The mark of friendship

When I finally see my writing dream to fruition and see my book(s) in print, I hope one thing—that my words will make a mark on at least one reader’s soul. I am a fearless fighter for the underdog, so it’s only naturally that what I am writing now is geared toward young adults. But I won’t limit myself. People of all ages hurt. People of all ages need a friend, the connection with another human being who accepts them as they are unconditionally.

Tomorrow is my last day of my first of four graduate classes I’ll be taking this summer—all in English. What can I say? I loved it. I forgot how much I like learning. It’s so much easier to sit behind the desk than to stand in front of it. I felt right at home. Everyone in class was in tune with one another, and my professor is an expert on pop culture. How cool is that?

There is a point to my rambling. My final task in this class is to write a paper about some aspect of Moby-Dick. I noticed that in the front of the book Melville dedicates the book to Hawthorne. Seems like a minor detail, but I think not. I think Hawthorne make a very deep mark on Melville’s soul, and  his response is found somewhere in the book Moby-Dick. The question is what mark did Hawthorne leave on Melville, and how did this mark shape the writing of Moby-Dick?

A true friend leaves a mark on another person’s soul, but rare is such a true friend. We all have acquaintances, but rarely do we find someone who we connect with on such a deep level that it defies definition.

I don’t talk about my parents much in my blogs because they were such private people, but it’s been a year now since their passing—almost to the day, and thoughts of them, especially my dad, have weighed heavily on my soul. Everyone I have ever met talks about them being such good people. But why?

When it came to my dad, he knew how to be a friend, especially to my mother. Again, they were so private. I don’t think I ever saw them show any public forms of affection, and for that matter, I can’t remember getting a hug or a kiss from them past my elementary school years, but I do know they loved me.

My mom was probably the most stubborn, nit-picky woman in the world. Everything in her house had to be in perfect order, labeled, organized, and neatly put in its place. When I was cleaning out their house, I found my old dolls, still in their original packaging, still in almost pristine condition. Why? Because I never really got to play with them. I had to put in a request ahead of time so that my mom could unpack them and bring them to me. I never really had the freedom to choose or the option to make a mess. It was out of the question.

My mom was a bundle of fears and superstitions, and trying to rationalize with her was impossible. I remember as a small child, if it thunderstormed while my dad was at work, we had to unplug everything and go sit on the bed until the storm passed.

When she packed a lunch for me on field-trip days, she always packed enough for two or three lunches—better to overdo it than to be left without. She wrapped my sandwich in wax paper, put it in a baggie, and then covered it in aluminum foil. By the time I unpacked everything, lunch break was over.

I say these things, not to poke fun at my mom’s eccentricities, but to point out that it takes a very special person to put up with our individual quirks—without trying to change who we are.

My dad accepted everything. I can’t remember him ever raising his voice to her or showing any signs of temper. Later, when she became very ill and very afraid, her remarks would come across as curt, or even hateful—not to me but to him. And he would explain to me that she was afraid. He never got mad at her, never tried to make her see how wrong she was. He wasn’t a weak man. He was strong. He loved her so much that he just absorbed all of these things and let them slide.

He was at her side constantly till the moment she passed away. That’s a true friend.

My dad was a true friend to everyone he met. It used to scare me. If anyone were ever broken down on the side of the road, he thought nothing of stopping and helping them. I was always afraid he would run into a thug who would pull a gun on him and take his money, but I guess God protected him. Everyone he helped truly needed his help. And he expected NOTHING in return. Now days everyone wants something for anything. I don’t want to ever become like that. I hope I can just give because I love. I don’t want to become jaded.

I think the sweetest story I ever heard was when my parent brought me home from the hospital. My aunt told me this story not too long ago. I was a tiny little thing, five pounds or so. My parents had lost their first baby. It was stillborn, the cord wrapped around the baby’s neck. I remember the weeks just before I had Josh. I had hellacious nightmares that something horrible would go wrong—and sure enough it did. We almost lost him. The doctors told Kenny they were going to try to save at least one of us. (I didn’t know this until recently.) Josh suffered from a prolapsed cord, quite similar to what happen to my mother’s first child.I wouldn’t let Kenny call my parents to tell them I was in labor. I didn’t want them to worry. I  let him call after Josh was born.

When I was an infant, I’m sure my mother, who was always extremely anxious her entire life, was afraid something would happen to me. She would not go to sleep. She had to be awake when I was sleeping, just to make sure I was okay. My father, out of love for my mother, agreed to take turns staying up with me just to make sure I made it through the night—and I was a perfectly healthy baby. Well, I WAS perfectly healthy until my dad fell asleep and dropped me on my head. You can imagine the panic that ensued and the trip to the emergency room for the doctors and nurses to reassure them I was just fine. I mean look at me. I’m a picture of total physical and mental health. Just because I stalk celebrities and write psycho blogs doesn’t mean anything is wrong with me. Right?

When I was growing up, there were two particular games kids played. The first game called for a person to fall back into another person’s arms. Either the friend would catch him or not. The other game was mean. Just as a kid prepared to sit down on a chair, another kid would pull it out from him, and everybody gathered round would get a big laugh, everybody but the kid who hit the floor.

Those two types of games and kids who played them are great metaphors for the people we meet in life. Some people are just waiting to pull the chair out from under you, and some people will always be there to catch you when you need them–without wanting anything at all in return.

So as I prepare to write my final paper for my grad class, I ponder the art of friendship.

I hope when I complete my novels I can leave a mark on my readers that will inspire them to be a friend.

There is no greater gift than friendship. I don’t mean acquaintanceship. I mean true friendship, in which a person is willing to do the catching no matter the heaviness of the burden.

That kind of friendship is born of love. And my dad set a pretty good example of that.

Where I am now

When I lost my mother on March 25, I fell into a state of numbness. As much as I tried to function in this fast-paced world, I couldn’t keep up. I fell further and further behind. I managed to do my job, to my job well, but I feel as though I failed at everything else. By the time I returned home each evening, I had nothing left. I was an empty shell.

When my father passed away unexpectedly on June 27, my strong emotional pillars collapsed, and I realized for the first time in my life what it feels like to be lost.

If it weren’t for the grace and mercy offered by members of my family and select friends, I think I would be stuck in neutral, totally unable to move. I’m an only child, and I always feared the day I would lose my parents. But that day comes to all of us.

I’ve learned the great toil grief takes on writing. Last year at this time I was on the fast track to learning how to get published. The future was bright. But I’ve been stopped in my tracks in a dark tunnel. I can’t see the light at end. Maybe it’s after the bend. Despite my love of and appreciation for my writing groups, I can’t participate. I have nothing to offer.

I’ve signed up for the writing conferences. Maybe I’ll serendipitously stumble on what I need.

So instead of writing fiction, I have picked up my guitar and have found a different type of outlet for creative expression—writing lyrics. I consider myself one of the privileged few who is on a first-name basis with a a couple of the very best, award-winning songwriters in Nashville. They have what it takes to pen a hit. I don’t. But That’s not my goal. Sure I know you need a catchy riff, a hook, plenty of imagery, a few metaphors thrown in, and God’s grace shining down on you to make a song-writing dream come true.

But all I really want is to tell the truth—to write what I’m feeling even if I don’t understand it. Even if it’s the worst song in the world. Even if my syllables are a bit off and it only has three chords.

Lately, I’ve been on a blues kick as you can probably tell from my earlier posts, so a lot of what I have written lately uses a blues-type progression. But what I write is inspired by life itself.  Life is unfair. Our dreams are unfaithful. Our plans often fail. But there’s always the chance hope will prevail.

If I could write the ultimate song, I would write it for the people who have taken time to listen to me. I guess that’s what all writers want—a good listener. I guess that’s what all friends need, a good listener who really cares, who never lies, and who always understands.

If could share any tidbit of advice with a reader going through a difficult period, I would strongly suggest finding some outlet of expression. You can’t keep feelings bundled up forever.

What you write, what you paint, what you play doesn’t have to make sense to anybody else as long as what you express is the truth and you give yourself a chance to purge itself of whatever you’ve been holding back.