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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Lucky 13 - For Jojo Smith

I took an inventory.  It turns out I've written about the Smith family, or mentioned them, no less than 13 times on this blog.  I'm surprised....that it's not more.  This family has been a huge part of our world since we moved into this neighborhood in 1992.  I'm pretty sure I survived motherhood because of my friend Nancy.  I took notes.  They lived.  All six of them.  Her three and my three.  We're on the other side.  But....there was a support system in place.  And the Smiths know better than anyone how a support system works.

                             (Tim Smith, Averie, Kyle Smith, Branden Smith, Jojo Smith, Caris)

We've witnessed street hockey stories, BB guns on roofs stories, Mexico adventures, broken bones, blood, bruises, boys, boys, boys, crying girls, dummies in the street, dog jerky pranks, puppy delivered rat butts, koolaid hair, river camping, snipe hunting, watermelon floating, skimboard surfing, panaderia shopping, slingshot confiscation, ferris wheel death defying, Santa Johnny gift tosses, For Pete's Sake eye-rolling, Lookie-loo house tours, and the list goes on and on.  The fact is, no one outside our world, unfamiliar with Smithdom will understand any of this.  Nor would I expect them to.  I write this solely for me.  If someone else comes along and wants to fall into this world temporarily, so be it.

A dear one in our sphere, Joe Smith, or Jojo as he is affectionately known by the family, is teetering on the border between this earth, and whatever non-earthly realm he and his family believe in.  Jojo is, for lack of a better term, a one man lesson in "Whatever".  He never hesitated to roll with the flow, but he is also quick to roll his eyes at whatever might be going on in the ever-unpredictable Smith universe, and follow that eye-roll with an under-the-breath; "What a dumbass."  He is an on-call uncle.  Always there.  Always.  Beloved. 

When learning that Joe might be leaving us, The Grommet relays to me a story of the days when Joe lived across the street; "He would watch me play hockey in the street by myself, and he'd always tell me that I was going to make it to the NHL.  He said I was that good.  I love Joe.  He always made me feel like I could do anything I wanted to do, and he never let a time go by when I had my skates on, that he didn't tell me how good he thought I was."  I know there are many more stories with Bry and the Smith boys.  But, there's an understanding that is akin to Fight Club.  So I venture no further.  The stories will come, as they do, when the family gathers.

My favorite Joe story is one where I look at him as a glowing beacon in a seemingly unending dark tunnel.  It was almost 20 years ago.  We were trying desperately to make some improvements to our long-neglected home.  Charlie, Bryson, and I had spent days digging trenches, laying pvc sprinkler lines, grading, rolling, tamping down, and basically sweating blood in our front yard.  We were behind, and the very expensive sod that we ordered and had delivered was basically sitting on a pallet, dying.  We had been at it all through a long day, and we were losing daylight.  Suddenly, headlights from a vehicle was blinding us in the darkness, then another set of headlights.  Joe, my friend Nancy, their brother-in-law Kenny, their nephew Peter, and our other neighbor Ed, all standing in our driveway.  Joe called out; "Let's lay some sod!", and they made a bucket chain and began throwing squares of sod, one to another.  Within the hour, all of us had done what I would have considered the impossible, and we finished that lawn.  Nancy tells me Joe had been watching us, and wondering why Charlie didn't come over and ask for help.  Finally, in frustration, Joe decided that he wasn't going to wait to be asked, and formed a committee all on his own.  "That", says Joe, "is how it's done."

I know there are endless stories.  I listened to many of them as I sat in a hospital waiting room with friends and family.  You talk about your loved one.  You share the things that make you smile.  The memories that are dear.  There will be many more to tell, and the telling of them will bring peace.  But for now, my heart is with our dear, dear friends the Smiths, who have included us as family from the beginning.  In this family, there has been an abundance of amazing characters.  Joseph Smith is a powerhouse among them.

We love you Jojo.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Soft Heart, Cruel World

It's not the first time I've noticed a pattern.  New years are not good for me.  January is when I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I don't know why.  The excitement of new days and fresh beginnings that some people experience is lost to me.  Again, I do not know why.  The end of a year simply morphs into another day with a different filing tab.

I had an amazing Christmas.  I had been looking forward to it for months and months, and it was the culmination of a lot of planning.  Many things had to fall into perfect place, and indeed, it did.  There were some blips along the way, but nothing that any family doesn't experience during holiday gatherings.  All in all, it was everything I hoped and dreamed it would be with just a few small exceptions.  I would have loved it if my sister-in-law, Beth was still here with her family.  I would have called our Christmas in Anacortes absolutely perfect if my sister Loke and my brother-in-law Phil were with us.  But, as they say, you can't have everything.

It did suck that we got sick, and that sickness followed us home.  It made the last week of Charlie and Caris' vacation pretty bad.  And perhaps, that is where my melancholy began to set in.  No new year celebration, none of the excitement of gathering with friends to see out the old and see in the new.  Just home, all of us, nursing illness. 

I tried to bask in the afterglow, and be very, very grateful for what I had been lucky to experience.  My family and dear friends around me in a place that I truly love.  I tried to remind myself to put on a smile and move into the world as if nothing was amiss.  This is always my intention.  But things don't always go according to plan, and the road to hell, so they say, is paved with good intentions.  Sometimes, despite how hard you fight, depression wins. 

Lately, I have done the work, and I have moved through the days.  I did the things I was supposed to do.  I got my mammogram done, and yes, even that dreaded lung CT.  I've done my bloodwork, I've had my spinning head diagnosed.  I've packed boxes for mailing, I've done the chores, and run the errands.  I'm going through the motions. 

Unfortunately, things that penetrate my soft heart in this cruel world make resistance difficult.  A dog that I don't know passing away guts me.  I linger on the thought of my sister-in-law, I cannot get the senseless killing of animals for no reason out of my head, a friend deciding to leave a circle over a passionate stand clips my wings, an unkind word excused as "a joke" leaves a scratch slow to heal, and then a perception of dismissiveness literally lays me out.  That was the last of it for me. 

At some point, you can take what the world throws at you while you hold up your Wonder Woman bracelets to fend off the slings and arrows.  Then, you reach your limit and you just can't hold it anymore.  You can't bite your tongue.  You can't stay silent.  You can't just sit there and pretend that you agree with offhanded cavalier remarks.  At least, I know I can't.  I think what is possibly worse, is the disappointment.  You don't always have to agree with people.  But you certainly shouldn't dismiss their passion, however unworthy that passion may be to you.  I always thought that with friendship came a bit of loyalty.  Sometimes, I guess, there are levels of loyalty.  I can't seem to find the loyalty level that prevents me from getting hurt.  You'd think after 57 years, I'd get the memo.

Again, I find that the one constant in my life is the one I come home to.  The one who is always there, always faithful, always in my corner, always listening when the cruel world is just more than I can bear.  This soft heart he knows, and he doesn't make me feel bad because of it.  He doesn't dismiss me, or roll his eyes.  He simply opens his arms, holds me and says it is the very reason he loves me so much.  Now, if I could just lift myself out of the muck as skillfully as he does.