Sunday, February 27, 2011

Not A Valentine's Day Massacre or a Total Eclipse of the Heart

Valentine’s Day was never too big a deal for Verna and me. We celebrated it with occasional gifts and dinner out and always a card. The cards were great because Verna, usually reticent about expressing her feelings or musing about our relationship, used them as an opportunity to open up to me. Although I communicate (too) well and Verna usually knew exactly how I felt, I used the cards as a way to remind her (and myself) why I loved and respected her so much.

Yes, I bought her flowers or chocolates on occasion, and I received an iTunes card or a CD, but I bubbled with excitement on Valentine’s morning when I opened Verna’s card to me and absorbed her heartfelt sentiments. Really, I’d ask myself, you love me for that?

But the bouquets of double-delight roses and the bars of fair trade chocolate and the quiet dinners at local restaurants are now hazy memories that spark my heart with unequal parts sadness and joy.

Valentine’s Day 2011, being the first one without Verna, was one I’d hoped would come and go, preferably, with the speed of light.

One of my friends, and my boss, sensed this and invited the kids and me over to his house for dinner. He and his wife share their Mill Valley bungalow with their two-and-half year son, two dogs, and a cat. His wife was more than 38 weeks pregnant when we showed up on their doorstep with pie and juice.

Erik and Megan bounced up against each other in their kitchen as the taco meat sizzled in the pan and the vegetarian beans bubbled, while Maya and Brady, the soon-to-be big brother toddler, shrieked, er, played throughout the house. Miguel kept laughing out loud at a book Erik gave him, S**t Your Kids Mess Up (or something like that).

The mixture of domestic tranquility and zaniness and impending birth anxiety was oddly comforting and definitely took my mind and heart off Valentine’s Day, which has grown way too Hallmark and unwieldy for a widower like me.

So we left with two tired kids and one parent who didn’t focus too much on loss and sorrow and Cupid’s arrow ripping a massive gash on my left side that may never heal.

Then I put Maya to bed and was confronted again with pain and sorrow and memories. I flossed and brushed her teeth, read her a story, and then lay down next to her for ten minutes. As we gazed at the ceiling she said to me, “I wish Mommy could come down and hug us. I miss Mommy.”

I gulped, and wondered if there’d be tears. “I miss Mommy too,” I said. “So much. I’d give anything to hug Mommy.”

Then my mind clicked into sheltering parent mode, and I said, “Let’s give Mommy a hug.”
So I crossed my arms over my chest and shook from side to side and said, “I love you, Verna.”

Maya did the same and said, “I love you, Mommy.”

A poignant and heartbreaking Valentine’s Day, 2011. Gratefully over and out.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Heaven Is Not A Place On Earth

Maya asked me on the way to pick up Miguel from basketball practice, "How did Mommy get to Heaven?"

We were about to turn at a traffic light opposite a Safeway. "God put her there," I said, quite relieved that my five-year-old could not peer too deeply into her agnostic father's heart (or mind).

"When you die," I continued, "God lifts you to Heaven."

"I want to die," she responded. "So I can be with me Mommy."

Then she kept repeating "I just want to die, Daddy, so I can be with Mommy" over and over. She asked me if people live in Heaven. "They can talk right, Daddy?"

"Well," I said to my theologically and cosmically advanced preschooler, "people can talk in Heaven, but Heaven is where people go after they die."

It wasn't as if I was holding back the tears, but I was stuck in a state of shock, a relentlessly thick river of emotion-stultifying goop. Maya didn't want (or understand what it meant) to die, but she misses Verna so much that she wants to join her in Heaven, a place I later told her where Mommy is no longer sick or feels pain.

"Do you want to die and see Mommy?" she asked.

"Well," and I knew I was treading on shaky ground for I could not return to the everyone dies conversation without provoking a psychic meltdown, "I don't want to die now. I want to be here living with you and Miguel and all our friends and family."

That seemed to mollify Maya, and she did not ask if everyone we know also wants to die. She said, "That's right. We're going to live forever, me and Daddy and Miguel."

I gulped. Then I gladly lied yet again to her. "Yes, we are going to live forever. I am not going anywhere."

Which is what Maya wanted and needed to hear. Just before bed, dressed in her light green Tinkerbell pajamas, she said, "I miss Mommy. I wish she could come down and see us."

"So do I," I said. "I miss Mommy so much."

When she is older I can tell her about the surreal dream I had last week. I went to bed just before midnight and drifted into the first stage of sleep, where one can be awakened easily. I was standing next to our king-sized bed and I felt Verna's presence, powerful and close. As I neared the bed, I also felt a malevolent force, something very evil, trying to yank me downwards, almost in a tangle of white bedsheets. I felt awake and everything seemed very real.

I called out, "Verna, Verna, Verna," and suddenly her hands appeared. I saw them on top of the bed. So I reached for them and Verna pulled me away from whatever was tormenting me. Then my eyes opened, though I still felt as if I was in the dreamy, not quite asleep state, and I saw bright light.

I actually opened my eyes and saw Maya's breathing steadily next to me, peacefulness and innocence etched on her face, as she slumbered for the evening. I was OK. I felt as if Verna had either rescued me or sent me a message from beyond.

The message? I have no idea. But I do keep reminding Maya (and myself) that we have another Guardian Angel, watching over us as we go about living life to (I hope) the fullest. And missing Verna, but knowing she is there as a beacon.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Wedding Guy

Thanks to a referral from my friends, Michelle and Patrick Gannon, who run nationally recognized workshops--Marriage Prep 101--I am officiating at a wedding of a wonderful couple in mid-May. Two weeks later, I fly to Seattle to officiate at the ceremony of another great couple.

I consider it a sacred honor to help people get married and celebrate their relationships with a community of friends and family. I specialize in helping couples realize their vision for their wedding day by I tailoring the ceremony to their needs and preferences. The day should be all about them.

I have been officiating at weddings since 1997, and every couple--more than two dozen--is still happily married.

I love the joy, the celebration, the reverence, the love, the passion, the humor, and the zest for life that each ceremony can possess.

Please contact me to help you make your wedding day a special memory.

Email: Cell: (415) 235-0323.

Thank you.