Friday, July 20, 2018

Something Right

Took the sheets off our bed, and started the laundry. Wil looked at the threadbare mattress pad we've probably had as long as we've been married and said, "There's something wrong with that one." You know how you look at the things around your house so much, you stop seeing them?

I decided he was right, so the next time I was at Target, I treated myself to not the RE, dormitory-level quality, but one up. $35 later, and one mattress pad richer, I decided to run into the bathroom before heading out to do the rest of my many errands.

"Mommy?" a little voice from the stall next to me said.

"Yes?"

"After we wash our hands, will you put your hands over my ears, before you turn on the hand dryer?"

"I'll try."

I came out of the stall, washed my hands, and decided to forego the hand dryer. The woman next to me, without a word, without a glance, did the same thing.

I'm sure that mommy and that extra-sensitive-hearing-kid of hers are in for a ride, but I hope along their route, they are surrounded by extra-sensitive souls.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Let it Be



I recently watched the Carpool Karaoke with Paul McCartney that's being shared all over Facebook. I loved it, and every thing about it. I giggled. I teared up. I sang. I hummed. I tapped my toe and snapped my fingers. I was into it.

I didn't realize the backstory on the song, "Let it Be," which has always been a favorite of mine. I didn't know it was about a dream Paul had after his mother, Mary, died, in which she comforted him by saying, "Let it be." All this time I thought it was about the Mother Mary. Does it even make a difference? Words of wisdom, are words of wisdom.

While beginning this blog post, my friend Kathleen texted me a picture of what we call a "Mary tree." She didn't know her timing would be perfect, but she knew, you know?

And when the broken-hearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer, let it be.



Thursday, June 7, 2018

All Just Goin' Home




Tracy Grammer’s song, “Good Life,” runs through my head. Could be because nearly every time I get in my car without Wil, I turn on the CD player and press 7. Before I knew she’d written the song about her dad, it spoke to me.
Our fathers’ stories are different. Her father was 20 when she came along, mine, twice that. Her father dreamed of a one-level ranch, fishing with the dogs, a quiet, country life. I guess I'll never quite know of what my dad dreamed. Twenty-two years ago today, he left the physical world as a mystery, and remains one today.

Eventually, her father got “sober as a mountain and his river turned cool.” I am not sure how sober my father ever got, or how cool his river ever became. 

Her father called her up and they “cried themselves clear.” I don’t think it was within my father’s capabilities to do so. I don’t know that it was within mine, to cry myself clear during the time he was alive, even if he’d tried. Chicken or the egg? 

What strikes me most about the song, is Tracy’s ability to write it from his perspective. There is such love, understanding, and healing that comes through in her lyrics and voice. “It’s forgiveness and grace and I wish you were here.” 

“Let it all go now and wipe it all clean, ain’t no time for regret in the great in-between, it was a hell of a ride and I wish I had known, you can worry, you can wander, but we’re all just goin’ home.” 

My father worried. He wandered. I hope he is in the great in-between, free from both. I hope he feels it was a hell of a ride. I hope that he knows that although we didn’t cry ourselves clean on the phone or in person, or even with actual tears, the process took place. Bit by bit, year by year, memory by memory, wiped clear. No regret. Just love. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Fortunate


The most fortunate are those who have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder and even ecstasy.
ABRAHAM H. MASLOW
This is Wil to a T. The basic goods of his life are appreciated again and again, with pleasure, wonder and (loud) ecstasy. They say that ignorance is bliss, but what is truly bliss, is naiveté. His first delight of the morning is climbing back under his covers after being awake for awhile, and telling me what he wants to wear that day. "Ice cream sundae and pomegranate juice." I pull out a pair of khakis, show them to him. "No, that is Italian ice." The game goes on until I've pulled out a combination neither he nor I had any idea he wanted, and both knowing it doesn't even matter.

We laugh.

Similar games go on throughout the day around meals, outings, shows he plans to record and watch. He gets a new cell phone, one that would be considered an antique these days, a simple sliding-front LG I got for $59 on eBay. He names it Larry, short for Lawrence. Customizes the wallpaper, adds six contacts giving them all a nickname, and using only capital letters. I am KIWI. Timmy is WALDPORT. Someone named TUESDAY is added.

"Listen to Larry's ring-tone," he tells me with glee, "call it and listen. You will love Larry's ring-tone."

I loved Larry's ring-tone, made me think of a fiesta, and left me wanting a Margarita.

"Text me, I'll show you how Larry vibrates," he bosses.

"How cute is Larry?" I text.

Larry vibrates, scoots around on the counter.

"DORBS," he texts back.

We laugh.

"I will go to bed at 8:02," he informs. "We will start the process at 7:57, and at 8:02 we will look at the Links."

At 7:57 I join him as he brushes his teeth, swishes with anti-cavity rinse, puts in his retainers, and climbs into bed. The scoreboard clock on his wall flashes 8:02. "Look at the Links!" he exclaims.

"Do you want to say a prayer?"

"Just a tiny one. We pray for Jesus, God is good. Amen."

We laugh.

Good fortune all the way around.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Universal


Catholic Rosary


Buddhist Mala

They say many artists recycle the same theme(s) throughout their body of work. The creative process allows the artist to wrestle with whatever subject(s) they find most compelling, perplexing, illusive.
If the title of "artist" is given to those that create, then writers are artists that shape concepts and quandaries, and try and make meaning - at least for themselves.

One concept I continue to turn over and over, is what is universal? What ties us together? The word catholic means all-embracing, wide, broad-based, eclectic, diverse.

At mass we pray the Nicene Creed. "We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church." We believe in that, a church that is all-embracing, wide, broad-based, eclectic and diverse.

In January, my dear friend, Ruth, and my sister-in-law, Sonam, both lost their beloved fathers, one day apart. In March, I was able to gather with both of them, as they shared their experiences. Ruth's dad, Larry was 90. He had eight children, and so many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I've lost count. A devout Catholic his whole life, a quiet man of faith and service to others. His wife Virginia had died five years before, and as he lay in his Hospice bed in their master bedroom, it was obvious to the 30-plus loved ones holding vigil, that he was catching glimpses of Virginia from the other side, and was peaceful and joyful to reunite. During the last few hours of his life, while in a coma, twice his eyes flew open, with his arms outstretched, a smile on his face. Virginia.

The last words he uttered were, "I am not worthy." Part of the Catholic mass, right before communion, we say, "Lord, I am not worthy to enter under your roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed." Then, he entered under his Lord's roof.

Sonam's dad was living with his wife, and his wife's mother and brother, in a Tibetan refugee camp in India. He went outside and sat in his favorite chair, and was doing his nightly prayers, using his Tibetan mala. Only when he became too still, did his wife realize he had passed, quietly, peacefully, prayerfully.

These two men from opposites sides of the world, completely different backgrounds and experiences, shared that which is universal.




Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Hash




I've been doing a ton of writing lately, almost all of it in my head. Writing while I'm driving, writing while I'm walking alone, writing while I'm showering, sleeping, eating. Sometimes, writing while I'm listening.

At a party, recently, someone made a tiny comment about her husband, and the other women in the conversation, all laughed in solidarity. The woman loves her husband. He's a good husband. She knows it, and every one else knows it, too. A woman whose husband recently died said, "The hardest part of losing my husband is not having him around to complain about." That brought down the house. I came home, wrote down that line to put somewhere, later. Wasn't sure how, or if, it would fit with anything else I had, but knew it was too good not to save.

My dad taught me how to make hash as a child. We slid out the wooden cutting board from under the counter, and clamped the grinder into place, turning the clamp until it was good and tight. He put in leftovers from the fridge: pot roast, potatoes, carrots, onion. He got it started until it got a little easier, then I gave it a go. Turning, turning, turning, the mushy mess landing into the green ceramic bowl - the medium-sized stacking bowl that had been his mother's. Yellow was the big bowl, blue the small.

We took the hash and fried it up in a cast iron skillet, filling the house with cooking odors that took days to fully clear. I don't remember eating the hash - can't pull up a memory of the taste, only how it looked, felt and smelled.

How old was I, then, eight? Nine? My dad moved out when I was eleven, so it was before then. How many times have I thought of that before right now? Zero. Didn't know it was even a memory. The stacking bowls sit on the lower shelf of my lazy Susan. I use them all the time. I used to think if ever there were a fire, they'd be what I grabbed before running out the door. They are precious to me, all that I have from that grandmother I didn't meet. A part of her story that was part of my dad's, and now mine, and my children. Generational.

Memories stack up, there are large, medium and small ones. Sometimes they fit together and make sense, sometimes they get out of order and don't. Sometimes, we pull out one and use it with another, and only after a new order is created, see where the others fit.

Memoir writing is like that. Memories, events, emotions, experiences, words said and remembered, feelings resurrected and revisited. Chopped up, run through the grinders of time and memory, they make hash.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Marian Mist

Got together with my dear friend, Val, yesterday. She's a soul-sister - we dive into the deep end immediately, and don't come up for air for two hours. We share a love and connection with Mary, and both showed up at the restaurant wearing the same Mary blue.

The evening was warm and sunny, our first in what felt like weeks. I walked her to her car, then planned to walk to mine, but the blocks were long and cutting over was not something that was going to be as quick and easy as I'd thought. Oh, well, I thought, what a nice night for a stroll.

I came upon a house with lots going on in the front yard. Red. Blue. Statues. Val and I had just talked about two friends' fathers whom had recently died, one Catholic, one Buddhist, and the many things their holy deaths shared. As I got right in front of the house and looked, I noticed Buddha on the left, in red, and Mary on the right, in blue. I pulled out my phone to take a picture to send to Val, and say, "No wonder Mary had me wandering around looking for my car, she wanted me to see this." Val pulled up right then. 

"Is that Mary?" she said from her driver's seat. 

"Yes! Look what she wanted us to see!"

After spending a few minutes looking, Val offered to drive me to my car, which we passed the first time, too lost in our reverie to even notice it sitting right there.

"Another sign of my dementia!" I said to Val.

"No, you were lost in a Marian Mist," she said.





Saturday, April 7, 2018

Happy Birthday

Today is April 7th. It would be my mother-in-law, Dode's, 90th birthday. A year ago, I was buying two hanging flower baskets and taking them to her apartment in the senior community. I placed both on hooks we'd hung on her patio, visible from her recliner, where she was eating, and sleeping, now.

Her birthday didn't go as planned. Her trip to the beach with her daughter, cancelled. She was in too much pain. Getting into and out of the car, the drive - all too much. Forget about walking on the beach, even getting to the window with a view, would be arduous.

I had learned all the ins-and-outs of how blood does or does not coagulate, and what contributed to that: diet, stress, pain, medication - a recipe whose secret was out-of-grasp. Wild goose chases to find the high-dose Vitamin K, stocking up on leafy green vegetables, painstakingly adjusting her daily pill boxes, cutting her pills carefully and taking all the extra pieces home in a Ziploc bag, so she couldn't possibly take the wrong dose by mistake. Daily trips to the "coag" clinic, extra trips to the lab, involving wheelchairs, extra bodies to help me get her in and out of the car, her nearly-useless legs placed into position on the footrests.

We knew she was dying. We didn't know she would be gone in less than two weeks.

We knew she was stubborn. We didn't know it would, ultimately, be the death of her.

We knew she was sweet. We didn't know that would be the word all the many that helped her those last few days, would use to describe her.

When she took her final ambulance trip, and returning to her apartment was no longer something any of us could consider, I went back for the baskets. I hung them up outside my back door, where I could see them through the windows of the kitchen. In contrast to Dode's view from her chair, my view was from my busy feet, back-and-forth, in-and-out of the kitchen, many times a day.

The baskets made it through the spring, well into the summer. By the end of August, they had lost their blooms, their vitality, they were ready for the compost bin. They had brought Dode a few days' worth of joy, and me many months'. It is time to buy and hang this year's batch. I will pick two that remind me of her - just what she would choose: pink flowers, mostly, perhaps a little yellow or blue. I will water them, fertilize, pinch off the dead "heads." As I walk in and out of my kitchen, opening and shutting the back door many times a day, I will not take for granted my ability to do so. I will send up a prayer of gratitude for the stubborn, sweet woman who welcomed me into her family and into her heart, and ultimately, into her life in a very intimate way.

Happy birthday, Dode. I know you're surrounded by all that, and many of those, whom you loved.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Early Reader

Wil is the proud godfather of Fi, the oldest daughter of our friends, Liz and Steve.. But you can call her Fiferoni, or Fifers, or any other Fi-using word. Liz and Steve now have the two cutest twins in the whole wide world, Amélie and Ramona, but you can call them Millie and Mona, or any other cute names you want. Cute, cute and cute. But even cuter, is how voracious they are as "readers."

I'll admit to having a bias towards reading actual books to your child, as opposed to electronic versions. I think it's important for little hands to hold, turn, touch, physically discover words on the page. Liz posted this adorable video of Amélie, 19+ months, reading:





I must have re-watched that video ten times - it delighted me so. Started thinking about reading, and the value it has in my life. I wouldn't write if I hadn't always loved to read. Some of my most valuable "experiences" have taken place in a book. Now, as I massage my work-in-progress into some sort of shape, I think about all the early readers I have relied upon along the way. I already have my first early reader of this "book" selected, have for a long time, but only informed her of it recently. 

Thank you, Jen, for being someone I can trust to hold my baby in your lap, spend loving time with it, but give me honest feedback on, and point me in whatever directions I need to go next. Thank you for being a trusted mother that will nourish and guide, lead and encourage, and gently correct and redirect when I've lost my way.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A Good Sport

We'd had plans to go to a sort-of-nearby "family fun center," Bullwinkle's, for weeks. Mondays are my Wil and Tim day, and Wil takes these very seriously, planning them to the nth degree, weeks in advance. Last week had been the week to go, but a funeral altered that plan - still providing an almost-full Wil and Tim day, but not allowing enough time for driving back and forth to Bullwinkles.

So, yesterday cooperated in every way. Moods were high, the weather perfect. Fortunately, my party planner had Googled and learned Bullwinkle's didn't open until noon, and no one was willing to consider picking up Tim at any time other than the set-in-stone pick-up time. So, having a little time to kill, the party planner came up with a new restaurant for us to try, that would be on the way to Bullwinkle's, and have us arriving at 12:00:00.

Which we did.

It's a chicken/egg question. Is he so precise with time because he's my son, or vice-versa? It's not for everyone, this dialing down your schedule to precise seconds, but we seem to have reached pro-level.

Got the boys their loaded cards to do the arcades, everyone that needed to use the bathroom had found one and used it, and I went to my car to make a quick, but necessary phone call. In the ten minutes I was "gone," Wil had completely spent his day's allotment, and Timmy had lost his card after one swipe.

Re-loaded a bit more on to Wil's card, checked with the front desk and Timmy's card had been found and turned in. All was well with the Bullwinkle's world, and the merriment continued.

After redeeming their tickets for really neat things and a quick milkshake break, we headed to mini-golf. Having the course to ourselves, on a beautiful, early-spring day, was ideal. I was the scorekeeper, the carrier of prizes, and the hander of the milkshake for Timmy, who does not gulp his down in two seconds, as does Wil.

Despite explaining multiple times (over multiple times to a mini-golf course), that the goal was to get the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible, Wil determined the winner would be the one with the highest score. As his score climbed into the 40's, 50's, and eventually, 80's, he grew more and more delighted. "Timmy is being a really good sport about losing!" he exclaimed, as his score soon doubled that of Tim's.

Long about Hole 14, it occurred to me that maybe he was the one with the right idea. If the arbitrary rules and goals don't work for you, and adjusting them in a way that does, and nobody gets hurt, everyone turns out a winner.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Inspired



"Less is More #9"

Candace Primack, had a new show opening on Sunday, and with our friends, Laurie and Nancy, I went to see it. We went to support Candace, and to be inspired. It's tough to re-launch yourself after 50  - we're tired, and the world has changed a lot since we were doing our thing before marriage, children, and the decades-long demands on our energies. Now that her two daughters are both away at college, she has exploded, creatively. 

One painting in her show was called, "Less is More #9." "That looks like Wil's writing," I told her, noticing the "MORE" and the "LOVE" free-floating.

"Maybe he inspired me," she said. Candace has known Wil since he and her oldest daughter were in afternoon kindergarten together. Ten kids, they knew each other well. He went on to high school with many of those same kids, including Candace's daughter. Candace has personal experience, my stories, and those of her daughters' and their friends'. She is rich in the front and back story of all things Wil.

Later, I emailed her a sampling of his writing I'd kept, she wrote back, "That's so Cy Twombly!" That, naturally, sent me down the Cy Twombly rabbit hole. I learned he did a series of eight pieces, consisting solely of the word, "Virgil." Virgil was my grandfather's name, my father's father, whom I never met. No accidents.



(Artist: Cy Twombly)

A few nights ago, when putting Wil to bed, I said, "Do you want to say a prayer?"

I expected him to give me his usual, "I'm out," which comes with a lot of dramatic emphasis - part of his larger schtick. Instead, he said, "If today you hear His words, harden not your heart." It had been the responsorial at the student mass that day, and so it was in his head, but it felt like a message meant just for me.

It's very easy to harden our hearts, at times, it even feels necessary. But when we hear His/Her/Truth words, we are asked to soften and open our hearts - to love... more.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

When Completeness Comes



My friend, Joyce, and I went to see our friend, Candace Primack in her art studio, yesterday. I came home with this, entitled: "1 Corinthians 13." My awesome photography skills don't do this justice. You will need to zoom in, or see it in person, to appreciate the fact that the Bible passage is written in white, throughout the canvas, with the abstractions overlaid.

This is my ninth Candace original, and I keep saying my next one will be from her Contemplative Series. However, I keep coming back to her Abstract Brights.

After I got home and hung it in its perfect spot, I Googled 1 Corinthians 13 to refresh my memory.
"... but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears." I had not paid attention to that particular phrase before. I've heard 1 Corinthians 13 at church, and at wedding ceremonies, over and over again, yet it was only yesterday that I "heard" them.

Three friends in five days, have lost their beloved fathers. All three were sweet and kind, cherished by their spouses, children, extended family and friends. In two cases, it is the second parent to go - the end of an era, in a way, a "completeness."

I am going to spend time with my abstract bright, in contemplation, today. Words like "part," and "completeness," and of course the biggies: faith, hope and love.

But the greatest of these is love.



1 Corinthians 13 (NIV): 
1If I speak in the tongues13:1 Or languages of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,13:3 Some manuscripts body to the flames but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Returning



Ten days into the new year, and I think Christmas 2017 is nearly in the rearview mirror. The tree is down. The boxes, put away. The wreath carefully deconstructed and the wires thrown away, the greenery placed in the compost bin.

The items that didn't fit, have been returned. The pants that did, have been hemmed. Thank you cards are out.

The "vending machine" from Santa, filled with Tropicana fruit punch, was not what the recipient had in mind. It first sat in our living room, quickly unplugged, for a week. When asked where he might like to have it, he suggested his sister's old room - a room he never goes in.

"It's okay to say you appreciate the gift from Santa, but would like to pass it on," we said.

Never admitting it wasn't doing the trick, he simply ignored it altogether. I've been in touch with Santa, and he's agreed to take it back, pass it onto a child that would really love it.

January is the month of putting away, cleaning up, clearing. As the decorations went away, and our usual stuff came back out, I saw just how dingy, faded, worn-out some of it was. It's time to replace, or eliminate -- to return.

Monday, January 1, 2018

A New Year

Yesterday was our anniversary - 26 years of just about everything life can throw at a couple. The tenacity alone is worthy of celebration. 

We'd celebrated a few days earlier when Wil was spending the night first with Timmy, then with my mom, giving us a little breather in the high vibration joy that pulses throughout our house on a normal day, and up a few notches at Christmas.

Wil texted me Saturday night, " I have a anniversary suprisenfor u tomorrow morning Havent done it yet."

Then, "Just finished hashtag youll choke up a bit"

Then, the next morning, "ARE YOU READY TO CHOCK UP I'LL SEE YA IN ABOUT 25 MINTUES"

I got frequent updates as to his ETA, and right on schedule, he pulled up on his bike, I opened the back door, and he handed me a piece of folded up, yellow tablet paper. "A SONG LYRIC FOR CARE BEAR YOU TAUGHT ME EVERYTHING AND EVERYTHING YOU'VE GIVEN ME I ALWAYS KEEP INSIDE ME YOU'LL CHOKE UP LOVE WILSON," taken from the Boyz 2 Men song, "A Song for Mama."


I'm not sure how the note pertains to our anniversary, but it does. Maybe he's conceding - despite his best and sustained efforts, he did not tear us apart.

Here's to a new year, for all of us. For those torn apart. For those in need of being put back together. For those that are wounded, discouraged, and weary. For those that have a light to shine in others' darkness. For those with joy so intense and palpable the regular folk need small breaks from it.

For all.

Amen.