Happy Birthday Dad.

Today is my dad's birthday.  In honor of you Dad, I intend to consume a slice of carrot cake and a tall glass of cold milk.  My brother Benj thought we should write you letters and mail them to you for your birthday but of course I did not get it done.  And I decided it would be better to post it publicly on my blog.  It is my first blog in over 7 months and I can think of no better way to get started again than to say "Thank You" to you Dad and wish you a very public "Happy Birthday"

Keith Urban sings a song, "Song For Dad", off his "Golden Road" album.  I heard it again a few weeks ago and it hit me.  One of the lines reads "he did the best he could".  As children I used to think you and mom were superheroes.  And of course, I know now that is not true.  But it takes a long time to recognize that as a child.

One of my very first memories with you was when we went to the fireworks in Seaside, probably with Grandma and Grandpa. I may have been anywhere from 2-3 years old, I am not entirely sure.  I hid in your chest and I remember feeling safe as you gathered me in your arms and shielded me from the loud and scary sounds and lights.  Now I love fireworks!  

I remember when you guys took me to get my first bike and Jason got his first Big Wheel and mine was a bright shiny red Schwinn.  I was so excited!  It took me forever to learn to ride, but I did.  We lived in Astoria and about the same time you had this old motorcycle that never worked but you would give us rides around the yard and try to get it started by running it down the big hill in our back yard of the house on Grand Avenue.  It never worked, of course.  You and mom and Uncle Pat and Aunt Linda would play Millebornes and one of my favorite Christmases ever was in that house.  Mom made candy and I got fashion plates.  

We had the real 8-track tapes and vinyl and you let me listen to classic rock bands like the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and the Doobie Brothers.  You had this album of Cat Stevens and it fascinated me.  I would spend what seemed like hours looking at it mainly because there was some sort of spider on it.  We moved up to Forest Grove and then Banks after a series of logging accidents forced you to train for a new career.  You had been going to school during the week and then coming home on the weekends.  Honestly, I don't know how you did it. 

I started playing t-ball and softball and was so excited for my new cleats I ran back and forth outside Grandpa's apartment in Forest Grove the night I got them just to prove my cleats made me run faster.  We moved to Banks and I played softball and then volleyball and then we moved on to Portland because you had to move into the city because you started working for the city.  I really, really wanted to go to Grant High School because I had met some guys who went to Grant that came to wrestle at Banks Jr. High. One weekend, my parents blindfolded my brother Jason and I and drove us through the Portland to show us where our new house was.  2 blocks from Grant High School.

I could go on and on with memories and I think what I am trying to say is even through all the difficulties, and there are lots, I would not trade you for anyone else.  I can honestly say I love you with all my heart.  Last summer we had such a great time with you and I miss you!  I felt sad when you left and I can't tell you how many times when I'm driving I'm looking for places you could move to so you could be closer.  Benj and I have even talked about coming to visit you in Montana.  And if you ever do want to move, you know you already have a moving crew.  

I am proud of the way you have persevered, if I can say that, and I just want you to know that.  I have so many good memories and you taught me so many good things.  My love of music, the written word, teaching me to be independent, my quirky sense of humor, my heritage and I am proud to say I am your daughter.  So watch this video, and listen to this song, and though he talks about being a son or man,  you can insert daughter or woman in there.  Happy Birthday Dad, I love you so much!

Happy Birthday Mom.

Today she would be 67.  Born Linda Dianne Hawkins, she was my mother for 33 years of my life.  It seems so short when I type it, and seems rather unfair.  But, through some very dark long years, I have made my peace with it.  I dare not wallow in the why because I will never know.  

In her memory, my brothers and I all have an angel tattooed on our chest, over our hearts.  I'm not sure she would like to be memorialized that way, but she is our angel.  There have been times when I have heard her speak to me very clearly.  Not in an outloud kind of way, but in a spirit to spirit kind of way.  Think that's weird?  Yea, so did I.  

We think we have things all figured out.  But after Mom died, I realized I had very little figured out.  And most likely never will figure most things out.  One thing I did figure out: I could no longer live life as I had been.  Everything changed.  The building of my life imploded and I had to pick through the rubble deciding what to keep, if anything, and what to rebuild.  This has been a very long and sometimes very painful process.  

They say time heals all things.  I don't think it's just time.  Many people have had lots of time and are still bitter about what has happened in their lives.  I also think it's a choice.  I knew that bottoming out and spiraling into that deep dark hole of grief did nothing to honor my mother's life.  At times crawling and scratching, I made my way through and out of the darkness.  

I scan my heart for remnants of pain.  Yes, I miss her.  Yes, I would give pretty much anything to have her back, even for a day.  But the fresh pain is healed over.  I don't exactly know when, but I know it has.  My emotions carry a huge scar, a reminder, but I don't live there anymore.  I know the story, but I don't live the story.  

Dark nights of the soul are part of us, but they don't need to define us.  I am thankful for all that she taught me. I am grateful for the many people she impacted in her life.  I am honored by the love she bestowed on me while she was here.  I could not have had a better mother for me.  I carry all the love with me that she generously gave to others, while never making us feel neglected.  

I always thought she balanced between the physical and spiritual worlds more than any person I knew.  She lived in the light and was not afraid of the darkness.  I saw her walk in and rescue people from the dark many times.  She never gave up, not once.  She always believed in us.  When she talked to you, she knew you.  She knew the mailman, the grocery clerk, the homeless man in the park.  And she prayed.  Always and forever praying.  

Our home was filled with warmth and laughter.  Though we did not have a ton of material things, she was always there, and we always had enough.  Things got difficult during her sickness for our family, but the one thing I remember is that she and Dad were friends.  No matter what happened, that never changed, because they always loved each other.

If you would have told me twenty years ago this is how my life would unfold, I would not have believed it.  Living life without a parent is difficult, I'm not gonna lie.  I can't tell you how envious I am of people who can call their parents and go to lunch.  I don't have that luxury anymore.  No matter how amazing Mom was, she is physically gone.  And that cannot be undone.  

So in honor of her, love.  Dream.  Find the beauty in the world, because it is there.  Listen to the music, because she always did.  She instilled a fierce independence in us, and never held back on her love.  We should not either.  If she had something to say, she would tell you, no matter if you were the CEO or the janitor.  Make sure the ones you love know it.  Live your truth and be authentic.  

I remember her voice, her warm hands.  That crazy curly hair.  Her love of snow.  A warm, tidy home, with something always cooking or baking.  Her love of words, and writing.  Daily music in the house because she constantly played the piano and sang. She loved antique jewelry and old books.  She was firm, never raised her voice, but kind.  What she said, she meant.  She left me with so many words of wisdom, I keep many of her notes close at hand to read when I need some encouragement.  

I wish I could hug her one more time, or see her smile.  I wish she could know her grandchildren, and her great granddaughter, Audree.  Little miss Audree is the first girl to be born in my immediate family since me.  I have a suspicion this little one may carry some of the essence of my mother's spirit with her.  In her little face, she carries the wisdom of the ages.  

Of all the cards we received at her memorial, this is the one I still keep with me to this day, and how I choose to remember her:

Happy Birthday Mom!!  I love you!