29 March 2011

A Letter I Never Wrote

This is another assignment from my memoir class. We had to write a letter describing our worst day. This is my first draft.

Hey honey,

When I backed out of the driveway nine weeks ago I was mad that you didn't walk us out. I had to wrestle with the car seats and the buckles by myself. I couldn't fit the kids' wooden blocks in the trunk with the playpen and the suitcase, so I put them on the front seat next to me. Although they stared pointedly at me the entire ride, I stuck my hand out to catch them every time I braked. I drove north on I-35 for over an hour, beside the grey winter fields with the barbed wire fences until I was passing downtown Austin. I pointed out the UT tower and the kids craned their necks to see the Capitol like they always do, as if it was a normal road trip. I had the radio on when I pulled over to nurse the baby- I can't believe it's been two months since she was in the NICU- and that song came on, the one with the thumping base and the guy's voice strains out "I praise the God who gives- and takes away" and it's all I could do to hold it together.

I let the Taurus coast down that long driveway my parents have- it stopped in front of the pump house and I told the kids to sit tight. I got out of the car- the stupid thing has always smelled like pee ever since my grandma gave it to us- and sucked the cold air into my lungs for strength. My dad's shop door was open, but he never hears the cars come up so I went on in. He was polishing something or another and was delighted to see me. I gave him the best smile I could muster, and he asked me where you were- why the surprise visit? I don't even remember what day it was. Did I leave on a Tuesday? I don't know. I just remember when his happy smile faltered because I said something about you not coming, and could the kids and I crash there while you and I figured stuff out? Of course he welcomed us in and put us all in the downstairs bedroom. The baby slept with me and the other two slept on pallets on the floor- it was just a few weeks anyway.

Well as the weeks have stretched into months and we haven't heard from you, we moved upstairs and spread out a little. I told the kids the blood in your brain is all messed up and that you miss them. I stand in the foyer and stare down the driveway like a beat dog. I called you finally, but it sounds like your phone has been cut off. Aren't you going to even call us? Don't you want to see the kids? The baby smiles some now and loves to peek out of the sling while the kids play at a park near here. I don't know anyone in Round Rock except Celena. Sometimes I put the kids to bed and go over and cry on her couch. She's nice, but I think she's just waiting for the next juicy tidbit that she can share at the watercooler. My father hugs me every morning in the kitchen when I go down for coffee and asks me in this nerdy voice "has anyone told you they love you yet today?" Usually I just answer "nope" but this morning I just lost it and started crying, saying "No! No, okay, no, no one has!" He looked totally miserable when he heard that and I felt bad. I don't know what to do about us. How can we work on stuff if you're down there and I'm up here? The bank started sending me letters about the house. What are we going to do?

wife still waiting,

I'm honored that you would read New Mercy and I would love to hear from you through comments! Teresa (Tracy) Dear

27 March 2011

How a Grilled-Cheese Sandwich Gave Me Hope for my Marriage

This is another assignment from my memoir class. It happened 3 months before my husband and I began what would become our 18-month separation. I called it "Hope Renewed." The metaphor at the end there is a little sketchy at this point.

Darkness surrounded the little house and everyone was asleep. I leaned against the pillows that piled up in front of my bamboo headboard. Adjusting the round weight of eight months of unborn baby as best I could, I tried to suppress a sigh, surely my second or third. James' voice shot out from underneath his pillow.


"I'm just hungry."

"You want me to make something for you?"

Trying to contain my skepticism because of my hunger, I doubtfully replied "yeah?"

"You want a turkey sandwich?"
"No, I had one for lunch."

"Some of that Italian Wedding Meatball soup?"

"hmm," I knew that each rejection I gave was like throwing a pot of boiling water on the thin ice of our relationship. Soon he or I would crash through and be plunged into the frozen lake of our marriage.

Surely his last offer, he said "What about a grilled-cheese sandwich?"

I paused. "I like mine a certain way."
"I know how you like it."
"Really." my voice held no faith. "I don't want to eat one that's made wrong. I'm not too hungry, I'll just have some Triscuits and cheese."

"I know how you like grilled cheese," he was defensive, bored with me.

"Right. How do I like it?" I challenged, not expecting much in response.

"Mayo on the inside. A slice of cheese in the corner. Break up another slice and fill in the gaps. All symmetrical and even. A couple of shakes of cayenne, and then butter on the outside. Pretty crunchy but not burnt." He listed the steps in impatient order.

I let the tears well up but did not let them spill. He did know. How much did we know of each other, over these years, that stood as a sturdy dock, submerged and invisible after a long season of too much rain, an early winter? Maybe if the frozen lake did thaw, we would find ourselves on solid footing.

I'm honored that you would read New Mercy and I would love to hear from you through comments!Teresa (Tracy) Dear

26 March 2011

Let me put on my rubber suit...

This is a memoir I wrote for my writing class. It's about a trip to San Antonio my husband, my dad and I took a few years ago to a writing workshop weekend sponsored by the Screenwriters Guild East. Afterward, we were written up in the New York Times!!

Skeptical, he rode the 12-passenger bus south with me, distancing himself from the other writers by his silence. We were all veterans, but he had an unpleasant metallic taste in his mouth by the time he left the Air Force. I could see the judgement on his face as he listened to one vet's Alabama twang, her jangling earrings dancing and the tiny jewels on her fingernails glittering in the sunlight filtered through the tinted window. When we were delivered to the hotel, deposited on the curving driveway and ushered through the revolving door into a lobby far more ornate than the ones we have stayed at on our infrequent road trips, his eyebrows lowered a bit and his lips parted their iron gates.

Mirrored elevators are always awkward. A moment suspended between floors, waiting for your stomach to lurch, waiting for the doors to open. Nothing to look at but him and the face I once knew. Once I could look at it and know what was there behind the crinkles beside his eyes, the arrow on the side of his smile, his mighty tower of a neck when he threw his head back to laugh. Now it is a shield of stone, roughly hewn into a blunt representation of who he has become.

I don't realize the difference until Saturday evening. We spent a long day in writing workshops and discussions of writing technique, plotting goals for our projects. I winded my way through the after-hours library, down the escalator to the lobby to meet him and my father, another vet who came to this weekend away. Tense, I realized my father wanted our company for dinner. Instead of merely walking around the city, choosing a restaurant, I was waiting. Waiting for the tantrum. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for the muttered cursing, the glares demanding that I, who had no problem, solve it. It didn't come, and we sat at a small table. We ordered chunky guacamole and an order of steak fajitas to share. None of us was hungry but we didn't want the day to end yet.

I realized that he was neglecting his fajita to speak animatedly of his writing exercises and the feedback he received. After a full day spent soaking up the focused attention of talented screenwriters who fed his hungry ego, his face opened. The rocky lines had smoothed and his eyes were unfenced. I could see his energy, I could sense his excitement. Cautiously, I stared at his welcoming face, afraid that my intent gaze would alert him to the vulnerability he was showing. I tried to secretly bask in the openness and friendliness that I didn't realize I had missed so much.

When had he put on that mask of protection? When had he sealed up his emotions behind the solid jaw and the immovable, impassive flat dark lines that were his eyebrows? Did he stop shaving every day to enjoy life after the military, or was it to add that additional layer of prickles and pins between us? The callouses on his hands, softened from his tour at the Air Force's computer, had grown hard again in the Texas dirt and heat. His heart and his face hardened as well, a wall between us as the divide grew.

In the van headed north again on Sunday I could see the change come over him. With each exit passed, his laugh dissapated and his eyebrows grew stern. He began barking comments at the traffic and hissing his displeasure at me over the seat back. It was as if he was an actor pulling and tugging on a stiff rubber suit that didn't want to go on smoothly. I began to see again the now-familiar lines that protect him from the barbs and strikes of the world and I.

In the van with the beige seats and tinted windows, among the laughing vets and the northbound traffic, tears came to my eyes and I let them well, I didn't blink back their hotness in fear that they would spill down my cheeks and my hand, raised to wipe them quickly away, would draw his anger and their questions. I felt kinship with the wife of an Alzheimer's patient, who has enjoyed a few precious moments of clarity and shared memories only to see the life's partner slipping back into dementia again.

I'm honored that you would read New Mercy and I would love to hear from you through comments!Teresa (Tracy) Dear

24 March 2011

Why do I have to be angry all the time?

(a rant about my anger towards my husband)

This morning I thought thought those past two evenings were the best I could, literally, ever remember. Sitting on the couches with you and the kids, and last night when you read to them, were so beautiful. The way you changed accents in the middle of the story. The way she ran to get the next book. Watching you smile at their antics and one-liners made my heart hopeful. Then today it was back to normal, crazy roller coaster and ugly words. Accusations and generalities. Our same old dance.

I so hate looking at your horizontal sleeping form. I hate the way your feet stick out of the covers and the way I still listen to see if you're breathing. I hate the shapeless mass of blankets and the way you use all the pillows. I hate that the kids can be crying and screaming or silent and missing and you never get up to investigate or assist.

I am so angry. I am SO angry! I am SO ANGRY!

I am so angry at being angry. I am so TIRED of being angry. I am so ashamed of being so consistently angry. I am sad of seeing my anger displayed in the kids. I am exhausted of seeing the kids be ugly and angry and hearing their voices and knowing they learned it all from me. I am their example, and even if I am angry at you, or your absence, or your inactivity, or your sickness, I am still angry and still showing them that sin.

My sin. My anger. What is the stem of my anger? It's you; it's not you- it's my disappointment at how I am. How hard my little life is. How I am frozen in my own inactivity by your absence. I want to demand my rights, the proper treatment, I want to be queen of your world. I want to be up on a golden pedestal like I was over a dozen years ago. I want to be treated like a delicate transparent teacup passed down from generation to generation. I want you to be Christ to the church- offered up as a sacrifice for me. I want to see you struggling for me, for us, I want to see some damn effort. I am worth it- aren't I?!

I have been so faithful, so patient, and I am tired when I think that you're never going to get better. You're never going to be different- never confident, never a leader, never take a hit for the family. Your brain is broken? Your blood is unbalanced? Your heart is crushed? Your psyche is damaged? Can you ever be repaired?!

I know God is able. I know He is all powerful. I know He is healer. I know He wants none to be lost. I know, I know. But I also know He wants you to come to him. I know He wants you humbled. I know He wants you to know healing. But I also know He wants you to know holiness. I am a sinner and I am tired when I think of the next 50 years strapped to your side, dragged through the mud of a broken world because I am your life's partner and this is the road you're leading us down.

God save me from my sin!! God take my anger and crush it. How do I know my value and worth and still not demand my place and treatment in this relationship?! Where is the line between sickness and mistreatment? How do I gather the strength to be a shining light for Christ in this marriage and to the world when I am so tired and angry? How do I really get my sense of worth from Christ- from what God sees in me- so that my cup is filled with forgiveness and love and that is what spills over at the end of a long day?

God fill me up so there is no room for my anger.

I'm honored that you would read New Mercy and I would love to hear from you through comments! Teresa (Tracy) Dear

06 March 2011


Seven times seventy times
I'll do what it takes to make it right
I thought the pain was here to stay
But forgiveness made a way
Seven times seventy times
There's healing in the air tonight
I'm reaching up to pull it down
Gonna wrap it all around....

I lost count of the ways you let me down
But no matter how many times you weren't around
I'm alright now… cause
God picked up my heart and helped me through
And shined light on the one thing left to do
And that's forgive you, I forgive you

Chris August

I'm honored that you would read New Mercy and I would love to hear from you through comments!Teresa (Tracy) Dear