It’s Just Us

On St. Patrick’s Day I always make Corn beef and cabbage. It’s kind of a tribute to my Irish heritage. A week before St. Patrick’s Day I asked my son if he could cook it because I work a 10-hour shift. He replied, “Ok, but it will be just us are you sure you want me to cook it for just us?” I told him he was right it made little sense to cook a holiday dinner for just the two of us.

I went to work, and it kept gnawing at the back of my mind. So what are you going to do Teri quit celebrating holiday’s because you’re not married anymore? What about Christmas and Thanksgiving?

Friday night at D.V. group I was still irritated with the situation. When my turn came around I inquired how other ladies handle holidays. The answer was disheartening, most had similar reasoning and agreed that it didn’t make sense to go through all the hoopla for just them and the kids. They were too tired, or it cost too much and how they can’t do everything. After several women gave their opinion Karen asked what I thought of the feed back. Weird question from her.

My forehead scrunched up with confusion, “Why? Did we only do it for him?” I was staring at the light hanging from the ceiling. “Yes, I can see now that even after we leave, they still win. We quit living.” Taking a deep breath I looked around, “Why would I be too tired to do all the hoopla when I just have my children to celebrate with and not be too tired when I am living with someone who drained the life out of me?” I looked at Karen, “Why is it if we are no longer with our abuser we are no longer a family?” Slightly shaking my head, “I’m sorry, I really think I need to live even if he isn’t there. My family is me and my kids right now! Why would I give us less than I would him? Personally, I will not let him win by only existing without him.”

Karen smiled at me, “You are learning a new way of thinking.”

My son and I feasted on the Corn beef and cabbage he made. It was just us and we had a great dinner.

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Oregon, My Soul

In the 8th grade, my parents moved us from Myrtle Creek, Oregon to Carlin, Nevada. My Uncle Jim owned a drilling company and my father would work for him. During the move, Dad and I rode in a U-Haul truck on an endless stretch of a deserted highway.  In the distance, I spotted Doherty Summit or as my family calls it Buzzards Gap. The summit stood massive and barren. Looking, I wondered ‘where are the trees?’ I turned to dad asking about the trees. He responded, “there aren’t any, just sand and rocks”. My expression prompted dad to say, “it’s not very pretty, is it?” I shook my head no.  He proceeded to tell me how things will look different in our new town. As he talked, I began to understand how much my father loved Oregon. He wasn’t talking about where we were going, but what he was leaving. He painted a picture of Oregon’s beauty, joked about the people, shared his family connections and memories. In my 12-year-old mind, I began to grasp the deep love between my father and Oregon!

We returned to Oregon a year later after graduating from high school I moved away, returning in less than a year. A short time later our family moved back to Nevada where I married someone who didn’t share my love of Oregon. My next trip to Oregon was 20 years later with 3 more visits in the years to follow. As my massive family slowly dwindles, my continual prayer is to go home.

The minute I enter Oregon I become overwhelmed with emotion. It never fails as my car climbs the winding mountain passes tears will brim my eyes. Sitting in the passenger seat I’ll watch the trees grow stronger and taller. The forest grows thick only allowing me glimpses of her deep blue lakes. The sights, the sounds, the smells begin to confuse my thoughts with a mixture of memories and familiarity.  I try to share what’s happening, but the words choke in my throat. Climbing down the other side of the mountain, there are farms with rows and rows of freshly tilled land. Cows will be gathered in the corners of pastures. The closer I get to the town I call home the worse it gets.

This town holds my youth, my history, my childhood dreams. As I drive around, I see the past. My schools. My old homes.  Every corner brings familiarity. A wrong turn brings back lost memories. If I look closely, I can see ghosts. In our old home, my mom tends her flower beds while my brother’s tinker with their bikes. At my grandparent’s farm, grandma is feeding her chickens while grandpa mows. There’s the cafe I worked at in high school if I gaze there’s me as a teen waiting tables. In the green grass in front of my high school, my friends and I sit laughing, teasing, living out the day-to-day drama of teenagers. The foundations of my opinions were shaped here. What was to become my life was started here.

The first place I usually go is to one of my many Aunts houses. There is nothing better than being wrapped in someone’s arms who unconditionally loves you.  A woman who’s genuinely happy to see you.  A person whose eyes bring back pictures of ancestors long-buried. There will be laughter, food, and stories of days gone by. The stories I’ve heard a million times, but my soul longs to hear them a million more. I will be made to feel important, cared about, and loved beyond measure. I am connected.

Another place I will visit is the Roseburg Memorial Cemetery, I know weird! I love that I can go to one cemetery and visit both sides of my family. I sit by my father’s grave and visit. I say hi to my grandparents, uncles, and aunts; it’s strangely comforting.

Eventually, time runs out. Reluctantly, I start my trip home with every mile my heart grows heavier. By the time I reach the state line pieces of me are missing. Once again I’m disconnected.