This House

This house is my home.  The physical home I reside in, the one I live and work in.

This house is my past. This house is the here and now, and it is the future.

They say you’re supposed to post pone any big changes for a while after the death of someone close.  Your brain is in a fog, or at least mine was.  After mom died I was in a hazy fog for a few months.  The same could be said about the time following dad’s death, but it manifested it’s way much differently, primarily through brooding and anger.

After dad died it was probably a week after the funeral that I began to frequent this house.  Dad had left a proverbial and a literal mess behind and I began to try cleaning it all up, put pieces back together, and in many ways, start again fresh.  At this point maybe two weeks had passed since dad had died.  I forced and pushed myself to continue on; things had to get done.  I was still in the fresh stages of mourning at this point, and then I was stressed out over this house and the messes I had to clean up.

“Just sell the house.”

“Why don’t you just sell it?”

I was angry.  How could someone suggest such a thing?  I know now that most people who told me to sell the house didn’t take into account some things.  Like I have spent 22 of my 23 years of life in this house.  22 years of my relationship with my momma was concentrated in these four walls.  23 years of my rocky relationship with my dad was also concreted into this house.

If I took everything out of this house, anyone else would see a house.

But for me, it is not just a house.

The memories are still here, good and bad.

In some ways, since it’s just my brother and I left now this house is an entity all of itself.  The house is more human to me now because of the absence of mom and dad.  I still hear the laughter at the kitchen table from inappropriate jokes.  I see momma sitting on the couch with her legs propped up reading her Kindle while dad flip flopped between channels on the TV from his recliner.  I smell the remnants of the string of fire crackers my brother set off outside my bedroom door and can hear mom trying not to laugh from the living room.

This house is home.

This house.

 

 

Just a Stone

A LITTLE PREFACE :: I’ve thought about sharing this piece of writing for a few months now.  The only thing holding me back was I thought I had lost the original work entirely from my first semester back in school last fall.  For some reason I didn’t think I had transferred my documents from my school computer to my external hard drive. But I had also misplaced my hard drive so I hadn’t been able to scour the folders for this very personal piece of writing.

I kind of forgot I had written this for about a month.  I wrote this for an assignment in late November for my college writing class.  I remembered it in January on the truck ride when my friend Cody took me to the cemetery just days before my dad was to join my mom n their final resting place.

This, I believe, is one of the most pure and raw things I’ve ever written and I’ve thought about it’s contents a lot since it was originally penned.

____________________________

Just a Stone

There is a line of vehicles being escorted by police.  Lights are flashing in unison to a silent song.  Traffic is stopped amid the everyday routine of life because it is after all just another day to everyone who is not in the long line of vehicles.  The world for an hour or two to the people in these cars are altered severely, one of their own has passed from this living world.  This is the final goodbye.

A few miles outside of town is a small well-kept country cemetery.  The pasture next to it has cattle roaming throughout the year and the fields across the road hold winter wheat.  Between cows mooing and the occasional vehicle driving by a train can be heard a few times a day in the distance as it passes through to the next town.  This cemetery is home to a series of head stones marking lives of people that have been forgotten about and those whom will be forgotten about soon.

One of the more difficult things to handle when my mother passed away nearly a year ago was figuring out what the head stone should look like.  The company my family went through had slabs of example material in the store ranging in color from dusted pink, to yellow, black, grey, white, blue, and everything in between.  Just after completing this hurdle we were faced with another, how big or how small should the stone be?  Unsure with our decision we were then asked what shape we wanted the stone.  There was an emphasis placed on the importance of this head stone and getting the stone to look just right.

During our visit to the store emotions were running high. Of course this was important, this was the final marking of my brother and I’s mother and our father’s wife.  We spent a couple of weeks debating back and forth if we wanted the tall standing stone or a flat one.  Did we want to spend the extra money on the blue material or should we keep the plain grey? Through the trials of these questions I struggled to grasp making such an important decision without my mother.

The need to have a marking on one’s final resting place has become a necessity as the means to keep the memory of them going and nothing more.  For my brother and I it will be the place we take our future children to see their grandmother.  It will be the place where holidays are celebrated and birthdays remembered for a multitude of people who knew her.  The purpose of the stone is to be a marker and nothing else.  It marks the place where our loved ones are laid to final rest.

The entire process from funeral service, internment, placing of a head stone to holiday decorations is something we’re told to do.  Not a direct order from any one person in particular but an unspoken order we follow.  The person that was once living and breathing, someone whom one could speak to and interact with is now replaced with a stone and some flowers while following this unspoken order.  The head stone represents the one who is no longer living by the way of engravings of names, birthdays, anniversaries, children’s names and quotes.  What happens when the last relative or friend of this person is gone?  There is a series of head stones marking lives of people that have been forgotten about and those whom will be forgotten about soon.

I was upset for months about the finished product of my mother’s head stone.  The poem was supposed to go on the back side of the stone not the front.  I wanted the family name at the top not in the middle.  The list of minor details continues.  It wasn’t what I wanted but my father had already signed off and the company had engraved and placed it; the stone is still there and will continue to be.  For me I was initially caught up in feeling like this head stone was the final representation of my mother’s life and legacy.  In some ways it is.  When family and friends come to visit they will see it may recall the surprise birthday party we held for her fiftieth.  They might remember my mother and father’s wedding or when my brother was born.  It is personal to those who know.

I realize this now more than I began to understand even a month ago.  It is no longer about not having the “perfect” head stone but understanding the stone is just a stone and does not represent the hard lived life my mother courageously lived with passion.  No stone will truly ever be able to capture the essence of a single individual because that person cannot be recreated.  The head stone is just a stone in a row of other stones.

 

The Fourth

 

I spent the most time with my dad in the summer when I wasn’t in school and I’ve been thinking about him a lot the last week.

Last year after my mom died I remember thinking forward to the holidays like I was going to prepare myself for war.  Thanksgiving and Christmas I knew were going to be rough times to handle since we always tried doing things with the four of us together whether that meant we go somewhere or we stay home.  The one who kept us all together and on track and fed us regardless if we deserved to be fed good eats was not with us any longer.

I think amidst the routine of school, handling other life stuff, and then having this countdown in the back of my head until Thanksgiving and Christmas to deal with I forgot about other holidays.  Like Halloween.

Halloween tore me up emotionally and I was totally not expecting it.

Halloween was one of the most fun and exciting holidays that held a lot of childhood memories for me that revolved mostly around my mom.  A lot of it too was the “first” feeling.  The first day back at school, the first exam celebration, the first everything since she died.

I wanted to buy fireworks this year but I didn’t want to do it “single and alone” style as I told my friend Sheila I roped into going with me to the fireworks stand.  I didn’t know why I felt the urge to do fireworks this year, besides the very obvious reason that I love to blow some shit up legally,  so I just went with it.

The parachutes, the missiles, the firecrackers. All of dad’s favorites.

I remember turning to Sheila and telling her it felt oddly weird.  The first time doing fireworks without dad and I felt extremely unsupervised.

I can’t venture to say if the 4th was dad’s favorite holiday or not, but I know he liked it a lot.  And though I may not have appreciated it in the past, I really appreciate now all the years and money dad (and mom and my brother) spent because they are some of the most fun memories I have with my dad.

So, to my neighbors – don’t mind me chasing the parachutes around my yard trying to catch them.  I’m doing it for dad, just like when I was a kid.

The First Summer

The First Summer

The first time I mowed this year I cried.  I didn’t cry because it was the beginning of summer meaning I would be mowing nearly every week.  No, I was crying because reality struck hard, again.

Saturday morning, bright and early before I would have ever thought to wake up, my momma was outside on the mower with the biggest insulated mug she could find filled with iced tea.  She would spend hours mowing on that old green mower before it got too hot to deal with life outside of anything that didn’t have air conditioning.

A few summers we had a garden with family friends Rick and Nancy.  Evenings were spent weeding, watering, and general gardening care and love.  This was only after weekends spent tilling the land, planting, etc.

Mom and I would plant flowers.  Mostly they were the cheap seed packets you could buy at WalMart but sometimes we’d buy pretty blooming ones and repot them to show off on the front deck.  We took extra care with her rose bushes and made sure they were fed the best rose food we could find.

Some evenings we ate dinner on the front deck with Dusty and Missy laying at our feet waiting for something to drop.  The favorite go to during the summer was BLT sandwiches with fresh tomatoes from the garden.  Or, typically, just BT sandwiches because why have lettuce when we could have extra tomato?

The first time I mowed this summer it was like a walk down memory lane.

Underneath the oak tree in the front I remember how dad put the garden hose up in a branch so the water poured down one particularly hot summer.  The dog and I played for hours in the shade with that hose in the tree.  It was better than any sprinkler he could have bought us.

The old garden patch, the pain that is now growing so thick and tall whether or not it rains, made me cry the hardest.  Not only is my mom and dad gone but so is uncle Rick.  There were countless memories made there and laughter that still echoes to this day.

The spot by the barn where my brother has parked his fifth wheel reminded me of when we had a fifth wheel and all the trips we took across Kansas in it with Dusty.  One summer we spent my entire summer break in that fifth wheel and only came home for a day or two at the beginning of the month to pay bills.

The north spot north of the barn reminded me of the summer we had tilled and expanded the garden up there.  Neighborhood kids had come around and we spent a day playing in the mud.  Mom was furious when she got home because we were all covered head to toe in mud.

The reality hit me, again, that day as I mowed; mom and dad are gone.

My momma isn’t here to prod my ass up out of bed on a Saturday to get outside and work.

Dad isn’t here to continually and faithfully bring me water or iced tea as I make circles on the mower.

Momma isn’t here to tell me “I told you so.” when I get sunburned after forgetting to put sunscreen on after she had already reminded me twice.

Dad isn’t here to make burgers for lunch and to sit on the front deck and eat them with a cold Pepsi.

It’s just me and the memories.

And a dog who isn’t smart enough to lay in the shade instead of the sun.

 

Going Fishing

 

Dad used to take me fishing when I was a kid.  “Fishing” should be used relatively loose because what it was not was baiting a hook to catch a fish.  Instead my form of fishing involved putting each of dad’s lures on individually and casting out into the lake with the heaviest weight we could find and reeling it right back in almost immediately.  Dad later retold many of these fishing expeditions as “we washed all of the fishing lures”.

To me back then this was the coolest thing to do with my dad.  We would take off and spend a day down at Wellington or Winfield lake and go fishing.  Sometimes we took the dog with us!

My favorite fishing memory was one year at the Bortz family reunion out at Mead State Lake.  I don’t know what year it was or around how old I was but I most definitely still loved going fishing with my dad.

I’m sure it was a Saturday morning when we left the campsite after breakfast to go to the dock on the other side of the lake to go fishing.  My dad had this obsession and love with ball caps.  He collected them but typically only ever wore one or two of them consistently.  If you knew him, you know what I’m talking about; Ronnie didn’t leave the house without a hat.  The hats would get so dirty we’d run them through the dishwasher once or twice a year.

Things were going about normal, we sat at the end of the dock with dad’s big tackle box sitting between us and I had my fishing pole ready to go.  I began fishing by selecting my favorite lure from the tackle box and adding it to my line.  We probably hadn’t been out there more than twenty or thirty minutes when a gust of wind picked dad’s hat from his head and blew it out into the lake.

Before I knew it he was hollering at me to reel my line in so we could catch his hat.  Heaven forbid a nasty old hat get lost to the depths of Meade State Lake.  I reeled in and before he could have snatched my pole from me I sent a cast out again trying to get his hat.  He took the pole from me as soon as I reeled in and he sent cast after cast out until he finally hooked his beloved hat and was able to reel it back in to the safety of the dock.

I think the only thing that could have made it even more funny to a kid Jessie was if he had put the hat back on his head sopping wet from it’s dip in the lake.

Snake Acquaintances

Let me just start by saying I get freaked out just by thinking about snakes and I’m squirming in my chair as I begin to write this.

Snakes are gross and I do my very best to ignore the fact that I know I have some peacefully roaming in my yard.

It all started a few weeks ago when I went to town, aka: WalMart, and bought some RoundUp at the recommendation of a handful of people when I mentioned I had a lot of work out for the summer with thick overgrown weeds.  I went out on a nice sunny afternoon and began spraying.  Life was going well until I got to the fence line.  I saw the first one, screamed and almost went running for the house.  I was determined to finish spraying though so I continued on.  Then I saw the second one maybe two minutes later and screamed.  I called it quits after the second one that day because I think if I had seen a third one I would have quit working in the yard for the rest of the summer.

I’m 98% sure that the two snakes I saw on the fence were not the same snake.

Just a few days ago I finally got back outside and began mowing the jungle I let my yard turn into.  Again, I came across another snake.  I still screamed and did the heebie jeebie dance but I continued on – there was work to do and I wasn’t about to let anything stop me that day.

I managed to take a photo of a snake I ran over with the mower, it was still alive and squirming.  I think I only squished it with the wheels as my mowing deck was not low enough to actually kill it – what a shame.  I took this photo from the safety of being seated atop the mower and took it to my trusted sources in town who told me the snakes I’ve seen are good for getting mice and rats.

I suppose they can live as long as I don’t find any near the house.  All bets are off then.

Why am I sharing about my snakes when I don’t even like them? Well, because I’ve learned there’s a lesson here.

I’m single and I live alone.  I call my trusted sources and ask questions when my gut says “hey girl, don’t try fixing this by yourself call someone or at least hit youtube”.  I will ask if I really need help with something but at the end of the day I strive to be self sufficient.  I mean, Draco lives here but he’s a damn freeloader and won’t help me fix the door to the basement.

Spiders, mice, and snakes.  The three things that always prompt a “why can’t someone else be here?” thought in my head.  Sure, I scream every time I see a spider but now I don’t run away.  I kill it before I lose sight of it and freak out later.  In the winter months I was catching mice right and left and I eventually just had to deal with it. And now, I’m learning how to deal with my acquaintances.

The lesson with the snakes is reminding me that I don’t have someone else to rely on and I have to buck up and handle the less than desirable things myself.  Even if it means I turn the mower around and squish the snake again for good measure.

Worth Loving

 

I roamed my pinterest boards for a quote I felt like I could share confidently and I found this gem tucked away in one of my boards near the end.

“I don’t know a perfect person. I only know flawed people who are still worth loving.” – John Green

I don’t even know where I want to begin with this one, to be honest.

Before my momma got really sick I was in a spot in my life where I was pretty quick to judge someone on their character upon how they were acting directly in that moment.  Snappy responses to the checkout clerk, exasperated replies to the waiter who was interrupting too frequent.  It was easy to make a quick judgement right there on the spot on someone’s character not knowing the first thing about them or their life.

But then some big shitty life things happened and I understood.

There are numerous things that cause stress, worry and anxiety in everyone’s lives.  Am I saying it’s okay to snap at people? Nope, not one bit.   I don’t have a great day everyday and sometimes I’m less than pleasant to deal with. I hope others will treat me with grace and understanding on those days as I remember my very best to return the favor to others.  I check myself, daily and some days I check myself every time I’m interacting with people and I begin to make those judgements.

We’re all doing life together and life gets shitty, there is no way to get around that.  The days or moments that bring out a little devil in you may be the days you just need some understanding from a stranger.

Each of us are worth loving because one brief interaction does not define who we are as a person.