Some days in Purgatory are better than others...and some days, I'm just done. Toast...but, it's the Lenten season, so I will just shoulder that cross and bear it...
It was one of those days, I got the bambini up early, made it to Mass, breakfast, grocery shopping and then home, where I did wash, made lunch while packing lunches for tomorrow, then started dinner, since I had to leave for work at 1:00....
Got home a little after 10:00 in time to write.
Ash Wednesday, a blur, like the ashes Father Harry swiped on my forehead as I raced across town after working en route to pick up the bambini, who were in the safe, caring home of Mary (their kindergarten teacher!).
St. Pius has an awesome set up for folks on the fly, like me. They set up a fire pit out front in the courtyard - framed with orange trees and the majestic Catalina Mountains just behind the church - the spot where we released balloons to the Heavens for Kim, the day of her celebration. There are scraps of paper available, so you can write down your sins, or what you plan to give up and then toss them onto the fire. I wrote a novel, the size of a telephone book, and set it ablaze.
"I thought you'd never stop writing" deadpanned Father Harry.
"Did you see Juve beat Celtic 3-0 in the Champions League yesterday?" I asked him (he's from Ireland, but a Manchester United fan).
"Nice match, that" He replied as he anointed my forehead with ashes.
I didn't have time to bring the bambini with, so I asked him if he'd bless some ashes and put them in a tissue I had and told him I'd apply them to their foreheads later. Father Harry is so in tune with today's family, he readily did that for us.
I knew I had to get running and actually started heading to the parking lot. Yet. The church pulled me back. Like a magnet. I hadn't been inside of it in about a year.
I entered through the southeast door, like we used to, as a family, before we were broken - all of those years ago...and the flashback hit me with the force of lightning and tsunami...the church was packed to standing room only and I was facing the pew where I sat that day, holding my babies, trying to stay strong...
...and then I was back. The church was dark, except for night lighting. My gaze stuck on the northwest facing doors. So ornamental and beautiful. But such a sad, mournful quality and meaning to them.
Tuesdays, our day with the Barrio's family, I related to them my feelings towards these doors. Wonder. Horror. How, before Kim even got sick, I dreaded those doors. Prayed I'd never have to see a loved one pass through their artistically adorned arches.
"Did you notice them? That day?" I asked. Lupe told me that they had been seated behind me, so their backs were to those doors.
When we first started attending Mass at St. Pius, after Kim's unceremoniously exit from St. Frances, we both admired these doors. Kim loved the artwork. The angels. Beautiful.
However, we attended the funeral of Vito's Uncle Angelo, who Cody and Autumn adored and was such a nice man, and found out that this set of doorways, was the ones used to send off the deceased.
That day, Father Harry explained that this was the doorway that led to Heaven.
I looked for the proverbial stairway, in my grief, but found none. And a lyric from an old favorite song came to mind:
"This is not an exit, there's no way out"
-Anthrax (certainly from my heavy metal days)
And from that point on, each and every Mass, I stared at that door. Foreboding. Gripping me. Mesmerized and praying that I'd never have to see my loved ones pass through it.
I stayed at the back row of the church, as far from the door as possible and prayed. For the bambini. Our friends and family. Kim.
And then, on leaden feet, I stiffly approached it to take this photo.
Again, so beautiful, yet so sad.
The big save was the support that we have - especially Aut and Tonio. We had a great dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings with Mary, Emilio and Brinley. Autumn and Tonio walked Brinley to the arcade area and played the claw machine until they won a stuffed dog for Brinley and a Angry Bird for Tonio. Aut and Tonio love that little girl - she makes their day!
Before I knew it, St. Valentine's Day was upon us. I found myself helping Tonio fill out his class' Valentine's after our dinner with the Montes'. I helped him place them all in a brown bag, telling him that is how I used to transport my Valentine's to school, too.
For the first time, I heard the satirical "Valentine's is 'single awareness day'" and thought it had been soooo many years since I was in that category. I loved surprising Kim with flowers, or a bit of jewelry. Or a movie, DVD or shoes (she was, after all, the Imelda Marcos of the U.S. ; ) ) And Kim, she would always make me a shrimp dish for dinner, my favorite.
Would I have loved to take Kimmy out for dinner?
We ended up at Viro's, sharing a table with long time regulars, and I had shrimp and scallops (Kim's favorite)....A place of comfort for us.
I miss the brilliant sparkle in Kim's blue eyes the moment I handed her roses...she was always so amazingly appreciative of every gesture...so supportive...
Saturday, after I worked a 9 hour shift, a gorgeous day, Cody said "Hey, it would be a great day to ride Fantasy Island!".
As broken as I felt, after my week, I hadn't seen that smile on his face and that desire to do something with us in a while...I could not say no.
He's so quiet these day. Loves his X-Box. Best friend, Brendon (Janene's boy) comes over every weekend, or he goes there. It's hard to keep him with us...and I do my best to give him his space. So, you see, I had to go...
"I'm not going." Autumn stated flatly. "That place will be the death of me. I've had dreams." Like my tidal wave dreams? I wondered.
We tried to persuade her.
"It's so nice out!"
"It will help you with your exercise log for P.E. class!"
"I'll exercise in the house."
"We'll see Mama's bike! And touch it up!"
Hesitation. Serious thought.
"I want to...but I can't."
And so it was, that the boys and I set out into the desert. Tonio's first time on his new, 20" bike. No foot brake, just a hand brake. And as we began on the tight, cholla and prickly pair cactus lined path, I questioned my own judgement....
It is so undeniably beautiful and pristine out there. The winding path, the wild life. The trees, plants and mountains! The temperature was just right, near 70 degrees. My boys. Riding under perfect conditions. Tonio, comically close to being punctured by a variety of cacti, and totally unaware, jabbering away...
"Wow! A chipmunk!" he'd cry.
"Look at that saguaro! It must be at least 90, no! 100 years old!"
"How soon until we get to Mama's bike?"
Cody, leading the way, found it first.
"It's pretty faded Dad." He worried.
Ahhhh, but I had brought the huge marker...just in case.
"Please Cody" I told him "You do the honor."
Cody carefully, artfully and with full concentration, retraced our words on Kim's memorial, dangling from a large Palo Verde tree in the middle of nowhere.
I love these boys...and Cody's smile! He did a great job resurrecting the verbiage on Kim's memorial. We shared some water...and then...
" Mind if I take off Dad?"...Cody asked.
Tonio and I stayed a bit longer, Tonio asking me questions..."Do you miss Mama? Do you ever see her? I miss her right now. So bad." And then, "Ok Dad, let's ride."
He did so remarkably well. Navigating rutted paths, with 90 degree turns, amidst cacti that would slice and dice him at the slightest hint of a mistake.
And the whole way, he's narrating...
"Look, a cactus wren, our state bird!"
"Oh my, quail!"
"Dad!!! Jack rabbits!! They are bigger than Bella!!!!"
It was a joy. A pleasure. To ride with my youngest son, in this moment, he was tireless, energetic, so observant. What great company. And, about three quarters of the way through, I heard the sound of a fast, approaching rider, overcoming us.
"Tonio! Move off the path to your right!" I called.
I heard a chuckle.
"It's just me Dad." Cody said.
"Haul A**!" I'd yell at Tonio - he'd be giggling and pedaling hard. He worked so hard to make it through this 6 mile journey in about an hour, his best time. I was so proud of him - no accidents and he made it through so quickly (he did confide in me this morning that his thighs were sore from the ride). Cody took paths that were about 11 miles and was not even winded. I was done. It was so peaceful and beautiful out there though. And I felt a great connection with my boys....
I don't have an emphatic ending for this post, sorry. Just trudging along, through my Purgatory and t what happened. What I have been blessed with.