The beginning of my story, for you, my friend

I’m going to tell you a story that is special to me, but I’m going to tell it in parts over time. I think like any good story, there is both a linear progression as the character evolves, but also a sense of spiraling, of nonlinear events out of time, of snapshots that defy chronology…These are moments that are imbued with meaning and have emerged through the falling rain of other moments to feel central in my life. At least, that’s how it has felt to me, and that’s how I want to share it with you.

This is the story eventually of when my heart opened up. I’ve told some friends this story, because it’s kind of a part of my personal mythology, but I think I’m going to be sharing some stories that I haven’t told before. Some will be embarrassing for simple reasons, others embarrassing a little for me because they represent a way I used to think, a thought pattern or habit or way of being that I have shed, or am working to shed. But the places we’ve been aren’t always pretty when looked at from that perspective, I couldn’t or wouldn’t change any of it. Some of these stories are simple hurts, like when my grandfather died, or when an important relationship ended, some are moments of freedom, like riding on the back of a motorcycle down from the mountains in Thailand with the rain spitting in my face and an unknown driver who was deaf. My friend Calvin West once called these exploding heart moments, whether they are joyful or sad.

It felt right to begin with the one I wrote when Calvin called for exploding heart moments. I don’t think he ever published them, but I kept mine. If you like this storytelling, please post me your moments and stories too, together we’ll be a tapestry. Here is the first segment, again, in no particular order. 🙂

I wrote this November 18th, 2005 about my birthday a few weeks previous:

mid-way through the west intersection of delaware and walnut st.

3:47 pm

first-

My grandfather died in May two days before I came home from school.

Two days before he had gone into the hospital we had spoken on the telephone because my grandmother has, as she always does, wondered aloud what I was doing, and if they could call me, but was talking herself out of it in the way that old people do when they think that they are obsolete, or at least not interesting to any one else other than themselves anymore.

The way she tells me, my grandfather was sitting in his chair, with his Bacardi rum ball cap on, and said, “You always say that, why don’t you call her?” They did, and we talked for awhile, on speakerphone, as usual, because it’s their favorite feature on the telephone and probably their favorite invention in general. All they could talk about was when I was going to be home. And then I went to take a bath in a cold room lit by candles. That was the last time I spoke to him, he was dead about a week and a half later, pneumonia and eventually, heart attack.

In his memory, and in her unending generosity, my grandmother decided that she would pay for me to live by myself while I was doing my last year in school so I wouldn’t have to work. By the way, I have worked since I was 13, so this will be the first time for me to be in school and not working.

SO… I have a beautiful little studio on Walnut street, I have all these amazing friends who are talented and brilliant, I have work to do, I have life to love, I have 23 to be, I have days to walk around the streets, I have laundry to do in a laundromat, I have bottles of wine to drink, I have books to read, baths to take and people to appreciate, men to lavish attention on and vibrators to vibrate. I had been doing laundry and picking up my dry cleaning, and was about half way home when I ran into Bryan, an old friend of mine from San Diego, a person who I have been very close to but who doesn’t keep friends, and who always leaves me feeling a little rejected.

He helps me carry my laundry home, tells me he likes my hair and he likes my apartment, and that he has to go can he have sean’s number okay-gotta-go-see-you later. It is bittersweet, so I leave.

I am off to buy myself a birthday present because god damn it someone has to do it, and I grab my mail on the way out. Oh, how sweet! a birthday card from Grandma, it’s one of those:

Daring

Ambitious

Unique

Gorgeous

Hard working

Talented

Entertaining

Remarkable

And you wonder why we can’t stop bragging about you?

Happy Birthday!

cards, you know one of those cards that grandma’s think are cool and witty.. and then handwritten was

“We love you-Grandma  (+Grandpa)”

She always continued to include him. First without parenthesis like she did when he was alive, then gradually with parenthesis, and now only occasionally with his name.

I looked up as I was coming into the crosswalk. There was a breeze, it was starting to sprinkle a little, the clouds were resting on the evergreens on the hills to my left, and I was suddenly filled with it, an overwhelming sense of fear of understanding of resignation of embracing, the sounds of the sun spinning from my first sweat, deep in the pit of stomach, filling my toes, coming out the top of my head-an understanding, like I just reminded myself of my own truth

which I

always have to remind myself of, but it actually comes over you like a chill, your whole body feels…..

and I almost stopped and just watched the clouds on the mountains and listened to the cars and watched the drips on the sidewalk,

but that would have ruined it, fucked it up for sure, I HAD to keep going and not look back. I wanted to keep going. I had to walk back into my life. I needed to go catch the bus and get myself a birthday present.  You can’t take it with you or make it last longer, you can’t hold on you have to let go, you just keep moving forward,

forward forward

joy or sorrow? I would say they were the same right then, for me thats what makes it explode, the fusion.

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3 thoughts on “The beginning of my story, for you, my friend

  1. I woke up early that morning. Must have been around 5am. I couldn’t fall back asleep. I tossed and turned for a while then finally woke my friend and said, “I have to go home.”

    He barely stirred, then looked at me through groggy eyes, still stuck together with sleep, and in a hoarse morning voice said, “So go home.”

    We were seniors in high school and there was no such thing as waking up early on days we didn’t have to. This was a day we didn’t have to. By the way, I hate ending sentences with prepositions.

    Seniors didn’t have to be in school that day until noon. The lower classes were taking standardized tests and we got a half day vacation out of it. I slept at my friend’s the night before, which actually wasn’t all that odd in the first place. As a bit of a latch key kid, I slept out often, generally did whatever I wanted to do.

    So I went home.

    When I arrived, my mother was getting ready to leave the house. She was attending a class in Philadelphia early that morning, something she didn’t do usually. My father was up, readjusting to New Jersey after spending the past few days skiing in Colorado.

    They both looked at me awkwardly when I walked into the house.

    “What are you doing home? At this hour?”

    I didn’t have an answer. At least not an answer I understood…

    …Yet

    At that time the world still existed through my mind, my brain, my intellect. The world was linear, orderly, masculine. While it was as much a part of me then as it is now, I did not yet intimately know my intuition, how to feel the world around me, how to sense the divine communicating in non-verbal ways.

    “I don’t know,” I said. “I just couldn’t sleep, so I came home. I guess I’ll go upstairs and go back to bed. Have a good day.”

    Looking back on the experience I can’t remember what it felt like. Was I confused? Disoriented? I feel so much now I’m convinced I must have felt something. But I can’t remember what. All I remember is getting back into bed.

    A few minutes later, perhaps half an hour, my dad knocked on the door.

    “Yes?”

    “You up?”

    “Yes.”

    “Open the door.”

    “Ok…. What is it?”

    I opened the door and there he was. He looked fine.

    “I’m not feeling well,” he said. “I think I should go to the doctor, will you come with me?”

    “Of course I will. I’m going to get back in bed, come get me when you’re ready to go.”

    I crawled back in bed for the second time in the same morning. I didn’t know much about physiology at the time and thought that perhaps my dad was having some sort of reverse altitude sickness. Now that I’m a medically trained mountain guide, that part of the story makes me laugh.

    I didn’t think much of it and I waited for him to come back.

    I waited.

    I waited.

    I found him on his closet floor.

    He was conscious, gasping, holding his chest with one hand, reaching for me with the other. He was the most interesting shade of waxy, green-gray I had ever seen.

    1. It must have been terrifying to see your father in that state… I don’t know if I could’ve been that calm at that age if I saw my father like that. I know it ends with him okay, surviving, but what happened? In my more open-minded adulthood I have even fought with intuition, how strong it must have been calling you that day, to capture your volition…
      makes me think of that day last summer when I was heading out of the back country, finishing up a backpack. I think I told you about this, I couldn’t stop crying, I had a feeling of panic, I had to call home. When you’ve been out for six days, that is a strange feeling. It wasn’t as though I’d had contact and knew he was under the weather. When I last saw him we were in Yosemite climbing together. But my dad was in the hospital and somehow I felt it. He was okay, but in a lot of pain with kidney stones. So you saved your dad’s life that day…?

  2. His favorite part of the story is his friend who saw us in his rearview mirror.

    I picked my father up and carried him to the car. Then I drove faster than I ever have before, hazards and lights flashing. NASCAR eat your heart out. Thankfully, the hospital was only a few miles away.

    The brakes screeched as I pulled up to the emergency room doors. I ran in and shouted, “My father is having a heart attack.”

    Then, in a whirlwind, he was taken from the car and rushed to an operating room. I was shut out. I asked a doctor if he would live. I was told there was no way of knowing. They would administer a drug to open his arteries. If it worked, he would live.

    If it didn’t, he would die.

    Then I was told I had to take care of insurance information and paperwork with an admissions person.

    Eighteen. Dazed and confused. Stunned really. Unsure if my father was about to die. Processing paperwork. What a country.

    I don’t remember how long after it happened that he told my father, but his friend said he knew something terrible had happened when he saw me driving my father’s car well over a hundred miles an hour in his rearview mirror that morning.

    Yes, he lived.

    And, yes, one could say I saved my father’s life that morning. But not really. As you have shared with me, we can’t lay claim to who we are and what we do. It just comes through us. I didn’t wake myself up that morning. I didn’t create that urge to go home. I was just the vehicle for something much larger. A web. Of which I am just a part.

    Incredibly, the story just starts here. What happened next was just as powerful.

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