It was Wednesday night, the 25th of November in 1998, I will remember that date, that night for the rest of my life. During those early days of Life in The Natural State, since relocating from Chicago in June, things began to get better quickly. In November, over the Thanksgiving weekend, we planned a visit from my brother and his wife, they were escorting Cassidy to Arkansas. On the night before they arrived, while Kelly, Julian and I were sitting around enjoying the television, the front door knocked and something very extraordinary happened; my daughter, Valerie Anne, the little girl I had not seen and could not find for so many long years, was standing there on our front porch with my mother! November 25, 1998 it was one week after Valerieâ€™s 15th birthday and 13 years since we had last seen each other! I cannot express the shock of joy, the vast rush of emotion that came over me when she stepped into our doorway, my knees nearly buckled as we slowly stepped towards one another while my mother, Kelly, Julian and God watched over us with all smiles. Tears, filling her deep blue eyes, her little chin quivering slightly, she whispered, â€œDad?â€
â€œYesâ€¦â€ my own cheeks soaked with both Love and Fear, â€œI am your father, Valerieâ€¦I am dâ€™Philip Chalmers and I have been looking for you since the day you were born, childâ€¦God, youâ€™re here, I canâ€™t believe itâ€¦â€
â€œI, I, Iâ€¦â€ she began to gush and rushed towards me, hugging me tightly and sobbing, â€œI canâ€™t believe itâ€™s really you!â€
â€œValerie, I never stopped lookingâ€¦â€ I began to explain but my mother, being the mastermind behind this brilliant surprise, cut me off, â€œâ€¦for you.â€
â€œI told Valerie you were living here in Arkansasâ€¦â€ mom shut the door, took off her coat and handed it to Kelly. Holding both Valerie and I tenderly by the arm, she smiled with her own tears of joy, â€œWe talked her mother into letting Valerie come visit Nana for Thanksgiving, Valerie told her mother she didn't want me to spend the holiday alone, isn't she sweet?â€ my mom smiled slyly, Valerie blinked innocently and just kept looking at me, mom continued the story, â€œValerie and I decided to keep a secret, we didn't want her mother to know you were here, otherwise she would never, ever let Valerie come spend Thanksgiving, or any time at all with Nana!â€ mom pulled Valerie and I close, the three of us softly sobbing, â€œNow you are together, at last, I have my first born and his first bornâ€¦Happy Thanksgiving!â€
â€œWow, I canâ€™t believe it!â€ I asked Valerie, â€œDid you know you were coming here to meet me, I mean, yeahâ€¦you did, but since when?â€
â€œNana told me for my birthday,â€ Valerie wiped the tears from her big beautiful eyes, her motherâ€™s eyes, soulfully blue and clear, pure, so innocent, â€œIt was our little secret! My mother told me you were in a cult in Nevada, but I already knew you were living here with your familyâ€¦â€ Valerieâ€™s smile beamed as she turned from us, knelt down in front of little Julian, â€œMy name is Valerie, whatâ€™s your name?â€
â€œJulian!â€ he gleefully cheered with his arms open wide, â€œValerie!â€
â€œYes, Iâ€™m Valerieâ€¦â€ they tightly embraced, â€œIâ€™m your sister!â€
â€œJulian knows you, Valerieâ€¦â€ Kelly smiled, her glasses too fogged with misty joy, â€œWe all do, your father never stops talking about you, heâ€™s told both the boys about their big sisterâ€¦the first night we met, he told me about you.â€
â€œReally?â€ Valerie looked up at Kelly and then at me and then again at Kelly as she scooped Jules up in her arms, â€œI never knew, I mean, my mother was always telling me different things, not good things.â€
â€œHuh, how is your mom?â€ I asked as we all took a seat, â€œBe sure to tell her I said hello!â€
â€œOh my!â€ Valerie blushed and we all laughed. Over the next couple hours, as we all shared stories about our lives, about our plans for this weekend and even about the future. Valerie declared, with a true neo modern Southern Belle determination, like Scarlet O'Hara from â€œGone With The Windâ€, Valerie, in a firm voice bellowed, â€œNow that I know the truth, I know where and who you are, you're not the monster she said you were either, I declare!â€ she said that and chuckled, â€œThere's nothing that can stop me, I mean it,â€ her Carolina voice strong, â€œShe can go to hell because now I know the truth!â€
Thanksgiving 1998 was a most perfect holiday, one of the best Iâ€™ve ever had in my life. No longer feeling ill of mind, I had a steady job with ambition and plans to build upon, I liked that me very much, I was happy, solid. For the first time in any of our lives, all three of my children together at the same time, in the same place, it was my vision of Bliss. I have a woman who loves me, who still loves me even though weâ€™d been through hell in the short 3Â½ years we had been together. Kelly loves all of me, inside and out, the good, the bad and the ugly of me, this is my vision of Love. I have my motherâ€™s never ending devotion and support all my crazy life. My mother who brought about that wonderful gift of bringing all of us together, of making all this happen in such a magical, wonderful way. I have my brother, I was feeling closer to him than I had in many years, I could sense that he too somehow still believed in me. I remember, I sat at one end of the table, my brother along with his wife at the other end of this Cornucopia table of Goodness and between us along either side of the table, my mother and my wife, all three of my children, I felt a true sense of patriarchal responsibility. I held up my glass of wine, â€œIf I may?â€ I tilted my head, glanced at mom and then continued, â€œDear God in The Cosmos, we thank you for this bountiful feast, we are a fortunate family because we have so much of everything, especially Love, to share. Please bless us all with continued good health, with fair and worthy welfare and with as much time on this planet as you can possibly afford each of us; however, dear Heavens, I am most Grateful for right now...Here's to The Best Thanksgiving Ever!â€
â€œAmen!â€ everybody toasted and giggled, so much Love was passed around the table that night. The food was filling our bellies, but the Love spilled from our hearts. The rest of weekend was a flash, yet so many memories were made, doing a few simple things all together. We all went bowling, this was a sporting game my mother grew up on and shared with me, and now mine, I have so many images of Valerie helping either Cassidy or Julian. Images of their smiles, the sound of their laughter echo inside my head like old recordings. We went horseback riding because Valerie had never been on a horse before and I loved riding but hadn't done it in years. Flashes in the forest along the wooded trail. I watched Valerie upon her horse, she held Julian tightly as the horse's tail swatted flies. Come Sunday everyone flew back home, there were many tears, dozens of big tight hugs, but such happiness and Love we were probably glowing. Valerie and I promised, this was just the beginning of the rest of our lives together, we will never let it get away from either of us ever again, no matter what, no matter who; Valerie knew, I was her father and I Loved her with All that Love is, for the rest of time, the rest of Life, I was her daddy.
This excerpt from the new book, â€œMy BiPolar Reality; How Life Goes Onâ€¦â€, is something worth sharing with everyone this week, it again being that time of year, this holiday now upon us, the season about to boil into another frenzy of consumer obsessions and the endless jingle of a thousand of lonely commercials. This Thanksgiving of 2014 is our first one in California, two thousand miles away from almost everyone we know, itâ€™s going to be a very low-key and small affair with simply the four of us and perhaps my elderly uncle from San Francisco (I hope). Weâ€™re planning a small bird, perhaps a pot of carrot rice soup, some potatoes, cranberries and stuffingâ€¦and I think I might try to bake a blueberry pie too! Itâ€™s not going to be easy to be so far away, but in some ways, itâ€™s kind of nice too. Please understand, we love our family and friends dearly. We love them so much that every year around this time of year we stress out because weâ€™re hosting or attending gatherings, trying to buy everyone something special or at very least, unique and thoughtful. We work harder, longer hours to cover all the extra expenses and the time passes so quickly that come the first week of January, weâ€™re wondering if it even happened at all! This year weâ€™re sending a photo postcard to everyone, weâ€™re committed to making each other presents only (no buying things) and the only gatherings weâ€™ll be attending are at home, just the family. I like it like that too!
This last couple of months of each year always finds me feeling reflective, aside from the dawning of a New Year, I also have the Sagittarian honor of celebrating my own unique personal holiday (12/07) so itâ€™s natural for me to â€œtake stockâ€ of my life during the final 60 days of each year. I like to assess my progress towards my goals and dreams, I like to get an inventory of how the family is doing both as a whole and individually. I take time to speculate on the things that worked, the things that didnâ€™t work out and how I might do it differently given another spin around the sun. I make an effort to plan a strategy for the next year or five, I work on my continuing recovery/management of my health issues and Iâ€™ll even add an item or two to â€œrewardâ€ myself to my list of wants and desiresâ€¦Iâ€™m not the only one, Iâ€™m sure, itâ€™s common to evaluate oneâ€™s life every year or so, right? In my own cycle, November is a sad month, a time to let go of all my sadness and pain, I let myself sink into these feelings for a while too. Itâ€™s important for me to acknowledge and feel these hurtful feelings because if I donâ€™t, the ill feelings build up and then seep out through my life in so many worse ways. I wait until Thanksgiving until I turn my attention back to the present and future. A week or so after this very American holiday, itâ€™s my own personal holiday, then the whole X-mas thing ending with a New Yearâ€™s bang! This how my cycle works, yours might be different, but for me I let the grief sweep over me, then offer my gratitude for the blessings I have, enjoy the celebration of family during the X-Mas daze until, finally, we step into the future with a New Year!
So this week I am feeling those shifting emotions, those currents in the ocean of Life that ebb and tide me through this experience like a kite on the breeze. I go to my knees on the shores of salvation, offering my Grateful appreciation for being grounded, for being here in this space/time continuum, well rounded another year gone by and another just upon the horizon, like the promise of a new dawn, I feel strong, I feel alive, I feelâ€¦and the ability to truly feel, for me, is indeed a unique and valuable asset. Please, dear readers, if there is only thing I ask from you during this entire post this week, it is this simple thing; Offer your most sincere gratitude to your loved ones, your friends and neighbors, those in your community, the people who people your life, be sure to be Grateful for them this week and if youâ€™re so lucky as to be with these people, tell them how much you appreciate their presence in your Life. Itâ€™s more important than giving thanks to anything else, anyone elseâ€¦give your prayers of thankful appreciation to those who make up the fabric of your Life, for without them, not even God has meaning.
Have a Happy, Grateful Thanksgivingâ€¦Take care & be well!
â€œMy BiPolar Reality; How Life Goes Onâ€¦â€ used by permission of The Intrepid Editor Press Ltd. and is available (LIMITED autographed first edition) at dphilipchalmers.net OR at your favorite purveyor of books, magazines and gifts everywhere.