Monday, October 25, 2010

Big Yellow Taxi

Well it's Monday again and we all know what that means...back to the grindstone!  I hope each of you enjoyed a little down time, I know my weekend gave me a much needed break.  You see, last Saturday was the three year anniversary of my father's death.  And although I know he's in a better place and no longer ill, those sorts of anniversaries always make me stop and reflect on how life used to be.

I recently had a friend who lost a family member and she shared with me the pain of not only losing that person, but also the pain of what might have been.  Things not resolved, missed opportunities, or harsh words exchanged.  Things we all deal with when someone we love leaves us.

That was the case with my own father.  We were very close, both geographically speaking and emotionally.  We were very much alike in many ways and for most of my life we had been as thick as thieves as my grandmother would have said.

After my mother's unexpected death things changed.  He met a woman who was not interested in him but in his money, and he fell for it hook, line, and sinker.  He was lonely, desperate in a way, and even though we tried to be everything for him, it wasn't enough.

When my mother was alive, we were like a Norman Rockwell painting.  Big family dinners at each holiday, a house filled with laughter, cousins playing, life was normal.  When my mother died, the glue that bound us together slowly dissolved, bit by bit, the crowd at the table got smaller.  And the information dissimenator (my mother) was no longer with us, so we all became a little less connected.

Ten months before his death, my father and I had words, things were said by both of us that needed to be said but should have never been said.  It was time, I had cracked and could not come to terms with how my father had become someone I didn't even recognize.  In my mind, he had chosen to walk away from everything he knew and loved for a perfect stranger.  The strange part is he made a choice, but we never asked him to.

Often times when families have problems, it seems like there is one person who bears the brunt, and I was the chosen one for some unknown reason.  Maybe it was because I look a lot like my mother, or maybe it was because I was the closest to my father in distance so he needed me out of the picture to pursue this relationship that he knew was toxic.  I'll never really know.

All I know is that it was a pain like no other, and one I hope to never inflict on my own children, but we can't predict the future any more than we can change the past can we? 

The years of stress, and ultimately not speaking to my father before he died (a choice I am still comfortable with today) came at a huge price.  I ended up with an adrenal gland and thyroid that gave up the ghost in response to everything.  And I've spent the last 3 years just trying to get my once healthy body back to some sort of level playing field again.

It's getting there, and I'm much better now.  But the point of my story isn't about woe is me, it's not about hanging on to the anger, the hurt, or even the pain.  It's about letting other people know that life is full of challenging relationships, difficult times, and hard decisions.  And it's what we do when faced with all of those things that really matters.

Although it's sometimes hard to bare your soul, sometimes it is that very act that frees us, and it can sometimes even help someone else in the process.

I like to say that my life went from Norman Rockwell to Jerry Springer in just 6 months time.  And although I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, the experience made me much stronger, more in touch with who I am and able to face almost anything and know I will come out on the other side a better person than I was the day before.

Life is full of choices, easy ones and tough ones, happy ones and sad ones, but the fact remains that they are our choices to make.  I have chosen to be happy, to move forward, and to remember the good instead of the bad.

If life is a sum of it's parts, then I'm on the plus side and for that I am grateful.  You see, my father was a good man, and I was a good daughter.  The cabin in the photos above was something he built for all of his grandchildren.  My mother helped him and filled it with things as though it was her only home.  Birthday dinners were held there, mine included.  Sleepovers filled with giggles, lanterns, and a hot breakfast made on a woodstove happened there.

When I walk this property that once belonged to my grandparents, I am transported back in time, back to when I was a child, learning to drive a tractor, picking vegetables in the garden, feeding the horses sugar cubes pilfered from church each Sunday...I think God would have approved!

It's a place where old machinery is never discarded but stacked in hopes of being useful again someday, to someone.

The carefully groomed fields which once had horses and cows roaming freely are now overgrown and a bit neglected.   We had to put a sign on the cabin and around the property line telling others to "Keep Out" and "No Trespassing!" 

Trails which used to be used to haul lumber and for hayrides in the snow now lay dormant and some are completely impassible.  And time waits for no one as the saying goes, with suburbia surrounding this once quiet place.

What you can't see in these pictures is how strip malls ring this beautiful property, and you can't hear the hustle and bustle of people living there in spite of its history.  Tranquility has given way to car noise and people now outnumber the deer, squirrels, and birds which once roamed the vast acreage that surrounded our little farm.

Yesterday, as I wandered around our farm, now owned by my siblings and myself, I realized that my grandfather wouldn't still be living there if he were alive.  He would have long since sold this land and moved to a place just like it, but way far out in the country, maybe even back in the Blue Ridge Mountains from which he came.

And I also realized that like this place, I had changed, that I too hadn't stood still and that I had moved on.  But like the giant oak trees that stand guard on this plot of land, a part of it will always live inside me.  It's burned on my heart, carved into my memory, and part of what makes me...ME!

One day, like everything around it, it will be a strip mall, a restaurant, or a movie theater.  And like the song says "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you got till it's gone, they paved paradise and put up a parking lot."  But in my heart, it will never change!

To my friend, and you know who you are, I hope you find comfort for the memories of the bad times, and pure joy in those of great happiness.   Choose to live without choosing to live out loud!

(I used several Flora Bella Textures on all of the photos above, including Ethereal, Memory, and Attache all in warm)

I am in a musical mood these days, so here's another little song for you to enjoy...


  1. Kat, there is so much in this post that I don't know what to say. It sounds like you are peaceful when it comes to your Dad, but we always wish for things to be the way we remembered them when we were happiest. The cabin is adorable and I can just hear the children inside giggling. Deep inside, I wish for simpler times - like when we were children.

    Have a great week.

  2. Having just lost my mother a little over a month ago, I so "feel" what you are saying and describing in these photos and your post. Enjoy reliving your memories. God Bless.

  3. Thank you for this beautiful post Kat. I marvel at how well you can express yourself with your words and images. Hugs ~Lili

  4. Kat, that was a beautiful post in so many ways. I am so sorry for the pain that you had to push through to get to where you are but like you said, it shaped you and made you stronger. I think that if we can come out of something hurtful or painful with that, we are doing ok. I am so glad that you choose to surround yourself with good, beautiful memories, no one can ever take those away. I think that if we forgive ourselves and those who seek our forgiveness it is a choice that moves in the right direction. Thank you for taking us around the farm, it is absolutely beautiful and your pictures are gorgeous as well. I can imagine what a wonderful place that must have been as a child.. hugs to you!

  5. Oh my goodness kat, what a beautifully written bittersweet post. That little cabin is amazing - just a perfect spot. I'm sure your friend appreciates your thoughts ;)

  6. Wonderful autumn images!!!!
    So beautiful!

  7. Kat, I copied down a quote
    over the weekend that
    really spoke to me; it reminds
    me of this post... "Don't hold
    grudges ~ It's like letting
    someone live rent-free in
    your brain." Isn't that
    the truth? Sometimes we just
    have to accept the way things
    turned out and move on, letting
    the good things rise to the
    top like cream. Sounds like
    an exhausting time in your life,
    but one that you did overcome.
    Beautiful pictures and thoughts,
    sweet friend!
    xx Suzanne

  8. Heart-wrenching, Kat. Big yellow taxi indeed!
    The only things to make me feel better when facing sad truths like these are little children, and my garden. My father was so angry with me on his deathbed but couldn't speak, so I never knew why.

  9. Very powerful post, Kat. You have such a gifted way of expressing yourself. I can take so many bits and pieces of what you have written and apply them to my own life. I like what Suzanne had to say about regrets...I don't want to live my life with them but I sure have a backlog. I wish you peace at this time in your life.

    The pictures of the cabin are wonderful. I can only imagine having wonderful times like yours in my childhood.


  10. I've always loved that video of the Big Yellow Taxi and the song itself for decades.

    I lost my dad 10 years ago and am happy to say that he and I never had issues between us. I haven't spoken to my mother in almost 15 years. We never connected. Never. I think there was a disconnect when I was born, so I don't look to repairing a relationship that in my mind was never there to start with.

  11. Thank you for sharing your story. You are in my thoughts this week. What a beautiful piece of property with so many memories.

  12. Kat,
    I am in the camp of shedding myself of people that bring me down...related or not. Fortunately, my husband is of the same mind. I think it is very possible to cherish wonderful memories of times shared with someone you no longer maintain a relationship with for whatever reason.

    The cabin is magical and your happy memories of it will likely sustain you. I applaud your honesty and being at peace with what sounds like a necessary decision.

  13. Ever the Pollyanna, why don't you all hold on to that wonderful land (once it's gone, it's gone) for the sake of our planet and to take pride in saving it from development, and build a decent (but not over-the-top) farmhouse on it (using all your wonderful decorating and design skills) and lease it to someone with animals? Maybe another stable is needed in SOMD (I know someone who would certainly say so!) The land could be cultivated for hay (easy), the tenant could make a living, you would save a little piece of the earth...Oh, and why don't you move that lovely little cottage to your own property for future grands? Or use it as a studio? Or a guesthouse? Oh, my mind goes WILD just thinking of uses I could put it to!!!

    Your post is thought provoking and touching and beautifully illustrated.

  14. Absolutely wonderful piece of land, history, childhood memories. You are so fortunate to have those. It looks like a delightful place to grow up and with a wonderful family. I can relate to so many things you wrote about...I'm sure many will. You have such a gift for writing and expressing yourself in a way that everyone sees some of themselves. It gives me goosebumps. Thank you so very much for an open and honest post that we all can relate to. Carolyn

  15. I've been recently wondering why we go through such hard times with certain people; for my husband and I it's both of our fathers. His father is such a mean spirited man and so many times we've tried to re-establish a relationship. It's back to no communicating. My Dad is not speaking to one of my sisters at the moment so the holidays will be without her and we're all sad about that. He beat us kids growing up, but we're all loyal to see him and Mom. Sigh--life is so difficult. I try to see the good out of everything, and hope I can help someone who is going through difficulty as a result.

  16. I love the hues in these photos..and what a terrific and I'm sure painful post...beautifully written. I have a difficult relationship with my own father for different and yet similar reasons... I try to have decent conversations with him now and then but it all comes from me, and that is exhausting.

  17. i thought i have read some of the best and beautiful post's and then this comes along....i always love your pic's and today while reading this i have tears.....we all have ghosts some of us just won't bear em to congrat you on moving forward with your life appreciating the good things in life....its all 1 can really do it just takes some longer to wishes to you

  18. I have been following you for a little while now and know you have written about your father previously. I can feel your pain. It has obviously left a huge imprint on your heart. Everyone deals with things differently. For you, the process of writing it down (or speaking it out aloud) is your way of not just moving on but rationalising in your mind why things happened the way they did. I lost my father 24 years ago and even to this day I regret the fact that I didn't get to know him "as an adult". I never got the opportunity to establish a relationship with him. As you say - the pain of what might have been. As for my adored mother. Her 2nd anniversary passed in April and I still grieve for her every day. But life moves on and I try to live my life the way she would have wanted me to. I still tend her beloved garden and it is whilst I am in "her" garden that I can make more sense of life and the need to live my life with no regrets. Nature is such a powerful healer. Be kind to yourself. ;)Sharyne

  19. Thank you for sharing your story, it helps more than you can know. xoxo!

  20. Hi Kat, this is an amazing post, and despite the pain and doubts you've expressed, in many ways it's a truly special homage to your magical childhood. We can see that you have that wonderful child inside you still, and that you struggle like so many of us with regard to our parents and other relationships that maybe didn't turn out the way we expected. I feel that every experience is for a reason, and every one of those experiences teaches us something and makes us more human, don't you think? My mom died three years ago on October 1st, from a brain hemorrhage during recovery. I am so thankful that I went back to the hospital that night; she had asked me to be there in case she woke up during the night after the surgery and wanted a cup of tea. I was there but so sadly not to make her that cup of tea. Kat, this was a truly heartwarming post. Ciao, bella!

  21. Of all the blogs I have ever read, your post speaks to me on so many levels. Thank you for being so open and honest. You shared something so personal and I truly believe that you have helped many.

  22. At some point in time we all have to look at what we've said or done and decide if we can live with it - and then move on. Both of us have a little philosophical recently. I believe we're lucky to have the time for introspection or retrospection.
    The memories you have of good times in the cabin will be yours forever. No one can take them away, twist them or erase them - what a gift from your father.

  23. What a beautiful post, Kat. Very moving. The property will forever remain in your heart - parking lot or not. I have that song bookmarked and listen to it often.


  24. Kat, I have been crazy busy today after getting home. What a great post and photos. You just pour your heart out all you want. My dad and I aren't close anymore either since he moved to Fl. and now doesn't come up to visit anymore and he doesn't call. When he moved he said we would communicate by email so that is maybe two or three times a year! My family is just weird. I like my step mom and they chose to move and I guess they expect us to drive down and visit all the time, but he is real close to his grown step kids and they see them all the time. His own kids have been left out. Oh we get the birthday card and a occasional letter by email that goes out to all three of us. So impersonal. I love my dad, but just will have to remember the way it used to be.

  25. Dearest Kat-
    This is a masterpiece.
    Save it, guard it- place it in a safe place- perhaps in some archive for your children.
    We all have a story.
    Thank you for sharing yours-

    White Spray Paint

  26. Kat, this is a wonderful essay and tribute to your family. I know and understand your feelings re your Dad. One never gets over the memories.

    I'm always mindful of the Wordsworth quote:
    That though the radiance which was once so bright be now forever taken from my sight. Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower. We will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.

  27. Kat, it is a story that I have heard a few times with my friends of the fathers marrying after their mothers die and they put their past aside. It is bizarre, but I think fairly common. I think it is the shock of living without their real love.

    I am glad you have not wavered in your views since. I did not speak to my fatehr for 4 months before he died and I don't regret it. He had made things impossible and I finally took a stand.

    Hugs to you my friend. In your heart you know he is with your mother.

  28. This was a very powerful post. I'm glad you wrote it. This line meant a lot to me: "we can't predict the future any more than we can change the past..." I try to remember that. You are a very strong individual and I'm glad you shared this with all of us.

  29. Kat, this is really a moving and beautiful post of families, and loss, and truly living our lives...I think so often family members disappoint us, and as people get older~ age, ill health, and loneliness often lead to really strange choices and behaviors. I hope you can keep the good memories close to your have learned so many powerful life lessons. XO

  30. Kat, A beautiful and touching post that hits home with me. You are such a talented and expressive writer. Thank you for sharing this with us.
    xoxo, Sherry

  31. This post resonates with me much more than you will ever know.

    I've shared so many of these same feelings in my own relationship with my father...thank you for opening your heart to all of us.



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