The words of my cousin Adam. He’s the one cousin out of about 75 that I talk to more than anyone. He’s 26 and he’s autistic. It was his soulful voice that made me smile. It doesn’t matter how long time has gone between when I’ve seen him or talked to him, he remembers. He remembers and immediately breaks into song. A little Bob Seger for the soul.
But after the smile fades, my sadness returns. It seems there is way too much of that this year. It’s more just than a loss of a family member. Aunt Edith was my great aunt. She outlived all of her nieces on my Grandma’s side, including my mom. She was an amazing woman. I did not get a chance to meet her until I was a legal adult. It was like being greeted by a grandmother I no longer had and had longed for. She brought me in and loved me as if she had known me my whole life. I remember always thinking I hoped that I could be like her in so many ways: her love of God, her love of her husband my Uncle Don, being able to offer advice and wisdom to her grandchildren as I had the privilege of her sharing with me, her love for gardening, and being a good cook. I will miss her maple candy. I remember when mom asked me to write to her and ask for some. I did…..I didn’t think I would get the box out of my mom’s hands when it came in the mail! I can only hope that I live life with zest like she did and stay as spry as she was. Aunt Edith was an amazing but more I am thankful that God gave me the time I had with her. I’m sad Alice doesn’t remember her but am so thankful she got to meet her. What a wonderful moment in time to meet your great, great aunt! RIP Aunt Edith. I will miss you.
And by the way…… I’m get a little tired of turning pages in my life. This is enough loss for one year. Now time to go honor Carroll.
So I wanted to write in last week to the podcast I listen to (www.jackandstench.com) and didn’t have the chance. I would have started with F you Stench for talking smack about older parents. However, that all seems so trivial now. I finally sat down and wrote to Jack that I really wanted to thank both of them for all they do for keeping this podcast going. It was the event of this weekend, and learning of the death of Kidd Kraddick, it just made me think how much more I appreciate Jack and Stench for sacrificing their time and energy to talk at us everyday. Learning about Kidd Kraddick was quite a blow. Growing up here in Dallas, he was what got me through my evenings as a pre-teen and a teenager. He always had a way about him that when things seemed a little rough in life, he made you feel a little bit better. I remember listening to him on KEGL here at nights to listen to his top 10. He started the line, “Burn Your Buns” and of course that Rick Dees stole that saying years later. But, just like a kid, he was kind of a connection to another world that made me forget a little bit about having a rough day or just trying to get through teenage stuff. And, much like him, Jack and Stench are that part for me too. I don’t know how I would have made it through this move back to Texas without the two of them everyday. It kept me focused on what was important. Even that quick weekend home to the podcast event in Orange County, helped me see some kind of light and that my world wasn’t completely falling apart. There were many days when we first moved that I just didn’t want to wake up in the morning and it scared me feeling that empty inside. But, I knew I had to do it for my kid, and having the support of the podfamily and knowing we would come home as often as possible made it more bearable. I don’t think in life we tell people enough, even though we know they may know how much we them, it’s still important to say. So, Jack and Stench, from the bottom of my heart I want to take the opportunity to tell you both how much I appreciate you both and thanks for getting me through my day.
Losing Kidd Kraddick this weekend was also a slight reminder of Carroll. How many afternoons did we sit and listen to the radio together. And, for that time, I am grateful.
When I looked into her eyes last night and I asked her if she realized that sometimes she was the teacher and I was the student, she looked at me in surprise. I can’t believe how the events of this week have unfolded. I really want to be a good mom. I know it sounds cliché but I don’t want to be like my parents. I don’t think I’ve been so angry before…at a million things….her whining, her screaming, a husband that isn’t present, a dad that forgets and just gives into her every whim, a house with hail damage, a garden not growing, etc, etc, etc…… But, this five year old deserves so much more. She deserves to have both parents being present and caring for her without a cacophony of sound echoing for the whole neighborhood to hear. I looked deep into those brown eyes and reminded myself over and over until I felt it and knew in my heart for it to be true, that the only thing that mattered is love. For this five year old has reminded me of what unconditional love truly is. No matter how upset I am or what I say, she comes back looking for affection, a hug or a kiss with a heart so pure. I have been working hard this week to remember her acts of unconditional love and acceptance of me as her mom. So, last night at 1:00am when I heard her in her room, I asked if she wanted to snuggle. My heart burst with happiness at her saying yes. One day, I know she’ll be too old to want to snuggle with her mom (even though secretly I hope that day never comes). No matter where my head goes, thinking I just can’t do this one more day, I will work on reminding myself that she has much more to teach me about who I want to be.
It was 12:09 am….the phone rang. It’s never good when the phone rings that late. I saw it was Carroll. I didn’t want to believe it. I was hoping that she needed my help. Come get Lilly, can you come over, I need _________. No. It was her husband. I didn’t want to hear what he had to say. Damn it. I didn’t get to _________________________ (insert one million things I wanted to say or do with her). I wanted to turn back time so fast. I just needed…………………………………..
I’m not ready to lose my friend.
I’m angry. I’m disappointed in our healthcare system. It really disgusts me that a doctor would allow someone so young to walk through their door and not educate them. How could they just suggest and inject the next end-all-be-all medication without any regard for what it was doing to someone’s body. Why aren’t they teaching people about nutrition? Educate them on GMOs. How many more people need to get cancer before society wakes up. Other countries don’t allow GMOs, why is America? It’s poison, free radicals, toxic trash people put in their bodies. How can these doctors live with themselves? It makes me more disgusted in Western medicine than ever. Should have I felt bad I couldn’t support the brain cancer walk? I feel bad that I wasn’t there WITH Carroll but no I don’t feel bad that I wasn’t willing to support a cause that promoted death.
I wasn’t ready to not have my friend around. I want her back.
It was funny when I talked to her mom later that morning. I felt such an emptiness. I think I was upset that we didn’t have time to go through the pictures she wanted for the book for her daughter. However, her mom reminded me that I needed to help finish that book. I told her I would and that I had been working on it the previous week. I told her I was sad Carroll didn’t get to see what I had done. She said, “Don’t worry, she did. She’s smiling down looking at it.” That somehow gave me comfort. And, yes for that little girl, I want her to have those pictures in the album her mother bought for her.
I’ve cried a lot of tears the past couple of days for my friend. I know she wouldn’t want me to be sad. So, even as I sit here now typing, I’m trying not to cry. But, I am remembering the good stuff….and the most important thing of all Carroll taught me….”I love you.” because you never know when you won’t have the chance to say it again.
Carroll….I watched the sunset on my drive home tonight. The sky was cloudy and the sun sank low just peering below the clouds. As the sun dropped the sky became this beautiful ray of blue and red with the lining of the clouds lit like fire. I just hope you were back there watching me, as I thought of you.
I know it sounds like a cliche. However, I am at a point in my life where I don’t really know who I am. I just posted to a friend that I’m having mid-life identity issues. So, I never changed my name when married because first I was 30, who the hell would ever call me Teresa Baker? Second, with work, I had worked my ass off to make my name known in LA, especially to doctors and colleagues so that I could get work. Well, now I’m here and I’m Teresa Stratz, and I hated that girl growing up. Damn, did I mention I have a lot of issues!!!! So, writing is like a door opening to my mind and things I have buried for a long time are surfacing and now I have to work on it.
So, with dad getting older, I realize that if something happens to him, I will be Teresa Stratz, but at the same time I don’t want to be a Stratz anymore. I also don’t want to be a Baker, and that is an Oprah story in itself! Do you have a minute???? Cary didn’t speak to his dad for 7 years before I met him. After we got married, some sister of his called stating he was dying and wanted to see Cary. I said, “Let’s go.” I warned Cary I was going to ask a lot of questions, which Cary flipped the f out about because he said that he would have been beat when he was younger for asking questions. So, away we went and an hour and a half later, Cary said I got more out of his dad in that time than he did in 34 years. But, in talking with him and with Cary’s mom, I realize Cary doesn’t even know where he came from. Cary didn’t know anything about his dad and he the family always joked how Phillip wasn’t even his real name, it was Charles. That makes me wonder if his last name is really Baker. His dad wanted to be head of the iron workers union in Chicago and be a part of the mob. I think he worked for some mob boss at some point in California and we think he may have even taken someone out. It’s all a little shady. It was Cary’s mother that told us about his heritage of his parents being Jewish. And that freaking family is NOT even an option. Cary barely speaks to his mother as it is. I’ve been the one to push and to deal with her psychotic bullshit. He doesn’t want anything to do with his 5 siblings (some of which aren’t Bakers anyway). So, with all of this….I’m feeling lost. I don’t even feel like I know who I am. If dad goes, I’m not consorting with those Stratz’ anymore and then I don’t know where I’ll belong. That was always my identity. I definitely don’t want my mom’s maiden name…..they’re nuts and I tend to ignore most of them now anyway or at least the ones I know.
So, I’m not really sure who I am or where I belong. Belonging is probably where my heart is and that sure isn’t here…….
So, it’s now 2013. I like the phrase that there are 365 pages of a new book to write. I doubt I will write everyday, seeing as it’s already the 2nd. I think back over the last week and a half and the whirlwind it’s been. I thought to myself a couple of weeks ago if my 4-year-old happened to know any Christmas songs. You know the ones that come so easily to us now….a little Elvis, a little Gene Autry (my fave), a little Burl Ives, etc…. Then one day from the other room, I hear her. It was like an angel was singing Jingle Bells to me. I love to hear her voice. Then a few days later I hear her singing Frosty the Snowman (of course she had watched it on DVR 3x by then). But, again, I love to hear her sing. Her voice is like velvet rubbing against my heart….there’s a softness and warmth that I get from her. So, in the same moment of time through this space continuum my heart is breaking. I look at Alice and thank God I am healthy and am here for her. In that same breath I see Carroll and my heart is literally breaking again. This pain is like no other pain. Until you’ve had someone die close to you, one can never imagine this physical hurt. Unfortunately, I have felt this quite a few times in the last 8 years. It started with my mom. No EKG would have shown what I felt but if that is what a heart attack feels like then I hope to never have a real one. The pain came back less than 2 years later when Fat Aunt Mary died. I think after that my heart just became a little tougher….at least until 3 days before Christmas. I know Carroll is sick. I know I have tried to offer help. I know I have been a good friend. But, I also know that my heart is breaking again. I am not ready to lose my friend. I was not ready to hear her words that she has limited time left. I have so much left to say but more important questions to ask. I want to know if she is scared, and if so, of what? Isn’t she afraid that Lilly, her little angel who is only 3, may not remember her or will feel lost without her. And, her husband, James, is she ok with him moving on in his life one day? Does she think her dad and grandparents will be there for her when she crosses over? Is she ready to meet Jesus? So, at the end of the day when I’ve wasted my time reading the political bullshit of the day and definitely not agreeing with the thoughts of others on that subject, I realize what has become of us as a nation is not as important as the people right next to us. It’s about the people that we see everyday and interact with…..treating them as Jesus would want us to. And, most important as Carroll has taught me the last 30 years….tell them you love them.