COVID NATION

It’s September 2020.
We sit across our circular dining table barely catching our breath and sigh once again. With teeth gritting and hard faces, we stare into what has become a thick air of disbelief. There’s a palpable heaviness that lingers only in the swelter of summer. Forty percent of the college students are absent from just one of my husband’s courses, having been quarantined or COVID positive. These students are not free to stay on campus and so are sent home only to potentially infect their fragile family and communities.

We raise our eyes, stop studying the long cuts on the glass dining table and begin to clear the way into the near future where I could be forced to return to Telehealth with my clients in need of mental health treatment. I am immediately resentful of punishing my clients for something entirely not my fault and having to acknowledge the egregious lack of leadership by both the college, as well as, its larger governing body.

I begin to plead with my husband, ‘Please! Please find a way to hold classes virtually – even if it’s for a shortened amount of time.’ My husband’s stubbornness, not to mention his fervent need to follow ALL the rules, makes me look like a gumby pretzling acrobat. Worse yet, his loyalty to a university completely willing to pick off people for their dollar looks worse than pushing a statue of a bronzed mule. And as expectation would dictate, he is not free to simply do what is best for himself and his students.

I try to remind myself that Telehealth for mental health does work, but nothing can replace the compassionate resonance transmitted in the cosmic electricity when two people are together sharing space. The flat faced version of myself saddens my soul when I want to get up and pull a tissue for my client. COVID now leaves us in a hold of loneliness we thought was not possible. Of course, for some Telehealth can stop the hard work altogether. The detraction of the the personal and palpable connection, like missing a soft fabric to run our fingers through, can halt the therapeutic process. It begs the question to the eyes of the universities leadership; do you know how far the red threads of your actions would reach? – And all because the sloppy version of face-to-face courses were far more important than people’s lives.


Here’s the reality of in person courses in 2020……. a masked professor stands at a blackboard in an enclosed room with a shower curtain version of a sneeze guard, sometimes held up with blue tape and only the width of two standard desks. Masked students await the glorious instruction of a pseudo burglar in appearance screaming muffled formulas and theories. Every written word on white and black boards is obstructed, leading professors to speak by playing peek-a-boo. The literal demonstration I received used a pillow, peeking around and above it in the desperate hope of being heard. There are no questions, no engagement from students as their professor has turned into Zorro and they likely spend the entire time hoping they grasped something of value as they peer through plexiglass.

Eight hundreed young women ‘Rush’ for their choice Sorority only to have the college push past 10 percent of its student population with COVID. The administration openly blames students for the spread while congregating at parties, fraternities and sororities – and dorms; all of which could only happen if the campus was open. Rapidly, the university becomes a national news story as the largest COVID spreaders across the U.S. college system.

It is understood in physiological development, we haven’t finished out our brains optimal functioning until we are twenty-five…..TWENTY-FIVE years old! So, sending in my eighteen-nineteen year old to a diseased college is begging them to throw flying hands up with a loud party-yowl and just hope for the best. This is not to say young people are classically stupid, it illuminates the reality that we ALL wear an invincibility cape at this age. It only seems reasonable that the system they are moving young people into would assume some small responsibility.

Opportunities for creativity that could have made this university the gold medal standard on how to make campus, classroom and community life work has been squandered. The local town has become disowned by the university, further dividing the disparity of the highest socioeconomic class student body with a significantly low socioeconomic, minority community. Perhaps local leaders – the Mayor, city council and elected leaders could have united with college administration igniting courageous acts to meet the needs of the community and university alike. Imagine an overflow of danishes, bagels and burnt coffee at scratched folding tables while leaders choose to lean into the fear and leave acknowledging, validating the needs of the university AND the community.


Instead, an interest in privilege and dollars prevail.
This county has approximately 45 thousand residents, with 48 percent minority. Pressing forward with in classroom instruction, on campus activities like rushing for sororities and fraternities and on campus meetings breeds immorality while a deadly virus presses its weight upon our chests. So many will die and the sticky blood of this decision will stain the university’s hands. A lack of a direct death of a student does not release the college from the deaths that are occurring through transmission.

As mental health therapists, we are called to activate ourselves from a place to vulnerability, invoking courage when we are in deep fear. It is our responsibility as leaders to walk in that unchartered path – choose to do hard things. Do not interpret these words as a belief in shutting the world down. My spouse and I have spoken at length the ever teetering potential loss that could ensue, including financial consequences arriving right at our door step.

My husband and I look back towards one another, perhaps done with the ranting and sneering into the nearby kitchen windows. We discuss the possibility of him quarantining himself for the rest of the semester, both myself and our teenage daughter.

Another deep, long sigh.

Faculty do not appear to be getting sick in class, but how do we know with certainty? Our table, this home, suddenly starts to stretch out longer, warbling my ability to see clearly. He already seems so very far away and I crumple up my face in disbelief.

No more kisses and long, deep hugs after a day of bewilderment in the wild world. No more snuggling my head into his chest while we wait for “all of this mess” to just go away. More time covering your face, forced to hide from those we are most open to. And no more witnessing of the tenderness between him and my daughter as he kisses her on the forehead, standing in the bathroom before bed. It’s more than my mind can hold. The grief has already begun and a decision hasn’t been made.

With the current trajectory that my scientist spouse continues to calculate, by Thanksgiving, 25 percent of the total faculty and students will have this ravenous disease; approximately 1,600 students. There are no words for the potential devastation for the fragile community surrounding this college campus.

Fast Forward one year, late August 2021.

It would seem the science fairies have gifted the universe a medical marvel, one that has not been readily seen since the polio vaccine (This not to say many other vaccines should go unnoticed: HPV, Meningitis, and Shingles, just to name a few). We have a way out of COVID death for anyone 12 years and older. We even have a small window of bliss where something like ‘normal’ reappears. That is, until Delta arrives…..and I am not discussing our next flight to vacation island.

As the world is ravaged, many countries lag on purchasing their vaccines out of their own cockiness to stop the spread while others have no resources to vaccinate. Of course, the United States has a massive stockpile – only to have misinformation, extreme mistrust of our government and conspiracies create a wild frenzy of lies. It feels like only the nerds will sift through the data to know the truth, but then again, if science were taken seriously, perhaps the pandemic of misinformation would not be the secondary pandemic. 18-29 year olds have the lowest vaccination rate and are currently filling up hospitals, potentially creating a more deadly return to college as previous mandates for masks and physical distancing has ended. And despite necessary vaccines to enter college for exponentially less dangerous diseases, no vaccinations for COVID are required.

Students are already testing positive while participating in Sorority Rush. Professors are already going to miss the first weeks of class while in quarantine. As many as 20 percent are already missing from the first week of classes and university COVID positive cases are double that of 2020. My own clients are facing down one sick or dying person after another, surpassing hundreds of lives lost to this terrible disease. My clients in health care have said they are forced to make life and death choices while breathing machines are gone and are now watching the march of COVID death at a much greater intensity than their first 3 surges. It’s overwhelming and hard to imagine most of these deaths would just not be if the pandemic of misinformation was eradicated. So now, My husband and I are once again staring at each other in grief and disbelief……and wondering when science died.

Screen House Rules

On the eve of our kiddo’s thirteenth birthday, we collectively decided she was ready for the wild and sometimes emotionally dangerous road of the SMART PHONE (insert the ‘Duh-duh-DUHHH’ sound bite). We had spoken over time about the pitfalls and responsibility that comes with allowing something so potentially pervasive in her life. This took place as needed over the past year and concluded with her reading a great book called Good Pictures, Bad Pictures by Kristen Jensen that discusses the problematic invasion of pornography on the internet and the larger issue around how much of what we use on our phone is purposefully wired to make us addicted. Collectively, we agreed on ground rules that would, in general, apply to everyone in the house to ensure we did not allow our devices to take away from the most important aspect of us as a family- our ability to connect. I share our credo as a way to consider and explore your relationship with devices as well as how we can work at both recognizing and engaging with technology in a more responsible way.

Screen House Rules

As a family, we agree that our smart phones and other digital screens can distract us from real connection. With that, we mutually agree on guidelines to maintain healthy use of our digital devices.

  1. We agree to stop looking at our screen (phone or Ipad) when another person is talking to us and make eye contact. If we need to complete some task we are doing, we will ask for a pause so we are not attempting to listen and write/read at the same time.
  2. If someone is sharing a story/interacting with you, we will not text or pick up our phone until the interaction is done.
  1. We agree that if you are under 18, no screens will be used in private areas to protect from others who may intend to infiltrate your life inappropriately. This also helps reduce unhealthy behaviors like needing to repeatedly check the phone, even in the middle of the night and immediately upon waking.
  1. We agree that if at anytime another person is harassing, sending inappropriate photos or experiencing any pressure or bullying; we will share it without any consequences. We will support each other in keeping the internet as safe as possible.
  1. We agree that all our social media will be mutually agreed upon and the ability to see what each other post will remain open to each other. If anyone disagrees with a post, it will be discussed and potentially removed. This could include any photos or information that make another person uncomfortable.
  1. We agree mutually to have reasonable limits on our social media screen time and will consider an App limiting our time to ensure we do not overuse distraction. In general, we will actively work to remain below averages.
  2. We will stop all screens when we each move towards ending our day and getting ready for bed. That time may vary, but will be accountable to ourselves and each other.
  1. It is understood that privacy is important and each will respect privacy overall. However, to ensure healthy and appropriate online behavior is sustained, parents will occasionally check the child’s phone.
  1. With #8 in place, no history or text streams can be deleted to ensure proper and appropriate use of smart phones and other digital devices.

When I am Declared Queen Of Christmas

When I am declared Queen of Christmas, we are SO doin’ this shit differently. And before you get all fussy about whatever part you like, it will not be a complete cut up your credit card kinda cancellation, but definitely a moratorium on the crazy. Perhaps some would be deeply disappointed by my changes. Of course people in the business of participating in the great giveaway would be deeply annoyed. I’m sure a few lawsuits would swiftly be on the way to attempt a return to fluid consumerism.

But the truth is- We Have Lost Our Way.

Every year from about mid-November to the New Year, the anxiety and pressure to perform according to our made up expectations (that seem to climb exponentially) creates a kind of emotional vibration culturally unseen at ANY other time. Our therapy practice bears witness to the rising tide of anxiety soup, choking all the joy out, including an ability to recall why we celebrate. Not until the New Year arrives at the stroke of midnight do we sigh the only sigh of relief-oh-joy in a month! We have somehow forgotten to take in the beauty and depth joy can offer us and instead it gets convoluted in just being glad things are over. May I suggest a moratorium on the crazy? All the scrambling to meet the culture of scarcity’s expectations, when we step back, makes utterly NO sense.

We already have enough because We Are Enough. Our incessant need to fight over the pie leads us to forget it is really PIES (plural) of endless compassion and not at all attached to stuff. Compassion does not tie itself to the prettiest lights or biggest tree. Not the bestest nativity scene. Not all the most elegant wrappings under the tree. Compassion is a verb of choice that is driven by the love we offer one another. I desperately want us to be able to give up what does not serve us. If slogging out thousands of ornaments and garland makes you cringe, LET IT GO. If cooking for an entire army (and frankly most of it gets wasted) makes you unhappy, then can we just stop?

The vibration of the season may be best served through our ability to get quiet. Setting our intentions on recalling and being a part of what we love will free us from this season of stuff. I fear that without focusing on remembering where love resides, we will be forced into allowing others to reign over your holiday and we shall not ever remember our way home again. If I were able to provide a detailed picture of the kind of loneliness I witness in my treatment room during these dark months, leaving the holidays behind as we know it would be the most logical and compassionate answer we may have to the crisis of depression and anxiety that plagues Americans.

I want instead to give gifts that are lasting and matter. I want to slow down the moments of decorating and cooking. I want to relish the experience of who I am sharing my time with and not the requirement of a quantifiable mass that I pass out to others. And since I personally have so much to offer, I want to spend time with the lonely and offer my most precious gift of time and smiles. What would it be like if we left behind the strange expectation of the ‘hottest toy’ and pulling out the most expensive china and instead recalled that family and serving in a way that feeds us is the greatest gift we have to offer? I keep waiting and hoping that our sight will return and we will relieve ourselves of the madness that has become this holiday.

In the deep dark of winter, while the light is short, we are called to quiet and yet somehow we have used this holiday to distract ourselves from our own needs. We do not need more lights. We do not need to add to the glow (as we are glaring instead of glowing) and certainly we do not need MORE busy. We crave the quiet in the dark and when the loneliness is great, we have the ability to offer an honest gift; one of the light in our eyes and in our smile. This needs no wrapping paper or blinky lights.

Perhaps we return from this terrible distraction and come back to ourselves and each other. I will offer my hand and my warmth of presence during this dark time. And when I am Queen of Christmas (which will likely be never….) perhaps there will be lights, mangers and food, but offered in the spirit of Self Love first, something bigger than money can buy.

So I ask, during this holiday, remember the lonely and in our ability to be present, perhaps we can let go of this maddening distraction of stuff and offer something of substance– our wholehearted presence.

When Father Comes Around, Part II

He’s Alive. And despite the permanency of death, it may have allowed me to finish the grieving process and move on. In that moment, I am afraid I regret he still exists. And for those who may have believed my brain has only room for compassion, be prepared for a major disappointment. I wasn’t prepared to invite him back into my life. I was prepared to send a card and tell him I was out there and happy, thank you very much-Bye (add vigorously waiving emoji here). I was NOT ready to open the door to relationship.

Get ready. There are lots of screaming capital letters and cussing.

Walk away now if you want pleasant.

I once AGAIN had to come to terms with the fact that my family history is so fucking complicated. I couldn’t be sure if I wanted yet another layer to it! REALLY!!! Really GOD, GODDESS, UNIVERSE, WTF!!!?? Now I have to talk to him. Oh wait. Can he even talk? I dunno. This was a call from a head trauma ICU after all. I am a complete asshole and I don’t care. This shit is a protruding fucked-up mess.

I paced around the house before remembering to breathe and then dialed the number. I quickly understand the alternative of just not knowing would leave so many things lost and dangly. How many thousands of children would give anything to just see their missing parent? I’m certain my hesitation makes me a little selfish, but then perhaps if I had a father who decided to fucking grow up and show up, maybe the years of sexual abuse I endured would not be the most prominent lens in my life. AND…and…and IF I invite this NOW sick person into my life, it would mean I have to give something I may not be willing to do. Hell- I may NOT want to and then who is the runaway asshole now?

You see; it gets thorny fast. I warned you. Now ya in and stuck with me.

Esther shared with me (once we passed through the HIPPAA keyhole) he had a stroke and was currently paralyzed on his entire left side. There were attempts at rehabilitation but he had been lying in a hospital bed for months. The Board & Care home kicked him out for being too sick, dumping him at the hospital. Now who wants to take in an angry paralyzed convicted felon? I am not even sure if I emotionally want to.

So we speak for the first time and he cries. He’s depressed and lonely and now the only human who will consider showing up for him is me and guess what—I AIN’T SO Sure! What kind of fuckery is this? Like seriously, who in the hell dealt these cards? Damn it. FUCK IT.

It’s my job to show up in this life even if I decide to kick God off my team.

Not REALLY, but DAMN.

Jason was homeless for many years in Northern California. I learned quickly how incredibly smart he is sharing how he created a way to power his television (in his tent) using solar power and how he showered everyday (in the woods) with his own hot water system. He even built a custom deck to keep his house-tent dry. Of course, this came along with regular methamphetamine use in between years of prison. I swear, I cannot make this shit up…even though it sounds like I did, even to myself.

Once the police caught him squatting deep in the Red Woods, he eventually got out of jail (again), got clean and sober for several years before the fateful day. Now biking 20 plus miles a day and living with a roof overhead, he had a massive stroke while biking and was subsequently hit by a car.

Yeah. I don’t know whether to be like ‘Hand over my mouth’ or ‘Holy shit. Karma.’ I cried touching my deep sense of compassion and wonder if anyone deserves this outcome? Permanently paralyzed and has burned every bridge from here to Egypt. That quickly dissipates returning to ‘What in the FUCK have I gotten myself into?’ I have reunited with the messy Jason-Father I knew I always had. The question lingered, what do I do and can I even see him if it is possible?

As I shared this unfolding story, my Mother shared how he was never without a paperback shoved into his back pocket. She was deeply saddened to hear of his physical demise but recalled knowing how awful his family was and the drug use that ensued even while he was an adolescent. Nothing surprised her more when I asked her to go visit him. She cried and was flooded with the sadness of our past. Jason was abusive and mostly unavailable to my mother, just a teenager herself. Unfortunately, I did not know when I would return home again since I was just there and I wanted someone I could trust to lay eyes on him and tell me how he REALLY was doing. Funny how I could be suspicious of even hospital persons. My lack of honesty with this man runs deep.

After some consideration and an honest ‘You CAN say No’ from me, she went. And my grandmother. AND MY DAD. And I revel in knowing that when all is said and true about the wild crazy that is my family, here is the heart of who they are………

Each one of them showed up, spent time and brought him chocolate cake. My Dad and I were texting while he was just outside Jason’s door, informing me that my Mom was there and he would not go inside the room. But he did. And in a most powerful moment I can only witness in my mind, my Dad stood in front of my Jason-Father’s bed and told him what he missed out on. PURE GOLD.

My mother was genuinely so sad about the state of what had become of his life that she wanted to know what he needed. She wanted to send reading glasses and books and has from since that time kept tabs on how he is doing. She even told me she was proud of me when he got pissed off when I didn’t call him on Father’s Day later that year and my response was “What am I going to say Jason? Happy Father’s Day?” I stood my ground in that he had met my DAD. I finally opened myself up to a relationship, but there were certainly limits.

It’s funny how courage is born;

Sometimes born out of the composted love we have buried

in roots way underground while others,

appear in the cracks of an aimless sidewalk.

This change opened me up to love my parents and grandmother more than ever. And as for Jason, we are friends and although so many more stories to tell, we have reconnected on my terms and will do my best to see the rest of his life through. What vibrates sweetly in my ear is the unexpected moment of gratitude from my family. I asked them to show up for me.

And they did.

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Southern Gothic Dancin’

We rolled into Milledgeville, Georgia in 2002; straight off the little highway connected to many other little webbings of other tiny highways with their distincly black and white signs declaring you have just entered into nowhere land. I will never forget passing onto the street that was one long strip mall of cheap clothes and fast food wrappers. I sank and swore under my breath as I died just a little. I was trapped on this ant farm of tiny highways that led to nothing of substance. This big city girl was being squeezed and stuffed into small town life. I couldn’t breathe and only did some of the strangest things breathe life into my caged up heart.

Milledgeville, it turns out, is an icon in lunacy. Growing up in Georgia meant that you may be threatened with being sent to Milledgeville to live at the Asylum. Taking up some two thousand acres, The Georgia Lunatic Asylum established in 1883 was once the largest mental health facility in the United States. Then called many other less kind things, it housed between 13-15 thousand patients. Practices, much less medicine was scarcely humane and people were sometimes chained to walls, children placed in crib cages and overall treated with less decency than my own pets. Legend has it that some of the less ill could be taken home to clean and cook for you and the residents had their own garden. It was said to have one of the largest laundry services on site making the hospital more like its own city. Some physicians and staff lived in tiny houses settled right next to the massive buildings that housed room after room of mentally ill patients. Without much regulation, most anyone deemed ‘sick’ could be left there and because of the lack of staffing, sometimes the patients became the workforce treating the other patients. Now some twenty five thousand patients are buried on the grounds of the hospital creating fuel for the often haunted gothic stories that have become apart of Georgia’s history.

By the 1960’s a governed decentralization of mental health facilities began and the onset of stabilizing medications for the severely mentally ill along with recognition that mental health issues did not constitute removal from society, created the slow disinegration of the once massive city. By the time I arrived for my volunteer orientation at the Powell Building in December 2002, less than half of the community was being used and many buildings were already condemed and haunted by its past.

I was sent to work with a professor and part time psychologist where the acutely physcially ill were housed and made an apparent impression that quickly led to a paying job, office and a behavioral health partner to work with. Stationed with the severly mentally ill geriatric patients, I was schooled in how many mental health disorders looked in their clearest diagnosis and through this lens, I learned more than I could ever offer them, affording me the ability to learn and understand their world view from living with them eight hours a day, five days a week.

And it was the little things that even school could not teach me that informed me of their world view. It is true that with the onset of major mental health disorders like schizophrenia and Bipolar I disorder, the brain is more suspectable to dementia due to the malformations occurring physiologically. Some clients liked to hoard wads and wads of paper while others wore their lipstick wild, drawing farther outside of the lines when less stable. Others signed their name as famous presidents and during the difficult times, many would yell, call me names and wildly run naked through the hospital. I loved them all dearly.

Over time I would find ways to be supportive without being overbearing. I learned to slowly slip out some of the garbage hanging about my patients clothing. Of course it always gave way to more later, but at least there was room made for the hunt to continue later. I would politely ask to help adjust my patients makeup as she went for a big outing like a dance at the auditorium or to shop. And I considered it a compliment to receive a good tongue hammering from one of the once stotic church ladies who kept loads of waded up tobacco in her mouth while spewing her ugly fuck language at me. Perhaps I learned a thing or two about flinging around my foul language from her.

I realize now what a debt of gratitude I owe them. Being a part of their lives gave me the foundation for what I continue to use today as I am in relationship with so many who will never exhibit the extremes I have known, but perhaps, like all of us, have a touch of madness that can be connected to those that showed me what it was like to live with in its most pure form. We would like to believe we are really somehow eons away from the Central State Hospital resident. I believe this is a disservice to my people then, as it is to us collectively now.

I would be entirely remiss to not mention my fellow behavioral specialist and friend Charles. He was known as the quienessential ‘jack of all the hospital trades’. It would not be odd to see him on his way to a treatment team meeting for a resident with three different tools in his hand and some part-a-sum-em that he was steadily fixing that broke. He had his way of making life in the hospital run smoothly, whether it was to create a calming effect on an irrate resident to fixing the dishwashers so the cooks could carry on with their work day. He would often make sure the once entirely too godly church woman had her tobacco, a vile behavior to her visiting friends. We were amused at her way with cuss words, especially when the tobacco ran out. I learned so much about how to be a good human in his presence and offer love where it often faded away in our quiet and isolated world of Central State Hospital.

All these distant memories occurred long before my own kiddo was born and in just these past few weeks did the two collide……And I promise, this next thing, I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried.

Fast forward to 2016. It’s a cold and dreary evening and my daughter and I are so excited to get ready for her first middle school dance. We prep with a new dress from Grammie, ballet slipper style shoes and a sparkly purse to make all the pretty things shine. Just a week before we execute our marvelous plan, I realize where we are going…….I am taking my kid and dropping her off to the newly acquired auditorium AT THE CENTRAL STATE HOSPITAL. RIGHT NEXT TO THE MAIN BUILDING ENTRANCE. I have died and died laughing. I wanted to call up Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess and beg her to listen to this story. I always understood that southerners joked about happily parading around their crazy, but I had no idea that they would send my kid right up in it!

As we ride into the back side of the campus, I squeal in delight showing her the building I worked in, where my office was and the people I adored there. I can see her rolling her eyes from the back seat as she says, “Mom is taking herself a trip down memory lane.” She is not amused and said, “This is why everyone said I was going to a dance at the asylum.” Lawd. What could I say but ‘Yes honey, yes you are.’ We passed the main hospital where residents stayed when they were physically ill and told her stories of life on the inside.

We cruised right by the Powell Building, the main entrance and I pointed and said, “This was where the residents went if they became actively psychotic.” Lyra gasped and said, “That sounds scarey! Did you have to handcuff them?” I unknowingly but nonchalantly said back, “Nah, we would sometimes just wrap them in a sheet, especially when they got naked.” Silence. And the next building over is the drop off point………… I swear, I swear, I CANNOT make this shit up. I still remain amused and astonished all in one.

Still….none the less…How can you not be in love? ❤ ❤

                                               fullsizerender-2

                                                                   LIVE.OUT.LOUD.

When Father Comes Around,Part I

I last saw my birth father in 1994 at the age of 19 when I was getting ready to leave for college. Somehow my grandmother got in touch with him, mostly a mystery as to how, and invited him to come see me before I left. Memories of him for the most part are iconic, as if I quickly painted a portrait crystallizing the moment because I knew there would be so few.

He sat in my Gram’s rocking chair out on the enclosed porch of her Kendallwood house. It was one of my favorite homes and we shared it for eight months before I shipped off to Alabama for a southern style college life. He always wore one of those grey fidora hats with a fancy feather in the side to cover his bald head and this time a pair of boot leg jeans with his blaring red beard. He always said my mother was the cause of his baldness from the early days of beauty school, but I know better. We drove around in his gold dated Honda and he showed me how his police detector worked, illegal in California, but that was always part of his problem. He played Pink Floyd from the CD player and when he learned my appreciation for the old school, quickly gave it to me. It is the one and only possession he ever gave to me. He told me how proud he was of me and wanted to know all my big plans. He always spoke of his big changes, plans of stability, frequent phone calls and relationship.

It was AWKWARD. All awkward. My relationship with my mother was strained, yet as we drove by her neighborhood in town, I felt like I was betraying her and my Dad. My step-Dad–DAD- the person who had shown up for me during the worst of the unconsolable adolescent years. And I knew, despite wishing for real wishes and magic, this would be the end. The only thing that frequently changed in my father’s life was his address.

The years rock by along with years of therapy. During the end of my first round in college I recall my therapist suggesting seeking out my brothers who were last known to live in Texas. I suppose I was not ready and only did many years later. For us siblings, we are a reminder of him, our one and only vague link to each other and understandably, not the brightest of subjects to discuss. With a little energy, I found them and once again- the father.

You might imagine I attempted to find him through various ‘where are my people’ searches, but instead, I knew where to look. Arrest and conviction records often tell a succinct story and one can always hope that the gaps are the bright spots where he fell off the radars of law enforcement. The luck of living in a small town affords me the ability to ask for a first look help. But how do we openly invite that kind of shame into our lives? No one would fault me for a convicted felon father, but they would also just know. And just wonder. Hell, I couldn’t blame them, I certainly wonder how a man with an active drug addict and felony conviction a mile long (probably not much exaggeration there) have any part in the life of a successful therapist; much less partnered for 19 years with happy kid and no arrest record to speak of??!!!

I recall lining myself up along the pew of the jail. Literally, and I hope you can see the irony in the church pew as your place to sit as you await your fate at the jail. It was a visiting day and people came from all around to love their orange jump suited people through the heavy glass. There were creases in every inch of the officers uniform, but the people were sloppy and disheveled having honest reason to loose track of themselves while the orange people blared ugly in their lives. My blue sear sucker suit and red sude heels stood out. Clearly, I was not them and yet had my life been about chasing orange uniforms, me and the thick glass would have been best friends.

Apparently the officer supporting my ‘let’s conquer the daddy issues’ had read one too many of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo books and as he began considering fishing around in the dregs of my life, he asked me what my purpose was. The dragon tattoo girl sought out her father to kill him. I think I was past that stage, but did have to giggle that my life could reflect a fiction thriller. And so the online pursuit began and eventually he popped up in jail….and then prison. Again. A petty theft led to more probation time and I very shamefully write that his love affair with the police was very short tempered and he allowed a dog to attack an officer. He went off to prison for that bullshit to complete his time and when I arrived at this knowledge, he had been released with no further probation and a last address.

I sent a card. I wanted him to know he may be lost, but I was not.

He had a successful daughter and grandchild. I couldn’t want anything from him.

But it was returned, floating between here and there for weeks.

And many more years collected dust on the relationship table of me and him.

Then, just this year during the cold dark days of January, the phone call came from a nurse named Esther. A little biblical and breath taking. I assumed she was Jesus’s messenger and delivering the news that he was gone and I was the only connection left, the glue that held what was left of my Gregory family. I was panicked and alone. My namesake, one that I have kept unchanged, was potentially further broken down while I waived in the wind of the Gregory name.

As I picked up the phone to call back, my hands shook in fear and anticipatory sadness. Was it just easier to keep him the iconic memory and could I withstand the change that was about to plop like wet poop into my lap? I just didn’t know……But my silent sister Glennon Melton (that gurl NEVER calls me) tells me that we can do hard things and I say that if the next step makes you squirm and uncomfortable- its likely the next right one.

So I called to hear the voice of Esther and learn of the news she had to share. Either way, the dust would rise and make noisy floating specks in the suns rays on our relationship table…………