Posted in Pain

Immediate and Tremendous

The fire had burned out and had quite likely gone completely cold by the time I was awoken.

My mother’s light touch on my back, her whispers in my ear in the dark of my bedroom coaxed me from my dreams.  She wasn’t herself as she helped me to put my coat on over my pajamas, gently, but absentmindedly, threading my arms through the sleeves.

Her whispers, “going to your aunt’s house…choose a toy to bring with you…”

I chose my new silver baton, with the white rubber tips, such a random thing to remember all these years later.

It was just before Christmas.

The bitter cold pierced through my coat and the snow swirled about our heads as my mother carried me to the car.

The drive was a blur, but when we arrived at my aunt’s house, I was elated to see my cousins.  This visit was a gift, an unexpected sleepover.  We all piled into my aunt’s bed and snuggled and whispered until sleep overtook us.

When we woke to the white Maine winter sunlight, streaming through the gap where the heavy curtains didn’t quite meet, my mother and her sister sat on the bed and told us that our grandfather had died the previous evening.

In a fire.

My magical, glorious, Pépère was dead.


No warning, no goodbyes, no chance for final I love yous.

It was late.  My pépère packed logs into his wood stove, with bits of kindling and newspaper to help the fire catch, leaving the door ajar for precious oxygen to help feed the fire.  He lay on the couch for just a moment and dozed off.  When he woke, his living room was on fire and he couldn’t get to the front door, as that part of the living room was ablaze.

He tried to make his escape out the back door, but it was blocked.

He had hired a neighborhood boy the previous autumn to help him stack his firewood by the back door. When the boy stacked it, he blocked the door just enough that my grandfather was trapped.

My magnificent grandfather had no means of escape from his burning home.

The logical and controlling part of my brain always goes back to the little details.  How did he not notice that the door was blocked when he checked the boy’s work?  How could he have thought it okay to lie down and close his eyes, even for just a small moment?

But the answers don’t matter…they can’t change what happened.

Though I was all too familiar with the void left by loss, I had never felt that acute pain, that immediate and tremendous loss. Death was no longer represented by a dull ache.*

In an evening and in an instant, my pépère was gone.

*My brother died before I was born, and my father died when I was just two years old.

This post was inspired by a prompt from The Red Dress Club, a photo of a Christmas ornament not unlike those on my pépère’s Christmas tree.

Because It Was Grassy and Wanted Wear, Revisited

This remains one of my favorite posts; I won’t dilute it with my words here.  Thank you so very much for reading.

Because It Was Grassy and Wanted Wear

I will never forget that sound.

The crunching of the packed snow beneath my feet, dissonant with the throbbing in my ears from my racing heart.

He sought me out.  He wanted my forgiveness.  Wanted to talk to me…to see in my eyes that forgiveness was even possible.

I sought out a safe place to meet him.  Though I knew with certainty that he wouldn’t physically harm me, I feared for my emotional safety.  My aunt provided that shelter.

Fourteen years prior, he shot my father twice and killed him.

I was two.  And in an instant, fatherless.

As I reached to open my aunt’s door, I was stuck between two places.  In that moment, with my hand clenching her doorknob, I could move forward or I could retreat. There simply was no in between.

I pushed the door open and the heat from my aunt’s house engulfed me.

He was there.  Sitting at the table.  I greeted my aunt, shed my coat, and sat opposite him at the table. And I waited.

It wasn’t my turn to talk.

He apologized.  His words were much what I expected them to be.  I knew the story…the reasons for why he did what he did.  They had been the best of friends.

I can still see him, rubbing one of his hands with the other, worrying his skin raw.

But his eyes?  His eyes expressed his sorrow and remorse in a way that his words never could.

I’m not sure I have ever seen eyes as soft as his were in that moment as he sat there, stumbling over his words, looking to me for encouragement to continue speaking.

I let him speak until he was completely deflated…words expelled like air from a balloon overfilled to near bursting.

There was a familiarity about him.  Some part of my brain remembered him.

In that moment I was left to make a choice.  To forgive him or to hang onto my anger and hurt, polishing it until it gleamed with bitterness.

It was the moment to choose whether to set him free of his burden or take that opportunity to make him pay.  To crush his hopes for a release from even a small part of his guilt.

I didn’t hesitate for a moment.  I forgave him.

I made a choice that freed us both.

The easy, predicable choice would have been to hold my anger close, fueling it with thoughts of all that had been ripped from me.

The more difficult choice was to forgive him, to recognize that he was human and that relinquishing my anger would bring me peace unlike anything I had ever known.

His life was already broken.  He would never be the person he was before he killed my father.

But my forgiveness? He sat there and asked it of me.

And offering that it to him was truly the fork in my road.

The Road Not Taken — Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

*The decision to forgive this man who destroyed my family was my choice.  This was the right choice for me.  If I were my grandmother, grandfather, uncle, aunt, or mother, I can’t say that my choice would have been the same.  That is impossible to know.  I can only truly know what is best for me.  I love my family beyond words and their strength astonishes me to this day.

Waiting for Headlights

My little brother gathered up his things, jeans, flannel shirts, sweatshirt at 4:30.  Hat, scarf, gloves, current favorite toy, Transformer or remote control car or video game or Walkman, all haphazardly shoved into his duffel bag. By 5:00, he was always completely ready to go.  His father was to pick him up at 6:00…it was his weekend.

He barely ate dinner on those nights, he was too excited.  He was so quiet, playing in his mind the weekend ahead.  He had been thinking about it all day.  He would have two nights and two days until his father would bring him back home.

I remember how he sat at the dining room table, his feet not quite reaching the floor.

His dirty sneakers, worn, the white rubber trim flapping as he swung his antsy legs. Purchased too big to last just a bit longer, but worn before he even grew into them.  Laces pulled tight, double knotted.

And he waited, focusing on his black digital watch as the minutes crept by.

He would alternately stare out the window, waiting to see his father’s headlights as he turned off the road and drove up the driveway, and put his head down on the table, intently listening for the sounds of his father’s tires as they crunched down the gravel driveway.




At 6:15, my brother would call him. Of course there would be no answer. He would tell himself that his father must be on his way to pick him up.

At 6:30, he would call him again.  No answer. Perhaps he was just running late.

Again at 6:45, 7:00, 7:30, 8:00.

Finally he would reach his father, who would act genuinely surprised.

He had forgotten. His weekend?  Really?  Was my brother sure?

Well, it was so late. Perhaps they could just do it next weekend? No big deal, right? Okay, buddy?

As each weekend slipped away and my brother grew older, his response to his disappointment changed.  From tears and anger, to withdrawal and deep pain wearing the cloak of indifference.

And each time his father overlooked him, a piece of my brother’s innocence broke away.

His willingness to believe in others, diminished.

I watched my once-tender and silly brother erode until the day arrived when his father was no longer his hero, until no one really was.

He was left behind, abandoned by his father, who had begun a new life, with new responsibilities and new children to look after.

A disposable boy, my brother.

This post is part of my NaNoWriMo memoir and is in response to both Red Writing Hood prompts at The Red Dress Club.

Tender As a Whisper

She’s three.  And she was acting three.

Pushing limits, listening selectively.

Being three.

I pled with her to please be a good listener.

She ignored me.  Looked past me.

At a loss for how to reach her, I reminded her that we treat the people we love with respect, and we show that by listening.

I questioned, “You love Mommy, don’t you?”

It was rhetorical, asked thoughtlessly.

She paused, turned, looked me straight in the eye, and replied, “no.”

She said no.

Her hazel eyes locked onto mine, waiting for a reaction.

I was frozen.  Paralyzed and shocked.

Who was this child?

This was the first time that she’ll say this to me.  It won’t be the last.

But, she’s three.

I counted. 1, 2, 3, how could she say that to me?

4, 5 6, how do I even respond to that?

7, 8, 9, 10…breathe, Nichole, just breathe…

I told her I was sorry to hear that because I loved her very much.

And I walked away.

And I breathed in and out.

Moments passed.  Three, maybe five.

She came to me.  Placed her hand ever-so-gently on my arm, and asked for a hug.

I pulled her close and breathed her in.

She said she was sorry.  She touched my cheek with her fingertips.  Tender as a whisper.

Those same hazel eyes locked onto mine.  She said she loved me.

In that moment, she was my baby again.

But, minutes before, all I saw were visions of her as a teenager.  Years of pushing and pulling.  Yelling and hugs.

She’s three.

I’m not ready for this yet.

About me

Nichole Beaudry @NicholeBeaudry Location: Northern California
Each and every day, I strive to appreciate the wonder, beauty, and whimsy in the small moments, the moments that, when strung together, form a lifetime.
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