14 October 2012

Never Without Tears

    I called for her again today.  The A's laugh at me when I call them by the name of the other, or when I stand, dumbfounded, trying to simply recall their name as my ability to remember dashes in and out of shadows within my mind. 

    I'm not sure that they've heard me call for her; it always seems to be when I am alone, lost in some other thought, some other habit, some other time when the most natural of my impulses take over.

    It's been three years now, so one would believe that when I do call out her name the seconds that follow wouldn't bring such a rush of emotion; the waiting for her to come; the realization that she is gone, still, a punch to my gut, a knife in my heart, a tear falling to the floor that I wipe away with my foot. 

    It's hard to let go of such a soul that you love so much.  I remember laying in my bed for months prior to our goodbye, daring God that if he existed to prove himself by letting her go peacefully into the night rather than forcing me to make the decision.  I remember the way that the dawn of one of the darkest days of my being began to rise; I remember her laying beside me, as she had for sixteen years, I remember thinking, "I cannot do this."

    It was a beautiful fall day, which is probably why I tend to call for her more in the fall.  We spent it outdoors together, me tenderly lifting her so she could stand and sit, until finally I needed help to lift her for the last time.  

    Little A swears that she still comes to visit her in her dreams, although she was only a toddler when we said goodbye.  Big A refuses to speak of her, for she doesn't like to talk about the things that make her ache inside. 

    I still see her, sometimes when I'm dreaming, sometimes when I am awake.  I still cannot say her name or speak of her without crying.  I suppose that is what love does to you when you love completely and have to say goodbye; smashes you in ways that make you able to go on, but never in the same way. I wonder if perhaps it isn't Time at all, but rather the weight of those losses that make us feeble and ache as we grow older; unable to move under the burden of the goodbyes. 

    I believe Edna St. Vincent Millay described it best when she said, "Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night.  I miss you like hell."  

    Until we meet again, Jessie, my love. 
Jennifer Barko

09 October 2012

I Don't Even Care

"Seriously," she whispered back to me, her eyes wide and bright, filled with excitement, "I don't even care."

"Seriously," I whispered back, "I hope that you always feel this way."  We locked eyes and I wondered if she would remember that moment, the two of us, whispering, in a bathroom stall because she's big enough to not want to hold my hand anymore, but not to overcome the terror that is the automatically flushing toilet. 


The morning was brutal when I found her painting her nails instead of brushing her teeth and my words spilled out like hot lava, burning a path of destruction even as I tried my hardest to temper my words.  

"You have to make better decisions," my voice clipping away at her on the way to school, "you have to learn how to manage time and know that when I say 'five minutes' you don't start to paint your nails.  Time management.  Basic function."

I adjusted my rear view mirror so that I couldn't see her face out of the corner like I usually can because this was life, damn it, and she needed to know.  If I didn't teach her, how would she ever learn? 

There's no crying in baseball. 

Her eyes were still red when she opened the car door to say goodbye to me.  "You just have to learn, Peanut.  I love you and I hope you have a good day."  She stared back at me, unsure of what to do next.  "Close the door and get into school."  

She looked back at me three times as she made her way to the door.

"Too bad; that's life," I kept saying over and over as my stomach churned. 

It was three hours before I called the school to tell them that she had an appointment and I'd be picking her up.

She could hardly contain herself when I told her that we were actually going to lunch and the movies.  

We talked like two old souls over lunch of her choice, serious conversations about behavior and consequences and understanding that I had made a big mistake when I yelled at her; if we were different people we could have been lovers reconciling; our hands briefly entwining over and over, a kiss to her forehead, tears in both of our eyes. 

She ran into the empty theatre and I tried my best to jog behind her as she rattled off her ticket selection while blurting out that she wanted the pink and blue cotton candy.  

She wanted to sit in the top row of the empty theatre, "Of course," I thought; reminding myself that once upon a time I had thought of her very existence as that flight of stairs. 

It was after the show, in the bathroom, when I discovered the cotton candy woven into her hair like magic, "Seriously," I whispered, "you have cotton candy in your hair."


A cement truck was in front of us on the drive home.  "Why does that thing keep moving around and around?"  

"It has to keep moving," I said, "otherwise the cement will get hard and you wouldn't be able to move it."

I adjusted my rear view mirror to watch her eyes.

"So if it quits moving then it can't move anymore unless there is a hurricane or a tornado or something like that that comes along and picks it up to make it move?"  

"Sort of like that," I said, watching the center cavity of the truck churn over and over and over again, wondering if I was awaiting a storm or if I were still churning, awaiting my destination. 

Time management.  

Basic function.  

Make the best of it.  

29 September 2012

And Boom

     She laughs on the way in the car, as I grab her hand and we make a joke about something.  It was only a few hours ago, but I don't recall what the joke was now, yet I still recall the tiniest details of her so very long ago.  One of the mysteries of Time, I suppose. 

     Big A is heading off to her first homecoming dance tonight.  Dress shopping last week I had to stand in the back of her, biting my lips, trying to think of the funniest moments that I've ever had and yet, again, more moments that I couldn't recall.  

All I could remember was the first dress that I put on her the day I brought her home from the hospital.  A day that she fit within my arms, a day that she had baby fat and dimpled thighs and the most precious feet and toes.

     "You'll have to give me a break today, kiddo," I said.  "The very first time I held your toes was through my skin, right here.  You were kicking so hard and I actually grabbed your foot."  It was surreal, I told her.  And somehow, not as surreal as that moment with her sitting beside me in the passenger seat, not safely secured behind me in her car seat, where, when I look just right, I can still see her, tiny feet and all.

     I don't remember my mom crying when I went to my first dances.  I look about and I don't see many other mothers crying on the first day of school or at the graduation ceremonies we've had along the way to high school and I wonder what went wrong inside of me; I remember always wondering that...why I would cry so easily, whether at something sad or beautiful or happy, or all of those things.  I thought one day I would have the answer and rather the answer seems farther and farther away. 

     It's rocky, the waters that Big A and I travel, and I am always grateful for the lulls in the winds where the boat can rock gently, as I once rocked her over and over and over until one day I didn't.  

There was nothing special about that day, no warning, no hint; just one day, boom, it hit me as I was washing the dishes, "I didn't rock Big A yesterday." 

 I remember the plate I was washing at that moment.  It had a blue flowered pattern around the outside of it and a single leaf at the very center of it. I remember scrubbing and scrubbing and scrubbing until there was a little part of the leaf gone.  I remember thinking, "There.  Now you know how it feels to have a part of you missing."  

     I am blinded and dumbfounded by her.  I tell her all the time how amazing I think she is.  Sometimes she looks up at me and murmurs a thank you, sometimes she nods.  I don't know how to make sure she understands what she is to me.  I don't know that there are words for that.

     "It's like when you were born, a little knife was placed inside of my heart," I said as I grasped her hand, "and each moment that you grow, each time that I look at you, it twists a little more."  She doesn't know.  How could she know?  I didn't know, which is, I suppose, why I keep wanting to make her understand.

     It's that today, somehow, the baby that slept upon my chest so soundly just a moment ago is heading off to her first big high school event.  

     I turned my head, just for a moment, and boom......
Adriana Burkhart Jennifer Barko
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15 January 2012


Jennifer BarkoIn the memoir of my youth, this photo would be the one that I'd select for the chapter entitled, "Birthdays."

My grandmother and I share the same date of our births; it's been one of the greatest gifts I've received. My childhood birthdays were always laced with not just the anticipation of what was within the boxes wrapped for me, but with who would call who first, of what kind of dinner or cake we'd share, what photos we'd take.

I used to live a quarter of a mile from her; I'd spend my summers racing up the hill to her home at the break of dawn and lolly-gag through my days in her gardens, baking with her in the kitchen, journeying into "town" on Fridays to go grocery shopping.

There is a tie between us, a bond of sorts that I cannot put into words, an invisible ribbon wrapped around the gift of our relationship that has bound us together on a dimension that is hard to explain.

This morning when I talked to her to wish her a happy birthday, I felt overwhelmingly sad. I'm sure it was a combination of the miles between, the words unspoken, the whispers in my head wondering how many more of these days we will share; Time reminding me of its existence not just in the mirror, but also within my heart.

It's just an age, right? It's just one more day, right? It isn't a milestone of any matter, a moment that deserves commemorating, it's not something that deserves more than a moments thought. It's not a day that matters in the big picture of things. Once, it was. Once it was balloons and cake and excitement and cheeks flushed pink with the anticipation of what was to come.

Today it wasn't. Today it was heavy and hard and honestly, scary. It wasn't a day that I wanted to commit to the scrapbook of my life, a photo that I wanted to frame, a day that I wanted to celebrate. Those days, I believe, are gone.

And if I could have anything for my gift today, it would be to have just one of those back.

Comments off....really, I don't want a pity party; just a place to put these words and thoughts, and I apologize for their weight.