Many times over the years, I’ve wondered, as we all do, about the what if, and what might have been scenarios in life, and how they compare to where I find myself today. It’s so easy to look back at photographs and memories, placing ourselves in the past, comfortable and innocent, not yet tarnished by the stress and drama of adulthood, while remembering from a youthful perspective. For me, I dreamed of being a wife and mother, and loving to write, I also hoped to be a published author, with fans that appreciated, understood and connected to my thoughts. However, as I circle my wagon for this last rodeo, I find myself not quite there, and frustrated, with a side order of dissatisfaction.
My youthful neighborhood was 1960 normal, where fathers went to work, and mothers cleaned, made dinner and helped at school. There were also the right amount of bikes and bugs, and we played at night until it was dark, or until someone yelled for us to come in. I can’t complain, it was simple and basic, like the grocery and drug stores that were separated by Woolworth’s. Looking back now, everything we needed was either there or already at home. I also had a best friend next door, and one across the street, along with other buddies, scattered on adjacent streets, eventually ending at our school. However, in the wonder years that would follow, both girlfriends moved. One family went a block over, and the other a few miles further. We tried to stay in touch through junior high, but as everyone knows, along with boobs and facial hair, everything changes.
Back then, seeing through immature eyes, I only focused on my own existence, that of a lonely, nerd of a girl, more isolated than entertained, passing time as teacher’s pet, and being the one people counted on. Because of that, I missed seeing how the lives of my friends fell apart. Looking back, I see that I did become the wife and mother I hoped to be, even if it didn’t have the staying power of Mom and Dad. There were also high profile jobs and opportunities, where I achieved things never planned, opening more than a few doors (some of which should have been nailed shut), all offering me a look at the world many never see. I also wrote my books, and offered them to the world. In many ways, I filled that youthful bucket.
It was only then; all pieces fell into place, due to my still selfish hopes of being a bestselling author, and successful entrepreneur slapping me in the face. Looking deeper into my memories, I remembered why my best friend across the street moved…her father had walked out on the family. To survive, her single mother struggled, and took up sewing, before foreclosure put them into an alley apartment, hidden behind a questionable television repair shop.
As a kid, I had no idea the poverty they had been subjected to, because my ignorant middle class couldn’t relate. After I was married, I learned she had turned to drugs, and was selling herself on the street, almost dying after a bad abortion. Now, I only wonder what became of her and her two sisters. The life they got certainly wasn’t what they dreamed of, during lazy days when we played Barbies on their cement driveway.
My other friend, who moved from next door, only went down the street and a block over, but got an equally unplanned life. Both of us had loved our fathers as true heroes, and although mine was much older, hers was a muscular, handsome man, that drove a truck for a living. It was also on once such trip, when he fell from his truck, landing on his head. The result was a true Flowers for Algernon bookmark, and his scrambled existence was never the same. Unable to cope, his wife turned to drinking, and was later diagnosed with cancer. She eventually took her life, leaving behind a family shattered in too many pieces. As an adult, my friend married and had children, but when it went south, she also turned to the bottle, and driving under the influence killed a man on a motorcycle. Like her mother, she too left a family in pieces, having been sentenced to prison for vehicular manslaughter.
Because my mind remained on a roll, I remembered more friends, one that died of AIDS, long before it became a known disease, years before any school reunion. And then another, one that lived the happy family home life I had known, dreaming as early as Kindergarten, that he would be a surgeon, (substantiated by the mouse he autopsied in first grade). However, his parents split after a rumored affair, and even though he took his dreams to college, he couldn’t make the grade in medical school…literally, ending up as a chiropractor in a retail strip mall. Sadly, I think the only shining moment in my recollecting, was a boy nerdier than I had been, picked upon mercilessly, and ignored long past not being selected in gym class. You see he became not just a beautiful swan, but a jaw dropping piece of man candy, every Heather bound cheerleader dreamed of landing. The perfect irony was he also came out as gay, and at our reunion ignored all of them! Karma, well played if you ask me.
It was then, that I sent my side of dissatisfaction back to the chef, and admitted to my fifty something self, that I had got a life better than most, even if I didn’t know it at the time, or during my own struggles with life, death and change. Because dreams never happen exactly the way we hope, and certainly not on any schedule we pray they will follow. However, there are always moments to be thankful for, and never take for granted. Something no twelve year old will understand, and most adults fail to appreciate.
That being said, I still hope those who read my book, Stiletto, smile between detective banter, and colorful clues, seeing there is proof of compassion in the world, and people who are LGBT are no different from anyone else, except sometimes better for what they have experienced. I also hope a few dollars from Glint in the Dark make it into the fund for justice I pledged them to, hoping to eventually help identify the killers, in the case that saw the West Memphis 3 falsely accused, and branded as felons. Most of all though, I hope I’ve made a difference as a mother, grandma, daughter, sister, friend and neighbor, leaving a small piece of my humanity behind after I am gone. Which, after all, may not be the dream we hope to have, but it is the only one that will ever matter, regardless of what we live with and through.