Dakota

That fall you took
can’t have been your last.
So many lie ahead for you…
right now is too soon; too fast.
Wake up, please please wake up.
 
You’re missed by all your friends.
We all know Dakota as “fun” –
you’re so passionate about acting –
you can’t possibly stay forever young.
Wake up, please please wake up.
 
Oh, the thinks you probably thought
as you fell, asking “Why?”
You missed a step and fell toward black
instead of taking a stair to the sky.
Wake up, please please wake up.
 
A week of your life has passed –
and you have been in the land of unknowing…
spring has arrived, wet and rainy…
but, for us and you, it’s still snowing.
Wake up, Dakota, wake up.

~E.M.S.

4/24/11

11:13 p.m.

I think it’s time I write about Dakota. I don’t think I ever have.

I got a text message a year ago tomorrow morning that said “Remember how you said you had a feeling something bad would happen to someone in our class?”

My heart stopped. I instantly thought someone had died. I had discussed this issue with my friend. A tragedy usually occurs in every class before graduation. It appears to be a right of passage at our school. I never dreamed it would actually happen.

Image courtesy of Lisa Reinard.

I grew up with Dakota. We were in the same Sunday school class all the way through. His elf ears used to make me giggle. When I dated his best friend (Christian, the guy from a couple posts ago), the three of us hung out a lot. We spent hours after school at Dakota’s house across the street from school. We were in countless theater productions together. Monkeys together in The Jungle Book Kids; he, Cat in the Hat, and me, Gertrude, in Seussical Jr.; kids together in Schoolhouse Rock Live! Jr... the list goes on from there. In the winter of 2011, I played his daughter, Anne, in Cheaper By The Dozen. There are so many memories from that play in particular. They are still fresh in my memory – some of the last memories I have of him.

Dakota had an accident; he fell and hit his head. The fall put him in a coma for months. When he finally got out of it, a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) took hold. He currently resides at ECMC, where he has been for a whole year now.

We had grown apart during the later years of high school (the break up with Christian seemed to do it), but still had a connection from the childhood we spent around each other. We loved Veggie Tales and used to acolyte together at church. I never thought of him as anything more than another brother.

The last time I saw him before the accident, he was walking down the hallway from the art rooms in the school. He wore a grey shirt, black pants and had his headphones on. We sort of nodded at each other, but I didn’t say anything. I figured his music was probably too loud (we always had similar taste in music). I’ve regretted that ever since.

I haven’t been able to make it to ECMC since August. Last time I saw him, he was starting to twitch his body parts. His feet moved. His chest moved up and down with each breath intake. Like any other person with brain damage, his arms were bent with his hands up near his face.

He’s still at ECMC and is making progress every day. It’s very sad to see his – and his family’s – life on hold.

Having a friend like Dakota can open your eyes. We take a lot of simple things for granted; simple things that are very hard for Dakota.

The bracelet on my wrist reminds me of you every single day, Dakota. I will not – and can’t ever – forget the day my bad feeling came true.

I was given this bracelet on June 24, 2011. I have not taken it off since.

For everything there is a season

It was like greeting an old friend as soon as my feet found the pavement. The snow had melted just enough and the air seemed balmy in all its glory of forty degrees Fahrenheit. I’ve always found it amazing just how different forty degrees can be, depending on the perspective you’re taking. When the seasons change from summer to fall, 40 degrees seems like the coldest temperature on earth. But, when the winter chill backs off a bit and lets in some of that 40-degree air, it’s as if spring has come early. It’s the same temperature and yet, it’s different.

I had considered making up a quick playlist of songs I could listen to while I ran, but I opted to leave my iPods at home, instead. The birds sang as I left the cul-de-sac I have lived on my whole life and let my legs carry me out to the main road and down the hill. I was surprised at how good I felt and let that carry me through the pain as muscles were put back into use after remaining dormant for nearly two months. The pain gave me something to think about and something to distract me from the mountain of homework I had to do and the hardships I had been dealing with on a regular basis.

When I was running, I didn’t have to feel anything but the pain from the exertion I was putting my body through. When I thought about it hard enough, I could feel my heart pounding in my chest, but if I just let my mind wander and let my legs do my thinking for me, nothing really mattered. I ran by a business that owes my dad money and considered trashing it. But, I didn’t. I kept running and made my way toward the hill that stood menacingly in the not-so-distant distance.

My energy deteriorated once I reached the top, but I kept on running. I reached my halfway mark and kept going. I thought about how natural it is for me to run and how effortless it can be once I am in good shape to do it. I thought about the summer and how the three of us took part of this same route in an effort to be in shape for cross-country season. I thought about how fast the time goes and how it doesn’t make sense to try and cherish every moment. If you’re too busy cherishing, you’re not living. You’re just trying to keep it in your memory forever. A memory should be something you remember effortlessly, not something you save onto the desktop in your brain so you can click on it and wait for it to load.

I decided against taking a shortcut and instead went the whole way around and back to my street. I took a left, ran down to the green Pennysaver box and then took a right, thinking in my head about that last 200m that I face with every race I run on the track. I ran halfway up my slushy driveway and then bent over to catch my breath. I always do this, and then I bend my knees carefully before reaching my full height (5’2″ if you were wondering) and then walking around a little bit, my hands over my head.

I entered through the side garage door, made my way through the traffic blocking my way to the house door (sleds, snowshoes, etc) and shed my running sneakers (New Balance this year – a brand I never really gave a chance until over the summer), grabbed my already-full glass of water off of our butcher block-esque island and downed it in a second.

My ears stung from the cold and my breathing was wheezy with each inhale and exhale I made.

“How’d you feel?” my dad asked.

“All right,” I replied. “I started out too fast and was dead by the end, but it felt good to run. I’m gonna go lay down now.”

I entered the family room and plopped onto our brand-new couch to catch my wheezy breaths. After thirty minutes passed without my daddy turning on the TV, I went upstairs and grabbed The Lovely Bones and continued reading from where I had left off right before daddy had picked me up at the school just barely an hour previously. We sat there, father and daughter, reading our books of choice: his a Yankee book that someone had gotten him and mine a novel that had been made into yet another movie based off of a book. He wore one of his many pairs of $0.99 reading glasses and I wore the sweat and dirt of a girl who had almost made it through one of the toughest weeks of her sixteen years of living, and was coming out on the other side unscathed and perfectly fine.

At 4 o’clock, I tossed my book down and ran the shower upstairs in the bathroom that all of my brothers had vacated and bestowed unto me (we painted it a light brown and pretty light blue and got rid of the old Mickey Mouse theme that had previously reigned).

Before shedding my clothing, I focused on the length of my hair in the mirror. Back in ninth grade, it was a shock of bright-red curls. Now, it’s back to its normal color (brown/blond/red depending on the season and amount of sun received), though the curls have been kept (I have not dyed my hair since November 2008). I’ve decided that I want it to be long for when I take my senior pictures. I thought to myself Oh yeah, it will be long enough by the summer after this one!

And then it hit me.

I will be taking my senior pictures this summer. It’s crazy just how much time flies and how one change in your thoughts can create a chain-reaction of changes throughout your entire mind. At the moment, I am halfway through my junior year of high school. In June, I will sing in the Chamber Choir and watch some of my best friends ever don those white and blue robes and graduate from our little sliver of the universe and move on to bigger (and better) things. This hit me hard because I realized that I haven’t exactly enjoyed my high school experience that much. In recent months, Misery had taken over my entire being and forced me to look at everything pessimistically. But now, happy little Emily is back, and she plans on staying happy and little until she is forced to grow up in a year and a half.

One day summer slowly floated away

I have decided that I hate fall. I absolutely abhor it. When I was younger I thought I had to love it just because my birthday happens to fall (haha) within those select three months, but now I know better. I’ve learned to hate it.

Sure, the trees are pretty. Beautiful, even. Possibly even gorgeous. But… their prettiness doesn’t distract me from the true evils yet to come. I can see right through that pretty, innocent little façade. They can’t fool me.

I love summer. I love its warmth and the constant urge to go swimming in our beautiful pool. I found one thing I hate about it, though: that fall is the season right after.

Autumn just brings in a whirlwind of newness that leaves me dazed. It’s a season of starts. School, Cross Country (practices and endless trips to the “start”ing line), coldness, unwanted but necessary organization, and just all of that crap. And Autumn takes the sun away and leaves the world cold.

Summer’s still in the air for now, but I can feel it slowly floating away. Fall winds and clouds are slowly invading my tropical dreamland. The sun is going down sooner than it should. Oh, how I wish it was still June!

Follow the yellow brick road?

My heart lurched. A lump formed in my throat. Tears sprang to my eyes. To want something this bad hurts… especially when one knows it is not within his/her grasp. Especially mine. Watching people perform on the stage is really emotional for me. When their emotions show during the song they’re performing, it affects me. Deeply. I’m torn in-between reality and fantasyland. Which should I choose? The practical way? The logical way? The way where I have a sure chance at succeeding? Or…should I shoot and eventually miss? Should I be risky? Should I jump without knowing where I might fall?

I’ve had pipes since, well, I don’t even remember when. Chorus teachers I have had over the years have always acknowledged my talent, and their acknowledgement eventually paved the road to my distant dreamland hidden in a thick fog. All I wanted to be when I was younger was a singer. A real professional vocalist with millions of adoring fans. Then I began to love Evanescence and thought: wow, it would be awesome to be the female lead to a hard rock band. Thus, a bigger dream was born.

Maybe you’ve noticed that I have a deep obsession with female fronted bands – and well, now you know why. I aspire to be like them; I want to be in their position so badly. It aches to see them perform and think about just how lucky they really are. They are exactly what I want to be. All I want is to perform with my band on a stage in a grand theater to a crowd of a million. To spill out my emotions through song and slump off the stage exhausted when I am done. I want to sing and run around with the mic. I want to lean on the mic stand and have sweat pouring off of me from so much exertion. I want to stop singing and listen to the crowd sing the next verse – a verse most likely derived from a line of a poem I wrote when I was twelve. I want to share my love of singing with the world and I want to belt it until I can’t belt it “no more.”

At my fork in the road, to the right lies the road that leads to my dreamland. The road paved with yellow bricks and patches of lilies of the valley growing on the side giving off my favorite aroma. To the left is an equally pleasant-looking road, only it is paved with brick that gives off the more practical red-ish color. This road is the one I’m to follow should I want to be successful on the first try. The writing road. I’ve been told I was born to write, but I’ve also been told that I have a very powerful voice. Now, should I choose the yellow brick road that leads to my dream career of being the female in a female fronted band? Or, should I venture down the more structurally sound road that leads to definite success? Do I want to be an exact clone of my mother and eldest brother, or do I want to be the first to set foot on my own yellow brick road?