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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Good Stuff, Maynard!

He was the biggest baby born in San Francisco on January 7, 1937.  Actually, the biggest baby born probably that year in that city; a whopping 13 pounds.  He seemed really proud of that fact.  I just remember thinking as a little girl how he was always larger than life to me.



His dad worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad.  Grandpa always called it the "Sufferin' Pacific", which made me giggle when he said it because it made him sound like Sylvester Cat.  This railroad legacy showed up in the names of my dad and my uncles.  Grandpa gave them all "RR" names; Robert, Raymond, Russell, and dad was Richard.  He had two sisters as well, but my aunt's names didn't follow the railroad theme.  I never did ask my Aunty Bobby if she was actually a Roberta, but I really wouldn't have been surprised.  I did, however, ask my dad if  that was the reason that my name was Renee, thinking how great it would have been if I had that tradition to brag about.  I was devastated when he answered; "No, that was the name of my first girlfriend.  Don't tell Mommy."  But then he cracked a smile.  Always the kidder.

He joined the Navy because he had to make a choice between that and being homeless or thrown into juvenile hall for being "incorrigible".  So on his 18th birthday, he enlisted and went to boot camp in San Diego.  He remained in San Diego until August of 1955, when he was assigned to the aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Shangri-La.  The Shangri-La conducted intensive fleet training for the remainder of 1955, then deployed to the Far East on 5 January 1956.  Dad remained assigned to the Shangri-La until February of 1958.



Dad did two tours of duty while assigned to ships serving in the South China Sea.  The first was with amphibious transport ship, U.S.S. Paul Revere; the famous "Ghost Riders".  I remember he used to sing the song "Ghost Riders in the Sky" to me and tell me that the song was written about the men of the Paul Revere.  Of course, when I grew up I came to know that wasn't true, but he was my Daddy, and I believed everything he told me.  That was just the way it was.  He served on the Paul Revere from August of 59 to July of 61.  I was born in September of 60.  He came home on furlough to see his new daughter, and went right back, but put in for shore duty.  He wanted to and tried to be that "present" dad, but the Navy was his life.  It was our life.



After shore duty in Alameda, California from 1961 to 1964, he was transferred to the U.S.S. Maury, a Navy survey ship stationed in Pearl Harbor.  He served on the Maury from May of 64 to January of 65.  During this 7th Fleet tour, the Maury and her sister ship, Oceanographic Vessel U.S.S. Serano, charted and collected data on the Gulf of Siam, the Andaman Sea, the Straights of Malacca and areas of the Philippines.

Once the Maury returned to Pearl Harbor, Dad was reassigned, and in February of 1965, he joined the crew of the U.S.S. Hassayampa, a fleet oiler which serviced ships serving in conflict waters.  One of those ships was the fated U.S.S. Oriskany, which unbeknownst to him at the time, Dad would soon come to serve aboard.


Dad served on the U.S.S. Oriskany, more well-known to later generations for its notoriety in the movie "Top Gun", while with Attack Squadron 164 out of Lemoore, CA.  He was very proud of his time on "The Mighty O" and of his membership in what was amusingly known to the crewmen who served in the Tonkin Gulf off the coast of Vietnam, as the "Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club".


The carrier was on station the morning of 26 October 1966 when a fire erupted on the starboard side of the ship's forward hanger bay and raced through five decks, claiming the lives of 44 men.  Many who lost their lives were veteran combat pilots who had flown raids over Vietnam a few hours earlier.


Oriskany had been put in danger when a magnesium parachute flare exploded in the forward flare locker of Hangar Bay 1, beneath the carrier's flight deck.  Dad was among crewmen who helped wheel planes out of danger, rescued pilots, and helped quell the blaze through three hours of heroic action.  Medical assistance was rushed to the carrier from sister aircraft carriers Constellation and F.D. Roosevelt.  It wasn't until Christmas Eve of 1966, two months later, that I would actually see Dad after this cruise.  I was 6, and very very sure that because my Daddy came home to me, there was really a Santa Claus.



In 1967, Dad was transferred to El Centro Naval Air Facility, better known as the winter home of the Blue Angels.  There we remained until 1971.  He enjoyed his extended shore duty in the high desert, and I enjoyed having a Daddy around to play with.  Our house was the house that the neighborhood kids liked to hang out at on base.  Dad was just a big kid and he loved to play with us.  He was the "big man" who would give piggy-back rides, play baseball, wrassle, and make jokes with.  He told tales as tall as he was, and my friends ate them up like candy.  He would eat every concoction I would bake in my Suzy Homemaker oven, or my Mattel Incredible Edibles, even if it was burned and with great conviction, he would exclaim; "MMMmmmmm!  Good stuff, Maynard!"  I never did find out who Maynard was, but I didn't care.

He rode around  base on his "Nifty, Thrifty, Honda 50".  He was quite a sight; a 6 foot 5 inch "giant" on a little scooter, but everyone on base knew him.  He'd pick me up from school, pop a tiny helmet on my head that he had lovingly painted an "R" on the back of, and put me in front of him on the seat of that little motorbike.  "Remember, Little Poo...don't smile.  You don't want any bugs in your grill!"




He loved to camp, and fish, and we did a lot of that when I was a kid.  I loved going fishing with him, but he refused to take me unless I learned to put the worm on the hook myself.  So I learned.  I didn't like it, but I learned because I wanted to go fishing with him.  I wanted to go ANYWHERE with him. 

Every Friday night, we had Monopoly Night.  He and I would stay up late and have a marathon Monopoly game.  We'd play until he bankrupted me, which would be hours later.  He confessed many years later that he'd always cheated, and he wondered why I never questioned why he always wanted to be the banker.


My love for music, I inherited from my father.  He couldn't read a note, but I never knew anyone that could play an instrument like he was born to it the way Dad did.  He was a true natural.  He bought me my first ukulele, and he taught me to play.  We'd spend Saturdays strumming together and we'd sing a "Santa Catalina/Life Could Be a Dream" medley over and over until we got it just right.  He'd make mistakes on purpose and make me laugh until I cried.  Some days, I would just sit and listen to him play his favorites; "Under the Double Eagle" and "Stars and Stripes".  He made that uke sing.  Later on, he'd teach my daughter Averie to play, and then Caris picked up a uke.  I know that Bryson's natural talent for the guitar and ukulele has trickled down from my dad.  It's a legacy that brings me great joy and yet, in a bittersweet twist, makes me miss him so much more.  Some days, when Bry is sitting out on the porch playing, I close my eyes and hear my dad's style emanating through the Grommet's fingers.  How I would have loved to see them play together.  How happy he would be to know how well his grandson plays.



In 1971, Dad returned to duty at Barber's Point in Pearl Harbor, and we remained there until he retired from the Navy, after 20 years of honorable service.  I remember asking him why he had stayed in for so long.  His answer still resonates in my soul.  "I wanted you to see the world, and I knew this was the only way I could do that for you.  It was all I had to give you."  See the world we did.  During his service, Dad would see South America, Iwo Jima, Guam, Guadalcanal, Hong Kong, Japan, Mariana Islands, Philippines, Korea, Singapore, Okinawa, Vietnam, Alaska, and Hawai'i, not to mention all the traveling around the Pacific Northwest and Canada we did in my parent's RV.  For all the places he couldn't take me, he would bring back a doll from that place to add to my doll collection, which once graced Averie and Caris's rooms, and now hold a place of honor in our "Island Room".

He was a wonderful grandpa and wore my children like they were jewelry.  He tickled and played and wrassled and joked.  He told his tall tales and made them believe him, just as he'd done with me all of my life.

I've missed him every day, and I'll miss him every day to come.  But I am so proud of who he raised me to be, and I am so proud that he was my Daddy.  I have a trunk full of letters from Dad from all over the world.  He wrote to me constantly from wherever he was, and even when I was too little and couldn't yet read, he would draw cartoons and pictures.  I would color them and send them back to him.  He might have been away for a lot of my childhood, but he filled those days apart with letters and love from far away.  He would make reel to reel audio tapes of his voice and he would sing to me and send the tapes home.  The song I remember most is "God Bless My Daddy".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkoiXIG5vrg

God bless my Daddy,
Who's Over There.
Says a tiny little voice,
In a tiny little prayer.
That is my Daddy
So please, take care.
Says a tiny little voice,
In a tiny little prayer.
For this is the night,
Mommy turns out the light
Oh how I wish you were here
So I could kiss you goodnight.
I hope in dreamland
We'll meet somewhere
Says a tiny little voice
In a tiny little prayer.

Bless you, Daddy.  Thank you for everything.  Sleep sweet, until we meet again in Dreamland.  I love you.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Reflections



I've found, in my experience, that it's therapeutic to write when you're feeling down.  Actually, I've found it's therapeutic to just write.  Noticing that I've only posted to this blog a handful of times this year, I reflect on the fact that I have probably neglected not only my therapy, but my joy.  My soul feels this neglect.

There have been many changes that have caused this lapse; a new job, a new puppy, gains and losses.  My life is no different from anyone else's.  Everyone experiences these peaks and valleys.  It is just a fact of human existence.  I think it would be a bit egotistical to say that my life is any better or any harder than someone else's.  If there's anything I've learned in my 53 years of life, though I've lived through some pretty horrific situations, there will always be someone whose life is much more challenging than I could ever know.  How do I have the right to get hung up on myself?

These last few months of 2013 have been amongst the most challenging of my life.  I've hesitated to share, because some things have been said to me that have caused me to really take my inventory.  I've gone back to a tenant of a twelve step program, and though I don't give myself over to the thought of a higher power, I do take it very seriously when people who I consider important in my life tell me perceived negatives about myself that could use "tweaking".  It is not comfortable or pleasant to hear; "You are too soft.  You take things too personally.  You are annoying.  You are too sensitive."  Some of the more hurtful things, I keep to myself, but try not to dwell on them.  I keep them in this place in my mental safe where I can use them as a touchstone to remind myself that if I am not careful, the things that I have always thought were positives of my character, can be thought of to others as negatives.  It's a bitter pill to swallow.  Especially for someone who has always fought to look beyond the hardships and keep depression at bay. 

On the other side of the coin, I remind myself that I am not entirely responsible for someone else's perceptions.  I have never been purposefully hurtful.  It isn't in my makeup to cause pain.  Quite the opposite, I think that I can be a detriment to my own well-being because I often put others before myself.  When you're in the moment, if your heart is in the right place, you don't do these things for recognition or thanks.  You just do them because it is in your soul.  Not having been blessed with monetary surplus, you try to give of yourself because that is what you have to give.  Sometimes, you give too much of yourself and you get hurt.  These are the risks going in.  You know it, and yet you do it.  You put yourself out there.

I have been told that I should stand up for myself more.  That I shouldn't let people walk all over me.  I've tried this in the past few months.  The problem is that the end result doesn't make me feel like a better person.  It makes me feel argumentative and small.  It doesn't edify my soul.  It makes me feel like someone I am not.  I don't like conflict.  I don't fight well.  I end up crying because I'm "overly sensitive" and I keep asking myself if I felt better when I let people take advantage of me, or if I felt better when I stood up for myself.  Are these the kinds of growing pains one should feel when they're 53 years old?

Someone recently told me that 80% of my Facebook posts were negative.  It was a dagger in my heart.  I knew this wasn't true, but I couldn't help but think if that was really what people's perception of me was.  Then I thought back to the others who told me I was too sensitive and took everything too personally.  I asked myself if I'd rather be thought of as too sensitive as opposed to 80% negative.  Again, I'm back to perception.  The last thing I want is for people to think of me as negative.  Perception is a funny thing.  I can claim responsibility for my overly sensitive nature, but am I responsible for what someone else thinks of me?  Do I have to entertain the thought of merit in their opinion?  Does it speak to my sense of humanity or lack of character if I don't? 

I took a good, hard look around me at the people I choose to surround myself with.  There is not one person amongst them that I wouldn't call cream of the crop.  Good, honest, kind, loving souls.  The kind of people that I hope think of me the same way.  If the measure of a person is the people who call them friends, then without any sense of conceit or regret, I have to believe that I am a good, kind, loving soul.  And yet, I have come to realize that there are other people who have a much different perception of the person that I believe that I am.  How can there be such a great disparity?  How can I not bear some of the responsibility for this perception?  What is there to be done?

These are heavy thoughts that have weighed heavily on my soul.  On the one hand, am I being that typical overly sensitive Pua and taking things too personally?  Or have I somehow been neglectful of someone else's feelings and managed to make them dislike me enough to say hurtful things? 

As I move into this new year, I have much to reflect upon.  Mostly, I have been asking myself on an almost daily basis, "What can you do, Pua, to make someone's life better because you've been part of it?"  I can't help but think that these are not the thoughts of a negative person.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Puppy Love



Only a few weeks ago, I pulled into my driveway and just sat in my car, staring at my house.  I knew it was empty, and I dreaded walking inside, knowing there was no Ellie or Kiva there to greet me.  It used to be my favorite time of day; joyful recognition, wagging tails, a happy face-wash from a swift tongue.  I would force myself to go in, but it was hard.  Some days were harder than others. 

Now....there is Kili.  I can hardly wait to get home and open the door.  I can hear him on the other side, crying in anticipation.  Then, barking and jumping and joyfully welcoming me home.  Home is just not home without a dog.  It's just not home.  I miss Ellie and Kiva.  I always will.  But it is so amazing how full and happy a once broken heart can feel because of one little dog.  I have no doubt someone was rescued, and it wasn't Kili. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

One Girl's Heart...

 
She knows my heart because she once lived right under it.
 
 


*Planned Parenthood
*The Fisher House Foundation
*Livestrong
*Friends of Animals
*L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center
*Reading is Fundamental

Sunday, May 05, 2013

A New-Fangled Fairy Tale a la Prince Grommet



The Grommet asked me to accompany him to the store to buy some new bedding.  He'd just been cleaning his room (halle-freakin'-lujah!), and he wanted to "seal the deal" with some new sheets and pillows.  "How nice."  I thought.  My son wants me to go shopping with him.  Tired as I was, I wasn't about to say no.  I mean, really...how often does THAT happen?  Hi ho, hi ho...

We arrive at our destination, and as we are on a mission of utmost importance, I direct him straight to linens.  As he looks through the many choices, I notice that he goes STRAIGHT to the Nate Berkus designs.  I chuckle inside.  I guess when you work at Versace, you can pretty much smell quality right away.   So now come the questions.  He knows what he wants in the way of color and design, but I can see as he's reading packages, he's a bit confused about content.

Bryson:  What is the difference between Eqyptian Cotton and regular cotton?  And what's all this "thread count" business?

Pua:  (pulling a corner of the sheet out of each package)  Feel these.  Which would you rather have encircling your body?

Bryson:  Definitely the Egyptian Cotton...600 thread count, at least.

Pua:  Exactly

Bryson:  Okay, how about pillows?  What's the difference between foam and down?

Pua:  (holding each kind of pillow)  Lay your head here.  Which would you rather have cradling your head?

Bryson:  (nodding his head)  Oh yeah, the down one for sure.

(A moment of quiet as he contemplates)

Bryson:  Damn.  I'm quite a princess.

Uh...yup.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

The Lost Pearl



My husband is not a man who places great value in material things.  He doesn't have the latest thingamajig or whatchamacallit.  He doesn't covet gadgets or doohickeys.  He honestly doesn't bat an eye at the latest car, electronic device, golf clubs, boats, or whatever it is that makes other people's worlds spin.  Give him a roof over his head, a way to support his family, a great Hefeweizen, and some time well-spent with good friends or loved ones, having a laugh, and Charlie's a content man.

I preface this story with a bit about Charlie so that you will understand what a HUGE deal it is for him to spend money on jewelry.  Luckily, I've never been one to go ga-ga over jewelry myself.  I can count on one hand the number of pieces of finery I have that have any value, be it monetary or sentimental.  My engagement ring, though not very expensive...we were kids and it was what we could afford...has a great deal of meaning to me because of the amazing effort and the sheer romance of the way he gave it to me.  My 25th anniversary wedding band, which I fell in love with while we were on a trip to Mexico with my sister and brother-in-law, brings priceless memories to mind everytime I look down at my hand.  My Hawaiian heirloom necklace, which Charlie bought for me on our first anniversary, while on our first trip to Hawai'i together.  Whatever piece it may be, there is always a story that comes with it that has much more sentimental value than the dollar sign attached to it.  This particular piece, a pearl pendant, is no exception.


When I found my birth family, we quickly went about the business of making plans to go to Hawai'i and meet everyone.  I was especially anxious to meet my mother; Pearl.  As many of you know, it was a perfect trip, full of love and laughter.  My family welcomed us with so much warmth and aloha that to this day, it still feels as if we were always a part of each other's lives.  I spent a good deal of time sitting with my mother, listening to family stories, learning about my history, and making up for 40 plus years of lost time. 

On the next trip back to the islands, we were walking around Haleiwa Town with my sister Loke and her husband Phil, enjoying the day, and popping in and out of the little shops in the north shore village.  Charlie, who is absolutely fascinated by pearls, called me into a little store that specialized in the many varieties of the lustrous gem of the sea.  He found two pendants in particular that he was especially drawn to; a black Tahitian pearl, and a freshwater disc (coin) pearl.  I thought they were lovely, but the cost was far too dear, and I kept walking away from them.  In fact, I kept walking out of the store, and Charlie kept calling me back.

Charlie:  "Listen, you know me.  Jewelry's not something I think of as a gift.  Which is why you don't have all that much.  But this has a little more significance, so hear me out."

Pua:  (smiling because I know a sales pitch is coming) "Go ahead.  I'm listening."

Charlie:  "We're here, in Hawai'i, because you've just found your family.  That's a big deal, isn't it?"

Pua:  (nodding)  "Yes.  A very big deal."

Charlie:  "Your mom's name is Pearl.  We're here in Hawai'i.  Two things that will always bring happy memories.  Right?"

Pua:  "You're good, Huffine, but that's a bit spendy, don't you think?."

Charlie:  "Eh, spendy-schmendy.  How often do we buy for US?  Let me get these for you.  I know you don't need trinkets to remember...but this?....well, this is some important stuff.  And I want to do this."

Twenty minutes later, escorted by my very proud husband, I walked out of that store wearing a simple, but lovely disc pearl pendant.  That was 7 years ago, and that pearl is still one of my favorite pieces of jewelry.  Cut to last week...

Wednesday was our anniversary, and even though we didn't have any big, romantic plans, I decided to wear my disc pearl out.  I giggled to myself because we went to an inexpensive little diner and had burgers, but I got "spiffied up" and wore my best necklace.  It made Charlie smile to see it on me.  He always notices when I wear it. 

On Thursday, I had a million "chores" to take care of, so I got an early start on the day.  First thing on my list, take all the cans and bottles to the recycle station.  Check.  Get some grocery shopping done.  Check.  Go to the post office.  Check.  The day went on like that until my very long "to do" list was complete.  Sometime that evening, as I was getting ready to jump in the shower, I realized that I didn't have a necklace on.  I ALWAYS have a necklace on, whether it's my everyday necklace or something special...I ALWAYS have a necklace on.  Then, the panic began to set in.  I stood there in the bathroom, with the shower running, taking an inventory of my day.  Oh no.  Ohhhhh no, please no.  I ran my hand over the bare spot on my chest where that pearl had hung only the night before. 

Usually, when I've worn my pearl pendant for a special night, I come right home and return it to its box, and put my "everyday" necklace back on.  But I remembered that when I got home, I didn't do that.  I kept my pearl on.  I went into the bedroom and tore our bed apart thinking that it might have come off in my sleep.  The adrenaline was pumping, that new, scared-to-death feeling was washing over me and I was doing all I could to stay calm and not lose it.  I tore the house apart, I pulled the cushions off the couches.  Nothing.  I went out to my car and looked everywhere.  Then I sat in the car and realized that I'd been to SO many places that day.  And even worse, I realized that I'd done the most asinine thing; I'd put that pearl pendant on a chain which had an "iffy" clasp.  I knew.  In fact, everyone knew that the clasp on that chain wasn't reliable.  The pendant that I usually wore would often come loose and everyone would go scrambling to help me find it.  Charlie and Wes would both tell me to get a new chain and I hemmed and hawed because my everyday pendant was inexpensive and if it got lost, I wouldn't be heartbroken.  But now, as I sat there in my car, I began to beat myself up about how stupid I'd been.  Even worse, I knew it was gone forever.  When I thought about all the places I'd been that day, I would never see that beautiful pearl again.  How would I tell Charlie?  I'm a world class idiot.  I cried.  I sat in my car and cried.

That night, I came to the conclusion that I wouldn't tell Charlie.  I wouldn't tell anyone.  I'd keep my stupidity to myself.  I'd also keep my pain to myself.  Why make him suffer because I'd been so careless with something so valueable.  It wouldn't be the first time.  I once left a sapphire ring he'd bought for me when Averie was born, in a rental car in San Francisco.  So distraught was I when I realized it AFTER we'd already turned the car in and boarded our flight home, that I cried so much on the plane, the flight attendant thought I was an abused wife.  She kept asking me if I was okay and giving Charlie dirty looks.  So, this....this I was going to keep to myself.  Yeah, I'd feel guilty, but I was already paying.  No one could punish me as much as I was punishing myself.

After that sleepless night, I woke up on Friday and decided that I'd backtrack.  The effort would probably be futile, but, what did I have to lose?  So once everyone was out of the house, I took out my list from the day before and determined that I would go down the line.  First stop; the recycling center.  If you've ever been to a recycling center, you know that the chances of it still being there if that's where it dropped were akin to that of a snowball's survival rate in the Mojave desert.  It's not the best environment.  There hasn't been a time I haven't been approached by panhandlers there, and usually, there are loiterers who are scanning the ground closely for discarded cigarettes that might still have a few puffs left.  I imagined my pearl being picked up and traded for a pack of cigarettes or a pint of Jack from the corner liquor store.  Either that, or in that high-traffic zone, that delicate pearl had been run over so many times, that it was now a little circlet of white dust. 

I pulled up to the recycle center, parked the car, got out, and with my head down, started looking.  The guy that runs the recycle center was just getting ready to open, and I was the only one there.  He watched me for a few minutes as I walked around the parking lot.  I allowed myself ONE thought, and one thought only, and I sent that thought up directly to another pearl that I had lost many, many years ago;  "Mom, if you're watching, I would really appreciate it if you would help me find my pearl.  Actually, it's Charlie's pearl, but you know, if it's here, please help me find it." 

Yeah, yeah.  I know.  I'm not much on that either.  I scoffed at myself while I was thinking it.  Ridiculous.  But, I was in an overwhelmingly anxious state of mind where I figured...what the hell?  The recycle center guy finally approached me.

Recycle Guy:  "You lose something, Honey?"

Pua:  "Yeah.  Do you remember me from yesterday?  I think I lost a pearl necklace while I was here."

Recycle Guy:  "I remember.  But, oh man, a pearl?  No way it would still be here.  Too much traffic through here, you know?

Pua:  "I know...but...I have to try."

He looked at me with a sad face, and then he put his head down to help me start looking.  Within seconds, I mean SECONDS, I looked down again and as if it had a light on it, there it was!  The pearl was in a little cement crevice in the middle of a wide expanse of black asphalt.  A white pearl, against white concrete.  What are the chances?  So many things were against it being found.  Not only found, but found intact.  It would have stood out more against the black asphalt, but I saw it clear as day, white against white.  It has a thicker nacre, so honestly, it should have been obliterated by motor traffic, but it only had a little tiny scratch in the lustre, barely noticeable.   When I picked it up, the recycle guy was stunned.  I was stunned!  I started to cry.  He started to jump up and down shouting; "No way!  Nooooo way!"  That's exactly how I felt.  With tears running down my face, I thanked him for his help.  He told me how lucky I was.  I looked up, kissed the pearl, and said; "Nah.  My mom was watching out for me.  She was always watching out for me."

I still haven't told anyone about this.  In fact, I'm still determined not to say anything to Charlie.  It's a great story though, and it happened just like this.  I brought the pearl home and put it in its box.  It's there right now.  I won't be wearing it until I get a proper new chain with a very reliable clasp.  The one pearl I "refound" left me way too soon.  I think of her often, and I miss her.  This little disc pearl that my husband bought for me to remind me of that other dearly precious Pearl?...I plan on keeping it near me for a good, long time.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

c m huffine & e e cummings are spot on



On Tuesday, Caris and I watched a movie.  I can't remember if I was watching it first and she joined me, or if it was the other way around.  Either way, we ended up sitting and watching "Hope Springs" with Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep.  It's about a couple, married 31 years, who have, in essence, lost their way in their marriage.  They basically co-habitate.  Nothing more.  I suppose I sat and watched it because of the subject.  I don't usually watch movies in the middle of a weekday.  But, this is, after all, the week of our wedding anniversary.  So why not?

It wasn't too long into the movie where it became quite evident that they were making Tommy Lee's character out to be the "bad husband" and Meryl's character the "forgotten wife".  Caris instantly began to take offense, understandably.  The story was going on in a way that didn't put Tommy Lee in the best light and Meryl was definitely the long-suffering wife.  Caris made a comment about how she would never put up with that kind of treatment, and she would have left him.  I told her that we should wait awhile and see where it goes.  There is more to a marriage story than just one side.  Especially a long marriage.  I told her that her age group is obviously not the target demographic for this movie...that this was definitely targeted at people at the stage of life where Charlie and I are now.  I said to give the story a chance to pan out. 

Caris:  "Well, you and Daddy don't treat each other like that."

Pua:  "Yes, Honey.  I know.  But that doesn't mean that there haven't been some really hard times.  And if you love someone, you try to remember on a daily basis what it was about them that you fell in love with, or what you fell in LIKE with.  You don't just bail when it gets hard."

Caris:  "He's making me mad."

Pua:  "Yeah.  He's making me mad too.  But I bet there's a backstory.  And I bet she's not as innocent as it would appear.  It takes two.  It always takes two."

Sure enough, as the story unfolded, it became clear that there were hurts and scars under the surface that needed to emerge, and needed some working through.  Caris mentioned that there were parts that she didn't understand.  I told her that it was okay, because, again, I did, and really, I'm the target.  I appreciate those subtle nuances, the little looks that would mean nothing to someone who hadn't already spent three decades of their life with one person.  People get tired, complacent, forgetful.  Sometimes, it's just "easier" to stay in the rut.  It takes real courage to stay and fight for what you had, what you may have lost, and what you want back.

At one point, the marriage counselor asked Tommy Lee; "Have YOU done EVERYTHING you could possibly do?"  I said to Caris that's really the bottom line, right there.  It's hard to take a personal inventory.  It's hard to ask that question of yourself.  But it is the most important question when you're in an "ebb" in your relationship.  If you can honestly answer that you have done all that you can without any return, then perhaps, it is time to walk away.  I am of the opinion that you don't just stop loving someone.  It's not like a tap that you just turn off and twist tight.

As the movie finished, I knew that I wanted to talk to my best friend about it.  I knew that it would be a topic of conversation tonight.  Not just the movie, but Caris' reaction to it.  I was pretty sure she walked away unsatisfied and maybe a little disappointed, even if there was a happy ending.  I thought that maybe she couldn't understand, again, because she's not....us.

Yesterday, as we celebrated our anniversary, I was stunned to see a beautiful tribute from Caris on my Facebook newsfeed:

My parents may never win the lottery, be able to afford a house in Hawaii, have the car of their dreams, remodel their home, attend movie premiers or travel around the world. But they have one thing that everyone wants, everyone tries for, but so few will ever have. That one in a billion marriage that doesn't just last, but is full of genuine happiness, contentment, trust, honesty, respect, sillin...ess, fun and above all those things, love. Real best-friend-sweetheart-embarrass-your-kids kind of love. I know some people will go their entire lives without ever seeing, knowing or understanding the very best of what love can actually mean and be. And I will forever feel like one of three of the luckiest kids in the world, because I got grow up surrounded by it. So happy 31st anniversary to my mommy and daddy, whose example of love keeps my faith in it alive.
 
I sat and stared at it, teary-eyed for the longest time.  There it was, in black and white, bold as can be for the world to see.  Proof that she got the jist of it.  Caris isn't one that's prone to sentimentality.  Especially when it comes to relationships.  So to see these words of affirmation was a gift of value beyond measure.  I'm still bowled over by it.  Still touched to my soul. 
 
I will always believe that it takes real courage to stay and work through the hard stuff.  But, I also realize how lucky Charlie and I have been to have found our soulmate.  So, even the "hard stuff" became a moot point.  Yes, we work through them when they come.  However, I realize that it's been way easier for us than it has been for most people because we really, really LIKE each other.  I don't want to think about life without that silly goofball who says the dorkiest things, laughs at his own dumb jokes, hugs me from afar, winks at me from across the room, thinks that every ounce of me is gorgeous enough that other women don't turn his head, and every laugh line is something we earned together.  That "one in a billion" that Caris' nailed so beautifully in her note?  Yeah.  That and so much more.