After curtain calls and bows
I can’t see the front row now.
Hand me my red shoes
Just one more time…
You were never without vision. No matter your orientation, situation…addiction.
In the end, you knew what you wanted to do.
That is huge.
You would have taken all those collections…your father’s, your mother’s, your own…and started a business. Terry Toes Tea Room.
You told me where you wanted to rent space and the cool things you would have used to decorate.
But I don’t know anything about tea.
You would have learned and it would have been a kick-ass place. My Favorite, Michael, took me to such a place in New Orleans. It was totally you.
There just wasn’t enough time. You died when you were only 45 years old.
I learned so much from that. Almost frantically, I started my list. It was my Terry Toes List before I ever heard the term “Bucket List”.
Hand-stand push-ups. Check.
Harmonica. Check. (Heath bought me a set in every key).
Mountain biking. Check.
Vertical ballet barre. Check. No. It isn’t a stripper pole. It’s a vertical ballet barre and I bought it for myself on the occasion of my own 45th birthday. I pour my heart into it and I do ballet.
And shave off all the years now,
It’s all inside my head…
The boy in the red shoes is dancing beside my bed.
Put them in a box somewhere,
Put them in a drawer…
Take my red shoes,
I can’t wear them anymore.
When they took you away, I sat there on the front porch, William at the fence to my left. This was the very spot I had been introduced to you. It was the day of my senior pictures. My waist-length hair was Sun-In blonde.
When Nurse Doris left, there was only me, Phyllis, and Diane. We helped ourselves to one of your Miller Lites in the frig. It was ten-ish a.m. We sat in the living room…the site of so much joy and life and love. We told stories of you.
You met Diane in school when you were in first grade. You met Phyllis for the first time when you were six years old–even though you didn’t remember until you were 44. You remembered her from a game of “musical chairs” at someone’s birthday party where you cheated. The two of you both remembered and laughed.
Most of your friends were lifelong friends. Who can say that? Really? Who in this life keeps friends for a lifetime?
The day you died, your friends stopped by –a mosaic of a life– to shoot the breeze. I sat on that front porch as long as I could and then the new property owners arrived.
As I gathered my things, I went to your stereo and took your Elton John c.d. I said to Phyllis, “I hope no one minds.”
It was so strange to leave the place I’d known as my home-away-from-home since I was 17 years old. The place that had been home-away-from-home for all of my children since the day they entered the world.
Funerals are for the living so all I’ll say about yours is that it was one of the two most populated I’ve attended in my entire life. The other was for a police officer…another sis-in-law who passed far too early from this life when she was only one year older than you when you died.
My granddaughter was born nine months to the day after you passed away. I don’t believe in creepy things like reincarnation but I do believe that God always makes provision. I believe He always finds a way to give us joy unspeakable to compensate for times of sorrow. Her first home was the very same as her father’s first home –the home where both you and your mother left this life.
She’s six now. We sit together on your antique Federal Sofa. When she wants to talk in private or simply read a story, I say to her, “let’s go sit on Terry’s sofa.” She knows all about you.
She understands continuity. She understands that when we sit in the Memory Room, we are surrounded by the things you loved, the things your mother loved, and photographs of people we will always love. And that somehow, your mother’s love became engrained in the wood of her antique clocks as yours did in the upholstery of your Federal Sofa.
I guess you know that William lived out his last days with Heath. He lived six more years after you left. He was so happy with a boy who was born to be a dog’s best friend. When it was William’s time to go, some precious angel of a vet came to Heath’s house to help usher him into the next life. Heath and Breezy watched together as William closed his eyes. The part where he transitioned toward you and grandpa…they couldn’t see it but they did feel it.
Today Breezy and I listened to your Elton John c.d. She’s a senior now, the age I was when you and I met. Hair to her waist like me, but no Sun-In color. Hers is all natural–a glorious dark chocolate silk with fiery kisses of red.
I thought after 7 years, I would be strong enough to hear these songs. But I wasn’t. Maybe buried deep within the satisfaction of having done things your way, my grief is still raw. But I’m determined…kind of like a new thing on my Terry Toes List….I will listen until I cry no more.
Oh, the furnace wind
Is a flickering of wings about your face,
In a cloud of incense…
Yeah, it smells like heaven in this place.
~Elton John, “Songs from the West Coast”