The Loop of Grace

I’m not a particularly religious person. But I do have faith. And I believe in the basics of humanity, that everyone – despite our religious differences, despite our ethnic differences, despite the many other differences that drive us apart – has the capacity for grace. Father Robert Barron describes The Loop of Grace: “The more we give back to God, the more we get, and then we must give that back again, so as to get even more in return. This is the loop of grace.” I believe this has a more practical application in these troubled times. Substitute “others” for “God”. See how much your life changes. See how much you change the world.

Fourth of July Eve

It was a tradition dating back to high school. Every year on July 3rd we gathered at the river, drank beer, and lit bottle rockets; a “Fourth of July Eve” of sorts. Thirty years later and we still gathered, the sound of 80s hair metal mixing with laughter carried on the night air, soaring as high as the fireworks we set off. Our numbers had dwindled, some had moved away, some had moved on from this world. We toasted to everyone who couldn’t be with us, and remembered the days long gone. Days we thought would never end, and days we knew would never last.

Cowboy’s Delight

Leaning against the door-frame he quietly watched her, his heart-shaped lips curling gently upward. She was so beautiful when she was sleeping. Her light copper hair fell in messy waves across the pillow. The moonlight cast a soft glow on her face and highlighted her upturned nose and pursed lips, forehead creased as if in deep thought. He wanted to be in her mind, wanted to know what she dreamed about. He hoped it was about him.

Her emerald green chemise clung to her curves and the deep V neckline emphasized the soft curves of her breasts. He resisted the urge to go to her, to touch her, to caress her. He wanted to drink in the sight of her in the stillness of the warm summer night. He had ached for her on the long nights away. The nights he spent on the road, singing his love-struck melodies in nameless bars and faceless clubs. The words meant for her, wasted instead on strangers. When he had wanted only to return to her.

Now he couldn’t wait one more second. He slipped between the sheets and pulled her tightly against him, burying his nose in her hair and savoring the fresh smell of cherry blossoms. She shifted and murmured his name then melted into him. He sighed. He was finally home.

The Real Grown-Ups

I always wondered who made up the names for nail polish. No, really. That has to be the coolest job on the planet. Please sign me up. I’m pretty sure I would just come back from a long liquid lunch and pull out a thesaurus or a box of crayons. Or both. I’m looking through my personal collection of polish now. ‘Madison Ave-hue’ (This is just downright lazy – it’s a bright pink and isn’t Madison Avenue more glam??) ‘Splash of Grenadine’ (It actually looks kinda like grenadine so I’ll give them that) ‘Koala Beary’ (I was expecting an earthier tone) ‘A Rose At Dawn’ (Is this a cheap play on words?) ‘Dim Sum Plum’ (I’ve never had dim sum {mini shocker} but I guess they serve it with plum sauce???) ‘Boom Boom’ (This one-two punch doesn’t quite hit the mark) ‘Outrageous’ (Ummm, I’m not sure what outrageous looks like, but I picture it much darker) ‘Chicago Champagne Toast’ (The color is right but did it have to be in Chi Town?) Apparently I missed my calling. I could have been making up nail polish names for a living. It seems kinda random but kinda fun at the same time.

Only The Good

I dropped onto the damp grass, a cold bottle of Riesling in my hand. I made sure to get the one with the screw-cap – it would be easier. Opening the lid, I tilted the bottle in a mock salute and took a long drink. A few tears escaped my eyes, snaking down my cheeks and dropping onto my bare legs, untanned from long months inside, escaping the cold winter.

Dammit, Lizzie! It was supposed to be me. I was the screw-up. You were the one who prayed, who went to church, who helped others and did charity work. Mother Teresa I used to call you, only half joking. You, you could save the world. Me? I was destined to destroy it. Or at least destroy anything that came into my path. It’s not supposed to work this way. “Only the good die young?” That’s bullshit. The world needs all the good people it can get. More you, less me.

I put my hand against the cold granite.

Elizabeth Anne Donohue
~
Mother * Wife * Daughter * Sister
~
January 14, 1974 – April 20, 2017

My finger traced over the word ‘sister’. You were so much more than a sister. You were everything to me. Big sister, best friend, mother, confidant, partner in crime. You weren’t supposed to leave me. Not now, not this soon. We didn’t even have a chance to grow old and wear purple and join the red hat society.

I poured some wine into the grass, as if you could taste it, and took another long swig myself. Looking up at the cloudy sky I thought of all the dark days in front of me. “I guess I have to be the responsible one now, huh?” I said aloud, as if you were sitting next to me. But then I did feel you, right next to me, nudging me like an over-protective big sister would. “Whatever, Lizzie.” I finished the wine and nestled myself against your tombstone. “Just let me rest a bit first.”

Generations

She pulled the diamond solitaire from the dusty box, carefully as if it could shatter. The gem was lackluster from years of neglect, the gold band dull and lifeless. She thought back to the last time it had seen light, it had been almost fifteen years since the funeral. Cradling the ring in her fingers, she gently rubbed and buffed it until it shone like the glistening sun. When she delivered it to her eldest son, a gift to his betrothed, she wanted it to shine just like the day her beloved husband had presented it to her. A token passed down generation to generation. She wished her husband could be here to give it to Matthew; although, if he was here, she would still be wearing it. She stifled back a tear. Now was not the time to get weepy. It was a celebration. Jason was surely smiling down on them.

Impressions

He loved me completely. At times soft and sweet, then with the passion and fury of a madman unleashed. He teased me with his sweet words and played me with his strong fingers. When we made love the mountains moved and the heavens opened to hear our cries. When we came down our bodies molded into one, with no beginning and no end. When he was gone I wept, not for the loss but for what he had given to me. He left an impression on my heart that nobody would ever be able to fill.

Midnight Cowboy

He’s back, my midnight cowboy. Singing sweet words in his deep whiskey siren voice for an audience of one. Night after endless night playing in smoky bars didn’t catapult him to fame. He returned slightly rumpled, ego bruised and I welcomed him with a standing ovation. I inhaled the smell of his cologne and sweat as I pulled him tightly to me and whispered in his ear, “Welcome home cowboy.”

Sailing

The sun peeked through the bedroom curtains, casting a glow on his scruffy beard, and my head raced with excitement. We’d waited through weeks of rain for this beautiful clear spring morning. I didn’t want to waste any of it. I did have a small pang of regret for waking him. He was so peaceful and beautiful in slumber. I could watch him for hours, his normally furrowed brow at rest, long dark lashes hiding his mesmerizing cornflower blue eyes. But this morning I couldn’t wait. I shook him like a child waking her parents on Christmas morning. “Spencer. Wake up.”

After a stop at the coffee shop – black coffee for him, Earl Grey for me – we walked hand in hand to the park. I tipped my head back, allowed the sun to warm my face and smiled. “You’re beautiful.” I turned to see his grinning face, heart-shaped lips stained red from the fresh strawberries we ate at breakfast. I waggled my eyebrows at him, “Race you” then took off running, laughter bouncing off the tree branches.

When we reached Conservatory Water I slowed and approached in awe. It was our first visit of the season and I marveled at the deep blue color of the glassy water. The light wind would be perfect for sailing boats. When we were finally ready we put our boats in the water and I watched the surface break, sending wave after tiny wave out in perfect circles. We looked at each other as if we were five-years-old, the innocence and wonder of a child pure in our eyes. A simple nod was all it took – our boats were in the water, set adrift to wait for a puff of wind that would send them sailing as far as our hearts allowed.

The Voice

My heels sunk into the soft grass. I didn’t care that they would be ruined but I couldn’t help but wonder why women wore heels to funerals or why they didn’t put something on the ground for women to walk on so they wouldn’t ruin their heels. It was a strange thought to have, considering the circumstances. My face showed no sign of the turmoil brewing deep within. A drunk driver had not only killed my husband, but by default had killed me too. I was only a shell left to muddle through the days as if life had a meaning. A single tear escaped my eye and snaked down my cheek. Making no move to wipe it away I stood woodenly alone. Too soon my family and friends would descend, smiles plastered on their faces, feigned concern in their voice. No, for now I was alone. I broke the silent morning air. “You bastard. How could you leave me?” Then finally, I smiled. Because in my head I could hear his voice echoing back. “You know, you’re ruining your favorite heels.”

Game Over

We were on the precipice, our future in the balance. What you said next would determine the rest of our life. I bit my lip and held my breath, waiting for you to speak. Seconds ticked by, agonizingly slow, your face betraying no sign of the emotions you held within. I silently exhaled, my lungs crying for oxygen. Waiting for an answer was like slow torture. Finally, you spoke. “You’re too good for me.” GAME OVER

America’s Pastime

I enjoyed the view from the hospitality suite. He stepped beside me and held out a frosty bottle of beer. We stood in silence, sipping the cold brew and drinking in the sight of the Temple of Baseball laid out below. Players in bright white pants and bold red shirts dotted the emerald field in various stages of warm-up. Some stretched, some hit, some threw, some ran. Some merely stood talking, about what I wondered. Game strategy perhaps, or maybe something as simple as what they had planned for their day off – one day in the middle of a long stretch of back to back to back to back games. My eyes darted back and forth from one group of players to another, not settling on one spot for very long before moving again. It was a visual delight.

I breathed the smell of popcorn and hot dogs and beer and fresh cut grass and summer air, a combination unique to a baseball stadium. “It’s a beautiful day. Thank you for inviting me.” I turned to him, meeting his cornflower blue eyes. My stomach flipped at the upturned corners of his plump lips and the apple cheeks that formed when he grinned. His deep southern drawl still melted my heart. “Darlin’, baseball is no longer my favorite pastime.”

A Walk in The Clouds

We’ve almost reached our destination. We’re on final approach. The flight was unforgettable. Mostly smooth with a few bumps, some unexpected turbulence. But that’s what made it so entertaining. We soared to such heights you and I, on our journey together. But we always knew there would be an end to our story. So, take my hand as we glide back to earth. Take one more look through the clouds at the vast blue sky. Too soon we will alight and become strangers once again.

Seasons of Love

We met on a bright spring morning. Under the pink blooms of the dogwood trees in the park. I hadn’t wanted him to pursue me. I did everything in my power to discourage him. Still he persisted. And I resisted. For as long as I could, I shut him out, afraid to give him my heart. His charm proved to be unavoidable. I fell hard. When I love, I love completely. But when I lose . . . He loved me back, for a while. It wasn’t long and it wasn’t enough. In the end, I had an empty space where my heart used to be.

We met on a crisp autumn morning. Under the flaming red leaves of the dogwood trees in the park . . .

My Forever Man

I love a man who can cook. I was lucky enough to have found a man who could cook and sing. A sexy man with many talents is a dangerous thing.

He was making berry pancakes with cream cheese and berry filling, one of my favorite breakfast dishes. Even if it was almost noon. He moved skillfully around the kitchen, measuring, chopping, adding things to the bowl. He hummed as he went, probably without even realizing it was my favorite song. He’d written it years ago, well before we met. Before life had beaten him down and love had twisted his heart. Back when he was still full of hope and dreams and good intentions. Whenever I heard the lyrics I liked to imagine that man was still somewhere inside of him.

A small sigh escaped my lips as I drank in the sight of him. His short dark hair spiked wildly with no particular sense of direction. The sleeves of his blue and white plaid shirt were rolled up to his elbows, showing off his tanned forearms. Calloused fingers moved quickly and as effortlessly as if he was playing the guitar. Long lashes framed bright cornflower blue eyes which I got just a glimpse of every now and then when his head moved just so. His lips were full and when he looked up and saw me staring intently, they curved up at the corners into an impish grin that made my toes curl.

He lifted the spoon from the mixing bowl and carried it over to me, one hand underneath to protect the tile floor from drips. I took a tentative lick and closed my eyes, breathing in deeply. “Oh, my God, that tastes like sin.” He put the spoon to his own lips and I felt the warmth of desire spread through me. He could make even the simple act of licking a spoon sexy as hell. He scrunched his nose and shrugged modestly. “Mmmm. Not bad.”

Moving back to his place behind the kitchen island, I watched him continue. His hands moved quickly and he still hummed softly. I felt butterflies form in my stomach. I was completely and hopelessly in love with him. I wanted to know this wasn’t temporary – this feeling, this thing between us. He’d been burned pretty badly in the past but, hadn’t we all been hurt? We’d said the words, shared the passion. I knew he loved me. I just didn’t know if he loved me forever.