Monday, December 19, 2016

Those Christmas Lights

        They don't see what's broken inside of you because your broken parts are part of your perfection to them. They are family, and to them, you cannot be replaced in a world where everything is replaced.

        I've always said that you can choose your family. This isn't popular with people who have great families and I get that. Laura has a great family, and they are always there for each other. Others who's families could fit into a small room may see it differently. I had two blood relatives at my wedding. My mom, whom I love, and my brother, whom I love. I think that family organically happens with life. You meet these people that you like for one reason or another, and they end up being uncles or aunts to your children. Laura has friends that are family to us and so do I. I think it's beautiful. I think the world is disconnected and separated into terrible categories and labels. It's a really nice feeling to know that someone in this world loves you no matter what. That they are gonna take your side in this world, and kick your ass in private.

        I got to do something really fun and cool today. I got to take the ice where the Red Wings play. I got to play hockey with my friends. We were excited and came out to the ice early to look around and take pictures. As I looked into the huge arena, I got to see all of the families of my friends that came to celebrate a really good day with their dad, or brother, sister, friend, or child. Watching them all take pictures with their family put things into persepective for me. I've been in a bit of gloom this year as I usually am this time of year, but watching these people love each other deeply is a reminder that this life is so great. It's great that I see these terrible things at work, which I've desensitized myself to, then come home to a little boy and two girls that don't see my faults, or forget them quickly. And a 19 year old girl who will drop whatever she is doing to see me. I'ts a warm place. Today felt like Christmas. Any day that feels like Christmas is a good day.

        It is way too easy to focus on the negative. Laura and I find ourselves thinking this way so much and we often remind each other that although the negative is destructive, the positive is a really good reason to keep keep forging keep reaching our hands out to other people. I'm so thankful for the people in my life that have reached out their hands to me when I needed help to get up. You all know who you are. I hope I've told you how great you are. If not, I will.

        I went to lunch with Will and Joe's mom and dad last week. I struggle when seeing them during the holidays because I don't know what to say to them. I think about my own kids and what it would be like to lose them and I cannot figure out a way to reconcile the fact that those two are still standing...and smiling. As my brother's mother was taking me home, I got this overwhelming sadness all of the sudden that she was going to drop me off and that would be that for Christmas. I had this feeling of dread that I had wasted the time I got to spend with them feeling uneasy. It was at this moment that I remembered that I slept under their roof probably a thousand times. I ate at their table. Their dad took me to canoing trips with them.

        In the car, and all at once, I remembered that they are my family and they chose me as much as I chose them. I felt gratitude. I felt love. I felt sadness, but also togethernes in that sadness. I felt so thankful, because at some point in our history, they stopped seeing me as this loud and often annoying kid and they started seeing me as family.

I can't wait to see the rest of my family this Christmas.



Thanks for reading...Z

Thursday, December 15, 2016

It Effaces Every Piece of Light

You ask why I keep still
Why I don’t pour it out into the night
You know
You know if it rises and floats
It effaces every piece of light

- Soap & Skin (Cradlesong)

        When we were kids and had just graduated, all three of us had serious questions about what we would do next. Part of the theme of the "Dead End Kids" was that none of us would make it out, and I guess we all assumed none of us would. Then Joe decided to leave. I showed up to his house one night after a really bad night during a series of very bad nights. I was living in my car at the time. I had just been caught sleeping in my car in the park by police and treated really badly. I was upset. I was hopeless. 

        I showed up to Joe and Will's house in a pretty bad place. I sat down in the living room and Joe sat on the couch. He was really quiet. This was really unusual for him as it is for me. After a lot of yes and no answers to my queries, he asked me to go have a cigarrette with him outside. The answer to this question was always yes. While we were smoking, he started shaking his hands and breaking up in his speech. I couldn't get what he was saying, so I asked him, "What's wrong man?" He told me, "I enlisted in the Navy." It was final. There was no getting it back, Joe was leaving the Dead End. To me, he was leaving me...a moment I had feared more than anything. 

        A few months past and the day came when Joe had to go. He didn't want us to go to the airport with him. He didn't want an ordeal. We all stood outside and watched him hug us and tell us he loved us and then walk away and get into a car and fade away into the darkness as the lights dimmed, and disappeared. Once I lost the lights, I lost my guts. Joe's mom was there to grab my head and pull it to hers. I cried like I had never cried before. I had definately never let anyone see me as an adult cry like that. She just stayed silent and rubbed my head.

        I was sad because my friend was leaving. But more than that I was sad because I think I got the reality check that I couldn't hold on to them forever. Someday they would go. Everyone moves on. Some to other states. Some to other countries. And some to Heaven. Joe came back after a couple of years, angry that I had moved on and made a home for myself. I think he got the same reality check that day. He was so much of part of my life, but he wasn't any longer the center. 


       I've spent a lot of time this last 6 years in this front of this computer...writing about the "Dead End Kids." Sadly, much of that time has been spent as Christmas lights twinkle on the tree right behind me, going unnoticed. I always find myself going back. I think it's because feeling sad about them is all that is left of them. Joe came home from the Navy and we had the greatest and most terrible times together. Then he went away after his brother went away. And here I am...totally unwilling to follow them out of the Dead End. I love my life. I wish they had loved theirs. God, I wish I could have put the love of living in them. I couldn't do anything. 

        Two years today Joe. Happy birthday kid brother. A conversation with you comes to my mind right now. We were in high school. We were sitting on my bed and you had said something outragious. I laughed, and you said, "Sorry buddy." I said, "No problem man." You said, "No seriously, I'm sorry buddy" and pointed to my bed, which was completely soaked with the root beer you had spilled from the two liter bottle you had been carrying around. 

        When I think of times like this, it doesn't feel so dark. It just makes me miss you. I miss your raspy smokers cough laugh. I miss the embelleshments of your stories. I miss being able to sit in a room and be able to say nothing without any awkwardness at all. I miss fishing with you in the middle of the night. I miss every incredibly stupid thing we did together as kids. I miss the way we could look at each other and speak without words. Goodnight little brother. Be happy and be perfect. I'll see you again sometime. 



Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Ghosts of Christmas' Past

        Nothing really has changed about Christmas. Every year, I get excited to put the lights up on the tree and string them across the front of my home. There is something so gratifying about putting lights on my home for me. It's mine. What lives in it is mine, and I am theirs. I work all week and enjoy listening to the same Christmas music on my way that I listened to last year and the years before. They all take me back to the reasons I have always loved Christmas. No matter how bad things had been for me in my life, there was always a savior for me on Christmas.

        I was such a lonely kid. But when I think about Christmas now and remember, everything was so beautiful and perfect. I'd sleep under the Christmas tree, or alternate between the tree and the floor heat register and watch the lights promise me something that no human could ever fulfill in me. I can't think of a single Christmas growing up that was ruined by anything. I'm sure my mom had a few, but she was strong enough to not let me see that. She was always really good at redirection with those kinds of things.

        I moved out and experienced Christmas on my own. This was in a really bad time in my life...the worst actually. Christmas became a thing of sadness for me for reasons I could not even describe at the time. I'd think about all of these great Christmases and get really sad and feel more lonely. So I'd walk around the neighborhood and look into people's front windows to see them be families. Super Creepy, I know.

        I married this woman this one day, and got what I was promised under that tree. I made it my mission to string up the lights on Thanksgiving or a day or two after. Took them down in March, but who's counting. I got to be the family in that front window. My kids came into the world and the only thing I wanted to do was what my mom did for me. I wanted them to believe something very special about Christmas. Something very comforting about a savior being born that would make it all better. Even if everything seemed hopeless.

        The last bit of Christmases have been marred with some pretty terrible stuff. It makes it difficult because I have become at odds with my favorite time of the year. The feeling now makes me so happy and so profoundly sad. My favorite thing is when I get to see Andy and when I get to see Jeff and his family. These are people that are family to me and I don't get to see them much. Then, that reminds me that two of the most influential people in my life aren't here anymore, and that is my worst thing.

                                     I guess the word I would use to descibe it is: Disappointment.

        They were supposed to always be here, with me and for me. But they aren't anywhere I can see them. Me and Will used to cut class and sit on top of his car in the park to kill time. We weren't killing time. We were making the very best of it. We would talk about our future and we were both present in each other's. Me and Joe use to used to carve our names on everything because we wanted to come back decades later and remember what we were when we were kids. So I guess the Ghosts of Christmas' past come to haunt me now.

                                                                          The good news.

        God is still good. Jesus is still our savior. I am still the guy I wanted to be in that front window, albeit a bit more broken. I string up the lights and love watching my kids play in the snow that is now blanketing Michigan, giving millions of kids a day off of school tomorrow. I shield my kids from the things they don't have to see. I think of times with my brothers who were everything but blood to me, and smile. I don't get lonely at Christmas anymore. I am full. I am what little kids under trees want when they are praying hopefully and lonely to an invisible God.

God is good.
God is with us.
God saved me.
Even when it hurts everything inside me to admit.


Thanks for reading...Z

It is God

I am weak. I am strong. I am weak. I am strong. I am weak. I am strong. I am human. Humans are weak. Yet somehow, we take credit for our strength. It is God.

Sing. Migrate. Thanks for reading...Z