New York, I’ll Always Love You

Since the age of four, I have experienced this initially unexplainable and intensely strong connection to New York City, borderline obsession, vowing to everyone within ear shot that I will one day live there.  My dreams came true at the age of 26, fueled by absolute love at first sight with David.  The nearly two years I spent living a Brooklyn state of mind were less than ideal, tainted by life occurrences completely out of one’s control.  While there are so many joyful memories and amazing moments connected to my life there, these currently invoke a deep sadness that is presently emotionally tormenting.

The very sight of the Brooklyn Bridge makes me close my eyes and look away and the thought of Cubana Café, the quaint little restaurant with its vibrant, pink neon sign in Park Slope, brings tears to my eyes.  My mouth waters and in unison, a heaviness descends on my heart as I can still taste the delectable, Aztecan hot cacao on my tongue from MarieBelle’s on Broome Street in Manhattan.  The heaviness manifests into a throbbing ache as I recall the beautiful, bulky and sprawling old tree along one of the many walking paths of The Nethermead area of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.  The very thought of one day returning to Barcey’s Coffeehouse in Bushwick for their perfectly balanced mint mochas, instills me with great anxiety and dining at one of my favorite French-American bistros in the Flatiron district is practically forbade in my mind.

In the winter of 2010, I recall having a lovely long distance telephone conversation with David.  He was telling me about his life in New York, his daily routine and all of the things he couldn’t wait to share with me once I made the cross country move.  We both agreed that we couldn’t wait to create our own memories together – have “our spot” and “our favorite coffeehouse.”  We were thrilled to see how tradition would effortlessly establish itself within our new life together.

David and I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge numerous times, hand in hand, willingly stopping one morning to appreciate the breathtaking sunrise.  The iconic landmark was also host to the surprising second time David asked me to marry him, presenting me with an engagement ring, days before our wedding.  Cubana Café was “our spot,” a weekend brunching ritual – we’d laze around in bed until our grumbling stomachs were practically screaming, “feed me.”  We’d then hop on the Q train one short stop into the charming neighborhood of Park Slope where we’d feast on deliciously fried plantains, steak sandwiches for him and Torejas, Cuban style French toast, for me.  MarieBelle’s was a spot David had frequented with his older sister and anxiously introduced me to – I’ll never forget the way his face lit up as we walked through the door and the childlike innocence in his smile.  It was actually the place that sparked our conversation about beginning our own traditions – and so MarieBelle’s swiftly became one of “our places,” as well.  That unique tree in The Nethermead of Prospect Park was “our tree” and the sight of our wedding reception a little over a year ago.  Barcey’s, at the corner of Nicholas Ave and Stockholm Street was “our favorite coffeehouse” in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, where we first lived together and that favorite restaurant was one of his places of employment where we shared many a tasty meal – namely, our engagement dinner date.

The above is only a handful, a snippet, of my life on the east coast with David and as it presently stands, I cannot imagine hopping on a plane to JFK anytime soon.  I hope that this sentiment changes one day – I am almost certain that it will.  I recall another lengthy conversation with David in which I immortalized my passionate bond with the city of New York – I explained the unexplainable – boldly stating that he was always the draw, the magnet to my soul that called me there since the tender age of four.  I validated this romantic idea with the humble fact that he was born around the time that my attraction to New York began.

I wrote a few blogs back that the demise of my marriage couldn’t be clarified in a simple paragraph but that pieces would slowly come together as I continued and here is one of those pieces – To this day, I believe my above theory to be true.  Sadly, I don’t think David ever did – he never considered himself worthy enough to allow even the possibility of that kind of love in, often heartbreakingly accusing me of making the cross-country move from Los Angeles solely to obtain work.  Oh, how I wish he could have recognized and received the undeniable depths and magnitude of which my love was capable of going.  I’ll always love New York just as I’ll always love David.  I just have to figure out how to love New York without him because I can return to the city – I cannot return to David.

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David & I sitting on “our bench” on The Brooklyn Bridge, admiring the sunrise

And the Grieving has only just Begun

I calmly crawled into the bed next to my mother’s cool and lifeless body, only seconds after she took her final breath.  Hospice had provided us with a standard hospital bed for in-home use as it delivered the support her body needed when in such an immobile state.  It was my mama’s wishes to die in her home, surrounded by her loved ones so comfort was priority.

Literally speaking, that’s how close I have come to death.  I’ve lied next to it and I didn’t lie there for long as the sensation that my mother was no longer there overwhelmed me.  Not that I needed confirmation but that was the moment I knew in my heart that the soul was an actual, real thing – not just an idea.  I caressed her arm with my fingertips and whispered a few words next to her ear but instantly felt silly.  Why am I lying here speaking to a dead body, I thought to myself.  I then felt the intense anger supervene and I abruptly got out of the bed and purposely walked out of the dimly lit bedroom around 4 in the morning.

After my mama passed, merely four months after my dad, I became obsessed with death and dying.  I lived with an almost constant fear that someone else, closest to me, would be next – namely, David.  The thought was paralyzing.  I wanted it to be me.  At least then, I wouldn’t have to experience the agony anymore, the mourning and those thoughts were followed up with self-hatred for being so goddamned selfish.  I wouldn’t have to experience it but my loved ones would.  My world was confusing to say the least.  I allowed myself to be overcome with fear and anxiety on a regular basis – at times, to the point where it would disrupt my daily routine.  Some might call this the grieving process – I have a few other choice words for it.

My nonna, as we called my dad’s Italian mother, passed away the following year on my mother’s birthday, April 8, 2012, just two days shy of the anniversary of my dad’s death.   My cousin called me early in the morning with the despairing news – the kind of news that made me throw my hands in the air and say, “Enough!  I get it” followed by tears to whomever might be listening.  And so persisted my preoccupation with death and the incessantly morbid thoughts that someone near and dear to my heart was going to be next.

Fortunately, I have since overcome my fixation and fear of demise, however, it recently occurred to me that the grieving is far from over.  Just as I am still grieving my parents’ death and may forever be doing so, I am also mourning the loss of David.  The David I met and fell in love with a little over three years ago died a long time ago.

Perhaps my initial anxieties over losing my husband weren’t so far off the rocker – perhaps, once again, it was my instinct trying to prepare me for the inevitable, though I don’t believe one can ever prepare him/herself for this magnitude of loss.  I often say and I believe that sometimes, it’s even more challenging to lose someone to life rather than to death because they’re still out there, alive, somewhere – they’re just not a part of our lives any longer.  At least in death, we know where they went – well, we think we do.  David has been gone just as much as my mother’s soul was gone from her body on the morning of August 30, 2011.  I failed to recognize this devastating truth when it was happening or perhaps it just wasn’t as obvious as when one stops breathing or perhaps, I just didn’t want to believe it…and the grieving has only just begun.

Daddy’s Little Girl

A few years ago, I wrote an entire manuscript of poetry for a contest submission.  I thought I would share one of the poems within that manuscript as it relates so closely to my blog’s content.  I actually wrote the following intending for it to be a song and who knows?  Maybe one day, I will set the words to music.  Until then, I hope you enjoy.

DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL ©Lindsay Taylor, Ogad Music, 2009
Daddy’s little girl
Is all she ever wanted to be
Heard and seen
Is all she’d ever need
Until she became a teen
She had no idea
“Gina,” he said, “You are my queen,”
and papa, he said that he’d get clean
She had no choice but to believe
And she was let down, let down
She was let down, let down, repeatedly
Attention was the key
If only Gina could make him see
If only Gina could change some things
detach herself at the age of sixteen
But she’d already put in so much energy
“Gina,” he said, “You are my queen,”
and papa, he said that he’d get clean
She had no choice but to believe
And she was let down, let down
She was let down, let down, repeatedly
Daddy lacked at so many things
Gina battled with insecurity
Anxiety overwhelming
Hiding her feelings while loving the undeserving
Disappointed beyond belief
“Gina,” he said, “You are my queen,”
and papa, he said that he’d get clean
She had no choice but to believe
And she was let down, let down
She was let down, let down, repeatedly

The Significance of Hope

What is it like to be running for President of The United States and see one of the most important people in your life be “called Home” one day before the election? I probably will never know. What is it like to lose a son to one of the most relentless forms of disease known to man? I may never know. What is like to lose hope? That sentiment, I am all too familiar with.

Hope is a state of mind, usually intensified with a request for help, a prayer. It’s remaining optimistic when all signs and situations point toward negativity. And at some point, unfortunately, this despair creeps up on us like a thief in the night, robbing us of our courage and our belief in a miracle. It’s in that moment of anguish that we begin to ridicule ourselves, essentially pointing fingers that frequently are aimed at ourselves. I could have prayed harder, I could have spent more time with that person, if only I hadn’t lost hope. Our initial tribulation has now become this vicious cycle of grief.

Often I hear of such events becoming a method of which one’s heart and mind are accustomed to. I believe this to be more of a delusion from reality in order to protect our sensitive selves because absolutely nothing and no one on this Earth can prepare any one individual for situations of such magnitude. How do we rid our minds of this habitual blame, how do we progress, how do we gain an ounce of hope back for the next affliction that inevitably will burden our hearts in the future? Most importantly, how do we find the strength to hold on to that hope, however minute it might be, even in the face of life’s seemingly merciless manifestations?

I do not have all the answers to these questions, but I do know that we are all only human. I do know that we are all fallible at times, but that hope embodies no such falseness just as losing hope substantiates our nature. Additionally, I know that the capabilities of mankind include a resolution to pick ourselves back up again. The backbone for this apparently monumental action is always present. When we are able to grasp that will, then I think hope immediately ensues.

Shortly after I lost my job of almost three years in 2008, my mom’s older brother passed away at a very young age, from emphysema and related complications. It was one morning, during a heavy hearted conversation with my mother, questioning God’s existence and the loss of hope, that I discovered the ugly truth behind all of the insecurities and sexual anxieties that had developed within my current relationship – my boyfriend was hiding and dealing with his own startling addictions. The holidays crept up on us as they do almost every year of one’s adulthood, my mother didn’t decorate for the first time ever, I didn’t go home and my dad resorted back to pills.  On Super Bowl Sunday in February of 2009, after a self-destructive tryst with an ex-boyfriend, my current boyfriend and I decided to end our two plus year relationship.

The following April, after receiving my tax return, I was planning the solo trip of a lifetime to Italy – a dream I had had for years. As I was calculating the cost of an Amtrak ride from Rome to Florence, I received a phone call from my mother informing me that my dad was in the hospital. I wasn’t too alarmed; though I had a slight flashback to that night when I was fifteen-years-old and I came home to discover my father’s lifetime addiction to downers had left him passed out at the wheel of his vehicle at a stop light. Continuing to research airfares, the phone rang again. It was my mom. Without hesitation and with an extraordinary amount of calm in her voice, she robotically said, “He has lung cancer and a brain tumor.” I released a dubious laugh, wondering where my mom had attained such dark humor, and quickly demanded, “You’re joking, right?” She replied with the opposite of what I was hoping for – Hope again. Where must have I procured all of this hope?

My legs forgot how to walk, in that instant, and I collapsed onto my carpeted bedroom floor. Many emotions pulsated through me as I struggled to hold the cell phone to my ear – anger, sadness, shock and back to anger. My mirrored closet door was a morbid participant, serving as a visual stimulant to the already extreme circumstances. After cursing God, life, and hope, like a reflection to my mother’s thoughts not so many months ago after my uncle’s passing, I gained composure. I returned to the computer and began researching airfares again. Two days later, I was on a plane. Instead of excitedly landing in Rome, I was woefully landing in the other city of fountains, Kansas City, to begin what would be the next three months of my life.

Perfect Stranger

I was sitting solemnly on one of the numerous staircases of Grand Central Terminal’s main hall, my head heavily resting in my right hand and elbows upon my knees.  I wasn’t admiring the intricately designed ceilings or patiently waiting for my transportation to arrive.  I was people watching and anyone who has ever been to Grand Central knows that it is quintessentially one of the sole greatest places on earth to do such a thing.  Not only was I watching the people hurriedly come and go but I was preoccupied with thoughts on what their lives were presently like – I was focusing on the simple fact that we all have a story to tell and I was wondering what each of their stories was.  Moreover, I was curious as to what each of his or her struggle was – what each individual was fraught with.

My particular struggle that day was the heaviness on my heart.  I felt like I was lugging around a wheelbarrow full of concrete, reminiscent of the night before I found out that my mother had cancer – that inkling that something really terrible was imminent.  I had been aimlessly wandering around the boisterous streets of Manhattan that Sunday afternoon alone and found myself at 42nd and Park Avenue.  Grand Central had always held a magical essence to me and I needed a lift in spirits as the weight of the world was seemingly on my shoulders, so I willingly sauntered inside.  Only that afternoon, nothing seemed to aide in my feeling lighter.

The day prior I was exploring the liveliness that is Harlem with a coworker of mine.  The pit in my stomach was present then, though manageable.  This particular day it was downright all consuming.  As I continued sitting on the steps, as close to the railing as possible so not to be in any passerby’s way, I called my dad.  My uncle answered, informing me that he wasn’t really capable of speaking.  I responded that I just wanted to tell him I love him.  My uncle put him on the phone and I briefly told him hello and a few other sentiments.  My dad tried to utter a few words though verbal communication was certainly one of his many struggles that day.  After hanging up, I quickly stood to catch the 6 train to Union Square.  I suddenly wanted to go home, to crawl into bed because sleeping was the only thing I knew that would numb that agonizing feeling for a prolonged period.

Plans were intact that same evening to meet up with David, who was my boyfriend at the time, and a dear friend of his from Boston.  Something in my gut told me not to go out, though, to remain right where I was – in our one bedroom apartment in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn.  I recall feeling uneasy for cancelling on David, as I knew he was looking forward to introducing me to his friend, though he surprisingly understood.  I passed out around 10pm only to wake about half an hour later, laying there acknowledging that the same heaviness I had been experiencing all day was unfortunately still present.  I reached for my phone to find an unexpected missed call from my dad’s place in Illinois.  I noted the time on the call was only about fifteen minutes prior but I wasn’t naïve enough to believe that death waited for any man or woman.  My heart began to audibly pound as my fingers fumbled over the touch screen and immediately returned the phone call.

Hello?”  My aunt instantly answered.  She reluctantly informed me that my dad wasn’t doing so well and that it was seemingly “coming down to the wire” for lack of better terms.  She told me that he could listen and understand everything but was unable to speak.  I asked for her to put the phone to his ear.  As I laid there in the dark around 10:45 in the evening on April 10, 2011, I told my dad I loved him and assured him that it was okay to let go.  I’m not sure where I had heard or read somewhere that when people are on their deathbed, so to speak, hearing from their loved ones that it was “okay to go” delivered a sliver of peace to their hearts and minds, aiding in the process of the body’s resolve to stop fighting.  I made sure I did this for both my mother and my father, though I can’t say that I was being honest – I was simply acting upon anything to ease at least an ounce of their pain and fear.

My dad was making sounds, attempting to respond, but I urged him to stop and repeated that it was “okay.”  Shortly after, my aunt returned to the phone to tell me they would call back with any new developments.  I hung up the phone and stared wide-eyed at the ceiling, my body stiff, frozen in an awkward position upon the Tempur-Pedic mattress, my cell phone still cradled in my left hand.  I can’t recall how much time passed before it rang again though I do know it wasn’t much time at all – 10 minutes, maybe.  I knew what was coming.  It was my uncle on the other end this time.  He sadly said, “He’s gone honey.  That’s all he was waiting for – to hear your voice.  He spoke to Jason; he spoke to your mom.  He spoke to every one before you returned the missed call.  He was holding on until he heard your voice.”

After I hung up the phone that night, I possessed an even lengthier story of struggle to tell and as it stands today, I wish my dad were still around to share his.  I didn’t know him nearly well enough and that statement goes both ways – a despairing fact that could be deemed my single greatest regret when it comes to us.  I don’t blame him or myself for this – he wasn’t exactly the easiest person to get to know.  The things that I do know about him, however, made him one of the solitary most interesting persons to watch.  If I was sitting on a staircase amidst the enchanting hustle and bustle of Grand Central Station today, he’d be that perfect stranger I’d want to grab coffee with at Magnolia Bakery before catching the train back to Brooklyn.  Even in his death, I still ponder his story and his struggle with the pieces I gratefully retain of the difficult puzzle that was my father.

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