Listening To The Trains

I was listening to the rain outside,

a steady rhythm of a soft spring shower

the whistle of a train nearby,

reminded me of a man I love so dear.

 

I have watched him grow his entire life

a boy to a young man, such happens overnight

I see pictures and memories and I want to cry

for when might I tell him how grateful am I.

 

I’d like to remind him of all the moments he believed

even when I was a puddle of self agony and grieved.

I want him to know that quite honestly every night

while the whistle of the train plays the rains so light.

 

I love him, I’m so proud I may call him my son.


© Thom Amundsen 5/2020

for Alex

A Difficult Month

I have experienced loss this month, not simply grief of losing a loved one to the natural course of life. More presence and banishment. Not hostile as much as confusing. Many aspects of life have been exposed, many others kept in their dark holes of quiet solace from revealing my greatest fears. And yet there is the heartbreak of our lives that we always keep close to ourselves in order to find some sanity in our day to day.

I have known love on so many levels, and now I am being asked to love alone, without any recourse beyond knowing in my own seeming understanding of God or some spiritual entity that love does exist and continues beyond the mechanical or physicality of the human condition.

My belief is in God. I have kept that tucked away for many years because parts of our society do not accept the reality of some of our own ways to find personal strength in ourselves, in our lives. I remember a time over a decade ago when I was struggling and when finally coming to terms with whom I was in the moment, I sat in a chapel, looked at an altar and began to feel the tears stream down my cheeks. I didn’t hold back, I just let them fall, and the memories began to flood my mind. I thought immediately of my cousin Billy, who I miss so much, and my parents, and my childhood, and like a film reel my life ran its course of recall and redemption. I realized that morning that I could be okay with whatever decision I make in life because it is my own. I believed that day, that God was looking over me, and offering forgiveness. It felt unique in contrast to the many times I would on my knees or in a fetal position pray that God might take me out of this miserable life. That day God held my hand.

Recently I have returned to the church and it has offered me a unique peace. Though I still walk through my days with questionable motives. I have very good friends, a support system that is just short of phenomenal, but are we ever completely satisfied? There is a void in my life that I created on my own, that I find troubling because I fall into patterns of neediness that won’t allow that to be fixed. I have made a choice in my life that I could not possibly regret because moments do teach happiness and truth.

Today, my words gradually become more revealing. I hope they might speak the truth in what I feel, not simply words to fill the page and find reader’s eyes, but words that would somehow tell a story that when other’s hear, they have their own quiet ‘yeah’ moments. My mother always called them ‘aha’ moments, so I save her mantra for myself because I do love her and miss her dearly. With my dad the two taught us as a family how to live with one another no matter the struggle. We used to spend hours in debates with all of our family around the old oak table – freedom of thought without judgment. Something I miss dearly, but in writing we can find and use that venue to our own advantage to help define our thoughts.

So it has been a difficult month. I have returned to work in a capacity and the students are clearly my life blood. I see them throughout the day and their smiling faces is all a person needs in the moment. It is the hours afterwards that I will continue to struggle to find my own space, my own identity, my own truths.


© Thom Amundsen 2/2020

The Notion of Giving Up

I’m in a bit of a crisis, so I’m going to write from my heart. I don’t really know where this will take me, if only to let me vent some of my fears, and find some peace. I recently came to a conclusion about important aspects of my life, and a need to make significant changes. We sometimes are forced to make those decisions only because we have to go on with trying to become who we are meant to be.

I struggle with depression, I have all my life. In different periods I used self destructive measures to deal with my anxiety and the fears that came along with not feeling good about myself. My self confidence has always suffered, and there have been rare times when I could look in a mirror and be happy with what I might see. I find that to be part of the human condition that we all carry around with us. It is ironic, because I know people that will clearly say to me, I don’t understand depression because I have never experienced it, and I find myself walking away, feeling envious. I have to believe though it is true, and they are part of a fortunate lot.

In my life, I have been vulnerable to my own insecurities. There are things that bring me happiness, probably the greatest one I can reveal here, safely enough is the birth of my children. They are truly the most beautiful gift in my life, and I am blessed. My wife has been the caregiver throughout our marriage, and together we raised our children to be wonderful contributors to our society. I am proud of them and feel fortunate that we have been given this miracle of a healthy disposition in our family.

It wasn’t always like that. My own struggles with addiction have weighed heavily on the fabric of my marriage, my relationship with my children and my colleagues and friends. I have been lucky to find a supportive environment that helps me discover stability, but I have to admit, I sometimes need that 24/7 and when a significant moment occurs in my life, I become shaky and wish for negative outcomes, only those that would apply to me, no one else, I would pray would be impacted by my own faults.

This leads me to speak to this current crisis I am experiencing. I have found that my validation that I grew comfortable with for a period in and around nearly two decades has become a bit of a false pretense. I have no regrets, I just believe I have to move forward, and rather than smile at the fear I have when I am around people, I must find peace within my own mind. I think that is a difficult process when fighting with anxiety and depression. I think we tend to connect with those people that understand our moods, our emotions, our challenges. I think those people are important in our lives, and they sometimes come from unique avenues in our world that we choose to live in. I think our fear of losing that can really shake a person up.

I’ve wanted to give up so many times in the last 50 years, it actually has become a rather comical curse for me to carry around. I’m not suggesting humor necessarily as much as I am speaking to the circle of deceit I have left myself living in, rather than foraging forward to find a solution to my fears. I have had occasion where I really did want to check out, and I looked for ways that might be possible. Ironically today, the first thing I thought about when I was experiencing self-defeating ideas is my two children, my son in particular – his vulnerability seems a bit more apparent having suffered through the loss of people he has been close to in his life. I thought of my own impact being parallel to what he has already struggled through and the message that would leave him with being horrific.

Tonight, I read on my twitter feed a person who has pledged 22 days of doing 22 daily pushups to represent support for our military who live in a constant struggle with their own lives. The 22 represents the number of military personnel that take their lives every day. I thought about that and applied it to myself. I have not been in the military, I have not suffered to the degree that so many people around me have. I have only struggled with my own addictions and self-loathing but it really is nothing when placed side by side with someone that has had to endure far more challenge than myself.

So tonight, I am reflecting. I have been forced to move forward. I will not let depression continue to enjoy a stranglehold on my well-being. I experienced something this evening that literally tore me apart and left me feeling sick to my stomach. I will practice humility and grace as I move forward beyond my own self-aggrandizing behavior. I have a responsibility towards a world outside my own rollercoaster of emotion, and I might well jump on board and own myself.

I hope you have been listening, and for those of you that made it this far, I appreciate you. Thanks for coming along on the ride.


© Thom Amundsen 2019

 

I Cry, Sometimes

Sharing a story,

recalling a significant

rite of passage

in my childhood,

Not one I chose

I might be so

reminded.

 

One day,

her glance

a twelve year old mind,

frightened by tragedy,

submission to God’s plan,

a confusion,

yet her eyes,

would tell me a story.

 

I then

and forever

touched

would struggle my means

would understand

only a criticism

I would believe

in my own heart,

only to find,

years upon years,

I would recognize

her heart to be pure

holding firm

a supportive glance

in a time of sadness.

 

Oh, today,

I did cry,

I felt a passion

to share, to allow

a soul

might know

my own choices

in a life

where all of my instincts

tested

at a very young age,

one OI would choose

to live again,

a parallel life perhaps

touched by

happiness.



© Thom Amundsen 2019

We Wonder Love

David

DAVID GRUNDY

Glance close in my eyes

will the love be receptive

is it as real as it feels inside

when upon your eyes

I look to see your truth.

 

If when I let you see me,

might the caution you feel

be my own strength of

wanting a world of respect;

in ignorance we know love.

 

In my eyes, is a forgiveness

for I human, my own insecurities

yet passion has been my hero

my family, my world is a design

beyond His how contains love.

 

Oh to know me smile, to laugh to cry,

sweet sister & brother – no family deny.


© Thom Amundsen 2019

I wrote this piece for this man’s family whom I went to high school with. I knew David to share a cup of coffee with him on occasion at the Croissant Express in Minneapolis back in the eighties. Always pleasant, always engaging, we held a natural affinity to our home town, Wausau, WI. I felt near his final years, I could call David my friend, such a beautiful young man.

Why Sisters Are Cool

I called my sister today,

before I even uttered a word

she asked me if everything was ok,

then in a gasp I tried to breathe

she said then, what’s wrong?

 

I called my sister today,

before I even uttered a word

I knew I could lose my shit

and she would think it be okay

she waited for me to breathe

I told her I was tired.

 

I called my sister this way

I knew she would hear what I wanted

to say yet her patience is my takeaway

she waited, she smiled, I could feel it,

I could feel her love, it’s just her way.

I took a breath, and our conversation …

 

In the matter of a phone call home

I discovered love is always on display.

Are You Ok?

How do you ask

Why do you ask

Well, I’m alright

yeah, I am.

 

We cannot predict this stuff

nod your head

show affirmation

let the tears come

think about …

children nearby …

grown adults

they’re watching you,

loving you,

thanking you.

 

Everyone in the room is

grateful

within the tears,

they are laughing together

celebrating  the beauty of you,

you, today, embody love.

 

Today you shine

as much as any other day,

yet,

everyone with shielded eyes

is taking their moment

acknowledging your time

realizing how precious

life is today

while we bid adieu

some way away

we would ask, wish,

know.

What Really Means Love Today

Lately the news has been grim. We seem to be riding on this roller coaster of misinformation that draws our compassion in far too many directions. It really appears that on any given day we could lose sight of what is really important to us, based upon where we see our world headed. At least for me that is a fear. Sometimes I wonder if it just self- persecution or if my insight is really trying to match up with my intuitions.

I’ve always been a feeling person, one that operates from the heart. I can sit in my home and feel tears when a dad is making sure his daughter is ready for college, because that same emotion impacted me when my little girl started her first year of college away from home. I remember, I cried all the way home, a two hour drive where I really thought I had lost my world and I wasn’t ever going to have it back. But fortunately she did return a stronger and more confident, now, young woman, whom I am so very proud of.

My son has had a similar effect on my life. I have a picture of him and I standing on the shores of the Temperance river – me kneeling and he standing next to me with his Twins cap and a smile – pressed lips smile. We were together and we had just had a lot of fun and it was a moment frozen in time that for many years afterwards I would struggle because I wanted that time back. He grew up, found his own life and moved into the next chapter of his young adulthood. I thought I lost him, and there were many nights when I cried myself to sleep. But now today, he’s a strapping young man, and he has a good life, one that I can be extremely proud of.

It is those moments of reflection that I do understand the meaning of love. It is such moments that I look at the world around us and I wonder if everyone feels the same way I do. I wonder if people watch the news and they sometimes lose hope because there are so many wrong things happening, that our minds cannot wrap ourselves around them soon enough. In trying to do so, we forget those moments in our lives that have greater value. It is the people we love that we are close to and count on knowing and seeing throughout the various chapters of our lives.

I think that’s the piece we have to stay focused on. What is important is to know the love we already have and can feel in our family, our loved ones, those friends we are closest to, the people we know we can trust and count upon on a daily basis. I think by doing that we can by example be representative of a good, peaceful march upon the negativity that surrounds us.

I think we all need to practice love.

A Little Boy

when I was a little boy

I had no idea

the man

I would become;

inside all of this

anxiety

remains that little boy

screaming

sometimes to not recall

the day

innocence gave its

departure notice

to his only

grasp upon

sweet reality

 

when I was a little boy

I understood

universal

love

A Christmas Message

We are approaching that ultimate day of family and love and Grace, with all of its beauty, delight, misconception and forgiveness, and I am reminded of where my values first evolved. Going through some papers in my den I came across a picture of my grandmother, we called her ‘Granny’ and I was immediately flooded with the wonder of memory. In looking in her eyes in the picture, I could see the woman that helped shape me and our wonderful extended Irish family into the people we are today. Along with my father’s Nordic influence, we have embraced lives of love and respect that I am proud to celebrate on this Christmas morning.

However, there are always reminders, always moments, forever tellings in our lives that give us pause and naturally ask us each to never forget that the evaluation of our beings is a constant process in our lives.

There are days when I still don’t know who I am. It is Christmas Eve, and I am reeling over a conversation that took place with my family yesterday evening. I know I’m confused, but I am not sure if it is because I am still, at 58 years old, reminded I am the youngest in the family, and I still allow my feelings to interfere with a quiet composure, or am I justifiably irritated by a sense of seeming entitled ignorance. Let me be clear, I love my family and all each member represents in my life; though, inevitably there are times when I need to feel allowed to recognize there are just certain behaviors I feel compelled to not tolerate. This coming from a man whose made far too many mistakes in my own life to throw stones.

I lived a sheltered life, growing up white in a small town in central Wisconsin. I was not exposed to racism beyond what I read in a newspaper, or saw on television. I grew up laughing at ‘The Good Times’ and J.J.’s ‘Dyn-O-Mite’ and ‘The Jeffersons’ making it to the East Side of Manhattan, and laughing at their uncanny ability to muse at themselves. Meanwhile Archie and ‘The Bunkers’ were slaying the dragons of good taste a few floors below in the heart of Queens.

In my life, there were incidents I read about that horrified me, but they didn’t touch me. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot, I was listening to the report on a radio in my grandparent’s sunroom, a place where at the time for some reason my grandfather was not sitting in his chair, smoking a pipe, while looking over the harbor of Lake Superior, quietly wondering what his life had measured. He was always reading the paper, always had an opinion, but in the eyes of a 9 year old, he smiled and gave me a pat on the head, for he knew my world was built around waiting when he would take me down to the canal to watch the ore ships steam in. He wasn’t there to see the confusion in my eyes, or my wondered expression when the report indicated that MLK, Jr. had just been gunned down on the balcony of a Memphis motel room.

The time was now around 8 PM, Thursday, April 4th, 1968, and the world as we knew it, continued to turn itself upside down. Racism was suddenly apparent and people were reacting in an explosion of ‘civil disobedience’ across the country. My grandfather has a beautiful smile, and I can visualize it as I write these words, but that smile would turn to a sudden grimace as he would have no words. I ran into the kitchen where my mother was chatting with ‘Granny’ her mother, my grandmother, the woman I would dedicate this writing to and I told them the report.

They went quiet, and quickly turned on the television, which at that time would need to warm up, allowing the riots to already begin before we saw the original pictures of mayhem, starting in the streets of Memphis and escalating in several major cities for the next three or four days. I remember watching storefronts obliterated with bricks and being fascinated, if not a little terrified. The press would later call it the Holy Week Rising, and this horrific weekend would be another in a string of race riots that would mark a cornerstone in the historic bearing of the civil right’s movement and racism in the 1960’s.

I was nine years old, and my greatest concern again was fixing the loop to loop on my matchbox car set so I could run my track around Grandpa’s chair. I looked out the window of the sunroom and saw the Duluth Harbor and the aerial-bridge and all seemed well. I still was too young to realize a world outside our warm and comforting home contained an ugliness it would take me years to understand, a world I still try to define as my involvement in it becomes far more prevalent than that of a young boy playing with toys in his grandparents home, celebrating Easter surrounded by family.

I listened to the conversations turn political that were honestly white noise(sic) in the forefront of my mind, but I knew something important was happening. I could tell by the expressions the faces of all the adults held. I knew the table conversations the remainder of the weekend would be far different than originally planned. We would talk about a nation in turmoil the next few days. We would talk about a man revered by my mother and her mother for his peaceful intent, for his ‘dream.’

It was 1968 and while ‘Granny’ as we know her continued preparation for a probable ham dinner in the coming days, I began to be cognizant of a world outside my own that demanded attention beyond a simple television article. There was clearly nothing simple about the change our country would endure as my thinking would shift from childhood toward adolescence. A civil right’s leader had been gunned down and a people of hope and faith were suddenly halted in their tracks. The death of MLK, Jr. changed my world as I knew it.

I recall suddenly being directed there were certain terms we could no longer use as freely as we once had. The word Negro had transitioned to Black to today’s African-American and its many variation – still today, the term mulatto has now become bi-racial – but the most disturbing and vitriolic being ‘nigger’ a term used quite viciously in my childhood. It was a word we didn’t hear at our family dinners. Granny insisted we recognize tact and decorum in her home. This value was taught to me at a very early age, and I am forever grateful.

I recall years later a specific incident when arriving home as a young adult I had come across a book of jokes, that contained disparaging and racist commentary. I remember at the time feeling clueless of the nature of their impact. I walked into my very white family home and tossed a couple of them around, and was immediately shunned by my loved ones for producing something our world could no longer tolerate. I was mystified and hurt and confused, but more importantly immediately reminded where I came from. The shame and guilt I felt in that moment were overbearing. I took it to heart, and from that day on, recalled again those early values instilled by my grandparents, and as I envisioned a family dinner with Granny presenting as the matriarch of our simple existence, made a pact with myself that I would never ever again partake in such discrediting misinformation of a person of color or culture different than my own.

That moment in 1982 helped shape me into the person I am today. Certainly there have been many experiences in my life that have been integral, but moments like those, when my family reminded themselves and me that we can be beautiful people together in a world where everyone deserves that same element of Grace, I began a journey of sensitivity toward my fellow human beings that I hang onto with every fiber of my being.

So today again, I am reminded of who I am. For a moment I can take solace in the knowledge that our world is one of good, where love and compassion do exist and we live in a society where acceptance and sensitivity to another person’s needs are real. We live in a world where humor and a good joke are real, yet there is also a boundary of recognition that is an earmark of respect that is one of the most important values in our lives.

Today, while I recognize Christmas in the world around us all, I am reminded of my grandmother, ‘Granny’ for the love I know she would wish we all share together in the arms and energy of our family and friends. I am reminded there is truth in the realization that our world is a constant learning curve and we must all recognize the individual merits we bring to whom we are today, together and in the future. The education of our lives as human beings living in a world of constant change is certainly eternal in its mystique.

Love your family, your friends, the man or woman or child or vagrant or executive or definition of difference on the street, your neighbors, the person that cuts you off on the road today while you last minute shop. Love the world around you. Love yourselves.

Thank you ‘Granny’

Have a Happy Christmas everyone.