An Open Letter About Time

Moon_pic monkey

Dearest Reader,

I received a call four days ago. It was one of those calls; the kind that even the phone knows is bad. I was told my father couldn’t speak or move. He had been found that way. “The ambulance is on its way,” she said. “We’ll call once we have more information.”

In the car, I looked through my phone and changed my background to one of him and me. Then I went and listened to my voicemails. The most recent was him saying “You’re never available.” then a click. I couldn’t move–couldn’t breathe really–and began thinking: What was it he said again?  I take what money and put it where? And where are those documents? And then I call whom?

I thought of the little black dress I had bought months ago. The one I was supposed to return, but didn’t. I thought about how scared he might be. I thought about why I was in Indianapolis instead of with him. Why I hadn’t called once we’d reached the hotel. By my calculations, if I would have, it would have been minutes after the stroke hit, buying him and his brain precious time.

I thought of many things.

I thought of how my father was a snipe hunter. How he befriended them and lured them into his confidence. For those of you that know snipes are birds, good for you. At four years of age, however, I was told they were monsters (think of Stripe from the Gremlins, but more vicious, flanked by 20 of his closest friends) that hunted naughty children.

The snipes appeared whenever I was bad, which was pretty often. They laid in wait in the refrigerator the morning after I failed to eat my broccoli. They were concealed beneath my bed after I’d told yet another lie and nipped at my nightgown until I made it safely to the bathroom. Dad said they wouldn’t follow me there (a No Snipe Zone, I was told); nonetheless, knowing they were out there waiting was simply too much. I had a snipe-induced accident right there on the bathroom floor.

They were also known to vacation in the shrubbery framing our suburban home. I never saw them, but I smelled them and Dad confirmed their presence daily. My five-year-old best friend was so terrified of them and, yes, of the peeing incident, that he tiptoed home when they were around, preferring to carry his Big Wheel instead of riding it.

I thought about how Dad was well known, but not well liked in our neighborhood. Most people feared him and for good reason, including freckled Johnny. He was the bus stop bully who tormented my sister to tears. I’ll never forget the day Johnny went too far. Dad took off in his car, Johnny on his bike (not good odds for Johnny). Suffice it to say, Johnny never bothered her again.

And then there was Christmas 1984. Dad warned that Santa didn’t bring presents to little girls who bit their nails, that his trusty elves, employed year round, would out me to Santa and ruin my chances of a big haul. But nothing fazed me: not the threats, the Stop-zit regularly applied to my nails, or the sparkly Michael Jackson gloves I’d been made to wear to school.

When the day of reckoning arrived, my sister and I, clad in matching rainbow-cuffed Maui outfits, made the swift descent to the living room (okay, so her descent was swift. I hobbled down the stairs, through a minefield of Idaho potatoes.). I neglected to see the tear-streaked faces of my family then, at least one horrified, the others merely entertained, as my Dad placed an emergency phone call to the big man himself. He got Mrs. Claus instead who told him there just might be an elf in the area who’d take pity on my poor nail-biting soul if I promised never, ever to chew them again. Of course, I agreed (at four, you don’t quite grasp the finality of never, ever), after which I was sent upstairs to wait on Santa and a random elf’s good graces.

My presents finally arrived and, no, I never bit my nails again. But I never looked at potatoes in quite the same way either. I’ve made my peace with them now, but there was a time when just the sight of one made me cry. In fact, for about three years, I wouldn’t touch them, not even French fried type, which I loved nearly as much a chocolate ice cream without the chocolate syrup (the syrup puts it in a whole other category).

You can imagine my surprise then–after the snipes, the elves and the payback to neighborhood bullies–at seeing my father lying in a hospital room, stripped of any of his usual antics: no scheming twinkle in his eye, no pots of interest to stir. I watched his chest slowly rise and fall. Machines crowded the room. Tubes ran up and down his body—life giving tributaries feeding his heart—as he lay there, completely prone and tumescent. All I could do was stand and stare, praying for him to finally speak and say something funny and yet disconcerting, which only he can do so masterfully.

His hair, recently cut and still parted in that way that neither confirms nor denies boyish charm, was a soft place for my hand to fall. Nostrils, normally flared in defiance, did so involuntarily as his face turned toward the sound of someone or something familiar. The lights, turned down low, cast a sullen glow over him and I felt fear. Stabbing. Hand-wringing. Fear.

As I stood over him, noticing the deep crease in his left earlobe and the shallow pulse in his neck, I thought nothing of the man he hadn’t been. Nothing. Every harsh word exchanged, every disappointment, every hurt, vanished. All I could see was my father. And what surged my heart in those moments was simply this: Who will he become if he survives? And who will I become if he doesn’t?

Standing there, I thought about him teaching me to fish, to dance and to play dashboard drums. I thought about him lying next to me and holding my hand as I suffered our second miscarriage. I thought about the bills that arrived afterward and him handing me an envelope with an invoice slip inside; only one word was handwritten there: paid. I thought about listening to the Oldies and him quizzing me as to who was crooning.

And then I thought about time. How, depending on our stage in life, we either have too much or too little. How it is one resource that once spent, we never get back.

The truth is we each could be one car ride, one phone call, one smile, one I love you away from crossing the starry veil of this life into the next.

One.

heart_snow_pic monkey

So today, I ask you to do something:

Forgive. Ask to be forgiven.

Speak. Be silent.

Make that visit.

Make that call.

Have that conversation (the one that could change everything).

Stop waiting.

And make time.

Me and Dad_pic monkey

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  One thought on “An Open Letter About Time

  1. February 14, 2015 at 8:58 am

    So sorry to hear about your father! You are in my prayers.

    • March 19, 2015 at 12:55 am

      Thank you for your prayers.

      I haven’t heard from you in some time…how are you??

      • March 19, 2015 at 12:37 pm

        Good. Thanks for asking. 27 weeks and counting.

        Hope you are doing better.

  2. February 14, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Thanks so very much for sharing, and reminding . . .

    • March 19, 2015 at 12:58 am

      And thank you, Robert, for reading and caring.

  3. February 14, 2015 at 9:15 am

    Dani, I’m so sorry for what your father and your family are going through. My heart, love and prayers are with you. I can’t think of a more appropriate and true message to share on Valentine’s Day. Every single word you wrote resonates with me. Thank you for caring enough about us to share something so important – that we never know what the next moment will bring so don’t waste right now. And for you to share this while you’re in the midst of your own moment brings me to tears. Much love to you, sweet Dani.

    • March 19, 2015 at 1:06 am

      We write through pain, don’t we, Karen?? As hard as it was to write, I needed to do it. And what’s better?? He’s better. And progressing every day.

      Praise God.
      And blessings to you, lovely.

      With heart,
      Dani

  4. February 14, 2015 at 9:18 am

    Beautiful, Dani. My thoughts and blessings are with you.

    • March 19, 2015 at 1:07 am

      Thank you for both, Georgette.

  5. James G. paul
    February 14, 2015 at 10:09 am

    Best …truest… Most heartfelt thing you have ever written.

    I have thought about Ron a lot.

    Uncle J

    • March 19, 2015 at 1:09 am

      Thanks, Uncle Jim.

  6. Marilyn Secco
    February 14, 2015 at 10:12 am

    Your words moved me to action. The time is now and I will do what needs to be done before it’s too late. Thank you!

    • March 19, 2015 at 1:14 am

      Marilyn, I can’t tell you how touched I am by this. I hope the hand you extended reached back to you.

      With heart,
      Dani

  7. February 14, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Reblogged this on Charissa's Grace Notes and commented:
    I do not dare add any of my thoughts to this…Dani, you know why, Sis…you know why.

    Sooo glad you did not experience the ultimate and have been given this opportunity to invest in this thing made new, old things having passed away.

    Much, MUCH love…Charissa

    • March 19, 2015 at 1:15 am

      No words for this. Thank you ❤

  8. February 14, 2015 at 10:22 am

    What a beautiful piece. Thank you for sharing it with us. My thoughts are with you and your family.

    • March 19, 2015 at 1:28 am

      Thank you for reading, Denise. Your thoughts and prayers mean so much.

  9. February 14, 2015 at 10:31 am

    I’m so sorry to hear that. Your words were really touching. My prayers are with you and your family.

    • March 19, 2015 at 1:29 am

      Thank you so much.

  10. MK
    February 14, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Danielle, Crying, laughing, and heart broken all at the same time–you retold so many memories so beautifully –Life so very precious and you always a 1 Blessing for me! ILYSOMUCHMOM!

    • March 19, 2015 at 1:31 am

      Thanks, Mom ❤

  11. Melissa
    February 14, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Oh, Dani. So sorry to hear about your dad. Wishing you all healing and positive thoughts.

    • March 19, 2015 at 1:33 am

      Thank you so much for reaching out, Melissa.

  12. February 14, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Ms. Danielle my teacher this is my first reading your article. Yes! it made me almost cry and really touched my heart. My prayers are with you and your family.

    with love, Sasi

    • March 19, 2015 at 1:34 am

      You are so sweet. Thank you for reading and thinking of us.

      P.S. I miss being your teacher 😦

  13. kristin bb
    February 14, 2015 at 11:49 am

    i’m so sorry to hear this. it’s been decades since i’ve seen your dad but i have such good memories of him–so funny and smart and charming. the only time i ever saw him angry, he was making an excellent point about white people appropriating aspects of blackness while subjecting black people to prejudice. (your sister and i were trying to “scrunch” our straight hair.) i know there is much more to your dad than i ever saw and i can’t speak to that. i hope he recovers and you two have more time for whatever you want to do with it.

    i also wanted to tell you that your post inspired me to call someone very important to me that i haven’t talked to in a long time…your sister. thank you.

    • March 19, 2015 at 1:39 am

      Kristin, it means so much that you came by and shared your thoughts and memories of my Dad. And thank you for telling me about reaching out to Kat. I hope the two of you were able to reconnect 🙂

  14. TheMomCafe.com
    February 14, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Oh Dani… you are such a gift. A gift that is immensely beautiful- each word you write resonates deeply in my heart. THIS. Touches the darkest parts of my soul. You give me much to soak in… conviction, confirmation, inspiration all at once.

    Thank you for your testimony of love, of life, of what truly matters in this world. I will dare to take the steps to *speak, to *listen to *be silent to *give to *forgive to *reach.

    I’m so sorry about your dad. Your story forces the truth of this life… the reality we all face. At ANYTIME.

    God be with you, my precious friend. And God be with your father.

    • March 19, 2015 at 1:46 am

      Chris, you are wonderful!!

      I have to tell you he is much better. There is a long road ahead, but he’s here and there is hope and grace in that.

      P.S. So blessed to call you friend ❤

  15. February 14, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    I love this line especially:
    “Who will he become if he survives and who will I become if he doesn’t?”
    This is so beautifully expressed. I think this was, although not under the best circumstances of course, one of the best possible posts on such a day as this. I am so sorry to hear about all you are now going through with your father. Time does not stand still. I chose today to write about the five year anniversary of losing my grandfather and how I believe he left, on Valentine’s Day, to be with his only true love.
    I hope you and your family have more time to say the things you wish to say. I wish that for everyone. Thanks for sharing this post today.

    • March 19, 2015 at 2:00 am

      You’re so right, Kerry…the world keeps spinning even when ours stops. Grief and trauma do that.

      I know how blessed I am to have this time with him. I do.

      Blessings to you.
      And thank you.
      Truly.

  16. February 14, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    Dani, my sweet friend, I so hope that your Dad’s doing a bit better.

    So many memories there – such a tangle and so many things I want to say something about but…you’re so right. There’s not all the time in the world. And we need to make the most of the time we have now.

    *sigh*

    Thanks for such a stark reminder, and I’ll continue with prayers that he recovers as much as is possible, and that you get more time.

    *hugs*

    • March 19, 2015 at 2:02 am

      You’ve been here, Lizzi, in prayer and heart since it all began. Thank you for your kindness.Thank you.

  17. February 14, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    Dani, my prayers are with your family. There is nothing I treasure as much as these final fleeting years with my parents. Clearly you have been deeply loved by yours.

    • March 19, 2015 at 2:04 am

      Oh, Sammy, I will be thinking of you and your parents. Thank you so much for thinking of mine.

  18. February 14, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    Dear Dani,
    You’ve been on my mind all day and I hope everything is going okay.
    I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes as I try to type something coherent to compliment your beautiful, but gut-punching words.
    I’ll simply wrap you up in love, pray for recovery and go call my own parents…I’m notorious for letting those calls go to voicemail. Thank you for the gentle reminder. xoxo

    • March 19, 2015 at 2:13 am

      Oh, Michelle, I love that you called them. And voicemail??? Hrmphhhh.

      These are the moments we don’t get back. These are.

      Much love to you, dear one ❤

  19. February 14, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    A beautiful reminder to all of us to be more present. None of us can control what may happen next but we do have a choice to make each moment count. Many blessings to you and your Dad during this difficult time.
    Karen

    • March 19, 2015 at 2:17 am

      Thank you for this beautiful sentiment, Karen:

      “None of us can control what may happen next but we do have a choice to make each moment count.”

      Here’s to making them count. XO

  20. February 14, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    Dani, you have entered into the mystery of the interior, death’s door, time outside of time, where fear, of never again, as well as of what never was and now, perhaps no chance for it, grabs your chest, and longing washes your face with tears, You recall so much, and dread much more.

    And even your pain is holy.

    In the midst of so private a moment, you have shared your heart, and in doing so, given us the gift of loving you through this,

    And, hopefully, loving more wholly when we turn back to our own lives.

    We cannot be there to stroke your head or hold your hand or wipe your tears, but your words have looped our hearts with yours.

    And you are not alone, sweet sister.

    Never alone.

    Love,

    Jane
    (praying for you, always)

    • March 19, 2015 at 2:22 am

      Jane, I was moved to tears by this. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being my friend ❤

  21. February 14, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    Bawling. So beautiful. Profound. Gut-wrenching. Raw. And stirring of so much emotion in this girl with a very rocky past with her father yet so much adoration for him. Dreading the day I lose him. I’m so deeply sorry for what you are enduring, Dani. Thank you for this much-needed, important reminder. Love! Gonna share and re-blog. You have such a gift with words and make me want to be a better person. Thank you!

    • March 19, 2015 at 2:33 am

      Oh, Jackie. Thank you doesn’t seem enough. I hope we can all inspire those around us to be better. Goodness knows I have those around me who do.

      Blessings to you, friend.

  22. February 15, 2015 at 7:11 am

    Dani, I am so very sorry to hear about your father and my heart and prayers are with you.

    These words spoke so strongly to me today. I so appreciate you taking a very personal struggle and allowing me to learn from it. Life is not guaranteed, that is sure, and I spend entirely too much time not saying the things that need to be said or spending the time that needs to be spent. Here. And now. I know this in my head and my heart and somehow it took your words to drive it home.

    I will keep you and yours close to my heart. Please keep us updated and know that if you need to reach out, I am here.

    • March 19, 2015 at 2:37 am

      Sandy, you don’t know how much your message means. Thank you for taking the time to read and share your heart here. And thank you for extending your hand to me in such a trying time. I will not forget. Ever.

      With heart,
      Dani

  23. Renato
    February 15, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Your feelings and caring for others are a true gift, my love. I treasure this and much more in you, my dearest Soulmate. ❤

    • March 19, 2015 at 2:38 am

      Te amo, LINDINHO ❤

  24. Linda Jo
    February 15, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Dani, you touched on some very precious memories here. I had heard the ‘potato’ story many times before. Lol. I have been keeping Ron and all the family in my prayers and pray that Jesus, the greatest physician will restore him to good health once again. I too, have a Dad facing medical challenges and I can relate to the heart-wrenching pain that you feel about someone you love, your Dad, your hero. My God’s love bring you comfort and peace as you go through this trial. Love you always ❤

    • March 19, 2015 at 2:42 am

      Oh, Linda, I know you do, as well. Thank you for your prayers. I will keep you and yours in mine.

  25. February 15, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    Heartbreakingly beautiful . . . finding the right words to leave you with is difficult . . . for now, I will simply leave you with prayers and hugs and tell you *this* was beautiful.

    • March 19, 2015 at 2:44 am

      What you left is more than enough, Crystal. Thank you ❤

  26. pattyhayesmurdock
    February 21, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    Having lost my own parents five and seven years ago, this was a much needed reminder of those last precious days…and the need to finally forgive myself for being less than perfect (in my heart) as a grown and far-too-busy offspring. Thank you.

    • March 19, 2015 at 2:48 am

      Compassion begins in the mirror, Patty. I’m so glad you been able to gift yourself with some.

      Blessings to you.

  27. Laura
    March 1, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    I’m sorry that I’m so very behind on my reading, dear friend. Life has surely been crazy these 8 weeks, on top of a crazy 12 months before that. But I want you to know that I love you and I love your heart for sharing so many wonderful thoughts. I also loved hearing the stories of your dad from the childhood-Dani that I didn’t know. More prayers your way….. speak with you soon.

    • March 19, 2015 at 2:57 am

      I think we’re all a bit behind on certain things, Elle. Life keeps pushing forward, especially when we’d like to drop anchor in a particular time or space. Just know how much I appreciate your reaching out and letting me know that you care.

      Miss you,
      Dee

  28. March 4, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Dani,
    I’ve also been behind on reading and just saw this update. I’m so sorry for what you and your family have been going through. Lots of love and light is being sent your way. ❤

    • March 19, 2015 at 2:59 am

      Thank you for the love and light, Courtney. We could certainly use both.

      With blessings,
      Dani

  29. March 8, 2015 at 5:42 am

    Dani, my heart breaks for you. I am praying. I am here, friend. I am so sorry. I am praying that you are enveloped in love peace and comfort. Love, Gracie

    • March 19, 2015 at 3:02 am

      Gracie, we’ve been so blessed and lucky through all of this. He’s here. We’re here. And there’s love. Lots of it.

      With heart,
      Dani

  30. Kirk Macnider
    March 12, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    Danielle,

    In all truth, I was just thinking and remembering you a couple days ago. Today, a high school friend of ours forwarded me this blog out of the blue, asking if I remembered who it was; of course, I did.

    I am sorry to hear of your father. Your writing makes me reflect on my current lack of a relationship with my parents. Thank you for sharing your writing for all to see.

    I wish you the all the best.

    Sincerely,
    Kirk Macnider

    • March 19, 2015 at 4:00 am

      Kirk, thanks for reaching out; it’s great to hear from you. And thank you for reading. Truly.

      I was sorry to hear about the distance from your parents. I’m sure there are reasons; goodness knows, there always are.

      Anyway, it was a pleasant surprise hearing from you. High school doesn’t seem all that long ago.

      I do hope you’re well. And who knows.?.? Maybe our paths will cross again someday.

      With thanksgiving,
      Dani

  31. Sil
    March 17, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    Dear Dani, I don’t have words to say how much I feel for your loss, but please feel embrace on the millions of loving hugs and kisses I am sending your way. Thanks for sharing your story and your beautiful soul with us.

  32. March 19, 2015 at 4:36 am

    Sil, I’m hoping you didn’t misunderstand; my father didn’t pass away. He came close, much too close for my and our comfort, but he’s still here and is slowly progressing. Thank you for the hugs and kisses. They have been lovingly received.

    With blessings,
    Dani

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