I’m Going to Love You, Forever and Ever, Forever and Ever Amen


“Digging up bones, I’m digging up bones, exhuming things that’s better left alone.  I’m resurrecting memories of a love that’s dead and gone.  Tonight I’m sitting alone digging up bones.”

The familiar and warm crooning of Randy Travis filled my ears.  My sister and I buckled into the backseat of my father’s dark blue Peugeot station wagon speeding through the streets of New York City.  My father quickly switched lanes and I slid into my sister.  Our voices young and pure, “Digging up bones,” singing the chorus in unison, songs etched in our little minds.

My father met my gaze in the back seat.  Michael had the habit of telling a story while driving, taking his eyes off the road and actually looking at you.  It was terrifying and surprising that he never got in accidents.  None of his kids dared tell him to focus on the road or remind him that he was driving and there were other cars on the road, instead we all suffered a terrified excitement as we drove with him.  “A city driver,” he always said, one aspect of his larger than life persona.

It was our Wednesday to have dinner with him.  He drove us across town, crossing from the Upper West Side to his studio bachelor pad on the Upper East Side. It had become our Wednesday ritual, Matthew would be waiting at Michael’s apartment and we would walk the two blocks to Mumbles, a restaurant with a green awning nearby.  Each Wednesday we passed the same homeless man on the corner who would ask us for change, “No Man, I don’t have anything,” my father would say, his words and vernacular shifting to a street talk I only heard him use with friends or other men on the street.  Then sometimes, to my surprise, he would drop a Five Dollar bill into the man’s hat and tell him to grab a burger.  We’d fantasize that the homeless man on the street actually had a penthouse on Park Avenue, “you never know,” my father would say.

As we’d get to the restaurant our booth would be waiting for us.  My dad’s diet coke sitting in its position, my sister’s ginger ale, my sprite, and my brother’s coke, each drink and meal laid out in its appropriate spot.  They knew where we sat and what we ate and drank each Wednesday.  This was our family’s new normal, our version of the traditional family dinner.  His best friend John would often meet us at the restaurant.  He had an expletive tattoo on the inside of his lip that my sister, brother, and I found hilarious.  He appeared normal, strikingly normal for a friend of my father’s, but when he pulled his lip down and we saw the F—- Y—, I learned that looks could be deceiving.  He would laugh and tease us, Uncle Mo, we called him.

My dad had colorful friends.  His friends didn’t look like my friends from schools parents.  Michael’s friends were people that as I got older I may have been scared of if they had approached me in a dark alley, but as a child I recognized their gentle souls and had no fear.  One had tattoos that covered every inch of his body up to his face.  My sister and I analyzed each image until we found our favorites.  We sat outside our loft on the hot and dirty pavement, trying to determine which one was the best.  He’d smile and laugh listening to our serious commentary.  These friends of my fathers had stories that memorized us.  Later I learned that these were friends found in a new found sobriety, a family of support in their recovery, vibrant lives stitched across all socio-economic and racial backgrounds.  Colorful characters with lives that were even more dramatic than I knew.

We walked back to his apartment passing the same man, begging for change, who this time wished us a goodnight.  My brother would accompany my Dad to an AA meeting, listening to men and women tell their stories of mistakes made and recoveries found in the basement of the church a couple of blocks away.  I was jealous that only he got to hear the stories.  He would then spend the night in my dad’s studio on a mattress on the floor.  He ran up the steps to Michael’s apartment to do homework as Elizabeth and I piled into the back of the dark station wagon, the old leather seats cracking and sticking to my legs.  Michael lit a cigarette and pressed play on the cassette player and Randy Travis’s voice blared from the backseat speakers.

The three of us, barreling through the city, belting out, “I’m going to love you forever and ever, forever and ever amen,” as buildings and city life sped by in a blur outside of our windows.

“Oh, I’m going to love you forever and ever, forever and ever, amen.”


Excuse the lack of editing, the girls are awake.  I’m preparing for my Dad’s funeral next week and digging up the good memories.  Today I am happily putting on my rose colored glasses and remembering good times.  Thanks for reading and again please excuse the quick edit.

A Cowboy in a Pink Polo Shirt


“What does die mean?”  My three year old asks as we sit at the table eating lunch.  I have been gone for three days and she is trying to understand the reason for my absence.

“It means that your body stops working,” I say for the hundredth time.

“Did Grandpa Michael’s body stop working?”  She asks.

“Yes, baby, Mama went to California to say goodbye.”  My eyes burn from the stark reality of the words.

“Grandpa is not on earth anymore just like the dinosaurs,” she states, her inquisitive mind making the link that death equals extinction – a definitive end.  “Mama, Grandpa Michael is not here, but his love surrounds me just like my Great Grandmother Ginny.”  She has seen pictures of herself with my grandmother and understands we can no longer see her.  “I can’t see him, but he can see me,” she states solemnly.

“You’re right baby his love is all around us.  I hope he sees us.”  I close my eyes and wish this to be true.


I am walking through the airport, my boarding pass in my hand, “can you make it to the gate?”  My husband asked, or maybe he didn’t ask me this, it is just the thought that is echoing in my head. “Can I make it to the gate?”  My body is heaving violent sobs shake me every couple minutes, unexpected shocks to my system.  I feel disconnected.  I am just so sad and so alone.

Invisible in this airport, people turn their heads and avert their eyes in an attempt to ignore my pain.  In the past, I may have done the same, not wanting to embarrass the person suffering.  Amidst this horror, I make a note to never run from a stranger’s pain again.  I hope I can keep this promise.

I wait at the Gate to board my plane – a plane that I hope just takes me away.  “Do you need comfort?  Can I comfort you?”  An older woman asks and I melt into her shoulder.  Another woman hands me a Kleenex, she reaches out and I am grateful.

“Jesus feels your pain,” the old woman says.  “Do you believe in Jesus?”  I now want to escape.  Why can’t comfort come with no strings attached?

“Where is my plane? I need to get on my plane,” I panic. We board, the flight attendant’s false cheer and discomfort at the sight of my grief is palpable.  He forces a smile and turns away so as not to see my tears.  At some point my tears cease.


I am a little girl.  I am five maybe younger than that and my Dad is sleeping on the couch.  I hear him snoring, I inch towards him and dare to crawl up next to him and snuggle into the nook under his shoulder.  I close my eyes and pretend to sleep. I concentrate on the rhythm of our breath. Awake, I try to make my breathing coincide with his deep breaths, in and out.

“Peep loves to take naps with me,” he says to his friend and I smile.

My family is sitting on a big gray couch.  I am sitting next to my father, holding his leathery hand that feels like sand paper.  His hands are big, the hands of a man who uses them on a daily basis, the hands of a welder, a construction worker, a contractor.  They are brown and have a metallic smoky scent.  I put my hand up to his measuring the size of our fingers.  “You have so many cuts on your hand,” I say as I count them, “one, two, three, four, five, six …”  I stare at his used hands, the epitome of strength.  “Do they hurt?”

“A couple do,” he replies.  I bury my head on his shoulder, examining every mark and scar.

We are visiting him for three weeks during the summer.  I see him at the gate as my sister, brother, and I step off the plane.  He gets up and walks towards us, wrapping his arms around us.  I can feel the strength of his arms like a vice unwilling to let go.  I look up at his tanned Marlboro man face.  His blue eyes are full of tears and one slips down his cheek.  “I’m getting old,” he says, “I’m just so happy to see you guys, I can’t control my emotions. I miss you and love you guys so much.  I can’t stop crying.” He laughs.

We laugh, teasing him, “You’re so old, pull yourself together, Old Man.”  We feel genuinely loved.


Blacks, grays, dark blues, strokes of red, pink, oranges, and purples, paint colors mixed, separated, and dried on a very deliberate palate used to compose powerful portraits of pain.  This man of fierce contradictions; he was strong, opinionated, grouchy, gruff, feared, closed, scary, stubborn, but also vulnerable, sensitive, wounded, weak, misunderstood, loving, trusting, deep, philosophical, protective and proud.  He was there and never there, accepted but rejected, proud and shameful.  A cowboy who wore pink polo shirts.


The plane taxis and I step into the hot, dry, desert air of Palm Springs.  I walk through the terminal.  My eyes are as dry as the air, a lump like a bottle stopper in my throat and behind my temple.

My brother and sisters are here.  We ban together, a force, cleaning the skeletons from his locked studio, buoying each other as we slide down a rabbit hole that we never wanted to enter.  We wrap our arms around each other, a protective force field of love, the tangible legacy of a man who left us too soon.