to be a parent

to be a parent is an ache
like none that i have come to know;
to love so much it hurts your heart,
and then, to have to let them go

the process starts, and everything
is rightside out and outside in;
the clamor and the indolence,
the silence or the frequent din

they can create the greatest art
that they’ll forget but you will not;
you yearn to teach, but yet, they only
learn some things from irons hot

and you find you have wells of tears
that go down further than you knew;
and fate becomes incessant fear
that try as may, or do as do,

the butterflies will fly one day;
the sun will not be drawn again,
and we will blink to find, instead,
some strangers we once knew, back when

so let the colors pour to page,
increase the laughter, dim the rage,
and hold close where and when you can
these little women, tiny men

to be a parent is an ache
like none that you will come to know;
to love so much it hurts your soul —
and then, to have to let
them go

Revisionist Sympathy

Nothing ruins a good story like telling it to someone who actually remembers the details.

On Valentine’s day this last week, I posted the following on Facebook:

On this day in history, 1973, I had a tiny classroom valentine I had given to a girl returned to me, unopened. I was in 5th grade.

Everybody gave valentines to everybody. How she knew it was mine I’ll never know.

I knew it was deliberate when I heard some other girls complaining that they didn’t know they were allowed to do that, or they would have, too.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Pretty sad, huh?

Yes it is… as I told it. However, I talked to my sister this last weekend (that would be my sister Squashya Russell) and she reminded me of a few facts I left OUT of my telling of the story. Squashya is seven years older than I am, and was in 12th grade that year, her last year at home. One of her best friends had a little sister in my class.

“Oh, you made those girls’ lives *hell* back then. You fancied yourself some kind of king of insult comedy. You’d get all this material off TV, or out of joke books, or dream it up yourself, then embarrass your classmates with it. The guys didn’t care, because they could take it out of you at P.E. playing football or basketball or whatever, but the girls hated it, and they hated you.”

Somewhere back in the dusty reference material that feeds into my self-serving memories, this seemed to have been indeed the case. It had, um, slipped my mind. 

“That Valentine’s Day was the best thing that could have happened to you. You really got your feelings hurt, so — and I know this because you told us this, at dinner — you decided to start aiming all of the jokes at yourself. Some of the girls still didn’t trust you at first, but others thought it was funny, and by the end of the year, that cute Bridgit girl was sweet on you.”

“It was Velvet, but, yeah, that was the end of that year.”

“Of course, by the time you hit your high teens you couldn’t turn off insulting yourself and sabotaged every relationship you had for a good decade. But still, it was a step.”

As I recalled, I learned the art of verbal jousting as a defense mechanism against Squashya, and I reminded her of it.

“Yes, well, um, this isn’t about me…”

To any of you who want to withdraw the sympathy you expressed for me on Facebook, I will understand. The truth appears to be, that girl snubbed me on Valentine’s Day because I was a jerk.

My wife has said that my mom and my sister could have done a lot more to help me understand girls than they did growing up; however, they each had their own stuff going on. I wanted girls to like me, but, it was a long time before I realized that becoming a fully-realized human was and is the best approach for improving those sorts of situations.

The weird thing was, my tendency to have a large number of female friends did indeed start to blossom around sixth grade. I genuinely liked girls, which is (if you’re a guy) an entirely distinct thing from wanting them to like you. That turns out to be a quality some girls and women value highly, including the woman I’m married to.

But I owe you one, Squashya — you’re going to reminisce in my presence one of these days…


To paraphrase a friend, I’d say
That life has broken out all over

But what would I know? I only
Work my corner, at the intersection
Of 5th and Biosphere, where
New attention is being paid to the same
Problems that have plagued humankind
For as long as there have been humankind or
Unkind, as the case may be

It’s amazing how busy
This one corner is, though

You go to teach and end up
Learning more than you leave,
For life is lived
So many ways we never care to understand

Yes, there is much to grieve
And be justifiably outraged by;
But there is great heroism
In many of those unable to

Log on

Speak out


Avail themselves of many opportunities

But who will live
With as much joy as they

Can create

Sun Grew Red

The sun grew red, and sank behind the hills,
And restless grew the wond’ring in my mind;
The doubt that grows to poison, and then kills,
Had burned my eyes, and made my judgment blind.

For how could I believe the words you’d said?
So many times I’d heard such things before:
The words were always empty – hollow – dead –
And love a made-up game of keeping score.

It’s fine: I knew I did my part as well,
Another day gone down, another love:
The reddish light, the latest tinge of hell,
I didn’t know what I’d been thinking of…

    But then, you touched me softly, and I knew:
    The sun might go, but I would not lose you

Days of Love Forgotten

February 14th, 2017
Columbus, Georgia
9:00 PM

Last night, the fever seem to break on this viral fever I had (not flu, as it turned out). I felt well enough to go into work for a little bit, then came back home to work the rest of the day; however, by about 2:00 in the afternoon it was evident that my wife now had contracted this same illness.

I gave her a Valentine’s bag (her favorite Jelly Beans, some Chocolates, and her biggest wish, a bag of Logan’s Turnpike Mill Grits). After our daughter picked up her 20 month old, I ran out and got my wife some soup. She ate a few bites, then went to bed.

For all of you singles dreaming of Valentine’s day with the person you love – sometimes it’s like this.

We started a tradition of taking a vacation in January of last year (2016). We had something like 12 hours in the car on the way there. We talked the entire way.

She has a career, and she keeps our grandkids. Her career involves looking after people, as well, many of them elderly. I get up early, go to work early, go to bed early. We have had a Thursday date night every week straight for something like sixteen years, but still, there’s much going on with each of us we never get the chance to talk about.

Last year, I booked a special short trip for our Anniversary in August. There, she ate the aforementioned Turnpike Grits, informing me (as a grits connoisseur) that these were the best grits ever, and that she had to learn how to make them. Only I forgot to get them for her for Christmas.

The subject came up (gently) while we were in the car for this year’s January trip. It got taken care of.

It amazes her that, after sixteen years of marriage, we haven’t run out of things to talk about. Part of that is how rarely we actually get to talk. The other part is that when we are finally together, and can focus completely on each other, it’s like a new experience almost every time.

One of my favorite lines in any movie is in the old 1940’s film “The Best Years of Our Lives”. The daughter of this couple is telling her parents they couldn’t possibly understand her love for her (married) boyfriend, because they (her parents) never had any trouble. Her mother answers her daughter, while looking at her father, thus:

“We never had any trouble.” How many times have I told you I hated you and believed it in my heart? How many times have you said you were sick and tired of me; that we were all washed up? How many times have we had to fall in love all over again?

Having to fall in love all over again. That puts it perfectly.

I don’t have answers for people who are lonely on Valentine’s Day. I have empathy, however. Because I’m fortunate to be where I am, and I won’t be there forever. I don’t want days of love to become days of love forgotten.

Remember, love is like light: so much more than we give it credit for; able to find its way in through every crack and crevice, there for us when we least expect it.

You are loved, my friends. You are.

Happy days.

The Table

She looked up at him, laughing. “You can come unpack this stuff if you’d like.”

“No, no, you’ve got it.”

“Alright, then. Quit your bitchin’.”

He strode back to the car to get the cooler. Sweat was dripping down his forehead as he approached the picnic table.

She was gone. The table was bare, and a desolate wind was blowing through the overgrowth.

Years. They have a sneaky kind of cruelty.

How many had it been? Three? Four?

Where she is, he cannot follow –
Shrouded there in mystery:
Gone away, Demeter’s daughter,
Once, his fair Persephone…

Her hands had placed a picnic lunch upon this table. Ham sandwiches.

Did the table still remember her touch?

The valley was so rich, so green. Maybe another couple would be along soon. Or a family.

“Life is for the living. The dead have played their part.”

Is it? Have they?