
120th street – present to 5 years ago
Buying cigarettes and gum on my way out on Saturday night
Looking good and on the prowl
Meeting up with my room mate
Drinking ourselves stupid, karaoke, booty calls that never really amounted to any booty
But the thought was nice
Kings of Leon, Keri Hilson, Lady Antebellum playing in the back ground.
All the while, my heart thinking of that one special guy…That last phone call that always leads me across town to the south side at 3am.
Where I can hide from all the heart ache of love lost
And find myself in your hoodie, in your sheets, in your arms
90th street – 5 to 10 years ago
I’m a taxi driver and a step mom for an 8 year old and a 3 year old.
Soccer practice, gymnastics, baseball games, grandmas, school.
Abusive relationship with their Daddy.
Childish in my thoughts of ‘fixing it’ and ‘life being perfect some day.’
It was never fixed.
Cheating and lies, control and abuse
No boundaries and babies that aren’t mine.
I hate this part of my drive. The memories are painful. The pain here littered like potholes and cigarette butts on every street.
Their smiles and faces tear at my heart for at least two miles. While I was loving them, he was hurting me.
I remember holding their hands, reading them stories, tucking them in, goodnight kisses, love and family that wasn’t mine and isn’t there any longer and proved to be not much of a family at all.
Jack Johnson plays on and calms my sadness and soothes my heart. I hope he does the same for theirs.
72nd street – 10 to 15 years ago – the good years!
The city livens up, the road narrows as my awareness expands
Houses all look different and interesting
People are walking dogs and bumpin their music
The downtown sky line is getting close now
Lauryn Hill, Miles Davis, Norah Jones
So many things that are imprinted on my soul happened here.
I learned to write, I learned to love, I learned to run, I learned to quit smoking, I learned to be sober, I learned to live alone, I learned to love dogs, I learned to let go, I learned to be alone, I learned to move on, I learned to hang on, I learned the value of life, I learned and learned and learned…
I became an adult on these streets and have a romantic memory of this time and place.
60th street – 15 to 20 years ago
Biggie and Tu Pac
Thug Life and we lived it
Drugs and blood
Cops and guns
Hood rats and brothers
Stealing and lying
Skipping class and getting in fights
Going nowhere in a hurry
People I love dying and going to jail
It’s strange that we ever got out of that spot.
But get out we did
And once I got out
I ran like hell so that I’d never have to go back.
I never want to be scared like that again.
I never want to be poor like that again.
I never want to be tough like that again.
I never want to be a statistic like that again.
My history is told on the map of this city.
My life story can be told as I drive East.

The Space Time Contiuum

Some days I watch you.
I revel in you.
I take you in through new eyes.
And, I realize
I can fall in love every day
With the man mowing the lawn
With the man driving the 6 year old Chevrolet
With the man glued to the golf channel
With the man who calls me babeski
With the man who always wakes up with a song in his head
With the man who tucks our daughter into bed so carefully and blesses her little soul
With the man who hides so much of his heart
Because hide it all you want, my heart orbits yours like the sun
My heart would be undone
Without yours
To stay the course
To set the tone
For a long life of love and happiness lived at home
With family and friends
Our dogs and our jobs
Our sports and movies
Drama and comedy
You get me and provide the stability I always imagined and dreamed of and finally feel wise enough to enjoy and protect and love and cherish and value
And making vows to you
Feels natural
And normal
And blessed and beautiful
And to say til death do us part is to sell short that our souls are linked and even death won’t sever the bond we share.
Simply, Forever. That is how long my love will live with you, in me and through us.

For Addilyn

I have created, spoken, written, delivered, made poetry for as long as I can remember.
My entire life, since I learned to write I have loved creating poetry.
I have written my favorite teddy bear and how much I love my mom type poems
I have written new love and lost love type poems
I have written about writing type poems
I have written about race type poems
Political type poems, Shit that will get you hype type poems
I have written tragedy and true crime type poems
I have written fantasy and Lord of the Rings type poems
I have written fiction and non fiction, honesty and lies
Love and Lust and what it looks like in disguise type poems
Trees and flowers and birds in the sky type poems
I have written terrible poems
Ugly poems, inaccurate poems
Grateful that I know him poems
Wish I could forget him poems
Regretting that I let him poems
Make believe that you won’t believe and how could he type poems
I have written about religion, My Father and my brothers
Bullies and why can’t we all love one another type poems
I have written what it’s like to be a girl type poems
Not sure I understand that one still type poems
I have written poems about poems, poems about poets
Poems about know it alls, poems about throwing it all away
And redeeming yourself another day type poems
Poems about wanderlust and travelling
Poems about sanity unraveling
I have written poems about the sunrise and sunset
And although most of my poems are private,
A few have been shared and received compliments.
Some may have even moved people or broadened someone’s perspective
Opened their mind, maybe opened their heart.
Some have made statements, some have made others laugh
Some I wish I could take back.
But nothing, NOTHING, I have ever created, written, spoken, or delivered
Can compare to the dark haired, gray eyed, 5 pound 10 ounce baby girl that I somehow…made.
And she is by far, the best, most beautiful, most honest and telling poem I have ever written.
And she will tell it over and over again.

Making up Our Minds

Waking up to your soft skin
your skinny hips
your tired smile
your deep voice
your sweet scent
your messy hair
your guarded heart
makes me think about morning’s past
and morning’s yet to come
and life around the bend
and what might be in store
and if I will want more
than what I have today
or if this is all I’m capable of.
real life gets tedious and being happy in the midst of it eludes me
it’s stressful and exhausting and boring and against my nature
to be with people all the time
to be without paper and pen
to give in
to demands and others’ plans
and how good being alone feels
with no demands
no expectations
just a quiet kiss on the sometimes lonely nights
that really aren’t that lonely just boring
but that is passing
boredom is just not knowing what to do
and that is probably fitting right now
so all my poems are about you and him
yin and yang
a comparison of love
a comparison of decency
a reality check of what love is and isn’t
how it feels and doesn’t
i’m pretty sure neither of you have it
not what i want
not for who i am
but i love the freedom you offer
i love your honesty
i love your ability to look me in the eyes and tell me that you want to do something else tonight
that you’re busy
that you have a life
that you don’t seek to take mine
that you won’t blink when i tell you of wild nights
with others
that i don’t blink when you tell me of yours
that freedom is needed now
and i seek it
but this will not be enough much longer
i can see around the corner
and i can see me hurt if i count on you for real life
for more than fantasy
for more than friendship
so i might walk straight instead of round the bend with you
you might wake up one morning to find
i am busy
reading, writing, hanging with my dog, my friends, my Facebook. 🙂
or you might fall in love
and want this
and want me
that is the only way it would be
i think it could be nice if you did
but making that choice seems far beyond your years
far beyond the lessons you have tallied so far
you’ve never made that choice
looked for nothing and instead found love
and had to fight for it and go after it
and maybe you don’t believe me
but that is how it works
the boy has to choose
if you chose me, I would probably choose you back
but you won’t and I won’t wait
too long
just long enough to feel that my heart could give into you
and I’m there now
So tonight, there will be no more phone calls from me.
I will not beg or plead or ask.
you know what the options are
I don’t blame you if you don’t like them all
but this is sweet and soft and simple and in synch like nothing I’ve ever seen
just the push and pull and hold on and let go
we seem to know just what the other needs
without knowing we know it
because that’s what we need too
so take some time
figure it out
think about love and if you could feel it
want it, have to have it, could feel your knees turn to jelly at my touch
because I could. Don’t make up your mind too quickly. I don’t want you to be wrong.

The Magic of Christmas and the Tragedy of Tears

The cold December air is dotted with the magic of Christmas and the tragedy of tears
I breathe in….
Christmas trees and children’s smiles, holding hands, snuggling in front of the fire place, football games and reindeer sweaters, love of family and egg nog, Christmas church service and silent night.
I breathe out…
Test results, doctor’s appointments, surgery coming, uncertainty looming, my daughter, my fiancé, my Mom, my brothers, my best friend, my dog, my work, my life.
Every day I wake up ready to begin again. Every day I go to bed and pray I get more days to begin again. And cry.
It snows and I dance and catch snow flakes on my tongue.
I pretend the word cancer doesn’t scare me. I pretend that I’m immortal.
I think about Santa Claus.
Everything feels like a gift right now.
My 13 month old is throwing a fit as she tries to find words she doesn’t know yet and reminds me that not everybody is busy thinking about miracles.
I watch her fit turn to smiles at the dog and my heart melts while my stomach turns in circles at the thought of missing these moments.
My fiance’ sings, “Hey Diddle Diddle” while he makes us lunch and life is good, better than good, life is perfect.
Isn’t this always the way life is, but without test results looming we don’t take the time to appreciate it.
This is probably the most magical December I’ve ever experienced waiting for my doctor to read my palm and tell me my future. I wonder how much of my future is really up to him anyway and how much of it is plain and simply up to God.
After all, it is Christmas.

When You Were Born

Addilyn's First Day 006

Addilyn's First Day 075Addilyn's First Day 123

When you were born, the doctor’s told us that you were smaller than they expected you to be at 39 weeks so it was time for you to come out and meet your family. We didn’t sleep that night – you or me or Daddy. At 6AM, we started getting ready. The sun rose beautifully that morning and streaked the sky with beautiful color and awe. In the delivery room, the contractions started – easy at first, but quickly gaining in intensity. My body shook and grew and expanded and started making room to do what should be impossible. What is unimaginable and against logic and physics, but completely in synch with nature. My ability to cope through the pain was waning. I needed help coping which is unlike me and was hard to accept. The room was filled with light and love and people you never met and your beautiful Daddy was there coping for me when I couldn’t. When I doubted, he reassured me. When a contraction came, he applied pressure or had me breath with him. He told me I was strong and I could do this when I told him I just wanted a C-section so that it would be over. I was so afraid for you and afraid for me. After all, you were so small the doctor’s said. As I screamed in pain and cried in anguish, your Daddy held me and I knew that pain like that could only mean that we were close and soon I would meet my daughter and my entire life, my whole perspective would change and I would feel like a new person. I would feel like I was the one being born.
At 9:32pm on Wednesday, November 3, 2010 you were born weighing 5 pounds, 10 ounces and measuring 19 inches long.
When you were born, I couldn’t sing lullabies to you without crying for the first three months. My heart would grow and swell and fill with more love than exists in the whole world would somehow fit into the cavernous space of my heart when I rocked you and tried to sing. The stars in the sky, the grass on the ground and every sunset I’d ever seen suddenly made sense. I could see now that they were created just so that I could watch you marvel at them someday. So that I could marvel at them with you as I tried to find words to explain things like magic and beauty and belief and faith and upon running out of words and never explaining it very well anyway, we would just sit and marvel together and feel big and small and together and blessed and loved and know that sometimes, together is all you need. When you were born I knew peace and completion and contentment and “good enough” for the first time in my life and if I did nothing else for the rest of my life, I knew I had done enough and done all that I could do.
When you were born, you screamed so loud and I cried the happiest tears of my life knowing you were alive and here and healthy. And, as I look back now, I understand that this is the way of life. If you are ever in pain and screaming – you are ALIVE and that is something! Really something! And, it’s a great start because for all of us, those are the moments in life when it hurts most, when we just want to give up, when we scream our loudest from pain…sometimes physical, sometimes emotional, but pain nonetheless and our perspective changes, the world tilts on its axis and these are precisely the moments when… we are born.