Eleven months and nine days

He walked in and sat down at his desk, glancing up at her and then back down.

“Well that doesn’t look good”, he said nonchalantly.

She didn’t bother responding.

“How long has it been bleeding like that?” He asked, still not looking up.

On and off for eleven months and 9 days.

“And it was broken, correct?”

Yes.

“How badly?”

Shattered

“Oh.”

Oh?

“Well, that just makes things…”

He glanced over at the instruments spread out on the tray beside him.

Makes things what? I mean, you can fix it, right? 

He shook his head.

“I’m afraid not. That’s like asking me to fix a shattered window. Your only option is to try and let it heal the way it is, and then wait and see. It will most likely function again, on some level, but just not like it did. The good news however, is that the pain will eventually go away and you probably won’t feel anything at all”.

What do you mean, ‘won’t feel anything at all’?

“Most times in these cases, it just goes numb when the bleeding finally stops. But that’s a good thing, right? I mean if it feels as bad as it looks…”

She slid off the table and made her way to the door. She couldn’t even look at him, suddenly feeling an overwhelming sense of shame that she had let this happen.

He offered her something to take that would numb the pain more quickly.  She paused, considering it.

No. I guess if this is the last thing I’m going to feel, I should ‘enjoy it’ while it lasts. I mean, it can’t last that much longer, right?

“It’s hard to say. But to be honest with you, yours is in pretty bad shape, so it could be awhile. The good thing though, is that no one will know but you. All you have to do is keep a smile on your face and the world will think you are completely normal.”

She closed the door behind her just in time to hear his final words echo down the hall.

“Remember to smile”, he said light-heartedly. “People might think your heart is broken.”

shattered

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Briya produces fashionable bags and accessories that allow adventurous spirits and dedicated change-makers to travel in style while helping women and children to reach their full potential in underprivileged regions around the world.

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Sneak Preview: Salsa, Heartbreak, and Redemption (or something like that)

Thought I would give a taste of why I have disappeared for a spell. I have no idea where or if this will be published, but I thought I could try to spread a lil’ hope for those of you in the thick of ‘rebounding’ from a heartbreak in the absence of a rebound, at least in the traditional sense….

“Burdened no more is soul for whom life flows through dance like breath.”
― Shah Asad Rizvi

He grabbed my hand and slid his arm around my waist, pulling me closer. Our lips were close enough to kiss. My eyes lingered on them as they made their way up to meet his gaze. He smiled playfully, “Relax. Try not to think, and just let yourself  feel. ”

The music started. A cacophony of horns and percussion thrust us into motion. I knew I was tensing up, and the only thing I could feel was my heart racing. He let go of my waist and slid his hands down the length of my back, letting them rest firmly on my hips. He paused for a second, teasing me like he always did before he sent me spinning. I threw my head back, laughing, as our playful improvisation began, our bodies syncing up perfectly. Without saying a word, he would tell me exactly what he wanted me to do, and I would gladly submit. He had me exactly where he wanted me. I wasn’t thinking about anything other than how I felt, completely immersed in the moment, and deliriously happy. Then the music stopped.

This is how I got over my first heartbreak. I started dancing.

My boyfriend had found someone else. I didn’t blame him. We were going on year four of what had become a vicious cycle of trying ‘just one more time’. I knew it needed to end, but I wasn’t ready to give up. He was, and he did.

So I did what I always do when my heart gets broken; I planned my escape. I sold everything that wouldn’t fit into my suitcase and bought a ticket to Spain. Just over a week before I was supposed to leave, my stepdad called. My mom had been in a car accident.

I didn’t go to Spain; I went to bury my mom instead.

——————————————————————————————————————

I finally stopped rambling when he walked over and motioned for my hand. I wiped it on my skirt, confessing,

I’m kind of nervous

He smiled. Really? I had no idea. 

I feigned annoyance, laughed and offered up my sweaty palm. He led me through some basic steps, which I fumbled through, stepping on his feet more than I care to admit. He finally stopped, stepping back and studying me for a minute.

Not bad, he said, acting surprised. Actually, that was pretty good. You clearly know how to dance; we just need to get your confidence back. But first, there is something more important we need to do.

He had my attention.

I think you’ve forgotten how to feel. And you can’ t dance if you can’t feel. So I am going to try something that I think might help.

He most definitely had my attention.

Close your eyes and don’t open them until I tell you.

I stood there, my heart racing, waiting to see what would happen next…..

 

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More to come….   ;o)

 

salsa.painting

 

Come check out my social enterprise, Briya, and help us empower women and children with education and economic advancement opportunities across the globe.

Briya produces fashionable bags and accessories that allow adventurous spirits and dedicated change-makers to travel in style while helping women and children to reach their full potential in underprivileged regions around the world.

www.briyabags.com

IMG_9552

Father’s Day: June 21, 1992.

My dad died on Father’s Day.

I can’t imagine how many times I’ve said that throughout my life. It feels like a punch line to a worn-out, twisted joke. It’s not though. I guess it could be the punchline, but it’s not a joke. That is really the day he died.

I can’t remember the exact day we found out he way dying, but I remember the day exactly. It was a school day in early January. But I wasn’t going. I called in sick, because my dad was, and I was taking him to the hospital to find out how sick.

I helped him out of the car and waited until he got his bearings. I casually linked my arm through his so he didn’t have to ask for  more help. His pace was painfully slow. But because he was in pain, or because he didn’t want to find out why?

I just wanted him to hurry. I wanted to get this over with. There was a party I wanted to go to later, and I needed to study more for my SAT exam the next morning. I wanted to see my boyfriend before he left town, and I needed to go by my friend’s house to pick up the jeans she said I could borrow.

I just wanted him to hurry, so they could start the surgery, so we could find out what was wrong with him, so they could fucking fix it.

Three hours later I woke up on the hospital floor, my head propped up on my study guide. They said it would only take two hours. It had been over three. I opened my book back up to the algebra equations, shut it, opened it again, and flipped over to the vocabulary section. I had learned a good trick for memorizing vocab words. You take the word and use it in 3 different sentences, but sentences that will stand out in your mind, like something funny to make them memorable.

Aberration: a state or condition markedly different from the norm

  1. My dad’s health is an aberration.
  2. A 17-year old girl without a father is an aberration.
  3. Sitting in a freezing cold hospital lobby by yourself waiting to hear if your dad is going to die is an aberration.

I laughed. I’m pretty confident that I’m the only person using death as a study tactic, which is in and of itself an aberration.

He snuck up behind me, asking if I was William Breazeale’s daughter. I jumped up, throwing my book up in the air, which sent my notes flying in all directions. We both paused for a minute, watching their graceful descent. I looked up at him, embarrassed, and tried to smile. He didn’t smile back. He just told me, matter-of-factly,  that the surgery went great and my dad was dying from pancreatic cancer.

I slammed the front door behind me. His head shot up. He hated it when I slammed the door. “Sorry, dad!”. Shit, did I wake you up? How are you feeling?”

Why did I keep asking him that? What the hell is he going to say. “I feel amazing. That last can of Ensure you shot into my veins tasted awesome and is digesting perfectly. I can’t get up by myself anymore and have been waiting for you to get here so I can go to the bathroom. Other than that, I feel great.”

He attempted to smile. “I’m fine. How was school?”

“Fine. I have to go back, it’s only noon. I just came home to check on you”.

“It’s only noon?”

“Yeah. You hungry?”

“No.”

“Well, were you able to drink some of the juice I bought you?”

“No. I haven’t felt like it.”

“Dad! You have to eat, whether you are hungry or not! You can’t keep going to chemo if you aren’t doing anything to build yourself back up. Have you looked at yourself? You are literally wasting away!”

I stormed into the kitchen and brought him back a glass of orange juice. He tilted his head forward to take a sip, giving me a look that made me sit down next to him and gulp the rest of it down myself.

“Dad?”

“Yeah?”

“Will you make sure I’m here when you go?”

“I’ll do my best, but I can’t make any promises.”

“No dad, you have to. You have to promise you won’t leave me until I can get back here”.

“Brooke, I can’t promise that you will be here when I die. But I promise I will never leave you.”

I acquired this slight obsession with our calendar. Every morning I scrolled across the row of days, then down the column of weeks, looking for, I’m not sure what, an aberration I suppose. Which day was it going to be? I flipped to the next month and my eyes landed on the only words on the page.

Father’s Day.

I actually laughed out loud. You’ve got to be kidding me. He’s going to die on fucking Father’s Day?

Of course I didn’t tell anybody this. How morbid and sad. What was even more so was that I actually felt relieved. I had a date. This was going to end at some point, and it was going to be soon. I started planning the things I would do after that day. I could leave the house again without having to find someone to watch him. I could go to parties with my friends without worrying about him or having to leave early to go take care of him. I wouldn’t have to give him morphine shots anymore, or clean up after him when he didn’t make it to the bathroom, or sleep outside his bedroom door hearing him moan in pain, crying myself to sleep because there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it.

I wouldn’t have to do any of those things anymore. Because on June 21st, my dad wouldn’t be dying. On June 21st, my dad would be dead.

I spent the morning with my best friend and his family. I reluctantly agreed to go to church with them, cringing at every forced metaphor reiterating the importance of celebrating ‘the father’.

I asked if I could stop to buy him a card before we headed to the movie and spent longer than I should have picking it out. He obviously wasn’t going to read it, but I wanted to read it to him, and it needed to be perfect.

We made it to the front of the line just before the previews started. I grabbed my ticket, and then turned to his dad and told him to take me home.

I closed the front door behind me, making sure not to slam it. I nervously peeked my head into his room to see if he was still breathing, and then plopped down next to him to sign his card. The pen was out of ink. Of course it was out of ink. I went into the kitchen and started digging through the drawers, and then stopped for some reason.  I heard something, like a moan or a whisper. But I kept digging. He’s ‘fine’, he can’t be in pain, he has a constant stream of morphine going and he hasn’t made a sound for days. I grabbed a pen, then dropped it and sprinted to his room.

He was dead.

“No, no, no, no. Dad, NO! You promised! Did you seriously just wait until I left the fucking room to leave me? I sat down next to him, studying his face for some sign of anything. There was nothing. He was gone.

I just started yelling at him. “I came home for you. I made everyone miss the movie for you. You were supposed to wait for me to get back, that was the deal. We made a deal!”

The tears I had been stuffing down for months unleashed. I was actually grateful I was alone, but I was furious with him, with myself. He was leaving me for good and he couldn’t just give me this one thing. He couldn’t just let me say good-bye. But maybe he did? Maybe he finally worked up the courage to let go, and I then I left him?

I felt something, a gentle squeeze of my hand. I stopped crying and quickly looked back up as one final tear made its way down his cheek.

That was 25 years ago. Yes, it was terrible, but it was so long ago, I don’t really even think about it anymore. The reality is, I haven’t had a dad longer than I had one.

Now that I see my friends worrying about how badly they are fucking up their kids, I wonder what issues of mine are directly linked to him. My dad was an amazing father, but not always a great one. He, like all of us, had many demons, which he never quite figured out how to conquer. Whether he was drunk or sober, wealthy or broke, in love or lonely, I just never felt like he ever really found happy.

I’m sure this negatively impacted me somehow I’m sure all of it did, But it also what made him and our relationship beautiful. I’m not sure if he was truly happy, but he made sure everyone else was. His life could be in shambles, but he would make sure yours was going to be fine. He could be reckless and stubborn, but he was the person you went to when there was nowhere else to go. He was patient and kind and generous. And although he was guarded with his words, you never questioned how he felt about you. I say ‘you’ because he wasn’t just my dad. He was my friends’ dad and my neighbors’ dad, and he was everyone’s friend.

Now, for me, Father’s Day is just another day. But for the first time in decades, I actually felt a twinge of guilt when I realized what day it was. I  haven’t thought about him much lately, not at all, really. I kind of just feel like he isn’t a part of my life anymore. He’s just gone.

This actually made me laugh. Was I really that far gone that I couldn’t see what was so blatantly obvious? My dad has never been so present in my life as he has over the past few months- in the people who have come into my life, the beautiful places I have landed, and the books that have ended up in my hands; in a smile that made me feel, or a word that made me hope, or a sunset that assured me this pain was going to stop.

I truly believe he thought he was going to lose me, so he immersed himself so fully in my day to day that there could be no doubt in my mind. He was going to wait until I came back… to remind me that he never left.

Please check out my social enterprise, Briya, and help us empower women and children with education and economic advancement opportunities across the globe.

Briya produces fashionable bags and accessories that allow adventurous spirits and dedicated change-makers to travel in style while helping women and children to reach their full potential in underprivileged regions around the world.

http://www.briyabags.com

Upside Down

Definition of Faith (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

1) allegiance to duty or a person: loyalty:  fidelity to one’s promises: sincerity of intentions

2) firm belief in something for which there is no proof:  complete trust

My puppy, Biscuit, has Vestibular disease. Okay, he is not a puppy. I don’t know how old he is exactly. I quit counting, but we’ll say 11ish. He is an amazing dog, as we all believe our dogs to be. But this guy is the dog that you can’t get 3 steps into your walk before you are stopped so that people can love on him. This is the guy who the neighbors ask if you will please go out of town so they can watch him. He touches people in a way that I have seen few pups do. But I am clearly biased.

About a month before I moved to Arlington, Biscuit started swaggering a bit on our walk. His head had a severe tilt to the right and he quickly got to the point where he could no longer stand. I immediately took him to the vet, ran all the tests, plunged into researching all possible causes. All results pointed to two different scenarios: Vestibular disease or a brain tumor. Vestibular disease- curable, brain tumor- he would be in immense pain and gone in a matter of weeks.

We were told the best thing to do would be to put him down.  I refused.  If everyone was telling me they were not sure. If what they were telling me is that there might be the smallest possibility that he could get better, that he might not have a brain tumor at all, then why the hell would we put him down?

Long and the short of it, he has vestibular disease. It took countless hours of research, multiple doctors, ongoing tests, blood work, medication after medication, a strict diet of home cooked veggies and chicken breasts, but we still have our Biscuit…because I had faith in him.

I have been away from him for a bit and was heartbroken to see that his condition has worsened since I last saw him. It struck me as I was walking him this morning of how dramatically both of our worlds have been turned upside down over the past 8 months. Literally. As I caught him from falling over the second time, I knelt down beside him and gently tried to straighten his head, to give his neck a little relief from the strain of trying to hold his head up so he can keep on going. And I cried. I just cried. I cried because I want to take this pain away, because of how unfair it is that this precious, strong, sturdy dog is now reduced to having to be held up by someone smaller than he is. I cried because he might never be able to hold his head up again, to see the world as it is, as it was when he was healthy and carefree and could run and leap and land on all feet with no fear of falling.

I cried because I feel the exact same way. My world has been turned upside down and I truly fear that this pain will never subside, that I will never be able to hold my head up, stand up straight, and walk, much less leap, without any fear of falling.

So this is where faith should come in, right? When something that you believed in- like that you will get up in the morning, be able to put one foot in front of the other and walk a straight line, or that the world you created around a belief in love, around a person you believed loved you- when this world is turned upside down and no longer exists, this is when you are supposed to have faith. This is when you are supposed to believe in something greater, in that greater power or fate or destiny or whatever it takes to conjure up the strength to keep going, when every step you take is taken blindly because everything that was your reality is now completely foreign and you are walking in a world that was yours, but no longer is. You are supposed to have faith.

I don’t have any right now. None at all.

So this is my plan for today. I will gently remind myself of all the things I do have.  I have my dog. I have my health. I have this cup of coffee in front of me and my hands that allow me to keep writing. I have a lot more, I know. I just can’t see it all right now. It’s amazing how unclear things become when you are looking from the bottom up.

Your faithful gypsy,

BB