Summer of 69

Angie Warren

I couldn’t tell you why we were out that night, the two of us. I can’t recall where we were headed, but I can tell you the way the air made me feel. It was a sticky sensation, tangible in the way that if I could have, I’d have bottled it up to revisit in coming seasons.

There was a sweetness to the breeze, a perfume blend of residual cook-outs, lilac bushes, and a nearby campfire, and I was filled with the comforts of my childhood. That summertime air was in my lungs and through my hair, it was both a swirl of romance and a breath of stillness.

I was thirteen years old that summer, and my world felt complete. I knew little of what else was out there, I knew not of loss or pain, I knew nothing of the gut-wrenching sting my adult years would bring. What I knew, what surrounded me, was everything good. It was my mother and father, my three siblings. It was middle school friendships and Aqua-net hairspray. What encircled me were the familiarities of being the child of a pastor, a homemaker’s daughter. These were the things I knew to be true, these were the things that became my identity.

His window was down, my dad’s, and his arm shot straight out to his left. I watched from the passenger seat, a smile framed my face as his hand cruised up and down, in a wave-like motion. He liked the air too.

Bryan Adams crooned through the speakers, something about the summer of ’69, and I couldn’t help but sing, “the summer of ’95.” My dad laughed. I laughed and rested my head back on the seat. His arm came in from the summer’s night, one hand on the wheel, one turning the knob, making the volume so loud I couldn’t make out my own voice. Music was his pastime, and I’ll forever hear the melodies of my childhood and smile at the thought of him, of my daddy.

That drive through town would be a memory that, in years to come, would ground me. The slow cruise down Main Street, turning right past the QuickStop, weaving over hills and passing the homes of his own upbringing, that ride would sit within the depths of my heart and remind me of better days. In the years to come, I’d turn the knob of my own volume up, letting Bryan Adams serenade me through some of the more difficult days. That song, like so many others, would act as a salve, taking me back to that summer of ’95, back to a time when all I knew to be true, was true.

I didn’t know what summers were like in ’69, but I knew what the summers were like in the 80s and 90s. They were filled with the sweetness of watermelon dripping down my chin. Summer meant later bedtimes and chasing lightning bugs. They were church camps and roasting marshmallows, summer was fishing and bathing suits. It meant dirt-stained feet and suntan lines.

Summer was driving through the hills of St. Clairsville, Ohio with my daddy. His smile, my braces, our shared love of music. Summer, to me, has always been, the best part of this life.


One Thing I'd Like to Say About Losing Someone to Addiction

Angie Warren // Addiction

Recently I posed a question to a writing group I'm a part of. I asked them, "what is one thing you'd like to tell someone about your loss?" and I found myself mulling over that very thought.

One thing I'd like to say about losing someone to addiction is: the means by which he died does not discount the fact that he's gone. My brother's addiction was not his identity. My brother's addiction was his demon. Losing him in the way I did feels terribly traumatic and in a way, more tragic than the way I lost my mom.

I'd like people to know that addicts come in all shapes and sizes. They're not the same. Some are manipulative and compulsive liars. Some are thieves. Some have lost sight completely of what is good and true.

But I'd like you to know my Joel was none of those things. I'd like you to know that he was funny. Silly. Adventurous and wild. He was an amazing chef and he loved with a ferocity that could move mountains.

Those are the things I'd like people to know. I am unsure what kind of addict is in your life, should you find yourself loving of one. But hear me when I say, it's okay to talk about it. In fact, lets. Let's talk about it more. Let's talk of our losses and our grief and even the kind of loss that feels messy because perhaps our person is still alive - but lost to us.

If I do anything with my words from here forward I hope it's to encourage you to find your own. Break the silence, bury the shame. Will you?


The Loss Club

Angie Warren

Loss has forever changed me, and as I see signs of growth, of life, it baffles me. I watch winter merge into spring, I find yet again, the strange knowledge that all around me, people are living.

The sun continues to rise. The calendar flips, the trees blossom, the weather shifts. These things happen, paying little mind to the fact that I'm now growing far too comfortable collecting treasures of my dead relatives.

Sometimes I laugh, loudly, at the audacity of this all. I scream or cry or raise my hands, yet again, to the heavens.

WHY. Why cancer? Why addiction? Why me, again?

And I'm reminded of the wise words of the mama who raised me, "why not me?" And I sink back into the couch. Deep breathe, in and out.

I inhale the aroma of the changing season just outside my door, and I decide to do something with this. With this story I've been given. I decide not to let it go to waste.

I've found myself quieter than when I lost my mom and I'm not sure why, but don't be fooled. I'm just letting it simmer. I'm letting it do its thing so I can do my thing.

If you, too, are finding yourself with your hands to the heavens - you aren't alone, not hardly. If cancer has infiltrated your life, if addiction has stolen someone from you, you're in good company. It's not a great club, but it's not a lonely one.

Welcome. Let's walk this road, together.


Some Truth About Loss, Again

Angie Warren // Addiction + Grief

The truth is I feel I don't have many words right now, at least nothing that I feel is particularly uplifting or lovely. The truth is I'm walking through a season of unexpected grief, I'm feeling things deeply, and trying so hard to process what life is to look like.

The truth is, I had just begun to see things clearly, I had found a great sense of joy, even after such a painful loss - and I was so glad to not be "that girl" anymore who was riddled with an aching, a painful and hollow hole.

I find myself now, struggling with what to say, if anything. Do I share this season as I did last time, or do I keep it quiet? Do I open myself up yet again, or do I put the laptop away?

Does this mean the girl with all the joy, the one who practices such gratitude in grief, does this mean that girl is gone, replaced with the remnants of someone who is growing far too comfortable holding the cremated remains of her loved ones?

I hope not. I surely hope not.

But for now, that is about what I have. For now, I'm the girl adding to my t-shirt collection of those I've lost, I'm the girl searching for voicemails, emails, text messages, in a desperate attempt to find a ground to stand on. I'm the girl looking with wide eyes, reaching out, grasping for some sun in the midst of what feels quite cloudy.

This life is still good. My children are healthy and make me smile. I spent the weekend with what is left of my family, both laughing and crying. I have a warm roof over my head. I hold those I love closer than ever.

In time, I'll find the joy again, I know that. Until then, I send all of my love and appreciation. A heart-felt thank you for your prayers and encouragement and simply walking along side of me, no matter where the road may go.


Musings on Another Loss

Angie Warren // Grief + Addiction

Here's something I can tell you: grief manifests differently, wildly, unpredictably. This I thought I knew after losing my mom, this I now know for certain after the Davis family has gone from six to four.

I have spent the better part of six months expressing a great joy in life after loss - gratitude even. I've started my manuscript over again, saying farewell to 70k words because three weeks before my brother died I felt something in my gut tell me that wasn't the story.

Then SLAM.

Out of nowhere I'm faced with a challenge I never expected, I'm suddenly asking myself how does one say "there IS light after dark, there IS a great and wonderful JOY to be found after life becomes shattered" when suddenly my spring feels a bit more like a winter, again.

It's something I'm wrestling with (among many other difficult things) at present. I can say God is still a good God. I can say He's not left my side. I can say He knew from February 12, 1988 that my brother would live a short twenty-nine years. And I can say with all certainty that I now hold my family closer and tighter than I ever imagined possible.

If you've walked along side me for any amount of time, I pray you take one thing away: I pray you too know that in the midst of whatever winter you're in, you're not in it alone. It's not cliche, I'm not just spouting it. I'm living it. God is good, even in what feels like upheaval, and for that, I'm eternally grateful.


When the Cactus Doesn't Bloom

Angie Warren // Addiction

Loving a drug addict is like hugging a cactus.

What happens though, if the cactus fails to flower? If the green of it loses color and no matter how much you water it, the cactus plant, dies?

What then? What are you to do, the cactus hugging addict lover?

I have asked myself this exact question many times since I originally wrote of the cactus. I've lived in great and debilitating fear of the tending of my precious cacti, that I wouldn't do it right, that I'd somehow fail at it.

I watered them from afar. I clipped, soiled, as best I could. I became in a way, just like them. Addicted. Addicted to the desire to save my plants.

As it turns out, there’s a bit of cactus in us all.

In the end, I lost a plant. A beautiful and lovely, jack of all trades, brave and adventurous, insanely funny plant - a pivotal part of my life, my first best friend, my partner in crime. I lost a cactus and now all I can think of is the emptiness that remains.

Grief upon grief upon grief. It is suffocating in a way I didn't experience the last time, and every part of me aches.

There is nothing we can do. Nothing in our power to save it, the plant. I am simply grateful that I always, without fail, saw the blooms. That I remembered to hug him, my cactus, though now it bleeds me out.

Hug yours, friends. Hug your plants and hug your people.