Will I Ever Be Ready

Spring is struggling to break through in Michigan. But it’s so close, I figured it’s a good day to put some winter clothes away. While sorting through some things that I packed away last summer, I came across this dress.

My late husband, Kevin, immediately came to mind. This was one of the first things he bought me early in our blossoming relationship. I still love this dress. It wasn’t something that I would have chosen for myself, but I loved it anyway, mainly because he bought it for me. I would learn years later that receiving gifts is my primary love language. It’s not the price of the gift, it’s the fact that someone has thought of me and wanted to do something to make me happy.

It’s been three years since he passed away. I can’t wear this dress without thinking of him.

“Is that okay?” I ask myself? Is it fair to the guy that I spend a lot of time talking to these days? Will getting rid of the dress prevent the sporadic thoughts of my late husband?

Luther Vandross station on Pandora radio is playing. The O’Jays “Forever Mine” begins playing. This is Mom’s jam. Kevin, a man who loved music even more than me, loved it too. Suddenly, I can hear him singing along with Eddie and Walter. I miss hearing him sing. He was a great singer. He sang with passion and soul.

Then I envision us dancing together. He’s the first man in my adult life that I enjoyed dancing with. Our love developed, in part, on a dance floor. We used to go to the after work affair and dance like teenagers, as though one of coworkers couldn’t have been on the premises. We didn’t care. He learned that I was rhythmic in my hips and my soul. Most people don’t see that about me at first glance. He did and loved it.

It’s been three plus years (thanks to his illness) since I enjoyed dancing with a man.

Continuing the transition from winter to spring, I came across some a Kevin’s fraternity paraphernalia.

He loved his fraternity almost more than life itself. Becoming apart of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc was one of his greatest accomplishments. It inspired me join the sisterhood that I belong to. We embodied what’s called that Coleman Love.

These are the few things that I have left of his possessions that weren’t destroyed in the house fire that claimed his life. Part of me knows I should pass these items to his best friend/fraternity brother. But I’m afraid to let them go.

Over these three years, I’ve been saying I’ll give things away when I’m ready. When will that be?

I don’t know. I just don’t know…

Conversation with the Author

I’m happy to announce that I am the feature author this month for the Detroit chapter of Rotary Club. They host an author every month and it’s no coincidence that I’m up for National Reading Month. Or is it? Lol!!

Mark the date in your calendar and join us!

Father’s Day Reflections

I began Father’s Day 2020 with a bike ride through my neighborhood on the bike I bought that I’d taken to the wheel repaired the day before. Considering my father introduced me to bike riding as a child, as well as all of my lifetime fitness endeavors, it seemed the ideal thing to on the annual day to celebrate dads.

Along the bike ride through cul-de-sac neighborhood, I listened to my favorite Pandora station, singing along to my favorite old school R&B jams. Again, I thought of my dad. I remember riding in the backseat of our red car. He always had, what sounded to me as an eight or nine year old girl, like old school music, and he usually sang along.

Wow! I’m so much like him, I thought.

I pushed my bike ride for thirty minutes when I was actually ready to head home after 11 minutes, according to the time on my watch. Since I’m no slacker, I kept riding until I reached a suitable time to be able to claim that I’d exercised. When I returned home, I went inside and then put my 2 dogs on their leashes. The weather was so pleasant that I decided to continue my workout in the backyard while the dogs were doing their thing.

I retrieved my hula hoop and 2 sets of hand weights and kept the music playing in my ears. I balanced the hula hoop around my waist while lifting 5lb dumbbells above my head, working my shoulders. Then I took the hula hoop and swung it from hand to hand, working the sides of my waistline. Exercising in the backyard made me think of my dad too. Remembering him jumping rope on the paved basketball quart in our backyard after he’d completed his jog around the neighborhood.

Wow! I’m so much like him, I thought again.

It was then that just a twinge of sadness. Because me and this man who is so much apart of who I am are not in the relationship that I wish we were. I don’t allow the sadness to linger because it is not mine to hold. I am not at fault for the lack of relationship with my dad. It was his decision to cut off communication with me. It was my decision to stop trying to make him change his mind.

Today, my dad and I have a distant relationship in which I don’t question his love for me and I try not to give too much thought to the “why” of our relationship. Instead, I love him from afar, sending him text messages on his birthday, Father’s Day, and Veteran’s Day. I chose those days because they don’t really require a reply, which he may not be inclined to do. But if he does respond with “thank you”, it’s all good. If he doesn’t, it’s still all good…for me, at least. I figure I can’t be wrong being on the giving end of love.

While this is not the daddy/daughter relationship that I envisioned with my dad at this point in my life, this is what it is. He raised me with the belief that family relationships were all the mattered, but in my adult life, his actions have displayed quite the opposite. Therefore, I’ve had to see him for the person he is today and deal with him accordingly.

I’ve had people question me about the efforts I have made with trying to maintain a relationship with my dad. Some think I do too much to even text him on the few occasions a year that I do. Some have said I could do more to improve our relationship.

If this topic of daddy/daughter relationships is of interest to you or someone you know, I invite you to join me and three other contributing authors to the book, in a virtual event on June 27, 2020, from 2-4 PM. We’ll be reading excerpts of our stories and having a conversion about this silent pandemic.

Hope to see you online.

Event link

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

The Photograph

I finally made my way to see the movie The Photograph, weIl after its 2/14 opening. There’s a story that I need to insert here to add some credence to how I feel about this movie. I had every intention of seeing this movie on Valentine’s Day weekend. Not with a boo or anything. I don’t have one of those. However, I had been kind of “seeing” someone for a few months. And he chose the Thursday before this movie was released to tell me we needed to see less of each other. Ain’t that some shit? SMH

I was devastated and in my feelings for entire weekend. Obviously, that was not the movie to see. I was not about to sitting up in the theater crying about what I no longer had. But I was not lost on all of the negative reviews I came across opening weekend and weeks later.

“Love Jones fail.”

“Issa Rae doesn’t do sexy well.”

“The chemistry was missing .”

“I fell asleep.”

Etc, etc, etc…

Nevertheless , I was determined to see this movie for myself. Make my own decision . Today was the day.

First of all, I only saw two similarities to Love Jones. The first being Christina being a photographer. The second being these scene with Mike’s (I think that’s Mae’s love interest name) brother and his wife that was kind of love jonsie. That’s about all the Loves Jones I got out of the movie. Oh yeah, and Mike was had a job opportunity out of town. But that was it!

More than a love story, I saw the story being more about the complexities of being a woman. Specifically, the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship. Christine wants love. She’s a woman of immense passion. But, she wants also wants a meaningful career. She wants her life to be more than bringing pleasure to her man. Can she have both becomes the question? She takes the risks that most women don’t take. Leaving the love of the man in pursuit of her greater passion—her work. Then she has this daughter to take care of. She shows her daughter love in the only way she knows how—providing for her while giving the best of herself to her work. The daughter grows up questioning the love of the mother.

As a mother of a daughter, we see so clearly the things that our daughters will encounter in their lives. They will love. They will be be loved. They will experience pain. We long to spare them of the pain. But we can’t. So we raise them to be strong, to be able to overcome all things. Somewhere in this process, the love of the mother is questioned by the daughter. The daughter will never understand until she, herself, walks in her mother’s shoes.

I didn’t really see anything special between Christina & Issac. I saw that she loved her work more than she loved Issac.

In Christina’s letter to Mae, she says she wishes she was as good at love as she was at her work. Those words penetrated my soulful because my experience is the opposite. My strength is in loving people. My family, my kids, the man in my life. So much so that I put my work—my writing—second, sometimes third or fourth. Christina’s story made me want to do something something different.

I want to know how much better my work will be if I push my work up on my list of priorities. I wonder…

The Photograph was a love story. A story of a woman loving herself. Loving her work. Loving a man. Loving her daughter. But not knowing how to love them equally, at the same time.

It wasn’t Love Jones. It wasn’t The Notebook. It was the Photograph.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Remembering #myKevin Day 3 Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Day of the Fire…

When I awoke Sunday morning, December 17, 2017, Kevin didn’t speak to me when I said “Good Morning” to him. I knew he wouldn’t but I always tried to show him my willingness to move on. I was determined have a good day.

This was the 3rd Sunday of the month. I wasn’t scheduled to work in the trustee office but I was going to church anyway. My son and I. After church, I wasn’t ready to go back home to deal with the tension-filled, silent environment, so Nate and I went to the movies.

We returned home about 4 o’clock. Kevin was in the bathroom, a place he treated like his private office. He had his MacBook, his keyboard, and a beat machine that he creating original beats with. About a month before he’s started uploading his creations to his page on a site called Soundboard.

I didn’t have to worry about cooking dinner. On my caregiving journey, I’d finally learned how to ask for help. I’d enlisted the help of my in-laws to help me out with meal preparations. One of Kevin’s was cousins was a caterer. He’d hooked us up with a pan of baked chicken, green beans, and roasted potatoes. I ate some food and propped myself up on the couch to watch a few Hallmark holiday movies, something I was entertaining for the first time ever.

Kevin remained in the bathroom for the remainder of the evening. I was on the couch. Nate and Tya, my kids, and our two dogs were upstairs. Around 10pm, Kevin emerged, appearing in better spirits. He was going to go out for a drive and asked me to make him a couple of tanks. I did, knowing he’d be in even better mood when he returned. He always was after getting some fresh air.

I returned to the couch for my Hallmark holiday and eventually drifted off to sleep. When I heard Kevin come in, I got up to assist him with connecting back to the home oxygen tanks. Before he walked back to the bathroom, he kissed me softly on my cheek and said, “Thank you.”

The small gesture of kindness was monumental. My heart smiled.

Less than an hour later I was awakened by the smoke alarm blaring through the house. Though I’d heard it before, for some reason, that night, I knew something was wrong. I jumped off the couch and ran into the entryway of the kitchen and saw Kevin holding himself up against the wall, looking down. I looked down to see what he was seeing. One single flame coming from the oxygen cord that would change the everything.

I wanted to ask, “What the hell happened?” But that wasn’t the time for questions. It was a time for action.

After our efforts failed to put the the flame out, I found the courage to pick the cord up and carry it through the living room, and then out the front porch, dropping it on the bank of snow of the porch.

The flame was extinguished. I breathed a sigh of relief. I thought the worst was over.

It wasn’t.

Everyone made it out of the house, including Kevin. But he wouldn’t come off the porch. When I urged him to get in the truck with the kids, he said, “I can’t.”

Those were the last words I heard from my husband.

When he sat down on the porch I thought he was waiting for help to arrive. That’s what I was waiting for. We literally lived less than a block away from the fire station.

The fire trucks and ambulance finally arrived. I immediately directed them to Kevin.

“He needs his oxygen,” I instructed them like I was the professional. As the tended to Kevin, I watched flames tearing through the little cute house we had just moved into.

In hindsight I wish I had run to Kevin’s side, grabbed his hand while it was still warm.

By the time the fire inspector finished questioning me and I was able to get to hospital where they’d taken Kevin, the doctor told me Kevin had gone into cardiac arrest and was on life support.

By this time it’s nearing midnight. The hospital transferred us to another one. They gave me hope that Kevin could come out of this state. I wanted to hope but I felt like he was already gone.

Life After Vlog Series–Widow’s Who Say They’re Fine

In this second video of my Life After Vlog, I talk about celebrating my 2nd birthday last month without my husband as well the approaching holidays. It still seems surreal that I’m living without him.

When asked in those early months how I was doing following my husbands passing, the answer was the same as what it is now.

“I’m fine” or “I’m doing okay”.

But what else would I be in those particular settings–at church, in the office, at a sorority function, at a party. I was absolutely fine in those moments. No one was there , however, to ask that question when I was alone in the rental house awaiting the repair of my home, or driving in the car listening to a song Kevin loved to sing or traveling along a route we drove so frequently together, or when I was enjoying something that I wished I were enjoying with him.

I wasn’t always fine when I said I was. Sometimes I say, “I’m fine”, to convince myself that I was. Other times, like I say in the video, it’s because I actually was in those moment. The best advice I can give when dealing with the widow in your life is to prayer for her continued strength. She’s needs it.

Naturally Yours,

Honoring My Veteran

Though my dad and I are currently estranged, his choice, I might add, I still take the time to honor him for his service to our country. My dad served in the United States Army and fought in the Vietnam War. I hadn’t been born yet, but it would be many years after my birth that I would begin to touch the surface of what he truly sacrificed for this country.

My dad never talked much of his time in the war. I can count on one hand how many times he mentioned something about it in my 44 years of life. But from what he shared about what he endured during the war coupled with his abandonment issues from his youth, I know my dad returned from the war physically whole but with emotional issues that only issues that God deliver him from.

My understanding of this is the only thing that allows me to focus less on my own pain from his deliberate absence from my life and to pray for his pain. I know my dad is only one of thousands of Veterans who return from war forever damaged. I’m sorry for the other children suffering in relationships with their mothers or fathers who suffered emotional damage from war. Our Veterans deserve so much more than the freebies they get on this day.

Today I texted my dad “Happy Veteran’s Day”, pushing away any expectation of a reply. It could go either way. Instead I reflected on fond memories of these pictures of better times with my dad. It was November 2015. My late husband, son, and I had gone to meet my dad at one his favorite steak joints. He way happy. I was happy. My husband and son were happy. It was a good day.

I was sharing these photos with a coworker when I received a text.

“Thank you”. My heart kinda leaped.

Happy Veteran’s Day,

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Happy New Year Somehow

Less than a month ago I was contemplating my end of year post. I didn’t want to follow the usual course of declaring what I’d planned to do in the new year. Instead I began compiling a list of what I was leaving behind in 2017.

Stressing over weight loss

Lack of confidence

Indecisiveness

To name a few…

But the night of December 17th changed all of that. After a day of church, movies with my son, and an evening stretched out on the couch watching Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel, I fell asleep easily on the couch feeling that it had been a good day.

Then at about 11:30 that night, not long after I’d fallen asleep, the fire alarm broke through my restfulness. I leaped from the couch and came upon a torch-like flame blowing from my husband’s oxygen tube in the hallway of the kitchen.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. From there everything went so fast.

My husband was standing in the doorway of our bedroom. Not panicked at all.  He calmly told me to get the fire extinguisher. I did. I pointed it toward the flame, squeezed the lever and hardly anything came out. I didn’t waste anytime with it anymore. My son was there too. Both of us tried to extinguish the flame to no avail. I thought I saved the day by carrying the burning cord onto the porch, throwing it in the snow, where eventually that flame went out.

But, apparently, something else was burning. When the fire department arrived and I stood outside hoping that they arrived in time to get our dogs out of the house, I saw a flame coming through the other side of the house. Obviously, the firefighters were as cautious as I was about entering the house with oxygen inside. Still, I thought we’d only end up with some smoke damage in the back of the house.

Not so.

Within a few hours I’d lost my home, my two dogs, and my husband.

My husband’s scarred lungs and heart couldn’t handle the smoke inhalation and trauma of the night. He suffered cardiac arrest, I believe, before the fire department even arrived, which was within 10 minutes of me calling. From one hospital to another, he never regained consciousness.  He was never able to tell me what happened, what caused the fire, if he even knew. He was never able to tell me that he loved me. Not that night. But luckily he expressed his love to me all the time, even when the frustration of his illness got the better of him and he wasn’t so nice. I never doubted for a minute that he loved me and appreciated me for being there with him during this challenging time in our life.  And he knew I loved him.

Now I’m beginning a new year without him. Totally didn’t see that coming. Nothing in my plans for 2018 included him not being apart of it. I had bought into my own optimism that my husband wasn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. God knew better.

My husband departed his earthly body in a hospital room with myself, my children, and his two daughters by his side. I know he didn’t want to leave. But when the Lord says its time, it’s time.

My heart is broken. I miss my husband. Still I was able to receive Happy New Year wishes and express the same because I know healing and restoration is coming my way.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Letting Go

I celebrated my birthday on yesterday, October 15th.  My Facebook notifications began chiming as early as 12 a.m. Text messages a few hours later. Birthday wishes from my husband, son, daughter, other family, and closest friends.  A beautiful brunch of fine dining with my husband at a historic mansion in our city of Detroit. A gorgeous bouquet of fall flowers and a scrumptious cupcake from my daughter added to the festivities. It was a wonderful day. I couldn’t have asked for a better day.

Why, then, on the morning after such a wonderful day was my heart saddened that my own father didn’t call or text, at the very least, to wish me a happy birthday? Though I’m not surprised, my feelings are still hurt. Hurt that my father willfully didn’t acknowledge my birthday. Who does that to their daughter who has only shown him love, kindness, forgiveness, and respect?

I wouldn’t be surprised if he was waiting for me to call him for a personal invitation to tell me happy birthday. Honestly, I considered it, then decided not to. I’m in the midst of raising a 13-year old soon-to-be young man, caring for and dealing with the often bad attitude of a chronically ill spouse. There is no time in my schedule to hold the hand of the man who should be the strong shoulder for me to lean on.

daughterdad

According to him, he lost me and my two siblings in his divorce from my mother 5 years ago. Five years ago, meaning all of us are good and grown. He didn’t lose anyone. Instead, he cast us away in the guilt that he feels for intentionally losing our family home to foreclosure so that mother wouldn’t get it; the guilt he feels for turning his back on the daughter he had with another woman at the onset of his marriage to my mother; guilt and shame that he can no longer declare himself  to be one of the last good men around as we know much of his dirty deeds.

Rather than admit that he can’t handle being around us in his unveiled, flawed state, he projects onto us, claiming we have deserted him. In the case of my brother and sister, they haven’t deserted him, but stopped chasing behind someone who will keep running away and blaming them for the distance.

The sympathizer amongst us, I hadn’t gotten to that point…yet. I loved my dad so much and I know that the messages that he hears in head are from the pit of hell, designed to keep him alone, angry, bitter, and filled with resentment and un-forgiveness. I had made it my mission to be there for him no matter what.

“I’ll never let you push me away Dad,” I declared to him a few years ago.

Fast forward to the present, that declaration is slipping from my heart like a freshly peeled mango slipping from my hands. Worrying about whether or not my father will accept my love and my willingness to have a relationship with him is as emotionally taxing as trying to get my husband to stop saying, “This could be my last Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthday, etc.”

Last week I purchased a book: Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls. Interestingly, I bought it for spiritual guidance for loving but letting go of some of my husband’s wayward ways. Hadn’t considered that I’d need it for letting go of my father’s waywardness, too.

By the completion of the book and steadfast prayer, I hope to have the following questions answered:

Am I wrong if I don’t call my father again?

Am I acting out of hurt and frustration?

Am I contributing to the problem by letting go?

Will my father ever understand the effects of his behavior on his love ones?

Do I continue to pray for him while keeping my physical distance? Or is it time to trust God to answer the prayers I’ve already prayed?