Found

I seek you in the smell

of freshly cut grass.

In the peppermint certs

you carried in your pocket.

I seek you in worn pages

of your NIV Bible.

I seek you in freshly brewed coffee.

In basketball games

outside the garage.

In reruns of The Three Stooges

and Gilligan’s Island and

you move me, dearly.

I seek your smile that always

filled my soul with warmth.

“You are my sunshine,

my only sunshine…”

you sang to me.

I wish my love for you

was strong enough to

make you stay.

But then again, it was,

and you did.

Poem for Gramps

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A Night Out

It was a brisk Saturday night and we ventured up to Raleigh. Destination: The Cheesecake Factory.

“Shouldn’t we make reservations?” I asked.

“Nah, we should be good,” he said.

The drive was uneventful until we pulled into the parking lot of the Crabtree Valley Mall. The cars maneuvered like ants marching to a fallen morsel of chocolate chip cookie. After 20 minutes we found a spot deep in the parking garage’s Siberia section — nestled between a blue SUV and a white Ford Ranger. Taste buds at attention, we hiked to the mall and upstairs to The Cheesecake Factory. Men, women and children littered the hallways, many sitting on the floor. The noise overwhelmed my brain.

“They must be waiting for take out . . . or something,” I mumbled.

“Probably,” he said.

We filed in, took spots at the end of the line and inched up slowly. My stomach growled.

“What was that?” he asked with a laugh.

“What was what?” I said.

Pictures of luscious cheesecake covered the walls. Strawberry, chocolate, salted caramel. My mouth watered.

Minutes ticked by. We inched deeper into the chaos. Finally, we arrived.

“How many?” the hostess asked.

“Two,” he said.

“OK.” She tapped something on the screen of her computer and handed us a blinky piece of plastic.

“How long will that be?” he asked.

“Oh, about an hour and 45 minutes.”

He looked at me. I looked back and shook my head. No way. My stomach screamed.

“We’re good,” he said and handed her back the blinky thing.

We walked out, picking our way through the standing, sitting and leaning bodies, past the pictures of cheesecake — salted caramel, chocolate, strawberry.

“Where do you want to eat?” he asked.

“Somewhere without an hour and 45 minute wait.”

He took out his phone and began to search.

I willed him to hurry. My stomach rumbled like the mating call of a moose.

“What the heck was that?” he asked, trying not to laugh.

I didn’t answer.

He tapped a number into his phone.

“Hi. Uh, how long is the wait for a table for two?” he asked.

“Two hours.” I heard a voice say. I gasped.

“Thanks,” he mumbled and clicked off.

“Let’s just go to McDonalds,” I suggested.

“No McDonalds. What are you craving?”

“Cheesecake.”

“What about seafood?”

“That too.”

He tapped his phone and began searching.

“Red Lobster is 3 miles from here,” he said.

“Good.”

After 20 more minutes freeing ourselves from the parking garage, we were on the road to our third choice.

We parked, shuffled out of the car and walked up to the hostess stand.

“How many?” she asked.

“Two, but how long is the wait?”

“Forty-five minutes,” she said.

I groaned, but at least there wasn’t an hour before the 45. We were handed another blinky piece of plastic, and the minutes ticked by as we sat by the lobster tank.

After the full three-quarters of an hour mostly spent staring at crustaceans with bad intent, we were seated in a distant a corner. An angel appeared, eyes bright and smile wide, movements fluid and secure.

“Welcome to Red Lobster! My name is Penny. What can I get you to drink? Oh wait, I always start with the lady first.” She turned and grinned at me.

She filled my soul with warmth . . . and cheesy biscuits, creamy seafood dip and chips, boiled shrimp covered in butter, sweet coconut shrimp, and garlic lemon tilapia.

“This,” I said in between bites of pretty much everything, “was worth the wait.”

He nodded.

She kept appearing to fill our drinks and bring us more cheesy biscuits.

He asked her if she was in school.

“No, I’m a mommy and I work here on nights and weekends.”

“Boy or girl? How old?” he asked.

“A little boy. He’s 6.” She pulled her phone out of her pocket to show us a gorgeous kid with her eyes and smile. He held a soccer ball and grinned back at us.

He tipped her way more than 20 percent that night, and when she realized it, she bounced back to our table.

“Thank you so much! No, really, thank you!” she exclaimed.

Then it was his eyes, that wonderful blend of blue and green, that sparkled.

 

 

Love poem no 4

We were seated in the back corner of Red Lobster.

The third place we had stopped that night.

The first was an hour and 45 minute wait, the second 2 hours.

We waited a ravishing 45 minutes beside the lobster tank, but finally we sat.

 

She appeared, eyes bright and smile wide, movements fluid and secure.

Welcome! My name is Penny. How are you all today? What can I get started for you?

Oh wait, I always ask the lady first. She turned to me and grinned.

 

She filled my soul as she brought those warm, delicious cheese biscuits,

creamy seafood dip and chips, boiled shrimp covered in butter, grilled tilapia.

We devoured our meal, and you chatted with her, asked her if she was in school.

No, I’m just a mommy and I waitress here. How old? You asked. Boy or girl?

Boy, 6.

Her eyes sparkled yet again.

 

You tipped her way more than 20% that night, and when she realized this

she bounced back to our table.

Thank you so much! She said, Really, thank you!

Then it was your eyes— that wonderful blend of blue and green—

that glistened and sparkled.

You can spend.

your whole life.

locked in your own head.

feeding those demons.

growing them.

until they completely take over.

and control every part. of you.

you deserve better.

you deserve better than a

prison. built by your own mind.

stop giving them life.

deplete.

 

 

She,

on a rainy/snowy second day of spring

Wednesday morning

reminds me a lot of a

broken soul.

Plain and pleasant,

nothing too noticeable about her

except

that she vanishes

behind long years

of calculated faces.

Most of my life I have struggled with social events,

but birthday parties are the worst. I admire people who can go to them, smile politely and enjoy themselves, which must include just about everyone. But me? My heart falls when one of my boys brings home a birthday party invitation accompanied with eager pleas of, “Can we go?” Sometimes, I’d try to hide it in the junk mail pile and hope they would forget about it.  No chance. I got the occasional reprieve if I could claim a work conflict but, most of the time, there was no excuse other than anxious-mom-who-thinks-talking-to-new-people-is-the-scariest-thing-ever.  So I went. Most of the time I’d try to hide in a corner, a bathroom, or even my car, usually behind a piece of cake. Any time someone talked to me, my sorry attempts at conversation would be something along the lines of, “I like bread. Bread is good.”

It was the best I could do.

I’ve been working on this, and have gotten better, although most birthday parties are still handled strategically with a plan and an escape route.

A few summers ago I was at a birthday party that I couldn’t avoid. Kevin had gotten the invitation three weeks prior and marked the birthday party on his calendar with a drawing of a big blue cake. Every day, usually multiple times a day, he would remind me of this event and that we should start preparing. If anyone mentioned doing anything else any time near the party, Kevin would immediately shoot down the idea. “We can’t because we have a birthday party that day,” he’d say. I tried to keep my feelings on the back burner since 1) I was getting better; 2) Kevin was obsessed; 3) the whole family was invited; and 4) the party was within walking distance. The perfect storm.

So, that particular morning around 8 a.m. Kevin started reminding us about the 1 o’clock party. The reminding continued like a cuckoo clock. The presents were wrapped. The card was signed.  We were ready. It was 1:04 p.m. We were still at the house. Kevin said with a bit of hysteria, “I feel like you all are acting like the party hasn’t already started!”

So much for fashionably late.

We walked there. Water games, a bouncy house, a Slip ‘N Slide. Kids with drippy green and blue popsicles were scattered around the yard.  I told myself I did not have to stay, but I chose to. A few minutes in, I thought to myself, “This party will go down in the books as the first one I didn’t have to hide somewhere.”

The birthday fun was exploding through the yard.  Older brother David was standing beside me, and a dad and his kid arrived.  The kid, who I will call Jake, was a friend of Kevin’s at school. So, Jake and his dad walked up to David and me. Jake’s dad introduced himself as Jake’s dad and stuck out his hand. I froze. A few seconds passed and I finally said, “I’m Kevin’s dad.” He looked at me, but just nodded. “Nice to meet you,” he said.

When Jake’s dad walked away, I realized what I had said. I turned to David. “Did I just introduce myself as Kevin’s dad?”

David laughed and said no, that he is pretty sure I didn’t, because that would be funny and he would have remembered that, but he admitted he also wasn’t really paying attention.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, about 75 percent sure.”

Great. I had a 1-in-4 chance of being a moron.

Maybe Jake’s dad didn’t notice. Of course, he did. He looked at you weird. David said you didn’t say “dad.” No, he said he wasn’t sure. You’re an idiot. You can’t even survive a child’s birthday party. Most people aren’t like this.

The birthday revelry continued. I watched the kids play, and ate some cake with fondant icing that tasted like plastic. I rebounded enough to have a semi-normal conversation with someone  that wasn’t about liking bread.

To make matters worse, David was invited to a birthday party that evening. Two birthday parties in one day. At the time David was 12, so my attendance was not required. Fine with me. As I was driving him to his friend’s house, he said, “Mom?”

“Yep?”

“The more I think about it, the more I think you did say ‘dad.’ In fact, I know you did, but I said you didn’t because I didn’t want you to worry about it.”

Mom got a present that day, too.