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I remember hands.

When I think of someone I haven’t seen for a long time. Or someone I will never see again. I see their hands. My mind pictures the shape of their nails. The length of their fingers. Slender. Wide. Rounded or squared. The curve of their wrist. The gestures they made.

Unique. Personal.

But they change. Our hands.

Fingers bend with an arthritic curve. Skin tells of our days in the sun. Scars. Lines. Creases. Spots. Yes. They change. And yet, there’d be no mistaking them. We would still know them anywhere. And to whom they belonged.

And that’s true for us. We bend. Curve. Digress. Succeed.

Scar. Fail. Fall. Fly. Hurt. Heal.

And change.

Because nothing ever stays the same. Even if it seems so. Not our hands. Not us.

But we will always reach for the familiar. Seek the uniqueness. Strive to see the recognizable.

The memorable. The unforgettable.

We’ll always look for what we understand. We will always know each other. Even through continuous change. Because despite sometimes believing we want things to stay the same, we thrive on growth. Diversity.

Spice.

The things that make us look closer. Use our minds. Feel. Find. Connect.

The things that give us a hand…to hold on.

AlanaHanad

I really don’t watch that much TV so ignore the remote and focus on the fact that I was brave enough to post this extreme close-up of my unmanicured mitt. It was a spontaneous shot. ;0)

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Did I mention we have pups?

 

Ohhh yes. We sure do. Well, they’re pups bordering on adulthood. But when we got them back in October 2016, they were wild and bouncy babes.

 

And because of them, all kinds of things are happening.

 

They are mini magicians. These doggies. They’ve magic’d our entire carpet into one big potty. And all of a sudden, our kitchen table seems to be about two inches closer to the ground.

 

Yes, they are as cute as all get out, but me oh my, are they a handful.

 

Times two.

 

And as I say, they’re making things happen.

 

We are currently in the process of replacing the carpet in question. Which is, of course, a very welcome change of scene. But as all updates and renovations do, one thing has led to another and we are now replacing the entire lower level flooring.

 

The stairs.

 

And the landing.

 

And doing so, has prompted us to hire an 18 foot long skip to clear out the last 18 years of our life in this house. One foot for every year. A somewhat eerie coincidence, don’t you think? (Okay now…where’s my little pensive emoji guy)

 

And as I’m sure you know, the arduous task of clearing out. Unburdening. Is both entirely painful and hugely liberating. But to make it especially challenging, I have apparently kept every single card

 

ever

 

given

 

to

 

me.

 

Not to mention every single card I have ever given to my three children. And my husband. And I sat there in the driveway, on a little stool beside the skip, and read through…

 

every

 

single

 

one.

 

It took days. And it was lovely. Tucked inside every card was a memory that made me smile. Things I thought I’d lost. Photos that melted my heart. Sentiments that had me in tears. Events I’d forgotten.

 

And some that I will never forget for as long as I live.

 

And after reading. Deep breath. Eyes closed. Surrounded by the ones who’d sent them. I frisbeed each of them into the dumpster’s abyss. No, not the people silly monkey. The cards.

 

And it’s okay.

 

I’ll be okay.

 

Because once they’d disappeared. In amongst the trash. And the treasures. I looked around. And everyone…all who’d sent me those special somethings that are now in the bin…were still with me.

 

In my mind. My heart. And in my soul. Because what matters will always dig its nails in. Cling to the side. Refuse to fall away. Or be lost in the darkness of a skip.

 

So we can hold on to them for dear life.

 

Or we can let go.

 

See what sticks.

 

Because what sticks once we’ve let go, is what we hold life-dear.

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We’re friends, right? Yes, I know we are. Know how? Well…you’re here. Reading this post.

 

I’ve been gone a long time. But you’re not mad. Or angry. You’re not even upset. Maybe missing me—I secretly hope—a little sad even, and that’s natural. It means you’re a good human. You care. But what you’re not doing is questioning my intent. Or commitment. Or the relationship we’ve built together, just because you haven’t heard from me for a while.

 

And I appreciate that.

 

That secure, connected feeling is the sign of a strong, healthy bond. Being able to be without someone, or something, for very long periods of time…sometimes forever. But somehow still knowing that you could knock the door during a stolen moment, and be welcomed with open arms.

 

Because life can be prickly enough, can’t it? Without having to worry whether our comrades are questioning our loyalty. Or better yet, our hearts.

 

Life can take us places. Down roads we weren’t expecting. Often ones we don’t want to be on. Roads that can sometimes make it impossible to be consistently in touch. And while these diversions are not always welcome, we can sometimes find certain and once again, unexpected crumbs of joy in the corners of their pockets.

 

Today, I am lucky enough to be writing to you, coated in delectable crumbs, from the corner of this stunning pocket. A small slice of joy on an unforeseen road.

HarbourWriting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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She flitted in. Almost darting between our gazes. Head bobbing with each move. And I couldn’t stop watching her. She was a delicate little thing. Small. Angular. But still somehow, swooping. Sinuous.

 

She’s out of her comfort zone. It’s easy to see. In certain moments, a colored blur of watery reflection. In others, a precise dot on the obscure background that is this depressing place. I can tell you though. She’s livened it up just by breezing through. A welcome whisk of vivacity. A thrill for a sad and sorry bunch.

 

A wonder.

 

She continues on. Stopping now and then. Fluttering in her light-tipped way, from this stoop to that. Ignoring the attentions of everyone else. Busying herself. Bending to pluck bits of litter from the floor. Smoothing her sides back down flat.

 

I take in her slender neck. Sloping toward her rounded behind and ending in a graceful point at the tip of her thighs. I put my finger out and trace over it in the air. All the way down to the end. Following her curve with my eye.

 

A sharp noise above the din around us jars her and she ruffles from head to toe. I take a breath, waiting for her to leave me, but she stays. Gathers herself. Keeps moving. Slowly. Delicately. Toward me. My heart skips when I realize how close she’s getting. So close that I can see myself in her pupils. So close that I can feel her warmth. So close that I can smell her scent. And my once skipping heart now batters against its cage.

 

I reach out. To protect. The instinct is strong. But I can’t touch her. She’s just beyond my grasp. I want to call out, but the usual cackles begin around us and she brings her shoulders up over the sides of her head.

 

Shielding.

 

All is concealed but her starry eyes. Their long fine lashes reaching for me. Almost past the crook of her bent, slight limb. And then, they flicker. Those eyes. Right across mine. And lock. Just for a second, mind you. But it’s magic.

 

Changing.

 

Then, as quickly as she came, she’s gone. Off into her other world. And even though I knew she would eventually vanish, it breaks me. Instantly, I drain. Empty.

 

My mind.

My heart.

My soul.

 

As she drifts away into another place. Another time. I am left here.

Paused.

Until her return.

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The corner store is peeling, its peach paint rolling down toward the dirt, dodging a lifetime of being stuck in one place. Where, she wonders, will the wind take it once it’s free?

 

She sits in the front seat of her car, grappling a family size bag of Ruffles, her only company the small sprouts of green budding through the dryness of the earthy lot. Alone, but for the weeds, she needlessly slumps below the driver’s window and listens to the hum of the wheels bumping through on the small town road behind her. The content of the bag is finally released with one more pull and she closes her eyes, breathing in through her nose, savoring the first crack of salty chip.

 

Bump, bump, bump.

 

She twists at her ring, normally a mindless habit, but her fingertips are oily and she’s forced to be conscious of the now slick metal. Her thoughts slip with the ring, back to long ago. Long ago when his photos and the few things he’d left behind had scorched through the night. Roaring flames shot from her mother’s bonfire as she had watched in fear, her legs extended and toes sinking deep into the mattress on which she’d stood, her pudgy hands gripping the windowsill with all her might. The back yard, lit only by the blaze, looked scarier than she’d ever seen it and she was relieved a week later, when she and her mother were forced to move to a studio apartment with no back yard.

 

Bump, bump, bump.

 

Her graduation ring, the one whisper from her father in all the years that have passed since that fiery night, marks her finger like the black circle left on the grass at the old house. She wears it anyway. It’s what she has—the ring, the pale pink box, the envelope he’d scribbled over in seeping blue ink and the outline of his face as he’d said good-bye to her in the low glow of her bedside lamp one last time.

 

Bump, bump, bump.

 

She could’ve walked. The store was close enough to home but she refuses to be caught in the streets clutching a bag of grease. No, relaxed in her car, shielded by its metallic shell, she’s safe from judgment. She knows it’s not right. The eating with reckless abandon, and often recites the many reasons she shouldn’t, but the crunch between her teeth, the crackle of fragments lining her cheeks and paving her tongue, bring her a sense of comfort she can, only in this moment, grasp. It is as simple, and as complex, as that.

 

But for a split second, she knows that she is, in more ways than one, like the chip—simultaneously curved and flat, plain and sparingly seasoned. One clench away from cracking and crumbling, breaking, but most of all, consumed by the lost, the disappointed and the dismissed.

 

She thinks of her mother, run off her feet at the deli, calling out Next! to the numbers that will reach into the hundreds today. She pictures her standing on the crowded bus, smelling like meat, her feet and aching back making the trek uphill from the stop to the small studio apartment they still call home. She knows she will pour herself a glass of wine and a bath and sit in the too small tub, knees exposed, pretending she’s anywhere but here.

 

She imagines her father’s image slithering down the peach wall facing her and sees him being lifted by the wind. To where, she does not know, but envisions it to be, of course, anywhere but here.

 

May bites into another chip and wonders what it must be like to dodge a lifetime of being stuck in one place. Her thoughts are as simple, and as complex as that.

 

Bump, bump, bump.

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Years ago, when my kids were just tiny specs of what they are now, a best friend of mine would drive from her house, nearly an hour away, just to cook dinner for me.

 

At least once a week.

 

She invited herself of course, as all good friends do. In my state, it never would have entered my mind to entice another person into my varying vortex. When it began, I had only a single child. The task was fairly uncomplicated at that point, but even when the total of tots quickly rose to three, she, somehow, was not deterred.

 

She would arrive to screaming babies, scattered Cheerios and mounds of laundry piled in the hallway. There would often be a sink full of dirty dishes, a forgotten diaper gracing the table or me, crying in a corner.

 

But, week after week, in the door she’d burst with an arm full of groceries and a funny story to tell. Out would come the pots and pans and commence would the chopping, slicing, stirring and simmering.

 

My husband was traveling a lot then and with three children under five, her visits meant the world to me. Raising kids—being housebound for long days on end—can be very isolating and as decadent smells, (these being anything non-urine or spit-up related) started to permeate the air, I’d often reflect on how having someone go to the magnitude of shopping, commuting and cooking for me was much like a good dose of vigorous CPR.

 

She didn’t have any children at that time and I wish I could say that now that she has had two of her own, I’ve been as worthy a friend as she. I’d always intended to return the favor, but as it turns out, tiny tots transform into taxing teens and there is somehow even less time now than there was all those years ago.

 

Over the days, weeks, months and years that this went on, we, okay she, concocted many recipes that the two of us shared a love for. One of these favorites was fresh Crab Cakes with, made from scratch, Chipotle Sauce.

 

And I’ll tell you, having it made for you when your children are five, three and zero is truly wonderful, but returning home to find a serving of it in your mailbox when they’re eighteen, fifteen and fourteen is a true lump-in-the-throat moment.

Because sauce is my favorite

Because sauce is my favorite

 

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You will eventually have had enough of my grieving process I’m sure, but for the moment you may be finding comfort in walking alongside me. This is what keeps me going. Perhaps you’ve lost someone or perhaps that hasn’t happened for you yet and you’re trying to understand what to expect.

 

Expect nothing.

 

I can safely say that although the journey will hold similar jumps for all of us, the method and speed with which we get through (not over) them, will not be the same whatsoever. Emotions and reactions are dependent on so many things—age, proximity and support for example, come immediately to my mind.

 

I tried to tell you a story today, but couldn’t find the words. Everything else seems trivial right now and even though I know that’s far from the truth, I can’t seem to muster the creative backbone needed to spin a tale.

 

But I did visit my girlfriend this weekend. I’ve known her for twenty years and she moved to what I’d call far away a couple of years ago. I miss her terribly, but it’s also nice to be able to make an excursion out of seeing her now.

 

So off we went, my daughter and I, painlessly driving the three-hour jaunt, stopping only for cheap gas and cheerful wine. (The wine was for me. My daughter is not allowed to get cheerful just yet.) Once settled and after eating (a delicious Thai meal courtesy of Leslie’s hubby) we sat on the couch and the dreaded reared its inevitable head. We hadn’t, of course, seen each other since my Papa’s passing and she asked how things were going and how everyone was doing. We talked for some time…well into the night, and as we headed off to bed we were still pondering what happens on the other side.

 

I told her that as much as the idea of a guardian angel seems comforting, I don’t like the idea of them having to watch over us. After all, what kind of torture would it be to see our children but be unable to touch or talk to them?

 

“No,” I said. “I like to believe they take a version of us along for the ride and that way, for them, not a thing has changed.”

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Bear with me.

 

It’s a long journey around so many messy things and I lack the stamina to run it in one tidy breath.

 

Opening your eyes to the realization that somehow you must lift your burdened self out of bed so the show can go on. Peeling potatoes and stirring gravy so your children won’t think of this as the year they lost a Grandpa and Christmas Day. Stoically wading through a sea of memories that now contain a foreign element of hurt, so others can remember him the way you do. Battling tears and the desert that has become your mouth in order to send him off with the dignity he very much deserves.

 

Worrying someone will bring him up and then hurting when they don’t, planning only outfits with pockets to hold your twists of unscheduled Kleenex. Finding a way to preserve voicemails you’re so thankful you never deleted, fighting the guilt that you have saved the last ten, subconsciously aware you would come to rely on them one day soon. Holding on to the last time you saw him healthy and ruthlessly reliving the last horrible day that he wasn’t.

 

I used to think death was this obscure thing—a convoluted end that was hard to understand—marred by emotion and murky in its meaning. I was so wrong. Death is concise. It’s clear. It’s forever. And it’s final.

 

So I fumble for a bright side.

 

Hazy always ends in a positive spin. And although I’m desperate not to let her down, I’m having a really hard time grasping a silver lining through all of these ominous clouds.

 

I wish you heartache such as this in your life. Because despite the crumbling cliff it leaves you dangling from, it’s a true blessing to have loved someone this way.

th

 

 

 

 

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What was once decent in life, can, like magic, become disproportionate in death.

 

Our memories switch off the ability to recall missteps, unpleasantries and altercations. It takes those things by the neck and drags them deep into the folds of our conscience, tucking them in for a Snow White sleep.

 

The brain, nature, survival, whatever we choose to call it, takes over, and we remember solely the good—the kind words said, the times they made us smile, their soars and their successes.

 

But for the majority of breaths—theirs and ours—we brush our teeth, drive to work, eat our dinner and wash the dishes. One day comes after the other and we forge on, comfortable in the knowledge that we simply like, and contently love.

 

It’s that very love that protects us. It shields. It transforms what’s now gone into only what we need to remain—good deeds, helping hands and a softness of spirit.

 

And this is understandable. After all, less is more. We tend to scrape away disagreeable to accommodate the palatable on our plates.

 

But this wasn’t my Papa’s way. In life, as in death, he had no tolerance for waste.

 

That’s why he only made room for extraordinary his whole life long.

In loving memory of John Martin Murphy Sep 6 1927 - Dec 24  2014

In loving memory of John Martin Murphy
Sep 6 1927 – Dec 24
2014

 

 

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I try to eat. I really do. But the numbers keep jumbling around in my tummy—making their way up my throat and filling my mouth, leaving no room for food. I can barely stomach the math test I’m about to endure, never mind the syrupy oatmeal my mom has been simmering on the stove top for the last half hour.

 

The sweet smell is what woke me. A deep inhale, one eye open, then the other. What normally would have made me snuggle deeper into the mattress and relish what a lucky kid I was instead made my stomach twist and turn on this particular morning.

 

I’d stayed up most of the night meaning to study, the flashlight casting a warm glow beneath the covers, right down to my toes. Though it had shed enough light over the pages of my textbook, concentrating had been impossible. The equations consumed me. Each symbol became a joint and each line, a top or bottom jaw. They’d snapped at me amongst the shadows and the sharp edges of their difficulty had left imprints upon the worried creases in my mind.

 

“Breakfast!” My mother had cheerily called, oblivious to my grief.

 

Sitting now at the table, trying to not look as miserable as I am, I toy with a small spoonful of thick oats.

 

“Cream’s on the table,” my mother sing-songs. “You might want to thin it out.”

 

Her head is buried in the fridge, pen poised over a notepad as she makes a grocery list for her morning shop, but I can tell she’s picking up on something. She’s slowly raising her head and sniffing the air, honing in on my turmoil as only a mother can do.

 

“Well, I’ll be damned,” Grandpa mutters as he shuffles into the kitchen. He’s dressed for his walk in running shoes and track pants, but his sweatshirt is crumpled in his hands in a ball of frustration.

 

“What’s up, Gramps?” I ask, quite frankly happy for the distraction as my mother’s head ducks back into the fridge.

 

“The Goddamn string,” he snarls. “What the hell am I supposed to do with this?” He holds up the long cord that has come away from inside the seam of his hood. It dangles freely, no longer attached to his sweatshirt in any way.

 

My mother, clearly wanting to avoid any Grampa drama, turns her back and hums a loud, happy tune and as she opens and closes cupboard drawers, scribbling away.

 

“Let me see it,” I offer, holding out my hand.

 

He shoves the soft, grey material at me and sits down in a pout.

 

“You stay and eat your fruit,” I tell him. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

 

When I return, he’s concentrating on his getting flimsy pieces of mandarin and slippery chunks of pear from his bowl into his mouth without letting them slip off the fork.

 

“Good as new!” I announce, knowing this will make his day.

 

“How did you do this?” He asks, astonished. “I tried for so long…it seemed impossible.”

 

I take the large safety pin out of my pocket and show him how I’d pierced the string with it and fed it through the long tunnel of fabric, grabbing the pin and pulling it, and the string, further down the line as more fabric bunched up around it and until it popped out at the other end.

 

My Grandfather’s eyes widened as my mother’s rolled behind him.

 

“Amazing, just amazing.” But his pleasure is somewhat short-lived as his brain kicks into gear.

 

“What’s to stop this from happening again? I don’t want to have to do this every time I go for a walk.” His brow furrows as he brings his palms up to his face.

 

“You won’t have to, Grampa. Look.” I tie a small knot into each side of the drawstring, just at the base of the opening into the hood. “See? It’s not going anywhere now!”

 

“You’re a genius, my darling! A true genius!” The last part is muffled as he pulls the hoodie over his head, excited to be able to tug it tight.

 

I finally begin to smile as I watch my Grandfather head off to meet his pals at the park.

 

And why wouldn’t I? Geniuses after all, do not fail math tests.

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