Sunday, November 1, 2015

Oh, Kaye! talks about "firsts"


They can be pretty special.

That first kiss with someone you'd been dying to kiss - remember that?

Your first trip to a vacation spot you'd been dying to visit?

If you're a writer - seeing your first piece published?  Your first book on a shelf in a bookstore?

If you're an artist - seeing your first piece hanging, seeing your first piece of pottery in a gallery?

Remember?  Of course you do.

Moments that cannot be explained in words that could ever match what you feel inside.

But you remember.

There are others.

There are the firsts that will tear a person's heart out.

The first holiday without that person you loved.

First birthday.

I've gone through some firsts recently.

Good ones.

Bad ones.

Now I'm trying to learn how to balance them.

Learn to live with loss, but at the same time not let it cast too long a shadow over the things that can bring joy.

It's hard.

I've suffered losses recently.

The toughest of them on July 28th.

Several of my friends have also suffered losses in the recent past.  It seems like an awfully high number, honestly.  Is it the fact of growing older that increases the losses?  I suppose.  

But knowledge, in this case, does not make it easier.  Does not ease the pain.

What does?

What can help ease the pain of loss?

Opening yourself, I guess, to the joy of the firsts that can, if allowed, bring you a bit of happiness.


Those are things that your missing loved ones would share with you, and embrace.  And want you to embrace.

I recently opened a box of my mom's things that has been sitting in our sunroom since July.  I thought it was a box of old photos and I just wasn't ready.  

Finally thinking I was as ready as I'd ever be, I fixed a cup of coffee, invited Harley up on the sofa with me and opened the box.

There were, indeed, photos.  Photo albums.  Envelopes full of photos.  


There were also stacks of magazines.

Stacks of three separate magazines.

A regional magazine that included an interview with me done by my friend Marlisa Mills.  A local magazine with an interview of me along with a review of  "Whimsey."  A regional magazine which included an essay I had written.

Why so many copies?

And how did she even come to have so many?

Questions, I can't ask her.  Will never know the answer to.

and hitting me like a slap in the head was the knowledge that I had made my mom proud.

I was lucky.

I had a mom and a dad who could easily tell me, and show me, that I made them proud.

I know there are many not so lucky.



Finding those magazines . . .

So while I'm dealing with the fact that my mom won't be here to help me fix this year's Thanksgiving dinner - a first.  I'm going to temper it and try to find some kind of balance in remembering how proud she was of me.  And place next to her spot at our Thanksgiving table another first - a copy of a magazine that named me one of their winners in a short story contest, Southern Writers Magazine.   The joy in this is mine.  It would be a much larger joy if I could share it with my mother.  

Firsts.  Balance.  

So.  Reds.  Let me tell you - this was not the piece I started out to write.  
Anyone want to share anything here?  
Anything concerning losses, firsts - balancing?

sending out hugs to all of you.


Mark Baker said...

So much wisdom about balancing things out. I don't know that I can offer any wisdom, but I found this very moving. It's wonderful to know how much your parents were proud of you, even now, isn't it?

Joan Emerson said...

Congratulations for your winning story . . . that's such marvelous news and a very special joy.

Loss is such a personal thing; the comfort of friends can be a true blessing. Dealing with loss is difficult, and, in my experience, always changing. Some days are better than others; holidays and special times often bring their own particular heartache.
It seems to be different for everyone, but I'll offer a suggestion or two in hopes that you will find strength to deal with the holiday and peace in knowing about all the pride and love that was felt for you.
Shed a few tears . . . be grateful for those still here with you . . . know that as long as a person is remembered, they are never truly gone. You won't miss them any less, but you may find a particular peace in being able to hold them close in your heart.

Reine said...

The first time I skipped school was great. I walked across Front Street past Mr. Herreshoff's castle and through the grass to the top of the long stairway overlooking the harbor. I climbed instead to a rock flat enough to sit on comfortably and read a book.

Kaye Barley said...

oh, Mark. thank you. Like I said, it wasn't the piece I started out to write and became much more serious than I anticipated. and yes - it is pretty wonderful knowing that. even now.

Joan, wise words from you and I appreciate them. Tears have become a more regular occurrence than I could have ever imagined. And yes ma'am, gratefulness - lots of that in my heart.

Reine, I'd like to hear more about Mr. Herreshoff's castle some day.

Kait said...

How wonderful that your mother left you that box, and that you found the courage to face the contents at a time when it could give deeper meaning to this holiday season ahead. Very, very, moving piece.

Kaye Barley said...

Thanks very much, Kait. Making a confession here - I was a little stunned when my first thought was to call her and ask how on earth she had managed to get so many copies. And why?? Stunned because I couldn't, of course, call her. Then I was a little angry at her for leaving.

FChurch said...

How to go on after a loss--how to navigate the untraveled country, that's what no one can teach us. First my mom, then my dad, less than three months apart--both unexpectedly. And then, two babies--one 6 weeks' old and his brother one year old--and my brother trying to cope with it all. Did I mention I lost my job, too? I opened my heart and never looked back. So much grief--and so much joy--

A first? First time I breathed sun on pines in mountains, and my heart whispered: "Home."

Anonymous said...

Wow, Kaye!!!! You sure do know how to make a girl cry!!!!! You have the most wonderful gift of going right into people's hearts! Thelma Straw in Manhattan

Kaye Barley said...

FChurch, I admire your strength and your ability to balance all that you have. wow. And "home." what a beautiful word/feeling, huh?

Thelma Straw Honey - wipe away those tears! and thank you again, my friend, you ALWAYS lift me up. Always.

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Thanks for all the heartfelt comments! We are traveling this road too, with John's mother just gone. Here's what my wise friend Cathy Stentzel said: when your mother dies some of your deepest heart memories and longings go with her.

So if that doesn't explain why it's so hard...

and congratulations on the story Kaye, life stumbles on, right?

Kaye Barley said...

oh, Lucy/Roberta, I'm sorry, sweetie. Sending you and John hugs and strength. And yep, life stumbles on which is a perfect way of saying it. Thank you.

Hallie Ephron said...

People earn the tears we shed for them... and your mother certainly earned yours. What a sweet post. A lot of us are working through various losses right now... and cherishing the loved ones we have. Our first grandbaby is visiting with us this weekend, and seems like every moment is another 'first.'

Kaye Barley said...

First Grandbaby. Oh, Hallie - nothing much more special than that. Sending the sweet angel a kiss (and a hug to you).

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh,Kaye, you are the most eloquent and touching author!
Thank you--and congratulations on the story! With many more to come…
After my mom died, we were each given a box, in which she had put all the things she had kept about our lives. Mine was full of clippings, and photos, and memories,. But mostly… It smelled like her. Every time I open the box, out comes a waft of her perfume. And, so far, after two years, or more, it has not diminished.

Sometimes, when I am trying to make a decision, I go into that room, and open the box, and see what advice I find, or feel. Something always happens.

Kaye Barley said...

oh my - Hank, this story about your mother and the box is magical and lovely. and those kind words? Coming from you?! you have no idea . . . thank you.

Elisabeth said...

O, Kaye! It is a poem that you've given us. Thank you for the beautiful stringing together of the words and feelings. Blessings.

Kaye Barley said...

Elisabeth. Thank YOU. so much

Deborah Crombie said...

Kaye, thank you. Such a lovely post--and poem--and so many moving and thoughtful comments. I'm feeling very lucky today to be a part of this group of friends, scattered as we may be.

I'll be thinking of you on Thanksgiving, Kaye, and of that place set for your proud mom. I still think, "Oh, I'll ask Mom," all the time. She's been gone for two years, and wasn't able to communicate much for a good while before that. But it doesn't matter. She's still here. My daughter asked me last night if we could start planning a yearly family vacation (there will be so many firsts this year, with the baby due in February). She wants to continue the tradition we had when she was growing up of spending a special time every year with her grandparents. Thinking about those times made them seem so close, my mom and dad, and I was so touched that creating those experiences matters to my own lovely daughter.

We go on, and the firsts--the hard ones and the joyous ones--both make us richer.

love and hugs

Kaye Barley said...

Debs, I've been standing back reading and listening and watching as you and your lovely daughter have moved into the newer phase of close friends. It's been lovely and heartwarming. That she has these memories of vacations that were more memorable than you realized at the time must fill your heart. That she wants to continue them must cause it to overflow. You, my dear, have raised such a special young woman. And I have no doubt that the newest member of the family coming along in February is going to have nothing short of a magical life ahead. Love and hugs right back to you, my friend.

Kathy Reel said...

Oh, wow! So many heartfelt comments about those we've lost. Kaye, you really do have a gift of touching deep, strong emotions with your writing. Lucy, what your friend said about losing a mother really captures that loss. I know that husbands and children love us in special ways, but the unconditional love of my mother is, well, the most unconditional love I've ever known. Except, and now there is an exception that I didn't know was coming, the love of a grandchild. I think one of the joys of being with my six-year-old granddaughter is that she looks at me with pure love, a clean slate of bonding from day one. Of course, the difference is that with a mother's love, you will always be at the center of her universe. Last night I was at a friend's house, and we were talking about a parent's love and how unconditional it is throughout a child's life, no matter how old the child. Oh, and those memories you do share. For some reason, I seem to always go to my mother bandaging my skinned knee on our front porch. She was so gentle, even when putting the dreaded Mercurochrome on it, talking to me and soothing me. I was also telling a friend this week, when I was having that yucky stomach flu like Debs, that nobody takes care of you like your mother when you're sick. My mother used to fix me a baked potato and orange jello when I had a tummy bug, and I thought about that this week.

And, Kaye, hearty congratulations on your short story success!

Pat D said...

Oh yes, life is difficult at times. My dad died a year ago today. My father-in-law died this past May. I miss them both dearly. My mother-in-law had to be moved into an assisted care facility. She has dementia and has no short term memory. It is heartbreaking at times to see the person she has become. My mother lives at the senior community she and Dad moved to just months before he died. Thank heaven she has all her wits and humor.

Reine said...

Kaye, this was a lovely post. It was more than that, however. It has given me something I hadn't expected and is very welcome. When I first read it, I wasn't going to post anything of my own, because I could think of no firsts that were good or appropriate... hard to express what I felt. I couldn't come up with any but the very worst first memories. Although they may be hidden inside under although the horror, I still can't. Yet, in reading others' I find there is happiness in knowing that it is possible, and I can share in a collective of good memories that are not my own though somehow are a part of me.

Kaye Barley said...

Kathy, thank you, sweetie! You are always, without fail, the one to find the good and the very best in each of us. I'm not sure you know what a gift that is. It's hard, if not impossible, for some people to hand out praise but you do it with a natural joyous touch that is enviable. You're quite special and I for one am beyond thankful to have you in my life.

Pat and Reine - I send you hugs and hopes for good things.

Kathy Reel said...

Kaye, for once I am speechless. Thank you, and please know that you are a bright ray of sunshine in my life every day online. So happy I finally met you in person in Raleigh. xxxooo

Christopher Lord said...

Such a lovely essay, and one that clearly strikes a chord with all of us.

For me, one of the stupidly frustrating things about the last few years of my dad's life was that, whenever I visited him (fifty miles away) or whenever I flew anywhere, he expected me to call him when I returned home or landed. "But I commute 25,000 miles a year," I said, "and you don't worry about me then." "You've never had children," he said. "You don't understand." So I played the dutiful son.

The first time I flew somewhere after he died and my plane was getting ready to land, I realized that I had no call to make, for the first time in years. That was the moment I really experienced his loss in a way that felt like a blow to the sternum. Now, three years later, when my plane lands (and I travel more since I retired from my "real" job), I re-experience that feeling to a lesser degree, a beautiful blend of sadness, regret, and love.

Kaye Barley said...

Kathy - xxoo ! !

Christopher, the phone. I'm still reaching for the phone to tell her something. And yes, calling when you get home to let your dad know you arrived safely. Things we didn't give too much thought or consideration to at the time, but become enormous. later. I'm glad you stopped by, thank you.

Earl Staggs said...

Loved this post, Kaye. Everything you write is filled with honest and loving emotion. Yesterday held a first for me. My grandson and his wife invited us to see their first house. While there, I couldn't help but think back to when we visited his mother's first house. From there, I went back to when Carol and I had our first house. That first house is a major memory in anyone's life and I spent most of yesterday thinking about three generations of them. It was a beautiful day.