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My head was pounding; it felt like I was hungover. Ironically, feeling hungover is a trigger for me, because my former hangover cure was a drink, of course.
The day is spectacularly gorgeous; clear blue sky and fluffy white clouds. Apple cheeked kids playing in soccer games, parents cheering on the sidelines. Finn played in his very first soccer game today, and while I cheered along side everyone else, I could feel that itchiness crawling across my scalp.
They told me this may happen, I thought, as I tried to pinpoint what was wrong. The chemo has kicked me into a chemically induced menopause, or pre-menopause, or something.
I know, though, that it is something deeper, something darker. I don't want to deal with deep and dark, so I take a nap and wake up feeling edgier and itchier than before.
At 6pm the kids start whining for supper. I shoot Steve a helpless look. He raises his eyebrows at me and suggests I take a walk while he feeds the kids. He can feel it, the edgy darkness, and he knows I'm struggling.
I don't feel like a walk; the sun is starting to set and I'm coming up with excuses in my head like contracting the EEE virus or being abducted by weirdos in a carpeted van, even as I'm pulling on my running sneakers and strapping on my iPod Nano.
I eschew my usual workout play list "Run, Ellie, Run" for something more soulful. This isn't a power walk; this is a 'shake the cobwebs' walk. So I click over to the play list "Keep Coming Back", crank up the volume and head out the door.
As I round the first corner, into a wooded area, I'm hit with the scents of changing seasons: citronella, freshly mowed grass, wood smoke and the faintest tinge of decaying leaves. The air has a bite to it that wasn't there a week ago. The sun is sinking low on the horizon, although it isn't yet 7pm.
I close my eyes and inhale deeply, and I'm instantly transported back to my childhood. For me those smells carry the promise of new beginnings: the clank of my locker slamming shut, the sound of leaves crunching underfoot, the smell of a new pencil eraser.
Sometimes I have a hard time identifying emotions, especially tough ones like anger, sadness or regret. But the scents in the air hit me like a brick wall and I know what it is, this dark thing that has been crawling around inside my head all day: I miss my Dad.
It is a gorgeous fall day, and all these new beginnings are happening and he isn't here.
My iPod plays the opening bars to "Windows are Rolled Down", by Amos Lee, and I have to stop, sit down for a moment and breathe deeply to keep from crying. He wrote this song about the loss of a close friend.
Look up child,
The world is born.
And your soles are worn.
I'm sitting in a cemetery, of all places. I always cut through the cemetery on my walk, usually so absorbed in the infectious beat of Flo Rida that I don't give mortality a second thought.
I think about how I walked through this same cemetery with my Dad, two weeks before he died. We strolled passed the ancient graves, quietly, each thinking our own respectful thoughts of the deceased.
Window are rolled down,
Sun is setting high.
Window are rolled down,
I'm fixing to die.
I shake my head clear of these maudlin thoughts, and think of his beaming smile, of the bandanna he tied around his neck for his frequent power walks, of the walking stick he used to truck up steep hills and trails.
It brings a smile to my face, and I walk on.
Is it what you'd dreamed it'd be?
Are you locked up in this fantasy?
Oh, these miles that have torn us apart,
My new found faith, and my broken heart.
I pass a gaggle of pre-teen girls, practicing back bends in their front yard, their lithe bodies stretch impossibly. A group of young boys ride by on their bikes, casting furtive looks their way. The girls pretend not to see, but their giggles betray them.
As I head into the final stretch of my walk, to the opening bars of Phillip Phillips' "Home", I feel lighter, freer. The sun has all but set, and the warm yellow lights glowing from the windows of my house soften my heart, clear the final strands of cobwebs from my jangling brain.