The Space for Contradictions

Turning the page of a year - 2018 - Allison asked me recently if I set any New Year's Resolutions. "No. Well, I mean, subconsciously I'm sure I have, and I'll figure out what it's all about next year," I responded absent mindedly and presently engaged.

Because, that's the thing. Sometimes, I don't know what the deep-down parts of my brain are up to till somehow this braid comes together and I had to have known I was combing it through the whole time, but I hadn't, absent mindedly combing, presently braiding. How can I be so obtuse in one way and know deep down completely what I needed without acknowledging it? How could I not see the fiery ginger braid?

Gemini. 

Dualism, The Twins, they are such a part of my life - I can't think of any moments that weren't dances of dualism. Loud + Quiet. Strong + Weak. Dark + Light. Absent + Present. 

Looking back on 2017, I realized, I gave myself a gift, over and over again, The Gift of Space. And, in the space there was a break in classic-Speed-momentum, a moment of stillness that seemed to stretch out longer than I was accustomed to - an awkward slowing of time - for someone who has pushed, ran, and gained momentum as each year built on the last. Slowed moments. Sometimes, I didn't know what to do with the space I had given myself. Sometimes, all that space was awkward. 

Space from racing. I ran one race last March. Space from weightlifting. I left the community I had known for years. Space from my career. I walked away from a Position of Confinement to one of ultimate creative freedom. Space from relationships. I didn't have as much to give this past year. I kept close to The Givers and gave myself space where I didn't have more to give. Over and over again, I gifted myself Space, and I wasn't even realizing I was doing it. What did I want to cultivate in all of this space?

Spaciousness in all of its forms. "Here you go, Blair." Or rather, "here    you     go    ,     B l a i r." But, if I wasn't pushing, if I wasn't momentous, if I wasn't the instigator or the defier, if I wasn't on fire, then, who was I?

My last writing, well over a year ago (below), delved into a pain I hadn't experienced before, and a contraction of space. Do we always contract before we expand? 

The only backstory needed to know is, for years within my ultra-running career, I carried the mantra, 'Make friends with pain, and you will never be alone,' by Ken Chloubar with me. I created a relationship with Pain and he didn't scare me or change the course of my races when he arrived, he was just there, running next to me. Hello, Old Friend. This meant, I never discussed Pain with other people. He was with me and for me, only. So, when I experienced a traumatic Pain during and following a race and I finally discussed the existence of Pain with my doctor -  it was at such a traumatic level - I was utterly unprepared for the doctor's non-chalant response, he hears about pain every day, sometimes every appointment. My pain scale was not his pain scale. When I opened up to Pain and said those simple words, "I am in pain." I was shifting my world. The Doctor, he was hearing about pain for the 30th time that day. He compared my pain to a bunion he once had on his pinkie toe. Fucking ass. His pain was not my pain. 

We won't dwell or relive that pain from that particular writing, as that story is not today's story, but it has had major impacts on my relationship to space in the aftermath. That Pain made me slow down. For a w h i l e.  I have attempted to better understand my interactions with myself and with this space I get to walk within via a reaction to a traumatic pain. Catalyst. Story. Space. 

Mix into the equation of a year, I'm a Gemini and then throw in the Ginger hair and dualism and rage and softness and letting go and strength and it all just seemed confusing at different points within this year of space. 

After my list of injuries and illnesses during my last ultra-race, I let go and gave in and celebrated a weekly yoga practice. This was very different from the iron strength I had built over the years of weightlifting. Fluidity of movement was immensely helpful for me to heal, it was a vastly different way of interacting with myself + with others. I have healed in such ways over the past year. Somedays, I want to run into the doctor's office and yell, "Nanni Nanni boo boo," to them with two raised middle fingers. Obviously, I'm mastering the Art of Zen. And, then I think "bastards" and then I think, "well, they do get lied to all day long, every day; I certainly couldn't do their job." Dualism. Empathy + Rage. Light + Dark. 

Sometimes I feel like being a Ginger Gemini is like listening to The Avett Brothers', "No Hard Feelings" and Rage Against the Machine's, "Killing in the Name of" all at once. All the time.

Somedays, it feels like I have lost as much as I have gained. And, I adamantly, full-heartedly believe that loss is growth. But, also, it is a loss and there are waves of mourning. What have I lost in this Space? What have I gained in this Space? There are parts of me in certain moments that oh-so-wish I could go back to that black and white drive, less gray, less confusion. But, I am still expanding. Still attempting understand. 

The practice of yoga, the sustainability of movement and fluidity has healed and opened me in ways I didn't know I could move. At the start of each class, our teacher asks us to set an intention, and for the first time in my oh-so-goal-orientated-regimented life, I just let it go. Not with the goal of letting it go or the intention of letting it go but just, whatever the fuck happens today, man. I showed up. Here I am. There was healing in letting go. Unintentionally. There was healing in just showing up. Repetitively. Here I am. 

But, as I have waded through this healing, this practice of letting go, this Space, I have often been conflicted with the strength and abrasiveness and defiance I have so often defined myself with and the softness and letting go I was embracing. Because, you can't defy if there isn't something to defy against. Where does the dark + the light meet within each of us? And, how do those waves fold and unfold onto one another? How can you hold them together? Because, I want to hold them together. I don't want to lose the dark. And, I don't want to lose the light. 

"Make friends with pain and then you will never be alone." Pain + I, we were friends and not in a self-flagging-get-off-on-it friendship, but just, Pain wasn't scary and he didn't get to determine the outcome of my races. I loved this dark side of myself. I valued this friendship. I didn't want to lose this part of me. But, maybe I already did. I want to defy limits but I also want to care for myself. I want to strengthen not tear apart. 

I am often unsure how to blend the two. The dark. The light. 

Until, of course, I get out on the trail and give myself the true gift of space - trail running the Big Sky state. Across that vast and sometimes endless skyscape, I can often see the balance of dark + light held within the ominously dark + sparkled light clouds, held across the space + balance of the big sky. Above, there seems as if there is plenty of space to hold both. I spend a lot of my runs looking up. Pain during a race was the catalyst but the Space I find during my day to day adventure runs has been the journey. 

The conflict of dualism arises in hidden moments throughout my days. Maybe I'm not looking up enough, but I want to look within for that space. Do contradictions constrict? Or, do they open us? In yoga, we're taught to be ego-less. And, fuck, I understand and celebrate not making every. fucking. thing. about ourselves - halleluiah.

If we pause from our own story, if we listen and look into another's story, how much more provocative + wild + sweet this life becomes through learning another person's experiences. Limitless. Ego-less. Expansive. The gift of empathy. But, then, I also remember myself as a Sophomore in high school and reading Ayn Rand's Anthem and actually feeling like I had found a love story I could fall in love with and, simply, not feeling so alone because of that story, that space. The final line of the book reads, "The sacred word: Ego." I love both sides of this ego-coin. 

I love that competition stems from ego and I haven't met a competitor I didn't like. Challenge me, please. I love that science + infrastructure + creation evolve and progress because of competition. Ego. I love that I evolve from competition. 

It's a braided rant of contradictions in how I love social media because I love the opportunity to glimpse someone else's lens into the world. I love seeing what my friends and the people I look up to are doing with their days, how they see the world. I love celebrating their days. Or, sharing struggles. But, uuuuuugh, I am annoyed by the vanilla-bullshit-selling pseudo lives of "make the boxes all congruent, all monochromatic, make your grid vanilla and sprinkles and bullshit to gain followers." If you change your story to appeal to others, you have lost your story. Or worse than that, you lost respect for your story. I want authentic boxes. I wanna see your lens. The dark. And, the light. 

Tell me about the wrist that turns in your throat when you're afraid to speak up. That's how it feels to me when I'm afraid to say my words, knuckles grating against my throat. Tell me about the weightlessness of your intestines when that secret love passes by. Gravitational float. Fast breath. Light body. Tell me about when everything falls to shit and you don't have the words to speak - break your words like you break your bread at dinner and hand them out. Because, the experiences that have hurt you (we all got 'em) can save others. 

Don't tell me about your perfectly imperfect imperfections perfectly planned for release. Consumption. 

Tell me something real. Tell me something true. And, don't think about me in the process of writing. When you think of how to sell your story, you lose your story. Your story is enough. Because, the world isn't in need of sprinkles, it's in need of authenticity. "Speak your truth," repeated over + over again in yoga class. Please, speak your truth.  

These are only a few contradictions I hold within myself. There are many more. Many more. I trip over these contradictions; there's not enough space to walk past each one. I'm currently reading, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, and I'm sure my deep-down brain grabbed at this book to weave into this particular braid, this story of space. The Ego coin is one, but the sides of introvert + extrovert are another coin. There are countless other coins. How do we balance and carry these needs within ourselves? How do we carry all of these coins? 

My wedding vows this year were an ode to the dualism in Travis. I am attracted to the ones that carry light + dark within themselves. I call him my Golden Heart of Rage and it is this light and this dark that has forever kept me engaged and pushed and excited. When past loves fizzled out or really never gave the gift of curiosity - a wildly exciting gift in love - this dualism in Travis has always kept me excited, always kept me curious. I wrote a set of vows to his Golden Heart. And, I wrote a set of vows to his Rage. 

Ashley, of course, added a strand within this braid of Space. She wrote to me last Fall, "For those who are innately drawn to the subtleties of landscape, to the language of space, when we find our people, it feels like an extension of those places. And for those of us drawn to the big sky + openness of the west, those people feel endlessly expansive. Blair is open space to me." 

Could she see the space I was falling into? Is she searching for her own space to hold contradictions? Are you?

Jen had an international trip and asked for a book recommendation and with no hesitation, no pause, I reached for my favorite gift of words, The Solace of Open Spaces, by Gretel Ehrlich. Oh, how space has defined the last year - obsessively intertwined - oh, how I am only now seeing the expansiveness. Braid. Braid. B r a i d. 

B        R        A        I       D. 

When I sit and hold my contradictions, I can't make sense of it all - it is all too close and jumbled and tripping over itself within me. I don't have enough space within myself to carry these contradictions. Scratch that. I am cultivating, I am harvesting, I am working on building the space within myself. I just, I haven't gotten there yet and like most growing pains, they are awkward and sometimes confusing. 

But then, I go for a run. I. go. for. a. run. I run in the Big Sky state and the space, the big sky, allows for these contradictions to dance and float within and around me without being such a confusion. Ominous and sparkled clouds. Space out on the trails and in the mountains gives me the ability to hold onto contradicting ideas and not trip. And, not feel like a hypocrite but to feel expansive. Light + Dark. Empathy + Rage. It all seems much more fluid out there than holding on tight within myself. I've realized running among the mountains gives me the gift of space and in the space I find out there, I find a lot more space within myself. 

I am not saying trail running in Montana is the answer to ego v egoless, to monochromatic Instagrams, or holding coins, balancing the waves of lightness + darkness within ourselves. But, for me, it is. It is the means to expand. To forage through this internal space, to push out, like an ever-expanding universe + create space. Within. It gives me the chance to hold these coins and look at each side. It gives me the opportunity to better understand my own habits of dualism. So, I'm attempting to be more like those ominous + sparkled clouds I am so obsessed with on my runs. Expansive and cultivating the ability of holding onto the light + dark simultaneously. The Twins. 

Trail running might not expand you, it could even constrict you. But, if I could suggest a path that leads to less tripping, a path to get to the places that let you expand, I will. Because, I believe there is a lot more Space within each of us. Expand via art, painting, because you feel in colors. Climbing because you see in lines. Writing because you choke on words. Music because the notes take you to your ever expanding universe. 

Search for the places that let you expand. And, then. Let it go. 

 

Transmogrification: Just Add Bourbon

Travis has encouraged me to write most days over the past couple of months. And, I tried. I swear. But, first I was too sick and then I was too whiny. When I did start writing, they were too long. So I scraped them all.

And, then. I started writing.

I guess there is pain you come back from. There is pain you don’t come back from and there is a variegate of pain on a spectrum of return. And, it usually just takes time. To return. Or maybe you don’t, maybe you can’t, so you shift.

A couple months ago, I raced the Elkhorn 52K in Helena, MT. Covering 33 miles across stunning and wide open Montana mountains. I had looked forward to this race for a year and trained b e a u t i f u l l y. But, this writing isn’t about the training. Or, about my life time affliction of over-excitement.

It’s about a race. Maybe. It’s about pain. It’s about shifting.

I had felt queasy at the start line. Must be nerves. I had ‘proclaimed’ my desire to race hard. To podium. Actually, to win. I was strong enough and I was tired of tip-toeing towards hard effort. No more fourth places. It was time to run.

Travis promised me Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon (he knows how to motivate me) if I podiumed.

13 year if I got third.
15 year if I got second.
23 year if I got first.

My stomach turned from the beginning and those feelings never went away, actually they escalated. My intestines swelling and then vibrating, a soft hum. Rising towards a higher frequency. I threw up at mile 10. I never throw up. Ever. I hadn’t eaten anything. I knew I was fucked when I put a strawberry Fig Newton to my lips and I gagged. Strawberry Fig Newtons are gold. I threw up some more.

I was unable to eat the full 33 miles. My intestines rattled harder. My stomach distended, full and humming. What was going on? I know how to take care of myself.

On top of an unstable stomach, my knee started to hurt. Shooting pain from the back of my knee up to my big meaty left butt cheek. I whimpered on wonky steps going uphill.

The race sucked. And, it was miserable. And, painful. Some days, I wish I could forget the whole thing
I didn’t drop because I know how long it takes to get someone out of the mountains who can’t get themselves out any longer. It takes a long time.
So, I put one step in front of another. I told myself, “Make the most of this.”

One of my favorite parts about running long distances, I still don’t know how to put into words. At some point when my legs have circled each other enough times, a set number I’ve never been able to count to, when my body is fluid in movement, my mind becomes this free floating separate sphere but there still a part of me. It must be my religion. At some point during every ultra race I have ever run a wave of non describable dark matter, not known, unseen infrared, gratitude just hits me. And, I cry.

And, it’s not these sobs or gasps for breathe. It’s just a welling of the eyes and a soft sticking to the face hairs slow stream of tears down my face. A Plinko Game of tears and cheek hair. And, gratitude. I look forward to these moments. Or non moments of introspection and outward appreciation. They are some of the most broken open moments of my life. Runny egg yolk heart dripping down my ribcage.

There was no religion at Elkhorn.

During my race I started to show the first signs and symptoms of a rare and severe bacterial infection in my intestines.

When I finally crossed the finish line I let out three sobs, one for each of my friends and Travis who was there as they each took turns holding me.

I went to Urgent Care two days after the race as I was in rapid decline. They called me in the middle of the night and told me, “I don’t want to leave this on your voicemail but I’m concerned you might have Hemolyctic Uremic Syndrome.” Don’t look that up, because it’s a certain type of hell available on Earth.

I cried.

I stayed in bed for two weeks following the Elkhorn Race. In the fetal position. Sweating. Or crying. Sometimes, shitting my pants. I don’t remember full days. The doctors finally figured I didn’t have HUS and put me on antibiotics. Those made me want to cry too but I was tired of crying.

I’m not sure exactly why it made me so deep marrow sad. I’m always a little sad after a race, like saying goodbye to a friend that’s joined you on an incredible journey over the past year. But, not as sad as actually saying goodbye to a friend because that’s just not a pain you come back from. Shift.

Elkhorn was going to be a celebration. And, then, it was just a hell.

I think part of my sadness after Elkhorn was my strength, my sexuality (a late bloomers intoxication – I. Love. Beautiful. People.), my independence, and my gratitude are all my key self identifying traits. Self Validation. Self Power. Take those away and I wasn’t sure how to return.

Three weeks after Elkhorn, I tried to go for a mile walk with Charlotte my hound dog and I was so dizzy, I fell off the trail.

When I attempted to tell my doctor about the race, all I could really do was cry and it wasn’t this soft Plinko Game. It was embarrassing. I tried to tell him it had been a soul shifting pain that lasted for weeks. And, I tried to tell him I’m not a masochist, self care actually means a lot to me. But, mainly, I just cried.

He looked at me and dropped his typical banter, changed to a “I play a doctor on TV eyes and soft voice.” And, I know he was only trying to comfort but it made me feel worse, a lot worse, as if he was playing along with the idea I had been in so much pain. I’ve realized over the past month how terrible I am at communicating pain. I mean, it’s not his fault. Our doctors know us for a culmination of a few minutes throughout our lifetime. They base everything off of commonalities and most likely to be scenarios. They don’t actually know us. He didn't know that I never talk about pain. 

The doctor told me the pain I felt in my knee was a benign tumor growing AND something else was wrong. I needed an MRI. (Things hyper active kids aren’t good at: laying still. I had to redo my MRI scans a lot. I apologized. A lot).

“Have you ever experienced anything like this before?” My doctor asked me.

“You mean not eating and throwing up for a 33 mile race, shitting my pants for a week, bed bound for two, a tumor in my knee, and some other fucking thing wrong with my knee? No this is a new one for me, Doc.” I responded. Oops.

See, Ginger Rage is like a hot white flash and I don’t know it’s happened until it’s done. Ginger. Bomb.

My Doctor suggested I see a counselor.

There is a pain you come back from and there is pain you don’t come back from.

Everything that I’ve dealt with over the past couple of months is pain you can come back from. I mean, really. It s u c k e d, it has certainly shifted me. In more ways than I currently understand.

The other evening as I was spiraling down one of those shifts, Travis asked me why I live in the past so often. I have always traveled back there too often. Reliving moments, again and again. Worrying about interactions. Replaying joyful times. Repeating in a racing mind over and over again. And, I know he has said this to me a thousand times. I know others have said this to me a thousand times but for some reason. Shift. It hit me.

I sort of became obsessed with this question. I mean, really, I easily get obsessed with ideas. But, I began asking everyone I know, “Do you think you live more in the past, the present, or the future?”

Ask someone and have a real conversation, it has been an incredible spark for me to delve in and swim in someone else’s life. Past. Present. Or, Future. Tell me about it.

See, this past, my Elkhorn past, it can all be healed.

I’ll gain strength back. I’ll go for more runs. More mountains. Egg yolk hearts. Religion.
But, I don’t need to keep reliving that heartache.

That’s the gift of getting older. And, the curse. By the time we’re in our thirties we’ve either experienced tremendous pain. Loss. Or, we know some exceptional, amazing people that have experienced a gut wrenching loss. And, that fucking sucks.

You see, we’re all gonna be given a tremendous amount of pain. Challenges. Loss. But, you just have to keep living. And, living. And, giving. And, making the most of it because being sad is exhausting. Trust me. So is reliving pain over and over. I gain much more momentum dancing through the hyper activity I’m used to. And, in spite of the pain, we’re given a tremendous, indescribable amount of love. Friends. Families. Lovers.

Currently. Some days I espouse, “I’m developing resilience!” Some days, I cry to my doctor.

So, I’m doing yoga. And, climbing. Hell, I. am. even. cooking.
And, laughing.
I’m finding time in the mountains. Slowed down. Fishing. Hiking.

And, I’ll run again.

The part I am still wading through. Haven’t fully shifted. Is. I got my goal. I got third place. Achievement? Sort of. I podiumed at Elkhorn. And, that had been my goal for a really long time. A driving force. Friend. Religion.

I haven’t had my Pappy yet and I haven’t been able to celebrate. I’ve found it hard to celebrate that pain.

But, I need to be moving forward. I need to have some Pappy. Maybe some Basil Haydens. Makers Mark. Maybe I’ll celebrate big. Why not? Ginger. Bomb.

The funny thing about sharing pain. Heartache. Is there are gonna be some pretty amazing folks that help you through it. Cause we’re all gonna go through it. Pain. Loss. Love. Trav has been there. But, he’s not a big writer. My Trail Sistah, Jen, reminded me to celebrate and wrote me this,

“Not only were you capable of making the podium but you did it under extreme circumstances. This is the definition of success. Your body will break, hurt, fail, but you will always find a way to overcome that, adapt, and keep moving forward.  It reminds me of that talk we had about living in the past, present, or future. Do not dwell on the past on this one, celebrate, laugh it off, heck even cry it off, but let it go and move forward to the present and even look to the future. P.S. Fuck that race!”

So, I am working on letting go of this past and not bringing it up any longer. I am working on shifting. I am working on pouring myself a glass of bourbon. And, celebrating. And, asking friends more questions. I am working on living in the present. And, looking towards the future.

I know that I will be able to draw on this heartache and this resilience. More experience. More strength. Another gear.

I guess that’s the whole point of this journey, you can’t pick up speed, you can’t get any farther without shifting.

Sons + Daughters

My Grammy had these bright blue eyes. These type of eyes you want to high dive into, public pool in the sweet summertime eyes. They were her most memorable feature, well those high dive eyes and her smokes and whiskey voice. She was quiet and stubborn.

My Grammy had a stroke 3 years before she died. She had a stroke and no one found her for 24 hours. She never moved the right side of her body again and her smokes and whiskey voice had left her. For how much she changed physically after that, there were those aqua blue eyes, taking the big full world in, when she refused to go back out into that world. She was afraid to travel most of her life, I only got a handful of days with her because of those fears. The last three years of her life she never left the third floor of her care facility, never went outside again. When Mom and I went to see her, we’d stroll up and down the same hallway next to Grammy’s wheelchair all day long.

When my Mom said goodbye to her Mom, I was all at once, lost jumping off the high dive, public pool, and found in a parking lot in front of an elderly care center in New Hampshire on a hot and sunny summer day. Public Pool Hours Day. I held my Mom’s shoulders as she shook and cried and we walked away.

I guess sometimes we forget that our parents are sons and daughters till they say their goodbyes. Caught up in our own identity as sons and daughters.

Meeting my Mom in New Hampshire to say goodbye to Grammy was one of the most powerful moments in my life. A chance to show my gratitude and love for the people who came before me, my family, spread so far across this country and yet, always a part of me. In a quiet way, a chance to say ‘thank you’ to Grammy for giving me a mother who has always loved me without limits. Thank you, Grammy. A chance to be there for my Mom, when she said goodbye to hers.

When my Father called me recently and let me know Grandma Speed was in Hospice care, I knew I needed to go. I’ve hosted so many 90th birthday parties at my job, I hated missing my own Grandmother’s last year. But, April is an impossible month for me to leave work. 12 and 15 hour days, and getting to work with other folk’s grandparents.

I knew I wanted to go to North Carolina and the mountains that raised me. Childhood summers spent in the Smoky Mountians attempting to emulate everything my big cousin, Hillary did. Searching for crawdads in the sun speckled creeks, blue jean shorts and hems that were always falling into the lapping water. Trying not to break Grandpa’s collection of exquisite twisted walking sticks. Attempting to keep my checks from flushing with excitement whenever my big brother, Brant, wanted to do anything with me. Coke floats with Grandma and playing cards for hours. Sleeping under the dining room table, a cacophony of crinkly sleeping bags and cousin’s giggles.

They say aspens are the biggest growing live organism on the planet. But I beg to differ, I think it’s actually Appalachia, the whole canopied thick green world seems to all breath, inhale and exhale, as one. Out on the green trail the leaves and bird’s and bug’s wings all pulse up and down with each breathe. Birds and bugs echo in choir. Run on the trail through that green tunnel and heavy wet air, you run the spine and belly, up and down breath, smoky exhales, and a chance to run with giants. To think of your giants.

I knew I wanted my Dad to be there too but I didn’t want to make him feel guilty or bad if he just couldn’t make it. You see, us Speeds, we’re all heart and empathy and worriers. When one of us is in pain or sad, we don’t feel the pain and sadness, we are the pain and sadness. Swimming through a current of shared grief. We worry and look after one another. Love and Protection, maybe the most powerful equation.

I called my brother, Brant. I told him I was going to go to North Carolina and was there any chance he could make the journey back there too? My brother Brant, all heart and care and quads too. We grew up hiking the Blue Ridge, Pisgah, Fontana. Eating triple scoops of melted mint chocolate chip on Dolly’s Ice Cream Parlor front porch. Sticky hands and summer sun. Our Grandma Speed is our last grandparent and soon, we’ll stop being grandchildren.

He bought a ticket.

He bought a ticket, and Kelley, my sister-in-law but more like just my sister, who I love, and sweet, change my perspective on the lens to life niece, Eloise, all got tickets to the Blue Ridge.

I called my Dad.

He’d had a bad bike accident in April, same month Grandma got put into Hospice Care. He broke a bunch of ribs and my High Energy Dad, who ricochets from activity, to gardening, to cycling, to making dinner, was confined to a chair. Had to cancel his trip to see Eloise, sweet only grandchild that he has, brought love into this world, Eloise. And, as a Speed, I worried ’bout him.

I called my Dad and he made plans to travel North to meet us. Broken ribs be damned.

My Grammy Seachrist passed away two days after my Mom and I left her side, said Goodbye. New Hampshire. They opened the window and her eyes closed for the first time in a long time and a single tear swept down her cheek. Goodbye Grammy, thank you.

My Grandma Speed passed away two days before I made it to North Carolina. Two days.

Fuck.

Love and loss and love and North Carolina sunsets. My Dad called me two days before I left Montana and told me I could cancel my flight. Grandma has passed. We just missed her.

It had been six years since I last saw my Grandmother and I know she loved me as I know the love and gratefulness I hold only in my heart for her and the family she has brought me. But, I was never particularly close with any of my grandparents. Most of my interactions with Grandma involved her telling me how much better I could be if I was more like someone else. I’m also sure from then on most of my interactions with her were closed off and stubborn. Apparently, this whole ‘relationship thing’ is a two-way street. And, I’m sure I’m equal parts Grandparents and Cheryl and Gary, Washington, Kentucky, Florida, and North Carolina Summers, a little Ginger too. Equal parts stubborn, brazen, sensitive, and worry. Sometimes I put duties onto myself that aren’t asked. I’m a Speed, all driven and heart and sensitive and stubborn and fearful and heart and stubborn and driven. I wanted to see my Grandmother and thank her for my family and tell her I loved her one more time, thank her for a Dad who has loved me and encouraged me without limits. To see her and to hold her. But more, I wanted to make sure Brant or I were there to hold our Father’s shoulders when he said goodbye to his Mom. A son’s and daughter’s duty.

I told Dad I wouldn’t be canceling my flight. Stubborn, still.

There was no pressure, I know how wild this life is and how we all have so much going on, but I was going to go to North Carolina.

So, we went. Three flights and a car ride later I arrived. We rented a cottage in Hendersonville and for the first time ever Dad, Brant, Kelley, Eloise, and I were all together. Sweet Speed family time.

We visited all of those childhood summer spots. Pisgah and the swinging bridge. Dolly’s Ice Cream Parlor. Hendersonville Little Theater. Grandma and Grandpa’s old home. Mt Mitchell.

Pretty Place.

A homage to the life we all use to share together before we spread out across this country.

Holding shoulders and sharing stories.

My parents are no longer sons and daughters.

Brant and I aren’t grandchildren.

But, my parents are grandparents now. Sweet, stunningly big hearted, bright blue high dive eyes, brazenly red haired, Eloise, grandchild. It seems unfair we don’t realize the love we bring up and into this world when we’re born. They say energy can’t be created. But, man, my niece, I swear, she created love and brought it into this world when she was born. She gives my whole family something to look forward to, love and protection, Speeds.

We knew each of my Grandmothers were going to pass away, a gift so few of us are ever given, to know when loss will happen. And, as loss has a way of doing, it brings out a chance to share love, to give love. I didn’t know each of my grandmother’s deaths would bring about such special moments in my family, thank you Grandma.

Love and loss. Grandchildren and Grandparents. Sons and daughters.